Monday, 20 May 2019

Backyard Tea and Marigold are Archangelica

Starting with Backyard Biodynamics and are weeds really bad? growing a why grow Angelica in vegetable heroes, a the new series on old fashioned shrubs for every region in Australia continues in Design Elements and all about Marigolds in the Talking Flowers segment.


Weed Tea
Have you ever though of weeds as messengers?
Probably not because like most gardeners, when we see weeds, we think of the work that’s needed to either pull them out or spray them with something or other.
Technically, weeds are classified as those plants which are growing in the wrong place as identified by the gardener. Weeds in paths and driveways are one example.
Weeds are plants that are not wanted
Either way, it often involves a bit of back breaking work which over the years doesn’t get any easier.
But is there a good side to the weed story?
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Diane Watkin, founder of Backyard Biodynamics Sydney,

Take heed of what weeds you have in the garden before you pull them out.
Identifying weeds by soil type can help you determine what your soil may ultimately be lacking.
If you have poorly drained soil for example, you may find that chickweed, spurge, violet, moss, knotweed and sedge  likes to grow there.
Stellaria media-Chickweed
chickweed and Spurge are also indicators of alkaline soil.
Weeds can also help you pinpoint nutrient deficiencies.
Thistles indicate lack of Magnesium and Copper.
Both are trace elements which is easy enough to treat your soil for.
Clover in your lawn indicates lack of nitrogen too..Another easy fix. 
Weed Tea Brew For Your Garden
Weeds are also good accumulators of specific nutrients.
Put this back into your soil by making a weed tea: all you need to do is steep a bucket of weeds (not seeded) in water for several weeks.
The resulting brew, can be diluted and poured back into the garden.
If you have any questions either for me or for Dianne, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Angelica archangelica or just Angelica
There are other varieties of angelica but only the one with the scientific name Angelica archangelica that can be used in cooking.
  • Did you know that supposedly an angel presented an angelica plant to man as a cure for the plague, and 15th and 16th century herbalists recommended eating or chewing the roots as a cure for a number of diseases?
    Angelica archangelica
  • Angelica is native to Europe, Asia and North America.
Although angelica is a biennial herb-growing the first year and flowering the second-it will keep growing for a few more years if you clip off the flower stems before they bloom.
So what does angelica look like?
  • There are a couple of different varieties.
  • One has yellowish green, feathery leaves that look tropical because of their large size which is about 0.7-1m long, and are divided into 3 leaflets with toothed edges.
  • This variety of Angelica has greenish white flowers that hang in umbrella like clusters at the ends of the stalks which are 1-1.5m tall, hollow, and stiff, so it's not really a plant for pots.
Another variety has by far the darkest of the Angelica's, with a rosette of near black delicately divided foliage.
During early Summer, dark flower stems carry broad umbels of purple buds, which open to soft pink.
How to grow it-
  • Angelica likes moist, rich soil that is slightly acid, growing best in semi-shade.
  • Angelica can grow it most of Australia although doesn’t grow that well in hot humid climates.
  • Find a shady, sheltered spot for growing angelica - it likes moist soil, so keep it well watered - if you have a pond and can provide shelter, then it would do well there because it’s normally found near water in the wild.
  • Although that’s not really necessary.
  • Mine grows well on the south side of a garage-but then it spread to a nearby veggie bed, and seems to be OK there too.
  • Angelica grows easily from seed that is if you’re growing your own or know of someone that has some.
  • To get the flower seed-it’s just a matter of waiting after the flowers have died.
  • One seed head has about 100 seeds.But you need to sow them within a few weeks after ripening or they lose their viability.
  • Either sow seeds in the late summer and thin to 15cm then in the second year to 60cm then to 150cm or buy plants in autumn or spring and set them a metre apart.
  • If they self seed, then keep the strongest as replacement stock.
  • You also can propagate angelica from root cuttings.
  • It grows for four to five years as a rule, then it’ll die.

One thing to note, Angelica dies down completely in winter and re-shoots in spring, so remember where you last planted it.
Harvesting Angelica. How Do I Use It?
So now you’re growing Angelica and you’re wondering what do I do with this plant.
Firstly, it’s a reasonably attractive addition to any cottage or perennial garden, because the flowers and leaves are various shades of either green or purpleso they blend well with just about anything.
Depending on which variety you have of course.
But you can use it in the kitchen if you’re prepared to wait a year.
Angelica stems
Plus, the candied angelica that you buy is not a patch on the real deal.
I’ll post the recipe on the website or you can write in for a fact sheet.
In the second year and onwards, you can cut the stalks for candying.
The books say do this in mid to late spring, whilst they are still young and green, but honestly, we’ve had such warm weather, that the Angelica I have in the garden is still green.
If you want to use the roots, then do it when the plant is still young in autumn or early winter or they may get woody
What Do You Do With It?
The roots, leaves, and stalks of angelica have a number of uses.
Young angelica stems can be candied and used to decorate cakes and pastries, and can also be jellied.
The leaves are used in herb pillows - it's said to have a calming effect - and the roots can be cooked with butter.
Chopped leaves may be added to fruit salads, fish dishes and cottage cheese in small amounts.
Add leaves to sour fruit such as rhubarb to neutralize acidity.
Boil the stems with jams to improve the jam’s flavour.
Remove the stems before canning or freezing. Young stems can be used as a substitute for celery.
You can also eat the boiled roots and stems like celery.
Commercially, the seeds and an oil made from the stems and roots are used as a flavouring in many liqueurs such as vermouth, chartreuse, and Benedictine, and the seeds also can be brewed into a tea.
Wait, there’s more, the leaves or roots can be cooked with rhubarb or gooseberries to lessen the acidity.
So, all round it's a good value plant and there's a great deal of satisfaction to be had from producing something that most people only buy in shops or see in restaurants - candied angelica.
TIP To keep your Angelica growing in the garden you need to make sure it’s well watered and remove the stems before they flower as the angelica will die after flowering and setting seed.
You can keep one or two going longer to fill in the gap left by waiting for seedlings to mature by not allowing them to flower.
Why is it good for you?
After the bacterial theory was disproven in relation to the bubonic plaque of 1665 it was realized that Angelica had antibacterial properties. 
Some people apparently chew the dried root for its anti-viral properties.

