Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Boambee and The Lakes Estate - September 2015 Outing

The CHGC membership that attended this outing were extremely limited however for those that did attend the preparation that garden owners and maintainers Brenda and Les did to prepare for our visit was really appreciated.

The day was very overcast and inclined to drizzle a little bit but this did not dampen our enthusiasm of looking at wonderful garden spaces. This water feature which Les (pictured above) had dug out to an incredible depth was just lovely - the fish looked quite happy hiding under the large lily leaves.

These vegetable plots are individually attended by the residents who live in The Lakes Estate and very flourishing they were too. Bill proudly showed us both this area and the street scape of the Village.

The gardens were looking just stunning and we took time out to visit a Spring Garden Competition award winning courtyard garden too - picture above.

Thanks have to go to the Program Committee - Pat, Jane and Sue who organised these visits. The Lakes Estate allowed us to sit in the most wonderful surroundings to enjoy our picnic lunch.

The next CHGC outing is to the Grafton Jacaranda Festival on 2 November. 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Gardener's Diary - September 2015

There were many flourishing vegetable gardens in this year's competition and really fantastic to see (and envy) for example the one above in Heritage Park, Moonee Beach.

The weather may still be a bit on the cooler side at night but our gardens are waking up and putting on a fantastic show of perfumed, colourful flowers and shrubs. Soak up that colour and scent while this spring burst lasts before we'll be complaining of heat and humidity on the Coffs Coast.

Make sure that you have all your vegetables planted including capsicums, cucumbers, sweet corn, melons, pumpkins, tomatoes and zucchini. They will really take off with the lovely warm days. We saw some beautiful broadbeans while out and about with the Spring Garden Competition, so obviously some of you know the trick of getting them up and running early up here in Coffs.

There are terrific seeds available this season - just keep an eye out for them from your local nursery:

  • Basil Minette - grows to around 30cm, forms a tight, compact shrub when kept in trim, goes really well with garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, Italian dishes; good spicy flavour and fantastic for borders and containers.
  • Basil Red Bordeaux - this is that wonderful deep red basil which looks just stunning in salads, a general rule of thumb is deeper the colour the more intense the basil flavour.
  • Cucumber Telegraph - telegraph cucumbers are the longest and thinnest members of the cucumber family and generally measure 30-35cm with a 'hook' at one end. Dark in colour, their soft skin has shallow grooves running parallel from top to bottom. They have a sweet flavour and an added bonus has to be that cucumber is high in vitamin C and other trace minerals and have diuretic properties.
  • Nasturtium Empress of India - is a classic Victorian variety with opulent, velvet crimson-scarlet flowers and impressive dark blue-green foliage. Seldom growing over 30cm with a neat compact semi-trailing habit, this little beauty is very easy to grow and is perfect for pots, tubs, window boxes or as a border plant. Both the flowers and leaves are both edible with a peppery/radish taste and are excellent additions to salads, pastas, omelettes or simply as a pretty garnish.
  • Radish Easter Egg Mix - these are a really fun mix with red Cherry Belle, tangy Purple Plum, cute Pink Beauty and White Beauty hence the name of Easter Egg Mix. Radishes are a great source of vitamin C and the name 'radish' comes from the Greek word for 'fast appearing' which you would have to agree is aptly describing the way they grow!
  • Capsicum Marconi Rosso - You may get this plant to last more than a year if conditions are suited to it. It will grow up to 45cm and is a high yielding variety.
  • Watermelon Allsweet - Large, oblong melons with deliciously sweet, bright red flesh.

Friday, 25 September 2015

connectABLE Short Film Showcases Gavin's Love of Gardening

Community Care Options (CCO) approached Coffs Harbour Garden Club (CHGC) in late 2013 asking if our club would be a partner in a program called ConnectABLE where people with disabilities have inclusion in community groups. Club President Geoff Bell asked Gavin and his family if he could cite Gavin as an example of how our club was already doing this. 

With the Reid family's agreement, Geoff contacted the ConnectABLE team explaining that CHGC had a member with a disability who was living proof of just how integral a person with a disability can be to a community group. Geoff shared with the CCO team just how much of a valued member of the Garden Club Gavin is, giving examples of Gavin's interaction as part of the CHGC membership. 
  • At each monthly meeting Gavin is responsible for giving a talk about a particular subtropical plant (with cultural notes) and how to grow them in the Coffs Harbour area. This not only has developed Gavin's self esteem but is very, very informative as many CHGC members are new to Sub-tropical gardening and the Coffs Harbour region. 
  • The CHGC, as a community service maintain the Coffs Regional Airport Air-side garden and Gavin is a willing team player at each monthly visit.
  • Each year there are major events that the CHGC participate in and Gavin is always a willing helper - for example, the Coffs Show and Spring Garden Competition.

