Phormium ‘Apricot Queen’ New Zealand flax
New Zealand Christmas Tree
New Zealand Tea Tree
Phormium tenax Flax by Tony Foste
The South Island Kowhai
Kaka Beak Flower
Beautiful plants from the “other” side of the world.
Plant them right, give them plenty of room, and look forward to a bountiful harvest
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas, Zones 10–12) are fun and very easy to grow as long as you have enough space for their vigorous vines. At season’s end, the plants will produce delicious and nutritious roots that can store well for up to a year or longer. Though many gardeners think of this as a crop that needs warm weather and a long growing season, sweet potatoes can be easily grown wherever there are at least 90 to 100 frost-free days.
Tiny slips (above) will produce an abundance of vigorous vines. As long as the vines have plenty of room to ramble, this undemanding crop will not need much else from you. Many growers use black plastic mulch, but even a bed without plastic (below) will soon be covered in an attractive living mulch of leaves and vines.
Sweet potatoes need warm soil that is not too fertile
Sweet potatoes are grown from cuttings called “slips.” These can be purchased from a reputable grower, though gardeners may want to try growing their own. There are many excellent sweet potato varieties to experiment with; these differ greatly in flesh and skin color, as well as their adaptation to different growing regions.
Sweet potato plants are sensitive to chilling and should be planted only after the soil temperature is above 65°F. Here in Zone 5, I aim to transplant around June 10 and harvest in early October.
This is a crop that grows best in well-drained soils that are not too fertile. Avoid compacted or heavy clay soils, which can prevent roots from getting the air and water they need. Excess nitrogen will cause roots to become long and skinny rather than plump, so don’t apply compost or manure prior to planting. Although a good yield of sweet potatoes will remove the equivalent of 1 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet, for the best results only apply nutrients based on the results of a recent soil test.
The right mulch makes a big difference
To prepare the bed for planting, loosen the soil at least 8 inches deep—deeper if you can. While it is possible to grow sweet potatoes successfully without plastic mulch, we have found that we get better production if we use black plastic applied tight against the soil. This can raise soil temperatures around the young plants, allowing for an earlier start, which is particularly useful in cooler climates. However, black plastic mulch also conserves water and provides weed control in all locations.
Space your slips 9 to 12 inches apart in rows 3 to 6 feet apart. Usually a slip will have several nodes that will produce roots or shoots. Try to bury at least two or three nodes in the soil, leaving the growing point above ground. It is not important for the slip to have healthy-looking leaves; even the scraggliest looking slips can produce large, vigorous plants.
Transplanting conditions have a big impact on success. To avoid dessicating young slips that don’t have many roots, plant them out on a day when it is cloudy or raining, and water the slips immediately after planting. If your slips arrive when the weather is not conducive to transplanting, you can hold them for a week or more by placing the bundled slips in a deep pot, loosely placing potting mix around them, and watering regularly. When you are ready to plant, simply detangle the slips and plant individually.
Keep pests away from your sweet harvest
While sweet potatoes are not attacked by Colorado potato beetles and other potato pests, they do have enemies. Deer love to eat sweet potato foliage, so you may need to use fencing or row covers to keep them at bay. Voles enjoy feeding on sweet potato roots, and their damage is often not evident until harvest time. Maintaining a weed-free area around the planting, or mowing the grass very short, makes the habitat less favorable for voles. Wireworms and grubs feed upon young sweet potato roots, leaving unsightly tunnels. Both are larvae of insects that lay their eggs in grass or sod, so avoid planting root crops into newly prepared beds where grass was growing recently.
Scurf is a fungal disease that causes harmless but unattractive discoloration on the surface of sweet potato roots. Purchasing disease-free slips from a reputable supplier is the best defense against scurf and several other viruses.
Harvest as late as you can
Sweet potatoes should be harvested as late as possible—before the soil falls below 60°F. Before digging, use clippers or weed trimmers to remove the vines. Be gentle as you dig, since sweet potato skins are very soft and can rub off easily until they have been toughened up by curing.
After digging, cure your roots by keeping them in a warm place (80°F to 85°F) for four to seven days. A garage, a tool shed, the second floor of a barn, or a mudroom can be a good place to do this. Once the roots are cured, move them to their final storage place: somewhere that is moderately warm (55°F to 60°F) and humid. Take special care to avoid chilling the roots, which will be damaged by temperatures below 45°F. Under the right conditions, sweet potato roots can be stored for more than a year.
It is critical to wait a few weeks after harvest before eating the roots. While they are edible, the roots of recently dug sweet potatoes are very starchy and have poor eating quality. Throughout the first three weeks after harvest, these starches are converted into sugars, and the roots develop their excellent eating quality.
Once upon a time, Australia’s native plants were considered primitive and strange. Early European settlers filled their gardens with plants that reminded them of home, dismissing the bottlebrush or wild fuschia in favour of the English rose, for example.