5 Old Fashioned Shrubs Cool Sub-Tropical Part 1

Last week I mentioned that gone are the days when you had lots of variety in garden centres to choose from.
This series is all about what were those old fashioned shrubs.
But we’re not just doing a blanket five but going through each climate zone in Australia, including some of Peter Nixon’s zoning.
Aucuba japonica

Some of these other zones might suit your area as well even though they’re classified as say arid or sub-tropical.
It all depends on whether or not you’ve got a micro-climate in your garden that will suit.
Let’s find out what old fashioned shrubs suit cool temperate areas.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer & project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.
PLAY: Old Fashioned Shrubs cool sub-tropics part 1 8th May 2019
Cool sub-tropics is not a zone you would normally think of but there it is.
Peter mentioned for the south side: shady
Thevetia peruviana
  • Platycodon homalocladium or bad hair day plant.
  • Aucuba japonica-gold dust plant ; Japanese Maple
  • Selection of Fuchsias eg Tom Thumb.
  • On the northern side: Hibiscus mutabilis; Rothmannia globosa-September Bells
  • Thevetia peruviana-Yellow Oleander; Hibiscus schizopetalus
  • Melastoma affine-Blue Tongue; Eriostemen_Philotheca myoporoides
If you have any questions for Peter or for me, you know what to do..


Marigolds: Tagetes erect: Tagetes patula
Native to North and South America
  • Sowing: They take off easily from seed, either grown indoors during the winter months or sown directly into the soil when it’s warmer out.
  • Good companion plant because they attract pollinators and improve soil quality.
  •  Be mindful not to water marigolds from the top. If their blooms get too wet, they will often turn into a mushy brown mess.
Did you know that one variety of the flower is even fed to chickens so that egg yolks have a more perfect yellow colour?

Myth or Fact?
Legend has it that Mother Mary of the Christian tradition was robbed by bandits, but when they cut open her purse all that fell out were yellow flowers, something that would one day by named “marigold” (Mary’s gold) in her honour.
Or was it because early Christians placed flowers instead of coins on Mary’s altar as offerings?

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recording live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2RRR 88.5 fm Sydney

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Perfume Princess with Bite and Vanilla Bean Spice

Starting with the vanilla bean story part 2 with herb and spice guru Ian Hemphill, growing a root veggie that some people add to schapps in vegetable heroes, a the new series on old fashioned shrubs for every region in Australia continues in Design Elements and all the perfume you could want in Plant of the week.


Vanilla bean:Vanilla planifolia "Andrews"
Vanilla tahitensis
Commercially, Vanilla fragrans and Vanilla tahitensis are used but they have less vanillin in them.
Harvesting and curing the vanilla bean is very labour intensive.
Once the green bean has matured, then they are laid out during the day on drying racks.
At night , they are wrapped up in woollen blankets.
This process goes on for 2 months. 
I'ts really labour intensive, but if you missed it, you can catch up on my blog for last week.
There was so much to tell with the story of this spice that I had to split it up into two parts.
But this episode is about how we can economise with our hugely expensive cured vanilla bean in cooking.

I'm talking with Ian Hemphill, owner of
Let’s find out.

