Seed Swaps

Long time, no seed!

19 Dec 2011
Rainy 26°C / 79°F

Well, the last 12 months have seen me preparing for my final anaesthetic exams, and while I managed to pass them, the time commitment needed, on top of full time work and the usual distractions (both welcome and unwelcome!) that come with having 3 young kids, meant that my garden has been sadly neglected, and what little gardening I did do rarely made it into Folia :-(

It’s made me realise that, unlike most other hobbies, you can’t really just put the garden “on hold” for a number of months and then come back to it and take up where you left off. That half restored car in the garage, that unfinished artwork, the neglected cookbook or the cricket team you decided not to play with this season will all more or less be waiting for you in much the same condition when you get back to them. But the garden? Completely different kettle of fish. Those weeds i never got a chance to rip up. Well, i’m now seeing their multiple offspring popping up everywhere, and they will probably continue to do so for several years to come. That tree i meant to prune and train into the desired shape has now well and truly decided its own form. Those border skirmishes between the garden beds and the lawn have now become a full blown occupation by the kikuyu and will require months of “negotiations” to get it to retreat. Pests that i never got around to dealing with have now become life threatening infestations for some plants, while other plants met their demise due to lack of watering. And my lack of spring sowing means the tomatoes will be late this year. It seems a bit unfair that a hobby that forced me to learn the important lesson of patience, wasn’t prepared to show me that same patience when requested!

But, on the flip side, those months of frustration make finally getting back into the garden all the better, and it was made sweeter still by my wife giving me some gift vouchers from a hardware store as a congratulations-for-passing-the-exam present, and they were put to good use in buying a good quality wheelbarrow and a compost tumbler that i had been eying off for a while. And there were some success stories in the garden, where plants thrived despite (or maybe because of!) my neglect so it wasn’t all death and destruction!

What follows is a brief summary of the progress of some of the plants in my garden over the last 6-12 months, but i think i will struggle to work out exactly what has happened to which plants when, and there are going to be many milestone holes in folia unfortunately.

Didn’t have time for any formative pruning over winter so just left it to its own devices shape wise. It put on a good show of flowers and starting setting quite a few nuts, but after growing to a decent size, they then started oozing sap before shriveling up and falling off. Still in the process of investigating what might be causing this, and otherwise the tree looks pretty health with plenty of new growth.

Asiatic lilies:
A success story despite my neglect. I left them in their pots over winter and come spring they sprouted again and put on a pretty show of white flowers. There haven’t been any of the red flowers that there were last year, and not sure why, because there are plenty of plants in that pot. The flowering seems to have finished now, but i’ll let the plants die down and grow the bulbs again, and i might try digging them up over winter and replanting next year

It seems to have recovered well from its anthracnose, and put on a lot of new growth in spring, but i’m not sure what shape the tree is going to take now after losing its central leader to the infection. I’m hoping that i will be able to finish building its garden bed in the next month or so, and then plant it out early next year.

Bay tree:
It seems to be a pretty resilient tree. Despite not being watered or fed for long periods, not only has it survived, but it has put on a fair bit of new growth as well and is looking pretty good. There’s been a bit of insect damage but nothing too major.

Bay tree cuttings:
I actually think these benefited from my neglect, because time seems to have been what they needed, and if i hadn’t been studying so hard and paying more attention to the garden, i may well have become inpatient and chucked these before they started growing. The softwood cuttings i made sprouted relatively early but then seemed to succumb to a fungal disease or maybe the new growth outstripped their root growth, but then a fair while later, some of the cuttings I made from harder, older wood, sprouted and haven’t looked back since. They’ve both put on a few flushes of new growth, and i’ve now potted them up and they are in the process of hardening off.

Black mulberry:
Probably the biggest success story of the garden, but the passionfruit might have something to say about that. Pretty much the only attention i’ve paid this plant has been to pick its bountiful harvest of delicious fruit, and the kids have thoroughly enjoyed doing like wise!! It’s put on a fair bit of height and width, and it will probably only be another year or two before it will fulfill its other purpose of being a climbing tree for the kids. Even better is the fact that my wife discovered a recipe for Mulberry Crumble Cake that is to die for, but it means that as the fruit supply slowly dwindled i realised it wouldn’t be until next spring that i would get to eat the crumble cake again :-(

Black passionfruit:
As alluded to above, another success story. Another big harvest in only it’s second year, and with only a bit of manure, mulch and hand pollination from me. I gave it another haircut, but less severe than last year, and I think it’s third harvest will out do it’s second.

