Canna Lily splendor

Yellow Canna

The Canna Lily is a bold vibrant plant that can add structure and texture to the landscaped garden. Dynamic colours and foliage variegations make this plant perfect for adding interest to a garden bed and often add a tropical feel. The Cannas are closely related to ginger and bananas and in our climate they partially die down in the winter and literally spring to life in spring with ample fresh new growth. The only maintenance you will need to carry out is to tidy them up during winter with some secateurs to cut back dead foliage and flowers close to the ground. The mess is cleared quickly and easily and before you know it they are re-shooting for the spring season of flowering from early summer into the winter.
Cannas are easy to grow most love a sunny position and lots of compost, manure and moisture. Cannas are surprisingly free from pest and disease attack but they can harbor a few snails and slugs. Cannas need plenty of room for root development as they grow in clumps on a thick underground root that is called a Rhizome. It makes them easy to propagate from as you can just divide your clumps and move them around or give them to friends. The cultivars range in size from dwarf to quite tall. Some of the taller cultivars can reach up to 2 metres. It’s well worth planting a few different cultivars together to take advantage of the variations and enjoy the vibrant colours. The flowers can range in colour from pinks, red, orange, yellow and apricot. The foliage can be green, blue-green, purple, bronze or striped.
They just look great all blocked up in colour schemes and make great plants to grow in front of areas you would like to cover up or hide as well as adding height and structure to established gardens.
Look in your local nursery this month for Canna Lilies as it’s the best time to select while in flower. They flower for so long in Victoria, my recommendations would be Canna ‘Odinrae’ a beautiful pink bloom with burgundy foliage. Canna ‘Ace of spades is a spectacular deep red reaching 1.2 metres in height with dark green foliage. Pictured for the article is Canna ‘trinaciria’ which grows to a medium height of 1.4 metres and has a lovely lime green with yellow striped foliage. A truly exotic specimen would have to be Canna Lily ‘Tropicana gold’. The foliage is gold and green striped with dramatic orange blooms and stands tall once established at 1.8 metres. It’s really worth collecting a few different cultivars and enjoying the variations of them through the garden. You can buy them as established plants or if you’re going to start a collection then it may be more economical to purchase rhizomes in a packaged form from the nurseries or mail order. They grow so fast it’s really up to the individual, their patience and budget. Certainly a good investment.
Happy gardening,


The Perfect Pear

Ornamental pear
What a magnificent fruit the virsatile pear is. Fruiting and ornamental varieties have been real winners for fruit production and landscape design. There’s a pear to suit all purposes and situations. The Genus Pyrus has been producing food since prehistoric times. Pears represent historical presence and approximately 3000 varieties of pears are grown worldwide, many growing wild in France and China. Pear fruit is so versatile if you live by eat fresh, local and organic then take advantage of the season and bottle, stew and preserve them now for the year’s consumption. I have made the most incredible Pear and vanilla bean jam for the year and not only is it a gourmet delight for us to eat but it makes such lovely homemade gifts.
In the urban setting one fruiting pear may well be enough for one family such as the European pears ‘Packham’s triumph’ and ‘Williams’. Both these varieties are partially self-fertile. The gardener could squeeze a few ornamental varieties in to compliment the edible garden purely for their versatile shape, autumn foliage and spring blossoms. Most of the ornamental pears are conical in shape with some quiet column shaped like ‘Capital’ reaching a height of 11m but only 3 metres wide. Ideal in small spaces up against coloured walls or highlighted against brickwork they become a real feature. Wider growing specimens such as Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’, would be perfect for screens and privacy. The Bradford pear will grow around 12metres by 9 metres at maturity. This variety will give you a prolific floral display in spring and it’s rather quick to establish with moderate growth rates. The insignificant fruit stays very small, never developing.
Pears are very adaptable to a wide range of soils and tolerate the dry seasons, pollution and heavy clay soils or poor soil. My favourite pick of the ornamental pears is the Sow pear , Pyrus navalis. The garden design aspect of this tree is very softening with its soft silver felted foliage and dome shaped habit. It’s only a small specimen of around 8x5metres , perfect for residential blocks. October will bring a beautiful display of white blossom and I think this tree brings a homey feel to a woodland or cottage themed garden. The snow pear is very water wise and can tolerate the cold season right down to -15 degrees. Little maintenance is needed as it’s very self-shaping. The pear fruit develops a little bit bigger that the other ornamental pears but I really like to see this miniature fruit on the tree even if we can’t eat it, it just looks cute. These days anyone can grow a pear no matter what space you have as there is even a miniature tree called Trixie Pear ‘Pyvert’, its reported to be self-fertile, grows no more than 1.5m so ideal for a small space or large pot specimen and the best of all benefit is that it produces full size fruit. Pears have really become the latest designer trees.

