Thursday, 24 October 2013

Heating Up The Garden Palette

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

If you heard this owl you might be forgiven for thinking that you were hearing a cuckoo. I heard it other night that was my first thought.
Reason prevailed because, Australia doesn’t have the bird that makes the real cuckoo sound other than from cuckoo clocks.
Anyway, listen to this

Did you know that this small, rather cute owl makes the call through closed beak which can carry for up to a kilometre away?
Books often refer to the sound as 'boo-book' or 'mo-poke', but don’t you think it sound  more like cuckoo or more pork?
If you have any questions about Boobook owls or other birds, why not drop us a line. Or send in a photo to or by post to 2RRR, PO Box 644, Gladesville, NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes:

Have you ever tried that dob of green paste that comes with Sushi and Sashimi?
Did you know that the green paste sold as Wasabi in the supermarket is actually horseradish that’s been dyed green.
Yes it’s still got that bite but’s it’s not Wasabi.
Wasabi is Wasabi japonica, and is a semi aquatic Brassica related to horse radish Armoracia rusticana.
You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Wasabi grows wild in Japan.
In Japan, Wasabi evolved at the edges of mountain streams and has adapted to cope with low levels of light, low temperatures and high humidity.
Did you know that the Japanese consider wasabi a gourmet treat, and is used in everything from cheese and salad dressing to wine and even ice cream and toothpaste.
Wasabi is a herbaceous perennial plant with a thick knobbly rhizome only about 10-30cm long and about 2-5 cm thick.
The part you use is that thick rhizome that needs to be grated.
Wasabi’s bite is pretty powerful and you only need a ¼ of a teaspoon of the stuff to get steam coming out of your ears, water running out of your eyes, and the feeling that your nose is going to lift off into space.
Trying to buy the real thing is about as difficult as trying to buy hen’s teeth. Mainly because the real thing is frighteningly expensive and doesn’t keep for very long.
The ideal is to grow your own.
You can buy the rhizome to grow some of your own, from mail order catalogue or online.
Although Wasabi prefers a cool and shaded position, in moist soils, the variety Daruma will tolerate warmer conditions than most.
Daruma is supposed to have superior green colour, size and crisp taste, and produces a better quality stem (used extensively in salads) and generally has a more attractive appearance.
Daruma is only available from next year called Daruma, from Diggers, but they have one called Mazuma now.
This one grows to 40cm and needs to be grown in full shade.
Dig it up January to December.

Growing Wasabi

Traditionally, wasabi is best produced in clear, cool (120-150C) running water, with plenty of shade in the hot months. But who's got a stream running past their house?
Wasabi is best planted from Autumn through to early summer.
One family in Victoria are trialling growing it commercially with the hope that one day it’ll be available to buy as a plant in garden centres.
Their tip is to plant it in a cold damp area.
Think of a fernery in dense shade, 80% or more to protect from heat, then you’ve got the right growing conditions.
At my primary school (country South Australia) there was a fernery underneath a rainwater tank in the actual tank stand,-this was a small room, which was built out of limestone.

The shaded area should be well prepared with a large amount of organic matter.
Soil should be kept constantly moist.

  • If you’re lucky enough to receive a Wasabi plant in the mail, keep it in damp newspaper somewhere cool and shady until you’re ready to plant it into the garden.
  • In the garden, dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the roots, insert the plant with the roots gently spread out and with the base of the leaf stalks level with the soil surface.
  • Backfill with soil and gently press into place.
  • Water them in well.
  • Don’t fertilise until you see some growth.
  • You can grow it in a container or foam box and cover it with 75% shade-cloth if you don’t have a shady spot in the garden.
  • Remember to punch some holes in the foam box for drainage.
  • Your new Wasabi plant is unlikely to produce new growth for several weeks, due to the stress of transport.
  • If planted in summer or winter they may not produce new growth at all until the following autumn or spring.
  • If it does grow after a few weeks, to concentrate growth in the rhizome and plant itself, break off any suckers that form.
  • Growing it soil means that you must scrub it clean of any dirt before using it.
  • Soil’s not tasty, I keep saying.
  • According to this Victorian grower, there’s not much difference in taste to the water grown or soil grown Wasabi.
  • Also, Mature wasabi plants are about 36cm high and live for many years.
  • Generally, wasabi plants need about 18 months to 2 years before the rhizome matures to full size.
  • During this time, however, you can use the leaf and stem in salads and stir fries adding a delicious mild wasabi 'zing'
  • The leaves can be pickled in sake, brine or soy sauce and can even be powdered for use as wasabi flavouring.
  • When eaten raw, the wasabi rhizome is washed and trimmed of outer bumps and then grated.

Grating according to Japanese tradition, has to be just right.

