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Cover up with Screening Plants

Plant screens 3
If you can’t stand living with that heat reflecting metal panel fence, the windows of your neighbours blinking into your home or the view of the local shops, then screening plants are here to save the day. Some can even make alternatives to fences, and all will cool down your garden, provide a wind break and enrich your home in some way as well as giving you privacy. What’s the difference between a hedge and a screen? Hedges are dense and completely block out the view while screens break up the view. Screening growth lets airflow and dappled light through, and they can often look a little more natural. Privacy screening growth is somewhere in between. It will block the view to provide privacy, but will still be a little looser in growth than hedges to allow some airflow and light in.

Plant screens 2
Types of Plants
Evergreen trees and shrubs are going to be the choice for many as they provide year-round screening and although any plant could be trained to become a screen, including well trained vines, here are a few I recommend. Mock Orange aka Orange Jessamine (Murraya paniculata)
is one of the most popular hedging and screening plants. With its divine orange/jasmine perfumed flowers along with glossy green foliage it’s easy to see why. They can reach up to four meters in height and require a spacing of between 75 to 100cm to create a screening effect. They need regular feeding, a very well-drained rich soil and do prefer part-shade.
Viburnums are not known as ‘the hedges friend’ for nothing! They grow incredibly quickly and so can do the job of providing a screen fast and without the garden intrusiveness issues something like bamboo can pose. There are many varieties of this plant, and each have varying needs, so look for one that suits your light and soil position. Personally, I have a Sweet Viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum)
screen along one of my front fences, planted to make the area a little more private from the street. Sweet Viburnum likes full sun to part shade, moderately rich and very well-drained soil and loves to be well-mulched, kept watered but not overly wet. It will grow up to nine meters in height and in ultra-fast time but pruning to keep it in check. Bottle Brush (Callistemon spp.)
is often overlooked as a screening plant and one I am currently cultivating in another area of my garden. Not only do you end up with a hardy, beautiful looking native screen but also gorgeous flowers for you and the native birds and bees! There are many varieties that grow in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have lots of different foliage and leaves. Have a chat to a friendly local nursery person to find one to suit you.

Vicki of Narara Valley Nursey agreed, and I asked her for other suggestions. She said, “Hands down I think Lilli Pilli (Syzygium smithii)
is one of the best choices as well as it is a native, fast growing and you get edible berries from most types.” She said that they can get to an impressive five metres in height so are perfect to block out that towering thing you no longer want to see but smaller varieties are available as well. Spacing to create a screen should be around 75cm and they like a very free-draining, rich spoil structure that is kept moist.
“There are so many varieties and look out for psyllids resistant types because that can be a problem in your area” she advised.
Plant screens 1

Planting and Growing Tips
Get your spacing right to begin with. Roots can easily overcrowd and contribute to disease or death of your plants in a too closely planted screen or create a dense hedge that may not suit you. Too far apart may not afford the look or privacy that you are after. Don’t just use the recommended spacing on the plant label, check the recommended spacing for planting a privacy screen using that plant.
Scale is important to the overall look of your garden so think of the final size of your screen. Large and high screens/hedges look better with larger leaves while more compact ones suit smaller leaves. Prune and trim your screen regularly to encourage and maintain the shape you are looking for and when you do, make sure you feed your plants as you are reducing their available food-making structure. Water as suggested for your plants and reduce as they attain full size.
This article first appeared in  Coast Newspapers 

Let's Try Bonsai

I find out once and for all - are Bonsai a torturous way to display trees? 
Once the preserve of the retired and lifelong dedicated masters, Bonsai is enjoying a surge in interest and popularity as more people from all walks of life and ages are taking up this fascinating artistic pursuit. The weekend of the 5th and 6th March saw the long awaited ‘Bonsai Open’ held at the Mingara Recreation Club with over 100 trees on display, about 500 items available for purchase and three of Australia’s leading Bonsai experts Huge Grant, Jarryd Bailey and Andrew Edge demonstrating. It always promises to an event not to missed if you are at all interested in the art of crafting miniature trees. Hugh Grant BonsaiHugh Grant of Tree Makers

