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  1. How to Tip-Prune

    What is tip pruning?

    For many of our hedging plants, especially dense-growing ones like Syzygium (lillypilly) , and generally most plants that are used for screening or hedging, or feature shrubs, we recommend tip pruning while young to encourage dense growth and keep your plants looking their best.

     

    You might be familiar with regular pruning. This involves helping a plant grow healthier by completely removing any dead wood, any sickly or weak stems, any branches that cross over or rub against each other, and any that grow in an unattractive direction.

    Pinching out the growing tip

     

    Tip pruning is another method of helping a plant grow healthier. Instead of removing a complete branch or twig, you just snip out the very tip of each stem, about 5cm or less.

     

    You can do this with sharp secateurs, with garden shears, or with a very fine trim using a hedge clipper. On less woody shrubs, you can even do this with your finger and thumb, by pinching out the growing tip.

     

    Tip pruning is the method that tea pickers use to get the very best new shoots to make into tea. A side effect of this continual action is that the bushes grow very thick and dense.

     

    Dead heading your flowering bushes is a way of tip pruning them. As the flowers fade and die, snip or pinch them out back to a leaf joint. This encourages the plant to create new side shoots with new flowering buds on them, which means more flowers in your garden for a longer time.

     

    Why does tip pruning work?

    New growth following tip pruning

    At the end of the growing shoot on each branch of your shrub or bush is a hormone. This hormone tells the shoot to keep growing in that direction - its natural inclination is to keep growing in a straight line. This makes for a very long, thin, gangly shrub.

     

    Once you pinch or snip out the tip of a growing shoot, that growth hormone rushes backwards into the branch. Scientists call this "breaking the apical dominance".

    The growth hormone has to go somewhere, and where it goes is out of the sides of the branch, by creating new side shoots.

     

    The more you tip prune your shrubs, the more you encourage each branch and twig to grow side shoots. Each side shoot can grow its own side shoots, and so it goes, creating an attractively dense, bushy plant for your garden.

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  2. How to Prune

    Why do we need to prune our shrubs and bushes? Why can’t we just leave them to grow wild, as they do in nature?

      Well, plants are often pruned “in nature” –
    • by the action of strong winds, reducing their energy 
    • by animals nibbling at tender young shoots
    • by armies of insects that take away dead and dying wood 
    • and by fungus that feeds on sickly stems 

    This all helps change the appearance of plants. We want our garden plants to work hard and look their very best all year - without the help of huge beetle armies or herds of munching roos. Pruning helps achieve that.

     

    Five Good Reasons to Prune

    Pruning for topiary

    1. For a better shape

    Some shrubs naturally grow straggly, or what gardeners call ‘leggy’ - long bald branches and a tuft of leaves right at the end.

    Some grow lopsided or with an unbalanced shape. Pruning helps tidy up that shape, give it some structure and a more attractive proportioned silhouette.

    If you’re really keen on pruning, you can create ornamental shapes in topiary – balls, cones, spirals or even a full size elephant – by snipping and clipping small-leafed hedging plants to shape. Our topiary range of shrubs have small dense leaves ideal for this.

     


    2. For denser growth

    Shrubs can grow tall and twiggy, with a gappy centre, or random bald spots - which is not very useful if you are hoping for a smooth hedge or effective windbreak. Pruning can help plants grow thicker, more dense, more compact. It encourages side branches to develop, instead of just vertical stems.


    3. For more flowers and fruit

    Flowers and fruit often develop from the new growth points of a plant. The more a plant is pruned, the more growth points are encouraged, by redirecting hormones within the plant’s stem from the tips to other points along the stem. Fresh side shoots which grow this season, will develop into buds next season – which means more flowers or fruit for you!


    Photinia Red Robin new growth

    4. For leaf colour

    Many native and exotic shrubs produce beautifully coloured new young leaves. Syzygium Winter Lights, Photinia Red Robin, Ixora Prince of Orange and Viburnum Emerald Lustre are particularly spectacular in new leaf. Prune your shrubs regularly, and you’ll enjoy more of this colour in your garden. Check out our Foliage Colour range of plants for more ideas.

