6 things you need to do in the garden this weekend

After a very slow start to Spring in Perth, which saw us wearing winter clothes in October (!) Brrr…..The birds are tweeting and the froggies are calling and we finally have some glorious sunshine and warmer days.

The nights are still cool and the plants are just loving it. I love the purple haze of the jacaranda trees scattered through the older suburbs at this time of the year. It tells me that Summer is just around the corner.

Here are some things to get your family involved with, in your garden this weekend.

  1.  Deadhead your roses and flowering plants: I must confess that I pruned everything very late this year (in August) and as a result have been getting lots of healthy blooms but I will be wanting my garden to be looking a picture for Christmas and late December early January entertaining so I will be sacrificing some of those blooms and chop, chopping and trim, trimming so that my garden will be in full flower for Christmas day

    Rose ‘Veilchenblau’

    David Austin ‘Jubilee Celebration’

    Rose ‘Spiced Coffee” a new addition to our garden

  2.  Fertilise your plants: A sudden surge in growth in the past few weeks means that many of the plants will be very grateful if you apply some fertiliser right now. I give mine some mature compost and a liquid feed with a seaweed solution and a liquid fertiliser. Work your way around the garden with a watering can and the bottle of fertiliser and everything will be very happy through the summer months. I also use a granular fertiliser just for the roses for that extra boost.

    Your pelargoniums will love some liquid fertiliser

  3. Use a wetting agent: Our sandy soils need lots of help and a wetting agent will help keep the water right at the root zone of your plants rather than just passing them by on the way through! You can use a liquid or a granular wetting agent, whichever you choose, make sure that it’s a frog friendly wetting agent and that you water it in well to activate it.
  4. Plant out some annuals: Nothing quite says spring like some new plants for your garden, change out your pots, add some annual colour to a corner of the garden that’s looking a little tired. Potted colour and annuals are a very inexpensive way to give the garden that little extra pizazz.

    Cotinus…I love the colour that this brings to my Spring garden

  5. Check your reticulation system: How long is it since you’ve changed the battery on your reticulation system? It might be worth checking that. Also, turn the system on and have a look at it while it’s running, is every sprayer working? It’s a good idea to trim the lawn away from the sprinkler heads to allow them to pop up freely. Make sure that your system is only coming on during your allocated days. Hand water whenever required.
  6. Mulch your garden: It’s time to lay down some lupin mulch or some woodchips, this is really a personal choice but whatever you choose, your plants will Thank you.

    Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ one of my all-time favourite plants flowers beautifully at this time of the year

     

I’m waving a Terrible Towel and eating a Hoagie, can you guess where I am?

I really do pinch myself sometimes, thinking about how lucky I am and how many wonderful people I have met in my life, people who have extended the hand of hospitality…just because.

The bees love Pittsburgh too-Steelers Colours!

One of these people is Pittsburgh local, Garden Communicator extraordinaire and one of the nicest people I have ever met, Denise Schreiber. Those of you who follow this blog will remember Denise, who I met in 2015 in Pasadena. Denise and I drove down to Pittsburgh following our GWA conference in Buffalo, in August and I don’t think either of us drew breath the whole trip.

Pittsburgh by night

We talked and laughed and poor Denise had to answer lots and lots of questions about American-life according to her, from this ever-curious Aussie. We arrived at Denise’ home in Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania which is a borough of Allegheny County and a suburb of Pittsburgh and after a quick tour of her treasure-filled garden, meeting the family, a quick unpack, we headed in to view the “Dahntown” from the top of Mt Washington-what a site, what a city.

They speak an interesting version of American in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is home to NFL football team, The Steelers and is located at the confluence of three rivers and so there are lots of bridges crisscrossing the city. Pittsburgh is an old city built on steel but has undergone dramatic gentrification in recent years to become a vibrant and exciting modern place where they speak an interesting version of American.

When you travel with a local, you get to experience a different side to a city, one that only someone with local knowledge can provide and so it was a joyous moment, when after our night time trip to view the city, we headed down the hill to Denise’s favourite ice cream shop for a cheeky soft serve and chocolate sauce.

