15 May

How to Care for Amaryllis in Your Garden

Amaryllis are beautiful flowers that, if cared for correctly, will bloom year after year. They have a magnificent, exotic appearance and are best known for featuring red or red and white blooms. Although they do come in other colors such as purple, pink and yellow and some varieties are even multicolored. These colorful flowers are grown from bulbs and Amaryllis is the more popular name for what is actually the Hippeastrum bulb.

Amaryllis are easy to plant and of all the flowering bulbs, they are the easiest to bring to bloom. While they are ideal for any garden, they also make fantastic houseplants and have become popular gifts at Christmas because of this.

Amaryllis

So, you have your Amaryllis bulb, now what do you do…?

Ideally you will plant it between October and January, they will then flower from winter to spring – generally within six weeks of planting. Amaryllis bulbs are tender and need warmth to grow therefore it is best to plant them in pots – in nutritious compost – and start them indoors, to avoid the frost. The Amaryllis should be grown in a pot only slightly bigger than the bulb itself, with two-thirds of the bulb remaining above the surface.

You should begin to water sparingly – then, as the new leaves develop, start watering regularly avoiding excessive watering while not letting the compost dry out.

Amaryllis should be placed in full sun – they will grow in light shade but they tend to develop better in brighter light – but remember to turn the pot regularly to avoid the stalk growing towards the light. You should feed your amaryllis bulb every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer and stake larger flowers as they start to grow.

Once the flowers on the initial stem have faded, cut the stem back to the bulb and another should grow and flower.

So, when can you move Amaryllis into the garden?

Firstly, as soon as the plant starts flowering it should be moved to a cooler spot to help extend the flowering period. Then, in the summer, once the last of the frost has passed, it can be moved outside. When choosing where to place it in the garden remember that Amaryllis should not be in intense sunlight, instead look for a semi-shaded position.

Once outside you need to be aware of and on the look out for slugs and snails! Similarly, if you find that your plant is flowering this could be down to growing in conditions that are too shady, or under-watering during the previous summer. But, this could also be due to attack from fungal disease or bulb pests.

You may be tempted to start pruning but you don’t need to do this until the leaves turn yellow (around late September) – then you can cut them back to around two inches from the top of the bulb. Your Amaryllis will need re-potting every two to three years in January to March – after flowering.

Amaryllis will be a great addition to any garden and if you care for them properly, you will be able to enjoy their pretty, colorful flowers for months and years to come.

22 May

Medinilla magnifica, the Philippines Orchid

Medinilla magnifica (Buy seeds online) is a tropical evergreen shrub known for its attractive and unusual flowers. The pendulous flowers grow in clusters surrounded by beautiful pink bracts making it a nice outdoor as well as indoor plant. Broad, shiny green leaves retain ornamental value of the plant when it is not blooming.

Medinilla magnifica

How to Grow Medinilla magnifica

Medinilla magnifica (Buy seeds online) comes from tropical regions of the Philippine where it prefers warm and humid climate. The same conditions should be provided to this lovely bloomer when growing in your garden. As a general rules, grow it in a well-drained and rich soil. You can use any orchid mix to grow your plant. Water it regularly during spring and summer and reduce it to minimum during winter. If you are growing it in colder climates, move your plant indoors where it receives bright sunlight. Mist leaves occasionally.
Philippines Orchid

Flowers appear in spring and last throughout the summer season. Flowers of Medinilla magnifica are small are grow in drooping clusters covered with large pink bracts.

Medinilla magnifica can grow up to 3 or 4 meters however you can contain its growth by keeping it in smaller pots, if required. You can also prune it back after each flowering season. Propagation is usually done from cuttings.

The plant is also known as Pink Lantern, Chandelier Tree or the Philippine Orchid.

18 May

Top Tips: Landscaping a Small Backyard Garden

Landscaping a small backyard garden should not prevent you from growing your favorite plants, building a nice deck, or using it for outdoor living. With careful selection of plants (compact shrubs, low-maintenance succulents, hardy ground covers, and nice border plants), and a minimal design scheme you easily turn your small backyard space into an enjoyable retreat.

 

Browse the following examples and see how easy it is to create a nice landscape design in a small backyard.