     

    5. For health and vigour

    Shrubs can grow weak, or a branch can lose energy and die back. Pruning a shrub removes scrawny, skinny stems, redirecting energy to stems which are sturdy and thriving. It also cuts out any dead or sickly wood that could attract disease and fungal spores. This keeps the shrub healthy and strong.

     

    Four Simple Steps to Pruning

    Pruning looks complicated but is really straightforward once you follow the steps

     

    Step 1. Take out dead or sickly wood.
    Cut it back to fresh growing wood where you can – scrape back the outer layer with a nail and you’ll see the inner layer just inside the bark change from brown to green. If this isn’t possible – say you’re cutting off a side shoot - cut it back to leave about 3-5mm of dead wood as a ‘stump’.

     

    Step 2. Take out weak stems.
    Look for old stems that are thinner, less leafy and more spindly; or ones that bore few flowers. Old stems usually have darker firmer bark than new stems. Snip these out as you did the dead wood, to leave the healthiest, most vigorous stems to grow.

     

    hedge clipping

    Step 3. Remove misaligned stems.
    Cut out those branches that are crossing over and rubbing up against other healthy stems. The aim with most shrubs is to help the stems grow in an overall cup or nest shape – either with or without a trunk in the centre. Branches which grow across the cup, instead of up or around, block other branches from growing properly, hide the light from new shoots, and create an untidy shape.

     

    Step 4. Neaten up the shape.
    Step back and take a look at the shrub as a whole. Walk around it if you can, and get a view from different angles. Does it look reasonably symmetric? If not, cut back any branches which stick out, and give it a final clip to tidy up the silhouette.


    Five Top Tips for Effective Pruning

    1. Choose your tools
    Always use bypass secateurs to cut living branches and stems. These are the ones that work like scissors, where the two blades cross over each other to make the cut. Anvil secateurs – where the top sharp blade comes to rest on the bottom flat blade – are best for dead wood only.
    Make sure your tools are clean and sharp before use.

     

    2. Choose your time
    In the tropics and subtropics you can pretty much prune any time – in fact, you’ll probably need to, as plants grow more energetically in those warmer climates! In regions where frost or even snow occurs, it’s best to wait until just after the frosts have gone.

    Pruning encourages a plant to put out new shoots and a frost can kill these off. The exception would be plants like cherry and other ornamental trees which don’t respond well to being pruned when spring sap is rising. They thrive better when pruned in autumn as the sap is receding into the trunk.

     

    pruning roses

    3. Cut to a shoot
    When you cut back a stem, look for where a side shoot or new leaves are emerging and cut to just above that, leaving about 3-5mm as a buffer. The growth hormones in that stem will now divert from the (removed) tip to the side shoot, and grow on from that point.

    Note: if you are trimming a hedge, there’s no need to cut each stem individually like this. (Although in public show gardens, gardeners will sometimes clip a large-leafed hedge with trimmers to get the shape, and then neaten up with secateurs.)

     

    4. Prune after flowering (usually)
    If you have a flowering shrub that doesn’t produce fruit later in the year, or ornamental seedpods that you want to keep, then the best time to prune is usually right after flowering. That way, you don’t lose a whole season’s flowers, and the plant has a full year to produce new young flowering shoots for next time.

     

    5. Hard or Tip Pruning?
    Hard pruning – cutting out a lot of wood and reducing the plant’s size – encourages growth. Some cool-climate shrubs (buddleia and hydrangea especially) benefit from hard pruning which helps to produce lots of flowering stems and fresh green leafy growth. Reduce each stem back to around 1/3 of its original length, cutting to a side shoot where possible. If you don’t want your shrub to grow much bigger, or if it’s a naturally compact growing variety, just remove the dead, sickly and weak wood, and Tip Prune healthy branches to keep it in trim.

     

    FINAL TIP: Don’t use hard pruning as a way to keep a naturally big plant artificially small. You’ll just make extra work for yourself, and the plant will never look its best. Choose the right variety of that plant that will grow nearest to the height you want, and then prune to keep it healthy and in shape. Use our height filters in the store to help you find the right size plant for you.

