Category Archive: Plants

Top 10 “Must Have” Camellia varieties.

By Kevin Mankey with James Wall.

Ok, after much debate, here are our top 10 favourite camellias. Actually we couldn’t decide out of 12 !

This wonderful range of plants only get better with age. They are easy to grow, low allergenic and simply rewarding plants.

Camellia’s also provide that splash of colour during the winter when so many other plants are dormant.

Sasanqua and Japonica are two of the main types. Sasanquas flower earlier and are better suited to hedging and espaliering whereas Japonicas are larger leaved, flower later and won’t tolerate as sunny a conditions. Both types have there place in the garden.

Sasanqua Camellias

Yuletide – Compact grower, small dark green foliage, single scarlet red flowers with permanent yellow stamens.

Paradise Blush – Deep rosy pink buds which open to white semi double flowers. Flowers over a long period.

Setsugekka – Large white single flowers, with wavy petals. Prominent yellow stamens in centre. Good screening or espalier variety.

Avalanche – “Slimline” variety growing 2-3m high x 1.2m wide. Ideal for narrow garden beds. Large double white flower with a hint of perfume. Long flowering season.

Bonanza – Striking deep red variety with large semi-paeony flowers with wavy fluted petals. Dense, upright grower.

Sweet Jane – A hybrid bred in Australia and said to be the one of longest flowering camellias. Flower is  a small, soft pink semi double, opening to pale pink, and ageing to almost white.

Japonica & Other Hybrids

Desire – Formal double long lasting blooms of soft pink with deeper pink outer petals. Strong, upright shrub with lush foliage.

Debbie – Bold rosy-pink fully double blooms on an upright growing shrub. Great as a hedge in semi-shaded areas.

Grand Marshall – Vivid red large informal double. Strong upright growth habit ideal for hedging and screening up to 3m.

Brushfields Yellow – Late flowering variety with medium sized “antique white” flowers which have a ruffled primrose yellow boss of petaloids in the centre. Great for pots.

Volunteer – Deep rich pink anemone flowers are variegated on each petal with a white edge. A truly unique variety named to commemorate the International Year of Volunteers in 2001. Bred in New Zealand.

Dona Herzilia De Frietas Magalhaes – Mid season blooming variety with unique anemone style flowers which are reddish maroon in colour with an unusual violet shade.

A unique garden in Camberwell.

By James Wall.

This morning we were thrilled to visit an open garden in Camberwell, an inner suburb of Melbourne. I think the houses are Edwardian in the area and most of them seem beautifully restored. This house’s owner, Natalie had also created a beautiful garden.

Carex grass adds an interesting dimension to the perennial border

Verbena bonariensis was a highlight

The design was inspired by English garden designer Dan Pearson and included hazy drifts of summer flowering perennials combined with swathes of ornamental grasses and with some deciduous trees dotted around. The combination of flowers and grasses certainly created a great contrast of foliage and structure.

Miscanthus sinensis "Flamingo"

The front garden was built first. It creates a mature look, befitting of the street. Once inside on the front lawn, the plants really blend well but at the same time stand out individually as heroes. I felt welcome, but not overwhelmed.

Love the pavers and the Gingko biloba trees.

 Kay Paris magnolia, buxus balls and blue heliotrope.

Kay Paris magnolia, buxus balls and blue heliotrope.

Ficus hillii makes a great backdrop.

Hydrangea quercifolia

Native violet - Viola hederacea

olives on left and lemons on right

The backyard was a family orientated area. There were vegies in concrete pipes, amazing espaliered olives and lemons and also a pool.  The original pool was plonked right in the middle of the garden, where the fescue lawn now is. with requirements of pool fences these days, it would have been such a waste of space. The good thing about removing the pool was that 2 x 12,500 litre concrete water tanks were put in its place, enough to water the garden and top up the new pool, which is on the edge of the block – much more sensible.

It was an awesome garden to visit and Natalie has great vision. Enjoy some of the photos below, and hopefully you get some inspiration for a little piece of your garden……

Funky Forest Pansy

Oregano used between paving.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' and Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Acer-x-freemanii 'Autumn Blaze'

Creeping Thyme

Asparagus meyeri as the hero.

Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' from the street.

What a cool piece of climbing !

Friday night at the Garden Club

By James Wall.

You don’t often get to talk on a Friday night at a garden club. But tonight was the Waverley Garden Club’s monthly meeting. With over 100 keen members, I was looking forward to the visit.

Upon entering the competition area, there were only the judges and stewards to be seen. No-one else was allowed in, but fortunately I snuck through the security !

