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While I am writing this I am listening to the glorious sound of rain on a tin roof! It is a sound I never get tired of hearing and one we have not heard for a while. While it seems as the poet said, “there will be floods for sure, there will without a doubt”, on the coast we could certainly do with some of the rain falling there.
The frosts we have had in the last few weeks have put paid to some of the annuals in my own garden. The beans are finished and the vincas from my front garden have been pulled out and composted. The hipeastrums and agapanthus are looking a bit sad, but my federation daisy bushes are absolutely flourishing. I have so far been lucky with the passionfruit vines as both the Panama Gold and the Nelly Kelly are surviving at present in relatively protected positions. My Panama gold plant was given to me by a friend from a warm coastal area, and I never envisaged the time when I would see it produce. I don’t believe in pampering plants, so they don’t get covered… they have to take their chances. In a protected area at the side of the house, I still have some tomatoes ripening slowly. The cauliflowers and broccoli are growing apace, the snow peas are bearing heavily and the broad beans getting taller everyday and flowering profusely. While they are not setting beans, they are attracting bees and as they are next to the snow peas, they are certainly playing their part. My new vegie beds are fallow under a blanket of lucerne mulch ready to be planted out in spring.
Another bed in a corner of the yard is slowly taking shape and will eventually be the spot for some grevilleas and bottle brush as, hopefully, an attraction for native birds. One of the many attractions of native plants is the frost tolerance of many species. Banksia, grevillea and bottle brush are providing some colour around town at present despite what has been a cold, dry start to the season. Hopefully, the rain I have been listening to is only a forerunner of more to come. For our farmers the old adage still proves true– “there is more money in mud than dust!”
One of the things that upsets me most as I visit assorted garden departments in various areas of the country, is the number of times I see plants that are totally at odds with the climate that they are being sold into.
At present, I see punnets of zucchini, squash, tomatoes and beans offered for sale in Warwick and if a novice gardener purchased and planted these right now, they would end up very disappointed and disillusioned after the first frost.
In this wonderful country with its diverse range of climates, we have become used to be having a wide range of fruits and vegetables available at all times of the year regardless of whether they are in season in our area and subsequently we forget what is seasonal in our own regions.
We want to encourage people to enjoy and succeed at gardening, and this corporate approach to supplying outlets does not help this goal. What grows in Cairns at this time of the year does not survive in the Warwick area unless you have a heated glass house!
The answer to this problem is knowledge, and this is usually available from a reliable nursery person or, if you don’t know one of these in whom you have confidence, look it up on google, the library or whatever gardening magazines you can access.
Local knowledge is very helpful, so consider joining our local horticultural society and ask questions of people who have lived in the area for some time. Don’t only access one source. Research several and, armed with this information, you will be able to make decisions and not be disappointed or out of pocket when our rather harsh climate attacks your choices. Above all … read labels and ask questions.
If you really have your heart set on growing something that might be a challenge in our area, e.g. a jacaranda or native frangipanni, pick a protected spot and use some of the many commercially available frost coverings. You may only have to protect them until they are established.
Early and late frosts don’t usually kill shrubs but prolonged cold through winter is what does the damage.
Planning is well in hand for the Horticultural Society’s Gardening Extravaganza to be held once again during Jumpers and Jazz. A wide range of stallholders will be exhibiting garden-related items in St Mary’s Hall on Wood Street on Wednesday and Thursday 26 and 27 July.
A tantalising array of sweet treats and Devonshire teas will be available to enjoy and delicious home-made soups will be available served with crusty bread for a light lunch. For any stallholders who are interested in participating, remember that your attendance forms need to be returned by 20 June to secure your position and help us plan.

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