Saturday, 21 April 2018

Honeybees, Fragrance and Temptation Seeds

What’s On The Show Today?

Join permaculture guru Margaret Mossakowska talking about beeswax in the Good Earth segment; how best to look after those saved seeds in Vegetable Heroes; brighten up dark corners in the garden with this new groundcover in Plant of the Week.
Lastly, a flower that’s strongly linked with perfume in Talking Flowers.


Beeswax And How To Use It At Home
Honey isn’t just the only thing that beekeepers produce.
Beeswax is a by product of honey making.

So how can we use around the home other than for making beeswax candles?

Let’s find out I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from

Margaret mentioned that you can make Florentine Wax tablets with pieces of melted wax in a muffin tray.
Making Florentine Wax Tablets:
Mix in a little coconut oil so you can spread the beeswax better, then add a few drops of essential oils for perfume.
You can even press dried flowers into the top to make them decorative.
Leave them around the house to let off their fragrance into the rooms.

TIP: Did you know that you can also coat things with beeswax, like hand tools, cast iron pieces and shovels to prevent them from rusting out.
You can even rub beeswax on the wooden handle of your shovel to help protect against wear and tear.

NSW amateur beekeepers associations
The ABA currently has 20 clubs/branches around NSW.
There are also a number of areas where new clubs are being started.
If you need any help finding a club near you, please contact the ABA Secretary.
For listeners outside NSW there’s also a national body,
If you have any questions either for me or for Margaret you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Shelf Life of  Packet Seeds

Shelf life of packet seeds.
We gardeners are guilty of buying too many seeds and realise, we just don’t have enough space to grow everything we would like to from seed.

Marketing gurus say that impulse buying is one big factor in seed sales. 
That’s why they make the packets so attractive with those lovely photos on the front of the packet to entice your to buy them.

What to do with all those seed packets?

Shall you throw them into the compost or give them a go?
Now’s a good time to get out your seeds and take a look at the dates on the back usually.
You’ve probably got seeds lurking in a drawer, or maybe you’re more organised and they’re in a storage box.
Firstly let’s deal with how you’re storing your seeds. 

  • If you’re keeping them in the garden shed that gets quite hot in summer, then the shelf life of your seeds is going to drop right down and possibly kill of your seeds. 

  • Never store your seeds in a humid warm or sunny spot. 

  • Seeds need to be kept cool and dry, ideally the temperature should be around 5°C and 10°C. 

  • Keeping them in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge is good but who’se going to have enough room in the fridge for all those seeds? 

  • A dark place somewhere in the garage or laundry that stays cool in summer is the best place. 

When properly stored in a cool, dry place, seed’s shelf life can be extended. - So how long do our veggie seeds last? 

If you want to be really sure that the seeds you’ve got will germinate and you’ve got quite a few to burn, why not do a simple germination test? 

  •  Fold over the paper towel and place in a zip-lock plastic bag and seal it; this helps to keep the towel moist and protected. 
  • Germination test: Take around 10 of your seeds, and place them in a row on top of a damp paper towel. 
  • Then put in a warm location, like a high shelf or on top of the fridge but make sure the spot you’ve picked is away from exposure to direct sunlight. 
  • This can overheat your seeds. 
  • Next, check the seeds often—around once a day—to see if they’ve begun to germinate and to check the moisture of the paper towel. 

  • But don’t keep opening it everyday otherwise your experiment will go mouldy in not time. 
  • Only open the zip lock bag if it needs more water, and carefully mist the towel so it’s only just damp, but not soggy. 
  • Don’t apply too much water. 

I’ve recently heard that adding a drop of tea to the water helps with the germination rate. 

TIP: Your seeds should begin to germinate in several days up to a couple of weeks, depending on the seed-type. A good rule of thumb is to wait roughly 10 days;

We know that the packet comes printed with the expiry date of seeds.

But we want to know can they last longer?

In Australia, seed companies are generally required by law to germination test seeds before they sell them.

These definitely have a very short shelf life.

The longest lasting seeds that I’ve germinated well past their expiry date, let’s say 3-4 years past, without any problem, are Basil, Kohlrabi, Broccoli and Rocket.

But let’s talk in families of plants such as in the Brassicaceae family.
The long lasting seeds here are Beetroot, Silverbeet, Swish chard, Radish, Turnip, Cauliflower, Cabbage and Kale and Broccoli.

Next are those from the Solanaceae family, including tomato and eggplant.

Lastly, the Cucurbitaceae or Melon family.
Long lasting seeds in this family include cucumber, squash and watermelon.

Then there’s those seeds that aren’t so long lived but usually have a shelf life of 3-5 years like lettuce, and possibly parsley. Parsely is one herb that I don’t need to sow anymore.
By leaving a Parsley plant flower and set seed, you’ll have, like me, a continual supply of Parsley year round.
Until a regular visitor to the garden, a ringtail possum, decides they need something to eat in winter.
Then no Parsely. 

There’s also the pea or Fabaceae family.
So yes, peas and beans are on the list.
A few seeds have a relatively short shelf life and are good for one to two years at the most.
These include onions, parsnips, chives, scorzonera and leeks.
That isn’t definitive and depending on who you ask, some will say that they were able to get their 10 year old bean seeds to germinate or some other vegetable.

The "sow by" date is based on the validity of the germination test and is not necessarily an accurate indication of the freshness or shelf-life of the seed.

