Sunday, 28 April 2013

Whistle While You Garden

Wildlife in Focus

Whistling Kite

Whistling Kite
Imagine you’re looking up into the sky and you see a largish bird, gliding slowly, high in the sky. It flaps with slow wing-beats and when holds its wings horizontally, they’re bowed downwards at the tip. As it flies it sometimes makes a loud whistling call but it doesn’t twist its tail when manoeuvring.

Let’s find out more…I'm talking with Sue Stevens..

The Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) is a gingery brown colour and generally untidy or scruffy looking.
From the above image you can see that the head and underparts are light brown with pale streaks. Dark wings with pale wing linings. The Whistling Kite has a characteristic, long, rounded tail in flight and is plain sandy coloured with paler tips - other kites have straight or forked tails.
Looking at the Whistling Kite from below, the outer wing feathers are dark coloured and widely fingered. Outer wing rear feathers are pale in colour, inner wing rear feathers are darker brown. The Whistling Kite grows 50 to 60 centimetres long, wingspan 1.2 to 1.5 metres.
We’d love to about your sitings of the Whistling Kite, just send them or any photos in 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

Well it’s TIME FOR VEGETABLE HERO  a herb today, and it’s Savory, The Herb of Love
Winter savory (Satureja montana) is a perennial herb in the family Lamiaceae, native to warm temperate regions of southern Europe
How many times have you heard the phrase "a savory stew?" Savory is used in herb combinations, such as Herbes de Provence, a French combination of herbs used for seasoning.
Savory is an annual or perennial herb, Satureja hortenis, for Summer Savory, or Saturejo montana being for Winter Savory.
Winter savory is now little used in Australia, but for hundreds of years both winter and summer savory have been grown and used, virtually side by side.
Both have strong spicy flavour.
All Savory’s belong to the mint or Lamiaceae family. They have dark-green,narrow leaves for winter savory and light green narrow leaves for summer savory.
The savories  can be used fresh or  dried and crushed.
The history of savory goes back about 2000 years and they are one of the oldest culinary herbs.
The genus Satureja was is derived from the word satyr, the half-man, half-goat creature in mythology who owned the savories.
It has been associated with love potions for centuries.
Romans used savory as a medicinal and culinary herb long before they discovered pepper.
They used it as a medicinal herb for bee stings, and as an aphrodisiac.
I have an English friend who says she grew this herb back in England and used it often I her cooking, especially with chicken.
There are two distinct varieties of savory - summer and winter. Summer savory is most often used for healing. Summer savory is said to increase sex drive, while winter savory decreases it.
Make sure you get your savories right.

What does Summer Savory like. Well, it’s no different than growing Thyme, it likes full sun with well-draining soil.
Savory prefers to be planted in soil that's slightly alkaline.
Give it a side-dressing of compost or worm castings whenever possible. Summer savory is bushy and low-growing so it makes an excellent edging plant for a kitchen garden, herb bed, or vegetable garden.
Summer savory likes regular water. I have some growing in a strawberry pot so that it cascades out of one of the holes. It seems to like that spot better than the strawberries. As far as the soil in my container goes, well it’s just potting mix with soil wetter crystals added to it. So you see it's well-suited to container gardening, as well.
Summer Savory can be grown from seed sown in spring, but that’s if you can get the seed. Some say  these tiny plants resent being transplanted, but I’ve taken pieces from my stock plant and transplanted it into other containers no problems at all/
If you know of someone with this plant, now’s the time to take soft-stem cuttings of about 2-3 cm long and put them in some seed raising or propagating mix. You probably don’t even need to cover it, because, just like the herb Thyme, it strikes very easily.
Savory flowers in mid-January with white or pale pink 5mm flowers grouped in terminal spikes.
You can begin to take the leaves from your savory plant as soon as it reaches 13cm or about 6 inches in height.
Keeping the plant pruned means you’ll always have some.
 My plant dies down a bit in winter, but always regrows, so that’s a good reason to get some summer savory for your herb garden.
Tips For The Chef
Summer savory, Satureja hortensis, is a nice herb to use when you are cutting back on salt-it's flavour is mild, a little bit similar to thyme, but with it's own unique flavour.
To me, it has a slightly peppery flavour, but a piney fragrance when you crush it in your hand.
You can mince summer savory and combine with bread crumbs for coating fish or vegetables such as squash before sauteeing. Use it in potato dishes, tomato sauces, meatballs or vegetable juices. It's also great in egg dishes such as omelets and frittatas.
Savory is popular in teas, herbed butters, and flavoored vinegars. It complements beef soup and stews, chicken soup, eggs, green beans, peas, rutabagas, asparagus, onions, cabbage, and lentils. Use savory when cooking liver, fish and game.
Mince fresh summer savory leaves and combine with garlic, bay and lemon for a good marinade for fish.
Savory blends well with other herbs such as basil, bay leaf, marjoram, thyme and rosemary. It is said that the taste of savory brings all these herbs together in a unique taste that makes savory an Amalgamating herb.
Why is it good for you?
A tea made from summer savory is said to control a mild sore throat.
Rubbing a sprig of savory on an insect bite will bring instant relief. Savory herb is an excellent source of minerals and vitamins -. Its leaves and tender shoots are one of the richest sources of potasium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and selenium.

