From Alison Aplin: The one factor that would resolve all of your issues is to work on the plant suitability first. You need to determine what type of soil you have i.e. the pH plus the topsoil and most importantly the subsoil. Also drainage issues need to be looked at – is the planting area at the bottom of a slope or in planter boxes for example.
The wisest choice for plant selection would be to grow what is locally indigenous to your area, but gardeners don’t always want to be ‘wise’. Many of us like to experiment with different plants that may not necessarily be suited to our area.
So the pH of the soil and the subsoil in particular are important to plant selection. Have a look at what other people are growing in their gardens nearby. A great way of meeting people is to ask them about their gardens – if you like something that they have growing, maybe ask them what it is. Most gardeners are willing to share their knowledge with others – we are a very friendly breed!
Pest control will come naturally. If you plan your garden with a mixture of different plants then nature will take over. There will be no need to spray for anything. Once you start spraying, it is very difficult to stop because each time you spray you kill the natural predators as well. So no spraying from the outset – it works.
Many indigenous plants will manage without fertilisation. Many of the coastal soils of Victoria are lacking in potash but this does not mean that the soil of your site is the same. The past history of the site may help determine how fertile your site is.
Regular composting is a good, natural way of adding nutrients to the soil. Slow release fertlisers specific to natives are good as are organic fertilisers for exotic type plants. Follow the recommendations on the labels.
A word of caution from personal experience; if you are a beginner gardener, my advice for those wishing to plant annuals is to keep them in pots. I have collections of pots around my home with colour coordinated annuals in them, especially for winter colour. It is so much easier to manage them this way. Surprisingly annuals get fairly large root systems so the pots need to be on the larger side with good depth to them [at least 30cm x 30cm]. My preference also is for terracotta because this is a natural product and is not trendy so will last – it is a more classic look but still works well with modern.
From Helen McKerral
Well, there’s never enough for tragics like us, is there? But I take inspiration from this website http://www.flylady.net/d/new-links/, which I used to transform my own home many years ago. I guess the idea is that just 15 minutes every day adds up to a lot of time over a week, and that you can get a lot done in 15mins. You don’t need to spend hours at once – a little bit, often, brings results cumulatively, in the garden OR the home! Prioritising seasonally helps too, and gardening magazines and websites like this one give you an idea of what jobs need doing throughout the year. Of course, that also depends on your own garden. For example, right now, I’m focusing on planting deciduous tree in a brand new garden. Later in winter I’ll be weeding, followed by planting the evergreen fruit trees once the soil has warmed up in spring. After that, vegies. Many vegies could go in earlier but, in my garden, at this time, I have to prioritise the most urgent things. Next year, I’ll have the time to put in more vegies.
From Catherine Stewart – I once heard the late, great, Sydney gardener & author Valerie Swane say “The best time to do anything in the garden is when you think of it”. That lady knew what she was talking about. Don’t worry if it’s the ‘right time’ to prune, weed, whatever, just do it. To take advantage of that sudden urge, I’d recommend you keep a small bucket (like an old fertiliser tub) or plastic container of tools near your back &/or front door with gloves, trowel, weeder, secateurs, an old cotton apron & some slip-on canvas shoes. Then you can duck out quickly & get 5 minutes of productive gardening time before the rest of the family hunts you down.
I love my garden that I have established over 20 years but now I am disabled and I have difficulty caring for it as I would wish but I do not want to leave it (Elaine, Adelaide)
From Helen McKerral: Have you thought about Landshare?
From Catherine Stewart: Yes – Landshare Australia has several people looking for gardening space in Adelaide. It’s a community network that matches up those who want to garden but don’t have any land, with those that have land but are unable or unwilling to garden it. Many in apartments would love to grow their own vegies and fruit and will willingly barter some of their produce for use of your land. Look at the Landshare Australia website, put in your location, and see who’s looking for a garden in your area. If you sign up (it’s free), you can put your landshare offer on their website & no doubt someone will contact you soon!
Answer from: Catherine Stewart
I’ll assume you mean summer sun but then winter shade, as the sun is rising and setting further to the north in winter. My post Designing Plant Pictures features plants outside my front door that get full summer west and south-western sun but hardly any in winter. Winter deciduous and herbaceous plants (like dahlias) will usually manage well as they’re dormant through that low-sun period anyway. Evergreen plants that cope with these conditions in my Sydney garden are Philodendron ‘Xanadu’, Helichrysum petiolare, native mint bush (Prostanthera ovalifolia), sasanqua camellia, ivy-leafed pelargonium, lilly pillies (both Acmena and Syzygium), Liriope cultivars, native daisy (Brachyscome), blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus), some shrub begonias like Begonia acutifolia and Begonia fuchsioides, bay tree, Gymea lily, and the gorgeous lemon myrtle Backhousia citriodora.
From Catherine – Hi Rashel – I have found 2 wholesale nurseries in California which have Pyrostegia venuta in their catalogue. They should be able to tell which retail nurseries will stock or order it for you. Note that some nurseries still call it by its old botanical name of Pyrostegia venusta. Try Ponto & Sons (800) 300-6003 or San Marcos Growers in Santa Barbara (800) 438-7199 email@example.com
From Catherine: There are usually many more male flowers on cucumbers than females in most varieties (about 10:1), and the male flowers form first for perhaps 7-10 days before the female flowers appear. My research finds that, anecdotally at least, cucumber growers say their plants won’t produce female flowers if they’re too well watered or there’s been lots of rain.
