Some varieties of lavender plants will be in full bloom now, filling the surrounding air with their delightful scent, while adding colour and structure to the garden.
Spanish and Italian lavenders flower in winter and spring and should be pruned lightly in late spring. Summer-flowering lavenders should not be pruned until late summer or early autumn, otherwise the flowering spikes will be removed.
Bees enjoy the flowers of lavenders, which generally appear in shades of blues and mauves. Forms with green, pink, white and red flowers are also available.
Lavenders originate from the Mediterranean area, and an understanding of this will help in providing for their main growing requirements as well as avoiding a failure to thrive. Cold winters, warm to hot summers and well-drained soils are their main preferences.
This means that lavenders do not generally live for many years in our coastal conditions. The provision of a slightly alkaline soil at planting time will be beneficial to the new plant. New varieties of lavenders are available in nurseries and garden centres.
In general, these varieties are the winter and spring-flowering varieties. These are the Spanish and Italian lavenders. Flowers have taller petals that appear about the main part.
One of the more successful Spanish lavenders is "Pukehoe", which was bred in New Zealand. It features five larger petals on the top of each purple flower.
Plants grow to about a metre high and 80cm wide, in a compact form. Plants become covered in flowers during the flowering season.
Two series of Italian lavenders have been bred in Australia; the Bee series and the Bella series. Bee lavenders, such as "Busy Bee" plants are compact and long-flowering. The flowers may be blue, pink or white. Plants flower in winter and spring. The Bella series are ideal of use as low hedges, or in pots or planter boxes.
French lavenders have long flower spikes and flower for many months. The leaves are toothed, giving this variety its botanical name of L. dentata. Plants grow well in pots but are also very suitable for mass-planting as a hedge.
In addition to providing ideal situations for planting out lavenders, giving the plants a light trim after flowering has finished will remove the dead flowers, as well as encouraging the production of healthy new growth. However, it is important to remember that lavender plants should not be pruned back into hard, old wood as this will generally result in the plant dying.
Tomatoes are popular plants to include in the home vegetable garden. This is because the plants are generally very productive and quite easy to grow. They provide a ready source of fresh produce for the kitchen.
In addition to saving money, it is generally agreed that home-grown tomatoes have a much better flavour. The gardener is also in control of treatments, chemical or natural, that are used on the plants. Gardeners who grow their own tomatoes also have a much wider choice of varieties, compared to those available in supermarkets. This is particularly so if the tomatoes are grown from seed. Commercially grown tomatoes have been developed to have tougher skins, with a uniformity of shape, colour and ripening. Other factors that have been considered include improved storage and ease of transportation without damage to the product. This has often resulted in a lack of flavour, a common complaint about commercial tomatoes. It has also led to the reduction in varieties available, as well as the apparent disappearance of some of the more traditional, older varieties.
However, newer varieties, as well as some of the older varieties are now becoming available, both as seedlings as well as seeds in packets.
This is resulting in a much wider variety of tomato from which to choose.
Factors including the size of plants at maturity, available garden space and the ultimate use of the tomatoes in the kitchen can all be considered when selecting preferred varieties.
Tomatoes that range in size from cherry-sized through to fruits with a mass of well over a kilogram, or ones that have a rounded, flat, pear-shaped or traditional shape are available.
Tomatoes grow best in the ground, while others are very suitable for pot culture or growing in hanging baskets. Tomatoes have traditionally had a red colour, but varieties that produce fruits in greens, yellows, pinks and shades of black are also available.
Some of the tomatoes have been developed in Italy, Russia, Britain, France and South America as well as Australia. Varieties that are suitable for pot culture, mainly producing smaller-sized fruits include: Patio Roma; Pot Tomato, Cherry Red Pear and Cherry Yellow Pear. Tomato Tumbler Red and Tumbler Yellow would also grow well in a hanging basket. Tomato "Black Krim" is a Russian heirloom variety with large, beefsteak-type fruits in dark red to maroon. "Rouge de Marmande" (clusters of deep red, slightly flattened, ribbed fruits), "Oxheart" (heart-shaped rose-pink fruit), "Beefsteak" (large, flattened fruit) and Grosse Lisse are all older varieties. "Moneymaker" has fruit with an intense red colour of a medium-sized, round shape.
Two colourful varieties include "Green Zebra", which has a rich-tasting, sweet flavour with a sharp bite to it, and "Yellow Perfection", which is a small, slicing variety. Other varieties with striped skins are also available.