This month will see us finishing our major autumn pruning jobs so things will be a little quieter out in theAustralian Garden from now on without the rattling of the hedge trimmers drifting across the Garden! We still have a little more detailed pruning to do but for that we use the secateurs and shears. Also, this month we’re topping up the organic mulch where it has broken down and left gaps or thin areas in the garden beds and enjoying the warm sunshine through the afternoon after a cool, dewy autumn morning.
The two plants I’ve picked as my favourites this month can be seen in the Arid Garden. Nicotiana suaveolens or Austral Tobacco is a sweet smelling member of the Solanaceae family. This makes it a relative of both the potato and the tomato plant. Austral Tobacco occurs naturally in Victoria and New South Wales. It needs reasonable drainage, likes full sun to thrive, and can easily be grown at home in pots. An application of slow release fertilizer in spring and autumn and a little extra water during longer dry periods should keep them growing happily and putting on a beautiful display of trumpet-shaped white flowers at this time of year.
Verticordia blepharophylla is an upright, slightly open shrub that grows to about half a metre high. This month they are covered in clusters of fragrant pink flowers but once they’ve finished flowering, they will respond well to being pruned. This Verticordia occurs naturally inWestern Australia and prefers free draining soil and full sun, although it will tolerate some light shade.
Now, lets move on to activities in the home garden at this wonderful time of year. If you’re looking for something to do this month and you have some space in the garden, then why not plant a green manure crop? Simply choose any quick-growing herbaceous plant, sow it in the garden en masse, and let grow until it begins to flower. Legumes can be particularly useful as they fix Nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil via their roots, and other crops such as Mustard varieties can help to promote soil health by deterring soil born pests such as root-knot nematodes. They do this by releasing a chemical as they decompose which fumigates the soil.
Next step – when the crop has begun to flower but has not begun to set seed, cut it to the ground and dig it into the soil where it breaks down into humus. Whatever your soil type, green manure crops are a fantastic way to improve the health and vigour of your plants. By adding organic matter to the soil, you encourage worms and other beneficial organisms to come into your garden. Remember, the key to healthy plants is healthy soil.
Posted in Now in flower |
If the weather is mild, towards the end of February we’ll be able to start planting out replacement plants and new garden beds. We’ll also begin applying slow release fertilizer and pruning our hedges as well as dead-heading plants that have finished flowering though summer. In the meantime, we’re getting ourselves prepared for what is going to be a very big year at RBG Cranbourne!
The second and final stage of the Australian Garden is set to open later this year and there is still a lot to do! So while it’s too hot to be planting, pruning or fertilizing, we can make sure that we’re prepared for the exciting and very busy months ahead by checking plans and schedules and making sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and when.
This month, we’re also fine-tuning the way we irrigate the Gardens. This involves moving to an Evapo-transpiration (ET) system which uses specialised software to analyse a range of information from soil moisture sensors located throughout the garden, climatic data from the Bureau of Meteorology, and our horticultural knowledge of native plants. The ET system will help us continue to improve our water efficiency and encourage the plants to produce deeper root growth and be more resilient to drought stress.
Well, that’s enough about work! Let’s see what’s happening with the flowers. If you’re down by the Ephemeral Garden this month, there’s a swathe of bright yellow flowers and a smaller patch of deep pink ones beside it that are hard to miss. These are Calostemma luteum and Calostemma purpureum respectively. They are also known as Garland Lilies.These plants grows from a bulb which gradually multiplies to form a clump and is very hardy to drought conditions once established. If you’d like to try growing some at home, they respond well to an application of slow release fertilizer. They won’t tolerate cold or wet soil with poor drainage – and who can blame them! They also flower best after a period of dry weather, so don’t water them after their leaves have begun to turn yellow.
Something completely different and also quite beautiful is Banksia burdettii, a large shrub that may grow to between 3 and 6 meters tall and requires light, free draining soil. The yellow or orange flower spikes are very popular as cut flowers. They attract nectar feeding birds and can be quite useful as a low windbreak. You can see some Banksia burdettii along the embankment between the Dry River Walk and Eucalypt Walk and also in the Stringybark Garden.