Use Vertical Space

You cannot change size of your small backyard but by using vertical space effectively you can make your small backyard look roomy. You can use small trees and slender bushes that grow in columnar fashion. You can also use tall objects like over-sized planters and vertical lighting effects as in the following picture. Also notice a Mandevilla growing horizontally to give an impression of expansion.
Small Backyard Design

Add Multiple Levels

By adding multiple levels, as in the following picture, you can maximize the use of vertical space. Terraced levels can also be used to create multiple focus levels. You can incorporate plants of different sizes (taller at the back and smaller on front terraces) with landscaping objects like rocks to create an overall impression of a small terraced garden.
Small Space Backyard

Divide Your Backyard into Functional Areas

To make maximum usage of real estate, you can divide your backyard garden into small functional areas. The backyard garden in the following picture is divided in multiple functional areas: outdoor living, vegetable beds, a BBQ pit and a small lawn bordered with ornamental plants. Each functional area integrates with others to form a useful backyard garden.
Small Backyard Garden

Create a Useful Central Area

Create a central area and then border it with minimal plantation. The small backyard garden in the following picture uses a functional central area that can be used for outdoor living bordered with compact and low-growing plants.

Small Backyard Design

Create a Single Focal Point

The small backyard garden in the following example uses a garden pathway as the only focal point. It is bordered with a mix of annuals and perennials grown in a country garden style.
Small Space Landscape
Create an Outdoor Living Area
The best usage of a small backyard garden in to turn it into a functional outdoor living area. The backyard in the following example uses most of the available space for day-to-day usage – plantation is minimal, furniture takes most of the space.
Deck in Small Landscape

Incorporate Indoors and Outdoors

By incorporating indoor and outdoor space, you can effectively maximize the use of limited real estate. The small backyard garden in this example is integrated with the living room.
Indoor and Outdoor Space Integration

Pave Your Small Backyard Garden

You with pave your small backyard garden with stone or interlocking bricks. A paved backyard gives you a plenty of space to use for outdoor living as well as container gardening.
Small Landscape Backyard

Use Garden Border

If you do not have enough depth in your small backyard garden, as in the following example, plant along the border. Mix and match plants of different sizes, colors and texture to create an attractive landscape.
Garden Border in a Small Backyard Garden
28 Apr

5 Beautiful Australian Natives You Need on Your Shopping List

Growing Australian natives in your garden can be beneficial to the environment and make gardening an easier task for you! Native plants attract wildlife to your garden and provide shelter for them. But that’s not all, they’ll also add a lovely touch of colour and interest to any garden.

To help you start your native garden here are some Australian natives that suit a variety of Australian gardens.

Donkey Orchids for Shade

Donkey Orchid, Diuris

Donkey Orchid, Diuris / Image by Morgan’s List

Diuris orchids are commonly called donkey orchids because their two upper petals stick up like donkey ears. The donkey orchid is a breath-taking plant that has a distinctive bright yellow flower which blooms from winter to the start of summer. They grow in regions with wet winters and well-drained soils, woodlands or grasslands.

Lechenaultia for Pot Plants

Native Blue Lechenaultia

Native Blue Lechenaultia / Image by Gardening with Angus

The Lechenaultia is a vibrant plant that comes in a rainbow of shades you can enjoy over many seasons. Although they can carpet the ground of your garden, they are suited to growing in hanging baskets or pots too. This is especially the case if your soil is very wet. They grow best in humid climates and are most commonly found in Western Australia.

Tea Tree for Cold Climates

Lemon Scented Tea Tree

Lemon Scented Tea Tree / Image by Melbourne Daily

This Australian shrub (or small tree) has stunning, thin green leaves and white flowers. It grows to a maximum of five metres and is adaptable to most types of soil. Although it can be grown for purely ornamental reasons it’s also a source for essential oil that’s used in beauty products and to repel annoying mosquitoes.

Banksia for Small Gardens

The Native Sentinel Banksia

The Native Sentinel Banksia / Image by Austra Flora

The Sentinel is a variety of Banksia that is perfect for those awkward corners of the garden that need to be filled. While the flowering shrub will grow to about two metres high, it only has a spread of a metre, which makes it perfect for small gardens.

The Sentinel Banksia prefers full sun or partial shade. It flowers from late summer to winter and loves to be pruned which means it’s easy to keep it at a controllable size. Sentinel’s flowers are loved by honeyeaters who will visit your garden to enjoy them from summer through to mid-winter.

Wattle for Easy Growing

Australian Native Wattle Plant

Australian Native Wattle Plant

The wattle is one of Australia’s favourite plants! There are over 1000 species of acacia and they make fantastic garden plants. Varieties of Acacia range from small shrubs to larger trees so they will suit most garden sizes.

