Thursday, December 02, 2010

November 2010 Garden News

What a busy time it is during the lead up to our ‘Open garden’, so much to do and of course with the cold spring things are different in the garden.
Bright points were the great show of Caladiums and Oncidium orchids that looked stunning.
On the down side leaves were dropping everywhere and no Cape York Gingers or Scadoxus ‘Blood Lilys’ were in flower
Everyone’s favourite plant was Costus vargassi, it had both base and top flowers on and combined with the segmented stem it looked stunning.
We had a gale on Saturday which ripped the roof off one of our car shelters.
The whole garden looked really good and there was plenty for everyone to see, as far as I know all 630 visitors left with a smile on their face and happy.
As usual we enlisted the help of family and friends to help us on the gate and with plant sales.
The raffle and catering raised $2000 for charity and we sold a good number of plants.
Bromeliads are so plentiful these days that it is getting very hard to get rid of them.
I was very disappointed with the ‘Open Garden Scheme’s’ publicity as the interview on morning radio 4 BC was  confused with another garden, good job Colin Campbell had previously visited our garden and was able to part correct the misinformation.  I was interviewed on ABC radio and promoted the garden best I could.
After it was all over, it was two days of cleaning and getting things back to normal then a relaxing few days in a unit at Mooloolaba for a very well earned rest.
No rain in November but we have plenty of water stored in our seven tanks.
Will we do it again? I think it will depend on Judy’s health as her Arthritis is not getting any better and this year was a real struggle for her.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Garden News November 2010

It’ been a very busy month with three bus tours through the garden.
We had Caboolture and District Bromeliad Society, Bundaberg gardeners and the Stafford garden club; I also had a garden presentation to the Royal Horticultural Society at Mt Coot-tha Botanical gardens.
With all the visitors the garden has required a lot of upkeep; I suppose it will mean less work to prepare for Open garden coming up in a few weeks time.
Judy and I celebrated our 42nd Wedding anniversary this month, and became grand-parents for the second time to a little premature baby girl named Charlotte; she spent three weeks in hospital but is now home with her loving parents.
I have delivered 4500 open garden flyers to every club and nursery I could find, what with that and the channel 7s ‘The Great South East’ we should have a good ‘Open Garden’ and Channel 10 will be doing an outside broadcast here for the weather on Thursday 18 November.
The garden is looking good, greener than ever, only problem is the Custard Apples are late losing their leaves due to the cool start to spring.
The really good news is that we have had 220 mills of rain or 10 inches in October, to think this time last year we went almost seven months without any rain. It’s such a bonus not having to spend hours each day watering.
Judy and I had a nice trip up the coast and firstly going to Yandina markets, then to see Maureen Simons nursery at Nambour then finally to see Paul and Margaret Lancaster at Sunshine Coast Water gardens.
We obviously came home with a car full of plants, I was especially please to add another six Costus to my collection.
All systems go to our Open Garden, hope the weather is fine for us and that we get lots of visitors.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Brisbane Open Garden


