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.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Cool Flowers Cooler Ginger and Cool Baby Tibouchina

What’s On The Show Today?

We’re going underground in the series “useful and beautiful” in Design Elements growing a tropical spice in Vegetable Heroes, a revolution in plant breeding in Plant of the week, plus this flower conveys courage and admiration in Talking Flowers.

Design Elements

Bulbs that are "Uuseful and Beautiful."
You could consider bulbs as ground covers, well some bulbs anyway because there is a pretty good range of different sizes when it comes to the actual resulting plant.
You may even think that most bulbs are useful and beautiful, but there’s some that perhaps stand out from the crowd.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of Paradisus Garden Design 

Hippeastrum papilio
Peter mentioned several cultivars of Hippeastrum which incidentally means Knight’s Lily Star.
Strangely though , no-ones sure exactly why William Herbert called it that.
Peter mentioned Hippeastrum aulicum, Hippeastrum papilio, Hippeastrum psittiacinum which is very ornamental.
Most of these are for the semi-shaded garden. 
You may want to try "selfing" or hand pollination to get new varieties between two different cultivars, that is, grow them from the resultant seed.
Also Drimmyopsis maculata which puts up with dry shade and makes a nice clump with its spotted leaves.
For full sun try Jacobean lily or Sprekelia.
If you have any questions about groundcovers, 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.


Ginger! Zingiber officianale

Ginger is in the Zingiberaceae family along with Turmeric and Cardamom.

Have you ever wondered about growing edible ginger?

For years I’ve wondered about growing the real deal ginger.
Of all the times I’ve bought the nobbly brown root, it’s never sprouted until now.
Probably because now I’ve bought organic ginger that’s not sprayed with stuff to prevent it from sprouting-some sort of growth retardant usually.

Before those of you in cooler climates get put off, I daresay, my own climate zone is a bit out of its range, but I’m growing it in a pot and so can you.
Indoors if we have to.
Sprouting Ginger
For those of you who don’t have a piece of sprouting ginger, mail order garden catalogues supply pieces of ginger that are sprouting between July and September usually. I’ll put links on my website and facebook.

If you’ve ever seen ginger in supermarkets, and all supermarkets have them, you’d know that it comes from the root of a plant that has lots of underground tubers with roots.

Edible Root or Rhizome?
  • Are you thinking that bit of edible ginger is the root, technically it’s not, but most of us think of it as ginger root. 
  • Tuber or rhizome is what is should be known as. 
  • Did you know that ginger has been around for at least 2000 years but mostly used in medicine rather than cooking? 
  • Did you also know that together with black pepper, ginger was one of the most commonly traded spices during the 13th and 14th centuries? 
  • Ginger is native to south China, but it was the Arabs who spread it around the globe by carrying rhizomes on their voyages to East Africa to plant at coastal settlements and on Zanzibar. 
  • Around the same time in England, ginger was much sought after, and one pound in weight of ginger was equivalent to the cost of a sheep. 

So what is Ginger? What does it look like already?
  • It’s a herbaceous perennial which grows annual stems about a meter or 1 ½ m tall with narrow green leaves and insignificant greeny-yellow flowers. 
  • The leaves are much narrower than Canna leaves, and look more like the leaves of bamboo. 
  • They’re also a very limey green. 
  • Zingibar officianale or ginger is a tropical plant as you’d expect so it doesn’t like frost, waterlogged soil direct sun and high winds. 
  • But if you’ve got a sheltered area, maybe on your back veranda, and rich moist soil, or some good stuff potting mix, you can get by growing ginger. 
  • If you’ve also got warmer weather and high humidity you definitely can grow ginger. 
  • From reading garden forums on the web, ginger does well in the ground in temperate climates as well. 
  • For most of us, growing ginger will mean growing it in pots. 
  • If you plonk it in cheap potting mix, don’t expect much. 
  • If you’ve got water storage crystals in the mix, that’s good, but if you’ve added some coir, that’s even better, because what ginger needs, apart from free draining potting mix, is a mix that has some water holding capacity 
  • In other words, potting mix that doesn’t dry out too quickly. 
  • If you’ve only got one sprouting rhizome, put it into a 20cm pot, if you have 3 put them in together into a large 35cm pot. 
  • You can also add one part of good compost to two parts potting mix, and that’s going to add some nutrients as well. 
  • For those gardens with tropical or sub-tropical climates you can put that piece of sprouting ginger straight into the garden after you dug in a spadeful of compost. That should be good enough. 
  • Put in your piece of ginger about 5cm below the soil surface. 
    Ginger growing in Sri Lanka
  • Remember, filtered sunlight not direct sun for the position. 
For cooler climates, your ginger plant can take full sun because it won’t be as intense for the most part as in the tropics.
Near a north facing wall is ideal so the plant can get reflected heat.
If it gets too hot in summer, move the pot into semi-shade if you can.
Also, for cooler districts, move it inside at the first signs of cold weather and don’t water it too much.
The best planting time is late winter/early spring, but if you’ve got a piece sprouting now, don’t waste an opportunity to garden, put it in anyway.

