Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Wattle Day

September 1 is the official Australian Wattle Day - a national celebration with a 'history'. This day was once very popular in schools, however Wattle Day languished until revived by wattle enthusiast, Maria Hitchcock. In researching the words of the Wattle song in 1985 she discovered that neither the emblem nor Wattle Day had been officially gazetted! Everyone just assumed that it was so. 

Maria campaigned tirelessly, and to get Wattle Day officially recognised it needed agreement among the Commonwealth and States to unify Australia's Wattle Day as the first day of spring in every State and Territory. This didn't happen until 1992 when National Wattle Day was formally gazetted. In the past both August 1 and September 1 had both been celebrated in different parts of Australia (possibly reflecting when blooming occurred locally).

The Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha was chosen as the species in our floral emblem and is native to Victoria and South Australia. It has quite large yellow balls of flowers and thin, curved green leaves.

A significant milestone in April 1984 was the proclamation of the wattle's green (leaves) and gold (blossom) as the national colours. This settled a long dispute as to whether the colours should be green or blue together with gold. While Green and Gold is widely used by Australian sporting teams, it is considered by many that the national colours deserve even wider use and recognition.

The unfinished business of 1913, that is the proclamation of Wattle as the national floral emblem, was completed during the Bicentennial Year, on the First of September 1988.  

Monday, 29 August 2016

2016 Spring Garden Competition Closing Soon

A reminder that the Spring Garden Competition closes this coming Friday 2 September at 5:00. See above tabs for details, online entry forms etc.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Climbing Asparagus Fern

Asparagus africanus

Native to southern Africa, climbing asparagus fern is a garden plant that causes serious environmental problems when it escapes into bushland. Climbing asparagus fern easily scrambles over other vegetation up to 12m into the canopy! 

 A. africanus has spikes along the stems and is an aggressive weed of urban bushland in tropical and subtropical areas.

Without a host plant it can grow as a scrambling low shrub

The leaves are fine, feathery with leaf-like cladodes arranged in horizontal sprays with a ferny appearance.

The flowers are small, A plumosus has greenish white and single or in pairs arranged at the tips of branches, in spring to autumn. A. africanus flowers are cream-white and occur in clusters from September to November.

The fruit are fleshy, A. africanus berries turn orange when mature with a single seed. A. plumosus  have blue-green berries at first, ripening to black 4-5mm wide.

The roots are a tough woody crown with extensive fleshy root mass radiating out and a exceedingly difficult to pull out.

Seeds are dispersed by birds and water. Rhizomes and fruit containing seeds also spread in dumped garden waste.

Remove and dispose of all aerial stems from the site as they can re-establish into new plants. The crown of the plant should also be removed and all berries collected. Hand pull emerging seedlings, dig out root systems. Foliar spray metsulfuron-methyl at 1g per 10 litres with surfactant if you wish to use a spray.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

President's Message - August 2016

What a busy few weeks the Club has had since the July monthly meeting! First up was the Spring Garden Comp launch at Total Gardens where literally hundreds of people, including many of our members, turned out to support Coffs Harbour’s premier privately-owned nursery and garden centre. A big thank you goes to Margaret Crawley, Anne-Maree Ely and Maria Bell for doing such a sterling job looking after the raffle on the day. And thanks to everyone from the Club who came along to support Julie and Paul.

Our club then hosted the inaugural meeting of what I hope will become the Coffs Coast Floral Art Group. This was also a great day with forty people really enjoying the demonstration given by national floral art champion, Judith Little, who was very ably supported by the President of the Royal Horticultural Society of NSW, Cecily Rogers. In the coming weeks I will be helping the committee of five who have volunteered to do the leg work required to get the floral art group established. Even though the new group will be a completely separate entity, I believe a strong relationship will no doubt develop between it and the Coffs Harbour Garden Club, particularly when it comes to people being members of both, and also through our joint support of the Coffs Harbour Show.

August also saw the Mid North Coast Garden Clubs Zone Friendship Day held at SW Rocks. An intrepid group from our club were treated to a lovely day with good speakers, an excellent floral art demonstration, friendships started and renewed, and plenty of opportunities to buy some lovely plants from the trading table. Many thanks to Pat Roser for arranging the bus.

