Improving your plant life balance is about enjoying your plants and sharing it with others.
Have you thought about how good it feels to be outdoors surrounded by a lush garden or sitting beneath a huge tree just looking up into the branches? Today’s busy life styles see us struggling to do more than just work. We get so busy caught up in everyday tasks that we forget to spend time on ourselves. I’m not one for meditation although I have taken yoga classes at different times in my life. I find the best relaxation time for the mind is when I’m in the garden. Using your senses in a creative way and connecting with the earth through touch and smell is life prolonging and invigorating. Take the time to visit your garden or a friend’s garden and enjoy the beauty that nature brings to us in the form of flowers, insects and the birds. A big part of sharing our garden with our friends is talking about how you developed it or where you got the plants from, who gave them to you and how you propagated something special. Parks and gardens play a huge part of family life as we gather together in them to celebrate birthdays, sporting events and quite reflection. The garden gives us so much back when it comes to enjoyment and produce. It is extremely rewarding to grow your own food or pick a bunch of flowers and bring them inside the home to enjoy. Gardening is fun for all ages and today it’s easier than ever as it really doesn’t matter what size garden or space you have there is something for everyone. Even people without yards have verandahs or space inside for indoor plants. This time of year as winter approaches I love to pot up the pot plants with winter colour and bulbs. My favorite are daffodil bulbs nothing beats the burst of a mass display of yellow flowers. They are very addictive to collect as there are so many colours, sizes and floral arrangements. Doubles, singles, miniature something for everyone and every spot or pot. I love the beauty of pink daffodils they are just something really special and different. One variety called Double Replete has ruffled pink peach double blooms well worth the purchase. Tesselaar nurseries have a pink daffodil collection that you can order and try out a range of pink ones all in the one package,. What a great start to experiencing these. So get potting in some good bulb mix and fertilize with bulb food which is high in potash, or basically potassium which is fabulous for flowering. Sit back and enjoy. At the end of the season just remember to let the bulb die down naturally as the nutrients from the foliage retreat to the bulb for next years growth. Once they are yellow you can cut them back to the bulb for a quick tidy up and leave them in the ground to multiply. Some people dig them up and replant next year it’s really neither here nor there and entirely up to the individual. I usually dig up after about 5 years and divide or move around as they can settle over time moving deeper into the ground and then you wont get as many flowers. I know its the end of may and I’m a little late this year but just so you know I recommend planting at the start of April as an ideal time for daffodil bulbs.
After a recent trip to Paris, I cannot help but be inspired by Monet’s garden. The huge colour spectrum of perennial plants were amazing. The different layers and textures adding depth to the garden that just literally lead you up the garden path. It was an overload of botanical senses from colour, texture, perfumes and birdlife.
With spring in the air there is no better time to allow such inspiration to take over your green thumbs and create new gardens. Although Monet’s garden looked like just a mass of disorganised planting it truly is a work of genius. The layers worked perfectly small plants softening path edges and hanging over garden walls. Medium plants behind the ground huggers and clumps of plants with height dotted everywhere not just hidden in the background. Every colour possible used, nothing left out. I’ve always thought yellow just didn’t have a place in the garden unless on its own but I was very wrong and wow what a great colour combination with orange and purple flowering plants. All exotics and very soft perennials, plenty of seasonal bulbs in clumps. I was nicely surprised to see Cuphea ‘tiny mice’ one of my favorite small plants which always seems hard to get in Australia but growing throughout Monet’s garden with its tiny flowers showing off its blazing red and purple velvety blooms.
The best thing about perennial gardens is the free plants, self-seeding plants and plants that are easily divided and transplanted at your fingertips. Great for swapping with fellow keen gardeners and always a handy supply of plants for other areas of the garden lacking in numbers. 2016 has had some lovely new releases such as:
- Lychnis ‘Petite Jenny’, a sweet lavender coloured flower.
- Echinacea ‘Baja burgandy’, high impact bold and red.
- Eryngium ‘Neptunes gold’, a golden leaf version of the sea holly and no garden should be without seaholly such a gorgeous cut flower and perennial plant.
- Salvia ‘Autumn Sapphire’, love a big range of Salvias all together, looks fabulous.
- Daffodil ‘Elvins voice’, white flowering highlight.
