Saturday, 27 February 2016

Flowers the Size of Dinner Plates


Chervil leaf
This fine delicate herb is not grown as much these days even though it’s been grown as a herb for over 2,000 years!
Although I’m pretty sure that fine restaurants are serving it up as something special, most likely as microgreens.
Belonging in the carrot family, the fine leaves almost do look like carrot tops.
Sometimes sold  as "Fine" (pronounced feen) herbs which is a combination of parsley, tarragon chervil and occasionally a small amount of marjoram.
Definitely lovely on fish dishes, sauces, especially Béarnaise sauce and soups.

Let’s find out about how to use this lovely herb…I'm talking with herb expert Ian Hemphill from

Chervil in the home garden photo M Cannon
Growing Chervil
If you want to grow your own Chervil here are some tips.
The seeds are slow to germinate, but here’s a tip:- The night before sowing, pour boiling water over seeds and leave to soak overnight.
Chervil seeds also need light to germinate so don’t bury them with too much soil or potting mix.
Germination usually occurs in 2-3 weeks but can take longer.
Sow your Chervil seeds only about 5mm deep and thin plants to 30cm apart.
Chervil will grow in any soil but dislikes being too wet although it does need water, but it won’t like being in badly drained soil.
Tip: Best sown in situ as seedlings don’t transplant well and they sometimes bolt when transplanted. A bit like Coriander.
Definitely worth growing even just to try it.
If you're interested in making Chervil soup, try hunting down books by Rosemary Hemphill either "Herbs for All Seasons," or "Fragrance and Flavour," to get the specific recipe that Ian mentions.
If you have any questions about growing Chervil or any other herb, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


BETEL LEAF Piper sarmentosumCOMMON NAMES: betel pepper, wild pepper, kadok, la lot
Betel leaf is a native plant to Vietnam and Thailand, and is related to black pepper.
If you’ve ever eaten Thai food chances are that you’ve already eaten Betel leaves or at least had food served on a platter of Betel leaves.
Traditionally, Betel leaf plant was used to treat fever, as an expectorant, for treating toothache, coughs, asthma and pleurisy.

Some say it has a somewhat pungent odour and taste, others find it mild with a hint of black pepper.
I’m going with the mild flavour because that’s what is grown mostly in Australia.
What Does It Look Like?
Betel leaf is an evergreen, perennial creeper that doesn’t grow particularly tall. Only to about 1 metre.
But for the romantic gardener, and I seem to be featuring plants in this segment that can be considered romantic, because Betel leaf has shiny heart-shaped leaves that have a waxy, glossy surface.
There we go, aren’t heart shaped leaves romantic?
Betel leaf vine photo M Cannon

Betel leaf flowers
The flowers are very small –on white flower spikes.
After flowering little dry rounded fruits with little bulges show up –almost like a little green/brown mulberry when ripe and can be eaten;
The fruit is sweet and has a jelly-like pulp.
So what’s betel leaf got going for it?
Romance aside, as a food, it makes a great 'wrap' for prawns and can be shredded to add to salads and quick stir-fry's. 

More on its uses later.
You can grow Betel leaf in most parts of Australia at any time of the year.
All you need to do is find a spot in fairly good, well-drained soil with partial shade.
Under a tree somewhere is good and keep it moist but don’t overdo it because it doesn’t cope with waterlogging. Frost will damage the leaves but not kill the plant once it is well established.
Betel leaf makes a good groundcover under trees in subtropical and tropical areas.
In warmer climates Betel leaf grows really well in the right position and has a habit of suckering which isn’t that difficult to remove.
You can grow it successfully in colder areas but not in the ground.
Put your plant in a hanging basket or large pot and move it to a warm, sheltered position in winter.
By putting your pot on the ground, this will allow the plant to grow out from the pot onto the ground and spread like a ground cover.
As it spreads it sends down roots from sections.