In addition to all of that, the Spring Garden Comp has been bubbling away nicely. Entries are coming in, the publicity effort is well underway, sponsorship support has been finalised and admin preparations are going well. So I hope this year’s Comp will be as good and closely contested as previous years' competitions.

With that in mind, please think seriously about entering your gardens – the more the merrier and, as always, entry is free and there are some great prizes to be won. But more importantly, it’s all about having a go, as well as doing your bit towards helping beautify our city area.

We will need help on the presentation night on Fri 16 Sep. Thanks to John Staggs who is coordinating the set-up and clean up, and Margaret Crawley who’s coordinating the catering. But we also need people to do the usual flower arrangements that make the hall look wonderful on the night, as well as people to run the raffle and welcome guests. It would be great if all club members could be there on the night to help out – many hands make light work!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Honey Locust - Gleditsia triacanthos

This central North American native is a common ornamental shade tree in the suburbs of America. But here on the Coffs Coast this is listed in the Coffs Harbour Regional Landcare's 'Weeds of the North Coast of NSW'. 

There is a Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis 'Elegantissima' available in nurseries throughout Australia which is a small, slow growing compact form of Gleditsia that is recommended as a screening tree in gardens, courtyards, carparks and streets. Perhaps this variety is not nasty as the one listed in the Weeds book, which is the one that will be discussed in this post. 

The Honey Locust is a spreading, deciduous, medium to large tree, which can grow 15-25m tall bearing clusters of large thorns, 2-10cm long.

The trunk and limbs of 'wild' trees bear very large crucifix-like spines that can grown to more than 50 mm. This is one tree that possums won't be scurrying up!

The root system is capable of suckering and coppicing when disturbed.

The leaves are compound, 15-20cm long, usually bipinnate (twice divided); leaflets are elliptic to ovate, 10-35mm long, 5-12mm wide and sparsely toothed.

The flowers are fragrant, brownish-yellow pea-like flowers in spring as leaves develop or after leaves appear.

The fruit of Gleditsia are pods which are slightly sickle-shaped, 15-40 cm long, 3-4cm wide and dark brown. They do not open at maturity and contain 15-25 hard brown seeds. Apparently the pods are relished by livestock and in America they are grown expressly for that purpose.

Dispersal of this plant is usually by flood waters, animal dung and garden waste dumping.

Small plants can be pulled by hand. For larger plants or trees the cut and paint or stem injection method with 100% glyphosate is recommended.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Garden Clubs of Australia Mid North Coast Zone Day - South West Rocks

Daphne & Pat
South West Rocks & District Garden Club had a wonderful turn up from Mid North Coast garden clubs at their Zone Day/Friendship Day.

It was held at the lovely Country Club at South West Rocks and we learnt about commercial native flower production by a grower and exporter of Australian Native flower and foliage. Two members from the NSW Floral Art Association did simultaneous floral art demonstrations as well. 

This was very interesting as 'the two Anns' used the same mechanics for a couple of their designs. To see interpretation differences between the two was amazing and as mentioned on the day, the same mechanics can be used again and again getting different looks, just by changing the emphasis on colour, texture, proportion, balance and harmony.

This photo left does NOT do justice to their designs however it illustrates the use of the wire construction as the common machanics.

Each club president gave a round up of what is happening in their club. There are clubs in the zone that are quite small who gather at different locations each month and others who don't really have a formal meeting per se but mainly do visits and let the Executive make any decisions that are necessary. 

Janny & Sue
The coach worked very well - everyone was on board on time at Woolgoolga, Coffs Harbour and Macksville. We were a jolly lot with lots of chatter and amazingly there were NO nodding heads on the return journey.

Marie & Irene
Our bus of gardeners did very well in both the raffle and the silent auction for the table centre pieces and it has to be said that the South West Rocks Club's Trading Table had plenty of transactions as well! 

There was also a competition table but unfortunately I didn't get to see that as mobility was an issue!