This herb also has dietary fibre. Who would believe?

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.
If you’ve ever parked around a tree and not thought much about it, think again, because you’re reducing the amount of oxygen in the soil through soil compaction.
Plants actually do need oxygenated soil to live and grow.
What do you do if you have heavy clay soil?Let’s find out how to garden with this particular soil profile in garden?

Clay soil might be hard to dig, but also dries into an impenetrable rock like substance eventually.
As we mentioned, there are a number of ways to improve the soil, or you can go with the flow and grow plants that appreciate that type of environment.
Of course if you want to grow carrots and parsnips,  or a plant that your really hanker for, buy or make one of those raised veggie gardens that stand about a metre or more above the soil.
Adding sand to clay soils doesn’t improve clay soils, it just makes sandy clay, and that’s just a bad combination.
As I said last week, there’s quite a few things you can do to improve clay soil profiles, but remember if you try and do it all at once it’ll overwhelm you and you’ll feel like giving up. Be like the tortoise, easy does it, and a bit at a time. Over time, you’ll manage the conditions and have a fabulous garden, guaranteed.

Plant of the Week:

Did you know that Acacia is actually Wattle? It’s just the scientific name.
If you’ve ever wanted a native garden that’s neat and tidy and just like something that English gardeners would envy, you can’t go past this new range of Wattles that are related to the River Wattle or Acacia cognata.
Easier to remember that Buddleja, just say Limelight Wattle, or Bower Beauty wattle, Curvaceous Wattle or Wattle Green Mist.
Plant a row of them in the ground or in matching pots.
 New Breed of ACACIAS!
There‘s now a new range of acacias bred by Australian native specialists Native Plant Wholesalers that fit the bill as compact native plants with fantastic garden performance.
All these compact Acacias fit the bit for mass plantings, or for garden tubs or large pots. The foliage provides year round interest and fits into native, exotic, oriental and tropical garden styles.
All of these Acacias grow in full sun to part shade, they have varying heights and will tolerate a range of soils as long as they’re well drained.
All of these are termed dry tolerant, that means they need occasional deep watering during long periods of heat.
Best part is they don’t require any pruning but will appreciate some native fertiliser each Spring.
a.         Acacia Bower Beauty a form of Acacia cognata grows to 1 x 1.2m Compact, with a tight compact but weeping habit. Easy to grow like all Acacias and is dry tolerant. Origin Mt Gambier. Tolerates a light frost. This one has bronze coloured new growth.
b.        Acacia Curvaceous-slightly smaller, growing to 7-cm x 1m. fine lime green foliage.
c.         Acacia Green Mist, 1.2 x 2 metres.soft lemon coloured flowers in Spring.
d.        Acacia limelight originates in Mt Gambier SA. And is a dwarf form of Acacia cognata.  Grows in full sun or part shade to 1,5m x 1 m. Lime green foliage, grows into a natural dome shape and is available as a grafted standard.
e.         You might want to team up these new bread Acacias with one from your region.
 I’ve chosen Acacia decora or Showy Wattle  or western Silver Wattle. This Acacia is a small to large shrub, often under 2 metres in height but sometimes to 5 metres. The leaves are really something referred to as phyllodes are lance-shaped, blue-green in colour, with a prominent mid-vein and minor branching veins. The yellow globular flowers are clustered both at the ends of the branches (terminal) and in the leaf or phyllode axils, making this one of the most showy of all wattles.
This is a hardy species which is tolerant of a wide range of conditions. It prefers well drained soils in light shade to full sun. A.decora is a worthwhile addition to gardens in many areas of Australia.

