Catriona McLeod

About Catriona McLeod

Dr. Catriona McLeod is a writer, environmental & cultural consultant, horticulturalist and designer based in Tasmania. Catriona worked as a horticulturalist in plant nurseries, while studying architecture and landscape architecture in Brisbane. After travelling, and working as a designer and horticultural consultant, she completed a PhD in green design. Until 2012 she taught design principles, landscape architecture, ecology, design theory, horticulture and sustainable practices at the University of Tasmania. She is a passionate advocate of wild places and the preservation of threatened environments and species and is, of course, an avid and always-learning gardener.

Roscoea: unusual flowers cast a lemon glow in a dark spot

I am currently between houses – but I’m not unhappy about this state of affairs as I have the privilege of staying in a little cabin owned by friends. I have enjoyed the (KonMari style) downscaling … but the cabin is also in the midst of fabulous Rhododendron gardens (more on the gardens’ genesis and the original plant-hunting owners in future posts). Not only do I wake to a multi-coloured vista of maples, copper beaches and other rare trees, I walk twice daily in the grounds to make ‘discoveries’. Continue reading

Three garden angels: a personal mythology

Three species of Angelica – Angelica archangelica, Angelica pachycarpa and Angelica sylvestris ‘Purpurea’ – have woven themselves into my gardens and garden mythology in very different ways.

Angelica is a genus of about 60 species of tall biennial and perennial herbs of the family Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae), native to temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern hemisphere. Angelicas typically grow to 1m – 3m tall (3-10ft), have large bi-pinnate leaves and compound umbels of white or greenish-white flowers. Continue reading

Book Review – ‘All About Roses’

Book review: All About Roses: A Guide to Growing and Loving Roses, by Diana Sargeant, photos by Diana Sargeant and Katrina Ferguson. Published by New Holland (2014), RRP $29.95AUD

In the early to mid 1980s I worked in one of the largest plant nurseries in South East Queensland. Each morning in June we would pick up dozens of boxes of bare-rooted roses, packed tightly into sawdust, from the local train station; a major rose grower in Victoria having dispatched these a few days earlier. Continue reading

Cheap potting mix brings uninvited visitors

A fascinating and harmless visitor leaves its mark in pots containing low-grade potting mix. I made a critical error in gardening. I admit it, and the proof is evident. I bought poor quality potting mix, erroneously thinking all potting mixes were alike (ignoring both my common sense and the Australian Standards potting mix rating system – more on this later). There have been three notable repercussions; two of which are undesirable, and the third is the topic of this article. Continue reading

Brunsvigia josephinae: Empress of the garden

One autumn a curious set of leaves appeared from the shaggy neck of a very large bulb in my newly acquired garden. The leaves multiplied and extended flat, outward. My guess was a Nerine or Amaryllis belladonna, or perhaps even a cold-hardy Hippeastrum. I was made to wait for flowers; when the full ‘star-burst’ flower head finally unfurled I was stunned. Continue reading

Flashes of red – scarlet runner beans

Twining along wires around my water tank are two tattered Scarlet Runner Beans. They were the only ones of a marked-down punnet of six seedlings to survive and are suffering from a combination of wind, drought and slugs. Notwithstanding their many challenges they have produced several brown, roughly textured pods. I have not picked the 150mm long green pods, as I want seeds for planting next season. I had decided this before I really understood their table and growth qualities, so I undertook some retrospective investigation. Continue reading

Behold: Colchicum!

A few week’s ago I was visiting a farmers’ market with a friend who purchased several bags of spring bulbs from a stall. When she asked me if I was buying any I told her my soil was too sandy. We walked off; then I felt a tap on my shoulder. “I couldn’t help overhearing you”, said the stallholder. “You sound like you know a bit about gardening, so please take this, with my blessing”. She passed to me a creamy coloured corm, about the size of a small onion. I guessed it was Colchicum and carefully took it home … to my sandy and salty patch by the sea. Continue reading