Featured

“Build it and they will come”

This morning as I sat on my back patio looking around at the back garden drinking a coffee, a butterfly almost landed on my head. How delightful that sensation was once I had got over the initial shock response! I watched it fly away and cross the path of two other butterflies in the process. As I reflected on the growing number of insects I have been seeing in my garden lately I was reminded of a conversation that I had with my sister yesterday. Somehow the conversation got around to the praying mantis egg case that I had discovered before and after hatching. She commented on how lucky I am to have that happen in my very own garden and told me that her husband’s brother had just bought a praying mantis egg case because he couldn’t seem to attract them to his garden. She asked me what I was doing that I thought might be helping them thrive in my garden. The truth is that I am not really sure. I think that a garden is such a complex system with such an abundance of variables that it’s hard to isolate one or two things that make a difference, but here are the things I think are making a difference.

  • I garden organically with no insect control whatsoever, not even white oil. The only way that insects die in my garden by human hands is by being accidentally squashed, squished, crushed or eaten (note: accidentally!). Otherwise I leave it to other predators in the food chain and I think the birds are quite happy about that! Not to mention the praying mantises and lacewings.
  • I try to put the beneficial insects and suffering plants in the same vicinity. For example, the Lacewings seem to like laying eggs on my clothesline pegs so I simply take them off the line and peg them to a plant with scale or aphids. Lacewing nymphs will eat each other in the absence of a ready food source so I figure that I am not only controlling aphids and scale I am also maximising the population of their main predator. I am not worried about being taken over by lacewings either, because the birds seem to appreciate them as a snack. Recently I “saved” two Tuckeroo saplings with this method. It was fascinating watching the transformation as the Lacewings took over the aphid and scale populations and the saplings grew new healthy growth. Both trees are thriving now!
  • I make an effort to maximise biodiversity in my garden. An obvious way to do this is to plant a variety of species and I do that with an effort to preference endemic and native species. I also remove or control invasive species to stop them smothering other plants, particularly the endemic plants in our natural bush gully.
  • I let some of my annual herbs and leafy vegetables flower. Basil and lettuce in particular seem to attract so many beneficial insect species!
  • I leave piles of “garden debris” for nesting purposes. My garden isn’t tidy, because gardening for me is more about the wild delights of nature. Apart from that I’m busy and I’d rather have a messy, wild garden full of biodiversity than a tidy collection of low maintenance species. I don’t have a problem with the latter… if it floats your boat go for it!

This issue of insects is an important one. A quick google search reveals an alarming number of studies showing a decline in insect populations around the world. Without insects, other species in both plant and animal kingdoms won’t last long. I would love to see a revolution in the way that we think about them so that we can celebrate their place in the system and all the benefits we reap due to their “little” lives.
Gardening, for me, is therapy and that therapy is far more effective when it’s full of a delightfully wild variety of things that grow, glow, climb, bloom, crawl, sing and fly, but more than that it’s about the surprises, the astonishment and all the amazing learning about this wonderful thing called life!
Wishing you an abundance of insect life in your garden,
Janegrowsgardenrooms

PS Have you seen my video showing all my newly hatched praying mantis babies. If you’d like to see it Click here

The Border Room

The Border Room has two main functions. The first and foremost is to give us some privacy from the road. The second is to attract beneficial insects, birds and other wildlife on to the property.

A Glasswing Butterfly at dusk perching on the newly planted Bower of Beauty vine.

