Thursday, 19 September 2013

White Plumes, and Southern Stars

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 the Community Broadcasting Foundation
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition. The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website

Wildlife in Focus

with ecologist Sue Stevens

Last week, sue gave us some great tips for bird watching. Getting a bit more out of it than the occasional glimpse, then wondering what it was that you saw.
Did you ever see a bird when you were small that doesn't appear in your garden these days?
Perhaps it visited your Camellia bushes, Fuchsias and other exotic plants because it was mainly a nectar feeder. Today’s bird is found over much of mainland Australia, and was once known as a "Greenie."

Click here to Listen to this episode

If you see an olive bird with yellow cheeks and a white neck plume and a curved black bill, then it’s probably the White Plumed Honeyeater.
If you’re able to take a photo you might see that it’s throat, breast and underparts are all grey.
The juvenile white plumed honeyeater has orange base of bill and is paler-looking with no plume. 
Not all of these honey-eaters are alike when it comes to their spread across Australia.
 The one found in Western Australia has a fawn back with bright yellow face and underparts,
another one in western Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia is paler overall

What all these slightly different birds like is an open forest or woodland, especially near the plants along a stream and along inland watercourses.
This probably explains why you don't see it so much in dense urban centres.
The white Plumed Honeyeater’s favourite tree is the River Red gum. Not just for the nectar but for the insects as well.
If you have any questions about a bird you want identified, why not drop us a line. Or send in a photo to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675, and I’ll send you a copy of the Garden Guardians in return..

Vegetable Heroes


The answer to the question which vegetable has more vitamin C than an orange? Broccoli, Brassica oleracea var Italica  which is the same name as for Cauliflower!

Would you have guessed that Broccoli heads are actually groups of flower buds that are almost ready to flower?

That's probably the most amazing fact of all, and when I was teaching a group of year 2 students the facts of flowers come before vegetables, they couldn't believe it!


Broccoli is of course in the Brassicaceae family of vegetables along with cauliflower, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, turnips and many of the Asian greens.

·     Did you know that most members of the Brassica Family, are related to a wild cabbage grown centuries ago?
Apparently Romans grew and loved to eat Broccoli way back in 23 to 79 BCE.
·         During the 8th century BCE, the Etruscans migrated from what is now Turkey to Italy, settling in Tuscany of course, and bringing with them their Broccoli seeds.
Why should you grow Broccoli if it’s available all year round in your supermarket?
  • Firstly, supermarket Broccoli has probably been sprayed for all manner of pests whether or not the pests visited the Broccoli plant.
  • Secondly, supermarket Broccoli stems are pretty tough to eat, when they’re supposed to be tender. Why? Because the Broccoli transports better plus, they may have been picked before becoming fully-mature or they 've been picked at the right time but then stored too long.
  • Homegrown Broccoli, especially the heirloom varieties, also re-shoot after your cut of the central Broccoli stem.
  • Plus, Broccoli is pretty easy to grow.
  •  Just keep an eye out for bugs during warmer months, but there’s plenty of organic ways of controlling them.
  • Finally, because you'll care for it and pick it at the right time it'll taste a whole lot better than your supermarket Broccoli. 
  • With home-grown broccoli, you can also be sure how it has been grown:

When to Sow

  • Summer Broccoli can be sown all over Australia except for the hottest of regions.
  • Temperatures that suit Broccoli best range from 150C to 250C
  • In temperate districts, you have from September to November, and cool temperate climates from October until December,
  • Autumn is really the best time for arid, tropical and sub-tropical districts, but there’s no reason why you can’t grow it there
  • Let me know if you successfully grow Broccoli during the warmer months in those districts.
  • Broccoli comes in many shapes and varieties but is grouped into five major strains: sprouting, broccolini, purple, Romanseco, and Chinese varieties.
  • Today, I’m concentrating on the common or garden variety which is actually the sprouting variety.
  • Now you probably thought that was what those little shoots of Broccoli are called but you would be wrong. Those little guys are called Broccolini. Apparently in the UK, they called those large heads of Broccoli, Calabrese!
  • Broccoli seeds are easy enough to get at supermarkets, garden centres and online seed suppliers of course.
  • Try these varieties
  • Di Cicco is a classic Italian style broccoli which is deep green in colour and has a sweet flavour that might help to get kids into eating it.
  • Green Sprouting has bluish green coloured heads and a deep earthy taste.
  • Waltham 29 is a great all-rounder plus there’s purple sprouting Broccoli, which is well, purple and sprouting- attractive and tasty.
  • All of these varieties will provide months of continual harvest and can even be considered as a perennial plant if you can manage to deal with the influx of cabbage moths that come around as the weather warms up.