    Continus Reading »
  3. How to Fertilise your Plants

    Why do we need to fertilise our plants

    Well, you don’t have to. It’s your garden after all!
    But your plants will grow so much better if you do. Fertilisers will help your plants develop:

     

    • More Flowers
    • More Fruit
    • More leaf growth
    • More root growth
    • Bigger size
    • Stronger healthier structure
    • More disease resistance

    So you can see why giving Mother Nature a helping hand can be a very good thing.


    horse manure

    Two kinds of fertiliser

    Fertilisers come in two main sorts – organic and inorganic.

    Organic fertilisers are made from biodegradable ingredients such as  

    • Blood, fish and bone
    • Animal poop
    • Composted plant matter
    • Steeped plant material eg comfrey tea
    • Seaweed
    They release elements into the soil slowly, help general plant health, and often improve the structure and texture of the soil also.

     

    Inorganic fertilisers are made from a blend of substances, usually rock minerals and petroleum, that contain concentrated forms of nutrients that release elements quickly into the soil. It doesn’t mean you are putting "chemicals" on your plants.

     

    Inorganic fertilisers are often balanced to achieve a particular goal, eg bigger fruit, or to suit a certain type of plant which needs special treatment.

     

    Wheelbarrow

    You can find organic and inorganic fertiliser in various formats for use:

     

    • Dried pellets
    • Powder
    • Ready to pour liquid
    • Concentrated liquid
    • Foliar spray
    • Mulch
    • Well rotted manure
    • Slow-release granules

    Choose whichever format you prefer to use!

     

    What’s in my inorganic fertiliser?

    If you read the side of a fertiliser packet, you’ll see three key letters – NPK – and a number or percentage beside them.

    This shows the balance of key nutrients in the fertiliser. The higher the number, the more of that nutrient the fertiliser contains.

    Most general and all-purpose fertilisers have a balance of all three elements, so the plant gets a little of everything. Like a plate of meat, veg and potatoes.

    Some specialist fertilisers will have more of one element than the others.


    Here’s what those ingredients do:

    N = Nitrogen

    Nitrogen encourages strong root growth, so it is ideal for young plants that need to get established and settled in their soil. Strong roots help a plant grow well in all aspects. It’s the foundation of a plant.

    P = Phosphate (a form of Phosphorus)

    Phosphate encourages leaf growth and health. If your plants are looking sad, a phosphate-rich fertiliser can help pick them up. It’s also good for foliage plants, which are all about the leaves.

    K = Potash (a form of Potassium)

    Potassium encourages flower and fruit growth. Tomato fertiliser is often high in potash, for instance, to encourage blossoms to grow and fruit to set. A high-potash feed is ideal for annual bedding, hanging baskets, patio containers – where a short burst of intense flowering is needed, and the plants aren’t required to grow long term.

    Inorganic fertilisers will also have other trace elements in them to help with certain aspects of a plant’s growth cycle, or soil preferences. You might see Magnesium, Iron, Calcium or other elements listed.

     

    When to fertilise

    Most plants appreciate an application or two of organic fertiliser at the end of every growing season, to help them recuperate and re-energise for another year.

    Plants that have a flowering or fruiting period will benefit from specialised inorganic fertiliser just before the flowering/fruiting season begins, and periodically throughout. It takes a lot of energy to produce flowers and fruits and the fertiliser will help provide that.

    Controlled release fertilisers usually last for six months in the soil. In subtropical and tropical climates they will break down faster and you may need to reapply every three months.


    Some plants don’t like a lot of fertiliser.

    Native plants only need a very weak fertiliser, as they have evolved to thrive on poor soils. They also don’t like all-purpose fertilisers that have a lot of phosphate, so look for a low or zero P number, or a specialist native fertiliser.