When using such an array of colour always have plenty of pockets of white flowering plants and lighter foliaged plants to add contrast and bring out the other colours they really highlight the garden. Try Queen Annes lace sprinkled through the garden, white iceberg roses, white Cleome and Gardenias where you can. Gardenias bring that starkness of white but also their perfume and there are plenty of varieties that vary in size from groundcovers such as Gardenia radicans to taller varieties like Gardenia ‘Professor pucci’. Gardenias on the border are best planted in semi shaded areas protected from afternoon sun and a specific fertiliser such as a good camellia azalea food keeps them nice and healthy as they are quite hungry feeders throwing flowers in most seasons.
All these plants love a good loamy soil rich in organic matter, use plenty of mulch when establishing and apply once a year in the winter when giving the garden a tidy up. To give your garden that real cottage woodland effect use some small feature trees as the bones to your garden, my favorites are; The coral bark maple Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku ‘and the Cercis canadensis ‘Forest pansy’. The time spent on such a garden will be well worth it.
One for the Birds!
Bird attracting plants in my garden are an absolute pure enjoyment and nothing delights me more than seeing the different bird species come and take refuge or feed from my hard work.
The Genus with many plants just for the birds are the Grevilleas. This group of plants named after Charles Francis Greville, co-founder of the Royal Horticultural Society, has some lovely soft, bird attracting, and hardy plants for landscaping.
Prickly plants mean a safe haven for birds, providing them with shelter to hide from predators. To attract birds to the garden you will need some specimens for protection, nesting, and food supply.
Todays Grevilleas provide both shelter and food but the prickly ones can be difficult to manage the maintenance. New hybrids and grafted specimens have introduced soft foliage and tougher root systems with spectacular floral displays and very low maintenance.
One such specimen which is a little bit different is Grevillea magnifica. Its grafted and you’ll find it in the nursery labeled ‘Pink pokers’. This specimen will also add some winter colour to the garden.
‘Pink pokers’ has beautifully fine, long dark green foliage which sends up magnificent naked canes that have a 10-20cm long flower on the end of the cane that just bobs in the breeze waiting for a nectar hungry bird to perch on it. The flowers are an iridescent pinky purple and often in multiples on each cane. The ‘Pink pokers’ will flower in late winter till late spring.
Sit back and enjoy the compact habit of the G.magnifica. It’s very self shaping, at maturity this evergreen shrub will be approximately 1.5-2m high and round. The floral canes can reach up to 1m high above the foliage, creating a spectacular sight. When flowering finishes tidy up your shrub by pruning the finished flower canes. The ‘Pink pokers’ don’t require fertilizing and are drought tolerant. They prefer a loamy sandy soil and struggle in clay environments or soils which are very wet.
If you already have this delightful specimen softwood cutting can be taken in late autumn. It’s ideal on mass as a colourful screen or informal hedge.
For those of you who enjoy a spot of twitching (bird watching) the pink pokers are a must have addition to your garden and wont disappoint you. Some other species to consider that provide bird refuge are Berberis thungbergii ‘atropurpurea’. This is a purple foliaged shrub for garden contrast that has barbs along the stems providing the birds with protection. Native grass plants like Bursaria spinosa will also provide protection and the Correa alba will provide nector to attract the honey eaters.
Ideally, the most bird-friendly backyard will provide several types of shelter so a large number of birds can be securely sheltered all year round. Cold and stormy weather is a really important time for birds to need our help. With winter fast approaching consider putting a nesting box in a tree and plant some species for shelter and food.
Recently I have had many people asking me so many questions about Gardenias and my Gardenias suffer from the same problems as everyone else’s at this time of the year. Yellowing of the leaves is a common problem at the height of the flowering season. I have them planted under my bedroom window and the perfume at night is magical. These shrubs give a romantic feel to the garden or pergola area and are worth growing for evergreen looks and fragrance. Gardenias need a specific food and they really love a good slow release fertiliser like Yates Camellia Azalea food. When they are trying to flower and they are a bit hungary and they will sacrifice the old leaves by turning yellow and dropping. Simple to fix; just feed them. Generally a slow release fertiliser will release with temperatures above 25 degrees being the optimum and if it gets too hot they can release so quickly that the tiny balls of fertiliser burst and can burn surface roots and foliage low to the ground. Something to be aware of and you can avoid this by feeding in early spring and autumn for the best results and prevent the hungry look in the first place. Gardenias are renowned for throwing flowers spasmodically throughout the year so it’s a good idea just to get into the regular routine of twice a year feeds.
