It was my son’s birthday this month and since he loves curries, the hotter the better, we decided to celebrate with an Indian feast – beef curry with pappadums and a variety of vegetable sambals. These recipes have been long-time favourites with my family. In fact, they are inherited from my childhood, when Mum used to make it using an early Indian cookbook called ‘Curries from the Sultan’s Kitchen’ by Doris M. Ady (Reed, 1968). As kids, we used to love mixing up all the fragrant and colourful spices. It was so much more exotic than the ubiquitous curry powder of the times! All of the recipes serve 4-6 people and we often had delicious leftovers for the next day. Even though we have such a wealth of multicultural dishes these days compared to my childhood, the combination of all the different colours, textures, scents and flavours still makes these recipes a wonderful birthday treat and is indeed a feast for all the senses!
Indian Beef Curry
Mince 6 garlic cloves, a 1 inch piece of ginger and 4 chillies and dice 1 onion. Dice 750g chuck steak. Measure out 60g ghee.*
Fry garlic, onion, ginger and chillies in some of the ghee.
Mix spices in a separate bowl : 1 tbsp coriander; 2 tsp cumin; 1 tsp turmeric; 1 tsp mustard and 1 tsp poppy seeds. Reduce heat and add spices, cooking slightly. Remove from pan to a bowl.Using the rest of the ghee, fry the meat.Add spice/ onion mix and 1 cup beef broth. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 1.5-2 hours.Serve with rice, chapatis or pappadums; sambals and small bowls of sultanas; dessicatedcoconut; sliced banana; mango pieces; mango chutney and plain yoghurt.* Note : Ghee is basically clarified butter. It comes in a green tin, but if you cannot source any ghee, you can make it yourself: Simmer 500g melted butter for 1.5 hours; Strain through a fine muslin into a metal container. Luckily, it is readily available from most supermarkets these days.
Green Apple SambalPeel, core and dice 2 Granny Smith apples and squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon.
Add 1 sliced red or green capsicum, 1 finely sliced onion and 3 tbsp dessicated coconut, soaked in a little hot milk, sugar and salt.
Sprinkle 1 sliced cucumber with salt, rest for half an hour, then rinse in a colander in cold water. These days, we always use Lebanese cucumbers, which don’t need peeling or salting.
Grate 2 heaped tbsp frozen coconut cream and add to cucumber.
Flavour with lemon juice, salt and pepper. OR
Cucumber and Yoghurt SambalCut 1 Lebanese cucumber into quarters lengthwise and slice finely. Remove seeds.
Add one quarter of red capsicum, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1 inch lengths.
Add 3-4 tbsp yoghurt, chopped chives, salt and pepper.
Tomato SambalChop 3-4 tomatoes roughly.
Add 2 sliced shallots, half a sliced capsicum, 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, a dash of vinegar, salt and pepper.
Green Mango Sambal
Peel and grate 1-2 green mangoes.
Mince a half inch piece of ginger, 1 fresh red chilli or a quarter red capsicum, diced finely.
Add 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, 1 tsp sugar and salt to taste.All these recipes can be made beforehand, so all you need to do on the night is steam the rice, heat up the curry and fry the pappadums. As kids, we used to love watching the latter bubble and swell as they quickly cooked! Just be careful of the hot oil, which tends to spit!
The recipe looked complicated, but the accompanying video made it look a lot easier!
Cardamom Cream CakeDrain 680 g fresh, whole-milk ricotta in a fine mesh sieve placed in a large bowl for 1 to 2 hours until very thick (unless it already is very thick, in which case, eliminate this step!)
Make the milk syrup: It can be made 3 days beforehand and stored in the fridge.In a small saucepan, combine 475 ml whole milk and 4 cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the milk until it reduces by half (30 -45 mins).
Stir in 75g sugar until it dissolves, then continue to simmer until the mixture thickens to the texture of half and half, about 10 minutes longer.Let the mixture cool.
Strain the mixture to get rid of the cardamom and any coagulated milk, then stir in 1.5 tsp rose water.
Make the cake:
Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line two 9-inch cake pans with Gladbake. My tins were actually only 7-inches wide, but it doesn’t matter-it just means each cake is a little thicker, making it easier to slice in half!
Lightly whisk together 4 large egg whites, 240 ml whole milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp rose water.Using an electric mixer, beat 170 g softened unsalted butter.
Sift 330g flour, 300g sugar, 20g baking powder, 1/2 tsp cardamom and 1/4 tsp fine sea salt and add to butter with a third of the milk-egg white mixture.Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for a minute or so until everything is very smooth.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the remaining milk mixture in 3 batches, beating well between additions. Scrape down the sides.Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and smooth top with a spatula. Bake 25-30 minutes till skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pans on racks for 20 minutes, then remove from tins and cool completely.Make the ricotta filling:Using an electric mixer, whisk drained ricotta, 120 ml heavy cream and 95g icing sugar until quite smooth (30 seconds).
Beat in 1 tsp rose water to taste. Beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The mixture will thicken.
Make the mascarpone frosting:Using an electric mixer, beat 170g unsalted butter, 125g icing sugar, 1 tsp rose water and 1/2 tsp cardamom until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
On low speed, beat in 240 ml cold mascarpone and 60 ml cold Greek yogurt, until the mixture is just combined and looks smooth. Do not overbeat or the mixture may curdle. I was so careful to use the marscapone and yoghurt straight out of the fridge and underbeat, to the extent that it probably wasn’t quite as smooth as it should have been, but I was paranoid about botching the recipe and losing all the ingredients!
An easier frosting is to add the rosewater and cardamom to a standard cream cheese butter cream :
Beat 250g unsalted butter and 250g cream cheese till light and fluffy.
