Friday, October 30, 2015

Garden tool review. The Cyclone 'Sculpt' range of hedge trimmers and loppers


A couple of weeks ago I lucky enough to receive a swathe of new hand tools from the iconic Australian company Cyclone tools. Cyclone have a long history in Australia and have been around for more than 100 years and are makers of quality tools, several of which I personally own and use.

Info provided by Cyclone tools

Cyclone's new 'Sculpt' range of shears and loppers offers gardeners more power for less effor, comfortable grip and stylish design. The range comprises two new hedge shears and three loppers, and includes Telescopic models for those hard-to-reach brances and stems. 'Sculpt' shears and loppers features transitional aluminium handles, soft-touch and wide-palm grips. Its 100% non-stick blades offer friction free cutting, rust resistance, durability and lasting sharpness. 'Sculpt is available at Bunnings Warehouse, comes with a lifetime guarantee and is priced from $49.98 to $87.

Tool Review

To review these tools I puts them all through their paces over several jobs and as it is now spring here in Australia the timing for testing these tools is ideal. I used the hedge trimmers on a Viburnum hedge, a Photinia hedges, a Cypress hedge and several shrubs, they performed wonderfully. The telescopic handles on the wavy hedge trimmers did the trick for trimming high areas. I used the loppers to prune several different trees and they cut through branches of up to 35mm quite easily. I particularly liked the grips and I also liked the handle length on all the loppers.

Whilst all the tools in the sculpt range were of good quality and performed functionally well there were two in particular that in my opinion really stood out as the best of the bunch.

CYCLONE Sculpt Hedge Shears



The first of these was the standard hedge shears. I've used lots of different types of hedge shears over the years and I can tell you that hedge shears vary from company to company and some shears are more suitable for certain plants than others. The standard shears in the sculpt range are the type of shears that excel in relatively light hedge trimming (for hedges with thicker branching consider the telescopic shears that provide more power through their longer handles). The sculpt hedge trimmers had a nice light and whippy action. For some reason I really prefer the straight blade shears over the wavy blades for light  and precise work. These shears would be fantastic for anyone who is a topiary enthusiast or somebody who likes sharpening the edges of a standard hedge.


CYCLONE Sculpt Ratchet Anvil Lopper

I have worked with several gardeners (one who has more experience than me) who to my surprise have never used an anvil lopper. Anybody who hasn't used a pair of anvil loppers should really give some a try to appreciate their power and usefulness in the garden. As opposed to bypass loppers (which are essentially massive secateurs), anvil loppers consist of a blade that comes down into the center of a metal surface called the anvil which makes them more powerful than bypass loppers. The people at Cyclone must be psychic because my last pair of anvil loppers which were of another brand had become so lose that I stopped using them. The Sculpt anvil loppers were nice and tight with a nice handle length. They have a ratchet mechanism which multiplies their cutting strength making them a real beast of a tool. I cut through several 35mm woody branches with them and they worked like a charm. These anvil loppers enabled me to cut through hard and woody branches that I without them would require me to use my hand pruning saw.

If you are in the marked for some new pruning tools consider the Sculpt range from Cyclone. Cyclone are still an Australian company so get out there and support them and in return you will get some quality tools.

The telescopic wavy edge hedge shears were good for tougher hedges with thicker branching.

The compound bypass loppers

The telescopic ratchet bypass loppers were great for high branches.

The straight edge hedge shears giving an English box shrub some shape

The straight edge hedge shears working a cypress hedge

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Amorphophallus titanum aka Titan Arum 2015. The worlds largest inflorescence of flowers

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne Titan Arum 2015

In late 2012 I heard news from the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne regarding the worlds largest inflorescence of flowers the mighty Amorphophallus titanum. I got to see it before it unfurled its beautiful spathe but missed out on seeing it fully opened by one day as I had to leave to go on vacation the day before (poor me). This time however I was in Melbourne for the grand opening. It only stays open and in great shape in terms of both structure and scent (carrion attracting) for a few days so you need to be quick if you want to see and smell it at its best.

The Titan Arum as I saw it in 2012 with the spathe still closed. Click the link below for the blog entry on the 2012 Titan Arum and for general information about the plant itself

One thing I found surprising upon my arrival at the tropical greenhouse was the amount of people there to see it. There was literally a roped off line up and 15 minute wait to to get in. I'd been getting a bit disheartened regarding gardening and plants in Melbourne. The trend away from spacious gardens and towards larger houses which seem to fill up almost every square metre of land had me thinking people are not interested in plants to level they used to be. It was reassuring to see the enthusiastic curiosity the general population seemed to have for this plant. Maybe there is hope still for urban gardens in Melbourne's future.

Below is the inflorescence in all its glory. It maxed out at 263 in height which breaks the Australian record and is also higher than the ones grown at the famous Kew gardens. For the record, yes the plant did smell quite foul.

The remnants of the line up. At this point they were turning people away as they were about to shut the hot house for the day. When I arrived the line was almost snaking all the way to the end of the roped off area.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Turn your pot marigolds into tea. How to make calendula tea.

Calendula tea recipe

I came across this recipe similar to this on a visit to the Geelong botanic gardens. At the time they had a tea garden which featured amongst other plants, calendula. I thought I would write up my quick variation of this recipe to compliment my other post on dandelion coffee. According to info from the gardens drinking calendula tea has been used to treat gastric ulcers and infections of the mouth and throat. It improves digestion, relieves menstrual cramps and helps to relieve liver disease. I have no idea if any of that is actually true but you can believe it if you want :). This tea tastes very mild not bitter and is quite refreshing.

