CHRISTMAS is fast approaching, only four weeks to go. So it's time to ensure your garden is looking great, ready for you to enjoy during the holiday season.
A quick inspection will almost certainly reveal pots that need refreshing. In most cases, once a plant is past its best in a pot, you're better off starting anew, with fresh premium potting mix and fresh plants. You might want to plant the old plant out in the garden, but just make sure it's not going to grow too big or become invasive.
If summer colour is what you're after, then petunias, portulaca, salvia, dianthus, zinnias, vinca and marigolds are hard to beat. They love the heat and will flower prolifically for months. Seedlings planted now will be in full bloom by Christmas. If you need an instant effect, pick up some advanced seedlings or potted colour.
Annuals put on a fabulous show and enable you to change things around with the seasons.
If you don't want to bother with that, though, choose hardy perennial plants like geraniums, dipladenias and sunpatiens. They will also be very showy and flower profusely, but you won't need to replace them as often as annuals.
Chinese star jasmine, gardenias, magnolia "little gem'' and frangipanis are all perfect for large pots, and will reward you with summer fragrance, ideal for outdoor living areas.
Succulents are hugely popular right now, and are great in pots large and small, making an impressive easy-care display.
For shadier places, consider spathyphillum (peace lily), New Guinea impatiens, plectanthrus, bromeliads, anthuriums and hydrangeas. Tropical foliage plants such as ctenanthe and calathea also bring vibrant colour to shady areas.
Remember to feed all potted plants regularly, ideally every couple of weeks, with a liquid fertiliser.
Once your pots are sorted out, cast a critical eye over the garden beds, and rip out any underperformers. Even if you are not ready to replace them just yet, removing them will instantly make the garden look better. Also remove spent flowers and dead or damaged limbs and leaves, and give shrubs a light prune, unless they are flowering now.
Feed the entire garden, including pots, with a complete plant food, then mulch well with organic sugar cane or lucerne in the vegetable patch, and tea tree mulch everywhere else. For a more decorative look, try using low-growing plants such as alyssum, lobelia or perennial groundcovers which can act as living mulch, even in pots.
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