Friday, 10 July 2015

Winter Roses and Ivory Princes

The Good Earth

Gardening After Heavy Rain

So your ground’s all soggy and damp in your backyard. Should you wait until it dries or get out there and do a bit of gardening?
photo M Cannon
The very least you should be doing is finding out “Where does water sit? What gets washed away? How are your drains working or failing? All things you can repair and get working for the future success of your garden.
Let’s find out what else you could be doing.
Talking with Margaret Mossakowska from

For the lawn, a bit of aeration with a garden fork will help improve the drainage of wet soil.
Mix some gypsum with some river sand and rake it into the holes in the lawn.
Apart from making some holes to allow air in and for the water to fill and again evaporate, check out those snails and slugs.
Snails and slugs are opportunists and thrive and reproduce when times are good – they love the rain and the wet conditions afterwards.
There’s plenty of ways to control them,
photo M. Cannon
from the whimsical container with a splash of beer in it, to snail traps placed level with the garden bed the snails go in and never leave.

Also look out for mould, moss and mildew that might grow on shady, damp paths over the winter months.
A weak solution of vinegar and water will kill mould and mildew.
If you have any questions about problems with your waterlogged garden, why not write in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


(Cymbopogon citratus) Lemon Grass in Poaceae Family
A perennial sedge and not really a grass native to India, but did you know that Australia also has it’s native lemongrass?
Not quite so useful in cooking though.
Another fact you mightn’t be aware of is that lemongrass oil is used as an ingredient of aerosol deodorants, soaps, household detergents, and even floor polishes.
The quality of lemongrass oil is usually determined by the content of citral, an organic compound or aldehyde responsible for the lemon odour.
Of course the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians used lemongrass to make medicines and cosmetics. They were into every herb weren’t they?
In India, it’s used as an antirheumatic, and antiseptic.
There they usually make a lemongrass tea by pouring boiling water on fresh or dried leaves.
The leaves are often also used in Indian and Asian cooking.
Of course you would know it has a wonderful lemony scent and taste.

Lemongrass will grow in a pot for a while.
How does it grow?
Lemon grass grows in a bushy clump to a metre tall and has long narrow pale green leaves.
It can be easily propagated by dividing the clump and when you pick the Lemon Grass, you can use in cooking or teas.
To make the most of the lemongrass stem that you’ve just picked. just cut off the bottom part leaving the roots - put this piece into a glass of water and it will shoot very quickly.
You can then replant it and this will ensure that you always have Lemon Grass in your garden.
Growing a clump of Lemon Grass in the vegetable garden has a good influence on all the plants around it because supposedly the vegetables will be much more flavoursome.
Cut back the old leaves in early Spring to strengthen the clump as well as tidy it up.
So how best to grow lemongrass?
Lemongrass is adapted to hot wet summers and dry warm winters, is drought tolerant and will grow in just about any soils but prefers rich, moist loams.
You might be surprised to learn that it dislikes wet feet but does like regular watering in summer.
If it’s damaged by frost in cooler areas, the tops should not be cut until all danger of frost has passed.
This helps to protect the centre of the plant from further cold damage.
A listener wrote in asking “How do I go about returning my massive clump of lemongrass to a manageable plant?
Or should I dig it out and start off again with a new seedling and keep chopping at it to keep it under control right from the start or in a pot?”
It’s been said about lemongrass, 'you cut it, it grows, you cut it, it grows....'. No, lemongrass in the garden bed can run away and really isn't manageable.
It will just keep on keeping on, spreading ever wider and the clump getting tighter and tighter.
If you grow it in a pot instead you’ll need a pretty big pot to contain it.
In a small pot, it gets too cramped too quickly. You can divide the clump, but it will soon be just as massive as it is now.
It's jolly hard work digging it, and every single piece with roots on it will in no time flat be just as big as the parent.
A year ago, I dug a clump of lemongrass out - I filled a compost bin with it and gave it all away, except for one tiny piece, which I replanted. It's now back to where it was before! So putting it in the vegetable garden will only work if you contain it in perhaps a bottomless pot.
The leaves can be picked at any time of the year and the stems can be used fresh or dried.
Why is it good for you?
Medicinally Lemon Grass can be drunk as a tea as it has a tonic effect on the kidneys.
If you have a fever the tea can be taken either hot or cold and iced Lemongrass is a mild sedative. 
Try it for your insomnia, or when you are under stress, or even if you need help to calm a nervous or upset stomach.   The herb is also said to relieve headaches.
Lemon Grass tea in summer is extremely refreshing.
It’s good for the skin as the oil contains Vitamin A. For an invigorating bath add a few drops of Lemon Grass oil to your bathwater. Teenagers with skin problems will benefit by drinking the tea regularly and it will also give eyes a bright clear look as well.

