Saturday, September 19, 2015

Should I prune or replace my Osteospermum?

Hi Peter,

This is one of the prettiest plants you have grown and it has pride of place in my garden and you can see why. When you first presented it in your newsletter before stock hit the nurseries I knew I had to have one.

It's been in place just over twelve months and "now what" do I do with it?

I looked at it and noticed it's getting straggly and opening up in areas.
Temptation is to prune it and sadly loose the flowers but get a better shaped plant but do they recover from pruning
Or, do I replace it?

No need to replace an Osteospermum, this is a perennial that will give years of faithful service but it does need a little attention along the way.

The first thing I note is the plant has grown enormously. We find that Osteos can struggle to fill a 200mm pot, but just look how far this one plant has spread.  This just emphasizes my frustration with our industry's fixation with plant growth regulators.  I think this plant is Osteo. Serenity Rose Magic, possibly Pink Magic... seriously I'm red-green colour blind, that's just too subtle.  We don't use any PGR's but I'm sure our plug supplier does and it's not until the second season that the plant really gets moving.

After a solid hair cut the plant will start to build some strength and not be tempted to spread so far. My recommendation is to cut them in the late summer so they have the autumn to re-grow and be ready for late winter, early spring flowering. After the first cut I think a relatively gentle tip prune, again annually during the late summer will control the shape easily. Eventually, after say 5 or 6 years the plant may start to lose vigour and the flowering may be less prolific so of course you might like to change the colour scheme.

By the way a feed with general purpose fertilizer or manure after pruning will help maintain vigour.

Osteospermum Serenity Lemonade. Brightening our spec loads this week.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Great garden colour for Winter & Early Spring.

This week's Highlights

Osteospermum Zion Red.  The colour of this Osteo is so rich, there are very few flowers to match. I too the pic late on a cold Friday afternoon so the flowers are starting to close for the night.  Zion red is a larger, more rambunctios plant than the rest of our Osteospermum and fills larger holes in the garden than the compact 3D hybrids and Blue Eyed Beauty.  Plants in our trial beds easily cover 1m and are about 50cm tall.  They are smothered in flower now, in the middle of Winter.

Ranunculus Mache. Just a classic herbaceous Perennial. This is one of the first buds showing but the rest of the plants now consistently have buds forming under the foliage.  The flowering season for Ranunculus is short, sharp and dramatic so now is the time to get them on display so you can enjoy the full beauty of these flowers and they develop and peak.

Digitalis Dalmatian. The buds are also just forming in the Digitalis, now is the time to grab them. We have Rose, Peach, Lavender and Cream single colours.  White has sold out before we even got to the flowering stage.

Just in case you needed confirmation of our reunion fund raiser for Lord Somers Camp:

We had great fun. You can still donate to LSC&PH via this link. Thanks for your support.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Please help support a great cause

I haven't previously misused this blog, but I will break that rule for a very special cause.  In the dim and distant past I used to play drums in a band, the Watchmen... that's the top of my head in the picture.  In my life outside of being a nurseryman I have also volunteered for nearly 30 years with Lord Somers Camp and Power House.  Through LSC&PH I have helped run camps for Very Special Kids, The Mirabelle Foundation and young adults with disabilities, I have also spent many hours building and maintaining facilities at the camp in Somers.

Well now I'm trying to raise funds for LSC&PH and to do this we are getting the band back together.  We are holding a fund raising reunion gig at Power House on Sunday 5h July at 2.00pm.  I'm not necessarily asking you to come along to the gig, (it will be pretty rough I can assure you, most of us haven't played seriously for 20 years) but it would be great if you could sponsor my embarassment to the tune of $5-10.00.

To support this cause please follow this link and pledge a donation. If you're really keen come down to Power House on the 5th July, Gold coin donation entry.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Scotsburn's Environmental Disciplines

Argyranthemum Molimba Red

I was asked about our "Organic Principals" this week.  "Organic" has so many complicated subtleties that I chose to avoid the term and write out for further discussion and clarification a series of "Environmental Disciplines".  I'm comfortable that we live up to these disciplines, what we need to do from this point is to keep working at them and steadily remove the practices that prevent us confidently claiming to produce "Organically".

Poppy Matilda

Environmental disciplines.

