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To the good times a garden brings

Feeling ever so slightly flat after weeks of planning an engagement party that was celebrated last weekend, I went into the backyard to find it blazing with various shades of pink, purple and green and decked out with swelling fruit. From apples, eggplant and black sapote to strawberries, pears, quinces and zucchini – there are some good times ahead as well. The flowers aren’t looking too shabby either – with the Solanum wendlandii taking over the pergola and salvia Wendy’s Wish dripping with cerise bells. The bees have been busy in the garden too, with Verbena bonariensis and other bee magnets out in full force. All good!

Clockwise from the top: Quinces, salvia Wendy’s Wish, Solanum wendlandii and a little bobble head of Verbena bonariensis

April is all about the garden

The calendar on my phone has reminded me each of the last three mornings that April is all about propagation. From salvias to hebes and wormwood to stachys, every perennial and shrub is simply crying out to be trimmed back, dead headed and disciplined to within an inch of its life in April. There are rewards beyond the obvious for playing dominatrix in the yard this month. Not only do the plants look suitably submissive, they also produce a vast amount of material that has the potential to supply cuttings and hence new plants for newer plantings. Out of every ten cuttings, if even five were to take, that is a saving of fifty dollars at the very least! Take that, big green soulless shed!

Whatever does not take goes into the compost bin to make more goodness for plants to take up and grow further. I am hoping to be able to share some plants with other gardeners as well. After all, gardening can be one massive exercise in paying it forward. As I look about my own garden, the eye stops at William’s aloe, John’s Narcissus obesus, Laurie’s agastache Sweet Lilli, John’s sedum Autumn Joy and Ty’s water celery to name a few. For a garden so full of the generosity of others, the right thing would be to give generously when I can.


April is also about planting. Email notifications from and Jon Lamb from ABC Radio’s Talkback Gardening tell me that the time is right for beans, brassicas, members of the onion family and Asian greens. If you are still reading this, you probably know your brassicas from your bunching onions. And if I reeled you in with all that talk about dominatrices and you are still here as there is something cool about the way I write, then let me tell you that brassicas are cauliflowers, cabbages, broccoli and kale while Asian greens are anything from bok choy to mizuna. Jon adds that April is also the time for the sap suckers to arrive and begin feeding on your treasured roses and beloved begonias. Squirting with garlic spray or eco-oil will help keep them down while still leaving enough for the good insects to have a feed. Remember, killing them all will simply see a decrease in predators like ladybirds. So, spray in moderation or not at all.
For me this April in particular is going to be about planting. Having just come back from the delights of the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, I am full of ideas both big and small. I also have the minor matter of a possible garden opening for members of a garden club in October which has already given me a number of psychedelic nightmares involving petunias. Note to myself: There will be a minimum of petunias. Like the garden below –
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Show Garden from Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show

I have a list of things to plant as long as my arm; okay, three or four arm lengths. This post is going to be easy and short in comparison. So, here goes:


To plant:

Bearded Iris, Riversdale Irises:
a) Devil May Care
b) By Jeeves
c) Beverly Sills
d) Gracious Curves
e) Whoop em Up
In addition, I am expecting some pass-along iris rhizomes from interstate.
Australian natives, Native Plant Project:
a) Banksia blechnifolia
b) Pin cushion hakea
c) Pink kangaroo paw
d) Banksia
a) Callicarpa giraldiana
b) Phlomis kashmiriana
c) Syringa wolfii
d) Ribes sanguineum pink
Bulbs, Tesselaar:
a) Picasso ranunculus – 25
b) Pheasant’s Eye daffodils – 5
c) Allium drumsticks – 10
d) Snowflake Gravetye Giant – 5
e) Hyacinth – Blue Pearl and White Pearl – 3 of each
Bulbs, Red Earth:
f) Ranunculus burgundy –
g) Thalia daffodils – 3 x 3 = 9
h) Ixia Elvira Blue – 3
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Wall of dahlias at Red Earth Bulbs (MIFGS)
i) Chincherinchee – 25
j) Dutch iris mixed – 20
k) King Fabiola – 25
l) Ranunculus Mixed – 50
m) Ranunculus Pastel – 25
n) Freesia Refracta Alba – 50
o) Wickedly White collection: 5 Snowflakes, 10 Jonquil, 10 Chincherinchee, 25 Ranunculi, 20 Freesia refracta alba
p) Burst of Blue collection: 25 Spring Star, 25 Anemone Single, 5 Dutch Iris, 10 Freesia, 25 Muscari/Grape Hyacinths
Bulbs, from Laurie:
q) Scilla peruviana pink – 1
r) Oxalis hirta
s) Oxalis 

