Hello Annette, I am
including a photo of an insect that appears to be in
large numbers buzzing around our fruit tree garden
(lemon, orange, lime and avocado) which is mulched with
lucerne hay. They are very busy in the air, but settle
for a little while to feed from the flowering gum. Will
they be a problem to the trees and young tomato plants
growing nearby. Richard and Helen.
Hello Richard and Helen
How lucky are you. These are native bees! Not only are
they stingless, but they are doing a great job
pollinating your garden. All you need to do to keep them
happy is to keep planting things that flower and avoid
using chemical sprays.
Can I use mature hardwood
woodchip mulch ( from gum trees, it's been sitting in a
pile for about 4 months ) as a mulch under my fruit
trees - citrus, grumacharma, jaboticaba, pawpaw etc. If
so should I add anything else at the same time?
Margaret - Sunshine Coast
Yes, you can use the wood chip. Add a couple of handfuls
of granular for pelleted fertiliser to each wheelbarrow
of wood chip as you spread it. Alternatively you could
spread a handful per square metre to the soil prior to
spreading the mulch. Be sure to spread the mulch over
damp (not dry) gardens. Water the mulch well after
spreading. Take care not to breath in any dust or spores
associated with the mulch. I like to wet it down prior
Could you please tell me why some of my "Blue My Mind",
have changed their leaf size to small and colour from a
silver green to just green and now will not produce any
flowers? Sheryl - location unknown
Any chance this plant has been affected
by spray drift from a turf weeder or similar? If so,
there is nothing you can do, but dig out that section.
It could also be severe mite damage (although I would
expect all the plant to be affected). Cut the plant back
and spray with a soap spray. Let me know how you get on.
you give me any advice with how I would be able to
strike a leopard tree from the seed pods? I have tried
for a while, but with no success. I would be happy to
buy an advanced tree, but am unable to find them. Could
help with that as well please?
Marie of Brisbane
Leopard trees are rarely available in nurseries these
days as many local authorities consider them overly
large and a bit weedy for suburban
planting. To successfully grow trees from seed you need
to break open the hard outer seed coat. Place the small
seeds in boiling water and
soak overnight before planting. This will allow water to
penetrate and speed germination.
grown this eggplant from seed that I received at a seed
saving workshop. I think the seeds were from Annette's
garden. Are you able to identify the plant? Do I use the
fruit as I would any other eggplant?
Cynthia of Brisbane
Congratulations on your success. This is a red eggplant.
Use it in the same way as other eggplants. It is nice to
mix in with purple eggplants just for the colour.
Here is the progress on germination of a polyembryonic
mango. Individual seedlings (hard to see, but there are
three) are starting to separate. One seedling is
typically from cross pollination (not true to type).
Other seedlings are vegetative clones that grow true to
parent fruit. These clonal seedlings tend to be the most
vigorous. If in doubt, pot them all as it is often
easier to tell as the seedlings develop true leaves.
Also, some varieties are notorious for producing dodgy
offspring (like R2E2). You can always use spare
seedlings for grafting practice. Why are commerical
mango trees are grafted? For production uniformity and
rootstock characteristics like disease resistance,
soil-type adaptation, faster fruiting and dwarfing.
Remember, a seed grown mango collected from a dwarf
grafted mango tree will not produce a dwarf tree. The
fruit will be the same, but grafting confers the dwarf
habit. Seed grow trees take 5-7 year to fruit. Grafted
trees can bear fruit in 3 years.
Judy recently came to my 'New Year, New Garden' workshop
at Sandgate Town Hall armed with a sample of this plant
that had her and her garden club members perplexed. She
left it with me to identify. Here is my reply.
Your seeds are from a Michelia probably a variety of
Michelia champaca. I recall you said it had small, white
scented flowers - so maybe Michelia champaca alba? Seeds
must be fresh to germinate, but may not come true to
type with regard to the variety/flower colour. Might be
fun for your garden club members to try growing some.
This is the New Zealand Christmas tree (Metrosideros
excelsa). This tree would have started off as a
variegated form (remnants of variegated foliage remain),
but over the years, it has reverted back to the stronger
growing, plain green form.
I’m trying to
identify this tree. Can you help me?