    If you grow orchids or ferns, use liquid fertiliser at a very weak solution. Apply to orchids when the plant has started to produce a flower spike, and to ferns when new growth has emerged. Orchid fertilisers are formulated at very low concentrations to prevent over-feeding; but you can use an all-purpose flowering plant fertiliser if you dilute it to at least half the recommended solution strength, or weaker.

     

    Continus Reading »
  4. How to Plant Peonies and Dahlias

    Some plants, such as peonies, iris, cannas and dahlias, are often sold as bulb flowers, but they don't have a true bulb.


    The plants grow from what is called a tuber or rhizome - a swollen root or clump of roots - like a sweet potato.
    It acts in the same way as a bulb, storing up nutrients and allowing the plant to rest dormant through half the year.


    It can be tricky to work out which way to plant these tubers and rhizomes. They don't have an obvious point, like a tulip bulb does, to point upwards. Look closely and you'll see tiny buds emerging from the root clump - these are the signs of new growth.


    Plant your tuber with these bud shoots pointing upwards. When you do this, you'll see the old swollen roots and new white slender roots will automatically face down into the soil.


    If your rhizome or tuber does not have any new buds or fresh roots yet, lay the tuber on its side when you plant it. The plant will be able to orient itself and grow in the right direction much more easily.


    Here's our top tips for successful bulb planting


    1. Many bulb flowers need well-drained soil to thrive – in Holland they grow them in pure sand! Add grit or gravel to your planting holes if your soil is heavy, or plant up into containers.


    2. Leave the leaves! Let the old foliage die back completely, to feed the bulbs for next year’s flowers. But snip any dead flowerheads off so the plant doesn’t waste energy making seedheads.


    3. September is the perfect time to plant summer-flowering bulbs, especially after frosts. The soil is warming up, encouraging growth. You can plant earlier in northern Queensland, and everywhere else right through Spring for an extended season of flowering.


    Lasagne bulb planting for a layered effect

     

    4. The latest way to plant bulbs is called a “lasagne”. (See picture.) Larger bulbs are planted at the deepest level and covered with a thin layer of compost. Medium sized bulbs go at the middle level, and small bulbs at the shallowest level. The plants will grow up between each other and create a full dense display of flowers in a small area.


    5. If you plant bulbs into your garden beds, mark the spot so that when the plants die down completely, you won’t dig them up by mistake.


    6. Summer bulbs make excellent potted plants. Plant them into pots, move them into prime positions while they are in flower, and tuck them out of sight to die down through autumn.


     

    Continus Reading »
  5. How to Garden in Clay Soil

    Planting in clay soil

    We're often asked how to manage clay soil and which plants work best, so we've put together a handy guide to improving your soil and a list of plants best suited to clay. Plants struggle to thrive in clay soil due to the density of its fine particles - roots have to work extra hard to establish themselves. When plants do thrive, they find that clay is often an excellent growing medium.

     

    clay soil

    How to tell if your soil is clay

    Grab a handful and squeeze it.
    Wet clay soil is quite sticky and pliable, it takes a long time to dry out, and forms lumps.
    Dry clay soil is almost rock hard and impossible to get a shovel into, except in the large cracks that often appear.

    The plus side to clay soil is that it's loaded with nutrients! Improve the soil structure, choose plants suited to clay soil, and watch your garden thrive.

     

    Ways to improve the quality of clay soil

    • The simplest and most effective method is to dig organic matter through the soil. It not only adds nutrients but also binds to the soil improving drainage while retaining moisture during dry spells.

     

    gypsum
    • Adding natural powdered Gypsum to the soil changes its structure and the soil becomes fine and crumbly. We recommend adding organic matter to improve its effectiveness.

    • Another great clay-breaker is eco-flow gypsum. Available in an easy hose-on application that includes a boost of eco-seaweed. As the product is liquid it's more readily available to plant roots than the dry powdered form.
      Again, the addition of organic matter will help to get the most out of this product.