Bulbs from John:
t) Narcissus obesus
u) Narcissus Ta Julia
v) Narcissus romieuxii Julia Jane
w) Narcissus jonquilla
x) Fritillary meleagris seeds
Seeds, Seed Collection:
a) Snow pea Mammoth melting
b) Radish French breakfast – 3
c) Evening Primrose
d) Coriander – Slow Bolt – 3
e) Sugarsnap Pea – Cascadia
f) Beetroot Cylindrica
g) Grain amaranth
h) Radish Hailstone
i) Radish Rat Tail
j) Basil Dark Opal – 2
k) Candytuft Dwarf Fairy
l) Larkspur Imperial Choice: 3
m) Linaria Fairy Bouquet: 2
n) Foxglove Excelsior Mix
o) Tussock Bellflower
Seeds, Chiltern Seeds:
p) Hardy bulbs
I also have a tray of seeds earmarked for autumn, which is now for us in the Southern Hemisphere. This contains both bought and saved seeds such as crimson flowered broad beans and Novella peas as well as gifted seeds such as hollyhocks and honesty from local gardeners. I will have to list them for my own mental peace and satisfaction but I think I might stop for lunch now.
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Jason Hodges garden at MIFGS
I feel like the dog in the photo above, wagging away in happy anticipation. Or at least what it would do if it was alive.

Wednesday Vignette(s): Don’t make me miss winter!

Twenty four degrees Centigrade and it is not even spring yet, here in Adelaide in South Australia. I know it does not sound like much, especially when I think of what the gardeners of the Mediterranean regions of California have been going through. But this is also the sort of windy day that sucks the winter moisture right out of our seriously dry soils and leaves the door open for garden plants to perish and bush fires to start from the slightest spark.

Another reason this temperature so early in the season annoys me is the way I know it will cut short the show of bulbs in the garden here. A couple of weeks ago it was hail turning the delicate flowers on the early bulbs to mush. A couple of days like today and the bright blooms of daffodils and tritonia will be faded by the sun and the photos on my phone will be the only reminder that they had bloomed like so many stars.

I planted a lot of anemones and ranunculi in the beds as well. They are providing iridescence under the chopped back salvias. The arctotis daisy has filled the bit under one of the olive trees. In the last couple of weeks little fuzzy buds have been raising their heads out of the mass of leaves and going through a shepherd’s crook phase before throwing their faces to the sun in cerise exuberance.


Flower stalk on Aloe maculata:

Scilla peruviana:





Eremophila nivea:
Eremophila nivea

The last photograph is of an Aussie native. This has done so well in the garden that I am sorely tempted to buy a few more, both of this kind and the species in general. One of these days, definitely!
Wednesday Vignette is hosted by Anna at Flutter and Hum. Click to see what caught Anna’s attention this week.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – August 2018

It has been a while since I have blogged about the garden but I have kept up on Facebook with the garden photos and descriptions. Hopefully I will be blogging a lot more regularly once I make this start and join all the people across the country and the planet in recording what it is that we do in the garden to make ourselves mostly happy and occasionally a little anxious. So here goes my post for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day!

                                 It is not winter without a pot or three of white Primulas


In the mostly happy category today was the discovery of the first flowers from the daffodils that I had planted last year in pots. Five bulbs to a terracotta pot, labelled with strips cut from the three litre milk jugs that I bought only for their recyclability (is that even a word?), eight pots in all. Unfortunately, some of the labels have disappeared and the writing on a couple of the others has all but faded in the sun that blasted down on them all through November, December and January. Actually there is a new bulb on flower wherever I look in the garden in August and as always, the plants are sensing that warmer days are only a month or two away. We had a perfectly sunny day on Tuesday and another one today. Although it looks like that might be about to change. Or not.

