Archive | May 2018

Tropical Glasshouse


Recently, whilst enjoying the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne, we visited the Tropical Glasshouse. I've thought long and hard about writing a post about the glasshouse, because what I know about tropical plants would fit on - I was going to say a tropical plant leaf, but they seem to have quite large leaves, so it would have to be another kind of leaf: a salvia leaf, perhaps. However, the visit was absorbing and the plants unusual to me, and  I thought I would share it.

The building of the glasshouse began in the early 1900s but it has been added to twice since then.  It is heated by natural gas.  The minimum temperature is 16 degrees C (obviously this climbs higher during the day),  and humidity is about 70% or more.  We certainly noticed the difference when we entered it on a grey Melbourne day.

All the plants are in pots, so repotting is an ongoing business.


There were many different Bromeliads, so fascinating with their varied leaf designs: zig-zaggy stripes, green splotchy dots on purple, greyish-green with shocking pink tips and white pinstripes.  Bromeliads always have a little water tank in their centre which needs to be flushed out periodically.  Mosquitoes can breed in them which also makes it a good idea to do the flushing. These plants are epiphytes and don't need to be in a lot of  soil. I've learnt that they do just as well in orchid mix or sphagnum moss.  Unfortunately there were no flowers on the bromeliads when we visited.


This pitcher plant  (Nepenthes truncata: it had a label) has a leathery feel.  Those rolled rims around the top of the pitcher are slippery and insects, or sometimes even a mouse or a frog, slide down only to become trapped and digested in the enzymes at the bottom of the pitcher, providing food for the plant. The pitchers themselves look like quivers for Hobbits' arrows! If Hobbits had arrows.


Anthuriums are also strange looking plants.  The brightly coloured waxy looking part is a spathe or modified leaf, and not ( as I had thought) a flower. The tiny flowers can be found on the fleshy spike or spadix.


In the centre of the glasshouse is a trickling streamlet surrounded by many plants and rocks covered with  small ferns, mosses and other damp-loving growths.  I  thoroughly enjoyed examining these microcosms with their different organisms. They're like a rainforest in miniature.


Finally, a view of the interior of the glasshouse.  I have discovered, too late, that there are two Titan Arums in there and can't believe we didn't see them. Obviously they weren't in flower, because I'm sure their putrid smell would have been noticeable.

Botanical gardens usually have a glasshouse for visitors to wander through.  Have you been to one you enjoyed?

SoS May 26: Autumn Colours

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This Autumn has been one of the most colourful I've seen here in the Central Tablelands of NSW. Russet, garnet, butterscotch and gold leaves bedeck trees in many gardens and lawns carry  mantles of colour. I wonder if the prolonged dry spell is the reason for all this glory.  The weather continues to be warm and sunny but distressingly dry. It's wonderful weather for being outside gardening.

Six on Saturday continues apace with gardeners showing what is happening in their plot.  If you would like to see what others are experiencing in their gardens, pop over to The Propagator's blog to take part.

Here are my six:

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  1. Following an inspirational post about geraniums from Ali over at The Mindful Gardener, I visited our local nursery and bought one.  It was the only one available, actually.  She's Geranium hybrid x wallichianum 'Rozanne' which is a long name for a tiny plant.  What an ethereal blue she is with her finely drawn darker veins. I've found a sheltered spot and hope Rozanne does well.

2.  Unidentified Pelargonium.  I love the brilliant colour of this pelargonium which is much stronger in real life than in my photo.  When the frosts arrive, this plant will be badly affected, but is sheltered enough to survive the winter, its burnt and battered outer  leaves protecting those underneath.


3.  I planted this Arum pictum last year having read that it is quite self-contained and sensible and won't spread wantonly.  However, it looks to me as though it's indulging in some sneaky thuggery.  You can see it's grown quite large in a short period of time and is about to lean on my Scilla peruviana which has been producing strong healthy leaves.  The flowers are interesting but the flowering period is very brief.  I wonder if anyone else has had experience with this plant?


