Sunday, 7 September 2014

The King of Parrots and Floriade

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


with ecologist Sue Stevens

Some people say that  the Australian King Parrot birds  aren’t appreciated in Australia as much as they are overseas; in fact, there’s still so much to learn about them. (our .)The Australian King Parrot is  probably overlooked, partly because they are so easily obtained in this country, either legally or heaven forbid through trapping.
They are one of the most beautiful and striking looking birds that we have.
As one colleague said, "every time she sees the King Parrot, he takes her breath away."

Let’s find out what’s great about this bird.
PLAY: King Parrot_3rd September_2014
Did you know that it takes nearly three years for the male king parrot to develop his full coloured feathers.
Before that he resembles the predominantly green female.King Parrots seem to be mainly territorial and tend to remain within aquite small area.
They congregate at communal roosts at dusk but scatter inpairs or small groups to forage in the early morning.
They seldom form large flocks.
King parrots are a wary bird, always fly quickly to cover and fly  generally, where the densest trees are.
Having said that, shortly after this went to segment went to air, I discovered a pair of King Parrots in my Macadamia tree.
Probably after the immature Macadamia nuts.
The female parrot was definitely more wary and stayed high up in the tree,
Definitely a mostly green colouring for her.
King Parrot in Macadamia tree.

The male King Parrot was curious and started to make his way closer to see what this black thing was pointing at him (my camera.)
I probably overstayed my welcome and they eventually flew off in a straight line towards the west.
On the other hand when a bird in the bush lets out an alarm call while the Kings are flying, they’ll suddenly fly erratically with twists and sudden changes in directions.
If you have any questions or photos about King Parrots, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.
Someone asked me about what Bush Tucker plants might be suitable for a community garden.
One of them is Warrigal Greens or for some reason, NZ Spinach, just because it grows there as well.
What about Australian Spinach?
Botanical Name: Tetragonia tetragonoides
These greens were life savers for early explorers.
You might not have realised that Captain Cook's 1768 voyage  to Australia and New Zealand was to observe the transit of Venus.
But they became desperately short of food.
So how did he get his scurvy stricken crew to eat this green stuff that they found growing on the shoreline?
The best way was to get the officers to eat it first.
The crew, seeing that it was O.K. and not going to poison them, began to eat it as well.
This little green plant that they picked is Warrigal Greens, or Tetragonia tetragonoides.

These explorers found lots of it growing  in Botany Bay and not being fussed with botanical names, came up with calling it Botany Bay greens.
They soon came to rely on these greens as dietary necessities, to increase their rations.
From that, we know that Warrigal Greens are native to Australia and NZ.
So what does Warrigal greens look like?
Firstly it grows quite low and spreads sideways rather than growing upwards like normal spinach.
Warrigal greens have arrow shaped leaves that are a sort of mid green.
Grow Warrigal greens in full sun, and it’s also long-lived, growing best in a loose, well-drained soil, but mulch well.

Super Greens

 To say Warrigal Greens are very drought, heat tolerant, and also frost tolerant is a big understatement.
These greens are masters at surviving especially seeing as they grew along the shorelines of Australia.
You can safely say that these greens survive salt-spray in coastal gardens.
Horts refer to this as first line salt plants.

There’s another reason why Warrigal Greens are important.

As the planet heats up, the rainfall becomes less predictable, these greens will out last other vegetables.
That’s because certain plants within families such as the Ice Plants, Native Grasses (Poaceae) and the Cactuses (Cactaceae) will be competitively advantaged and probably be able to take over where other plants no longer can grow.
Warrigal Greens are also a member of a family that’s regarded as an ICE Plant.
Ice Plants have evolved a separate mechanism  known as 'Night- time breathers' or technically Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM)
CAM increases the plants capacity to cope with drought by storing Carbon, in the form of organic acids produced during night time respiration.
You all know that plants take in CO2 during the day and give us oxygen, but that means they have to open their pores or stomates during the heat of the day, and lose water doing so.
But for plants that respire at night, this means their stomates or pores are open during the coolest time  and they done transpire so much water.
This also means that they don’t need to absorb Carbon Dioxide, by opening their stomatal pores during the day.
So CAM plants stop moisture losses through their pores during the heat of the day by remaining tightly shut.
What about photosynthesis?
No problem, they’ve stored that CO2  as an acid, which now gets released so normal photosynthesis can take place.