From Catherine: Paul Plant, well-known Qld sub-tropical gardening specialist, says this is most likely caused by poor drainage. During a wet spell, the ants will bring clay particles up to the surface and create mounds to get above the soggy ground. You can either try and solve your drainage issues with an ag-line drain cut into the water table above the boggy area, or by building up your garden beds.
From Helen McKerral: And our winters are SO damp, aren’t they, and our summers SO hot and dry? On the south side of my house, I planted deciduous plants that are dormant in winter anyway, and then relish the hot sun in summer. Might deciduous ornamentals/fruit trees be an option for you? Or plants that do the opposite, like hellebores – love the shady conditions and flower in winter, then go dormant during the heat of summer.
From Alison Aplin – Scale is the most critical consideration for small gardens. But don’t be afraid of using one or 2 larger plants – don’t keep everything small otherwise it will look like Lilliput’s garden. Use at least one tree for summer shade which will help to insulate the home. Add some local natives e.g. native grasses because these will help to provide that sense of place, this really works – it makes an enormous difference even with an ‘English’ style garden [which is really just a collection of plants from around the world].
From Alison Aplin - Trees are essential in any garden, especially in Adelaide. The options that I would consider would be either a mallee eucalypt or Drooping Sheoak. Plant off centre for greater visual impact and underplant with numerous native grasses and other similarly hardy small to medium shrubs. For really professional advice and great native plants State Flora in Belair National Park is a must visit. They have an enormous selection to choose from and plants come in either tubes or larger sizes.
From Helen McKerral - Very do-able. Without more detail it’s impossible to recommend specific plants but the key is to choose plants that are adapted to a high pH – avoid anything that says “acid soils”, look for “tolerates limestone/alkaline soils”. Buy your plants at a local plant nursery with trained staff who know whether the plant will grow in your location (for example, much of the Adelaide Hills and Adelaide Plains have completely different soils and growing conditions) rather than a hardware store or national chain, because the latter often sell natives that thrive in the eastern states but which aren’t suited to Adelaide soils.
From Alison Aplin – You need to ask the questions – what are the conditions of my property i.e. soil, wind exposure, drainage etc, which side of the home is the tree to go, which is relevant to determine whether a deciduous or evergreen would be better, how big is the area to allow for room for the canopy? There is no 1 tree that fits all sites. Trees are critical to our climate, but need consideration with selection. Offer a few more clue and then we can help you Anna of Melbourne.
From Anne Latreille - Malus spectabilis (non-fruiting crab apple) does a good job for me. The growth is spreading and it is not too hard to prune. However you need to prune up early on to make sure you have a good tall trunk so the cars and bikes and people can get underneath. The blossoms don’t last long but they are gorgeous, it provides decent (but not heavy) shade through summer, and the autumn leaves do well in compost.
From Anne Latreille – Search out a copy of Louis Glowinski’s great book ‘The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia’ and carefully read pages 8-12. The six short principles of pruning on page 11 are pure gold (and can also be applied to roses). There’s a 3-hour pruning course offered at Victoria University, Footscray (http://www.vu.edu.au/) You just missed the very good annual day-long session at Burnley College ….always mid-July, pencil it in for next year. Ornamental grape vines – haven’t a clue!
From Helen McKerral - The Flemings website has a guide which is very helpful. Join a local garden club, especially one that specialises in edible gardens - there will plenty of experienced gardeners there who will help you learn.
From Matthew Popplewell – I used blood and bone on my nursery in Auckland to deter rabbits. When sprinkled around the plants, they tend to stay away. Of course there’s the added bonus of a feed for the plants too!! But only truly effective as a feed in higher temps.
Trying to fit as many fruit trees into my backyard as possible without compromising room for the kids to play. My idea, Tatura trellis + duo-planting trees. Also setting up my own hydroponics system on the sunny side of the garage. (Daniel)
From Marcelle Nankervis -
Tip 1. Try multi-grafted trees like the fruit salad tree company sell or the Flemings Trixzie range of small fruit trees inc Dwarf Nectarine, Apple, Pear and Peach Trees. Also included are multi graft dwarf fruit trees..
Tip 2. Plant them as a hedge or screen, still allowing plenty of room for kids to run around .. of course a couple of big fruit/nut trees can also be great to climb!
Tip 3. Some fruit trees, such as citrus, olives, will also do well as espaliers (trained on a trellis) flat against a suitable north facing wall
From Helen McKerral - Yes, trellis and duoplanting are options, as are other forms of espalier and multigrafts. Remember that many fruit trees (eg dwarf citrus) thrive in pots, so can go onto patios or paved surfaces. Don’t overlook fences, walls, pergolas and verandahs for fruiting climbers such as passionfruit, kiwifruit and grapes. Join your local Rare Fruit Society and learn how to bud multiple varieties onto one.
From scratch, create a self sufficient edible and decorative garden on several acres. (Olive, Alexandra)
From Marcelle Nankervis – this is exactly what my next book is about! It’s due out in October/November, so watch out for a publishing date in GardenDrum News.
