Warm Bulbs for a Sheltered Northern Aspect in Design Elements

July 24th, 2021


Warm Bulbs What Are They?

Spring flowering bulbs like daffodils, tulips, freesias, bluebells, to name a few are all bulbs from the northern hemisphere. They do best in cool climates and once the main spring show is over, there's nothing left to excite.

  • It's time to changeup or simply extend the flowering season to what garden designer Peter Nixon terms 'warm bulbs.' 
  • These come from warmer climates such as South Africa and South America, therefore are more suited to a large part of eastern Australia-the 'cool sub trops.' (Cool sub-tropical).
  • The other benefits of these spectacular bulbs are that they flower much later and longer;  late spring into summer and even autumn.
Thunia marshalliana photo P Nixon

Warm Bulbs part 3-Northern Aspect with Shelter

So what do you plant in your shady area perhaps under trees where there’s usually dry shade?
As long as it’s not gloomy, such as really dense shade.

These bulbs are not for the harsh western aspect of exposed to harsh winds.
Thunia marshalliana from northern Thailand. 
Expect to see a cycle where it dies down before fresh new leaves come through in spring, with flowers appearing in summer. 
The leaves remind me somewhat of a crucifix orchid in the shape and configuration. 
The flowers are a standout white with a slight fragrance and grow atop long arching canes.
You could grow these in a large hanging basket so you could see the flowers from below.
  • When in growth, apply plenty of orchid fertiliser.
  • Propagation is super easy; just like for the keikis (baby plantlets) at the ends of canes, and cut of and pot up.
Worsleya procera commonly known as the Red fox orchid  or  lavender hippeastrum.

Worsleya procera

One of the world's rarest bulbs originating from Rio de Janeiro.

Flowering can take  up to 7 years !
Leaves are deep green that have an unusual curvature giving them a sculptural look.
Listen to the podcast, it's rather long but very interesting.

Species Hippeastrum: Not your ordinary hippies!

Don't go past species Hippeastrum that originate for the most part, in south America.

  • All of course are in Amaryllidaceae family.
Hippeastrum papilio
You won't find much information about these hippeastrums in general so take note.
Some of these can grow as epiphytes in their natural environment!
  • In the ground, they need superb drainage but not under trees unless the canopy is quite high, say 2-3 metres above the bulb.
Start your collection with the Hippeastrum papilio 
or  green Hippeastrum calyptratumHippeastrum%2Bcalyptratum-green%2Bhippi.jpg
Peter outlines quite a few of the species hippeastrums so have a listen to the podcast.

I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer from Paradisus garden design. www.dgnblog.peternixon.com.auwww.paradisusgl.peternixon.com.au     


Instagram paradisus_sea_changer FB Paradisus Garden Design

If you have any questions or feedback for me or Peter about these bulbs, why not write in to realworldgardener@gmail.com or info@peternixon.com.au

Warm Bulbs pt. 4-

South African Bulbs for a Harsh Western Aspect in Design Elements

July 24th, 2021

Warm Bulbs pt. 2-Harsh Western Aspect 

Every garden has an aspect that’s hard to plant out because it’s either too shady or too harsh and dry or even spot that receives hot western sun .
Today I’m focusing on bulbs that can give you a long display in the warmer months but have evolved to withstand hot and dry months.

Haemanthus coccineus photo M Cannon

These bulbs originate where they are not exposed to very cold winters but have evolved to withstand hot dry conditions.

The bulbs in this group are in the Amaryllidaceae family which consists of mainly bulbs with long strappy leaves. The flowers are usually in an umbel-like cluster on a short or long scape.

Quite a few are known to have large showy flowers.
Haemanthus coccineus or 'blood lily likes an exposed location. 
It will refuse to flowers if in a shady, lush location. 
Don’t be like me and put the blood lily in too much shelter so the leaves grow long and the flower season trigger is missed.
  • A dead give-away is if the leaves are quite long and extended, then the bulb is in too much shade.