CCO decided to produce a series of short films showcasing how people with disabilities interacted with various community groups, and Gavin was selected to be one of those people.  Gavin was filmed doing what he enjoys most in life (apart from his coffee) spending quiet time in his garden creating something which brings much joy not only to him, but many other people.

Geoff and I were thrilled last week to attend the premiere of the short films as representatives of the CHGC.  There were four people featured in the films - Bradley, Dani, Hank and our Gavin. They each have a different story to tell and are all so very dissimilar, but one thing absolutely stood out throughout - their total commitment to the various groups and clubs who had welcomed them.

Over 100 people joined the team from CCO (and of course the stars of the show!) at the Jetty Memorial Theatre Thurs 24 September for the premiere of the films. What a great night it was, and a real pleasure to be there supporting Gavin!

To see the first of the short films please visit this link.

Thank you to the CCO team for a tremendous initiative, particularly Kate and Paula.

Maria Bell
Communications Co-ordinator
Coffs Harbour Garden Club

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Keukenhof Holland

Tulips from Holland are world famous. If you want to see the Dutch tulip fields in bloom, you should visit Holland from March through to May. Spring flowers are a product of nature and the weather of course has got a big influence on it. When the weather is cold the tulips grow slower then when the weather is warm. A cold winter and spring will mean that the bulbs flower later. 

Spring flowers are blooming somewhere in Holland between March and May. It depends on the flower and climatic conditions when is the best time to see them in bloom. As a general guide :

Snowdrops - February through to March
Crocus - February through to March
Daffodils - March and April
Hyacinths - April and May
Tulips - April and May

One of the most renowned places to see beautiful bulbs is Keukenhof - this name meaning 'kitchen garden'. The garden goes back to the 15th century when Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria, Jacoba van Beieren (1401-1436) gathered fruit and vegetables from the woods and dunes for the kitchen of Teylingen Castle. Keukenhof Castle was built in 1641, and the estate grew to an area of over 200 hectares.

Landscape architects Jan David Zocher and his son, Louis Paul Zocher (who also designed Amsterdam's Vondelpark), redesigned the castle gardens in 1857. That park, in the English landscape style, still forms the basis of Keukenhof.

In 1949 a group of 20 flower bulb exporters came up with a plan to use the estate for a permanent exhibition of spring-flowering bulbs, signalling the birth of Keukenhof as a spring park.

The park opened its gates to the public in 1950 and was an instant success with 236,000 visitors in the first year! This year Van Gogh was the theme for the display. This park is only open to the public for 8 weeks of the year. In 2016 Keukenhof (the 67th edition) will be open from 24 March to 16 May 2016.

Over the last 66 years this event has become a world famous attraction on the garden/flower calendar. The focus in the park is on the 7 million spring-flowering bulbs, in which the 100 participating companies show their living catalogue. 

In more than 20 flower shows, 500 flower growers present an enormous variety of cut flowers and pot plants for sale. 

There are many gardens at Keukenhof and four pavilions where tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lillies and many other flowers are displayed. 

Keukenhof is the international and independent showcase for the Dutch floricultural sector, with a special emphasis on flower bulbs. In the space of eight weeks Keukenhof shows what the Dutch floricultural sector has to offer. 

Keukenhof is the platform for these Dutch growers and producers - it is not all about tourists being able to experience the wonder of beautiful flowers but also an excellent opportunity for exhibitors and participants in the flower shows to exhibit their flowers and plants and network with other businesses. There are trade events for growers and this exhibition has strong links with all relevant industries within floriculture.  

The garden designer has a set theme each year and he creates a special design for each exhibitor, consulting with them on what the colours, heights and flowering times are for their bulbs. The exhibitors ensure that all their bulbs are delivered and ready for planting in the Autumn.

For more information please visit for more information.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

President's Message - September

I thought that Spring had definitely sprung, but as I write this, it seems we're all back in Winter gear! The recent rain has been really nice though after a particularly dry Winter. Hopefully this rain will assist with getting your gardens going as the weather warms up over the next few weeks. I hope you've all been able to get out into your gardens, making them as wonderful and productive as I know you can. Don't forget though if you need any help there's always someone in the Club who will have an answer - all you need do is ask.

