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!
Pioneer Orchid Farm
735 Portarlington Rd. Leopold VIC 3224
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)
Post Office Farm Nursery
934 Ashbourne Rd, Ashbourne VIC 3442
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.
National Rhododendron Gardens
The Georgian Rd, Olinda VIC 3788
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!
Goldfields Revegetation Nursery : Central & Northern Victoria’s Native Plant Nursery, Wildflower Farm & Land Rehabilitation & Environmental Consultants
230 Tannery Lane Mandurang VIC 3551
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 Native Nursery
118 York Rd. Mt. Evelyn VIC 3796
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:
Karwarra Australian Plant Garden
Mt Dandenong Tourist Road (behind Kalorama Memorial Reserve), Kalorama, VIC 3766
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.
49 Hunter Rd, Wandin North, VIC, 3139
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.
Lanyon Plant Fair
Lanyon Homestead Tharwa Drive Gordon ACT 2906
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.