And in my garden I am 'taking stock' too. Which plant needs removing because it is no longer viable…………. wrong place, wrong size, half dead, didn’t perform. And what about those exotics Alison? I say to myself, and out they come one by one as I have new natives to add. In some spots I decided to add numbers of the same thing to provide flow in the garden design. Today it was a swathe of Brachyscome multifida pink to line a path. I have asked myself what needs a little fertiliser before the weather finally gets too cold? and watered it in with a good bucket of water so that my plants can grow fast in this ideal autumn weather. And finally which plants could do with some new mulch while the soil is still warm? (on the to do list still I'm afraid....................maybe next weekend)
Because very shortly it will be time to curl up, tuck away, and view the garden through the windows whilst I read a book by the fire, do some mosaic work or cross stitch and rest while I dream of spring.
Well I have definitely decided that I love shrubbery style gardening. Big blowsy green shrubs which spill over wide paths or nearly occlude narrow ones. Shrubs that hide the path ahead so that one finds unexpected things around the corner. Shrubs which stay green all year round and don’t need much care apart from a kind word or two in passing and a chuck under the chin from time to tome. I love my garden to feel full, replete, overflowing. Of course I don’t have to choose between shrubs or perennials or annuals for that matter because my garden is quite big enough for them all but if I did have to choose I would choose shrubs any day. I wonder when and how that came about. I used to favour show off plants which did a big bang of colour in spring and maybe again in autumn and then disappeared through winter to come up again to delight my overwintered heart. Is it because I am getting weary as I get older? Is it that I feel I need plants around me that don’t need mummying? Is it just that I needed a change? Will I change my mind again? Who knows. What I do know is that this year I have whipped out my beautiful everlasting daisies, Xerochrysum viscosum (somehow I was exhausted by their bedraggled visage at the end of a very hot summer with very little water) and replaced them with a fulsome green leaved Callistemon ‘Rowena’, so fast growing I know I wont need to wait long to have the space filled to overflowing. The Xerochrysum will of course be re-placed around the corner in the orchard so I can enjoy their bright faces next summer but where I look out of my kitchen window every day several times a day I want it to be green, verdantly green, bouncingly green, evergreen, to keep me happy.
It’s that time of year again. The heat is dissipating from the land and I can once more work all day in the garden. Bliss. So many jobs and plans that have had to wait all summer long can now be realised. My compost has ‘cooked’ which means all new plants can be settled in with a generous dollop of ‘black gold’ to help them on their way.
Its also time once again for the Australian Native Plant Society plant sale at the Australian National Botanic Gardens (https://nativeplantscbr.com.au/ ). This event is on this Saturday the 16th March from 8.30 am in the bottom car park and IDP Nursery will have plants there as will quite a few other native plant growers. There will be over 12000 plants for sale. Last year when I arrived to help set up at 7.30 am the queues had already started so be in early.
I’m always on the look out for new plants to grow for the nursery. If they are plants which I haven’t grown before I grow them in my own garden first before deciding whether or not to add them to our sales. Although this means that it can be a bit of a time lag before they are available for sale to you it does mean that I am able to tell you in what sort of conditions to plant your new plant and how it is likely to perform. An example of this is Swainsonia galegifolia. I bought this last autumn at the ANPS sale. This fabulous plant has now overwintered and endured a very hot summer at my place and I can very definitely say that it performs very very well in our climate. It has been a cheerful flowerer through even the hottest days. We now have seed grown plants (usually pink flowers) and cutting grown, burgundy flowered, plants for sale at the nursery.
And on another note…………..I’m wondering why Acacias (otherwise known as Wattles) are not very popular at the nursery. We seem to all have a general antipathy toward them and yet they are so useful as garden plants. They come in all shapes and sizes, they have such bright cheerful, usually yellow, flowers and they grow quickly with very little fuss. They also provide a good source of pollen for bees and the seeds are popular with birds.
A couple of people I have talked to about this antipathy have mentioned that they believed that Acacias were very allergenic. Research has actually shown that pollen from acacia are rarely to blame for hay fever. Acacia pollen is heavy and tends to drop to the ground quickly. It is far more likely that allergies are caused by grass pollen which is very much lighter and far more likely to be airborne. Because the Acacias are visible and the grass pollen is not the Acacias get the blame for the hay fever. https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2015-09-23/dont-blame-the-wattle/6791396
Another cited reason for not liking Acacia is that they are short lived. This I can understand and yet there are positives about this too. Taller Acacia make really good quick growing windbreaks or quickly provide cover and micro-climate for other plants in the garden. The lower growing Acacia simply fill the garden out nice and quickly. The approximately 10 year life span can be extended by pruning each year along with control of borer. And of course once the plant has reached the end of its life it is a wonderful opportunity to plant something new.