Thankfully, since the early 1900s we’ve seen a resurging pride in our country’s natural beauty. We can boast some 24,000 species of native plants. Compare that to England’s paltry 1,700 and you know Australia’s flora is something special.
This guide offers you a common list of Australian native plants, sorted alphabetically by the Latin name, with the more popular name beside it. Browse through our lists of native trees, shrubs, flowering plants and orchids to find the ideal plants for your backyard.
Interested in cultivating these native plants alongside your natural looking artificial grass? This guide will let you know how easy it will be, and the best methods for getting awesome results.
Ready to dive in?
Start reading our mega guide to native plants below.
Note: This list is quite large to copy and paste. So if you’re interested, click on the link below and prepare yourselves for a treat:
Being gorgeous does not mean that you have to arrange similar things together and keep them organized. Well, keeping things organized to look great makes sense, but arranging similar things together does not always turn out well.
This front yard comprises of various kinds of plants and colors which make them look harmonious. The different height also plays an important role in getting rid of the mundane look.
The red leaf Japanese maple trees lead with their heights and colors that add beauty to the landscape. Adding some perenials and shrubs such as clethra and boxwood will be your safe bet due to their low maintenance.
2. Get The Shrubs Shaped
One of the most ubiquitous front yard landscaping ideas is getting the shrubs shaped. You can either do it yourself or have a professional to trim the shrubs.
The shaped shrubs add dramatic look to any front yards even if the yards lack colorful flowers. They can also make the front yards look lush, thus many homeowners use them to accentuate their dull front yards.
Boxwoods are one of the most favorable shrubs when it comes to decorating front yards due to their low maintenance. Just like this classic front yard. The shaped boxwoods instantly draw people’s attention. Adding some flowers can balance the appearance. And the fountain is solely icing on the cake.
3. Dual Colors for Minimalist yet Impressive Look
When it comes to accentuating a front yard, some homeowners might think that the more colorful, the better. Decorating front yard is not solely about concocting various kinds of colors and arranging them fastidiously. It will be better if you stick to a particular theme.
This front yard still looks adorable despite the minimalist look that only provides green and white colors. To add the greenery to this front yard, you can use either boxwoods or yews and put them along the driveway.
To add more colors without overwhelming the yard, you can use “Blue Muffin” arrowwood viburnum that provides creamy-white flowers in spring.
4. Light The Pathway Up
Paving some parts of the front yard is functional rather than exquisite. It guides your guests’ steps to the front door so that they will not step and wreak havoc on the lawn. However, the arrangements of the pavings can be very dull. Therefore, they do need some colors.
This paving is not appealing at all. Therefore, some flowers and shrubs are added to create a riot of color. The yelow-green folliage of Golden Vicary Privet will look great if you combine it with some purple or blue perennials such as Agastache or Thyme.
In addition to the fabulous and low-maintenance ground covers, you can add a few taller plants such as Sky Pencil Hollies or Redleaf Japanese Maples for subtle red-green colors.
5. Get Acquainted with Pebbles and Containers
If your front yard is not huge enough to keep various kinds of beautiful plants, you can still make your small yard look pretty without any lawns. You can use small pebbles in place of lawns to cover your small yard.
To create a minimalist and modern look, you can use various kinds of containers. The shapes of the containers can accentuate the plants put in them.
Since you want to have a minimalist front yard for your modern house, you need to keep the plants simple by restricting the use of a breadth of colorful flowers. Keep some greeneries like boxwoods and Slender Hinoki False Cypress as the main elements can provide you the look of elegance in simplicity.
For a more modern look, avoid planting flowers with vibrant colors and sophisticated shapes. The simpler, the better, thus firework grass, spider plant, and Sansevieria can be the safe bet.
6. Front Yard Landscaping Ideas – Make a Focal Point
Although it lacks vibrant colors since you can only see greeneries everywhere, this front yard can still charm and amaze its guests.
Some homeowners might think that a jaw-dropping front yard is the one that provides a breadth of colors. In fact, you can still create a charming
front yard even if you only put greeneries. The most important thing is you arrange the plants fastidiously.
Mkaing a focal point in your front yard which is covered by greeneries is crucial. The focal point has to be bigger, have distinctive features, and be placed in the middle of the yard.
One of the most common trees that are used as the focal point of a yard is palm trees since they are usually bigger than shrubs, have distinctive leaves, and the colors just perfectly match with any greeneries.
7. Feminine Front Yard Fence
Decorating front yard is not about putting some plants on your lawn or alont the pathway and driveway. Adding some colorful flowers and shrubs along and over your fence can perk the entrance up and make it look pretty.
The white fence would be just fine if you left it that way. However, adding some natural colors to it can turn it into a top-notch fence that can make your neighbors stop by for an indulgent landscape.
