WORDS & PHOTOS: Karin Holzknecht
If you're anything like us, you can't resist a terrarium. Ever since 1827, when Nathaniel Ward accidentally discovered that plants could survive in covered jars, the world has embraced the terrarium for its ability to keep plants alive in much less friendly climes (including air-conditioned houses!).
So a whole hopeful bunch of us rocked up to Burnley Nursery for the Horticultured terrarium workshop with glass containers that just screamed 'put plants in me!' With the assistance of Burnley nursery technician Sascha, terrarium nut and living art expert, we were all soon assembling tiny enclosed gardens.
The key to a great terrarium are the layers of growing medium, starting with a sprinkling of horticultural charcoal, then a layer of horticultural sand, and a thicker layer of potting mix. And add plants! Sascha gave us a hot tip that Peperomia spp. are particularly good in terrariums.
With some hard work and determination we created some absolute beauties.
We're very proud of our efforts. The cool thing about these terrariums are that, once we get the balance right, they act as closed systems - meaning you never have to feed or water them again!
Are you jealous yet? Well, follow us on Facebook or sign up as a member, and you'll be the first to hear about the next terrarium workshop - the first one went so well we're planning to hold another one soon! We'll keep you posted.
WORDS: Karin Holzknecht, PHOTOS: Karin Holzknecht & Bec Korossy-Horwood
Last weekend, on Saturday 12 October, some very curious Horticultured members gathered to hear all about the secret life of fungi from Dr Sapphire McMullan-Fisher.
Sapphire is a fungal ecology expert at the Royal Botanic Gardens, an author for Fungi-Map and a passionate fungi lecturer from La Trobe University. She is also a gifted speaker and quickly had us all enthralled.
“Try to not to think like a discrete organism,” she challenged us all, before diving into her lecture. Over the next few hours she explained how complex fungi are and how integral to our world.
We covered basic biology of fungi, structure, form, physiology, and reproduction. Then Sapphire took us through the general understanding of what makes up the ecosystem (sun, water, herbivores, carnivores, decomposers etc.), and demonstrated the roles that fungi play at every point.
Ultimately, fungi are critical to ecosystem success. They create multiple connections and perform multiple jobs, and are the third largest group of species in Australia (after invertebrates and microbes). Yet we know hardly anything about them, and the vast majority of funding for research and conservation goes to plants and animals, which make up just 7 per cent of Australia’s total species.
As land managers, we should be asking, what diversity of fungi are needed for healthy, functioning environments? What are the fungi in our environments and what jobs are they doing? How can we manage the soil to take the critical functions of fungi into account?
All these revelations were hunger-making, so we feasted on pizza, some with fungi toppings, before heading out into Burnley Gardens in search of lab samples. We fossicked about, particularly near fallen trees, and found some great fungi to examine.
Back in the lab, Sapphire gave us some tips on what to look for when identifying a fungus (e.g. spore prints), handy tools for the field, and good reference books. And then we got out the microscopes and spent some time examining the samples we collected. They definitely look a lot different up close!
On the whole it was an action-packed day and all of us who went along are very grateful to Bec White, who volunteered her time as lab technician so we could hold the workshop, and to Sapphire, who gave so generously of her knowledge and her infectious enthusiasm for the subject. The life of fungi, not quite as secret as before!
Thank you also to everyone who came along - we know it's a tricky time of semester for some. If you missed out or would like to learn more about fungi, we're planning to host a fungi walk in prime fungi season (Autumn) next year. Keep your eyes peeled for updates on that! In the meantime we encourage you to check out the resources on Fungi-Map; you can even get involved in a spot of crowd-sourced citizen science by submitting records of fungi you find.
WORDS: Kim Kitchen, PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
Last sunny Thursday, Andrew Smith, the brilliant Gardens Coordinator at Burnley, took a bunch of Horticultured members on a behind-the-scenes tour of the field station.
Armed with a stack of old photos, we discovered all about the history of the station, including its original purpose as a field nursery, trialling all kinds of fruit trees (220 pear varieties, 200ish apples, 70+ cherry varieties and a whole bunch of other delicious things!). We learnt about two large floods that wiped out the area, and that it is the oldest continually operating teaching garden of its kind in the world, staying operational throughout the two world wars.
Did you know that the centre of the field station gates aligns with the big Sequoia tree within the Burnley Gardens? Check it out next time you head out of the station. Or that there was once an avenue of Chinese Pistachios lining the central path?
Or that the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) had its origins right here at Burnley? The array of mismatched gardens along the top fence are the remains of the first student-designed-and-built display gardens, built for a garden show held for a few years in the late 1980s.
The area now taken over by Chris William’s edible forest was installed initially as a teaching area for hort students, complete with hedges and fruit trees for pruning practice. A number of the trees, like the citrus and stone fruit, still remain.
And that leaning row of pears, that confuses all of us? These have been grown as cordons, a method of training fruiting pears and apples, and borders this area along with the espaliered apples, albeit in a somewhat neglected form.