FEATURED PLANTS

  1. RUBY TEA TREE (Leptospermum scoparium “Ruby Glow”) – this New Zealand native has beautiful little rose like blooms (as seen in the feature image for this post) that cover the new growth each year. It is one of the trees that Bees harvest to create the much lauded Manuka Honey which has antibacterial properties. In fact, scientists are yet to find a bacteria that is resistant to this medicinal honey. It is a large hardy shrub so I have planted it under two large gum trees in the hope that it will effectively compete in a challenging location. So far, so good. (Touch wood.) It will feed the bees and hopefully offer shelter to small birds when it grows.
  2. TULIPWOOD (Harpulia pendula) – this lovely tree was planted as a memorial to my sister-in-law’s cat, a sweet tempered male named Elvis that she had since his birth. It is a slow growing native which is frequently used in urban planting as it does not have an invasive root system and only grows up to 6 metres in cultivation. In the wild it can grow up to 20 metres. It is not edible for humans but is a useful food crop for native animals.
  3. LILLY PILLY (Waterhousia floribunda) – we planted these on recommendation from a neighbour who works in horticulture. They are endemic to the area and tolerant of dry weather and poor soil once established. They have both experienced some pest issues but are now looking good. Hopefully they will produce lots of fruit for jams and chutneys as well as the local wildlife.
  4. BURDEKIN PLUM (Pleiogynium timoriense) – as the name suggests, this tree is endemic to the Burdekin area in North Queensland. The foliage is stunningly pretty. I have a few of these but none have fruited yet. I am looking forward to being able to harvest and cook with them.
  5. TUCKEROO (Cupaniopsis anacardioides) – another popular street tree due to its generally non-invasive nature. This tree has pretty leaves and edible fruit. Our Tuckeroos have had some pest problems. They appear to be susceptible to scale and aphids. I have solved this with Lacewings who tend to lay their eggs on my clothes pegs. I simply take the peg in question and attach it to the affected Tuckeroo. I have cleared up a number of infestations with this technique and the hardy Tuckeroos seem to recover quickly with minimal damage.
  6. IVORY CURL (Buckinghamia celsissima) – this tree marks another memorial for another of my sister-in-law’s cats, a quiet but very dominant tom called Jimmy. It was chosen for its beautiful blooms which give it its name. It’s not as hardy as some of the others but after a few years should be more tolerant of drought and poor soil.
  7. FRANGIPANI (Plumeria sp.) – I was given this in exchange for some Native Frangipanis that I propagated. I planted them along the boundary because they are hardy and being deciduous, I didn’t want them closer to the house. Exotic Frangipanis always remind me of my mother. She loves the scent as it reminds her of Summer family holidays when she was a child.
  8. BOWER OF BEAUTY VINE (Pandorea jasminoides) – this native vine loves to climb a fence and has big, beautiful flowers that remind me of Petunias. It has been planted to cover an old shed that marks the end of the Border Room. Around the base I have planted Climbing Dayflowers, Cornflowers and Lavender. Hopefully this little spot will become a “pollinator’s delight”!
Prickly Daviesia is prickly by name, prickly by nature but the small yellow pea flowers are stunning!

EXISTING STRUCTURE

  1. LARGE GUM TREES – There are some very large gum trees in this room. I haven’t been able to key them out yet for a definite identification, so I can only use the common names: Spotted Gum and Ironbark.
  2. SAGO BUSH (Ozothamnus diosmifolius) – These delightful endemic shrubs have wonderful small white flowers that crown the ends of their branches. These flowers sometimes replace Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila sp.) in floral arrangements. I always think that they look like fairy roses, tiny and perfectly formed.
  3. PRICKLY DAVIESIA (Daviesia villifera) – These small shrubs are very prickly and endemic to the area. They provide shelter to small birds, insects and arachnids as well as bright yellow pea flowers.
These beautiful Frangipani have a place for their sentimental value and lovely scent.

UNSUCCESSFUL EXPERIMENTS

  1. LILLY PILLY – We lost two Lilly Pillies in this area during the drought. I can’t remember the exact species, but they held on a long time in this part of our block which has very poor, hydrophobic soil. I think they were in the genus: Syzygium. They were the last two plants to be planted without excavating a large hole and filling with a mix of the original soil and better soil.

STILL TO COME

Photos of all these plants fruiting and in flower!

Wishing you privacy and welcome guests,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

Redbubble Designs

I am rather excited about this… I am selling some of my photography on Redbubble. They will print them on everything from shirts to phone cases to shower curtains.

If anything interests you, you can find my store here. Also very open to feedback. 🙂 Redbubble designs are not printed with the watermark which is added here for statement of intellectual property rights.

