Category Archive: Gardenworld News

The great bougainvillea wall of Brisbane

By James Wall.

Upon a recent trip to Brisbane, we found this amazing wall with espaliered bougainvillea growing along wires. The differing angles of the steel, and the fact that the wall was curved, created a sensual, groovy, and artistic display of vertical gardening.

It was located on the Southbank, a place on the river that absolutely buzzes with people and activities. There is civic work that has been done to this area over many decades, which has resulted in true gem of a place in a large city.

When I mentioned the bougainvillea wall to a couple of locals that I knew from the local nursery industry, they were surprised that it looked that good. For many years, they felt it had struggled  to perform and was not in a great state. They were very keen to go and visit it again.

Some of the new bougainvilleas are not as out of control as the older varieties. Also seen right on the river were these dwarf varieties, absolutely loving the conditions. The plants struggle a bit in Melbourne’s winters and that’s why we don’t recommend planting them until the warmer weather arrives – November would be perfect, as it gives them months to establish before the next winter.

For more information about bougainvillea, check this story out here.

A Melbourne Nursery in June

The days are at their shortest and finally there is winter chill in the air. Not much gardening gets done after work at the moment. It just gets dark too quickly. The weekend is now the time to get out amongst the plants. Up early and go for a morning walk because that’s when you see some great front gardens and start to learn what other people are growing in the neighbourhood.

Westringia Deep Purple

Westringia Deep Purple

One plant we are seeing more on in the garden is rosemary. It is one tough plant and there are lots of interesting varieties like Chefs Choice. It is semi-prostrate and usually stays under a metre. It also grows with a slight twist which is rather interesting. There are also Westringia which are native rosemary and our current favourite there is a variety called Deep Purple. These are not for cooking, but make great hedges or by itself as something that will fill in a big gap.

Now is a good time to move roses and deciduous trees if you now realise you have planted them in the wrong spot. Cut the soil with a spade in a circle around the plant. Dig underneath and try to keep the root ball undisturbed. Plant at ground level, or in a pot if you can’t plant straight away. Water with seaweed solution a few times over the next 3 months and your plants chances of survival are great.

Think about pruning deciduous fruit trees over the next couple of months. Spend a bit of time just looking at the plants structure before you cut. Cut any weak twiggy wood out and any branches growing inwards. You want that nice wine glass shape unless of course you are espaliering the tree along a fence in which you will need to tie down and control some of the branches.

Look out for bare-root fruit trees on sale now at the nursery. This month you get the biggest choice of fruit trees available, including plants with 2 and 3 different varieties grafted onto them. Amazing plants like these are always in short supply so you need to be early for one of those.

There are also rhubarb and asparagus crowns available now. These gnarly looking things are at least 2 years old and will get you off to a great start.

Look out for our huge range of hellebore from Post Office Plants. The flowers come in singles and doubles in an array of colours.



Now is a good time to add some lime to your vegetable garden. This helps when soil becomes acidic, which can occur when manures are used frequently and over a long period. Dolomite lime will help raise the ph with its calcium, but also contains magnesium, an important nutrient for healthy plant growth. Don’t fertilise at the same time.

We have just harvested some early snow peas and these have been good to eat raw as they are small and tender. Don’t let your veggies get too old – get stuck into them and follow up with some fresh plantings of lettuce, cabbage, pak choi, spring onions and red onions to keep you going before spring plantings. Water regularly and try to do it in the morning. Watering plants after work will only mean they are wet, as well as cold when they go into the night – not great for plant health.

Enjoy your winter garden.

Best second year apprentice award goes to Heidi Brooks

Recently,  Swinburne University of Technology held their Apprenticeship Awards Ceremony.

Our own Heidi Brooks was nominated for Best 2nd Year Apprentice of the Year 2015 Nursery Award.

……..And we are pleased to announce she won !

Heidi has shown consistent aptitude and a willingness to learn. She has had big shoes to fill with 2 previous award winning former apprentices working at Gardenworld.

Heidi is a well respected team member and and has incredible plant knowledge for someone her age. Next time you are in the nursery, you can be confident of getting the right information and advice courtesy of our highly trained horticulturalists, including our recent award winner Heidi Brooks. Congratulations !

Proprietor James Wall, Heidi Brooks and General Manager Jason Hilborn at the awards night.

