3S Landscape Design

Time running away

I can’t believe its September! I have been so busy since June I have been very slack with posting. June was spent in the Arctic and Scandinavia, seeing the amazing flowers and wildlife, including polar bears! A trip around Iceland was also amazing! I have been meaning to do a post on that but then got into my garden and the bush and it didn’t happen!

In July I ran a workshop on designing native gardens for the Murdoch Branch of the Wildflower Society, also the subject of future blogs!

I was glad the garden was in reasonable shape though when I received a call from Colin Barlow for the Home in WA show asking if they could film a segment in my garden!

Links to the segments, on the use of Seasol and Powerfeed are below with a link to the whole show for context.
Seasol application

Powerfeed segment

At Home in WA

It was a beautiful day on the 26th August when they filmed the segment, not even much wind and I think my garden looks pretty good for late winter!

The end of this week is the Landscape Design Conference in Melbourne so I will get to visit some amazing gardens in the Dandenongs and hear some wonderful speakers, hopefully to be reported in another future blog!

a beautiful autumn

Time flies by! I was busy all of February preparing for my Open Garden in early March. it was great to do it again and to meet so many fantastic gardeners. I’m sure we will have to get an alternative scheme up and running now the national one has ended. I feel like I only just recovered from the Open Garden and it was time to start the autumn harvest!

The quince tree was bowed over with a very heavy crop. I counted 164 as I picked them!! This year I will bottled poached quince and make jars of quince paste.
A day or two after I picked the fruit, the branches stood up straight again!

This year I used muslin jewellery bags to protect my apples and pears from fruit fly. They are cheaper than the ones sold for fruit fly exclusion but most importantly they are pretty! they seem to have worked quite well, though I put them on too late and had to take quite a lot of already stung fruit off the trees and dispose of it.

  • Packham Pride pears Packham Pride pears
  • Gala apples Gala apples
  • Granny Smiths Granny Smiths

Jerusalem artichokes are the other great crop this year: very round and white compared to last year. I think I actually harvested them at the right time this year, just after the beautiful yellow daisy flowers finished. I also kept some seed for the first time this year. It will be interesting to see if it will grow. Usually I don’t bother to plant the artichokes again as I never get them all out of the ground and they just regrow themselves!
  • Jerusalem artichoke pulled out of the ground Jerusalem artichoke pulled out of the ground
  • lots of roasted artichokes & cream of artichoke soup! lots of roasted artichokes & cream of artichoke soup!

For the first time this year the elderberry (Sambucus nigra) actually had berries! Every year I fantasise about making champagne from the flowers; this year I also fantasised about elderberry wine from the berries! I didn’t make either and I had to cut the berries off to prevent them being carried away by birds into the bush. There are many magic traditions associated with the elder http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/apothecary/the-elder-tree. It is said that a witch can turn herself into an elder tree and its wood is used for the making of magic wands. Elder trees were planted by houses to protect them from lightening and evil spirits. In the days when there was no separation between magic and medicine, many charms and amulets were fashioned from elder wood for all sorts of ills and sorrows. Sitting under, or more riskily sleeping under, an Elder at midsummer was said to enable one to see the faeries or even see them going to their midsummer feast. The danger was being transported into the Underworld and not being able to escape. Unfortunately the elderflower suckers badly in my garden so I am constantly keeping it under control.
  • elder reaching for the sky elder reaching for the sky
  • flowers and berries flowers and berries


Once again I must apologise for the long wait for a post. I have been travelling quite a bit. I missed my garden and the fabulous springtime bush of Western Australia but I did get to visit some beautiful gardens in southern Italy and the south of France as well as some lovely gardens in Victoria. In the couple of weeks I was home between Europe and Melbourne I worked frantically in my coastal Perth garden. I was very happy to see some poppies and sweet peas still flowering when I returned at the end of October and in fact there are still a few of each now at the beginning of December, so it has been quite a long season. Often if sweetpeas are not picked the flowering will stop as the first seeds form. This is apparently the case for most peas as the plant only aims to reproduce. The seed heads of the oriental poppies are spectacular in the garden and in a vase. Each year I gather the seeds of both the sweet peas and poppies for planting the next autumn.

  • Sweet peas Sweet peas
  • Sweet peas with salvia Sweet peas with salvia
  • Oriental poppies Oriental poppies
  • Oriental poppy seedheads Oriental poppy seedheads

A kind friend picked my broad beans for me while I was in Europe to prevent them from giving up production, and they are also still going, though they are in the last couple of weeks now. I wanted a big crop of tomatoes this year and planted a few seedlings as well as transplanting a few of the self-sown ones into this year’s solanaceae bed. When I came home I found a bumper crop, the plants sprawling everywhere, with none of the support or training I should have provided. It is too late now as trying to tie them up will lead to breakage and there seems to be no harm coming to the tomatoes on the ground, though I have now mulched under them with straw. Picking them means spotting the red amongst the foliage and then reaching in to forage. I am making lots of passata for the winter as well as enjoying fresh organic tomatoes every day. I will also have a bumper crop of grapes this year on the Hills hoist pergola that shades the vegetable garden in the summer, I just have to make sure the birds don’t beat me to it! The birds have had a fair share of the mulberries this year but there are plenty to go around and they have not found the blackberries/loganberries or strawberries yet.

