Making the Cut

Have you ever looked at a garden in the height of spring and just said “WOW?” 

It may not be professionally designed, or have plants that are strategically placed, or even have a theme. It might just be a single plant or a group of plants that make that garden stand out from the rest. Plants that are at the peak of their game and really loving the warmer weather, just looking stunning.

You may even draw similarities between that one plant and the one you have at home and think “why doesn’t mine look as great!?” I know I am guilty of this! Only realising that it was too late and I had missed the boat.

However, now that the weather is starting to look a little warmer and the danger of frost has gone (for the most part), it’s a prompt reminder of the pre-spring jobs to be done.

Time to get out in the garden and be on the other side of the fence come spring and have people call YOUR garden “WOW!”

Pruning and general maintenance are fundamental in preparing the garden for that flush of new growth, and to funnel a plant’s energy into producing displays of colour in spring time.  There are many perennials that benefit from this type of treatment at this time of the year. Plants like grasses, Salvia, Agastache, Euphorbia and Lavender- just to name a few.

Pruning these guys will greatly improve their shape, making them much neater and more manageable while achieving that envious WOW factor.

Ornamental grasses are great perennial plants for adding a bit of height and drama to any bed. Most benefit from a good, hard cutback at this time of the year – you can take off quite a lot, down to a few inches above ground level with most.

Hold off with the pruning shears for a while with Salvia, Agastache, and Euphorbia, Observe them first. Look down towards the centre of the plant for any new growth known as basal shoots (or simply just shoots at the base.) If present, these shoots are your marker of how hard to cut back. It’s then time to be a little more vicious and cut back old growth to the top of these new shoots. However, if basal shoots are absent, then just a light tip prune is in order.

Or, if you’re unsure, generally typical signs of plants needing rejuvenation are those with spent flowers or the formation of seed heads. Plants will generally look a little bit tired and straggly.

I’ve noticed over the last few seasons at the nursery, that gardeners can be anxious about pruning. But, with a little bit of knowledge and experience, it becomes quite easy and it certainly makes things look much better.

One of the plants that cause the most angst this time of year is lavender. Lavender should be treated differently and, rather than a hard prune, spent flower heads should be removed and a light prune of tip growth (up to 10cm) to shape and encourage fresh growth will suffice. Don’t cut into old woody growth. This takes a very long time to regrow and, even then, may come back leggy, lopsided or it may not recover at all.

There are still jobs to be done in the vegetable patch too. Although it’s a little early to put most spring veggies in, we can still use this ‘in between season’ to plant some quick turn-over vegetables to help fill the gap. Perfect candidates include Chinese cabbage and Pak Choi, Radishes and Kale (or lettuce if you’re not feeling so adventurous).  For the keen gardener, tomato seedlings can also start to go in. Do be cautious and keep in mind to provide some physical protection from the cool of the night until it really starts to warm up.

I’ll be doing that and I am very excited as, here at the nursery, we are trialling a new hybrid Tomato called Tuscan Sun.  This new variety is ‘determinate’ or a smaller grower, sacrificing its height for bountiful crop production. Perfect for smaller spaces like a pot on the veranda or the corner of the veggie patch. It promises great flavour and excellent disease resistance. So we must give it a grow! There are seedlings ready to go at the nursery if you want to experiment with me. I have high hopes for this one!

Caitlin Sawyer

Wingham Nursery & Florist

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