Proprietor James Wall, Heidi Brooks and General Manager Jason Hilborn at the awards night.

A Melbourne garden in March

By James Wall.

Walking around the nursery, it seems there is a lot to be done. There are a whole lot of plants that prefer to be planted at this time of year and we are determined to plant as many of these plants as we possibly can. Of course the daylight lengths are also getting shorter, so it’s time to get a wriggle on.

The list of plants that I would like to plant this month are wide and varied. Some we will eat and some we will enjoy in other ways. Like all things in nature, some plants will prosper, and some will fail. Let’s just hope more of them succeed than not. Some of the plants include:


Foxglove – if you want them to flower in spring, now is the time to get them in. Their large leaves are lush and their tall flower spires make a spectacular backdrop. Available in punnets now.

Daffodils – once you have them growing, they will reward year after year. Available in lots of interesting creams and yellows, but the King Alfred are the all time favourites and perform well in Melbourne. Available as bulbs.

Garlic – planted now, a bulb can be broken up into around 8 cloves, each one growing into a new bulb. Multiply that again in a year and you could have 64 bulbs – what a return on your investment. Plant in March and April to get some good growth before winter and then in spring, watch them fly.

Pansies and violas – great value if planted now as they will perform strongly for many months. Pink shades are one of the best performers. Buy quality seedlings, as you will get better results from these stronger varieties. Stay away from Can Can and Giant Butterfly as these old varieties are not disease resistant.

Broccoli – it’s an Australian staple and quite easy to grow. Spray with Yates Success to control white cabbage moth larvae from chewing your leaves.

white onions and purple garlic

Onions – are one of the highest yielding crops per square metre, mainly because you can plant so close together. White onions are usually the first to be planted, but follow up with red or brown if you have the room.

Delphiniums – the vivid blue flowers in spring won’t happen if you don’t plant now. This is an old fashioned perennial garden plant and is not as readily available as it once was.

delphinium - plant seedlings now so they look like this in spring



Sweet Peas – don’t forget to sow them on St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) and follow it up with a Guinness, if that tickles you fancy.

The rewards in spring are well worth the effort. Great for climbing up posts and walls.

If planting in dry sandy soils, soak the seeds overnight in warm water. If the soil is moist, this is not necessary.

The best way to grow sweet pea is from seed. Just stick your finger in the soil and drop in 2 seeds. Plant 10cm apart.

The month old seedlings seem really slow like they are not doing much but then all of a sudden they will burst into frenzied growth and reward you with spring flowers. Truly a spectacular display when in full bloom.

Jobs in the garden for March, include feeding fruit trees, especially those you have harvested from in the last six months. Feed gardenias, and any other shrubs that look a bit faded in the leaves. This may even include native plants in which we recommend native fertiliser as it contains less phosphorus. Try the new Bush Tucker from Neutrog.

Lots to do and so little time. Throw in the Melbourne Flower Show from the 16th – 20th March and it truly is a great month for garden lovers. Ok, so we probably won’t get it all done, but then as all gardeners know, you never get it all done – there is always something to do in the garden – and that’s the way we love it.

Bulbs :

 Anenome. Daffodils, Dutch Iris, Freesia, Hyacinths, Jonquils, Tulips, Ranunculus

Flowers :

Aquilegia, Calendula, Cineraria, Delphinium, Hollyhock, Foxglove, Linaria, Nemesia, Pansy, Primula, Polyanthus, Poppy, Viola

Vegies & Herbs :

Beetroot, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Carrots, Coriander, Garlic, Lettuce, Leek, Parsnip, Onions, Oregano, Radish, Turnip, Thyme

A Melbourne garden in February.

By James Wall.

It’s a celebration of flowers in the month of February. Hibiscus are blooming, as are dahlias, geraniums, sunflowers, fountain grass and even some golden oldies such as cleome and gaura. A lot of plants are at their peak, enjoying the long days of sunshine. Here is a piece about my observations this February.

Cleome - the "spider flower"

What weird summer weather we have had. The odd scorcher, and then three cool days in a row. The plants are in shock, as are some of the humans. Thank goodness I paid the neighbours teenage son to water our garden, while we were away, because quite frankly these extremes can really be a drain on any garden. The Rapid Soak wetting agent has been really effective in my sandy soil and the row of lilly pilly have really responded well to its application. They have shot up new growth all over them. I think a little bit of Troforte fertiliser may also have helped.