Beat in 2 cups icing sugar, 2 tbsp milk and 2 tsp vanilla.OR
Ice the cake with whipped cream flavored with a little icing sugar, rose water and cardamom.
When the cakes have cooled:
Use a long serrated knife to trim the tops of the cakes, so the tops are flat and even. Then cut each cake in half into 2 layers, to make a 4-layer cake.Brush cake layers on all sides with milk syrup. Place one cake round on a cake stand or serving platter, then top with one third of the ricotta filling, leaving a small border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and ricotta filling.Frost top and sides of the cake with the mascarpone frosting. Use strips of Gladbake under the cake so you don’t get icing all over the plate. Top with 50g chopped and toasted pistachios and candied rose petals for garnish; chill until ready to serve.This cake was delicious! Very rich and very good for osteoporosis, though not so good for the waistline!!! I loved the rosewater and cardamom flavour, set off well by the pistachio topping! A great success and my son loved it!There are a number of different methods for making candied rose petals. I consulted a lovely little book in our home library called ‘Edible Flowers‘ by Claire Clifton. A variety of flowers can be used : tiny rose buds or rose petals; violets; mimosa; lilacs; cowslips; fruit or herb flowers and mint leaves. Pick them on a very dry day, remove all the stems and green, trim the white heels from the rose petals and wash and dry thoroughly. I discovered the reason for the latter advice when I picked a lovely LD Braithwaite rose, only to find 3 tiny snails also enjoying the petals. Be assured that I did not use the petals they were on and I did wash the rest of the rose very well! I also used our first violets for the season.
I chose the first method in the book, which was to cover all petal surfaces with beaten egg white, then dip each petal into caster sugar using tweezers and place on a baking tray in a warm oven with the door open to dry. Unfortunately, I mistook salt for caster sugar, so I had to start all over again! The egg white bubbled up in a messy glob, but I took most of it off and given the crystallized rose petals are sprinkled in little broken bits over the top of the cake, it didn’t really matter, but I might try a different method next time!!!
Autumn is well and truly underway in Candelo. The view from our verandah has turned into a tapestry of different colours as the leaves turn and then fall for Winter. Already our plum trees are bare and the poplar leaves are turning from green to gold. The leaves of the snowball tree and the local Liquidambar trees are turning red.The Monbretia berries sport Autumn colours and our Japanese Maple is covered in red-winged seeds.Our neighbour’s fence is also ablaze with vibrant reds of Virginia Creeper!Our cutting garden is providing a last blast of colour before Winter dormancy with its cosmos, zinnias and dahlias.Unfortunately, the cosmos were just too rampant and their intense purple clashed too much with the zinnias, so we pulled them out! I’m sure there must be a spot, which is just right for deep purple cosmos, but it’s certainly NOT the zinnia bed! The dahlias and zinnias however complement each other beautifully with their wide range of colour and form.We are so impressed with the new dahlias, which grew from seed! Beautiful colours and forms and very fast growing! I love all the pinks, oranges and reds together!The zinnias are equally delightful with their long-lasting blooms. Even the dying ones exhibit beautiful faded hues.And ‘Meadowlea’, our golden dahlia, just keeps on keeping on! Such wonderful value for money! Its days are numbered now, but we enjoy its splash of gold while we still can!The hydrangeas soldier on with their final days of blooming before the frost hits!The roses are also throwing out their last blooms before Winter. Both the Soho Bed and the Moon Bed are well-established now. On our recent travels, we collected lots of Flowering Salvia plants and cuttings. We potted all the cuttings and heeled in all the tiny plants in any spare patches we could find. It will be interesting to see how many survive our Winter frosts! I love the huge variety of colours and versatility of Flowering Salvias. Our Pineapple Sage has bright red flowers – see photo below. The golden Euryops daisy came from a cutting earlier in the year and is now a substantial bush. We also planted a pink Weigela between the Quince tree and the Michelia and a Choisya between the pergola and the Tahitian Lime in front of the deciduous Snowball tree. Eventually the crown of the lime will extend across to the pergola, so the Choisya will provide an evergreen block at the base of the lime to enhance the privacy of the garden from the road. Its sweetly scented white flowers will complement the white citrus flowers.The cumquat is covered in flowers and ripening fruit at the moment and fortunately no stinkbugs, so Ross’s efforts were well worthwhile! The vegetable bed has been very productive with capsicums, lettuce and baby spinach.We have also been busy planting out Spring bulbs in the lawn and the terrace bed : Dutch Crocus and Bluebells and Paper White Jonquils in the lawn, Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ under the quince and Snake’s Head Fritillaries, Grape Hyacinth , Miniature Daffodils and Delft Blue Hyacinth in the terrace garden bed. I’m waiting till Mothers’ Day to plant out my tulips, which are currently cooling in the fridge. In the cutting garden, all the old bulbs from last year are already sending out shoots and the cornflower seedlings have just been thinned out- see photo above.The native plants are also starting to flower -the Pepperina tree is flowering, the Correa has a mass of pink bells and the Banksia is covered in golden candles. The Protea is also blooming, however it is very slow-growing. I hope there is not too much shade in its current position and am really looking forward to seeing it grow a bit larger, as I’m sure the little native birds who visit the birdbath will love it! The Grey Fantail and Eastern Spinebill are two of my favourites!Larger birds like this raven and two Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos also visit the garden.And our Little Corellas have unexpectedly returned! Why we don’t know, nor for how long, but they are certainly very noisy!We have been doing a lot of garden planning and have made the decision to eliminate the backing hedge behind the Soho Bed, as we are worried there is not really enough room between the Soho Bed and the cutting garden and the larger plants could cast too much shade, even though they are deciduous. So, we have a few plants to