Marcelle Nankervis is a Horticulturist who has worked in the Horticultural Media for over 16 years.
She is passionate about Permaculture, Sustainability and Gardening for the Future.

Marcelle regularly writes for Your Garden magazine and Better Homes and Gardens.
Her first book was Plants for Australian Dry Gardens (Murdoch Books).
Marcelle's second is Smart Gardening (Exisle Publishing).

Welcome to my Blog!

As a horticultural writer I often come across people, stories, tips, tricks and real gems of information that never really make their way out of my notebook. I am hoping to share a few of these insights here as well as my own gardening experiences, which includes getting my children excited about plants.

I believe that a strong connection with the garden and our landscape when we are young is vital. I am hoping that educating my children in "Green Living" and "Smart Gardening" will provide them with the fundamental building blocks necessary for them to live long and healthy lives, while also doing their bit in helping to create a sustainable and green future for all.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A unique approach to recycling your old drink cans!

This project certainly takes recycling to the limit.

Billy Robb from Kansas shared his project with Core77 and turned a heap of old soft drink cans into roofing. 

Check it out via this link:  DIY Roofing

I don't know if it is more environmentally friendly than a green roof, but it is certainly a recycling effort that deserves recognition.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's flowering in Summer

Here is a quick whip around my garden. I must admit, I was surprised to find that most plants flowering now, in the middle of December, were "blue" flowering. My garden must be setting a cool theme for the hot summer to follow!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fertilisers Explained

I was just doing some research when I stumbled across this excellent article on fertilisers and vegetables.

It is written by Derek Brooks from Worsley, Manchester for the National Vegetable Society in the UK. 

It talks about the importance of N:P:K and the many types of fertilisers available (both Organic and Inorganic).

It is an excellent article and a great read for vegie growers everywhere.

Read it yourself at:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chives and flowering Alliums

The gardens at Lambley.
Click image to go to the catalogue.
My chives are flowering now, and it always reminds much just how much I adore the flowerheads of flowering alliums. Every year I think that I should include some ornamental alliums in the garden, and then I promptly forget until the next year when my chives flower again.

The first time I really noticed just how beautiful alliums were was at Lambley Nursery and Gardens in Ascot, Victoria. David Glenn had mixed them into his perennial borders and they really were the stars of the show providing colour, contrast and excitement.

He lists Allium sphaerocephalon (Drumstick allium)  in his autumn catalogue (100 plants for $50). The drumstick allium grows to around 1m, takes up very little space and flowers profusely in December.

Allium giganteum
Click image to go to catalogue
 from Australian Gardener
So that gives me flowers in November and December.
But what about the rest of summer?

January and February showcase the large flowerheads of Allium 'Globemaster' (Allium christophii x Allium macleanii) and Allium giganteum. Producing large flowerheads up to 1.2-1.8m tall, these showy alliums are available from February to May via mail order and will fill the garden with spectacular flowers in summer. 
Well, that will certainly have my long awaited desire for a garden full of alliums covered.

Now if I can just remember to order them ....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Book Review: Shack by Simon Griffiths

In all honesty, I probably cannot provide an unbiased review of this book because Simon and I are friends. However, I can say that it is interesting, inspirational and has certainly given me a few ideas for my own shack!

Here is what Penguin have to say:

In Australia shacks have become our protest against the brick veneer, the place where we unwind on holiday, the workshop that feeds our soul.
Photographer Simon Griffiths has travelled the countryside, from Jericho in Tasmania to the remote coast of Broome, to bring us images of shacks that are both familiar and exotic. We meet the shack dwellers – a mix of artists, environmentalists, fishermen, homebuilders and socialites – and experience the pleasure of inhabiting spaces that are at once monuments to self-expression and symbols of old-fashioned common sense.

Beautifully put-together, Shack is a book that takes us back in history, out into the remote reaches of the famous Australian landscape and inwards to connect with our common desire for retreat and renewal.

It is a great collection of images of an old Aussie icon. Check it out by clicking here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Win a copy of my book!

Hi - Just thought I would let you know that Go Greener Australia is giving away a copy of my new book - Smart Gardening.