Do not overwhelm the fence with so many colors. You will want it to stay simple yet adorable. Applying two or three colors such as the pinkish hue of hybrid roses, the yellow-green of Golden Vicary Privet, and the sweet purple of butterfly bush repeatedly will be just fine.
8. Stone and Greeneries for a Natural Look
Adding some natural stones among your plants can be a great idea for a natural look. The stones can also help you to conceal imperfect looks of your front yard that cannot be fixed by plants. Furthermore, it provides the touch of boldness to your front yard.
When combining lady verns, spider plant, and arrowwood viburnum, the stones can be an A1 complement for your front yard.
There are various kinds of plants that you can use for front yard landscaping ideas. All you need to do is knowing your style and your budget available since some plants do need extra care while some others don’t. For an easy and affordable front yard landscaping, boxwoods will be your safe bet. But, again, you know what you want most.
Perfect for those in the southern hemisphere, like Australia where it’s now spring, keep this test in the back of your mind when your conditions in the U.S. improve. Today in Chicago, it’s wet and turning cold, not the best conditions for this test. I may or may not do the test this fall, but will do it first thing in the spring. For those who can do it now, here are the instructions.
Every year in the spring I do a mason jar soil test to see the soil structure in my garden. It helps me decide if I need to make any amendments to the soil. This is a simple and easy test to take if you are creating a new garden area, you’ve recently moved, or you want to do a cool experiment with your kids.
Knowing the structure of your soil will help you determine how much water and fertilizer your plants will need, and what soil amendments to make. Your soil is a mass of mineral particles, water, air, and dead organic matter. The size and form of those particles make up the basic soil structure.
An understanding of your soil is perhaps the most important aspect of gardening and will give you the best success.
There are three soil components – Clay, Sand, and Silt
Clay is the smallest mineral component. These tiny flat particles fit closely together to create the greatest surface area of all soil types. Clay soil contains needed nutrients and also stores water well. So well in fact, that drainage is slow in clay soil. It is also the slowest to warm in the spring.
Sand makes up the largest particles in soil structure. These are rounded, rather than flat and allows for larger space between the particles. Water drains quickly from the soil that has a lot of sand and the nutrients drain faster too. If your soil is mostly sand the plants will need more water and fertilizer.
Silt represents the middle size pieces. It is made up of rock and mineral particles that are larger than clay but smaller than sand. Individual silt particles are so small that they are difficult to see. To be classified as silt, a particle must be less than .005 centimeters (.002 inches) across.
The combination of these three particles is called loam and is considered the ideal garden soil. Knowing how close (or far) you are from loam will help you decided what amendments to make this spring planting season.
The Mason Jar Soil Test
- Use a clear, clean, empty jar with a tight lid. A pint or quart Mason jar works fabulously.
- Fill the jar about half full of garden soil. You can use soil from different areas of the garden to get an overall view or make a test for each garden bed.
- Fill the jar nearly to the top with water. Leave room for shaking.
- Tighten the lid and shake the jar for several minutes so that all the particles are in suspension.
- Set your mason jar soil test aside for several hours, so the particles have a chance to settle. They will separate into clay, silt, and sand layers.
Read the Results of your Mason Jar Soil Test
- The bottom layer will be the heavier particles, sand, and rocks.
- The next layer will be the silt particles.
- Above that are the clay particles.
- Organic matter may be floating on the surface of the water.
- The color of the soil gives a clue to its character – light colors usually have less organic content than dark soil and dark soil warms faster in the spring.
If your jar test is 20% clay, 40% Silt, 40% sand = Loam, you have the perfect combination. You’ve been working hard in your garden!
30% clay, 60% silt, 10% sand = Silty Clay Loam
15% clay, 20% silt, 65% sand = Sandy Loam
15% clay, 65% silt, 20% sand = Silty Loam
These other types of soil will require some amending with organic materials.
Common amendments include:
• Yard trimmings compost – Sometimes sold as “garden compost,” yard trimmings compost is the most widely available material suitable for high-rate incorporation into soil. Private composting companies usually produce it.
• Leaves from deciduous trees – Leaves are perhaps the best and most readily available organic matter source for vegetable gardens or other areas that get some annual tillage. Ask your friends to save their leaf bags for you. Don’t let them go to waste in a landfill!
• Crop residues – Fresh or composted crop residues may be available from nearby farms, tree-trimming companies, or even your own kitchen. Uncomposted crop residues may contain weed seeds, while properly composted residues are weed-free. Make your own kitchen compost bin.
• Animal manures and manure composts – Many manures and manure composts have high soluble nitrogen, ammonia, or salt content, or high pH (above 8)In general, it is best to avoid manure and manure composts for high-rate applications to planting beds. Use manures in small amounts to replace nitrogen–phosphorus–potassium fertilizers.
