What to do in the garden this month - July.

I know that winter doesn’t really seem like the most appealing time to be gardening, however it is actually a great time to get things prepared for spring. I personally love spending time in the garden during winter (when it’s not raining) i then reap the rewards come September/October.

A few important things to do this month include:

  1. Prune roses (i will do a post on this next month)

  2. Keep your gardens well mulched

  3. Feed citrus

  4. Plant asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries

  5. Sow carrots, spring onions, leeks, broad beans, radishes, English spinach and peas.

  6. Keep the garden tidy- mulch, sweep, weed and put in some potted colour. Pansies are my top choice, as are Primulas.

Photo taken in my Mum’s garden. Camellia variety: unknown.

Photo taken in my Mum’s garden. Camellia variety: unknown.

Photo taken in my Mum’s garden. Camellia variety: unknown.

Photo taken in my Mum’s garden. Camellia variety: unknown.

Winter beauties- Camellias

This beautiful Camellia is flowering in the laneway near my house. The colder it gets the more blooms it has. I took these photos on a very wild and windy Monday…..it was absolutely freezing cold and bucketing with rain.

I am not sure of the variety…..could be Camellia japonica ‘Desire’.

There are two main types of Camellias. Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica.

Flowering season: NOW!

Most Camellias prefer semi shade or full shade as the hot sun will burn leaves and those very delicate flowers. They do like to have their roots covered with a nice amount of mulch and don’t love too much competition, so keep planting underneath to a minimum, if at all.

Camellias do very well as a screen or hedge, and are very pest and disease resistant.

Fertilising should begin with the first signs of new growth, even though the plant may still be blooming. Feed regularly during the growing season; September, December and February with a liquid fertiliser such as Aquasol. It is important to water ground well before and after applying fertiliser.

Apply Osmocote Plus as a six month slow release fertiliser in Spring and Autumn. Specially formulated Camellia and Azalea Food is suitable for use on established specimens: eight years and older (avoid using on potted specimens).

Some of my favourite varieties are:

  1. Beatrice Emily

  2. Desire

  3. Buttons n Bows

  4. Nuccio’s Gem

  5. Early Pearly

  6. Hiryu

  7. Pure Silk

camellia 3.jpg

All about herbs

Depending on the size and layout of your garden you could create any style of herb garden you like. Informal or formal. You can very easily make the garden in raised beds or pots which makes picking easy. They can also be grown amongst ornamentals or dotted throughout borders.

Perennial herbs

Once planted, come back year after year and therefore tend to be the easiest to grow. By picking them regularly for consumption you will keep them nice and compact, but some will appreciate a hard clipping in spring to rid of any old foliage and generate new growth.

Mint- Best grown in a pot because it can be quite aggressive and spreads in a border. As well as common mint there is peppermint, chocolate mint, spearmint and pineapple mint. Loves wet feet.

Sage- Forms neatly rounded bushes when picked regularly or clipped.

Sage. Veg out community garden- St Kilda.

Sage. Veg out community garden- St Kilda.

Thyme- Most thymes make excellent garden plants. Many varieties are low creeping so make good ground cover to soften path edges, break up gravel paths or used between stepping stones. Their foliage comes in a range of colours from golden yellow to variegated silver and they also flower well with pink or purple blooms in summer.

Bay- Evergreen shrubs that can be toparised or allowed to grow loose. They look good in a pot as a focal point and one plant is usually enough for the kitchen.

Rosemary- Extremely easy to grow with blue, lilac or white flowers. There is even a groundcover variety.

Oregano-A well behaved and effective ground cover.

Annual herbs

These can be grown from seed or bought as small pot plants and planted yourself. They need to picked regularly to stop them flowering and seeding.

Basil- A very tender plant. Sweet Basil is the most common. I find basil incredibly difficult to grow as the caterpillars seem to love it and can do considerable damage overnight. Companion planting works well with Basil…try Marigolds.

