FOIBLES OF SPRING
This week I’ve been showing a group of plant enthusiasts around Tassie gardens. We are almost at the end of a nine-day tour that took us from the North to the South via the wild scenery of the East Coast.
Recent rains have made this a green trip with flowers galore but what intrigued us as we travelled was how local microclimates affect bloom times. Despite Tasmania’s relatively small size, the progress of spring through the state isn’t uniform.
Our southern latitudes mean spring here is later than elsewhere in Australia so the past week has been a refreshing change for the mainlanders on the tour, whose own gardens had left spring far behind.
Anabel’s at Scottsdale, in the North East is a historic garden renowned for its towering old rhododendrons. For our visit there were as many flowers on the ground as on the centuryold shrubs but the effect was still splendid. The rhododendrons at Anabel’s are so big and impressive that the first time I saw them I was literally stopped in my tracks and had to pull the car to the side of the road to avoid becoming a traffic hazard.
In and around Launceston, where the tour began, roses and wisteria were in bloom. Just an hour or so west however, where we explored gardens around Deloraine and Mole Creek, we stepped back in time by several weeks to enjoy the beauty of early spring all over again with blossom trees and late bulbs.
At Deb and Scott Wilson’s Old Wesleydale between Chudleigh and Mole Creek, aquilegias stole the show. Known as granny’s bonnets these biennials self-seed meaning Deb and Scott never know where the plants will pop up.
While the white weeping cherries near the house were a mass of green leaves, the ones near the lake were in full bloom. We enjoyed lilac and viburnum and soaked up the last of the bluebells and displays of potted tulips.
According to Deb, the season was running a little late but rain and warm days brought out flowers in a bit of a rush. She also pointed out how different parts of the garden are ahead of others due to microclimates. Iris growing in a raised sloping bed built originally for vegetables were all in full flower while in other areas the same plants were only starting to show colour. Scott put the early flowering down to the warmth of the north-facing bed, which he said was designed to make the most of the sun and encourage early crops.
But Scott and Deb don’t get complacent as there’s always the chance of a cold night or frost in November so they keep an eye on weather forecasts. They were particularly worried about the garden’s standard white wisteria, which was budding up but yet to flower. It has been hit by frost in the past so the frost cloth was at the ready for cold nights.
Five minutes down the road at Wychwood in Mole Creek, owners David Doukidis and Matt Bendall were up to their elbows in new perennial plantings, most rare and most grown from seed. They are keen to discover more shade-loving perennials including grasses.
They reported an average winter and early spring with lots of frosty mornings and a couple of -7C nights, but thankfully no repeat of the floods that welcomed them to the garden in 2016, when they were new owners. The flowers here were a little behind those at Old Wesleydale but some species roses were beginning to flower and the perennials were breathtaking.
Visit open gardens
Many Tassie gardens are open in November on regular open days or by appointment. See bloomingtasmania.com.au for details. For Old Wesleydale see oldwesleydale heritage.com and for regular updates on Wychwood follow them on Facebook.