Con­tribut­ing gar­den­ing ed­i­tor Mar­i­anne Alexan­der’s handy check­list of es­sen­tial chores to do in De­cem­ber

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Gar­den news and de­buts

1 Con­tinue to dead­head, feed and wa­ter bed­ding plants. If you’re buy­ing new plants, look for heat-lov­ing an­nu­als such as zin­nias, gom­phrena, celosia, marigolds, hol­ly­hocks and salvias that will cope with dry pe­ri­ods.

2 Nip out flower buds of fo­liage plants like sweet potato vines ( Ipo­moea batatas), the polka dot plant ( Hy­poestes phyl­lostachya), and coleus (now known as plec­tran­thus). Feed with a high-ni­tro­gen fer­tiliser. Cut back old flower stems of del­phini­ums and feed and mulch with com­post for a fur­ther flush of flow­ers.

3 Feed re­peat-flow­er­ing peren­ni­als like gaura, Shasta daisies, pen­ste­mons, peren­nial phlox, Inca and day lilies and dahlias with gran­u­lar 2:3:4 or 3:1:5 or liq­uid ma­nure. Stake dahlias and nip out the first buds. Cut back old leaves and flower stems of wild rhubarb ( Acan­thus), then mulch.

4 Prune roses that only flower once at the be­gin­ning of sum­mer. These in­clude banksias, Dorothy Perkins and old-fash­ioned species or her­itage roses like the moss and Gali­cia roses, Al­ber­tine and New Dawn.

5 Top up mulches where nec­es­sary. Use or­ganic mulches which also im­prove the soil such as coarse weed-free com­post, mush­room com­post, husks, pips, nut shells, pine bark nuggets, straw, shred­ded leaves and bark chips.

6 Keep hy­drangeas moist and mulch. When pick­ing for the vase, choose those flower heads where the cen­tre of each bract is fully open. Cut into the woody sec­tions of the stem and stand in wa­ter overnight be­fore ar­rang­ing.

7 Green up lawns for the fes­tive sea­son in sum­mer-rain­fall

Hy­drangea ar­eas by feed­ing with a high-ni­tro­gen fer­tiliser, for ex­am­ple LAN or 4:1:1, and wa­ter well. In dry ar­eas, or if you are go­ing away, hold back on feed­ing or use a high-potash fer­tiliser like 2:3:4; only wa­ter when nec­es­sary.

8 Wa­ter gar­dens in ar­eas suf­fer­ing from drought, in the morn­ing or on cool af­ter­noons, keep­ing to the wa­ter re­stric­tions in your area. Rather than sprin­kling the whole gar­den, tar­get only those plants that are in dire need.

9 Pull out old dry leaves from clumps of red-hot pok­ers, spring-flow­er­ing wat­so­nias, wild iris ( Di­etes spp.), fairy fish­ing rods (diera­mas), cordy­lines and

New Zealand flax. Look out for new Inca and day lilies.

10 Trim hedges and top­i­ary. Give au­tumn-flow­er­ing sub­shrubs like indige­nous wild gin­ger ( Te­trade­nia ri­paria), salvias and Orthosiphon and Syn­coloste­mon species a light prune; this will en­cour­age new growth and more flow­ers. Cut back wis­te­ria by about a third.

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