Not really sure what is happening with this, but probably a combination of neglect, poor positioning and wind exposure, and a number of different pests/infections. Difficulty keeping the potting mix moist is definitely contributing. It did at least have it’s first ever flowering this year which was satisfying, and has even produced some fruit, but it is taking forever to ripen and some of it has fallen off. A lot of the leaves are getting brown spots and falling off, and it also wilts very easily but I think this is due to difficulty keeping the potting mix moist. I’m actually wondering if a fungus in the mix is keeping it hydrophobic? But there are at least new shoots coming through quite often so I may try a heavy prune and starting again

Finger lime:
This is the best of the citrus in my garden at the moment, having put on a quite a bit of growth since i bought it, and i’m now letting it set fruit for the first time. I’m still undecided about what to do with it long term, with my latest thinking being to buy a couple more and make a hedge behind the front fence.

These have also suffered a bit from neglect, as being on the front verandah i forget about them when i’m gardening in the much larger back yard, and being undercover they don’t get any rain, so have suffered a bit of water stress. They have also been attacked by a few different pests, but with a bit more attention post exams, and spray with white oil, they’ve done really well recently, put out a lot of fragrant blooms, and now they just need a bit of a prune to keep them bushy

The problem with this has been what i suspect to be possums. It is planted along the back fence on a trellis, with the plan to cover the fence and provide a bit of extra height above the fence for increased privacy. However it appears a possum regularly runs along the top of the fence and reaches down and nibbles whatever new growth it can reach, meaning it could never get above fence height. It did at least have a nice display of purple flowers earlier this year, but it has lost quite a few leaves lower down in the shadier part, so it looks a bit leggy, but i’ll probably plant something in front of it to counteract this. I have now put some chicken wire to cover the top of the trellis, and this seems to be keeping the possum at bay…for now!

The lemongrass has been doing pretty well, and after successfully dividing it earlier this year, i’ve now given away 3 plants to various family/friends. Even the one that had barely any roots at all survived. It seems to wither pretty quickly when the weather is warm and/or it doesn’t get watered, but then it perks up pretty quickly again after a drink. Now i just need to find some lemongrass recipes

This has been generally slow growing, but has also suffered from some insect damage, and it’s blown over a number of times during wind as well. Seems to be holding up OK overall though, and my plan was to keep it relatively “dwarfed” anyway, so the slow growth doesn’t bother me.

Meyer lemon:
This is one half of my double grafted Citrus Splitzer (the other being the Tahitian lime below), and while not yet qualifying as a success story per se, it has been immensely satisfying. It suffered greatly after I planted it out into a pretty heavy clay area, with not enough sun, and in the end resorted to digging it back up and putting it in a pot again. It’s recovery has been slow, but just recently, it has put on quite a bit of new growth, and despite some citrus leaf miner damage, is looking pretty good.

This plant has coped quite well without much attention from me recently, and has now finally flowered and is developing a nice pineapple, as well as some slips growing off the main stem. Not sure when the fruit will be ready

Tahitian lime:
This is the other half of my Citrus Splitzer, and it seemed to recover earlier than the lemon half, but a recent burst of growth from the lemon means it has now taken over the lime. The one fruit that I allowed to set is now pretty much ready. Also has a bit of scale, sooty mould and leaf miner damage.

Tea Plant:
This plant has struggled along, despite my neglect, but has responded well when i have given it some TLC, and is slowly getting bigger. It’s bed out the front is nearly ready, so should be planted out in the new year

Valencia orange:
This has also recovered well from my bad choice of planting site, and has put on a lot of new growth. It probably has more leaf miner damage than the Splitzer, but seems to be coping OK. I hope to plant it out again, in a better spot, in the next couple of months.

Growing a wollemi makes me nervous. As well as being a relatively expensive plant (albeit cheaper than they used to be), it is a very rare plant, so you feel some pressure trying to nurture it along. Add to that the fact that i’ve already killed one, as have my brother and my in-laws, while my parents have killed two, then you can see why i panic a bit when ever there is the slightest hint of something going wrong. It has put on a number of new growth spurts, and the current one is quite extensive, but there are quite a few brown areas forming on lower branches, and some patches are quite extensive. I’m not sure if this is part of it’s normal growth process, or something more sinister, and if so, can it be easily remedied. I think a larger pot may well help, as it has been in its current one for nearly a couple of years now. I suspect it may be even happier if i planted it out, but i’m not sure how well it would agree with the clay soil in our area, and given it can get quite large, i’m not sure where i’d put it.

There should be some photos to follow hopefully



It’s amazing how quickly things can get totally out of control in a garden. BTW, on a pineapple, pull on the leaf at the top center of the pineapple. If it pulls out easily with very little force, then it’s ready. This works great in a grocery store too.

Posted on 20 Dec 11 (over 4 years ago)

Thanks for tip for the pineapple HW…I was beginning to wonder how I would when it was ripe.

Yes, I am slowly getting things back under control, but at least there are plenty of daylight hours at the moment, and the summer has been pretty mild, so perfect conditions for gardening. I’d hate to think what things would be like if I’d failed and another full summer of growth had occurred before I got back to it!!

Posted on 20 Dec 11 (over 4 years ago)

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