April 2012 - April in the garden - a great garden time

Hello Waikato Gardeners,

Still the great weather continues in the Waikato.  Plus we are now just starting to see many deciduous trees that have been unnoticeable all summer coming to the forefront with their bright autumn colours of foliage.  I personally think that autumn is one of the best of our seasons - apart from the glorious colourful foliage on trees (and even when falling on the ground they look great) there is less wind, the skies are very clear, the temperatures are just right during the day, it’s comfortable to be outside and not get baked by the sun, and the night time brings a very slight chill to the air.  Also, many plants start to come alive with the onset of  autumn, here are some of my favourites - hellebores, alstromerias, camellias and azaleas :


HELLEBORES – or winter rose

Now is the time to help spruce up these great perennials and prepare them for winter foliage and flower.  Before the new growth comes through cut off at ground level all the tired, old summer foliage. Feed with a side dressing of slow release fertiliser. You will find that the new leaves will come through very quickly once this has been done and in no time you will have fully furnished, healthy looking plants bulking themselves up before the flowering comes in mid /late winter.  There are some wonderful new hybrid varieties around now with good flower colours and excellent growth habit.



The photo is of dwarf white alstroemerias in a clients’ garden.  They still have about 100 flower stems on the plants and the display has been continuously like this since well before Xmas. These plants are such great value, have a compact growth habit, are drought tolerant, have no pests or diseases, are great for smaller gardens and containers- and flower for up to 8 months a year.

When a flower stem has finished flowering you pull it out of the base of the plant to encourage more flowering stems to be initiated.  Don’t cut off old stems as this discourages flowering. These flowers are perfect for picking and will last for several weeks in a vase in water.  With the continuous flowering from the plants your vase will never run out of fresh flowers.

The princess series comes in a range of about 10 colours, so there is something for every gardens colour scheme.  In June/July I find it’s beneficial to cut all the foliage of your alstroemeria off at ground level.  It will quickly start to come back and refurnish itself with a nice new healthy cloak of foliage.  By the end of October it will be back into the full flowering phase again.



These are starting to bud up now with the first of the autumn flowering varieties showing the first signs of flower colour. I recommend to all my clients and garden readers - now is a great time of the year to feed all your plants with slow release fertiliser.  You will need to apply acid fertiliser to azaleas.  Sprinkle a handful around each plant to help encourage good flowering and healthy green foliage over the coming winter months.  Sometimes azaleas can be troubled by leaf roller caterpillar which causes the leaf to curl around the caterpillar and chew holes in the leaf. Spraying the plant with confidor - a systemic insecticide which you can get from any plant retailer easily deals with this pest.

One of the very best azalea varieties is without doubt an old variety called KIRIN.  This is a real tried and true variety with masses and masses of pink flowers - in fact it can load itself up with so much flower you can hardly see the leaves and stems.  Because of its compact growth habit it is a good option as a small flowering hedge for a shady area of the garden.



The sasanqua types of camellias are just starting to break into the first of flowering.  Most of the sasanqua varieties make excellent hedging options for the urban and rural gardens.  A variety called SETSUGEKKA is regarded as one of the most popular and very best performers (and rightly so, I rate it a true 10/10 variety).  What I like about it is that the petals drop cleanly onto the ground like snowflakes,and you are not left with any mess on the plant. A big improvement over the older varieties that our grandparents had in their gardens years ago which had dirty awful brown cabbage looking flowers hanging off the bush for many months producing a continuous awful mess to clean up.  As with most families of plants-the breeders of camellias have come a long way in producing healthy, long flowering, low maintenance plants that need very little attention.  Like with azaleas, you should feed your camellias now with slow release acid fertiliser to help them stay fit and healthy and produce good flowering over the autumn /winter.


Happy Gardening




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Graeme Burton - Landscaper - Rukuhia Homestead, RD2, Ohaupo 3882
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