The Importance of a High Quality Potting Mix

High quality potting mix

High quality potting mix

It’s not uncommon to see people spending hundreds of dollars on topiary, only to skimp on quality potting mix. It’s as if potting mix is merely an afterthought, and not the life force that will allow your new plant to grow and thrive.

So much work is done in the nursery to produce a lovely product that may be many years old, but all of this work and care can be undone within 3 years with a dodgy potting mix. I urge you to treat your new topiary with care by choosing a premium potting mix in lieu of cheap potting mix from your local supermarket.

Don’t get me wrong, the premium mix will be more expensive– possibly five times more expensive at $8-12 per bag. This price can add up quick if you need a few bags. But, I assure you, it will be worth it when your topiary remains healthy and lush year after year. Paying $30 for a few bags of high quality potting mix now will give you many years of pleasure.


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Summer Days

The weather really turned on the heat last month. We saw record breaking temperatures, with two days hitting 46 degrees Celsius. Those who were not prepared would have seen potted plants shrivel up before their eyes. Even people who were prepared didn’t escape the heat and saw burnt foliage down the northwestern side of the plant.

burnt topiary

These three plants have browned due to sunburn


As I have said in the past, I like to leave a bit of fluff on the plant over the summer and leave a few weeks in between pruning sessions, in case there is another heat wave. The fresh, lush growth helps protect the plant and on the extremely hot days there is a bit of excess foliage that we can afford to cut off, reshaping our topiary back to it’s former glory. If looking at your fried plants is causing your stress and you find yourself circling it, shears in hand, you may hard prune. This will promote new growth that can be shaped however you wish.

after hard prune

After a hard prune


I currently have a shade house full of freshly harvested plants, all with root balls that have been greatly reduced in volume. Not having roots to support foliage means that these plants will drop foliage quickly. On hot days, I spend a lot of time spraying these plants with water to slow down the plants’ transpiration rate. Though this same method can help prevent sun burnt plants, it is very laborious and nearly impossible for those who work away from home. Alternatively, there are products on the market such as Wilt Not from Yates that help reduce plant sun burn.

Hot days, like the ones we have recently seen, serve to remind us that we are never really in control. We can prune the foliage, bend branches with weights, shape the plants into whatever shapes we can imagine, and in the end it can all come undone with one act of Nature. In the end, being a gardener means persevering through the good and bad and trying (sometimes halfheartedly) to appreciate the challenges as they come.

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Feels like summer.

Spring is a gardener’s dream. It’s exciting to feel the air get warmer
and to see plants come back to life after winter. This year, however,
it feels like we skipped spring altogether and pummeled straight into
summer. The ground is cracking, the grass is browning, and the tanks
in the nursery are frighteningly low. On a day that I wasn’t able to
be in the nursery, the temperature spiked to a sizzling 34 degrees,
resulting in burnt foliage on topiary plants that I had trimmed short
only the day before.

It is clear that we can’t count on Mother Nature to bring upon spring
growth this year; if we want to see second and third flushes of
growth, we will need to take matters into our own hands. If the air
stays warm and dry, we will need to be ritualistic about watering to
keep everything looking good and moving forward. Even citrus, which
won’t deliver fruit until autumn winter, will need to be watered in
the summer in order to produce fruit later.

The incident of my newly-trimmed plants burning will also alter the
way I trim this year. I will begin to prune a little lighter, leaving
a little fluff to protect the older leaves from burning off (a method
I normally don’t employ until later in the summer.)

As always, remember to keep your sheers clean and sharp, as dirty
sheers can tear the leaf and result in a detracting white mark along
the torn edge. Also, keep a spray bottle and steel wool handy, to help
you clean the sheers as you prune.

Hot and dry weather can quickly wreak havoc on plants, but with some
extra attention and care, we can continue to grow lush and beautiful
gardens, help our plants keep their momentum, and maintain the
pleasure that pruning provides us as gardeners.

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Why Do We Prune?

Horticulture has shown us the benefits of pruning our plants. By pruning properly, we can encourage flowers, remove diseased material, and to encourage new healthy growth. But those practical reasons aren’t our only motivations for pruning and tending to our plants. For many of us, pruning is as beneficial for us as it is for the plants. There is something relaxing and peaceful about concentrating on sculpting, while feeling the action of a freshly sharpened pair of sheers in your hand.

The nature of topiary lends to a near endless variety of textures, shapes, and colours that will please your aesthetic preferences, whether you like to create soft or sharp edges while pruning. When we set out to sculpt a plant, there is an obtainable goal in sight. We know that with care, concentration, and skill, we can transform our plants into the visually stunning pieces we want them to be. This work of taming an unruly and overgrown plant is so satisfying; a breath of fresh air in a world that often feels out of our control.

This process of pruning, which can relax and rejuvenate us, also gifts us a stunning plant that can help to create a more peaceful and comfortable (yet flexible) environment. It’s no wonder that we are so eager to fertilize and see our plants burst into new growth, so we can begin the process again.

Why Do We Prune?

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