In cooler areas you could try keeping it in a large pot so it sends down multiple roots.
If you’re wondering where to buy it and don’t seem to have any luck try an Asian veggie shops.
It’s easy to propagate from cuttings at the warmer times of the year.
Growers take the top 20cm of the vine and sell it as a bunch to local markets.
You can buy a bunch of Betel leaves, take of the bottom two-thirds of leaves leaving the top few, and recut the bottom.
Put these cuttings in a glass with water and they will be producing roots in no time.
Another method is to take cuttings again about 25 cm long, strip the leaves off the bottom half of the stems and bury to half their length in potting mix.
Cover with plastic or place these cuttings in a greenhouse and keep moist.
Remember Betel leaf plant likes a wet shaded position protected from frost and midday sun; so it’s best under trees that allow some sunlight through to underneath.
Betel leaf vine
So how else can you use Betel Leaf?
The leaves are large enough to wrap a filling.
Betel leaves are often used ‘open’ topped with something delicious like a prawn with coconut.
Include them in a stir fry .
The spicy leaves are popular in south east Asian cooking, being used raw and cooked. To eat raw in a salad or use as a wrapping the younger more tender leaves are the best to use.

Used in omelettes in Vietnamese cooking and to wrap mince.
In Thailand, these wraps are a favourite snack, 'mieng kum', using an assortment of fillings, like peanuts, shrimps, shallots with lime and raw ginger.
Use as a herb in rice or in salads.
They look great as a garnish too .

TIP: If you soak the leaves in cold water with a little sugar for 2 hours before use this changes the flavour just slightly.
As the leaves are a very attractive heart shape, they’re often used as a base to line platters, with foods arranged on top.
The white flower spikes develop into a small fruit that can be eaten.
Fresh leaves are prone to dryness and fungal rots.
You can store the leaves just like lettuce, in the fridge for a few days (3-5) in a sealed plastic bag.
Use as soon as possible soon after.

Good source of protein, potassium, nitrogen and minerals.
The plant has many traditional medicinal uses. Malaysians use the leaves for headaches, arthritis and joint pain.
In Thailand and China the roots are crushed and blended with salt to relieve toothache.  
In Indonesia it’s used as a natural antibiotic, and drunk as a tea daily.
To make the tea, take 2 cups of water and bring to the boil in a saucepan. Drop in 7 mature size leaves, and simmer for a few minutes.


This garden series with Garden Designer Peter Nixon, is all about garden challenges thrown at us mostly by nature but also due to a situation in your garden that you might need to fix.
Last week we covered 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
Hail damage on leaves
Today’s garden challenge is impact damage also from hail, but we’re delving more into what you should do with different plants that have been affected.

I'm talking with Garden Designer, Peter Nixon 

If you come home to find most of your garden covered in leaves because of a recent storm, wind, hail or something else, don't rake it up and dispose of it, but use it as a surface mulch.
Hail damage on stems
Just make sure the leaves are bunched up against the trunks and stems of plants, otherwise you'll have problems with collar rot or other fungal problems.
Don't dig it in because it's green and will draw down nitrogen from the soil.
Quite often the stems are also impacted so the cambium is stripped off leaving only the heartwood.
It it's only a young plant, then it's best to dig it out because the plant has become to weakened.
If the canopy and branches aren't too badly stripped off, then cut back the ragged ends of the stems as soon as possible.
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


Hibiscus rosa-chinensis: Hibiscus moscheutus

Rose Mallow

This next flower is the official state flower of Hawaii, so it’s no surprise that when you see the shrub covered in those flowers that you can’t help but think of sandy beaches, aquamarine seas and grass skirts. 

Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with the plant panel:
Karen Smith editor of
and Jeremy Critchley owner of

The common Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-chinensis) that you see in many gardens, grows to about 3 metres tall.
Vigorous growing and best pruning at the beginning of Spring because they flower on new wood.

Hibiscus moscheutos or Rose Mallow Rose Mallow are native to swamps, wetlands and along creek edges in the southeast United States.
These Hibiscus are herbaceous so are good for cold climates because the plant has died down.
Growth is to 80 cm and these Hibiscus prefer shade and part shade.

Hibiscus moscheutus "Pink Swirl.'

All Hibiscus thrive if you give them lots of organic matter with an addition of Potash.

Generally Rose Mallow comes in pink white and red coloured flowers, that's the Luna series which are the only ones available in Australia.

According to growers, they can get up to 80 - 100 flowers, however, the flowers only last a day.

Plant them in a sandy but moisture retaining, slightly acidic soil that has been  enriched with compost or other organic material.

Water regularly and thoroughly during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system.

Rose Mallow plants should never be allowed to completely dry out, or they’ll immediately stop blooming. 

