Archive for April, 2012


Been a little quiet on the grapevine lately, which is not me at all, but doing gardening sometimes takes priority over talking gardening, right?

Having to bury our recently departed and dearly loved  puss took me into a corner of our large front yard I had not been for some weeks and I was puzzled to see a large tree in what appeared to be full pink bloom.

But this was my old and dignified parrot tree and its flowers were a vibrant red?.

Myopia is a particular curse outdoors, so on went my specs and a closer inspection revealed it had been overrun by a rampant antignon  – or coral vine, as it is more commonly known. This vine has very pretty, dainty hot pink flowers springing from a mass of interesting heart-shaped, veiny leaves and curly tendrils, but a determined and difficult little mother to keep in its place. It is a native of Mexico and a true Speedy Gonzales, it’s fast-growing and will reach 15m up a host tree or support  in a matter of weeks.

My garden specimen must have come from a bird dropping. Recent wet weather and my inattention to that corner allowed it to thrive and climb unhindered for about six metres and spread likewise.

The antignon is ideal if you have a fence you want covered and it can also be grown over an archway or a tree for something different. .

Mine formed a dazzling vista but left unchecked it would have strangled the tree and surrounding vegetation, so a hacking operation went underway.

It is vine on a mission, indeed. I remember it growing wildly up the battens at the side of our childhood home and I swear if we dawdled or stopped on the path alongside, its tendrils stretching out like triffid arms, would wrap around us almost as we stood there. It also used to house large and scary brown grasshoppers that seemed to make no dent on its foliage, but would jump out and frighten the bejesus out of  anyone brushing past. I learnt to take that path in about three bounds. My best training of all for the school sprint team.

The upside of the discovery was pretty cut flowers for all the vases I could find. As Aristotle said: ” In all things of nature, there is something of the marvellous”.


I bought a garden product last week I have never used before  – soil wetting crystals.  Why didn’t it latch on to this sooner?

No matter how much rain we have, within a few days of a downpour, my pots – and especially the hanging baskets – dried out  quickly. Didn’t seem to make any difference whether they’re plastic, ceramic, woven cane or terracotta, or whether I seal and line them, fill them with sphagnum moss or how much mulch I covered the soil surface with, it seemed to  harden and compact and the plants drooped and curled up their toes, making them v high maintenance and giving me a high attrition rate –  particularly in hot weather.

So this  sort of gelatinous mix – the effect of adding water to the crystals – stirred through the potting mix –  seems to work wonders. So far so good. When I poke my finger in now, there’s a damp and  sort of squishy sensation in the soil.

It reminds me of adding cornflour to gravy or runny casseroles; you get an instant thickening and binding sensation. I will never plant again without it.


It’s  coriander groundhog day. The seedlings I put in a few weeks ago did exactly what all the former attempts I have made to grow it in the past have done; they’ve hung on by a pathetic thread, despite undue care

and attention,  then just shrivelled and died. FTT  ( failure to thrive) is what mothercare nurses used to call it –  when your baby didn’t put on weight every week. Maybe the feng shui isn’t right. Or the chemistry between us is missing.

I love you dearly coriander, but we cannot live together!

So off you go to the naughty corner and I will count my blessings that there’s rocket, thyme, parsley, turmeric,  sage, marjoram, three varieties of  basil, mint, oregano, tarragon and a bay tree all behaving beautifully and obeying the Julie rules.  I will mark coriander absent from here on, and buy or beg it from more successful growers.

One of those little trials of nature. Cannot control everything, see!!!

But then my ABC Gardening Australia pal Jerry Coleby-Williams gave me a tip to fast-track coriander success. I’ll share it with you after I have test driven.

And I hope you are enjoying the energy and passion Costa Georgiadis brings to  Gardening Australia on Saturdays at 6.30pm.  What an inspiration he is and a warm and witty personality too.  Note to self: get some chooks soon.

What are you growing right now with success – or difficulty? Today’s rain has changed my veg garden outlook for the better, that’s for sure. About to pick the bok choy and succession lettuce planting has meant a fresh one again for today’s lunch.

Everyday for many?

Sometimes it’s nice to pick the low-hanging fruit of garden talk.

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