Saturday, 3 March 2012

Florence Fennel Goes Alfresco

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available  on
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Design Elements: How do you create that spot in the garden to make having lunch there inviting? Have a few friends around, share a cup of tea, or maybe a glass of wine on some comfy chairs around a big table. Listen here for some other ideas with Lesley Simspon garden designer and Marianne (host)

Vegetable Heroes:       Florence Fennel Foeniculum var. azoricum
Florence Fennel? Some might think that I’m promoting the roadside weed that is found all over Australia. No, I’m talking about the culinary fennel.
 Now is ideal, when the temperature is stable, day length is consistent and there's at least 16 weeks for bulbs to develop. 
 In sub-tropical areas, you can plant or sow seeds from March until until May, in temperate zones, from February until May, in cool temperate zones, you have from February until about mid- March, and for cold or mountain districts, it was February then not again until November/December unless you have a greenhouse.
  •  Florence Fennel is a perennial which can grow quite tall-to about 1 ½ metres-about 5 feet, so at the back of your garden bed so it doesn’t shade out the other veggies. It resents disturbance and responds to any shock by bolting: producing feathery fronds and flowers, but no swollen stems.
  •  Because it grows so tall, the feathery leaves may need some support, particularly if you have windy days in your area.
  • The bulb grows only partially below ground, and mostly above ground it suits those districts with heavy soils. Otherwise, you can grow it in a pot-by itself.
  • Florence Fennel isn’t too fussy with soils as long as the veggie bed, or garden bed is well drained as has compost or decayed animal manure dug in, In cool temperate districts cut back the plant to about 10cm above the ground as winter draws nearer.
  • Fennel likes a well-drained soil, fertile from having been manured the previous year. 
  • Florence Fennel seeds need to be planted 5cm deep, and unless you’ve got a lot of space, you don’t need more than 2 or 3 because they need spacing of about 50cm.
  • Never let soil dry out. Water is needed for germination, steady growth and swelling. If roots become visible or plants seem unsteady, earth them up to stabilise them. This will help make bulbs white and tender and, later, exclude frost.
  • After about 6 weeks you can hill out the soil around the emerging bulb so that, like Celery, the base stays white and is more tender than if you allow the sunlight to turn it green.
  •  Plants take several months to mature that’s 3-4 months after sowing. 
  • Use a fork to loosen the roots and cut the bulb off about 2.5cm above the ground. Further, feathery shoots will appear which can be used as celery/dill-flavoured seasoning in the kitchen.- Some seed uppliers online and

Plant of the Week: Plumeria rubra-Frangipani. Plumeria rubra  Apocynaceae (dogbane)family.
Plumeria is generally a small tree growing to about 5-8 metres. Its broad, usually round-headed canopy with a thick trunk and several broad branches.
Often as wide as the tree is tall. . The leaves are usually glossy green but may be dull green; they are generally pointed (P. rubra var. acuminata or var. acutifolia)
In temperate and colder  districts no matter what type you bought, the leaves will fall during wintertime, and new leaves emerge during or following the spring flowering period.
It is easy to grow in hot, dry areas and is found in Adelaide in sheltered positions, as well as further north.
It grows and flowers best in full sun and in a well drained, slightly acidic soil. Shadier positions tend to give it problems like scale which then leads to sooty mould growing on the leaves, and the Frangipani won’t flower as well.
It has moderate wind resistance and salt tolerance. For best growth and flowering in the landscape, irrigation is needed during dry periods.
The trees reach maturity (full size) in about five years in tropical climates, but take quite a bit longer here in colder districts.
Plumeria can be grown to a relatively large size in large tubs because they have such tiny root systems.
Propagation:The usual way to propagate plumeria is by hardwood cuttings in late winter, early spring  because this method maintains the selected cultivar. Tip cuttings 30-60cm or even longer.
The old-fashioned method says you should be allowed to “cure” in a dry place for at least two weeks before planting.
The new method needs none of this. Get a plastic bag about 7cm in size. The frangipani society of Australia use zip lock bags. Half-wet some sphagnum moss, not dripping, just like a wrung out sponge and place it around the cut end. Enclose this in the bag, then tape it up with duct tape or something similar.
Put it upright into a pot so the leaves will grow upright. In 6-8 weeks you should have new roots-they look quite white and brittle. Leave it longer if you like but be very careful when you’re potting it up. The roots are extremely brittle. Any pulling of the bag, and you’ll rip the right off. Proceed with caution.
Pot your cutting up into a very small pot and stake it as well. Large pots will mean that surrounding soil won’t heat and enough and this will set back the growth of your Frangipani cutting.
Do not water too much or too often while plant is settling in. It can stay in the pot for 2-3 years or you can plant it out into the garden at that point..
The young root systems are brittle, and transplanting, if necessary, must be done carefully. Do not leave plants in small containers too long, or the circling roots will cause problems of weak establishment when the plant is transplanted into the landscape.

Photo of new method of taking Frangipani cuttings.

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