Possible problems with Acacias
There's been some suggestion that Acacia cognata doesn't do too well in some eastern states of Australia.
Possibly these Acacias are succumbing to Phytophthera that's widespread in Australian soils.
Symptoms of Phtophthera are random branch die-back over an extended period of up to two years.
Should any plant have branches that die back at random, rather than just a general dieback from the top down, and you suspect Phtophthera, treat with Ban Rot.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Natural Bush and Butterfly Bush

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.
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

Living Planet

with ecologist Katie Oxenham
You look after your garden right but what about the natural bushland in your area? Who looks after that? Are there plenty of weeds in the bush around your area or is there  a distinct lack of bush or native vegetation.

Is your area a gateway to your heaven? A comment on our facebook page lists Eden as the gateway to their heaven. Eden to Bombala up Mt Darrugh Rd through beautiful Cool Temperate Rainforest-spectacular. But nothing...I mean nothing... can compare to the absolutely vast and awesome beauty of the alpine snowy mountain ranges between Bombala and Cooma. At last peace and solitutude.
Does that sound like your surrounding countryside?
If your place needs some TLC, you can change all that by being involved in Bush Regeneration or landcare? Let’s find out more….
You can find out more about joining groups at or at and  and for Queensland.
We’d love to your bush regeneration stories, just send them in 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

 Well it’s TIME FOR VEGETABLE HERO -  Endive-the bitter version of lettuce or is it?
Cichorium endivia is a leaf vegetable belonging to the daisy or Asteraceae family.
That means that should your Endive bolt to seed, or you let a few go to flower, you’ll attract beneficial insects to your garden that’ll control your pest population.
Endive is a green leafy plant that looks a lot like frizzy and crinkly lettuce with a slightly bitter taste. If you don’t like bitter notes in your food I’ll tell you how you can grow it without turning bitter a little later.
Did you know that Endive is a cool weather green, because like hearting lettuce, it bolts to seed in warm weather?
Now is the perfect temperature to sow the seeds of Endive.
Traditionally lettuce is eaten raw but Endive can be cooked or used raw in salads.
Belgian endive was first produced in 1830, by accident. The story goes that a Brussels farmer, stored chicory roots in his cellar, intending to dry and roast them for coffee (a common practice in 19th century Europe). But when he returned to his farm after serving in the Belgian War of Independence, he found that the roots, had sprouted small, white leaves. He took a taste and found the leaves to be quite tasty and crunchy.
The market stalls of the capital began to display this new vegetable in 1846, and it quickly became known as Brussels endive.
There are three main varieties of cultivated endive:
(i)Frisée or Curly endive, (var crispum) and Escarole or broad leaved endive. (var latifolia.)
  Curly Endive has narrow, curly outer twisted leaves that are firm and bitter to taste. The outside leaves are dark green, while the core can be yellow or white.
(ii)  Escarole, or broad-leaved endive (var latifolia) has broad, pale green leaves and is less bitter than the other varieties. Broad-leaf Endive consists of a bunch of thick broad leaves that are coarse and slightly tough in texture.
This type of Endive is eaten like other greens, sauteed, chopped into soups and stews, or as part of a green salad.
(iii)Belgian Endive or Witloof is really quite different to the other types of endive, with a narrow, lightly packed pointed head that looks like a spearhead.
Witloof as I’ve seen it called ranges in colour from pale yellowish-green to white.
 But whatever type of Endive you grow, you’ll find that’s it’s dead easy, like a lot of lettuce type vegetables.
If you grow Endive yourself you’ll save money because it tends to be the more expensive of the greens in the supermarket or greengrocer.
Are you asking when shall I put in the seeds of Endive ?
For Tropical, sub-tropical and Arid areas, sow your endive seeds from April to July,
In temperate zones, March until May, then again in early Spring, and in cool temperate districts you had March, possibly still try in April, but unless you have a greenhouse of some sort, wait until September, October.

