Friday, 14 December 2018

Gardenia

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 plantmark.com.au 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.