The Advantages of Trees

The Advantages of Trees

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Most of us would see trees as purely cosmetic, put here to make the place look pretty… but they are so much more than that. They are a vital part of the ecosystem. All trees are a major source of the air we breathe, they help control and stabilize the world’s climate and they provide food and shelter for millions of species.

There are many benefits in having them in our own gardens.
Read more

Deciduous Trees

Deciduous Trees

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

The glory of autumn foliage from the hundreds of tree varieties introduced to Australia is only one good reason to grow deciduous trees. The bare trees of winter, stark but beautiful, are also valued for their ability to provide change to the scenery. They let through the much needed winter sunlight to benefit lawns, garden beds and outdoor living spaces; and in summer they give shade to these areas.
Read more

Climbing Plants

Climbing Plants

What defines a climber?

The word climber is used rather loosely when describing plants. Many plants that fall into this category do not strictly climb, but would be more correctly designated ramblers or trailers. A true climber ascends using a variety of clinging methods. Some have aerial roots, which attach themselves to a support, like Ficus pumila. These are also known as self-clinging climbers. Some climb using tendrils, these are tightly curled and once wrapped around something are impossible to pull away without breaking. Eg. Passionfruit. The majority simply ascend by means of the soft young shoots which twine around their host. Eg. Climbing beans. These are also known as twining plants or sub climbers.
Read more

Camellias

Camellia (Photograph by Bulleen Art & Garden)

Camellias are one of the most enduring and versatile evergreen garden plants.  Their garden value is further enhanced due to their winter flowering season when most other plants are either in decline or dormant.  Many cultivars make wonderful potted specimens. They are equally at home as feature specimens, hedging or screening and background shrubs.  There are even dwarf cultivars available.

Read more

Cinnamon Myrtle

Cinnamon Myrtle

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Backhousia myrtifolia

Cinnamon myrtle is a subtropical tree from Eastern Australia. In the wild it can grow to 30m, but in cultivation it could grow to 7m. It is possibly the hardiest of the three myrtles discussed here. It has highly ornamental star-shaped cream coloured flowers in summer. The essential oil found in cinnamon myrtle is elemicin, which is also found in common nutmeg. Cinnamon myrtle leaves do produce a cinnamon –like aroma when crushed.

Cultivation

In the wild it is found growing along watercourses and it therefore likes a moist soil. It will tolerate full sun to part shade, but as with the other two myrtles, it would be best to position it where it will get some afternoon shade in summer, or it may become stressed in the hot, dry conditions. Unlike the other two myrtles, it is tolerant of light frosts. Ensure good summer moisture. Cultivate the soil with organic compost before planting.

Preparing for use in the kitchen

For use in tea, the leaves can be used fresh. Most recipes call for dried, ground leaves. Pick the leaves and wash to remove any dirt. Then, if you have time, you can leave them in a warm, dry place to dry, or you can speed up the process up by using a food dehydrator or the oven on a low temperature setting. Once dry, you can use something like a coffee grinder to make the leaves into a fine powder.

Uses in the kitchen
Can be used instead of cinnamon in cakes, cookies, pies and tea and in Middle Eastern dishes. It can also be rubbed on the skin for use as an insect repellent.

Aniseed Myrtle

Aniseed Myrtle

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Backhousia anisata syn. Syzygium anisatum

Aniseed Myrtle is a rare subtropical rainforest tree from northeastern NSW. In its natural habitat it grows to 45m, but in cultivation probably only to 10m, and can be clipped to 2-3m if necessary. It makes an excellent tub specimen that looks great if tip pruned regularly. It has white, scented flowers in spring.

Cultivation
Aniseed Myrtle will tolerate full sun to part shade, but as with Lemon Myrtle, is probably best with afternoon shade to withstand the dryer Melbourne summers. Ensure a consistent water supply and ensure good drainage. Cultivate the soil with some organic compost before planting, and fertilise twice a year with a slow release fertiliser. Make sure to add mulch around the plant, particularly over the summer months.

Preparing for use in the kitchen

For use in tea, the leaves can be used fresh. Most recipes call for dried, ground leaves. Pick the leaves and wash to remove any dirt. Then, if you have time, you can leave them in a warm, dry place to dry, or you can speed up the process up by using a food dehydrator or the oven on a low temperature setting. Once dry, you can use something like a coffee grinder to make the leaves into a fine powder.

Uses in the kitchen
Aniseed myrtle has both aniseed and liquorice flavours. It can be used to flavour biscuits, pasta, bread and cakes. Can be used instead of star anise. Aniseed myrtle also has antimicrobial properties.

