Dec 032010

Our plant nursery is bursting at the moment with thousands of great Living Gift ideas for Christmas. Indoors, outdoors, fragrant, native, edible or ornamental… we’ve got something for everyone’s taste. Watch our video below for a sample of what’s available this Christmas at BAAG.

Dec 012010

Avoid polite smiles and mumbled thankyous this Christmas, grab your friends and family Bulleen Art & Garden Gift Vouchers and let them choose their own gift. You can buy Gift Vouchers either at BAAG or in our secure online shop.

Instore vouchers can be purchased for any amount you like. Vouchers purchased online are available in $10, $20, $30, $40, $50, $75, $100 and $200 denominations. Online vouchers also include free postage to anywhere in Australia. Click here to buy a voucher or two today!

Nov 282010

We have a great range of live Christmas Trees in stock right now. Stop the vicious killing of defenceless pine trees… fairies die whenever one is cut down. Grab a beautiful tree that will last you for many Christmasesssss to come. While you’re here, check out our YouTube clip so you can see what they look like for yourself.

Aug 162010

Worms are fabulous little creatures. By eating their way through refuse and detritus, they manage to make the most nutritious and enriching fertiliser suitable for all your garden and potted plants, which won’t harm your plants because it is so gentle and natural. Worms can eat up to their weight each day in organic waste scraps, which can add up to a bit if you have the right conditions. Even better than finished compost, the worm ‘poo’, known as vermicast, is safe to use on all plants. Keeping a worm farm is ideal for householders who do not have the space outside for a traditional compost bin, yet still want to get rid of household scraps and peelings organically. Worm farms can even be kept inside! Read on for more great worm tips.

Continue reading »

Aug 162010


There are a whole bunch of really smart people out there doing amazing research and product development to help improve soils. There are websites, soil clubs and blogs devoted to soils. My 18yo son thinks this is truly pitiful and these people should get out more – while I think this is incredibly useful and what would an 18yo know anyway?

Two products are standouts, both have been around for a while, but are a bit of a sleeper – well known and used in the high end turf industry, bulk potting mix and in the plant production industry, they have yet to be promoted to the backyard gardener.

Continue reading »

Aug 162010

There are many materials now available which can help retain moisture in the soil longer or help water to rewet soil, which has become hydrophobic. These products help to save water and keep plants alive through periods of drought.

Why are these products useful?

Water is essential for plant growth, all plants need water (even Cacti). Water is lost from soil as plant roots take up the water, or as evaporation from the soil surface. During prolonged periods where water is lost and not replaced, soils can dry out and become hydrophobic (water repellent). This means that any water now applied to the soil will bead and run off the surface, rather than soak in to the soil. Even though the area is irrigated, the soil underneath the surface will remain dry and the roots of plants will not have access to water. This also applies to potting mixes that have dried out.

How do these products work?

Water saving materials fall into two main categories; those that soak up and store water, and those that allow water to penetrate into the soil.

Materials that soak up and store water, allow the roots access to water for longer between precipitation because they soak up more water than other components of soil. Organic matter has the ability to store more water than the mineral content of soil, and therefore soils with a higher humus content will retain moisture for longer. As the plants have access to water for longer, this may defer the plant wilting before the soil is re wet. Plants that are constantly allowed to wilt before watering will be significantly weaker, with a slower growth rate and less resistance to insect and disease attack.

Materials that allow water to penetrate the surface do so by breaking the surface tension of the soil. These types of materials are also known as surfactants. They allow the soil to be re wet easily and reduce run off, so that the water applied to the soil in one area does not end up at the bottom of the slope.

What are the products?

Water storing crystals or granules

These are small crystals or granules that swell up as they absorb a significant amount of water. As the crystals dry out they return to their original size. Only apply the granules at the rates recommended as their size when wet can be hundreds of times greater than when dry. If you put too many granules in a pot or garden bed, the expansion when wet can force the plants out of the soil!

Organic granules or fibre

These also store water, but less volume than the crystals. Eg. Saturaid, Palm Peat. Natural peat was traditionally used to retain moisture in soil and potting mix, but as it is a mined product and a fast disappearing resource, which takes a long time to replenish, we recommend alternatives.


These break the surface tension allowing water to penetrate the soil surface. They are mild surfactants and as such should be applied at the rates indicated on the label. These will remain effective for approximately 6 months.

Because these products are a mild surfactant they can be harmful to worms, frogs, fish and other related
organisms. Apply these products early in the morning or in the evening to avoid leaf scorch and do not mix with
fertiliser or apply at the same time as fertilisers. Eg. Wettasoil.

More water saving advice

These products are not a substitute for soil improvement and mulching as a way of being more water efficient. They are most effective when used in conjunction with soil improvement, mulching and regular irrigation through dry periods. For example, mix water storing granules with potting mix, mulch the top of the pot, water early in the morning and group pots together, to keep pot plants healthy over summer.

Aug 162010

Greywater: a few years ago this was a fairly uncommon term to most of us, but now days we can’t go to the nursery or turn on the television without encountering this term. But, what is it? How do we use it? What effects will it have on my garden? Is it actually grey?

Greywater is technically the household wastewater from the laundry (including the washing machine and tubs) and the bathroom (including showers, baths and basins). Toilet water and kitchen water are regarded as blackwater, and are not suitable for reuse in domestic gardens, due to the potentially high levels of bacteria, fats and solids contained in this wastewater.

The diversion of greywater from the house and into the garden has become an extremely popular way of irrigating our precious green spaces in these times of low rainfall and water restrictions, and, when done correctly, is an excellent way of saving water and money. It is amazing to think that one average household expels 830 000 litres of greywater a year! That’s more water than most gardens need in a lifetime! And, unlike rainwater, greywater is available all year round, regardless of the weather!

Recycling household greywater for use on garden beds is an excellent way of saving water and saving money! Unlike rainwater, which is seasonally available, greywater is available every time you shower or wash. The average house creates up to 83,000 litres of greywater per year.

Using greywater in the garden
Greywater is suitable for irrigating most garden areas including ornamental beds and lawns. Even native gardens can thrive with greywater, simply alter the type of detergent that you use to one that is low or has no phosphorus. It is recommended to always check on the plants and the soil that is being irrigated with the greywater. If you do notice any negative effects on the soil or the pants, change the watering regime or rest the area from grey water use for a period of time until the plants return to a higher level of vitality.

Will a system work at my house?
There are several ways to set up a greywater system, which may depend on the amount of ‘drop’ from the greywater origin to the garden bed. Systems can be as simple as a flow diversion fitting and hose, or something more complex such as a holding tank and pump with underground agipipe irrigation.

Are there components of greywater that can affect my garden?
As a general rule it is best to avoid irrigating gardens when the following are in your greywater:

  • Washing detergents with high phosphorous levels (many brands now have low or nil phosphorous, so choose one of these)
  • Bleaches and other disinfectants
  • Fats (from soaps)
  • Washing detergents using salt. Many cheaper brands use salt as a filler. It does not add to the washing power of the powder. Use only concentrates; or, better still, liquid detergents.

For a comprehensive list of detergents and the levels of salt and phosphorus that each contains please visit

How will my plants respond to Grey Water?