Plenty of tips on how best to use real vanilla in cooking plus a why not make a vanilla flavoured rum?
Vanilla Flavoured Rum Recipe:
  • Choose your favourite Jamaican rum to which you add 1 vanilla bean and 1 cinnamon quill.
  • Infuse for 1 1/2 - 2 weeks.
  • Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon and you will be left with a transformed flavour that equals botrytis semillon.
Vanilla Bean and Poached Pears: 
The rest is mostly synthesized from either guaiacol (which accounts for about 85 percent of it) or
1 Vanilla Bean and champagne OR
1 vanilla bean and sugar syrup of your choice.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
 Remove the vanilla bean and store if canister of caster sugar for a week. 
This gives you vanilla flavoured caster sugar.
NOTE: As long as the vanilla bean hasn't been used on milk, you can use the bean up to 3 times before discarding.
Here’s why you shouldn’t use imitation vanilla.
Did you know that less than one percent of the world’s vanilla fl lignin.
Guaiacol is a fragrant liquid obtained by distilling wood-tar creosote or guaiac (resin from the guaiacum tree).
If you have any questions either for me or for Ian, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Armoracia rusticana syn. A. lapathifolia
Horseradish is a member of the mustard family or Brassicaceae
You may be wondering what comic book character loved this veggie and what country adds it to their beer and make Schnapps with it?”
If you were a fan of the comic strip that featured Dagwood and his wife Blondie, well you would know that Dagwood ate horseradish.
"Blondie," by Dean Young and Stan Drake.”
But did you also know that Germans still brew horseradish schnapps and some also add it to their beer?
Apparently the Egyptians knew about horseradish as far back as 1500 B.C.
And early Greeks used it as a rub for lower back pain and as an aphrodisiac.
In Germany, it’s called "meerrettich"
In the 1600s, Englishmen loved to eat their beef and oysters with horseradish.
But not only that, the loved it so much, that the English, grew it at inns and coach stations, to make cordials to revive exhausted travellers.
So Why grow Horseradish?
Armoracia rusticana
Gardeners grow horseradish for its thick, fleshy white roots.
Did you know that the bite and aroma of horseradish root is totally missing until it’s grated or ground?
That’s because as soon as the root cells are crushed, volatile oils known as isothiocyanate (ISO-THIGH-O SIGH-A-NATE)  are released.

Vinegar stops this reaction and stabilizes the flavour.
Very similar to Wasabi really.
If you’re interested in making your own horseradish, and you don’t want it too hot and bitey, just add the vinegar straight away.
Growing Horseradish
Growing horseradish is easy – the tricky bit is stopping it taking over your garden.
  • Horseradish is a perennial to 1.5m high above ground but below ground there is a parsnip like tapering, fleshy taproot to 60cm long and 5 cm thick
  • The above ground parts look like lime-green large rough textured  leaves, 30-90 cm long, so that’s about 1-3 ruler lengths.
  • The edges of the leaves are extremely saw toothed, or serrated and as botanists would say, leaves with toothed margins.
  • Horseradish has white flowers in the middle of summer to mid-autumn.
  • Plant your horseradish in a permanent position and don’t disturb it because new plants will spring up from any broken roots and will quickly spread throughout the garden bed.
  • Horseradish can grow in most soils even damp soils and grows quite quickly.
TIP: This deep rooted plant can be used in orchards to open up compacted soils and return nutrients to the soil’s surface.
By far the easiest way to grow Horseradish is from root cuttings.
Now’s the time to get a piece from a friend or your friendly garden club members because Horseradish is propagated by root division in spring or
Don't worry too much about soil or position, other than too much shade because it’ll die off.
Dig out a trench at least 60cm deep – horseradish has extremely long tap roots.
Replace about 40cm of topsoil and then add some compost .
Lay the roots of horseradish on this about 30cm apart and then cover with more soil.
Firm down the soil.
If you can get seed. the time to sow it is in early spring.
Keep your horseradish well-watered.
Next year by mid-autumn if you were lucky enough to have planted it last year either in autumn OR spring, the roots should be ready to harvest.
Dig up all the plants.
Use the larger roots to make horseradish sauce and store the smaller ones in sand for replanting next year.
You could plant some of the smaller shoots in pots – either give them away or sell them once they start showing signs of growth.
By digging up all the plants, you’ll stop the horseradish from getting out of control and taking over your garden.
Although I must say, in my garden it’s extremely well behaved.
I have found suggestions that sinking half of an old rubbish bin into the ground, with its bottom removed stops its spread.
Horseradish is very versatile – not just as a sauce with beef, but it goes well with smoked mackerel, sausages, ham, trout, eggs and avocado.
Why is horseradish good for you?
Tuck into some horseradish sauce
Horseradish is a natural antibiotic.
If you’re on a low salt diet, then horseradish is really useful as a seasoning.
Horseradish has only 2 calories a teaspoon, is low in sodium and provides dietary fibre.
Where do you get it? Well there’s an online company that has divisions, but they won’t be available until July. Otherwise, the herb section of most nurseries and garden centres do stock this plant.


Old Fashioned Shrubs and Trees for Cool Climate Gardens
Last week I mentioned that gone are the days when you had lots of variety in garden centres to choose from.
So this series is all about what were those old fashioned shrubs.
But we’re not just doing a blanket five but going through each climate zone in Australia, including some of Peter Nixon’s zoning.
Michelia doltsopa
Some of these other zones might suit your area as well even though they’re classified as say arid or sub-tropical.
It all depends on whether or not you’ve got a micro-climate in your garden that will suit.
Let’s find out what old fashioned shrubs suit cool temperate areas.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer and project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.