Congratulations has to go to the South West Rocks and District Garden Club for a wonderful event.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Floral Designer Captivates Coffs Coast

Coffs Harbour saw the very best of Australian floral art on Sunday 7 August at the Botanic Garden when National Champion, Judith Little from Maclean (left of photo), demonstrated nine designs to 40 interested attendees at an inaugural floral art meeting. 

Cecily Rogers from Sydney (right of photo), who is President of the Royal Horticultural Society of NSW, ably assisted Judith and was kept very busy supporting Judith's creative work - it was quite clear that these two women work well as a team. 

See right where Judith is placing the last bloom in a contemporary design. She has used moss to cover her oasis in a shallow dish, and the tall flowers in this design are rose lily and are larger and fuller than traditional lilies. Their flowers appear as though there are two or three lilies stacked together. Their stems can measure over 70cm, which gives them their remarkable and majestic appearance. The rose lily lasts up to 12 or more days and the buds will open progressively over the course of a few days. These lilies were passed around the room so we could see and smell just how wonderful they are.

Showcased on the day was what can be achieved with floral art when given the opportunity to learn from talented exponents of the art. Judith adeptly illustrated how floral art had changed over the decades and these trends were clearly evident through her designs. Cecily went on to critique Judith's designs, pointing out design elements that were awry from accepted competition guidelines - these elements were purposely included by Judith for teaching purposes.

Cecily also pointed out that you do not need unlimited buckets of flowers or money to do floral art. Wonderful creations can be achieved by using what is on hand...... the secret is training your eye to see things in your environment which could be used in a design.  Cecily said that as time goes by this will become second nature. For example, you can find good creative uses for lichen and moss covered debris which has fallen to the ground, gum nuts, dried grasses, interesting pieces of wood or twigs, dried sticks, interesting shaped rocks and seed pods, which are all materials which can be used in floral art.

Both Cecily and Judith mentioned that their own gardens have evolved around their passion for floral art. Their gardens are planted with foliage plants and sculptural flowers enabling them to only purchase a small amount of actual blooms for their designs. A dried palm frond (as seen above) can be employed with great effect using just interesting foliage.  Dried material can be stored and reused many times, this dried palm has been used many times - note the holes drilled along the edge. Interesting vessels can be purchased cheaply at op shops or improvised from our own kitchens by using empty cans covered in paperbark, painted and covered in sheer fabric or ribbon, odd shaped bottles for groupings, use of natural fibres etc etc. 

Five people at the meeting put their hands up to form a committee to work on establishing the group, although sadly one person has had to pull out. All attendees left their contact info so an email will be sent to these people seeking someone else to take on the responsibility of forming the group. If no one takes this on, then unfortunately the group may well not be able to go ahead, which would be a sad thing as there seems to be plenty of interest. 

If the group does get off the ground, it is intended that it will work its way, with Judith's guidance, from the basics through the varied techniques of floral art. Judith proficiently demonstrated the principles of creating a traditional bowl arrangement using satay sticks, this is a classic example of what may be done at the initial workshops. Other possible outcomes for this group could be:

  • To gather in an atmosphere of friendship to nurture and expand talent within the group.
  • Share hints and tricks - for example there was one lady at the meeting who is very experienced with papercraft.  She would no doubt have some wonderful ideas on how paper can be transformed and used in floral design.
  • Have workshops at meetings so there is 'hands on' experience working through the various design stages.
  • Learn how to condition blooms in preparation for use in floral art.
  • What tools are needed and how best to care for them.
  • Where to procure supplies as cheaply as possible?
  • Learn interpretative knowledge on how to read a theme for competitions.

A floral art group would be a wonderful addition to Coffs Coast community life, particularly to those people interested in creative art and design, and gardening. CHGC will certainly continue to try and get a floral art group up and running, although we can only do that if there are enough people willing to put their hand up to help. If you would like to help out, please call Geoff on 6656 2429.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Growing Proteas on the Coffs Coast

Protea 'King White'
Growing Protea flowers can be really rewarding - trouble is for some who live on the Coffs Coast this is not really easy as they DO NOT like heavy clay soils. The above image is of a King White Protea growing in a Boambee garden - obviously conditions in this garden suit it. 

