Saturday, 17 November 2018

Burning, Searing, Scalding Flowers are Just One Feature

What’s on the show today?

Art Therapy with Mara Lyon is today’s feature interview. What vegetable, was used to thicken soups and stews, and the seeds were toasted and ground then used as a coffee substitute in Vegetable Heroes; , plus a tough native plant with a strange past in Plant of the Week and more floral happenings in Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes


Art Therapy in the Garden:Create Your Own Mandala
Are you taking enough time out in your life or is your day crowded with a to do list?
To do lists, whether written down or just in our mind’s eye, can make life seem overly busy without time taken to just sit and reflect.
Maybe we need to be re-connected with that quieter, calmer side of life.
I'm talking with Mara Lyone who is an art therapist.

LIVE :Art Therapy in the Garden

I first met Mara at a workshop nearby in Bedlam Bay, Gladesville, NSW
It was a day where there were quite a few stalls about healing and the mind, but what struck me was a mandala made out of plant material on the ground.
We talked about what is a mandala and how we would use it. 

Gardeners often crowd their mind with things that need to be done in the garden without taking stock of what’s there.
Mainly because often there is so much to do in the garden especially during the warmer months of the year.
Everyone’s talking about mindfulness but how can gardeners learn to appreciate more the “beauty in the moment. And not focus on what they see as failures in the garden?”
Pebble sculptures, beds of annuals, sculpted box balls in a knot garden are living expressions of art therapy?

In planting, if you use secondary colours together, such as purple and orange or orange and green, or green and purple, they make wonderful combinations. Each of them creates a particular mood: purple and orange have red hidden in them, so there’s a great deal of warmth and energy in that.
Gardening meets needs if you want to be a sculptor, or painter.
And really, gardening to be the greatest healer of all.
If you have any questions, either for me or for Mara why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Okra: Okra is also known as Lady’s fingers.
OKRA the way to pronounce is "Oh krah" not "Aukra"
Okra is in the Malvaceae or Mallow family and called Abelmoschus esculentus. (A-bell-mow- shus es-kew-lent-us)
It used to be called Hibiscus esculentus so that may you give you a clue as to what the bush might look like.
Okra flower and fruit

Did you know that Okra is related to cotton, cocoa, hibiscus and Rosella plants?
"Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia  and Okra is found growing wild on the banks of the river Nile.
According to records, the Egyptians were the first to grow it as a veggie it in the basin of the Nile during 12th century BC .
And as Okra made its way to North Africa and the Middle East, more uses were developed.
Not only were the seed pods eaten cooked, the seeds were toasted and ground, and used as a coffee substitute (and still is).
 Another amazing fact is that in the 1800's slaves from Africa used ground okra as a part of their diet, and this apparently led to the use of ground okra seeds as a coffee substitute by other southerners during the American Civil War blockades of the 1860's.
You might have also heard of a dish called gumbo. This comes from using Okra or gumbo as a thickener especially in soups.
So what does the Okra bush look like?
Okra varies in height from 60cm to 2m high depending on the variety of seed you buy.
 The leaves are heart shaped with plenty of yellow hibiscus-like flowers with a maroon throat.
In case you don’t know Hibiscus flowers, think of Hawaiian or Tahitian girls with flowers in their hair. Might also be a Hibiscus or a Frangipani.
 As you know, after the flowers comes the fruit that looks like a five-ribbed small pod with a cap on it, sort of like a gumnut cap.

Much smaller than beans or cucumbers.
Pick these a week after the flowers emerge because the Okra, gets too tough and stringy after that.
I’m told the leaves can be used as Spinach.
Doubly useful.
When to sow.
  • In sub-tropical districts, you can plant them in August and September and then again January and February.
  • In temperate climates, sow seeds in October through to December,
  • Arid areas have between August and December to sow seeds directly into the soil.
  •  Cool temperate districts, including Tasmania, for you, the advice is to grow them in a greenhouse, but I discovered a blog from Adam whose from a cool mountain climate and Adam says “Okra does indeed grow in the cool areas, it just needs a bit of help to establish.
  • Adam puts an old plastic milk bottle over the plant until it fills the bottle, then away it goes.
  • Just pick the warmest part of your garden.
  • You’ll get a small crop if you have a cold Summer, but should have heaps if the summer is warmer. Thanks Adam!.
  • Finally for Tropical districts, you’ve won the jackpot this week, because you can grow Okra all year round!