Inside…like Alladins cave

As a Garden Communicator, no trip to Pittsburgh would be complete without a visit to Phipps Conservatory, in Schenley Park. Stunning glass art by Jason Gamrath, displaying botanical wonders on a massive scale accompanied by permanently acquired, huge Chihuly pieces and more delicate Hans Godo Fräbel works in the orchid house. These provided enhancement to beautiful displays of flora under glass in this giant conservatory. The Sustainability gardens provided insight into providing habitat for nature right in the middle of a busy city.

Phipps Conservatory

This blue glass is incredible

Bees on Joe Pye weed at Phipps

The orchids were stunning in the Orchid room at Phipps

Monarchs at Phipps in the Nature play area

Chihuly at Phipps

Check out this Chihuly

Glass art at Phipps Conservatory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature corridors in the CBD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outdoor gardens offered beautiful views of the city and the Cathedral of Learning, framed by a gorgeous hydrangea display.

Cathedral of Learning

Check out these Hydrangeas

Beautiful views of Pittsburgh above the city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denise works as Greenhouse Manager for AlleghenyCounty Parks looks after many of the plantings at South Park, so naturally, a behind-the-scenes tour was on the cards and a fun time exploring the place where she works.

 

We visited The Strip which is home to European Delicatessens, restaurants and a fabulous Kitchenware shop and we ate a Hoagie, a delicious bread roll filled to capacity with sliced meats and cheese-a must do!!!

The Strip

Selecting cheese on The Strip

A garden centre, Trax Farms Market was also on the agenda and this was of particular interest for me as I was able to compare prices and stock available, I just loved their garden gift lines and planter boxes out the front. They were gearing up for Halloween.

Container planting at Trax Farms Market

 

You would not expect to see this in a cemetery in Australia

Jefferson Memorial Cemetery might not seem like a fun place to visit but it’s actually a stunning arboretum and it was there, at dusk, where we saw a family of deer grazing quietly amongst the trees, my first “Bambi” moment.  There’s a life-sized bronze statue of George Washington and very interesting art that one would not expect to find in a cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something, I might not have mentioned is that I’m a bit of a sucker for craft stores so my visit was made complete with a trip to Pat Catan’s, a huge craft supply store.

Our home now plays host to a ‘Terrible Towel’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhrqDBEi9oo

and my son has barely taken off his Pittsburgh T-shirt and Steelers PJ’s since my return a little reminder of my travels to make me smile.

Girls Night In/Out an annual tradition was a wonderful night held at Denise’s home on the last night of my stay with great food and conviviality, celebrating with lots of women working in Horticulture as well as some of Denise’s nearest and dearest friends and family-they sure know how to party those girls.

Thanks to The Schreibers for generously sharing your home and your town with this Aussie, it was a week I will never forget.

 

Niagara Parks-so much more than just Niagara Falls

Sarah Palin once famously said “I can see Russia from my house”, well the residents of Buffalo NY can’t see Russia but they sure can see Canada. I spent about 11 hours in Canada with my GWA, garden communicator friends in August and what an adventure we had!

We set off from the Convention Centre in Buffalo around 11 am and headed over The Peace Bridge, which is a bridge between Canada and the United States at the east end of Lake Erie at the source of the Niagara River, about 20 kilometres (12.4 mi) upriver of Niagara Falls.  from the border. Maybe it’s called this because it’s where Americans go to get “peace” and quiet from the continual barrage of news about President No.45, I’m not 100% sure about that. though. While I would not really say that we were “warmly” greeted by the border guards (we were actually told to be silent)! I can understand why-imagine a busload of very excited garden communicators all lined up with passports in hand, in a room the size of a decent sitting room. I was asked if I was carrying a weapon, this was a first for me I must admit. My camera was my only weapon of choice for this day. Anyway, through we went and there were many oohs and ahhs as we arrived and saw the wondrous Niagara Falls for the first time.

The incredible team of young adults from Niagara Parks guided us through our day which included an experience “behind the falls” where we were actually underneath Niagara Falls (nothing can prepare you for the power and magnitude of that water), a trip to The Royal Botanic Gardens, The Butterfly Conservatory, The School of Horticulture and so much more. We were treated like royalty all day.

The public gardens on display were breathtaking, lush and so beautifully maintained.

Downtown area

Imagine studying horticulture here

The Butterfly Conservatory was amazing

What a beautiful place

Canadian hospitality was the highlight of this trip, there were so many passionate young people sharing their part of the world which was heartwarming for the soul. We were captivated by their enthusiasm.

