Saturday, 15 June 2019

Tropical Planting Without Crying Over Onions

Old Fashioned plants that suit wet tropics and possibly elsewhere starts off the show, in Design Elements; grow nature’s antibiotic in Vegetable Heroes plus an old-fashioned plant re-made in Plant of the Week, plus, sharpening your secateurs just in time for pruning in Tool Time.


Old Fashioned Plants for the Wet Tropics

What is wet tropics? Is it your zone?
High humidity, but not too much over 35 degrees C perhaps? 
In Australia, we would say that Cairns, Babinda, 'cyclone alley' but not the Atherton tablelands, would fit the bill.
Darwin also, although, the Summer's are much hotter.
So what are the plants that would love that?
Let’s find out
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and project manager of Paradisus garden design

Peter mentioned: 
Pisonia umbeliffera-bird lime tree.
Mussaenda philippica or M. erythrophylla-showy bracts-large shrub with pink or white bracts.
Warszewiczia coccinea-Pride of Trinidad-bract type red flower.2m sprawly shrub.
Plumeria spp-P obtusa, P.rubra, P. caracasana, P. pudica- but not hybrids like P acuminata who get rust in this zone.
Plumeria rubra photo M Cannon

Perennials, and sub-shrubs:
Pseuderanthemum laxiflorum-purple Prince, open habit, 1m, purple flowers all year.
Heliconia rostrata-red and yellow
Dichorisandra thyrsiflora-Blue ginger.
Persian Shield
Rhinacanthus nasutus,, commonly known as snake jasmine, white butterfly flowers.-Low groundcover
ForShade: try these
Crossandra spp. Firecracker Flower-apricot flower, 400m
Crossandra infundibuliformis- Firecracker flower, (another form)
Strobilanthes dyerianus-Persian shield
Xanthostemon youngii
-red penda, brushlike

If you have any questions either for me or for Peter, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville  


Onions.  Or allium cepa are from the Alliaceae family that also contains Garlic, Leeks Shallots and Chives.
Most of these have corms or bulbs or underground stems with long thin leaves and clusters of varying numbers of flowers. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Did you know that onions were grown as a crop and eaten since prehistoric times?,
Onions are even mentioned in first dynasty of ancient Egypt, circa 3200 BCE, and have appeared in tomb paintings, inscriptions and documents from that time on. Some paintings depict onions heaped onto a banquet table.
  • Did you know that onions were was used to heal gun shot wounds and during World War 1, sphagnum moss was soaked in the juice as a wound dressing?
When to grow Onions?
In sub-tropical, cool temperate, warm temperate and arid climates you can plant them from April until August.

  • Onions are sensitive to the day length for formation of flowers, so it’s important to select the right variety (early – mid-season – late).
  • These varieties have different requirements in the length of daylight hours.
  • Early varieties are short day length onions, mid-season varieties are medium day length onions, and late varieties are long day length onions.
  • If planted out of season, onions may bolt to seed prematurely.
  • For example in temperate climates mid-season onions are sown in winter, growing through spring and harvested in summer.
  • These include Sweet Red and Brown Spanish Onions.
  • They love sunny well drained beds, especially when the bulbs mature in summer.

So why Grow Onions?
Onions are a good companion plant.
Grown around the garden they repel pests.
They contain sulphur which is a strong disinfectant.
How to Grow Onions with Success.
Remember to always lime your soil well a week or two before planting onions.
They love a sweet or alkaline soil.
I don’t really know why alkaline soils are called sweet.
Don't forget avoid applying manures and blood and bone to the beds in which you're about to grow your onions because they prefer alkaline soil.
You can use spent mushroom compost instead of cow manure.
Sowing seeds with Success

