Winter time for change

MAIKE VAN DER HEIDE
Last updated 14:25 11/06/2014
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Photos: SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ
EXPERT: Selmes Trust nursery worker and landscaper Leanne Gibbons is on hand to field gardening questions
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UPROOTING: As the weather cools, it is a good time to look at your garden and re-assess what goes where.
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Bare branches, lawns littered with brown leaves and empty flowerpots may not make the garden a particularly enticing place to be, but as Maike van der Heide finds out, winter should be a very busy time for gardeners.

Sitting by the window staring through raindrops at bare twigs and frosted shrubs, hot drink in hand, a slow twist of steam blurring the glass. The odd trip outdoors to pick a lemon, pulling out a weed on your way. Waiting for spring.

For some, this is as much attention as the garden gets in winter.

But there's no need for gardeners to become as dormant as some of their plants, say three of Marlborough's garden experts: winter is actually the best time to make sweeping changes or simply get everything ship-shape for the next growing season.

These months are ideal for digging up fruit trees, roses or other plants that don't mind being uprooted and given a new home.

"June and July are a good time to do it. Look at your framework and if you want to alter it, do it now," says Devon Nursery manager Bruce Rodgerson.

And after keeping the weeds at bay all summer, now is the best time to do the very satisfying job of planting - don't wait for spring, Bruce says.

"It's the idyllic time, all your trees and roses, now's the time to plant them. There's still a little bit of warmth in the ground so you'll get root movement but not growth."

Islington Gardens owner Karen Hall echoes Bruce's advice, saying winter is a good time to look at the bare bones of the garden and whether everything is working for you, though you may need a bit of imagination: "This is the time it's going to look at its worst."

For a quick and easy winter mood-lifter, Karen suggests a bit of potted colour such as polyanthus and pansies "that are going to look good and brighten things up". Examples of larger flowering winter plants are verbenas, cyclamens, camellias and gordonias.

As the temperatures plummet, winter is also a good time to find out what will not survive without being undercover. "You know what to pull away for winter."

Bruce says anything deciduous should survive the frosts along with most grasses, though there are exceptions.

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Winter is also the time for pruning - but not before rain, as this increases the risk of airborne fungi finding your fruit trees, says Karen. Use copper spray on your fruit trees, and don't prune stone fruit trees which prefer to be done in summer.

When it comes to moving trees and shrubs around your garden, Karen says conifers, camellias, rhododendrons and deciduous species don't mind too much, but some evergreens such as pittosporum take exception to being uprooted. "If in doubt, I would move it nearer the growing season in spring," says Karen.

Like you, your garden loves a bit of TLC during the cold weather to prepare for spring.

"You have to maintain your garden so it will do something for next season," says Selmes Garden Trust nursery worker and landscaper Leanne Gibbons

"It is a busy time of year."

That includes spraying for fungus around the fruit trees, planting flower bulbs and garlic, pruning roses, cutting back the hydrangeas, put pea straw down and top up the bark garden, she says.

As you move and add to your garden, don't forget to give the plants a bit of help to survive by treating them to a bed of pea straw and mulch made from all your autumn leaves.

- The Marlborough Express

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