Monday, 30 May 2016

State Rose Garden Werribee Park

Werribee Park? this brings to mind equestrian facilities, three day events, polo matches and training facilities, yes? But no, it is also a destination for garden admirers and rose lovers. This (almost) 5 hectare rose garden with over 5,500 roses is the Victoria State Rose Garden. It DID have a rocky start though......

The original concept for a Victoria State Rose Garden came about when Premier Hamer declared Victoria the 'Garden State' in 1976. Mervyn Hayman-Danker assisted the Werribee Park Committee of Management develop a Strategy Plan for the whole 202 hectares site. Establishing heritage restoration works to the Chirnside Italinate Mansion, restoration of a Parterre garden and assisted in detailed survey of exotic species and native flora of a ornamental garden designed by Guilfoyle (Designer of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens). Mervyn Hayman-Danker recommended that the Victoria State Rose Garden be located close to the Ornamental Mansion Garden - this was driven by the verve and enthusiasm from the Secretary of the Australian Rose Society, Mr Jim Priestley. With collaboration between these two men, a plan was developed by the Public Works Department to be completed in stages from 1986 until 2001. The official opening of stage one - Tudor Rose, Leaf and observation mounds was opened in late 1986. The ten years between conceptual plans and this opening were years of dedicated hard work and lobbying by members of the National Rose Society for it to become a reality. 

Even though there was a wonderful opening with fantastic weather, this did not mean that the plans went seamlessly from this time! Due to many changes of Government and economic rationalisation it seemed inevitable that the rose garden would fail. In 1992 the gardens were a dreadful mess with overgrown grass, thousands of hips and deadheads. A petition against the demise of the Garden was raised by Jim Priestly which resulted in many hundreds of signatures supporting the Garden and its completion. It had to however, show that there were sufficient volunteers to carry out the work involved in both the current garden and any extension. To facilitate this move The Victoria State Rose Garden Supporters Werribee Park Inc. was registered in June 1993 with 50 enrolled volunteers.

There have been many changes over the years including: 

  • In 1997 stage one of The Heritage Border was established. This is a hedge of Climbing and Old Roses along the fenceline between the Mansion and the Rose Garden. 
  • In 1998 a front row of bush Heritage Roses was planted consisting of 49 varieties - many of these were species roses with historical ties to the modern rose.
  • In 2000 a further 400 metres of Border was planted with Heritage Roses. With this inclusion, Victoria now has one of the best collections of Heritage Roses in Australia.
  • Also in 2000, the Supporters were successful in obtaining a grant from the Centenary of Federation to develop and plant a stylised leaf. The Federation Leaf contains 50 beds of Australian bred roses. In addition, eight climbing roses have been planted to climb the watering poles.
  • A donation from David Austin Roses in 2001 enabled the Supporters to plant out 60 varieties of perfumed English roses - both climbing and bush. The garden is in the shape of a rosebud and has been paved to retain a more formal appearance.
  • November 2001 The Federation Leaf was officially opened.
  • 2003 World Federation of Rose Societies granted Victoria State Rose Garden a 'Garden of Excellence' status.
  • 2012 Official Opening of the new archway entrance to the Rose Garden.
Volunteers keeping the roses looking terrific

After 2015 winter prune
Today, these gardens are still maintained by the Supporters and there are approximately 100 dedicated supporters. They meet every fine Wednesday of the year to prune, dead-head, mulch, monitor performance, replace roses that are not performing well and anything else that will keep the Garden and surrounds in tip top form. There are usually around 50 volunteers who attend each week and in 2014 they worked 9,777 hours (which does not include administrative time or guided tours), a mighty fine effort.

The Garden comes under the control of Parks Victoria and The Mansion at Werribee Park. Their staff assist the Supporters by arranging for lawn-mowing, watering, disease control programs, removal and disposal of garden waste and other tasks in co-operation with the Supporters.

A stunning aerial view of the Werribee Park precinct where the Victoria State Rose Garden Tudor Rose design is clearly visible. 

For more information please check out this link to the VSRG.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Friends or Foes?

There are some visitors to our gardens that are Australian iconic birds. The question is - are they friends or foes?

