Monday, 30 December 2013

Rainbows and Bees

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition. The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website

Wildlife in Focus

with ecologist Sue Stevens

The speedy Gonzales of the bird world this bird can twist and turn like those fighter jet plants on Top Gun, but it miniature form of course.
But that’s only one of the marvellous adaptations that this bird has that’s made it possible to survive all this time.
Let’s hear about more surprising facts about this bird…
PLAY: Rainbow Bee_eater_25th December_2013
Sadly, people are still the main danger as you heard. Yep, some apiarists shoot these birds even though they’re a protected native species.
Being shot is hard to avoid but these birds are also predated on by animals including dingoes and monitor lizards.
But they’re not silly because a bit like minor birds when threatened, they'll engage in mobbing behaviour -- emitting an alarm call and flying directly at the potential predator. This may start with one or two birds but can escalate so a whole flock is mobbing the predator.
If you have any sightings of Rainbow Bee eaters or photos why not send it in to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675,

Vegetable Heroes

What is Malabar Spinach?
Ever heard of Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, vine spinach, and Malabar nightshade?
Doesn’t matter if you haven’t because you’re about to find out.
The one we’re focussing on is the red stemmed version or Scientifically it’s Basella alba 'Rubra'.
Malabar or Climbing Spinach originates in India. but is also found naturally in Africa and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Fun Facts
Did you know that an extract of the fruits of the red stemmed version of -Basella alba ‘Rubra’, has been used for many centuries as deep red dye for official seals and a natural form of rouge in cosmetics?
The Malabar region-on the south-west coast of India is in fact dense tropical jungle, coconut and pepper plantations.
Malabar spinach first made its way from India to Europe in 1688 when it was introduced into Holland by the Dutch governor of Malabar, Adrian Moens.
The juice from the berries is so intensely purple that it puts beet juice to shame. A bit like Dianella berries I think.
In some countries, this juice is used as a natural food colorant for agar (vegetable "gelatine") dishes, sweets, and pastries.

So what does this spinach look like?
For lovers of all things romantic in the garden, you can’t go past a plant with heart shaped leaves even if you want to eat it.
Malabar spinach is a climbing plant not even related to true spinach (Spinacia oleracea) but grows large succulent heart shaped leaves that are a bit like spinach in taste.
The leaves are quite a bit more waxy to my way of thinking.
I would describe it as crunchy and juicy when raw.
The taste is slightly peppery with a bit of a citrusy flavour with hints of earthy spinach to it.
It’s not bad to eat, some say even delicious to eat, but I can’t say I use it a lot in cooking. More of an attraction in the garden with the leaves and the purple flowers followed by black berries.
The upside is that if you like your Spinach, this one’s is easy to grow and  is much better suited for summer growing than Spinach itself.
When your lettuce and other salad greens are wilting, because Malabar spinach is a twining succulent (stores water in the leaves and stems), you’ll have plenty of greens for your salad.
Malabar spinach does best in warm, tropical areas, where it can easily grow a 10cm per day.
 In the tropics, Malabar spinach can grow 2-3 metres or eight to ten feet tall and wide and has small white-tinged pink to purple flowers in the leaf axils.

