Monday, July 28, 2014

Camellia Showtime

 The Illawarra Camellia Show was on the weekend before last and this year I just took some photos using an iPhone. Every year I go I see different ones which have never made an appearance before. Perhaps some open better or earlier depending on temperatures or other weather conditions. I have not tagged any of these pics as many are not available commercially which may frustrate those who are trying to track down a particular favourite and its name comes up in a Google search.
  For those further down the south coast, the Berry Camellia Show is on at Berry School of Arts in Alexandra street next weekend (August 2nd and 3rd). Details on (02) 44642061

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The German Weekend

 Aromatherapy, Massage Oils and simple home remedies in Maria M Kettenring book published by
(Aroma-Gesundheitsparktikerin ,Dufttrainerin und Autorin zahlreicher Bucher)

I am not good at self-promotion but it was a real thrill to have my photo of Palmarosa grass (Cymbopogon martinii var motia) included in this book and be given credit as an 'Australien'.
Now if only there was a bit of demand for Palmarosa plants locally as I failed to shift more than a few units of it over last summer.
A couple of  Aussie plants which are making an impact in Europe, included in the book are, 'Teebaum', Melaleuca alternatifolia , or what we know as tea-tree oil, and Cajeput from Melaleuca  leucadendron var. cajeputii.
Germany has introduced some wonderful roses over the years and the 'rugosa' below is celebrating its centenary of introduction to horticulture.

 Rosa rugosa 'Frau Dagmar Hastrup'
Such delicate pink flowers, loved by bees, on a very tough thorny bush, this rose grows to just over a metre and is best suited to a temperate climate especially one near the seaside.
 The tomato red rose hips which appear in autumn are full of vitamin C and can be turned into 'hipster jam' or 'Hagenbuttenmarmelade' which is made by soaking the hips in white wine vinegar for a few days and then pushing the pulp through a sieve before cooking on low heat with sugar.
 Winter is a good time to cook German style casserole dishes such as this pork hock with pearl barley and cabbage.  I add herbs such as caraway seed, thyme and juniper berries to enhance the flavor of this slow cooked dish.

Fortification from hearty food and late night/bleary eyed days from staying up late watching Le Tour de France are what July is all about.
German rider Marcel Kittel of team 'Giant Shimano' may not have ended up with das Gelbe Trikot on the podium in Paris but he won the best hair and eyebrow action on le Tour.


Marcel channels 70's Bowie..... Pass the Brylcreem

For late night 'port and cigars' there is also Schubert's Winterreise at this time of year.The coolest thing would be to have a mate who is good baritone and listen to it live.

 I also think of Kraftwerk when it comes to modern German music (and great haircuts) 'The telephone call' is an ode to the slow Internet speeds of Australia and all those calls which drop out mid sentence. 
Thanks to all the wonderful customers who phone from various parts of the country in their search for an elusive plant which I may still be growing amongst my botanical treasures.

# 18 chemical free

In need of some "feel good" moments after the tragic events of the mh17 crash, an unknown resident supplied the neighbourhood with lemons and simply wrote "#18 chemical free" on the bags which were left on the doorstep of each house. Always good to see communities sharing in home grown produce which may have otherwise gone to waste.

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.