Sunday, 27 April 2014

Lawns, Lemon Scent and Mistletoes


Mistletoe Bird

Mistletoe is an air-born parasitic plant that lives off the sap of their hosts, These plants thrive in almost every type of climate and soil in Australia, and are found everywhere Australia wide except Tasmania.
There’s a particular bird that loves the berries of Mistletoe plants, with a really obvious name.

Mistletoe bird
Listen to this with ecologist Sue Stevens
Do you know why mistletoes look like their host plants?
Some botanists think it's because of a hormone within the host that gets into the mistletoe and influences the way it grows.
Mistletoes may also mimic to hide from leaf-loving animals such as possums, 60% of whose diet consists of the leaves of plants.

Mistletoe babies
A good time to look out for the Mistletoe bird is when the berries are obvious on the Mistletoe.
Those living on the coast will see the Mistletoe flowering in spring and summer, but many mistletoes were at their peak of flowering in March, particularly in the drier inland areas.
These bizarre plants are easy to spot when in flower because of their bright antler-shaped orange or red blossoms that stand out against the dark foliage, advertising their nectar to birds.If you have any questions about the Mistletoe bird or even have a photo of one, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


This week’s hero is-Oregano, Origanum vulgare or Origanum marjoram. for the botanists among you.

Not sure what herbs can be planted out in the autumn garden?
Then try chervil, chicory, coriander, fennel, garlic bulbs, lavender, marjoram, parsley, rocket, sage, sorrel, rosemary, thyme, winter tarragon and oregano.
This list includes, Tropical, sub-tropical, temperate, arid and cool temperate districts.

Origanum marjoram is the common oregano used for cooking.

Oregano amongst other herbs

Origanum vulgare is the wild oregano used for making oil.
Now that’s confusing…isn’t Marjoram a separate herb? Well, yes it is, but apparently has the same Botanical name.

Of course, Oregano was first used by the Greeks.

Legends or Myth?
Did you know that in Greek mythology the goddess Aphrodite invented the spice, giving it to man to make his life happier?

The word "oregano" is actually derived from the Greek phrase, "joy of the mountains".

The English had either ideas and found another  use for oregano- as an additive to snuff (which was generally a tobacco concoction taken through the nose).
Oregano was also used as a perfume in sachets around the 17th and 18th centuries.

Oregano is an aromatic herb that belongs to the mint or Lamiaceae family.
Oregano is native to Europe, the Mediterranean region and Central Asia and is basically a perennial herb, growing to around 20 to 45 cm (17") high depending on the variety.

Being a Mediterranean plant, grow Oregano in full sun and in well drained soil.

There are two main varieties.
"Greek Oregano" is the type normally associated with Oregano flavour.
"Common Oregano" or Marjoram has a less pungent, sweeter taste and is more commonly grown.
You can grow this plant from seed in spring, soft tip cuttings or buy as a seedling.
Best Climate
For those who have grown Oregano, you’ll find that it’s one tough plant.
It’ll take frost, rain, full sun, varying soils, walking on and will survive after massive aphid attack.
You can even build a no-dig garden in the middle of winter bung in a few punnets of Oregano and it will not only survive but grow well.
Sowing and Growing
Sow in garden, or start in seed trays although itt can be hard to germinate from seed which is very fine. That’s done in spring. Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed.
Easily propagated from root division during Autumn.
Some varieties can only be grown from cuttings.
Oregano has grey green furry leaves making it a very drought tolerant plant.
This is because the furriness or hairs on the leaves traps the moisture that normally evaporates from the plant, creating some humidity around each leaf.
Obviously a dry adaptation from its original environment.

Have you ever found that some types of Oregano seem to self seed into cracks in the pavement, and stone walls, growing in garden steps between sleepers and never need to be watered?
If you’re planting this in a garden bed or herb garden, I suggest putting it into a large plastic pot with the bottom cut out.
Otherwise, you’ll find it has taken over the other herbs or flowers.
Having said that, Oregano is very easy to pull out.
The best way to look after your clump of Oregano is to cut the stems back to the ground  after it flowers, to encourage new growth.
As far as companion planting goes, anything that benefits from having a flea beetle deterrent, like all Hibiscus, plant Oregano next to it.

I haven’t tried this one, so if anyone has found this successful, give me a call in the studio.

