By Karen Haw,
The Town Centre Nursery, Mirboo North
ANOTHER year has flown by and here we are, in December, and there’s only limited time to finish the dreaded Christmas shopping.
Poinsettias have long been traditional Christmas plants, however, like the trees and decorations, as soon as Christmas is over, so is the interest in poinsettias.
Hydrangeas look fantastic at this time of year and can be used indoors as a decorative indoor plant for a while before planting in the garden or pot outside.
There are many kinds of hydrangeas, but the most popular for gifts is hydrangea macrophylla of which there are two shapes: the mopheads and lacecaps.
The flowerheads of hydrangeas consist of florets and come in a range of colours in shades of pink, red, blue, purple and white. The colours are affected by the soil pH and acid soil gives the blue and purple shades, while adding lime gives pink and red. White remains white, though in autumn they can turn to a light lime green.
If you want to change the colour of the flowers, the soil pH must be altered before flower buds form so treat the soil after August. Hydrangeas are easy to grow but need good soil to which generous amounts of organic matter have been added.
They perform best in a morning sun position with protection from the hottest part of the day. Hydrangeas do not like to dry out too much and will wilt when they need watering.
Mulch well and a bucket of water a week should be enough to keep them going in warm weather. Pruning can occur any time after flowering is over, although some leave it until mid-winter. Try to only cut back the stems that have produced flowers. The un-flowered shoots will produce next season’s blooms. Hardwood tip cuttings taken in winter will propagate easily.
Indoor plants make great gifts, especially when you add an attractive pot. Not only do indoor plants add attractive greenery, they are also beneficial.
Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This opposite pattern of gas use makes plants and people natural partners as adding plants to interior spaces can increase oxygen levels. They also increase the humidity and there are claims and studies that indicate using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs. Plants also remove toxins from the air.
NASA research discovered plants purify trapped air by pulling contaminants into the soil, whereas root zone microorganisms convert the toxins into food for the plant.
There is a huge range of indoor plants from which to choose. One of the most popular at this time of year are the spathiphyllum (also known as the peace lily). They have lovely glossy, green foliage and white flowers which age to green. They will also tolerate low-light situations.
Most indoor plants are killed by either overwatering or no watering. The best method for testing if your indoor plant needs water is to stick your finger into the soil to check. If plants are very dry, it is better to soak them in a bucket of water with seaweed solution added.
Spathiphyllums will wilt when they get dry and spring back when well-watered. Regular spraying of foliage with a mist of water will keep the humidity a bit higher around the plant, which is important in the dry conditions of air-conditioned environments.
It is always nice to get something different and plants that perform well. Antique Perennials is a wholesale nursery located in Kinglake and owners Matt Reed and Michael Morant have a combined 45 years’ experience in growing plants for Australian gardens.
They specialise in rare and unusual perennials, including shade-loving woodlanders, bulbs, prairie plants and other hardy perennials. They have spent years collecting and importing plants from many locations throughout the world and have amassed a spectacular collection of plants – many being recent introductions. The plants are recognised by their purple pots and are available only from local nurseries and some rare plant fairs.
A long-flowering woodland plant is dicentra spectablis or better known as bleeding heart. This plant is dormant over winter, but in early spring the attractive bluish-green foliage emerges followed by heart-shaped flowers that may be pink and white, red and white or solid white.
The surest method of propagation is to divide clumps every few years.
Alstromeria is a mouthful but they make fantastic cut flowers and floral display. There is a flower bed in Wonthaggi planted with a variety of these plants and it has made a stunning floral display for many years. The original plants grow long and leggy and tend to fall and spread far and wide.
We have seen the introduction of the dwarf varieties called princess lilies in the last few years and these are fantastic, long-flowering, drought-hardy plants in a huge range of colours and this is what has been used in the garden bed in Wonthaggi.
So, whether you are shopping for the avid gardener, novice or even yourself, the choices in the plant world are limitless and there is sure to be something to make everybody happy. On behalf of myself and everyone from The Town Centre Nursery, have a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year hopefully free from COVID.
This is a busy time of year and time spent in the garden is generally not top of the list, but summer is a great time to top up the vegetable patch.
If you planted up big in spring to prolong harvest into autumn, you can plant beans, corn, cucumber, mini eggplants, carrots, zucchini, peppers and chilli. It is not too late to plant tomatoes and herbs such as basil, parsley, tarragon and you can also plant dill now.
You are more likely to have success with basil planted at this time of year than if planted early spring. Tomatoes, eggplants, capsicums and other fruit bearers will benefit from an application of potash to help promote and develop fruit. Tomatoes require even watering and try to avoid wetting the foliage as this promotes disease and blossom rot.