Simpson Shadehouse - Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Simpson Shadehouse - Adelaide Botanic Gardens

19 December 2013

Hoya carnosa

There are 200 to 300 Hoyas in the world but Hoya carnosa is possibly the best known in Australia.  It's native to East Asia and Australia and thrives in shade in a potbound situation.

07 December 2013


Hydrangea is a bit out of fashion now as, in a dry climate, it needs quite a bit of water.  It's probably more sensible to grow hydrangeas in large pots.  That way they can be moved into the shade as the sun starts to blaze although it needs some sun in spring to stimulate flowering.  Plants can be watered more reliably in pots and they can be individually treated with bluing mixture if you want a mix of pink and blue flowers.

06 December 2013

Wicking Worm Bed

A few days ago I put together a wicking worm bed.  There's plenty of information available on wicking beds and wicking worm beds on the www (links below).  The main advantage of a wicking bed is that it's a low water use garden bed compared to traditional overhead watered garden beds.  In a wicking bed the water is contained beneath the soil in which vegetables are grown and is "wicked"up to water the roots.  This is a far more efficient way of watering especially in the dry areas of Australia and other parts of the world.

The beds themselves involve quite a degree of effort to set up.  We bought the frame, internal plastic liner, length of agricultural pipe, geo-textile layer and plastic outlet as a kit from 2 Acre Woods but you can build them from scratch with materials obtainable from many hardware stores.  Either way you'll also need a quantity of gravel or sand through which the ag pipe runs and where the water is contained.  Then you'll need good quality soil or compost on top of that.  So there's quite a bit of reasonably heavy physical work.

Once I set up the frames I lined them with the sheet of plastic (or pond liner).  You have to be careful not to puncture this!  I used large bulldog clips to hold the plastic in place on the frames (they can be removed when the soil has been put in the bed).  Then I carefully made a small hole in the plastic in line with the pre-drilled outlet hole and fitted the outlet pipe (pictured above).  The ag pipe (slotted pipe) is placed across the plastic from near this outlet to the other side of the bed and stretches up to the top of the frame (this is where the water is put in).  I've seen some variations where a length of solid pvc piping is used to deliver water to the ag pipe in the bottom of the bed.  

Gravel is then carefully placed around the ag pipe to just cover it.  Water the gravel to check for any unevenness and to make sure the overflow pipe actually overflows then cover the gravel with geo-textile (this stops the soil, which is placed above the geo-textile, dropping into the water below). 

A variation for wicking beds is to include a worm farm to increase the fertility and texture of the growing medium.  I used a quantity of compost to supplement the soil that I put in my wicking bed and the compost has a number of compost worms in it so I added a "worm farm" by using a largish plastic pot with an oversized plastic dish as a lid.  I've also used a small pot to cover the top of the ag pipe that is sticking out the top of the bed so that extraneous material doesn't fall into the water below.

Wicking beds can be constructed in small containers, such as polystyrene boxes, or in large garden situations.  To find out more about wicking beds and wicking worm beds have a look at:

2 Acre Woods (Adelaide Hills)

Scarecrow's Garden (Mid North South Australia)

Maireid Sullivan (Victoria - comprehensive e-book available)

Waterright (extensive information from Colin Austin,  the developer of the wicking bed system)

Wicking Beds - The Way To Health (Colin Austin's personal site)

05 December 2013

Alyogyne huegelii 'West Coast Gem'

Alyogynes are members of the mallow family and all species are found in West Australia or South Australia.  Alyogyne huegelii 'West Coast Gem' is a cultivar of a SA species with a profusion of purple flowers.  The flowers only last a day or 2 but there are usually a number of them in succession.  Incidentally the yellow flower behind the Alyogyne is a Yarrow (Achillea) with grey foliage.

04 December 2013


Yes it really did taste as delicious as it looks (looked).  These strawberry bushes were given to us by a neighbour 4 years ago so I can't say what variety they are.  I've noticed that our home-grown fruit (apples, apricots,  strawberries, cherries and blueberries) taste so much better than those from shops, even those that have fresh fruit direct from local growers.  My theory (based on a side by side taste test with one of our apricots and a local new season shop bought one) is that commercial growers use much more water than we do and probably some use growth hormones so their fruit is large and juicy but not always very flavoursome.  Still, this strawberry was both large and yummy.  Bonus!

Mother duck and ducklings - Minno Creek

As soon as our dog bounded up (on the other side of the fence from them) the ducks all scurried for the safety of water which was very sensible of them all.

30 November 2013

29 November 2013


Yes, we've netted our cherry trees this year.  Last year we lost every one of our cherries to birds, possums and rats.

13 November 2013

A koala's life

A koala's life seems quite solitary.  Apart from when they mate or when a mother has a baby koala they seem to spend most of their lives by themselves, sleeping, eating, moving from tree to tree in their range, not socialising at all.  They avoid humans when they can; they're very cautious except, it seems, when they're climbing along, what to us would look like, twigs but they always appear to know the limits of whatever they're climbing.  They're remarkably agile for what look like bulky animals but it's mainly fur and they're little balls of muscle under that fuzzy exterior.  And note those claws which they seldom use in anger but they can hang on to branches in ways we would never attempt.

This koala (which we think is female) was walking along our side fence at dusk - quite a remarkable feat in itself.  Then she hopped up a tree and went out on a branch which seemed far too small for her weight.  After some swaying in the evening breeze, even she thought that her choice of branch wasn't optimum and she eventually descended, continued her journey along the fenceline and disappeared over the back fence.

