Category Archive: Plants

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.


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

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