The finale of our long and jam-packed day in Canada was the meal that we shared together at Queen Victoria Place restaurant. This stunning old building with the most stunning views from the expansive wooden deck, was constructed in 1904 and was the former residence of the Commissioners of Niagara Parks, it was here that something very special happened after a delicious meal and wonderful service and a few glasses of very nice Prosecco with my friend Sylvia, Niagara Falls was lit up. The Canadian Falls were in red and white and the American Falls in red, white and blue and in between the two, the full, red harvest moon rose -what a sight, what a night!

Cheers to a brilliant day-it’s Prosecco o’clock

The Canadian falls

The American Falls

The harvest moon rising between the two falls

We all left wishing we could spend more time in this beautiful place, just a hop, skip and a jump from US soil.

Thanks to Team Niagara Parks for sharing your beautiful part of the world with GWA-it was a day that this garden communicator will never forget.

 

Take a walk on the wild side-Colour your world-Paint the House!

As a garden designer, I see the joy of colour everywhere and love seeing how adventurous some garden owners are, not only with their garden plants and trees but also the colours of their homes.

Check out these houses…

Have you ever considered painting your house a bright colour?

Reminds me of that TV show my kids used to watch Bear in the Big Blue House

Here are some great homes from Buffalo New York, the owners have embraced bright colours and I just adore it, you can’t help but smile when you see a home that is bright pink! That takes some guts…and how gorgeous is it?!

It’s pink, what’s not to love?

 

Pretty shades of green

…this garden owner says he’s colour blind-looks pretty awesome to me

Feeling arty? Paint your gate

Tasteful contrast colours for the not so brave…but there is black!

Cute cottages bursting with colour

Check out how the plant selection matches the paint colour

Do you fancy red and green?

I’m sure this house was painted to co-ordinate with the begonias in the window boxes-so pretty

have you got a plain fence that needs some colour? Why not give this a go?

I have always been a green and pink girls and so no surprise that I adored the colours and the contrasting flowers of this weatherboard cottage

Tasteful black and white trim

 

That’s it, I’m inspired…I’m off to the hardware store to pick up some paint-how about you??? How brave are you????

 

Small but Mighty-The (not so) Private Gardens of Buffalo

I’ve been very fortunate to have seen many private gardens in my life especially during my time as WA Chairman and later West Australian Co-ordinator of Australia’s Open Garden Scheme.

I just returned back home from the USA feeling very grateful indeed after 3 whole weeks of garden visiting-let’s call it, my American garden immersion-more on that later.

There is something very special about the people who open their private garden spaces so that others may share first hand the very personal interpretations and manipulation of nature particularly in an urban setting. There are so many reasons to lock ourselves away these days after hours spent behind desks in stressful jobs so many people travel back home after enduring a long commute, drive in the garage, pull down the roller door and flop into the sanctuary of home, locking the outside world out. Gardeners who share their gardens are the complete opposite, they throw open that garage door and say to the world “come on in and see what I have done”

As part of the recent Garden Writers conference, in Buffalo NY, my garden bestie AZ Plantlady and 350 or so other wonderful garden communicators, many of whom I feel so honoured to now call my friends, spent days exploring about 20 gardens which had opened the previous weekend for Buffalo Garden Walk at which more than 400 (!!) gardens were open in the Buffalo area.

The gardens we visited were mostly within walking distance of each other and ranged from tiny cottages in which the driveways had been converted to container garden spaces to larger homes with areas of lawn and garden borders.

Gardening in this part of the world is a short seasonal thing-while we garden all year round in Perth, these guys go hard at it for only about 4 months of the year due to the frosts and heavy layers of snow-white stuff that falls from the sky and covers the ground-you know what I mean, like the movie Frozen, yes that’s the stuff.

