Saturday, 8 December 2018

Ice Plant, Beans, Aggies and Parlour Palms

What’s on the show today?

Fixing bean problems in Plant Doctor, Growing something unusual and salty in Vegetable Heroes;  grow this palm instead of the weedy Cocos palm in Plant of the Week and all about Agapanthus in the Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.?


Problems with Beans
Beans are such an easy crop to grow, but if you live in a district where the weather plays havoc with your veggie garden, you could be in for a bit of trouble with your beans.
Perhaps it’s not just disease but a horde of insects have descended.
Powdery mildew on beans

Let’s find out what you can do about this.
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from OCP’s

Whitefly, thrips and aphids control with eco oil or soap based spray to.

Possibly bean fly damage on leaf
Beanfly, is much harder to control, is cultural. If you don't pick off affected leaves, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will tunnel into the stems of the bean plants.
You may as well pull them out at this stage as there is no control.

Caterpillars can be picked off or use Dipel.
Powdery mildew can be controlled with potassium bicarbonate spray such as eco Carb.
Other diseases, such as rusts and leaf spots is better prevented with cultural methods because chemical control is difficult and mostly ineffective.
Good sunlight is best for beans so not near overhanging trees.
No pods but plenty of flowers?
The main reason for no pod set is very hot weather.
Steve says, just be patient and wait for the weather to cool.
Of course, encourage pollinators into your garden with plenty of flowers near your veggie bed.
If you have any questions, either for me or for Steve, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


A succulent in vegetable heroes?
Yes it’s true.
Salty Ice Plant or Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Native to Europe and Africa but has naturalised in the Southern parts of Australia, extending as far north as Exmouth on the Western Australian coast.
According to CSIRO  Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is found on wide range of soil types, from well-drained sandy soils (including sand dunes), to loams and clays.
Salty Ice Plant  isn’t fussed about soil pH and can even tolerate nutritionally poor or saline soils.
“In the natural state,  Salty Ice plant or M. crystallinum appears to be tied to climatic factors, and is most common in years of relatively high winter-spring rainfall.
Why should you grow this Salty Ice Plant?
  • As far as the home gardener goes this plant is rare and exclusive.
  • But there’s more.
  • It’s highly ornamental, has a creeping or prostrate growth habit  and is great in a pot.
  • It’s very attractive and can withstand environmentally tough conditions, plus the glistening succulent leaves look like they are covered in frozen icy bumps.

M. crystallinum flowers from spring to early summer 

Flowers open in the morning and close at night, and are insect pollinated.
The Ice Plant has a tendency to go a pinkish or rosy-red colour in hot dry conditions and this, in itself, makes it an attractive plant.
The fresh sap of the Ice Plant was found to be a great remedy for all manner of skin complaints and could be added to baths or extracted and made into ointments and creams.
It’s not just another succulent that’s growing in your garden but you can use it in cooking.
It’s a fact:Salty Ice Plant is the ultimate salty garnish chefs use for fish dishes and to balance sweet flavours.
It’s A Very Different Plant
  • Botanically speaking it’s also quite novel because it seems to be able to switch between two modes of growing.
  • I need to mention here that your normal every day tree shrub or groundcover is what’s termed a C3 plant.
  • That means it needs sunlight to carry out photosynthesis which it converts to sugars, taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen.
  • Salty Ice plant grows like this when conditions are good meaning there’s plenty of rainfall.
  • Another method that plants can grow by is called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM for short.
  • CAM plants shut their breathing pores or stomata during the day but open them at night to take in CO2 which is stored.
  • This CO2 is released inside the plant during the day and even though the breath pores are closed, it can carry out photosynthesis.
  • Also, as the breathing pores are closed, that means that water loss is minimal during the heat of the day.
  • How clever is that?

Plants that can do this are very drought tolerant and plants that can switch from one mode of photosynthesis to another are pretty exceptional.
For Salty Ice plant, it switches to CAM metabolism when it experiences salinity and drought.
So how come it’s called salty ice plant?

