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A Good Read...what's current in print?

Reviews in this issue cover "The Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants; Vol 1" by Rodger Elliot and David Jones and "Attracting Frogs to Your Garden" by Kevin Casey. Also reviewed is a new CD-ROM, "Birds of Australia".

The Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants; Vol 1
Rodger Elliot and David Jones

Published by Lothian Publishing Company Pty Ltd, Melbourne. 1980/81
336 pages, hard cover, $AUS95

Reviewed by Barry Larkman

Rodger Elliot's and David Jones's monumental work has now passed the halfway mark of the eight volumes planned. Volume 6 was published in 1993.

How these remarkable men maintain the pace is almost beyond belief. Not only are they compiling the definitive work on Australian plants but they are also prolific authors in other areas of horticulture and botany.

Rodger is well known, amongst much other work, for his articles in "Your Garden" magazine; David for his co-authoring books on ferns and climbing plants, as well as his work on palms, orchids and rainforest trees. In addition, both men operate functional commercial nurseries.

Now that they are so far down the road in the Encyclopaedia itself, Volume 1 is sometimes a little overlooked. This is unfair to both authors and readers. It is a mine of information.

It is almost a mini-encyclopaedia on its own account. It succeeds in being at the same time a comprehensive manual for the amateur gardener and a very excellent reference book for the commercial nurseryperson or propagator.

They have divided the book into five parts:

Introduction and History of Australian Plants in Cultivation
This is a very brief review of the Australian scene, its flora and ecology; a history, fascinating in detail, of which Australian plants were introduced overseas - where and when; a review of eucalypts; and the history of Australian plants in cultivation in Australia - how and where.

The Selection and Cultivation of Australian Plants
A survey of climate and soil aspects with plant features; the choice of plants, soil preparation, watering, fertilising, weeding, pruning, transplanting. There are clear and detailed explanations of plant feeding, soil pH and details of each element. A very good chapter covers plants in containers, choice of potting soils, fertilisers, formulae and special containers such as hanging baskets.

And there is also a beautiful section on attracting fauna - including birds, frogs bandicoots, and butterflies!

Pests, Diseases and other Ailments
Whilst not as comprehensive as some books on these subjects, this section covers the whole range of chewing and sucking insects as well as a range of other pests such as mites, nematodes, slugs, snails and rabbits. There is an explanation of plant diseases and their control. This includes an excellent description of Phytophthora cinnamomi, the dreaded Cinnamon Fungus, and there is a comprehensive list of plants believed to be tolerant of this pathogen (as well as those sensitive to it). There are recommendations for treatment, and warnings regarding chemicals where applicable.

Fully one third of the book is devoted to propagation: methods, structures and techniques. The authors cover all methods of propagation -- seeds, cuttings, grafting, budding, layering, and go into considerable detail especially with the most widely used procedures. The coverage, while simple in outline is professional in its scope. Gardeners and nurserymen alike will benefit from a study of these pages. There are ample drawings (by artist/horticulturist Trevor Blake) and the techniques are profusely illustrated with excellent photographs.

Plant Lists and Supplementary Information
The book contains 48 pages of plant lists with recommendations for different soil types, climatic aspects, for foliage effects, for containers, for fruit and for half-a-hundred other purposes.
This is a good book, still as valuable now as when first published in 1980. It is well illustrated with superb colour photos and excellent line drawings.

The authors write simply, from the security of great knowledge. They have the knack of presenting large amounts of information in easily digestible chunks. There are many headings and sub-headings, and frequent lists to make memory holding easier.

This volume was reviewed by the writer fourteen years ago. It is a great pleasure to review it again; to have the original impressions confirmed; and to suggest once again that it receive your earnest attention.

Reproduced from the March 1989 issue of the newsletter of the Victorian Region of SGAP. Some minor editorial changes have been made to bring information up to date.

Attracting Frogs to Your Garden
Kevin Casey

Published by Kimberley Productions
136 pages, soft cover, $AUS14.95

Reviewed by Jan Sked

Australia is home to some amazing frogs. We have frogs with intriguing names such as Bumpy Rocket-frog, Scarlet-sided Pobblebonk, Naked Tree Frog and Rattling Metal-eyed Frog. We have frogs that raise offspring in their stomachs and give birth from their mouths, frogs that stay underground for years waiting for rain, frogs with mating calls that sound like chirping birds, bouncing tennis balls, faint engines or someone sawing wood. There is even a species that raises its tadpoles in pouches on the male frog's hips, until they grow into tiny frogs and hop away.

These days, our unique frogs face an uncertain future. They are at risk from pesticides, drainage of breeding areas and destruction of habitat. Frogs are a wonderful asset to the environment and do an excellent job of controlling insect populations, and they are delightful little creatures to have around the garden. How then can we enjoy our native frogs, get to know them better and help them survive at the same time? Certainly, one of the easiest and most rewarding ways is by creating frog-friendly gardens in our own backyards.