Spring means that our Garden Competition has been run and completed for another year. Maria has written a detailed report for the newsletter, I would just like to congratulate everyone who entered, whether you were successful or not. Lots of people have contributed mightily to the success of this competition, so I'd also like to say, on behalf of all Club members, a massive thankyou to each of you.

And thanks goes also to our sponsors, who are absolutely critical to the success of the competition, and ultimately to our Club. And what a great group of sponsors we have this year. Would you all please take the time to familiarise yourselves with who they are, and if you come across them, please say a very big thankyou and, of course where it's appropriate, support them with your business.

I mentioned at the September meeting that we need people to continue to put their hands up to help run the Club. Our AGM is fast approaching, so whether you've been around for a while or are new to the Club, please consider taking on a job for next year on either the Executive or perhaps one of the committees. If anyone would like information on any role within the Club, please just give me a call and I'll fill you in on what's involved.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Judge Mike West Feedback

Brief Report on Coffs Harbour Garden Club Competition 2015

Thank you for appointing me to undertake the judging task at your annual garden competition. It has been a pleasurable, yet at times complex task.

Some notes regarding what I found along the way:

  • Regarding presentation of units for whole of garden section - the rear and sides (where applicable) of the units should be made available for inspection to enable a full comparison of properties.
  • The front garden category was well contested, with many properties being close to winning a place. Traditional and modern approaches provide an interesting contrast.
  • Where corner blocks are entered in this category, a specific street frontage should be nominated on the entry form.
  • With a strong showing from those properties entered in the new dwelling/garden category, some could be expected to become contenders for future competitions as the gardens mature and are further developed.
  • Based on the criteria for the Waterwise sections, the ideal does not call for no watering, but wise use of the potential resource. This seems to be an area of potential development, as few examples were seen of rain water collection, micro sprinklers and drippers, and fewer still of grey water use/reuse. However, there were many examples of the use of mulches in various forms.

Overall, there was a wide range of gardens presented, from small to large, simple to complex, old to new, and the interest shown by all the entrants is to be commended.

Mike West

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Rosy Red Radish Growing Competition

The ruler is out, taste buds tuned up, an eagle eye out for pests and diseases - everything is set for Judging the Rosy Red Radish Growing Competition.

President Geoff is out and about this week judging the Radishes which the Coffs Harbour area schools are involved in as part of the Spring Garden Competition community involvement.

Judging commenced yesterday, Wednesday 9 September, and will continue until tomorrow, Friday 11 September.

Schools were asked towards the end of term II if they wanted to be a part of this competition. At first the response was a little slow but the CHGC have been blown away by the overwhelming enthusiasm for this competition with 18, yes eighteen schools to be judged! 

Seeds were dispatched to all the participating schools in July and they have been extremely busy integrating the growing of these seeds into their curricular learning outcomes for this term. 

There were only 6 schools out of the initial 24 who didn't have anything for President Geoff to have a look at - not a bad result out of all the schools participating really. Can you imagine what it would have been like if he had to taste and judge the offerings of 24 Rosy Red Radish crops?

So far we have seen THE most amazing gardens and to think we have yet another day to go! 

What a pleasure to visit such enthusiastic participating schools and well done to the students, teachers and parents who have been involved. 

Friday Update

We continued to see some terrific radishes today. There were radishes planted in small tubs like those seen right.

Others that were being protected in propagating units.

While others were in purpose built gardens that are easy to work without bending.

Some of the radishes were happily nestled in with other vegetables.

We saw some amazingly happy faces of pupils who had worked hard on projects about radishes.

AND some very keen observers of the judging process.

The Presentation of Prizes will be on Fri 18 September at the Cavanbah Centre commencing at 7:00pm. Mayor Denise will be there to present this award.

Thank you so much for a wonderful few days judging the Rosy Red Radish Growing Competition.


Australia has some 6,000 species of native snails, none of which pose a problem to our gardens. There are even some that are carnivorous and enjoy to snack on the common (introduced) garden snail.

The common brown snail Cantareus (Helix) aspersus is a nasty introduced species from Europe and is found throughout all temperate regions growing to around 45mm long. It can take from 4 months to 2 years to mature and can live as long as 12 years!

Snails are hermaphrodite (have reproductive organs normally associated with both male and female sexes) and during warmer months can lay several egg clusters at a soil depth of 20-40mm. These clusters may contain as many as 100 eggs and one snail can lay up to 1,000 eggs in a season - no wonder they are hard to handle.

Snails like to live on vertical surfaces in the heart of strappy leaved plants and in crevices. So check under leaves and in the crevices of leafy plants as well as under pots. If you have chooks, even better as they just love them. Hand picking, will over time, greatly reduce the number of snails. The best time is after sunset by torchlight, and this is simply the BEST activity for kids as it is a real adventure as to who can pick up the most snails! If you don't have chooks some sudsy water in a bucket will do the trick.

