Sunday, April 28, 2013

How to propagate Aeoniums from cuttings

I liked Aeoniums the first time a saw them and still do. They seem to have universal appeal as even people who don't like succulent plants tend to have a soft spot for the Aeonium. I suppose they don't have the classic succulent look about them. What they do have are magnificent leaves and peculiar shaped inflorescences of flowers. There are about 35 different species of Aeoniums and most are from the Canary Islands. From the experience I've had with the Aeoniums at my place I would definitely describe them as a low maintenance plant. I only water them once in a blue moon and they seem to tolerate a mild amount of frost. 

The magnificent rosette of leaves of an Aeonium plant.

Another angle of the same type of Aeonium.

The wonderful inflorescence of flowers they produce. You will need to wait a couple of years before they are mature enough to flower.


Aeoniums are a really easy plant to propagate from cuttings as is the case with many succulent plants. As such they are suited to beginners. They require little skill, no greenhouse and as yet I've never had one that didn't strike roots (100% success rate).

  • A pair of secateurs
  • A mature and healthy Aeonium plant to take cuttings from
  • A cactus / succulent mix to plant the cuttings in
  • Pots

The most important thing to know when trying to propagate Aeoniums from cuttings is the timing. Aeoniums will only produce roots during their active growth period which is the cooler months of the year if you live in a place with really hot Summers. In somewhere like Melbourne Australia I would avoid trying to propagate them in the peak of Summer.


Assuming you have the timing down you need to then cut off a rosette of leaves from the mother plant leaving enough stem to plant the cutting (say 5cm at the least). You then dry the cutting a little by leaving it on newspaper overnight or maybe 2 nights if you want. You then plant the cutting into a pre watered pot of cactus / succulent potting mix and that's all! I never use rooting hormone or any of that jazz as I you don't need it with Aeoniums. I keep the potting mix damp for about a month or until the plants grow a little. After that they don't need much attention.

Have fun propagating :)

Below are a couple of cuttings I have taken from the mother plant.

Some more cuttings in place in their pots

This is one I did about 1 year ago. Its a tought little plant I've let it go dry for weeks and it looks really healthy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Visit to the historical Cameron Lodge Botanical Gardens in Mount Macedon

Last weekend I visited the Cameron Lodge gardens in Mount Macedon near my home and they didn't fail to impress. Originally built in 1886 it was names 'Rahiri'. In 1916 It was purchased by William Cameron who has the director of British American Tobacco who renamed it Cameron Lodge. William Cameron was the one who commissioned the landscaping work on the property and is thereby credited with creating the gardens. Cameron Lodge is one of the luck properties that survived the Ash Wednesday bushfires in the 1980s so there are lots of large established trees such as a Giant Sequoia, Pin Oaks, Oriental Spruce, Japanese Maples, English Elm and Copper Beech. In my opinion the highlight of the gardens is a structure build in 1932 called the 'Temple of the Winds' which is a pillared structure surrounded in the middle of a large pond. You need to step over small stepping stones to get to it. The garden also contains a potager (picking / vegetable garden) with beds bordered by box hedge and the whole potager surrounded by a large holly hedge. Cameron Lodge is a massive garden of several hectares and as such it has 2 full time gardeners and 1 full time hedger. Topiary and hedges play a massive part in the design of the garden to the point where a service driveway hundreds of metres long is completely hidden by huge hedges which run its entire length. Cameron Lodge is a really beautiful and huge garden and I highly recommend visiting on one of its open days. It is part of the open gardens scheme in Victoria. 

The sound of this fountain is audible from the entrance and its head peeks over the top of a hedge.

This is the pittosporum hedge which forms the front border of the property.

Box hedge creating the border for this garden bed. A theme repeated throughout the garden.

A view of the front fountain in its entirety.

The main residence of Cameron Lodge. Although a large house I liked the fact that it was a bit less monstrous in terms of height compared to some of the Mount Macedon properties. 

View from the main residence looking toward the back of the property.

View of garden beds on the side of the main residence.

Some topiary near the smaller cottage in the middle of the gardens.

One thing I gained from the visit was an appreciation of Holly like this nice variegated specimen.

There were lots of trees in the garden and lots of nice shadows cast across the paths.

