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OK...so we cheated! It's not easy to get mail in the first issue of any publication so we used some of the correspondence sent to the Society's web site over the past months. The Q and A format may or may not continue but, if it does, the quality of the "As" should improve as a few more qualified people (than the editor!) are conscripted to assist.

This is your forum and your chance to raise any issue about growing, propagating or appreciating Australian plants, about the Society and its activities, about conservation issues. You can even "drop a bucket" on the editor if you feel so inclined. It won't be the first time.......

No Seed to be Found

I spent a couple of hours sliding around your pages and their links (and theirs...) but could find no trace of a mail-order seed vendor, which of course is what I was seeking. If it's bureaucratically possible, could you please display a list of such firms (or a link to one) in your pages?


Kate Sedwick,
Los Angeles, California

Thanks for taking the time to "slide around" the SGAP web site (http://www.ozemail.com.au/~sgap/)...I hope there were no lasting injuries :-). If you've had a look at the site recently you will have found that your request has been acted on...never let it be said that we ignore our correspondents! At this stage seven seed suppliers are listed and more will be added as we find out about them. Just select "Start Here for Australian Plants"on the main web page.

By the way, we've incorporated a "Species Finder" service into the "Seed Suppliers" section. If you're after specific species we can search the catalogues we hold and let you know if any suppliers have them listed.

Seed Found, This Time!

Thank you very much for responding so fast. I used your "Species Finder" for the first time. It is a wonderful service and I'll try to locate my Laccospadix australasica immediately at the companies you referred me to.

Thanks again,

Peter A. Hueppi,

Thanks for the response, Peter. The "Species Finder" is a bit of an experiment and it's good to get some feedback. It's been hidden away a bit on the web site but a few people have found it. We might have to give it a higher profile.

Blown Away!

Just wanted to let you know that my 12 year old daughter Brenna used your section on "grafting" for a report in her 7th grade science class. Don't worry...she put you in her bibliography!

That should "blow her class away". :-)

Thanks for all the nice information. We may not be able to graft those strange Australian plants here in Waldorf, Maryland, USA (near Washington, D.C.), but with your help, we can do some good ole USA types! :-)

Thanks again,

Greg Starkey,
Waldorf, Maryland

Strange? Strange! They probably look strange because they're upside down!

I'm continually amazed at where the information we put on line ends up. When the Society started its home page we never anticipated that we would play some small role in "blowing away" Brenna's class! :-)

Greg is referring to the "Plant Propagation" pages accessible from the SGAP web site. These are aimed at the average grower and form an official "Green Thumb Free Zone"! You can find information on propagation by seed, cuttings, division and grafting.

Let us know if we can help with the "good ole USA types".

Calling Conifer Growers

I am interested in growing conifer species from around the world. I have a few from Australia such as Microstrobus and Callitris and I would like to know if any of your members would like to email about these plants. Information is very limited about hardiness and conditions these plants live in. The climate in my area is USDA Zone 7 with wet winters and dry summers. I have been growing the two species mentioned above in containers and keeping them in a greenhouse over winter. I am also interested in acquiring conifer seed.

I also need information on the best way to germinate any seed I can get. For example I received some Callitris seed from a local supplier and none has started to grow, [4 months]. Perhaps I did something wrong or the seed was not viable.

Robert Aebel
Vancouver, Washington

Any conifer enthusiasts can reach Robert at fossils@pacifier.com (now there's an imaginative address!).

Callitris is regarded as a fairly easy seed to germinate by normal seed raising methods. It doesn't require any pretreatment so, if your seed is viable, I would have expected some results within 4 months. However, temperature may be a factor. Most growers in Australia would sow seeds in our spring. As you're trying to germinate them in winter, I wouldn't be throwing the seed trays out just yet.

One thing you could try to test viability is to try pregerminating a few seeds. You do this by placing seeds on a moist base (eg paper towel or vermiculite) in a closed container (such as a take away food container) and store the container in a warm position away from strong light. Check after a couple of weeks and every few days thereafter. I've found that this is a good method for germinating seeds in winter.

You should be able to get some of the seeds you're after from the "Seed Suppliers" section of the Society's web site (see above). Quite a few Callitris are listed as well as Podocarpus elatus (the "Plum Pine").

By the way, conifer enthusiasts might like to check out the "Wollomi Pine", a true "living fossil" discovered in 1994 less than 200km from Australia's largest city. You can find a link for further information in "Net Watch" in this issue.

