Monday, 30 July 2018

Libby Ussher - Hanging Baskets

Saturday 28th July the Mid North Coast friendship Zone Day was held at Nambucca. One of the keynote speakers was Libby Ussher, ABC Radio presenter, Horticulturists, Garden Consultant and passionate gardener.

On a recent holiday to Victoria BC, Cananda Libby was blown away by the beautiful hanging baskets throughout the city. So much so she gave out a list at the Zone Day for plant selections:

Alyssum, Bacopa, Bedding Begonias, Brachyscombe, Calibrachoas, Daisies, Dichondra, Fuchsias, Geraniums, Impatiens, Ivy, Lobvelia, New Guinea Impatiens, Scaevola, Snapdragon (Dwarf), Tuberous Begonias.

Her suggestions for a planting medium are:

Good quality potting mix, Peat Moss, Perlite, Sphagnum Moss, Soil Wetter, Slow release Fertilizer, Vermiculite, Water Crystals, Hanging Basket Mix

The practice of hanging flower baskets was introduced in 1937 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victoria's incorporation. The baskets are displayed on downtown lamp posts every June, signaling the start of summer where they remain until September.

Nine different varieties of plants are used to make a sun basket, with a total of 25 plants included in each basket! The plants for the baskets are grown at the City's nursery and in late April a crew of six gardeners begin constructing approximately 1,300 hanging baskets. This takes place over a four week period. After the baskets are made, they are conditioned first for one week in a greenhouse and then they are moved outside to acclimatise.

Once the hanging baskets are placed they are watered every night throughout the summer, hand held wands are used and the water contains a trace amount of fertilizer.

There are shade baskets as well, these were introduced later in the 1990s because the Boulevard trees had grown larger and cast more shade. A mixture of six different varieties of plants are used to make these baskets with a total of 28 plants in each.

The people of Victoria are so proud of their baskets some have extended this practice to window boxes and hanging baskets at their homes.

Hints and tips for hanging basket:

Dead head flowers often
Liquid feed regularly
Use hooks to help lower the basket
Water regularly

If you'd like to know more please visit:

Hanging Basket PDF

Further reading and a practical guide to creating hanging baskets visit this post from North Coast Gardening - Genevieve Schmidt is a landscape designer and owns a landscaping maintenance company in Arcta, CA, USA. In her post there are stacks and stacks of links to creating all sorts of baskets, a very good read even if you're not planning on making any!

Sunday, 29 July 2018

2018 Garden Clubs of Australia Zone Day

Presidents of the Mid North Coast region of
Gardens Clubs of Australia
image - A. Lipman
A terrific day was had at the 2018 Garden Clubs of Australia Zone Day where almost 90 members from eight affiliated clubs were in attendance.

Keryn Rodham (who was the then Zone Coordinator) instigated this day of friendship in 2012. Keryn was the Secretary of Woolgoolga Garden Club at the time and the first of these days, held in Woolgoolga was a resounding success.

Every two years since then there has been a dedicated day of friendship for affiliated clubs from the Mid North Coast Region of Garden Clubs of Australia (GCA). 

Over the years we have had
Woolgoolga Garden Club, Coffs Harbour Garden Club, South West Rocks Garden Club and this year, the Nambucca Valley Garden Club played host at the RSL at Nambucca. You have to agree that this is the most stunning view of the river and what a backdrop for the day!

'The Vallarinas' dance troupe, showed us all how to keep in shape as we age - they have the best legs! Such fun, including a very amusing rendition of 'He's Got You', this really bought the house down!

Diego Bonetto a passionate, Italian born advocate of edible weeds shared his knowledge on many common weeds we find in our gardens - amaranth, dandelion, mallow, sowthistle just to name a few. Diego's solution to a weed problem is to eat them! (Care should be taken that you research the weed before tossing gaily into your salad though....)

Libby Ussher, is a presenter on Mid North Coast ABC radio and hosts the gardening show of a Saturday. Recently Libby travelled to Canada (in particular Victoria BC) and she was blown away by the beautiful hanging baskets found throughout Victoria. The practice to hang these during summer was introduced in 1937 to mark the 75th anniversary of the City of Victoria's incorporation. It has now become a trademark which is recognised throughout the world. The baskets are placed every June, signaling the start of summer and remain until late September. After their removal all the hardware is cleaned off to be reused the following summer.

