Aug 162011
 

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

The art of Bonsai can be traced back as far as the 6th Century AD. It requires a fair bit of effort and care, but after a few years the results can be spectacular. It may seem daunting when you first start reading about it, but providing you remember to carry out the routine maintenance it really is quite straight forward.

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Aug 162011
 

Eleocharis dulcis

An annual sedge growing in water margins and bogs with erect, narrow, tubular leaves half a metre to a metre tall. The plant spreads by a creeping rhizome which, through the summer months, produces additional sucker plants. The sweet mahogany brown corms have a crisp white flesh and a nutty flavour and are highly valued as a nutritious food. During canning, the medicinal tonic or antibiotic principle called puchine (or puchin) is destroyed, but fresh corms remain crisp and retain puchine after cooking. For this reason, Chinese people regard fresh water chestnuts as superior to the canned product. The flavour has been described as a blend between apple, chestnut and coconut. The flesh remains crisp even after cooking.

Plant in the early spring as 210 frost free days are needed to produce a crop. One chestnut (corm) can, under favourable conditions spread and fill a square metre, so allow sufficient space when planting, perhaps 3 plants per 2 square metres. Soil needs to be free of sharp sticks and stones which can damage the delicate skin of the chestnut. Once the stems are 20cm high the soil should be kept flooded with 100mm to 300mm of water throughout the growing period.

Later in autumn the leaves start to yellow and it is at this point that the chestnuts form at the terminal ends of the rhizomes. Over the following weeks the leaves die back totally and harvesting can start at this time. Although you may find that the sweetness of the chestnuts improves after a period of winter chill. Water is drained off prior to harvesting. Wash the corms after harvest, and brush when they are dry.

They can be grown in any sufficiently large container that holds water e.g. bathtubs, wading pools, ponds or Styrofoam boxes. Alternatively, you can grow them in a plastic lined trench in the vegetable garden.

Problems that commonly occur are rot and damage from birds. A total or almost total lost of seed corms due to rot can occur if they are introduced to a soil or medium that has been freshly fertilized with manure. This can be avoided by fertilising the field or container a few weeks early giving the manure time to break down first.

Aug 162011
 

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Materials you will need:

Water plant baskets – Available in the shop, near the pond pumps
Garden Blend Soil – available from the Landscape Supplies section in bulk or bags
Fine White Sand – available from the Landscape Supplies section in bulk or bags
Pebbles – available from our Landscape Supplies section in bulk or bags
Fertiliser Pellets – Available in the shop, near the pond pumps

Step 1

If you are repotting old pot-bound plants, pull them out of their pots and cut them into smaller pieces. Make sure you have some root ball attached to each one. The foliage will also need to be pruned in the same way you would prune other plants. The cuttings will break down beautifully in the compost. Water Lilies are much the same, but don’t divide them too much as it is possible to damage the corms. Re-potting lilies should be done every 2 to 3 years in winter when the plants are dormant. This needs to be done to ensure flowering.

Step 2

Place the soil about half way into your water plant basket. These prevent pond plants from being invasive. They also keep the soil around the plant roots and allow water flow to supply nutrients and oxygen. This aeration of the soil prevents it from becoming anaerobic (depleted of oxygen) and foul smelling. Planters are great for use with all marginal water plants, submerged plants and water lilies. Choose sizes accordingly. Pack the soil down hard, place the plant along with one fertiliser tablet, (two tablets for larger plants like water lilies) then top up with soil. Allow a few centimetres for the remaining materials and press down firmly to prevent air pockets.

Step 3

Place approx. 2cm of the Fine White Sand on the soil, pack down and then a layer of pebbles, placing heavier ones closer to the main stems. Having a mixture of small and large pebbles works best, the larger ones stop fish digging up your lilies at the root. Water in and you’re ready to re-position your plants and watch them take off again!

Aug 162011
 

If you can grow apples you can grow raspberries, and why wouldn’t you? The sweet juicy fruit is delectable when picked ripe and warm from the canes, truly placing the taste of the sun on your tongue. Nutritionally dense and a fantastic snack for kids, raspberries require a small amount of preparation and ongoing care which will yield great results.