The wattle responds well to pruning right after flowering and regular pruning will extend its life. You can enjoy the beautiful yellow throughout the year but they typically flower in spring, with a third of the species flowering in winter. The plant attracts a variety of native birds that come to feast on its nectar.

If you are interested in discovering more varieties of plants for your garden, this list of Australian native plants gives you a personalised list of plants that are suited to your garden.

24 Apr

Lagurus ovatus, Bunny Tails Ornamental Grass

Lagurus ovatus or Bunny Tails Grass is a lovely ornamental grass known for its puffy white flowers that resemble a bunny’s tail. This beautiful annual grass can be grown along garden borders or pathways, as an accent plant in the garden or an ornamental grass in xeriscapes.

Lagurus ovatus

Lagurus ovatus / Image via faroutflora.wordpress.com

Bunny Tails grows as a compact ornamental grass growing up to 20 inches high and about 1 foot wide. The blades are soft and about 1.5 foot in length. The ornamental value of this lovely grass is because of its fluffy, white oval flowers that start appearing in early summer. Bunny tails flowers assume tan color as they enter the fall season arrives. The flowers start to dry out at this time. You can keep them on the grass for winter interest. Stalks with dried fluffy flowers can also be removed and used in dry flower arrangement.

How to Grow Bunny Tails Ornamental Grass

Bunny Tails Grass

Bunny Tails Grass / Image by Mollivan Jon (flickr)

Bunny Tails can be propagated from seeds (Buy Seeds Online) collected from dried flowers. Seeds can be sown in spring. Plants grown from seeds take 1 to 2 year to attain the maximum size.

Bunny Tails grass comes from Mediterranean climates where it thrives in a rather dry climate. When grown in gardens or landscapes, provide it sunny exposure and water moderately. Bunny Tails prefers sandy soil that does not retain water. It is a drought-tolerant grass. Water it thoroughly in summer and then allow the soil to completely dry before watering next. When temperature falls, water sparsely.

25 Feb

Aloe ferox: Flowering Succulent for Lovely Xeriscapes

Aloe ferox
Aloe ferox is a hardy and attractive succulent known for its lovely flowers and medicinal value of the gel extracted from its leaves. If you are planning to design a xeriscape, Aloe ferox should be on top of your plants list for many reasons. It is a hardy succulent that does not require much care. It produces very attractive flowers of red, orange, yellow-orange and scarlet colors in mid-winter. When grown in groups, spikes of attractive flowers on Aloe ferox add striking colors to the landscape.

Aloe ferox originates from rocky and tropical regions of South Africa where it receives marginal rainfall and plenty of sun. When growing it in your garden or xeriscape, you need to imitate the similar climate. You can plant this hardy Aloe in a spot where it receives good amount of sunlight in a loamy and slightly sandy soil. Aloe ferox does not require frequent watering and should survive long spells of drought.

Aloe ferox (Buy seeds online) can grow up to 3 meters though it takes many years to attain this size. The plant produces fleshy leaves of dull green color. The leaves are arranged around the stem to form a rosette. Young leaves have prominent spines along the leaf margins and smaller spines on leaf surface. As the plant matures, older leaves dry up to expose main stem of the plant. The Greek name ‘ferox’ meaning ‘fierce’ is probably because of prominent spines on the leaves.

Aloe ferox is also known as Cape Aloe.

Winter Aloe Spectacle

Flowers of Aloe ferox

Aloe ferox produces abundant flowers that attract birds and bees as pollinating agents. Mid-winter is the time when this lovely Aloe begins to send out orange, scarlet, yellow-orange and red flowers giving the plant its common name, Red Aloe.

Medicinal Benefits of Aloe ferox

Aloe ferox is grown commercially for its medicinal value. The gel derived from its succulent leaves is used in cosmetics. The hard, brown excretions obtained from the plan are used for their laxative properties.

How to grow Aloe ferox from seeds

Aloe ferox can be propagated from seeds (Buy seeds online) that easily germinate when sown in a well-drained but slightly moist soil. Young seedlings should be kept lightly moist until they are 4- 6 cm in size.

17 Jan

Lovely Flowering Shrub: Cuphea

Cuphea is a genus of evergreen and perennial flowering shrubs. These lovely flowering shrubs are useful for growing in garden borders where they keep blooming almost all through the year. Native to Mexico and tropical regions of Central America, these flowering shrubs produce flowers of green, purple, pink and white. Most species start blooming as soon as winter days are gone and continue to bloom until late summer.

