Jennifer StackhouseSpring comes early

Well, spring has sprung early this year with many plants blooming a month or more earlier than usual. As I write, my garden is full of spring blooms with daffodils nodding their yellow flowers and the big fat pink and blue flowers of hyacinths sending out heady wafts of fragrance. I’ve even spotted a single cluster of flowers on the crabapple and some deciduous trees are re-leafing including the liquidambar that shades our driveway.

Gorgeous scented hyacinth

Gorgeous scented hyacinth

Plump buds on the Liquidambar

Plump buds on the Liquidambar

It is all very nice if a bit strange to see, but what does this early spring mean for our plants?

The early burst of spring is a wake-up call for gardeners.

It may mean some fruiting plants won’t fruit as well as they normally do, especially if there is a late cold burst of winter weather that damages flowers or new growth or if they haven’t had enough chilling to encourage good blooming.

Early flowering petunia

Early flowering petunia

It may also mean that gardeners missed the opportunity to carry out winter spraying to control fungal diseases and overwintering pests for example lime sulfur sprays for roses after pruning. Products used to winter wash or winter spray deciduous plants in winter while they are dormant will burn new growth so shouldn’t come in contact with delicate spring growth.




As well, the early return to growth means any pruning that was unfinished may need to be abandoned and done after flowering later in the year.

As the garden gets growing we have to move our gardening programs forward to match what’s happening in the garden. As plants burst into early spring growth they need extra water and fertiliser. If the cold weather stays away, summer flowers and crops can be planted earlier than usual such as tomatoes and cucumbers.

While this should ensure a Christmas table groaning with homegrown food, do keep an eye on the weather forecast watching for the chance of a late frost!

Iris japonica

Iris japonica

The early spring has come about because temperatures overall have been much warmer through winter than normal. Many pests may have survived over winter so do expect a resurgence of pest and disease activity in the garden and be ready to protect your plants. I’ve also spotted blowflies along with spring flowers.

If you were planning a spring event to coincide with the usual peak flowering time of your garden, you may need to prune to encourage a second flush of flowers or add some emergency plantings of flowering annuals to make sure there is colour in the garden in spring.

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Jennifer Stackhouse

About Jennifer Stackhouse

Recently Jennifer Stackhouse made the big move from Kurmond in NSW to a Federation house in the little village of Barrington tucked beneath Mt Roland in northwest Tasmania. With high rainfall, rich, red deep soil and a mild climate she reckons she's won the gardening lottery. She's taken on an acre garden that's been lovingly planted and tended for the past 28 years by a pair of keen gardeners so she is discovering a garden full of horticultural treasures. Jennifer is the author of several gardening books including 'Garden', which won a Book Laurel for 2013, as well as ‘The Organic Guide to Edible Gardens’, ‘Planting Techniques’ and ‘My Gardening Year’, which she wrote with her mother Shirley. She was editor of ABC 'Gardening Australia' magazine and now edits the trade journal 'Greenworld' magazine and writes regularly for the Saturday magazine in 'The Mercury'. She is often heard on radio and at garden shows answering garden queries.

7 thoughts on “Spring comes early

  1. Hi Jennifer,
    Spring has been early this year in Melbourne too. The past month or so has seen some unseasonably warm temperatures. I was in a mad rush this weekend planting raspberry canes than reshot a lot earlier than I anticipated. I’ve also been throwing around seeds of asian greens and mixed lettuce with gay abandon. Despite all this I feel as though I’m still playing catchup with the weather!

  2. Delicious post, Jennifer and yes the balmy spring weather here is also bringing early blooms ….. but not nearly so many bees on the flowers this year. I did miss some pruning, alas and my peas did not give much of a crop, I am told it’s because there was no real cold weather on the seedlings ( they were planted early July) ….. Your Iris japonica is a beauty and love your hyacinths …. mine were eaten by something rogue in the night; either a bandicoot or a hare???? They were chewed off and spat out! Grrrrr.

    • My hyacinths are still giving pleasure. I double planted the container so there’s a second flush coming through. Sorry about your woes. My peas didn’t fare well either.

  3. Our Magnolia Soulangelia (?) flowering beautifully. Queen of the courtyard. But come early December she begins to suffer with spider mite and despite extensive care and sprays looks pretty awful and sad by Autumn. So what preventive steps do you recommend I take now. Flowering now with green leaves starting.

    • I would recommend that you apply a systemic such as Maxguard (active ingredient is Acetamiprid). There are ready-to-use formulations and I believe concentrates should be available soon that you can mix up yourself. You need to apply when the flowers have finished and the leaves have appeared and probably repeat in early summer. As well, make sure you increase watering during spring and summer and perhaps shade the tree on heatwave days. These measures will deter the twospotted mite (also called red spider and spider mite) and stop the leaves from being wind or heat damaged.
      For those with azaleas that succumb to azalea lacebug at this time, treatment with Maxguard will break the cycle and allow the plant to grow strongly. Apply after flowering as the leaves mature and before damage occurs. Jennifer

      • Thank you Jennifer will give it a go. When I moved to NSW from ACT bewildered by the change in gardening requirements and then I found a book by your Mum, Shirley, which became my bible. Shirley always recommended using a fine mist on hot windy days (of course restrictions now apply) and maintained if the plants needed a drink, well give it to them. Lot of rot waiting for sunset – and to this day if I see a thirsty plant it gets a drink – of course from the watering can. I have also been advised to fine mist my magnolia in similar conditions as spider mite thrive in dry hot environment. So you can she is one very much loved and spoilt girl!

  4. Interestingly, plants in my native garden on Sydney’s northern end are behaving normally as far as their flowering times. They are very close to flowering at their normal time.
    What I have noticed is that the majority of them are flowering better than they have for a very long time. This may be due to all the rain Sydney has had over the last 12 to 18 months resulting in the sub soil receiving a good soaking.

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