Winter is having a real impact this weekend. It’s cold, cold, cold all the way up to Toowoomba.
A few minutes in the winter garden will warm things up a bit. It's time to lift tubers, plant annuals, divide perennials and enjoy the winter roses at their prime right now.
Again this weekend we’re giving away a miniature camellia to everyone who joins the Garden Clinic at Platinum level, thanks to Camellia Grove. Never seen a miniature camellia flower? check out Linda's latest blog, Tiny Fairy-wand camellias.
Miniature camellia flowers. Photo - Linda Ross
And our friends at Mayfield Garden in Oberon, west of the Blue Mountains awoke on Saturday morning to a winter wonderland. Mayfield had been dusted with
snow overnight, and we hear that more may be on the way.
Mayfield garden from the air on Saturday after overnight snowfall. Photo - Central West Flying School
The Mayfield cascade. Photo - Garrick Hawkins
It's time to:
Sydney and gardens in the north
Lift dahlia tubers. Throw out rotten tubers. Dust with fungicide and store until spring.
Pick winter rose (hellebore) flowers for float bowls so you can appreciate their shy spotted faces.
Use bright winter annuals to plant up bare patches and window boxes. In shade choose the old-fashioned blue and lilac tones of cineraria, and in sun try
pretty pansies and violas. Fairy primrose primula will stand tall in sun or part shade. Cyclamen are bright and cheery for indoor window boxes. Continue
liquid feeding with flower fertiliser for masses of blooms.
Divide perennials such as Easter daisy, shasta daisy, canna lily, liriope, clivia and agapanthus, if clumps are getting too big or are in the wrong spot.
Enjoy the bark of the river birch, Betula nigra, which flakes away to reveal underlying layers of cream, pink and orange. Other good winter barks
include snakebark maples, such as Acer davidii, which has unusual green bark with prominent vertical stripes. Track it down from a specialist
supplier. Our pick of the glowing winter bark trees is the coral bark maple, Acer japonica ‘Sango Kaku’.
The beautiful hellebore. Photo - Luisa Brimble
In the mountains and down south
There is a brief moment (this month only!) when big rhododendrons that have outgrown their space or ideal size can be hard-pruned back to stumps. All parts
of the shrub must be pruned equally hard. This is safe to do on all but the rare smooth-barked rhododendrons.
June is a great time for a big tidy-up and general groom. Even if you’re not a great fan of garden tidiness for it’s own sake, in winter it can come as
a great relief to be able to restore order.
Take hardwood cutting from deciduous shrubs such as roses and hydrangeas. Use sharp secateurs and trim off leaves and side shoots to leave a cutting of
about 8cm. Dip in hormone rooting power before potting into propagating mix.
When you have 10 minutes
Add warmth to outdoor areas with fire. Try a steel brazier, ploughing disk or commercially available fire bowl. We fell in love with the fire bowls made
by Melbourne’s Lump sculpture studio and shown at Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show this year. They take normal firewood and will have
all your friends gathered in the dark around the warmth and drama of leaping flame and glowing coals.
Want more winter jobs to do in your garden? check out more here, It's Time To: June
Scaevola Fan Flowers
An excellent rockery or prostrate groundcover plant with several hybrids now available with larger flowers than the species.
The majority of the hybrids are mauve-blue in spring and summer but there is also a white form available. They are excellent at developing a dense matt
of leaves and flowers but also make for terrific hanging baskets specimens too especially when planted with other native shrubs.
Excellent drainage is essential in a full sunny position.
S. ‘Purple Fanfare’ has larger flowers than normal and produced most months of the year.
Also look for S. Purple Cascade’, S. ‘Fandango’, S. ‘Fandancer’, and S. ‘New Blue’ .
They are all similar in colour and hard to pick their differences and last several years in the garden.
Scaevola Fan Flowers. Photo - Graham Ross
Grevillea 'Honey Gem'.
There have been many grevillea hybrids developed in Queensland in recent decades that are vigorous, prolific bloomers with large spectacular flowers.