Tabebuia chrysostricha
Tabebuia chrysostricha
  • Cool temperate can mean highlands and alpine regions and areas where you get a hoar frost..
  • Bauhinia acuminata-small tree less than 4m.
  • Syringas-lilacs
  • Michelia doltsopa or Michelia Maudii small tree with white scented foliage and dark green leaves.
  • Camellias japonica C.sasanqua, C. reticulata or C.vernalis.
  • Peter suggested the ‘girl’ series sasanquas from Paradise nursery.
  • Tabebuia chrysostricha-intense yellow trumpet flowers.
  • Daphne odorata, kniphofia, and peonies 


Daphne 'Perfume Princess'
If you love fragrance, you’re probably going to buy plants that aren’t supposed to do well in your district.
Daphne Perfume Princess photo M Cannon
Plants like Luculia, or Lilac (Syringia vulgaris) which are for cool climates mostly.
There’s another plant that has a reputation of keeling over without warning, but gardeners still want to grow if because of its high fragrance.
Now, there’s a new variety with flowers double or triple the size of the old species (Daphne odora) and hopefully, a bit more resistant to some of the problems that plagued the predecessor.
So, what so good about it? 

Let’s find out.….

I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

  • Daphne Perfume Princess is apparently no ordinary Daphne and should be on every plant collector’s list.
Not only are the flowers bigger than the species Daphne, but it flowers longer, can grow anywhere in Australia and it has the strongest fragrance of any Daphne.
A definite must have.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Old Fashioned Shrubs Plus Spices to Entice

Starting with the vanilla bean story with herb and spice guru Ian Hemphill, growing winter savory and why you should in vegetable heroes, a new series on old fashioned shrubs for every region in Australia in Design Elements and groundcovers that suit in Plant of the week.


Vanilla planifolia and cvs
Have you ever wondered how and when the spice trade started?
Maybe not but did you know that nutmeg was once worth more by weight than gold?
Also that in the 16th century, London dockworkers were paid their bonuses in cloves?
There was so much to tell with the story of this spice that I had to split it up into two parts.
Here's part 1.
To produce the green bean, each vanilla flower needs to be hand pollinated.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

The vanilla bean is  a long green bean. When it's mature the beans are put on curing racks during the day, then wrapped up in woollen blankets at night. 
this is done everyday for 15 - 28 days.
It's up to the head curer to judge the readiness of this stage.
After the 28 days have been reached, the beans are then wrapped for a further 2 months. 
Vanilla bean curing is very labour intensive and so far hasn't been mechanised successfully enough to give the complexity of aromas reached by the manual method.
Thanks to Ian’s encylopeadic knowledge of the spice trade we can look forward to part 2 of the vanilla bean story next week.
There’ll be plenty of tips on how best to use vanilla in cooking plus a surprise tip that will just delight you. We’ll also re-cap a little tiny bit of the story.
If you have any questions either for me or for Ian, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Winter Savoury
Did you know that Savory, is the Herb of Love!
  • How many times have you heard the phrase "a savory stew?"
  • Or, it’s got a savoury flavour or taste?
  • Now you know that savory is actuallyherb, in fact an annual or perennial herb, Satureja hortenis, for Summer Savory, or Saturejo montana being for Winter Savory
  • Did you know that Savory is used in herb combinations, such as Herbes de Provence, a French combination of herbs used for seasoning.

If you’ve heard of Savory before, you might already know that it’s best known for its use in dishes made with beans.
  • So where does savory come from?

All Savory’s belong to the mint or Lamiaceae family. They have dark-green, very narrow little leaves for winter savory and light green narrow leaves for summer savory.
The savories can be used fresh or  dried and crushed.
I can’t say that it’s a well know herb but the history of savory goes back about 2000 years and it’s one of the oldest culinary herbs.
Satureja montana: Winter Savory

  • Interestingly, the botanical name Satureja was named by the Roman scholar Pliny and is derived from the word satyr, the half-man, half-goat creature in mythology who owned the savories.
  • Would you’ve guessed it was used in a love potion? Of course.
  • Weren’t they all back then? Sure seems like it.
  • Apparently it’s been associated with love potions for centuries.
  • Romans also used savory as a medicinal (for example for treating bee stings) and culinary herb long before they discovered pepper.
  • When the Romans brought savory to England, it was used there as an herb for chicken stuffing instead of a medicinal.

There are two distinct varieties of savory - summer and winter. Summer savory is most often used for healing.
  • There is a myth or old wives tale that Summer savory increases your sex drive, while winter savory decreases it.
  • Make sure you get your savories right.

Savory has active ingredients called  carvacrol, p-cymene and tannins.
Because it’s an astringent and mild antiseptic if you made a tea from summer savory,  it was said to control diarrhea, stomach-ache and mild sore throat.
Rubbing a sprig of savory on an insect bite will bring instant relief.
How To Grow Savory:What does winter Savory like?
  • It’s an evergreen perennial plant, with dark green narrow leaves that are aromatic.
  • The tiny 5mm flowers are white and pink and appear in the middle of summer on terminal spikes. The plant itself only grows 30cm high with a small spread of 20cm.
  • If you do manage to get savory seeds, they’re very tiny, so it’s probably best to start them in punnets –and they need light to germinate usually
  • also, it's a bit like Coriander, these tiny plants resent being transplanted.
  • The better method of getting new plants is either by cuttings in spring or by root division, also in spring time.
Winter Savory flowers
  • If you know of someone with this plant, put a note in your dairy to ask them for cuttings later on in the year-the cuttings should be soft-stem cuttings of about 2-3 cm long.
  • Put them in some seed raising or propagating mix.
  • You probably don’t even need to cover it, because, just like the herb Thyme, it strikes very easily.                 
  • As for grow ing you winter savory, well, it’s no different than growing Thyme, it likes full sun with well-drained soil.
Savory prefers to be planted in soil that's slightly alkaline.
  • Give it a side-dressing of compost or worm castings whenever possible.
  • All savories are a bit bushy and low-growing so it makes an excellent edging plant for a kitchen garden, herb bed, or vegetable garden.
  • Trim your savory plant from time to time, to promote new growth and keep it looking good.
  • Savory doesn’t like wet feet or clay soils, or cold wet winters.

