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It's Time To: December

The silly season in the garden means more champagne and less work. 

Ensure you have some comfortable seats in leafy shade and toast to the year’s horticultural successes: great job!


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But for the obsessive green-blooded gardeners like me, there’s still plenty to do. There's no rest for the wicked this month. Here’s my ‘to do’ list to keep you busy this Christmas.

Refresh to help retain moisture in the soil: organic mulch, such as leaf litter and sugar cane mulch, rot down to form humus so the mulch blanket needs continual topping up. Unmulched plants dry out four times faster than mulched plants: top up thin areas with pre-soaked mulch topped onto a layer or two of newspaper if you need added weed suppressant.

Prune off the fruit forming on your camellia japonica bushes.

I find watering in the mornings are as good for me as they are for the garden. Plants like an early drink and don’t like going to bed wet, who does?


Photo - Mythja /


Make a wreathe with succulents so visitors get a lovely surprise when they knock on your door this Christmas! Buy a sphagnum wreathe and just stick the pieces of succulents in and secure with a pin.


Photo - Linda Ross


While you may wait until early morning to water if you see a plant in trouble during the middle of the day – go for it – it could be dead by morning.

Feed the lawn during a rainstorm in early summer.

Continue to apply seaweed solution to the whole garden (leaves and roots) to strengthen plants and make them better able to cope with summer’s heat stress and fungal attack.

On super-hot days, spray Yates Drought Shield over the Christmas tree to make it look fresher for a longer period. Also use on tender plants when weather is very hot and dry.

Hunt for a claw foot bathtub or vintage laundry tub as an eye-catching container for aquatic plants. Sun-lovers include waterlily and lotus which are content to grow in confined spaces year after year. Feed annually to enjoy plenty of flowers. As a bonus, the tub is bound to attract frogs into your garden or courtyard.

Pick a basket of frangipanis. Display them in a float bowl or for the ultimate in domestic indulgence, throw them into a deep bath and soak.

Make ice blocks: with any fruit you can get your hands on!


Photo - Hadasit /

Make peach and lime jam from Cornersmith’s new pickling and preserving book.

Going Away? Don’t forget your garden before you go…

Put up a beach umbrella on fragile plants like hydrangeas that could get scorched.

Spray ‘Envy’ on leaves of plants susceptible to drying out whilst your gone. As it dries it locks together to form a stretchy polymer barrier that slows down evaporation, protecting your plant from cell damage and sun stroke. One application can last three months so apply now and it will last all summer.

Move pot plants to the sheltered side of the house, and group together with saucers filled to help create a humid microclimate and reduce water loss.

Make a small hole in the lid of a large soft drink bottle, fill with water and upend in pot plants to slowly leak moisture into the potting mix.

To water several pots at once, fill a large vessel such as a bucket with water, sit it on a low stool and place a wick from it into each pot - use strips of cotton fabric or cord. As long as the water is higher than the end of the wick, it will siphon out gradually. It helps to sit a lid on the bucket so the water doesn’t evaporate too quickly.

Place a few old towels in the bath and saturate them with water. Place potted indoor plants on top – this is especially good for ferns.

Make sure pots are mulched well. Try mulch or simply a layer of pebbles.

My Jobs for…

….All Climate areas

LAST CHANCE for dahlias – quick!

ORCHIDS should be placed in shade until autumn.

PLANT some autumn lilies. For a sunny spot we like nerines, belladonna lilies, autumn crocus and blood lily. Two tough lilies that thrive in shaded areas, under trees, with root competition are clivea and the renga renga lily, which is a NZ native with sprays of white flowers.

PRUNE roses after flowering to bring on another flush. As the petals fade cut between the finished flower and a pair of leaves. This way the plant won’t lose energy and new buds will form.


Mme Isaac Pierre 


BEARDED IRIS can be divided before Christmas, if they’ve stopped flowering they need dividing. This won’t interrupt their flowering cycle. Keep them dry over summer as they tend to go dormant.

SAVE the seed from Oriental poppies as they dry

SPRAY roses with a mix of EcoOil, EcoFungicide, EcoNeem and seaweed solution – the best way to attack all pests and diseases on your roses.

…Temperate climates

HANGING BASKETS dry out quickly so should only be planted up if you are holidaying at home this year.

PLANT a second round of summer vegetables. For a family of four add a tomato, one cucumber, two beans, one eggplant, sweet corn, and one zucchini to extend the bounty into autumn.

TRIM bottlebrush 5cm behind finished flowers to encourage an autumn flush.

When infestations of scale, mites and mealy bugs occur during very hot weather spray Eco oil in the early evening to smother the insects, then wash off the oil in the morning to prevent burning of the leaves.

LIGHTLY prune spring-flowering shrubs such as weigela, philadelphus, may bush and abelia, and cut the older canes right back to ground-level to make room for future canes. Lightly prune spring-flowering natives such as emu bush, eriostemon, melaleuca and grevillea to keep them compact and extend their lifespan.


…Subtropical climates

BANANA suckers should be kept contained so they can produce even bigger bananas. Remove the flower bell from fruiting stems after the last hand of bananas has set, then cover the entire fruit with a plastic sleeve to protect against parrots.

CUT untidy leaves from subtropical plants.

COVER developing pawpaw fruit to protect against bats, possums and parrots.

TIDY up old stems from clumping bamboo to allow space for new culms to grow

PULL off yellow leaves from Stephanotis, Hibiscus and Brazilian Jasmine – the leaves have finished.

NOW it’s party time - put up the beach umbrella, grab the cocktail shaker, pop up the sprinkler for the kids, put away your tools and put up your feet! Here’s to a fun, healthy and happy year of gardening. Linda xx


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