Saturday, 27 August 2016

Cycads, Seeds and Stripes on Herons


Striated Heron
The Striated Heron is doesn't get as much attention as other Australian herons because of its quiet nature.

Butorides striata; Striated Heron

With its short legs, black crown with striations or  stripes on its throat and neck that can either be grey or rufous in colour; it lives quietly among the mangrove forests, mudflats and oyster-beds of eastern, northern and north-western Australia, where it creeps about in the soft mud among the mangrove roots in search of prey such as fish, crabs and other marine invertebrates.
Let’s find out about it. I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons, manager of Birds in Backyards.

 These birds are a touch smaller than the white faced heron, and about the same size as Dusky Moorhens.When foraging, these herons usually adopt a hunched posture, with the head and neck drawn back into the bird’s body, while keeping the bill held horizontally, parallel to the surface of the mud.
It may be small with short legs but it’s pretty good at stalking it’s food.
Slowly, either standing and waiting for prey to emerge or by sometimes plunging at it from a perch, before stabbing it with its sharp bill.
If you have any questions about Striated Herons 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


Different stages of germination
It would be a vegetable hero without seeds to grow those vegetables.
Today a how to of getting those seeds to germinate?
You probably would know that all seeds have particular temperature ranges, and light requirements to germinate.
All seeds germinate when light, temperatures and moisture are close to what they prefer to survive.

This might mean that although you can germinate peas in Summer, they will struggle
through the warm months to produce anything, and most likely will be devastated by insect pests and disease.
So know when the best time of year to sow your seeds by checking the information on the back of the packet.
Seeds also have different times when they still remain viable.
All seeds have a seed coat that varies in hardness.
Some need a little help to germinate faster and you can do this yourself several ways.
The process of softening the seed coat is called scarification.
One way to do this is by shaking some seed in a jar with some coarse sandpaper or sand for a few minutes.
Commercially this is done in a large box lined with industrial diamonds.
But these seed companies process tonnes of seed every day.
The sand method might be used for fine seed that you can then pour into a row, sand and seed altogether, into the garden bed.
Another method is by soaking in water.
Some seeds need to be soaked in water first to help them germinate.
Sweet peas for example.
There are a few seeds that require darkness to germinate such as Pansies and Parsley. After you sow these seeds, you need to cover them with damp newspaper or a damp paper towel.
Check on them every few days because you need to remove the paper as soon as they’ve sprouted because that’s when you need to remove the paper or towel.
Most other seeds need light to germinate.
When I talk about planting in Vegetable Heroes, I mention how deep you should plant your seeds.
Why do this? 
Most seeds don’t need ‘instant’ access to light, they can germinate and push up through the soil by drawing from their own energy reserves.
Seeds have a food store for the embryo which emerges.
If you plant your seeds too deep, the food store runs out before the plant reaches sunlight.
After that all green plant seedlings need access to light so that they can make their own food (through photosynthesis) and continue to grow.
The other problem is if you plant them too shallow, then they’ll dry out and die before they get anywhere.
Sounds tricky, but if you’re having trouble germinating one type of seed, it’s probably because one of the things I’ve mentioned isn’t just right.
My tip if you’re having trouble, is to cover your seeds with a layer of vermiculite, and spray that with water to make sure it’s really wet.
Vermicullite  let’s in plenty of light in and I mostly get success with seeds that way.
I also like to use a mini greenhouse for at least the first week if the weather’s not quite right for the seeds that I’m trying to grow.
When I used to work at Yates, I’d get calls about the seeds being of poor quality because the caller couldn’t germinate them.
That’s rare although it can happen.

I’ve got to say though, seed companies all do germination tests in their laboratories to make sure they get 85% germination rate, before they process and package them.
Otherwise they’re wasting their time and money packaging up their seed.
If the germination rate is below that number of 85%, then they scarify them and do the germination test again to see if that improves the rate.
In any case, if you buy a packet of seeds and can’t germinate them, you can ring up the company and they’ll send you a fresh pack.
Another question I was often asked about, was why are some seeds coated with a fungicide called Thiram? This usually makes the seed pink.
This is to prevent the seed from rotting when you put it into the ground. Sometimes seeds are prone to fungal attack and are treated that way because of that, or in some cases, the seed supplier doesn’t have a particular certification and the seed company then coats them.
Plants grown from this treated seed aren’t poisonous. The only thing that’s poisonous is that pink coating on the seed.
So what can you do if you’ve got some seed you’re having trouble with, or if you have some packets of out of date seed? Haven’t we all?
How about a Home test for Seed viability?
What you need is a sheet of paper towelling, clear plastic bag to fit and spray bottle of water.
Spray paper towel so it’s completely moist but not dripping.
Add 10 seeds from your packet and space them out on one half of the paper towel.
This is doing a seed sample. If 7 or 8 seeds sprout then you have 70 -80% germination rate. If you have only 3-4 seeds sprouting, that means a low germination rate.
Either use more seeds to get what you want or not use them at all.
Take other half and fold over the seeds.
Spray towel again.
Put this in zip lock plastic bag and seal it up.
Put this into a warm environment such as a cupboard or a desk drawer for about a week.
Check on it every 2-3 days to make sure that it remains moist.
After a few days, fresh seeds will have sprouted if the seeds are fresh.
Growing from seed is the cheapest and most rewarding way of growing plants.
Once you get the knack, you’ll be growing everything from flowers to vegetables.


Updating Your Garden with Different Shaped Plants.
Have you updated the flower colour in your garden yet?  Or are you considering putting in some grasses, or strappy leaved plants with coloured foliage?
Are you thinking about moving some plants for a fresh new look?
Here’s something you mightn’t know or realise, and that is: a single species can have different leaf shapes over the life of the plant.
In fact, some can have different leaf shapes on the plant at the same time.
Mt Tomah Botanic Garden photo M Cannon
For example, gum trees have different adult and juvenile foliage. That’s complicated enough, but what about the shape of the plant itself?
Good garden design takes the shapes of plants into account.
Did you know that you can update your plants using just the shape of the plant?
What does that mean?
 Let’s find out….I'm talking with Garden Designer Louise McDaid.

Blenheim Palace garden, England. photo M Cannon
As Louise said, if one of your garden beds could look a bit better, think about introducing a different shaped plant, one with perhaps a vertical shape, like the ornamental pear, or a lollipop on a stick.
Perhaps a fountain shaped plant will fit the bill, like a weeping grass with stripey foliage- such as variegated Miscanthus.
Lots to ponder when thinking about updating your garden.


Cycas revoluta SAGO PALM
Did you know that the term Gymnosperm that’s used to classify or define conifers or pine trees and cycads means naked seed?
That’s because the seed doesn’t come from a flower because conifers don’t have flowers but the seeds develop on the surface of the pine cones, which is the reproductive structure.
Cycas revoluta; Sago Palm
That’s how plants evolved around 200 million years ago.
This plant doesn’t have flowers either but it’s not a conifer.
Let’s find out more with the plant panel:Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

The leaves are a deep semiglossy green and about 50–150 cm  long when the plants are at the cone bearing stage.
Cycas revoluta
They grow out into a feather-like rosette to 1 m in diameter. T
he crowded, stiff, narrow leaflets are 20 cm long and have strongly recurved or revolute edges hence the latin species name of  Cycas revoluta.
Of all the cycads, Cycas revoluta is the most popular in gardens and parks.
It’s called Sago Palm but it has no links to actual palms which are flowering plants and therefore Angiosperms.
It’s seen in almost all botanical gardens, in both temperate and tropical locations.
In many areas of the world, it is heavily promoted commercially as a landscape plan.

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