Of course flower seeds are another category and I don’t have time to mention those other than to say, Pansies, Echinaceae, and Nasturtiums have germinated for me well past their use by date.

Seeds are best sown fresh.
Even stored in a fridge or freezer, the germination percentage and vigour will reduce over time.



Lamium Mega
Are you after a groundcover for dry shade?
Would you like something with more colour where nothing colourful grows?
Something different perhaps than native violets, dichondra or ferns.
Dry shade tends to be dark, and the main way of enhancing a dark spot is planting something with either pale or white flowers or pale or silver foliage.

Cheer up the gloomiest of corners in your garden with this suggestion.
Let’s find out how to grow it.
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner of

Its common name, deadnettle, is unglamorous, but this lamium makes the best ground cover for tricky, shady spots.

Its silver, heart-shaped leaves with a green rim lighten up dreary corners, and the mauve (OK, "Mega Purple", if you must) flowers appear reliably throughout Summer.
This is a ground hugger, though, reaching a height and spread of just 30cm x 45cm
If you have any questions about Lamium mega , either for me or for the plant panel or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Meet Hyacinth Bucket! A bucket full of sweetly scented Hyacinth is this week's star in Talking Flowers with Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers By Mercedes. Mr Hyacinth will grace your home with scent and colour for at least a couple of weeks, especially if you grow it from a bulb yourself. Hyacinths can be grown in a special water vase. Colours include red, white, blue, pink, orange, violet and yellow. 

Asparagaceae family.
Hyacinthus orientalis; Dutch or garden hyacinth.
Not to be confused with Muscari which are also called “grape hyacinths.”
You can buy bulbs right now and plant before autumn is over for divine spring fragrance.

TIP: Don't forget to pre-chill them in a brown paper bag in the fridge crisper for 6 weeks. but away from fruits and veg.
This will allow the stems to grow nice and long

I'm talking with florist, floral therapist, and floraholic, Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2rrr 88.5fm Sydney

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Magnificent Lilies, Blue Bonnets and Yummy Fruit

What’s On The Show Today?

Join Dr Holly Parsons as we delve into the wonderful world of Blue Bonnets in Wildlife in Focus, a crop that’s edible as well as used to improve your soil in Vegetable Heroes, plus yummy fruit tree in Plant of the Week.
Lastly, a flower that says magnificent beauty in Talking Flowers.


Blubonnet: Northiella haematogaster

If I say this next segment is about parrots, do you go through a very short checklist?
This checklist might include, the Sulphur Crested, several Galahs, King Parrot, and Gang Gang Cockatoos.
Northiella haematogaster
You may even realise that Rosellasand Lorikeets are in the parrot category.
But what about this next parrot with a very different name?
Let’s find out about it
I'm talking wiht Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of

The parrots species have short, powerful bills that they use for cracking seeds, but some of them also feed on fruit, nectar, underground plant stems, and wood-boring insect larvae.
Blue bonnets have not only similar calls to other parrots but fly in a similar way as well.
From Graeme Chapman’s website comes this information “They have a particular liking for areas where sheoaks such as belah or bulloak (genus Allocasuarina) grow, mainly because these trees provide them with their preferred nesting sites.
Where available, they prefer a narrow split in the main trunk of a tree which opens out into a hollow that often continues down to (or even below!) ground level.
It is amazing just how narrow a split they can fit into and such sites are not uncommon in quite small trees such as Myall (an Acacia) out in desert regions.
These narrow nest entrances would provide good protection from the larger of the predatory goannas.”
If you have any questions either for me or for Holly, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Lupins or Lupinus species belong in the pea or Fabaceae family.

This of course means that Lupins fix Nitrogen into the soil from the atmosphere.
You might know about Lupins as a perennial flowering plant for gardens, coming in a variety of colours and leaf shapes.

Maybe you think of them as Russell Lupins?

Did you know, seed from some perennial flowering Lupins are edible and have been used as a crop feed as well as food for humans?
Did you know that lupins as a food have been used for thousands of years.

In fact, Lupin dishes were popular during the Roman Empire, but they seem to eat just about everything didn’t they?

Members of native tribes in South and Native America used to soak Lupin beans in salt water before eating them.
These are grown even today as a Soy substitute.

Lupin flowers come in a rainbow of colours but not all have edible seed pods.

But before you go snacking on the seed pods of these flowers, be warned, unless you’ve bought edible Lupin seeds, the other varieties of Lupins are TOXIC.

THESE Lupins contain Lupin alkaloids which can cause Lupin poisoning.

