WILDLIFE IN FOCUSBrahminy Kite
Not all birds come into our gardens not because us gardeners haven’t planted the right amount of trees, shrubs and groundcovers, but because they’re just not into gardens.
Birds of prey or raptors are one such bird that will most likely never visit, unless you’re a wildlife carer and happen to be looking after one.
There are also black fingers that extend from the wings that are very distinctive when it's flying overhead.
Let’s find out about one of the smaller raptors of Australia. I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons, manager of Birds in Backyards
So not all birds of prey are land birds.
Some like the Brahminy Kite have a niche that is more coastal bird of prey.
Places they like to visit are estuaries, harbours and mangroves.
Brahminy kites have weak feet for a raptor and tend to feed on fish, small animals and crustaceans.
They also scavenge on carrion and can sometimes be seen at tips.
Occasionally they might steal food from other birds.
If you have any questions about identifying Brahminy Kites from other kites drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675
VEGETABLE HEROESThis week’s Vegetable Hero is the mint-but not just any mint, it’s Vietnamese mint, Persicaria odorata.
Summer is a great time to be growing mints of all kinds, but this one is particularly good.
And…..Vietnamese mint isn’t actually a mint, nor is it in the mint family-Lamiaceae but in a family called Polygonaceae which is the same for buckwheat and rhubarb.
In botany, mint is the common name for any of the various herbaceous plants that have a botanical name starting with Mentha, in the mint family Lamiaceae.
These mints have wide-spreading, underground rhizomes; erect, square, branched stems; and pairs of oppositely arranged leaves; and small, tubular flowers arranged in clusters.
Only the members of Mentha are known as the "true mints."
|Vietnamese mint photo M Cannon|
Vietnamese mint is one of these. Not a true mint and again, not even in the mint family.
Persicaria odorata where odorata simply means fragrant which this plant is'
This so called mint is a herb that’s used a lot in Asian cuisine, and funnily enough, it grows easily, much like other mints.
The leaves are used fresh in salads, soups and stews.
In Singapore, the shredded leaf is an essential ingredient in laksa, a spicy soup.
Here’s a funny fact-did you know that some Buddhist monks grow Vietnamese mint in their private gardens and eat it often as a helpful step in their celibate life?
Vietnamese mint has an essential oil called kesom oil.
This oil is used a lot in the processed food industry and the cosmetic industry.
So what does it look like?
It’s a creeping herbaceous perennial that grows up to 30cm with a flavour that is a mix of pepper, mint and lemon.
The leaves are very narrow and angular looking and the stems are jointed much like wandering Jew which is now called Tradescantia.
The old genus name Polygonum (English: knotweed) pointed to way the stem looked, - many joints linked together by slightly bent “knots” or “knees”
The top of the leaf is dark green, with chestnut-coloured dark rounded markings right across the leaf, and the underside is burgundy red or sometimes just plain green. The markings sem to go if it's planted in more dense shade.
|Vietnamese Mint photo M Cannon|
In originates in Vietnam where it’s found in the wild in wet and boggy places.
Where it Grows
Vietnamese mint is a perennial plant that grows best in tropical and subtropical zones in warm and damp conditions.
|Vietnamese mint has jointed stems. photo M Cannon|
Vietnamese mint prefers part-sun and well-drained soil.
For those areas with cool to cold winter, bring your Vietnamese mint indoors or under shelter as you would an indoor plant.
It grows very well in pots but is frost tender.
Tip: If you’re growing them in pots, once Vietnamese gets pot bound, it’ll stop producing leaves giving you a big hint to repot and divide it up.
Vietnamese mint rarely flowers outside the tropics, but it’s the leaves you want to use and not the flowers.
Vietnamese mint is normally fairly low maintenance and is easy to grow, as long as you give it a basic level of basic care.
All you need to do is keep it well watered and cut back to the ground when the leaves become tough to produce more fresh young leaves.
But all gardeners like a challenge even if it the growing conditions aren’t ideal.
In good conditions, it can grow up to 15 to 30 cm.