What Gardening Problems Are Caused by Poor Soil Quality?
Many problems with home vegetable gardens, fruit trees, shrubs, and flower gardens are caused not by pests, diseases, or a lack of nutrients, but by poor soil physical conditions.
Symptoms of poor soil quality include the following.
- The soil is dried and cracked in summer.
- Digging holes in the soil is difficult, whether it is wet or dry.
- Rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and other shrubs wilt in hot weather, even with added water.
- Leaves on shrubs turn yellow and have brown, dead sections on them, particularly on the south side of the plant.
- Tomatoes and peppers get blossom-end rot, even if fertilized with calcium.
- Water tends to pool on the soil surface and to drain slowly, or it runs off the surface.
Download this handy publication, Improving Garden Soils with Organic Matter to learn more ways to improve your soil and happy gardening!
When you envision an old-fashioned cobblestone street, granite-colored Belgian block is most likely what comes to mind. But cobblestones come in a wide array of varieties from rusty red to strié. They’re a classic complement to historic homes.
Available in a veritable rainbow of hues, bricks can go old-school, modern or anything in between. Reclaimed bricks are a great way to add instant age to any yard, while clean-lined gray ones are right at home in a contemporary setting. Brick veneer offers an easy way to get the look of brick without committing to a heavy-duty masonry project.
Man-made cement pavers vary greatly in quality and appearance. “The great thing is that they’re affordable, and if you get a little creative with how you use them, they look just a chic as using bluestone or brick,” says Tuno.
Also commonly referred to as flagstone or slate, this gray stone is a favorite for patios. For modern landscape design, Tuno recomments the clean-lined look of thermal-cut bluestone (which is free of discolorations or jagged edges); cleft bluestone has a chipped appearance that’s more rustic. Irregular-shaped bluestone works well for pathways or patios where grass can grow in between the joints.
For the most bang for your buck, Ross and Tuno suggest edging your walkway or patio in brick or stone and then filling in the center with pea gravel. If you eventually decide to invest in paving the entire thing, the gravel can be easily dug up.
Spotted Emu Bush (Eremophila maculata)
Waratah (Telopea speciosissima)
Happy Wanderer (Hardenbergia)
NSW Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum)
Fill the shady spots of your garden with ferns featured in our guide.
With their interesting foliage and textures, ferns are a must for any garden. Easy to grow and low-maintenance, they’re particularly useful for a shady spot. Some are evergreen, giving year-round interest, while others unfurl beautifully in spring.
At BBC Gardeners’ World Live we chose 10 varieties – some well-known, some more unusual – that deserve a place in your garden.
Many thanks to fern specialists Fernatix, who provided us with information on the plants in this feature.
This evergreen Himalayan maidenhair fern, Adiantum venustum, does well in shade or dappled shade; its delicate, light green fronds darken with age. Protect from wind. Height: 22-38cm
You often see British native Asplenium scolopendrium growing wild – if you spot it in your local area, it will probably grow well in your garden. It’s evergreen, and needs very little care – just a little tidying in spring. Height: 45-60cm
Asplenium scolopendrium Crispum Group
A cultivar of Asplenium scolopendrium, Crispum Group is an eye-catching evergreen that has distinctive wavy edges that become more pronounced as the plant matures. Height: 30-60cm
Deciduous painted Japanese fern Athyrium niponicum is flushed with silver and burgundy, making it an unusual, eye-catching choice. It’s growth is more prostrate than upright; it likes moisture. There are several pretty cultivars. Height: 30-38cm
Known as the autumn fern, Dryopteris erythrosora is an unusual fern has red new growth in spring, which eventually turns bronze and then green. It’s evergreen and just needs a little tidying up in early spring. Height: 60cm
In spring, deciduous fern Dryopteris wallichiana unfurls to produce striking fronds that are 90cm high. If you have the space, it looks particularly effective planted in a group. Height: 90cm
The shuttlecock fern, or ostrich fern Matteuccia struthiopteris is not a British native, but has naturalised in parts of Britain. It sends up bright green ‘shuttlecocks’ in early spring and develops into a handsome plant. It prefers a moist soil. Height: 1-1.5m
This delicate fern, Onychium japonicum, is known as the carrot fern, as its foliage resembles that of a carrot top. It hails from Japan, Thailand and India so isn’t fully hardy in the UK, although it should come through the winter in an unheated greenhouse. Height: 10-45cm
Also known as the royal fern, Osmunda regalis is a deciduous fern with a stately look, that can reach quite a size. Its foliage turns bronze in autumn. It likes a damp spot. Height: 1.5m
Polystichum polybelpharum is an easy-to-grow evergreen, also known as the Japanese tassel fern. The tips of the fronds are covered in golden hairs which give it an alternative name of the golden tassel fern. Height: 45-60cm