Most plants thrive with the application of greywater, but there are some exceptions. Greywater contains a range of chemicals that can become toxic if the water is not used correctly. Greywater is normally alkaline due to the detergents in the water, it may also contain high levels of salt and phosphorus. Below we examine how each of these elements react with your plants, how to diagnose that there is a problem and what to do about it.


Most Laundry powders create alkaline (high pH) wastewater, pH affects the availability of certain elements that plants require to survive. One of the major elements effected is iron, iron availability decreases as alkalinity (pH) increases.

Symptoms of a deficiency in available iron for a plant include the younger leaves becoming a lighter green or almost white but the veins remaining darker green. (see picture on the right) Acid loving plants are poor at obtaining iron hence their requirements for low pH soils. These plants include: Azaleas, Camellias, Gardenias, Rhododendrons, Begonias, Ferns, Hydrangeas, Impatiens, Magnolias, Primroses, and Violas. Alternating between greywater and alternative water sources helps to maintain pH at suitable levels. If further reductions in pH are required the addition of Sulphate of Iron will assist with both problems. In most cases high levels of organic matter in the soil help buffer any effects on pH that the addition of greywater may have.


The levels of phosphorus in the soil may increase depending on the type of laundry power used. Signs of Phosphorus toxicity include necrosis (browning and death) of tips and margins of older leaves followed by dropping off of the affected leaves. Chlorosis (yellowing) of younger foliage often occurs and the plant dies in severe cases. Phosphorus toxicity is rare in many species but there a small number of species that are most prone to the problem. Of these species the majority are Australian natives from the Proteaceae family.

Some Phosphorus sensitive species include Acacia baileyana, A.iteaphylla, A.obtusata, A.sauveolens, A.verticillata, Banksia aemula, B.ericifolia, B.oblongifolia, B.robur, Beaufortia squarrose, Boronia megastigma, Callistemon citrinus, Grevillea aquifolium, G.glabella, G.“Poorinda Firebird”, Hakea laurina, Protea longifolia, P.macrocephala, Pultenaea pedunculataa and Telopea speciosissima.

Even if your garden does not contain any species that are vulnerable to high levels of phosphorus please consider the effects that the phosphorus will have if it reaches the natural environment. Higher levels of phosphorus in our river systems contribute to Blue-green algal blooms (see picture on the right) that are toxic and damaging to river health. Native ecosystems quite vulnerable to any changes in nutrient levels and harmful to many native plants.

Salt is found in many of the cheaper detergents as filler for bulking out the product. These salts are harmful to plants. Certain species are less tolerant to salt than others but in high concentrations salt is fatal all plants. Symptoms of salt damage include slow or no growth, necrosis (burning and dieback) of young growth and dead and brown sections on the margins and tips of older leaves. (see picture on the left) If you notice salts rising to the surface or the plants showing signs of salt stress replace the use of greywater with an alternative water source and change the type of laundry power that you are using to one that contains less salt.

What will greywater do to my soil?
Hard to say really! As we have learnt, the use of greywater with a high content of laundry detergent can be quite harmful to plants, causing phosphorus toxicity and sodium issues. But the truth is, we don’t know at this stage what the long term impact of greywater use on gardens will be. The widespread use of greywater for irrigation is a fairly new beast, and one that, until now, has not been studied a great deal. While there are numerous studies underway, the outcome on soil health will not be known for some time. But we can infer a few things at this stage:

  • The use of harsh chemicals that are designed to kill household bugs are most likely to kill beneficial bugs in the soil. This includes the use of eucalyptus oil, nappy soakers, antiseptic and anti-bacterial products, and carbolic acid based disinfectants.
  • Petroleum based products such as some detergents and optical brighteners – they are slow to bio-degrade, and probably not real good for the soil

Maintaining soil health by adding plenty of organic matter is essential (even more than usual) to counteract the effects of any additional salt. It will also help to buffer the pH because another benefit of adding lots of organic matter is that it can help lower pH, which in turns makes less phosphorous available to plants. Check out the soil health section of our website for more information on the importance of healthy soils!

Are there any health issues related to greywater use?
Again, there are situations where greywater can contain organisms that may pose health concerns, however this can be avoided by following these points:

  • Don’t use nappy-wash water in greywater
  • Don’t allow children to play with or in the greywater
  • Don’t allow pets to drink the greywater
  • Use subsurface distribution such as porous hoses or drippers beneath a layer of mulch -that is, do not spray greywater into the air
  • If irrigating edible plants, don’t use on plants that are consumed raw or undercooked. Preferably don’t use it on food crops at all. Fruit trees can be irrigated with grey water but the water must be kept at the root zone and not sprayed onto the foliage or fruit.
  • If holding tanks are used, don’t store unused greywater for longer than 24 hours and remember to keep filters on tanks free of lint. Tanks must be cleaned out regularly to remove sludge build-up

Plumbing regulations state that drainage and water supply work must be carried out by a licensed plumber. This includes plumbing greywater overflow back into the sewage system. Refer to the EPA in your state and your local council for laws governing the use of greywater in your area.

Simple diverter systems
The simplest way to get water greywater onto the garden is by diverting the water directly from the laundry or bathroom. There are a number of products available on the market that range in price depending on their complexity.

Funnel inserts
One of the simplest products, the black rubber funnel is ideal for situations where the water does not need to be diverted away quickly such as from a bath. This style of device does not need to be installed by a plumber and is easily removed when not required. Simply unscrew your wastewater inspection cap and insert the funnel.

This system is prone to backflow due to the narrow opening on the black funnel. To avoid flooding, thoroughly test this option by remaining present while it is active.

In-line diverter
In line diverters are designed to cut into the existing wastewater piping from the bathroom or laundry. Most systems rely on a valve that allows the water to either be diverted onto the garden or continue on down to the sewage.

Make sure that the water from toilets or the kitchen are not able to flow into the diverter, check the location of all piping prior to installing the diverter.

Dispersing the water
All piping must remain below the height of the diverter and must also be able to be dispersed from the system as quickly as it enters so that the water will not flow straight back into the house. Using 50 mm or 65 mm drainage (Agi.) pipe decreases the chance of backflow problems. Simply join some un-slotted drainage pipe to the diverter with a 3-4 m section of slotted drainage pipe on the other end, run the pipe to the area that you want to water and lay the pipe out running with the slope of the land.

Diverters incorporating surge tanks

Using a surge tank in a greywater system allows water to be slowed and cooled before it reaches the garden. Backflow problems are far less common as an overflow on the surge tank sends any excess water down the sewer rather than back into the house.

Water distribution is more consistent over the entire length of area irrigated. Decreasing the speed in which the water travels to the garden helps to minimise water runoff and prevents mulch and soil from washing away.

The Surge tank
Water from the bathroom or laundry enters the top of the surge tank via a pipe no smaller in diameter than that coming out of the house. Located at the base of the tank is the pipe that carries the water to the garden. An overflow from the tank is located at the top of the tank that flows back into the sewer, this pipe should be the same diameter as the inlet pipe.

A tank size between 30 and 100 litres is normally adequate as a surge tank for the majority of applications.

Greywater cannot be stored for any longer than 24 hours, always ensure that all water has drained completely from the tank at the end of each cycle.

Dispersing the water
The water is best distributed in pipes laid between the soil and mulch layer, piping options include drainage (agi.) pipe, standard poly pipe with holes drilled and dripline. The choice of piping depends on the size of the filter used.

