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Garden Radio Round Up February 18 - 19

With the end of summer drawing nearer our thoughts turn to the vegie patch.

It's time to plan our autumn harvest now and to prepare the soil for a whole lot of planting.


Nobody gets a harvest like this without putting the work in beforehand. Photo - Luisa Brimble


It's Time To:

Plan your autumn crop

Try purple carrots this year, which have 28 times more antioxidants than regular orange carrots. Purple Dragon is the most popular heirloom variety, available from Diggers, or Green Harvest.

Sow seed thinly into a narrow trench and cover with fine soil and firm down gently. Water with a fine spray. Seedlings will appear in 15-20 days. Thin as necessary.


Bush Garden

Xanthorrhoea species, Grass trees

Coastal heaths, wet and dry forests, dramatic architectural native plants, an icon of the Outback.

They have been part of Aboriginal history and cultural life from the beginning of time, included in colonial artworks and a modern day inspiration to landscape architects and gardeners.

Different species are found in each state but most thrive in soils with low nutrition so ideal for home gardens.


Xanthorrea australis in full flower. Photo - Graham Ross


Their resistance to fire or survival in fire prone areas is legendary and very recognisable with the black stems and flower spikes a direct result of repeated bushfires. The survival happens because the live part of the trunk is buried and protected deep inside the old resin and leaf stems. They lose this black appearance over time in home gardens.

The stems are unique as they develop a trunk from the base of the old leaf fronds when combined with a naturally occurring resin.

The very slow growth of Xanthorrhoea trees has made them rare for sale in nurseries especially when strict laws restricting removal from bushland are implemented. Areas subjected to development have seen an increasing number legally coming onto the market over the last 20-30 years but many slowly died due to poor removal practices. This has lead to improved transplanting techniques and the growing of plants by nurseries from seed.

At a standard 1-2cm growth rate per annum in the bush has only added to increased prices for mature specimens for landscaping. Seed produced plants are much faster growing and proving more sort after and successful for home gardeners and professional landscapers.

When planting in the garden it is often recommended to merely remove the bottom of the pot leaving the sides intact and plant the grass tree with its pot, minus the base.

Others have had success carefully removed the plant from the container with minimal root disturbance.

In most cases it is best planted into sandy loam soil often on a mound to improve drainage.

No fertiliser is needed at planting time but watering in with a seaweed solution daily at first then fortnightly will aid root development.

It is important to remember it can take up to two years for a mature, recently planted grass tree to die and flower spikes should be removed during this time to focus regrowth resources of the plant.

Once established after several years watering can be limited to only during hot weather.

Disease and insect attack is uncommon.

Removal of the old leaf stems is permissible but not essential. Some gardeners set fire to years of old growth in attempt to encourage the blackened stem.


And don't the birds love it! Photo - Graham Ross



Gum Suckers

When gum trees send up suckers it can be from a couple of different sources. On a grafted tree it will be shoots or suckers coming from the understock, below the graft, These should be removed as soon as noticed with a sharp knife or pair of secateurs as close to the trunk as possible.

This growth will dominate the tree and take over the desirable plant above the graft.

After bushfire or when trees are stressed through wind or structural damage they will send out epicormic or bud shoots from around the trunk and around base of tree. In a landscaped situation these should normally be removed cleanly and carefully not to damage the trunk but to ensure the sucker growth is removed. If it is left as a ‘hat peg-like ‘stump it will regrow again.

Sometimes suckers will appear to be arising from below ground and these are shooting from the lignotuber, a safety storage organ or survival mechanism after fire, at or just below ground level. Not all trees or eucalypts have this ability but many in fire prone areas will.

In a bushland setting these can be desirable and left to nature to take its course but in a landscaped garden they can be left or removed according to the desired ‘look’ of the tree in the landscape.


Epicormic suckering like this will tend to come back. This one has been pruned and has grown back numerous times. Photo - Graham Ross


Potted Garden

The Desert Rose, Adenium obesum

Desert rose are a great houseplant in the temperate zone and in the sub tropics. Adeniums are appreciated for their colorful flowers that vaguely resemble frangipani, but also for their sculptural shaped, unusual looking caudices. They can be grown for many years in a pot and are commonly used for bonsai.

Interestingly, the sap of Adenium boehmianum, A. multiflorum, and A. obesum contains toxic cardiac glycosides and is used as arrow poison throughout Africa for hunting large game.


The amazing twisted coudex of the Desert Rose. Photo - Graham Ross


Garden News

Byles Creek Valley clearing begins

The habitat of Mikey the Powerful Owlet is being destroyed. Massive Angophoras have been cleared less than 10 metres from where the family of powerful owlets have called home, in the Byles Creek Valley area of Beecroft in the north-west of Sydney.


Destruction of the Byles Creek Valley powerful owlet habitat has begun. Photo - Michael Bianchiano


Witnesses have reported that the critically endangered species of tree mentioned in the Smith Report has also been flattened by earth-moving equipment.

This clearing has commenced despite years of protest by local activists, whom have questioned local council regarding what appears to be an absence of the necessary approvals, and have requested an immediate halt the clearing.

Sadly, witnesses also noticed Mikey in the treetops while the clearings was taking place.


Mikey the powerful owlet. Photo - Michael Bianchiano


Come away with us

Beautiful Lucca

Lucca is a stunning walled city in the Tuscany region. A walk around town reveals it perfectly preserved; an architectural jewel of a city with it's ancient fortification walls the main attraction.

These walls, which encircle the old town have been kept intact, even as the city spralled and modernized. Their no longer of any military importance, they are now a public walk-way, the Passeggiata delle Mura Urbane, a street atop the walls linking the bastions.

On the Gardens of Italy tour this year we visit Lucca and have free time to wander through this magical city, up onto the walls or into the old Market square.


The ancient fortifications of the city of Lucca, Italy.