Now is the time for tidying up the garden, and it’s an enjoyable time for those who like to restore law and order.
Grass growth, except for winter-growing species such as bent, has slowed down; weeds are not so rampant, and we have time to dig, hoe, and prune.
Winter is a suitable time for pruning many shrubs and trees, but don’t be carried away with an enthusiastic If desire to prune everything. Winter pruning can mean the loss of flowering wood which produces late-winter and early-spring displays.
Each shrub should be studied for its general habit of growth, and particularly for the type of wood on which the flowers are produced. Some flower on the current year’s growth, others on that of the previous season.
Shrubs which bloom from late spring onwards usually flower on the current season’s growth, and winter pruning is in order.
These include such shrubs as Abelia, Buddleia, Lagerstroemia, Oleanders, Ceratostigma, and Moschosma.
Escallonia, Hibiscus (deciduous species), Hypericum, Jasminum, Plumbago, and Hebe are also pruned in winter.
Berberis needs only light pruning to ensure supply of flowers and berries, although varieties grown for foliage need heavier pruning for best results. It is usually undesirable to prune Oleanders every year, apart from removing straggly branches, as the spring flush of flowers is lost.
They should be headed back fairly severely after several seasons’ growth. Cotoneaster and Pyracantha depend mainly on berries for their attractiveness, and need only pruning for shape.
Frost-tender plants, of course, should not be pruned until early spring, to avoid damage to the tender young shoots. Many shrubs, such as Raphiolepis, need little pruning, except the removal of weak, dead, or unwanted growth.
If in doubt about the correct time for pruning, remember the old and very sound advice to prune after flowering.
June is the time to lift Dahlia tubers for storage, although the longer season types can be left until next month. Cut the stems several inches above the ground, and put the fork well down, gently levering the clump of tubers out, at the same time removing any large clods of soil which might break the necks of the tubers.
Shake off surplus soil and store under the shade of shrubs or trees, or in a cool, dry shed, keeping them as much as possible out of strong winds or drafts. The stems should be cut down to an inch or so above the crowns and sprayed with a mercuric fungicide.
The tubers should not be left to dry out completely, so cover with leaves or a little sand or light soil. Normal rainfall is usually sufficient to keep the tubers in good condition, but a little water may be necessary if stored under cover. Use bait for slugs, snails, and slaters.
Now is the time to finalize plans for planting new shrubs and trees, especially deciduous ones. Make a note of winter-flowering shrubs which appeal to you in other gardens, and plant some now so that next winter you will be in the same picture.
Recently Sandersonia aurantiaca, the Golden Lily of the Valley, has been receiving attention, and it is certainly very attractive.
It is a rare plant from Natal. The beautiful waxy flowers are produced over a long period, beginning at Christmas. Sandersonia is deciduous – the fleshy tuberous roots are dormant during winter.
A bulbous plant of the lily family, it sends up two or more stems, 12-18 inches long, bearing brilliant orange yellow, urn-shaped flowers resembling Chinese lanterns.
As the root increases more stems are produced, so that an established clump makes a wonderful patch of color. It prefers a loose, loamy soil, with river sand added, good drainage, a sunny, protected position, and freedom from heavy frosts, and appreciates a little well-rotted cow manure.
Plants grow easily in large pots, which should be generously crocked for free drainage, and filled with sandy loam containing leaf-mold and a little orchid compost to give it a fibrous quality. Half a day in sun light is sufficient.
The dormant roots are occasionally offered by specialist nurseries during the winter months.