Phalaenopsis – Moth orchid

A beautiful orchid that will grow and flower quite freely if all its growing conditions are met. With varying shades of white, pink, yellow and green, sometimes striped or spotted they make an excellent gift or magnificent long-lasting display in the home.

Orchid1Growing Conditions

These epiphytic plants are found growing in trees in tropical jungles but will happily grow inside or outside in a purpose built environmentally controlled glasshouse. Creating a glasshouse is for the real enthusiast and needs some research and dedication. By growing the orchids inside on a light airy windowsill, the home gardener can easily create the environment needed for Phalaenopsis. You can create the humidity that the orchids need by placing some gravel in the bottom of a saucer, filling with water and placing the pot on the gravel but not sitting in the water. Of course the higher the temperature the higher the humidity needs to be. At temperatures above 30°c the orchids growth will slow down or stop. Fluctuating temperatures can cause the buds to drop.

 Potting Mix and Repotting

Orchid2Choose an open pine bark mix (10-18mm) and repot carefully as the roots can easily be broken. Repot about every 2-3 years by gently removing all the mix from the roots and cutting off any dead or damaged roots. It is quite normal for roots to grow out of the pot. The best time for repotting is just after flowering and before the main growth season in spring and summer. Placing sphagnum moss on top of the pot will aid in water retention especially during the warmer months.


Regular watering is essential for healthy growth. How often depends on the potting media used and the temperature. On average every 3 days in the heat of summer, but if your mix has a lot of sphagnum moss it will need watering less. Phalaenopsis need watering when just starting to dry out but do not like to be constantly wet. With time you will get to know your orchid and its watering needs.


 Orchid4Feed weekly during the warmer months with liquid fertilisers recommended for orchids. Once the weather starts to cool you can cut back to every fortnight.






Poisonous Plants

NAME                    TOXIC PART       EFFECTS

Apricots                       Kernels                     Cyanide poisoning

Asparagus Fern          Entire plant               Seizures

Azalea                         Entire plant               Muscle paralysis

Bird of Paradise          Seeds & pods           Vomiting & diarrhoea

Read more: Poisonous Plants

Pond Plants Care and Maintenance

Planting Guide

Just as all garden plants require different growing conditions, so do water plants. There are plants that prefer to float on the water, plants that will happily grow quite deep, and many others that grow somewhere in between. A good rule of thumb is to aim for about 50% coverage of the water surface with plants.

A well designed water garden will include (where pond size allows), plants that will grow happily in all depths. This will make it easier to reach a good balance in your pond which in turn decreases any problems you may have. If adding fish be sure to only add the correct number for the pond size, and don’t overfeed as this will add too many nutrients to the water.

 The Different Planting Depths

  • Floating plants do just that, float freely on the water surface. They offer shelter, breeding habitat and food for fish. Will shade the pond and help prevent algal growth.
  • Bog plants grow around the margins of the pond and will tolerate seasonal flooding, catch excess rainfall and prevent erosion around the pond edges. This in turn will protect the edges from damage by cats or dogs. They can attract and harbor wildlife to the pond, such as lizards, birds and frogs.
  • Marginal plants grow in shallow water to a depth of about 20cms. Not only do they make the edges of the pond more attractive and hide unsightly wiring, they can also offer shelter for fish and frogs. Also a good plant choice for shallow pots.
  • These plants grow with their foliage totally submerged at a depth of 20-40cms. They play an important role in water clarity by oxygenating and removing toxic elements from the water. Some plants will also have foliage above the water providing shade keeping the water cooler and decreasing algal problems. They can provide shelter for aquatic life to spawn, protection from external predators and even protect the smaller fish from the larger fish.
  • Deeper growing plants greater than 40cms, provide shade for the water surface, help reduce evaporation and shelter aquatic life from predators. They can also improve water quality through oxygenating, filtering and consuming nutrients.


Soil for potting

Ideally soils should be not too clayey and not too sandy, but rather a good mix. A clay loam will do, especially if you know it grows great veges. Just dig the soil from your garden as long as you know it is not contaminated. Alternatively aquatic mixes are available commercially.

Pond Maintenance and Cleaning

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your pond will reduce the occurrence of murky water, algal growth and dead fish. Removing any dead foliage and windblown debris on a regular basis will minimise the workload and result in a healthier more vibrant pond. Ponds under or near a deciduous tree will need the fallen leaves removed in autumn before they fall to the bottom of the pond. As the temperature warms up in spring these decomposing leaves release large amounts of nutrients into the water which in turn can promote algal growth.

