Blog Radio Round Up September 26-27

Radio Round Up September 26-27

Graham is in Melbourne this weekend on the Garden Clinic bringing you the good oil from the Victorian Spring Garden & Lifestyle Show in sunny Mornington. 

It’s great to catch up with our Victorian members, meet so many new faces and talk to all the keen gardeners here in Melbourne. And its only just begun, so let’s get straight into it.

September: It’s time to…


Jasmine is a scented cascade of spring bubbles that disappears all too quickly.

Foxglove spires are drop-dead gorgeous in dappled shade.

‘Unchained Melody’ is a coelogyne orchid with sprays of wonderful white flowers spilling over the pot. It’s a great find for collectors.


Late-winter and early-spring flowering plants such as diosma, flowering quince and May bush (Spirea) should be pruned as soon as they’ve finished.

Prune one-third of the passionfruit vine to suppress its size and allow it to fruit on this year’s growth


Pick weeds out as you see them and cover bare soil with mulch.

Pick posies of sweet peas to scent the bedroom and keep the flowers coming.


Liquid feed spring-flowering bulbs as they flower and again when they yellow-off to add energy for next year’s blooms.

Apply organic fertiliser to all beds. This does more than feed the plants, it nourishes the soil by encouraging microbial activity.

Feed roses every six weeks to increase the blooms, and to bolster the plant’s disease resistance.

Feed and aerate lawns.


If you haven’t done so in the last three years, re-pot cymbidium orchids when they have finished flowering.

Watch out

Be vigilant against the hungry hawk moth caterpillar, which finds clivia leaves delicious. Zap with Success.


Plant out summer vegetables after the last frost. Try eggplant; capsicum; tomatoes; cucumbers; zucchini; chilli; green beans; beetroot and carrot.

Dahlia tubers are unbeatable for late-summer and autumn colour. The single-petalled dwarfs are loveable, and the gi-normous sunflower, pinwheel and pompom types are just as easy to grow and come back year after year.

Avoid planting big trees and shrubs at this time; the dry weather makes it more difficult to get them well established.

Last chance

Prune and shape hibiscus hard before the spring weather pushes them into new growth.

Bush Garden

Australian Native Clematis, 'old man's beard' Clematis aristata 

An international group of climbers with over 200 species, mainly in the northern hemisphere where they have been hybridised over centuries to produce spectacular flowers with single, double and quadruple numbers of petals, in a staggering array of colours with blooms up to the size of dinner plates. These are highly sought after and much admired, popular climbing garden plants.
But there are six species native to Australia sadly little known or grown but occasionally observed by those in the know, flowering in the bush at this time of the year.

Norfolk Island has its own endemic clematis but it's on the endangered list and the locals are working hard to bring it back from the brink.

Clematis aristata. Photo -

The common Aussie species is Clematis aristata, a huge mass of creamy coloured flowers dangling haphazardly over, on and around nearby bottle brush, banksias and small wattles.
Maybe it's the wild, untamed nature of its growth habit that warns gardeners off this glorious spring flowering native climber. This is a bit sad for I love it's Australian 'never may care', 'I'm all right Jack' wild ways, because this climber has many admirable features.
For a start it's easy to grow from seed or seedling. Some Australian Native Plant Society experts believe it's a bit too eager to grow and can become a bit too adventurous and weedy. No doubt bushfire keeps it under control in the bush.
It's starry, soft creamy white flowers are produced in huge numbers creating a truly wonderful sight when in bloom. When finished the female flowers develop a very decorative summer froth of grey gossamer smoke, hence the common name Goats or Old Mans Beard.
For cultivation native clematis maybe should be grown isolated over an arbour or along a trellis or fence unless you're happy to have it rambling over whatever and wherever it wants. Clematis aristata is also a good groundcover. It's happy in light shade in average soil with lots of leaf litter mulch. No special care needed. In the absence of seedlings for sale, sow seed in summer or take semi-hardwood cuttings. Pruning is necessary to control its wayward habits and to encourage fresh new growth.
It's also insect and disease free another good reason to grow Australia's native clematis. Why not talk to Dave at the Sydney Wildflower Nursery at Engadine to find one for your garden? 


Lilac Kangaroo Paw

There's no doubt Lilac kangaroo Paws are the paw du jour. Linda and Dan have been growing them for years in their beach garden. They're hard to beat, feel like felt, attract nectar loving birds and are beautiful companions for lilac roses like Bonnie Babes, Wallflowers, Sea Lavender, native hibiscus and Emu Bush.