If you live in Adelaide, say a couple of streets back from the beach such as in Brighton, then expect your 'blood lily' to take off like mad. The low humidity and winter rains are a perfect climate for this bulb.

You can also look for the interspecific hybrid of Haemanthus albifloss x H. coccineus
If you love the shape of tulip flowers, then plant a row of these bulbs which will flower summer to autumn.
Brunsvigia greagaria 
Brunsvigia gregaria which has agapanthus like flower on steroids in a crimson coloured bloom.
Or even the combined genus of brunsvigia and amaryllis ending up with Amarygia.

Let’s find out more by listening to the podcast with Peter Nixon
 from Paradisus garden design.

Real World Gardener Plants for Shady Side Passage in Design Elements

June 11th, 2021


Plants for a Shady Side Passage
Often there's one side of the house which is quite neglected because it's cold and not much light gets there, and and as much as you've tried, no plants have survived.
It's time to re-look at that side passage, usually the south side of the house, and give it another red hot go.
Steve thinks these are 'little gems.'


Treated in the right way, this could be a turned into a special place.
One suggestion is stone flagging with border plants.
What about some narrow plants?
Viburnum Dense Fence and 
Nandina domestica or sacred bamboo.; there are many varieties of this old favourite.
Some trees will fit.
Blueberry ash , (Eleaocarpus reticulatus)
Steve likes the idea of Japanese maples, (Acer palmatum.) Being deciduous it can take the extra cold in winter especially if there's no light.
Let’s find more of what will grow there?
I'm talking with Steve McGrane, agriculturalist and horticulturist.

Real World Gardener Plants for Shade Under Trees in Design Elements

June 11th, 2021


What to plant under the shade of trees.

Shade trees are great, but what can you plant under them that can cope with the root competition and low levels of sunlight throughout the year.


You want something attractive of course and not just a bare area.
In one of my shady spots 

I've attached a birds nest fern (pictured) to the trunk of a silk oak (Grevillea robusta).

In the same space are many cliveas, which is a bit of  a standout with evergreen foliage and available in more colours than just bright orange, pastel colours such as creams, yellows and white.
Neomarica gracilis or walking iris, are another perfect suggestion.
Shade in gardens that is provided by trees has a much bigger cooling effect that say shade soils or umbrellas.
Other suggestions this time  for cool climate gardens are Huechera species.  

This shady garden series is not so much what makes the best shade trees, but what can grow in various types of shade, whether it’s a shady side passage, a shady balcony, or just a shady part of the garden.

Let’s find out more ? I'm talking with Steve McGrane, agriculturalist and horticulturist.

Real World Gardener Shady Gardens part 1 in Design Elements

June 11th, 2021



This shady garden series is not so much what makes the best shade trees, but what can grow in various types of shade, whether it’s a shady side passage, a shady balcony, or just a shady part of the garden.
Do you have some shade in your garden?
Perhaps it’s a really shady garden because of neighbouring trees or buildings, or perhaps your own trees have grown quite big and created a lot of shade.

Over the next four weeks, Steve and I will be discussing what plants do best in a variety of shady gardens, but today, why is shade in a garden so important?


Shady gardens will provide refuge from the heat in summer. Your garden may be basking in full winter sun right now, but in summer, you and some of your plants will want more shade for cooling.

The leaves take advantage of even the slightest of breezes providing some air movement.
Shade in gardens that is provided by trees has a much bigger cooling effect that say shade sails or umbrellas.
On a hot day, the shade under a mature tree can be up to 10 degrees cooler than the actual temperature but the trick is to find what grows under those shade trees. 
Alternatively, you may be able to lift the canopy so that more light reaches the lower levels or the understorey.

Let’s find out more? I'm talking with Steve McGrane, agriculturalist and horticulturist.

Real World Gardener Design Principles part 4 in Design Elements

May 27th, 2021

Design Principles part 4

Landscape Materials

Over the last few weeks, Garden Designer Glenice Buck has been outlining all those factors you need to consider when you’re doing a re-design no matter how big or small.
Hopefully you’ve at least drawn a mudmap of your garden or yard if there’s nothing in it.
Do this before you buy the plants.

