Friday, 14 December 2018


Flower of the Month - December & January

KINGDOM:  Plantae
FAMILY:  Rubiaceae
GENUS:  Gardenia

Gardenias are beautiful flowering shrubs in the coffee family, Rubiaceae, native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa,
Asia, Madagascar and Pacific
Islands. They flower from mid spring to mid summer and the joy of gardenias is a toss -up between the soft velvety petals and the magnificent scent. I think the scent wins me over every time.

According to the internet, the petals are edible and taste a little like they smell. I tried them ... and survived. I think the older yellow petals would be a surprising addition to a summer salad - give it a go.   Thanks V/President Sue.

Webmaster's Note: If you would like to know more about growing Gardenia and the many varieties available please visit for an excellent fact sheet.

Gardenia are dead easy to propagate too. For the Spring Garden Competition Presentation Night a few years ago we cut a lot of my gardenia for the floral displays as the leaves were so shiny and a lovely addition to the vases. Jeannine Y used these as cuttings and successfully grew enough of them to create a lovely hedge in their beautiful garden.

Plants that are grown from a cutting are the same as the plant they were taken from and are literally clones of the original plant. 

Pruning and taking gardenia cuttings go hand in hand. Start off with a cutting which is at least 15cm long and taken from the tip of the branch (which is basically what you usually prune off after flowering anyway).

Remove all the leaves except for the top two sets.The part of the stem that forms new roots and shoots is called a node. These growing points produce leaves, flowers or shoots when the plant is growing normally but, if these nodes are planted they are the growth points for roots.  Dip in rooting hormone (this encourages encourages the growth of roots) and place in a peat/sand mix, and multiple cuttings may be placed in each pot.

Place your pot(s) in bright, but not direct sun and the ideal temperature would be around 24C. It is essential that your propagating mix is kept moist but not sodden and it is imperative for gardenia to have high humidity however, for us here on the Coffs Coast that comes quite naturally!  You should expect your gardenia to have taken root within 6-8 weeks. 

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Christmas Beetles

Christmas Beetle Anoplognathus spp.

December in our part of the world seems synonymous with the appearance of the Christmas beetle. They seem to clumsily blunder around external house lights and are a constant source of fascination for many children. Their navigational system is somewhat put off kilter by artificial light and this is why they are found on the ground nearby seemingly lost and dazed.

Warm summer nights are when the beetles make their way from their subterranean birthplaces and fly off to the nearest eucalyptus tree where they forage. Where I grew up in the Central West of NSW there was one tree that was practically denuded each year by Christmas beetles, and each year we watched with hope that the poor tree would bounce back from the marauding swarms once again.

The Christmas beetle is from the scarab family with more than 30,000 species worldwide - that's a lot of cousins! Australia has 35 different Christmas beetles ranging from 15-40mm long. Most have the characteristic gold or brown metallic jeweled sheen, although there are some which are vibrant greens and pinks. They spend most of their one to two year life cycle underground, first as eggs deposited by females in the soil in late summer, then hatching into grubs that feed on grass roots over winter and pupating in spring. Finally they emerge in November and December as adults.

There is no doubt that these critters have diminished in urban areas and the Australian Museum has written an article on the demise of Christmas in Sydney. 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Zone Newsletter

Marion Grove Retirement Village - image M Bell

Our Garden Clubs of Australia Zone Coordinator, Marion Watts has forwarded a newsletter with a round up of what is happening within our Zone here on the mid north coast.

To see that newsletter please click here.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

2018 AGM Results

Meeting Competition Table, Vegetables and Fruit
Well done to the outgoing committee and role members who have excellently paved the way for the incoming people to crack on in 2019 and thanks to those who will continue as they have in 2018.

Congratulations go to the following:


Vice President: Sue Young
Treasurer/Public Officer: Tom Ely
Secretary: Maria Bell and Anne-Maree Ely will be the Minute Secretary

Committees deemed necessary to conduct the business of the Club:

Program Committee: 
Outings - Margaret Franks & Carol Harris.
Speakers - Kevin Sheedy

Spring Garden Committee: Pat Roser, Maria Bell, Anne-Maree Ely, Tom Ely, Barbara Porteous, Kevin Sheedy and Margaret Crawley.