  • Beautiful broad beans Beautiful broad beans
  • Daily harvest Daily harvest
  • Future bounty Future bounty

The eggplants are growing well and the capsicum are fruiting. I have not been buying vegetables but just trying to keep up with what’s in the garden! I was really happy to see self-sown basil, which after a bumper winter crop of self-sown parsley, is very welcome and makes me feel almost as if the garden is managing itself. There is always plenty of work to do though. This week I am harvesting my fennel and parsnips to roast and for slicing raw in a citrus salad, and replacing my kale and celery. I am also planting rocket, radicchio and lettuce seeds. The most urgent jobs to prepare the garden for the summer are mulching and fruit fly control.


May has been a busy time in the garden, as in Perth it is both harvest time and the start of the growing season for many plants, a bit like Spring in the northern hemisphere as the rains hopefully come and the weather cools, Dieran in the Noongar calendar.

I have finally poached the quinces I harvested in late April. I use a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s book (the Cook’s Companion) which requires about six hours in a moderate oven in an enamel baking dish. The result is the most wonderful fragrance throughout the house and the quince turn from hard yellow/green to a glorious crimson. It is quite hard work to cut the quince up and core them and I have found it is fine to leave the skin on rather than peeling them as recommended, which is very tedious!

  • Quinces and pears from the tree Quinces and pears from the tree
  • Poaching quince Poaching quince
  • Yum!!! Yum!!!
  • Granny Smiths still ripening Granny Smiths still ripening

The poached quince can be frozen for use as dessert, in a nut and quince cake or for a decadent breakfast (they are wonderful with porridge). The Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples are slow to ripen this year.

In the native garden many shrubs and trees are flowering, providing energy for birds as they select their mates.
Some of the wonderful small trees flowering in my garden include Eucalyptus kruseana, the first flowering since I planted it last year, and Hakea laurinia, the fabulous pincushion hakea, as well as Eucalyptus woodwardii and the Silver Princess. Its lovely that the trees are now tall enough to enjoy from the second floor windows and I can watch the bees and birds buzzing around the flowers.

Some of the smaller things flowering include Beaufortia squarrossa with its fabulous red, Grevillea pimeloides and Calytrix tetragona. I am particularly enjoying a purple thryptomene, Thryptomene strongylophylla. I bought it at one of the Kings Park sales because I love purple flowers but was still surprised to see how lovely it really is in flower. Unfortunately the photo doesn’t really do it justice.

  • Hakea laurinia bursting from its bud Hakea laurinia bursting from its bud
  • Almost fully open Almost fully open
  • Eucalytpus kruseana Eucalytpus kruseana
  • Grevillea pimeloides Grevillea pimeloides
  • Calytrix tetragona Calytrix tetragona
  • Thryptomene strongylophylla Thryptomene strongylophylla
  • A difficult to photograph purple.... A difficult to photograph purple....
  • Beaufortia squarrossa Beaufortia squarrossa

Autumn at last

Autumn has been slow to arrive in Perth this year and while I have been enjoying days at the beach in April I know the garden and even more so the bush, has had enough of the hot dry weather. We planted seedlings at Wireless Hill on the 13th April, hoping for the wet autumn promised by the weather bureau and I am so glad the rain is here!

Autumn is a great time to go through the garden and ensure the soil is wetting. WA soils so easily become hydrophobic through drying out in the summer. At the Garden Show this year I met Norm from Muddy Thumbs and bought some of his liquid wetting agent. I love it as it is so easy to apply. You dilute it in a watering can and water it on, followed by a good soak with the hose. I used it throughout my front, native garden and didn’t even need to move the bark mulch. In my perennial beds I scraped back the straw mulch first and after I knew the soil was wet I incorporated Sand to Soil which should help prevent the soil becoming so hydrophobic again. When I watered the seedlings at Wireless Hill I added a squeeze of Muddy Thumbs to the water containers to help the water penetrate rather than just run off.