It was delightful to see the entries. Passion shone through. There were prized specimens everywhere. The blackberries were perfect. The floating flowers amazing and the vegetables as good as you will find.

Later that night, there were winners and losers, but nobody seemed to care……..much.

Such a good bunch of people, all passionate about their gardens.

Here are a few snapshots of the event, with more to follow.




Tiny Titan – the plant that was huge.


BOTANICAL NAME - Amorphophallus titanum.

It was a week or so before christmas that the plant appeared at Gardenworld. It turned out that a staff member from

Giant Arum Event

Photo as at 15th December 2016

Collector’s corner, Marco, had bought the tuber quite a few years ago and then sold it to

his boss Jeno who had grown it on in a glasshouse at his wholesale nursery. That turned out to be a perfect place to protect the plant from Melbourne’s cold winters. It does of course come from the mountainous tropics of Sumatra in Indonesia. It was years later that the plant decided that it was actually going to flower. As the giant flower began to arise, it began growing at a rate of 10cm per day.

For about three or four days, Gardenworld patronage increased by over 40%. Quite literally there were people everywhere and the cafe was run off its feet. We’ve never before seen a plant create so much of a stir – not even the rose show could compete with this ! There were news crews doing stories and suddenly the mystical plant appeared in The Herald Sun and on Channel Seven news among other places. Crikey, even Costa from gardening Australia turned up. If you couldn’t make it in, there was even a live stream on Facebook. Yes people from all around the world tuned in. There was Titan Arum mania.

Pretty soon, after a few days, it was all over. There was one day of a perfect flower, and on this day this ‘corpse’ plant started getting all stinky in order to attract flies as pollinators. Then, quite strangely, the next day, the plant got stage fright and then actually closed. No amount of attention from the crowds could re-open it. A day of so later the flower collapsed and it was the end of the show – for this time. This was only a little guy, so when he comes back, maybe in a few years more, Tiny will be even bigger.

Photo as at 23rd december 2016

The only other plants we knew to have flowered in captivity in Australia were in the Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Botanic Gardens. The last time one flowered in Melbourne at the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBGM)  was January 2013, you can read about that at this link.

This giant flowering Arum Lily rarely flowers in captivity. According to the RBGM, since its discovery in 1878 by Italian Odoardo Beccari, prior to 1989 only 21 flowering events had been recorded worldwide in any botanic garden. Since 1989 it has been done another 80 times, reflecting improved horticultural knowledge and practices.

This variety holds the world record of the largest un-branched flower.

Native to the tropical rain forests of Sumatra, the flower has been known to get up to three metres tall and over a metre wide.

BOTANICAL NAME - Amorphophallus titanum – photo as at 28th December 2016


Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs.


Scientific name: Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’

Common Name: Limelight.

Salvia mexicana limelightSalvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ is a current favourite in my garden. It is an evergreen perennial (a plant that will live more than two years) that will reach a maximum height of 1.5 meters and have a spread of 1.2 meters.

If you are a collector of Salvias or just starting out in the garden, this is a must have. The electric blue flowers with green calyxes will appear mid to late summer and will continue to bloom through the autumn months. Mine flowered continuously for at least 4 months this year! The flowers contrast beautifully against the dark green foliage. The leaves are large and elliptical shaped.Salvia mexicana limelightThey can be grown in full-day sun to part-shade in a moist position that has good draining soil, such as a loam – loam clay. Once the flowers finish blooming in late autumn it is best to prune off old flowers to encourage compact and healthy growth. Pruning will also result in more flowers the following year.

To maximise their growth and blooms fertilise twice a year in their growing seasons. Fertilise in early spring to encourage strong growth and then again in early autumn to encourage an abundance of flowers.

Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ is tough and easy to grow and is always an eye-catching display in the garden.

Cup Day at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

By James Wall.

What do you tell your children on your day off that you want to walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne ?

You tell them we are going on a photographic assignment of course. One child gets the camera for half an hour and then the other child gets its for the next half an hour. When we get home, we have a slide show and see just what sort of pictures we have taken.

Yep, they liked the idea, so before they could change there mind we were in the car and on our way.

The weather was perfect and it was mid morning so there was still parking. The gardens had a real buzz about it. It reminded me of the first spring day at Central Park in New York. People were just bursting with energy to get out there. With Melbourne Cup on, there were somewhat annoying helicopters buzzing about the air like giant blow flies, but even these could not destroy the subtle euphoria that was in the air. It was a day to bump into an old friend out of the blue. It was a day to appreciate nature.