Jim Charlier is one of the members of GWA who also opens his Buffalo garden and I asked him about the gardening season in Buffalo and he has provided some insight into gardening in that part of the world, here’s what Jim had to say “We start in earnest about the second week of May. Our average last frost date is mid-May. Though we’re admiring our tulips and flowering shrubs in April. Adventurous gardeners start earlier. Crazy ones start from seed in the winter months. We garden pretty much through September and some of October – with seasonal mums, tulip bulb planting, and last call for planting trees and shrubs. Depends on weather, obviously. We don’t get a significant snowfall until December usually. Seems like that isn’t happening as much anymore and we don’t get significant snow until January. The plants need the snow cover, and it doesn’t seem as though the past few years that that has even been consistent. November through March is spent thinking about April through October.”

Here’s Jim’s garden… which I must confess is one of my all time favourite small gardens, such wonderful attention to detail and a vignette worth photographing at every turn

So, sit back and take a short walk through some of the other beautiful gardens in the cottage district of Buffalo. Do these inspire you to make some changes in your garden?

even the dog has a cute garden house

check out this bottle tree

when in Buffalo…you need a garden buffalo

 

Love this

Don’t you just want to cozy up in here with a cup of tea and a book?

Breathing new life into Buffalo, one petunia at a time!

Buffalo? you say-why would you want to go to Buffalo? Isn’t it covered in snow and not much else? Wrong….There’s something in the water in Buffalo and I suspect it may be the gardening bug.

 

Stunning Cone flowers

This once mighty and by all accounts wealthy city has in recent years fallen upon difficult times but is currently undergoing major urban renewal and it’s being lead by many in the community who are just crazy about gardens and gardening and all things green and that got my attention. So, I packed my suitcase again, labelled it  ‘USA or Bust’ and headed 11,333 miles or 18238 km which included three plane changes and an 8-hour train ride!

Lovely buildings on every corner

Buffalo Theatre district

Even the office building are into plants

Great spot for a meal-we ate here twice!

I attended the 2017 Garden Writers Association annual symposium which was held at The Buffalo Convention Centre at the beginning of August and the news is all good.

My friend from Arizona, Horticulturist, Arborist, and Blogger, AZ plant lady and I spent a couple of wonderful days exploring (walking, lots of walking) the city together before the conference. We ate twice at the same place-it was so good and we also snuck in some doughnut holes at Tim Hortons.

Like many cities, Buffalo has great bones, clean wide streets and really beautiful architecture, an interesting and diverse food culture, lovely lake views, theatres, good soil (important for us gardeners) and another magical, essential ingredient passionate people- willing to beautify their city and showcase it to the world in order to re-build it and give it a new identity.

A Farmers Market in the main street was in full swing during one of our morning walks. The blueberries were the biggest I have ever seen and they tasted so juicy and sweet.

Don’t these look delicious?

Farmers market baskets

Eat your greens

Juiciest blueberries I have ever tasted

I can’t un-smell these beauties

We stumbled across a small but very worthwhile community education garden at Canalside and under a freeway overpass where edibles and perennials for beneficial insects were thriving in raised beds. Each bed contained decorative garden ephemera as well as practical information to show adults and children, how easy it can be to grow veggies in their homes in small spaces.


Canalside is also home to test gardens and magical views of the eastern end of Lake Erie.

Lake Erie and the test gardens

Rebuilding Buffalo one petunia at a time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our conference took place the week after Garden Walk Buffalo, which is an annual event with more than 400 (!!!!) gardens open to the public on one weekend. More than 350 garden communicators gathered to visit the best of these gardens and more.

Buffalo is on the precipice of something great, I’m looking forward to seeing how this hidden gem of a city emerges from its cocoon like the butterflies that are being encouraged by its gardeners.

If you are visiting Niagara Falls then why not jump over the US border and check out Buffalo in August-the gardens are just lovely.

 

Special Thanks to the local GWA organising committee and for all the gardeners who shared their gardens with us for #GWA17

https://gardensbuffaloniagara.com/events/garden-walk-buffalo/

 

 

Noble trees and an afternoon with Mike

A plantsman’s garden

Picture this, it’s hot, darn hot and we’re in Athens, Georgia, it’s late in the afternoon, embarrassingly humid, they say that ladies glow and men sweat, well, this is pure and simple sweaty as you like kind of weather, it’s hard to be lady-like in this heat. As we approach the gate, 80 garden communicators, mostly middle-aged literally clambering over each other to get off the bus and into a very special garden, this after a long day of garden visiting and yet every single one is bursting with child-like energy, acting a bit like crazed paparazzi snappers at the Oscars rushing forward and ready to be hanging onto every word and appreciating the very great privilege of a private tour of (just call me) Mike’s garden plus some insight into what makes the great man tick….and suddenly quiet falls over the group and he begins to speak…..and so, just exactly who is Mike?

