Vines and Climbers, Shrubs,

APPLEBERRY Billardiera ssp.
is an indigenous climber which is reasonably happy in the plentiful shade which shrouds much of my garden, though it flowers better if it gets some sun. I planted several of these attractive vines in April 2003, 2 round the big rainwater tank, a couple on the back fence, and the rest on the SE side of the front fence. In summer they are covered in tiny sky-blue flowers, these are followed by small oval berries an aromatic & sticky pulp full of seeds. They are quite palatable, but you have to beat the birds to the crop.

also known, amongst other things as Malabar or Indian Spinach
This succulent perennial vine grows well in Adelaide summers, and will even become an established perennial in a sheltered spot. If it should die back in a cold snap, it self-seeds prolifically, and plants will almost certainly appear as soon as the soil warms up.
Every part of this plant is edible, even the berries, although these are best used as a food dye, unless you enjoy your rice or barley in Shocking Pink! I like the leaves & flowers in stir-fries, and use the leaves to thicken soups and curries. For comprehensive information go to:

This needs no description, it is so commonly grown in warm climates. I have chosen two of the original varieties, one with purple and one with red bracts, which have replaced the passionfruit on the front fence. See why! Although the possums do chew the bark, the plants are so rampant they will probably survive, and give me much-needed privacy from the traffic in the lane.

CHOKO aka Chayote
Every part of the choko can be eaten - the young tips steamed taste like asparagus, the tendrils can be used as a decoratative garnish, and the leaves may be steamed and sieved like turnip greens.
The reason most people dislike the choko is that they don't pick & use the fruit while it is young. Young chokos are full of flavour, tasting something like cucumber, with a hint of green bean. They can be sliced raw and used in salads, or stir-fried, sliced or quartered, according to size. Older fruit can be stuffed, curried, or used to pad out stews and soups (don't forget to eat the seed too).
Larger chokos take on the flavour of anything they are cooked with. In hard times they have been served as a sweet, cooked with lemon juice, sugar and ginger, or made into pies with a few more flavoursome fruits. It makes excellent pickles, chutneys and sauces.
Even the root is edible, and a well-established vine can have large sections of the tuber removed for food.
The rate of growth of the vine has to be seen to be believed! They take a year or two to become established and should be protected from frost and drying out during this time. Though cut down by the first frost, once established the vines will shoot again as soon as the weather warms up. They prefer to have their feet in deep rich moist soil, though they will grow almost anywhere there is water, and they will climb and travel extraordinary distances to get their heads in the sun.
One Choko vine will easily cover an old car body, hen run, garage, shed, or even the house! The Choko growing on my neighbours side of the fence! from which I had to remove it at his request.
To keep it under control, and encourage flowering, just keep pinching out the growing tips, steam & eat them. A regular supply of green veg.!
Chooks, guinea-pigs or other animals relish the leaves and stems, so utilising the prunings..
Flowers, which are rich in nectar and attract honeyeaters and native bees, begin appearing in late summer. The first fruit is ready in early autumn, and ripens over a long period. It will hang on the vine, getting progressively tougher, until late winter. Even these old tough fruits can be cut up and cooked for animal feed.
Mine is a thin-skinned variety, with no thorns. Some kinds can be quite painful to handle.
The choko contains Vitamins C and A, and is rich in pectin, a particularly useful kind of soluble vegetable fibre. It is the stuff which, combined with acid and sugar, makes jam set, so it can be used with scarcer fruit to stock up the store cupboard.
The dried stems are very strong, and can be used for weaving or string.

I have this vision, of every house in the world's shanty-towns having it's own choko growing over it, watered by waste water and fertilised by rubbish. Would it work, I wonder?

Once established, it needs keeping under control, but in an average backyard there is definitely a place for the choko!

Back to Cape Gooseberry

Mine is not the spectacular cool climate cultivar of the formal garden, but a delicate-looking variety Clematis Microphylla indigenous to this area. Planted in April 2003, and left to establish itself on the front fence during the dryest, hottest Summer on record, everyone can now enjoy it's fluffy cream flowers every winter & spring. However, it doesn't set seed - I have now learnt that the vine is one which requires plants of both sexes in order to seed, & that the young plants are very difficult to sex. So in 2011 I planted 3 more, in the hope that one or more is of the opposite gender!

