August 1, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

If your magnolia tree is opening misshapen and severely damaged blooms, the likely culprit is a possum which has beaten you to the tree and eaten out the centre of the bud.

Mark performs autopsies on all possums shot here and there are often one or two per season with stomachs full of magnolia buds. You have two alternatives – trapping or high velocity lead. It is usually only one that has discovered the taste treat so you don’t have to eliminate the entire population as long as you catch the guilty one.

  • Roses are starting to move. Don’t be panicked by that, but you are probably safe to prune now even in colder areas. Pruning forces the plants into strong new growth but by the time that happens, we will be nearing the end of August and the main risk of severe frosts will be over for most.
  • Lawn purists will be raking out the mosses from their grassy swards and dethatching the build up of residue from dead leaves. Certain grasses such as fescues do not rot down quickly and can build up a thatch over time. Bare areas can be over sown now. While you can feed the lawn at this time, most people will wait until the temperatures warm up a little.
  • If you feel your garden is lacking in winter interest and colour, look to the hellebores, cyclamen coum, the miniature narcissi (daffies) many of which are flowering now, snowdrops, early camellias and daphnes.
  • Nandina domestica Richmond is a stunner at this time of the year with its brilliant festoons of bright red-orange berries. If you have a plant which is not berrying, alas you have probably bought a seedling which may never berry. Give it a couple more years and if it fails to berry profusely, rip it out. Plant nurseries should know better than to sell nandina seedlings but it does happen.
  • In the vegie garden, prepare beds and plan. Planting season will be on us within a few weeks and it helps if you are ready to move straight in with ground that is already prepared.
  • The art of keeping garden pests under control is to get in early before they get established so the winter copper and oil spray of fruit trees is the single most important spray of the year. Ditto for roses.

While most of us dislike weeding, Clare Leighton wrote in 1935:

There is some hope in weeding, for the weeds may one day be defeated, but the tidying of a garden is as exacting and unending as the daily washing of dishes.