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​Banksia spinulosa 'Birthday Candles'

Photo - Linda Ross

Banksia spinulosa ‘Birthday Candles’


This prostrate banksia hugs the ground to a height of about 50cm. It bears pale yellow flower heads with lilac styles from late summer to winter. These are held above the foliage and provide much-needed food for birds when there is little else in flower. Buy ‘Birthday Candles’ as small plants – tube stock grow into better specimens - and plant them in full sun to part shade. ‘Birthday Candles’ needs excellent drainage, and once established, requires very little water. Be sure to keep phosphorus well away; use a fertiliser formulated or natives. 


We like it with:  ‘Birthday Candles’ looks great in a garden bed with Acacia ‘Limelight’, or with the a meadow of everlasting daisies, which accentuates flower.


Text: Ally Jackson

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Author: Ally Jackson

​Bug Watch: Helpful wasps

Photo - David Cappaert, Michigan State University,

Early spring is the time to hang parasitic wasp (Encarsia formosa) cards up in new plantings of tomatoes and eggplant to protect these vegetables from white fly. The cards are impregnated with wasp eggs. The eggs hatch, the wasps grow and the adult female lays her eggs into white fly larvae. Many commercial tomato growers are now using these wasps as a chemical-free way of controlling white fly infestations in their glasshouses.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

​Bug Watch: Woolly aphids


Photo - The Lifestyle Channel

These insects are 2-4 mm in length, pear-shaped and often covered with white waxy filaments that give a fluffy appearance, as though they are covered with wool. They occur on many hardwoods and conifers including elm, silver maple, ash, alder, apple and pear.They feed on leaves, buds, twigs, and bark, as well as on the roots. Symptoms of feeding include twisted and curled leaves, yellowed foliage, poor plant growth, low plant vigour, and branch dieback.

Woolly aphid is soft-bodied and likes high humidity so opening up trees to increase airflow will help control the pest. Spiders are also effective in woolly aphid management. Soap sprays such as Natrasoap, can remove the aphid's protective wax coating, making other control strategies more effective. The pest can be sprayed with Eco-Oil, Confidor, Conquer or MaxGuard.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

​Camellia ‘Desire’

Is this the prettiest camellia of all?


A vigorous, upright cultivar with deep green foliage and a medium to bushy habit. Flowers are perfectly formed, large formal doubles that fade from soft white to pink. The flowering period stretches from April to September. 



Camellia ‘Desire’ requires a shade to semi-shaded spot. Plant into free draining soil that has been enriched with plenty of compost. Avoid planting too deeply as this will set back growth. Ensure that the top of the potted plant’s soil is level with the existing soil upon planting. Water regularly and deeply, especially during the warm summer months. Pruning should be done annually, directly after flowering. Remove any dead or diseased branches and give your plants an overall prune back to a shape. Feed in early spring and autumn with a controlled release fertiliser. We like Kahoona, Thrive Granular Azalea & Camellia Food and Ferticote Rose, Gardenia, Azalea & Camellia fertiliser.



Photo - Robyn Mackenzie/


Pest and Disease

Camellias are typically hardy, pest and disease resistant plants. Scale and mites can become an issue if left untreated – to control; spray the affected plant with Eco-Oil or Natrasoap with good, even coverage. This may need to be repeated weekly until pests abate. Phytophthora root rot can also impede camellias. Symptoms include a gradual decline in vigour, loss of dark green colour, curling of leaves and excessive loss of older foliage. Feeder roots turn dark in colour, with larger roots following. This is more prevalent in boggy soils. An organically rich, free draining soil is the best defence. If root rot is present, spray the whole plant with Anti-Rot or RotGuard. 

Special Comments

Camellia ‘Desire’ has exceptional, large flowers that look surreal when cut. For excellent quality plants, take a trip out to Camellia Grove Nursery at 8 Cattai Ridge Road, Glenorie NSW. They are open 9am to 5pm 7 days a week, or give them a call on (02) 9652 1200. Check out their website at


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

​Canna ‘Australia’

Photo - Linda Ross

Canna ‘Australia’

Description: the popularity of cannas is due to their long display of bold foliage and vibrant flowers. This hybrid is one of a new series called ‘Show Off’, which has been bred for resistance to disease and for clean, sculptural foliage. It has burgundy leaves and large, bright red flowers from summer into autumn. Flowers last well in a vase and the plant will grow in containers as long as it receives adequate water.

Size: 90cm x 75cm

Cultivation: cannas grow in most soil types, in semi-shade to full sun, although growth and flowering are better in full sun. Remove stems that have flowered to promote new growth. Every two to three years lift and divide clumps in early spring, cutting foliage to 15cm and cutting tubers into sections with no more than two ‘eyes’. Plant into soil prepared by adding plenty of compost and manure, and mulch well after watering.

Special comments: although the ‘Show Offs’ are disease-resistant, they can be affected by rust – remove and bin any affected leaves.


Text: Libby Cameron

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Author: Libby Cameron

​Crown Vegetables


Asparagus and rhubarb are two long-lived plants you can grow from crowns planted in winter. 


The crown is a section of the plant with roots attached. Crowns are more expensive than seed but offer a shorter wait till harvest. 


Both these plants do best with an entire garden bed to themselves.



Asparagus is generous, but you must be patient. Crowns you plant this month can be harvested in spring 2013, when you’ll be picking about a dozen spears every few days through September and October.

Varieties include long green ‘Mary Washington’, purple-speared ‘Purple’, and, for lovers of thick spears, ‘Fat Bastard’, an F1 male hybrid available from Diggers.

Plant crowns about 40cm apart, on top of a little mound formed at the bottom of a trench. Backfill with soil then water well. Spears will pop up in spring, and become 1m long fronds. These will yellow in autumn and should be pruned to the round in winter. Fertilise in winter with well-rotted cow manure and heavy mulch.

Female plants will produce red berries throughout the growing season. Male plants are the best croppers: you can spot them at germination time as they have thicker stems.


Photo - Linda Ross



We planted out mailorder rhubarb last winter and have been dining on stems for the last six months. Plants raised from seed, on the other hand, usually take three years before they're ready for harvesting. Eight plants of rhubarb will be enough for a family of four. In warmer regions choose ‘Ever Red’ and ‘Sydney Crimson’, which have particularly red stems. ‘Wandin Giant’ originates from the hills of Melbourne and has thick stems. ‘Silvan Giant’ produces stems throughout the year.

Choose a position with ample moisture and plenty of fertiliser. Plant the crowns 75 cm to 1 metre apart, with the growing point at or just below the soil surface. Water then mulch with straw. At the end of the first growing season, mulch with well-rotted cow manure. Don't let the plants dry out in summer.

To harvest pull stems gently from the crown, always leaving some stems on the plant. To avoid rhubarb running to seed, don’t water overhead and if flowers do appear, remove them. Every four or five years dig the plant up and divide the crowns for replanting.


Photo - Linda Ross


Planting tips

Prepare the ground as you would for flowers: with plenty of cow manure, compost, blood and bone and potash mixed in through the existing soil. If you have clay soil create raised beds to improve the drainage and if you have sandy soil add a lot of organic matter so that it doesn't dry out too quickly in summer.


Where to find

Our favourite mail order companies such as Diggers, Eden and Greenpatch Organic or try for Mr Fothergill from your local nursery.



Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

​Geraldton Wax

Photo - Linda Ross


Geraldton Wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum)

The unerringly fake-looking flowers of Geraldton wax appear now and emphasise the beauty that can be found outdoors in winter. Most varieties of Geraldton wax grow 2-3m, and like free-draining soils. They need full sun for optimum performance. Once established, they need little water. A light prune at the end of flowering will encourage bushy growth. 

We like them with: Eriostemon, native Fuchsia, Emu bush,Tea tree and Crowea.


Text: Ally Jackson

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Author: Ally Jackson

​How to: sow seed indoors


If you’d like to be enjoying fresh tomatoes from your garden before Christmas, start in winter, sowing and growing indoors so that you have advanced seedlings ready to plant out once the cold weather, and chance of frosts, has passed. 

Tomatoes, eggplant, chilli, peppers and cucumber will all thrive in pots inside in bright light. 

While not a beginner’s level skill, gardeners with some experience will have no trouble germinating and growing indoors. Here’s how:


Photo - Linda Ross


Soak jiffy pots or fill pots with seed raising mix. Firm down to eliminate air pockets. Soil should reach 1cm below the top of the pot. Water the soil. 

Sow thinly, if possible just two seeds per individual jiffy pot or seedling cell. If both germinate uproot the weakest one. 

Label and date the seed trays, jiffy plugs or individual seed-raising punnets. An ice-cream stick is perfect for this. 

Cover the seed with a fine layer of seed raising mix. There is no need to water again. Cover the top with newspaper to exclude light; this step speedsgermination. 

Place seed trays, punnets or jiffy pots onto a heat pad and place the plastic cover over the top. This increases the humidity, which encourages germination. 

Check morning and night for signs of growth, and as soon as the seed has sprouted remove the newspaper to allow natural light in. Shield the seeds from direct sunlight, as this can burn them. 

Pot the little plants into individual pots as soon as you see white roots appearing in holes at the bottom of the seed punnet cell.

As soon as the risk of frosts, or cold weather, has passed, plant the seedlings out into the garden at the distance recommended on the seed packet.


The hot seat

Linda is a fan of Heat ‘n’ Grow heat pads and keeps one on her kitchen bench. This heated propagation system creates a mini-greenhouse effect for ideal growing conditions. There are a number of slightly different systems available, one with a heat pad of 10 degrees above ambient air temperature and one that has a controlled temperature thermostat. You will need to spend between $70 - $150 to set the system up, depending on your preferred size. For more information go to 


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

​Mail Order Vegetable Seed Supplies


Our Favourite Mail Order Seed Companies

We like to buy our seeds from trusted mail order seed companies, this way we get a considerable range of varieties for a lifetime of experimentation.  

One favourite is Greenpatch Organic Seeds who grow and harvest their own organic vegetables, herbs and flowers seeds in Taree. They are Australian owned and far fewer food miles are wasted when seed is so locally sought. Seeds I have ordered this year include Cucumber White Spine, Long White and German Pickling, plus Pumpkins Jap & Baby Blue as well as Zucchini Golden Summer Crookneck and Black. Apart from a great range of seeds they also sell tube stock of rhubarb, carob, ice-cream bean tree and curry, carefully wrapped up and delivered in the mail. It's worthwhile ordering their catalogue. Ring Neville or Sophie for a catalouge 02) 65514240 or head online


For heirloom vegetable varieties and unusual fruit plants, Digger's Club in the Mornington Peninsula is unsurpassed. Suited to gardeners in cooler/ temperate areas but fine for warmer places too - and they do mail order throughout Australia. Digger's Seed Club offers an excellent range of unusual and very, beautiful vegetables and plants. Look out for their climbing zucchini called ‘Trombocinio', which is actually a type of gourd, they also have a large range of eggplants and tomatoes as well as bulbs, perennials and flowers. We love Digger's Seeds ready-made mixtures containing blends of several varieties of one vegetable which offers the perfect way to try different varieties. For example, their lettuce seed blends called ‘Lettuce Mesclun Mix' give you an assortment of leaf colours and shapes for salads. Radish blends contain seeds of purple, white, red, and red-white combinations. Their heirloom carrot mix is a favourite as they include carrots in bejeweled colours, so when you pull up your carrots you get a colourful rainbow.


Shopping around at Eden Seeds first is a good idea as they often they have the same thing for a little less. Eden Seeds, great for subtropical and warm temperate gardeners based inland of Surfers Paradise, stock an excellent range of hardy vegetable seed that are especially suited to the subtropics and above. Eden has one of the largest range of non-hybrid seeds in Australia. Write and request their catalogue or order one through their website. They have a very large range of chillies and tomatoes and are good for getting other things like eggplants, all different coloured tomatoes, moon and stars watermelon and beans.


Unusual herbs such as ginger, turmeric, horseradish can be found online at Green Harvest. They have some good information on their website about fruit fly protection and natural pest control as well as a good range of vegies and herbs, focusing on a solid core of heirloom varieties. They also have a great range of garden supplies including protective netting, soil pH kits, Asian hand cultivators and organic pest sprays. In spring they sell a wide range of quite rare edible plants including yacon, Peruvian parsnip, water chestnuts, heritage potato varieties, NZ yam, asparagus, rhubarb, tree onions, golden shallots, Jerusalem artichokes etc. It's well worth ordering their catalogue - which you can do through their website.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

​Native bluebell

Photo - Linda Ross

Native bluebell (Wahlenbergia stricta) ‘Blue Mist’


Spring sees the stunning blues of our native bluebell appearing in the bush and in gardens. The blue becomes electric when it’s teemed with an acacia ‘Limelight’ in a rockery or garden bed. Bring the vibrant blue blooms to eye level in a hanging basket, or make them a moveable feast, in pots. Be sure to use a native potting mix, and feed annually with a slow release fertiliser for natives. Wahlenbergia stricta ‘Blue Mist’ is available from Sydney Wildflower Nursery in Heathcote, (02) 9548-2818.


Text: Ally Jackson

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Author: Ally Jackson

​Pink Waratah

Photo - Linda Ross

Pink Waratah Telopea ‘Brimstone Passion’

New cultivars of pink waratahs have been developed by plant breeders to offer better garden performance than the wild flower. ‘Brimstone Blush’ and ‘Brimstone Passion’ (pictured) are irresistible, and demand to be matched with pink everlasting daisies, pink dwarf kangaroo paw and pinky-mauve carpets of brachyscome. Prune flower stems by half to three-quarters after flowering to increase the number of flowers for the next year. Plants that are a decade old or older need to be rejuvenated with a ruthless prune. Cut the canes right back to the lignotuber (swollen base) after flowering. This imitates the effect of fire. The plant will flower again the flowering year. If the clean cut is too dramatic for you, you can prune half the canes one year and the other half the following year.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

​Postcards from the Garden World

Views, reports and travel tips from around the globe.

This is a postcard from the world of Ross Garden Tours


Perfectly trim

The level of horticulture in the two domes at Singapore’s Gardens By the Bay is extraordinary. In the Cloud Forest gardeners have to abseil down the ‘mountain’ to plant and trim the great walls of plants, and over in the Flower Dome the detailed attention to good looks is next level. We all marvelled at the volunteer workers in the Australian section trimming the brown tips of lomandra with scissors! Robin Powell



Pass the cassis

Cassis was very popular on our tour to the French countryside. Better known as Ribena in Australia, Cassis is the taste of black currant berries (Ribes nigrum). We enjoyed it as a liqueur, added to champagne to make a Kir Royale, and also as ice cream. Just outside Villandry Gardens, which were brimming with late summer roses and vegetables, Kathleen and Margaret matched cassis with lavender. Perfect. Linda Ross



Pottering about

Mr. McGregor, the fictional character in Beatrix Potter’s books, was always trying to keep hungry rabbits out of his vegetable garden, and he couldn’t keep us out of Beatrix Potter’s garden at her home Hill Top in Windermere. Jeanette couldn’t resist a photo with him - and all those gorgeous tuberous begonias - even though she thought his beard looked a little like her husband’s! Colin Barlow



Dreams of India

I couldn’t help imagining myself as a maharini when we visited Amber Fort in Jaipur! All that opulence!Elephants, their trunks decorated with coloured chalk, gather in the huge ceremonial courtyard after walking up to the fort on the hilltop. We wandered, marvelling, through ornate decorated doorways into an inner courtyard where private meetings were one held in the exquisite Hall of Mirrors, near a beautiful ornamental garden. Can’t wait to see it all again in February! Libby Cameron



Under the cherries

We had to pause beneath these gorgeous flowering cherries at Tulip Top Garden just outside Canberra. Each spring Bill and Pat Rhodin, with son Dallas and daughter Molly, reveal a 10-acre masterpiece. Overhead are flowering cherries, peaches, plums and crabapples, while huge beds of spring bulbs -mainly tulips and daffodils with annual pansies and Bellis - carpet the ground. It reminds me of Keukenhof in Holland: a remarkable achievement for such a small team! Sandra Ross



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​Pretty Peas - native pea flowers

Chorizema cordatum and Prostanthera ovalifolia. Photo - Linda Ross


Australia's native peas are dazzling in the wild and offer splashes of colour, and some challenges, for the home gardener. Graham Ross goes pea pod casting.

Any trip into the Australian outback will inspire you to grow eye-catching wildflowers with pea-shaped, butterfly flowers. Who could fail to be impressed by square metres of flowering Sturt's Desert Peas, mounds of fiery orange Flame Peas and curtains of purple Hardenbergia dripping down from taller host trees?

All are distantly related to edible peas but it's their flowers that appeal, not their fruit pods. There's plenty of variety among the native peas: groundcovers, annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. Their flowers have delicate perfumes, a range of rich colours and while not large, make up for their size in the numbers they produce each spring.

Many native pea flowers have a reputation for being short-lived, so gardeners have tended to avoid them in the past. However, as we learn more about their cultivation and as plant breeders turn their attention to creating new varieties, native peas are now being seen in more and more home gardens.


Native pea varieties 

Perhaps the most commonly grown of the native peas is the purple-flowered climber Hardenbergia. The best planting of Hardenbergia I ever saw was in Perth. The plant was growing up the trunk of a towering local gum and spilling down 5m or more. The gardeners had added extra strands of wire to encourage branching across an area 6m wide. In this shady area, the cobalt blue pea-flowers glowed. What added to this vision splendid was the neighbouring plantings of another native pea, the local Hovea trisperma. It too was in full bloom with its mauve-blue flowers standing proud on upright branches. If you're like us and planting on the east coast, then the indigenous Hovea species, H. lanceolata, will work nicely with the Hardenbergia.


Hardenbergia. Photo - Linda Ross

Other common pea-bushes are the loosely grouped 'bacon and egg' plants. Many genera belong under this common name and all have the characteristic bi-coloured orange and yellow pea-shaped flowers. Some grow in barren, sandy soils and shallow rock pockets while others thrive in moist, almost swampy conditions. Sadly, many that were native to vast tracts of land have been almost eliminated to extinction by the colonial graziers – they were poisonous to stock. These days, home gardens house many of these beautiful wildflowers.


In the bush, the quaintly named Running Postman, Coral Pea and Black Coral Pea, which are all Kennedia species can be seen scrambling across the ground and devouring shrubs that get in their way. Come spring, they are covered with masses of red or black and yellow flowers. They are vigorous, hardy climbers and will last for years. Given there are few true black flowers Kennedia nigricans, is a novel but practical plant to grow. The Scarlet Runner Pea, K. rubicunda, is another groundcover that is easy to grow up a trellis fence and has bright red flowers in spring.


Black running postman, Kennedia nigricans. Photo alybaba/

Flame Peas, Chorizema spp, are impressive shrubs for their quick growth and stunning sprays of orange flowers when grown in sun or shade. Undoubtedly though, the queen of the pea flowers is the groundcover Sturt's Desert Pea, Swainsona formosa. With brilliant red, large pea-shaped flowers and a glossy, black boss in the centre, it's a worthy selection for South Australia's state floral emblem.

As for the tallest member of the pea family, it's the Black Bean, Castanospermum australe, with its huge yellow and red flowers appearing on the older branches of the tree. The large seed pods were always used as boats by the 'gunmnut babies' in the books created by Australian children's book author and illustrator May Gibbs.


You can grow native pea plants

Growing native peas will take you into the challenging world of Australian flora where the plants are more soil and climate specific than most found at your local garden centre. That said, there's still a huge range to choose from that are suitable for your garden. Native plants are some of the most beautiful and complex in the world but they are not mainstream. I advise you to visit native gardens in Australia's Open Garden Scheme and specialist native plant nurseries – and that's half the fun. Of course, your local garden centre will be able to offer lots of advice. In the meantime, here are some guidelines to get your native peas under way…


In the garden

The best way to grow ornamental flowering peas is to create a bush garden. If you place these native plants, with their specific cultivation needs, into a regular garden bed with roses and other exotics, one group will die out. A totally native garden is the way to go. Start by removing large areas of grass and installing a good sub-surface drainage system. Next, cover the area with a free-draining sandy loam. Then mound the soil in a natural, irregular way to create a series of gullies and ridges. Large pieces of stone will help with this.


Hardenbergia in our bush garden. Photo - Linda Ross


Planting out

Select 5cm small tube plants instead of 15cm or 20cm pots as they establish more quickly than larger ones. Place in as natural an arrangement as possible, taking into account their ultimate size. This avoids overcrowding and permits each plant to display its attributes. Water in the entire area then apply a mulch. Regarding mulch, I've seen a 5cm layer of pea gravel used effectively, yet most people go for a natural bush-chip mulch. If you opt for it, always determine what trees have been chipped for your mulch - eucalyptus and other native trees are okay, but camphor laurel can give you problems later as the essential oils drain out of the mulch and stunt or poison native plants.



Avoid strong fertilisers – instead, mix a handful of pelletted manure with a bucket of natural, leaf litter and sprinkle around the soil. This is enough to feed most natives. Those with extra flowers will benefit from a light sprinkle of a low-phosphorous granular fertiliser. Seaweed solutions are a great plant tonic too.


Care and propagation

Native peas will benefit from a light annual trim removing only 10-15cm after each flush of flowers (which might occur 2-3 times during spring and summer). This will keep the plants compact, and encourage them to produce more new growth and flowers. It also strengthens the plant against disease and insect attack.

Many peas are difficult to strike from cuttings or germinate from seed. Each plant will be different. Some seeds will need soaking in warm water for 24 hours while other species will strike from cuttings at different times of the year. You'll find reference books like Australian Native Plants (5th edition), by John Wrigley & Murray Fagg (Reed New Holland, $100), most helpful, and I can personally guarantee you'll find the whole native pea thing a lot of fun!

Our Favourite Pretty Peas

1. False sarsparilla or Happy Wanderer

Plant name: Hardenbergia violacea 'Happy Wanderer'

Description: variable habit from trailing groundcover to climbing plant, narrow grey-green leaves with masses of pea-shaped purple flowers in late winter and spring.

Size: 3-4m on the ground, or along a fence; 2m up a trellis

Symbols: Full sun and semi-shade, not frost tolerant.

Special comments: There are several cultivars with Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) including, Hardenbergia violacea 'Bushy Blue' with purple flowers, 75cm tall; Hardenbergia violacea 'Mini-Haha', dwarf, erect compact habit to 15cm with deep mauve flowers; Hardenbergia violacea 'Mini Magic', low, spreading to 1m wide and 15cm tall, excellent for rockery.  

Hardenbergia violacea. Photo - Linda Ross

2. Sturt's Desert Pea

Plant name: Swainsona formosa  (now renamed Willdampia formosa after its 1699 discoverer William Dampier)

Description: annual with deep red pea-shaped flowers with a glossy black central boss, appearing after rain on trailing 1-2m stems covered with hairy grey leaves.

Symbols: Full sun, frost sensitive.

Special comments: Can also be grown successfully in rockeries, hanging baskets and towers of terracotta pipes filled with gravel. Must have well-drained soil and don't like disturbance once growth has commenced. Snails love the foliage. Grown from seed sown in March or April, or from grafted plants.

Sturt Pea. Photo - Linda Ross


3. Flame Pea

Plant name: Chorizema cordatum

Description: Lime green heart-shaped leaves and masses of bright orange-red flowers in early spring to early summer.

Size: Compact shrub, 1x1m.

Symbols: Full sun to light shade, frost tender.

Special comments: Prefers a sheltered spot with good mulch. 


Flame pea. Photo -


4. Dusky Coral Pea 

Plant name: Kennedia rubicunda

Description: Dark green leaves and dull red pea flowers in spring.

Size: Vigorous to 3m as groundcover, 4-5m when grown along fence.

Symbols: Full sun and part shade, frost sensitive.

Special comments: All Kennedias are quick growing: K. nigricans has black and yellow flowers; K. retrorsa is rare but frost hardy.

Coral Pea. Photo - Linda Ross


Where to buy

* Specialist native plant nurseries.

* Forestry Commission Nurseries.

* Australian Plants Society 


Text: Graham Ross

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Author: Graham Ross

​Queensland firewheel tree

Photo - Linda Ross

Queensland firewheel tree (Stenocarpus sinuatus)

These stately trees brighten autumn with their wheel-like inflorescence, aflame in reds, yellows and oranges. The sinuatus of the botanical name refers to the wavy margins of the tree’s leaves. The tree can reach 30m in the bush but is usually no bigger than 9m in a garden. If you have the space, plant one in a sunny or partly shaded area, in well-drained soil.


Text: Ally Jackson

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Author: Ally Jackson

​Rhodanthe ‘Paper Stars’

Photo - The Lifestyle Channel

Rhodanthe ‘Paper Stars’

This pretty daisy is covered in tiny white paper flowers with a yellow centre. It’s ideal for gardens with a cottage feel. 'Paper Star' will also grow in a pot or hanging basket and the fine-leaved foliage will soften the edges of pathways or the sides of large tubs.

'Paper Star' prefers morning sun with protection from strong afternoon heat. Soil should be moist but well-drained. Mulch well and give an occasional deep watering during extended dry periods. A light dressing of slow-release fertiliser during spring and autumn will boost flower production. Prune by up to one-third after the main late spring flush to maintain a neat, compact habit and to encourage a second flush of flowers in late summer/autumn. Trim lightly after the second display.


Photo - The Lifestyle Channel

To dry the flowers, cut the stems just as the flower begins to open and hang in loose bunches, upside down, in a dry place out of direct sunlight. In 3-4 weeks the flowers will be properly dried and will retain their shape and colour indefinitely.

By the way, some of you will know this plant as Helipterum anthemoides. Taxonomists decided to split the large genus of Helipterum into several new groups and H. anthemoides has been reclassified as Rhodanthe.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

​Showy Honey Myrtle

Photo - Linda Ross

Showy honey myrtle (Melaleuca nesophila)

The contrast of the pinkish/purple flower heads, the deep green shiny foliage and the light-coloured, almost-smooth paperbark makes this an excellent feature for the bush garden. The beautiful flowers are borne on branch tips and are about 3cm in diameter. Melaleuca nesophila is a large shrub /small tree from Western Australia which can get to 4m by 4m, but which looks best when trimmed to be tree-like. The lower branches can be ‘crown lifted’, which means they are removed to leave a small trunk. Mauve flowers in large clusters appear in late spring and through the summer. This plant is spectacular when in flower but attractive all year round. It is very hardy in most soils (both wet and well-drained) and most aspects and is frost-hardy to about -7C. All of which makes it perfect as a fast-growing screen or feature plant.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

​Sunday’s garden: Growing Heide

Heide's rose walk in spring with iris blooming among Sunday Reed's beloved roses. Photo - Heide Museum of Modern Art

A new book tells the story of one of Australia’s most culturally significant gardens – that at Heide, the home, for fifty years, of John and Sunday Reed.


Sunday Reed is usually described as an art patron. She and her husband John championed a new generation of Australian artists, including Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, Charles Blackman, and most famously, Sidney Nolan. Nolan met the Reeds in 1938 and became Sunday’s lover. He lived at Heide through his formative years as an artist and later, from 1946 to 1947, painted his celebrated Ned Kelly series on the Heide dining room table.


Sunday was not an artist herself, but she was a passionate gardener, and used her garden as canvas, journal and mirror. In turn her friends saw her as an extension of the garden she created. A new book by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan, ‘Sunday’s garden: Growing Heide’ explores the role of the garden at Heide. This edited extract describes the role of the roses at Heide and in Sunday’s life. 


Sunday’s dear friend, painter Jean Langley once observed that ‘Sunday was an artist, an artist who did not paint, a poet who did not write poems, but someone whose every touch was a touch of magic.’ Roses were essential to Sunday’s palette, and their giving – as cut flowers and plants for friends’ gardens – was a gesture of deep fondness.


Sunday loved heritage and wild roses like this delicate Rosa maschata. Photo - Robin Powell

Sunday grew an idiosyncratic but intelligent selection of wild and species, old and hybrid roses, and after nearly eighty years of rose cultivation at Heide, around 150 of her original 250 or so bushes planted still remain. She was resourceful about obtaining cuttings and plants, looking overseas for those available in Australia and having them imported. The Reeds also sought out nurseries specialising in old roses, and sourced plants from Alister Clarke, the well-known hybrid grower who bred some of Australia’s best-loved roses. Sunday grew his winter-flowering ‘Lorraine Lee’ and ‘Black Boy’ in the Heide II kitchen garden.


Photo - Robin Powell

Heide’s most famous rose was made so by Sidney Nolan, who immortalised ‘Mutabilis’ in a 1945 painting created at the height of his love affair with Sunday. This China rose has a remarkable and abundant flowering habit, with twisted petals like fine tissue and flowers that change in colour as they open, from creamy yellow to pink and darkening to a soft crimson.


The blooms of Rosa mutabilis change colour as they age, from a creamy yellow to soft crimson. Photo - Robin Powell 

While the wild or species roses were grown at Heide for their purity and history, the blooms Sunday loved most were the heritage varieties, those with the delicate colouration she favoured and with exquisite perfumes. She especially like the gently scented ‘Madame Pierre Oger’ – ‘upright and vigorous’ – together with ‘La Reine Victoria’ and ‘Reine des Violettes’, which has quilled and quartered petals, each with a button eye.


The bush of Rosa mutablis near the river at Heide was made famous in a painting by Sidney Nolan which features Sunday wrapped in its blooms. Photo - Robin Powell

Of particular sentimental value was a rose she grew in the walled perennial border at Heide I, which Sunday referred to as ‘my mother’s rose’, in memory of Ethel Baillieu, who died in 1932. Purportedly a cutting from a bush beside her mother’s grave, the rose has been identified as ‘Duchesse de Brabant,’ a light pink repeat-flowering tea rose with a double-cupped bloom.’

The nostalgic and personal significance of roses to Sunday is further evidenced by an anecdote involving Mary Perceval, now Lady Nolan, who loved the Heide garden as a young woman. When Mary moved to The Ruthland in 1975, a seventeenth-century farmhouse on six acres in southern Wales, Sunday investigated exporting Heide roses as the foundation for its garden. When this proved impossible, she instead ordered old roses from Miss Murrell’s nursery at Shrewsbury. Murrell was a friend of Vita Sackville-West and supplied Sissinghurst, a pedigree that would have resonated with Sunday. Mary later reported, ‘the roses have become so much more important than anything else’.


Sunday and John Reed in 1943. Photo - Albert Tucker


This is an edited extract from ‘Sunday’s Garden: Growing Heide’ by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan, published by the Miegunyah Press, rrp $45.


The authors are curators at Heide Museum of Modern Art, where the garden is still an integral part of the whole experience of visiting Heide, as it was when the Reeds lived there. John and Sunday Reed bought the old dairy farm in Heidleberg (Heide is short for Heidelberg) is 1934. The Reeds lived in the old farmhouse until the 1960s when they commissioned architect David McGlashan to build them something modern. It was to be a ‘gallery to be lived in’ and in 1980 fulfilled its second purpose when it was acquired by the Victorian government and turned into a Museum of Modern Art. The Reeds moved back into the farmhouse, but both died within a year. In 2001 the old farmhouse, called Heide 1 was restored and opened to the public. So now a visit to Heide is a fascinating day out, incorporating the collection and changing exhibitions in the new building; the museum in the old building; the sculptures in the park-like grounds; lunch in the café (where chef Shannon Bennet devises menus that makes the most of the fresh pickings from Sunday’s kitchen garden); and plenty of time in the wonderful gardens.



Go to for details on exhibitions and opening times.

About this article

Author: Lesley Harding & Kendrah Morgan

10 things you didn’t know about fruit flies

Robin Powell reports from behind enemy lines on the fascinating, infuriating fruit fly.


Words by Robin Powell


Fruit fly. Photo -


1. There are close to 5000 species of fruit fly in the world, with 270 native to Australia, 10 of which attack commercial varieties of fruit. The Queensland fruit fly is the major curse of gardeners on the east coast.

2. The little fly buzzing around the fruit bowl when fruit is overripe are vinegar flies. These are much smaller than Queensland fruit flies.

3. It takes temperatures of -5 degrees three days in a row to kill an adult fruit fly! They survive the winter chill by hanging out in the canopies of evergreen trees, especially those close to houses or compost heaps that might generate a bit more warmth. They become active once temperatures get to around 15 degrees.

4. The female’s ovipositor both pierces a hole in the skin of the fruit, and positions the eggs in the fruit. The ovipositor of the Queensland fruit fly is strong enough to pierce the skins of even tough fruit like passionfruit, pomegranate, walnuts and almonds.

5. The resistance of cherry tomatoes to fruit fly attack is thought to be because the skin is too shiny and slippery for the female to get a good grip and sting the fruit.

6. Lychees and finger limes repel fruit fly attack because the juice under the skin is under so much pressure that the fruit fly sting causes juice to explode out of the tiny hole, taking the newly laid eggs with it.

7. The female spits on the fruit before she stings it and positions her body to sting through the saliva, taking bacteria into the hole, which immediately starts to break down the cells of the fruit, offering an instant food source to the hatching eggs. That’s why the skin around a sting feels soft to the touch.

8. Eggs hatch 24-48 hours after they are laid, and the larvae grow in the fruit for between 7-40 days before jumping out of it.

9. The pupae stay in the ground, or in mummified fruit, for a minimum of 10 days and up to about 20 days in cool weather. They are a popular food source for chickens.

10. It takes just one to two weeks for a fly to develop from an egg to sexual maturity, mate and lay more eggs. Adult fruit flies can live for about four months.


Eliminate fruit fly:

1.Be clean.

In winter make sure all fruit is off trees, and there is no fruit fallen on the ground that would provide safe habitat for fruit fly larvae. This includes lillypilly fruit which are recorded hosts for fruit fly. Don’t put fallen fruit straight into the compost bin. Boil it first.


2. Monitor

Keep an eye out for fruit fly activity. Hang traps in target trees from spring through autumn, and in evergreen trees in winter to kill fruit fly and indicate population changes. Check fruit for signs of stings.


3. Deal with the threat

When fruit flies are identified in traps, start spraying with organic sprays for fruit fly or, use our preferred method for total control, exclusion. Net trees or use exclusion bags over individual fruits, keeping the bag well clear of the skin to prevent attack through the netting.

About this article

Author: Robin Powell

3 must-have perfumes for winter

Daphne. Photo -

Confined to home base this winter, I am enjoying wandering aroma-therapeutically!

When it comes to perfume I am spoilt for choice in winter, and I can’t resist picking a few fragrant stems to take back inside with me. They add a lovely note to the smells of baking puddings, and slow-cooking stews!

I’m loving… 3 fragrances

1. Daphne: this is a favourite fragrance of mine, and because daphne is very prone to root rot and needs well-drained soil to survive I prefer to grow it in a pot. But just a little sprig with perfume a whole room and it reminds me of my mother. We grow it at the back door, in morning sun, and it seems to thrive (although I have a back up if it drops dead with root rot!).


2. Brown Boronia (Boronia megastigma): I have never been able to keep this temperamental native alive for longer than a year or two, but its fragrance is uplifting, its irresistible. Rather than pick it, I bring the pot indoors for short periods to saturate myself with the lemony fragrance.


3. Wallflowers: I love mixed bunches of rich crimson-black Erysimum 'Vulcan', E. 'Fireking', a lovely sort of browny, toffee-apple orange, bright magenta-pink E. 'Violet' and best of all, E. 'Blood Red'. With these four, you're guaranteed wonderful scent, which some wallflowers no longer have, beautiful colours and tall, straight stems. I sow seeds in pots in early summer then when they are big enough (and space allows) I plant them out in autumn to enjoy through winter.


Text: Sandra Ross

About this article

Author: Sandra Ross

3 Ways to Jazz up your Front Garden

Photo -

‘There’s nothing half so pleasant as coming home again’ wrote the American poet Margaret Elizabeth Sangster more than a century ago. Here are some great ideas to create that perfect welcome home.

We think she’s just as right today as she ever was, and in a civic-minded effort to banish drab front porches and barren front patches, we declare it The Year of Welcome Home! 

Here we explore three inspirational ideas that might ring the bell (that would be the front door bell!) for you.


1. Colour

A new paint job brightens up a tired home. Colour fashions change through the decades, making it easy to update the look of your home. Choose a colour scheme that suits the style and era of your home and blends with the houses in your street.

Make an even prettier picture by matching garden plants to house colours. Here the red shutters complement red roses and geraniums and the pink paintjob gives a quaint unique look. A matching window box takes minutes but its impact lasts an entire season.


Romantic roses and pickets. Photo -


2. Entrance

An attractive entrance and fence is a first step in creating a welcome home. The front fence should be lower than side boundary fences. Choose something that matches the style of the house: pickets with weatherboard; rendered brick fence with a rendered brick house; horizontal timber slatted fence with a modern home design.

Match the fence with a gate and even an arbour to complete the look. An arbour brimming with roses makes a beautiful and fragrant transition from the outside world to home.



The lychgate. Photo -

3. Window dressing

Boring windows can be livened up with potted colour. A simple weekend job can transform windows and balustrades with flowering annuals such as impatiens, pansies, cineraria and primula. Autumn planting is ideal for these flowers.


This arrangement would suit an eastern aspect. Photo -


Text: Linda Ross


About this article

Author: Linda Ross

5 Best Garden Shows in the World

Eckersley Garden Architecture won gold at the Singapore Garden Festival in 2010 with this 'Fantasy Garden' featuring thousands of suspended white orchids. Photo - Rolling Stone Landscapes.

For jaw-dropping garden style and sheer floral beauty you can’t beat a walk around one of the world’s best garden shows. 

This is our pick of the top five, in no particular order.

Philadelphia Flower Show

Where: Pennsylvania Convention Centre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

When: annually in the first week of spring

This is the world’s largest indoor flower show and it’s spectacular. Exhibitors control temperature and day-length to force their trees, shrubs and perennials into early bloom: just in time to meet the show’s spring start deadline. This year’s theme was Springtime in Paris. A bucolic park on the Seine bloomed in the convention centre. Blossom trees, lilacs, roses and lavender featured in a garden inspired by the Tuileries, and the Parisian vibe was reinforced with cabaret performances, flower sculptures and carousel topiaries.


Philadelphia hosts the world's largest indoor flower show each spring, and in 2010 the theme was Springtime in Paris. Photo - Linda Ross


The show is operated under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and dates back to 1829. Proceeds support revegetation projects and the current project is to plant one million trees in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. 


Chelsea Flower Show

Where: the grounds of The Royal Hospital Chelsea, on the Thames Embankment, London.

When: annually for five days in the last week of May

This is the world’s most prestigious flower show. It’s run by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), a charity that inspires people to get into gardening and gives them the skills to do it. It’s both a showcase for garden design and a virtuoso display of horticultural skill and is so well loved that in 1987 the RHS was forced to restrict ticket sales; numbers are capped at 157,000!

At the heart of the show is the Great Pavilion, a huge undercover space for spectacular flowers and displays. Also pulling the crowd are the shows gardens. Leading garden designers from around the world compete for medals, especially the much-coveted Best in Show.


Melbourne-based landscape designer Jim Fogarty designed a garden for the Melbourne Botanic Garden at Cranbourne that described the journey of water through the Australian landscape. The garden picked up a gold medal at Chelsea in 2011. Photo -

Two Australian garden designers presented at Chelsea in 2011. Wes Fleming and his team have been exhibiting at Chelsea since 2004. In that time, they have won four gold medals, and three silver-gilt including one for 2011’s entry. The garden was designed by Ian Baker and explored the link between Australia and England through the voyage of the Endeavour and the work of Sir Joseph Banks.

The Melbourne Botanic Garden Cranbourne won a gold medalin 2011, in its first trip to Chelsea. The Australian Garden, designed by Melbourne-based landscape designer Jim Fogarty, was a metaphorical journey of water through Australia.

What to see: the world’s best delphiniums, sweet peas, roses, foxtail liles, alliums, clematis and begonia.


Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Where: the grounds Hampton Court Palace, Surrey.

When: annually in the first week of July

This the largest flower show of them all! Like Chelsea, this one is run by the RHS, but is nearly three times as big. There are show gardens, water gardens, small gardens, conceptual gardens, giant floral marquees, pavilions, talks, demonstrations and a festival of roses, all spread over 14 hectares.


One of the iconic images of the 2010 Hampton Court Flower SHow was this giant pink tap. As part of a national campaign called 'A Matter of Urgency', the show-stopping garden was deisnged to raise awareness of overactive bladder (OAB), a condition which affects nearly one in five people in the UK aged over 40 It reappeared in 2011, stopping traffic once more. Photo -

Hampton Court Palace is a grand setting for a flower show and, unlike at Chelsea, there is no restriction on ticket sales here and gardeners also have the opportunity to shop. Graham Ross was there this year and says “the locals particularly love the opportunity to be able to buy plants and this makes for a very relaxed, friendly market-style event. There’s no pressure, you’re not being pushed along by the crowds, and there’s plenty of room to stop and admire the plants at your pace.”

What to see: late-summer perennials and roses and an innovative edible garden display.


Singapore Garden Festival

Where: Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Singapore

When: annually for eight days in July

This garden show is only a few years old, but is already developing a hefty reputation. In 2011 17 countries took part, garden designers from all over the world presented their gardens, and 300 000 visitors turned up to have a look.


Photo - Jim Fogarty


Jim Fogarty won a gold medal at the inaugural Singapore Garden Festival in 2006, and followed that up with more gold in 2008 and again in 2011 with his Daintree Garden. “The Singapore Garden Festival is the biggest gardening event in the tropics,” he says. “It’s a rare opportunity to see recent international medal winners. Designers from around the world are invited to compete, on a level playing field. Each designer has to work with the same-sized garden plot and the same budget. It’s the ultimate way to see a cross-section of current world garden trends and talents all together in a country that prides itself as being a true garden city.”

What to see: the world’s best tropical orchids, palms, anthurium, heliconia, torch ginger and beehive ginger.


Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show

Where: Royal Exhibition Building and surrounding Carlton Gardens, Melbourne

When: annually at the end of March

Australia’s best-loved garden show is affectionately known as MIFGS (pronounced Mifgus). It’s the largest garden show in the southern hemisphere and showcases the talent of Australian garden designers. The success of the show is partly due to its great location in the heart of Melbourne. Lovers of garden accessories also have fun in the extensive retail section.


Dean Herald's 'Reflections' garden took the main prize at MIFGS in 2011. It balanced calm and strength and featured a lounge area with fireplace and curved roof, a relection pond and an outdoor bathroom. Photo - Rolling Stone Landscapes.

Garden designers often debut at MIFGS, then move on to Chelsea. This was the case for Jim Fogarty, Scott Wynd and Ian Barker who have all designed award-winning gardens for Wes Fleming at Chelsea following success at MIFGS. 2011’s MIFGS winner was Dean Herald from Rolling Stones Landscapes. His 'Reflections' garden was inspired by the battle many people face with depression and anxiety. It was a calming space featuring an expansive pavilion positioned over a modern pool with an astounding curved roof. Lush plantings provided seclusion and privacy; and an elevated outdoor bathroom and large fireplace were set within the pavilion.

What to see: autumn colour, sedum, foliage plants and gorgeous cut flowers inside the glorious, heritage-listed Exhibition Building.


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

5 steps to starting a veggie patch from scratch

Isolation at home is much easier when you have a nice project. Ever wanted to grow your own veggies but never knew where to start? Here are five steps to consider when starting a patch from scratch.

1. Position

When selecting a position for your veggie patch, chose an area with plenty of sun, protection from frosts and strong winds. Remember, an area with plenty of sun in summer may have none in winter; do a bit of planning before making the final decision.

2. Garden bed construction 

There are numerous ways to construct garden beds. A raised garden bed will provide extra soil depth and good drainage. Some of the popular materials for constructing beds are H4 timber sleepers, besser blocks, straw bales and bricks. Corrugated water tanks are also very popular and fuss free.

Photo -


3. Crop Rotation

Ideally you will have four separate garden plots or one plot divided into four areas. This allows you to practice crop rotation which is important for reducing the incident of disease and nutrient deficiency. We like to divide our veggies into four separate rotation groups, these are - Beans & Peas, Leafy Greens, Fruiting Veg, Roots and Stems. 

4. Soil 

In some instances the soil in your veggie garden area may already by quite good, only needing some improvement. In most cases you'll need to buy a good veggie mix from your local landscape supplier. When starting a new patch, or in between crops, there are a few things we like to add such as - Compost, Manure, Seaweed Pellets (Seamungus), Blood & Bone, Lime and Sulphate of Potash. All these things add vital nutrients and structure to the soil. By doing this, the risk of a nutrient deficiency is greatly reduced.


Linda tending the vegetables. Photo - Scott Hawkins


4. Mulching and feeding

A thick layer of mulch over the veggie patch will do wonders for your plants. Mulch will discourage weeds, conserve moisture and reduce temperature fluctuations in the soil. We like to use Sugar Cane or Lucerne mulch. As it ages, the mulch breaks down, adding organic matter and structure to the soil. Feed every two weeks with a liquid fertiliser containing added seaweed such as Maxicrop, Harvest or Seasol & Powerfeed. You can alternate every two weeks with Comfrey tea or Worm Wee which are full of chemical free nutrients. Organic pelleted fertilisers such as 'Rocket Fuel' and Dynamic lifter can be applied every 2-3 months. 


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

7 great ideas from Holland's Floriade

Zany bulbs. Photo - Robin Powell

Bringing it home

Once a decade the horticultural industry of Holland celebrates with a grand expo called Floriade. Each massive event is held in a different place and in 2012 it was carved out of a forest near Venlo, close to the Dutch border with Germany. 

On the massive, 44-hectare site teams of workers planted 1.8 million bulbs, 18,000 shrubs, 15,000 hedge plants and 3,000 trees. They created show gardens, flower pavilions, a lake, and the permanent gardens which will be part of the business park the site will become when Floriade packs up in October. Ross Garden Tours took four groups to see this garden extravaganza this year. We marvelled at the flowers, at the horticulture and at the sheer scale of the show. We also took notes on some of the great ideas we could envision in our own little patch of paradise at home. On these pages we share some of our favourite inspirations.


1. Mille fleur planting

Gorgeously embroidered tapestries were hung on the stone walls of rich medieval castles in an attempt to ward off the damp, the chill and the dullness of unrelieved stone. In the backgrounds of these tapestries artists wove magical combinations of colourful flowers, offering the chilled castle inhabitants a glimpse of summer. The style was called mille fleur, meaning a thousand flowers. Designers at Floriade brought the 16th century tradition to life in twin bands of embroidery-like colour that swept up a slope for a thrilling hundred metres. In the mix were low-growing blue and yellow pansies; cornflower-blue grape hyacinths; blue forget-me-nots with a sprinkle of pink to lighten the look; dark and light pink English daisies (Bellis perennis); with white daffodils to give the beds sparkle, and scarlet tulips to lend dramatic drops of red.

Take it home – try a mille fleur planting along the front path, or in some other sunny place that offers you a few metres to play with.


Mille fleur planting. Photo - Robin Powell

2. Woven colour

Tulips are often planted as single blocks or rows of colour that celebrate the wonderful clarity of the blooms. Some of the designers at Floriade used this approach to stunning effect. Even more appealing though, were the beds when the change from one colour to another was almost imperceptible. Here a block of lipstick-pink tulips merges into a block of light pink tulips with the same flower shape. At first just a few light pink interlopers break up the darker colour, but gradually the density of light pink grows until the bed is all light pink. This weaving of colour lends a flowing quality to the garden.

Take it home – when planting summer annuals experiment with blending and blurring the boundaries where one colour meets another.


Woven colour. Photo - Robin Powell

3. Flowering walls

A lack of useable ground level space is no barrier to gardening, as many of the gardens at Floriade demonstrated. We saw walls constructed of rusted iron with pockets inserted for plants and walls made entirely of blocks of different plants. Both of the options shown here use pots affixed to the wall. On the wall below, white and red begonias grow in a randomly placed cascade of white pots. 


Flowering walls. Photo - Robin Powell

In the wall below, a madly colourful collection of bromeliads and tillandsias is edged with the pale green froth of muehlenbeckia.


Photo - Robin Powell

Take it home – bromeliads and tillandsias will grow in shade and need very little water or soil, so are a perfect choice for a gloomy courtyard wall.

4. Unusual pots

Showing that anything can be a container for a plant, the bromeliad below is potted into a section of hollowed-out tree fern trunk. Moss has been cultivated on the side of the pot, and though the cavity is small, the soil requirement of bromeliads is also small, so the combination is a perfect match. 


Unusual pots. Photo - Robin Powell

Here, hippeastrum bulbs are planted into shallow wooden trays.


Happy hippy's. Photo - Robin Powell

Below, flowering pots of New Guinea impatiens have been placed in plastic trugs of a matching colour. This is not a permanent solution – the trugs don’t have drainage holes, so care has to be taken that the potted plants aren’t left sitting in water – but it’s a quick and simple way of instantly colouring a dull part of the courtyard.


Red on red. Photo - Robin Powell

Take it home – think outside the usual plastic and terracotta when considering how to use potted plants to decorate your outdoor spaces.


5. A different backdrop

Green is the usual backdrop to flowering plants. In formal gardens, dark hedges of box, camellia or yew make an indistinct screen of leaves against which the colours of flowers can pop. Here, tulips are backed by the surprise of brown carex grass instead. The pinkish tones in the grass are picked up by the tulips, and the fuzzy airiness of the grass lends a lightness to the composition that looks modern.

Take it home – this planting urges us to consider whether we are showing off our favourite flowers to their best advantage, or whether the background is detracting from the beauty of the bloom.



Single colour sparkle. Photo - Robin Powell

6. Single colour sparkle

In this early spring perennial planting the only colour comes from the green of the new growth, the lime of the euphorbia and the gold dust sparkle of daffodils. The limited colour is soothing and serene. The planting will explode into a range of different colours and heights as the season progresses, so in this moment there’s a sense of the quiet before the storm.

Take it home – you don’t need a lot of colour to make a satisfying garden picture; just a sprinkling will do.



Lemons and lime. Photo - Robin Powell

7. Loose and light screens

Screening one part of the garden from another allows you to create different spaces and add some mystery to the garden. Here a flowerbed of tulips, grape hyacinths and summer-flowering perennials and bulbs is screened from a lawn area with a rustic screen. This roll-out fence, available by the metre in Europe, is simply metre-high split untreated planks wired together. There is nothing sophisticated, or even particularly finished about it, yet it gives the planting a light structure. The screen frames the planting and gives the bed more presence than it would have on its own.

Take it home – a similar light screen effect can be achieved using tomato stakes wired together.



DIY timber fence. Photo - Robin Powell

Text: Robin Powell

About this article

Author: Robin Powell

A lesson in clipped hedges

A hedge is many things. It can define areas of the garden; shield you from the curiosity of passersby; block ugly intrusions into your view; protect your privacy; offer favourite plants a green backdrop against which to dazzle; or simply give your garden a nestling sense of enclosure and cosy comfort. Here Graham Ross answers the most-asked questions on hedge cultivation and care.


Is there a rule of thumb for working out spacing when you are planting a new hedge?

A good general guide is to plant 20-25 per cent of the average width of a free-standing specimen of your chosen plant. For example, Indian hawthorn (Raphiolepsis) might grow to 2m wide. So 20-25 per cent would see you planting 40-50cms apart to create a hedgerow. Likewise, Grevillea ‘Molly’ grows 3m wide so should be planted 60cm apart to create a hedge.



A pleached hedge or hedge on stilts provides a high screen. Photo - Monika Pa/


What should we look for in a plant suitable for a hedge?

The plant should be slow growing. Fast growers often die quickly and you want a hedge to be a permanent fixture in the garden. Look for small leaves and twiggy branch growth, which give the best chance of a dense hedge. You’ll also want plants that are tolerant of shallow soils, root competition and tough conditions, and are able to withstand neglect. It’s surprising how long the list of plants is that ticks all these boxes! 


Are there any hedge plants you wouldn’t recommend?

Many gardeners who planted x Cupressocyparis ‘Leylandii’ have lived to regret it. Some of the early plantings in the UK are now 30+m tall! Not really home hedge material. Also unsuitable is the golden Leylandii, x Cupressocyparis ‘Castlewellan Gold’, which is another very vigorous tall grower. I’d also suggest you avoid the lillypilly varieties that are susceptible to pimple psyllid insect.


What is the best time to prune hedges?

From the day you plant! Growth varies so you might get away with three or four times a year for a murraya hedge but Cupressus ‘Leylandii’ will require attention on a bi-monthly basis. Keep pruning regularly to keep a hedge in good condition. Don’t allow bare inner twigs to appear.


A hedge resembles the buttress roots of a old tree. Photo - Pack-Shot/


Is there any time of year you should avoid pruning a hedge?

Keep your pruners in the shed when extreme heat or hot windy days are predicted. In fact, pruning during summer is always risky, as hot dry days can burn tender new foliage. Very low temperatures are also limiting factors on new, young shoots so avoid pruning when frost or snow is predicted.


Are electric pruners okay to use, or is it better to use hand tools?

Hand tools do a great job, especially for smaller hedges, but electric pruners are also terrific. I’ve used an electric Wolfe hedge trimmer for 25 years. They key to doing a good job is to that all trimmers must be kept sharp to avoid tearing stems. Torn stems encourage disease entry. 


Keep pruners sharp and wipe down sap frequesntly. Photo - Yganko/


How can you keep a hedge green and thick right down to the ground?

There is a trick to achieving this and luckily it’s easy to follow. Dig a trench to plant your hedge rather than digging individual holes. Fertilise all soil area equally for even growth. Lightly trim all over on the day of planting and keep trimming new growth to encourage a bushy habit.


What tips do you have for keeping a square hedge really square?

It seems obvious - use a string line. We all know blokes have 20/20 vision like a plumb bob, but a line does helps.


And what about those more organic, lumpy hedges? Can you just make it up as you go along?

Have a plan, even a rough measured guide with stakes placed at intervals with heights marked and trim to them.


Photo - Robin Powell


If you haven’t pruned a hedge for a few years and it’s very out of shape, how hard can you go to get it back into line?

The cure varies for every species as some plants withstand hard pruning and others don’t. For instance Camellia sasanqua, Buxus, Murraya, Photinia, Viburnum and Elaeagnus can all be pruned heavily and will bounce back, but conifers, grevilleas and banksias don’t recover reliably after heavy pruning, in fact some will die.


Speaking of death, what is the disease that is causing die-back in some box hedges in European gardens?

Box (buxus) of all types - English, Korean, Japanese etc, - are all susceptible to box blight, which is a debilitating fungal disease. I observed a very similar disorder at the Ryde School of Horticulture in the 1970s and the disease was officially identified in New Zealand and Europe in the 1990s. There is no registered fungicide control, though Yates Rose Shield, which contains myclobutanil, may help control. Good garden hygiene will reduce the risk of infection: when pruning wipe shears with methylated spirit between plants. Keep the hedge growing vigorously with adequate feeding.


Text: Graham Ross


About this article

Author: Graham Ross

A story about the breeding of grafted gums

Summer Glory. Photo - Linda Ross


Graham Ross tells the inspiring story of Queensland nurseryman Stan Henry’s determination to create a flowering gum that anyone could grow. 

“I grew up looking at trees self-grafted. So I knew eucalypts could graft, no matter what anyone else said.” 

It’s been disappointing and frustrating not to be able to grow the spectacular West Australian Flowering Gum, Corymbia ficifolia, syn.Eucalyptus ficifolia. It has a very limited distribution in the wild, and gardeners have found that all too often the flowers end up white or a sickly pale pink. Experts believed for a long time that it was just never going to be a garden plant; that eucalypts couldn’t be grafted and that the glorious Western Australian flowering gum would never find a happy home outside the sandy soils of their original home.

Then in 1973 I saw a photograph of grafted eucalypts taken in a nursery in California. They were all around 40 cm tall, all in flower, and all identical. But when I mentioned this to native plant enthusiasts in Australia at the time, they told me not to believe my own eyes because the grafting of eucalypts just wasn’t possible. 

But Stan Henry always thought it was possible and through a lifetime’s work he has turned that belief into reality in his nursery in the Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland, where he has developed the Summer Series of flowering gums.

Stan was first inspired to start working on grafting flowering gums out of sheer frustration. “There was endless frustration trying to produce a satisfactory flowering gum,” he explains. You’d be able to grow the plant in the early stages, but then it would become sick, if it flowered at all.” This was in the mid-‘50s and the early ‘60s, so that by 1966 Stan had decided there was no future in growing seedlings on their own root stock; he would have to try grafting.

This was a heretical idea at the time, but Stan had grown up around the bush, with a father who was interested in the country and had a great love of plants. “He introduced me to plants and to my long affair with eucalypts,” explains Stan, “and that’s really where I got the idea. I grew up looking at trees self-grafted. So I knew they could graft.”

At that time Stan had never grafted a plant in his life. But he was right, eucalypts would graft. “I used the Swamp Bloodwood , or the Spring Bloodwood as it’s now called, and the West Australian gum, Corymbia ficifolia,” recalls Stan. “The first one we did is a red-flowered one and it’s called ‘Summer Red’. I have to admit when that flower opened, it was so beautiful. You know what it’s like when you have something new, and it’s looking good, and you wonder with anticipation how it’s going to be. So one day I went down to have a look, and it was partly open, and it was so beautiful, I struggled not to cry.”

Stan has developed some other colours since. “We have a white one, that I didn’t try to breed, so I was stunned to see this beautiful white flower come out of a pink bud,” he says. “The other one is mauve and in a planting not far from here where the public can see them, that one draws a lot of attention. People are very interested in that one. They love the colour, especially in the afternoons. We call it ‘Summer Glory’.

Stan Henry has a spirit I really admire. He has had the courage to face people with closed minds, to launch out in a new direction and to really explore the unknown with an open mind. And he has really shown us the way. If I was the government I would have given him an OAM for services to gardening years ago. But as I’m not, I’ll just show you, and tell you about, his wonderful plants.


Text: Graham Ross


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Author: Graham Ross

A Taste of Japan

At work in Yanaka, a traditional part of Tokyo where the neon hasn't ventured. Photo - Robin Powell

The cherry blossom is divine, but don't miss these other quintessential Japanese experiences, advises Robin Powell.

Buy a sweet

In most Japanese restaurants the dessert list doesn’t veer far from fresh fruit or ice cream, but don’t let that give you the idea that Japanese don't like sweets. They love them, they just don't eat them after dinner.

Wagashi is the generic name for the traditional Japanese sweets that became a refined art form in the old imperial capital of Kyoto. They are all made from natural, plant-derived ingredients and though they are sweet, they are low in fat. The Japanese consider them healthy choices - and compared with the pastries and donuts also available on every street corner they are. But more importantly they are bite-size works of art, and taste delicious. 


A cherry blossom captured in a spring sweet. Photo - Robin Powell

In spring, sakuramochi (spring sweets) start appearing in sweet shops, department store food halls and railway station kiosks. Sakuramochi are reminders of cherry blossom season; balls of adzuki bean paste are wrapped in pale pink sticky rice, which has been pounded until it becomes smooth and stretchy, and then the whole thing is wrapped in the surprise of a lightly salted preserved cherry leaf. Invariably sakuramochi are so beautifully packaged you can hardly bear to open them. Make sure you do. The texture of the soft and yielding, yet slightly chewy rice pastry, and the flavour of the sweet beans contrasting with the slightly sour and salty leaf is totally addictive.


Sakuramochi are delicious sweets sold only in spring. Photo - Robin Powell


Have a bath

Japanese baths are one of the treats of a trip to Japan. To drought-inured Australians accustomed to two-minute showers, sinking up to the neck as water slops over the side of the tub feels like a great indulgence. Taking the waters in Japan is as popular now as it ever was in 19th century Europe, and areas of hot springs are domestic tourism hot spots. But for travellers not certain they want to leap in, naked, to the public hot springs bathing experience, the best place to try bathing Japanese-style is in the baths of a traditional hotel or inn, called a ryokan. The baths here are open to all guests, but choose your time and you are likely to get the bath to yourself, and if you do have to share, it’s unlikely to be with many other bodies.


Slippers on the wooden floors. Photo - Robin Powell

There are two towels in the change rooms - a small one and a larger one. You can take the small one with you to wash but don't take it into the actual bath with you. The big one is just for drying. Leave your clothes in the basket and with your little towel held discreetly walk into the bath area. The bath is only for soaking, not for washing. Washing is done in the showers nearby. There are sometimes shower cubicles, or sometimes just a shower wall with a line of showerheads and low stools and buckets. Soap, shampoo and conditioner are supplied. You sit on the stool and wash before submerging yourself in the hot bath proper. This might imitate a river, with rocks and a waterfall, or be a long pool looking into a garden, or a deep cedar-lined tub. Usually there are two different areas and they swap gender roles every day. Men take the door hung with the blue curtains, women the burgundy or red one. The water is hot, and there is a great exhalation as you sink into the heat and muscles and joints relax. It’s too hot to stay long; most people just stay in a few minutes. After the bath, there are hair dryers, seats, a jug of cold water, shining skin, and a great sense of relaxation.


Photo - Robin Powell


Try a sake

Japanese rice wine is as varied in its flavours as wine made from grapes, but most Australians don't get a chance to get familiar with them unless they come to Japan. So don't waste the opportunity, and don't worry, they are not as alcoholic as their undeserved reputation. Most are about 15 per cent, about the same as a big Barossa shiraz, while some are as low as 13.

Whereas wine is made from simply fermenting grapes, making sake is a multi-step process. The rice is first polished to remove some of its outer layers. How far it is polished is one way of grading sake. The top grade is called dai ginjo and it is made from rice that has been polished so that less than half of the grain remains. After polishing, the rice is washed to remove any starchy coating, then gently steamed until nearly soft. Then comes the hard part. Before they will ferment, the sugars in the rice must first to be converted to glucose, a process achieved with the help of a special white mould. Over a few days the mould invades the grains and then yeast starts converting the resulting sugars into alcohol. Do you need to know this to enjoy sake? Not really, but it does help make clear where all those floral, fruity flavours come from. Of course most labels are in Japanese only so buying in a shop is pot luck. But it's still fun.


A line-up of sake, take a lucky dip approach! Photo - Robin Powell

Even more fun is dropping into a Japanese bar, an izakaya. The bartender/chef/owner who is usually the same person in these very small bars, will help out. Choose a sake cup from the tray offered, and decide if you'd like your sake hot or cold. There are all kinds of versions of the rules about which sake can be drunk at which temperature. You can choose whatever you like. Either way as the sake warms or cools in your cup different flavours will become apparent. You’ll just get familiar with its changing nature and the 180ml serve will be gone. Time to try another one!



