Don’t waste the win­ter

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Leisure - HOLLY KERR FORSYTH

WHILE some of us shiver through the cold­est months of the year, other re­gions in our vast coun­try hardly ex­pe­ri­ence win­ter at all: a respite from heat and hu­mid­ity is the wel­come sign of win­ter in the Top End.

In south­ern parts the colours of au­tumn are long gone, and trees are bare. Frost set­tles on plants each morn­ing, cre­at­ing crys­tal sculp­tures, and days are short. We are in the grip of win­ter. There are chores to be com­pleted in the gar­den, how­ever, no mat­ter how much the warm in­doors may beckon.

Any leaves re­main­ing on the ground should be raked up and added to the com­post bin or, once mown over, can be em­ployed as a mulch. Don’t be tempted to leave them ly­ing dec­o­ra­tively on the ground as they will pre­vent your lawn from breath­ing.

It’s time to plant and to trans­plant. You can or­der bare-rooted roses now, when prices are lower and the range of va­ri­eties on of­fer is vast: heel them in some­where un­til you are ready to plant them out, soak­ing them well first.

David Austin Roses, so pop­u­lar with Aus­tralian gar­den­ers, re­leases sev­eral new va­ri­eties each year. All have the blowsy, re­laxed form and in­tense fra­grance that we love. This year the cream ‘Claire Austin’, named for Austin’s daugh­ter, and ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’, a deep pink, are among the of­fer­ings.

Many read­ers in warm tem­per­ate and sub­trop­i­cal cli­mates strug­gle with roses. Tea-roses, with their DNA from south­ern China, may be the an­swer, among them the lus­cious cream-flushed-with-pink ‘Marie van Houtte’, the shell-pink ‘New Dawn’ and the cream ‘Devonien­sis’. Sup­port these climbers on a high per­gola, per­haps, to en­sure the good air cir­cu­la­tion that roses love.

Win­ter is the time to trans­plant, also, when most trees and shrubs are dor­mant. Move fruit trees af­ter har­vest, ever­green plants af­ter flow­er­ing. Weeks in ad­vance, start to warn your plant that mov­ing day is nigh by cir­cling it with a wide trench. Trans­port the plant to a large, well­pre­pared hole, tak­ing as big a root ball as pos­si­ble. Trim off ex­cess roots, and com­pen­sate by prun­ing the fo­liage. Take care not to bury the plant: be guided by the soil marks on the trunk, and re-place it to that level. Wa­ter the plant in well with a sea­weed con­di­tioner. Mulch, but avoid bring­ing the mulch flush with the plant’s trunk, which would en­cour­age col­lar rot.

Win­ter is the time for re-pot­ting, also. Tease out the roots of the plant and re­move any dam­aged sec­tions: re-pot into fresh pot­ting mix.

If you didn’t do so in late au­tumn, crowns of rhubarb can be planted now in com­post-rich, slightly acid soil, where they can re­main for sev­eral years. Rhubarb, full of vi­ta­mins, de­mands sun­shine and reg­u­lar wa­ter, and dis­likes be­ing moved; it does not do so well in pots. While rhubarb does best in cool cli­mates, where the stems take on the deep­est red colours, the hy­brid ‘Glask­ins Per­pet­ual’, with its heavy green stalks, grows well in warm tem­per­ate cli­mates. Har­vest two to three-year-old plants in sum­mer through to au­tumn by grasp­ing a stalk near the base of the plant and twist­ing; do not cut stalks, as this en­cour­ages disease. As you prob­a­bly know, the leaves are poi­sonous be­cause they con­tain ox­alic acid; they can be boiled, how­ever, to cre­ate an in­sect spray.

It’s not too late to or­der pota­toes, and you can plant them now. Keep up the worm tea and liq­uid fer­tiliser to keep win­ter ve­gies grow­ing.

Win­ter is the time to erect worm farms and com­post bins, tidy sheds, sharpen tools, clean and paint out­door fur­ni­ture and fences.

It’s a time for cre­at­ing new gar­den beds, erect­ing es­paliers and step-over hedges for train­ing low-grow­ing fruit trees: for plan­ning and dream­ing.

It’s time also to sim­ply sit and en­joy the win­ter gar­den: to ap­pre­ci­ate the sculp­tural form of bare branches that pro­vide a trac­ery against the sky, to no­tice seed heads glowing in the golden evening light as the sun sets early each day.

And, as spring bulbs start to push through the cold soil, to re­mem­ber that the sea­sons will in­deed go full cir­cle and that warm weather will come again. Read­ers have asked, fol­low­ing the col­umn on Ken­roku-en Gar­dens in Kanazawa, the names of the other two gar­dens among the three great gar­dens of Ja­pan. They are Ko­raku-en, in Okayama (where you can change trains for Naoshima Is­land) and Kairaku-en in Mito, in Ibaraki pre­fec­ture. If you can’t get to these, how­ever, there are dozens of other ex­tra­or­di­nary gar­dens in Ja­pan, from tiny jewels you might glimpse as you wan­der past an an­cient wooden fence to large stroll gar­dens cre­ated for war­lords and em­per­ors. Fol­low daily gar­den tips and tricks on twit­ter.com/hol­lyk­er­forsyth. Holly Kerr Forsyth’s new book, Sea­sons in My House and Gar­den, is out now.

HOLLY KERR FORSYTH

Build­ing a vegie gar­den is among the out­door tasks pos­si­ble in the cold sea­son

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