The Rainbow Twist!
Native Australian Hibiscus Pattern
Australian Magpie – pictured on jigsaw puzzle
Black Jezebel Butterfly
Galangal Leaves – pictured on floor pillow
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet Baby
Choose the Arts and Quote from Ken Robinson – pictured on hard cover journal
Yaćon Flowers
Staghorn Fern on Soap Tree – pictured on postcard
Blue Dragonfly
Tawny Frogmouth Staring – pictured on Samsung Galaxy Phone Skin
Native Australian Bees and Salvia
Rainbow Lorikeet Cheeky – pictured on Chiffon Shirt
Civilisation in Metamorphosis Quote
Glasswing Butterfly on Bower of Beauty – pictured on iPad skin
Hoverfly in the Vegetable Garden – pictured on clock
Droplet in the sun on Acacia – pictured on A line dress
Star Hibiscus Flower – pictured on backpack
Australian Native Hibiscus Flower – pictured on a jigsaw
Black and White Subtropical Rainforest- pictured on Graphic T-shirt dress
Common Crow Butterfly and Peach Blossom – pictured on shower curtain
Purple Oxalis Flowers – pictured on comforter
Tea with mother nature
Banksia Sun pictured on baseball cap
Rainy Day Hair Looks Good on Me – Kookaburra
Kookaburra waiting – pictured on Flat Mask
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos preening – pictured on sleeveless shirt

Plant Profile – Brisbane Wattle

Wattle or Acacia trees are iconic in Australia because of their golden blooms. This variety is just as striking as the Golden Wattle which is Australia’s floral emblem.

The green leaves and gold flowers of the Wattle tree are the inspiration for Australia’s representative colours. This flowering Brisbane Wattle shows how splendidly the colours complement each other.

Also known as:

  • Acacia fimbriata
  • Fringed Wattle
  • Fringed Brisbane Wattle

Growing Conditions:

  • Full Sun/Part Shade
  • Protected positions
  • Will tolerate most soils but prefers well-drained loamy soils
  • Drought tolerant when established
  • Shrub or small tree up to 6 metres tall

Propagation:

  • Seeds
  • Cuttings
A Brisbane Wattle starting to bloom, eventually the tree will look almost all yellow as it reaches the peak of the flowering season.

This Acacia is found in coastal regions and tablelands from Brisbane south to Sydney. The second half of the scientific name, “fimbriata” is Latin for “fringed” and refers to the tiny hairs on the leaves. The leaves, like those on most Acacia species, are not true leaves. Rather, they are “phyllodes”, or modified stalks, helping the tree prevent moisture loss. We have lots of these trees in our area and the profusion of yellow that lines the roads and pops up in the bush is wonderful to behold!

The flower buds start to appear in early Winter but they take almost two months to burst into flower.

It’s a great plant to help prevent erosion and with pruning makes an effective and pretty privacy screen. The thick foliage weeps in a way that reminds me of weeping willows although, of course, it doesn’t hang as low as a willow.

First Nation Peoples in Australia harvested the nutritious seed which is up to 25% protein. They were eaten straight from the tree or roasted to make a paste or damper. In season the seed pods are abundant, suggesting an excellent yield for anyone taking the time to harvest from this tree.

This Scaly-breasted Lorikeet baby fell from its nest before it was ready to fledge. Unperturbed it climbed the Brisbane Wattle and took refuge in its thick foliage until it was ready to fledge.

King Parrots love the seed pods from this plant. The King Parrots in our area have trained many residents to feed them, but when the Brisbane Wattles are covered in seed pods they ignore the humans and forage instead. It’s leafy crown offers excellent coverage for small birds. We even had a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet chick sheltering in one of ours after it fell from the nest. It remained in the tree, visited frequently by the parents until it fledged.

Wishing you glorious green and gold in your garden,

Jane Frost

References:

Australian Plants Society New South Wales

Toohey Forest Environmental Education Centre

Plant Profile  – Wombat Berry

A Wombat Berry acting like a groundcover in my “Wild Woods” rehabilitation area.

Also known as:

  • Eustrephus latifolius
  • Orange Vine
The flowers of the Wombat Berry are hard to spot as they hang downwards. Note the frilled or furry edges of the petals.

Growing conditions:

  • Part shade/shade
  • Tolerant of most soils
  • Vine, gentle climber that doesn’t restrict the host
  • Groundcover
  • Suitable for pots, garden beds, rockeries, bush rehabilitation
  • Suits hanging pots which allow the foliage to hang over the edges
Seeds ripe for planting – fresh seed is best.  The edible white arils, which taste something like coconut,  are clearly evident.