Read the review and enter the competition at:

Good Luck!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fire safe plants

After the Black Saturday fires, what to plant in the garden became quite an important topic. So, following on from last week about cleaning up around your home, if you are in a fire prone area, consider planting fire safe plants.

Naturally, some plants are less or more flammable than others.

Unfortunately Aussie natives are often highly flammable, because this is part of their lifecycle, which explains how fires spread so easily through our bushland.

Some highly flammable plants to avoid close to your home are:
Acacia sp. (Silver Wattle)
Japanese maples are highly flammable
Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple)
Acmena smithii (Lilly Pilly)
Bambusa vulgaris (Bamboo)
Betula pendula (Silver Birch)
Cupressus funebris (Mourning Cypress)
Eucalyptus sp.
Grevillea sp.
Leptospermum sp. (Teatree)
Melaleuca alternifolia (Paperbark)
Monstera deliciosa (Monstera)
Pinus sp.
Pittosporum undulatum (Sweet Pittosporum)
Quercus robur (English oak)
Spiraea catoniensis (May)
Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose)
These ignite easily and can spread a fire rapidly.

Some plants that are less flammable and better suited to gardens close to homes include:  Artemisia sp. (Wormwood)
Camellia sp.
Datura suaveolens (Angels Trumpet)
Diplarrena moraea (White Flag Iris)
Hebe's are low fire risk plants

Gazania hybrida (Treasure Flower)
Hebe speciosa (Veronica)
Hemerocallis aurantiaca (Day Lilly)
Hydrangea macrophylla (Hydrangea)
Hymenocallis littoralis (Spider Lily)
Hymenosporum flavum (Native Frangipanni)
Lampranthus aurantiacus (Pigface)
Lavendula angustifolia (English Lavender)
Passiflora herbertiana (Native Passionfruit)
Pelargonium peltatum (Geranium)
Pomaderris apetala (Dogwood)
Prunus sp. (Plum)
Syzigium australe (Lilly pilly)

While all plants will burn, it is wise to plant less flammable plants close to your home. Especially in fire prone areas. We should be able to enjoy living among the trees, but we must also do all we can to minimise the risk of a fire starting and spreading in our garden. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Be Bush Fire Ready - Clean your roof!

I was dropping my children off at school the other day when I noticed piles of sticks, twigs and dry leaves had gathered on many of the rooftops and gutters along the route I take through a leafy residential suburb.
Dry leaves and twigs on a roof.

The wild winter we have endured along with the recent spate of roaring winds has caused an unusual amount of debris to gather on roofs which may otherwise be clear.

When we think of bushfires we often think of them being in rural areas, but they could just as easily rip through a leafy residential suburb.

It is time to make your house fire ready and check your roof, gutters and garden for fire fuel sources.

Piles of dried foliage and garden clippings can be a haven for fires, so either compost, shred and mulch or discard plant waste.

Clean gutters and make sure your watering system works.

An afternoon spent cleaning up around your home could save a lifetime of memories, or even your life!

If in doubt, speak to your local CFA to make sure you are bushfire ready.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grey water in gardens

With Summer approaching, grey water will again become an important component of keeping our gardens lush and green. Even if we have had a fair amount of rain over winter and spring, it is no time to become careless or wasteful with water. We still need to make every drop count, if not for now, then for the future.

Although grey water can make a big difference in your garden (sometimes the difference between life and death), it is not recommended for edible plants such as vegies, herbs and fruit trees. It is, however, perfect for lawns and ornamentals, especially if you reduce any soaps or additives.

Using saved water from inside the home (like that collected in a bucket directly from the hot tap or shower) is easy, but if you would like to use the water from the rinse cycle of your washing machine, you should consider installing a grey water diverter at the outflow. These are inexpensive and available from hardware stores and garden centres.

