Saturday, 31 March 2018

Drinking Lemon Balm Tea Indoors with Plants

What’s On The Show Today?

Some hot tips on keeping your indoor plants happy in Plant Doctor, grow this most useful herb in Vegetable Heroes and " Useful & Beautiful" bigger shrubs in Design Elements .


Looking After Indoor Plants.
You may have heard that having indoor plants make for a healthy home.
The reason is that the plants and in fact mostly the soil that plants sit in, absorb the VOC’s or volatile organic compounds that all your furniture, flooring, household cleaners give off.
But those plants are made of plastic so will need attention.

You may not have noticed that your indoor plant/s were in decline even though you've been walking past them everyday for most of the year.
Here are some pointers to get you started.
Let’s find out .
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager of

The first tip: Top up that potting mix.
After 2-3 years, potting mix becomes compacted and shrinks down several cms.
Plus old potting mix needs replacing after a while anyway because of this "slumping" and becoming acidic over the years.
The second tip: Check if the soil has become hydrophobic.
Scratch the surface after you've initially water to see if it has actually penetrated.
If not, apply a soil wetting agent.
The third tip: Now your pest or disease.
If you have any indoor plant problems is important to first diagnose what is exactly happening with the plant.
Is it just the soil, or is it something that needs spraying. 
Because your plants are indoors I would recommend using organic sprays

If you have any questions either for me or for Steve, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Lemon Balm; Melissa officinalis

Melissa officinalis, known as lemon balm, balm, common balm, or balm mint, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the mint family; Lamiaceae.

Lemon balm is native to south-central Europe, and the Mediterranean region.
You may not be into scientific names but there are two subspecies of Lemon Balm; Melissa officinalis subsp.officinalis, is the commonly grown lemon balm; and Melissa officinalis subsp. altissima, naturalized in New Zealand and known as bush balm.

Apparently the scent of Melissa. officinalis. subsp. altissima is sometimes described
as fruity, herbal or powdery, but often doesn’t have any scent at all.

Did you know that Lemon Balm has been used for over 2,000 years?
  • Another fact is that Lemon balm has white flowers that attract bees, and because of that, the genus name is Melissa which is Greek for 'honey bee'. 
  • In fact the ancient Greeks believed that if you put a few sprigs of lemon balm in an empty hive, it would attract a swarm of bees, or if you planted some lemon balm near a beehive, the bees would never go away. 
  • Officinalis of course means used in medicine and in the 11th century a Persian physician and philosopher named Avicenna recommended the use of lemon balm in treating depression and melancholy. 
  • Would you believe that according to the London Dispensary (1696) lemon balm in wine could even prevent baldness? 

What does it look like?
It’s a fairly low to medium growing herb not growing more than 70 cm tall and being in the mint family, it has square stems.
You only need one plant because it spreads out quite a bit once it gets going, up to 1 ½ metres or more. 

Lemon balm leaves have a sweet lemon scent, and because it’s related to mint the leaves look very much like the leaves of common mint.

Those flowers that I mentioned occur during summer, and are full of nectar.

Interestingly although over 100 chemicals have been identified in Melissa officinalis, the main flavour comes from just two essential oils: oil of citral (neral and geranial), and citronellal, with a hint of linalool, geraniol and β-caryophyllene-oxide (1,90).

Why grow lemon Balm?

One reason to grow it is that sachets made with Lemon Balm and put under your pillow or near the bed are supposed to give you a refreshing, relaxing sleep.
  • Lemon balm seeds are fairly easy to germinate and need light and at least 20°C 
  • Seeds will germinate in 10 – 14 days and are best started off in a punnet. 
  • TIP: The seeds don’t like being overly wet so after the first watering, let them alone but not completely dry out. 
  • Lemon balm is probably one of the easiest herbs to grow and is ideal for beginners. 
  • Lemon balm grows well in both sun and shade, soils of a wide pH, and either dry or damp conditions. 
  • Lemon balm grows in clumps and doesn’t spread vegetatively (veggi-tate-ivv-lee) like mint does, that is putting down roots where the stems touch the ground or through underground rhizomes, but only spreads by seed. 
  • If you don’t want it to spread in your garden, then cut back the clump after flowering so that it doesn’t self-seed. 
Where it grows

In mild temperate zones, the stems of the plant die off at the start of the winter, but shoot up again in spring.
Lemon balm doesn’t like temperatures much below 5 C so in cool temperate climates you may lose your plant unless you put some into a pot for replanting next Spring.
You could also just put some protective mulch over the spot when it dies down as long as you remember what you have growing there.
Lemon balm can also be propagated by dividing the rootstock in Spring or Autumn and planting straight into the ground after doing this.

How to use lemon balm?

The best time to pick leaves for drying is before it flowers.

However, you can pick leaves for use lots of ways from flavouring vinegars, teas, especially Early grey or green tea, marinades, dressings, jams and jellies, stuffings and sauces to using it chopped with fish and mushroom dishes or mixed fresh with soft cheeses.

Lemon balm complements many fruits, including honeydew, rockmelon, pineapple, apples and pears.

What about lemon balm with ginger in scones?

That’s the leaves, but the flowers can also be used as a garnish in fruit salads, drinks or with rice

Did you know that in the commercial food industry, lemon balm oil and extract are used to flavor alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, confectionary, baked goods, gelatin, and puddings.

Lemon balm is also an ingredient in liqueurs like Benedictine and Chartreuse.

Why is it good for you?
Lemon balm tea is good for relieving mild headaches and possibly helping with memory as well.
The crushed leaves when rubbed on the skin can be used as an insect repellant.
Lemon balm also has anti-oxidant and calming or mild sedative properties. 


Useful and Beautiful Shrubs
We’re into the shrubbery but we’re not the Knights of Nee, for all those Monty Python fans listening out there.
So last week we outlined the sub-shrubs, in other words those plants that don’t grow too much over a metre, and most likely much less.
This week it’s shrubs that grow much bigger so won’t be at the front of the border.
These shrubs are larger but not more than 4 metres if that.
Rabbit Ears: Ruttya fruiticose photoM Van Der Schiff
Let’s find out what they are.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, Garden Designer and  Director of

Peter mentioned these shrubs:
Rhinacanthus beesianthus –very luxurious looking, grows quite tall - around 2m or higher - and has large attractive quilted leaves which form a glossy background to other plants in a border.
Its clear white flowers, shaped like scalloped shells, begin to appear in March or April and continue for several months
Ruttya fruiticosa or Rabbit Ears, because the flower is dark red and looks just like a rabbit or from a distance a bit like Sturt Desert Peas.
Dichroa versicolour: photo M. Cannon
Iochroma fuschoides has an upright vase shape, with red trumpet flowers.
Dichroa versicolor - Evergreen Hydrangea is a nice alternative to the regular hydrangea with more like
If you have any questions about sub-shrubs , either for me or for Peter or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to

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