I now have only one vine, a sultana. For reasons explained elsewhere, I have (2004) substantially re-designed the NW side of my garden. For the fruit to ripen successfully it needs to be in full sun, so the vine has been radically pruned, and is being trained onto a frame which will shade the NW facing walls of the house, while keeping the vine in the sun, and preventing it from climbing onto the roof.
Every garden in a Mediterranean climate should have a grape vine.
Like the fig, the established vine is drought tolerant, and productive of far more than just grapes.
Dried sultanas are rich in iron, fibre, & fruit sugars, and have endless uses.
Unfermented grape juice is delicious, rich in potassium, and can be easily pastereurised for storage until winter.
Verjuice, pressed from unripe grapes, can be used in many recipes instead of lemon juice or vinegar, and is an excellent meat tenderiser.
Wine, now almost exclusively made from grapes, is a subject too huge to go into here, while the best vinegars, and some excellent brandy are also children of the grape.
Vine leaves, which are stuffed to make Dolmades can be preserved in natural lactic acid, like sauerkraut or olives.
Oil pressed from the seeds is widely used both for cooking and for massage and cosmetic purposes.
Cuttings strike readily, and the prunings make excellent kindling.
It is small wonder that the grapevine was held sacred in many cultures, and symbolised the life force.

These indigenous climbers are legumes, and will help to naturally fertilize the soil. Purchased and planted in April 2003, some have white flowers, and some deep purple. Only one is a cultivar, (Happy Wanderer) so some have set seed this year after flowering spectacularly. I planted 8 altogether - one on the front fence, one under the peach tree, and the rest on the SE fence. Those in deep shade are slower-growing, & the white flowered ones did not have the vigour of the purple, eventually succumbing to the drought. Happy Wanderer is very vigorous, & has spread spectacularly along my front fence,which I would like eventually to be covered with indigenous vines.

HONEYSUCKLE - (Photo - 30KB)
This evergreen vine flowers for several months, filling the air with haunting fragrance, which changes it's 'note' as the flowers age. Flowering sprays can be cut and last well in water. They look particularly graceful in a tall narrow vase, and scent the whole house.
Flowering honeysuckle attracts honeyeaters, while rabbits and guinea-pigs relish the foliage. Birds like the berries, but they may cause severe stomach upsets in humans.
It's strong growth makes it a quick screen, but it needs vigorous pruning, especially of the 'runners' - vines which lay on the ground and take root wherever they can.
The long flexible stems are valuable for all kinds of basketry.

Colourful, fragarant, evergreen, drought resistant, shallow-rooted and wind-loving - this tough scrambler takes a while to become established, but then with just a little care it's yours for life! In fact, once it reaches the required size, it needs a regular trim, just like a hedge.
In all frost-free areas this wonderful plant can be used to tranform old iron fences or piles of rubble into a lush floral feature. Just don't over-water it, or it will rot!
In colder climates, it is an exotic summer plant, displayed to advantage in hanging baskets, and over-wintered in the greenhouse. It can also be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill, but really is best kept outside as long as the nights remain frost-free.
Climbing pelagoniums are the common choice for planting around 'Stobie poles' - the South Australian answer to a complete lack of local timber suitable to make telegraph poles. Constructed of old railway lines and concrete, motorists swear they jump out into the middle of the road so they can crash into them. Certainly their ugliness has been so covered with greenery in many cases that one might be forgiven for thinking they are alive!
Easily grown from cuttings, difficult to kill, and available in a wide variety of colours - there are even some forms with variegated flowers and/or leaves - they are ideal for home-grown gifts or for charity stalls.

