January 2022 View Online

Dear Fellow Gardener

Welcome to the January 2022 newsletter from Sophie's Patch in the Adelaide Hills, SA. Each month I share what has been happening in and around my patch of garden in the Adelaide Hills, as well as some of my adventures further afield.  I hope you enjoy reading it. Sophie Thomson.

I trust that you have had a blessed Christmas and that 2022 brings all you are hoping for – health, happiness, certainty, security………………. and time in your garden. The past two years since the black summer bushfires and COVID appeared have had profound impacts on so many people. And yet again, COVID is causing challenges across Australia.

I have never been so grateful for my garden as, like many others, our household was forced into isolation due to COVID exposure in the two weeks leading up to Christmas.  All I can think of is how lucky I am to have a garden and I cannot imagine what this situation would be like for those without their own patch.  Our garden has fed us, provided me with purpose, exercise, solace, therapy ... not to mention the ability to hide from my four grumpy teenagers who would much rather be out with their mates socialising!!  We were ‘free’ on Christmas Eve and had a mad scramble to get out and do what needed to be done.

The upside to all of this is that I got to spend time in my garden, and I have caught up on so many things which needed attention. My ‘to do’ list never has an end, and in a way neither would I want it to, however I am certainly more up to date than I would usually be at this time of year. 

In This Newsletter

Around The Patch

Jacaranda Flowering

The biggest news around here is that after 10 years, and much cosseting and babying, the Jacaranda on our front lawn is flowering - woohoooo!!!!!. We planted it 10 years ago this month as a semi advanced plant, and while it has survived and grown, it has only once given me just one bunch of flowers. To be honest, we are marginal to grow jacarandas due to our frosts down to minus 5, even though there are some in the town of Mt Barker (where they grow adjacent to bitumen which affords them a heat bank and special microclimate) and also the nearby town of Wistow (however theirs is slightly more elevated than my front lawn so unlikely to get frosted). It was actually one of three planted at that time and my vison was to have Luscious, our house dragon lying in a carpet of purple flowers. 
The one that is in flower is closest to the paving and presumably grew because the paving acts as a heat bank in winter and elevates the air temperature slightly, although the second one while surviving, is still just marginally bigger than it was when we planted it. The third one which was furthest from the paving never survived, and neither did the other 7 or 8 others I planted in the years since. Through this I have learned that the younger and fresher green the stem, the more sensitive the trunks are to the cold, so if you are in a marginal area, get a larger tree and preferably one which already has a woody trunk. One year, I even went to the trouble of wrapping the trees in frost cloth and straw, held together knitted scarves, to try and protect them from the frost. Even then, my two remaining jacarandas do get die back each winter, which I cut out as they start to grow in late spring. 
So, what have I learned from all of this? I could say ‘never, never, never give up’ or that ‘persistence pays off’, but really it is that we need to be flexible when creating gardens. We might have a plan or vision in mind, but Mother Nature is in control, and she doesn’t always have the same vision that we do. As the old saying goes ‘blessed are the flexible, for we won’t be bent out of shape’. 

Flowers In The Patch

Elsewhere the good spring rainfall has seen the garden remain lusher than I remember it. The ground is now dry however and I have started to water the areas that do get irrigated. The milder weather till recent days has seen many plants persist in flower far later than normal. Take sweet peas for example, which continue to bloom and so I am still picking bunches of them for our home and friends. I have also been picking bunches of one of my favourite cut flowers – Alstroemeria. 

Alstroemeria - Peruvian Lilies

Peruvian Lilies or Alstroemerias are very popular as long-lasting cut flowers which will survive for up to three weeks when picked. I will admit that they do drop a few petals after 10 days or more and while that bothers some people, I tend to just blow them onto the floor!? 😊

They are also sought after for their beautiful lily-like flowers and long flowering period when grown as a garden plant.  They come in a range of colours and flower spectacularly in spring and autumn, as well as intermittently throughout the year.  The main drawback with the common varieties, most of which grow between ½ and 1 metre high, is that the plants tend to get floppy and sprawl over a large area, often 1.5 metres across. This does not bother the gardeners who treasure their blooms as cut flowers, but for those who may have limited space to garden or who just want a compact plant, the solution lies in trying the new dwarf varieties. 
Jo Symons
I've added a blog post to my website about these delightful flowers, their growing conditions and habit in case you would like to know more.... and I hope that you love them as much as I do.

Alstroemeria - Peruvian Lilies - Click To

The Vegie Patch

Elsewhere, the vegie gardens are booming. I have lots growing and we are enjoying bountiful crops of leafy salad greens, chards, celery, bok choy, leeks, spring onions, zucchinis, coriander, basil and as far as tomatoes go, those in the polyhouse have been cropping continuously, while those planted outside are just starting to crop. 

Late Plantings

In the past week I have done some late plantings of pumpkins and eggplants where there were gaps. Many people worry that late planting of things like pumpkins won’t work, however I have often planted in late December and early January and still managed to get good crops, although this is dependent on when the first frosts come to finish the plants off.
My vertical vegies like New Guinea bean, tromboncino, Malabar spinach, pimply squash and caigua are all planted, however only the New Guinea bean vines on the main arch in the vegie patch are really starting to get some height. It’s hard to imagine that by March these vines will have covered and shaded all the arches in this vegie patch. 

In The Orchard

The early plums, apricots, nectarines and peaches have been fruiting, as have mulberries and loquats and there are lots of fruit on the other plums, prunes, apples, crab apples, pears and quinces.
I have pruned excess growth off my grapes on the grape vine arch, and reduced the number of bunches per plant, in the hope that the vines would put their energy into making big bunches of fruit, however I was running late with this so it may not be successful. 