Canes are available in nurseries in winter as bare-rooted stock.
When you plant your raspberries prune them to about 20cm from ground level.

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Aug 162011
 

Berries are generally crops for the patient gardener as a long term investment. Most berry plants usually don’t get abundant crop for a few years, but some are faster, such as raspberries. With careful selection of cultivars, fruit can be produced over several months and used for fresh eating, jams and can be frozen for many months to be used later in desserts.

Designing berry gardens

Berry Plants not only provide delicious fruit through the warmer months, but also provide many design options. There are trees, shrubs, vines and groundcovers to select from. They can create features such as cordons, or may be grown over arches or woven cane structures, or trellises to screen off areas or provide shade. Vines can also be trained up walls or over pergolas. Ground covers, such as strawberries can be used to line paving areas or as garden edging. Others may be trained as specimen trees, such as weepers or standards.

Berry plants are usually deciduous providing summer shade, winter sunshine, beautiful autumn foliage colour, pretty spring blossoms, attractive leaves and delicious fruit. Under-plant berries with winter-spring flowering bulbs or vegies or annuals such as Kale, to provide winter interest. Ornamental plants can be interspersed with berries if space allows.

Growing conditions

Most berry plants are suited to cold, temperate regions with cold, wet winters and hot summers. Most need mulching during summer. Pea or lucerne straw is best for this. The ideal position for the berry plants is in full sun, although some vines and shrubs may take partial shade (Blackberries, Blueberries, Red Currants and Gooseberries).

The soil needs to be well drained and fertile, with similar conditions to the vegetable garden. Berry plants can be mixed with vegetables, herbs and annuals. The best time to plant berry producing plants is in winter when the largest range of plants are available.

Planting your berry plants

  • Prepare the soil by mixing through compost and cow manure and raising the soil up.
  • The planting hole should be dug so that it is twice as wide as the root ball but only a bit deeper. The soil in the bottom or the hole should be mounded and the roots spread out over the mound. Backfill the soil over the roots and firm down. Do not too plant too deeply, (this can lead to collar rot), or too shallow, (this can lead to the roots drying out).
  • Water the plants in well with a seaweed emulsion.
  • Mulch around the plants and stake if necessary.
  • If training the plants over wires or other supports, start when the plants are young.
  • Keep the plants well watered over summer and top up with manure in late winter.

Harvesting

Most berries do not keep fresh for long. Therefore it is best to harvest regularly, as the berries ripen on the plant. Do not leave old berries to rot on the plants as these can harbour disease. Strawberries will put out runners through the harvesting season, and it is best to cut these back regularly, to encourage the plants to produce more flowers and fruit.

Berries available at BAAG

Blueberries
There are so many varieties of blueberries available that they need their very own factsheet… click here to read it.

Boysenberry
Self pollinating
A vigorous plant, developing long trailing canes. A hybrid related to the raspberry and dewberry. The canes must be tied onto strong trellis or horizontal wires 2.5m apart. Boysenberries fruit on canes produced in previous season. An excellent home garden choice.
Produces large, dull purplish-red to black berries in its second year. Some consider this the best flavoured of the black berries.

Jostaberry
Self pollinating
A thornless and vigorous grower with good disease resistance.
Round black berries like fat black currants. The berries have a tangy sweet black currant like flavour, from the cross between a black currant and a gooseberry. Eat fresh or in jams, jellies and pies. High in vitamin C.

Lawtonberry
Berries are plump, black and sweet. Bears heavy crops of blackberry like fruit from late December to early February. Berries are best left on the plant for a while after full colour to allow maximum sweetness to develop.
Excellent for making jam.
Sturdy, stiff and thorny canes. Suckers heavily and needs thinning.

Loganberry
Self pollinating
Hybrid related to the raspberry and dewberry. Trailing, thornless, biennial canes. Grows vigorously. Grows well in heavy soils. The canes must be tied onto strong trellis or horizontal wires. Loganberries fruit on canes produced in previous season.
Considered by many to be the best flavoured of all the brambles. Bears heavily. Excellent aromatic flavour. Ripen to fully red colour to eat fresh. Useful for jam.