     

     

    Quick tips for planting in clay soil

    • Avoid planting when the soil is excessively wet or dry
    • Dig a hole that is at least three times the size of the root ball of the plant
    • Add some well composted organic matter and turn with a garden fork
    • Place the plant in the centre and back fill, taking care not to plant too deeply
    • Check regularly and water as required until the plant is established, usually around 12 weeks
    • Apply a good layer of mulch during the dry season to help retain moisture

     

    Top plants for clay soil

    Want to ditch the shovel and plant a garden? There's a surprising range of plants suited to clay soil, from groundcovers to feature trees. Many native plants are ideal, they're naturally exposed to prolonged periods of rain followed by drought.

    Ground covers

    Brachyscome (cut-leaf daisy) and Scaveola (fan flower) are perfect for a sunny location and feature masses of flowers spring and summer. For a shady spot try native violets.

    Bauhinia corymbosa (orchid vine) grows happily in dense soil and is super hardy, with loads of pink-orchid like flowers.

    Grevillea lanigera, also known as woolly grevillea; and grevilea Royal Mantle love exposed sunny sites. Plant to control weeds and prevent erosion on hard to reach embankments.

     

    Grasses

    Dianella (flax lily) are compact growing native grasses suited to shady locations, perfect for borders and under-planting.

    Lomandra,  Festuca glauca (blue fescue) and Ficinia (knobby club rush) are tough grasses and can tolerate both wet and dry conditions, and full sun.

     

    callistemon

    Small Shrubs

    Callistemons absolutely thrive in clay soil and burst to life with bottle brush flowers spring and summer. Low growing varieties include: Captain Cook, Rose Opal and Tangerine Dream. Great Balls of Fire makes a neat hedge and features fiery red new growth.

    Formal borders and hedges can be created using Westringia (coastal rosemary). Westringia are hardy, low maintenance plants suited to dry climates. Available in low growing forms suited to borders are Aussie Box® & GREY BOX™. For taller hedges try Wynyabbie Gem  or Westringia fruticosa, the species form.

    Leptospermum (tea trees) are low growing natives featuring clusters of tiny flowers in shades of white to deep pink. Suited to dry areas in full sun.

    For cottage style gardens plant lush growing hydrangeas in shaded areas and roses and buddleia in sunny locations.

     

    May bush

    Large shrubs

    Banksia and Grevillea species prefer dry soil, so if you live in an area with low rainfall, these shrubs are ideal. Plant as a feature or screening tree.

    Plant Viburnum for evergreen hedges, roses for colour, and for a rambling cottage feel, white flowering spiraea (May bush).

     

    Trees

    Plant larger growing callistemon varieties like King's Park Special, Dawson River Weeper and Candy Pink for shade and bright flowering colour.

    Hymenosporum (native frangipani) are tall feature trees bearing scented creamy-yellow flowers, suited to full sun and partly shaded locations.

    Thuja (Western red cedar) makes an ideal screening tree for larger gardens and formal entrances.

    Lagerstroemia (crepe myrtle) are a great choice for gardeners looking to add flowering colour.

     

     Climbers

    Pandorea varieties perform really well in clay soil and once established will tolerate prolonged dry periods. Climbing banksiae roses will grow happily in clay.


    You'll find a full selection of plants for clay soil in our Plants for Problem Places - Clay Soil category.

     

    Continus Reading »
  6. How Many Plants You Need For Your Hedge

    Autumn is the best time to plant hedges.

    The soil is still warm from summer, so your plants can get established before winter arrives. There's also plenty of moisture around to feed young roots (if we've been blessed with rain). If you're thinking of planting a hedge, do it the easy way with our tubestock plants - minimal digging, fast growing

     

    How many plants do you need for your hedge?


    • Decide the height you want your full grown hedge to be.
    • Divide this by 3.
    • That's how far apart you need to space the plants.
    • Divide the length of your hedge by this number.
    • For a 180cm tall hedge (head height), space your plants 180/3 = 60cm apart.
      For a 5m long hedge, that's 500/60 = 8-9 plants.
    • For a 90cm tall hedge (waist height), space your plants 90/3 = 30cm apart.
      For a 5m long hedge, that's 500/30 = 16-17 plants.

