In the garden with Linda Ross

Late summer gardens are ready for change – it’s time to start thinking about the autumn planting season to come. No time to let things go – prepare, plan, trim, tidy and, most importantly, water.


This February it’s time to…


Shasta daisies are drought-hardy and tough, and look gorgeous poking through a picket fence with hydrangeas. Picking for posies will guarantee more flowers.

Cape chestnut (Calodendrum capense) is a stunning flowering tree from South Africa with pink, orchid-like, scented flowers. Buy a grafted tree to guarantee good colour and earlier flowering.

Prune, trim and take cuttings

Trim agapanthus seed heads and finished lavender flowers.

Daisies, fuchsia and geraniums should be trimmed as they become woody. New growth means more flowers. Make extra plants with the prunings.

Trim and shape Chinese star jasmine.

Last chance to prune roses for a good autumn flush. Continue feeding every six weeks with a specialised rose fertiliser. Deep water with added seaweed for extra strength. 

It’s time to take cuttings of fuchsia, camellia, gardenia and azalea. On any shrub with stems changing from green to brown, take short 10cm cuttings in the early morning. Strip lower leaves, dip in hormone gel and plant. Keep shaded until established.

Think spring – order bulbs now for planting in autumn!

Order spring-flowering bulbs for planting from April. Try Dutch iris, babiana and ixia for best results, though it’s hard to resist the wow factor of one-hit wonder tulips.

Get your tickets for the Collectors’ Plant Fair, April 7 & 8 and buy direct from the growers. Tickets at

Watch out

Unsightly pimples on lillypilly leaves are caused by sap-sucking psyllids. Control with Eco Oil or by sprinkling a granular insecticide, such as Bug Killa, around roots.


Hibiscus, passionfruit and rhubarb will respond to a mix of cow manure, blood and bone and potash.

Feed apples, pears and stone fruit with blood and bone and cow manure spread out to the drip line of the trees.


Water trees and shrubs at the drip line not at the trunk: it is the feeder roots around the drip line that take up water and nutrients.

Water mango and avocado trees while the fruit is ripening.

Early morning watering is best for plants – and brings sweet relief for the waterer too.


Tidy hydrangea heads as they finish or allow them to age into pink and magenta tones through autumn.

Remove clumps of paspalum, summer grass, dandelion and thistle before they throw seed. Remove just below ground level with a sharp knife or dandelion knife.

Make the most of your summer produce

Preserve chilli and tomato harvests by making chilli jams and relishes. Cucumbers can easily be pickled and stored through the year too. There are hundreds of recipes for the lost art of preserve-making and pickling online.

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