Sunday, July 13, 2014

the tomato week

 'The Member Dr Sir Leslie Colin Patterson KCB AO'
Tim Storrier's entry in the 'Archibald'
Art Gallery of NSW
Tomato stains a plenty and a 'traveller's tool' to please all the ladies,this portrait won the 'Packing Room' prize at the start of the week.
 Having a yarn over the back fence during the week with a neighbour who speaks with a measured Tasmanian drawl, I was told of his on going soil preparation for his vegetables this summer. This involves dragging large bags of sea-grass/seaweed from the lake's edge and much composting and digging in. My input in the conversation was about tomato varieties and my desire to plant a large fruiting type. The reply came back that his parents in Tassie grow tomatoes so large that just one slice will cover a slice of bread and they weigh almost a kilo. "Yeah but there are no fruit flies in Tasmania" I replied "and here you have to have your crop all harvested by Christmas to avoid the fungal diseases of January and February......"
 Now I could be accused of being something of a dilettante when it comes to tomato growing. Last year I grew none but the year before I had a terrific crop of Romas. I used the Mildura method for growing the Romas, that is like a 'commercial crop' by letting them sprawl over the ground and giving them just appropriate fertilizers at fruit set etc. Too easy, no stakes, removing laterals or spraying.
 So this year I have decided to put a bit of effort into growing a descent sized one and have been doing the appropriate 'homework' as preparation. In frost free areas like here on the coast, the 'early varieties' such as 'Rouge de Marmande' can be started off from seed now. 

 One of the books I referred to about early tomatoes was this one by Percy Joseph Hurley (1893-1983). Originally published in 1951, this edition dates from 1962 and is full of good tips week by week even though the sub-title of 'young poisoner's handbook' may be appropriate given the litany of chemicals on offer. His pen name of 'Waratah' refers to his work as horticultural correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald from 1937 to1969. He gardened at Lindfield in Sydney at a time when gardening was taken more seriously than it is today. Rouge de Marmande is described as the 'North Coast Winter-cropper','setting fruit in mid-winter in frost free areas'. I assume this means you can plant seed now for a late spring early summer crop or in March for a winter crop. Given the above average temperatures this June I imagine it would be quite successful at either planting time.
The other varieties he recommends for sowing seed of now are the perennial favourite 'Grosse Lisse', 'Break o Day' and 'Rumsey Cross'. All of which are still available today from specialist suppliers. 'Break o Day' was released in 1931 and Rumsey Cross from the 1950's bred by local seed merchant Eric Rumsey who sold his business to Yates in the 1960's.
So for now I am sticking with Rouge de Marmande and am hoping for some nice big fruit by early summer to pass over the fence to my neighbour with a big smile.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pelargonium iocastrum

Pelargonium iocastrum (Gerinaceae)
This South African species from high altitudes is used to having a covering of snow over winter so in our climate it is under the impression that spring has arrived. Though the flowers are fairly insignificant, their delicate shade of pink and the neat rosette of leaves from which they emerge, give this 'treasure' an overall pleasing appearance and make it a worthwhile addition to any collection of species Geraniums. It is said to be a short lived perennial so I am enjoying it for the moment before my attention is no doubt drawn to another beauty.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Great, Gatsby, Gardening

 I have been looking for a vintage 1920's rose to grow over a shed and I have chosen the Alister Clark bred 'Lorraine Lee' which was released in 1924 by Hackett and Co of Adelaide. The climbing version came later in 1932. Lorraine Lee was a cousin of Alister Clark's wife and she picked it out in 1920 from his batch of seedlings. It went on to become the most popular rose in Australia for decades following, mainly because it flowers non-stop for most of the year in warm climates.
 Rosa 'Lorraine Lee' (photo: Wikipedia)
Bred from 'Jessie Clark', a Rosa gigantea seedling, and 'Capitaine Miller', a seedling of the China rose 'General Schlablikine'. The colour is described as rosy apricot pink or terracotta.
Rosearian Susan Irvine suggests an under-planting of Achillea 'Salmon Beauty'.