After 20 years of Service in the RAAF and nearly as many addresses Judy, our two sons and I were looking forward to putting roots down in one place. We acquired our one-acre block here in Birkdale in 1988 and proceeded to build a house that would actually be our permanent home.
It was a bare block so we started well and truly from scratch. We decided from the outset that we would have a reasonably nice garden, one that would return something back to us. It must be pointed out that we have done all the work ourselves, no landscape gardeners or heavy equipment in our yard. It is basically a gardener’s garden built by sheer hard work and effort, the only help being shovel and wheelbarrow.
We started off the garden by planting a variety of tropical fruit trees and basically lots of lawn. It was not until after  our eldest son became a paraplegic through a motor bike accident in 1996 that we really started to put our heart and soul into the garden, which then became an integral part of our own rehabilitation, ‘the harder you work the less time you have to think’. It hasn’t been easy, very hard work ‘poor soil’ and ‘no underground water’. We rely on rainfall and the garden hose; sometimes I wondered with the changing dryer weather pattern if we should have taken up a less stressful hobby.  In 2005 we put in a 15000-litre rainwater tank then two more in 2006 (no rebate in Redlands). Another two 15000 litre and one 5000 litre tank were purchased in 2008 and in 2010 we put in our largest tank of 24500 litres; this now means that we have seven tanks with combined storage of 107,000  litres of rainwater for use in the garden. We hope that this makes us drought proof.
The soil is solid clay down to about 70 feet (we know this because we drilled for fresh water and found salt water at 80 feet), so over the years we have had to trailer in many metres of different mulch’s. We bring in quite a lot of stable and mushroom manure and compost everything that is able to be put through the petrol shredder and use all the lawn clippings. Our main mulch is sugar cane of which we use about 160 bales each year.
We have over 70 tropical fruit and nut trees, with approximately 40 different edible varieties, we have sapotes, star apples, longans, custard apples, sapodillas, hog plum’s, wax jambu, lychees and of course several types of mango’s just to name a few.  We also have a productive vegetable garden, which reflects the time we spent living in Malaysia, it is full of Asian vegetables. No matter what time of year it is we can always go outside and find something to eat be it fruit or vegetable. Our garden is a ‘Giving Garden’ and if we cannot eat it the bats and cockatoos will.
The garden changes every year and is still evolving.  I endeavour to do at least one major landscaping project and a few minor ones each year until I feel the garden is complete (almost there), I must admit I have said this over and over again and still find more projects to do.
For those who have been regular visitors to our garden, you would have seen many changes and this year is no exception with five changes made to the garden. Visitors will not be disappointed on their return visit.
This year will be our first open garden when we have not been in drought.
With the years of drought our Garden practices and our ability to cope has been severely tested and we have had to become ‘smart gardeners’.
You will be able to walk through the many rainforest tracks, which are covered by a canopy of exotic, and different tropical fruit trees. The under plantings are full of many spectacular colourful plants that we collect throughout the year.
There are many water features spread around the Garden. These range from a Goldfish pond with a running waterfall, water pots and small in ground ponds all filled with plants and fish.  Heliconia’s, gingers, costus and calatheas abound.  There is a lovely swimming pool area with its own little rain forest area. You are also welcome to walk through the bromeliad and orchid shade houses that are crammed full of hundreds of colourful plants.
By using good smart gardening practices utilising natural soil conditioners and fertilizers, rainwater, mulching, worm farms, composting and native beehives this garden remains healthy and productive all year round.
Our garden gives immense pleasure, relaxation and tranquillity just by being in it’s within its beautiful grounds It is interesting garden and one that is was able to relieve the stresses of a working day, it is a garden that gives us something back in return, and we are very proud to share it with our visitors during our ‘Open Garden’.
This garden is not fancy it’s all about plants and landscaping.
 It's been a big year with two television segments, runners up for 'Australian Gardener of the Year' and lots of guest speaking at garden clubs.
This will be our very first year not in drought, so the garden should look spectacular.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Black Sapote Recipe

500 g black sapote flesh
500g sultanas
1/2 cup water
1&1/2 teaspoons bicarb of soda
1&1/2 cups self raising flour
2 eggs

1. Wash sultanas and strain.
2. Puree black sapote flesh add water and sultanas.
3. Let stand for sultanas to absorb water.
4. Add beaten eggs.
5. Add flour and soda.
6. Cook for one hour in moderate oven.
A beautiful moist fruit cake.
 My other site

Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 2010 Garden News

I gave a presentation to the Geranium Society at New Farm and although I am not a fan of these plants my talk was well received, a very nice friendly club.
I also gave a presentation to our local Neighbourhood Watch group.
We had a bus tour from the ‘Sunshine Coast Bromeliad Society’ who all enjoyed the garden and most went home with some new plants.
Channel 7s ‘The Great South East’ filmed here and by all accounts it should be a good segment. It will be shown on Sunday 24 October at 5.30pm (only in Quensland) and will highlight our open garden.
Our local Elders produce store has just closed what a shame as we had a very good relationship with the owner and it was a great place to buy our garden needs.
We have had some great rain this month; not having to use any tank water on the garden or waste hours watering.
I went around the whole garden with watering cans of mixed kelp soil conditioner mixed with blood and bone and micro nutrients that I had mixed in a 200 litre drum of rainwater, in all I used about 2500 litres (lot of watering cans)
This year’s open garden should be good as it will be our first NOT IN DROUGHT what a difference from previous years especially last year when we went almost seven months without a drop of rain.
We deserve good weather this year as the last two openings were plagued with bad weather.
We have another three bus tours before open garden, plus a new grand-daughter somewhere in between.
I have put my name down to be an open garden selector, more work but it’s in a good cause.
This year has flown, it’s been so busy and next year looks like being the same, I already have garden talk bookings for 2011.
My new website 'Garden Product Reviews' is doing well, getting lots of hits, found at:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fruit Trees in the Garden

I have been asked what sort of fruit and nut trees we have growing in our yard, so here goes.
Front Yard

Macadamia x 2
Black Sapote x 2
Dragon Fuit
Pecan Nut x 4
Jaboticaba x 4
Wax Jambu (pink)
Carambola x 2
Longan x 1

Back Yard.

Carambola x 2
Mango x 3
Soursop x 2
Grumichama x 5
Jaboticaba  x 2
Yellow Jaboticaba
Lychee x 3
Longan x 2
Custard Apple x 5
Orange x 2
Yellow Sapote
Cherry of the Rio Grande
Star Apple
Monstere Deliciosa
White Wax Jambu
White Sapote x 2
Rose Apple
Cherry Guava Green
Cherry Guava Red
Coffee  x 3
Brazil Cherry
Ceder Bay Cherry x 2

That makes a total of 73 (43 different) which provide the shade canopy for the garden.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

August 2010 Garden News

To start off I have a new web site, my wonderful Daughter in law has bought me a domain name where I can review my favourite garden products. The site can be found at
This will help keep my brain active otherwise it’s all physical work in the garden. I have already reviewed ‘Sub Tropical gardening’ magazine and ‘Natrakelp’ and intend to do some ‘Fiskars’ products shortly.
My very first day of official retirement was 2 August 2010; it’s a strange feeling not having a job because I have been constantly employed since leaving school at 14, that’s 51 years at work.
The great thing is that I have a passion for plants and gardening, this will keep me active and hopefully healthy in my retirement.
I gave my ‘Smart Sub Tropical Gardening’ presentation to ‘Indooroopilly Garden Club and the ‘Northern Districts Horticultural Society’ both were well received.
I have finished the expanded garden in the back yard and decided to plant it with ‘Cordylines’, I did this for the colour effect.
I also grassed the bare area under the ‘Neem Tree’ with ‘Sweet Smother’ turf; this is supposed to be suitable for shaded areas.
The really big news is that it has rained three times in August with over 100 mills falling. This time last year we were well into the seven month drought.
The garden should look great for this year’s ‘Open Garden’, in fact it should be the best ever with five projects completed, loads of new plantings and enough stored water to see us through any dry spells.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

