Pohutukawa Maori princess

While this winter has generally been warm, it has also been fairly wet and I'm sure that we are all looking forward to some warm, breezy sunny days so that the soil can dry and we can recover our gardens.

Gardening for most depends on the weather and we have little choice but to work within the confines of nature in this respect.

If your vegetable and flower gardens and borders have been saturated and under water you may consider improving the drainage by building your garden beds up.


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Gardening: Time to pick up those pruning shears

Be careful when walking on the soil not to compact it.

A light forking or hoeing of the soil surface is very useful for aerating the soil and assisting surface drainage, though despite the weather it is time to start thinking about establishing your spring garden with its wide selection of vegetables, flowers and fruit.

Bulbs are flourishing in gardens and new buds and blossom are about to appear on many deciduous ornamentals and fruit trees.

Many vegetable and flower seeds can be sown now in trays for transplanting into the garden later.

Garden soil can be prepared with the addition and working in of organic compost, peat and fertiliser.

Conditions permitting many trees, shrubs, roses and fruits can also be planted. A visit to a garden centre will reveal the wide range of plants and accessories available.

The first flowering cherry tree varieties are starting to burst.

'Prunus campanulata Felix Jury' (Taiwan Cherry) has cerise red bell shaped flowers now before the leaves appear.

These are the brightest coloured and the earliest blooming of the cherries. The blossoms when full of nectar are a delight to the birds.

Also some varieties of magnolia are in bloom.

Many Camellias are flowering now. Camellias produce a great variety of flower forms, especially the japonica types.

If you have garden areas that are often prone to being wet, there are a range of plants that can tolerate wet or boggy soil conditions.

A few bigger trees that really love moisture can suck up significant amounts.

This will reduce soil moisture levels and allow other plants to grow which prefer a little less moisture.

Some good bigger growing plants include; Alders, Silver Birch, NZ cabbage trees, Claret Ash, Pohutukawa, Flax varieties, Swamp Cyprus, Kowhai, Willow and lancewood.

Flax can tolerate wet conditions.
Flax can tolerate wet conditions.

One of may favourites is Claret Ash (Fraxinus raywoodii).

This spectacular tree will grow in either light or heavy soils is tolerant of poor drainage and rarely troubled by pests and diseases.

Their leaves are beautiful soft green from spring and summer, turning to spectacular shades of red and burgundy before falling in the autumn.

The claret ash makes a great shade tree for picnicking under in the summer.

Another favourite is Pohutukawa (Metrosideros) which can be planted in almost any soil from sand to clay.

They are a front line seaside plant against the prevailing strong salt laden winds.

Great to use in almost any landscaping situation. A range of varieties exist including variegated leaf types and flowers from yellow and gold through to orange and pink to deep crimson.

While many can grow quite large, they respond well to pruning and can be made to fit into smaller gardens.

Flax (Phormium) is valued highly throughout the gardening world.

Most varieties are strong and tough and tolerate extremes of heat and cold, salt wind, and damp and wet conditions.

They form bronzy red flowers which in summer extend above the leaves in long stems and are a great source of nectar for many birds. Use flax to attract attention to entrance ways, ponds, feature or rock gardens.

Keep dry and have a great week.

*Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre