Spring is probably one of the most exciting times of the year for gardeners everywhere. When your garden focuses on trees, it is one continuous adventure right after another. Warmer temperatures, but not too warm, maybe some spring rains, new leaves, and blossoms are all hallmarks of the season when gardens begin to wake up and get ready for summer.
There is a good possibility that you did a lot of cleaning and clearing in autumn, but that is often not a good time to prune your trees. Late winter, shortly before the sap begins to rise, is the best time for pruning. It mimics the natural action of winter dormancy. To know if a limb or branch has died and needs cut away from the parent plant, do a quick twig test. On most deciduous trees, if the twig is pliant, the limb is alive.
Evergreens, such as the many kinds of gum trees, or ever-popular citrus trees, and monocots, such as the glauca grass tree or the screw palms, are easier to check since they will remain green most of the year. Dry material can be pruned away using sharp garden sheers, loppers, or (in a few cases) a pruning saw. In some cases, it might be a good idea to let some of the dry fronds droop down to become part of the stem.
Some Australian trees, such as the Queensland Bottle Tree (brachychiton rupestris) are dry season deciduous trees, which means that instead of dropping their leaves in the cool months, they drop them during dry seasons and grow new ones when the rainy season starts. This helps the tree retain moisture when the sun is hot and allows them to engage in photosynthesis at an optimum season. Queensland bottle trees are especially good at this since they store moisture in their uniquely shaped trunks during the rainy season.
Preparing New Growth
While pruning some types of trees, such as olives, you can harvest twigs and use them to start new plants or to graft onto established root stock. This is also a good time to engage in air layering, a process that allows you to start a baby tree right on the adult tree.
If you have young trees that you have been wintering over from late fall pruning, early spring might be a good time to start the hardening off process before setting them out in large pots on the patio or making permanent plantings in the ground. Early spring is also a good time for re-potting rootbound plants or starting new container plantations. Our GRC (glass reinforced concrete) pots are an excellent choice if you are thinking of increasing your portable or container plant collection.
Supporting Established Plants
Even plants that are normally housed indoors will respond to the lengthening days of spring, especially if they are near a sunny window. This is a good time to support established plants, both indoors and out, with a drink of organic fertilizer tea or a nice layer of fresh compost. Compost should be spread around the drip line of trees, not next to the trunk where it might encourage burrowing animals or insects.
Speaking of invasive creatures, mowing under orchard trees or shade trees with a composting mower can help keep down competing weeds and woody sprouts. It can even help control plants, such as olives, that have a spreading habit and might grow just a little more vigorously than desired.
When caring for trees that bloom in spring, such as Queensland Bottle Trees, blossoming gum trees, and citrus trees or bushes, be careful not to prune away all the new growth since this is usually the part that puts on blooms, and will later on add luscious fruit. A little pruning might let extra light and air into central parts of trees such as olives, mangos, Tahitian limes, and even native Australian finger limes, but this is probably not the time of year for vigorous shaping.
Speaking of blossoms, don’t forget to take some time out of your busy gardening schedule to just stroll through your beautiful plantings or to visit a botanical garden. Although Japan is famous for its lovely cherry blossoms, they are not the only place in the world to have amazingly beautiful displays in spring. You might want to visit the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, or look in on the Gija Jumulu in Perth. You won’t be able to see it bloom during Australia’s spring, which is in September, October, and November because it usually blooms (mostly at night) in March and April. However, if you want to see some iconic Australian blossoms, do drop by the Australian Botanic Garden at Mt. Annan in late August or early September to see the wattles in bloom.