July 2010 garden news

Gardening Australia showed our garden on national Television, we were very happy with the result and all comments have been favourable, it’s a pity that all you get is a little over four minutes, our garden is much more than that, but they say that’s the maximum attention span, anyway you can see the video segment below.
Helen Curran and members of the Sydney ‘Tropical Garden Society’ called in on their way to the Nambour Garden Expo, they stayed for a few hours and enjoyed their visit, it’s always nice to catch up with this crowd as they are very genuine in their love of tropical gardens.
The Nambour Garden Expo was on and we really look forward to this each year, as usual we bought lots of plants and caught up with all our gardening friends whilst browsing the expo.
We decided to put another four solar energy panels on the roof, this now gives us 12 or 2 kilowatt system, we also installed a low energy pool pump 'Viron' which is supposed to be about 75% more efficient than a normal pump. Our next electricity bill will be interesting.
There was a ‘Cordyline Club’ meeting and as usual I bought $10 worth of raffle tickets, it’s rare that I win anything but I had to try, anyway five prizes later I went home with some beautiful cordylines.
I finished all my leave on 30 July, so now I am officially 100%retired, it’s a funny feeling after 51 years in the workforce.
We had gone almost two months without rain and I was dreading another year like last year where we went almost seven months without any rain, well we had 15mills towards the end of the month, so that was quite good.
I refurbished the path areas in the swimming pool area with a very nice’ tropical gold’ pebble, wow, what a difference that has made, freshened up the area really well.
I have started to expand another garden in the back yard, it’s not all that big but has a nice curve to it, hopefully I will be able to find some nice heliconia’s to plant.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Seaweed in the garden

Again I am going to recommend a product which Judy and I use all the time in our garden and believe has helped make our garden and plants so healthy all year round.

We are great believers in the benefit of using Kelp (seaweed) in the garden as a foliar, transplanting and soil conditioner.
NatraKelp has their factory situated in Maroochydore and processes the kelp which has been imported from Tasmania.
We believe this is a very superior product to some you can buy, it comes out of the container like treacle and we mix it at a 10 to one rate which is 100 mills in a watering can.
NatraKelp make liquid seaweed from Tasmanian bull kelp (Durvillea Potatorum) one of the world's richest sources of micro-nutrients, alginic acid, essential amino acids, minerals and other complex organic compounds. They use a natural bacterial fermentation process to liquefy the kelp and maximise the seaweed's high nutrient levels. When we buy new plants or do any transplanting we always water them in with a kelp solution.
With the foliar spray the one we use is an 18-3-10 solution we spray all the plants at least every month,
This is a great plant food which contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium - plus the added growing power of liquid seaweed, this product contains a
base of 65% liquid seaweed with a range of NPK formulations (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) plus chelated trace elements, this mix boosts the health, vigour and yield of all our plants.

NatraKelp soil conditioner is a mix of several different types of seaweed and helps the soil retain moisture this liquid seaweed plant and soil conditioner uses a base of premium seaweed, blended to increase its natural "stickiness" and water-retention qualities in soil. This product not only enhances moisture retention and soil structure at the same time, it promotes healthy plants by delivering a package of essential nutrients.
Our garden is a success partly due to our use of Natrakelp products.
If you want to know more, visit their web site found at:

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

June Garden 2010

I went to look at a local garden with an Open Garden selector with the view of becoming a selector, I am not sure, I think I may not be open minded enough as I did not think the garden was suitable but the selectors were quite happy with it, I will give it some more thought.
Only one garden presentation this month and thart was to the ‘Golden Wattle’ club, it was a very small and aged club, but they did enjoy my presentation.
I attended a Cordyline Society meeting held at ‘Palms for Brisbane’ nursery and as usual it was a friendly meet and I managed to win a couple of nice cordylines..
I have been asked to review Fiskars products, this came out of the blue and I told them I would be happy to do so.
I have Built a trellises for the’ Jade Vine’ and ‘Thunbergia Mysoris vine’, should be stunning once the vines are established. .
It has been dull month weather wise, not much sun or rain.
Our youngest son warrick moved into new house on half acre just up the road from us so I have been helping him out quite a bit.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Link to Television show

The below link will take you to 'Gardening Australia's' web site. Our segment is called 'Structure in the garden'. Go to the iview link on the green band then click on the episode and you wll see our garden, takes a few minutes to go through all the other stuff.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