Where To Grow

This plant is not frost tolerant and in temperate areas doesn’t grow anywhere near as tall as in tropical areas.
In cool temperate districts, I would treat this plant as an annual, but yes you can grow it too!
If you’ve grown this plant before, you would know that the plant seems to die down in winter then re-shoots again in late spring.
So don’t go thinking you’ve killed it at the end of autumn.
There are forums on the internet that say Malabar spinach can twine up on a trellis and make a backdrop for a display of other dark-leafed cultivars like—purple-stemmed sugarcane, black-leafed cotton, aubergine-coloured beets, kale, and Swiss chard.
Straight species Malabar spinach has yellowish stems and green leaves and looks nice enough, but it's the red-stemmed cultivar 'Rubra' that really stands out.
Red and green are opposites on the colour wheel and the combined effect is always a bit dramatic. The red veins in the leaves make it more so.
When the flowers are fertilised, small, attractive, single-seeded purple berries will grow.
Basella alba grows best a humus-rich, sandy loam in full sun but will produce larger juicier leaves if grown in partial shade..
It grows easily from seed that has been sown in situ or you can start it off in a punnet.
Saving seed is easy too:
Simply dry the entire fruit and use it for planting the following year. Just make sure you store it dry in maybe a paper envelope.
 I had saved some seed, but there must’ve been some moisture in the jar because they had become all mouldy.
The red-stemmed cultivar of Malabar spinach comes true from seed.
Luckily, when I was renovating my veggie bed, I noticed quite a few small seedlings in one corner of it that looked like-in fact were seedlings of Malabar Spinach.
I remember from last year that once it starts to take off in the ground, it can grow about 30cm in a week!  In a pot , it’s much more tame.
When you have a plant in season, tip cuttings will root readily in water so you can give other members of your garden club or other friends some plants.
Use any style of plant support you like: poles, teepees, chain-link fencing—I’m growing it up a metal spiral, but I think it’s going to outgrow that real soon. Whoops!
Malabar spinach is insect and disease resistant, and that’s saying a lot; because at the moment, the grasshoppers are eating whopping big holes in my Kale and a bit of my spinach, but not touching the Malabar spinach.!
I am catching and squashing those hoppers!
Where do you get it? Plenty of those big box stores that have garden centres have it as well as your local garden centre or plant nursery.
Why is it good for you?
The succulent leaves and stem tips are rich in vitamins A and C and are a good source of iron and calcium. They may be eaten raw in salads, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or added to soups, stews, tofu dishes, and curries. Or you can use them as a filling for quiche, omelets, or even a frittata!
Since red-stemmed Malabar spinach can lose a lot of its red colour when cooked, perhaps it is best in raw dishes.
A great way to use it is to plant it thickly in pots in spring, and when it’s growth takes off, pick the young shoots off daily for stir fries & omelettes. Eventually it will get away from you by climbing or sprawling, but usually can be contained for a couple of months this way. The shoots are delicious & tender!

 Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Christopher Owen

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking to guest landscape designer Christopher Owen about ornamental grasses in garden design. We went through the difference between strappy leaved plants and ornamental grasses, then how to get started with using these type of grasses in garden design.
But where do you put them if you have a particular style of garden?
Let’s find out ….

True grasses are in the family Poaceae, while rushes and sedges fall into Juncaceae and Cyperaceae families.
No matter where you live in Australia you’ll find grasses that cope with wet or dry, sun or shade, hot or cold or a combination of some of these situations.
So no reason to delay, plant a grass today.
If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it our email address, or just post it.

Plant of the Week

Ceratopetalum gummiferum, NSW Christmas Bush or Festival Bush.

Ceratopetalum....from Greek ceras, a horn and petalon, a petal, referring to the petal shape of one species.
gummiferum....producing a gum. There are many types of plants which flower around Christmas time, and these have earned the name “Christmas Bush” in their particular states in Australia. What you would call Christmas Bush varies from state to state within Australia.

The cut flower industry uses it a lot as filler for sold flower bunches and not just during the Christmas Season.
Gardeners like to plant it in their native gardens. But can it grow in your soil and in sun, shade, or part shade?

I’ve seen this plant growing in many different states of Australia, and it does will in South Australia and Victoria, so why not give it a try.

I would regard this plant as a large shrub in people’s gardens rather than a small tree because it rarely grows to more the 4-5 metres. That’s equivalent to Coastal Tee-tree.
The leaves are up to 3-7cm long and are divided into three leaflets or trifoliate, which are finely serrated and the new growth is often pink or bronze coloured. Leaves are opposite each other.
Ceratopetalum gummiferum is widespread over the east coast of NSW, commonly growing in open forests on sandstone hillsides. Bushes enjoy free-draining, slightly acidic soil along the slopes of a natural watershed.

I grew these as part of a trial when I was studying for my Hort Diploma at Tafe some years ago. Testing a variety of fertilisers for growth factors. Definitely one plant that doesn’t tolerate Phosphorus in the fertilizer. Native only.
Position: Mature NSW Christmas Bushes like full sun for most of the day with a few hours of slightly dappled light during summer afternoons or mornings.
In the home garden, NSW Christmas Bush must have a well drained but moist position, in sun or semi shade.
Annual feeding with a slow release native fertilizer is a good idea.
Problems with Christmas Bush
If you have a plant that just sits and doesn’t appear to be doing much, especially at this time of year. Give it a boost with seaweed tonic to kick it along.
Doesn’t tolerate hot weather after flowering if watering is inadequate.
Prone to iron deficiency-have mentioned that they like slightly acidic soil.

