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.

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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.

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

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Plumbago.

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Salvia ‘Indigo spires’.

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Salvia.

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Mystery sedum.

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Cotyledon orbiculata.

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

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

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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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