If some of those conditions sound like something you have, you need to put your savour in a pot in a sheltered position.

Harvesting and Storage
You can begin to take the leaves from your savory plant as soon as it reaches 13cm or about 6 inches in height. Keeping the plant pruned means you’ll always have some. When they insist on flowering, cut the whole plant and put on a some paper in a warm shady place. When dry, strip the leaves and store in airtight jars or tins. When the seed begins to turn brown, harvest them for next years planting. My plant dies down a bit in winter, but always regrows, so that’s a good reason to get some summer savory for your herb garden.
Tips For The Chef
  • Winter savory, Satureja montana, is a nice herb to use when you are cutting back on salt-it's flavour is mild, a little bit similar to thyme, but with it's own unique flavour.
  • Both summer and winter savory are used in cooking. Summer savory has a peppery taste much like thyme, while winter savory has a more piney taste. To me, it has a slightly peppery flavour, but a piney fragrance when you crush it in your hand.
  • Savory blends well with other herbs such as basil, bay leaf, marjoram, thyme and rosemary. It is said that the taste of savory brings all these herbs together in a unique taste.
  • Savory is popular in teas, herbed butters, and flavoured vinegars. It complements beef soup and stews, chicken soup, eggs, green beans, peas, rutabagas, asparagus, onions, cabbage, and lentils. Use savory when cooking liver, fish and game. Winter savory, which has a stronger presence, works well with game that has a strong flavor.
  • You can chop up winter savory finely and combine it with bread crumbs for coating fish or add some leaves to vegetables such as squash before sautéing or steaming.
  • Of course there’s that famous bean, garlic and savory dish.

Why is it good for you?
The Savory herb has many minerals and vitamins which make it an excellent herb to use for medicinal purposes.
The shoots and leaves of this herb are a rich source of zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, and selenium. The vitamins that this herb contains include Vitamin A, Vitamin B-complex group vitamins, Vitamin C, pyridoxine, niacin and thiamine. You would need to eat about 100g of savory leaves which is a bit too much, but making a tea of the leaves would have health benefits as well.
Make baked mozzarella sticks by cutting the cheese into squares, dip in eggs and dredge in bread crumbs with minced savory leaves. Bake in a 180 Degrees C until the cheese just begins to melt.

 Old Fashioned Shrubs: Introduction of 5 part series.
Gone are the days when you had lots of variety in garden centres to choose from.
Now you only get the familiar plants like Murrayas, lilly pillies, star jasmine, viburnum odoratissium, with a spattering of smaller sub-shrubs like Osteospermum with a kaleidoscope of colour.
Thanks for that. Gardeners need colour.
Lilac: Syringia vulgaris
But what happened to the shrubs of old?
Have they just disappeared or can we still get them and which ones suit where?
Let’s find out with this new series on old fashioned shrubs
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer and project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.

What could be nicer than a lilac bush ( for colder climates), May bush (most climates) or even a Daphne or two?
May Bush
You can visit Peter’s garden Sea-Changer’ which is opening Sat 4th May no gate, 10am to 2pm at 21 Lavinia Street Forresters Beach 1 hr from Wahroonga Pacific Motorway on ramp.
For a day out of the city, lunch at Bamboo Buddha Holgate and BURSTING with freshness & flowers. WHAT could be nicer?


Carpet Bugle:Ajuga reptans

Do you want a ground cover that suits shade, still flowers and provides plenty of colour?
William Turner, a 16th century physician and naturalist described it as ‘It is a blacke herbe and it groweth in shaddowy places and moyst groundes.’-

I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of and Karen Smith editor of

Let’s find out. more.

Spoiler alert, there’s a new variety out now called Ajuga Princess Nadia. Lookout for it in your nearest garden centre.
Not only does Carpet Bugle cope with shade but it copes with sun as long as it gets sufficient watering.
Nobody knows why it’s really called Bugle flower , it’s one of botany’s mysteries.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Apples, Queen of Bulbs and Why Purple Veggies?

What affects apples, even those ballerina ones growing in pots in the Plant Doctor segment; growing purple veggies in vegetable heroes, why you need a green wall in Design Elements  and the queen of bulbs, in Plant of the Week.