DPI Victoria says there are 2 types of Lupin; the narrow leaf species (Lupinus angustifolius-blue flower) and the larger seeded and broader leaf Lupinus albus, with a white flower.
  • Lupinus albus is grown mostly for human consumption, while the higher protein narrow leaf lupin, Lupinus angustifolius, is better as stock feed. 
    Lupinus albus
  • Yellow Lupins are also a new crop in W.A. 
  • These legumes were popular with the Romans, weren’t they all? 
  • The Andean Lupin L. mutabilis, the Mediterranean Lupinus albus (white lupin), Lupinus angustifolius (blue lupin) and Lupinus hirsutus are only edible after soaking the seeds for some days in salted water. 
  • These lupins are referred to as sweet lupins because they contain smaller amounts of toxic alkaloids than the bitter lupin varieties. 
  • Newly bred variants of sweet lupins are grown extensively in Germany; they lack any bitter taste and require no soaking in salt solution. 
  • The seeds are used for different foods from vegan sausages to lupin-tofu or lupin flour. 
  • Lupins are currently under widespread cultivation in Australia, Europe, Russia, and the Americas as a green manure, livestock fodder and grazing plant, and high protein additive for animal and human foods. 
  • Australia is still to realise Lupins as human food because 95% of Lupins are grown for stock feed. 
    Lupinus angustifolius

How and when to sow your Lupins.
Sow Lupin seeds 3-4 cm deep. Sowing deeper than 5 cm can lead to very poor crop emergence.
Lupins prefer moderate temperatures and rainfall, they are not tolerant of frost and most of your flowers will drop if frost is serve enough or ongoing.
They like moderate temperatures, too many days over 30o C will also see flowers drop.
Sow in temperate areas autumn and spring, in subtropical areas April-June.
Lupins will also grow in a cool climate, for example if you live in southern Victoria, then February to March is the best time.
Make a note in your garden diary for next year.

Lupins also grow in Mediterranean climates and grow in regions with average temperatures under 32C

What Lupins Love
  • The Lupin plant loves well-watered areas and soil with slight acidity. 
  • The plant grows best in regions that have coarse, well-drained soil preferably with an acidic value between 6 and 7. 
  • Lupins can also grow in any area that has loose, light-coloured fertile soil and plenty of water. 
  • In fact the recommendation is to water Lupins for 10-20 minutes every day. 
  • Lupins need direct sunlight daily for at least four hours. 
  • Lupin roots can grow down to 2.5 metres, and rhizobium is needed for nodulation and nitrogen fixation. 
  • Lupinus alba is available as a mail order seed and is used for a green manure crop. 
  • Lupinus alba adds nitrogen to your soil, and because of the long taproot, opens and aerates the soil 
  • Another soil benefit is that Lupins accumulate phosphorus; and the flowers are attractive to bees and other beneficial insects. 
  • Lupinus albus seeds
Why are Lupins good for you?
Lupine flour, used in bread products and pasta, is high in protein and is highly nutritious for human body.
This is one of the main health benefits of Lupins.
Lupin seed has a low GI and makes us feel fuller for longer.
Apparently Lupin enhanced bread is available in some health food stores, and is said to reduce your hunger.
Lupine oil is edible oil extracted from Lupin seeds and used to manufacture technical as well as edible refined oil.
So either grow the Lupins as a green manure crop, or a flowering perennial.

The flowers are considered a must for the cottage garden, combining perfectly with poppies, catmint and roses.
As far as growing Lupins as an edible crop, only commercial quantities are available to the crop farmer.
But you never know, there could be a breakthrough soon, and we might be making our own Lupin enhanced bread in the not too distant future.
If you have any questions about growing LUPINS or any other vegetable, JUST EMAIL ME



Red Paw Paw Bisexual

Paw Paw and Papaya, are they the same fruit?
Papaya (Carica papaya), also called pawpaw in Australia, is an exotic, tropical fruit with a juicy, sweet flavour.

Papaya and pawpaw are the same species, however they look and taste different.
In Australia, the red-fleshed sweeter fruit is called papaya, while the yellow-fleshed fruit is called pawpaw.
Just to confuse everyone, from an Australian industry perspective however, the term papaya covers both fruit.
Let’s find out how to grow it.
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner of

The papaya is a small, sparsely branched tree, usually with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 m tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk.
Something to note:

  • Papaya plants grow in three sexes: male, female, bisexual (hermaphrodite meaning they produce flowers which have both male and female functioning parts).
  • The male produces only pollen, never fruit.
  • The female will produce small, inedible fruits unless pollinated.
  • The hermaphrodite can self-pollinate since its flowers contain both male stamens and female ovaries 

If you have any questions about red paw paw , either for me or for the plant panel or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


CALLA LILY Zantedeschia aethiopica  
Family: Araceaea
Known as arum lily but not a lily at all, instead an aroid.
Aroid because it’s a member of the 3,300 strong arum family and most have flowers that consist of a spathe (floral bract) surrounding the central pale yellow spadix (floral spike) bearing tiny flowers.
Think Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum,  Anthurium and Philodendron.
Zantedeschia aethiopica is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant, evergreen where there's plenty of  rainfall and moderate temperatures but deciduous where there is a dry season. Its preferred habitat is in streams and ponds or on the banks.

The plant actually contains calcium oxalate making it poisonous to animals or people that may attempt to eat the plant raw.

This is basically a protection mechanism for the plant so that it can survive in the wild.
Apart from that, these flowers look fabulous in the vase ,just don't let kitty nibble on the leaves.
Calla Lily
I'm talking with  florist, floral therapist, and floraholic, Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2rrr 88.5 fm Sydney

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Small Trees for Everyone

What’s On The Show Today?

Join Peter as we stroll through Useful & Beautiful small trees in Design Elements This plant share its name with a famous biscuit, no not Tim Tam, in Vegetable Heroes, and a small tree that’s tough, but with the prettiest flowers. Lastly, one of the world’s most popular fragrant flowers, and it’s not a rose, in Talking Flowers.