The raucous sulphur-crested cockatoo is a large parrot, usually around 50cm long with snowy-white plumage and a beautiful bright yellow crest. This bird is undoubtedly a tourist favourite but perhaps not so well-loved by locals because of its playful but very destructive habits, damaging plants, buildings (particularly decking, facia and panelling) and snacking on produce like macadamia nuts and citrus fruits. They can also be seen ripping bark back - sometimes for the joy of just doing it and other times to eat insect larvae found under the bark. Pine cones are a favourite in their dining experience - their curved beak is large, curved and pointed downwards and is exceedingly strong and very efficient cracking the cones open for the kernels found within. They have been known to decimate an entire vegetable patch in a very short time too. Seeds form part of their diet and this is why farmers are not really fond of them in broadacre cereal farming, as they can power through a lot of seed and have hundreds in their flocks.

Cockatoos make much loved pets - although anyone who has ever owned one of these majestic and quirky birds will know that Cockatoos are much more than just a pet. They are highly intelligent and are inquisitive and affectionate and have quite distinct, unique personality traits. They can be taught to talk and bond well with their owners. My uncle had one from his childhood and it passed away when he was in his late 70s, so not a pet to acquire too late in your life. My uncle's bird did have some rather colourful words which proved a bit embarrassing at times (depending on the company)! 

There is not much physical difference between male and female birds except for eye colour - females have a reddish coloured iris and males very dark or black. 

Cockatoos are usually found near adequate water and food resources in heavily treed areas. The pairs partner for life and build nests in tree hollows prepared by both the parents with wood chips. Babies stay with their parents all year.  

It is vitally important NOT TO FEED wild cockatoos. Luring in and feeding wild cockatoos on balconies, verandahs and outdoor areas can be a BIG mistake. With a growing population of cockatoos (because of the good food resources you are providing) and you miss feeding them (or when they demand it) they'll protest loudly whilst destroying any (or all) your wooden structures!

The Pied currawong is a large, 40-50cm, mostly black bird with a distinctive bright yellow eye. Small patches of white are confined to under the tail, the tips and bases of the tail feathers and a small patch towards the tip of each wing (only visible in flight). The bill is large and black and the legs are dark grey-black. Both sexes are similar, although the female may sometimes be greyer on the underparts. Young Pied Currawongs are duller and browner than the adults. People often confuse the Australian Magpie with Pied Currawongs but the two are quite different in plumage. The Magpie has a grey and black bill and a red-brown eye with large areas of white on the body.

Pied Currawongs are found throughout eastern Australia, from northern Queensland to Victoria, but are absent from Tasmania. They prefer forests and woodlands, and have become well adapted to suburban areas mainly because of the abundance of food sources for them. Historically, Pied Currawongs used to breed in the Great Dividing Range and only visited east coast cities in flocks during the autumn and winter. However, they are now remaining in urban areas all year round and increasing numbers are nesting there too. Pied Currawongs have adapted to this environment and are now eating many small and young birds where cover for these birds is scarce, their eggs, exotic species of berries, lizards etc. Larger prey, up to the size of a young possum are also taken and birds will occasionally hunt as a group. Prey may be stored in a 'larder' (hung on a hook or in a tree fork or crevice) and either eaten straight away or, in the case of larger prey, over a period of time.

Outside of breeding season large flocks of Pied Currawongs form, but at most other times these birds are seen alone, in pairs or in family groups. They have quite a distinctive flight habit - flap their wings twice and glide, flap twice and glide. They usually make their calls whilst in flight.

The Pied Currawong's nest is a bowl of sticks, lined with grasses and other soft material. This material is gathered by both sexes, but the female builds the nest, which is placed in a high tree fork, up to 20m above the ground. The female incubates the eggs, and the male feeds her and continues to supply food to the female for the first week after the chicks hatch and she in turn feeds the chicks.

To ensure the safety of our small birds like fairy wrens, finches etc we should plant species that will give these small birds shelter from the Pied Currawong.  Also reduce quantities of exotic berry-producing plants, such as privets and Asparagus Fern is an essential component of any actions taken to bring Pied Currawong numbers down to a level where their impact on small birds is not so harmful. It has also been suggested that the Blueberry Ash (a native Australian tree) should not be planted in urban areas.

