This month’s gardening checklist is packed full with the best winter blooms, tips for Mother’s Day, and how to protect your plants in frosty temps
Your May gardening to-do list
+ Treat the mums in your life to a cyclamen this Mother’s Day (14 May). These pretty flowering plants are ideal planted under trees or in pots. Use plenty of pumice in planters or soil as they thrive with top-notch drainage.
+ Winter-flowering favourite the camellia comes in several different species – sasanqua, japonica and reticulata to name a few – each with its own cultivars, flowering times and shapes. Do your research before buying, as some will grow into big trees while others remain compact. Dwarf types will do well in pots.
+ Chrysanthemums are reliable autumn-flowering perennials. Plant them in the garden or in containers with full sun and well-drained soil. Cineraria are an easy-care option for shadier areas. For winter blooms try small trees and shrubs, eg banksia, choisya, luculia, protea, grevillea, gordonia, tibouchina and viburnum.
+ Now is a good time to prep peonies in areas where the winters are cold enough for them to grow (south of the upper North Island). Simply cut off brown leaves and old stems. To propagate, saw woody roots off older plants and replant pieces with two or more buds.
+ Slugs and snails come out at night as the weather cools. To catch them, take an evening walk around the garden, checking in moist corners. Throw the critters into a bucket and feed them to the birds. Time-poor gardeners could try Tui Quash snail pellets, which are non-toxic to humans, hedgehogs and birds.
+ Aphids, scale and mealy bug come out when the temperature drops. Kiwicare produces a spraying oil or you can make your own (there are many recipes online) to help fight these pests.
+ Move frost-tender plants to shelter and cover larger specimens with frost cloth before temperatures plummet. Mulch perennials with compost and store dahlia tubers in a dry place.
+ Cut hydrangeas back to about half their size, pruning stems just above pairs of leaves. Cuttings can be used to propagate new plants – strip off most leaves and pop into semi-shaded soil. Keep moist, not wet. Other easy stem cuttings include daisies, fuchsias, helichrysum, lavender, pelargoniums and salvia.
+ I can never resist a pile of autumn leaves, whether it’s in my own garden, the park or filling up a gutter somewhere. Such valuable (and free) organic matter must always be gathered up and put into the compost or used as mulch in the garden.