The wasabi cells need to be torn apart to set off a chemical reaction, which after a few moments rest, develops its wow flavour.
You need just that right type of very fine grater.
You can’t use a nutmeg grater because it’s too coarse and slices instead of grinding.
Plus, you have to hold the rhizome at 450 and use a circular motion with your Wasabi on their special grater.
The grater’s have a name-oroshigane. These Oroshigane graters have fine teeth on one side for Wasabi, and coarse on the other for ginger and daikon.
You can also buy much cheaper plastic versions of this grater.

TIP: Watch out for slugs and snails.
Only from and

Why is it good for you?
Well apart from clearing out your sinuses, wasabi has a few health benefits too!
High in vitamin C, dietary fibre and potassium, with some Calcium and protein.
Wasabi kills food borne bacteria and reduces blood pressure.
Plus there are reports of it’s anti-cancer properties, but not medically tested.

Design Elements

with Christopher Owen landscape designer.

The inaugural Australian Garden show, showcased quite a few less garden designers than you would’ve seen at Chelsea.
As I mentioned last week, compared to garden shows in the UK, the Australian garden show has plenty of room to grow.

But, there were some very different designs that were none traditional and more inventive than those that I saw at Chelsea this year.
I spoke to some of the garden designers to see what inspired their designs.

Here’s a landscape designer from Sydney.
Christopher has used some clever design techniques such as with the charred wall.
Shou-sugi-ban is a Japanese style burnt wood.
Traditionally, cedar was burnt in Japan to increase the wood's resistance to insects and fire, but also adds to the woods longevity and appearance.

Apologies for the wind noise because the interview was done at the actual location.
Listen to these inspiring thoughts

Grasses can be a wonderful addition to your garden if you plant a clump of them. The grasses not only add colour but texture and sound.

Tall grasses in a large grouping can be a perfect solution for screening an unpleasant view and they soften hardscaping like around a pool.

Plus the sound of rustling grass can be therapeutic or calming,
If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it our email address, or just post it.

Plant of the Week

Fruit and nut trees have a place in the ornamental garden because they don’t take up much room, plus they fit the spot if you don’t want shade in winter.
Did you know that Astronauts took pecans to the moon in two Apollo missions?

Pecan is a type of hickory, and, the wood from the tree is used in agricultural implements, baseball bats, hammer handles, furniture, wall paneling, flooring(in the US) religious carvings and firewood.

Not that you’re going to chop down your tree to make anything. Instead, make some pecan pie with all those pecan nuts that you’re dreaming of.

Pecan tree is Caryaa Illinoinensis, and is native to southern USA.

Carya is Greek for walnut.

Did you know that Pecanes is an American Indian word for all nuts with a hard shell?
Who would've thought that the Pecan is the official state tree of Texas?

In America Pecans grow from the hot arid areas of Texas and Arizona to Illinois which is well into the colder areas of the mid-west.

Where to Grow Pecans in Australia,

In the warmer arid climates, the pecan needs access to a water table.
Alice Springs this one's for you!
Pecan trees have a deep tap root.
In the early stages of growth the Pecan doesn’t have much top growth as it’s establishing its root system.
After that it shoots away.

Trees that grow from seed take 8 – 15 years to fruit, much like Macadamia trees.

Best to get a grafted tree that will fruit in 3 years and not grow to 45 metres!

There’s a pecan variety for most parts of Australia.

One thing to note, I have a colleague who loves growing fruit and nut trees near Vineyard on the outskirts of Sydney.
But in his heavy clay soil, he can only grow Pecans.

Western varieties prefer a dry climate, eastern varieties tolerate humidity and northern varieties are more cold tolerant and have a shorter growing season according to Louis Glowinski in his excellent text “The complete book of fruit growing in Australia.

The seed grown pecan tree grows to 30 – 45 metres, and if you know what walnut leaves look like, these are the same. Leaves are thin long and spear shaped.

Leaves turn gold in Autumn.

Each tree has male and female flowers. The male flowers are the long catkins, and the female flowers are tiny clusters on the tips of new spring growth.

Once pollinated the nut will take 3 months before it’s ready.

Pecans like a chilling of 700 hours under 70C. If you can grow peaches or apples, then you can grow Pecans.
The hotter the better for pecans. Pecans will tolerate temperatures of 380 and above.
You will need to water if your summer is dry otherwise you’ll end up with smal shrivelled nuts.
Pecans need deep water retentive soils and will cope with temporary inundation.

Fertilising Your Pecan Tree

Because the tree is a heavy cropper, it needs heavy feeding.1/2 kg of complete organic fertiliser in the first year, then increase that amount by 1 kg each year until the tree starts to bear fruit or nuts!