Other Voluntary Club Roles:

Website & Facebook Coordinator: Maria Bell
Newsletter Editor: Sue Young
Publicity & Media Officer: vacant 
Coffs Show Flower & Garden Section Chief Steward: Margaret Franks
Catering Committee: Margaret Crawley (Co-ordinator), Anne-Maree Ely, Janny Hoy, Jeannine Young
Raffle & Attendance Book: Peter Kimber
Trade Table Organiser: Jim Baldi
Guest & New Member Welcomer: Barbara Porteous & Maureen Stokes
Airport:  Peter Kimber
Bunnings BBQ Organiser: Simon Young
Competition Table Judges: Margaret Franks, Ruth Reynolds, Simon Young with the help of a CHGC member Guest Judge each month
Competition Table Setup: Janny Hoy, Ruth Reynolds, Jeannine Young

The full Annual Report can be seen here and to see a message from our Patrons see here. 

Trip to Chelsea Flower Show 2019

CHGC Patron Julie Worland is accompanying a tour next year which includes the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Jane had a flyer at the November meeting for members to see more about the tour, however there may be members who missed this meeting, so that information is repeated here. 

The tour departs 12 May 2019 from Coffs Harbour - to see full details see flyer here.

If you want more information there is to be an information night about the tour on Wednesday 21 November 2018, hosted by Trafalgar, with canapes and refreshments from 6pm at the Depot Cafe, Coffs Central Shopping Centre.

RSVP essential to: 
Travel Associates Coffs Harbour, Shop SR38, Coffs Central, Harbour Drive.
Phone: 02 5615 9900

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Hollow Stem

Ever seen hollow stems in your brassicas? Hollow stem is a physiological disorder which affects most brassica crops and often leads to the stem rotting by secondary pathogens.
To identify symptoms of hollow stem you will notice small, elliptical cracks in the inner stem tissue of susceptible crops. These cracks enlarge and merge together as the stem grows, eventually forming a cavity. In severe cases, the cavity can extend the length of the stem and into the head. Often this cavity provides access for secondary pathogens to enter the plant, leading to discoloration and rotting of the inner walls of the cavity. However, having said that though, cavities can become discoloured without pathogens present.

Hollow stem can be caused by a combination of environmental factors and crop susceptibility. In general, larger, faster growing cultivars are more susceptible to this disorder. Wide plant spacing and high nitrogen or potassium levels have been shown to increase incidence of hollow stem. 
It has been suggested that hollow stem can be caused by a Boron deficiency in the soil. If you think this may be the problem with your brassicas, Boron can be added to the soil at the rate of 2 grams per square metre when planting seedlings. Boron is commercially available as Borax. 
What has to be made note of though, is that vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, french beans, celery and other cucurbitaceaes don't like Boron, so avoid growing them in soil that has had Boron added.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Australian Plants Society

image Australian Plant Society
Earlier this spring we had as our guest speaker Alison Moore from Coffs Harbour Australian Plants Society.

Alison mentioned that the Australian Plants Society website is a cracker with a wealth of information including an extensive Plant Database, and a Conservation Officer, Dan Clarke who is only too happy to answer any questions from not only members of the plant society but anyone wanting information. Dan is a practicing botanical consultant with a strong passion for conserving the natural areas in NSW, so is the best person for this role. 

There is also a quick link to the latest news throughout the society - members love to share their stories, insights and experiences with others and this is the area on the website for them to do just that. 

A 'What's in Bloom' link is fabulous with some outstanding images from a Hunter region member.

There are also areas explaining 'who, what & membership' too. The newsletters are also linked so there's plenty to read if you are interested in Australian Native Flora. 

An outstanding website and one well worth a visit - see the link here. There is a permanent link to this website on the side panel on our home page. Just scroll down to see other websites worth looking at.

