Saturday, 7 April 2018

Small Trees for Everyone

What’s On The Show Today?

Join Peter as we stroll through Useful & Beautiful small trees in Design Elements This plant share its name with a famous biscuit, no not Tim Tam, in Vegetable Heroes, and a small tree that’s tough, but with the prettiest flowers. Lastly, one of the world’s most popular fragrant flowers, and it’s not a rose, in Talking Flowers.


Small Trees that are "useful and beautiful."
Have you got a small or large garden?
Chances are a lot of you are thinking, mmm, it’s pretty small but I used to have a large garden.
Either way, there’s always room for a small something, to fit into the design scheme that won't take up too much room, is out of the ordinary, and is "useful and beautiful."
Bauhinia hookerii or White Bauhinia
Today, we’re talking about something that’s either a very large shrub or a very small tree. 
Let’s find out what they are.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of Paradisus Garden Design

Peter mentioned Hibiscus schizopetalus also known as Japanese Lantern which has the daintiest red flower.
Hibiscus schizopetalus: Japanese Lanter photo credit: M Cannon

The flower almost looks like a ballerina suspended by a fine thread and are terminal, meaning that they're at the ends of the branches.

White Bauhinia or Bauhina hookerii with white butterfly like flowers.
Brachychiton bidwillii which may be grafted but can be summer deciduous in areas such as Adelaide.
If you have any questions either for me or for Peter, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Not a biscuit : Arrowroot
Canna edulis

Today’s vegetable is loaded with carbohydrates or carbs as we refer to them.

Why am I talking about carbs?
Because a study released not too long ago from Sydney University showed that a high carbohydrate, low protein diet can help you live fifty per cent longer.

But first a question.
Ever heard of arrowroot as in arrowroot biscuits perhaps?
Did you know Arrowroot is actually a plant and not just the name of a type of biscuit?
The scientific name of the type of arrowroot that I’m talking about today is Canna edulis but it’s known as edible canna and Qld arrowroot.

There are other types of arrowroot, but generally not available to buy or grow in many places in Australia, so I’ll stick to the Canna edulis one.

Some of you might know that Canna plant already, with its sword shaped leaves and brightly coloured flowers.
Canna Lily: Not Edible

Did you know though that there was an edible canna as well?

Yes, Canna and Arrowroot are one and the same.
An amazing fact though it’s bit like edible Ginger or Cardamom because it’s a very hardy, clump-forming perennial plant with thick stalks and large bright green leaves 300-600mm long to 2m high.
But which part do you eat?
  • In this case, like the edible ginger, you eat the tubers. 
  • If you dig them up when they’re small - about the size of a tennis ball and the skin is still white is the best time. 
  • Here’s something you won’t know: Arrowroot tubers can be used all year round, as a potato substitute. 
  • HINT: Another good thing about Arrowroot tubers is that you can plant them at any time of the year. 
  • The large round red rhizomes can be eaten raw, cooked as you would a potato or used as a flour and thickening agent. 
  • Young shoots can also be eaten as a green vegetable. 
  • Edible Canna is easy to plant, to grow and to harvest. 

  • While the tubers grow at a rate of knots, in deep rich friable soil, they are the most hardy of all the tuber crops and grows well in any type of soils. 
  • These tubers can even grow where most other tubers refuse to grow.
Add caption
You can start digging the tubers up USING A GARDEN FORK after 6 months usually around Summer and Autumn.

In fact if you had planted a tuber last Spring, you would’ve had a clump about 1 metre across by now.

  • Even though the books will tell you that Arrowroot needs a warm sunny position; Arrowroot will tolerate heat and light frosts. 
  • The only drawback is growth is much slower in cold areas 
  • Suitable for temperate, subtropical and tropical areas but there’s no reason for you not to try it in Gippsland or even Canberra, just not out in the elements. 
  • An idea would be to plant it under a shrub as protection from deep frosts. 
  • Arrowroot can be grown in any soil even clay soil because it likes moisture and even copes with poor drainage. 
  • Full sun is the key, so even though I said shelter it from frosts under a shrub, the position has to be north facing. 
  • Of course if you add compost, manures and all those great organic fertilisers you have in that garden shed, you’ll get fast growth and lots of tubers. 
  • One other thing, if you’ve got poor sandy soil, don’t forget to keep up the watering. 
Edible canna or arrowroot does develop small orangish flowers that will set black seeds.
  • If you live near a watercourse or creek, there’s potential for the seeds to spread into bushland or along creek-lines, so do cut off the flowers as they finish, and definitely cut off the seed heads. 
  • HOT TIP: seed grown plants are slow to mature and vary in the type of plant you get. 
  • It’s faster and better to divide your plants if you want to give some to other gardeners. 
  • TIP If you can grow Cannas you can definitely grow edible Cannas and arrowroot has few problems with pests and diseases. 
As mentioned arrowroot is starchy and can be eaten like potatoes.  But what do you do?
  • Digging them up when they’re small is the best because as they get older they become dry and stringy. 
  • Just peel them like potatoes and soak them in water if you want less starchiness. 
  • Freshly grated arrowroot can be used as a thickening agent. 
  • By the way, unlike potatoes, unless you’re thinking of making arrowroot flour, which is a longer process than I have time for, you need to dig up your tubers and use them soon after. 
Why are they good for you? 
  • Excellent carbohydrate, the starch is easily digested. 
  • Arrowroot also has 10g of protein for every 100g of tuber. 
But apart from the carbs and its use as a thickening agent, and extracting arrowroot flour, there are no vitamins or minerals in this plant.

So back to that study, Sydney University research found mice fed a high carbohydrate, low protein diet had a longer lifespan and better cardio-metabolic health despite the fact they were overweight.

I recently spoke to Professor Steve Simpson who conducted the study, and his suggestion was that a diet that consists of 15-20 per cent high quality protein, low in fat and high in good quality carbohydrate will deliver the best metabolic health and longest life.

No need to cut out those carbs, just the fried chips.



Blueberry Ash: Elaeocarpus retiuculatus
Here’s a small tree with lily of the valley type flowers and olive like fruit.
The flowers are either pale pink or white, often referred to as “fairy pettioats.”
A very tough small tree that’s native to the east coast of Australia that is also bird attracting especially to all types of parrots.
Blueberry Ash: Pink form
Let’s find out more about it. 
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of

Karen’s neighbour keeps her blueberry ash trimmed down to 4 metres or you could leave it a bit bigger and “limb up” as Peter Nixon would say so you have a lovely shade tree to sit under.
The only place it doesn’t suit is those areas with heavy frost. If you have any questions about blueberry ash , either for me or for Karen or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to


All about Freesias
If you have a cottage garden big or small, chances are you've invested in Spring bulbs which include Freesias.
Gardeners will be ordering Freesias in their Spring bulb order now.
TIP: Just remember, plant them pointy end upward when your receive the bulbs
Botanical Bite

Freesia flowers are “zygomorphic” which just means that they grow along one side of the stem, in a single plane.
 When you look at a flower stalk, you'll see that the blooms are facing upwards. 
How does this work? 
Freesias stems have the unusual habit of turning at right angles just below the bottom flower. 
This causes the upper portion of the stem to grow almost parallel with the ground. The flowers bloom along the top side of the stalk, facing upwards. Isn't nature clever?
Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener program on 2rrr 88.5 fm Sydney.

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