Ginger grows quite slowly and doesn’t mind being a little bit root bound if it’s in a pot.
A good thing about Ginger is that it won’t overtake your garden, because, it’s slow growing and after all, you’re going to be digging it up every year to harvest the rhizomes for your cooking.
Drying out will most likely set the plant back quite a bit, and even cark it so in hot weather keep up the water supply.
To supply humidity for arid climates, you’ll have to get out there with the spray bottle and spray it when you think of it, hopefully every day.
For those growing ginger in the ground, add plenty of mulch to keep the ground moist.

Ginger growing in pots will need fortnight feeds of liquid fertiliser if you haven’t added any controlled release or organic slow release fertilisers to the mix before planting. 

Now the most important question, when can you dig it up?
All books will say the best time to dig up your ginger plant is when all the long green leaves have died down, 8 – 10 months after you’ve planted it.
This is easy if you’ve been growing it in a pot, because you can tip the whole thing over and just pull it out.
For areas where ginger growing is out of its range, you might be best to leave it for a couple of years for the rhizome to build up in size before tipping it out.
Break up the rhizomes into smaller useable pieces and either store it in the freezer, or my tip is, put the pieces into some Chinese cooking wine or sherry in a resealable jar and place it in the fridge.
Doing it this way keeps it fresh for quite a few months.
Don’t forget to replant some rhizomes for your next years’ crop of ginger if you’ve been successful that is.

Why is Ginger Good for You?
Ginger is said to stimulate gastric juices, and provide warming and soothing effects for colds and coughs.
Ginger is an excellent natural remedy for nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness and general stomach upset due to its carminative effect that helps break up and expel intestinal gas.
Ginger tea has been recommended to alleviate nausea in chemotherapy patients mainly because its natural properties don’t interact in a negative way with other medications.
Ginger is a very good source of nutrients and essential vitamins.
It is also a good source of minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and copper.
Ginger also has Calcium Carbohydrate Dietary Fibre Iron Magnesium and Manganese, but wait there’s more.
Potassium Protein Selenium Sodium Vitamin C, E and B6
Many thanks to the tropical permaculture group for providing some of the growing information.



Tibouchina cultivars
Ever heard of a plant godfather? 
There surely is one, and he’s the godfather of these next plants because one, he discovered how to pollinate them, and two, he bred smaller more compact and cold tolerant varieties with outstanding colours . All of this meant that gardeners suddenly had a plant that was manageable in size and could be grown in areas of Australia where it hadn’t been known before.
Let’s find out all about it
I'm talking with  Karen Smith editor of Hort Journal mamagzine
Tibouchina "Cool Baby" Image courtesy of Plants Management Australia
The newer varieties of Tibouchina were
Groovy Baby with vivid purple flowers that grows to 40 cm.
Peace baby with white flowers and deep purple stamens that grows to 60 cm and Cool Baby has white and pink flowers on the same bush and grows to 45 cm.
If you have any questions about groundcovers, either for me or for Karen or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Family: PlantaginaceaeAntirrhinum majus
Where did it get its scientific name?
Not from a botanist this time. Derived from the Greek words "anti," meaning like, and "rhin," meaning nose, antirrhinum, because the snapdragon's botanical name reminded the botanist of a snout or nose.
When the flower is gently squeezed, it apparently makes the flower look like a dragon’s head.
A bit of a mystery exactly where this flower originated but most likely originally wildflowers in Spain and Italy.
Flower colours: Colour range is pastel to bright colours including pink, orange, yellow, peach, purple, white, red and bicolour.
In the studio is floral therapist Mercedes Sarmini of
Recorded during the live broadcast of Real World Gardener on 2rrr, 88.5 fm in Sydney

Saturday, 3 March 2018

All You Need to Know to Grow Basil Eat Gumbo and Grow Baby's Breath

What’s On The Show Today?

A spice used in Cajun cooking in the Spice it Up segment; growing the main ingredient for Pesto in Vegetable Heroes, continuing the series “useful and beautiful” with groundcovers for cool temperate climates in Design Elements plus this flower that convey innocence in Talking Flowers.


File' Powder
(Pronounced feelay)
Ever heard of a spice from the leaf of a tree?
The tree is Sassafras albidum and it originates in America.
File' powder is used a lot in Southern American cooking.
Sassafras albidum: Native to America

Ever heard of gumbo? 
It’s not something you chew but a dish from America’s south and in fact this spice s main attribute is to thicken the dish. I'ts a type of fish soup, very delicious I'm told.
Think New Orleans, Louisiana and Cajun cooking.
Let’s find out about it.

File powder is made from leaves of the sassafras tree. 
When ground, file powder smells like eucalyptus or juicy fruit gum.
File powder is a necessary ingredient for Cajun cuisine, especially Gumbo.
File' powder adds a sort of gummy consistency to the dish but it doesn't thicken in the way that cornflour thickens a dish.
File' powder has a similar effect to Okra, which in itself has no substitute.
Not only does it add an unusual flavor, the powder also acts as a thickener when added to liquid. 
You can use any ingredient you have to hand, not just fish. Chicken would be a good substitute.