  • Onion seeds can be sown into seed raising mix into punnets.
  • Or if you want to sow them directly into the garden, make it easy for yourself, mix the seed with some river sand-say one packet of seed to one cup of sand and sow it that way. Bit like sowing carrots!
  • They can be transplanted to garden beds when the seedlings are around 8 cms tall.
  • According to the “Vegetable Patch” website, there is a secret to planting onion seedlings.
  • Instead of planting them sticking straight up, lay them down in a trench and move the soil back over their roots.
  • In about 10 days they're standing up and growing along strongly.
Some tips to keep your onions growing strongly is
Hand weed around onions to avoid disturbing their roots and bulbs.
 Keep away from nitrogen based liquid fertilisers when your onions are maturing, because the fertiliser will go into their leaves instead of their bulb.
Regularly water your onions.
Lack of water can delay growth or split the bulb.
Because of their strong taste pests generally leave onions alone.
When Do you Pick Your Onions?
  • Harvest onions (except spring onions) when the tops yellow and start drying.
  • This usually takes 6 months, so if you plant seedlings today, yours will be ready  in December.
  • Add a couple of weeks if your using seeds.
  • Pull the whole plant from the ground and leave it to dry in the sun.
  • Turn it every few days and avoid getting them wet (eg dew or rain).
  • Hang them in a cool dry place for around 3 weeks to cure.
  • If you store them in a cool dry place they should keep for a year.
  • This explains why you can buy onions all year round.
  • Eat the bulbs without a good dry skin first .
Why do we cry when we cut onions?
Onions contain complex sulphur compounds.
When you cut into an onion, two chemical reactions take place.
First, when a knife cuts through the cells of an onion, its enzymes release a strong odour.
Second, the onion releases allicin, a volatile sulphur gas that irritates the eyes and sends one rushing for a tissue.
Keeping Onions in the fridge can help with this problem.
To avoid a bitter flavour never, never buy onions that have begun to sprout greens from their stem portion.
This means they’re more than a year old.
If you see sprouts forming in your onions stored at home, simply snip them off and use the green part like chives, put the rest in the compost.
Why Are They Good For You?
Some health studies have shown raw onions to be effective in lowering overall cholesterol while raising HDLs, the good cholesterol.
Additionally, onions kill infectious bacteria, help to control blood sugar, aid in dissolving blood clots, and help to prevent cancer.
Perhaps we could do with eating some French Onion soup. Bon Appetit!


Nandina domestica spp.

  • Best known for it’s hardiness and loved by local councils who seem to plant it willy-nilly, this next plant has morphed into somewhat finer forms.
  • Which is a good thing because it’s one
  • of those old fashioned plants that gardeners would screw up their noses at.
  • Perhaps we can change your mind?

Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of out.

Jeremy mentioned Nandina filamentosa with superfine leaves. Use it as a filler plant.
N. citylights-dwarf-60cm also.
N Lemlim-new foliage is green instead of red.


Sharpen Those Secateurs
What’s the state of your gardening secateurs?
Do they open easily, are the blades sharp? You know they’re sharp if they make a clean cut through a plant’s stem without leaving a little tear behind.
Almost as if you only cut through part of the stem and then pulled off the remaining part.
Secateurs and garden snips photo M Cannon
If they’re not sharp, those cuts that you make on your plants will end up with bruising and tearing on the stems leading to dieback and fungal disease problems.
Let’s find out some tips about sharpening those precious garden tools.
I'm talking with Tony Mattson, General Manager of
  • Clean your tools at the end of the day, even if it's just a wipe over with a rag or cloth.
  • What you should be doing is give them a wash with warm water and two teaspoons of dish soap to scrub away sap and dirt from the  blades with a stiff brush
  • This is to prevent that gunk build up on the blades which can harbour disease.
  • Rub some vegetable oil onto the blades before putting them away to prevent the blades from rusting.

To quote a long time gardening presenter on Gippsland FM Community radio, 
"The jobs not done until the tools are put away."


Saturday, 8 June 2019

Lalage Leucomela Among the Bells of Ireland and Rock Samphire

Not tra la la but trill trill trill in the Wildlife in Focus segment: a most unusual fennel in Vegetable Heroes plus the series old fashioned plants continues in Design Elements, today it’s warm temperate coastal and Bells of Ireland in Talking flowers.


