Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hedging plant Loropetalum chinense in Fairfield

As part of my horticulture certification I'm doing a class on plant identification and information re plants and their culture. This is my first plant. It's Loropetalum chinense 'China pink' which goes by the common name of Fringe flower. It originates from China and Japan and is used as an ornamental bush or as in this case, a hedge. Fringe flower plants can grow to 8 metres high with a spread of roughly 3 metres. They like need full sun and well drained soil. The water requirements for Loropetalum chinense are average. They are drought sensitive so irrigation is needed in times of prolonged dryness. They tolerate frost. This particular cultivar 'China pink' has pink flowers instead of white. It also has dark red / pinkish foliage but this only shows in new growth. This one has been recently trimmed which is why the foliage is nearly all green. It flowers in spring.

This Loropetalum hedge is growing in Fairfield, Victoria, Australia. Shortly before I photographed the hedge it was trimmed which explains the lack of flowers.

Well at least there were a couple of flowers on the hedge.

 Here is an example of what the new growth foliage looks like. Unfortunately it had been recently trimmed so it was nearly all green.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Annual bed in Parkville reloaded

Finally the front annual garden bed in Parkville is reborn. Outgoing plants are Tulips, Cinerarias, Mizuna and Primulas. The new annuals are Marigolds and Zinnias. The weather has been incredibly hot here lately as we are at the peak of Summer. It has also been very dry and we have had to diligently water this bed to keep it alive and thriving.
Below are gold old Marigolds. They had a bit of a rough start as we didn't plant them out for some time after we bought them. The mushroom compost they are planted in combined with regular watering bought them back with a vengeance.

We originally didn't plan for these Zinnias to be planted in the front garden bed. First off I planted some Celosias here but they failed to thrive so we planted Zinnias instead. Their vivid colours make them really stand out. 


Last of all is the Morning Glory cultivar called 'heavenly blue'. Finally we have utilized the wires that were installed on the back wall. This particular flower is a bit withered as it was 30+ Celsius the day I took these pictures. The Morning Glory was added as an afterthought. The whole design of the annual bed this time has really been a bit of a fluke. Certain plants failed and we made do with what we had on hand. I think it's figured out just fine, really colourfull and packed with different shapes and forms.



Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fun with paving and garden edging

I haven't been doing much in the way of gardening in my job in Parkville lately. That is because I've been installing garden edging and replacing a section of cracked paving. My role in the job is basically assisting and it has been interesting as I've never done any paving myself. For the edging we dug down to the bottom of the edging paver then put down a concrete footing on which the edging sits. We then added more concrete up the sides of the edging to support it. For the paving we put down a base of crushed rock and cement then hit it with a whacker to compact the base. We then laid pavers on top of a layer of mortar. I've decided to do some paving and stonework training at TAFE after I've finished my horticulture training.

Below is some of the lovely edging we installed. It really defined the garden bed that it surrounds.

Below is some of the almost finished section of paving that we replaced. We also widened the path from 2 pavers to 3 and also added the brick line that you can see towards the right hand side. This particular section is a slight decline which is why the aspect of the picture may seem strange. Note the difference in colour between the new and the old pavers. Such subtleties are noticeable and are the reason that there is a trade in reclaimed building supplies.

The person I've been assisting with this is stonemason Jock Langslow . He is a local and lives near my home in Macedon. Hopefully I'll be doing some work with him in the future building some stone retaining walls in Kyneton. The experience I gain from working on such projects combined with formal trade training should ensure a good grounding in this sort of work. It's something I want to break into after finishing my horticulture training and it will help me in the future with garden design.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The edible Portulaca or Purslane weed


Pigweed is an annual succulent weed. It can grow in areas of poor soil nutrition such as rocky wasteland and roadsides and also in good friable soil. It prefers full sun to shade. It is a prostrate spreading creeper that has a central taproot system.  Also known by the common name of Purslane this weed is a broadleaf plant with pinkish stems. It is a warm season weed and when mature it has small yellow flowers.

Portulaca oleracea reproduces mainly by vegetative spread and can also reproduce via seed.

Hand weeding is achievable with this plant although its taproot system does anchor it to the ground. Solarisation is a good option for controlling pigweed. Solarisation involves covering the weed with black plastic which kills the weed with heat.