Did you know that long before the use of file powder for Creole and Cajun cooking, Choctaw Indians pounded sassafras leaves into powder and added them to soups and stews.

If you have any questions about File' powder, either for me or for Ian, or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


BASIL: Ocimum basilicum

Would you believe basil is in the mint family?

If you check the stems of Basil plants, they’re square, like other members of the mint family.
Did yo know that the word basil comes from the Greek (basileus), meaning "king?”

Basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia and has been in used for the medicinal properties of its leaves and seeds.

Curiously, the Romans thought that basil would only have medicinal properties if it were planted while the sower was cursing.
Basil Types:
There are many varieties of Ocimum basilicum.
The type used in Italian cooking and the one you see most in the supermarket or for sale in garden centres is called sweet basil.

On the other hand Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. X citriodorum) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), mainly used in Asian cooking.

Although I must say, lemon basil is pretty fine in just about anything and I’ve made pesto from Thai basil and not felt it was too pungent.

Have you ever wonder why is each variety of basil so different in flavour from each other?

  • The reason is because of the different essential oils that come together in different proportions in each variety. 
  • The strong clove scent of sweet basil is derived from eugenol, the same chemical as in actual cloves. 
  • The citrus scent of lemon basil and lime basil has a higher portion of citral, which is also prominent in lemon mint, and, which gives actual lemon peel its scent. 
  • Licorice basil contains anethole, the same chemical that makes anise smell like licorice, and in fact is sometimes called "anise basil." 
  • If you grow your own, you can choose from the many different basils that you'll never find in the supermarket. 
  • Not just purple leafed basil, or giant lettuce leafed basil, lemon scented basil, aniseed basil, cinnamon basil, intensely fragrant small leafed basil, mild perennial Sacred basil that goes so well in Thai, Vietnamese, or perennial Greek basil. 
My perennial or bush basil has been growing in the same bed since 2006!

What does it look like?

Most of us are familiar with what basil looks like, but just to be sure basils oval shaped, opposite leaves, brown or black seeds (also called nutlets) and flower spikes, but flower colour and the size, shape, and texture of the leaves vary by species.

Leaf textures range from smooth and shiny to curled and hairy, and flowers are white to lavender/purple. Leaf colour can also vary, from green to blue/purple, and plants can grow to from 30cm to 1 ½ metres in height, depending on the species.

When is the best time to grow some basil?

For temperate and cool districts-September through to February, for sub-tropical and Arid zones, August to February, and for Tropical climates-all year round-you win the jackpot.

What do basil plants love?

Have you ever bought Basil from the supermarket and wondered why the leaves go black after about a week in the fridge?

  • That’s because Basil is very sensitive to cold and even in the garden, towards the end of summer if you get a cool spell, your Basil will drop it’s leaves and start to yellow. 
  • Yellow leaves towards the bottom of the plant are an indication that the plant has been stressed; usually this means that it needs more or less water, or less or more fertilizer. 
  • That’s also why gardeners in tropical zones can grow Basil all year, with best growth in hot, dry conditions. 
  • Basil behaves as an annual if there is any chance of a frost. 
  • You can sow Basil straight into the ground but I always find it’s much easier and more reliable to start off in punnets. 
TIP:Also, never throw out your out of date packets of Basil seed, because they’ll come up with a pretty good success rate. This is what I’ve found when starting them off in punnets.
  • Basil seed is tiny and can take several weeks to germinate, so if you grow your basil from seeds, the weeds may grow before the basil does in this weather unless you grow it in a pot of course…for all you savvy balcony gardeners. 
  • When you’re ready to plant out your Basil, find a well-drained spot or grow it in a pot. 
  • In the height of summer, four hours of sunlight is all that’s needed for Basil to grow. 
  • Some shade from the midday sun will stop the sun scorching the leaves. 
  • Give your basil frequent doses of liquid manure throughout the growing season to keep up leaf production because the more you feed the plant the bigger the leaves become, in fact underfed basil is less fragrant. 
  • The more you pick your basil the more you need to feed it. 
  • Basil has a very vigorous root system. 
  • If you grow basil in the garden then the basil roots will go and find what the plant needs. 
So even if the soil is not so great, you can still grow basil.

IMPORTANT: Taking Cuttings

  • TIP: If you’re having trouble getting Basil seed to germinate, you know Basil strikes easily from soft tip cuttings, 
  • One way to take Basil cuttings it to cut short stems and suspend them for two weeks or so in water until roots develop. 
  • The other way is to take a tip cutting off any plant at any time of the year. 
  • Cut off all the leaves except for the tiny ones that are emerging at the top and stick the thing in a pot. 
  • Keep it in partial shade and keep it moist. 
  • Basil cuttings root very quickly. Once the little basil plant is actively growing again you can plant it This is a good way of getting some of the more fancy varieties going, BECAUSE they seed they produce won’t be true to type. 
TIP:Once a stem produces flowers, leaf production stops on that stem, and the stem becomes woody, and essential oil production also declines.
To stop this from happening pinch off any flower stems before they are fully mature. 

