Saturday, 23 January 2016

Birds, Butterflies and Bushes


ZEBRA FINCH or Chestnut Eared Finch.
What grows only to 10cm in size and 10 - 12 grams , is mostly found in only Australia, it’s favourite food is grass seeds and are often kept as pets?
The Zebra Finch as the title suggests?
Zebra finches have a chunky reddish coloured beak, with fine boned, tiny little legs.
Males have chestnut cheek patch; both sexes have zebra stripes with some barring.
Let’s find out about another unique Australian bird.
I'm talking with Birds in Backyards Manager, Dr Holly Parsons.

In the wild they tend to be in flocks and are not territorial.
They pair for life and will re-pair on the death of a partner.
Zebra Finch photo: Birds in Backyards.
You might’ve seen them for sale in pet stores but don’t tempted to buy them unless you like loud singers and untidy eaters that drop bird seed everywhere.
The male zebra finch also doesn’t like contact with other birds.
I prefer to see birds in the wild.
If you do want to keep them as a pet I would recommend that you seek expert advice before taking a finch home.
As small and as simple as they look, finches needs patience and proper care in order to breed successfully.
By the way, cats are the biggest threat to finches so do keep yours in at night.
If you have any questions about Zebra finches or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Radishes or Raphanus sativus. 

Have you thought why we don’t see too many radishes being served up in salads these days except for the floral radish on the side?
Yes, they seem to have gone out of favour but that’s about to change
The word radish stems from the Roman word “Radix” that means “Root”, and it belongs to the mustard family.
Did you know that radishes were first grown in China thousands of years ago, then in Egypt before the building of the pyramids?
 What’s more interesting is that in Ancient Greece the radish was so revered, that gold replicas were made and offered to the god Apollo.
Perhaps the Pandora people can make a gold radish to hang off t
As usual there are myths and legends about eating vegetables throughout history and in England in the 1500’s, it was rumoured that eating radishes cured kidney stones, intestinal worms and gave you a blemish-free complexion.
If only that were true.
radishes. Photo RHS UK

Growing Radishes.
But there is more than one way to grow radishes
Not only are radishes sown direct in to the vegetable garden, but radish seeds can be even grown in a sprouter and eaten just as you would eat mustard and cress or any other sprouted bean or seed.
When to sow
Radishes grow in all climates and like to be in moist shady places, especially on hot summer days.
Later on in autumn, you’ll have no trouble growing radishes in sunnier locations.
Plant them all year round in tropical and subtropical areas, in temperate zones they can be grown almost all year except winter, and in spring, summer, and autumn in colder districts.
TIP: Radishes will take light frost.
Radishes are closely related to cabbages, so they need much the same type of thing.
The best thing about radishes though is that they’re quick, being ready 6-8 weeks after planting and because of that you can plant them among slower growing veggies like carrots.
To sow seed, make a shallow furrow (about 6mm deep,) lay down some chicken poo pellets or something similar, cover with a little soil and sprinkle in some radish seed. They also love a dose of potash.
You could also fill the furrow with compost or seed raising mix and water in.
Important TIP: Seedlings will appear in a couple of days but makes sure you thin them out to 5cm apart otherwise your radish won’t grow into a big enough sized root for the dinner table and you’ll end up with mostly leaf.
Feed with a liquid fertiliser such as worm tea every week at the seedling stage.
Tip: As radish is one of the fastest growing vegetables, too much fertiliser causes the leaves to outgrow the root.
Long leaves have no shelf life, just look in your local supermarket
Pick the radish when they are the size of a ten cent piece and leaves about or 10cm long.
Make sure radishes have enough water and don't let them become too enormous.
If they are water deprived or get too big, they can become bitter.
Here are some varieties to get you interested.
Radish Black Spanish Round: The radish chefs prefer, this unique black skinned radish has a delicate black circle around the pure white flesh when sliced. Can also be pickled.