 These two varieties are available by mail order from from Daleys Fruit Nursery
36 Daley's Lane,Geneva via Kyogle NSW 2474 or visit the website

 Pecan - Pawnee (A) SP Shoshonii (B) SP



Friday, 18 October 2013

All About Cardamom

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
Is Cardamom one of the spices in your cupboard?
If not have you ever wondered how to use cardamom?
Did you know that Cardamom is used in Indian, Middle Eastern and even Scandinavian cooking? The Scandinavians use Cardamom in baking.
Listen to this.
For those living in warmer climates, you can grow your own Cardamom. Cardamom is a perennial shrub up to four metres high with very long leaves.

The flowers are small, yellow with purple tips.
As Ian suggests, if you only want a pinch of Cardamom, use the pre-ground spice.
The flavour is less strong, but cracking open the pods, scraping out the seeds, and grinding them up can be a pain when we need more than a pinch of the spice.
If you have any questions about Cardamom, or any spice or herb, 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:

Herb-Celery Leaf , Leaf Celery or Chinese Celery.
Leaf celery is also called Cutting Celery, Parcel, Smallage, Zwolsche Krul, and German celery.
Celery Leaf is botanically-(Apium graveolens var. secalinum).
Did you think there was only the celery with the stalks?
Maybe you’ve heard of Celeriac, well that’s a type of Celery too, but instead of stalks, it’s a bulbous root.
Well, there’s also a type of Celery that’s all leaf and nothing much else.
Before you say, I chuck the leaves away from the stalk celery, I say, hang on, this one tastes a bit better than those.
Celery Leaf looks similar to parsley but tastes similar but slightly better than regular stalk celery!
Some say it tastes a little stronger than stalk celery or celeriac.
Leaf Celery has been around for a long time and was in fact used by the ancient Romans as a medicinal herb.
Supposedly, Celery seed has been used for around 3000 years as a seasoning for food.
Did you know that crushed celery seeds are steam distilled to make celery oil?
This oil is used for flavouring sauces, meats, liqueurs, perfumes, cosmetics and soaps.
The reason I’m talking about Celery seed I’ll get to a little later.
Some gardeners have run out of room in their veggie bed already-full of tomatoes, Basil and whatnot.
Never fear, Leaf Celery will grow in pots because it’s a compact plant that only gets to around 20 – 25 cm.

If you live in a cool temperate district, container veggies can be moved under cover during winter.
Leaf Celery is a darker green with thin stalks and leaves that look like a cross between the Italian Parsley and the Curley Parsley.
Celery leaf is perfect for container gardens because it’s a cut and come again plant and is great used as a herb in stews, dressings and salads.
When to plant:
In cool temperate districts, Spring and Summer are your sowing times, in temperate and sub-tropical zones, you have from Spring right through to Autumn, in arid areas, the only time you can’t really sow it is in summer, and tropical districts win the jackpot, because they can sow it all year round.
How to grow:
From putting the seed into the ground or pot, it’ll take around 2-3 months.
Like most veggies, Leaf Celery needs full sun but can do alright in part shade in soil that’s not too dry.
You can start them off in punnets if you like because they don’t mind being transplanted.
Keep in mind, Leaf Celery isn’t frost tolerant.
Sow  the very fine seeds thinly, and only 5mm (1/4”) deep.
Be careful not to cover the fine seeds too much because they need light to germinate.
For fine seeds I tend to use a light cover of vermiculite which I then mist to make moist.
They can be slow to germinate taking up to 21 days at 100C-180C, so be patient.
In warmer areas, seedlings should emerge in 1-2 weeks.
Once the seeds have germinated it’s a good idea to thin them out around 30cm (12”) apart.
TIP: number 1: Don’t let them dry out.
TIP: number 2:-If you believe in companion planting, then leaf Celery is supposed to be an insect repellent for cabbage white butterfly.
Try planting some around your Brassicas like Broccoli, Cauli, and Cabbage.
TIP: number 3 and now for the Celery Seed.
If you leave your Celery leaf over winter, the plant will bolt to seed in Spring.
What can you do with that?
Apart from replanting fresh seed, the seeds are actually edible.
Ever heard of Celery salt?
What you can also do is grind it up in your mortar and pestle with a little sea salt. Better than from the supermarket shelf.
Plus you can enjoy the dainty white umbels of flowers.
After a couple of months, pick leaves as you need them to put in soups, stews, stocks and sauces.
A few leaves go well in salads with a strong blue cheese or some or cured meats.
Why is it good for you?
The leaves are brimming with five times more magnesium and calcium than the stalks.
They're also a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidant’
The good thing is Leaf Celery is low in carbs, and has even a small amount of fibre