In conclusion it would seem that these birds if left to their own habitats, without human influence, are just fine. We have to be sensible and NOT feed birds on a regular basis so they become dependant on us as a primary food source (it's OK to occasionally put some out). Always provide regular water for birds. Provide adequate protection for smaller birds - this can be achieved by planting species with dense, prickly foliage which will be more likely to attract and provide habitat for small birds. Grow these in a group to provide a dense thicket.  If you wish to attract a range of species including some of the smaller honeyeaters then it is better to plant species that produce less nectar and which also provide cover for these smaller birds. A general rule of thumb would be to grow a cross section of plants which will provide a diverse range of habitats and food sources for birds.

So I guess these two birds are both friend AND foe!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis)


A perennial, creeping succulent herb, rooting from distinct node originally from South America. This is a garden escapee which has spread widely in Australia. Grows vigorously, layering and smothering low native ground covers. It is shade tolerant and moisture loving.

The glossy leaves are alternately arranged and their bases form short sheaths 5-10cm long, around the creeping stems. The somewhat fleshy (semi-succulent) leaf blades 3-6.6cm long and 1-3cm wide, are dark green on top and often slightly purplish underneath. They may be either broadly lance-shaped, egg-shaped in outline or oblong with entire margins and pointed tips. Leaf sheaths can be either hairy or hairless, while the leaf blades are hairless, or occasionally with some small hairs along their margins.

Small white flowers 1-2mm with three petals and six hairy stamens in Spring-Summer and these flowers are borne in small clusters near the tips of the branches, each cluster has two small leafy bracts at the base and the individual flowers are borne on stalks. They have three white petals with pointed tips, three greenish sepals and six small yellow stamens. Flowering occurs mainly during spring and summer. 

The fruit are small capsules with three chambers. However, this species is not known to produce viable seed in Australia.  

It is a weed of forests, forest margins, urban bushland, open woodlands, riparian vegetation, roadsides, ditches, waste areas, disturbed sites and gardens...... sounds as if it does well and a very broad spectrum of conditions. It does prefer damp and shaded areas in temperate and sub-tropical regions, but will also grow in more open habitats and in tropical regions.

This plant only reproduces vegetatively in Australia, by producing roots at the joints (or nodes) of stems that come into contact with the soil (stolens). Stem fragments easily break off and may be dispersed by water, vehicles, machinery, in dumped garden waste or contaminated soil.

Removal can be difficult but for relatively small infestations can be removed by hand making sure that all fragments are removed to prevent it from re-shooting. A follow-up weeding will be essential as it is just too difficult to remove every single piece of this weed. Where the weed has formed a thick carpet, first rake back the bulk of the growth and then undertake follow up hand removal. Place all plant material in a bag for disposal, or stockpile the plant material under a pegged down sheet of black plastic and allow to compost.

A foliar spray made up of a surfactant and glyphosate at 20ml per litre of water in winter or early spring. Apply twice 6-8 weeks apart and repeat applications are essential.

The Garden Clubs of Australia's Annual Photo Competition

The closing date for the 2016 competition is 14 October 2016. Digital file photos can now be submitted as well as the usual hard copy post card size photos.

To cater for the increasing number of children and grandchildren interested in photography, a separate section for juniors has been added.  Entrants must be 16 years or under by the closing date and be nominated by an affiliated club or GCA magazine subscriber.

Entry forms may be down-loaded from the GCA website at or requested by emailing or by writing to Paul Lucas at 64 Timbertop Drive, Rowville VIC 3178 (with a self-addressed stamped envelope).

The competition covers the following categories:

  1. Garden Scenes covering all environments around the world;
  2. Garden Visitors (birds, bees, bugs, animals)
  3. Abstract photo of flowers or foliage
  4. Close-ups of flowers, foliage or floral/flower arrangements
  5. Productive Gardens or Edible Plants
Please visit the GCA website for terms and conditions in regard to this competition.

Sunday, 22 May 2016


Flower of the month - June 2016

Camellia, Japanese

Although Camellias will always be associated principally with Japanese culture, some 75% of the world's 100-odd species originate from China, nearby islands and the Indo-Chinese peninsula.  These handsome, woody plants (and sometimes, trees) are not only prized for their wonderful blooms, but their glossy leaves which are used in floral arrangements.