Interesting enough Gardenias have some friends who like the same treatments and fertiliser. Use your Camellia Azalea food to feed Gardenias, Camellias, Azaleas, Rhododendrons and Daphne plants and you will keep them very happy and healthy.
There are quite a few different species and varieties out there to choose from and you can purchase them as standards, bush or groundcovers. My favourites are Gardenia augusta ‘Magnifica’ which has a large flower and gives a great floral show with beautiful perfume. I also really like the variety G. ‘Professor Pucci ‘and the groundcover Gardenia, G. radicans. The ground cover has small cute flowers the same pure white as all the other Gardenias and are still highly scented.
Gardenias like a good loamy composted soil in a semi shaded aspect and they don’t like the frost too much or drying out so don’t forget to water these babies. They also prefer a slightly acid soil with a PH of 6-7. Easy to test your soil before planting with a simple do it yourself PH soil testing kit you can purchase form a Hardware store or Nursery. IF you need to raise your PH level because it is too acidic just add some lime or if you need to lower it if it is too alkaline add some sulphur. Most plants respond well to a PH of 6-7 and this is the zone where all the nutrients are available to plants we should only play with it when we are trying to manipulate the soil PH for specific plant requirements or where our soil is extreme either side of the scale and nutrients therefore become unavailable.
The most common pest problem I have seen on these plants is scale, small half shelled insects that suck goodness from the leaves and stems. A simple application of pest oil will get rid of these tiny critters and stops other issues like black sooty mould which grows off the sugar secretions of the scale.
I prefer pest oil to white oil it’s more environmentally friendly and not so harsh on the plant in hot weather. Good luck and get planting!
Sharing a bit of Christmas cheer, not everyone sees Christmas this way and it can be a difficult time for some people to face for many reasons. All I can say is we have all year to spend with the people we love and want to be around why do we need to force people into a confined space that don’t want to be together and why are there so many people not with the people they actually want to be with on Christmas day?
Anyway as hard as it is, I have three beautiful kids and we will do our best to be festive. Our traditional Christmas tree is a little quirky and gave the kids a laugh for the first time last year to do something completely different and start a new tradition together. I was doing it tough and didn’t have a tree so I borrowed and old antique wooden ladder complete with a step being held together with duct tape and turned it into an amazing Christmas ladder. It’s the little things that count and just being together makes it special with the ones we love including the furr babies.
If you’re thinking plants I have some Christmas ideas, now is a great time to revamp your outdoor areas with hanging baskets filled with Petunias in red and white blooms for the hot spots and red and white impatiens for the shady spots, lots of flowers and lots of colour. In the garden there is always a place for the NSW Christmas Bush, Ceratopetalum gummiferum. It’s gorgeous and in full bloom now. This is an evergreen large shrub growing to 4-5 meters but very easy to shape and keep trimmed at a smaller size. It’s tough and hardy built for the northern hemispheres dry conditions. It looks spectacular in the garden and it’s great for picking the floral bracts to bring inside and use for flower arranging. This is one of our Australian beauties as the flowers are actually white and as they are pollinated the flowers drop away to reveal the sepals underneath the flowers which turn red and create a magic Christmas display, looks like flowers but they are not. Australian natives never cease to surprise me with their amazing unique qualities.
Berry delightful are the raspberries at the moment and nothing says Christmas season like being able to pick your own berries! Raspberries are easy to grow and just need some pruning and shaping in the winter to encourage long lengthy branches which can be tied to fencing or rose hoops for ease of picking fruit. Training them to be the shape and size you want is the key and not disturbing the roots is another key as they will sprout from the roots in the ground when disturbed and can get out of control. Anything with thorns can end up being a curse later on if you don’t maintain its growth. But on the upside they are tough and hardy and don’t mind a little bit of afternoon shelter in the hot months. Pick fruit daily to encourage more fruit to develop and feed them in spring with organic fertilizers like Dynamic lifter, cow manure and fresh compost. Try the new yellow species of golden raspberries to mix it up. Doesn’t a bit of raspberry ice-cream sound festive to you!
Merry festive season!