Bringing back good old fashioned nostalgic colour with annuals

Dusting off the good old fashioned Yates garden guide because I get the feeling flowering annuals are coming back into vogue. It’s time to invest in some instant colour for the garden. Traditionally I have had a busy lifestyle packed with full time work, household jobs and raising children. Water-wise gardens and low maintenance have been key words to satisfy my gardening needs. So I have decided to invest in some therapeutic garden space where I can create colour, work the soil and have flowers to bring inside the house for sheer pleasure and a touch of nostalgia. March sees the weather changing as we head into autumn so it’s time to turn over your soil and apply a fresh layer of organic fertiliser and mulch. Get your hands dirty and start planting!
Most annuals enjoy a sunny spot especially over winter when the sun is not so harsh. In season to plant are delightful Pansies with all sorts of delicious colour combinations. I went with the timeless mixed Giants, some of the new releases are just stunning if you have a particular colour theme in mind. I just couldn’t pick a colour, I wanted them all. Look out for Pansy spreading violet wings and Pansy purple lace. Sweet peas make a lovely display with masses of dainty pastel coloured flowers; try Sweet pea ‘bubbles’ they are ideal for cut flowers reaching up to 90 centimetres in height and for plants that are useful for a border or pots, try the dwarf variety Sweet pea ‘bijou’.
The divine perfume of Matthiola incana, commonly called Stock is a stunning display of floral spikes containing mainly double or single flowers. Stock ‘imperial’ is a tall variety and may require some support as it can reach up to 50 centimetres. They look and smell fantastic grown in groups and clusters to show off the mass display of colours in autumn and winter. Stock are wonderful in vases and bring a real vintage feel to English gardens and cottage gardens with antique shades of rose, blue, carmine, yellow, red and lilac.
Nasturtiums quickly fill an area low to the ground. The Nasturtium ‘princess of india’ is particularly gorgeous with scarlet red flowers which are a bit different to the traditional orange. Nasturtiums add that extra interest in the edible garden too as both the flowers and leaves can be added to your salads and eaten.
Annuals are a quick way to fill up space or empty spots. Basically they are called annuals because they complete their life cycle in one year which means you have to replace them when they finish flowering. Many will set seed for you and you are sure to get a few free plants for next year out of them anyway. Your annuals are fast growing so they will need to be planted with some fertiliser and watered regularly, dead head finished flowers to encourage more to develop and sit back and enjoy the colour canvas you have created.

Lavender Love

Lavender bee

Lavender bee

What a great hardy and useful plant the humble Lavender shrub is. In season now many species of the Genus Lavendula are flowering profusely and Lavender farms around the country are madly harvesting blooms for the ever popular Lavender oils and a multitude of lavender products. Lavender oil is the most widely used essential oil around the world. The Lavender Industry in Australia was first established by the Bridestowe estate in Tasmania back in 1921 and is still operating today. I visited this farm many years ago and it was an incredible view to see the mounds of compact shrubs row after row all in a purple haze of blooms down acres of rolling hills. Tasmania has always proudly lead the way in Lavender products and I must admit during my visit I had the pleasure of tasting lavender infused cheese and I was hooked on the use of Lavender for culinary delights not just medicinal purposes or landscaping appeal.
Summer is the time for the good old robust English Lavender, Lavendula angustifolia which flowers profusely in January and is one of the hardiest plants in the garden. They are tough, water wise and really don’t care how poor the soil conditions are. They love a position that’s hot and dry and a Lavender plant not placed in such a position will often suffer from fungal problems and not produce the flowers it should. Trimming back your Lavender after flowering once a year is all the maintenance you need to undertake. English lavender is a great addition to the garden growing to around 75cm. Plant Growers Australia have a signature breeding program producing a collection of plants call, Lavender Lace. The collection includes Lavender Lace, Winter Lace and Violet Lace which begin flowering at the start of winter and really bring the winter garden to life with rich colours and large wing presentations on each floral stem. Plant your Lavenders near the vegetable garden as they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to attracting pollinators for your fruit and vegetables. If you’re after a small variety of Lavender for a garden path, mini border or pots then you can’t look past the Lavender ‘Hidcote’. The shrub is a tight compact bun shape with small but very dark purple blooms. Dried or fresh they are beautiful flowers to pick. Lavenders are evergreen, meaning you can enjoy the aromatic leaves all year round. The flowers can be used fresh or dried in cooking to flavour cakes, jams, teas and more. There is something for everyone. If you don’t like the purple flowers you can also get white or pink to enhance your garden. Having a combination of English, French and Italian lavenders planted together has great landscaping appeal. It’s a very interesting feature when you see the difference in the floral structure between the varieties and it means the flowering times are staggered throughout the year so you can relax and enjoy your Lavender for longer. I think i shall go now nad make a batch of Lavender scones, i just made myself hungary for some devonshire tea just talking about this delightful plant of so many uses.

