Posts tagged garden clubs

Strikes me as garden variety sweetness

A year ago I wrote here about the attractive traits of gardeners and their wonderful, curious way of viewing the world. They don’t just look at a landscape, and take in the trees, flowers and foliage. They touch, compare, smell and ruminate and can explain what family connection this bush has to others and what-goes-with-this-goes-with-that, kind of thing (like an old Sussan store jingle).

Take a gardener for a walk and she/he will  stop, squat and poke their hands into the dirt, trace the veins of leaves and stroke tree limbs and trunks like they are prized children.

They hold the colourful  back story of many plants  at their fingertips, extrapolating a mere “red bush” into something of breathtaking origin, bizarre blooming or reproductive habit and fascinating medical use. And they nod sympathetically when something in your garden  is failing to thrive; they offer treatment, ponder vexedly and actually fret when a remedy is not immediately apparent or doesn’t work.

It is not faux concern. It really matters to them.

One of the joys of belonging to my garden club is being with a clan of people who can rattle off the Latin and common name of hundreds of plants and lose  hours debating the merits of this shade-loving ground cover over that one, talk loftily about PH levels and  soil acidity, yet kindly praise the humblest and commonest coleus slip or choko,  just because someone has tended and cut it proudly and brought it along. It’s a sweet and and loving adult show-and-tell that is not replicated many other places. They genuinely welcome and encourage newbies with no horticultural snobbery.

And this week, I basked in another lovely aspect of these gardeners.

Beaumontia grandiflora

Beaumontia grandiflora

They pay attention, remember – and follow through.

I only have to mention a cutting I’d love or a shrub or vine I’ve admired  and by the next month’s get together – yes four weeks later – a member will have potted that very plant to give me. When so much of the world seems to have the attention span of a gnat, the thoughtfulness and trouble taken to hear, note, remember and act on what someone else might take as a casual fancy, is truly touching.

I’ve been the recent lucky recipient of both a white and a pink bauhinia, a petrea vine, a speckled aspidistra  and a beaumontia that I had even forgotten I’d coveted. They were quietly

Petrea vine flower

Petrea vine flower

presented to me when I arrived at the meeting this week.

Another member whom I hardly knew, took the trouble to get my phone number from the president to offer me some worms to start my worm farm, after mine had all perished in the heat.

It’s not the gift per se that moves me on such occasions. It’s that they have me in mind and gone out of their way to share.

Sure, many people are thoughtful, kind and generous.  But I believe there’s more of them among gardeners. It may come from a “living in the moment” that gardening demands and so a better mindfulness is at play.

That’s why last year, when I met a woman in her large, beautiful garden adjoining her café (where we had just spent a tidy sum) who wouldn’t allow me even one slip of a common ground cover chrysanthemum pacifica, I was flabbergasted.

The odd noxious weed is inevitable, I guess.

Bauhinia (pink orchid  tree)

Bauhinia (pink orchid tree)

Pink bauhinia bloom

Pink bauhinia bloom

Two more valuable garden lessons this month:  1. cane straw mulch is  a no-no.

I’ve been using it generously for ages and in our long dry spell, was pretty under impressed with its moisture retention properties. Its waxy surface seems to cause  water to run off rather than penetrate and the sugar attract ants and earwigs – that have eaten my seedlings. It also has a wealth of bacteria, and toxic. Pesticide remnants go straight into the bed underneath and it draws nitrogen from the soil. I’m now using lucerne mulch which costs more but is way more nourishing. And have come across a hydromulch cubed product that is packed with microbial goodness to feed the garden and neat and easy to apply  – comes in biscuit-like form to which you just add water. It’s a sideline of a large scale operation made for revegetating roadsides and agricultural land disturbed by mining operations.

Lesson 2: don’t kill all the caterpillars on my pot plants. Many of them are Monarch butterflies in the making.