What makes it glisten in the sun?
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum accumulates salt throughout its life, in a gradient from the roots to the shoots, with the highest concentration stored in epidermal bladder cells.
Epidermal cells are just below the leaf’s surface and it’s these bladder cells with the stored salt that give the leaves that glistening ice crystals look.
Bladder cells glisten in the sun on salty ice plant.
There’s a few uses for salty ice plant.
Firstly the leaves of M. crystallinum are edible and the seeds can also be eaten.
Secondly, and perhaps more unusual, the crushed leaves can be used as a soap substitute and has some medicinal uses (Plants For A Future - Species Database, 1997-2003).
Not surprisingly, Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is also used as a model in plant physiologic research (Bohnert and Cushman, 2000),
When to sow:
In all districts the best time to sow the seeds is in Spring.
Sow the seeds in punnets first only just covering the seed and put them in a plastic container, or in a mini-greenhouse.
When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts.
Seedlings are prone to damp off so should not be over watered and should be kept in a very sunny well-ventilated position
You can easily grow Salty Ice plant in any ordinary well-drained garden soil. Salty Ice plant won’t grow in shade can grows in soils that aren’t that fertile such as sandy soils.
It’s not very hardy in cool temperate climates and will be killed even by a light frost.
Plants have few problems with pests or diseases though as I mentioned the young plants are prone to root rot and damping off unless given plenty of ventilation and dry growing conditions.
TIP: Leaves and stems - raw or cooked. They can be used as a spinach substitute. The leaves have an acid flavour, they are thick and very succulent with a slightly salty tang. They can also be pickled like cucumbers or used as a garnish.

Common ice-plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) is a significant environmental weed in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, and an environmental weed in Tasmania and New South Wales.
So if you intend to grow it in your vegie or herb garden, make sure it doesn’t set seeds.
Why are they good for you?
The fresh sap of the Ice Plant is apparently a great remedy for all manner of skin complaints and could be added to baths or extracted and made into ointments and creams.
Juice extracted from the leaves are astringent and mildly antiseptic.
You can mix the juice with water and use it as a gargle to relieve laryngitis, sore throat and mouth infections.


Parlour Palm: Chamaedorea elegans
Do you love or hate palm trees?
The gardening community is divided into two groups, those that love the palm trees and those that hate them.
Probably because people persist in growing the environment weed, the cocos palm, which although grows really fast, is particularly ugly.
I'm talking with the plant panel:Jeremy Critchley of and Karen Smith, editor of
Let’s find out.

You can keep the parlour palm indoors for many years, but planted out in the garden under other leafy palms or larger leaved shrubs, it grows as a bushy alternative to the single trunks of most other palms.
If it gets too tall for the room, give it a trim because being multi-branching, there's no risk of killing of the leader.
Plus, you don’t have dropping palm fronds like you do with cocos palms and a few others.

If you have any questions about parlour palms, why not write in to


Agapanthus spp:
Agapanthus praecox
You can see straightaway why Agapanthus has the nickname ‘flower of love’.
The Greek word ‘agape’ means love, and ‘anthos’ means flower.

How to pick your Agapanthus flowers for the vase.
 Agapanthus flowers are normally picked when the bud bract has fallen off and no more than three florets are open.
Stalks are cut near their base with a sharp knife.
Remember what Mercedes says: If it's from a bulb, rhizome or cor, then it's Mr Agapanthus.
Mr Agapanthus wears sneakers, so we cut the stems straight across the bottom of the stalk.
If you don't want the pollen to drop onto your tablecloth, cut off the stames before they "fluff."
If you're buying Mr Agapanthus, make sure that flowers are of proper maturity. 
If the neck of flowers is bent upward, they have been transported at warm temperatures and have responded to gravity.

In the Garden:How to care for aggies
Cut off the old flower spikes after the flowers fade and before they begin to dry and set seeds. Snip through the stem with shears near its base, where it emerges from the plant.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 2RRR 88.5fm, Sydney.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Beauty in Flowers on Trees and in Vases

NZ Flax plant

What’s on the show today?

What’s the link between NZ and Australian plants we ask in the Garden History segment? Growing a summer type of spinach in Vegetable Heroes; , plus a which is the best flowering gum in Plant of the Week and more floral happenings in Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.


New Zealand Plants in Australia
You may not know that Australia was once joined to New Zealand.
Does this explain some plants that are similar because they were left when the continents drifted apart ever so slowly?
Or was it the fashion of the day to bring over plants from other countries when the colonials started setting up their ornamental gardens?
Let’s find out why NZ plants have made their mark.
I'm talking with Stuart Read who’s a member of the National Management Committee of the Australian Garden History Society.

