Category Archive: Plants

We Love Indoor Plants

By James Wall

We love indoor plants, or any sort of plant that can in any way be grown inside a house, for both pleasure, and to clean air. 

One of our more creative staff members, Greg, has just planted out 10 classic indoor plants in 10 classic pots. 

Growing Successful Tomato Plants

By James Wall
Growing tomatoes is a bit of a phenomenon in spring and summer. Growers are busy staking, tying, feeding, watering and pruning their plants. 

Staking is best done early on so as not to damage established root systems. Plastic or wire cages can be bought, or you can use trusty old wooden tomato stakes – although keep in mind wood can harbor disease, so don’t use the old ones if you had problems last year. Tie the plants to the stakes with a soft or flexible tie. This helps you take control of the plant. Once a seedling bends over, you can never get that bend out of the stem, so early training makes a big difference later on.

Although some people never prune tomato plants, trends have seen people pruning plants more. The side shoots between the shade leaf and the stem are removed so as to produce just one or two leaders. The second leader is usually the one below the first flower truss. Pinch the side shoots out if only young, or snip them out if they are bigger. Once there are signs of fruit, many people are also reducing some of the leaf canopy, with the theory that there is more energy to concentrate on the fruit.

Chicken manure is high in nitrogen and is great to dig in initially as it promotes leaf growth. Used too much later on, you will get soft leafy branches, with few tomatoes. Once the plants are above knee high and starting to flower, you are better off using a fertilizer high in potassium (K) and calcium. Debco Tomato Food is good for this. Put two teaspoons in a nine litre watering can and water in every two weeks or as required. Lush plants will be nice and green whereas hungry plants will be a lighter green, yellow, or even purple in colour if they are lacking in particular nutrients.

Watering at even intervals will make a huge difference to tomato yields. Every 2 to 3 days during cooler weather and every day during hot weather. Water earlier in the day, and keep the leaves dry to prevent bacterial problems. These bacterial specs can actually result from dirt splashing up and onto the plants, so maybe water with the pressure turned down a little. Some of the weaker varieties like Yellow Pear may even need a copper spray to get over a bacterial problem. Pinch the branches off where the bacterial spots are, and then wash your hands before handling the plants further. This year we have also seen a few plants where the plant tie halfway down the plant has rubbed off the main stem’s skin and exposed this area of the plant to a black or brown bacterial disease. This can happen to the young seedlings in particularly windy conditions. In bad cases, we should destroy these plants. It gets back to watering – do not over water young seedlings early on in the growing season.

 

a sideshoot between stem and shade leaf

Tomatoes can also be grown successfully in pots. Choose a pot at least 30cm in diameter and fill with potting mix. Put a saucer under the pot so as to have an extra reservoir of water for those weekends when you are away. There are also varieties more suited to pot growing including Pot Prize, Super Prize, Tumbler, dwarf roma and the new Cherry Fountain from Oasis.

Some of my favourites include Truss Plum, Mighty Red, Sweet Grape, Mr Ugly and the heirlooms Tigerella and Green Zebra.

The final thing we need on our side is some nice warm 25 degree days in January and February. This will really get them fruiting, and means a big difference between a poor crop and a bumper crop. Like all horticultural pursuits, this is out of our control and in the lap of the gods. Is it all worth it ? What have we urban farmers got to lose – not much. What we have to gain, is the joy of picking a fresh tomato, taking it inside and putting it on top of a salada biscuit with a little pepper, and eating it with a lot of satisfaction. Good luck to us all !

Nasturtium the urban rambler.

By James Wall

Yes the nasturtium is a bit of a rambler, or a roamer. I like to think of it as a plant  that likes a bit of a wander. It is a fast growing annual plant that comes from Peru and Ecuador in South America. It has large round leaves and red to orange or shades of yellow trumpet like flowers. It doesn’t need much fertiliser and in fact too much manure and it will go all leafy and not flower much at all. It can be grown all year, but will flower mainly in Spring to Autumn.