Text: Robin Powell 

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Author: Robin Powell

Acacia cognata 'Limelight'

Photo - Plant Management Australia

We have successfully grown the shrub form of ‘Limelight’ in Sydney for ten years – through drought and flooding rains! – and love its waterfall of luminous lime leaves. As a shrub it grows into a 1m x 1m bun – offering a formal touch to native gardens. Grafted specimens grow to 1.5m on a 1.2m high trunk and will eventually weep to the ground to create a perfect hideaway for children to make magic under. The standards also look good grown either side of a gate or pathway to give height and a sense of arrival. Limelight loves full or part sun.


Photo - Plant Management Australia


Text: Linda Ross 

About this article

Author: Linda Ross



The sparkling blue and white flowers of agapanthus cool the summer garden, and new colours are a real thrill.


The uncompromisingly tough agapanthus withstands hot summers - and the cover drives of the holiday season’s backyard cricket! If, like me, your new year is celebrated with these happy blue sparklers, you will be delighted to discover the breadth of varieties now available. And, just as good, the new forms are as easy to grow as the common sky blue stalwart!


The genus name means flower of love, from the Greek agape, meaning love, and anthos, meaning flower, however the significance of the name is unclear. Agapanthus species and cultivars have long, strap-like, fleshy leaves that form dense clumps of evergreen or deciduous foliage (choose evergreen forms for all-year action). Tall stems tower over the foliage, bearing heads of bell-shaped or tubular flowers, in shades of blue to purple or white. In frost-free climates, flowers of evergreens appear over a long season, in cooler zones summer is the principal flowering season. Agapanthus heights now range from 20cm dwarf forms to giants measuring 2m.


Agapanthus are mow available in sizes from dwarf to giant. Photo -


I have always loved a trip to the beach and that first dazzling glimpse of ocean. My sing-song chorus from the car has been the same now for 36 years, “ I see the sea and the seas sees me!” The horizon of blue lifts my spirits and its cool sparkle offers relief from the summer heat. The same goes for blue and white flowers in my garden, especially the agapanthus. They remind me of long summer days, Christmas and a cool iceblock after a day at the beach.


Cool blues

Blue is a cooling colour and in the garden it provides a restful serene atmosphere. Limiting colours in the garden is an easy way to create a vibrant and fresh look. The combination of blue and green is well complemented by lemon, white, orange and silver.

Strangely there are only a handful of blue flowers. Plumbago is one, best suited to use as a medium-sized hedge to 2m. ‘Royal Cape’ has a more intense tone and is a superior plant to the common sky-blue plumbago. Plumbago is a rambler and its suckering habit helps in establishing it as a hedge, but to keep it under control, pull off any suckers that are out of place. Prune plumbago very hard in late autumn, after flowering, or it will get out of control. Fan flower (Scaveola) and Leschenaultia are two blue native groundcovers that grow like mounded carpets and can be planted around clumps of agapanthus. They all enjoy similar conditions - a hot sunny position with limited water.

A dusting of white, lemon, orange or silver to the blue and green palette will help the blues shine. Consider accents of lemon pokers, lemon flower carpet roses, white rock rose (Cistus ‘Mrs Bennetts White’), milk spurge (Euphorbia spp) and carpets of white moonflower (Convovulus cnenorum).


Aggies in the garden

Blue and white agapanthus make an excellent evergreen border to paths and driveways in areas exposed to the hottest afternoon sun. I use the smaller dwarf forms to edge garden beds and use the giant forms as large clumps of colour in my perennial borders. En masse they look like the gentle waves of the ocean. Another classic use is as entire row of blue out the front of a white picket fence. The only danger is schoolkids snapping the heads off as they walk by! Agapanthus can also be easily grown in large pots for the balcony, courtyard or veranda. Keep in mind that they prefer cramped root conditions so should be potted up gradually rather than swamped by huge amounts of wet soil in a large pot.


A border of blue is perfect along pathways. Photo -


Happy in poor soils and full sun, no plant matches this one for indestructibility. The thick fleshy roots allow the plant to store its water, energy and food, making it an extraordinarily drought-resilient plant for pool soils. While it does well with neglect, a little care, water and fertiliser will greatly improve agapanthus flower production.

Although agapanthus are the ultimate easy-case plant, you should take care to remove the finished flower heads. These are quick to seed and can often become a menace in suburbs adjoining bushland areas. In fact the weedlike tendencies of this plant are often debated in the world of horticulture and in some parts of Victoria it is declared a weed. Some of the new hybrids are sterile so there is no weedy danger, but just to be on the safe side, simply remove the unripe seed head when the flowers are finished.

One of the myths about agapanthus is that they change colour from blue to white or vica versa. They do not actually change colour but as the seeds germinate under the mother plant, seedling variation means these new plants could be white or blue! Once again, simply pruning the finished heads will stop the seed forming and ensure your aggies stay the colour you planted.

Make more plants by root division in autumn and winter. To keep agapanthus in prime flowering form, lift and divide the clumps every four or five years, in autumn. Feed in spring with an organic feed to nourish the developing flower buds.


Deep-blue, sky-blue and white forms of agapanthus are available, so you can choose exactly the colour and height you need. Photo - 


Plant notes: Agapanthus

‘Queen Mum’

This new giant variety has mid-green leaves to 1m, and flower spikes towering 2m high. White flowers are striped with the palest blue.



‘Black Pantha’

Purple flower buds and dramatic purple-verging-on-black flowers look striking against the green foil of the foliage.



‘Purple Cloud’

A giant form, in amethyst purple. Grey-green foliage gets to 1m and the flowers reach to 2m with a diameter of 30cm in diameter. Truly stunning and well worth the hunt.




Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross



Photo - Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/ 


Fact file

Name: Ajuga sp. commonly known as bugle flower. A genus of 40–50 species of annual and perennial herbaceous flowering plants.

Belongs: to the mint family Lamiaceae

Origins: Europe, Asia and Africa

Flowering: Spring-summer



For spires: Each spire is made up of hundreds of fat-lipped, individually lobed flowers like a supersized lobelia. Photo - Peter Radasci/


For colour: 'Caitlins Giant' is twice the size of other ajuga cultivars. Its blue flowers area great complement to lolly-pink bergenia. Photo - Jim Fogarty

This reliable blue spring carpet deserves its go-to reputation. Let’s take a closer look.


Now: purple-blue flower spikes in the spring and summer sit proudly above thick carpets of plum-purple foliage.

Summer: at summer’s end large plantings can be mowed on a high mower setting to remove spent flower spikes and tidy up. This refreshes the carpet, especially if followed by a good soaking.

Autumn: divide when clumps become overcrowded. Dig, lift and divide, removing old, tired foliage.

Winter: the crisp, crinkled foliage hugs the ground in a quick-spreading, evergreen carpet.


For cover: Ajuga will fill bare spots without being invasive; perfect for pathways or around stepping stones. Photo - Jim Fogarty

For support: Spring tulips stand to attention with support from this ground-dwelling spring rug. Photo - Kenneth Keifer/

We love them

Wandering through shady perennial beds; planted as a flowing river of blue between spring-flowering shrubs such as azaleas; or paired under trees with the softer, sky-blue Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica). Use ajuga en masse under a high tree canopy, or to soften the hard edges of walls, pathways and paving.


No serious insect or disease problems. Crown rot can be a problem, particularly in humid conditions and wet, heavy soils. Powdery mildew can attack quickly but a squirt with Ecofungicide will control it.

What else

Ajuga is easily grown in well-drained soils in part-sun to part-shade. While it prefers moist soils with good drainage, it will tolerate moderately dry conditions. This is a fast-growing plant that will spread by stolons to form an attractive ground cover.

The darkest form of Ajuga, ‘Black Scallop’ has midnight-purple foliage. It provides a unique contrast when shouldering up to lime green, gold or white leaf variations. The leaf shape is scalloped, and smaller than other forms making this an ideal groundcover between pavers, in wide bowls or along the front of a mixed border.

Also try miniature ‘Burgundy Glow’, 10cm high and 30cm wide. It has mottled leaves of creamy-white, rose burgundy and dark green that turn a deep bronze in autumn.

Where to buy

Local nursery



We have our very own Aussie Ajuga called Australian bugle flower (Ajuga australis) which we’ve seen in the river flats of the Flinders Ranges. The leaves are velvety to touch and toothed. Each flower stem is 15 cm long. The pretty deep blue or purple flowers are seen mainly in spring and summer. This tough little plant will grow well in most positions as long as the soil is well drained. But is difficult to source and often incorrectly named. Photo - Jim Fogarty
Text: Linda Ross 

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Algerian iris

Photo -


Algerian iris, Iris unguicularis (formerly I. stylosa)


Description: also called the winter iris, this plant originates from the Mediterranean and North Africa and consequently enjoys impoverished soils. It produces flowers on and off throughout the winter. These are usually lavender-blue with pretty cat whisker markings and a sweet scent. Deep purple and white forms are also available.

Size: to 20cm high.

Cultivation: English garden writer Vita Sackville-West advises, “the clumps should be planted at the foot of a hot wall, full sun, in the most gritty soil imaginable; they love old mortar rubble, gravel, ashes, broken bricks; they flourish on a starvation diet; hate being transplanted or otherwise disturbed; are loved by slugs and snails, ... pick them while still as closely furled as an unbroken flag around its flag-staff. They will then unfurl in the warmth of your room; you can watch them doing it.”

Special comments: try ‘Mia’, with intense blue flowers and white ‘Alba’, both available from Tesselaar Bulbs. Plant in spring. 


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Al-Ru Farm

A canopy of mature trees hugs the garden and gives it a romantic sense of intimacy. Photo - Robin Powell

Ruthless choices makes the romantic pictures in Ruth Irving’s garden. Here we take the grand tour.


Ruth Irving’s garden at Al-Ru Farm in the Adelaide Hills is all romance and pretty pictures. Everywhere you look is a blossom-draped arbour, a flower-edged pathway or a swagged rose consorting with a frilly bearded iris in matching tones of antique lingerie. Given all this visual delight you might assume that Ruth is a garden sentimentalist. On the contrary! When it comes to a plant in the wrong place Ruth is completely…yes, let’s say it - ruthless!

As she shows a wide-eyed group of Ross travellers around her garden, she interrupts herself to lunge into garden beds and rip tall, proud, and beautiful Oriental poppies from the ground, snap them and toss them away. The crime of the poppy? Ruth favours the densely petalled double pink Oriental poppy that she calls the Al-Ru poppy and she won’t have that maddening single interfering with the genetics of her favourites.


Ruth's treasured double pink Oriental poppy. Photo - Robin Powell

The passion and energy clear in her rampage against the single poppy is in evidence through the whole garden, which was a sheep paddock not so long ago. Ruth, an antiques dealer from Adelaide, and her husband Alan, planted the first few trees around the old stone cottage in 1981. Since then the garden has expanded to ten exuberant acres, with 600m of perennial borders. All water is from bores, and at the end of long, dry summers Ruth’s priority is to protect the now-mature trees, which cannot be easily replaced. These trees give the over-arching structure to the garden. Against their strong backdrop and beneath their canopy she has created a series of gardens linked by paths and walkways so that a walk around the garden offers the thrill of new delights around every corner.


Tall panicles of Euphorbia wulfenii contrast with the terracotta tints of emerging canna 'Tropicana' and a haze of red alstroemerias in the background. Photo - Robin Powell


A tick of approval

As we take the tour Ruth talks of her plans, her dreams and her disasters, generously sharing everything she has learned in several decades of intense garden-making. Her opinions are as forthright as those insistent single pink poppies. So what does she like? Here’s a brief list of favourites:

1. “Lilac as a linking colour. It goes with everything, so I use it everywhere.” We admire it in clematis, columbine, iris and the lovely nodding bells of campanula.

2. “Golden and variegated foliage.” This is a new appreciation. Initially Ruth admits she found variegated plants a bit too garish, but in the right – shady - place she has come to love the way they seem to sprinkle light through the greenery.

A harmony of alstroemeria flowers, ferny yellow foliage and variegated ornamental grass. Photo - Robin Powell 

3. “Daylilies that hold their heads well above the foliage so they can easily be admired.”

4. “Madly striped Delbard roses.” The Delbards are a famous family of French rose breeders who stunned the garden world in the early 1990s when they released a collection of roses that were striped, slashed and stroked with colour. Called The Painters series, each rose is named for the Impressionist artist its colouration and ‘brushwork’ best represents.


It's the mix of order and chaos that makes this exuberant spring wildflower garden so successful. Photo - Robin Powell


And the regrets

Ruth is just as generous in sharing what went wrong, as she is in describing how things have worked. Some advice learned the hard way:

1. “Don’t plant climbing roses on a wooden trellis.” Ruth designed a lovely long wooden trellis, painted in a dark charcoal verging on black, and planted it up with two white climbing roses – ‘Iceberg’ and ‘Lamarque’. It achieved exactly the look Ruth was after. Her error was in neglecting to consider the practicalities. The wood can’t be painted without removing the roses from the trellis, which is a horrible job.

2. Ruth adores David Austin roses and she planted them in her picking garden to provide bunches of fragrant, dense flowers for the house. They grow beautifully in South Australia’s dry air so Ruth was disappointed to discover that they are so heavily full of petals they droop when picked instead of standing tall. So the picking garden is gorgeous, but unpicked.

3. Claret ash, she says, is too thirsty for this dry garden and given her time over she would have given up that glorious colour for something with less greedy water requirements.

4. Then there is quartet of conifers that she has tried, for the last two decades, to make fit the image in her mind. Finally admitting failure, they are now for the chop while she tries to work out which plant will give her the wobbly-jelly look she wants in the space.


The burgundy flower spike of Melianthus major echoes the blue spires of echium. Photo - Robin Powell


Painting with flowers

Ruth’s passionate picture-making is what makes a visit to Al-Ru so enjoyable. Everywhere you look there are charming combinations, designed in colour and texture. Alstromerias and iris perfectly accent the tint of a rose, a fuchsia echoes the pink of centranthus rubra, which Ruth lets self seed through the garden. These harmonious links are no accident. Ruth matches flowers and foliage by snapping off a piece and wandering the garden holding it against other plants to see where it fits best. This approach means that the garden is in a state of continual change and improvement.


Ruth's wild meadow garden is framed by the iron lacework of twin antique arbours. Photo - Robin Powell


Her big new project is a lake garden. She has broadened and deepened the dam and planted trees along its far edge, which in autumn will reflect their fire colours into the water. She has placed a bench at the opposite end and she says she plans to sit here and dream up beautiful new pictures. The only part of that sentence that stretches belief is the idea of this dynamo sitting down for any length of time!


Come with us: We’ll revisit Ruth’s garden this spring on our Great Southern Rail adventure, which takes in beautiful gardens in South Australia and Victoria, via relaxing train journeys on the iconic Indian Pacific and Overland trains. For more go to or call Royce or Ros on 1300 233 200

The nodding bells of campanula are scattered through the garden. Photo - Robin Powell

Text: Robin Powell

About this article

Author: Robin Powell

Alyogyne huegelii

Alyogyne huegelii 'Karana'.   

This gorgeous plant will stop you in your tracks in a garden of either native or exotic plants. It’s a spectacular new form of the native hibiscus, or ‘blue hibiscus’ with attractive blue-green foliage, and masses of deep mauve flowers. It grows to about 1.5m high and wide, and prefers a sunny well-drained spot. Try it as a specimen shrub or hedge. Feed it with a low-phosphorus native fertiliser and water during dry times. Prune back by one third after flowering every year. Life expectancy is around 3-5 years, we then either replace it with another or grow something else.  

We like it with Eremophila 'Spring Mist', lilac kangaroo paws, lilac roses, tea trees, purple bottlebrush, coastal rosemary, blue chalksticks, Kunzea, correa, wax flower (Eriostemon), Salvia, Buddleia and purple agapanthus.

More: There are many different cultivars with slightly different tones.   


Text: Libby Cameron


About this article

Author: Libby Cameron

Amazon Lily, Victoria amazonica

Photo - siwasasil/

A virtual tour to the places where the Amazon lily blooms reveals some incredible stories. 

How’s this for a showstopper – when Victoria amazonica bloomed in the South Australian Botanic Gardens in 1868, newspapers ran hour-by-hour updates. 

More than 30,000 people – a sizable chunk of the entire state’s population – turned up to see it in a five-day period. You might make jokes about the cultural life of Adelaide at the time, but consider how many people turned up to see the giant flowering titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) in Melbourne Botanic Gardens on Boxing Day last year. Fact is we’ll flock to a great flowering that expresses the wonder, diversity and complexity of the natural world. In the 19th century the big drawcard was the Amazon lily, and it still draws the crowds in Botanic Gardens around the world. For Richard Schomburgk, director of the Adelaide Botanic Garden in 1868, the flowering was a triumph.

Richard had been on an expedition with his brother Robert in 1837 when the lily was first collected. The brothers were part of a plant hunting expedition in British Guyana on the northern coast of South America. Richard was collecting for the University of Berlin, and Robert for Kew. The lily went back to England, and the glory for the discovery was Robert’s.


Photo - Oleg Znamenskiy/


The lily race

The plant, named Victoria regia at the time, has leaves up to two metres wide and gigantic fragrant white flowers that change colour overnight to become pink. Not surprisingly, it inspired severe cases of plant envy and a race among the country’s elite ‘gardeners’. The winner was the Duke of Devonshire, whose Amazonica flowered in the greenhouse at Chatsworth in 1849. The Duke’s head gardener was Joseph Paxton. He had entrusted a seed to a young gardener called Eduard Ortgies, who had almost instant success: in two months the leaves were more than a metre wide. A month later the lily flowered, to widespread acclaim.

The plant continued growing. Clearly it would need a bigger house and Paxton took inspiration from the natural engineering of the leaf itself. Radiating, air-filled struts are connected by flexible cross ribs that give the leaf great strength. (Paxton famously demonstrated just how strong the leaves are by having his daughter Annie stand on a leaf in the middle of the pond!) Paxton tried out a design for his amazonica-inspired glasshouse at Chatsworth, and a few years later scaled up his ambitions in the magnificent Crystal Palace he designed for the Great Exhibition of 1851.


Photo - PrinceOfLove/


Bold, beautiful and brief

The lily is now known as the Victoria amazonica, referencing its origins in the quiet ponds and oxbow lakes of the Amazon. The enormous leaves have upturned edges for literally shouldering out any competition, and are also armed with thorns, for deterring nibbling fish and hungry manatees. Notches in the upturned walls allow rainwater to drain away.

The flower is even more extraordinary than the leaves. It spreads its white petals at sunset, allowing easy landing for beetles drawn by the colour and the bloom’s seductive fragrance. As the petals spread, the flower pumps up its temperature by six degrees, providing a cosy overnight stop for pollinating beetles, which are folded into the flower as the petals close. The next evening when they open once more the flowers are pink. The beetles escape and go in search of a fragrant white bloom in which to spread last night’s pollen collection. Having been pollinated the pink flower folds over on itself and sinks to the bottom of the pond.



Photo - Wildnerdpix/


Following the lily

Something so extraordinary quickly made its way around the world. Eduard Ortgies was headhunted and took a seedling to his new employer, the famous Belgian horticulturist Louis Van Houtte, who himself worked for King Leopold of Belgium. Ortiges had success again and the first Victoria on the continent flowered in 1850, in a glasshouse constructed especially for it in the Brussels Botanic Gardens. It’s still the highlight of the lily house, even when it’s not flowering.

Amazonica is now a highlight not just in Brussels and in Kew, and in Richard Schomburgk’s pond at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. We see it as we travel to beautiful gardens all around the world – in March and August in Singapore, and in May at Kew outside London, and at Longwood in Pennsylvania, where a hybrid of the two original species Victoria amazonica and Victoria cruziana grows in a purpose-built mini-palace. Which just goes to show - among the lilies Victoria is still the reigning queen.



Victoria is the feature in the lily house of the Botanic Botanic Gardens. Photo - Robin Powell 


Text: Robin Powell 

About this article

Author: Robin Powell


Amsterdam’s botanical garden was a 17th century source of healing herbs and fascinating new food flavours. Robin Powell takes the long way there.


It was an early summer’s day in Amsterdam. The elm trees lining the canals were in lime green leaf, the sky was blue and the light was accentuating the colours in the red and gold barges on the canals and highlighting the white window frames that make the canal-front houses look wide-awake.

It was a wonderful day to look at gardens – Amsterdam has so many parks and gardens it is Europe’s greenest capital - and my plan was to start with the Hortus Botanicus, the University of Amsterdam’s botanical garden which was established in 1638 as a herb garden for the city’s doctors. During Amsterdam’s age of trade it became not just medicinal, but sensual, a repository for the tropical seeds and plants collected by the West and East India Companies. Coffee, pineapple, cinnamon and palm oil: all were launched into Europe from these gardens. But when I checked with the concierge about the best walking route to the Hortus Botanicus, I was advised to change my plan.


Tourists take boat trips on the canals, locals use bikes. Photo -

Canal houses

It was Amsterdam’s open garden day, and a series of private homes, all within a walkable radius, would be open. What an opportunity! Some of the gardens were in Amsterdam’s swankiest streets of 16th and 17th century canal houses, and I would need to walk through the houses to view the gardens. Canal homes are connected to each other, like terraces, but unlike terraces each one is different. Modern glass and concrete butt up against ornate brick constructions, trimmed with swags and sculpture, or to more austere, brown brick, non-nonsense buildings in which you can easily imagine the Calvinists holding earnest business meetings. The one unifying feature? They are all skinny. Land taxes were once levied on building frontage, so homeowners built up, not out. The frontage taxation made sense, of course, in a city short of building space and constructed on marshland (half of Amsterdam is below sea level).


Bicycles on a bridge at Herengracht, where each house tells a story. Photo -


As also occurred in Venice, that other watery city of the North, houses were originally built on spongy peat and clay, but people soon devised ways of sending piles down through the water to the bedrock below. Amsterdam has more canals and more bridges than Venice, but it doesn’t use the canals as roads as the Venetians do. Instead people get around on foot, by tram, and overwhelmingly, by bike. There are more than half a million bikes in Amsterdam - the canal cleaning teams dredge up 10,000 misplaced bicycles a year!


Private gardens

As I walked to the first garden on the list, cyclists whizzed or rattled past me, depending on the vintage of their bikes, their weekend shopping in the basket on the front, often including a barely balanced bunch of tulips or long loaf of bread. The garden, like quite a few others, was a small walled courtyard, reached by walking through a thrillingly designed interior, which mismatched contemporary design with antiques of various periods and an absence of clutter. Part of the appeal of this and the other simple courtyard gardens was their intimacy, and the surprise of finding them, blushing with pink hydrangeas and peonies, secreted away behind brick and stone.

One group of neighbours had decided on a different approach. They had removed the back and side fences to create one big garden that their back rooms looked out and down upon. Trees and shrubs were used to break up the space and create semi-private areas while allowing the biggest possible central parterre. Lilacs, rhododendrons and spirea were all in bloom, and of course, in concrete urns by the fountain were tulips, with their incomparably clear colour and elegant shape.


The number one flower lovers' day trip out of Amsterdam is to Keukenhof, where millions of tulips and daffodils flower in spring. Photo -

Art and flowers

The tulip plays a big part in Amsterdam’s history; at the height of the mad mania of the bulb, in 1637, a couple of bulbs were worth a canal house. When the bottom fell out of the market, some of the city’s wealthiest merchants careened down the wild slide into bankruptcy. The extremes of the tulip market have made it a metaphor for speculative bubbles ever since. The fringed, feathered and striped parrot tulips that caused the hubbub have since gone out of fashion in favour of the lean, sleek, chic varieties, but you can see plenty of them at the Rijksmuseum, in paintings by Rembrandt and his 17th century contemporaries.

The Rijksmuseum is just one of the museums you don’t want to miss in Amsterdam. As well as the Rembrandts and Vermeers there are lovely exhibitions of delftware and furniture, doll’s houses and porcelain. The other must-see is the Van Gogh museum (it’s just down the road a bit) which originally housed the collection of Vincent’s bother Theo and now has Van Gogh paintings and drawings as well as works by his contemporaries. And don’t stop there. Having seen what modern art looked like in 1890, step next door into the Stedelijk Museum to find out what modern art looks like now. This museum is now one of the leading modern art museum in the world and houses works from the 1850s on, including by Monet, Matisse, Chagall, as well as shifting exhibitions of contemporary artists.


Protestants were initially unhappy with the design of the Rijksmuseum, considering it 'too Catholic'. They nicknamed it the 'Archbishop's Palace'. Photo -

I did finally get to the Hortus Botanicus, foot-sore and very happy to relax amid some green for a while. But, as always in Amsterdam, an intriguing bit of history was hiding in plain sight wherever I looked. This character makes Amsterdam a wonderful city to wander, and to wonder. 


The Palm House at the Hortus Botanicus is home to a 400-year old cycad, the world's oldest living pot plant. Photo - 


Text: Robin Powell

About this article

Author: Robin Powell

Anchovy & chilli dressing

This recipe from River Cottage is a great sauce for broccoli, cauliflower or kale. Add hot, drained pasta to broccoli and sauce to turn a side dish into a meal. Leftover dressing keeps well in the fridge; it’s good spread on toast and topped with scrambled eggs.

What you need

  • 50g anchovy fillets, drained 
  • 150ml olive oil 
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled 
  • leaves from a sprig of thyme 
  • a few basil leaves 
  • 1/2 small red chilli, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes 
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar 
  • a few twists of black pepper

What to do

Blend all the ingredients for the dressing in a liquidiser until completely smooth. Alternatively, if you are using fresh chilli, you can leave it out of the liquidiser and chop it very finely by hand, then stir it into the dressing. This gives it a little texture, and nice flecks of red.

Warm the sauce over a low heat, whisking in a knob of soft butter as it heats up. This should help to emulsify it but don’t worry if it separates a bit; it’ll still taste fine.

About this article

Author: Linda Ross (Source: River Cottage)

Angel's Trumpet, Brugmansia


It’s easy to see why the common name for the dramatic Brugmansia is angel’s trumpet. These sub-tropical beauties offer months of flowers and fragrance, all in an easy-care package.

Few plants have flowers as impressive and numerous as the brugmansia. Each trumpet-shaped bloom is up to 20cms long, all borne in massive flushes often every 6-8 weeks, set off by rain. In the peak of summer my own specimen can carry up to 500 blooms at one time. 

It’s a spectacular sight, usually accompanied by the noisy hum of a million bees. As a bonus most brugmansias are sweetly scented, especially in the early morning and in the evening. Can you imagine the perfume of those hundreds of flowers at dusk? Then after a brief rest, the plant surges into another growth spurt producing another enormous flush of flowers. This pattern is repeated all through summer and autumn. As the weather cools the flushes are less regular.

A lively combo - golden yellow trumpets against magenta bougainvillea. Photo - Alistair Hey


Until recently few hybrids of this unique flower have been available. But due to the interest from some passionate collectors and hybridisers flamboyant and colourful varieties are now being released to home gardeners. We checked in with one of these growers, Alistair Hay from Meroo Meadow Perennials, to get the best tips on these gorgeous plants.

Position: Morning sunshine is perfect for good growth and flowering. Protection from strong afternoon sunshine and wind prevents heat stress and wilting of the flowers and foliage.

Care: Alistair says not to worry if your plant wilts in the afternoon, it will recover next morning. Not giving extra water when the plant wilts encourages deeper rooted and more self-sufficient plants. Contrary to its tender looks, brugmansia is quite tough. If your plant does need water, drench it deeply and infrequently.

Alistair feeds his brugmansia each winter with a blend of 50 per cent compost, 25 per cent cow manure and 25 per cent turkey manure. If he has time a repeat application is made in autumn. He says the main pest of brugmansia is two-spotted mite. He releases predatory mites into the garden to control the pest mite.

Brugmansias can be pruned as standards to accentuate their long trumpet flowers. If your plant has grown too big you can prune them when they finish flowering. We don’t prune ours much except to train the growth into one stem, removing any side growths at the base.

In pots: If you grow them in pots, you need to repot every year because they grow so vigorously. You can treat them as annuals because they strike readily from cuttings.


Angel's Trumpet grow in pots, just keep removing any lower growth. Photo -

Classic Companions: Summer flowering shrubs and trees

- Frangipani is a perfect summer flowering partner for brugmansia. The pendulous trumpets of the brugmansia beautifully offset its simple flowers.

- The pretty lantern-like flowers of abutilon (Chinese Lantern) also complement brugmansia. Choose from lemon-yellow, orange, pink, cherry red or white varieties, depending on the colour of your brugmansia. Dwarf varieties of abutilon made a fine under-storey because of their compact growth habit and soft maple-like foliage. They enjoy the shade offered by the brugmansia.

- At ground level try various exciting forms of bromeliads. Neoregelia has a classic rosette shape with many hybrids having lovely coloured and patterned foliage. Vriesia bromeliads are all-time favourites with many colour forms, some with banded patterns on the foliage. Species of tillandsia love to cling to rough trunks and branches. Silver-leafed T. ionantha will grow in a clumping fashion on the trunks and branches of your brugmansia.

Remember: all parts of this plant are toxic. Don’t eat any part of it, or burn any part of it.


Top Tips

1. Manure manure manure! Brugmansias are almost impossible to overfeed, and the more you put in the more you get out of the plants. Any kind of manure can be used, but if you choose poultry pellets balance them by adding some garden compost as well.

2. If possible protect from hot dry wind. The leaves, flower buds and the flowers themselves are quite easily fried.

3. Don't prune the plants unless there is some obvious need or you are training them to shape, and then don't prune below where upright stems first fork otherwise you will delay flowering.


Plant notes: favourite brugmansias

Brugmansia 'Clementine'

Apparently the first coloured, double brugmansia to be released in Australia, though there are more than 250 double-flowered varieties in Europe and North America. ‘Clementine’ has a delicious smell of orange and marzipan.

Special comments: Yellow and orange flowered angel’s trumpets are usually more strongly coloured in cooler weather.


'Clementine'. Photo - Alistair Hay.


Brugmansia ‘Lipstick’

One of the best of the pendant, pink-flowered angel’s trumpets currently available in Australia. Earlier varieties had weak-textured flowers which wilted easily, but ‘Lipstick’ holds its form very well in hot weather. Like many pinks, it opens white first.

Special comments: pink brugmansias are generally more strongly coloured in warmer weather. The more you feed the better the colouring.


'Lipstick'. Photo - Alistair Hay.

Brugmansia ‘Butter Bomb’

Flouncy, nodding flowers almost a foot across are produced in staggering profusion. Butter yellow in warmer weather, they a suffused gold in autumn. Brugmansia aurea (one parent of Butter Bomb) gives it superb, deep-green, quilted foliage, and it is a fine looking plant even when not in flower. The width of the flowers comes from its B. suaveolens heritage.

Special comments: Encourage the roots to grow deep into the soil with infrequent deep watering.



'Butter Bomb'. Photo - Alistair Hay.

Brugmansia ‘Sea Nymph’

This a new hybrid has double cream flowers which gradually become suffused with pale apricot. It has a robust habit, dark quilted leaves and relatively small nodding flowers with long tendrils.

Special comments: Don’t prune unless you are training to umbrella shape, as hard pruning will delay flowering.


'Sea Nymph'. Photo - Alistair Hay.


Brugmansia ‘Urchin Pink’

A new, small-flowered (only about 23cm long!) hybrid that grows to 3m with characteristic spreading branches from which the flowers hang very prettily.

Special comments: This variety is good for a container because of its pretty, branching habit. It’s a favourite of Alistair Hay.


'Urchin Pink'. Photo - Alistair Hay.

Brugmansia ‘Signal’

This is a cultivar of Brugmansia sanguinea, a scentless, humming-bird pollinated species from high in the Andes. It’s a pure yellow form.

Special comments: B. sanguinea is very heat sensitive but can be successfully grown and flowered in cooler seasons in SA, Vic, Tas and S. NSW.


Brugmansia sanguinea Photo - Roger Hall/ 

Text: Sandra Ross

About this article

Author: Sandra Ross



Pick delicious crisp apples from your own Garden of Eden! 

Apples are commonly grown in Victoria, Tasmania and cooler areas of western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales, and are becoming easier to grow due to improved disease resistance. 

With smaller cultivars on the market they now fit into our backyards, and in some cases will even thrive in containers. So if you’ve been tempted to grow your own, follow our tips for success.


Photo - AnjelikaGr/



The soil requirements depend on the rootstock the variety is grafted onto. Dwarf rootstocks require fertile and well draining soils. Larger growing apples with more vigorous rootstocks, which are more suited to large gardens and orchards, are better in heavier clay soils.



Sunny sheltered positions are best. The ultimate tree size again depends on what rootstock the variety is grafted onto, the site, the pruning of the tree and how you train your tree. Dwarf trees, which I recommend for most gardens, grow to 1.5m while other apples can reach 6m.


Growing guide

Apples generally grow best in temperate areas, though varieties with low chill requirements need a cold temperate climate. Support the tree with a stake or frame. Thin fruit out in late spring/ early summer. Apples will be pollinated by nearby apple and crabapple trees. They can take 3-4 years to fruit. A dwarf tree on dwarf rootstock will fruit within 2 years.


Pests and Disease

Apples are not fuss-free plants and growing them will test your patience. They are prone to canker, mosaic virus, scab and powdery mildew. Some varieties require a vigilant spraying control program; I have based my selections here on varieties that give the minimum of fuss. Spring will be the most important time to control pests and disease. Spray with lime sulphur or Bordeaux at pink bud stage (when flower buds begin to open and reveal a pink colour) and again at 10% blossom stage (when 10% of the flowers have opened). Spraying trees regularly during the fruiting season with a solution of 10% powdered lime mixed with water prevents fungal diseases such as apple scab. A spray of garlic and seaweed on the apple leaves can also help.



An open vase shaped tree is thought to be the best shape to yield the most fruit but espaliered trained fruit trees can also yield a lot of fruit in small spaces and once trained can have many applications in the home environment (trained on fences, walls, along driveways, along a trellis around a vegetable garden or in pots). Some dwarf rootstocks have dwarf growth cultivars grafted onto them producing short spurs that do not need pruning. These are perfect for the home garden.


Tips & Tricks

- Dwarf apples are good in large containers, underplant with mint.

- Espalier apples on a north or west-facing wall

- Columnar varieties can be planted as a row along a driveway; they require less pruning than espalier but offer a similar narrow profile

- If you have only room for one tree, make sure its self-pollinating.

- Spray with lime sulphur at pink bud stage to prevent apple scab.



Climate is the most important factor when deciding on an apple for your area, as a certain number of cold days are needed for fruit production. Specialist apple nurseries and your local nursery will be the best bet. The Ballerina dwarf apples (Bolero, Polka, and Waltz) are particularly compact. They only grow to 4m high and 30cm wide, and have medium-sized fruit, all good for eating fresh. There are varieties on the market that are resistant to black spot and require little spraying. They are known as ‘Rezista’ Apples. Grafted apples, two or three on the same tree, can save space, add variety and prolong harvest, as well as solve pollination issues. They look great with lots of different apple colours growing on the one tree. In warm temperate areas try ‘Granny Smith’ and ‘Pinkabelle’ apple, which is a dwarf grower, good for containers, with a flavour like that of ‘Pink Lady’.


Harvest and storage

Don’t pull the apples from the tree, as you will remove next years fruiting spurs resulting in a smaller crop next year. Instead twist the apple around and around the stalk. Keep apples in cool cellars, the basement (any area that does not drop below 0 degrees) as soon as the apples have been picked. Discard damaged fruit.


Apple tasting

Seasonal apple tastings takes place through autumn at Rippon Lea National Trust in Victoria; Petty’s orchard in Victoria; Bob Magnus in Woodbridge, Tasmania; Owen and Noreen Pigeon’s Loriendale Orchard at Hall in the ACT; and Bilpin in the Blue Mountains of NSW.


Read on

We recommend ‘All About Apples’ by Allen Gilbert, an Australian book first published in 2001.


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Apples: 3 ways

1. Apple muesli

Soak a cup of rolled oats in half a cup of water and the juice of a lemon overnight. In the morning add a grated apple, a cup of natural yoghurt, a handful of dried cranberries and a handful of chopped almonds. Add honey, maple syrup or brown sugar to taste before serving.


2. Apple and celeriac remoulade

Make a dressing with a tablespoon of good quality whole egg mayonnaise, two tablespoons of natural yoghurt, the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of grainy mustard. Slice an apple into thin julienne, and slice half a celeriac into julienne the same size. Mix both immediately into the dressing so that they don’t brown. Serve with barbecued pork chops, or with flaked smoked trout and roasted hazelnuts. 


3. Butterscotch apple crumble

Peel, then slice three apples into chunks, roll in a little flour to coat, then mix through the juice and zest of a lemon, and 125g brown sugar . Make a crumble by whizzing half a cup each of flour, rolled oats, brown sugar and coconut, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon and 50g of butter to form breadcrumb-like texture. Put the apples in a pie dish, cover with crumble and bake at 180 for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve with whipped cream.


Text: Robin Powell

About this article

Author: Robin Powell

Arno's South East QLD Report

The days are starting to cool off and it's a very pleasant time to get stuck into the garden. Before you know it, the day has gone.

We’ve been waiting patiently for the ‘wet’ to finally arrive and, and moisten the soil. Now that it’s started to rain, there has been a great surge of growth.


Proiphys amboinensisis a stunning native plant


Its Time to……

Now is a great time to plant, transplant and divide plants. I like to incorporate organic matter and some soluble seaweed extract and humic acid when I prepare the area and once plants have established and are growing vigorously, apply a handful of a balanced garden fertilizer that includes ground rock minerals. Continue to prune plants lightly to keep things fresh and remove dead flowers and unwanted fruit and pods.


I’ll be pruning my Evovulus ‘Strathpine’ after the flower flush


In the Veggie Patch

Now is the time to start planning what you will be growing over the cooler winter months. I like to make a list of the plants I will grow and draw up a plan. Then it is a case of removing the declining summer vegetables and, bed by bed, incorporate fertilizer and compost. Most annual vegetables thrive in disturbed bacteria-dominated soil, and making the effort to break up and turn the soil will produce vigorous, tender and productive crops over the cooler month. Many winter vegetables need a long growing season, so towards the end of March or early April as night temperatures drop, sow broad beans, cauliflower and parsnips.


Wild rocket is a reliable salad green all year round


Flowering now

What a great time to spend the evening hours on the verandah or terrace and enjoy those pleasant autumn nights with the scent of night flowers on the gentle breeze. If you enjoy perfumed flowers, plant some night flowering trees for maximum impact. Frangipani trees are beloved for their perfume, but this varies immensely from tree to tree, so let the nose do some research. Three of my favourites for scent are ‘San Germain’(rich honeysuckle) and ‘Vera Cruz Rose’ (unmistakenly like a rose) and the evergreen frangipani, Plumeria obtuse ‘Singapore White’, (citrus-like). The Ylang Ylang Tree (Cananga odorata) will perfume the garden and its distinctive scent, widely used in massage oils and is of course the key component of Chanel No. 5. This tall upright tree, likes some shelter from wind. The Champak Tree (Magnolia champaka) is a beautiful lush tree and is covered with cream, perfumed flowers over the warmer months. Closely related is the famous Pak Lan (Magnolia alba) – the extract of which is a key component of ‘Joy’, the most expensive perfume in the world. The Perfume Tree (Fagraea berteroana) is an attractive tree covered in white flowers. Another native tree is the Native Daphne (Phaleria clerodendron), which enjoys the protection and semi-shade of nearby trees. The trunk of the tree is extraordinary when covered with the white perfumed flowers.


Plumeria 'San-Germain' is famous for its perfume


Whats on

12-13 March – The Ipswich Garden Expo at the biggest event this month

12-13 March – International Palm and Cycad Society of Australia show at the Mt Coot-tha Auditorium. If you are after some palms or cycads this is the event not to miss.

12-13 March – The Beaudesert District Orchid and Foliage Society’s Aurtumn Show, Canungra School of Arts, Pine Street, Canungra

19-20 March – Bromeliad Society of Queensland Autumn Show, The PCYC Club, Les Hughes Sport Complex, Baker St, Bray Park

19-20 March – West Brisbane Orchid Society Show, Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha Auditorium. 26-27 March – ‘Queensland Orchid Society Show, Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha Auditorium.

About this article

Author: Arno King

Arnos Subtropical Kitchen Garden

Anro King joins our kitchen garden team this summer to provide specific advice to food growers living where summers are hot and wet.

Follow his tips for great harvests year-round.


Photo - Pi-lens / Shutterstock


Easy greens

Look for tough, subtropical greens that power through the hottest, wettest months of summer. Malabar spinach or basella is a staple in my garden for its delicious succulent green leaves - I especially like it in palak paneer. It’s native to subtropical Asia and Africa and can be grown as a groundcover or to maximise the long climbing stems can be trained up a support. Keep plants well watered and well fed for the best harvest. Malabar spinach is readily grown from cuttings or from seed (Diggers Club, Green Harvest, Eden Seeds).


Malabar Spinach


Make it snappy

The secret to tasty amaranth, also called Chinese spinach, is to grow it quickly, with plenty of food and water, harvesting tender shoots to produce multi-branched bushes. Use it as a spinach substitute and try Caribbean or Indian recipes where it takes centre stage.




Do now

Don’t cook your vegetables! Raised vegetable beds can be a liability in warmer parts of Australia. Metal ones particularly heat and dry the soil, cooking your vegetables before you eat them! I recommend you raise edges by no more than 15cm. This minimises heating and makes it a lot easier to incorporate composted organic matter and to turn the soil, which stimulates bacterial activity.

If you have a raised garden, plant draping groundcovers, such as sweet potato, Malabar spinach or allherb, Plectranthus amboinicus, along the edge to insulate the sides from the sun’s heat, and position annual vegetables towards the moister, cooler centre. Don’t know allherb? It’s a replacement for thyme and oregano that thrives in areas with summer rain.


Don't cook you vegetables, raise edges by no more than 15cm in the subtropics.

Plant now

Cherry and currant tomatoes are more tolerant of heat, heavy rain and dryness than their larger cousins and are more resistant to many common tomato diseases. As they have a thicker skin, fruit are rarely bothered by fruit fly, making them my choice for the warmer months of the year.

Most cherry tomatoes grow as large sprawly climbers, and for ease of harvest, are best trained up a trellis or tepee. My favourites include ‘Broad Ripple Yellow Currant’, ‘Red Currant’, ‘Beam's Yellow Pear’, ‘Pink Bumble Bee' and a large-fruited one that appeared on the edge of my dam spontaneously and continues to grow there 10 years later.


Cherry and currant tomatoes are more tolerant of heat


Pick now

Snake beans are hot weather stalwarts that retain their crispness in curries, stews and stir fries - as well as their colour. Colour, you ask? Years ago I was stuck with only green snake beans, but I now grow some dozen cultivars - all coloured. 'Red Noodle' has deep red pods; 'Thai Purple' is purple; ‘Mosaic' is a lavender brown; 'White Snake Bean' is a whitish green Chinese selection; and ’Thai Soldier' is white with red spots.

Climbing varieties are most productive, space-efficient and easy on the back and can be trained up temporary tepees or trellis. Dwarf varieties pod quickly, but have a shorter life than climbers. Semi-climbing varieties can make great groundcovers. Hunt them up at Asian markets, Thai Buddhist Festivals and on-line.


Snake beans are hot weather stalwarts


About this article

Author: Arno King

Art in the Garden

Even the driveway is part of the art in Scotland’s inspiring private sculpture park, Jupiter Artland.

The crowds that cram the path between Bronte and Bondi every spring when Sculpture by the Sea sets up along the coast is an indication of just how much we love to see sculpture in an intimate relationship with its environment.

Words and images by Robin Powell


Welcome to Jupiter Artland. 'Cells of Life' by Charles Jencks


The pieces that each year are the firm crowd favourites are those that match position, idea, materials and workmanship in a way that creates a total much more than the sum of its parts.

That same intimate link between environment and artwork is the key to the success of Jupiter Artland, a sculpture garden in West Lothian, 45 minutes south of the Scottish capital Edinburgh. The garden belongs to Nicky and Robert Wilson, who bought Bonnington Manor, a 17th-century manor house set in a 100-acre estate, in 1999. Robert, a keen sporting shooter, was envisioning an 18th-century style hunting park, but Nicky had other ideas. Trained as an artist, and inspired by the nearby creations of artist-gardeners Ian Hamilton Finlay at Little Sparta and Charles Jencks at The Garden of Cosmic Speculation near Dumfries, her idea was to devote the property to art, by commissioning sculptors to make site specific works, or collaborating with them to position and landscape their work.


'Firmament' by Anthony Gormley


And so Jupiter Artland was born, opened in 2009, and christened in reference to both to the Roman god of creation and to the largest planet in our solar system. It was envisaged as the centre of gravity for a wide range of art projects which will orbit Jupiter Artland like the planet’s moons, but more of that later.

The Wilson’s first commission was to Charles Jencks, who makes landform art on a massive and deeply intellectual scale. His own Garden of Cosmic Speculation traces the development of the universe since the Big Bang, outlines ideas about fractal geometry, celebrates DNA, and considers the possibility of time travel. Given that heavy agenda you might be surprised to hear that itis also beautiful and serenely restful. Jencks’ work at Jupiter Artland is called ‘Life Mounds’, and you arrive by driving through it, which is a disconcerting but wonderful experience.The roadway snakes through a series of perfectly turfed hillocks and curving reflective pools that makes you impatient to explore it on foot. The land forms are based on human cells, with a nucleus at their peak, but you don’t have to think about how human life is embedded in the land to feel a spiritual connection as you walk the paths through the work.


'Landscape with gun and tree' by Cornelia Parker


The Jencks piece took five years to construct, and while it was underway the Wilsons approached other artists. Fellow artist-neighbour Ian Hamilton Finlay, famous for both his garden, and for his poems, either on paper, or carved into stone, explored the site and found a faultline in the bedrock. He created a small arched bridge of Northumbrian limestone that connects the two sides. At each end of the bridge are milestones inscribed with the words ‘Only Connect’, a plea for different worlds to find common ground.

Other artworks weren’t built on site, instead their position was chosen by the artist in collaboration with the Wilsons. So Antony Gormley’s giant steel figure is positioned as if just fallen to earth, in a clearing framed by oaks. The clearing is kept at just the right level of wildess by a head gardener and team of 15 full and part-time gardeners. Other artworks, such as Pablo Bronstein’s ‘The Rose Walk’are much more intensively gardened, and the mind boggles at the job of mowing the Jenks landforms (twice a week in summer).

There are 35 permanent site-specific works, as well as many more temporary works, five galleries, and a cafe. Jupiter continues to expand its ideas and its engagement, from an ambition to connect with every child in Scotland, to participation in the Edinburgh Festival this year, with a performance by choreographer Trisha Brown which takes place on floating rafts on the water lily-filled lakes.


See more


Jupiter Artland is open every day from Saturday May 18 to 29 September 2019, 10am - 5pm.



About this article

Author: Robin Powell

Art in the Garden, Colleen Southwell

The creativity and generosity of artist Colleen Southwell so wowed Sandra and her group on a recent tour of NSW gardens they didn’t want to leave.


Photo- Madeline Young


I hadn't been to Colleen Southwell’s garden on the outskirts of Orange, so I didn’t know what to expect as we drove in with a coach of Ross Garden travellers on our NSW Spring Festival tour, but it turned out to be a highlight of the tour. Her father and one of her two teenage sons were there to meet us at the gate, and led us down the drive through paddocks full of fluffy baby lambs with their mums. Oh my gosh it was idyllic!



The garden in front of the house is quite formal, very understated, with buxus balls, hedges, clumps of blue iris and gravel, but then around the back, the garden opens to the view of beautiful green hills, with green lawns and gorgeous crabapples in flower.


Photo- Samantha Mackie

You could see that here was the garden of an artist, and a deeply thoughtful person. Colleen is a trained horticulturist and worked as a landscape designer, but is now wrapping that work up as her art practice becomes full time. She makes the most intricate and beautiful paper sculptures that are all about paying close attention to the natural world. We were able to look closely at the works she had prepared for an exhibition, which was a treat.


Photo- Madeline Young


The verandah looking over the garden was all done up for our afternoon tea, with cute little teapots and macarons, fruit cake and dear little lemon tarts. It was all so pretty, and then the two donkeys, Olive and Pearl, one tan and one beige, came up to the gate to greet us.It was so picture perfect, we all wanted to sit there all day.


Photo- Kristy Noble


Photo- Kristy Noble


About this article

Author: Sandra Ross


Over a lifetime Bev McConnell has created one of the world’s great gardens

- and it’s just outside Auckland.


Tropical oasis - nowhere near the tropics! Photo - Robin Powell


Let’s start at the pool. I realise that you’re reading this in winter, when even seeing the words ‘swimming pool’ might make you grab that throw rug off the back of the sofa and brew another pot of tea. All the more exciting then that Bev McConnell planted up the banks around her swimming pool with brilliant tree aloes that in the dead of winter are ablaze with giant orange candles of flowers that make the pool a sort of firebowl of warmth and intrigue. It’s a typically surprising and clever planting, one of many at Arylies, a world-renowned garden just south of Auckland.

I visited Arylies in summer so saw the aloes without their flaming candles and loved Bev’s pool, created way back in the ‘70s with what looks to be a very contemporary rockpool aesthetic that links the cool blue water to a cascading waterfall. The slopes of the rockery embrace swimmers with an enveloping privacy, while a breezeblock-backed pavilion along the south-west side provides solid protection against the prevailing chill winds.



Cypress pond. Photo - Robin Powell


Building the dream

The rockery was the first garden Bev made in what was then a bald hill on a bald farm. The former art student had found her calling, though she writes in her book Arylies: my story; my garden, which is part garden book, part memoir of life in New Zealand in the first half of the 20th century, that “one ambitious member of the marriage is enough so it wasn’t until after Malcolm’s death that I dared to acknowledge even to myself how ambitious I was for my garden.”

Since starting the garden more than half a century ago, Bev’s ambitions have been realised across some 16 acres of gardens. She did have some help along the way, primarily from her engineer husband Malcolm, whose business provided her with machinery – and the men to use it – that transformed the landscape and dug out the water features that give Ayrlies its great character.

Along with the swimming pool, there are four large ponds that form focal points for complex plantings of an astonishingly wide variety. In 2000 Bev created one more water feature, this time a memorial to her husband and a kind of millennial gift to the place she has called home for so long. She constructed a great wetland, some 40 acres in total, at the swampy bottom of the property. This complex of ponds, lakes, reed beds and boardwalks links Ayrlies with the ocean, and provides habitat for myriad waterbirds.

As well as her husband, Bev also chose her gardeners well, especially Oliver ‘Ollie’ Briers, who was engaged when the McConnells took a garden inspiration trip to the UK in 1974. Ollie migrated with his family later that year. Bev says that their partnership evolved into one in which Ollie designed and built the structures, and she became the plantswoman.


wetlands. Photo - Robin Powell


Hot colours

Being a plantswoman encompasses a number of skills, as Bev writes in her book including “ the science of plants, their history and natural habitat, their forms and their needs… and the art of composition or plant association -putting them to bed together happily and artistically, within the architectural structure.”

Bev’s artistry in plant combinations is apparent throughout the garden – variegated groundcovers and white and blue hydrangeas in a shady glen provide sparks of light in the gloom; a waterfall of hot colours cascades around the pool; plantings of apricot and peach vireya rhodendrons, brugmansia and daylilies complement a bed of glowing Japanese maples. But perhaps it’s most striking in the Lurid Border. Pastels look insipid in the strong Auckland light so Bev’s flower border is instead bold reds, oranges, golds and purples, cooled with many different tones of green. Scarlet cannas and red alstroemerias bump into the dark purple rosettes of Aeonium ‘Zwartkopf; and the plum-purple leaves of the castor oil plant. The ferny foliage of bronze fennel contrasts with the heart-shaped gold of Trachystemon ‘Gold Medal’, tangerine red-hot pokers and yellow ‘Bush Dawn’ kangaroo paws. The whole border is a thrilling mix of texture and colour, with change happening throughout the seasons. It’s a brilliant example of the English flower border made over for the stronger light of the southern hemisphere.

Bev writes that not long before he died, Malcolm looked at her thoughtfully and said ‘You know Bev, our annual garden budget of over two hundred thousand would have provided us with a substantial art collection. He was right of course, but there wasn’t a note of regret in his voice. He was intensely proud of the garden, how lucky I was.”

And are we all, for Arylies is an art collection, brilliantly showcasing the art of the garden.


Lurid-border. Photo - Robin Powell


Ayrlies is open by appointment. Simply call ahead and let them know you’d like to come. Entry $22. Tel. +64 9 530 8706. We hope to visit New Zealand again in 2018. Call Ros or Royce on 1300 233 200 if you’d like to be kept in the loop about our plans.

About this article

Author: Robin Powell


Photo - James Ross/

Home-grown asparagus is easy, but it’s not quick. You’ll need to wait three years from planting before you can harvest a bunch of tender green spears, but the wait will have been worth it, and the asparagus patch will keep on giving for decades. Linda Ross shares her growing tips.


Asparagus is planted as ‘crowns’, which are root systems of fleshy rhizomes. It will grow in any backyard in Australia as long as you find an open, sheltered spot with good drainage (the feeder roots can grow to a depth of 1.5-2 metres so will rot in boggy positions). Make it a big spot. You can’t squeeze asparagus in between other vegetables – you’ll need a good 1m x 1m dedicated bed.


Plant asparagus crowns in winter or early spring. Dig a complete fertiliser into the soil a few weeks before planting. To plant, dig a trench 30cm wide x 20cm deep. In the bottom make a 10cm mound and place the crowns on top, spreading the roots either side, then cover with 5cm of soil. Plant the next crown 40cm down the trench. As the stems grow, gradually cover them with soil. By autumn the trench will be filled with soil. Pull out weeds rather than using a herbicide. Water during dry weather.

In May the ferny growth of the asparagus will start to yellow as the plant nears its winter dormancy. Cut at 7cm above the ground and lay the cuttings as a mulch over the bed. Add a layer of well-rotted manure and straw to nourish the crowns.



First, wait three years to allow the crowns to mature, then use a sharp knife to cut the spears on an angle under the surface of the soil. We harvest spears that are thicker than a pencil, and about 20 cm high. We leave the skinny ones to develop and feed the crown. Leave at least one spear uncut and do not harvest after midsummer or you will get thin spears the following year. The harvest lasts for six weeks the first year and eight weeks every year after that.



Mary Washington –the most widely grown variety with long green stems and a great flavour.

Fat Bastard – a thick fat stem, available from Diggers Club

Purple – spear is tinged with purple and is sweeter than green asparagus.



- Asparagus plants are male and female. The male plants produce the most spears, so remove the female plants, identified by the red berries they produce.

- White asparagus is the same is green, but is grown under dark plastic to exclude sunlight. White asparagus is sweet and tender, and much prized in Europe.

- To store asparagus either stand the fresh spears upright in a container with 1cm of water in the bottom, or wrap the spears in a clean damp tea towel, then store in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the fridge. 


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Asparagus: 3 ways

Photo - Image Source/


1. Brunch asparagus

Top lightly roasted asparagus with a poached egg, and serve with sourdough toast drizzled with olive oil. Smoked salmon slices or crisped prosciutto are delicious optional extras! 

2. Roast asparagus with hazelnuts

Roasting intensifies the flavours of asparagus. Roll the spears in oil, and roast at 180 C until the tips are starting to crisp. Dress with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or caramelised verjuice and top with a sprinkle of chopped roasted hazelnuts.


3. Asparagus soup

Fry a thinly sliced leek in butter until softened, then add a splash of white wine and let it reduce by half. Add a litre of chicken stock, a finely chopped potato and a bunch of finely chopped asparagus. Simmer until vegetables are soft, then whiz until smooth with a stick blender and check the seasoning.



Text: Robin Powell

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Author: Robin Powell

August Jobs

Daffodil displays are the prize in August.

It's time to get out there and enjoy them.


August is daffodil time. Photo - Robin Powell


Check out the daffodils at Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens Mount Tomah, where there are more than 75 cultivars planted in the Brunet Garden, then head further west to Rydal, the little village that celebrates daffodils big-time!

Lawn developed mossy patches? The moss is a sure sign of soil compaction. Use the tines of the garden fork to aerate the soil, and then water with liquid lime to reduce the acidity of the soil and improve the uptake of nutrients.

Green the lawn up fast with Yates Dynamic Lifter Concentrated Lawn Food, which includes organic matter to nurture and improve soil, as well as fast-acting ingredients to promote lush green growth.

Use winter’s down-time to clean the shed, and wash, disinfect and sharpen your tools.

Keep bees fed through winter by ensuring your garden always has some flowers available.Cover gaps opened up by pruning or the disappearance of herbaceous plants by sowing seed or planting seedlings of quick-growing alyssum. Keep the plants growing strongly with fortnightly feeds of compost tea or your favourite foliar fertiliser.

Sow seed of tomatoes either where they are to grow, or if there is still a chance of frosts, into seed raising mix undercover. Enrich the soil with compost and Dynamic Lifter, Seamungus or Rooster Booster before planting out

Feed roses as they start to burst into spring growth.

As the season changes give fruit trees a feed of Neutrog Gygantic, which is a pelleted fertiliser with an organic base of manure, seaweed, kelp, fish, humates, lucerne and rock phosphate, which has phosphate, potassium sulphate, iron sulphate and magnesium sulfate added for a complete diet of essential elements.

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Author: Robin Powell

Australia’s First Camellia?

My answer on first assessment is most likely no, but then again maybe yes, but it certainly was there at the early genesis of camellia breeding in Colonial Australia. I’m referring to Camellia japonica ‘Aspasia Macarthur’. Her journey and namesake, has criss-crossed the oceans and lands from Australia, China, England and Europe for four centuries creating one of gardening’s most intriguing stories.


Its like camellia lucky dip. These flowers are all from the one plant in Graham's garden. Camellia Japonica 'Aspasia Macarthur'. Photo Linda Ross


I’ve loved this gorgeous camellia since I was sixteen when I first saw it on the floral display bench at Camellia Grove Nursery at St. Ives, NSW. A pure white, double peony form floral class bloom with an outer circle of petals and an inner group of white petaloids and stamens clustered haphazardly in the centre. I noticed one of the three blooms on the display had a distinct pinkish-red splash or spot. I asked the nursery owner, what it was, and he told me it was common for this variety to revert with more or less pinky-red splashes on the petals of some flowers, with the odd all pink or red flower. This had resulted in many other of its ‘sport’ varieties being separately named, and although I wasn’t quite sure what that meant at the time, it seemed a fascinating behaviour for a plant.

When we were looking at buying our present house in 1985 I remember crawling under the privet and undergrowth trying to discover the extent of the rear garden. I popped my head up to see a magnificent mature C. j. “Aspasia Macarthur’ in bloom…what a joy! How lucky could I be? We bought the property as much for the few garden specimens as the house itself. We were about to start filming a new television program called Garden Australia for ABCTV and for the first time it would be based in a real garden not in a studio and the remaking of the garden from wilderness suited our philosophy for the show.


Camellia japonica ‘Aspasia Macarthur’ at Elizabeth Farm, June 2015. Photo: Anita Rayner © Sydney Living Museums

An intrepid journey

Camellias were first thought to have arrived on-board the SS ‘Sovereign’ in 1831. According to the ship’s inventory, they were all destined for Elizabeth and John Macarthur’s home and garden at Camden Park in Southern Sydney for their camellia-obsessed son William. In more recent times, it has been discovered that they may have in fact arrived earlier. Superintendent Charles Fraser imported four camellias in 1823 and was growing them at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens. Meanwhile, the NSW Colonial Secretary, Alexander Macleay was also growing a number of camellia cultivars, imported from England in 1826, in his extensive garden at Elizabeth Bay House.

Many years prior to this, in a parallel gardening world, dried specimens of the Australian (New Holland) wildflower waratah, Telopea speciosissima, were dispatched to England in 1791. Bearing its aboriginal name, Warrata’h, Sir Joseph Banks received his first live waratah plant from Old Sydney Town in 1797 and later, in 1801, a box of living plants. The first waratah to flower in a private garden in London is thought to have occurred in 1808 and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, under King George 111’s patronage and Sir Joseph Banks’ direction, was also growing ‘Warrata’h’s’ in their hot houses in 1810.

The first camellias from China, to be grown and flowered in England, date from 1792. But one, introduced in 1806, later flowered with a striking similarity to the red bloom of the ‘Warrata’h’ and was instantly dubbed the ‘Waratah Camellia’. The ancient exotic language of the NSW Eora Nations of People had travelled across the seas to be linked to a Chinese camellia with beautiful informal red flowers.


Anemone-Flowered or Warrata’h Camellia. Illustration by S. T. Edwards, Curtis Botanical Magazine, vol. 40: t. 1654 1814. Image courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden,


As accuracy and botanical Latin ruled the then horticultural world, it would later be formally named C. j. ‘Anemoniflora’, inferring its flower was similar to the better-known anemone bulb, instead of the rarer Australian wildflower. But this was not to slow the fame of the Waratah Camellia. The famous Chandler father and son team, working at the Vauxhall Nursery in London, purchased one plant of C. j. ‘Anemoniflora’ in 1819 and turned the unique qualities of the ‘waratah looking’ camellia flower into a breeding parent. By 1825, they had created seven beautiful new hybrids.

The journey for the Waratah Camellia was not over. As one of the camellia hybrids included on the list cargo on the 1831 HMS ‘Sovereign’, it dropped anchor in Sydney’s Port Jackson destined for William Macarthur’s breeding frenzy.

By 1845 young Macarthur had produced between 5-800 camellia seedlings, many sourced from C. j. ‘Anemoniflora’ breeding and other cultivars obtained from England. The circle was slowly closing on the research into Australia’s first camellia.



Camellia japonica ‘Anemoniflora’, commonly called the ‘waratah’ camellia, at Vaucluse House. 
The camellia is an original planting, thought to date back to the Wentworths’ occupation in the mid 1800s. Photo: Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums

What’s in a name?

In 1850 William Macarthur noted, in his own handwriting, a list and description of his hand bred camellias numbering 62 varieties (or 69 depending on the source). The first in this list (# “1/50”) was called, ‘Aspasia’, featuring “light flesh colour, with a few splashes of crimson and pink. Three rows of outer petals, large, thick and well formed: inner petals more rounded and twisted. Moderate size. Very handsome.” One of its parents was no doubt that famous, and most sought-after camellias - the Waratah Camellia, C. j. ‘Anemoniflora’.