May 2010 Garden News

It’s been a busy month talking to garden clubs, I have visited Russell Island, Clayfield and Albany Creek clubs, as usual the talks went down well, we met some nice people and we were able to sell a few plants.
Sophie turned one this month and we had a very nice party here for her, what a beautiful nature she has.
We have our youngest son and his wife living with us at the moment as they are renovating their old house getting it ready to sell before they move in our estate on half acre. Guess who will be helping them with their garden; they will have much better soil where they are as they are much higher than us.
I have been helping them put paver garden borders in and a paved back patio area, all done to make the home presentable for sale. He has taken my advice and is spending a bit of money on the refurbishment, we are sure he will recoup the money spent plus more when he sells.
We had a surprise visit from gardening Australia who wanted to film a segment on structure in the garden, it was a difficult segment to do as, what is structure? So we talked about trees and under planting. To my mind structure encompasses the rocks, trees, shrubs, colour and even the soil in which the plants grow.
Colin Campbell was the presenter; he is the best gardening commentator in Australia and a real gentleman.
I am busy pruning the four Carambola (five cornered fruit) trees at the moment, I find climbing trees quite difficult these days and spend the night with very painful legs.
I have also spread 50 bales of sugar cane mulch around the garden, only 10 left to go.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

April Garden news 2010

You can finally feel autumn in the air, I have to get busy and spread the 60 bales of sugar cane mulch in the garden before the soil gets too cool.
I spoke to about 100 members of the Mount Gravatt Garden Club and Judy tried to sell some plants, very poor response with only five plants sold. I am sure garden clubs are purely a social event and not too much about gardening.
This time of year is pruning time, I cut back the Longan trees quite severely, also trimmed the Jaboticaba’s, the five cornered fruit are next.
I manned the SMART gardening stall for two days during the ABC Garden Expo, there was not a lot of interest shown and overall it was very disappointing, no-one from the expo was interested in the fact that I was runner up in ‘Gardener of the Year’.
We had a bus tour from The Beaudesert garden Club of 55 people, they were a good visit and enjoyed the garden and were interested in buying plants.
My youngest son got married on 24 April and the reception was held in our back garden, it was a great day and everything went well.
Again we have been saved with some good rain in April, all our tanks except the new one are full, what a difference life is when you do not have to spend hours each day watering.
Our neighbour is renewing the side fence on the right side of our garden; it is colour bond and will take a bit of getting used to.
My next job is to complete the retaining wall along the driveway, it’s a big and heavy job but one which has to be done.
The garden is looking nice but lots of the tropical’s have now gone into dormant stage.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

It’s been a month where the garden has taken second fiddle to the house.
I have spent days and days painting the new extension and the old garage; I must admit it is one job that I really dislike, but now all finished and looking good.
It amazed me just how much paint I used.
The extension (carport) will be great, concrete has been poured and we will be able to drive on it in four days. Poor car has been out in the weather for about six weeks and is very dirty.
The new 24,500 litre tank arrived and the driver was able to crane it into the hole for me, and all my levels were ok and the fall from gutter into tank was good.
I have been to Victoria Point and Ferney Grove Garden Clubs to talk about smart gardening and have a full calendar for the next couple of months.
I trimmed our Longan trees by a third and that’s about all the gardening I did for the month.
We had some rain, just enough so that we did not have to water the garden.

Monday, March 01, 2010

We started February with some good rain, which was great as January was completely dry and hot.
The ‘Tropical Affair’ plant sale was on at the Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens and I wanted to be there early to hopefully get some good plants, I was fortunate to get four Orthotrica Heliconias and some Beehive gingers that I did not have, so I came away a happy man.
We had a bus trip from the Beenleigh Garden Club It ended up being disappointing as it was a very hot day and most visitors just wanted to stay under the shade of the patio, plant sales were very poor. I sometimes wonder whether garden clubs are just a social outing for most members.
We have started to build a car port as an extension to our house, this will be a great area to sell plants during our ‘Open Garden’, all the runoff water will go into our seventh tank which will be the largest at 24,500 litres giving us a total of 107,000 storage capacity, perhaps this will finally make us drought proof. I had to take out one of our Jaboticaba trees but it was for a good cause. The tank is four metres diameter and has to sit 800mm in the ground to catch the run off so there was a lot of shifting the top soil then when I struck clay I had to get a a digger in to remove five trucks of clay. It’s amazing how much dirt can come out of a hole.
The ‘Golden Trowel’ is a treasured possession and I took it to the Wynnum ‘Bayside Garden Club’ to show off.
I gave a garden talk to a small gathering at the Stafford Garden Club and double booked a speaking engagement for March which I was fortunately able to fix, not without a bit of embarrassment.
I also attended a Smart gardening meeting and a Cordyline Society meeting; of course the golden trowel went with me.
I biodynamiced the garden which was easy, the hard part is stirring the mix for one hour, I hate that boring part.
I also put 20 litres of kelp soil conditioner in the garden, this was mixed in a 200 litre drum which made 2000 litres which was then put into watering cans and spread around the garden, it felt like I had been doing weights after I finished.
So, all in all a very busy month and dare I say it plenty of rain, in fact it is pouring as I write this.
For once I am writing this blog and not whinging about the weather.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Golden Trowel