Black Spot on Apples; Apple Scab
We all love to eat perfect apples but if you grow apple trees, then watch out for this.
If you’ve ever grown roses you would’ve heard about the fungal disease called black spot that starts of as black blotches on the leaves.
The spots become bigger, in some cases joining up, the leaves turn yellow, and then drop off.
Sound familiar?
Well you’ll be surprised to learn that there is another type of black spot, don’t worry, it’s not on roses, but it appears on apple trees.
In fact this disease is a serious problem for apple orchardists.
Let’s find out more.. 
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager of

Black spot on apples looks different than black spot on roses because there isn’t the typical yellowing of the leaves.
The spots are also more irregular than blackspot on roses.
The problem with this fungal disease is that it also spreads to the apples, especially in humid weather.
Spotting on fruit develops a corky layer which resembles a scab. If this happens on young fruit it can also cause cracking. On mature fruit it's still a problem with the appearance of corky scabs on the surface, affecting the re-sale value.
Apple Scab
One thing to note, if your tree has had it in the past, be a good neighbour and spray your plants to prevent further spread because it’s a major problem for orchadists.

If you have any questions apple scab or apple black spot. or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675 and I’ll send you a packet of seeds.



What veggie can you think of that’s purple?
Did you say eggplants and then were a bit stumped?

What about purple carrots and beetroot?

Ok beetroot is sort of a reddish purple, but it can be considered purple, I’ll tell you why in a minute.

There’s also purple cauliflower and purple sweet potato not to mention purple chilli peppers.

Let’s not forget purple podded peas and purple king beans, red/purple mizuna, red Russian Kale, Red/purple cabbages. Need I go on?

So there are a few purple veggies out there.

Why should we grow purple veggies and why are they purple in the first place?

They’re purple is because purple vegetables contain pigments called anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in red wine.

Think blueberries that are marketed as a superfood.
They also contain other health-promoting pigments such as betacyanins and carotenes.
Those anthocyanins and other pigments are good for our health.

Did you know though that anthocyanins are not the only cause of red colour in fruit and vegetables?
Betacyanins, members of the betalain family, are distinct from anthocyanins and the two pigments are not found in the same plants together.
Betacyanins also have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which contribute to health.

Here are some growing information for some of these purple veggies.

Purple cauliflower

In Arid zones, plant direct into the garden from April until June.
In cool temperate and temperate zones, February was the recommended time to sow seeds but you can sow seedlings until the end of May.

If your district is sub-tropical, transplant seedlings until the end of June also.
Purple caulie is a lovely coloured vegetable that contains all of the health properties of white cauliflower with the added bonus of extra anthocyanin (that lovely antioxidant that's so great for you!).
Just don't be surprised when it turns green once cooked. You can use purple cauliflower in any recipe that calls for cauliflower.

Purple Cabbage.

  • To sow cabbage, in temperate, sub-tropical and arid districts, March until June is the best time, but temperate and sub tropical districts can have another go from August until November,
  • In cool temperate areas March until May is best then again in August.
  • Purple cabbages are not only lovely in colour, but extra good for you with more than double the amount polyphenols than green cabbage.

Purple Carrots.
Purple carrots can grow year round in subtropical and arid climates.

  • In Temperate zones, you have from September through to May,.
  • In Cool temperate districts, September through to February, and in the tropics you can grow carrots from April to June.
  • Different-coloured carrots carry different health properties. The purple carrot specifically has 28 percent more of the antioxidant anthocyanin than orange carrots.
  • Eggplant seeds/seedlings can be planted in spring to autumn in tropical areas, spring to early summer in temperate zones and during late spring in cool climates.
This pretty, purple-skinned vegetable also contains some of the most potent antioxidants: phytonutrients found in the skin.
Eggplant is also a good source of iron, calcium and a host of other vitamins.

Purple Potatoes.
  • Purple Potatoes can be planted August to October, in temperate and sub-tropical districts.
  • Arid areas August until December is your best time.
  • In cool temperate zones, September through to January.

These potatoes add more than four times the antioxidants in comparison to regular potatoes, according to reasearch, and score as high as kale and Brussels sprouts in antioxidants.
Purple potatoes were once considered the "food of the gods,

Always steam your vegetables , not boil them.
The steaming process preserves the vitamins and minerals, rather than leaching out a portion into the water as in the boiling method.


Floriade Venlo photo M Cannon
Green Walls
You may not have thought of the idea of having a green wall in your garden.
You might’ve thought that they were really expensive.

Some facts first about green walls.
Green walls can provide:
• aesthetic improvements
• protect the building they are attached to because they shield the the building or fence from the sun.
• reduce building heating and cooling costs due to increased insulation
• increased property value
• a place to grow food
• rain water run-off management and water filtering/pollution reduction
• habitat creation and increased biodiversity
• cooling effect
• cleaner air, with less pollutants

But did you also know that green walls suit any size garden, even if you have a large garden?
How do you achieve this?

Let’s find out? I'm talking with Peter Nixon from Paradisus garden design.
You can make your own green wall using recycled material or you can buy ready made ones from the big box stores that have garden supplies.
They’re fine too.
If you have any questions about green walls, why not contact Peter or email us here at


Nerines; Guernsey Lily (Nerine bowdenii)

Some garden writers describe this next plant as one of the most exotic of bulbs for the Autumn garden.
Although it’s a bulb, it looks nothing like the flowers of regular common bulbs such as daffodils or tulips.
Instead in belongs in the Amaryllis family, which includes agapanthus and alstroemeria. 
Let’s find out more… 
I'm talking with the plant panel :Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner. 