Fairy Magnolia

Fairy Magnolia

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

It really is an amazing season for these Magnolias. Sometimes the rain, the temperature and daylight hours all come together and some species just have a fabulous season. This year has seen the Fairy Magnolias and other hybrid Magnolias absolutely laden with flowers. I love the bold leaves of the fairy magnolias, they have a real presence in the garden, giving both gravitas and elegance. Equally good, but different, is the Magnolia ‘White Caviar’. A lighter glossy green leaf and striking flowers give it a lighter feel in the garden. All these Magnolias are versatile (full sun to part shade). Not too big, but big enough to screen or make a 2m hedge. Click through for more information.

Read more

Silk Tassel Bush (Garrya elliptica)

Silk Tassel Bush (Garrya elliptica)

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

In the depths of winter Garrya elliptica suddenly changes from a useful, but somewhat boring, grey-green evergreen shrub into a supremely elegant showstopper. Clever gardeners plant it where the long cascading tassels (catkins) are shown to advantage, sometimes against a wall, sometimes as a shrub along the front fence, always eye-catching. It flowers from mid-winter into spring, with the tassels gradually elongating and subtly changing. In some ways this is a showy plant, but the silvery grey coloured tassels, highlighted against the grey green glossy and slightly wavy foliage, give it an elegant subtlety which lends itself to many different styles of gardens. The leaves are glossy on top but soft and woolly underneath, a lovely contrast and another subtle touch.
Read more

Elaeagnus x ebbingei

Elaeagnus x ebbingei

Photo from Wiki Commons © by Jean Jacques Milan

My main use for this shrub is using it where nothing else will survive, or when everything I try just limps along, not quite dying, but certainly not thriving. I plant an Elaeagnus and it just bolts away forming a strong healthy plant and making that frustrating ‘failure to thrive’ area just disappear. Particularly useful in planting under established trees, where everything tried just struggles.
Read more

Silver Birch Trees in Melbourne

Silver Birch Trees in Melbourne

Several decades ago Silver Birches were the tree of choice in Melbourne. Their glorious trunks and delicate foliage danced across the Melbourne landscape and number plates proclaimed Victoria to be the Garden State. Melbourne was wonderful. I loved it. Then Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ made a huge splash followed by upright ornamental pear trees, and the silver birch was a bit lost in the rush to embrace the new. But it is worthwhile re-visiting exactly why Melbourne had a love affair with Betula pendula in its many forms.
Read more

Proteas

Proteas

Photo © Proteaflora - used with permission

Proteas are native to southern Africa and belong to the same family of plants (the Proteaceae) as the Australian Banksias, Grevilleas and Teleopa. The name ‘Protea’ is commonly used to refer to not only plants in the genus Protea, but also to two other genera – Leucodendrons and Leucospermum, also from southern Africa.

The Proteaceae is an ancient family from Gondwanaland, with about 1600 species it is now one of the dominant flowering plants in the southern hemisphere.
Read more

Alyogyne

Alyogyne

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Alyogyne huegelii

Australian member of the Hibiscus family known for its gorgeous open satiny petalled flowers. Flowering from late spring to the end of summer, it produces hundreds of flowers which open in the morning and last the single day. Colours range from blue to lilac purple, through rose pink to white. Breeding has produced some amazing forms and colours.

Read more

Carob

Photo by Karen Sutherland from Edible Eden Design - edibleeden.com.au Used with permission

Ceratonia siliqua in the Fabaceae family

Heads – up: We cannot supply these trees at the moment – there is no reliable source of named varieties available. If and when they do finally become available, you will see hot air balloons and fireworks coming from the nursery.

Carob trees feature edible pods, the seeds are not consumed. They grow to become quite large trees when mature, as large as 10m x 10m. They have an extensive network of shallow roots, as well as a tap root to as deep as 20 m. They can tolerate temperatures to -5 deg C and are very long lived. A carob tree can crop for up to 400 years! The pods are like dates, but with a harder texture. They are also chewier than dates.

Why grow carob?
When roasted, the pods taste like chocolate. In the past carob chocolate has developed a bad name because of high palm oil content used, but there are sustainable options available today. Be sure to read the ingredients and look for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. Carob is very sweet and a good, nutritious snack which is high in calcium and protein. It is an excellent subsistence food, in times of war many have survived off carob along with other wild foods.

The Mature pods, when thoroughly dry, will store for many years and can also be used to make wine or brandy.

Other uses
The carob is an evergreen, rounded, drought tolerant and very ornamental tree. They are sometimes used as windbreaks as well as shade and fodder plants for animal pastures. Carob can be used as a treatment for diarrhoea! They can also be clipped into a hedge.

