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.