Monarch butterfly laying eggs

Monarch butterfly laying eggs

Former Gatton olive grower and  farmer Ray Archer has made a butterfly sanctuary at his Bribie Island backyard, cultivating butterfly-attracting plants there with the help of an army of volunteers. And he has urged me to leave the little black specks I’ve been wiping off my ervatamia (moonbeam plant)  and dipladenia leaves, (Monarch butterfly eggs)  and to turn a blind eye to a bit of chewed  foliage, ( “it’s not much to ask, Ray insists)  so the grubs can  hatch, grow and turn into chrysalises and reach their beautiful destiny.

Ervatamia where Monarch caterpillars love to feed

Ervatamia where Monarch caterpillars love to feed

Monarch caterpillar beginning pupation

Monarch caterpillar beginning pupation

And I’ve planted milkweed – the Monarch’s favoured food. Not a pretty plant, but a necessary one if we want to keep butterfly populations healthy.

A sharing lesson for me.





Leave a comment »


COULDN’T help feeling sorry for the speaker at our last garden club meeting. He was operating 21st century technology, trying to convey his message about organics, composting,  fruit and vegetable growing and all manner of soil and horticultural wisdom with a mouse and a laptop.

But he was standing in front of people with timeless curiosity who didn’t give a tweet for it.

True, he travelled light, and his website and pictures were stylish – but they were at the mercy of the meeting venue’s problematic wireless connection, which kept dropping out, leaving his screen blank and the audience of keen gardeners  ditto. They were firstly a bit nonplussed and eventually bored and disengaged. The speaker had no living specimens with him to fall back on, to wow the watching members with a dazzling leaf, stunning colour, or a bloom to sniff, or plump produce to admire, so he broke the oldest rule in the teaching book;  show don’t tell.  Instead he told and didn’t show  – and most in the room dozed off. A pity really, as he knew his stuff , but relied too heavily on the prop of the power point.  And when it failed to fire, he went off the boil.

He would have been better off closing down his Apple Mac and putting out  a bowl of real apples to describe his garden,  what it grows and the organic benefits.  More the pity for the old-fashioned eyes and ears in attendance.

That’s the thing about gardening. It’s visceral. We want and need to touch, feel and smell it. And you can tell me til you’re blue in the face about a gorgeous lily, rose or shrub foliage, but to really know it, I need to see it in the flesh, maybe compare it to similar relatives and observe how the folds are arranged, how light falls on it, whether it’s glossy, velvet, textured,  ribbed, solid or feathery, what its perfume is, how the buds form … and a host of other attributes to file away.  Like all greedy gardeners, I am always on the lookout for yet another plant for the plot and everything that takes my eye is a contender.

Gardening talk needs less of this Apple

Gardening talk needs less of this Apple

....and more of this type of apple

….and more of this type

The most popular speakers at our garden club are those who bring a selection of their plants  for display and the materials they feed them to make them thrive. It is harder and longer work than packing a USB stick, but the listeners are real, not virtual gardeners. They can look up a book or a website any day for information.

It’s inspiration they are after.


So,  what is inspiring me this lovely autumn? Lots really and I don’t have to go far from my front door.

Yellow baby chrysanthemums happy in hanging basket

Yellow button chrysanthemums happy in hanging basket

The chrysanthemums have been abundant and particularly sweet is the little yellow variety hanging from a basket. The bigger white ones I grow are dazzling, but I like these little buttons and the way they drape and swing in the breeze.

I have just acquired a stem of a small bright green chrysanthemum, taken from a bouquet that a friend received for Mother’s Day and hope I can strike several plants from it in due course. Its cheery lime colour is an unusual and stunning shade for a flower. Stay tuned and cross your fingers, please,  for its progress.

The  cherry red celosia or cockscomb bloom is an interesting addition to my pot family. Also known as wool flowers ( they really do look like fur) they can bloom up to 10 weeks and are great for full sun mass planting in beds or in pots. There are stacks of colours to pick. Mine is the Celosia spicata  Intenze. It’s been easy to grow, liking good feed and watering and high light.

