Monday, 14 December 2015

Whirling Butterflies and Trees That Matter


Today is the final in the series about the stewardship of trees.
On the menu is why we need to preserve our trees because in the long run, if you damage trees, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice.
Trees will take years to grow but can be injured or killed in a very short time. It's usually not possible to repair trees injured or stressed through construction damage.

Trees in the landscape
Not only that, severing roots close to the stem can cause instability.
Let’s find out about why we need to preserve trees.
Talking with Glenice Buck Consultant Arborist of

Trees have a structural root zone
Using a formula set out in the Australian Standard 4970-2009, Protection of Trees on Development Sites, the Tree Protection Zone and Structural Root Zone of a tree can be calculated.
Did you know that three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent?
Shade from trees slows water evaporation from thirsty lawns. Most newly planted trees need only 55 litres of water a week. 
As trees transpire, they increase atmospheric moisture.
If you have any questions about tree maintenance or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Pineapple or Ananas comosus from the Bromeliad family.
This next fruit came about because I was showing Bromeliads to two groups of classes that I was teaching at the Botanic Gardens.
Not one of them was aware that vegetables ever had flowers, (they were grade ¾ I hasten to add,) and they certainly didn’t know where pineapples came from.
They all thought perhaps a pineapple tree?
I’ve never featured pineapple in Vegetable Heroes before so it was about time.
The pineapple is native to South America and was given its English name because it looks like a pine cone. 
Christopher Columbus brought this native of South America back to Europe and later on sailors brought the pineapple home to New England.
There is a tale that goes where a fresh pineapple was displayed on the porch meant that the sailor was home from foreign ports and ready to welcome visitors.
How to grow pineapple from the top
Cut of the top of the pineapple
In England, a huge "Pineapple stove" needed to grow the plants had been built at the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1723.
The garden still exists today, but I never saw this Pineapple Stove so I assume it’s gone.
Did you know that the pineapple is a multiple fruit?
This means they grow from a cluster of fertilized flowers that join together. 
The fruitlets are also known as the eyes of the pineapple; that’s the rough spiny marking on the pineapple's surface and there are approximately 150 on each mature pineapple.
So why grow pineapple?
Firstly, the pineapple plant is one of the few tropical fruits that are really well suited to growing in pots, and that means you can grow pineapples indoors.
That also means that you can grow them anywhere in Australia, really.
Secondly, if you plant them in the right spot they need virtually no care whatsoever.
So what are the pineapple plants’ requirements?
The pineapple is like a lot of Bromeliads in appearance, with blue-green sword shaped stiff leaves.
In general, Pineapples are best suited to humid coastal districts in tropical and subtropical regions of northern and eastern Australia. 
But in a warm, sunny, sheltered and frost free position, they will cope with cool nights for short periods. 
Tip: One thing most Bromeliads don’t like is frost.
Use a sharp knife to scoop out the flesh
Like all Bromeliads, some can take sun and some prefer dappled shade.
Usually the hardness of the leaf will indicate which situation the Bromeliad you have likes.
We all know that the tops of pineapples are very stiff and prickly, so that gives you an indication that Ananas or the pineapple Bromeliad can take full sun, but surprisingly, it will grow in dappled shade as well.
And like a lot of Bromeliads, you don’t want to overwater your pineapple bromeliad, because you may cause it to rot.
Bromeliads don’t like soggy waterlogged soils but can get by on very little water except of course during extreme heat waves.
In that instance you may want to cover any Bromeliad you have with an old sheet to prevent leaf scorch.
How to grow Pineapples.
Remove as much pineapple flesh as you can

Pineapple plants grow up to 1 ½ metres high and wide, pretty much like the Giant Bromeliad, Alcantarea.
One way to grow your pineapple is to just plants the top of a pineapple. 
They don’t fruit usually in the next spring/summer but the one after, and some have taken an extra year. 
Each plant will fruit once a year and then throw a pup, the mother will then die and a year later the pup will fruit. 
That’s how Bromeliads grow.
If you stagger them you can have pineapple on each at different stages of development. 
Another way to grow pineapple plants, more so for gardeners in tropical areas is if you know someone who grows pineapples you may also be able to buy some "suckers" or "slips" (little plantlets taken of a mature pineapple plant).
After the first fruit is produced, side shoots (called 'suckers' by commercial growers) are produced in the leaf axils of the main stem.
You can pull these off to propagate new plants or just let them stay on the parent plant and keep widening.
Paul says, that he also found (maybe coincidence) that ones in pots fruited quicker than ground but they would be nice and hot all the time.
If you’re growing the top of a pineapple make sure you remove all the fruit flesh. You should also remove all the small bottom leaves. 
Just pick the lower leaves off so you have a bit of a stem to plant, then leave the pineapple top in the shade of your verandah to dry out for a week.
The same goes for suckers. 
If there are very small or dead leaves at the bottom pull them off.
Plant your pineapple top:
Don't bury the pineapple top completely.