transplant in the coming month. My poor Philadelphus shrub, which is already very confused, sending out ‘Spring’ blooms in Autumn, won’t know what’s hit it! We will probably also move a few of the rhododendrons forward from the fence, so they have a bit more light. We also have a few seeds to sow – more cornflowers, calendulas, poppies and stock- to fill up the bare patches in the cutting garden. So plenty of work in the garden ahead!Because we have been away this month, our creative endeavours have lagged a bit! The pergola is almost finished- we had hoped to join the final cross-piece this morning, but the sun in the photos below turned to rain, so we could not use our electrical power tools! But we’re very close to the finished product and I think it already looks amazing! While the sun was out, I couldn’t resist picking some of our beautiful dahlias and zinnias to brighten up the house. I am revelling in their cheery colour! Their only drawback is lack of scent, but my rose bouquet with its stock and ‘Indigo Spires’ salvia made up for that!And I have finally finished my zinnia and cosmos cushion ! Very bright like its subject matter and complements my abstract flower cushion well. I kept the top layer of petals free, so they could reflex back and give a more three-dimensional look and feel.P.S. More photos of my beautiful new dahlia plants! Such treasures! Thank you Jane x
Victoria certainly deserves its reputation as the ‘Garden State’, as publicized on their car number plates! Last month, we looked at the larger, very well-known general retail nurseries with fabulous display gardens open to the public. This month, I am focusing on a few of the many wonderful smaller specialist nurseries in Victoria. I have divided these nurseries according to their specialist plant type and have started with Dahlias, which were fairly well-covered in last week’s Feature Plant post. I will then move onto nurseries specializing in orchids, hellebores, rhododendrons, and natives, before finally giving a taster of the many wonderful plant fairs, which enable purchases from nurseries, which are often too far away to visit and well as increase their exposure to a wider audience. Please note my beloved roses have their very own section later in the year!
195 Mathisons Rd. Winchelsea VIC 3241 (5 km south of Winchelsea, west of Geelong)
The largest collection of dahlias in Australia.Jenny Parish has been growing dahlias since 1976, when an aunt gave her a box of dahlias. Her 2 acre farm now has 20,000 plants of 2,350 different types of dahlia with every conceivable form.
She produces an extensive mail-order catalogue online, but the farm is open to the public during the peak flowering season from 1st March to the 22nd April each year (closed Fridays), costing $7 per head.
If you are interested in Dahlias, it is well worth a visit. It is great to be able to see the Dahlias in bloom and the dahlia paddock is spectacular! Orchids :
Situated on the Bellarine Peninsula, 10 minutes from Geelong, Pioneer Orchid Farm is one of Australia’s leading growers and sellers of high quality flowering Cymbidium orchids.Brenton and Merrilyn McGee opened a small general nursery back in 1979 with a small range of orchids. Over the years, the range and number of orchids grew, so in 1993, they closed the general nursery to concentrate exclusively on flowering cymbidium pot plants for retail sale and wholesale distribution. It is still a family concern. They now have 4,500 squared metres of shadehouse and glasshouse space, holding 250,000 plants in varying stages of development.
By selecting and growing only those orchids at the cutting edge of breeding and development, they have been able to produce a huge variety of high quality orchids.
Their selective breeding program in 1994 has developed new lines like the Boutique Pioneer range.
There is plenty of information on their website about breeding and growing orchids. It is also possible to visit the nursery from mid-June to mid-November 7 days a week from 9.30am-5pm to view their exquisite orchids in bloom. Other times (February to June) by appointment. Their shadehouse in full bloom is such a beautiful sight! They sell direct to the public, as well as supplying other Melbourne nurseries. Hellebores (Winter Roses)
Hellebores are a Winter flowering perennial, originally found in deciduous woodlands in Europe and West Asia, and grown in temperate areas of Australia, including : Tasmania and Victoria; Coastal NSW up to and including Sydney; Inland NSW up to the Queensland border; Toowoomba, Queensland; and temperate areas of South Australia. I shall be discussing Hellebores as a Feature Plant in July, so will concentrate on the nursery for now.The owner and breeder, Peter Leigh, started growing hellebores in his inner-city Melbourne backyard as a keen amateur collector back in the early 1990s. He studied Horticulture at NMIT and Burnley and began importing hellebore seed from the UK and quickly outgrew his Brunswick backyard. He moved to a 20 acre property at Ashbourne, near Woodend, in the Macedon Ranges, established a production nursery and began selling plants to the public.
All the plants are grown from his own breeding stock. Peter imports the very best Hellebore seed and plants, as well as doing his own breeding. He sells 75mm pots mail-order to all states except for Western Australia between April and October, as well as selling 140 mm and 200mm pots wholesale to retail nurseries between Autumn and Spring.
During flowering season, from June to September, there are a series of Open Days on a Sunday only. All other times are by appointment only. At 11am and 2pm, there are tours of the nursery, in which he explains their propogation and growing techniques. There is a huge variety of hellebores for sale with lots of different colours and forms. There is even a small number of rare varieties.Post Office Farm Nursery has the National Hellebore Collection, as registered with the Garden Plant Conservation Association of Australia. They are also members of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association of Victoria.
Their open days are an excellent opportunity to see the plants in flower and learn all about their requirements, but if you cannot attend an open day, the nursery also participates in the many plant shows around the country. Their website is also excellent with growing information, links and resources and a wonderful gallery of photos, so that you can dream about and choose your next purchases.
While not a private nursery, the gardens do have a nursery attached and because they specialize in rhododendrons and are regularly open to the public, I felt they belonged in this category!