From Helen McKerral - Not sure where you are, but may I humbly suggest my blog “From Scratch”, which steps through the process of designing and creating a pretty and productive garden. Read it from the first entry. My blog isn’t full of pretty pictures (yet – it’s all still at the “before” stage!), but is aimed as practical and hands-on so that you can take ideas and apply them to your own situation. I don’t have an acreage, but it will actually be easier for you to establish and plan a garden with a separate orchard (perhaps linked to your chook run) and vegie patch, without having to espalier and squash things into a limited space. Sister blogger Marcelle Nankervis has a small acreage that she’s developing into a sustainable patch, so she’ll have worthwhile information as well. And remember that you can get valuable knowledge from other gardeners, like Phil Dudman, growing edible things in suburban spaces – the principles are the same, you just have lots more space and flexibility! I’m envious!
One hint: with an acreage, it’s important not to bite off a bigger area than you can chew. You may wish to plan your orchard, and lay out the irrigation, but plant a few trees each year, rather than all of them at once (even if you can afford to!) so you can learn about fertilising, pruning and maintenance as you go (for example, start with two apples and two pears, then next year add a few citrus, then a few stone fruit, then bramblefruit etc so you learn about each _group’s_ requirements). Similarly, if you’re new to gardening, plan the overall garden so you have a rough idea of what you want where, but don’t try to do it all, with all the detail, at once. For example, start off with three 5m long vegetable beds, rather than six ten metre long ones. You’ll be much more successful managing a small area well, than a large area poorly.
Spend time preparing the soil and weed control around the house and in your three small beds – you’ll have plenty of ideasfor everywhere else as you do.
Develop a strong relationship with the staff at your local nursery. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice about fertilising, pruning, and which fruit trees grow best in your area (specialist LOCAL fruit tree nurseries are ideal for buying plants that are, let’s face it, quite expensive – you will definitely want them to succeed!).
Most importantly, think about what you want to do, draw a rough plan, get advice… but don’t be afraid to just make a start after that. You’ll make mistakes but, with plants, you’ll have time to correct them! Good luck!
Passionfruit not fruiting, but it is flowering…….then nothing. We water every day, have put on liquid fertiliser and dynamic lifter fortnight about. We have growth but that is it. The flowers just seem to drop off, some flower some do not. We need success, can you help. Please. (Carol, Katherine, NT)
Well, Carol, the collective Gardendrum Brains Trust has got very involved with this one!
From Anne Latreille - Poor pollination and irregular water seems to be frequently the reason for poor fruit set. If the flower is not fertilised it will fall off anyway – try planting more flowering plants around to attract the bees.
From Jennifer Stackhouse – You probably needs cross pollination to get fruit. Many of the varieties grown in the tropics need pollinators.
From Alison Aplin - Maybe if you reduced your watering to once per week, a deep soaking would prove better. The plant could be getting overwatered. Also the addition of Sulphate of Potash could help the flowers set. If the vine is young, then the vigour needs to settle down before the plant becomes really productive.
From Matt Popplewell – Many cultivars of Passiflora struggle to fertilise without physical human intervention. During the peak heat of the day when the flower is most open, aid pollination with the use of a small paint brush and transfer pollen.
From Helen McKerral- Could be too much nitrogen & not enough potassium, but do you have plenty of bees in your garden? Try hand-pollinating – grab a couple anthers off one older flower and wipe them against the stigma of newer flowers. May also be a fungal problem causing the flowers to drop. Watering daily is excessive – less often and more deeply is better, say once a week, but slowly using drippers so the water goes deep, rather than a quick daily sprinkle that just wets the surface.
From Marianne Cannon - Passionfruit flowers last a few days and will drop off if not pollinated. If this is a major problem, hand pollinating the flowers mid-morning is an option. Just use a small brush and transfer the pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigma of another. The stigma is the bit that sticks out the most on each flower, the anther is usually lower down and there’s more of them. The other reason for flower drop is lack of water. Is the water getting down to the roots? Is so, put a layer of mulch around the plant so that it doesn’t dry out during the day.
From Adam Woodhams - A few possible thing spring to mind…excess nitrogen in the fertiliser leading to leaf growth at the cost of fruit formation – use a balanced controlled release fertiliser for fruiting plants not a general purpose like Dynamic Lifter. Passionfruit don’t like wet feet. There may be a possibility that in this case it’s being overwatered? Passionfruit become increasingly non-productive & should be replaced after about 5 years. Not enough sun?
From Catherine Stewart – my research finds that Australian native yellow & black carpenter bees are a useful pollinator of passionfruit in tropical WA. You can find out more about carpenter bees here
I am having a lot of trouble removing onion weed from my garden. Can you please suggest the most effective method? (Chris, Sydney)
Answer from Catherine: Oh dear, you’ve hit on the most pernicious and resistant weed I’ve ever come across! I’ve tried pretty much everything over the years – herbicide, boiling water, oil, smothering with weed mat and mulch and hand digging, and I’m sorry to say I haven’t got an easy answer for you. Onion weed reproduces both from seed and also from bulbils that become detached from the mother bulb. It favours moist, often shady sites and grows and flowers from autumn to spring. First up, you must never let it flower, which will reduce its spread to other parts of the garden. Every time you see a flower stalk, break it off. I’ve had little success with herbicides – it seems to knock them down for a while and then they come back as strong as ever. I think that the only long-term solution is persistent hand removal which will take a few years. Dig up the bulbs, removing a lot of the surrounding soil to make sure you get the tiny bulbils which inevitably break off. Some are white & you can spot them in the soil, but others are brown & well-disguised. I have read that they tend to not break off so easily in spring, but I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed a difference and, if the onion weed is in among other plants, this is pretty impossible. The following year the bulbils you missed will re-grow. Don’t attack them at once as they will break off too easily. Let them grow for several weeks and then dig them up. I use an old slot-head screw driver. You will no doubt need to repeat this process for a third year.