Dr Michael A. Dirr is one of those delightful and quite rare plantsmen who makes an instant impression on you. He is super charismatic and as soon as he starts to speak you just know that you are in the presence of someone very special, a guru, a mentor, a shining star of your industry. Dr Dirr was a keynote speaker at GWA16, the annual symposium for Garden Writers Association in Atlanta, Georgia USA. 

Listening to the great man

Following the symposium, Dr Dirr offered a tour of his private garden.

So, just who is Michael Dirr?

Dr Michael Dirr is a Professor of Horticulture at The University of Georgia and has received special honours from all of the main horticulture bodies in the US.

American Horticultural Society Liberty Hyde Bailey Medal

American Horticultural Society’s Teaching Award

American Horticultural Society’s Teaching Award

Arthur Hoyt Scott Garden and Horticultural Award

ASHS Undergraduate Educator Award

Medal of Honor from the Garden Clubs of America

Southern Nurseryman’s Association (SNA) Slater Wight Memorial Award

He is a plant breeder and has a special love for trees.

Dirr’s Encyclopaedia of Trees and Shrubs is biblical in proportion, this book is HUGE in size and content very much like the great man himself.  It’s common in the USA, according to Professor Eva Monheim, from Temple University, to see young University students schlepping this enormous document to class, this tome is THE book for horticultural reference and there’s a special joy in having met the good Dr because you can hear his words and turn of phrase in his prose. The man himself is also larger than life and literally jumped from garden bed to garden bed, tree to tree, shrub to shrub on a very hot Athens, Georgia afternoon eager to share ever single bit of information that he could possibly pack into the precious time that we had with him, such generosity, and so much information stored in that one big brain.

Vitex and Cordyline

The concept of the Noble tree in the garden is an interesting one, it’s the tree that you plant in your garden that’s going to rise up above all others and anchor the garden. Important from a design and aesthetic point of view but also from a philosophical and future proofing one. Dr Dirr talks about the noble tree with great passion.

Fellow GWA Member and Master gardener Martha Swiss interviewed Dr Dirr in 2014 and asked him about the concept of the noble tree and Dr Dirr said “It’s anything that outlives us. It’s anything that spans generations, has a long life, supports wildlife, fixes CO2, spits out oxygen, prevents erosion, increases property values, something that’s inherent in our everyday life. We need large trees.”

He went on to remark, “One of the big issues is storm water mitigation. They’re seeing pronounced benefits from large trees.  One percent of the trees left in Minneapolis-Saint Paul are elms, and they capture 30 percent of the runoff water. This is actually from a landscape architect, Peter Cavanaugh in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. And he said one reason we need the trees—they have gigantic canopies, they have many, many branches, they have large trunks, they have extensive root systems—so they can capture rainwater, runoff water, much better than small trees. So there’s certainly an economic benefit.”

Dr Dirr asks that we consider the value of trees in terms of the property markets when he said to Martha Swiss “There have been published studies done by the Forest Service largely on the West coast and Oregon and in California, on property value enhancement. They talk about a single tree as far as saleability. A tree—and we’re talking about noble trees all the way down to crabapple and plums—can have a pronounced effect on the saleability and the appeal of a house as well as the price of a house. It raises the value of a home.”

Stunning Lagerstroemia

“Trees contribute so much to everyday life, the quality of life. We’re tied to biology every day in our own lives. Trees are a big part of it. “. said, Dr Dirr

Dr Dirr’s garden

Dr Dirr believes that despite the reduction in block size every home gardener needs to address the concept of the Noble tree and creating space for such a tree in every yard, every council needs to consider this when planning parks and gardens. He speaks about selecting the right tree for the right location so that the tree has an opportunity to grow into the new landscape for future generations. Dr Dirr is passionate about developing those involved in our industry and about the need to advocate for trees as horticulture professionals  and said in the interview with Martha Swiss “I think you gotta cajole, and you gotta inspire, and you gotta educate, and you gotta talk, and you gotta keep hitting your fist on the desk. You gotta hope that they listen.”