Angus Stewart in the bush garden with kangaroo paw 'Landscape Lilac', native hibiscus, wallflowers (from May Gibbs’ house, ‘Nutcote’) and blue chalksticks. And a big Flindersia australis in the background. 


They'll take any soils, heat, inundation, salt, dry and frost. But where to buy them? We are reliably informed tubestock of the Landscape Lilac Kangaroo paw will be for sale this weekend at the Plant Lovers Fair Saturday and Sunday and the Friends of Catho ‘Back to the Bay Festival’ at the Catherine Hill Bay School this Saturday.Linda Ross and Angus Stewart will be giving free talks in the school gardens on Saturday morning. Free entry too and they look forward to seeing you there. 



Armilleria, Australian Honey Fungus

We unfortunately had some bad news for one of our Victorian Garden Clinic members today. She had come to our stand with photo’s of her Golden Robinia, which had small mushrooms growing up from its roots. Each year this tree completely drops its leaves in late spring/ early summer. This year other trees in their garden are doing the same thing. We suspect it may be a soil born fungal problem like Armillaria.


Root diseases can be fatal to trees like this Robinia.


Soil-borne root diseases, like Phytopthora, Armillaria, and Cypress Canker, are mushrooms  that lives in the soil and feed on both living wood and dead wood. And that's the problem- they don't need to moderate growth to keep the host plant alive. As a result some of these fungal diseases are responsible tree death and forest die-back all up and down the eastern sea board.  

Veggie Patch

We had a caller today with a question about the Honey Murcott Mandarin. It’s a really good performing mandarin that was bred around 1916 by Charles Murcott Smith in America. It is a strong growing, upright tree with very good fruit yield.

Mark Engall from Engall's Citrus Nursery says although it’s named a mandarin, this variety of unknown parentage is more like a mandarin cross orange. The large fruit is flat in shape, with tight skin and seeds in the flesh. It has a distinct flavour unlike other mandarins. The fruit ripens late August into September, making it an ideal addition to the home orchard to increase the harvesting time of mandarins.

Take the flowers off for the first year. That way all the energy will go into making strong branches to support fruit. Then in the next year you should enjoy a bumper crop. Don’t forget to feed it every three months with Giganic and you should get mountains of mandarins


Potted Garden

Osteospermum Blue Eyed Beauty

A massive hit with the crowd at the Victorian Spring Garden & Lifestyle Show, the traffic-stopping Osteospermum ‘Blue-eyed Beauty’ has iridescent yellow flowers that sit well above the plant, so that it looks amazing in full flower, radiant in the spring sun. We like it for its long-term winter flowers and think it makes a great combination with summer-flowering gazania and arctotis. It'll thrive in full sun and part shade and it’s pretty tough. Available from your local nursery. And if you’re in Mornington on Sunday come by our stand. You may be lucky enough to walk away with one on us!


Osteospermum 'Blue-eyed Beauty' display at the Garden Clinic stand, Victorian Spring Garden & Lifestyle Show, Mornington 

Garden News

Meet: John Arnott

John Arnott is the Manager of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Cranbourne Gardens. It's John's dream job. And what a path john has walked to get there! He joins me on air this morning.

John Arnott. Photo -

Born in Perth (Perth, Scotland, that is) John has been employed in public gardens all his working life. He started at the Melbourne Zoo as it was being redesigned into a more modern park, losing the concrete and cages for more open space, landscaping and planting. He spent nearly 20 years there in a number of roles, from the nuts-and-bolts through to trees and plants, and then horticultural management.

From the Zoo John took a position at the Geelong Botanic Gardens, one of the oldest botanic gardens in Australia, where he was involved in the 21st Century Garden Project.

After a number of short-term positions, working for the City of Melbourne and at Wilson Botanic Park in Berwick, he came to his current role as Manager Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Cranbourne Gardens.

Although the site was dedicated as a native plant annex back in the 1940's Cranbourne Gardnes was completed in 2012 as a contemporary Australian native garden. By the mid 1970's planting was well underway but there was little structure and it looked more like a national park than a botanic garden. Through the efforts of people like Phill Moor, former director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, and plant designer, Paul Thompson Cranbourne really stacks up internationally displaying Australian plants in creative ways.

Victoria has always been a real hot-spot for gardens. John told us this morning that there were 21 botanic gardens in Victoria by 1850 (that's right, 1850!). In those days gardens were seen as an essential component of what made a society civilised. An expression of the vitality of a city's culture. Something that deserved significant investment. 

