Sunday, 31 August 2014

Tiptoe Through the Tulips Without Lace Bugs


 Do some of your plants have silver looking leaves when before, they used to be green?

In most cases the green has completely disappeared from the leaf and you’re left with a leaf that looks a silvery bronze with blackish veins.

You can ignore it and wait for new leaves to appear, but in the meantime your plant is struggling to grow because the leaves now lack chlorophyll.
That’s the green stuff plants need to carry out photosynthesis.
Plant doctor is on the case today and we're treating Azalea Lace Bug.
Let’s find out what we can do out this problem….I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, general manager of

The Azalea Lace Bug (Stephanitis pyrioides), an insect originating from Japan, is a signicant pest of azaleas and rhododendrons in many regions of the world where these plants are cultivated.

The bug especially attacks plants growing in sunny, exposed situations.

Of course once you get that particular problem in your garden, the lace bugs then moves onto other plants in more shady parts of the garden as well.

If you don’t like spraying those plants even with organic controls, then you need to pull those plants out and put in something else that doesn’t need spraying.If you have any questions about Azalea lace bug or any bugs, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Companion and Compatible planting.

Is there a difference and do they really work?
Companion planting is when you plant two or more plants together to ward off problems for one of the plants.
For example if you plant Nasturtiums next to Apple trees the Nasturtium vine climbs the tree and is said to repel codling moth.
Compatible or incompatible planting is where one plant stops another from growing well.
For example planting Potatoes near is supposed to somehow impede the growth of the apple trees. Potatoes are then incompatible with apples, but Nasturtiums are companions.
The trouble is there’s no scientific evidence to prove or disprove these age old myths, legends or whatever.
You probably hear the Basil and tomato example every year and perhaps you always plant Basil next to your tomatoes to prevent fruit fly attack.

  • My experience has been that the small annual Basil did nothing to stop the fruit fly attacking my tomato plants until I planted some bushes of perennial Basil in my veggie bed.
  • That year I didn’t have any fruit fly.
  • Was that coincidence?.
  • Did  one of my neighbours spray for fruit fly or was my timing of tomato planting different enough to stop the female fly injecting her eggs into the tomatoes?
  • Don’t know

Incompatible plants are those plants that are allelopathic.

  • Allelopathic plants and plant material restrict germination or growth of other plants through releasing chemicals.
  • That means not only living plants can be allelopathic but other non-living things like mulch, can have the same effect.

In fact, not only plants but, algae, fungi, and bacteria, produce compounds, allelochemicals, when released into soil, slows or stops germination and growth of other plants.
 These chemicals are released in to the soil from the roots, leaching from leafing plants and/or litter (rain, fog, dew) and especially decomposition.
They are present in all plant organs (root, leaf, stem, flowers, pollen, ...).
The main effects of allelopathy is poor or no germination, slower or poor plant growth and one plant outcompeting the other but again this really refers to chemicals that inhibit germination of seedlings of a nearby plant.
Scientific evidence is behind all this.
Allelopathy is a common characteristic in cereals and other grasses as well as in many weeds, in pine trees and Australian eucalypts.
An example of release of chemicals is from the cereal crop Barley.
Barley is high in allelopathic chemicals when it’s growing and as the straw breaks down. Many other winter cereals also have allelopathic effects.
Barley’s one of the good crops to grow if you want to reduce weeds in one part of your garden.
Some other plants that use allelopathy are black walnut trees, sunflowers, wormwoods, oats. Maize, wheat, rice and the weed, Ailanthus altissima Tree of Heaven.
Some pine trees are allelopathic. When pine needles fall to the ground, they begin to decompose . The soil absorbs acid from the decomposing needles. This acid in the soil keeps unwanted plants from growing near the pine tree

Back to companion planting.