Design Elements

with guest landscape designer Charlie Albone

The inaugural Australian Garden show, showcased quite a few less garden designers than you would’ve seen at Chelsea.
By comparison, it was a small affair, but you have to start somewhere even if you aspire to be something a lot bigger.
I spoke to some of the garden designers to see what inspired their designs.Here’s a landscape designer from Melbourne.
I must apologize for the wind noise because the interview was done at the actual location. Listen to these inspiring thoughts

The silver Lady fern is Blechnum gibbum ‘silver lady’ that loves shade but not frost. Sometimes called the dwarf tree fern.
Gibbum is native to the islands in the South Pacific, including New Caledonia, Fiji and Hawaii. Did you know that this fern’s root systems are often used to produce a substrate for growing orchids. There you go orchid lovers.
If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it our email address, or just post it.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Going Nuts About Protein

Wildlife in Focus - Golden Whistler

This bird is one of Australia’s loudest and most beautiful songsters but scientists give it a most unkind name. There’s even one group on Norfolk Island that they call Tamey.
The call has been described as up to 35 loud, rapid, ringing notes without pause, or a high, thin call with a whip-crack.
Listen to this. I'm talking with ecologist Sue Stevens

As Sue mentioned, the Golden Whistler is found from Cooktown in North QLD to the Eyre Peninsular in the South, as well in Southern WA. This bird inhabits most kinds of dense forest, its diet consists of insects, grubs and small fruits
The Golden Whistler will visit suburban areas close to nature reserves if gardens include thick vegetation, layers of trees, shrubs and ground cover. Collecting firewood from local reserves is not a good idea if you want native birds to visit your area.
 Keep your cat in at night and give it a stimulating indoor environment and a cat run or enclosure, to minimise the threat to birds.
If you have any questions about the Golden Whistler, or have spotted it in your neighbourhood, why not send in a photo or 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

This week’s Vegetable Hero is Peanuts!
Arachis hypogaea, or peanut is not a true nut but a legume, like peas, and beans.
Why peanuts? Because people tell me it’s easy, and fun thing to try.
Another announcer here at the station, bought a small plant from a low cost supermarket last year, planted it in a pot and harvested some peanuts.
He was amazed at how easy it was and wondered if it would continue to crop the following year.
I’ll answer that later.
Anthropologists working on the slopes of the Andes in Brazil and Peru have discovered the earliest-known evidence of peanut farming dating back an amazing 7600 years. Amazing!
Did you know that peanut growing was introduced into Australia in Queensland during the gold rushes of the 1870's.
Chinese gold diggers on the Palmer River near Cooktown, around this time were the first to grow peanuts.
The peanut plant grows to a bush about 50 cm tall and up to 100 cm wide.
Small, yellow, pea-type flowers emerge at 30-40 days after planting give or take a few weeks, and, after self-pollination, the ovary's base elongates, bends downwards and penetrates the soil.
The tip of this 'peg' then enlarges to form a pod containing one to three kernels.
Depending on what variety you managed to get, where you’re growing your peanuts and what the weather’s like that season, will determine how long your peanuts will take to grow.
Peanuts can take anywhere from from 14 to 26 weeks, or 3 ½ to 6 months.
Peanuts aren’t too fussy about the type of soil you’ve got.
However, Peanuts are a subtropical legume crop needing relatively warm growing conditions and 500 to 600 mm of rain.
As long as the soil is well-drained and friable with no large stones, sticks, stumps or chemical residues.
Peanuts can tolerate a wide range of pH - from 5 to 8, but can’t tolerate heavy clay soils.

When to Plant

Planting usually occurs from October to January in Queensland and NSW. In the Northern Territory, plantings occur in March-April.
Peanuts have been commercially trialled in Western and South Australia, so give them a go there too.
For cooler zones, plant your peanuts in pots or containers and keep the going by placing them in the warmest part of the garden.
Where Can You Get It?

The seed that is.

To grow your own peanuts if you can’t find any peanut bushes to buy, it’s sort of easy.
What you need is a packet or raw peanuts. Not salted or roasted or any other fancy shmancy types.
It has to be raw peanuts.
Then, like any other seed, you sow some raw peanuts either into jiffy pots, punnets or into a garden bed.
Sow each seed 3-5cm deep and if they are fresh they should germinate in one to two weeks).
There’s a few strange and weird things about looking after your peanut bushes though.
For instance, you might be surprised to know that the pods take most of their calcium and boron directly from the soil rather than through the roots.
Sprinkle some Dolomite, which contains Calcium, around the plant before flowering.
Next, watering is critical particularly during the critical stages of germination, flowering, pegging, and pod filling.
Yes, that's right, all the time the peanut is growing.