Raspberries
There are so many varieties of raspberries available that they need their very own factsheet… click here to read it.

Tayberry
Self pollinating
If you only have space for one Hybrid berry, the Tayberry is the one to go for as it has such a divine sweet and aromatic taste when picked fully ripe, is large in size, fruits prolifically, and is reliable. Bred in Scotland, this is basically a cross between a Raspberry and a Bramble or Blackberry, and is very thorny. The fruit is sweet and highly aromatic making arguably the best of all rubus jams.
They should be picked when they are fully ripe and not while they are still raspberry coloured. The central plug stays within the fruit when picked, just as happens with a Blackberry fruit, rather than a raspberry.

Silvanberry
Self pollinating
Silvanberries are a Victorian brambleberry cultivated in Silvan and are similar in taste to a blackberry. Silvanberries are excellent for making jam
A cross between a marionberry and a seedling cross between a boysenberry and pacificberry. Bears heavy crops of sweet, large cylindrical black berries. Great appearance and quality. Has a long fruiting season often starting in early December.

Strawberries
There are so many varieties of strawberries available that they need their very own factsheet… click here to read it.

Youngberry
Self pollinating
Sturdy, stiff and thorny canes. Suckers heavily and needs thinning.
A hybrid berry. The thorny varieties have better quality fruit. Vigorous trailing canes. Young berries fruit on canes produced in previous season. Long canes must be tied onto strong trellis work or horizontal wires.
Medium to large dark purple fruit. Unique, sweet, juicy flavour. Eat fresh or cooked. Fruit is black-purple when ripe. Ripens after Loganberries and before Boysenberries.

Aug 162011
 

Pseudocydonia sinensis (syn Cydonia sinensis)

Cup-shaped, fragrant pink flowers (to 3.5cm across) blooming in spring are followed by huge, oval fruits (quinces) which ripen in late autumn with an intensely sweet fragrant aroma. Fruits are edible off the tree or may be stewed or used in jams and syrups.

Chinese quince is a small deciduous tree or large shrub with a dense oval crown and attractive bark. A moderately slow grower, it leafs out early in spring and as it ages the bark flakes off leaving a delightful patchwork of gray, green, orange and brown. If it is sufficiently cold the leaves will turn shades of yellow through to red in autumn. The beautiful fruit aside, this is a lovely tree with something to offer in every season.

Best in full sun, tolerates poor soil and some drought.

Aug 162011
 

Choose an open, sunny area in your garden for your olive tree. Olives are not particularly tall but they tend to be broad and have a large root system. The narrow shady space between the house and the fence is not the place for your olive tree, nor is to the south of a large house or fence. A mature olive tree can make a lovely shade tree to sit under particularly on a hot summer’s day. Make sure the tree will receive at least 6 hours of full sun a day all year round. High humidity particularly in summer will promote fungal diseases, so choose an open spot with plenty of air circulation.

Soil
Olives will grow well in a wide range of soils, as long as the drainage is good. Soil preparation is usually digging a wide hole, (at least twice the width of the root ball), and breaking up the soil. Check the drainage by filling the hole with water (it should drain away in half an hour). If the drainage is poor, then dig over a larger area and mound the soil up, then plant at the top of the mound. It is not necessary to fertilise the tree when planting. Plant the tree with the soil at the same level as it was in the pot. Water in well and mulch with a 7cm layer of mulch, making sure the mulch is not touching the trunk.

Watering
Whilst olives are drought tolerant plants, and will survive without much summer irrigation, they will grow and produce more fruit if adequate water is supplied. Olives are Mediterranean plants and therefore prefer cool wet winters and hot dry summer conditions. It is important to receive adequate moisture especially when the trees are forming flowers until the fruit has set on the tree. This is generally late winter and spring. A lack of water at this stage can cause poor flowering, poor fruit set and the developing fruit to be aborted. Of course olives will not tolerate water logging, resulting in die back and death of the tree if prolonged. Newly planted trees will need watering until they are established, being particularly careful during their first summer. Some varieties are also more drought tolerant than others, with some performing well with additional summer irrigation.