The late Colin Mills wrote in his extensive Hortus Camdenensis, the plant sold today as C. j. ‘Aspasia Macarthur’ “should perhaps be considered an improved form” as he knew of three trees in Australia in excess of 100 years old that “bear flowers subtly different from younger trees.” Colin says “the flowers are smaller, have a ground colour closer to the ‘light flesh’ described by William Macarthur, rather than the creamy-white of more recent plants, and fewer splashes of crimson and pink.”

In a strange twist of fate, Macarthur didn’t immediately publish his named list, which the Bureau of International Plant Nomenclature demanded in the new rules for acceptance of a cultivar name. Macarthur’s camellias were first documented in the Australasian Botanical and Horticultural Society report of 1849/50. No doubt isolation played a role in this. Confusion reigned for many years as an Italian breeder released another camellia called ‘Aspasia’ in 1853 and, as it was published first, had naming precedence over Macarthur’s plant.

Prof. E.G. Waterhouse, founder of the Camellia Grove Nursery at St Ives and the first president of the International Camellia Research Society, later recommended the slight name clarification, ‘Aspasia (Macarthur, 1850)’. This has over time been contracted to ‘Aspasia Macarthur’.

Camellia breeding was happening across the world at an incredible pace; faster than breeders could register their selections, and we now know C. x ‘Aspasia Macarthur’ has many synonymous names. These include ‘Pomponia Improved’, ‘Flore Celeste’, ‘Aspasia Nova’, Italy’s ‘Aspasia’, ‘Paeoniaeflora (USA) and ‘Makade (China). The sports from C. ‘Aspasia Macarthur’ identified in Australia, New Zealand and America comprise an impressive list, including ‘Otahuhu Beauty’, Strawberry Blonde’, Glamour Girl’, ‘Can Can’, ‘Just Sue’, ‘Jean Clare’, and Margaret Davis’ and the rare ‘Camden Park’. But because ‘sporting’ or mutations were occurring simultaneously across the globe many synonymous names appeared in catalogues in different parts of the world. These include ‘Duchess of York’ and ‘Elizabeth of Glamis’ for C. j. ‘Lady Loch’.

So, in conclusion, I believe it is correct to name C. x ‘Aspasia Macarthur’ as Australia’s first locally bred camellia variety and be proud that she sent her genetic material across the globe for gardeners to enjoy worldwide.


Graham's lovely 'Aspasia Macarthur' and its distinct pinkish-red splashes. It is common for this variety to revert with more or less pinky-red splashes on the petals of some flowers, even the odd all pink or red flower. Photo - Linda Ross


Our home garden plant is a tough old girl, dating from around 1920. She always suffered from excessive morning sun, which burnt her white blooms so I decided to move her to a shadier position in 2010. I trimmed her by 25%, root balled and replanted with only seaweed as a supplement. It was a success - possibly too successful - and in 2014 I pruned her back by 60%. This time I applied Kahoona fertiliser and watered regularly with Harvest solution. In the following summer it made substantial new growth especially from the base, regrowing lower branching lost 15 years earlier. In winter 2015 it has flowered profusely again with those magnificent blooms William Macarthur first witnessed at Camden Park 165 years ago.

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Author: Graham Ross

Australia's Best Rose Gardens

Need to know where to find the best rose gardens in Australia? We've done the hard yards, and here they are.  A best garden bucket list, just for you!

The Heritage Garden. Photo - Robin Powell

Come spring we love to catch a bunch of glorious gardens in the peak of their spring bloom. What these gardens all have in common is a swooningly beautiful way with roses. Here we offer just a glimpse of what you have in store.


The Heritage Garden

Walter Duncan retired from growing roses professionally to grow roses for pure pleasure in the Clare Valley of South Australia. Over the past decade Walter, and his wife Kay, have created a simply stunning rose garden full of thousands of old world and heritage roses.


The arched alle of 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' at The Heritage Garden. Photo - Robin Powell

Walter grows his roses every possible way; over arbours, along swags and up pillars. Indeed the house appears to be hiding in roses, and every view from indoors is framed by roses. Most dramatic of all is the long arbour. Decorative metal arches span the path at intervals of four metres – in all about twenty arches. Each of the arches is smothered with Walter’s favourite rose, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’.


'Souvenir de la Malmaison' in gorgeous close up. Photo - Robin Powell


An old stone cottage on the property has been restored and makes a support for the finest example of ‘Crepuscule’ that I have ever seen. This is an old, gold-toned noisette rose from 1900 and it drapes across the stone, complementing it to perfection.


'Crepuscule' growing over the sandstone wall at The Heritage Garden. Photo - Robin Powell


Trained along wires around the open veranda is the glorious climber, ‘Mme Grégoire Staechelin’, which is also known as ‘Spanish Beauty’. Its long, shapely, deep-pink buds open to clear pink, semi-double blooms with a delicious, sweetpea scent. The flowers hang in billowing masses in one enormous spring flush.


The Cedars

Both Nora Heysen and her father Hans Heysen loved to paint the flowers that grew in their garden at The Cedars, outside Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. The gracious old home is still owned by the Heysen family and it houses a fine collection of paintings and drawings displaying Heysen's remarkable versatility. This garden is lovingly maintained by curator Allan Campbell, who has planted the perennials, annuals, and of course, roses, favoured by the artist. It’s a romantic place. The mingling fragrances of jasmine, honeysuckle and rose are sweet and fresh. Sunlight dapples the terrace under a grape-covered pergola. Bird song echoes through the still air, and Heysen’s studio feels as if he just stepped out to have a cuppa in the garden.


The rose garden curves around the lawn at The Cedars, the home and garden of artists Hans and Nora Heysen. Photo - Robin Powell

Roses are the dominant flowers. The Heysen favourite was the pale pink, richly scented ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ . The shell-pink ‘Duchesse du Brabant’, pure white ‘Frau Karl Druschki’ and the yellow climbing ‘Lady Hillingdon’ are other old favourites. The Heysens were also fans of Alister Clark’s Australian roses. Victorian-born Clark released his first rose in 1912, and he was the pre-eminent Australian breeder through the ’20 and ‘30s. (Clark’s other great passion was horse-racing, and he was chair of the Moonee Valley Race Club, launching its most famous race, the Cox Plate.) Alister Clark roses were nearly lost after the war, but efforts by home gardeners and collectors mean they can still be a part of a rose lover’s garden. The Heysen’s favourite Clark rose was ‘Marjorie Palmer’, a fragrant pink rose with a sturdy growth habit, released in 1936.



Alister Clark rose 'Sunlit' at the Cedars. Photo - Robin Powell


Al-Ru farm

Roses grow in abundance at Al-Ru Farm at One Tree Hill, where Ruth Irving gardens with an exuberance matched by her garden. Ruth is an instinctive designer; she simply started growing the plants she loved and the garden expanded from there. The results are exquisite, especially the roses. One of my favourites is ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ (France, 1987) which rambles over an arbour leading to a garden of hybrid tea roses. There must be 400 blush-pink petals in each of the rose’s fully cupped chalices. Another sensation is coppery-pink ‘Paul Transon’, which covers the pavilion. And then there is the elegant lily pool and the formal white garden reached through an archway of white wisteria and the rose ‘Devoniensis’. Pure magic!


The 'Pierre de Ronsard' arch at Al-Ru Farm. Photo - Robin Powell

When I asked Ruth how she settled on her clever colour and planting schemes, I thought she would admit to a great memory for the exact tone of flowers and foliage or a great note-taking system for marking down flowering times. Instead she said, “I simply pull the plant out and walk around with it until I find a match!”

Susan Irvine, in her book ‘Rose Gardens of Australia’, describes the result perfectly: “As everything King Midas touched turned to gold, so everything Ruth Irving touches seems to be invested with beauty. From the unremarkable cottage that, under her influence, has acquired a dignified colonnade clad in wisteria and bougainvillea, to the garden, which was little more that an expanse of grass bordered by some fine ash trees, to the collection of early oak furniture, everything at Al-Ru Farm is beautiful.”


'Gold Bunny' scrambles up a screen at Al-Ru Farm where gardener Ruth Irving does inspired work colour-matching roses with perennials. Photo - Robin Powell


Text: Linda Ross, Sandra Ross, Robin Powell

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Author: Linda Ross, Robin Powell, Sandra Ross

Autumn crocus

Photo - Linda Ross

Autumn crocus, Zephyranthes candida

This tough little bulb flowers in profusion after rain – hence its sometime alias, the storm lily. It has shiny evergreen foliage and the flowers are white and open, like fragile crocuses.

Description: It has shiny thin, dark-green, evergreen foliage and the flowers are white and open, like fragile crocuses.

Size: up to 20cm tall. Bulbs multiply rapidly to form a clump.

Cultivation: zephyranthes will grow in most regions in sun or semi-shade. Protect it from the hot sun in warm climates. It is not fussy about soil, even coping with poorly drained clay soils. It’s a little gem for containers (where a watering can may imitate rain, giving plenty of flowers) and it makes a delightful border in both formal and informal designs.

Special comments: the leaf tips can brown off in hot dry weather. Some people grow it as a border in place of mondo grass.


Text: Libby Cameron

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Author: Libby Cameron

Autumn in Linda's Garden

Morning light and grey, silver and blues to remind me of the ocean and the sea. Photo - Linda Ross


My garden on the coast about one and a half hours north of Sydney is a relaxed mix of coastal natives, blue bamboo, succulents and tough exotics. 

I like to experiment here and bend the rules. Failure is part of the equation. My biggest fail was a mass death of frangipani following a freak black frost.

I’ve (kinda) recovered from the trauma and celebrated a hot summer during which the garden shone with large swathes of massed succulents cheering me up even on those violently hot days.


I’ve planted.... purple roses

Inspired by the roses I saw at Chelsea Flower Show last year I have planted purple roses to ramble through my lilac kangaroo paws. After much research (thanks Swanes!) I went with ‘Ebb Tide’, which has deep purple, almost black buds and flowers of a smoky purple, with a delicious strong clove scent; ‘Bonnie Babes’, which is a low-growing rose with mauve-lavender blooms; ‘Thankyou’, which has heaps of mauve petals; and ‘Angel Face’, which has wavy purple petals and a lovely fragrance. I’m enjoying the purple petals contrasting with all that silvery blue foliage. There’s a belief that roses don’t harmonise with natives, but I reckon I prove that false with every posie I pick!



Lilac Queen kangaroo paws with purple roses and drumstick allium. Photo - Linda Ross 


I’m loving... my flapjacks

I have planted flapjacks (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora) in recurring clumps throughout the garden in a repeated matrix alongside coastal rosemary (Westringia), artichoke, drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon), eriostemon, purple kangaroo paw, Dichondra silver falls and blue chalksticks (Senecio serpens). Flapjacks respond to cooler weather by shooting up vertically, and producing dazzling flowers. The silver-encrusted stems glisten like diamonds and stand out against the spheres of soft grey coastal rosemary and the arching blue grey of the Mexican lily (Bershouldia). Honeyeaters, such as the Eastern spinebill, hang off the flowers all day long drinking in the nectar. Once flowers finish in early spring I cut them completely off and allow the small plantlets at the base of the plant to regrow.


In autumn flapjacks head for the skies! Blue chalksticks, coastal rosemary and sea lavender help create an underwater scene. Photo - Linda Ross

What to do now

* Cut back the finished flower stems of kangaroo paw. To extend the patch pull up a finished flower stem and prune off the stem and old leaf fan. You will see the new leaf fan bud at the base. Plant into a new spot, mounded soil preferable.


Linda Ross cutting kangaroo paw

Once the paws have finished cut them back - hard. Photo - Linda Ross


* Pick roses through autumn, on long stems to help keep black spot at bay.

* Cut back the native blue grass (Poa labillarii) using a bread knife to sheari foliage 5-10 cm above ground level. New bright blue growth appears in 10 days. beautiful in winter

* Contain clumping bamboo by knocking shoots off when they reach 20cm - much easier than cutting them out when they mature!



Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Autumn in Michael's Garden

Miscanthus and Gaura. Photo - Michael McCoy

My garden is very much a work in progress but there are a few nice semi-completed elements, and in autumn the skeleton of paths is temporarily fleshed out with perennial planting at its most voluminous.


It’s a very loud floral and foliar party that will come to a dramatic end with the first frost.


I’m planning… winter pots

I’ll squeeze as many tulips as I can fit or afford, whichever limitation kicks in first, and overplant them with frost-hardy annuals like violas or pansies. Those of us on Ross Garden Tours USA 2014 trip saw many spring display pots stuck full of sticks, and I came home addicted to the idea. It works particularly well for winter/spring display, as most of the colourful annuals flowering through the cooler months are low-growing, and can look a bit tame in big pots. Tall, bare sticks are the answer!


Photo - Michael McCoy


I’m hunting… self-sown seedlings

Some of the annuals that flower in spring and early summer are much bigger and better if they get started in autumn. The most dramatic example in my garden is Queen Anne’s lace (Ammi majus). Sown in spring, this will flower in mid to late summer at a metre or so tall. But sown in the autumn, it’ll limp its way through winter as a seedling, but then bulk up with steroidal drama in spring, and rocket up to more than two metres! So when I spot the seedlings, I move them to a place where that sort of height is appropriate. Other spring-flowering annuals that are better for autumn sowing include poppies and sweet peas.


Queen Anne's Lace. Photo - Michael McCoy


It’s time to…

Deadhead annuals like cosmos and zinnias to prolong flowering.

Rake leaves to prevent deep drifts that can bury and kill small plants with frightening rapidity.

Trim hedges for a nice crisp finish throughout winter.

Plant evergreen shrubs and trees. The longer these are in the ground before they have to face the stresses of next summer the better. Deciduous plants can wait until winter.

Order and plant spring bulbs. Tulips should be planted in late autumn in order to avoid a false start, but most other bulbs can go in any time.

Sow seeds of the cool-season herbs, such as chervil and coriander. Both tend to bolt to seed during the summer, but an autumn-sown crop can provide pickings the winter through.

Groom the garden a little, removing dead or dying foliage or seedheads, making sure that plants flowering now are not spoiled by neighbouring plants in autumn decay.

Sow new lawns, or repair damaged ones. It’s essential to keep the seed moist during germination, and this is much easier during cool weather.


I’m stacking… my firewood

Last year, my 20 cubic metres of redgum was dropped off too far from the woodshed, and I couldn’t be bothered barrowing it all under cover. I figured that it had been sitting out for years anyway, so decided to do something a bit more fun with it and stacked into these Monet-inspired ‘muffins’. I have fond memories of a Mount Macedon garden that was full of mounds like these after being largely burned out on Ash Wednesday, and of them becoming a strong design motif. I’ll never bother with the woodshed again.


Firewood stacks. Photo - Michael McCoy


I’m planting…quick-growing vegetables

Autumn is the time to sow quick turn-over vegies like carrots, beetroot and lettuce, as well as to plant seedlings of the slower winter vegetable crops like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. In my cool climate, in which the winter vegetable garden can best be described as a form of outdoor refrigeration, nothing much grows. These winter vegies will crop in winter, but they don’t like actually growing in winter. They’ve got to have done most of their growing before winter sets in. So it’s now or never for me, and even then I’ve got to coax them along to ensure a nice fat crop.


Quick growing lettuce. Photo - Michael McCoy



Miscanthus ‘Cosmopolitan’

This very new Miscanthus has strong stems carrying leaves with the cleanest variegation of white and green. The flowers are strikingly red, but it’s the leaves I’m after. 

Miscanthus. Photo - Michael McCoy



This classic annual comes in a range of colours as strident and cacophonous as you’d expect from a plant native to Mexico. Seeds must be sown in situ, and germinate easily.

Zinnia. Photo - Michael McCoy


This one is Sedum ruprechtii ‘Beth Chatto’s Form’. Flowers start cream and age to raspberry. There are many different sedums, and they’re all fabulous.

Sedum. Photo - Michael McCoy


This bulb produces its flowers before its foliage, making a sudden and dramatic appearance in early autumn. It’s particularly good underplanted with something low, like Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’.

Colchium. Photo - Michael McCoy


I love Cosmos in any colour, but the orange Cosmos sulphureus is probably my favourite. Once established it flowers for ages with very little water.

Cosmos. Photo - Michael McCoy


I know they’re common but the evening perfume that petunias emit is heavenly. The darker the colour, like this double purple, the stronger the fragrance. 

Double petunia. Photo - Michael McCoy


Text: Michael McCoy

About this article

Author: Michael McCoy

Autumn-toned Climbers


Leafy deciduous climbers give fabulous summer shade when trained to cover a pergola, and some of these colour in a dramatic way once temperatures drop in autumn.

Ornamental Grape, (Vitis Vinifera)

The common ornamental grape offers fresh green leaves in spring that turn brilliant red, scarlet, purple and orange in autumn.It does well in a range of climates from hot and dry to cool and moist. Watch out for the vine caterpillar, which can decimate the plant very quickly. You’ll see the droppings, indicating that urgent caterpillar control is required.


Photo - Garden World Images


Crimson Glory Vine, (Vitis coignetiae)

For cool, moist climates and rich, moisture-retentive soils, the Crimson Glory Vine has small black berries in late summer and handsome lobed leaves that turn crimson, orange and scarlet in autumn.


Photo - Garden World Images

Boston Ivy, (Parthenocissus tricuspidate)

This ivy is good for covering large walls, to which it sticks with tiny disc-shaped suckers. It will grow to 18m with large, glossy-green, lobed leaves that turn spectacular shades of purple and red in the autumn. Frost-hardy, it grows best in well-drained, rich soil in filtered sunshine in cool climates.


Photo - Garden World Images

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

This vigorous plant from North America is often confused with Boston Ivy. It has compound leaves with five leaflets (hence the name) that change from green to red in autumn. It has greenish flowers that turn into blue berries that ripen to red. One for large walls.


Photo - Garden World Images

Text: Sandra Ross

About this article

Author: Sandra Ross

Azalea tips


Most azalea varieties bloom in the spring with some blooming a month or so earlier. 

Blooms typically last for one or two weeks. In warm climates, some azalea varieties bloom again in the autumn. 

Photo - D. Kucharski K. Kucharska/

Our tips for the best display: 

- High shade is preferable but deciduous varieties do well in full sun, especially in cool areas. While more sun typically produces more compact plants with more blooms, the blooms will not last as long. 

- Slightly acid soil (pH 5.5-6) is best

- A thick mulch of pine needles or sugar cane helps to keep moisture in the ground, even out changes in the soil temperature and stops weeds germinating.

- Azaleas do not like "wet feet" so plant your azalea with the top of the root ball a few inches above ground level and mulch well. This is particularly important with heavy clay soil.


Photo - KPG_Payless/


- Azaleas like moist soil at their roots. This may require supplementary watering, at least until plants are established in the ground for a few years. Adequate water after bloom helps to produce more flower buds for next year. An infrequent deep soaking is more effective than superficial sprinkling. The amount of water needed depends on the soil, temperature, humidity, wind and sunlight.

- Established azaleas do not need fertilizer, just a mulch of cow manure to feed the soil.
To avoid cutting off next year's flower buds, do major pruning of azaleas soon after they bloom. Shortening or removal of long slender stems with no side shoots and cutting out dead wood may be done at any time.

- Use a fungicidal spray in the spring as the buds show colour will control petal blight, a fungal disease that causes petals to collapse.


Photo - Ian Grainger/

Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Baked apples with blueberry compote


Gabriel Gate says he was raised in a family that loved eating fruit - there were more than 20 fruit trees in the garden around his house. 

No surprise then, that he prefers a fruit dessert like these delicious baked apples to a rich cake or pudding at the end of a special-occasion meal.


This dish is from Gabriel’s book, co-written with Dr Rob Moodie, ‘Recipes for a great life’ (Hardie Grant, rrp $34.95). It’s essentially a workbook for a happy and healthy life, and features advice and tips on health and wellbeing, achieving fulfilment and emotional satisfaction, and of course, eating well. (There’s also a chapter on the benefits of gardening, with which we are in complete agreement!) Gabriel adds that you can substitute frozen blueberries for the sauce with the apples, when fresh berries are out of season or too expensive.


Photo - ‘Recipes for a great life’, Hardie Grant


What you need

4 medium apples, washed and cored

4 dates, pitted

juice of 1 orange

juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons caster sugar

quarter of a star anise

third of vanilla pod, split lengthwise

300 g blueberries


What to do

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Make a cut 1 mm deep around the middle of each apple.

Place the apples in a small baking dish and place a pitted date in the hole of each cored apple. 

Spoon the orange and lemon juice over the apples and sprinkle with sugar. 

Add the star anise and vanilla pod to the dish. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, basting now and then with the juices.

After 30 minutes, scatter the blueberries into the dish and stirgently with the pan juices. 

Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until the apples are soft.

Serve the apples warm, with a spoonful of blueberries and juice.


Serves 4

Text: Gabriel Gate

About this article

Author: Gabriel Gate



Visitors to Empress Josephine’s garden at Malmaison outside Paris were wowed by her banksia collection. 

Two hundred years later gardeners still thrill to these bold and beautiful flowers, but have cold feet about growing them. Graham Ross explains why, and reports on the new cultivars now available.


While every Australian gardener is familiar with banksia, few of us actually grow them, which is a great pity. Perhaps we have been influenced by May Gibbs and her ‘big bad banksia men’. The renowned children’s illustrator and author of ’Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’ first noticed the malign nature of aged banksia flowers when out walking near her childhood home in Western Australia. "I was out walking, over in Western Australia, with my cousins," she told the National Library of Canberra. "We came to a grove of Banksia trees and sitting on almost every branch were these ugly little, wicked little men that I discovered and that's how the Banksia Men were thought of."


Low-growing Banksia spinulosa flowers simultaneously with happy wanderer (Hardenbergia violacea). Photo - Gerry Whitmont/


Do generations of Australian children now harbour bad feelings towards banksias? Or do so few Australian landscapers brave banksias for fear of phytophora fungal root disease and the plant’s perceived intolerance of heavy clay soils? Banksias originate in a wide range of soil types and climatic conditions so the right match can be made for your garden, whether it’s coastal, inland, damp or dry, but only if you do your research first.

One of the first gardeners to get a thrill from the banksia’s unusual, bold flowers was Empress Josephine. Napoleon’s wife had a magnificent garden at Malmaison, where she cultivated plants from all over the world, including many from Australia. Between 1799 and 1814 there were more than 100 Australian plants in the gardens at Malmaison, outside Paris, including grevilleas, wattles, tea-trees and banksias. And while Josephine also had black swans, white cockatoos and emus in her park, she had none of the other birds that are mad for banksias.

Banksias are a great lure for native birds. The abundant nectar on the candle-like spikes of flower draw nectar-eating birds, such as New Holland honeyeaters, as well as nectar-loving insects. The insects in turn attract birds such as fantails and thornbills. Later in the flower’s lifecycle, the seeds attract larger birds including parrots and cockatoos.


Lorikeets flock to feed on banksia nectar. Photo - Anne Montfort/



Banksias in the garden

Australia lays claim to 77 of the 78 banksia species; the exception being found in Papua New Guinea. The majority of our 77 species are native to southwest Western Australia and most of these cannot cope with the East Coast’s humid conditions. The humidity provides an ideal environment for the spread of the root rot fungus, Phytophthora cinnamomi, to which western banksias are particularly sensitive. Some species, such as Banksia speciosa, appear to grow quickly and thrive for a couple of years, only to cause distress to their gardeners by dying rapidly over a single summer.

Banksias are used to well-drained sandy soils or sandy loams and sunny positions. If your soil is heavy or drainage poor, look for Banksia integrifolia or Banksia robur. Some forms of Banksia spinulosa are found naturally on clay soils in the Sydney basin, but be prepared for slow growth.


Banksia serrata seedpods persist on the tree indefinitely. Photo - Linda Ross


To improve soils to banksia-friendly condition, add gypsum or other soil conditioner or raise the soil level into a mound at least 30-60 cm above the pre-existing level. Banksias appreciate extra water during dry periods, especially during summer. Special care should be taken not to let them dry out until established. They will eventually put roots deep into the ground and find the water table, but the process may take up to two years.

Fertilising with phosphorus should be minimal. A slow-release, low-phosphorous treatment is best. If new leaves turn yellow use iron chelate or iron sulphate according to the instructions. Species that grow from lignotubers, a group that includes Banksia robur, B. spinulosa and B. serrata, may be pruned hard - even back to ground level. Others, including B. ericifolia and B. ‘Giant Candles’ are nonlignotuberous and should be pruned lightly (not below green foliage) after each flush of flowers. This prolongs the life of the plants and keeps them compact.

In recent years some nurseries, plant enthusiasts and members of the Australian Plant Society have turned their attention to breeding new banksia hybrids and grafting techniques have made it possible to grow banksias in varying soil types. Some species have been grafted onto fungal-resistant eastern species. Combinations to look out for include Banksia brownii on B. integrifolia and B. speciosa on B. aemula.


Banksia spinulosa 'Birthday Candles'. Photo - Linda Ross


Groundcover banksia

The Mt Annan Royal Botanic Gardens, south of Sydney, has a good collection of prostrate banksia species that excites and surprises visitors. One of the most impressive is B. blechnifolia, the fern-leaf banksia. We see marvel at this groundcover with its 5m spread on our wildflower tour of WA. The plant’s red, spring growth is magnificent but is eclipsed by the erect, 20cm tall, cylindrical spikes of pinky-red flowers. It is ideal on embankments, between rocky outcrops and in half-barrel tubs. Easy options for the less-experienced city gardener include some of the named banksia groundcovers:

Banksia spinulosa ‘Birthday Candles’, grows 50cm high to 1m wide with a fine display of golden yellow flowers. It is excellent as a tub, rockery or garden specimen. It will survive light frosts and needs no pruning.

Banksia spinulosa ‘Honeypots’, is similar to ‘Birthday Candles’ but grows a little wider and features orange-yellow flowers.

Banksia spinulosa ‘Stumpy Gold’, grows 30-40cm and 1.5m wide with yellow flowers up to 40cm tall. It will survive light frost and needs no pruning. It is an excellent groundcover, potted plant or landscape plant.

Banksia serrata ‘Pygmy Possum’, is a naturally occurring, dwarf, coastal banksia, growing only .5m tall and 2.5m across with upright 12cm tall greyish yellow flowers.

Leaves are stiff, dark green and serrated as is the parent, the Old Man Banksia. Moderately frost-resistant.

Banksia integrifolia ‘Austraflora Roller Coaster’, grows as a 20cm thick shagpile carpet to a width of 2.5m with masses of lemony yellow flowers. Its parentage ensures good growth in seaside gardens or in hot arid conditions. It’s ideal on embankments, spilling over half-barrels or as a groundcover in full sun. Unfortunately it’s hard to find in nurseries but worth chasing.


Where to buy

Sydney Wildflower Nursery

9 Veno Street, Heathcote

tel: (02) 9548 2818


Plant notes: easy banksias

Coastal Banksia

Plant name: Banksia integrifolia

Description: the easiest banksia as it will grow in most soils, even alkaline ones. It is a fast growing plant of open, rangy habit and can grow into a large tree.
Size: 6m x 2m
Special comments: the prostrate form, ‘Austraflora Roller Coaster’ remains prostrate. Leaves are serrated on young plants, entire on older. The yellow flowers occur in autumn, and forms have greenish buds. In Sydney, the local form is integrifolia, which the form most commonly seen in nurseries.

Full sun
Drought hardy
Frost tender
Climate map: warm temperate, subtropical, tropical 


Photo - Dan Rosenholm/

Old-man Banksia

Plant name: Banksia serrata 

Description: occurs in coastal regions from Queensland to Tasmania. Large flower spikes in summer-autumn, are grey-green in bud, turning yellow. Large eye-catching woody cones. Slow-growing but long-lived and may take several years to flower. It has attractive foliage and develops a gnarled warty grey trunk over time. Especially good for exposed coastal sites.
Size: Grows 10 to 12 m high.
Special comments: a prostrate form known as B. ‘Austraflora Pygmy Possum’ is available. Banksia aemula is similar but leaves are smaller and flowers brighter. Its fruit is the "Big Bad Banksia Man" of May Gibbs' stories. Both are fairly finicky about soil, preferring a sandy, well-drained, sunny site.

Full sun
Drought hardy
Frost tolerant
Climate map: cold & warm temperate, subtropical, tropical


Photo - Linda Ross


The Swamp Banksia 

Plant name: B. robur  

Description: spreading shrub with very large, leathery leaves with serrated margins up to 30cm long. New growth is colourful, in shades of red, maroon or brown with a dense felt-like covering of brown hairs.
Size: 2.5 metres
Special comments: stunning large flower spikes, metallic green with pinkish styles in bud, becoming cream-yellow and fading to brown. Likes plenty of moisture.

Full sun
Part shade
Frost tender
Climate map: warm temperate, subtropical, tropical


Photo - Suzanne Long/


The Hinchinbrook or Blue Banksia 

Plant name: Banksia plagiocarpa 

Description: from North Queensland, this banksia grows readily in Sydney. It is related to B. oblongifolia and has more vivid, furry, red new growth. The other outstanding features are the spikes, which are generally blue-grey in bud.
Size: 4m
Special comments: Hinchinbrook gets a lot of rain so this plant would appreciate extra moisture and prefers sandy soils.

Full sun
Part shade
Frost tolerant
Climate map: warm temperate, subtropical, tropical


Photo - Linda Ross


Hairpin Banksia 

Plant name: B. ericifolia 

Description: found in the Sydney Basin and Blue Mountains on sandstone soils. A strong-growing, bushy shrub with long red-to-orange spikes with red styles. Some forms, such as 'Kanangra Gold' have paler orange spikes with gold styles. It flowers in late autumn and winter and is very attractive to birds. Plant in sandy soils and don't prune hard.
Size: showy shrub 1-3 m by 1-2m
Special comments: flowers over a long period through autumn and early winter with spikes from yellow to orange, and styles of yellow, orange, red, pink, maroon or black. The subspecies most commonly seen in nurseries is variety collina (Hill Banksia).

Full sun
Part shade
Drought hardy
Good for pots
Frost tolerant
Climate map: warm temperate, subtropical, tropical


Photo - Linda Ross


Text: Graham Ross

About this article

Author: Graham Ross

Barbecued sweetcorn with chilli butter


Fire up the barbie for this simple way to make the most of the natural sweetness of just-picked sweetcorn. 

If you haven’t grown your own, shop for ears with plump, juicy kernels.


Photo - 


What you need

4 corn cobs

25g butter, at room temperature

zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon crushed chilli

pinch sea salt flakes

ground black pepper


What to do

On a small plate mix together the butter, chilli, lime zest and salt and pepper.

Peel back the husk of the corn cobs and remove the silk. Divide the butter among the corn cobs, then re-wrap the cobs with the husks. Secure the husks with twine.

Cook the cobs over a barbecue, or place in an oven tray and bake in a moderate oven, for 10-15 minutes.

Serve as is, or cut the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife, then scoop into a warmed bowl, making sure you catch all the buttery juices.


Serves 4

Text: Robin Powell

About this article

Author: Robin Powell



Rooms without corners, ceilings slung with rose garlands, legends played out on windowsills – more than a century later Barcelona’s modernist architects are still a thrill, says Robin Powell.


Barcelona's modernists were unafraid of colour or ornament and they worked with master craftsmen to produce incredible detailing. Photo - Robin Powell 


The iconic building of Barcelona is the temple of Sagrada Familia. It is to Barcelona what the Harbour Bridge is to Sydney or the Eiffel Tower is to Paris: the must-have shot for any tourist with a phone. Antoni Gaudi’s still-unfinished masterpiece is worthy of all the attention - and even of the queues, which snake around the building from early in the morning. But many visitors to Barcelona miss out on some of the other gems of the incredible flowering of creativity in architecture and design that occurred in Barcelona from the late 1880s to the early 1920s.

The spark was lit when the new capitalists, awash with profits from their colonial enterprises, turned to the city’s architects to help build (literally) their prestige. A status race developed to build the greatest, most original buildings. This marriage of money and art occurred as the whole city was enthused both by the modern, and by Catalan’s history and traditions. All around Europe this convergence of the modern with regional tradition was occurring, and when it took on an interest in forms from nature, it became known as all Art Nouveau. In Barcelona the movement was called Modernisme.


Mosaic'd wall, Montaner. Photo - Robin Powell


The grand master of the modernistas was Lluis Domench i Montaner (part of the fun of visiting these great buildings is practicing saying the fabulous Catalan names, which slide and clash like an onomatopoeic poem). Montaner was one of those people with impressively diverse skills. He was a publisher, artist, literature lover, historian, politician, architect and professor. Indeed he lectured in the School of Architecture of Barcelona and taught the two other stars of the modernista trio, Antoni Gaudi and Josep Puig (pronounced pooch) i Cadafalch.

Say it with flowers

What I love most about Montaner’s work is its extravagant decoration, his unashamedly romantic sensibility and his passion for flowers and gardens. You see all this at work in the Hospital de la Santa Creu i San Pau. On a vast site Montaner imaged a controlled environment in which all of the services of the hospital were underground, connected by tunnels. Above ground were pavilions for patients, each surrounded by gardens, one designed for summer and one for winter. Montaner believed in the healing power of colour and of beauty and he used flowers and flower motifs as part of the wellness program of the hospital. In recent times his beliefs have been vindicated by science - we know that patients with a view of greenery are discharged earlier from hospitals than those with views of the carpark.


Montaner. Photo - Robin Powell

The floral motifs and exuberant colours are perhaps even more extreme in Montaner’s masterpiece, the Palau de la Musica Catalana. The building was commissioned to house Barcelona’s community choir, the Orfeo Catalan, which specialised in Catalan folk songs. The singers must have been awe-stuck by what Montaner created for them. It’s still jaw-dropping today. You walk up a marble staircase with a golden glass balustrade to a reception room lit by enormous stained glass windows patterned with a garden of flowers. In the concert hall itself, rose garlands sweep along the ceiling and down the mosaic’d pillars. Giant baroque chandeliers seem to hang like earrings, and the whole room is lit rose pink and blue by an enormous stained glass dome featuring angels and more flowers.


Stained glass dome in Montaner's Palau de la Musica. Photo - Robin Powell


Montaner’s student Puig i Cadafalch was less inspired by gardens than his old professor. Cadafalch was an expert in Romanesque art (he gave his first lecture on the subject at 16!). For Casa Amatller, his best-known building in Barcelona, he mined the medieval and created an amazing façade. Against a background of ochre stucco is a veneer of white stucco like lace (the treatment is called sgraffito). Each window is treated as an opportunity to tell a story, with carved figures, gargoyles, flowers, plants, and references to St George slaying the dragon, St George being the patron saint of Barcelona. It’s an extraordinary building, and one you couldn't take your eyes off, if it weren't for the next door neighbour.


The façade of Casa Amatller (above) is as geometric as next door Casa Batllo (below) is curvaceous. Together they make an extraordinary streetscape. Photo - Robin Powell


Photo - Robin Powell

Keeping up with next door

A few years after the Amatllers moved in to their new home, Josep Batllo, an ostentatious textile tycoon, bought the building next door. With money no object he commissioned Antoni Gaudi, to design ‘a paradise on earth’. Paradise, like nature, has no right angles, and just one of the extraordinary things about Casa Batllo is that there is not a right angle in the place. Instead, spaces curve and swell and fall back on themselves, describing the shapes that Gaudi saw in nature. Everything in the house is hand made, from the door handles to the glass in the windows and the tiles up the light well. These gradually change colour from the palest blue at the bottom where the rooms need more light, to darker blue at the top where they need less. Looking down into the light well from the top of the building is like being underwater and looking up at the sky.


Attic in Casa Batllo. Photo - Robin Powell

Every room has new surprises, but the most singular element of the building is the façade, which is as curvaceous as Amatller next door is geometric. But the two might have more in common than first appears. The meaning of the Casa Batllo facade is much debated but there is a school of thought that it too pictures the battle of St George and the dragon. The sinuous line of the chimney tops is the dragon’s back, the tower is St George’s lance, and the balconies are the dragon’s victims. Or perhaps it is a story of Carnival, with the roof a harlequin’s hat, the balconies the ball masks, and the multi-coloured ceramic mosaic, which cascades down the façade, a rain of falling confetti.

More than a century after the Batllo’s moved in, their house still startles with its originality. A walk around Barcelona’s modernist masterpieces is not just a walk through history, it inspires with ideas for the future as well.


The large ceramic disks decorate the face of a wall planter that is built into the mosaic'd wall that backs the terrace of Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batllo. Photo - Robin Powell


Come with us - Barcelona’s modernist masterpieces are on the itinerary when we settle in for four nights in the Catalan capital as part of our tour of the Classic Gardens of Spain. Read all about it at or call for a brochure on 1300 233 200



Text: Robin Powell

About this article

Author: Robin Powell


Best known for sauvignon blanc, the Marlborough region in the north of New Zealand's South Island is also a centre of great garden making.

Barewood is one of the gems.


Words and pictures: Robin Powell


Barewood is hidden from view, nestled into the arms of mature trees, so when I squeezed through a gap in the hedge I caught my breath at the vision of a country farmhouse fantasy suddenly before me. The century-old white weatherboard cottage and its deep verandas are fringed with softly drifting tassels of white wisteria. It’s dreamily romantic, and just what Carolyn Ferraby always thought the house needed.



“I’ve always wanted soft colours around the house,” she says. “People say the New Zealand light demands strong colours but I disagree. Initially I had roses as well as a single plant of the Japanese wisteria ‘Shira Noda’, but even though I loved the simplicity of ‘Lamarque’, once I saw that lacy fringe, I knew it had to be wisteria.” Reaching a flowering peak in early November (just in time for Garden Marlborough, the four-day festival founded by Carolyn and fellow gardening friends, that opens dozens of private gardens to visitors), the wisteria goes on to provide fresh shade all through a long hot summer.



Banished from the front of the house the lovely white rose ‘Lamarque’ now decorates the tennis court terrace. The tennis court itself, which operates as a cool green contrast to the planting around it, is edged by a low wall of charming old bricks, taken from a local pub that was being demolished. “It was a case of if you took them away they were yours, which was fantastic,” says Carolyn. The soft rose tones and worn edges of the old bricks are reminiscent of the great walls of Sissinghurst, a garden Carolyn loves and has visited many times.


The curtsying garden

In planning the garden Carolyn had in mind Gertrude Jekyll’s injunction that the garden must curtsy to the house, so everywhere the garden serves the interests of the house, connecting it to history and its position at the centre of a working farm.So, instead of an avenue of cherry leading away from the house to the pond and a summer house, Carolyn decided that ‘prunus is suburban’ and used a sophisticated version of the hawthorn that pops up in hedgerows and paddocks throughout the district. The grass underneath, in another reference to what happens outside the garden’s fences, is simply paddock grass. “Ever since I started gardening I've read that a garden should have green interludes for relaxation, and that’s what that area is. In the summer we take long tables down there and have lunch under the green. It’s lovely.”



A path under the arching hawthorn leads to the visual full stop of a double summerhouse. Double? When Michael McCoy visited with a Ross Gardens Tour group a few years ago Carolyn commented that her only disappointment in the garden was that she hadn’t placed the summerhouse a bit further back so that she could see the pond from its seats. “Michael said it’s no problem. Just ask Joe [her husband] to cut a hole in the back of the pavilion and build another summerhouse behind it.” Fortunately, she adds, Joe is the kind of garden partner who builds whatever is required - walls, terraces, fences, or cutouts in summer houses. “He does say I have a degree in nagging - with honours!” she jokes.


It’s a perfect solution. From the start of the walk, the two buildings read as one, but as you near them it becomes clear there are two options for lounging in the summer.Carolyn gained not just a view of the pond, but extra space to play with behind the original summerhouse.



Eating well

Behind the house is a walled potager, edged in espaliered fruit, and with flowers in amongst the vegetables for both practical reasons - pollinators drawn to the flowers increase the fruit harvest - and aesthetics. A potager too is essential when living 40 minutes from the nearest town. “I love cooking, so the potager is a favourite part of the garden,” says Carolyn. “Being able to pick dinner, knowing that there are no chemicals in my food, is fantastic.”



On the other side of the potager a gate opens on a long avenue of the statuesque crabapple, Malus tschonoskii, chosen for its upright form, which Carolyn envisaged forming a cathedral-style arch of foliage high overhead. There is a magic atmosphere beneath its lofty arches, and in autumn the brilliant colours of the foliage are lit by the sun like stained glass. It’s a vision she is especially pleased to have brought to life, and it’s by no means the last. After decades Carolyn is still developing new areas of the garden as it extends its curtsy to the house.


More Marlborough

There are 27,000 acres of vines in Marlborough, and many cellar doors -and wines! -to try.My pick is Hunter's, the multi-award-winning winery of wine pioneer Jane Hunter To explore a handful of wineries, book an afternoon winery tour with Sounds Connection.


A fifth of New Zealand’s entire coastline winds through Marlborough, in part due to the network of drowned valleys that makes up Marlborough Sounds, so getting on the water is a must. The Beachcomber Cruises mailboat will drop you off at various points along the famous Queen Charlotte Track, and transfer your luggage from lodge to lodge. With less time - or dodgy knees! -book into Furneaux Lodge for a night or two and walk only as far as you feel like.



Come with us

Our New Zealand in November itinerary includes some of the gardens open for Garden Marlborugh, including Barewood. Call 1300 233 200 for details.


About this article

Author: Robin Powell

Beautiful Bamboo


Bamboozled over whether bamboo is a garden pest or a garden saviour? Graham explains why this lovely group of plants can be both – and how to choose the right one for your needs.

Non-invasive tropical and subtropical bamboo varieties are making a comeback as garden designers fall in love with their strong, upright stems and light, airy foliage. 


Don’t dismiss bamboo as only being suitable for Balinese-style or tropical gardens – it works well in native, contemporary and classic gardens, too.


Where to grow

With a bit of research you will be able to find a bamboo that suits nearly every position in the garden: sun or shade, hot or cold, pot or free. Striped, coloured, golden, or black, dwarf, tall or medium – bamboo is a diverse group of plants. Not all bamboos are for tropical climates; some of the bamboos featured in this story will withstand temperatures of minus 15 degrees. Some require good soil while others thrive in poor soils, some sun while others prefer shade.


Photo - zhu difeng/


Why choose a bamboo

It is a shame that the bad reputation of this versatile plant precedes it. Many shudder when I suggest its suitability for gardens. But as soon as you see bamboo growing with grace and majesty, many minds will change. As a rule the Bambusa varieties will grow into clumps from 1 to 2m in width, and will never move out of this zone and run into other parts of the garden.

Bamboo is made up of stems or poles called culms and they are the bamboo’s most wonderful attribute, some have striking colours: black, gold, forest green or white, some change as they age – so strong are these poles they are used in the tropics for building, scaffolding and fine art. The foliage is textural, light, tactile and again comes in many colours and variegations. To me, bamboo clumps evoke the uniqueness of China and the pandas but in reality provide a much-needed contrast to other more common garden plants.



All bamboos are happier if fed occasionally: at least once a year during the growing season to encourage the new growth. Bamboo in pots may have to be fed more often as fertiliser quickly leaches out of planters and pots. We recommend a foliar feed of plant health spray sprayed all over the leaves twice a year, mid-spring and mid-summer as well as a dose of pelleted manure in early spring.



Prune bamboo by cutting older canes out at ground level. This makes way for younger fresher canes. To keep clumping bamboos (the non-invasive varieties) vigorous, remove every second or third pole/stem at the base to prevent the stand of bamboo becoming too dense. Choosing the right variety of bamboo to suit your needs will mean you will never have to partly prune back the feathery tops of the canes because they have grown too large.


Photo - hadkhanong/Shutterstockcom


Avoid running bamboos of all descriptions: these are the enemy of all gardeners. These garden pests have Phyllostachys as their genus name and can cause trouble when they grow from one property into another. These bamboos are classified as noxious weeds in some areas.

We understand you may be tempted to grow one of the dazzling coloured running bamboos such as the golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea), green onion bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica 'Tsutsuminia') or black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra). It you can’t resist, it’s essential to confine them in pots or in garden beds lined with concrete, special rubber or other impervious root barriers. The depth of the barrier needed varies among species but to be safe it should be at least 1m deep.

The best way to eradicate inherited pesky bamboo is to tackle the whole clump, one stem at a time. Cut off each stem about 15cm above ground level and immediately paint it with undiluted Round Up or Erase. The sap moves back down the stem and draws the poison back with it, effectively killing the whole plant. Repeat treatments may be required.

And while we’re advising on what not to grow - steer clear of sacred Bali bamboo as it is prone to sooty mould and we think ‘Black Brandisii’ bamboo is ordinary; there are much better black-stemmed varieties available.


Did you know?

Given how quickly bamboo shoots, it’s enticing to think of it as a handy homegrown crop. Just make sure you prepare the shoots properly as they contain a toxic substance that can lead to hydrogen cyanide poisoning. To prepare bamboo, choose the freshest shoots and cut at ground level. Slice along the length of the shoot, through the outer leaves, to make these tough leaves easier to peel away. Trim any hairy or fibrous tissue at the base and discard. You should be left with a creamy-white cone of bamboo flesh. Cut it into 1cm slices and boil in lightly salted water for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse well, and conduct a taste test. If there are still bitter flavours in the bamboo boil and rinse again. Your bamboo shoots are now ready for use in a stir-fry or Thai-style curry. You can keep these prepared shoots in a sealed container in the fridge for a week, or freeze them.


Where to buy


Mr Bamboo, Terrey Hills (02) 9486 3604

Bamboo World of Alstonville, mail order service (02) 6628 6988



Bamboo Down Under, Gold Coast (07) 5573 1844


Designing with bamboo

Bamboo has many uses and can solve some common garden problems such as lack of privacy, narrow garden beds and dry shade. Here are some of our favourite ways of using bamboo in the garden:

1. Grow bamboo along a fence as a screen to provide the green ‘walls’ of your garden.

2. Plant bamboo in clumps in certain areas of the garden to provide foliage contrast and a focal point.

3. Plant a thick hedge of tall-growing bamboo to give you privacy from a second-storey neighbour (see plant notes for suggested varieties).

4. Plant bamboo as a long border along the driveway to give you a soft foliage wall against the fence.

5. Plant bamboo as a mini forest and let a path meander through, evoking a tranquil Japanese scene.

6. Plant bamboo up in containers, planter boxes or pots to create columns of foliage (see plant notes for suggested varieties). We love the look of colourful feature walls behind that add a wow factor to the courtyard. 


How to: grow a bamboo screen

Step 1: Select an upright variety that grows to the height you want. Decide if you need it to grow to one, two or three storeys high.

Step 2: Work organic matter into the soil before planting and add water crystals, then plant at 1-1.5m centres. Plant a soft groundcover beneath, such as liriope or mondo grass to act as living mulch.

Step 3: Prune older canes that look tatty back to ground level and this will make way for younger more colourful canes (or culms).



Screen casting

* Best for narrow screens with less 75 cm planting space:

Bambosa multiplex ‘Gold Stripe’ or B. textilis gracilis

* Best for screens in dry shade: Nepalese Blue and Khasia bamboo with purple and white stripe rings.

* Best to screen a second-storey neighbour quickly: Bambosa vulgaris ‘Oldhamii’ is a great all-rounder if you have the room. It grows very quickly, very erect and lush, will block out the neighbours in 6-12 months and can easily block out a 3-storey window.

* Best to screen a shed or clothes line: B. guangxiensis ‘Chinese Dwarf’ is a green-foliaged bamboo to 3m that looks as though it has been pruned even though it hasn’t

* Best wow factor: ‘Timor Black’ or ‘China Gold’ (4m), which is a gold-stemmed with lovely variegated foliage

* Best for pots: Shade-loving Himalayan blue bamboo and black-stemmed bamboos are two of the best bamboo for pots; they like root restriction and don’t grow too tall. While pots of the smaller growing ‘Baby Panda’ needs to be keep moist. Make a stunning specimen planting with Bambusa multiplex ‘Silverstripe’ in a large container.



Text: Graham Ross 

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Author: Graham Ross

Beauty Bush


Photo - Linda Ross

Beauty Bush (Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii)

Description: a vase-shaped deciduous shrub, grown for its outstanding purple berries, which cluster along the stems in autumn, following the tiny lilac flowers. The berries are set off by lovely golden autumn foliage.

Size: 1.5m x 1.5m

Cultivation: Beauty bush will grow in full sun or partial shade. Prune heavily when the berries have finished. Frost tolerant.

Special comments: berried stems are sensational in flower arrangements.



Text: Linda Ross


About this article

Author: Linda Ross


Sow beetroot after the last frost; all year round in frost-free gardens. Or sow seed indoors in a mini greenhouse with heat pad, and transplant once the weather warms.

This versatile and nutritious vegetable can be grated, shredded, boiled or roasted. It can be a pickle, a soup, a dip, a side dish, a main event or a salad.



Photo - AnjelikaGr/

It is a great match for fetta cheese, goat’s cheese, walnuts, hazelnuts, horseradish, yoghurt, cumin, pine nuts, oranges, dill, mint and rocket. Not quite convinced the beet deserves a place in your patch? Consider this: the leaves can also be eaten, cooked when harvested, or picked young leaf by leaf to add colour and flavour to a mixed salad. Seize the day and plant now for a harvest before the weather cools and growth slows.



Beetroot grow anywhere, even in heavy clay. Before sowing add compost and a handful of organic fertiliser to the soil. Beetroot seeds can be sown in autumn, spring and summer. Soak seeds overnight in warm water before sowing. Create rows 30cm apart and space the seed out 10 cm under 1.5cm soil. Each seed is actually a woody capsule made up of two or three seeds which result in roots growing on top of themselves. So once the baby beets are growing, thin out every second one. (Beetroot seed tape evenly spaces individual seeds and removes the need for thinning.)



In warm weather beetroot take 15 weeks to grow to a tasty size somewhere between golf ball and tennis ball. Put the date in your diary so you don’t leave them in to become woody and tasteless softballs.



Rusty orange and brown holes and spots on foliage indicate a trace element or nutrient deficiency in the soil. Boron and magnesium are the usual suspects. This can be corrected by checking the pH of the soil and adjusting to neutral, and by adding soluble trace elements (try product by Manutec).



Burpees Golden is a pretty, peach-coloured globe that tastes just like red beetroot but doesn’t stain.

Chioggia is an old Italian red and white striped variety.

White Blankoma is exotic-looking, but a little woody to my way of thinking.

Bull’s Blood is a rich dark colour and the almost-black leaves look terrific in the garden and in a salad.


Text: Linda Ross


About this article

Author: Linda Ross



You might be most familiar with the sun-hardy bedding begonias, the ‘wax flowers’ whose red and white blooms shine on through hot weather. 


But there are many other types of begonias, some with beautiful patterned leaves as well as those simple, charming, waxy flowers.  

Some begonias make lovely ‘fillers’ in shady, frost-free gardens, others are best suited for pots and baskets. Here’s a quick run-down of a few of the members of this be group of plants.


Cane-stemmed begonias

These begonias (Begonia coccinea) can grow to 2m with straight stems and showy clusters of pendulous waxy flowers from mid-summer to late-autumn. Called ‘Angel Wing’ because of the shape of the heart-shaped, often speckled foliage, they make fine garden plants in sheltered, frost-free gardens. Their form and foliage makes them perfect plants for mixing into borders or using in pots in courtyards and balconies. Allow morning sun, take care not to over-water and prune mature plants hard in late-winter to encourage new growth from the base. Make new plants from stem cuttings.


Photo - ntdanai/


Rex or king begonia

This begonia is grown for its large foliage, which may be coloured, patterned or have an intriguing metallic sheen, rather than for its insignificant flowers. Bright and unusual shades of green, pink, red, silver, purple and grey combine to make bold patterns on the leaves. Grow rex in pots and baskets in a well-lit position indoors. Because of their succulent leaves, begonias store moisture and need less frequent watering. Indoors they need high humidity and good ventilation to avoid disease problems. To boost humidity, sit them in a tray of pebbles and water. Dry air will cause leaf margins to brown.


Photo - Eve81/


Tuberous begonias

These are grown for their huge colourful blooms and are best in a cool shade house, with part or filtered shade, and good ventilation to discourage powdery mildew. There are erect varieties suited to pots, and cascading varieties suited to hanging baskets. As the flowering season approaches water them with Phostrogen, but don’t over-water as tubers grow better if kept slightly dry and are susceptible to rotting if kept too wet.


Photo - Marie C. Fields/


Elatior begonias

Charming begonias for indoors, these are grown for their clusters of pretty pastel flowers. They are happy to grow for a season or two near a bright windowsill or kitchen table. Avoid wet or waterlogged soil. Flowers come in pretty soft shades of peach, lemon, white, pink and apricot. Feed with liquid feed and a sprinkle of controlled release. They are not long-lived but we think they’re better than a bunch of flowers! You’ll find them in the indoor plant section at your local nursery.


Photo - sakhorn/


Bedding or Wax begonias

This small-growing ‘bright as a button’, old-fashioned wax begonia (Begonia semperflorens) is making a little comeback as a hardy bedding plant for borders and pots. It never stops flowering and lasts one season. It comes in red, white and pink flowers with green or purple leaves. B. semperflorens is great for pots. Watch for powdery mildew fungus on the leaves, treat with a fungicide. To get an extra year out of the plants, try cutting it back over winter, top with straw, keep it dry and it should grow back in spring.



Photo - joloei/


Hanging begonias

‘Bonfire’ (Begonia boliviensis) has exotic flame orange-red flowers with interesting serrated green leaves with a red margin and compact habit. It happily grows to 45cm and will flower continuously through to late autumn. It is very robust and will thrive in hot dry weather in a window box, hanging basket, or in the garden as a border. Feed with liquid feed. Plants die back over winter, re-emerging in spring.


Begonia 'Red Dragon'. Photo - Luisa Brimble


Begonia care tips

Begonia biggest enemy is frost. Planting them under other shrubs will help protect them. Pots can be brought close or into the house over winter in frosty regions.

Use the best potting mix available and add 20% perlite to lighten the mix, which allows better drainage and and reduces the risk of fungal problems during wet weather.

Powdery mildew on leaves can be controlled with Baycor.

Prune plants whenever they get leggy.

Watch for green looper caterpillars that find the taste of tender begonia leaves tempting.

More begonias

Check out the new begonia garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney (Bed 31), and if you like what you see, consider joining the

Begonia Society to meet with friends to learn more about begonias.

NSW Begonia Society: (02) 96791386

Victorian Begonia Society: (03) 53362125

Queensland Begonia Society: (07) 3359 4319

South Australian Begonia Society: (08) 8264 6490


Text: Sandra Ross

About this article

Author: Sandra Ross



The garden was laid out more than a decade ago by designer Paul Bangay as a series of well-defined spaces, each with its own mood. Photo - Holly Kerr Forsyth

Holly Kerr Forsyth celebrates the landscape and people of country Australia in her new book ‘Country Gardens, Country Hospitality’. In this extract she introduces us to the garden of Anna and Don Carrazza, local food legends on the Murray. 

Spring arrives early in Mildura, the Victorian city that rests languidly on the banks of the Murray River. August days can rise to 22C, although nights can be cold and the dawn can bring frosts. The result is that gardeners in the area can have the best of both worlds — daffodils in spring and hibiscus through summer. By August the sweet peas are in full bloom; the wisteria bursts into flower in September; the scent of roses hovers in the air by mid-October.

BellaVista, Anna and Don Carrazza’s garden, hugs the river at Gol Gol, on the New South Wales side. It was laid out more than a decade ago to a plan prepared by landscaper Paul Bangay. The garden is a series of carefully defined spaces, each with its own character and mood. There are avenues of trees that provide dense shade in the hot, dry summers, flamboyant flower borders and a formal rose garden, all designed around a Mediterranean-style house on half a hectare of land.


The entrance to BellaVista leads beneath fastigiate pears to the rose garden, which is filled with David Austin roses and irises in complementary colours. Photo - Holly Kerr Forsyth

Bold cast-iron gates made by a local artist are flanked by groups of English and Chinese elms and by pin oaks, and lead into the garden. Twenty fastigiate pears, Pyrus calleryana ‘Capital’, line the drive. This cultivar grows in an upright form and colours to exciting purples and reds in autumn then bursts into clouds of white blossom in September.

To one side, a walled garden features perennial borders filled with stachys, dianthus, delphiniums and foxgloves. An avenue of thirty lindens (Tilia cordata), underplanted with thousands of King Alfred daffodils, leads you from this border to a vegetable garden, and on into the rose garden.


Double borders of perennials, including bearded irises, lead past walls covered in roses, including Rosa ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ on the left. Photo - Holly Kerr Forsyth

Located beyond a high wall, the rose garden is divided into eight sections, each enclosed in box and housing a collection of roses from the English breeder David Austin, mixed with Anna’s favourite hybrid teas, all in colour groupings. Hundreds of bearded irises, in tones that team perfectly with the roses, flower profusely after the frosty winters that they love.

In the bed of yellow David Austin roses ‘Graham Thomas’, the very vigorous, very fragrant ‘Jude the Obscure’, and ‘Golden Celebration’ bloom with the modern, apricot-coloured ‘Just Joey’ and the temperamental but fascinating ‘Julia’s Rose’, the colour of antiqued silk. The entire garden is enclosed by hedges of x Cupressocyparis leylandii ‘Leighton’s Green’, which are pruned twice each year.

Oriental poppies team with the Mediterranean colors of the house. Photo - Holly Kerr Forsyth

In Mildura the name Carazza is synonymous with the good life, and with good food. Margot Mills, another of the area’s great gardeners, recalls that it was Don who brought Italian coffee culture to the country town. She remembers Don and Anna’s first cafe, the Mary Elizabeth, and the ‘proper coffee’ that Don served there. ‘It was a great meeting point. Anna cooked. You would get the most wonderful pastas. Simple, inexpensive and the real thing.’

The tradition continues with Don and Anna’s son-in-law Stefano de Pieri, whose marvellous eponymous restaurant is located in the Grand Hotel on Feast Street, lately with chef Jim McDougall installed. Stefano’s Bakery at 27 Deakin Street remains a meeting — and talking — point. Anna shared several of her family’s favourite recipes with me, ‘served again and again,’ she tells me, ‘to nourish and sustain the most important people in my world’. 


This is an extract from ‘Country Gardens, Country Hospitality’ by Holly Kerr Forsyth, published by Miegunyah Press, $49.99

Text: Holly Kerr Forsyth

About this article

Author: Holly Kerr Forsyth



Is the composition of this coastal view the best you’ve ever seen? Myles Baldwin says yes. He explains why in this extract from his new book, ‘Australian Coastal Gardens’.


Through good horticultural practice and boldness with a pair of shears and a chainsaw, a stylish garden has been produced. When seated on the deck, the swelling mounds of planting obscure the lawn and the path to the beach, while not obscuring the view. I’ll go out on a limb: the composition of the coastal view from this property is one of the best I have ever seen. Photo - Myles Baldwin, 'Australian Coastal Gardens'


Myles Baldwin first saw the shingled walls of this house and its garden of, mixed planting and lawn leading to the beach, when he was holidaying with mates. He liked its style. Five years later one of his clients bought the house, which is at Berrara, on the south coast of NSW, near Sussex Inlet. Myles was asked to tweak the garden ‘a little’. In this extract from his new book Australian Coastal Gardens, he explains what he saw when he walked through the property for the first time, and the changes he made.


Originally a weatherboard/brick/fibro cottage, shingles had been added by the previous owner, and a louvered, box-like dovecote installed on the roof for visual effect. The result is in an almost Hamptons aesthetic, which, combined with the setting on the coast seems even more the case.

As in most beachside properties, all the garden effort was made on the ocean side of the house. Texturally mounded coastal plants are juxtaposed with strappy leaves of dietes and lomandra, arranged in a series of organic garden beds. These beds are used for screening on the boundaries, and unconventionally, as foreground texture, running away from the centre of the house and splitting a lawn into smaller segments.

The diversity of the plant material is exciting; clipped mounds of metrosideros (New Zealand Christmas bush), Banksia integrifolia, Casurina glauca and Pittosporum undulatum (native frangipani) form the bulk of the plantings but even murrayas, syzygium (lillypilles) and viburnum make an appearance in the mix. Tall species have been trained to have a similar form and habit, and their subtly contrasting leaf textures make all the difference to the overall effect.


Composing a view

I have long been an advocate of planting or positioning an object within a grand view. That way it provides scale, and concentrates the vista into windows. The object or tree shouldn’t be so big, of course, that it blocks the view, or positioned to hide a key point of the vista from a key location on the property. Instead, the object should be placed in a way that it essentially becomes the subject of a great landscape painting.

In the case of the garden at Berrara, the subject is a fantastically clipped casurina that developed two trunks and, over a period of time, has been trained into two interlocking buns that may, or may not, be viewed as a pair of giant olive green buttocks.

More controversial than the casurina was the previous owner’s decision to split the lawn into halves. Up to 1.4m tall, the plantings are high enough that, when seated on the deck you don’t see the lawn or path to the beach, yet low enough that you don’t lose the coastal vista. I will go out on a limb to suggest that the composition of the view from this property is one of the best coastal views I have ever seen.


The Adirondack chairs match the shingled exterior of the house to lend a Hamptons aesthetic to a distinctly Australian scene. Photo - Myles Baldwin, 'Australian Coastal Gardens'

Small changes for big effects

When asked to work on a property with a strong aesthetic you need to be respectful of why the design was established in the first place and also what it was about the place that encouraged your client to buy it. My job was to simplify the garden ‘a little’, and provide a ‘little’ more contrast within the plantings. Retaining all the large clipped plant materials, I looked at segregating some of the wild lomandras from under the feature mounds to become stand-alone specimens and drifts that would perform to their full potential.

Segregating plant material within a garden is something I encourage anyone with a mixed arrangement of plants to do, if they want a more mature Gardenesque aesthetic over a whimsical cottage one.

The casurinas were first to get treatment. Inspired by the clipped nature of the ‘feature’ casurina, the thin trees on the side were heavily pruned to encourage dense growth. Over a two-year period, they have become an impenetrable screening plant – so successful, in fact, that I have specified a casurina screen in two more coastal projects.

Inspired by the drift of westringia I had seen from the beach years earlier, I planted more westringia to continue the flow from the neighbour’s plantings, unifying the dune front. Once bolstered by spot plantings, it became a subtle grey contrast to the green of the garden closer to the house. We also added more banksia and a line of metrosideros near the beach, supported by the beachside favourite, oleander, and drifts of Leptospermum laevigatum.


Photo - Myles Baldwin, 'Australian Coastal Gardens'


The power of the shears

To many people this list of plant material sounds awful, and to be honest, given a different location, different conditions and pruning regimes, this would be a pretty horrible collection of plants. However, maintained in the same way the previous owners developed the garden, I am confident it will be a success.