You can still plant now, but attention to detail on the watering is imperative. It is actually a good time to nurse a new tree through, as the consistent autumn weather will soon be upon us and a newly planted tree or shrub will thrive during this period, have time to prepare itself for winter, and then really take off in spring. I have recently put in some Acacia Limelight, and although it has been a struggle to keep them moist, they are now getting some good growth on them, and soon they will require much less care.

Pennisetum - Fountain Grass

If your wisteria is sending out berserk strands of growth, stay on top of them or they can get into the roof and be a real menace. Also prune and shape murraya, box hedge and lanky citrus branches. Perennial plants can also be shaped and undercut to keep them in their own space and let others around them thrive. I have just pruned the tips of those lilly pilly and this will encourage dense, bushy growth.

Also deadhead roses, dahlia, geraniums and any other finished flowers so as promote the development of a new flush of flowers. Even some of my African Daises are spot flowering again after doing this. If any of these plants have yellowing or faded leaves, give them a liquid feed with Seamax fish and kelp formula to give them a real kick. Pick off fully yellow leaves.

Gaura - the "butterfly flower"

Turn the compost heap to ensure the process will reward you with something to use in autumn. Flush some water through the worm farm if you have one as this will freshen it up. Check to see if the bottom compartment could be emptied onto the garden and continue the process by returning the tray to the top.

Start thinking about broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage because soon it will be their time. Sow seeds now, or get the next batch of short compact seedlings that are looking ready. Lettuce will absolutely fly if planted now, as will spring onions, carrots, silverbeet and beetroot. Even a batch of snowpeas from seed are worth getting going.


Pretty soon the days will get shorter and cooler. Our goal now is to get as many plants through the extremes of the tail end of summer, so they can enjoy what is soon ahead. Please come and visit us at the nursery. It is a quieter month for us, and therefore a good opportunity to pick our brains about any garden questions you may have. Yes, we know you also shop at the big chain stores – but don’t forget your local nursery – we’re here to help you !

Chris and the Australian Training Awards.

One of our apprentices, Chris Henbery, represented Victoria in Hobart last Thursday. He was a finalist in the Australian Apprentice of The Year award.

Chris flew down on the Monday and spent three days of interviews, tours and dinners. The tours included a visit to the famous Mona Art Gallery, a true Hobart must do.

The Gardenworld contingency included seven people including staff and partners. The evening was held at Princess Wharf 1, right on Hobart’s waterfront. The meals included a high proportion of Tasmanian produce which were of a particularly high standard.

Chris did not win the major award, but handled himself with absolute professionalism and maturity. We are all very proud of everything he has achieved and look forward to his continued high standard of work at Gardenworld – hopefully for many years to come. Well done Chris !

The giant agave that took 20 years to flower.

Thanks to Collector’s Corner, we have some pretty amazing agave here at Gardenworld.

One of them is this massive Agave parryi hybrid. The original variety was native to New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico.

Generally the flower colour will be a pale yellow, but being a hybrid, we are not quite sure what colour this one will be yet.

This huge flower stem has taken 2 months to get to this size and will take a full 12 months to flower from start to end. At one stage it looked like a giant asparagus spear. Now it looks like something invasive out of Dr Who.

The plant has taken 20 years to flower.  This one is currently higher than our flag pole and is located near the cafe. Please don’t get too close – it has massive spikes – and for that reason we don’t recommend it for a conventional home garden.

Sadly, it is a terminal flower, which means the plant will probably produce a few pups at its base, and then die.



Chris does it – Victorian Apprentice of the Year

Last night at The Crown Palladium, Gardenworld’s very own Chris Henbery was named the 2015 Victorian Apprentice Of The Year. 

Chris Henbery - Victorian Apprentice of the Year 2015

It capped off three wonderful years of combining study with work.

Mike Callaway, horticulture teacher at Swinburne University at Wantirna, praised Chris’s exceptionally high standard of work and knew he would have a great chance to win the award. “It’s a great result for Chris, but it also a great result for the horticultural industry.”

James Wall, owner of Gardenworld Nursery said,  “We knew Chris had exceptional people skills very early on. He then worked extremely hard to build up his gardening and plant knowledge in a very short time. Tonight we are very proud of his achievement”.