Fertilising
Olives do not need a particularly nutrient rich soil, but a little additional fertiliser once a year early in spring will boost the production of your olive. Use a fruit and citrus fertiliser or chicken manure. Do not use high nitrogen fertilisers as these can make the tree more susceptible to a fungal disease called soft nose which spoils the fruit.

Pruning
Most olive trees will not require pruning, however some vigorous varieties may need pruning to reduce their overall size. If you want your tree to produce the maximum amount of olives and still be able to reach them easily then prune down the height of the tree and remove branches to open up the canopy of the tree letting in plenty of air and light. Most olives are much broader than they are tall, that is they have a spreading canopy.

Pests, diseases and environmental stresses
As long as your olive is growing in the correct conditions, then they will remain productive and healthy with very few pest and disease problems. One of the most common pests on olives are scale. These are small sap sucking insects that produce a protective waxy covering under which they feed. They may be pale yellow, brown, black or white and the coverings may be flat and round or raised and irregular. The treatment is the same, spray with White Oil. The other main disease in the local area is Peacock Spot, a fungal disease which starts as a dark spot surrounded by yellow rings around the spot in winter. Leaves may turn yellow and drop, or may persist into summer where the layers of the leaf delaminate turn white and dry out. The fallen leaves harbour spores which are the source of infection next winter. Spray with Bordeaux mixture or Copper Oxychloride in winter and clean up any infected leaves from the base of the tree.

Leaf scorching, particularly at the tip is most likely indicative of over fertilising and lack of adequate water.

Another fungal disease is called Soft Nose and causes rotting of the tip end (the nose) of the fruit. It is caused by excessive application of nitrogen as fertiliser.
Tiny yellow speckling on the upper surface of the leaf may be caused by Olive Lace Bug, which feed on the underside of the leaves. Generally the infestation is not severe and the tree will still remain productive. If it is particularly bad then spraying with Confidor may be necessary.
Olives often produce good crops in alternate years, that is a bumper crop one year and a light crop the following year. Certain varieties will favour this type of production more than others. Some people thin the crop to reduce this effect by tapping the branches with a stick to knock off some of the fruit as it develops.

Harvesting
Olives are harvested at different stages depending on the end use. For green table olives pick the olives as they change from green to yellow – green. For coloured olives pick them just as the first patch of red or black starts to show. Black olives are generally Kalamatas which are picked just as they develop the black colour. If the olives turn black and ripen on the tree then they can be used for oil. Olive fruit can bruise if handled roughly, so if harvesting for table olives pick them by hand rather than knocking them off with a stick.

Weed Control
Olives self seed readily and the seed is dispersed far and wide by birds, thereby creating a weed problem as the trees are very tough and quite happy in our Mediterranean like climate. To reduce the weed potential of your olive make sure you harvest all the fruit every year. Clean up any fallen ripe fruit off the ground and get the olives off the tree as quickly as possible.

Varieties

The varieties on the following list may not all be available at all times. Seasonal and supplier variations mean we cannot stock all of the following, but we do try to keep as many as possible in stock. Drop in or call our nursery staff for more information on 8850 3030.

Arbequina – Small fruit (1-2g). Bears young. High yields. Ripens early/mid season. High oil content. Considered cold resistant. Performs well in warm and cold climates. Ornamental tree suitable for pots, hedges and intensive cultivation. Self-fertile. Origin: Spain.

Azapa – Large table fruit. Suits warm to moderate climates. Good bearer.

Barnea – Medium fruit. Bears young. High yields. Medium to high oil content. Ripens mid season. Can be pickled. Suggested cross-pollinators are Picual, Manzanillo, Picholine. Origin: Israel.

Barouni – Also known as Uovo di Piccione. Large table fruit (~7g).Suits warm to cold climates. Cold tolerant. Medium yields. Ripens mid/ late season. Usually pickled green. Small spreading tree suited for hand picking. Origin: Tunisia.