This certainly is, though, a garden that that has developed out of necessity: the neighbours had to be screened, the hillside retained and privacy gained. The plant material has been selected because it suits the natural coastal aesthetic, performs well in compacted silty rubbish soil and loves salty air. Yet through good horticultural practice and boldness with a pair of shears and chainsaw, a stylish garden has been produced.


Extract from ‘ Australian Coastal Gardens’ by Myles Baldwin, Published by Murdoch Books, $90

Photo - Myles Baldwin, 'Australian Coastal Gardens'

Text: Myles Baldwin

About this article

Author: Myles Baldwin



Growing berries is not a cinch - they have fierce thorns, troublesome pruning rules and require commitment (and hardware) to keep wildlife away from ripening fruit. 

But if berry-stained lips sound to you like a rich reward, take notes from Linda’s masterclass, and plant in winter. 

Climate and personal taste are the criteria for berry choice from the wide range available through mail-order companies. These include the lesser-known silvanberry, marionberry, loganberry, youngberry and boysenberry as well as the classic strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and blackberry.


Photo -



Facts: deciduous, cane-bearing shrub. The roots are the only permanent part of the plant; the canes are temporary. Fruits November to April. Grows from suckers. Requires pruning. Grows 1.5m tall, plant 40cm apart.

Climate: can only be grown in climates where winter temperatures reach less than zero.

How to grow: a sturdy 2.5m post in each corner of the raspberry bed is essential for the wire support the hedgerows will need and for attaching bird netting. Canes should be clamped between pairs of parallel wires, or bunched together to encourage a neat arched framework from which to pick the berries. Shorter canes that don’t reach the wirescan be plaited into the longer canes for more support.

Varieties: the two raspberries I have had experience with are ‘Chilliwack’ and ‘Heritage – both delectable! ‘Chilliwack’ is a summer-fruiting raspberry that holds fruit well on the canes so you can revisit every few days to pick fruit at premium ripeness. ‘Heritage’ has huge yields in autumn only.

Pruning: ‘Chilliwack’ is a traditional type, so old canes that have fruited must be pruned off, and new canes left to overwinter. ‘Heritage’ is easier to prune as you can cut the entire plant down in winter.


Raspberries grow best in areas with a cold winter. That includes the ranges of NSW, most of Victoria, the Adelaide Hills and Tasmania. Eight plants will start the average family off well. Plant July-September. Photo -


Blackberry and blackberry hybrids

Facts: deciduous, cane-bearing shrub. The roots are the only permanent part of the plant; the canes are temporary. Fruits November to February. Grows from suckers. Winter pruning. Grows 2m high, plant 1-3m apart.

Climate: cool climate only except for some hybrids, such as loganberries and youngberries, which are better suited to warm climates.

How to grow: blackberries need training along a trellis to tame them into a garden-friendly shape. The problem is that as each shoot grows it arches to the ground, where takes root. You need to avoid allowing this to happen by tying the cane to the trellis before it can root.

Varieties: boysenberries are tasty, but thorny. Loganberries are thornless so well-suited to the home garden; they must ripen on the bush to gain their full sweetness. Silvanberries fruit over a long period. Youngberries are similar to boysenberries but with sweeter, shinier fruit. Marionberries have better flavour but produce less than other berries.

Pruning: logan, boysen and young berries should be pruned back to four buds above ground level in late spring to encourage more branching.


You can plant two blackberry canes in the same hole. Thy don't need to be fertilised initially, but in spring add some good general purpose fertiliser, lots of potash, and not too much nitrogen. Photo -


Facts: deciduous bush growing to 1m, fruiting from November to April. Prune lightly after fruiting. Requires an acid soil. Yields 4kg per bush, grows 1-1.2m high. Plant 50cm apart. Beautiful autumn leaf colour and stunning bell-shaped flowers in spring. Blueberries are self-fertile.

Climate: warm climates are best but will take winter lows of -1 degree C, given frost protection.

How to grow: treat blueberries like azaleas: rich soil, moisture, good drainage and a position away from strong winds. The best thing you can is to mulch with pine leaves and chook manure.

Varieties: I love ‘Sunshine Blue’, which has a low chilling requirement (ideal for coastal and warm climate gardens) as well as being quite tolerant of alkaline soil (at least it is in the Garden Clinic HQ garden!). ‘Misty’ is another good warm-climate blueberry. ‘Northumberland’ has great clusters of berries that persist well on the bush, very hardy to extremes of heat, and good for cooler climates.

Pruning: don’t allow plants to fruit for the first two years, as a good structural development is important. Stems will then produce berries for up to four years and then can be removed at ground level or to a vigorous side shoot. Keep the centre of the bush open to allow good air circulation.


Blueberries are a nutrition superfood, high in antioxidants and Vitamin A and C. Use in pies or muffins, as well as snacks. Grow them in cold and warm temperate climates, planting when they are dormant in winter. Photo -



Facts: groundcover plant producing runners that fruit in subsequent years. Fruits October to May, with 10 plants producing 5kg. Grows 40cm high, plant 20cm apart.

How to grow: strawberries need sun, good drainage and plenty of organic matter. They have shallow roots that are prone to drying out. In very cold areas, protect plants during winter with straw. Weed control is vital. Plant winter-spring, add liberal blood and bone. Feed frequently throughout the season, spraying fortnightly with seaweed solution alternating with comfrey tea. Do not plant strawberries where tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes or raspberries have been growing during the last five years as the pathogen verticillium can debilitate them!

Varieties: grow a range of varieties for a long picking season. Digger’s Strawberry Collections, comprise dozens of excellent varieties. Add ‘Temptation’ and ‘Alinta’, which crop into winter. Foodies will love the white alpine strawberry, which has the advantage of being difficult for birds to see.

Pruning: throughout the growing season runners will emerge from the mother plant. Remove the strongest ones and replant either in pots or straight into the next strawberry patch. Remove old tatty leaves in autumn/winter. Eventually older plants will be replaced with new runners. 


In cooler areas the recommended planting time for strawberries is late winter or early spring. In warm/subtropical areas March-April is the best planting time. Make sure the strawberry crowns (tops of the roots) are at soil level or they will rot. Photo -


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Best bulbs for...




Spring star flowers (Ipheion ‘Star Bright’) reliably spread into big colourful patches. These tough and forgiving European woodland bulbs look brilliant mass-planted in semi-shade under deciduous trees. They may be sparse in the first season, but will improve each year.


Photo -


Vase life


These last well, with the bonus of fragrance. Slender stems carry a succession of tubular flowers, in either single or double forms. In the garden freesias must have good drainage, and must be left to dry out when the foliage dies down.


Photo -



One of the few bulbs to perform well under trees, they tolerate root competition, naturalise well, and cope with both summer irrigation and summer dryness. We like snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum) under white Yulan magnolias (Magnolia denudata) as they flower simultaneously in late winter.


Photo -


The budget


At $12.50 for 50 bulbs, you can’t beat harlequin flowers (Sparaxis x tricolour). Plant in long drifts or big clumps to maximise the impact. These are low-cost, low-care, long-term colour for spring, native to South Africa, so comfortable in our climate.


Photo -




These are the most fragrant of all the spring blooms, best planted in special ‘hyacinth’ vases on a windowsill, in pots, or in the front of the flower bed. Plant 10–15cm deep, with the pointy end upwards. They make brilliant pot plants and can be brought indoors temporarily so you can enjoy their perfume.


Photo -


Solider boys

Old-fashioned flowers, soldier boys (Lachenalia aurea) are indestructible and therefore great in confined spaces. Another South African native they have tubular flowers in terracotta shades of gold and orange. The foliage is deep green, often with maroon splotches.


Photo -



Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Best crops for small plots


Photo - Photoslamontagne/

Even the smallest balcony plots can produce crops from an interesting range of small-fruited, ‘patio’-sized vegetables. Linda Ross shares tips on making it work.

The pot

Patio pots must be larger than 30cm across, be glazed or sealed (plain terracotta will dry out too quickly), have drainage holes, andbe filled with quality potting mix that includes water crystals and controlled release fertiliser.


The site

Group pots in full sun. Place larger pots with larger vegetables behind smaller pots with smaller vegetables. Grow groundcovers and root crops beneath climbing plants.



Water daily. Leafy vegetables need weekly nitrogen-based fertiliser such as seaweed or homemade weed tea. Fruiting vegetables require fertilisers high in potash (Thrive for Fruit and Flowers, Harvest, homemade comfrey tea). Be on the alert for bugs, powdery mildew, cabbage white butterfly, 28-spotted ladybeetle, curl grubs in the soil and white fly.


Leafy greens

Choose leafy rather than heading lettuce, expect for Lettuce ‘Mini Cos’ and ‘Mini Ice Cube’ which grow into miniature heads. Sow little patches of rocket between climbing vegetables such as peas. Mini Baby Spinach can be eaten straight from the pot. Pak Choi is another quick crop which can be harvested in six weeks and can be grown under climbing vegetables.


Cabbage family 

Choose patio-sized members of the family, such as ‘Mini Cannonball’, ‘Bambino’ broccoli and ‘Magic Dragon’ broccoli. Harvest the first florets of these and new ones will form. ‘Mini White cauliflower’ is a fast-maturing cauli, best grown from seedling. Be alert for small white butterflies that lay eggs on leaves of the cabbage family. These hatch into voracious green caterpillars. Control with Yates Success.



For best results sow roots such as carrots and beetroot from seed, on a fine layer of seed-raising mix on top of the existing soil in the pot. Ensure pots are at least 50cm tall for longer roots such as carrots. Plant easy-to-grow leeks and spring onions rather than normal onions, which take too long to develop.



Snowpeas and sugar snap peas are smaller-growing than podding peas but still need a 1.2m high tepee frame. In summer choose dwarf beans such as ‘Borlotti’ ‘Cherrokee Wax’, ‘Butter bean’ and ‘Bonaparte’ which don’t need tall frames on which to grow. Watch out for powdery mildew on leaves and spray ecoFungicide to halt the spread. All peas and beans are best grown from seed: sow, water and wait 10 days before watering again.


Space Savers

- Grow beetroot under spinach

- Grow lettuce under sugar snap peas

- Grow carrots between cauliflower

- Grow cucumber with tomatoes and beans

- Grow garlic under citrus


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Best-ever roast potatoes

Want the best-ever roast potatoes?

Simple, delicious and deeply comforting the humble roast spud is a must-have in the cook’s bag of tricks. Here are a few of our favourite versions.

Words: Robin Powell



The Heston method

British chef Heston Blumenthal swears by this method. Rinse quartered potatoes under running water for five minutes to wash off the starch, then bring them to the boil in a pan of cold water with a smashed garlic clove and sprigs of thyme and rosemary. Simmer until very soft. Drain and leave to cool completely. Heat equal amounts of beef dripping and olive oil in the roasting pan then add the potatoes and garlic clove. Stir gently to coat, then roast for an hour at 180, gently turning every 20 minutes, then add the thyme and rosemary sprigs to the pan and cook another 20-30 minutes.


Potatoes and lemons

Heat a good dollop of olive oil in the roasting pan, then add pre-boiled, quartered potatoes and lemon quarters. Toss everything together to coat the potatoes in lemon juice and olive oil. Roast at 180-200, depending on how hot your oven is, for an hour, tossing once, till the potatoes are golden and crispy and the lemon is caramelised.


Smashed spuds

Cook whole potatoes until tender, about 30 minutes, then drain.Brush oil over a roasting tray, add the potatoes and smash them with a potato masher.If the potatoes are a bit too firm to collapse, slash them with a knife to create maximum surface area. Drizzle over olive oil, and sprinkle good salt, then roast for an hour or so at 180, until the tops are brown and crispy.


Top tips

  • Use the right potato - starchy potatoes make the fluffiest, crispiest roast potatoes.Look for Coliban or Sebago; King Edward if you grow your own or know someone who does.

  • Quarter the potato - more sides equals more crispy bits - but the pieces need to be large enough for a contrast between crispy outside and fluffy inside.

  • Boil the potatoes in salted water before roasting. This fluffs up the outside, increasing the surface area and making crispier spuds. Toss them aggressively in the colander for extra fluffing and let them steam dry before adding to the roasting pan.

  • Try mixing oil with duck fat, goose fat, butter, or Heston’s favourite, beef dripping.

  • Don’t crowd the pan.

  • Toss once during cooking, about 40 minutes in.

  • Having roasted the world’s best-ever spuds don’t spoil them with harsh salt. Use a good one, like Murray River Pink Salt Flakes.


About this article

Author: Robin Powell

Better balcony gardens

In this extract from his new book ‘Small Garden Design’, Paul Bangay shares his tips for that most difficult small garden - the balcony.

Words: Paul Bangay, pictures: Simon Griffiths



In inner-city areas, a balcony or terrace is the most common form of outdoor space. The size of these can vary greatly, but no matter the size, people almost always feel the need for a sense of greenery, which can present a number of challenges. Beyond the size, and built constraints are the environmental challenges of wind, light and soil. But there are also benefits to small gardens, one of which is the accessibility, both physically and visually, to the interior of the house.




I like the appearance of real stone for paving, but for weight and thickness reasons, it is often ruled out for balconies. Luckily, there is a great range of thin, light ceramic tiles that look like stone and are durable and easy to maintain. For smaller balconies, I recommend blending the paving with the same tile as the internal space; this creates a seamless transition between inside and outside and makes the outdoor space appear larger. Where this is not possible find a tonally similar material. Small spaces will always appear larger if they are not broken up in terms of paving materials.


Matching colours

Small spaces also appear larger if vertical wall colours are consistent as well. If you have space to use troughs, try to select fibreglass or other lightweight materials that can be coloured and textured to match the external wall of the building. These are available in a range of sizes or can be custom-made to fit the space. The other material I use for troughs is colour-matched aluminium; this can take its cue from door or window trims or other internal finishes. The important thing here, whatever you choose, is to ensure it is as light as possible. All buildings have issues with weight loading; the volume of wet soil is critical, as is the weight of the container itself.



Plant containers

Where there’s room I prefer troughs to pots as they have the advantage of allowing you to create the illusion of garden beds. You can fill them with more planting, and a greater diversity, than you can with pots. If space demands pots, I like to use groupings of varying heights and diameters, which creates interest and diversity of planting. Lower bowls are a good solution if there's a distant view that you don’t want to obscure with high plantings or features.



Furniture choices

Consider how you’re going to use the space before you select furniture. Do you want to dine outside or simply sit and enjoy the view?Make sure you choose robust, heavy furniture as you don’t want strong winds to send it flying. If the balcony space really is limited, my preference is always for a couple of comfortable low chairs and low coffee table, which can be used for both relaxing and casual dining.

The important design factor is to never clutter the space, no matter how large or small it is. Fewer better pieces of furniture, ornaments or pots and plants are favourable to many lesser pieces. Consider the outlook when placing objects; try to frame the view instead of blocking it.



Small Garden Design

Paul Bangay is renowned for expansive and elegant gardens with classical lines and symmetrical plantings, as seen in his garden Stonefields, in central Victoria. Most of us though, can only dream of a big garden, so Paul’s new book, published by Penguin/Random House, rrp $60, deals with the real spaces of urban gardening life - balconies, terraces, rooftops, lightwells and courtyards. There is plenty of good advice, and the underlying message is to keep it simple and to make bold choices. If you’d like to see Paul's grander vision at Stonefields join us either in spring on our Inside Victoria tour with Libby Cameron, or join Robin Powell on a new Victorian itinerary next autumn.


About this article

Author: Paul Bangay

Black Spot on Roses

To the rose enthusiast (especially those in the more humid parts of the country) the appearance of black spot can be an endless headache. 

However, with a few proactive health strategies for your roses, black spot needn’t darken your mood.

Black spot taking hold on rose foliage 

What is black spot?

Black spot is a fungal disease characterised by the appearance of circular spots over the foliage of affected roses. Black spots with yellow-fringed edges, up to 12mm across, will appear on the leaves of affected bushes. These affected leaves will eventually become yellow and fall off. If left untreated, black spot can cause a rose bush to completely defoliate, leaving frustrated gardeners scratching their heads over the demise of their favourite rose bush.

What causes black spot?

Black spot is caused by a fungus, which thrives in warm, humid conditions. It is more common in particular rose varieties, particularly those with yellow genetic parentage.

The first yellow rose was introduced into rose breeding in Paris in the mid-19th century. This Persian rose, R. foetida ‘persiana’ - which was most likely introduced by Andre DuPont, Empress Josephine’s rose-breeding confidante - went on to play a significant role in the development of new rose cultivars, creating never before seen colour variations. It is reported that with the introduction of R. foetida, the Empress’ collections at ‘Malmaison’ increased from 182 varieties, to over 6000 between 1814 to 1850.

Sadly, over time R. foetida proved to be very susceptible to black spot. Today the susceptible gene is the cause of many frustrated rose growers worldwide. So prevalent was the Persian rose in breeding, that many modern rose varieties, especially yellow varieties, are believed to have R. foetida ‘persiana’ as part of their ancient parentage.

Managing black spot on rose bushes

Controlling black spot in roses requires a multi-faceted approach. Rather than treating the symptoms in isolation, a holistic approach at managing the disease will yield better results.

1. Consider the weather conditions

Many fungal diseases proliferate in warm and wet conditions, particularly is the leaf remains wet for extended periods. Reduce humidity by avoiding overhead watering. Watering in the evening should also be avoided, as it allows moisture to remain on the foliage, creating ideal conditions for fungal spores to germinate and cause disease. Make sure there is good air circulation around your rose bushes.

2. Select resistant rose varieties

As most roses are genetically susceptible to black spot it is important to choose resistant varieties that are well suited to your climate.

3. Choose your planting location carefully

Growing conditions can play a big part in a plant’s susceptibility to pest and disease. Most roses require a minimum of five to six hours of direct sunlight each day to bloom properly, so it is best to avoid semi-shaded positions when planting. Roses also prefer to grow without root competition from other plants, such as large trees. For example, if planted under large gum trees roses will compete for water and nutrients making the plant even more prone to infestation.

4. Maintain good plant hygiene

Good sanitation is important to eliminate contamination by fungal disease. Remove and dispose of diseased leaves, including those on the ground, and put them in the rubbish, not the compost. Leaves left lying on the soil have the potential to pass fungal spored on to other roses. Apply a layer of mulch prior to spring so that there can be no splashing of remaining fungal spores from the soil to the lower foliage of the plant.

5. Keep your roses healthy

Just like humans, the healthier your roses, the stronger their resistance to black spot. By improving the general vigour of your rose plants with generous applications of a specific rose fertiliser that includes potash, as well as improving the growing conditions, you can reduce, if not overcome, the incidence of pests and diseases.

Suitable products for treating black spot

Members of the Rose Society of NSW, and other Australian rose societies, have conducted trials of the rose fertiliser, Sudden Impact for Roses, which consistently show an improvement in overall health of the roses trialled, with increased resistance to fungal disease, resulting in a significant reduction in preventative spraying; up to 66%.Rose sprays with tau-fluvalinate and myclobutanil as the active ingredients (like in Yates Rose Gun, and Yates Rose Shield), will be effective in the control of black spot and insects such as thrips and aphids.OCP Eco-Rose is effective in the control of black spot because it contains a specially formulated potassium bicarbonate that alters the pH of the leaf, dehydrating the fungal spores. It can also be combined with OCP Eco-Oil for further benefit. It is good practice to spray roses after pruning in winter with lime sulphur, to disinfect them and clean up fungal spores and insect eggs. If untreated fungal spores can multiply over winter then germinate in spring in the warm, humid conditions.

Remember… prevention is better than a cure

High humidity combined with warm weather encourages black spot, so it is important to start treatment early. Start a program of preventative spraying every two weeks, beginning early in the growth season (October) and continuing through spring, summer and Autumn (April). Alternate each fortnight between Yates Rose Shield and a mixture of OCP Eco-Oil & Eco-Rose. A regular watering with a foliar seaweed tonic like Organix Ecoguard will increase the health and vigour of roses by thickening cell walls, making them inherently stronger. Even with the best hygiene practices, if your roses become stressed for any reason, they will get black spot. Healthy and well-nourished plants grown in the appropriate environmental conditions are always naturally better equipped to fight off pests and diseases. 

About this article


Blooms and Brushstrokes

In their floral history of Australian art, mother and daughter team Peneloep and Tansy Curtin uncover the stories behind some of our favourite floral artworks.




Nora Heysen, 1911–2003, A bunch of flowers, 1930


The flower

Which to choose as the feature flower for this lively work by Nora Heysen? The bunch contains old-fashioned lachanalia – soldier boys – white anemones, the pheasant’s eye daffodil (Narcissus poeticus), grape hyacinths, bluebells, a single cyclamen and forget-me-nots. An embarrassment of riches indeed. Because of the romance implicit in its name, we decided upon the forget-me-not.

Apparently sometimes called ‘mouse ear’ from the genus name of Myosotis, a Greek word combining mus (mouse) and otos (ear), although I’ve never heard it called that, the tiny five-petalled forget-me-not has attracted a multiplicity of legends to explain the origin of its pet name. The one that I encountered most frequently in my research concerns the Creation story: in the Garden of Eden God created all plants, reminding each to remember their names. At the completion of the naming session, God turned to leave, but was waylaid by a small flower who asked for its name. God replied that, because he’d forgotten the flower previously, and to ensure it wouldn’t happen again, the flower would be called ‘forget-me-not’.

Margery Fish says that forget-me-nots cannot be excluded from gardens – and nor would we want to – but they are overgenerous with their offspring. Perhaps this is why we forget them not!


The work

Although an acknowledged landscape and still life painter, it is with her portraits that Heysen’s talents came to the fore. In 1938 Nora Heysen became the first female artist to win the prestigious Archibald Prize for her portrait of Madame Elink Schuurman, the wife of a Dutch diplomat. Just a few years later she achieved another milestone, with her appointment as the first female official war artist, serving in New Guinea. In addition to these grand achievements, Heysen’s more humble floral still lifes were very popular with the gallery-going public and her exhibitions often sold very well; the sales from her 1933 exhibition of still life paintings enabled her to travel to London to continue her artistic studies.When her funds eventually ran out, Heysen returned to Australia and settled in Sydney.

In her floral still lifes, Heysen often included exotic elements to add depth and complexity. A bunch of flowers includes a dramatic gold-striped backdrop and Persian-inspired vase. In this work, Heysen has formally arranged these common cottage garden flowers such that they take on a sculptural form, which, alongside the use of the exotic textile, transforms these ordinary flowers into an extraordinary composition.


Penelope Curtin is a freelance editor and passionate gardener. Her daughter Tansy Curtin is Curatorial Manager at Bendigo Art Gallery and a keen grower of heirloom edibles. They both live in Bendigo. Blooms and Brushstrokes: A floral history of Australian art is published by Wakefield press, $65.


About this article

Author: Penelope Curtin

Blue Ginger

There's no blue quite like it. Photo - Linda Ross


Blue ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora)

Description: this exotic Brazilian native is not a true ginger but has striped ginger-like stems and lapis lazuli blue flower spires. The glossy, dark-green leaves have purplish undersides. The flowers are borne in compact spires from February through autumn.

Size: this perennial can grow to 2.4 metres tall by 1 metre wide in a clumping form with branched cane-like stems and short, rhizomatous roots.

Cultivation: blue ginger will withstand light frost, and does well in Sydney and areas north. It likes rich soil in semi-shade, but will tolerate full sun and dry weather.

Special comments: blue ginger looks best when accompanied by other subtropical plants such as bamboo, hibiscus, stephanotis and frangipani, though it also does a fine job of bordering a narrow ‘driveway garden’.


Blue ginger really works under trees, shrubs and palms. Photo - Linda Ross


Text: Linda Ross



About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Boab Tree

Photo - Linda Ross

The Australian boab tree (Adansonia gregorii) is related to the Madagascan and African baobabs. It’s sometimes called a bottle tree, and it does look similar to the Queensland bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris) though it’s no relation. A mature boab tree is a majestic sight. Though it doesn't grow exceptionally tall, just up to 15 metres, the trees appear huge because of their swollen trunks. These can reach 20 metres in diameter. They are slow-growing and long-lived so that many of those around Broome and the Kimberly, and from Darwin to Katherine, were mature long before white settlers first marvelled at their majesty.

Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross


Bondi is known for its beach, babes and bikinis, and not for its gardens. But this is where I find one of Australia’s most imaginative pocket-sized spaces. Generously spirited and full of take away ideas to bring your garden to life.

Australia’s gardens are getting smaller and drier and the design of this garden addresses both issues with real and unique solutions, with a flourish of personality, heart and soul.

A beautiful setting. 

The adage that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’ is true in this design where independent parts of the garden such as the dinosaur eggs, steel hoops, grassy knoll and clipped box are intriguing in themselves, but together they work in conjunction with each other to create a sense of place so flagrant you don’t want to leave. Walls are softened with drifting boundaries; domed tree branches create a cathedral-like vaulted ceiling echoing the curve of the steel arches and the floor is made up of a patchwork of contrasting textural carpets. Egg shapes pods become chairs and an ‘artificial’ grassy knoll becomes the highlight for weekend reclining. It’s a Dr Zuess inspired space you never want to leave.

This garden has the attention and style normally reserved for interior design, where the patterns and patinas of walls, ceilings, artwork, furniture and flooring are paramount in creating a well loved place. The space feels nurturing, enveloping, make it hard to leave. Luckily for the owners Lynne and Grahame rarely have to leave, in fact they can’t get rid of family and friends. The garden has a magnetism that draws you into the heart of this family.


Dr Zuess inspired space 


Describing why a place is hard to leave is difficult. Most gardens I am happy to wander about, observe the careful plant choices, delight in the quirks and depart. But this garden is an exception. I think it’s all in the rise and fall of the spaces where breast-like forms (sphere-shaped plants, egg seats, steel arches, blurred boundaries) give a sensuality. Rounded forms are generous and plump and tap in the subconscious thought - about life and the promise of life. There’s no escaping the fact that egg shaped pods are life affirming elements that echo the beginning of life. There is nothing mean spirited here.

The garden was conceived by landscape architect Brendan Moar as part of his Dry Spell Gardens series for the Lifestyle Channel. On Brendan’s arrival the garden was a jungle garden ‘the result of misguided love and affection’ where 30 years of overzealous gardening had left the couple befuddled and out of ideas. Lynne’s compulsive impulse buying at nurseries had created a jungle. Lynne and Grahame always wanted a place that would draw visitors out of the house and into the garden, but they always stopped at the back door. They wanted an outdoor ‘living room’ that would fit seamlessly into their lifestyle – a room for maximum enjoyment!


Graham puts another log on the fire. 


Brendan didn’t want to lose the magic and the quirky personality of the original jungle so he looked into the home (and the local golf course) for the big bold ideas that were going to drive the next phase. Big colour especially red and purple is a part of Lynne’s personality and bold blocks of colour inside the home, such as the red laminate kitchen, were carried out into the garden.

Early in the design stage Lynne thought of clearing all the trees, but Brendan suggested the opposite. By removing the shrubs and redesigning the ground plane he could trim the trees and sculpt the ceiling (like a giant hug and you). Certain views, like the one to the two storey apartment block were blocked by clever planting of Ghost Bamboo (Bambusa chungii), which is top of my list of near instant privacy plants- its eye-catching silver grey trunks are truly beautiful. Bamboos are often derided for being invasive, their reputation sullied by unsuitable species planted in the 1970’s. However do not let this fact stop you from meeting a whole lot of well behaved clumping bamboos that can magically make your neighbour disappear without encroaching on your valuable entertaining space.


Corten steel arch way 


The dry-spell team wielded true skill, a perfect mix of personality, creative genius and the technical expertise to pull it off – quite rare in the world of garden design. This team shows the exceptional result you can get by employing experts in their fields. A landscape architect sees your gardens future, as they can see things that are not there, visualising spaces and voids not there in the beginning, but only develop as the plants grow and the garden grows into itself and into the plans originally put on paper. This often prompts many who couldn’t visualise the design on paper, to finally ‘get it’ two years later!

The garden sits very quietly in the centre of the space, fitting into its original trees and linking into the home. Colours speak to each other from inside to out, the most overheard conversation being between the shiny red kitchen and red retaining wall that doubles as a seat along the patio section. Too many colours can often muddle the message, so when the colour palette is restricted like it is here – a certain visual relief is gained. This age old design trick should be used more when designing outdoor spaces – as there is a tendency to put too many different plants and colours in.

The garden is designed into three areas that you can move through. Straight off the house is the formal patio area, for eating, where the pavers have been laid into a rectangular shape in neutral tones. A bench seat platform, in red and grey, provides a practical boundary to this area.

The Dr Zeus vibe really starts to kick in here, when you enter the heart of the garden through a portal, a little stargate moment, stepping up onto a recycled hardwood platform leading under two curved steel arches. The oversized arches have been painted with a finish called Corten, a paint which provides arealistic rusted patina. Imaginative plantings of clipped box contrast with fascinating cardboard palms (Zamia furfuracea). My imagination goes wilder with the informal seating area dotted with ‘just laid’ white dinosaur egg shaped seats, made from hand carved Hebel blocks. Hebel is an aerated concrete material, lightweight and fairly easy to carve; it is loved by sculptors and can be sawn and sanded into these giant ‘pet rocks’. Here lies the most experimental part of the gardens design, the nucleus of the garden – the grassy knoll – a big fuzzy green pebble, made from artificial grass positioned for maximum lounging.


A big fuzzy green pebble in amongst the perennials 


A personal message inscribed into two rusted steel plaques ‘having a nice time?’ placed on the wall just off-centre of the coastal Banksia (Banksia integrifolia) provides a lovely place to remember the couple’s daughter with her instruction to enjoy the garden.

The endpoint to the garden is nocturnal, a spherical steel fire pit sits in the centre surrounded by a curved purple retaining wall doubling as seating. The back fence boundary is a giant green checkerboard with colourful Perspex noughts and crosses. Splashes of colourful bromeliads, bamboo and an ancient Gingko tree (Gingko biloba) enclose the jungle feel.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Bonsai Art Museum


Photo - Bonsai Art Museum

In April 2010, Ross Garden Tours was the first overseas tour group to visit the elegant new Bonsai Art Museum in the unique Omiya Bonsai district of Japan. Tour leader Carolyn Dwyer reports.


Omiya district, a few hours’ drive from Tokyo, is regarded as a ‘sacred place’ to bonsai enthusiasts from across the world. It was established as a unique bonsai nursery district by the Japanese government to preserve and maintain the ancient culture of bonsai.

Bonsai plant nurseries have a tradition that reaches back through centuries of old family ownership. The title of Bonsai Master is highly revered by all Japanese including the Emperor. Living plant masterpieces are handed down through generations and lovingly cared for because they are irreplaceable. Each plant is guided and coaxed into its unique shape by the care and dexterity of its owner.


Photo - Bonsai Art Museum

The opening of this museum has been a dream of the Omiya Bonsai Cooperative Association for many years. It wanted to showcase its masterpieces in an elegant, formal setting that allowed the art of bonsai to be seen as its very best. We felt honoured to be there, only weeks after the opening. The museum features an outdoor display of bonsai in a dry rock garden and an indoor exhibition gallery where seasonal masterpieces are displayed in their own individual alcoves. There is a second indoor gallery showing the history of bonsai. It features beautiful woodblock prints called ‘ukiyo-e’ from the 19th century depicting scenes of geisha admiring bonsai pots and plants. There are also a number of decorative ‘suiseki’ stones and ceramic pots from the Meiji period.


Text: Carolyn Dwyer

About this article

Author: Carolyn Dwyer

Book review: ​Correas: Australian Plants for Waterwise Gardens


Correas: Australian Plants for Waterwise Gardens

By Maria Hitchcock.

One of the plants collected by Joseph Banks on his first day in Australia was a correa. In fact he collected three of them, the white –flowered Correa alba, and two forms of red-flowered Correa reflexa. Despite this auspicious beginning, correas are not well-known by most Australian gardeners. Maria Hitchcock’s book could change all that as correas offer everything from small trees to small groundcovers as well as guaranteed birdlife, which flocks to the nectar produced by the little bell or star-shaped flowers. All a garden needs is good drainage. The book features descriptions of hundreds of cultivars, as well as information on how to propagate them.


Published by Rosenberg, rrp $35. 

Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Book review: ​Yates Garden Guide 43 edition

Photo - HarperCollins

Yates Garden Guide 43 edition

When Arthur Yates wrote the first Yates Garden Guide in 1895 there were 100 seed companies competing for business in Sydney alone. Gardeners then clearly had more experience with seed-raising than most of us, and they worked in gardens that were much more separate from their houses than are ours. Our idea of bringing the garden inside is opening wide the glass doors that provide the only barrier between inside and outside. Back then bringing the garden inside meant gathering a bouquet from the cutting garden, picking dinner from the vegetable patch or placing a potted aspidistra and a parlour palm in the dimness of the front room. The new edition of this historic garden guide gives a potted history of our lives in the garden as well as the usual invaluble and practical advice about how to grow a healthy garden.


Published by HarperCollins, rrp $39.95

Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Book review: Capturing Flora

Photo - Capturing Flora, Florilegium Books

Capturing Flora

The West Australian beauty exploding from the cover of Capturing Flora is Eucalyptus macrocarpa. The illustration is by Walter Fitch for a 1947 edition of Curtis' Botanical Magazine. Fitch used as his model a plant that had been grown from seed by the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, William Hooker. It was Hooker who named the plant, using the Greek 'makros' meaning large, and 'karkpos' meaning fruit, to describe the plant's incredible, bowl-shaped gumnuts.This is just one tiny story from this beautiful history of 300 years of Australian botanical art. Whether you caught the exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, or its follow-up art the SH Ervin in Sydney, you'll love getting a closer look at the images, and their stories, lavishly collected between these covers. 


Photo - Capturing Flora, Florilegium Books

You'll find it at Florilegium,, $69.99.


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Book review: Creating an Australia Garden



Creating a Australian Garden

By Angus Stewart

There are thousands of native plants we’d do well to get to know and broadcaster, plant breeder and Ross Garden tour leader Angus Stewart is just the man to make the introductions. His new book shines a light onto the improved cultivars of natives that have come onto the market in the last decade as a result of plant breeding. He outlines the qualities of the plants and offers advice on how to use them. For instance he recommends dwarf kangaroo paw such as ‘Bush Pearl’ and ‘Bush Diamond’ as short-term displays in pots. Tall kangaroo paws (A. flavidus). such as ‘Lilac Queen’ (yes, a lilac kangaroo paw!). make a perfect backdrop to lower-growing natives - with the added benefit of attracting delicate spinebills and honeyeaters.


Allen and Unwin, rrp $49.95

Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Book review: Paul Bangay's Guide to Plants


This eye-catching companion to Paul Bangay’s Garden Design Handbook, showcases Paul’s A-list botanical favourites and tells how to keep them happy in the garden. Gardens designed by Paul Bangay are renown for their elegant proportions, careful use of materials and inspired choice of exotic planting. There are plenty of simple and effective combinations showcased too. In one garden, perfectly pruned box hedging frames billowing beds of perennials; in another, olive trees emerge from an undergrowth of rosemary against a dramatic coastal landscape .There's pictorial inspiration to get you outside and redesigning your garden, and the book is also peppered with Paul's anecdotes about which plants have worked bet over the years. All of which makes an enjoyable read for the summer break.

Published by Penguin Lantern $59.95

Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Book Review: The Garden of Ideas

The Garden of Ideas: Four Centuries of Australian Style

By Richard Aitken

This enthralling book is a complete history of Australian garden design, detailing all the events and trends that have influenced gardens here since Europeans arrived. The colonists’ uneasy relationship with ‘The Bush’ is detailed, and it wasn’t until well into the 20th Century that native plants were considered suitable for planting: though people loved Australian flowers, they collected them from the bush rather than cultivating them.

Throughout our garden history, garden design has been influenced by social and cultural change. There were the war years, the influence of European ideas with post-war migration, and lately, the need for designs that follow ecologically sound principles. Aitken deals with all these and singles out many individual gardens for their contribution.

The wonderful illustrations - maps, drawings, garden plans and prints, as well as photographs – add to the pleasure and satisfaction of an hour or two with this book.

(The Miegunyah Press rrp $64.95) 


Text: Libby Cameron

About this article

Author: Libby Cameron


Spidery pink 'Flamingo' grevilleas attract an array of small finches, wrens and spinebills. Photo - Andrew Lehman

An inspiring native garden rings bells for Linda Ross and to the sound of birdsong she changes her tune about the best plants to create pretty gardens.


I came late to an appreciation of native flora. European sensibilities clouded my judgement and I was always choosing gardenias rather than grevilleas to adorn the table. I loved walking through wildflowers in the bush but was reticent about putting them in my garden. But the tide has turned and now my garden is full of the prettiest cottage-gardenesque wildflowers: mint bush; flame pea; hardenbergia; kangaroo paw; emu bush; flannel flowers; fan flowers; blue grasses and grevilleas.


The inspiration for the change was my first visit to Boongala, a breathtaking wildflower garden in the north-west of Sydney. I’d never seen an eastern spinebill up-close until I visited Boongala, The beautiful chestnut-coloured bird returned to the same grevillea throughout the day, to dip her gently curved beak into the flowers, all while hovering in mid-air. Beautiful! And she wasn’t a lonely avian guest: blue wrens darted from shrub to shrub; eastern rosellas, lorikeets and native finches chattered in the taller trees; and every now and then a yellow-tailed black cockatoo screeched overhead.

With birdsong in my ears I walked along the flower-flanked paths at Boongala and realised I could achieve a garden with a completely Australian sense of place, with the pretty textures and colours I’ve loved in northern hemisphere cottage gardens, as well as habitat for eastern spinebills and blue wrens – all with native wildflowers.


Boongala is set against a backdrop of rainforest and gum trees alive with birdlife. Photo - Andrew Lehman


The garden

Boongala Native Gardens is a 4.4 hectare property in Kenthurst, north-west of Sydney, the result of more than 20 years of love and devotion by Malcolm and Jenny Johnson. The garden itself is significant and pays homage to Jenny’s uncle Sid Cadwell, a legendary figure in the cultivation of Australian plants. Mr Sid had a real eye for selecting plants. He travelled widely throughout Australia looking for new species and seed to bring back to his Annangrove property. Mal and Jenny’s garden is named after Sid’s Boongala Nursery, which was one of the first nurseries in Australia to specialise in growing Australian plants. In his lifetime Sid bred some stunning grevilleas, including ‘Boongala Spinebill’ and ‘Sid Cadwell’, both of which thrive in this garden.


Dense shrubs thick with foliage and flower make perfect homes for finches, blue wrens, whip birds and spinebills.  Photo - Andrew Lehman 

The plants

A gorgeous, three-metre-high, weeping, lime green wattle (Acacia ‘Limelight’) hogs centre stage, especially when the afternoon sun lights it up. Three big-bottomed Queensland bottle trees stand sentinel, under-planted with mounds of moss-like Canberra grass (Scleranthus biflorus).

Shrubs create the rise and fall of the garden. Native hibiscus (Alogyne huegellii) loom in a smoky purple haze, while textural accents are achieved with the blue tinge of grass trees (Xanthorrea glauca) and tall-growing 'Big Red’ and 'Yellow Gem' kangaroo paws. Waratahs and correas are also in the mix, providing spiky-leafed hideaways for a family of finches.

Sweeping beds are mounded high with imported soil for maximum drainage, and feature plenty of grevilleas and bottlebrush. Pretty perennials edge the beds with soft gelato colour. Mass-planted fan flowers, paper daises, bluebells and flannel flowers spread out like plush Persian carpets. Other ground-dwelling favourites include the azure blue Lechenaultias, from West Australia.


Photo - Andrew Lehman

The stars

Grevilleas are the stars of this show and Malcolm says there is one to suit every condition, whether wet, dry, arid or frosty. Large-flowering hybrids attract honey-eating birds and the smaller-flowering grevilleas provide protection for nesting birds such as wrens, finches and eastern spinebills. There is a huge range of hybrid grevilleas from which to choose. A mix of ‘Honeybird’ and ‘Moonlight’ types, along with some of the Sydney basin species, such as Grevillea speciosa, and G.buxifolia seems like a fine combination of sizes and colours to suit both bird and human desires.

Mal and Jenny have inspired not just me, but thousands of other garden-lovers who have visited their garden. We’ve been educated about the intrinsic beauty of wildflowers and encouraged to grow a little bit of Australia’s unique floral heritage in our own backyards. I left the nursery with the Kombi full of natives and hope to soon be spotting an eastern spinebill drinking nectar from a grevillea near my back door!


Grevilleas pinned to the door include members of the 'Honeybird' series, including Sylvia, Majestic, Tango, Golden Lyre, Peaches and Cream and Moonlight. Photo - Andrew Lehman


Text: Linda Ross 

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Author: Linda Ross

Bootlace Oak


Photo - Wikipedia

Hakea lorea Bootlace Oak

The common name of this hakea describes its long, thin leaves, which grow up to 70cm long. We think it must have been named when not in flower as the stunning 12cm long, pendulous blooms in shades of yellow, orange, white or green would surely have distracted its discoverer from the lovely, lace-like foliage. The bootlace oak is a shrub or small tree growing to about 8m with thick, rough, cork-like bark. As with most hakeas, the spiky foliage will deter unwelcome visitors such as neighbouring cats and dogs, while the flowers are bird-attracting.


Text: Ally Jackson 

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Author: Ally Jackson


'Hot Pink'. Photo - Linda Ross

You can use bottlebrush as a feature tree to attract birds and bees; in a regularly spaced row to screen neighbourly views; as a groundcover over an embankment; or as a low hedge at hip-height. 

Encourage an autumn flush of bottlebrush (Callistemon sp.) with a little native plant food. Trim the finished flowers 5cm behind the brushes to keep them compact and long-living.


Graham’s favourite is ‘Harkness’ which is also known as ‘Gawler hybrid’ (5m). He says it has ‘the best and longest red brushes, is a great street tree and because it’s a hybrid has no ugly seed capsules’. 

The best deep-pink varieties are ‘All Aglow’ (2.5m) and ‘Hot Pink’ (2m). 

A recent purple-flowering release, ‘Purple Splendour’ (2m) is on trial in Linda’s coastal garden.


Red bottle-brush (Callistemon) flower. Photo - somyot pattana/

There's a huge range available, why not spend half a day at a wildflower nursery near you to help. We like The Wildflower Place, Erina; Sydney Wildflower West Nursery, Healthcote and Newcastle Wildflower Nursery. They'll help you choose the native plant that thrive in heavy clay soils.

And don't forget eco-flo gypsum will improve drainage in clays soils


Text: Linda Ross


About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Brachyscome multifida


Brachyscome 'City Lights'. Photo -

Brachyscome multifida

The pretty hybrids of this groundcover daisy are the result of years of development in native plant breeding. Brachyscomes flower almost all year above dense but fine foliage and spread up to a metre or so. Colours include lavender lilac, blue, pink and white. Give them a sunny spot with fertile, well-drained soil and keep them well watered in the summer. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage additional bloom. This daisy is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. 'City Lights' (pictured) has large, soft-mauve flowers that fade to white, and suits gardens , pots and hanging baskets.


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Broad bean custard

The broad bean’s short and sweet season is celebrated by Italian home cooks and chefs. 

In this recipe, Sydney restaurateur, Lucio Galletto turns the humble bean into something really special. 

It’s from his new book ‘Lucio’s Ligurian Kitchen’, co-written with David Dale,  Allen and Unwin, $65.


Photo: ‘Lucio’s Ligurian Kitchen’, Allen and Unwin

What you need:

2 kg fresh broad beans

half bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked

2 eggs

4 egg yolks

400ml single cream

10 g grated pecorino cheese

30 g goat’s cheese


What to do:

Heat the oven to 120.

Shell the broad beans, blanch in boiling water for one minute, then cool in iced water. Drain and remove the skin.

Blanch the parsley in boiling water for one minute, and refresh in iced water.

Combine the eggs, egg yolks, cream, beans and parsley in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Mix the pecorino and goat’s cheese and the puree in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, making sure the bowl does not come into contact with the water in the saucepan. Sir continuously for 15 minutes or until thickened. You must not leave it unattended during this time.

Line the base of a baking dish with a tea towel, place four ramekins on top, and pour in enough water to come halfway up the side of the ramekins. Pour the custard into each ramekin until about two-thirds full. Cover with foil and bake for 35-45 minutes or until they are set. Allow to cool.

To serve, turn out the custard and serve with salad and crusty bread.


Serves 4


* substitute basil for the parsley

* serve in the ramekins as a spreadable dip, with toast


Text: Robin Powell

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Author: Robin Powell

Broad Beans

Broad beans offer one of spring’s best seasonal flavours. 

And as well as tasting good they enrich the soil with nitrogen, and handle the toughest frosts so can be planted now in all areas of Australia. 

Linda has the low-down.


Photo -


Broad beans grow like crazy through winter and their beautiful white and black, pea-shaped flowers appear in winter and early spring. They do stretch your patience though as it seems an age before the beans themselves appear, and then when they do come, the harvest is quick, and the kitchen preparation quite lengthy! Broad beans are much larger than the usual warm season green beans, and they need to be shelled. I like the young beans simply shelled and steamed. Restaurant chefs always double pod them, popping them out of their pale green inner shell after blanching to reveal the bright green bean beneath. By the end of the season the pods are quite large, the flavour stronger and the beans are often pureed.



Ideally, choose an open, sunny position for planting. Because of the pretty flowers I have seen them used as a loose kind of hedge all the way along a front fence. These are very hardy, frost-tolerant vegetables.


Photo - nito/


Soil Preparation

Prepare soil well ahead of planting by adding compost or manure. Horse, cow or sheep manure is helpful as these manures have low nitrogen content. Broad beans make their own nitrogen so its best to avoid using fertilisers that are high in nitrogen, such as chook manure and fish emulsion. Spread cow manure over your bed 5cm thick and dig in well. Add sulphate of potash at the rate of one tablespoon every square metre and water in well. For acid soils, add a dressing of lime or dolomite – one handful per square metre - to sweeten up the soil and provide the best conditions for broad beans.


Growing guide

From March to May, sow broad beans directly into the soil. Plant 2 beans together 10cm apart down your rows. Rows should be 20cm apart. Water once and don’t water again until you see two open leaves. Over-watering is the biggest cause of germination failure.



While young, broad beans are self-supporting, but as they get taller they will get very top-heavy with pods. Planting in double rows is helpful as the plants can lean on each other, but I like to place stakes at the corners of the garden bed and tie strong string around the stakes, which helps hold up the beans.


Pests and diseases

Broad beans are very easy crops to grow and are largely untroubled by pests and diseases. Simply allow enough room between plants so that good airflow can inhibit fungal diseases.


Photo - azure/


Tips & Tricks

Buy your beans seeds from any good seed-growing outlet. I like Fothergills, Greenpatch Organic Seeds and Eden Seeds.

Harvest constantly to ensure a continuous crop.

Old, late season beans need to be double-shelled. First peel, then blanch the pale green beans, drain and when cool enough to handle, pinch the end to slip the tender bright green bean out of its skin.

Shelled broad beans freeze well. Blanch in a rolling boil for 2 minutes, cool with icy water for 2 minutes, drain and freeze in freezer zip lock bags for use later. This ensures your family doesn’t have to eat broad beans daily for four weeks!

Rotate crops each year so broad beans enrich soils and add nitrogen into all parts of the vegie patch.


Broad Bean varieties

Coles Dwarf Prolific produces heavy crops on 1m-high plants.

Crimson Flowered has red flowers instead of black/white and good tasting beans. Grows to 90cm.

Early Longpod to 1.5m produces large pods.

Aquadulce is a dwarf heirloom variety usueful for windy areas. Pods get to 20cm long.


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Broad Beans: 3 ways

3 more ways with broad beans

1. Sauteed baby beans

Cook some chopped garlic and spring onion in oil over a low heat with a few handfuls of baby broad beans for a few minutes. Add a splash of water, salt pepper and fresh thyme, and continue cooking slowly until the water has almost evaporated. Serve with barbecued lamb.


Photo -


2. Quick braised beans

Melt a sliced onion in olive oil over a low heat for about 15 minutes. Blanch a kilo of broad beans and 250 g of peas, then drain and add to the onion. Stir through a handful of chopped mint and serve with roast chicken.


3. Broad bean dip

Double peel a kilo of broad beans, and put them in a food processor with a garlic clove, a few leaves of fresh mint, and 100g grated parmesan. Whizz, then add about half a cup of extra virgin olive oil to create a paste. Season with salt to taste, and serve on bruschetta.


Text: Robin Powell 

About this article

Author: Robin Powell


Photo - Sanmongkhol/


Graham has discovered the brilliance of bromeliads. 

Now he's keen to make up for lost time and introduce you to the all-year-round splendour of these easy care show-stopping sensations.

Bromeliads are members of a plant family known as Bromeliaceae with over 2700 described species in approximately 56 genera. The most well known bromeliad is the pineapple. The family contains a wide range of plants including some very un-pineapple like members such as Spanish Moss (which is neither Spanish nor a moss).  

Other members resemble aloes or yuccas while still others look like green, leafy grasses. Billbergias were the first bromeliads I ever came across. As a teenager, I soon realised how easy they were to grow, multiplying by the dozen with striking flowers, despite them receiving little-to-no care. I was in for a shock later in life when I discovered there were so many eye-catching members of the bromeliad family. How did it come about? Well, several years ago, Linda introduced me to Bob Christophel, Australia's acknowledged Bromeliad Man. Bob was an expert grower, breeder and collector of bromeliads, who was supplying high-quality bromeliads for the gardens Linda was designing for Channel Seven's garden makeover show, GroundForce. Bob became a dear friend and fostered my curiosity for these epiphytic beauties. I released their importance as colourful focal plants – accent plants that remained accents all year around. 


Glowing splashes of hardy tropical colour. Silver falls of Spanish moss. Photo - Moolkum/

In general they are inexpensive, easy to grow, require very little care, and reward the grower with brilliant, long lasting blooms and ornamental foliage. They come in a wide range of sizes from tiny miniatures to giants. They can be grown indoors in cooler climates and can also be used outdoors in temperate areas. With few exceptions, the flower stalk is produced from the centre of the rosette. With rare exceptions, bromeliads only flower a single time. Once the plant stops producing leaves and produces its flower, it will not start making leaves again. It will, however, vegetatively produce new plantlets called "offsets" or "pups". These plants will feed of the "mother" plant until they are large enough to set roots of their own and survive as a separate plant. The mother may sometimes survive a generation or two before finally dying off. Pups are usually produced near the base of the plant - inside the sheath of a leaf. Sometimes, however, pups may be produced on long stolons or at the top of the flower spike of the mother plant. The green, leafy top of a pineapple is in fact a pup that may be removed and planted to start a new plant.


Guzmannia. Photo - ntdanai/


In my book, there is a bromeliad for every garden. These stunning plants are suitable for cool or hot gardens, tropical or temperate, sun or shade, indoors or out, in pots or in the garden, even growing up in the fork of tree branches. And today, their colourful leaves are breathtaking to behold – a brilliant backbone to the subtropical garden. So what are you waiting for?


When to plant  

Bromeliads are not seasonal plants and will grow all year round. They are not dependent on a certain temperature or air humidity to thrive, and can tolerate freezing winter conditions as well as sticky summer days. At the extremes, humidity can affect and alter the appearance of the foliage, changing its texture and colour.  


How to plant  

The roots of a bromeliad are purely for balance, as the leaves of the plant provide all the nutrients, food and water it needs. There's no need to prepare soil as the best way to plant a bromeliad is to place the plant, pot and all, inside a gravel-lined hole in the ground. Simply mulch the surface with pebbles and you've planted your bromeliad before you've even had time to get thirsty.


Where to grow  

Bromeliads can be grown in pots, in the garden, in greenhouses, on balconies, indoors or mounted on a tree or piece of wood. Many bromeliads don't need full sunlight and in fact, grow better in shady spots – that's why they're so successful under big trees. As a general rule, soft-leaf bromeliads like more shade than the hard-leaf varieties. Four giant varieties that love full- to part-sun include Weraughia sanguinolenta 'Rubra', Neoregelia 'Alan Freeman' Hybrids, Neoregelia 'Gee Whiz', Neoregelia cruenta 'Rubra' – broad leaf form. There are also several varieties that thrive in cool tropical zones. Make sure you ask which conditions will best suit your bromeliad. And if you stick your bromeliad inside, make sure you take it out for some air to refresh it every week.


Spanish moss grows from trees and feeds from air. Photo - Moolkum/


Bromeliads cannot live on air alone and need to be fertilised occasionally. Feed them with a spray of quarter-strength Seasol or Aquasol no more than twice a year. Never fertilise a bromeliad during winter and always water lightly, just before fertilisation. 



Over-watering a bromeliad is just about one of the only ways to kill it. Bromeliads are not thirsty plants and filling the centre of them with water will cause the plant to rot. Instead, read your plant. If your bromeliad looks dry, water it, if it doesn't, leave it alone.



Simply cut off any damaged bits on the leaves of your bromeliad, by following the natural shape of the leaf. Cutting like this has no consequences for the plant, and the surgery will be unnoticeable.


How to keep pests away

Bromeliads are a durable species, rarely bothered by pests. Don't use pesticides, as they tend to smother the plants' breathing pores. Over-watering bromeliads and bad ventilation can be a welcoming atmosphere for some bugs, so regulate watering to avoid any pests. Scale insects can be simply wiped away. Because bromeliads breathe through their leaves, do not use white oil as it will suffocate them. Fungal rot is a potential problem, but it is easy to avoid - just use the correct potting mix (pine bark) and don't over water. 


Aechmea, Vriesia grow from trucks and branches. Photo - Ratana21/

Flowering season 

The dramatic flowers of a bromeliad will last for at least six months. A plant's flowering season depends on the age of the plant and not the time of the year. The offspring created by a flowering bromeliad, will develop as the mother plant ages, and eventually take over. This means that your plant will be constantly in bloom, with old and new flowers.

Bromeliad companions  

Crotons have brilliantly coloured foliage and look superb en masse in frost-free coastal locations. For height and colour look to hardy mother-in-laws-tongue, Sansevieria, and the strappy-leaved dianella (D. 'Border Gold', 'Border Silver and 'Border Emerald') are perfect for dry shade and will grow to about 60cm. Clivea love the same dappled shade conditions and the range of hot colours in orange, yellow and tangerine go well with the bright foliage of the broms. As will Brunnera 'Jack Frost', Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' and the colourful coleus.


Plant notes - some more information about our favourite broms

Common name: Giant Alcantarea 

Plant name: Alcantarea imperialis
Description: A giant broad-leafed bromeliad that forms a huge rosette of steel-grey foliage with a ruby red reverse.
Size: Height 1.5m, width 1m.
Special comments: Spectacular foliage colours make bromeliads the perfect companion for coleus and clivea. Grow directly in pine bark to keep them well-drained. We grow this in pots and frogs live in the water inside the well.


The enormous flower spike of the Alcantera. Photo - Linda Ross


Common name: Flaming Sword 

Plant name: Vriesia
Description: The plants bear interesting and varied foliage and sword-like, eye-catching flowers. They are easy to grow and are a good bromeliad for beginners.
Size: Height 50cm, width 50cm.
Special comments: When potting, don't forget that the leaves hold water, so it's important to keep the central cup upright or it will tip all over you.


Common name: Vase or Urn Plant 

Plant name: Aechmea
Description: One of the best known of these plants is Aechmea fasciata, or 'Silver King', which has long-lasting, pretty pink flowers and is often used as an indoor plant.
Size: Height 40cm, width 40cm.
Special comments: Division is the easiest method of propagation: wait until the offsets or pups are about 15cm in size then cut them away from the mother plant with a sharp knife and re-pot into pine bark.


Common name: Heart of Flame 

Plant name: Neoregelia
Description: Many hybrids are very colourful and easy to grow. They are epiphytic bromeliads, which have blue or white flowers, and various red spots and markings on the leaves.
Size: Height 1.5m, width 1m.
Special comments: Good indoor plants, but they need to be freshened up with a spell outside every now and again.


Common name: Flaming Torch 

Plant name: Billbergia
Description: There are around 60 species of billbergia; all are colourful and well-suited to growing in the garden around the base of trees. They clump up quickly to form good flower displays, although the flower spike on some species is short-lived.
Size: Height 1.5m, width 1m.
Special comments: Foliar feed every spring. 


Did you know?

Frogs often live in the central well of bromeliads; we've had frogs living in our broms for years. Mother frogs will deposit one tadpole into each well, giving them enough room to grow into adults on their own.

Bromeliads are in the same family as pineapples! Around 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus spotted the pineapple being cultivated in the West Indies and brought it back to Europe.

Bromeliads come from the southern states of North America to as far south as Argentina. They grow in a range of climates from the mountains to the sea, the deserts to the tropics; there is a bromeliad for every situation.


Hello big eyes! Photo - Jeff McGraw/


Text: Graham Ross

About this article

Author: Graham Ross

Bronte House

Carla Petit is head gardener at Bronte House where lush subtropical plants and colourful herbaceous borders surround the 19th century Gothic cottage.

Carla has been looking after the garden for four years, continuing a tradition of highly skilled gardeners who have cared for this Sydney treasure. Here she tell us what's happening.


Bronte House. Photo - Chris Lloyd Jones


I’m busy…shaping

The main carriageway borders in the garden are inspired by the strong masculine tones favoured in the Victorian era. There are blue flowers and purple foliage and bold splashes of vibrant oranges and reds. A quieter yellow and white border cools and balances this vibrant area. My number–one job in summer is pruning and shaping. The formal structural plants, including murraya, Buxus japonica and alternathera need hedging and the citrus trees need trimming. As well, each plant in the perennial borders requires careful shaping and under-cutting to allow each individual its own space in which to shine. There is a lot of tip pruning done too, to encourage growth and to maintain the right height. The timing of all this is vital – if I’m too early or too late, the plants won’t be at their best on Open Days.


A whole lot'a shaping going on! Photo - Chris Lloyd Jones


I’m collecting…seeds

When the majority of the poppies have finished flowering at the end of spring, I start collecting the seed heads. They are placed in paper bags and hung up in a cool dry place to dry out. I also collect seeds from cleome species, Queen Anne’s lace (Ammi majus) and white scented tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris). Once the seeds are completely dry, they are stored in the fridge. Then at the beginning of July they are sown near the edges of garden beds and in gaps onto ground that has been improved with cow manure and our compost. These plants often self-seed but we get a better display if we sow them exactly where we want them.


Stop, take a seat and take it all in. Photo - Chris Lloyd Jones


It’s time to…

Water, especially around the house where there are a lot of perennial plants that demand extra irrigation.

Mow the lawn, but only once a fortnight. Keeping the lawn height high helps the grass retain moisture and out-compete weeds.

Weed pathways and gardens. It’s true that one year’s seeding is seven year’s weeding, so I hand-weed and spray. And while I’m there I rake the gravel paths to ensure they are neat and tidy.

Dead-head and tip prune to encourage more growth and more flowers throughout the garden.

Rake the Araucaria leaves off the lawn so they don’t smother the grass.

Keep a look out for rust spots on the canna lilies and frangipanis. Spray with Eco-fungicide at the first sign.

Turn the compost to make sure that the green waste breaks down and is ready to spread in autumn.

Plump up the citrus with water and Dynamic Lifter. We have lemon, mandarin and orange in the lawn. At the same time I check them for signs of pest invasion or disease.


I’m controlling…pests

As the weather gets hotter and more humid I keep a close eye out for the lily caterpillar (Spodoptera picta). These voracious fiends can destroy large clumps of crinum, clivea and amaryllis literally overnight. They love to hide under leaves and right down into the base of the plant but sometimes can be seen on top of leaves as well. If they are spotted in small numbers I control them by hand (squished!) but if they arrive in force the plants need to be sprayed. I use Dipel or Folimat. Because of the high risk later in summer and the massive damage that can occur so fast, I check these plants for signs of the pest each time I visit Bronte House.


A delightful contrast of texture and form. Photo - Chris Lloyd Jones


I’m composting…everything

There will be a lot of growth throughout summer - plants, grass and weeds. I will make the most of the excess with the compost bays at the bottom of the garden. I'll mix one part green waste to two parts brown material such as dried leaves. The bays are kept moist and turned to help speed up the process. The compost will be ready for spreading in the cooler months and I use it to top up parts of the garden.


Maintaining a vigilant bugwatch is vital. Photo - Chris Lloyd Jones


See for yourself

Bronte House will have an Open Day on September 18. Sandra Ross will be appearing there on the day. Why not make a day of it and come see this Sydney treasure for yourself.


At the end of flowering seed-saving for next year keeps Bronte House garden thriving. Photo - Chris Lloyd Jones


6 great plants

Rangoon creeper

Quisqualis indica grows over an arbour and has an amazing fruity fragrance that is especially intoxicating in the early mornings. Its flowers bloom white then age to pink and dark red.


Quisqualis indica, Rangoon Creeper. Photo - sabza / shutterstock


Orchid cactus

Epiphyllum hylocereus is a climbing night-flowering cactus with huge white flowers with a strong fragrance. It’s grown near a bay window, supported by a stout frangipani.


Epiphyllum hylocereus, Queen of the Night.


Fraser Island creeper

Tecomanthe hillii compliments the neo-Gothic colour scheme of the house. It has beautiful maroon bell-shaped flowers with glossy leaves and it performs well on a protected wall.


Tecomanthe hillii, New Guinea Creeper



We grow single and double dahlias for their lush foliage and long flowering period. They are easy to care for, but do require staking to protect them from falling.


Dahlias. Photo - Belrose Nursery


Oyster plant

Acanthus mollis is an evergreen, soft-wooded perennial with purple and white flower spikes that does well in the shade. It needs cutting back towards the end of summer.


Acanthus mollis, Oyster Plant. Photo - LianeM / shutterstock


Mexican tree daisy

Montanoa bipinnatifida is one of the giants of the perennial border with beautiful white daisy-like flowers in late-summer towering up to 4m. It’s cut back in June.


Montanoa bipinnatifida, Mexican Daisy Tree


About this article

Author: Carla Petit

Brown Boronia

Boronia megastigma 'Heaven Scent'

Description: The seductively scented brown boronia begins its flowering in winter. 'Heaven Scent' is an improved variety of Boronia megastigma. All boronias have fragrant foliage and flowers, but not all share the sweet scent of the brown boronia.

Habit: A small to medium, and somewhat fussy shrub, 0.5m tall x 0.3m wide and more compact than the straight species, this makes an ideal potted plant. Choose a position near windows and doors for maximum enjoyment of the perfume.