Plants resent any disturbance to their root system so be extremely careful, soak the soil thoroughly and dig wide before attempting to transplant your Hibiscus.
Hibiscus moscheutus "red"
A Bit if Trivia
The official state flower is the yellow hibiscus (Hibiscus brackenridgei), also known as the pua aloalo.
Hawaiians originally adopted the hibiscus flower (of all colors) as their official Territorial flower in the early 1920s.
It wasn’t until 1988, however, that Hawaii’s legislature legally adopted the yellow hibiscus as the official state flower.
The hibiscus originated in Asia and the Pacific islands. It’s believed that there were originally only five hibiscus species native to the Hawaiian islands.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

All Types of Mint and Lilies


Brahminy 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.
The Brahminy kite is a medium sized bird of prey with a white head and rest of body, being chestnut brown.
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 or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


This 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
Some plants in use mint in their common name but aren’t true mints, 
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
When it flowers is has flat spikes of light lavender coloured flowers, but I can’t say mine has ever flowered.
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
However it can grow very well outside in summer in non-tropical parts of Australia.
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.
Very refreshing.
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.


Hail Damage is slight on these Bromeliads photo Peter Nixon
This garden series with Garden Designer Peter Nixon, is all about garden challenges thrown at us mostly by nature but also due to a situation in your garden that you might need to fix.
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.
There are ways to help your garden recover even if leaves are shredded and stems are broken on your favourite fruit and vegetables, or ornamental plants.
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
Bromeliads- don't rush out there with the secateurs to cut off the damaged and split leaves. Let the plant recover for a short time, preferable until new pups turn up then you can cut off the damaged leaves.

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


Alstroemeria 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
I'm talking with the Plant Panel: Karen Smith and Jeremy Critchley owner of

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
If treated well Inca alstroemeria varieties can flower from November to April!
These plants are really compact and make a neat mound over a pot but the best thing is that they flower continuously from spring to late autumn
 I have some flowering in pots on stone steps in the garden.
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

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Seeing Red in The Garden


Have you ever noticed the leaves of your plants looking a bit more twisted than they should be and down near the base of the leaves there’s this white powder stuff that looks ominous.
This problem is very common on indoor plants and chances are, when you bought the plant home, the pest was already there but in very small numbers.Mealybugs hide in the crevices of the leaves of your plants so that by the time you notice something’s wrong, they’ve done a lot of damage.
Let’s find out more about what it is and what to do. I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, general manager of eco-organic garden.

Sometimes you can take that indoor plant outside so natural predators can take care of the pest problem.
Mealybugs love nothing more than sucking sap from leaves and stems!
Mealybug damage on orchids
They are only 0.5 cm in size, oval in shape, pinkish in colour but what you see is the white waxy filament covering. This will always be the female mealybug.
The male mealybug is very tiny at around 1mm.
Exuding honeydew is a special talent of mealybugs, which encourages sooty mould.
They also release toxic saliva that can seriously damage plants.
Mealybugs really love Citrus plants, orchids, ferns, loads of ornamental plants such as Agapanthus and shade houses.
They like warm and humid weather… it just makes then breed!
Oh, and they love ants, because the ants farm the mealybugs for their honeydew.
If you have any questions about identifying mealy bug or how to treat it drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


