Top ten list of garden plants

  • Abutilons of all kinds
  • Buddlejas old and new
  • Epiphytic orchids and ferns
  • Gordonia species
  • Heliotrope, Lemon verbena, Fennel and herbs
  • Michelias of all sorts
  • Perennial Salvias large and small
  • Species Camellias
  • Tea and China Roses
  • Weigela of all types

Montville Rose

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

The first of January 2011 and here at Montville the heavy rain continues as it has since october. We have had a couple of fine days to be fair. Tragically many significant towns and smaller communities have been devastated by record flooding which has been a feature of the Christmas New Year period, after years of drought.

Justicia carnea in a wet garden.

So far our own home and our own family elsewhere has been spared any damage but all of us are concerned for residents at Chinchilla, Condamine, Dalby, Emerald, Theodore, Bundaberg and Rockhampton and all surrounding centres as they wait to be able to clean up and recover.
As for ourselves in the continuing deluge, mouldy shoes and a touch of "cabin fever" , a wet dog and a damp, dark little house will be our pattern as we look at our garden through the window.....probably until March.
Let us hope for better times for the residents of the Darling Downs and central Queensland in days to come.
Michael Simpson

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Indoors again,arts, crafts and plans

Well it has been raining consistently for the last 48 hours and Montville has decended into thick fog and looks beautiful. I love the soft colours and it is the upside of walking the stir crazy dog on a wet Sunday afternoon.
As usual we have projects on the go indoors but sometimes it is hard to keep motivated when the rain doesn't let up (for months) and inside seems dank too.
I am making a Christmas present for Michael . It is a seed shelf and is based on the old fashioned Yates seed displays that were once in shops.It is looking good and will be very colourful once the seed packets are in place.I have also finished another childrens book and have only a couple of pages left to do on the last one.
Michael has been preparing for his next book and also has painted up a nativity scene for the front gate, after the style of Giotto, but in cheap Chinese acrylics.
As for the garden,we were fortunate to have a sunny morning on Friday and the sound of mowers and chain saws rang around the district. Michael managed to spray some Triforine and Glyphosate. I find that every time I walk outside I see things I want to do. Pathways are blocked by drippy branches and some paths are getting very mossy but it is nothing that can't be tackled when the weather fines up.
Lots of things in flower, Brugmansia candida (lutea, versicolor and alba) look beautiful as does Iochroma cyaneum. All the old fashioned roses are flowering but being bashed up by the rain. The mysteriously disappearing Impatiens and Cleome hassleriana have reappeared here and there and I hop that they self seed backinto prominence. As usual Salvias (S.confertifolia, S.iodanthe, S.macrophylla, S.madrense, S.coccinea (white, red and discolor), S.uliginosa, S.splendens (all sorts) and S.involucrata) all prosperous and flowering as is Philadelphus coronarius.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Grass trials

For anyone who has visited our garden over the years they will know that we have stuggled with grassy path ways.Either it has been drought and too dry to get grass started or it has been wet and muddy. The fact of the matter is that we like trees and like a shady garden and most of the original grass prefers sun. We are also very thrifty and have not wanted to spend money on turf.
But in our usual style we have stumbled upon a solution. Our brother in law Ian who has experience with golf courses suggested we purchase a small amount of turf (Sir Walter)and cut it into squares and plant these so they will eventually send runners out and this worked well. We also were given a few pots of( Sweet smother) by Ron Treloar and this has been successful too.
The main issue has been that when large numbers of visitors walk around the garden areas of grass do get thin.Our solution has been to barrow small sized gravel as paths on the most used patches. Now there is grass growing through and over the gravel and we are back to lawn in most areas that can be mowed.The gravel seems to have enhanced the growth of the grass and it feels firmer under foot. I think that it would be a good idea in any garden to start with a gravel base on the pathways as I think it gives the grass some protection in the early stages and perhaps the texture of the gravel helps to scouer the soil and make it more friable for the young roots. Kyleigh

Friday, December 3, 2010

soft edges

As always I am thinking about gardening and forever evaluating gardens that I see and that includes the public spaces. As we left Brisbane nearly 20 years ago it continues to be a bit of a shock to see how it has changed and how the hard landscaping of parks and walk ways has reduced all the delightful soft edges.The low maintenance landscaping approach to parks where large areas of concrete are strategically laid out, repetitive plantings are in designated areas and teamed with the ubiquitious street art has been taken to the extreme. In fact there now seems to be very few untouched park spaces that haven't had this treatment. Every park seems to have a monumental playground of colourful tubular steel and plastic and these more often than not require a man made shade where a tree has been removed. Do the adults who design these playgrounds assume that children are incapeable of entertaining themselves in a more natural setting?
I recently was lamenting this fact with Maurice Wilson at the Garden History dinner and we identified Moora Park in Shorncliffe as a case in point. It now has a very elaborate and large playground down at the beach and while it is interesting and well used it has significantly blocked access and changed the site.
As a child I played in the sand and swam in the shark proofed enclosure. Hours were spent climbing the cotton trees, playing on the cliffs and walking along the groins and the pier. By always offering up a ready made play environment to children we may just be reducing the opportunities for them to use their imaginations and to be closer to nature.
Up until this "park scaping"you would go to Moora Park ,to be at the beach and it really didn't need anything else.Who thought that it was a good idea to improve on nature?
As for soft edges and soft landings there is nothing like grass to walk,run and play on and I really hope that more grassy areas are saved. The City Hall landscaping proves that you can take a functioning place where people used to sit and turn it into a hostile no mans land where people are effectively discouraged from being there.
In my opinion the city council should go a step further and rip up the Queens Street Mall and put back the road. This would reduce the places for people to linger and free up the flow of traffic too.
The Queens Street Mall and others in capital cities around Australia tend to follow the same formula of paving, small garden features,a few trees and the occassional kiosk. They are not welcoming places,rapidly become run down and degenerate and do not work well.
On the positive side I do like the Roma Street Parklands and the old Botanical Gardens and elements of sub tropical plantings could easily be echoed in the city square. We have an ideal climate in Queensland to introduce a lot of colourful ,hardy plants to the street scapes and with less emphasis on paved walkways could have a softer Brisbane.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Time to Re-design for 2011