"Attracting Frogs to Your Garden" by Kevin Casey is a complete guide to 'frog-scaping', the increasingly popular art of transforming your backyard or property into a welcome habitat for local native frogs. It provides essential advice and information on tadpole raising, frog identification, frog-spotting techniques, amphibians as predators and prey, frog-related wildlife regulations, frog calls and mating, building backyard frog ponds, habitat requirements for various species and much more.

Lists of frog-friendly plants are included to get you started in creating a healthy, balanced garden environment for your frogs. Hints for attracting native birds and other wildlife are there too, as are some basic tips for budding frog photographers.

"Attracting Frogs to Your Garden " is the definitive frog lover's reference, describing everything, from how to handle frog spawn, feed tadpoles and use a submersible pond pump, to where to obtain frog call cassette tapes for species in your area. Filled with quality photographs and illustrations, it shows that having different frog species in your garden can be educational, entertaining and a great way to experience the fascinating world of frogs.

The book's appendices list important addresses and sources of additional ~froggy' information, as well as a selection of suggested further reading material. This is an attractive, well-researched book, which will interest anyone who is a fan of frogs and would love to see more of them around their garden.

As author Kevin Casey points out, "Raising native frogs in your backyard through the creation of an appropriate habitat is easy, fun, environmentally beneficial and personally satisfying. It is an ideal activity to share with children, who never lose their fascination for the amazing process of tadpole metamorphosis or the challenge of trying to identify frog calls on a warm, rainy night. This guide shows you how to enjoy frogs on their terms, not as pets or captive specimens, but as wild creatures free to come and go as they please. If conditions are right, many species will return to the same pond and breed year after year. You'll know you are doing things right when you notice new species making an appearance beside their cousins in the shady foliage of your garden. After a while, you'll even be able to recognise individual frogs by their distinctive markings and colouration, and learn a great deal about how they live simply by observing their movements around your yard."

"Providing safe refuges for frogs in backyard gardens makes an enormous difference. Already some species are showing signs of recovery in urban areas where they had previously been in decline. This can largely be attributed to the efforts of individual frog enthusiasts, who have taken a few simple steps in creating frog-friendly environments and appropriate breeding areas for local species. With all the hazards frogs face in the modern world, they can certainly use more human allies. By caring for frogs and learning about their needs, we improve not only the quality of their existence, but the quality of ours as well."

Reproduced from the June 1996 issue of the newsletter of the Queensland Region of SGAP.

Birds of Australia
CD-ROM for Microsoft Windows

Published by Natural Learning Pty Ltd

Reviewed by Andrew Kolloschè

When our garden first began to flourish, we soon noticed birds taking an interest. But we were not able to identify many of them, so to this end I purchased a copy of the Readers Digest's "Complete Book of Australian Birds", a very comprehensive book with a great many details on all birds (an excellent reference), but I found it difficult to find the bird I was trying to identify quickly. Then I came across Simpson and Day's "Field Guide to the Birds of Australia" (1986 edition), finding this book so easy to use, I gave a copy to my father on his birthday.

A few months ago I came across a CD ROM version of Simpson and Day's book, and I purchased it on the spot. Besides covering everything in the book, it has bird songs, which I found very helpful in fully identifying new birds in our garden and those birds I could not fully identify before.

The programme runs under Microsoft Windows on an IBM PC or compatible 386SX or better. All menus and options are standard "Point and click" with a mouse, typing only being needed when inputting the bird's name. The help icon (a question mark) when clicked on produces an Australian female voice advising of the options available to you. I found the programme easy to use and very friendly.

Also included on the CD ROM are six short films for bird watching locations, three from National Parks, and from Featherdale Wildlife Sanctuary, Gosford Reptile Park and Southern Ocean Sea Birds, all in New South Wales. The sound track on three of these were badly distorted and the film on Sea Birds had no sound at all!

The only disappointing aspect was the number of bird songs missing. There are 793 birds on the database but only 480 bird songs. I was surprised at some of those that were missing, for example, the Red Wattle Bird and the Eastern Spinebill. In the Acknowledgements it is pointed out that most of the birdsong recordings were made by members of the Bird Observers Club of Australia. Hopefully, over time, upgraded CD ROMs will become available.

In the future perhaps we will see and hear birds moving in their natural environment instead of still pictures on our computer screens. Overall, I found the programme easy to use with particular emphasis on the bird songs being most helpful.

Reprinted from the February/March 1995 issue of the newsletter of the Armidale and District Group of SGAP.

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Australian Plants online - December 1996
The Society for Growing Australian Plants