The Big Prune 2012

It’s that time of year again when I get out the secateurs, shears and loppers and hack into the garden.

Since starting this blog three years ago, a clear seasonal pattern has emerged:

Late autumn – admire the tangle of lush growth, bemoan the plants that didn’t survive the summer, and start thinking “I really need to prune”.

Winter – do the Big Prune. Pull out the plants that are looking too horrible. Look at the massive areas of bare ground and think “OH MY GOD, I’VE RUINED MY GARDEN”. Then I go out and buy new plants (yay!).

Spring – take lots of photos because everything is sprouting and flowering and looking so pretty.

Summer and most of autumn – kick back, enjoy the garden, and forget to take any photos.

I didn’t write much about the front garden last year, but there are posts about The Big Prune from 2010 and 2009.

A couple of months ago I blogged about late autumn abundance/chaos, with this photo of the front garden:

Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ in bloom, dead sedum flowers, the plumbago at far left almost filling the garden bed, not a gap to be seen, and the path thick with weeds. (Yes, there is a path in there somewhere.)

Over the past month, we have weeded the garden (I pay the kids $5 an hour to help me – they don’t last long, but they’re good little workers for an hour or so), then weeded it again after we failed to mulch straight away.

A couple of weeks ago we weeded the path. This was a big job – we lifted and rinsed a lot of the gravel because it was so full of sand and soil, the grass was growing way too well.

Then last week, I did The Big Prune: pulled out a woody French lavender, heavily pruned a leggy purple hebe (fingers crossed), cut back the massive plumbago, grasses and salvias almost to the ground. OH MY GOD, I’VE RUINED MY GARDEN.

Garden path

Yesterday we bought a cubic metre of compost and spread it out a few centimetres thick over the entire garden. I brought in lots of compost when I planted the garden, and I top it up every few years. Here are the blokes hard at work (my husband rarely does anything in the garden other than lie in a hammock or barbeque things, but I rope him in as a labourer once in a blue moon. He wanted to make sure I took a photo to commemorate this rare event. My son was carting a few buckets of compost around to our neighbour’s place using an old shopping trolley).

Shovelling compost

Today I will fling around some Osmocote for natives and some potash, then next weekend we’ll do a light mulch over the top (forest fines, probably).

After all the weeding, pruning and tramping compost through the garden, the path is looking messy and muddy, but I need to top up the gravel anyway, so this will be looking better soon.

GardenThe long view down the garden. At left, in front of the birch, is the hebe that I pruned heavily. The jade plant at left, grown from a throwaway I found on the nature strip, has grown like crazy and is flowering prettily. 

Jade plantJade plant in bloom. This plant is as common as dirt around here and can look pretty average, but I don’t mind it mixed in with other plants – it provides a nice reliable block of green year-round.

While on the topic of throwaways: I picked up a clump of discarded succulents off the nature strip and they are now tucked between the rocks along the front path.

This kalanchoe – which I paid for, just for a change – is happily growing in a pot. It has lovely pink flowers which are now in bud.

View from the front gateView from the front gate. Irises in bud, euphorbia blooming. Geraniums, agapanthus, sedum and African daisies aren’t in flower in winter. The large plant at left self-seeded from a pretty parent plant that died, but it’s sparse and isn’t flowering well. If it doesn’t fill out soon I’ll take it out. 

Looking over the front fence. At front left is a leucadendron, which Australians often think is a native though it’s from South Africa. I planted it last year, cut it back when the flowers/bracts were finished, and now it’s bushing up nicely. Behind it is the white trunk of a smoke bush (Cotinus ‘Grace’), which is deciduous, and behind that is a purple hop bush. The Aeonium at right just grows wild in my garden. It started as a tiny cutting and shot up in no time. Every few years it gets snapped by a storm or an over-enthusiastic delivery guy flinging the rolled up paper into the garden. I just stick a few branches in the ground and it keeps growing.

A big patch of Aeonium with self-seeded euphorbia (spurge).

 At the far end of the garden, I have cut back the dry fountain grass (pennisetum setaceum “Purpureum’) to the ground. This could turn out to be a big mistake – I’ll let you know. I have one elsewhere in the garden, not quite so dry looking, that I’ve left unpruned to see which works out better. Behind the grass stumps are various natives. The leptospermum (small tree) at right is doing really well. The purple hop bush next to it got bug-eaten, so I have chopped it back. The one in the middle is a banksia – I love banksias, so I hope this one takes off. So far so good. On the left is a purple-flowering thing that I like but if the banksia crowds it out, so be it. The Chinese lantern plant at far right has been there for years and still looking OK; in front of it is a Agonis ‘Burgundy’, which dropped all it its leaves when I planted it last year, but came back from the dead before I could get around to removing it. (Slack gardening works in my favour sometimes.) It grows to 3 metres.

Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ is in flower now. This is a large bush that grows happily along the front fence and keeps the honeyeaters happy.

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