What is Malabar Spinach?
Ever heard of Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, vine spinach, and Malabar nightshade?
Doesn’t matter if you haven’t because you’re about to find out.
The one we’re focussing on is the red stemmed version or Scientifically it’s Basella alba 'Rubra'.
Malabar or Climbing Spinach originates in India but is also found naturally in Africa and other parts of Southeast Asia.
Malabar Spinach photo M Cannon
Did you know that an extract of the fruits of the red stemmed version of -Basella alba ‘Rubra’, have been used for hundreds of years as deep red dye for official seals and a natural form of rouge in cosmetics?
Why it’s called Malabar spinach because it was first discovered in the Malabar region-on the south-west coast of India in dense tropical jungles, along coconut and pepper plantations.
Malabar spinach first made its way from India to Europe in 1688 when it was introduced into Holland by the Dutch governor of Malabar, Adrian Moens.
The juice from the berries is so intensely purple that it puts beet juice to shame.
A bit like Dianella berries I think.
In some countries, this juice is used as a natural food colorant for agar (vegetable "gelatine") dishes, sweets, and pastries.
So what does this Malabar Spinach look like?
For lovers of all things romantic in the garden, you can’t go past a plant with heart shaped leaves even if you want to eat it.
Malabar Spinach photo M Cannon
Malabar spinach is a climbing plant not even related to true spinach (Spinacia oleracea) but grows large succulent heart shaped leaves that are a bit like spinach in taste.
The leaves are quite a bit more waxy to my way of thinking.
I would describe it as crunchy and juicy when raw.
The taste is slightly peppery with a bit of a citrusy flavour with hints of earthy spinach to it.
It’s not bad to eat, some say even delicious to eat, but I can’t say I use it a lot in cooking.
More of an attraction in the garden with the leaves and the purple flowers followed by black berries.
The upside is that if you like your Spinach, this one’s is easy to grow and is much better suited for summer growing than Spinach itself.
When your lettuce and other salad greens are wilting, because Malabar spinach is a twining succulent (stores water in the leaves and stems), you’ll have plenty of greens for your salad.
Malabar spinach does best in warm, tropical areas, where it can easily grow a 10cm per day.
 In the tropics, Malabar spinach can grow 2-3 metres or eight to ten feet tall and wide and has small white-tinged pink to purple flowers in the leaf axils.
This plant isn’t frost tolerant and in temperate areas doesn’t grow anywhere near as tall as in tropical areas.
In cool temperate districts, I would treat this plant as an annual, but yes you can grow it too!
If you’ve grown this plant before, you would know that the plant seems to die down in winter then re-shoots again in late spring.
Malabar Spinach photo M Cannon
So don’t go thinking you’ve killed it at the end of autumn.
Straight species Malabar spinach has yellowish stems and green leaves and looks nice enough, but it's the red-stemmed cultivar 'Rubra' that really stands out.
Red and green are opposites on the colour wheel and the combined effect is always a bit dramatic. The red veins in the leaves make it more so.
When the flowers are fertilised, small, attractive, single-seeded purple berries will grow. 

How Does It Grow?
Basella alba grows best a humus-rich, sandy loam in full sun but will produce larger juicier leaves if grown in partial shade..
It grows easily from seed that has been sown in situ or you can start it off in a punnet.
Saving seed is easy too:
Simply dry the entire fruit and use it for planting the following year. Just make sure you store it dry in maybe a paper envelope.
I had saved some seed, but there must’ve been some moisture in the jar because they had become all mouldy.
The red-stemmed cultivar of Malabar spinach comes true from seed.
Luckily, when I was renovating my veggie bed, I noticed quite a few small seedlings in one corner of it that looked like-in fact were seedlings of Malabar Spinach.
I remember from last year that once it starts to take off in the ground, it can grow about 30cm in a week!
In a pot , it’s much more tame.
TIP: When you have a plant in season, tip cuttings will root readily in water so you can give other members of your garden club or other friends some plants.
Use any style of plant support you like: poles, teepees, chain-link fencing—I’m growing it up a metal spiral, but I think it’s going to outgrow that real soon. Whoops!
Malabar spinach is insect and disease resistant.
Where do you get it? Plenty of those big box stores that have garden centres have it as well as your local garden centre or plant nursery.

Why is it good for you?
The succulent leaves and stem tips are rich in vitamins A and C and are a good source of iron and calcium. They may be eaten raw in salads, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or added to soups, stews, tofu dishes, and curries. Or you can use them as a filling for quiche, omelets, or even a frittata!
Since red-stemmed Malabar spinach can lose a lot of its red colour when cooked, perhaps it is best in raw dishes.
A great way to use it is to plant it thickly in pots in spring, and when it’s growth takes off, pick the young shoots off daily for stir-fries & omelettes. Eventually it will get away from you by climbing or sprawling, but usually can be contained for a couple of months this way. The shoots are delicious & tender!