It would make a good plant for a kinder garden, as the large seeds are easy to direct sow into the garden and will germinate in just a couple of weeks. The growth of the seedling is then quite rapid, something somewhat impatient children will appreciate.

Seedlings can also be planted, with the two main varieties available being ‘Jewel Mix’ which is more sprawly, and ‘Alaska Mix’ which is more compact and has variegated leaves. In seed packs there are more unusual varieties which include single colours and double flowers.

A big claim to fame for this plant is that it has edible flowers which are used to colour up salads. The seeds and leaves are also edible and even though I can’t say I have cooked with them yet, many chefs around the world have incorporated them into foods such as pesto, where they apparently add a peppery taste. Funny, watercress have round leaves and they’re a little peppery too.

One of the traits of this plant is that it easily self seeds, which means it can take control of parts of your garden, competing staunchly against other plants, so much so it is considered to be an environmental weed in some regions. That makes it a great city plant, but maybe it shouldn’t be grown in a country garden. It can be controlled by pulling out young seedlings, or digging deeper to remove larger ones. It still may come up a couple more times,  but persistently removing it will eventually stop it.

Fond memories for me, are balls of water that form on the leaves. Yes, it is probably the leaf of this plant that I like more than the flower. They are an interesting shape and a rather appealing mat green.

Some may find the nasturtium creepy, but for me, it is the true urban rambler.

Image by Kim Woods RabbidgeBotanical name: Tropaeolum majus

Fairy Magnolia Cream – fragrant early spring flowers.

This stunner of a plant is looking at its absolute best right now ! Fairy Magnolia Cream (Also available is Fairy Magnolia Blush). What we love about it is that the half open flowers look like a tight tulip, but then open into a gorgeous lush flower.

This Tesselaar plant release has masses of creamy fragrant flowers. It is an evergreen variety, but being more a shrub than a tree, it won’t get as big as a Little Gem magnolia. It will still get 3 to 4 metre after around 7 years, but it is not a big thick trunked plant, and it could be pruned to be much shorter than that. It can be trained to one leader, or trimmed so to branch more as a bush. It is quite an elegant grower, and at this time of year has fragrant cream flowers up to 6cm wide. It will flkower through to November and may even spot flower throughout the year.

Fabulous for hedges but can also be espaliered, or used in topiary. It would make a great specimen plant either ina pot or in the ground. The plant will tolerate a wide range of conditions once established, and benefits from moderate moisture when establishing. Can tolerate temperatures of up to 45 deg C down to -10 deg C. Plant 1 metre apart to create a hedge and up to 1.5 metres apart for a looser screen. Flowers from September to November, with spot flowering throughout the year. It will take sun and partial shade which makes it a most adaptable plant.(doltsopa x Yunnanensis x figo cross)

Happy Wanderer – Hardenbergia violacea

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs

Looking fantastic at the moment is an Australian native plant called Hardenbergia violacea, or commonly known as the ‘Happy Wanderer’ vine. It is one of my favourite climbers, mainly due to the impressive flower chains it produces at this time of year. With winter being cold and a little gloomy it is always exciting to see some vibrant blooms in the garden!

Hardenbergia violacea is a dense and vigorous growing vine that is commonly used to cover fencing or vertical structures. It has the potential to reach a height of 2-3 meters( 6-10 feet) and has a smaller spread of 1 – 1.5 meters (3-4 feet). They grow best in full sun but can be grown in a semi shaded position. They are an evergreen climber, making them a great option if you are looking for a vine that will not drop its leaves. The foliage is a brilliant green with a glossy texture and prominent veining, making them a great contrast against other plants and textures.