My friend gave
me this plant as a cutting and to my surprise, I managed
to get it to grow (I am a novice gardener). It must be
hardy. Can you please tell me what it is called?
This delightful plant is Dichondra Silver Falls. It is
very popular and can be found in most nurseries. It is a
terrific plant for hanging baskets on balconies and
verandahs. Try combining mini petunias (Calibrachoa) and
the stunning grey foliage of your dichondra in the one
This is Polyscias fruticosa. I have several in my
garden. It comes in lots of different leaf forms and is
very hardy. I like to keep mine to under 2m by pruning.
Just cut tall stems back to where you want it to branch.
It is a perfectly well-behaved plant for gardens or
We have this plant
in our garden and we are wondering what type is it as we
want to know how to keep it a reasonable size.
The lemon grass sold in pots in nurseries is typically
East Indian lemon grass (Cympogonon flexuosus). It is
often too large and weedy for small gardens. The lemon
grass you buy is the smaller, non-seeding West Indian
lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus). To grow this type,
buy fresh stalks from the supermarket or fruiter and
I planted a pot of lemon grass. It
has grown really tall and is now producing seeds that
are germinating everywhere. It looks nothing like lemon
grass I have grown in the past. Are there different
types? Where can I get the more manageable, non-seeding
type that I prefer for cooking?
I have a rather weird looking avocado seedling. As you can see from the attached
picture, one plant appears healthy green and the other is pale (almost
translucent). We regularly eat avocado. I placed a couple of pips outside ...
they began to sprout at the same time ... I put them into pots (with the same
potting mix) at the same time - approx. two months ago. Is the "pale" seedling
diseased? Should I destroy it, or let it grow and see what happens? Paul -
Thank you for your question. Albino avocado seedlings are not uncommon. It is
generally believed that this occurs when seeds germinate prior to the seed
reaching a certain level of maturity. Where this is the case, the seedlings can
develop normal green leaves with time.
If might be interesting for you to see if it does.
I attended your Sandgate workshop on Sat and thank you for
a great and informative morning. I have a hibiscus with red and cream leaves,
but a lot of plain green leaves keep coming through. I have cut them out a few
times but they persist. Judy of Brighton
Judy, your hibiscus was bred from a random variegated shoot on a normal green
form, so it is natural that it wants to revert back to green. Pruning out the
green as you have been doing is the only option. Just make sure when you prune
that you take out the entire green shoot right back to the point that it
originates deep within the plant.Cut flush with the stem so that there is no
chance (no buds/stem) from which the plant can reshoot. If you just cut the
green back it will keep reshooting as it is more vigorous than the variegated
Hi Annette, What is this bulb? Please identify. Thanks
Roslyn (Bulb and flower images provided).
Hello Roslyn. Your mystery
bulb is Scadoxus multiflorus. It is a gorgeous thing and quite easy to grow. It
will develop large green leaves over the summer/autumn. I have some growing
quite happily in the garden without much care and attention. It prefers a little
shade in the afternoon.
I love the Thai Summer Salad recipe on your website, but have been trying to grow
my own Vietnamese mint to use in it. What is the secret? I just cannot seem to
get it to thrive.
Kaye of Townsville
The secret to growing any mint is water and a little bit of protection from the
hot afternoon sun. Grow your Vietnamese mint (Persicaria odorata), in a self
watering pot or preferrably in a pot plunged into a water feature so that the
roots are fully submerged. All mint grows quickly, so you will need to divide
the plant and repot it once or twice each year. I always keep at least two
plants on the go at any one time, so that I always have plenty of Vietnamese
mint on hand for our favourite summer watermelon salad.
for the terrific Thai Pea Eggplant seeds you so generously gave away at the
recent Green Heart Fair in Carindale. I dutifully planted them with love and
care, and they have germinated. Horray!! Picture attached!!
now like to plant out into containers (on a balcony - NE facing, good sun).
Information about growing Pea Eggplant in pots is somewhat scant on the
internet... I have tried!! These are my questions.
(1) What pot size is
appropriate? I like the 95c, 9L buckets from Bunnings after I drill 6 holes in
the bottom. Would they be OK? One plant per pot?
