Holly's Autumn 2019 Newsletter

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The jacaranda blossom is gone, along with the wonderful fragrances of the jasmine and gardenias. The deciduous trees are taking on fiery colour and the begonias in the green house in Cook Park in Orange are at their best. The apples in the shops are new season: sweet and crisp. While it's harvest time, the relentless tasks of summer – planting, cutting back, weeding and watering – are almost complete, permitting us to sit, catch our breath and to contemplate the garden in the glow of autumn light. Welcome to my Autumn newsletter.

1 Autumn colours Mt Wilson street fnl


Queensland gardening friends are still enjoying the heavily scented Beaumontia grandiflora, a white flowering vine that is very vigorous in tropical climates. 

2 Beaumontia grandiflora

In Sydney gardens the hydrangeas are still flowering: as autumn cools their large flowerheads will take on wonderful antiqued colours. The Japanese windflowers (Anemone nemerosa) are flowering in pinks and whites, carpeting the ground beneath deciduous trees. The stars of the warm-temperate garden at this time of the year, however, are the Medinillas, which bloom with grape-like trusses of purple or pink. The gorgeous blue ginger (Dichorisandra thrysiflora) - not a ginger at all - will bloom for months. Native to South America, this fleshy perennial grows to about 1.5 metres tall and bears stunning bright blue flowers through autumn and winter. It looks fabulous with some of the brilliantly coloured cannas, and is easily propagated with cuttings once flowering is over.
The plumbago is blooming: I have seen some very smart hedges that combine 3 colours. There is the pale blue species, along with the white variety and also the new Plumbago 'Royal Cape' which bears stunning cerulean blooms. And the dahlias are in all the flower markets.

All over the country the autumn roses are putting on a show. Gardeners who cut back and fertilised after the spring blooming are now being rewarded. My neighbour's 'Crepuscule' is putting on another impressive performance, after a dose of the new Seasol rose food.

Garden lovers will know that the great British rosarian, David Austin, died in late 2018. His vigorous, remontant and very scented roses have thrived in many Australian gardens. His nursery has recently released two new roses, and has supplied these details:
Olivia Rose Austin bares flowers of an even, soft pink, opening to beautiful cupped rosettes. Flowers have a strong fragrance with fruit tones. Good vigour with dark green foliage. Named after David Austin Senior's granddaughter and "probably the best rose we have ever bred". Approx. 1.2m tall.
The Poet's Wife has strong yellow flowers that soften as they open. A compact grower suitable for the front of a rose border. Flowers appear in clusters: a rich perfume with strong lemon tints become stronger and sweeter with age. This yellow rose is an excellent addition to the David Austin range. Approx. 1.2m tall.

3-LR.Olivia Rose Austin Ausmixture B-17B-09E-9B-09 13A9383

4-LR.The Poets Wife Auswhisper A5

Closely related to apples and pears, and also a member of the Rosaceae family, the quince - the lone species Cydonia oblonga - has been grown in Iraq and Turkey for thousands of years. Quince fruit after about five years: after the blush-pink flowers appear in late spring, green fruits develop under the large leaves and become so large that the branches bend under their weight. When the fruit, which is covered in a soft protective down, is ready to harvest it resembles glowing, yellow lanterns. In a year when a late frost has not destroyed the blossom one tree can yield up to fifty kilos of fruit. Often knobbly and gnarled, and scarred by birds, the fruit can, at best, be described as handsome, but a bowl of fresh quince will fill your house with the scent of apples, lemons and pears, all mixed into one soothing aroma. 

5-.Autumn Quince

The flowers are self-fertile, so you can achieve fruit from just one tree. Watch out for pear and cherry slug, however, which is the bane of apple, pear and quince growers in some climates. These black, slimy slugs – the precursor to the sawfly - can defoliate the tree in summer and autumn and will eventually kill the tree. Spray with Bordeaux mix (an approved organic fungicide and bactericide) at blossom bud burst and again at leaf fall.


