Sunday, March 30, 2008

Aesculus californica in Adelaide

It has been a while since I last posted. Work has been busy, and the garden has taken third or fourth priority in the last month, unfortunately. We have had a little rain, and the difference is remarkable. I have also been interstate, and I visited Adelaide in South Australia. Arriving on the 26 March, I just missed a heat wave that hit the city. For fifteen consecutive days Adelaide's maximum temperature exceeded 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). Adding to the challenging heat was the absence of any meaningful rain for nearly three months. I visited several gardens and arboreta to see how the plants were faring. Although some trees were looking rather worse for wear (or in some cases dead), others appeared to have performed quite well. The plants from drier climates interested me the most. I visited the Waite Arboretum in Urrbrae, where I took this photograph of their Aesculus californica (Californian Buckeye) looking absolutely superb. The photograph doesn't do justice to the brilliant white of the bark on this tree. Note the excellent fruiting also. The tree was growing on a "soil" consisting of little more than red crumbly clay. I will be extremely pleased if the tree of this species I planted in my garden looks like this one day. And the tree isn't dead, it is summer deciduous. Waite also have some interesting Californian Oaks, but more on them later.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Jockey's Cap

With summer well and truly on its way one of the Tigridia pavonia (Jockey's Cap or Tiger Flower) has put up its first flower. The flowers only survive one day, but it should put up a few in succession. Native to Mexico, according to the literature (ABC's Gardening Australia Flora) it is "surprisingly hardy" for a zone 9 plant. This bulb is definitely in the "tick" box for survivability and beauty. Apologies for the photograph: I am neither a professional photographer, nor a professional gardener. I am, however, thrilled when a plant comes up!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Japanese Maples

I am seriously considering giving up on the Japanese Maples here. Earlier this summer I dug up and threw away Acer palmatum atropurpureum 'Bloodgood' after it had scorched and died back to the graft. Then I saw Acer palmatum dissectum 'Inabe-shidare' (see top photo) with a tag describing it as tolerant of heat and hot winds. Heat tolerance seemed worth the $75.00 I paid! Here is a photograph of 'Inabe-shidare' taken this evening. As can be seen with the green grass (and weeds) surrounding it the tree has been receiving plenty of water, and two adjoining plants (Pinus flexilis 'Extra Blue' and Prunus lusitanica) are both thriving (which is to be expected, really, particularly for the Limber Pine). Notwithstanding the water, it has been hideously scorched. And it still has to survive February. But, if it gets through this summer, and the next, it might make it. I have one Acer palmatum, just the species; nothing special. I paid $2.00 for it in 2002. It really battled for several years, but here it is, and it is looking good (see bottom photo). It is 150cm tall now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Historic Tasmanian Gardens

The ICOMOS-IFLA International Committee for Historic Gardens meeting in Florence in May 1981 drew up a charter on the preservation of historic gardens. The document is known as the Florence Charter. The charter in Article 1 defines an historic garden as “an architectural and horticultural composition of interest to the public from the historical or artistic point of view. As such, it is to be considered as a monument.”

The charter goes on to identify principles for the maintenance and conservation of gardens, their restoration and reconstruction. Legal and administrative protections are also outlined. Use of historic gardens is also discussed.

“Art. 18. While any historic garden is designed to be seen and walked about in, access to it must be restricted to the extent demanded by its size and vulnerability, so that its physical fabric and cultural message may be preserved.”

“Art. 19. By reason of its nature and purpose, an historic garden is a peaceful place conducive to human contacts, silence and awareness of nature. This conception of its everyday use must contrast with its role on those rare occasions when it accomodates a festivity. Thus, the conditions of such occasional use of an historic garden should be clearly defined, in order that any such festivity may itself serve to enhance the visual effect of the garden instead of perverting or damaging it.”

The charter concludes with “Nota bene”, or take notice: “The above recommendations are applicable to all the historic gardens in the world.”

Michael Seiler in Pleasure gardens garden pleasures – Germany’s most beautiful historical gardens (Verlag Schnell & Steiner GmbH, 2003, pp.10-11) states that “It is often not actually misunderstanding but the great pressure of utilization needs, which threaten the substance of historical gardens”.

“Neglected care, misunderstanding or inability to recognise the nature of the historical garden may lead to wrongful consideration of the garden as just some green area, which may be used in a new, substance and image destroying manner, such as for barbeques, playing, cycling etc.”

I mention all this because Tasmania’s pre-eminent historic garden, and one of Australia’s finest, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens situated on the Domain in Hobart, appears to be rapidly evolving into a pleasure park, with endless shows, film screenings and rock concerts.

According to the RTBG website, by the end of summer the gardens will have hosted Cinema of the Stars for over three months, Theatre Big Monkey for nearly two months, the Southern Blues and Roots Festival and the John Butler Trio and the Waifs.

I understand there are budget pressures and Goal 7 of the RTBG’s Strategic Goals is “To reposition as one of the top Tasmanian attractions in terms of number visits and level of awareness”. To some it may appear that the intrinsic historic and cultural significance of the gardens is being diminished by the current focus on overt cultural events accompanied by masses of people.

This historic garden sadly is no longer “a peaceful place conducive to human contacts, silence and awareness of nature”.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bay Leaves Anyone?

Ouch. The drought bites. Here is another casualty. Laurus nobilis, Bay Tree, Bay Laurel, True Laurel, etc. I have a larger tree from which I struck this cutting three years ago. It had developed a strong root system in the pot, but the heat and dry took its toll. This particular tree died several weeks ago, and we have used some of the dried up leaves already in cooking. Fresh bay leaves are fine for cooking, but you don't need as much, and the dried leaves appear to have a slightly different flavour. Perhaps some of the oils change or disappear?

The parent tree in the back garden is looking magnificent. More sheltered, more water, and it is well established.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dry Tasmanian Garden

Why a blog recording the despair of a frustrated gardener, mourning the loss of wind-blasted and sun-scorched exotics? Amongst the disastrous plantings (name any Betula, Acer or Rhododendron), there are however the admirable successes. Those hardy sorts that defy the odds. I intend this little blog to be a record of those that survive, those that die and those that flourish. Amongst the challenges the plants face are stony alkaline dolerite soils, pockets of cracked clays, hot dry summers, cool dry winters, (equivalent Zone 9 temperatures) erratic rainfall (supposedly an annual 530mm - 21 inches), frosts from March until November (particularly savage early and late in the season), dessicating north westerly winds and often a lack of attention on my behalf.

I will commence with my planting for today. A fine example of Aesculus californica (California Buckeye) purchased from Jubilee Nursery at Ridgeway several months ago. It should not mind being planted now, being summer deciduous and having lost all its leaves. The trees develop a beautiful white trunk. Hopefully it should do well. The site chosen for the tree is exposed to hot northerly winds, but will provide a flowering attraction on the approaches to the house. We are a long way from California, but there are similarities between our climates.

The tree has been planted in an old posthole: I had to dig out an old peppermint fencepost. Plenty of loose soil beneath.
Here it is planted in its new home. Let's see how it progresses. Note: the Aesculus is the stick in the ground.