Sweet Basil. Veg out community garden, St Kilda.

Sweet Basil. Veg out community garden, St Kilda.

Coriander- Fast growing and can quickly go to seed in hot dry weather. Does like a lot of water. Grow in some shade as the tender leaves seem to dislike hot sun.


We really have had such an intense summer here in Victoria. Endless days of above 40 degrees and my garden, despite being low maintenance and hardy, has suffered.

This year for the first time i noticed my succulents looking particularly sick. I have Echeveria in a pot located on a north facing windy terrace. It’s leaves started to look wrinkled and wilted. I was so confused as succulents are hardy, love hot dry periods and low water. Wrong. They can actually get to the point where they require water……

After a few days of consecutive watering, the leaves have become plump again and it is now back to it’s happy self and has even start to give off flowers.

It is possible to also over water your succulent. The signs will be somewhat similar to that of not enough water.

Overwatering- leaves will turn black and rot and/or soft and mushy. Leaves will also begin to drop.

Underwatering- shrivelled leaves. leaves feel soft and appear wrinkled.


My top summer gardening tips

Good preparation is critical for your garden to survive the wilting effects of the Aussie summer.

1. Take care of blooming plants

Does your camellia drop its buds and flowers? As camellias initiate budding in summertime, sudden loss of buds and flowers is often a consequence of the plants drying out, particularly when they are growing in containers. Mulch and water deeply once or twice weekly during hot, dry weather to limit this common and irritating problem.

2. Keep your pots cool

Potted plants, especially those in terracotta pots, are vulnerable to overheating. Lightly mulch and, where possible, position them out of hot westerly sun. Remember that standing potted plants in saucers of water encourages root rot and mosquito breeding, so try to put your pots on pot ‘feet’.

3. Water early in the day

Water in the cool of the day. The best time is morning but, if you water in the afternoon, allow enough time for foliage to dry out before sunset. This reduces the risk of mildew and other fungi attacking leaves, and there’s less chance you’ll get caught by the evening shift of mosquitoes. Mildew frequently attacks roses, pumpkin, melon, zucchini and cucumber.

4. Add nutrients to the water

If you can only water occasionally, try to water plants deeply and use that opportunity to simultaneously feed and correct mineral deficiencies. Apply a soluble fertiliser with added seaweed such as Seasol.

5. Keep your water flowing

Before summer’s worst heat, give your plants an occasional deep watering. You want to ‘train’ root systems to search a little deeper, so they can find water when conditions get tougher.  

Once summer is in full swing, you may have to water a little more frequently. The best time to do this is early morning, to limit evaporation.

6. Do most of the work when it’s cool

It’s safer, and you’re more likely to do a better job, if you complete energetic work such as mowing in the cool of the day – either before 10am or after 4pm. A good drink of water and a smear of sunblock are prerequisites, because that one five-minute job often leads to another, and another. Don’t forget your hat and sunglasses too.

7. Plan shade strategically

Strategically placing a deciduous tree, vine or some clumping bamboo to shield your house and garden from searing western sunshine is often a better option.

8. Boost trace elements

Magnesium encourages robust growth and the production of energy in plants. Gardenias and roses in particular benefit from supplementary magnesium in summer. Also apply it to cymbidium orchids to help initiate flower buds. Add 1 heaped tsp of Epsom salts to 4.5L of water. Either spray the foliage, or water it in at the roots. If the leaves of citrus, banksia, grevillea, camellia or azalea become stunted and mottled yellow, now is also the time to boost the iron content of soil by applying iron chelates. This acidifies soil and adds iron necessary for healthy growth. It takes a month or so to see a result.

9. Watch out for pests

Be on guard for pests, in particular ‘Bronze Orange Bug’ on citrus trees can be a problem on the very hot summer days. These prolific pests will damage citrus trees, often causing fruit to drop. The Bronze orange bugs will suck the sap from the tree, flowers and fruit will subsequently fall and stems can turn discoloured and die.