Endive is best planted at soil temperatures between 15°C and 25°C. and should be ready to pick in 10-11 weeks.
  Endive seeds are very fine but try and spread the seeds as thinly as possible directly into the garden.
Cover the seeds with a very fine layer of sieved composted or seed raising mix.
Water lightly, and keep soil moist. Thin plants to 15cm apart, in rows 45cm apart.
Tip: Some people sprinkle the seeds on top of a fine soil, and just water them in.
You can start endive in punnets or trays just as you would for heading lettuce and transplant later if you want.
If you’re doing the punnet thing, spray them daily with a fine mist of water until the seeds germinate, transplanting them about 20 - 30 cm apart
Like other greens, endive tastes best when it grows fast.
to do this, make sure it gets enough water and fertilizer.

Don't want Bitter?
The slightly bitter taste can add zing to a salad bowl but if you’re not into bitter tasting lettuce, you can take out the bitterness by blanching. 
Not in boiling water, but out in the garden.
Blanching is a technique used in vegetable growing.
Young shoots of a plant are covered to exclude light, so that they don’t produce as much chlorophyll, or the green stuff in leaves.
The result is leaves that are paler in colour.
Blanch by tying the leaves together or cover with a large pot for about 3 weeks. 
Tip: An easy way to blanch your endive is to cut off the top and bottom of a milk carton and pop it over your Endive plant 1-3 weeks before they are ready. That should be about 7 weeks after you sowed the seeds, so put a note in your diary.
That way, the stems will be whitish and not so bitter.
Why is it good for you?
  Endive is rich in many vitamins and minerals, especially in folate and vitamins A and K, and is high in fibre. Endive is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, a great addition to your weight loss program.

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.
You might have light coloured sandy soil, or red or black coloured heavy clay type soil, or maybe your soil is limey and quite alkaline.
You could have a mix of a few types of soil profiles depending on your site.Each one of these soil profiles has advantages and disadvantages.
Today we’re discussing sandy soil.Let’s find out how to garden with this particular soil profile in garden?

Sandy soil might be easy to dig but also dries out very quickly and is usually a lot poorer in nutrients that heavier types of soils.
Adding sand to clay soils doesn’t improve clay soils, it just makes sandy clay, and that’s just a bad combination.

There’s quite a few things you can do to improve sandy soil profiles, but remember if you try and do it all at once it’ll overwhelm you and you’ll feel like giving up. Be like the tortoise, easy does it, and a bit at a time. Over time, you’ll manage the conditions and have a fabulous garden, guaranteed/

Plant of the Week:

Common names might be easier, but as I mentioned, too many plants might have the same common name.Just think if plant breeders decided to all colour their colourful, butterfly attracting plants Butterfly Bush?
We wouldn’t have any idea what we’re buying.
So, occasionally it doesn’t hurt to have an idea of the Botanical or scientifical name, or even it’s cultivar.
Buddlejas davidii is the plant of the week, but the new hybrids released as Buddleja BUZZ series.
These plants have showy flower and perfume as well.
Beautiful Buddlejas, with their large colourful, perfumed flowers, have been a staple in gardens in Australia for  many generations.
Some gardeners gave up on them because they grew quite big and if left unpruned became rangy and straggly.

You had to know when to prune them, and often a really hard prune was essential for new growth and more flowers.
Then when the flowers finished, the bush looked nothing special for a while before until it put on new growth and flowered again.
Some of us kept on hankering after Buddlejas because of the perfumed flowers that attracted a range of butterflies and bees., and kept on growing them.
My fave is still Buddleja ‘Black Knight”  with it's deep purple flowers you see in the photograph with the Monarch butterfly. Yes, taken in my garden.
It’s hanging in there for about 5-7 years.
As a cut flower they last in the vase no more than a few days, but I like the fragrance and the butterflies it attracts.
Besides, the really dark rich purple colour, the perfume is heavenly! But I'm not overly fussed about the constant pruning to get the flowers.