We use a number of “Environmental Disciplines” to achieve our environmental aims.
Variety selection.  Plants grown will be environmentally positive. Select heritage and Open Pollinated (OP) varieties where expected garden performance allows.
Clearly identify Hybrid varieties and their cultural benefits.
Avoid Genetically Modified (GMO) breeding.
Give preference to seed and stock material bred and produced locally.
Avoid environmental weeds.

Potting media.  Choose media materials that are renewable and collected responsibly.  Pine bark and coir are the preferred base materials. Continue to trial alternative substrates including greenwaste as they become available.
Pre-blended pesticides are not to be used.
Fertilizer practice balances the conflicting needs of retail and consumer longevity with environmental sustainability.  Continue trialling organically based materials such as hoof & horn.
Maintain low Phosphorus levels to help manage plant stretch.

Supplementary fertilizers.  Liquid fertilizer is used to maintain vigour and tone plants for retail display.  Balancing pre-blended fertilizer levels with liquid fertilizer applications helps reduce fertilizer run off.  Current liquid fertilizer best practice is chemically based; continue to look for environmentally sustainable alternatives.
Maintain low Phosphorus levels to help manage plant stretch.
Plastics.  Plastic containers and labels are washed and reused wherever possible.  Plastics no longer usable are collected, sorted and sent for regrinding and recycling.
As biodegradable and sustainably produced containers and labels become available trial and introduce them immediately.
Pesticides. Minimization of plant stress through provision of the most appropriate growing environment, media, container and water is the primary means for avoiding pest and disease infestation. Pesticides are used to target specific infestations as they arise.

Insecticides.  Monitor crops and treat outbreaks as they occur.  Preference is given to pesticides with low toxicity and environmental safety.  Bts, Spinosad are preferred grub sprays.  Oils and Clensel are preferred for sucking insect control. If control cannot be achieved effectively then systemics are applied.

Fungicides. Primary foliar fungal problems are Downey Mildew, Powdery Mildew and Alternaria.  All are best managed by avoiding infestation through environment management: high light, air circulation and water management.  When infection occurs Fungicides will be used as a tool to help alleviate symptoms but only as a part of a broader strategy aimed at getting the plants growing vigorously.
Root rotting. Pythium is the primary fungal concern.  Nursery hygiene: potting mix storage, drainage and removal of old media; is the most effective form of control.  Phsophonic acid is a safe and effective drench as plants are transplanted.

Herbicide.  Herbicides are rarely used on potted plants.  Pre-emergent herbicides may be used on very long term crops but we prefer to manage weeds through nursery hygiene practices and minimizing the time plants are kept in any one pot.
Knockdown and pre-emergent herbicides are an important part or our hygiene program.  Between crops all gravel based growing areas are treated with herbicide. We have and will continue to trial alternatives to chemical herbicides such as Pine oil and burning but to date these have proven very costly to achieve adequate results.

Plant Growth regulators.  PGR’s are disliked by most home gardeners, there is a general feeling that they are hidden and not to be trusted.  We do not use PGR’s in our nursery and request that our suppliers do not use them on plants supplied to us.  Plant growth is managed through pruning, container selection (appropriate pot for plant size), fertilizer program and water management.

Pansy White 200mm pot

Love to get your feedback.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why are my Eggplant fruit yellow?

Picture says a thousand words... Sadly.

Dear Peter,
Last spring I planted a punnet of eggplant, Bonica Hybrid, fully expecting to grow nice purple fruit which was to be used for Melanzana, dips etc.  but to my surprise the attached photo shows what I actually got. I also could not tell when the fruit was ripe as it is all quite firm and if I left them on the bush for too long they rotted.
What went wrong, and how can I make sure that next years crop will be what I want.
My wife has made a nice dip from this fruit although it is slightly more bitter than normal eggplant.
Looking forward to your response,
Kind regards

We have unfortunately seen this previously, please follow the link for my earlier response.  I have followed this problem up with our seed suppliers to ensure we haven't done anything wrong and that there are no cultural or nutritional issues. No, the international seed producer has grown a bad batch of seed so there are Yellow Eggplants being produced in gardens all over Australia and possibly the world right now.  We have been assured that seed for the 2015 Spring will produce purple fruit.

The yellow fruit is edible but apparently bitter. Alex's wife has the right idea.

