July 2018 Meeting

Bronwyn Koll (QueenslandFruitFlyRegionalCoordinator,YarraValley)and Kevin Sanders (orchardist).

Bronwyn’s role is to help keep Queensland Fruit Fly out of the Yarra Valley. Main points of her talk:

  • QFF is native to the Queensland rain forest but has for many years been found in northern Victorian fruit-growing districts – Wodonga, Shepparton, Cobram etc.  Since 2013 it has become so prevalent that it is no longer monitored and the idea of fruit-fly exclusion zones has been abandoned. It was found for the first time this year in the Yarra Valley, as isolated outbreaks around Lilydale and Sylvan. There have also been outbreaks in Tasmania and WA.
  • QFF has a 28-day life cycle. The adult is a red-brown colour, about 7mm long, with characteristic yellow banding on the body. The female lays her eggs under the skin of ripe fruit.  In the early stages, all that can be seen is a little mark (‘sting’) on the fruit skin. The resulting larvae are creamy white with a black head, about 5 – 10 mm long. The fruit rots prematurely and falls from the tree.  The larvae then pupate underground and develop into flies.  These emerge from the ground and feed on protein until sexual maturity. The cycle then repeats. There could be 2 or 3 cycles in a typical Yarra Valley summer.
  • There is the potential for almost every type of fruit and fruiting vegetable in the Yarra Valley to be affected, including wild blackberries, prickly pear, tomatoes, and fruit from wild trees. The commercial implications are severe, but the growers have an incentive to monitor and control, whereas it has been difficult to motivate home gardeners.
  • What should home gardeners do?
    •  be constantly vigilant
    • do not bring fruit from home gardens in other areas of the country into the Yarra Valley
    • remove neglected trees
    • share information with other gardeners
    • set traps
    • pick fruit : don’t let it lie on the ground
    • net host trees
    • If any affected fruit is found notify Shire Council.
    • Do notcompost affected fruit: either boil it or freeze it to kill the maggots, then dispose of it in the garbage.
  • Traps, baits and sprays are available at nurseries and hardware stores. A trap can also be homemade from an empty soft-drink bottle with three 10-cent size holes cut into it near the top. Use a bait made of 1 cup of fresh fruit juice and pulp mixed with one tablespoon of cloudy ammonia. Hang the trap in the tree on the shady side, about 1½m above the ground, and change the bait weekly.
  • Bronwyn left a number of fliers and information sheets for members to study.

Following on from Bronwyn’s talk, Kevin Sanders spoke on apple growing in the Yarra Valley. Kevin is the Deputy Chairman of Apples and Pears Australia Ltd and has been growing fruit in the Yarra Valley for 40 years.

  • Apple trees grown for commerce differ from home-gardeners’ trees in that they are far more productive, having more lots more wood and fewer leaves. Since 80% of pests and diseases occur on new and growing shoots, commercial trees are thus also less prone to problems.
  • Since the mid-90s the trees have been semi-dwarf types with a very low canopy, grown 4 x 4 m apart on a V-trellis with posts and wires for support. The trees are pruned initially to have 3 narrow trunks and no branches, after which no further pruning is required.
  • The apples are harvested by machine over a 20-week picking season, but next season this will be done by robots since labour costs are 60% of the total production cost.
  •  Each tree produces 120 apples, and with 4000 trees, this represents a yield of 20 tonnes/hectare.
  • Pollination:  when the trees are grown so intensively, getting enough bees is a huge problem. Kevin’s orchards have their own supply of bees: 3 hives per hectare
  • Spraying: most of the sprays in use are nutrient sprays rather than pesticides.  Beneficial insects are encouraged in preference.  Immediately prior to rain, some fungicide is used against black spot.

The varieties grown depend on market fashions. At present Pink Lady, Gala, Fuji and Granny Smith are the most popular.  There is a new variety about to be released called Kanzi.

June Meeting 2018

Lindsay Hadland from the Yarra Valley Bonsai Group gave a talk on bonsai.

