Friday, 31 January 2014

Fairies and Water Lilies

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 Andrew Patrick from the Cumberland Bird Observers Group
Last year Birds Australia conducted a poll Australia wide to find out what that most popular bird was state by state. The superb Fairy Wren topped the poll.
It was a very close race between the Superb Fairy-wren and the Australian Magpie with the final decision coming down to postal votes. The Hooded Plover made a late surge to take third place from the better known Rainbow Lorikeet and Laughing Kookaburra.
Let’s find out which one it was

Outside of breeding season, the male and the female suberb fairy wren look very much alike. So how can you spot the difference?
The feathers’ of the tail of the male fairy wren is a vivid deep blue and the female’s is brown, the beak of the male is black and the female’s is red.If you can see that well, good luck to you.

If you have any questions about fairy wrens, why not drop us a line to. or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Well it’s TIME FOR VEGETABLE HERO  are they Spring Onions or are they shallots?
Firstly spring onions are Allium fistulosum. are really like thick chives.
Did you know that all manner of onions were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans?
There’s even a reference to spring onions in Chinese literature dating back over two thousand years.
Australians are often confused about what a shallot actually is, because we call them spring onions as well.
Elsewhere in the world the word ‘shallot’ is only used to describe a small bulb, growing much the same way as a garlic bulb, with mild, delicate flavour.
''True shallots (Allium cepa, aggregatum) are grown for their bulbs only. Unfortunately, spring onions are marketed as Shallots in NSW and are harvested
Is it because shallots have a mild flavour that they've been confused with spring onions, which is what they’re supposed to be called?
To onion lovers and growers here's where there’s a difference.
A spring onion or bunching onion has is one that’s got a hint of a bulb when it matures; and a true spring onion has a small bulb.
Spring Onions are a non-bulbing, perennial, spring onion.
Did you know that in Australia we also call Spring Onions, .Green Onions? In fact, I’ve never seen the term Green Onion in the greengrocer or supermarket, have you?
So now we know that Spring or Green onions have long, - up to 40cms long, hollow green, delicate stalks and small, very slender, white bulbs.
The bulb of a spring/green onion is really only slightly defined.
Spring or Green onions come out of the ground early in their lives... in fact you can sow them from very early spring until at least the end of march.
Usually you can pick them about 7 weeks later.
What’s good about spring onions is that they’re mild tasting because they haven’t been in the ground long enough to gain much pungency.
Spring onions can be used sliced or chopped raw in green salads or creamy salads like potato salad, pasta salads, or on top baked .

Where do spring onions grow?
They’re a versatile plant with tube-like hollow leaves; that grows from cold regions right through to hot, tropical areas.
Spring onions prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline soil and are extremely hardy and pest resistant.
Grow them in full sun.
All onions need an open sunny site, fertile soil that is free draining.
Raised garden beds are the best if you have clay soil.
You can sow Spring Onions anytime really in Australia, because unlike other onions, day length doesn’t affect their growth.
Plus, spring onions aren’t affected by frost.
Raising them in seed punnets or tray seems to work best, then transplant them when they’re several cms high or as half as thick as a pencil.
It’s normal to sow the seeds of spring onions closely, and because these onion seeds are planted densely they bunch together so that the bulbs have little chance of fully maturing and rounding completely out
When planting into the garden, dig lots of compost through the topsoil first and then use a dibbler to make holes 10cm apart.
Place a seedling in each hole and gently push the soil around the rootball. Water the seedlings very lightly but if they fall over, don’t worry as they will soon stand back up.
Keep your onions weed free.
Water them when dry weather is expected, otherwise ease back a bit.
In about 2 months, your spring onions should be ready to eat.
You can tell they’re ready because the leaves are standing tall, green and succulent
If you want to harvest an entire bulb, use a fork to dig around the plant to keep from damaging it accidentally.
You can also just use scissors to cut the leaves and use them as a garnish in salads or casseroles for flavour.
Spring Onions belong to the class known as bunching onions and have a mild, sweet flavour; the green shaft plus a few cm of the green leaves are eaten.
Spring Onions must be harvested when the stalks are still green and you eat the whole plant, except the hairy roots
TIP:There is never any hint of a bulb in a Spring Onion so you can't leave the plants in the ground for the tops to dry off — they will, but you won't be able to save any bulbs.
If you forget to pick your spring onions, and they’ve started to flower.