4. Verbena bonariensis.  Planted as an infant a  month ago, 75 cm tall and flowering already.

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5.  Late afternoon sun shining on standard Escallonia.  It has a terrible aphid infestation which seems to be common to these plants.


6. In the front garden,  Pyrus nivalis the Snow Pear,  is clothed in leaves of gold.  This is the best colour I've seen it display since it was planted three years ago: again, perhaps the effect of our dry Autumn.

Weather today: 1.3 - 21 degrees C and sunny.

Six on Saturday, May 19th

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It's astonishing how quickly Saturdays seem to roll around. I've no sooner read everyone's Sixes than it's time to prepare another one of my own.

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator. Participants are invited to show six things from their garden: flowers or vegetables, trees or shrubs, paths or gardens, successes or failures. Six things. From a garden.

Don't forget to drop in to The Propagator's blog to catch up on what other gardeners are doing.

Since last week the weather here has been glorious. Cold in the mornings, yes, but the days have been full of sunshine. People are still wearing shorts! Wonderful weather for gardening.

Here are my six for this week:

  1. Leucodendron salignum.   The label describes it as 'Red Devil' but something tells me this plant is wrongly labelled! The second picture is a different view of an older flower on the same shrub.  Various websites tell me it must have plenty of sun or the flowers won't colour. Well, sun is something it's had in abundance, so my guess is an incorrect label.

2. Last of the Iceberg roses. They will flower sporadically until they're pruned in July, but I'm not expecting too much more from them.


3. A garden view.  The two poor bay trees on each side of the steps have been in those pots for at least five years.  They are very sulky, and who would blame them?  They're going to be released from their misery next week, all going according to plan, and planted  in the ground.


4.  An iris flowered! It was the only one, and who could possibly guess that this would happen?  Its time with us was fleeting: in two days it was finished.  There will be more of course, but not for a while.


5.  Crepe Myrtle.  Unlike last week's crepe myrtle, this one is a shrub which was given to us as a house-warming present.  I don't know its name as it began as a cutting from the friend's garden.  It's looking rather autumnal with its tiara of berries.

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6.  This week's unsung heroine is Alyssum,  (it was Lobelia last week, you may remember),  another flower that will brighten our garden during winter with splashes of pink, mauve, apricot, purple and white. There’s even a yellow one, although I have never seen it. Alyssum self seeds readily, filling small spaces in a very obliging manner.


Weather today:  0 -19 degrees C and sunny.  Of course!

Happy gardening everyone.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

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It was a dull day in April when we visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, but our enthusiasm was not dampened by the louring clouds as we wandered around the 38 hectare site with its Autumn leaf-covered lawns, its lofty trees and waterways.

The RBG was founded in 1846 and is an idyllic oasis in the middle of Melbourne only a short walk from the skyscrapers which can occasionally be seen above the trees. Like most botanical gardens,  it's divided into areas such as the Australian Forest Walk, the Tropical Glasshouse, the Southern African collection and the Perennial Border to name only a few.

Because it's a big site, it isn't possible to see everything in one visit, but although we missed quite a lot, we were well satisfied with our morning's meanderings.


Banksias and chubby-trunked Boabs greeted us near the entrance to the gardens. I think these Boabs are youngish because I read that there's one in Western Australia that has a girth of 14.7 metres! It's thought to be 1 500 years old.




We first wandered along the Australian Forest Walk, photos above.  Here native trees majestically imposed themselves on the landscape: Corkwood, Hard Corkwood (which is apparently  different  from not-so-hard corkwood), Cabbage Tree Palms and Queensland Kauri jostled for space amongst the Eucalypts,  Corymbia, and Angophoras (which look like 'gum' trees with typical gum-type leaves), and they in turn sheltered the ferns, Dracaenas and Queensland Firewheel Trees.

Firewheel trees-'Stenocarpus sinatus'- have spectacular flowers that really are in the shape of a wheel, unfortunately not depicted very well in my photo on the right.


In another part of the gardens, known as the Oak Lawn people were occupied with enjoying the day even though the sky was grey and threatening. Schoolchildren played organised games or completed projects set by their teachers.


