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!

flower events

I have had several attempts at growing a desert rose (Adenium obesium). I have killed two with kindness, which was cruelly neglect, leaving them where they received drenching winter rain, which they didn’t like at all. I keep my third attempt away from the rain and only give it a little bit of water every couple of weeks. I have been rewarded with flowers an better yet, a seed pod!
Apparently the seeds are like dandelion seeds. I think I will put a plastic bag over the seed pod so they don’t blow away while I’m not looking.
The last few years I have been away in September/October and have missed my Japanese iris flowering. This year they have gotten in very early, flowering in early May!! I don’t know if this is climate change but it is very odd. The tropical water lilies are still flowering but I have come to expect this; they are hardly dormant for any time at all and cease flowering for only a month or so!

  • early Japanese irises early Japanese irises
  • irises against the pond waterwall irises against the pond waterwall

My autumn cyclamens, Cyclamen hederifolium, and cattleya orchids have continued to thrive under the shelter of the mulberry tree, the only place in my garden providing a “woodland environment”. I wish I could have a carpet of cyclamens as in some English gardens, but I should be grateful I can grow them at all in coastal Perth! I think I have a seed pod on one plant. I was reading an article in the Mediterranean Garden Society newsletter that described the stems spiralling around seed pods and realised I have one!
  • Autumn cyclamen with a seed pod Autumn cyclamen with a seed pod
  • Blooming cattleya Blooming cattleya
  • under the mulberry and frangipani under the mulberry and frangipani

The beautiful Salvia madrensis (Forsythia sage) originating in Mexico is a new flower in my garden this autumn. It is spectacular on stems 1.5 -2 m tall, although it is a bit leggy as I have allowed the large shrub behind it to grow too large and shade it. I will cut it back to the ground after flowering and take a firm hand to the Montanoa grandiflora!
  • A wonderful highlight A wonderful highlight
  • a splash of yellow a splash of yellow

My Hakea laurina (pincushion hakea) is simply stunning this year. I took this photo from the upstairs verandah and the gorgeous site greets me every morning from the kitchen window. Such a fantastic small tree for the garden! The birds and insects love it too!

Late Winter

Apologies to my readers who may have noticed a long gap between blogs. I have suffered a personal tragedy and been unable to function very well for the last few weeks.

During that time all I managed to do in the garden was a daily round to collect and kill the “woolly bear” caterpillars which are the larva of a tiger moth. They were particularly bad in my garden this year. I hate to kill any caterpillars in the garden (except those of the white cabbage moth) but I was forced to as the woolly bears are voracious and indiscriminate feeders, though they do seem to prefer hairy plants such as Echium, borage and foxgloves. Worst of all they love the flower buds of the Echium and threatened to prevent it flowering at all! It is now flowering but the caterpillar pruning throughout June (while I was away) and July and early August even though I removed caterpillars every day, means it is not as glorious as in other years.

  • Woolly bears Woolly bears One morning's collection
  • Eat anything! Eat anything! Woolly bears seem to eat just about all plants in the garden, though I haven't seen them on garlic, leeks or onions. This one is enjoying a tree fern frond.
  • Echium in flower Echium in flower The pink Echium is finally flowering
  • At last no caterpillars At last no caterpillars

Most of the plants in my perennial borders were sleeping through the winter but the Cherokee rose, Rosa laevigata, my favourite rose, started flowering in early July and is still going. It only flowers once a year and usually not over such a long period but I love its glossy foliage and open simple flowers.

  • Rosa laevigata Rosa laevigata
  • The Cherokee Rose The Cherokee Rose

The pink flowering Cestrum has flowered almost continuously since I planted it and is beloved by the honeyeaters which visit daily. I have wanted to replace this Cestrum with the purple flowering form almost since I planted it. Its name is Cestrum purpureum and I have seen a beautiful purple-flowered form so thought it would be perfect in my purple perennial border. Unfortunately the plant I bought has pink flowers and should be in the opposite pink border! It has taken several attempts but I have finally successfully struck cuttings and planted one in the pink border where it seems to be off to a good start. In the meantime I have found a purple flowering Cestrum purpureum and kept it in a pot until I can remove the now substantial original. Cestrum is a vigorous, hardy plant worthy of place in Perth gardens. I now also have a yellow night flowering Cestrum (in the yellow/orange border) and have successfully grown cuttings from this plant as well.

  • Cestrum purpureum Cestrum purpureum
  • Beautiful but pink! Beautiful but pink!

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

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!

Spring in the Garden

So much happens all at once as Spring arrives.  Some plants flower all at once in a glorious burst, like the pink Echium, others start slowly, with more and more colour each day like my favourite rose, Rosa laevigata, which provides a once a year display of beauty.  My roses are suffering terribly from the salt winds which enter the garden over the back fence and also burn vegetables black.  We were protected by a row of Tuarts in the garden behind us but they were lost late last winter in a storm.  We have replanted Tuarts and Marris in our neighbour’s garden but it will be a few years until they can again buffer the garden from the strong winds.  There is a price to be paid for living so close to the sea!

The Jacobean lily (Sprekelia) is one of the other flowers I most anticipate at this time of year, glowing in the red garden when most of the other perennials are still reshooting.

  • Echium in full bloom Echium in full bloom
  • Rosa laevigata Rosa laevigata
  • Rosa laevigata Rosa laevigata
  • Sprekelia Sprekelia

Another pleasure comes from the flowering of special plants kept in pots.  The Dendrobium orchids and Primula auriculas have been enjoying the winter and early Spring sunshine but will soon be moved back under the shelter of the Mulberry tree for the summer.

  • Pots of Primula auricula Pots of Primula auricula
  • Native Dendrobiums Native Dendrobiums


Unusual flowers

I love to find new plants, in gardens, in the bush and in nurseries.

I visited Kings Park to see what was in flower (resisting the Friends of Kings Park plant sale) and spotted  a beautiful bright bush on the roadside of the Botanic Gardens.  It was Grevillea wickhamii (photos below), absolutely covered in brilliant flowers and buzzing with insects.  According to Naturebase this Grevillea is endemic to the north of Australia: WA, NT and Queensland, but it certainly thrives in Kings Park.  Now I am trying to work out where I could squeeze one into my garden!

  • Grevillea wickhamii Kings Park Grevillea wickhamii Kings Park
  • Beautiful grevillea flowers Beautiful grevillea flowers

In my garden the Mexican tree daisy Montanoa grandiflora I bought from Whistlepipe Nurseries finally flowered.  It had grown from a very small cutting to over 2 metres tall and was looking a bit tattered and unattractive but when it flowered all was forgiven!  I think I will cut it back after flowering and perhaps try to strike some cuttings.

  • Montanoa grandiflora Montanoa grandiflora
  • Reaching for the sky Reaching for the sky
  • Welcome autumn flowers Welcome autumn flowers



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