Romance is alive in a Cottage Garden

David Austin Roses

Well it’s been awhile since my last digging in the dirt. It’s a new year and I have a new garden with plenty of plans ahead. My challenge will be how to fit everything I love into a smallish space. The cottage garden theme will be my goal for the backyard which I have not done for many years leaning towards a drought hardy sustainable garden of recent times. In my previous garden I had fallen in love with Australian Natives and the birds that this style of garden attracts. Now living in a lovely old 1930’s home I would like to marry the garden up with the style of the house that was intended. Creating a garden to suit a house adds value to the property. So it’s off to buy glorious David Austin Roses and romantic soft perennials. My two favourite David Austin roses are ‘Wife of Bath’ and ‘Moth’. These are delightful full bodied and full fragranced floribunda roses. Soft pastels in colour and a long season of flowers. Seaside daisy, ‘Erigeron’ makes a lovely border plant alongside the mauve flowers of the cut leaf daisy, Brachyscome multifida. Ill be adding some Chocolate cosmos which is a lovely 30-40cm high soft perennial with the scent of chocolate in its dark brown daisy like flowers. It goes well with the common butterfly bush ‘Gaura lindheimeri’. Its little butterfly shaped flowers bopping away in the breeze are so cute. There doesn’t need to be any formal lines just pop various plants in spaces to fill gaps and allow enough space between places to almost touch but not over crowd. Good ventilation allows moisture penetration and air circulation to avoid unwelcome fungal attacks. Choose a mixture of foliage texture and colour to give an interesting contrast between plant species. Cottages plants can be either shade loving or full sun so look at your aspect and make sure your selecting plants that suit your situation. Best to pick plants that love the conditions you plant them in rather than fight a losing battle trying to cope with soil and aspects that are not suitable for your selection. It’s easy to maintain a cottage garden if you love to spend time in your garden as it will give you little jobs every week. As plants dye down or finish flowering those species will enjoy trimming and dead heading of spent flowers to encourage new growth. Thin out plants which self-seed and re-plant into new spots or pot up and give to friends. Every garden has a feature or two and I have placed a new beautiful weeping form of Judas tree in the centre, Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’ or commonly called Lavender twist. If you’re familiar with the delightful Cercis ‘Forest pansy’, you will love Lavender twist. Green heart shaped leaves on twisted branches, magnificent bright pink flowers in a topiary form with a size only reaching 2m x 2m. Perfect for small gardens or large pots and perfect for my cottage garden.

