Rockvale Stone & Garden

Water and mud everywhere, with many people affected by the deluge last week. I hope not too much lasting devastation in homes and gardens. During the dry period and mop up here at Rockvale gardens, I hired that wonderful small chain saw on a pole and created havoc in my wake as I moved around the garden, thinning out and lowering shrubs and trees. Ours like any formal garden needs to be contained to fit the space allotted to it at the beginning of planting – which in our case was 37 years ago. Many trees and shrubs have been removed over these years to change areas and let light onto gardens.
Bulbs that shot up during warmer Winter days will continue to head for an early Spring display. If temperatures drop now, buds will be held and the cold will have a noticeable effect on soft new growth. However, Prunus Autumnalis are in full flower and the fragrance from Wintersweet, Witchhazel, Daphne, Boronia and Violets wafting about gardens, make Spring seem closer, so onward with pruning, humping straw bales and barrows of gravel in readiness for the Spring explosion. This is time for me to create and dress the garden by planting out, shifting and feeding. Liquid feeding Annuals and Perennials that have been nursed through Winter – Folia feeding helps new leaf growth, budding and flowering plants from now on. Roots are starting to take in nutrients to plump up buds.
Hydrangeas: This week I have noticed nice fat buds swelling on the hard wood stems of Hydrangeas – which indicates here on the coast, time to prune all stems that flowered last year down to the second bud from the bottom, leaving softer new stems to flower this year. Further inland, leave top growth on Hydrangeas to protect new buds during the cold of August. Feed hydrangeas now as well to keep flowers shades true – Aluminum Sulphate for blue flowers, Lime for pink, white never changes, but are best planted in light shade. The use of coffee grinds, grass clippings or pine needles spread around the drip line, can help to lower the PH of pink Hydrangeas and encourage them into shades of purple.
While raking out the last Autumn’s leaves that had blown under Shrubs, I come across branches from Shrubs laid down in soil forming roots – Viburnum, Choysia, Camellia and Hydrangeas. Most shrubs growing low to the ground can sometimes drop a branch into the soil and form roots, allowing the branch to be cut from the Mother bush to be potted and grown on. This can also be purposely done at the beginning of Spring by pegging branches down into the soil – roots should develop at the covered point. Making a small wound on the buried stem will help to stimulate root development.
Peony Roses: Cut the old growth from Peony Roses now and destroy – disease can Winter over on last year’s stems – be careful not to knock the new pink shoots emerging from the tubers. Cut the old growth from Dahlias now as well. If thick and tubular, bend the cut stalk over to prevent rainwater building up inside, which will lead to rot in a tuber.
Iris: Remove soil / mulch from Bearded Iris rhizomes – they need to be partially exposed to give the best flowering. A dressing of lime / potash will boost Iris flowering – avoid nitrogen which will encourage too much leaf growth.
Roses: With Roses making a move to bud up, they will be taking in food. Powdered Rose food needs watered in around the drip line – slow release fertiliser will work each time it rains and manure away from the crown.
Bare rooted Trees and Roses are still available in Garden Centres. If you think your garden is too small for trees, I have seen dwarf Peach and Nectarine Trees on offer. If you need a little tree growing to a width and height of 1.5 metres to add height in a part of your garden, why not have one that blossoms beautifully and then gives you fruit… Also planting trees in grow bags into the ground will contain width and height.
Vegetables: The veg I have in are holding well despite the weather extremes. Frosty areas inland can make a start now by adding some compost and a little lime for frost to work on in readiness for when you plant out later this month.
Fruit: Prune newly planted Fruit trees. This is probably the hardest cut you’ll make, but the most important. Cut a new tree at about hip high – do this whether your’e wanting a vase shape or a single leader. If the main branches start here, they’ll be reachable when fully grown.
Lets hope we don’t get too many dull overcast days by the time Fruit trees blossom – we need those wonderful Bees to come out and set to work pollinating…
Cheers, Linda.

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