How to grow roses: advice from a very relaxed expert

Tanya Scott is very relaxed. It’s a baking February afternoon, at the end of a nightmare summer. It’s the kind of day on which most gardeners would become hysterical if a stranger with a camera asked to have a look around. Tanya, however, welcomes me, and gives me a guided tour before letting me loose…

fire days

There are times when gardening becomes a luxury, when the forces of nature remind us that our understanding of our domestic environment, is tenuous at best. This past week has been such a time. Our scorching, drought-stricken summer has, predictably, delivered an onslaught of bushfires in the central west. For at least a week, my…

How to grow Sweet Peas

Named for their fragrance and pretty pastel colours, Sweet Peas found their way into our gardens (and our hearts) over 300 years ago. Today, there’s a vast range of flower colours available, including deep velvety shades of blue and maroon, crimson-and-white streaked, and ruffled floral forms. They are an excellent cut flower, easy to grow,…

Plants for winter drama (updated)

If you see winter gardens as drab and lifeless, you may need to adjust your thinking (or your garden!). In the still, quiet wintery world, evergreen foliage, bark and seed pods become as interesting as flowers are in spring. The colour palette changes to a more subtle beauty. Winter hardening burnishes the browns, silvers and…

Forget summer, I’m going straight to autumn!

I’m completely “over” this summer. Most of my veggies and herbs are dead, and the rest are barely in survival mode. Many of my flowering shrubs are burned off and spoiled. People all over town are resorting to strange looking structures to try to save their plants. Constructions saving favourite plants from fierce summer heat….

Each tree tells a story

Step inside this old general store and you’re in ancient China. Known locally as the “Chinese Bonsai shop”, it’s the Lingnan Penjing Academy of Australia, an unexpected find in the heart of the quiet, historic village of Lue, 25km east of Mudgee, in central western NSW. Lingnan Penjing Academy, Lue, NSW Here, Philippe Tot, proprietor and…

Time to take succulents seriously!

Talk about stress in the garden! I’m battling to keep my precious plants alive through another vicious summer, watering day and night and worrying about the water bills! I sowed seeds in late Spring- basil, coriander, marigolds, amaranth, cauliflower, borage- thinking my watering system would sustain them. Wrong! They sprouted, then either simply disappeared on…

Secret Gardens

There’s a secret garden open to all at Lavender Bay on Sydney harbour. You could walk within fifty metres of it, and not know it was there. You must visit it. You will love it. Like every secret garden, it has a fascinating story, waiting to be discovered. It’s not my first secret garden. Bushwalking…

Survive this summer!

My summer survival plan is to stay indoors when the mercury climbs above 35C. If we get temperatures like February 2017, it’s going to be crunch time for some of my plants, but I plan to give them the best chance I can. And I’ll look after myself as well. My secret weapons? Mulch and books. I’m going to have to act…

Christmas in the Australian garden

Are there particular plants in your garden, or in the bush, which remind you of Christmas? Or maybe it’s the birds and insects that bring back childhood memories of the festive season. The iconic sights, sounds and smells that tell us that it’s high summer in Australia, and holidays are on the way. The enduring symbols Christmas…

Top Tomato Tips

Would you like to be eating heirloom tomatoes like these, rather than the supermarket “Gourmets” in your summer salads? Supermarket tomatoes are hybrids bred for efficient machine harvesting and long-distance shipping. They contain an introduced slow ripening gene which prevents full development of the natural sugars which are a major component of a tomato’s flavour. Don’t get me wrong. Supermarket…

Hot debate in the garden

There’s a controversy which can stoke passionate debate in gardening circles all over Australia. It’s been on the agenda for over 50 years, and it still has the power to generate heated letters to the editor in gardening magazines. Here’s a clue. A stunning Australian native plant, Banksia ericifolia (banksia), and an equally stunning exotic, climbing rose. In the 1960’s, a…