Petunias put on a great display during the hot summer months and come in a variety of single and combinations of colour.
The new double varieties, with pompom-style flowers are ideal for containers, while the fringed flowered types are outstanding planted in hanging baskets.
Petunias have a well-deserved reputation for their garden toughness and can withstand quite dry conditions provided they have some protection from the wind.
They will grow and thrive in almost any soil, from sandy loams to heavy clays, but like most annuals they need plenty of sunshine to perform at their best.
These South American beauties relish the heat and will tolerate dry conditions, but don’t over-water as this can cause problems. Once established, water only when the soil is dry.
Slugs and snails love young seedlings so use slug and snail deterrents to control them.
Aphids and whitefly attack petunias in spring and summer and sometimes even into autumn, so spray with a pyrethrum-based insecticide to help keep the numbers down.
Pick off all flower buds until the plants have reached a good size, then let them go. When flowers begin to appear cut back on the watering.
Be careful not to use a fertiliser high in nitrogen especially when the plants are about to flower because nitrogen causes plants to grow vegatively as against producing flowers.
At this stage I switch to a tomato fertiliser which boosts flower production with its high level of potash.
Once the first flush of flowers has finished, usually midsummer, cut the plants back hard, then after a few days, give a feed of a complete fertiliser to help them develop new growth which should encourage more blooms again in autumn.
They may even continue flowering into May and June.
Young seedlings respond well to a once-fortnightly feeding of a soluble fertiliser mixed at half strength.
With these hot summer days there is simply no more rewarding annual plant than the pretty petunia.
Prostanthera rotundifolia, the native mint bush, is a lovely addition to any garden not only for its massed display of lilac or purple-blue flowers in spring but also for its aromatic leaves.
The sun and rain have great success in opening the leaf glands which produce the permeating aroma of mint.
When I worked at the Cataract Gorge in Launceston the mint bushes filled the air with their clean, crisp mint perfume in spring and early autumn.
In nature, mint bushes are found in semi-shaded, sandy, free-draining soils.
It’s a pity to see them growing in gardens when they have been unpruned and allowed to become leggy and open. Pruning, after flowering, from an early age will reward you each year with a magnificent display of flowers as well as prolonging the life of the shrub.
Avoid hard pruning of old wood as mint bushes have a dislike for such harsh treatment. Regular tip pruning would be beneficial to attain a bushy shape.
January 6-7: The North-West Lilium Society will hold its annual Lilium Show at the Burnie Arts Centre from 1pm to 4pm on Saturday and 10am to 4pm on Sunday.
January 6-7: The Northern Tasmanian Lilium Society will hold its Lilium Show at St. Ailbe’s Hall, Margaret Street, Launceston from 1pm to 4pm Saturday and from 9.30am to 4pm Sunday. The event will include floral art exhibits, photography display, plant sales, cultural information and morning and afternoon teas. Entry $3.