  • But what are the options for say landscape materials?
  • There are clever ways to achieve looks of the real thing without spending the big bucks.

Think locally to reduce transport costsThen there’s re-purposing material especially if it’s already in your garden or nearby.

What about fencing?
So many types of fencing
Wire fencing
Timber with horizontal rails.
Retaining walls
Reconstituted sandstone blocks
Drystone walls-especially if you have plenty of stone lying about on your property
Besser blocks that can be rendered or cap with sandstone fascias.
Timber- but this has a limited life and can be eaten out by termites.
Gabion walls-wire mesh that is filled with rocks.
Corten steel lengths edging as well as for retaining walls.
Steps: need to be structurally sound.
Natural stone: granite or Sandstone floaters.
Brick steps
Pieces of limestone or limestone tiles.
Concrete steps
loose pebbles
paving: sandstone, granite, terracotta, brick, decomposed granite
I'm talking with  Glenice Buck of www.glenicebuckdesigns.com.au

That concludes are basic principles of garden design.

Real World Gardener Design Principles part 3 in Design Elements

May 27th, 2021


Design Principles part 3: Doing the design.

Do you have a particular favourite colour when it comes to plants or perhaps there are some colours that you just don’t want in your garden?

These are the sorts of things you need to think about when redesigning either all or some of your garden.

What to do next

  • Consider your colour pallette, what colours don't you like or do like?
  • Think about what plants your really want to include.
  • If you have an attachment to certain plants, think about using those as a guideline to what else you can plant.
  • Draw a scaled plan so you can work out the proportions of your gardens beds a bit better. A mudmap may be a good idea to start with but once you’ve decided on the plants you like, it’s time to think about drawing up a plan to scale so that you can be sure that all the plants you like will actually fit in. In some situations you may be able to get by with just the mud map.  
  • Think about design styles: Start collecting images of gardens that you like.
Cottage Garden Style


A cottage garden is known for its flowering perennials with their soft, relaxed form and character. These gardens have a fairly informal style and are normally planted with flowering plants in muted and pastel colours. The plants tend to grow into each other, forming mounds and domes. 


Formal Garden Style

This style of garden has the most structure and can be quite rigid in their style. The basis of a formal garden is symmetry, balance, tailored plantings, simplistic plant choice and a sense of majesty. The gardens and pathways tend to run in straight lines and form grid like patterns

I'm talking with Glenice Buck of www.glenicebuckdesigns.com.au

Real World Gardener Pillar of Smoke in Plant of the Week

April 26th, 2021

Plant of the week

Common Name: Stout Bamboo Grass; Pillar of Smoke (known in the US)

Scientific Name: Austrostipa ramosissima


Leaves: an attractive tall tufted perennial grass with a short rhizome but differs because of its culms (stems) with whorled branches. The stems are bamboo-like.

Flowers: -spring to summer with creamy-white, spreading panicle that is 8 to 50 cm long with striking long, bent awns on the seeds. Feathery feel to the flowers.

Height: 1-2.5m tall forming a sizeable clump over time.

Distribution: from south eastern Queensland to far south eastern New South Wales, with isolated spots in north eastern Queensland and central New South Wales

Interesting fact: used in landcare revegetation projects to attract seed eating birds and control erosion. Is an important habitat for butterflies and small birds, and a plentiful food source for wombats.

Hardiness: drought and frost resistant.

Growing from seed: Fresh seed will germinate in a couple of weeks if using smoke treatment such as wildflower seed starter. Can also be propagated by division.

Uses: bird and insect attracting garden, native garden; bushland garden; hedging for a few years, but will need replacing by pulling out the parent plants and letting new seedlings that have self-sown,

Maintenance: Mature plants can be cut back hard to just aboveground level in late winter to reinvigorate and encourage new growth. It is a relatively low maintenance species but some selective weeding may be necessary as there is potential for seedlings to spread throughout the garden.