In the ‘Camellia Collection’  blooms in many shades of pink could be seen.  Autumn is the best time to see Camellia Sasanquas flowering in Australia.


A Wattlebird sipped nectar from a Floss Silk tree, Black Swans, native to Australia, swam in the lake, and an Eastern Spinebill (so difficult to photograph) found his lunch in the Echeverias.  Can you just see him there on the right?  He has a very long slender beak.  I'm happy to say I have Spinebills in my own garden, although I haven't been able to photograph one yet.


A wander through the rainforest provided us with an idea of what it would be like to be in a real rainforest.  This area is kept damp with frequent waterings and there are tall sprayers placed frequently but unobtrusively throughout.  It's full of huge ficus trees with buttressed roots, epiphytes, ferns, and a wide variety of palms. A delightful stream runs through, wending its way down the slope, finding its way under roots and finally into one of the lakes on the lower level of the gardens.


Finally, with our feet aching and the sky threatening rain, we headed off back to the city, anticipating a delicious lunch at the highly recommended 'Chin Chin' restaurant.  I had to take one last photo which wasn't strictly in the gardens, but I couldn't resist this unusual combination of colours.


Do you have a favourite public garden that you like to visit?

Six on Saturday, May 12th

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Autumn is finally well-esconced in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales, and in fact even Winter made its looming presence felt yesterday with a blast of cold air  bringing us a little rain, strong wind and snow to some places. The maximum temperature here was 11 degrees C and that was only for about five minutes. It was a day for settling snugly by the fire and doing indoor things. The weather  was better today, but even so, Winter is prising the fabric of the days apart with its icy fingers and threatening an imminent arrival. You can feel it in the sneaky chilly breeze.

Six on Saturday is the mushrooming meme hosted by The Propagator. To see what other green-fingered folk have happening in their  gardens,  drop in to his blog where you'll find inspiring gardens and ideas.

As the season comes to a close, it's becoming more difficult to find six things in my garden on a Saturday, but here are mine for this week.


  1. Agastache 'Sweet Lili' is having a last pirouette before closing down for the Winter.  She has flowered constantly since last October.  A star performer who has danced through the summer despite everything the season threw at her.

2.  Caught re-handed!  A King Parrot helps himself to olives.  As a consequence the few olives we had were harvested soon afterwards.  I wonder that the parrots can eat olives off the tree as they taste very bitter. Needs must when the drought bites.

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3,  The flowers of Erica melanthera 'Ruby Shepherd'.  It's a winter-flowering shrub, so should bring  brightness to the garden when many other plants are dormant. It's a very recent addition to the garden and only very small, but I like it so much I've decided more must be found forthwith.


4. Lobelia flowers.  An underrated plant, lobelia will flower for most of the winter here. The flowers are like indigo butterflies.

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5. Banksia blechhnifolia. This is a Western Australian native.  Plants from WA can sulk a little over on this side of Australia, but this one has been behaving quite well.  These furry growths are at the end of the stems and they remind me, in close-up,  of moths'  feelers waving inquisitively.  So far there has been only one flower on this plant and I'll have to wait until about September to see some more.



6.  Crepe Myrtle 'Natchez'.  Here are the beautiful Autumn leaves.  It's only a small tree but is so hardy and beautiful in every season.

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Weather today: Cloudy.  6-16 degrees Celcius.

Happy gardening everyone!

Traversing the Flat Land

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Our recent touring holiday, a journey of about 3 500 km, took us on a round trip to Melbourne and back, stopping at eight different towns and seeing a lot of Australian countryside in the process. From arid marginal land to rolling countryside of glorious green on the coast, we covered a lot of ground, and yet, looking at a map, it was only a small part of the south-eastern corner. We all know and understand that Australia is a huge country, but its immensity really becomes apparent when you start driving around in it.

Our first two days (from Mudgee to Griffith and then Griffith to Mildura), were fascinating in their own right, although many folk would only see the journey as something to be over and done with as soon as possible. Each day was a long drive: about five hours not including a short stop for lunch.

