Saturday, 11 June 2016

Quiet Birds and Quirky Conifers


Black Faced Cuckoo Shrike Coracina novaehollandiae
It’s funny that some birds live in our urban areas but we don’t know that they’re there.

Mainly because they’re not aggressive, a bit on the quiet side and don’t pick up leftovers from the barbecue.
But there they are all the same, living quietly amongst us.
Let’s find out what it is now.I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of Birds in Backyards.

That was Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of Birds in Backyards.

Black Faced Cuckoo Shrike photo Birds in Backyards
So Cuckoo-shrikes are neither cuckoos nor shrikes, but are called that because their feathers have similar patterns to those of cuckoos and their beak shape resembles that of shrikes?
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes have a black face and throat, blue-grey back, wings and tail, and white underparts.
These Shufflewings or Black Faced Cuckoo Shrieks forage in trees, and sometimes over open paddocks, for caterpillars, other insects, and occasionally fruit.
They fly from tree to tree, often landing on a prominent perch  which gives them a vantage pointfrom where they can pounce on their prey.
The Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike is found many suburbs, where these birds are often seen perched on overhead wires or television aerials.If you have any questions about the Black Faced cuckoo shrike or any other bird or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Garlic-Allium sativum comes from the Onion family. Alliaceae
You might have guessed that in medieval times, hanging Garlic outside your door warded off vampires.
Not exactly in the same league as vampires but did you know that eating garlic helps keeps mosquitos away?
There’s even a fact sheet from the DPI about growing garlic
There’s also a website devoted entirely to garlic growing in Australia.
Where does Garlic come from?
Well it’s been around for so long that there’s only records of cultivated Allium longicupis  sometimes known as Wild Garlic, growing naturally in central Asia.
Did you know that garlic as a crop, was used in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt from at least 2000 BC.
The Greeks and Romans saw garlic as a food that would give strength so that workmen and soldiers would use it.
What about this for a sure fire hangover cure from Roman times- boil 16 bulbs (not cloves) of garlic in a bucket of wine, mmm lovely.
Later on people thought that hanging garlic bulbs on doors would check the spread of diseases such as smallpox.
I think this was mistaken for what the London College of Physicians really recommended during the great plague in 1665, which was to eat the garlic not hang it somewhere.
But then, Louis Pasteur demonstrated, in 1858, that garlic could kill infectious germs.
Garlic was used throughout World War I to treat battle wounds and to cure dysentery.
During World War II, garlic was known as "Russian penicillin" because it was so effective in treating wound infections when adequate antibiotics were not available.
Sow direct in garden where they are to grow.
Garlic grows best when the temperature is between 13º to 24ºC.
That’s why Garlic is traditionally planted in cold weather and harvested in summer ("plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest").
You can plant Garlic blubs now in all districts of Australia, including cool temperate.
For cool districts, you’re right on the edge of when you can plant, so don’t delay, plant today.
Garlic grows best on fertile, well-drained, loamy soils.
Any soil suitable for onions is good enough for Garlic.
As long as you give garlic a sunny position garlic is easy to grow.
 Soil pH should be in the range 5.5 to 7.0.
So you’ve bought your Garlic bulb, what do you do with it?

Garlic bulbs from online suppliers

Do you plant it whole or what?
What you need to do first is separate them from the bulb, point upwards, deep enough to just cover each clove with soil.
When you plant the cloves, don't plant too deeply otherwise they will rot off.
TIP: Plant them so the tops of the bulbs are just below the surface and about 8 cm apart with the point end facing up.
Garlic usually takes about 17-25 weeks. 4-6 months to mature.
People always ask how do you know when my Garlic is ready?
You can tell because the leaves or stalks have flopped over and turned brown.
While your garlic is still growing, give it plenty of water, (especially in the coming spring).
Also fertilise, 2 or 3 times throughout the growing season.
Some young shoots can be cut off for a garnish or you can even pick the young garlic and eat the 'green' garlic leaves and all.
Reduce water at end of Spring (4 weeks prior to harvesting) that’s if you plant them right away.
When they are ready to be dug up, ease bulbs out with a fork, careful not to damage bulbs because these won't store well or go a bit mouldy.
If you’ve got some good weather let them dry in the sun for a few days.
Otherwise hang to dry for 4 weeks in a warm place with good ventilation. 
Garlic plant photo M Cannon

Store in a cool airy place.
This will prevent the bulbs from rotting.
Garlic is a fairly tough and easy-growing plant.

TIP: Leave a garlic PLANT  to go to seed, and you will probably get plenty of self-sown plants the following year.

