Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Mellow Yellow and Flamenco Style of Plants

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by CBF, Community Broadcasting Foundation.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition.

Spice It Up

with herb expert Ian Hemphill for
165,000 crocus flowers are need to  make about one kilogram of saffron spice. That’s the stigmas of 165 crocus flowers to make up one gram of saffron spice.
If you’ve heard that saying “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” well if it’s the plain of La Mancha at harvest time of the Saffron crocus in Autumn, then you’ll smell the fabulous aroma of tasted Saffron as they dry it.

Let’s find out what  real Saffron is all about, .

Crocus sativus or Saffron crocus is grown commercially in Tasmania, but the output is only a blip on the world's commercial market of true Saffron.
Crocus Sativus (saffron Crocus) is best suited to a Mediterranean climate so usually Victoria, South Australia and some areas of NSW. Hot humid and sub - tropical to tropical areas are generally not suitable, so Sydney and North through Queensland are not ideal.
In temperate climates you need to put an ice-cream buckets worth of ice on the bulbs every night during winter to give them sufficient winter chilling. Seems too big an effort.
You can grow the Saffron crocus yourself, but you have to have cold winters and warm summers for the flowers to do any good
Still, it's worth a try if you can't get the real Saffron.
If you have a great recipe using Saffron, write in and tell us about it.Either via email to. or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675,  or post them on Real World Gardeners facebook page, and I’ll post a CD in return.

Vegetable Heroes:

Seed Germination Do's and Don'ts
How to get those seeds to germinate?
  • Seeds have particular temperature ranges, and light requirements to germinate.
  • All seeds germinate when light, temperatures and moisture are close to what they prefer to survive.

  • This might also mean, you can germinate peas in Summer, but they will struggle through the warm months to produce anything, and most likely will be devastated by insect pests and disease.
  • So know when the best time of year to sow your seed, by checking the information on the back of the packet.
  • Seeds also have different times when they still remain viable.
  • All seeds have a seed coat that varies in hardness. Some need a little help to germinate faster and you can do this yourself several ways.
  • The process of softening the seed coat is called scarification and you can do it by shaking some seed in a jar with some coarse sandpaper or sand for a few minutes.
  • Commercially this is done in a large box lined with industrial diamonds. But these seed companies process tonnes of seed every day.
  • The sand method might be used for fine seed that you can then pour into a row, sand and seed altogether, into the garden bed.
  • Some seeds need to be soaked in water first to help them germinate. Sweet peas for example.
  • Seeds that require darkness to germinate are Pansies and Parsley. After you sow these seeds, you need to cover them with damp newspaper or a damp paper towel. Check on them every few days because you need to remove the paper as soon as they’ve sprouted.
  • Most other seeds need light to germinate.
  • Most of them time when I talk about planting in Vegetable Heroes, I mention how deep you should plant your seeds.
  • Why do this?
  • Most seeds do not need ‘instant’ access to light, they can germinate and push up through the soil by drawing from their own energy reserves.
  • Seeds have a food store for the embryo which emerges. If you plant your seeds too deep, the food store runs out before the plant reaches sunlight. All green plant seedlings need access to light so that they can make their own food (through photosynthesis) and continue to grow.
  • The other problem is if you plant them too shallow, then they’ll dry out and die before they get anywhere.
  • Sounds tricky, but if you’re having trouble germinating one type of seed, it’s probably because one of the things I’ve mentioned isn’t just right.
  • My tip if you’re having trouble, is to cover your seeds with a layer of vermiculite, and spray that with water to make sure it’s really wet.
  • Vermicullite let’s in plenty of light in and I mostly get success with seeds that way.
  • I also like to use a mini greenhouse for at least the first week if the weather’s not quite right for the seeds that I’m trying to grow.
  • When I used to work at Yates, I’d get calls about the seeds being of poor quality because the caller couldn’t germinate them.
  • That’s rare although it can happen.
  • I’ve got to say though, seed companies all do germination tests in their laboratories to make sure they get 85% germination rate, before they process and package them.
  • Otherwise they’re wasting their time and money packaging up their seed.
  • If the germination rate is below that number of 85%, then they scarify them and do the germination test again to see if that improves the rate.
  • In any case, if you buy a packet of seeds and can’t germinate them, you can ring up the company and they’ll send you a fresh pack.
  • Another question I was often asked about, was why are some seeds coated with a fungicide called Thiram? This usually makes the seed pink.
  • This is to prevent the seed from rotting when you put it into the ground. Sometimes seeds are prone to fungal attack and are treated that way because of that, or in some cases, the seed supplier doesn’t have a particular certification and the seed company then coats them.
  • Plants grown from this treated seed aren’t poisonous. The only thing that’s poisonous is that pink coating on the seed.