Monday, 12 November 2018


Flower of the month - November 2018

image Easy to Grow Bulbs website
KINGDOM:  Plantae

FAMILY:  Alstroemeriaceae

GENUS:  Alstroemeria

SPECIES:  Many many many

Also known as the Peruvian Lily but unlike Paddington Bear, this flower is not from deepest, darkest Peru.

Alstroemeria are tuberous perennials originating from South America, mainly Brazil and Argentina. They are a great addition to borders combining well with other plants and making excellent cut flowers. 

Alstroemeria are free flowering, producing attractive flowers in a wide range of colours.

Thanks Sue

Further cultural notes can be seen at Gardening Australia.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Birds in Our Backyard

Our yard here on the Coffs Coast sees many bird visitors. They are a constant delight to observe. Some are more welcome than others so I guess we need to plant species that attract the birds that we'd most like to see. The following YouTube clip from Brad Walker has quite a few birds that are commonly found in our garden here on the Coffs Coast - Bird calls.

One bird we enjoy seeing in our garden are wattlebirds, these honeyeaters also take care of some of the flying insect pests in the garden too. They can be a bit territorial about other birds 'on their turf' and chase them away from their favourite snacking shrub! Wattlebirds will often breed up to three times a year (providing conditions are conducive) thus giving them an opportunity in breeding some young ones successfully.

Of the 10 Australian Kingfisher species, 6 are found in New South Wales with the laughing Kookaburra the largest at 46cm.  The laughing Kookaburra is not really laughing when it makes its very familiar call - their cackle is actually a territorial call to warm other birds to stay away. Kookaburras hunt small snakes, lizards and rodents - I've observed them sweeping down and snatching a small lizard or worm an enormous distance from their perch - such efficient hunters!

A very bold and curious bird is the Noisy Minor - it is very common here on the Coffs Coast. Because of their dominate and aggressive manner they have often 'run off' some of the little birds like the Red Browed finch and Fairy Wren. They feed on nectar, fruits and insects and very occasionally will eat small reptiles and amphibians. Due to its highly social nature these birds often feed in large groups. We as gardeners should provide small spikey shrubs to shelter the smaller birds and perhaps give them a chance to avoid the Noisy Minor.

Bowerbirds - there are four found in New South Wales - Regent Bowerbirds, Satin Bowerbirds, Spotted Bowerbirds and Green Catbirds. For more detailed information about Bowerbirds please visit a post written January 2018.

Magpies are birds of our youth, so very familiar to us for mainly giving us 'a serve' riding our bikes in Spring! The Australian Magpie walks along the ground searching for insects and their larvae. They are very adept at accepting any offerings from humans and are known to 'beg' for food. They are quite tame with the exception during breeding season where some individuals become quite aggressive towards any intruders and will swoop with terrifying affect!

Rainbow Lorikeets are unmistakable with their bright red beak and wonderfully coloured plumage. They are often seen in noisy, loud and fast-moving flocks and just love our bottlebrush trees where they forage for nectar and pollen, but they also eat fruits, seeds and some insects. They are widespread along the Coffs Coast.

Another pretty bird is the Eastern Rosella which is a medium-sized parrot with distinctive white cheek patches and a red head, neck and breast with yellow/green upper parts and a yellow underbody. They feed on the ground, especially feeding on seeds from grasses. They do eat fruits, buds, flowers nectar and insects. We see them happily eating the seeds from the many weeds growing in our rose garden!

Grey Butcherbirds are quite aggressive predators - they prey on small animals, birds, lizards, insects and eat some fruits and seeds. These opportunitists take full advantage of every opportunity to forage - they follow our lawnmower and pounce on food that is made visible and when I weed the garden they are often there keeping me company to eat any curl grubs I find (it is an absolute delight to see them catch these mid air...).  Most of their prey is caught on the ground and feeding normally takes place alone, in pairs or small family groups.

The birds in this post are ones that frequent our garden regularly - there are many, many more of course - including some pretty special waterbirds who enjoy our dam.

Cork at the National Arboretum

image National Arboretum Canberra
November marks the 101st anniversary of this plantation at the National Arboretum Canberra. 