Libby visited the Butchart Gardens, which she found just stunning, however it was the hanging baskets that inspired her to make her own versions at home. The city waters the hanging baskets every night throughout the summer, baskets in exposed areas are watered 6-7 times per week, whereas baskets in sheltered locations are watered 4-5 times per week.

President Garden Clubs of Australia, George Hoad, along with Glenys Bruun director of Zones were present at the function. George gave a very good overview of what the Garden Clubs of Australia actually do (also entertained the crowd with some songs) and Glenys spoke about the importance of Zone Coordinators and their role within GCA, she also gave information about the backgrounds of the GCA committee and how they all bring something individual to the committee.

The very talented President of Nambucca Valley Garden Club, Garry Miles set the stage with this wonderful display (my photo really doesn't do justice to it) such talent!

The table centrepieces were so cute - floral decorations set in a cup and saucer, these formed part of a silent auction and there was also a bucket passed around to aid drought relief in western NSW - there was well over $1000 raised from donations (and the auction) within the room, an outstanding achievement indeed.

We look forward to the next 'Friendship through Gardens' day to be held in 2020 in Woolgoolga.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

2018 Competition Entry Forms

image S. Young
It's Open!

You will see links below for on-line entry in the three sections of the 2018 Spring Garden Competition - Residential, Schools and Industrial/Commercial & Community.

Just click on your relevant section and 'check' the boxes of categories you wish to enter and hit 'submit'. There are required fields for name, address and phone numbers, these details are only used for competition administration and are not shared.

There will be a confirmation message appear to indicate that your entry has been successfully entered. However, if you have any enquiries or difficulties please contact either:
Maria (Entries Secretary) 6656 2429
Pat (Competition Administrator) 6690 2511


See SCHOOL Entry Form 


You may wish to see a PDF version of the entry form

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Garden Club Grateful for Community Support

Coffs Harbour Garden Club President, Jane Durler, is delighted with the sponsorship support by local Coffs' businesses to the 2018 Spring Garden Competition.

'We've always been well supported, and this year is no exception with businesses rallying around to support this community event,' Jane said.

Competition Administrator, Pat Roser, added that the garden competition is one of the largest of its kind in NSW and this is the 29th year that the Club has conducted it.

'Even though our competition is quite large, we are still able to keep entry free. This is primarily due to the generosity of our sponsors and supporters which enables lots of good prizes to be allocated. The best way to see who these wonderful people are is to check out this page on our website,' Pat said.

The 2018 competition will kick off this Saturday, with paper entry forms available at Total Gardens, area Libraries, Mitre 10 Woolgoolga and the Botanic Garden.

Entries can be made online from Saturday 28 July on this website, or you can collect an entry form and simply mail it to PO Box 885, Coffs Harbour. Entries close at 5pm Friday 7 September.

There will be more information found under the tab above '2018 Spring Garden Competition' or by calling either Pat 6690 2511 or Maria 6656 2429.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Grafting - Tino Carnevale

Tino Carnevale from ABC Garden Australia in Series 27 Episode 25 does an excellent job illustrating the different grafting techniques.

If you wanted to graft some citrus, Spring would be a fantastic time here on the Coffs Coast. For citrus grafting, temperature is a very important element to successful grafting. The ideal day time temperature range should be between 21C - 29C (for around a week), this temperature range is when the graft heals quickly enough so the scions don't dry out. 

Might be some fun to give it a go - remember though you can't graft a citrus onto an apple!

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Hints for Success in Garden Comp

Each September, the Coffs Garden Club conduct a garden competition for home owners, renters, commercial/industrial properties and schools. There are many different categories in this competition and there is bound to be one suitable for most folk. The competition is usually launched the last Saturday in July (28th) with closing date for entries the first Friday in September (7th). 

