June 2010

List of  (some) Plants to grow from seed recommended for the Algarve (Mediterranean zone)

From the south west of Australia (Mediterranean zone) selected by

Pete Nash, Sales & Purchasing, Nindethana Seed Co. Web site, http://www.nindethana.net.au/ Email. nindseed@gawa.org.au

(wholly owned by not for profit organisation www.greeningaustralia.org.au)

PLEASE ALWAYS CHECK that you are not introducing any plants on the Invasive Plants of Portugal list. Web site with info on invasive Acacias/Eucalyptus advised against planting in Portugal. Centre for Functional Ecology, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra   www.uc.pt/invasoras

Acacia drummondii ssp affinis

Acacia merinthophora

Acacia redolens (low growing)

Alyogyne huegelii

Banksia ashbyi

Banksia blechnifolia

Banksia speciosa

Crotalaria cunninghamii

Dryandra formosa

Hakea bucculenta

Hakea petiolaris

Hakea platysperma

Hardenbergia comptoniana

Isopogon formosus

Eucalyptus coronata

Eucalyptus erythrocorys

Eucalyptus kruseana

Kennedia beckxiana

Leptospermum sericeum

Swainsona formosa

Templetonia retusa

at DRAPALG,(Direcção de Serviçios de Agricultura e Pescas, Divisão de Apoio à Produção Agrícola) Patacão, FARO.

Web site. www.drapalg.min-agricultura.pt

Our tutor and guide for the day was Enga. Margarida Sofia Jordão Costa. The morning was dedicated to a practical lesson on seed sowing and on taking cuttings.  Enga. Margarida demonstrated a standard method for encouraging germination of many seeds in the legume (pea) family.  She put seed of Caesalpinnia gillesii into a pyrex dish and poured boiling water over them. The seed can be left until cold before sowing in the normal way. The seed should be sown to their own depth in compost and not buried too deeply in the pot. Seed pots can be soaked, drained, and put into a closed plastic bag to aid germination.  This retains moisture on the top level of soil and aids germination.

Cuttings can be taken from non-flowering shoots. Cut stems with approx. three or four leaf nodes, trim excess leaves and bury two leaf nodes in the compost. Hormone rooting powder can be used but Margarida advised storing this in a fridge to prolong storage life. The apical (terminal) bud provides the best chance of a successful rooting. A large heap of lavender cuttings was used to demonstrate the standard method and many were able to take their potential plants home with them.

Lunch was taken in the on site staff canteen. During lunch time there were some books to look at, seed catalogues & seed packets available and the seed box to look through !

In the afternoon we had a guided tour of the gardens and collections of trees on site.  DRAPALG is a working site and has many unusual plants and trees in the grounds, the staff are enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. There is a cacti and succulent garden and also an area laid out showing the Algarve coastline with some typical vegetation.  There is also a small area with native plants, lavender beds and pomegranate varieties. In flower for our visit was a lovely example of Hymenosporum flavum. There is also a small nursery with trees, shrubs and plants for sale to the public. This site has the laboratory where it is possible to have soil and water samples analysed. Visits from the public or gardening groups are encouraged, please use web site contact above.

“95 per cent observation /5 per cent  glue and sticky tape”

The day started with a few words from Udo Schwarzer (Algarve Biologist based near Aljezur) on the approach he would use to teach us how to observe and learn from the natural vegetation. He emphasised that it was not important at this stage to know the names of the plants we would see, it would be more important that we observed closely the differences, and collected specimens of foliage/flowers of each individual. These specimens should be an accurate record of trees, shrubs, climbers, bulbs and annuals which were in the marked areas of the Barrocal garden near Moncarapacho. Udo had previously marked areas of typical vegetation types for the workshop.

The group was split into teams and sent to the selected parts of the garden, a large A3 sheet of white paper was used to collect single specimens of every specie distinguishable in the selected vegetation area. The sheets were folded by four and then numbered one to  four. These areas on the paper were to allow collected specimens to be divided between the most dominant (area 4) and least dominant (area 1) on the vegetation sampling site.

When this task had been completed the teams returned to the shady terrace to stick down their collections.  Udo was kept busy running between each of the areas to help out when necessary and to check that useful specimens were being collected.

Checking the sheet

Each sheet from the groups was then laid side by side for everyone to see. Udo emphasised again that we should closely observe the similarities and the differences between the sheets. It became obvious that the six study areas of vegetation types were three pairs of equal vegetation because the participants recognized that there were three pairs of sheets with similar plant composition, both in species and in abundance/domination.

With guidance from Udo, the significance of the selected areas became clear. Woodland, edge of woodland, and exposed areas all had their own plant communities relevant to the conditions of each area.  The relevance for those trying to establish natural gardens or use native plants in the garden was discussed. If we can properly observe what plants we have growing already, then we can make an assessment of the plant community and encourage/add the relevant plants.  In this way we can increase the bio-diversity of our gardens in one of the richest botanical areas in Europe,  this would also mean  a flowering garden without any irrigation.

Useful Books – to order from local bookshops

Flora e Vegetação,  Barrocal Algarvio (Tavira – Portimão) Carlos J. Pinto Gomes & Rodrigo J. P. Paiva Ferreira Published 2005 by the CCDR (Commissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional do Algarve)  ISBN 972-95734-9-2  This is the definitive flora for the Barrocal with a full listing by botanical name of trees, shrubs, bulbs and plants. Available directly on application to the CCDR Biblioteca at the  Museo Regional do Algarve in Faro.

Plantas do Algarve com interesse ornamental/Algarve´s Plants with ornamental interest Fernando Santos Pessoa, José Rosa Pinto, José Rocha Alexandre 2nd Edition 2007 ISBN 978-972-36-0715-4

Wild Flowers in the Algarve, an introductory guide Pat O´Reilly & Sue Parker 2008 www.first-nature.com

Wild Orchids in the Algarve Sue Parker 2009 www.first-nature.com

Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean – a complete guide, over 2700 colour illustrations Christopher Grey-Wilson and Marjorie Blamey 2004 A & C Black (Domino books) ISBN 0-7136-7015-0

A new page has been added to the right hand menu with full notes from the Seed Workshop day held in March.

Sieves and buckets ready for use

The day was dedicated to learning more about collecting, cleaning and storing your own seeds. The notes also contain some useful links to other web sites with more details on cleaning different kinds of seed.  There are also some useful notes on the main Mediterranean Garden Society web site together with the list of seed available for members.

When plants perform well and it is difficult to buy more, growing them from seed can be the only way to make more available for planting.  Growing from seed also can provide surplus plants for swaps or for sale at events.

I think it might be important to add that while  growing plants from seed is great fun, it can also be addictive !!