Conditions: Boronia prefers slightly acidic soil and excellent drainage. If planting in the garden, choose an open sunny position in a raised garden bed for improved drainage. Roots prefer to be cool so mulch well with stones or gravel.

Pruning: Like all boronias, this one is not long lived – expert it to live five years. Prune one third immediately after flowering.


Text: Libby Cameron

About this article

Author: Libby Cameron



Every two years Brussels lays out a dazzling tapestry of flowers in the Grand Place. Seeing it is just one of our list of top things to do in Brussels.

See a carpet of flowers

For a few days every two years the Grand Place, which is the heart of medieval Brussels, is transformed. Hundreds of thousands of begonias, chosen for their cheery perseverance whether the weather is wet and cold or hot and sunny – as well as their incredible range of colours – are laid out in an intricate carpet. The carpet is a nod to the twin traditions of tapestry and horticulture in Belgium. In the past, the carpet has pictured 18th century French-style tapestry, geometric African-style patterns, and symbols and crests from Belgian history. What will this year’s carpet look like? All will be revealed on August 14.


The flower carpet is made up of 300 begonia flowers per square metre, up to 750,000 flowers all up. Photo - Andrjuss/


The 3 day flower carpet takes 100 gardeners 4 hours to construct. Photo - Borna_Mirahmadian/


Eat waffles

Of course, but which waffle? The regional variations would fill a patisserie window, yet the one that wouldn’t appear is the so-called Belgian waffle. That’s an American phenomenon, introduced in the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Its creator was riffing on the classic Brussels waffle and, not trusting his American customers to understand that Brussels was the capital of Belgium, called it a Bel-Gem, which soon became Belgian. The true Brussels waffle is a different thing all together. Where the Belgian waffle is soft, dense and large, the Brussels waffle has a crisp exterior and a soft light interior. It’s also smaller, and always rectangular.

There are stands selling waffles all through central Brussels, especially around the city’s mascot, the mannekin pis. The statue of the little boy peeing that has become synonymous with Brussels is set high on a corner wall in a little alcove. He’s not much bigger than the chocolate version of himself for sale in the souvenir shops around the corner. Have a look, if only to have a giggle at the shameless marketing in the shops that surround him, but save your waffle indulgence for Mokafe in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. This beautiful arcade with its domed glass ceiling and richly decorated interior was one of the world’s first shopping malls. Take a seat at a marble-topped table, and order your waffles, which are freshly made and served warm. Tradition has them dusted only with icing sugar, but when strawberries are in season it’s hard to resist the sweet soft berries and a cloud of whipped cream.


Eat chocolate

Belgium seems to be particularly famous for souvenirs you carry home on your hips! Waffles, beer, hot chips and chocolate. Two of the big chocolate names in Brussels, Neuhas and Godiva, both have boutiques in the Galeries Royale close to Mokafe. More fun is to explore some of the smaller artisan chocolate makers off the Grand Place. In most of these chocolatiers you can buy as few as two pralines, so there’s opportunity to find a maker who suits your palate: spiced gingerbread, salted caramel, marzipan and orange, chilli and pink peppercorn….



Pick your waffle! Photo - Raisa Kanareva/

See the Botanic Gardens

The National Botanic Garden of Belgium moved house in 1939, to the estate that was the medieval domain of Bouchot. It’s dominated by the moated Bouchot Castle, where Charlotte, sister to King Leopold II, and widow of Emperor Maximilian 1 of Mexico lived out her days. It’s easy to while away a day enjoying the history and horticulture in these expansive gardens. A third of the world’s hydrangea species grow here, as do nearly half of all the maple species, a great old collection of tree peonies, and the first double dahlia, which was bred in these gardens. The giant waterlily Victoria Amazonica first flowered on the continent in the Balat Greenhouse, one of a series of fascinating greenhouses in the gardens. There are fine walks through the park and around the lake, and there’s a great selection of Belgian beers in the café!


Old city lanterns are decorated with flowers around the Grand Place. Photo - skyfish/


Read some letters

The handsome 19th century arcade Galerie de Roi is home to an unusual and charming museum, the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts. In our over-rushed digital world, letters are a rarity, and you feel the loss when you see these fascinating notes from history. Some highlights from the collection: Casanova’s crabbed and scratchy agreement to inform on ‘moral infringers’, addressed to his inquisitors in 1780; and a poignant note from Louis XVI advising where his salary should be deposited while he is imprisoned in the Tuileries. As intriguing as the content is the form. A letter reveals glimpses of personality in handwriting, paper choice and doodle quality. Robespierre writes in a girlishly ornate script. The handwriting of the architect of The Terror seems only to be missing hearts over the iiis and a smiley face after the signature! Hemingway shows a more typically masculine style. He writes from Cuba on a typewriter whose full stop key he hits so hard the thin page seems to have been riddled with bullet holes.


A sixth thing to do in Brussels - the beautiful gardens of Mont des Arts or Kunstberg, a historic site in the centre of the city and a picture perfect example of urban renewal. Photo - Anibal Trejo/ 

Text: Robin Powell


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Author: Robin Powell

Brussels Sprouts


The much-derided Brussels sprout is delicious when grown fresh and cooked quickly. Here’s how.


Apparently Brussels sprouts are Britain's most hated vegetable. 


The 2002 survey that published this finding didn’t go on to explain how the sprout-haters cooked their vegies, but chances are they boiled them to a grey and sulphurous mush. Brussels sprouts lovers, on the other hand, are well aware that sprouts are a delicacy when lightly cooked, possessing a vivid lime green colour, and a delicious nutty flavour that lends itself to pairing with chestnuts or walnuts, batons of crispy bacon, or simply a knob of butter and some fresh pepper.


Photo - Ray Lacey/


Sprouts were cultivated in Belgium as far back as 1200, which is why they are named for the Belgian capital, though they are now cultivated all over the world.

Sprouts are a true winter vegetable, with the best flavour developing after the frosts have come. But the trick is get them in early enough, way before you start thinking about winter food, or even winter gardening. In fact you need to be germinating seed at Christmas, when gardeners in the northern hemisphere are feasting on their sprouts harvest.



Sprouts are tolerant of almost all soil conditions, although they are susceptible to club root in acid soils. A firm soil is best as it helps the root system support these top-heavy plants.

They grow well in sun, but prefer partial shade. Don’t choose a position in front of plants that need full sun, as their foliage will put others in the shade. Again, because they are top-heavy, they should be grown in an area that is free from strong winds.


Soil Preparation

Prepare soil by digging well-rotted compost or animal manure through the bed. Keep soil moist. Lime may need to be added if soils have been well composted and are acidic. A pH of 6.8 is ideal.


Growing guide

The big mistake we all make is planting out Brussels sprouts with the rest of the cool season vegetables in autumn. That’s too late! In fact Sydney gardeners should plant out young seedlings as early as mid-January. Brussels sprouts need between five and seven months of growing time so to grow some of the unusual varieties, you’ll need to sow seed before Christmas.

The difficult planting schedule for Brussels can cause headaches, as in mid-summer the garden is full of warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and cucumbers. But if you can nudge aside some space for sprouts to spend some time, you will be rewarded in winter.


Growing tips

Sow seed in early summer in time for transplanting in mid-summer in cooler areas and for transplanting late Jan-Feb in warmer areas. Sow 10 mm deep in trays or seedbed. Transplant seedlings when seedlings reach 15cm by first removing the seed leaves and planting deeper, up to the 1st set of true leaves. Space plants 60 cm apart in rows 1 m apart. Any closer and you will get smaller sprouts.

After plants have been in about a month, stablise the growth by drawing up more soil around the trunk to prevent the plants flopping over. This is called ‘earthing up’.

Strip the leaves off the stem just above and below the young sprout buttons to help them develop. Sprouts will be ready to harvest from late autumn. Pick from the bottom, before they begin to open. Cut sprouts off with a sharp knife or snap them off by pulling downward.


Photo - Duisterhof Miki/

Pests and Diseases

All the pests and diseases that affect other brassicas will also affect Brussels sprouts. These include aphids, cabbage moth and clubroot. Remove yellowing leaves throughout autumn to help avoid fungal diseases.


Tips and Tricks

You can buy unusual red varieties from

Don’t forget - sow seeds before Christmas Day!

Many consider that the best flavour occurs in mid to late winter, after the plants have been exposed to frost.

If you want all your sprouts to ripen at once, for a large meal or special occasion, cut off the leafy head at the top in early autumn. If you are content to pick as they come to maturity, leaves the tops on.

Pick Brussels sprouts as soon as they are walnut sized. Don’t delay as they get puffy and the leaves will be flabby.


Brussels sprouts varieties

'Red Ribs'

Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group

This unusual Brussels sprouts is red, with a milder, nuttier flavour than green types. The quality and colour of these sprouts is improved by frost and they have a long growing season of 8 to 9 months, so they are more suitable for cooler areas. Steam lightly to retain colour when cooked. Available by seed from Greenharvest.

‘Green Thumb’ is an early to mid-season maturing F1 hybrid variety producing excellent dark-green sprouts of uniform size. It has a long harvesting season and a tolerance to downy mildew. Available as Oasis seedlings at your local nursery.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Brussels sprouts: 3 ways

1. Roasted sprouts with almonds and bacon

Trim and halve the sprouts; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper; then roast in hot oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile toast slivered almonds until golden in a small pan, then set aside and crisp batons of bacon in the pan. Sprinkle the nuts and bacon pieces over the sprouts and serve.

Photo - Bilic Bilic/

2. Flemish-style sprouts

Peel outside leaves and trim the bottoms, then boil until just tender. Drain well then sauté in browned butter and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

3. Shredded buttered sprouts

Peel the outer leaves, halve and cut out the core, then thinly shred the sprouts. Pile into a non-stick sauté pan with a tablespoon or so of water, a drizzle of olive oil and a knob of butter. Stir fry for a few minutes until the sprouts are bright green and just tender. Season with salt and pepper.


Text:Robin Powell

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Author: Robin Powell

Buenos Aires

Graham and Sandra were thrilled by the vibrancy and colour of Buenos Aires, where they have been researching a new tour itinerary. 


Graham shares some of their discoveries.

The Cabildo and Clock Tower at Plaza de Mayo with jacaranda trees in Buenos Aires. Photo -


There are many things about Argentina’s capital that will surprise you. For me a big surprise was the brilliant landscape design of Carlos (Charles) Thays (1849-1934), whom I had never heard of. Thays arrived from his native Paris and fell in love with the fledgling, vibrant city. He stayed in Argentina for the rest of his life and designed BA’s parks and broad boulevards. Being a graduate of French architecture and landscape design he brought a strong European influence to the design of the city for which, incredibly, he was given carte blanche approval, by the city fathers, to do as he wished.

The result is kilometres of tree-lined plazas, flower-filled parklands and broad, jacaranda-lined city avenues. It is possibly the Buenos Aires Botanical Gardens for which he is best known as it is all that has been left substantially intact. His English Gothic Revival-style mansion (1881) is used today as the administration building and houses the Herbarium. The garden was laid out with Roman, French and Oriental Gardens and filled with plants from those countries. Also remaining are five glasshouses, the largest and grandest, designed in Art Nouveau style, is filled with 2,500 tropical plants and is considered to be the only one of its kind in the world.


Plaza de Mayo. Photo -


In downtown Palermo, Thays was given square kilometres to design and he filled the space with thousands of trees, formal flower and rose beds, fountains and monuments in a grand style. The metropolis has overtaken his designs today and tall buildings and retail centres now sadly occupy his well-planned open spaces. But his legacy can still be seen in several large, mature tree-filled parks and pocket-handkerchief plantings around the city. Sandra and I greatly enjoyed strolling through both the Botanical Gardens and the inner city parks; cool and welcoming and still greatly appreciated by the citizenry over a hundred years after their creation.


Gaucho dances. Photo -


Meeting a living legend

Many months of planning went into this reconnoitre trip, and friends in Argentina, many expats from Australia, helped with our itinerary. We are greatly indebted to them all; Kirsty Noble, Monica and Bruce Brown, Masako Worsnop, and Muriel Hussin, the wife of the Australian Ambassador.

Throughout our preparatory communications the same name kept popping: Elsie Rivero Haedo. On arrival in BA we made contact with this ‘must meet’ lady. She invited us to her home where Sandra and I enjoyed an enlightening, enjoyable and fascinating encounter! Elsie is an author who writes under the pseudonym Virginia Carreno, and she is hugely knowledgeable about Argentina’s history and BA’s gardening past and present.

Now in her nineties, Elsie is still a powerful player in Argentinean politics. She was beautiful, articulate and passionate and her life has criss-crossed the complex worlds of Argentinean affairs of state, civic life, public spaces, gardens, charities, the business world, tourism, exports and the extensive beef industry. To us, Elsie was an inspiration, and a delight.


Gloves for sale in an antiques shop, San Telmo. Photo - 


Discovering tango

Argentina’s soul is music, or to be more accurate dance, and not just any dance, it has to be the tango. We enjoyed an incredible night out at the Carlos Gardel theatre restaurant. Carlos Gardel was one of Argentina’s tango masters and this evening celebrated his tango skills and prowess. It is impossible in a paragraph to describe the excitement and fun these dancers generated. Needless to say we have included such a classic night in our South American tour.

The tango is all-pervasive in the life of Buenos Aires. We visited the Caminito, an area in the La Boca neighbourhood, famous for its pedestrian streets and houses made from sheet metal with tiny balconies all painted in vibrant colours, inspired by the artist, Jaun Quinquela Benito. As we walked around we encountered a complete orchestra moving through the street playing tango music. Dancers whirled around in between the art and craft vendors. It was a thrilling experience.




It is fair to say that Elsie Rivero Haedo isn’t impressed by the modern architecture or the new landscapes of Buenos Aires but we found them fascinating. The derelict industrial wharf areas of Puerto Madero alongside the Rio de la Plata have been dramatically restored into a spacious tourist, entertainment and business precinct. The designer, a clever landscape architect by the name of Valentina Casuchi, has used modern mass-plantings of standard white crepe myrtles and jacarandas. The old dockland warehouses have been beautifully renovated with climbing plants, shrubs and trees now engulfing the walkways around them.

We also visited a recent addition to Buenos Aires, the Rose Garden in Palermo, also designed by Valentina Casuchi. It is most impressive and will quickly establish itself as a fine city rose garden of international standard. We loved the ceramic tiled features within the garden and a magnificent specimen of the floral emblem of Buenos Aries, the Erythrina crista-galli, a deep-red flowering relative of the coral tree.

There are many ‘must-sees’ in Buenos Aires, but here are just two more you must include. The city centre is called Plaza De Mayo and has a fascinating Spanish feel. A white, marked pavement where mothers still mourn their children ‘lost’ in the so-called ‘Dirty War’ surrounds a central fountain. Ironically the government administration buildings, the ‘Pink House’ or Casa Rosada, which includes the veranda where Evita Peron performed her famous speech to millions, overlook this sorrowful site. Opposite are the old Cabildo, Buenos Aries’ first city building (1580), and the newer, 18th Century Metropolitan Cathedral.

The second area not to be missed is the elite Recoleta neighbourhood with its restaurants, churches and incredible cemetery. Yes, a cemetery you shouldn’t miss! It is here that Evita is buried, along with Presidents, dictators, Argentinean legends, war heroes and scoundrels all buried side by side. It is parkland of unusual proportions and even rarer architecture.


Vivid colours in La Boca. Photo -


Come with us!

We head to Argentina in October. Our tour will visit Buenos Aires, San Carlose de Bariloche, Iguazu Falls and Rio De Janerio, and highlights include private gardens in Buenos Aires; an alpine forest walk; the home and parks of Roberto Burle Marx; a Tijuca forest tour and Rio harbour cruise. To find out more about the tour call Ross Garden Tours on 1800 809 348 or visit


Text: Graham Ross

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Author: Graham Ross

Bug Watch: Aphids


Photo - Linda Ross

Check roses, citrus, cherry and peach carefully when you water, looking for clusters of small insects hiding under leaves or on new growth: aphids. Aphids reduce a plant’s growth just when it ought to be thriving. Remove them by spraying with the hose on ‘jet’ setting, or squash them between gloved fingertips. Avoid insecticides so that beneficial insects such as lady beetles and hoverfly larvae can find a few aphids to snack on.

Text: Ally Jackson

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Author: Ally Jackson

Bug Watch: Aphids and Other Li'l Suckers

There are lots of little suckers out there, that is sap-sucking insects stealing the nutrients right out from under the gardener’s nose. And at this time of year they are beginning to stake their claim on your garden real estate.

To get rid of them you first have to know your enemy, choose your weapon carefully and strike early. Here are public enemy’s 1, 2, and 3.


 The beginnings of a big problem. Photo - Vespa /


Enemy #1: Aphids

These tiny sap-sucking insects can be a problem on a wide range of plants. A few aphids are no problem, but it could lead to an infestation that will deform new buds, damage flowers and (heaven forbid) lead to defoliation. They have a short life-cycle. Numbers can build up quickly as aphids are fertilised at birth, then they in turn reproduce.

Aphids can take many forms and colours, from pale-green, pink, yellow, black or grey, or even white and fluffy. They swarm on new shoots and buds. You will know you have aphids if you find sticky honeydew or sooty mold, distorted young leaves or flower buds, flower bud drop, or the presence of ants that feed on the excretions.

Weapon #1: Green Lacewing

The problem with insecticide, even pyrethrum-based sprays, is that they don’t distinguish the beneficial insects such as lady-birds, lacewings, wasps and other harmless insects, from the culprit aphid. And because aphids have such a short generation time, controlling with spray means spraying frequently. This could make the aphids resistant to the sprays.

The best method of control for aphids, one that is the most environmentally friendly, is a natural biological control. One predator of the aphid is ‘ Gracey’ the native green lacewing, which you can buy mail-order from OCP. The juvenile lacewings (Malata signata) are voracious predators and will feed on almost any small insect or egg they can find. But aphids are their favourite fare and they can consume 60 in an hour.

Enemy #2: Mealy Bug

These pearly-white, fluffy little sap-suckers tend to attack plants under stress. Like aphids they secrete a honey-dew that black sooty mold grows on. Then in come the ants to eat it, and here is where the trouble starts. The ants can carry mealy bug from plant to plant making your small problem a big problem in no time. Mealy Bug like to hide in those protected places, like inside palm fronds. So if you see one or two its best to have a closer look. An infestation could be brewing, and it could be below the surface.

Weapon #2 Native Ladybeetle Larvae

Introducing ‘Linda’ the native ladybeetle larvae. She is perfectly safe to use in the garden, she can be purchased mail-order, and she’s the scariest thing a mealy bug will ever know. Most gardeners recognise the adult form of the ladybeetle, but few people are familiar with the larvae. They are ravenous devourers of mealy bug. Cryptolaemus, the native ladybeetle, while incredibly effective at controlling mealy bug, are susceptible to pesticide.


An effective control of mealy bug ladybeetles also love eating aphids. Photo - Dimijana /

Enemy #3: Scale

These are the sap-sucking equivalent to the limpet you may find on rocks at the beach, and can be just as hard to get off. Scale will reduce a plant’s vigour, and like other sap-suckers, they leave a honey-dew substance that attracts other pests and fungus. In fact, ants farm the scale, milking them for the sweet honey-dew and using it as a food source. Eco-oil is good for preventing scale and controlling larvae. However Eco-oil won't be enough to control a large infestation. If you catch scale before it becomes an infestation you may be able to avoid using chemicals, and I have just the biological weapon for you!

Weapon #3 Spotless Ladybeetle

Say hello to ‘Luke’, the armoured-insect-munching ladybeetle. This guy is a tough, orange spotless ladybeetle. The juveniles look like small caterpillars and are spikey, pale cream coloured critters with an appetite for scale. Like his sisters, Gracey and Linda, Luke the Chilocorus circumdatus ladybeetle is available mail-order.

To encourage biological control restrict the use of sprays. Many spray-insecticides are non-specific and can kill the beneficial predators along with the pests. It can take up to two weeks for natural predators to build up in numbers and wipe out sap-suckers like aphids. Resist the urge to reach for an insecticidal spray; squirt off the aphids and mealy bug with a jet of water, or rub them off with your fingers. A new generation will quickly appear, but the predatory insects will be jumping into action. Before long the natural, biological controllers like ladybirds, lacewings and wasps will outnumber them and your plants will be all the better for it.


A host of problem, and beneficial, insects. Photo - Photo Fun /

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Author: Dan Wheatley

Bug Watch: Bindii and other annoying lawn weeds


Regretting not spraying against bindii in winter? Bindii (Soliva pterosperma) is a low-growing annual herb with leaves like a carrot top. It produces a single flower at its centre that matures into a prickly seedpod that sticks in bare feet. 

This much-hated weed exists below mowing height so hand weeding or spraying with herbicide are the only answers. Controls include Yates Bindii and Clover Weeder Concentrate, which can be used on bindii, clover and dandelion but should never be used in buffalo lawns. Once the seed heads have formed though, uptake of herbicide is limited and control is usually not very successful.



Lawn weeds. Photo - Linda Ross


Weed Blitz by Amgrow. Photo - Linda Ross

We have been trialling the organic Weed Blitz by Amgrow on lawn weeds such as bindii, dandelion and cape weed. The active ingredient is pine oil, which gives a really fresh smell as you spray. Squirt the weed with a jet of Weed Blitz, taking care not to spray the surrounding lawn. The weed turns black within two hours and dies within 24 hours. We recommend feeding the lawn around the dead weed with seaweed solution (such as hose-on Maxicrop Lawn Rejuvenator) to encourage the grass to grow into the gap. Weed Blitz contains no synthetic chemicals and can be sprayed any time of year, although difficult weeds may need to be resprayed.


After spraying. Photo - Linda Ross

After 2 hours. Photo - Linda Ross

After 24 hours. Photo - Linda Ross


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Bug Watch: Blue banded bee


Photo -


This native bee is found in every part of Australia except Tasmania. It gets its name from the iridescent blue or white bands around its abdomen. The bee is about 12mm long, with a furry thorax and bulging eyes. A long glossa, or tongue, accesses the nectar of trumpet-shaped flowers. Interestingly, these bees ‘buzz’ pollinate. Only a handful of native bees use this technique, which has been proven to improve yields in the solanaceous crop plants (tomatoes, eggplants and chillies) by 30 per cent, making the blue-banded bee a vegetable grower’s favourite. Many flowers release pollen passively, however those in the solanaceae family require rapid vibration. The blue-banded bee clamps onto a flower and flaps its wings at such a rate that this occurs. Attract them to the vegetable patch by planting bedding begonias, verbenas, salvias or antirrhinums.


Text: Ally Jackson

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Author: Ally Jackson

Bug Watch: Botrytis

Photo - Linda Ross

Humid, still conditions are the perfect breeding ground for botrytis, a fungus that affects plant tissue. It is most prevalent in spring and autumn and particularly affects oft and unhealthy growth. Affected areas are covered with grey clusters of spores. Defoliation, and even plant death, can follow. Spores are easily spread through the air and via splashing water so it is easily spread and can become difficult to manage. To reduce the risk of infection allow good air circulation round plants to reduce humidity. Remove any dead or dying plant material and avoid excessive watering. Treatment is with copper-based fungicide. 


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Bug Watch: Bronze orange bugs

Photo -

Bronze orange bugs are nasty pests that suck sap from young shoots, fruit and flowers of citrus trees. The nymphs of bronze orange bug are green and the pests darken in colour as they age. Young, green bronze orange bugs are susceptible to regular spraying of PestOil or EcoOil, which both work by smothering the pests’ breathing holes. Unfortunately gardeners generally only notice the bugs in summer, when they are fully coloured adults. The adult bugs respond to attack by squirting an evil-smelling, staining chemical. For control, don protective glasses and gloves, pick the bugs off by hand and drop them into a bucket of hot water. Alternatively you may spray with Confidor, which is only recommended for ornamental citrus, or with Yates Folimat.

Text: Libby Cameron

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Author: Libby Cameron

Bug Watch: Cabbage Moth


The larvae of this grub will eat all seedlings in the cabbage family (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale and kohlrabi) so be prepared for early control. Female moths, which can be recognised by their mottled brown colour, lay their eggs under leaves. When the larvae hatch, the brown-striped caterpillars tunnel into stems. As for any other caterpillars, at any time of year, the best control is either Dipel or Success, both of which are biological insecticides harmless to humans. Success Ultra has a one day withholding period. 

The cabbage moth is very territorial and she won't lay her eggs where other moths are, we have found installing a solar powered 'fake' butterflies to hover around the Brasscia plants does the trick. Other strategies include netting the whole bed with fine insect control netting, placing a few laminated white moth cutouts on sticks around the garden or egg shells with eyes drawn on.

The cabbage moth are particularly voracious during autumn and spring.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Bug Watch: Citrus gall wasp


Photo - Linda Ross

Bulging citrus stems indicate the presence of citrus gall moth, which lays its eggs in the bark at the ends of citrus branches. No need to spray, just cut off affected branches.

Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Bug Watch: Citrus leaf miner


Photo - Linda Ross


A silvery trail on foliage is the telltale sign of this pest. Eggs were laid in the leaf by the moth last year and the trail is the hatched insect eating its way out. Further in their lifecycle leaf miners curl the leaves completely in on themselves, and pupate into small moths. These are active at night, so are rarely seen.

If untreated, leaf miner reduces citrus yield, slows growth and makes foliage unsightly. Cut off and destroy the damaged foliage. To reduce the impact of the pest, spray regularly with Pest Oil or Eco oil. Help plants back to good health with citrus fertiliser. Parasitic insects such as wasps and lacewings feast on leaf miners. See for the mailorder Backyard Buddies range of beneficial insects. 


Text: Ally Jackson

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Author: Ally Jackson

Bug Watch: Cup moth


Photo - Linda Ross

Cup moths are so-called due to the cup-shaped cocoon they attach to the tree branches, or surrounding leaf litter, of eucalypts, brush box and pittosporum. They are also known to attack apples, apricots and cherries. Juvenile cup moth larvae skeletonise leaves.

There are a few different species, but all of the cup moth caterpillars have bright, showy markings in green with blue, red, yellow or brown. Clusters of retractable spines on their backs can cause a painful, but short-lived, rash if they rub against the skin.

Cup moths are difficult to control on mature trees, but if you have only recently planted the tree under attack, a spray with Dipel should eradicate them.


Text: Ally Jackson

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Author: Ally Jackson

Bug Watch: Frangipani rust


Photo - Linda Ross

This is a fairly new disease (Coleosporium domingense syn C. plumeriae) in Australia. It is believed to have arrived from Florida in an infected frangipani cutting 15 years ago. You’ll see small golden orange pustules on the reverse of the leaf, which quickly cover the tree. The rust spores are windblown so spread to other trees nearby. Frangipani rust can cause defoliation, reduced flowering and reduced vigour due to reduced photosynthesis. The rust doesn’t affect all frangis equally: the pinks and reds seem to be resistant, while the common white and yellow or ‘Celadine’ are the worst affected.

Spray from November through to February/March with either Yates Rose Shield or Eco-Rose. Bin any affected leaves to stop the spread of the disease.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Bug watch: Hawk moth caterpillar


Photo - Libby Cameron


This is the king of the autumn caterpillars, a voracious eater that grows into a sizeable creature up to 7cm long with large spots along its body and a white-tipped spine at the end. It feeds on tender foliage, and can decimate a patch of impatiens or sweet potato in a couple of days. The caterpillars are too big to squash, but because each moth only lays one or two eggs at a time, gardeners never have to deal with massive populations, so individual caterpillars can be moved to plants that will either soon lose their leaves, or need to be heavily pruned. Grape vines are a good choice. After a few weeks, when it is about 7cm long, the caterpillar will create its cocoon,where it will stay for up to 25 weeks. The adult hawk moth is an important pollinator of many plants, including pawpaws.


Text: Libby Cameron

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Author: Libby Cameron

Bug Watch: Lacebugs


Photo - Linda Ross

Despite their name, Azalea lace bugs are also enemies of rhododendrons. Their attack is evidenced by widespread silvery mottling and sticky, brown patches on the underside of leaves. It’s best to spray now, at the beginning of the growing season. Try Confidor or Baythroid. Always spray on still days when there is no threat of rain. Alternatively, prune damaged branches after flowering to encourage new growth.


Text: Ally Jackson

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Author: Ally Jackson

Bug watch: Lily caterpillar

Photo -

These voracious caterpillars can destroy a clump of clivias or other lilies in record time. The lily moth lays up to 100 eggs at a time on the tip of a leaf, and the growing caterpillars then work their way down to the base of the plant. Remove the baby caterpillars before they spread or spray plants with Success or Dipel as soon as you notice their presence. Respray in 10 days.

Text: Libby Cameron


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Author: Libby Cameron

Bug watch: Magnesium deficiency

Photo - source unknown

When plants are low in magnesium, they move what they have from the old leaves to feed the new. Consequently older leaves begin to yellow from the sides to the centre. The yellowing pattern often creates an ‘arrow’ of green in the centre of the leaf, with green veins. Magnesium deficiency is easily fixed by feeding the plant a dose of Epsom salts, which is magnesium sulphate. Dissolve 20g of crystals in a 9l watering can and water over the plant.

Text: Libby Cameron

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Author: Libby Cameron

Bug watch: Peach leaf curl

Photo - Linda Ross

Peach leaf curl is a parasitic fungus that causes new leaves on peaches and nectarines to become disfigured. It is important to treat it at bud swell stage, as it is too late once symptoms are noticeable. Spray trees thoroughly with lime sulphur, or with Yates Fungus Fighter.

Text: Libby Cameron

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Author: Libby Cameron

Bug Watch: Powdery mildew


Photo - Linda Ross

Powdery mildew is a widespread fungus that is carried by the wind. It multiplies rapidly in high humidity so thrives in overcrowded garden beds where the air circulation is poor. Identify it by the characteristic grey-white, powder-like mildew on infected leaves. Affected foliage withers, become distorted and dies.

To control its spread start by choosing disease-resistant cultivars, avoid overcrowding plants in shady areas of the garden, don’t use overhead irrigation late in the afternoon, and keep the area clean of plant debris that may carry the spores. Also try Yates Fungus Gun or OCP’s Eco-fungicide. 


Text: Ally Jackson

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Author: Ally Jackson

Bug Watch: Powdery mildew on vegetables

Avoid disappointing summer vegetable harvests by being on the watch for powdery mildew. Look for leaves covered with a white powder which spreads quickly and eventually kills the plant. The disease is commonly found in summer on beans, zucchini, pumpkin and tomato. Spray regularly with organic Eco-fungicide, which works in two ways. Firstly, it alters the pH of the leaf surface, inhibiting the germination of new fungal spores. Secondly it attacks the cell walls of existing fungal infections, causing dehydration and death of the fungal hyphae. Eco-fungicide also treats black spot on roses. Mix it with Eco-oil for a combined organic insecticide and fungicide.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Bug Watch: Thrips

Thrip damage on cucumber. Photo - Linda Ross

Thrips suck and rasp at flower petals causing discolouration. They are tiny and hard to see, but tapping a flower onto a blank piece of paper will alert you to their presence. Thrips fly in on the easterly breeze and can be controlled by a jet of water into the foliage or with a spray of Pyrethrum.

Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Bug Watch: Two spotted mite and azalea lace bug


Photo - Linda Ross

These two insects feed under the azalea leaves, causing a mottled discolouration on the topside of the leaves. You can see evidence of mite activity under the leaves and in signs of webbing on young leaves. To control the pests, use a systemic pesticide, such as Confidor, Conquer or Maxguard, or place a Confidor tablet in the root zone of each azalea for six months’ protection.

Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Bugwatch: Bronze Orange Bugs

Just when your poor citrus tree thought it would be safe to put on some new growth, finally mustering up the energy to grow again after a long and productive fruiting season, this dreaded pest arrives with its stinky, squirty spray, sucking all the vigour from the new spring shoots. 

Yes, its stink bug time again. But this year we say enough. This year it’s time to put our heads together, find the best weapon and ward them off. This year we mean business!

The dreaded Bronze Orange Stink Bug. Photo - Linda Ross 


Symptoms: These prolific pests will damage citrus trees, often causing fruit to drop. Bronze orange bugs will suck the sap from the tree, flowers and fruit will subsequently fall and stems can turn discoloured and die.

Bronze orange bugs are out in force during warmer months. This pest appears first in late winter as a light green nymph, making it hard to spot. As bronze orange bugs develop they change colour into the more familiar orange to bronze. Some bird species will consume these pests but often not enough to control and prevent damage to plants. Assassin bugs will also predate bronze orange bugs, yet still they seem to endure.

Bronze Orange Bug eggs. You can see the bugs inside. These bugs will reproduce rapidly, so one or two could quickly turn into an infestation. Photo - Emily Shepton 

A Bronze Orange Bug emerges from the egg. Photo - Emily Shepton

The Nymphal bugs appear green, then change to orange with a brown spot in the middle of their backs. Photo - Andy Burton  

Solution: It is best to start your pest management program in early spring while bugs are young. Spray products such as Eco-oil fortnightly to provide an organic defense. Apply good coverage to leaves including their undersides.

If infestation has already begun, or indeed taken hold, spraying with an insecticide is probably unavoidable. Use a naturally based insecticide with natural ingredients including Pyrethrum, like Richgro Beat-a-bug, or Yates Nature's Way Citrus & Ornamental Spray, which is the only spray registered with the APVMA for home garden control of Bronze Orange Bug on edible citrus. Use as a contact spray to knock them down, then treat the foliage with a horticultural soap to deal with the eggs left behind. Insecticides containing Imidacliprid, such as Confidor, will be effective. But the unintended consequences on beneficial insects, like bees, will also be severe. Resist the urge to use Imidacliprid insecticides when citrus are in flower, and never on edible fruit.

Other organic remedies many gardeners employ include sucking up pests with an old vacuum cleaner, removal by hand and drowning them in methylated spirit, or crushing them between planks of wood. But all of these method put the gardener in harm’s way. If you must engage these pests hand-to-hand make sure you wear gloves, long sleeves, protective glasses and a hat or other protective clothing. Bronze Orange Bugs emit a foul-smelling, citric-acid-rich liquid when disturbed and this can be very dangerous, particularly if sprayed in the eyes.


The mature Bronze Orange Bug and a nymphal bug underneath. Photo - Jan Anderson 


About this article

Author: Linda Ross & Dan Wheatley

Bugwatch: Scale

Scale insects are some of the most common garden pests around.

They attract other pests and suck the vigour from your plants, but they are easy to control and even easier to prevent.

Scale can vary dramatically in appearance, too. There are, after all, over 8000 described species of scale insects in existence. The most common of these are the very small sea-shell-like objects (1–2 mm) growing beneath wax covers, shiny pearl-like objects (about 5 mm), and creatures covered with mealy wax. With the exception of mealybugs, scale almost always appear to be permanently attached to the stems of affected plants, which can make them difficult to see.


Citrus Snow Scale. Photo - Mary Keim 


Scale insects damage plants by feeding on sap and secreting honeydew which causes sooty mould. This in turn can cause leaf drop and dieback. Ants feed on the honeydew and act as bodyguards for the scale, keeping away natural scale predators such as lady bugs and wasps. Eggs hatch into crawlers, which can be carried on the wind to other plants.

Remember, plants under stress are more susceptible to scale attack so spoil them with a dose of seaweed solution and a light feed in spring and autumn.

Healthy plants are naturally more pest-resistant.


Chemical control

Eco-oil won't be enough to control a large infestation. Start treating with Yates Scale Gun as per instructions on the package until they are gone. Continue spraying with Eco-oil every fortnight to prevent another infestation.


Organic control

Cut plants back by one third (after frosts have passed), throw tepid soapy water over them and blast it off with a hose 20 minutes later. Spray with a mixture of Eco-Neem and Eco-oil, and then spray every fortnight with Eco-oil, following the directions on the label. Control ants by banding the base of the plant with petroleum jelly.


Biological control

Encouraging beneficial insects is the third step in reducing the occurrence of scale infestation in your garden. Ladybugs and wasps prey on scale and can be introduced safely into home gardens. The Spotless Ladybeetle is one of the commercially available beneficial bugs that can be very effective at reducing scale. These bugs can be purchased mail-order from OCP and released into the garden anywhere in Australia other than WA.


About this article

Author: Mez Woodward and Dan Wheatley

Bulb Time


You don’t even need a garden to thrill to the spring splash of colour and fragrance offered by bulbs, any pot will do. 

Plant these time bombs in autumn for an explosion of colour in late winter and spring. Linda says they are bulbalicious!

The trifecta - tulips, daffodils and pansies. Photo -


All you need to know

1. A bulb is underground storage system, and the umbrella term covers true bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils; rhizomes, such as iris; underground tubers such as dahlias and potatoes; and corms, of which cyclamen and gladioli are good examples.

2. Buy healthy-looking bulbs and don’t plant anything that's soft or mouldy.

3. For long-lasting results choose a bulb from a similar climate to your own. If you are planning a one-off, single-season display of something you love, choose whatever makes you happy.

4. Spring-flowering bulbs are traditionally planted in autumn, any time between March and June. Dig the soil over to get rid of any weeds. Scatter complete fertiliser. Don’t use fresh chook manure, because that can burn the bulbs. Planting depth is quite important. Plant at least twice as deep as the bulb is high, with the neck facing up and the roots facing down. The exception is Ranunculus - plant the claws facing down.

5. Feed at planting time and again when the bulb dies down to increase the energy stored within the bulb for next year’s flowers. As the foliage yellows trim or tie into knots but don’t be tempted to cut it off before it’s yellow as this process provides the energy for next years’ flower. Bulbs may need dividing after a few years.


Photo - Schippers/


Where to buy

Ring our favourite bulb suppliers for a catalogue today. Mail order bulbs sell out fast, so don’t delay.

Tesselaars 1300 428 527

Broersons 03 9737 9714


Fragrant hyacinth. Photo -


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Bulbs: Buried Treasure

Photo - Robin Powell

There are few gems in the garden as reliably dazzling as bulbs. 

Buy now, plant soon and in spring your reward, for barely any effort at all, is a garden bejewelled with colour. And all this sparkle comes for less than the cost of a bunch of flowers from the florist. 

So which treasures will you bury this season? On these pages some of the Garden Clinic team reveal the bulbs on their Most Desirable list.


Graham Ross

Who can resist a pot or garden bed filled with gorgeous tulips in full bloom? I certainly can’t. Tulips are a passion that started for me back in the ‘60s. Throughout that decade, and the next, the highly respected ABC gardener Allan Seale escorted dozens of Woman’s Weekly World Discovery cruises to Holland to see the tulip fields and their cavalcade of colour. Allan published many photographs of what he’d seen and those snaps launched my ‘tulipmania’. My passion was confirmed when my mum and dad returned from their first overseas trip in 1969 with their own slides of Holland’s Keukenhof Gardens.

In 1989 I managed to get to Europe myself and saw tulips used creatively in the garden, not just as great swathes of massed colour. The tulips at Monet’s garden in Giverney, outside Paris, for instance, were magical. Beds were filled with a single tall pink tulip underplanted with beautiful lavender-blue carpets of Virginia stock.

When I started broadcasting at 2GB in 1980 of course I regaled my listeners on the joys of tulips, only to be rebuffed by gardeners and the nursery industry for encouraging a plant that “wouldn’t flower in Sydney’s warm, temperate gardens.” Fortunately, the Victorian bulb grower Tesselaar, as well as Yates, released the Monet Series of tall-stemmed, warm-climate tulip varieties. Game on! Van Diemen Quality Bulbs in Tasmania joined in with its Single Late Tulip varieties, all of which are suited to climates with cool - not cold - winters, and short, warmer springs. (Of course readers with cold winters and long cool springs can enjoy all the regular tulips, as before.)

When I became a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney in 1988 I launched an offensive to get tulips into the garden. It took several years to persuade the horticulturists to give them a try but in the middle of the next decade a circular bed was finally devoted to tulips. I urged my listeners to go and see them and thousands turned up to photograph the gorgeous blooms. I like to think I converted a whole new bunch of gardeners to tulips!


The fabulous displays at Keukenhof inspired Graham's love of tulips. Photo - Robin Powell 

Height: 50-80cm

Flowers: singles, doubles, fringed and parrot styles in a wide range of colours.

Care: buy bulbs mid-March. Leave for six weeks in the crisper section of fridge, then plant out in mid May-early June. Incorporate bulb fertiliser and blood and bone to planting hole and plant 20 cm deep and 7-15cm apart.

Buy: Tesselaar, Van Diemen Quality Bulbs, Yates, local nursery



Libby Cameron

Many of my favourite spring-flowering bulbs and corms originated in South Africa. While not as big and showy as tulips or daffodils, they are extremely reliable and easy to grow in the warm Sydney climate, and, if drainage is good, may be left in the garden to naturalise for a number of years, growing into quite sizeable clumps. The South Africans include perfumed freesias, tall ixias, bright sparaxis and babianas, which are often called baboon flower.

I adore freesias, especially the old-fashioned, wild variety that pop up in the lawn; the blue-green Ixia viridiflora flowers are quite lovely, especially in big clumps in a spring border; and the orange or red flowers of Sparaxis with their yellow and black markings, are satisfyingly loud. But for me, it’s babiana that always finds a place in the garden.

Why is such a delightful plant cursed with such an unattractive name? Baboon flower! Apparently it is because the corm tastes great – if you are a baboon. The wild-growing plants are a favoured food source for the primate.

In the garden the flowers are preceded by hairy, pleated leaves, which are distinctive and pretty. The flowers themselves, which come in

white, dark blue, magenta and purple, look marvellous in a garden with purple flowers and purple-leafed plants. I use them in my ‘Jewel Box’ garden. Loropetalum ‘Burgundy’ and purple euphorbias provide a bit of a backdrop to the lovely blue bearded iris ‘Victoria Falls’. Coleus adds its many different colours of foliage, and cane begonias arch their dark, spotty leaves over the top. Some of these plants star in summer and autumn, so the flash of violet and magenta of babiana in spring heralds what is coming up later in the year. I throw in some happy, purple pansies and top it all off with a dash of lime green from Echeveria pallida.



Babiana corms can be left in places to develop into pleasing clumps of spring flowers. Photo - Chris Burrows/

Height: 15-25cm high

Flowers: freesia-like flowers in shades of blue, purple, magenta and pink flower from early to mid-season. Clumps get bigger and better each year.

Care: choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil in and plant 5-10cm apart.

Buy: Tesselaar, Van Diemen Quality Bulbs, Yates, local nursery


Sandra Ross

Call me old-fashioned, but one of my favourite spring bulbs is the ranunculus. For sheer flower power it is unequalled. One tiny corm (which is a type of bulb) can produce up to 30 blooms, in successions of flowers over a six-week period. You’ve got to love that kind of generosity!

Ranunculus look lovely in a ‘cottage garden’ border, planted in drifts for a harmonising effect. There’s not even any need to lift the corms when they have finished. They will regrow the following year if you allow the foliage to die back. The main claim of ranunculus on my affections though, is that it is a superb flower for vases. Large, double, ruffled blooms are held on strong stems, which last well. The secret is to cut the blooms as they open. I pick them in bud and find they last for almost two weeks. Florists use ranunculus creatively in mixed bunches of other flowers and foliage, but I like them on their own. Their foliage is soft and fern-like and a colour mix of mauve, pink, white and burgundy is delightful. As a very satisfying bonus, the more you cut the more blooms the plants will produce. I always grow many more than I need so I can take lovely bunches to friends.

All of which means that I prefer to plant the tiny tubers in a cutting garden. In my dreams! Of course, in real life I have no room for such a thing as a cutting garden and so I plant them in one of our vegetable plots. This way they grow en masse, get regular attention, watering and lots of feeding. Ranunculus are very heavy feeders because the tiny corms store so little yet they produce so many flowers. I work in lots of fertiliser prior to planting and liquid feed regularly during flowering.

I prefer to plant them in single colours of mauve, pink, white and burgundy, as I dislike the multi-coloured effect. ‘Amethyst’ is my favourite colour, but it’s hard to find. I have found that the best of the double varieties is called ‘Picasso’.



Ranunculus are charming and long lasting cut flowers. Photo -


Height: 50-90cm high.

Flowers: large, double, ruffled blooms in mauve, red, pink, white, yellow, orange and burgundy.

Care: for best results, the soil should be well-drained and rich to 30cm. Plant with claws downwards, 5cm deep and 20-25cm apart. After flowering leave bulbs undisturbed. You can remove the foliage once it has died back. These bulbs naturally degenerate over a number of years and need replacing every second or third year.

Buy: Tesselaar sells a Romantic Blend of ‘Picasso’, which is an assortment of pink red and white; as well as a Country Blend, with yellow, red, burgundy and white. There are also some single colours.


Michael McCoy

Like a family of acclaimed academics that suddenly produces a glamorous movie star, Fritillaria is a genus of interesting, curious and highly collectable bulbs that contains one sumptuous, showy member.

That one gorgeous bulb is appropriately known as the ‘Crown Imperial’ (Fritillaria imperialis). It is guaranteed, if you’ve never seen it before, to stop you in your tracks. Strong, fat stems bolt up to about a metre tall, and carry a crown of pendulous flowers in yellow or rich, burnt orange above which sits a mop of green foliage, like a pineapple top.

This flower has a long garden history, and appears regularly alongside striped tulips and roses in early Dutch still-life paintings. It was also a favourite additive to 17th century knot gardens, where it was very sparsely planted in bare soil between winding rows of box. To see one in real life is to encounter both its historical familiarity and its striking originality in the same moment - as if you’re seeing something both ancient and transient, everlasting and ephemeral.

Unfortunately you’ll have to head overseas to see them, as they’re only very occasionally available for purchase in Australia, and always in very small numbers. Dash over to Keukenhof (Holland) one April, and you’ll see them at their best.

While the ‘Crown Imperial’ eclipses the other species of the family in glamour, its siblings are not without their charms. The snakeshead fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) is one such species. Its hanging purple flowers look like they’re supported by shoulder pads, and are striped with a totally captivating checkerboard pattern. Fritillaria michailovskyi has been on every collector’s wish list since showing off its yellow-fringed maroon bells on the front cover of ‘The Smaller Bulbs’, byBrian Mathews. As there are species of fritillaria that hail from permanently damp as well as seasonally parched zones of Europe, Africa, Asia and North America, it’s quite possible that you’ll find one or more fritillaries that would settle happily into your climate.


The striking Crown Imperial. Photo - Michael McCoy

Height: 1m

Flowers: crown of pendulous flowers in yellow or burnt orange above a mop of green foliage.

Care: prefer a well-drained, loamy soil in full sun or part shade. Plant the bulbs 8-10cm deep and 12cm apart at a slight angle so that water won't collect in the depression at the top of the bulb. Remove flower head after the blooms fade and before it goes to seed. Allow foliage to wither. Water regularly and deeply in spring, withhold water in the summer. Fritillaria is a good choice for areas with dry summers.

Buy: Lambley Nursery, Hill View Rare Plants 



About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Cabbage Palm

Photo - Linda Ross

Cabbage Palm, Livistona australis

Cabbage palms are a stunning native palm indigenous to Sydney. Captain Cook noted them on his first excursion onto land at Botany Bay. Livistona grow in moist, sheltered gullies along the coast. They were common around Sydney Harbour and can still be seen in remnant bushland along the coastal fringe. This is Australia’s southernmost palm tree, growing as far south as Victoria. It is a hardy choice for gardeners. It loves rich soil and filtered light, and will even grow indoors in a brightly lit room or balcony. Feed palms with half-strength seaweed solution only.


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Camellia japonica

The camellia is the queen of winter, unrivaled for glamour, yet she is down to earth, easy to manage and long-lived. Graham Ross has the details.


Camellia japonica arrived in the western world from the Orient in 1826 and was received with tremendous enthusiasm. New cultivars were bred to look like huge satin bows, extravagant and completely over the top. They were named for princesses, countesses, the rich and the famous. In 1848 Alexandre Dumas published his novel, Lady of the Camellias, about a beautiful courtesan dying of tuberculosis (which subsequently became a play and an opera, called La Traviata), ensuring the enduring romance of the camellia.


It is thought that the oldest living camellia in Australia dates back to 1831. It was part of a consignment of plants which arrived in a case on the ship Sovereign for Elizabeth Macarthur of Camden Park. One of this collection, ‘Anemoniflora’, is still growing happily in the gardens, and her son William is said to have produced the first Australian camellia cultivar, the stunning white ‘Aspasia Macarthur’. However, recent investigations reveal an even earlier camellia shipment from London.



‘Desire’ by name and by nature, a popular formal double, flowering early to mid.


Few plants have been hybridised and developed to the extent of camellias. Expert growers say there are more than 30,000 cultivars in existence, and everyone has their own favourite.

Camellia japonica grows into a classic small tree that prefers dappled light, including that found under gums. They grow from subtropical Brisbane to the frosty hills of Tasmania and flower from April to October, depending on the variety. Your local nursery can help select cultivars that will thrive in your area. If you live in a warm temperate climate avoid the late-season bloomers as very warm weather in September and October will scorch the petals.

Vain by looks but versatile by nature, camellias may be hedged, lollipopped, trained into a decorative espalier, bonsaied, potted or even planted in a hanging basket. You can also move them to another part of the garden if they are in the wrong spot. This is best done in winter. First remove all the buds and flowers, then transplant into the new position, taking as big a rootball as possible, and water with seaweed solution to help the camellia settle in. Spraying with Droughtshield before lifting can also help leaves retains moisture.


Cut camellia flowers are best displayed in simple float bowls. Photo -


Growing tips

Protect the shallow root zone with a thick mulch of organic matter such as milled cow manure and fallen leaves.

Encourage bigger flowers by liquid feeding in autumn with Thrive for Flowers or Phostrogen.

Never let camellias dry out, especially during summer - a drip irrigation system will keep them happy.

Prevent root rot fungus by spraying once a year with Antirot.

Dis-bud early in autumn by removing the third and fourth flower buds in each cluster.

Take cuttings in late summer.


Semi doubles. Photo -


Flower types

Camellia flowers can be divided into six bloom types:

Single: One row of petals with no more than eight petals curve back to show off a pillar of visible stamens eg. Tama-No-Ura 

Semi-double: Two rows of petals gently overlap showing a boss of visible stamens. eg. Lovelight

Formal double: A perfect spiral is created with several layers of overlapping petals with a central cone of furled petals arranged symmetrically never showing stamens eg. Desire

Anenome: One or more layers of outer petals ring a central mass of frilled petals with some stamens eg. Dona Herzilia de Freitas Magalhaes

Peony or Informal double: Raised petals hide a mass of twisted petals and stamens. eg Margaret Davis

Rose: Several layers of overlapping petals open to show off the central stamens eg Guilio Nuccio


Japonicas grow into small trees. Photo -


Our Favourites 

What Camellia is That? is a definitive encyclopedia written by the late Stirling Macoboy that has everything you need to know about growing camellias. 

‘Lovelight’ flowers mid-season with pure crepe petals and gold-tipped stamens.

‘Nonie Hayden’ has a peony form that flower mid to late season, fast grower.

‘Silver Chalice has exceptional silver white peony form flowers in mid season.

‘Guilio Nuccio’, much celebrated Californian cultivar, flowers early to mid season.

‘Royal Velvet’ is sun hardy, upright and compact, ruby red flower, mid season.

‘Betty Ridley is a sun hardy formal double flowering early to late.

‘Dixie Knight’ flowers mid season and is good in pots.

‘L.T.Dees’ has enormous formal double petals and flowers mid to late season.

‘Nuccio’s Gem’ is a very popular, perfect white-spiralled flower, early to mid season.

‘Desire’ by name and by nature, a popular formal double, flowering early to mid.

‘Waltz Time is a medium grower with mid to late season flowers.

‘Buttons and Bows’ with fluted petals that flower early to mid season.

‘Debutante’ peony form, mother to Desire, flowers early to mid season.

‘Tiptoe bred at Camellia grove, is sun hardy with semi double flowers in mid season.

‘Dona Herzilia de Freitas Magalhaes purple petals in a distinct anemone form, mid season.

‘Great Eastern’ is an old faovuite and the most fulls-un-hardy of all 


Perfume: The majority of camellias are not fragrant but there are notable exceptions: Scentuous, Kot No Kaori, High Fragrance, Spring Mist and Sweet Emily Kate.


Potted garden: Camellia 'Flame' and Rhododendron yakusimanum grow happily in containers if given thick mulch, regular water over summer and a slow release feed in spring. Short, wide tubs best accommodate their shallow root systems. Photo -



Sunburnt leaves

A common problem in drought-affected areas in Victoria and western towns in NSW. Don’t remove leaves, let them drop naturally. Keep roots moist and mulch well. Consider spraying leaves with Droughtshield next summer to protect against heatwaves.



This fungus is becoming increasingly common on spring growth. It spreads by bursting spores from a gall on the the undersides of leaves. There is no chemical control: prune off infected leaves and dispose in the bin. Wipe secateurs blades with metho after pruning.


Two-spotted mites (Ribbed Tea Mite)

This pest is becoming very common in dry, warm gardens, especially those that are drought-affected. They produce grey streaks or stains either side of the mid-rib of leaves between November and March. Control is necessary to prevent the pest disfiguring the leaves. Water foliage to keep leaves moist, spray with Eco Oil or PestOil during summer or spray with Natrasoap early in summer.



Aphids are usually most damaging during spring when they feast on new growth, leaving foliage twisted and reduced in size. They need to be removed as they can lead to sooty black mould fungus. Control with either pyrethrum sprays, Confidor, MaxGuard or Conquer. Oil sprays will also deter aphids if used regularly.



Several scales are also being experienced more frequently on camellia and must be controlled to avoid yellowing leaves, scaly damage to both leaf surfaces, disfigured foliage and sooty mould appearing. Control with Eco Oil, PestOil or Eco Neem.



Camellias will often produce too many flowers resulting in stunted and twisted blooms. It may be necessary to prune off some of the flower buds to allow more energy to go into the remaining buds for bigger blooms.



They move easily if they are in the wrong spot. This is best done in winter. First remove all the buds and flowers, then transplant into the new position, taking as big a root ball as possible, and water with seaweed solution to help the camellia settle in. Spraying with Droughtshield or Eco-Guard before lifting can also help leaves retains moisture.


We love these formal double types. Photo -


Where to buy

Camellia Grove Nursery

8 Cattai Ridge Road, Glenorie, NSW, 2157

(02) 9652 1200


Camellia Lodge Nursery

310 Princess Hwy, Officer, VIC 3809

(03) 5943 2500


Yamina Rare Plants

25 Moores Road, Monbulk, VIC, 3793

(03) 9756 6335


Create a winter woodland with shade loving camellias. Photo -


Where to see?

See wonderful garden camellias in full bloom at historic home Eryldene, home of the late Professor Waterhouse who pioneered the introduction of camellias and worked to raise their profile. Open throughout winter for details go to



You may be brewing up a pot of Camellia right now. Did you know that the tender leaves of Camellia sinensis are grown in plantations, picked, dried then sold as tea? The Chinese have been drinking tea since the third millennium BC. Visitors to China and Japan can watch the tea ceremony where green tea (C. sinensis var. sinensis) is steamed, rolled and dried. Tea camellias arrived in Europe in the 17th century but due to the language difficulty ornamental camellias were included. These became treasured garden plants picked to adorn the hats at Royal Ascot.



Text: Graham Ross  

About this article

Author: Graham Ross

Camellia reticulata

‘Valentine’s Day’, with its enormous ruffled and veined flowers, is typical of the showy appeal of Camellia reticulata hybrids. Photo - Craig Wall

The Glamour girls

If Camellia japonicas are the stately queens of winter then Camellia reticulata are the cheer girls that dance us into spring. They are hard to find, but by no means shy, with gorgeous flowers like big ruffled skirts. Linda Ross takes a peep.


China’s Yunnan province is the home of many of our favourite garden plants: magnolia, peony, cherry blossom, rhododendron, lily and clematis. Within this amazing landscape there is also a centuries-old, scattered forest of Camellia reticulata. The Chinese know these flowers variously as Nine Hearts, Precious Pearls, Purple Gown and Butterfly Wings. Flowering coincides with Chinese New Year so they symbolise wealth and prestige. They have long been cultivated in Yunan’s monastery gardens.

The plant has had a fascinating journey around the world. The first reticulata to leave China went to Japan in 1695. The second went to England in 1820, where it flowered six years later in the glasshouse of Thomas Carey Palmer in Bromley. It was named after its importer, the East Indiaman ‘Captain Rawes’. The excitement created by this flower inspired a handful of plant collectors to venture into the wilds of Yunnan and Sichuan. One of these was the plant collector Robert Fortune. In 1946 Fortune returned to England with a collection of plants that included a deep-pink, formal, double Camellia reticulata, which was later named ‘Robert Fortune’.


The incredible blooms of Camellia reticulata are best displayed in float bowls or on plates and platters as flowers picked on long stems fall off quickly. Styling - Linda Ross. Photo - Craig Wall

Western plant breeders bred the newly found C. reticulata with C. japonica and a new family of magnificent flowers was developed. Meanwhile, as China fell into chaos following the opium wars and the breakdown of the last dynasty, the monastery and private gardens that had grown reticulata also fell into ruin.

In 1980 105 surviving cultivars of C. reticulata were located in Kunming, the capital of Yunan province. Ironically, one that was not found was the first that had travelled to England, ‘Captain Rawes’. This was subsequently returned to its country of origin, and named ‘Guixia’ meaning ‘Returned Cloud’. Most of the 105 were then shipped around the world to act as parents for the next generation of camellias.


‘Dr Clifford Parkes’ makes a sensational spring display at the front door, trimmed to create a lollipop effect. Unlike many Camellia reticulata hybrids this one is happy growing in morning sun. Styling - Linda Ross. Photo - Craig Wall

Growing tips

C. reticulata hybrids are some of the loveliest and largest flowers in the horticultural world. Flowers are massive: some are literally as large as dinner plates, up to 25cm across. Flowers have a ruffle of petals, and come in rich reds, deep pinks and crimsons. These beauties flower later and longer than other camellias, blooming between early May and late September. Most varieties bloom for two months. The large flowers become even larger as the tree matures, and blooms keep on expanding after they are picked.

As befits something so lovely, reticulatas do require a little more care in planting and placement than their smaller cousins. They prefer more sun than japonicas, though most don’t like morning sun. They require protection from strong winds and rich, well-drained soil with plenty of humus. They are better in subtropical zones, where other camellias often languish, than in cooler regions. They grow into more open trees, about 3-5m tall, and need more space around them as they spread. Foliage is deeply veined and leathery rather than glossy. They tend to drop quite a lot of leaves just before the new spring growth spurt. The new growth needs to be protected against leaf-chewing insects, which can spoil the display.

Unlike sasanqua and japonica, theses camellias do not respond well to excessive pruning. Reticulata are usually grafted onto sasanqua rootstock to create hardier, more adaptable plants, and it is wise to pay the extra for a grafted specimen. Garden uses of the glorious reticulata include as feature trees, woodland plants and privacy hedges.


'Ellie's Girl' and 'Dr Clifford Parkes'. Styling - Linda Ross. Photo - Craig Wall



Two-spotted mites (ribbed tea mite): this pest is common in dry, warm gardens, especially those that are drought-affected. They produce grey streaks either side of the mid-rib of leaves between November and March. Control is necessary to prevent the disfiguring of the leaves. Water foliage to keep leaves moist, and spray with Eco Oil or PestOil during summer, or with Natrasoap early in summer.

Aphids: these sucking insects are most damaging during spring when they cause new growth to become twisted and reduced in size. They need to be removed as they can lead to sooty black mould. Control with either pyrethrum sprays, such as Confidor and MaxGuard, or with Conquer. Oil sprays will also deter aphids if used regularly.

Scale: gardeners are increasingly finding several types of scale insects on camellias and these should be controlled to avoid yellowing leaves, damage to leaf surfaces, disfigured foliage and the appearance of sooty mould. Control with Eco Oil, PestOil or Eco Neem.


Where to buy

Camellia Grove Nursery

8 Cattai Ridge Road, Glenorie, NSW

(02) 9652 1200

Or online at



Thanks to:

Picked camellias thanks to Bill Flemings at ‘Elegans’, Dural.

Red fibreglass pot, from www.potsonline, Dural

Bench seat, old bottles and timber stool from Doug up on Bourke. 

Text:  Linda Ross




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Author: Linda Ross

Camellia reticulata favourites


Our favourite Camelia reticulata.

Red Crystal

This dazzling red camellia is New Zealand’s gift to the camellia world. It’s a cross between C.reticulata ‘Crimson Robe’ and C. japonica ‘Wildfire’. Velvety orange-red petals open to 14cm to reveal gold stamens. Flowers mid-season.

Photo - Linda Ross 

Valentine’s Day

Is this the most perfect reticulata ever? It’s loved for its rosy-red formal double flower and rosebud centre. It was created in 1958 and is a strong grower, happiest in semi-shade.

Photo - Linda Ross 


Dr Clifford Parkes

This hybrid was developed by Dr. Clifford Parkes at his Los Angeles arboretum in 1971. It is a large semi-double, with both loose peony and full peony forms on the same tree. Flowers are a brilliant flame-red, mid-season.

Photo - Linda Ross 


Ellie’s Girl

Bred by Mrs Bess Chambers in Pymble, Sydney in 1994, this is a beautiful formal double fuchsia-pink form with eight layers of petals. Flowers mid to late in the season. The tree is a fast, upright grower.

Photo - Linda Ross 


Francie L.

A hybrid created in 1964 at Nuccio Nursery in California. It has a tall leggy habit, with large semi-double rose-pink blooms, and rather narrow foliage. Flowers late in the season, with blooms lasting through spring.

Photo - Linda Ross 


Valley M. Knudson

A favourite in Graham and Sandra’s garden, this camellia carries profuse numbers of bright, orchid-pink flowers on a shapely small tree. It was bred by Howard Asper in 1958, and has the same parentage as ‘Valentine’s Day’.

Photo - Linda Ross 


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Camellia sasanqua


White camellia sasanqua hedge. Photo - Linda Ross


Camellia sasanqua

An evergreen shrub from Japan with subtly fragrant autumn flowers.

Description: dark glossy green leaves, shrub - tree, prominent golden stamens

Size: varies 0.5m to 5m.

Growing: sasanquas love acidic soil, pH 5-6, so feed with specialised fertiliser in spring. They are surface-rooting plants so a thick mulch of fallen leaves helps them thrive.

Special comments: this is a varied and versatile family of shrubs and will make make excellent clipped topiary, espalier, privacy hedges, formal hedges, and even groundcovers. Our top 4: ‘Early Pearly’, ‘Jennifer Susan’, ‘Hiryu’, ‘Pure Silk’.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Caramel pineapple upside-down cake


Sweet pineapple and toasty coconut are always a happy combination and they make this cake mouth-wateringly delicious.