Eucalypt Experiments in the Netherlands

I would like to get into contact with people to discuss one of my experiments in the Netherlands to raise and test Eucalyptus and Acacia species that can (or might) withstand our Dutch climate. I also would like contacts for swapping seeds.

To be more specific about my request. Normal seeds have up to now have given poor results. For example, Eucalyptus gunnii seeds available in the Netherlands come from Southern France, so I'm looking for seeds from specimen trees that grow under more extreme conditions, comparable to our climate. I was thinking about the cold and mountainous parts in Australia, high altitude, exposed, withstanding frosts. That's why I'm looking for new seeds that might offer a better chance to select the right seedlings for our climate. I'm therefore also interested in temperature/tables (observed minima) for the hardy Eucs and Acs.

By the way do you know titles of good reference books on Eucalyptus or websites where there are lists?

Jos Kevenaar,
The Netherlands

With over 500 species in each genus, there are undoubtedly some Eucalypts and Acacias that would suit your climate. The companies listed on the "Seed Suppliers" page all list several hundred of each. Perhaps you could make contact with one or two of them and discuss your requirements.

Although I don't know enough about your climate to make really meaningful suggestions, species which come to mind which could be considered are:

Acacia baileyana, boormanii, cultriformis, elata, flexifolia, howittii, mearnsii, spectabilis, terminalis
Eucalyptus cineria, cladocalyx, crenulata, dalrympleana, elata, ficifolia, leucoxylon, mannifera, nicholii, pauciflora, scoparia,viridis

I'm surprised that you have trouble with E.gunnii. This is tree is native to a fairly cold climate (Tasmania) and occurs up to altitudes on 1100 metres.

There is a website which has a lot of information on Eucalypts. Take a look at the online version of part of Volume 19 of the "Flora of Australia"which just happens to deal with Eucalypts. There's more details on this in "Net Watch" in this issue. As far as books are concerned, the best reference is the 3 volume set "Field Guide to Eucalypts" by M. Brooker and D. Kleinig (Inkata Press, Melbourne and Sydney). This is not really a horticultural reference but there are photographs, distribution maps and descriptions of all species. Apart from that, Volume 4 of the "Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants" by R. Elliot and D. Jones (Lothian Publishing, Melbourne) covers many Eucalyptus species (two or three paragraphs on each with comments on hardiness, propagation, etc).

Anyone who is able to assist can contact Jos at jkevfast@epsilon.nl.

Flannels Self Seeding!

Do you have any information on Flannel Flowers? I have been fortunate as a plant I bought has self seeded. Do I just leave them alone or can I transplant. Do they like feeding? Any advice would be appreciated.

Lindy Spencer,
Sydney, New South Wales

It's not unusual for Flannel flowers that are doing well in a garden to self seed...it's a good way to keep them going as the plants generally only last two to three years in gardens. If they last longer they tend to look a bit "tatty". Fortunately they are easy to propagate by cuttings.

If they were mine I'd leave them alone (and that includes not giving them additional water or fertiliser). If they've come up in a position where they are going to be walked on or otherwise damaged, there's no harm in transplanting them (in such cases there's nothing to lose). I'd leave them until they were about 75mm high then, making sure that the soil is moist so that the root ball you remove wont fall apart, use a hand trowel to cut a circle around the plant (about 100mm diameter) and gently lift out the cylinder of soil and place in a prepared hole in the new position. Anytime during autumn should be a good time to move the plants. Flannel flowers do best in a sandy soil or sandy loam with good drainage.

I hope this helps. Don't forget to check out the article on Flannel Flowers by Cathy Offord and Joanne Tyler of Mt Annan Botanic Gardens in this issue of Australian Plants online.

New York! New York!

Can you tell me anything about how to propagate Scaevola or where to get info about it.

We have had success this summer with this plant (New York state) and would like to continue with it next year.

Gary Marcus,
Albany, NY

There are something like 70 or more species of Scaevola in Australia and a few more elsewhere. For those who don't know them, they are generally prostrate, herbaceous plants with fairly soft, fleshy leaves and small blue or mauve flowers. The flowers are arranged with the petals on one side of the flower head and this has given rise to the name "Fan Flowers".

You didn't say which species you have but all of the commonly grown ones (at least in Aus) are readily propagated by cuttings. Take firm, new season's growth (ie not the very new shoots). In Aus the best time is late summer to early autumn and I would expect the same conditions would be OK for you. However, if the material looks good they can probably be taken at any time except for areas where winters are very cold (is this you?).

