At the end of winter we are yearning for some colour in the garden; even a few strategically placed annuals will brighten up the dullest area. Look out for pansies, lobelia, marigolds, gazanias which are all in full flower now.
The Kangaroo Paws are starting to flower and will bring a smile to any self-respecting honeyeater’s face. The range of Kangaroo Paws sold under the name of Bush Gems flower will add colour to the garden. Kangaroo Paws are also a great plant for semi shaded positions such as under large trees where competing roots can be a problem for other plants.
It’s an ideal time of the year to start preparing the vegetable garden for warmer climate vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants and beans. All of these plants require warm weather and will thrive if planted out in early spring. The secret is in the soil preparation and the more effort put into the soil the better the vegetable garden will be. Start adding organic soil improver, chicken manure, sheep manure, composted horse manure and whatever else you can get your hands on. Dig it into the garden area or layer it on top of the soil. Vegetable gardens are very successful if grown in raised beds.
Many winter vegetables can still be planted in existing beds. Plant some broccoli which I think is one of the best vegetables to grow at home. The plants that I planted in March are still producing small florets after the main head was harvested and the best thing is that the kids will eat them! English spinach, cauliflower, silverbeet, peas, radish, carrots, Chinese cabbage, repeat-harvest lettuce, beetroot and snow peas can all be planted now.
Ladybirds are hatching but usually not fast enough as the aphids seem to find the soft new shoots of citrus and roses very quickly. These can be easily sprayed off with a jet of water or squashed depending upon how big the population is.
Any citrus trees that have come to the end of the fruiting season need to be fed with a complete fertiliser to give them new growth and enough energy to set flowers again.
Container plants are well suited for winter colour. Place them next to the windows so the plants can be seen from the inside of the house on those cold, wet days.
Cyclamen love the cold and will flower all winter; they are available in full flower and are excellent value. Just pop a few of them into some terracotta pots or a cast iron urn on the patio. Cyclamen make great bedding plants outside in the garden and can be planted under a standard wisteria or flowering plum tree. They will die down in summer and will shoot again the following autumn. When growing cyclamen in the ground, it is important to feed them as they are starting to die back as this feeds the corm for next year’s flowering.
Water saving at this time of the year is often the farthest thing from our minds but preparation done now will save you hours of anguish in the middle of summer. Any plants placed in the ground during the cooler months, from the largest tree down to the smallest seedling, will benefit from the addition of water storing granules in the hole. One teaspoon will swell up to at least one litre of gel, hence supplying one litre of water for the plant when it needs it. Pots, hanging baskets and in-ground plants benefit greatly.
All is not dull and boring in the garden in winter if plants have been selected for their winter interest, whether it is for their flowers or foliage. It is possible to have a garden just as colourful in the winter as any other season.
Most of us have a garden that is dull in the winter and looks fantastic in spring for a couple of months. This happens because we tend to visit the garden centre in the spring and we select plants that are looking fantastic at this time of the year and forget about other seasons. If we were to visit the garden centre in the winter we would find many plants that are in full flower. Place them in the garden and you can start to create a flowery haven in the middle of winter as well.
When planning a garden, save spots for plants that have different flowering seasons so that the character of the garden will change with the passing of every month.
Look out the window at the moment. Is your garden lacking colour? Scaevola Purple Fanfare will add interest with its lush green foliage reaching 30cm high and 1m wide. It is ideally suited to a full sun position, bordering pathways and is great for cascading over rock walls. Blue-purple flowers are on this plant nearly all year round. Leptospermum Pink Cascade is another that is looking stunning at the moment. Massed with pink tea tree flowers, you can hardly see the foliage. This is a low growing ground cover to 30cm and spreads to 1.5m wide.