Small Trees that are "useful and beautiful."
Have you got a small or large garden?
Chances are a lot of you are thinking, mmm, it’s pretty small but I used to have a large garden.
Either way, there’s always room for a small something, to fit into the design scheme that won't take up too much room, is out of the ordinary, and is "useful and beautiful."
Bauhinia hookerii or White Bauhinia
Today, we’re talking about something that’s either a very large shrub or a very small tree. 
Let’s find out what they are.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of Paradisus Garden Design

Peter mentioned Hibiscus schizopetalus also known as Japanese Lantern which has the daintiest red flower.
Hibiscus schizopetalus: Japanese Lanter photo credit: M Cannon

The flower almost looks like a ballerina suspended by a fine thread and are terminal, meaning that they're at the ends of the branches.

White Bauhinia or Bauhina hookerii with white butterfly like flowers.
Brachychiton bidwillii which may be grafted but can be summer deciduous in areas such as Adelaide.
If you have any questions either for me or for Peter, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Not a biscuit : Arrowroot
Canna edulis

Today’s vegetable is loaded with carbohydrates or carbs as we refer to them.

Why am I talking about carbs?
Because a study released not too long ago from Sydney University showed that a high carbohydrate, low protein diet can help you live fifty per cent longer.

But first a question.
Ever heard of arrowroot as in arrowroot biscuits perhaps?
Did you know Arrowroot is actually a plant and not just the name of a type of biscuit?
The scientific name of the type of arrowroot that I’m talking about today is Canna edulis but it’s known as edible canna and Qld arrowroot.

There are other types of arrowroot, but generally not available to buy or grow in many places in Australia, so I’ll stick to the Canna edulis one.

Some of you might know that Canna plant already, with its sword shaped leaves and brightly coloured flowers.
Canna Lily: Not Edible

Did you know though that there was an edible canna as well?

Yes, Canna and Arrowroot are one and the same.
An amazing fact though it’s bit like edible Ginger or Cardamom because it’s a very hardy, clump-forming perennial plant with thick stalks and large bright green leaves 300-600mm long to 2m high.
But which part do you eat?
  • In this case, like the edible ginger, you eat the tubers. 
  • If you dig them up when they’re small - about the size of a tennis ball and the skin is still white is the best time. 
  • Here’s something you won’t know: Arrowroot tubers can be used all year round, as a potato substitute. 
  • HINT: Another good thing about Arrowroot tubers is that you can plant them at any time of the year. 
  • The large round red rhizomes can be eaten raw, cooked as you would a potato or used as a flour and thickening agent. 
  • Young shoots can also be eaten as a green vegetable. 
  • Edible Canna is easy to plant, to grow and to harvest. 

  • While the tubers grow at a rate of knots, in deep rich friable soil, they are the most hardy of all the tuber crops and grows well in any type of soils. 
  • These tubers can even grow where most other tubers refuse to grow.
Add caption
You can start digging the tubers up USING A GARDEN FORK after 6 months usually around Summer and Autumn.

In fact if you had planted a tuber last Spring, you would’ve had a clump about 1 metre across by now.

  • Even though the books will tell you that Arrowroot needs a warm sunny position; Arrowroot will tolerate heat and light frosts. 
  • The only drawback is growth is much slower in cold areas 
  • Suitable for temperate, subtropical and tropical areas but there’s no reason for you not to try it in Gippsland or even Canberra, just not out in the elements. 
  • An idea would be to plant it under a shrub as protection from deep frosts. 
  • Arrowroot can be grown in any soil even clay soil because it likes moisture and even copes with poor drainage. 
  • Full sun is the key, so even though I said shelter it from frosts under a shrub, the position has to be north facing. 
  • Of course if you add compost, manures and all those great organic fertilisers you have in that garden shed, you’ll get fast growth and lots of tubers. 
  • One other thing, if you’ve got poor sandy soil, don’t forget to keep up the watering. 
Edible canna or arrowroot does develop small orangish flowers that will set black seeds.
  • If you live near a watercourse or creek, there’s potential for the seeds to spread into bushland or along creek-lines, so do cut off the flowers as they finish, and definitely cut off the seed heads. 
  • HOT TIP: seed grown plants are slow to mature and vary in the type of plant you get. 
  • It’s faster and better to divide your plants if you want to give some to other gardeners. 
  • TIP If you can grow Cannas you can definitely grow edible Cannas and arrowroot has few problems with pests and diseases. 
As mentioned arrowroot is starchy and can be eaten like potatoes.  But what do you do?
  • Digging them up when they’re small is the best because as they get older they become dry and stringy. 
  • Just peel them like potatoes and soak them in water if you want less starchiness. 
  • Freshly grated arrowroot can be used as a thickening agent. 
  • By the way, unlike potatoes, unless you’re thinking of making arrowroot flour, which is a longer process than I have time for, you need to dig up your tubers and use them soon after. 
Why are they good for you? 
  • Excellent carbohydrate, the starch is easily digested. 
  • Arrowroot also has 10g of protein for every 100g of tuber. 
But apart from the carbs and its use as a thickening agent, and extracting arrowroot flour, there are no vitamins or minerals in this plant.

So back to that study, Sydney University research found mice fed a high carbohydrate, low protein diet had a longer lifespan and better cardio-metabolic health despite the fact they were overweight.

I recently spoke to Professor Steve Simpson who conducted the study, and his suggestion was that a diet that consists of 15-20 per cent high quality protein, low in fat and high in good quality carbohydrate will deliver the best metabolic health and longest life.