They were developed by the Australian Rhododendron Society in 1961, after leasing a block of land near the township of Olinda from the state government in 1960. Volunteers cleared the land and planted rhododendrons, propagated by the society members from their own collections. Unfortunately, a severe bushfire in 1962 destroyed the original plantings, but it did clear more land, so they started again! Many of the plants have been propagated from seed and plants donated from other international and national rhododendron societies, as well as plant hunting trips to New Guinea, India and Nepal. There are 950 species of rhododendron in the wild, from tiny prostrate alpines to 30m tall trees, and the National Rhododendron Gardens hold 550 of these species. Of the 15,000 plants growing in the gardens, half are species rhodendrons, including evergreen, deciduous and Vireya rhododendrons, and half are hybrids.
Rhododendrons mainly grow in the Northern Hemisphere, predominantly China, Himalayas and North America, but the Vireya group (300 species) grow in tropical regions of the Southern Hemisphere- mainly New Guinea, Indonesia and Borneo. Australia has 2 native species of Vireyas, which grow on the mountains behind Cairns in North Queensland: R. lochiae and R. viriosum, which flower from Spring to Autumn.
The National Rhododendron Gardens cover 43 hectares in the middle of a forest of tall Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans), the tallest flowering trees in the world. The specimens next to the parking area are spectacular! They are situated 600m above sea level in the Dandenong Ranges, west of Melbourne, and receive 1200mm rain each year. The soil is deep, slightly acidic, volcanic clay loam with good drainage, perfect for growing not only rhododendrons, but also azaleas (12,000), camellias (3,000) and daffodils (250,000), as well as magnolias, hydrangeas, deciduous trees, flowering cherries, hellebores and cyclamens.
But the predominant focus is on rhododendrons! This slightly battered map shows the layout of the grounds. For a clearer view, consult the website! The area is divided into a number of different areas including a Magnolia Lawn, a Conifer Lawn, a Lyrebird Garden, a Cherry Tree Grove, a Protea Garden and a Camellia Garden, as well as having many beautiful lakes, pavilions, picnic areas, views and paths. It can be a very long walk if you want to cover the whole area, but fortunately, a Garden Explorer bus operates during the peak flowering season in Spring. The full narrated tour takes 25 minutes, but you can hop on and off the bus at various points for a more in-depth exploration of specific areas. The bus costs $10 for adults; $8 for concession and kids; under fives are free and a family costs $35.
The Hanami Cherry Blossom Festival is held in September, when the flowering cherries are in full bloom. The gardens are also available for weddings and photography.
They have been operated by Parks Victoria since 1995 and are open every day from 10am-5pm, except for Christmas day, dangerous weather conditions (eg high wind or high fire risk) and major works. The cafe, Cafe Vireya, operates at weekends and provides picnic baskets for lunch in the gardens, as well as Devonshire Teas. Plants are available for sale, as well as botanical and garden-themed gifts. Entrance is free – little wonder that they attract 50,000 to 60,000 visitors each year! Native Plants
Goldfields Revegetation Nursery : Central & Northern Victoria’s Native Plant Nursery, Wildflower Farm & Land Rehabilitation & Environmental Consultants
A specialist award-winning retail and wholesale native plant nursery with over 2000 indigenous and selected native species, including plants for attracting birds, food & medicinal plants, aquatic plants, cut flowers, climbers, ground covers, herbs and grasses, as well as trees and shrubs for erosion and salt control, farm forestry, honey, fodder, windbreaks and screening. They supply indigenous plants to Central and Northern Victoria, as well as Metropolitan Melbourne. They are open 7 days a week 9am-5pm. All the plants are adapted to the soils, frost and 500mm rain and are propagated from seeds and cuttings collected from many provenances within 3 bio-regions in Central & Northern Victoria.: Victorian Riverina; Goldfields; and Central Victorian Uplands. All plants in their catalogue are labelled with their provenance.
The plant catalogue is accessed by search criteria including : bioregion; plant characteristics; special growing conditions (wetland, salt tolerance; fire resistance; indoor; riparian) and uses (farm forestry; timber; waste water management; landscaping; flora for fauna; honey; cut wildflowers and bush tucker and medicine).
Plants are available in tubes or 150mm pots, with a limited range of advanced plants. They also sell seeds in bulk quantities for revegetation sites, as well as cards and books, nesting boxes and bird feeders, rabbit guards, weed identification posters, terracotta pots and garden ornaments, wildflower bouquets and environmental information.
The nursery was started by Marilyn Sprague, who was very concerned about environmental degradation in the goldfields area, including changes to water quality and vegetation, as well as increasing erosion . The threatened Box-Ironbark forests were of particular concern. She developed a wildflower farm near Bendigo and her subsequent knowledge of seed collection, propagation, raising of seedlings and planting became much sought in the field of revegetation, especially mine-site rehabilitation.
The nursery has a strong commitment to the environment and education. Nursery staff regularly conduct tours and the website also has some great fact sheets eg: What to Plant and Where (establishing wetlands) ; Managing your Bush Block ; Wildflowers for Floristry and the Home Garden and Native Plant Soil Preparation. Landcare groups, school groups and university students studying environmental science also visit the nursery. The nursery has won an award for the operations principles of Best Practice Environment Management, as well as Victorian Tidy Towns Commercial/Industrial Site Award in the Keep Australia Beautiful Rural Pride Awards.
Related services include : Site Inspection, Environmental Management Plans, Seed Collection, Direct Seeding, Contract Growing and Planting, and Revegetation Proposals for Environmental Effect Statements. Current revegetation projects are for Bendigo Mining, Perseverance Corporation and Reef Mining NL. The nursery has also supplied Catchment Management Authorities, Landcare groups, local councils and large corporations like Telstra and VicRoads.