11 November 2013

Mulberry fingers

No I haven't been involved in a bloody conflict.  This happens when you pick a lot of mulberries.  Our old mulberry tree has had a bumper crop this year, probably because of the wet winter we had and the higher winter and spring temperatures.   And, yes, it is true that you can use an unripe mulberry to remove much of the stain from hands and clothes although wearing white when picking mulberries is not recommended!

08 November 2013

Grevillea robusta

The largest grevillea, Grevillea robusta (Silky Oak), has been grown in a number of gardens in past years and it provides an attractive display that honey eaters love.  Unfortunately it seeds and germinates quite readily so it's not recommended for planting near natural bush areas nowadays.

07 November 2013


I don't know the specific name of this bromeliad but the bright pink flowers provide quite a display in a dark corner of the garden.  Because bromeliads are epiphytic you can grow them in shady places in the garden where little else will grow, let alone flower.

05 November 2013

Tillandsia aeranthos

Tillandsias are often called air plants because, as epiphytic bromeliads, they literally grow in the air.  Probably the best known tillandsia is Spanish Moss or Old Man's Beard (Tillandsia usneoides) which grows from trees in tropical forests and even hangs off power lines in some countries.  At one time it was used as stuffing for automotive seats - a live plant!

Tillandsia aeranthos has larger leaves than Spanish Moss and it has colourful flowers (the flowers of Spanish Moss are insignificant).  The photo below shows the complete plant.  It's hanging from a hook attached to a piece of bark hanging in the shade of a birch tree.  Whilst South Australia has a much drier climate than the tropical or subtropical countries from which tillandsias originate they grow quite well (if slowly) in dappled shade and an occasional sprinkling of water.  In a humid greenhouse, growth can be spectacular.

04 November 2013

Eyes For You Rose

This is a small rose still in its pot but it's already producing flowers like this.

01 November 2013

Dasypodia selenophora

This is a "Southern Old Lady" or "Granny" moth.  Apparently they are hosted on Acacias.  This one was on the wall of the recently refurbished Blackwood public dunnies.  There used to be a couple of Flinders Ranges wattles (Acacia iteaphylla) next to the toilets on Australia Post land but they cut them down so this moth is probably wondering what happened to its habitat!

Incidentally the refurbished dunnies are a vast improvement on the previous leaking, unhygienic bog.

Red poppy

These pop up wild in gardens at this time of year.  Usually the flowers only last a day but how spectacular they can look!

28 October 2013

Grevillea "Coconut Ice"

This Grevillea is, apparently, a hybrid from  G. bipinnatifida and G. banksii.  Interestingly these are the same parents for G. "Robyn Gordon" and G. "Ned Kelly", the main differences between each being the nature of the leaf and flower colour.

26 October 2013

Prostanthera 'Poorinda Ballerina'

This is an attractive Mint bush that is in full flower in its second year.  This one is just 30cm high but can grow to 1.5 metres.  There's more detail about this particular Prostanthera here.

17 October 2013

Sunlight through Lilly Pilly leaves

My mother planted one of these in the 1960s when they were sold as Eugenia smithii.  A few years later they were sold in nurseries as Acmena smithii but they've actually been botanically classified as Syzygium smithii for many decades and they're commonly called lilly pillies!  Anyway this wet year has been very beneficial to these lilly pillies that I grew from seed and which have responded with an abundance of reddish and coppery new growth.

Syzygium is a diverse genus and includes riberry (Syzygium lehmannii) and clove (Syzygium aromaticum).  Syzygium smithii is reported to be more resistant to myrtle rust which is devastating many other myrtaceae species in the eastern mainland states.

16 October 2013

Stick insect nymph

Yesterday this little insect came inside on my jumper so I put it outside again on a camellia to take the photo.  I had no idea what it was so I sent the photo to Ask An Entomologist and they quickly told me that it was a stick insect nymph which would live on eucalypts and acacias.  Luckily for the little nymph there are plenty of those trees nearby.  What a great service Ask An Entomologist is!

Incidentally, if you look closely there's actually the tip of another insect between the two leaves but I have no idea what that one is.

15 October 2013

Mesembryanthemum spp

This time of year in South Australia you see blazes of orange, red and pink Mesembryanthemum flowers in sunny positions in various gardens.  These are plants from Europe and Africa which have naturalised in southern parts of Australia and they are available at most garden centres.  These succulents thrive on virtually no water so they're ideal for sunny patches in the garden that don't get watered very often.  And they grow very easily from cuttings in moist sand.

13 October 2013

12 October 2013

Orthrosanthus multiflorus

This is a colourful small Australian native plant that is sometimes called "morning iris".  The flowers only last a day or two and they need full sun to open but there seems to be a succession of them (hence "multiflorus").

27 September 2013

25 September 2013

24 September 2013

It's orchid time!




A selection of orchids currently in flower in our garden.

21 September 2013

Donkey orchid at Wirrapunga

This is an Australian ground orchid, Diuris pardina (Donkey or Leopard orchid) growing at Wirrapunga garden near Mylor, today.

16 July 2013

Superb Fairy Wren (Malarus cyaneus)

In the past few days a family of Superb Fairy Wrens has visited our back garden.  There's a male and 2 or 3 females or immature males.  Today I managed to catch this fuzzy photo of the male as he hopped amongst some pots in the shade.  The photo (apart from being out of focus) doesn't do justice to the blueness of the markings.  The specific name "cyaneus" (like cyan) is quite an accurate descriptor.

For sharper photos, more information and the distinctive bird song of the Superb Fairy Wren go to the Birds In Backyards entry.