For those of you looking for something to do in your home garden this month, I would recommend spending some time just wandering around your garden with a pad and pen making notes on which areas and plants are thriving and which areas need some work as well as other observations such as whether the soil is wet or dry and how much sun or shade there is. It’s easy to overlook this in an effort to just get on and get things done, but good observation is a powerful tool and essential in really getting to know your plot.
By gathering this sort of information you begin to build an overall picture of what is happening in your garden and why. This, in turn, helps you to plan, build and maintain a beautiful robust garden that is suitable for your local area. At the same time you get to be outside making the most of the warm summer weather – it’s definitely a win-win!
Welcome back, I hope you had a very fine break and enjoyed the warm weather. Here at Cranbourne, we’re well into the swing of things and looking forward to an exciting year ahead with plenty of challenges no doubt.
As we move into the warmer months and have to increase irrigation to various parts of the garden, it is inevitable that any undiscovered weak spots in the system start to show up. As a result, our irrigation magicians have been working overtime to complete repairs, keep things running smoothly and ensure that the garden continues to thrive through the summer. Well done, team!
Other jobs that start to come into focus this month are checking and maintaining our plant database and maps of garden beds to make sure we know where everything is and where it came from. Out in the garden, we put our efforts into keeping on top of the weeds and monitoring for any pest or disease outbreaks. Many pests are controlled naturally by weather conditions or predatory insects but some need to be controlled as soon as they are noticed, including some fungal diseases and certain insect species.
For the pretty plant bit of this month’s blog, I’ve got some beauties to share!
In the Red sand garden near the Rock-pool waterway is a beautiful, solitary Crinum flaccidum. The white flowers are about 12 cm across and fragrant in the early evening. Here at Cranbourne, their foliage tends to die down over winter and return again in spring. They have responded well to a little extra water, some slow release fertilizer, and good drainage while growing through spring and early summer.
Kerraudrenia hermaniifolia, a small shrub with delicate purple flowers, can be seen in the Dry River Walk. They need free draining soil, prefer a sunny position and respond well to pruning after flowering.
Also in the Dry River Walk is a planting of Crotalaria novae-hollandiae or New Holland Rattlepod. This low shrub can grow to 1.5 m x 1 m and didn’t look very happy through the colder months but has bounced back with a bit of warm weather and is showing off some beautiful racemes of yellow pea flowers at the moment [it's worth noting that this Crotalaria can be a bit weedy in some areas].
In your home garden
January is a good time to give everything a little ‘pick me up’ using something like a seaweed solution or compost tea. Compost tea is easy to make – simply take a porous bag and fill it with some of your finest home-made compost and then sit the bag in a bucket of water. After about a week the water should be brown and full of nutrients and other goodies that your plants will love. Take some of this infusion and dilute it with water until it is the colour of weak tea then apply it to your plants with a watering can. This can help encourage strong growth without causing a rapid burst of tender new foliage which can be susceptible to disease or scorching from the sun or hot wind.
As we go careering headlong into another season of silliness it’s reassuring to know that life in the garden just keeps on keeping on.
Warm weather and plenty of rain means that plants are growing fast and that includes the weeds [they always seem to grow much faster than anything else]. One of our main jobs at the moment is controlling the weeds by pulling them out or by spraying them with herbicide. As the weather heats up and dries out, some weeds do slow down a bit but for now it’s a real battle.
We are also doing a bit of planting of more heat tolerant species. Another task is dead heading flowers as various spring flowerings come to an end.
Stage 2 of the Australian Garden is coming along well with truckloads of plants making their way from the nursery to be planted in their specific spots in the garden.
Even though we’re moving from spring into summer, there is still plenty of colour in the Australian Garden. The various Kangaroo Paws are putting on a spectacular show throughout the Australian Garden as is Chrysocephalum apiculatum ‘Golden Buttons’ which grows well in full sun and will spread to around 1m. In autumn, when new growth shows at the base of the plant, the older foliage can be cut back quite hard to keep them from getting open and sparse. You can see a stunning display of this everlasting Daisy in the North Line of the Red Sand Garden as you enter the Australian Garden.
