November 11th, 2012 by Margy
I am planning to retire from my Whistlepipe Gardens rare and unusual plants business by the end of 2013, and am seeking someone interested in taking over the website, mailing list, plant stock and masses of labels (no – my lovely property and home here in Forrestfield is not included). Ideal for a keen person with drive, available land but not necessarily the momentum to start such a business from scratch. Expressions of interest can be directed to me (Margy Clema) at email@example.com or phone 08 9453 3393.
It will be business as usual until mid next year – Garden week at Perry Lakes in April and open days here as usual in early May 2013 but then the plan is to either have a hand over period for a new owner, or a gradual sale of the remaining nursery stock
More time for me
I had always promised myself that I would downsize my business at this point in life and now, with a wonderful new partner and mutual interests in station country to the north and the desire to see more of Australia, I am doing what all good people should do in their later years and I’m learning a new language. I’m collecting, classifying and remembering all of the native plant species on the northern property – 600 down, who knows how many more to go.
My original botanical studies in plant taxonomy gave me a considerable knowledge of the flora of South Australia. Now it’s finally time to get a better appreciation of the flora of Western Australia (I’ve only been here 30 year!) – and its a very big place ….
Very best regards
September 30th, 2011 by Margy
There is no such thing as a Clematis chore in spring - it’s all an absolute pleasure at this time of year. Some of the most glorious blooms that you will ever see anywhere have burst forth from twisted blackened winter stems that one could be excused for assuming were dead. All that aside, there are a few things you can do if you can bear to tear yourself away from admiring the flowers (Lots more information is available on our supplier’s site www.ahn.com.au ).
1. Keep an eye on just where your Clematis is heading. At this time of year the stems grow almost as you watch them, and the leaves will lovingly entwine themselves around anything that happens to be handy – the washing line, the child’s bicycle or perhaps the leg of your patio chair. While this habit is endearing in the garden, and leads to unexpected floral combinations, try and head off these antics if the support is something that you need to move from time to time.
2. When your plants finish their first flush of flowering you can prune them back by a half to two thirds to make them bushier. A couple of times during the growing season we prune all our potted specimens back to 10 to 20 cm depending on the pot size, but this may be a bit radical for you.
3. After pruning always give Clematis a generous feed with a slow-release fertiliser. Clematis like more food than your average garden plant. We use Osmocote Topdress, a fertilizer that contains both an immediate and a slow release component, and apply it at about one and a half times the recommended rate. In spring a healthy well-established plant should be a bushy column of leafy sterns erupting out of the ground.
4. Watch out for mildew (white patches on the stems and leaves) which may strike some varieties at this time of year. You can either prune the plant back hard as the new growth often then emerges into conditions which do not favour mildew, or you can visit your local retailer for sprays to use. And watch out for slugs as they can turn your beautiful flowers into tattered remnants.
That’s all very fine you say, but you can’t grow Clematis in Perth. To which I reply -yes you most certainly can, and at Whistlepipe we have been growing them now for nearly 10 years. Some are in the ground but most are in big pots 30 – 50 cm in diameter where they thrive and become more robust with each year (see the image above). We do send them through the post with their stems trimmed back, but it is easier if you can come and see them at our November open days.
They really are much hardier than you think.
Best regards, Margy Clema
August 28th, 2011 by Margy
This beautiful and hardy woody-based perennial both fascinates and frustrates me enormously. It is absolutely stunning when in flower in late spring and summer, a real must have for the larger dry garden. The ends of the stems cover themselves in 15 cm white poppy flowers with delicate crepe-textured petals surrounding a large central boss of golden yellow stamens. Like many other members of the poppy family, the leaves of Romneya are an attractive and desirable glaucous blue-green.
So what is so frustrating about this plant? First of all it can be quite difficult to establish a plant in your garden. In my experience your best success will be had with a well-established large potted plant. Fine you may say, sell me one. At this point I will tear my hair as a well-established potted plant implies an ability to propagate Romneya, and the plant is a big tease. Having nursed a plant through the establishment phase, Romneya often responds by romping right through your garden, sending up new shoots (suckers) from the ends of long underground stems. To the casual visitor, logic would dictate that I dig up these ‘plants’ but I have largely given up this exercise. My few successes have been with very large clumps that need at least a 30 cm wide pot to accommodate them – not very commercially viable. The issue is that the suckers are arising from an underground stem. It may look like a root but it is not. It is only the bigger clumps arising from these suckers that have started to produce true roots.
Okay – then how about seeds. Romneya produces copious amounts in slender capsules and it is easy to collect. My germination success rate so far…. zero. I recently read, however, that Romneya seed will germinate reasonably well if it is sown freshly and treated with smoke water. My brief excitement on reading this was quelled when I read further. The young seedlings are almost impossible to transplant, so perhaps I won’t even go there anymore.
Which brings us to cuttings. Currently we are having a degree of success propagating Romneya from cuttings. At this time of year (mid-winter), the old flowering stems on my plant start to produce new shoots all along their length. We have been harvesting these shoots as heeled cuttings when they are 10 to 20 cm long. The longer ones are cut in half and then both portions are used. The cuttings are dipped in a hormone gel, placed into individual 50 mm tubes filled with an open propagating mix, and the trays of tubes placed onto a heat bed. The result? The last 10 trays of cuttings (420 plants) look like they will yield about 50 plants but its early days yet, it may be fewer. Time to do another 10 trays, but then comes Romneya’s last laugh; we will be working in wet and very cold conditions throughout the process.
Perhaps I should just stick to my Salvias.
Best regards, Margy Clema