Growing Okra
Okra seeds germinate reasonably well, but will be helped along if you soak them in a shallow dish of tepid water for 24hours.
This will soften the hard outer seed coat.
Pick a spot that gets full sun and has plenty of compost dug into the soil.
One thing that Okra detests, and that’s wet, boggy soil or soil with poor drainage.
Okra will also be set back if you get a cold snap in your district.
Either sow the seeds directly or into punnets for later transplanting.
I have heard that they don’t like being transplanted that much so you could try sowing them in pots made of coir, or make them yourself from newspaper or toilet rolls.
A very permaculture thing to do.
Because they grow as a largish bush, space the seeds or seedlings if transplanting, about 50cm to a metre apart.
Water your Okra fairly regularly, and if your soil is too hard or clayey, grow some Okra in a pot no problem.
TIP:By the way, Okra are partial to high amounts of Potash.
During the growing period, water in lots of liquid fertiliser, such as worm tea and add handfuls of compost.
Okra flower: looks just like other members of the Hibiscus family
Tip pruning will also give you a bushier plant with more flowers and more Okra pods.
In warm areas of Australia, your Okra will be ready to pick in 10 weeks.
In cold temperate zones however, it may take as long as 16 weeks.
Pick your Okra when they’re small and certainly before they get bigger than 10cm in length. Around 5 – 10 cm length is best.
Tip: Okra pods are referred to as mucilaginous.
What does that meant? Ughhhh! This can make them a bit slimy in cooking, so if that bothers you, don’t slice them, keep them whole.
Alternatively, add a couple of drops of vinegar or lemon juice.
I’ve also read that you should avoid growing Okra where you’ve had tomatoes, capsicums or potatoes growing previously.
Okra sliced to reveal mucilaginous membranes
For different varieties of Okra, go to
Two varieties I found online in Australia, are Okra Clemson Spineless, a bush that grows to 1 ½ m and Okra red Burgundy. Red Burgundy has red pods on a vigorous 1.5m tall plant with green leaves and attractive bright cherry red stems.
I’ll put a link to this site on my website. You can get many rare and hard to find seeds at this company. Well priced too.
Why are they good for you?
Okra contains lots of valuable nutrients, almost half of which is in the form of soluble fibre, which helps lower serum cholesterol.
A half of a cup of okra contains about 10% of the recommended levels of B6 and folic acid.
By the way, Okra has black seeds inside the pod. Don’t feel you have to remove them because you don’t. The seeds add flavour to the cooking.
The fibre is in that mucilage.
How about trying a mix with peppers and eggplant! Or grill it on the BBQ! :) try it !! grill it on its side for 2 minutes each!its yummy!!!!


Scaevola aemula: Fair Fan Flower

Drought tolerant, salt tolerant, pretty flowers and no real maintenance.
Wouldn’t that be good if most of our plants were like that?
Never mind, even if we put some of these plants amongst the ones that aren’t so hardy, we’ll still have a show of colour and foliage when those others fade away.
With those sort of credentials -let’s find out about this plant.

I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of

PLAY: Scaevola_5th November_2014

That burnt hand story I’ve discovered was slightly off with the facts.
The latin word scaevola has a link to a Mucius Scaevola which was a lineage of patricians during the Roman Republic.
It was an offshoot of the Mucian family started by Gaius Mucius Scaevola.
This Gaius Scaevola was a legendary assassin who burnt away his right hand as a show of bravery during the early years of the Republic.
Not saint at all then.
Latin: scaevola, "left-handed.

