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First Cuttings

..odds and ends from the world of Australian plants....

Blue Mountains Magic

For the past few months I've had the good fortune to be working out of the Conservation Hut at Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Like many Sydney residents, I've been guilty of taking the Blue Mountains for granted and this period has made me realise just how wonderful this area is. The sight of the setting sun on the gigantic cliff walls of Kings tableland and Mt Cloudmaker peering over the top of Mt Solitary are sights that people cross oceans to see.

Grose Valley
The rugged sandstone of the Cliff Wall, take on an orange glow at sunset . Select the thumbnail image or highlighted name for a higher resolution image (26k).

If you're passing through the Mountains, take the time to see some of the magnificent sights on offer. You don't even have to walk far. You can relax with a cup of coffee at the Conservation Hut and look out on the scenes I've just mentioned. It's just magic!

You'll get a feel for some of the rugged beauty of the area as you travel with Harry Loots from Katoomba to Kanangra Walls in this issue.

Wildflower Conference in 1999

The 5th Australian Wildflower Conference will draw together growers, exporters, wholesalers, florists, researchers, extension officers, educators, and students working on Australian and South African native cut flowers. The Conference will be held during the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, which is from 14 - 18 April 1999.

"New Flowers, Products and Technologies"

The program will include keynote addresses and formal presentations from speakers who are leaders in their area of expertise. The Conference will also contain discussion sessions, poster sessions, trade display, and field trips. The Conference will be accompanied by a floral design evening showing new designs for the use of wildflowers with traditional flowers.

To register your interest or for further information, please contact:
PR Conference Consultants Pty Ltd
PO Box 2954
Fitzroy Delivery Centre
3065 Victoria, Australia
Telephone: +61 3 9419 6199
Facsimile: +61 3 9419 6400
E-Mail: prcc@mail.austasia.net

Getting Started

Those of us who have been around Australian plants for some time tend to forget that we were once beginners ourselves... and the reason that we are still active today is undoubtedly due to the advice given by the then "old hands".

When I joined the Society for Growing Australian Plants in the early 1970s there was a series of articles called "Getting Started" running in the New South Wales' regional newsletter. These dealt with the basics and were written by the then editor of "Native Plants", Arthur Cooper. Much of what the articles said is still relevant to beginners (and others!) so, commencing in this issue, the series will be republished with some minor alterations to bring it up to date.

You probably wont agree with everything in the series....but differences in opinions makes life interesting, don't you think?

Smoke Water Now Available

Many plant propagators have been following the research on the use of smoke to promote germination of some species. The work was initiated in South Africa and taken up at Kings park Botanic garden in Perth. The idea is that smoke helps break down the dormancy that exists in many species native to areas where bushfires occur. The results have shown some definite improvement in seed germination for 100 or more Australian genera.

For the average grower, the most convenient way to apply smoke to seeds is the use of "smoke water" which, as the name suggests, is water with a high concentration of the chemicals present in smoke. To date smoke water has not been easy to obtain. A new smoke water product called Regen 2000 has now been introduced and is available from Grayson Trading, PO Box 134, Bayswater, Victoria, 3153 (phone 03 9270 7705; fax 61 3 9720 7706). Prices and package sizes are not known.

Native Gardens in Alice Springs

The Alice Springs Branch of the Society for Growing Australian Plants has produced a "Guide to Public Gardens Landscaped with Australian Plants". This would be very useful to anyone visiting "The Centre". The brochure covers 8 gardens and includes a map and a brief description of each garden.

Further information from PO Box 3588, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, 0871. If you want a copy of the Guide, please send a stamped, addressed envelope.

Indigenous Plant Nurseries - Where are they??

Indigenous nurseries are those which cater for the needs of people revegetating areas using local clones of plant species. The plants sold by these nurseries are propagated from seed or cuttings collected in the local area.

By their nature, indigenous nurseries are often very small and may be run on a non-commercial basis by local community groups. It's also very difficult to find out about the existence of these nurseries.

Thanks to Kathy Butler of Victoria, I have a list of indigenous nurseries near Melbourne (this was originally compiled by Greening Australia Victoria) and the Australian Plants Society (New South Wales) is also compiling a list for that State.

It would be useful if this information could be put on line so I'd appreciate any advice of indigenous nurseries that you know about. They need not be just small nurseries - some of the larger nurseries are starting to cater for people interested in local plants. Also, please don't think that the lists we have for Melbourne and Victoria are comprehensive so, if you know of nurseries in those areas, let me know.

Cultivar Watch

New cultivars of Australian plants appear at regular intervals, some aimed at the commercial cut flower grower and others at ornamental horticulture. Some will become firmly established in gardens and others will disappear without trace....

Here are a few which have appeared recently. Keep a look out for them at your favourite nursery:

Cultivar NameDescription
Hardenbergia violacea "Purple Falls"Prostrate form of this normally climbing plant. Purple pea flowers
Syzygium paniculatum "Undercover"A prostrate "Lilly Pilly" with deep burgundy-coloured new growth
Austromyrtus inophloia "Blushing Beauty"Small shrub with a dense, bushy habit and deep burgundy new growth for most of the year. Small white flowers in spring are followed by black fruits.
Eucalyptus (Corymbia) "Summer Beauty"This is a hybrid between C.ficifolia and C.ptychocarpa which is available as a grafted plant, although it may be in short supply. A size of about 5 metres can be expected and the tree has spectacular, massed pink flowers.
Grevillea "Firesprite"A hybrid between G.longistyla and G.venusta. It has bright red flowers and reaches about 3m x 2.5m.

Media Watch

These are a few items from various sources. Please send any similar items that you think could be of interest to other readers.

Australian Plants at Risk

The Sydney Morning Herald (April 11, 1998) reports that "Australia has the second-highest number of plant species threatened by extinction of any country in the world, according to a major new report from the World Conservation Union (IUCN)."

Top place goes to the United States with 4669 species in danger with Australia having 2245. The Australian Government's position is that Australia's position on the list is due to the detailed amount of information that was provided.

Grass Trees Under Threat

The desirability of Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea species) as landscaping plants is having an unknown effect on the long term future of the plants in the wild as all of the mature plants sold are dug up from natural populations. However, according to botanists "most of those taken from the bush - legally or illegally - are doomed to die within a few years........they often become infected with disease or lose too much of their root system during transplanting. Or well-meaning gardeners water them too much or too little or use inappropriate fertiliser".

Other problems are having an impact as well. The spread of the root fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi is causing large losses, especially in Tasmania, while changed fire regimes and misunderstanding of the relation between grass trees and fire is also leading to many losses.

From the "Good Weekend" magazine of 6 June 1998.

Until next time...good growing.

Brian Walters

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Australian Plants online - June 1998
The Society for Growing Australian Plants