     

    zigzag planting TIP 1: It's always a good idea to order some extras in case one or two get nibbled by wildlife or are planted in a poor patch of soil. That way you know you've got exactly the same plant as a replacement.
    TIP 2: If you want a faster result for your hedge, order double the number of plants, and space them twice as close. For a 1.8m hedge, 30cm apart; for a 90cm hedge, 15cm apart.

    TIP 3: For a thicker deeper hedge, space the plants twice as close - but in a zigzag, rather than a straight line (see graphic). Clip as they grow, to gradually develop a straight front to your hedge.

     

    How tall a hedge do you want?

    We've got all kinds of hedge plants for all sorts of places in the garden :

    • dwarf and lowgrowing bushes, that need little to no pruning
    • evergreen shrubs, that can be clipped to shape - even into topiary
    • tall trees to cut low (coppice), to encourage branching instead of a single stem

    See our complete range of hedging plants here

    .

    Continus Reading »
  7. How to Control Weeds Organically

    Spring is well and truly here! We are seeing our plants thrive, unfortunately the weeds are also making the most of the ideal growing conditions. So here goes, the battle of the weeds.

    Many of us have children and pets to be mindful of - and are considerate of our environment and wildlife too. Chemicals are not an option then.

    Here's our tips on controlling weeds naturally

    The best way to control weeds is to stop them in their tracks while they're young, or avoid them becoming established at all.

    • Turn the soil well and pull out as many weed seedlings as possible by hand. If you have chooks, now's the time to let them run about on this patch!

    • Add some blood and bone mix, this encourages composting and the breakdown of the weeds.

    • Cover your area with thick plastic, cardboard, old carpet (upside down) or several layers of newspaper. This generates heat and steam, preventing seed from germinating and kills the weeds. Secure with stones or pegs if needed.

    • Follow with a layer of mulch and leave undisturbed for 4-8 weeks if using plastic or 3-4 months if using newspaper. When you're ready to plant, the soil will be well composted and loaded with nutrients. Simply loosen the soil and plant your young plants. Don't forget to apply a good layer of mulch after, this will also slow the weeds down.

    • There are also commercial membranes you can use if you're in a hurry. Roll them over the ground, cut cross-slits in where you want to plant, peel back the membrane and put the plant in. You'll need to weed the areas where the membrane has been slit, of course.

    For everyday weed control :


    • Boiling water works especially well for weeds with deep roots in hard to reach areas, think rockeries and between pavers.

    • Use kitchen ingredients. Pour 1/2 cup of table salt into a 500ml spray bottle, fill with white vinegar and shake to dissolve the salt. Spray on problem areas. Do this on still days, not breezy ones to avoid spraying on your favourite plants.

    • A painstaking method of controlling weeds which we are all familiar with is the old knife or fork! We've got a purpose-built weeder if you don't want to ruin your cutlery.

    • Traditional Dutch hoes are great at keeping weeds at bay if you use them regularly. They're nimble enough to get between rows of veggies or around herbaceous plants. Slice the tops off the weeds before they can get big, flower and set seed.

    • Try planting vigorous dense-growing groundcovers  like Trachelospermum (star jasmine), gazania, grevillea, and hibbertia - these will outgrow the weeds in no time.

    If you do find yourself fighting a losing battle trying to control weeds, consider using a natural herbicide like Slasher. Even if this is just until your plants are established and covering ground.

    Until next time… Happy gardening!

    Continus Reading »
  8. Why We Can't Have All The Plants - Biosecurity Rules

    Some of our customers ask about our biosecurity restrictions on the website. And why they can't get certain specific plants shipped to their addresses.


    Most of the time, customers are in VIC or SA, while our nursery is in QLD. Here's a short explanation of why we sometimes can't send you the plants you want, depending on where you live.


    Garden plants can pick up diseases and viruses from airborne spores, birds' feet, and other plants. It's easy to do and most of the time it doesn't cause any problems. Your plants might look a bit scruffy, or some leaves are marked or spotted.


    Practising good plant health -

    • feeding and watering plants regularly to keep them fit and thriving
    • pruning where necessary to improve airflow
    • planting in the optimal situation and soil type for that plant variety
    • removing weak and affected parts of the plant

    will all help garden plants resist disease.