If you have any questions about growing Scaevola or fairy fan flower why not write in to


Drown, Sear, Scald & Mist Cut Flowers
These are all the methods we can use to not only make the flowers last longer in the vase, but to also make them look a whole lot better.
  • Some plants with soft stems and heavy flower head, such as tulips and gerberas, are prone to bending. If left, the stem will remain in this position. To straighten the stems, wrap the bunch flowers in newspaper and stand them deeply in water for at least two hours – ideally over night.
  • Others need to have their stems scalded in boiling hot water for a few seconds to prolong their vase life. These include roses, hydrangeas, poppies and sunflowers. Always protect the petals from the steam.

  • Misting helps the vase life of most orchids as well as camellias, bird of paradise and violets.
  • Drowning in a bucket of water for several hours gives hydrangeas, roses, heliconias, christmas bush and viburnum flowers to go the distance.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2RRR 88.5 fm Sydney

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Mirror, Mirror in The Garden, No To Plastic and Ethylene with Cut Flowers

What’s on the show today?

Find out ways to reduce how much plastic you use in the Good Earth.; grow this calming herb in Vegetable Heroes; part 4 of ‘gardening in tight spaces in Design Elements, plus which flowers should not be placed near your fruit bowl in the Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.


Plastic Free Living
You may be aware that plastic is bad for the environment but do you know exactly how?
Perhaps you’re already using drink bottles that are BPA free, but did you know that BPA is in all soft plastics?
  • The ocean may look calming and inviting, but did you know that any plastics that make it to the ocean breakdown into plastic microbeads?
  • These microbeads are ingested by plankton and in turn are eaten by fish.
  • It's even very likely that the fish you are about to eat contains plastic microbeads.
  • Let’s find out what we can use instead? 
I'm speaking with Margaret Mossakowska of 

Check out repair cafes, recycle stuff, don’t add to landfill. 
Margaret says, rethink what you are buying
Plastic pollution
Replace you worn out plastic containers with glass ones because cheeses, meats and any food that has more than 4% fats should be stored in glass. 
Why? because those plastic containers do contain BPA
One thirds of plastics are used for packaging such as food but you can avoid buying veggies that are wrapped in plastic, they don’t need it.
Bring your own container to get meat, fish, cheese etc.
Don’t take no for an answer, it’s not illegal.

If you have any questions, either for me or for Margaret, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis
Lemon balm is scientifically Melissa officinalis, but it’s also known as balm, common balm, or balm mint.
What is Lemon Balm?
Lemon balm, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the mint family; Lamiaceae, and is native to south-central Europe, and the Mediterranean region.

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'.

You may not know that 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 50 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 Flower photo Jess Beehouse

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 show up 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.
In the past I’ve said that lemon balm grows in clumps and doesn’t spread vegetatively like mint does, that is putting down roots where the stems touch the ground or through underground rhizomes, because it does.
It’s not as hard as mint to pull out though, but you have to keep on top of it as it will cover all your low growing plants and out compete other ground covers like native violets.
Where it grows
In cool 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 50 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.
Lemon Balm in Tea
  • However, you can pick leaves for use lots of ways from flavouring vinegars, teas, especially Earl 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.
There is also some link to memory or attention but further research is needed on that one.
If you have any questions about Lemon Balm, JUST EMAIL ME

Gardening in Tight Spaces part 4: Mirror, Mirror
The thing with small spaces is that you can take it all in with one glance and for some gardeners, it’s just a tad boring.
What are the tricks then that you can use to make your garden look bigger and so more interesting?
Let’s find out what it’s all about.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and director of Paradisus garden design.
PLAY: Gardening in tight spaces part 4_24th October 2018

Mirror mirror on the wall, but wait it’s on the fence or behind some plants.
Yes, outdoor mirrors can make your small space look bigger but if you place it flat on the fence you may be just looking at a reflection of roof tiles.
Peter suggests you need to angle it somehow depending on whether or not your "step out' from the back door steps down, steps up or is completely flat.

Even though Peter says you need to use toughened glass, I’m an advocate for the found mirror.
Why not hang it up and if it wears out in 3 months, so be it, you’ll find another one.

