James Beattie

About James Beattie

James is a horticulturist based in Melbourne, Victoria. He has worked in garden design, bushland management and garden coaching. He is currently a horticultural researcher for ABC TV's Gardening Australia.

Walking in Victoria’s High Country

Garden lovers are nature lovers and one of my favourite pastimes is packing my rucksack and saying goodbye to reality before taking off into the Australian bush on my own for a few days of walking. Midsummer is not a typically popular time for bushwalking in Australia. Summers regularly reach a windy 40 degrees celsius, and avoiding remote bushland on such days is as much about avoiding chafing thighs as it is an act of self preservation. Continue reading

The difference a year or two makes in the garden

It’s often said that when planting perennials, the first year they sleep and the second year they creep. How true this is, and a great account of the establishment of my front garden. I’ve written about it previously here on GardenDrum. After one or two false starts a couple of summers ago I decided to throw caution to the wind, renovating and planting out in early summer. After nursing the plants through their first traumatic summer, their second was thankfully mild, which has put them in good stead for this summer’s traumatic but typically Melbourne roller-coaster-like temperature fluctuations. Continue reading

Cultivating an interest

“So, what did you enjoy most?” I asked my 12-year-old nephew as I drove him to the airport for his flight home. He’d been with us for 10 days on his own (which, I guess, is a long time for a little person), and hanging out with his horticultural uncle meant pretty much everything we did had at least something to do with plants. We camped at Wilson’s Promontory for a week of hiking, looking at plants, swimming, Frisbee and general relaxation. We had a trip to Ballarat to have a look about. We planted some things in the veggie patch at home and sowed seed, all of which he did with a thinly veiled boredom typical of a child on the cusp of adolescence. Throughout the trip I wanted to try and cultivate an interest in plants in him – to plant a seed, as it were – and here is a list of stuff that worked as well as stuff that didn’t. Continue reading

How to lay a recycled concrete path

When it comes to landscaping, costs can often quickly spiral out of control. By the time hard landscape elements like paving, retaining walls and fencing are built, figures can run into the thousands well before the first plant goes in the ground. I’ve had a lacklustre front yard for almost three years now, and despite previous attempt to spruce it up a bit, one thing continued to stymie my efforts – a distinct lack of time. Continue reading

Growing seedlings in a self-watering pot

We’re on the verge of spring in here in Melbourne, and us gardeners are always looking for ways to increase our chances of success, be it in growing fussy plants, having the tallest sunflowers or the biggest tomatoes. Each of these things start with a single seed. Sowing seed and getting it to germinate are easy enough, but from there on the battle to keep them growing at full pace, with the right amounts of water, nutrients and light begins. When I first started growing from seed my early attempts were dismal and overcome only with a certain level of mollycoddling that I found trying. Continue reading

Plants for a south-facing garden

Like small, burrowing native animals, my urge to dig in the winter is one I just can’t ignore. There’s an enthusiasm I have for undertaking the more heavy garden work in the cold that just isn’t there in the summer. In the height of summer I rarely do anything other than maintain, but in the cold weather I’m very much open to suggestion. Continue reading

Making muck

I recently finished an excellent book entitled, Resurrection in a Bucket: the Rich and Fertile Story of Compost, by Margaret Simons. It’s a light-hearted journey through the biological processes and social history of compost. I highly recommend it! Its arrival on my study desk was timely because I’ve been busy building large compost piles in preparation for reclaiming large areas of driveway for growing plants. By winter’s end I should have half a dozen large piles of compost ready for building up my existing soil. Continue reading

Australian Garden – Stage 2. Hmmm….

Late last year the Royal Botanic Gardens here in Victoria opened the second stage of their much-lauded Australian Garden in Cranbourne. Until now I have been busy finishing up jobs before beginning anew, but I finally made time to go and see the second stage of the garden last weekend. Continue reading

Gardening with dogs

I have been both a gardener and a dog owner for the best part of a decade and up until recently these two aspects of my life coexisted peacefully, bar the odd indiscretion by India, my eldest Rhodesian ridgeback. Continue reading

Wilpena Pound

Over three hundred kilometres north of Adelaide in South Australia looms a mountain range with breathtaking natural beauty on a grand scale. As I sit here penning this blog to the sounds of the bird life around me, with glimpses of red rocky outcrops through the trees, I am ashamed to say that like most Australians I had no idea this place existed up until a couple of months ago. Continue reading


As the days of winter gradually grow longer and the narcissus begins to flower, gardeners know that spring is not far away. Daffodils seem to have an extraordinary meteorological ability to influence the temperature, casting off winter’s stony greys with warm yellows that leave their admirers feeling decidedly peppy. Continue reading

Epacris impressa – a history

The year 1958 is remembered for many significant events and milestones. Elvis joined the army. De Gaulle, bearing a more than passing resemblance to Peter Sellers, became presidential founder of the Fifth Republic of France. A child prodigy, Bobby Fischer, became the US world chess champion. In the antipodes the state of Victoria, by way of official parliamentary decree and with the blessing of one Henry Bolte, Premier, the pink form of the common heath (Epacris impressa), was adopted as the official emblem of the state. Continue reading