Great way to escape the heat
AS THE mercury hits 37 degrees today, you may find yourself wishing that your garden had more "cool” aspects, like man-made or natural shade, or even a water feature.
Building shade into our garden means it can be a delightful place to spend time in in any season.
As a child, my favourite shady spot was under a weeping willow tree, or salix babylonica, something that seems to have gone out of fashion as we opt for tropicals like frangipani but which has also slowly become less common because of a combination of rust and beetles.
In planning a garden, or replanning one, considering shade trees in the west corner, where the sun is at its hottest in the late afternoon, is always a smart idea.
But you may like others in the north or north-east corner to enjoy a shady spot in the morning or for lunch.
Deciduous trees provide shade in summer and allow sunlight through during winter. Popular choices include the medium-sized leopard tree, with its distinct leopard-patterned bark and show yellow blossoms, the jacaranda mimosifolia with its mauve bell-shaped flowers that form a carpet of colour when they fall, and the poinciana that grows to about 10m tall and has bright red flowers in late spring.
Another way to create shade is through man-made structures.
Even something as simple as a garden umbrella, with a table and a couple of chairs, will become a focal point when the temperature climbs, especially if there's a cool jug of lemonade on the tabletop.
My dream garden would feature a Balinese-style thatched umbrella/rooftop, with palms and a pool but I'd settle for just the umbrella. The one pictured is from www.islandthatch.com.au
While a water feature won't physically cool you down - unless it's a swimming pool - it will create the visual illusion of cool.
In fact, just looking at a fountain can be calming and cooling, especially if it has lily pads or other water plants in it.
So, as you swelter in the heat, think about how, when the temperature gets cooler, you can adapt your garden to be a place of rest and escape.
The solutions need not be expensive, although growing a shade tree takes time.
A thorny issue
WINTER is traditionally the time to give roses a thorough prune, however great results can be achieved by also pruning roses in summer. Not only does it promote a fresh flush of new growth and flowers, it also helps to reduce the amount of pruning needed in winter.
Rose pruning can appear slightly daunting, with thorny stems trying to attack you and not knowing exactly how to go about it.
So, what's the easiest way to summer prune roses? Remove around a third of all the growth. Don't worry about which way the buds are facing, just prune! Sharp secateurs will really help the pruning go smoothly - there's nothing worse than battling with rusty old and blunt secateurs.
After pruning, it's an ideal opportunity to give roses a summer clean-up spray with lime sulfur, to control the sap-sucking pest two-spotted mite - which is very common during hot summer weather - and also the diseases rust and powdery mildew.
Apply lime sulfur at the lower, non-winter dilution rate and spray the pruned rose thoroughly.
Top pick: Zucchinis
RIGHT now I have zucchini growing madly in the heat, as long as I keep the water up.
I started them from seed, but you can also use seedlings.
Zucchinis like compost-rich, well-drained, warm soil.
Don't overplant as individual plants do tend to be quite productive. Space them about half a metre apart to increase air circulation and discourage disease.
Planting marigolds, lavender or other flowering plants in the garden will encourage pollination, which is essential if you want fruit.
Once plants are established, mulch with straw, hay or dried leaves to retain soil moisture and suppress weeds and feed regularly with lots of organic matter.