Hidcots UK Red Border. photo M Cannon
People like to visit gardens to overseas because without looking down our noses at Australian gardens, some of these gardens are really really big, and really really old.
The size of gardens in England for example that I saw this year, was mind boggling, even awesome. But what can visitors get out of these gardens, because they seem to be just too big, with too much to take in.
Well, you can take inspiration from these gardens if you just select one part of them.
This month, Louise and I have been undertaking a trip to a few of these gardens for inspiration.
Listen to this. I'm talking with Garden Designer Louise McDaid
The red border at Hidcote was one fairly small part of the overall garden.
Hidcote in the Cotswalds in England which has a famous Red border , two long wide borders flanking a stretch of lawn – backdrop of tall green clipped hedge behind each border.
 The Hidcote borders have red foliage and red flower plants combined with green.
Structure and height is given by small trees – red leaf Japanese Maples – lovely shape and delicate leaf texture.
In Australia Acer palmatum Osakazuki has brilliant autumn colour – to around 4m tall.
Acer palmatum Sango Kaku (coral bark maple) know for bright red stems so attractive when not in leaf. 
Hidcote Red Borders Photo M Cannon
The border is made up of shrubs, strappy leaf plants and grasses – many of them with red leaves – and perennials with red flowers such as dahlias (which can have red leaves too!)
But it was a section that could easily be re-created in any garden, even a native garden. What did you think of the plant choices? Are you inspired to plant out a few more red plants-red leaved plants that is in your garden.
Not bright red, but the deep reds of maples and some of the strappy leaved plants.


Pomegrante: Punica grantumThese exotic fruits are filled with sweet, crunchy jewels of tangy deliciousness that give your food a real pop

Only growing to anywhere between 1 and 5 metres depending on the type you get, it’s a tree that should be grown more in the home garden.
Pomegranate tree
Let’s find out more. I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley, owner of
and Karen Smith editor of

Tart, citrusy and incredibly juicy, pomegranate seeds have suddenly become hip again, and have appeared in dishes and desserts from Masterchef to 5 star restaurants.

They grow in most climates throughout Australia, but don’t like extreme cold.

Pomegranate flower.
Pomegranates have attractive glossy green leaves, and like to be pruned - remove the current year’s growth in late winter to promote dense growth.

The plants produce reddish to light orange, crinkly 8-petalled flowers from late spring to late summer. These are followed by the most extraordinary coloured and shaped fruit which look like a cricket ball of a certain colour and should start appearing from the third to fifth year of growth.

The Pomegranate is deciduous or semi-deciduous depending on its


Although the Pomegranate is drought tolerant, to get good sized fruit, you need to water it as much as you would a Citrus tree in summer.
Pomegranates can be propagated from seed sown in spring or from cuttings taken between spring and autumn.

In the autumn split open the fruit to find rows of red seeds, eat the red flesh surrounding these, but spit the seeds out. It's a little bit complicated, but the fruit is truly delicious.
How to eat a pomegranate !
To get those delicious arils out of the pomegranate here’s what you do.
First cut the pomegranate in half.
Holding it seeds-down over a bowl, massage and squeeze the shell a bit with your fingers, to soften it and loosen the arils. Whack the back of it with a rolling pin or a wooden spoon, and they’ll fall straight out into the bowl. Keep squeezing and whacking until the shell is empty. Watch your fingers!
Pick out any white bits of pith you can see, and you're good to go.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

All Things Dill, Kale and Cinnamon


Did you know that the earliest known record of dill as a medicinal herb was found in Egypt 5,000 years ago?
What’s even more interesting is that Gladiators were fed meals covered with dill because it was hoped that the herb would give them valour and courage.
There are traditional uses for dill the herb, what about the seed?
Dill seeds were called “meetinghouse seeds” because they were chewed during long church services to keep members awake or kids quiet. The seeds were also chewed in order to freshen the breath and quiet noisy stomachs.
Dill seed. photo
Dill seed is referred to as a spice and goes very well with coriander. Dill seed is used in Moroccan cooking as well as Vietnamese. Of course those that pickle their cucumber will be using some form of Dill.
Fresh green Dill is the herb and has a slightly anise flavour that goes with smoked salmon, potato salad and much more.
Let's find out more. I'm talking with herb expert Ian Hemphill

Dill likes to be planted in cool weather.
In warm winter areas that don't experience a hard frost, you can plant dill in autumn or winter.
In cooler areas, plant dill a week or two before your last hard frost.
After the first sowing, plant again every 10 days or so if you need lots of dill for a continuous crop.
For balcony gardeners or gardeners with potted herb garden, when growing in pots, use a deep one so the long tap root has somewhere to go.
Remember that you will eventually have a plant that is about a metre tall so you might want to stake your plant.
The seeds are used in pickling and can also improve the taste of roasts, stews and vegetables.
Try grinding the seeds to use as a salt substitute. Both the flowering heads and seeds are used in flavoured vinegars and oils.
If you have a herb garden, send in a photo or drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


