Visit by Maryborough Garden Club and Maldon Garden Club

A great turnout of members on Saturday 28 April to host a big group of visitors from both the Maryborough and Maldon Garden Clubs.  Pam and Alan Isaacs hosted morning tea at their lovely home and garden in Elphinstone, then our visitors moved on to Judi and Dennis Kent’s property in Harcourt.  Here a delicious lunch was provided by club members and our visitors enjoyed strolling around the Kent’s garden.  Finally, everyone moved on to Gill King’s home in North Harcourt to admire the splendid views and yes, to eat more food!  This time a luscious afternoon tea.

Thanks to the committee for organising this wonderful event, to the hosts who welcomed our visitors to their homes and gardens, to all the club members who provided food and participated in an enjoyable day and, of course, to our visitors for making the trip from Maldon and Maryborough.

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Visit to MASARG house

A small group of members were shown around the MASARG (Mount Alexander Shire Accommodation and Respite Group) garden by Heather Morrison on Anzac Day.  Heather attended the February general meeting to thank the club for the donation of $500 towards the garden so it was good to see where the funds have been spent.  Our donation has been used to purchase advanced deciduous trees, including ashes and oaks.  These have been planted on a bank around the house.  Funds were also used to cover the cost of digging holes in the rocky soil before the trees were planted.  Whilst there is more planting to be done, it is a credit to Heather and her husband, Ian, to see the progress made already.  Those using the house now have wonderful facilities including a peaceful garden setting with lots of birds already feeding on the native plants.

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Talk on proteas

John Blake spoke at the April general meeting about growing proteas.  John and his wife, Valerie, grow these magnificent flowers on their four-hectare property at Harcourt.  They initially began growing proteas in Castlemaine in the 1980’s eventually moving to the higher slopes of Mount Alexander where fertile, good draining soil and being above the frost line has contributed to the production of top quality flowers for local and export markets.  John and Valerie also grow leucadendrons and leucospermums, also long-lasting South African flowers much prized for floral arrangements.  John advised that they cannot provide enough flowers to Japan where proteas are in high demand.

John brought along many beautiful varieties of proteas that were passed around and much admired.  In our climate, he suggested that good varieties to grow include Protea Pink Ice, Protea Repens and King Proteas.  They should be planted in free draining soil, in mounded beds.  Once established they do not require watering or fertilising.  Because of their root structure they are susceptible to phytophthora, a fungal disease.  Proteas are pruned in order to produce many flowering stems.  It takes 4 or 5 years for a plant to have a good quantity of long-stemmed flowers but once established plants can have many blooms during the flowering season.  Cut flowers can last up to four weeks.  Trim the stems and then change the water every 3 or 4 days.

Club members enjoyed John’s talk and were delighted to be able to choose flowers to take home with a generous suggestion from John that a small donation be made towards to the Club’s finances.



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Talk on bush tucker

At a well-attended March meeting Aunty Julie McHale gave an interesting and lively presentation on Bush Tucker plants.

Julie had various specimens of indigenous plants and explained how the local Dja Dja Warrung people and other groups used them.  These specimens were passed around so that we could handle, smell and taste, with the proviso that many of the fruits contain little or no fructose and are, therefore, quite sour!  Some smells and tastes were not fully appreciated by several members who felt that their chances of surviving off bush tucker might be rather slim!!

An impressive list of plants constitute bush tucker including trees, ferns and fungus, shrubs and the tubers of orchids and daisies.  Leaves, flowers, fruits, nuts, seeds, pods, gum, roots and bark are harvested not only for eating but for making medicine, soap, rope, weapons, tools etc.


Julie spoke of the importance of the Murnong or Yam Daisy to local people.  This plant was purposely planted, harvested and traded.  The very large tuber system of the Murnong was eaten raw when the plant was flowering because it was sweet.  When not in flower the tubers were cooked on the fire or pounded into little cakes and cooked on hot rocks.  These cakes would last for many months and were a food staple for the “mob”.