Correggiola – Small / medium fruit (2-3g). High yields. Ripens late season. High oil content. Suggested cross-pollinators are Leccino, Coratina, Pendulino. Origin: Tuscany, Italy.

Coratina – Medium fruit (2-3.5g). Bears young. High oil content. Ripens late season. Considered dual purpose. Very cold resistant. Usually pickled green. Origin: Apulia, Italy.

Frantoio (Paragon) -Small / medium fruit (2-3g). High yields. Ripens mid/late season. High oil content. Pickled fruit have a nutty flavour. Can be processed as Ligurian olives. Compatible pollinator for a range of varieties. Suggested cross-pollinators are Leccino, Coratina and Pendulino. Origin: Tuscany, Italy.

Hardy’s Mammoth – Large, dual purpose. Mainly pickled. Ripens early. Prefers cold areas.

Hojiblanca – Medium sized fruit (2-4g). Dual purpose. High yields. Pickled green or californian black style. Low oil content but high quality oil. Ripens late season. Suggested cross-pollinators are Arbequina, Manzanillo and Picual. Origin: Spain.

Jumbo Kalamata (Grafted Tree) – Very large table fruit (~12g) with a small seed. Impressive fruit size but flesh can be tough and fibrous if not processed correctly. Not related to the true Kalamata variety. Usually pickled green. Origin is unknown but the fruit is similar in form to the Italian variety Oliva di Cerignola.

Kalamata (Grafted Tree) – Medium/ large fruit (3-5g.) Dual purpose. Medium/high oil content. Good quality oil. Pickled black. Highly regarded fruit for processing. Suggested cross-pollinators are Frantoio and Koroneiki. Origin: Greece.

Koroneiki – Small fruit. Very good oil. High oil yields. Greek origin.

Leccino – Small-medium sized fruit. Considered dual purpose. Medium to high oil content. Early cropper. Cold resistant.

Manzanillo – Medium / large fruit (4.8g). High yields. Ripens early. Excellent pickling fruit. Pickled green or black. Fruit is of excellent taste and texture. Fruit should be processed before it is fully ripe to retain flesh firmness. Not recommended for oil, as oil extraction can be difficult. Suggested cross-pollinators are Sevillano, Frantoio, Picual and Arbequina. Origin:Spain.

Nabremri – Large table fruit. Good flesh to pit ratio. Regular moderate to heavy crops.

Nevadillo Blanco – Medium sized fruit. Dual purpose. High oil content. Heavy crops. Ripens early to mid season. Spanish variety.

Picholine – An important French, dual purpose variety. High quality oil, medium to high yield. Oval fruit, similar in size to Kalamata. Best pickled green. Ripens mid-late season. Cold tolerant.

Picual – Medium sized fruit (3-4g). Early start to bearing. High yields. High oil content. Ripens Mid/late season. Cold Tolerant. Picual is largely self- fertile but can benefit from cross-pollination. Suggested cross-pollinators are Arbequina and Hojiblanca. Picual is used as a pollinator for Barnea. Origin: Spain.

Sevillano (Grafted Tree) – Large sized pickling fruit. Medium crops. Quite good flesh to pit ratio. Very cold resistant.

South Australian Verdale – Medium/Large oval shaped fruit. Dual purpose. Low/Medium oil content, but high quality oil. Good cropper.

UC13A6 (Californian Queen) – Very large table fruit (~11.5g). Medium yields. Ripens early/mid season. Pickled green or black. Origin: USA.

Volos (Grafted Tree) – Also Known as Konservolia. Large dual purpose fruit. High oil content. Ripens mid/late season. Mainly pickled green but it also produces a good quality black-ripe olive. Very cold resistant. Origin: Greece

Aug 162011
 

Growing figs is a breeze in Melbourne, where our hot dry summers and cooler winters provide ideal growing conditions.  A true survivor, the fig will cope with almost total neglect and it isn’t prone to all those diseases of other fruit trees (peach leaf curl, cherry slug, shot hole, gall wasp, leaf miner, codling moth, oriental moth).