When Are They Ready?

The next trick is to know when to dig up the peanuts, and like a lot of things that grow in the veggie bed, it’s when the leaves start to turn brown. You can check to see if they’re ripe by digging a few up.
What you need to see are dark-coloured pods inside the shell, where the kernel should be changing from a pink to gold colour.
Not all the pods will be ready at once so timing is important.
But look, if you get it wrong, that try again next year.
For Brian,  the announcer at 2RRR 88.5fm, who experimented with growing peanuts, the answer to will the plant grow again next year.
No, because you have to dig up the whole plant, shake off the excess soil and hang the entire thing up in a warm, dry place, such as the garage or garden shed.
Dry the bush for a week or two until brittle then break off the pods.
Wash off any dirt-dirt isn’t too tasty- and air-dry for a couple of weeks.
If you like raw peanuts you don’t have to do any more.
  If you like roasted peanuts, then put them on a tray in the oven at 160-180°C in an oven for 15-20 minutes for shelled kernels or 20-25 minutes for peanuts still in the shell.
Why is it good for you?
Peanuts are high in fibre and protein but free of cholesterol.
They’re a high energy food but with a slow energy release over a long time because of the high oil unsaturated (good) fat content.
They also have a high folic acid (iron) content

Living Planet

with Sophie Golding
It’s great to have all kinds of creatures visit your garden. You put out those bits of white bread for the maggies, or those seed bells for the cockatoos.

What’s wrong with that?
Animals that expect to be fed by people can become aggressive, harassing people for food when they are hungry.
The Ibis at the Botanic gardens where I teach visiting schools, are an example.
I’m often asked by visiting students why the Ibis seem to harass them.

Whatever your thoughts,
 Listen to this….

The NSW department of Environment and Heritage suggests that when you feed native animals you're giving them the wildlife equivalent of junk food.
When kangaroos and wallabies become used to being hand-fed, they sometimes attack people in their quest for food. Remember, they have sharp claws and a strong kick.
Another example is in Flinders Chase on Kangaroo Island where they’ve had to put up cages around the eating tables in the national park, so people can eat in peace.
If you have any questions about this Feeding Wildlife, send it our email address, or just post it.

Plant of the Week

 The generic name Allium is the Latin word for garlic.
There are lots of plants that you may know in this perennial bulb family group, including the various edible onions, garlics, chives, and leeks, and of course society garlic. Most of them have an onion or garlic taste and perfume.

You might think that Alliums are in the Alliaceae family.
They were but have been reclassified into the family Amaryllidaceae.

Chives have pretty cute pom pom purple flowers that make a nice low border in the garden. Although many of the plants in the onion family have flowers with that distinctive onion or garlic scent, many others are have a delicate floral aroma.

Did you know that these floral scented Alliums are often used in perfumes and cosmetics?
But there are also other members of the onion family that have quite a wow factor when it comes to their flowers.
Like a lot of bulbs, Alliums don’t repeat flower.

What’s good about ornamental alliums is that the flower heads can be left on the plant to dry.
The dried seed heads look attractive in the garden and can be used for cut flower arrangements.

If you’ve got dry weather, keep the foliage watered even after flowering, to feed the plant.

 Don't be put off by the height of the ornamental Alliums because their leaves are usually straight-linear, channelled or flat, and don't take up much room. A great design element!

Technically the flowers umbels where the outside flower first and progresses to the inner flowers.
Ornamental alliums were a big feature in many of the gardens that I saw this year in the UK.

Some RHS gardens and what they called a wide border which was literally filled with alliums.

Alliums with their purple pom pom flowers really provided a vertical and linear element, amongst the flower borders.

Sometimes the flowers are described as fireworks in mid-explosion.

The purple and the green, although not opposites in the colour wheel, were definitely a standout amongst the crowd.

Really a must have plant in a perennial border because you can enjoy flowers from spring until autumn.
By mid-spring, packed, rounded heads of violet-purple stand on strong stems that reach up to 90cm high.
The leaves are bright green and the flowers, which kind of remind me of Agapanthus flowers in size and shape, soft to the touch, with lots of petals.

 How to grow your Allium bulbs-yes bulbs.

In general, alliums need a sunny position and good drainage.
The important point is that they need a well-drained site.
They don’t like cold, exposed or waterlogged conditions.
Being bulbs, they'll come up every year without you having to do another thing. Brilliant!

Plant bulbs in the autumn, to twice the depth of the bulb.
Most Alliums will do well in deep pots.
Congested clumps can be lifted and divided - straight after flowering, if necessary.
Dead-head before the seeds disperse if you want to avoid seedlings.