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Significant trees in the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens

Gill Miller, head gardener at the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens, gave a fascinating presentation on the significant trees of the gardens at the February general meeting.

The Castlemaine Botanical Gardens feature an outstanding collection of mature trees, including many conifers, elms and oaks.  Many of the trees are characteristic of late nineteenth century gardens and are classified on the National Trust’s Register of Significant Trees. An English Oak planted in 1863 is one of the oldest commemorative plantings in Victoria.

In 2014 a survey of the trees in the gardens was undertaken.  Since then annual reviews have been conducted and recommendations on how to manage the health of significant trees have been made.  Staff have been implementing these over the past few years, including canopy reduction, branch removal and in some cases, the removal of trees, together with the planting of new trees.

Gill spoke of the importance of mature trees in providing habitat for insects, birds and animals, all of which abound in the gardens.  They also provide welcome shade, wonderful colour and good mulch.

Some of the most significant trees in the gardens include:

Jersey Elm (Ulmus minor ‘Sarniensis’) – One of only two known examples in Victoria.
Large-leaved Lime (Tilia platyphyllos) – One of three known mature trees in Victoria.


English Oak (Quercus robur) – The oldest known planted tree in the gardens.


Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa bignonioides) – The largest known example in Victoria.


Stone pine (Pinus pinea) – Multiple specimens of these significant trees can be found around the gardens and provide habitat for the Powerful Owl.


Weeping Elm (Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii) – A group of elms were planted in the 1870s.




Due to the rarity of this species in cultivation, an old, lop-sided Mimosa bush (Acacia farnesiana), located on the south east boundary of the gardens, is of State significance.

Inspired by Gill’s talk, we spent a beautiful autumn morning in the gardens looking at many wonderful trees and taking lots of photos.  How privileged we feel to live in a town with such special gardens.  Thanks to those who originally planted these significant trees and to those such as Gill and her team who continue to look after them for future generations.

Judy and Philip Hopley



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Thanks from MASARG

Heather Morrison attended the February meeting to thank the club for our donation of $500 towards plants for the garden of the respite house.

“The Mount Alexander Shire Accommodation and Respite Group (MASARG Inc.) is a dedicated, independent group of parents, carers and community members working to address the critical need for respite and accommodation infrastructure and services for people with disabilities in the area”.  A respite house was completed at McKenzie Hill in Castlemaine in 2016 and a number of organisations and people have contributed to landscaping the gardens.

Heather spoke about the benefits of having lovely trees and shrubs in an attractive landscaped garden and mentioned some of the plants and trees purchased and planted from the donation made by our club.  A visit for club members to the garden is planned in the near future.


Front of Respite House (photo courtesy of MASARG)

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Visit to Lambley Garden and Nursery

On Saturday, 3rd March, we had arranged a visit by the Club to Lambley Nursery at Ascot.

Thanks to Jo with her bigger car and good air conditioning (it was 30deg even over there!) Peggy, Gill, Barbara and I were chauffeured in comfort.

We met up with Judy and Philip at the Nursery and had a good wander around.  Some of the plants are doing very well over there.  I don’t think it has been quite as dry as we have had and he does water.  It was really lovely to walk on green grass beneath the avenue of pear trees (Pyrus valiant).

A few purchases later – the Hopley’s purchased their namesake plant (Origanum laevigatum ‘Hopley’s’) – and we were off to Creswick for a picnic lunch.

A very pleasant day, just a shame there was not more people with us.

Marion Cooke


Peggy enjoying a rest at the end of the Pear Walk.


A lovely border crammed with Cleomies.


Yellow Clematis – lovely seed heads – with red salvia.


Philip trying to identify one of the plants.
(Still don’t know what it is.)

origanum laevigatum ‘Hopley_s_

Origanum laevigatum ‘Hopley’s’ – re-potted and re-housed to Campbells Creek

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