Sunday, 10 February 2013

Birdscaping and Updating

Wildlife in Focus

Birdscaping 101

How many small birds are in your district? Are there less than there used to be? Today ecologist Sue Stevens talks about creating a part of your garden that is suitable for small birds. The types of shrubs isn’t the only factor, it’s also the way you plant them and you’ll find out how in this segment.
I'm talking with ecologist Sue Stevens.

The Habitat network website is
Is a great resource for finding out more about birdscaping your garden. If you don’t have access to a computer just drop us a line and we’ll arrange to send you out a factsheet from the network.
We’d love to see photos of any small birds you have visiting your garden just send it in to. or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes

  • Chives are botanically Allium schoenoprasum in the Lilliaceae family, that includes, Garlic, Leeks and Shallots.
  • The Botanical name means rush leeks, and chives are sometimes called them, but I  never heard them called anything other than Chives.
  • Chinese are the first to have used chives from around 3000 years B.C.
  • Romanian Gypsies have used chives in fortune telling. I wonder how?
  • Folklore would have you believe that you should hang bunches of dried chives around your house to ward off disease and evil.
  • Also the Romans thought that chives could relieve the pain from sunburn or a sore throat. The Romans also wrongly believed that eating chives would increase blood pressure and acted as a diuretic. Totally untrue.
  • The Chive plant is a hardy perennial. Chives have round, grass-like leaves with a hollow stem, and pretty mauve pompom flowers in summer and autumn.
  • The bulbs grow very close together in dense clusters, rather like mini-leeks bunched together.,
  • There are two chive look-alikes that are also grown:
  • Garlic chives, sometimes known as Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum), and society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea).
  • The leaves of these look alkies are flat rather than tubular, but they’re grown in the same way as chives and can be substituted for them in any recipe that calls for chives.
  • Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) has a mild garlic flavour, but white flowers instead of mauve,  and they look like common chives,
  • All chives can be grown from seeds just as easily and are great for growing in pots.
  • It's a good idea to remove the flowers before they go to seed because the leaves will have a better flavour if the flowers are picked before they’re fully developed. but and I’ll tell you about using the flowers a little later on,
  • In tropical areas sow chives between April and July, in temperate zones, you have September through to May, in arid zones, July through to March, cold districts have September through to April and sub-tropical areas win the jackpot by being able to grow Chives all year round.
  • In cold climates, chives will die right back in winter but, but because the plants are perennial they will live for a number of years.
  • New leaves will shoot up in spring.
  • Graham, cool climate gardener has written in to say that his chives are hardly affected by frost and after drying to straw in winter, come back fresh and green.
  • Germinating Chive seeds have been problematic to some, and when I worked at Yates, they weren’t on the most troublesome list.
  • But if you do have trouble germinating chive seeds, try soaking them in a weak solution of seaweed overnight.
  • Then after you lightly sown the seeds onto a punnet, put the seedling punnet into a clear  plastic bag, ( a recycled one would be good), blow it up like a balloon and tie off with a rubber band. That’s my cheap method of a mini-green house.
  • Usually works for most seeds that I’m having trouble with.
  • Garden books will tell you that Chive seeds germinate best when the soil temperature is in the low 20’s.
  • Chives will grow in any well drained ordinary garden soil or in a pot filled with a good quality premium potting mix.
  • The plants need at least half a day's sun light. Feed the plants with a liquid fertiliser, every couple of weeks to keep them growing strongly.
  • Once or twice a year spread some slow release or organic fertiliser around the base of the plants.
  • You might think that Chives, are drought tolerant and are have a bit hardy in the garden but that’s not the case.
  • Water your chives regularly because they have a shallow root system and some generous mulching won’t go astray either.
  • The recent hot spell in my district saw the chives I had growing in full sun getting somewhat brown and crispy.
  • Make sure you protect the young leaves from snails and slugs and watch. for pests such as aphids.
  • Although I’ve never known my chives plants to be bothered by anything at all.
  • Keep in mind, never spray your edible herbs with chemicals.
  • If you do get aphid attack or something similar just wipe the leaves with soapy water.
  • The best and really only way to pick chives is to just cut leaves from outside of the clump with a pair of sharp scissors.
  • Like most plants the flavour of chives will always taste better if they are picked just before you are going to use them.
  • Snip the leaves into smaller sections then sprinkle onto soups, eggdishes or salads.
  • Even though you can easily grow chives from seed, they’re usually propagated by dividing the clumps in spring or autumn for most districts.
  • In places like Adelaide for example, you can divide the clumps in late winter.
  • In all areas, replant them straight away into the garden or pots.
  • When you divide the clumps, leave about six little bulbs together in a tiny clump, which will spread to a fine clump by the end of the year.
  • Set the clumps about 20 – 30 cm  apart..
  • Dividing your chives is the fastest way to propagate your Chives.
  • The unopened flower buds of both types of chives can be used in stir fries, or break up the flower heads and use them in salads or as a garnish for potato, pasta or rice salad.
  • The Chive contains a pungent volatile oil, rich in sulphur, which is in all of the Onion tribe giving them that distinctive smell and taste.
  •  Why is it good for you?
  • Chives are an excellent salt substitute and a perfect aid for those on a low fat, salt restricted diet. Chives contains vitamins A, B6, C and K. Several minerals are also found including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and zinc.
  • Chives are also a good source of folic acid and dietary fibre.

Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid

There are so many things to consider with garden design that you may not have thought even possible.Have you updated the flower colour in your garden yet?  Or are you considering putting in some grasses, or strappy leaved plants with coloured foliage?

Are you thinking about moving some plants for a fresh new look?
Here’s something you mightn’t know or realise, and that is: a single species can have different leaf shapes over the life of the plant. In fact, some can have different leaf shapes on the plant at the same time. For example, gum trees have different adult and juvenile foliage. That’s complicated enough, but what about the shape of the plant itself?
Good garden design takes the shapes of plants into account.
Did you know that you can update your plants using just the shape of the plant?
What does that mean? Let’s find out….

As Louise said, if one of your garden beds could look a bit better, think about introducing a different shaped plant, one with perhaps a vertical shape, like the ornamental pear, or a lollipop on a stick.
Perhaps a fountain shaped plant will fit the bill, like a weeping grass with stripey foliage- such as variegated Miscanthus.

Lots to ponder when thinking about updating your garden.


Plant of the Week:

Ephorbia spp:

 Which Euphorbia is the most well known? Answer at the end of the segment.

  • If you want to update your garden with foliage colour or plant shape you can’t go past including A Euphorbia or three into your garden.
  • Euphorbias are one of the most dramatic plants for your garden.
  • Euphorbias come in different heights, shapes, colours and habit.
  • Not to mention that the genus is huge with more than 2,000 species of herbaceous perennials, annuals, biennials, as well as evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees.
  • There is a Euphorbia to meet every garden need.
  •  Euphorbias come in all shapes: round baseballs, pencil sticks, undulating crested shapes, and cactus-like columnar forms.
  • Some have trailing twisted stems, others long skinny stems and still others, bodies with many snake-like arms.
  • Some euphorbias masquerade as Cacti, I have one that looks a bit like underwater coral. Euphorbia ephedroides imminuta - Thin branching stems.It is not the easiest task to distinguish a Cacti from a Euphorbia, unless you're an expert, but there are some clues to get you started.
  • The plant's origin - Cactus look-alikes are usually from Africa.
  •  If the plant juice is a milky white latex, it is most likely a Euphorbia (a few Cacti have milky sap). If the juice is clear, it is usually a cactus.
  • Spines that come out of a separate round, sometimes fuzzy, flat skin structure called an areole are found only on Cacti. Euphorbia spines come right out of the plant's stem and there are no areoles.I saw a quite different Euphorbia collection in the Botanic Gardens in Oxford England. These plants had green stems and leaves, and are often recommended for perennial borders, dry gardens  and cottage gardens. These are the shrubby Euphorbias that can even take dry and poor soils.
  • Dry gardens and cottage gardens have probably known about some of these already such as E.characias “Tasmanian Tiger, or E. characias Wulfenii.
  • Tall semi evergreen perennial for dry gardens. Usually late winter flowering with tall stems of clustered lime green flowers. Good for winter structure amongst herbaceous plants.
  • Takes moderate frosts and is drought tolerant. Grows to 90cm.
  • Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon'-Herbaceous variety with deep purple foliage through summer into autumn. 60cm, flowersin spring, good frost tolerance, and also drought tolerant
  • Euphorbia “Firesticks  Eye catching bright yellow new spring growth turns bright orange and red in winter.  Colder climates will see a more intense colouring and it is at its best through winter. The stems lack chlorophyll so will not have any green colouration. Good in pots for contrast foliage.
  • Grow in cool to temperate districts and obviously arid zones. Takes full sun to semi-shade. Fades in summer and becomes redder in winter. Grows to  60 – 90 cm.
  •  Prune lightly to keep it compact and colourful. Plant into well drained soil in a sunny to bright light position. Water to establish then keep just moist. Reduce watering in winter. They are frost tender and dry tolerant.
  • Euphorbia pithyusa - 'Grey Hedgehog' excellent evergreen shrub with multi-stems. Colour is a cool, ice blue, leaves are needle like but soft to touvch. Forms a tought mound with greenish yellow flowers in summer. Makes a great contrast to burgundy foliaged plants in particular. As with all Euphorbia family plants, they will bleed white sap if cut or wounded. Handle with caution. from
  • Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' is a long flowering cultivar developed from Euphorbia hypericifolia 'inneuphe'.
  • A well drained potting mix is essential.
  • Both of the last three Euphorbias flowers in Summer and Autumn, grows to 40cm by 40cm wide.
  • ‘Hedgehog” is a hardy shrub that suits group plantings amongst other low shrubs and perennials in a low border, or makes a great low hedge, and suits growing in a pot. Full sun is needed as is well drained soil. Tolerates dry conditions.
  • Lightly trim the bush after flowering to tidy up the plant and this of course stimulates new frowth. Next Spring, give it some fertiliser to encourage growth.
  • That was just a select few Euphorbias to entice you.
  • Most Euphorbia species prefer well-drained soils in full sun conditions.
  • Propagate some Euphorbias by seed or by division, and others by stem-tip cuttings. Most propagate and root easily.

Answer; The most well known Euphorbia is Poinsettia or Euphorbia pulcherrima

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