Main points:

  • The literal Japanese meaning of ‘bonsai’ is ‘tree in a pot’, but the accepted definition of the term is ‘a miniaturized but realistic representation of a tree found in nature.’ The craft dates back to ancient India, when travelling apothecaries carried living herbs in pots.  The Chinese copied this custom from the Indians and developed it into an art form, practised by learned men over 1000 years ago. From there it was soon taken up and further developed by the Japanese. It has been depicted in paintings from at least 706 AD.
  • Parts of a bonsai:
    • Trunk line – the most important feature
    • Nebari – where the base of the trunk meets the soil – the second most important feature
    • Branches
    • Twigs and canopy
    • Taper – important to stop the plant just looking like a stick in a pot
    • Pot – must blend with and complement the tree
  • In nature, tree shapes vary from the mountains to the plains, due to differing environmental conditions: soil, wind, water, light.  Bonsai aims to emulate this. The various styles of the individual trees are
    • Informal upright
    • Formal upright
    • Slanting (as if leaning toward the light)
    • Semi-cascade
    • Cascade
  • The form of the bonsai in the pot can also vary:
    • Forest (groups of the same species)
    • Clump (single tree with multiple trunks coming from the base)
    • Multi-trunk (similar to clump, but with the trunks coming from further up the main trunk)
    • Raft – emulating the situation in nature where a tree has blown over but still has its roots in the ground and sends up multiple trunks
    • Windswept
    • Literati: simply a work of art rather than emulating natural growth
    • Root-over-rock: as when a seed in nature sprouts on top of a rock, sending its roots over the rock and into the soil below
    • Broom – the whole clump forms a broom-like structure.
  • Rules of bonsai – which can be broken at times!
    • Branch placement going up the trunk: leftžrightžback
    • First branch should be ⅓ of the height of the tree above the pot
    • Branches should be progressively closer together going up the trunk
    • Apex should be domed
    • Height of tree should be 6 x diameter of trunk at nebari
    • Width of the pot should be ⅔ the height of the tree
  • Suitable trees for bonsai: In theory, any tree can be used but some are much easier than others. Look for the following attributes –
    • Small leaves
    • Tree able to back-bud on old wood
    • Able to tolerate extensive root work
    • Vigorous
    • Small flowers or fruit.  If these are not small, the tree can still make a convincing bonsai, provided it is not allowed to form flowers or fruit.
    • Deciduous trees are easier to work with than evergreens, especially Chinese elm, trident maple, beech, hawthorn, ash, larch
    • Easiest evergreens are pine, cedar, fir, spruce
    • Australian natives are becoming popular: banksia, melaleuca, leptospermum, ficus, callistemon, casuarina. Eucalyptus are difficult.
    • Flowering and fruiting plants: crabapple, cotoneaster, pomegranate, wisteria, pyracantha, azalea.
  • Bonsai tools: for beginners, just secateurs and ordinary workshop tools will suffice.  Specialized tools for the more expert include scissors, branch cutters, knob cutters, wire cutters, jinning pliers, tweezers, chopsticks, root rakes, fine saws.
  • Bonsai potting mix: there is no such thing as one ideal bonsai soil. It depends on what is locally available: pine bark, scoria, diatomite, zeolite. The mix must be free-draining with uniform particle size (sieve it!).  Avoid mixes with fine particles, including the commercially-available mixes. (Although the commercial mixes can be sieved to remove the fines, this wastes about 40% of the product). One recommended mix is 50-50 diatomite and orchiata pinebark from NZ, both with particle sizes 2 – 7 mm.
  • Bonsai sizes: tree heights range from 3-8 cm up to >1m. In Australia the classification is generally limited to 3 sizes: 5 – 15 cm, 13 – 20 cm, >20 cm. Based on weight, the 3 categories are: able to be lifted with one hand, able to be lifted with two hands, and requiring a forklift.
  • Creating a bonsaGrow the tree seedling in the open ground or in a growing potKeep it alive! Keep it moist but not too much – allow it to partially dry out between waterings.Fertilize quite heavily, aiming for rapid growth (but be aware of growing conditions in the tree’s natural environment). Opinions vary as to the frequency of fertilization. Lindsay uses Charlie Carp every Saturday during the growing period.
      • Let the treeling grow, clipping it back as required.
      • When the trunk is about ⅔ of the desired size, chop off the branches, leaving a small stub. This  will form a new leader below the stub.
      • Repeat the process with successive leaders.
      • As each leader grows longer, it will thicken, as will the trunk below it.
      • When the desired trunk thickness is achieved, cut off the branch.
      • New branches can be wired to grow in the desired direction.
      • Lift every 1 or 2 years to prune the roots. The ideal is to have fine roots close to the trunk.
      • Place the tree into suitable bonsai pot when it has reached the desired size.
    • Learning more about bonsai:
      • Join a club (e.g the Yarra Valley Bonsai Group)
      • Take a training course – available at YVBG, some nurseries etc
      • Attend workshops with a Bonsai Master, either local or international
      • Bonsai apprenticeships are available in Japan – a  very demanding 5-year course.
      • Books
      • Internet sites and blogs
      • You-tube videos (be sceptical)
      • Trial and error
    • Yarra Valley Bonsai Group
      • A young club, only 10 years old
      • Based in Mt Evelyn.
      • Meets 2ndTuesday of every month from 7.30 – 9.30 pm
      • Workshops last Saturday in the month, from 1 – 4.30pm
      • See website for more details.

