Friday, October 29, 2010


Common teatree/Manuka Leptospermum scoparium
There aren't many Hobartians who aren't able to walk out of their door and be in amongst the gum trees within 20 minutes or so, even if some of you have a massive Forest Road (or similar) stitch by the time you do! This proximity brings with it, blessings, trials and responsibilities.

White peppermint,
Eucalyptus pulchella
Blessings: Please forgive the religious tone of this verb, but blessed we are! If you've been reading this blog, and at the risk of sounding like a raging hippy, you'd have picked up on my veneration of Nature. And Hobart is wrapped right up in it. Knocklofty, Wellington Park, Waterworks, the Queen's Domain, Lambert Park.... the list goes on! Before my conversion to the green side, nothing healed my spirit and my lungs, after a long day breathing bleach and perming solution, like a stroll with my dog through Knocklofty or Wellington Park. Clean air, a parade of flowers and seeds through the seasons, and exchanging friendly nods with others seeking the same 'forest time'.

These walks offer a great demonstration of diversity. Mudstone, sandstone, dolerite. North, East, South and West facing slopes. Silver, white and black peppermint gums and their kin Stringybarks, White Gums, Blue Gums. Whoa! Better stop there before I get to listing everything and run out of room here. But you get the picture! In a relatively small area, Hobart has some wonderful, diverse forest for us to enjoy. But sadly this is shrinking. Developments, with smaller blocks and bigger houses doesn't leave much room for the local non-human inhabitants to make their homes. But here at Provenance Growers we've hatched a plan to help you bring Nature back down those slopes and into your gardens. This last few weeks I have been potting up little, tiny seedlings, grown here, from seed collected with permits, from Knocklofty, Lambert Park, South Hobart and the Queen's Domain. These should be ready for your garden in a couple of months. (See the list below.)

Trials: There are some things that make living near the bush a little less wonderful. These are, for me at least, furry and slithery animals and fire.

White peppermint, Eucalyptus pulchella, flower buds
Furry animals are a mixed blessing. Who isn't enchanted by the cute face, and fluffy charm of the brushtail possum (okay, I know there are a few who aren't...)? And wallabies and pademelons are so cute, that even though we're surrounded by them, the garden fairies and I are still excited when we find a little pawprint in the mud outside, and measure the length of the hops by jumping ourselves. But when they find the veggie patch, or any other plant that we're nurturing, they think nothing of helping themselves. But there are tricks that we can use to get around their thieving ways. Secure fencing, perhaps electrified or floppy topped, and protecting individual plants with wire, bags and stakes and other such devices are conventional ways of living with these creatures, but there are other tricks (never fail safe mind you) that I've discovered by chance. I've planted zucchinis and pumpkins in vulnerable areas in the past and by planting a big ring of them I've found they protect more tender plants from predation by encircling them with their prickly leaves. I've also heard of another gardener using nettles as an effective barrier, and I just found a lovely sprouting broccoli plant nestled among the borage where the other plants from that batch have all been nibbled into broccoli bonsais! There are other things like smelly spray deterrents and browse resistant plants, not to mention a tasty spaghetti Wallanaise for the hard willed gardener.

Snakes make me especially nervous. With two small garden fairies and a buffet of frogs for snakes in our garden, the odds of a close encounter are high. There's not much you can do but let the dog in the garden before the kids to frighten them away, and put the little ones in gumboots and jeans and teach them to stamp feet and open their eyes. If you scalp your land and lose the snake habitat you'll also lose out on welcome visitors like wrens, bluetongues and skinks. Apparently most negative snake encounters are with snakes moving from one place to another, removing habitat won't stop them passing through.

Prickly beauty, Pultenaea juniperina.
Pretty, hardy, great habitat,
but quite flamable, use with caution!

Fire is another thing that makes living with our landscape a challenge. In promoting native plants in the suburbs, I was reminded of my responsibility to promote fire safe gardening by the Hobart City Council's bushland fire officer. This is a hard one, all gardens can burn, and you can't have a great garden with no mulch, which can also burn. My gardening collegues and I often discuss fire safe gardening and have lots of different ideas. Come and have a chat with me at Tas Farm Gate, or my friends at Plants of Tasmania Nursery. We will all offer different ideas, and we will all tell you that these are our thoughts only, not an officially rattified way to prevent fire. There is an official document here at Tasmania Fire Service although this brochure has limited (and some, perhaps a little odd) low flamability choices.
Here we have the veggie garden to the North, the direction from which fire is most likely to come. All of the garden beds against the house are mulched with gravel. And I would always encourage gardeners in fire prone areas to avoid planting an avenue of garden beds that can lead a fire right to your house. But I dread, each summer, the ring of chainsaws and brushcutters, as animal homes are destroyed in our efforts to make our own safer. By raking up, and burning every leaf that falls, and removing all of the understorey, we end up with impoverished soil, and put local wildlife under stress. Yesterday this echidna turned up on my sisters drive in Howrah. I bet it didn't want to be on concrete, and I suspect loss of habitat has pushed this poor creature, along with countless, unseen others,  into the 'burbs , where it is unlikely to have a peaceful life.

As for responsibilities, I'll let you make up your own mind, but I can't resist a chance to mention the roaming of cats into gardens that people, like me, are gardening for wildlife and the heartache in watching the local native hens lose four of their five chicks this month to a sneaky black creature, that should live next door, not here!! And the escape of weeds and foreign native species into adjacent bushland. Last week a friend and I saw, on Strickland Avenue, at least three introduced Australian native plants that had self seeded and were marching into the bush that is quite beautiful, and probably better off, without them.

There are a number of wonderful 'care' groups and council run programs for those who want to get involved with looking after their local patch, and learning about what grows and lives in them. I have the good fortune to know Bruce from the Friends of Knocklofty Bushcare Group. He recently gave me a wonderful tour of Knocklofty, pointing out his favourite plants, his least favourite weed incursions, and talking about the fantastic work they have done in the reserve. I left this great walk even more inspired to grow a beautiful selection of local plants for you to plant in your gardens. So here they are!


                   Eucalyptus pulchella, White Peppermint
                   Banksia marginata, Silver Banksia
                   Acacia verticillata, Prickly Moses
                   Ozothamnus ferrigineus, Tree Everlasting
                   Cassinia acueleata, Dolly Bush
                   Allocasuarina littoralis, Bulloak
                   Ozothamnus obcordatus, Yellow Everlastingbush
                   Olearia viscosa, Viscid Daisybush
                   Stylidium dilitatum, Trigger Plant
                   Microlaena stipoides, Weeping Grass

Queen's Domain:
                 Allocasuarina verticillata, Drooping Sheoak
                 Stylidium dilitatum, Trigger Plant
                 Poa labillardiere, Tussock Grass
                 Themeda australis, Kangaroo Grass
South Hobart:
                 Bedfordia salicina, Blanket Leaf
                 Eucalyptus tenuiramis, Silver Peppermint
                 Leptospermum scoparium, Common Tea Tree
                 Allocasuarina monilifera, Necklace Sheoak
Sandy Bay, Lambert Park:
                  Eucalyptus pulchella, White Peppermint
                  Allocasuarina littoralis, Bulloak
                  Dodonea viscosa, Hop Bush

When these plants are ready to enter the world I'll add descriptions for each plant, and there are still more varieties germinating as we speak, I'll keep you updated!

We'll be at Salamanca this Saturday, the 30th of October and at Tas Farm Gate this Sunday, the 31st of October, then the 7th and the 21st of November. We'd love to see you there!
Prickly Moses, Acacia verticillata. Pretty, hardy and wonderful habitat.

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