If re-using grey water in the garden, use low or no sodium, phosphate and petrochemical cleaners such as:
- Back to Basics Laundry Liquid
- Biozet Phosphate free
- Bright & Fresh
- Earth Choice Laundry Liquid
- Greencare Laundry Liquid
- Home Brand Laundry Liquid
- Love n’ Care Laundry Liquid
- Lux Pure Soap Flakes
- Purity Sensitive
- Savings Laundry Liquid
- So Gentle Laundry Liquid
- Tri Nature Alpha Plus Laundry Liquid
- Tri Nature Angelica Washing Conditioner
- Triple 7 Safewash
(Independently tested and published by

You should always try to collect the freshest water you can, such as the cold water before the hot tap warms up. This is the cleanest type of "grey water" and the most useful.
If you are serious about re-using your grey water, you could also take a look at installing a grey water treatment system. Unfortunately they are not a set and forget type of system because they do need periodic cleaning, but they will allow grey water to be reused in the home to flush toilets and water the garden.

There are many local regulations governing the use of grey water and grey water treatment systems so be sure to contact your local council and state water authority for recommendations and advice for your area. The EPA website also has detailed specs on various grey water treatment systems, many of which are eligible for water rebates. 

Happy Gardening! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Become a Garden Voyeur!

This morning I am off to visit a few gardens around Melbourne. This the undoubtedly one of best parts of my job. It is also an excellent way to gain new information and ideas. 

Visiting other peoples gardens shows you what you can achieve in a similar sized garden, all the plants you could be growing, wonderful ideas you could be using in your garden, as well as invaluable seasonal information. 

But you don't have to be a garden writer to visit other people's gardens. There are two easy ways to start exploring now:

1. The Open Garden Scheme
The Open Garden Scheme is a long established network of gardens that are open at various times throughout the year, allowing visitors to pay a small fee to explore the featured gardens.  For open times it's best to purchase the Open Garden Scheme Book. It is available by visiting their website:

2. Garden Design Fest
In Melbourne there is also another unique opportunity to visit gardens and it is coming up soon - Garden Design Fest. To be held from the 13-14 November 2010, Garden Design Fest is now in its 4th year, with over 25 gardens to explore from Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsula. One ticket covers entry to all of the gardens, many of which do not usually open to the public.

Flinders, Vic
A full list of gardens and their addresses is available online at Tickets are also available online. $25 covers entry to all gardens and includes a full colour guidebook, or you can pay $5 per garden (available at the garden gate). Gardens are open from 10am to 4.30pm with the designers present at most gardens throughout the day.

East Melbourne, Vic

Showcasing private gardens designed and professionally installed by up-and-coming designers as well as notable landscape designers including Paul Bangay, Rick Eckersley and John Patrick, it is an opportunity too good to miss. If this isn't enough, 100% of the net proceeds also go to Rotary for their Charitable work - so you can learn something and help someone in need!

So make the most of the beautiful weather we are experiencing and explore other people's wonderful gardens. You never know what tips and tricks you may pick up for your own backyard. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Smart Gardening Available Now!

Smart Gardening is available now!

Smart Gardening is my new book and it is now available at all good bookstores and online outlets.

It is a handy reference with monthly activities for Cool, Temperate, Sub-Tropical and Tropical gardeners interested in growing their own produce.

With information on what to plant, what to harvest and jobs to do, whether you are a complete novice or a true green thumb, Smart Gardening will help you through every season.

Following many sustainable and permaculture practices, the first half of the book looks at using the environment to reduce your carbon footprint and save yourself money. The second half is the practical monthly guide which even includes room to pen your own seasonal notes to really personalise Smart Gardening, and make it the best reference book in your bookshelf!

The book follows my own philosophy of saving money, reducing our impact on the environment as well as improving the health and well-being of my family. So if you like the sound of that, take a look at Smart Gardening, you are bound to pick up a few tips and tricks.

Buy your copy online by clicking on the link below or visit your local bookstore.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Start growing some Spring Vegies

We have finally had our first taste of warm spring weather. While the night air still carries a chill, the soil is beginning to warm and the garden is filled with the promise of warmer days and all of spring's abundance. Now is the best time to get out in the vegie garden. There is no excuses for not growing a little produce of your own - even a pot of fresh herbs! Whether you’re an experienced vegie grower or this is to be your first season, here are a few tips and tricks to keep you reaping the rewards for months to come.

