Sunday, 22 June 2014

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb and Unusual Garden Themes

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

Keukenhoff Gardens-Netherlands

with landscape designer Louise McDaid
Are you looking for something different for your garden,

Keukenhoff Gardens, Netherlands
You’ve been looking through garden design books, or books about famous gardens from other places and just can’t seem to find something that’s a bit different but is doable in your own garden.
Some of the English, Italian or American gardens are on too much of a grand scale for you to get any real idea of how to incorporate it into your own garden.
So why not start you’re your own theme for the first of 5 weeks of ideas.
We start the series with a look at conifer gardens in part one.
Louise says

"Conifers can be a bit divisive amongst gardeners – many love them for their particular shapes and variety, but a lot of gardeners loathe them and just cant’ get that picture of a 70’s style garden out of their mind, a time when the yellow leafed ones were popular like the Swanes Golden Cypress (cupressus sempervirens). "

There are so many that you’re sure to find something that suits your garden, even if you might not want a whole area turned over to conifers. While they look great planted in groupings, you can use them effectively amongst shrub borders, as screening or as features.

Let’s find out what this is all about.

Conifers need not be dull and boring if you look for something a bit different to add to your own garden.
A patch of lawn surrounded by a flower border with a tree in the middle: Does this sound like your garden?
If so, jazz it up with some unusual garden ideas and there’ll be more keeping over the next four weeks.
some of the conifer varieties mentioned are
Blue Arrow
C. sempervirens 'Glauca'
Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’.

Cupressus sempervirens 'Glauca’

Japanese black pine (pinus thunbergii)

If you like the idea of conifers, but aren’t sure how it would work in your garden, choose one of the ones Louise mentioned either from this week or next week’s episode, and it it’s not available, don’t give up, either order it online, or from a mail order catalogue or from your garden centre.


Rhubarb  or botanically Rheum x hybridum.

Do you think of Rhubarb as a fruit?
You wouldn’t be the lone ranger on that one, because we’re used to eating it mainly in deserts, such as Rhubarb and apple crumble, or Rhubarb and Apple pie or strudel. 
But did you know that rhubarb is actually a close relative of garden sorrel, which means it’s a member of the vegetable family?
If that’s a bit Confucius, in 1947, in the United States, a New York court decided since it was used as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.
Of course 5,000 years ago Rhubarb was used for medicinal purposes when Chinese people used the dried roots as a laxative.
This is the Chinese variety of Rhubarb.
Different varieties of Rhubarb have different medicinal uses.
It wasn’t until the early 19th when Rhubarb became popular in food being used in desserts and wine.
Ever heard of Rhubarb mania? Yes there was a time before WWII when it was so popular that it was referred to rhubarb mania.

So what is Rhubarb?

Rhubarb-the vegetable used as a fruits, is an herbaceous perennial.
Herbaceous because it dies down in winter, perennial because it regrows  from year to year.
 Rhubarb has short, thick Rhizomes –the underground horizontal stem  part of the plant.
The leaves are sort of triangular shaped and crinkly with small greenish flowers.
What we all like to eat is the long, thick (and tasty) petioles or stalks.
How do you prefer to eat your Rhubarb?
In sauces or pies, you can actually eat the stems raw in a salad or stewed.
Perhaps Rhubarb and ginger muffins or for something savory, how about rhubarb with pork or chicken with baked rhubarb?
Rhubarb crowns can be bought and planted in September if you live in, sub -tropical areas,.
July to September-October if you’re in Temperate zones;
August to November in cool temperate districts and for once, arid zones have hit the jackpot and can plant Rhubarb from July right through to February. Can’t get much better than that.

In temperate and cool climates the above ground parts of the plant completely withers away during the colder months, so don’t be alarmed, your plant hasn’t died it’s just dormant.
That’s why, you can buy the dormant crowns now and plant them.
Rhubarb can be grown in pots as long as the pot is large enough, say 30 cm wide.
In fact there’s a variety called Ruby red Dwarf that’s perfect for potted gardening because it has short thick stems that are bright red.
IMPORTANT TIP: In case you think you can also eat the leaves-DON’T.
The leaves contain oxalic acid and are toxic. There’s no safe method of using them in cooking at all.
A few vegetables have oxalic acid but in this case the concentrations of oxalic acid is way too high and it’s an organic poison and corrosive. Other toxins may also exist.
Rhubarb is usually propagated by planting pieces or divisions of 'crowns' formed from the previous season.
If you have a friend that grows rhubarb, ask them to make divisions by cutting down through the crown between the buds or 'eyes' leaving a piece of storage root material with each separate bud. 
This is a good way to share your plant with friends.