The frangipani (Plumeria spp.) is my idea of a happy plant; the sight of these sunset coloured blooms erupting on the ends of architectural limbs fills me with joy. Native to Central America, and thought to have been first described by the 17th century French botanist Charles Plumier, these slow growing trees can reach up to 10 metres. Most of the eight species in the genus are deciduous, and bear fragrant salver-form flowers, from 50mm to 130mm in diameter, through summer.
The easiest of the genus to grow is the popular yellow and white P. rubra var. acutifolia. The pink-to-carmine flowering species that is also seen often in Sydney's federation gardens (P. rosea) has gorgeous orange to yellow centres that conjure up dreams of tropical sunsets. P. rubra is fabulous, with crimson flowers on a broad canopy some eight metres high. Plumeria 'Golden Kiss' has large trusses of deep golden to apricot flowers.

Frangipanis are perfect for small gardens: they make an excellent feature tree, or can be underplanted with a variety of summer-flowering species once they reach a good height. The dwarf cultivars are suited to growing in containers in climates where they need to be taken inside for winter protection. They become deciduous in a climate with a dry season; in Sydney they lose their leaves in late Autumn.
Frangipanis are extremely undemanding, requiring only a frost-free climate, well-drained soil and several hours of sun daily. They also thrive in coastal gardens. They are easy to propagate from cuttings: P. rubra, (pictured here), flowered just 3 months after planting. You leave the cutting for several days to form a callous at the cut end. Then, plant deeply into a good quality potting mix. You might plant several varieties in a large pot, creating a wonderful eccentric, flamboyant look.
Take care: the sap that trickles from the ends of the blooms, or from the twisted, rubbery branches is poisonous and can irritate skin and eyes.

6-Frangipani rubra Jan 2019


It was in The Lodhi Garden, pictured here, an ancient Mughal garden in New Dehli that I saw a meadow planted entirely with dahlias, and realised what a useful species this once-maligned tuberous plant has become. A decade ago dahlias were unfashionable. Popular between the two world wars, when they joined hybrid tea roses, carnations and gladioli to grace island beds cut into front lawns, dahlias, with their garish colours and rigid flowers, became a leitmotif for horticultural bad taste. 

7 Dahlia meadow in Lodhi gardens

Hailed by one early 20th century Australian garden writer as 'The King of the Autumn', new, more relaxed cultivars have given dahlias another chance at horticultural respectability.
Native to Mexico, where it is the national flower, and Central America, the dahlia is a genus of about 30 species, although most of the modern varieties have been bred from just three species, D. coccinea, D. pinnata and D. hortensis.
Dahlias come in the richest of hues, from pink, cerise and purple, to yellow and orange. They bloom in a wide variety of forms: some are single-flowered, some perfectly round, others like pompoms; some are cactus-formed, some like stars. Others resemble peonies.
Many dahlias work well in a mixed border. You can team Dahlia 'Fire Mountain,' with its double, pure red, flowers and black foliage, with the tough, fire engine red Crocosmia 'Lucifier'; temper these hot colours with bronze fennel. The underestimated bergamots (Monarda spp.) will happily beef up a border, as will the easy-to-please - if you don't garden amidst humidity - sedums.
Anchor the yellow and orange section of your garden with the daisy-like Bidens triplinervia, the tall coneflower (Rubdeckia spp.) and behind a relaxed hedge of Russian sage or catmint. The apricot Dahlia 'Heat Wave' and 'Tally Ho,' with its orange blooms above green-to-pewter coloured foliage, might foreground a hedge of apricot roses such as 'Just Joey' or 'Apricot Nectar'.
Perennial dahlias can be grown from seedlings, cuttings, or tubers. Plant tubers - which will guarantee your chosen variety - in rich soil, at a depth of about eight cms, and a sheltered position, in spring, for autumn flowering. They are heavy feeders: prepare soil by adding aged manure a few weeks before planting. Apply more fertilizer when plants reach about 30cm, and, for award-winning results, apply a high potassium liquid fertliser every two weeks after buds form.

Leave dahlia tubers undisturbed for the best repeat flowering. In areas of heavy frost, however, you might lift them after the plants have died down in late autumn, or after the first frost blackens the foliage: they should be stored, in sawdust, out of sun and away from damp and rodents.