1. Plant Asparagus
Asparagus is a long term crop requiring fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Crowns can be purchased in late winter and early spring and should be planted in a position where you will not want to move them for several years. Start with a raised bed and plant the crowns about 50cm apart and at a depth where the crowns are covered with only 2-4cm of soil. The crowns will throw up fern-like foliage which dies back in autumn and can then be removed. The cycle repeats for several years, until the second or third winter sees asparagus spears emerging from the soil. The spears can be harvested when they reach 10-15cm, usually from late winter onwards.

2. Keep track of harvest dates
There are no hard and fast rules about when to harvest vegetables as each vegetable has its own criteria. If you’re the grocery shopper, you’ve probably got a keen eye for the premium produce already so you should be able to pick when crops are at their best crops at home too. It's easy to tell when crops that grow above the ground, such as beans, are ripe for picking because you can see them at a glance. Others, such as carrots, may require a little bit of digging to make sure they are ready to be harvested. As a general rule when sowing seed, read the directions on the packet – these will give you a rough harvest date. Mark it on the calendar and you’re already half-way there.

3. Tasty tomatoes
Tomato Pink Pearl is new to the Oasis range
with part proceeds going to the
National Breast Cancer Research Foundation
A trip to the nursery will quickly tell you when it is time to plant tomatoes – the racks are brimming with various grafted varieties, some new and some old favourites. Grafted plants have the benefits of being much larger when you take them home, as well as improved disease resistance. However, you may prefer to grow your own tomatoes from seed because there is a much broader range available. Sow seed in pots or trays from September and transplant into larger pots as they mature. For the best tasting tomatoes, grow a variety you’ve eaten before. It's always a good idea to grow different tomatoes for different purposes. For example, if you like pasta sauce, plant ‘Roma’ tomatoes. If you like fresh salads, ‘Apollo’ may be a better choice. Of course, if you’re not sure, grow a few different tomatoes. They take up very little space and give you a great harvest every time. 
Cherry tomatoes are the perfect introduction to vegetable growing for kids. They grow well in pots or in the ground. Cherry tomatoes generally require staking because they produce an abundance of fruit, so be sure to position the stakes before you plant, to avoid damaging the root system. You can use a single stake that will do the job adequately, or dress the pot up with a tee-pee of bamboo stakes. Cherry tomatoes are considered sweeter than larger varieties, and kids love them because they are bite sized. Make sure you keep your tomatoes well watered during hot weather otherwise the fruit may split when developing.  Harvest the bunches with secateurs or scissors to keep the stalks intact and the plants tidy.

4. Space savers
You don’t need a big yard to have your own fresh produce. Pots, planter boxes and bag gardens make excellent vegie gardens. Build one to fit your yard or buy something suitable from a nursery or pot shop. The benefits of container vegetable gardens include easier harvesting, as you don’t have to bend down quite as far, and that they are completely relocatable if conditions appear to be not quite right for your vegetables. Many plants grow well in pots, especially herbs, tomatoes, chillies and lettuce.

5. Harvesting lettuce
Lettuce is an essential summer crop with fresh salads a must during the warmer months. There are several varieties of lettuce available. Those that produce a head, such as iceberg, have a set harvest date and must be planted or sown at various intervals so that you do not have all your lettuce ready at once. Continual harvest types are preferable, especially if space is limited. You can simply pick a handful of leaves as required and they will continue to produce leaves. Eventually they may go to seed, but the more often you use them, the longer they last. Try different colours and shapes for a great mixed salad and apply liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks.

6. Colour in the vegie garden
The vegie garden can be as colourful as any other area of the garden. There are many different coloured vegetables available including kale, red-leafed lettuce and even rainbow coloured silver beet. Not only is it a great idea to try something different in the vegie garden, the colours help to create a spectacular effect in the garden. Plant among other ornamentals or in a dedicated vegetable patch. Either way, make you garden productive, colourful and striking.

