Saturday, 8 December 2018

Ice Plant, Beans, Aggies and Parlour Palms

What’s on the show today?

Fixing bean problems in Plant Doctor, Growing something unusual and salty in Vegetable Heroes;  grow this palm instead of the weedy Cocos palm in Plant of the Week and all about Agapanthus in the Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.?


Problems with Beans
Beans are such an easy crop to grow, but if you live in a district where the weather plays havoc with your veggie garden, you could be in for a bit of trouble with your beans.
Perhaps it’s not just disease but a horde of insects have descended.
Powdery mildew on beans

Let’s find out what you can do about this.
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from OCP’s

Whitefly, thrips and aphids control with eco oil or soap based spray to.

Possibly bean fly damage on leaf
Beanfly, is much harder to control, is cultural. If you don't pick off affected leaves, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will tunnel into the stems of the bean plants.
You may as well pull them out at this stage as there is no control.

Caterpillars can be picked off or use Dipel.
Powdery mildew can be controlled with potassium bicarbonate spray such as eco Carb.
Other diseases, such as rusts and leaf spots is better prevented with cultural methods because chemical control is difficult and mostly ineffective.
Good sunlight is best for beans so not near overhanging trees.
No pods but plenty of flowers?
The main reason for no pod set is very hot weather.
Steve says, just be patient and wait for the weather to cool.
Of course, encourage pollinators into your garden with plenty of flowers near your veggie bed.
If you have any questions, either for me or for Steve, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


A succulent in vegetable heroes?
Yes it’s true.
Salty Ice Plant or Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Native to Europe and Africa but has naturalised in the Southern parts of Australia, extending as far north as Exmouth on the Western Australian coast.
According to CSIRO  Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is found on wide range of soil types, from well-drained sandy soils (including sand dunes), to loams and clays.
Salty Ice Plant  isn’t fussed about soil pH and can even tolerate nutritionally poor or saline soils.
“In the natural state,  Salty Ice plant or M. crystallinum appears to be tied to climatic factors, and is most common in years of relatively high winter-spring rainfall.
Why should you grow this Salty Ice Plant?
  • As far as the home gardener goes this plant is rare and exclusive.
  • But there’s more.
  • It’s highly ornamental, has a creeping or prostrate growth habit  and is great in a pot.
  • It’s very attractive and can withstand environmentally tough conditions, plus the glistening succulent leaves look like they are covered in frozen icy bumps.

M. crystallinum flowers from spring to early summer 

Flowers open in the morning and close at night, and are insect pollinated.
The Ice Plant has a tendency to go a pinkish or rosy-red colour in hot dry conditions and this, in itself, makes it an attractive plant.
The fresh sap of the Ice Plant was found to be a great remedy for all manner of skin complaints and could be added to baths or extracted and made into ointments and creams.
It’s not just another succulent that’s growing in your garden but you can use it in cooking.
It’s a fact:Salty Ice Plant is the ultimate salty garnish chefs use for fish dishes and to balance sweet flavours.
It’s A Very Different Plant
  • Botanically speaking it’s also quite novel because it seems to be able to switch between two modes of growing.
  • I need to mention here that your normal every day tree shrub or groundcover is what’s termed a C3 plant.
  • That means it needs sunlight to carry out photosynthesis which it converts to sugars, taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen.
  • Salty Ice plant grows like this when conditions are good meaning there’s plenty of rainfall.
  • Another method that plants can grow by is called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM for short.
  • CAM plants shut their breathing pores or stomata during the day but open them at night to take in CO2 which is stored.
  • This CO2 is released inside the plant during the day and even though the breath pores are closed, it can carry out photosynthesis.
  • Also, as the breathing pores are closed, that means that water loss is minimal during the heat of the day.
  • How clever is that?

Plants that can do this are very drought tolerant and plants that can switch from one mode of photosynthesis to another are pretty exceptional.
For Salty Ice plant, it switches to CAM metabolism when it experiences salinity and drought.
So how come it’s called salty ice plant?

