Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Prickly Pear

Cactus Moth (Cactoblastic cactorum) was chosen as a biological control for the dreadful prickly pear infestation in Australia. Ten million eggs were released in 1926, followed by a further 2.2 billion. The larvae blitzed the prickly pear so effectively that it is only a minor pest today. This is considered the most successful biological control of a pest plant in the world!

The first plants of prickly pear were brought into Australia to start a cochineal dye industry. At that time, Spain had a world-wide monopoly on the important cochineal dye industry and the British Government was keen to set up its own source of supply within its dominion. The dye was derived from cochineal insects which thrived on the prickly pear.

The expensive, red colour denoted wealth, royalty and power and it was for example, the dye used at that time to colour the British soldiers' red coats.

Captain Arthur Phillip's First Fleet supplies included a collection of cochineal infested prickly pear plants from Brazil and other places on his way to establish the first white settlement at Botany Bay in 1788. There is no totally reliable information on the original introduction of common pest pear into Australia from the Americas however, it was first recorded as being cultivated for stock fodder in the Parramatta region in the early 1800's. There is record of a pot plant being taken to Scone, NSW in 1839 where it was grown in a station garden with the manager planting it out with the idea that it would be a good standby for stock in a drought year. It has been recorded that a plant of common pear was taken from the Sydney area to Warwick, Qld in 1848 for use as a garden plant, with a strong recommendation that it would be a good fruiting and hedge plant.

The accommodating climate and general lack of natural enemies accounted for the pears amazing spread. Desperate measures were needed to halt this pest's rampaging progress. After painstaking entomological research by the Commonwealth Prickly Pear Board, formed in 1919 to try to eradicate this infestation, the cactus moth was chosen as a biological control and as some would say, the prickly pear 'was cactus'!

Thursday, 9 May 2019


Flower of the month - May 2019

image M. Reid 
KINGDOM:  Plantae

ORDER:  Ericales

FAMILY:  Theaceae

GENUS:  Camellia


Camellias are evergreen shrubs mostly with dark green slightly waxy leaves which from Autumn through Winter and then into Spring - depending on species and variety.

There are over 180 other species of camellia - and include the tea camellia - C. sinensis (all the world's tea - black and green - comes from plantations of Camellia sinensis). 

C. crapnelliana

Within the Camellia 'family' there are many species. The most well known ones include japonica, sasanqua, reticulata but the most unusual Camellia species is, Camellia crapnelliana. It has seed pods almost as big as a coconut and such a great name!

Don't forget your camellias for the competition table Saturday 18 May.

The Camellia was the flower of the month in June 2016 and in that post there are some 'Growing Problems and Solutions' included which might be interesting if your Camellia is looking a bit crook! Also there is a link to an article written by one of my all time favourite horticultural journos, Angus Stewart.

CHGC visited an Azalea and Camellia nursery in the Bellinger Valley (which has since closed unfortunately) where we saw the most amazing varieties - there are some images found at this post of that outing.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Reminder of Outing

A reminder for the outing tomorrow, 2 May 2019. 

We meet at Teresa & Paul's garden for a BYO morning tea and enjoy their vast garden - 159 Middle Boambee Rd, Boambee.

The next garden is right next door (as pictured above), Denise & Ken's garden, this is also a large garden, take note of the terrific gabion wall that Ken constructed.

Both these gardens are stunning and a must see! Please take care parking on Middle Boambee Road as it can be very busy.

Lunch is at the cafe at what used to be Garden Mania - please contact Margaret Franks if you would like to come along and have not put your name down yet.  Contact gmfranks@bigpond.com, 6656 0941, or 0421 366 013 

Bean Fly

The adult Bean Fly is a shiny black fly about 3.5mm long, larvae are cream with dark mouthparts and grow to 3mm long and the pupae are brown and cylindrical with rounded ends.  It is found here on the Coffs Coast due to the moist humid conditions we have.

The female lays eggs in punctures on the upper surfaces of leaves. These pin pricks become yellow spots and provide an easy means of determining bean fly activity. Hatched larvae mine their way into the leaf stalk and some tunnel into the main stem causing them to become swollen. When fully grown, larvae pupate just beneath the outer surface of the stem or leaf stalk. The life cycle can be over in just three weeks. 

The best way to avoid bean fly (apart from good crop rotation practices) is to have plenty of compost in the bed where you grow your beans so that they will have a full range of nutrients available to them. These pests tend to attack plants that are low in potassium, so a seaweed tea can help, however don't overdue the seaweed as it can 'lock out' some other essential nutrients.

It is essential to have a three year break between growing crops of beans in the same soil. By hilling the soil around the main stem of the bean plants encourages the plants to send out more roots.