Saturday, 30 April 2016

Tropical Soda Apple - Solanum viarum WEED

Tropical soda apple is one of the Coffs Coast's more aggressive perennial shrubs. It invades a wide range of positions from open to semi-shaded areas including pastures, forests, roadsides and recreational areas. This weed radically reduces biodiversity by displacing native plants and cultivated grasses therefore disrupting ecological processes.

An erect perennial shrub to around 2 metres high with an upright and much branching habit. It has broad-based, straight, cream-coloured prickles to 12mm long, scattered on most of the plant parts.

The foliage is unpalatable to livestock which enables it to profligate freely on cultivated land. The prickles also restrict grazing by native animals and thickets can create a physical barrier for animals, preventing access to shade and water. The plant plays host to many pests and diseases for cultivated crops and also contains solasodine which is poisonous to humans (although a solasodine glycoalkaloid cream has been used successfully for basal cell carcinoma).

Tropical Soda Apple was first identified in Australia in the upper Macleay Valley in August 2010, however it has been noted that it was most probably in the area for a number of years previous to this. From subsequent surveys there have been infestations found at Bellingen, Bonalbo, Coffs Harbour, Casino, Grafton, Murwillumbah, Wauchope and Wingham. There have been infestations found in the Namoi and Border Rivers/Gwydir catchments - these would most probably be attributed to the movement of cattle from infested coastal areas.

Flowers are white, with five petals, 2-4mm long. They occur in clusters of 3 to 6, off a short stem.

Dispersal is by seed and from root material. Cattle, birds and other animals disperse the seed. Also dispersed by water and contaminated soil and equipment.

Control is by hand-pulling, taking care to remove all plant parts and root fragments or foliar spray with glyphosate.

For a beaut You Tube presentation from Coffs Regional Landcare on the Tropical Soda Apple click here.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

OMG! Organic Matter Guidance from GardenDrum

Helen Young & Catherine Stewart
This link will require a cup of tea/coffee as it is a long one. Please click 
GardenDrum article to read all about Organic Matter.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Coffs Harbour Show 2016

Judge Anne Kennedy, CHGC Chief Steward for Sections 10 & 14 Marg Franks and Judge Anne Deveridge doing their stuff during judging on Fri 22 April 2016.

This year the benches were covered in brightly coloured fabric which was very eye-catching and looked lovely against the slate grey curtain.

Due to the season/date of show there were not the usual number of roses entered, which is always a very popular class with the public.

The Fruit and Vegetable section was well supported this year - although the school entries were down due to it being school holidays. 

The children's classes in this section and also the floral art section were a delight to see. There were some extremely imaginative creations and hope that these kids will continue to enter the show in future years.

The honey classes were better supported this year with most classes with entries. The frames and huge block of beeswax were amazing!

There were two florist businesses support the show this year - Freelance Flowers and Park Avenue Florist. A huge thank you to the five wonderful florists who participated from these two businesses.

Winning entry from Emma Hindmarsh (Freelance Flowers) who won the Professional Florist Competition.

Some of the detail in Emma's creation - a wonderful mix of cut flowers, succulents, bulbs, rhyzomes & foliage, just beautiful.

An interesting spin on the colour wheel, just gorgeous.

Strange how things happen - Jane had a presentation recently about pineapple fruit and ornamental pineapples. Here's one used in this stunning arrangement.

The theme for this year's show was 'Art in Bloom' - an arrangement of fresh flowers and plant materials for the Registration Table at a corporate event.

You may notice the use of paint brushes in this arrangement.

This arrangement has used an all time favourite flower of mine, stocks with beautiful Lotus leaves for effect - lovely.

CHGC wishes to thank everyone who entered in the 2016 Coffs Show. 

A very, very special thank you has to go to the CHGC Chief Steward Margaret Franks who led a wonderful band of members over the four days - set up, judging day and both days of the show itself. A job well done team!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Showing her Best - The Garlic Queen of Koonya

Now here's a job for someone - judging at the Koonya Garlic Festival.  

Seen above is the winner of the competition and as you can see it is all about garlic.  Cecylia has something to wash all that garlic down with a top Gin (voted in Gourmet Traveller Magazine as one of the top ten Australian gins) from local distillery McHenry.

To read more of this story please visit GardenDrum to read how Angus Stewart judged this competition in Tasmania.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

An Article Relevant for the Coffs Coast Gardening - Humidity and Heat!

Kate Wall has written on a subject that is exceedingly relevant for us here on the Coffs Coast. 