                                                             Split corona daffodils 

split corolla daffodils

                                                              Tete a tete daffodils


                                                   Grape hyacinths by the front door

grape hyacinths

The other happy thing is the return of the perennials like Monarda and sedum Matrona after the winter chill.



                                  Rosettes of sedum and a couple of self seeded Cosmos

sedum roses

                         Jonquil Erlicheer is always the first bulb to flower in this garden

Erlicheer jonquils

In the anxious category, I have so many things that there is little point listing them and developing a deep funk. But a large part of the anxiety centres around the voracious appetites of the local snail population. They seem to be able to zero in on the most recently acquired precious thing and then proceed to denude it of all green bits. The latest victims of the snails are a little yellow flowered chrysanthemum and a salvia. And a Artemisia Oriental Limelight. And…..and…you get the picture. Or what is missing from it anyway!

                                                                Escargot begone!


I am also loving the new growth of these broadbeans, which are seeing a lot of bee action at the moment. I had the first baby bean yesterday, wrapped in a bit of nasturtium leaf with a fennel stalk for perfume. Yes, I am a grazer!

Broadbean flowers and Japanese red mustard with bee on the right hand pic

broadbeans and mustard broad bee.jpg

And that is what is happening in some parts of my garden in mid August for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. Hope you liked looking at it! A very special thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens without looking whose post I would never have thought of writing a blog post of my own today.

People : Dan Pearson, Garden & Landscape Designer, Created Paul Smith’s Garden & Japan’s Millenium Forest ……



Dan Pearson (born 9 April 1964) is an English garden designer, landscape designer, journalist and television presenter. He is an expert in naturalistic perennial planting.

Early life

Pearson was brought up in an Arts and Crafts house on the Hampshire-Sussex border. His father is a painter who taught fine art at Portsmouth Polytechnic and his mother taught fashion and textiles at Winchester School of Art.

He had a weekend gardening job for Mrs. Pumphrey at Greatham Mill Gardens, Hampshire that cultivated his interest in gardening. He decided against going to Art College, and dropped out of his A levels (backed by his parents) to be able to go to the RHS Garden, Wisley, at 17. During 1981–1983, he became an RHS Wisley Trainee, Certificate Course, aged 17. While at Wisley his mother introduced him to Frances Mossman, for whom he designed a garden. Dan then went to the Royal Botanic…

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Euphorbia tirucalli – a childhood memory that turns out to have been a bit of a monster.

Ruma Chakravarti

euphorbia tirucalli (own)3
There are some times in life when coincidences can pile up and make you wonder. The other day I was part of a secret Santa on a gardening page and the only plant my gift receiver was hoping to receive was one called Euphorbia tirucalli. I didn’t know what it was but when I Googled the image it turned out to be something I had driven past every weekend for nine years of my life. It is also called the pencil plant. I knew it through out my childhood as kraalmelkbos or milky fence bush. Sadly I was not able to send it to her as the local Bunnings nursery has a very limited sense of adventure when it comes to plants. But at least I now knew what the giant candelabras of branches that lined every highway in East Africa in the seventies were.

Tirucalli is not a nice…

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Spider wasp vs. spider: Garden epic

Ruma Chakravarti

Yesterday I went outside to the patio to be greeted by a very large spider apparently struck dead while doing yoga. Now, this is not a normal event even by my very strange and relaxed standards, but I can swear that the arachnid looked exactly like it had bent over to touch whatever passes for toes on an eight legged freak with its pedipalps and keeled over from a heart attack in the process. I was still wondering about how the spider had learned yoga when my own morning calm was disturbed by a fairly long shape flying about my feet and knees. When I looked closely I saw the usual warning colours of orange and black which told me that the flier was either not friendly or pretending to appear not friendly. I have to add here that I have not seen this particular kind of flying insect very…

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Through a window, happily.

Ruma Chakravarti

I now have a new addition to my room, next to the floor length window – a little desk. I have my laptop there, a jar of paper beads, sheets of paper, three pairs of scissors, a fine brush, some PVA glue (Fevicol) and a host of good intentions.

