Saturday, December 20, 2014

Calendula officinalis aka pot marigold a greet self seeder in my home garden

Calendula officinalis the plant that keeps on giving

Calendula or pot marigold is a very popular and common annual flower in many ornamental gardens throughout the world. In fact it is so commonplace that I found inconclusive results as to which region this plant originates. Some sources say Europe and others India. It can grow to about 80cm tall in extreme cases and can be used in mass plantings as a complete ground cover. Calendula has many medicinal, companion planting, culinary and even cosmetic uses which I will write about in another blog entry.

Self seeding 

I planted Calendula in one of my flower beds at home a couple of years ago and it is still going strong to this day. Being an annual plant Calendula's tactic for reproductions is to produce as many seeds as it can which fall to the ground after the flowers are done. The flowers are at their best in spring and summer however in Melbourne they can pretty much have some sort of flower on display all year round. The seeds have an interesting shape and remind me of little dried and curled up millipedes. The first year they sprouted in my garden from self sown seeds I originally thought they could be forget me not seedlings (forget me nots are a bit of a weed in my area depending on whether you like them  or not). Luckily I suspected they could be Calendula seedlings and let them develop into full plants.

Escape artist

Calendula is such a successful self seeder that it can escape if you let it. It is not fussy about soil conditions and I have seen it growing in my Macedon garden in between pavers where the soil would be quite poor. If you want it to self seed as I do then leaving a few plants to die off naturally will ensure they are perpetual garden residents. If you don't want them around any more it is important to dead head or pull out the plants once they develop seed heads (see below the picture below).

Calendula flowers in my Macedon garden during early summer.

A close up of a Calendula seed head loaded with seed. If you don't want any more pot marigolds then you need to make sure these little seed bombs don't hit the ground.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Visit to the Geelong Botanic Gardens in spring 2014

The Geelong Botanic Gardens

Brief history of the gardens

The gardens were first established in 1856 and are the fourth oldest botanic gardens in Australia. The first curator of the gardens was the English born botanist and gardener Daniel Bunce who developed and expanded the gardens in terms of both its physical size and in the amount of established plants which it contained. In 1859 published a catalogue of 2,235 plants which he established in the gardens which is impressive considering he was only appointed curator in 1857. He was also responsible for many of the now mature trees, some of which are national trust trees.

The second curator was John Raddenberry who was responsible for reducing the amount of Bunce's blue gums and replacing them with more traditional English trees. He was also build a huge fernery (18 metres high) which was neglected then demolished. Around this time the gardens shrunk in size but in 1959 they were expanded again and in the present day they are large in size but also packed with interesting plants.

Entrance plantings

Upon arriving at the gardens I was impressed by the entrance which was announced with the flower spikes of several Xanthorrhoea plants and the swollen trunks of Queensland bottle (boab) trees. Xanthorrhoea plants are really expensive (you are charged per cm of height) and these ones were huge. Once I had walked into the gardens themselves I encountered what is known as the 21st Century garden which had a large pond (or billabong), a landscaped sand area, natives and exotics, a cactus bed and to my delight a tree named Dracaena draco (dragon tree). I had seen a another similar tree online called Dracaena cinnabari on the internet and didn't realize we had this similar tree in Victoria.

Xanthorrhoea plants complete with flower spikes 

The swollen bellys of these trees were a dead give-away that they were boab trees aka Queensland bottle trees.

The amazing branch structure of the dragon tree (botanical name Dracaena draco).

 Ponytail palm trees in the 21st century garden.

The cactus bed with the classic barrel cactus in abundance. 

Rose and tea gardens

The next part of the gardens was the rose garden which had all the different types of old roses on display. Unfortunately none were in flower that day because seeing them all in flower would have been a great way to see their differences and would have helped me in future identification of old roses. Following the rose area was a section called the tea garden which contained plants to make teas and herbal infusions such as fennel and calendula.

I'm guessing this may have been the original entrance but it is now surrounded by the 21st century garden. There are two 'bollard people' one of which you can see in the picture below. The other bollard represents Daniel Bunce.

One half of the rose garden which unfortunately was not in flower at the time.

Part of a bed of calendula in one of the tea garden beds.

Rock pillar of the forgotten garden

After the rose and tea beds there was a large fountain close to several large banana trees complete with fruit. This area also had a section called the forgotten garden which I'm pretty sure is where the old fernery used to be. A large rock pillar which was covered in sprawling creeping fig remains in place. This pillar used to be at the centre of the massive fernery.

Banana trees complete with fruit.

The large rock pillar which used to be the central piece of the now demolished fern house.

National trust trees and the temperate garden

Beyond the forgotten garden I found several of the national trust trees such as huge Ginkgo biloba (maidenhair tree) and one of my personal favourites a Californian redwood tree. Near the Ginkgo was an extensive collection of pelargonium plants and a section called the temperate garden.

The national trust Ginkgo biloba tree. Ginkgo's are an ancient tree species that evolved before flowering plants.

Part of the temperate garden

A view from underneath the national trust Sequoia sempervirens (Californian redwood) tree. One of my personal favourites.

The next two pictures are of the Pelargonium collection.

Parallel beds with interesting plants

I ended the visit with a walk through several of the parallel garden beds. I'm not entirely sure but I think these may have been part of Bunce's original design. From there I walked back through the new fern area and as to end the visit I saw a bizarre looking tree that seemed to be directing all its growth to one side. I didn't have time to properly identify it but I think it may have been a monkey puzzle tree. If you are interested in plants and gardens please visit the Geelong botanic gardens if you are in the area. You will not regret it.

One of the parallel beds bordered by good old English box.

At first I thought the plant in the next two pictures was a Correa but it was called Justicia pauciflora.

 Aucuba japonica or variegated Japanese laurel.

Justicia brandegeana common name shrimp bush. I guess I can see why it got that name.

 A flower on a South African bottle brush bush.

A view of the fernery with soft tree ferns a plenty.

Maybe this tree was once shaded out on one side causing its growth to be directed to one side.