There are a couple of great reasons to prune our flowering ornamentals and fruit trees in summer…
Summer pruning and removing spent flower heads encourages repeat blooming through the end of summer and on into autumn. With roses, for example, removing not only the spent flower but cutting back 30cm of stem, will encourage an additional flush of long stemmed blooms on the end of the cut branches within six to eight weeks.
Generally speaking, summer pruning retards growth where as pruning in winter prior to the growing season, encourages vigorous regrowth. Pruning in summer, especially for deciduous plants, give you a good opportunity to do some formative pruning while the plants are in foliage and you can really see how the framework looks and how each plant relates to the space around them. Keep in mind that removing too much foliage exposes the plant to more sunlight and just like us, plants get sunburned; citrus and crepe myrtles are particularly susceptible.
Hedges are also great candidates for a summer prune once the mad spring growth has slowed down. A summer tidy up should see you through to their next burst of growth in autumn.
Here is a list of plants that enjoy a prune after they flower in late spring early summer:
Both feared and revered by gardeners, the acid loving plants include popular garden ornamentals such as azaleas, gardenias, daphne, camellia, pieris and rhododendrons. Producing some of the most beautiful and wonderfully fragrant blossoms, these plants can be problematic for gardeners, as generally, they prefer a pH of around 5.5; this lower pH allows them to absorb the nutrients they require. Along with their particular pH requirements, these plants are sensitive to their microclimate and soil/water conditions.
Valuable maintenance tips for our acid loving plants
Check and balance pH levels
Acid loving plants can survive in soils with a pH range from 5 to 6.2 however prefer the pH to be between 5 and 5.5. You can use a home pH test kit to test your soil – pick one up at your local nursery. Soils that tend to be too alkaline or have a pH that is too high can be remedied by using the right selection of mulch and compost materials. A good solution is to use leaf mold; it tends to be acidic and breaks down quickly, making it excellent mulch that will also build the organic matter in the soil and lower the pH. If the pH needs adjusting there are many products available that introduce combinations of iron & sulphur into the soil to increase acidity and lower pH.
As acid loving plants tend to require a soil rich in organic matter, mulches that break down have the added benefit of building the soil as they compost. Choose mulches like lucerne & pea straw. Using a long-term mulch like wood chips will require a separate program for maintaining the organic matter in the soil below and as the root systems of these plants are sensitive, is not ideal. Rhododendrons and camellias have shallow, fibrous root balls, which need to be kept cool and moist.
Regular watering is essential so choose a suitable watering system so either a well placed drip system or over-head system is preferred. Irregular, deep watering is not recommended as it causes the plants to drop their buds. Aerial sprays are an excellent choice for maintaining azaleas as spraying the underside of azaleas helps control spider mite infestations – a common pest affecting azaleas.
Only ever prune these plants to shape or when hedging azaleas – otherwise it is not required. Disbud Camellia japonicas to improve the quality and size of the blossoms; remove excess flower buds along stems for optimal spacing and leave two buds at the terminus of the branch only. Rhododendrons can be deadheaded; take care not to damage the nodes beneath the blossoms on the stem otherwise there will be no new growth or flowers next season.
This includes checking and improving drainage and amelioration. Improve clay soils by adding organic matter and using gypsum or clay breakers where necessary. Sandy soils can be built up with the addition of organic matter.
In soils with significant deficiencies, feed acid loving plants with a fertiliser designed specifically for the needs of acid loving plants. They contain added iron and sulphur to help maintain a low pH and often also include a soil wetter to aid in maintaining soil moisture:
To increase flower size and vigor of the japonica camellias, remove excess flower buds along stems for optimal spacing and leave two buds at the terminus of the branch only.
Heralding the coming of spring, Magnolias, especially the deciduous varieties hold a special place in the hearts of many a gardener with their stunning displays of large, fragrant blooms on elegant naked branches. Originating in Asia there are over 100 species and unnumbered cultivars. They are well adapted to Australian conditions and provided you give them a good position and adequate food and water they will reward you for many years.
Magnolias can be a little sulky for the first few years so feed them well when you first plant them with a good compost, build a well around the base of the trunk to direct water into the root zone and mulch well to keep the roots moist and cool. Choose a north or east facing position with shelter from hot winds and frost.
Here are 10 of our favorites with a brief description and their height and width noted so you can make a good choice for your site:
Deciduous varieties Magnolia x soulangeana cv. 3m X 3m; one of the old varieties and the basis of many cultivars Magnolia x soulangeana is perhaps the most common Magnolia seen in Melbourne gardens.
Magnolia stellata 1.5m X 1.5m; a slow-growing medium-sized deciduous shrub of broadly rounded habit, flowering in early spring. This Magnolia is particularly stunning because of it fine white petals. It also comes in a pink variety Magnolia stellate rosea.
Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’ 7m X 5m; a very narrow, fastigiate shape, excellent for a small garden because it needs almost no pruning and has a beautiful fragrance.
Magnolia ‘Phillip Tregunna’ 5m X 3m; an upright tree, with a vivid purple flower and a beautiful fragrance.
Magnolia ‘Ruby’ 3m X 2m; a beauty because of the beautiful, exquisite shape of the bud and also a white edge around each of the petals. Does well in a smaller garden and can be pruned to shape.
Magnolia ‘Vulcan‘ 3m X 2m; a hybrid raised in New Zealand. The flowers are large, wine red and lightly perfumed.
Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ 4m X 2.5m; with perfumed primrose yellow fading to cream coloured flowers. It is later flowering than other magnolia varieties blossoming in late spring.
Magnolia ‘Royal Purple’ 3.5m X 1.2m; a beautiful new magnolia from New Zealand; a narrow yet stunning column with 20cm cup and saucer shaped blooms, dark red purple with a gorgeous perfume. A great choice for a small space.
Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ 5m X 2.5m; a very popular plant used as an ornamental lawn tree or as for screening and even hedging. It is an outstanding variety of Magnolia grandiflora with a compact habit, deep green discolourous leaves and large white blooms.
Magnolia ‘St Mary’ 6m X 3m: A wider growing variety with large glossy apple green leaves. It is a hardy and versatile plant that will tolerate a range of conditions and is relatively pest and disease free. During the warmer months it produces beautiful, creamy-white, fragrant flowers and will flower from an early age.