The finer the filter, the more maintenance required, systems with filters and low water emitting drippers are more likely to get clogged by hair and lint. Where possible try not to use filters at all.

Pumped Greywater systems
Pumped greywater systems allow the water to be pumped from a lower to a higher section of the property. This is necessary when the garden is located above the height of the house. Pumped systems usually include some type surge tank where the pump is located and require power to operate.

Pumped systems require electricity, a licensed electrician may be necessary to install an outdoor electrical outlet. Pumped systems normally require a number of filters that require maintenance to prevent foreign objects from blocking the pump.

Dispersing the water
All pumped wastewater must be dispersed underground. A hose connected to the pump is normally placed at the highest end of the garden bed to be watered. The hose is inserted into 50 mm drainage (agi) pipe located between the mulch and soil surface running down the length of the bed. Moving the hose between garden beds every 2-3 days ensures even watering across the entire property.

Bulleen Art & Garden employ the services of experienced greywater consultants who can advise you at your home on the installation and suitability of a greywater system for your garden. Greywater systems are very site dependent. Our consultant will leave you with knowledgeable advice, a rough plan, discount vouchers and relevant handouts. Please see the consultants section of the website for bookings and costs.

Many of the greywater systems require a plumber to install them. At Bulleen Art & Garden we can arrange for an experienced tradesperson to come and install the system for you. Please see the reliable tradesperson section of the website for bookings.

Aug 162010

Vast expanses of patchy, dead and weed infested lawn areas taking up space in your backyard? Are you a slave to the drone of a lawnmower on your day off? Instead you could be out in your garden enjoying your own private space, a space tailored to your needs and aesthetic style. Escape the mundane uniformity of an artificial, vegetative mat and enjoy some of the visual and aromatic delights the natural world has on offer. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to finding an alternative for all that dull lawn.

When you finish reading this page, don’t forget to take a look at our list of Lawn Alternative planting ideas. Click here for pics and more info.

Less maintenance

Mowing, edging, fertilising and weeding of lawns require more time and maintenance than well chosen ground covers, planted garden beds, mulched, gravelled or paved surfaces. Lawns, being in essence a single species, are more susceptible to pest and disease attack. The problem is compounded by the fact that large expanses of lawn provide little interest to a diverse array of insects, birds and animals that may keep pest problems at bay, not only on your lawn areas but in other areas of the garden such as the vegie patch.

Mowing vast expanses of lawn also contributes to greenhouse emissions, as well as the physical energy used.

Less water

Although under current water restrictions there is no watering of lawns with mains water, even the tougher species of turf grass will require some form of supplementary watering through summer to look their best. Alternatively there are many ornamental plant species which will maintain good vigour with no supplementary water once established.

Increase biodiversity

Increasing the number of species not only contributes to a more interesting and visually rewarding landscape, but helps to combat the “green desert” phenomenon that is a lawn. Attract native wildlife into your garden with many butterfly, bird and insect attracting plants. This will help to reduce of eliminate the need for using sprays to control pest and disease problems in the garden. As Melbourne expands and sprawls ever outward, more indigenous species are being lost.

So what can I plant instead?

We have put together a list of planting options to get you started. Click here to view some pictures and information on a whole bunch of interesting lawn alternatives.

Reasons you may not need a lawn at all

  • Shady dry areas under trees
  • Areas unlikely to be walked over, played on etc.
  • Small or awkward areas
  • Areas with significant slopes

Lawn Alternatives

If you like the open feel of a lawn but don’t want the maintenance or water requirements, consider the following options…

No Traffic

No traffic open spaces allow for some of the greatest flexibility in style and plant choices.

Widen Garden Beds

This is probably the first and most easy step. Increasing the width of garden beds allows for a greater volume of soil, and greatly increases the potential for holding water and nutrients essential for healthy root growth. Not only will the plants growing in a wider garden bed be more healthy and require less supplementary water to maintain, but a greater visual sense of depth is created. You will also be able to grow larger plants successfully, giving you a much expanded choice of plants. It may be as simple as cutting a wider bed out of the lawn or removing a course or two of bricks. When putting in garden beds along fence lines around a lawn try to make them at least 1.5 m wide or wider. Plant wide beds with a layered effect to achieve this sense of depth. Soften hard edges with groundcover plants and ornamental grasses and allow shrubs and trees to retain lower branches (just mow around them or carefully under them).

Using ornamental grasses

Ornamental grasses are a great alternative in areas where there is no traffic and there are hundreds of native and exotic varieties to choose from. Massed planting of the one species is visually effective and fairly easy to maintain particularly if the density is right. Utilising the textural qualities of grasses in a mixed planting, whilst taking a little more effort to maintain, is visually very appealing. The features of ornamental grasses that can be used include their habit (tall, short, strappy, grassy, arching, spiky, tufting, architectural), their foliage colour, flower colour and seed heads. Other plants that may be combined successfully with ornamental grasses are herbaceous perennials, small open shrubs, groundcovers, and bulbs.

Planting on slopes

On slopes choose plants that have soil binding characteristics and are fast growing. Many ornamental grasses, groundcovers which have suckering, rhizomatous or stoloniferous growth (that is they put out roots along their stems), and some climbing plants are suitable choices.

Meadow “Lawn” areas

These are areas planted out with a mix of grasses and perennials allowed to grow to their full height without mowing. A mass planting is effective particularly with paths mown between. Ideally, try a mixture of indigenous grasses, lilies, wildflowers and ground covers. Don’t mow… often. To encourage flowering and growth of the meadow it is recommended that the area be cut twice a year using a brush cutter. The optimal times to cut the meadow is in early summer after spring flowering and late autumn. The cut material should then be removed and composted.

Light Traffic

Using mulch as a replacement to lawn

This works most effectively as a usable open space when yards are landscaped with the taller plants at the edges and layered down to an open mulched space in the centre. Soften the transitional space between the taller elements and the mulch with small shrubs, perennials, groundcovers and ornamental grasses.

If an open expanse is not required then mulch can be used under trees, effectively creating a miniature wood with groups of small trees or tall shrubs with a simple covering of mulch and selected groundcovers, bulbs and ornamental grasses as an under story.

Areas under established shrubs and trees can be mulched and this will help to improve the health and vigour particularly in periods of drought. There are so many mulch materials to choose from, so choose for function, but also for aesthetic reasons.

Using groundcovers as an alternative to lawn

Areas that are traditionally difficult to establish lawn perform well with many alternatives. Regions such as under large trees of near eves can be given a new lease of life with the addition of low water and light requiring ornamental grasses and groundcovers.

In areas of light traffic it is necessary to choose plants that are tolerant of small levels of disturbance. Plants that are used should be flexible and low lying. This will allow them to bounce back when trodden on. Solid groundcover lawns will only take very light foot traffic and will take some effort in establishing them, particularly with regard to weeding.

For Heavy Traffic use the same varieties as those for areas with light traffic, but with the addition of stepping stones or paths. You could choose a single species, or for greater interest try a patchwork of species. This takes a little more planning but can result in a spectacular display. Groundcover species can provide you with colour from foliage, flowers and seed heads, scent from crushed foliage or flowers, and textural interest. If using flower colour select groundcovers which have a similar flowering times in the same area for added impact. The space can be completely covered by plants or with mulched spaces between.

