Croton (leaf colour)
Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’
Montanoa tree daisy (seed heads)
Schauria (Miss Milly)
WHAT IS FEATURING IN THE GARDEN IN AUGUST:
The nights are still cool but the days are warm if there is no wind. Wind is more drying than the sun so it is important to mulch to try to keep any moisture in the soil.
SPRING IN THE SUB-TROPICS really starts in August and nothing evokes the smell of spring for me more than the smell of freesias. There are a few lovely buddleias that grow well in the subtropics, they are very drought tolerant and much loved by butterflies and bees. My favourite is Buddleia asiatica or as it is often found in nurseries ‘Spring Song’. It is a small upright tree or shrub with white slender racemes held on thin stems that dance in the breeze. It flowers in august and the smell is most intoxicating as the perfume is of freesias. If there is the slightest breeze you will find the scent wafting over the garden delighting the senses. It also has lovely grey/green leaves which have a white back. Another is buddleia madagascariensis which has bright gold flowers with green leaves that have a grey underside. It scrambles a bit and needs to be kept trimmed into a small bush. It also flowers in august and all through summer.
Another favourite of mine is a small one called buddleia lindleyana which does spread and tends to sucker but doesn’t grow very high. It can be contained if cut back in autumn after it has flowered all spring and summer. It has lavender flowers, doesn’t like the cold and is semi-deciduous but loves the humid hot summers. A lot of buddleias have been hybridised and there seems to be a lot of smaller plants now available, but like most plants the species seem to be a lot hardier and easier to grow.
Buddleias will grow in most soils, they like mulch and don’t mind if they dry out now and again. A light trim will keep them compact and bushy. Propagation can be done by taking hard wood cuttings in winter or if they sucker, by taking a sucker with roots attached and potting it up.
TRIM AND TIDY UP TROPICALS
Once the coldest weather has passed, we can start tidying up the tropicals, such as Gingers, Costas, Heliconias, Thalias, Calatheas, Marantas, Allamandas, Brazilian cloak, Mussaendas and Poinsettias. The Poinsettias can be cut back as soon as they have finished flowering and all can be nourished with some mulch. With the gingers and heliconias, only cut the stems which have ‘yellowed’ and the old stems that have ‘spent’ ends. Leave all the juvenile canes intact as these will give the clump a good start for summer flowers. This is also a good time to divide them if the clump has got too big for their area or are too ‘congested’.
With the gingers (and most perennials) I cut and drop, that is I leave the cuttings on the ground around the plant to break down naturally. By doing this, you may receive an added bonus as some of the old canes will strike and give you new baby plants.
DAISIES add a lovely freshness to the garden, as well as colour at this time of year. Osteospernnum and argyranthemum or heritage daisies are in the nurseries. They come in wonderful colours from white, pink, mauve through yellow and tan. If you have them in the garden you can easily take cuttings and either pot them up or put them straight in the garden and keep them moist until established.
Coreopsis is another lovely daisy for the front of the border as it is a fairly low plant. Check that they haven’t been buried by other plants, and they may need transplanting as they form plantlets over autumn/winter. Coreopsis also like full sun and a bit more moisture than other daisies but reward you with their golden faces.
VEGETABLES sown in winter are coming on nicely and being encouraged by the compost tea which I dilute 1:4 with water. Seeds of lettuce and pak choy have been sown and talk about instant germination, they were visible after a matter of days. I am keeping the water up to the vegetables as this ensures tenderness with constant growth.
Plant beans and snow peas as this will add nitrogen to the soil and will give you pickings over spring. Sweet Corn kernels can also be planted. Plant them in a block of 4 rows at least as they are wind pollinated. I have also planted seedlings of Kale and Ruby Chard as this looks great and is also great for picking leaves as you want them.
There are many native orchids that we can grow here in our gardens. The most popular is Dendrobium speciosum or the Rock Orchid. Most of our native orchids will have spikes now and you need to watch carefully as some don’t flower for very long and you can miss the display. I grow Dendrobium speciosum on rocks in part shade in the rainforest area where they have survived for many years. Once the flowers have gone new leaves will be produced from which next years flower spikes will come. Keep a sharp eye out for the Dendrobium beetle as they love these new leaves.
IN THE GARDEN