Knowledge is a big part of horticulture and it is shared learning of gardening experiences that facilitate this. Thanks from Chris goes to all the staff in the nursery who have provided him with answers when needed, and for the guidance from General Manager Jason Hilborn who some 16 years ago started as an apprentice at Gardenworld himself. 

It was commented that the judging was extremely close and Chris just edged out the other three contestants which were from the carpentry, hairdressing and commercial cookery industries. 

Chris left a previous career in banking and to become a mature age apprentice which with a young family, comes with it’s own challenges. He now sources many of the quality plants found at Gardenworld and one day hopes to own his nursery – we hope he does – but is at Gardenworld for a few more seasons yet !

Come in and say g’day to our apprentice of the year. Chris is currently working Monday to Fridays, and would love to talk to you about the plants in your garden. 

James Wall (proprietor), Chris Henbery and Jason Hilborn (General Manager).

Chris Henbery a finalist for Apprentice Of The Year

Gardenworld is proud to announce that our very own apprentice Chris Henbery has made the final of The Victorian Apprentice Of The Year award. Chris has already won awards in the faculty of horticulture, but now he is up against the best of the rest.

Chris has a real passion for plants and will go out of his away to explain the key points about a particular variety. He has knowledge of a huge range of plants and now sources many of the plants for our nursery Not bad after 3 years ! We wish Chris the best and hope he is around for a few more seasons yet. You can vote for Chris in the Community Choice award here. We find out how he goes on August 28th.

The main award is given to recognise the hard work and achievements made within the vocational education and training sector. It is there to recognise outstanding achievements and contributions made through studying and in the workplace. It is open to all industries state wide, such as plumbing, electrical, carpentry, engineering, horticulture etc. All applications are assessed by a judging panel of industry experts in the first round and are scored and ranked against award criteria. The top scoring applications from all industries are selected and then assessed by a second judging panel. The top four applicants in the state are selected and are finalists for the award and attend finalist interview, which Chris was selected for. He attended a panel interview with 4 industry experts, and the winner is selected on this final part of the process. The winner is announced on 28th August at the Awards Ceremony.

The winner receives a $10,000 study fellowship and competes in the Australian Apprentice of the Year category at the Australian Training Awards in Hobart in November. As a winner, you represent the vocational training sector as an ambassador along side the Victorian Government.

 A message from Chris:

This is a career that I am extremely passionate about and love. I started a mature age apprenticeship in 2012 and have enjoyed the challenge of a new career and balancing work and study. I feel that I have been given a fantastic balance in an apprenticeship of work and school life, and the whole program has been supportive and has given me a great base for my future career. Other work and study achievements that contributed to becoming a finalist are; Bronze Medal in my student garden at MIFGS 2013, NGIV Apprentice of The Year 2013, Swinburne Outstanding Nursery Apprentice 2012, NGIV Scholarship 2012, Knox Rotary Award Finalist 2015, Swinburne Student Achiement Award 2014.

I feel privileged and honoured to be a finalist in the Victorian Apprentice of the Year, and would be proud to represent a fantastic industry in Horticulture (Nursery), one that provides great careers, but also provides something great for our customers too in products, service and the joy of growing plants.

More information:

Message from the Premier Daniel Andrews

Article about Chris from the Herald Sun website

A budding gardening celebrity is born !

By James Wall.

There she stood talking to the camera. Hands waving about like a true gardening celebrity. By goodness, it was our budding young work experience girl, who became our award winning apprentice and is now our highly respected full time horticulturist who also writes a gardening blog on the side. Introducing Bonnie Marie Hibbs.

It was with smiles on our faces that we watched an advertisement being filmed at Gardenworld last Friday. Smiles because it was our own staff member Bonnie Marie in the ad. The ad was for Grow Better, our potting mix and compost provider. The last few years have seen us sell more and more of the Grow Better products including Terracotta and Tub potting mix and Black Gold compost. Made in Ballarat, we think the Grow Better products are very good.

Look out for the ads this spring on Channel 9. They will be telecast during The Garden Gurus – Saturdays at 4.30 pm.

In 2012, Bonnie Marie was awarded the Victorian Apprentice of The Year. She currently manages the seedling department at Gardenworld and also writes a blog called The Gardener’s Notebook. A passionate gardener, we think she has a great future.

The Gardener’s Notebook

Grow Better website

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