Climate change and seed collecting – is local still best?

How plants will cope in a changing climate makes for disturbing reading.  The answer, in short, is not very well at all.  While plant breeders and government scientists have been selecting plants with traits that favour a shifting climate for years (eg. new succulent hybrids and drought-resilient wheat varieties), our local, indigenous flora and revegetated areas don’t have the same luxury.  The idea that local plants suit the local environment has been central to bushland management and indigenous gardening for decades, but in the face of a changing climate, holding onto this idea could do far more harm than good to our beloved local plants. 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

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

Taking a chance on Eremophilas

Eremophilas can be marvellous plants in the garden, but their reliability in a variety of soils and climates is still being established by their many devoted growers. As so many eremophilas have been only recently collected from the wild and introduced into our gardens, they are still a work in progress as garden plants. Continue reading

Stopping to smell the stink

Flower scent is an evocative modality in gardens, often just as important as colour and texture. The smell of roses gave rise to a popular saying that reminds us to look closer and appreciate the beauty around us every minute of every day. There are so many plants loved for their scent that it’s impossible to list them all in a blog. Violets are perhaps one of my all-time favourites, followed closely by asiatic lilies. I don’t care much for roses but their scent can waft far from where their roots are in the ground. Continue reading

The Hawaiian lei that wasn’t

Every morning at around 9.30am at our beautiful Waikiki hotel, a large white box would arrive and be secreted beside the valet and entry area. I loved this box, as I knew inside were hundreds of fresh dendrobium orchid leis which would be placed around the necks of weary but smiling guests of the hotel. Continue reading

Berber home and garden, Morocco

East of Marrakech, over Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains, a desert landscape riddled with spectacular gorges and valleys presides. At the time of my visit in November, snow-capped peaks rendered this ancient land of Berbers even more panoramic. In their pink and red-hued villages, built so clearly from the earth right there, dwell a truly hospitable people. I had the good fortune to visit the home and garden of one Berber family. Continue reading

Giving two rooms their view

It rains a lot in the west of Scotland. It’s often too soggy to be out in the garden, so it’s important to have something attractive to look at from inside the house. We spend most of our indoor time in our kitchen and adjoining living room/dining room, which are both west-facing. 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