There is an excellent article about this forest and the history of cork in Australia and it can be found here.

To see a planting list and map please click here.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Passionfruit Vine is NOT very Passionate?

Passionfruit vines are a bit like lemons - everyone who has a patch of garden 'out the back' would like to have them both growing. Imagery of these wondrous plants can often outstrip actuality - lemons seem to get every conceivable thing wrong with them including citrus canker, greasy spot fungus, sooty mold, phytophthora root rot, botrytis rot, anthracnose and citrus leaf minor, just to name a few AND not taking into account any deficiencies that may afflict them.  Passionfruit vines can be problematic too - we dash off to the garden centre all 'fired up' to purchase a passionfruit thinking how that yummy fruit will sit atop the Christmas pavlova rather handsomely while boasting what a bountiful vine you have growing along your side fence. But alas, there is a problem....... the vine doesn't have any flowers - no flowers, no pollination, hence NO FRUIT.

'Why?' you ask. Passion flowers require very exacting conditions to excite the urge to set flowers and the following may give you some hint on what is happening:

Age - some passion flowers don't always bloom right away - many species need several years to establish a good root system before they begin to set blooms. The flowers are resource hungry so the plant may have to build up resources before it will flower and then in turn, fruit.

Fertilizer - passion flowers are fundamentally fairly rogue plants - not the fragile galloping plants we think they are. They don't need to be pampered and they certainly would prefer that you leave the nitrogen enriched fertilizer in the shed. Nitrogen will promote the most spectacular vegetative growth (usually spindly) and this is at the expense of flowers. All the plant's resources are forced into producing growth, not flowers. If you feel that this is your mistake, give your vine the addition of phosphorus (like bone meal) to correct the problem. Well rotted cow poo is great to use as a mulch around your passion vine too.

Light - good fruiting requires a lot of sun - more the better. Check your passionfruit vine to see that it gets a good 8 hours of sunlight per day otherwise it may be a lost cause..... :-( 

Watering - passionfruit vines in my experience seem to thrive on neglect really and can handle drought conditions, however having said that though, they grow best when planted in a well-draining location and watered frequently. The soil should be moist, not wet. Even here on the Coffs Coast where we have lousy heavy soil our passionfruit is passionate and produces fruit for an extended period throughout the year.

For a far more in depth article on growing passionfruit, please visit this article from GardenDrum's Jennifer Stackhouse. 

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Firefly - Lampyridae

This post was originally published on 16 April 2015. President Jane did a presentation at the October meeting on fireflies so the information on fireflies has been reposted for anyone who may be interested in learning more about them.

It wasn't until this summer that I saw Fireflies on the Coffs Coast for the first time. This prompted a quick bit of research to learn more about them.

One source said they are very like we humans in that the males are quite 'flashy'...... 

Fireflies are indeed not flies, but beetles and are found in the wetter regions of Australia, favouring rainforests and mangroves. 

The blinking light, which comes from segments on the underside of the tip of the abdomen is created by a chemical process. This is triggered when the beetle opens small apertures to allow air in. The chemicals react to the presence of oxygen with a blaze of light, but are soon exhausted. They quickly recharge however, in time for the next burst, thereby creating the flashing effect.

According to Thala Beach Nature Reserve's website the males aren't that much different from human males - 'in many respects fireflies and humans share a fundamental trait – the males are the main flashers, who cruise at night in search of a female'.

Males are the main flashers, emitting a series of controlled flashes just after dusk as part of the mating sequence. Females also flash however, their flash is in response to a male's flashing. With enormous eyes and a visor to keep his attention focused, he is on the lookout for an answering blink which indicates a suitably impressed, but flightless female. Firefly larvae and pupae are also slightly luminous. During the larvae stage, fireflies will hibernate over winter, burrowing underground or hiding under the bark of trees. The larvae will then emerge in spring to feast.

Interestingly, the flash produced by fireflies is a 'cold light', having no ultraviolet or infrared frequencies. This chemically sourced light, which can be yellow, green or pale-red, projects wavelengths from 510 to 670 nanometres.

