|PATIENCE PAYS OFF: Landscape gardener Xanthe White says it's important to remember that some plant varieties take longer to establish. Photography supplied. |
As any keen gardener will know, some varieties of plants, fruit trees and vegetables improve in quality over the years. It’s a matter of patience and understanding that good things do indeed take time.
But for a novice gardener, seeing a plant that’s been tended carefully appear to come to nothing can be demoralising, and make you wonder why you bothered.
It’s important to know the difference between plants that are digging in for good and those that are being unwittingly sent to the grave.
So which varieties get better with age?
Our Homes TODAY consulted landscape gardening guru Xanthe White for advice for gardeners just starting out.
“Firstly you need to know the difference between annuals, biennials and perennials,” says Xanthe.
“Annuals flower each year and then go to seed with the parent plant dying and, if you are lucky, the seeds naturalising. Examples are allysum, lobelia and marigolds.
“Biennials may take two years of growth before they flower and then will go to seed, such as foxgloves and parsley. These are not that common, but can confuse new gardeners.
“Perennials are flowering plants that flower every year, but may die down in the winter months leaving the garden bare, such as alstroemeria, zantedeschia or oriental poppies.”
Depending on the variety, flowering plants can be a fickle friend with a seemingly short lifespan.
To counteract this, Xanthe recommends dead-heading and removing blooms on flowering plants before they go to seed.
“That will encourage repeat flowering, as once a plant has gone to seed it considers its cycle complete. By removing fading blooms or picking flowers to bring inside, you will extend the flowering period.”
“What new gardeners need to be reminded of is that there is as much going on under the ground as there is above.
“Until the roots have established beneath the ground, the top growth will be slow. The best way of describing it is as an exponential pattern of growth.
“Most fruiting trees need a few years to get started, as fruiting takes a lot of resources.
“It is advisable to remove the fruit when a tree is young, allowing it to establish size and strength. Overall, you’ll get a better harvest long-term.”
A few vegetables and herb types can be tough to tackle too, with some best left alone unless you have the patience.
“Asparagus is one of those crops that is only for those willing to commit,” says Xanthe.“It takes about three years before you start getting a bumper crop, but it is well worth the wait.
“Perennial herbs such as rosemary and thyme are best lightly harvested in the first couple of years to allow the plants to get big enough for you to have a consistent supply.”
Xanthe’s best advice for novice gardeners is to do their research on what they’re growing and remember that some things are worth waiting for, so persevere.
• Xanthe White is bringing her landscaping expertise to Christchurch as part of the Ellerslie International Flower Show on March 7-11. She will be exhibiting in the Gold medal gardens section.