Survival is one thing – for great eating figs a rich, free-draining soil with a neutral pH, plenty of organic matter and a layer of straw mulch will help retain enough moisture to get plump good eating figs.  Often figs are planted in raised beds or mounds, to ensure drainage is sufficient.  Find a sunny spot with not too much wind, in a position where you can enjoy the summer shade provided by this tree.  That said, I have seen figs surviving and producing wonderful crops in the most inhospitable environments imaginable.  They really are the survivors of the fruit tree world.

Harvesting figs is easy, and they should be picked when they are slightly soft to the touch and smelling sweet. Figs will NOT continue to ripen once they have been removed from the tree, so pick them when you need them and handle them with care as they can bruise easily.

We regularly stock the varieties listed below, but also have other more uncommon varieties from time to time.

Black Genoa: Excellent flavour. Large, conical, greenish purple skin, dark red, rich sweet flesh. Reliable, heavy cropper. Two crops a year. Vigorous, spreading tree. February for three months.Fresh fruit, drying and jam. Self-Pollinating.

Brown Turkey: Large, conical, brown skin, pink sweet-flavoured flesh. Vigorous, productive and hardy. Early Summer and late autumn. Fresh fruit, drying and jam. Self-Pollinating.

Preston Prolific: Very thick flesh, creamy white and juicy, with sweet flavour. Extremely vigorous and late cropping. Harvested February to March.

Silvan Beauty: Purple skinned fruit with orange flesh, good flavour and heavy bearer, makes great  fig jam, discovered growing in Dandenong Ranges, harvests late season, tree can grow quite large.

White Adriatic: A vigorous Fig variety, usually producing one crop a year (the breba crop can be very light). The fruit is good for drying, but is also delicious fresh. Brown green skin over pink flesh with excellent sweet flavour. Self fertile.

White Genoa: Large, conical, yellow-green skin, red-pink sweet, mild flavoured flesh. Suits cooler areas. Lighter cropper than other varieties. Early Summer and late autumn. Fresh fruit, drying and jam. Self pollinating.

Aug 162011
 

A Tangelo is a hybrid cross between a Mandarin and a Grapefruit. They are all self-fertile and rapid growers that can reach around 4-8 metres tall by 4 metres wide. They are evergreen very attractive trees attractive. They make a great specimen tree, hedge or screen and are very hardy and cold tolerant. They prefer full sun.

Varieties

Minneola

A mid-season variety with large bright red to orange fruit and a glossy, thin skin. This one has a really tasty grapefruit flavour, which makes up for the fact that it is sometimes hard to peel. The tree only tends to bear fruit every second year (biennial bearing).

Seminole

This tangelo was bred in the USA and has similar fruit to a Minneola except that the skin is bright orange and the tree itself tends to over bear, making fruit smaller. It is wise for the home gardener growing this one to practise thinning the fruit. Fruit is late, ripening around July or August.

For general information on growing citrus trees, click here

Aug 162011
 

Mandarins are attractive, evergreen, compact trees. They have small glossy green leaves which contrast beautifully with the intense orange fruit. They are self-fertile and fruit easily when given full sun, fertiliser and a well drained soil that is kept moist over the fruiting period. Thinning of flowers encourages larger fruit to form.

Mandarins are commonly used for screening, hedging, espalier or specimen plantings.

Dwarf varieties are also available for growing in large pots. Eat fresh or use in desserts.

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Aug 162011
 

Grapefruit grow on a vigorous evergreen tree that can easily reach a height of 4 metres or more, with a similar width. Pruning will keep them to a manageable size. All varieties like well-drained soil and full sun. You will be rewarded to with kilos of fruit if you choose the most suitable variety for your climate.

All grapefruits are self-fertile and are great eaten fresh when used in preserves or marmalades. Grapefruit trees are excellent for screening or hedging, they make fantastic shade trees and are easily espaliered. Not recommended for pots.