New Zealand plants it turns out, mostly came across to Australia in the 1800's.
Phormium tenax, or New Zealand flax plant is one example; this plant remains fashionable today because of its sculptural qualities that fit into modernist homes.
Apart from failing to learn the techniques of rope making using flax, gardeners even today, use this plant far and wide, not just in Australia.
Cordyline australis or Palm Lily is another example, called Torquay palm in England because they think it's theirs.
The australis part of the scientific name reflects that it is from Australia, but in this case means "of the south" in a general sense.
Cabbage tree or palm lily has an exotic look and the buds of which were cut off and used as boiled cabbage.
Having more than one growth bud, it didn't kill off the plant.
Stuart remembers how the streets were lined with NZ Christmas bush where he grew up.
Plants in the myrtle family have many similarities, for example, Pohutakawa or NZ Christmas bush has the same type of flowers as our lilly pillies and bottle brush.

If you have any questions, either for me or for Stuart, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


SILVERBEET or Beta vulgaris is grown as a leaf vegetable in Australia. 
Did you know that although the silver beet leaves are eaten like spinach, the stems may be cooked like celery?
The seedlings can also be served in salads.
Although it looks like true spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.), silver beet has a larger, coarser, milder tasting leaf.
It is also more tolerant of cold, heat, drought and disease.
What Is Perpetual Spinach?
As silver beet doesn’t easily go to seed during hot weather, it is grown in summer.
Did you also know that what’s sold as perpetual spinach, whether plants or seeds, is actually a type of silverbeet?
Perpetual Spinach is called that simply because it looks like and tastes similar to real spinach and so that name has become the norm for over a century.

The scientific Name is Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris.
Common Name: Silverbeet 'Perpetual Spinach',
Whereas, true spinach is Spinacia oleracea.
You might be surprised to learn that another name for chard is in fact ‘perpetual spinach.”
So Where Did It Come From?
Silver beet, a leafy relative of beetroot, comes from the coasts of Portugal, Spain and the Mediterranean islands. From there it spread to Britain and then to Australia and New Zealand.
The stems can be white, red, pink, orange or yellow. The leaves may be smooth or crinkled.
Leaf colours vary from light to dark green to deep red.
In general, the paler the leaf colour the milder the leaf flavour.
Silver beet is a biennial plant meaning it should last for a couple of years in your garden.
In the wild it grows leaves in its first season and produces seeds in the second season after germination.

Silverbeet prefers a shaded aspect that is sheltered.
Although it copes with strong winds, they can cause some leaf damage.
Will It Grow In A Pot?
If you want to grow Silverbeet in a pot, it must be quite deep, so a tall pot would suit quite well.
Silver beet does well in a wide range of climates, even in sub-tropical, temperate and cold temperate climates.
Varieties of Silverbeet
Fordhook Giant and Fordhook have broad, white stems and heavily crinkled, dark green leaves. 
Both these varieties are grown over the warmer months.
How to Sow
Silver beet can be direct sown or transplanted.
Silverbeet Seeds are Knobbly. Why?