How to grow Broccoli?

  • Broccoli is not too choosy about the site it grows in but prefers to be in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade with no problems.
  • Growing in too much shade will reduce the size of the Broccoli head.
  • The ideal soil is a reasonably heavy (not pure clay) which is rich in nutrients and has been well-dug.
  • Like all brassicas, Broccoli needs a minimum soil pH of 6; but really prefers a pH of 7.
  • Add lime if you need to raise the soil pH.
  • Broccoli is what’s called a heavy feeder, so do add plenty of blood and bone, and decomposed manures by the bucket load before you start.
  • Sow your Broccoli seed about 1 ½ cm deep, and space the seedlings about 40cm apart so they don’t crowd each other.
  • Once a fortnight feed your broccoli with a liquid fertilizer; seaweed, manure tea, nettle tea etc.
  • When your Broccoli is growing always make sure that the beds are free from competitive weeds by hand weeding regularly.
  • TIP:
  • Don’t plant or sow Broccoli in your veggie bed if you’ve grown it before in the past 3 years.
  • You may get a disease called Club Root that causes you Broccoli plant to wilt regardless of how much water you give it.
  • Remember the acronym. LRLC-Legumes, root veg, leafy then Cucurbits, Brassicas.
  • Harvest broccoli heads when they have reached maximum size, are still compact, and before the buds loosen, open into flowers, or turn yellow. It will be about 70-100 days or 2 ½ -4 months, when your Broccoli will be ready if you plant it now.

When do you pick your Broccoli?

  • You’ve got to time it just right, and that’s when the cluster of tight buds in the central head is well formed and before the individual flowers start to open.
  • Make a sloping cut (this allows water to run off), picking a piece that's about 10 cm long.
  • That way you’ve left a reasonable amount of the plant intact to produce smaller side-shoots or "florets," which you can pick as well.
  • At this stage, don’t stop feeding and watering the remaining broccoli stem otherwise your plants will go to seed and you won’t get any side shoots.
  • TIP: If your Broccoli plants starts to flower it’ll going into seed production and you won’t get any more side shoots.
  • Why is Broccoli good for you?
  • Broccoli contains twice the vitamin C of an orange.
  • Did you know that just 100g of Broccoli has two day’s supply of vitamin C (don’t overcook  or you’ll lose some).
  • Broccoli also a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin E, folate and beta carotene
  • 100g broccoli has 120kJ.
  • Broccoli also contains magnesium and as much calcium as whole milk!

Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid

According to the Telegraph in the UK, Piet Oudulf is the most influential garden designer of the past 25 years.
Not just one of them, but THE one!
The article goes on to say that Piet has redefined what’s meant by the term ‘Naturalism” in planting.
Naturalism’s the exact opposite of clipped hedges and neat structured rows of planting.
Prior to Piet’s designs, Naturalism also tended to mean looking a bit wild, in the way of a wild meadow that you might come across somewhere in the UK.
Not terribly wild by Australian standards.
Then there was a bit of envy by the writer, because, somehow, Piet Oudolf’s garden remained intact and according to his design years later.
No wonder the owner of Scampston Manor employed him to restore their garden which had been in the family for 900 years.
What an inspirational garden.

Click here to…
Listen to this episode  

Naturalistic planting can be appealing, and look quite tidy, if not hard to photograph.