Varieties

Ruby Red

The medium sized fruit has a red blush beneath the yellow skin as it ripens in July / August. The flavour is distinctly sweeter than other grapefruit, but still has that great grapefruit tang. The fruit makes a wonderful juice with its red / pink colour. The tree is dense and bushy and crops abundantly year after year. Originating in the West Indies, this variety has high heat requirements… so choose the warmest position possible. Leave the fruit on the tree to sweeten as long as possible.


Marsh

Being a parent of the red grapefruit it is very similar, but this variety has yellow flesh. A good strong growing tree that fruits consistently. If red flesh is not your thing, this is the grapefruit for you. The large fruit has a thin, smooth skin and a sweet flavour. The fruit has virtually no seeds and is late ripening.


Wheeny

The traditional grapefruit. Originating in NSW, the Wheeny is actually a hybrid of the Pummelo. It has large yellow fruit with a medium to thin rind and a very bitter, acidic flavour. Wheeny is one of the quickest and strongest growing citrus varieties and produces a large tree. Wheeny fruits heavily and reliably. Once your tree is established you will be sharing the grapefruit with the whole neighbourhood in late summer.


Thompson’s Pink

The Thompson’s Pink Grapefruit has a large fruit with few or no seeds. The flesh can vary in colour depending on the area. Under favourable conditions it is a light pink colour. The spring blossom can take up to 14 months to mature, but you must allow the fruit to ripen on the tree as long as possible to develop sweetness. Most fruit ripen in winter.


Pummelo / Shaddock

Similar to a grapefruit, the Pummelo, also referred to as a Shaddock. It can bear fruit to the size of a football. The fruit is not as sour as a grapefruit, but has a very thick rind… often with more rind than flesh.

For general information on growing citrus trees, click here

Aug 162011
 

All cumquats are self-fertile, evergreen and will grow happily in either full sun or part-shade. They are also very cold tolerant. Soon after the fragrant, white flowers appear they produce ornamental fruit which stay on the tree for a long period. The fruit can be used for liqueurs, preserves, marmalades, drinks and bottling. All cumquat varieties are excellent for containers, screening, espalier and standards.

Varieties

Marumi (or Meiwa)
This cumquat grows into a small tree (around 3m x 3m). A very persistant fruiting variety that peaks in autumn and winter. The round fruit has a tart flavour and sweet rind.

Calamondin or Australian
A popular variety that is highly ornamental due to its columnar, upright habit and glossy, compact leaves. It is a vigorous grower and can reach 8m x 4m when mature. Will remain much smaller in pots. An abundant fruiter that peaks in autumn and winter. The fruit is juicy and sour with loose skin.

Nagami

A small, elegant plant that can grow to around 3m x 3m. Remains slightly smaller in pots. A variegated form is also available. The fruit is small and oval shaped with a thin skin and it is very juicy and only slightly acidic. The only cumquat variety suitable for eating fresh off the tree. The skin is also edible.

Chinotto
Chinotto is an ornamental citrus that makes a stunning pot specimen. It produces small, bright orange fruit every year that ripen in winter. The fruit isn’t edible fresh as it is very bitter. It can be preserved, but generally this tree is grown as an ornamental. The leaves are attractively arranged in a spiral around the long and upright stems. Possibly the source of the popular Italian drink with the same name.

For general information on growing citrus trees, click here

Aug 162011
 

It might just be me, but cherries remind me of a good old Aussie Christmas – prawns, cold meat and salad, backyard cricket and the ever present bowl of deep red, super sweet cherries.  Mum would grab a couple of kilos of cherries from the supermarket and my brother and I would be through the lot in a couple of hours… bliss on a hot, sticky summer’s day!

Growing up in Queensland, having my very own cherry tree in the backyard was an impossible dream, as they adore a cooler, less humid climate and a lovely cold winter. This makes them a pretty good choice for the home patch across much of Victoria, especially those areas outside the Melbourne metro that experience bracingly cold winters (think Daylesford, Kinglake etc).