There's something about an Aussie and beer..... and snails are no exception (they've integrated excellently into the Aussie culture!). They just love the stuff - get some old jars or cans, place them on their side slightly tilted down, around the garden and pour in a little beer - they are very attracted to the lovely yeasty brew, climb in and drown ta-dah!

If you don't like the sound of either of the above methods a very effective method is to use copper banding (this works especially well on pots and seedling trays).  When the pest makes contact with the copper band it causes a reaction similar to an electric shock which repels them. 

This introduced species to our Australian shores is just amazing how it has reproduced over time and any method that works to limit it's numbers has to be a plus.

September Outing

Details of the next outing from the Program Committee: (images were unavailable to upload)

September 25th 2015 Outing (Friday)

Les and Brenda Lawrence’s award winning garden
18 Caba Close, Boambee.
An excerpt from the Coffs Coast Advocate after one of their ‘wins’.
WHEN Les Lawrence talks about his garden his face lights up. This is a man who has obviously enjoyed and indulged in a life-long passion of getting his hands dirty.
It has been 20 years since Mr. Lawrence and his wife Brenda first moved into their Boambee property and the garden they have created has transformed this once barren, boring block into a stunner and this year's "Champion Garden" in the Spring Garden Competition.
"I started it from scratch by bringing bush rock from Grafton," Mr. Lawrence said.
"Moving and cementing in all those rocks as borders for the garden beds gave me quite a workout but it was worth it."
"I started by planting trees so I could get some shade and then it all grew from there."
It certainly did. Mr. Lawrence's garden now includes an impressive mix of natives, tropicals, exotics, plenty of colour and perfume, fruit trees, rainforest trees, an immaculate lawn - "the secret is in the fertiliser" - and some great focal points.
"We're on tank water so we built a large garden hut over the tank which is a terrific place to entertain as it overlooks the garden. I've also put in a fountain and some bits and pieces we've picked up at garage sales around the garden to give some interest as well as a couple of benches so I can take a seat when I need a break."
 From Coffs Harbour: 
·         Depart Harbour Dr toward Grafton St / Pacific Hwy / A1
·         Go past the Health Campus and through the Bunnings roundabout
·         Take the first exit on the left to Toormina/ Sawtell and turn right at the stop sign top of the exit
·         Cross the bridge past Boambee School and follow Lindsay’s Rd to Caba Close which is off on  the right
We will be meeting at 10am.
Please BYO morning tea which we will have under the pergola before making our way to The Lakes.
Lakes Retirement Village
From Coffs Harbour: 
·         Depart Harbour Dr toward Grafton St / Pacific Hwy / A1
·         0.1 km Turn left onto Grafton St / Pacific Hwy / A1
·         2.9 km Turn right onto North Boambee Rd
·         0.3 km Turn right onto Lakes Dr
·         0.3 km Arrive at 1 Lakes Drive New South Wales 2450
The last intersection is Menindee Cirt, If you reach Wallace Cirt, you've gone too

Bob Wray will show us around and hopefully a couple of award winning gardens as well. This complex normally wins its section in the Spring Garden Competition so is well worth the look.
Please BYO lunch which we will have at the community centre.

Those that would like to car pool please meet at Botanic Gardens at 9:30am.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Orchid Workshop


WHERE:       Botanic Garden Function Room

WHEN:         Thursday 5 November, 10:00am Start


                   Saturday 7 November, 10:ooam Start

COST:          $5.00 (this is for room hire each day)

BYO Lunch or buy it at the Botanic Garden Cafe

RSVP to Bob (with preferred day) email here and please pay at the September meeting. 

If you have a problematic orchid and want some advice, just bring it along and Ed Pearce, the Facilitator for this workshop, will guide on what best to do.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Happy Fathers Day

Today is the dedicated day in Australia to remember and reward our Dads - a quote from Charles Wadsworth in our August 2015 newsletter goes:

'By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong.'  

We don't of course, just think of our Dads on this one day of the year. Even when they have passed our Dads hold a really special place in our hearts and are often recalled in our memory. 

No doubt there will be sumptuous treats weighing down many a table today to celebrate his special day - and with Dad's favourite tipple alongside? So kick back Dad and enjoy the day and limelight!

Some of us may have given THE MAN something he feels is essential to really give those tough nut shrubs a real 'going over'. It has to be said that there is just something about a man and his motorised garden equipment...... they just seem to go hand and glove.