Well we are the runners up in Gardening Australia's 'Gardener of the Year'.

This is quite a feat and we are very happy with getting so far in the competition.

Monday, February 01, 2010

January has been a weather hell of a month, of course no rain and temperatures every day in the high thirties, the garden is again stressed but at least the rain just after Christmas gave us about 25,000 litres of rainwater, so we can at least water the garden.
We have decided to extend our house and put a car port in as part of the house not just a metal extension, it’s not going to cost a lot more and of course will look a lot better.
I decided to replace about half of the front retaining wall where the car port is going, phew it was a big heavy job and I have again hurt my shoulder but it looks good. .Another 30 sleepers will finish the job, but that will wait for cooler weather.
We are picking star Fruit and Dragon Fruit at the moment the entire mango crop has been eaten by us, family and friends, and what a fabulous crop it was. I managed to keep the flying foxes away by stinging up a 30 metre length of Christmas flashing light tube, did not worry the possum but anyway it’s a ‘giving garden’.
We have heard from ‘Gardening Australia’ but that’s for another post later this month.
I am getting booked up giving talks on ‘Smart Sub Tropical Gardening’ and have a bus tour through shortly.
I have made a few minor changes to the garden this month, everything I do just adds to the beauty of the garden, it never finishes.
It’s almost time for the prawning season to start again, I am looking forward to this year’s hunting and gathering, its hard work throwing out a large cast net but I enjoy it especially eating fresh prawns at the end of the day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Finalist 'Gardener of the Year'

If you are here after reading 'Gardening Australia' magazine then please have a look at my photo album, it's got photos from every 'Open Garden' and every project I have done plus 1000's of plant photos all from our garden.
Please enjoy the tour of our garden.

PS. After the rain the garden is looking great, amazing how things come back.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

December 2009 garden news

After the less than successful open garden we went up the coast to Mooloolaba for a well deserved break, only problem was that doing nothing does not really suit me as I ended up with a very painful hip and had several visits to doctors and Chiropractors to get it better, basically a month of not working in the garden.
The dry weather continued until Boxing Day, then Santa came and finally after over six months brought some welcome rain, overall in the last week of 2009 we have had about 110 mills.
I could not be happier.
I have now started to plant out some of the new plants we have been saving for rainy day.
It’s amazing how quickly the garden can recover, we have lost quite a few plants but others that were on the brink of dying are now recovering.
I do not think I will be doing any major projects this year as I am finally happy with the garden the way it is, we will still collect rare plants and change garden beds ect, but no new gardens this year.
I think 2010 will be a year of consolidation and just making the garden better and of course more interesting for our visitors.
I am of course anxiously awaiting news from ‘Gardening Australia’, it would be so nice to win the title ‘Gardener of the Year’, Judy and I have certainly put the effort into our passion.
Overall I am looking forward to 2010; I have quite a few garden club bookings already as well as ‘Smart Gardening’ and the visiting the gardening societies and clubs we belong to.
This New Year will bring in many changes including our youngest son getting married and perhaps them moving into a new house and of course we are following our grand-daughters progress seeing changes in her every week.