Plants should be fertilised as they start to put on new growth in spring. Pond fertiliser tablets are available, but be careful not to over fertilise as this can add nutrient overload to the water and encourage algae. Make a hole in the soil with your finger, pop the tablet in and cover with soil.

A healthy balanced pond should need only occasional water changes. Spring is a good time for this, removing about 25% of water only. Your pond contains many beneficial organisms so you do not want to upset the balance by removing too much water. Spring is also a good time to replenish your supply of plants to reach 50% cover of the pond. Each pond is unique and for this reason the time it takes to achieve a healthy balance can vary, anywhere up to a year.

Check and clean any filters you may have in your pond. A healthy pond with the right balance of plants and fish can be maintained without the use of pumps. Larger ponds can be easier to maintain than smaller ones.




Although they have a limited place in small home gardens, poplars are among the most attractive and useful trees for large scale ornamental and commercial landscape work. They are hardy, quick growing trees with uniform symmetrical outlines and distinct foliage effects.

Columnar varieties make excellent avenues, screens and windbreaks, whilst the broader growing trees provide shade and shelter.

Development work in both breeding and grafting techniques has seen a range of non-suckering trees for almost any commercial landscape application.

P. alba bolleana Medium size tree, columnar in shape. Foliage is dark green with silver reverse, turning bright gold in autumn. Generally resistant to leaf rust. Silver poplars sucker freely and should only be planted where this is not going to cause problems.

P. candicans Balm of Gilead. A medium sized ornamental shade tree with broad green leaves. The swelling buds emit a strong and pleasant balsam fragrance in spring.

P. deltoides “Evergreen Hybrid”:- also known as “W.A. Hybrid”. A beautiful pyramidal shaped tree, with bright green medium sized heart shaped leaves. An excellent tree for windbreaks, screens and avenue planting. Semi-evergreen and generally rust resistant. Highly recommended. (Trees grafted onto non-suckering root stocks are available).

P. deltoids “Cottonwood”:- This recently introduced cottonwood grows quickly into a large, handsome, ornamental shade tree. The heart shaped leaves appear to be completely immune to leaf rust. (Trees grafted onto non-suckering root stocks are available).

P. nigra italica   This well-known Lombardy poplar is the proven quick growing, tall avenue or windbreak tree. Distinctive both in and out of leaf, the golden foliage in autumn is spectacular. Commonly planted around orchards, vineyards and property boundaries, suckering has been a problem in some circumstances. To alleviate this problem we have developed a technique to compatibly graft this tree onto non-suckering root stock. Limited supplies of grafted trees are available this year, however we should be in a position to supply much larger quantities in 2000. Good supplies of non-grafted trees are held.

P. italica “Chile”   This evergreen form of the Lombardy poplar has proven to be rapid growing, hardy, tolerant of heat and strong winds. Large numbers are used as shelter belts around Riverland orchards and vineyards. It is susceptible to leaf rust and is recommended for districts where this is not a problem. Grafted trees only available.

P. serotina aurea  Golden poplar. One of the best known and most beautiful of the poplars. The medium size heart shaped leaves have a golden colour in spring and autumn. The tree is medium to large in size and narrowly pyramidal becoming broader as it matures. It tolerates hot conditions if adequate water is provided. Recommended for areas where leaf rust is not a problem.

P. simonii fastigiata Upright Simon poplar. A columnar to narrowly pyramidal non-suckering tree growing to some 10 metres high and 2-3 metres wide. An excellent tree for avenues, screens, driveways and windbreaks, which has proved hardy in nearly all districts. This is a particularly versatile and useful tree with a very short dormant period.

P. szechuanica tibetica This Chinese tree has been described as the most ornamental of all the poplars. It has very large heart shaped leaves with prominent red veins and leaf stalks. The young foliage is coloured in shades of copper and red. It makes a shapely medium sized tree, and although hardy, is best sheltered from strong winds.

P. x Tasman  This new hybrid has come to us with an excellent reputation. It is a strong grower, upright in habit, and is one of the quickest windbreak providers. The green-gold foliage is beautiful in spring and changes to bright green in summer.

