Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Winter gardening

Winter can be a frustrating time, not being able to get out into the garden as much as we would like, but it is a good time to reassess what is successful in the garden, just as it is important in the height of summer. Take a look at where the sun is during the day; are there any places where the sun really doesn’t strike? I have such a spot at the back of the house, while during the summer it gets plenty of sun, during the winter it is largely shaded by the house. As a result I have aimed for plants that will not suffer during the winter for lack of sun. Surprisingly, this is where my roses do the best, as they are supposed to be dormant during the winter I figure lack of sun should encourage their dormancy. I think I have partial success but the ‘Margaret Merrill’ rose has three blooms on it at the moment, these will soon be gone and the shrub will get its annual prune. Accompanying the roses are plants with largely purple mauve to red flowers. In the centre is a salvia with enormous silvery grey woolly leaves, it hasn’t flowered yet, but I am hopeful it will this season. Never mind, I enjoy the foliage even if it never flowers.
As I have also said before, now is a god time to get on with planting. With a rainy weekend like we just had, it is perfect for sorting out exactly what you want to go where. Take time to do a bit of study, look at what is doing well in your area, look through garden books for ideas, the library has plenty. If you are new to the Island, ask people who have been here for some time, there is no point in persisting to grow gentians if you have to go out and put ice around them in the hot weather. I have seen gentians, a beautiful European alpine plant, growing in the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. There they were like sheets of the blue sky thrown down on the ground, a truly remarkable sight, but one to cherish in the memory. The same goes for fruit and vegetables, the best brussel sprouts come from the South Island, where they get good chilling. Same goes for fruit, we should be glad we can grow bananas and other subtropical fruits. Having said that, my self sown peach, I presume it is ‘Golden Queen’ is doing fine, the fruit isn’t as succulent as it might be on account of the fact I don’t afford it any water during the summer, but they are great cooked.
The peach, like t he rose will be for the pruning shears this month, mostly just to shape and train the tree and encourage as much new growth as possible as this will be the source of next years fruit. Some of the other trees getting a bit of a trim are the Illawara flame tree, and the Pride of Bolivia. The latter I have started, but it is a major job and has to be done piece meal. I have started and hopefully the citrus trees at the back are now getting a bit of winter sun! This tree without pruning grows to quite large proportions, sending out long water shoots in the early summer. It is these I prune off each winter, a bit in the fashion of pollarded street trees, so commonly seen in Europe.
I now going to go and get warm and if next weekend is sunny plan for at least one day in the garden!



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