Prune for blooms
Get roses and wisteria in shape now, says Mary Lovell-smith, then scour the seed catalogues and plan a gorgeous display of annuals.
• Time for wisteria’s second prune of the year. The first, after flowering in summer, takes out the whippy new shoots to five or so leaves, which encourages it to form flower buds rather than foliage. This winter prune should take those same shoots back further and is to prohibit foliage obscuring the flowers. A quick weed of flower beds will make your job easier in spring, when any weeds lying semi-dormant will spring into life as soon as the soil and air temperatures start to rise a little. Give flowerbeds a light dressing of blood and bone, stirring it gently into the soil. Perusing seed and nursery catalogues may inspire your spring and summer garden. Order seeds soon, ready for sowing later in August. The likes of lobelia, petunia, salvias, Shirley poppies, snapdragons, stock and zinnia are best started in a glasshouse or coldframe, or indoors until October, maybe, when they can be sown directly into the garden.
• Rose pruning season is here in earnest, though some prefer to wait till early spring when most danger of late frosts is past. The theory being that pruning promotes growth and tender new shoots can be damaged by frosts. All roses may be pruned now except for banksias and climber types, which should be done in summer after the first flush of flowering. Prune with sharp secateurs or a pruning saw to remove crossing-over, spindly, weak, diseased or dead branches, and any thinner than a pencil. Cut remaining branches to about four outwardfacing buds. Branches that sprout from below the graft (usually recognised as a bulge, or a change of bark at the base of rose bushes) are called suckers and should be removed from below ground level. Cuts are usually made at a 45-degree angle to encourage rainwater to run off the plant.
• Chit potatoes – that is, place them single-layer in a tray in a cool dry place to sprout. When the sprouts are about 1cm long they will be ready for planting in the garden. • Sow broadbeans without delay. Like peas,
broadbeans don’t like the heat of summer. • Cauliflower, cabbage and silverbeet may also be sown in seed trays under cover (a sheet of glass or thick plastic is adequate in all but the coldest places), ready for planting out into the garden in spring. • Prepare vegetable beds for the coming season. Green manure crops should be dug in; as should compost – either instead or as well.