    However, when plant diseases spread to edible, commercial crops such as potatoes, sugar cane and fruit, then it becomes more serious.
    A disease which makes a garden hedge look less than perfect, could wipe out half a field of food crops. Some diseases and viruses are resistant to, or cannot be treated with, the approved-use chemicals currently available.


    Australia has some of the strictest border security in the world. As an island as well as a country we have the advantage of keeping a lot of plants - and plant diseases - away from our shores. Sometimes that means that nurseries such as Australian Plants Online can't import all the kinds of plants and seeds we want to grow.

    Individual states set extra rules as to what can be sent over their state borders, as well as the national border import restrictions. This is an attempt to limit and restrict the potential spread of viruses between plants.

    Some Australian native plants can be particularly vulnerable to viruses, as the plants evolved in isolation. So the Myrtaceae family;- that's tea tree, eucalypt, bottlebrush, lilly pilly - can't be shipped from our nursery state of QLD to SA and VIC. Similar rules apply to azaleas and blueberries.


    To read more about this topic, here's an excellent overview by ABC Rural which explains why we all have to follow the rules.

    Continus Reading »
  9. How to Encourage Nature in Your Garden - by Doing Less Work

    Doing less work in the garden? Sounds like a plan! Best of all, less work means more nature – and when we encourage nature into our gardens, even a little bit, nature rewards us by helping us in the garden. We’ll show you how.

    1. Don’t deadhead

    Pick off dead flowers when the plant is still blooming. This encourages more to come. But when plants are coming to the end of their flowering period, leave the last seedheads on. They’ll provide food for birds through the cold months of autumn and winter, when supplies of snails and bugs run low. Native grasses are also ideal for feeding wildlife, if they are allowed to flower.

    2. Don’t tidy up

    It’s tempting to clear up dense climbers, or the undergrowth of shrubs, to make it look more tidy. Areas like this, however small, provide shelter from the weather and predators like cats for many small birds and mammals. Hedges are especially valuable refuges. The leaf litter and fallen branches also trap rainwater, help stop soil erosion and will rot down to create new soil.

    3. Don't spray

    Caterpillars will munch the leaves of your prize veggies - but they'll provide food for beautiful birds who'll wake you with a dawn song. And caterpillars that escape being eaten will turn into beautiful butterflies (who'll likely get eaten by birds too. Nature can be cruel.) So ease off the pesticide use.

    If you have to control an outbreak that's threatening to take out an entire crop, there are safe alternatives that will kill munching pests but be safe for bees, pets and children.

    4. Don’t clip native hedges as often

    A neatly clipped, square-edged hedge is a beautiful sight. But if you can stand to have your hedge a little less than shipshape, you might find that it produces flowers, and after the flowers, berries. Native plants like lilly pilly, quandong, midgem berry are ideal for this, as well as exotic species like Indian hawthorn and Viburnum tinus.

    5. Don’t shred or burn leaves

    Gardeners are taught to rake up deciduous leaves from the lawn and beds, and to shred them or burn them or put them in the garden waste bin. There’s a simpler way. Bag them up into a sturdy bin liner, give them a light watering, tie up the bag, poke a couple of holes in the base for drainage, and leave them to decay. In one year you’ll have organic mulch that worms will love, and in two you’ll have “black gold” – rich leafmould compost that will enrich your garden soil for no cost or effort.

    6. Cut the lawn less

    Reduce the amount of times you cut the lawn in a month. And when you cut, raise the blades a little higher (if you can) to keep the grass longer. Not only will this help out worms (which keep the soil healthy) and good bugs (which also feed birds) but the extra shade from the longer grass will keep its roots cooler and it will dry out less in the sun.

    7. Leave a dish of water out

    Birds appreciate a place to drink and have a quick wash, just like we humans. A shallow dish or deep plate is ideal, close to shrubs where birds can escape to perch in safety. If you can put the dish off the ground, on a pedestal or low wall, birds will feel safer. If you have space for a pond, even better. This will attract frogs, who in turn will gobble up mosquitoes and their larvae.