    Lindsay brought a number of bonsai trees to illustrate his talk: a trident maple forest, a cedar, Chinese elm, leptospermum, banksia serrata.

      • Let the treeling grow, clipping it back as required.
      • When the trunk is about ⅔ of the desired size, chop off the branches, leaving a small stub. This  will form a new leader below the stub.
      • Repeat the process with successive leaders.
      • As each leader grows longer, it will thicken, as will the trunk below it.
      • When the desired trunk thickness is achieved, cut off the branch.
      • New branches can be wired to grow in the desired direction.
      • Lift every 1 or 2 years to prune the roots. The ideal is to have fine roots close to the trunk.
      • Place the tree into suitable bonsai pot when it has reached the desired size.
    • Learning more about bonsai:
      • Join a club (e.g the Yarra Valley Bonsai Group)
      • Take a training course – available at YVBG, some nurseries etc
      • Attend workshops with a Bonsai Master, either local or international
      • Bonsai apprenticeships are available in Japan – a  very demanding 5-year course.
      • Books
      • Internet sites and blogs
      • You-tube videos (be sceptical)
      • Trial and error
    • Yarra Valley Bonsai Group
      • A young club, only 10 years old
      • Based in Mt Evelyn.
      • Meets 2ndTuesday of every month from 7.30 – 9.30 pm
      • Workshops last Saturday in the month, from 1 – 4.30pm
      • See website for more details.

    Lindsay brought a number of bonsai trees to illustrate his talk: a trident maple forest, a cedar, Chinese elm, leptospermum, banksia serrata.

May 2018 Meeting

Penny Woodward on pest-repellent plants and pest control in gardens. Penny is the horticultural director of the ABC’s ‘Your Garden’ magazine, the author of seven books on gardening and the co-author of a book on tomatoes.

Main points:

• Healthy gardens are less likely to have pest problems. The start of a healthy garden is healthy soil, containing abundant microbial life, worms and fungi.  Compost – preferably home-made – is very important.

• To maintain a healthy balance:

o Avoid using chemical pesticides, which may kill the beneficial micro-organisms in the soil.

o Avoid over-watering and over-feeding plants, which can encourage rapid, sappy growth. Sappy growth produces pheromones, which attract pests.

o Avoid monoculture: grow many different plants together, both flowers and vegetables.

o Practice 3-year crop rotation.

o Encourage predators, especially spiders.  Don’t destroy their webs.  Ants can also be beneficial, although they do farm aphids, which can be controlled by banding the trunks of susceptible trees. Plant native plants and strongly-scented flowers to encourage birds; have water to encourage frogs and microbats.

o Don’t be in a hurry to destroy bugs.  Wait and see, tolerate a little damage, and nature will often work it out for you!

• Chemical-free pest control:

o Snails and slugs: use short lengths of poly pipe banded with copper tape around newly-emerging seedlings

o Birds: use exclusion net bags or waxed paper bags or flywire sleeves to protect fruit.  (Not perfect, as our native birds are very smart!)

o White cabbage butterflies: Buy or make imitation white butterflies to place amongst brassicas.  The real butterflies will not lay eggs on plants that appear to be already occupied.

o Scented plants can be grown near vulnerable plants so that pests are less likely to find them: sages (especially purple salvia officinalis and pineapple sage, salvia elegans), artemisia, rosemary, scented pelargoniums, dogbane (plectranthus ornatus), bronze fennel, lavenders, tree marigold, thymes, alliums, lemon grass, lemon verbena, bayleaves, winter savory.  Many of these can also be made into sprays and have other uses such as in pot pourri, as teas, embrocations, etc.