Adults cannot feed as they don't have any mouth parts (like some other beetles), but their larvae prey on other insects' larvae, cutworms, slugs and small land snails.  They paralyse their supper using secretions produced by a pair of acinose glands at the anterior end of the alimentary canal and injected through the perforate mandibles - this means that the prey is digested extraorally and the liquified tissues are imbibed.

Their short lives add a certain urgency to their flashy courting behaviour.

Sunday, 14 October 2018


Flower of the Month - October 2018

Valerie Swane
KINGDOM:  Plantae

FAMILY:  Rosaceae


GENUS:  Many many many

A rose is a woody perennial flowering plant of the genus Rosa, in the family Rosaceae, or the flower it bears. There are over three hundred species and thousands of cultivars. They form a group of plants that can be erect shrubs, climbing or trailing with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles.

Did you know: There are over 4000 songs dedicated to roses.

Thanks Wikipedia! (and Vice President Sue)

Further blog reading can be seen at - Flower of the Month Nov 2014

Also a post about pruning roses including timing pruning for a special event.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Taranaki Region Gardens

Coffs Garden Club has it on good authority that if you are travelling in the New Plymouth/Taranaki Region of New Zealand these gardens are a 'must see'.

Established in 1951, Pukeiti Garden is a garden of international significance which specialises in rhododendrons and is situated on the lower slopes of Mt Egmont in 320 hectares of rain forest, managed by the Taranaki Regional Council.

TÅ«pare is a former family home in the Arts & Crafts/Tudor style, surrounded by a 3.6 hectare park in New Plymouth - it is owned and run by the Taranaki Regional Council and is located above the Waiwhakaiho River.

Hollard Gardens, the achievement of a lifetime's work by the late Bernie and Rose Hollard. This garden features many elements that make up a wonderful garden. It is also managed by the Taranaki Regional Council.

Nearby Ngamamaku Garden is a must for rose lovers with three formal rose gardens. There are also many Clivias throughout including a number of hybrids developed at Ngamamaku.

Also nearby Te Kainga Marire which is an inner city native garden which has a collection of New Zealand native plants including alpines and ferns (Te Kainga Marire is Maori for the peaceful encampment). This garden, like Pukeiti Rhododendron Garden has the rating of New Zealand Gardens Trust Garden of National Significance. Te Kainga Marire was a clay wasteland when purchased in 1972 and was opened to the public in 1990. 

This regional sure looks the goods for garden lovers and just look at the backdrop of Mt Taranaki.

Thank you Margaret and Peter for inspiring this post and for the use of some images including the above awesome image.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Kerbside Appeal Gardens

image P. Bowler
Update 9 October: a thousand apologies I missed a garden off the list of gardens to view in this category - and it was the CHAMPION garden - 9 Timbertops Drive, Coffs Harbour. I am so sorry Gaye and Bob that I made this dreadful error.

The Spring Garden Competition had a wonderful inclusion this year - Best Kerbside Appeal Garden. This category proved to be a really popular addition and there were some wonderful kerbside gardens entered. So much so, the Committee thought it a good idea to list all the garden addresses. If you'd like to take a drive and see some beautiful kerbside appeal gardens the following list will be of assistance.

These gardens are not in any particular order - they are grouped in areas as we do for the Judging - Coffs, South and North.

Coffs Kerbside Appeal Gardens:

  • 7 Prince James Avenue, Coffs Harbour
  • 6 Rippon Close, Coffs Harbour
  • 9 Beryl Street, Coffs Harbour
  • 15/7 Gundagai Place, Coffs Harbour (there are more lovely gardens in this complex with easy, flat access)
  • 5 Sunnyside Close, Coffs Harbour
  • 14 Vera Drive, Coffs Harbour
  • 9 Timbertops Drive, Coffs Harbour

South Kerbside Appeal Gardens:

  • 10/17 Walco Drive, Sawtell
  • 18 Sleeman Ave, North Boambee Valley
  • 154 Marian Grove, Toormina
  • 152 Marian Grove, Toormina
  • 18 Sieben Road, Boambee East