The flowers of the vast majority are neither large nor spectacular but are about 4cm in diameter and plain white. Even smaller for the genus C. sinensis  whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. There are two major varieties grown for tea C. sinensis var. sinensis for Chinese teas, and C. sinensis var. assamica  for Indian Assam teas. White tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh tea and black tea are all harvested from one or the other of these two varieties. They are processed differently to attain varying levels of oxidation. Kukicha (twig tea) is also harvested from C. sinensis, but uses twigs and stems rather than the leaves.

A small number of C. japonica first hit the shores of England in the early 18th century and their blooms immediately caught the fancy of nurserymen, so much so the varieties of C. japonica have swelled to over 30,000 varieties!

C. sasanqua, a slender, densely foliaged shrub or tree perhaps grows best here on the Coffs Coast. It has lightly fragrant blooms enjoying our higher temperatures and can be grown in full sun, blooming in the autumn.

C. japonica, C. reticulata and C. chrysantha will grow here but prefer to be protected from the sun in deep, neutral to slightly acid soil (reproducing their natural forest surroundings of shade, good drainage and humidity).

Growing Problems and solutions

Dull yellow spotting or mottling of leaf
Cause - usually scale (check for tiny pear-shaped or brownish pinhead-sized scabs mainly on backs of foliage). 
Solution - Spray with white oil or organic eco-oil.

Glossy, creamy yellow mottling or marbling on some foliage only:
Cause - Virus infection
Solution - Rarely of serious consequence. No positive cure. Do not propagate from this shrub or tree.

General yellowing and leaf fall:
Cause - Can be due to excessive dryness, or to bad drainage and root rot.
Solution - Flood soil during dry conditions.

Leaf fall and numerous dead twigs:
Cause - Die back, usually due to root rot in poorly-drained or slow-draining soils.
Solution - Impove drainage, free drainage holes of containers. Camellias grafted or budded on sasanqua usually have greater resistance to root rot.

Leaf fall:
Cause - some falling of lower leaves natural. Frequent heavy fertiliser applications can sometimes be responsible.
Solution - Flood soil. Prevent soil drying out after feeding and apply fertiliser to drip line only.

Large yellowish or bleached patches in centre of foliage, later browning.
Cause - sun scorched.
Solution - Provide light shade or select a more sun-tolerant variety for this situation. Soak soil regularly during hot, dry conditions.

Leaves lustreless, lack of growth:
Cause - either planted too deeply or over-limey soil.
Solution - Rake back excessive soil to expose top of root ball then cover with leafy mulch or compost.

Small corky incrustations, mainly on backs of leaves.
Cause - Usually a constitutional factor rather than disease.
Solution - Improve watering, mulching and feeding during spring and early summer.

Sooty film on leaves:
Cause - Sooty mould fungus which lives on sugary secretions from scale.
Solution - Spray with white oil or other preparation used for scale.

Small black creatures clustered on new spring growth:
Cause - Black aphids.
Solution - Spray with a preparation specific for aphids.

Excessive twiggy growth:
Cause - Need for pruning.

Solution - Remove all thin twiggy growth close to main stems or branches. Cut latter back to where they are at least 1 cm in diameter. Do this in late winter before new growth starts.

Image taken at Wollstonecraft

For further reading about Camellia please read this article from Angus Stewart.

Friday, 20 May 2016

President's Message - May 2016

Gazania bunch on the competition table
As most of you would know, it’s been my wish for quite some time to include more “gardening” into our monthly meetings, and I think we are really starting to get a great template going in that regard.

Last Saturday’s meeting is a case in point, where we again enjoyed Gavin’s presentation on bat plants, even though he wasn’t physically with us to answer questions, and we also enjoyed Jane’s very informative presentation on growing Bougainvillea. As usual, Maria has put both these presentations onto the Club website, so if you need to know more about either of these types of plant, go to and simply scroll down to the particular post and click to open the full presentations. And don’t forget there are also lots of posts about other gardening topics that Maria has put on the website – to find them just go to the search box on the website home page and type in what you’re looking for.

We are also fortunate to have received a very interesting and informative demonstration on the propagation of plants by Paul Sullivan from Coastal Works. I know many of you are already expert propagators, but for those who are not (like me), Paul’s talk was a mine of useful information. So a big thanks to Paul, and to the Program Committee for arranging his talk. I know the    Program Committee has also arranged a number of equally interesting   speakers for our upcoming meetings, which I’m sure everyone is looking   forward to.