 Did you know that exposure to cold temperatures can cause the flower heads to turn slightly blue?
If you like planting bulbs that you can set and forget, then Nerines are your thing.
Plant them with Cyclamens and Colchicums which are lower, as the stems of Nerine flowers are very tall, between 30 – 50 cms.

What Nerines Like
Nerines like a position in sun or part-shade.
Plant them in light, gritty, well-drained soil, with the neck of the bulb exposed.
Hardy to moderate frosts, even down to -15 C.
In cold areas, growing in pots is another option.
Water well during the growth period but keep dry when dormant.

Nerine varieties & flowering time:
Bowdenii: A softer, clear pink. Excellent colour for the Autumn garden. (Flowers April) Most frost tolerant. Can withstand -150 C
Gold `Nerine` (Which is actually a very closely related Lycoris): Flowers of golden, sunshine yellow. This variety is excellent for growing in warmer climates. 
In cool/cold climates, this variety likes a nice warm & sunny spot. Flowers Feb-March.
Fothergill Major: Brilliant tangerine with a golden sheen to each petal as if dusted with gold. Flowers Autumn (Feb-March)
Fothergill Minor: Brilliant florescent orange-red blooms that appear in March-April.
Note: In very cold climates (eg: Tasmania) plant the bulbs in a warm spot.. This is a new dwarf variety to only approximately 20cm- 25cm tall.
Salmonia: Salmon pink blooms. The many frilly petals (up to 30) make beautifully shaped umbels. Flowers April.
White: (Alba) Their Winter blooms appear whiter-than-white against the dull colours of Autumn. Flowers Autumn. (May)
Winter Cheer: The strong pink of these flowers which appear in in Winter do indeed add `Winter cheer` to the garden. Flowers June

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Hydrangeas, Proteas and Whip Snip Snip

Garden trimming tools in the spotlight on Tool Time, growing beans that suit winter conditions in vegetable heroes, they may be old fashioned but we love them in Plant of the week and the oldest flowers on earth in Talking Flowers.


Trimmers; Whipper Snippers; Brushcutters

  • Which jobs do you hate doing in your garden aside from weeding?
  • Lawn edges could be one of them?
  • There’s always ways to make gardening a bit easier and this next garden tool or perhaps machine is for those jobs that are generally too hard to do by hand.
  • Although some gardeners still like to do those jobs by hand, trimming lawn edges for example, it’s very time consuming and just plain hard work.
  • So what type of device do we need for our lawn edges?
  • Let’s find out.

I'm talking with Tony Mattson from 

  • Whipper snippers, brush cutters, or just trimmers, all do similar things. 
  • You’ve got heaps to decide from; there’s petrol driven, electric and now battery powered garden tools
  •  Like a lot of garden tools don’t be swayed by just the price alone. 
  • If you’re going to use it for any length of time, make sure you can hold it without causing strain to arms and shoulders. 
If you're annoyed with the whipper snipper cord constantly breaking why not change to a pivot head.
Trimmer Head
This can be fitted onto most whipper snippers or brush cutters.
The pivot action is 360 degrees and as it hits a bit of concrete or post or tree trunk, it just bounces off, so that there's less wear and tear on the line and less breakage.
  • Tony's Tip: Don't go for cheap whipper snipper line. Buy good quality commercial grande line of 2 - 2.7mm thickness. 
If you have any questions either for me or for Tony, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Broad beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your veggie patch.
Vicia faba or BROAD BEANS or some people know it as the Faba bean.
Broad beans are native to North Africa and southwest Asia, but they were cultivated in other regions very early on as well.
Fossil evidence has been found of Broad Beans being grown at least 4500 BC.
Did you know that in the Roman Senate the beans were used to vote, white bean for yes and black bean for no? Maybe that’s where the term bean counters comes from?
Red Flowered Variety of Broad Beans

For a long while, when cooks and mistresses went to the markets for beans, they were buying only broad beans because they were “ ‘the bean’, for century after century”.
Only after “scarlet runners, haricot, kidney and butter beans” turned up, did “they become known as broad beans.
Although broad beans are from the Fabaceae family, they look different and grow differently to their bean cousins.
What Do They Look Like?
  • Broad beans grown into a large, upright, bushy plant up to about 1 ½  metre.
  • Most varieties have white flowers with black eyes, but some older varieties have red flowers that look nice, but don’t set pods nearly as much as the white flowering ones.
  • Each pod is shiny green with very short fuzzy hair, and is roundish, and quite long with a pointy end.
  • Each Broad Bean pod also has a firm, pliable skin and contains 4-8 light green  to white, rounded and kidney-shaped beans.
  • The beans are quite chunky, about 2cm and the pods can grow to as much as 50cm
  • The bean plants tend to be bushy, with square, hollow stems and without beany tendrils. 
  • There’s two main varieties, the dwarf bush or the tall variety that needs staking.
  • Like all beans, they fix atmospheric nitrogen and so, are also useful as a green manure.
  • Best of all, they are hardy, easy to grow.