I spoke with Steve Reeve, President of the Central Coast Club which began in the mid 1970s and has currently over 100 active members about the history of Bonsai. “Bonsai is a Japanese word, but the art actually started in China around 1,500 years ago. Not long after that it emerged in Japan and then eventually made its way to the West with the GIs after the Second World War.” On the practice of Bonsai Steve added, “People often say that Bonsai is a cruel art, that it tortures trees, but you can see still living azalea trees in China that are over 1,200 years old and I can guarantee an azalea living in a suburban garden is not going to live over 1,000 years. Bonsai increases the longevity of trees and it’s certainly not cruel.” Steve also noted the sense of satisfaction one gets from learning to promote this longevity while enjoying the ability to put your own creative twist to the creation of a Bonsai. Perhaps in these polarising times, these are reasons why this living art form is rising again popularity. Bonsai asks us to slow down, to focus on growth, care, and design. It is an extremely mindful horticultural experience as a grower as well as viewer.

Bonsai Open demonstrator and judge, Australian Bonsai expert Hugh Grant commenced his bonsai journey at the Central Coast Bonsai Club when he was about 12 years old. His many years of bonsai study and experience are complemented by his Fine Arts degree, and he is now a fulltime bonsai practitioner, owning ‘Tree Makers’, located in the upper Blue Mountains of NSW. Whilst his business offers a large range of material, Hugh has a passion and preference for specialising in Australian Native trees and plants. He attributes his skill development to being a part of the bonsai community, constantly attending meetings, lectures and demonstrations and just generally hanging out with other bonsai enthusiasts. “For the most part, Bonsai centres around design and architecture as a practice, using horticulture as a technical application to produce the product, which is the bonsai tree. Going into it, (at 12 years of age), I just thought it looked cool. I guess my mind was focused on the design aspect, not knowing that I needed the technical ability to keep that plant alive. This is the problem most beginners face.” Once simple horticultural information about bonsai is obtained and followed it really is not a hard activity at all.

How to Start a Bonsai
Bonsai 2

After chatting with Steve and Huge my advice for beginners is to get to a nearby Bonsai club and immerse yourself or at least read a reliable book. It’s not a hard technique but it does require dedication and patience. Like your larger gardening endeavours, you need to consider the fact that every plant and situation does vary. Here is a simple rundown on the basics.

  1. Firstly, choose a tree you feel some affinity with. Have a look at the way this tree may look as a Bonsai as well to help with this decision. Starting from seed may mean a longer journey with your Bonsai so perhaps a seedling may be more to your liking. There is also the option to start with a young Bonsai and these are easy to obtain.
  2. Find a suitable pot and choose a style that you will create. Again, there are so many resources out there to help in your selection and most enthusiasts believe that the pot forms part of the art of bonsai so chose with that in mind. Bonsai pots have additional holes to enable the root ball to be wired to the pot for stability.
  3. Premixed general bonsai soils are available, and you can make your own but for the best results, you should be creating or obtaining a mix that suits your actual tree type.
  4. Roots are perhaps pruned at this point and depending on the size and maturity of your seedling or immature bonsai you most likely will need to need it to wire it to your pot.
  5. Looking at your style and depending on the season, you may wire branches to begin shaping your bonsai.
  6. Water the tree and place it in a suitable location for its type.
  7. Look after it! Bonsai need constant care, they are not ‘set and forget’ houseplants at all, in fact they are not really suited to indoor living. While some will cope, you need to remember they are trees, and so like most trees, they need direct sunlight and an outdoors aspect to thrive.

Central Coast Bonsai Club
Monthly meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month (except January) from 7.30pm until 9.30pm in the Tasman Function Room at Mingara Recreation Club. These meetings typically involve a guest speaker/demonstrator describing a different aspect of bonsai.nCommunity members are welcome to come and enjoy your first meetings without needing to be a member. We welcome people at all skill levels – be they absolute beginners through to advanced -and welcome all ages. We run 6 weeks bonsai courses at Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels. We also run full day guest Demonstration and Workshop days on weekends.