7. Reliable root crops
Beetroot and carrot are among the most popular root crops in Australia. Ideally established in early spring, the plants grow well throughout the spring months and will see you harvesting crops in around 12 weeks. Carrots need plenty of space if you would like them to grow straight, so regular thinning is required - but that's OK because you can eat these carrots too. Beetroot develops more quickly than carrots and thrives if given regular applications of liquid fertiliser during development. Don't underestimate beetroot. It is an excellent source of Vitamins, can be added to freshly squeezed juices or can be roasted with your other root crops for Sunday lunch.

8.  Getting squashed
Baby squash, also known as Summer squash, is best picked when small because the larger it grows, the more bland the flavour becomes. Harvest before they reach 10cm in diameter and pick frequently to encourage further crops. Sow a few plants each month to ensure a succession of fruit and to extend your harvest season. This will also help to keep the size of your crop manageable as you will be picking from different plants each month. The fruit is not the only edible part of this plant, there are several recipes for baked squash blossoms too.

9. Vegies in small gardens
Australian vegetable gardens were traditionally designated to the rear of the yard because they were considered practical and not beautiful. But English vegie gardens have always been an asset, another element that adds to the overall look of the yard, and most are quite beautiful. In a small garden it's better to follow this example and create a vegie garden that is striking. By planting in a pattern, much like a formal garden, the vegie garden can become a feature, which is vital when space is at a premium. Edged with lettuce and then planted with chives and other leafy vegetables, it's easy to make your vegetable garden, the jewel of your backyard.

10. Beautiful beans
Purple King available from Eden Seeds

Beans are prolific and reliable crops that are perfect for screening unsightly areas or fencing. But if you don’t need to hide any elements in your yard, you could make a statement by growing your beans on a tee-pee. The beans will grow up and cover the structure, giving the vegie garden height and a lovely focal point. You can make the tee-pee or wigwam from sticks, twigs or bamboo stakes, or you could always buy a ready-made obelisk for a more formal statement. Look at Butter Beans, Dwarf French Beans, Snake Beans or Purple King.

Whatever your favourite crops, choose a few and get planting. Fresh produce is invaluable in the kitchen and a worthwhile inclusion in any garden.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Top 10 Fragrant Plants for Spring

Gardens should delight all your senses. They should look beautiful, include tasty produce, and smell gorgeous.  

I know that I am always talking about including herbs and vegies among your garden ornamentals. 'Smart Gardening' as I call it, is imperative in the modern garden. Resources and space are limited so we need to do our bit in reducing our footprint and improving the health of our family and planet. But just because your garden is productive does not mean that it most forego any beauty or fragrance. In fact, perfumed plants can encourage beneficial insects to the garden and improve pollination.

So what are a few scented plants perfect for the spring garden?
Here are a couple of my favourites.

1. Narcissus
With all the easy grow traits of daffodils only much more fragrant, the smaller flowered earlicheer and jonquil are ideal in pots where their perfume can be brought straight to your door. And they are just as popular indoors as cut flowers. Place a bunch in the bathroom for a constant supply of spring fragrance.

2. Hyacinths
Great in pots or on a windowsill in a bulb vase, hyacinths come in a variety of colours including shades of purple, pink, cerise, apricot, lemon and white. Each has a slightly different fragrance, much like individual roses, so you’ll have to grow a few to find your favourite. Buy a mixed pack and do the test yourself.

3. Freesia
Bursting through the soil from late winter and flowering right throughout spring, leave a few freesias in the garden year after year. When left to naturalise, the sweetly scented flowers will keep blooming each spring, giving you a better display every year. Plant under a deciduous tree for a spectacular spring picture. 

4. Jasmine
A fragrant evergreen climber, jasmine flowers profusely throughout spring and then produces batches of scented blooms on and off during the summer months. A vigorous climber which establishes itself quickly, you’ll need a trellis for this one. Use it as a scented divider between properties and position it outside your kitchen window to enjoy the fragrant blooms every time you air your kitchen.

5. Wisteria
With a delicate sweet perfume, wisterias put on a breathtaking display of pendulous flowers in spring. Twining happily up over pergolas and arbours where they can form a scented ceiling, they help to create an outdoor scene that’s ideal for outdoor entertaining in spring. Deciduous, wisterias create a canopy of shade from the summer sun, while allowing the winter sun to penetrate and warm the area, giving you the best of every season.