Also think about whether you can change the growing conditions where they are, like letting in more sunlight and reducing the soil moisture. In a couple of areas where I decided to give up, I’ve planted other strap-leafed plants like agapanthus, liriope, mondo, dianella and lomandra, thinking that disguise was an easier option. In several places they have out-competed the onion weed which has disappeared, I think also as the extra plants reduced the available soil moisture.
I live on a suburban block in north-west Sydney, & have a courtyard which faces west. About ten years ago I planted a row of ‘Skyrocket’ junipers, (about 20 @ 400mm centres), which would serve to block views of the neighbour’s 2-storey house & give some protection from the summer sun in the afternoons. The plants grew fairly well until we installed a pergola over the courtyard to give us more protection during our hot summer days. The problem that arose was that the junipers lost much of the daily sunlight they were used to & as a result all the foliage below the roofline of the pergola became very sparse & unattractive. I’m at the point where I feel that ripping them out & planting something else as part of a general courtyard makeover may be the only viable solution. Do you have any tips on suitable replacement plant material which could do a better job of maintaining its foliage down to ground level in these lower than normal light conditions? Alternatively can you supply me with a list of garden designers who could offer me onsite advice regarding my problem? Tony
Answer from Catherine Stewart: You are quite right in assuming that your Skyrocket junipers will not recover from the loss of direct sunlight. Plant choices that spring immediately to mind for this part-shaded position that can be clipped very narrowly are:
- camellia (although quite slow to establish – can take at least 5 years to get to the height you want). There are lots of varieties that grow naturally flat, as an espalier, such as Mine-no-yuki (white flowers)
- lillypilly. Lillypillies can be either Acmena or Syzygium. I think that a Syzygium would be better in this more shady situation – perhaps Syzygium ‘Resiliance’ or Syzygium leuhmannii
- blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus) and quandong (Elaeocarpus eumundii)
There are also some bamboo and bamboo-like plants that will grow that tall if you fancy a more tropical look (a complete departure from your junipers!) All will want to clump up and so some may be too vigorous if the bed is very narrow. Although the foliage will tend to be more at the top, you will have lots of decorative stems to look at.
- tiger grass – Thysanolaena maxima
- sacred bamboo – Nandina domestica
- there are some good bamboo hedging/screen suggestions here
If you would like to find a good landscape designer for a consult, go to the AILDM website, www.aildm.com.au You can search under Hills Districts.
Peat block walling – I’m very interested in finding a UK supplier, we are currently undertaking a major gardening project in Minehead, Somerset – please could you let me know if you have any information regarding contact details as I would be extremely grateful. Many Thanks Maureen
Answer from Alison Stewart: The only suppliers of peat blocks that I know of are in Scotland (predictably, I suppose!). The peat blocks used at Glendoick (a big rhodie and azalea specialist in Perthshire) come from Dows Garden Supplies at Bathgate, near Edinburgh. I can’t find a website for Dows but their phone number is 01501 733931. I don’t know whether they are a retail supplier or only a wholesaler. Glendoick sells peat blocks (obtained from Dows) in their garden centre, for £1.99 each (it doesn’t say how big they are). I don’t know whether they would deliver to Minehead! Glendoick Garden Centre’s phone number is 01738 860260, email firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope this is helpful. Perhaps, if shipping from Scotland is not possible or is too expensive, either Dows or Glendoick Garden Centre might be able to recommend a supplier in England. Good luck!
In Chicago U.S.A. the city streets are decorated with beautiful potted flower displays, highlighted by green & purple foliage leaf plants cascading or in clumps in the pots. I now realise they are ornamental sweet potato vine. I am hoping you can tell me where I can purchase cuttings of the various leaf colours on the Gold Coast in Queensland. Regards Sue
Answer from Arno King: Ornamental sweet potatoes thrive in South East Queensland and they will do very well in your garden. As to a source on the Gold Coast – I saw them in Ashmore Garden World last summer. It may pay to phone them before going over. I note that these plants are most freely available between November and May when they are at their most vigorous and colourful. You will see them in most garden centres as they are very popular. Note – The most popular of these plants are covered by PVA restrictions so will only be available through the nurseries as potted plants, as it is illegal to sell them without appropriate labelling etc. Good luck tracking them down. It shouldn’t be too hard.
We’re keen to plant a vine/creeper to fully cover a block retaining wall at the front of our house. The wall is approx 2m tall by 20m wide, north facing/ full sun. We are on sloping/ well drained red soil. Could the orange trumpet creeper be our best bet for a low manitenance cover? And would it be possible to plant it at the top of the retaining wall, where our garden ends, so it could grow over and DOWN the wall? Many thanks, Megan & Chris, Lennox Head NSW
Answer from Phil Dudman: Orange Trumpet Creeper is not your best choice for this situation. I would go for a creeper like ‘Chinese Star Jasmine’ Trachelospermum jasminoides which you could plant at the top and encourage to cascade, or better still, a hardy native ground cover like Grevillea Poorinda Royal mantle or G. Bronze Rambler
I am interested in buying a nopal plant/s for my home in order to have tuna fruit in home garden. I live in El Paso, Texas. Do you know where can I buy some plants?? Regards, Fred.