Where to Grow :
Ceratopetalum gummiferum should be grown in well drained, sandy or sandy loam soils.
For plenty of flowers and growth, test soil pH and if you need to, add Iron chelates or Sulphate of Iron according to the packet's directions to bring the pH down to 6.6.
Grow your own:
Propagation:Ceratopetalum gummiferum can be grown from seeds or cuttings. To ensure the bract colour stays true to the parent, grow from cuttings.
When sowing seeds, the whole fruit with calyx lobes attached should be sown for best results.
Young plants grow best in dappled light for most of the day and must be protected against frost in winter.

Watering well thoughout Spring to Autumn will extend the flowering season quite a bit.

Towards the end of December this hardy and reliable plant puts on a great display of red ‘flowers’ that as usual are not really flowers but sepals.
The true flowers are white in colour and fairly insignificant and are seen in late spring to early November.
After pollination by flies and native bees, the sepals, which are the outer series or whorl of flora leaves that protect the flower bud, enlarge and turn deep pink to red in colour enclosing the fruit, a single seed, a nut and the whole fall when ripe.

Plants known in other Australian states as Christmas Bush are entirely different and have no connection with Ceratopetalum.

Ceratopetalum Gummiferum Albery’s Red NSW Christmas Bush. This is the best-known of the NSW Christmas Bush varieties. Albery’s Red has bright red calyces in summer that follow a lot small white flowers through spring. The calyces make great cut flowers and are cultivated in Australia and all around the world for the florist industry. It grows to about  4 metres high and 2 metres wide preferring well-drained soil and full sun for maximum flower development. This Christmas Bush can be pruned to shape and only barely tolerates frost

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Maidens and Turnips

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

Living Planet

Frogs are under threat throughout the world and loss of habitat is one of the factors contributing to their demise. A frog pond is easy to construct, adds interest to your home garden and will provide a haven for the frog species in your area. You don’t have to worry about buying any frogs, because they’ll come calling….Let’s find out more

A pond with flowering water plants can be a very attractive focal point in a garden. These plants never seem to have any problems don’t need much attention.
Observing the lifecycle of frogs throughout the seasons provides added interest to your gardening. Frogs also help to control insect pests.
Locate your pond in a part sunny, part shady, but not directly under trees. Some trees or shrubs have poisonous leaves (oleander, Bleeding Heart and pines for example).
If you place your pond so that it's visible from the house then you can enjoy the pond anytime of day or night.
Put the pond in the back garden, and a bit away from your own house and your neighbour's houses, if the croaking of frogs is too noisy for you.
A low garden lamp that is reflected in the water will not only add to your garden's appearance in the evenings but also attract insects for the frogs.
We’d love to see photos of any frogs or frog ponds that you have in your garden, just send it in to. or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675, and I’ll post a CD in return.
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

BOTANICAL NAME: Turnips or Brassica rapa
I can’t believe that for all the years I’ve been broadcasting, that I’ve never mentioned turnips in this segment. Swedes, Parsnips, but not the regular or even mini turnip.
I can’t say exactly why because I’ve been enjoying eating mini turnips for the last few weeks.
Maybe it’s just like Kohlrabi, the name and sight of the actual thing isn’t that appealing until you actually taste it.

Then you’ll be thinking, why didn’t I try this before because it tastes so good?
Did you know that the Romans used to throw turnips at unpopular people?
Maybe that’s why turnips got such a bad reputation?

But back the UK in the early 1700”s a bloke called Charles Townsend made turnips popular in England.
When Townshend discovered that animals could be fed and fatten by eating this vegetable that grew in cold and damp climates farmers were able to keep their livestock instead of having to kill them all for winter because there was nothing to feed them on.
Large woody turnips of old have mainly been replaced with smaller mainly white varieties that are delicious grated raw into a salad or as a side dish, leaving the swedes to take over in the stew department!

Why Grow Turnips?