Lots if text I've read states it is important to only use Calendula officianalis (common name pot marigold) and not the other varieties of marigolds (Tagetes) because they may not be edible. Some text I've read states otherwise. Based on my current level of knowledge on the matter I wouldn't risk it at the present time.


A coffee plunger, colander and a grater.


  • 1/4 cup of fresh calendula petals
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • Sprinkling of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice
  • Boiling water




Steep calendula petals in 1 cup of  boiling water for  5 minutes with the grated orange zest. Add the honey and orange juice. Stir and strain into a cup then sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Plants along the 'Two Bays Bushwalk' from Dromana to Cape Schanck

Two Bays Walking Track 2014

In late December 2014 I was visiting the Monington Peninsula and decided to attempt what is known as the Two Bays walking track. The track is a respectable 26km long and starts in Dromana in the area known as Arthurs seat and ends at the lighthouse in Cape Schanck.

Indigenous plant hunt along the Two Bays Bushwalk

A few days before I trekked the Two Bays walk I had just finished a book about Charles Darwin and the other prominent British naturalists of the 19th century. The tales of botany in that book inspired me to try and locate and identify some indigenous plants. All in all I managed to identify and photograph many more than I expected. I must say that if you are a bit of a plant nerd like me that trying to identify indigenous plants along a walk makes it much more interested and rewarding. It's amazing how being able to identify native plants really opens your eyes as to the diversity of plants in the bushland.

A Xanthorrhoea heaven on earth

The most impressive plants on show along the track were the monstrous Xanthorrhea australis grass trees. These trees grow at an extremely slow rate. The annual vertical growth rate is reputed to rarely be greater than 2cm. Some of the plants along the walk were over 2m tall with flower spikes reaching well over 3m tall. These grass trees are very expensive to buy in nurseries as they are listed as vulnerable plants and as such it is illegal to take them from the wild. Although they are listed as vulnerable you wouldn't know it from the huge number on show along the Two Bays track. I was pleasantly surprised as I never expected that there would be so many densely packed into this area. They were growing so densely that on certain sections of the track they were hedged to as their foliage was blocking the path.

The walk itself

In retrospect my biggest mistake was not bringing any band aids with me. For the first 19km I was fine but the last 7km wasn't so comfortable as a couple of blisters had formed on my feet. I'm not the fittest person on earth but I wouldn't describe myself as unfit either so If you think of yourself in the same way the walk should be within your capabilities. The walk took me 7 hours to complete and apart from my aching feet I felt fine. If you want to attempt this walk yourself maybe try some smaller walks to begin with if you are unsure, take plenty of water and check the bushfire rating if it is summer.

Below are a series of pictures I took along the way of some indigenous plants and other niceties.

This is the view from the Arthurs Seat section of the walk overlooking Dromana. This section was quite steep but after the the walk was fairly flat and mostly downhill.

Messmate trees form the canopy for large parts of the track near Arthurs Seat.

The first indigenous plant I found was this Goodenia ovata common name hop goodenia

This plant is called Dipodium roseum (common name pink hyacinth orchid). It was easy to spot as its bright pink flowers stood out amongst all the green of the bushland.

These next 2 photographs turned out great. They are flowers of the coastal banskia tree Banksia integrifolia.

The spent flowerheads of the coastal banksia.

The plant below is definately not indigenous. It is called boneseed and is a noxious weed. Signage in this area said the weed was such a problem that they have start trialing biological controls to try and eradicate it.

Not all the track is in the bushland. This vineyard is typical of many in the area which is known for producing superb white wine.

This next group of pictures shows Xanthorrheoa australis plants along the section the track south of gardens road.

The track is clearly marked with the fairy wren logo and direction arrows.

Speaking of fairy wrens I managed to snap this one. There are lots of them in the area.

This photo was taken deep in the Greens Bush section of the walk. In 1975 the state government purchased 500 hectares of bushland from the Greens family with the view of protecting it from development or farming. The Greens Bush section is the most untouched section of the walk. Lots of grass trees were growing here and you are surrounded by only the sights and sounds of the bush.

Xanthorrhoeas in the Greens Bush section.

After leaving Greens Bush the trees start to be dominated by coastal banksias as shown below.

Below is some sort of Leptospermum (common name tea tree). I had trouble trying to identify the exact species of the tee tree as there are many that look similar but I couldn't find one that looked exactly like the ones I found.

This little plant was everywhere on the section of track close to Cape Schanck. It is called Chenopodium candolleanum (common name seaberry saltbush). Apparently the leaves can be cooked and eaten.

This pristine section of beach is called Bushranger's Bay. It looked to have some small / medium waves and nice clear water. Definitely on my hit list for the next visit.

A tunnel of tea trees along the last 4km of the walk.

The Cape Schanck lighthouse was sight for sore eyes (or more accurately sore feet). If you've made it this far you have completed the whole 26km.

The boardwalk and rocky coastal section at Cape Schanck.

The indigenous plant below is Leucophyta brownii or the cushion bush.

I made it to the ocean. Below is a view from the sand on the beach below the Cape Shanck boardwalk.

The foliage of Disphyma crassifolium or noon flower was found on the banks along the Cape Schank boardwalk area.

Alas this was the only noon flower I found on the plant. If only I had been there a month or so earlier.

Last of all a picture of the Melaleuca sp.