Monday, 5 May 2008


In my garden and in gardens that I see when driving around, there have been some late casualties of the weather - more so than usual. We had a very cool February, with chilly nights but no rain, and many plants began to go into autumn mode. Then we were hit by 2 weeks of temperatures around 40C and this caused a major shock for shrubs and trees (and people!) as well as seedlings and, combined with the watering restrictions has caused havoc all over South Australia. Some of the effects are only just emerging now, some were obvious at the time.
In my garden several things happened.
  1. First, some established plants went into a kind of hibernation. For example my late plums have never ripened. They were fine and colouring well and should have ripened in March. They sit on the tree still, unripe and inedible. I will remove them.
  2. Some seedlings also never developed and remained stunted even though they did not suffer any dryness and were put in the complete shade for most of the 2 weeks. They just remained 1 cm high.
  3. Wattles that looked fine and happy all through that time have suddenly died now. This is what I see everywhere. Shrubs and trees that made it through and probably received no additional water because of the watering restrictions have not been able to recover. Possibly their roots were over-heated in that baking sun and although we have had some rain, not enough to relieve the stress. It is sad to see and if you have been reading this for some time will know what I think about the shallow-rooted politicians and their courtyard homes making rules for passionate gardeners and guardians of the earth!
  4. Large trees are losing limbs everywhere. This is normal in times of stress, so long as we get a good rain this winter they will be fine.

Some plants thrived, absolutely. These deserve to be planted more. I have mentioned some before but here is a rough list of my thrivers (not just survivors): Plumbago - beautiful, lush, fast and flowers for months. Callistemons (Bottle brushes) - fabulous. Grevilleas - most thrived, one died - moral - choose local varieties. Hakeas - again, local varieties that received no water and still look lush and happy. Correas - most survived, some thrived, especially those in shade. Grey-leafed plants - THE way to go for full sun positions: any with needle-shaped leaves, teucreums, etc. Grasses - native and not. Succulents - but only those from harsh, dry climates. Some that I have seen for sale recently are beautiful but are from rain-forests and some are epiphytic (ie grow in the forks of trees) and don't do well in the ground. Read the labels.

If, like me, you love to read the Diggers catalogues from cover to cover, bear in mind that Heronswood, where Diggers is situated, is on a headland and receives cool air across the sea when the wind is from the north. I went there on a day that was 38C in Melbourne and at Heronswood it was cool and lovely. They really have no idea about heat and plants I have bought from them that claim to be heat and drought hardy definitely are not, in my garden. None of the the other catalogues and online seed and plant companies are in South Australia either so use some caution when ordering. Local nurseries are no better - they get nearly all their plants from interstate too. It is really difficult to get reliable advice in these days of cut-throat prices and lack of service where the people serving are young and inexperienced.

1 comment:

gardengal said...

In our garden there were a few things that did well without water

Dianellas, sea-side daisies, penstemums and paper daisies, which I think are called xerichrysum now.