One other thing: Pest Repellant
Basil is another herb that can also double as a pest repellent.
The pungent odour the basil leaves give off are what keep pests at bay.
And since all kinds of basil work to keep flies and mosquitoes at bay, feel free to explore and find the right types of basil to mix into your garden.

Why are they good for you?
Apart from the fact the Basil and tomatoes may perfect partners in cooking, Sweet basil is low in calories, has almost no fat, and is a good source of vitamin A and is very rich source of many essential nutrients minerals and vitamins AN D another thing--
Basil seeds, in particular, are high in dietary fibre .
Basil also includes flavonoids and antioxidants.



Useful and Beautiful:Plants that won't let you down.

We’re still doing ground covers but we’re now talking cold climates or cool temperate.
Sometimes these districts have rather harsh winters so you need a utility planting that withstand these conditions.
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of  Paradisus Garden Design

Peter mentioned Ceratostigma plumbaginoides which commonly called Plumbago but it’s not the common plumbago.
Ruscus aeculiatus or Butcher’s Broom which can be cut with hedge shears into a shape.
If you have any questions about groundcovers, 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.


Gypsophila paniculata: Baby's Breath: Soapwort
Easy to grow perennial.
The name is derived from the fact that all the flowers in this family grow well on soil high in gypsum, a mineral that makes the soil too thick and heavy for many other types of plants.
Will grow in sandy dry soil.
Etymology:The genus name is from the Greek gypsos ("gypsum") and philios ("loving")
These bright white dots symbolize
 Floral meaning:
Gypsophila paniculata: Baby's Breath
Everlasting and undying love, including family, platonic, and romantic bonds-used in wedding bouquets and centrepieces.
Pureness and freedom from outside influences or corruption
Easily grown from seed.
Gypsophila sets off other flowers
 Grow it in full sun or partial shade in alkaline soil.
  • Well suited to xeriscaping.
  • Makes a low-maintenance addition to the perennial garden.
  • Like lavender or catmint, baby’s breath creates a charming, soft look in the garden.
  • Because the plant blooms from early summer toAutumn it’s an excellent filler for hiding other perennials after they’re done flowering.
  • Pair it with delphinium, iris, columbine, poppies, yarrow and other cottage garden flowers.
I’m talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Video recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2rrr 88.5 fm in Sydney every Wednesday at 5 pm.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Roses Are Red, Radishes and Gloxinias Too

What’s On The Show Today?

Continuing the series “useful and beautiful” in Design Elements growing radishes of all kinds in Vegetable Heroes, orchids flowers on trees in plant of the week plus the world's most famous flower, the rose, in Talking Flowers.


Useful and Beautiful part 2
Groundcovers for shade.
Part 2 of a new series in Design Elements starts and it’s all about plants.
Gloxinia sylvatica

In fact it’s so much about plants that it’s been named ‘useful and beautiful.”

Last week we covered groundcovers for sun.
But now it's time for the shadier areas of your garden.

So sit back, with pen and paper and enjoy.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of

You may have inherited that large tree that gives plenty of shade but with root ridden soil.
So what will grow in only 200mm of top soil?
Farfugium japonicum Aureum-maculata : Leopard Plant
Peter mentioned Gloxinia Goldfish, Begonia domingensis, Farfugium japonicum aureum maculatum or Leopard plant, Nidularium innocentii , Streptocarpus, and Ruellia macoyana.

If you have any questions about groundcovers, 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.


Radishes or Raphanus sativus.

When was the last time you had radishes served up in a meal?
Can't remember?

Have you thought why we don’t see too many radishes being served up in salads these days except for the floral radish on the side? 

Yes, they seem to have gone out of favour but that’s about to change
The word radish stems from the Roman word “Radix” that means “Root”, and it belongs to the mustard family.

Did you know that radishes were first grown in China thousands of years ago, then in Egypt before the building of the pyramids.

In Ancient Greece the radish was so revered that gold replicas were made and offered to the god Apollo.

As usual there are myths and legends about eating vegetables throughout history and in England in the 1500’s, it was rumoured that eating radishes cured kidney stones, intestinal worms and gave you a blemish-free complexion.

But there is more than one way to grow radishes.

Radish seeds can be even grown in a sprouter and eaten just as you would eat mustard and cress or any other sprouted bean or seed.

Radishes grow in all climates and like to be in moist shady places, especially on hot summer days.

In autumn, you’ll have no trouble growing radishes in sunnier locations.

Plant them all year round in tropical and subtropical areas, in temperate zones they can be grown almost all year except winter, and in spring summer and autumn in colder districts.

Radishes will take light frost.

Because radishes are closely related to cabbages, so they need much the same type of thing.