6. Syringa
A cool climate favourite, lilac became a traditional inclusion in the American colonial garden as a welcome to visitors. It can do the same in your garden, especially during spring when the flowers are produced en masse.

7. Lavender
French lavender (Lavandula dentata) flowers from autumn right through until late spring, producing masses of perfumed flower spikes on a plant about one meter tall. Plant as a hedge for colour and fragrance for much of the year. The downy grey foliage also makes them suitable for coastal areas.

8. Philadelphus
With the strong smell of orange blossom, hence their common name of mock orange, Philadelphus sp. are frost hardy and easy to grow in sun or light shade. Flowering from late spring throughout early summer, the profusion of white blooms fills the garden with their glorious aroma.

9. Boronia
A fragrant Australian native, boronia produces its famed perfume not from the flowers but from the foliage. Boronias have a reputation for being temperamental in the domestic garden, mainly because they prefer constantly moist, free-draining soil. Cut for use in a vase inside, they flower from spring through summer.

10. Stock
A brilliantly scented annual flowering from late winter through spring, stock (Mathiola incana var. annua) is an excellent cut flower which is best collected from your garden first thing in the morning. Varying in height from 15cm right up to around 90cm, there is a variety of stock for each situation. Sow seed in January and February in warm climates and from September to December in cooler areas for flowers next spring.

This list is in no way comprehensive. Take a trip to your local nursery to select the most fragrant plants for your garden.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bag Gardens - The Perfect Planter

African bag gardens are used in Africa as a solution to growing vegies and food crops with limited resources. The same principles can be applied in your own backyard, patio or courtyard.

They are especially useful where space is limited but you would like to grow your own herbs and vegies.

How to:

1. Start with a hessian bag. You can use any type of bag but if looks are important, get a new hessian bag. Otherwise, recycle a grain or other woven pet food bag.

2. Fill in layers with good quality potting mix. As you fill each layer you need to position a column of rocks or pebbles throughout the centre of the bag. This can be done with ag-pipe, pvc pipe, recycled bottle or cans (with holes cut in them) etc. This column is the irrigation channel for the bag so that when you water from the top, the water spreads out evenly throughout the entire bag.

3. Slice holes in the side of the bag to plant seedlings and, of course, plant in the top.

4. Position in full sun. Water regularly.

Bag gardens can be decorative additions to the garden, but most importantly, they are an easy and effective way of growing your own produce in small spaces. Try using bags of different heights and sizes to create an attractive vegie garden in any sunny space.

The illustration above is courtesy of Send a Cow. This is a UK organisation that helps thousands of families in Africa grow enough food to eat, to sell their produce and to develop small businesses that last. To show your support go to:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Gardens Program

Stephanie Alexander is not just a wonderful chef, she is also a great supporter of educating children about growing their own produce. The Kitchen Garden Foundation is her Australian schools project where children between Grades 3-6 are encouraged to develop a productive garden. The grow the vegetables, harvest them and then cook and eat them.

"The aim of the Kitchen Garden Program is pleasurable food education for young children. The underlying belief is that by introducing this holistic approach we have a chance to positively influence children’s food choices in ways that have not been tried before.
A Kitchen Garden is created to provide edible, aromatic and beautiful resources for a kitchen. The creation and care of a Kitchen Garden teaches children about the natural world, about its beauty and how to care for it, how best to use the resources we have, and an appreciation for how easy it is to bring joy and well being into one’s life through growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal produce."

I first heard Stephanie talk about this at the 2009 Landscape Conference in Melbourne and I was really impressed by her enthusiasm for the project.

Since then I have driven past several schools boasting the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Gardens logo. 

The more we encourage our children to grow their own food as well as cooking wonderful, fresh, healthy food, the better the legacy we leave behind.

For more information on the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Gardens Program visit the link below.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's Flowering Now

Welcome to Spring!

A quick drive around my neighbourhood revealed many plants in full bloom now, several of which are a little earlier than expected.