Turnips are a very versatile vegetable - they can be harvested when mature or young, cooked or eaten raw and the young tops can be used like spring greens.
They are quick to mature and easy to grow.
The turnip is round, sits in the ground with just the top exposed to the light as it grows, and is actually the swelling at the base of the stem of the plant.
The Turnips that I’m going to talk about have mainly a white flesh and skin with a rosette of green feathery leaves that can also be eaten.
Turnips can grow in full sun and partial shade, but like a well drained soil.
Whatever you do when you plant turnips, don’t let them dry out.
When to plant your turnips?
Well I’m afraid it’s a bit of a mixed bag around Australia, so here goes.
From September until May in temperate districts and also cool temperate districts.
From August until May in sub-tropical areas.
For arid areas, you’ll have to wait until February then you have til August and Tropical areas, have even less of a chance, only between April and June.
Before you sow your turnip seeds, give the veggie bed some chook poo-about a handful per square metre.
Sow the turnip seeds no more than 1 cm deep.
It’ll be a bit tricky to get the right distance apart so keep thinning them out until they’re about 15cm apart.
If you thin them before 8 weeks, both the root and leaves are good to eat at this stage.
The leafy tops of these early pickings are great in salads.
Because you’re growing turnips during the warmer months, look after them by not letting them dry out, otherwise they’ll be small and woody.
Mulching with sugar cane, pea straw or something like that will help with keeping the soil moist.
Turnips take about 2-3 months to grow, so add a handful of chicken manure every 4 weeks.
You can pull them out when they’re the size of a golf ball when they’re at their sweetest, or wait until they’re the size of a tennis ball.
There are quite a few new varieties out so why not try
Turnip White Mini-Tender round white roots, stores well. Crisp, beautiful well shaped rounds, ideal for the turnip lover. Harvest in only 7 weeks.
Turnip ‘Snowball’ is a very popular first-class, globe variety with solid white flesh and a juicy, sweet, mild flavour. Snowball’s an heirloom turnip that was introduced before 1885.
Snowball is best harvested when no larger than a tennis ball and can also be enjoyed when much smaller. Snowball takes between 5-8 weeks to be ready.
Turnip 'Golden Globe'  Also known locally as 'Butter Turnips' locally. Were introduced before 1888, this a heritage turnip with a beautiful golden skin, amber yellow flesh and delicate flavour. Stores well.
Why are the good for you?
Turnip roots are high in dietary fibre, vitamin C and B6, folate, calcium, potassium, and copper. The greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of calcium, iron, and riboflavin

 Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Christopher Owen
Last week I started a series on garden design using grasses with guest landscape designer Christopher Owen.
On that segment we talked about the difference between ornamental grasses and strappy leaved plants.
There are lots of reasons to use grasses, other than lawn grasses in your garden design.
Let’s find out what they are….

A start at least into what can be done using grasses and there’s so many to choose from-native and non-native.

Plant of the Week

Gingko biloba
Living fossils are those plants that have been around in the same form for millions of years.
Despite numerous ice ages, they survived in pockets of habitat like deep in valleys or plateaux.
In this case, living fossil lived pre-dinosaurs.

Ginkgos are the evolutionary link between Ferns and Conifers, being neither one of the other.
In fact they’re classified in their own family.
For this reason they’re regarded as a living fossil.
They’re so tough, that they can survive a nuclear explosion, as 6 have done in Japan.
For a highly ornamental tree, albeit without flowers, you can’t go past the leaf shape and autumn colour of a Ginkgo.

Gingkos are deciduous and originate in China.

There aren’t any known plants left in the wilds of China other than a small group thought to be planted out by Chinese monks 1,000 years ago.
The name Gingko is from ancient Chinese meaning silver fruit and biloba is latin for two lobed, meaning two lobed leaves.
Gingko trees from 10 – 40 metres and eventually grow into a conical dome once they pass 50 years.
The leaves are like a large leaved maiden hair fern, being fan shaped so no surprise that the common name is Maiden Hair Tree.
The leaf colour is a yellow green-very attractive against all the mid-greens that seem to be the main colour in most gardens.

Gingkos are dioecious, meaning there’s a male and female plant.

The male plant has cone like structures called pollen cones and the female tree has two ovules at the ends of stalks.