Companion planting is really all about plant diversity - getting plants that enjoy each other's company and that require the same amount of light, soil and water conditions.
In some cases, the guides in companion planting might contain a bit of allelopathy without actually stating it.
Borage makes a good garden companion and is also a bee magnet
For example Sage, and strongly Aromatic Herbs are said to release chemicals that reduce the growth of Cucumber.
Strangely, Sage doesn’t have the same effect of Celery, in fact it’s recommended to grow Sage near Celery.
Another example is climbing beans and tomatoes roots release chemicals that supposedly reduce the growth of beetroot.
This last one is a bit hard to believe, because bush beans are fine with beetroot.
Still, there’s another aspect to all this companion and compatible planting which is plants that attract beneficial insects.
Dill attracts a Cabbage White Butterfly controlling wasp as does Queen Anne’s Lace, Allyssum, Parsley flowers.
Nasturtium disguises and repels aphids. Sage repels the Cabbage White Butterfly. Zinnias, and daisies in general attract ladybirds, which we love!
It certainly doesn’t hurt to plant those.



with landscape designer Louise McDaid

It doesn’t matter if you’re an avid gardener, amateur gardener, organic gardener or just a keen gardener we’ve all asked the question at one point.
Why doesn’t it grow at my place?
You might know someone that has a plant you love – they live nearby – or you see something in a garden not far from you – but you’ve tried it at home and it just doesn’t work. What’s going on?
There’s a few things it could be. One is the aspect. Whatever the plants position, it really likes it if it’s thriving. It might be sun, or part shade – morning sun with afternoon shade. There might be something specific about how much sun and shade it gets that suits it down to the ground! Some plants are very specific as to what they like to grow really well, and it’s these plants that we spend time trying to work out what’s going wrong.
A friend complained that no matter what she did to her passionfruit vine, it just wouldn't grow.
Yet, her sister who lived two doors down the road, had a beautiful and bountiful passionfruit vine.
Same soil, same climate, so what could be the problem?

Let’s find out what this is all about.
PLAY: Garden Problems_plants don’t growatmyplace August_2014
Sometimes you might hear as “apply seaweed solution” to such and such a problem as a sort of fix all.
In some cases it seems to work but all we’ve done is started watering the plant and it’s responded.
Generally you have to look a bit further under the top layer of soil, or around the plant’s environment.
At the end of the day, if it’s not working for you, I know this is hard, you need to pull out the difficult plant start again with something else.


Have you ever heard of Tulip mania?
Back in 1593 tulips were brought from Turkey and introduced to the Dutch. Plants back then if they were new and rare were fairly pricey.
Then things got interesting when the tulips contracted a non-fatal virus known as mosaic virus, which didn't kill the tulip population but changed them causing "flames" of colour to appear upon the petals.
The colour patterns came in a wide variety, increasing the rarity of an already unique flower.
Tulips prices went through the roof and everyone began to deal in tulip bulbs thinking they’d make a fortune selling these unique bulbs to foreigners.
When some sellers starting getting out of the tulip market it started a downward spiral, and well, you know the rest- a tulip crash.

If you want to see Australia’s best tulip display, then head to Canberra where more than one million bulbs bloom on cue for Floriade.
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 first bulbs were planted in early April, and finished planting at the end of May.
Canberra’s Floriade is in Commonwealth Park for its 27th year starting on Saturday 13 September for four weeks.
The theme for 2014 is Passion.
In addition to the beautiful flower displays, visitors to Australia’s largest celebration of spring can pick up gardening tips from experts in the field, listen to inspiring musical performances, enjoy culinary demonstrations by world-renowned chefs and keep the kids entertained with an exciting line up of activities.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Bananas Bandicoots and Bushes


Most Australians would have you believe that they know what dug those holes in their lawn.
Long Nosed Bandicoot-Perameles nasuta
Some say it’s lawn grubs, others say it’s worms coming up for air and leaving piles of dirt.
Bandicoot isn’t what comes to mind when these gardeners see fresh conical shaped holes with teaspoon sized piles of dirt in their lawn every morning.
Would you believe that most Australians have never actually seen a bandicoot!
Let’s find out what about these piles of dirt and holes. I'm talking with ecologist Sue Stevens

Bandicoots are a gardener’s best friend because they eat spiders, cockroaches, a variety of insects, snails and most importantly their favourite food – the black beetle & beetle larva known as curl grubs. 
These grubs feed on the root system of your lawn causing dieback or brown patches.
Bandicoots are effectively aerating your lawn so that it will grow with renewed vigour during spring.
Bandicoots cause no long-term damage and are beneficial to lawns and gardens.
Remember that Bandicoots are protected and are currently under threat due to both habitat loss and predation.
If you live in a bandicoot territory and you have a suitable food source, you will have bandicoots in your yard.
Once the food source has gone, they will move on.
If you have any questions about Bandicoots, send in a photo, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


You may not have heard of Chervil before, or if you’ve seen it at the garden centre, though, “that looks like Parsley, so why do I need to grow it?

