"Tidying the mid-winter garden"

Tasks done now will pay off in spring.
Sunday, 03 July 2022     
Tidying the mid-winter garden

Leaves of the crepe myrtle gather amidst black mondo grass

The mid-winter garden can be rather a messy place. Or wait: is that just my garden? I have been distracted of late and not spent much (any) time in my garden and it is all rather dishevelled. I plan to tackle it over the coming weeks and much of the work is, simply, tidying up. Much of the work has to do with removing leaves! I've written before about clearing the fallen leaves from deciduous trees from garden beds before they smother everything that lies beneath them. This is a job I have neglected this winter that sorely needs to be done as soon as possible. The larger of these leaves are put through the mulching machine into the compost heap; smaller ones (such as those of maples and crepe myrtles) can grow straight into the heap.

I also cut back ornamental grasses such as Miscanthus, Poa and Pennisetum to the ground at this time of year. The foliage is generally dying off and looks unsightly; also, the new foliage will come through quite soon and if the job is neglected for too long, the fresh leaves will be chopped off as well. I also think it's useful to remove the leaves of daylilies in winter. Often the leaves are manky; they will grow back again before too long. Aphids can sometimes attack the leaves so removing them will remove most of these pests and the base can be sprayed with some horticultural oil to smother the remainder. The spidery white flowers of Hymenocallis bulbs won't emerge till summer, but their leaves can look hideous now, so I generally cut them off completely now. They will regrow fairly quickly.

Some bulb foliage can be removed now too. The cute little paintbrush blooms of Haemanthus albiflos are appearing now and can be obscured by the big fleshy leaves. I remove those that are in the way, allowing the flowers to have their moment of glory. If the tattered old leaves of hellebores were not removed earlier in the year, they can be chopped off now as they too can hide the gorgeous flowers that will start to appear in a few weeks' time.

I also cut Canna plants to the ground now, along with the foliage of Kniphofia, to allow new growth to emerge, as it is generally messy and floppy at this point. The foliage of society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) and Liriope can also be cut right down now, as it can become unattractive in winter. Many other strappy-leaved plants will also benefit from having any shabby leaves removed now: they don't need an overall cutting back but just removal of yellowing leaves. Tulbaghia simmleri is an unusual winter-flowering bulb with scented, starry blooms - some of its foliage can be ugly at this time and detract from the flowers, so I tend to pull these away. Other such plants include Agapanthus, Arthropodium, Clivia, Phormium and bromeliads.

Of course, roses, Buddleja and Fuchsia are pruned in July, which will make them nice and neat and ready for regrowth. Hydrangea not cut back earlier in the year should also be done in July. I don't prune other shrubs or shrubby perennials now - I will wait till mid-August to do the ones that were not already cut back in May. None of these jobs is not very exciting but they will pay off once spring arrives. I just need the rain to stop so I can get outside!

 Reader Comments

1/6  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 July 2022

Many plants need cutting back, and I had begun with my plectranthus, some salvia, iochroma, to name a few, and was wanting to begin with the crepe myrtles, but the current rain has changed this plan. Once again the garden is sodden, and on top of the earlier rain, it will take some time before cutting back can begin. Thank goodness the sun is out again today and we might be able to venture into our gardens. Deirdre

2/6  Valerie - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 04 July 2022

I agree with Margaret, the rain has stopped me in my tracks this week. All the tasks you have mentioned Deirdre await me plus the pruning of Erigeron and some strategic removal of other overgrowth. Thanks too for the note about Buddleja. I heard on the news today that the wet may continue into summer. What to plant is becoming an interesting question in Sydney.I agree with you that these frequent rain events make us question some of our plant choices. Plants that like excellent drainage are suffering in these prolonged wet spells. Deirdre

3/6  Lillian - 3951 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 04 July 2022

If I don't cut back those grasses today- tomorrow will probable be too late! After weeks of rain & drizzle here in S. Gippsland (more that twice our normal for June), the sun is back, warming every corner it can reach and pushing spring growth. As for strategic removal- lottsa luck everyone. Thank you Deidre for your marvellous columns. I always find something I didn't know. Thanks for your feedback. Hope the sun has continued for you.Deirdre

4/6  Kerrie - 2104 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 05 July 2022

I hear you & the others! Usually I'd have my garden, all the weeding & pruning well & truly done by now but this rain in Sydney has put me way behind & also the fact because of the rain there is SO much growth! I think I might of lost some bulbs due to being to wet but I guess I'll have to wait & see.Yes I do think some plants are going to be struggling after this latest rain event. There has definitely been more growth than usual due to all the rain we had in autumn. Deirdre

5/6  Shaun - 2075 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 05 July 2022

oh well we are all in the same boat NOT, gratefully, as many others are! poor sodden fields , flooded homes, businesses around 'riverines'? and for the third time for many! Really ghastly. Shaun It has been shocking to see the flooding happening again so soon after the last time; my heart goes out to all those affected. Our sodden gardens are trivial in comparison to the scenes of devastation around the state. Deirdre

6/6  Sue - 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 06 July 2022

A sodden garden, little seedlings trashed by rain and like you have many jobs in waiting. Did manage to get a lot of leaves into bins with some manure but probably all washed away by now. Still a few plants I need to move and divide and think the dahlias have probably turned to liquid having left them in ground. Let's hope the sun returns soon for all the folk whose gardens are completely underwater. Thank goodness the rain has stopped now and let‚??s hope it doesn‚??t return. Deirdre

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