Gardening / When Lindsay called the PM

PM Ben Chifley plants a tree on September 12, 1949, signalling the start of the Botanic Gardens in Canberra.

IN 1949, an evening phone call from director of Parks and Gardens Lindsay Pryor to the then prime minister, Ben Chifley, was all it took to arrange an official tree planting at the proposed botanic gardens in Canberra.

Cedric Bryant.

Subsequently, on September 12, 1949, during a visit to Canberra by an International Delegation of Foresters, the Australian National Botanic Gardens was “officially” started by the planting of two trees by PM Ben Chifley and the director of London’s Kew Gardens, Sir Edward Salisbury.

The gardens have never looked back with support from the Commonwealth and the Friends of the Gardens.

Away with the birds… the new tree house at the Botanic Gardens.

Now there’s something new and exciting happening at the constantly improving gardens; the opening of the extraordinary, two-storey “Paperbark Tree House”. It took three months to build and is the most significant project to date funded by the Friends.

Reaching high into the canopy of a paperbark forest, climbers can join the birds on the second storey. This is already proving a major holiday attraction for children.

NOT everyone leaves town over the summer holiday break. There are many dedicated gardeners who are loath to leave their gardens during the hottest part of the year.

Here are some suggestions for those holidaying at home:

  • We have had a big build up of moisture recently in the ground with all plants looking good as we head into full summer (plus helping to reduce the water bill). But one cannot be complacent, certainly with watering of pots, particularly if they contain annuals such as petunias.
  • One recent job I have been engaged in with our garden is thinning out bulbs. Some of these have multiplied to such an extent, often in the wrong places, they have to come out. Some were planted years ago near new shrubs that, at the time of planting, were maybe 20-30cm tall, many now 2-3m tall and wide. The bulbs are now in total shade, resulting in virtually no flowers. Take care to dig the bulbs out without damaging the shrub roots. To store bulbs place them in an open string bag similar to an orange bag. Hang where mice can’t get to them in a cool, dry spot; the garage is ideal. It’s not long to bulb-planting time, starting in March.
  • It is time to feed long-flowering summer shrubs such as roses. I am still recommending certified organic Neutrog Seamungus, a combination of seaweed and chook poo, not only for roses but all shrubs and perennials. This can be applied in pellet or liquid form.
  • Time to deadhead and feed the roses for an autumn burst of blooms.

    Now’s the time to deadhead roses for an autumn flush of blooms. While for most gardeners this suggests just snipping off the dead flowers, one needs to be considerably more severe to encourage plenty of new flowers on strong, short stems. This can be as severe as the late winter/early spring pruning.
  • Watering other than by dripper should be carried out in the early morning. This is especially important for roses. If watered on warm evenings the leaves stay moist encouraging black spot. I recommend readily available Eco-Rose, a certified organic fungicide to combat black spot, mildew and rust on all plants, not just roses.
  • Check drip watering systems regularly, even if staying at home; did you put the fork through the pipe without realising it? Or have you arranged for family or friends to check automatic irrigation systems if you are away because automatic timers can fail?


  • Keep picking fruit just before it ripens. Fallen fruit can encourage fruit fly, so be sure to collect it.
  • Regularly deadhead perennials and annuals, such as petunias.
  • Now is the time to plant potatoes.
  • Remove unwanted tree and shrub seedlings such as privet and Nettle Tree, Celtis Australia, cotoneasters and pyracantha.

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