Spring certainly came early on the Mornington Peninsula.

This list is in no way comprehensive. It is just a glimpse of the 1st of September in 2010.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Product - Biodegradable Pots

I recently received a sample of a new style of pot called Pot'n all (because you plant it 'Pot and all'). Great for cuttings and plants that you would ultimately plant out in your garden anyway, they minimise root disturbance and are made from all natural materials which are renewable.

An Historical Perspective

The first flower pots used commercially were terracotta. While they had (and still do have) many benefits, their weight and fragility was not practical in nurseries. This lead to the popularity and widespread acceptance of plastic pots. And although plastic pots are durable, lightweight and reduce water loss, they can contribute to waste and landfill if not made from recyclable plastics or if not recycled appropriately. Even then, fossil fuels and valuable energy is still used in the recycling process. Biodegradable pots have been around for sometime but these have been largely confined to smaller propagating pots and tubes like Jiffy pots. Pot'n all are available in regular pots sizes to try to create and fill a new niche in commercial growing.

Pot'n all is made from coconut fibre which is torn from the husk of the coconut. It is then washed, teased and sundried. The material is compressed into long sheet and sprayed with a natural latex rubber. It is allowed to dry before being cut into sheets and pressed into pot shapes using high pressure moulding. (No fossil fuels are used in this process.)

Ramm Botanicals have been trialling the pots for two years and say that the above ground results are identical between these and traditional plastic pots. However, it is below ground where these coconut pots have all the benefits with no root disturbance, quicker planting and no rubbish or clean up. 

While trials still continue, I can certainly see many benefits and I hope that further studies reveal that this process is not only better for the environment, but also the nursery and landscape industries. 

Did you know?

Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to use pots to move plants from one location to another. (REF:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kids - Yates Sunflower Challenge

The Yates/Junior Landcare Sunflower challenge is now open for registration!

Yates and Junior Landcare are encouraging children under 16 years of age to grow giant sunflowers this summer.

All you need to do is register before the 22nd October 2010 and then Yates will send out the sunflower seeds before the end of the month. 

Not only is this a fun activity, it is also a great way for kids to learn about gardening, sustainability and the environment.

“We are delighted to be able to provide encouragement and support to all young budding gardeners out there and to help educate them on the importance of growing produce and the environmental benefits achievable from sustainable gardening practices,” said Heather Campbell, CEO Landcare Australia.

Judy Horton, Communications Manager, Yates added: “The previous challenges we have run in conjunction with Junior Landcare have been hugely successful and we hope with this challenge we will continue to encourage and foster a new generation of junior gardeners. We also hope the participants will enjoy discovering their green fingers and seeing the results of their labour.”

The Yates Junior Landcare Sunflower Challenge follows on from last year’s hugely successful Yates Junior Landcare Pumpkin Challenge which saw almost 20,000 children taking part in a competition to grow the largest pumpkin. The group winner was the McGrath family from Toowoomba, Queensland, with a 175kg whopper, while the individual winner was Boyd Wales from Walcha in rural NSW with an impressive 94kg pumpkin.

To register click on the link below and get your kids involved in one of the most sustainable hobbies ever - gardening! You can also win some great prizes!

Aussie Native - Sturts Desert Pea

I remember getting five seeds of Sturts Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa) to grow as an assignment while studying horticulture at university. We all got them to germinate but only a few people nurtured them until they flowered. Sadly, I was not one of them.

On a recent trip to Alice Springs I was happily reminded of this unusual native annual, or short lived perennial, as it was mass planted in the garden beds at the front of our hotel.

The floral emblem of South Australia, this plant has undergone several name changes, even since I was at university ... which admittedly was a few years ago now! Formerly Clianthus formosus and Willdampia formosa, it is now referred to as Swainsona formosa, or at least it was when I wrote this. More often than not Horticulturists scoff at common names preferring the reliability of Botanical Nomenclature - in this case, it is the common name that has withstood the test of time.

This photo was taken in July, the middle of winter, and as you can see, they are in full flower. Alice Springs and the surrounding area had had some of the coolest weather for some time (even colder than Melbourne!) and plenty of water. In fact, the Todd River was flooded for much of our stay.