Proteas are in the Proteaceae family, which includes the banksia, grevillea, waratah and hakea. Proteas are often mistaken for an Australian native however, they are from a special group of Proteaceae from South Africa, which embraces species from the Protea, Laucospermum and Leucadendron genera. The King Protea has the largest flower head of all the genus and is South Africia's national flower. 

If you are wanting to grow a Protea in your Coffs garden it might be best to start with a P. 'pink ice' as they don't seem to mind heavy clay soils, success could be yours!

When growing Proteas the first thing you need is an open, sunny position with very good drainage. They will do excellently in poor soils and many don't seem to mind salty, coastal areas but...... humidity is not their best friend. So if you are attempting to grow Protea here on the Coffs Coast, it might be best to introduce some sandy loam and mound it and plant your Protea in that.

In an ideal world you would be growing a Protea in a sandy, acidic and even slightly improverished soil, with a north facing aspect in full sun - the more sun, the more flowers. Good air movement is vital too because of our humid conditions.

Like their Australian cousins, Proteas have a really low tolerance for artificial fertilisers. In fact, superphosphate can be the death knell to these beautiful plants. Having said that though, they require a good source of magnesium to assist with flower production. A fistful of Epsom salts scattered directly over the root zone and watered in well will be beneficial in the spring.

Mulch your Proteas using a natural mulch such as bark, straw or leaves - do not use mushroom compost. Don't disturb the plant roots when weeding as they have surface, matting roots that are easily damaged. Therefore to transplant a plant might be instant death as well!

It is not really necessary to prune Proteas - especially if the blooms are cut for the vase or blooms are regularly 'deadheaded'. 

Occasionally it may be necessary to prune to thicken up the growth - this is best done in early spring, after flowering has ceased. Use harder pruning methods to shape a plant that has become leggy and untidy looking. If hard pruning, the number of blooms the following year may be limited, but the one after that should be stunning!

Perhaps another option worth considering for the Coffs Coast is to grow Protea in pots but these will need to be have a slow release native blend fertiliser given to them occasionally. The position for this pot would be similar to one grown in the soil - north facing with lots of sun. Be mindful though, potted Protea will require careful watering, especially during bud formation where their requirements will be greater. 

If you do grow a Protea you'll have to be patient as some take up to 3 years to bloom and the king Protea can take up to 6 years to flower! 

Still thinking of growing a Protea on the Coffs Coast?

Saturday, 6 August 2016

What's wrong with my lemon? - GardenDrum

Photo by Hans

The following article is written by Trevor Nottle and he has given an interesting perspective to lemons and problems they often have. 

As practically every garden has a lemon tree, it's no surprise that there is so much discussion about this fruit. See here for Trevor's article which he has written for GardenDrum. 

About Trevor Nottle:

I am a garden historian and heritage consultant with commissions and project experience in Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, California, Greece and Italy. I am an internationally distributed author of more than 17 gardening books about old roses, cottage gardens and perennials and more recently, 3 newer titles covering climate variability and climate compatible practices for home gardeners and landscape designers: Gardens of the SunPlants for Mediterranean Climate Gardens and Plants for a Changing Climate. I have a Master's degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Adelaide. I volunteer at Carrick Hill Gardens and Mt Barker Urban Forest & Arboretum. I was the founder of Heritage Roses - Australia, and a foundation member of the Mediterranean Garden Society (intl.) and the Australian Garden History Society. My new book Endless Pleasure - Exploring and Collecting Among the Byways of Gardens and Gardening (Wakefield Press) was published in October, 2015

As you can see from the above bio Trevor certainly is an informed author!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Peacock Spider

Maratus volans, is better known as the Peacock Spider - no guess just how it got that name. These tiny critters are only found in Australia and China. You have most probably seen them but really not taken that much notice as they are just so small. What you may have observed however, is the distance they can leap (or jump) up to 20 times their length - which is from 3-5mm. 

