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There has been much excitement at the Foale household as we are now proud owners of a Wollemi Pine. To cut a long story short, it was eventually identified and is now being produced in large numbers as an insurance policy against any disaster. If the damp and grey weather is getting you down, why not have a mooch round the seeds in the garden centre? If you have had any little pots of hyacinths or daffodils to brighten up the house, you can plant them outside when they have finished flowering. Let's hope 2008 is a good gardening year for us, warm sunny days, gentle rain at night and a huge invasion of ladybirds and frogs to keep the nasties at bay.
What with Chris Pratt beating box-office records battling the dinosaurs at Jurassic World, and Canadian palaeontologists finding the 68-million-year-old skull of a previously unknown member of the triceratops family in Alberta, I’ve been thinking about the Wollemi. The Wollemi was famously discovered by a bushwalker in the Blue Mountains National Park in September 1994. Twenty years later Offord is still studying the Wollemi, at work, and at home.She grows her Wollemi in a pot on the back deck. Offord’s advice on Wollemi pot-culture is to find a cool spot and keep them out of the summer sun. No one knows how long the plant will live in cultivation, but some of the 100 individuals in the wild are between 500 and 1000 years old, so there’s a chance a potted Wollemi could become a family heirloom.
It seems that when they get stressed, a fungus that comes along with the plant, kills them. Being away, and catching up on farm work, has caused me to fall behind with my blog posts, so I am a bit slow in relaying news about my Wollemi pine. Following a light application of worm castings as fertiliser a couple of weeks ago, my comatose Wollemi pine has demonstrated a renewed will to live, and produced a flourish of delicate, light green fronds on almost every branch. However, if he had read my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting, he would have known that he was really pushing the envelope expecting it to grow in a lawn, for a variety of reasons – including that lawn fertilisers are toxic to many Australian natives.
If you have a Wollemi Pine growing in the ground (in a spot protected from full sun), my advice is to add 2 cm of mature compost or leaf mould to the soil surface around the tree and cover it with leaf litter or other organic mulch (keeping it clear of the trunk). Yes, these trees are temperamental, but so are some other beautiful plants, including Daphne and some of our Boronias – yet gardeners who are prepared to cater to their needs enjoy thriving specimens. This entry was posted in Ornamentals and tagged Aussie gardening, Australian gardening, Australian natives, climate change gardening, cuttings, easy gardening, easy organic gardening, environmentally friendly gardening, fertiliser, flowers, garden soil, growing plants, Healthy soil, how to grow, New Zealand gardening, organic gardening, plants, sustainable gardening, when to plant, Wollemi pine by Lyn.
A slow release low phosphorus fertilizer suitable for native trees in combination with a foliar fertiliser will promote optimum growth.

A specially formulated potting mix for the rare and ancient Wollemi Pine has been produced by Galuku, the world leader in premium coir. The Wollemi pine requires a well drained soil and will not tolerate continuously moist or wet soils.
Use a well drained sandy loam or ameliorate the soil by digging in Gypsum at the rate of 1kg per sq metre. Water well after planting and then rewater only as required - when soil is almost dry or just moist.
If the site is too wet, that is, the soil does not dry out or there is excessive water at the base of the mound then its best to grow your Wollemi pine in a container. Peter bought me a lovely little specimen for Christmas, with bright green fern type leaves larger and flatter than a yew. They are expensive to buy, but everyone who has one can take part in a conservation effort; each Wollemi Pine sold returns a royalty to conserve the pine and other threatened species. Deadhead them and plant each bulb at least twice its own depth, don't remove the leaves as these will provide food as they are dying down for next years flower. A fossil of it dating to 90 million years ago has been found, but the species is likely to be considerably older than that, being part of 200-million-year-old Araucariacaeae family. A few months later Cathy Offord, a horticultural researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens, was presented with 57 seeds and the job of growing something that had never been cultivated before. Those first plants were harvested for cuttings and a huge propagation project took off that has sent the plant to all corners of the globe, including well outside of its comfort zone. I can understand Mr Woodford’s dismay, as he is an author of a book on the Wollemi Pine. They have survived in a valley where their only fertiliser has been what nature provided through the breakdown of organic matter. If growing your pine in a pot, use only the special Wollemi Pine mix or a certified-organic potting mix, and use a modest amount of worm castings as fertiliser. Even in hot, dry conditions, do not water daily, and only water when the potting mix is dry. This unique formula results in a free-draining mix that promotes healthy roots and healthy growth with less watering required. If you don't know the story of this remarkable tree, it was around up to 200 million years ago and was thought extinct.
And don't go looking for it if you visit Australia, the location of the trees are a closely guarded secret to protect them from collectors, vandals and diseases.

Annuals such as poppies, Calendula (pot marigold) and Nigella (love in a mist) are lovely and really easy. If you pop them round perennials, they provide a bit of interest early in the year, then disappear obligingly when the perennials come into their own. In Canada for instance, keen Wollemi supporters plant the tree each spring, and dig it up again at the end of autumn to spend the winter safely indoors. Every few years Offord says she ‘knocks the top off’, a pruning technique that is keeping it at 2.5m, just right for an imposing Christmas tree. On slight to moderately wet sites mound to at least 40 to 50 cms high and aim for a mound diameter of approximately 1 metre.
Then, in 1994, a park ranger called David Noble was exploring the Wollemi National Park in Australia and stumbled across a small grove of them growing in a remote canyon.
Not only were scientists around the world banging the door down to get hold of some of this living botanical fossil, but successful propagation was the key to saving the wild population. You can, however, see more mature specimens now in many botanical gardens in this country and abroad.
For centuries the discovery of rare plants has all too often been followed by their rape and pillage, unintentional and otherwise.
It looks a bit like a cycad that decided it wanted to be a pine tree, and as the leaves don’t all point in the same direction it has a kind of woolly informality. The blurb that comes with our tree claims that it is easy to grow and not fussy about where it is planted. The location of the Wollemi community was kept secret in a bid to keep them safe, and the pressure was on. It can be grown in a pot in its early years, and even coppiced to make a multi stemmed tree, but I'm not sure I've got the nerve to slice the trunk off! It has lots of unusual features, for example during the colder months the Wollemi Pine becomes dormant and its growing buds develop a pink and white waxy coating. I think Wolly the Wollemi is going to give us endless years of fascination into our old age.
You can also sow some vegetable seeds now, I'll try and get my tomato seeds going on the windowsill early next month.

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