The Ross Family celebrates any occasion with something freshly baked.  

Garden Clinic members who turned up at our free garden classes shared in the bounty, and this fabulous cake, with its caramelised pineapple topping and coconut-flavoured base, was a big favourite. It’s good served warm not long after it comes out of the oven, or at room temperature, with a nice dollop of fresh whipped cream.


Photo - violeta pasat/


What you need:

20g butter

1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored, thinly sliced

1/4 cup brown sugar

125g butter, softened, extra

1 cup caster sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup plain flour

1/3 cup self-raising flour

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

1/2 cup coconut milk


What to do:

Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pineapple and cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cook, turning occasionally, for 1-2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Arrange the pineapple slices over the base of the prepared pan. Drizzle with pan juices.

Use an electric mixer to beat the extra butter and caster sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

Add the flours, coconut and coconut milk and stir to combine. Spoon the batter over the pineapple and smooth the surface.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.


Text: Robin Powell


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Author: Robin Powell



We are harvesting handfuls of delicious carrots and using them in a variety of ways in the kitchen. 


Sow spring, summer and autumn, all year in mild areas. So buy a packet today and get crunching!

Carrots come in a rainbow of colours. Photo - Elena Dijour/

Carrots comes in all shapes and sizes - round, red, orange, purple, white, pakistani, baby, long, finger length. Carrots are easy to grow, but they do take about 3-4 months to harvest after sowing. They need a sunny spot with deep, well drained friable soil that have either been sieved (a painful but effective job) or that have been carefully forked over to remove small stones and impurities. Incorporate aged manure, compost and complete fertiliser into the soil to a depth of at least 30cms. Seeds should be sown from early winter through to early autumn. Plant outside those times and the plants are likely to 'bolt' or go to seed early. Sow directly into the ground where they are to grow, 10 mm deep, 2-3 cm apart in rows 20 cm apart. Crusting of the soil can prevent seeds from even germination. 


Choose shorter rounded varieties in poorer shallow soils or pots. Photo -


A trick I learnt as an apprentice was to cover the seeds with either seed-raising mix or a combination of vermiculite and peat moss. Daily watering is important to aid germination and keep the seedlings growing. Be patient; it can take up to three weeks for them to show above the surface. Germination is 100% if you prevent the soil from drying out. Covering seed rows with shade cloth, hessian or cardboard etc until germination can help we do this when we sow in summer only). Don't over fertilise with high nitrogen feeds. A gentle watering with a seaweed solution each week and a light side dressing of a complete fertiliser each month is sufficient. 

Carrots don't have to be harvested all at once; the removal of some young carrots promotes the development of the remaining ones. Rotate crops to prevent disease build-up.


White carrots taste just like orange ones. Photo - Linda Ross


Buy interesting varietes from see from companies such as Greenpatch Seeds, Eden and Diggers. We like 'Heirloom Mixed', 'All Seasons Carrots', 'Carrots All Year, 'Purple Haze'- the good thing with heirloom vars is you can allow one plant to go to seed at the end of the season and collect the seed for the next sowing.

'Sugarsnax' - Delicious, 25cm long (no joke) and was very easy to grow. They were planted in April this year.

'Little Finger' - The most popular variety of baby carrots. This gourmet variety produces tender, sweet carrots, harvest at 10cm long. Excellent choice for container gardening or kid’s gardens. Sow spring, summer and autumn, 55-60 days.

'Heirloom Mixed' - Carrots are purple, white and red, taste delicious and are just as easy to grow as other varieties.

Other varieties to look out for include 'Western Red' and 'Topweight'; and medium-length 'All Seasons','King Chantenay' and 'Early Horn'. Balcony gardeners should try the smaller 'Short 'n' Sweet, 'Easigrow', 'Suko' and 'Baby' which can be harvested earlier than other varieties.


Soups, raosted, juices, sliced. Carrots are the most versatile of root veg. Photo - Linda Ross



Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Catherine’s Great Gardens

Catherine the Great ascended the Russian throne in 1762 and became the most powerful woman in all of Europe.

Her reign heralded The Golden Age of Russian nobility and her palaces, with their fine gardens, were jewels of the Russian Empire.


South side view of the grand façade of Catherine’s Palace from the parterre garden. The façade is nearly 1km in circumference, with elaborately decorated blue-and-white and with gilded atlantes, caryatids and pilasters.


Catherine the Great had a flair for the dramatic. Her two palaces, Catherine’s Palace and Pavlovsk Palace are a testament of her love of extravagance and grandeur. These two palaces near St Petersburg, together their gardens and parklands, are striking, imposing and completely ostentatious, but remain her legacy of fine art and architecture.


Grand façade at Catherine Palace, named for Catherine I, the wife of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia for two years after her husband's death. Originally a modest two-storey building commissioned by Peter for Catherine in 1717, the Catherine Palace owes its awesome grandeur to their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who chose Tsarskoe Selo as her chief summer residence. Starting in 1743, the building was reconstructed by four different architects, before Bartholomeo Rastrelli, Chief Architect of the Imperial Court, was instructed to completely redesign the building on a scale to rival Versailles.


The palace and park ensemble Pavlovsk was created in the age of Russian classicism of the late 18th - early 19th centuries.


Catherine's Palace

Catherine’s Palace was built as her summer palace. Brandished in blue and gilt, this lavish Rococo palace is home to great state rooms, with views to the formal French-style gardens. The gardens or parklands were originally built in Dutch style, but were later remodelled by Scottish architect, Charles Cameron, according to English taste.The empress had a love affair with romantic English landscapes, as declared by her letter to French poet, Voltaire:

"I love to distraction these gardens in the English style ­– their curving lines, the gentle slopes, the ponds like lakes. My Anglomania predominates over my plantomania.”


Grotto Pavilion on the Great Pond, Catherine’s Palace.

Pavlovsk Palace could rightly be described as the jewel in the crown of Russian classicism.


Catherine spent every birthday and summer here. She asked Cameron to build her a private gallery separate from the main palace, so she could view the garden on all sides of the building. Beyond the view from the palace is The Hermitage, a discreet blue miniature of the massive formal edifice. Here, Catherine enjoyed privacy and secret liaisons. Elegant feasts were raised up to her quarters on a lift device.

Russians treasure this beautiful ensemble of palace and parkland because it was a favourite haunt of their revered poet, Pushkin, who captured its beauty in epic verse.


Marble Bridge designed by Charles Cameron in the Great Park at Catherine’s Palace.


Temple of Friendship in Pavlovsk Park, architectural masterpiece was a gift from the future Emperor Paul I and his wife Maria Feodorovna to his mother, the imperious Empress Catherine II. Historians have spilled much ink on the complex relationship between Catherine and her son Paul. Nevertheless, the young couple took the wise step of building the Temple of Friendship as an official thank-you to Catherine II for bestowing these lands upon them, hinting at their desire for a less fractious family life.


Pavlovsk Palace - a magical parkland

Carolyn Dwyer, Ross Tour Leader remembers her visit to Pavlovsk.

It was early afternoon when we arrived at Pavlovsk, the palace that Catherine had built for her only child, Paul. It’s yellow render glowing in the sunshine and the park in spring leaf looking cool and inviting. The palace is imposing as only Russians know how to create. Our local guide advised that we skip the hundreds of grand rooms and head straight for the gardens. As we strolled into the shade, a jaunty little carriage pulled by a frisky pony came towards us. We wanted to step on board and pretend we were Catherine the Great riding around her estate on this glorious day. The gardens have stately pavilions designed by Cameron and bridges over the lake where there are gorgeous views of a colonnaded temple. With the coolness of evening came a gentle mist across the water and a sense of mystery.


Cameron Gallery. Catherine instructed Cameron to create a colonnade for strolling and philosophical discussion, and the result was this supremely elegant building that stands perpendicular to the east wing of the Catherine Palace. Designed to offer the best possible views over the surrounding park, and especially the Great Pond.



Come With Us 


Graham and Sandra Ross will host this summer journey across Scandinavia, from Copenhagen to Stockholm. Take the ferry to Helsinki and Tallin, and train to finish in St Petersburg. Sophisticated and poetic, it’s a romantic ride, 13–30 June 2021. Details at or call us 1300233200.


About this article

Author: Sandra Ross and Carolyn Dwyer


In a classic segment of ‘River Cottage’ host Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall damns the cauliflower, describing it as insipid and boring.

Not fair. While caulis can devolve into tasteless watery mush when treated badly in the kitchen, the best varieties are packed with flavor.

In fact I reckon caulis such as ‘Purple Sicily’ are among the most elegant and delicious of the brassicas.


Describing cauliflower as insipid and boring is just unfair!


Growing Cauliflowers

Cauliflowers are not the easiest vegetables to grow, but are well worth the effort. Timing is everything. The aim is to start the seeds in early autumn, grow the plants on as the weather cools, and harvest in winter, before warming spring weather causes the curd (head) to burst into flowers.

Rich soil is essential. I like to incorporate a bucketful of compost, a triple handful of pelletised chook manure and a double handful of rock dust per square metre of garden bed, forking it all lightly into the soil and watering deeply to activate worms and micro-organisms. If your pH tends to be a bit high, add lime or recycled wood ash a couple of weeks later. Caulis love a slightly alkaline soil.


Harvesting Cauliflower

Cauliflower curds are ready for the picking when they’re full and tight. Cut them free with a knife. Note that unlike broccoli, side shoots won’t form on cauli plants so once harvested, throw the residue on the compost or feed it to the chooks.


Looking after cauliflower

Caulis have a special need for the trace elements molybdenum and boron. To provide what they need water plants regularly with seaweed extract and a pinch of borax dissolved in a nine-litre watering can.


Cauliflower Varieties

‘Snowball Improved’ - first-rate white cauli that reliably bears self-blanching curds, so there is no need to wrap the leaves over the head to keep it from discoloring in the sun.

‘Purple Sicily’ - Italian heirloom bearing massive purple heads. Easier to grow than standard white caulis.

‘Romanesco’ - Some people call it a broccoli, some call it a cauli. Whatever. I call it flipping delicious!

About this article

Author: Justin Russell


Cauliflowers come in many different colours. Photo - Bobkeenan Photography/

Justin Russell says cauliflower is no cheesy addition to the vegetable patch; it’s a stand-alone star.

To this day, I can hear Mum's words ringing in my ear: "Just give it a try. It tastes like cheese." I was seven years old, and Mum was referring to cauliflower cheese, a dish that now masquerades under the trendier name ‘cauliflower gratin’. The question is, what kind of vegie has to taste like cheese to be palatable?

I've grown cauliflower since then, and now wonder what the fuss was about. Organically grown caulis are such a flavoursome addition to the winter garden that there's no need to smother them in cheese sauce. Actually, there's no need to smother them in anything - they're good enough to stand on their own.



Caulis have a reputation for being difficult to grow. In my experience they're no different to broccoli or cabbage, and in fact, the three plants are closely related and share similar growing needs. Caulis like rich, slightly alkaline soil, protection from pests, and a favourable climate.

In cold areas there's time to sow seed into punnets now, then plant out seedlings in a few week's time. You'll be harvesting heads in late winter or early spring. In warmer zones it's best to skip sowing seed and plant seedlings now. If you get caulis in too late you risk having the plants bolt to seed as the weather warms in spring.

Before planting, enrich your soil with well-rotted manure or compost, along with a handful per square metre of pelletised chook manure. If your soil is acidic, sweeten it by adding lime a couple of weeks after adding manure or fertiliser, give this a week to settle, then plant.

Harden seedlings against cold weather with fortnightly applications of seaweed extract (such as Seasol or Eco Seaweed), and keep autumn's warmth in the soil by covering it with a blanket of mulch - sugarcane or lucerne is ideal.



Knowing when to harvest requires keen observation. Pick too late and the plant is likely to bolt, so I always err on the side of picking early. As a rough guide, heads will be ready to pick from 90 to 120 days, depending on the variety, but keep a close eye on what the head is doing. If it is large and has a tight curd (without flower buds starting to burst), it's time to pick.


Pin up leaves over developing cauliflower will result in pure shite flowers. Photo - Christian Jung/



- Caterpillars can skeletonise cauliflower leaves if left unchecked. Frosty winters will keep them at bay until spring, but in warmer microclimates cover the plants with fine weave netting (such as Vege Net) or spray with Dipel.

- Aphids can infest the foliage in early spring. Spray them with horticultural soap or blast them off with a jet from the hose.

- Traditional white curd varieties can turn a sickly looking yellowish-green if exposed to excessive sunlight. To exclude light, pull leaves up over the heads and hold them in place with a couple of pegs.



Snowball ticks all the boxes. It is a relatively compact plant, produces pure white heads in around 100 days from planting, and tastes delicious.

Violet Sicilian rates among the prettiest of all vegetables. Huge purple heads are produced on large plants and the flavour is excellent. Heads are ready to pick in about 120 days.

Green Macerata produces huge lime green heads in as little as three months from planting. The flavour is first rate!

See what else Justin is growing at


Text: Justin Russell 

About this article

Author: Justin Russell

Cauliflower soup

Warm up with this wintery soup. Photo - travellight/ 


Sauté a finely chopped leek or onion in a little melted butter and olive oil until transparent. Add the florets from a cauliflower and toss for a few minutes. Cover with homemade chicken stock, or a mild unsalted commercial variety. Add a chopped, peeled potato. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender. Blitz smooth, then adjust seasoning. Serve with a dollop of creamy blue cheese on top.


Text: Robin Powell


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Author: Robin Powell

Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’

Autumn colour. Photo - Linda Ross


Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’

Description: this small, deciduous shrub or tree has bright pink, pea-shaped flowers that open on bare stems. The flowers are followed by interesting, flattened, purple pods like long beans. The real appeal, though, are the large, heart-shaped leaves which change from a brilliant, eye-catching shade of purple in spring, to purplish-black in summer, then to glowing yellow-orange in autumn.

Size: 5m high x 5m wide

Cultivation: prefers a sunny, sheltered position with moist rich soil.


Pink pea flowers in spring. Photo - Linda Ross

Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Chelsea 2015

It was a show that reminded us of the beauty of nature barely gardened, and of gardens tended intensively. 

Whether you swoon for densely planted flower borders or for more naturalistic spaces, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show delivered on its promise of horticultural excellence displayed with dazzling artistry.


Chris Beardshaw’s Healthy Cities Garden, sponsored by Morgan and Stanley, epitomised the exuberant flower planting that had the Chelsea crowds sighing with pleasure. Dark purples and blues were popular, with spots of orange and magenta dabbed in as counterpoints. Photo - Robin Powell 



A show garden at Chelsea is by definition showy, but the most accomplished of all were the gardens with the least razzle-dazzle. These attempted to create a naturalistic, looser vision of the garden. Dan Pearson amazed the crowds, as well as the judges, who awarded him a gold medal and Best in Show, by recreating some of the lesser-known parts of the grand Chatsworth estate. Seen from all sides, his creation was a vision of idealised nature, complete with great rocks moved from the rockery Joseph Paxton built on the estate in the early 19th century, mature willows, a burnt-out tree trunk, worn footpath and meandering trout stream. On top of all this were flowering shrubs and a wildflower carpet. Also lovely was James Basson’s snippet of the south of France, designed for L’Occitane and featuring perfumed plants loosely arranged around a grove of olives. Also awarded a gold medal, the garden told the history of the perfume industry in Provence while luring us with a dreamscape of peace and natural beauty.


Dan Pearson's incredibly complex planting and audaciously un-showy design for Chatsworth won him still more fans. Photo - Robin Powell 



The Main Pavilion is a chance for nurseries to show off their catalogues in living, breathing colour and the way they do it is breathtaking. Bulb growers manage to manipulate their charges so that they are all at their peak of flower in the same glorious week. Strawberry growers peg each stem of deliciously fragrant berries; clematis growers wire each flower so that they all face the same way. As a visitor it’s like being at the Olympic Games and marvelling at the degree of difficulty the divers are attempting from the high board, all pulling off their moves with elegance and grace. Seen here, clockwise from top left: tk



Anyone for icecream? Chrysanthemum-flavoured displa. Photo - Robin Powell 



As well as the art of the plant and flower displays and the gardens themselves, Chelsea is a showcase for garden art. Among the very many options: a sculptor who will capture your much-loved dog in bronze; a printmaker who presses plants from your garden and manipulates the computerised scans into a collage of your garden; and James Doran Webb who makes sculpture from driftwood. Webb uses driftwood collected in the Philippines and for every kilo he buys from local collectors, he plants a tree seedling on denuded hills in Cebu. Seen here is one of his hares racing through the perennials. Sean Murray used found objects in his sculpture too, though from a less precious source. The ring on a plinth in his garden is made from rusted and slightly crushed cans. Murray, a passionate amateur garden designer, was the winner of the BBC2 series ‘The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge’, which allowed him to fulfill his dream of designing a garden at Chelsea. Now there’s a reality tv show we’d like to see!


James Doran Webb's driftwood hare. Photo - Robin Powell 


About this article

Author: Robin Powell

Chelsea magic

Chelsea is a magical garden world as full of dreams and emotion as it of of sheer hard work and skill.

We took three groups on Opening Day this year and asked the tour leaders to tell us what moved them most.


Kazuyuki Ishihara is a Chelsea stalwart in the Artisan garden section, producing exquisite visions of Japanese garden style. This year’s garden was inspired by Japanese ideas of hospitality, with a welcoming tea room screened by maples and balanced above an iris-edged stream.


A slice of Yorkshire

Childhood memories were triggered for Colin Barlow

Of all the show gardens at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show the one that caught my eye was the one that took me back to my childhood - the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden designed by Mark Gregory. Over the years at Chelsea there have been many different Yorkshire gardens but none have resonated with me in the way this one did.

Who would have thought that I could be enthralled and inspired by a ‘Show Garden’ with natural grass and buttercup pasture, a backdrop of native elder, larch and hazel woodland, complete with tumbling beck (that’s a creek to you and me , Ed.) and dry stone walls. Was it my childhood memories of jumping across babbling brooks, exploring the rugged limestone pavements, woodlands and lush pastures of the Yorkshire Dales on so many school geography trips? Maybe so.


Welcome to yorkshire. Photo - Robin Powell


As I visually explored the elements of the garden, I found it captured the naturally rugged but scenic nature of the Yorkshire Dales and villages. The dry limestone walls and the stone bothy (cottage) were built on-site using traditional Wensleydale stone techniques with exquisite artisan detail. How I would have loved just to pick some of those stones up to take home and place in my own garden! The bothy displayed traditional Yorkshire crafts and food, including the delicious and famous Wensleydale cheese.

What really made the setting complete was the relaxed, cottage-style garden surrounding the bothy. Visitors could easily relate to this style of planting and many would have taken ideas back to their own garden at home. Flowers, mainly in shades of pink, purple and white, skirted the beck and bothy, including foxgloves, lupins, delphiniums, iris, sweet peas, lady’s mantle and euphorbia. Closer to the bothy vegetables, including cabbages, lettuce, leeks, kale and chives, were mixed together in a potager style. A stunning standard wisteria draped the outbuilding providing long racemes of purple against the woodland scene beyond.

The garden was Mark Gregory’s 30th consecutive year at Chelsea and he certainly used all his experience to create a picturesque slice of the Yorkshire Dales. The garden deservedly won a Gold Medal, the Best Construction Award and the coveted People’s Choice Best Show Garden. So I wasn’t the only one who found the garden totally inspiring!


Flower power

Libby Cameron fell for the story behind the horse

I was walking through The Main Pavilion, where the specialist growers show off their blooms, and my attention was grabbed by a gorgeous horse, made from chicken wire stuffed with straw. He had a floral wreath bridle and was pulling a cart piled high with buckets of flowers through a wildflower meadow. As I was admiring and getting a closer look, a woman in a beige apron ran up to a group of women wearing the same apron, and they all screamed and a few burst into tears - they’d won a Gold Medal!


Gold medal-winning exhibit, 'Going to Market'. Photo - Alamy

I was so taken up by the emotion of the whole thing that I had to talk to them about it. The display was called Going to Market, and it had been put together by Flowers from the Farm, which is a national network of cut flower growers in the UK that was set up in 2011. The organisation offers support to its members and tries to encourage florists and flower buyers to choose locally grown flowers instead of imported flowers with all the air miles that entails. They told me that 90 percent of the flowers sold in the UK are imported.


Dazzling displays in the Main Pavillion - 'Tottering by Gently' and 'Desdemona' on the David Austin Roses stand, dahlias, maples and alliums. Photos - Robin Powell


The 14,000 stems used in the display came from 94 growers as far away as the Scilly Isles off Cornwall in the south, to the Hebrides off the Scottish coast in the north. The growers picked their flowers on the Saturday morning before the show, drove them to one of 30 hubs dotted around the country, where they were packed into refrigerated vans and driven to London. On Sunday volunteers put the display together - with the flowers in containers, from buckets to test tubes - no environmentally unsound florist oasis! - ready for Press Day on Monday, and judging on Tuesday, which is the day we were there.

Gold! I was so pleased for them. So much of Chelsea requires huge budgets and corporate sponsorship, but here was a display these growers from all over had put together themselves. And the flowers were beautiful - lilac and allium, aquilegia, foxgloves, gorgeous ranunculus and lupins. And of course it all smelled fantastic. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Postscript - Flowers from the Farm auctioned off the display props after the show finished up. I was at Gordon Castle in the Scottish Highlands a few weeks later, researching a story on the walled garden, and there was the Chelsea horse! Angus Gordon Lennox had bought it as a birthday present for his wife, Zara, who plans to use it to show off the flowers and produce grown in the huge walled garden at Gordon Castle.


Dreams of Monet

Robin Powell was seduced by subtle effects

I can’t stop thinking about Sarah Price’s loose, light and lovely garden for M&G. Sarah is renowned for her painterly approach to planting. She has an artist’s eye for colour and texture - her academic qualifications are in fine arts rather than botany or landscape architecture - and she was co-designer of the much-lauded 250-hectare London Olympic Park.

For her Chelsea garden this year she was inspired by an exhibition of Claude Monet’s paintings. It wasn’t the subject matter that drew her in, but Monet’s creation of colour. Seen up close she was struck by the way Monet created colour and the perception of depth through little swishes of pain, often with splashes of quite vibrant contrasting tones. Thoughts of Monet’s brushwork mixed in her dreams with memories of Mediterranean holidays full of sun-baked walls and the sound of water. She tried to capture this dream state in the garden, using oddly angled walls of rammed earth to both suggest the fragmentary nature of a dream, but also to catch the elusive London sunshine, and the shadows of plants. (The rammed earth walls were formed on site - just one of the amazing feats of landscaping skill on display at Chelsea.)


Sarah Price was inspired by an exhibition of Claude Monet’s paintings in her garden for M&G


The walls defined different views of the garden. There was no single focal point, but a number of them depending where you stood - a rough-textured urn in front of a wall, a grove of mature and twisted pomegranate trees reflected in a still pool, a stately olive casting shadow patterns on a wall.

Following a Monet-method she chose sun-loving plants with small flowers in shades of yellow, pink, white and lilac and planted them loosely so as to capture the light, adding occasional bold tones of orange or scarlet. The grass heads and diaphanous flowers swayed in the breeze and caught the light; the pinkish tones of the walls glowed with an inner-warmth; water sparkled and tinkled. I was mesmerised by the effects, and find even now that Sarah’s dreams have become my own.

Catch Robin Powell talking Chelsea highlights with Linda Ross on the Garden Clinic podcast, available from iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts, and at

About this article

Author: Robin Powell

Chelsea: Graham Ross' Survival Tips


Photo - Oli Scarff/


- Get at least 10 hours sleep the night before and come prepared for a long day. It’s a shame to have to leave early because of fatigue.

- Buy a RHS Chelsea catalogue at the gate. This is a valuable planner to help you get bearings.

- Stick with your Ross Tours leader for the first hour for some exclusives like getting into Australian exhibit and meeting some Chelsea icons.

- Next go straight to the Show Gardens as they get very busy after about 10.30am.

- Before you tackle the Great Pavilion spend five minutes ticking the programme for your personal Must See exhibits.

- Visit the commercial stands on Eastern Avenue last to avoid having to carry bulky or heavy items all day.

- Don’t miss this Artisan Gardens, which are always good and are often overlooked. They are found on the other side of Ranelagh Gardens where there are hundreds of seats – also good to know.

- Don’t bother bringing water, there are plenty of stalls (including those selling Pimms!) but bring a couple of snack bars to keep up your energy.

- Have a regular cuppa break every two hours and plan an early or late lunch to avoid queues.

- It IS an endurance test, so push through the 3 o’clock wilt for a fabulous afternoon.


Text: Graham Ross

About this article

Author: Graham Ross

Cherry Blossom


Cherry blossom festival, Japan. Photo - Linda Ross

Cherry (Prunus spp)

Description: it’s no wonder the Japanese dedicate a whole month of ‘Hanami’ celebrations to the beautiful blossoms of the cherry. You know spring’s arrived when their pink-hued blooms blanket these perfectly shaped trees.

Size: this hardy, adaptable, deciduous tree will grow to about 5m, making it ideal for small to medium sized gardens.

Cultivation: prunus do well in a bright position in well-drained, humus-rich soil. They require regular water. They thrive in cool to temperate climates.

Special comments: buy a prunus bred specifically for its flowering ability. Wonderful leaf tones in autumn are another plus. Flemings ( is a good place to search out exactly what you want.


Text: Ally Jackson

About this article

Author: Ally Jackson


Chilli comes in all shapes and sizes. Photo - Linda Ross

Spice up your life with the aroma and piquancy of chilli. Measured on a rating from one to over two million, there is a chilli to suit all taste buds from the chilli-phobic to the chilli-freak. 

Chilli peppers are native to South and Central America. They were introduced to South Asia in the 1500s and have come to dominate the world spice trade. Few could have imagined the impact of Columbus' discovery of a spice so pungent that it rivalled the better known black pepper native to South Asia. Red chilli is high in Vitamin C, provitamin A, potassium, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins.

As well as playing an essential role in South Asian food chillies have entered superstitions and rites, particularly in the south of India. The potency of chillies are firmly believed to have a supernatural element. It is customary to hang a few chillies with a lemon over the threshold of a residence to deter evil. Chillies are also used to ward off the evil eye. A handful of chillies together with other condiments such as curry leaves and a little ash from the hearth is waved over a person's head to create a shield against curses and bad spells. India is now the largest producer of chillies in the world. Chillies are the cheapest vegetables available in India and so are eaten across all groups of people. The daily meal of many Indian labourers commonly consists of a few chillies with Indian unleavened bread, called rotis, or rice.


Fiery hot chilli are pot friendly. Photo - Linda Ross


Espalier, potted or garden grown, growing chilli is as versatile as they are. They usually give heat to a meal but also impart a unique flavour. No matter whether you love the intense heat of chilli in your meal or just a touch, they will change your tastebuds forever, and in some, create an obsession. Not all chilli are red, they also come in yellow, green, purple, and orange.

The fruit is eaten raw or cooked for its fiery hot flavour which is concentrated along the top of the pod. The stem end of the pod has glands which produce the capsaicin, which then flows down through the pod. The white pith that surrounds the seeds contains the highest concentrations of capsaicin. Removing the seeds and inner membranes is thus effective at reducing the heat of a pod.



If you can grow tomatoes and capsicum, you can grow chilli. All you need is a frost-free site, regular watering, and a sunny position.



Dig over soil to 30cm and enrich the soil by adding manure and a complete fertiliser. Let it rest for a few weeks and plant away.


Birds eye chilli. Photo - Palo_ok/


Growing guide

Seedlings can be grown indoors to get a start on the season. Seeds germinate in 3 weeks or you can buy seedlings from your local nursery. Most likely they will develop into 1m high bushes throughout the growing season. Winter cold will knock them around, in warm climates you may be able to prune you bush down to 15cm and protect with straw to get it through the cold, they will re-sprout as soon as the weather warms.


Seed sowing

You’ll need chilli seeds, zip lock bag and kitchen paper. 

1. Collect your chilli seed and store until next winter. 

2. Cut paper towel to fit into zip lock bag easily. 

3. Wet paper towel so its damp. 

4. Spread seeds so they have some room to absorb water. 

5. Zip bag half closed to trap heat but allow oxygen in. 

6. Place at a windowsill where there is plenty of sun. 

7. Re-wet paper towel as needed to ensure it remains very damp. 

8. Once the seeds germinate into little shoots, relocate them to little pots that can be placed at the windowsill. 

9. When seedlings reach 10cm plant them into the garden or outside pots.


Harvesting and storing

Chilli flower from spring to summer and the chilli fruit hang on throughout autumn and sometimes into winter in warm climates. Harvesting encourages more fruit. Harvest when you need them, or harvest the glut of the crop later in the season for making sweet chilli jam.

Chilli fruit can be preserved by air-drying, oven drying, ristras or freezing. Ristras are the strands of dried peppers that hang in the kitchen. To make a simple ristra use a needle to thread the stem of each chilli pepper so that the chillies form a spiral, then hang from the ceiling. Chillies drying in ristras or on racks may take several weeks to dry completely. While using a dehydrator or oven is definitely faster, the chillies don't retain the bright colour seen in chilli peppers that are air-dried.


Pests and disease

Chillies are subject to fruit fly. In prone areas we recommend organic fruit fly controls such as the combined use of Eco-Lure Fruit Fly Trap & Eco-Naturalure. Nature's Way Fruit Fly Control is also effective.


Tips and tricks

- Grow 3 varieties in one 30cm wide pot. 

- Start with growing mild chillies such as sweet peppers and paprika, Jalapeno is medium, Birdseye and - Thai red are hot, while Habanero are super hot - nearly untouchable! 

- For maximum sweetness leave your chilli fruit on the bush to ripen for 3 months. 

- Pinch out growing tip when young to bush out the plant. 

- The hottest part of the chilli fruit is the seeds and the pith; remove these for a sweeter flavour.



Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Chinese Lanterns, Abutilon


These versatile shrubs with their charming bell-like flowers are commonly called Chinese lanterns, even though all 1000 species are native to South America!

I love mine, as they never stop flowering!  

The location must be perfect: frost-free in winter; morning to midday sunshine all year; shaded by the house from hot afternoon summer sun; good, compost-rich soil, well-mulched to keep roots cool through summer.


Photo - Garden World Images


There has been much good work done hybridising some species resulting in lantern-like flowers in lemon, white, orange, pink, mauve and scarlet. The tall varieties will grow to 2m and the dwarf varieties to just half a metre. I prune them hard in early spring to keep their growth in check, so they don’t become scraggy. Then I feed them with manure pellets. Tip pruning will keep them bushy and promote better flowering.


Text: Sandra Ross

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Author: Sandra Ross

Chinese style Brussels sprouts

The European sprout gets an Asian makeover in this tasty stir fry. 


Dish it up alongside chargrilled, soy-marinated rump steaks or chicken thighs. 


The recipe is from the Melbourne Wholesale Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Market. You can find more ideas at or 


Photo - Melbourne Markets


What you need

300g Brussels sprouts

1 tbspn vegetable oil

1 small red onion, sliced

2 tspns finely grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ red capsicum, thinly sliced

50g Chinese black beans, well rinsed

1 tbspn kecap manis

1 tbspn honey

90g snow peas, cut into thin strips

180g bean sprouts


What to do

Trim Brussels sprouts and pull apart to separate leaves. 

Heat oil, add onion, ginger, garlic and capsicum and cook two minutes. 

Add Brussels sprouts and stir fry two minutes. 

Add black beans and cook four minutes. 

Combine kecap manis with the honey and add with snow peas and bean sprouts. Toss well and serve.


Serves 4

Text: Robin Powell

About this article

Author: Robin Powell


Most of us choose to garden where we live; Dominic Wong chose to live where he wanted to garden.

Dominic’s great desire was to grow the peonies he had loved since childhood in an English-style flower garden.

So 17 years ago he left Sydney’s inner west for a paddock in Mittagong and the project that has become Chinoiserie. The hot summers and cold winters of the Southern Highlands replicate the climatic conditions of those in China, so the peonies are perfectly at home and produce beautiful and generous blooms.


Welcome to Chinoiserie. Photo - Robin Powell


The name of the property references Dominic’s own mix of influences. Close to the pretty, white gabled house, Dominic has created a wonderful flower garden of herbaceous borders, arbours and little garden rooms. Dividing the long block in two is a man-made creek that ripples over stones to a pond. Iris and cherry blossom overhang the creek and a willow trails its fingers in the water of the pond beside a Chinese-inspired tea pavilion.


Meet Dominic Wong, Chinoiserie gardener. Photo - Robin Powell


I’m protecting the peonies

Dominic has 120 different varieties of herbaceous peonies in the garden. The peonies are in peak bloom in October and to keep the blooms lovely for as long as possible Dominic protects them from the sun with umbrellas. The brollies are primarily big canvas market umbrellas, supported by star picket posts that are buried a metre or so deep and are permanent parts of the peony beds. A few more delicate Chinese umbrellas add their own style and colour. Once the flowers have finished, the umbrellas come down. Peonies set the buds for the following year’s flowers in November, so Dominic gives them a supplementary feed of blood and bone, potash and rose food on Melbourne Cup Day. The plants are dormant in January through the hottest time of the year, but in autumn as the soil starts to cool, the small feeder roots start growing again, so Dominic gives them another dose of his special supplementary feed mix on Anzac Day to power the growth of spring.


Dominic keeps an easy-to-remember schedule - the whole garden is fertilised with Organic Life and Dynamic Lifter on September 1. Photo - Robin Powell


I’m opening the garden

Chinoiserie is open from mid-September until mid-November, and then again for a few weeks in late summer when the sedum, grasses and dahlias are at their best, and the repeat-flowering roses are giving another show. It’s an especially busy time for Dominic who works in the garden every day. “It’s my gym,” he jokes. “Sometimes I have to go to Sydney for a day just to tear myself away from the garden.” The work is mostly clipping and planting and tidying. The garden is organic, and Dominic uses no sprays, not even organic ones. It’s not only that he can’t be bothered spraying, but also that he is trying to establish a balanced ecosystem. He leaves the aphids on the roses for the ladybirds to eat, and deals with black spot by assiduously collecting any affected leaves to stop the spread of the fungus. The garden demands most of his time, but he also likes to be free to talk to garden visitors when the garden is open, and sells plants form his small nursery


Trim the wisteria after it flowers to keep that new whippy growth under control. Photo - Robin Powell


I’m taking tea

After visiting China and experiencing the serenity of the traditional gardens Dominic decided he needed to souvenir a slice of that peace to reference his Chinese ancestry. In Suzhou, which is famous for its gardens, he loved the tea houses perched on the lake, and took the opportunity while there to buy some carved panels. To the bemusement of his handyman, these are now incorporated into an ornate tea pavilion sited on the edge of the pond. Fringed lanterns hang from the ceiling, and the seats are positioned to view the iris reflected in the water and the willow shivering in the breeze. A wisteria clambers along a low fence on the far side of the pond, and behind the pavilion a clump of bamboo completes the set of traditional Chinese plants. On tables alongside the pavilion sit Dominic’s collection of penjing. “I like to sit here with a cup of tea,” he says. “It really is very serene.”


Peonies at Chinoiserie. Photo - Robin Powell


I’m admiring the colours

As soon as the new mail order catalogues come out Dominic scours them for plants he’d like to try, envisaging new combinations of colour and texture for the flowerbeds. His primary sources are Lambley Nursery for perennials, and Tesselaar for the ranunculus, anemones and tulips that provide early spring colour in the garden. He looks to mix complementary colours in some areas, and contrast opposing colours in others. He also likes to see where plants put themselves, so doesn’t mulch the garden to allow plants to self-seed. Some get left where they are, others are moved, and the rest are pulled and fed to the chooks or composted.


Time to dead-head finished roses and peonies. Photo - Robin Powell


There’s more

Chinoiserie is open as a garden and a B&B. In fact the garden’s axes are centred on the dining table where Dominic envisaged his guests admiring the garden over breakfast when he designed the house and garden. And yes, he also cooks a fine breakfast!

About this article

Author: Robin Powell




Robin Powell sifts through her ideas file, drawn from a year of garden visiting, to find garden inspirations, both practical and whimsical.

Aren’t some people clever!

Images - Robin Powell


Anne Ward's garden 'Gayton'.



We saw Anne Ward’s garden Gayton, above, on our Tastings: Orange tour last autumn. I loved this pergola, with its subtle arches and curves echoing the curves in the paths and the arching of the branches beyond. The colour too is in perfect harmony with the pink and lilac salvias and the sunset tones of the Rosa mutabilis behind. Below: When chef and gardener Jan Waddington decided an overgrown vitex shrub had to go, her husband Rob, with nothing to lose, thought he’d have a go at turning it into a cloud topiary before sending it to the mulch pile. The result is a living sculpture that adds to the view of the garden and paddocks beyond. 


Jan Waddington's clowd topiary adds nicely to the view beyond.


This stunning sculpture shows the importance of siting works in the garden. It is nestled into a clearing of spotted gum and surrounded by a lake of lush agapanthus, which in summer explodes into a froth of white. It’s at Petana, on the south coast of NSW, which will host a sculpture exhibition at Easter. Stay tuned for details at

'Petana', on the south coast of NSW



Gardeners are forever looking for clever solutions to everyday problems in the garden. These are a few that impressed me with their ingenuity this year. Below: These wood piles make swooping and curving low walls through which nasturtium ramble. 


Sweeping woodpile walls


 In need of a compost sieve, Mickey Robertson from Glenmore House, had a rustic one made to fit exactly into her wheelbarrow for easy use.

Mickey Robertson's compost sieve


Sculptor and artist Folko Cooper has a garden chockfull of amusing ideas and this bean frame of old garden forks was a favourite - note too the old bird cage acting as a seedling protector.

Folko Cooper's garden, 'Oakwood'


Cheryl Boyd is another artist with found materials, as the image below, this pergola of prunings shows. (Catch Cheryl talking to Robin Powell about making and using found sculpture in the garden at Collectors Plant Fair in April.)  

Pergola of prunings at Cheryl Boyd's   'Stringybark'


Brendan Moar's Sydney garden


Above: Brendan Moar used a zigzag of silver chain as the support for a climber on the tall adjoining wall of a small garden. Below: Another wood solution, this time an old water tank repurposed as a wood shed, at Petana.

Old water tank re-purposed as a wood shed.


For show

Appealing little details are part of the fun of a garden – for gardener and visitor.  Lindsay Green from Bark Ridge in Rydal is a stalwart of the town’s annual Daffodil Festival and features the flower all through her garden, (and not just in the garden – Lindsay may well have the world’s best collection of daffodil china!), including in this antique dolls pram.

Lindsay Green's daffodil display at Bark Ridge in Rydal


Seen at Queensland Garden Expo, Nambour this teardrop corten hanging container from Broadcroft Design with a cascade of rhipsalis is modernity itself;


Rhipsalis and corten hanging container.


When there’s no room for a pot, how about a jar of flowers, hung by string from a hook on the door.

No room for a pot? No problem.


Also for show is this fabulous collection of gal iron watering cans, framed by a wreath of leaves and barrow load of hearts-ease.

Gal iron watering cans.

About this article

Author: Robin Powell

Climbing ‘Pierre de Ronsard’


Photo - Linda Ross


The Meilland family in the south of France created this beloved climbing rose in 1987. They named it after the 16th century French poet, whose sensuous, romantic and musical poems were highly regarded during his life. The poet is loved by the French; the rose is loved by gardeners for its heavenly flowers, which are on borne on arching canes up to 3m long. These can be pinned to a fence or trained along a veranda or pergola. Plants that are three years or older should be pruned hard after flowering and the old canes thinned out. If the plant is fed well after flowering, a second flush will bloom in autumn. 


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Climbing Frangipani


Vigorous and fragrant. Photo - Linda Ross

Climbing frangipani (Chonemorpha fragrans)

The yellow-centred, white pinwheel flowers of the climbing frangipani vine really do look exactly like the frangipani tree! They're even fragrant. The climbing frangipani is perfect for trellises and fences, or climbing though a traditional frangipani tree. They are semi-deciduous, do not cling to walls or paint, are not affected by frangipani rust, and can be set in pots or directly into the ground. They can handle direct sunlight or shaded locations, but do need a frost-free warm position.


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Climbing Roses


Climbing roses give height, floral interest and elegance to a garden. They can tumble over fences, cascade from pergolas or screen water tanks and dunnies.

Yet roses are not natural climbers like grape vines or clematis; they need to be supported and loosely tied in place. I prefer green nylon ribbon over twist ties, which can injure expanding canes. Here are some of my favourite ways with climbing roses.

Wall or fence

‘Crepuscule’ has been trained on wires to cover the front wall of a cottage. Use fencing wire, stretched taught between tensioned screws fixed into the wall or fence and spaced 200mm apart. Use roses that flower on short spurs; vigorous varieties will be impossible to control. As the rose grows the main canes should be bent horizontal (while stems are soft and pliable) and fixed to the wires. Once the structure is established, side shoots will produce masses of buds. Pruning is easy; just clip the side shoots back to the main stem after flowering.



Wall of Crepescule trained over the guest quarters at The Heritage. Photo - Sandra Ross


Arbours and arches

Ensure an arch or arbour is big enough to walk through comfortably, at least 2m wide. Plant one rose on each side, preferably the same variety. Choose roses that are not too vigorous and twine the stems around the uprights in a spiral. Prune wayward stems at any time. Main pruning is after flowering. Every few years prune out the oldest cane at the base and allow a new water-shoot to replace it. The rose shown here is ‘Shropshire Lad’, a versatile David Auston climber, almost thornless and well-suited to growing on a small arch.


Pierre de Ronsard archway at Al-Ru Farm. . Photo - Sandra Ross


Used to enhance a walkway, a colonnaded pergola can dominate a garden when dressed in roses. For the best floral display twine stems in a spiral fashion around the pillars and allow growth to proliferate over the ‘roof’ of the pergola. Use clothes pegs as weights to prevent canes growing vertically out the top and to encourage more flower. Here ‘Mme Gregoire Staechelin’ (syn ‘Spanish Beauty’), shows that even though she has just one flowering in spring, it is massive – and well worth waiting for!


Rose arches at The Heritage, Clare Valley. Photo - Sandra Ross


Pillars and posts

Pillars of roses punctuate the garden providing a strong vertical accent. Train canes around pillars and posts in a spiral and tie them into position. Train the canes horizontally to encourage lots of side shoots for best flowering. Stems that are fixed flower better than those that blow in the wind. Small climbers are best for tripods, posts and pillars. A lamp post, stanchion of a bird house or bird feeder post, even a fluted veranda column can support a pretty climbing rose. Shown here is the hybrid musk rose ‘Cornelia’.


A rose pillar. Photo - Sandra Ross

Chain/ or rope swag

The idea here is to train the stems horizontally along the rope or chain swag to encourage floriferous side shoots. Because flexibility is most important, the stems must be young and pliable: rambling roses, such as ‘Veilchenblau’, shown here, are ideal. Bend and train the young soft canes horizontally and tie them in with soft twine. All stems which have flowered should be cut to ground level in winter leaving the new ones to be wound around the ropes as they grow in spring. 

The secret to success

Train and prune to encourage side shoots. Train the main canes of the rose horizontally, across rather than straight up. This may mean a ladder effect, 'across and back'. It is best to tie or clip the canes to the support, rather than weave; this makes it easier to prune back dead canes.


Plant notes: Sandra’s 5 favourite climbers

1. Mme Isaac Periere

Description: Huge, deep rose pink blooms, sometimes cupped, sometimes quartered, always fabulous.

Size: Vigorous shrub or small climber with canes 2m long

Special Comments: Best trained around a pillar. If grown as a shrub, peg the canes down to the ground. It’s said that this old Bourbon is the most fragrant of all roses: a brave claim with so many choices. In warm areas give her some cool shade. Prone to black spot in warm humid climates.


Photo - Sandra Ross


2. New Dawn

Description: Great for an arbour, arch, pillar or pergola with the palest cameo-pink blooms. A huge spring flowering is followed by a smattering of blooms in autumn. The lovely deep green foliage, provides a good foil for the blooms.

Size: The stems will grow to 6m, pliable enough to be used in any garden design; arbour, arch, pergola or pillar.

Special comments: Tough, disease-resistant and fragrant, New Dawn deserves its spot in the World Rose Hall of Fame!


Photo - Sandra Ross


3. Crepuscule

Description: This popular old Noisette has masses of small muddled ‘soft-gold’ coloured blooms, in repeat fragrant flushes through spring, summer and autumn. It can be grown on wires along a fence, or over a pergola.

Size: Moderate growth makes suitable as a tall weeping standard (grafted at 3m).

Special comments: Well-suited to warm areas, this rose is virtually thornless, very floriferous and flowers quite well in shade. Don’t prune for the first years until growth is well established and then only if necessary and after main spring flush. Very tough and disease-resistant.


Photo - Sandra Ross


4. Graham Thomas

Description: A clear buttercup yellow rose with full multi-petalled cupped blooms and lovely fragrance. One of David Austin’s finest!

Size: Moderate vigour makes this rose suitable for a pillar, fence or pegged down as a shrub.

Special comments: Train the canes horizontally for better flowering. Susceptible to black spot disease in warm climates. 


Photo - Sandra Ross

5. Pierre de Ronsard

Description: Pale green buds open to form ivory petals with a pale pink blush. The blooms repeat flower through early summer and late autumn. Prune ruthlessly in winter to extend flowering from spring right through to June.

Size: Moderate growth with canes to 2-3m long

Special comments: Suitable for a wall or fence where the strong branching shoots can spread out, or it can be trained up a tall pillar, or grown with support as a shrub. It is almost thornless and has large, bright green glossy leaves.


Photo - Sandra Ross


Text: Sandra Ross

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Author: Sandra Ross



The trumpet flowers of this indestructible plant put them top of the list for dry areas, dry pots and under trees. Let’s take a closer look.

Mass plant lemon, peach and cream clivias in shaded areas under trees. Photo - Slowfish/Shutterstock 

Fact file

Name: Clivia sp.

Origins: Southern Africa

Flowering: Spring

A genus of six species of herbaceous evergreen plants with strap leaves. Intense hybridisation by fanatical growers has resulted in colours varying from deep orange, through yellows, peach and a rare white.



Matching common orange clivia trumpets with purple geranium is a bold choice. We think it works, what do you think? Photo - David M. Schrader/Shutterstock



We love the fact that lemon clivia clash less than their orange cousins with the traditional colours of the spring garden. Photo - Slowfish/Shutterstock


Now: Clivia flowers glow against lush deep-green straps of foliage in spring.

Later: Autumn is the time to divide plants. Uproot them and pull them apart into several chunks. Replant into improved soil under shade (they enjoy morning sun). Fleshy berries following the flower clusters. Clivia-fans collect the berries, soak the flesh off in water overnight then sow into trays of seed-raising mix with fingers cross for new and amazing colours. They have to be patient though. New seedlings come up fairly quickly but may take up to seven years to flower, if at all.


New colours are appearing all the time, including almost-white, green, peach and apricot. Photo - Linda K. Ross


We love them with 

a tropical look alongside bromeliad patches, under similar-toned angel trumpet trees (Brugmansia) or with tropical favourites like Philodendron, gingers and hot-toned canna lilies such as ‘Bengal Tiger’. We also like sticking to a single colour and planting swathes of the same hybrid for impact. In cottage or Sydney-style gardens where the main spring tone is pink due to camellias and azaleas, they are much harder to use. The discord of pink azaleas with orange clivia gives us the wobbles. Use care, or try the cream hybrids.



Clivia lily caterpillar can be devastating. The striped, 6cm-long caterpillars can easily munch through a clump overnight. Use a caterpillar control such as Success as soon as you spot them. Breakouts of scale or mealy bug insects can be solved with EcoOil.


What else

Clivia dislike wet soil and will rot if they are planted too low (with necks undercover) or get too much water when dormant in winter – either via nature or the tap. Avoid the potential for bogginess by mounding up the soil and planting them ‘high’, with their necks in the air. Keep them dry, they come from South Africa remember!


Where to buy

Your local nursery. Mail orser specialists. Local specialists are Victoria Clivia Nursery, 1007 Old Northern Rd, Dural - in September trolleys display the treasure out the front of this good old-fashioned nursery.



Look at this more unusual green-tipped forest lily (Clivia nobilis). Not as spectacular as the showy miniata hybrids, these nonetheless have a certain droopy charm. Pendulous flowers hang low and are red or orange tipped with green. This plant is often seen as an indoor plant in the northern hemisphere. Photo - Linda K. Ross, Botanic Gardens Sydney


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross


In autumn, the warm borders at Cloudehill are dominated by the brilliant tones of the maples. Jeremy's ai in the borders is to have at least one plant at its best every week. Photo - Jeremy Francis

Jeremy Francis tells the story of his magnificent garden in ‘Cloudehill: A year in the garden’. 

In this extract he describes how a garden inspired by the golden days of Edwardian Arts and Crafts Design began to take shape in the rich moist soils of the Dandenong Ranges.


April 1992 was a perfect example of autumn in the Dandenongs. Still, dry days, an occasional overnight shower, but drier than any other season: the best time to begin a garden.

By the Tuesday after Easter we had the weed trees removed, special trees excavated to a safe place, and the slope cleared and measured, with string lines in place all in time for the arrival of a drot, or trackless bulldozer. After years of farming on exquisitely shallow soils, it was breathtaking to see the drot’s blade bite into the deep loam. Topsoil across the excavation was a good 30cm deep, dark chocolate in colour and with an open fluffy texture. The drot seemed to be slicing some sort of Bavarian confectionery. No pebbles could be seen; less than a wheelbarrow full of rocks was unearthed among the equivalent of truckloads of soil.


Photo - Robin Powell

The main terrace took several days to excavate. It was crucial that it be wide enough for our double borders, however the wider the terrace the higher (and more difficult and expensive) the retaining walls required, both above and below. The excavation was gradually carved out 11.5 metres wide, allowing for 1.5 metres for a hedge on the low side, 2 metres for a generous central path (including brick edging), and two borders of four metres each. I consulted my copy of Gertrude Jekyll’s ‘Colour in the English Garden’. She made her Munstead Wood border 14 feet deep. Four metres is almost 14 feet so I was satisfied; each border should have sufficient depth for several layers of plants from the front to the rear. Then the question became: how long could we make the various gardens?

My plan allowed for a terrace of 11 or 12 metres wide for some 90 metres across the block, then for a further 36 metres it could narrow to just three metres. We had to thread the narrow section of our terrace between big historic trees. On the lower side grew two magnificent beech trees: a tri-coloured beech, Fagus sylvatica ‘Roseomarginata’, and a fern-leaf beech, Fagus sylvatica ‘Heterphylla’, part of a shipment of trees brought to Australia in 1928. On the top side of the excavation site was a magnificent Magnolia kobus. Kobus has floppy little uninteresting flowers and is rare in gardens for this reason. However, its blooming also happens to be extraordinarily generous. At the end of its season petals (more accurately tepals in the case of this dinosaur plant) fall inches deep. Viewed from a distance it is arguably the finest of all magnolias.


Late autumn has Salvia leucantha flowering strongly against the dried stems of grasses and sedum. Photo - Jeremy Francis


Glancing through a book on Hidcote I noticed the length of its main terrace similar to our excavation. It seemed an omen except of course, we could never have the ethereal view from Hidcote’s final gate – the Vale of Evesham and the mountains of Wales. On reflection, this was mildly exasperating. The Silvan Valley, 400 metres below, rising tier on tier to the Gembrook Ranges on the skyline, had long since vanished behind our neighbour’s forest of mountain ash. With this nuisance in mind, I planned Cloudehill to be self-contained, with little structures at the ends of the main terrace facing each other; these could define the axis while masking the lack of any deep view of the immediate valley that one might hope for in a mountain garden.

Stone selected for building the dry stone retaining walls was volcanic, collected from farmland west of Melbourne, largely around the appropriately named district of Stony Rises. This extraordinary part of Victoria was formed by a lava flow dating back a mere 10,000 years; more-or-less last weekend in geological terms. The honeycomb stone we collected was a uniform dove-grey in colour, often enriched by the silver and green of colonising lichens and mosses. The rock’s sharp edges easily locked into a wall and its colour was a good neutral backdrop to flowers.


Autumn nights start to turn the leaves of the trees and hedges. Photo - Claire Takacs

By spring we were making progress. Major walls were now complete, and with the occasional mild sunny day in September, we noticed a warm look to our weeping maples: leaf buds were expanding, crimson sprays of foliage unfurling and the old trees stretching themselves into chocolate soil around their roots. In October the drot was back planting the many big rhododendrons that had been lifted from the ground in autumn and left in their root balls on the surface all winter. Later that same day we were all busily planting perennials from my collection of the previous 15 years.

Four weeks later, on Melbourne Cup long weekend, the gates of our carpark opened. The glorious Rhododendron nuttallii were heavy with white trumpet blossoms trailing honeysuckle-like perfume in the thick spring air, a superb Rhododendron ‘Ightham Yellow’ was vibrant with cool lemon bells, beech trees were in fresh leaf and hundreds of the late-flowering poet’s daffodil, Narcissus poeticus recurvus, were tossing their heads across the meadow. Perennials in the borders had filled in a little, penstemons were showing an occasional precocious flower and Delphinium ‘Volkerfrieden’ had unfurled tatters of azure. With some nervousness, we suggested to nursery visitors that, if they didn’t mind ramps of mud and gravel where there should be steps, they were welcome to wander into the beginnings of our garden.



‘Cloudehill: A year in the garden’, by Jeremy Francis, sold out its first printing. A second edition featuring additional photographs by Claire Takacs has just been published by Images Publishing, rrp $49.95

Text: Jeremy Francis

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Author: Jeremy Francis

Companion Planting 1

Borage. Photo - Valerie Giles/

Companion planting is about wisely using plants to reduce the work of the gardener. These are our favourite garden workers.

Borage is a friend to tomatoes, squash and strawberries. It deters tomato worm, attracts bees, produces loads of edible blue flowers and, best of all, improves growth and flavour of strawberries. Plant from seed or seedling now. Plants grow 1m x 1m.


Comfrey is revered by organic gardeners for its ability to feed flowering vegetables. Soak leaves in a bucket of water, then siphon off the ‘tea’ and use as a liquid feed over tomatoes, passionfruit, eggplant, citrus, strawberries and potatoes. Add the leaf waste to the compost as an enricher and activator. Plant from seed or plantlet. Plants die down in winter and grow 0.7x 0.7m. Available mailorder, if you don’t have a friend who can slip you a rooted piece.

Comfrey. Photo - Mark Hamblin/


Beans and peas have nitrogen-fixing root nodules that help improve the structure and nutrient profile of the soil as they grow. After the pea harvest grow nitrogen-loving leafy greens to make the most of the improved soil. Both running and dwarf beans can be planted in summer.


English marigolds (Calendula) are quick to get powdery mildew so we use them as an indicator plant. As soon as they are struck down we spray prone plants such as zucchini, pumpkins and tomatoes with Eco-fungicide. Marigold petals are fluorescent orange. We like them sprinkled over salads.


English Marigolds Calendula. Photo -


Garlic helps keep aphids away from ornamentals and edibles – as well as roses. It also repels cabbage white butterfly when planted around cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale. Don’t plant near peas and beans. Plant cloves in April, in groups around other seedlings. Harvest October – November.


Tree lucerne (Tagasaste) is a fast-growing ornamental shrub. On farms it’s used as a windbreak and nutritious green fodder for grazing animals; in the garden it can be coppiced to provide a nitrogen-rich mulch.


Pest repellers

+ dill attracts a predatory wasp that controls cabbage white butterfly

+ pyrethrum deters pests when planted around the vegetable garden

+ thyme protects cabbages and improves the taste of most vegetables. Plant it at the front of vegetable beds.


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Companion Planting 2


Photo -

We love any strategy that reduces human intervention in the vegetable garden. 

Here are a few of our favourite tips for creating a productive garden with less personal effort.

Confuse pests

An orderly vegetable patch can be a supermarket for pests. They wander up and down our neat ‘supermarket’ aisles, easily identifying food by shape or scent. Make hunting more challenging: don't plant straight rows of anything; mix plants so you don't have great blocks of any one shape or scent; plant flowers and herbs among the vegetables and vegetables among the flowers. The result is a pretty, pest-deceiving garden.


Protect plants

White cabbage moth is attracted to brassicas by their scent. Aromatic plants such as sage, dill, camomile, peppermint, rosemary, celery, onions, potatoes and dwarf zinnias are all useful in disguising this fragrance. As a bonus, dill attracts a wasp which controls white cabbage moth, and zinnias attract lady bugs to protect plants against sap-sucking aphids.


Attract help

Planting to attract beneficial insects to eradicate populations of pests is a wise strategy. Alyssum, for instance, attracts beneficial wasps. Nasturtiums secrete a mustard oil, which many insects find mouth-watering, particularly the white cabbage moth, so that it leaves your brassicas alone. As well, nasturtium flowers repel aphids and the cucumber beetle; and the climbing variety, when grown up apple trees, will repel codling moth. Garlic helps keep aphids away from roses and raspberries and repels cabbage moth. A border of chives between lettuce, peas and cucumbers will also help keep aphids at bay.


Grow fertiliser

Many plants take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil (more correctly, the bacteria associated with their roots do). You can use these plants as homegrown fertiliser to feed garden soils. Broad beans, peas, lucerne, sweet peas, lupins, clover and soy beans can all be used in this way. They will elevate levels of nitrogen in the soil, making it perfect for planting salad crops.  


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross



All too often gardeners start composting with great excitement and enthusiasm, only for interest to wane as the results disappoint. 

Here is a quick guide to help you produce the best compost in whatever composting bin you choose.

Vegetables grow best when enriched with home made compost. Photo -


Oxygen is crucial to a good brew. Turning the compost allows air into the pile to aid the process of decomposition. The importance of circulating oxygen is the reason its best to avoid adding materials such as grass clippings in bulk. These can mat together, preventing good air flow. Compost turning can be done with a fork or a specialised aerating tool shaped like a metal spiral. 


Composting is like baking in that to get a good result you need the right balance of ingredients. Composting is easier though because there are only two main ingredients: carbon and nitrogen. Aim for a ratio of these two ingredients of 25:1. To give you an idea, shredded newspaper is high in carbon, with a ratio of approximately 170:1 whilst green vegetable scraps are higher in nitrogen with a ratio of around 30:1. You can judge how the ratio is going by the texture of your mix. If the compost is soggy with green waste, buffer it with some shredded paper or dry leaves; if it is too dry add more leafy greens and soft prunings. Problems often occur when the ratio of ingredients is incorrect.

Bins lined with chicken wire are easy to build. Photo -


The ideal minimum volume for compost is 1m3. This size will generate sufficient heat to destroy weed seeds and speed up the composting process. Avoid adding weeds to smaller volumes of compost, as the seeds will survive the process. 


Compost should never be wet or dry, but should have the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. You may need to add water in summer as some composting units can dry out when temperatures are high. In times of high rainfall, cover the compost. 


It does not matter what ‘oven’ you cook your compost in as the compost that results is the same whether it is slow or fast cooked. Units with a larger capacity and good aeration generate the most heat and therefore kill off weeds more effectively and compost faster.


Composting is a naturally acidic process. Adding a handful of lime every now and then will aid in the decomposition of waste, encourage worm activity and discourage unwanted insect activity.

Heat is an essential part of the process. Photo - Marv Bondarowicz


Those with backyard chickens can use a layer of chook manure within the compost. Gardeners with access to cow manure can do the same. This enriches the compost and creates healthy rich soil. Never add dairy or too much manure though, as this can have a negative effect.

Accelerators and Activators

Commercially available compost accelerators add bacteria and fungi to the mix to help decomposition. Do it on the cheap by retaining some of your prior compost for inclusion in the next batch, or adding a bit of garden soil, which will also naturally contain these activators.


Choosing the right compost system


Features: A double insulated plastic unit with the addition of an internal “lung”, which allows air to penetrate the core of the compost, reducing composting time. A tap at the base of the unit allows leachate to be collected and applied to plants.

Ideal for: People wishing not to turn their compost manually, but instead let it aerate itself. The totally sealed construction is also vermin-proof.

RRP: $365


Rapid Compost Tumbler 310

Features: Durable plastic construction on a raised frame allows contents to be emptied directly into wheelbarrow. The side handle allows the drum to be easily rotated to aerate the contents.

Ideal for: Gardeners who produce larger amounts of green waste and wish to compost it as quickly as possible. The speed in which the unit works is governed by how frequently you turn it and the materials contained. This unit is also vermin-proof.

RRP: $450


Reln Worm Farm

Features: Plastic unit that is raised on legs allowing liquids to be easily collected. It is sealed against pests while still allowing worms to breathe

Ideal For: Balconies and units where space is limited and wastes are mainly food scraps. People with larger gardens will also need a compost bin for bulky waste and waste that is unsuitable for worms. If used correctly the unit should produce no unsavoury smells. The liquids produced can be diluted with water and applied as a fertilizer on pot plants.

RRP: $120 + Worms


Gedye Compost Bin

Features: This basic design sits on the ground and is one of the cheaper store-bought composting options. It can work as well as more expensive units, providing you turn it often using either a fork or other aerating implement.

Ideal for: Gardeners who move their compost bin around their gardens as they go. People wanting a cheaper alternative who are willing (even keen!) to turn their compost.

RRP: $49.95


Timber Bin

Features: The timber compost bin is the traditional choice. You can construct your own out of new or reclaimed materials in various styles. It can be several bays wide to accommodate various stages in the compost cycle. The ideal size of each bay is 1m square to generate the fastest, hottest compost.

Ideal for: People who have a little more room to spare and do not mind getting in amongst their brew.

RRP: $0 and upwards, depending on materials.


Metal Mesh Bin

Features: A very basic construction suitable for holding excess materials waiting to get into your compost bin. It can also operate as a compost bin in its own right.

Ideal for: gardeners with room to spare and plenty of materials to compost, looking for a cheap and easy method. The system works best if compost layers are added with care to balance the ingredients in the mix.

RRP: $15


Text: Sandra Ross

About this article

Author: Sandra Ross

Cool season vegetable guide


Many vegetable gardeners believe that the date to start planting cool season crops is on the first day of winter. Big mistake. The time to start winter crops is early autumn. 

While it can seem brutal to pull out summer crops that are still yielding dinners, you need to act now to catch the last of the warm weather. This will help kickstart winter crops. 