Any general book on gardening should have sufficient info on propagation from cuttings to enable you to have some success. If you can't find anything suitable, have a look at the Plant Propagation section on the Society's home page.

Philadelphia in Winter

Hello. I am from Philadelphia in the USA, and I just received a variety of seeds from Australia. As you can imagine, your Society is one of the only places where I can get information on planting.

We are heading into Winter here, where temperatures will drop to no lower than 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Our active growing season usually runs from very late April until late October; we have hot, humid Summers (afternoon temperature averages between 85 degrees F. to 90 from June through early September). The varieties I have are as follows: tantoon tea tree, lemon scented bottlebrush, "Cootamundra Wattle," Red and Green Kangaroo Paw and pink flowering yellow gum.

Will these plants tolerate Philadelphia temperatures? Are the Kangaroo Paws considered annuals or perennials?

Any information you can offer will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Michele Greene,

If my maths is correct (something that can never be taken for granted), 0 degrees Fahrenheit is around -18 degrees Celsius. This is a bit colder than I'm used to and there are few places in Australia where temperatures this low would occur, at least as far as major population centres are concerned. None the less, I think most of the species you mentioned would be able to cope with winter in Philadelphia with the exception of the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii) which is regarded as frost sensitive here. The "Tantoon Tea Tree" is one that I'm not familiar with under that name. It's probably one of the Leptospermums or Melaleucas and, unless it's native to tropical areas, it should be OK. All of the others have been grown successfully in cold areas of Australia although, as I mentioned, probably not as cold as you experience.

Kangaroo Paws may be either annual or perennial. Some species die back to an underground rhizome in autumn and grow again during the next summer. Others persist in full leaf year after year. The Red and Green Paw (which is the floral emblem of the state of Western Australia by the way) is sort of "in between". Most growers (if they can grow it at all) would get 2 to 3 years out of it. In the areas of Australia where humid summers occur, A.manglesii is hard to grow and is subject to a number of fungal diseases. These shouldn't be of concern to you, hopefully. If the plant succeeds, it is recommended that the clump be divided every couple of years. This is said to prolong the life of the plant. Kangaroo paws are easily divided by digging up the clump and cutting it into two or more segments before replanting.

Scaling the Highlands

I live in the highlands near Cooma. I have lost a number of native plants over the past few years due to the attack by a large scale insect that sucks the sap on the smaller branches. This insect is in turn being harvested by ants that seem to "milk" it of secretions.

How do I deal with this problem? Will Rogor help....I use this on the roses.

Robert McDonald,
Cooma, New South Wales

Scale is one of those problems that have various methods of treatment, each more lethal than the previous!

Small infestations can often be removed physically...rubbed off with hands, sprayed off with a strong jet of water. Your problem, however, sounds a bit more severe if plants are being lost.

To be honest I haven't had a lot of personal experience in removing large scale infestations...I tend to let nature take its course but I haven't had any really severe scale problems. The recommended treatment by those "in the know" is white oil which can be purchased at nurseries. The oil is mixed with water at a recommended rate and then sprayed over the infestation. It works by suffocating the insects inside the scaly coating. Several applications may be needed. White oil is a fairly benign product in terms of its effect on the environment.

If the problem is really severe, a mixture of white oil and pyrethrum or other contact insecticide (at its recommended rate) should do the job but it would be best to consult the Agriculture Dept for advice on the suitability of specific chemicals for use in combination.

G'day from the USA

I wish to tell you how much I enjoy your pages. Your pages on propagation in amoung the best on the internet and are useful where ever you live. I live in central Arkansas in the USA (about 450 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico). It would be nice if you had a link to zone information for Australia. I was lucky enough to find a description today in the newsgroup "rec.gardens", but a map and explanation of the Australian zone system online would be very appreciated. From that description, it seems little from Australia would survive in my climate, outside of a green house!

Beth Matney,

Thanks for the kind words, Beth. The propagation info was basically something we put together some years ago for some of the Society's "hand out" literature. Putting it on the web was a bit of an experiment but it seems to have worked....if the messages from yourself and Greg Starkey (above) are any indication.

I saw the discussion on the US v/s Australia climate zones too. It was on the "aus.gardens" group and caused more discussion than any other topic I've seen on that group. I don't know if there is an online system explaining Australian climate zones but I agree that it would be useful...perhaps some other reader knows of an appropriate site. Similarly, I would find it useful to know more about the United States Dept of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Hardiness Zone system. I'm often receiving questions regarding the suitability of certain Aus plants for specific USDA zones but they don't really mean anything to me (note: in response to my request, Beth referred me to USDA Zone Information available on line...perhaps others will also find it useful).

