Thursday, 30 April 2015

Subtropical Plant of the Month - Gavin Reid

Bat Plant - Tacca chantrieri (black) and Tacca integrifolia (white)

Gavin spoke this month about the Bat Plant which feature the black (Tacca chantrieri) and white (Tacca integrifolia) flowering forms.

He informed the members that it is a curious and unique plant native to the tropical jungles of South-East Asia which is grown for its bizarre looking flowers. Both plants have large, wrinkled leaves and flowers which resemble bats. 

The white variety grows larger and the flowers have two distinctive white ears. The black one has two blackish purple wings. Both plants' flowers are on long stalks and have long whiskers trailing down adding to the odd look. 

Gavin said we were lucky here in Coffs Harbour as we can grow them outside in the garden. Further south they would need to be grown in a pot and taken indoors in winter or restricted to a conservatory or glasshouse.

In the garden it will grow to about one metre tall and one metre wide. It needs a shady, sheltered and warm position with rich soil and plenty of water in summer. In the winter the plant needs to dry out a bit, otherwise it can rot. 

Flowering time is summer to autumn and individual blooms can last a long time. Older plants can have several flowers at a time (as confirmed by member Margaret who has several flowers on hers) and clump and multiply from thick underground tubers which can be divided in the warmer months.

Gavin remarked that if you want to grow something a bit different and start some chins wagging, you can’t go past the bat plant.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

President's Message April 2015

Isn't it great to see new members continuing to join our club. Welcome to you all and I hope you enjoy being members of a great club that has been a part of the Coffs Harbour community for 65 years.

New people are always very important in a club like ours, because they bring ideas and enthusiasm which invariably helps invigorate and challenge us. Like all good organisations, our club must continue to work hard at being forward looking and open to change, so that we stay vibrant and relevant as time goes by. Having new members helps a lot in this regard.

So if you've been in the club for a while, please make our new members feel welcome. Introduce yourselves and get a conversation going. Many new members may want some advice to information - please help them out whenever you can. And above all, please remember our motto, 'Friendship through Gardens', and make everyone feel really welcome in our club.

If you've just joined the club. please make yourself known, and don't be afraid to ask questions if there's something you're not 100% clear on, or if you need some advice on a particular gardening challenge or opportunity. And please consider putting up your hand to help out on a committee or at one of our community activities - don't feel you should hold back for a while just because you're a new member - why not just get in and have a go.

The old saying about the more you put into something, the more you'll get out of it, is as true today as it always has b\een, whether you're a new member or indeed someone who has been around the club for a while. Not only are you likely to benefit personally, the club benefits too.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Gardeners' Diary - April


  • Flanders Poppy seeds in an open, sunny area.
  • Beans, broad beans, climbing beans - please click here for an excellent post on growing beans in subtropical conditions.
  • Beetroot, directly into position and ready for harvest from August.
  • Coriander, it doesn't bolt to seed so much in the cooler months.
  • Dill is another good one to plant now and it should be ready from about August.
  • Kale, there are so many different varieties around and just great for soups.
  • Leeks, plant seedlings quite deep so you get more 'white' stem.
  • Rocket, soft lettuce varieties are still good to plant just now.
  • Sweet pea seedlings.


  • Lillypilly as the edible fruits ripen - simply eat the flesh and plant the seed straight into regular potting mix.
  • Roses, this is a wonderful opportunity to share a lovely rose that perhaps you haven't a clue what it's name is, just that it has a wonderful perfume or growth habit.


  • Hibiscus, are looking fairly scraggly now and need a tidy up.
  • Tidy up Banksia bushes by pruning off spent flowers and seed heads.
  • Its time to cut off spent Bottlebrush flower heads before they go to seed.
  • Gerberas are looking a bit tired now so trim back, apply some compost and mulch, and water well to encourage them back into bloom.


  • Now that the vegetable garden is full of the winter brassica seedlings it is a peak time for white cabbage butterfly, might be best to lay a fine mesh over your crop.
  • Snails and slugs are rampant now - use whatever is your preferred method of handling them before they eat more veggies than you do!
  • Don't forget to spray your citrus with white oil. If there are any leaf miner affected leaves, just cut them off. Apply white oil weekly for three weeks to bark and leaves.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Flanders Poppy - papaver rhoeas

This photo was taken by CHGC President Geoff at Pozieres, France, the site of one of the greatest battles ever fought by Australian soldiers. Over seven weeks in mid-1916, at the Battle of the Somme, and very near to where these poppies were growing, the Australian Imperial Force suffered 23,000 casualties,
6,700 of whom died.

To commemorate the 100th year anniversary of Gallipoli this year, the CHGC are going to distribute Flanders Poppy seeds to members. It would be fantastic if each member were to plant the seeds and in November the Flanders Poppy would be our Flower of the Month. This would be our club's small way of contributing to the anniversary.

Some background to these poppies
These seeds can lay dormant in the ground for many years and will only germinate if the soil is disturbed in early spring. Due to shelling on the Belgium and France front, the Flanders Fields were disturbed during the fighting in 1915 and this resulted in masses of deep-red poppies blooming every spring and summer for the next four years.

Papaver rhoeas - Flanders Poppy

The red Flanders poppy also flowers in Turkey in early spring, as it did when the ANZAC troops landed at Gallipoli. 

In Australia, it is customary to wear a single poppy on Remembrance Day (November 11) to honour those who paid the ultimate sacrifice as a result of war. Each year we take comfort in these symbols of tribute and affection as they remind us to reflect and pay homage to the memory of the fallen.

How to grow poppies
Flanders poppies are very easy to grow from seed in April but, because they don't like to be transplanted it is best to sow them directly into a sunny garden bed. Dig some organic matter through the topsoil, level the soil, scatter the seeds, then cover with a thin layer of seed-raising mix. Firm this down and then water with a fine spray. Keep the soil damp until seedlings germinate and protect from slugs and snails. To extend the flowering period, liquid-feed them regularly and remove spent flowers.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Growing beans in the tropics and subtropics - Arno King, Garden Drum

If beans are a family favourite and you'd like to grow some in your veggie patch, this article from Arno King (Garden Drum) will enlighten you with details on the different varieties and how to grow them.

Growing beans in the tropics