The gardens are judged about 10 days later (to allow for administrative work). This judging is conducted over three days with various areas done on each day. There will be a lot of extra information about this competition in the coming weeks but for now you can read more about the competition with some hints on how to help you prepare and display your garden in the Spring Garden Competition.

Before anything else read the schedule (available from 28th July) for full details of categories, conditions of entry, judging days, open garden days and of course, the date of the Presentation Night where you can receive your awards and prizes!

It is important to remember that the judge will be looking only at what they see in your garden at the time of their visit, not what might be there next month or even next week and certainly not what looked good last week. So try to ensure that your garden is at its absolute best on judging day - this can be difficult with climatic conditions but just try to show off your garden to its best advantage on that day. One way this can be achieved is by planning your plantings well in advance and paying attention to detail. 

It is also very important to know that the judge has only limited time to look at each garden, so it helps if you make a good first impression and have that 'WOW' factor from the outset.

So what can you do to help give your garden the best chance of success in the competition?

1.     Overall garden appeal is really important. People should want to be in your garden, and that includes the judge.

  • Resist the urge to put in an 'instant' or just planted garden.
  • Ensure that any paving and pathways are clean and safe with no overhanging branches or weeds and are not hazardous.
  • Beds should be well mulched with material that doesn't look as though it was put down the day before judging.
  • Shrubs and hedges should be neatly clipped. Flowers should be dead-headed where appropriate, and any dead leaves removed from plants and shrubs.
  • If something has failed in your garden, think of ways of filling the gap, ie turn what could be a negative into a positive.
  • Try to have things like garbage bins and old, unkempt garden furniture away and out of sight.  Preferably don't have washing on the line. Put away hoses and gardening equipment. And secure your pets, particularly dogs. 
  • Think about featuring a bench or table and chairs where you and others can sit and enjoy the garden.

2.     The judge will also look at the condition of your garden.

  • Plants should look healthy. There should be no disease or insect infestation to be seen, and your garden should not have any signs of nutrient imbalance, eg yellowing of leaves etc.
  • Make sure you remove any dead plants, fallen branches, palm fronds or other debris.

3.     The lawn (if you have one) should be healthy, weed free and nicely edged. Any other key features you have in your garden should look their best as well.

4.     The veggie garden (if you have one) needs to be seen as a working garden, ie, it is quite acceptable to have resting beds, and succession plantings are always looked upon favourably.

5.     Garden design is another important aspect of judging and includes things such as layout, use of colour, line, form and texture, and of course, plant use. Try to have a clear theme for your garden and stick to it. Where possible, have garden 'rooms' that help make best use of your available space. Or simply have 'flow' to your garden - something that encourages the visitor to move on further in your garden.

6.     Finally, please remember that judges are trained to objectively assess different kinds of gardens, so don't be afraid to enter. Over the years the competition has seen a myriad of styles in gardens and garden spaces. For instance, there have been gardens comprising predominately pots, all annual plantings with popping colour, all Australian natives, cactus, and gardens that have incorporated vegetable growing among flowers etc etc. 

7.    It is a condition of entry that your award winning garden is open to the public for viewing 10am - 4pm on Sat 22 and Sun 23 September.

Please do not be intimidated with all this information. Gardeners who love to garden usually have gardens that fulfill all of the above without even trying! If you require further information about the competition please do not hesitate to contact either Pat 6690 2511 or Maria 6656 2429, they will be only too happy to assist.

All on-line material will be available from 28 July 2018 at this site.

Disclaimer: These hints have been prepared only to provide general information to competition entrants to help them prepare their gardens for competition and they answer many of the questions that entrants pose to the club. The Coffs Harbour Garden Club makes no guarantee that following any, or all of the above hints will result in success for any particular entrant in the competition. Each entrant remains responsible for preparing and display their garden as they see fit.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Time for Green Thumbs to Bloom

Winter is a terrific time for green thumbed residents and organisations of the Coffs Council area to make the decision to enter the Coffs Harbour Garden Club's Spring Garden Competition.

