Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Hello Roses!

Here in Perth we’re in the middle of the first rose flush of spring, and this year we are having a good season.

Red Pierre looking truly spectacular

So often it can be spoiled by wet or too cool weather, but not this year.

David Austin’s ‘Munstead Wood’

This year the warm weather at the end of winter has meant that most of the roses are looking well foliaged for a change.

Named for the ballerina, David Austin’s ‘Darcey Bussell’

Hybrid tea, ‘Bonfire’. The petals turn red in the sunshine as it ages

This is hybrid tea, ‘Granada’

You might remember, back in autumn, I was talking about moving my ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ rose. Well here it is in its new home and flowering much better already.

This one is hybrid tea, ‘Radox Bouquet’

The thorny, but beautiful ‘Gertrude Jekyll’

And finally, another Austin rose, Scepter’d Isle.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge

Put on the Barry White music and dim the lights, today’s post is about Seduction

and Bold Seduction… well, the roses anyway.

These roses are very free-flowering floribundas, Bold Seduction being the deeper coloured, stiffer and thornier stemmed, more upright sport of Seduction.

They are generally the first to put on their spring flush and they’re right on cue this year with a display that somehow always makes me think of meringue.

Unfortunately Seduction doesn’t photograph as well as they could in the landscape and look more washed out towards white than they actually are. And the truth is in the warmer weather they could almost pass for a white rose anyway, but the buds show the beautiful soft pink edges all year round. In the heat, Bold Seduction will pale off to soft pink to be mistakeable for Seduction at its best. 

Of course, that they are actually flowering heavily throughout the heat of summer is a huge plus.

Seduction makes a brilliant standard because of its naturally rounded shape

and also looks great as mass planted bushes to create an informal hedge.

Bold Seduction has a far more upright vase type shape.

In my experience, these roses will thrive in any position in the garden. I’ve got them along the eastern fence so they get all the afternoon sun plus the heat of the fence itself and I’ve got one planted at the front which gets pretty much only a couple of hours of morning sun around Christmas (more later as the sun goes further north), and a bush in a position that falls somewhere between the two extremes. All of them flower profusely and thrive in Perth conditions.

They are definitely worth finding a spot for.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

About Fruit Fly Exclusion bags

Here in Perth we have Mediterranean fruit fly. These little @*^%$s (excuse the language) make the stone fruit growers life a disappointing one. I’ve had a few years of battling with these critters so let me give you the benefit of the vast wealth of knowledge I have gained (ahem).

First up, let me just say that if you think you’re going to protect your fruit by hanging old soft drink bottles with a mix of vegemite and ammonia in your trees, think again. I tried this the first year and lost all of my fruit. I still use this system but only to kill as many as I can catch.

The second year I whipped myself up some fruit fly exclusion bags out of fine netting. The first ones were made out of bridal veil (expensive), then I moved onto mosquito netting (this was black and I like to be able to see if the fruit is ripe), then a coarse netting (cheap but too stiff to manoeuvre) and now I’m using cheap net curtain fabric (this works the best of the lot). You can actually buy exclusion bags if you’re not able to make them. These work! But there are some things you should know:

1.    You will need to double them because if the net touches the fruit the fruit fly will be able to get through it. Don’t go thinking that a shortcut would be to double the layer of netting on your bags (I tried that in years 3 and 4). The layers need to be independent so that there is some air space between them.

2.    You will need to put them on early, once the fruit has some decent size. Fruit flies seem to particularly like apricots and, because they develop in size quickly, apricots are the crop that sometimes gets away from me. Usually I spot fruit fly hovering around the fruit and then panic. Not this year though, and I’m looking forward to some good fruit.

3.    Other critters like ants, ladybirds and cockroaches (ick!) will still be able to get in and you’ll see them roaming about in there. I don’t quite get why this is but there we are.

I use pegs to attach the bags to the tree. For smaller fruit like apricots and plums I use a larger bag and enclose several within it, for peaches and nectarines I bag single fruit. Because this takes time, I decide how much fruit I’m likely to eat over the time that the fruit will be ripening (I calculate this to a 2 week period although it’s probably longer) and I have enough bags to cover this. This doesn’t leave any to hand out to friends, neighbours and workmates. The whole time I’m bagging fruit I’m thinking of the story of The Little Red Hen  ;-).

Once the fruit is bagged, I strip the rest of the fruit from the tree. It’s a heartbreaking task but not as heartbreaking and messy as getting rid of rotten fruit fly infected fruit (I put them in a plastic bag and leave them in the sun for a few days to kill the maggots, although I believe you can feed them to chooks if you have them). By the way, other states of Australia have rules that require reporting of fruit fly, so please check.

Finally, I’ve succeeded in growing figs with only minimal fruit fly problems, especially at the start of the season. Perhaps this is because the fruit is hard and then softens quickly when ripe. Anyway, if they’ve been on the tree for a while I’ll let them go and the birds will eat them, and I always check for fruit fly before eating. I’ve also had mixed results with the plums so I will still leave the unbagged fruit on the tree for these fruits. Last year the unbagged fruit survived, but I have, in the past, lost the whole crop as well, so I wouldn’t want to leave it all unbagged.

Oh, and before I forget! The blood plums don’t colour as normal, although they still ripen. Perhaps the bloom is being rubbed off them or something. Anyway it’s quite a mystery and I need to experiment a little more with them.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Spring In Flower: Peaches and Nectarines

“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.” 
Alice Walker

Let me start this post by introducing you to the Double Jewel peach – a peach of such outstanding beauty when in flower that I planted one in my front yard as an ornamental.

Not content with being such a show stopper in spring it also grows well (by that I mean quickly) in Perth conditions (heat, wind, dry and rubbish soil) and the fluffy pompoms of blossom become large, juicy, yellow free-stone fruit with a taste that I particularly like: a great peach flavour with a slightly sharp aftertaste which gives it a fresh zing. 

I highly highly recommend this peach. It is distributed by Flemings in Australia, so there is no doubt a stockist near you (when I googled this I also noticed some stockists in the US).

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, apart from my new dwarf nectarines that I featured a few weeks back, I have two full-sized nectarine trees and one other peach. The other peach, a Flavourcrest variety has medium sized fruit of good flavour.  In the photo above the double jewels are the 3 large peaches, the smaller one is a Flavourcrest and the bright red at the back is a Maygrand nectarine.It has your standard peach/nectarine type blossom, which is still totally beautiful.

The blossom shown here is actually my Maygrand nectarine. This tree has outstandingly flavoured bright red yellow-fleshed free-stone fruit that are only small to medium in size. Both these trees are medium chill and so don’t produce as well as the lower chill varieties in Perth.

My other nectarine, a Fairlane, has completely different flowers again. This one has blossom that reminds me of something you might see in a Japanese painting. My guess, judging by the numbers of flowers on it, is that this tree is also low-chill. My fruit-growing book wasn’t sure and had it as ‘Medium?’. I don’t know much about the taste at this stage since the fruit I was trying to keep from being attacked by fruit fly last year fell off. I am hoping it is a nectarine that I bought in the shops and then went searching to try and work out which variety it was – a large, yellow coloured late season fruit. Fingers crossed.

If you are a fan of peaches and nectarines it is probably worth the effort to grow your own. They need sunshine to develop their full flavour - you can’t buy the flavour of a tree ripened peach or nectarine in a shop. It can’t be beaten.

Happy gardening!