Paths can simply be of the same mulched material as the rest of the area or formal paths of gravel may be laid. If using stepping stones there is a plethora of options available. The stepping stones can be surrounded by mulch, groundcover or a coarse permeable material. Prepare the site under the stone making sure it sits level, (a compacted crushed rock base would be ideal).

Gravel and Paved Surfaces

Paving large areas increases run off, reduces the amount of water passing through to the soil and increases the temperature of your back yard in summer. For these reasons alone, you should think carefully before covering large expanses of lawn with a paved solid paved surface. Keep the solid paving to a minimum, such as entertainment areas and heavy traffic areas like driveways and entrance paths.

Consider the slope of the paving to direct run off into surrounding garden beds. More permeable surfacing materials are preferable, such as gravels and coarse sands. Pebble areas can be very time consuming to maintain a weed free space, so keep these to a minimum. Solid pavers can be set apart with coarse material or suitable light traffic groundcovers planted in between. This helps by increasing the permeability of the surface and by keeping the temperature down in summer.

Don’t forget to take a look at our list of Lawn Alternative planting ideas. Click here for pics and more info.

And finally…

Stand back, light your pipe and admire your handywork.

Aug 162010

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Australia boasts an amazing and diverse range of native fauna, including our brightly coloured parrot species, our cheeky sugar gliders, our ever-present possums and our elusive micro-bats.

All these animals, and many more, have two things in common:
· They all live in tree hollows
· They desperately need your help!

Due to the removal of native trees across Australia for building, logging, agricultural or firewood purposes, millions of natural tree hollows are lost every year. The devastation is particularly apparent in urban environments, where the loss of established trees has seen a dramatic decline in native fauna over the last fifty years due to a lack of appropriate habitat and nesting sites. Even if you live in an area with quite large trees, hollows usually take over 100 years to develop. Thus it may be many years before appropriate nesting / roosting sites are available for many species. It is this lack of habitat that places significant stress on our native animal populations, and can result in once common garden residents becoming rare or non-existent in our suburbs.

We can help!

It is possible for us to make a difference, right here in our own gardens!

Loss of habitat has had a massive impact on heaps of native animals. But, you can supplement and improve the resources available in your area by building your own nest box, or purchasing one made to specifications. This can provide a range of native birds and animals with shelter, and you with hours of joy watching once elusive fauna frolic in your backyard!

There are a few things you need to consider when installing a nest box (or two) in your patch.

Check out with your local council what native birds and animals can be found in your area.

Appropriate locally native plant selection is vital. Speak to one of our nursery staff or check out council resources regarding suitable plants for your area.

Provide water for any visitors, but NOT additional food sources. Our native friends love the additional water, but can become sick and dependant on humans if we feed them. Oh, and put the water source out of reach of any hungry domestic pets (especially cats!).

Keep an eye on your cats and dogs; they can cause some real hassles for our native mates. Keep cats in at night, and fit them with a bell or two. Cats can actually learn to stalk birds and other native animals without making their bell ring… so fitting multiple bells to your cat’s collar is a handy idea. Keep adding bells until they can’t walk without sounding like Santa Claus barrelling down a chimney.

Remember, wildlife nesting boxes come in loads of different sizes and shapes, many specific for one or two species, so it is important to do a bit of research before sticking one in the nearest tree. Most councils have comprehensive lists of locally native fauna that you can hope to attract back to your yard. Ask staff at BAAG to help you select the right nestbox for your needs from our comprehensive range.


A number of species of these small, insectivorous bats are found throughout the Manningham / Banyule area. Often referred to as the gardener’s friend, microbats act to keep insect numbers well under control in the home garden. Bat nesting boxes are designed specifically for insectivorous bats, and are undesirable to other pest species (eg: Mynas, Bees), due to the entry located at the bottom of the box. It is also a good idea to affix some Hessian to the top of the box to enable the bats to cling to something while sleeping. Microbat roosting boxes should be located as high up in the tree as possible, and facing either west or east to catch the morning sun.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden


No habitat garden is complete without the squawk and chatter of some beautiful locally native parrots, including the Musk Lorikeet, Rainbow Lorikeet (pictured here) and even the Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo. Parrot species feed on the nectar from Eucalypts, and require hollows in which to breed and roost. Unfortunately, parrot nesting boxes can also be attractive to some pest species, such as Mynas, Starlings and feral Honeybees. In order to discourage these pests, it is advised by the Australian Bird Council that nest boxes be placed close together, to allow parrots to compete with both Mynas and Starlings. It is also recommended that a “baffle” be installed over the front of the nest box, allowing our clever parrots entry to the nest box while confusing pest species.

When placing the nest box, remember to provide as much protection from rain, wind and direct sun as possible. It has been found that facing parrot boxes just south of east is suitable. Also, remember that parrots will not provide their own nesting material, so placing suitable material in a box prior to hanging is advised. Decayed wood, shredded bark or untreated wood shavings are perfect for this purpose. Late winter to early spring is the best time to erect a parrot attracting box.

Brushtail Possums

Alright, so not everyone loves this familiar Australian native due to their voracious appetites, taste for our exotic plants, and love of our ceilings. But, the installation of a brushtail possum nest box my actually help you rid your house of these noisy natives! Possums are territorial, so just removing them from your roof without blocking access points will soon see another family of possums dancing the night away above your heads!

The Department of Primary Industries recommends that in order to rid your house of possums access way to the roof should be blocked (with the use of tree collars), a nest box installed away from the house as an alternative den, and, once satisfied that the possums have left your roof, all known entrance points to the roof should be blocked. Possum boxes should be placed at least three meters from the ground, and mounted so that they are leaning slightly forwards. This will assist exit by young and improve drainage. Brushtail possums feed at night, mainly on leaves and fruits, and nest during the day.

Ringtail Possums

Ringtail possums, although not as familiar as Brushtail possums, are extremely common in this area and an important element in locally native food webs. Ringtail possums will generally build their own nest (or “drey”) from bark, leaves and grass, usually in dense undergrowth. They will, however, occasionally utilise an appropriate nest box. Ringtail possum nest boxes have a smaller entry hole than brushtails, but should be mounted in the same fashion. Ringtail possums have developed a real taste for rose buds, so, if this species is sighted in your garden, covering your precious roses or using a possum deterrent may be necessary.

Sugar Gliders

Perhaps one of our most well loved indigenous marsupials, the sugar glider, is rapidly disappearing from our urban areas due to habitat destruction. Sugar gliders are only found in areas where there are hollows for nesting, and tall eucalypts with adjacent wattle species for feeding… and they really do need our help.

By installing a nest box in an established Eucalypt on your property, you could be assisting a group of five or more sugar gliders (these guys love to nest in groups). And you’ll be doing your garden a favour too… research has shown that Eucalypt trees that have sugar gliders nesting in them are far healthier than those without gliders due to the amount of insects consumed by these hungry little locals. Sugar glider nest boxes have very small openings, which sugar gliders love… and pest species hate!