Toward the end of spring and with ongoing cool wet weather and a gentle start to summer some garden changes are in the pipe-line. Already Camellias, Azaleas and our hedges are being trimmed. Loropetalum chinense 'China Pink' which had completely blocked the light from our bedroom window, together with Goldfussia syn Strobilanthes , Azalea 'Exquisite' and Justicia carnea have been cut back severely. When Rhodomyrtus tomentosa, Grewia occidentalis and Tibouchina 'Noelene' stop flowering they will also be severly brought back in size.
These jobs relate to one small area of the garden but the same discipline has to be applied throughout. Mountains of trimmings result, but these 'turkey nests' break down to mulch over a period of time.
Drastic action is required in the north of the garden where one, possible two very large Cupressus are to be brought down to bring more light into the centre of the garden. Most will be mulched but some fire logs are sure to result. At the same time a very tall yellow Grevillea will be reduced by four or five meters and a Buckinghamia celcissima cut in half to reduce shade and reveal a beautiful Magnolia grandiflora which will eventually dominate the space.
We want to be able to have an unimpeded view of this Magnolia so a good few meters length of branches from a large Gordonia axillaris behind the house will be removed. Eventually the view to this Magnolia grandiflora from our back verandah will be framed by the white flowering Gordonia axillaris on one side , and the white flowering Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka' on the other.
It's not all subtraction at this time . New rose gardens, with pitching rock edges have been added either side of the front path to take cuttings grown old fashioned roses, 'Alexander Hill Gray', 'Mme Joseph Swartz', 'Etoile de Lyon', 'Perle des Jardins' and 3 specimens of a mysterious rose which resembles 'Homere'. We have also added Cleome including the new cultivar Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita' , Phaseolus giganteus on an arch at the opposite end of a path to an arch of Phaseolus caracalla.
Many other cuttings grown roses wait to be planted.
Flowering now is Galtonia, Zepharanthes rosea, Hellerborus x hybrids, Canna x generalia and Canna indica, Alstroemeria pulcellum and many other herbaceous plant and shrubs such as the Salvias and Budlejas.
We look forward to 2011 and will decide this week whether that means geing part of the 2011-2012 season of the Australian Open garden Scheme
Michael Simpson

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

meetings and developments

One of the opportunities which we have seized upon in 2010 is to make an effort to meet fellow gardeners through several open garden days, invited garden club visits, book launches, website/blog and welcoming private visitors.
Another side benefit of all this activity is that which flows to local groups, some less interested in Gardening, who have come together to join us at Open garden events. In June members of the Montville Rural Fire Brigade in full kit greeted visitors at the gate. In October members of the Hunchy Community Association not only created the fantastic Heritage Rose nursery (Kate Stock) Camellia 'Takanini' The Shambles
but created a wonderful plant stall, helped an the gate and for the Heritage Roses in Australia tour visit, helped prepare the catering. Thankfully each of these community groups benefitted significantly from funds raised in the garden. Our son John and daughter Eleanor, Margaret and Laurie Jeays, Kay Simpson friends and family also came together to work at these events.
At the invitation from Noel Burdette we were fortunate enough to speak to a large and enthusiastic garden group at the Springfields Nursery run by Ruth and Noel. Our book 'Over the Fence and Overlooked, Traditional Plants in Queensland's Gardening Heritage' and our DVD 'AGarden in the Rain' had opened the door to this opportunity and we hope that there are many more.
There are many ways to share a garden and the enthusiasm of gardening. Writing books, making films, publishing a website/blog, making postcards and opening the garden and sharing it have been enjoyable for us in 2010. Next year something else? The calendar is filling already.
Michael Simpson

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Autumn to Summer

With open gardens etc. behind us and with a very good rainfall so far this year the time has come for some subtraction and alteration at 'The Shambles'.
At least 6 different Coleus, some Stenocarpus or nodding Violets, Salvias, Pelargoniums and Buddlejas from cutting have been going in.
Garden beds have been extended either side of a winding asphalt front path by layering cardboard, newspaper, straw and mushroom compost. These beds are waiting for a little more maturity from our cuttings grown roses acquired from Kate Stock. Into this space will be planted Perle des Jardin, Perleno. 2 (?Etoile de Lyon), Mme Joseph Swartz and Alister Stella Gray. We have several pots almost ready with Comptesse de Labarthe, Professeur Ganiviat and Homere.
Also waiting for a climbing space are Alice Garnier, Altissimo and Buff Beauty.
Potted roses who will be kept in large ceramic pots (with an inner plastic pot) for the summer include Harry Wheatcroft, Julias Rose, Camille Pisarro, Graham Thomas and Mr. Lincoln.
That's all process, but to outcome Wendy Lonie has taken away 5 buckets of roses for her daughters wedding tomorrow, all old fashioned roses of many colours.
As summer heat has not affected us at all until so late the gentle flowers of so many perennials and delicate things have had a chance to display without wilting away unlike last year.
Salvias, Salvia macrophyum, S.coccinea, S.guaranitica, S.iodanthe, S.mexicana, S.miniata, S. uliginosa along with shrubs such as Brillantasia, Pentas, and all the species and varieties of Abutilon are flowering in a blaze of colours. Violas, Verbena, Linaria, Dianthus and Golden Rod are in full display as are Plectranthus.
Sadly we have arranged the removal of a large healthy Cupressus leylandii which now (amongst our othe conifers) projects too much shade into the middle of the garden. In the space (still protected) created we already have Hydrangea , Pieris and other such ready to go in.
Also sad, it would appear that our dreams of Clematis are coming to nought, although transplanted Acanthus mollis and Plectranthus ecklonii 'Hawthorne Pink' are powering on.
May it stay cool and even wet this year. Just can't stand the heat.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Party is Over. Free at Last