No need to cut out those carbs, just the fried chips.



Blueberry Ash: Elaeocarpus retiuculatus
Here’s a small tree with lily of the valley type flowers and olive like fruit.
The flowers are either pale pink or white, often referred to as “fairy pettioats.”
A very tough small tree that’s native to the east coast of Australia that is also bird attracting especially to all types of parrots.
Blueberry Ash: Pink form
Let’s find out more about it. 
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of

Karen’s neighbour keeps her blueberry ash trimmed down to 4 metres or you could leave it a bit bigger and “limb up” as Peter Nixon would say so you have a lovely shade tree to sit under.
The only place it doesn’t suit is those areas with heavy frost. If you have any questions about blueberry ash , either for me or for Karen or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to


All about Freesias
If you have a cottage garden big or small, chances are you've invested in Spring bulbs which include Freesias.
Gardeners will be ordering Freesias in their Spring bulb order now.
TIP: Just remember, plant them pointy end upward when your receive the bulbs
Botanical Bite

Freesia flowers are “zygomorphic” which just means that they grow along one side of the stem, in a single plane.
 When you look at a flower stalk, you'll see that the blooms are facing upwards. 
How does this work? 
Freesias stems have the unusual habit of turning at right angles just below the bottom flower. 
This causes the upper portion of the stem to grow almost parallel with the ground. The flowers bloom along the top side of the stalk, facing upwards. Isn't nature clever?
Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener program on 2rrr 88.5 fm Sydney.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Drinking Lemon Balm Tea Indoors with Plants

What’s On The Show Today?

Some hot tips on keeping your indoor plants happy in Plant Doctor, grow this most useful herb in Vegetable Heroes and " Useful & Beautiful" bigger shrubs in Design Elements .


Looking After Indoor Plants.
You may have heard that having indoor plants make for a healthy home.
The reason is that the plants and in fact mostly the soil that plants sit in, absorb the VOC’s or volatile organic compounds that all your furniture, flooring, household cleaners give off.
But those plants are made of plastic so will need attention.

You may not have noticed that your indoor plant/s were in decline even though you've been walking past them everyday for most of the year.
Here are some pointers to get you started.
Let’s find out .
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager of

The first tip: Top up that potting mix.
After 2-3 years, potting mix becomes compacted and shrinks down several cms.
Plus old potting mix needs replacing after a while anyway because of this "slumping" and becoming acidic over the years.
The second tip: Check if the soil has become hydrophobic.
Scratch the surface after you've initially water to see if it has actually penetrated.
If not, apply a soil wetting agent.
The third tip: Now your pest or disease.
If you have any indoor plant problems is important to first diagnose what is exactly happening with the plant.
Is it just the soil, or is it something that needs spraying. 
Because your plants are indoors I would recommend using organic sprays

If you have any questions either for me or for Steve, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Lemon Balm; Melissa officinalis

Melissa officinalis, known as lemon balm, balm, common balm, or balm mint, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the mint family; Lamiaceae.

Lemon balm is native to south-central Europe, and the Mediterranean region.
You may not be into scientific names but there are two subspecies of Lemon Balm; Melissa officinalis subsp.officinalis, is the commonly grown lemon balm; and Melissa officinalis subsp. altissima, naturalized in New Zealand and known as bush balm.

Apparently the scent of Melissa. officinalis. subsp. altissima is sometimes described
as fruity, herbal or powdery, but often doesn’t have any scent at all.

Did you know that Lemon Balm has been used for over 2,000 years?
  • Another fact is that Lemon balm has white flowers that attract bees, and because of that, the genus name is Melissa which is Greek for 'honey bee'. 
  • In fact the ancient Greeks believed that if you put a few sprigs of lemon balm in an empty hive, it would attract a swarm of bees, or if you planted some lemon balm near a beehive, the bees would never go away. 
  • Officinalis of course means used in medicine and in the 11th century a Persian physician and philosopher named Avicenna recommended the use of lemon balm in treating depression and melancholy. 
  • Would you believe that according to the London Dispensary (1696) lemon balm in wine could even prevent baldness? 

What does it look like?
It’s a fairly low to medium growing herb not growing more than 70 cm tall and being in the mint family, it has square stems.
You only need one plant because it spreads out quite a bit once it gets going, up to 1 ½ metres or more. 

Lemon balm leaves have a sweet lemon scent, and because it’s related to mint the leaves look very much like the leaves of common mint.

Those flowers that I mentioned occur during summer, and are full of nectar.

Interestingly although over 100 chemicals have been identified in Melissa officinalis, the main flavour comes from just two essential oils: oil of citral (neral and geranial), and citronellal, with a hint of linalool, geraniol and β-caryophyllene-oxide (1,90).

Why grow lemon Balm?