G. 'Honey Gem' is one of those with a mass of large flower spikes 15 X 7cm in size.
The blooms are a rich orange-gold in colour and loaded with bird attracting nectar or honey produced from mid winter to late spring.
Most of these Queensland hybrids are quick growing tall growers with G. 'Honey Gem' attaining 4x3m in size in 3-4 growth seasons or less.
G. ‘Honey Gem’ is thought to be a cross or hybrid between G. pteridifolia and G. banksii.
These two species have parented many hybrids.
Pruning is recommended if they become too tall. Some have observed recovery from very severe pruning even close to ground level after the spring flush.
The best position in the garden is a sunny aspect with well-drained soil. They are tolerant of mild frosts.
Feeding with a low phosphorous fertiliser is recommended such as Neutrog's Bush Tucker.
Grevillea ‘Honey Gem’. Photo - Graham Ross
Meet one of the good guys: Lacewings
Lacewings are one of the most beneficial insects we have in the garden. The larvae or caterpillar stage of lacewing are predators of aphids, moth eggs,
scale insects and whiteflies.
The adult is about 15mm long with obvious long, lacy clear wings. She lays eggs on fine thread-like stalks on leaves, plants, flyscreen doors and window
Indiscriminate use of insecticide sprays will harm this friendly insect predator in your garden.
Lacewing eggs on a gingko leaf. Photo – Graham Ross
You can buy eggs of the beneficial lacewing from OCP. Look out for their Backyard Buddies range of mail-order beneficial bugs. And if you would like to know more, have a look at Dan's article,
'Aphids and other l'il suckers'.
In the Veggie Patch
It’s harvest time in the winter veggie patch this weekend for things like cauliflower, broccoli and spinach. Hopefully that means a spinach pie is on the
cards for dinner soon.
Cauliflower doesn’t have to be smothered in cheese sauce either. Linda has a few fantastic cauliflower recipes, including cauliflower rice, or the delicious
roasted cauliflower and mustard recipe.
There is plenty to harvest in the veggie patch now but it’s getting a bit late for planting winter crops like broad beans.
Mikey the powerful owl
What’s the news on Mikey & Mikey’s parents, the powerful owl family living in the Byles Creek reserve in Sydney? The good news is Mikey’s parents have
mated again. So that would mean the young chick/s would fledge sometime in late August. They have moved about 200 hundred metres north east from the
original hollow, to another hollow in the area.
Mikey now seems to reside at Byles Creek Valley all by himself. We are unsure why Mikeys’ parents, this year had left the original hollow. But we speculate
that during the dry summer and autumn Byles Creek basically dried up, and they moved to more available water downstream. It may also be that Mikey’s
parents moved to allow Mikey his own habitat and hollow. It could also be true that a brush tail possum or cock-a-too had taken the hollow.
Mikey the powerful owl (with his dinner). Photo - Michael Bianchiano
NSW Biodiversity & Native Plants & Animals Threatened with New Legislation
During the week a public meeting was held with Ku-ring-gai Council, The Environmental Defenders Office and the Nature Conservation Council and the general
public to discuss the proposed changes that the NSW Government is hoping to make to the all-important Threatened Species Conservation Act and the Native
It was agreed by a majority present that the changes proposed would generally weaken not strengthen environmental protection legislation that NSW currently
The National Parks Association of NSW are also strongly opposed to the new Biodiversity Conservation Bill and many of Australia’s leading scientists have
also dammed the proposed new laws.
The scientists couldn’t be more damning; they say the changes would result in “more degraded land, more damage to river systems, increased carbon emissions,
and the loss of habitat critical to the survival of threatened species.”
There is just over a week for you to make a submission before the 28 June closing date.
If you wish to protect the bushland across the state, in your community for koalas, birds like the threatened Gang Gang and Powerful Owl and a host of
other fauna, not to mention the trees and the bushland itself, you can make a submission now by going online and using the template for submission PDF here.