At some stage during the photography, a kids flick of the camera dial accidentally took 4 photos of everything, but with 3 of the photos being altered with special effects. I guess some of the greatest human creations were made by accident. Below are some of the results to our day out at the Botanic Gardens.

By the way, the cafe was excellent, the kids area was rocking with little boats running down the creek, the trees were ever majestic, so if you haven’t been to this wonderful place in a while, like I hadn’t, make sure you get down there soon – cause photos can never tell the full story.



Vintage spring planter pot.

Now that spring has officially sprung it is a great time to get outside and get creative in the garden! Here is a short DIY video where I show you how to create a fun and colourful pot by upcycling an old cast iron pot. There are many fantastic ways to create eye-catching displays in the garden, and repurposing old objects is an easy way to do so. If you have any old pots that might be lying around the garden have a go at turning them in to a colourful display!

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs – Gardeners Notebook

Euphorbia – a gardener’s favourite.

By Kevin Mankey.

Favourite Families: EUPHORBIACEAE.

The question frequently pops up when you work in the nursery industry…”Do you have a favourite plant?” My answer would be not one individual favourite but more like a favourite family. The Euphorbias are one of the largest plant families with over two thousand members from all over the world. Some of the most interesting varieties come from the desert regions of South Africa, and the inhospitable island of Madagascar. Fortunately, in their wisdom our growers concentrate on producing only some of the best forms, otherwise there would be no room for anything else in the nursery!

Euphorbia wulfenii

Euphorbia wulfenii

Also known as spurge (from the old French word “espurge” meaning to purge which refers to the use of the sap as a purgative in olden times) the Euphorbia family is made up of annual and perennial plants, woody shrubs and trees. Their form ranges from feathery leaved ground covers, to lush woody stemmed flowering shrubs, to stark, sculptured trees which look almost alien in all but a desert landscape. There are even some which have developed thick fleshy stems which were once mistaken as cactus species although Euphorbias are not in any way related to cacti.

Euphorbia craigieburn

You may have guessed by now that Euphorbias are some of the toughest garden shrubs available, being hardy to frost and long periods of dryness. They are also coastal tolerant and will thrive even in poor quality soils as long as there is reasonably good drainage. They adapt very well to our Melbourne climate with its extremes of long hot summers and cold winters.

Euphorbia lambii underplanted with wulfenii

One of the most recognizable species is the ever popular Christmas poinsettia E. pulcherrima with its traditional red bracts (white and pink forms now exist) which are used as table decorations at Christmas time. However, the majority of varieties currently being grown are popular with garden designers and enthusiasts due to their compact bushy form and their diverse foliage colours ranging from grey greens, to purple, to limey- gold, and even white splashed variegated foliage. As for flowers, the majority of Euphorbias carry clusters of sulphur yellow to russet coloured composite flower heads mainly during the latter part of winter and on into spring.

What I like best about them is that they are adaptable to so many garden styles from cottage to traditional to contemporary and even arid. Most of the varieties currently on the market grow to less than one meter high by one meter wide so they will fit almost any space in any garden. Like many structural plants they work really well in group plantings where they have high visual impact and bring a brilliant textural element to a garden design.

Euphorbia rigida

One word of caution with this family of plants is that they all exude a sticky milky sap when cut which is toxic if ingested and can be an irritant to the skin and eyes. The simple precaution of wearing gloves and avoiding rubbing the eyes when handling them is recommended. With this in mind the euphorbia family is well worth consideration for a range of garden situations. Pictured are some of the varieties currently on offer in the nursery along with a few collectable varieties which may be slightly harder to find. Note the diversity of forms shapes and foliage colours which is what makes Euphorbia a fascinating and versatile family of plants. Drop in soon and feel free to ask our recommendations for a Euphorbia to suit your garden.

Euphorbia wulfenii flower

The mystique of growing blueberries.

Last month, it was a privileged journey for me as I headed past Pakenham, turned off at Moe and drove about an hour up into the hills to visit my friend Joel, an organic blueberry farmer. Being winter, to some people these mostly leafless plants just look like big woody bushes, ranging from 3 foot to 6 foot high. A closer inspection however showed that they had been pruned meticulously, many of them every year for over 15 years. The grower, his wife and first hand man had done most of the pruning, as no contract worker could be trusted to do this process quite as well as those that lived and breathed these plants almost every day of their lives. These plants were to these people what a dairy herd might be to a farmer. They were part of their extended family.

Joel and his beloved plants.

