Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Great Garden Caper


with Ian Hemphill from
Most spices and herbs come from the leaves or bark of a plant, but what about the flower?

Capers-Caparis spinosa photo M Cannon
Yes we can put Nasturtium and borage flowers in our salads but these only impart a small amount of flavour compared to this next spice.

Well capers that you might buy in the supermarket look like little green soft fruits that sometimes come in a brine and sometimes are packed in pure salt in jars.

Capers or Caparis spinosa, is actually a bush which is called caper bush.
Caper bush plants are readily available and grow as a hardy shrub originating in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Northern Africa.

If your district you can grow olives, grapes, almonds, and pistachios, then you can also grow capers.
Have you ever eaten Spaghetti alla Puttanesca,- that’s chockers with capers, what about Penne with anchovies, capers and toasty crumbs?
Ever heard of caper butter on crusty bread with vegetables and meats, or used in stuffing for fish?
Let’s find out about growing this Mediterranean plant

Did you know that there are about 20 native caper species in Australia, some of which are trees?
However, the traditional caper comes from the Mediterranean region, and parts of the Middle East.
Caper bush photo M Cannon
Think hot and dry and arid for the natural conditions that this plant grows in if you’re thinking of growing a caper bush yourself.

The bush itself only grows to a metre, and it’s a pretty tough plant needing no extra water after it’s established.
Capers are as dry tolerant as Eucalypts and Wattle trees because like gum trees and wattles, capers have a deep tap root that can search for water as well as a surface root system that picks up the morning dew.
Well drained soil is the best kind for this bush and adding good compost and lime to the soil will also help the caper bush along.
Although capers love hot temperatures, frost is no problem.

The flowers are white with long purple stamens and usually only lasts for one day.
But if you want to use them in cooking, capers need to be picked when the bud is still tight.
You’ll get buds every couple of weeks during the warmest months.
If you have any questions about growing or buying caper bush plants, write in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


There’s nothing like a good long history that some vegetables seem to have and the Leek is no exception.
Thought to be native to Central Asia, they have been cultivated there and in Europe for thousands of years.
Did you know that Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans because of their supposed beneficial effect upon the throat.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle thought that the clear voice of the partridge was due to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.
Another interesting fact that you might not know is that the leek became a Welsh emblem in 1536, and is still the national emblem of Wales.
Daffodil is the National flower.
Have you ever wonder why Welsh are such great singers?
Perhaps because they eat a lot of leeks, think Tom Jones.
Leeks, known scientifically as Allium ampeloprasum var. Porrum, are related to garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions.
Onions, celery, and carrots are very good companion plants for the leek.
Leeks, are a cool season crop and best of all they’re easy to grow.
You can grow leeks in hot summers, but you won’t get the same quality result as you will in a cool summer environment.
Leeks are usually grown from seed and are generally started off in punnets first then transplanted.