I have arranged some replacement plants (not Eggplant at this time of year) for Alex through his local Garden Centre and am happy to offer the same to any gardeners who have encountered the same problem.

Here are some happier pics.  Fresh on our availability list, Argyranthemum.

Argyranthemum Banana Split

Agryranthemum Sublime Pink

Agryranthemum Super Double White

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How do I prevent my Passionfruit from suckering?

Dear Peter,

We purchased a passiflora edulis produced at your nursery. It has an abundance of fruit but they remain green. Will it turn black or are they ripe now? Please see picture attached.
Kind Regards Rob

These Passionfruit just don't look ripe yet and based on the fruit we have developing at home I'm pretty sure they need another month on the vine.
The plant at home reminds me about grafting.
There is a great deal of debate around the traps about the (Banana Passionfruit) rootstock suckering. There is no doubt that the Banana Passionfruit is a vigorous weed that will take over large spaces in a garden but having planted two seedling Passionfruit at home there is a lot of benefit in growing a well Grafted Passionfruit.
We have been growing seedling Passionfruit for 3 seasons now and we have found them to be extremely popular because gardeners want to avoid the suckering problems. We have also found them to be buggers to germinate, I'm working on the theory that the seed has to be very fresh otherwise it quickly loses viability. We will try to do our sowing as soon as we notice ripe fruit this year, ie. within the next month. If you have any germination tips I'm all ears (eyes if you would prefer to email me).
At home we planted 2 seedling grown plants when we first grew them 3 years back and had an exceptional harvest in the first season. Sadly as the second spring season came around one of our 2 plants collapsed and died, the other plant has survived but has not shown anything like its early vigour. Why? I suspect some form of root rotting that a grafted root system would have protected the plants against.
We can't claim much horticultural merit for our Grafted Passionfruit.  We buy in pre grafted plants, pot them up and grow for a few weeks to "finish" them. The magic here is our supplier uses a micro graft (my terminology). The grafting is done on very small, young plants and low on the rootstock's stem to minimise the chance of buds being left viable below the graft. To date we have had NO reports of suckering.

Sadly our relatively small batch of Grafted Passionfruit for Spring 2014 all sold very smartly and we will not have any more until mid-late Spring 2015. So please keep them in mind when you are thinking of Passionfruit and remember that non-grafted plants have the advantage of not suckering but that comes at the cost of vigour and productiveness... and grafted plants don't have to sucker.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What is eating my Bouvardia?

I wonder if you would help me with a problem affecting my bouvardia?
It is planted in a south-facing bed in company with camellias and other plants that are doing well, and benefits from some morning and afternoon sunshine, although not for long periods.  The plant has grown well since I planted it three years ago and has considerable new growth since I trimmed it back mid-year.  There is lots of foliage, but I am concerned that the leaves this season have frilly edges.  There is no sign of flowers yet, but it might be a bit early.  The bed is linked to the grey water system, but also receives tank water and never seems to dry out completely.  The soil is well-composted. As the plant seems firmly embedded in the soil, I don’t think the problem can be root rot.  Do you have any clues please?
I would be most grateful for your advice.
Kind regards,

At first I followed Elaine's lead and suggested that south facing is less than ideal, I do actually think they like what I'll call a protected North facing position. We have Gardenia growing by a north facing wall that gets shade from a big Moreton Bay Fig and they love it. Bouvardia is a native of Mexico and our experience at Scotsburn is they appreciate similarly warm but not scorching conditions.  They certainly need the solid cut back over winter.

Just to be sure I asked Elaine for a photo....

Oh dear!  I don't think the position will make any difference, slugs or grubs have moved in. My tip is grubs. Solution: Multiguard pellets for slugs or Dipel for grubs. Both are safe and Dipel is registered for Organic growing.

Elaine filled in the story of her Bouvardia:
Bouvardia was the first plant my parents put in the garden of their newly built home in 1942, in an east-facing bed with full sun until the middle of the day.  Dad maintained it was tough and required no special attention, but he later planted standard roses in the same bed, so the bouvardia would have benefitted from the care he lavished on them.  When the house was sold in 2000, my sister dug out a section of the bush to replant in her garden, where it has flourished ever since. 

Just for fun I'm calling this Bouvardia humboldtii Minh's Variegated. Minh is our Bouvardia grower extraordinaire and he selected and multiplied this dusty foliage form.

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