It is well worth a visit in Spring to see the wide variety of Australian wildflowers. The nine hectare nursery site is managed by Ashley Elliot and was designed by Greg Burgess and Taylor and Cullity with display beds for specific regions. The propagation and growing-on areas are separated from the retail operations by extensive areas of wildflowers grown for the cut flower industry. These plants are grown on contoured ridges, covered in weed mat and mulch and watered by sub-surface Israeli dripper tubes.
During Summer, water is supplied via pipe-line from Lake Eppalock, but since this can be cut off at times, there are also 2 large dams on the property. All water is recycled. Water overflows from one dam down a waterfall, alongside a path, underneath the environmental shop and then through a wetland/biological filter of indigenous water plants to end up in a small pond and is returned to the main dam via a submersible pump. All run-off from the nursery ends up either in the dam or the pond – nothing is wasted. Salt and nutrient levels in the water are regularly monitored.
Kuranga Nursery at the foot of the Dandenong Ranges is also a very impressive nursery and has the largest range of native plants in Australia. It has 2 catalogues :
1. General natives : sold in 14cm pots, though a few are sold in 20 cm and 25cm pots.
2. Plants indigenous to the Greater Melbourne area : sold in 50mm square forestry tubes. Tube stock is propagated from seed and cuttings taken from plants in the Greater Melbourne area. Collector’s Corner houses attractive, but hard-to-grow, native plants with more particular requirements.The website also has information on plants in season and an upcoming newsletter.
The Paperbark Cafe and Gift Shop are housed in an architect-designed building made with 100-year old ironbark exposed beams, recycled from Sydney Wharf. Paperbark Cafe has a seasonal menu with a Bush Food twist including : Lemon Myrtle, Mountain Pepper; Quandong and Wattle Seed.
The huge gift shop has an extensive range of books on Australian Native Plants; cards; mugs; garden gifts; homewares; native fragrant body products; bush foods; sculptures and garden ornaments; pottery; bird baths and water bowls; bird feeders and nesting boxes; and decorative metal garden spikes.
The nursery is open 7 days a week, except for Christmas day and Good Friday. The nursery is open from 8.30am-5pm, while the cafe and gift shop close at 4.30pm.
While you are over near the Dandenongs, it is well worth visiting the next two native gardens:
2 hectare garden with more than 1400 different species of native plants, a retail plant nursery, community function room , BBQs and picnic tables and lovely views. The garden is set on a sloping site beneath a canopy of beautiful Mountain Grey Gums (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa) and Messmate (Eucalyptus oblique). ‘Karwarra’ means ‘Place of Many Flowers’.
Established in 1965, Karwarra was developed by the Mount Dandenong Horticultural Society and is one of the few public gardens where native plants are used exclusively, giving visitors the opportunity to see how they can be used effectively as part of a landscaped garden. Garden designer, Kath Deery, guided Karwarra’s early development and her design still informs the garden today. The garden includes a rockery by Ellis Stones. It has been owned and operated by Council since 1989, with support and assistance from the ‘Friends of Karwarra’ group. A 2006 Master Plan was drawn up in 2006 to renovate and rejuvenate the grounds and improve access paths. The ‘Friends of Karwarra’ support the garden by opening the garden on weekends, assisting with plant propagation and garden maintenance, with promotion of the garden and various other activities.
The aim at Karwarra is to promote the use of Australian plants in horticulture by displaying plants, which perform well in the environment of the garden. Species are selected for their ability to tolerate shade for much of the year. Species being grown including Banksia, Boronia, Correa, Crowea, Ericas, Grevillea, Hakea, Hibbertia, Persoonia, Pomaderris, Prostanthera, Telopea and Thomasia. Many rare and unusual species are grown, as well as rainforest and fern species. There is also a bush food and medicinal trail, as well as educational displays, plant catalogues and flowering calendars. Karwarra has an important role in plant conservation and holds the Garden Plant Conservaton Association of Australia (GPCAA) Boronia and Waratah collections, as well as other significant plant collections.
It is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10am-4pm and 1-4pm on Saturday and Sunday. It is closed on Mondays, as well as Total Fire Ban Days and during extreme weather. Entry is free, but no pets are allowed.
Karwarra provide a free e-newsletter containing valuable native plant growing information, Karwarra’s events and exhibitions, activities, workshops and plant sales. The retail nursery has plenty of Australian native plants for sale, both as tubestock and more advanced plants in 6 inch pots.
8 acres of magnificent Australian Wildflower gardens with thousands of Australian native plants from all states of Australia. Dot and Bob O’Neill were the 2005 winners of ABC’s ‘Australia’s Gardener of the Year’ competition and are very knowledgeable and passionate about Australian plants and birds.The O’Neills bought a working cherry and plum orchard back in 1976, then gradually cleared the orchard, planting gums and native plants instead. There is a wildlife lake and plenty of birdlife. ‘Katandra’ is the aboriginal word for ‘Song of Birds’ and there are over 75 bird species in the garden.
Katandra Gardens are open for visitors daily. Visitors on bus and coach tours can have a personalized tour of the garden and refreshments or you can stay in their B&B accommodation in 4 self contained cottages, as well as a private B&B suite for up to 14 visitors.
Finally, if you cannot make it to any of these specialist nurseries, they will often come to a Plant Fair near you! While we were in Melbourne, we attended the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show four times! Now that we live in Candelo on the Far South Coast, our closest annual Plant Fair is held in March at Lanyon Homestead, just south of Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory.
Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show
Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens Victoria Parade and Nicholson Street , Melbourne, VIC at Stop 11 Tram stop.
16-20 March 2016 9am-5pm each day, with a special twilight session from 6.00pm-9.30 pm on Friday 18th March 2016.
Adult tickets cost $27 and concession $ 23. Children 6-16 years old $10 and Family is $60 for 2 adults and 2 children; The Twilight session is $20 Adults and $10 kids.This is the big garden event for the year and it is mindblowing, especially your first visit! It is always held in March at the beautiful historic Queen Victoria Building and Carlton Gardens in the heart of Melbourne. We attended in 2010 as newcomers to Melbourne; in 2011 as a Floristry student at the Gordon TAFE, Geelong; in 2012 as a Burnley Garden Design postgraduate student and in 2014, when my sister visited us from Qld.
Outside, there are show gardens displaying the latest in landscaping; a Landscaping Victoria Boutique Garden competition for landscape designers and architects, as well as students, where they present a 5metre by 5metre garden design; the Momentum Energy Sustainability Award winning displays; a Children’s Garden;
and a sculpture display, as well as lots of sculptures for sale ; as well as live entertainment, food outlets and lots of stalls showcasing nursery plants and garden and landscaping products and materials.
Inside the building, floristry dominates with : the Great Hall of Flowers, including displays by florists and floristry schools; a Growers Avenue; a Fresh Flower Market and RMIT Floral Fashion displays, whose theme this year was : ‘Hot House : Danger, Desire, Delight’! There are also Floral Design Workshops and presentations, as well as an art exhibition, based on plants and the garden.
It is easy to spend a whole day there, so the price of the ticket is well worth it.
12-13 March 2016 10am-4pm $10 per adult; Under 18s free.Now in its fifth year, Lanyon Plant Fair is hosted by the Horticultural Society of Canberra Inc. There are over 30 local and interstate stallholders from growers of bulbs to trees, natives to exotics, as well as garden art and top quality garden tools. For a list of stallholders, see : http://hsoc.org.au/documents/LanyonPlantFair2016_stallholders_asat22Jan.pdfIf you have any special requests, it is worth phoning the nursery before they leave home, so they can bring your desired plant with you. This is particularly beneficial with nurseries like Yamina Collectors’ Nursery, who normally require a minimum order of $130 plant value plus freight, packing and quarantine fees before they will send out to you. I bought my specimen of Exochorda macrantha ‘The Bride’ from them this way last year and the owner Don Teese was only too happy to oblige without the hefty minimum order cost or the freight cost. Admittedly, I did end up succumbing to a Cornus ‘Norman Hadden’ and a Calycanthus florida from their stall, but I still paid less than $130!!! If you would like to glance at their catalogue, their website is: http://yaminacollectorsnursery.com.au/. Yamina Collectors Nursery is based at 34 Mt Pleasant Rd Monbulk, where a large collection of rare plants are available, mostly in 15-25cm pots. Visiting times are: Weekdays 8.30am-4.30pm; Weekends and Public Holidays 1 -4pm. On Winter weekends (May – August), it is only open on Sat 1-4 pm. The nursery is closed on Sundays.But back to the Plant Fair…! It’s a lovely day out and not only can you buy some wonderful new plants, but there are also talks and demonstrations by garden specialists, as well as special children’s activities. Last year, I bought my two wonderful dahlias, ‘Ellen Huston’ and ‘Meadow Lea’, from Drewitts Bulbs (http://www.drewittsbulbs.com.au/), a small wholesale nursery at Silvan, Victoria, which only sells to the public at plant fairs. This year, I bought some special bulbs from them as well : Fritillaria meleagris; Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ and Species tulip: Tulipa clusiana ‘Cynthia’. I also purchased a stunning purple flowering Salvia called ‘Indigo Spires’ from Q Nursery, which is based in Goulburn and which specializes in cold-tolerant plants, so it should survive our frosts!!!
Lanyon Homestead is a commercial sheep and cattle property on the Murrumbidgee river at the foot of the Brindabella Ranges just south of Canberra. It was established in the 1840s and has lovely old gardens with beds of perennials and roses and a productive heirloom vegetable garden and orchard.
There are also a number of smaller plant fairs throughout the year like the annual Mt. Macedon Plant Lovers’ Market, which we attended at Bolobek on 16 September 2014 and the Winter Plant Day, which we visited at Villa Parma, Hepburn Springs on 20th July 2014. The former will again be held at Bolobek, 370 Mt. Macedon Rd, Macedon on 17-18 September 2016 from 10am-4pm. See the Country Perennial website for a list of upcoming plant fairs : http://www.countryfarmperennials.com.au/index.php/2013-11-11-03-55-00/plant-shows.
Another old-fashioned plant, which is very fashionable at the moment, and is a stalwart of country shows. Growing dahlias can also be quite addictive!!!
I remember visiting two elderly spinsters in their 80s, who lived with their brothers on their family property, just north of Guyra, New South Wales. The ‘boys’ had extensively cleared the farm of every little single tree, so much so that the paddocks looked like a dry crater on the moon! One of the sisters did all the cooking for the family, as well as feeding the chooks, bottle-feeding all the abandoned lambs, and caring for injured animals rescued by WIRES. We were treated to a magnificent afternoon tea of three different types of cakes, as well as freshly-baked scones and cream, biscuits and lamingtons, which we ate in the dark, poky kitchen with a joey in a sling on the back of a nearby chair. Apparently, this spread was standard fare for the boys, hungry after a morning’s work on the farm. She also cooked meals for the brother in town, whose wife had left him, and one of the ‘boys’ would drive the meals the half hour to town every afternoon. The only time this wonderful old lady ever left the property was Show Day, when they would all go to town to see how her sister’s dahlias had fared. The gardening ‘outdoor’ sister not only grew the family vegetables, but also had the most wondrous collection of dahlias of every type and colour in a neat patch next to the bedlam of the chook yard, full of random, makeshift wire enclosures for the poultry. It was an amazing sight!