(2) Also I like to plant a
couple in smaller pots, so I can give away to friends for them to repot at their
home. Do you think Pea Eggplant will still fruit OK after two re-pottings, from
seedling pot, to 600ml pot, to something permanent?
(3) Most of the seeds I
was able to plant separately, but in some cases there are 20-30 little plants
clumped together. Do you have any recommendations for techniques to separate out
the little seedlings?
Claire from Taringa
Well done on your
germination of the Thai pea eggplants. Pea eggplants (like all eggplants) need
as much sun as possible. One plant per 9L bucket should be fine. You have plenty
to give away so pot them into small containers for friends. You could also do
this with the ones you are keeping and gradually pot them up into the
bucket-sized containers. Separate the clumped seedlings by washing the roots in
some liquid seaweed (dilute according to directions). Overcrowded seedlings can
be separated and successfully repotted when they soil is washed off. Fertilize
your eggplants every week with liquid nutrients and be sure to add extra dry
fertilizer to the potting mix.
Can you eat the flowers on chives?
Judith of Toowoomba
Yes, you can eat the
flowers of chives - although many people may think they
look so lovely, it seems a shame to do so. The unopened
flower buds can be added to a stir fry or used as a
garnish. The individual flowers (separated from the
globular flower head) are great as a garnish, added to
dips and salads or cooked in an omelette or other egg
to find the name of a shrub the height of a low picket fence which grows most
happily in an open, protected sunny spot in New Farm and which seems to have an
extended flowering season.
Denise of New Farm
This shrub is the mock gardenia or crepe jasmine (Tabernaemontana
divaricata). It looks like a gardenia, but has no perfume. There are lots of
different flower forms (single, double, ruffled blooms etc). This plant has
recently been in the news in regard to its potential as a medicine for pain
This pretty little flower came up in my garden. I am
sure I never planted it. Can you tell me what it is?
Edwina of Logan.
How wonderful! This is a native shepherd’s crook or pink
nodding orchid (Geodorum densiflorum. It was once common
in bushland, but is now rarely seen. It is a real
treasure that remains dormant for much of the year and
emerges to flower in summer.
I have recently
cut down a curry leaf tree as so many were popping up
from the roots. Now it is removed and the stump ground,
new trees continue to sprout from the extensive root
system. Do you know how I can finally get rid of it?
Digging out the roots is a full time, unending job.
Suckers of curry trees (Murraya koenigii) will continue
to sprout from stored nutrients in the roots. Control
options include: digging out all roots; covering the
area with builder’s plastic or tin in an attempt to
exclude light; or pruning and immediately (within 10
seconds) dabbing the fresh cut with glyphosate
herbicide. Always grow curry trees in pots.
January 2016, Roger from Ellanora wrote regarding the
non-flowering of his seed grown poinciana (7-8 years old
and 3.5m tall). I suggested that poinciana trees require
7-10 years to flower and that his patience would be
rewarded eventually. In November 2016, Roger got back in
touch with the news below.
Hi, Annette, earlier I
sent you a photo of my Poinciana tree which I had grown from seed and asked you
if it would flower?. As you can see by the photo after 8+ years it has finally
come good. Thank you for your gardening tips in the Sunday Mail, please keep
like Annette McFarlane to identify this tree which I have growing in my garden,
if possible, please?
Keith of Carina
Your mystery plant is the
Australian rainforest native known as the powder puff tree (Syzygium wilsonii).
It prefers a shaded position, is very slow growing and has a natural weeping
habit. It bears its stunning, signature crimson flowers massed with stamens
Silver Leaf Desmodium - (Desmodium uncinatum)
Here is another introduced pasture legume that has
become a weed problem in gardens and bushland areas. It
grows incredibly quickly and flowers and seeds
prolifically. You will see it covering the soil and
growing up trees as a dense climber. The small, flat
seeds stick to your socks and clothing. You really are
best to remove it by hand. If you try to spray it with a
herbicide like glyphosate, the vine will die, but the
seeds will drop to the soil and before you know if you
will have another crop to contend with. If you have
grazing animals (sheep, goats, a cow), you could feed it
to them as it is high in nitrogen. Avoid putting it in
the compost as the seeds are problematic, but you can
soak it in water and use the nutrient enriched liquid as
a liquid fertiliser.
