SMH: ‘Winter lockdown is a chance to give the garden a good edit.’

By Robin Powell.

Winter in the garden is a bit like turning all the lights on while looking in the bathroom mirror. Suddenly you can see what’s really going on.

Without the distractions of spring’s excitement, summer’s languor or the voluptuous excesses of autumn, the garden can be seen more clearly. Winter lockdown is the perfect opportunity to look.

Some plants have grown too big. Some treasures are being shaded out. Is there a great view being missed behind that overgrown shrub?

Would the bamboo look more poetic if it wasn’t so dense? Might it be possible to maintain the airiness of a leafless deciduous tree, while keeping enough of its summer canopy to feel shady?

Happily, it’s an excellent time to prune, chop or shift plants to edit the picture. Moving plants while they are dormant or only growing slowly causes less trauma than transplanting when they are growing quickly.

The other reason that now is the season for a garden edit is that winter’s slowed growth gives the gardener some breathing space. For the rest of the year in Sydney’s rampant growing conditions, gardeners are going flat out just to keep up. Or not quite keep up.

Landscaper and designer Michael Bates jokes that if your garden is not getting on top of you by autumn, you need a slightly bigger garden. But in winter, there’s time to take a breath and a long hard look.

“You want to do this editing process not on the hop, but when you’ve got a moment to sit back and look at it,” says Bates, whose North Sydney garden is about to go on a reduction diet.