Another wonderful place to see dahlias in all their glory is ‘Country Dahlias’ in Winchelsea, Victoria, as seen in the photos above and below. For their catalogue, see : http://www.countrydahlias.com.au/. Jenny Parish has over 20,000 Dahlia plants of 2350 varieties. You can visit the farm from 1st March to 22nd April each year, as we did in March 2013. ($7 per adult; closed Fridays). There are display beds out the front, trial beds out the back and paddocks full of dahlias of every conceivable form and colour – a spectacular sight indeed! Dahlias can also be bought from Tesselaars (see post on Favorite Nurseries : https://candeloblooms.com/2016/03/08/favourite-gardens-regularly-open-to-the-public-nursery-gardens-in-victoria/). Tesselaar’s website is : https://www.tesselaar.net.au/ . Other bulb nurseries nearby include: Club Creek Bulb Farm (https://www.facebook.com/clubcreekbulbfarm/) and Drewitt’s Bulbs (http://www.drewittsbulbs.com.au/). Local shows are also a great place to see the dahlias growing in your area and if you become really hooked, the Dahlia Society of Australia (www.dahliasaustralia.org.au) can direct you to the Dahlia club in your area , as well as alert you to the upcoming Dahlia conferences and tuber auctions. These photos are from the 2015 Bega Show. Dahlias can be found in many historic or old gardens like Rippon Lea, seen below. For more on the latter, see my post : https://candeloblooms.com/2016/02/09/favourite-gardens-regularly-open-to-the-public-historic-homes-and-gardens/
I was not surprised to discover that there was a Portland Dahlia Society, as there is a wonderful display garden of some very old varieties in the Portland Botanic Garden, seen in the photo below. Some of the varieties were as old as 1857! See my post on Late 19th Century Botanic Gardens: https://candeloblooms.com/2015/11/05/favourite-late-19th-century-gardens-in-australia/. Description:
Dahlias are bushy herbaceous tuberous perennials with a huge variety in size (from 30cm up to 1.8m), type and colour. They have lush foliage with pinnate leaves of a variety of greens and even dark foliage like the red ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, a chance self-sown seedling from the 1920s garden of Cardiff grower, Fred Treseder; or the burgundy flowering Mt. Noddy with its chocolate foliage. My ‘Ellen Huston’ dahlia also has wonderful dark foliage. Sometimes the buds look positively metallic after rain! The flower colour varies from burnt red or scarlet to a softer red.
Flamboyant, showy and long-flowering, dahlias bloom all Summer and Autumn from November to May. There is a huge variety of forms including : Single; Cactus; Laciniated; Ball-shaped; Pompom; Waterlily; Peony; Collarette; Stella; Orchid; Anemone; Baby Dahlias; Decorative and Novelty. See:http://www.dahliaworld.co.uk/dahlia.htm for more information about their classification. Colour ranges from yellows, golds, oranges, reds and burgundy to pastel pinks, purples and whites, but there are no green, blue or black ones!
Phylogeny : Dahlias belong to the Daisy family Asteraceae and are closely related to Daisies, Sunflowers, Crysanthemums and Zinnias. There are 30 species and 20,000 cultivars. They were bred from single species dahlias : D.coccinea; D. Rosea and D. Pinnata and named after the Swedish botanist Andreas Dahl (1751-1789). Famous breeders include : John Menzel (Winkie Dahlias); Keith Hammett from New Zealand; Jack Gott from Britain and the Verwer brothers from Holland.
Origin : Native to Mexico and Central America, dahlias were imported to Western Europe by the Spanish.
Growing Dahlias :
While some sources state : ‘full sun’ as a requirement, the Dahlia Society of Australia advises that the best position is one with morning sun and afternoon shade, probably because our Australian sun can be so strong in Summer and burn the blooms. They do grow well under filtered light and under 2.4m high shade cloth eg White and Sandstone 50 percent cloth.
They also like a moist, rich, well-drained soil. Dahlias are very sensitive to too much or too little water, so good drainage is essential. They prefer a soil pH of 6.5-7. I also read that it is important not to water the dahlia tubers until their stems are 15cm high. Dahlias are greedy feeders, especially in the warmer months. Organic sheep or cow manure should be dug into the ground 2 weeks before planting. Do not use poultry or pig manure, as it is too strong for the developing root system. Fertilize in Spring, as well as in the warmer months, with a balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 8:4:8 for Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorous. Do not use too much nitrogen as this will encourage leaf growth and less blooms. Weak weekly applications of a seaweed based formula (for example, watered down Seasol) are beneficial for root development and serious growers use small amounts of sulphate of potash and sulphate of iron to encourage strong growth, vibrant colours and more blooms. Some swear by water-soluble tomato food. An 8cm layer of organic mulch will also prevent water loss and protect the tubers. Many of the larger varieties will need staking to support the lanky stems, especially with the weight of the flower heads. Tie the stems to canes with twine or use a metal cradle, trellis or tomato hoops. It is important to put the stake in before planting the tubers, so they are not damaged. Pinching out the young growth will also produce a sturdier plant. It takes 8 weeks between planting and flowering. The Dahlia Society of Australia suggests planting tubers 2 weeks either side of Melbourne Cup Day ( ie 1st week in November), when the soil temperature is rising and there is no danger of frosts. In frost-free coastal areas of Queensland, dahlias can be planted in September. Exhibitors often plant in December for a March flowering to escape the heat in time for their show circuits.