Perhaps the most iconic of all Australian birds, the Kookaburra is a welcome visitor in most suburban backyards. Feeding mainly on insects, worms and crustaceans, Kookaburras utilise hollows for breeding purposes, and the mounting of a nest box suitable for these cheerful natives will give them a helping hand in your community. Kookaburra nest boxes are horizontal in design, and need to have a small opening at the front through which young may excrete waste. Kookaburras can make fascinating studies in the suburban garden, due to their methods of hunting, their shared incubation duties, and the fact that they mate for life. Kookaburras will generally provide their own nesting material, and boxes should be mounted as high as possible in a protected position.

General Information On Nest Boxes

There’s a pest in my box! What should I do?
The biggest concern faced by people erecting nest boxes is the occupation of these artificial hollows by introduced or pest species. These species include Common Mynas, Blackbirds, European Wasps, Honeybees and Sparrows. The occupation of hollows (both natural and artificial) by these pest species is a significant concern for the well-being of our locally native species, and boxes should be monitored routinely for signs of habitation by unwanted species. If a nest box is found to be occupied by a pest of some description, it is best to deter further occupation by removing any eggs and nesting material of the inhabitant, close off the nest box for a period of time, and assess the size of the entrance hole to the box.

Certain species prefer particular entrance holes sizes, and the correct size can help prevent unwanted visitors to the box (70mm prevents Brush-tailed Possums, 45mm prevents Common Mynas, 35-40mm prevents Starlings, 28mm prevents House Sparrows and 26mm prevents Tree Sparrows). The installation of a “baffle” at the front of the box (especially parrot boxes) is advised to discourage entry by pest species. Regular inspection of the box (weekly upon placement) is recommended to avoid unwanted species moving in and displacing locally native wildlife. Honey Bees can be removed from a box by the placement of pest strips inside the box. It is recommended that this be performed at night time, while the bees are inactive. This will kill the bees, and they will subsequently require removal.

To feed or not to feed… that is the question!
This question gets asked time and time again, and there are conflicting schools of thought regarding whether or not people should feed our indigenous fauna. The short answer is NO! Feeding of native fauna is not advised for the following reasons:

  • Native fauna can become dependant on food provided by humans, causing them to forget how to hunt and source food for themselves. This can become a real issue when humans move house or go away on holidays, as the “reliable” food source has disappeared. Many native birds and animals used to this repeated feeding will perish in these situations.
  • Human food, and even products marketed as suitable for feeding to wildlife often contains dangerous additives, chemicals and preservatives that are harmful to native fauna, and can cause sickness, adverse reactions and even death.
  • Repeated feeding of many animals can alter natural behaviours, causing normally passive birds and animals to become highly aggressive, towards each other and towards humans. This is evident in many campgrounds and urban areas, where generally shy wildlife have become aggressive to the point of threatening and injuring humans in their search for food.
  • Location of feeding areas within the nesting territory of many birds and animals disrupts their nesting activity, as nest guardians are busy defending their territory from other species encouraged by the food source.

What about water?

Water is recommended, as long as it is out of reach of predators, such as domestic cats and dogs. An available water source will almost guarantee the arrival of a number of bird species, particularly parrots.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

What sort of plants will encourage wildlife?

Generally, it is recommended that indigenous plants be chosen for the creation of habitat in your garden. Indigenous (or locally native) plants are those which were, prior to European settlement, common to the area. Locally native plant species are often also present in areas of remnant vegetation that may exist in our communities. By selecting appropriate plant species, you are re-establishing lost habitat, in turn making your community a more desirable place for locally native birds, animals and insects to live. For information of plants indigenous to your area, contact your local council or helpful nursery person for a list of plant species to suit every situation.

How long until someone moves in?

Don’t be surprised if it takes some time for native fauna to occupy your nest box. With the exception of Rosellas (who are inclined to move in straight away), most indigenous fauna species like to “suss out” a hollow before setting up house, so don’t be too upset if it takes a little while!

A locally native animal has moved in! What do I do now?

First and foremost… congratulations. You are helping re-establish habitat for native species that have been displaced by humans and introduced pest species! Now you have to keep them there, and make sure their stay is as comfortable as possible. Avoid the temptation to open the box and look at the inhabitants. This is extremely threatening to our native fauna, especially if they are nesting, and may cause the bird or animal to leave the nest box. A great way to monitor behaviour is to view the inhabitants from a respectful distance, and record their movements. This can be a fascinating endeavour, and information gathered in this manner is often utilised by councils and community groups.

How do I mount my new nest box?

Generally, the majority of species prefer a box with a north-east to south-east aspect. This allows some warmth from the morning sun, while avoiding direct sun in the middle of the day. Nest boxes should be located so as to minimise impact from weather, such a rain, wind, and harsh sunlight. Boxes should be placed as high as possible. This avoids vandalism and disturbance from humans, and minimises the risk posed by domestic and feral animals, such as dogs and cats.

To mount the nest box to a suitable tree, it is recommended that the rear of the box be attached to the tree with galvanised self drilling screws (Type 17 – 14G x 100mm long Hex Head or Bugle Head Batten Screw). This minimises the risk of injury to the tree, and is preferable to straps, wires or chains, which can cause damage to the tree as it grows. Galvanised self drilling screws are also more secure, and provide greater stability, making the environment more comfortable for the inhabitants. If possible, the box should be angled slightly forwards, as this allows young to exit the box more readily. It also aids drainage, keeping the nesting box cleaner and inhabitants happier. If the nest box is removed from the tree, don’t forget to remove the screws.

Can I use a fallen log as a nest box?

NO! Although this ready made roost may seem the ideal nesting box, by removing this log from the ground you could be destroying valuable habitat for some amazing ground dwelling indigenous animals. Skinks, insects, frogs and even some locally native birds and mammals rely on fallen timber for shelter, food and protection, and it is for this reason that fallen timber should be left on the ground.

Aug 162010

Living with possums isn’t always easy, but there are a few things we can all do to live in harmony with possums in our shared urban spaces. Let’s face it… we are never going to get rid of them all together, and why should we? They were here long before we were, and it is our destruction of their habitat that has forced them into our houses, our gardens, and lives. So, what steps can we take to make sure we can all get along together?

Continue reading »

Aug 162010

Herbicides, Insecticides & Fungicides… The safer alternatives

There is a rapidly increasing need to change what we spray and sprinkle around the garden to keep it disease and insect free. It has been evident from the first usage of chemically produced sprays and powders that not only do they kill the insect, fungus or weed that is the problem, they also eradicate helpful flora and fauna that are part of the natural biological chain within the garden. Many gardeners do not realize that when top dressing their garden with super phosphate they are systematically eradicating their extremely helpful earthworm population. The same conditions apply when using chemically produced sprays and powders. The garden’s natural biological structure is totally disturbed so instead of combating a problem it is being compiled. The residue of these sprays and powders build up in the soil, getting into your home produced food chain and poisoning the soil for years.

Healthy plants are less susceptible to pest attack, whether it be from insects and other creepy crawlies or fungal problems, such as mildews. The best way to ensure that you have healthy plants is to have healthy and rich soil, full of decaying organic matter, or humus. Add lots of compost whenever you can – not synthetic all-purpose fertilisers that encourage fast and sappy growth. This lush growth attracts pests far more than steady strong growth and they can quickly ravage the plant you have been cosseting so well. Feed your soil, not your plants.