I'm talking with Adrian O'Malley, native plant expert and horticulturist.





Real World Gardener Blue Flax Lily in Plant of the Week

April 26th, 2021

Plant of the week
Common Name: Blue Flax lillies


Scientific Name: Dianella revoluta; D. caerulea

Family: Asphodelaceae
Leaves: tufted clump forming perennial growing from a rhizome; with dull or bright bluish to green linear leaves 40cm  to 1.5m in length. 
Flowers: -spring to summer with with deep blue to purple racemes. The flowers stalks are held tall above the foliage and often have branching.
Fruits: blue to bright purple berries that stay on the plants for many months.
Height: many cultivars are now available from dwarf to 1.7m including the flower spike.
Distribution: All over Australia
Interesting fact: Indigenous people ate the berries during the summer months. The strappy leaves were also woven into bags and nets. The leaf when folded was also used as a snake whistle..
Hardiness: drought and frost resistant.
Growing from seed: Fresh seed will germinate in a couple of weeks. Can also be propagated by division.
Uses: rockeries; bird attracting garden, native garden; bushland garden;
Which Dianella for your garden?
  • Dianella 'Little Jess."dwarf  40cm high x 40cm wide.
  • Dianella 'Breeze" 40% larger than little Jess. 60 – 70cm high x 60 – 70cm wide
  • Cassa Blue: blue leaves;  50cm high x 40cm wide.
  • Dianella 'Tas Red' -will often get a red base in cold climates, or even change from green to green with reddish tinges at times. It has a dense tidy appearance with beautiful wide leaves and large purple berries in spring and summer,45cm high x 40-50cm wide

I'm talking with Adrian O'Malley, native plant expert and horticulturist.


Real World Gardener Lomandra or Matt Rush in Plant of the Week

April 26th, 2021

Nr 2 Plant of the Week

Common Name: Matt rush

Scientific Name: Lomandra hystrix: L. longifolia

Family: Xanthorrhoeacea

Leaves: tufted grass-like perennial with dull or bright green leaves 40cm  to 1m in length. Leaf blades have very sharp edges. 

Flowers: -in summer with panicles or clusters of straw coloured bracts. L. longifolia flowers are scented.

Height: many cultivars are now available but the species usually are 1.5m tall by 1.5m wide.

Distribution: All over Australia

Interesting fact: The white starchy bases were chewed by Aboriginal people especially if they needed an energy boost on long walks. The seed was pounded and made into flour or eaten whole and mixed with native honey. The strappy leaves were used to weave baskets for carrying food as well as making eel traps and nets.

  • Grows from an underground rhizome, so if the plant dies off, it can resprout.

Hardiness: drought and frost resistant, tolerant of extremes in temperature.

Growing from seed: Fresh seed will germinate in a couple of weeks. Can also lie dormant for up to 12 months before germinating.

Situation: Full sun or part shade in any type of soil.

Which Lomandra is best for your garden?

  • Little Con:Petite, compact, resilient, our shortest lomandra at up to 30cm, and a perfect no-mow groundcover.
  • Evergreen Baby:Slightly bigger than Little Con, compact to 45 cm. Hardy, ideal for rockeries and suited to almost all soil types. Very popular. 
  • Verday:Compact to 50cm. Tough as old boots, hardy, long-lived once established. Frost tolerant and puts up with almost any location or condition. 
  • Little Pal:Very fine slender leaves and a better performance in shady spots make this 50cm lomandra a fine addition to garden borders. 
  • Little Cricket: Long broad leaves reach to 50cm then cascade in an a generous fountain of foliage, like a mini Lomandra hystrix. 
  • Nyalla:Medium height to 80cm. Graceful, slender blue-green, cascading leaves. Good in dry spots, in full sun or shade. Frost tolerant, and robust in salt-laden winds and coastal locations.

I'm talking with Adrian O'Malley, native plant expert and horticulturist.

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