Celosia Spicata or cockscomb plant

Celosia Spicata or cockscomb plant

One of the newer begonia varieties, sunny side up, so named because it’s like a fried egg, is proving a long lasting bloomer with its double and semi double  white flowers around yellow centres. It won the Glass Tulip award last year for the most promising new variety. It’s a hiemalis begonia, a hybrid, a cross between a tuber and a wax begonia and the flower stalks grow to about 30 – 45cm, indoors or out. I have mine in the semi shade under a poinciana and where I can see it at a glance out my front windows and it seems to like showing off there.

Close by is the  Lady Lavender Schlumbergera spineless zygo cactus has delivered its seasonal show of unusual  and vivid pink flowers at the tips of its flattened stems .Also called the Thanksgiving cactus ( coinciding with November in the USA when its their autumn flowering season). It’s looking healthier and thicker this year because I pinched off bits to encourage branching and fed it well in summer as it lounged in the shade.

Zygo Lady Lavender

Zygo Lady Lavender

Sunnyside Up Begonia heimalis

Sunnyside Up Begonia heimalis

Down in the vegie patch, the peas are reaching up towards the support wire,the rocket is powering on, the cauliflower plants are thickening and growing taller, four shades of lettuce and kale and mustard greens are filling out the raised tank beds and the “super food” ceylon spinach is abundant in its pot. I pick leaves from this for nearly everything I eat, from salads to stir fries and stuffing canneloni, and the more I take, the more it produces. Rich, green and glossy, it’s eye catching and a “wellness” source.

Wellness food Ceylon spinach

Wellness food Ceylon spinach

Everything is thriving due to my kind friend and neighbour namesake, Jenny Thomson,  who trucked me bags of mushroom compost from an organic mushroom grower this month. It’s beautiful rich organic matter which is the spent waste generated by the mushroom growing and consists of wheat  straw, dried blood,  horse manure and chalk . It’s a great source of humus. I have dug some in and the rest scattered on top of beds for mulch.  For soils that are slightly acidic like mine, it’s a great boost. The plants seem grateful and as  some of it was not truly spent, there are some creamy round surprises  popping up  about the place.

And there’s no denying Jenny is a show don’t tell gardener. That’s her in the picture dropping it off ( note always wear a mask when handling compost to protect from inhaling spores).


And to finish, here’s a mystery. I have a lily-type of plant in a pot with a highly developed sense of theatre. In a former life, it was probably a stripper, it has such a teasing way of revealing itself. This spike has emerged  from the base over the past several weeks and the bud’s unfurling is agonisingly slow.

I don’t recall it ever flowering before.

What is this?

What is this?

I am loving the suspense, but I would like to give it a name.

Can you help?

And in the meanwhile, enjoy your garden time.

Generous friend Jenny delivering mushroom compost

Generous friend Jenny delivering mushroom compost

Comments (1) »

Our Australian Gardens

Design Down Under - diverse landscapes to inspire

The Global Goddess

A single woman's journey

Victoria Walters

Author and Blogger

The Greater Brisbane Quest

Two knights taking the road less travelled...

this is... The Neighborhood

the Story within the Story

Trade News in Brief

International Economic Affairs & Relations / Regional & International Organizations / Global Commerce & Business

Monetise This

A little light reading

Calculating Grace

and finding it doesn't add up

Lisa Meekison

Riches: Redefining the Good Life

The Food Sage: A compilation of professional food writing

Retired Ruth

Memories From a Boomer


Blood-drawing Bromeliads & Other Sharp Pointy Plants!

How to shuck an oyster

On living, writing, reading...and eating

cancer killing recipe

Just another site


STILL trying to get as smart as Buffy

lynda hallinan

Homegrown food & flowers at Foggydale Farm

Churchill Corporate Services Blog

A daily blog dedicated to the corporate housing, furniture rental, and corporate travel industries.