plant your pineapple top
There’s no need to bury the pineapple top in the ground.
Mix compost in with your soil before you plant the pineapple, and then mulch thickly around it.
Just make a small depression in the ground or in a pot and stick your little pineapple in that. 
Push the soil back in and firm it around the base so the pineapple sits straight and doesn't fall over. 
You can use a couple of small sticks each side to keep it upright until your plant grows some roots in about six weeks.
Mulch around the plant to stop it drying out too much.
If the soil is dry give it some water.
Tip: If you’re growing it in a pot, use orchid or bromeliad mix so it gets plenty of drainage.
Give the plant a good watering at least once a week and fertilise with weak compost or comfrey tea once a month. 
A pinch of sulphate of potash around the base of the plant at the beginning of the second summer will help with flowering.
How long does it take from when you first plant it to harvest? 
  • Firstly there’s quite a bit of controversy.
  • Pineapples ripen from the bottom up, so when the 'cracks' around the bottom rows at the base go from green to yellow, it is beginning to ripen. 
  • Some say wait until it's yellow at least halfway up the fruit. 
  • Growers say they harvest anytime from when the bottom few rows go yellow because sometimes when the whole fruit goes all yellow, the bottom goes bad as it starts ripening from the bottom.
  • Others might ask “Does it smell sweet ?.. remember it will not ripen any further after picking.
  • Wait until it’s ripe.
  • Jan leaves hers as long as possible, but she’s in Cairns and eats the pineapple very close to Xmas. 
  • Fred says he pick them at different stages and also buys direct from farms up the road and he can't tell the difference in when they are picked.
  • The tried and true tip is to “Pick it when a middle leaf pulls out easily then it will be ready and sweet .
  • But others will disagree saying " Sorry but plucking out the middle leave of the pineapple to see it is ripe is an old wife's tale."
  • From another pineapple grower who has grown 400-odd pineapple plants," the leaf plucking is the best indicator by far. Colour is a good starting point, but every pineapple ripens slightly differently."
In Australia, the major growing regions include South East Queensland, particularly the Sunshine Coast hinterlands, Maryborough and Wide Bay area, the Yeppoon district, and all the way up to Mareeba and Mosman in Northern Queensland.
Why are they good for you?

Did you know that Pineapples are one of the healthiest fruits around?
Did you also know that…
Two slices (or 164 grams) of pineapple provides half of your daily fruit requirements
Pineapple is a great source of Vitamin C! 
Just 100g of pineapple equals 98.6% of your Recommended Daily Intake .
Pineapples are high in fibre, and low in calories, sodium, saturated fats and cholesterol.
Pineapples contain Bromelain which is an enzyme known for its ability to break down proteins making it great for digestion. 
They’re also a very good source of copper and a good source of vitamin B1, vitamin B6, dietary fibre, folate, and pantothenic acid.


 Did you forget to sharpen your secateurs after some serious pruning over the winter months?
What’s the state of your gardening secateurs right now?
Secateurs should open easily
Do they open easily, are the blades sharp? You know they’re sharp if they make a clean cut through a plant’s stem without leaving a little tear behind.
Almost as if you only cut through part of the stem and then pulled off the remaining part.
If they’re not sharp, those cuts that you make on your plants will end up with bruising and tearing on the stems leading to dieback and fungal disease problems.
Let’s find out some tips about sharpening those precious garden tools.  Talking with Tony Mattson, general manager of

To quote a long time gardening presenter on Gippsland FM, the jobs not done until the tools are put away.
If you have any questions about sharpening your tools, why not write in with your question or ask for a fact sheet.


Gaura lindheimeri "Geyser"
Whirling Butterflies, Wand Flower
Today’s plant of the week originates from Texas and Louisiana so it’s is tolerant of drought, heat and humidity.
As summer gets going and the temperature climbs, you’re garden may take a bit of a beating.
In comes the butterfly plant that adds a tough of lightness to your garden border; a bit like gypsophila used to do, but we don’t grow that so much nowadays.

Listen to the podcast to find out about them.
Talking with Karen Smith from and Jeremy Critchley owner of

Gaura Geyser is a tough little plant the can be pruned almost to the ground to give more flowering during the summer months.
'Geyser Pink' is an upright, bushy, freely-branching perennial with tall, slender stems bearing narrow, lance-shaped, mid-green leaves and wand-like panicles of pink flowers from early summer into autumn.
Gaura Geyser pink
Gaura Geyser is a dense but compact plant that  flowers until the first frost.
Strong branching supports large, long-lasting deep pink blooms.
Exceptional in containers and as a cut flower.
Gaura Geyser like all Gauras. tolerates drought, heat and humidity.

The name Gaura means Superb, but now that botanists have changed the name to Oenothera or pronounced OWEN-O-THERA, putting it in the same family as evening primrose.
Where does Oenothera come from?
It’s not really certain but perhaps from the Greek words onos theras, meaning "donkey catcher", or oinos theras, meaning "wine seeker".
But also the Latin oenothera means "a plant whose juices may cause sleep" and there’s no record of this plant causing that.
I have heard it called wand flower and butterfly bush because the petals are held on long stalks above the clump of leaves; and it certainly makes a stunning edging plant

If you have any questions about growing Gaura Geyser, why not write in to

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