For best flavour –pick the leaves in the morning just after the dew has lifted.

TIP: When’s the best time to pick Oregano for drying?
When  the plant reaches the flowering stage –that’s between February and the end of April.
Varieties to try.
Why not try Origanum Kent Beauty-Origanum rotundifolium x scabrum
This hardy groundcover is smothered in delicate chartreuse coloured hop like bracts during late summer. These bracts overlap to form a beautiful cascading display on top of heart shaped pairs of blue-grey leaves on trailing stems.
Culinary hints - cooking and eating Oregano
It’s a well known fact that oregano is used a lot in Turkish, Italian, Greek, Spanish and Italian dishes..
Mostly it's the leaves which are used for cooking. Pizza is what most of us associate this herb with. Used to flavour tomato dishes, soups, sauces and Greek dishes like Moussaka and even a couple of pinches added to Greek salad is marvellous
HOT TIP: The dried leaves of oregano is much more aromatic and flavourful than fresh leaves. Now there’s a surprise.

Why Are They Good For You?
The two important compounds that are responsible for the many health benefits of oregano are carvacrol and thymol.
Studies have shown that both of these compounds can inhibit the growth of bacteria, virus and fungi which is the main causes of many illnesses..
Oregano is also high in iron, manganese, fibre and vitamin C



with landscape designer Louise McDaid
DRY GARDENS part 4-lawns for dry conditions.
There are those gardeners who like to see a green expanse of lawn, and there are others who see it as another possibility of planning and planting another area for garden beds.
Some of us think lawns are high maintenance-mowing, fertilizing, weeding watering, while others think it’s low maintenance.
There are a lot of reasons why you should still have a lawn.
It does cool an area, but don't expect it to be green all year round. It's seasonal like a lot of plants in your garden.
Don't waste time an energy trying to grow a lawn where it just won't grow-like under trees or heavy shade positions.
So what types of lawns do best in dry conditions?

Let’s find out what this is all about.

Warm season grass-Sapphire-is a soft leaf Buffalo.
Native grass alternatives that act like a real lawn.
Zoysia macrantha is sold as Nara turf-warm season grass.
Seed sown  native lawns might take a year or so to get established but are well worth the wait.
Nara Native Turf
Red Grass-is a warm tough season grass, withstands long drought periods. suits heavy clay.
Weeping grass "Griffin."-Microleana stipoides is a cool season grass. Green for most of the year but has summer dormancy.
Wallaby Grass-cool season with good drought tolerance.

TIPS for lawns in hot dry times.
Not watering too often, not watering long enough,  and scalping your lawns when mowing are all bad practices that make the job of keeping a lawn looking great all that much harder.
If you have any questions about the types of drought hardy lawns that Louise mentioned, why not write in and ask for a fact sheet?


Lemon Scented Myrtle Backhousia citriodora

There are some trees that have something about them that makes everyone who sees the flowers or smells the leaves (as in this case) for the first time, immediately want to grow it.
In gardens it’s important to provide not only nectar for birds but also habitat for insects and the birds which come to eat them.

The Lemon Scented Myrtle is a broad domed tree  a medium-sized shrub or tree, to 8 m tall with a low-branching habit.
Used as street trees under power lines eg, on Victoria Road Gladesville, and other locations also.

The leaves of Backhousia citriodora are a fresh green colour and strongly lemon-scented.
They are attractively veined and the young foliage is reddish and undersides of the leaves are often hairy.
The very attractive white flowers in long-stalked clusters, cover the tree almost as much as Melaleuca linarifolia or Snow in Summer .

All of the Backhousia species, which are found only in Australia, have individual aromatic scented leaves.
The lemon scented myrtle is very popular with the insects, its creamy-white flowers attracting a wide range of beetles, bees and other insects.

Backhousia citriodora has great potential for use in our gardens for its aesthetic value and fragrance.
Easily maintained and can be used as a hedging or screening plant.
Many people walking past don't realise that there's bush tucker to be had in the leaves.
Fresh leaves make a soothing tea, or used as a lemon grass alternative in Asian cuisine.
On the other hand, the dried leaves can be used to flavour cakes, biscuits and other foods.

For those living in frost prone areas, protect young trees from frost, because they can only tolerate light frost.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't realise oregano was a good friend for hibiscus. Great! I have some oregano and will try planting it in a pot in my new garden bed.