But outside the window is where all the action is. The earliest to turn up are a couple of large crow like magpies, picking at bits of bark and eyeing the occasional uncovered beetle with great surprise before eating it with a sense of doing the poor insect a favour. This makes them break into the most melodious crooning, far better as a wake-up call than my phone’s mechanical alarm. I pull the curtains open and check what the day will be like. This is usually also a signal for them to hop and fly heavily away across the road…

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G is for Geometry in the Garden

So many plants and flowers have patterns and colours that the garden is never short of something interesting to look at. Some may lack bright pinks and purples but they compensate by having the most wonderfully geometric patterns and textures if one looks closely enough. Have a look at some of these!

Image    Image


A Flanders poppy in bud and then fully unfurled to reveal a sheen like silk and the most incredible boss of stamens!


Succulents such as Aeonium have colourful fleshy leaves arranged geometrically.

Image               Image


The herbs are not to be left behind either. Lemon balm or Melissa officinalis, has insignificant white flowers but its leaves are beautifully veined and shaped.


Lemon balm leaves

Another succulent which is strikingly patterned is the Haworthia. Members of the lily family, they are from South Africa and are commonly called Zebra plants. The colour is brightest in strong sunlit positions.


Haworthia attenuata

Then there are of course the real flowers, the parts of the flower that are meant to assist the plant in propagation. Some of these are highly coloured and unusual and none more so in my garden than the flowers of the passion fruit vine. They have been called passion flowers as they are thought to illustrate the passion of Christ; the pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance, the tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ, the ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (excluding St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot).The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail. The 3 stigmas represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).The blue and white colors of many species’ flowers represent Heaven and Purity.



Passiflora flower


The end stage of the plant is the seed head. These are often weirdly and wonderfully shaped. The poppy seeds we put on cakes and breads are held inside the seed cases below.



Pepper pot seed heads of poppy Papaver



Passionate…………about fruit!

The things we do I thought, when I heard that someone had said to my daughter we must pollinate our passion fruit ourselves! I mean, I know my quota of devices used by humans to bring about a situation helpful to passion and perhaps, if one is lucky, even pollination! But to do the same to a plant? It all seems so wrong! But then I was brought to my senses by said child as we stood outside wondering whether we would have to get a room for the flagging plant and play music to make the flowers do what should come naturally to them. I mean they even have the word passion in the name! And are used in a number of exotic cocktails, the kind that come with paper umbrellas, and tropical desserts of the kind people eat on their honeymoons! 

 ImagePassion flower: They get their name from the passion of Christ. The tendrils are the whips, the three stigmas are the three nails, the frill of radial filaments represent the crown of thorns and so on.



To my great relief, I was assured there are no fruit motel chains yet and best of all, there was no kink involved. All I would have to do was stand very close to the flowers, early in the morning, before the wind was up and tickle the anthers on each flower with a brush. Hang on! That is not my idea of no kink! 


But wait, there is more…Having tickled the anthers which are the male bits on the flower, I must then proceed to annoy the pistils or the female bits by brushing them too. This transfers the pollen to the pistils and some time in the coming weeks there should be a nice green baby fruit growing from each of the flowers. Now, I don’t know about you, but having to use a brush after a man or anyone else has used it? Not my idea of fun at all! Being subjected to the same by someone else holding the brush! I would rather shave all my hair off before I let that happen. But if that is what the passion fruit needs, who am I to stand in the way of long term happiness? Or the promise of large quantities of fruit in December, January and February. So I went outside, soft sable brush in one hand, Barry White playing on the phone in the other and I did it. It was mildly amusing and naughty as the flowers despite all their alien boldness in looks have shy parts when it comes to fruit making. But I persevered. I was worse than a thirty eight year old woman with a harried mother at a speed date dinner! I brushed and I batted my eyelashes, I spoke in low tones of how good it would be – when I eventually made passion fruit icing, and even said something about Vatsayan(author of the Kamasutra) as I promised to create a special vodka cocktail.

 ImageResult! Baby fruits!


I am now indoors fanning myself. If you should wish to grow passion fruit and want to see what I was up to, you will have to click on the link below. It is an instruction video and you do not have to be 18 to click on the link! The guy looks very vaguely like that actor who played Jack Sparrow..but you probably don’t need that kind of inducement any way.