In summer or when the temperature is too high, it does wilt.
If you know someone with this plant ask for some cuttings from a mature clump.
These mints are so hardy!
They will tolerate any soil conditions and even people stomping on them (by accident of course, or chickens trying to dig the plant up).
They don't need constant fertilising or watering but do like shading from the hottest part of the day.
Try planting Vietnamese mint if you'd like to attract butterflies and bees to your garden for tropical gardens of course.
So what do you do with Vietnamese Mint.
The fresh leaf is used typically in Vietnamese cooking and can be used in place of Coriander in all Asian cooking, soups, salads and fish.
It can also be dried.
You can even make Vietnamese Mint lemonade.
Just place some sugar in the bottom of a large jug.
Add ice, 1 cup of lemon juice, then slices of lemon, a handful of mint and top up with about 2 litres of mineral water.
Why is it good for you?
Vietnamese mint contains high levels of Beta-carotene and vitamin E:
Also has high levels of folic acid, iron and calcium.
Mint leaves also have useful healing properties.
Mints can freshen breath, soothe the stomach and reduce inflammation. Mint leaves are not as potent as concentrated mint oil, but they still have many of the same health benefits.
AND THAT WAS OUR VEGETABLE HERO SEGMENT FOR TODAY!
|Hail Damage is slight on these Bromeliads photo Peter Nixon|
Over the next few weeks we’ll be covering hail damage, sun scorch, garden loopers, and a few other odds and sods that aren’t necessarily damage but a garden challenge all the same.
Let’s kick off the series with the first challenge.
Hail damage on Alcantarea photo Peter Nixon
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer
Summer hail storms can be especially discouraging to gardeners since they always seem to hit just as your plants are starting to look promising.
Even small 'pea sized' hail can severely damage crops and gardens because they hit the plants with so much force.
Give your plants a week to show recovery.
But if they're continuing to wilt, go ahead and dig them up.
|Shredded Alcantareas photo Peter Nixon|
If you have any questions about hail damage in your garden, write in and let us know what happened our email address, or just post it to email@example.com
PLANT OF THE WEEKAlstroemeria Hybrids
The flowers of this next plant (Alstroemeria) is symbolic of wealth, prosperity and fortune.
It’s also the flower of friendship.
Some of the flowers of these new varieties of Peruvian lilies almost look like orchid flowers with an amazing variation in colour, and flecking.
Let’s find out more.
|Alstroemeria "Inca" photo M Cannon|
In Australia there are two types of Alstroemeria.
There are those that grow tall and flop all over the place.
These tall ones grow quite rampant and have some have become quite weedy.
You'll find them in older neglected gardens.
The best ones to grow are the dwarf varieties of Alstroemerias such asPrincess Lilies and Inca.
About ten years ago Könst Alstroemeria in Germany, started to develop low growing garden varieties.
In the beginning it were taller varieties that reached up to 50-60 cm in the garden, but the last couple of years the new varieties have become shorter with more or bigger flowers.
Very suitable as balcony or terrace plants on pots.
|Alstroemeria or Peruvian Lilies photo M Cannon|
In winter I move them into a sunny spot but in summer they don’t like being blasted by the hot summer sun, so I move them to the other side of the stone steps, where it’s shaded by a building.
There’s no reason why they can’t be grown along a border instead of having annuals.
There spread fairly slowly and I would say that the height of this plant is about 25 - 30 cm and about 40 cms wide in a garden
They actually like good even when not in flowers as Princess Lilies make a strong neat compact mound of leaves.
Alstroemeria are great as a cut flower lasting 2 weeks in the vase.
Sometimes also called Lily of the Incas or Parrot Lily Alstroemeria is a South American genus of about 50 species of flowering plants, mainly from the cool, mountainous regions in the Andes
Something we didn’t mention is that Alstroemeria is named after the Swedish botanist Klaus von Alstroemer, who was a pupil of the great botanical classifier Linnaeus. If you have any questions about growing Alstroemeria or have some information to share, why not write in to firstname.lastname@example.org