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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Topiarus and Blue Coleus

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network. www.realworldgardener.com
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on http://www.cpod.org.au/ , click on 2RRR

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Design elements:The Latin word for an ornamental landscape gardener is topiarus from which the word topiary comes from. Topiary dates back to Roman times, and always makes an elegant statement in any garden. Listen to Lesley Simspon, garden designer and Marianne (host) give advice on how to start you own topiary.
Vegetable Heroes:Chinese greens or    Brassica rapa Chinensis group. Chinensis simply means originating from China.Today I’m referring to two non-heading types of Chinese cabbage, that don’t look like cabbages at all, and are sold under the name of pak choy and a Chinese flat cabbage which might be sold as choy sum or tatsoi.
 Pak choy is the chinese greens most commonly sold in supermarkets and has thick white leaf stalks and wide dark green leaves that are loosely arranged. You can eat every part of this type of cabbage and it’s quite crisp and tender.
Chinese flat cabbage or Tatsoi, has shiny, thick deep green spoon-shaped leaves, that when growing hug the ground. This type of cabbage can cope with frost and snow and is easier to grow that Pak choy because it doesn’t bolt to seed so easily in warm weather.
In tropical climates, both of these are a winter crop, but in temperate and cooler climates sow the seed directly anytime between spring and autumn. Oriental vegetables can provide you with crops of green vegetables all through the winter months.  
Seed depth depends on what type but between 6mm and 1 cm. Cover the seed with finely sieved compost.
If you have heavy or sandy soil they won’t work for you unless you dig in plenty of compost of some kind. 
They’ll either bolt to seed in sandy soil or just not grow in clay soil. If that’s all too hard, these non-heading cabbages are shallow rooted so can even be grown in planters.
Do use liquid compost teas or worm tea to fertilise, otherwise the cabbages can be weedy if underfed.   when ready to pick, because Pak Choy grows so close to the ground, was them carefully when picking, as you all know, soil isn’t that tasty.
You can pick individual leaves or the whole plant when it’s ready.  Use scissors to cut the leaves and the plant will re-shoot from the stem nodes.
Seeds available online from:-
www.heritageseeds.com.au www.greenharvest.com.au

Plant of the Week: Dogbane, or Blue Coleus. Plectranthus neochilus:Family: Lamiaceae
Plant this hardy perennial in a dry spot where nothing else will grow, but being such a toughie, it will survive down to -20C. It can survive in very dry soils so it’s ideal for an arid garden where it can cling to rocks and grow in sand.
Here in Australia it’s classed as a sub-shrub growing to about 30-60cm high and spreading to about 2metres, which it has down in the front of my garden. I would class is as a perennial succulent herb that lavender-blue flowers appear from September through to April.
It’s flowering now and passers by to my garden often comment that the flowers look similar to lavender flowers and make an impressive display. But I regularly cut the plant back quite hard.
The flowers from this plant are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and they are pollinated by flies and other insects.
A very ornamental plant but  some books describe this plant is invasive. The succulent stems are so easy to pull out and keep under control, I would scarcely call it invasive.
Extremely drought tolerant because of the fleshy succulent leaves.
Tip prune regularly to keep it looking bushy otherwise you’ll get a straggly plant.
Ideal Planting Locations-Spreading Dogbane can grow in full, semi shaded areas and areas with no shade.
Suit cottage and Mediterranean styles of gardens. Grows within a woodland garden or on a sunny edge, but also works within dappled shade- and is even suited to a deeply shaded location.
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