Propagation:

  • Fresh Seeds, 54-368 days germination

This plant is truly unique, owning a genus all to itself. It’s closest relative, which it can be confused with, is the Scrambling Lily (Geitonoplesium cymosum) also alone in its genus. It is found all along the East Coast of Australia in dry and wet forests and heathlands.

The split orange berry is ready to harvest for the edible white aril and seeds to plant.

It was the orange berries on this vine that first caught my eye in the Wild Woods, one of my bush rehabilitation rooms. I took photos and submitted them to a Facebook group for identification. I was relieved that it was native and thrilled that it was edible.

A Wombat Berry Vine climbing a fence.

The white arils in the berries taste like coconut, but they aren’t a substantial harvest. Apparently the roots, which are popular with Wombats and Bandicoots, are crisp and sweet. I haven’t sampled them yet, but as soon as I have some growing in my Permaculture Room I plan to try them! The roots can be up to a metre underground so it hardly seems worth digging in to our compact soil and depriving the ecosystem of this endemic species. The other advantage is that I can continue to harvest seeds from established survivors.

Apparently King Parrots love these berries but this one is hidden in the undergrowth.

In my area Wombat Berry can be found sprawling across the ground or climbing anything from fences to shrubs to small trees. It is an understorey plant so it is frequently found in the shaded areas and a great vine to grow in a shady spot. I have one established plant that has survived for years in a very sunny spot with compacted soil, but it is the exception to the rule. The rest are all in well-shaded locations.

There are two forms of this plant and countless variations in those two forms. The leaves can be very thin or as broad as a Scrambling Lily. Another way to distinguish the two plants is that the Wombat Berry leaves connect directly to the stem whereas Scrambling Lily has a short petiole (stalk). Wombat Berry flowers look furry whereas Scrambling Lillies don’t.

This hardy survivor lasted through the two year drought with no apparent issues, though I wonder if the root would be as palatable after a lengthy time without rain. I haven’t observed any species eating the berries or digging up the roots but the berries frequently vanish from the most visible vines. From research, I suspect it may be King Parrots who reportedly love the berries and seeds. Wombats and Bandicoots are rarely sighted in our area due to being displaced by development. Perhaps this is why I never see any signs of digging around the plants.

Wishing you small pleasures,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

References

ANPSA

Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants

Toowoomba Plants

Meet the Trotters: a family of Magpies

Click the image below to read my latest Medium article. It’s a “friend’s link” so it will cost you nothing and won’t contribute to your “free reads”. I will receive no payment from clicking this link unless you are a paying member of Medium.

Click on the image to access the article 🙂

The Native Foyer

Hibiscus “Pete’s Blush” stands proudly as a feature in this garden. It flowers profusely and the blooms are enchantingly delicate.

I am slowly building up a community of native grasses, hibiscus and Westringia.  The canopy is already there. The spiky Native Hibiscus species offer shelter and protection to smaller birds as well as food for pollinators.  The native grasses welcome lizards and frogs.

FEATURE PLANTS:

A straggly bloom from the Grevillea “Sandra Gordon”. We rarely see one that is open and uneaten due to its popularity with local wildlife.
  1. Grevillea “Sandra Gordon” – I fell in love with this plant at a local market. The flowers are spectacular,  bright, bright yellow like they captured the sunlight.  The birds and possums love them too. Since planting this Grevillea has flowered every Winter. Despite carefully watching I rarely see a fully developed flower in bloom. Sometimes they are eaten before they even open. I am hoping that as it matures, more blooms will mean that I get see some of its glory. In the meantime, it feels good to know that it’s feeding my garden friends.
  2. Hibiscus “Pete’s Blush” – an impulse purchase that has paid off over and over again. This plant flowers all through Autumn and Winter. The blooms are delightfully delicate, white with blushes of pink and a deep maroon centre. The shaded location has made it somewhat straggly but it’s thriving. It has made me plant more Native Hibiscus in this “room”.
  3. Hibiscus heterophyllus – I have planted three of these. The two most recent plantings haven’t flowered yet. I got them from a TLC rack at my local council nursery. The third has been in for two years. It is healthy but hasn’t grown much. The flowers are infrequent but worth the wait, a delightful pale yellow touched with pink blush and a deep scarlet centre. Native Hibiscus flowers only last a day, but they are delicate blooms that enchant the gardener and leave one wanting more.
The beautiful bloom of a Hibiscus heterophyllus.