This attractive edible originated in Asia Minor and the eastern Mediterranean region, where it’s been cultivated for over 4,000 years.
Did you know that Kale is the ancestor to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and mustard and yes in the Brassica Family?
They are in effect, primitive cabbages that have been kept through thousands of years.
Although more highly developed forms, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and head cabbage, have been produced in the last two thousand years or so, kale has persisted, because it’s so good as garden vegetables.
The Latin name Brassica oleracea variety acephala, the last term meaning "without a head.
Kale is also known as borecole, which in Dutch means ‘farmer’s cabbage’.
Another interesting fact is that in nineteenth century Scotland kail was used as a generic term for 'dinner' and all kitchens featured a kail-pot for cooking.
I’ve seen this veggie grown in gardens in the cooler months but are people actually eating it?
Some gardeners would say that it’s mainly used for show in the garden, displacing other green decorations, thanks to the plant’s wilt resistance.

ornamental Kale

There are two types of Kale that you can grow in the garden.
Flowering kale, is closely related plant, but smaller in size with tight rosettes on the ground rather than upright, leafy growth.
I’ve seen it used as a bedding plant. Yes you can eat those too!
The second type of Kale and the one I’m concentrating on today is a green leafy plant that is great added to or substituted for cabbage.
Common Kale

When To Plant Kale
Kale can be planted all year round in most districts but some people prefer to avoid the cabbage white butterfly and plant it in Autumn.
The best times for planting in Arid areas are from March until July, in temperate and sub-tropical climates from now until June, and Kale is grown from February to March in cool districts; also it’s apparently winter hardy and it’s flavour is improved by frost.
How does that work? Well a frost or even several frosts, will help break down starches into sugars making the Kale a whole lot sweeter.
The leaves take on a strong flavour if stored longer than two weeks in the fridge, so picking the leaves only as you need them.
By stripping the lower leaves from the base of the plant you will encourage new growth and get a much longer harvest.
Kale is easy to grow and a fast grower as well taking only 7-9 weeks from seed sowing until harvesting.
Kale likes soil temperatures of between 8°C and 30°C., full sun and a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0
If the soil is too acidic, add lime.
If the soil isn’t already rich, dig in compost or well-rotted manure.
How To Grow It
Sow Kale seeds direct into the garden or they don’t mind being transplanted so you can start them off in punnets if you like.
Sow the seeds about 1cm deep and 30cm or a ruler’s length apart.
Three or four seeds can be planted together and thinned out at the two leaf stage.
Look after young plants by watering during dry patches and keep weeded.
TIP: Tread around the base of the stem every so often to prevent the larger varieties swaying in the breeze.
During the winter months, apply liquid fertiliser from your worm farm or you can buy fish emulsion which is great too!
Remove yellowing leaves, "earth up" the stems and stake tall varieties if exposed Did you know that kale can handle exposed, slightly shady plots.
Kale – Is rarely bothered by the dreaded banes of the brassica family like snails and slugs so that’s a plus.
You can get any of the seed varieties from any garden shops.
When growing Kale use lots of compost and water regularly.
Kale and lettuce photo M Cannon
So What Do You Do With Kale?
Eat the young leaves chopped in salads, grind the old leaves for juice or feed to chooks. Tip: If you have chooks they prefer kale leaves to anything else!
Cook as you would cook cabbage - stewed, boiled, braised, blanched -but remember that kale takes a little longer to soften.
Try these varieties- Lacinato a Heirloom dating back prior to 1800 in Italy.
Red Russian Kale
 Also known as 'Black Cabbage', 'Tuscany' or 'Cavalero de Nero'. Old, rustic Italian variety. Plant forms no central head but rather grows upwards like a palm tree - pick leaves as required. Leaves are narrow, crinkled, dark green, highly nutritious & will continue to grow even when covered with snow. Attractive variety. 55 days( around 8 weeks)
Red Russian, another heirloom originating from Siberia. Red frilly, oak-shaped, bitter-free leaves with purple veins. Hardy variety. Leaves deepen to dark green upon cooking. 55 days.
 Or Vates Blue Curled - Vigorous plant to 40cm high with heavily curled, blue-green leaves. Rich in vitamins. Withstands cold weather. Leaves will not yellow from frost or heat. 55 days
Traditional purple leafed curly kale works well in a container, as well as in the border.
Green-leafed forms are often grown in the vegetable garden, but they can also be used in flower beds.

