Icy crys­tals target sus­cep­ti­ble plants

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - ROBERT GUYTON

WATCH OUT FOR FROST

You might be able to sim­ply en­joy the phe­nom­e­non and the beauty its icy crys­tals bring – my cam­era comes out on frosty morn­ings and I crunch around the neigh­bour­hood tak­ing pho­to­graphs of leaves and stalks bearded with frost – but you might have plants that do badly when frozen and you’ll need to take mea­sures to pro­tect them. The sim­plest frost-proof­ing is a cap of news­pa­per, draped over any frost-in­tol­er­ant plants and left in place till mid-morn­ing when the white rime has been burned off by the sun. My brug­man­sia and le­mon trees get this treat­ment, when I re­mem­ber to do it, and it keeps them safe from the cell-ex­plod­ing ac­tion of a hard frost. Pur­pose-wo­ven anti-frost cloths can be pur­chased from gar­den cen­tres and they work well, though have to be dis­posed of even­tu­ally, once their fi­bres have dis­in­te­grated. News­pa­per – cheaper and more read­ily found – can go into the soil or fire­place. Struc­tures cov­ered in burlap are tra­di­tional pro­tec­tions for valu­able frost-ten­der plants and can re­main in place through­out win­ter, pro­vid­ing shel­ter from un­ex­pected late frosts.

PLANT FEIJOAS

There’s a rust that’s threat­en­ing the fam­ily of plants that fei­joa be­longs to, but we shouldn’t aban­don favourite plants just be­cause there’s a new pest in town.

The myr­tle rust that’s ar­rived looks to be a big prob­lem for the myr­tle fam­ily, but there’s al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity that your gar­den and the plants grow­ing in it might be the ones that have re­sis­tance or show signs of re­silience when the at­tack comes – that they’ll be the ba­sis for a re­cov­ery for the va­ri­ety and the in­dus­try it’s part of. It’s per­haps a lit­tle far-fetched to think that your own lit­tle gar­den might play a valu­able part in the sav­ing of a species, but it might, you can never know. In any case, feijoas are fab­u­lous fruits and taste won­der­ful freshly picked from your own gar­den. This one (pic­tured) grew on the fei­joa va­ri­ety, ‘Kai­teri’ and reached an im­pres­sive size, con­sid­er­ing the lo­ca­tion, one step away from Antarc­tica. Look for trees at gar­den cen­tres now.

DON’T BE TOO FAS­TID­I­OUS IN THE GAR­DEN

Take ex­tra care when mov­ing any­thing you’ve left stacked on the ground over this wet­ter sea­son. Small crea­tures like frogs or these gor­geous leaf-vein slugs are likely to be rest­ing, hi­ber­nat­ing even, be­neath planks, bricks, stacks of pots or what­ever you may have piled up in an out-of-the-way corner.

This hand­some lit­tle slug had nes­tled into the basin of this fallen ap­ple and must have been sur­prised when I gath­ered it up on my wind­fall round of the late-bear­ing ap­ple trees.

I put him and the ap­ple back onto the ground. Pop­u­la­tions of sen­si­tively-skinned crea­tures like these, and the whistling frogs that shel­ter un­der the stacks of tim­ber be­side my tun­nel-house, are eas­ily lost when gardens are kept too tidy and their habi­tat is re­moved.

GIVE FLAX AND ASTELIA A CHOP

Trim your astelia and flax bushes back from the paths they are so of­ten planted be­side. Strap-leafed plants like these are mar­vel­lous fore­ground fea­tures; they are soft to brush past and grow low enough to look over, into the wider gar­den, but they can also get thick and sprawl­ing if not at­tended to with some sort of sharp tool. The best of those tools, in my opin­ion, is the Ni­washi Shark, a saw-toothed, Ja­pane­se­made draw-knife that makes short work of trim­ming back the blades of any floppy plant. A quick and de­ci­sive pull through the lower part of the leaf of flax, toe­toe or astelia is all it takes to bring those plants back into or­der and favour.

Don’t drop the sev­ered leaves onto the path; they be­come very slip­pery in the rain and you’ll have vis­i­tors slid­ing off into the shrub­bery if they try to walk over them. Ni­washi Sharks can be or­dered on­line and re­main sharp for a very long time.

DON’T PRUNE WINTERSWEET

Prune ev­ery­thing that would ben­e­fit from a care­ful trim, but stay well away from your wintersweet! I pruned mine for years, grow­ing as it did un­der­neath the kitchen win­dow and try­ing with all its might to block my view as I washed the dishes. I had to trim it ev­ery year or lose the morn­ing sun.

I did won­der as I snipped away, why my wintersweet flow­ered so poorly, while oth­ers around the district were drip­ping with blooms and redo­lent with the ex­quis­ite scent that wintersweet is fa­mous for. Fi­nally, I twigged – I was prun­ing off the flow­er­ing bits. Wintersweet re­quires to left alone, re­main un­cut, untrimmed and un­mo­lested, so I’ve taken ac­tion. I couldn’t move the kitchen, so I shifted the shrub. The wintersweet now stands where it can grow tall and wide and won’t be vis­ited by a se­ca­teur-wield­ing me.

This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get grow­ing, from New Zealand Gar­dener mag­a­zine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for Get Grow­ing at: get­grow­ing.co.nz

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.