    8. Choose plants for pollinators

    Our bees are under threat around the world from pesticides and chemicals, as well as the devastating varroa mite. Give them a helping hand to survive by providing snack stops in your garden. Bees and butterflies prefer blue and purple coloured flowers as these are easier for them to see. They feed easier on flat open flowers where the stamens (the little thread-like tufts in the centre) are visible.

    9. Choose plants for wildlife

    Small native birds find it hard to compete with bigger birds and introduced species. Native birds prefer red and yellow flowers – grevillea, callistemon and banksia are ideal food sources – and plants with finer foliage – like baeckea, westringia, leptospermum - for hiding and sheltering.

    10. Keep pets indoors

    Cats in particular are efficient hunters and kill thousands of small native mammals and birds. If you must let your pets outside, tie a bell around their neck so the wildlife has an advance warning.

    11. Plant a native tree

    OK , this one does involve a little work, but with a tubestock tree the effort is minimal! Thousands of species of all kinds of natural life depend on a tree, from the smallest lichen to the largest koala. There’s a tree to suit even the smallest gardens. If you only have a balcony or deck, lots of local councils have regular planting days to help revegetate and improve wild areas in the community. They’d appreciate your help!

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  10. Which Nandina is Best For You?

    Nandina, sometimes called Sacred Bamboo or Heavenly Bamboo, is a beautiful shrub native to Japan. It is not at all similar to bamboo - in fact the very compact sorts can look more like Japanese maple trees – but they do suit Oriental-style gardens very well.

    Nandinas also suit informal flowery cottage gardens, woodland areas, formal green topiary hedges, and bright modern outdoor spaces too. No wonder Nandinas are consistently one of our most popular plants!

    nandina Obsession

    Plants have beautiful leaf colour, from gold through peach to plum and pink. They colour up even in shade, and in winter when little else is going on outside. Colour will be brighter in full sun, and you’ll see the light shine through the leaves, which gives a luminous effect. You can add year-round foliage colour and interest to all areas of your garden, with very little effort.

    They’re super-tough, surviving heat, and very low temperatures (though they may drop their leaves during the winter in frost zones), and they’re resistant to deer and rabbits.

    Compact and low-growing, Nandinas are lovely for many locations and situations. Unclipped, they will produce white flowers and red berries loved by birds. And if you want a more formal look to your garden, they clip superbly well to a neat hedge or border.


    Here's some of our favourite Nandina varieties:

    Blush

    Small, compact, with deep red-maroon new growth spring to autumn contrasting strongly with dark green mature leaves. The whole plant turns a glowing red-purple in winter. A little more compact than Nana, only reaching about 60-70cm around, and no pruning needed. Very low maintenance, will not self-seed. Drought, cold and humidity tolerant.

    Obsession

    Improved version of Gulf Stream, grows to 70cm around. Vibrant red-maroon-plum new leaves all year, contrasting with the greener mature leaves towards the centre of the plant which also turn red in summer. Also known as “Seika”, which means Sacred Fire in Japanese. The fine elegant foliage is a good substitute for Japanese acer in warm dry sites.

    Nana

    ‘Nana’ means dwarf in Latin. Tenacious, tough shrub to 80cm. Variable shaded colour on each plant and even each leaf, from gold and orange to red, lime green, and maroon, gives a beautiful sunrise effect. Hot and dry locations produce brighter leaf colour. Minimal pruning needed to keep a good shape. The most popular widely-grown Nandina, and great value.

    Moonbay

    One of the taller Nandinas, to 1m in a good location. Lime green to golden apricot foliage, flushes to red new growth in winter, bringing welcome colour in the darker months. The colour may be brighter in cooler locations. The smaller elongated leaves make it ideal for clipped topiary work and neat hedging.

    Flirt

    Brilliant red new growth matures to deep green as the foliage matures. Low-growing variety with a spreading habit to a cushion-like 40cm. Ideal easy-care border plant for year-round interest.

     

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