First of all, let’s find out what Chervil really is.

Would you believe that Chervil has been around for about the last 2000 years?
It was introduced to Europe by the Romans and used by the ancient Greeks as a rejuvenating tonic.
 The tonic recipe includes dandelion, chervil, watercress and water and was made during the winter months when many types of fruit and vegetables were out of season or hard to find.
Chervil being rich in minerals and vitamins was a good substitute.
It was once called 'myrrhis' because the volatile oil you get from chervil leaves has a similar aroma to  'myrrh' as in frankincense and myrrh.

Quite different to Parsley already don’t you think?

Legend has it that chervil makes one merry, sharpens the wit, bestows youth upon the aged and symbolizes sincerity.
Did you know that eating a whole plant of Chervil is supposed to get rid of hiccups?
I wonder if anybody uses it today?

Botanically it’s Anthriscus Cerefolium
Chervil is a member of the: Umbelliferae or Carrot family and its leaves look a bit like carrot tops.

Young green leaves, smell similar to Anise, and when picked before they lose their pungency can be preserved in vinegar.
Chervil is a warm herb. That means that it doesn’t overwhelm other spices and tastes.

Chilli on the other hand is a hot herb or spice if you prefer.
There are two main varieties of chervil, one plain and one curly.


Growing chervil, is quick because it will be ready to harvest in 8 weeks – Chervil is cold hardy, so you can use it during the winter into spring months.
Treat chervil much like parsley.
Like most herbs, chervil is a perennial in cooler climates, but in warmer climates, it’s more of an annual, occasionally biennial. (meaning in might regrow for you for 2 years.)
Chervil grows to about 40cm high and 25cm wide and  has a more delicate, nutty flavour than Parsley.
In some parts of Australia, the temperate and cold zones, you can have 2 sowings of Chervil a year.
Sow the winter chervil in late summer and the spring chervil from late winter onwards – the best results seem to be 2 days before a full moon – don’t ask me why, because I don’t know.
Choose a sunny spot for your winter chervil and a semi-shady spot for your summer chervil.
If you want to sow now, it will have to be in some sort of igloo or mini-greenhouse because the ideal temperature of germination is about 130-180C.
Chervil seeds need light to germinate so don’t bury them with soil or potting mix.
Germination is slow, just like Parsley taking usually occurs 2-3 weeks but can take even longer.
TIP  To speed up germination the night before sowing, pour boiling water over the seeds in a shallow saucer and leave them to soak overnight.
In really cold districts  protect your chervil in the winter with a poly tunnel and you’ll be able to cut herbs all year.
Another Tip
Best sow chervil in situ as seedlings don’t transplant well – they sometimes bolt when transplanted..
Sow seeds about 5mm deep and in rows 30cm apart and thin plants to 30cm apart.
Why is Chervil best in winter?
Because Chervil isn’t heat-tolerant, in warm and arid districts, you Chevril will probably bolt to seed in Summer because of the  heat.

Chervil is one of those herbs that doesn’t mind partial shade and the soil needs to be fertile and fairly moist.
Chervil will grow in any soil but dislikes being too wet although it does need water, it won’t like being in badly drained soil.
If you let your Chervil flower which it’ll do in Summer, on top of the light-green, lacy leaves, will appear umbrella-like clusters of white flowers in on tall stems up to 60cm tall.

I would imagine these small flowers attract beneficial insects just like parsley flowers do.
 Leaves smell faintly of aniseed and turn reddish-brown as the plant matures.
Chervil is good for all those balcony gardeners and it’ll grow indoors. Once established, chervil self-seeds, again like Parsley if you let if flower and set seed of course.

Remove the flowers from most of the plants before they open and keep watered.
The plants will self seed if one or two plants are allowed to flower.

Sow the seeds in monthly succession if you want a constant supply – it’s one of those herbs, that once you start using it, you find more and more uses for it. Just keep cutting it.
It’s used to make the famous chervil soup, delicious with crab, cream cheese, omelettes, in salads, béarnaise sauce, with all meats, fish and poultry – such a versatile culinary herb.
Why is It Good For You?
Chervil is rich in a number of different vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, iron, manganese, potassium and zinc.
Store in airtight packs and keep in a cool, dark place.
Do either buy a plant Chervil from a garden centre or sow seed.


with landscape designer Louise McDaid
This is the third in the series of “why won’t it grow at my place.”
Do all plants have a long and healthy life and is it your fault when they keel over?
That’s been a question for most gardeners perhaps some of the time.
What can go wrong is not so much the plant’s health but it’s life span. Not all plants live forever and that includes trees and shrubs not just perennials.
The climatic conditions at your place might also be a factor in shortening the life span of some of your plants even though you’ve given it all that TLC-like watering, fertilizing, pruning at the right time.
Let’s find out what this is all about.