Their nectar-rich flowers will attract bees and hoverflies
Alliums go well with soft pastels, among old-fashioned roses,  among a Mediterranean mix of lavender, artemisia, sage and phlomis.
Some Alliums for you to try:
Purple Sensation'. will tolerate more shade
Allium ‘Millenium’
Allium giganteum like its name suggests, is bit of a giant, though slightly later to flower.

It reaches 1.2m (4ft) tall and each large 15cm (6in), spherical head is lilac-purple
Both A. cristophii and A. schubertii can be grown on heavier soil in full sun, but will only successfully overwinter and multiply if given good drainage.
This is the first Australian release of the very best perennial Allium. It forms a compact upright clump of glossy green, narrow strap-like leaves. From mid-summer into autumn 35cm tall stems carry a profusion of large bright purple-rose balls of flowers. Foliage mounds grow 30cm tall by 30cm wide.

Allium sphaerocephalon-Drumstick Allium
From January, metre tall stems are topped by green golf balls which over a period of a week or so gradually turn purple.  Increases readily. Sun. 100cm x 10cm.
Allium roseum, A. sphaerocephalon and A. vineale produce aerial bulbils in flower head.
Carefully remove and separate the bulbils and plant them in moist free draining compost about 2.5cm (1in) apart and cover with 1cm (3/8in) layer of compost.

Available from Lambley nursery.

Allium christophii -35x 30cm

One of the most beautiful large headed Alliums with huge 20cm mauve heads on short squat stems. Better than many of the modern breeds, with fewer disease issues and good garden persistence in a well drained position.

From Diggers Seeds
Why not treat yourself to a big flowered one? Go on.


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Love Apples and Flowers That Go Boom

Compost Capers

So you’ve had problems with your worm farm or you’ve heard that they smell?
Did you know that the stuff you get out of worm farms helps your plants to grow and resist disease?
These worm castings also helps your soil hold onto water longer-that’s called water holding capacity. Yeah that goes up.
Australia’s been heating up so it’s going to a good idea to get more of that water holding capacity into your soil.
But hold, on, you’ve tried worm farming but the worms disappeared or just grew thin.
Well, don’t give up because Cameron’s got plenty of tips to fix things up.

Listen to this. I'm talking with Sustainability guru, Cameron Little

Australia is second only to the America making waste.
Each year every Australian produces around 800kg of solid waste.
In New South Wales, an average of 65% of our household rubbish is food scraps, garden waste and other organic matter.
The best way to reduce our food and garden waste is to convert it to compost.
Organic material that is deposited in a landfill breaks down in anaerobic (without air) conditions, releasing methane and carbon dioxide.
Both of these gases are major contributors to the enhanced greenhouse effect.
Good reason to keep on composting I reckon.
If you have any questions about a worm farming, need some help, 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 Hero

This weeks Vegetable Hero is eggplants, aubergines to some and Solanum melongena to botanists.
Eggplants are a fruit?
Yes, the eggplant is botanically a berry to be precise, but we always think of it as a vegetable.
The eggplant is, or Solanum melongena, a member of the nightshade family along with the tomato and potato.
Yes, we often want to tie the words "deadly" and "nightshade" together, and the reason for this is that the leaves and flowers of plants in the nightshade family are often poisonous.

TIP:You can only use the "fruit" from the plant, which is the eggplant.

The first eggplants to reach Europe during the Middle Ages were white, oval fruits that closely resemble a hen's egg.
No surprise that they began calling it eggplant even when other colours became popular.
The eggplant was once known as the "love apple" in England because it was thought to possess aphrodisiac properties.
Early eggplants were far more bitter than today's varieties, so Botanists in northern Europe called the eggplant mala insana, or "mad apple," because they thought that eating the fruit could result in insanity.
Others even thought that eating eggplants would cause a bitter disposition, cancer, and even leprosy!
Eggplants originated in India, and have been cultivated in China from about the 5th Century BC.

Basic Guide for Growing Eggplants

Eggplant is a short lived perennial plant that is usually grown as an annual. Eggplants grow best when the temperatures are at least 250C or above.
Eggplants resent frost and so far my plants from previous years never survive the cold and I have to start all over again.