The competition is a fabulous opportunity to celebrate the many passionate gardeners who have made a difference through gardening to beautify their space, making Coffs more beautiful. If you are proud of all the hard work you've done (and are still doing!) in your garden, the club would welcome your entry. This year marks the 29th year that the competition has been run and there is nothing better than to have an 'end date' to have all tasks completed in your garden.

The Spring Garden Competition is held early September each year conducted by the Coffs Harbour Garden Club (entry is free) and proudly supported by Coffs Council.

The entry form will be available from the launch date of Saturday 28 July 2018. Online entries can be made at or there will be paper entry forms available from local libraries, Total Gardens, Mitre 10 Woolgoolga and by contacting Coffs Garden Club T: 6656 2429.

Is your garden a winner?

As we know, it takes more than a few weeks to prepare a garden for competition - perhaps now is the time to start thinking about what needs to be tweaked in your garden. Advice can always be sought from garden sections of stores and nurseries in the Coffs area, who are only too happy to assist.  

Key dates

Sat 28 July Competition launch - entry forms will be available and entries accepted from this date.
Fri 7 September Last day for entry submissions (5pm close - no late entries accepted).
Mon 10 September - Thu 13 September Curly Kale School Growing Competition Judging.
Sun 16 September Judging (Coffs Harbour City area and Orara Valley)
Mon 17 September Judging (Toormina, Sawtell, Boambee and Bonville areas)
                                 Judging Schools 
Tues 18 September Judging (Northern beaches from Diggers Beach to Corindi)
Friday 21 September Presentation night (Cavanbah Hall, 191 Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour, 7.00pm. A light supper will be provided at no charge)

Categories in Competition
  • Waterwise Gardens - residential, industrial and commercial see this link for judging criteria for Waterwise categories and further information can be found here. 
  • Residential - garden of strata or community title dwelling, small, medium and large gardens, garden maintained by person 75 years or older, rental property, patio or courtyard, best kerbside appeal garden, home vegetable garden, community garden plot, new home/new garden, and lastly best garden feature.
  • Schools - whole school garden, native garden and vegetable.
  • Industrial/Commercial/Community - whole garden of any commercial premise garden including tourist accommodation (eg motels, hotels, B&B and caravan parks). Whole gardens of hospitals, churches, clubs and commercially operated retirement estates and nursing homes.
Major points of consideration in judging are: Design, Condition and Selection of Plants, General Appeal and Lawn or mulch.  

Closing date for entries is the first Friday in September (7th) with judging commencing on Sunday 16 September for the Coffs area, Monday for areas to the south and Tuesday areas north of the CBD.

There have been some changes to the categories this year and we are very excited to have a category for best kerbside appeal and also a category for a community garden plot. Prizes have been doubled in most categories to $100 for first and $50 for second placed entrants.

Frogs - Good Critters

Left: A green frog looking very settled in a bromeliad. Frogs are good critters as they eat slugs and other plant pests.

If you have frogs in your garden, well pat yourself on the back as you've achieved the tick of approval by one of nature's toughest judges - frogs. When frogs take up residence in your garden, it means that you have a clean, unpolluted and stable environment for them to live. Also they are excellent for getting rid of the odd mosquito too.

The best way to attract frogs into your garden is to provide them with what they need by creating a moist hiding place (such as piles of rocks and old branches and overturned clay pots). By doing this you are really doing yourself - and your garden a huge favour!

Due to their slimy, beautiful skin being very thin they absorb nasty chemicals and they can also die if they eat insects that have been killed by chemicals. When handling frogs, you need to use extreme caution. As they are so fragile they can be easily injured by jumping out of your hands, or by squeezing them too hard.

Before you handle or even touch a frog, make sure that you have rinsed your hands thoroughly. Some salts and oils from our hands can hurt frogs. Chemicals in sunscreen, insect repellants, lotions, soaps, dirt, germs can irritate their skin.

By trying to eliminate pesticides and herbicides and using organic fertilisers such as your own compost, blood and bone or a reliable commercial product you are heading in the right direction towards creating a good environment for frogs.
The Queensland Museum has some good guidelines on attracting (and keeping) frogs in your garden.
If you see a frog in your garden and are interested in knowing which one it is, visit the Frogs of Australia website to help with identification.