Cuphea cyanea "Pink Cigar Plant"

How to Grow Cuphea

Most species of Cuphea require a well-drained soil and indirect sun, and grow up to 1 feet. In colder regions, Cupheas will freeze to ground in winter but will emerge in early spring. Being excellent flowering shrubs, most species are used in garden borders, mixed with seasonal bloomers in a mixed flowering bed or grown as small container plants.

Several hybrids and cultivars of Cuphea are easily available at commercial nurseries. Most of them are easily propagated from seeds (buy seeds online).

Popular species include:

C. ignea: Also known as ‘Cigarette Bush’, Cuphea ignea grows as a small flowering shrub and produces bright red flowers in spring and summer.

C. hyssopifolia: Also known as ‘False Heather’, this small flowering shrub produces flowers of varying shades including white, green, pink and purple.
Cuphea hyssopifolia
C. micropetala is known for its bright summer flowers.

12 Jan

Lovely Flowering Shrub:Buddleja

Butterfly bush, Buddleja davidii, flowering head in IN rest area
Buddleja is a large genus of flowering shrubs and small trees known for their fragrant flowers. Most species in the genus of Buddleja produce lush green foliage with silvery-white underside. The attractive foliage is contrasted by colorful and fragrant spring or summer flowers that attract wild birds and butterflies to the garden.

Also See: How to attract birds and butterflies to your garden

Most species of Buddleja are fast growing shrubs or small trees ranging from 4 to meters in height. Propagation can be done from seeds or hardwood cuttings. Being low-maintenance plants, Buddleja are suitable for xeriscapes or low-maintenance gardens.

Also See: How to design a low maintenance garden landscape
 
Buddleja and Roses
A large number of Buddleja hybrids and cultivars are available easily and can be grown in most tropical and sub-tropical climates where are provided with moderate watering and protected from heavy frost.

22 Dec

Lovely Flowering Vine: Lonicera sempervirens

Lonicera sempervirens is a fast-growing vine from the famous Honeysuckle family. Also known as Carol honeysuckle and sometimes as Trumpet honeysuckle because of its trumpet shaped flowers, this lovely vine can be used as a nice climber for pergolas and trellis.

Also see:

Lonicera sempervirens 06 3325

How to Grow Lonicera sempervirens

Lonicera sempervirens (Buy online) grows up to 5 feet and produces showy trumpet-shaped flowers of scarlet or red-orange color. Summer flowers are followed by red berries. Both flowers and berries attract wild birds. The vine grows in a well-drained soil under full sun. Though it can grow in shade, Lonicera sempervirens is primarily a sun loving vine. Brighter sunlight encourages abundance of ornamental flowers.

Lonicera sempervirens is a vigorous growing vine and might require annual pruning. It is evergreen in warm climates but sheds most of its foliage is colder climates. It can be propagated from layering or softwood cuttings.

19 Dec

Ornamental Shrub: Cotinus coggygria

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
Cotinus coggygria or Purple Smoke tree as it commonly known is a wonderful ornamental shrub. I love it for its colors, and ability to grow in almost any soil and survive drought or a little neglect.

Cotinus coggygria is recognized by its purple leaves that change many colors throughout the fall season. While the season changes from summer to fall, you can spot purple, red-orange and scarlet colors in foliage. The beauty of this wonderful shrub is enhanced when its flowers pop to produce plum-like clusters of seeds. These plumes give this beautiful shrub a hazy look (and of course the common name, Purple Smoke Tree) that adds charm to its colorful foliage.
Smoke Bush

How to Grow Cotinus coggygria

Cotinus coggygria can be grown as a hedging plant or a specimen plant in garden. It is usually propagated from softwood cuttings taken in summer or seeds sown in fall. The plant does not require much care and only requires a regular or slightly fertile soil under bright sunlight. It is a drought-tolerant plant and can easily survive long spells of drought making it a good choice when you are designing a xeriscape.

Cotinus coggygria usually grows up to 4 meters but it can be easily pruned in early spring to keep it in desired shape and size. To encourage flowering, it is advised that you prune it in late spring.

Popular varieties of Cotinus coggygria include C. coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and C. coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’. A number of other hybrids varying in size and foliage colors are also sold commercially.