View of the 'Temple of the winds'

One of several elephants in the pond surrounding the temple.

The stepping stones which are the only way to get to the temple.

View from the temple looking across the pond which surrounds it.

The maples were just starting to colour up for Autumn.

These 'Roman Baths' are one of the features that were recently restored.

This pergola was enveloped by Wisteria.

This is part of the long driveway which is hidden by hedges. You can see why they need a full time hedger.

One of the herbaceous beds.

Vegetable beds in the potager. They were a bit lacking in produce but that may be indicative of the season.

These Dahlias were also in the potager probably grown for picking and display in the house.

More Autumn colour showing in the trees

Some stone steps near the middle of the gardens. The property is quite steep in parts, the gardeners must be fit from all the uphill walking they need to do.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Nephrolepis cordifolia or Fishbone fern an Australian native plant

Botanical name: Nephrolepis cordifolia
Common names: Fishbone fern, herringbone fern, narrow sword fern, tuber ladder fern and erect sword fern
Native to: Australia and some parts of Asia

In my family Nephrolepis cordifolia is a divisive plant. This is because my father planted them in almost every family house garden he owned over the years. It was almost like that was the only plant he could be bothered with. I think because I've seen so many of them over the years they look boring to me but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I know lots of people like these plants.

Nephrolepis cordifolia has been introduced to several countries including the USA, New Zealand, French Polynesia and Bermuda. In New Zealand and Florida USA it has been declared a noxious weed due to its invasive tendencies in those areas. I suppose you are always going to run that risk if you introduce tuberous plants to areas where they do not originate from.

Fishbone ferns are native to Australia, particularly Northern Australia. That being the case you wouldn't think they would grow down South in Melbourne but they do. They are often used to line driveways, encircle trees or to line the base of a house. They are very tough drought tolerant plants. I would describe them as a low maintenance plant because of their low water needs and the fact they don't really need any pruning. The only pruning you might do on a Fishbone fern is to cut out any old dead fronds or to completely cut them down to start them off again. They can be frost tender but in places like Melbourne they are fine. They can grow to 1 metre high and spread 1 metre. They like well drained soil and full sun but will tolerate some shade. I would recommend this plant to anyone in Australia who needs a fairly low growing plant which basically needs no watering and no maintenance.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Identifying the edible Lactarius deliciosus aka Saffron milkcap mushroom in Australia.

Botanical Name: Lactarius deliciosus
Common Names: Saffron milkcap or Delicious milkcap


Before I start on how to identify these mushrooms let me state that eating mushrooms you find in the wild can be and extremely dangerous thing to do if you don't know what you're doing. Certain fungi can kill you if you consume them and there is nothing the doctors can do to save your life (eg. eat the deathcap mushroom and you will die as a result). Several poisonous mushrooms look almost exactly like edible ones. An example of this is that the deathcap mushroom is often confused with oyster mushrooms which you can find on the supermarket shelf. If you want to pick and eat Saffron milkcaps or other edible mushrooms I suggest that you do a short course as I did. This information is meant as a rough guide only and as such I hold no responsibilty for any death or injury which may occur as a result of actions taken due to this blog entry. 

A Lactarius deliciosus mushroom hiding in the pine needles.


Now that I've scared the pants off you lets start. Lactarius deliciosus mushrooms are introduced to Australia from Europe. They are a common mushroom in Europe and many people there pick them to eat. To be honest I think that the taste of these mushrooms doesn't differ dramatically from the taste of a regular field mushroom that you can buy from the supermarket. The fun for me is in the search for the mushrooms and I suppose they are also more visually appealing than button or field mushrooms because of their shape and orange colour. Because of the strange orange colour so far nobody I have offered these to have eaten them. I suppose I don't blame them as they look quite strange. I find that in Victoria they tend to grow in the colder parts of the state and are usually found around Autumn. I've never seen any during Summer.


For Identification purposes one of the main points is that these mushrooms are only found under pine trees such as the one in the pictures below. They is because the mycelium that the mushrooms grow from only grows on the roots of pine trees (European trees). If you see anything you think is a Saffron milkcap that is growing where there are no pine trees then do not eat it as it could be poisonous.