Buddleja BUZZ was released last spring but not all nurseries may have stocked them until now.
The parents of Buddleja BUZZ™ are from the open forests of China where, over the centuries Buddleja davidii have hybridised readily in nature.
You might be aware that some of the larger species of Buddleja davidii are considered as weeds and not sold any more in nurseries.
The plant breeders selected the best types that had been collected in China. They were looking for dwarf varieties, with good flower colour and lots of them.
Why dwarf? The trend for smaller gardens and the clamour for more flowers!
These Buddlejas like the same conditions as the older types, that is, full sun or part shade, but are true dwarf Buddlejas that can be kept under 1 metre with little pruning.
 Generally speaking Buddlejas grow in most types of soil, but will do better if you add some compost to sandy soil.
You also need to keep Budlejas well mulched and water during dry periods, because they definitely will wilt, and possibly die under prolonged dry conditions.

In winter temperatures to 5°C are tolerated but heavy frosts will cut them back.
If you want to grow them in Canberra, grow them in containers on your patio or veranda.
For the new type of Buddlejas, all you need to do during the yearx is trim back the older growth when flowers are showing signs of slowing off and getting smaller.
Fertilise in spring after the main pruning to encourage new faster growth.
While older Buddleja varieties grow 2-4 metres tall, BUZZ® varieties stay between 1-1.2 metres tall and can be pruned to shape.
The best thing is although  the plants are a third the size of old varieties, the flowers remain the size of the standard types.
So now plant lovers with small gardens can enjoy the showy and scented flowers in garden beds, in large pots or as cut flowers.
These new varieties are BUZZ® Sky Blue Cool sky-blue flowers, BUZZ® Ivory Creamy-white flower spikes and BUZZ® Purple Luscious deep-purple flower spikes.
HINT:try and remember Buddleja?  Think of Princess Leja from Starwars and her buddy. Or maybe you can think of a better way of remembering Buddleja.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Fairy Wrens, Cannas and Beans

Gardening Tips for You

If you haven’t attended to pruning your shrubs and hedges because it’s been too hot and dry, now’s the time before the weather really cools down.
Leave Camellias alone, because they’ll be budding up for flowering over the next few months, depending on where you live.
In warm and temperate areas, Camellia sasanquas are probably flowering right now.
Unless you live in the tropics, or have a greenhouse,  pull out those tomato seedlings that are popping up everywhere, they’ll amount to nothing and just cover your plants. Wrong time of year for those guys.

Wildlife in Focus

Fairy Wrens

Superb Fairy Wrens
Small birds are on the decline in some parts of Australia, but there are ways to help them survive. Apart from their cuteness, they make up the diverse range of fauna that Australia has to offer but are generally defenceless to a range of predators.
If you saw a flash of blue and heard a squeaky reeling song, would you know which small bird it was? Let’s find out….with ecologist,Sue Stevens

As Sue mentioned, Fairy wrens live and forage in family groups in understorey bushes. They even move around in understorey bushes.To help these small birds, think about increasing the amount of understorey planting you have in your garden, or perhaps volunteer for some bushcare project that involves planting habitat for small birds.We’d love to see photos of any sightings you have of the Variegated Fairy Wren or any birds you’ve got visiting your garden, just send them in 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