During the last week we have had the National Tour of Heritage Roses in Australia visit us on Tuesday, and an Open Garden through the Australian Open Garden Scheme on Saturday and Sunday. Firstly let me say thankyou to Margaret and Laurie Jeays, James Simpson, Martin Leonard, Isobel and Gary Tynan, our son John Simpson and everyone else who helped us with the physical work of preparation for these events.
Picture: Brunfelsia latifolia & wishing well.

Kyleigh and I have worked hard for at least a year introducing new plants, supporting our large inventory of plants with fertilizing , pruning and pest control and building new structures.
The roses were pruned late July and brought forth beautifully for the Tuesday event.
A wonderful range of old fashioned roses, grown from cutting, was available prepared and beautifully labelled by Kate Stock. Apart from helping to prepare the lunch for the Rose conference delegates, members of the Hunchy Community Association prepared a fantastic selection of plants for sale, and of course many were sold
Just as we leave these unseasonally cool,wet spring conditions behind I noted today that flower buds are ready to burst on Tibouchina 'Noelene', Rhodomyrtus tomentosa and on the Amaryllis and Lilium longifolium.
Ornamental Salvias such as S.guaranitica, S.uliginosa, S. megalophyllum and Brillantasia are coming into flower to augment the colourful Salvia miniata, Salvia splendens (many types) and ever present Salvia coccinea.
It's time for us to have a rest and enjoy it
Michael Simpson

Friday, October 1, 2010

A week of Open Garden and Visitors ahead

Image Abutilon hybrid (double pink)
Why does anyone open their garden to friends and strangers? The answer is not that straight forward. In our case it has been; because we were asked to, or because an organization we belonged to was fundraising, or to support other gardeners in a garden festival. This coming week we are open on Tuesday to the National Tour of Heritage Roses in Australia because we were happy to open our garden and especially the rose gardens for people of a similar interest.
They won't be at our garden for very long, and after providing them with lunch, we hope that they remember a favourite rose or at least a well made sandwich.
When we build gardens, we create not a snapshot 'picture' but a whole story written in the form, colour, scale and even scent of an artificial landscape. Most people love to visit other peoples homes and gardens to see how things are and perhaps make comparisons. However, without realising it , while walking around, hands behind the back and a critical eye garden visitors will be reading the story of a garden.
Some of us visit gardens to discover new and interesting species, but we all will leave with a sense of the place and it's story. Larger, established and complicated and even run down gardens will always give the visitor a more interesting story than a newly built , perhaps contrived and overmanaged garden.
Hopefully the story our garden tells to visitors is one of a cherished family space, full of variety and robust colour as a nod to the Victorian era and style. More art than science and more luck than good management.
Michael Simpson

Sunday, September 19, 2010

show time is nearly upon us

Open Garden looms on saturday 9th and Sunday 10th October. This follows on from the visit on 5Th October of the National tour of Heritage Roses in Australia.
With only two and a bit weeks to go until our big week of open gardens the conditions couldn't be more favourable. As the working week approaches rain is forecast and all Kyleigh's hard work, mulching, pruning, fertilizing and infill planting has produced a spectacular show. Our usually dry, drab and dusty September conditions do not apply in 2010.
New plantings Roses: Mrs BR Cant x2, Carabella x1 well grown from cutting
Pink flowering Pieris japonica
Erysum bicolor x2 different colour hybrids
Vibernum megacephalum x2
From Talgai homestead thanks to Patrick, white Viola odorata, Lilium, Dahlia,
California poppies and Bulbine from
Pink hippeastrum
Cream Clivea miniata
We have a great many cuttings plants in pots including old fashioned roses and many interesting perennials and shrubs.
Flowering at the moment is most things but interestingly
Clemetis "Andromeda"
Tabebueia (yellow)
Gardenia florida
Centradenia, Bauhinea corymbosa, Euryops (or Gamalepis daisy),
Some Camellias still
Buddleja "Wattlebird"
Many Grevilleas
Echium candicans
Pelargoniums etc. etc.
We have members of the Hunchy Community Organization who have prepred plants for sale including a fabulous range of hard to get plants and old fashioned roses.
With any weather this open garden promises to be special
Michael Simpson