Sometimes the problem is you’ve planted something that’s incompatible with the plant that’s next to it.
There are a few basic rules of thumb when it comes to plants to avoid near one another.
First, check that your garden plants are all about the same size and have the same light requirements. When planting taller and shorter plants together, make sure that the shorter plants are spaced far enough away and orientated so the sun will shine on them during the day.
Many gardeners solve this problem by putting the shortest plants in their own row on the edge of the garden or planted as a border planting.
Plants that need a lot of water will cause those water haters nearby a great deal of stress so plant the water haters further away.
Plants that need low phosphorous to grow like some Australian natives-Banksias, Grevilleas, Boronia etc. These are best planted in their own bed or with exotics that don't need much if any fertilising.

Boronia ledifolia


Edible bananas-Musa acuminata

In the subtropics it takes between 2 and 4 months for bananas to ripen (depending on variety, weather and other conditions).
In the cooler climate of southern Victoria for example Melbourne, with the shorter daylight hours and overnight temperature drops it takes from 5 to 6 months or more (again depending on conditions).
Did you know that bananas can grow it regions other than the tropics? They are actually the world’s largest herb, a plant, that goes on producing year after year.

I’ve seen banana plants being coddled in the south of England at Great Dixter.(photo below). These plants are protected by a surrounding hedge, as well as a stack of hay which is held together by bamboo  poles.
 Bananas are a versatile plant in any landscape. Bananas can add a lush, tropical look to any area. Although everyone knows the fruit, few people have experience growing the plant.

While it is possible to grow banana plants in cool temperate zones and have them produce fruit, it is unlikely to mature before cold weather sets in.
They can be picked early and ripened by placing in a plastic bag with a couple ripening apples. However some say that because the fruit is not mature it lacks flavour and sweetness.
Banana plants in cool temperate districts tend to produce a bunch around December/January which would have them ripen May June (well into the cold weather).
Musa acuminata is one of the best for cold climates and others like Sugar banana  Musa  paradisiaca are a good all round variety.

Banana plants are fast growing, usually putting out one new leaf once a week.
Banana plants can either form clumps by suckering or they can remain solitary.
Banana leaves, pseudostem (trunk) and fruiting stem (raceme) grow from the underground rhizome (or pseudo bulb's) top surface and the roots grow from the lower surface of the rhizome.
From the time of planting it usually takes 12 months or so to produce the first bunch, after that the bunches appear every 8-10 months.
Because commercial banana plants cannot produce seeds, they are predominately propagated from their underground rhizomes called corms or tissue culture.
The fleshy stems sheathed with huge broad leaves can grow up to 10metres in as little as 1 year, depending on variety and growing environment. After approximately six months, when the banana plants leaf formation is completed and the plant has matured, a flowering stalk emerges from the top of the plant. This flowering stalk appears as a large bud and is called the bell.  

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A Noble Leaf Amongst Shrubbery

SPICE IT UPBay Leaves-Laurus nobilis

Do you have a repertoire of a few herbs and spices that you always use in your cooking?
These herbs and spices become quite familiar to you and you probably think you know how best to use them right?
Not so right when it comes to this particular spice that comes from the leaves of a tree because there’s a big difference between using the fresh leaves and dried leaves in cooking.
Let’s find out what this is all about. I'm talking with herb expert Ian Hemphill from

There are a number of different types of bay leaves used in cooking in different parts of the world. California bay leaf that look like the Bay laurel that we know well–California laurel, (Umbellularia californica, Lauraceae), also known as Oregon myrtle, and pepperwood, is like the Mediterranean bay laurel, but has a stronger flavour.Indian bay leaf or malabathrum (Cinnamomum tamala, Lauraceae) also looks a little bit like the leaves of bay laurel, but is culinarily quite different, -it’s more like cinnamon (cassia) bark, but milder.
So, did you know that using fresh bay leaves in your cooking can leave a slightly bitter taste?
Perhaps not?
Fresh bay leaves are pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste.

