10 hands-on tasks for a blooming flower garden this summer


Kick off the flower garden by sowing annuals and planting tubers this October.

Words: Jane Wrigglesworth

Sow seeds of summer flowering annuals such as alyssum, Californian poppies, cosmos, marigolds, petunias, salvia, and sunflowers.


Compost generates heat when it first breaks down. You can use it to provide warmth to seedlings. Place fresh grass clippings on a polystyrene tray until it’s three-quarters full. Place seed-raising mix on top of the clippings and sow into it.

Plant dahlia tubers as soil starts to warm up. Dahlias like well-drained soil and full sun. They won’t stand waterlogging, even for short periods, so if in doubt, grow on mounds. Incorporate a handful of general balanced fertiliser at planting.

Plant begonia tubers in pots or seedling trays in seed-raising mix. Place the bud, or indented side, facing upwards. Gently push the tuber into the mix so it remains level with the top of the soil (not covered). Place in a warm spot. Transplant into potting mix when a couple of leaves appear.

Gladiolus corms prefer a humus-rich, free-draining soil and can be planted up until December. Gladioli flower once only, so stagger planting (plant once every two weeks) for an extended display.


Feed camellias and azaleas that have finished flowering with a slow-release fertiliser. Tall, straggly camellias can be pruned by up to half after flowering.

Train young stems of clematis as they send out new shoots.

Hibiscus flower on new growth. Prune plants to stimulate budding on new shoots. Hibiscus like plenty of potassium, medium amounts of nitrogen, and just a little phosphorus. Typically, a rose or citrus fertiliser is ideal. Feed in spring or early summer.


Cymbidiums should be repotted into fresh orchid mix every three years. Once they’ve finished flowering, remove from the pot, tease out the root ball with your fingers and remove the old potting mix. Remove any dead or weak roots. Shorten the remaining roots back to 15-20cm.

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Choose a pot one size up and repot. If several pseudobulbs have developed, you can divide the plant by cutting it through the centre and potting up both plants. You will need at least five pseudobulbs for each new plant or flowering will be delayed.


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NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.

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