Bonsai Resources


The Ultimate Bonsai Handbook, The Complete Guide for Beginners
By Yukio Hirose

Bonsai book

Berkeley Books, 2020, ISBN: 9784805315026, 256 pages
I searched high and low for a foundation book on Bonsai that I felt confident in recommending, especially to those wanting to begin and this one made the top of the list. There are over 1,000 photos to inspire and inform with in-depth exploration of the many types of bonsai as well as tutorials focusing on their care. Great advice on selecting and displaying bonsai as well. Other topics include basic tree shapes and how to display them, tools, soils, and containers; transplanting, root trimming, watering, and fertilising along with propagation, pruning, wiring and support. The author, Yukio Hirose fell in love with Bonsai at the Osaka World Expo in 1970 and has been devoted to growing, selling, and teaching about bonsai ever since. He is the owner of Yamatoen Bonsai Garden in Kanagawa prefecture and is one of Japan's leading Shohin bonsai artists. An active instructor, Hirose offers workshops throughout Japan. He is an award-winning organizer of bonsai exhibitions and has served as the chair of the All-Japan Shohin Bonsai Association. This book is perfect for the absolute beginner but I’m sure that with its comprehensive nature, it would be a handy reference for the more experienced.

Planting Guide for Temperate regions early March
You can plant the following now: Culinary herbs, beetroot, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrot, cauliflower, chicory, cress, endive, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsnip, peas, salsify, shallots, spring onions, silverbeet, swede, spinach, turnips, ageratum, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, carnation, columbine, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, larkspur, nigella, pansy, polyanthus, poppy, primula, snapdragon, statice, stock, sweet pea, wallflower

Next Week: Growing Your Own Garlic


Down in the Garden is looking for Central Coast gardeners who would like to share their garden with us.

We are particularly looking for: Seed Saving, Evergreens, Tulips, Spring Bulbs, Water Feature Gardens, School/Children Gardeners, Commercial Kitchen Gardens, Medicinal Plant Gardeners, and Community Gardens but all gardens and gardeners are welcome contact: [email protected]

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with

Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963. She is also co-host of @MostlyAboutPlants a weekly botanical history & gardening podcast with Victoria White.

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]

This article first appeared in Central Coast Newspapers ( The Coast News and The Chronicle) week beginning 28th February 2022

Flora Grows Apples

WEB Flora Grows Apples Cheralyn Darcey
THE MAGICK & POWER OF APPLES (Malus domestica). This fruit can help you connect with energies to assure a brighter future. Apple helps build and hold hope stronger in your heart. If you are working on your future, on goals and re-evaluating past decisions, this powerful fruit will be a strong ally. Those wanting to align with the energy of love and especially on bringing romantic bonds closer together can use apple via essences, cooking, imagery and magic to assist. Apple also beckons us tp look at the individual elements of situations a little more closely and be sure that you do not lose your unique qualities.

Plant apple trees from early winter to mid-spring in tropical zones (suitable cultivars) and late autumn through to late spring in all other areas. Grow in a sheltered, full sun position with a free-draining and fertile soil. Ensure that the young tree is very well watered in the first few weeks. Apples benefit from a nitrogen-based fertiliser each year before fruiting. Harvest apples when they smell and taste ripe.

Uses: immortality, prosperity, love, spirit realm, blockages
Deities: Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Pomona, Gaia, Morgan le Fay, Idunn, Olwen
Celestial: Venus
Astrological Sign: Capricorn

Apples hide a pentagram within, so use this natural magick in a dried fruit display.
Gather 3 apples, ½ cup lemon juice, 1.5 tablespoons salt. Core apples, slice 5mm (.20 inch) thick. Soak for 15 minutes in a mix of 2 cups lemon juice and 3 tablespoons salt. Pat dry then dry on a baking sheet for about 6 hours at in an oven at 150 degrees. Keep the oven door slightly ajar to ensure good air circulation. Turn the slices when they start to curl.

I know a lot of you love Flora as much as I do so here is a full sized print to keep. 
Click on the image to download a full sized print. 
It is still copyright protected and may not be sold. 
Flora Grows Apples Cheralyn Darcey

Learn Green Witch Gardening Online with Cheralyn Darcey

Green witch garden sq

Learn Green Witch Gardening and how to Create a Home Apothecary​ Online 
lifetime access online
 with ethnobotanical gardener, author and artist Cheralyn Darcey


begins 1st March 2020
​(start anytime thereafter and complete at your own pace) very special early bird enrolment $66US booking now
with Instagram code:
(code expires end of first week of Feb) 

No experience is needed. 
Content is suitable for enjoyment and knowledge no matter current garden setup. 
Suitable for indoor or outdoor plants. 

