The Summer Garden – Time to Take a Look!
February is the time of the year when we should take a breather under the shade of a cool tree and reassess the garden. After record temperatures experienced throughout most of Australia many gardens will be looking a little scorched. Taking a critical eye to the garden will allow you to think about moving pots, plants or selecting different varieties to cope with the extreme temperatures experienced over the summer months. Simple things, such as planting hardy groundcovers will do wonders to help cool roots of advanced trees and shrubs to ensure they don’t stress.
Selecting the right plant varieties for the garden.
The most inspirational gardens of the world are full of no-fuss plant varieties. Decades of trialling varieties suitable to the local area has resulted in survival of the toughest and the outcome is a low maintenance garden to world standard. We can take the lessons learnt from professional gardening teams and transform the average suburban garden into an exceptional one that will have friends, family and neighbours wondering how it’s done.
When selecting plant species for the garden it’s important to consider the life of the plant variety, because this is where many gardeners come unstuck. Garden centres are enticing places and instant gardens are the legacy of the modern family. Fast growing highly floriferous varieties will look stunning for the first year or two, then often decline and remain straggly for a couple of years requiring high maintenance to keep them looking acceptable. The slower growing varieties are ignored in favour of instant flowers. It’s these slower growing varieties we should all be planting. They take a little longer to become established, remain looking good for many years and definitely require minimal care to keep them in tip top shape.
Favourite Summer Performers
Clivea cv. – Are the perfect choice for neglectful gardeners. One of their favourite spots in the garden is under the canopy of established trees where other plants will not thrive. These notoriously hard to fill areas are continually dry and dark and is very difficult to add colour or interest all year round. The Clivea will thrive in most gardens in Australia and can be left to create large clumps in one position for over 20 years without dividing. Protect from hot sunny and frosty conditions.
Crepe Myrtle – Lagerstroemia These small summer flowering deciduous trees add brilliant colour in the warmer months. White, pink, mauve or burgundy forms are available to choose from. Depending upon the variety they will grow up to 8m high. The Indian Summer collection are mildew resistant and have been selected for their outstanding flowering habits. An extra feature of these trees is the smooth bark that develops over time. They can be grown as a tree specimen or if regularly pruned after flowering will remain as a bushy shrub.
Cooling Summer Shade
Plants are nature’s natural air conditioners. A thick covering of foliage will create a cool sanctuary that can be enjoyed in the heat of summer. Trees have been used for centuries to create shade and the famous tree lined roadsides of France are said to be a legacy of Napoleon, who planted them to create a favourable environment for his marching troops. Whether this legend is true or not isn’t important, what’s important is the recognition that trees and plants play an important role in cooling surrounding environments.
Factors to consider when designing for shade;
- Consider the movement of the sun and where it is at different seasons. A tree positioned to cast shade in spring over a window may not be effective in summer due the change in the height of the sun.
- For summer shade and winter sun, plant deciduous species.
- Deciduous climbers grown over pergolas cast dense protective shade.
- A canopy of foliage will protect sun sensitive understory plants.
- Consider at what time of the year the area will be used and design the space accordingly. What type of shade does it require?
- Can existing trees or buildings be used to your advantage?
With searing temperatures, the shade cast by a cleverly placed tree or two ensures the great outdoors can be enjoyed throughout the summer months. Strategically planted trees will also reduce internal temperatures of buildings and plants have a large role to play in modern architectural design. Climbers are also the perfect solution for quick fixes as they will reach the top of a pergola or frame in a short time.
Autumn Vegie Garden
Often the last thing on our mind when the sun is scorching is preparing to plant the autumn vegie garden. It’s the time of the year to sow seeds ready to plant out as soon as the weather cools down a little. Take a quality seed raising mix and place in a seed tray or shallow container that won’t waterlog and drains freely. Cover seeds over with a very fine layer of seed raising mix and water in well with Seasol solution. Apply liquid fertilising weekly when leaves start to form. Apply the correct solution strength suitable for seedlings or transplants to avoid fertiliser burn.
Seeds to sow in February include; beetroot, broccoli, broccolini, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, onions, radish, silverbeet. When you see the first sign of growth, apply Seasol (20mL per 9 litres of water – standard watering can) every 2 weeks to promote healthy, vigorous growth and a strong root system.