Tough love summer

After a record-breaking heat wave and dry spell this summer, my garden is looking a little rough around the edges. The tough conditions were exacerbated by me being away for a couple of weeks in January, while temperatures were in the 40s. I rarely water the garden, but during extended heat waves I do try to provide a little extra TLC. This year the plants had to cope on their own.

Luckily my garden has a few years’ experience of tough love. Plants that needed mollycoddling during the drought are long gone. This year, a young banksia didn’t make it; it had grown well to about 1.5 metres tall, but its root system was underdeveloped and it quickly browned off and died when put under stress. By mid-February, everything else had a small-leafed, non-flowering, just-getting-by look about it. The overall impression is one of messy, slightly crispy-fried profusion.



My mum was visiting on the weekend and gave me some tips on looking after a new pot plant I was given (a mandevilla, which I want to keep in a sunny spot inside so I remember to water it. It wouldn’t last a month outside with my watering regime).

I’m a bit clueless about pot plants, so it was something of a revelation. One of her pointers was to deadhead the flowers. I knew about deadheading once, but somehow had forgotten about it. Now I’m thinking … “Ahhh, so that’s what people do in the garden every week… potter around cutting off old flowers so more will grow. I remember.” My gardening normally consists of twice-yearly frenetic bursts of pruning, an occasional application of compost, and a rare session with the hose in times of extreme need. It has now dawned on me that more frequent sessions with the secateurs might be a good idea.

So I’m trying to put this new approach into practice. It’s good timing, because we’ve just had a couple of days of rain. After a trim, the plants should put on fresh growth for autumn.

In the meantime, here are a few plants that are looking OK, despite their tough-love summer.


Plumbago and sedum. Don’t know the variety of sedum as it was wrongly labeled as ‘Autumn Joy’. (It’s not ‘Autumn Joy’.)




Salvia ‘Indigo spires’.




Mystery sedum.


Cotyledon orbiculata.


Purple fountain grass (pennisetum). Finally looking good after years of me trying to grow this.


Pink wonga wonga vine (Pandorea pandorana) growing over my neighbour’s fence.


Bog sage – Salvia uliginosa, or “ugly nose” as I affectionately think of it. A new plant; I’ve seen it looking spectacular in other gardens but come to think of it, anything with “bog” in its name probably needs more water than I give it. It’s doing OK though.

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