  • Did you realise that the light brown, knobbly thing in the silverbeet packet, has two to six seeds?
  • That’s called a cluster seed, which is actually a dried fruit.
  • The cluster seed is sown ½  cm deep in the soil or into seed trays for transplanting.
Don’t let the soil or seed raising mix dry out  until the silver beet seedlings emerge, usually in about 10 days.
Thin them out when the silverbeets are 5cm high and use the thinned out seedlings in stir fries.
Silver beet needs plenty of nitrogen and water for the fast growth of large, well-shaped, tender leaves.
Commercial growers often enrich their soils with large quantities of animal manures, composts or green manures.
That means, alfalfa or lucerne is grown first to put lots of nitrogen into the soil with their nitrogen fixing nodules.
Don’t use fresh animal manures because the animal manures need to be composted to avoid spoiling the silver beet leaves with food poisoning micro-organisms.
Applying some blood and bone fertiliser before sowing gives silverbeet crops a good start, especially on sandy soils.
  • Here’s another interesting fact about silverbeet.
  • Did you know that the leaves are 93% water?
  • If you’re growing it in full sun, your plant will probably wilt in the summer heat.
  • That’s because it might stand up to summer weather but it’s not drought-resistant.
  • Keep it really well watered to prevent wilting.
  • Don’t worry if you come home and find it flopped over, it will recover after watering.
  • Sprinkler irrigation is the preferred method for silver beet as it encourages leaf growth.
  • However, good irrigation timing is needed to prevent leaf diseases from occurring with sprinkler irrigation.
The Most Common Disease of Silverbeet
  • The one fungal disease I have noticed on my silverbeet crop is called Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora beticola Sacc.) and is the most common fungal disease.
  • It produces light grey spots with brown margins on the older leaves. These spots fall out and create holes in the leaves.
  • The disease is favoured by high temperatures (24° to 30°C), high humidity or long periods of leaf wetness.
  • Cercospora leaf spot comes from several different ways into your garden.
  • It could be from diseased host crops or weeds growing near the silver beet, the environmental factors I mentioned, or a slight possibility that  it was from infected seed,.
  • If you do get this problem, don’t grow silverbeet in that spot for another 3 years.

Silverbeet can be cut and come again with multiple pickings.
The outer leaves are picked by pulling them down to 2.5 cm above the plant base, leaving the central leaves behind.

Pulling rather cutting the outer leaves reduces the amount of leaf damage in later pickings.
Silverbeet is ready in about 8 weeks and when the leaves are about the size of a ruler, ie, 30cm long.
Why is silverbeet good for you?
Like many leafy green vegetables, silverbeet has high levels of magnesium, calcium, vitamin K, iron, potassium, vitamin A –
vitamin A rich foods are great for a smoker or passive smoker. 
This is because a carcinogen found in cigarette smoke induces Vitamin A deficiency,
Eating a diet rich in Vitamin A may reduce the chances of developing lung inflammations.
Silverbeet is also rich in folate (folic acid), zinc, copper, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and vitamin E. 


Grafted Eucalypt Trees: Corymbia ficifolia

Would you like a tree that provides you stunning colour that you could also cut for your vase?
A tree whose flowers cover the leaves like a coloured blanket?
Better still, these trees don't grow much over 3 - 5 metres in height.

Of course you do, and if you have thought of it before, you’ll definitely want to grow this after you hear why it’s so good.
I'm talking with the plant panel : Jeremy Critchley of and Karen Smith, editor of
Let’s find out.

PLAY: Corymbia ficifolia_21st November_2018
The Plant Panel recommends that if your tree is suckering like Karen’s one, keep removing the suckers with secateurs, otherwise they will take over and possibly result in the death of the upper part, which is the scion.
  • TIP: When you plan to purchase a grafted eucalypt, make sure you check the graft union so that the top and bottom is equally matched.
If you have any questions about grafted eucalypts, why not write in to


Classic cut Flowers.
Mercede's definition of a bouquet of classic cut flowers is 'high end' cut flowers.
Think Ms Hydrangea, Ms Stephanotis,Mr Tuber Rose.
It's not just flowers though, there are berries that are incorporated into a bunch of classic flowers.
Try Ms Hypericumred or green berries. Hypericum androsaemum, also referred to as Tutsan, Shrubby St. John’s Wort , or sweet-amber, is a flowering plant in the family Hypericaceae. It is a perennial shrub reaching up to 70 cm in height, native to open woods and hillsides.
Also suitable are Ms Crab -Apple. Some florists say the perfect bouquet consists of crabapple, pepperberries and red/orange roses. 
How to treat Ms Hypericum:

  • Slit the woody ends and then soak them in a bucket of warm water for 3 to 4 hours so they can absorb as much moisture as possible. Strip off any leaves that will be under the water level in their container, fill it up with more water and place them in a cool, dimly lit room until the buds swell and begin to show color. 
Ms Stephanotis is a high end cut flower.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

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

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Country Cut Flowers With Secateurs

What’s on the show today?

Find out why you really need more than one type of secateurs in Tool Time.; What vegetable is really a fruit and it’s not a tomato in Vegetable Heroes; , plus a exotic plume flower in Plant of the Week and flowers that spell a country theme in Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.