When dividing tubers, make sure you have at least one 'eye' present to ensure new growth. You can propagate also by taking cuttings of new sections that shoot from the tuber, and which will flower that same season.
Cut blooms in the cool of the early morning, with as many buds as possible to allow for days of flowers. Dip cut stalks in hot water and then plunge into cool water to prevent drooping.
So, when many of the stars of the summer garden have retreated, exhausted and depleted, you may be grateful for the dahlias, which, dressed in garish costumes, will bring their bling to your garden, laughing at those who obey the rules. And you can visit the begonia house, pictured here, in Cook Park in Orange...You might team your visit with Orange F.O.O.D. Week. 

8-Begonia house Orange FNL


The Autumn colours that many of us are enjoying now depend upon the genetic makeup of the particular species, upon the rainfall and hours of sunlight it receives, and the temperatures experienced in previous seasons, when the plant stores sugars and other nutrients. Cold nights are required for the development of the deepest colours in deciduous trees. The production of green chlorophyll falls as the nights become longer and other compounds, also assisted by high sugar levels in the leaves, develop. The coveted reds and purple tones that we love are encouraged by the anthocyanins; the yellows come from carotenoids.
Among the best trees for autumn colour are those in the extensive maple genus: there is a species to suit most climates, and a garden of any size. Among the best known are the Japanese maples - mainly Acer palmatum - particularly those in the 'Dissectum' group, with their elegant, filigreed leaves that provide contrasts in texture, along with light and shadow play. The coral bark maple A. p. 'Senkaki' (or 'Sango Kaku') is prized for its vermillion trunk: coppiced, it takes on an even richer hue. 'Beni-komachi', 'Burgundy Lace' and 'Butterfly' are other spectacular varieties. If you have a large garden you might plant an arboretum of maple species and varieties, to enjoy a range of height, form, and foliage colour and shape throughout the year.
Among the larger species and the earliest to turn, are the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), red maple (A. rubrum), the ivy-leaved trident maple (A. buergerianum), Norway maple (A. platanoides) and the silver maple (A. saccharinum). The paperbark maple, (Acer griseum), was discovered in 1901 in China by the plant hunter, Ernest Wilson: apart from its foliage, this maple offers fascinating, peeling bark.
Perhaps the loveliest of the autumn performers, for those who live in cold climates, are the acid soil-loving tupelos - Nyssa sinensis and N. sylvatica – which colour in a range of pinks and reds. Parrotia persica, (pictured here) an elegant small, spreading tree that reaches about four metres, turns yellow, gold and orange at the end of summer. Halesia monticolor , the snowdrop tree, is a graceful, wide-canopied tree from North America; its leaves turn pink and red. Persimmon (Diosporos kaki) are marvellous trees for small gardens in cold climates. At this time of the year, their orange globes hang on the tree like glowing orbs. Picked they add light and colour to an arrangement of leaves. 

9 Parrotia persica FNL

If you garden on hectares, the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), one of the few deciduous conifers, colours a rust-red.
Begging to be planted in copses, the birches turn a butter yellow in autumn. Some, including Betula lutea (also known as B. alleghaniensis) and B. papyrifera offer the bonus of beautiful bark. The tall growing tulip trees, (Liriodendron tulipifera) turn deep yellow in autumn.
If you have autumn-colouring leaves in your garden, you will never be without something to pick for the house. And many of the spring-flowering, cold climate species develop fruits, berries and hips through autumn and winter: the viburnums are among the many species that will entice you into your garden in each season. The grasses develop seed heads that catch the wind, and the golden rays of the setting sun, as you can see in this picture taken at the Highline, one November, in New York. 

10-Grasses HighLine2 FNL

You don't need to miss out on seasonal excitement if you live in a warm climate: the Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) trumpets cooler days ahead, and Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) colours a glorious, deep red as winter approaches. But be careful: this ivy can become a 'thug'.
And you don't have to own a cold-climate garden to enjoy the colours of autumn: many gardens open their gates to allow visitors to enjoy the autumn colours developing on many northern hemisphere trees.
In the mountain areas behind the capital cities open gardens attract thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the autumn fireworks show.