 It is best to start your pest management program in early spring while bugs are young. Spray products such as Pest Oil fortnightly to provide an organic defense. Apply good coverage to leaves including their undersides.

If infestation has already begun, or indeed taken hold, spraying with an insecticide is probably unavoidable. Use a naturally based insecticide with natural ingredients including Pyrethrum, like Yates Nature’s Way Citrus & Ornamental Spray, which is the only spray registered with the APVMA for home garden control of Bronze Orange Bug on edible citrus. Use as a contact spray to knock them down, then treat the foliage with a horticultural soap to deal with the eggs left behind. Insecticides containing Imidacliprid, such as Confidor will be effective.

Other organic remedies many gardeners employ include sucking up pests with an old vacuum cleaner, removal by hand and drowning them in methylated spirit, or crushing them between planks of wood. But all of these method put the gardener in harm’s way. If you must engage these pests hand-to-hand make sure you wear gloves, long sleeves, protective glasses and a hat or other protective clothing. Bronze Orange Bugs emit a foul-smelling, citric-acid-rich liquid when disturbed and this can be very dangerous, particularly if sprayed in the eyes.


10. Keep your mulch topped up

A layer of mulch limits moisture loss from the soil and saves you the job of weeding. The trick is getting the depth right. “Generally, you need a 50-75mm layer. But only mulch to about 50mm in native gardens or gardens that aren’t irrigated. If the mulch is too thick, rain won’t always make it down to the soil.”

Plant of the month - Calodendron capense

Botanical name: Calodendron capense

Common name: Cape Chestnut

Origin: South Africa

A beautiful and delicate evergreen tree when in full flower. Grows to around 10m-20m tall and 10m wide, so you definitely need a decent amount of space to grow this beauty.

It is a gorgeous shade tree that prefers full sun and well drained soil.

I think it’s worth planting just for the stunning flowers from November to January.

Cape Chestnut, North Melbourne. Victoria

Cape Chestnut, North Melbourne. Victoria


If you are looking for a very informal look, then Stachys byzantina or Lamb’s Ears is a great choice. A drought hardy perennial loved for it’s white, woolly leaves and spikes of lavender flowers. Forming a leafy clump about 20cm high, it thrives in a sunny position and well drained soil and does not like to be over watered. It also dislikes high humidity.

Flagstaff Gardens, Melbourne. Victoria.

Flagstaff Gardens, Melbourne. Victoria.

Carpobrotus glaucescens- Pigface

A fabulous groundcover if you live by the sea. Will handle salt spray and windy conditions well. Prefers a sandy soil. It grows naturally on sand dunes and prefers full sun or part shade.

This is a great plant if you have a large area to cover. It flowers in spring and summer.

St Kilda foreshore, Victoria.

St Kilda foreshore, Victoria.

Dichondra repens- Kidney Weed

Great as a groundcover or a lawn alternative, although it wont deal with heavy traffic.  Grows best in lightly shaded areas, but will grown in sunny positions as long as it gets enough water.

St Kilda, Victoria.

St Kilda, Victoria.

Senecio serpens - Blue Chalksticks

An extremely fashionable plant right now. Easy to grow, with little to no maintenance required. Prefers full sun. Dislikes overwatering.

Can easily self propagate by trimming off small pieces and re planting.

St Kilda foreshore, Victoria.

St Kilda foreshore, Victoria.

Myoporum parvifolium- Creeping Boobialla.

For hot, dry spots, this native trailing plant is a good choice because it’s tough and easy to care for. Can be a good lawn substitute and great for trailing over walls and planter boxes.

Dotted with white flowers during spring and summer. Thrives in coastal conditions.

Prefers full sun.

St Kilda foreshore, Victoria.

St Kilda foreshore, Victoria.