EXISTING STRUCTURE

CANOPY – This area has a canopy formed by Soap Trees (Alphitonia excelsa), Black Wattles (Acacia sp.), She-oaks (Allocasaurina sp.), Spotted Gums, Grey Gums and Ironbarks. The canopy creates dappled shade for most of the day, but the area is exposed to the East by our driveway and the West by the road we live on. This means that it gets good light in the morning and late afternoon.

Our “volunteer” Grevilleas, probably Grevillea banksii, have lovely pink and red flowers that the native birds, possums and gliders love.
The fluffy puffy pompom flowers of the Brisbane Wattle (Acacia fimbriata).

SMALL TREES – there is a well-established Brisbane Wattle (Acacia fimbriata) in the centre of this area that deepens the shade and offers habitat to birds. One season we had a baby Scaly-breasted Lorikeet sheltering in the foliage after it fell from a nest. Every day the parents would make frequent visits to feed it as it tried to practice flying. Eventually it fledged and we haven’t seen it since. The bright yellow flowers on this tree bloom every Winter and the following seed pods feed many species including King Parrots. Apart from this tree there are Grevillea species that are all around the area. I suspect that they are Grevillea banksii. Regardless, they attract lots of birds and bugs to their red flowers. Another small tree in this area is a Callistemon with green bottlebrush flowers that I love! Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I rarely see them because the insects and birds love them. This small tree has been stripped of leaves more than once by bag moths or sawflies, but it always comes back.

These Callistemon “Captain Cook” will eventually create low, bushy shelter for small birds.  The bright red bottlebrush flowers provide an excellent source of nectar too.
This variegated Westringia is hard to find but offers a lovely contrast to the green variety.

SHRUBS – There were two large, established Westringia fruiticosa here when we moved in. One has since perished during the 2 year drought. I replaced it with another Westringia in the hopes of regrowing another good screen from the road. Since then I have planted more Westringia in the space to create low shrubby shelter for birds and insects. The insects love the tiny purple flowers. At my local council nursery I managed to find two variegated Westringias on the TLC rack which I am hoping will create some lovely contrast. I have also planted some small Callistemon species to fill this area out with more bottlebrush blooms and shelter.

GRASSES – This area was dominated by Lantana when we moved in with a few Lomandra grasses. Since we have cleared the Lantana, the Lomandra has spread with some other grass species. Two different Commelina species have appeared too. The native Commelina diffusa has stayed but I have removed the Commelina benghalensis.

VINES – Two vines dominate the vertical space. A frustrating invasive passionfruit vine that doesn’t produce edible fruit and Scrambling Lily. The latter is a lovely endemic species with delicate flowers and edible berries that taste a bit like grass. The birds love them. I remove the passionfruit frequently but it’s naturalized in this area and its seed germinates readily.

SOIL – The soil is covered in a thick layer of debris, mostly from the Allocasaurinas and Eucalyptus trees. This restricts the species that can grow and needs to be cleared from new plantings. The soil underneath is hard and hydrophobic. I tend to dig bigger holes than I need and I use seaweed soil conditioners to help new plants. The soil is slowly improving naturally with biodiverse species forcing their roots through the compacted earth but it means that growth is not as vigorous as I would like. I am sure that the nitrogen fixing Wattles and She-oaks are helping support the soil infrastructure.

UNSUCCESSFUL EXPERIMENTS

BANKSIA – I now know that Banksias love sun and well-drained soil. This dappled shade and compacted clay was never going to work. It’s a shame because we planted three Banksias and all have died.

A Slender Bee Fly visits the large established Westringia which is approximately 3 metres wide and 2 metres high. It flowers consistently all year and provides a screen to give some privacy from the road.

STILL TO COME:

Pictures of the Brisbane Wattle (it’s about to burst into bloom).