If you have any questions about gardening in tight spaces or have a suggestion either for me or for Peter why not write in or email me at :


Ethylene and Cut Flowers

How many times have you placed some unripe fruit in a brown paper bag with say a banana or ripe apple?
Why are you doing this exactly?
Because the ethylene gas releases from the ripe fruit, speeds up the ripening process of the unripe fruit.
You don’t even have to place them in a paper bag because in the same fruit bowl, the process will happen, just a bit slower.
Guess what, flowers go off faster next to the fruit bowl.

We’ve mentioned it before in Talking Flowers, but some flowers are more sensitive than others don’t you know?

  • By the way, Ethylene molecules are small enough to migrate through plastic and cardboard, so just closing up the box of fruit in the fridge doesn’t contain the gas.
  • Did you know that Ethylene is a stress hormone and it is released in response to rough handling, dehydration, chill damage and disease ?
  • But where does it come from?
  • There's two ways: internally — in fruits, flowers and veggies as a stress response; and externally — from rotting green trash, car exhaust, air pollution, cigarette smoke, inefficient space heaters, propane forklifts and/or floor polishers.
  • Why I mention the forklifts, because maybe they’ve got them at flower markets?
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini from
Recorded live during studio broadcast of Real World Gardener show at 2RRR 88.5 fm

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Wilting, Weeds and Potted Gardening

What’s on the show today?

Why are those plants wilting even though you’ve watered them? Find out in Plant Doctor. Would you eat the weeds in your backyard we ask in Vegetable Heroes? Gardening in pots is the topic for part 3 of ‘gardening in tight spaces” in Design Element.


Bacterial Wilt 
It seems like all kinds of exotic or unusual diseases attack our produce garden and this one’s no exception.
There you are, religiously watering everyday, making sure the soil’s moist, apply the compost and mulches
Bacterial Wilt of Cucumber
Then without explanation or warning, leaves start to wither or wilt at random and sooner rather than later, your whole plant dies.
Let’s find out what can be done about this problem.
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from

The bacterial wilt can be the result of fungus, bacteria or a virus that is spread via the soil.
Bacterial wilts largely affect plants in the Solanaceae family.
Bacterial Wilt of Pepper
  • It starts off with the plant growing really well, but then over a few days, bit by bit, leaves start to wilt, then the whole plant dies.
  • On examining the stem, you'll find that it's brown inside.
  • That's because the bacteria has damaged the roots, making uptake of water and nutrients very difficult.
 In this case it's a soil borne bacteria.
The damage is done to the roots which then can’t absorb enough water, or carry the water through the plant tissue, so then you get that wilting effect. 
The problem could have been transmitted via your footwear, garden tools, or plants bought in from another source.
Or it could have already been in your soil but if the soil isn't treated well, the bacteria numbers have built up and now can affect your plants.
Pull the affected plant out, and don’t plant the same type of plant in that same spot. 
Leave that spot fallow for 3 years or plant a green manure crop .
If you have any questions about chives, either for me or for Ian, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Eat Those Weeds.
What weeds are popping up in your garden right now?
As agriculture land becomes a more rare commodity, should we consider harvesting and eating weeds?
apparently there’s a movement afoot that thinks just that,so I thought I’d explore what are the does and don’ts of eating weed plants.
After all, how hard is it to grow them right?
Here are some points to think about first.
  • Did you know that many common weeds are edible, and some are more nutritious than store-bought greens?
  • But you need to do your research before you go hunting for weeds in your garden, nature strip or nearest park.
  • Most importantly, never eat anything you cannot positively identify.