Blooms will start to emerge in winter and will continue to flower until early spring. Pea shaped flowers appear in mass clusters and are a vibrant rich purple colour. White and pink coloured varieties are also available. H. violacea is great for attracting bees into your garden and will help to promote cross pollination amongst your plants. But keep in mind if planted in a semi shaded position they won’t bloom to their full potential. To get the best out of the plant in terms of growth and flowers plant them in a sunny position. They like to be grown in well drained soil and preferably planted in a frost free position (although they can tolerate light frosts).

After they have finished flowering in spring, it is best to give them a prune to encourage compact and healthy growth. Pruning can also help to encourage better blooms in the next flowering season. After pruning, it is always a good idea to feed them with a native slow-release fertiliser. Hardenbergia violacea can make for some brilliant displays and can be used in many different ways in the garden. If you are looking for a climber to go up a pergola, along a fence line, or to make a funky espalier, I highly recommend that you consider this plant!

Just a nice little garden.

By James Wall

My sister and her family have just sold their house, and I have always liked what they have done with their front garden.

Of course they had a little bit of help with landscape design from Carolyn and Joby Blackman of Vivid Design, the people that also did the gold winning Gardener’s Library at this years Melbourne Flower Show.

What I like about this garden is that it takes the principle that many front gardens are not really a living space, but an expression of the people and the house that reside on that block of land. It is also a practical garden, in that there did need to be a function, and that was to get to the side gate. The expression of the stepping stones is similar to the plants – not rigid and formal in its straightness, but almost indiscriminate yet with some sort of order the way it is grouped.

 It is a fun and arty garden, but it is not over the top.

Since the design, the plant palette has of course evolved, as most good gardens do. The hero kangaroo paws were once something else. The clipped english box create the balls of green, and the silver of the wormwood creates structure and colour contrast. The dianaella is the grassy and hardy tufts of green, and the other grassy plant but with soft pink flowers are the also extremely hardy Tulbaghia. The hero for me though, is that creeping thyme. Its wonderful ground hugging effect draws the whole garden together, including the interesting textures of gravel, rock and stepping stone.

A simple but in some ways complicated garden…. I guess that sums up life.

Starting from a design basis from which to build upon has rewarded this garden. It shows the value of good design. 

Gardenworld introductory landscape design service.

Vivid Design website.

Beautiful Bouvardia longiflora humboldtii

First published on The Gardener’s Notebook by Bonnie-Marie Hibbs

Today I thought I would share with you one of my all-time favourite plants, Bouvardia longiflora humboldtii. 

There are many reasons why not only I but many gardeners love this plant in particular. Bouvardia.L. humboldtii is a very attractive plant; it has beautiful lush green leaves that are a great contrast against most other plants. The pure white flowers form in clusters all over the shrub, forming summer – autumn. The main attraction for most people and the main reason why these plants are so popular is the fragrance that is produced when these shrubs are in flower.  Most of the Bouvardia genus originates from North America and South America and are a part of the Rubiaceae family. However, this species of Bouvardia in particular is native to Mexico. Bouvardia .L. humboldtii is a small growing shrub that grows to a maximum height of 1.5 meters and 1 meter wide.

Bouvardia humboldtii can be planted in full sun to semi-shade but requires a sheltered position from strong winds. It can also tolerate small frosts but may get tip burn on the foliage if it’s still young. Once these plants are established they are fairly hardy and resistant against frosts. Make sure to prune your Bouvardia humboldtii at the start of spring to encourage compact healthy growth otherwise prune once they have finished flowering. Feed with a complete ‘all-purpose fertilizer’ such as ‘Uplift’ from Yates in spring when new growth will start to emerge, and feed them once more when the flower buds appear in late spring. Well drained soil is best suited for Bouvardia humboldtii. If you have clay soil, mix some organic compost into the soil as this will help with water retention and loosen up the soil, making it easier for the plant’s roots to grow.

Dwarf Crepe Myrtle looking brilliant.

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs

G’day Everyone,

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Nana’, otherwise known as Dwarf Crepe Myrtle, are looking brilliant at the moment. Lagerstroemia indica ‘Nana’ are great feature plants for small courtyards or gardens. If you have planter pots or a half wine barrel that is looking for a feature plant, consider these.

