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Australian Plants online

First Cuttings..an Editorial Rant!

Well...we're back!

Thanks to all those readers who sent messages of encouragement after the first issue and to all those who subscribed. Our subscriber base is not going to cause envy on the part of the Murdoch press, but there's an encouraging trickle of new subscribers each week. Remember, subscribing is free and we'll let you know when each issue is available.

Responses to date suggest that the format and content of the first issue of APOL was on the right track. What we are attempting to do is to present articles ranging from the basic "how to do it" type to more detailed scientific papers but always bearing in mind that the majority of readers is unlikely to have a formal background in botany or horticulture. This seems to cover the range of topics mentioned on the forms sent in by subscribers. I'll present a breakdown of the topics based on popularity in the next issue. So, if you'd like your views taken into account, send in the subscription form as soon as possible.

As to the frequency of issue of the newsletter....for the present it will remain quarterly but a few readers liked the idea of a continually changing publication with new articles being placed on line as they are ready. I freely admit that the quarterly format is for my own convenience but we will consider alternatives in the future once the permanence of the newsletter is a bit more certain.

The overall aim is to entertain as well as inform so you may find the occasional limp attempt at humour here. After all, growing and learning about Australian plants is supposed to be fun!!! We don't want to take ourselves too seriously.

Environmental Vandalism

However, there are serious matters out there.... An article in a recent "New Scientist" caught my attention. Called "Vandals of Suburbia" (NS April 6 1996) it told of environmental problems in Britain being caused by the illegal removal of wildflowers from wild plantations and by the perfectly legal trade in limestone pavement.

The trade in illegal wild collections (principally of bulbs and orchids) is big business with many gardeners apparently prepared to buy plants, which are openly sold in some nurseries, "no questions asked". Penalties seem to inadequate to stop the poachers...New Scientist reports that "magistrates....convicted two men of uprooting no fewer than 25,000 snowdrop bulbs in a single night" and that the men were fined "a total of 250 - a penny a bulb". In another case poachers used a Rotavator to dig up about 40 hectares looking for bluebells!

The market for limestone pavement to decorate suburban gardens is also huge and it is claimed that only about 3% of the existing sites are undamaged, "And gardeners are to blame".

Then there are the problems caused by peat moss extraction. In many countries extraction for horticultural practices is devastating vast areas. Again, New Scientist reports that in Britain some "2.5 million cubic metres of peat are used....each year" and that amateur gardeners account for 60% of this.

It would be naive to think that these problems are restricted to Britain. In Australia there have been prosecutions for people removing orchids and ferns from native forests and I'm certain that similar problems have occurred in other countries.

It's all very depressing, don't you think? Is any garden worth environmental vandalism? How can anyone justify the raping of a natural population just to have a rare plant in the garden? It can only be a short term pleasure anyway and, when the house is sold, the entire garden may be bulldozed by the next owner. Why don't people use the alternatives to peat moss that are available? Are they promoted enough? The substitutes seem to be acceptable over a wide range of activities. Certainly the experiments that have been done by Society members over the past few years have shown no detrimental effect as far as plant propagation is concerned.

What sort of similar environmental problems have occurred in your area? And have there been any serious moves to address the problems?

The Show Season

Between about July and October, many of the Regional and District groups that make up the Society for Growing Australian Plants will be holding Wildflower Shows (or "Spectaculars", as some groups call them...and why not?). These are excellent opportunities for Australian residents to learn about the diversity and beauty of Australian plants. Many of the groups have a reciprocal arrangement whereby they send flowering specimens to each other for use in displays. This means that plants from many parts of Australia can be seen conveniently at the one location. Most groups also include plant sales as part of their shows, featuring species not readily available through nurseries.

To make sure that you don't miss out on a Wildflower Show in your District, check the Society's "What's On" Page regularly over the next few months. I'll be adding details of the various venues as Groups forward the information.

Remember also that the Australian Native Orchid Society (ANOS) holds shows regularly, particularly during spring. Details of their shows can be found on the ANOS home page at http://www.ozemail.aust.com:80/~graemebr/.

Digitising Photos; Advice Please....

One of the ongoing problems I face is getting good quality scanned images for this newsletter and for the web site. I have access to a reasonably sized slide library which contains many images of publishable quality, but transferring them to good digitised images has been a little disappointing. Certainly some of the images currently on line are nowhere near as good as the original slides. Maybe I'm expecting too much, particularly as the JPG format loses data in its compression algorithm, but if anyone has any experience in this area I'd appreciate any suggestions.

For the record, slides are currently commercially scanned onto Photo CD and the images are then manipulated and resized in Micrografx Picture Publisher.

Contributions Welcome!

Finally, remember that any articles or short notes on growing, conserving or propagating Australian plants will be warmly welcomed. Even with our relatively small readership there must be people growing plants under a host of different conditions. Please let us know your experiences, good or bad! And don't forget to tell us about Australian plants that have become weeds.

Until next time...good growing.

Brian Walters

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