When dried, the fragrance is herbal, slightly floral, and somewhat similar to oregano and thyme.
The bitter note has disappeared altogether and is much more pleasant to use in cooking.
Myrcene, which is a component of many essential oils used in perfumery, can be extracted from the bay leaf.
Bay leaves also contain the essential oil eugenol-you may remember it being in another herb-Basil!
If you have any questions about John Stanley’s interview, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


  Chinese Cabbage is quite different from your regular cabbage and has a milder flavour, so here goes.
There’s been a whole lot of confusion with the name- anything from Chinese leaves, Pe-tsai, Pak choi, Wong Bok and Bok choy. Which one’s right for the most cabbage looking of the Chinese vegetables?

Chinese cabbages are still in the Brassica family but the scientific name is Brassica rapa  var. Pekinensis and Brassica chinensis.
Did you know that Chinese cabbage has been grown in China since 500 A.D?
But what may surprise you to know is that Chinese cabbage is more closely related to turnips and swedes than any sort of cabbage.
No surprises there when we find out that the cross occurred naturally in cultivation between Pak choi-a loose leafed Chinese green (Brassica rapa var. chinensis) and a turnip (Brassica rapa var. rapifera).
These early Chinese cabbages were loose-heading but cross breeding over many centuries has created the heading types that I’m talking about today.
Not only has it got a milder flavour it’s got thinner, more delicate leaves than ordinary cabbage.

So how different is Chinese cabbage ?

There are two types for starts:Heading and non-heading types.

  1. Chinensis varieties are referred to as non-heading types ie, don’t form heads; instead, their leaves Chinese cabbage are arranged spirally in a rosette.
  2. The pekinensis varieties are the heading types also known as Chinese leaves and Wong Bok. Yes, they’re the correct names for this heading variety that looks like a longer barrel like version of your regular cabbage.Not only is it barrel shaped it can also be tall and cylindrical with tightly packed fairly crinkly leaves.
Did you know that it wasn’t until the early 20th century, when Chinese cabbage was taken to Japan by returning soldiers who had fought in China during the Russo-Japanese War that Chinese cabbage became more widely known.
Of course now you can find Chinese cabbage in markets throughout the world.

Chinese cabbage: is delicious and nutritious, and it can be grown in two to three months.


Chinese cabbage can be grown in cool or cold weather because it bolts (goes to seed) quickly in hot weather and long days.
Having said that, Chinese cabbage prefers to be grown in late winter to early spring in cool temperate areas, , and in temperate areas sow September - March, depending on variety; in subtropical areas sow late autumn to early winter. In tropical areas sow in winter in tropical zones that’s between April - August, during the dry season but generally cabbages do not perform particularly well in the tropics.
The ideal temperate average is13 to 20 ºC during the early- Crops grown into colder periods should be protected from low temperatures and cold winds, which increase the likelihood of bolting.

It’s fairly quick growing-much quicker than regular cabbage taking only Chinese 50 to 80 days to grow-that’s around 8-10 weeks.
Growing Chinese Cabbage
This type of cabbage seems to like the best of soils-neither sandy nor heavy, but just right.
There’s ways around the soil problem as you might already know.
So if you’ve got heavy clay grow your Chinese cabbages in a raised bed, half wine barrel or pot. And if you have sandy soil, incorporate lots of compost.
Chinese cabbage is shallow rooted so need constant and even moisture.
A soil pH of 5.5 to 7.0 is ideal. So if you have acidic soil and lime especially if the pH is below 5.5 as calcium and other nutrients can be deficient or unavailable in acid soils.
Liming may also reduce the effect of clubroot if the disease is present.
Start you seeds off in a mini green house and transplanted outside but, some say that Chinese cabbage shocks easily, and transplanting sometimes shocks it into going to seed.
Better to sow the seed directly in the garden and thin the seedlings to around 20-30cm or 8 to 12 inches apart.
Another way to avoid transplant shock is to use dilute seaweed solution on transplanting any seedlings or use seedling trays made from coco peat.
Normal cabbage seedlings are quite different because transplanting European Cabbage actually helps grow stronger roots on the plant.
Water them frequently to help the young plants grow fast and become tender. They'll probably go to seed if growth slows down.
To fertilise Chinese cabbage, start applying a liquid fertiliser when they are about 15cm tall.
Chinese cabbage is shallow rooted so apply a little water and often.
As these types of cabbages grow to near maturity, type them with soft twine or raffia.
Harvesting Chinese Cabbage
With Chinese cabbage, the time from planting to harvest is 7 to12 weeks depending on the variety. You should harvest when the cabbage heads are compact and firm and before seed stalks form.
 Cut off the whole plant at ground level.