The best thing about radishes though is that they’re quick being ready 6-8 weeks after planting and because of that you can plant them among slower growing vegetables like carrots.
How to Sow:
To sow seed, make a furrow about 6mm deep, lay down some chicken poo pellets or something similar, cover with a little soil and sprinkle in some radish seed. They also love a dose of potash.
Fill the furrow with compost or seed raising mix and water in.
Radish Seedlings
  • TIP Seedlings will appear in a couple of days but makes sure you thin them out to 5cm apart otherwise your radish won’t grow into a big enough sized root for the dinner table and you’ll end up with mostly leaf. 
  • Feed with a liquid fertiliser such as worm tea every week at the seedling stage. 
  • Tip: As radish is one of the fastest growing vegetables, too much fertiliser causes the leaves to outgrow the root. Long leaves have no shelf life, just look in your local supermarket 
  • Pick the radish when they are the size of a ten cent piece and leaves about four inches or 10cm long. 
  • Make sure radishes have enough water and don't let them become too enormous. If they are water deprived or get too big, they can become bitter. 
Here are some varieties to get you interested.

Radish Black Spanish Round: The radish chefs prefer, this unique black skinned radish has a delicate black circle around the pure white flesh when sliced. Can also be pickled.

Radish Watermelon You'll never see this one on the supermarket shelf. When you slice through the bland looking white exterior of this radish you’ll see that it looks like a mini watermelon with white 'rind' surrounding a bright pink interior. And it’s deliciously flavoured.
Radish Watermelon

Or you can buy an heirloom mix. This seed packet contains a kaleidescope of healthy bright round radishes that add a spicy punch to salads and sandwiches.
Includes golden Helios, Purple Plum, scarlet Round Red, pink and white Watermelon and Black Spanish.Radish
There’s also Champion cherry bell that has deep red skin and firm white flesh, good for cold districts.
Radish China Rose has a smooth rose coloured skin and is a great Chinese winter radish.
French breakfast is readily available, scarlet skin with a white tip, and a mild flavour. Ready in 28 days.
Plum purple is bright purple with crisp sweet firm white flesh.

The unusual varieties are available through mail order seed companies such as Eden seeds or 

Why are they good for you? 
Radishes are a very good source of fibre, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese.

Radishes are also mildly anti-inflammatory, which is another good thing. A diet containing anti-inflammatory foods can help to control inflammation in the body, which is an underlying factor of so many allergies and illnesses.


Bauhina x blakeana: Hong Kong Orchid Tree

We love our orchids because of the spectacular showy flowers, which can seem tricky to grow.
What if they were easy to grow and you didn’t have to fuss about the growing medium or the fertiliser?
Bauhina x blakeana: Hong Kong Orchid Tree
Would you want that? Of course.
Let’s find out .how.
I'm talking with Karen Smith editor of

The Hong Kong orchid tree was discovered by a monk in the 1800’s then propagated and grown in the Hong Kong Botanic gardens. 
The residents there thought it was such a lovely tree that it was planted out all along the coastline.
If you live in the tropical parts of Australia, say Darwin, then expect to see this tree in flower from February right through to November.
If you are planting from seed you can expect your Bauhinia to flower from a year to two from when it was a seedling.
If you have any questions about HK Orchid tree either for me or for Karen, why not write in to


Roses are Red......
 “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” 
But did you know that  the Latin expression "sub rosa"(literally, "under the rose") means something told in secret, and in ancient Rome, a wild rose was placed on the door to a room where confidential matters were being discussed?

Floral meanings of each colour:
  • Each colour offers a distinct meaning:
  • red, the lover's rose, signifies enduring passion; white, humility and innocence;
  • yellow, expressing friendship and joy;
  • pink, gratitude, appreciation and admiration;
  • orange, enthusiasm and desire;
  • white lilac and purple roses represent enchantment and love at first sight. 
Botanical Bite
All roses have a flower head that is round in shape and symmetrical across its face and down its vertical axis
The fruit of a rose is called a rose hip. The berry-like hip are usually red in colour, but can sometimes be dark purple or black.
The sharp spikes on the stem of a rose bush are usually called “thorns”.
However, these are actually technically prickles.

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Video taken live during broadcast of Real World Gardener program on 2rrr, 88.5 fm in Sydney, every Wednesday at 5 pm.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Useful and Beautiful Flowers and Sweet Corn

What’s On The Show Today?

A new design series starts named appropriately “useful and beautiful” growing corn in Vegetable Heroes, is there such as thing as environment history and what has it got to do with gardens, plus reconnect with lost loves in Talking Flowers.
Kalanchoe fedchenoi or Lavender Scallops


Useful and Beautiful: Groundcovers for full sun.
A new series in Design Elements starts and it’s all about plants.
Useful and Beautiful: Plants that don't fail for every situation, but plants that are not as common to make your garden outstanding.