There have been lots of butterflies in the garden this year. After looking up my Australian butterfly books I came to the conclusion that these beauties are the American Monarch, which has been in Australia since the 1870s. This is the first time I have had these beautiful visitors and I think it must be because I have provided milkweed for them after visiting Terri’s Garden in the Open Garden Scheme. They love the perennial Ageratum and Verbena in my purple border. I have also had lots of beautiful dragonflies, hopefully breeding in the frog ponds


  • Monarch on Verbena bonariensis Monarch on Verbena bonariensis
  • Monarch on perennial ageratum Monarch on perennial ageratum
  • A beautiful yellow dragonfly A beautiful yellow dragonfly

Harvest Time

I have begun picking my apples. I have three trees which have been in the garden for about three years now, a Granny Smith, a Gala and a Pink Lady. The other apples are still ripening. I also have a pear tree and a quince, both with fruit ready for harvest.

I picked the Gala apples first. Opening each fruit fly exclusion bag was like opening a surprise gift, not knowing how many apples would be in each bag or whether they would be in good condition. Happily the bags have done a great job and I have nearly 50 Gala apples from my little tree! Apples keep well in the refrigerator but we may dry some with the dehydrator.


  • A surprise package A surprise package
  • Gala apples ready for harvest Gala apples ready for harvest
  • Freshly unwrapped Freshly unwrapped
  • A bounty! A bounty!


The fruit fly exclusion bags, (bought from Green Harvest)are very effective, not only against fruit fly, but codling moth and birds as well! I reuse mine and as it doesn’t rain during the summer they seem to last a couple of years at least. The fruit fly was particularly bad this summer and even though I kept my fruit fly traps (Ceratraps also from Green Harvest) well maintained I have still had fruit fly strike on tomatoes, figs and pawpaw. Many fruit flies have also been drowned in the traps.

Flowering in March

It has been a very long hot summer in Perth, with our first rain since November falling last night. Autumn is only just beginning in the garden and there are still late summer perennial flowers to enjoy like Michaelmas daisies, daylilies, salvias and ageratum. The summer annuals like the orange Cosmos Diablo are also still going strong as are the frangipanis which flower all summer long.


  • Perennial Ageratum with Salvia Perennial Ageratum with Salvia
  • Michaelmas daisies Michaelmas daisies
  • Cosmos Diablo Cosmos Diablo
  • Frangipanis in full bloom Frangipanis in full bloom


In the vegetable garden the Jerusalem artichokes are in full flower meaning they will soon be ready for harvest. Unlike the globe artichoke the Jerusalem artichoke is related to the sunflower. Their cheery flowers brighten the garden. The basil is continuing to thrive and I pick it for salads and pesto most days, removing the flowers so it won’t bolt to seed. The apples are almost ready, with the trees looking very strange all summer decorated with fruit fly exclusion bags.


  • Jerusalem artichokes in flower Jerusalem artichokes in flower
  • Apples almost ready for harvest Apples almost ready for harvest
  • Apple tree with fruit fly exclusion bags Apple tree with fruit fly exclusion bags


In the bush garden there is plenty of colour and nectar for the birds provided by Banksias, some of the Grevilleas and Beaufortia squarossa, a beautiful sight throughout the summer. The red-capped gum and the Silver Princess are flowering and the grove of Euky dwarf (Eucalyptus leucoxylon) trees is in flower too, attracting a little flock of spotted pardalotes.


  • Beaufortia squarossa Beaufortia squarossa
  • Bansia ashbyii (dwarf) Bansia ashbyii (dwarf)
  • Banksia prionotes Banksia prionotes
  • Grevillea Ned Kelly Grevillea Ned Kelly


My pampered pots continue to surprise me with unexpected blessings. I thought my little pots of species cyclamen had died from overwatering as they lost their leaves very soon after I bought them last year but I put them in the shade where they would only receive handwatering once a week or so and they have repaid the neglect they need by returning to life as they should in late summer/early autumn.


  • Cyclamen graecum Cyclamen graecum
  • Cyclamen hederifolium (Autumn cyclamen) Cyclamen hederifolium (Autumn cyclamen)


Its really important to have a place to put such plants if, like me, you lack a woodland garden which would provide dry shade through the summer.


As well as the usual business of the Christmas season I have had ten days of January in Canberra with family and friends.  This latest period of neglect for my garden comes at the time when there is a lot happening, especially in the food garden.  Luckily I have drip irrigation on timers, with a few sprays for seedlings and precious pots which helps everything survive the heat.

In our garden, two blocks from the beach, we are harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beetroot, lettuce, figs, strawberries, Chinese gooseberries and okra as well as lots of summer herbs and the last of the climbing berries and blueberries.   Plantings include more tomatoes, corn, rockmelons, and annual flowers such as cosmos,  zinnias and eastern states everlastings. Okra is a wonderful plant with a beautiful flower as well as delicious fruit.  The seed pods must be picked a few days after the flower finishes otherwise they become tough and fibrous.


Many plants in the perennial gardens are flowering too, including asters and society garlic, the Californian poppy (Romneya coulteri) and tansy.