Melaleuca Malady

This is the first time that I have logged on to your web site and I am afraid it is because I am killing an Australian plant. I received the seedling of Melaleuca armillaris from a fellow horticultural classmate and it was really doing quite well until I transplanted it a month ago. I have it in a clay pot in a east facing window ( where it was before I transplanted it) that receives no direct sunlight for our winter half of the year. The soil is of about a 7.0 pH and I have been keeping it consistently watered with a bit of a feeding since transplanting. The plant itself keeps looking stressed and losing bottom branches as if it was drying out.

I was also wondering if you can tell me anything about the plant. I have found out that it is in the same genus as the Tea tree and was wondering if it has any medicinal qualities, native uses or if there is a way that I could get it to flower. Any reply to this would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for being out here!

Lisa Beaudry,

Killing an Aussie plant! Well, you've come to the right place. When it comes to killing Australian plants, I'm an expert! But perhaps I can help here...

From what you tell me , you are growing the plant indoors and I think this is the problem. Melaleucas are very poor house plants (at least in Aus). They need fresh air and good light. You didn't say where you are located but I suppose growing it outdoors isn't practical. Some of the US winter temperatures I've seen mentioned are much lower than we experience and, although M armillaris is tolerant of frost here, I don't know how successful it would be under really cold conditions.

Apart from trying to move it outdoors, there's not much you can do. M armillaris is one of the hardiest of the species here and is often used as a screening plant...it forms a dense bush about 4-5 metres high and wide. The flowers are of the "bottlebrush" type (Do you know the Australian bottlebrushes? If you do, the flower spikes are similar but much smaller and white in colour).

Actually Melaleuca isn't in the same genus as the tea trees. Strictly speaking the latter are in the related genus, Leptospermum. However, the issue is confusing as the well known "Tea Tree Oil" is extracted from the foliage of Melaleuca alternifolia! Common names with Australian plants are a real pain.

I'm not aware of any specific medicinal or other uses for M armillaris. Like other members of the genus the foliage does contain volatile oils but I don't know of any commercial extraction.

M armillaris should flower in about 3-4 years from seed and there's not much you can do to hurry it along. If it's growing well it will flower when its ready. The only advice I would give it to not fertilise more than twice a year if its in a container...no more than one a year if its in the ground....and don't use fertilisers strong in nitrogen as this can promote foliage at the expense of flowers.

Eucalyptus in Seattle

I found your name on one of the Web pages. I love Eucalyptus and would like to learn the basics on growing and tending the tree. I live in the Pacific Northwest of the USA.

I've checked with a few local gardeners who have no experience with the tree. I understand that Eucalyptus is quite prevalent in Northern California. Our climate is similarly moderate.

Any ideas, tips, or info sources for this novice?

Lynne Gregg,
Seattle, Washington

It's difficult to give specific advice on growing eucalypts because there are over 700 different species and my knowledge of the climate in Seattle is restricted to what I've seen at the movies ("Sleepless in...") and on TV ("Frasier"). I get the impression that it's fairly wet! This being the case, it would be best to avoid trying to grow species native to the drier areas of Australia. Species native to temperate areas of Australia's east coast would probably be the best ones to try. I know it's probably difficult for you to know where different species come from so I expect you will have to try growing whichever species are available.

Were you planning on growing plants from seed? Most eucalypts grow readily from seed sown into a conventional seed raising mix. Seedlings usually appear in 3 to 6 weeks. The individual seedlings are quite small so care has to be taken in watering...use a very fine spray. Seedlings can be carefully potted into small pots when they are at the second pair of leaves. A bit of slow release fertiliser in the pots at this stage is useful. As the seedlings grow they are best loosely staked (using a small wooden skewer).

If you can easily provide water to the plants, the small plants could be planted out when they are about 150mm high. Otherwise they are probably best potted up into 150-200mm diameter pots so that they can develop a better root system before planting.

Eucalypts don't seem to resent fertilising to the same extent as some other Australian natives, but it's probably best to use only slow release types. Once planted out, annual fertilising would be more than enough.

Once the plants are established they generally don't require any special care. They generally tolerate pruning (some tolerate even drastic pruning to ground level!) but this tends to spoil the natural shape of the tree and is not recommended unless there is some need (such as overhead power lines).

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