Top Autumn gardening tips:
- Take advantage of perfect autumn days for a general garden tidy up. Cut back perennials, trim summer shrubs and pull weeds.
- Mass-plant primulas for a blaze of soft and sensual winter colour. There are many varieties in a vast array of colours, but one of the best is the ‘Lollipops’ mix from Oasis, with its bright pink, lavender, warm pink, burgundy and white blooms. Growing to 30-40cm high, they’ll flower prolifically through to the start of spring and look fabulous in pots.
- Check out the beguiling sasanqua camellias appearing in nurseries this month. The hardiest of the camellias and the easiest to grow, they make excellent flowering hedges. One of the best for a white-flowered hedge is the glossy-leafed Japanese ‘Mine-no-yuki’.
- Add flavour to meals with garlic cloves from a homegrown crop. You will need seed cloves (best bought from a reputable local source) and a full-sun position. In spring, treat them to a dressing of blood and bone. You’ll be digging them up any time from summer to next autumn.
- Inject cottage-garden charm with a display of hollyhocks. You can buy seedlings, but the cheapest way is to sow seeds in a seed tray and raise your own. They like a rich soil, protection from wind and good sun exposure.
- Plant spring-flowering bulbs for a happy show of post-winter colour in non-tropical areas. Mix a little bulb food into the soil prior to planting and follow the planting-depth guide on the packet.
- Bring lawns back to their best after the long summer with an aerating regime. This is as simple as plunging a garden forkhalfway into the soil and wriggling it from side to side a little. Do this all over the lawn, to open things up and allow water to better penetrate when it rains. While you’re at it, sprinkle a little fertiliser and water in well.
- Check out the autumn foliage as it begins to show in cooler regions and make choices for your own garden. If rich dark pinks and reds do it for you, consider the Japanese maple Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’. It starts off dull green in spring before transforming into a blaze of colour in mid to late autumn.
- Dahlias: For an abundance of blooms from late summer right through autumn, dahlias rank at the top of the list. Robust and free-flowering perennial plants, they grow from a tuber and will happily bloom, just as long as you plant them in a spot where they can bask in the sunshine. For an extra splash of colour, seek out the dark purple- and burgundy-leaved forms such as ‘Le Coco’, ‘Redskin’ or ‘Bishop of Llandaff’.
- Lift and divide bearded iris.
- Cut back those climbers that have grown unruly over the warmer months.
All zones: Alyssum, calendula, cineraria, cornflower, pansy, poppy, primula, statice, stock and viola.
Zones 2-6: Delphinium, foxglove, helichrysum, hollyhock, polyanthus, snapdragon, sweet pea and Virginia stock.
Zones 7-8: Candytuft, clarkia, impatiens, nasturtium, nemesia and, in tropical areas, petunia and phlox.
All zones: Beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, English spinach, lettuce, parsnip, peas, radish and silverbeet.
Zones 2-6: Broad bean, brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, onion, peas
Zones 7-8: Capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, endive, lettuce, potato.
At the nursery
Apart from being fabulously showy, Correa ‘Canberra Bells’ is the official floral emblem for the Centenary of Canberra, celebrated this year. With stunning two-tone red and cream bell-like flowers through autumn, it’s super hardy, tolerating periods of dry if given occasional deep soakings, and stands up well to frost. Indigenous to the ACT, it was developed by local native plant breeders Peter and Jennifer Ollerenshaw and is from Plants Management Australia. Visit pma.com.au