Elizabeth Asher has some fashion advice for today's gardeners . . . it's not a fashion parade so wrap up and get stuck in.
AUTUMN may be the dying time of the garden year but there's no need to get funeral about it. There's spring to look forward to and lots you can do to carry colour and interest through the gloomy months.
The artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser said the best time to capture nature's true colours was in dull weather because sun makes things look washed out. It's true.
First of all, wrap up: you want to enjoy this and you won't if you're miserable. Polyprops are light, comfortable and often all you need under the second-hand padded ski suit you can pick up for less than $20 at a charity shop.
I love mine. It's hardwearing, washable and doesn't ride up to expose the midriff. A woollen jersey on top gives extra insulation, holds the heat well and repels drizzle long enough for you to clear up when it starts drizzling.
Footwear should be reasonably waterproof, a good, big enough fit to include your chilli socks and have a decent tread to cope with muddy slopes and mossy paths. Rubber ankle boots are good.
We lose about 30 per cent of body heat through our head so forget style and plonk on a hat - the Peruvian-style ones with the fancy knitting, earflaps and ties are ideal, as are beanies.
Soil temperatures are falling too so glove up. If you think you can't garden in gloves try latex examination gloves - cheap as chips from the chemist or bargain store. If brain surgeons can work in them you can too and you're spared chillblains, cuts, scratches, sap stains and filthy nails.
You now look like a multi-coloured yeti but you're happy, healthy and out there armed with fork, spade, trowel, secateurs, wonderweeder, iPod and thermal cuppa.
For the warm-up dig over any ground that's going to be empty for a while - a new bed or the vege garden, feed it with compost or a general fertiliser and broadcast sow it with mustard or blue lupin seed which you'll later dig in as a green mulch. In the meantime it will look fresh and hopeful.
One bed at a time, remove dead leaves and stems from plants and corners where they've mounded up. This eliminates pest havens and breeding spots for mildew and diseases hunkering down for winter.
IF YOU'RE a sprayer, give fruit and other deciduous trees a coat of winter oil, which helps control things like scale. Roses are almost done flowering but a last spray will clean up lingering blackspot and rust. Leave old flowers to fade and set hips because any trimming now will encourage new shoots too soon.
Something like a brazier or chiminea adds a cosy glow to the autumn garden and you can burn a lot of well-dried plant material. But get a permit first or you may have a surprise visit from the fire brigade and a fine to pay. Ensure neighbours' windows are shut and the washing is in.
Compost leaves separately because they take ages to rot but make great mulch and destroy pest weeds, diseased clippings, and old tomato vines.
With the dead stuff gone, the paths swept and the beds tucked under a snuggly cover of mulch it's time for the pretty stuff.
Spot colour plants have the hard work done - all you have to do is dig and plant. Choose plants with flowers just opening and dead-head any as they fade. They should last for weeks in the garden or outdoor containers and are better value than cut flowers.
Prepare space and shop for spring- flowering shrubs. Camellias are already in garden centres and showing colour. Sasanqua varieties bloom first and abundantly and get less camellia flower blight than later bloomers.
They also make lovely hedges and prostrate forms like C sasanqua "Classique" do well in baskets and containers.
Small rhododendrons are also lovely in pots as are evergreen azaleas - the kind often sold as house plants. A Kirin is an older type with a cute semi-double small flower in pink, salmon or white.
For scent the traditional and unbeatable are Daphne odora - look for high-health forms in pink or white; boronia, best in brown or lemon; translucent-flowered wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), one of the greats; Viburnum burwoodii; and Rhododendron fragrantissima.
Ericas, though not heavily scented, give brilliant colour right when winter is at its most serious.
You can start the pink blossom season right now with Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis' an ornamental cherry that seems to flower whenever it feels like it. The variety Southern Gem is new, has smaller flowers but lots more of them.
Brand new on the magnolia front is a fabulous new red from Jury's in Waitara. M Burgundy Star -- it's a brighter red than others and has longer petals, like a large M stellata. Growth is tall and slender and it's said to be well-packed with flowers.
For planting:
All spring bulbs must be in the ground this month - some are through already.
Watch out for new perennials: primulas and polyanthus are on the way in.
Plant or scatter seed of charmers such as linaria, candytuft, mignonette, nasturtiums, Virginia and night-scented stock, cornflowers, cosmos, sweetpeas lobelia, larkspur, coneflower and marigolds.
Par pvccorsets le jeudi 04 août 2011


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