Thursday, 4 April 2013

Something French and Flowery

What sort of gardener are you?

I read this definition in a fictional book called Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener by a MC Beaton.
She writes that a real gardener is one that has a green house, and strikes their own plant or grows them from seed? An instant gardener is one that buys plants that are near their mature size.
So I did a bit of research and of course found the beginner gardener, but how long do you stay a beginner gardener?
I’m sure no listener can be called the Clueless gardener, although we might have thought that about some-one. Probably that contractor that whipper snipped the plants in the front garden when doing the edges. He would fit into that title.
Are you a zone challenger? A gardener that’s growing plants, sometimes from mail order, but plants that really should be grown in a green house that you don’t own. Like a Vanilla bean orchid, that struggles even in temperate districts, outdoors.
What about the Collector Gardener? Are you one of those? You have one of almost everything and are searching for more of maybe one or two specific genus, like Bromeliads, or Begonias or even Orchids.
Anyway write in with more ideas for types of gardeners, I’d love to hear your thoughts? email

Spice it Up

Some herbs aren’t used as much as they should because we just don’t know what to do with them. You might even grow them thinking that you’ll give that a go, but end up just looking after the herb and nothing else.
Or you might have grown one variety of a particular herb and not been impressed with its flavour.
I convinced my Mother-in-law to buy some Tarragon but she's never used it so now's the time to find out what to do with the herb Tarragon.
I'm talking with Ian Hempill from

As Ian said, Tarragon with the yellow flowers is Russian Tarragon and doesn’t have the subtle anise flower of the French Tarragon.
French Tarragon grows best in the warmer months of the year, so if you have it now, dry some of the leaves to use in your winter cooking.
If you’ve never grown French Tarragon be sure to get the right one next time to try this herb.
We’d love to hear how you grow and use Tarragon in your cooking, just send recipes or ideas in to. or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675, and I’ll post a CD in return.

Vegetable Heroes:

Lupins or Lupinus species.
Lupins belong in the pea or Fabaceae family. This of course means that Lupins fix Nitrogen into the soil from the atmosphere.

Having said that, your soil needs to have rhizobium bacteria in it for nodules to form on the roots and for any nitrogen fixing to occur. This is for any plant that can fix Nitrogen into the soil.
Soils without any microbes or dead soils won't derive any extra benefits from growing plants from the Pea or Fabaceae family.
You might know about Lupins as a perennial flowering plant for gardens, coming in a variety of colours and leaf shapes. Maybe you think of them as Russell Lupins?
Did you know, seed from some perennial flowering Lupins are edible and have been used as a crop feed as well as food for humans?  
Ever heard of Lupin beans eaten together with  Portuguese beer.? That sounds like an interesting possibility doesn’t it?
Lupins as a food have been used for thousands of years.
Lupin dishes were popular during the Roman Empire. But they seem to eat just about everything didn’t they?
Members of native tribes in South and Native America used to soak Lupin beans in salt water before eating them. These are grown even today as a Soy substitute.
Lupin flowers come in a rainbow of colours but not all have edible seed pods. But before you go snacking on the seed pods of these flowers, be warned, unless you’ve bought edible Lupin seeds, the other varieties of Lupins are TOXIC.
THESE Lupins contain Lupin alkaloids which can cause Lupin poisoning.
DPI Victoria says there are 2 types of Lupin; the narrow leaf species (Lupinus angustifolius-blue flower) and the larger seeded and broader leaf Lupinus albus, with a white flower.
Lupinus albus is grown mostly for human consumption, while the higher protein narrow leaf lupin, Lupinus angustifolius, is better as stock feed.
Yellow Lupins are also a new crop in W.A.
These legumes were popular with the Romans, weren’t they all?
The Andean Lupin Lupins mutabilis, the Mediterranean Lupinus albus (white lupin), Lupinus angustifolius (blue lupin) and Lupinus hirsutus are only edible after soaking the seeds for some days in salted water.
These lupins are referred to as sweet lupins because they contain smaller amounts of toxic alkaloids than the bitter lupin varieties. Newly bred variants of sweet lupins are grown extensively in Germany; they lack any bitter taste and require no soaking in salt solution.
The seeds are used for different foods from vegan sausages to lupin-tofu or lupin flour.
Lupins are currently under widespread cultivation in Australia, Europe, Russia, and the Americas as a green manure, livestock fodder and grazing plant, and high protein additive for animal and human foods.
Australia is still to realise Lupins as human food because 95% of Lupins are grown for stock feed.
How and when  to sow your Lupins.
Sow Lupin seeds 3-4 cm deep. Sowing deeper than 5 cm can lead to poor germination.
Lupins prefer moderate temperatures and rainfall, they are not tolerant of frost and most of your flowers will drop if frost is serve enough or ongoing.
Lupins also like moderate temperatures, so too many days over 30o C will also see flowers drop as well.
Sow in temperate areas autumn and spring, in subtropical areas April-June.
Lupins will also grow in a cool climate, for example if you live in southern Victoria, then February to March is the best time.
Lupins also grow in Mediterranean climates and grow in regions with average temperatures under 320C
The Lupin plant loves well-watered areas and soil with slight acidity.
The plant grows best in regions that have coarse, well-drained soil preferably with an acidic value between 6 and 7.
Lupins can also grow in any area that has loose, light-coloured fertile soil.
It is best to water Lupins daily and Lupins need direct sunlight daily for at least four hours.
Lupinus alba is available as a mail order seed and is used for a green manure crop.
Lupinus alba  or the white flowering Lupin, like all Lupins, adds nitrogen to your soil, and because of the long taproot which can grow down to 2.5 metres, opens and aerates the soil.
Another soil benefit is that Lupins accumulate phosphorus; and the flowers are attractive to bees and other beneficial insects.
Why are Lupins good for you?
Lupine flour, used in bread products and pasta, is high in protein and is highly nutritious for human body.
This is one of the main health benefits of Lupins. Lupin seed has a low GI and makes us feel fuller for longer.
Apparently Lupin enhanced bread is available in some health food stores, and is said to reduce your hunger.
So either grow the Lupins as a green manure crop, or a flowering perennial.
The flowers are considered a must for the cottage garden, combining perfectly with poppies, catmint and roses.
As far as growing Lupins as an edible crop, only commercial quantities are available to the crop farmer. But you never know, there could be a breakthrough soon, and we might be making our own Lupin enhanced bread in the not too distant future.
Seeds can be ordered from


Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid

This month, Design elements is  fixing your garden design problems that are based on how much or how little light or sun your garden’s getting.
Is your spot in the garden just a narrow strip down the side of the house or garden shed where nothing much seems to grow? Never fear, all is not lost because here’s a solution for that awkward spot in your garden? 

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Not all solutions have to be entirely about plants, for example a rasied bed here layered with gravel or some other pebbles with some hardy ground covers or succulents.

Of course if you have an awkward spot on the south side of your castle, then maybe you need to add a pond as well!
You’re a gardener so something with plants is always going to be the way to go.
You can hear that segment again on


Plant of the Week

NEW Nemesias
If you wantwinter colour, need to plan now.You can’t go past some annuals that attract butterflies and have fragrance during the winter months. While some regions in Australia are having an extended Summer, it’s not too early to start putting in winter colour because cooler weather is just around the corner.
Being a cool weather plant, Nemesia can withstand frost better than warm climate plants, but will more than likely be killed by a heavy frost.
Nemesia are great for potted gardens, borders, edging, and rock gardens. Where ever you decide to plant them, be sure you don’t just plonk them into any old soil. Give them a head start with some added compost soil so they will grow well.
The Nemesias are among the showiest of garden plants.
All Nemesias are used as bedding plants are plants in pots and prefer sunny positions.

Nemesias are in the Scrophulariaceae or Snapdragon family. This would explain why the flowers look very similar to little snapdragon flowers with two lips and a spur.
Foxgloves are also in this family.

All plants that flower this heavily need some pruning when the flowers become leggy because the flower stems are long. The plant breeders suggest you prune them back to the green shoot area at the base of the flower spike.
Within two weeks the first colour is again appearing.
If you plonk your plants into the garden without much thought, added compost, some sort of organic fertiliser, or anything at all extra, don't expect much.
But if you add all that good stuff, your plants should flower their heads of for many weeks.

In pots use the best quality potting media you can buy, add some slow release fertilizer at potting, keep moist but not over wet and watch the results. 

The only pests might be an odd caterpillar and occasional aphis. Both can be squashed between the fingers or similar.

Planted in drifts in gardens they give lots of flower right through the late winter and spring. Flowering is later in cooler areas.
In districts where the humidity and temperature is high they do so well grown in pots for the outdoor room. Flowers in terminal bunches. They look like little faces.
Nemesais can be treated as an annual and will self-seed if plants have been allowed to set seed before removal.
Or they can be treated as a perennial and cut back after flowering each year, or in early spring. Nemsias are frost tolerant.
Although the upper growth is damaged by frost, the plant will resprout from the taproot.
If you’re planting out Nemesias from seedlings bought at your local garden centre, it takes 8 -10 weeks before they flower.
You can grow them from seed, several companies that supply supermarkets and garden centres.

There are new varieties that are available in larger pots because they have been specifically bred for more shower flowers and more vigorous growth.

New varieties are
N. Bluebird-vivid violet bleu with a white eye.
N. Dark Blue – D. Pink Innocence, have dark blue flowers and pink flowers as per there name.
N. Violet Ice-multi-coloured violet into white.
And finally N. White with white flowers naturally.
But that’s not all, there’s also the Sunsatias series that have names like Blackberry, intense purple-pink with an orange eye, Cherry on Ice, flowers are scarlet red and white-white a contrast. Light shade for this variety.

N. Pomelo Yellow-a deep honey coloured flower, and Kumquat, as sort of orange into yellow coloured flower.


Sunsatia series of Nemesia combines the best attributes of different Nemesia species into one Bred in Germany by crossing the South African annual and perennial species, Sunsatia™ hybrids are distinctively different from traditional Nemesias. They produce more flowers, larger blooms and flower for a longer period and plants have a greater vigour and an excellent branching habit.


Getting active by doing some gardening is a health alternative to going for a walk, so why not get active and plant out some Nemesia into your garden bed or pot today?

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