After a very miserable, wet start to autumn, Sydney-siders have had much more pleasant weather for the Easter holiday. We at last have an opportunity to get into our gardens and enjoy all there is to be found at this time of year. With a benignly warm sun, azure skies and a gentle breeze, it is a joy to be in the garden. I have always preferred autumn to all the other seasons in Sydney, because there can be so much in bloom at this time. Many summer-blooming stalwarts, such as Canna, Dahlia, numerous shrubby Salvia, Pentas, most Justicia species and shrub and cane Begonia continue to bloom on, joined by seasonal beauties such as sasanqua Camellia, many Plectranthus species and cultivars, Tibouchina varieties, the Chinese rain bell (Strobilanthes cusia) and late-flowering Salvia such as Salvia madrensis, Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious' and Salvia 'Meigan's Magic'. Many foliage plants - such as coleus, Colocasia 'Black Magic', silvery Plectranthus argentatus and Iresine varieties - continue to look good. The result is a profusion of colours, textures and shapes that lifts the spirits.
Although it's somewhat sad to realise we are heading into winter (without ever having had much of a summer!), there is a lot to look forward to and to prepare for. Some deciduous trees are just starting to show their autumnal tinge. The limey new foliage of hellebores> has emerged, after being trimmed back in February to remove their shabby leaves; their beautiful, sculptured blooms will appear in late winter. Self-seeded winter- and spring-flowering annuals such as Primula, forget-me-nots and honesty have already started to pop up, and the foliage of spring bulbs and corms is starting to appear. The plump buds of Camellia japonica gives the promise of their flamboyant flowers in just a few months' time, and citrus fruit is ripening on trees.
The rain that we all cursed certainly fuelled much growth in the garden, so it is all rather wild and full. Now is an opportune time to start to prune back some of our plants, a job I have been tackling this weekend. The tall flowering stems of spent perennials and the exuberant growth on many other plants have been trimmed; deadheads removed; and weeds pulled out. As I work, bees and other insects are out in force, and I am surrounded by birds of many kinds, especially the chatty rainbow lorikeets foraging amongst the sasanquas and Salvia bushes.
There are lots of other jobs we can do now. Vegetable seeds can be sown, with the hope of harvesting some homegrown produce in winter. Crops such as lettuce, spinach, rocket, kale and coriander do much better in Sydney in the cooler months. I sometimes plant seeds of these on top of my dahlia tubers once the foliage is cut back to the ground. Snow peas and sugar snap peas are rewarding to grow and so much nicer when freshly picked, compared to those bought from the supermarket!
New plants put in now will settle in well, especially given the high level of moisture in the soil and the mild warmth we are still experiencing. This is also a good time to take cuttings of favourite plants and pot up spare divisions of clump-forming perennials, which will benefit from being split up now and replanted into soil enriched with compost. It's also a good time to have a close look at your garden and work out what changes you might like to implement now that the weather is cooling down. Maybe there are too many plants in a particular area, swamping one another: something may have to be moved! Also, maybe some plants haven't lived up to your expectations and might have to be removed. Or perhaps there are some bare areas that might need to have some new plants added in: thus requiring a trip to the nursery!
It's a wonderful time of year. Who wouldn't be a gardener?
15 May 22
I enjoy seeing carpets of fallen leaves and flowers in autumn.
Happy Mother's Day
08 May 22
My mother's garden has been hugely influential for me.
Jewels of May
01 May 22
Some lovely flowers bloom this month
24 Apr 22
Scented leaves can evoke memories and uplift the soul.
Joys of gardening at Easter
17 Apr 22
This is one of the best times of year for gardeners!