Divide your Rhubarb in Autumn or winter when it’s dormant but here’s another tip- not before it’s at least five years old.

Rhubarb is a heavy feeder, that means needs lots of fertiliser during the growing season.
Use large amounts of organic matter like cow manure mulches applied in late autumn and work that mulch carefully into the soil around the crowns.
Tip:Use only aged manures, not something fresh from the paddock, or you will get fertiliser toxicity which will stop the plant from thriving and you might even risk losing your rhubarb plant.
During the active growing season you will also need a side-dress of fertiliser using some sort of complete fertiliser at three-monthly intervals do this also after you picked off some Rhubarb stalks for dinner as well.  
You don’t have to dig up your rhubarb plant, as it’ll last for 10-15 years. So plant it in a place that’s permanent, otherwise choose the pot alternative.


The biggest question people have about rhubarb is why aren’t the stems red yet?
There’s good news and then there’s bad news.
The good news, stems stay green for the first few years on some cultivars, but they will eventually turn red.
On others, especially those grown from seed, they will always be green and this is because seed grown rhubarb isn’t always reliably red, even if the seeds came from a red stemmed parent plant.
So the bad news for you is that these plants will always be green.
If you really want red stems,  either look out for a friend or neighbour with rhubarb that has red stems, and ask for a piece or order some red ones now or buy crowns that will have guaranteed red stems.

There isn’t much that goes wrong with Rhubarb …although some districts may get mites in the leaves or borers in the stem.
Unless you are growing plants in really heavy clay, you won’t get crown rot either.
Some varieties for you to try-and I’ll bet you can’t decide which one-I’m still thinking.
Rhubarb-Big Boy and Mount Tamborine-originally from Queensland and almost never seen in the supermarket-they reckon that the large stems are too big for the shelves.
Rhubarb Cherry Red and Winter Wonder-grown by market gardeners in the Mornington Peninsula hinterland. Sometimes seen at farmers markets.
These varieties are available from

Why is Rhubarb a vegetable Hero?
The good: news  rhubarb is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol.
It’s also a good source of Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K,


Eucalyptus Caesia
This week’s plant of the week has got be one of the standout plants for the colour of the leaves, bark and flowers.
This week, plant of the week is highly decorative and one of the most sought after gum trees for home gardens.
It’s a native tree, and is a brilliant ornamental tree growing to about 8 m before the foliage starts to weep.
The young branches are red and glossy with older growth being covered in a whitish bloom and the bark peels in curled strips. The flowers are stunning large showy pink to red with yellow at the tips of the stamens arriving in Spring .
Not only is the tree not too big, but Yes it’s a gum tree from the central Wheat belt region of Western Australia, where it is found on a small number of granite outcrops, but it’s too good not to have one in your own garden no matter how small.
I’ve seen it do well in pots for a great many years.

 Listen to the podcast with fellow horticulturalist Sabina

Eucalyptus caesia and E. caesia 'Silver Princess" are both small but spectacular feature trees in residential gardens and sometimes as a street tree.
Both eucalypts have dark brown bark which peels in curling strips to show a pale undersurface and has deep green leaves that looked like they’re coated with a whitish bloom.
The beautiful pinky-red flowers in winter and spring are big for a eucalypt.
Flowers are followed by large "gumnuts" about 3cm in diameter.
Eucalyptus caesia grows to about 6-9 m high.
Eucalyptus caesia 'Silver Princess"  grows to 5 metres in height.
Apart from the eye candy this tree has, it’s also very useful as a food source and nesting site for birds.
If you have any questions about growing Eucalyptus caesia Silver Princess, why not write in to
Calcium, Potassium and Manganese.

No comments:

Post a Comment