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Enjoy spring but plan garden for summer

As I write we are in mid winter, a season when we have had plenty of rain – the Primulas are coming into flower, Wattles are blooming, the earliest of the Magnolia trees are bursting their buds, the Camellias have never been better, Hyacinths, Snowflakes and Daffodils are doing their bit and some of the tall Begonias in sheltered places are in full flower.

Soon it will be Spring - Prunus and Cherry blossoms, Crabapples, Rondeletias, Spirea (May), Philadelphus (Mock Orange), Azaleas, Cliveas, native Orchids, Polyanthus, Wistaria, Bluebells and a host of other bulbs, shrubs and annuals will burst into flower although, at the moment, it looks like some of the flowering may be later than usual because of the cold winter.

Enjoy their brief appearances while they are here, because in three to four months we will be looking at a Sydney summer, usually ushered in by a magnificent display of lilac Jacarandas in early November.

The pundits are predicting a hot, dry summer. My garden diaries record that in recent years we had some occasional October and November days of temperatures over 30C. There are many entries mentioning damaging winds so while you enjoy your spring garden, prepare it for whatever this summer chooses to throw at it.

Once more I want to talk about Artarmon soils because good and appropriate garden soil is the basic need of all plants. Artarmon is situated on a lens of Wianamatta shale, which lies over the Hawkesbury sandstone. That accounts for the heavy clay most of us encounter when we dig over a new or neglected plot. The clay soils extend through much of the higher areas of Artarmon and Chatswood but peter out where the sandstone is exposed on ridges and in gullies. This is why Artarmon Reserve has examples of both types of soil.

Clay soils have both advantages and disadvantages. The bad news is they are difficult to work when either too wet or too dry. Too wet and they are heavy and stick to your gardening tools; too dry and they set like concrete.

The good news is they are moderately fertile, retain moisture better than sandstone soils and respond well to the application of organic fertilisers. Sandstone soils on the other hand are forever thirsty and have an insatiable appetite for fertiliser.

So in Artarmon, you will be well rewarded for introducing compost to your gardens. This will help them to retain moisture in hot weather, particularly if you give the beds a good covering of any suitable mulch you can lay your hands on.

If you have just moved to the area and are unsure what to plant, or perhaps you have struck a dull patch in your existing garden, take a few walks around the area and note what is doing well and what you enjoy in local gardens. See what is in flower and plan to introduce it to your own by next year. Do not be too shy to ask owners about their plants. They will be flattered that you admired them. Next year someone could be asking you.

by Mollie Shelley

Courtesy of Gazette August 2012
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Cartoon: Wendy Bishop





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