Dahlias make excellent cut flowers. There is no need to bash the ends or plunge stem ends in boiling water. Just put cut dahlias straight into a bucket of water as you cut them, then recut their ends on a diagonal and arrange in a vase of water with added preservative. Cut blooms last well- at least a week- and water should be changed every 3 days and the stems recut.Dead-heading spent flowers on the plants will encourage the formation of more blooms and extend the flowering season. Make sure to cut the flowering stem right back where it joins the main stem.
The more compact varieties can be grown in pots with an underskirt of lower growing plants.Cut dahlias back to the ground in late May or early June. If the soil gets wet in Winter (risk of rot) or frosts are severe, or you need the space for Winter and Spring annuals, lift the tubers and store them in the shed in a shallow box covered with cane mulch or potting soil to prevent them from drying out, then plant them out again in September or October. Alternatively, wrap the lifted tubers in newspaper and check occasionally for rot. Otherwise, leave them in the ground and protect from light frosts with a heavy layer of mulch.Propogation : Dig up and divide every 3-5 years, so they don’t get overcrowded or produce less blooms. Dig up in September before they start shooting. Divide into portions, each with a part of last year’s stalk attached, otherwise they won’t regrow. Replant in soil with lots of compost and decayed manure. Make sure you put your stake in first before planting the tuber portion. Smaller tuber divisions develop roots quicker than larger pieces. Place the tubers horizontally 10 cm deep and 50mm away from the stake with the eye higher than the tail. The Dahlia Society of Australia website gives detailed information on planting tubers. Below are photos of my dahlias : ‘Meadow Lea’ a Waterlily-type Dahlia and ‘Ellen Huston’ (red), a decorative type.Dahlias can also be propagated by cuttings of the young shoots in Spring. These cuttings develop very quickly into new plants, which are often stronger and healthier than those grown from tuber division. They can also be grown from seed and the offspring often look nothing like their parents. It’s a great way to develop new varieties. To save seed, remove the dead petals of the spent flowerhead to reduce the risk of botrytis, then when the flowerhead is dry, remove the mature seed and plant the following Spring. Pests and Diseases : Snails and slugs like the fresh shoots in Spring. Two-spotted mite can cause leaf distortion. Other pests include : thrips and aphids; white fly; cut worms and meal bug, but generally dahlias are pretty healthy. They can also be attacked by powdery mildew. Viruses can stunt the plant and distort leaves, but unfortunately, there is no cure and infected plants should be removed.
Tree Dahlia Dahlia imperialis
Another stunning dahlia, which is huge and a very dramatic addition to the garden. Native to Mexico, Central America and Colombia, it is hardy to Zone 8, though for longest flowering, it is best grown in frost-free climates. Description : The tree dahlia is a herbaceous perennial 3 – 5 m tall with thick, hollow, bamboo-like stems, a large tuber, large bipinnate leaves and pendulous clusters of single lavender flowers with yellow centres in Autumn and Winter. There are single purple, pink and white varieties and a double white form is also available. The tubers can be bought from Diggers’ Seeds or Yamina Rare Plants. The butterflies and bees love the flowers! They flourish in most areas from the subtropics to cold regions.Growing Tree Dahlias :
They are easy to grow and propagate and very fast growing, as you will have seen in photos of my plants over the last year. Real Jack-in-the-Beanstalk type plants! They grow best with the support of a wall or fence and may need staking as their brittle stems easily break in the wind. Nylon ties are good because they stretch as the plant grows. Nipping out the tips when the canes are 1m high will result in a shorter plant, which is more resistant to wind damage. For a more compact plant, prune the soft new growth by a half to a third in early Summer and shorten 20-30cm shoots to 10cm. However, I love the appearance of the pendulous blooms and looking up into their sunny soft lavender faces ,which stand out against the deep blue sky. The little buds are so sweet!
Like all dahlias, they love a sunny spot with rich well-drained soil and shelter from wind and frost. They prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.1-6.5. Despite their propensity to wind damage and the fact that they flower late Autumn in the very last frost-free week of the season, hence experience a very fleeting flowering season, before crashing to a black mangled mess with the first frost, I still love my Tree Dahlias and wouldn’t be without them- that said, I probably wouldn’t plant them in the first place with our Winter frosts! Last year, they flowered from 15-26 May, being hit by the first frost on my Mum’s birthday! But their blooms are so pretty and silky and their fragility makes them even more special!!!
Prune the canes in Winter back to almost ground level and cover well with 8-10 cm compost or manure, then mulch for frost protection over Winter.
To propagate, take a piece of stem with one, preferably two nodes, and plant horizontally in the ground 20cm deep in Winter. They can also be propagated by taking tip cuttings in Summer, transplanting intact tubers or seed. It’s that easy! Here are some photos of the growth of our Tree Dahlias over the last 3 months from the end of Spring 2015 through to the present day as seen in my previous blog posts:
No garden should be without at least one Dahlia. We have been enjoying the generous blooms of our dahlias : orange ‘Meadow Lea’ and burnt red ‘Ellen Huston’ all Summer and Autumn long ! I know that I have well and truly caught the Dahlia bug, as I could not wait till next Spring to try out my friend’s Dahlia seeds. I think I might have got away with a late Autumn crop! The seeds struck well and the little plants are positively zooming along, so I really hope that I get to see the flowers, as my friend assures me that the colour combinations are amazing! The photos below show the new seedlings in early March, then the emerging blooms this week.Here is another beautiful water colour from my daughter, a fitting tribute to such a beautiful flower!