Answer from Catherine Stewart: I’ve found a few options for you.
1. You can buy Opuntia ficus-indica seeds online from Trade Winds Fruit http://www.tradewindsfruitstore.com/servlet/Categories?keyword=opuntia
2. Dave’s Garden has a member in Irving, Texas, with Opuntia seedlings for sale (listed under Smooth Mountain Prickly Pear) http://davesgarden.com/community/trading/list.php?list=have&member=IlovemyTiger
3. The nearest nursery selling nopal plants I can find is in New Mexico, but it’s only about an hour’s drive from El Paso. It’s only open by appointment. http://www.robledovista.com/Inventory.html
I live in California and I would love to have Pyrostegia venusta but I can’t seem to find a nursery that sells it. Do you know from where I can purchase this beautiful vine? (Rashel)
I have found 2 wholesale nurseries in California which have Pyrostegia venusta in their catalogue. They should be able to tell you which retail nurseries will stock it, or order it in for you. Note also that some nurseries still call it by its old botanical name Bignonia venusta.
Ponto & Sons Wholesale Nursery (800) 300-6003 P.0. BOX 536 (760) 724-6003 VISTA, CA. 92085-0536 FAX (760) 724-1974
I have bought some black kangaroo paws and a bit confused if I should plant them in the ground or in pots? I would prefer them in the frontyard. I live in hot, sandy Perth about 10 mins from the beach. Thank you Leanne
Answer from Angus Stewart: A hot sandy soil in the coastal area of Perth is as close to their natural habitat as a gardener is ever going to get. Having just come back from seeing amazing Macropidia displays in the ground at Kings Park I would say that you can plant them in the ground there. Just make sure to keep them well watered when the flower spikes are rapidly growing coming into spring. And definitely low P fertilisers.
From Helen McKerral: for broadbeans: alkaline soil, full sun, in double rows, with two stakes at each end of row with strings tied between to support plants; grow shorter varieties in windy areas. In temperate climates, plant during late autumn or winter; my grandmother preferred later plantings because they are shorter and more wind resistant because they begin flowering and fruiting lower down the stem; early plantings are more top heavy. Late plantings of broadbean are apparently a bit more resistant to rust as flowering and pod development happen when it’s a bit warmer and drier.
Rust is a fungal disease, so ensure adequate aeration (separate double rows by more space, full sun, open position), mulch to prevent soil borne pathogens splashing up onto leaves and stems
Caterpillars: spray with Dipel
Could someone tell me what I am doing wrong? My seedlings grow so long and lanky that when I plant them out they just go to seed. Is it too much light…too much water….why dont they grow like the bought ones? (Lou, Armidale NSW)
From Jennifer Stackhouse: Probably too much shade and also too thickly planted. I suggest she thins thickly planted seedlings or tries Jiffy pots or cell punnets. Also water with liquid plant food once a week and move into more light once seeds germinate.
From Helen McKerral: The most common cause of that long, lanky growth is too little light – there’s even a name for it: “etiolation”. So put your seedlings wher they get more sun, or filtered/dappled light all day. Indoors often creates lanky seedlings. Etiolation doesn’t necessarily cause bolting, though.
Remember that bought seedlings are grown with a perfect light, soil, water and nutrient balance, so don’t worry if your seedlings aren’t quite as perfect! In fact, shop-bought seedlings are often soft if kept under shadecloth, and prone to wilting and scorching if they’re not hardened off in intermediate conditions before planting into the garden.
Plants bolting to seed often happens when the water supply suddenly decreases (or evapotranspiration increases), so water regularly after planting out your seedlings. Wilting can trigger some plants to flower earlier (indeed, I treat my tomato seedlings a bit tough until they develop their first flower truss!).
Some vegies are less likely to bolt when planted directly in situ, rather than transplanted. Planting at the wrong time of year (eg coriander in temperate climate spring instead of autumn) can encourage some plants to bolt.
A nutrient imbalance can also cause leaf vegies to flower and seed too soon. Remember to give leaf vegies plenty of nitrogen, as in composts and manures, but not too much potassium (eg liquid fertilisers designed for flowers and fruit).
I’m growing orange trumpet vine to grow up the loggia and across wires to the house. The problem is that between the loggia and the house the vine is almost leafless. The leaves and flowers seem to grow just at the end of the stems over the beginning of the house roof. I trim it off the house but it’s still not thickening up from the loggia to the house. It’s well supported, fed and regularly watered and gets lots of sun. Any ideas what I need to do to thicken it up? (Irene, northern NSW)
Answer from Phil Dudman: It sounds like you will need to prune your vine back much harder to get it to bush up lower down. Trimming off at the roof level will only encourage new growth at the top. Now (November) is a great time to get stuck into it, but you will need to water it well after pruning
Ryset adjustable rake – can you tell me where in Ontario Canada this is available? Any in Pembroke Ontario in Home Depot or walmart or ?? Jim
From Catherine: I haven’t found a supplier of this exact rake in Canada but Kmart have something similar in their online store so you might find it in your Ontario store too. http://www.kmart.com/oxo-adjustable-hand-rake/p-2600000006698279P
Hi there, we have two ponds and want to landscape the spillway going into the first one. My idea is to make a creek bed type look, where can I get photos or articles. A bridge over this spillway is also in my plan. Space is not a problem. Help, we live in Katherine, NT. Carol
From Catherine: I’ve found these instructional online free videos that you can watch from Aquascapes. They have lots of pond, stream and waterfall building videos.