Broad beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your veggie patch.
Vicia faba or BROAD BEANS or some people know it as the Faba bean.
Although no near ancestor has been found in the wild, remains of the broad or faba bean have been found in Neolithic sites in Israel dating back to 6800-6500 BC.
Broad beans are native to North Africa and southwest Asia, but they were cultivated in other regions very early on as well.
Fossil evidence has been found of Broad Beans being grown at least 4500 BC.
Did you know that in the Roman Senate the beans were used to vote, white bean for yes and black bean for no? Maybe that’s where the term bean counters comes from?
Broad beans are in the bean or Fabaceae family, but they look different and grow differently to their beany cousins.
Broad beans grown into a large, upright, bushy plant up to about 1 ½-2  metres.
Most varieties have white flowers with black eyes, but some older varieties have red flowers that look nice, but don’t set pods nearly as much as the white flowering ones.
Each pod is shiny green with very short fuzzy hair, and is roundish, and quite long with a pointy end.
Each Broad Bean pod contains 4-8 light green  to white, rounded and kidney-shaped beans.
 The beans are quite chunky, about 2cm and the pods can grow to as much as 50cm
The bean plants tend to be bushy, with square, hollow stems and without beany tendrils. 
There’s two main varieties, the dwarf bush or the tall variety that needs staking.
Like all beans, they fix atmospheric nitrogen and so, are also useful as a green manure.
Best of all, they are hardy, easy to grow.
Plant them in March to June in temperate and sub-tropical areas, April to July in arid areas, , and April and May, then August and September for cool temperate zones in Australia.
Broad beans prefer a sunny well-drained position in the garden.
Broad beans can be grown in soils with high salinity, as well as in clay soil, so they're pretty adaptable.
You veggie bed's soil should fertile, but not too much of the chook poo or other  rich manure as you'll only get leaf growth rather than flower (and bean) production and will make the plant more sensitive to frost and disease.
Direct planting into roughly prepared soil is the best way to grow BB.
Sow the seeds about 5-10cm deep, with 15-20cm between plants you need 2 ruler lengths between rows. That's if you've got the room, but there's a reason for this..
Your broad beans will start sprouting in about 2 weeks after sowing, but will be slower the later you sow towards winter.
Soaking seeds overnight in diluted liquid seaweed can speed this up….germination.
Water seeds well as soon as you've put them into the ground and, then, don't water them…
MOST IMPORTANT   until after germination, to prevent the seeds from rotting. Ok, YOU CAN'T DO MUCH ABOUT IT IF IT RAINS.
Broad beans will need to be staked or supported to stop the plant collapsing under the weight of the mature beans.
If your district experiences a bit of frost, flowers formed during frosty weather are probably not going to set pods. Once spring arrives, pinch out the tips of the plants to encourage pod set.
Try to limit water stress as this will also affect pod set. That means don't let them dry out!
In  3-5 months, depending on how cold the weather is, the beans will be ready.
Broad bean pods can be picked at several stages. Firstly, they can be picked when small and can be snapped crisply in half. In which case you can eat them like young green beans.
Secondly, if allowed to grow larger but the seeds are still soft, you don’t have to shell them. The bean seeds, but don’t eat the pods at this stage.
 Finally, they can be grown until fully mature and the seeds have dried. In this last case the seeds are used as dried beans and are called Lima Beans.
Broad beans are prone to fungal attack - brown spots on stems and leaves - particularly if planted too closely together or if planted in soils too rich in nutrients.
Towards the end of the crop, rust - producing powdery spots on the leaves - can become a problem. Plants with black tips may suffer from root rot, caused by poor drainage. Remove affected plants and re-sow.
Freshly shelled broad beans can be frozen, blanched and then frozen or stored in the fridge for about 5 days.
Broad beans are legumes meaning they convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into nitrogen in the soil. The nitrogen is attached to their roots and becomes available in the soil once the beans die down.
Dig in the roots and leaves after picking all the beans, to add nitrogen to the soil.
You can then lay the tops on the soil or use it as mulch elsewhere in the garden. It, too adds nitrogen to the soil as it breaks down.
As the beans mature it is better to remove their tough outer skins after cooking.
The leafy top shoots of the adult plants can be picked and steamed after flowering.
 Beans are high in protein and carbohydrates, rich in vitamin C and are also a good source of vitamins A, B and folate.
Beans also provide potassium and iron in facto 100g of beans has as much iron as a pork chop.
Broad beans are a good source of fibre. Bon Appetit!

Design Elements

with landscape designer, Louise McDaid.

This month, Design elements is still fixing your garden design problems that are based on how much or how little light or sun your garden’s getting.Not all gardens have constant shade and sun, and sometimes when it’s only sunny or shady for some of the year, finding a plant that suits that location is a bit too tricky. It’s an all too common problem for the modern gardener.But all is not lost. Let’s find out what can help if you have an awkward spot in your garden?

