Handy hints from Anthony Tesselaar International
With cooling air and autumn showers on soils still warm from summer’s heat, conditions are just right for planting.
Autumn presents a perfect opportunity to make some changes in the garden. For many of us, anything that makes the garden
easier to manage is a change worth making. Ideally, we are looking for the best of both worlds, a garden that looks
great all year round and one that, once planted, pretty much looks after itself. Trees and shrubs are the way to go, but
thanks to modern plant breeding that doesn’t mean we have to go short on colour.
Once ruled out for the low maintenance gardens, roses are now a number one option, thanks to the free flowering disease
resistance of modern shrub roses such as Flower Carpet. Flower Carpet roses bloom for up to ten months of the year, and
even when they’re not in bloom their dense glossy leaf cover and shrub-like habit makes them an attractive filler,
multi-planted as a groundcover or low hedge. Unlike traditional roses, Flower Carpet Roses are without their leaves for
a very short time. There are six colours to choose from; hot Pink, Yellow, White, Apple blossom pink, Red, and Coral.
Clump forming cannas are also famous for their easy care nature. Flambouyant Canna Tropicanna is now hugely popular for
its subtropical effects. It makes a spectacular poolside plant with its expansive leaves striped in a vibrant mix of
maroon, orange and green. The bright orange flowers are a bonus, though easily removed if you only want the foliage. New
offspring, Canna Tropicanna Gold parades bright gold and green leaves, with gold flowers edged orange. In the warm humid
north, cannas grow all year round, but a winter cut back ensures the most beautiful foliage in spring.
In a more temperate climate the foliage dies down with the first frost but sprouts fresh the following spring. Mulching
gives extra frost protection, and in really cold climates they can be grown in pots. Although they will grow in any
well-drained soil, cannas love moisture and respond well to lifting and dividing every few years.
When it comes to maximum effect for minimum effort, versatile Agapanthus comes up trumps. There are many good varieties
but white flowered Agapanthus Snowstorm stands out in the crowd with its compact habit and prolific flowering. This most
versatile of plants is excellent as an evergreen border with its lush healthy foliage. It is also spectacular as a
weed-smothering groundcover in sun or semi-shade and looks superb mass planted on banks. For an elegant classic look,
try it in pots repeated throughout the garden. Snowy white flowers on sturdy upright stems appear from late spring to
mid summer with spot flowering through autumn (up to 60% longer than other varieties).
As well as being drought tolerant, Snowstorm comes with built in disease resistance, a necessary attribute in any low
Once you have planned the renovations to your garden, it pays to put some effort into preparing the ground before
planting. It is a case of greater, long term rewards for any extra work put in at the outset. The more compacted the
soil has become, the more work will be required to make it suitable for planting. Choose a dry day to dig or rotary hoe.
Digging when the soil is wet is not only hard work but bad for the soil, especially clay soils. Plenty of organic matter
(e.g. compost) is the answer to improving any soil, from heavy clay to light sandy soils. Add as much as you can to the
topsoil when preparing a garden. Make sure that any organic material you are adding to the soil is well broken down.
Animal manures in particular can damage plants if added in their raw state. Bark or lawn clippings can strip the soil of
nitrogen if too fresh.When drainage is poor, one of the easiest remedies is to raise the planting site above ground
level. This also gives rise to a warmer soil in the early spring.
Trees and shrubs
The shrewd gardener plants mainly in autumn, when roots are fast to establish and growing shoots prosper in the cool
low-stress environment, free of the baking heat of summer.
An autumn-planted garden gets its roots well established before winter, bursting into life with the first hint of
spring. Now is a good time to plant new hedges and lightly trim established ones before winter.
If there are valued trees or shrubs in your garden which need shifting, start in autumn by digging with a spade to cut
through the outer roots on the east and west sides of the plant and gently pull it in either direction. A couple of
weeks later do this on the north and south sides. This is called wrenching and gives the plants a chance to grow new
feeder roots during the warm, moist autumn months before being transplanted a month or so later.
Autumn is the very best time to create a new area of lawn, or revamp an existing one. Ground preparation prior to sowing
can be the difference between a good and bad lawn so starting work early in the season will allow time to do all the
things you need to before you sow the seed.
Autumn is the time for planting spring flowering bulbs. Warm climate gardeners can purchase tulip bulbs as soon as they
come available and keep them in the fridge for 8 weeks prior to planting. Anemones, ranunculus and freesia can be
planted in successive batches throughout autumn to prolong the flowering period, although in very cold climates these
frost tender bulbs are best grown in pots or held for spring planting.
Annuals and Perennials
Plant pots with flowering annuals for winter colour. Remove spent summer annuals and rework beds with general fertiliser
and compost before replanting for the new season. Seedlings to plant now include pansies, violas, polyanthus, Iceland
poppy, cineraria, calendula and primula. Cut back, lift and divide perennials.
The Vege Patch
Prepare and plant the winter vegetable garden. Seedlings to plant now include broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and lettuce.
Sow a green crop of mustard or lupins in areas not needed for vege planting. In spring, these can be dug in to enrich
the soil with organic matter. Sow or plant quick to mature vege seeds in mild areas including: beetroot, cabbage,
carrot, celery, cress, buttercrunch lettuce, leeks, silverbeet, spinach, spring onion.