Crepe myrtles begin displaying their bright colours now, with the plants almost covered in large flower heads of white, purples, pinks and reds.
Examples can be seen in many streets and gardens at this time of year. New plants should be established with a good supply of water to ensure the root system develops well.
A sunny position, with rich, well-drained soil, would be most suitable. Once established, crepe myrtles are remarkably drought tolerant. This is particularly evident under current conditions, where plants are flowering well. Plants may need extra protection in colder areas.
In addition to their colourful summer displays, crepe myrtles show good autumn leaf colours. In winter, its bark has an attractive mottled pattern.
Crepe myrtles, lagerstroemia indica, are native to eastern Asia and are hardy in most areas. Older varieties reach between six and eight metres high, although many are pruned to shrub size. These varieties are often subject to attack by powdery mildew.
However, new cultivars in the Indian Summer range have been developed to be resistant to this problem. Indian Summer crepe myrtles have a good cold tolerance, particularly if planted in a warm, sheltered position. A wider range of growth patterns to suit different preferences is also available.
Indian Summer crepe myrtles are a cross between lagerstroemia indica and lagerstroemia fauriei. Each cultivar is named after an American Indian tribe.
Varieties of Indian Summer crepe myrtles that grow to about three metres include; Acoma (white flowers and a weeping habit), Tonto (rich pink flowers, and Zuni (mauve flowers). Taller growing varieties are; Sioux (carmine pink flowers), Yuma (mauve flowers), Tuscarora (rose red flowers) and Natchez (white flowers with spectacular marking on the trunk).
Lagerstroemia indica, 'New Orleans' is available in shrub-form but can also be grown as a standard. It looks great in a large pot and is perfect for courtyards.
Other varieties, apart from Indian Summer, are also available. 'Houston' grows to about 60 to 70 centimetres high and spreads to maybe a metre or a metre and a half. These plants are low-growing and have been specially selected to grow as standards. 'Pixie White' produces beautiful white flowers. It grows to about two metres and suits garden beds, either growing singularly or as a massed feature.
'Diamonds in the Dark' is a new series that feature a wide rage of flower colours on near-black foliage.
An Australian native plant that adds the features of the popular grasses-type plants to the garden, as well as being drought hardy and easy to care for, is the lomandra.
Lomandras produce attractive grass-like foliage and grow to about one metre high. Spiny yellow, perfumed flowers are produced from between the leaves. They are particularly suitable for mass plantings, or as a border. The plants are heat tolerant and grow successfully in fairly poor soils, provided it is well-drained. In addition to being suitable for hotter, drier situations, a position of semi-shade is most suitable.
Lomandras are botanical relatives of grass trees. The most commonly seen species in cultivation is Lomandra.longifolia, a large plant with strap-like leaves. L. multiflora is a small grass-like plant with stiff grey-green leaves from 25-85 centimetres high. The creamy, yellow flowers occur in clusters around the base of the leaves in spring.
A relatively new release is L. "Crackerjack", which has fine grass-like leaves in blue-grey when young. Mature stems turn to green. Reaching 45 centimetres, it grows well in sun to part-shade and is frost tolerant.
A number of vegetables need warmer soil conditions for their seeds to germinate successfully.
These include carrots, cucumbers, parsnip, silver beet and dwarf beans.
Carrots planted out now will be available for harvesting between April and May. Carrot seeds are best sown directly in rows at a depth about three times the diameter of the seed.
As carrot seeds are rather fine, mixing them with fine sand will help obtain a more even distribution of seeds in the soil.
While they are a hardy vegetable, carrots grow better when the ground has not been over fertilised as this can cause the roots of the plants to split.
Cucumbers are best raised from seed that has been planted directly into the garden bed. Some varieties of cucumbers like to climb over a framework while other varieties grow as bushes. Growing plants over a trellis or framework will save space in the vegetable garden. Harvesting should be possible from April.
Humid weather can lead to fungal diseases, particularly powdery mildew. This will become apparent as a fine white powder on the leaves. Equal quantities of water and fat-free milk can be mixed together to form a spray. Commercially available products are also available.
Dwarf (French) beans are easy to grow. The individual seeds, which are reasonably large, should be sown at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seeds. Bean seeds are traditionally sown in rows.
Once they emerge from the soil, the young plants should be kept watered. Young beans should be picked regularly.
Protect the very young beans from slugs and snails.