Starting from nothing

 Grevillea Lemon Daze
Starting a new garden from scratch is an over whelming experience for most people. In times past I worked in a busy local retail nursery and the most frequent concerns where related to the people who had just built a brand new home on a bare block. Thrown into the deep end and faced with the next stage of what to do with this dirt ball or mud pit in front of them. If this is you then I can give you some tips and hints to help.
• 1. Reality check: it’s not backyard blitz and it won’t happen overnight.
• 2. It will cost money no matter how thrifty you are.
• 3. You will get immense pleasure from creating your own garden.
Make a plan, draw a mud map of your block with the buildings and tap locations on it. Draw up some basic ideas of structural things you want and plot them on it, your outdoor area, playground, shed, chook yard, and vegetable garden .Think about the seasons, what areas of your yard are going to get full sun and what will have shade in summer? Position is important for the herb garden or vegetable . Don’t place them too far away from the kitchen. You really need to be able to just duck out and grab what you need when in the moment of creating a meal. You might want childrens play areas somewhere visible from the room your in the most to keep an eye on kids. All this information on the mud map will help you identify the need for shelter in the form of either shade trees or screening, such as hedges. Now you have some orientation in your yard it’s time for individual gardens. Remember the garden is something which evolves and your ideas might change within the first 12 months of being in your space as you realise what you need and where it needs to be. Stand inside your house and look out the main windows like your family room and bedrooms. What do you want to see through them? Is it the kids playing so you can keep an eye on them? Is it the need for something pretty or greenery for something cool and refreshing? The view from your favourite chill out space may be the ideal spot for your feature garden to be located! Put pen to paper and plot these significant areas on your mud map to form the basis of your garden beds.
The next step is plant selection, buying plants needs preparation and good advice. Visit your local nursery and take your mud map with you. Divide your map up into zones and choose one zone at a time to conquer, this will reduce the over whelming feelings and give you a sense of accomplishment as you finish one zone at a time. Originally i said to place your outside taps on your mudmap because you may need to take this into consideration when planning your garden beds, ease of watering and setting up irrigation is essential for the survival of new plantings. New soils will be tuff on plants so prepare your garden beds before planting and mulch everything. Buy plants in small sizes where the foliage is in proportion to the root system to give plants the best chance of survival. If a plant dies, and they will, the loss will be minimal and easy to replace. Select plants that will suit the area, shade loving plants will not grow in full sun no matter how much you love it. Plant for our climate, you will need water wise and hardy. Don’t fight against what will naturally grow here. If you fight against nature and what culturally grows in your area you will be exhausted trying to keep things alive. Don’t be a slave to your garden. The goal is to create a space for enjoyment and relaxation. Good luck!

Time to plant Bulbs



A little bit of rain sure can get gardeners excited, it’s time to think about autumn approaching finely after the cruel heat of summer. March is time to harvest seed from the vegetable garden and prepare the soil for the next round of seasonal vegetables. The change over between the vegetable seasons is a normal routine for me and I see it as a necessary job that pays forward when I’m harvesting my own produce. March is the month that I indulge in some creativity and plant bulbs just for the pure pleasure of seeing a colourful floral display of sweet surprises.

Daffodils and Tulips are high on my list of favourites with so many variations of size and colour. Watering and fertilising existing bulbs in the ground is a good way to get them started as the cooler nights and days will trigger their movement. A good quality complete bulb food can be applied as a top dressing now and a dose of liquid fertiliser to bulbs in pots. Most bulbs will have enough nutrients stored in their various basal storage to begin growing but will appreciate the nutrients ready to go in the soil when they need a new boost to continue developing onto the flowering stage. At the end of the season when all is finished and we are tempted to cut of foliage after flowering it’s a good idea to let the plant yellow off and die down naturally as excess nutrients are taken up and left over nutrients are returned and stored in the bulb for the next year.

Some of the trouble shooting we have with Daffodils stems from planting them too deep in the ground. I use as a general rule, the bulb itself as an indicator “twice the height of the bulb should be the planting depth”. They prefer well composted soil with good drainage and plenty of that winter sun to warm the ground and flower happily.  If overcrowding occurs and you notice reduced flowers this is a sign it’s time to lift and separate them, then re-plant. There is huge diversity in daffodil size and colours with single and double flowers. My pick of the daffodils are Daffodil ‘ Tete a tete’, the giant King Alfred’s and I love the pink flowering varieties especially when all mixed up together growing in clumps, under deciduous trees like the Betula pendula, Silver birch.

Start purchasing your tulips now and place them in labelled bags in the crisper compartment of your refrigerator. Wait for it to get cooler before planting, the first few watering’s use some ice cold water from the fridge, it really gets them moving. I highly recommend a parrot tulip called Tulipa ‘Estella rijnveld’. This tulip is a bold red flower with a cut fringe and twisted with a streak of white. Interplant your tulips and daffodils with lower growing bulbs and plants such as Crocus and good old fashioned Forget me nots for a magnificent spring show!