Category Archive: Plants

Epic flowers of the Dahlia Society.

Written and photos by Bonnie-Marie Hibbs. 

The Dahlia Society of Victoria was first established in 1960 by a group of enthusiastic lovers of the brilliant blooms. Their aim was to share not only their love for these flowers but the culture behind the Dahlias as well. The society is going strong and continues to hold events all over Victoria.

We had the pleasure of hosting the Dahlia Society this past weekend at the Gardenworld nursery. On display were hundreds of colourful dahlias which were all grown by the Dahlia Society members including some varieties which were bred over a number of years by some of the members. One particular Dahlia called Tiny Tots stood out from its giant siblings and was voted by the Gardenworld staff as the ‘cutest’ dahlia on show. This petite dahlia was developed over 10 years by one member who aimed to create bright, colourful flowers with strong stems ideal for cut flowers.

There are hundreds of species of Dahlias with a range of colours and sizes. The best time to begin planting these classic flowers is at the beginning of October and November. You can plant them as tubers or from pots which are usually found in nurseries later in the season. Make sure not to over water them as they can rot easily. Give it good water if the soil is dry. Once the tuber has emerged from the soil, approximately 10-15cm high, you can start watering more regularly.

Depending on the age of the Dahlia tuber it can take 6- 8 weeks until the first flower buds appear. Dahlia flowers begin to emerge in late summer and will continue to bloom throughout the autumn months. Dahlias are available in both large and dwarf forms. Dwarf varieties will grow to 50cm high making them ideal for container gardens or small patio gardens. If you prefer the larger forms they range from 1.2 – 2.0 metres tall! A little tip for the taller varieties: it is best to keep them staked as this will encourage stronger stems and will provide support for the plants as they grown.

Dahlias thrive in a warm sunny position in the garden with well-drained soil! The most ideal position is all day sun otherwise an area with afternoon sun. To achieve the best growth and performance for your Dahlias keep them well fertilised when they first emerge from the soil! Once the plants have begun to shoot apply powder or palletised all-purpose fertiliser to the soil surface and water it into the soil.

Dahlias can be that stunning floral display inside and out of the home that you might have been searching for. They can be a vibrant pop of colour in the autumn months when most of the summer flowers begin to finish in the garden. With new forms continually being developed I have no doubt that there is a Dahlia out there for everyone.

Growing herbs – fresh, easy and cost effective.

Herbs

Have you ever gone to the fridge to grab the fresh cut herbs you bought from the supermarket, only to find they are limp and lifeless? Wouldn’t it be nice to just nip out to the back yard or your balcony and pick herbs that are home grown? Growing herbs are both easy and cost effective.

Tips for getting a herb garden started

To grow herbs you a need a position that gets about 6 hours of sunlight a day.

For a small window box or raised planter, use potting mix to ensure good drainage.

Start with the staples of parsley, sage, thyme and oregano.

Generally coriander loves the cooler weather, and basil does its best over the warmer seasons. Most other herbs will will thrive all year round.

If planting in pots, it is wise to grow rosemary and mint by themselves, as these large growing herbs will otherwise dominate other varieties.

A mixed window box, with chives, thyme, oregano parsley and basil would make a perfect combo.

Feed regularly with liquid fertiliser. It’s important to keep herbs happy, or they can run to seed.

Replace old plants regularly to keep your herb garden fresh.

Once you get a bit more adventurous, try herbs like French tarragon, chervil and lovage.

As well as having access to your own personal garden full of herbs, they are also cost effective. Buying cut herbs from the supermarket might cost you $150-$200 a year if purchased regularly. For less than this, you can set up your own herb garden at home. The greatest satisfaction of growing your own is that you are cooking with the very freshest of ingredients and ones that you have grown yourself. 

When there is surplus produce, this is when herbs really shine. Drying oregano or making basil pesto are clever ways to save more dollars from your annual food budget. There is no doubt about it, growing your own herbs makes good “cents”.

I found my thrills on Blueberry Hill.

By James Wall.

Yes, it was back up the hills on our annual sojourn, to pick up some blueberry plants. This year we are picking up only 101 advanced Brigitta’s in 30cm pots. They would fill the bottom of the truck and some of them are about waist height, so stacking them on trolleys was not an option.

Moondarra Blueberries are about an hour out of Moe, towards them hills. (It’s not open to the public). It’s a windy road that works its way through farmland and forest. Once at the turnoff, its a few kilometres of classic country track, winding through 100 year old gums and working its way up some steep hills.

blueberry farm

Once at the packing shed at the top of the hill, it was obvious the wind was a howler. These plants are sure gonna be toughened up. After loading the truck, it was time to go and checkout some Brigitta’s growing in the field. When we got down there, the crop was amazingly completely protected from the wind by the side of the hill. The sun came out and the jumpers almost came off. These monster plants were 2 metres high and over 35 years old. The industry average harvest per plant might be 4kg, but these giants manage to have 10kg picked off them.