Got some dandelions, for example?
Dandelion flower and seedhead

The yellow petals and young leaves can be used in salads, and the roots can be used as a coffee substitute.
From an article by Teagan Osborne on the ABC website, Teagan spoke to a Sydney-based nutritionist Catherine Saxelby who said when compared with store-bought greens such as bok choy, rocket, basil, and parsley, many edible weeds were actually higher in important vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
Ms Saxelby said most edible weeds were high in phytonutrients and phytochemicals such as beta-carotene that help protect the body against disease, as well as vitamin A, vitamin C, and minerals such as potassium.
"Because they haven't been bred the way commercial crops have been bred, they actually do seem to have higher concentrations of their natural vitamins, and minerals and phytonutrients," she said.
These days it’s common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are bred for less bitterness, greater yield, ease of transport and bigger leaves.
"You never got that with the wild greens like dandelion and chickweed and purslane, which have just been left to grow themselves," she said.
"So … not only are they free, and they seem to have a greater taste, a stronger more alive taste, they actually appear to be higher in certain nutrients."
But edible weeds do have some nutritional drawbacks.
Many wild leafy greens, like the sorrel varieties and purslane, have high concentrations of oxalic acid, which has been linked to kidney stones and is poisonous in very large amounts.
Oxalic acid is also present in store-bought foods including almonds, spinach, bananas and tea.
"So you can't avoid it. But what you want to avoid is eating large amounts of it in one go.
"[For example] if you ate a cup full of sorrel I would think that would be a very large quantity … half a cup of raw sorrel for your first time would be a good way to start."
A growing interest in weed foraging has seen "edible weeds tours" spring up in many major Australian cities.
How can you go about making sure you’re getting the right weeds?

  • You could try reading a book on edible weeds, taking an edible weeds tour or studying reputable online sources are good places to start.
  • There are several Australian books on the subject, including a handbook by Melbournites Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland.
  • Although most of the plants that we call weeds, especially the annuals, are edible … there are some very toxic plants.
  • It can’t be said enough that it's really important to know beyond reasonable doubt that what you're about to eat is what you think it is and … to know that it's actually considered edible.
  • The other thing to be aware of is the environment your weeds have come from.
  • You need to consider whether the area you're picking in is likely to be polluted and also whether the plants may have been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides.
  • In terms of not eating things that have been sprayed, I think the safest place to eat plants from is your own backyard.
  • To give you just a small taste of how many edible weeds are out there, here are
Two of the easiest to identify
What next and Why are they good for You?
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion is probably one of the most common and recognisable varieties of edible weeds and it's also very versatile.
Dandelion is a perennial plant with jagged, bright green leaves to 30cm long, a hollow flower stem to 30cm and one terminal yellow daisy.
Dandelions are good source of essential vitamins.
The leaves, flowers and roots of the dandelion are all edible.
The yellow petals from the dandelion flower and the leaves can be eaten in salad, and the leaves can also be cooked and eaten like spinach.
The roots of the plant can also be dry-baked and used as a coffee substitute.
The leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium and iron.
Another easy one.
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chickweed is often popping out at this time of year.
Did you know that Chickweed can be cooked or eaten as a salad vegetable?
It's a little, delicate, herbaceous winter green, also rich in vitamins A, B and C, and a good source of Omega 6 fatty acid.
It can be cooked like spinach or used as a salad green, and since ancient times it has been used to treat itchy skin conditions as a topical ointment or a poultice.
There’s a whole lot of others like clover, Fat Hen, Crowsfoot Grass, Wild fennel, Cats Ear or Flat Weed, and Docks.
You just have to be prepared to look them up to make sure you’re getting the right thing before you tuck into them.

Gardening in Tight Spaces part 3: pots
Have you run out of room in your garden or is your garden just too small to do much with?
Never fear, gardening in pots as a great alternative and it doesn’t have to be that hard or look ugly if you choose the right combinations.
There is that initial outlay, but if you choose carefully, your pots will last for years, and not end up cracked and broken.

Let’s find out what it’s all about.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and director of Paradisus garden design.

Peter suggests if you want decorative or ornamental plants, why not go for something in the Bromeliad family, especially the large Alcantareas.

Alcantarea heloisae

  •   Alcantareas are sun hardy, such as A. heloisae, A. patriae, A exentensa, A. Glaziouana. 
  • All of these have plasticky hard leaves that put up with harsh exposure. 
  • Then there’s Kalanchoe orgyalis, known as Copper Spoons, or K. hildebrandii, known as silver spoons. 
  • Also, Kalanchoe millottii, and K. blossfeldiana. 
  • You could also choose Aloes but be mindful of the summer heat for these guys. 
  • Finally, the cardboard plant, or Zamia furfuracea.