What makes it glisten in the sun?
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum accumulates salt throughout its life, in a gradient from the roots to the shoots, with the highest concentration stored in epidermal bladder cells.
Epidermal cells are just below the leaf’s surface and it’s these bladder cells with the stored salt that give the leaves that glistening ice crystals look.
Bladder cells glisten in the sun on salty ice plant.
There’s a few uses for salty ice plant.
Firstly the leaves of M. crystallinum are edible and the seeds can also be eaten.
Secondly, and perhaps more unusual, the crushed leaves can be used as a soap substitute and has some medicinal uses (Plants For A Future - Species Database, 1997-2003).
Not surprisingly, Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is also used as a model in plant physiologic research (Bohnert and Cushman, 2000),
When to sow:
In all districts the best time to sow the seeds is in Spring.
Sow the seeds in punnets first only just covering the seed and put them in a plastic container, or in a mini-greenhouse.
When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts.
Seedlings are prone to damp off so should not be over watered and should be kept in a very sunny well-ventilated position
You can easily grow Salty Ice plant in any ordinary well-drained garden soil. Salty Ice plant won’t grow in shade can grows in soils that aren’t that fertile such as sandy soils.
It’s not very hardy in cool temperate climates and will be killed even by a light frost.
Plants have few problems with pests or diseases though as I mentioned the young plants are prone to root rot and damping off unless given plenty of ventilation and dry growing conditions.
TIP: Leaves and stems - raw or cooked. They can be used as a spinach substitute. The leaves have an acid flavour, they are thick and very succulent with a slightly salty tang. They can also be pickled like cucumbers or used as a garnish.

Common ice-plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) is a significant environmental weed in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, and an environmental weed in Tasmania and New South Wales.
So if you intend to grow it in your vegie or herb garden, make sure it doesn’t set seeds.
Why are they good for you?
The fresh sap of the Ice Plant is apparently a great remedy for all manner of skin complaints and could be added to baths or extracted and made into ointments and creams.
Juice extracted from the leaves are astringent and mildly antiseptic.
You can mix the juice with water and use it as a gargle to relieve laryngitis, sore throat and mouth infections.


Parlour Palm: Chamaedorea elegans
Do you love or hate palm trees?
The gardening community is divided into two groups, those that love the palm trees and those that hate them.
Probably because people persist in growing the environment weed, the cocos palm, which although grows really fast, is particularly ugly.
I'm talking with the plant panel:Jeremy Critchley of and Karen Smith, editor of
Let’s find out.

You can keep the parlour palm indoors for many years, but planted out in the garden under other leafy palms or larger leaved shrubs, it grows as a bushy alternative to the single trunks of most other palms.
If it gets too tall for the room, give it a trim because being multi-branching, there's no risk of killing of the leader.
Plus, you don’t have dropping palm fronds like you do with cocos palms and a few others.

If you have any questions about parlour palms, why not write in to


Agapanthus spp:
Agapanthus praecox
You can see straightaway why Agapanthus has the nickname ‘flower of love’.
The Greek word ‘agape’ means love, and ‘anthos’ means flower.

How to pick your Agapanthus flowers for the vase.
 Agapanthus flowers are normally picked when the bud bract has fallen off and no more than three florets are open.
Stalks are cut near their base with a sharp knife.
Remember what Mercedes says: If it's from a bulb, rhizome or cor, then it's Mr Agapanthus.
Mr Agapanthus wears sneakers, so we cut the stems straight across the bottom of the stalk.
If you don't want the pollen to drop onto your tablecloth, cut off the stames before they "fluff."
If you're buying Mr Agapanthus, make sure that flowers are of proper maturity. 
If the neck of flowers is bent upward, they have been transported at warm temperatures and have responded to gravity.

In the Garden:How to care for aggies
Cut off the old flower spikes after the flowers fade and before they begin to dry and set seeds. Snip through the stem with shears near its base, where it emerges from the plant.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 2RRR 88.5fm, Sydney.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Beauty in Flowers on Trees and in Vases

NZ Flax plant

What’s on the show today?

What’s the link between NZ and Australian plants we ask in the Garden History segment? Growing a summer type of spinach in Vegetable Heroes; , plus a which is the best flowering gum in Plant of the Week and more floral happenings in Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.