Varied Triller: Lalage leucomela

Today it’s a pretty looking bird that is Australian but with a French sounding scientific name.
Varied Triller's have a wide-ranging diet, about anything from fruits, to nectar, and insects.
Don’t be alarmed though, they go for the fruits of native figs and not your fruit trees in you backyard or orchard.
Varied Triller
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons from

The varied triller is a small to medium, about the size of a noisy miner and weigh around 35grams.
The male is black on top, with white eyebrows and grey barring on the chest. The Females are similar to the males, but with a little bit more brown in their feathers.
Lalage leucomela
Their call is a softish churring sound. Rather pleasant to listen to.
The Varied Triller builds a beautiful cup shaped nest held together with spider’s web and placed in the fork of a tree.
Sorry Tassie and Victoria, you miss out, but maybe when you’re travelling to other parts of Australia, you can listen out for them.

If you have any questions either for me or for Holly, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Sea Fennel: Crithmum maritimum
  • Did you know that this sea fennel is in the same family as carrots?Apiaceae-that is.
  • It’s called sea fennel because it can grow in saline soil.
It was Shakespeare, in the Tragedy of King Lear. London. (Act IV, scene VI,) who referred to the collecting of this herb “Half-way down, Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!" Meaning that people often lost their lives trying to collect Rock Samphire halfway down cliff faces.
Crithmum maritimum
Being a rare herb I was originally not going to mention this however, of late, these herbs are making a resurgence in various retail outlets, from seed, to dried herbs and pickles.
In fact an Australia seed company on the Mornington peninsula in Victoria does sell seeds of Sea Fennel, although they call it Rock Samphire in their catalogue.
  • The word Crithmum: comes from the Greek krithe: barley, because the fruit looks a bit like barleycorn. Of course maritimum means of the sea.
What's In A Name?
  • This plant also goes by the name of SAMPHIRE or Rock Samphire : a corruption of French St. Pieere, (St.Peter) the patron   saint of fishermen, also known as the rock.
  • In German, this plant is also given a name equivalent to sea-fennel: Meerfenchel, Sea Fennel also goes by the name of Herba di San Pietra (contracted to Sanpetra) its Italian name. It is dedicated to the fisherman saint, because it likes to grow on sea-cliffs.
Where It Grows in The Wild
Sea Fennel is still common round the coasts of Southern Europe and South and South-West England, Wales and Southern Ireland, but less common in the North and rare in Scotland.
How to Eat It?
Sea Fennel or Rock Samphire has been used in different ways for centuries, from the time of Greeks and Romans, as a food - raw, steamed, boiled or pickled, but it was also used as an medicament due to it's therapeutics and aromatic contents. Even today it is widely used in modern cosmetics perfumery and medicine.
  • Sea Fennel, or Rock Samphire is a perennial, frost hardy and easy to grow.
Where It Grows
  • It grows in its native environment from rocks and shingle and on cliffs to rocky shores, and is the last dry-land plant exposed to strong wind, salt, sea waves, drying sun... it survives extreme weather conditions.
  • From that if you thought that it likes sandy gritty soil that’s always moist,  you’d be right.
  • Samphire grows to anywhere between 15 and 45cm in the home garden, depending on local conditions.
  • Being a halophyte, it can withstand very dry conditions as well, so there’s no reason why it can’t grow anywhere in Australia.
  • However, Rock Samphire can tolerate being always moist as well as drying out between waterings, but not for long.
  • It can even tolerate frost.
What It looks like
Rock Samphire is a muted blue or pale aqua- green edible plant which also grows on tidal marshes.
Rock Samphire or Sea Fennel is a succulent, smooth or glabrous, multi-branched herb, and woody at the base, naturally growing on rocks on the sea-shore and wettened by the salt spray.
You can assume that it likes to grow on sea cliffs, rocks, or sandy well drained soil.
You could say that stems of Sea Fennel are long, fleshy, -green, shining leaflets (being a succulent they’re full of aromatic juice) and lots of clusters or umbels of tiny, yellowish-green flowers, although the flowers aren’t a real feature.
Rock Samphire
Being a succulent, if you have success with growing Aloe vera, than good, Rock Samphire likes the same growing conditions.
  • The whole plant is aromatic and has a powerful scent.Some say it has a strong smell of furniture polish, but I think that’s a bit harsh and think it’s more like aniseed.
  • Don’t confuse this plant with Sea Asparagus  or Marsh samphire, also known as glasswort (Salicornia europaea), that grows in coastal areas of Australia during the summer months.
Plants of Rock Samphire, will last you for many years in a pot or in the ground.
  • For those listeners with clayey soils, I would recommend growing them in pots at first, but seeing as they also grow in marsh land, you may be lucky if you tried it directly in the ground.
Grow it in full sun in a warm sheltered position.
When you buy the seeds of Rock Samphire and grow it, you can divide in up into more plants next spring or save the seed and grow more plants that way, to share amongst your friends or gardening group.