Dr Dirr and one of his many fans, Eva Monheim from Temple University

Dr Dirr is passionate about Lagerstroemias, Viburnums and new hybrids of Vitex. His garden is filled with rambly perennials borders and lovely young trees including Quercus and Maples as well as Tupelos. A visit to Dr Dirrs’ garden is for plantaholics like me a bit like a kid winning the golden ticket and going to visit Willy Wonka in his chocolate factory, but with a fundamental difference, Dr Dirr is an academic keeping it real, an incredible, knowledgeable plantsman generous of spirit and willing to share his vast knowledge, engaging young teens as much as older folks with a passion for learning…………and on this day, I have got to say that I really felt like I walked in the presence of greatness.

even the bugs are happy in this garden

Dr Dirr’s cat-which is not really his cat

Andrea’s Top 6 trees small trees for West Australian Gardens

Agonis Flexuosa ‘Burgundy’

Lagerstroemia Natchez

Eucalyptus Erythrocorys ‘Red Cap Gum’

Brachychiton acerifolia x populneus ‘Bella-donna’

Eucalyptus Caesia

Hakea laurina

Andrea’s Top 6 Noble trees found in large Perth gardens

Liquid Amber

Jacaranda

Corymbia citriodora

Bauhinia

Callitris pressii ‘Rottnest Island Pine’

Agonis Flexuosa

Have you got a “Noble Tree” at your place?

Andrea attended #GWA16 in Atlanta, Georgia where Dr Michael Dirr was a keynote speaker. Dr Dirr has published more than 300 scientific and popular papers and articles. His book Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs is available through Timber Press and is one of their best selling titles.

Under Attack in my own garden!

Queue the dramatic war music… https://youtu.be/InRDF_0lfHk

…….we’re under attack here in Floreat.

It’s Man V Cockatoo.

The scout turns up early with a squawk and a flurry and we hear the first bang, bang, bang of the nuts on our tin roof. “They’re here again!” Mr Garden Consultant shouts and jumps up resplendent in his blue striped flannelette winter PJs, dropping everything that he’s doing and charges outside armed with a tennis racquet, his weapon of choice, which he has taken to leaving perched as a trip hazard for the unsuspecting, at the back door. It’s hilarious to watch him as he grabs tennis balls (which are now in our neighbours’ backyard) and finally  resorting to the remnant nuts that have hit the ground from the tree and fires them back up into the trees as he shouts “get out” while Jazz the labradoodle, furiously barks in support, all in a largely futile effort to discourage the now ten or maybe twenty huge black birds from feasting in our tree. It wouldn’t be so bad if they ate the nuts and took them away but they crack the coating with their powerful beaks and discard the outer shells into our garden. The shells are known in our family a honky nuts and when you stand on them inadvertently on a cold morning with bare feet they really hurt. They clog up the pool filter and cover the lawn. It’s like a teenagers party up there and we’re not invited, we are just the darn hosts.

It seems that the nuts are juicy, tasty and ripe in our Marri tree Corymbia calophylla, at the moment and the giant Red-tailed Black Cockatoos have moved in. They have been to visit us every day for the past two weeks and I have to say that we are not winning the battle or the war. They are in complete control of our land at this point and all we can do is take cover.

Image result

These huge black birds,Calyptorhynchus banksii naso, with their distinctive red tails are very, very noisy, deafening when they are en masse and actually quite unwelcome guests however their habitat in suburban Perth is ever decreasing and so in a way, I feel like we are doing a bit of a community service by providing food for them but boy oh boy are they messy eaters. They are native to the South West of WA and are known as Forest Reds. These birds feed on Marri, Jarrah, Blackbutt, Karri Sheoak and Snottygobble.  Also on some garden eucalypts and berries of introduced White Cedar (Cape Lilac). They can live up to 50 years of age.

Image result

Our gutters and garden beds are filled with discarded nuts, leaves and twigs from the tree. The bottom of the pool is covered with them and the lawn looks like we have just had a very windy storm.

Image result

They will keep returning until the last nut has been eaten and there is actually nothing we can do about it, despite Mr Garden Consultant’s best efforts with the tennis racquet! Nature rules again. Until then, we must clean up their mess which is taking about two hours a day. I guess we should feel privileged that they have chosen our healthy garden to lunch in but somehow it takes the edge off when the clean-up begins.