Let them keep flower and save the seeds.
The flowers are attractive to bees and other useful insects.
The seeds can also be sprouted.
You want to grow your own spring onions for freshness alone, because the ones you buy from the supermarket are only fresh for a handful of days.
For a dash of colour why not try Brilliant crimson spring onion red bulbs that are rich in antioxidants.
This one will grow into bulbs that can be used like shallots if left in the ground.

TIP:After you your spring onions from the ground, when preparing them in your kitchen, save the rooted bottoms and replant them.
Simply cut off the bottom inch (3 cm) of your green onions and plant them in damp soil, or keep them in a jar of water in a sunny spot.
You’ll a new lot of spring onions in a couple of weeks.

Why are the good for you?
Spring Onion is: Low in Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Cholesterol
High in Dietary Fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Manganese, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper. Whew!
If you have never tried growing onions before, why not give them a go this year? 
They are a very versatile, easy to grow vegetable that can be grown from seed most of the year.
Happy Spring Onion growing everyone!


with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid

Part 2 of Designing Cool Gardens Using Ferns.

Planting and maintaining trees and green life can reduce energy use.
Did you know that shade from trees to roofs and/or windows actually reduce indoor temperatures by a staggering 6–12°C in summer?
Did you also know that a single 8m tree strategically grown near a house to maximize wind breaking and shading effects can reduce annual heating a cooling costs by as much as 12%?
On hot days looking out onto a green garden is not only soothing, but having lots of different plants of different heights, helps cool things down.
Let’s find out some more ways of cooling the garden....

If you want a garden that is luxuriant with stunning foliage that offers a cooling effect, then ferns are the way to go.
Ferns are so adaptable, you can even find ferns in Central Australia in areas that are moist after a good rain.

If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it our email address, or just post it.


Whenever water lilies are in flower at various botanic gardens around the world, there’s no shortage of plant photographers. They’re snapping away at the stunning flowers that sit either on top of the water or higher up on long stalks.

Water lilies also have an important role in an aquatic ecosystem. The more aquatic plants you have in your pond, the less nutrients are available to feed algae. Plus they also shade the fish who without a shady spot to hide in during the heat of the day, might get sunburnt.

What type should you get?

Hardy Water lilies are native to cooler climates. Most hardy water lilies have been grown and bred from varieties that originated in the cooler parts of the Northern Hemisphere. They will survive severe frost provided that the rhizome's (the crown / root stocks) do not freeze. There are no hardy water lilies native to Australia.

Tropical Water lilies are native to tropical or semitropical climates.
Day flowering/Night flowering.

Tropical water lilies are or ponds in warmer climates, because their preference is for water temperatures above 24°C.
Tropical water lily flowers stand up to 30cm high, out of the pond water. Some of the flower colours range from pinks to reds, whites and yellows, purples and blues.
Most flower during the daytime but there are also night flowering tropical water lilies.
 Hardy waterlilies flower during the daytime and generally have their flowers floating on the water surface or only just above it.
Typically hardy water lilies start to flower at temperatures above 16-18°C.
Many of the darker coloured red-pink varieties can get petal burn at temperatures above 32°C, others that have been bred from colder climate varieties may even slow or stop flowering during hot summer months, as it becomes too hot for them.

The majority of waterlilies produce flowers 10-20cm wide. But there are also pygmy or miniature waterlilies varieties with flowers as small as 4cm wide.

For special water lilies that will grow in your climate just contact a water lily specialist


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