Cooking with lemongrass

Lemon grass has slender stalks about a 30cm long (12”). For cooking use the stalks only and pick the thick, light green ones that feel firm and are’ nt dried out and wilted. Cut off the woody root tip of each stalk until the purplish-tinted rings begin to show and remove the loose, dry outer layer(s). Also, if the top of the stalk is dry and fibrous cut this off too. When using it in cooked dishes, bang it with a cleaver to bruise the membranes and release more flavour.
Put a handful of the leaves into the saucepan when steaming or simmering chicken or fish to give a delicate but delicious taste of lemon. It can be used in many dishes as a substitute for lemon.
To store fresh lemon grass, wrap well in clingfilm and refrigerate, it will keep for up to three weeks.
Certainly an easy plant to grow in your garden and lots of benefits as well.


African Violet 'Tineke'
Talking with Horticultural Scientist Penny Smith
Potting mix can vary from brand to brand and of course there’s often a big price difference between the cheaper brands and the more expensive ones.
So should we just buy any old potting mix?
to begin with, you should always buy mix that's suitable for the plant.
African violets have their special mix so their fine roots can grow properly.
Orchids, on the other hand, need a very chunky, open mix because their roots need to have more space to grow.
After you hear this segment, you might want to rethink your purchase choice.
Let’s get started.

There’s quite a lot of information about potting mix, and I suppose the one thing we didn’t mention is that idea of putting broken pits of pot, or foam pieces over the drainage hole.
Not a good idea because you create what’s called a perched water table in that the water doesn’t want to make that leap from potting mix to another substrate and mostly stays at the bottom of the pot and around the roots.
If you’re worried about potting mix falling out of the hole, just put some open weave mesh across it.


Hellebore Ivory Prince
Sometimes called winter roses or Lenten roses, these small plants fit nicely into the shaded garden.

They used to have one problem with their flowers.

The flowers always pointed downwards and if you didn’t have them in a raised bed, you didn’t really get to enjoy the flowers so much.

Not so the newer cultivars of winter roses, with their much brighter colours.

What is this plant? Let’s find out …

Hellebore Jacob Royal
In their natural environment Hellebores love shaded conditions, such as the edges of deciduous woodland, dryer in summer and damp in the cooler months. If you’re wondering where to put your Hellebores think shaded but they’re more tolerant of exposed sunny positions in cooler, high altitude regions.

Winter Roses are both low maintenance and really hardy. They are useful for growing in hard to fill shaded areas such as beneath deciduous trees. Ensure they are planted in part shade or morning sun for best results. In heavy shade they will grow but not flower as well as they could.

Hellebore Lola
The flowers of Winter Rose can be picked and put in a vase or removed from their stems and floated in a bowl of water. Plunge the freshly picked stems into boiling water before putting in a vase to extend their show. Once established in a part shade location Hellebores are reasonably dry tolerant requiring only occasional deep watering during extended periods of heat.

Did you know Hellebores are related to Aquilegia, Clematis and Delphinium? As with some other members of the Ranunculaceae family, Hellebores are poisonous.


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