From the attached photo’s, can you advise what it is
that I have in my ‘blue couch lawn’? How can I remove
this ‘weed’? It has many deep roots into the ground
which would take considerable time to remove. If there
is a chemical spray that is safe to use around bird life
as I do feed wild birds daily.
Bill of Coopers Plains
Creeping Indigo - Indigofera spicata. This legume weed
was introduced for agricultural use. It fixes nitrogen
in association with common soil bacteria. It has a long
tap root, spreads like a mat, and is a prolific seed
producer. It is a common weeds of lawns. Common lawn
chemicals are registered for the control of this weed (MCPA/Dicamba),
but I prefer to dig it out so that you remove all the
seed pods at the same time. If you cannot dig out the
root, lift the mat of foliage and cut it off at ground
level. Place a teaspoon of any granular fertiliser
directly on the cut section of the remaining root
(without watering in). The weed will be burnt out
completely in a day or two, after which any remaining
fertiliser can be watered into the lawn/garden.
Pummelo (Citrus maxima) are also known as pomello or
pamplemousse and grow well in SE Queensland. They are
not popular as a home garden tree and this limits their
supply. Ask your local nursery to order a grafted tree
for you. Pummelo varieties include Bosworth Pink,
Bosworth Red, Carter’s Red, Nam Roi and Tahiti.
My daughter and family have just
returned from a trip to Israel to visit family there and
are raving about the pummelo fruit they had whilst
there. They would like to try and grow one. Can you tell
me where we could buy a tree suitable to plant here?
Wilf Sunshine Coast
What a nightmare! Perhaps you can encourage your neighbour's to reconsider and
remove the invasive environmental weed. Unfortunately, only complete removal
will prevent seeding. The extensive system of underground tubers must be
physically removed and regrowth continually removed. Check out government
recommended control options at: https://www.daf.qld.gov.au
Our neighbours' shed is literally covered in cats claw
creeper. They love it - and it looks stunning when it is in bloom - but do you
have any suggestions on how I can stop the seeds from blowing into our 16
perches and taking root?
Croc eggs are another wonderful product from our Australian stone fruit growers.
Developing new varieties like this takes significant amounts of time, research
and money, so typically plants of such patented varieties are not available for
gardeners to grow at home.
I saw these croc egg plums at Woolworths recently. I grow
tropical plums at home (Gulf Ruby and Gulf Gold), so wondered if I could
possibly grow these as well.
Michael of Tamborine
I bought these fabulous little
avocado fruit from my local fruit shop. They have
virtually no seed and are the perfect size for a single
serve. Can you tell me what variety they are and if they
will grow in Brisbane?
Meredith of Warner
These are commonly known as cocktails or cukes. Rather
than being a variety, they occur spontaneously when
temperatures at flowering and fruit set are extremely
cold or abnormally hot. The Fuerte variety is
particularly susceptible to temperature extremes and
most commonly forms cukes, but it can occur on other
What you call a dragon tree is actually a native
pandanus or screw pine (most likely Pandanus tectorius).
The pineapple-like structure is a fruit, but I would not
recommend trying to eat it. If you are concerned about
the danger to people using the grass pathway, the fruit
should be removed.
Can you please identify the actual
name of the dragon tree that sits at the front of my
property. What is the pineapple looking object that has
sprouted and sits proudly overhanging the grass public
pathway? Is it a fruit if some sort?
Barry of Rothwell
This plant has appeared in my
garden. It is a climber with maroon flowers. Can you
tell me what it is? I am a bit worried as it seems quite
vigorous, but I do like the flower colour. Is it a
This creeping vine is siratro (Macroptilium
atropurpureum). It is an exotic, climbing legume planted
for farm grazing. Regrettably, it has escaped to
bushland and gardens. It is very vigorous and known to
completely engulf shrubs and trees. Remove it before it
forms long narrow seed pods.
I bought these grapes recently.
They are sweet, seedless and so unusual – long, black
and as thick as your thumb. Can you tell me anything
Grace of Kedron
You mystery grapes are Sweet Sapphire, an American
variety bred by renowned Californian table grape
breeder, David Cane. They are grown by grape producers
in several Australian states including Queensland, but
are only available for a very short season early in the
year. They are in high demand for export to Asia.