All through winter, keen gardeners wait for the onset of Spring and long for it even if the coziness of winter is enjoyable. The change of season always brings renewal and vitality to garden growth in the early days of Spring, and it is an exciting time. Eagerly watching for signs of new buds and the first open blooms and seeing the bright burgundy leaves and the intensity of the perfect lush foliage is gratifying. We have waited patiently, and there is an air of renewal, hope and suspense.
Everyone loves Spring, a chance to be up close and personal with the plant world and enjoy the anticipation of the garden taking shape without knowing how it will all end up. It is a joyful time; so much abundance in nature stirs the soul and enlivens the spirit. For gardeners, the days spent in the garden feel unlike work. The weather is changeable as night and day, and one never knows what is coming next, but some days are picture-perfect. Cloudless bright blue skies, still and peaceful, warm with a light cool breeze. It does not get any better than this.
The constant sense of hope that all gardeners feel has a flip side of occasional disappointment when plants don’t do well, take an age to establish, or the weather causes disasters. One never knows, so patience is the main attribute one needs to feel successful. If I had realised how long some plants would take to settle, I’m sure I would have planted something else entirely. On the other hand, after some time, when we least expect it, we can look out the window or wander in the garden and be surprised by the beauty of a single bloom, or the way plants have recovered after being moved, or plants we had completely forgotten about are suddenly in flower.
As I compare last year’s September photos of the garden, the rejuvenation of winter’s work has been worthwhile. The only aspect of my hard prune I’ve had to take on the chin is that the blooms will be later than usual this year. All will be revealed in time. I’m encouraged that some of the changes in my garden are starting to take shape and are looking good so far. A rural landscape with distinct seasons means a daily surprise seeing the transition and rejuvenation that comes ever so quietly yet predictably after winter. The bulbs emerged on queue, leafing followed, and now buds have formed on some roses; brilliant green is everywhere from dry stalks and seemingly dead branches with a few rose blooms out.
Gardens can be grand, exotic, sleek, whimsical, wild, or simple. It does not matter whether there are hundreds of plants or only a few varieties; it is for joy, a place to build memories, have fun, marvel at nature and be surprised by colour and beauty. If we can achieve any of these, we are successful gardeners, no matter the size or style of garden we create.
Making mistakes and gardening through trial and error is an experience that builds resilience. Our mistakes can be happy accidents that nature manages to effortlessly turn into unique vistas one would never have been able to design oneself. Over time, one learns, and nature creates, and those plants, seeds and bulbs that we thought did not take or seem dormant can suddenly flourish and pop up where we least expect to see them. They have settled in and become one with the landscape in a free-flowing randomness – a garden.
After the winter work of pruning and clearing out the debris of last summer, I’ve established the basics of the garden and have more weeds and mulching to attend to. Going forward into Spring and the new season, there are a few daily habits that I’m determined to follow this year. These will make all the difference and help the garden to sing. They only take a few minutes and can prevent disasters before they take hold.
Best Habits for Gardeners
Each morning, go out to the garden and OBSERVE. If you can’t fix any issues immediately, make a mental note to act as soon as possible.
DEADHEAD DAILY Snip off any dead leaves and spent blooms, and regularly cut herbs to make them flourish and stop them from going to seed.
CHECK FOR PESTS under foliage and above.
CHECK FOR DISEASES Do a daily check for signs of disease.
WATCH new growth and blooms unfolding.
STAKING AND TYING CLIMBERS Check if any plants require staking or new climbing branches need attaching to a trellis or arbour.
WATER WISELY: Give the garden a thorough, deep soaking less often rather than a quick spray every day. Do not overwater or underwater.
|SIGNS OF UNDERWATERING||SIGNS OF OVERWATERING|
|Dry soil.||Wet soil.|
|Yellowing of foliage.||Floppy plants.|
|Slow plant growth with wilted leaves.||New growth falls off.|
|Leaves towards the base are brown.||Slimy, smelly roots.|
|Yellow or brown leaves falling off.|
Understanding the various weather patterns of the garden region and choosing the right plants for the area can make a massive difference to the success of any garden. Also, we can let our gardens do some of the work for us by planting disease-resistant plants and plants that repel pests. This list of plants may help by either being a trap to attract insects and keep them away from prized plants or because the strong fragrance will deter some insects, so they are kept away.
Best Companion Plants
- BASIL planted around the verandah areas may repel flies and mozzies and deter slugs in the garden.
- CHIVES plant in the garden to repel aphids, carrot flies and beetles and for blackspot on roses.
- LEMON THYME is a good pollinator and may keep mozzies away.
- LEMON BALM
- PETUNIAS deter aphids
- LAVENDER deters slugs, and the strong fragrance will keep aphids off roses. It is used in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney to mask the scent of roses from aphids.
- GARLIC repels aphids and slugs.
- NASTURTIUMS can act as traps to keep insects from crops, which are especially useful in the vegetable garden.
- PROSTRATE ROSEMARY deters slugs.
- WORMWOOD deters slugs.
- COSMOS deters caterpillars.
- BAY LEAVES If you are lucky enough to have a Bay Tree, or if not, even sprinkling the store-bought bay leaves in pest-prone areas will deter flies, ants and cockroaches.
Title quote by Kate Morton.
Content and images Di Baker