Gardening with Neil Fisher
If you are driving through the streets of Rockhampton right now you will notice a beautiful shrub or small tree with long, cream bottle brush flowers. This is the Ivory Curl flower of Buckinghamia celsissima.
It is a plant that deserves a place in most gardens or is perfect as a trail specimen. Unlike many trail trees, Buckinghamia celsissima has no bad habits, with some of these trees having been grown happily in confined areas of Queensland roadsides for years without any problems.
Even without flowers, its attractive evergreen habit makes it an interesting specimen. Buckinghamia Celsissima blooms from now until around the end of February. One of the most beautiful plants grows on the grounds of Waraburra State School in Gracemere and is clearly visible from the Johnson Road School car park. Buckinghamia Celsissima at Waraburra State School
Companion plants can be described as those plants which seem, through their growth, to have an affinity for other plants, not necessarily those of the same species. Companion planting is the practice of applying this theory to everyday gardening.
This practice was noted by early horticulturists in their observations of the characteristics of plants growing in close proximity to each other. Today it has become almost scientific, with many of the earliest observations having been subjected to rigorous testing, with comparable results.
The benefits of this type of planting are quite simple – it will maximize the growth capacity of the plants they are planted with, help repel pests and make the most of the nutrients available in the garden.
Three of the best companion plants are:
Marigolds – any variety of commercially sold marigolds would work, even the common Stinking Rogers. Benefits include root nematode control, repelling pests by leaf odor.
Garlic – can be described as the utility plant of the garden, as it will deter pests such as aphids and cabbage moth, and is particularly effective in controlling rose pests. It is highly recommended for planting around vegetables such as carrots, lettuce, peas, silver beets and tomatoes.
Herbs – most herbs can be considered companion plants for the increased growth of other plants and their repellent effect on insects. One of the best combinations of herbs and vegetables is basil and tomatoes.
An important note: fennel would be one of the only herbs not suitable for companion planting.
POT PLANTS FOR FEBRUARY
It’s not only the garden that can look great in February, but it’s also an opportunity to create displays of color on a balcony, terrace or other sunny living spaces. This can be achieved by planting beautiful flowering annuals in containers.
From simple pots to decorative urns to window boxes, containers are perfect for growing flowering annuals any time of the year. They are also good for providing a low maintenance solution to brighten up a yard or patio. Growing plants in containers can also be a must-have activity for children, providing both the thrill of watching the plant grow and the responsibility of caring for it.
There are many varieties of annuals available at your local nursery suitable for container planting. Petunias are a regular favourite, offering a wide range of colors either in trendy or brilliant mixes or in separate colors. Snapdragons, lobelias, marigolds, pansies and violas all make excellent container displays.
Plants can be purchased as seedlings and in a few weeks they will bloom. Once potted, these plants should be kept away from windy locations, as moisture evaporates more quickly. Also avoid very shady spots, as most summer annuals need lots of sun.
A handy tip to remember when planting your seedling, good potting soil is important. I would recommend one that is well balanced, light and easy to drain and includes slow release fertilizer and water retention granules. Remember, however, that a supply of soluble fertilizer every two weeks will be necessary to maintain the flowers to come.
PLANT NOW FOR FEBRUARY
Annuals – Marigolds, Salvia, Petunia, Alyssum, Candytuft, Cineraria, Clarkia, Cornflower, Delphinium, Dianthus Gypsophila, Larkspur, Linaria, Lobelia, Pansy, Phlox, Poppy, Primula, Snapdragon, Statice, Stock, Sweet Pea, Verbena and Viola