P. yunnanensis Yunnan Poplar. A beautiful medium to large shade tree. It is semi-evergreen in mild climates, is rust resistant and does not sucker. We have no hesitation in recommending this tree for larger properties.

P. x 65/31 Bryant and May. Another new hybrid of exceptional vigour having been bred primarily for timber production. It makes a tall, narrowly pyramidal tree and in commercial plantations has attained a height of 26 metres in 8 years. It is rust resistant, hardy and has shiny dark green foliage. A very good substitute for the Lombardy poplar in areas where rust may be a problem. Trees grafted onto non-suckering root stocks are available.

P. x 74/31 This is a handsome tree of great vigour, columnar to narrowly pyramidal with dense deep green foliage. It appears to be sucker free and the foliage immune to rust. We recommend it for large scale landscape work.

P. x euramericana “Veronese” & P. deltoides x yunnanensis “Kawa”:- Two new hybrids that have been bred in New Zealand as windbreak trees. Both are recommended by the larger Victorian growers, however our first hand experience is limited. P. Veronese appears to be the more vigorous of the two and more upright in habit.




Potato “The Humble Spud”

potatoes2Potatoes are easy to grow and are a staple crop in many countries. With lots of varieties available it’s important to know that not all potatoes are the same. Some are right for mashing while others fabulous for baking, steaming, microwaving and then there are those that make the perfect chip. Here a rundown of the most common varieties of spuds and how to use them. 








Coliban Round, white skin, white flesh, floury Average Good Excellent Average Good
Desiree Long, red skin, yellow flesh, creamy Good Good Average Good Poor
Dutch Cream Oval, yellow skin, yellow flesh, creamy Excellent Good Good Excellent Good
Fir Apple Long, pale pink skin, cream flesh, waxy Excellent Good Good Excellent Excellent
Kennebec Round, white/thin skin, white flesh, floury Poor Good Good Good Excellent
King Edward Oval, white & pink skin, white flesh, fluffy Poor Good Excellent Excellent Average
Kipfler Long, yellow skin, yellow flesh, waxy Excellent Poor Average Good Poor
Nicola Long/oval, yellow skin, yellow flesh, waxy Good Good Good Good Average
Pontiac Round, red skin, white flesh, creamy Good Excellent Good Good Poor
Royal Bule Long/oval, purple skin, yellow flesh, sweet Good Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent
Ruby Lou Oval, pink skin, cream/white flesh, creamy Excellent Good Good Good Good
Sebago Oval, cream skin, white flesh, floury Good Excellent Good Good Poor


Potatoes3Seed Potatoes are available for purchase from June/July, these are the best way to go as they are guaranteed to be virus free. It’s possibly to grow potatoes in many months of the year, depending on whether the garden receives frost, as potatoes are frost-tender. Potatoes can be planted in late winter through to early spring, shortly before last frost is expected.  Although planting can be continued into summer the risk of pest and disease increases.

Before planting put seed potatoes into a well lit (out of sunlight) spot for a few weeks to shoot. Seed Potatoes can be cut in half or small piece to increase the number of plants. If cutting into smaller pieces, leave plenty of flesh with each eye and allow the cuts to dry for 24 hours before planting, as cutting into small pieces can increase the risk of rot.

Potatoes prefer a sunny position with fertile, well-drained, acidic soil with a pH less than 6. They will not thrive in heavy clay or a lime soil. Prepare the potato bed with some compost and some Dynamic Lifter or Rapid Raiser.

Plant seed potatoes 10 cm deep, space 30 cm apart and then cover with a mulch about 30 cm deep to retain moisture and protect tubers from light. New shoots will appear in 2-3 weeks and require mounding which will encourage formation of new tubers. Straw mulch can be used for mounding. Give the plants another dressing of Blood and Bone, Dynamic Lifter or Rapid Raiser pellets in early summer.

There are many different ways to grow potatoes, traditional hilling, deep mulch, containers, potato bags and a no-dig garden. Choose the method that suits your garden area the best as success can be had no matter which way you go.

Potatoes usually take three to four months to mature, depending on the variety.  They are ready for harvesting when the majority of the top have withered.  Early potatoes may be dug by hand by carefully digging beneath the plant for table use at any time, but for storage the potatoes should be fully mature. Once dug, dry as quickly, and then store in a cool, dark, dry place. As exposure to light will turn the potatoes green; green potatoes are poisonous and should ever be eaten.

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