This series will go through the different levels of planting in your garden starting in with ground covers for sun and shade, bulbs, sub-shrubs, hedges, bigger shrubs, small trees and climbers.
There’s quite a lot there but we will only cover one of those categories at a time.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of
Ruellia elegans
Peter mentioned mini mondo grass, Foxtail fern, Ruellia elegans or Kalanchoe fedchenkoi or Lavender Scallops as good ground covers for sun.
Next week the series continues with groundcovers for shade.
There’s always somewhere in the garden where you need that.
If you have any questions about groundcovers, 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.


Sweet Corn :Zea mays var. saccharata
Sweet Corn or  is a grass, native to the Americas.
Yep, a grass.
Sweet Corn Fruit
But wait, is Corn actually a vegetable, a grain, or a fruit.
Would you have guessed that corn is all of these?
It’s a vegetable because it’s harvested for eating;
a grain because it’s a dry seed of a grass species;
and a fruit because that’s the botanical definition.
That’s why Corn (Zea mays) is sometimes called a vegetable grain.

Did you know that a vegetable is defined as a plant cultivated for an edible part or parts such as roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds/fruit, corn is a vegetable?

If you wanted to be very picky, all cereal grains could be called vegetables, but for some reason the cereal grains are separated from the rest of the "vegetables" such as peas, lettuce, potatoes, cabbage
Corn has a long, long history.
Apparently tiny ears of corn have been discovered at ancient village sites on the Mexican plateau or the highlands of Guatemala.
Kernels dating back to 6600 BCE have also been found in caves in Mexico.
There’s even evidence that in central Mexico, about 7000 years ago, sweetcorn was domesticated from wild grass.
However, the fresh, or sweet corn, the kind we like to eat as corn on the cob, didn’t come about until the 1700s.
Along with wheat and rice, corn is one of the world’s major grain crops.
Would you have guessed that only 9 percent of all the corn grown is used to produce food for humans?
64% of all corn grown is used as feed for livestock.
Then there’s food manufacture which include corn meal and other food products such as cooking oils, margarine, and corn syrups and sweeteners (fructose) and breakfast cereals, flour.
But there’s also non-cooking uses such as dyes, paints, chemicals, Ethanol, a renewable fuel made from corn, has shown the possibility of becoming a major renewable fuel for the world’s automotive industry.
That’s just to name a few.

Much of the corn now grown around the world is genetically modified for herbicide and/or pest resistance, so a good reason to grow it yourself.

By the way, Popcorn is made from a corn variety that dries on the stalk, while the corn we eat on the cob is referred to as sweet corn.

When to Plant-

You can plant sweetcorn all year round in tropical and subtropical climates, for temperate and arid zones, from September to the end of January, and for cool temperate districts, October to the end of January.
Sweet Corn Sprouts

TIP: Before planting out your corn, soak the seeds in a shallow saucer of water overnight.
You can either sow the seeds directly into the garden, 25cm or a hand span apart in short rows 50-60 cm apart, or in seed trays.
Dig in some pelletized manure of some sort a couple of weeks before you plant the corn.
By sowing your corn seed directly into the garden you mightn’t always get a 100% germination rate; and you may have breaks in your rows, particularly if you’re growing the high sugar varieties.
Try growing your corn in seed trays or in punnets first, then transplant the seedlings out into the garden, when they are 50 to 75mm tall.
You’ll have complete rows then.

Corn being a grass has no nectar or odour to attract a physical pollinator.

In fact all grasses are wind pollinated, so sweetcorn needs to be planted closely for pollination.

Something you need to know.

If you’ve experienced partially formed cobs or a low amount of cobs it’s most likely a pollination problem.

  • Corn plants have separate male and female flowering parts.

  • The male flowers or tassel are at the top of the plant and female flowers or silks form the kernels on the cob.

  • Pollen grows on these tassels.
  • It then falls down onto the silks, or female parts of the plant.
  • Each silk is connected to a kernel of corn inside each ear.
  • If pollen reaches the silk, it causes a corn kernel to grow.
  • If a silk doesn't receive pollen, the kernel stays small.
Tip: Don’t wet the tassels as they emerge.

If you have a small garden and are in need of space, you could also plant climbing beans and cucumbers in between the rows of corn, the beans and cucumbers will climb up the corm stems, making a temporary trellis.

The seed for the beans and cucumbers need to be sown out at the same time as the corn.

Hints and Tips
  • A good tip is, once the corncob has been pollinated (the corncob tassels have gone brown and you can feel the cob forming) cut the top flower off about a 10cm up from the cob. Hopefully this will let the plant concentrate on feeding the cob, making it grow larger and sweeter.

  • Remember: Corn likes lots of compost, comfrey, old animal manures, liquid fertilisers and heaps of mulch (around the main stem of the plant) give them a good soak around the roots, every second day, depending on the weather conditions

  • Having a windy problem? Not you the corn.

  • Build a post and rail fence out of bamboo or tomato stakes by hammering them in 1.8 metres apart, around the perimeter and down the centre of the corn plot.

  • When the plants are a 1 metre high, horizontally tie (with wire) a stake or bamboo stick on to the stakes, like a top rail on a fence.