Plant of the month - Hymenosporum flavum

Botanical name: Hymenosporum flavum

Common name: Native Frangipani

Origin: East coast of Australia

When something is in flower, i become a little obsessed with it, and tend to remember how much i love it!

Native Frangipani is one tree that tends to get overlooked. I think most people know Frangipani’s, but are yet to discover the native version. The flowers smell just as good and i think that it is just as beautiful…and really nothing at all like a frangipani.

It grows to approximately 10m tall, a little smaller in cooler areas.

The whole canopy of the tree is covered in sweetly fragrant and yellowy cream flowers which age to a deep orange, and are borne throughout spring & early summer.

Photos taken in West Melbourne, Victoria

Photos taken in West Melbourne, Victoria

Plant of the month - Chamelaucium unciatum

Botanical name: Chamelaucium unciatum

Common name: Geraldton Wax 

Origin: Western Australia 

After spotting Geraldton Wax on a walk around my neighbourhood last week, i was inspired to feature it as plant of the month considering how well this Western Australian plant is thriving in chilly Melbourne. 

I have always loved this plant, but rarely see it. Enough sun, drainage and neglect and they will put on a brilliant show. 

The fact that i saw it growing on a naturestrip shows how hardy it is, because i am pretty sure it gets zero maintenance. 

They are not only a beautiful addition to your garden, they also make a beautiful cut flower. They like sandy soils and do not need a lot of fertiliser or water.  


What to do in the garden this month - August

Get busy during winter and you will reap the rewards come spring. 

Winter is a great time to garden! You don't get sweaty and sunburned and there is much that can be achieved. 

Flowering now: It is a quiet time for most flowers but some shrubs are positively blooming. Camellia japonicas, wattles, flowering quince, poinsettias, and beautifully scented daphne, osmanthus and winter honeysuckle are all flowering despite the cold. 

What to plant: Lots of desirable plants are presently in their dormant stage- this can save you money and they are easy to transport. Examples of these are maples, fruit, and blossom trees, berry plants.

It's not too late to plant bare rooted roses, and its a great time to plant annuals such as pansies, english daisies, lobelia and sweet alice. They grow well in pots and window baskets, make excellent borders for paths and can be colour coordinated. 

What to do: Weed your lawn. It will be that much nicer in summer if you remember to deal with bind weed now, before it develops those annoying seeds that ruin barefoot romps. You can identify bindii easily- it has light green ferny leaves and spreads like a low ground cover. Either dig it out by hand, or use a selective weed killer. 

Provide shelter. Protect young or frost sensitive plants with a light hessian throw. Take care to shelter young trees and sensitive plants from the winter winds. Use shade cloth as a screen or, if you have staked trees, make sure they have flexible ties so branches bend in the wind rather than snap. 

Get ahead. Use the downtime to read over garden books and make plans for the spring, spruce up your garden tools and add to your collection of garden wares. 




Plant of the month- Loropetalum

Botanical name: Loropetalum chinense 

Common name: Chinese Fringe Flower 

Origin: China and Japan 

I feel like this plant is not used enough, it really is beautiful and has so much to offer. Vibrant coloured leaves, compact shape and a gorgeous soft flower, hence the name 'fringe'. 

Loropetalum chinense also known as Fringe Flower. Loropetalums are popular ornamental plants grown for their clusters of flowers and horizontal branching which gives them a distinctive oriental feel. There are many forms, ranging from those with white to pale yellow flowers and green foliage through to pink flowering variety with deeper bronze and red foliage.

‘Plum Gorgeous’ performs well in full sun to part shade, is versatile in application from informal hedging through to containers and has a compact growing habit. In fact, ‘Plum Gorgeous’ is much more compact that most other Loropetalums on the market and also has a more rounded and even shape. With its branching structure, this is a perfect choice if you’ve got an oriental themed garden. They look great around the base of a garden sculpture to create that little bit of Asian inspiration.

Although ideal for a rock garden, loropetalum is essentially a plant for the mixed shrub border.