Quick-growing vegetables like bok choy will be ready to pick by May, others can be harvested throughout winter and into spring. Follow our tips to keep a family of four fed with delicious home-grown produce.

Asian greens

By: seedling, successive

How many: 6 seedlings per 1m row, 15cm apart. Every 4 weeks.

Time to harvest: 3-6 weeks

Yield: 1kg per plant

Tips: very quick crop. Harvest progressively by removing the outer leaves. 

The quickest crop around. Ready in weeks. Bok choy. Photo - Linda Ross


By: seed, successive

How many: 1 x 1m square, with a seed every 10 cm, to make 100 in the square. Every 6 weeks

Time to harvest: 12 weeks

Yield: 7kg per square metre

Tips: plant different colours, such as Golden, Chioggia (red and white stripe) and Bulls Blood individually, or purchase mixed heirloom seed packets.


Pulling our golden beetroot to roast during winter. Photo - Linda Ross


Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower

By: seedling, successive

How many: 6 plants of each. Every 6 weeks

Time to harvest: 14-16 weeks for cabbage and broccoli; 24 weeks for cauliflower

Yield: 1kg per plant

Tips: sprouting broccoli offers a larger, longer harvest than heading broccoli. Peg large leaves over developing cauliflower to avoid yellowing. Mix up red and white cabbage for interesting coleslaws.


Picking cauliflower is fun for the whole family. Photo - Linda Ross


Broad beans

By: seed, once only

How many: 4 x 1m squares, with 5 seeds in each of 5 rows

Time to harvest: 15 weeks

Yield: 350gms per plant

Tips: plant in blocks and ‘wall’ each square with bamboo stakes to keep plants upright during windy weather. Try dwarf varieties like ‘Coles Dwarf Prolific’ in windy locations. Ensure plenty of bee-attracting flowers in the garden for best yield.


The bounty. Photo - Linda Ross



By: seed, successive

How many: 1 x 1m square, with 15 seeds in each of 15 rows. Every 4 weeks

Time to harvest: 12-16 weeks

Yield: 40kg per square metre

Tips: sow different colours, such as Purple Haze, Chanteray, and white individually, or purchase mixed heirloom seed packets.


Just picked carrots. Photo - Linda Ross

Chervil and coriander

By: seed or seedling, once only

How many: 4 plants

Time to harvest: 4 weeks

Yield: pick leaves throughout autumn, winter and spring then save seed for next year.

Tips: these herbs love growing through the cool weather. They taste best when thrown into a meal at the last minute.


Chervil is often called the gardeners herb, its our favourite winter herb! Photo - Linda Ross


By: seedling, successive

How many: 1 x 1m square, with 5 seeds in each of 5 rows. Every 6 weeks

Time to harvest: 12-14 weeks

Yield: 15kg per square metre

Tips: plant high as bulbs will collect soil if planted too deep.


Sliced thinly or slow roasted, fennel is versatile and delicious. Photo - Linda Ross


By: clove, once only

How many: 50, planted in blocks, cloves 10cm apart

Time to harvest: 35 weeks

Yield: 50 bulbs

Tips: keep weed-free. Pull out in November and dry bulbs in the sun for two weeks before stringing up, ready for use. Keep the biggest cloves for replanting next April.


Purple garlic. Grow a yearly supply. Photo - Linda Ross


By: seedling, successive

How many: 9 plants every 6 weeks

Time to harvest: 3 weeks for non-hearting, 8 weeks for hearting

Yield: 500g per plant

Tips: try Cos, Butterhead and Mini Cos. A sprinkle of rocket seeds in the lettuce patch will keep you supplied through winter.


We love a quick green salad every night. Leafy greens grow quickly in winter. Photo - Linda Ross

Red onions

By: seedling, once only

How many: 40 seedlings in a 4m row, 10cm apart

Time to harvest: 32 weeks

Yield: 3kg

Tips: keep weed-free


Red onions. Photo - Linda Ross

Spring onions and leeks

By: seedling, successive

How many: 20 seedlings, 5cm apart in a 1m row. Every 4-6 weeks.

Time to harvest: 8-12 weeks

Yield: 1-2 kg per m

Tips: leeks and spring onions can be used throughout the cool weather when onions are unavailable and unlike onions can be planted successively.


A row of little leeks. We like to successionally plant leeks every month for continued supply. Photo - Linda Ross

Peas: snow, snap and podded

By: seedling, once only

How many: 1m row of each, or 1 tripod of 6 bamboo stakes, with two seeds per stake.

Time to harvest: 8 weeks

Yield: 3 kg per metre

Tips: can be grown in pots using a tepee. Watch out for fungal diseases such as powdery mildew. Spray with Eco-fungicide if necessary.


Podding peas waiting to be popped! Photo - Linda Ross

Rainbow Chard

By: seedling, once only

How many: 12 plants, 25cm apart

Time to harvest: 10 weeks

Yield: 2-3kg per metre

Tips: Quick-growing leafy green which performs well throughout the year. Harvest outer leaves. Liquid feed with seaweed.


Rainbow Chard grows easily during the winter. Pick outer leaves. Photo - Linda Ross


By: seedling, successive 

Number: 6 plants, 20cm apart. Every 6 weeks. 

Time to harvest: 10 weeks 

Yield: a 300g bulb plant 

Tips: purple varieties grow best through winter. Harvest when the stem is between golf ball and tennis ball size. Do not leave too long as bulbs get woody and tasteless.


Purple kohlrabi are really moorish, slice thinly and drizzle with lime juice, salt and pepper.Photo - Linda Ross

Where to buy

By seed: we use Yates, Greenpatch Organic Seeds, Green Harvest and Diggers seed companies.

By seedling: we look for Oasis seedlings at nurseries, and when we make it to our local farmers market, we load with organic seedlings from Patio Plants.         


Text: Linda Ross                  

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Correa 'Canberra Bells'

Photo - Plant Management Australia

Correa ‘Canberra Bells’ (Correa Hybrid)

Description: two-tone red and cream flowers brighten the garden through autumn and winter, and make the local birds happy too.

Size: one metre tall and wide.

Cultivation: happily grows in full sun to part shade in various soil types. Correas tolerate frost and dry spells but their blooms are better if moisture is kept up during flowering. Keep them looking good by lightly pruning in early spring. Apply a native controlled release fertiliser annually.

Special comments: this plant commemorates the Centenary of Canberra. Try it with Epacris, Crowea or a variegated Westringia in garden beds, or clip to create a formal border. Look out for a full range of Correa with slightly different colours and tones.


Text: Ally Jackson

About this article

Author: Ally Jackson

Cotswold Cottage Style


A handkerchief sized cottage garden showing clipped and freeform plants in perfect balance. The double-layered topiary piece is Euonymous fortunei  'Silver Queen'. Photo - Michael McCoy

Michael McCoy says the charm of its private gardens bolsters Bibury’s reputation as the most beautiful village in all England


Gardens speak volumes about their owners. If they’re owned or gardened by a committee or Trust, they’ll show it, often with bland non-individuality. When they’re owned and gardened by one only, they’re free to express all of that owner’s strengths, weaknesses, preferences and pure prejudices. This is gardening at it’s most personal, and most articulate.

England is full of such gardens. These aren’t the gardens with the big names. They are the countless cottage gardens, which though mostly nameless, are full to overflowing with character.


Arlington Row, perhaps the prettiest collection of cottages anywhere in England. The row started life as a monastic wool store and was converted to cottages in the 17th century. Photo - Linda Ross


All the better when they’re in a setting of such unselfconscious appeal as those in Bibury, in the Cotswolds. Bibury embraces Arlington, including Arlington Row, a row of 16th century weavers’ cottages that are unbelievably - almost absurdly - picturesque. William Morris, the great guru of the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century described Bibury as ‘the most beautiful village in England’. All the cottages are made of stone of that warm, honey colouring typical of the Cotswolds, and most are roofed with stone from the same source. The result looks as if it’s just grown there, or as if it’s emerged, spontaneously, from underground. And this setting of delicious visual unity is bulging with tiny cottage gardens.


Photo - Linda Ross

Ross Garden Tours visits Bibury each year on its tour of England, and has privileged access to a few of the oldest gardens in the area. But as we’ve walked about, from one to the other, or onto our lavish and quintessentially English afternoon tea in the village hall, we’ve peered over walls, around corners and down lanes to spot countless tiny gardens, all brimming with bloom, and all speaking of devoted, doting owners.


Photo - Linda Ross

There are gardens that are meticulously tended, the edges all crisp, the vegies in perfectly straight rows. There are free-spirited gardens, frothing about with romantic abandon. There are gardens in the prime of life, young and strong like their owners, and there are gardens moving quietly into gracious and characterful decay.

These gardens are the perfect ‘in-the-moment’ counter-point to a scene that hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years. In this phenomenally stable setting, plants come and go, great planting schemes are dreamt up and succeed spectacularly, or fail dismally, then just fade as the next generation moves in. Ancient stone sits in perfect balance with ephemeral annual.


A peek over a garden wall reveals a happy combination of flower colour and stone colour. Photo - Michael McCoy


We’ve not yet made it to the gardens around the trout farm, which look so enticing from the height of the coach windows, the lawns threatening to disappear beneath the luxuriant foliage of giant rhubarb (Gunnera sp), carpeted with candelabra primulas. But we’ve wandered along the back lanes and discovered miniscule gardens with eccentrically clipped shrubs, draping with clematis. We’ve ambled, by sheer chance, through the yard surrounding the Saxon Church (with parts dating back to the 8th Century, and more ‘modern’ additions from the 12th and 13th), to stumble on the long herbaceous borders, and eventually the impossibly lovely Jacobean facade of the Bibury Court Hotel. It’s all achingly beautiful, and all best seen on foot.


Photo - Linda Ross

It wouldn’t matter what time of year you visited, there’d be plenty to see. On a weekend towards the end of May several of the gardens are open for inspection and the Bibury Flower Show occurs in July each year (check for firm dates). If you land there in mid-winter, you could stick around for the Boxing Day duck race. Hundreds of individually sponsored rubber ducks are released into the crystal clear and rapidly flowing waters of the Coln River. The sponsor of the winner gets to choose which charity receives the proceeds. It’s a chilly event that thaws in the abundance of community warmth.

‘The most beautiful village in England’ is a big call, when villages of breathtaking beauty surround Bibury. Move on through the Cotswolds and you’ll find nary a cottage in the district without it’s attendant, idiosyncratic and quietly inspiring garden.


A closer look at a combination of plants that would be just as happy in Astralia as in England: a lemon -coloured dwarf bearded iris with Vinca major 'Variegata' and a euphorbia, probably E. hyberna. Photo - Michael McCoy


Not far away is Hidcote Manor

The Cotswolds is home to many renowned gardens, the best-known being Hidcote Manor where Major Lawrence Johnston pioneered his ‘garden’ room design philosophy. We love the way this complex series of garden spaces is revealed as you explore: at no one point can you see it all. The garden progresses through the seasons like the movements of a symphony. Layers of plantings in are revealed in sequence. The famous red borders, said to be the first single-coloured borders in England are a good example. In early spring red tulips are followed by red-flowered rhubarb, then red geum and poppies, followed by red roses, then cannas, salvias and daylilies, and finally dahlias. While you swoon over the heart-stopping intensity of the colour against the contrasting deep green hedges, you also admire the outstanding standard of the horticulture.

From Gardens of the World, by Graham, Sandra & Linda Ross (New Holland)


Photo - Linda Ross

See for yourself

The Costwolds is a range of hills in the Gloucestershire district of south-west England. The main town in the district is Cirencester. Bibury is about 10km from Cirencester. You can take the train from London, about 1 ½ hours, but it’s easiest to drive yourself so you can explore the other villages in the area, and head out just our of the region to Stratfrod-upon Avon in the north, Oxford in the east and Bath to the south-west. For more information, go to and for details of other gardens you can see in the Cotswolds go to


Mmmm. Time for a cuppa with the Bibury Garden Club.


Photo - Linda Ross

Text: Michael McCoy

About this article

Author: Michael McCoy

Country life

A romantically pretty country garden, on the edge of the city. That’s the dream of the owners of The Old Vicarage in London’s Petersham.

Find out how they made it a reality in this excerpt from Great Gardens of London.



Words: Victoria Summerley
Photos: Hugo Rittson Thomas

The Old Vicarage was built in 1899 as the vicarage of All Saints Church in the little village of Petersham. Its owners?had always wanted a country garden – something that was verging on wilderness and in which there had been as little intervention in the way of chemicals as possible. Altogether the garden extends to 1.25 hectares– very large for a London garden, even in a suburb such as Petersham.

The garden around the house is a Cutting Garden,?a feature that is normally tucked away out of sight along with the garden shed and greenhouse. Here, Mary Keen and Pip Morrison of Designed Landscapes created rectangular beds within a framework of herringbone brick paths,?which imposes a formality on the billowing beds of flowers and vegetables.

A picket fence painted in a subtle off-white encloses this part of the garden, while a long herringbone brick path leads down to the main gate through a meadow, lined on either?side by an avenue of heirloom apple trees. The long path?helps relate the rest of the garden to the area around the house, and to retain a sense of scale.

At the rear of the house, a generous terrace reverses the design, with herringbone rectangles set in a grid of stone paving, echoing the beds at the front. Grecian pots and an old washing copper provide informal containers, while roses and clematis climb the walls of the house.


Vegetable patch

There are two changeovers in the cutting beds each year, explains head gardener Matt Collins. Spring bulbs such?as daffodils and tulips make way for summer bedding such as dahlias, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) and cosmos amid cranesbill (Geranium) and salvias. In winter, the beds are left bare until the first bulbs come up; meanwhile, the design of the hard landscaping provides pattern and interest of its own.

Right at the front, in pride of place by the garden gate,?is the vegetable patch, with runner beans, chard and zucchini edged with nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) and calendula.

The overall effect is unapologetically pretty and incredibly colourful. It looks a little bit like Monet’s paintings of his garden at Giverny – relaxed, sunny, informal, productive. The notions of ‘good taste’ and colour coordination become irrelevant; the impact depends on a happy jumble of flowers.



Winter scent

Behind the house, two all-weather rattan loungers sit in the shade of a large black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). They have a grandstand view of the football goal on the other side of the lawn, while behind them a grass path leads through a Winter Garden, where the scent of winter-flowering shrubs such as mahonia and sweet box (Sarcococca) can linger in the green corridor formed by neighbouring trees and shrubs. There are foxgloves (Digitalis) here too, as well as periwinkle (Vinca), Geranium phaeum and hellebores, while spotted laurels (Aucuba japonica) give the impression of dappled sunlight.

A spectacular tree house – more of a village than a single dwelling – dominates the back of the garden, which in late spring is a blur of pink, white, yellow and blue. Pink campion (Silene), cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) and alkanet (Alkanna tinctoria) grow with wild abandon, and Collins simply outlines paths with logs and keeps them trimmed to make walking easier.

Originally, there were elms (Ulmus), but these were lost when Dutch elm disease took hold in the 1970s. In their place are robinias, a North American native which thrives in London and shrugs off pollution. They sucker like mad, so are not a choice for a small garden.


Wildlife habitat

There is always something moving in?The Old Vicarage garden: the twitch of a squirrel’s tail as it runs up a tree, the flicker and rustle of a robin or blackbird investigating the leaf litter, or the restless quiver of a dragonfly poised above the pond.

The owners’ Buff Orpington chickens, which live in a run near the shed and compost heaps, also seem to enjoy the chance to return to their jungle fowl roots, scratching contentedly among the shrubs and trees. They seem to epitomize the rural ambience that Mary Keen, Pip Morrison and the owners of The Old Vicarage have managed so successfully to foster here.


Extract from ‘Great Gardens of London’ by Victoria Summerley. Photographs by Marianne Majerus and Hugo Rittson Thomas (Frances Lincoln) distributed by Murdoch Books.

About this article

Author: Victoria Summerley

Courtyard Makeover


French dressing


This courtyard makeover matches the style of a Parisian café with the colours of rural France to create a charming space. Linda Ross tells how the space translated blah to ooh la la!




In small spaces it’s important think big. One big idea will give the garden a focus. You can personalise it by harmonising every element into the ‘big idea’ and so long as you don’t stray from your theme and it will all come together. Simplicity is the secret. The owners of this garden wanted the style of a Parisian café. Essential ingredients for the look include iron furniture, terracotta urns of lemons and lavender and fabric that reinforces the French theme.

With the grand idea decided upon, other issues need to be addressed: shade, sun, privacy, screens, fences, uses, levels, plants, kids’ needs, pets, access and furniture. We decided to divide our 9m x 3m courtyard into thirds. Two matching lawn areas, allowing people to move out and children to play, balance our central 3m x 3m paved area.


Central cafe style seating. Photo - Linda Ross


Sometimes it’s hard to visualise the fragmented jigsaw pieces of the garden design together. We like to shop with a digital camera. At home download the images so you can see what goes with what. Print them out. This will help you make the right decisions.  



The basis of our courtyard design is a central paved square. A grid pattern was overlaid onto the floor of the courtyard; paving squares were laid and Greek oregano and peppermint were planted between the squares. The paving makes up only a third of the whole space, the rest being grassed. A small square of grass is essential even in small courtyards – it’s much softer than paving and can be trimmed easily with a hand mower. Grass reduces glare and helps to green the scene.



A feature pot sits in each corner of the paved square. These egg-shaped, ceramic pots are planted up with simple topiary spheres to give a symmetry and formality to the courtyard. We chose the lemon-yellow glaze to fit our colour scheme and match the lemon-yellow daisies. We painted the timber screen to match the pots.

A row of ribbed terracotta urns enhances the Mediterranean flavour. Simply planted with citrus, they help to disguise the fence. Potted lavender offset the urns.



Harmonise your courtyard design by matching every element with your ‘big idea’. Ribbed terracotta urns are planted up with daisies, lavendula and citrus. Photo - Linda Ross 



A round lemon mosaic table is the main feature of our garden. It is matched with four iron chairs and a decorative arch that hangs on the fence. This table fits well with our feature pots. The arched screen on the wall also fits with our ‘big idea’. Simple charcoal chairs have a sophisticated curve that matches the curve of the arch.



French gardens don’t have to be red, white and blue. These colours come from the landscapes of rural France; fields of lavender and sunflowers. Lemon and lavender are contrasting colours that work well together. Matching the green pots with green plates, lemon pots with lemon daisies, and potted citrus with a bowl of lemons on the table helps knit the garden together – c’est chic!


Our French café style setting is super-stylish with the feature mosaic table providing the centrepiece. Photo - Linda Ross

Plant care

The lemon is an important theme in this garden, as a colour, a motif and a fruiting plant, and we combined lemons with other citrus. Citrus grow throughout Australia, but some dislike frosty conditions so check with your local nursery before selecting one for your area. They grow well in pots in a sunny area of the garden providing they are well fed (every season with citrus food) and well-watered (twice a week during summer). ‘Meyer’ lemons are best for pots, particularly one called ‘Lots of Lemons’ a dwarf shrub growing to 1.5m high.

We under-planted our citrus with lemon ‘Federation’ daisies; but herbs or annual flowers would work just as well. Feed with a soluble fertiliser, such as Thrive for Flowering plants every two weeks to keep your potted flowers happy and healthy and flowering well. Trim off spent flowers to encourage more. Herbs prefer a liquid seaweed solution. Don’t overfeed them or they will lose their flavour.


Herbs (thyme and parsley) at eye level. Charming! Photo - Linda Ross 

Action plan

1. Remove old grass

2. Level the courtyard so the new grassy areas and courtyard will be flat

3. Spray paint the fence a soft 'French' green colour

4. Go shopping!

5. Add four paving squares with terracotta pavers

6. Plant feature pots in the corners with topiary spheres

7. Hang a feature screen on the fence

8. Build a feature timber screen to add privacy and paint in soft lemon

9. Pot up citrus, lavender and yellow daisies

10. Level, feed and lay the lawn

11. Dress the space with furniture, chairs and table setting



These gorgeous French ceramic pots are simply stunning with topiary spheres. Photo - Linda Ross 


Planting list

Lemon ‘Meyer’

Lime ‘Tahitian’

Orange ‘Washington Navel’

Grapefruit ‘Ruby’

Mandarin ‘Emperor’

Federation daisy ‘Sunjay’

Lavender ‘Winter Lace’

Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Hirtum’)

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)


Text: Linda Ross


About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Creating Inspiring Gardens

Photo - Michael McCoy, from 'The Gardenist', published by Pan MacMillan

Michael McCoy says a garden shouldn’t just look good, but feel good. Creating it is simple: make a great space, then decorate it. Could it be that easy?


Our habit leans towards thinking of gardens primarily in terms of a series of visual features, as some landscapers do (‘let’s put a water feature here and a summerhouse over there’), or as a collection of favourite plants, as many home gardeners do. In order to look at gardens in a different way altogether, sans flowers and features, I’ve often imagined them with a great white sheet thrown over them, obscuring all the detail, and reducing them to nothing but amoeboid sculpture – deep, shadowy caves and swelling protuberances.

I’ve also imagined burrowing into dense forest with a chainsaw and ‘carving’ out a series of spaces – some vast, and others about as wide as the trees are tall, connected by tunnels and avenues – in order to get a grip on the ‘feel’ of unadulterated, undecorated space. When creating a garden, we are usually going the other way - adding solid plantings to an empty space, but dreaming of being able to do the opposite can revolutionise our thinking.

In these methods, by which we tease out the truth that spaces are possibly the most powerful element in garden design, it is obvious that in most gardens larger than the tiniest of inner-city courtyards, the job of defining garden spaces is primarily done by plants. Built elements such as garden walls, trellises and pergolas may also help, but plants provide most of the space-defining power.


Looking through a narrow aperture exaggerates the sense of the openness beyond. Photo - Michael McCoy, from 'The Gardenist', published by Pan MacMillan


Defining space

Some plants are clearly more capable of defining space than others. Big, tall plants have more influence over the spatial ‘feel’ of a garden, so trees are clearly more useful in this role than diminutive alpines. Shrubs are next in line for space-defining power.

After sheer size, the next most important characteristic of plants or plantings used as space definers is permanence. In most climates, the structural or space-defining work must be done by the woody plants. The situation is slightly different in tropical and subtropical climates where some herbaceous plants, such as the gingers, have permanent presence and reach gargantuan proportions, making them appropriate contributors to structural planting.

The woody plants make up the virtual walls of our outdoor spaces, and usually even suggest a ceiling over our heads with their spreading canopies. While they often make a secondary contribution to the garden in the form of decoration, their major contribution is always to the structural planting that maps out the garden spaces – the ‘shell’ that captures and holds the volume we inhabit.


Photo - Michael McCoy, from 'The Gardenist', published by Pan MacMillan

Decorating space

The role of most non-woody pants – including herbaceous perennials, bulbs, annuals and biennials, is primarily decorative. If the structure is the equivalent of the walls and the ceiling of our outdoor spaces, then these plants make up the soft furnishings, the colour scheme and the prints hanging on the walls. They add enormously to the beauty of the garden, animating it with flowers, foliage, botanical interest and seasonality, but they are incapable of providing its fundamental structure. Trying to use them to do so would be the equivalent of attempting to construct a whole house out of cushions.

Using the analogy of house design helps to define the role of each of the plant groups, but it’s also helpful in forcing us to look and think beyond using our favourite plants when considering how to put a garden together. By understanding that there are distinct roles among the plant groups, it’s clear that each of the roles needs to be filled, whether we have any favourites in each plant group or not. You need the walls and ceiling and floor, even if your interest doesn’t kick in until you are making decoration decisions.


Photo - Michael McCoy, from 'The Gardenist', published by Pan MacMillan

Know your strengths

I’m firmly of the belief that gardens are at their most satisfying when they’re equally strong in their handling of both the visual and spatial pleasures, but that doesn’t mean that we as gardeners need to be equally good at first visualising, then defining, then decorating our garden spaces. What’s useful is to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. If plants are what you are good at, don’t be afraid to call in a designer and request a basic layout that allows you to play with plants to your heart’s content. If, on the other hand, you are confident in the idea of spatial relationships, or basic design, then do the layout yourself and get a designer (or better still, a hands-on gardener) to provide you with a planting plan.

Having said all that, it’s not likely that any of us have reached the limit of our capacity in either area. The intention of my book is to sit right on the fence focussing equally on the creation of good spaces, and the decoration of those spaces – the same approach we should take in our gardens.




This is an edited extract from ‘The Gardenist’ by Michael McCoy, published by Macmillan. Ross Garden travellers will be familiar with Michael, who is a regular tour host. When he’s at home he’s a garden designer, writer and photographer who is passionate about uncovering the secrets to making a garden that looks beautiful and feels so good you never want to leave. You can read his musings at 

Text: Michael McCoy

About this article

Author: Michael McCoy

Crepe Myrtle

Photo - Ngoc Minh Ngo/


Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

We think the Indian Summer crepe myrtles are simply the world’s best summer-flowering trees. Intense flower colour, a long flowering season, good autumn colour, handsome bark and attractive spring foliage mean they enjoyed in all seasons. Each of the Indian Summer cultivars is named after an American Indian tribe, and they range in size from around 3-6m fully grown. Select the height you need so you don’t have to prune which spoils the arching elegance of the mature tree.


Description: The 'Indian Summer' range of crepe myrtle consists predominantly of deciduous trees to small shrubs that are robust and very rewarding. Crepe Myrtle's are popular due to their beautiful crepe-paper textured flowers that appear throughout summer. Improved varieties have bigger flower heads and longer flowering period with a resistance to powdery mildew (common to older varieties). Flowers come in a variety of colours, from deep reds, to hot pinks, purples and white.

Foliage: Most varieties colour well in autumn with leaf colours ranging from bright red, deep maroon, vibrant yellow, pink and burnt orange, all on the one tree.

Bark: The bark is also beautiful, exfoliating early summer to revealing bold, gnarled, sinuate and twisted trunk in mottled colours.

Size: Dependent on variety. Range from 8m – 9m high trees to 2m – 3m high shrubs. Width is generally reflective of height. Small shrubs have a width of 1m – 2m and larger trees being 5m – 7m.

Special Comments: Crepe myrtle offers a wide selection of colours, shapes and sizes. Plants are generally very hardy and have multiple uses. Many varieties are also available as bare rooted stock in winter.

Care: Water plants regally until established. Provide well draining, fertile soil that is rich in compost. Plant in a full sun position for best results.

Flowers: Will last from 60 - 90 days depending on the cultivar. When the flower starts to age, cut it immediately below the head so that the shoots down the stem at each leaf can open and the next flower heads can develop. This can be repeated over three to four months. A light prune in autumn or winter (just to remove the finished flowers only) will result in many more flowers next summer.

Use: Plants look outstanding on mass, planted along a fence line or driveway. Crepe myrtle makes a perfect edition to backyards as a single specimen plant and is widely used in council strips and common areas.

Troubleshooting: Past varieties of crepe myrtle are known to be susceptible to powdery mildew. This has been largely corrected due to plant breeding and plant selection. Some varieties can ‘sucker’ and may require maintenance.

Crepe myrtle is often produces as ether a ‘bush’ form or a ‘tree’ form. Bush forms are those that have been left to develop into their natural shape. Little to no pruning is performed in this case. This creates a more natural look, although less flowering heads are produced.

Tree forms are those that have been carefully pruned to provide a more ‘formal’ product. A more distinguished trunk is created through this method. More abundant flower heads develop as a result of pruning.



'Acoma'. Pure white flowers. 3m high – 3m wide.

'Biloxi'. Pale Pink flowers. 7m high – 5m wide.

'Lipan’. Lavender flowers. 4m high – 3 wide.

'Natchez'. Superb white flowering. 8m high – 6m wide.

'Sioux’. Hot pink flowers. 4m high – 3m wide.

'Tonto’. Pink to red flowers. 3m high – 3m wide.

'Tuscarora’. Dark fuchsia pink flowers. 6m high - 4m wide.

'Yuma'. lavender flowers. 4m high – 3m wide.


'Zuni'. Dark lavender flowers. 4m high – 3m wide.


'Fantasy'. White flowers. 9m high – 8m wide

 'Kiowa'. Pure white flowers. 8m high – 7m wide.

'Townhouse'. White flowers. 8m high – 8m wide.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross

Crepes Suzette

Hello Sunday morning. Photo -

Light crepes bathed in a warm, sweet orange sauce heady with liqueur, served on a dramatically flaming dish: no wonder this is such a famous dessert! Never tried it for yourself? Now’s the time.


The original Crepe Suzette was made in 1895 at Monte Carlo’s Café de Paris by a 14-year-old assistant waiter called Henri Carpentier.  

One night when he was serving liquored pancakes to a table headed by the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward, the alcohol caught fire and the crepes in the pan where engulfed in flame. Henri thought his career was over before it had begun, but the accidental flaming brought the various flavours in the sauce together and the result was a great success, one taste of which he says ‘would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman’. Try civilizing the cannibals in your household with this.


What you need:


100g plain flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

300ml milk

50g butter

Zest of half an orange



100g caster sugar

35g unsalted butter

150ml fresh orange juice

Zest of one orange

Juice and zest of half a lemon

3 tbs Grand Marnier or Cointreau

2 tbs brandy, to flame

cream, to serve


What to do:

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and whiz to combine. Stir the eggs into the milk then add to the flour and process to form a smooth batter.

Melt the butter in a small frypan and add two tablespoons to the batter, mixing well. Pour the rest of the butter into a small bowl and use it to grease the pan between crepes. Pour the batter into a jug, and let sit for 30 minutes.

Put the frying pan on medium-high heat and brush with melted butter. Check that the batter has the consistence of thin cream – add more milk if necessary. Pour in enough batter to just cover the base of the hot pan and cook for 1-2 minutes until base of the crepe is lightly browned.

Flip and cook the other side, then repeat with the rest of the mixture, keeping the crepes warm on a plate laid on top of a pot of simmering water. (The first crepe of a batch is usually a mess and may need to be discarded.)

To make the sauce first mix together the juices, zest, sugar and Grand Marnier. Melt the butter in the pan, then add the sauce, and heat gently to dissolve the sugar.

Add a crepe to the pan and let it warm in the sauce, then fold twice to form a triangle and place on a warm serving plate. Continue with the rest of the crepes and pour any remaining sauce over the top.

To flame the crepes, heat the brandy in a small saucepan, pour over the crepes, and light with a long match. Serve once the flame has died, with cream.


Serves 6

Text: Robin Powell


About this article

Author: Robin Powell

Crop Rotation


Passionate vegetable gardeners and those looking for a holistic approach will want a way of rotating their crops for maximum benefit, health and harvest. 

We use the 4 bed year rotation because we have 4 beds and its easy to remember what goes into what.  

Heavy feeders such as leaf crops, corn and cabbage, deplete the soil and should be followed by a legume that improves it. And crop rotation does reduce the build up of pathogens caused by planting the same crop in the same soil.


Oh to have the space for such a intensive patch! Photo - Linda Ross


What is it?

Crop rotation is all about planting groups of similar vegetables together in a different part of the garden each year. By following a crop rotation system these pests and diseases can't build up in the soil. The whole process benefits all vegetable types and your soil.

Why do it? 

It breaks the cycle of disease and pests organically in your vegetable garden and gives different crops the soil conditions they like. Crop rotation moves vegetable groups from one bed to another each year, so start by dividing your vegetables up into four groups!

Bed 1: LEGUMES peas, beans and broad beans

Bed 2: LEAVES such as lettuce, spinach and chard can be grown anytime

Bed 3: FRUITING Sweet corn and curcurbits (pumpkins, squash, cucumber, zucchini and even watermelons/melons. By autumn the crops in this bed have usually been harvested so you can grow a quick green manure like clover before the next warm weather growing season. Summer - FRUITS or the acid lovers such as tomatoes, capsicums (bell peppers), chillies and eggplants.

Bed 4: ROOTS - carrots, parsnips and beetroot and those that belong to the allium family (onions, garlic and leeks)



Picking purple heads of sprouting broccoli. Photo - johnbraid/ 


When to rotate? 

The timing for when you rotate each bed varies depending on when you planted the vegetables out and your local conditions. In cool and temperate climates such as Sydney tomatoes/cucumbers etc are killed off by frosts.

Over time the soil in your beds will gradually become more acidic which suits the way each vegetable group is rotated. By the time you rotate the tomatoes, eggplants and capsicums into the bed in their fifth year the soil will ideally suit their acidic nature. That doesn't mean you will have to wait 5 years to get your crops. It just means the soil will suit them even better as the years go by. A few weeks before you get to the end of the season in autumn sprinkle a good handful or two of lime or dolomite into each square metre of your tomato bed. This will sweeten the soil preparing the bed for the lime loving onions, garlic and leeks. The other vegetable families are then rotated behind the onions. 


Leafy greens. Photo - Shebeko/


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Cruden Farm

Dame Elisabeth always used the side entrance to her house, which is hidden here behind a garden bed filled with burgundy, purple and silver highlights. Photo - Robin Powell

Sandra Ross fulfilled a long-held dream when she and a group of our travellers were given a private tour of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch’s serenely beautiful garden.


I fell in love with the lemon-scented gum (Eucalyptus citriodora) when I first saw photographs of Cruden Farm’s avenue as a student of horticulture in the 1970s. Photographs show something other-worldly in the verticals of the white trunks and the way the light seems to pool in a misty way at the base of the trees. It was a great thrill for me to visit Cruden Farm and finally walk this avenue myself on a beautiful spring afternoon last year.

The farm, with its cottage and garden was a wedding present from Keith Murdoch to his 19-year-old bride and Dame Elisabeth lived most of her long life here. It’s a wonderful treat to see a garden that was 80 years in the making, under the guiding hand of one indomitable woman. Dame Elisabeth was unable to greet us as she’d wanted to, as a broken leg had kept her housebound and Michael Morrison was waiting at the gatehouse to greet our Ross tour group. Michael began working in the garden in 1971 and he and Dame Elisabeth made a formidable team. A few weeks after our visit, we were saddened to hear of the peaceful death of Dame Elisabeth, who was a truly inspiring Australian.


Lovely long lawn flanked with flower borders. Photo - Robin Powell


Taking the long view

Edna Walling contributed a design for the garden in 1929, and the magnificent 300m long avenue of lemon-scented gums is one of the remaining vestiges of her design. The avenue leads to the round lawn and the front facade of the house with its soaring columns echoed by great old trees. Many of the now mature trees were planted and nurtured by Elisabeth as a young woman, and you have to admire her foresight. There are not many 20 year-olds able to take the long view that planting slow-growing trees requires. Waking at dawn, she would pump water and move hoses to nurture the young saplings. The extraordinary reward has been to watch these trees mature. They now form a wonderfully detailed backdrop in which the white-painted house is partly hidden and the garden can shine.One such tree is a rare oak, planted in 1931 and now registered by the National Trust on the significant tree register. It’s called Quercus x ‘Firthii’, after the Mount Macedon forester who grew it.


Sandra walks the famous, and much copied, avenue of lemon-scented gums. Photo - Robin Powell


Michael tells us the story of this wonderful tree then leads us on a walk around the garden. We start at the front garden, which is actually at the side of the house. Dame Elisabeth always used the side entrance to the garden rather than the grand entrance through the columned portico. The rose ‘Paul’s Scarlet Climber’, planted by Dame Elisabeth in the late 1920s, still drapes this side entrance. The garden beds here were extended when a new gatehouse was built for Dame Elisabeth’s 90th birthday. Dramatic dark foliages are the feature of these borders, including Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’, Berberis atropurpurea and smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Purpurea’). They contrast with the soft purple heads of eupatorium and the great blue spires of echium. A splendid Betchel crabapple (Malus ioensis ‘Plena’) is the spring highlight of these borders. 


A mirror to the sky

As we turn behind this garden we are surprised by a magnificent vista across a lake fringed with yellow iris and backed by a tapestry of trees. The lake is part of a drought-proofing plan that saw Dame Elisabeth convert, and significantly deepen, the farm dam. Two additional dams were built in the following decade and they provide a reliable source of water for the garden, as well as mirroring the surrounding trees, the sky and its scudding clouds.


The lake is fringed with yellow flag iris and backed by a tapestry of deciduous trees. Photo - Robin Powell


A row of American pin oaks lines the far shore of the lake. These have been grown from acorns from the large pin oak near the house, and were planted by Dame Elisabeth’s grandchildren. Nyssa (American tupelo), scarlet oaks and liquidambars add their autumn colour to this green belt. In the lake field beyond, thousands of daffodils, jonquils and bluebells are a mass of flower in early spring. Recently the boundary fence in this lake field has been pushed back and a new post and rail fence that beautifully follows the contours of the hills has been built at the suggestion of Dame Elisabeth’s granddaughters. Each grandchild has planted trees here on the perimeter of the property, which is still a working beef cattle farm. The trees will provide screening from a proposed new freeway (what was countryside when Keith Murdoch bought the farm is now part of the commuter corridor of the Mornington Peninsula) and a wildlife corridor.


A turfed stone bridge crosses the lake. Photo - Robin Powell


For the picking

Of course, a flower-filled house needs a cutting garden, so Dame Elisabeth planted the vegetable garden with roses, honeysuckle, delphiniums and foxgloves. A magnificent hedge of eleagnus serves as a backdrop for this flower garden. Coloured foliages are also picked for arrangements, including the copper and tricolour beeches that are such a feature of the garden in spring.


Dame Elisabeth converted the vegetable garden to a picking garden with roses, honeysuckle, delphiniums and foxgloves. Photo - Robin Powell


Another remnant of Edna Walling’s original design is the walled garden. This garden was originally planted with roses, which proved to be unsuitable because of the heat trapped within the walls. It is now planted with summer flowering perennials; asters, thalictrum, hostas and delphiniums. A mature crabapple at one end of the garden is thought to have been planted by Edna. Walling’s signature curved steps are still in place too, at the rear of the house near the new rose garden. As with most Walling gardens, these steps are softened with erigeron daisy.

As the afternoon faded and we had to say goodbye, I took the opportunity to take one last walk down that wonderful avenue of lemon-scented gums.


What a trifecta - echium, flax and Blue mist flower, Eupatorium. Photo - Robin Powell 

Text: Sandra Ross


About this article

Author: Sandra Ross


Cool as a cucumber is the taste of summer.



Cucumbers have been cultivated for centuries, with records dating back to 2000 BC in Mesopotamia. Closer to home, cucumbers have been in Australian gardens since the late 18th century, first grown in Sydney by the Reverend Richard Johnson, who sailed with the First Fleet.



Plant seedlings at this time of year. Select a position with well-drained soil which receives sun for most of the day. They do well in the shade of corn or sunflowers, and also grow well with beans and tomatoes. Enrich the soil two weeks before planting by digging in manure, blood and bone and well-aged compost.

Provide some kind of support to keep the fruit off the ground. Though they can be grown horizontally as a ground cover, we think the best results are when they are grown vertically as a climber, which reduces the risk of fungal infections and encourages straighter fruit. We like to grow them over an arched walkway made from bent bamboo and rolls of lightweight wire. If you are growing in a raised garden bed or Vegepod, plant your cucumbers on the edge so they can trail down the sides.




Flowers closely resemble those of pumpkin and zucchini, with both male and female flowers. Identify the female flowers by the swollen ovary at the base of the bloom. Encourage bees to visit and pollinate the female flowers to ensure the development of fruit. Borage will do the trick!




Once each plant gets to the top of the support structure, pinch out the growing tips to encourage branching. Cucumbers will thrive in warm weather, and they will need plenty of food and regular drinks to keep them going. Dress the soil with a good controlled release fertiliser such as Rooster Booster and apply a liquid fertiliser like Harvest or Potash every few weeks to ensure maximum yield. Your plants will be growing so vigorously they may need some help using the provided support. Lift any scrambling vines and guide them up on to the structure.




Pick your cucumbers as soon as they are ripe, usually around 15-20cm long depending on the variety. Picking will encourage the plant to produce new fruit.




'White Spine' - oblong fruit with smooth white skin and good flavour.

'Long White' - white fruit to 18cm in length, non-acidic.

'Lebanese' - common supermarket variety, quality fruit and very productive.

'Double Yield' - can produce more than 17kg per plant!

'German Pickling' - harvested young for pickling, or at 20cm to eat fresh.

'Crystal Apple' - compact plant with cream-coloured, apple-shaped fruit

'Mini White' - abundantwhite, 10cm fruit.

'Space Master' - compact, won't take over the garden!


Pests and Diseases

Aphids, whitefly and red spider mite can be prevented by spraying eco-oil. Set beer traps to catch pesky slugs and snails. Protect against leaf fungal diseases such as powdery mildew by spraying with eco-fungicide.

Photo credit: Luisa Brimble

About this article

Author: Linda Ross


Cool as a cucumber is the taste of summer.



Cucumbers have been cultivated for centuries, with records dating back to 2000 BC in Mesopotamia. Closer to home, cucumbers have been in Australian gardens since the late 18th century, first grown in Sydney by the Reverend Richard Johnson, who sailed with the First Fleet.



Plant seedlings at this time of year. Select a position with well-drained soil which receives sun for most of the day. They do well in the shade of corn or sunflowers, and also grow well with beans and tomatoes. Enrich the soil two weeks before planting by digging in manure, blood and bone and well-aged compost.

Provide some kind of support to keep the fruit off the ground. Though they can be grown horizontally as a ground cover, we think the best results are when they are grown vertically as a climber, which reduces the risk of fungal infections and encourages straighter fruit. We like to grow them over an arched walkway made from bent bamboo and rolls of lightweight wire. If you are growing in a raised garden bed or Vegepod, plant your cucumbers on the edge so they can trail down the sides.




Flowers closely resemble those of pumpkin and zucchini, with both male and female flowers. Identify the female flowers by the swollen ovary at the base of the bloom. Encourage bees to visit and pollinate the female flowers to ensure the development of fruit. Borage will do the trick!




Once each plant gets to the top of the support structure, pinch out the growing tips to encourage branching. Cucumbers will thrive in warm weather, and they will need plenty of food and regular drinks to keep them going. Dress the soil with a good controlled release fertiliser such as Rooster Booster and apply a liquid fertiliser like Harvest or Potash every few weeks to ensure maximum yield. Your plants will be growing so vigorously they may need some help using the provided support. Lift any scrambling vines and guide them up on to the structure.




Pick your cucumbers as soon as they are ripe, usually around 15-20cm long depending on the variety. Picking will encourage the plant to produce new fruit.




'White Spine' - oblong fruit with smooth white skin and good flavour.

'Long White' - white fruit to 18cm in length, non-acidic.

'Lebanese' - common supermarket variety, quality fruit and very productive.

'Double Yield' - can produce more than 17kg per plant!

'German Pickling' - harvested young for pickling, or at 20cm to eat fresh.

'Crystal Apple' - compact plant with cream-coloured, apple-shaped fruit

'Mini White' - abundantwhite, 10cm fruit.

'Space Master' - compact, won't take over the garden!


Pests and Diseases

Aphids, whitefly and red spider mite can be prevented by spraying eco-oil. Set beer traps to catch pesky slugs and snails. Protect against leaf fungal diseases such as powdery mildew by spraying with eco-fungicide.

Photo credit: Luisa Brimble

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Cuttings from the Garden World

Open house

Remember how many bugs died on the car windscreen when you were a kid? The clean windscreens of today are a grim reminder of declining insect populations. One way to help reverse the trend is to make your garden insect-friendly. Lay off the chemicals and invite insect guests to make a home in your garden. We like Mr Fothergill’s Bee and Insect House kits. The eco-friendly kits come with a sachet of pollinator-friendly flower seeds, so bees and other insects have access to both food and shelter.


Admire - and buy!

Find green, lime, pink and peach clivias at the Clivia Society of NSW Spring Show. Seed, seedlings and flowering plants will be available and there’ll be acenterpiece of hundreds of blooms showcasing the latest in clivia breeding. Guest speakers will give tutorials on care and cultivation, breeding and hybridisation. Saturday September 14, 9am-4pm and Sunday September 15, 9am - 3pm, Thornleigh Community Centre.




GC Plant of the year

‘Mystic Spires Blue’ is one of the chart-topping performers from the Trial Gardens at The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (find the full Top 40 list at It’s one of our favourites too: a condensed and better-behaved form of the legendary Salvia 'Indigo Spires' which has been hugely popular for many years; and it only grows to 50-70cm so won’t take over the garden. It also attracts beautiful monarch butterflies. RBG’s Jimmy Turner told us the plant was routinely smothered in happy monarchs. Read more about attracting butterflies on page 56 or listen to Linda’s podcast at And keep an eye out for our Christmas hamper this year, featuring ‘Mystic Spires Blue’.





We think gardening is the perfect antidote to the stresses of life in the 21st century and have spent the past 39 years proclaiming time in the garden as good for mind, body and soul. October is mental health month and we’ll be checking in with our Garden Clinic Club members face-to-face at a free event, sharing plants and making connections. It’s a great opportunity to snag a free plant, have a chat over a cuppa, learn from our expert propagators, and connect with other garden-lovers. There are no stupid questions and all levels of gardeners are welcome. Join us on Cuttings and Cake Day, Saturday October 26. Find out more on the website.




Vale Densey Clyne

For more than four decades the inimitable Densey Clyne wrote about and photographed insects, spiders and all things natural. Here many publications were authoritative, readable and beautifully illustrated. She was the recipient of a plethora of awards from the likes of the Royal Zoological Society, National Geographic Society, BBC and many others. Densey recently died, at the age of 96. Her vast body of work lets us all into the secret world of insects and spiders in the garden.





About this article

Author: Graham Ross

Cuttings from the Garden World

Here's what's happening in the garden world this winter.

Make plans

The 2020 Leura Gardens Festival will take place over two weekends in spring, Saturday 3 - Monday 5 October, and Friday 9 - Sunday 11 October.As well as glorious cool climate gardens, including Everglades, pictured here in full cherry bloom, enjoy music performances, an art show and plant sales. Details at

Can't wait for Leura Gardens Festival

Paradise Gardens

The magnificent garden that plant hunter and breeder Bob Cherry created at Kulnurra is packed full of plant treasures. The garden, now called Paradise Botanical Gardens, opens over the long weekend in June for a Harvest Festival, and again on the first weekend of August to celebrate the garden’s mature magnolias and internationally significant collection of camellias. (And to find out what Bob did next, join us on our spring tour to Tasmania!) More at


Paradise, Kulnurra created by Bob Cherry

Found it!

Linda hunted up a ‘unicorn’ plant at Collectors’ Plant Fair this year. This one’s called Philodendron verrucosum. It’s from the lowland jungles of Ecuador and is great for rooms with low to medium light. It will join her other tropical treasures in her indoor jungle. She also boughttwo white ‘Natchez’ crepe myrtles, a variegated white ornamental grass, white paperwhite jonquils and 150 pure white hoop petticoat miniature daffodils - all for, you guessed it - her new white garden!


Philodendron verrucosum  also known as a 'Unicorn Plant'

Queenly magic

Hi Garden Clinic team,

Just wanted to share with you my magnificent Queen of the Night. I have been feeding it with Strike Back for Orchids and Liquid Potash. Tonight, it has 9 flowers and the perfume is magic!

Best regards, Elizabeth Point


Epiphyllum 'Queen of the Night'

Get a better garden

The best gardens start on paper with an overarching concept – just one big beautiful idea to wrap the garden in! Linda Ross works with you to create a vision for your garden and then designs a masterplan to bring your dream garden to life! With her garden design skills and vast plant knowledge she can transform your garden into a sanctuary for you, your family and your future. Book a design consultation with Linda at

About this article

Author: The Garden Clinic family

Cymbidium orchids

Photo -

With their gorgeous flower spikes over a metre tall, they look impressive and are easy to grow in temperate regions, especially in large pots, which can be sheltered during cold winters.

Cymbidiums have a distinct growing time and resting time – they rest after flowering in autumn, and grow in summer. Overcrowded clumps should be divided after flowering while the plants rest. Plant them into good quality orchid potting mix, give them shade during the hottest part of the day. Feed fortnightly with a soluble fertiliser high in potassium, many years ago we used to use specific orchid food, Campbells Special Fertiliser A (in yellow pack) in February and March to ensure good quality flowers, now we tend to use pelleted or liquid Strike back for Orchids. We find the liquid fertiliser particularly easy to use. 

However: watch out, snails just love the young buds.


Text: Libby Cameron

About this article

Author: Libby Cameron



Dahlias are a hot-ticket item in the flower garden, lauded for the brilliant clarity of their colour. 

Get creative in matching, or contrasting, dahlia colours to other tones in your flower garden, and use their height to create tiers of colour: Use pretty flower supports rather than utilitarian tomato stakes and dahlias will have you swooning.

Spider dahlias are tall growing for the back of the border. Photo - Galina Gutarin/

Follow these steps to success

1: Choose a sunny, protected area away from strong winds as these will snap the brittle stems. Dahlias are generally quite tall, well-suited to the back of the garden bed, but make sure they are within reach for picking.

2: Incorporate lots of organic matter, compost and cow manure into the soil before planting.

3: Plant the tubers 10-15cm deep making sure that the crown points the right way up. Strong stakes should be carefully placed around your tuber at planting time to offer support to the developing stems. Your new plants will emerge and grow very quickly. Mulching will conserve water over the hot summer months.


Photo - Kisialiou Yury/


4: Tie the stems to support with soft string and keep doing so while the plant makes active growth. The canopy becomes very heavy, which is the reason for the strong support frame. Flower buds will form at the end of summer and you will have an incredible number of blooms through late summer and autumn. Keep cutting the flowers to encourage more. Water with a liquid fertiliser for increased flowers.

5: Cool weather will bring flower production to a halt. Once the foliage has gone yellow and died back, you can prune back to just above ground level for the dormant winter period.

6: Dahlias can be lifted and divided every two years or so. Label the removed tubers, and store them in a cool, dry place. When spring comes around you can replant. If your winter climate is cold and wet with boggy soil that is poorly drained, it's advisable to lift and store them each year to prevent them rotting.


Photo - Videowokart/



* Dahlias are hungry plants, be sure to feed over summer with pelletised manure such as organic life or Sudden Impact for Roses.

* Mix dahlias with other bedding perennials for best effect. When combined with roses, iris and salvias they really make an impact.


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross

David Glenn's Dry Garden, Lambley Nursery


I just love this beautiful collection of tough, dry-tolerant perennials that grows in the Dry Garden at David Glen’s Lambley Nursery in Victoria. 

It's just spectacular at the end of summer and into autumn.

The plants all like the same tough, dry conditions and a soft, blue-grey theme gives this garden harmony, though part of its appeal is the dark green background hedge that accentuates the forms and colours.


Summer stunners - agapanthus, sedum 'Matrona', euphorbia with hints of Mexican Yucca. Photo - Lambley Nursery


On show in the Dry Garden

The impressive succulent, Beschorneria yuccoides (False Red Agave). Tough, drought-hardy and handsome, its rosettes of pewter-grey, soft leaves give a strong structure to the garden. 

The flattened yellow heads of Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’, a fabulous yellow yarrow with well-behaved mounds of silver-grey foliage. Also intensely silver is the artemesia and tall grey spires of acanthus (Oyster Plant).

Deep blue spikes of Salvia ‘Tanzarin’, a lovely salvia that grows to 80cms and flowers twice if you prune the stems after its first flowering, and blue-grey rosettes of Aloe glauca, another tough succulent with spiky reddish-brown teeth to the leaf margin.

This is an extraordinarily beautiful garden, because of the interesting plant forms, colours and textures. It reminds me that should all plant our gardens intensely like this one, so there is no bare earth and plants jostle for space.


Text: Sandra Ross

About this article

Author: Sandra Ross

Delicious: Apple and Walnut Salad

The secret of great salads is to mix a range of crunchy, crispy, creamy textures with a good balance of tart, sweet, savoury and bitter flavours.

Keeping these tips in mind any salad is a starting point for something else. In this case, swap the spinach for rocket, lambs lettuce or watercress; try a goat curd or labne instead of blue cheese; add fresh mint leaves instead of dill. You could even change the sweet earthiness of beetroot for roasted chunks of sweet potato, or roasted onion quarters. But keep the seasonal focus of autumn’s fruits and nuts - apples or pears; walnuts or hazelnuts.


Apple, beetroot and walnut salad. Photo - Liliya Kandrashevich/Shutterstock


What you need

1 bag of baby spinach leaves

2 apples

4 beetroot, cooked and cooled

Handful walnuts, toasted

100g creamy blue cheese, such as gorgonzola

Sprig of dill

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon walnut oil

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard


What to do

  • 1. Shake oil, vinegar, maple syrup and Dijon mustard in a jar until well combined and creamy.

  • 2. Core and slice the apples, and chop beetroot into chunks.

  • 3. Toss apples, spinach leaves, beetroot and nuts with some of the dressing.

  • 4. Arrange on plates then crumble blue cheese over, with a few snips of fresh dill and a final drizzle of the dressing.


    Come with us

    We’ll be visiting the apple-growing region of Bilpin on our Collectors’ Plant Fair Day Tour, March 28, so you can buy some freshly-picked apples to make this salad! Details: 1300 233 200 or


    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell

    Delicious: Carrot, fennel and thyme salad

    Carrots braised in butter and thyme is a classic side dish.

    Sweet and savoury at the same time.

    And there’s no need to to reach for the honey that’s listed on plenty of old recipes - homegrown carrots, and even the modern supermarket varieties, are sweet enough to do without. That’s not the end of the carrot and thyme partnership either. Try pan-frying carrots over a low heat in a little olive oil, with a lid on so they partly steam and partly sizzle. As they become tender, add a crushed garlic clove and a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves, and just before serving add slices of dried black olive.

    This recipe uses the same marriage but turns it fresh and snappy with the addition of cleansing fennel and the bracing crunch of radish. Serve this salad with barbecued fish or chicken for an easy summer dinner.




    What you need:

    • 3 carrots

    • 1 head fennel

    • 6 radishes

    • 6 sprigs fresh thyme

    • Olive oil

    • Juice of one lemon

    • Honey

    • Salt and pepper


    What to do:

    Peel and thinly slice the carrots - use a mandoline if you have one.

    Quarter, remove the core and thinly slice the fennel. Reserve the leafy tops if they look fresh.

    Heat a fry pan and add a slurp of olive oil and gently cook the fennel and carrot slices with the leaves from half of the thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper.

    Let cool, then add the thinly sliced radish.

    Mix together the juice of the lemon, an equal amount of olive oil, plus an extra slurp by shaking in a jar with a lid. Add honey, salt and pepper to taste, and then the leaves from the rest of the thyme.

    Lightly dress the salad and serve, with the leafy fennel tops on top.

    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell

    Delicious: Garden pea risotto

    One of my favourite gardens in Victoria is Picardy, a romantic French provincial style garden in the picturesque hills of Neerim.

    Marian and Bryce Somes had always been Francophiles - mad for French food, in love with the language - but it was a trip to France to celebrate a significant birthday year in 1986 that confirmed a passion for French style.


    Garden pea risotto, a la Picardy. Photo - Sue Stubbs


    They found the ideal property to create their own French folly six years later - 26 bare but bucolic acres they called Picardy, after their first stop on that fateful trip. The garden has developed ever since, with perennial and rose gardens inspired by Giverny, anchored around a rammed earth farmhouse that glows the color of creamed honey. There are also orchards, a vineyard, an olive grove and an extensive kitchen garden, which feeds Marian’s love of French cooking.

    The story of the garden is told in a lovely new book, Picardy, written by Marian, with atmospheric pictures by Sue Stubbs, and complete with sample menus and simple recipes to enjoy la vie Francaise.

    We’re sharing a recipe from the book on these pages - Marian’s easy pea risotto, which cleverly uses the peapods to make a stock before they go into the compost bin. “I hate tossing the pods to the chooks after all that effort of shelling,” she writes. Her risotto method is common sense too - cook very slowly, covered for 20 minutes, then take the lid off and stir for the last five minutes of cooking, for an easy and very creamy result. “An induction cooktop which controls the heat would be foolproof, but I manage on my wood-fired stove,” she writes. “On gas, which sometimes is hard to regulate to a slow, slow simmer, a simmer mat could be useful.”

    What you need

    1kg fresh peas in the pod, shelled, peas put to one side

    1½ cups icy water

    100g peas

    knob butter

    1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped

    1 small clove garlic, finely chopped and smashed

    2 tablespoons butter

    11/4 cups (200g) Arborio or Italian Carnaroli rice

    1/3 cup (80ml) white wine

    2 cups reserved pea stock

    salt and pepper

    Parmesan cheese to taste

    1 slice prosciutto or bacon

    What to do

    First make the pea stock. Blanch 350g of fresh pea-pods (after shelling) in a pot of boiling water. Drain. Plunge the pods into a bowl containing 1½ cups of icy cold water to set the colour.

    Process the pods with the water. Strain through a fine sieve or mouli, discard the fibrous bits and set aside the pea stock. Reserve 1/4 cup of stock for the pea purée and 2 cups for the risotto – make up the amount with water if you don’t have quite enough.

    To make the pea puree, cook peas, butter and ¼ cup of the pea stock in a saucepan for about 5 mins, then process till smooth.

    Gently fry the onion and garlic in the butter till translucent. Add the rice and cook gently, stirring, until rice is shiny (4–5 mins).

    Pour in the white wine and pea stock. Add salt and pepper. Stir then cover and cook very gently for 20 minutes. Occasionally check that it is not cooking too fast.

    After 20 mins stir for another 5 minutes, then stir in the pea purée and Parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper. (A little lemon juice or white wine can be added to sharpen the flavour.)

    While the risotto is cooking gently fry some small dice of prosciutto or lardons of bacon until crisp. Serve the risotto in shallow bowls, topped with the prosciutto or bacon and a shaving of Parmesan.


    Come with us

    Picardy is a highlight of our Inside Victoria tour, which catches great gardens of country Victoria at their spring best. October 28 - November 5. Call 1300 233 200 for details.

    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell, Recipe: Marian Somes Photos: Sue Stubbs

    Delicious: How to roast a duck

    When travellers on the Ross Garden Tours Victoria tour sat at Annie Smithers’ table and ate her roast duck salad there were two big questions:

    how did you do that; and can you do it for us again tomorrow! Here she reveals her secrets.


    The roast duck-magician herself, Annie Smithers. Photo - Robin Powell


    Roast duck seems to be the dish that I hear the most stories about. They’re often funny, but always feature the dreaded tough duck.

    I feel the problem comes from the fact that we are familiar with lovely rare roasted duck breast and slow braised or confited duck legs. It’s the mystery of how to get the whole bird delicious that flummoxes people.

    Perhaps think of it like this. A good-sized duck takes a couple of hours to roast. A quarter of the way into the two hours, the breasts are cooked beautifully pink but the legs are tough and still partly raw. Halfway into the cooking process the breasts are starting to become seemingly overcooked, but the legs are still tough. Three-quarters of the way and the skin is starting to look delicious, the legs are starting to soften up but the breast meat looks dry. This is when most people have a bit of a panic and take it out, thinking it looks nice, and end up serving a tough, dry bird. But, if you have patience and faith, that last half-hour of cooking time is where the magic happens. The skin is crisp and golden, the legs are tender and delicious and the breast meat is rich, succulent and soft.

    This is an edited extract from Annie’s Farmhouse Kitchen: seasonal menus with a French heart, by Annie Smithers, with illustrations by Robin Cowcher, published by Hardie Grant.


    Roast duck, Brussels spouts and parsnips

    Invite friends round for a taste of French farmhouse cooking.

    This recipe is from one of Annie’s four winter menus. The duck comes between double-baked truffle and gruyere soufflés and Paris Brest, a wonderful choux pastry ring filled with pastry cream, praline and whipped cream. The dessert was invented in 1910, Annie writes, to celebrate the cyclists in the Paris-Brest-Paris race, “when men used cake for stamina, not silly energy drinks!”

    Annie serves the duck with parsnip puree, roasted parsnip, blanched Brussels sprouts and a rich sauce. Find the full recipes, a timeline for making the menu, and plenty of tips in Annie’s Farmhouse Kitchen: seasonal menus with a French heart, by Annie Smithers, with illustrations by Robin Crowther, published by Hardie Grant.


    What you need:

    3 carrots cut into small cubes

    3 onions, cut into small cubes

    3 celery stalks, cut into small dice

    4 small ducks

    8 thyme sprigs

    salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper


    What to do:

    Preheat the oven to 220 C.

    Scatter the vegetables over the base of a flameproof roasting tin large enough to accommodate all four ducks comfortably.

    Scatter over the thyme sprigs and season well with salt and pepper.

    Add a little water to the roasting tin so that the fat doesn’t burn while the ducks are cooking.

    Roast for an hour, basting every 15 minutes or so.

    After an hour, turn the oven down to 160 C and roast the ducks until tender (when you push at the leg meat it should be soft and yielding) - this will take the best part of another hour. Start checking after about 40 minutes.

    Remove the duck from the oven, and carve the meat from the bones.

    Serves 8

    About this article

    Author: Annie Smithers

    Delicious: Lentil’s summer breakfast bowl

    Breakfast eggs get a super-fresh makeover in this dish from ‘The Village’ by Matt and Lentil from Grown and Gathered.

    Words and recipe: Lentil Purbrick, with Photos by Shantanu Starick


    Breakfast bowls are so good for easy breakfasts, to feed heaps of people and to get through leftover goodness in the fridge. This is only one example. We want to inspire you to create your own breakfast bowls full of all your seasonal abundances. Adjust the quantities for however many mouths you are feeding.

    This is how I do breakfast eggs (almost every time) and I love the buttery-ness of the beans and the fresh flavours and crunchiness of all the other elements.

    What you need

    I piece sourdough bread

    Butter or olive oil

    40g bacon or salami, chopped

    Small handful of fennel fronds and flowers

    Black pepper

    2 tablespoons passata

    Handful heirloom beans, halved

    1-2 eggs

    Splash of milk

    1-2 heirloom tomatoes, diced

    ½ small carrot, julienned

    Handful of microgreens

    Extra virgin olive oil

    1/2 lemon

    Unrefined salt

    What to do

    Roughly tear the bread into a bowl.

    Melt a teaspoon of butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the bacon, fennel and pepper and fry for about two minutes until fragrant and just starting to brown.

    Add the passata, beans, and a splash of water, cover and simmer for about five minutes until sauce is thick and the beans are just tender. Pour over the bread in the bowl.

    Return the pan to the heat, adding more butter or splash of oil if needed. In a small bowl whisk the egg(s) and milk until well combined, then pour into the pan. Cover and cook over medium heat for one minute, but don’t stir!

    Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for another minute or os (again, no stirring!) until the egg is just starting to set. Break apart gently with a wooden spoon, then cover again and continue to cook (without stirring!) for another minute until the egg is fully cooked. The egg will be halfway between an omelette and a scramble.