Work at your own pace with information that is relevant anywhere and any climate in the

Garden Design with Magick
​You will learn how to plan and design a beautiful garden space (indoors or out) while learning magical correspondences that will empower, protect and boost the energies you will be working with.
​Plant, Grow, Nurture
Lessons to help you start, renovate and get your garden growing with plants you can use for healing, magick and culinary purposes, all grown naturally by you. 
Cheralyn elder

Create A Home Apothecary
Learn how to best gather and preserve your harvest and where to obtain additional items to create your personal at home Magickal Apothecary.

Are you Listening to the Language of Plants or just tapping into what you can gain?

The Botanical Spirit works without us and apart from us.
Tree way

It will not die because of us as it is a universal energy and we are only a small event, a bud of possibility, upon the vines and tendrils that it sends out across time, space and dimensions. We really know nothing of the plans of plants.
Our actions can certainly harm it but it will simply cut us off and guide us to land that hibernates our energy.
The Botanical Spirit responds to us because we are that bud of possibility and if we are aligned and work with it? We may be the leaf, the branch, the root, the flower or the bulb that carries forward and works in harmony with this energy.
Droughts come and fires alight because they must as there is no regeneration and chance for evolution without. Plants need water, air, earth and fire.
Unwanted drying of earth and flames lit without consciousness, through the hand of the people occur because they are not aligned with Plant Energy but there is no botanical plant jury handing out punishment over the supposed morals and personal actions of people.
Plants care about themselves and they have work to do that we are only just awakening to. We are lucky enough to live within the branches of these energies and to listen and learn from their language of botanical energy. You are a part of it but don’t mistake what this energy is saying.
Are you really listening to plants?

May nature bless you and may you always be a blessing to nature.
🐝 Cheralyn

around here this week ~

As the weather cooler a little,  I worked outside a lot this week. 
This is looking out over my beloved back garden, oasis this week. 
I am working on a book (not part of a current series), that will be released later this year I hope, if not, next year. 

In the garden I am doing a lot of clearing up of leaves! My 9 magnificent gum trees are shedding a lot of spent leaves and twigs and the hot summer winds are helping move that process right along. I'm harvesting lots of basil, chillies, parsley, chives, rosemary, last of the silverbeet,  cos lettuce, tiny toms, sage, sorrel, cucumbers and I am blessed with many beautiful roses! The last of the most wonderful sunflowers has faded for the year and I've carefully collected millions of seeds. I am sure there are at least thousands! 
one of my herb patches this week

one of my lovelies with a card from my Flower Reading Cards deck



I am catching up with a cluster I missed last year at Pearsons School of Floristry ~ Hand Tied. 
Learning how to create bouquets and flower presentations and prepare them for sale and for occasions. 
Flowers 1  Flowers 2

This week I had a lot of fun on STUDIO10 again, sharing some flower love and fun 

Next week I plan to:
*ensure I get a Flower of the Day up for you all every day! 
*climb up to the half-way mark on the new book I am writing. 
*complete a few block prints I have sketched out
*catch up on my Pearsons School of Floristry assignments 
*repot my Devil's Ivy and propagate a few new babies 
*plant some leeks and radish and perhaps some more lettuce. 
*tidy up all my daisies! 

The Steadfast Oak

It's no secret that I adore all forms of block printing. There is something incredibly connective to nature to me to be able to create in this layered form of expression. I miss nothing in the creative process.

They do take a long time but there is so much time to think, to focus and to understand each note of nature. First the sketches, then drawing out onto to a lino or wood block and then inking, the reveal and then the addition of colours.

Steadfast oak|"Steadfast Oak ~ Quercus robur"
 Cheralyn Darcey 2015
mixed media mono print and linocut on paper, ink, watercolour and acrylic 150 x 210mm

I also began a return to mono printing after seeing Gelli Print plates a while ago. I had experimented with Gelatine Plates (the method these are based on) probably 30 years ago now and although I did enjoy it, I have to say Gelli Print have perfected the creative process with these tools. Love them. So I've been experimenting with a combination of mono printing with Gelli plates and lino printing. This is the first artwork that I'm really happy with after months of experimentation with all the combinations and styles I was dreaming up!

I haven't exhibited in a few years and I have the itch! This is the first in what I hope is a body of work for a solo next year.