While camellias are familiar to many gardeners at this time of the year, a plant relative, Gordonia axillaris, also produces a most attractive display in the late autumn and early winter months.
Gordonia axillaris has been renamed to Franklinia axillaris, but the name Gordonia is still widely used.
The Gordonia is an evergreen large shrub or small tree that is most suitable for growing in smaller gardens or on footpaths. It is often regarded as one of the very best small trees for Australian conditions, although it is not widely selected.
Plants produce large pure white flowers with bright yellow stamens above glossy, dark green leaves. The appearance of the flowers gives plants their common name of 'Fried Egg Plant.' Flowers are produced over a long period from autumn to spring.
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Plants grow to between three and five metres at maturity, with a similar spread. However, many specimens are at the lower end of that range. Pruning the plant will promote a denser growth.
The orange-brown bark is a feature of the plant.
Plants are easy to grow although young plants may require some protection from heavier frosts.
When gordonia flowers drop from the bush they land with the stamens facing upwards.
A position of full sun to part shade, in well-drained slightly acidic soil will be preferred.
Green vegetables are features of the winter garden. Peas and kale are two green vegetables that make useful additions to the home garden.
Snow peas and sugar peas should be sown directly into the garden bed or large container where they will eventually grow. Seeds should be planted 8-10cm apart.
In areas of heavier frosts, seeds may be planted initially into pots.
These plants are like garden peas except that they have a softer pod. This makes them ideal for eating the whole of the pod and seeds.
Supports for the growing plants should be placed out when the seeds are planted as young tendrils will soon appear. Tree prunings, small twigs, wire netting or strings tied between posts are different ways in which support can be provided. Cool weather is essential for the successful growing of peas.
It is important to pick the pods regularly, once cropping has commenced, as this will encourage the plants to produce more pods, extending the productive season.
Kale is a green leafy plant that can be used as a nutritious vegetable by itself, or it can also be used as a substitute for cabbage varieties. It has a strong flavour, although a tomato or cheese sauce used with Kale may mask its flavour. Kale should be washed well, then chopped finely and steamed.
Plants of kale are easy to grow and will be ready for harvesting in 7-9 weeks from planting.
Seeds can be sown in seed trays and planted out in 4-6 weeks. They are best planted out before the soil becomes too cold. Seedlings should be spaced 40-50cm apart.
Early winter is an ideal time in which to check climbing plants now that many trees and other plants are becoming leafless.
Climbers such as wisteria and bougainvillea can become rampant in growth, reaching undesirable places. The lack of leaves allows the gardener to observe the amount of growth that the climber has made, in addition to the places it has grown.
Pruning back branches on the climber will help to maintain a manageable plant, as well as encouraging it to send out new growth, which will produce more flowers in spring and summer.
If the climber has reached up into a tree, there is the possibility that it will have damaged branches and limbs that may eventually die and fall. Severing the climber at the point where it commences to climb may be preferred.
While trees are bare of leaves is also a good opportunity to check the main trunk and branches for infestations of borer, or damage to the bark.
Areas of a fine sawdust-like material, with the particles stuck together will indicate the presence of borers. These are grubs that burrow into the tree's wood, weakening the timber and eventually causing branches to fall off, and the tree to die. Once the sawdust covering has been scraped away, a hole, in which the grub will be active, will be evident underneath.
A piece of thin wire can be used in an attempt to remove the grub. In addition, an insecticide can be sprayed into the hole. The hole can which can then be plugged with putty or a similar material.
Sticky brown resin on the trunk of a tree, fungi growth or pieces of bark that are lifting from the surface may all indicate a serious problem with the tree. This will need to be assessed and treated by a tree professional. If the problem is left it may develop further and the tree may gradually die.
Many trees have suffered from the extremes of weather over the last several years, particularly extended periods of dryness. Checking on the health of the tree whilst its branches are bare may identify problems that can be rectified before too much damage has been done to the tree.
If limbs have to be removed from a tree, professional advice should be sought, especially if power lines are nearby or there is danger that limbs will fall on to buildings.
Maitland and District Garden Club
- Dahlia tubers should be lifted carefully from garden beds, the soil removed and the tubers stored in a dry place until replanting in spring.
- The blades on lawn mowers should be lifted during the cooler months.
- Strawberry runners can be planted out, ensuring that certified virus-free plants are selected