    Add the egg to the bowl, then follow with the tomato, carrot and microgreens, Drizzle over some oil, squeeze over some lemon and season to taste.



    Lentil and Matt Purbrick call their ever-evolving project Grown and Gathered. It started when they began selling produce from their farm in Tahbilk, Victoria to some of Melbourne's top chefs, then decided to open the van doors to ordinary folk as well. Demand boomed beyond merely the produce to information about the way they were growing - and living. They are now on a new farm in Guildford, Victoria and are authors, educators, bloggers, advocates for sustainability - and growers. This is an extract from the latest Grown and Gathered project, their second book, ‘The Village’, published by Plum, rrp $45. Read more about them on page 48, or listen to the podcast on Garden Clinic Digs Deeper at

    Come with us

    We’ll be dropping to to Lentil and Matt’s farm on our Inside Victoria tour in late October. As we go to press, there are just two spots left. Call 1300 233 200.


    About this article

    Author: Lentil Purbrick

    Delicious: Lime Posset


    This ancient British dessert is a marvel of alchemy. With just four ingredients and no skill required, it sets to a sweet and tart silky softness.

    The magic of the posset is that the addition of citrus acid to warm cream causes the cream to set. Lemon is the traditional citrus used, but lime offers a delicious twist.


    Just four ingredients and no skill required. Photo - Apostolos Mastoris / Shutterstock


    You could also mix lemon and lime, or use either one with strained passionfruit pulp. Toppings too offer plenty of options. Instead of the sugared zest, try chopped crystallised or candied ginger, toasted shreds of coconut or flaked almonds, or slippery slices of mango and the glistening pearls of a finger lime.


    What you need

    400ml double cream

    125g caster sugar

    1 teaspoon caster sugar,

    extra 5 limes


    What to do:

    Heat the cream and sugar together in a small saucepan, stirring constantly and bring to the boil.

    Boil for 3 minutes, then turn the heat off and add 6 tablespoons of lime juice and the zest of two of the limes. Mix well.

    Strain into four small glasses, (port, sherry, or Marie Antoinette-style champagne coupes are all lovely) or tiny espresso cups.

    Chill overnight – or for at least four hours.

    Before serving, mix a teaspoon of sugar with the zest of another of the limes, and sprinkle over the top of the possets.

    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell

    Delicious: Strawberry and rhubarb jam

    Rhubarb and strawberries are perfect partners – in pies, crumbles, and in this jam.

    Here Robin Powell shares her Strawberry and rhubarb jam recipe with us.


    Rhubarb and strawberries are perfect partners. Photo - Christian Jung / shutterstock


    There are not a whole lot of things more delicious than great bread, cold butter and this jam. But don’t assume that jam is only for bread and toast – or on occasion a freshly baked scone. This jam is also delicious swirled through Greek-style unsweetened yoghurt, drizzled over hot porridge, or stirred through bircher muesli.

    The quantities given here don’t make piles of jam, - and you can easily double up if you need to. A small jam recipe means you can whip up a batch when the winter strawberry season is at its height and the rhubarb looks terrific, without having to think too hard about where the jars will come from, and where you’ll store them once they’re jam-packed!

    Once you’ve tried this version, substitute orange rind and juice for the lemon, or try adding a scraped vanilla bean.


    What you need

    1 bunch rhubarb

    3 punnets strawberries

    rind and juice of 1 lemon

    caster sugar

    2 tablespoons liquid pectin*


    What to do

    Wash and trim the rhubarb and de-hull the strawberries.

    Bring the fruit and lemon juice to the boil in a wide saucepan - when cooking jam you want maximum evaporation for minimum cooking time to keep the colour bright and flavour fresh. Cook until the fruit has disintegrated.

    Measure the quantity of fruit pulp and add the same quantity of caster sugar along with the liquid pectin.

    Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then cook for about 15 minutes.

    Test to see if jam is ready by putting a little onto a cold plate and chilling it in the freezer or fridge for a few minutes. It should have a gel-like consistency. If not, keep cooking another 5 minutes, and check again.

    Let cool for 15 minutes or so, then pour into sterilised jars.

    * To make liquid pectin, coarsely chop a few granny smith apples - skin, cores and all - cover with water and cook to a mush. Strain through a very fine sieve. The liquid pectin will keep for months in the freezer and ensure a good set in any jam.

    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell

    Delicious: Sweet potato and chickpea curry

    Sweet potato and chickpea curry is comfort food of the first order.

    Warming, satisfying and dead-simple.


    Sweet potato and chickpea curry. Photo - Olga Meltsova/shutterstock


    What’s the difference between kumara and sweet potato? Nothing - kumara is the Maori word for sweet potato. Sweet potato is originally from Central or South America. Polynesian explorers are thought to have enjoyed it on their travels to the area and taken it with them as vine cuttings back to the Cook Islands in about 700. From there the tasty tuber spread across Polynesia to Hawaii and New Zealand, and also to Japan, China and the subcontinent. Sweet potato is also popular in Africa - Uganda is the second largest producer, after China.

    The tuber stores well - in a dark cool place, not in plastic and not in the fridge - and can be used baked, fried, boiled and barbecued in savoury and sweet dishes. This recipe is easy to adapt to whatever you have in the cupboard or crisper. Add a bunch of chopped spinach or silverbeet. Enrich the sauce with coconut milk, or freshen it up with a squeeze of lime or lemon. Heat it up with extra chilli, or serve with a spicy lime pickle or tangy mango chutney.


    Delicious sweet potato. Photo - Piyanat Nontasarn/shutterstock


    What you need:


    • 1 onion, chopped
    • Olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 3cm piece ginger, grated
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • ½ teaspoon turmeric
    • 1 dried red chilli, thinly sliced
    • 1 tin chickpeas, drained
    • 1 tin tomatoes
    • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled
    • 1 bunch coriander


    What to do:

    Heat a heavy-based pan over medium heat, add a slug of olive oil and cook the onion until transparent.

    Add the garlic and ginger and stir a few minutes until fragrant, then add the spices, and cook a further minute.

    Add the tin of tomatoes, then fill the can with water and add that too.

    Chop the sweet potato into bite-size pieces, add to the curry, with enough water to cover. Bring back to the boil, then turn down to a simmer.

    When the potato is soft all the way through, about 25 minutes, add the drained chickpeas and let them warm through for about five minutes.

    Check the seasoning, then serve the curry with fresh coriander leaves on top, alongside warm naan bread or steamed rice, and a bowl of plain yoghurt.

    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell

    Delicious: Warrigal greens with fettuccine

    Make this fresh green sauce ahead of time for quick summer dinners.

    It will keep for a week in the fridge.

    Words: Robin Powell Recipe: Sarah Glover


    Sarah in putting the finishing touches on this delicious and simple dish. Photo - Luisa Brimble


    Warrigal greens are not easy to come by if you don’t grow your own. So if your bush tucker patch is still in its development phase substitute an extra bunch of spinach. As well as serving this zingy green sauce on pasta, dollop it over steamed fresh new potatoes, or partner it up with a piece of barbecued swordfish or salmon. Sarah loves to use the rind of Buddha’s hand citrus instead of lemon zest. Keep that in mind when Buddha’s hands are in season next winter and you’re wondering how to make the most of their weird appeal.


    What you need:

    2 shallots

    3 cloves garlic

    1 bunch warrigal greens

    1 bunch spinach

    1 teaspoon lemon rind

    juice of 1 lemon

    250mls grape seed oil

    100ml chicken stock


    Olive oil to finish


    What to do:

    Roughly chop shallots and garlic and wash the leaves.

    In a medium-sized pot, add a tablespoon of grape seed oil, and sauté the shallots and garlic on a medium heat till they become translucent.

    Add the warrigal greens and spinach and cook until tender.

    Whiz the cooked greens, chicken stock and lemon juice in a blender till it becomes a smooth paste. Add extra grape seed oil as needed to achieve your preferred texture and season to taste.

    Cook pasta as per the packet instructions, and drain one minute before cooked.

    Add the fettuccine and green sauce and stir to mix over a medium heat so that the starch from the pasta can thicken the sauce. Finish with the lemon zest, a drizzle of fruity olive oil and freshly ground pepper.

    Unused sauce keeps for a week in the fridge, and freezes well.


    The finished product, warrigal greens with fettuccine. Photo - Luisa Brimble


    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell and Sarah Glover

    Delicous: brownie

    Chocolate, beetroot and walnut slice


    Not as heavy as a traditional brownie, but with a satisfying double-choc hit and bonus health food scores from its secret (almost indetectable) vegetable content, this is a great, year-round treat. In summer serve chilled, straight from the fridge.



    Beetroots are rich in vitamins and minerals but the real key to their health-boosting status is that gorgeous colour. It comes from plant chemicals called betalains, which are powerful antioxidants known to reduce cellular inflammation.

    Beetroots are a wonderfully versatile vegetable, shifting with ease from salads, to juices and roasted vegetable platters. And of course, pickled and sliced they are indispensable on a burger! After this recipe has convinced you beetroot is a natural with chocolate, try a beet-choc mousse!



    What you need

    100g plain flour

    25g cocoa powder

    80g walnuts, roughly chopped

    250g caster sugar

    200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

    100g butter, at room temperature

    1 tsp vanilla extract

    3 eggs, lightly whisked

    300g cooked beetroot, chopped into dice



    What to do

    Heat the oven to 180 and grease and line a 20cm x 30cm slice tin.

    Put the flour, cocoa powder in a food processor with a pinch of salt and whizz to combine. Tip into a separate bowl, and mix the nuts through.

    Whiz the sugar and chocolate together in the food processor until the chocolate is very finely chopped, then add the butter. Combine, then add vanilla, eggs and beetroot. Process for a minute, scraping down the sides of the food processor a few times.

    Put the puree into the flour mixture and stir to combine into a thick batter, then tip into the prepared tray.

    Bake for 30 minutes, or until almost firm in the centre. Let cool before serving then dust with icing sugar.



    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell

    Dreaming of flowers

    Imagine this: you and a friend grow cut flowers on an old Oxfordshire estate and in your spare time restore and design walled gardens. Welcome to the world of Henrietta Courtauld and Bridget Elworthy, aka The Land Gardeners. Meet them in this extract from their new book The Land Gardeners: Cut Flowers.


    Gathering dahlias in the early morning: ‘Otto’s Thrill’, ‘Santa Claus’, ‘Wizard of Oz’, ‘Burlesca’, ‘Eileen’ and ‘Blue Bayou’. Credit: Clare Richardson


    A shared love of learning about plants, soil health and the creation of beautiful, productive, truly alive gardens inspired us to start The Land Gardeners in 2012. We wanted to connect with our gardens and encourage others to do the same.

    We had met years before at our children’s nursery school in London, talking plants to avoid talking play dates at the nursery door. Although brought up on opposite sides of the world (Bridget in New Zealand and Henrietta in England) we had so much in common: we had both spent childhoods playing in the garden, then trained and worked as lawyers, before becoming obsessed with plants and changing tack to study garden design and horticulture.

    In the early days we spent hours in cafes together scribbling our dreams on paper tablecloths. We knew we wanted to grow, to learn; we wanted to spend our time in gardens humming with life, and we wanted to laugh. We craved beauty, but grounded in the reality of mud under our nails. We wanted to learn more, to work with nature, not against it, supporting, not controlling it.



    We started running our design business, specialising in the restoration of old walled gardens and the creation of new productive gardens, while also researching soil health when we stumbled across the idea of growing cut flowers. In an impulsive moment, we agreed to start growing the flowers at Bridget’s home Wardington Manor, in Oxfordshire, reawakening its history of cut-flower production.


    Dahlia ‘Thomas Edison’ grows in zinc pots on this London roof terrace, showing that you can gather cut flowers even from a small space. On the table is a vase of cosmos ‘Dazzler’: these last well in water and continue to flower if deadheaded in the vase.

    Credit: Clive Nichols


    The Walled garden

    Over the years the walled garden at Wardington had gone the way of many walled gardens: home to a few rows of heeled-in perennials and a small compost area.When Bridget moved in, she reinstated the paths and the quadrant of four large central beds from the original plans for the garden. These are now predominantly rotated with a mix of cut flowers and annual vegetables. We find that the more we can mix flowers, herbs and vegetables, the happier they are. Luckily, the soil in the walled garden is wonderful - deep and friable - and we take a minimal no-dig approach. Unless the soil has become badly compacted, we have found that just broad-forking in some compost in strips aerates the soil without exposing light-sensitive microorganisms to too much sun, leaving narrow walkways for us to walk between the lines of plants.


    In spring we gather daffodils, buttercups, cow parsley and apple blossom from the orchard - all easy to grow and to pick.

    We replanted the beds around the outside walls with a mix of perennials, including summer fruit (gooseberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, red and white currants - and rhubarb, which we also force under terracotta forcing pots), globe and Jerusalem artichokes, horseradish and herbs. We have an area for madder and woad, plants traditionally used for dyeing textiles. We planted heritage damsons, quinces and step-over apple trees - and we paid homage to the peach house, now sadly gone, by planting a young espaliered peach tree. We pruned an old fig that had grown unruly and unproductive; we dug around its base about 50 centimetres from the trunk, built a brick wall beneath the soil level to restrict its roots, and ever since it has produced the most delicious figs.

    We planted peonies that came all the way from Craigmore, the Elworthy family farm in New Zealand, which had been established in the 1980s by Bridget’s mother-in-law, Fiona. In 2003, Bridget and Forbes had escaped the confines of London and were spending two years in the French countryside. Fiona went to visit them in the hottest summer in 500 years, arriving with a large leather trunk of peony roots that had travelled halfway around the world. Having been shocked into dormancy in the freezer before their journey, the roots were quickly planted into the garden in the ferocious heat, with little hope that they would survive. Astonishingly, some of them flowered in early autumn, in tune with the New Zealand seasons, and then again the following summer.Nine years later, we lifted some of them and brought them to Wardington. They are now planted in the perennial borders in the walled garden, interplanted with foxgloves in spring, and fennel later in the summer.

    Rows of tulips march through the borders in spring, and alternating sweet peas and the ‘Sunset’ heritage runner bean, with its lovely pale-peach flowers, climb over a central arch. Teepees of sweet peas rotate around the beds following the brassicas, and in autumn cosmos ‘Dazzler’ and large dahlias like ‘Elma E’ and ‘Otto’s Thrill’ abound among the many rows of vegetables.

    We often pick foliage from the walled garden, letting parsnips go to seed for their tall, lime-green umbelliferous flowers, collecting fragrant trugs of mint, rosemary and feather fronds of dill, fennel and asparagus. No plant is safe from our clutches; we even cut long canes of flowering raspberries for arrangements in autumn.

    This is an edited extract from The Land Gardeners: Cut Flowers by Brdiget Elworthy and Henrietta Courtauld, published by Thames & Hudson.


    Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea), Turkish sage (Phlomis russeliana) and clary sage (Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica) stand tall above their skirts of lilac catmint (Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’). Giant scabious (Cephalaria gigantea) flutter among delphiniums (Delphinium ‘Blue Jade’) a the back of the bottom lawn border. We love picking the floribunda rose ‘Sally Holmes’ for her trusses of creamy satin blooms and peach buds.

    Credit: Clare Richardson

    About this article

    Author: Brdiget Elworthy and Henrietta Courtauld


    Drummond Castle’s formal gardens, based on the flag of Scotland and the family’s own standard, are justly famous and surprisingly fun.

    Words and pictures: Robin Powell




    I’d seen it in photographs and yet the vista that stretched beneath me from the top of the terrace at Drummond Castle made me gasp. Wow is such an ineffectual expression of wonder, but ‘Wow!’ I said. ‘Wow wow wow.’

    Before me wide stone steps led to a formal garden coloured in green, purple and gold, bisected by a central path. This axis swooped down from my lofty vantage point, along the garden and through an arched gate in a stone wall, to slice between dense forest and disappear over the horizon.

    On either side of the axis clipped box marked out fans, triangles and circles, whose symmetry was unsettled by looming, lurching evergreens, globes of golden yew, box clipped into soft-serve swirls and the unexpected lacy mounds of Japanese maple flouncing and bouncing in the slight breeze. Everywhere I looked there was something else to see, but my focus kept returning to the long shot and its unequalled vista of form and colour.



    Flying the flag

    John Drummond, 2nd Earl of Perth, laid out the gardens at Drummond Castle in the mid-17th century. As a centrepiece he commissioned a sundial from John Mylne, master stonemason to King Charles 1. It tells the time in different countries, but when I visited was on royal duty elsewhere and a potted box spiral was acting as stand-in. The sundial sits at the centre of St Andrew’s Cross, which, in blue on a white background, forms the flag of Scotland. In the garden, the angles of the cross are coloured in grass edged with silver lines of lambs ear, Stachys lanata.

    Drummond Castle suffered from being on the wrong side of politics through most of the 18th century. Various Drummonds were involved in the Jacobite uprisings and the property was confiscated and didn’t return to Drummond hands until 1784.

    In the early 19th century, Clementina Drummond asked Lewis Kennedy to re-establish the formal gardens. Kennedy had worked as a gardener at Malmaison, Empress Josephine's garden in France and at Drummond he installed terraces, ponds and allees in the French style. Queen Victoria was impressed when she visited with Prince Albert in 1842. The garden, she wrote ‘ is really very fine, with terraces, like an old French garden’. She commemorated the visit by planting two copper beech trees, and though one was lost, the right-hand tree still stands, a commanding presence of dark majesty.


    Making it simple

    Queen Victoria's beech was a preservation priority when the gardens were replanted after the Second World War. With a reduced workforce available, the decision was taken to simplify the gardens, while retaining important trees and the spirit of Drummond. Today a team of five clips the kilometres of box hedging and the hundreds of topiaried hollies and yews; and propagates and plants out the borders of red and yellow roses and bedding plants.

    Having taken in the big vista I ventured down the baroque stone staircase and into the garden. Suddenly it offered a very different experience. Long allees invite you to explore the sculptures at their ends; hidden nooks suggest secret assignations, and the wonky topiaries give the place a sense of Alice in Wonderland fantasy and fun. You half expect the cheshire cat’s grin to appear in Queen Victoria's beech, or the Red Queen to pop around a swirling golden yew.




    Tradition and change

    I interrupted a gardener weeding a long bed to ask how much the garden changes from one year to the next. Not much, he told me, though one year the 28th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby, the current heir, decided that instead of yellow and red roses, the garden would be improved by white roses. The yellow and red roses are a reference the colours of the Drummond standard, echoed too in the purple and golden foliage of the trees. When the Baroness saw the coloured roses replaced by ‘Iceberg’ she didn’t like it at all, and the garden returned to its yellow and red origins.

    Beyond the walled garden, there is more to explore - a kitchen garden and wonderful series of 19th century glasshouses where grapes grow up the walls and along the ceilings and peaches are espaliered against the glass. Trails lead through Dagan Wood, offering woodland delights. But for all the up-close interest and beauty of the various walks, it is that view from the terrace that I returned to. With the sun now at a lower angle, delineating the shape of the parterres and the forms of the trees, the image was even more dramatic. ‘Wow,’ I breathed.



    Come with us

    Drummond Castle is part of our new tour to Scotland and northern England next in June 2019. For details go to, call 1300 233 200 or email

    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell

    Echium, Pride of Madeira

    This giant echium will reach 3m tall. Photo - Linda Ross

    Description: in full spring bloom, a large Echium will stop passers-by in their tracks. It’s a perennial which produces tall flowering spikes tightly packed with tiny blue-mauve flowers. ‘Cobalt Tower’ is a hybrid of two species, with excellent colour and shape.

    Size: in flower it reaches 2.5 – 3m tall x 2m wide.

    Cultivation: Echium is frost-hardy, and grows best in full sun in a well-drained soil, but not too rich or too moist. After flowering prune off spent flower spikes to encourage more branches for next season’s flowers.

    Special comments: Echium is an excellent plant for coastal and low maintenance gardens and is particularly attractive to bees.


    Text: Libby Cameron

    About this article

    Author: Libby Cameron

    Edible Weeds


    (B)eat weeds!

    The annoying habit of weeds to grow fast (and often better than the vegetables they smother!) is good news for foragers. 


    Follow these rules for weed eating: check and double check the identification; pick new leaves; pick leaves before flowering; pick only from areas that haven't been sprayed; and wash everything before using. These are our top 5 weeds.



    (Taraxacum officinale)

    Harvest at different stages. Before flowering, use central leaves in stir fries or salads. The yellow buds can be used in omelettes, and the petals of the flowers can decorate salads. 

    Photo - Linda Ross


    (Portulaca oleracea)

    This weed is easy to recognise by its low, spreading, starburst formation. Leaves can be used raw or cooked. The succulent top leaves have a crisp tart flavour. Use with yoghurt to neutralise the oxalic acid content.

    Photo - Linda Ross


    (Urtica urens)

    Identify by sight alone! Blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds to 'de-sting'. Strip the young leaves from the stems and use as a spinach substitute (especially good in spanakopita).

    Photo - Linda Ross


    (Stellaria media)

    Identify this plant by the line of hairs that grows on the back of each stem. Harvest before flowering. Use the top 4cm of the leaves, chopped finely in salads, sandwiches or pesto.

    Photo - Linda Ross


    (Matva parviflora)

    Mallow will grow anywhere, pioneering new areas and creating better conditions for other weeds by opening up hard soil with its long taproot. Use leaves in salads or cooked in spinach pie.

    Photo - Linda Ross

    Text Linda Ross

    About this article

    Author: Linda Ross

    Edibles everywhere


    A tasty courtyard

    Edibles can be grown all over the garden, not just in the vegetable patch. Consider edible hedge plants, such as feijoa; plant pretty, tasty, red-veined sorrel as a filler in the front of the flower border; edge the front path with parsley; and pto up some citrus. Here, at Huka Lodge in New Zealand, potted cumquats mark out the boundary of the outdoor eating area, which is covered in summer with edible grapes growing over the wooden pergola. Take extra care when growing groundcovers in potted citrusas they don’t like to share. Treat them to plenty of water and citrus food.




    Strawberry fields forever

    Woven cane cloches keep the birds away from most of the strawberries in Paul Bangay’s vegetable patch at Stonefields in Central Victoria. Less attractive but equally effective measures include covering individual plants with the mesh covers you use to keep flies from the pies at a picnic, or constructing a cover from bird net slung over flexible pipe hoops. For best flavour ease up a little on watering as the fruits develop so as not to dilute the sweetness, and leave them to colour completely to the calyx before picking.




    Paving thyme

    Thyme fills spots in this crazy-paved terrace at Curry Flat in the Monara, providing flowers that bees love, and making it easy for the cook to get access to emergency herbs for dinner.The best varieties forculinary use are garden thyme, Thymus vulgaris, and lemon thyme, Thymus citriodorus. With an abundance like this, you can trim it, dry the cuttings, and add them to your next fireside party - the ancient Greeks believed the smoke from burning thyme was a source of courage!




    Flattened fig

    Espalier is the ultimate space-saving edible growing technique. The easiest espalier is an informal one, like the fig shown here,in which the aim is simply to fill a flat plane with branched growth through selective pruning. Formal espalier, like the bay tree shown here, is a bit more complex. Either way, maintenance pruning is best undertaken in spring and summer when the plant is in active growth. It may seem counterintuitive but pruning in winter, as is usual for fruiting plants, will produce too much new growth.




    The Ideal Patch

    The vegetable garden at Curry Flat is completely enclosed in bird netting, keeping possums, wallabies and birds out of the patch. At the back, an undercover bench holds all the tools and products required for cultivation, while propagation benches are positioned under shade cloth. Beds are raised to a comfortable height for cultivation and harvest. Reo frames allow for climbing vegetables to grow on the southern sides of the beds, allowing all plants maximum sunlight. The front beds contain annual plants, rotated each season for better plant health, while the back beds hold the perennial vegetables, such as asparagus, rhubarb and artichoke.




    Ornamental edibles

    Heronswood, the Diggers garden on the Mornington Peninsula, is an inspiration for growing edibles as if they were ornamentals. Here, the textures and colours of the vegetables are set off by a fringe of edible violas. Other delicious edible flowers include nasturtium, pot marigold, dianthus, borage, sage, mint, daylily and lavender. Of course, when growing flowers to eat, ensure no chemical sprays are used.

    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell



    Eggplants have diverse origins - Italy, Africa, Thailand, China and India - and their looks are just as varied, so they add visual dazzle to the vegie patch as well as lusciously rich flavours to dinner.

    Linda Ross shares her tips. 

    It's a puzzle that so many fruit in the deadly nightshade (Solanacea) family are so delicious, even though every part of the plant except the fruit is poisonous! Eggplant (or Aubergine) grows slowly throughout summer only to deliver basket loads of shiny skinned purple fruits in autumn. The harvest is impressive, so you'll need a good collection of recipes! My favourite eggplant dishes are caponata, baba ghanoush, barbecued eggplant 'steaks', stuffed eggplant, and stir-fried eggplant.

    There are many eggplant colours; our favourite being the purple streaked 'Listada di Gandia'. Photo -


    Eggplant grows to a one metre round bush, so allow plenty of space. As some individual plants will produce up to 15kg of fruit it is important to support the branches so they don’t break under their heavy load.



    Eggplants enjoy well composted and manured soil so we add potash, dolomite, blood and bone and Dynamic Lifter to the soil two weeks before planting. We also use a soil wetter on the surrounding soil to help allow water to penetrate. Plant seedlings in  August-September, after the last frost, at least 40-50cm apart to ensure plants don’t crowd each other. Create a dinner plate-sized depression around each seedling to direct water into the root ball.


    We use a bamboo box (or cage) to support the heavy branches as they grow. A 1m x 1m x 1m box with four corner posts can support four plants. As the stems grow they drape over the horizontal parts of the box. No pruning is necessary. Fortnightly applications of seaweed through the growing period should be switched to fortnightly applications of liquid feed for fruit (such as Thrive, Uplift, Harvest, Powerfeed) once the plants start to flower.


    The first fruit is picked between three and four months after planting, depending on the variety. Pick eggplants when they are young, bright and shiny. Dull-skinned fruits will have begun to form mature seeds, and will have tough skin and bitter flesh. The best time to harvest in the morning or evening. Fruit can be picked off the stalk by hand or with a small sharp knife or secateurs.


    - Wilting leaves are a sign of bacterial wilt, which can arrive with the onslaught of high summer temperatures. Remove affected plants.

    - The 28 spotted ladybeetle, recognisable by its orange colour and many spots, can skeletonise the leaves overnight. Handpick as soon as you see the first one to stop a plague developing.

    - Flea beetles be controlled with Neem Oil or Natrasoap

    - Marigolds, calendula and dill are companions that deter pests.



    Long Purple and Black Beauty are large and rounded.

    Lebanese is thinner but more profuse, sometimes producing more than 50 fruit per bush.

    Listada di Gandia is streaked purple and white.

    Thai eggplant come in clusters of grape sized fruit.

    Casper has eggshell coloured skin.

    Rosa Bianca is round with violet-blushed colour.

    Text: Linda Ross


    About this article

    Author: Linda Ross

    Eggplant salad with chilli and mint

    Bill Granger says that grilled food with salad is still his favourite way with eating despite his father having had less than chefly barbecuing skills. 


    “My dad had a bright orange barbecue that consistently worked miracles – every single item that came out of it was charred black on the outside but remained basically raw on the inside,” he writes in his new book, ‘Holiday’ (Murdoch, $49.95), in which he tries to capture the flavours of good times. 


    With this chilli-dressed eggplant salad try barbecued lamb skewers.


    Photo - 'Holiday', Murdoch


    What you need

    3 large eggplants

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

    1 long red chilli, seeded, finely chopped

    3 tablespoons shredded fresh mint leaves

    3 tablespoons shredded fresh flat-leaf parsley

    Sea salt

    Freshly ground black pepper


    What to do

    Cut each eggplant into thick slices. Preheat a barbecue or chargrill pan to high and cook the eggplant for 2–3 minutes on each side or until lightly charred and cooked through. Transfer to a heatproof bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil and red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Add the chilli, mint, and parsley, season with salt and pepper and stir together.

    Tear the eggplant into rough strips with your fingers and place in a serving bowl. Add the dressing and gently toss together. 



    Text: Bill Granger

    About this article

    Author: Bill Granger

    Eggplant: 3 ways

    Photo - Trevor Wood/


    3 more ways with Eggplant


    1. Baba ganoush

    Pierce the skin of an eggplant with a sharp knife. Cook on a hot barbecue grill, turning often, until completely black and soft. Cool, then peel, allowing the juices to drain away. Whizz the flesh in a food processor, with a dessertspoon each of tahini, olive oil and lemon juice. Add a quarter teaspoon each of salt, cumin (and smoked paprika if you like). Whizz til smooth then check and adjust flavourings. 

    2. Steamed eggplant with miso topping

    Steam 3 halved Japanese eggplant or 1 large eggplant cut into batons, for about 15 minutes, until completely soft. Meanwhile, fry minced ginger and garlic in peanut oil until fragrant then add 150g pork mince and fry until golden brown. Add a heaped tablespoon of red miso and a good grind of white pepper. Heat through, then add a teaspoon of sesame oil. Serve the eggplant topped with the sauce and roasted sesame seeds.


    3. Eggplant and tomato salad

    Char an eggplant as for baba ganoush. Mix the chopped flesh with halved cherry tomatoes, a slurp of olive oil, dash of pomegranate molasses and plenty of fresh chopped parsley.

    Text:Robin Powell

    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell

    Eryldene: The Professor and the Camellia

    Jane Garling explains why E.G. Waterhouse had such a massive influence on Australian gardens.

    Visitors to Eryldene, the historic house and garden on Sydney’s North Shore, would recognise the name of its original owner, Professor E. G. Waterhouse CMG (1891-1977). But few may know the wider role Waterhouse played in Australian horticultural history.

    Credits: Waterhouse b&w,  Tony Strachan, June, 1973, the Eryldene Collection



    A natural teacher, Waterhouse was appointed the Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Sydney in 1936. In the disciplines of botany and horticulture, however, Waterhouse was entirely self-taught. Using the grounds of Eryldene as a laboratory for his ideas, Waterhouse influenced a generation of gardeners through his columns in contemporary magazines and thoughtful lectures to wide-ranging audiences. His successes, and failures, in curating plant choices at Eryldenealso led him to develop a lasting passion for the identification and cultivation of camellias.



    On garden design

    In forming his views on garden design, Waterhouse was happy to build on the expertise of others and Eryldene can, in many respects, be viewed as a collaborative exercise with its architect, William Hardy Wilson (1881-1955). Taking his cue from the simple Colonial Georgian lines inherent in Wilson’s design for the home, Waterhouse provided an early example in Australia of the division of a garden into ‘rooms’. Spaces were contained to delight the visitor’s eye within a courtyard or lawn area, before leading them to the next space along sandstone paths, so favoured by the members of the English Arts and Craft Movement. Waterhouse rejected the tradition of the Gardenesque, the planting of long borders of bedding plants, favouring a “harmonious combination of forms, textures and colours” in which trees, shrubs and perennials all had a place.

    Both indigenous and introduced species were included in the garden at Eryldene. Individual Sydney red gums, Angophora costata, provided counterpoints to plantings of camellias and azaleas, Waterhouse writing that “there is a dignity and personality about a tree which it forfeits in promiscuous company”. In his garden schemes, looking up to a canopy was as important as looking down to a happy combination of cottage plants.



    This reverence for trees is also evident in gardens designed by Waterhouse at the University of Sydney, most notably in the Quadrangle where the simple division of space into four quadrants of manicured lawns was broken only by a single Jacaranda. His influence can also be felt nearby in the peaceful Vice-Chancellor’s Courtyard, designed after the war to showcase azaleas and camellias in a contained space. Hardy Wilson’s influence and advocacy for the simplicity inherent in principles of Chinese landscape design are deployed here to create an idyllic space for peaceful contemplation.

    The success of his landscape schemes can be measured by their popularity as subjects for significant contemporary photographers such as Max Dupain and Harold Cazneaux. Their evocative photographs of Waterhouse gardens provided visual evidence of his abilities and further disseminated his theories.


    All for camellias

    Waterhouse acknowledged that his life-long interest in camellias “grew from my desire to add dignity and refinement to my garden at Eryldene”. Although camellias had been favoured by early colonial settlers, the species had fallen out of favour in Australia. Waterhouse set out to rehabilitate the reputation of “this handsome evergreen flowering shrub”. He propagated cuttings from established plants on old estates around Sydney, such as Camden Park and Tomago on the Hunter River and imported cultivars. This interest ultimately led to his development of many hybrids such as Camellia sasanqua ‘Plantation Pink’, a standard in many gardens today, and ‘Eryldene Excelsis’.



    His advocacy knew no bounds: Waterhouse established the Camellia Grove Nursery at St Ives in 1939, organised exhibitions of camellia blooms, founded the Australian and New Zealand Camellia Research Society in 1952 and the International Camellia Society in 1952 and served on the committees of both organisations for many years. His scientific and aesthetic appreciation of the species came together through the publication of his two books: Camellia Quest in 1947 and Camellia Trail in 1954.

    Beyond national and international awards, this singular contribution to horticulture was recognised in 1970 with the establishment of the E.G.Waterhouse Camellia Garden at Yowie Bay. Now maintained by Sutherland Shire Council, this garden contains more than 600 camellias, including 450 individual cultivars and species, including many Waterhouse cultivars. A winter visit here or to Eryldene, now opened and opened to the public by The Eryldene Trust,would allow an appreciation of his enormous legacy.


    See more

    The house and garden at Eryldene, 17 McIntosh Street, Gordon are open on the second weekend of each month from April to The E G Waterhouse National Camellia Gardens are at 104 President Avenue, Caringbah.



    About this article

    Author: Jane Garling

    Euphorbia 'Black Bird'

    Euphorbia 'Black Bird'. Photo - PMA

    Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’

    Description: this euphorbia has brilliant burgundy foliage and is extremely tolerant of hot, dry conditions. It’s versatile and looks great in a mixed border, potted garden, or mass planting. It flowers prolifically, with lime green flowers lasting from mid-winter into spring.

    Size: it has a very compact habit, reaching a tidy 40cm high x 50cm wide.

    Cultivation: grow ‘Blackbird’ in full sun in the garden or in a container. It is not fussy about soil, but prefers good drainage. Feed in spring with a slow-release fertiliser and prune by cutting spent flowerheads back to the base.

    Special comments: many species of euphorbia seed prolifically and can become a nuisance. ‘Blackbird’ and its cousins ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and ‘Silver Swan’ are sterile, so will not spread. Wear gloves when pruning to avoid skin contact with the irritant white sap.


    Text: Libby Cameron

    About this article

    Author: Libby Cameron

    'Eureka' Seedless Lemon


    Renowned for its juicy, sharp-tasting fruit, Eureka lemon has been popular with home gardeners for many years. 


    A new variety has all the attributes of the old – except for seeds! The bright yellow fruit mainly appears in winter and spring.

    Size: to 5 m, but may be pruned to reduce its size.

    Cultivation: Plant in a warm, sunny position in the garden, in soil enriched with compost, or in a container with top quality potting mix. Water in well with seaweed solution and then apply an organic fertiliser. Fertilise in early spring and again in late summer.

    Special comments: Eureka! Seedless Lemon is tolerant of a wide range of climates, as long as it is sheltered from strong winds, given consistent moisture and protected from heavy frosts until well established.


    Text: Libby Cameron

    About this article

    Author: Libby Cameron

    'Fairy Floss' Flowering Gum

    This 'Fairy Floss' look good enough to eat! Photo - Linda Ross

    If only the gum nut babies knew about this one! What delicate skirts they would have.

    Corymbia ficifolia 'Fairy Floss'

    This is one of the prettiest daintiest of the flowering gums, with big bunches of pale pink flowers with prominent, flossy, white-tinged stamens. The tree will reach 7m with a rounded canopy. It prefers full sun and really well-drained soil. As a bonus the flowers look beautiful in a vase. Trim after flowering, before the onset of gumnuts, to encourage bushiness and longevity.

    Text: Linda Ross

    About this article

    Author: Linda Ross



    Here’s a bit of trivia for you. Among the carefully chosen selection of seeds and plants that the First Fleet brought from England in 1788, was fennel. 


    The plant has been held in high regard since Roman times, and at one stage, people believed that stuffing fennel seeds into their keyholes would keep ghosts from entering the room.

    We’re too sophisticated for ghost stories these days, so fennel’s value is its amazing aniseed flavour, which is fresh and crunchy in salads, or more sublet and meltingly soft when baked or braised.

    Sliced, diced or roasted, fennel is fresh and versatile. Photo - HandmadePictures/


    Fennel can be a finicky crop because of its tendency to bolt to seed. We’ll get on to that, but first you must get hold of the right seed. You’d be amazed how many people sow herb fennel, Foeniculum vulgare instead of Florence fennel, Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce, then wonder why the plants never form those delicious bulbous stems. A good seed merchant will offer correctly labelled seed of decent quality.

    To prevent bolting it’s important to sow at the correct times of year. In my temperate garden, fennel performs best when started either in late summer or early spring. A sowing in early September is ideal, but in cold climates you can get away with sowing in October or early November. Beyond this, you’re pushing your bulb-swelling luck.

    The other thing to avoid is any check to growth. Fennel likes to be grown fast in rich soil that drains well, but retains some moisture. Mission impossible? No, you can accommodate both requirements by boosting your soil with well-rotted compost.


    I find that the ideal point at which to harvest fennel is at around 80 days from sowing, when the bulbs are roughly the size of a cricket ball. You can harvest earlier or later than this, of course, but bear in mind that the larger fennel bulbs get, the tougher they become. For salads, young, crisp fennel is the way to go.

    Don’t forget the leaves. These have the same aniseed zing as the bulb, and you can safely chop a handful of leaves every week during the growing period without halting bulb formation. Just avoid stripping the plants bare.



    - Don’t skimp on the moisture, as this can stress the plants into bolting. In areas that experience dry spring weather a watering every other day might be necessary.

    - Fennel performs best when sown directly into the garden - sow a couple of seeds every 20cm and keep rows about 30cm apart. If planting seedlings, get them into the ground while small. Older seedlings rarely transplant well.



    ‘Zefa Fino' is a Swiss-bred cultivar that resists bolting and reliably forms bulbs of excellent flavour and texture. It’s ideal for warmer climates.

    'Orion' also resists bolting but forms rounder bulbs and more compact plants. It’s an F1 hybrid favoured by commercial market gardeners.


    Text: Justin Russell

    About this article

    Author: Justin Russell

    Fennel and asparagus salad


    This salad is a fresh, crunchy starter or a refreshing follow-up to a rich and hearty main meal. 


    The combination of zingy herbs, aniseedy fennel and citrus tang offers an explosion of flavour.


    To prepare a fennel bulb for use in the kitchen, first cut off the stalks about 1cm from the bulb. Reserve any fresh green fronds to use in the salad. Pull off and discard any wilted or browned pieces of the bulb, then slice in half. Cut out the tough core at the base of each half. Slice thinly, or use a mandolin to get paper-thin slices.



    Photo - AGfoto/

    What you need

    1 fennel bulb

    5 large green asparagus spears

    1 blood orange, segmented

    1 handful of fresh herbs, such as mint, parsley, tarragon and basil

    ¼ cup pistachio nuts, lightly roasted

    1 handful parmesan, shaved

    1/2 lemon, juiced

    100ml extra virgin olive oil


    What to do

    1. Thinly slice the fennel bulb, and shave the asparagus spears into thin strips using a potato peeler.

    2. Top and tail the orange, then slice off the skin and use a paring knife to slice the segments from between the membranes.

    3. Mix the fennel, asparagus, orange segments and freshly torn herbs in a large bowl.

    4. Whisk together the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

    5. Scatter the salad over a large serving platter; top with pistachio nuts and parmesan shavings.

    6. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.


    Recipe: Chris Arkadieff 

    About this article

    Author: Chris Arkadieff

    Fettucine of Gete Okosomin Squash Brown Butter and Fennel Pollen

    Peter Gilmore’s delicious ‘fettuccini’ uses golden squash as both noodle and sauce in a dish that’s much easier than it looks.

    Possessing a nutty intensity when roasted, but an equally fine, crisp flavour when barely blanched, the Gete Okosomin squash lends itself to a variety of preparations.

    In this dish I have combined these two cooking techniques, with the end result enhanced through the use of brown butter, bronze fennel and fennel pollen.

    Words: Peter Gilmore. Pictures: Brett Steven



    What you need:

    24 fennel flowers

    1 kg rock salt

    200 ml Brown Butter, see below, melted

    1 Gete Okosomin squash, approx. 700 g

    sea salt

    1 bunch bronze fennel fronds, separated


    What to do:

    Using your fingers, crumble 16 of the fennel flowers over a dish to collect the pollen. Discard the flower stalks and set aside the pollen until needed.

    Preheat the oven to 180°C and cover a baking tray in a layer of rock salt. Melt the brown butter in a small saucepan.

    Cut the Gete Okosomin squash in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Place one half, cut side up, on the rock salt, brush with 50 ml of the brown butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for approximately 90 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and well softened.

    Meanwhile, cut the remaining squash half into quarters and peel away the skin, then cut each piece into 2 mm thick strips using a mandolin or sharp knife. Cut the strips lengthways into 1 cm thick ribbons, keeping them as long as possible so they resemble fettucine.

    Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

    Remove the roasted squash from the oven. Using a tablespoon, scoop sections of the roasted squash flesh from the skin and transfer them to warmed serving plates. Press lightly down on each piece of squash with the back of the spoon, drizzle over a little brown butter and season with sea salt.

    Briefly blanch the squash ribbons in the boiling water for a maximum of 30 seconds, then drain and toss in the remaining brown butter, seasoning with sea salt and sprinkling over the fennel pollen to finish. Place a generous bundle of the squash fettucine on top of each piece of roasted squash and garnish with the fennel fronds and remaining fennel flowers.

    Serves 8.


    Brown butter

    To make the brown butter, melt 250g of unsalted butter over high heat. Once it has foamed and started to turn golden-brown, remove from the heat and carefully pour into a large bowl, leaving as much of the solids behind as possible. Use a small ladle to remove any remaining foam, then ladle into a clean counter, leaving the milk solids on the bottom of the pan. The browned butter will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks and is delicious on vegetables and vegetables and pasta.

    [box with cover]Chef Peter Gilmore is a keen gardener who uses his home plot to trial new ingredients for his internationally famous restaurants, Quay and Bennelong. Listen in to his chat with Linda on the Garden Clinic Digs Deeper podcast.


    From the Earth by Peter Gilmore is published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $80, and is available in stores nationally. Photographer: Brett Steven

    About this article

    Author: Peter Gilmore

    Fig and raspberry crostata


    Trust the Italians to come up with the world’s easiest pie.

    A crostata is simply a single piece of pastry folded around a filling. It’s half tart, half pie and all delicious. 


    Some versions put a frangipane on the base, but my option is designed for the cook with high expectations and a small amount of time. Simply roll the pastry and add the fruit. Use your favourite shortcrust recipe for the crust, or cheat with a quality frozen product.


    Photo - Anna Kurzaeva/

    What you need

    Short crust pastry

    10 figs

    ½ cup raspberries

    5 tablespoons sugar

    juice of half a lemon

    1 beaten egg yolk, to glaze

    icing sugar, to serve

    cream, to serve


    What to do

    Heat the oven to 180.

    Put the pastry between two sheets of cling wrap and roll the pastry to about 5mm. Remove the top layer of cling film and trim the pastry to a circle about 30cm in diameter. Place the pastry circle on to baking paper on a baking tray.

    Remove the stems from the figs and cut them in quarters. Mix them with the raspberries, lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of the sugar.

    Pile the fruit mixture on to the centre of the pastry circle, leaving a border of about 5cm.

    Fold the pastry border over the fruit, pleating as you go.

    Brush the folded border of pastry with the egg yolk and sprinkle over the last tablespoon of sugar.

    Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling.

    Dust with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream.


    Text: Robin Powell 

    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell



    Photo - Lesya Dolyuk/

    Figs are delicious, expensive and hard to transport – three excellent reasons to grow one in your garden. Linda Ross tells how it’s done.



    Figs are adaptable so though their preference is for a climate with dry air, sunny summers and winter rains, they can be grown in most parts of Australia. Established trees will tolerate freezing winters and they will even put up with drought - though the fruit will drop. On the coast, heavy summer rain can cause the fruit to split - if rain threatens at harvest time get handy with a market umbrella to protect the fruit. Plant figs in full sun. They are not particularly fussy about soils, though in sandy soils they will need lots of water.



    Left alone a fig will grow into a round-topped, spreading tree, up to six metres tall. Pruning will increase the harvest. Cut out any crossed branches and shape to a multi-trunked vase. Trim back runaway growth to keep the tree at a suitable size for harvesting without a ladder.

    Figs set fruit on both new and old wood, depending on the variety. At the end of the growing season, small figs can be seen just as the leaves fall. They will swell up early in the next growing season. The new wood produces the main crop, which ripens later. Figs develop as the stem develops, so there is a continuous succession of fruit as the tree grows, giving an extended picking season.


    Photo - alisafarov/



    A feeding schedule bordering on neglect seems the best policy for maximising the fig harvest. My pot-grown fig is given controlled release fertiliser three times a year: in September, December and March. Ground-grown figs should be fed with fruit tree fertiliser and a liquid feed once a season.



    Figs produce more fruit when root-bound so grow well in pots. Indeed some gardeners go as far as to construct figs in ‘fig pits' - square holes in the ground with walls of fibro or other old building materials to restrict root growth. Keep potted figs well watered, and prune hard each year. At the annual prune scrape away one-third of the soil from the top of the pot and replace with fresh potting mix.



    White Adriatic: a large tree suited to warmer climates. Fruit is brown/green with deep-pink flesh and a wonderful flavour.

    Black Genoa : a vigorous tree; large purple fruit has dark red, sweet flesh.

    Brown Turkey: a hardy fig with purple/brown skin and pink sweet flesh.

    White Genoa: yellow-green skin, amber flesh and a mild flavour. Grows well in cooler areas.


    Photo - muharremz/



    - Deter birds by netting the whole tree, or using plastic snakes, owls or disco mirror balls as bird scarers.

    - Hang a fruit fly lure.

    - If high humidity causes fungus to attack the foliage spray with a fungicide.

    - Spray EcoOil fortnightly for scale. Scrub bad infestations from stems with a toothbrush dipped in EcoOil.



    - Harvest figs when the fruit develops full colour and a little softness. Fruit will be at its sweetest when it is just beginning to split. Eat immediately as the flavour fades in the fridge and figs don’t keep.

    - One of the best times for propagating and planting figs is mid-winter, when they are dormant. They can be propagated easily from 30 -40 cm hardwood cuttings. These can be placed directly in the ground, buried halfway up the cutting.


    Photo - valeniker/ 

    Text: Linda Ross

    About this article

    Author: Linda Ross

    Fish baked in paper with tomatoes and olives


    Photo - Dave King/

    These fragrant fish parcels are tasty, healthy and quick. And as a bonus, there’s no washing up!


    Cooking fish en papillote sounds much more glamorous than cooking in a bag, but however you say it, seafood steamed in its own parcel of flavours and juices is low-fat and delicious. 


    Experiment with all kinds of flavourings. Try sliced fennel and oranges with the black olives. Or replace the tomatoes with strips of roasted capsicum and a sprinkling of dried oregano. You might want to serve the fish straight from the oven and let the family unwrap their own parcel: the cloud of fragrant steam that emerges is one of the treats of cooking en papilotte.


    What you need

    4 white fish fillets

    8 black olives, pitted and sliced

    4 roma tomatoes, sliced, or a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved

    1 lemon, sliced

    handful of Italian parsley, chopped

    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


    What to do

    Heat the oven to 220. Cut four large squares of baking paper.

    Lay a fish fillet on each square of baking paper. Share out the tomatoes, olives, lemon slices and parsley over each one. Drizzle carefully with a little olive oil.

    Fold the parcels up and seal as tightly as you can, rolling the fold twice to stop steam from escaping.

    Slide the parcels on to a flat baking tray. Bake thin fillets like dory for 10 minutes, thicker fillets like snapper or blue eye for 15 minutes.

    Carefully open the parcels and serve on to warm plates, with the sauce drizzled over. This is especially good with steamed kipfler potatoes or steamed rice and crunchy green beans or broccolini.

    3 more ways with olives

    Olive tapenade

    Crush and remove the seeds from two cups of kalamata olives. Put them in a food processor with a tablespoon of rinsed salted capers and three anchovies then whizz, dribbling in two tablespoons of olive oil. Stir in the juice of half a lemon, to taste. Serve on bruschetta, or mix into hot pasta, and add fresh parsley, grated parmesan and a whirl of fruity olive oil.


    Photo - 


    Olive and mango salsa

    To a chopped mango, add sliced black olives, chopped cherry tomatoes, chopped mint and coriander leaves, and snipped red chilli to taste. Mix with lime juice and let sit for a while before serving with barbecued chicken thighs.


    Carrots and olives

    Slice peeled carrots into rounds. Fry in a little olive oil until starting to colour, then put a lid on, turn the heat down and cook slowly until tender. Turn the heat back up, add a chopped garlic clove and a handful of sliced black olives and cook until the carrots are lightly caramelised and the garlic is fragrant.


    Text: Robin Powell

    About this article

    Author: Robin Powell

    Five of the best: meadow gardens


    Meadows are highly diverse communities of plants that keep soil, insect, bird and mammal populations healthy. They are also dreamily beautiful!


    Photo- Jardin Plume



    To commemorate his mum’s 60th Coronation anniversary in 2012, Prince Charles started a meadow project. The first of the 60 Coronation meadows was planted at his garden Highgrove, in the Cotswolds. The Highgrove meadow, four acres dotted with oaks, chestnut, poplars and beech, now boasts more than 72 varieties of plants, including five native orchids.The meadow is cut in summer for hay, and grazed by sheep between September and December which help tread the wildflower seed back into the ground to start the show again in spring.



    Never one to do anything by halves the new meadow garden at Longwood in Pennsylvania spans 86 acres, with almost 5 kilometres of walking and hiking trails. Highlighting native plants of the region it also demonstrates the latest thinking in ecological garden design. Rather than trying to restore the land to what it was, the meadow aims to support the relationships between water, plants, animals, and humans that conservationist and ecological pioneer Aldo Leopold called the Community of the Land. And, like everything at Longwood, it is sensationally beautiful.


    Gravetye Manor

    Photos- Graveyte Manor

    English garden writer William Robinson wrote about his plans for the meadows at Gravetye in 1870 and the new iteration of the garden has developed his ideas. The meadow show starts in February with snowdrops and crocus, followed by daffodils flowering through carpets of bluebells. In April there are wild tulips and camassia, with native wildflowers blooming from May. Grasses take over in late summer and in September the meadow is mown for hay and rests over winter.


    Jardin Plume

    This gorgeous garden in Normandy France takes the formality of the traditional French garden and gives it a modern, naturalistic makeover. Orderly hedges contrast with the wild abandon of flowers and the billowing grasses that give the garden its name. In summer and autumn the meadow grasses of the orchard are mown in regular squares. The effect is of nature having coloured in between the lines.


    Trentham Estate

    Photo- Susan Rushton


    Ahead of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown, one of his iconic landscapes, Trentham Estate, asked Professor Nigel Dunnet for advice. Dunnet is Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture at the University of Sheffield and has pioneered ecological approaches to gardens and public spaces that integrate sustainability, affordability and beauty. His go-to? The meadow. Large woodlands and areas of diseased rhododendrons at Trentham were cleared for a meadow sowing in 2015, with stunning results.



    About this article

    Author: Sandra Ross

    Five of the Best: Oudolf gardens

    Piet Oudolf has changed the way we think about gardens.

    His planting designs of perennials and grasses are romantic, exciting, enriching and inspiring. These are some of our favourites.

    Words: Sandra Ross


    Trees for trains on New York's Highline. Photo - ON-Photography Germany/


    The High Line

    The ‘brave’ decision taken a decade ago to turn a disused, elevated freight line in the centre of New York City into a public park has been massively vindicated with more than 7 million visits a year. The High Line is now 1.45-miles of garden, with more than 500 species of plants. Its success has been due to the inspired planting design by Piet Oudolf, whose rich mix has created a dynamic landscape that draws people in and rewards their attention.


    New York's Highline. Photo - elisank79/


    Trentham Estate, England

    The renewal of Trentham, a vast garden at Stoke-on-Trent, England, built in the 18th century by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, is due to the collaboration between Piet Oudolf and English designer Tom Stuart Smith. Stuart Smith has replaced the stiff Italianate garden of the Victorian era with naturalistic planting in the Oudolf style, while Piet’s contributions include a huge, informal, immersive garden of perennials known as the Floral Labyrinth.



    This garden in Enkoping, Sweden, is planted with Oudolf’s favourite plants, his ‘dream seedlings’. In one section the plants are planted into a series of blocks. The contrasting density and texture of each block makes a giant tapestry of colour and texture. Elsewhere, a salvia ‘river’ flows in a mass of blue and purpletoward the river that forms the outer edge of the park. The park’sexciting mix of wilderness and cultivation goes to the heart of this man’s genius.


    Hauser & Wirth Gallery

    The much-celebrated Oudolf Field is a perennial meadow at Hauser & Wirth Art Gallery on the outskirts of Bruton, Somerset. It’s laid out in 17 curving, interlocking garden beds divided by a broad, gravelled pathway. Originally, the Field really was a field – a plain, long, uncultivated rectangle, sloping up and away from a handsome collection of stone farm buildings. Oudolf has used the field like a huge, flat canvas, painted in great swoops of perennial plants, with no intervening trees or shrubs.


    Photo - Lois GoBe/



    You will find Vlinderhof or Butterfly Garden, inside Utrecht’s Maximapark in The Netherlands.

    In 2013, residents of the area asked Piet Oudolf to design a garden within the city park that would be planted and maintained by volunteers. More than 15,000 plants of 97 different varieties attract butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects. It’s a cornucopia of colour, form and texture from late summer to autumn and into winter when seed heads and spent stems glisten with frost.


    Photo - Wiert nieuman/


    Come with us


    The Highline, Trentham, Dreampark and Vlinderhof all feature on Ross Garden Tours itineraries from 2020-2022. Call 1300 233 200 for details.

    About this article

    Author: Sandra Ross

    Five of the best: rose gardens

    Discover five of the best gardens to admire the beauty of roses.



    David Austin Roses

    The 200-plus roses bred by the late David Austin are on show at this rose garden within a rose nursery, at Albrighton in eastern Shropshire. It’s hard to believe now, but Austin’s roses were initially a hard sell; considered old-fashioned in comparison to the scentless formality of the hybrid teas. Fashion caught up and romantic gardeners embraced his soft, scented, multi-petalled blooms. A garden of these outstanding roses is hard to beat!(David Austin Roses is now in the care of David Austin, jnr, and his son Richard.)




    The old walls of Sissinghurst, in Kent, are smothered with roses, honeysuckle and clematis; and in the rose garden itself Vita Sackville West’s much-loved old roses and hybrid musk roses meet clematis, bulbs, perennials and sweet peas trained up rustic supports. But it’s the white garden, with its combination of white flowers and silver and green foliage plants and its dazzling central arbour of white Rosa mulliganii, that has captured gardener’s hearts - and inspired a million copies.




    Claude Monet’s garden an hour north of Paris might be most famous for its waterlilies, but it’s roses that dominate the Clos Normande in front of the house. In June the fragrance is dreamy as roses smother the great arbours of the Grand Allee with blooms and pillars of roses lend structure to the parallel flower beds, which flower in ever-changing tones from spring through summer and autumn. Monet lived at Giverny for 43 years and considered his gardens his true works of art.



    Roserie de L’Hay

    In 1892 Jules Graveraux commissioned the landscape architect Edouard Andre to lay out a garden of his 1600 roses; the first garden dedicated exclusively to roses. The garden reached peak capacity in 1910 with 8000 roses. It’s now a 4-acre garden within a large public park in the southern suburbs of Paris,beautifully laid out in a pattern of beds, walks, arbours, tunnels and ornamental trellis work, with climbing roses growing along swags, over pergolas and up pillars.


    Broughton Hall

    Roses bloom in the borders, climb over pergolas and arches, spiral up pillars and lounge along swags in The Garden at Broughton Hall at Jindivick, in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, 100km east of Melbourne. The hedges that protect the garden from wind also hold in the fragrance of hundreds of roses, many of them David Austins. Co-owner David Musker is a nurseryman and garden designer and he has a great eye for planting combinations for his roses.



    Come with us

    All of these gardens are on our itineraries. Call 1300 233 200 for details.


    About this article

    Author: Sandra Ross

    Five of the best: wisteria gardens

    Here’s our pick of the best places in the world to be thrilled by the fragrance, form and sheer delight of wisteria.

    Words: Linda Ross


    Kawachi Flower Park


    Ashikaga Flower Park

    This is our favourite wisteria collection, just 50 minutes out of Tokyo. There are 350 wisterias over 23 acres, pruned into many forms, including shelves, over bridges, rounded domes, arched walkways and - the highlight - flat onto a bamboo trellis measuring 100 x 100 metres. For several weeks every year master gardener, 93-year-old Haruji Takahashi, climbs a giant ladder to prune this 150-year old masterpiece, which he’s been crafting for half a century.


    Kawachi Flower Park


    Kameido Tenjin Shrine

    In the heart of Tokyo lies Kameido Tenjin Shrine, where a one-kilometre stretch of wisteria, trained over a bamboo trellis, hovers above squares of water, giving the visitor a chance to move between water and wisteria. During the Golden Week holiday the trellises are lit at night. As this is one of Tokyo’s free floral events, halfthe city might be there enjoying the show with you!


    Kameido Tenjin Shrine

    Kawachi Wisteria Garden

    Two hours on the bullet train from Okayama is a private garden famous for its wisteria arches. The garden is only open in autumn for maple viewing and in spring for wisteria. Highlights include two, long arched steel tunnels planted with every tone of the wisteria rainbow. Further up the hill, a collection of large wisteria trees together form an enormous roof of translucent flowers. At the top you can see over the sea of wisteria flowers into the bamboo groves of the surrounding valley. Can be busy in wisteria season.




    Nooroo, Mount Wilson

    Closer to home, just two hours west of Sydney is a wonderful collection of potted wisteria on an old tennis court. The Valder family collection began in 1960 with wisteria sourced from China, Japan, Europe and North America. Large-canopied wisteria trees are trained onto old posts from the tennis court and surrounded with potted azaleas to plump up the floral display. The garden is now in the good hands of Dr Anthony Barrett and is a must visit in October.


    Nooroo, Mt Wilson


    Iford Manor, Wiltshire

    The wisteria adorning the front façade here is reputedly the oldest Wisteria sinensis in England, planted in 1840. It’s one of our favorite displays of wisteria in an English garden, and the garden itself is a treat, designed by garden architect Harold Peto, who lived in the manor in the early 20th century. His great love of Italian garden style is romantically mixed with the English love of flower borders.


    Come with us

    Our Flower Festivals of Japan tour is timed to catch the peak of the wisteria show. Details: 1300 233 200 or


    Linda recorded a podcast about wisteria while in Japan this year. Give it a listen


    Selfie by Linda Ross

    About this article

    Author: Linda Ross

    Flanders Poppy


    Photo - James A. Sugar/

    Flanders Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) 

    The churning of the soil by horses' hooves and soldiers' boots on the Belgian and French battlegrounds of World War 1 encouraged never-seen-before displays of red Flanders poppy. 

    In tribute to the sacrifices made in the war, sow a packet of poppy seed into a bare spot or pot on Anzac Day. There's a bonus - Mr Fothergills is giving 50 cents to Legacy Australia for every packet of Gallipoli Anniversary poppy seeds sold.


    Description: poppies are instantly recognisable for their beautiful, papery blooms held above often-hairy stems. The Flanders Poppy is best known as the poppy worn on Remembrance Day. 

    Size: the nodding poppy flower heads can reach up to 60cm. Once they have finished flowering their grey-green foliage dies back to a papery brown mound, which is unnoticeable if teamed in a garden bed with another flowering perennial such as salvia.

    Cultivation: poppies are hardy and easy to grow, usually from seed. Choose a sunny spot in well-drained soil, and keep them moist.

    Special comments: poppy seed can lie dormant for up to 80 years. 


    Text: Ally Jackson

    About this article

    Author: Ally Jackson

    Flower farm: Autumn jobs

    This season in the flower farm Linda gives advice and plans for Autumn;

    Planting liliums, gladioli, admiring the buddleia and ordering spring flowering bulbs.


    Lilium 'Tiger babies'. Photo - Robin Powell



    Liliums are the go-to burst for flamboyant summer sizzle. Each bulb gives a cluster of trumpet blossoms that get bigger and better each year. They offer drama in pots or dotted in clumps through the garden, held up by achillea or Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’. Try shell-pink ‘Tiger Babies’, coppery-pink ‘Jessica Pearl’, burgundy-black ‘Matrona’ or the black and white tips of ‘Netty’s Pride’. Even the plain old white November lily is hard to fault. Each bulb needs to be staked with a thin bamboo stake before planting – this holds them up and helps you locate them when they’re dormant.



    It’s time to plant gladioli. They’ll flower in spring alongside roses, bearded iris and lavender. Try peachy G. salmoneus, pictured here, or the hot pink of G. communis ‘Byzantinus’. Clump groups of bulbs generously, 10cm apart.



    Gladioli communis byzantinus.



    The burgundy dots of Allium atropurpureum share a patch with monardia and salvia, above. In warm climates, the drumstick allium (A. sphaerocephalon) is more reliable, with the same floating effect.


    Allium atropurpureum.


    Plant now

    The ‘Buzz’ buddleias offer 10 months of purple, plum, lilac or sky-blue, honey-scented flowers that attract butterflies, honey bees and teddy bear bees. We like pendulous ‘Wisteria Lane’. All shrubs in the range are just 1.5m tall. Finished flowers should be trimmed to push the next lot along. Hard prune by 40 percent in late winter.

    Annuals to plant now include sweet peas, poppies, primula, polyanthus, cineraria and pansies.

    The minty fragrance is reason alone to plant hummingbird mint (Agastache) but it’s also great for holding up alliums and liliums in the border, and is perfect for posies. It flowers throughout the warm months and should be hacked back right back in late winter.


    Bundles of Budleia.


    Pick now

    Chocolate cosmos is famed for its scent but we also love the way its small, dark-burgundy daisy-like flowers seem to float and hover in the air. We’re enjoying a version called ‘Eclipse’ paired with delicate ivory flannel flowers