Crepe myrtles are also available as summer flowering deciduous trees. They also look great in autumn when their foliage display changes from red to orange tones before dropping in mid to late June (start of winter). They can grow in a vast range of conditions and soils, but best prefer a well-drained soil texture. If you are on a heavier soil base, such as clay, just add some humus/compost to the soil and mix it in. The humus/compost will help to improve soil drainage, texture, and will gradually help improve soils that may be anaerobic. Crepe myrtles grow best in a full sun position, but if you don’t have an area that receives all day sun, then a position that gets most of the afternoon sun is best.

These dwarf forms are a compact grower that will grow to a maximum height of 1- 1.5m (3 -6 ft) and a width of 1.5m (4-6 ft). The size of the Lagerstroemia indica ‘Nana’ allows you to grow them in various places around the garden. As I mentioned earlier, they are great plants for smaller patios and can be used in pots. They can also be a great hedge display and could be used in espaliering.

Espaliering is when you train a plant to grow along a flat surface or structure. When espaliering you can influence and control the growth patterns of a plant by making all braches perfectly horizontal and symmetrical. This is an old horticultural art form that is still used in a wide range of gardens today. Espaliering is widely used in smaller gardens because it helps to save space and is quite efficient.

Australian summers can provide odd temperatures that can drastically affect our plants. Crepe myrtles flourish in the Australian heat and are drought tolerant once established. Make sure to water the plant regularly during its first summer after it’s been planted, as this helps to reduce transplantation stock and stress. Continue to do this until the plant is settled and has shown signs of establishing. During the summer months beautiful clusters of flowers will appear. There are a great variety of different colours that are available to choose from in both the normal tree varieties and dwarf forms. Colours include pink, mauve, magenta, white and red. Another great aspect of these shrubs is the beautiful trunk. Depending on the age and species of the Lagerstroemia indica ‘Nana,’ the colouring and bark can vary; sometimes the bark will peel off and reveal a pink/coral coloured trunk.

We currently have a good selection of Lagerstroemia indica ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Crepe myrtle shrubs) available in the nursery in a 20cm pots. We also have a good selection of the larger growing Crepe myrtle trees available. So the next time you are on your way down to our nursery, come and take a look at these spectacular plants.

The hungry little caterpillars

By James Wall

There are times when some of us want to destroy caterpillars. I know those ones on the broccoli in February are really annoying. There is however a couple of nurserymen who love caterpillars on their plants. In fact they grow them especially to feed the caterpillars. This is what I discovered behind the scenes at the Melbourne Zoo. It is all part of the butterfly enclosure and its ongoing breeding cycle that takes place so we can enjoy these wondrous creatures everyday of the year.

Host plant for butterfly to lay eggs on

What you need to do as a butterfly plant grower at the zoo, is reproduce the 6 or 7 different plants, each one for the 6 or 7 different varieties of butterflies bred. You see they are very fussy and each type of butterfly will only lay their eggs on a particular plant. If the butterfly is a tropical variety, then the plant needs to be a tropical plant, meaning growing it in a greenhouse for many months of the year here in Melbourne. Now it is no good having one big batch of plants ready at once. You need to have some ready for the butterflies, some half ready, and some freshly cut back so they will be ready in a couple of months time. No plants ready equals no butterflies, so the pressure is always on, especially in winter. It’s a bit like growing lettuce all year round in your vegetable garden. You don’t plant a whole lot at once. Eight plants every second week and you will have lettuce all year round.

Some butterflies like poisonous plants like oleander. Apparently the caterpillar themselves will contain some of these toxins, and can make a predator that eats them very sick. They will think twice before eating that same colour caterpillar again. Its sort of weird how this one being eaten now, will save one of his mates in the future.

well chewed lemon

One of the plants grown is the common old Lisbon Lemon. This is used to reproduce the Orchard Butterfly, its caterpillar pictured above. It’s not the most spectacular butterfly, but of course the spectacular butterflies eat the much harder plants to grow. Of course a lemon tree chomped like the one pictured  actually means a job well done.