Growing monocultures in nice straight rows becomes a smorgasbord for insect pests. Diversity in your garden acts to confuse insects. (Diversity doesn’t mean dozens of different varieties of roses!). Overcrowding plants may also contribute to fungal problems as air flow between plants is restricted and fungal spores from one plant spread easily to another. Sometimes even the wrong plant for a particular position weakens the plant and makes it more vulnerable to attack. This could be nature’s way of telling you that you need to cull that plant and put in something more suited to the conditions.

If all else fails and you feel you must really reach for something to help a precious plant survive, there are a number of commercially available insecticides, herbicides and fungicides which are considered safer to use in the garden because they are either biodegradable, herbal-based or consist of elements that occur naturally in the soil. They are usually selective in their eradication of pests, killing the ones that are the problem and leaving the useful insects and the soil clean. They may not “zap” your problem instantly, but they have worked for many.

All of the following alternatives can be found in the nursery or at home in the garden and/or kitchen:


Garlic spray: make up your own (see below) or buy some

Pyrethrum: all are readily available commercially, though one additive to the spray, piperonyl butoxide, is not accepted as organic


Derris powder

Sulfur preparations (do not use in hot weather)

Mineral oil sprays (make up your own: see below)

“Dipel” or “Success”: Biological control of caterpillars.


Sulfuric/nitric acid: breaks down within minutes after contact with soil and weeds leaving acceptable residues.

Mulching with Newspaper or non-synthetic carpet under felt. Green manure crops in winter are excellent as these will feed the soil when slashed and allowed to decompose.

Black plastic: Effective but excludes air and moisture which is not beneficial.

Marix weedmat: Very effective in controlling weeds yet allow water and air to penetrate its fabric.

Boiling water poured onto weeds can help kill them


Dusting sulfur: Downy and powdery mildew.

Lime/sulfur mix: Powerful, safe fungicide, also effective against scale, red spider and mites.

Copper compound: ‘Bordeaux mixture’ – very effective but use wisely as it kills earthworms.

Blackspot on Roses

1 litre skim milk (preferable organic because it contains more antibiotic qualities)
1 litre soapy water
Spray on foliage every couple of weeks or so, covering both sides of the leaves and the stems.

Powdery Mildew on Soft leafed Vegetables

4 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
50 mL white oil
4 litres water
Spray foliage as required

Garlic Spray recipe as a general insecticide

(ref Jane Edmanson’s Working Manual for Gardeners)

Crush several cloves of garlic and mix with 2 tablespoons of paraffin oil. Leave to stand overnight. In a separate container, mix 500ml water with 1/3 cup flakes of soft soap. Strain the garlic/oil mix into the soapy water. Store in a glass container, preferable refrigerated and clearly labelled.

This needs to be DILUTED 10 times with water and then misted over your plants. If it is not effective, dilute less. It is not a contact spray, but must be eaten by the pests. It can sometimes also work as a deterrent.

Oil Spray recipe for sap-sucking insects

Use 2 cups of vegetable oil to 1 cup of pure liquid soap and blend them together until the emulsion turns white. Dilute 1 tablespoon of this to 1 litre of water and spray over insects such as scale and citrus leaf miner. NB Only use this in milder weather as the oil film over the plant can burn the leaves. Scale can also be removed using an old toothbrush!

Methylated Spirits

Used straight, dab directly onto small mealy bugs with cotton wool or cotton buds for pests within the crevices. Mealy bugs proliferate in sheltered positions, usually under eaves or in indoor plants.

Snails and Slugs

Seek out their hidey holes. Long strappy leafed plants are a favourite. If you must use snail baits, choose the ones based on chelated iron, rather than metaldehyde, which is also toxic to children and pets. Put some down into the leaves or make traps with the bait inside.

Do the stomp! When it rains, go out overnight with a torch and a sturdy pair of boots and enjoy the crunch as you stomp your way through the garden. You can eradicate hundreds this way!

Place jars half-filled with beer with the mouth at soil level near seedlings and other plants that are susceptible to snail attack. The snails are attracted to the smell of the beer. They consume it, become drunk, fall into the saucer and drown. Use this method only if you can bear sacrificing beer to snails!

Coffee. It’s a great slug and snail killer. Add to 10 parts water, one part espresso coffee. It has to be espresso because instant coffee is just too weak. Spray this solution over the surface of leaves and over the surface of the soil, where snails and slugs might crawl. The snails absorb the coffee through their skin and the caffeine in it kills them.

Snails don’t like to get their foot dirty! They tend not to travel over some substances such as:

·Shell grit, as is used for chooks and budgies.
·Chopped up hair or
Sprinkle them around the base of seedlings and other snail delicacies to keep the snails out

Cabbage Moth

The caterpillars that hatch from cabbage moth eggs can eat a whole row of vegetable seedlings to the ground overnight! To stop cabbage moths laying eggs on your vegie seedlings, scatter empty white eggshell halves amongst your cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and any other crops that get eaten by cabbage moth caterpillars. These territorial moths mistake the eggshells for other cabbage moths and are repelled from the area.


As always, check with manufacturer’s specifications and use safety precautions when using any chemicals – even safer alternatives.

Aug 162010

The chemicals commonly used to control codling moth also kill beneficial insect species, which contribute to biological control of other pests. Consequently increased chemical sprays are required for control of other pests. The most successful way to avoid this problem is to use Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Using a combination of pheromones and sticky traps, good orchard hygiene and traps will help you avoid the revolting coddling moth.

Continue reading »

Aug 162010

Phyllocnistis citrella

This is a small nocturnal moth which lays its eggs on the underside of soft fresh leaves of citrus. The eggs hatch and the larvae rapidly burrow under the surface of the leaf, and it is these larvae that cause all the damage. The larvae feed on the epidermal cells of the leaf, creating the typical silvery snake-like ‘mined’ damage to the leaf.

Controlling Citrus-leafminer

Chemical control

While very difficult to control with insecticides because they are protected by their leaf ‘mines’, they can be managed by both cultural means and predatory insects. If choosing to spray, the best spray to use for the home gardener is white oil. The moths avoid leaf surfaces sprayed with oil. Spray every 5-7 days in warm weather and spray both upper and lower sides of new growth (don’t wait for leaf to fully open, start spraying when still tiny). Spray to the point of run off: i.e. have a fine mist over the leaves, but if the spray starts dripping off the leaves you have sprayed too much and the effort is wasted. Because this is an oil water mix, continually shake or agitate the mixture to prevent it from separating. Do not spray when the soil is dry, as trees should not be suffering moisture stress when you spray, and avoid spraying when over 32ºC.

Spinosad (marketed as Success) is reputed to be effective against leaf-miners, particularly Tomato leaf-miner. Whether or not it is effective against Citrus Leafminer is not known yet.

Natural Enemies

Brown and Green Lacewings predate on Citrus Leafminer. Green Lacewings are available as a biological control. They are highly susceptible to pesticides, so do not release them for 4 weeks after residual pesticide use.

Cultural control

Citrus Leafminer is most active over summer and autumn and is restricted to soft new growth, so you need to adjust pruning and feeding regimes to get the soft new growth in spring. Restrict fertilising until late winter to promote a flush of growth in spring, keep watering and fertilizing to the minimum required for the health of the tree for the rest of the year. Prune leaf flushes at other times of the year.

Aug 162010

Many ornamental plants will need some form of pruning at some time. Pruning out dead, diseased and damaged growth, encouraging healthy growth, increasing the density, reducing the size of the plant, prolonging the flowering season and promoting bigger blooms are some reasons why pruning is used in the cultivation of plants.