And talking of interesting speakers, Paul Dalley, who is the keynote presenter at the 2016 Zone Day Celebration at SW Rocks, is sure to impress. Paul grows eastern Australian native cut flowers on a commercial basis near Kempsey, particularly Christmas Bush, Flannel Flowers, Banksia, Gymea Lily and Christmas Bells. Hopefully our club will have plenty of members going along to hear Paul’s talk and to participate in what promises to be a great day. There’s more detail on the Zone Day in this newsletter, and a full briefing will be provided at the June Club meeting.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Jane's Presentation - Bougainvillea

Still on a learning curve with this blog! Jane's complete presentation as seen at the May meeting can be seen below, just click through the slides using the arrow.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Glorious Banksias, Perfectly Sized for Your Garden - Article from the Australian Plants Society NSW

Banksia ‘Cherry Candles’, close-up of ‘cherry red’ styles when flowers mature, by Karlo Taliana

About the Australian Plants Society of NSW:  The Australian Plants Society NSW Ltd is a non-profit, independent, incorporated community organisation with members from over 20 friendly groups across NSW and overseas. 

Through the accumulated knowledge and widespread interests of its members, the Australian Plants Society NSW has become a leading source of information on many aspects of Australian plants. The Australian Native Plants Society (Australia), known as ANPSA, is the federal body to which each state society is affiliated, including the NSW society.

See this link for a wonderful article on Banksias with the most beautiful images, predominantly taken by Karlo Taliana from Australian Plants Society NSW. 

CHGC Member Andrea and other Australian Native 'tragics' will really enjoy this article! 

Monday, 16 May 2016

Sub-Tropical Presentation from Gavin - Bat Plant

Gavin is currently away, however his Bat Plant presentation generated so much interest last year it was decided to repeat it. This is posted as Gavin sent it to me (as a PowerPoint Presentation), please let me know if there are any problems viewing it.    Maria

Usually this sort of information is posted after the monthly meeting however, there are a lot of posts coming up so thought it best to get this little beauty in early!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Volunteers Week

This week is Volunteers Week from Wednesday 11 May until Tuesday 17 May 2016.

CHGC volunteer each month at the Coffs Regional Airport maintaining the air-side gardens. This is a fun activity which a small band of members participate in. As we all have other commitments there is a constant ebbing and flowing of folk who turn up the first Wednesday of each month, but the job still gets done.

There are also members who have put their hands up to be on the various committees in the club, as well as during the annual Spring Garden Competition and Coffs Show, and we are exceedingly lucky to have these people to do just that. Many hands etc..... DOES make a difference. We like to think that CHGC 'spreads the love' among the membership in undertaking volunteer hours.

So congratulations people, you are doing a stellar job in volunteering at the Coffs Garden Club.

Monday, 9 May 2016

May Outing to Moonee Beach

Who said that it is impossible to grow roses on the Coffs Coast? Obviously not member Kris and her husband Ken.

Kris and Ken have created a wonderful terraced rose garden which takes advantage of good air flow and wonderful sunlight to showcase their roses.

Seen here are some wonderful images taken by Secretary Michael - just stunning.

a perfect bloom

what a stunner!

A lovely golden beauty

The perfume!

gorgeous colour

wonderful image Michael

What terrific looking pumpkins - usually by this time in the season the leaves would be covered in mildew!

An extensive pumpkin vine

A beauty!
It must be tremendous to have the space for this pumpkin vine to ramble at whim - it must enjoy the position as these pumpkins are just beautiful.

The hothouse, raised beds, compost heap are all pristine. On the last occasion I visited this garden there were the most   a m a z i n g  tomatoes growing in the hothouse.

Beautiful colour can be found in every corner of this garden.
The Hibiscus flowers wowed

AND just who has a conifer garden on the Coffs Coast within two kilometres of the sea? Just Stunning!

Some wonderful  foliage colour is used to great effect by Kris & Ken.
Morning tea venue

Gaye, Margaret & Rosalie

yummy butterfly cakes

Having a natter

CHGC members enjoying the company

Such a beautiful  day for an outing



Thank you so much Kris & Ken for hosting CHGC members to your beautiful garden.

Thanks to Secretary Michael for the images.