Problems with Chinese Cabbage

If you have grown Chinese cabbage before and found that it’s bolted to seed, high temperatures aren’t the only reason plants initiate flowering.
Temperature is the major influence on bolting in Chinese cabbage with the
response to cold temperature being cumulative.
In general, two weeks exposure to temperatures of 130C or lower induce bolting and this process will only be initiated when the chilling requirement for any particular variety is met. That means when the plant starts it’s reproductive stage of flowering and setting seed.
Using Chinese Cabbage in Cooking
There is almost no end to the ways Chinese Cabbage or womboks can be used, including coleslaw, hamburgers and sandwiches, dumplings and rolls, soups, casseroles and stir fries.
The famous Korean relish, kim chi, is made from wombok pickled in salt, garlic and chilli. Pretty tasty!
 The leaves can be used as wrappers for other foods during steaming.

Types of Chinese Cabbage
Wong Bok, this is the longish barrel shaped cabbage with long outer green leaves and fairly crinkly inner leaves. Full sun, well-drained and fertile soil, usually this vegetable grows best as a cool season crop. Size/spacing: Grows to around 30cm tall; space plants about 30-40cm apart.harvest in 85 days
Michihli, harvest in 75 days; has large heads with blanched inside leaves.
It only takes a couple of months and no matter which type you choose to grow, you're sure to enjoy it.
Why is it good for you?
Chinese cabbage has anti-inflammatory properties
They’re an excellent source of folic acid
Chinese cabbage is low in calories and low in sodium
It is also high in vitamin A and a good source of potassium


with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid

There are plenty of reasons why shrubs-that is plants that don’t grow much beyond 3-4 metres, don’t do well.
The annoying thing is, the same shrub might be growing fantastically in your neighbour’s garden or another garden down the street.
So why doesn’t it grow well in your garden?
Let’s find out what this is all about.

Shrubs often end up with not much foliage lower down, and the majority of it up top

The main reasons for this happening are lack of pruning, or it’s growing in a shady position. If it’s on the south side of the house, a wall or a fence then it won’t be getting very much sun and this will most likely be affecting the leaf growth
Most shrubs at garden centres have been pruned so that they’re sold to you as a bushy plant.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you don’t have to do anymore when you get it home.
No, no, no,-get into the habit of tip pruning a little and often so that plant continues to be bushy with an all over covering of leaves.
Don’t forget to also maintain the soil that the plant’s is growing in-that means watering and nourishing with organic manures and composts.
If you don’t want to risk a hard prune – or you like the top of the shrub the way it is and can manage it – then grow some low water use plants in the surrounding garden bed – use design techniques like combining shapes, textures, and colours to create a planting scheme to draw the eye away from the leafless shrub base
Hopefully, if you follow these tips you’ll have a lovely set of shrubs in your garden.


Mt Spurgeon Black Pine Prummnopitys ladeii
Millions of years ago, Australia was joined to Antarctica and you could walk across to South America as well.That’s when the land was all covered by ancient conifers that were used to high rainfall and constant warm temperatures.

Conifers of course refers to those plants that bear cones-some people call these cones pine cones, but pines trees are only one branch of the conifer family.This tree is rare with plants only found growing on the granite-derived soils of Mount Spurgeon and Mount Lewis in the Atherton tablelands.For that reason, Mt Spurgeon Black Pine  has been included in the Rare or Threatened Australian Plants.Although found naturally in the wet tropics, it’s actually quite a hardy tree, and  can be grown successfully in sub-tropical and cooler districts, such as Canberra. Prummnopitys ladei  also makes a great indoor plant specimen.

Mt Spurgeon Black Pine is an evergreen slow growing dense coniferous tree (8m x 3m) from Qld rainforests. Rows of small flat bright green fern-like leaves on horizontal branches. The glossy green foliage is stiff and fern-like with leaves approximately 2 cm in length and borne in two rows along the horizontal stems
Globular fruits. Useful for its attractive foliage in a rainforest themed garden. Ideal pot plant for a courtyard or patio due to its slow growth.. The bark is black and flakey.