Growing carob
Carobs are similar to olives in adaptability. They can be grown in a large pot and are tolerant of drought and poor soils, although better crops will be produced in areas of higher rainfall. They are wind pollinated, with flowers in early winter. Pods are harvested during autumn. Fertilise with small amounts of well rotted animal manure

Pollination
Both male and female trees are required for pollination. Most trees bought for ornamental purposes are seedlings with unknown gender.

Varieties

Clifford
Hermaphrodite, self fertile. Medium size, high yield of good quality beans. 50%+ sugar. Early fruit bearer.

Casuda
Female, needs a hermaphrodite for pollination. Medium sized tree with a high yield of medium beans. 50%+ sugar. Many consider this variety to have the best flavour, it is not quite as sweet as other varieties.

Trees for Small Gardens

Trees for Small Gardens

Espaliered Trees

Espaliering is a form of pruning and training trees as a flat two dimensional specimen. This is usually done against a wall but may also be used to provide a free standing green wall. There are many different shapes that the espalier may take. Traditional espaliers usually have lateral branches trained horizontally at regular spacing. However other shapes may be used including fan, palmette and cordon shapes. Espaliering displays the flowers and fruits very attractively and creates an elegant, compact tree, which is perfectly suited to small gardens.

 
Flowering Cherries, Crab Apples, Cercis, Laburnum, Crepe Myrtle and Prunus all make stunning espaliers. The fruit trees most suited to this style of training are Apples and Pears. However, other fruit trees such as Plums, Cherries, Peaches, Nectarines, Almonds, Apricots and fruiting vines can also be espaliered in more simple designs. Espaliered trees create a compact, elegant tree whose flowers and fruit are attractively displayed, and spraying and picking fruit is easier and less time-consuming. Fruit is usually produced earlier on espaliered trees. Netting to protect ripening fruit is also easier on a smaller, more compact tree.

 

Requirements

A constructed support such as trellis or horizontal wires upon a fence is needed to support the tree. Strong posts are required at the ends to hold up the trellis or on which to train wires. Wires must be under tension and need to be thick enough to train the growing stems to. The wires should be spaced 50 to 75 cm apart and space the trees at two to 4 m apart depending on the size of the tree.

 

Method

Select young trees with evenly spaced branches. Chose the lateral branches to be retained and prune off all other laterals near the trunk. Tie the laterals down to the wires (for a traditional espalier), or onto bamboo canes, which should then be tied into position on the wires (for fan shaped espaliers). Use flexible ties which should be checked regularly for damage to the stems. Prune the tips of the laterals back to the desired length, to a bud. Vertical, inward-facing and weak growth should be removed.

 

Espaliered trees have the same growing requirements as other fruit and deciduous trees, so remember that
adequate watering in summer and providing the right soil conditions are essential to maintaining a healthy
espaliered tree. Espaliering is a high maintenance technique. Constant pruning and tying in are needed to create the right shape to start with. When the desired shape and size are reached, this must be maintained with regular pruning. Early summer pruning is important to control vigour and prevent shading of the lower limbs.

 

Winter pruning

Winter pruning is also required, and it is also the time to redefine the shape and size of the espalier.

 

Pleaching Fruit and Deciduous Trees

Pleaching is a very old technique used with many fruit and ornamental deciduous trees to form a free-standing ‘hedge-on-stilts’. The training is similar to forming an espalier – trees are planted in a line at approximately 2.5m apart, lower branches are removed and lateral branches of adjacent trees are trained to ‘Knit together’ to form a tall hedge. This is very useful to create privacy along a narrow driveway.

 

Duo and trio fruit trees

This refers to planting two or more trees into the same hole. Commonly done when trees require cross pollinators and/or when space is tight.

Trees will grow on their own root system and with their own growth habit. An advantage is that the stronger growing tree will not dominate the weaker tree which is often a problem in multi grafted trees. A dwarfing effect and earlier fruit may be noticeable due to competition.

Plant the trees around 150mm – 300mm apart and at a very slight outward angle. Judicious pruning to remove some of the branches in the centre triangle (if three trees) or adjacent (if two trees) is ideal when planting. Prune as if one tree, so you have an open structure with tree branches not interfering with each other.

These multiple plantings allow you to fit in cross pollinators, to increase your range of species and lengthen harvest time.

 

Cordons

A cordon involves training a tree with a single stem. Cordons are planted on a slant and trained up wires at a 45 degree angle, then gradually trained along the top of the wire trellis. This form of training allows many different cultivars to be produced in a small space. It is suitable for many fruit tree cultivars as well as berries.