Thursday, August 19, 2010

other gardens and responsibilities

Dendrobium speciousum, 'The Shambles'.
As well as our own garden and the ongoing preparations we are making for our October 9th open garden, we have a responsibility for 3 other gardens. If you start something off you may as well expect to carry on unassisted, so these other places seem largely to have become our sole responsibility.
Firstly, here at home in Montville, a large amount of tropical chick weed, Tradescantia and clutter has been removed yet again by Kyleigh. Our Galtonia, Spanish Bluebells, Clematis and others are emerging but with the Buddleja salvifolia and Buddleja 'Wattlebird' in full flower I fear that spring will be too early for our open garden display. All the roses are coming back strongly with new growth after their late july pruning.
In Brisbane the garden at our daughter and son in laws house is establishing well. As the house is white with blue trim (with a lovely sharp black powder coated wire fence in contrast) we established a garden with lots of blue and grey accents. Plumbago 'Royal Cape', Brunfelsia latifolia, Lavandula stoechas, Agapanthus praecox, Helichrysum italicum, Lantana montevidensis, Clerodendrum ugandens have been augmented with Osteospermum and Argyranthemum daisies on our last visit. Shrubs also include Loropetalum 'China pink' and the showy twining plants Hardenbergia violacea, Bauhinia corymbosa and Solanum jasminoides.
On our last visit the very healthy weeping melaleuca, Callistemons , Cassia javanica, Caesalpinea ferrea, Tibouchinas, Tuckeroo, Syzgium and Frangipanis in the back yard were augmented with Grevillea 'moonlight','superb', 'Sandra Gordon' and 'Pink parfait'. We have been encouraged by the colourful corners which have healthy ferns, cordyllines, Dieffenbachia and Bromeliads. Of all things the Bougainvilleas seem to have really struggled.
Yesterday, at the Montville Uniting Church the 4 year old Lavandula stoechas alternating with tea roses are finally looking quite sparse. We have interplanted Rosemary, Salvia, Dianthus, Pelargonium and Verbena. Everything is looking quite healthy so Kyleigh removed a lot of 'fishbone' fern from under and around a lovely collection of shrubs on the northern side which include Michelia 'Bubbles', Spiraea cantonensis, Grevilleas, Buckinghamia, tetradenia, Centradenia underplanted with Dianellas and Plectranthus amboniensis. We also planted a healthy Callistemon (pink flowering hybrid) and gave up trying to spray for an infestation of bindii weed due to equipment failure.
Then on to the Montville Hall where all of our plantings look very healthy. There is a perennial problem with the two small gardens either side of and inside the Memorial Gates which relates to very poor depleted soil, which often appears to be bone dry. We have thrown in lots of organic material over the last five years but well meaning people also use these gardens as a place to stack the prolific fall of material, spent flowers etc from the adjacent Ficus benjamina. This stuff seems to set like concrete and seems quite hydrophobic. Never the less the old fashioned roses, 'Comptesse de Labarthe', 'Beauty of Glenhurst' and 'Princesse de Sagan' look very good with new growth. The various Salvias, Heliotrope, Goldfussia, Buddleja, Shrub Basil, Reinwardtia indica, Camellia sasanqua, Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis, Pentas lanceolata, Spiraea cantonensis and Centradenia were in good nick. We planted Marigolds, verbena, Hibiscus syriacus and Hardenbergia violacea to brighten things up.
This was all done in the last 4 days and ,as forecast, along came the rain over night to water things in. We are always aware that people only value a garden in development or looking it's best. There is always a danger to these places, that if the custodians drop their guard and the place looks shabby, some obsessively neat committee member will propose 'cleaning it up'. In Queensland terms a 'clean up' means annihilating a beautiful complex garden and concreting the edges in straight lines then mass planting the most drab, soul destroying 'low maintenance' things that the hardware wants to discount and get rid of.
Michael Simpson

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

returning home, the preparation continues

Grandbaby Leo and Kyleigh with Rosa "Princesse de Sagan" Bougainvilleas Court House Cloncurry

On the first week of August we returned after a fortnight working in Cloncurry, North West Queensland.
The country side around Mt.Isa and Cloncurry is very beautiful with low growing Acacia and Eucalypt woodland interrupted by dramatic ranges and mesas of red rocks and boulder outcrops.
Domestic gardens were lit up by Bougainvillea and Ixora which contrast dramatically to the form and colour of locally endemic plants.
The day we flew out in late July we had a visit from fellow members of Heritage Roses in Australia who came to help up us clean up, prune and prepare all of our old fashioned Tea and China roses for the 5th October. On that day it is the turn of our garden at 'The Shambles' to be visited by the National Tour of Heritage Roses in Australia which has been suitable titled 'Rainforest to Roses'.
We shared some cuttings and struck yet more of our own from the prunings.
In early August the roses are responding already with lots of new growth. Although there is finally some cool (rather than genuinely cold) weather we are pleased that Clematis 'Daniel Deronda' and 'Andromeda' are establishing well. Pieris rhykuensis ? P chinensis is flowering beautifully with chains of pure white bells. Both Gordonia axillaris and Gordonia yunnanensis are in flower as is Camellia japonica 'Blood of China', 'Commander Mullroy' and of course the irrepressible 'Aspasia MacArthur'. Of our investment this year in yet more types of hardy bulbs Spanish Bluebells, Ipheion, Snowflake and various Friesias are up and the silly Friesias are forming buds. I am looking forward to Hippeastrum papilo in summer.
It is my impression that even though we would like to see all the various spring flowering plants hold off our lack of cold weather will see many of our garden favourites will have shot their bolt in September, which has previously been a lean time. Please bring on the cold

