Diane Beddison

Spring won’t let me stay in the house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” – Gustav Mahler

Plant of the Month

When we think of a Rhododendron, it is usually the large evergreen shrubs with stunning colourful flowers. Rhododendron ‘Pink Pearl’ (Rhododendron hybrid George Hardy x Broughtonii), shown above, is a hardy old time favourite, and I love it for the deep pink buds. It has a dense upright habit but can become a bit leggy if grown in too much shade.

Being shallow rooted, most Rhododendra prefer a sheltered position under trees with dappled sunlight and well drained, humus-rich, acidic soil. They enjoy the cold winters in Hepburn Shire.

There are many distinct types of Rhododendron. Azaleas belong to this family. They have smaller leaves and are typically small or medium shrubs. Some Azaleas are deciduous, such as the Mollis Azalea.

Gardening Fun

Spring is my favourite season as it offers us a sense of better times ahead. Spring offers the ‘wow factor’ in the garden and, more importantly, provides renewal. As the soil warms, delicate juvenile leaves unfurl on deciduous trees and shrubs, and herbaceous perennials erupt from the soil. Bulbs brighten our spirits and fill the air with their scent. The garden comes alive as insects and birds become more active.

This means it is time to feed plants, set up plants to cope with the drier months ahead, and keep an eye out for diseases and insects, such as aphids which will spoil the display.

Early spring is an ideal time to plant, as plants can start to get established before summer.

Once the frost is gone, it is a suitable time to plant Citrus and tender vines such as Passionfruit. Note that plants typically take a year to establish, although this varies according to plant species. Summer watering is necessary for new plants.

Over the spring season, more plants will come into your local nurseries. Most nurseries will order in that special plant variety or species for you, provided it is available from their suppliers. Nurseries are also a reliable source of information on how to control pests and diseases. Check out the progress that has been made in moving to organic solutions.

Shaping Plants

If you haven’t pruned late summer flowering trees or shrubs, such as Crepe Myrtle, do so now. Winter and early spring flowering shrubs and climbers should be pruned once they finish flowering. These include Camellia, Daphne, Luculia, Spirea, Loropetalum, Rhododendron and Australian native plants such as Correa, Wisteria and Hardenbergia.

Ornamental grasses can be cut back to remove old poor growth and encourage new growth. Grasses such as Poa or Carex should be cut back annually, whilst Lomandra, Liriope and Tulbaghia can be pruned every third year.

Feeding Plants

Prior to feeding your plants or mulching the garden, tidy up and remove weeds.

Encourage the spring flush by feeding spring and summer flowering plants now with a complete fertiliser. Feed lawns with the same product or a specialised lawn food.

If you need your garden to look great for a special event, or you want to kick start younger plants, feed them with a liquid food, such as PowerFeed each fortnight.

Soil and Water

Do you have heavy clay soil?

If despite soil improvements, your soil is usually very wet, consider installing Agi-pipe to take the water away. Make sure it is connected to your storm water system.

Another option for a damp area of the garden, is to select plants which cope with wet feet. Some examples are Canna Lilies, Callistemon, and certain native grasses such as Carex species.

If you wish to grow plants which prefer lighter soils with good drainage, create a raised garden bed or plant in a pot. Banksias do well in pots.

Boost plant growth by mixing compost through the soil where possible. Compost also improves soil structure for both clay and sandy soils.

Applying mulch to your garden is a must. Mulch in early spring to suppress weeds and avoid plants drying out. Use organic mulch such as well-rotted animal manure, pine bark, wood chips, lucerne or pea straw. Ensure the mulch is coarse enough for water to penetrate.


This spring article is all about plants and horticulture. Garden design tips will be back in our summer article. Happy Gardening!

Diane Beddison is a frequent visitor to Daylesford and Hepburn and is the Principal of Beddison Garden Designs.