Before the 'man of the house' revs up his new toy, oops tool, he should be made aware that this particular piece of machinery can really pack a punch and is quite dangerous.

First and foremost, the instructions should be carefully read and there will be many warnings about kickback which occurs when the nose or tip of the guide bar touches an object, or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. This may cause a very, very fast reverse reaction, kicking the guide bar up and back towards the operator. This makes control of the chainsaw extremely difficult and can cause serious injury. Some worthwhile advice on this issue is to keep a good firm grip on the saw with both hands. Make sure that the area you are cutting is free from obstructions. Do not overreach or cut above your shoulder height. Always follow manufacturer's sharpening instructions - chainsaws are just like our kitchen knives, blunt or dull knives often cause cuts and gashes.

Always wear protective gear - safety footwear (why would you wear thongs?), snug-fitting clothing; protective gloves, eye protection and noise reducing headphones - the whine of a chainsaw is just horrendous.

A little word of warning......... sometimes these blokes need a gentle hand of advice as they can get carried away in the moment. This can lead to them really 'doing a job' on our gardens which may take many years of growing back or worse still, the demise of the tree or shrub.... just say'n!

Happy Fathers Day

Friday, 4 September 2015

Propagating By Taking Cuttings

Lets face it, we get a great sense of satisfaction by growing our own plants from scratch and to share those plants with friends, even better. A big plus is, of course the savings you make by propagating your own plants. It provides the opportunity to grow plants that are perhaps not generally available in nurseries and have a proven record of growing successfully in our climate. Following are some basics when propagating from cuttings:

Hygiene is paramount - make sure everything you use is clean including pots and secateurs. Give the pots a good wash in hot soapy water and spray or wipe your secateurs between each cut with metho.

Collect good quality healthy plant material - taking cuttings from a dying plant is not the way to go nor is it a very good idea to take cuttings from something that is suffering from pest or disease infestation. Take cuttings that are young, but firm from healthy plants.

If you cannot propagate the cutting immediately, store it in some newspaper moistened with water in a plastic bag and keep cool.

If you have been invited to take cuttings from a friend's garden take your own 'kit' - an esky, ice brick, plastic bags, newspaper, secateurs, metho, labels, permanent marker and a spray bottle of water. 

As a general rule cut below the node/leaf joint on the base of the cutting and above the node/leaf joint at the top of the cutting. A really good plant to practice on is hydrangea as the buds and leaf nodes are very prominent.

Some leaves should be left attached, but no buds or flowers. Trim back leaves to half their size so the cutting doesn't loose too much moisture. Another good idea is to spray the cutting with a preparation that cuts back expiration. 

If you are propagating a number of plants at the same time, drop them into a container of diluted seaweed before placing them into the hormone powder/gel/liquid and into the pot. By using a hormone product the chances of success are far greater, some people use natural honey.

Don't use potting mix but a good quality propagating mix or home made compost.

Water plants in with seaweed.

Place in light shade and water each week with seaweed solution.

Never let your cuttings dry out or sit in a saucer of water.

Pot on into a good quality potting mix or directly into the garden once the roots have begun to show through the base of the pot.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015


FLOWER OF THE MONTH - September 2015

Botanical grouping, Narcissus

Daffodils are the harbinger of spring and when grown in subtropical climates they should perhaps be treated as a flowering annual. Having said that though, we can but try our best to still grow them here on the Coffs coast for more than one season by lifting them at the end of the season.

Daffodils can be planted from April to May here in Coffs, with flowering from late July through to September (depending on the weather). To try and get more than one season out of our bulbs we need to lift them because if  left in the soil during our hot, wet, humid summers they will 'steam' underground and be ruined. They enjoy a half sun to full sun position.

If planting in the garden you have to make sure that the garden bed has adequate drainage, and if the soil is especially heavy, mix in some light organic material. Raised beds are perhaps best as they drain well. Plant deeper than you would in cooler areas, say around 20cm and mulch well.

Daffodils look just stunning mass planted (both in the garden and in containers). If you are planting in containers use a specialist bulb potting mix and make sure the container is tall enough to plant the bulb at 15 cms (pointy end up).

Allow the foliage to die back in the pot and lift the bulbs, dust off the soil and allow the bulb to dry off. Inspect the bulbs for rot and insect damage and discard if there is any sign of damage. Store in a cool, dark and dry area with adequate airflow. They can be stored in paper bags that can then be hung up or on trays.

Some people put their bulbs in the crisper section of the refrigerator for 6 weeks prior to replanting the following season.