Radish Watermelon: You'll never see this one on the supermarket shelf.
When you slice through the bland looking white skin of this radish you’ll see that it looks like a mini watermelon with white 'rind' surrounding a bright pink interior; And it’s deliciously flavoured.
Or you can buy an heirloom mix from
This seed packet contains a kaleidescope of healthy bright round radishes that add a spicy punch to salads and sandwiches:Includes golden Helios, Purple Plum, scarlet Round Red, pink and white Watermelon and Black Spanish.Radish
There’s also Champion cherry bell that has deep red skin and firm white flesh, good for cold districts.
Radish China Rose has a smooth rose coloured skin and is a great Chinese winter radish.
French breakfast is readily available, scarlet skin with a white tip, and a mild flavour. Ready in 28 days.
The unusual varieties are available through mail order seed companies such as Eden seeds or online.
Why are they good for you?
Radishes are a very good source of fibre, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese.
Radishes are also mildly anti-inflammatory, which is another good thing. A diet containing anti-inflammatory foods can help to control inflammation in the body, which is an underlying factor of so many allergies and illnesses.


According to the Telegraph in the UK, Piet Oudulf is the most influential garden designer of the past 25 years.
Not just one of them, but THE one!
The article goes on to say that Piet has redefined what’s meant by the term ‘Naturalism” in planting.
Naturalism’s the exact opposite of clipped hedges and neat structured rows of planting.
Prior to Piet’s designs, Naturalism also tended to mean looking a bit wild, in the way of a wild meadow that you might come across somewhere in the UK.
Scampston UK Photo: M. Cannon

Not terribly wild by Australian standards.
No wonder the owner of Scampston Manor employed him to restore their garden which had been in the family for 900 years.
What an inspirational garden.
I'm talking with Garden Designer Louise McDaid

Naturalistic planting can be appealing, and look quite tidy, if not hard to photograph.
Just follow the type of plants that Piet Oudulf recommends, and also the ones that Louise suggested to substitute, because we can’t get them all here in Australia.
In the Perennial Meadow Piet Oudolf uses his technique of naturalised planting which gives a long season of interest. The form of each plant, leaf, flower head and stem is equally important, as well as the colour and shape.
Scampston, swathes of Molinia grass. photo M. Cannon
The perennial beds have plants that are not higher than a metre – they’re planted in groups that might cover an area around anything from 1m x 1m to 2m x 2m roughly. So that an area of flower might sit beside an area of grass with seed heads, beside an area of foliage plant – the textural combinations are really important, with height differentiations between the areas – it’s mass planting without space in between.
The colour palette is lots of purples, blues, burgundies with green foliage as well as silvery hints, bronzed seed pods – there are low seats in the centre of the garden to view have been specially chosen from this area in the centre of the garden.
Some of the plants were:

Nepeta Walkers Low,
Eryngium tripartitum,
Achillea “summer Wine, and A. “Walter Funke.’
Baptisia australis,


Buddleia davidii

Horticulturalists, botanists and many gardeners often lament those common names because they’re very confusing and often very different plants have the same common name.
Take Jasmine, there’s heaps of different types and some not really jasmine at all.

Then there’s Butterfly Bush, I know a few that don’t even belong to the same family of plants.
The species is reputed to be weedy but the plant panel is discussing the NEW CULTIVARS.
These Buddleias are a compact and eco-friendly Buddleia with a unique horizontal, low spreading habit.
Deep green leaves are graced with dark purple flowers that are continuously blooming.
These flowers are sterile so won't produce unwanted seedlings.
Buddleia "Black Knight" photo. M.Cannon

Buddleia Blue Chip-This breakthrough Buddleia has all the fragance and appeal of traditional varieties in a small, easy to maintain package.
Stays under 1m tall without any pruning, blooms from mid summer to first frost.
Sterile, self cleaning flowers.
What could be better?
Buddleia Ice Chip-Ice Chip features pure white flowers against a backdrop of silvery foliage.
It has a neat, low spreading habit that makes it the perfect ground covering plant. Seedless, and requires no deadheading.
Buddleia Lilac Chip-Lilac Chip features soft, lavender-pink fragrant flowers bloom continuously from summer until frost without deadheading.

Lilac Chip is a good groundcover for mass planting. Does not produce seed.

Let’s find out about one of these now. I'm talking with Karen smith editor of and Jeremy Critchley, owner of

We didn’t mention that Buddleia davidii is named after Basque missionary and explorer in China, Father Armand David, who first noticed it growing.
But they were also supposedly named after botanist Reverend Adam Buddle who was responsible for introducing them into England.
 Another botanist-missionary in China, Jean-André Soulié, sent seed to the French nursery Vilmorin, and Buddleia davidii began being sold in nurseries in the 1890s.

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