It's time to order auriculas from Sue Wallbank at Pen-Lan Plants in Tasmania
'These wonderful little plants have had a great growing year in 2018 and almost refuse to stop blooming,' writes Sue. 'The Doubles are always the earliest to flower (quite often starting in August) and the season goes until November/December. As well as the wide variety of colours and form the auriculas have a subtle perfume which enhances their appeal.
As they originated in the European Alps auriculas are best suited to areas with cooler winters and low summer humidity – they prefer drier conditions and do not like to be over-watered in summer as they have an almost dormant period at this time. We recommend purchasing in autumn once plants are in active growth again. Pot culture is recommended as the plants may be more easily moved around to suitable positions.
2018 has produced a crop of lovely new plants from a cross made here between 'Molly Langford' and 'Avril Hunter', both beautiful Alpine Light Centres in shades of mauve/blue. The best of these are being trialled for future naming. We are also working on producing some new striped varieties and a range of the hardy border types.
If you would like to order go to www.auricula.net.au or 0418 883583

11-Auriculas2 FNL

And it's time to order your bulbs for an easy meadow.
A few bulb suppliers include:
Diggers: 03 5984 7900
Van Diemen Bulbs: 03 6442 2012
Blue Dandenongs: 03 9756 6766
Hancocks Bulbs: 03 9754 3328
Tesselaars: 1300 428 527


Now that autumn is here it's time to tidy the garden. This means pruning, which is easy if you follow a few simple rules.
William Robinson, the Irish writer who gardened on 500 hectares at Gravetye Manor, south of London, had strong opinions on all forms of gardening, from alpine gardens to orchards to woodlands and wild meadows. In his 'Home Landscapes,' published in 1914, he wrote that the clipping of some species was an 'ignorant and stupid practice' and a 'false art.'
How he would have abhorred the drastic pruning of crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) which, if left to grow as nature intended, develop elegant outstretched arms and wonderfully patterned limbs and trunks.
Hedges, borders and edges of flowering species such as murraya and gardenia, with their glorious scent over Christmas, should be pruned now. Prune earlier, in spring, and you would remove the all-important buds that are forming. Wisteria, which flowers on 'old wood', needs to be hard-pruned once flowering is over: tidy it in winter and you'll remove those essential buds.
Many trees, including magnolias and jacarandas, should be pruned as little as possible as, if pruned incorrectly, they will send shoots skyward in a most unattractive way. If you must prune ensure that you cut flush with the fork of the tree.
Pruning has its place, of course: judicious pruning promotes flower and fruit production, can create a desired shape, and can facilitate maintenance. First, consider how each species grows naturally. Does it flower, and therefore fruit, on this season's, or last season's, growth, or 'wood'? As I've said, you don't want to prune when and where the flower buds are forming.
Shrubs such as may (Spiraea spp.) buddleia and philadelphus, which send out long canes from the ground, should be cut back a few canes at a time (after flowering), at the base of the plant, to maintain that romantic, arching shape.
Hedges should be pruned from the time of planting to prevent them growing too quickly and becoming sparse and 'leggy.' Resist the temptation to allow them to grow to the desired height before starting to prune.
For gardeners who love wielding the secateurs and don't need a maintenance-free garden, there are many forms of decorative pruning that are beautiful and particularly useful in a small garden or courtyard, or in a large vegetable garden. Most are varieties of espalier, which is the art of pruning a plant to lie flat against an upright support.
Espalier turns the plainest surface into a work of art. Many species – from tall growing trees such as magnolias, to fruit trees and vines – can be successfully trained against a flat surface. Pruning of an espalier can take place in summer to keep rampant growth in check, and also in winter to create a frame. When pruning an espalier, remove any crossing branches, conserving buds that are sidewards facing to direct the growth along your supporting wires.

