What a fabulous time of year spring is. Flowers and bees after a long cold winter; brings a smile to the heart and hope to warm the bones. But after that the hot summer sun hits, the flowers dry up and the garden goes into survival mode. If you have good hardy natives they will do the whole survival thing quite well because they are designed that way.
Sometimes our smiles can wane a bit with what feels like an excess of heat but hope continues as we see the seeds start to ripen on our plants. On our fruit trees that means the juicy delicious hot flesh of ripe apricots or plums but on our natives it heralds the next generation of our plants that we grow from seed. In the bush it is hope of regeneration after bush fire, in our gardens it can mean that where we had one paper daisy last year we now have them lining the path. In the nursery it means full pots of tiny green leaves pushing their way out of the soil and growing rapidly in the warmth ready for sale and new homes at your place.
This year we have some new plants growing from seed that we haven’t had available at the nursery before. Swainsonia galegifolia are already up and even starting to show their secondary leaves. This gorgeous plant has bright pink, burgundy or occasionally white pea flowers in abundance in spring and then sporadically through summer and autumn. A wonderfully drought hardy plant that loves full sun and doesn’t mind the frost one bit. Great for the cottage garden look or just for that splash of brightness amongst the other shrubs.
Also above ground in the seed bed are the Senna artemisioides, a stunning medium sized shrub which flowers through winter with bright yellow buttercup flowers followed by long mahogany coloured seed pods. This bush likes part shade and once settled in is also very drought hardy. It is growing under a Eucalypt at my place.
We have just put down seeds of this year’s Cheiranthera linearis. Let’s hope we have more germination than last year because when you see them you will want one. Cheiranthera grows naturally in my paddocks and is reputed to grow in the presence of gold. I’m hoping. It is a small shrub with linear leaves and bright blue flowers. Absolutely gorgeous. It is drought and frost hardy too though the rabbits had a go at the ones in my garden which were getting more water and were therefore juicier no doubt.
Other seeds collected are Themeda triandra (we have recently sown last years seeds; they don’t germinate if they are sown straight away, so this year’s seeds will be sown in spring 2019), Linum marginale, Lotus australis, Brachyscome decipiens, Xerochrysum viscosum, Pomaderris pallida, Hardenbergia violacea, and Indigofera australis, to name just a few.
And so summer rolls on and with it the joy of harvesting seeds. Happy shopping when they all grow big enough for sale.
Growing plants in containers is not something I find particularly easy. This isn’t because it is a difficult thing to do but rather that I am not particularly good at remembering to water or don’t have the water (because I am on tank water only) to maintain good moisture levels in the pots. I really do prefer to put my plants in the ground and generally let them fend for themselves once they are old enough.
However having said that I do have a really lovely Hibbertia obtusifolia in a pot and last year when I had more water I also had some gorgeous purple Calibrachoa (not natives but a beautiful gift from a friend) lounging about on my front porch. Apart from water and the right light conditions the main requirement is a really good potting mix that is suitable for the plants that you want to grow. The Calibrachoa I was growing were potted up in a premium potting mix but my Hibbertia is in a mix that I made up from various ingredients especially for native plants in pots. It is a mix that we use in the nursery for growing plants once they come out of the cutting bed.
A potting mix must serve several purposes to be useful. It must have weight to anchor and stabilise the plant in the pot. It must have a source of nutrition because the plant cannot spread its roots beyond the confines of the pot to look for nutrition. It must have a fairly open structure so that the roots of the plants can take up oxygen and it must be able to retain water so that added water does not dry out too quickly.
We use just 4 ingredients in the potting mix for the nursery; 400ml (we use a large 200ml plant pot for measure) soaked coco peat, 200ml course sand, 100ml (or 2 cupped handfuls) native plant fertiliser and 1 bag of general purpose potting. Mix these together and use promptly, not forgetting that if you are using any sort of composted materials or potting mix you should wear gloves and a face mask because the risk of contracting legionnaires is not worth the slight inconvenience of doing so.
If you can’t be bothered making up your own mix for your natives just buy a good quality native plant mix. NEVER skimp and save by buying a second rate potting mix and NEVER use garden soil in pots. The main reason for this in the home garden is that soil usually has very small particle size which leads to compaction which in turn results in poor aeration, poor drainage and poor penetration of water to the plant roots and your plants will not be happy.