New Zealand Plants in Australia
You may not know that Australia was once joined to New Zealand.
Does this explain some plants that are similar because they were left when the continents drifted apart ever so slowly?
Or was it the fashion of the day to bring over plants from other countries when the colonials started setting up their ornamental gardens?
Let’s find out why NZ plants have made their mark.
I'm talking with Stuart Read who’s a member of the National Management Committee of the Australian Garden History Society.

New Zealand plants it turns out, mostly came across to Australia in the 1800's.
Phormium tenax, or New Zealand flax plant is one example; this plant remains fashionable today because of its sculptural qualities that fit into modernist homes.
Apart from failing to learn the techniques of rope making using flax, gardeners even today, use this plant far and wide, not just in Australia.
Cordyline australis or Palm Lily is another example, called Torquay palm in England because they think it's theirs.
The australis part of the scientific name reflects that it is from Australia, but in this case means "of the south" in a general sense.
Cabbage tree or palm lily has an exotic look and the buds of which were cut off and used as boiled cabbage.
Having more than one growth bud, it didn't kill off the plant.
Stuart remembers how the streets were lined with NZ Christmas bush where he grew up.
Plants in the myrtle family have many similarities, for example, Pohutakawa or NZ Christmas bush has the same type of flowers as our lilly pillies and bottle brush.

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


SILVERBEET or Beta vulgaris is grown as a leaf vegetable in Australia. 
Did you know that although the silver beet leaves are eaten like spinach, the stems may be cooked like celery?
The seedlings can also be served in salads.
Although it looks like true spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.), silver beet has a larger, coarser, milder tasting leaf.
It is also more tolerant of cold, heat, drought and disease.
What Is Perpetual Spinach?
As silver beet doesn’t easily go to seed during hot weather, it is grown in summer.
Did you also know that what’s sold as perpetual spinach, whether plants or seeds, is actually a type of silverbeet?
Perpetual Spinach is called that simply because it looks like and tastes similar to real spinach and so that name has become the norm for over a century.

The scientific Name is Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris.
Common Name: Silverbeet 'Perpetual Spinach',
Whereas, true spinach is Spinacia oleracea.
You might be surprised to learn that another name for chard is in fact ‘perpetual spinach.”
So Where Did It Come From?
Silver beet, a leafy relative of beetroot, comes from the coasts of Portugal, Spain and the Mediterranean islands. From there it spread to Britain and then to Australia and New Zealand.
The stems can be white, red, pink, orange or yellow. The leaves may be smooth or crinkled.
Leaf colours vary from light to dark green to deep red.
In general, the paler the leaf colour the milder the leaf flavour.
Silver beet is a biennial plant meaning it should last for a couple of years in your garden.
In the wild it grows leaves in its first season and produces seeds in the second season after germination.

Silverbeet prefers a shaded aspect that is sheltered.
Although it copes with strong winds, they can cause some leaf damage.
Will It Grow In A Pot?
If you want to grow Silverbeet in a pot, it must be quite deep, so a tall pot would suit quite well.
Silver beet does well in a wide range of climates, even in sub-tropical, temperate and cold temperate climates.
Varieties of Silverbeet
Fordhook Giant and Fordhook have broad, white stems and heavily crinkled, dark green leaves. 
Both these varieties are grown over the warmer months.
How to Sow
Silver beet can be direct sown or transplanted.
Silverbeet Seeds are Knobbly. Why?

