unnamedBarbara, one of our club members is kindly offering free hypoestes aristata plants (ribbon plants) to club members. It’s a beautiful tough autumn purple flowering plant, loved by bees, excellent cut flower, growing habits similar to salvia and seeds everywhere if you let it, but also easy to remove if it spreads too far.

If you’re interested, please go to the contact form and leave a comment so pickup can be arranged.

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Goodbye 2016

christmas-treesUnbelievably the year is over for our garden club. We had a great Christmas lunch (the food wasn’t bad but the company was excellent!) and have all exchanged our holiday greetings.

So, that’s it for this year. We’re back on the 2nd February 2017 when we’ll have a guest speaker talk to us about roses. Between now and then we’ll all try to keep cool and keep our plants well watered through the Sydney summer.

See you in February.

Happy Holidays from MTGC!

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Eric Brocken from the EarthCare Centre spoke to our club in September about Permaculture. He admitted that permaculture is a very broad term that can mean many different things. For this talk he focussed on sustainability and building resilience into a garden – specifically maintaining healthy soil by encouraging microbes.

The bottom line is that it’s the bacteria in the soil that make the whole system tick. Each different species of bacteria (there can be 10 billion species of bacteria in 1 teaspoon of soil) has its own role to play in making the soil something that sustains the plants and provides the nutrients that eventually make it into our diet. The best way to help nurture this bacteria is to: a) compost, b) use (or encourage) worms, c) avoid commercial fertilisers.  Compost and worms provide a good environment for bacteria to grow whereas fertilisers can kill or stunt bacteria (besides, most of the chemicals poured onto a garden end up being washed away and entering our waterways as pollutants). It can be a fine balance, but the aim should be to have deep, fertile soil where bacteria and plants can thrive with as few outside additives as possible.

Eric shared a plethora of interesting information in his short talk and left us all wanting more. At the end he suggested “Teaming with Nutrients”, a book by Jeff Lowenfells which explains how plants get nutrition from the soil and tells gardeners how they can boost plant nutrition using organic practices.

Our next meeting will be held on 6 October: Bring One – Take One. Every club member should bring along a plant or garden item to give away and they’ll take something different home.

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The August meeting of the garden club was our AGM. At the meeting a new constitution was adopted (you can request a copy from the secretary) and our new committee was elected as follows:

President:                       Ann Chilman
Vice President:                Elaine Greentree
Secretary:                         Susan Fennelly
Treasurer:                        John Jones
Refreshments officer:    Malcolm Tidman
Committee:                      Sue Robertson, Louise Johnson, Pat Berry

Thanks to those who have volunteered their time and energy to making this club great for another year!

BTW, our super sleuth-cum-treasurer, John, uncovered an old newspaper article which points to an official creation of our club in 1920. It’s almost ime to start planning our centenary birthday party!

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Plant Nutrition

Bruce Higgs of Darvill Nursery visited our club to talk about Plant Nutrition and Terrorism. Before we end up on any watch list I want to make it clear that the last word of his subject had to do with how the allowed component percentages of fertilisers have changed since 9-11, not with a how-to demonstration 😮

Bruce gave us some great information about how to get the most out of your plants. He said the key things to consider are: the location of your plant, soil type, use of mulch, water, pruning and fertiliser. Professionals also do things like leaf analysis, soil testing and local plus global expertise. We may not all have a lab at our disposal but we can get an inexpensive pH testing kit and tap into online resources to help us improve our plant health.

Some online tools Bruce suggested we use include:

He gave a lot of information about specific plants and what p/n & k/n ratios would yield the best results. It was fascinating and a little bit intimidating but I know we all left with more understanding of what our plants might need and the pros and cons of different types of fertilisers.


Our next meeting is August 4th when Robyn Bible talks about Geraniums and Pelagoniums . It’s also our AGM.

Don’t forget to check out the gardening column in the Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine. It appears in every issue and features information about the goings on in this club.

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Lincoln Park Conservatory, Chicago

The originally scheduled June speaker cancelled but we didn’t have to do without an interesting talk thanks to one of our members, Susan, offering to give a presentation about her recent visit to Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago. What an amazing place – the well-designed layout meant that one could have spent days looking at all the exhibits, and drooling.

Susan’s photos were fantastic and there was so much to look at. Paved paths wound through the Conservatory, revealing different rooms containing different collections. We saw a huge variety of flowering plants including orchids, irises, anthuriums, and bromeliads, to name a few, in a variety of different colours and colour combinations. The fern room was very large, with a naturalistic style to it, and breathtaking in its beauty.

What is remarkable is that this giant glasshouse has been engineered to ensure optimum growing conditions for all the plants, including tropical varieties, in an area where it snows in winter.


After Susan’s talk, we were challenged to a game of gardening trivia. To ensure random seating arrangements, each member was given a number from one to four, then all the number one’s formed a group, all the number two’s formed another group etc. It was a lot of fun, and everyone enjoyed themselves. There were prizes for the winning group – a potted pansy for each person.

Our next meeting is July 7th when Bruce Higgs of Darvill Nursery will be talking to the club about Plant Nutrition and Terrorism.

Don’t forget to check out the gardening column in the Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine. It appears in every issue and features information about the goings on in this club.

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Plant Identification

Back by popular demand!

Alexander Greentree was the star of our Library Event. He was our expert horticulturalist who answered questions from members and visitors alike. A large proportion of those questions involved plant identification. He was such a hit that we asked him to come back and speak to the club and he obliged. Plant identification is something that we all struggle with and so getting tips from an expert was much appreciated by everyone.


Alexander will be providing a cheat sheet for members but I think it’s worth putting some of his key points here.

Basically the number one thing any gardener can do to identify and learn more about plants is get on the internet. As Alexander pointed out, it’s like the biggest plant book ever written – and then some. Once you’re on the internet, use your favourite search engine to enter the key words or phrases that describe your plant – look at the images, not the websites. From there a bit of quick scrolling might be all it takes to find your plant. If not, make a few changes to your key words and try again.

Of course the critical thing is using the right key words. Alexander suggests that starting small is best – generally providing “habit” and “flower description” is enough. The following forms of categorisation gives you an idea of what you might want to use in your search engine:

  1. Habit: Tree, shrub, vine, grass, orchid or lily, fern, flowering herbaceous or water plant
  2. Leaf type: simple or compound
  3. Leaf shape: for example, lobed, spatulated, ovate…
  4. Flower shape & colour: eg pea, mint, tubular, spurred… plus colour
  5. Flower type: eg solitary, umbel, disk, spike…
  6. Leaf arrangement: opposite, alternate, whirled, basal
  7. Leaf margin: eg entire, serrulate, serate, dentate…

And if all that fails, Alexander has offered club members that if you want to send him a photo of your plant with a close up of leaf and flower, he’ll help you identify it. If you want to take Alexander up on this offer, use the contact page and I’ll send you his email address.

Warning! Plant identification can become an addiction. You can spend hours online researching and hunting – solving the mystery and learning a lot on the way. But please don’t forget that if you love a plant, you don’t have to know what it’s called to enjoy it 🙂

Our next meeting is June 2nd when Wayne Tapping of Wildwood Garden will be talking to the club.

Don’t forget to check out the gardening column in the Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine. It appears in every issue and features information about the goings on in this club.

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