Meet: Angus Stewart
Meet Angus Stewart. Plant breeder, gardener and new resident of the Apple Isle.
He is also our favourite native wildflower enthusiast. Here Robin Powell sat down with Angus to find out what drives his enthusiasm for plants.
Meet Angus Stewart. Photo - Robin Powell
Where are you in Tasmania?
My new place is on the western side of the Tasman Peninsula, overlooking Norfolk Bay to the north and Storm Bay to the south. I’ve bought the original farmhouse on 38 acres of what was a 100-year-old mixed farm.
For horticultural reasons mostly. I’ve always had an interest in exotic as well as native plants and the cool climate of Tasmania allows the perennials and roses of the northern hemisphere to thrive. So this gives me a chance to expand my horticultural horizons and to grow some of the exotic plants I’ve wanted to play with – peonies, alstroemerias, delphiniums - as well as heritage pears and apples.
View down the valley on Angus' patch in Tassie. Photo - Angus Stewart
Are you planning to breed these exotics, or garden with them?
Just garden. I’d like to restore the exotic garden around the old farmhouse, partly as a firebreak, but also because I’ve always wanted to grow some of those things and this is the perfect climate and soil for it. The volcanic soil is fertile and well-structured, the whole property faces north and has permanent spring water. And there are wonderful water views. It’s a horticulturist’s paradise!
Will you continue your native plant breeding work?
Certainly. The other salient point about the Tasman Peninsula is that the climate is pretty much Mediterranean, with dry summers, cold winters, but hardly any frost because it’s surrounded by water. So it’s ideal for plants from the south-west of Western Australia, like the flowering gums, pin cushion hakeas and kangaroo paws. My intention is to plant a lot of native things, with particular focus on getting WA plants into cultivation and experimenting with those – perhaps creating new varieties.
What will be your focus with the kangaroo paws?
I’m looking to develop tougher varieties, and the climate will help with that. I’ll be growing them in a challenging environment and that stress will put them under selection pressure and make it easier to identify individuals resistant to leaf blackening, which is the kangaroo paw’s response to stress. Also if I can push them into colder climates, that will expand the overseas market for kangaroo paws.
Will we still see you in the media?
My main focus will be the Gardening with Angus website. I hope to create a lot of video content and podcasts for the site so you can be sitting on a train or wherever and be listening to Angus’ adventures in Tasmania!
For more practical information on using Australian plants in the garden Angus Stewart's website is an awesome resource with an incredible array of the best Australian plants to choose from. check it out at www.gardeningwithangus.com.au