Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Zoned Out

It’s been a bit of a shock to me, but I don’t really know where I live.

Greenish Grass Dart on Golden Everlasting (Bracteantha bracteata)

Well, I do know where I live, but I haven’t really given it the thought a gardener should.

So, for the last couple of weeks ‘Stand’ by R.E.M. has been spining around in my head while I wander around the garden.

Stand in the place where you live

Now face North

Think about direction

Wonder why you haven’t before.

Now stand in the place where you work

Now face West

Think about the place where you live

Wonder why you haven’t before.

The sense of being a little lost has been exacerbated by popping around to various gardening blogs where the resident gardener confidently declares that they live in zone 5b or Zone 2 or maybe in a tropical zone or an arid zone. They all seemed to speak a common language.

Well, that’s ok I thought – I can go and look up my plant hardiness zone then post it to my page and look like I’ve got a clue too. But this time I’ve really bitten off more than I can chew!

The imported Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) on a cucumber flower

As it turns out, there doesn’t seem to be a shared language on plant zones in Australia, at least not in the same sense that gardeners in other parts of the world might be used to. Instead plant hardiness zones seem to be a subject of quite a bit of debate.

If you are confused check with the sun

Carry a compass to help you along

Your feet are going to be on the ground

Your head is there to move you around.

Here is one model, courtesy of the Australian National Botanic Gardens that attempts to develop a system that can be related to that of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map This Australian model would have my garden in zone 3 which approximates to zone 9 in the US system. So, if I’m reading the map right, similar conditions to parts of Texas, Arizona, Florida, Mexico and, probably not surprisingly, California. We certainly have frequent bushfires in common with that State.

But most Australian information does not seem to refer to a numeric system, and the most commonly used guide seems to be a climatic division of around five zones, based on temperature and humidity However, I’m guessing that those serious about their horticulture take into account a much broader range of measures. Anyway, from this measure I deduce that I live in a temperate zone.

I have also heard my area referred to as a ‘Mediterranean’ zone and I think this is more of an attempt to relate to plant hardiness for the area and give us some clues as to what might do well in the garden. So, plant things that do well in Spain, the South of France and parts of Italy.

A little bee I'm yet to identify, not sure if it's a native species.

Thanks to an earlier post By Nell-Jean at Secrets of a Seed Scatterer I had already done a little homework to try to figure out where in the world I am gardening.

So I do know that I am at Latitude 38 degrees South. This puts me roughly on a line with Rotorua in New Zealand and Los Angeles in Chile. At this latitude I am far enough South to completely miss the African land mass.

How Climate Change impacts all of this is also the subject of great debate. We certainly seem to be getting hotter, drier and more prone to drought and devastating fires. Maybe not so temperate for much longer if the heat stress that my birches are starting to show is any measure.

So stand.

Of course all the above is what I have been able to glean as a naive gardener just starting to dip her toe into all the knowledge that is out there. I am always happy to be corrected and educated by those with wiser heads 🙂

Speaking of which, as the week is drawing to an end (and I’m recovering from my stage fright) I’d like to warmly thank Jodi from Bloomingwriter for featuring my blog as part of her weekly focus on new bloggers. It was delightful to be the recipient of such thoughtfulness and sharing!


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Comments on: "Zoned Out" (17)

  1. It sure clears it up for me. Zone 9 equivalent puts you pretty warm indeed. Makes it easier to relate too. I’m a zone 6B here so a bit different. Many countries in the world have all different ways of operating that it can be confusing in this worldwide economy and web where there are no boundaries. At least you all have a system.

    • Hi Tina 🙂 glad it all made some kind of sense! Although I still feel a little bewildered about it all, I’m starting to get a bit of a sense of place which I’m hoping will crystalise over the coming months!

  2. Will it make you feel any better to know that US gardeners are not as comfortable with their ‘zones’ as you might imagine? Some are always in ‘zone denial’ trying to grow the impossible.

    For months I couldn’t figure out why a gardener in a zone number similar to mine who gardened on the opposite side of the country always seemed to have perennials that performed exquisitely throughout the summer while mine dwindled after June? When I finally realized that our winters had the same minimum temperatures but our summers were entirely dissimilar, I knew. Her plants thrived in cool summer days while mine pouted and melted in hot and humid.

