How to choose, clean and sharpen your secateurs

Secateurs are one of your most important gardening tools and will get used most times you go out into the garden. Thats why, if you’re a new gardener, you should invest in a good pair. Most long-time gardeners have a favourite pair they’ve been using for years but tragedy can strike and those long-loved secateurs are lost or damaged. Here’s a handy three part guide about how you should choose, clean and sharpen your secateurs. Continue reading

Reuse and transplant for an instant new garden

Transplanting exisiting plants is a great way to make an instant garden and it’s a natural part of the reuse and recycle approach that I bring to all my garden designs. In this garden there were several overgrown evergreen foundation plants at the front door that could have been consigned to the compost pile as they needed to be removed to make way for a new house extension. But by transplanting them elsewhere in the garden I could create structure and enclosure Continue reading

Hydrangea – surprisingly mostly white!

Hydrangeas are a well-known and commonly grown plant, but many people will be surprised at the different varieties that exist and are less well known. Although I will certainly mention the tried-and-true mop tops, I will also try to enlighten you about the other fascinating members of the Hydrangeaceae family, and the fact that most of them flower only white! Continue reading

Floods sweep away our garden

My husband and I live in the upper Tweed Valley, northern New South Wales on 5 acres. A major creek traverses our property. For the past 8 years we have regenerated our creek banks with native vegetation and landscaped and planted a mix of exotics and natives in our house yard garden, making around 2 acres in total that we maintain. Continue reading

Australian gardening inspiration from South Africa

To me, the essence of Australia is deep blue skies stretching as far as the eye can see; rich red soils bearing dry, oxidized iron; the distinctive blue-green foliage of Eucalyptus set amongst twisting, mottled-grey limbs; perhaps a small family of roos tucking into soft, long grass in its dappled shade. Nowhere else on earth will you come across a scene like this. Continue reading

He’s bloomin’ 90!

There must have been something in the water in 1927. It was a year that bred long-lived gardeners no matter where they were born. April 1 was garden icon Peter Cundall’s 90th birthday. Later in the year will see other leading Australian gardeners turn 90: my own mother, Shirley Stackhouse; mycologist, author and botanical expert Dr Peter Valder; and Ben Swane, nurseryman, rose grower and gardening expert. And, there are probably many others. Continue reading

How to inspire ‘millennials’ to garden

As Baby Boomers continue to retire and downsize, a new generation of gardeners – the much-maligned Millennials – is poised to pick up where the Boomers have left off. They’re ready and able to grab a shovel, to grow their own food, and to decorate their own spaces – be it a backyard garden in the burbs’ or a studio apartment in the city – with funky and functional plants.  They just don’t know it yet. Continue reading

Book Review: Good Soil by Tina Råman

I think I can safely say that Good Soil is the only book I possess that has both ‘Pee‘ and ‘Poo‘ as chapter headings. Those chapter headings give you a clue to what sort of book this is: mostly, it is about how to nourish the soil with the macro- and micronutrients plants need to thrive (many of which abound in pee and poo), and it takes a chatty, no-nonsense approach to the subject. Continue reading

Extending the harvest (or avoiding the glut!)

Prolific vegetables – such as zucchini – produce more fruit each season than you know what to do with, but others bear for a short time only. Successive planting of vegetable crops is a reliable way of spreading the harvest through the season, but other tricks are less well-known. Read on for practical tips if, like me, you don’t religiously sow a line of seed every three weeks! Continue reading

Take the ancient Silk Road to a 2,500-year old garden

Nowhere but Iran can you walk among the ruins of a garden created more than 2,500 years ago. Nowhere else on earth can you find an entire suite of nine UNESCO World Heritage Persian Gardens. And nowhere else has one guiding principle of garden design not only persisted for more than two millennia, but also inspired and influenced the creation of the Mughal and other great gardens of the world. Continue reading

Choosing plants for subtropical hedges

When a friend was recently telling me all about her parterre garden in Armidale I was somewhat horrified for her, until she kindly pointed out what a very different climate Armidale is to where I am in Brisbane. I have never really enjoyed the look of those amazing parterre gardens, mazes and formal hedges of the grand European gardens. I am a professional gardener and they always bring to mind endless hours of hedge trimming resulting in aching arms and backs!!!! Continue reading

Book review – Planting Dreams: Shaping Australian Gardens

“A garden should be just a little too big to keep the whole cultivated. Then it gives it a chance to go a little wild in spots”.

Edna Walling’s charming observation, featured on the back cover of Richard Aitken’s Planting Dreams: Shaping Australian Gardens is a fitting analogy for the scope of this handsome new book, published to coincide with the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney’s 200th birthday celebrations. Not that Aitken’s book focusses particularly on the RBGS. In fact it’s somewhat challenging to pin down the purpose of this intriguing work. Continue reading