Is there any sound more lovely than the sound of rain on the roof after a dry spell? Although the coastal areas of Australia have had far too much rain further inland, it is still a welcome treat in most areas. Light rain showers to boost the newly planted crops and a holiday for gardeners from hand watering.
There is gentle rain falling today, often called Irish drizzle, and it is just enough to moisten the mulch and small plants added in yesterday – the garden loves it. Any rain in the garden positively impacts soil and plant development and is a fantastic kickstart for the newly planted or transplanted roses and perennials. There is nothing like rain to refresh the entire landscape, and this year the wetter conditions are a gardener’s dream in our region usually so dry in summer. Problems with fungus, blackspot, dieback and root rot problems are widespread in NSW gardens though, due to too much water and humidity including all of our olive trees.
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, there has been a 7 per cent increase in the amount of rain in Australia and for the first time in 5 years there is officially no area of Australia left in drought. Some parts of the country received more than triple their expected rainfall earlier this year.
Many rosebuds are still forming, so the blooms will continue to open until the end of May unless we have very cold weather. Autumn allows some roses to bloom more perfectly than in Spring, almost as if they wanted to be noticed individually rather than in the crowded spectacle of Spring. The surrounding paddocks are also greening up as the crops pop out of the ground, always a welcome sight.
Yes, there is much to be pleased with this year out in the garden. Thanks to some much-needed help lately, summer growth is under control, the garden is weeded, and those long lawn runners are on a tight rein. I’ve had ample time to plant perennials and the soil rejuvenation is in full swing with compost, mulch and newspaper added to suppress the weeds. Today, all roses have been sprayed with the eco rose management plan -fungicide. Often the nature of life is that you don’t have the time available when the garden requires specific tasks, but this year, the rewards of an extended focus in the garden at the right time should be obvious come Springtime.
Despite good intentions and careful planting, our gardens are ultimately at the mercy of the weather and the gardener. The making of any garden landscape is by providence rather than expertise combining inspired ideas, well-made plans, and trial and error. There are many days spent on strenuous work but sometimes pottering is perfect for musing over one’s mistakes that often bring surprising outcomes, then at other times, just maintenance is required. Gardening is a balance of days with attention to detail and nurturing, days of unavoidable neglect when other aspects of life loom, and days when we can simply stop, smell the roses and relax.
I’m encouraged by all the progress and eager for the emergence of the new landscape after winter. The development of a garden is like the art of ceramics; after glazing, one does not know precisely what the outcome will be until the piece is fired. Similarly, a definitive landscape cannot be assured until it happens. There are so many elements in creating a garden, least of all is the gardeners’ wishes. What is essential is to look after the soil and plants the best you can and understand that a garden, once created like all living things, is a responsibility.
Gardens should be full, overflowing and abundant, so they create contrast, movement and texture. This year, I’ve gone all out and hope that the chosen perennials fill the gaps between the rose plants well because I don’t like the bare earth visible, preferring a wilder, fuller garden style. On the other hand, I’ve had some restraint in my choices, restricting my selection to about five varieties and within each cultivar are numerous styles of plants.
Five Favourite Perennials for this Season
Salvias – There are so many salvias to choose from, and over time the garden has now numerous varieties that pop up each season like surprise treats. From softest apricot and peach to deep magenta and red and always the most intense purple bees adore. Some are ridiculously large, but I prefer the more well behaved Salvia Leucantha or Mexican Sage Bush, Salvia Azurea. Both grow in clumps throughout the garden to 120 cm. The Leucantha has velvety flower heads that are regal, strong and upright in either a rich purple, bright white or two-tone pink.
Ornamental Grasses– I love the look of the feathery plumes of grasses blowing in the Autumn breeze. They provide a soft texture and graceful movement to the landscape. Two to three clumps are a beautiful contrast to grow amongst sedums and roses. I don’t plant too many as the surrounding paddocks are full of grasses too in Autumn.
Rosemary– I can’t live without rosemary. It’s a wonderful aromatic herb and vigorous bush that’s a must in any garden. This year, I’ve added more Mozart rosemary from Lambley Nursery called Rosemary Officinalis ‘Mozart’. It is an upright variety with dark green foliage and bright blue flowers that bloom from May until November. It is growing as a hedge with Lavender along the front of a garden bed.
Lavender– Who can resist Lavender? Reminiscent of the French countryside of picturesque lavender farms, the scent alone is divine. The bees go crazy for it, and the silver foliage is a perfect foil between roses and other perennials, providing that soft romantic look that fills the gaps in garden beds. Some lavenders in the garden are huge, highly perfumed and delightful. Mostly, I have planted French Lavender or Lavandula dentata because the flowering season is long and has lovely light foliage and a softer appearance. I’ve also planted new lavender plants –Lavender Grosso -Lavandula Intermedia ‘Grosso’, a high oil content lavender with violet-blue spikes and one of the most fragrant lavenders. In our area, this is perfect because it is drought and heat tolerant and also frost hardy.
Sedums– Like salvias, sedums are many and varied. Different shapes, colours, sizes, and styles are either trailing or upright. During Autumn, ornamental grasses are at their best, and Sedums are in bloom, so they are great companions to provide a natural contrast and add layers of texture to the garden.
There are many other perennials, but the five above are favourites because they provide a wealth of variety in each species. Unfortunately, I’ve made mistakes with some hastily put in plants that are now annoyingly invasive. If you are not sure of the nature of a perennial, then plant it in a pot first; otherwise, some will take over and spread throughout the entire garden enveloping all the other plants underneath.
Many salvias and grasses will be far too large for small garden spaces unless cut back in season. This year I have two salvias that are beautiful to view, and the bright blue/ purple flowers are always densely covered with bees, but they have grown far too wide for the garden. Under one Salvia are five roses totally hidden from view, so once the flowering is finished, it will be moved to a newly available bare corner that needs some colour. Although large, this Salvia is a haven for bees. It has grown in one season into a rounded shrub of 3 metres wide and 2 metres tall, and the flowers are long and prolific. It’s an understatement to say the bees really love it because there are literally hundreds on this Salvia every day, busily collecting nectar before winter.
All content Di Baker 2022
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