 

Ballerina Apples

The Ballerina Apple tree is a compact, columnar tree, which only grows 3.5m tall by 60cm wide. It is perfect for small spaces or growing in pots. This tree requires little or no pruning. Many fruiting apple cultivars are available as well as an ornamental Crab Apple. It produces a large crop of medium to large-sized excellent-flavoured fruit. Fruit matures in mid-late March. Ballerina Apples are partially self-fertile, although another Ballerina Apple, Jonathan, Granny Smith or Dayton planted nearby would be an advantage.

 

Dwarf Fruit Trees Cultivars of Apples, Nectarines, Peaches and Pomegranates are grafted or bred to produce smaller trees that produce abundant crops of normal-sized fruits. The trees reach approximately 2 x 2 m. These are ideal for container growing or planted in small gardens. Varieties available are Granny Smith, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Gala and Red Delicious, Nectarine, Peaches (grown primarily for their ornamental value) and Pomegranates.

 

Standard Forms

Many citrus, roses, hedging and flowering shrubs can be bought or trained as standard forms. The plant is pruned to form a ‘ball on a stick’, displaying flowers, fruit or foliage on a formal plant. Standard Cumquats, Roses and English Box or Lilly Pilly standards can look stunning in small gardens or pots where a formal style or feature is desired.

Trees in Pots

Many fruit trees and deciduous ornamentals can be grown in containers on balconies or in small gardens. This is very useful for people without gardens. A container that holds a large amount of potting mix is necessary. A half wine-barrel with holes drilled is ideal. If the pot is smaller, the tree may need re-potting every 2-3 years and will not produce as much fruit. It is important to use a good quality potting mix and to give the tree a deep, regular soaking, with extra water on hot days. The tree will not grow as large in a pot.

Weeping Fruit & Ornamental Trees

Many deciduous ornamentals, such as Weeping Cherries, Birches, Mulberries or Maples are excellent container grown plants. The same principles apply as above. The plant can be brought out for display when it is at its best or can be under planted with bulbs, ground covers or annuals during the dormant stage.

 

Rosemary

Rosemary

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Rosemary is the perfect way to start off your herb garden. They are dead easy to grow providing you follow a few simple guidelines. Not only are they one of the most versatile herbs for cooking, they are also a beautiful ornamental plant that will bring colour and fragrance to your garden. The botanical name, Rosmarinus officinalis, means ‘dew of the sea’, very appropriate given how often rosemary is used in Mediterranean cooking.
Read more

Clematis

Clematis

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Clematis are beautiful flowering climbers, and can be quite easy to grow given the right conditions.

Growing Conditions

Clematis require a well drained soil with some organic matter in the soil. They tend to grow best with the roots in a shaded, cool environment and the vine exposed to the sun. Ideally, Clematis prefer a position with afternoon shade and morning sun, and protection from strong hot wind. To improve the soil before planting, mix in a generous amount of compost and manure. When you have planted your Clematis, mulch the roots with a thick layer of mulch. Even small plants in front of the Clematis will help to shade the roots.

Clematis require constantly moist soil to grow well, therefore use drippers or soaker hoses to irrigate, rather than sprinklers or hand watering. Organic fertiliser should be applied at the recommended rate through spring, summer and autumn.

Pruning and Training

For repeat flowering, large flowered hybrid Clematis, you should prune after the first flush of flowers in spring has finished. Prune back by one – third to half the growth, and remove any damaged or weak growth. For all Clematis, it is recommended to prune back to a strong set of buds at 40 – 60cm from the ground in winter (late July). Prune out any dead growth.

Your Clematis will need support to climb up. This can be trellis or wire against a wall, or you can train Clematis through taller trees and shrubs. Be careful when tying up Clematis canes because the stems are very brittle and easy to break or damage.

Clematis may be propagated or thickened up by layering. Simply lie the stems down on the soil and hold the stems down with soil or small stones, leaving the nodes uncovered.

Bamboo


Melbournians have switched onto bamboos – partly because of a great range of species suitable to Victorian conditions are now available, so the disappointments of species more suited to Sydney are now a thing of the past.

Both graceful and tough, versatile and easy care, bamboo can be used for privacy screening, as a focal point or to create a tropical or Asian feel in the garden. It is tolerant of grey water and sequesters carbon at an astonishing rate.

Read more

Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora)

Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora)

Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) (Photograph by Bulleen Art & Garden)

A favourite with chefs these days, Lemon Myrtle has moved past the novelty stage and is now widely used due to its outstanding lemony characteristics. The leaves have an exceptionally powerful lemon taste and aroma – “more lemon than the lemon”. Other names historically used are Lemon Ironwood, Sweet Verbena Tree, Sand Verbena Myrtle, Tree Verbena
Read more