Wishing you a joyful garden entrance,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

How I grow my Garden Rooms

A few years ago I was watching “Gardening Australia” when they visited a gardener who talked about Garden Rooms. Her garden was divided into themed sections like a series of rooms with different environments and functions.

Themed areas in a garden with clear boundaries

What is a garden room?

The idea captured my imagination and I started to plan. A few months later I had planned all of my landscaping in “rooms”. Each part of my garden would serve to showcase its function for my family. That vision has been refined and reimagined too many times to count as I work out what will grow where and struggle with elements I can’t control like a two year drought. Still, the concept looms large in my mind and I am still enamoured with the idea and I am very slowly making it come to life.

A peaceful place full of plants

What is a garden room?

What is a garden room?

Really it’s anything YOU want it to be. In the Northern Hemisphere it’s conservatories and summer houses.  I asked my Instagram followers what they thought garden rooms were. The predominant themes were of course lots of plants, but also peaceful places,  places to relax and drink tea, and themed areas.

A place in the garden to relax and drink tea

What is a garden room?

How do you create a garden room?

First you have to work out what the term “garden room” means to you. Here I will give brief introduction to how I am constructing my garden rooms and what I hope to achieve in each one. I have given each area or room in my garden its own name that alludes to it’s function and the kind of plants I want to use to “design and decorate” according to that function. As I have time I will publish a blog post on each room detailing the vision, the progress and the challenges.

A conservatory

What is a garden room?

The following photos are evidence that this is an ongoing process. There’s no quick way to landscape and maintain 3 acres. Life happens and one falls behind but the vision remains and motivates me. Let’s take a stroll through the garden rooms…

The Native Foyer

As the name suggests,  this area is near the front gate. I want this garden to not only welcome our human visitors but also small birds, insects and other animals.

For more detail about “The Native Foyer” click here.

A summer house

What is a garden room?

The Fairy Path

This room happened by accident.  Originally it was an area near the carport that hosted a number of native “volunteers”. When we renovated it, we couldn’t get the space to work until we created a narrow ring path. Adults can use it but it’s just the right size for young children to run and explore. A little fairy house magically appeared overnight and the die was cast!

Anything you want it to be

What is a garden room?

The Tropical Room

This room is in an enclosed space near our front door. A glass sliding door also opens into the space and I have grand visions for a water feature and pond surrounded by lush greenery. Originally I planned to fill it with Native Rainforest plants but the drought taught me that I will need to be more creative.  For the moment it features a small pond made from a large pot that we bought about 13 years ago.

The Playroom

This is our backyard.  It’s part kitchen garden,  part sensory garden with playground equipment, my greenhouse and two garden sheds. There’s a large expanse of lawn on the slope which I tolerate because it is lovely on bare feet and has patches of groundcovers. All non-edible exotics have been removed, apart from the large trees which offer shade and a place for our bird visitors to perch. Feature plants include Lemon Myrtle, Anise Myrtle and lots of edible flowers.

The Permaculture Room

This room includes my wonderful contour banks of fertile soil that is growing edible trees as well as fruit and vegetable crops. The chicken shed is empty right now while we renovate the area to include a fenced off free ranging area to stop the chickens from digging up my plants. The chicken shed is uphill from the garden encouraging their fertile waste to wash into the permaculture garden, while the insects that visit the garden should visit the chickens too making a tasty nutritious snack for them. My compost bins and manure pile are also in this room.

The Wild Woods

This room is my bush rehabilitation area. Every so often I go through and remove any invasive pest plants that I can find. I identify the new plants that have grown and expand my knowledge of what the bush “should look like”. A seasonal creek, fed by upstream dams runs through this area to our dam. The gully is gradually filling with dry rainforest plants, some planted by me and some that have appeared as if by magic. When we moved to the property, our neighbour’s grazing animals were using our property. Since we fenced them out, it’s amazing how the bush has changed with all the new plants appearing.

The Natural Gully

This room is also a bush rehabilitation area but it is slightly different to the upstream area. It is mostly populated by She-oaks (Allocasaurina) and Grass Trees. We are extremely fortunate to have some very large Grass Trees, one of which at least is sure to be more than 100 years old. Another joy in this area is the native Slender Hyacinth Orchid which can only be found in the wild. We only see it once a year, but it’s a lovely surprise on the forest floor. I have planted some Silky Oaks (Grevillea robusta) in this room as they were once common in this area.

