"Taking stock"

The start of a new year can motivate us to reevaluate our gardens.
Sunday, 13 January 2013     

Hemerocallis August Flame, a late-flowering daylily

Happy New Year to all! This is the time of year when many of us seem to make lists of good intentions for the year, or clean out cupboards or other activities of making a fresh start. It also seems an appropriate time to take stock of the garden and plan what might be done in the year ahead. Of course, with the terribly hot weather we have had so far in January in Sydney, this is not the time to actually carry out any of these changes. All the better - as it is much easier to have these ideas in one's mind than actually do them! The reasons for the need for change in gardens are many and varied. In some cases, the microclimate of a garden area has altered over time, so that plants which were doing well in the original conditions start to struggle. I have examples of both extremes of this situation in my garden at the moment. Several years ago, I planted a couple of lilly pilly shrubs (Syzygium australe 'Aussie Gem') to provide height and bulk in a new garden area. They have grown beyond my wildest expectations, forming solid, large shrubs in five years. The plantings beneath them, which had been established prior to their installation, are now looking decidedly unthrifty (and are probably also suffering from root competition). In particular, the daylilies (Hemerocallis cultivars) that had loved the sun that beamed down on them previously, are not the robust clumps that they used to be. So I plan to move these in autumn into a more open position.

At the other end of the spectrum, where I had some large conifers cut down a few months ago, the relentless rays of the summer sun in a now-exposed area are savaging the shade-loving plants that had been positioned there when it was a very gloomy spot in my garden. These may also need to be shifted. However, I have noticed that with the removal of the trees, an old-fashioned shrubby Fuchsia cultivar, which had languished for years in the shade, is now flowering madly - reminding me that many such Fuchsia actually do well in sunny positions.

Other plants that need to be reconsidered are those that are taking up too much space - going berserk, in other words - and those which, conversely, are really not thriving in my garden. The thugs I have recently identified include some Crocosmia cultivars - which I really do like when they are in full bloom. However, I am amazed and rather alarmed at just how quickly they seem to be multiplying. They definitely need to be culled back to a smaller clump or removed completely.

Reluctant specimens that really are not doing well, are sometimes harder to get rid of, in some ways, than the thugs. Often they represent some mad and unrealistic dream I have had to grow something unsuitable for our climate. I am getting better now at understanding which plants are likely to do well and which are doomed to failure. I am becoming less inclined these days to try to grow some rare alpine plant from a snow-capped country in Europe. My folly now lies in the other direction - attempting to grow something from a tropical jungle: and such plants usually don't like our colder days in winter.

Other plants need to be evaluated as to whether they need a good pruning if they have got very old and woody - my specimen of Euryops chrysanthemoides falls in to this category. It is quite elderly now and very gnarled. I will try a big cut-back but will also take some cuttings just in case it dies; I have also noted there are some self-sown seedlings around it that I could pot up. Sometimes, very old shrubby perennials really need to be propagated and started again from scratch. I have noticed this with a few Salvia specimens that I grow. They definitely seem to reach an age where they lose a lot of vitality.

In other places in the garden, there are actually gaps, where some poor old plant has actually succumbed to the heat and/or drought. It's sad to see a plant has perished but on the other hand, it means there is a new space for something else, and I always seem to have plenty of plants in my potting area just waiting for a new home ...

 Reader Comments

1/12  Maureen - 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 January 2013

Hi and all the best for the coming Year! Agree definitely with the Crocosmia colourful garden addition but thinning & binning essential each year. My Self sown Europs pop up all the time to diligently cull yet a friend in Newcastle can"t get her"s to replicate!! Cheers Maureen. Thanks, Maureen. I will definitely get onto the crocosmias! It is strange how some things self-seed in one garden but not another. Heavy mulch will suppress seedlings but there seem to be other factors at play as well. Deirdre

2/12  Stephen - 2440 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 January 2013

Yes this has been one of the toughest summers that i can remember in a long time.Last week i received my first excess water bill so i pulled most of my annuals,gave the beds a good water and mulched heavily with sugar cane mulch.The trees and shrubs will be easier to look after now.Being a true optomist though, i can look foward to planting my autumn seeds such as hollyhocks,cosmos,pansies etc.Maybe autumn will be kinder to us.Regards Steve. We have also received our water bill - not good! Good to get some rain yesterday but we need a lot more - hope that the next few months will bring more rain. I too have been using sugar cane mulch and I am sure it does help. Deirdre

3/12  Catherine - 2071 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 January 2013

I love vibrant orange Crocosmia too but have been wary of growing it. Instead I"ve been trialling the more golden but also better behaved Crocosmia "George Davidson". After 2 years I can report it"s not spread anywhere and is flowering well right now. Thanks for that tip. One that I have grown for a few years, which I think is called His Majesty, has remained as a clump of about four bulbs! It is a nice vibrant orange. The other ones, even though also named ones, have just formed enormous clumps.