One reason to grow it is that sachets made with Lemon Balm and put under your pillow or near the bed are supposed to give you a refreshing, relaxing sleep.
  • Lemon balm seeds are fairly easy to germinate and need light and at least 20°C 
  • Seeds will germinate in 10 – 14 days and are best started off in a punnet. 
  • TIP: The seeds don’t like being overly wet so after the first watering, let them alone but not completely dry out. 
  • Lemon balm is probably one of the easiest herbs to grow and is ideal for beginners. 
  • Lemon balm grows well in both sun and shade, soils of a wide pH, and either dry or damp conditions. 
  • Lemon balm grows in clumps and doesn’t spread vegetatively (veggi-tate-ivv-lee) like mint does, that is putting down roots where the stems touch the ground or through underground rhizomes, but only spreads by seed. 
  • If you don’t want it to spread in your garden, then cut back the clump after flowering so that it doesn’t self-seed. 
Where it grows

In mild temperate zones, the stems of the plant die off at the start of the winter, but shoot up again in spring.
Lemon balm doesn’t like temperatures much below 5 C so in cool temperate climates you may lose your plant unless you put some into a pot for replanting next Spring.
You could also just put some protective mulch over the spot when it dies down as long as you remember what you have growing there.
Lemon balm can also be propagated by dividing the rootstock in Spring or Autumn and planting straight into the ground after doing this.

How to use lemon balm?

The best time to pick leaves for drying is before it flowers.

However, you can pick leaves for use lots of ways from flavouring vinegars, teas, especially Early grey or green tea, marinades, dressings, jams and jellies, stuffings and sauces to using it chopped with fish and mushroom dishes or mixed fresh with soft cheeses.

Lemon balm complements many fruits, including honeydew, rockmelon, pineapple, apples and pears.

What about lemon balm with ginger in scones?

That’s the leaves, but the flowers can also be used as a garnish in fruit salads, drinks or with rice

Did you know that in the commercial food industry, lemon balm oil and extract are used to flavor alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, confectionary, baked goods, gelatin, and puddings.

Lemon balm is also an ingredient in liqueurs like Benedictine and Chartreuse.

Why is it good for you?
Lemon balm tea is good for relieving mild headaches and possibly helping with memory as well.
The crushed leaves when rubbed on the skin can be used as an insect repellant.
Lemon balm also has anti-oxidant and calming or mild sedative properties. 


Useful and Beautiful Shrubs
We’re into the shrubbery but we’re not the Knights of Nee, for all those Monty Python fans listening out there.
So last week we outlined the sub-shrubs, in other words those plants that don’t grow too much over a metre, and most likely much less.
This week it’s shrubs that grow much bigger so won’t be at the front of the border.
These shrubs are larger but not more than 4 metres if that.
Rabbit Ears: Ruttya fruiticose photoM Van Der Schiff
Let’s find out what they are.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, Garden Designer and  Director of

Peter mentioned these shrubs:
Rhinacanthus beesianthus –very luxurious looking, grows quite tall - around 2m or higher - and has large attractive quilted leaves which form a glossy background to other plants in a border.
Its clear white flowers, shaped like scalloped shells, begin to appear in March or April and continue for several months
Ruttya fruiticosa or Rabbit Ears, because the flower is dark red and looks just like a rabbit or from a distance a bit like Sturt Desert Peas.
Dichroa versicolour: photo M. Cannon
Iochroma fuschoides has an upright vase shape, with red trumpet flowers.
Dichroa versicolor - Evergreen Hydrangea is a nice alternative to the regular hydrangea with more like
If you have any questions about sub-shrubs , either for me or for Peter or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Clucka Tucker, Passionfruit and Peruvian Lilies

What’s On The Show Today?

Some hot tips on keeping chickens happy on the Good Earth, a member of the Rare Fruit Society in Bundaberg talks about growing passionfruit in Vegetable Heroes, Useful & Beautiful sub shrubs in Design Elements and flowers that symbolize friendship and devotion in Talking Flowers.


Plants for Chickens
Have you hankered after keeping chickens or have some of your own already?
If you’ve thought about it for ages, it may be time to bite the bullet and get three.
Chickens are a flocking bird so three’s the minimum so that they feel safe.
But what else can you do to keep the chickens happy other than having a nice chicken coop and daily fresh water?
3 Bantams photo: M Cannon
Let’s find out . I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from

Chickens self-medicate if they feel something is missing.
They will eat more of the food that will help them. 
Plant plenty of Rue, wormwood and Comfrey.
Ruta graveolens: Rue
Comfrey has plenty of Calcium which is good for chickens because that's what they need for shell forming.
If you have room to plant a deciduous fruit tree like a mulberry tree near your chicken coop, that would be ideal.
Other trees that are useful or Fig trees, Apple trees and Elderberry trees.
If you have a small back yard you still a tree because there are plenty of dwarf apple trees to choose from.
While the tree grows to a suitable size, you will have to put up some other sort of protection from the sun, and rain.
Of course if they’re free ranging during the day, they can shelter under other big trees or shrubs you have in the garden

If you have any questions either for me or for Margaret, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Growing Passionfruit: Passiflora edulis
Almost every garden has space for a passionfruit.
Yes, it’s a fruit but botanically it’s a berry.
Plant a Passionfruit or two- Passionfruit Panama Red, Panama Gold, Nellie Kelly and Banana passionfruit.
The passionfruit vine has the look of a tropical vine with it’s lime green glossy 3-lobed leaves and its intricate purple and white flowers with a crown like appearance.
So distinctive is this flower that 16th Century Spanish Catholic missioniaries named it "Flor de las cinco llagas" or "flower of the five wounds."
They thought the flowers portrayed ‘Christ’s passion on the cross’ because it showed the Three Nails, the Five Wounds, the Crown of Thorns and the Apostles
So it could have come from Brazil but no-one knows for sure.
Passiflora edulis: Passionfruit flower. Photo M. Cannon
Right now across Australia, many gardeners are harvesting their passionfruit while others are scratching their heads and wondering why they haven’t got any.
Passionfruit or passiflora edulis has the most amazing flower and you’d think by the way it grows, that there wouldn’t be any real problems.
You would be wrong.
In this interview I'm Val Wright of Bundaberg who is a member of the Rare Fruit Society and the Organic Garden Club up there.
PLAY: Interview