The Sunroom

This is the area between our backyard and the dam. Eventually I hope to make this a wildflower meadow, but the soil needs more rehabilitation before that can be attempted. I have planted some endangered shrubs here and it marks the beginning of the Bush Tucker Grove.

Bush Tucker Grove

This area has been planted with Native Bush Tucker trees. Bordered by the Wild Woods, the Sunroom and the Playroom, I hope it will eventually bring lots of birds to overflow into the other areas. This spot was hit hard during the drought and we lost four Macadamia seedlings, but it is recovering well this season with the remaining Plum Pines, Umbrella Cheese Tree and Native Mulberry amongst others putting on some sturdy growth.

The Green

This area is a wide expanse of soft green grass, tended by my partner and loved by the local ducks. This is where we set up the telescope to view events like Lunar Eclipses.

The Border

This area is long and narrow, along our boundary with a driveway for a battleaxe block. I am in the process of planting a long edible hedge and some vines to make our house less visible from the road. The plants that I have chosen will hopefully entice the smaller birds to visit too.

The Roundabout Room

This is part of our driveway and is reminiscent of a roundabout. The large Spotted Gums and Ironbarks make this garden a challenge, but it’s slowly developing into a lovely feature. It has a large (to my mind ugly) succulent facing the front gate that I would love to get rid of, but as my partner says, at least it’s growing and drought tolerant. Perhaps I’ll remove it when the other plants get bigger.

Thanks for joining me on this stroll through the garden rooms,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

Plant Profile- Lemon Myrtle

I can’t imagine not having a Lemon Myrtle Tree now. So easy to grow, so lovely to look at, so useful in the kitchen. Every Australian household should grow one of these!

Also known as:

  • Backhousia citrodora
  • Lemon-scented Myrtle
  • Lemon Verbena Tree
  • Lemon Ironwood
  • Sweet Verbena Tree

Growing conditions:

  • Full sun
  • Tolerates most well-drained soils, prefers rich soil with mulch
  • Needs protection from frost and wind when young
  • Suitable for pots, hedges and gardens
  • Up to 20m in the wild, generally smaller in cultivation

Propagation:

  • Cuttings (difficult to strike and usually a smaller tree)
  • Seeds (poor germination rates)

Recipes:

The star shaped flowers send wafts of honey smells around the garden.

This tree a wonderful addition to a kitchen or permaculture garden. It’s leaves, flowers and seeds are edible and have countless uses.

Lemon Myrtle leaves have the highest levels of citral, the active ingredient, of any plant tested. This is what creates the lemon flavour. Citral is also a powerful anti-fungal and anti-microbial element sometimes used to treat warts, cold sores and acne. The leaves also contain calcium, antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, zinc and magnesium.

After the flowers come these lovely seed cases, abundant nut brown little flowers which I think would make wonderful confetti.

The most common use is as a herbal tea, which is as easy as plucking two or three leaves and pouring over boiling water. After 5 minutes to infuse your tea is ready. Add some honey for a delicious honey and lemon tea in winter or whenever you have a cold. The tea makes a lovely refreshing Summer drink too!

This tree was used extensively by First Nation people both as a food and a medicine. The leaves can be chewed as a cold and flu treatment. I tried this recently, but I couldn’t chew the leaf for long and made a tea instead. I use the leaves as a substitute for bay leaves in savoury dishes. I also stuff chicken with the fresh leaves before roasting and add it to tuna slices. Olive Oil infused with Lemon Myrtle (see recipe link above) is great for frying chicken or fish. I use it when frying home-made chicken nuggets and it adds a lovely subtle lemon note to the panko breadcrumbs. A dried powder from the leaves is a wonderful addition to sweet baking. The menthol component of the flavour tends to become stronger in heat so it’s best in sweet dishes that have a short cooking time.

The flowers and fruits attract lots of birds and beneficial insects, while the thick evergreen foliage offers refuge to smaller bird species all year around.

Commercially this plant is also used to make soaps, lotions and other beauty products. It is now grown around the world.