  • Sow seeds in autumn or spring, lightly cover the seed, grow on in pots and plant out in the summer.
  • Prefers a dry well drained soil in full sun sheltered from cold winds, benefits from a salty soil.
In the 19th century, samphire was being shipped in casks of seawater from the Isle of Wight to market in London at the end of May each year.
Sea Fennel or Rock samphire used to be cried in London streets as "Crest Marine".
  • The plant is quoted by John Gerard in his Materia Medica and Herbals (1597): “The leaves kept in pickle and eaten in salads with oil and vinegar is a pleasant sauce for meat, wholesome for the stoppings of the liver, milt and kidnies. It is the pleasantest sauce, most familiar and best agreeing with man’s body”.
Where do you get it? The Royal Botanic gardens nursery have started propagating this plant-where I got mine from. You can also buy it online and I’ll put on link to that nursery on my website.
By the way, you can also buy it on that auction site ebay in Australia and they promise to express ship the plant to you.

Why is it good for you?
  • Crithmum maritimum  or Rock Samphire, is a strongly aromatic, salty herb; it contains a volatile oil, pectin, is rich in vitamin C and minerals, has diuretic effects, cleanses toxins and improves digestion, and helps weight loss-possibly because of the diuretic part.
It has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • The easiest way to use Samphire, is to steam the stems, minus the leaves, and dress with lemon juice and some extra virgin olive oil. Use it as a side vegetable. It’s saltiness goes well with seafood and eggs.
Pickled Sea Fennel (Rock Samphire, Motar...)
Pick the young and green rock samphire beginning of March (in Australia) before it flowers. Break into 2 in. lengths, lay on a dish and sprinkle with dry salt. Leave for 24 hours. Drain, then cook gently until tender in enough vinegar to just cover it, but don't allow it to get soft. :
Plain vinegar is best for this as the samphire has its own spicy flavour.
Seal down securely in hot jars
Hand pick sea Fennel before it flowers. Pick of the small leaves and use them in a salad.
Wash the stems.
Cook it in mixture of water and vinegar (70:30) for 15 min until tender.
Leave it to cool and store it in jars filled with diluted vinegar (half water, half vinegar).
You can use it for seasoning salads, or as a cold relish to round meat or fish dish!
Experiment with it and you will discover wonderful ways to enjoy this extraordinary plant!

Old Fashioned Shrubs: Warm Temperate Coastal and Inland Mediterranean zones.
This includes Adelaide, even Melbourne, and Alice Springs with temps in the 40’s in the Summer and rain in the winter.
What is on offer for the hot dry sub-tropics. Let’s find out. 
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer & project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.

Temperate coastal and inland mediterranean are zones that would suit many a location around 
    Arbutus unedo
Australia as long
Peter mentioned these plants
Shrubs and small trees: 
  • Carpentaria californica-white flowers.
  • Alyogyne heugeli-mauve flower, also in white.
  • Nerium oleander-cut them any which way and they respond.
  • Arbutus unedo-Irish strawberry tree.