After fertilisation, the female plant grows a seed covered by a fleshy layer (sarcotesta) which is fruit like but isn’t actually a fruit.
For this reason, Gingkos are considered as being a Gymnosperm-in the same group as conifers and other non flowering plants.

Why you don’t want a female plant is because these fleshy seeds contain butyric acid that smells like rancid butter, and female trees have a heavy fruit load.
The only good point is the seed can be eaten if roasted.
They grow very slowly, so you might want to buy an advanced plant if you want a tree.

 Where Ginkgos Like to Grow

Gingkos like deep soil with a good water supply. Like gullies.
Gingkos don’t like much shade or strong winds.
Very cold hardy to -100 C.
Survive nuclear blasts-6 trees still growing in Hiroshima.
Gingkos do like cool elevated areas but will grow in all states of Australia.
Cultivars: Aurea is smaller that the species with yellow leaves throughout summer.
G. Fastigiata grows like Poplar trees in shape.
G. Luciniata has leaves that are deeply cut.
G. Macrophylla-exceptionally large fan shaped leaves
G. Pendula has a drooping habit with long pendulous branches.
What it Likes:
If you want to grow a living fossil, keep the tree to a single trunk by pruning off any competing leaders. Multi-trunked trees can split as the trees age.
Fertilise the tree in late winter until established.
Where it Grows:
In Victoria, Maidenhair Tree has been used extensively in park plantings, and also have been used occasionally as street trees in the City of Melbourne.
Where water is freely available the trees are better than dry sites for best growth.

Some trees in Melbourne show signs of drought-induced die-back, but unless conditions are very harsh, Maidenhair Tree will survive and look lush.

The autumn foliage colour, leaf form and interesting habit make Maidenhair Tree a valuable street tree. When young (possibly for 15+ years) these trees are very upright, and with pruning, they can be maintained in a columnar form.
Grafted male trees are ideal for the landscape, and many of these trees also will maintain a fastigiate form for 50+ years.
If you have any questions about the where to buy a Ginkgo tree, why not write in to

Friday, 13 December 2013

All Things Green and Beautiful

The Good Earth

Growing produce in shady gardens.
Are you finding that as your trees and shrubs have matured, the garden has become more shady?
There’s a few things that you can do, one is to renovate your garden, either by calling in professionals to remove or judiciously prune some branches to let in more light, and the other to grow shade tolerant plants underneath.
But what about veggies? Don’t they need full sun? Let’s find out about growing produce in shady gardens.

You don’t have to convert to permaculture to grow vegetables in the shade.
Anyone can do that. It’s just knowing what can tolerate shade and what doesn’t.
Borrowing a few principles from permaculture makes for a good gardener because you’re embracing new ways to do things.
If you're interested in permaculture workshops to find out more visit
If you have any questions or tips about what grows in shady produce gardens drop us a line to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes

  ZUCCHINI or Cucurbita pepo.
Summer squashes, and winter squashes, are native to the Americas and belong to the cucurbitaceae family of melons and squashes.
In the culinary world, squash, including zucchini, are used as vegetables but did you know that botanically speaking, zucchini is the immature fruit, or swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.
Archaeologists have traced their origins to Mexico, dating back from 7,000 to 5,500BCE, when they were included in most meals along with maize, beans, and squashes.
Zucchini is the more common name in Italy and probably where the name came from.
Zucca means squash in Italian and Zucchini, is little squash.
We call this veggie Zucchini as they do in North America, and Germany, while courgette is the name you’ll hear in the United Kingdom, Greece, New Zealand, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa.
Zucchinis are sort of a shrub that is a bushy, non-vining plants with large, dark green, mature leaves that have silver-gray splotches and streaks.
The plants are monoecious, meaning they grow male and female flowers on the same plant. Zucchini grows outwards and spreads but doesn’t send out long runners like pumpkins.
Zucchini fruits can be dark or light green, grey green and a related hybrid, the golden zucchini is a deep yellow or orange colour. They are usually long, sort of cigar like and you eat the whole thing, skin and all.
When to Grow
 In temperate areas, plant out zucchinis from September through to January.
Cool temperate areas, you have been October and January
Arid areas, yes that’s you in Alice Springs and Broken Hill, you have a bigger window, September through to March'
Sub-tropical, August to February, but for tropical areas, now’s too hot. Your Zucchini planting time is April to August. Very different from the rest of Australia!