It’s a fairly simple assessment that you can make, is there more bushland and trees in your area over the last 25 years or less?
If there is less then there will be less habitat for Australian birds, animals, the wildlife we treasure that’s on our coins, our notes, our coat of arms,
in our stories, highlighted in our poetry, our songs, our children’s books, just what would May Gibbs say today?
As a friend told me this week, “every person who writes and adds their weight to the fight to protect our precious flora, fauna and biodiversity is doing
a sterling citizenry thing”, for future generations.
If these new laws become legislation not even the role of the Environment Minister would be safe, that office would have its protective powers reduced
in important environmental decisions, self-assessment by landholders would be increased allowing them to clear tress with little oversight, and they
can increase the use of biodiversity offsets allowing landholders to clear trees in exchange for paying money into a fund. That’s very dangerous.
These new laws will remove the requirements to ‘maintain or improve biodiversity’ thus lowering the standard for the health of our plants, water and soils.
Can we really benefit from lower standards?
Even the accepted ‘no go zones’ would be excluded and threatened ecological communities would face extinction.
When I was studying Parks and Gardens in the 1970’s I met Alan Strom (1915-1997) a fierce campaigner for protecting the environment throughout his life
from the 1930’s onwards. It was Allen who fought the government tooth and nail to protect our bushland.
The area he was particularly active in was the coastal areas from just north of Sydney through the Central Coast all the way to the Hunter Valley.
When you drive through that area now its bushland, National Parks, the old State Recreation reserves and the like from beginning to end, precious lungs
let alone the beauty the state is so proud of today. There’s a lookout commemorating Allen’s vision at Killcare overlooking much of the bushland he’d
fought hard, along with others, to protect forever.
Allen was an extraordinary chief guardian of our flora and fauna. I was indeed very lucky to have had this giant of conservation as one of my lecturers.
It was Allen who battled, once the true uniqueness of the beauty of Muogammara Nature Reserve on the edge of the Hawkesbury River was discovered, he fought
the government to fence it off and throw away the key. He won, common sense prevailed in Macquarie Street and we now have one of the states, no nation’s,
finest examples of bushland and all that lives in it right on our doorstep.
Allen wasn’t some weirdo, aggro leftie, he wasn’t even all that boisterous and blustering, he was just passionate, knowledgeable and hugely persuasive.
In fact he was so highly respected he was appointed Chief Guardian of Fauna in this state, an Honorary Life Member of NSW National Parks Association in
1963, he received the Australian Natural History Medallion in 1972, made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1977 for services to conservation
education and appointed Environmental Educator of the Year in 1981.
He used to listen to this program during the 1980’s and early 90’s from his home on the Central Coast and I’d receive a note of support from him even year
or so. This remarkable conservationist died in 1997.
There are hundreds of such legends in our history who worked hard to preserve and protect our bushland, we now can’t let them down and the children not
yet born. Legislation that harms our environment needs to strengthened not weakened.
I urge you to add your weight to protect our bushland across this state.
Come away with us
Mexico and Cuba
We are delighted to bring you these two new destinations in 2017, Mexico and Cuba. This exciting new tour is scheduled for October 2017 and will include
the world-famous Mexican festival, Dia de Muerto in the beautiful San Miguel del Allende. Linda was recently there researching the gardens and we will
publish the Mexico & Cuba itinerary soon on
the Ross Tours website.
And if you would like to read all about Linda's recent trip to Mexico check out her article, Magico Mexico
San Miguel del Allende, Mexico
NSW Spring Festivals
A plant lover’s delight as we follow the trail of flower festivals across NSW meeting friendly gardeners along the way. We start in Southern Highlands for Tulip Time, then Canberra for Floriade, then Cowra to catch the Cherry
Blossom and finally to the Leura Gardens Festival.
We visit the beautiful Glenmore House on the NSW Spring tour.
For more information on this incredible tour go to the Ross Tours website,
or call Royce or Roslyn at Ross Tours to reserve your place on 1300 233 200 for more details on the tour.