Much of that part of New South Wales is unrelentingly flat. If you could make a 360 degree turn, the land would be almost completely flat in every direction. And yet there is so much to see!


The road surface is good, which is surprising considering the number of trucks, called road trains, that use it on a daily basis.  They are huge and rumble along at a steady 110 km/ph -as fast as they're allowed to go.  In the distance ahead of us, they reminded me of  sailing ships becalmed in the doldrums, seeming to be suspended above the heat haze, until they approached  and passed, on three occasions flinging up gravel. The gravel, which had been laid recently, flew through the air in an alarming fashion, like small meteorites, peppering our windscreen with chips and cracks.




On each side of the road, it's possible to see that farming goes on: wheat, mostly, except around Griffith and Mildura which are irrigated areas, where citrus fruits, rice and grapes are grown. Occasionally there’s a copse on the horizon. Now and then an emu can be spotted, or a bird of prey. Sometimes remnant scrub can be seen. Or a lone farmer ploughs a paddock big enough to contain a small town.

The very enormity and emptiness of it is, in itself, fascinating. I found myself wondering about the tenacity of the people who cleared this land and the terrible wholesale removal of trees to create arable land. Towns along the way are far apart, and small: usually a few houses, a servo and a pub, and in one case a wonderful mural painted on the side of an old silo.

In recent times, silos have been replaced with more modern methods of storing grain, but the old silos have found a new life.  Artists are painting murals on them, and in fact, there's a Silo Art Trail in western Victoria. Visitors to this area can see enormous murals honouring local people,  painted by well-known artists.


Both Griffith and Mildura are on rivers: Griffith on the Murrumbidgee and Mildura on the Murray.  The effect of entering them after the journey on the open road is as I imagine entering an oasis to be. Suddenly there are trees and lawns. There's an air of busyness.  People are out shopping or sitting at footpath cafés in the  sun, the shadows of street trees casting patterns on the footpaths.


We met some great people along the way, from the woman at the service station at Weethalle who said she prefers to shop in Griffith (round trip 200 km),  to the friendly man in Hay who helped us decide whether we should replace the windscreen or not -we didn't.

While it wasn't a trip I'd want to make on a daily basis, as truck drivers might do, I wouldn't mind making it again one day, perhaps in a good season when rain has fallen, when the countryside would look completely different.

Have you been on a long road trip or do you prefer to stop in one place for a longer stay?

Six on Saturday, May 5th

The last two weeks have seen us touring around Victoria, and SoS wasn't possible during that time. I wondered how the garden would look after a fortnight, but all was in order upon our return. Our watering system did its work well, as did a friend who kindly watered pot plants.

Six on Saturday is a meme hosted by The Propagator and if you are interested in seeing what other people have in their gardens, drop in on his blog to find out what's been happening in the past week. Horticultural delights await, I can assure you.

Here are my six on Saturday:

  1. Leptospermum scoparium 'Kea' bloomed in our abscence. It's a dwarf plant that will keep on flowering for weeks and has an abundance of petite white flowers whose stamens look like sea anemone tentacles in miniature.


2. The olives ripened while we were away and now must be picked and pickled.  I think they're Manzanilla: they're very large and healthy.



3. Correa pulchella 'Ring-a Ding Ding' (I won't take responsibility for the name), also known as Australian Fuchsia, although they're not related.  What a star this plant is: covered with flowers which also last for weeks, tough: drought and frost hardy.


4. Rosa 'Climbing Pinkie' has been rampageous in her climbing habit, although not in flowering, but I managed to capture a slightly blousy cluster of blooms.


5. After a very dodgy start that involved much yellowing and dropping of leaves during the summer, my dwarf Meyer lemon has decided to behave itself and is flowering its socks off.

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6.  My little group of plants purchased from Lambley Gardens. Iris cretensis 'Starkers Pink', Erigeron glaucus 'Seabreeze', Ceratostigma, Erica 'Ruby Shepherd', Sedum 'Postman's Pride', Salvia microphhylla ‘Ribambelle', Salvia 'Celestial Blue', Tulipa 'Queen of Night' and Tulipa 'Menton'.