Val correctly suggests that for the problem of flowers but no fruit, or thick skin and little pulp, you need to add potash to the soil and plenty of it.
Adding granular Potash is best coming into Spring and Autumn.
Add liquid Potash any time.
If you vine is dropping it's leaves, check the amount of watering you are doing.
Has it been raining a lot lately and do you have the right amount of drainage?
Passionfruit vines are subject to phytophthera, or root rot if they are sitting in too much water, henc the falling leaves. 
Correction: Phosacid sometimes sold as Yates Anti-Rot.
When to expect a passionfruit harvest?
In warm areas you will get fruit for most of the year.
In temperate areas expect a crop summer and late autumn.
In cold areas only summer.
 (Passionfruit - Panama Gold vigorous and sweeter than the others.
Black Passionfruit - (Passiflora edulis) Will tolerate light frosts. Self pollinating.

Vals  passionfruit fertiliser recipe

2 parts Blood 'n Bone
1 part Potash
1 part Epsom salts
Sprinkle a good handful around the passionfruit every 2 months.


Justicea carnea
Useful and Beautiful sub-shrubs
What are sub-shrubs?
Sub-shrubs is a category that you may not have thought about but it’s certainly worth investing in some of these to fill out your garden.
Large shrubs could be considered to be at least over 3 metres in height, maybe up to 4 metres.

Sub shrubs are a category that is for those plants that are around 1 metre to 1 1/2 metres in height.
Garden designer Peter Nixon always finds the unusual that are a little bit harder to source but are worth the effort because they turn your garden from just nice to just beautiful.

Let’s find out what they are. I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of

Kohleria eriantha
PLAY: Useful & Beautiful sub-shrubs_14 2018
Peter mentioned sub-shrubs like Plectranthus ecklonii, the spur flower reaches about 1.2m
Barleria cristata “Lavender Lace,” with a lavender and white striped flower.
Barleria micans grows to 40cm flowering in April-May.
Kohleria eriantha with a scarlet tubular flower.
Justicia carnea and J carnea alba and Justicia betonica: Called Brazilian Plume-
A very useful plant.
Lastly, Brazilian Snapdragon or Otocanthus caeruleas with deep blue flowers.
If you have any questions about sub-shrubs , either for me or for Peter or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Named after Baron Claus von Alstrome, a Swedish baron who collected the seeds in the late 18th century on returning from a trip to South America.
Alstromeria: Flickr photo
You may know alstromeria as a gorgeous garden plant, but it makes a fantastic cut flower too, on its own or as part of a mix. There are at least 190 cultivars in just about any colour but blue. 
They flower nine months of the year so they are readily available. 
Reminded me of cats whiskers because of the markings on the inside of each flower.
They are poisonous to pets though, so bear that in mind. 

Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers by Mercedes tells you how to select your cut flower bunch and how to make them last.
I'm talking with florist, floral therapist, and floraholic, Mercedes Sarmini of
Recorded during the broadcast of Real World Gardener show

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Powder Puffs, Historic Gardens and Beautiful Hedges

What’s On The Show Today?

We’re visiting a historic garden in Garden History segment, why do my beans taste bad in Vegetable Heroes, Useful & Beautiful hedges in Design Elements and flowers without petals in Plant of the week.


Camden Park Estate
Have you ever wondered how gardens became established during colonial times?
You might be surprised that there were even catalogs of plants that grew in many large colonial gardens.
It’s a real treasure and rare to discover that a historical garden complete with dwelling is still around, but to find such a place that has remained with the same family is even rarer.
When you hear that growing in the garden is one of Australia’s trees, then you have an enticing combination.
Camden Park Estate Pic: Creative Commons
This estate is so interwoven into Australia’s Colonial history, that it would be unthinkable that it would be developed into blocks of apartments.
Let’s find out how this garden estate continues.
I'm talking with Stuart Read, committee member of the Garden History Society of Australia.

Stuart mentioned that you can view the old plant nursery catalogues online.
The website is
The Hortus (which is a collection) attempts to correctly identify, describe, illustrate and provide a brief history of all the plants grown at Camden Park between c.1820 and 1861.
You can also just look up when a certain plant came into cultivation in Australia.
For example the Hoop Pine entry in the Hortus reads
Hoop Pine Araucaria cunnimghamiana
Pic: Tatters @ Flickr

“‘Grows naturally in warm temperate riverine and costal rainforest or as a pioneer in subtropical forest, on poor soils from the Macleay River in N New South Wales to Townsville and offshore islands including New Guinea, occasionally close to the seashore. Widely grown in the nineteenth century in public parks and gardens; now rarely planted in SE Australia. […] The timber, grown in rainforest plantations in N New South Wales and S Queensland, is used mostly for plywood, but also for joinery, furniture and boat-building. More recently this species has been used experimentally for agroforestry.’”