Secateurs times three
Are you a one type of secateurs gardener?
Did you know that you could be doing yourself a disservice by only having one pair of secateurs?
Especially if you’re a keen gardener who’s out there most days doing something in the garden even if it’s only thirty minutes.
Let’s find out what other types you could use?
I'm talking with Tony Mattson from

Anvil vs By-pass vs snips are the three main types of secateurs.
Anvil secateurs: Cut above tools
  • The anvil type of secateurs can best be described as having an upper blade that cuts down onto a lower flat area. Much like a knife onto a cutting board. 
  • The upper blade can be sharp on one or both sides. 
  • Did you know that the majority of ratchet secateurs are anvil based because they need to be able to cut up to 28 - 30 mm thick branches.
  • These are best for thicker, harder stems such as chopping up branches to go into the compost bin. Good for either either a right hand or a left hander. 
  • For bypass secateurs the blade is going past the anvil at the bottom. More suitable for softer plant tissue and using on live wood or plant tissue. 
    By-pass secateurs: Cut above tools
  • Note: only sharpen the outside edge of the cutting blade.
  • Good for sharp, precise cuts.
Snips are good for florists and those gardeners that like to propagate plants, as well as for cutting flowers. 

If you have any questions, either for me or for Tony why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Capsicum: Capsicum annuum
This weeks Vegetable Hero is the Capsicum or botanically-Capsicum annuum or Bell Pepper or Sweet Peppers if you’re in America and Capsicums if you’re in Australia, and Pimento if you’re from Spain.
Capsicums are from the Solanaceae family,  together with tomatoes and eggplants.
So how did they get to be called Capsicums?
Probably from the Greek word kapto,  which means to "to bite" or "to swallow."
You may already know that tomatoes are classified as fruits by Botany, but so are capsicums.
That’s right, just like the tomato, Capsicums are botanically fruits, but most people would think of them for cooking and eating to be vegetables.
Did you know that fossilized grains of Capsicums were found on grinding stones and cooking pots used in the Americas some 4000 years ago? (that’s Mexico, Central America and northern South America,)
Christopher Columbus of course was mostly responsible for exporting capsicums, along with potatoes to the rest of the world in the 1400’s.
Did you also know that there are 30 species of capsicum in the world, but only five of these have been grown in home gardens?
All of the others are wild capsicums that still grow mainly in South America, such as in Brazil.
Just recently two new capsicum species were discovered in Bolivia.
What do they look like?
Capsicums grow on a medium sized bush with one or two main stems, mid green pointed leaves up to 1 metre, with little white flowers.
The flowers need to get pollinated before capsicums start appearing.
Then as the capsicums grow, they change from green through to red but can be harvested at almost every stage.
When to Sow
Some of you may have already made a head start on sowing the seeds of  Capsicums because they take ages to grow and because of the long lead up time before the capsicum is ready to eat.
But there’s still time.
If you live in temperate zones around Australia, zones you have from August  until the end of December to sow the seeds of capsicums.
If you live in cool temperate districts, September until November, are the times you start your capsicums from seed, preferably undercover somewhere.
In arid areas, September is a good time to sow the seeds under cover, but from then on you can plant them directly into the ground right until next April.
In warmer sub-tropical and tropical areas, you can sow Capsicums almost all year, from June until next March. 