Friday, July 16, 2010


Just when it feels safe to relax after a june Open Garden prepartions for October have to be made.
Firstly, we have congratulated ourselves that two major events are together in one week. The National Tour of Heritage Roses in Australia comes here on 5th October, and our commitment to the Australian Open Garden Scheme is the following weekend the 9th and 10th October.
Apart from the garden itself and the health of plants the considerations are now on marketing and promotion, staffing the gate, catering refreshments for visitors, entertainments, plants for sale and finishing some structural elements: perhaps an arch/lattice structure, a wishing well and a coral fountain! Nothing much really.
We have our own little postcards which are popular and have nearly finished a third gardening book.
Rosa: Cornelia
Most importantly in the garden we have been rescuing some roses and nursing them in large pots where they seem better off until after the Open Garden e.g. Roses Graham Thomas, Camille Pisaro, Mr.Lincoln and a beautiful old rose which looks like Homere. Among other potted roses we are potting bare rooted Camp David, Altissimo, Julias Rose and quite a few others. Cuttings of many perennial plants are being struck especially fast and reliable Salvias, Coleus and pelargoniums.
We have large bags of fertilizer, blood and bone and sulphate of potash to go on. This can wait as we are expecting a visit from members of Heritage Roses in Australia (Qld) on 25th July for a pruning day when we hope to make the reductions which will see Roses at their best for 5th October at 11 30 AM precisely.
Lets Hope
Michael Simpson

Friday, July 9, 2010

Winter Garden, no time to rest

Picture left: Rosa 'Prosperity'
It's quite cool and rainy today and that is quite a relief in one sense.
During the week we planted bulbs for Hippeastrum papilo, Tigridia, Galtonia candicans and Spekelia formosissimum. There is a bit of a 'bulby' theme to plantings lately and it has been rewarding to see Amaryllis belladonna, Friesia refracta alba, Leucojum aestivum (Snowflake) and Ipheion uniflorum are emerging. Jonquils are in flower.
The rain, thank heavens, has watered them in.
The thing about some bulbous plants here is of course our climate (temperate but not really cold) and the fact that I can't bend over to lift and pamper some bulbs. They have to form drifts and we have to remember where dormant bulbous plants are for them to survive more than a season.
Great little plants such as the wild strawberry, toadflax, catmint and Milfoil are establishing and spreading as are the ever reliable Dianthus of various types.
James helped us move a large box vegetable garden to a prime sunny location and the wheelbarrow vegetable garden full of lettuce and English spinach has been rolled around to join it.
As a nod toward experimentation we have planted two Clematis, Clematis integrifolia x crispa 'Daniel Deronda (purple) and 'Andromeda' (pink).
Now we await a visit from 'Heritage Roses in Australia' when our comrades in old roses are arriving to help with preparation for the National Tour coming here on 5th October.
Michael Simpson

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Closing the gate after a busy weekend

On Sunday afternoon when we shut our gate we finally had our garden back to ourselves.Even after around 1000 visitors had been in the garden there was very little wear to show for it.The paths had held up well and even our thinning grass seemed to be ok. Having worked hard before the event it is nice to wander around and enjoy the garden ourselves without too many pressing jobs to be done.
We had a very enjoyable and busy time over the weekend as part of the Gardens on the Edge event that is organised by the Maleny Garden Club. Congratulations to Peter Dalimore for his work that made the event run so smoothly. Thankyou also to the Rural Fire Brigade members who looked after the gate.Hope you wern't frozen solid!Picture: Mark and Christine from Montville Rural Fire Brigade manning the gate.
We met so many people and had such lovely comments made about our garden.
It is evident that people have connected with the garden and it reinforces the fact that gardens have a real part to play in peoples lives.
We really envisage our garden out living us and many of the plants we are growing have life spans of hundreds of years. I think it is the sense of permanance that we strive for in gardens and this is very different to having a "bunnings garden" that is only a pastiche constructed in a hurry, to be "low maintenance".
We look forward to opening the gate for visitors in October when we are signed on with the Australian Open Gardens Scheme. October will be warmer for a start and the garden will have a lot of spring colour. Depending on the rainfall over the next few months the garden can be either very dry or lush so we will just have to wait and see.
The Open garden in October includes the Cooksley's Garden in Maleny which is another larger garden with lots of interesting features.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

garden tractors

Not every car is suitable for transporting ambitious gardening purchases home to the desired position. Not every car owner is entirely focussed on the tasks of cramming in large ambitiously purchased plants, fertilizer acquisition and transport with callous regard for the upholstery and fellow passengers.
When bying a large specimen of Cupressus glabra, longer than most cars, or perhaps a couple of luxuriant Cyathea brownii (mature tree ferns), you need the right sized car when you wheel these on their trolley into the car park. The same can be said for a few 40kg. bags of dynamic lifter and several trays of sad looking perennials bought 'on special'.
It is at that point when we are pleased to have bought the old Jaguar which is both ample in length and bredth and of an age (58 years old) when it doesn't care about appearance any more.
A quick broom out of potting mix and dead leaves and we are ready for the next Nursery visit

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Open garden Approaches

Lady luck had brought rain at the right time and held off winter until the last furlong. 'The Shambles' is hardly an exhibition garden but we may just have a colourful show for visitors on the Queen's birthday weekend (next weekend). So fingers and toes are crossed, horseshoes turned up etc.
There has been a lot of planning put in by the organizers, especially our friend and neighbour Peter Dallimore on behalf of the Maleny garden Club. We have had a lot of help from Margaret and Laurie Jeays (mum and Dad), Martin Leonard, Isobel and Gary Tynan.
The gate will be manned by the Montville Rural Fire Brigade and garden club volunteers. The Funds will be dispersed to the Rural Fire Brigade and the Blackall Range Care Group.
A plant stall will be run by "Ja's Herb Farm" selling perennial plants and rare herbs.