When to Sow

Sow the seeds of Leeks from Spring until the end of Autumn in cool temperate climates, and late summer and autumn in warm and tropical zones,  and in arid districts, seeds must be sown in February/early March and then you can transplant them in April and May.
I sowed some seed a several weeks ago and have already transplanted them into the veggie bed because they were a couple of inches-about 10cm high and were the thickness of a pencil.
TIP: By the way, the seeds germinated fine from an out of date packet.
Leeks will overwinter in cool temperate  areas of Australia if properly mulched, but will generally not survive periods of extreme cold.
In case you don’t know what a leek is.
Leeks look like large fat spring onions, but have a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk of layers  of white then green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves.
It goes without saying that good soil is the key to growing leeks.
Leeks need nutrient rich, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. They’ll do well in almost any garden soil as long as it is well aerated and deep, about a spade’s depth is good.
Using some kind of dibble tool or the end of a rake handle to make a hole that's just deep enough to leave only the top inch of the seedling exposed. Set the leek seedling into the hole and fill it loosely with soil.
Space the leeks 10cm or a large hand span" apart, in rows at least 25cm  or from your wrist to your elbow apart.
Find something practical like that to do you estimates.
Some people think that when  growing Leeks the aim is to blanch the stems while the plants are maturing.
To save your back if you want to blanch the stems, rather than digging a trench, just use mulch.
When they’re 4 weeks old in the veggie bed, use a thick mulch of sugar cane or something like that.
In another 4 weeks or when they reach about 24cm, do the same again, or you can use shredded newspaper.
The leeks will still grow as well if you don’t do any of this.
Some gardeners cut off the top portion of the leaves, about halfway up the plant, as the leeks are maturing.
This is supposed to bring on stalk growth, giving you a larger leek for the dinner table.
To be honest you can do all this, but if you don’t the leeks are just as tasty.
Make sure the plants get at least a couple of cm’s of water a week; otherwise the stems will toughen.
Mulch to conserve moisture, and side-dress with manure tea once a month.
Begin harvesting leeks as soon as they're big enough to use.
Young, tender ones are good raw; once they reach the width of a paper roll, they're better cooked.
They usually take 16-18 weeks--4 ½ months. Quite a long time so explains why they are so expensive at the greengrocer, market or wherever you buy them.
At markets they’re usually $2 each.
To prepare Leeks cut them very thinly and sautee’ just as you would other members of the onion family. Like their allium cousins, onions and garlic, let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes after cutting and before cooking to enhance their health-promoting qualities.
Why are they good for you?
 They are a good source of dietary fibre also a top source of vitamin C
Leeks have a high concentration of the B vitamin folate
Leeks give you small amounts of other minerals and vitamins.
The green tops have some beta carotene which your body can make into vitamin A.

Leeks contain important amounts of the flavonoid kaempferol, which has been shown to help protect our blood vessel linings from damage.
Leeks are believed to be good for the throat.
Leeks are low in calories and fat-free. 100g of leek has just 125kJ.


with Glenice Buck from
Whether it’s a new garden or existing one, great gardens start with great design.
Having a professional garden design ensures continuity and cohesiveness throughout a property.
Home owners who want to redesign their gardens, can save both time and money by calling in a garden designer, who will plan the space according to your requirements and the limitations of the site.
Aspects such as climate, maintenance requirements, and full-growth sizing are all things that experienced landscaping designers take into consideration.
Without asking anymore questions
Let’s find out about the design concept of the design process.

Concept plans include overall plans of the garden, images of key design elements and notes on plants and materials. It provides clients with a visual image of the new garden.

This plan demonstrates the layout of the garden in broader brushstrokes.
It shows the general layout of the hard landscaping and the garden beds and explores opportunities for resolving the design. 
The concept plan also offers additional notes and images to help you, the gardener or client to visualise the garden design concept.


with Jeremy Critchley and Karen Smith

From tiny pompoms to huge balls in shades of bronze, purple, orange, red and yellow, the ubiquitous chrysanthemum is an autumn garden's saving grace.

A member of the Asteraceae family, the chrysanthemum is native to China and was introduced to Europe in 1688.

Are you buying the right ‘mums’ for your garden?

Let’s find out some more

Chrysanthemums are photoperiodic, meaning they naturally flower in response to short days and long nights—in other words, in the Autumn, they start to flower five to seven weeks after short days begin.
Belgian mums produce so many flower buds that if you tried to count them on these plants, you most likely would need a calculator.

Many have upwards of 600 buds ready to open.
Plus an exceptional feature of the Belgian mum is its durability.
Chrysanthemums come in thousands of colours, flower shapes and sizes, not just pink.
If you want to have the really large flowers you need to disbud them.
Put simply, that means at the bud stage, remove all but one bud that are growing in a cluster. This is similar to disbudding in camellia flowers.
That way, all the energy of the plant is put into those single buds giving you a large bloom.

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