Just  follow the type of plants that Piet Oudulf recommends, and also the ones that Louise suggested to substitute, because we can’t get them all here in Australia.
The key is using long-lived clump-forming perennials which didn’t spread around by aggressive rooting or seeding and so retain their form as distinct groups.
Plants like Achilleas, Alliums, grasses, Helenium, Molinia, Sanguisorba and Astilbe.

Because there are no trees to speak of except right at the edges of the garden, the conditions of sun and shade won't change over time and  the scheme might last almost in perpetuity with a bit of maintenance.
If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it to or just post it to 2RRR, PO Box 644, Gladesville, NSW, 1675

Plant of the Week

Rhodanthe anthemoides "Southern Stars"
Plants that are commonly called straw flowers or everlasting, are native to Australia.
There are a few around so if you want a particular type of strawflower, you really need to know it’s botanical or scientific name, or even part of it.
Strawflowers were Helichrysum bracteatum, then Bracteantha bracteata and now are called Xerochrysum bracteatum
Did you know that for some reason, this Australian native was propagated and developed in Germany in the 1850’s.
Then again, it’s got nothing to do with this paper daisy that’s plant of the week.

Take a leaf out of Phillip Johnsons’ book-winner of the gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show 2013! See Australian Perennial Growers.

Rhodanthe anthemoides, commonly known as Paper Daisy, is a perennial species of the daisy family Asteraceae.

It’s endemic to Australia.
Did you know that the daisy flower isn’t just one flower?

The flower of the daisy consists of a collection of small one seeded, stalk-less flowers (disc florets).
Surrounding the disc florets is a ring of what looks like petals,  (ray florets); their main purpose is to attract insect pollinators.

This bushy mounding groundcover, 30cm x 80cm, has narrow, grey-green, mildly chamomile scented leaves.
Some call it Chamomile Sunray. Can’t say I’ve ever heard it called that.
Rhodanthe surely must signal what is to come after the cool months of winter, because in late winter to late spring it produces heaps of, crimson buds which open into, star-shaped, white papery flowers.
Plants have multiple stems rising from the base which reach up to 40 cm high and spread to 60 cm wide.
The leaves are about 10 mm long and 0.5 to 2 mm in width.
A central cluster of pale yellow flowers is surrounded by petal-like white, papery bracts. These appear between September and February in the species native range.
These are followed by small dry achenes that have silky hairs.

 The species occurs in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and rarely in Tasmania. Where paper daisies like to grow naturally is in mountainous regions growing in sandy soil.

For your home garden, try and imitate these natural conditions-well drained soil, perhaps on an embankment, or in a rockeriy.
They grow equally well in pots and baskets in Australian native mix.

If you need to fertilise, use a suitable controlled-release native fertiliser during the warmer months and prune back lightly in late summer to promote new growth and retain a neat, compact shape.
All R. anthemoides do best in a rich well-drained soil with light shade during the hottest part of the day. Trim off old growth when new shoots show in autumn.

An excellent small plant for planting in containers or rockery gardens.

Recent release:Rhodanthe Southern Stars

For a hardy winter plant you can’t go past Rhodanthe Southern Stars,  because of its masses of white paper daisy like flowers with bright yellow centres from late winter to spring.
It is frost, drought and heat tolerant not to mention easy to grow!
Grows to 20-30cm high x 40-60cm wide
You could use it as a ground cover in perennial borders, mass planting or container gardens.
For the cooler areas of Australia, take note, this plant is frost, drought and heat tolerant.
Like all paper daisies, plants this one in full sun into awell drained soil

For Floral Arrangements

Pick the flowers just before the buds burst open,  and depending upon the stem thickness they can be either-bunched and hung upside down in a cool, dry, airy room away from direct sunlight.

The stem can be cut 1cm. below the flower head and thin florist wire inserted up the stem into the base of the flower. Leave to dry upright in a cool dry airy room away from direct sunlight.

Paper daisies cut and dry well and are excellent for small posies and informal dried flower arrangements.

When dried, they retain their colour and shape indefinitely.
Straw flowers of all kinds have less moisture than other flowers and are easy to dry.
Just ask for Paper daisy, Southern Stars might get you the plant that you

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