A very worthy cause

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Healthy plants ready for sale in the garden of Maureene Martin and Keith Smith in Sydney

Those who know me know that fundraising for cancer research has been a part of my life for the past 10 years, through Australia's Biggest Morning Tea. Selling plants to raise money for the cancer cause has always seemed to me to be an ideal way of fundraising, and this is exactly what Maureene Martin and Keith Smith have been doing since 2011. Their fifth plant sale, with all proceeds to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, is being held next Saturday 20 April 2013. Their sales have become very successful, with the most recent one raising $3,500.

Some of the coleus plants for sale

I paid them a visit recently to see how their preparations were going, and spent an enjoyable morning looking at their garden and the plants they have been growing for the sale. Maureene is the plant expert and Keith is the chief propagator, using plant material from the lovely garden they have created over the past 7 years. Keith has 1,400 plants ready for the sale, covering 95 different sorts of plants from the garden. The plants represent many of my favourite genera, as they are exactly the ones that thrive in Sydney gardens - but are often so difficult to find at the big chain nurseries these days. This plant sale is a wonderful opportunity to buy such plants, knowing they are all suitable for our climate - and all at very appealing prices!

A carpet of Begonia plants in the shade, in the garden of Maureene Martin and Keith Smith in Sydney

Being able to see the plants growing in the garden is an added bonus for those visiting the sale, and Maureene and Keith are happy to give advice on the best position for the plants. Their garden has a range of microclimates, ranging from full sun to shade, so there are plants to suit every aspect. The shaded areas of the garden contain many Begonia, including cane, shrubby and rhizomatous types, and many of the plants for sale have been propagated from these. Other shade-loving plants that will be available include bromeliads, ferns, Plectranthus, Clivia and hellebores - all great plants for the Sydney climate. The shaded areas of the garden are thickly planted with a variety of these plants, growing together to form a lovely tapestry effect.

A Streptocarpus cultivar propagated by leaf cutting; photo by Keith Smith

Keith uses a variety of propagation techniques, including taking cuttings, dividing clump-forming specimens and raising plants from seeds. He showed me some Rex Begonia plants that he is propagating by leaf cuttings, which I found most intriguing. He also uses this method for rhizomatous Begonia and Streptocarpus.

Strobilanthes dyeriana with Tradescantia zebrina

Plants with decorative leaves are well represented amongst the sale items, including colourful Iresine herbstii, many different coleus, freckle face, Tradescantia zebrina, Lamium cultivars and the gorgeous Acanthaceae foliage plant called Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyeriana). All of these thrive in our climate and can make a garden colourful all year round.

Pretty Sedum mexicanum Gold Mound in the garden of Maureene Martin and Keith Smith in Sydney

There are plenty of shrubs and shrubby perennials, including azaleas, Camellia, Abutilon, Fuchsia and Salvia varieties, as well as some interesting semi-tropical plants, such as the beautiful blue ginger (Dichorisandra thrysiflora), frangipani, and Acanthaceae plants such as Pachystachys lutea, Eranthemum and Ruellia. This year, for the first time, they will be selling some hanging baskets, and I admired some of these that were suspended from the branches of a sculptural-looking Gordonia tree near the house. There are also succulents and cottagey plants such as species Geranium, daisies, Achillea and Veronica - in fact there is something for everyone!

Ornamental grasses growing on the street frontages of the garden of Maureene Martin and Keith Smith in Sydney

The garden has three street frontages, and two of these have been successfully planted with a variety of tough ornamental grasses, including a number of Pennisetum and Lomandra specimens, providing a low-maintenance verge that looks fantastic all year round. It will be possible to buy potted grasses at the sale.

This is a great opportunity to support a very worthy cause, see a lovely garden, and get some new plants for your garden - all at the same time!