She writes: 'So many gardeners who live in the subtropics tell me they must have brown thumbs because they keep killing lavender. My plea to ‘subtropicallians’ is this – your ability to grow lavender has nothing to do with the colour of your thumbs and everything to do with your climate!
Modern western gardening has its roots in a cool temperate European climate, extending through to warm temperate and Mediterranean climates. This has taught us much about temperature tolerance of plants, with the impact of frosts and the severity of frosts still being the one of the most used climate factors when assessing what to grow where. For gardeners in those climates this remains very useful information. For those of us in the subtropical regions, it is almost useless. For us, temperatures matter mainly in that we have (almost) no frosts at all so there is no cold spell that many temperate plants need. And yet so many plants which are tolerant of high temperatures do not necessarily grow in the subtropics. Why? – Humidity! 
To continue reading this article please click here for full article from Kate Wall

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Spreading our Harvest

In late summer and autumn we, as home gardeners often have an abundance of fresh produce but don't really know what to do with it (there is, after all a limit to the amount of pickles, chutneys and jams we can consume) and think that it's not possible to extend our harvest into the cooler months of winter. 

Some vegetables that may be harvested during late Autumn, Winter and early spring are broad beans, broccoli, peas, cabbages, carrots, lettuce, rocket, mustard greens, sorrel, spinach, radish, turnip, parsnip, silverbeet, chard and kale. To have these vegetables available over this extensive period, it is paramount that you sow seeds in succession to spread the harvest. By doing this, perhaps a 'glut' will be alleviated. 

One neat way to handle large quantities of vegetables is to pick them early - there is nothing better than mini vegetables. The 'thinnings' from carrots, parsnips and brussel sprouts etc is just fantastic. Tiny beetroot leaves may be used in salads along with the outer lettuce leaves and small herbs. Immature leaves of cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are quite delicious when steamed.

If you plan well you can have a constant supply of herbs - parsley, chives, thyme etc which can be harvested all year round and give a great fresh 'kick' to our meals. Other 'woodier' herbs like rosemary and sage will grow for many years and when in flower they are great for attracting bees.

Carrots are a crop that may be left in the ground and pulled as required, if you leave them too long they will run to seed and become 'woody' and inedible, so best to keep an 'eye' on them.

Potatoes, pumpkins and onions store well once they have been harvested and can be used through Winter - they need to be stored somewhere dark, dry and very well ventilated.

In late autumn any unripe tomatoes can be left on the bushes and the whole plant pulled up and hung by its roots in the shed - they will continue to ripen over time, thus extending your harvest, they will have tougher skins but the taste will be just as good.

Microgreens and sprouts may be grown indoors any time of the year - they just need an environment with sufficient daylight to grow.

I guess the secret to having an extended harvest period for our vegetables is to be very diligent with sowing seeds for successive harvesting. Sometimes this is a little difficult with travel and other family commitments however, we can at least try to stagger our seed sowing as much as possible.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

President's Message - April 2016

I know that quite a few of our members have a keen interest in floral art and so while in Sydney for the Royal Easter Show, I took the opportunity to talk with the Presidents of the Royal Horticultural Society of NSW (Cecily Rogers) and the NSW Floral Art Association (Mary Sweeney) about how we might go about establishing a Coffs Coast Floral Art Group. I'm very pleased to say both organisations are more than happy to help out. It is interesting to note that the NSW Floral Art Association is affiliated with Garden Clubs of Australia and like CHGC, a member of the GCA Mid North Coast Zone.

I also spoke to Judith Little, who is a highly accomplished floral artist from Maclean, who has offered to come to Coffs to provide demonstrations and to talk about the benefits of people joining together to celebrate and learn about their floral art passion. It is worth noting that Judith won the National Floral Art Competition at this year's Royal Easter Show. She is an accredited floral art judge and has participated in international competitions, so it would be great to be able to host her for a session in Coffs Harbour.

The plan would be for CHGC to facilitate the process by inviting interested people to attend a meeting aimed at forming a committee to undertake the work required to establish and incorporate the Floral Art Group. Our Club's role would be merely that of supporter and facilitator, because the intention is that the Floral Art Group stands on its own feet as a
completely separate entity once it is incorporated, albeit with at least some people who might ultimately be members of both it and our Club.

Floral art and gardening certainly go together and so it seems only natural that the garden club would help out in this way. A city the size of Coffs Harbour should easily be able to support a vibrant floral art group, and I hope CHGC can assist in bringing that to fruition.

Member Janny's work

Monday, 18 April 2016

Sub-tropical Presentation from Gavin - Costus Spiral Ginger

The spiral ginger is a genus of mainly ornamental gingers native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of Africa, Asia and South America.

They are grown for their beautiful flowers but some have edible roots and the flowers can be eaten too.

They are a common garden plant that are usually native to rainforests, growing as understorey plants, so they require a shady position in the garden.