North Kerbside Appeal Gardens:

  • 14 Bent Street, Nana Glen
  • 1/49 Dammerel Crescent, Emerald Beach
  • 12 Campbell Street, Safety Beach
  • 15/17 Turon Parade, Woolgoolga
  • 39 Arrawarra Road, Arrawarra

The decision to enter a particular category in the Spring Garden Competition is the sole decision of the garden maintainer, not Coffs Harbour Garden Club.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Native Bees

There are around 20,000 species of bees - only one of which is the common honeybee. They come in a myriad of colours, only a few species making honey and contrary to common belief, most bees don't dance and stinging does not necessary mean instant death - some never sting at all, including native Australian bees.

Most people love the honeybee - not only for it's delicious honey and other bee products but its incredible powers of pollination - this has been thus for millennia. They come in many sizes - two Aussie bees are notably at the end of the spectrum in size for native bees. One possibly being the world's smallest (less than 2mm long) Euryglossina (Quasihesma) and Australia's largest native bee, the 24mm yellow and black carpenter bee. Just to give some prospective here, there is a monster from Indonesia which is almost 4cm in size (Megachile/Chalicodoma pluto) TWICE the size of our first mentioned little Aussie fella.

Australia has approximately 1,600 species of native bees and they form the platform for major pollination of Australian native flora across the country. There are primary producers in Australia who are starting to use native bees for their crop pollination. Notably, (Tetragonula) which are being successfully used for pollination of crops such as macadamias, mangoes, watermelons and lychees in Queensland - they are especially valued for their pollination mainly due to their social behaviour of foraging close to their hives (within a 500m radius) and they are also a wonderful asset to greenhouse pollination because of their 'close to hive' pollination habit. Although it has to be said that honeybees are still primarily used as pollinators for other crops in Australia. 

There are some amazing bee behaviours, for instance the blue banded bee (pictured above) (Amegilla) is capable of a very special type of pollination, called 'buzz pollination', (as can carpenter bees too). For some plants, the pollen is trapped inside a tiny capsule in the centre of the flower. The blue banded bee can curl her body around the flower and rapidly vibrate her flight muscles, thus causing the pollen to shoot out of the capsules. As she collects some pollen for her nest, she transfers some of the pollen to other flowers, successfully pollinating the flowers - amazing! By the way the introduced Apis mellifera are not able to buzz pollinate flowers.

Sunday, 30 September 2018


Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania USA
Recently I was lucky enough to visit a garden which was just stunning and it was patently obvious that the gardeners were dab hands at standardising plants. 

Training plants to a single trunk and clipping the foliage into a rounded, domed or mushroom shape gives great height in a garden without taking up too much space at ground level, which enables underplanting with other plants too. See the excellent example of this left and more images of Longwood here which looks just so lovely and would have to be on any wish list to visit.

Just a few tips on how to make a standard. Set a stake in the soil next to your plant and tie the growing stem to the stake every 6 or so centimeters. By keeping the stem upright does more than just keeping the trunk straight. Upright growth is inherently vigorous and hormones produced in buds at the top of such stems naturally suppress growth of the lower buds, this is just what is wanted to create a standard!

Other buds will still grow on the stem - these must be removed as will any other shoots growing from ground level. If you get to them while young, snapping them off rather than cutting lessens the chance of regrowth.

Once the main stem reaches full height, it's time to form the mop head. The length of the trunk depends, physiologically on the vigor of your chosen plant, making it (for instance) difficult to create a very long trunk on a naturally weak-growing, weeping plant. To achieve good dense growth of the mop head assiduous pinching out is needed by removing the tips of all shoots after every few centimeters of growth. Completely cut away any temporary branches or leaves lower down along the trunk or new ones will start to grow there. Just keep at it....... in the end it will look just stunning.

Once you've achieved your desired size and shape of the standard, periodic maintenance pruning is required to keep it thus.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

2018 Presentation Night Photos

The following are the photos taken on Friday night at the Presentation Night. Please feel free to copy any images taken by Garry.