4/12  Sue t. - 2566 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 January 2013

My garden is home to the common Crocosmia and I spend most of the year pulling them up but leave a few to flower. At present here"s a clump happily flowering in the cracks in the paving. Any of the better behaved cultivars I"ve tried always curl up their toes and die. Welcome back, Sue Thanks, Sue. They are in bloom now and look good but I must get onto them soon! Deirdre

5/12  Meryl - 2206 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 January 2013

Croscosmia may be manageable in Sydney but in Katoomba I had to sieve the soil to get rid of the staggering number of bulbs it had formed. I am beginning to think they are a scourge everywhere ...

6/12  Lynsey - 2100 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 January 2013

Sadly, I"m got to return some beds to lawn for easier maintenance. I"m counting on a drought to wipe out the sandflies. The Chinese wisteria I thought I had eradicated is popping up again - it"s manageable in drought, so it"s welcome. My wonderful gartenmeister bonstedt fuschia almost succumbed to 40 deg. C. after blooming beautifully since spring. After our downpour on Christmas day I was surprised to find that the soil was dry and powdery a mere 6 inches down. Here comes more sugar cane mulch! Yes we really have not had proper rain for so long. I am using sugar cane mulch, watering the beds well beforehand. Deirdre

7/12  Eileen - 2440 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 January 2013

My roses and shrubs have really suffered this summer,even though everything has been well mulched I have just purchased a large bag of saturAid, hoping that will help, I have lost some roses that are 10 years old or more. I do think Saturaid is helpful, especially now the soil is so dry. Sorry to hear about your roses. The heat has been just so extreme for so long. Deirdre

8/12  Peter - 2008 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 January 2013

Sorry to be missing your excellent Acanthaceae Talk at The Maiden on Feb 9th Deirdre, as I"m SURE it will be and sooooo many good ones for Sydney conditions it really is one of the most used plant fam"s in my designs. So best wishes for that one as you are bound to have a very interested audience there ... :))) Great to hear from you. I appreciate your Acanthaceae enthusiasm! Deirdre

9/12  Susan - 3918 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 14 January 2013

Great to hear from you again Deirdre. Happy New Year to all. I wonder if it is the RED Crocosmia you are refering to, or the orange? In Victoia I find the red one is manageable, but the orange becomes very invasive. It often grows along the roads edge and is pretty, but certainly out of control. We call that one Monbreshia (sp) - common name. I also have 2 different yellows - a gold and a lemon - very pretty. At this point both seem OK. The bronze leafed gold one is a little burnt from the heat. I think the basic orange one is the worst offender but I have a named yellow one that I thought would be better behaved, but it has formed an enormous clump. I think they need to be kept an eye on. Deirdre

10/12  Georgina - 2076 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 January 2013

Hi Deirdre nice to get your blog and hear all your plans for the year. My New Year resolution is to get rid of all my pots. I"ve also a couple of areas to redo as plants have either taken over or died out. I look, I plan and I dream. Then I take a trip to the nursery for ideas and guess what? More pots again. Enjoy your talk at the Botanic Gardens in February. I know what you mean re pots. Almost two years ago before a big overseas trip I got rid of every single pot! Now I have more than ever! I do want to cull them or plant them out but has been to hot to attempt it over the last few months. Deirdre

11/12  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Great blog, Deirdre! The Fuchsia you mentioned is called "Ambassador" - I have had it growing for years, and it is tall, with a gnarled trunk. I have cut it down many times, but it always manages to send up new shoots. Another good grower, in sun, is "Lord Byron". These two always thrive in sun, but the 45 degree day did burn the flowers.

12/12  Bren - 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 January 2019

Crocosmia (Montbretia) is a terrible weed in parts of my garden. I did the Newspaper/woodchip mulch treatment, and three years later the new shoots still find their way up. If new shoots cant find their way to the surface, they keep growing sideways until they find a gap. The flowers are pretty, though very short lived. With the increased rain this year, my worst enemy is Commelina. I hate the sight of this, despite it being a native!

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