Sunday, 23 March 2014

Chinese Gardens, Japanese Flowers

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
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


Chinese Gardens part 1

with Louise Brooks
Chinese Gardens, Darling Harbour, Sydney. photo taken by Louise Brooks
Do you know the difference between Chinese and Japanese gardens?
Are they both similar or completely different?
If you were a Chinese Emperor or member of the Imperial family, you garden would be built not only for beauty and pleasure but to impress.
But what about smaller gardens or gardens for the common people?
Louise talks to Peter Nowland, Landscape Architect from Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority   to find out the important elements in a Chinese garden.

If you lived in the 1600’s  the time when the earliest recorded Chinese gardens were created, you would have to put yourself into the valley of the Yellow River, during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 B.C).
These gardens were large enclosed parks where the kings and nobles hunted game, or where fruit and vegetables were grown.
Taoists developed the concept of Yin and Yang, and Confucius believed in the family unit. These all were used in the template of the Chinese Garden, developed over 2,000 years.
Southern Chinese gardens are more lush and tropical looking then  gardens in northern China.
There are three main elements in Chinese gardens, rocks water and plants, plus pavilions for family, reading, artwork, music and contemplating. A pavilion, or "ting", is an essential component of a Chinese garden . . . the resting place from which to contemplate nature.
All the features in a Chines garden has been deliberately chosen and placed not only for artistic effect but for its symbolic importance. No garden is without a lake or pool. This body of water, no matter how small, is its spiritual heart.
Pavillion, Chinese Garden, Darling Harbour Sydney. photo Louise Brooks
Rocks,represent mythological stories and are placed in groupings. A bamboo forest is created by judicious pruning to serve as reminders of qualities valued in human beings.


Plants are chosen the symbolize something for tradition and history.
The magnolia tree has traditionally represented wealth.
In China, the azalea (Rhododendron spp.), together with the primrose and the gentian, is considered one of the "three famous flowers


Radishes  or Raphanus sativus. 
Have you thought why we don’t see too many radishes being served up in salads these days except for the floral radish on the side?
Yes, they seem to have gone out of favour but that’s about to change
The word radish stems from the Roman word “Radix” that means “Root”, and it belongs to the mustard family.
Radishes were first grown in China thousands of years ago, then in Egypt before the building of the pyramids.
 In Ancient Greece the radish was so revered that gold replicas were made and offered to the god Apollo.
As usual there are myths and legends about eating vegetables throughout history and in England in the 1500’s,  it was rumoured that eating radishes cured kidney stones, intestinal worms and gave you a blemish-free complexion.
But there is more than one way to grow radishes.
Radish seeds can be even grown in a sprouter and eaten just as you would eat mustard and cress or any other sprouted bean or seed.


Radishes grow in all climates and like to be in moist shady places, especially on hot summer days.
In autumn, you’ll have no trouble growing radishes in sunnier locations.
Plant them all year round in tropical and subtropical areas, in temperate zones they can be grown almost all year except winter, and in spring summer and autumn in colder districts.
Radishes will take light frost.
Radishes are closely related to cabbages, so they need much the same type of thing.
The best thing about radishes though is that they’re quick being ready 6-8 weeks after planting and because of that you can plant them among slower growing vegetables like carrots.


To sow seed, make a furrow about 6mm deep, lay down some chicken poo pellets or something similar, cover with a little soil and sprinkle in some radish seed. They also love a dose of potash.
Fill the furrow with compost or seed raising mix and water in.
TIP Seedlings will appear in a couple of days but makes sure you thin them out to 5cm apart otherwise your radish won’t grow into a big enough sized root for the dinner table and you’ll end up with mostly leaf.
Feed with a liquid fertiliser such as worm tea every week at the seedling stage.
Tip: As radish is one of the fastest growing vegetables, too much fertiliser causes the leaves to outgrow the root. Long leaves have no shelf life, just look in your local supermarket
Pick the radish when they are the size of a ten cent piece and leaves about four inches or 10cm long.
Make sure radishes have enough water and don't let them become too enormous. If they are water deprived or get too big, they can become bitter.

Here are some varieties to get you interested.

Radish Black Spanish Round: The radish chefs prefer, this unique black skinned radish has a delicate black circle around the pure white flesh when sliced. Can also be pickled.

Radish Watermelon You'll never see this one on the supermarket shelf. When you slice through the bland looking white exterior of this radish you’ll see that it looks like a mini watermelon with white 'rind' surrounding a bright pink interior. And it’s deliciously flavoured.

Or you can buy an heirloom mix. This seed packet contains a kaleidescope of healthy bright round radishes that add a spicy punch to salads and sandwiches.
Includes golden Helios, Purple Plum, scarlet Round Red, pink and white Watermelon and Black Spanish.Radish
There’s also Champion cherry bell that has deep red skin and firm white flesh, good for cold districts.

Radish China Rose has a smooth rose coloured skin and is a great Chinese winter radish.

French breakfast is readily available, scarlet skin with a white tip, and a mild flavour. Ready in 28 days.
Plum purple is bright purple with crisp sweet firm white flesh.
The unusual varieties are available through mail order seed companies such as Eden seeds or  online.
Why are they good for you? Radishes are a very good source of fibre, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese.
Radishes are also mildly anti-inflammatory, which is another good thing. A diet containing anti-inflammatory foods can help to control inflammation in the body, which is an underlying factor of so many allergies and illnesses.


Posoqueria longiflora Japanese Needle Flower

Have you ever thought about what connects plants for them to be put into plant families?
For Botanists this is key to identifying unknown species on field trips, but to home gardeners, is it just a curiosity or will it help knowing this information?
I would say some listeners would know that plants within the Daisy family and the Mint family. But what about plants in the Rubiaceae family?

Did you know that the Rubiaceae is the fourth largest family of flowering plants after the Asteraceae or Daisy family, Orchidaceae and Fabaceae or peas and bean family

Typically this family has small flowers arranged in whorls and most of the family members are tropical.
You might know the coffee plant, gardenias, and even pentas and ixoras.
Would you have guessed that because coffee is such an important economic crop, the Rubiaceae family is sometimes called the coffee family.

Posoqueria longiflora, has white flowers are drawn out at the base into a narrow tube up to 35 centimetres long - they smell a little like gardenias, which are in the same family, the Rubiaceae.

The extremely long and narrow tube, and the white colour, of the flowers were probably pollinated by hawkmoths, with their long 'straws' for sucking up nectar.

If you touch the tips of the flowers when it’s ready to be pollinated, the clustered anthers give a sharp flick which is supposed to dust the visiting pollinator with pollen.
Australia doesn’t have any hawkmoths.

These white flowers are set off by the deep green of the leaves.

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