As long as pruning cuts are made in the correct position and cleanly, the plant will heal. Using special paint to seal the cuts is not usually necessary if the cuts are made correctly with clean pruning equipment. Always use pruning equipment appropriate to the size of the branches you will cut. The most commonly used pruning tools are secateurs, loppers and pruning saws. When tying up stems, use soft flexible ties and allow for some movement of the stem. Remember to regularly check and remove ties, as these cause significant damage to plants if they are left on unchecked.

Position of the pruning cut

When making pruning cuts on smaller stems and branches, the position of the cut is just above a node (see diagram right). A node is where a bud, leaf or stem emerges from a branch. The internode is the space along the branch between the nodes. If the cut is made too far into the internode, then the branch usually dies back to the node. This area of die back is a potential entry point for disease.

Note: The angle of the cut is not as important as getting the position right. Ideally, the cut should angle slightly away from the bud so that water is directed away from the bud. Do not cut on a sharp angle as this makes a large wound and may damage the bud.

When pruning main branches, the cut should be positioned so that the branch – bark ridge and the collar are not damaged. The branch – bark ridge can be seen on most trees. It is the ridge of bark on the top side of the attachment point where the branch is attached to the trunk. The collar is harder to see, but it is the swollen area underneath the attachment point of the branch to the trunk. Even if you cannot see it, the collar is still there and should not be damaged. The pruning cut should be made just outside this area (see diagram left).

If you leave a large stub, then this usually dies back and is an entry point for disease. Undercutting a branch before cutting is recommended, particularly on larger branches, as this prevent the bark tearing and damaging the branch collar. Avoid damaging the bark, as this can cause significant damage to the tree and provides a potential entry point for disease.

Ornamental Trees

Most ornamental trees will require pruning at some stage, even if it is just removing dead, damaged or diseased branches. The way to position the pruning cut has been discussed above. Try to prune branches back to a branch union. This is particularly important when cutting trees back from paths and fences. Your first rule should be STOP and THINK before cutting anything.

Never remove more than one third of the canopy at any one time, and it is best to prune trees over a period of time rather than all in one go. Safety is also a concern particularly with large trees and branches and larger jobs are best left to an arboriculture expert. As for using a chainsaw, if you are not experienced, don’t.

Many ornamental trees are grown for their habit (shape). Poor pruning can completely destroy the natural growth habit of the tree, so it is best to take the time to consider a way to prune to maintain the habit of the tree.

Pruning Back

Select the branches that are causing the problem, then select the outermost branch. Prune this branch back to a branch union. Then stand back and have a look. If this has fixed the problem then no further pruning is required. Otherwise select the next outermost branch and shorten to a branch union, until the branches are no longer in the way.

Reducing the height

Reducing the height of the canopy may be done in a similar way to pruning back. Prune back to a branch union instead of lopping off branches at a designated hight. When reducing the hight of trees that naturally have a tall slender shape, (such as a pencil pine), the main leader will need to be shortened. Branching below the cut will thicken the top of the tree.

Reducing the size

On large mature trees, no more than one third of the canopy should be removed at ane time, and reducing the canopy is best carried out over several years. Again, consider the habit of the tree and try to maintain this.


Some older trees form a dense canopy under which it is almost impossible to grow anything. The canopy may be selectively thinned to allow more light through to the plants underneath. Thinning in a way that still maintains the shape of the canopy can be difficult, and this technique is best left to an arboriculturist.

Pruning the canopy up

This is a very common practice, as access underneath trees is often needed. Select the branch or branches that need to be removed, and prune back to the trunk remembering the correct way to position the cut. If several branches need to be removed, it is best to do this gradually over time allowing the tree to grow in between.

Ornamental Shrubs

Many ornamental shrubs require pruning to maintain a dense habit, encourage flowering or prolong the flowering display, as well as removing dead and damaged wood. A general guide for when to prune most shrubs, is just after flowering.

Increasing the density of the shrub

Plants often put out several branches below the pruning cut. In this way, the density of a shrub may be increased by regular pruning. Plants such as English box are a good example of this technique. This type of pruning is carried out after a flush of growth. How often this is depends on the speed of growth, but usually late spring and late summer or early in autumn. Always prune just above a node and make sure there are some buds below the pruning cut. Some shrubs may be cut back into the woody leafless stem and will still shoot as long as there is a bud below, such as Azaleas. However, some shrubs will not shoot when cut back into the woody stems, such as Lavender. If you are unsure wether or not the stem will shoot below the pruning cut, it is best to prune one branch and wait to see what happens before pruning the whole shrub.

This Daisy bush has opened up at the base, with many dead stems and foliage only held at the tips.

After pruning. The dead stems have been removed and the live branches pruned back hard to outward facing buds.


Some shrubs require pruning to lengthen the floral display or to encourage a second flush of flowers. This requires dead – heading throughout the flowering season as the flowers are spent. If the flower has originated from an axil then simply remove the flower and stalk, eg. Camellia. If the flower is terminal (at the end of the stem), then cut back to the first or second bud underneath the flower, eg. Lilac, Buddleja, and Roses. Some flowers form buds just under the spent flower, such as Rhododendrons. These should just have the spent flowers pinched off. If there is a mass of smaller flowers, it may be beneficial to simply clip back just behind the flowers, eg. Marguerite Daisies. Some shrubs require hard pruning to promote bushy growth and more flowers the following season eg. Roses and Hydrangeas. This is done in winter when the plants have lost most of their foliage. Hydrangeas should have the flowering stems pruned back to the first or second pair buds, and old and weak growth pruned out at the base.

Rejuvenating old shrubs

Not all shrubs will be suited to very hard pruning, however, most of the longer lived – woody shrubs respond well to hard pruning. Usually this process takes several years, with the initial prune very hard. With suckering shrubs or those that have cane like growth originating at the base of the plant, the old, dead and weak canes should be removed completely. Then the new, healthy canes may be shortened by approximately one – third, just above a bud, or in some instances may remain unpruned. Shrubs that branch out, should have all the dead wood removed, then the branches should be cut back hard to the second or third bud. Some shrubs may be cut back almost to the base of the plant into the thick woody stems, such as Oleander. Subsequent growth that shoots up will be vigorous and may need to be thinned out to allow well spaced growth. The selected stems should be shortened in the following year to a bud, by approximately one third.

For shrubs where there is a gap where no branches have sprouted, you can break the dormant buds in the stem by suturing. Place a small cut or nick just through the bark, above a bud that is facing the gap. This process breaks the buds dormancy and it sprouts, without losing the upper part of the branch.


There are many different types of roses, and the pruning techniques used depend on the growth habit of the particular rose.

Old fashioned shrub roses

These usually have either upright growth or grow with long spreading canes from the base. They mostly flower only once in the season during spring and early summer, and many may form rose hips in the autumn. These types of roses only require minimal pruning. For bushes where the rose hips are not required, these should be deadheaded when flowering has finished by pruning off the flower clusters. Obviously, for roses where the rose hips form the autumn display, no deadheading is carried out. Apart from deadheading, these roses only need old or dead growth removed.