Capsicum seeds may seem harder to germinate than tomatoes but there’s a reason.
All capsicum seeds need higher temperatures than tomatoes to germinate-in the 230C to 280C range.
For some gardeners, capsicum seeds seem a difficult seed germinate, and even if you’re a gun gardener, seedlings grow slowly.
The other drawback is that it takes 70-90 days or 2 1/2 to 3 months for your capsicum to mature, depending on the variety you’re growing.
As the bushes start to grow tall and produce fruit, they can fall over causing the stem to break so stake them up using strips of stockings to tie them on.
Have you ever wondered about those capsicums that get crack lines in the skin?
How did they get there?
The fruit of capsicums can grow quite quickly if they’re watered and fed regularly. 
But, if the soil is allowed to dry out too often or they don’t get enough food, the fruit can get crack lines on the skin. 
That’s because the capsicum grew quickly, then stopped, grew quickly and then stopped again! 
These are still edible, they just don’t look as nice.
The colour can be green, red, yellow, orange and more rarely, white and purple or chocolate brown, depending on when they are harvested and the specific cultivar.
Green capsicums are less sweet and slightly more bitter than red, yellow or orange ones.
But they take longer to grow of course, that’s why they’re so much more expensive in shops than the green ones.
The sweetest capsicums are those that have been allowed to ripen fully on the plant in full sunshine, while those that are picked when green and ripened in storage are less sweet.
After you get your seedlings going, pick a spot in the got that is the hottest-with the longest hours of sunshine.
Do the usual by, adding plenty of compost, manure, and a general fertilizer.
In cooler districts, transplant young seedlings outdoors after the last chance of frost.
If the weather is still cool, delay transplanting a few days, and keep them in a cold-frame, indoors or next to the house.
Capsicums don’t like to dry out and actually prefer moist but not wet soil and don’t like extreme changes in the weather.
It mightn’t seem important now, but months down the track, water regularly as the weather warms up.
When your capsicum plants start to get bigger and small flowers appear, switch over to a fertilizer higher in Phosphorous and Potassium.
Something like tomato feed should do the trick.
You don’t want just all bush and no plants do you?
 Tip:Capsicums are self pollinators.
Occasionally, they will cross pollinate from pollen carried by bees or other insects.
If you don’t want hot capsicums, don't plant hot chillies too close.
Don't worry though, as it won’t affect the fruit of this year's crop.
The cross will show up in the genetics of the seeds, if you save them.
Capsicums and chilli peppers are almost identical except for the level of Capsaicin which gives chillies and some peppers that “hot”sensation.
Martha has emailed this question about growing Capsicums.
Why are my leaves going yellow and falling off?
Well Martha, leaf yellowing and falling is usually caused by either powdery mildew or bacterial spot. Spray with a mixture of Full cream milk and water for organic treatment of this problem
Why are they good for you?
Red capsicums have very high levels of vitamin C - 1 capsicum has enough vitamin C to meet the daily needs of 10 people and yellow and green capsicums have nearly as much
Did you know that compared to green peppers, red peppers have more vitamins and nutrients and contain the antioxidant lycopene.
The level of carotene, another antioxidant, is nine times higher in red peppers. Red peppers also have twice the vitamin C content of green peppers
Red capsicums are also rich in beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A, vitamin E and a good source of folate (one of the B vitamins).
One red capsicum contains almost the equivalent of almost 2 teaspoons of natural sugar, which is why it tastes so sweet and delicious.
Yellow capsicums are sweet with natural sugars too, but green capsicums have much less sugar, so they’re a little more bitter.
Brazilian Plume Flower: Justice carnea & Justicea carnea "alba"
This plant should be grown more in gardens with it’s tropical looking dark green large leaves and the plume of petals either in white or a sort of cerise pink.
But as always, some plants fall out of favour or are just forgotten, and shunned by big box stores that sell a limited range of plants.
You’ll definitely want to grow this after you hear why it’s so good.
Let’s find out.
I'm talking with the plant panel, Jeremy Critchley of and Karen Smith, editor of

  • Justicea can be best described as an erect, evergreen fast growing shrub with an open, rounded habit up to 1.5m
  • It has large deep green leaves that have deep crinkly veins and are sometimes hairy.
  • Lance-shaped dark green leaves, long up to 20 cm and 5 cm broad, with prominent veins.
  • If you’re plants drops their lower leaves, get a big feed and prune back hard after flowering.


Flowers that make a country theme
Mercedes says that most customers opt for having a country theme for their bouquets when she used to run a florist shop.
So what does make up a country theme when you're thinking cut flowers?

If you went for something  in the cottage garden line, you would be very close to the mark.
Also choosing flowers from the Asteraceae or Daisy family will make your floral bouquet look like a bunch of flowers you picked yourself, albeit, expertly arranged and presented.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini, florist of
The video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 2RRR 88.5 fm Sydney.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Burning, Searing, Scalding Flowers are Just One Feature

What’s on the show today?