Male and female cones are supposed to be on separate plants, but I’ve seen them on the one plant. They’re the tiniest cones of any conifer that I know-only 2-3mms.
Plant sold at Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
Nursery opening hours Mon -Friday 11am - 2pm, Saturday 10am - 2 pm




Sunday, 10 August 2014

Leaves That Go Bump And Palms That Wine

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 Steve Falcioni, GM for

Have you ever had this happen to you on some of your stone fruit trees?

What I’m talking about is when the new leaves appear in spring, they seem to be infected with something. They look thickened, curled and distorted, pale-green at first, but soon show red or purple colours.
Sometimes the whole leaf shows these symptoms and sometimes it’s only in patches on the leaves.
 Let’s find out what they need to do..

The disease occurs wherever peaches and nectarines are grown, and if not controlled can seriously weaken trees.

If you don’t treat leaf curl you might end up losing all the leaves on your tree, shoots could also dieback and your peaches, nectarines, apricots and even almonds could drop prematurely-they’ll probably show signs of the disease as well
If you have any questions about John Stanley’s interview, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


And you thought you knew everything there was to know about peas?

Peapods are botanically a fruit, since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower.
Peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking. Peas belong to the Fabaceae family, which means they fix Nitrogen from the air into their roots.
Today I’ll focus on the sugar snap peas Pisum sativum var. Macrocarpum-Compared to the most grown garden pea, snow peas and sugar snaps are sweet, crisp and have cross fibre in the wall of the pods.
You eat Sugar snaps –pod and all usually best before the peas start to swell.
Did you know that the Snap pea were developed by crossing an unusually thick podded garden pea with a snow pea. Snap peas produce oval to round pods.
Most snap pea varieties have strings in the pods, but these peel off easily. There are varieties that are resistant to powdery mildew disease. Several varieties of sugar snap peas are now available in Australia and they are either climbing, or dwarf types.
place the link on my website, or you can email me…

Both dwarf and field peas were part of the cargo of the First Fleet to Australia in 1788 and, on arrival at Sydney Cove, each convict and marine was given a weekly ration of three pints of ‘pease’.
By 1802 peas were growing in Port Jackson and Parramatta gardens.

Sowing Times

The best time to sow Peas, if you are living on the East Coast is from April until September from April until August in arid climates, from April and until July in sub-tropical districts and for cool zones, late winter until October.
On the Tablelands they should be sown after the last frosts.
Peas are best planted at soil temperatures between 8°C and 24°C.
Peas aren’t too fussy about the soil type, so just sow the seeds directly into the soil 15mm to 20mm deep (that’s about knuckle deep) and 75mm to 100mm apart (3'' to 4'').
Water in well and don't let them dry out.
I like to soak my Pea seeds over- night because this gets a better strike rate.
Some gardeners prefer to sow their seeds into tubs/punnets so they can keep a closer eye on them especially if there’s a possibility of a frost.
Once they have their second crop of leaves and no more frost, they can be transplanted out in the garden.

Companion Planting

If you like the idea of companion planting then don’t plant Peas  near Onions, Chives, Garlic.
TIP: Peas don’t like a lot of mulch or manure especially up against the stalk/stem, or being over-watered as they tend to rot off at the base of the stem,  and young plants will grow lanky and not produce a good crop of peas.
Wait until they have started flowering and then give them a good feed of liquid fertilizer at least once a fortnight.

Did you know that if you use a liquid fertilizer you’ll get a better result in a shorter time? Something to try this season.

Water your Peas in the mornings to avoid mildew and try to avoid overhead water late in the afternoon.
If you do have mildew, try spraying with a solution of whole MILK mixed with a couple of drops of detergent.
With dwarf Peas you will have one main crop, with a second lighter crop and some pickings in between for the pot.
Did you know that if you freeze your peas straight after picking you don’t lose any more nutritional value than if you just cooked them?

