Return of the early bulbs

THE early flowering bulbs have started to arrive at garden centres.

Walking through the Heritage Nursery in Yarralumla, I noticed Nerines, the common Nerine Bowdenii in pink and white, and the more unusual red and yellow varieties. Nerines make an excellent cut flower and can last several weeks indoors.

Nerine bowdenii... an ideal, long-lasting cut flower.

Nerine bowdenii… an ideal, long-lasting cut flower.

Also Belladonna lilies and Galanthus (or snowdrops), once again the common varieties plus limited stocks of the more unusual varieties. These will help to give you the gardening edge over your neighbours! However, you will not find the really rare varieties of snowdrops here that can be found in the UK, where many gardeners have caught the Galanthomania disease trying to outdo each other with this tiny flowering delicate plant. Recently, one single bulb of Galanthus woronewii “Elizabeth Harrison” was bought for a staggering 725 pounds ($A1005), doubling the 2011 record.

COLCHICUMS or autumn crocus (pictured, top), ideally suited to our hot climate as they originate in the Middle East and the Mediterranean regions, provide autumn-to- early-winter colour in the garden.
Until the autumn-flowering bulbs appear, Salvias are making a magnificent display of colour. One of my favourites is Salvia “greggii”, due not only to the rich, deep-red flowers, but the fragrance of the leaves. As a ground cover under the Salvias I have grown Convolvulus mauritanicus, with its profusion of pale-blue flowers which is great for spilling over walls. It flowers all summer and well into the autumn.

THE recent opening of the Arboretum was an outstanding success with congratulations to the ACT Government personnel, the Friends and Adam Burgess and his team in particular for getting the trees in the ground and growing.
The “wow” factor was evident on the day with possibly the Bonsai exhibition taking the pride of place, located in the stunning Village Centre. The magnificent timber roof structure is a sculpture in itself. This is going to be the “in” place for coffee while enjoying a fantastic view across the lake. When viewed from this location, the Lake appears to be a series of lakes. Most of the trees are growing, despite the extremes of weather we have experienced in recent years, setting the scene to imagine the future of the forests.

IT was great to catch up with “CityNews” readers at the Arboretum opening, when I was giving talks for Actew Water’s Discovery Garden. The new area replaces the previous Xeriscape Garden at Weston. Ultra-modern in its presentation, it is not intended to be a blueprint of a home garden. Rather it demonstrates the wide range of hardy, drought-resistant plants that can be grown here using a minimum of water.
Some visitors on the day did comment that while they could see how the $70 million had been spent on this showpiece for the city for the next 100 years, it was a pity some of that money wasn’t spent on looking after the neglected trees in our streets and parks in our existing urban forest.
I have to agree. Maybe our new Environment Minister will take this on board? The Arboretum, including the Bonsai exhibition and Discovery Garden, is open every day from 10am to 4pm.

Now is the time to…

  • Think about getting a compost heap ready for autumn leaves.

  • Plant calendulas round the winter veggie patch. These discourage insect pests and are frost hardy.

  • Go to and scroll down to “Cedfacts” for the veggie guide of what to plant now.

  • Check out the excellent quality of Correa “Canberra Bells”, our Centenary flower at The Heritage Nursery, the best I have seen. Plant a group of three or five to celebrate our 100 years.

  • Plant Australian garlic now from your local garden centre. Not the imported Chinese garlic sold at many supermarkets. This has been chemically treated and will not grow.

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