Modern shrub roses (Floribundas)

These also require minimal pruning. Most of the pruning is done during the flowering season as the flowers are deadheaded. For this type of rose, the flower and the flower stem are all that should be removed to encourage repeat flowering. In winter minimal pruning is required, mostly the removal of old and dead wood. The stems may be lightly pruned, but generally no more than half the stem should be removed.

Modern bush roses (Hybrid Teas)

These generally require deadheading during the flowering season and a harder prune in winter. These roses have two main flushes of flowers, (although many flower almost continually), in spring and early summer, and again in autumn. In order to encourage the second flush of flowers deadheading and summer pruning need to be done. The summer prune can be done while deadheading by pruning back the spent flower two or three buds below the flower. Picking flowers for a vase is a good way to summer prune. The winter pruning is more severe. The aim is to encourage an open vase shaped shrub with good strong growth. Prune out any dead or weak growth. Prune the remaining stems back by half to two thirds to an outward facing bud.

David Austin or English Roses

These have been developed by hybridising modern and old fashioned roses. Their growth habit varies, and so accordingly do the pruning requirements. The varieties with a dense shrubby habit require minimal pruning, such as Mary Rose. Varieties that have a spreading or arching habit should only have the stems pruned back by one third in winter, so as not to destroy their elegant habit. Other more vigorous varieties may be pruned similarly to hybrid teas in winter. All should have and old or dead wood and weak growth pruned out.

Climbing Roses

In addition to the usual deadheading during the flowering season, these require winter pruning. The growth consists of long canes off which laterals shoot. It is on these laterals that the flowers are borne. In winter prune out any old, dead or weak canes. Tie the selected canes to a support, (pillar, post, wall, arch), then shorten the laterals.


These are usually old fashioned roses, with very vigorous growth on long canes. They usually flower only once in spring and early summer. Deadheading should be done after the flush of flowers are spent in summer. Winter pruning removes the old and dead canes. These roses need very large and strong supports to scramble through.

Standard roses

Most of the standard roses are Hybrid Tea or Floribunda roses grafted onto a clear stem. Any shoots that sprout from the stem below the graft should be rubbed off as soon as they are noticed and before they become large. Pruning should follow the same rules as for Hybrid Teas or Floribundas, depending on the variety.


These are usually rambler type roses grafted onto a clear stem. Pruning is similar to pruning a rambler type rose, taking out the old and dead canes to encourage new healthy growth.


Most native shrubs benefit from pruning. Their growth becomes more dense, and better flowering is promoted by pruning. Many native shrubs produce large woody seed capsules after they have flowered. This process requires much energy at the expense of producing more flowers and new growth. The type of pruning depends on the growth habit and flowering of the shrub or tree, but there are some general rules to follow. The timing of pruning is generally after flowering, although some tend to spot flower throughout the year.

Fine foliage and small flowered shrubs

These may be pruned lightly all over regularly to promote dense bushy growth. Some fast growing shrubs will tend to open out underneath with a lot of dead, twiggy growth. This should be pruned out to clear the main stems. Some species will respond well to heavy pruning into old wood (such as Melaleucas), however other species will not re shoot. If in doubt prune back one branch and wait to see if it re shoots before pruning the rest of the shrub. Sprawling and scrambling shrubs may get a lot of dead growth towards the centre of the shrub. By pruning this out you can expose the main curving stems and lightly prune the foliage at the tips.

Large flowered shrubs with woody capsules

These include shrubs such as Grevilleas, Hakeas, Banksias and Callistemons. These should have the flowering stems pruned back as the flowers finish just behind the flower. The new growth branches out from this point, resulting in a denser shrub and increased flowering.

Climbers and Vines

The pruning of these depends on their habit. Some will send out long canes from the base of the plant, and others will have permanent main stems from which long laterals shoot. The deciduous vines are best pruned lightly in summer, with the main pruning in winter. Evergreens are best pruned after flowering. Again, prune out dead, old and weak growth. Some deciduous climbers such as Wisteria and Clematis should be pruned back in winter to a healthy bud. Vigorous spring growth may be kept in check by a light prune.


Most perennials are pruned hard several times during the year to promote renewed growth and repeat flowering. For summer flowering perennials, the first prune is in mid summer after the first flush of flowering, usually January or early February. This allows new growth and a second flush of flowers in autumn, before pruning again in winter. Winter is also the time when these perennials may be dug up and divided. Regular deadheading of flowers during the flowering season will also prolong the display.


Many fine foliaged grasses, and some of the strap leaved plants benefit from the occasional prune. Fine foliaged grasses, such as Poa and Carex should be pruned back approximately 5cm above the ground every third to fourth year. This promotes fresh new growth and clears away old dead leaves. Strap leaved plants may also be pruned similarly, for example Dietes and Lomandra. Flowering stems of these plants should be pruned back to the base when the flowers are spent.

Other plants


When to Prune

How to Prune


After flowering and in late July

After flowering prune off around half the growth. In late July prune to the 2nd or 3rd set of strong buds. Prune out all weak growth altogether.


Winter and Late Spring

Prune back laterals to the 1st or 2nd bud in winter. After flowering in late spring prune back long wispy growth.


Either in February or in winter

Prune flowering stems back to the first set of plump buds. Prune dead and weak growth out at the base.

Bulbs and Lilies

After flowering, when the foliage dies off/ is yellow or brown.

Ideally you should be able to pull the foliage off the top of the bulb easily. For Liliums prune the foliage back to just above the ground.


Late spring

Prune after flowering. May be pruned back hard to promote bushy growth.

Grevilleas, Banksias and Callistemons

After flowering

Prune back just behind the flower.


Late summer, winter

Prune back by half in late summer and hard in winter

Canna Lilies


Prune back stems that have flowered to 15cm above the ground.


Early Summer, Winter

Prune behind the spent flowers in early summer. Prune lightly for shape in winter.



Prune out old, dead and weak growth and prune to shape.



Prune to shape only. May be cut back hard to rejuvenate old bushes.


After flowering

Deadhead, then prune back foliage by one third. Do not prune back into old bare woody stems. Old bushes best replaced.



Can keep old flower heads through much of winter, then prune back to approximately 10cm above ground.

Weeping Cherries


Prune young weepers to outward facing bud to encourage a thicker canopy.

English box


Clip through the growing season as required.


Early Spring. Mid Summer

Be wary of pruning hard into bare woody stems. Prune lightly in early spring. Prune very lightly in summer, only if needed.


August and throughout the growing season

More severe pruning in August to allow a strong framework of branches for the new growth. After each flush of flowers pinch the tips back.



On younger plants light pruning only is necessary. On older plants more severe pruning will encourage bushier growth

Aug 162010

Plant Grafting (Photograph by Bulleen Art & Garden)

It’s easy to get yourself totally confused and muddled when immersed in the heady world of horticulture – hybrids, cultivars, cross pollination…the list of terms goes on and on. But, there is one horticultural concept that we are hearing a lot more of – grafting, and it’s one that home gardeners need to get their heads around.

Rather than an act of political deception, grafting in plant terms means physically combining the desirable properties of two (or more) plants to form one “super” plant. Confused? Think about it like this – take the legs of your favourite supermodel or actor, and attach to these the torso and head of someone else (think my head on Angelina Jolie’s legs!) It’s all about the fusion between the lower half (called the rootstock) and the upper, aerial parts (called the scion).

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