Trim, tidy and renew the garden this month and it will look good for the rest of summer. Summer gardening tends to take place in waves. There is the early start in September, full throttle in October (depending on the weather) and the final push in January when everything is put in place for the last months of summer.
The garden programme for January mostly requires trimming back the rampant growth after festive season neglect, filling in gaps and replacing plants that look tired. B a l l S t r a a h o f ‘s Kathy Varney says that with four to five flowering months ahead of us, it does not make sense t o nurse plants that are not looking good.
Rather put in a new batch of plants or opt for a colour bag if you just need to fill a gap or two. All things considered, the cost of two or three seedling trays or a few colour bags is not expensive when one compares it to a good bottle or wine or a six pack of beer, and the effect lasts for longer. Varney suggests several tough summer survivors for sun that will keep on flowering until the first frost.
Marigolds, such as Durango (French marigold) or Taishan (African marigold) that both grow 20 to 25cm high or the dwarf ‘Hot Pak (15 – 18cmm) are hardy garden plants that never stop flowering. Durango has anemone type flowers on strong stems while Taishan and Hot Pak have double flowers that look like pom-poms. Zinnias such as the new generation Zahara are more compact, disease resistant and showy.
The range has single or double flowers, grows 30 to 40cm high and is available in single colours or mixes such as Lemonade (starlight rose, cherry and yellow) or the double Brilliant mix of yellow, cherry, and fiery orange.
Angelonia is commonly called the “summer snapdragon” and can be used as an alternative for salvia because it likes the same growing conditions and continues to bloom even in extreme heat.
For all their toughness, the plants are elegant garden or container plants, producing an abundance of flower spikes that attract pollinators. For bigger than normal Angelonia blooms look out for the Archangel range.
Plants are compact, growing up to 36cm, and the flowers are set against glossy, dark green leaves. It is a high performing, low maintenance plant for landscapes as well as for containers. In trials in the US, they showed an exceptional tolerance for heat, humidity, and drought.
In areas with shade, Impatiens Beacon is still a good choice, or for a larger colour range there is New Guinea Impatiens Divine that produces masses of flowers and is completely resistant to downy mildew. At the beginning of summer when the nights were still cool, it grew slowly but it has taken off now that night temperatures are higher. For those difficult areas that get sun and shade, almost in equal measure, try Begonia “Dragon Wings”.
A single plant quickly fills a one metre square area with an abundance of red or pink flowers and the wing shaped leaves always look glossy and healthy.
Baby Wings is a mini-version of the Dragon Wings, with a more upright, less spreading growth habit and smaller leaves, with pink or white flowers. Begonia Big also tolerates full sun or partial shade.
It is a showy landscape begonia with green or bronze leaves, that grows into a substantial plant, 60cm high and 50cm wide, with upright, arching growth, glossy leaves, and large flowers.
It does best in moist soil that drains well and fertilising once a month. Other January tasks are to weed, before they flower, and fertilise the lawn.