Taming the garden

Posted: 5am 26 Feb 2022

GARDENS across the region have gone berserk after a wet couple of months, with plenty of new growth but also an increased risk of pests.

Russell Young from Garden Gems Nursery at Burpengary said it was time to get to stuck in, pruning and tidying up to improve airflow and ‘let the light in’.

“A lot of people are having to prune and mow almost every weekend at the moment. It’s amazing how many things need pruning,” Mr Young said.

For plants that are still young, it is a good idea to prune them by about one-third. When pruning, also trim lower branches to allow light and air in.

It helps retain the shape of the plant and lets light into the understorey and stops the plant becoming woody and lanky.

Another technique, which is particularly good for natives and grevilleas, is to prune the ‘crown’ or top middle section of the plant to promote bushy, new growth.

Mr Young said lilly pillies would take a heavy prune.

“You can cut them in half, feed and water and bring them back to a manageable size,” he said.

You can also remove the understorey and grow smaller plants underneath, creating a layered effect.

If pruning hedges, allow the sun to get to the bottom so the plants will get bushy and don’t let the crown get too big. Then, six to eight weeks later, give it a follow-up light prune.

If you don’t do this, the plants will send out new leggy new shoots and lose their shape.

If drainage is a problem in specific garden beds, it might be a good idea to give some plants a lift, so they are on a mound.

Mr Young said it was also a good time to give roses a summer prune, removing dead wood.

The wet weather and high humidity have combined to create perfect conditions for grasshoppers and snails, which are very active at present.

For grasshoppers, Mr Young recommends spraying a mix of molasses and warm water on leaves to repel them.

Snails are also busy, hiding in trees and shrubs and not needing to come down because there is so much food on offer with new growth. Pruning or shaking plants will cause snails to fall to the ground where you can easily collect and dispose of them.

You should also water in the morning, rather than the afternoon to stop them moving around at night.

Scale and aphids are also a problem at present. Treatment with white oil spray will sort them out, just don’t do it on a hot day and make sure you don’t use it on bromeliads.

“It’s also a good time to fertilise because there is plenty of moisture in the garden,” Mr Young said.

Heat and rain-loving plants to consider

Crossandra fire glow

Evergreen plant which will grow to 1m x 1m in full sun. You can prune it to keep it low.

It will flower for 6-9 months of the year and will tolerate wet or dry conditions, so long as it has good drainage. Is troubled by few pests and diseases.

Tabernaemontana corymbose ‘Sweet Love’

A fast grower, also available in smaller varieties which can be used to create a box garden effect.

It likes the sun and the heat and is a good screening plant.

The multi-stem, evergreen shrub will grow to a height of 2.5-3m.

It has white flowers and will thrive after a heavy prune.

The plant flowers 6-9 months of the year, longer if it is a warm winter or positioned near a north-facing wall.

Golden Candles – Pachystachys

Evergreen plant which enjoys a part-shade position and morning sun/dappled light.

It will grow to 1-1.2m width and height.

It can flower all year but at least nine months. The flower is the not the yellow portion of the plant, instead the white petals that emerge from it.

Bee hive ginger (Malaysian yellow)

Enjoys part-shade, dappled sun and morning sun.

The plant will flower for months at a time and grow up to 3-3.5m.

It is available in a range of colours and is a clumping rhizome.

It is a great understorey plant, which loves the rain and high humidity.

There are dwarf varieties available.

Rhoeo giant

Will grow to 0.5m and has tri-colour, variegated leaves with lime green and yellow creating a striking effect.

The plant will take a lot of sun and is drought tolerant and responds well to watering and food. It does, however, perform best in part-shade, otherwise the leaves can become bleached.

It is good in pots and could grow with succulents to create a stunning display.

Pleomele ‘Song of India’

Can grow up to 5m but can be pruned to contain it to a manageable height. You can regrow the canes by place 3-5 canes, cut to different heights, in a pot.

Can take full sun but performs best in part-shade.

Needs a few hours of sun per day, will take wet periods but will tolerate dry times.

Very adaptive plant. It is good in a tropical garden with palms.

Head to Garden Gems Nursery to learn more about their plant range. 



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