The plant usually grows from one to two metres. But some species can be only half a metre or as much as four metres high, spreading a metre wide.

Most have thin cane-like stems and hairy leaves.

The most commonly grown species is costus barbatus, the Red Tower Ginger and is also the most hardy.

The most attractive in my opinion is the Variegated Crepe Ginger which has a large white flower and a red coloured stem.

They require a rich, well-drained soil and the stem dies after flowering.

They can be propagated by division of the rhizomes and stem cuttings will also strike.

It is a very reliable plant to grow in my experience, they have few pests and grow rapidly.

It is a perfect addition to a jungle style garden. It has spectacular flowers which last a long time and look lush and attractive. Even when not in flower, it just screams “tropical”.

Costus barbatus is native to Costa Rica. Plants there are pollinated by hummingbirds.

Spiral Ginger Costus Oxley Ruby
Thank you Gavin for an excellent presentation.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

How to Prune and Train Australian Natives - GardenDrum

In this article from Australian Native guru Angus Stewart he writes about how we should be trimming our Australian natives on a regular basis. He points out that it is best not to wait until they are really straggly and then letting Dad loose with his trusty 'man machines' to do a 'hard prune'.

To see this article, please click here.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

An overview of garden related topics found on this website this year until 15 April 2016.

Assassin Bug

Jane has also done a 'What bug is that?' Presentation.

This critter was the subject of an earlier brief post (Oct 2013) and can be seen here.

Assassin bugs get their name from their predatory habits. Gardeners consider them beneficial insects, because their voracious appetites for other bugs keeps pests under control.

They are also known as Bee-killers because one of their favourite prey is the honey bee. Actually they will feed on any insects that they can catch.

As all assassin bugs, Common Assassin Bugs have their long head with powerful pro boscis for puncturing their prey. Their legs are long so that they have long attack distance. Adult bugs are brown in colour with transparent wings. Nymphs are black with brightly orange abdomens.

Females lay clusters of long red eggs. Nymphs pass through five growth stages to come an adult bug. They nymphs look similar to the adult, except is small and wingless. Later they will have wing buds but still cannot fly.
When threatened, assassin bugs may inflict a painful bite, so be careful handling them.  

Other varieties:

Thank you Jane for informing us that this bug is a beneficial one.


Jane's April Presentation - Pineapple

The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is one of the few edible species of the 2,000 that make up the bromeliad family.

They are thought to have originated in Brazil and Paraguay. By the end of the 16th century, Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced pineapples into many of their Asian, African and South Pacific colonies - cpountries in which pineapples are still grown today.

Lutheran missionaries introduced the pineapple to Australia in the 1830's and it now grows predominantly along the coast of Queensland. 

King Charles II

In the 1600's, the pineapple remained so uncommon, and such a coveted commodity, that King Charles II of England posed for an official portrait in an act then symbolic of royal privilege - receiving a pineapple as a gift.

The Welcome Fruit
Pineapples are traditionally a welcome gift in the tropics. Centuries ago however, modes of transportation were relatively slow and fresh pineapples (being perishable) were a rare luxury and coveted delicacy.

The fresh pineapple was highly sought after, becoming a true symbol of prestige and social class. In fact, the pineapple, because of its rarity and expense, was such a status item that all a party hostess had to do was to display the fruit as part of a decorative centrepiece and she would be awarded much social awe and recognition.

Colonial confectioners sometimes rented pineapples to households by the day. Later, the same fruit was sold to other, more affluent clients who actually ate it.

During the 20th century, the pineapple primarily symbolized hospitality.

American Sea Captains placed the fruit outside their homes to signal to friends that they had returned after a voyage. It was this act that began the trend of stone pineapples being placed at the entrance of fine properties.

This Pineapple fountain can be found in
Charleston, South Carolina, USA>
This building can be seen in
Dunmore, Scotland

Growing Pineapples  (for local growing conditions please see this link from March 2016)

Pineapples are best suited to humid coastal lowlands in tropical and subtropical regions of northern and eastern Australia.
When planting pineapples in the ground, it's important to plant them into a ridge or raised bed. Pineapples must have free drainage. They also love well composted soil that's been mulched on the surface - use sugar cane, lucerne or straw.

Green pineapples are immature and toxic. It's only when they have developed the classic orange colour that they're ready to eat. They're full of sugar, so if you forget to harvest them, rats and ants will do it for you.

Pineapples contain a compound called bromelain and eating a fresh pineapple full of bromelain induces a feel of well being.

To grow a pineapple plant, all you need is a fresh pineapple.

