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Growing a garden in Perth through summer is quite a challenge and as a result WA is one of the worlds leading users of irrigation technology. To explain this to the to the othersider folk who come from the eastern states I say that you can't have a beautiful productive garden in WA, by accident. The latest controllers take data from moisture and nutrient sensors in the soil and also local weather data from the Internet to ensure the most efficient scheduling of watering. These systems, which currently are seen in commercial and large gardens, are capable of being operated through smart phones. The spin-off from this technology is now becoming available in smart phone operated, tap-mounted controllers at a very modest cost. Look out in your local irrigation specialist for this smart tech.
The Water Corporation have an online list of suitable plants for home gardens in a simple format that allows the gardener to feed in a range of requirements and get answers back from the database. There is a big selection of photos to help refine your choices and the system can deliver a list suited to the suburb in which you live.
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I first saw this unusual style of branch trimming and shaping in Thailand when looking around the Royal Grand Palace in Bangkok. In Adelaide a few months ago I saw some delightful examples in the Himeji garden on the cities doorstep. These rounded shapes, which resemble clouds, are created by regular trimming in much the same way as hedges are produced. The trees I saw in Bangkok would have been trained from day one, however it is possible to create these shapes from bushy shrubs. The commonly grown dwarf peppermint (Agonis flexuosa Nana) seems to respond very well if cloud pruned even at a mature size. Start by exposing the main trunks from the ground up. Once the trunks are clear prune the foliage into a rounded cushion shape. Come back in a couple of months and give your clouds a fine haircut to refine the shape. Before you know it you will be the proud owner of an Oriental heirloom.
Indoor plants are taking off again, this time with a scientific backing. We now know that indoor plants in our indoor living and working environments are good for us. This is not just because of the cleaner air they bring but also because of the psychological affinity we humans have for living things. So we are more productive and feel more relaxed when in a leafy green environment than a sterile office for example. A new app recently release by The Nursery and Garden Industry called Plant Life Balance available on iPhone and android formats enables you to photograph the rooms in which you live and then populate these with a range of different plants. You can rate these as to your preferences and this can even lead to the generation of a shopping list. Very cool technology.
When you are sweltering in the city on a hot day the relief you can experience just from walking under a large spreading shady tree is no illusion. You can be a whopping 11 degrees cooler according to measurements taken in Perth city comparing the surface temperatures of exposed hot spots to shaded tree lined streetscapes. A hot day is a good day to walk around your garden and work out where a shady tree would be of greatest benefit. Trees that shade north or west facing walls of your home will provide the greatest benefit from shading. While the summer is not the best time for planting trees, for most our autumn gives the best results. This is true unless you are looking at tropical trees such as West African tulip tree or Avocado and Mango where it's best to plant in the hot seasons with a good water supply. These tropical respond quickly to warm conditions and get their roots out into the surrounding soil territory, best in the hotter months.