I think that I had better get on the phone and call the gutter cleaners!

Image result

Giving Back to Nature

IMG_3686

At this time of the year, I really feel like I am giving back to nature, more than any other time of the year. I pull my car into the carport and am greeted by the noisy Willy Wag tails, these cheeky little black and white birds, that dart in and out of my garden shrubs collecting flying insects and aphids on the roses.
IMG_3683

There’s a very loud humming coming from the three Dombeya burgessiae, that I planted about 4 years ago. In a few short years, they have grown, to create a wonderful dense screen to hide the less than attractive house next door.

A really great informal dense hedge

Can you see the house next door?

This is a South African plant, which was named after the French botanist Joseph Dombey, who collected plants in South America and that blooms in abundance in Perth at this time of the year. Apparently, the leaves and stems are a favourite food of the Black Rhino which as you can imagine we do not see frequently in suburban Perth.

It is just outside our bedroom window and right now is in full bloom and there are so many bees it is moving and there’s no breeze! IMG_3685IMG_3683

The large matt dark green, “grape leaf shaped” leaves provide a lush backdrop to the clusters of heavily scented white flowers.

In Summer, it shelters the front of our house from the hot rising sun coming up from the east and in Autumn thanks us for the extra water it received during the hot months and rewards us with the stunning white blooms and food for an entire hive of bees.

At the end of the flowering season, the white flowers turn to a rust shade of brown and are attractive in their own right.

It is very easy to prune and keep tidy, grows fast, requires little or no care and provides a wonderful habitat for small birds and bees-I really don’t know why we don’t see more of these in Perth gardens.

No need to “over-winter” potted plants Down Under

Unlike our Northern Hemisphere garden friends we are so lucky here in Perth that we don’t need to over-winter our potted plants, we don’t need to bring all our pot plants in out of the snow and cold weather. In some places, they go to a lot of trouble for garden specimens and potted plants.

Aeonium

Aeonium

My horti friends from the USA describe this as a huge undertaking every year as they gather many of their garden treasures and bag them up or bring them undercover or wrap them in paper and straw to prevent them from freezing. Many are kept indoors to survive the cold winter. For many, It’s a part of their annual gardening programme.

Stunning foliage

Stunning foliage

 

That said, the unseasonal heavy rain we have experienced these past few weeks and the fact that the mornings are getting a little cooler and Autumn not that far away has got me thinking that every year I do change my pots around and bring my succulents under cover so that they don’t get too wet during Autumn and Winter.

Check out these beauties, they're under cover for the winter

Check out these beauties, they’re under cover for the winter

 

This morning I did just that and it was a good opportunity to check out what’s going on with my pots and tidy them up a bit.

Bring out the scissors, this ugly leaf is coming off

Bring out the scissors, this ugly leaf is coming off

 

Some of the leaves underneath were dry and needed to be removed and some were a little damp after the rain. Just a little TLC will reap big rewards.thumb_IMG_3492_1024

It’s really easy, just have a close look at your potted succulents are the leaves a little dry or maybe a little soggy? Give them a tug and they should pull away from the main stem easily.

Looks what's under there...dead leaves ready to be plucked

Looks what’s under there…dead leaves ready to be plucked

 

Stick your finger into the pot. Is it feeling wet in there?

 

Mine were way too wet and so I have brought them in under cover and rearranged my alfresco area to accommodate them. Now we can see them and enjoy the beautiful blooms as well as keep an eye on them to make sure that they are getting just the right amount of water.

This pot is a little to wet how cute is this Crassula Portulacea but it's a bit liek Shrek in the swamp and needs to dry out a bit

This pot is a little too wet. How cute is this Crassula Portulacea but it’s a bit like Shrek in the swamp and needs to dry out a bit

 

Succulents really only need water once every two weeks. I’ve also given mine a little slow-release fertiliser just to show them how much I care.

Pretty from every angle

Pretty from every angle

 

Try the finger test. If it feels cool and wet, hold off on the water.  I’ve also given mine a little slow release fertiliser. They are amazingly resilient plants which will reward you year after year…and yes you can leave them out in the winter rain but it is nice to bring them in a little closer so that you can enjoy them without getting wet!