Plant them in March to June in temperate and sub-tropical areas, April to July in arid areas, , and April and May, then August and September for cool temperate zones in Australia.
Broad beans prefer a sunny well-drained position in the garden.
Broad beans can be grown in soils with high salinity, as well as in clay soil, so they're pretty adaptable.
As far as soil in the veggie bed goes, don’t put in too much of the chook poo or other  rich manure as you'll only get leaf growth rather than flower (and bean) production and will make the plant more sensitive to frost and disease.
Direct planting into roughly prepared soil is the best way to grow Broad Beans.
Sow the seeds at a depth of 5-10cm, with 15-20cm between plants and 70cm or 2 ruler lengths between rows.
That's if you've got the room, but there's a reason for this..
I'll tell you later.
Your broad beans will start sprouting in about 2 weeks after sowing, but will be slower the later you sow towards winter.
Soaking seeds overnight in diluted liquid seaweed can speed up germination.
Water seeds well as soon as you've put them into the ground and, then, don't water them…MOST IMPORTANT   until after germination, to prevent the seeds from rotting. Ok, YOU CAN'T DO MUCH ABOUT IT IF IT RAINS.
Broad beans will need to be staked or supported to stop the plant collapsing under the weight of the mature beans.
If your district experiences a bit of frost, flowers formed during frosty weather are probably not going to set pods.
Once spring arrives, pinch out the tips of the plants to encourage pod set.
Try to limit water stress as this will also affect pod set.
That means don't let them dry out!
In  3-5 months, depending on how cold the weather is, the beans will be ready.
Broad bean pods can be picked at several stages.
Firstly, they can be picked when small and can be snapped crisply in half.
In which case you can eat them like young green beans.
Different stages of broad bean pods
Secondly, if allowed to grow larger but the seeds are still soft, you don’t have to shell the bean seeds, but don’t eat the pods at this stage.
Finally, they can be grown until fully mature and the seeds have dried.
In this last case the seeds are used as dried beans and are called Lima Beans.
Broad beans are prone to fungal attack - brown spots on stems and leaves - particularly if planted too closely together or if planted in soils too rich in nutrients.
Towards the end of the crop, rust - producing powdery spots on the leaves - can become a problem.
Plants with black tips may suffer from root rot, caused by poor drainage.
Get rid of those beans and put in a new lot..
Freshly shelled broad beans can be frozen, blanched and then frozen or stored in the fridge for about 5 days.

Broad beans are legumes meaning they convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into nitrogen in the soil. The nitrogen is attached to their roots and becomes available in the soil once the beans die down.
Dig in the roots and leaves after picking all the beans, to add nitrogen to the soil.
You can then lay the tops on the soil or use it as mulch elsewhere in the garden. It, too adds nitrogen to the soil as it breaks down.

The fresh beans are eaten steamed or boiled.
As the beans mature it is better to remove their tough outer skins after cooking.
The leafy top shoots of the adult plants can be picked and steamed after flowering.
Beans are high in protein and carbohydrates, rich in vitamin C and are also a good source of vitamins A, B1 and B2. a good source of folate.
Beans also provide potassium and iron in fact 100g of beans has as much iron as a pork chop.
Broad beans are a good source of fibre.  100g green beans have 120 kJ

Hydrangea  macrophylla: Mophead Hydrangeas; Lacecap Hydrangeas.
Family: Hydrangeaceae

Hydrangeas have a long history and during the period when plant hunters searched the globe for fame and fortune is when the flowers we know today were brought back from China
Let’s find out what else they have to offer.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Ayesha'
The large heads of pink, blue or white flowers are very attractive as a cut flower also.
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley from

  • Did you know that around 1879 the famous English nursery Veitch , sent the plant hunter Charles Maries to China and Japan?
  • So what did he come back with? 
  • Two different plants, a Hydrangea with flat flowers (lacecap) he called H.macrophylla 'Mariesii' and a spherical type , he called Hydrangea macrophylla ' Rosea' . 
Jeremy's tip: Cut back to a few centimetres above the ground to rejuvenate old and young plants alike.
Marianne's Tip: . The pink or blue flowers depend on the soil pH in which they grow. 
pH of 5.0 to 5.5 for blue flowers; pH of 6.0 to 6.5 for pink flowers.
If you want to change colour of your hydrangea flowers, do it in winter by applying either aluminium sulphate for blue flowers or several cups of garden lime around the plant for pink flowers.


Protea Pink Ice: 
Protea nerifolia "Special Pink Ice"
Family: Proteaceae.
  • Proteas are one from one of the oldest families on earth dating back 300 million years.
Protea neriifolia x susannae Special Pink Ice is larger growing between 2 – 4m
This variety produces stunning pink flowers through autumn and winter - great for cut flowers and attracting birds into your garden.  
Prefers full sun, well-drained soils.
Tolerates frost (-4 C)and extended dry periods once established.
  • Pruning your Protea plant is never more than 50% of the leaf cover. Don't prune non-flower stems as they will bear next year's flowers.
Mercedes Tips: Cut stems at an angle and change the water daily. Use only filtered water and plenty of it as they are waterholics.
Marianne's Tips: Not suitable for areas with severe frosts or for sub-tropical and tropical zones.

Protea nerifolia 'Pink Ice'
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini from

Recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2RRR 88.5 fm