My Crown of Thorns Euphorbia has retained its old pink flowers but they are faded to a ‘dirty pink’. How do I encourage new flowers? David, SE Qld
From Arno King, GardenDrum – Flowers seem to come with new growth- which of course will come if the plant is happy and Inthe right location. It likes full sun and well drained soil. Plants do very well in large pots and regular applications of contolled release fertiliser. All my plants are growing strongly and full of flowers right now. It has been very dry recently so lack of water may also be a consideration – I water my potted plants regularly. [Arno has also written a blog post on Poysean euphorbias on GardenDrum http://gardendrum.com/2012/10/14/poysean-euphorbias/ ]
From Paul Plant, subTropical gardening magazine – ‘Flower’ colour fades with age of each bract – same as what occurs for other euphorbia plants that have bracts. After all, they are only leaves. New flower bracts will be brightly coloured. However, as its in the Euphorbiaceae family, flowers are typically produced as a result of short day events (hence why poinsettias are common at Xmas time in northern hemisphere but sell well here in southern hemisphere during autumn-winter-spring). Flowers will be generated again next autumn which is when bracts will be produced.
Good news is that the recent hybrids of Poysean cultivars and other inter-generic specimens flower over a much longer period so that is a possibility that flowers (and therefore bracts) be the produced throughout the year.
From Annette Irish, President of the Australian Institute of Horticulture – An interesting question, I hope I have correctly interpreted its intent. If he wants a mass new flowering, sit down and pick all the flowers off!!!!! Not being facetious but the flowers fade… that’s what they do.
Nothing unusual on my plants in pots or the ground in Brisbane, the flowers come out bright n breezy, even the lovely yellow/tangerine version I have, slowly fade to a lemony/pinky tone and hold their new flowers for many months. They will push out new flowers in every season up here in the hills of Brisbane.
Whacking fertiliser high in potassiium and magnesium into it is not the answer; it’s just life and nature. I do find my lovely yellow/pink variety flowers beautifully in late winter after the dry has set in after a very wet autumn.
From Catherine: Lime trees, like all citrus, are heavy feeders and need lots of water. This means they prefer not to have other plants too close by that might compete with them for water and soil nutrients and also that you’ll probably need to give them fertiliser and extra water. Australian native plants are usually the opposite and will grow quite happily for years without extra fertiliser and minimal water.
Unless the native plants are large shrubs, they shouldn’t be too much competition for the lime tree. But you may find that any fertiliser you give to the lime may not agree with the natives, especially if they are grevilleas, which are very sensitive to high levels of phosphorus.
I am interested in purchasing ‘Bush Revolution’ and would like to know a supplier in my area. I live near Ballarat, Vic. Sharryn
From Angus Stewart: The nearest wholesale grower of the plant to you would likely be Native Plant Wholesalers at Mount Gambier. If you give them a call on 08 8726 6210 they can tell you which retail nurseries they are sending stock to at any particular time. I think that will be the easiest way to track down the plant.
We wish to build 2 gabion stone walls as an entrance to our property. Abutting these 2 walls will be very large loader tyres. Can you slope the end of the wall to meet/join the curved tyres which will be standing upright?
From Catherine Stewart: I’ve been thinking about your gabion design issues. Yes, you can slope the end of the gabion wall to meet the curve of the tyres. I’ve been bending gabion mesh panels (if they’re 4mm wire or less) around a spare car wheel by standing on the panel at one end and then pulling it up tightly around the wheel, rolling the wheel along the panel until I get to the end. The trick is that to get the panel to hold a curve, you need to bend the metal more tightly than the radius of curve you want, and then let it relax back, which we achieve by turning the panel upside down on the ground and treading over it until it’s less bent.
The other issue you’ll find is how you attach the top curved panel to the side wall panels as you won’t be joining 2 pieces that both have a continuous wire edge, so spirals and clips won’t work very well. I would cut the side panels so that they’re about 50mm higher than you need. To attach them to the curved top, bend the protruding cut ends back around the top panel.
You’ll also need to pack your gabion from the lower point up, and probably fasten down the top as you go to keep the rocks in place.
I bought an Acacia ‘Limelight’ about 4 months ago and it had pride of place in full sun in a large pot on my deck. It looked great, however I was upset to find that a week ago it dropped all of it’s leaves and I ended up with an umbrella shaped bunch of stalks. Do you have any idea why it has done that please as it happened very quickly. Cheers Graham
From Amanda Mackinnon: I’d say either too wet or too dry. Often with pots, if the plant is really mature, the plant may become root bound in the base of the pot, which causes for the drainage holes to plug up and then over a relatively short period, if you keep watering it, then it’ll slowly suffocate in water and then all of a sudden drop all of its leaves and die from drowning.
On the other hand, if a plant in a container has been allowed to dry out too much for any extended period, what can happen is the potting mix contracts, pulling away from the wall of the pot and becomes water repellent. In doing so, the next few times you water it, it looks like the plant is being soaked well, but in fact the water is running off the otp of the potting mix and down the sides of the container and the bottom holes.