Why is it good for you?
Kale is actually near the top of the list in terms of nutritional value, Kale has heaps of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, large amounts of vitamins A, C and E, and heavy doses of calcium, potassium and Kale is particularly rich in iron.
Hint:Tuscan kale is traditionally used in minestrone.
But you don’t have to munch on the plant to gain benefit from it: Purple leafed kales like ‘Redbor’ or ‘Red Russian’ look great in flower beds, where they’re used as a winter annual along with pansies and dianthus.
Find out more health benefits


TATTON PARK  is a RHS garden – historic estate with 50 acres (about 20 ha) of landscaped gardens in Cheshire in the UK. Renowned for its glasshouses, the Japanese Garden, and the extensive Kitchen Gardens
Tatton Park UK. photo M. Cannon
Have you ever travelled a long way to see some great gardens?
Just by chance have you stumbled on one of the world’s best for that particular style?
Seeing lots of gardens up close and personal is something we gardeners like to do and should do.
Plus you learn so much about planting styles that you can reflect on and adapt to your own garden.
Here is one such inspirational garden.
Listen to this…I'm talking with Garden Designer Louise McDaid

The Japanese Garden., was almost certainly the result of Alan de Tatton’s visit to the Anglo-Japanese Exhibition at the White City in London in 1910.
He was inspired - decided to introduce a Japanese garden to Tatton.  
The Shinto Shrine and artefacts in the garden are all reputed to have been brought from Japan, with construction of the garden by a team of Japanese workmen.
Tatton Park photo M. Cannon

It’s considered to be the finest example of a Japanese Garden in Europe.
The garden is in the style of the tea garden, and doesn’t reflect the strict discipline of other Japanese styles, e.g. the dry garden or the stroll garden. In this form of art, the Japanese garden portrays many scenes that harmonise with nature. The important elements of plants, stones and rocks are carefully placed to produce a natural balance.
This Japanese inspirational garden doesn’t sound too hard to emulate does it?
Some rocks, some maples of different colours and leaf shapes, a tea house, and a bit of clipped Buxus or Azaleas, and hey presto, transformation!


Backhousia myrtifolia Cinnamon Myrtle.

Cinnamon Myrtle photo M Cannon
The leaves have a pleasant spicy cinnamon-like aroma and flavour and can be used as a spice in various dishes.
The cream coloured flowers cover the tree from top to toe and are star shaped followed by starry-like capsules.
Only growing to 7 metres eventually, it’s a tree that should be grown more in the home garden.

Let’s find out more. I'm talking with the Plant Panel, Karen Smith from and Jeremy Critchley owner of

Backhousia myrtifolia is a small rainforest tree species grows in subtropical rainforests of Eastern Australia.  

Myrtifolia from Latin myrtus a myrtle or myrtle-tree and folium a leaf referring to the resemblance of the leaves to that of the European myrtle.

Cinnamon Myrtle makes a calming medicinal tea and can be added to curries stews and rice dishes, especially steamed rice.
It can be also used in biscuits sweets and in fact anywhere where Cinnamon is used.
CINNAMON MYRTLE, Backhousia myrtifolia is also known as carrol, carrol ironwood, neverbreak, ironwood or grey myrtle and can be found in the rainforests of subtropical Australia from Bega in south coast NSW to Fraser Island off Queensland.

Small tree to 7m tall, leaves are simple, opposite and entire with a fine point and between 5-7cm long

Prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy), well-drained, moist soils and requires well-drained soil in full, or nearly-full sun. Does not like shade.

The foliage when crushed smells a little like cinnamon, or bubblegum.
Flowers are cream/white cymes bunched at branchlet ends from November-January.
Fruit is a small brown capsule ripe March-April.
If you have any questions about Cinnamon Myrtle, or have some information to share, why not write in to