And so to the garden itself. Well Megakepasma (Brazilian Red Coat) still refuses to flower which reflects a streak of obstinancy and unpredictable latin temperament. Thankfully the roses (Queen of Flowers) have quite a few buds opening, especially Safrano, Marie Van Houtte, Comptesse de Labarthe, Comptesse du Cayla and Rozette Delizy.
My favourite camellia Edna Butler is still flowering and there will a spectacular show from other Camellias. Perennial Salvias, scutellarias, Pentas lanceolata, and many different Abutilon are still in flowers.
Leaves are finally turning. The Virginia Creeper is golden and our burgundy Euphorbia cotinifolia is losing leaf as are Lagerstroemia indica and Lagerstroemia speciosum.
Our remaining Grevillias are coming into flower to the delight of the lorikeets and honey eaters.
The westerly winds may blow some gardeners away but here our tall hedges protect us , and the vulnerable Dahlia imperialis (both double and single white) and brittle shrubs such as Salvia involucrata bethalii. It can feel degrees warmer in the calm ,and the sun ,in the lee of our hedges while outside on the road your hat can be blown off. Good old privet, and Duranta.

Pray for a fine day next weekend. Does it matter ? Well it does for the Maleny Garden Club and so we hope that every one will have an enjoyable day.
Michael Simpson

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Sustainability is a real buzz word. It is about treading lightly on the earth . Not being a great consumer of stuff . Being able to restore, recycle and reclaim. It is about all parts of life. It is the string saving state of mind where we think twice before we discard anything. It is the ability to be self sufficent and to move in the smaller circles . It is about having a contentment with who you are and where you are. Sustainabilty seems to have become serious but if you have a realistic approach it is the natural thing to do.
There are many reasons to have a sustainable garden. Naturally we like to have gardens that are as organic as possible and this can be achieved by using compost made on site. We can make choices about what we grow and in our garden we like to use tough plants that will tolerate change and that give us year round colour and interest.Sustainable gardening is more than that.It is not just about growing fruit and vegetables. It is about how a garden can sustain you physically ,emotionally and spiritually.
Some people may get sustenance from a small garden however for me I like to have a large diverse garden where I can work all day if I want to. Gardening makes me happy and I never tire of being outdoors . Spiritually my garden sustains me and it brings me back to what is important in life.The fact that human intervention into gardens might happen for a percentage of the time facinates me when I think of the greater percentage being done by God and nature.
Gardens should outlive the people who create them.

Lately we have been to Brisbane and the changes that have happened in the almost twenty years since we moved to Montville are astounding. It makes me realise how we made the right decision to raise our family in more rural surroundings. Fresh air ,open spaces, gardening and the down to earth friendships have been sustaining.
As I drove through the back streets of the bayside suburb of Brighton it is as if time has stood still. By anyones reckoning the suburb should be green with mature aged trees and gardens and yet 40 years later the yards still have the same sparse appearance that I remember as a child walking home from school. I would walk past the chain wire fences of the neat homes with rows of gerbras and roses or the yards that had a lawn up to the fence with perfectly trimmed edges along concrete paths. Then there were the occassional yards that had a couple of shrubs or perhaps a tree. I just remember that as a child walking those streets it was often stinking hot and there was very little respite along those footpaths.For some reason the benifits of gardens have not filtered into the suburbs. I can't imagine living in a suburban house without a garden. Some people are keen and their gardens are like a mirage for the weary walker on a hot ,humid day. As a children we would eagerly run through the sprinklers that were drumming away on the footpath is those un water wise times. When I look back it seems such a waste becasue 40 years later and all that water down the gutter many of the yards are as barren as ever.(40 years of compost and organically restoring the soil we would be walking in the garden of eden by now!)
For a start it is sensible to have trees to provide shade when most of our weather is hot. Mature trees create a microclimate for other plants so you can effectively have a diverse plant selection. There are many benifits to the physical work of gardening and being outdoors. It is quite easy to grow edible plants and fruits that can contribute and it is easy to establish compost piles so less organic material leaves the property. So what happened?
I drive along Brisbane streets and lament that there just hasn't been enough effort put into growing trees and plants on footpaths ,vacant land and in domestic gardens. Is it because of lack of interest, knowlede, imagination or is it the lack of direction from local government?
My view is that climate change is a real response to the way cities are so built up ,populated and polluted. Too much hard,artifical surface and too little green space.The best and easiest way to make a city more livable and sustainable is to grow richly diverse plants on every available space. A colouful, shady , usable space with edible plants is achievable desirable and sustainable.If a percentage of the money that was put into roads and tunnels went to greening a city it could be achieved. Brisbane could be the first subtropical,edible city.
My vision would to be to have fruit trees on footpaths . Imagine streets lined with mullberry,custard apples and paw paw trees . Passionfruit vines growing up old chain wire fences. Imagine having people employed to maintain the edible gardens on the streets,not just council workers who mow and trim. Imagine if people who could pick a mandarine off a tree on the way to work. Imagine if there was food growing that anyone could use. Imagine the school children walking home and able to sit in the shade of loquart or banana trees.
I think that people would come out of their houses to garden and to use the produce. The council could be employed to mainatin the trees or pick the excess produce and it could be left at locations to be sold or used for free. Generally I think that there would be a great sense of ownership and that the council workers would be on a 'don't call us ,we'll call you' basis.
It would be more beautiful to have the houses flanked with greenery and more sustainable because the shady trees would create liveable spaces outdoors and the interiors would stay cooler too. It would be healthier as the people were eating food that has less food miles and is organic. It would be healthier too because people would be outdoors doing the physical work of gardening.It would be spiritually sustainable because it would bring people together and it would redefine the social isolation that comes with living in cities. It may also bring a contentment and commitment to the people who participate.It could be a cross generational and cross cultural gardening initiative.
If even one street in one Brisbane suburb could attempt to do this I think it would be amazing to see everyone experience the physical, emotional and spiritual sustainability of gardens.
Cheers Kyleigh ( having a rave)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Autumn highlight