Continue reading »

Aug 162011
 

Clausena lansium

Commonly grown in S.E Asian backyards and gardens, the wampi is a slender evergreen tree that can reach 10m in a tropical climate and is grown for its clusters of brownish grape-like fruit. It is high in vitamin C and can be used to make jams, juice and desserts.

The tree foliage is attractive and aromatic, with bright green leaves and clusters of white flowers giving way to generous bunches of fruit in summer which are borne on the tips of branches. It requires little in the way of pruning and maintenance and grows into a slender tree.

Fruit is harvested when fully ripe, as it will increase in sweetness when left on the tree for longer. The fruit have a thin, brittle skin that is split open and seeds removed for its juicy flesh.

The wampi prefers a sunny and warm position with moist, well-drained soil and requires similar growing conditions to the citrus family (of which it is related). Whilst it is originally from tropical Thailand, wampis can withstand low winter temperatures to a minimum of -2 degrees Celsius and will recover from light frost damage.

Feed with well-rotted manure and compost only.

Varieties

Guy Sam
Sweet and tangy with brown skin, this variety has grape-sized fruit.

Yeem Pay
A yellow skinned variety with large, elongated fruit. This variety is very sweet and crops heavily.

Aug 162011
 


(Syn: Champagne Fruit) Carica pentagona

A versatile and remarkably easy to grow subtropical: the quiet achiever of the Carica genus, there is the papaya, but then there is the babaco – the champagne fruit – which will thrive in Melbourne and delight you with its wonderful fruit.

The attractive golden torpedo shaped fruit have a light refreshing effervescent flesh giving it the name ‘Champagne fruit’. The subtly tangy flesh has hints of strawberry, pineapple and papaya flavour, is white to yellow, fragrant and juicy. The fruit is easily made into a fabulous tropical fruit smoothy, a chilled fruit cocktail, or added to a fruit salad (there are no seeds and the thin skin is edible). Slice (so they look like stars), sprinkle with sugar, leave in fridge for a few hours and serve – too easy. The unripe green fruit is delicious used as a green vegetable in curries and chutney. The whole fruit, skin included, can be used in jam, or added to fruit pies. Add to all this the excellent keeping qualities (4 weeks on the shelf, longer in cool storage) of the babaco and it is verging on the perfect fruit.

Growing

Babaco is an herbaceous shrub growing to approximately 2.5m, large palmate leaves on stems which radiate around the trunk, a distinctive and attractive look. Useful if you want to get that subtropical look in your garden. The average life of a leaf is 4 months, they will be start to look shabby over winter and will shed.
It can tolerate mild frosts (-2ºC), but will need protection from heavier frosts. It may lose some leaves in frosts, but will recover. Also protect from wind and the hot afternoon sun.

Babaco is susceptible to root rot, so good drainage is non-negotiable. It is very well suited to container growing with a good free draining potting mix. A fast growing, heavily producing shrub, therefore you will need to fertilise well. For optimal results use a good quality fertiliser, mulch and water well during the growing and fruiting seasons, but keep water, mulch and fertiliser away from the stem. Composted chicken manure makes a good mulch.

Babaco has no tolerance for salinity, and as a precautionary measure, avoid gray water as well.

Shoots form around the base of the trunk and should be removed. Around September allow one of these shoots to develop (it will become the trunk for the following year). This shoot will grow rapidly but will not flower and interfere with the current season’s fruit set. After harvest, prune the main stem back to 20cm and the remaining shoot will now develop and become the next main stem/trunk. Allowing only one stem to grow gives maximum trunk size to a single trunk which in turn leads to maximum fruit size.

Fruiting & Harvesting

The flowers are all female (hence no seeds) and form on the developing trunk during the growth phase of the tree. The fruits set immediately after flowering, and start to expand fairly rapidly. The fruits are 5 sided, pointed at the apex and rounded where they attach to the stem (often referred to as ‘torpedo’ shaped). As they ripen yellow patches will appear over the green skin and these will spread until the whole fruit is yellow and ripe. Fruit can be picked when still patchy and they will fully ripen off the plant. The lowest fruit ripen first and then ripening progresses up the trunk.