    My advice is to find a couple of veteran gardeners near you and see what they’re growing successfully. Grow what they grow, plant a few seeds, and have fun in the garden.

    Oh, almost forgot — plant Australian native plants common to your area. Before you plant non-natives, check lists from the Botanical Garden to see what is listed as invasive and avoid those.

    • Hi Nell-Jean, It’s interesting to see that there can be such differences even within the similar zones, especially when the US system seems so detailed compared to here!
      I will have to work on seeking out those veteran gardeners, most of the gardeners I seem to know have a similar trial and error approach to me.

  3. Elephant's Eye said:

    If you are in a Mediterranean climate. Long hot summer. Winter rain. No frost, unless you are also high in the mountains. Then you share your climate and suitable plants – not just with the Mediterranean basin, but also part of California, and us here in the Western Cape in South Africa. There is a useful map here http://www.researchlearningcenter.com/pages/about.html

    • Hello and thank you for that information as it has helped to clarify that I am not in a true Mediterranean climate. I’m in the wrong spot on the map and we do get frosts albeit not severe ones.
      It seems that referring to our area as a Mediterranean climate has gone out of vogue to some extent anyway and this is probably due to research clarifying the issue.

  4. Heidi, that actually helps me a lot to visualize and get a sense of where you garden. Quite different from my conditions here in Hardiness Zone 7b and at the border between AHS Heat Zones 6 and 7. 😉 I think it would be a bit frustrating not to have a common zoning system that allows you to classify some plants as appropriate or not – but ultimately the best information always comes from locals who have experience in your growing conditions anyway.

    Great post! I loved the reference to the classic R.E.M. song. R.E.M. started very near to where I grew up, and I’ve loved them for a long time. 🙂

  5. Hi Meredith 🙂 Now I’m going to have to go and have a look at those heat zones too!
    Starting to understand all of this is going to help me appreciate how the conditions differ for you and everyone else too, which is very exciting for me – a bit like finding a new key to unlock secrets 🙂
    I’m glad you appreciated the R.E.M. reference, ‘Stand’ seemed to really capture where I am at – and to think they come from your part of the world!

  6. I am in US zone 7b, but it use to be zone 8. Somewhere along the line someone decided we were a little too cool for zone 8 and bumped us back. I try to get plants that will take zone 8-9 heat, as our summers can be brutal. The winter is less likely to kill a plant than summer. I really enjoyed your post. Now I get a real sense of where you are. Blotanical is great! It’s been quiet an experience for me since I joined as a new blogger in November, 09.

  7. It is all very muddled … I did the same as you about two years ago trying to find out exactly what my area was in relation to a gardening ‘zone’. It’s too hard!

  8. Hi Bernie! In a strange way your comment is quite comforting. I was worried that another Australian gardener might come along and say “What do you mean you don’t know about the uniform ‘X’ plant hardiness zones? We all use it!” 😀

  9. aloha heidi,

    thanks for stopping by my blog, it was a useful post on catchment systems…i enjoyed your post about hardiness zones…i love mediterranean gardens. when i lived in california i also grew mediterraneans including australian grevilleas, banksias and proteas along with all the other mediterranean zoned plants…i think i’ll have to start thinking about these types of plants again for hawaii which is fine for me and keep a little zone of my hardier tropicals.

  10. Very pretty blooms and butterfly shots. Your post opened new dimensions for a gardener regarding hardiness zones and location.

    • Hello muhammad khabbab 🙂 Thanks for popping in and for your lovely comments ( andsorry about the delay in responding). I’m going to pop over to your blog and have a good look as I haven’t explored it yet!

  11. Interesting to know the place you come from… so big that you break the large continent into time zones. We only have a single time zone and lies just along the equator! ~bangchik

  12. Hi Bangchik – sorry about the late response!
    Australia sure is one biiiig continent and there is lots of it I haven’t explored yet. I would like to explore Malaysia more too…so far all I have seen is the inside of Kuala Lumpur airport!

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