This week we look at wisteria, native grasses and azaleas

WISTERIA: Care must be taken to remove long, think branches that can be produced by wisteria plants as these can become invasive. Late spring or early summer pruning will maintain the desired shape. Picture: Michelle Mexon
WISTERIA: Care must be taken to remove long, think branches that can be produced by wisteria plants as these can become invasive. Late spring or early summer pruning will maintain the desired shape. Picture: Michelle Mexon

Wisteria is a deciduous, climbing plant that displays its beautiful, pendulous flowers during spring. When grown over an outdoor shade area or over an extended framework, wisteria creates a stunning effect that is also very cooling in appearance. Wisteria plants are also very effective when grown as standard specimens, that is, plants with a single trunk forming an umbrella shape with the overhanging branches.

Wisteria should be grown in full sun and are frost-hardy plants. If young plants are well fertilised they will soon establish a strong framework, although reducing the application of fertiliser to mature plants will encourage more prolific flower production.

Late spring or early summer pruning will help in maintaining a desired shape.

Wisteria sinensis is the most commonly available variety, producing the familiar lavender-blue flowers in long racemes during spring.

A white flowered variety, wisteria floribunda alba is available.

Double-flowered varieties are also available, although it is preferable to choose your plant while it is in flower, ensuring you purchase the particular flower type that you want.

Care must be taken to remove long, think branches that can be produced by wisteria plants as these can become invasive in the home garden.

Native grasses

There are many ways to use native grasses in the garden. They are attractive all year around, easy to maintain, and use very little water. They provide variation in texture and colour.

Grasses can fill in the gaps between small and medium sized perennials.

Native grasses can be used as ground cover, particularly in difficult corners or areas in the garden. Some natives will grow in shade and cope with competition from tree roots. The ground cover grasses, when established, can retard and prevent weed growth. The natives are generally slow growing and are generally not very invasive.

Dianellas and Lomandras are two of the more common varieties.

Dianella is often known as the flax lily, and is a great alternative to the New Zealand Flax. Over 30 species of Dianella are native to Australia. These range from Dianella tasmanica or 'Tasmanian Flax Lily' a native of Tasmania to Dianella revoluta'blue flax-lily' or 'blueberry lily' which is found from Western Australia across to Queensland.

Dianella prunina which is found in NSW is a drought tolerant species once established. It features attractive blue foliage. However it can become somewhat leggy. Dianella prunina'Utopia' has a more compact growth habit and is ideal for pots or containers as well as mass planting.

Dianella caerulea or 'Paroo Lily' will grow to about 0.5m. Dianella longifolia or 'Smooth Flax Lily' is clump forming to about 80cm.

Lomandra is a hardy Australian Native clumping grass - like plant related to the grass tree. Strappy leaves and flower spikes that are fragrant in summer. A tough ground cover, it can grow in full sun to shade. Lomandra longifolia is widely used in landscaping.

Lomandra longifolia 'Tanika' is a finer leafed, more compact form, with yellow flowers. Lomandra filiformis 'Savanna Blue' has a blue tinge to the foliage and is a stunning contrast. Lomandra longifolia is a common tufted plant, found in a variety of situations from exposed sand dunes to rainforest areas. It is a very variable species but characterised by its tough strap-like leaves and its large flower cluster. Flowers are almost cylindrical, creamy, often with purplish centres. Plants flower from August to December. This common Lomandra is found in many different environments including sand dunes, ridges, open forest, creek banks and rainforests.

Azaleas

As azaleas begin their beautiful spring display it is important to try to avoid watering the flowers and foliage of the plants as this may encourage the spread of petal blight disease. Instead, apply the water to the soil under and around the plant.

Azaleas come in four main types and can be chosen to suit most garden situations and purposes.

Indica hybrids are evergreen plants with glossy leaves, generally intolerant of heavier frosts and have a growth habit that is wider than it is higher.

Evergreen Kurume azaleas have small leaves and large, usually single flowers. Their compact growth habit makes them ideal for use as hedges. Kurume azaleas are more tolerant of colder conditions.

Satsuki hybrids produce smaller, low-growing shrubs that bloom in late spring.

The above varieties come in shades of red, pink, white and purple.

A fourth variety, Mollis azaleas, are deciduous plants that produce flowers in shades of yellow and orange. As they are intolerant of heat and humidity, they are only suitable for growing in colder regions.

Vegetable crops can suffer badly from damage by snails and slugs. These pests seem to become prolific immediately after rain, and snail bait that has been placed out to destroy them is often affected by the rain. A concerted, manual effort will remove most of the pests. They come out to feed under the cover of darkness, usually early in the evening. The use of traps containing beer is favoured by some gardeners. The beer is placed into a shallow container, with a cover. Snails are attracted to the beer and cannot get out. As snail bait is harmful to pets, alternative strategies such as the use of beer, is preferable. Otherwise, if snail bait is preferred, then the pellets should be placed in a container that makes them inaccessible to pets. Containers are available from garden centres.

Gardening Tips

Tomato bushes can be encouraged to grow taller by pinching out the shoots that appear at leaf junctions, next to the main stem.

Check geranium buds for signs of infestation by bud grubs as evidenced by holes in the unopened buds and spray with a pyrethrum-based spray if affected.

Pick new rose blooms for indoor displays by cutting back to just above a leaf junction, encouraging new growth to appear