The other reason to have one of these trees is for their ornamental value. They have lovely thick foliage and in early Summer they are covered in star-shaped, honey scented flowers. After the flowers the nut-brown seed cases are just as pretty, looking like tiny flowers. I think they would make wonderful confetti.

Lemon Myrtle is notoriously difficult to propagate. I tried more than 20 cuttings this year and only one was successful. Cuttings should be taken in autumn from soft or semi-hardwood.

Lemon Myrtle grows vigourously in its home range which is the subtropical climate of South-east Queensland and Northern New South Wales. It can also be cultivated in cooler zones where it won’t grow as big or in the tropics where it grows enthusiastically. Young trees need lots of water in hot weather but it’s worth it for the benefits of this lovely plant.

Wishing you evergreen joy in your garden,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

References:

Sustainable Gardening Australia

Member, M. & Cross, J. (2018), Root to Bloom, Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne.

Hello Medium

Jane Grows Garden Rooms has started publishing on Medium! In pursuit of creativity and new audiences there’s even a publication…

I will continue to post Plant Profiles and details of my garden adventures here on my blog. There’s a lot of things I want to say that aren’t exactly “on topic” here so I am going to use Medium for that.

If you’re interested you can find the publication by clicking Tea with Mother Nature.

So far I’ve published four “stories”.

Ten Australian Bush Foods for Your Garden

The Moth who Flapped her Wings

Why I can’t Stop Feeding the Birds

Finishing this Book was like Leaving an Inspiring Mentor

Plant Profile – Midyim Berry bush

Also known as:

  • Austromyrtus dulcis
  • Midgen Berry
  • Midgem Berry
  • Sand Berry

Growing conditions:

  • Well-drained or sandy soil with a neutral ph
  • Part shade/full sun
  • Shrub (full sun) or groundcover (shade)
  • Up to 2 metres
  • Suitable for pots, rockeries, hedges and garden beds
  • Tolerates moderate pruning

Propagation

  • Cuttings
  • Fresh cleaned seed (germination 3-4 weeks)
  • Uncleaned seeds (germination 4-5 weeks)
  • Seeds need no stratification
The dark green mature leaves are almost as pretty as the red new growth.

The fruit of this plant has been hailed as a superfood. The berries are about the size of a blueberry and the flavour (from my experience) is reminiscent of blueberries with a touch of eucalyptus. The scientific name refers to the berries and translates to Sweet Southern Myrtle (Latin: Austro=Australis=Southern, Myrtus=Myrtle, Sweet=dulcis). The Naturalist James Backhouse, who travelled through the Australian colonies and took specimens back to Kew Gardens describes the berries favourably and cites them as an important food for local Aborigines. His quotes are recorded variously in historical record.

“…Taking therefore my compass, I determined to make my way direct to my companions, whom I succeeded in reaching, after same fatigue, by wading through a lagoon and crossing some steep hills. The latter was overgrown by Myrtus tenuifolia, a Myrtle of low stature with narrow leaves, and sweet aromatic, white berries spotted with purple. These are the most agreeable native fruit I have tasted in Australia; They are produced so abundantly as to afford an important article of food to the Aborigines…”

James Backhouse in A Narrative of a Visit to the Australian Colonies 1843

I planted two of these and the one in full sun thrived while the one in part shade was slow but steady. The plant in full sun flowered and fruited readily until a combination of flooding rains and increasing shade from the plants around it caused it to perish. I was devastated and unknowingly made the situation worse by giving it more water. If this happens again I will remove and replant in a position with better drainage and more sun. Apart from this event Midyim Berry Bushes have been a rewarding addition to my garden.

This plant is never more delightful than when the white flowers contrast with the red new growth and pink buds about to burst open.

The red new growth is delightful and the tiny flowers are gorgeous. Add to this the grey berries speckled with dark blue spots and this species is a perfect feature plant.

A drawing of the leaves for my sketchbook.

If you want to grow this subtle beauty, find a spot with good drainage and plenty of sun as well as protection from heavy frosts. This will reap rewards with occasional watering in hot weather.

Wishing you bursts of berry goodness,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

References:

Tucker Bush

Australian National Botanic Gardens

Pull Up Your Plants

Pull Up Your Plants on Medium

Australian Bushfoods