It mixes very well with camellias. They both enjoy the same kind of soil and, when the loropetalum has finished flowering, the camellias take over. Camellias also provide exactly the right shelter for these tenderish shubs.

Rhododendrons also make good companions,

A great garden double act is created by planting loropetalum with the winter-flowering shrubby honeysuckles such as Lonicera which produce ivory white, very fragrant flowers on leafless twigs at the same time that loropetalum, in full colourful foliage, is also flowering.

Under-planting also enriches this rather exceptional shrub. Try planting with evergreen ferns such as polypodiums. These are invisible during late spring and summer, produce their elegant fronds in late summer and early autumn, and remain fresh throughout the winter.

Best of all – and the characteristic from which it takes its great name – is the deep plum coloured foliage which it maintains all year round.

In autumn and spring, and even into the summer months, ‘Plum Gorgeous’ will reward you with bright displays of vibrant raspberry coloured tassel flowers.

Grab a few of this particular variety if you are after that real variation in foliage in your garden. ‘Plum Gorgeous’ works really well planted against lime green plants as the colours contrast so nicely.

Tips for growing Loropetalums

  • Plan your colours to begin with. ‘Plum Gorgeous’ looks great in a black pot for an oriental feel or try a bright contrasting colour for a real statement.
  • As it’s low growing, plant ‘Plum Gorgeous’ at the front of garden beds for maximum impact.
  • Loropetalums in general prefer moist but well drained soils but are quite adaptable to less than ideal conditions.
  • Pruning is generally not required however you can give a light trim after flowering to help keep them in your preferred shape.
  • A feed with a slow release fertilizer in early spring is beneficial.
  • Ideal for low maintenance areas, rockeries and garden edges.

Height- approximately 1m

Spread- approximately 2m

Growing conditions- part shade/ full sun

Image via Google 

Image via Google 

What to do in the garden this month- April

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous in Melbourne the past few weeks! As well as the temperature changes, there are many plants that have already started to slow down for the colder months. The deciduous Plane trees on my street are beginning to lose their leaves and every year i just wish they would have more brilliant colour changes, however sadly it goes from green to brown with nothing in between.

With only 6 or so weeks until winter is officially here, a few tips for what to do in the garden are below: 

1. if you have plants that dislike frost, provide them with a light frame. 

2. Give Hydrangeas a hard pruning. 

3. Trim hedges to keep them compact. 

4. Fertilise all potted plants with a slow release fertiliser

5. Keep up with the lawn mowing even though the growth is slowing down. Just make sure to adjust the height.

6. Top up your mulch to prevent weed growth and maintain soil moisture.

7. Pinch passionfruit vines tips to encourage lateral growth. 



What to do in the garden this month- March

Autumn is my favourite time of year! I love the cool mornings and evenings yet warm days. It's also a relief from those steaming hot summer days.

Flowering now- There are some fantastic colourful annuals that are coming into their own this month. Coleus with its stunning brown, acid green and yellow and rusty red markings looks great in shade as do New Guinea impatiens, which have vibrant coloured flowers. For a hot spot Celosia and cockscomb are about the brightest plants you can grow with shades of red, orange and pink tones.

Ixora, hydranges and hibiscus are all still flowering, as are Orange Jessamine (Murraya paniculata) and gardenias.

What to plant- March is a great time to be planting. The hot humid days are gone but plants and people can still enjoy warm days and slightly cooler evenings. Plants relish the relief from the heat and they still have the warmer soil to grow in, so can flourish.

Bulbs- Autumn which officially begins today, is bulb planting time. Bulbs are surprise packages, you plant them forget them and then come spring, up pop their flowers. Whether its daffodils, freesias, bluebells, or dutch iris.

What to do- Pull out past summer annuals (for example, tired petunias) and then replant winter spring colour.

