Win­ter To-do list

What fun it is, in the dead of win­ter, to dream of spring bulbs and bil­low­ing sum­mer peren­ni­als. But don’t hang up your gar­den­ing gloves just yet. There’s still plenty to do in the gar­den. And your win­ter chores will lay the ground­work for a suc­cess­ful sp

NZ Gardener - 365 Days of Flowers - - The Win­ter Gar­den -


• Don’t waste your time sow­ing in trays or pots un­less you have a glasshouse or a heated prop­a­ga­tor and a con­ser­va­tory to grow your seedlings on. In cold cli­mates, gyp­sophila can be sown in Au­gust; in warmer ar­eas sow bellis daisies, cos­mos, del­phini­ums and di­anthus, but once again, wait un­til win­ter is al­most over.


• Plant hardy an­nu­als such as pan­sies, prim­u­las, polyan­thus, Ice­land pop­pies, blue and white lo­belias, and cinerarias for a cheery splash of bed­ding colour.

• De­cid­u­ous trees and shrubs mightn't look like much but they'll be a pic­ture come spring. Stake at plant­ing.

• Don’t for­get to take your tulip bulbs out of the fridge and get them in the ground pronto.

• New sea­son’s bare­root roses are in gar­den cen­tres from mid­win­ter.


• Prune hy­drangeas. A nip and tuck keeps hy­drangeas com­pact and bushy. For com­mon lace­cap and mop­head va­ri­eties, best prac­tice is to re­move older canes as near to the base as you can. Re­move any small spindly stems as well. On the re­main­ing healthy stems, make a flat cut just above a fat pair of dou­ble buds. Some stems have a sin­gle tightly furled bud in a point at the end of the stem – leave these on as they're the ear­li­est of the flow­ers.

• Roses are tra­di­tion­ally pruned in late win­ter. Leave off as long as pos­si­ble; if we get a mild start to the sea­son, prun­ing can sim­ply en­cour­age ten­der new growth, which can be dam­aged if late frosts ap­pear. While re­peat­flow­er­ing roses are pruned in late win­ter, once-bloomers are pruned im­me­di­ately af­ter flow­er­ing. Hard prun­ing (for clas­sic Hy­brid Teas) is tak­ing two-thirds off the bush; moder­ate prun­ing (for most roses) is re­mov­ing one-third. Make an­gled cuts just above out­ward-fac­ing nodes. Try to end up with a bal­anced bush. If there are use­less old canes, saw them off at the base.

• When early sasan­quas fin­ish flow­er­ing, prune for shape.

• Dead­head red hot pok­ers and use your fin­ger­tips to nip off the spent blooms of bed­ding an­nu­als.


• Frost-dam­aged plants. Ten­der species hit by un­ex­pected frosts may look mis­er­able, but prun­ing off frost­bit­ten fo­liage will only make mat­ters worse, as it en­cour­ages new (and even more frost-ten­der) growth. Leave this job un­til late spring.


• Move ten­der plants un­der cover, roll out frost cloth or spray with Liq­uid Frost Cloth. Mulching the dormant crowns of peren­ni­als with pea straw also helps to in­su­late them.


• Fun­gal dis­eases such as black spot, rust and mildew can be kept to a min­i­mum by spray­ing roses in win­ter. Spray twice (two or three weeks apart) with a cop­per-based spray, such as Yates Cop­per Oxy­chlo­ride, mixed with hor­ti­cul­tural oil. The oil helps the cop­per to stick to the roses. Cover the whole bush – as well as the soil un­der­neath – with spray to be sure to kill any over­win­ter­ing fungi.


• Cut back on wa­ter­ing. The big­gest rea­son for plant fail­ure over win­ter is too much mois­ture. Water only when the soil is dry. Use tepid water or tap water at room tem­per­a­ture. Cold water can re­duce the abil­ity of roots to take up water and can cause leaf drop and, even­tu­ally, death. Un­less your plants are cool sea­son bloomers, like kalan­choe and Christ­mas cac­tus, stop feed­ing them too. As light in­ten­sity is re­duced over win­ter, you may need to com­pen­sate by mov­ing your plants closer to a sunny win­dow, but make sure the plants don't touch cold win­dows.


• If noth­ing else this win­ter, pe­ruse the new seed cat­a­logues. Most seed com­pa­nies put out their an­nual cat­a­logue in July or Au­gust. Some still re­lease a printed pam­phlet; while oth­ers are on­line only. Place your or­der early, so you'll be ready for late win­ter or early spring sow­ing.

“I’ve been a dweller on the plains, have sighed when sum­mer days were gone; No more I’ll sigh; for win­ter here Hath glad­some gar­dens of his own.” DOROTHY WORDSWORTH, PEACEFULOURVALLEY, FAIRANDGREEN

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