These are the two most common causes of death for plants in containers. Unless there is evidence of pest or disease, then I’d suggest one of the above has occurred.
Why is my young crepe myrtle refusing to flower this year? I bought it several years ago, in bloom with lovely white flowers, and it has grown well, but has no buds this year. The new growth following my light pruning last year has produced only blind shoots. I have many other crepe myrtles which all flower profusely. Thanks, Lorna
From Jennifer Stackhouse: It may still flower, although many have been in bloom since late Nov/early Dec. It may be in too much shade, be in a very cold area, be drought stressed or be suffering powdery mildew which can stop the buds forming properly. The white ones are still prone to powdery mildew.
1. Waiting. This rain if it has fallen in her area may help encourage new growth and flowers.
2. Applying some Seasol and scattering fertiliser around eg flower and fruit formulation such as rose food.
3. Checking for powdery mildew and, if any, applying a fungicide registered for powdery mildew such as Eco Rose.
4. Pruning away overhanging branches to allow more light in on this plant.
From Helen Young: The usual causes of failure to flower are of course too much shade, pruning at the wrong time or excess of high-nitrogen fertiliser (least likely). Possibility that as a young plant it has put all its energies into establishing and growth at the expense of flowers. This is common with citrus and sometimes happens with pot bound plants once released into the soil, especially if the going is good. It would have had flowers ex-nursery because they ensure this, but this doesn’t guarantee flowers subsequently.
I have a large 20 year old Monstera deliciosa in my garden and after all that time it has started to fruit. There are about a dozen fruits on the large plant. I am told they may take a year to ripen, and they are presently dark green and about the size of a large corn cob…initially covered in a brown-paper like sheath, this drops away and reveals the handsome dark green fruit. How do I know when they are ripe and ready to eat? I have been told that they taste like fruit-salad. Brian
From Arno King: You can tell when the fruit is ripe as the green scaly skin of the ‘cob’ lightens, and peels off revealing the fruit underneath. It does this over 3 to 6 days depending on the temperature. You only eat the section where the skin has fallen off as the unripe fruit contains oxalic acid crystals which can be very painful on the lips, mouth and throat tissue.
To avoid predation by wildlife, cut the fruit when the scales first starts to lift. Place inside and then remove fruit off the ‘cob’ only after the skin has lightened and fallen away. Peel fruit off each section like you would corn off a cob.
Despite this sounding tricky, it is really quite easy – and the fruit does taste good. It can often take a year from flowering until the fruit is ripe to eat.
I author the Cape Cod Mushroom Club and Founded the Cape Cod Mushroom Club. I would like to know if it is possible to get a spore sample of Neolentinus lepidus from you? – Wesley
From Catherine: GardenDrum doesn’t supply any products (other than good information!) but here’s a link to a mushroom company in Palatine, IL, which can probably supply you with some trainwrecker spores. http://www.ralphstersspores.com/USA/product_info.php?products_id=388
I have a chilli bush that looks really healthy, however I have a problem with the fruit. It goes green then red but the chillies shrivel before they are ready to pick. I use 50% white netting when it is too hot and they get enough water.
From Jane Griffiths: If the rest of the plant is looking healthy and it is just the chillies shrivelling, all it means is that you should have picked them already. After chillies reach optimum ripeness, they start shrivelling up as the seeds inside ripen. Eventually they will dry up completely and fall off the bush, ready to germinate. As this happens, the plant will stop producing as many chillies. You need to pick them before they shrivel, when they are red and shiny. I find smaller chillies wrinkle more quickly than larger ones. Hope this helps! Happy growing.
Can you please tell me what causes the growing points of my euphorbia Poysean to die off. I thought it was an insect. The problem is very similar to the frangipani tips dying off, however, I can’t find any trace of eggs or hatched grubs in these tips. My euphorbias are my pride and joy and until this year have had no problem with them. Is it an insect, a fungus, or a nutritional problem? Whatever it may be, can you please advise me of the remedy. Val
From Arno King: I’m not sure where you live, but your problem could be fruit spotting bug. I live near rainforest, in Brisbane, and in wet years I find the fruit spotting bug will come out from the forest nearby and ‘sting’ certain plants. These are generally those with thick succulent stems. It does this at the growing tip or meristem – I guess sucking out that soft succulent growth. In my garden it particularly affects Frangipani, Chaya and some Euphorbias. The tip stops growing and then side shoots are generated which in turn may be stung. You end up with knobs all around the tips of the plants. I often see the bugs crawling around the tips of the plants. They are quite large, slow and have a distinctive long proboscis.
I have a larger garden so my solution has been to move plants, or cuttings from plants, to sunnier, more open areas, away from the bush or treed areas. In a way this is sensible as the plants that are affected do better in these spots.
I also suspect the bug is attracted to plants that are slightly nutritionally deficient. My instinct is that calcium/magnesium and silicon deficiencies may exacerbate the issue. I have been applying NTS Nutristore Gold to my garden. We suffer from heavy downpours which strip nutrients from the soil. Nutristore Gold contains humates and zeolites which hold these nutrients more strongly, and the majority of the nutrients are in ground rock mineral form which means they break down gradually and continue to feed the plant over a longer period. There are a number of similar products available – generally they are marketed as biological fertilisers and promote ground rock minerals and humates in the blend.