Pest Problems

If you have problems with something that’s eating your pea seedlings, a good idea is to place a bottomless container around the young seedlings to stop cut worm, or in my case possum, from nibbling the edges off the new shoots; this will also give the new plants some protection from the wind.
Even though dwarf Peas only grow about 300mm to 600mm high they still need some support.
They can be supported by either wire/mesh, string/twine, bamboo or you could try 15mm round plastic pipe, around 1.5m long (3'6'') pushed into the ground, say 75mm (3'') either end to create a hoop, from one side of the plant to the other, (criss cross).
Climbing Peas grow well over 2m high and produce steadily over a longer period. Pick regularly to keep plants vigorous and encourage a bigger crop.
They will need a good heavy-trellis or stakes.
You could make a Pea tepee?
The position of the trellis should be facing towards the midday sun, (towards the North in Australia).
After the Peas have stopped producing the trellis can also be used for growing cucumbers, pumpkins or tomatoes.

TIP: Before you start ripping the pea vines off the trellis cut the stems off at ground level; leave the roots in the ground as pea roots produce nitrogen nodules. They will break down and give your next seedlings a good kick start.

Some varieties for you to try from

Pea Sugarsnap 'Sugar Ann'  Sugar Ann is a bush pea to 60 cm high. It has succulent edible pale-green pods, 7.6 cm long. It is the sweetest of the sugarsnaps and very productive.
Pea Sugarsnap 'Cascadia'. A climbing pea to 110 cm, with thick, juicy, edible pale-green pods, 6 - 7 cm long; sweet and flavourful. It is very productive and resistant to powdery mildew.
You can also get stringless sugarsnap peas that are just named and sold as Sugarsnap-Climbing
Days to harvest: 58 – 65days for all of these types.
Why are they good for you?
Being low in calories, green peas are good for those who are trying to lose weight.
Green peas are rich in dietary fibre, have a high amount of iron and vitamin C, folic acid and vitamin B6
Peas also contain lutein that supposedly helps reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.


with Louise McDaid, Landscape Designer


This series came about because the question has been asked many times.
That being, why doesn’t xxx shrub, climber, tree grow in my place when it’s growing really well in my neighbour’s place or my relatives place down the road?
You can insert whichever problem plant you like. So to counteract that, over the next few weeks we’ll be discussing problems with climbers, shrubs, trees and just plants you like that don’t seem to thrive.
Let’s find out what this is all about.

Climbers that end up with foliage all at the top and nothing lower down
This scenario might be ok if you want it to run along the top of a wall or fence, but if it’s in a prominent position the bare stems might not be attractive

Stephanotis floribunda
Some common offenders are stephanotis, pandorea and clematis. Something like wisteria that does this can be a feature – the bare stems twining up a pillar or post, when the flowers are out you hardly notice the stems and when it’s not in flower they add a sculptural element

 It’s not unusual for a climber to do this – in the excitement of it growing and reaching upwards is so great that we mostly just let them go on their upward journey, impatient that they get as tall as they can as quickly as they can – and we usually give them lots of encouragement. This is our downfall!
Sometimes the problem is just not possible to be solved and you have to start again. In this case, most climbers grow fairly quickly and starting again isn’t such a big deal, plus it gives you the opportunity to try something new.



Butia capitata-Wine Palm

Palm trees fall into the category of love ‘em or hate ‘em.
They just don’t seem to fit into many garden designs mainly because of the types people have chosen to grow. Cocos palm is one that springs to mind because of its weed status and danger to wildlife. The seeds of Cocos Palms are highly poisonous to all birds and mammals, having a paralysing effect on them.
The poor animal or bird then falls out of the tree and often break their spines in doing so.
It’s time to get rid of Cocos palms and instead, if you really must have a palm tree, plant one that’s useful..

The wine palm is the  type of palm that prefers its surroundings to be dry if the temperature is cold, ideal for Adelaide. 
Also, make sure the soil has good draining capabilities. Clay soils can be used if the drainage is OK but the moisture content should be low.  In good growing conditions they may become top heavy and lean over while waiting for their root system to anchor the large trunk so you might need to prop it up.

The Butia or Jelly palm has large stalks of golden fruit in clusters. The fruit is green before it ripens, then turns golden, sometimes having a reddish tinge when ready to eat.

The fruits is the size of a cherry, with soft, tasty flesh surrounds a hard seed that looks like a miniature coconut.

Simply peel the flesh away and eat it, prepare a soft puree, or use Butia Palm fruit in jelly. The taste is delicious and starts out like apple and transforms into tropical like flavours similar to an apricot/banana mix. Although delicious when eaten fresh they are most often preserved due to their stringy fibrous flesh.

Jelly palm fruits are picked as they ripen. If you pick a whole bunch, they tend to ripen all at once. They keep in the fridge for around a week.