Look for one with firm, green leaves that have not turned yellow or brown. The skin on the fruit should be golden brown and firm to the touch. Smell the pineapple to see if it's ripe: it should emit a sweet, heady smell indicating that you've chosen it at just the right time to start a new pineapple plant.

Make sure the pineapple isn't under-ripe. It needs to be ripe in order to produce another pineapple. To check that a pineapple isn't too ripe tug a little at the leaves, if they come right off, the pineapple is too ripe to plant.

Make sure that the pineapple doesn't have scale insects around the base of the leaves, they look like small grayish spots.

Twist the leaves off the top of the pineapple. Grasp the body of the pineapple with one hand and use the other to grab the leaves at the base and twist them off. This method ensures that the base of the leaves will stay intact. It will be attached to a minimum amount of fruit, which you don't need in order for the plant to grow. If you're having trouble twisting off the top, you can slice off the top of the pineapple.  Slice off the excess fruit around the root.

Make sure the base, the very tip of the area where the leaves join together, stays intact. New roots will be sprouting from this, and without it the plant won't grow.

Strip off some of the lower leaves to expose the stem. Thjis helps the stem sprout roots once it is planted. Strip until a few inches of the stem are exposed. Cut away any remaining fruit without damaging the stem.

Turn it upside down and let it dry for a week. The scars where you made a cut and removed the leaves will harden, which is necessary before you take the next step.

Fill a large glass with water. The mouth of the glass should be large enough to fit the pineapple crown inside, but small enough so that you can prop it up to keep it from getting completely submerged.

Stick a few toothpicks into the pineapple crown. Place them across from each other near the top of the stem. Push them in just far enough so that they'll stay in place. These toothpicks are used to suspend the pineapple crown in the glass of water.

Put the crown in the water. The toothpicks should rest on the rim of the glass. The stem should be submerged in the water, and the leaves should stick out the top.

Place the glass in a sunny window and wait for the roots to sprout. It should take several days or up to a few weeks for white roots to poke out and begin to grow. Keep the plant away from extreme temperatures. Don't let it get too hot or too cold. Change the water every few days to prevent the growth of mould.

Plant the crown when the roots are a few inches long. Wait until they've gotten long enough to take root in soil. If you plant the crown too early it won't do well. Press the soil firmly around the base of the crown without getting any soil on the leaves.

Look for flowers. It can take several years, but eventually a red cone should appear from the centre of the leaves, followed by blue flowers and eventually a fruit. It takes about six months for the fruit to fully develop. The pineapple will grow from the flower, above ground, in the centre of the plant.

Ornamental Pineapple Plant (Ananas bracteatus 'Striatus')

Gardeners grow ornamental pineapple varieties as landscape plants or house plants. These plants occasionally produce pineapples, but the fruit is not generally considered flavourful.


Ornamental pineapple plants grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet and a width of 2 to 4 feet. The leaves may have spiny or smooth edges, depending on the hybrid or cultivar. They're often green or grey-green with pink, white or yellow spripes running lengthwise up the leaves. Ornamental pineapples bloom occasionally, producing small red or deep pink flowers that cover a thick stalk at the centre of the plant. The stalk might turn into a small pink pineapple after the plant finishes blooming.

You can use them in flower arrangements or even as exotic drink stirrers!

Cultivars such as Variegatus and Porteanus have been specifically developed with ornamental use in mind, so they feature striking, colourful leaves and larger flowers.



Water the plant freely during the growing season and when the flowering stalk is present. The soil should remain moist from spring to autumn. Pouring the water over the entire plant allows water to run into leaf gaps and crevices and drain away to the soil below.

In winter, reduce watering so that the soil remains barely moist and dries out between watering. Since the soil is fertile and contains organic matter, do not worry about fertilizing the pineapple. In fact, too much fertilizer causes fast growth and often limits the plant's ability to create a flower stalk. Fertilizers containing cooper nutrients are general fatal.

When the pineapple reaches a mature age, the centre of the rosette of spiny leaves produces a flower stalk. For some the stalk elongates and rises above the foliage to reveal a rounded cluster of lilac to red flowers with yellow bracts, resembling a pine cone. Other plants have long slender flower sprays. For the pineapple type after the flowers, the ovaries swell into plump, pulpy masses to create a small pineapple fruit with a large crown of foliage. The flower stalk may remain fully erect or eventually bends over to allow the mature fruit to drop to the soil below, where it will root and become a new plant. Consider staking the stalk to keep the plant looking more ornate and keep watering it during this time, so that the flower and fruits do not abort prematurely.


Thank you Jane for an excellent presentation. 

Pineapples grow really well here on the Coffs Coast. One CHGC member at Emerald Heights has grown pineapples along a north facing brick wall in pots with great success.