Planting times:

Eggplant seeds/seedlings can be planted in spring to autumn in tropical areas, spring to early summer in temperate zones and during late spring in cool climates.
Any spot that gets about six to eight hours of full is what you want.
That means no shrubs, trees, sheds or houses to block the sun for any part of the day.
Eggplant bushes grow to a reasonable size so don’t crowd them.
You can plant some varieties in a pot, or  plant each eggplant seedling about 30- 40cms apart from one another.
You'll probably have only room for a couple to see how you go..
Mix some pelleted chicken manure, or blood/n/bone and compost in with the soil before planting your eggplants.
The seedlings don't need to be planted too far into the ground.
Just enough so that the soil covers the roots is fine.
After the seedlings have been transplanted, give them a little water and leave them to grow.
Make sure to add a little mulch to the top of the soil to help keep moisture in the soil.
Don't overwater your eggplants as they are susceptible to root rot.
Research the different types of eggplant before choosing the species you want to plant, as some of the larger varieties will require a stake to help lend support as they fruit.
Good idea for areas that get quite warm or are prone to drought.
Your eggplants will be ready for picking in about 3-4 months when growing from seed.
As eggplants are the tastiest when they are young, most people prefer to pick them when they are about one third of their potential size.
When you pick your eggplant fruit is really up to you, as soon as the "skin" of the fruit is glossy, then it’s ready to be picked.
If the skin has turned brown then you've waited too long to pick the fruit.
They come in many colours besides the purple variety, there are white and yellow varieties, and a dwarf species whose fruits grow only three or four inches long.

Today, I’m featuring a new release seed called Eggplant white Star. This is a compact plant that will suit pots, and small gardens. Available from Yates seeds.

Why not try ROSA BIANCA?
this' ones' an Italian heirloom with heaps of fruit that are  rosy lavender and white heavy teardrop shaped fruit with a mild flavour.

Beautiful red-orange fruit, round to 7.5cm, lots of fruit in 65-85 days.

For cooler districts, why not try the funny soundying UDUMALAPET
Yellow-green teardrop shaped fruit with vibrant lavender stripes, best eaten small at 8cm.
A peculiar variety called the snake eggplant produces narrow, elongated fruits up to a foot in length with their ends curled up like a serpent's tongue.
Why is it good for you?
Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fibre, potassium, manganese, copper and thiamin (vitamin B1).
Eggplants are a top source of vitamin B6 and just 75g provides a whole day’s supply.
Also have folate, magnesium and niacin.
Eggplants are great for the waistline because they’re low in calories and fat and are 95% water.
Eggplant is a nutrient dense food, which will help you feel full, and there are only 20 calories in one cup in eggplants.
Go the eggplant.

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid
 Last week, Design Elements explored the structures in the Seeability garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower show. This week, because the garden was so cool, Louise, discussed the planting.
Seems like it was an age away already!
The SeeAbility Garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower show was designed to raise awareness of eye health and the effects of sight loss. Four different sight conditions were represented conceptually through distinctive planting and hard landscaping.



What an inspirational garden. Listen to this….

The central tree in the design was Sorbus (showy flowers and berries, cool climate) – it had slate paving radiating out around it. This idea could be easily replicated in a home garden, a tree in paving breaks up the expanse of hard ground covering and also offers shade, keeps it cooler, softens. Choose tree for your area.
Central area planting:
·         Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’, named Chelsea’s Plant of the Year - quite narrow leaves that are blue/green and feather giving it a delicate effect. It isn’t prickly like other mahonias. Others are available in Australia – does best in cooler areas,  architectural style plant with bold foliage shape and bright yellow winter colour from late autumn through winter.
·         Structural form from clipped buxus balls
·         Another tree used Gingko biloba (Maidenhair tree) – butter yellow leaves in autumn – lovely (female have smelly fruit)
·         Dark foliage from Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing and Heuchera Obsidian
·         Carex elata 'Aurea' with golden foliage contrasting against red leaf Heuchera
·         Thalictrum 'Black Stockings' – black stems pink flowers
·         Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) small sweet white flowers

The other trees in the design were Hornbeam trees (cooler areas), they were planted in the garden beds. In your garden, trees in a garden bed provide canopy for some shelter from hot sun, height to the overall design, screening, habitat
Hornbeam border:
·         Tiarella ‘Crow Feather’ and Alchemilla mollis – white and yellow
·         Asplenium and dryopterus ferns – bright green
·         Digitalis ‘Pams Choice’ – white with dark throat
·         Pittosporum Tom Thumb – evergreen shrub clipped in a ball
·         Heuchera ‘Electric Lime’ and Black Mondo grass – really contrasting ground covers

Cylindrical border:
·         Yellow colours from - Achillea Moonshine, Anthemis 'Sauce Hollandaise'
·         White flowers  - Allium 'Mont Blanc', Iris ‘Immortality’, Geranium ‘Melinda’
·         Three different euphorbias for lime green colouring, different foliage texture (Euphorbia charachias wulfenii, Euphorbia polychroma, Euphorbia pasteuri)
·         Sambucus Black Lace and Geranium Black Beauty for dark foliage contrast