  • Did you realise that the light brown, knobbly thing in the silverbeet packet, has two to six seeds?
  • That’s called a cluster seed, which is actually a dried fruit.
  • The cluster seed is sown ½  cm deep in the soil or into seed trays for transplanting.
Don’t let the soil or seed raising mix dry out  until the silver beet seedlings emerge, usually in about 10 days.
Thin them out when the silverbeets are 5cm high and use the thinned out seedlings in stir fries.
Silver beet needs plenty of nitrogen and water for the fast growth of large, well-shaped, tender leaves.
Commercial growers often enrich their soils with large quantities of animal manures, composts or green manures.
That means, alfalfa or lucerne is grown first to put lots of nitrogen into the soil with their nitrogen fixing nodules.
Don’t use fresh animal manures because the animal manures need to be composted to avoid spoiling the silver beet leaves with food poisoning micro-organisms.
Applying some blood and bone fertiliser before sowing gives silverbeet crops a good start, especially on sandy soils.
  • Here’s another interesting fact about silverbeet.
  • Did you know that the leaves are 93% water?
  • If you’re growing it in full sun, your plant will probably wilt in the summer heat.
  • That’s because it might stand up to summer weather but it’s not drought-resistant.
  • Keep it really well watered to prevent wilting.
  • Don’t worry if you come home and find it flopped over, it will recover after watering.
  • Sprinkler irrigation is the preferred method for silver beet as it encourages leaf growth.
  • However, good irrigation timing is needed to prevent leaf diseases from occurring with sprinkler irrigation.
The Most Common Disease of Silverbeet
  • The one fungal disease I have noticed on my silverbeet crop is called Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora beticola Sacc.) and is the most common fungal disease.
  • It produces light grey spots with brown margins on the older leaves. These spots fall out and create holes in the leaves.
  • The disease is favoured by high temperatures (24° to 30°C), high humidity or long periods of leaf wetness.
  • Cercospora leaf spot comes from several different ways into your garden.
  • It could be from diseased host crops or weeds growing near the silver beet, the environmental factors I mentioned, or a slight possibility that  it was from infected seed,.
  • If you do get this problem, don’t grow silverbeet in that spot for another 3 years.

Silverbeet can be cut and come again with multiple pickings.
The outer leaves are picked by pulling them down to 2.5 cm above the plant base, leaving the central leaves behind.

Pulling rather cutting the outer leaves reduces the amount of leaf damage in later pickings.
Silverbeet is ready in about 8 weeks and when the leaves are about the size of a ruler, ie, 30cm long.
Why is silverbeet good for you?
Like many leafy green vegetables, silverbeet has high levels of magnesium, calcium, vitamin K, iron, potassium, vitamin A –
vitamin A rich foods are great for a smoker or passive smoker. 
This is because a carcinogen found in cigarette smoke induces Vitamin A deficiency,
Eating a diet rich in Vitamin A may reduce the chances of developing lung inflammations.
Silverbeet is also rich in folate (folic acid), zinc, copper, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and vitamin E. 


Grafted Eucalypt Trees: Corymbia ficifolia

Would you like a tree that provides you stunning colour that you could also cut for your vase?
A tree whose flowers cover the leaves like a coloured blanket?
Better still, these trees don't grow much over 3 - 5 metres in height.

Of course you do, and if you have thought of it before, you’ll definitely want to grow this after you hear why it’s so good.
I'm talking with the plant panel : Jeremy Critchley of and Karen Smith, editor of
Let’s find out.

PLAY: Corymbia ficifolia_21st November_2018
The Plant Panel recommends that if your tree is suckering like Karen’s one, keep removing the suckers with secateurs, otherwise they will take over and possibly result in the death of the upper part, which is the scion.
  • TIP: When you plan to purchase a grafted eucalypt, make sure you check the graft union so that the top and bottom is equally matched.
If you have any questions about grafted eucalypts, why not write in to


Classic cut Flowers.
Mercede's definition of a bouquet of classic cut flowers is 'high end' cut flowers.
Think Ms Hydrangea, Ms Stephanotis,Mr Tuber Rose.
It's not just flowers though, there are berries that are incorporated into a bunch of classic flowers.
Try Ms Hypericumred or green berries. Hypericum androsaemum, also referred to as Tutsan, Shrubby St. John’s Wort , or sweet-amber, is a flowering plant in the family Hypericaceae. It is a perennial shrub reaching up to 70 cm in height, native to open woods and hillsides.
Also suitable are Ms Crab -Apple. Some florists say the perfect bouquet consists of crabapple, pepperberries and red/orange roses. 
How to treat Ms Hypericum:

  • Slit the woody ends and then soak them in a bucket of warm water for 3 to 4 hours so they can absorb as much moisture as possible. Strip off any leaves that will be under the water level in their container, fill it up with more water and place them in a cool, dimly lit room until the buds swell and begin to show color. 
Ms Stephanotis is a high end cut flower.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

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