I have found that the plants respond to this fertiliser regime and grow much more robustly. I also find they are less susceptible to pest and disease issues. The Euphorbias can also get a fungal rust on the leaves when it is wet and humid and this seems to be disappearing in my garden as well. Finally, Euphorbias seem to like a neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Check the pH and it may pay to add some lime. I like to use half dolomite and half garden lime as then you are also providing magnesium in an appropriate ratio.
The other possibility is that the plants are suffering root damage from too much water. Often this results in symptoms showing up at the growing tip. Could they be in a poor draining area and suffering from too much water? As we have 2 previous wet years, I would have suspected this issue would have shown up earlier.
Good luck with the Euphorbias and let me know how things go.
We have a 15 year old NSW Waratah in our garden that flowers in August each year. This year it has produced 2 flowers in March. We live on the Central Coast of NSW. Was wondering if anyone can explain why the early flowering may have happened and has it happened to anyone else? – Gayle
From Angus Stewart: Waratahs will sometimes flower in autumn although it is not usual. After their spring flowering they shoot away with vegetative growth and this generally stops by the end of summer and flower buds form. Normally those flower buds stay closed right through winter and slowly develop and open up in spring. However, I suspect that unusual weather conditions in autumn can cause the flower buds to open early ie in autumn. I have noticed that many of the hybrid varieties flower routinely in autumn eg Telopea mongaensis x speciosissima and the ‘Shady Lady Red’ (oreades x speciosissima) so there may be an interaction with the genetics of the plant. You may be interested in this waratah article on my Gardening with Angus website
I am unable to buy Clematis aristata from any of my usual outlets. Do you supply and if so can you give me details, e.g. how to send to Sydney, cost. Also I have a large, mainly native garden, designed to attract and to see birds, and need to plant quite a lot more in the next few weeks. Do you have a plant list with prices? – John
From Catherine Stewart: GardenDrum only supplies information, not any plants. For Clematis try Sydney Wildflower Nursery. They’re way down south in Heathcote but it is a very good native nursery and well worth the visit. You won’t come away empty handed! There will be several nurseries selling native plants at the upcoming Plant Collectors Fair at Clarendon on 13 and 14 April including Ausplants and Growing Friends from the Sydney Botanic Gardens.
If you’d like to do some more research on good plants for Sydney, look through Angus Stewart’s Gardening with Angus website. He’s got lots of good plant profiles. You can also find lots of good advice about what to grow at the Australian Native Plants Society of NSW website.
Indigo Native Nursery in Ingleside has very good stock, much of it local to northeastern Sydney. There’s also the nearby Wirreanda Nursery and Harvest Seeds at Terry Hills which have a lot of good quality native plants.
I am seeking a regime for caring for my potted clivea. I am not sure when to fertilize them, and with what. I have successfully grown new plants by poking the seeds into the same pot of the plant from which they come. I have also grown from seed in another pot. So far, these have not flowered, and I know from my reading it could be 5 years before they will. One pot of plants must be near to this time. I have one yellow flowering plant, and it does flower each season. The others I would describe as common garden variety orange. Do I need to re-pot my plants. Do they like to be root-bound? My other problem with them is something eating along the edges of the leaves. What can I use for this? I live in suburban Adelaide. Thank you, Connie.
Answer from Adam Woodhams:
The general rule to apply when it comes to any flowering plants is to give them their annual feed after they have flowered and this is true with the Clivias too.
I feed mine with Osmocote, general purpose for the ones in ground & pot blend for the potted ones. As they like a bit of organically derived fertiliser have a look at the Osmocote Plus Organics too but Scotts don’t recommend it for pots (i’ve used it at slightly lower rates in pots without any issues). They also don’t mind a mild application of a quality blood & bone once or twice a year, say after flowering & then again in late summer and blend some through the potting mix when you repot.
It’s worth supplementing this with occasional liquid products too. I’ve always used Seasol & still do occasionally but of late I’ve been using UltraBoost+6 with great results (it’s a biofertilser)
You’re taking the right steps for getting your seeds to start and you’ve hit on one of the often debated points about growing them from seed – when will they flower?
Going purely by years is in fact unreliable as there are so many variables; some seedlings are more vigorous, different growth conditions can lead to different development rates etc etc.
The best measure in my experience is the number of leaves. Once a plant has 4 or more pairs of adult leaves it’s ready to flower (given the right conditions of course).
By their nature Clivia tolerate being root bound very well but they will hit a point where they need repotting. Once you find you are having trouble watering them, the foliage starts to look lacklustre or sparse or the flowering reduces then its time to repot and consider dividing. You may find my little video on this rather handy http://youtu.be/0WuuJN2Qevk
When I repot I like to use a general purpose (but good quality) orchid potting mix. Not the ones that are all bark but one such as Oscmocote Professional Orchid mix http://tiny.cc/rakbvw
Their are some caterpillars that will chew on the leaves of Clivia but the damage on the edges can also be caused by grasshoppers/locusts.
I’m afraid the only real treatment there is vigilance & spray pack of pyrethrum at the ready.
I hope I’ve covered-off on everything for you. Feel free to drop me a line or pop over to my FaceBook page to ask any more questions. Also if you’re really keen there’s a fab book on Clivia ‘Clivia: nature & nurture’ by Swanevelder & Fisher but it’s a bit hard to get, I bought my copy through eBay from the UK.
Cheers & happy gardening!
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