12-Thomas Bouche espalier

The French seem to be the masters of all forms of pruning, from pollarding to pleaching and to simple hedging. Cloud pruning is greatly loved in formal French and Italian gardens, where, after all, the hand of man must always be evident.
You might also prune a plant for a special use: as a step over living barrier for a potager, to create a pleached avenue, or cover an iron tunnel. You may even be pollarding, if you wish to emulate the landscape of an 18th century French chateau.
When using pruning equipment, including secateurs, ensure the holding arm is gripping the section of the plant that will be discarded: hold the pruners so the cutting blade is on the section of the plant that will remain on the bush. This ensures you don't bruise the remaining wood, inviting disease. Dip pruning equipment into a disinfectant bath between plants so that any infection won't be spread. And if you would like to receive a small booklet on pruning and the art of espalier (sent to me by a reader, John W Taylor), email me on holly@hollyforsyth.com.au


My favourite place to shop is at a Farmers' Market. There are over 160 regular markets throughout Australia: those at Carriageworks in Sydney, at Orange (orangefarmersmarket.org.au) and several in Tasmania are among the best.
To qualify to be part of the Australian Farmers' Markets Association and for locations go to www.farmersmarkets.org.au Email is info@farmersmarkets.org.au and phone is 02 9360 9380.


February 7th marked a decade since fire devastated so many towns in Victoria; Marysville, Kinglake, Strathewen and many others. A memorial eucalypt, instigated by the Victorian Blacksmiths Association and created by blacksmiths from around the world, has been erected in Peter Avola Park in Strathewen. A group of mothers from Cranbrook School, - we called ourselves the Cranbrook Gardeners - here in Sydney, raised several thousand dollars, which contributed to the trunk of the tree. We took a group to visit the glorious gardens of Mount Wilson: including Hawthorn, Bebeah, Nooroo and Withycombe. Some of us personally sponsored individual leaves in memory of loved ones. Here is a picture of the tree, and also of some of the sponsored leaves. 

13-Vic Blacksmiths tree

14-Sponsored Leaves 03 CMYK


My first fiction book, 'The Reluctant Spry', is selling well: it's available in the bookshops, airport shops, and as always, from me, via my website

15-the-reluctant-spy holly-kerr-forsyth lo res

'Country Gardens, Country Hospitality', a showcase of wonderful country properties around Australia, and the owners' favourite recipes, is available again: go to my website.... 

16 Country Gardens Cover

An Autumn Recipe

 This delicious Frangipani Cake appears in my 'Seasons in my House and Garden.' 

17- seasons-in-my-house-garden


Here is the recipe:

The cake is a variation of a carrot cake, is easy to whip up in the food processor, and, with its tropical flavours, is a perfect end to a luncheon.
½ kg carrots, grated or processed in the food processor.
½ cup caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup light olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups self raising flour, sifted with pinch salt and 4teaspoons ground spices to taste (I like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, along with a pinch of cloves).
¾ cup each of walnuts and sultanas
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained (a 450ml tin)

Mix all ingredients, in above order, in either mix master or food processor, finishing by folding in the fruit and nuts.
Pour into lightly buttered 22 or 24cm spring form tin (I also line base with baking paper).
Cook 45 minutes (or until the top starts to crack and the cake comes away from the sides) in pre-heated 180dC oven.
Remove from oven and allow to cool. Spread top and sides with cream cheese topping and decorate with shredded coconut.
Mix together half cup pure icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 400gms cream cheese (or a mixture of cream cheese and ricotta), 50gms unsalted butter
Decorate with shredded coconut
Spread over cooled cake. (this cake, un-iced, freezes well.)
Serve with whipped cream.

 For the Diary

And, Orange F.O.O.D . WEEK, this year from April 6th to April 15th, gets bigger and better each year.

All materials used at Orange F.O.O.D . WEEK are either recyclable or compostable; virtually nothing from any of the signature events goes to landfill. All events are run separately, and one books through the individual venues which are listed in the programme.

Ring 02 6360 1990 or go to http://www.orangefoodweek.com.au for details.

And don't forget: daylight saving ends at midnight on April 7th. Put your clocks back one hour.

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