"Sprucing up the garden"

Time spent grooming the garden pays off.
Sunday, 16 February 2014     

Dahlia Mount Noddy

Surveying my garden after I'd been away for a week revealed a degree of disarray. With visitors due this weekend, I needed to quickly spruce up the garden - and in fact this is a great time to tidy up the garden: after weeks of hot, dry weather, plants can be looking rather tired and unruly. A few minutes spent deadheading can make a border quickly look a lot better. My Dahlia and Canna plants looked very shabby with numerous spent flowers - snipping these off makes them look so much neater and will promote more flowers through into autumn. I also trim the old flower stems of many Salvia plants at this time - and this will encourage a fresh flush of blooms. I think many Salvia are actually better in late summer and autumn than at any other time of the year. All the deadheads of Agapanthus have now been removed and put in the green bin, and this is a great improvement as these look so scruffy left on the plants.

Giving plants a light overall trim at this time can promote nice fresh growth on those that have basically finished flowering and in some cases renewed flowering can occur, such as with Gaura. I trim off grotty old leaves, such as those of Acanthus mollis, which look hideous at this time of year. I also cut off some of the excess foliage of plants that are smothering other plants. Plants can be killed by overly vigorous neighbours and we sometimes need to intervene to keep plants to their apportioned spots. Plants that are too enthusiastic may need to be evaluated as to whether they require too much work in reining them in - and possibly should be removed altogether. I also plan to prune my Hydrangea macrophylla shrubs this month to allow more space around them for winter and early spring flowers, and to get rid of all the burnt flower-heads. I used to prune them in winter but I have found February is a good time to do it and there is no deleterious effect on their flowering.

Removing summer annuals that have had it instantly improves a garden area. The only ones I grow are those that self-seed in my garden. The gawky annual Cleome plants that I maligned in my previous blog have now been removed, as have many plants of Verbena bonariensis, borage and Amaranthus caudatus that I was fed up with. At the same time, I pulled out a few other plants I was thoroughly sick of or that were not thriving, and felt a sense of relief that they were gone, leaving spaces to plant something more enticing.

Weeding was another chore I had been neglecting during the long hot spell we had in January, when I just couldn't bear to be outside in the garden. With a few cooler days this past week, I felt inspired to get on top of the weeds in a few garden beds and it was amazing how these areas looked so much better so quickly! I have also been trying pouring boiling water over weeds growing between my pavers, and this seems to be going well so far.

This is also a great time of year to start thinking about moving plants around into better positions. I won't move anything just yet, leaving this till the weather cools down a bit, but I have lots of ideas about how things could look better in different places. I try to write these ideas down in my gardening notebook as soon as I am inspired - if I don't, they will be forgotten by tomorrow!

Sprucing up the garden needn't take a huge amount of time, and readies it for the very best time of the year in Sydney for gardeners (in my opinion): early autumn!

 Reader Comments

1/8  Peta - 6253 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 17 February 2014

As usual, very practical advice that motivates me to get busy in the garden. I was going to leave pruning the hydrangeas till much later, but your idea is good - they would be much improved if at least the burnt flower heads were removed now. We still have some hot weather to go, but will do as you suggest and make notes in my gardening diary as to what else to do, once the temperatures are in the twenties rather than the thirties. I hope that we are past the worst of summer now. So much can be done in autumn! Deirdre

2/8  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 17 February 2014

Sensible advice, as usual, thank you. I have been longing to tidy and trim plants, burnt in the extreme heat, and also growing wildly, starting with the hydrangeas and some shrub-like begonias. Dead-heading plants immediately restores some semblance of order and improves the garden"s appearance, without too much effort. I found a few plants, which supposedly relish the heat, did not perform well, one being dahlias, which, I believe, perform better in autumn. Dahlias are great plants - they flower all through autumn. I have found that very regular deadheading really does promote more blooms on these plants. Deirdre

3/8  Anne - 2518 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 17 February 2014

Hope you enjoyed your holiday - thanks for another relevant blog. only just read the decluttering one and you certainly voice a lot of my problems both in house and garden! I too have the annual cleome in the garden and I love it - emotional ties again - lovely old neighbour from when I was a child. I will persist with them for a while. the newer ones don"t always survive and of course one of their virtues is that they don"t self seed. I am sure I will still have some cleomes coming up next year from seed - I will probably leave a couple in! I am interested to see how the perennial ones go in my garden. Deirdre

4/8  Peta - 2758 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Monday, 17 February 2014

I was thinking when you have finished in your gardens Peta, Margaret, Catherine, Anne and Deirdre that you might pop up to Bilpin and help me!!! Cup of tea and bickie thrown in. My friend Sally in Tasmania calls her garden helpers "the garden angels"........ It"s a lovely idea ... Deirdre

5/8  Pam - 3216 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 17 February 2014

I agree with you Deidre about Autumn. It is definitely the best time in my garden too. It seems the horrible hot weather we have had in Victoria might be behind us now and like you I am enjoying a bit of foray into my tired garden. Thanks for your great blog. I hope you have had some rain after your difficult summer weather. I love autumn! Deirdre

6/8  Lynette - 2768 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 17 February 2014

I am off out to my garden this afternoon to get rid of the uninvited interlopers from next door, and in the process try out my new toy, telescopic bypass lopper. It will be very handy to reach and chop off the overhanging shrubbery from next door. Lyn Sounds a great gadget! Deirdre

7/8  Lynette - 2768 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 17 February 2014

It is a great gadget Deidre. I had a great time chopping off the overhanging shrubbery, and I now have so much more light in my bathroom and laundry. I am glad it is garbage night tonight as the bin is full to overflowing. Now I am eyeing off the michelia in the corner of my small garden and thinking it really needs cutting back. Oh goody, another chance to play with my new toy....... It is such a good feeling when you achieve something like that in the garden. Deirdre

8/8  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Hi Peta, It would be a great idea, love the thought of "gardening angels!

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