.Having said all that Zucchinis are great for the beginner gardener because they are quick and easy to grow.

Come to think of it, the last few vegetable heroes are perfect for beginner gardeners-beans, sunflowers and Yacon.

How to Grow
To grow your Zucchinis, prepare your soil with the usual digging in some compost or cow manure. Zucchinis are light feeders so won’t need much more than an occasional feed with some liquid fish fertiliser.
Sow your zucchini seed where you want them to grow.
Mound up the soil and then make a indent up to your first knuckle, or even 7 cm deep, and drop in 3 seeds.
When they shoot up pick the strongest one and discard the others. It will get too crowed otherwise.
TIP: Planting your seeds deeply will make your plant more drought tolerant.
Zucchinis can take up a lot of space so maybe try growing them vertically. That way there’s also improved air circulation so the fungal problems are a lot less.
You could grow them in pot that way. The pot would have to be about 30cm diameter.
The important thing with growing them vertically is have lots of soft ties, like old panty hose cut into strips, so you can tie up the stems as they grow. That way they won’t flop all over the place and probably break their stems.
How to Pollinate Zucchini Flowers.
If you don't get many bees or pollinating insects around your way you might need to pollinate the zucchini flowers yourself.
Get a cotton wool bud and take some pollen from the male flower. Male flowers tend to be on the end of a long narrow stalk.
Female flowers are a lot closer to the main stem and have a swelling behind the petals. Just like female flowers on pumpkins.
Look inside the female flower. There should be a golden formation. Dab the male pollen all over this female part. Hopefully in a few weeks that swelling behind the female flower will grow into a zucchini.
Fully grown zucchini leaves tend to look a motley silvery grey colour which looks like the fungal problem powdery mildew.
Don’t worry, this is the normal Zucchini leaf and unless you’re watering the leaves this shouldn’t happen.
Powdery mildew looks quite different and usually covers the whole leaf. This mildew grows on wet zucchini leaves or on any veggie leaves that are wet.
In summer you'll need to keep your zucchini's water levels high. They dehydrate very quickly on hot days so mulch them heavily (but remember to keep the mulch away from the main stem).
There are two main problems that gardeners have when growing zucchinis.
When the fruits are 5cm long, they rot and drop off. This is a pollination problem. You might have to pollinate them yourself. Next year grow a whole lot of flowers nearby like Borage, nasturtiums or marigolds.
The second problem sounds like blossom end rot where fruit almost ready to harvest starts rotting from the top.
If this happens you need to add lime to the soil at the time of planting.
Too late this season. Otherwise it can be caused by irregular watering, that means, too much drying out in between waterings.
If your plants have many days of no water and then a glut of it, blossom end rot can develop, ruining the fruit.
Zucchinis need to be regularly harvested, usually when they’re about 20cm long.
Picking them help the plant to keep on cropping. If you let Zucchinis grow too big-like a metre long, they’re not much good as a vegetable to eat because they become too tough and contain mostly seeds.
The flowers are also edible - they can be used in salads, as garnish, and even fried.
Why is it good  for you?
The zucchini vegetable is low in calories, about 15 calories per 100 g fresh zucchini.
1/2 cup of zucchini also contains 19% of the recommended daily amount of Manganese
As well as Zucchini containing large amounts of folate and potassium, the rind contains the nutrient beta-carotene, so to get the most out of your zucchini, you should also eat the rind.\
If you want some unusual varieties, go online to buy the seeds on Goldfinger Hybrid, (16cm) Costata Romanesco-speckled with light coloured ribbing.
Ring for the website or if you don’t have a computer or like shopping on line there’s also a free call number. 1800 887 732 Both of these I’ll put it on my WEBSITE
Storing Zucchini-Store zucchini fresh and unwashed in a cold dry place, like the fridge, for about 3-5 days.
After that they start to get soft and wrinkly, and nobody wants that. Makes you wonder about the zucchinis that you buy in supermarkets. How has their shelf life been increased? Better to grow you own.