It’s that time of the year for our community to band together and fight against fruit fly. I would like to share with my control methods for fruitfly which have been most successful for me over the past three years. Reclaim your right to grow your own fresh produce for your family. The answer to the problem is not solved by doing just one thing but implementing a combination of strategies that work well together. Last year saw the addition of a quince tree to my garden and with its first fruit I had the first infestation of fruit fly. I blame it on not taking my own advice! Baits alone are not enough.
We begin by baiting in July/August for the male fruit fly. We must stop the life cycle if we are to achieve good results. I make 2L of bait up in an old 2L milk container. The bait is 2L of water,1/2 cup sugar, 1tsp of vanilla essence and 2T cloudy ammonia. Line up more milk containers, and punch two holes in the top one third of the container. Fill each container with 1 cup of your readymade bait and pop the lids on. The handle makes an ideal place to attach some cable tie so you can hang them in the fruit trees and around your vegetable garden. The male fly will fly into the container attracted to the vanilla essence and sugar then fly straight up to escape into the waiting fumes of the cloudy ammonia. Keep the male bait going until April topping up containers roughly once a month as they evaporate with the heat. During September it is time to bait for the female she will appear on the scene as the ground warms up and is capable of laying eggs one week after emerging. Make more milk containers up with a yeast based bait. I use ‘Eco Naturalure’ which is a easy 1-2 tsp of paste in 2L of water and just pour 1 cup of bait into milk containers to hang with the male baits.
Netting is the next strategy used to protect my particularly susceptible plants such as tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants. Once the tiny fruit start to develop I start netting. I also plant large amounts of basil seedlings around these plants and around the bottom of the fruit trees to ward of the fruit fly and other flying insects. Choose more resistant varieties of tomatoes to grow such as ‘Roma’ and ‘Cherry’. These two varieties are great to cook with and eat fresh. Always clean up left over fruit, the citrus trees are now finishing but a lot of fruit is just left lying around under the trees and next month when the female emerges she will make a bee-line for this fruit as it’s still too cold for anything much else to be fruiting. Talk to your neighbors and get them to support this program too by developing a fruit fly free quadrant around your home.
Shade in the garden is always a challenge to find just the right plants to suit the aspect. It’s hard to find shade loving plants at the best of times but to find shade loving natives can be even more challenging for garden design success. Plant selection and research is really important. I love native plants and its surprising how many actually love the shade and cool spots. Most of my selection are endemic to Tasmania and are perfect shade lovers for our region.
The Tasmanian laurel, Anopterus glandulosus is a beautiful species growing into a shrub of around 2-4 metres. It has dark glossy leaves with snowy white flowers flushed with pink. The clusters of flowers appear at the end of the branches in spring and often flower twice making another appearance in autumn. They love the shade and a protected area ideal to go against walls and fences. This species is slow growing but well worth the wait. It’s actually a very hardy plant that attracts both nectar and insect eating birds.
The camphor bush, Baeckea camphorate is a lovely spreading shrub with green camphor scented leaves and sweet little white flowers that give a soft, bright display in late spring or early summer. The delightful small shrub loves partial shade to deep shade and once established is also a very drought tolerant specimen.
Darwinia’s are a genus of around 70 different species which are only found in Australia and really worth having in your garden. In particular Darwinia taxifolia subspecies macrolaena is a small shrub which grows to 1metre with small flowers occurring in clusters of 2-4. The flowers are red and have a unique shape about them with an unusual form something that would really stand out in a native garden of interest. They flower in the spring and summer and this little plant is hardy to the shade, loves some protection from the summer sun and grows really well from cuttings.
Isopogen’s are related to the Grevilleas and Banksias and are really interesting upright shrubs growing to around 2 metres. They flower with unusual form, the flowers occurring on the terminal branches. Isopogen’s come in different colours with slight variations to foliage with different species. This plant is really lovely and the Isopogen anemonifolius is a yellow flowering form commonly called drumsticks! They are hardy to frost and drought and after flowering in October through to January they produce grey cone like heads full of seed which once dried in a paper bag are easily collected for the enthusiastic propagator.
I love the versatility of Australian natives, their bird attracting qualities and low maintenance. Once you start looking for shade lovers there is actually quite a good range. Keep your eyes out also for the Gaultheria hispida, commonly called snow berry and Baloskion tetraphllum, the tassel cord rush. The combination of white berries and red flowers of these two of these plants look magic together.