My front garden

In my large garden in the Clare Valley, South Australia, I had great difficulty finding indigenous plants that would suit the high phosphorus limestone soil prevalent throughout this garden. The winter frosts, extreme summer temperatures and high evaporation made plant selection very difficult indeed. Continue reading

Peruvian Roadsides

A few years ago, as part of the Heliconia Society International Conference, I went to Peru. I went a couple of weeks earlier with some friends, and we hired a car and driver to go to look at some of the jungle areas to the south east of Peru, along the Madre de Dios River. This is very rugged country, and the road in was dirt, or rather rubble, which had just recently been opened after the wet season rains. Continue reading

The joys of the summer garden

I love this time of year – not only is the weather conducive to all those fun outdoor activities that we miss in the long Tasmanian winters, but the garden is full of fantastic summer perennials. Spring is hard to beat with its bulbs and woodland treasures, and in early summer the scent of roses is overwhelming, but in mid-summer the variety of both foliage and flower is impressive. Continue reading


One of the biggest gardening challenges for any owner of a new, bare block, is mulch. Established gardens generate mulch as leaves and twigs, or weeds and prunings that you pile in a heap or in the chicken run to let the ladies do their work. If you don’t have chooks, compost bins are great for kitchen scraps, though the mulch they generate is often high in nutrients and low in volume: more like fertiliser than mulch. Continue reading

Red flowering gum

The red flowering gum, Corymbia ficifolia (formerly Eucalyptus ficifolia) is one of those trees that really grabs your attention when it’s in full flower, like very few other flowering trees can, perhaps with the exception of the jacaranda or the Illawarra flame tree. Continue reading

Phil’s tips for diseases

January to March is traditionally hot and wet in the subtropics, which means just one thing… plant disease. That doesn’t mean everything’s going to cark it folks… some plants, especially the true tropicals like heliconias love this hot steamy weather. It’s the borderline things that tend to suffer, plants that prefer a milder, drier heat and are more suited to Mediterranean or temperate climates. Continue reading

Designing plant pictures

When you see a great garden, you’ll usually find that it combines well-proportioned spaces for you to be in, with good plant pictures. By that I mean putting plants together using the same techniques that an artist uses to make an appealing picture – foreground and background, Continue reading

Failing trees

According to the ISA Arborists’ Certification Study Guide, girdling roots are ‘roots that grow around or across the stem of other roots. As the trunk and roots increase in diameter, these roots may begin to choke or girdle the tree. …The compressed stem weakens the tree and leaves it more prone to failure.’ Continue reading

Save the planet

If you are a gardener like me, half the fun is growing your own plants from cuttings or seed, and usually your shadehouse is full of little pots with a piece of this or that, or a few seeds, scrounged from other gardens, parks, or purchased on the internet. I don’t kid myself that I am going to remember in a few weeks time what that new little shoot poking up might be, so I have learned to religiously label everything, which brings me to my point. Continue reading

Corkscrew carrots

Never heard of corkscrew carrots? Really? Well just take a look at the carrots I’ve been growing lately. Of course they are nothing special; they are actually the result of some bad advice … and who hasn’t had that at one time or another. Continue reading