In the garden with Linda Ross

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Summer gardens are relaxing and vibrant places to soak up the beauty of nature, rest up and recharge. Filling your garden with dry tolerant flowers and shrubs will create a great vibe and wonderful sanctuary.

Garden seats

A garden bench, whether painted, treated or weathered hardwood, classic or detailed, is the perfect spot to take in your garden with a friend. Sometimes benches are places from which to take in the view, as if at the theatre, as on this page; other times they serve as the viewpoint themselves, creating a picture in the garden. Take time during the holidays to place the perfect bench in your garden, and it will encourage you sit and enjoy the view.

 

Say ‘holidays’ with flowers

In the dictionaries of ‘florigraphy’ there are floral choices for expressing emotions as complex as a tepid affection (daffodils) and appreciation of loyalty (violets) but there is no floral choice expressing the sentiment ‘Yay – it’s holiday time!’ To redress the lack, here’s our choice of the top 5 flowers that wave happy holiday flags though summer.

Perfect for hot spots and pots, red geraniums are excellent as gifts or for speedily decorating the outdoor table. Look for ‘Big Red’, which has bigger flowers than usual and is a strong performer. It also comes in pink.

You’ll get a rainbow of colour from one packet of zinnia seeds. Or, if you’ve left it a bit late, you can find zinnias in flower in pots in nurseries. Mix up the colours to get the wildest effect. Zinnias flower best in full sun – keep an eye out for mildew late in the summer if the weather is humid.

 

These simple but dazzling flowers bring on Hawaiian fantasies of balmy nights and cocktails, grass skirts optional. There are lots of cultivars bred to do well in pots, so choose the colour and style that suits and feed often to keep the flowers coming.

This flower lights up the night garden. Each bloom only lasts a single night, but what a show! Perfumed, glowing like the moon and as big as a plate, few flowers can challenge the queen for impact and sheer enjoyment.

Checklist. It’s time to…

PRUNE agapanthus flower heads to prevent seeding through the garden and bush.

TRIM whippy growth from wisteria back to 30cm.

WATER lemons, their marble sized fruit need water to mature.

LOOK for baby snails.

PRUNE lavender into globes and dry flowers to use in potpourri.

If leaves get sunburned, don’t prune them off. The scorched leaves will protect those beneath from further scorch on the next blasting hot day. The plant may find it hard to recuperate from two burns.

FEED hungry hibiscus, passionfruit, dipladenia and tomatoes with a fertiliser high in potassium.

Feed palms, ferns and salad greens with seaweed, worm juice or fish emulsion.

Check nursery catalogues and order bulbs and perennials to plant out in autumn. The earlier you make you decision the more likely your favourites won’t be sold out.

STAKE dahlias as they grow.

To pick hydrangeas that last, first water the plants well. Then cut and dunk the mop top flowers into a sink of cool water. Drip dry, then crush the end of the stem and arrange in a vase.

Be vigilant against rust on frangipani, canna and fuchsia. Spray with Eco-fungicide, and bin any fallen infected leaves.

Sow seeds of next winter’s vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflowers and lettuce, into seedling trays. Keep in a shaded spot.

In the vegie patch

 

Zucchinis are exuberant summer vegetables that ramble along the ground. They produce a harvest every second day, which might overwhelm if it weren’t for their versatility as raw, cooked, pickled, souped, or frittered deliciousness.

Growing: Zucchini and squash need sunshine, water and space. And we mean space – plant them at least 1.5m apart. Before planting add dolomite to the soil, according to packet directions. This will top up the calcium in the soil and prevent blossom end rot, which is a disease that causes the ends of the fruit to rot. Add cow manure and a little handful of potash and wait two weeks before planting seedlings.

Harvesting: Zucchini have both female and male flowers, the female flowers being those with the fruit just beneath. Both flowers can be eaten as is, or stuffed and cooked. The female flowers with the baby zucchini attached are particularly tasty. Harvest the fruit at 15cm, every second night through summer, or you’ll end up with tasteless marrows. Wear a long shirt and gloves if you are worried by the leaf spikes.

Troubleshooting

  • The large leaves can be affected by powdery mildew, which looks like white powder on top of leaves. Treat it immediately with Eco-fungicide.
  • Yellow and wrinkled fruit are due to lack of pollination. To pollinate, simply move the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers early in the morning

Varieties:

Lebanese – grows 4-6cm long, the pale green fruit is best picked 10-15cm long

Black Jack – dark green skin, grows 2m, best picked 15-18cm long

Gold Bullion – great golden colour though can be difficult to grow in Sydney

Pattypan squash – also called scallop squash or summer squash, these are available in yellow, green, and white varieties. Pick when no more than 6cm across

Collectors Plant Fair

Love plants?

We love our annual day out at Collectors Plant Fair. A beautiful fair filled with wholesale plant growers, pots, books, pickles, good food, coffee and expert advice. The fair is held in the grounds of Hawkesbury Racecourse in Clarendon. April 7-8, 2018. www.collectorsplantfair.com.au

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