  • So what can you do if you’ve got some seed you’re having trouble with, or if you have some packets of out of date seed? Haven’t we all?
  • How about a Home test for Seed viability?
  • What you need is a sheet of paper towelling, clear plastic bag to fit and spray bottle of water.
  • Spray paper towel so it’s completely moist but not dripping.
  • Add 10 seeds from your packet and space them out on one half of the paper towel.
  • This is doing a seed sample. If 7 or 8 seeds sprout then you have 70 -80% germination rate. If you have only 3-4 seeds sprouting, that means a low germination rate.
  • Either use more seeds to get what you want or not use them at all.
  • Take other half and fold over the seeds.
  • Spray towel again.
  • Put this in zip lock plastic bag and seal it up.
  • Put this into a warm environment such as a cupboard or a desk drawer for about a week.
  • Check on it every 2-3 days to make sure that it remains moist.
  • After a few days, fresh seeds will have sprouted if the seeds are fresh.
  • Growing from seed is the cheapest and most rewarding way of growing plants.
  • Once you get the knack, you’ll be growing everything from flowers to vegetables.

  • Design Elements

    with landscape designer Louise McDaid
    This month, Design elements is still fixing your garden design problems that are based on soil conditions in your garden.
    Do you have a sloping garden? Some gardeners like to garden on flat ground because it’s easy to get around. No steps to climb, or drag that wheelbarrow or trug up and down the slope.
    But there are ways that make sloping gardens gardenable. My term for not impossible gardening.
    Let’s find out how to garden with this type of site in your garden?

    Anything from terracing, my first thought, to boardwalks, didn’t think of that one, to make your sloping garden interesting and workable. Even gardenable.

    Plant of the Week

    Cuphea ilavea Flamenco series.

    Ever wanted a colourful alternative to mondo grass, or miniature box hedging?
    How about something to add a bit of zing to that border?You can zoosh up your garden while giving yourself a bit of a lift with these new plants.

    Kew fee ah, sound a bit like ta ra ra boom de aah.
    Perhaps not?
    Still Cuphea flamenco series with those latin dance numbers of Rumba, Cha, Cha (picture to the right)and Tango are something you can add to your garden without taking up much room. I’ve got to say though, the breeders don’t know their dances because Tango belongs to the modern ballroom set which includes Modern Waltz, Quickstep and Foxtrot and not Latin dancing.

    You might’ve heard of Cuphea. Llavea 'Tiny Mice' which is a selection from a breeding program carried out in the U.S. This plant had  potential for use as a perennial landscape and ornamental plant.

    C. Tiny Mice gets its name because the red and purple flowers look similar to mouse ears. This Cuphea starts flowering in Spring, and keeps on flowering during the warmer months right through into autumn.

    This series is also called bat –faced cuphea because if you look down at the flowers they do resemble miniature bat faces-maybe of microbats?

    What’s good about this new range of Cuphea bat faced plants?
    Firstly the flamboyant colours of the flowers that are densely packed.
    No dead heading of flowers required.
    As usual they make compact neat mounds of foliage that suits potted colour and garden borders.

    These compact, mounding forms of Cuphea Ilavea are particularly notable for their flower size which are considerably larger than those of other species.
    Each has a contrasting throat colour of deep purple and have slightly ruffled petal edges, creating a highly decorative effect.
    I’ve seen them used to edge quite a long garden path, much the same way the some people might use mini box hedging or mondo grass.
    As with buxus, these plants are dry tolerant once established.
    That means they need a good watering when there’s extended periods of heat.
    Cuphea llavea Flamenco series like a well draining soil and can cope with light frosts but not sever frosts.
    All of the series grow in full sun to a height of 40 cm and 60cm spread.

    Bred in Queensland, Australia this bright collection includes a colour for everyone.
    The Flamenco varieties include: ‘Rumba’, has brilliant orangey-red flowers, with a purple and white throat. (see picture to the right)
    ‘Tango’ has large deep pink flowers with a purple throat,


    'Samba’ has deep cherry red flowers with a purple throat, (pictured below) and  ‘Cha Cha’ has purple flowers with a deep purple throat.
    All of these flowers have slightly ruffled petal edges.
    Problems with Cuphea Whiteflies and aphids. Prone to root rot, stem galls, dieback, powdery mildew, and a few leaf spots.

    When your Cuphea has finished flower you can prune up to half of the overall size and fertilise with an organic fertiliser next spring to get bushier growth and lots of flowers.

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