Weather today: Sunny and perfect, 0.4-21 degrees C. Frosts are coming soon!

Happy gardening everyone.

Lambley: late Autumn Garden.

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I've been inspired by David Glenn's Lambley Garden in Central Victoria ever since I became a serious (but uneducated in the science of horticulture) gardener about eighteen years ago. I've bought quite a few plants from there by mail order. So it was with much anticipation that I approached Lambley a couple of weeks ago, during our recent road tour of Victoria. We had been staying in the charming town of Daylesford, and Lambley is only a short drive away. Victoria, like so much of Australia, has been starved of rain for some time, and the countryside we passed through, although very beautiful, is also very dry.

Although I didn't get to meet them, I've learned that David and his artist wife Chris Canning have lived at Lambley for nearly thirty years.  Soon after arriving there David realised that the climate dictated that he would have to concentrate on the kinds of plants that could cope with extremes of temperatures,  from mornings of -8C in winter to highs of 40C+ in summer, rather than the gentle flowers of his native England.

Lambley is a series of 'rooms' containing a dry climate garden (which is seldom watered), a Mediterranean garden, a flower garden and a vegetable garden all connected by gravel paths and tree-shaded walks. Around the perimeter of the whole is a two metre high European privet hedge which helps to shelter the gardens from the hot dry summer winds of this area.


The Dry Climate garden is entered through a single opening in the impressive hedge. Inside are five lofty olive trees, the branches of which have been pruned high so that the sun can reach the hardy plants beneath. The visitor can follow gravel paths and admire a selection of plants from Australia as well as from Turkey, Mexico, California, Southern Europe and other places where hardy plants are found. The occupants of the garden are watered in at planting and then left pretty much to their own devices. Apart from whatever rain falls, the dry garden might receive three more waterings a year if necessary.


The Mediterranean garden has  an abundance  of bee-laden perennials filling wide borders with bounteous colour and volume, overflowing  onto  paths, and at this late stage of the season, creating a mesmerising tangle of hues and shapes.



Here Nepeta has all but obliterated the path to an urn in the background while Clematis competes with bright uplifting dahlias for a slice of the action.

Above: Here Nepeta has all but obliterated the path to an urn in the background while bright uplifting Dahlias compete with Clematis for a slice of the action.

And looking at the urn from the opposite direction, the visitor sees a much more formal aspect with carefully clipped hedges flanking an immaculate path.

And looking at the urn from the opposite direction, the visitor sees a much more formal aspect with carefully clipped hedges flanking an immaculate path.

The pear walk, planted with Pyrus Calleryana, has an underplanting of white Japanese anemones and a beautifully kept grassy sward. Look how the sun dapples through the leaves onto the path.

The pear walk, planted with Pyrus calleryana, has an underplanting of white Japanese anemones and a beautifully kept grassy sward. Look how the sun dapples through the leaves onto the path.

Another formal walk, this time flanked by Mediterranean cypress, Cupressus Sempervirens. The blue seat is a very Italian touch.

Another formal walk, this time bordered by Mediterranean cypress, Cupressus sempervirens. I thought the blue bench was Italian, but I’ve learnt it’s an English Lutyens bench, thank you Christina. I expect if I’d read more about Gertrude Jekyll I might have known that! It looks striking at the end of the walk.

We had a more than pleasurable visit to this garden and it certainly  lived up to my expectations.  I loved walking along those paths admiring all the plants and the dedication that has gone into making this place such a showpiece. Was there a nursery?  Yes, there was, but bearing in mind that I was going to have to keep my plants alive, in the car, for the best part of two weeks, I was circumspect in my purchases and bought only  some small pots of perennials and some tulip bulbs.

One more word about Lambley: there is no charge to enter!  David Glenn says he wants everyone to be able to enjoy the garden. Nor is there any pressure to buy, but of course you want to, having just seen such amazing beauty.


Have you been to an open garden or nursery that you really enjoyed? I'd love to hear about it.

You can click on the links to see more of Lambley (and there are gardening notes) or Chris Canning's artwork.