WHATS ON Celebrating its 21st birthday this year, the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show runs from Wednesday 16 March to Sunday 20 March at the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. With plenty of display gardens, demonstrations, expert advice, new plant releases and plants for sale, its the biggest garden festival in the southern hemisphere and attracts more than 110,000 visitors. A go-to favourite is the Great Hall of Flowers with its floral design workshops, sculpture garden with live sculpting sessions and cubby house contest. For details, visit melbflowershow .com.au. Start planning a spring bulb display. Daffodils, Dutch iris, hyacinth, ixia, lachenalia, muscari, ranunculi and sparaxis are good for planting in March. Also, plant up pots you can move to a prominent position once blooms appear in spring. See page 18 for more ideas. Brighten up dull corners with an ozothamnus bush. One of the best is Radiance from Ramm Botanicals, ramm.com.au. Interior design ideas With clusters of small papery white flowers for much of the year, its self-cleaning and low maintenance once established. Check out the autumn-foliaged trees appearing in nurseries in coming weeks. Plant sweet peas in southern gardens around St Patricks Day (17 March). Sow seed in well-dug soil, water and fertilise young seedlings and set up a trellis for plants to climb. Establish a hedge before winter. Native rosemary (Westringia species) suits tough conditions and is low maintenance. Naringa, which reaches a metre tall when mature, needs pruning only half as much as other westringias. Available from Ozbreed, ozbreed.com.au. Dig in old organic compost to improve the nutrient level and structure of soil. Get into the habit of adding compost in spring and summer and your soil will dramatically improve, bearing you healthier, more disease-resistant plants, long term. Cut back and tidy up summer-flowering perennials that have already bloomed. Prune pelargoniums and geraniums and use the cut material to strike new plants. Cuttings should have a bud or joint just above the bottom cut. Strip off most of the leaves and plant in a pot of well-composted soil or potting mix. Check citrus trees for stink bugs (aka bronze orange bugs) as they damage young leaves and stems. Take care when spraying edible fruit – a low toxic treatment is Yates Natures Way Citrus & Ornamental Spray, yates.com.au. Treat ponds and water features to an autumn cleanout while the weather is pleasant. In the next few months, many water plants will go into hibernation. Leftover pea or bean seeds make an excellent green manure crop for the vegie patch. Rake them into the soil with Dynamic Lifter, then dig the resulting plants into the soil once they start to flower. Prepare the ground for planting bare-rooted deciduous trees over winter. Remove old vegie plants that have finished producing.
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