Here's the pine tree which I have picked many a Saffron milkcap from over the years.

The next Two shots are closer views of the foliage of the above tree.


The stem of a Lactarius deliciosus mushroom has spots on its stem as shown in the picture below. Therefore when you cut them from the ground make sure you cut some of the stem off along with the cap so you can more easily identify this feature.

There they are clear as day. Spots on the stem of a Saffron milkcap mushroom


When you cut the stem of one of these mushrooms it will start bleeding latex after some time. This latex is bright orange. I mean its really orange as in almost fluorescent in its brilliance. The picture below doesn't really do this point justice as there is not much of the latex sap showing (I should have squeezed the stem or waited a bit longer before taking the picture). The latex will easily show on your hands or clothes if it comes into contact with them.

Not the best picture as not much latex is weeping but you can see some on the cut edge of the stem.


The gills of this mushroom are what are known as shortly decurrent (extending downwards) and bright orange in colour. They also turn green when bruised.

You can see here the decurrent gills of this Lactarius deliciosus. The gills are not damaged so there is no green bruising showing.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Visit to the Castlemaine botanical gardens.

Last week I went to Castlemaine to go to the market there and also to visit the botanical gardens. Castlemaine is North of my home in Macedon and lies outside of the Macedon Rages shire. It is in what is known as the 'Goldfields' area because it along with other towns was part of the old gold rush in Victoria. The climate of Castlemaine is warmer than my home Macedon due to the elevation (310 metres compared to Macedon's 505 metres). The difference in temperature makes a huge difference to the type of plants that can grow and thrive. Also the gardeners of Castlemaine must be a tough bunch of people because the ground there seems like rock hard clay without any topsoil. It must have been back breaking work for the miners that once dug into the ground there.

The gardens are over 150 years old and 25 hectares in size. They were officially gazetted on the 21st of February 1860. The biggest draw card the gardens has is its magnificent collection of established trees (over 850 species). There are several national trust trees in the gardens. Near the entrance is the man made Lake Joanna which when I visited was unfortunately in poor shape. The lake had a green tinge from blue green algae and one of the trees on the island in the middle of the lake had broken and was lying on the ground. However at the front of the lake there were several nice gazebos and garden beds.

The first curator of the gardens was Philip Doran who was appointed in 1866 and was still the curator when he died in 1913 aged 87. The overall design and layout still reflects Doran's design although as time inevitably took Doran it has also taken some of the original trees. These have been replaced to try and retain his original vision. Many of the original trees were sourced from Baron Ferdinand von Mueller who is responsible for many of the original tree plantings in Melbourne. The walking path around the gardens is lined by mostly elms and oak trees which cast attractive shadows over the path. The size of some of the trees is staggering, especially the English Oak (planted by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1867) which is the largest of its kind that I've seen.  

One of Two gazebos near the entrance to the gardens.

You can't go past some white roses for classic old school appeal.

Wisteria was climbing over the roof of this structure which produced filtered light.

Fountain near the entrance circled by standard roses.

Another gazebo with a climber rambling over it.

Entrance to the gardens which is a 1km walk from Castlemaine train station.

Fagus Sylvatica 'atropunicea' or common name Copper Beech.

Lake Joanna had seen better days the green algae was clearly visible.

Three huge Phoenix canariensis trees or common name Canary Island Date Palm.

This monster is an Aleppo Pine (botanical name Pinus halepensis).

Pinus pinea aka Stone Pine. These were national trust trees of significance.

The bark of the Stone Pines is amazing.

Another national trust tree. This time its an English Oak tree Quercus robur. The size of the canopy is incredible.

This tree wasn't labelled but I'm pretty sure its a Catalpa bignonioides or Indian Bean Tree. I've heard people describe this tree as the ultimate shade tree and this one certainly gave credence to that reputation. Look at the solid shadow underneath it. Its a bit hard to tell from the picture but the leaves on these trees are massive.

The leaves were just starting to colour up for Autumn. I'll have to return in a month or so to see these gardens in Autumn glory.

Elms and Oaks lining the main walking path.

Same path different oaks.

These national trust trees are right at the front entrance. They are Ulmus glabra 'camperdownii' or Camperdown Elms.