o Beware! Not all pest sprays on sale as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ are suitable. Pyrethroid sprays are not. Even some sprays derived from plant-based pyrethrins may have toxic additives. Penny recommended ‘ Yates Nature’s Way Citrus and Ornamental Spray’.

o Further assistance: Renaissance Herbs is a wholesale nursery which can give information about retail plant supply. Eco-Organic is a useful supplier of organic pest control

August 2017 Meeting

Luke Whiteside – Grafting Fruit Trees

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Luke has had an interesting career as a school chaplain and pastor, and latterly as president of the Yarra Valley Bee Group and cultivator of heritage fruit trees. Main points of his talk:

Horticulturalists may increase plants either by sexual reproduction (pollination and seed formation) or asexual reproduction (grafting, cutting, layering, division, bedding and tissue culture). The advantages of sexual reproduction are that it is quick, economical and easy, but produces offspring that are genetically diverse, i.e. not necessarily true to the parent. Asexual methods produce clones of the parent plant but are generally more labour-intensive.

Grafting is the joining together of the cambium (growing) layers of the scion (top of the plant) and the rootstock. This gives the possibility of combining the best attributes of two different, but genetically related, plants to produce a superior new plant. It is particularly suitable for fruit trees and has been the means of retaining certain heritage varieties which might otherwise be lost because they are of no commercial value. It has also been useful for the home gardener in enabling the one tree to produce a variety of fruits that ripen at different times, thus extending the harvest season and reducing the need for cold storage and/or transport.

There are a number of different grafting methods using different complementary shapes for joining together the the scion and the rootstock when the two are of comparable size: wedge, splice, whip-and-tongue, and approach grafting; less common and used when the scion is significantly smaller than the rootstock are cleft, side, notch and bark inlay grafting. Budding is a similar technique except that a bud is used instead of the scion.

Tools needed: grafting knife, grafting tape, wax, Clonex rooting hormone (used in very dilute solution to stimulate cell growth).

Important:

  • Plants must be related to each other (same genus or same family);
  • Tools must be disinfected to avoid transferring any diseases such as apple mosaic virus;
  • Plant samples are usually best collected during dormancy;
  • Drying out of plant parts can be prevented by using ziplock bags for collecting them;
  • Graftable plants include maples and fruit trees such as apples, quinces, plums etc.
  • There will be a grafting workshop at ECOSS next July, run by Neil Barraclough.
  • Reference: Dave Wilson in Nursery Educational Video series.

Ancient Greek proverb –

A society grows great when old men plant trees, whose shade they will never sit in.

February 2017 Speaker – Shirley Lahtinen

The speaker for the February 2016 meeting was Garden Club Member Shirley Lahtinen. She and husband Kari toured Japan in the autumn last year and she gave a very entertaining account of their trip, with some wonderful photography by Kari of the gardens they visited. She discussed four different Japanese garden styles: paradise gardens (temple based); dry landscapes (typified by raked gravel and rocks); stroll gardens with winding paths to slow the visitor down; and modern gardens. The elements considered in the development of all four garden styles were plants (especially native larches and cedars, camellias, maples, cherry trees, cycads, grasses and mosses), rocks, water (whether present or absent) and context (borrowed landscapes, temples, castles, houses). The artistry and attention to detail in some of the gardens was amazing, even down to the pruning of individual needles on conifers! In addition she showed some beautiful photographs of native landscapes with the trees in full autumn splendor, and discussed the Japanese specialties of bonsai and chrysanthemum culture.

October 2016 Meeting – Special Awards

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An unexpected visit from Don Rickerby, President of the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria, Jennifer Rickerby, Secretary of RHSV and Paul Crowe former Principal of the State Schools Nursery, patron of the Kevin Heinz Foundation and active in the Nurseryman’s Association, surprised Kevin and upset the agenda planned for the evening.

This visit was for the presentations of the John Pascoe Fawkner Award to Bob Shelden and Kevin Hince for their outstanding service to horticulture, community activities and their service to the Upper Yarra Valley Garden Club over many years. These awards have been almost a year in the planning and have been organised with the utmost secrecy much to the surprise of the recipients. Thanks to Shirley, Jenny, Joy, Janet and Ros.