After a lesson in pruning, I have come to the conclusion it still is an art form that I haven’t totally mastered. Remove old unproductive wood, and snap off weak skinny short wood with your fingers. Don’t be afraid to bend wood and tie wood down with Jolly Ties, so pickers can reach them. Promote new red stems and consider removing the odd grey stem. It’s certainly not an exact science. Shhh, a little secret – they love their Felco secateurs and have a few different pruning saws, but the Felco is always the first to go from the shed.

Moondarra blueberry farm

So the plants are now back in our nursery in Melbourne and these 3 year old advanced plants in 30cm pots are going out at $39.95. Each plant has flower buds on them and each bud will have 5 0r 6 fruit this coming season so you can have a taste test. You will love the flavour of these girls – all in all yummy garden produce. Remember to let them fully ripe for best flavour – bird netting recommended.

Growers Notes: Brigitta is a tall, vigorous upright bush to 2, with high production. Very large, medium blue, firm fruit with good flavour. Excellent picking scar and keeping quality. This Australian developed variety Brigitta is now being widely grown world wide. Clusters can be tight and the bloom damaged easily. Ripens two weeks after Bluecrop with similar size berries. Fruit can drop easily so care when hand harvesting is required. One of the best keeping and shipping varieties available. A favourite with exporters. For pollination purposes it is best if planted near another variety.

Sydney, true urban jungle.

By James Wall.

Being a Melbourne boy, I am always besotted with the climate in Sydney. Sure, it might be a bit muggy in summer; but in Winter, it’s a veritable greenhouse for growing plants. Yes, while Melbourne is shivering at 14C for a usual daily max, Sydney regularly cracks 20C in July. Because of this, plants grow well, whether they are cool climate, or sub tropical. Ok, maybe a few things don’t grow quite as well without a bit more chill. But alas, one can truly say that inner Sydney however, is a true urban jungle.

Sydney is made up of sandstone and shale – formations raised to their present heights by by earth movements, starting in the Jurassic period some 200 million years ago. It’s creates a dimension with its vertical spaces that can be embedded with nature.

Then there is the human embedding of construction into this environment of land and sea. Much of it with architects sympathy, but some such as the Sirius building with architectural brutality. Yes, this is Sydney, true urban jungle.

Staircases appear in the cracks of Woolloomooloo. Half way up you turn and see green. The inhabitants here don’t splash about weedkiller – they just go with the green. They co-habitulate.

Then there is the formal with touch of style – non complete without the splash of colour of grandmas geranium.

Contrast this with the brutal, banal yet soothingly beautiful Sirius Building. Plants here taking on the buildings struggle to survive. You see the state government wanted to demolish this building but it would not be without an outcry. The people will go down fighting so that the building itself does not go down. As Wikipedia opens with about this place:

“The Sirius building is an apartment complex in The Rocks district of Sydney, Australia. Designed in 1978-1979 by architect Tao Gofers, the building is a prominent example of Brutalist architecture in Australia. It has striking repetitive geometries in reaction to the Japanese metabolist architecture movement. The complex was built to rehouse public tenants who had been displaced after a controversial redevelopment of the historic Rocks suburb during the 1960s and 70s.” source: Wikipedia.

Like many cities, some householders don’t think about the heat sink effect of a concrete metropolis. Thanks to their neighbours plants are shading us and keeping us cooler.

Yes, so this is all getting a little loose; yes by this stage I was just walking around zombie like shooting the vaguest thing that was growing. But just then….

the epic Sydney Harbour Bridge infused with Gymea lily shot appeared just in time.

Lavender Bay, the home of Wendy Whitely and her communal garden. Her husband had iconic art, and she now has an iconic garden. A garden that is open 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Yes, a garden is there all the time. 

Of course Brett painted from his balcony at Lavender Bay his famous The Balcony 2 back in 1975. It now resides in the Art Gallery of NSW.

Brett Whitely 1975:

“Windsor and Newton Deep Ultramarine oil colour has an obsessive, ecstasy like effect upon my nervous system quite unlike any other colour.”

 

In the end, there is art in that urban jungle. More than ultramarine blue, there is green……urban jungle green……may it live on.

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.

“TINY” – THE TITAN ARUM

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.

Family: LAMIACEAE

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.

 

 

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