Those little huts? Green infrastructure research! That eucalypt forest? A research project on drought-tolerant species. That house? Previously a centre for school kids to come and learn all about alternative energy.
We learnt all of this and more, and it was a great way to spend an hour or so away from the books. Many thanks to Andrew for his time, knowledge and expertise.
WORDS & PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
On a gorgeous sunny Sunday, Horticultured gathered once more to work on our gardens.
We mattock-ed, forked and dug our way through a dense mat of weeds in the area that is destined to become the perennial-ish section. While clearing weeds, path-making and mulching are not most people's favourite gardening activities (although using a mattock on kikuyu is exceptional for relieving stress), they are incredibly important for setting up a garden. Using a bobcat or weed-killer might have been quicker, but would have damaged the soil and precious biota we rely on to, you know, grow stuff.
We also took plenty of tea and cake breaks, and chatted like a house on fire.
It was great to see the perennials we transplanted a couple of weeks ago into the border settling in. The alpine strawberries seem to be thriving - some are already putting out fruit! The rhubarb and artichoke are a bit slower out of the blocks, but getting better.
At the end of the day, we had created a blank canvas ripe for planting. What would you like to see growing there? Do you have a flair for planting design, or maybe an Australian native food plant you have read about but never tried?
Come along to our next working bee and share your wildest hopes and dreams.
WORDS & PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
Spring is here, the weather is beaut, and we have a garden that needs tending- what a brilliant combination. On Saturday, also Burnley Open Day, Horticultured gathered for the first of many weekend working bees. The main task of the day was to clear the eastern edge and plant a perennial edible border of artichokes, rhubarb and alpine strawberries.
We started with a lawn and lots of hope. It was quite a formidable task, but many hands, forks and shovels make light work.
The kikuyu, clover and other assorted hard-to-kill weeds we removed will be used in an upcoming hot compost workshop. Unlike cold composting, this should produce enough heat to render the seeds and runners dead.
We inherited artichokes, rhubarb and alpine strawberries with the gardens. However, they all needed dividing and the artichokes were being out-competed by weeds.
Arranging the artichokes in a border will demonstrate that edibles can be pretty too. Although at the moment it all looks like a sea of mulch…
All three species have survived utter neglect and no irrigation over summer for a couple of years. With a bit of care they should thrive. We’re pretty excited, so watch this space!
We also weeded the flower border planted a couple of months ago. There’s lots of buds, and with the sunshine and warmth finally kicking in they are taking off. And we began a rosemary hedge, using leftover stock from the nursery. A future task will be propagating cuttings from the existing rosemary bush and finishing it.
There is also heaps of fennel growing, so if anyone likes fennel…feel free to take it. Please. There is too much.
The day was extremely satisfying and provided a welcome distraction from assignments. Thank you to all that made it, and especially Brett and Bridey our community gardens officers.
WORDS & PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
MUC and Horticultured have similar goals, so it was only a matter of time before we conspired together. On a not-too-cold Friday afternoon, members from both clubs gathered at the Burnley Nursery to give spring and summer vegetables a bit of a head start in a greenhouse.
While the end of winter is still too cold outside for most seeds to germinate – they’d prefer to wait for warmer and sunnier times – a greenhouse provides an environment conducive to growing. Particularly a fancy one set at optimum temperature, sunlight and humidity for seed sprouting like the ones at Burnley.
After a bit of discussion at the start about how many of what we should plant, and into what size pots (there are surprisingly many to choose from), the potting shed turned into a well-oiled planting machine. There were labels to be made (a critical and often neglected step of planting – how many times have you ended up with fifty mystery tomatoes, and only one capsicum?), punnets to be filled with seed raising mix (finer than regular potting soil, and with a bit less fertiliser), holes to be made with super-special dibblers (aka chopsticks) and seeds to be carefully dropped in and covered with a fine dusting of soil. Finally, all the trays had to be watered in gently ‘like rain’, so as not to disturb the seeds.
We planted Burnley Surecrop Tomatoes, which were actually developed at Burnley back in ye olde days, plus a rainbow of other tomatoes, sunflowers, a few capsicums and cucumbers, pumpkins and basil. They will go into the MUC and Horticultured gardens, and some will be sold at the Farmers Market.
We’ll keep you updated on their progress! Eventually they will need to be re-planted into bigger pots and moved to a brighter and less humid greenhouse to keep growing, so if you couldn’t make it this times, don't worry, you didn’t miss out on all the fun.
Because of the good turnout, we finished the seed planting early and had a bit of time to wander down to the Horticultured Community Gardens. We did some weeding (as always), put down more tanbark to keep the weeds down, installed a sign, AND DISCOVERED ASPARAGUS GROWING. Some of it was unintentionally blanched under a thick pile of mulch, but look at those big fat beauties!
Read all about it: MUC Garden and Burnley Student Association share updates on their activities.