The extraordinary giant water lily, Victoria amazonica

While visiting Mauritius I came across this pond filled with one of the world’s most extraordinary plants, the giant water lily Victoria amazonica. As the name suggests, it comes from the Amazon valley in northern Bolivia and Brazil and has floating leaves that grow up to a huge 2.5m (8 feet) in diameter and can support up to 55kg (120lb) in weight if it’s spread evenly across the leaf. Continue reading

Ninfa – is it worth all the superlatives?

It was at a meeting of heritage rose lovers that I first heard about Ninfa, a romantic, rambling, Italian garden built in the ruins of a medieval town. People spoke of it in reverential terms and my interest was piqued by their idyllic description – old roses and vines cascading from ruined towers and trees, scrambling along crumbling archways and overhanging crystal clear streams. Continue reading

What’s eating my lilly pilly?

All down the east coast of Australia, gardeners with lilly pilly hedges have been noticing lots of chewed and damaged foliage. While it used to be pimple psyllid that most affected lilly pillies, causing those ugly pimply bumps all over the leaves followed by lots of sooty mould, there’s now a relatively new insect pest that’s doing as much, if not more, damage on Syzygium australe and its cultivars – a native green leaf-eating beetle called Paropsides calypso**. Continue reading

Amsterdam’s secret: an enchanted forest and gardens

For a lifelong cyclist Amsterdam is heaven – once you get your bearings that is.  That skew-whiff grid of canals is totally bamboozling at first. The initial 24 hours completely did my head in. Utterly lost. Embarrassing for someone who prides himself on being able to find his way around. Since then however, the cycling has been sublime. Continue reading