  • As the corn grows, lift the horizontal rail higher; this will more than support your corn from strong winds.

Sweetcorn forming on the stalk

There are a number of heirloom varieties of sweet corn and maizes with different shapes and sizes.
There are golf ball shapes, bantam and lady-finger shapes.
There are a large variety of colours; multi coloured, blue, red, white, purple and the typical golden yellows and not forgetting 'pop corn'.

What about trying Sweet Corn Honey and Cream F1?
Yes, it’s a hybrid but it’s so sweet it doesn't need cooking, with plump yellow and white kernels.
Harvest in 12 weeks.

Important tip: Sow the seeds when soil temperature is more than 20 C.

What’s the most asked question about growing sweet corn?

Q Poor germination and too few corncobs.
Poor Sweet Corn Pollination results in missing kernels

  • Can be caused by a number of problems. For example:
  • poor seed quality - if the seed is old or hasn't been dried or handled properly after harvest;
  • seed rots (Pythium and Rhizoctonia fungi);
  • planting into cool, wet soil, planting too deep and soil crusting.
  • Supersweet corn has lower vigour than normal sweet corn and needs warmer soil to germinate, but generally has poorer germination ability than normal sweet corn.
  • Uneven plant stands can also be caused by soil crusting and insects, mainly cutworms and wireworms;
  • Nematodes, particularly root lesion nematodes, are often associated with poor crop establishment and growth.

Why is it good for you?
As corn cobs mature they develop more starches and sweet corn is one of the few vegetables that is a good source of the kind of slowly digested carbohydrate that gives you long-lasting energy.
Corn is an excellent source of dietary fibre vitamin C and niacin (one of the B group vitamins) and folate (one of the B group vitamins)
Corn is also good source of potassium to help balance the body’s fluids if you eat salty foods.


Dahlias are perennials  related to sunflowers and Asters in the Asteraceae family.

Dahlias can be grown from seed, eg Pom Pom Dahlias, but mostly the large flowered varieties are grown from tubers that are sown in Autumn for Summer flowering.

Like all members of the Asteraceae family, the flower head is actually a composite with both central disc florets and surrounding ray florets. Each floret is a flower in its own right, but is often incorrectly described as a petal.

Where they came from:
The wild Dahlias originally grew in Mexico and other South American countries, primarily in mountainous valleys that were protected from harsh conditions in the spring and summer.
One species Dahlia pinnata is the national flower of Mexico.
Some floral meanings
  • ·         Staying graceful under pressure, especially in challenging situations
  • ·         Drawing upon inner strength to succeed
  • ·         Traveling and making a major life change in a positive way
  • ·         Standing out from the crowd and following your own unique path
  • ·         Commitment to another person or a certain ideal
  • ·         Warning someone about a potential betrayal.

I’m talking with Mercedes Sarmini
Video recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener on 2rrr 88.5 fm in Sydney

Sunday, 11 February 2018

How to Get More Out of Your Flowers and Veg Plus a Brown Booby.

What’s On The Show Today?

Find out the components of fertilisers, grow a love apple in Vegetable Heroes, all about no –dig gardening in part 2 of starting from scratch in this new series in Design Elements, plus a ray of sunshine in Talking Flowers.


Sula leucogaster Brown Booby
It’s not just seagulls that frequent our shores but Australia is home to one of the world’s most spectacular divers.
Brown Booby
This bird is seen around harbours, river mouths and the like where they are partial to roosting on moored boats, channel markers and other structures.
I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of
Let’s find out about it .

Their flight is fairly distinctive - alternating between a few flaps and a glide, often low over the water.
Did you know that the Brown Booby can accelerate up to 90 kph?
The booby’s sleek and velvety profile serves a double purpose, for not only is it aerodynamically adapted for speed in the air, but it is also aquadynamically adapted for swiftly penetrating the surface waters of the ocean.
Brown Boobies on top of piers
"In Australia, the Brown Booby is found from Bedout Island in Western Australia, around the coast of the Northern Territory to the Bunker Group of islands in Queensland with occasional reports further south in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria (Marchant & Higgins 1990). The species is reported further south to Tweed Heads, NSW, and to near Onslow, Western Australia and may be becoming more common in these areas." (ref Birds in Backyards.)
If you have any questions about the Brown Booby, either for me or for Holly or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


All About Pollination

The reason this topic is being mentioned is because although gardeners realise that pollination is vital in a plants reproductive cycle so that seeds, fruit or veg is formed.

The problem is though, gardeners often struggle with the question,
“ why haven’t I got fruit on my zucchini plant, when there’s plenty of flowers, and plenty of bees buzzing around.?
Substitute what fruit or vegetable that you’ve had trouble with getting it to fruit in place of that zucchini.
Bee on flower
Sometimes it seems so random, for example, last year, I had plenty of flowers on my passionfruit vine, but not a single passionfruit.
This year, though, there’s plenty of passionfruit.
So what happened?

First , let’s start with what is pollination

To simplify things, during plant reproduction, pollination is when pollen grains move from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another flower.