  • Romneya Romneya
  • Tansy Tansy
  • Asters and garlic Asters and garlic
  • Unknown flower Unknown flower

No flowers are more beautiful though than the waterlilies, which had a slow start due to the amount of algae in the pond.  I didn’t want to clear the pond because we have hundreds of tadpoles resulting from a very long and successful mating season for the resident motorbike frogs.  They started in September and are still calling at night and laying more eggs in our three ponds.  Many of the new little frogs have already left the ponds and give me a surprise every time I lift a pot!  The algae is valuable food for the tadpoles.

  • Lilies with frog Lilies with frog
  • Yellow lilies Yellow lilies

One of the flowers bringing the most pleasure is a little Cape Primrose (Streptocarpus).  I saw this plant in the UK used in the old stately homes we visited.  I have nurtured it in a pot in the shade and it has been flowering since November.  Now I feel confident, I can buy some more with different colours!

Cape primrose

My Spring Garden

Having been away all of October I came home to a fair bit of spring chaos, hence the late posting!  The garden was full of flowers and there were also a few more weeds than usual due to our wonderful September rains.

In the purple garden the beautiful “opium” type poppies were flowering (and still are, three weeks later).  I bought seed for these from the Banksia Farm in Mt Barker and they put on  a wonderful display.  The bees love them too! The  Cupani sweet peas were also flowering in the purple bed when I returned at the end of October and they are also still going.  They need to be picked often to keep them flowering.  The little Buddleia Dark Knight is a gorgeous colour and there is  a backdrop of the pink Cestrum which flowers year round and is beloved by the honey eaters.  I really want to remove it as it doesn’t belong in the purple bed but I think I will have to establish one in the pink bed first!

The pink garden was full of evening primrose flowers and pentstemons, offset by blue delphiniums, while the red garden was a mass (and mess) of red Flanders poppies.  As well as Gaillardia and Arctotis, the beautiful white rock rose was flowering in the yellow garden.

In the vegie patch the fennel and broad beans were ready for harvest and the first strawberries were starting to ripen.  As with all legumes broad beans need to be harvested continually so that they keep producing.  Thankfully we didn’t miss the asparagus season so I have been able to enjoy (and am still enjoying) this harvest.

  • Purple poppies Purple poppies
  • Purple garden with Buddleia, poppies, sweetpeas, Cestrum Purple garden with Buddleia, poppies, sweetpeas, Cestrum
  • Pink evening primrose Pink evening primrose
  • Primrose, pentstemons and salvia Primrose, pentstemons and salvia
  • Flanders poppies Flanders poppies
  • Rock rose Rock rose
  • Spring harvest Spring harvest


I have been working to get the garden into shape for the hot weather, which seems to have come sooner than usual: feeding with compost and Troforte slow release fertiliser, deep watering and mulching.  In some places I have needed to use Sand to Soil to improve the wetting ability of the soil.  I am collecting mulberries and strawberries every day  and blackberries and youngberries every second day.  There are so many Chinese gooseberries I am considering preserving some.  I have almost finished planting the first round of root vegetables, lettuce, okra, corn, zucchini, melons, tomatoes etc  for summer crops.  Always a busy time in the garden!

Gardens of the Mornington Peninsula

I just spent a lovely few days on the Mornington Peninsula and had the chance to visit the first Victorian garden opening for the winter season of  the Australian Open Gardens Scheme: Illyarrie at Balnarring.  This garden is extremely interesting as it consists entirely of Australian plants, mostly from Western Australia!  In the cool lush environment of the Mornington Peninsula some of them look quite different: much greener and softer.  Many of the plants flower at different times too, for example some Leschenaultias were flowering and the owner said they will flower from now until Christmas.  In Perth they flower for  few weeks in early spring.  I was especially inspired by (and envious of) the lovely pot displays and the huge clumps of native orchids.

On the second day it poured with rain, a great opportunity to visit the Peninsula Hot Springs, which are wonderfully landscaped with Australian plants but still look very Japanese in the mist.  Our last day was spent at Heronswood, the home of the Diggers Club, and always a joy to visit.  The café was warm and inviting on a cold day but the sun came out for a while between morning coffee and lunch, allowing a leisurely stroll in the gardens.  The Diggers Club promotes sustainable organic gardening and heirloom varieties.  The vegetable parterre is always picturesque as are the espaliered  fruit trees and the kitchen garden.  In the medicinal garden for the first time I saw a Mandrake plant flowering.  The root has traditionally been used in medicines and magic rituals but I didn’t realise the flower is so attractive (photo below). The nursery was brimming with rare and desirable plants, most of which can be bought on line from Western Australia. The plants and seeds are mailed but need to go through quarantine so unfortunately I was not able to buy anything from the nursery!


  • Inspirational pots at Illyarrie Inspirational pots at Illyarrie
  • Vegetable parterre at Heronswood Vegetable parterre at Heronswood
  • A most unusual Cestrum A most unusual Cestrum
  • Mandrake flowering Mandrake flowering



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