Design Elements

with landscape designer Christopher Owen
Today a new four part series starts on garden design using Ornamental grasses. The first segment is an introduction to the topic and the difference between strappy leaved plants and ornamental grasses is explained. Following on from that will be how to start a garden design with ornamental grasses, then different styles of gardens that ornamental grasses can act as a complement, and lastly, a look at some famous designers and their designs, that use these type of grasses.

Believe me, there’s a lot in them thar grasses.
Let’s start….
PLAY: Grasses Pt 1 _11th December 2013
Christopher Owen is very passionate about using grasses in his designs because it’s not just the appearance that affects the overall design of a garden, but the texture and sounds that you can also create.
Something to think about.



Plant of the Week

For millions of years these types of Magnolias grew in gorges and valleys, outlasting many ice ages and the extinction of families of plants and animals.
The tree has evolved with what is now one of the most magnificent flowers you’ll ever see and a scent that is delicate yet powerful. So what is this plant”  , let’s find out…

The fragrance of the flowers outlast the cut flowers and can fill a room with delicious lemony scent.
Interestingly the flowers of the Magnolia have no nectar but only pollen. Bees aren’t the primary pollinators but they certainly go there for a feast of pollen as well as the major pollinators-all kinds of beetles..

Evergreen Magnolias
Magnolia Grandiflora is the 'Evergreen Magnolia'
There are many forms of this Magnolia now and they vary in size from large specimen trees such as Bull Bay Magnolia, Magnolia Exmouth,  to types suited to screening such as the smaller growing Magnolia Teddy Bear.
Magnolia Grandiflora will grow up to 20m or more, an absolutely fantastic specimen tree in park or a very large garden.
 We need to point out that the Michelia group of evergreens, like Michelia figo, the port wine magnolia and Michelia champaca , Himalayan cedar, in 2006 because of a cladistic analysis of the genus Michelia, they were moved to the genus Magnolia, with the name now being Magnolia figo and Magnolia champaca.
There’s too much to say about this group so we’re sticking to the large leaved original Magnolias and leave the others for another segment.
Magnolia grandiflora is native to southern USA where it grows is on edges of swamps and lakes on fairly rich soil.
No surprise that this magnolia's common name is Southern Magnolia or Bull Bay Magnolia.

The leaves are mainly oval shaped around,  and quite large, stiff and leathery to about 12–20 cm long and 6–12 cm wide, with smooth margins.
The underneath of the leaves is brown and felty, sometimes described as scurfy with yellow-brown pubescence.

The dinner plate sized, lemon-scented flowers are white, up to 30 cm across and, with 6–12 tepals with a waxy texture, growing from the tips of twigs on mature trees in December to January.
 Flowering is followed by the red seeds

 New cultivars including Magnolia Kay Parris and Magnolia Teddy Bear are now on the market and these have slightly different foliage and flower forms.

Magnolia 'Little gem' was the first of the so called 'dwarf' magnolias, however it will still grow to 10m.

Magnolia 'Little Gem' can be pruned back to a certain extent but sometimes the pruned branch dies back or only one shoot will result.
Some say that this makes it suited for maintaining as a tall hedge, but I disagree.
I think the large leaves on Magnolia Little Gem, make it look ungainly, untidy, and  awkward looking as a hedge.
But it might make a great as feature tree instead.

The cultivar 'Kay Parris' Magnolia has a very long flowering season, tolerates cold a little more than most magnolias.
The leaves are a nice green, extremely glossy, and a deep orange on the underside.

Marginally smaller growing than 'Little Gem' perhaps to only 6-9m, again it makes a nice specimen tree as it has good structure and holds its shape well,

Again, I don’t like big leaved plants as a hedge, but some say that 'Kay Parris' Magnolia could also be a screening plant and it's faster growing tree than 'Little Gem'

 Magnolia 'Teddy Bear' is smaller growing than even 'Kay Paris'.
Teddy Bear Magnolia is different to others in that the dark green leaves are rounded and cup shaped and quite densely held.
Will still grow to 6m, however like both 'Little Gem' and 'Kay Paris' if pruned in winter it can easily be kept more compact.
Large white flowers to almost 20cm.
Evergreen Magnolias are fairly versatile, in general,  evergreen magnolias prefer full sun to part shade.

Humus rich soil. and protect from hot drying winds

In pots in temperate and humid climates, the leaves can develop cotton cushiony scale.

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.