– Watch out for fungal outbreaks- high humidity can wreak havoc and rain splash can spread fungal spores easily.

- Raise the mower a notch or two and let your grass grow a little longer in between cuts.

- Trim off any heat damaged leaves on your shrubs, feed and keep your garden well watered.

Planting bulbs

Step 1- Prepare the planting area with compost, manure or packaged decomposed organic matter, often sold as soil conditioner. If planting in pots, just use a specially formulated bulb mix. Some bulbs, such as hyacinths and tulips, benefit from a cold chill, so pop them in an egg carton and leave them in the fridge for a month before planting.

Step 2- Bulbs have dried roots on the bottom and pointy top to indicate where the shoot will come from. Plant each bulb pointy side up, and into the soil 2.5 times the bulbs height. You can use bulb markers to help you remember where you have planted them.

Step 3- Water your bulbs in well, then be careful not to over water until they have started to show signs of growth. Keep weeds clear.



Plant of the month - Echium candicans

Pride of Madeira is a bold statement to any garden. A large shrub from 2-2.5m tall and wide, that tolerates coastal conditions, hot direct sun, low water levels and attracts butterflies and bees to the garden. Architectural grey, green foliage throughout the year are complemented by the most striking purple flower spikes throughout Spring.

It looks great in formal, coastal and Mediterranean themes where it will be the superstar of the garden when flowering. I particularly like it mixed with other grey and blue hues, for example wth Westringia, Festuca and Convolvulus. 

Botanical name: Echium candicans

Common name: Pride Of Madeira Family:

Boraginaceae Origin: The Portuguese Island of Madeira – Portugal and Spain


Echium candicans and Tetropanex - Sorrento, Victoria 

Echium candicans and Tetropanex - Sorrento, Victoria 

Echium candicans in full sun 

Echium candicans in full sun 

Echium candicans- Sorrento, Victoria 

Echium candicans- Sorrento, Victoria 

Diving Bearded Iris

Iris would have to be one of my favourite plants. I grew up with them in the garden, and my Mum and i used to have alot of fun searching for new varieties. 

Bearded irises (sometimes sold as Iris germanica cultivars) have large fleshy stems (rhizomes) at soil level and flowers with soft hairs (the ‘beard’) on their lower petals (falls).

  • Lift and divide rhizomatous bearded irises every three to five years. Although they can be happily divided once a year (depending on how quickly your Iris are multiplying)
  • This is ideally carried out six weeks after flowering, to give sufficient time for the plants to produce new growth for the following season before they enter winter dormancy


  • Cut away each fan of leaves from the clump, using a sharp knife. Each fan should have a portion of young rhizome (up to 15cm/6in long for tall bearded irises, smaller for miniature tall bearded irises)
  • Select the largest fans with the healthiest rhizomes
  • Discard smaller fans and old, withered looking rhizomes
  • Shorten the leaves to about 15cm  above the rhizome and trim the roots to shorten them


  • Dig a hole, large enough for the rhizome and roots, mounding the soil slightly if this makes placing the rhizomes easier, but otherwise working the soil back between the roots
  • The rhizome should be placed at soil surface on heavy soils, but a little below the surface on light sandy soils, as they will work their way back to the surface
  • Replant the divisions in groups, with 30cm between larger plants and 15cm between dwarf plants


  • Those irises divided and re-planted in summer are at risk of drought during dry spells.
  • Watering the area and allowing it to drain overnight before planting, then watering every five days during dry periods after planting, can help in these conditions

Iris growing tips

  • Plant them in a sunny spot in late summer. The plants need well-drained soil and at least six hours of sunlight per day. A full day of sun is even better to keep the rhizomes dry.
  • Give them room to breathe. Bearded iris require good air circulation. Plant them a minimum of 40 to 60cms apart .
  • Make dividing a habit. Refer to notes above.


Iris 'foggy dew'    

Iris 'foggy dew' 


iris 'mystique'    

iris 'mystique'