JASMINE - winter and summer
'Winter' jasmine is rampant, but the heavy scent is delicious and the flowering period begins in late winter and can extend into early summer. Another evergreen screen which sends out 'runners', it needs severe and regular pruning.
This is not the European Winter Jasmine, whose yellow flowers on bare stems brighten many a London suburb, but hails from India.
The Summer jasmine is not so vigorous, and the flowers have a more subtle, though long-lasting and pervasive perfume. It is the flower of this variety which is used to scent Jasmine Tea. This is another evergreen, and it needs light pruning to encourage thicker growth, because of it's straggly habits

LAB-LAB, 7- YEAR, or HYACYNTH BEAN Dolichos ssp.
This vigorous bean has many names, and comes in short, medium, and tall varieties!
I started out 9 years ago with seeds of a tall variety with flat green pods, which when young are a good substitute for sugar peas, but the self-sown plants I now also have are purplish, with a rounder, crisper pod, and a slightly better flavour. The dried bean is identical with those from the original plants.
The vines are easily grown from seed, bear prolifically, last for many years, and the foliage and flowers are very attractive. Both are edible, the flowers raw, and the leeaves cooked as greens.
The green pods are best eaten young, while the fresh young beans can be used like peas. If they are bitter, boil quickly for a few minutes, then drain and finish cooking in fresh liquid. The fully mature beans, like many others, including the red kidney bean, contain Trypsin Inhibitors. Thoroughly boiling them for at least 5 minutes, before cooking until tender can reduce or even inactivate TIs in many species.. The beans store well when dried, but the skin is unpalatable, so can be removed after soaking.

(Some tips for cooking any kind of dried bean: Soak dried pulses in a weak soluttion of Bicarb Soda, then drain, rinse, cover with fresh water & freeze them solid. Thaw just before cooking. You can soak, freeze & store containers of beans for a quick meal when wanted. Thus treated, they are less likely to cause wind, & they cook more quickly, because the freezing has a tenderising effect, caused by the expansion of moisture within the pulses as it freezes. Works with tough meat, too! Adding adding a teaspoon of bicarb.soda to every 3 cups of both soaking & cooking water water reduces tannin & phytic acid content, as well as saving even more cooking time. Don't add salt, or acid e.g. tomatos until they are completely cooked. Both toughen uncooked protein.)

CLIMBING LIGNUM (Muelenbeckia Adpressa)
Another indigenous climber I have recently planted to climb over the front fence. It is said to produce small edible white berries following tiny white flowers

PUMPKINS - See Annuals

This bean really likes a slightly cooler & more humid climate than we have in Adelaide, but I get small crops most years. These flat juicy pods have a lovely flavour, and evoke memories of summer meals in wartime London.
The flower is a true scarlet, scented, and very attractive.
The plant forms a tuber, dies back after the beans mature, and sprouts again in the spring. The tubers can be lifted, stored and replanted like dahlias, if there is a likelihood of frost, or of their being eaten by rats.

This is the white sweet potato, or Kumara widely grown in New Zealand and the highlands of New Guinea. It does better than the yellow sort in temperate climates.
My vines climb all over the front fence for most of the year, colouring to shades of orange, red, and violet in autumn, and dying back only at the end of winter. It is a member of the Morning Glory family, and has trumpet-shaped pale lilac flowers. The tubers are huge! They can be somewhat fibrous, and need to be cooked as soon as they are cut up or the flesh turns an unpleasant grey colour. But they are a prolific staple crop, and very versatile. They can be used in sweet or savoury dishes, and in breads, cakes and scones.
The foliage can also be cooked, and is a particularly nutritious green vegetable.
To get a good crop of tubers each year, cuttings should be taken from a vine allowed to over-winter, and set out in late spring. They need constant moisture and a rich soil for best results. Tubers from vines allowed to perennialise are too fibrous for human food, though they may be fed to animals.


Concerned by the dramatic reduction in the number and species of butterfly in the garden, I decided in 2002 to plant a selection of species which would attract them to feed and breed. The old-fashioned Buddleia Davidii is one of the best-loved by all species of butterfly, so I planted one in the front garden. It's water requirements are modest, and if well-pruned every autumn it need not get out of hand.
For me it holds fond memories of the wild gardens which grew on the bombsites of WW2 London, and in which I loitered, sometimes for hours, on my way (?!) to and from school.

