Thursday, 5 December 2013

Sunflowers and Teardrops

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

Spice it Up

with Ian Hemphill from
Sometimes, RWG’s herb expert searches the globe for one of those spices, shall we say, that come from only one place in the world.
Going to a remote Greek Island may seem like an ideal way of spending your days, but if it’s not on the tourist trail, it might lack some of the basics.
Leaving no stone unturned in his quest, listen to this yet another amazing tale from the spice trade.

As Ian said, the clear crystalline tears make up the Mastic spice.
You need to crush the Mastic tears into a powder before using it in cooking, unless you want to just chew on them of course.
If you’ve got an ice-cream maker, add some powdered Mastic to your next batch of ice-cream. Very Yummy!
I found a recipe that I can post on the web, but you only need to use half a teaspoon of powdered Mastic.
For those who don’t use computers, write in and I’ll send you a fact sheet.
If you have any questions about using Mastick in cooking, why not drop us a line by sending in your question to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes

Sunflowers or Helianthus anuus from the Daisy or Asteraceae family.
Picture fields of sunflowers as you drive down the road? We could see more of them if a new plan to boost the amount of sunflowers grown in Australia is successful.
Did you know that Australia has a Sunflower Association?
Yes indeed, the Australian Sunflower Association is not in fact a group of plant lovers that love all types of sunflowers but a group of industry people and growers who decided an industry body should be established.
Because Sunflower growing was expanding at a fast rate back in the 1970’s, the Australian Sunflower Association was formed in June 1976.
Australia only produces about half the amount of sunflowers products consumed in this country.
Australian Sunflower Association chair Kevin Charlesworth says the oilseed crop has enormous potential.
"Central Queensland used to be a major growing area, then a disease came in that was unidentified for three years, which was later found to be Tobacco Strain Virus (TSV).

Know I ask you, “Who doesn’t love to grow sunflowers?”
I bet there’s listeners to the program, perhaps driving in their car, or their tractor in the field, or in their kitchen, who’ve grown sunflowers from when they were little.
Sunflower is a summer growing plant native to North America, and is produced in large quantities throughout the USA, Eastern Europe, China and South America.

Have you wondered why sunflowers follow the sun?
All plants reach out to the sun as they produce food with the help of the sun.
The sunflower seems to follow the sun when the stem of the flower is still supple, but as it gets older, the flower gets fixed in one direction.

Growing Sunflowers
Sunflowers are extremely drought tolerant and can be grown in areas with little or no rainfall over summer.
They have a similar soil temperature requirement to that of corn so that they can normally be sown from mid and late August onwards.
In temperate districts sow sunflower seeds from August through to January.

When to Grow
In Cool temperate areas, from October until December. Sunflower plants are susceptible to frost damage after the sixth leaf stage so that sowing earlier than 5-6 weeks prior to the last frost of the season isn’t a good idea.
In Arid areas, from September to March, subtropical zones, August to April but Tropical areas only from April to August.

So what makes a sunflower?
You may’ve heard me talking about the flower members of the daisy family before but here it is again.
All daisy flowers are not just one flower, but made up of lots and lots of flowers.
You probably didn’t realise that the outer petals are ray florets-these are sterile. These outer yellow florets we might as well call petals.
The inner parts are the disc florets and depending on the cultivar and size the main head of the sunflower might contain from 1,000 to 4,000 individual florets.
Did you know that pollination by bees is so important to sunflower growers that that Departments of Agriculture recommend 3-5 hives per hectare.
Tip:Bees are important for pollination of sunflowers, because if the sunflowers self pollinate, seed set is usually low, the seed undersized and sprout more slowly if re-sown.

Down in the Dirt
There isn’t that much to them really.
Something to get kids or beginner gardeners interested in gardening and certainly a sure fire way of succeeding in sowing seeds.
Sunflowers are annuals that can be sown where they are to grow and flower.
 The better the soil, the bigger and taller your sunflower will be.
So a fertile, well-drained, sunny position in the garden will make you grow prize winning sunflowers.
 Smooth over the top of the soil lightly to create a good surface for sowing the seeds.
Sow the seeds down into the soil to about triple the diameter of the seed.
Then just cover with more soil and water in.

Can you use sunflower seed from the pet or grain store?
Of course you can.
 You might get a real mix of flowers, because the seed may have come from a hybrid plant but then again you may strike it lucky and get a really great crop too.

Or try some of these varieties:
Sunflower Evening Sun- orange, russet-bronze, mahogany-red and gold with dark centres. The multiple heads provide an extended bloom period. A great variety for cutting; the plants grow 1.8 - 2.4m tall.
SUNFLOWER - Giant Russian (Helianthus annus) OGA
Tall grower to 2m with large yellow flower head. Seeds are edible when hulled or great bird food. Sow Spring-Summer.