'Gardening Gatsby' in slate blue shirt from Kmart, grey silk scarf from Bond street, London, 'Kenji' braces from Myer, crepe de chine cravat, vintage.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Crassula multicava 'Purple Dragon'

Crassula multicava 'Purple Dragon'
The plain green form of this succulent is quite weedy. It is called a 'sleeper weed' as in 'one to watch', for it has the potential to become a 'transformer weed' by changing a habitat and displacing native vegetation. Able to grow in shade and spreading rapidly in sandy soils it has been noted in littoral rainforest and I suspect that it has been introduced as a result of being used in those coastal holiday parks where owners with a cabin or caravan may create a small garden to enhance their surrounds or define a boundary. "I want to plant a garden which survives when we are not here", the story goes. The appeal is the sprays of fluffy pink flowers, general neat appearance and ability to grow in sand.
It remains to be seen whether this red form follows suit into the weed category. A nursery colleague who grows it for sale in hanging baskets told me "it seeds and comes up in trays all along the benches."    Warning bells?
I am growing it in a pot as it is a nice foliage contrast to silver foliage plants nearby. The less water it gets the more the leaves curve back to reveal their attractive purple/red side. It grew rapidly and has stayed compact and is now topped with attractive dark pink flowers, and that said I won't be growing it commercially.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'

 Euphorbia hypericifolia 'Diamond Frost'
photo:Cornell University School of Horticulture
'Diamond Frost' has become something of a garden classic in recent years. It ticks all the right boxes for general hardiness and sustainability and is long flowering in mild climates.
I admire its use in a garden I drive past from time to time. It is planted to great effect in some planter boxes near the entrance to a house which was built a few years ago in a fairly modern style. Perhaps I notice it more because it has been mass planted and you see a lovely sea of frothy white flowers against the hard edges of the building.
I don't grow this plant for sale as it is protected by plant breeder rights (PBR) but can highly recommend its use for pots or garden beds.
The name 'Diamond Frost' evokes a more formal approach to clothes:

 Shirt: Yves Saint Laurent
Tie: Christian Dior
 Hand embroided shirt: 'Moda Milano', Italy
Maroon silk bow-tie
Yves Saint Laurent in 1970
Aloe leaf inspired vase behind.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gardening in "Low-Res"

 Brushed cotton shirt: by Mitsukoski
Made in Japan
Without resorting to wearing camouflage gear it is nice to merge with the surroundings in the garden so that any bird or wildlife visitors just take you to be part of the scenery and of no threat to their well-being.
 Suede pigskin vest: Blazer, Melbourne
Scarf: brown chiffon polka-dot, no label
Tan corduroy shirt: 'Bluezone', made in China
Olive green wool vest: 'Tarocash', made in Australia
Check scarf and handmade plaited leather belt, no label 
 Brown rayon paisley scarf: 'Tootal', made in England
Scarf detail

Russian style forest green velour hat with silk lining
Taupe wool hand-knit sleeveless cardigan

Pistachio green viscose scarf by Gregory Ladner
Made in China
Azure Kingfisher (Alcedo azurea azurea)
photo courtesy :B Maslen 
.....'Then there are our Azure Kingfishers that nest in the creek bank. They feed largely on yabbies, freshwater crayfish, which they catch and take to a designated dining rock where they dissect them,leaving a collection of empty blue claws for me to find'... Germaine Greer, 'White Beech, The Rainforest Years' published by Bloomsbury

Gardening in "High-Vis"

 Corduroy shirt: 'Polo Country' by Ralph Lauren
For about six weeks of the year in Australia you have to wear 'winter' clothes. This usually means going through your wardrobe/closet and hunting around for stuff to beat off the morning chill and then spend the rest of the day shedding it in layers. 'High-Vis' is for days when you are expecting a delivery of landscape material, looking out for an arborist as a tree is pruned or for when you have to visit a construction site or 'the track' at dawn to check on the training of your filly.
 Scarf: 'The King', 70% Shetland, 30% polyamide
Made in France
 Jacket: Check Mohair
'Portrait of a Strapper' by William Dobell 1941
Newcastle Region Art Gallery
Book: William Dobell An Artist's Life by Elizabeth Donaldson (Exisle Publishing)
Lambswool Hat:'Top of the Range' Hat & Co
Japanese Garden, Cowra NSW

 'Cima' Red woolen cycle shirt, Made in New Zealand
'House of Lords' nylon lavender shirt, Made in Korea

'Oxford' choc-mint striped shirt
Made in Australia  of Italian fabric
'Peekays' silk tie
Black braces
Trouser: Skinny jean or high waisted 
'Oxford Bag'