Warrigal Greens
All the while, their stomates or pores are tightly shut.
That’s pretty neat, and just think if all plants in your veggie garden had that ability, you wouldn’t need to water nearly as much as you do now.
The other interesting but perhaps a tad overly scientific fact about Warrigal greens is that these plants now have added xerophytic (read cactus like) abilities that increases their ability to accumulate moisture.
They also have halophytic or salt tolerant characteristics so they can survive in highly saline areas.
Amazing plants to have.

When To Sow

If you can get seeds of these greens, sow them in spring and summer, autumn in warmer frost-free areas.
Warrigal greens are long lived in temperate areas but might not last in cool temperate zones.

What do warrigal greens taste like and what do you do with them then?
Warrigal Greens have a spinach flavour and you use them as like normal spinach orAsian greens.
Use them quiches and stuffings.
Just one thing to note though.
Like some other edible plants, Warrigal Greens have a high oxalate concentration.
Only leaves and young stems should be eaten and these both should be blanched for 3 minutes to remove soluble oxalates, and the water thrown onto the garden.
You can lightly blanch or steam leaves for up to five minutes to make sure all the toxicity is removed if you’re sensitive to oxalates.
Blanching method means to  place in simmering water for 1-2 minutes. Then refresh leaves in ice-cold water and discard the cooking water.
You’ll be surprised just how like English Spinach only a little juicier they are. I think this plant would make a great addition to any recipe that requires spinach, not to mention your edible garden.
Warrigal Greens have quite a history, originally eaten by Australia’s aboriginals, then later by Captain Cook and his crew to stave off scurvy and now by restaurants as a native bush food ingredient.
Why is it good for you? 
Preventing scurvy of course with all that Vitamin C.
These Greens also have Potassium and Calcium  and Omega 3 fatty acids present in the leaf. 100g grams of these greens also has more dietary fibre than English Spinach.


Floriade is Australia’s biggest celebration of spring. This iconic Canberra event, which is now in its 27th year, runs for 30 days over the months of September and October.

Real World Gardener spoke with Andrew Forster, head gardener of Canberra Floriade.

Getting more than one million bulbs to bloom on cue is no easy feat; it takes a lot of planning and preparation. Our preparation started back in February/March with the help of about 25 gardeners to mark out garden bed patterns and dig out all the pathways. The gardening team do a wonderful job of making Commonwealth Park look fantastic during Floriade.

The first bulbs were planted in early April, starting with the Pac-Man garden, as it’s located in the coldest area in the park. We finished planting at the end of May. This year we have a mix of bulbs – Tulips, Daffodils, Dutch Iris, Grape Hyacinth, Tritelia, Pansies, Violas, English Daisies, Poppies and Chrysanthemums.

Our mix of bulbs and flowers were chosen from the Floriade design team based on their ability to last for the whole 30 days of Floriade.

The bulbs come from Broersen Bulbs in the Dandenong Ranges and the annuals from come from Oasis Horticulture in Sydney.
We also use parsley and kale to achieve contrasting colours, texture and green coverage – something that not many people know!  
Adrew's favourite garden bed is definitely the Pac-Man one as he played video games as a kid.
It will really come to life during NightFest. The elevated garden beds are also interesting – I’ve seen an aerial photograph of the 3D Teddy Bear garden, which will look great once in bloom. This year’s flower beds reflect a literal representation of things that people are passionate about.

How many bulbs?

Andrew did say that they planted 60 tulip bulbs per square metre if overplanting with pansies or English daisies-Bellis perennis.
Otherwise it was 90 bulbs per square metre! Amazing.

Some of the themes this year.
Romance – Pulsating hearts
Hobbies/collectors – Teddy Bears
• Nature – Winter, Summer, Spring, Autumn
• Music – Musical notes
• Family/relationships – People
• Cultures – Globe
Fashion – Houndstooth and Argyle
Mythology – Cupid’s Arrow
• Gaming – Pac-Man
• Sports – Sports balls
• Automotives – Car Tyre
• Food – Cookbook
• Art – Pencil box

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