Plants are placed in the main enclosure which is at a beautiful temperature if you like a 28 degree average. Once the eggs are laid, the plant is taken into another enclosure where caterpillars hatch and begin to eat the host plant. The caterpillar then forms a pupa or chrysalis which is like a cacoon inside which it forms into a buttefly. Often in the wild, this pupa is well camouflaged. At this chrysalis stage they are removed from the plant and hung in their own little box made of insect screen walls so as to protect them from potential predators like rats.

They are then released into the main butterfly enclosure and as we saw, midweek mums with prams, toddlers and lattes emerge in large flocks, all enjoying the magnificence of the beautiful butterflies.  For me there was the extra appreciation, as before this day, I had never considered the laborious horticultural process that helped make the butterflies grow. Each butterfly only lives for about a month, But their life cycle goes on and on forever.

big juicy and happy caterpillar

Chrysalis stage

Protective screened area where butterfly hatches

Orchard butterfly that enjoys lemon tree

LINKS:

TEN STEPS TO A BUTTERFLY GARDEN

BUTTERFLIES OF THE MELBOURNE AREA AND THEIR FOOD PLANTS

Slightly broken butterfly on slightly broken palm leaf

Thermometer showing min max temps in butterfly house

Protea in vogue

Fresh into the Nursery this week and something to brighten your winter garden are these stunning plants from one of Australia’s leading production nurseries and protea specialists for more than 30years, Proteaflora. 

Proteas and other members of the proteaceae family are making a big come back after many years of neglect, mostly due to poor landscape placement and design style.  

There are so many new and fabulous species to choose from now that they lend themselves to many different landscape design applications.  

This Leucadendron salignum ‘Red Devil’ is a compact shrub only growing to 1.5m high and 1m wide.  The seasonal colour variation from Red Devil is at its best in winter as you can see.

Red Devil

Another member of the same group of plants is the lesser known, but just as stunning, Serruria florida ‘Blushing Bride’ and ‘Pretty n Pink’.  These dainty long lasting flowers make for beautiful potted specimens and would compliment the cutest of cottage gardens,  something you would previously not have thought a place for any Proteaceae species.  

Pretty-n-Pink

Some other new comers to the Nursery are the Mimetes ‘Crackerjack Red’.  These are in full bloom at the moment, showcasing an unusual white fluffy bell shaped flower.

Crackerjack

We have great supply of the Aulax ‘Bronze Haze’ that was a show stopper in the feature gardens at Melbourne Flower Show earlier this year.  Protea ‘Little Prince’ in a range of different sizes and the larger stock is in full bud, just waiting to burst open and show off its large stately blooms. 

Later to come once the warmer weather is upon us will be the Leucospermums and the iconic Waratahs. 

Gardenworld recommend you follow these 6 easy steps for growing Proteas:

1- Full Sun: Most types will benefit from a warm North facing position with the expection being some Waratahs.

2- Low Water: After an initial 18 months or so of establishment, your proteas will require little watering, mostly light summer watering but little to no winter waterings.

3- Frost Tolerant: While needing slight protection while young, all varieties will tolerate light frosts down to -1, which is great for melbourne conditions.

4- Well Drained Soils: proteas need well drained Acidic soils to thrive. When planting in heavier soils, add a little gypsum to the soil and mound your planting area to create height and aid in drainage.

5- Low to No Fertilizer: When planting in the garden, Proteas would benefit from a once a year application of a slow release feed, however most wont mind going without. When grown in containers, use a Native potting mix and add a Native slow release once a year also.

6- Pruning: From a young age to keep a good shape, cut all flowers and prune to desired shape immediately after flowering.

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