3 Simple Garden Hacks

by Daniel Carruthers
Snail Shell Cane Topper

An abandoned snail shell makes for an attractive cane topper. Bamboo canes sticking up out of the ground or pots can be dangerous, particularly when masked by leaves. A simple snail shell placed on top of the cane can provide valuable protection for your eyes. a snail shell on top of a garden cane

Wooden plant labels
wooden plant labelsInstead of spending money on plastic plant labels why not take advantage of the twigs in your garden. Use a Stanley knife or a potato peeler to peel back the bark at the end of a twig to provide a clean visible surface on which to write a plant name. Fresh bark is usually easier to peel back. If freshly pruned make sure you put this in upside down or it might start to grow !peeling back the bark on a plant labelplant labels made from sticks in the  garden

Wooden coat hook

Next time you’re out pruning or cleaning up branches after a storm keep a look out for branch junctions that can be easily made into wall hooks. A rustic alternative to traditional coat hooks these can be jotted around the greenhouse or shed. A great talking point in the house and quite useful for hanging up your coat too.hand made wooden hook made from a branch

How to Make a Succulent Wall Planter

by Daniel Carruthers

succulents in an oak framed frame mounted on an old brick wallIn the same way that you might put a picture on the wall in your home with the good fortune of a wall in the garden you can do the same with a succulent wall planter. A frame of plants to admire that will grow as the season extends providing you with months of interest as each succulent comes into flower. There’s a few tutorials around the web on how to construct the framework although we’ll give you a brief look at how you might go about it.

The size of the frame was dictated by the materials to hand. Here’s what you’ll need for the framework.

The Succulent Frame – Materials required

  • 4 lengths of attractive wood to make the front frame (these should be wider than the rear framework)
  • 4 lengths of (cheaper) wood for the rear frame
  • Material for backing the frame such as marine ply
  • Chicken Wire
  • Black landscape fabric
  • Fixings : long screws to fix frame together, wire staples to hold the chicken wire to the frame. Screws and plugs for securing to wall.
  • Brackets

Constructing the Frame

Step 1 : Due to the rustic nature of the planter (and the garden) we didn’t go to the trouble of mitering the corners of the outer framework. This was simply butted up and screwed together from the side.

Step 2 : Staple the chicken wire to the rear of the frame followed by the landscape fabric.an oak frame for a succulent wall planter

Step 3 :  Fix the rear framework to the reverse of the front framework. This can be screwed together at the corners which will strengthen the front frame.

the construction of the back framework

Step 4 :  Mix John Innes no.3 with an even amount of grit and add a few handfuls of vermiculite to  fill the frame. a mix of gravel,vermiculite and compost for the plants

frame filled with compost mix

Step 5 : Attach and fix back in place. We chose to line the ply on the inside with a waterproof membrane. This was then screwed down to the rear framework around the perimeter.planter with back complete

Step 6 : Fix brackets firmly in place.

The Fun Part – planting the frame with Succulents

The frame was then turned over in order to plant it up. Small plants might fit between the chicken wire although you may need a pair of pliers to cut through the wire for larger plants. A stanley knife can be used to perforate the landscape fabric.

We didn’t go overboard on the plants mainly due to cost but they’ll need room to grow and in the meantime you can decorate the spaces with bits of driftwood or pebbles as you see fit, let the creative juices flow !

Finally with a little help the frame was lifted and fixed in position.

It's looking a little bare in May.

It’s looking a little bare in May.

I told you they grow ! Here it is in September.

I told you they grow ! Here it is in September.

Since we opted for a large and very heavy frame we chose to fix a baton to the wall on which to rest the bottom of the rear framework so that the brackets were not solely reliant on supporting it. Optionally and certainly easier you might just choose to lean it against the wall.

The Succulents

a drawing showing the plants used in the sedum planter


Next time due to the weight we’ll definately make the frame a little smaller.

A wider front frame will make it harden to see the ugly rear framework.





Melbourne Botanic Garden

road sign warning of snakes
more disconcerting snake signs
yet another snake sign
view of the melbourne botanic garden
bubbling pools at the Melbourne Botanic Garden
road sign warning of snakesmore disconcerting snake signsyet another snake signview of the melbourne botanic gardenbubbling pools at the Melbourne Botanic Garden

As a bit of a snake-phobic, my introduction to the part of the Melbourne Botanic Garden which is sited outside the city and specialises in native Australian flora was somewhat unsettling. The numerous signs about snakes had me walking down the middle of the path at all times despite the curator’s assurances that they had only two things on their mind – a. food: I was too large and b. sex: they wouldn’t fancy me.
This is a garden that is beginning to mature and I found it both fascinating and informative. I particularly liked the part that showed the transformative effect of rising waters on a dry river bed. It is laid out in a very naturalistic way with water gently bubbling in a pool. Every twenty minutes the water rises up and pours down into the dry and stony riverbed, filling it so that it flows strongly, before it subsides once more.
It’s a garden that will get better and better and gave me a great insight into Australian flora at the beginning of our visitor. And no, I didn’t see a snake.

Sago Palms set the Gold Standard

the seeds of a sago palmApparently the seeds of the sago palm are of such  uniform size and weight that they were used by the gold merchants as a unit of weight in the early days of the trade.

The Perilous Life of a Young Monitor Lizard

a monitor lizard climbing a treeAs we pootled around the Botanic Garden in Nigel Taylor’s buggy admiring our surroundings we spotted a young monitor lizard on the trunk of a palm tree.  The reason that it was up there turns out to be that if they stay on the ground their parents will eat them!