Why are they good for you?
Sunflowers are high in energy, protein, vitamin E and B complex vitamins including folic acid
Not only that, sunflower seeds contain many essential minerals like Calcium Iron and Magnesium.
100g of sunflower seeds gives you 21% of RDI of protein and 52% of Niacin.
You can use the seeds fresh or toasted. So not just for the birds.
So happy sunflower growing gardeners!

Design Elements

Colour in Garden Design with Landscape Designer Louise Mc Daid

A couple of weeks ago, a new series was started on colour in garden design.

  • Today we’re focusing on an Australian garden that’s follows a journey of water from the arid inland landscapes of central Australia, along dry river beds and down mighty rivers to the coastal fringes of the continent.
That’s how the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne describe that particular garden.

Plus, a section of  the Hunter Valley Gardens in NSW, to illustrate uses of colour schemes in Australian Gardens.

Complementary – red/green – combination of foliage and flower and building– mostly green with well placed blocks of red

Red trim on the Japanese pavilion and arching bridge defines the curves, red bougainvillea  situated to stand beneath and look out – looks spectacular from other side of pond looking back at it, dark red foliage of canna lily leading down to the pond, and flower of coral plant (Russelia equisetiformis) and roses

Louise visited this garden recently and gives
you some insight to the design of this garden

Let’s find out what they are….

Why not visit the outstanding garden at Cranbourne or you could visit the Hunter Valley gardens about 2 hours north of Sydney

Did you know that the second and final stage of the Australian Garden was publically opened only in October 2012. 

 Key plants used in the garden are Weeping Myall, Acacia pendula, Eremophila spp, and Atriplex nummularia. or Old-man Saltbush.

View looking back at the bougainvillea is actually split complementary – red with yellow-green and blue-green (lavender kept clipped to shape

Harmonious using foliage – green backdrop (tall/hedge), yellow lower and yellow green ground cover (zoysia) – accent colour in this case is dark but shows up well next to the yellow

Plant of the Week

Ornamental Grasses
Living mulch is very useful in gardens that want to be considered low maintenance. Although I don’t subscribe to the term low maintenance, because unless you’re concreting your yard, there’s always plenty of maintenance to be doing if you’re looking after your own garden properly.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Klein Fontaine’ (little fountain) is a compact cultivar growing to 1.2m. The leaves of this cultivar are about 1cm wide with a prominent white mid vein. Kleine Fontaine has very upright growth and flowerheads which are produced in mid to late Summer. H: 1.2m   W: 60cm Frost tolerance: Hardy Water use: 1 Herbacious Perennial Position: Sun/ Part Shade Primary flower colour: Beige

Panicum virgatum ‘Rubrum’-Red Prairie Switch Grass

Fountain like clumps of fine arching leaves are topped by a cloud of maroon midge-like flowers during autumn. Late in the season the foliage turns bronze red and finally to straw gold during winter. In the past I’ve grown it where it gets regular summer irrigation but these last couple of years a plant has grown happily, with barely a drop of irrigation, in our dry climate garden. 100cm x 80cm.

Stipa gigantea-Giant Golden Oats Grass

When flowering in late spring and early summer this is the most dramatically beautiful of all grasses. 210cm tall wands carry huge heads of golden oat-like flowers over low tussocks of evergreen leaves. The mature heads are handsome throughout the summer. We cut this evergreen grass back to a 15cm tall mound in March. New leaves soon grow and the plant develops into a dark green tussock some 60cm x 90cm.

Native grasses

Baloskian Green Wedge™ Baloskian tetraphyllus dwarf selection

 You won’t ‘ruffle’ the bright green feathery habit of Green Wedge as it’s such a hardy yet soft, adaptable, compact plant; it grows to perfection in moist soils beside water features or in an ornamental container on the cooler areas of decks or patios. Panicles of bronze tassel spikelets during summer provide small seed, much to the delight of finches. The stems, which are 30-50 cm long can be harvested for use indoors in floral arrangements. Thrives in moist soils in light shade and likes a regular tipple if grown in a container. Cool temperate to sub tropical climates are to its liking.

Sabina's choice is Pennisetum alopecuroides "Nafray." Grows 60 x 60 cm
Lomandra, or mat rush is also useful if you’re into basket weaving, something that the traditional owners used to do. You first have to wet the grass stem of Lomandra, the split it and weave two strands onto themselves.
Pretty simple really.

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