In the nursery we currently have Acacia ulicifolia, A. dawsonii, A. beckleri, A. acinacea, and A. vestitia. Put some sunshine into your life and add an Acacia to your garden this year and………………… I hope to see you all at the ANPS plant sale on Saturday.
A week ago I was sitting in my sister's new garden in NZ listening to the Tuis, Kereru and Cicadas in the bush and wondering whether to feel jealous or not. The grass is lush and green as are the plants and the previous owners of the garden were either Australian or loved our native flora because the garden is full of Callistemon, Grevillea and Acacia on steroids. That’s what happens when the soil is beautiful
Northland loam and the rainfall is more than our natives have ever dreamed of.
But it occurred to me that no matter where you live and what your garden is used to in the way of climate and rainfall, when that changes, either for a season or for good the plants can struggle. Fire danger in her garden is high and yet with plants as green as this one cannot imagine them going up in smoke, but they do. My sister tells me that plants are dying because of lack of water but really what that amounts to is that they are dying because they are now getting less than they are used to.
Which leads me to my point and that is that we need to drought proof our gardens as much as possible whether we live in NZ or Australia, town where we have water on tap or out in the country where we rely on tank water. Our water reserves are far too precious to be pumped out on gardens that are over reliant on water. Blah blah blah, I know, I have said it before but my goodness if NZ is getting short of water we need to be worried here in Australia.
So how do we drought proof our gardens apart from putting in the hardiest of hardy native plants which I talked about in my last blog?
When you have natural loamy wonder soil like my sister has in her garden all you have to do is sink a spade into the wonderful rich fudgy ground, pop in a plant and away it goes. But I don’t have soil like that at my place and you probably don’t either. I have dust and rocks in some places and clay in others. So preparation of soil prior to planting is a must to get good, garden worthy growth from plants. I have talked about composting before and this is the best way I know to add value to the soil. Compost in soil not only allows water to penetrate deeply but also retains water very well. Compost everything you can find. The neighbours grass clippings, the local farmers sheep poo, all prunings from the garden, vegie scraps. old cotton, wool or linen garments, newspaper etc etc. Layer it up, keep it moist and spread it on and in the garden when it is ‘cooked’.
Choice of plant is the next important task. I suggest you just go for those hardiest of hardy plants. And by the way Iris said to me after I had posted the last blog that I had missed out a whole lot of other plants I could have mentioned, so just ask us if you are unsure of drought hardiness.
Plant placement in the garden is so important for plant health. Place plants that like shade in shade and those that like sun in the sun. This way they are already way ahead in the happiness stakes and will thrive more easily because they are in the right conditions. Plants that like shade may be perfectly drought hardy in the shade but put them in the sun and, if they survive at all, they will need more water for sure.
Think about how you are going to water. Do not buy a plant which says it likes extra water for good growth and then plant it in a place where you cannot easily water it. I have an envirocycle. This is all the waste water from the house, yes all of it, treated and then pumped back onto the garden. If I want plants which require a little more water than comes from the sky this is where they are planted. If you don’t have an envirocycle, group your more thirsty plants and put in irrigation for that area of the garden or don’t buy thirsty plants. One or the other.
For those plants which are not going to be given extra watering the trick is to water deeply for the first couple of years so that the plants roots grow deeply and can source their own water in dry times. I have seen so many plants die recently because they have been watered with spray irrigation. Their roots grow up to the surface to take advantage of surface water, the sun and wind then comes along and scorches their roots and they shrivel up and die really quickly.
Mulch to keep that water from being sucked back out of the soil by the sun and wind. 10cm of a good chunky mulch such as tan bark will mean that any water which does come from the sky can penetrate through and water from irrigation systems is not wasted through evaporation. Fine mulches, whilst keeping water in the soil well, compact down too easily and keep water out when it does rain.
That’s it. Simple. Get those things right and you will grow a garden for sure. It wont be dense and lush like my sisters garden but it will be a fine Australian garden full of gorgeous plants and beautiful birds.
My sister's garden.