If you have any questions either for me or for Stuart, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


VEGETABLE HERO has a problem.

So, you’re looking at your spinach and you see holes in the leaves, but they’re all uniform and perfectly formed, right?

What insect does that?
Or, are the stems or your Silverbeet have an ugly blackish brown stain down the middle of them?

Perhaps the leaves have got that rusty look, and definitely look some-one had a go with a blow torch?

Wait, have your cucumber leaves gone all white and crispy, then start turning brown and collapse in a heap in the veggie bed?

You probably have read or heard the advice that the most important things you can do to prevent fungal problems is to avoid overwatering, overhead watering and excessive fertilizing and keep your garden free of debris.

O.K. what about some of us that had all that rain?
Powdery mildew on Okra
Or you might’ve heard that you need to mulch well and avoid watering the leaves or splashing soil borne particles on the leaves.
One things for sure, you can water or fertilise away the problem.

Firstly what is this fungus thing anyway?

What causes fungal diseases?

  • Fungus are structures which produce spores. 
  • Disease‑causing fungi penetrate the plant for food during their growth stage, then produce spores which can, in turn, produce new fungus. 
  • The fungus feeds of your plants because not containing chlorophyll, it can’t make its own food. 
Did you know that there are two main types of spores ?
  • Short-lived spores which quickly produce new fungus to grow and spread through plants while there is plenty of food. 
  • These spores allow a fungal disease to spread very quickly during the growing season. 
  • Then there’s the Long-lived spores which are very hardy and allow a disease to carry over during periods of stress, for example when there is no food. 

So what does fungus love?

Which fungus shall I start with?

How about powdery mildew?
A fungal disease around a lot in spring and autumn when days are warm and nights are cool.
Powdery mildew is a white or grayish powdery/mouldy growth that you see on the leaves and new shoots.
Powdery Mildew on Cucumber Leaves: notice white powder covering the leaves and then the decayed leaves.
The leaves look deformed, and will always start to collapse, particularly on the cucurbit family, like Pumpkins, zucchini and cucumbers.
The leaves are never going to return to a normal appearance, so getting rid of them will help to stop the spreading of fungal spores.
Yes, that includes the ones that have fallen into a crumbled mess in the veggie bed.
Cercospora leaf spot on Swiss Chard: photo Scot Nelson Flickr

Fungal Leaf Spot

The next fungal problem I’m going to mention appeared on my spinach this year. That is Fungal leaf spot.

There are many types of leaf spot diseases that can affect beetroot, broad beans, carrots celery, peas, potatoes (early blight) silverbeet and tomatoes (targetspot).

Sometimes the leaf spots cause only slight damage, but other times they practically destroy the leaves of the plant in question.

How do I fix this?
  • Basically, if you’ve already got it, you can’t because as I mentioned, the leaves won’t return to normal, but you can stop the spread to other new leaves and other plants in the garden. 
  • All of these above symptoms signal fungal problems in the garden, a lot of which can be fixed with physical things like improving air circulation around the plants. 
  • You can also dig the problem leaves into the soil since sexual spores of the fungus won’t develop on buried leaves. 
  • In all cases, fungal problems can be treated organically 
  • You can try spraying with a good compost tea, or seaweed extract. 
  • Or secondly, try spraying with bi-carbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate) because it will also kill powdery mildew. 

RECIPE:To make mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 2 ½ tablespoons of vegetable oil with 4 litres of water.

TIP: The sodium in the baking soda will combine with chlorine in your water supply to form table salt (sodium chloride).

A better choice is  eco carb which contains potassium bicarbonate where the potassium becomes a plant nutrient. 



Useful and Beautiful Hedges

The “useful and beautiful” series is up to hedges.
You’re probably thinking that we’re going to be talking about Murraya paniculata, or just Murray or the colder growing version, Choisya ternata.
Perhaps you even thought we would talk Buxus or Lilly Pilly?
But no, we’ve chosen something completely different, after all, it has to be useful and beautiful.
Let’s find out what they are.
Choisya ternata, Mexican Orange Blossom
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of
PLAY: Useful & Beautiful Bulbs_28th February 2018
Peter mentioned shrub roses like Miss Lowes Rose, Bengal Crimson and Rosa sanguinea.
For more scent choose Rosa chinensis 1,000 lights.
Rosa sanguinea photo: T. Kiya from Japan
If you have any questions about hedges , either for me or for Peter or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675 


 Calliandra heamatocephala 
If someone told you that the flowers on a particular tree were like a powder puff, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that it was from a lily pilly.
Lily Pillies don’t hold the whole ball of wax on staminous flowers.
In fact if you think about it, gum trees have staminous flowers: that is, flowers that are made up of stamens but no petals.
Calliandra tweedii, Pom Pom bush
Today though, it’s another family that has this trait and it’s one to look out for.
Let’s find more.
I'm talking with Karen Smith of

Calliandra tweedii is also known as the Mexican Flame bush because of its fiery red flowers. 
Calliandra tweedii: Mixican Flame Bush photo: Magnus Manske

This is a much lower growing sub-shrub, to a height of 60cm x 1.2m
This variety of Calliandra has fern like foliage like all of the other Calliandra varieties.
The leaves are evergreen except in districts that experience a hard frost.
The leaves will then drop off, but the shrub will recover in Spring.
Like all Calliandras, in warmer areas the shrub will spot flower during all the warmer months.