Remember most garlic in supermarkets comes from China and has been sprayed with Methyl Bromide in quarantine.
Garlic plants will grow to be 50 – 75cm  tall.
Like onions, there are early, mid season and late varieties available.
These are softneck and hardneck varieties.
Softnecks are the most common garlics grown, and are the ones found in supermarkets.
Softneck garlic usually doesn’t have a flowerhead and have a longer shelf life (up to 9 months).There’s one called “Italian White” that’s available online.
Monaro purple, and Rocambole- are Hardnecks variety and these do have flowerheads like onions, and usually bigger cloves.
They don’t have as good a shelf life as the softnecks and prefer cooler winters.
Rocamboles have excellent flavour, glamorous red-purple skins and easily peeled, with a single circle of 6-12 plump cloves.
There’s also the extra large garlic called Elephant or Giant Russian garlic and has a milder flavour but is great for roasting.
This is actually a type of leek that you can get these from some markets that are around or from an online bulb company.
Why is it good for you?
There’s so much to be said about the health benefits of garlic. Garlic has been known to, ‘thin the blood’, much in the same way as fish oils.
It can help in lowering blood pressure.
If you eat only small amounts of garlic – like 1-2 cloves in the family dinner, you won’t get that many nutrients, but if you eat lots of garlic, like they do in Italy, Korea and China, where people there eat as much as eight to 12 cloves per day; then you’ll get  lots of dietary fibre, potassium, iron, zinc and vitamin C.
While that sounds like a lot of garlic, increasing the amount; you eat five or more cloves a day isn’t hard if you use it every time you cook.
Include it in soups, casseroles, even mashed potatoes.
You could also make a habit of snacking on garlicky dishes like hummus with vegetables.
TIPs from the chef.
Garlic plant photo M Cannon

Many home chefs mistakenly cook garlic immediately after crushing or chopping it, but to maximize the health benefits, you should crush the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. That triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts the healthy compounds in garlic.

Growing plants on Alkaline Soil; which plants love this type of soil?
By now you know what your soil pH is and want to know what to grow in it without having to change it.
There’s quite a lot of plants that prefer either alkaline or acid soil, so today’s episode is concentrating on the alkaline pH.
I'm talking with Glenice Buck, Consulting Arborist and Landscape Designer.
Beared Iris are alkaline soil loving photo M Cannon
Let’s find out which plants in this segment about soil pH.

Soils in arid climates and also on coral tropical islands tend to be alkaline, with a pH factor of 7.0 or higher.
Also those parts of Australia that are based on Limestone parent material such as the Limestone Coast, will have alkaline soils.
This is caused by the high percentage of lime (calcium carbonate) in soil of these regions. 
That Hydrangea Question:
Pink Hydranges photo M Cannon

Pink Hydrangeas means you have alkaline soils.
Some of the plants that were mentioned as preferring alkaline soil:

Evergreen shrubs (e.g.Buxus , Ceanothus - California lilacs, Aucuba, Bottle brush (Callistemon Harkness), Coastal Tea Tree (Leptospermum laevigatum), myoprum, plumbago, acacia, agonis and banksia)
Deciduous shrubs (e.g., lilacs, mock oranges, Forsythia species, tamarix)
Perennials (e.g.Acanthus, dianthus, Heuchera hellebores,Helichrysum, Plectranthus, Bearded Iris,
Trees – eg Hibisicus syriacus, Quercus robur, Crabapple, Poinciana trees, Arbutus unedo -  Irish Strawberry tree
Many succulents.
Just a reminder that soil pH is important because it influences how easily plants can take up nutrients from the soil.  If you’re soil’s too acidic or too alkaline, it will take quite a few months to change the pH, but that doesn’t mean you should give up now.


What makes a conifer?
A tree which bears cones and needle-like or scale-like leaves the majority of which are evergreen.
Long before flowering plants ruled the plant there were these guys, standing tall and covering most parts of the land mass.

Mt Tomah Botanic Garden photo M Cannon
Some of those ancient trees that have survived today grow really, really tall, but we’re not talking tall at all today.
Let’s find out what this group of plants is.

I'm talking with  the plant panel : Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Conifers come in all shapes, colours and sizes.
Did you know that conifers from hotter areas with high sunlight levels (e.g. Turkish Pine Pinus brutia) often have yellower-green leaves, while others (e.g. Blue Spruce Picea pungens) have a very strong glaucous wax bloom to reflect ultraviolet light.
Some of the varieties mentioned were:

Thuja orientalis "Aurea nana"
Thuja orientalis 'Aurea Nana'  "Golden Biota or Bookleaf
" A very popular conifer, forming a neat globular shape with a smooth outline. In summer the plant is bright gold, greener in winter. Very hardy, excellent in pots. Supposed to grow to only 1 metre but when in the ground, has expanded to be over 2 metres by 3 metres wide.

Juniperus communis 'Depressed Star'
A low spreading shrub growing to approx 1metre wide by 30cm high. The foliage is a fresh green colour in summer, coppery green in winter.

Cedrus deodara 'Feelin Blue' 
A low spreading Cedar with beautiful blue foliage. In 10 years a spread of more than 1metre should be achieved.
Often grafted as a standard.
Picea glauca 'Elf' 
A very slow grower, forming a beautiful round ball. Covered in soft, light green, fluffy foliage in spring; darker green for the rest of the year. In 10 years, it may reach 30cm x 30cm.

Don’t be put off by the few specimens that you’ve seen in gardens or are available in garden centres because they’re only a small percentage of what’s available.





No comments:

Post a Comment