Art Therapy with Mara Lyon is today’s feature interview. What vegetable, was used to thicken soups and stews, and the seeds were toasted and ground then used as a coffee substitute in Vegetable Heroes; , plus a tough native plant with a strange past in Plant of the Week and more floral happenings in Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes


Art Therapy in the Garden:Create Your Own Mandala
Are you taking enough time out in your life or is your day crowded with a to do list?
To do lists, whether written down or just in our mind’s eye, can make life seem overly busy without time taken to just sit and reflect.
Maybe we need to be re-connected with that quieter, calmer side of life.
I'm talking with Mara Lyone who is an art therapist.

LIVE :Art Therapy in the Garden

I first met Mara at a workshop nearby in Bedlam Bay, Gladesville, NSW
It was a day where there were quite a few stalls about healing and the mind, but what struck me was a mandala made out of plant material on the ground.
We talked about what is a mandala and how we would use it. 

Gardeners often crowd their mind with things that need to be done in the garden without taking stock of what’s there.
Mainly because often there is so much to do in the garden especially during the warmer months of the year.
Everyone’s talking about mindfulness but how can gardeners learn to appreciate more the “beauty in the moment. And not focus on what they see as failures in the garden?”
Pebble sculptures, beds of annuals, sculpted box balls in a knot garden are living expressions of art therapy?

In planting, if you use secondary colours together, such as purple and orange or orange and green, or green and purple, they make wonderful combinations. Each of them creates a particular mood: purple and orange have red hidden in them, so there’s a great deal of warmth and energy in that.
Gardening meets needs if you want to be a sculptor, or painter.
And really, gardening to be the greatest healer of all.
If you have any questions, either for me or for Mara why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Okra: Okra is also known as Lady’s fingers.
OKRA the way to pronounce is "Oh krah" not "Aukra"
Okra is in the Malvaceae or Mallow family and called Abelmoschus esculentus. (A-bell-mow- shus es-kew-lent-us)
It used to be called Hibiscus esculentus so that may you give you a clue as to what the bush might look like.
Okra flower and fruit

Did you know that Okra is related to cotton, cocoa, hibiscus and Rosella plants?
"Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia  and Okra is found growing wild on the banks of the river Nile.
According to records, the Egyptians were the first to grow it as a veggie it in the basin of the Nile during 12th century BC .
And as Okra made its way to North Africa and the Middle East, more uses were developed.
Not only were the seed pods eaten cooked, the seeds were toasted and ground, and used as a coffee substitute (and still is).
 Another amazing fact is that in the 1800's slaves from Africa used ground okra as a part of their diet, and this apparently led to the use of ground okra seeds as a coffee substitute by other southerners during the American Civil War blockades of the 1860's.
You might have also heard of a dish called gumbo. This comes from using Okra or gumbo as a thickener especially in soups.
So what does the Okra bush look like?
Okra varies in height from 60cm to 2m high depending on the variety of seed you buy.
 The leaves are heart shaped with plenty of yellow hibiscus-like flowers with a maroon throat.
In case you don’t know Hibiscus flowers, think of Hawaiian or Tahitian girls with flowers in their hair. Might also be a Hibiscus or a Frangipani.
 As you know, after the flowers comes the fruit that looks like a five-ribbed small pod with a cap on it, sort of like a gumnut cap.

Much smaller than beans or cucumbers.
Pick these a week after the flowers emerge because the Okra, gets too tough and stringy after that.
I’m told the leaves can be used as Spinach.
Doubly useful.
When to sow.
  • In sub-tropical districts, you can plant them in August and September and then again January and February.
  • In temperate climates, sow seeds in October through to December,
  • Arid areas have between August and December to sow seeds directly into the soil.
  •  Cool temperate districts, including Tasmania, for you, the advice is to grow them in a greenhouse, but I discovered a blog from Adam whose from a cool mountain climate and Adam says “Okra does indeed grow in the cool areas, it just needs a bit of help to establish.
  • Adam puts an old plastic milk bottle over the plant until it fills the bottle, then away it goes.
  • Just pick the warmest part of your garden.
  • You’ll get a small crop if you have a cold Summer, but should have heaps if the summer is warmer. Thanks Adam!.
  • Finally for Tropical districts, you’ve won the jackpot this week, because you can grow Okra all year round!