Peacock spiders have incredible eyesight - this has evolved as a predatory weapon. They can see its prey from metres away and are very cat-like in their demeanour by stalking and creeping up and then jumping to pounce and deliver an instant fatal bite to their prey.  

These little spiders first grabbed the attention of Jurgen Otto in 2005 when he was walking through the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney's north. These spiders were first described in 1874 by English naturalist Octavius Pickard-Cambridge, who named it volans (Latin for flying) because he assumed that its two colourful abdominal flaps allowed it to glide. Jurgen was intrigued by this notion that the spider may be able to fly using its flaps but questioned this assumption when he came across a reference to a related species that uses its brightly coloured flaps for mating purposes. 

Marutas volans

The unique colouring of these arachnids are quite spectacular however, it is only the males that possess this colourful beauty for the sole purpose of attracting the attention of the female (who are quite dull looking). 

Jurgen's patience paid off when three years later he observed a male 'strutting his stuff' to a female where he confirmed that the flaps are used solely for mating purposes.

To see the intriguing Peacock Spider showing his colours and doing his mating movements please see this Catalyst story where you will be able to observe its sideways movements, flared flaps and waving his third legs hypnotically. 

male Sparklemuffin Maratus jactacus) spider

If she succumbs to his advances, he will be allowed to mate with her, but if scorned he had better escape fairly quickly as he could end up as her dinner!

All images in this post are the work of Jurgen Otto (seen above).

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Inaugural Meeting of Floral Art Group

image from Parkes Floral Fair 35th Anniversary 
Coffs Harbour Garden Club are organising a meeting at the Botanic Garden Display Room on Sunday 7 August at 1pm to gauge if there is enough interest to establish a floral art group on the Coffs Coast.

President Geoff has organised for two of Australia's foremost exponents, Judith Little and Cecily Rogers to give demonstrations of their wonderful talent. Both of these woman have exhibited their designs internationally with success over the years.

If you, or anyone you know, would like to become a member of this group it is important that you attend this meeting because it will be decided on the day if a group will be formed. CHGC will nurture this group through the initial stages of establishment however, once an Executive has been elected, registration with Fair Trading and other affiliations processed for the group, CHGC will step back and allow the group to proceed by itself. 

An article recently written for Seniors News by Belinda Scott about the inaugural meeting on Sunday can be seen here.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Anigozanthos - Kangaroo Paw

Flower of the Month - August 2016

If you want more information and some fantastic images please click Angus Stewart, GardenDrum 

Kangaroo paws belong to the genus Anigozanthos which has eleven species and they occur naturally in a variety of habitats and soil types in the south-west of Western Australia (the closely related Black Kangaroo Paw is called Macropidia fulginosa).

image A. Stewart

The colour and form of kangaroo paws make them one of the most rewarding Australian native plants AND they make fantastic cut flowers. They are exported throughout the world and are grown commercially in the USA, Israel and Japan.

image S. Unsworth

The size, flower-stalk height and colour varies between species. Many new forms have been developed through hybridisation. The overall colour of the flowers is influenced by fine coloured hairs which cover the flowers and sometimes part of the stalk. The flowers appear over spring and summer.

image A. Stewart

The flowers are pollinated by birds. The long flower-stalks usually rise above the undergrowth and 'advertise' the presence of nectar in the flowers. The stalks also provide a perch for visiting birds.

The shape of the flowers and the position of the pollen-bearing anthers is a feature which allows pollen to be deposited on the head of the feeding birds. This pollen is then transferred from flower to flower by the birds as they feed. Different species usually deposit pollen on different areas of the birds' head, therefore making it unlikely for that pollen to be deposited in the flowers of another species...... amazing!

Anigozanthos species are usually propagated from seed. The seed should be sown in a very free-draining seed-raising mix in the spring and summer. The young plants should be transplanted into a well-drained, sunny position with a small amount of well-composted organic matter to improve growth. Usually these plants will flower after a year and clumps may be divided in early summer, once established.

Pruning is the key to keeping kangaroo paws healthy and vigorous, they really respond well to an aggressive hack back. This cut back really reduces the incidence of diseases, so is a 'must do' when growing them.