Not only is it edible but it also tastes good. Of all the edible weeds I've tried so far this the only one I enjoy. I've found others I've tried have got that sharp rocket / endive edge to their flavour whereas Purslane is mild. It is a great substiture for lettuce or other similar greens in a salad.  Also the nutritional properties of Purslane also reflect favourably on it as an edible plant. It contains vitamin A, B and C. It contains the minerals magnesium, potassium, iron and calcium. It is also a source of omega 3 fatty acids. Of course never eat any plant that you are not 100% confident of identifying

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weed identification Euphorbia peplus or Petty spurge

Last year as part of my formal horticulture training I did a course on weed identification. It was a very useful course and I found that once you can identify a weed you seem to see it everywhere. I've decided to try and add some weed identification posts to my blog as a way to refresh my memory of them and to inform anyone who is interested in the subject.

Botanical name: Euphorbia peplus.

Common names: Petty spurge, radium weed, milkweed or cancer weed.

Life cycle: Annual

Growth period: Warm season

Preferred habitat: It seems to be able to grow in very shallow soil. I've seen it growing in the cracks of pavers. Petty spurge seems to like good friable soil as opposed to rocky wasteland. It likes lots of sun.

Root system: Fibrous

Size: 5 - 30cm tall

Physical characteristics: Small ovate leaves and green flowers. Milky latex sap when cut.

Physical control: Hand removal or burning

Cultural control: Mulching will keep Petty spurge down for a while but not for long. Petty spurge is a strong competitor so crowding it out with other plants may not be successful.

Reproduction methods: Petty spurge can reproduce by seed if left long enough. It can also propagate itself by vegetative spread (ie parts of the plant that are broken off and left on soil can form into new plants).

Chemical control: Glyphosate can destroy Petty spurge but it is an easy weed to remove by hand so chemical control may not be suitable depending on the level of weed infestation.

Friend or Foe? An interesting fact about Euphorbia Peplus is that it's toxic to rapidly reproducing human tissue. It has been used as a herbal remedy for skin lesions including skin cancer. The method for this treatment is to rub the white latex sap of the affected area of skin. The active ingredient in the sap is actually used in some pharmaceutical products for skin problems.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Amaranthus in Macedon. Ornamental, Edible or Weed?

I brought home these deep red Amaranthus as tiny seedlings that we sowed in pots in Parkville. I'm generally not a fan of the plum red coloured plants. They remind me of those horrible Prunus trees that you see planted in the naturestrips of Melbourne suburbs but I have grown accustomed to these Amaranthus plants. I think they would make a nice backdrop plant with more brightly coloured plants in the foreground.

Amaranthus is the genus of this plant and Amaranthaceae is the family. The genus contains over 60 different species which vary in colour and shape. The flowers and foliage can be green, purple, red or yellow or a combination of these depending on the species. Another type I want to grow in the future is a tricolour variant called, believe it or not, Amaranthus tricolour.

Amaranthus are annual, warm season plants. They are related to Celosias. They are not just used as ornamental plants. Some species are used as food crops. The seed contains protein and the food known as Quinoa is in fact from a plant of the Amaranthaceae family. Flour can be made from Amaranthus seed and the leaves, stems and roots from certain species are also edible. A red dye can also be produced from some Amaranthus plants.

Some Amaranthus plants are also considered weeds. Recently a new strain called Amaranthus palmeri has emerged which is resistant to Glyphosate (roundup). Amaranthus come from the Greek word Amarantos which means 'unwithering'. It is the subject of an ancient Greek fable where a Rose flower is jealous of the Amaranthus flower because it is unwithering whereas the Rose only lasts a season. This is confusing as Amaranthus plants are all considered annuals or short lived perennials according to all information I've researched.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dahlias in flower

These Dahlias are now in flower in the Parkville garden. Dahlias are herbaceous perennial plants of the Asteraceae family (which includes sunflowers, daisies and zinnias). It is native to Mexico and is Mexico's national flower. Dahlias are very popular flowers and as such people have produced numerous different cultivars. 99 cultivars have achieved the Royal Horticultural Society's award of merit. This society offered a prize of $2000 pounds in 1846 for anybody who could produce a blue Dahlia. To this day a blue Dahlia has never been propagated. One particular type of Dahlia I want to grow is called the 'cactus dahlia'. It is a double with curious petals that roll backward giving it the appearance of a star. There are 36 different species of Dahlia. I haven't been able to identify the Dahlia pictured below but will endeavour to do so.