Growing Okra
Okra seeds germinate reasonably well, but will be helped along if you soak them in a shallow dish of tepid water for 24hours.
This will soften the hard outer seed coat.
Pick a spot that gets full sun and has plenty of compost dug into the soil.
One thing that Okra detests, and that’s wet, boggy soil or soil with poor drainage.
Okra will also be set back if you get a cold snap in your district.
Either sow the seeds directly or into punnets for later transplanting.
I have heard that they don’t like being transplanted that much so you could try sowing them in pots made of coir, or make them yourself from newspaper or toilet rolls.
A very permaculture thing to do.
Because they grow as a largish bush, space the seeds or seedlings if transplanting, about 50cm to a metre apart.
Water your Okra fairly regularly, and if your soil is too hard or clayey, grow some Okra in a pot no problem.
TIP:By the way, Okra are partial to high amounts of Potash.
During the growing period, water in lots of liquid fertiliser, such as worm tea and add handfuls of compost.
Okra flower: looks just like other members of the Hibiscus family
Tip pruning will also give you a bushier plant with more flowers and more Okra pods.
In warm areas of Australia, your Okra will be ready to pick in 10 weeks.
In cold temperate zones however, it may take as long as 16 weeks.
Pick your Okra when they’re small and certainly before they get bigger than 10cm in length. Around 5 – 10 cm length is best.
Tip: Okra pods are referred to as mucilaginous.
What does that meant? Ughhhh! This can make them a bit slimy in cooking, so if that bothers you, don’t slice them, keep them whole.
Alternatively, add a couple of drops of vinegar or lemon juice.
I’ve also read that you should avoid growing Okra where you’ve had tomatoes, capsicums or potatoes growing previously.
Okra sliced to reveal mucilaginous membranes
For different varieties of Okra, go to
Two varieties I found online in Australia, are Okra Clemson Spineless, a bush that grows to 1 ½ m and Okra red Burgundy. Red Burgundy has red pods on a vigorous 1.5m tall plant with green leaves and attractive bright cherry red stems.
I’ll put a link to this site on my website. You can get many rare and hard to find seeds at this company. Well priced too.
Why are they good for you?
Okra contains lots of valuable nutrients, almost half of which is in the form of soluble fibre, which helps lower serum cholesterol.
A half of a cup of okra contains about 10% of the recommended levels of B6 and folic acid.
By the way, Okra has black seeds inside the pod. Don’t feel you have to remove them because you don’t. The seeds add flavour to the cooking.
The fibre is in that mucilage.
How about trying a mix with peppers and eggplant! Or grill it on the BBQ! :) try it !! grill it on its side for 2 minutes each!its yummy!!!!


Scaevola aemula: Fair Fan Flower

Drought tolerant, salt tolerant, pretty flowers and no real maintenance.
Wouldn’t that be good if most of our plants were like that?
Never mind, even if we put some of these plants amongst the ones that aren’t so hardy, we’ll still have a show of colour and foliage when those others fade away.
With those sort of credentials -let’s find out about this plant.

I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of

PLAY: Scaevola_5th November_2014

That burnt hand story I’ve discovered was slightly off with the facts.
The latin word scaevola has a link to a Mucius Scaevola which was a lineage of patricians during the Roman Republic.
It was an offshoot of the Mucian family started by Gaius Mucius Scaevola.
This Gaius Scaevola was a legendary assassin who burnt away his right hand as a show of bravery during the early years of the Republic.
Not saint at all then.
Latin: scaevola, "left-handed.

If you have any questions about growing Scaevola or fairy fan flower why not write in to


Drown, Sear, Scald & Mist Cut Flowers
These are all the methods we can use to not only make the flowers last longer in the vase, but to also make them look a whole lot better.
  • Some plants with soft stems and heavy flower head, such as tulips and gerberas, are prone to bending. If left, the stem will remain in this position. To straighten the stems, wrap the bunch flowers in newspaper and stand them deeply in water for at least two hours – ideally over night.
  • Others need to have their stems scalded in boiling hot water for a few seconds to prolong their vase life. These include roses, hydrangeas, poppies and sunflowers. Always protect the petals from the steam.

  • Misting helps the vase life of most orchids as well as camellias, bird of paradise and violets.
  • Drowning in a bucket of water for several hours gives hydrangeas, roses, heliconias, christmas bush and viburnum flowers to go the distance.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

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