This investment is still returning dividends to Victorians today. Little surprise then that there are still so many keen gardeners here.


Meet: Tracey Sidwell 

It’s often said that small business is the engine room of Australia. Yesterday at the Mornington Garden Show we met Tracey Sidwell, a real garden innovator, who has created a new business, ‘BaleGrow’, straw-bale garden kits delivered to your door. Tracey joins me spoke to me on air today.

The BaleGrow kit comprises of three straw bales, liquid plant food, and an 8-page booklet Tracey has created for you to explain how to create the perfect growing medium for your plants. The process takes 15 days, only 6 of those are ‘active’ days, where there is work to be done on the bale. After that the BaleGrow straw is ready for your seedlings to be planted. No soil needed.

Tracey stumbled across the concept when her husband delivered some straw bales to a man growing potatoes out of the wheaten straw. With no gardening experience and very little time Tracey has turned this concept into a great new business

Over time and a few tweaks here and there, Tracey has come up with a conditioning treatment that produces the best results for Straw Bale Gardens, just the ticket for the busy young family who want to grow their own, or have limited space.

If you live in Victoria Tracey will deliver the kit to your door with everything you need to prepare your bales and get your first harvest going. And for the rest of us she says “watch this space.” We can’t wait for the BaleGrow kit to make it north of the border.

Log on to her website and get one growing at your place.



Tracey's Balegrow gardens can produce bumper crops in small spaces. 

Vive le France

I've spoken recently to some of our 2016 travelers who will be joining me in Chelsea, and then continuing on our France tour. And there's little surprise why. We will capture the essence of French culture as reflected through their gardens, produce and markets. Come with us and travel through Normandy, the Loire Valley & the Dordogne. You will experience the passion of the royal landscapes, artistic gardens & their love of food through kitchen gardens. Vive le France!



We had a caller inquiring about the Yates Uplift range of liquid fertilisers, and whether they have been discontinued. We are happy to confirm that they're still available at good nurseries.

Thanks to Phyllis from Maroubra who called about her Azalea wall and when to prune. We reminisced about the beautiful spring walk at the botanic gardens. The old varieties, Alphonse Anderson, Magnifica, and Alba Magna were the stars of the show. You may also remember the old Lane Cove Road display of springtime past, which featured the same azalea varieties. 

Phyllis needs to prune after the flowers are finished, 2/3 of the canes need to be cut back to the ground, the remaining 1/3 can be pruned 30 - 40%. Feed with Kahoona, cow manure and water with seasol and powerfeed.

We had a fantastic call about edible ornamental plants, and whether we know of anything published on the subject. Whilst no one particular publication comes to mind there is little doubt how useful this could be. Of course, this reminded me of the 'Aboriginal Pharmacopoeia', which discusses all the native plants aboriginal people used as medicines. It is such an important document, and we are very lucky to have it. Some of the elders who helped research it died before the Aboriginal Pharmacopoeia was published. 

And what a pleasure it was to have chatted with Pat from Penshurst, still gardening at 93 years old. We are so pleased to have Pat with us that we have joined her up to the Garden Clinic Club for a year and sent her the "Feed my Flowers"  pack free of charge. 

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Daniel Wheatley commented on 05 Nov 15

Hi heather,
We try to answer questions here but we find it a little difficult to get to everyone's questions answered in a timely fashion. The comments section isn't the best forum for questions.
But if you are a member of the Garden Clinic Club you can call the Helpline on 1300 133 100 and get advice from a qualified horticulturist 7 days a week. They will identify the problem and recommend an appropriate solution for you on the spot. And there are mountains of other benefits to being a member. Check them out by clicking the "Join" link at the top of the page.
But I remember the caller, and we've had questions like this before. He had a tree in the middle of the hedge dying, and we think it's either of two things; firstly, trees in the middle of hedges can suffer from either over or under watering. There is also a reasonable likelyhood that at least one in every 10 or so trees in a hedge will suffer transplant shock coming from a nursery environment and not ever recover. Yellowing, however, could also indicate lack of nutrient. Give it a little more time for the cow manure to become available in the soil, and try not to over-water it.
Happy gardening,

Heather O'Sullivan commented on 27 Sep 15

On Saturday 26th a question came in about a murraya hedge yellowing. I missed the reply. I have tested the soil and brought up the Ph with magnesium and fed it with cow manure as well as Sea Sol on the leaves and soil. What else can I do?

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