March is the first month of autumn and, while it may still seem more like summer, the nights are getting longer and there's just a hint of colour in deciduous trees.
Autumn perennials are putting on their show now and many late summer and autumn flowering perennials come in warm shades, reflecting the autumn colours of deciduous trees. Rudbeckia, Helenium, Kniphofia (Red-Hot Pokers), Solidago (Golden Rod) and Ligularia all flower in shades of yellow, gold and orange, and over a long period.
Many of the grasses, too, are coming into their own now - Miscanthus transmorriensis, Miscanthus sinensis "Sarabande", "Zebrinus" and "Gracillimus" and Stipa gigantea have reached a metre and a half or more, with rusty-coloured or golden seed heads floating about the foliage.
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Lower growing Pennisetum advena "Rubrum" (Purple Fountain grass), Calamagrostis x acutiflora "Karl Foester" and the Carexes are all also looking good.
Salvia flowering seems to go on and on, especially the "Hotlips" series and cultivars such as "Wendy's Wish". Other Salvias flowering at the moment include "Meigan's Magic", "Indigo Spires" and cultivars of S. nemorosa, S. superba, S. sylvestris, S. leucantha, and S. mexicana.
Other perennials that are looking great at this time of year include erigeron, succulents, Echinacea, dahlias, pelargoniums, sedums, and hardy geraniums.
Repeat flowering roses such as Gertrude Jekyll, Sally Holmes, New Dawn, Madame Alfred Carriere and Souvenir de la Malmaison are just a few that add to the display at the moment.
Garden ponds are full of flamboyant foliage at this time of year. Any pond weeds or aquatic plants that are taking over and crowding out other plants can be removed using a rake and lightly skimming the surface. Leave the debris in a pile beside the pond for a few hours to let any insects, frogs or other inhabitants retreat back to safety in the water. Top up water levels if they have dropped significantly.
Fertilise during a break in rainy weather to let the rain water it in.
Once the worst of the heat is over, but while there is still some warmth left in the soil, plant annuals of varieties of pansy, poppy, cineraria, stock, primula, snapdragon and viola, for winter to spring colour.
The Armidale Garden Club has its next meeting on Thursday, March 25 at the Uniting Church Youth Club Hall, off Rusden St, at 7.30pm. All are welcome - just come along!
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