Sunny in summer, shady in winter? There were lots of suggestions for which plants to choose no matter what your style of garden.
From annuals that require replanting every year, perhaps try last week’s plant of the week, Sunsatia Nemesia that come in all those mouth-watering colours. Perhaps choose some shrubs that can cope with the two extremes, or a deciduous tree.

Plant of the Week

A while back, Design elements talked about Tropical gardens for cool climates. Might sound a bit strange, but it’s actually it’s not only possible, but desirable, especially if you have hot summers. One of the plants suggested can cope with extremes of temperatures, and if you can offer protection from frost, you get almost all year round benefit from the flowers as well as the foliage colour.
Cannas aren’t a lily but are related to heliconias, babanas and gingers. Cannas belong in the family Cannaceae.
Cannas grow from an underground root or rhizome that continues to multiply depending on the variety of Canna that you have.
The flowers grow up through tightly furled leaf bases or 'false stems'.
The flowers remind me a blowsy iris flowers, but in much brighter, hotter colours generally.
Modern canna hybrids come in four different sizes: pixie (45cm-60cm), dwarf (60cm-100cm), medium (1m-1.5m) and tall (1.5m-2m).
They come in all colours except blue and black. The leaves also come in a range of colours from green, blue-green, purple, burgundy, bronze or striped.

Growing cannas are a must in the flower gardens as they flower for eight to nine months of the year in most climate zones in Australia. 

When planting Cannas, to get the most out of flowering you need to think of them as sun and heat loving plants, even though they can grown in a range of cliamtes from hot tropical climates, to cool temperate areas as well.

Cannas need 5-6 hours of sun to flower well.

If you have plants with variegated or bronze foliage they colour up better in a semi-shaded position although you''ll get less flowers.

Then again, I have a friend who grows them for the colour of the leaves and trims of the orange flowers because she doesn’t like that colour.

Cannas are very dry tolerant once the rhizome has established, but don't forget to water them during extended periods of dry and hot days.
I have some purple leaved Cannas that survive mainly on natural rainfall, but I always give them a water on days over 30 degrees.
Cannas in Winter in cool temperate districts will get frost damage.

Frost damage on Cannas in winter will leave their leaves looking burnt; even a very light frost will leave behind a brownish mark on their foliage.

But don’t be alarmed and cut off those frost damaged leaves. New eye growth is constantly being produced on the underground rhizome during winter and this shoots away in early spring as the above ground temperature warm up, because Cannas need warmth for above ground foliage to grow.

If burnt frost damaged leaves bother you, you can dig up the whole clump, and store in an open box in the garage. Don’t break up the clump, just remove the excess soil before storing for the winter.

When the last frost has passed, break the clump up and replant. They’ll shoot away in a matter of weeks.
Big clumps of cannas are tough water wise plants, but it’s wise with single small sized divisions to be careful when watering cannas not to overwater any small plants or they may rot.

 On a recent holiday along the coast of the Great Ocean Road  a friend of mine was I surprised to see many home gardens with cannas in their planting schemes.

The gardens had beach road frontage and the cannas were thriving and really stood out amongst other hardy garden flowers perennials including Agapanthus and Kniphofias.

 Pruning old flowers isn’t necessary. If you want to give them a bit of a tidy up cut away the old head below the last flower but not far down as the new head that are coming through.
End of winter is best to prune all Cannas, particularly if they’ve been affected by frost.
Cut them down to about 30cm. New growth will come from below as the weather warms up.
Some gardeners lift and divide their Cannas every 3 years, but this depends on how vigorous the variety of Canna that you’ve got.
You can mail order  Cannas from anywhere in Australia from a Victorian nursery-
Canna Brae Country Garden Nursery
 35 Felix Crescent
 Ringwood North VIC 3134 or ring Anne on 03-9870-1130

If your neighbour’s have prying eyes, then plant some tall growing canna plants along your fence line's for privacy, you can also use them to provide shade and protection for more tender perennials plants or to hide an ugly fence.

Whether you grow Cannas for the foliage or for the flowers, there’s something attractive about these plants that suits all types of gardens.Get active and plant out some Cannas into your garden bed today?

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?