Zeus & The New Flock

Zeus continues to be my gardening companion, like a toddler that is always chattering and talking to me, even though I don’t really know what she is saying. She is naughty and wilful, and whenever she gets the chance and spies the vegie patch gate left open, goes in to dine on our lettuce plants. She wants to be close but doesn’t really want to be touched, and even though she is happy for me to hold and pat her, she doesn’t want to be caught!? She is very curious about what we are doing near the house and who comes to our front door, and has made several visitors quite nervous. No need for a guard dog when you have a guard goose!?
The week before Christmas we got six newly hatched Indian runner ducklings to replace our flock that were devastatingly taken by a fox. Ducks have been an integral part of pest control at Sophie’s Patch for the past ten years, acting as mobile snail control around the general garden. Raising ducklings over summer holidays has also been a part of life here for the past ten years, as they are such a delight and imprint so well, and are the best school holiday distraction. Zeus is not quite sure about them, and I am sure she really wants them to go away so we are keeping them separate, under lights inside at night and letting them grow up in a pen on our back lawn during the day, until they are old enough to be housed in the duck hut which is an old kids cubby.   

Out and About

Eyre Peninsula

In early December I spent a week on Eyre Peninsula doing gardening talks and workshops at Cowell , Cleve and Kimba supported by the Australian Red Cross. I love this part of the world, and its wide-open spaces and rugged landscape feed my soul. Most of the talks were held in the town halls or institutes, however each day we ran a wicking bed workshop in a local garden where getting to see how gardeners adapt to the harsh conditions of Eyre Peninsula was totally inspiring. 

Arie Mulder's Dry Land Productive Garden

While in Kimba I also saw a mention of Arie Mulder’s sustainable, dry land productive garden in the local tourist brochure. I took the opportunity to arrange a visit with Arie and take a tour of his amazing mature garden established over the past 27 years and was absolutely blown away. It includes 120 productive trees and vines which thrive in spite of annual rainfall of less than 339mm, summer temperatures up to 48 degrees and soil surface temperatures of 83 degrees. I loved the time I spent talking with Arie about all of his research and problem solving. I would thoroughly recommend visiting Arie’s garden to anyone visiting or passing through Kimba.

Break Outs

Since I was traveling such a distance, I took a couple of days to get there and a couple of days to get home. This gave me the opportunity to revisit places I had been before, and some I had not. The highlight for me was visiting some of the granite outcrops near Wudinna. Mt Wudinna is one of the largest granite monoliths in Australia, rising to 261 metres above the surrounding plain, and affording amazing views of the area. Polda Rock is nearby and was just as magical, even though it is nowhere near as high, as there were pools of water on top of this rock and watching the tadpoles scurrying around in them was fascinating. You can still see the stone channel around this rock which was used to direct water from the rock and run it into a reservoir on one end of the rock which was originally the town water supply.

Virtual Book Launch

"Exploring Enchanted Gardens on Kangaroo Island" by Jennie Teasdale
I had also planned to head over to Kangaroo Island to launch the book "Exploring Enchanted Gardens on Kangaroo Island" by Jennie Teasdale on the 19th December at Frogs & Roses Garden Centre. This book is about the gardens & gardeners who participated in KI's first Spring Garden Festival in 2020 and the importance of gardening and the resilience of the gardeners on this island community, affected by drought, bushfires and COVID. It is a delightful book available through Big Quince Print or Matilda Bookshop. Sadly, due to our household’s COVID isolation, I could only attend in the virtual sense. It was my first virtual book launch via Zoom, and while I would still have much rather been there in the flesh, we still had lots of fun launching this wonderful book. Check out the facebook post here

Special Events

We are planning summer fruit tree pruning workshops in February however we are just waiting to see what happens with COVID here in SA, before we open them up. If you are interested in any of our Sophie’s Patch special events, from succulent art to starting your patch from scratch, register here and you will be the first to be notified.  

Talkback Gardening

My weekly gardening talkback radio session with Peter Goers on ABC Adelaide is back from summer break on Sunday 23rd January at 11am. Peter and I always have a lot of fun and laughs…… and even manage to answer a few gardening questions. So, tune in via ABC Radio 891 or log in via

Coming up in 2022

I am really looking forward to getting out and about in Australia in 2022. I will be in Burra on the 5th February, in Bute on 12th March, Deniliquin (NSW) on 20th March and up to Clare for the SA Autumn Garden Festival on the 2nd and 3rd April.

Workshops at Clare

As well as being part of the festival and visiting as many of the gardens as I can I will be running a "Starting Your Patch From Scratch" workshop on the morning of the 2nd April, followed by a Succulent Art Picture Frame Workshop with my dear friend Lorraine Thompson from Hillside Herbs and Succulents in the afternoon. 

We are also planning on having open garden here at Easter 16-18th April.
After that I will be out and about across this beautiful country, and COVIOD willing will be up at the Queensland Garden Expo on the Sunshine Coast in July and the Botanical Bazaar on the Gold Coast in August.
Botanica World Discoveries

Hosted Garden Tours

I will also be hosting tours of Norfolk Island in May, the Flinders Ranges in late September and Kangaroo Island in October for Botanica World Discoveries. While the SA tours are pretty much full there are still some vacancies to join me in Norfolk Island.

Newsletter Prize

Each month, one lucky newsletter subscriber is selected at random and gets a prize. These range from books, tickets to our open gardens or special events or garden art. Last month it was some of our exclusive Sophie’s Patch garden art and Doreen was our lucky winner of a mummy goose and her goslings (see the photo of them in her garden). This month we have two orange butterflies valued at $97.50 for our newsletter winner.

If you included your phone number when you subscribed we will call you if you are the winner.  If not we will email you and you will have a week to accept the prize before we offer it to another reader.
Happy gardening!



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