September 2016 Meeting Guest Speaker Keith

We welcomed Keith from Diggers Club to speak about Heirloom, Hybrid and GE (genetically engineered) Seeds.

His introduction was on the early domestication of wheat dating back 10,000 years. The first farmers were from Syria and Iraq with seeds being publically owned. Much later on the French company Vilmorin became the leading seed company, their book produced in 1850 included 1600 cool weather species.

With the hybrids came the heavy use of chemicals, fertilizers and sprays resulting in much of the biodiversity being destroyed. A foundation of seed savers was established with many seeds being rescued.

Keith spoke at length about the leading chemical and pesticide companies – Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta and the damage to the environment resulting from the use of their products.

In 1983 Clive Blazey purchased Heronswood to continue his quest of preserving heritage and heirloom seeds. This property is now on National Estate Register.

Don’t forget to look at the page “Whats happening in your garden” for Bob’s updatehttps://upperyarravalleygardenclub.com/whats-happening-in-your-garden/.

August 2016 Meeting Guest Speaker Greg Boldiston

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Greg gave a detailed description of a wide range of flowering bulbs. He estimated that he had between 600 to 700 different species of bulbs; many in pots.

The many of various species displayed were as follows: Crocus, Tulips, fritillaria, allium, oxalis, gladioli, ixia, mini dutch iris, tropaeolum and arum.

Greg runs the Longinomus Plants Nursery at 2931 Lancefield Road, Romsey. Contacts 0438296006 or longinomus@hotmail.com or on facebook.

July Meeting – Guest Speaker, Virginia Heywood

Virginia provided an interesting talk on the problems of associated with the demise of certain species of plants, due either to consumer taste and/or the selectivity of plant nurseries of only those plants that they believe will give the best return. The concept of old fashioned is not valid but is believed by many purchasers.

There are a great number of individuals and small scale nurseries that have taken on the responsibility of holding recognized collections of specific plant species.

Many plant species are now being reclassified and renamed as botanists use sophisticated techniques to determine minor variations.

Virginia who is one of the presenters on the 3CR Garden Show and invited members to tune in.

Sunnymeade Garden Tour

A bus tour to Sunnymeade garden on Saturday October 22, 2016, has been confirmed.

The tour is to include a visit to one or two gardens in the Alexandra Open Garden scheme. These additional gardens cannot be selected until the Alexander Club has finalised their program.

Annual General Meeting

The AGM for 2015-2016 is scheduled to be held on Monday August 15 at the Warburton Senior Citizens Centre commencing at 7:00PM.

Nomination forms were available, however, nominations can be proposed at the meeting.

June 2016 Guest Speaker

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Luciano and Heather Corallo – Strawberry Springs Farm

The strawberry farm is 70 acres in area and can support up to half a million plants. There are 40-50 employees. The area in Millgrove was selected because of the soil temperatures and the quality of the soil. A soil that poses good temperatures can prolong the growing and hence the fruiting season. The soil, while slightly acidic, is enriched using phosphorus, potassium and lime. Ploughed in green crops on an annual rotation, also maintains beneficial soil structure. All planting is carried out in north/south rows as this allows the prevailing winds to blow along the beds rather that across them, thus minimising wing damage to the plants. The open air aspect also helps reduce the problem of mildew.

All planting is of the one variety and plants are replaced each year.

Plastic is used under the plants in order to keep fruit clean and easy to pick. The plastic also helps retain moisture which is supplied by drip irrigation. All runners are trimmed off so that the plant can concentrate on producing fruit.

Pest control is maintained by the release of beneficial insects and/or bugs rather than insecticide and chemical spraying. There is a need for occasional spraying when the problems of mildew and rot occur. Most pollination occurs from the wind and bees.

There is a new retail venture on the site to cater to those who wish to purchase strawberry products like cakes, biscuits, cheesecakes and sponges. You can also pick up some beautiful large, fresh strawberries in season between November and the end of January.

The strawberry industry has recognised Yarra Valley as at the ‘top end’ of the world list for both strawberry quality and flavour. Congratulations Strawberry Springs Farm.

There were numerous questions asked by the members and answers were delivered in a very professional manner.

Peter Versteege warmly thanked Luciano and Heather for their excellent and most interesting presentation.