Autumn has come very late to our area in 2010 with the first cool weather coming in late May. Showers and light rain continue every few days. While Wisteria sinensis, Diospigros kaki (persimmon) and Weigela are changing colour and losing leaves other plants such as the red Cedar (Toona ciliata) remained fully clothed. Some usually deciduous plants such as Hibiscus mutabilis (double) and Chaenomeles (Japonica) are flowering.
It's all a bit confusing. We've even got Jonquils in flower.
In the mean time with an open garden in 2 weeks we are still feeding, dead-heading and weeding this alleged Autumnal garden as though it was spring.
Many of the Sasanqua Camellias have shot their bolt and Japonicas are just warming up at the starting gate. Hybrid grevilleas are just starting to flower and old tea and china roses never seem to stop flowering. We hope there is fine weather and plenty of flowers for our garden visitors.
A couple of treats could well be the beautiful strings of tiny pendant flowers on Pieris ryukyuensis, the ongoing display from our large Gordonia axillaris and the lovely pink and white striped flowers of our tree sized Camellia japonica 'Aspasia MacArthur'.
The perennial Salvias S.confertifolia, S.iodanthe, S. madrense, S. miniata, S.involucrata and S.coccinea (in bicolor, red and white) we hope will hang on if there is no cold snap.
Another dominating display could well arrive in time from our groups of double white Dahlia imperialis (tree Dahlia).
New plants! Well there is always something. In our newly civilized rain forest corner we have added Licuala grandis (Fan Palm) and Cyathea brownii (Norfolk Island Tree fern) to an understory area of Palms, bromeliads, Orchids, Dieffenbachia, Dracaena, Costus and stromanthe.
Blow! Blow! thou winter wind , thou art not so unkind .......but stay away until after Queen's Birthday holiday 2010 at "The Shambles" in Montville

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Arts and Gardens Festival June 2010

On the Queen's birthday long weekend our garden at 'The Shambles' will be one of half a dozen open for the Maleny garden Club 'Arts and Gardens festival', formerly known as 'Gardening on the Edge'. This weekend event falls just at the start of our real winter and has been very wet in the past.
Picture: Pseudocalymma aliaceum
With the help of family and friends our preparations are nearing completion. This is not an exhibition garden at all but a collectors garden with many different paths, interesting corners and hopefully some interesting plants to see.
The last area completely transformed with the help of Margaret and Laurie Jeays and our friends Isobel, Gary and Martin was a 'rain forest area' deeply shaded by large trees and inaccessible due to debris, mulch-piles and trip hazards.
Now with lovely gravel paths and after much clearing we have planted Bromeliads, Dieffenbachia, Cyathea brownii (Norfolk Island tree Fern) and Licuala grandis (Fan Palm) to add interest in between paths. These will increase the impact of young Livistonas, Parlour Palms and Birds Nest Ferns (asplenium australasicum). No doubt the tall trees, Castanospermum australe (Queensland Bean), Toona ciliata (red Cedar) and others including Black Apple and Schotia brachypetala will be better appreciated by getting closer underneath them.
Hopefully moisture will increase the presence of epiphytic ferns, lichens and bracket fungi in this area.
As a contrast to open sunny areas of lawn and flower beds this newly accessible, dark, cool understory area is one of our new areas of interest.
Michael Simpson

Saturday, May 8, 2010

All weather garden paths

With open garden events coming up our private garden will certainly have hundreds of visitors who we feel sure will want to investigate all the winding paths and hidden corners. With recent rain some of those tracks are downright slippery and potentially dangerous.
Close to our house there is a network of paths of level bitumen which makes a wonderful and attractive surface in a country garden. Under the trees, in 'rain forest' areas we have gravelled paths and this surface has transformed accessibility.
Finally we have this year for the first time replanted grassy paths with buffolo grass plugs and runners which are matting together to form a very reliable surface.
Shifting gravel for paths at the distant corners of the garden is heavy work. John and Tyson started the process along tracks in the west of the garden. Our friends Martin and Gary have offered to come quite a distance to help finish the job in the North and West of our garden where there is a dense tree canopy and trip hazard from tree roots.
When this work is done our visitors will now be able to explore more comfortably, even if it rains. These tracks also help us redefine areas of the garden, into the very corners and helps with our day to day maintenance.
Opening a garden to lots of visitors produces one solid benefit. It really gives us a dead line to upgrade structures, such as paths and seating for such event and we will have a more comfortable and interesting garden to enjoy into the future.
Our garden is open for the "Gardening on the Edge, Arts and Gardens Festival" on the Queens Birthday Holiday 2010 and for the Australian Open Garden Scheme 9th and 10th October 2010.
Michael Simpson