To grow your own, soak seeds overnight in warm water so that they swell to around the size of a matchhead. They will then be ready to plant. Seeds should germinate easily but coaching plants through to flowering is the trick. Sturts Desert Pea has a long tap root, needs free-draining soil and minimal root disturbance. Over-watering is a killer, so plant in pots to assist with adequate drainage. Naturally occuring in arid areas throughout Central Australia, water only when necessary and sparingly.

Sow seed in winter in Tropical and Sub-Tropical areas and spring in temperate and cooler zones. Flowering should occur within 12 weeks. Beautiful potted plants which make an impressive gift, try growing them as a Christmas present for the green thumb in your life.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Say No to Junk Mail!

I love my junk mail!

I love to sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and flick through the specials. I work out where I will shop and what bargains I will get. But the impact of these catalogues on our environment is huge.

According to, there are around 8,000,000,000 (8 billion) catalogues delivered around Australia each year, for around 23 million people. That is a lot of printed paper!

The resources required to produce these catalogues is enormous. Just consider:
- the number of trees used to produce the paper
- the amount of water used
- the fuel & energy required for production and distribution
- the chemicals used in the printing process
- the CO2 that is released into the atmosphere
- the amount of paper rubbish that ends up in landfill.

It seems like it is definitely time to read our "Junk Mail" online.

Click on the link below and reduce your environmental footprint. I have!
Regards Marcelle
Say No to Junk Mail - Its easy to get involved

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Herbs - Passionate about Parsley

I love parsley. It is undoubtedly one of the easiest herbs to grow, you rarely need to manually resow it as it self-sows every year (if you let it) and it is packed with Iron.

My love affair with parsley probably started when I had my first child in hospital. I had complications during the birth which left me weak and pale. The nursing staff ordered pineapple juice with parsley and I drank it for several days. Some days it was blended together; others it was rough chopped. I can't be sure how much it helped because I was also put on stronger Iron related products, but even now I use parsley whenever I can. We use parsley in freshly squeezed juice, spaghetti bolognese and salads, to name a few. Reportedly good for bad breath, I prefers it's nutritional boost and antioxidant qualities.

My children love picking it and subsequently, they love to eat it … even raw!

The other wonderful thing about parsley is that it can make anyone look like they have a green thumb! It is lush and green when other plants are anything but glamorous. Grown in pots, planters or garden beds, parsley is one of the best entry level herbs available - not only because it looks good and is easy to grow, but because you can admire it and then eat it!

Right now, my parsley is bulging from its garden beds, providing my family, our rabbits as well as our chooks, with plenty of crisp greens. I grow both Curly-leafed parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and Flat-leafed parsley (Petroselinum neapolitanum). More for the different foliage textures in salads than for any believed flavour comparisons. They are beginning to blend together in the garden, but I don't mind as long as they are growing happily together.

Fabulous edging plants, parsley prefers full sun and a well prepared, free-draining soil. A biennial that is commonly grown as an annual, I continually harvest it, picking the outer leaves first. While it is easy to grow, it can be difficult to germinate, sometimes taking several weeks. Patience is required. The other option is to purchase seedlings. These will get you started straight away and then you can leave some plants to go to seed. At the end of summer after my parsley has bolted, I throw a couple of handfuls of good topsoil over the area to protect the seeds. They will then germinate when the conditions are right.

Buy a pot today and start your own romance with this versatile herb.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Welcome to my Blog!

As a horticultural writer I often come across people, stories, tips, tricks and real gems of information that never really make their way out of my notebook.
They may not have been suitable for the story or were just not timely.
I am hoping to share a few of these insights here as well as my own gardening experiences. This includes creating my dream garden (which will happen in the next 6 months), as well as getting my children involved in gardening.
I believe that a strong connection with the garden and our landscape when we are young is vital. I am hoping that educating my children in "Green Living" and "Smart Gardening" will provide them with the fundamental building blocks necessary for them to live long and healthy lives, while also doing their bit in helping to create a sustainable and green future for all. Something we can all become more involved in.
Happy Gardening!