Blade border:
·         Red foliage – Acer Bloodgood and Atriplex hortensis 'Rubra'
·         Allium Atropurpureum – dark claret coloured flower and Angelica 'Atropurpurea', Aquilegia 'Black Barlow'
·         Foliage form by hostas - Hosta Halcyon (blue green) and Hosta June (lime centre with green edge), Hosta Green Mouse Ears (rounded shape)
·         Also Golden Oregano for colour – and Verbascum bombyceferum for bold foliage and yellow flower
·         Yellow flowers - Aquilegia crysantha 'Yellow Queen' , Phlomis Russeliana
·         White flowers - Clematis 'Beautiful Bride’, Verbascum 'Flush of White
·         Crimson/pink flowers - Astrantia 'Hadspen Blood, Sedum autumn joy
·         Blue flowers - Salia 'Viola Klose and Nepeta

If you want  to see more of the garden other than the photos that I’ll put up on my website, go to
Move your mouse over the garden image on the website to see how it might look if you had an eye condition, and find an explanation on the eye condition below it.

The seeability garden represents various eye conditions that seriously affect sight.

Plant of the Week:

Bedding Begonias, Bada Bing and Bada Boom.

Should plant growers and breeders be forgiven for coming up with corny plant names like Bada Bing and Bada Boom?

I mean really? Who are they kidding? We don’t all live in New York.

Besides, don’t let these names put you off a whole genus of plants whose uses in the garden has been for the most part, undervalued, and overlooked.

There are many types of Begonias.
1.Cane Begonias have cane like stems and vary in height from ½ metre to around 1 ½ metres tall.
Cane-like begonias grow from a central clump, shooting stems from a central clump much like a bamboo.
Larger plants grown in the garden will need staking and shelter from drying winds.
2.Shrub like Begonias have multiple stems that have plenty of flowers.
Usually these Begonias have thin brittle stems and grow no more than ½ metre tall.
These are regarded as fibrous rooted soft wooded perennials.
3.Rhizomatous begonias are those that grow quite low to the ground. In fact they spread slowly along the ground, almost like a ground cover.
These you definitely should only water once a week in warm dry weather.

Begonias are desert plants, that is they are succulents.
This means begonias are able to store moisture and need less frequent watering.
The best way to kill a Begonia is by overwatering.
Begonias grow naturally in the shaded protection of tropical and subtropical forests, and don't like frost, and most dislike direct sunlight except for some morning sun.

If you live in frost-prone areas and would like to try Begonias, then they should be grown under the shelter of shrubs or trees, under verandahs and pergolas or in containers which can be moved to protected spots, while bedding begonias should be treated as annuals.

The key to their light requirements is usually determined by the colour of their leaves, dark leaves indicates that the plant needs shade to grow well, while light leaves indicates that the plant likes a sunnier location.
There are always exceptions, like Begonia acutifolia with its dark foliage, which will grow in full sun and give a wonderful show of flowers, making a delightful garden subject.
Peter Sharpe, who was the force behind establishing Begonia beds at Royal Botanic Gardens, sydeny and led the Begonia group for over ten years.
Now Gordon Chivers heads the team as Peter has retired to Tasmania.
Peter always said that Begonias vary a bit in tolerating sun and shade.
Often when the Friday Growing Friend's group would meet with Peter to ask what Begonais to propagate that morning and he would always point to some that he originally thought of as shade lovers, that were are in fact sun lovers.
These Begonias would grow so much better when exposed to it in various amounts," he said.

Begonia x semperflorens Bada Bing  and Begonia x semperflorens Bada Boom
Both are bedding Begonias,  in the small shrub category.
Begonia Bada Bing has glossy waxy green leaves and pink, white or rose coloured flowers.
The leaves or alternate, oval shaped with an uneven leaf base and a serrated margin.
The leaves are dark green or a brownish bronze green, depending on the cultivar.
Bada Bing is bred to have a strong branching habit and lots of flowers.
These make a small rounded shrub, growing to only 25cm tall.
Depending on what district you’re in will dictate whether you can grow  it in full sun or partial shade for almost 6 months of colour.
Although bedding begonias are now grown as annuals, they’re actually perennials but the vigour has been bred out of them to get the flowers.
Bedding Begonias should last for 2-3 years.
You'll get best flowering and growth in dappled shade or morning sun positions with afternoon shade.
If you have more dense shade, Begonias will grow there , but you’ll get less flowers.

Check the light requirements of your plants by looking at the undersides of the leaves.
If they're dark, the plant likes shade; if light, it needs a bit more sun.

Big Flowers, flowers, and more flowers. We just love our flowers. When plants are in flower at the nursery they just walk out the door as they say.
Hard to resist flowering plants, and don’t resist them, just add them to your garden border, in pots and on a patio.
Why not treat yourself to a big flowered one? Go on.