Monday, May 3, 2010

planting in the rain

With the promise of yet more rain we set out many of our cuttings grown plants to put in the ground, and invested in some hardy plants to fill spaces. The "Gardenng on the edge" event which includes our open garden is only a month away. On the Queen's Birthday holiday weekend we expect hundreds of visitors and there are a few places we still needed to improve.
On the edge of our rainforest area we added Stromanthe sanguinea, Costus amazonica variegata and yet more Asplenium australasicum (bird's nest ferns). In garden beds we planted Verbena 'Homestead Purple', Nepeta faasenii, Achillea millfolium and many other cuttings specimens.
In a neglected corner, far from the house we filled up the sides of paths with Abutilon, Pentas lanceolata, Ocimum gratissimum and Barleria cristata from our cuttings area.
In other areas we added cuttings grown Hydrangea macrophylla and Plectranthus saccatus.
Lastly near our water a tank where a tree was recently removed new light has flooded in. Into this area we transplanted and planted Canna x hybridum, Ruellia macrantha and Acanthus mollis. Then the rain came as hoped for and helped get these plants off to a happy start.
For the first time we are experimenting with potted roses including 'Julia's Rose' and 'Harry Wheatcroft' which we can keep in sunny spots.
With an open garden event one month away it is very reassuring to have rain supporting our garden, and for Autumn to be so delayed. Everything is flowering and in full leaf
Michael Simpson

Friday, April 30, 2010

Wheel barrow Snippets

Autumn at " The Shambles"
It has been rather nice to have two sunny days in a row after such a wet summer. The garden is still very damp under foot which has led me to consider creating some more substantial path ways in certain areas of the garden. Plants in the garden are very resilent. They have bounced back after the dry times of 2009 that was followed by the torrential rain of early 2010. It is now time to top up the gardens with mulch and compost to help replace some of the lost nutrients that have leached away in the wet.
Yesterday I turned my compost turkey nest and there is a lovely lot of composted material that is ready to go. I like the turkey nest arrangement because I can have several composts on the go at varying stages . I can spend a whole day chipping and chopping garden clippings or if I don't have time I will just make a pile of bigger trimmings . Amazingly enough nature breaks everything down in the end.
The garden is looking very colourful at the moment. There are flowers on just about everthing.
It was very interesting to see flowers on Camellia crapnelliana, C. nitidissima chrysora and the beautiful bulb Acidanthera bicolor. Camellias in flower include Red Willow,Beatrice Emily,Hiryu,Plantation Pink, Vanity Fair and Dazzler. There are fat buds on all the different Japonicas.
Double Hibiscus mutabilis, Abutilon megapotamicum,A.x hybridum of all colours are brightening our Autumn garden.
Salvias including Salvia leucantha (3 var) , S.madrense, S.involucrata(3 var) ,S. coccinea
(3 var)
and S. iodantha ,S.confertiflora are in full colourful display.
The crowning glory of blooms is the Gordonia axillaris. There are many other colorful shrubs,perennials and vines including Clitoria ternata with it's electric blue flowers.
All the roses have been in flower as well.
In the next few days I will be planting out a large collection of cuttings grown plants that will fill in some spots and I have a new area to plant out as we have recently had a Bauhinia tree removed. This is now a relatively sunny spot in our shady garden so it is very exciting.
Plans are under way for the open garden in June and it will be interesting to see the difference that 6 weeks makes.
Our Autumn doesn't seem to have started because our Red Cedars are still in leaf and the birds are collecting nesting material including shed hair from our sheep dog. When we had Basset hounds we actually found a perfectly made nest of tri colour dog hair so I'm on the look out for a black and white nest.

Dear fellow Gardeners,
In these straightened days when all of the press seems to be about water wise gardening and sustainability we would like to humbly suggest that before looking forward we should look back for guidance. In Australia's brief history our forebears collected beautiful colourful, perfumed plants from around the world. All the interesting new ornamental and productive species found their way to this country during that age of plant discovery.
This means that we don't have to be content with monotonous, dry climate gardens to be sustain able. Most of the traditional plants which have come down from 19th century gardeners have proven their hardiness. This idea of looking back to the success of our parents in water wise gardening is the subject of our book "Over the Fence and Overlooked, Traditional Plants in Queensland's Gardening Heritage" and is discussed on our website
Old fashioned, reliable, ornamental shrubs include varieties of Abelia, Abutilon, Azalea, Brugmansia,Brunfelsia, Camellia, Chaenomeles, Clerodendrum, Dombeya, Eranthemum, Escallonia, Eupatorium, Hibiscus, Hydrangea, Iochroma, Justicia, Michelia, Osmanthus, Pentas, philadelphus, Plumbago, Plumeria, Punica, Reinwardtia, Ruellia, Spiraea, Tecomaria, Tetradenia, Tibouchina, Viburnum and Weigela to name but a few hardy plants.
We should never of course be without old fashioned roses of many types.
Sustainability is also a subject which has led to discussion of future Australian gardens being in small allotments, without the space for trees and with no place for "water hungry" plants. This sort of discussion in the gardening media, both print and electronic, is very city-centric.
This bleak constrained outlook ignores the fact that many Australians live outside the growing limitations of the cities, and some of us even live in the rarely considered Northern half of Australia. While poor city gardeners may face space and water restrictions the rest of us are free to enjoy a huge selection of trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and vines without such concerns.
Gardening is a peaceful and fulfilling activity. Like the act of holding a bird and then seeing it fly away, gardeners plant the tubestock and seedlings and watch as nature grows these plants on to maturity.
Gardening should not become the subject of a philosophical war, where almost puritanical views on "sustainability", "Australian natives only" and "natural disease control" issues ruin a happy gardeners view of his or her work.
We need to get real and look back to the vast inventory of hardy old fashioned plants from around the world which will give vibrant colour, wonderful perfume and shade, and satisfy the puritanical desire to display a "low Carbon footprint"
Dr Michael Simpson