To prune a blueberry plant requires two processes: firstly remove the weak wood – thin twiggy bits that will never thicken up, but will still suck energy from the rest of the plant. You also follow the basic principles of pruning like cutting out inward growing branches, although sometimes At one stage, Joel left a branch growing into another branch, as next year it would be a main branch and the other older one in its way removed. That is because secondly, you remove some of the old wood. It will be three to five years old and will be grey in colour and have formed bark on its trunk. Removing some of this will help the plant renew itself with new whips forming. The best fruiting wood will be in that two to three year age bracket. These plants will live for twenty five years and more, so to renew the plant is important. Some of the big 6 foot plants were taking Joel over twenty minutes to prune just one plant, such is the dedication to a perfect wine glass like figure.

Here is a brief video showing just a snippet of the secrets of pruning a blueberry bush.

Pruning doesn’t feel as natural to me as say on an apple tree. I think this is because the blueberry plant is quite a messy looking plant with a rather twisted and knarled structure. If you like things to look neat and tidy, this plant may not be for you.

A beautiful plant structure

You have to admire someone who makes the decision to produce fruit organically. There are no weed killing sprays you can use and so all you can do is compost around the plants to smother the formation of weeds and then hand weed around the plants to be rid of the worst of them. Between the rows you need to mow regularly so as to stop the weeds from seeding. It’s a case of learning to live with the weeds.

Magnolia in the front and Legacy at the backFeeding organically is done twice in autumn and twice in spring using liquid seaweed and fish emulsion. Organic growing is more about building up beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. They break down the compost and turn this into nutritional food for the plants. It’s all about finding the balance and not upsetting it by adding ‘made to measure’ dosages of chemical fertilisers. The results achieved from this crop speaks for itself – up to 8kg of berries per plant which is twice the amount of most commercial crops.

If you would like to grow some of these wonderful blueberry varieties, we now have some for sale. By nature, blueberry plants are hard to propagate and most of them go to the commercial growers, so you won’t find these plants commonly available. We also sell organic Charlie Carp – a fish emulsion that also benefits our rivers because of the removal of thousands of carp every year.

When planting out blueberries, Joel recommends teasing out the roots and having them almost horizontal when planting.

Plant them on a small mound in the bottom of the hole, just to angle the roots downward slightly.

This does not feel normal to me as I am not a big teaser of roots unless a plant in a pot is root-bound.

Joel’s dad has however spent many years analysing plantings and swears by this process. In fact he dug up some earlier plantings and teased the roots and then re-planted the plants with great success.

Here is a picture of the teased out roots.

Varieties we have for sale:

Magnolia: Evergreen bush that grows to approximately 1.6m tall, will bush out to 1.2m wide has a large berry, great flavour & heavy yield.

Reveille: Evergreen bush that grows to approximately 2m to 2.2m tall, very upright plant that will only bush out to 0.8m to 1m, great for along fences. Medium berry with great flavour & medium yield.

Legacy: Evergreen bush that grows to approximately 1.8m to 2m tall , will bush out to approximately 1.2m wide, has a large berry, good flavour & heavy yield.

James and a pruned reveille variety



By James Wall.

It was with admiration for the level of participation in the creation of  what was standing before me. There were five days until the Garden Show started and lots of people were involved in getting it ready. These included the lads from Avoca Landscape Construction who were halfway through the mock bridge (I say mock bridge because there was to be no water under it, but Dichondra repens planted to look like water). A Semken staffer was pushing a wheelbarrow almost ‘walking the plank’ to get from one high point to another, and there were plants ready to be positioned in the space beside us. Carolyn Blackman from Vivid Design was forging on and all was good because apparently we were ahead of schedule; but who really knew what lay ahead…..These are the thoughts that go through your mind when building a show garden. By the time it is built, you clearly see all of its imperfections. You are intimate with it, and sometimes it can be your little place in heaven, but other times your nightmare. Everything you ever planned leading up to this project, is now being tested to the hilt. There are still a few magic tricks up your sleeve, but there is also reality.

……and the reality is, that some of the general public may say “it does nothing for me” whereas others and hopefully the majority say, “it’s beautiful, job well done”. None of them see it like you do, missing at least some of the imperfections that you deep down in your heart know are there, and must admit that are there cause if you don’t, a smart judge will tell you why you lost marks…..

It’s the first day of a 5 day show and already you have had to do some maintenance, just when your media commitments are kicking in. Mmmm great timing, but alas, there is one other thing you know for sure, and that is by 5pm Sunday, your show garden will no longer exist. Hope you got some good photos, cause it will be over.So I guess however it turns out, you are best to enjoy your little garden. Its a very small window of time, so let your garden be what it was, a manicured fantasy, a miniscule piece of paradise, a love of plants, a good design. Be at peace with your garden, cause now it is gone

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