Regular flower part
Silk of Sweet Corn
  • Insects can pollinate flowers, and so can the wind. 
  • Insect-pollinated flowers are different in structure from wind-pollinated flowers. 
  • Insect pollinated flowers are large and brightly coloured, mostly scented and with nectar. 
  • All of this is needed to attract the insects. 
  • The pollen grains are sticky or spiky so that they stick to the insect good and proper. 
  • Inside the flower, the anthers are stiff and firmly attached so that they remain in place when an insect brushes past. 
  • The stigma, usually higher than the anther, has a stick surface to which pollen grains attach themselves when an insect brushes past. 
  • Wind pollinated flowers are often small, dull green or brown with no scent or nectar. 
  • The flower usually has hundreds of thousands of pollen grains that are smooth and light so that they can easily be carried by wind without clumping together. 
  • Anthers are outside the flower, and usually loos and long. All the better to easily release pollen grains.

    Grass flower parts.
  • The stigma is also outside the flower and looks more like a feather duster so it can more easily catch those drifting light pollen grains.
  • That’s important to remember if you think about sweet corn which is from the grass family and therefore wind pollinated. 
  • When it comes to insect pollinated flowers, the different heights of the anther and the stigma is designed by nature so that the plant avoids self-pollination or inbreeding. 

Did you know that most plants are hermaphrodites because they have both male and female parts in the same flower?

Even corn is a hermaphrodite but because it’s in the grass family, it has separate male and female flowers on the same plant rather than on different plants like Spinach.

In Corn the male flowers are position above the female flowers, ie, silks, below containing the ears.
The flowers are self-compatible with pollen being spread by wind and not insects.
This means it’s subject to inbreeding depression, so seed saves need to replant at least a hundred plants for true to type maintenance.
Pumpkin and zucchini is another variation in that the separate male and female flowers are on the same plant and are self –compatible just like corn, but relying on insects.
Without insects to transfer the pollen there would be no fruit.

Did you know that our favourite vegetable, the tomato, is a hermaphrodite too?
Botanists call the flowers of tomatoes, perfect flowers because they have male and female flowers within the same flower.
That means they are self-pollinating and don’t need cross-pollination by wind, birds or insects.

Now to that sticky question, “why isn’t my plant fruiting?”

  • There’s plenty of flowers and insects but still no fruit. 
  • Weather conditions are key factors in successful pollination. 
  • High humidity creates sticky pollen which does not transfer well. 
  • Plants in the cucurbit family rely on honeybees for pollination, and honeybees do not fly in cool, cloudy weather. 
If you need to you can hand pollinate the cucurbit’s flowers.
  • As temperatures reach the high 20's and the humidity level is also high. the success rate for pollination declines. 
  • A heat wave in the thirties, will result in poor if any, pollination. 
  • When the weather is very hot and dry with temperatures over 29 C, the pollen becomes very dry and isn't easily transferred. 
To help with fruit set, try misting the flowers with water occasionally and keep up the mulch around the base so the plants don't dry out too much. 
This is common with many plants, especially with more northerly climates. 
The cure, shade covers .
Passionfruit flower with fruit in background.
  • Another factor is plant stress: 
  • In nature when a plant is under stress, it will not produce fruit. 
  • Or, it will abort existing fruit. 
  • It’s a survival mechanism, allowing a plant to focus upon survival first. 
  • That stress is caused by: 
  • Water Too little or too much water. 
  • The Cure: Keep soil consistently moist, not wet and not dry. 
  • Soil pH imbalance pH levels are too high, or too low. 
The Cure:: Get your soil tested. Alter pH levels as indicated by the test.
And if you don’t have enough insects like bees visiting your garden, you know what to do, plant more bee and other insect attracting plants like Borage and Alyssum around your garden.


China Aster or Michaelmas Daisy.
Belongs in the Asteraceae family. Aster means Star in Latin.
Aster novae angliae Barrs Pink
China Aster is the September birth flower and the 20th wedding anniversary flower.
Common flower meanings are:
  • ·         Patience
  • ·         Love of Variety
  • ·         Elegance
  • ·         Daintiness
  • ·         Afterthought  (or the wish things happened differently).
  • ·         Purple asters symbolize wisdom and royalty, and are the most popular colour.
  • ·         White asters symbolize purity and innocence.
  • ·         Red asters symbolize undying devotion.
  • ·         Pink asters symbolize sensitivity and love.

 A Greek Legend
The ancient Greeks have got it all when it comes to romance and mysticism with their stories about various Gods.

It all started with the ancient Greeks burning aster leaves to ward off both snakes and evil spirits.
According to Greek mythology, when the god Jupiter decided to flood the earth to destroy the warring men, the goddess Astraea was so upset she asked to be turned into a star.
Her wish was granted, but when the flood waters receded she wept for the loss of lives.
As her tears turned to stardust and fell to earth, the beautiful aster flower sprung forth.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Video recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener on 2RRR, 88.5fm