A number of native plants are coming into full bloom now, both in the garden and in the bush that surrounds our residential areas.
Hardenbergia, also known as False Sarsparilla or Purple Coral Pea, is a member of the pea family and produces masses of dark purple pea flowers to accompany the dark green leathery leaves. It flowers best when planted in well-drained soil in a sunny position. Regular pruning will help to keep the plant, which is a natural climber, more compact.
Hardenbergia "Happy Wanderer" is the variety most commonly grown, although other varieties, with colour variations are available. It is well suited to be used to cover a fence or bank.
Grevilleas are also beginning to display their attractive flowers. Those growing in bush areas are more often the "spider" type of flower, so called because of the nature of the individual blooms. While these types of plants are also available for growing in home gardens, hybrid varieties, with large flowers are more commonly selected.
Grevilleas are available in a range of colours including red, cream, mauve, pink and orange. New varieties are constantly being bred and released for public purchase. Many of these are the result of crossing different varieties.
When selecting plants for the garden, in addition to selecting the colour, consider the height that the plant will reach, as well as growth habit and leaf style. With the increasing number of varieties available, the gardener will be able to select plants that suit their particular requirements.
The result will be an abundance of colourful flowers that smell sweetly and are very attractive to native birds, growing on bushes that, in general, require a minimum of care, apart from pruning after flowering.
Many bottlebrushes (Callistemons) are also beginning to form their flowering buds. These will soon display flowers in a variety of colours.
Like grevilleas, bottlebrush are also available to suit a wide variety of situations and purposes. A green form, Callistemon viridiflorus, produces strong flowers in an unusual green colour.
Bottlebrush are very tough plants and will grow in many areas, including damper areas of the garden and grow from prostrate forms right through to large shrubs and small trees.
Many home gardeners like to include a citrus tree or two in their garden planting. Citrus fruits are ideal to have in the garden as they are an excellent source of Vitamin C, with the fruit being able to be eaten fresh, or as a source of juice.
The most common varieties of citrus that are planted are lemons, oranges and mandarins.
New varieties that are ideally suitable for smaller garden beds or courtyard planting have recently become available as dwarf-growing versions of the more traditional trees forms.
GO FOR CITRUS
Winter is an ideal time in which to plant out new citrus trees, except in areas frosts, when late September and early October would be preferable.
Lemons are available in several varieties that can be selected according to tree size as well as fruit production time.
Meyer lemon is a small growing tree with deep-green leaves and large, thin-skinned fruit in a rich yellow colour. The fruit is produced during the winter months and is very good source of juice. Meyer lemons are quite suitable for colder areas.
Lisbon lemons grow into large trees with pale green leaves. The fruit, produced mainly in winter but also at other times of the year is large and thick-skinned.
A large semi-weeping tree is the growth habit of the Eureka lemon. The trees are thornless, making them ideal for areas where children are active.
One variety of citrus that is available now but is less common than other types is the tangelo. Tangelos are a cross between mandarins and grapefruits. They are very juicy fruits, producing an abundance of sweet juice despite their grapefruit origins. They have a rather thin reddish-orange skin and a thinner neck, similar in shape to a pear. Two of the more common varieties are "Seminole" and "Minneola". Minneola produces fewer seeds.
Seminole can be ready for harvesting in mid-June.
Tangelos can be used in traditional citrus-based marmalades as well as a juice source for savoury dishes and muffins.
Asian vegetables have gained in popularity for home cooking.
Bok choy is one of the more popular. It is also known as wong bok, but, more commonly as Chinese cabbage. Chinese cabbage is probably the best known and widely grown oriental vegetable, although it is not a true cabbage. In fact, it belongs to the mustard group of vegetables and is a cross between pak choi and turnips. It is the Chinese green vegetable that is closest to the traditional cabbage shape, although its tightly packed leaves are crinkly and lighter green than ordinary cabbage leaves.
Chinese cabbage should be planted after the danger of frosts has passed as the plants will form seeds, rather than the fleshy leaves, if plants are grown in cold weather.
Planting Chinese cabbage into fertile soil is preferred, with the addition of some lime to the soil prior to planting. Better results are obtained by growing from seeds as seedlings do not always transplant well.
Alternatively, seeds can be grown in peat pots in the in initial stages, and the pots can then be placed whole into the vegetable garden. Nagaoka F1 is an early variety.
- Stake new tomato plants at planting time in order to avoid damage to root systems as they become more established.
- Give new seedlings a feed with a general fertiliser in order to encourage maximum flower production.
- Check plants for moisture levels by pushing a finger in to the soil and soak the pot in a bucket of water if it is very dry.
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