FEIJOA SELLOWIANA(sometimes called Pineapple Guava)
is not a Guava at all, but a totally unrelated species. It is evergreen, and has egg-shaped green fruits with aromatic pulp. The fleshy flower-petals are edible too, very sweet and tasty. Happy in sun or part shade, and planted in February 2003, to replace an unproductive avocado, it is part of a living screen which has now evolved in the back garden.

I have an old-fashioned fuchsia, Fuchsia Magellanica, originally given to me in a pot. It has now grown through the bottom of it's pot, and into a handsome shrub on the SW of the Callistemon, where it forms part of my 'living picture'. The beautiful flowers attract honeyeaters, and are followed by bluish black edible fruits which I seldom get to eat because the birds get there first! Shade tolerant and attractive, Fuchsias do need adequate moisture and regular pruning for best results. This, and similar tall varieties, will grow to 1.5 - 2 metres, and were commonly used for hedging in English and Irish cottage gardens.

My guava is the Hawaian guava, with medium to large fruit, yellow skinned when ripe, but with deep salmon-pink flesh. Rich in vitamin C, winter ripening, guavas can be eaten fresh, cooked, or bottled. They need to be watered during dry periods if the fruit is to be palatable. If neglected the shrub will survive, but the resulting small fruit are both bitter and astringent. The seeds go very hard when cooked, so are often discarded, but when the fruit is eaten fresh, they can be chewed and swallowed, like grape pips, for they contain omega3 fatty acids. In fact most fruit pips except those having a strong flavour of almonds - should be chewed and swallowed if palatable, for this reason.
Psidium Guava fruits prolifically and care needs to be taken in the sub-tropics and tropics, lest the seedlings escape into the bush.

Leptospermum petersonii
Another native shrub, planted in late 2007, as part of a living screen I hope will soon develop at the front, like the one at the back of the house.
The leaves can be used for tea, or as a culinary herb.

Alyogone - West Coast Gem
Another native shrub, chosen for it's drought tolerance, and planted in late 2007 as part of a living screen at the front of the house. This one has huge violet flowers.
It has been so successful in standing up to the drought, as well as providing understory that I planted a second one also in the front.

ROSE - Sparrieshoop - (Photo - 28KB)
This beautiful rose has long sprays of large pink flowers with golden centres for 2 or 3 months in spring. They cut and last well. These are followed by cherry-sized sweet and juicy rose-hips - 47KB, which are highly ornamental, and very attractive to native as well as introduced species of bird. They can be used to make jelly, syrup, or dried for tea.
This is a large and ebullient shrub, not strictly speaking a climber, but it does need support to be seen at it's best. The thorns are large and sturdy, making it a good choice where security of one's boundaries is an issue. In 1999 I found that many Sparrieshoop seedlings had appeared in the mulch beneath the plant.

ROSE - Felicia - (Photo - 25KB)
A David Austin rose, with sprays of small apricot-tinted flowers, Felicia blooms for up to 9 months of the year in Adelaide, although the main flush comes from late September until Christmas, simultaneously with Sparrishoop.
The perfume is extraordinarily sweet and pervasive. One spray in a vase will scent the entire house, although the flowers droop quickly when cut. But the perfume is retained, and even when quite dead, the flowers remain fragrant for a year or more.
While this makes Felicia an obvious choice for pot-pourri or sachets, it is also excellent for rose-water and jellies, despite it's lack of colour. Both roses in bloom - 33KB

A hardy shrub, evergreen, and an invaluable herb. I use it in cooking - excellent with pulses - and for aromatherapy. Also, sometimes, as a stimulating tea - but with caution!
Rosemary requires a fair amount of sun, or it sulks and sprawls. In 1989 mine had one of the few sunny spots in my urban jungle, but as the tree grew the shade just got too much for it, and after watching it struggle for a number of years, I removed it in 2000. I replaced it with a plant in a pot which can be moved around with the sun.
Legend says that Mary, Mother of God, spread her mantle on the bush, and the flowers were given it's sky-blue colour.
It is also said that as the Rosemary fares, so does the woman of the house. If it flourishes, so does she! ?

Plant List - Trees ....... Vines & Shrubs.......Perennials .......Biennials and Annuals
Plants Grown in the past

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