Thursday, April 18, 2013

If at first you don't succeed...

...Try, and try again.

Or, in the case of gardening in difficult climates and soils, do some research before spending any more money!

When we first bought our house, I ran out and planted a number of things. Mostly I got lucky, but one of my first failures was a couple of blueberry plants.

Mistake #1: Planting them up against that blasted (and blasting hot) Western fence. I've lost many plants against that fence now, and those that survive do not thrive over summer. All that radiant heat is a bad idea for nearly everything. Not to mention that a lot of blueberries are not very heat-tolerant at the best of times.

Mistake #2: Blueberries like acid soil, which is in short supply in nearly all of Adelaide and surrounds. I'm lucky: the soil in our yard happens to be a little bit acidic with a pH of around 6.2, except in gardening circles that's practically a neutral pH. Blueberries like a pH of between about 4-5.5. That's just not something I can provide for my plants in the ground, and I'm not about to go faffing about trying to alter it (too tiresome, potentially expensive, and a never-ending exercise).

The solution? Pots! And a couple of plants which hopefully will be a little more heat-tolerant (or at least are low-chill varieties).

Today I went out and bought four new blueberry plants (because I have four big pots to put them in). I had a chat to the girl at the counter about the plants, and she thinks these four should be OK in my area (hills, but not the cold-cold hills further behind Adelaide.)

My three 'real' blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) are 'Denise', 'Northland', and 'Sunshine blue'. They are all Northern Highbush varieties. I also have a Chinese blueberry (Vaccinium gaultheriifolium), which is a bit of an experiment as it's different to the other blueberry species commonly grown.

I also spent what felt like a small fortune on special 'rose/camellia/azalea etc' potting mix especially for acid-loving plants. I tell myself it's OK, because my SP adores blueberries and inhales them by the punnet, and they are usually really expensive to buy, and I've spent about 12 punnets worth of blueberry money on my plants and potting mix. If this goes well, within a few years we should be set up for fruit for most of Summer and Autumn, which will be super-nice!


PS. The other little plants in the right of the picture are my latest obsession: Geums/Avens. I like the red ones, but I stumbled across these three yellow plants of the cultivar 'Lady Stratheden' at my local $2 shop and snapped them up as an experiment. Impulse buys being what they are, I haven't yet decided where I'm actually going to plant them..

Saturday, April 13, 2013


I'm doing a little experiment.

Nepenthes are my favourite carnivorous plants; they remind me of Malaysia, where some species are native to. Nepenthes are pitcher plants, with their pitchers dangling off the end of their leaves. I've never had one, because they're usually expensive and I'm not overly confident about growing them. Anyway, I found some in my local nursery, marked down to $6! Yes, please!

I brought one home and then got Googling: 'care of Nepenthes.' My new baby is some sort of hybrid, and there was very little information on the label, so I feel I'm flying blind here, a little bit.

According to the WWW, these plants are best potted up into a mix of sphagnum moss, peat moss, and orchid potting mix. I visited three different shops before I found some sphagnum moss, and I had a bag of orchid mix in the shed already, so I did a rough mix of mostly sphagnum with a big dash of orchid mix. I skipped the peat moss because you can't get real peat moss - I don't think so, anyway. It's not environmentally sustainable and not really a renewable resource, I believe, but I'll have to check that - and I've gone off coir peat after being told that as well as holding loads of water, it also holds loads of salts if you use tap water. I like to think that as the sphagnum moss was from New Zealand, it would be more sustainably managed. Anyway... What was I saying?

My new plant has a new home in a big vase, and it will live in the bathroom , because they like humidity and the bathroom is brightly lit. Wish me - and it! - luck. I will try to remember to update on my baby Nepenthes progress down the track.