My favourite for the moment is Prostanthera lasianthos ‘Kallista Pink’. This bushy shrub can get up to 4 or 5m high and 3m wide. It prefers reasonable drainage and will tolerate sun or some shade and as the name suggests, it has beautiful deep pink flowers in profusion right about now. Prune to shape after flowering finishes.
In the Future Garden you can see Corymbia ficifolia ‘Baby Orange’ which is a grafted Flowering Gum that gets to about 5m when fully grown. Baby Orange does best in full sun, tolerates most soil conditions and is just starting to display masses of bright orange flowers
In your home garden
As the weather warms up, the plants that you planted in your home garden this spring may need a little extra water. Until plants are established and have spread roots into the surrounding soil they can be vulnerable to drying out quite quickly as temperatures rise and rainfall reduces.
Also very important to remember for this month – give the BBQ a bit of a workout and enjoy some time outside in the garden.
See you next year!
As spring marches on and the soil gets warmer, buds are bursting, birds are singing and gardeners everywhere are working their little tails off. RBG Cranbourne is no exception – we have a slightly frantic schedule of planting and pruning for this month and just a couple of areas to apply a slow release fertilizer to. But let’s not forget about the weeding…it may seem like mission impossible, but it’s really important at this time of year to keep the weeds under control and prevent them spreading too much or setting seed.
So while all this weeding and feeding and pruning and planting is going on, we can also try to take a bit of time and just enjoy the garden because it really is beautiful. I know I say that a lot, but it’s true! All around are fragrant flowers of different shapes, sizes and colours. Adding to this riot of spring colour is the rich smell of damp, warm earth that is bursting with life and the lush green of spring foliage.
While it’s almost impossible to pick favourites at the moment, these few examples of spring colour did stand out for me. Actinodium cunninghamii or Albany Daisy is quite a spindly little shrub to about 0.5 m that you barely notice until it flowers. It needs moist, well-drained soil and prefers a position in dappled shade. What amazes me about this plant is that although the pink and white flower heads look just like a daisy, the Albany Daisy is actually a part of the Myrtaceae family [the same as the Eucalypt] and not related to the daisy at all. Look out for Albany Daisies in the Ephemeral Garden.
Poa morrisii or Velvet Tussock-grass is a graceful, weeping grass which forms a mound to about 0.5 m. It does well in full sun or part-shade and while it prefers to be kept moist, it will tolerate periods of dryness once established. Every few years Velvet Tussock-grass can be rejuvenated by cutting it back in autumn to almost ground level. There are some great examples of Poa morrissi in the Home Garden.
Hymenosporum flavum or Native Frangipani has masses of sweet-smelling white to yellow flowers at the moment. You can see them in the Water Saving Garden and the Diversity Garden. Native Frangipani respond well to pruning after flowering to produce a bushy habit and can be pruned hard to rejuvenate them or keep them at a more manageable height as they can reach up to 20m. They tolerate a wide range of conditions and are quite fast growing. Regular feeding will encourage dense, lush foliage and they appreciate a little extra water during a dry spell.
In your home garden
If you’re looking for jobs to do in the home garden this month, then here are a few ideas. Stay on top of the weeding! It is a pain in the neck but they grow and seed so quickly at this time of year that it’s worth the effort now to stop them getting out of hand in the future.
Make sure that you’ve given everything a feed with a slow release fertilizer [preferably organic] and if you have an irrigation system then check it to make sure it’s working properly before the hotter weather arrives.
Most plants respond well to a light prune after they’ve finished flowering and now is a good time to keep up to date with that before it gets too hot.
Most important of all…take some time to enjoy being in the garden in spring – whether it’s your own garden at home, in a local park, or here at the Australian Garden. This is a very exciting time of year to be outside among the flowers.
On 11 October, The Australian Garden Collection was launched at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne. These plants have been especially selected for home gardens in the Melbourne region.
So, when you are cruising through your local nurseries this long weekend, look out for these wonderful plants. For more information on the Collection, see the RBG website at. Happy Gardening!
Posted in Now in flower |