The Hunter Expressway is bursting with Spring colour

Motorists who have been travelling along the Hunter Expressway recently may have noticed a colourful display along the banks. Extensive displays of purple and yellow feature the flowers of wattles and hardenbergia.

Hardenbergia, also known as False sarsaparilla or Purple coral pea, is a hardy, evergreen, twining, woody stemmed climbing plant. It has dark leathery leaves. The present display demonstrates the mass effect that can be obtained when plants are grown on banks where they can spread. Masses of dark purple flowers create a carpet covering the surrounding soil surface.

A position of full sun or part shade should be selected for optimal growth. It flowers better in full sun and it needs well drained soil and preferably likes a frost free site, although it tolerates some frost. Like many evergreen climbers, it has a tendency to run up a wall or fence and ball at the top and be leggy below. But for compact growth and an even fence coverage prune regularly after flowering.

VIVID PURPLE: Hardenbergia is currently out in full colour along the Hunter Expressway.,

VIVID PURPLE: Hardenbergia is currently out in full colour along the Hunter Expressway.,

Probably the most widely grown variety in Australia is hardenbergia violacea ‘Happy Wanderer’. There is also a pale pink form called hardenbergia ‘rosea’ which is has flowers with a soft pink colour. A pure white form, hardenbergia ‘alba’, is also available. Recent breeding has actually developed some upright shrubby forms including hardenbergia ‘purple clusters’. It grows to about a metre by a metre and has a mass of purple flowers in winter spring.

Hardenbergia violacea is a useful plant to include in the garden structure, especially one that features native or semi-formal plants. It can be used to hide a fence or structure, with its mass of flowers in winter and spring.

Hardenbergia violacea is usually a climbing plant whose branches twist around the stems of other plants. It is moderately vigorous but rarely covers other plants so extensively as to cause damage. Shrubby forms without any climbing tendency are known. The leaves are dark, glossy green with prominent veins and are 75-100mm in length.

Propagation is easy from seed following pre-treatment to break the seed coat. Pre-treatment can be carried out by abrasion, such as rubbing with sandpaper or by the use of boiling. The seed retains viability for many years.

Cuttings strike well using firm, current season’s growth.

CHIVE TALKIN’

Chives are members of the onion family, along with shallots and garlic, and form a valuable addition to the vegetable or herb garden. Plants of chives also form an attractive addition to the ordinary garden, producing clumps of bright green, cylindrical leaves. Pink, purple or white flowers, in a “pompom” style, are also features.

Plants should be placed in fertile, moist soil in a sunny or semi-shaded position. If grown from seed, the soil temperature should be over 19ºC for germination to take place. Otherwise larger clumps can be divided, lifting and replanting the smaller clumps of plants 10-15cm apart. Plants growing in cooler areas may die down in winter but new shoots will soon appear during spring.

Stems can be harvested as required, or the plant’s stems can be reduced to about 3cm in height four times in a year. As well as growing chives in the garden, they also make good specimens for pot culture.

For a more informal garden, plants of chives can be combined with ornamental grasses and lower growing perennials.

NEW GROWTH

As the weather, and, subsequently the soil, begins to warm, areas of lawn will start to produce new growth.

However, with the new growth often comes a variety of problems. One of the most common is the appearance of bare patches in the lawn. This may occur through the application of too much fertiliser as gardeners try to encourage lawns to produce rich, new, strong growth. 

But an over-application of fertilisers, including organic fertilisers, will result in an excess of nitrogen being applied to the lawn, burning the roots and stems of the grasses. The use of a purpose-built spreader will ensure an even and appropriate coverage.

Random application of fertiliser from a container will probably result in an uneven spread. However, applying half the fertiliser in one direction and then applying the remaining half in the opposite direction will assist in ensuring a more even spread.

As lawns produce their new growth a variety of weeds will often also appear. These will generally be broad-leaf weeds such as dandelions, marshmallows, cat’s ear, plantain, dock and chickweed. Lawns that have been well, and appropriately, fertilised will reduce the likelihood of weeds being able to take root as there will be fewer spaces between the grass plants.

The broad-leaf weeds can be removed by hand, using a sharp digging tool.

A number of “organic” control methods are preferred by some gardeners. In general, it may be necessary for repeated applications before control is obtained. These organic control methods include:

* Adding a mixture of boiling water and vinegar can be applied directly to the individual plants.

* A cup of salt dissolved in two litres of vinegar can also be applied.

* Larger areas may require the application of a specifically developed selective herbicide.

geoffh.gardening@gmail.com

Maitland and District Garden Club

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