Romeya coulteri photo M Cannon
Perennials & sub-shrubs: that are easy in that climate
  • Perlagoniums, peltatum, sidioides, Sims carnations, hate humidity
  • Salvia spathaceae-pinky red flowers
  • Monarda didyma-heaps of hybrids
  • Phlomis italicum-sage like in appearance
  • Romneya coulteri with very large poppy like flowers.
  • Mimulus or Diplacus, both are monkey flowers-semi-shade location.
  • Acca sellowiana-fejoa, prefers low humidity.
  • Caeselpina ferrai-Leopard tree
  • Iochrama-violet tube flowers
  • Artemisia arborescens-wormwood.


Bells of Ireland: Molucella laevis:
Native to Syria and Turkey and not as Carol Linnaeus thought, native to the Molucca Islands of Indonesia.
  • Is it grown for the foliage or the flowers?
Not actually a flower, but instead are amplified calyxes that grow into a flowering plant. Calyxes (or bells) are leaves or sepals that develop into a protective house for the quite small and slightly fragrant, white or pink flowers.
The prominent part is actually the calyx.
Best grown in light sandy soil, the molucella plant also requires a good, openly sunny spot. Flower right through spring, summer and into autumn, Bells of Ireland offer interest.
Can grow to 1 metre tall.

  • Mercedes says that "slip on the heels" if you want to use the stems in a flower arrangement. That means of course that you need to cut the bottom of the stem on a diagonal.
  • Easily grown from seed but cold stratification will help with germination.
How to cold stratify
You can expose them to cold by sowing them outdoors in the Autumn, or by refrigerating them for a week before starting them indoors.
  • Don't just place the seed packet in the refrigerator.
  • Sandwich seeds between moist coffee filters or paper towels in the refrigerator, followed by planting in soil. 
  • Experts say this moist stratification results in a higher germination rate than simply exposing dry seeds to cold temperatures.
I'm talking with floral therapist, Mercedes Sarmini, of

This video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2RRR 88.5 fm in Sydney.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Caring For Brassicas and Hot Old Fashioned Shrubs

Growing brassicas in the Good Earth segment and more green veggies in Vegetable Heroes plus the series old fashioned plants continues in Design Elements, today it’s hot sub-tropics and a butterfly bush, but which one? In Plant of the Week.


Caring For Brassicas
Brassicas are a large family of plants which include not just white cauliflowers and green broccoli, but all manner of purple caulis, purple sprouting broccoli and purple or green cabbages just to mention a few.
Lovely cabbages Photo: Margaret Mossakowska
There’s even a veg that’s a cross between brussel sprouts and kale, called Brukale. Whatever next?
So what’s needed to grow the best brassicas? Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from Moss House.

TIPS: Don't overdo high nitrogen fertilisers for the heading brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflowers. That means blood 'n' bone, and chook poo pellets.
Too much nitrogen will result in smaller heads.
  • Be careful what you use to control pests on your brassicas, so that you don’t kill ladybird, hoverfly and lacewing larvae which are all beneficial insects.
  • Margaret's tip is to use upturned wire baskets that you may have seen in offices from days gone by.
  • These may be obtained from recycle stores or from the $2 shop.
  • When the cabbages or other brassicas have outgrown these baskets, you can then cover them with exclusion netting.
Exclusion netting photo: Margaret Mossakowska
If you have any questions either for me or for Margaret, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Peas: Pisum sativum
We growing peas!
  • Peapods are botanically a fruit, since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower.
  • But as always, cooks don’t stick to Science and peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking.

Peas or  Pisum sativum, belong to the Fabaceae family, which means they fix Nitrogen from the air into their roots.
And you thought you knew everything there was to know about peas?
We all know what Peas look like-those green spheres inside green pods around 10cm long.
Did you know that Peas have been found in ancient ruins dated at 8000 years old in the Middle East and in Turkey?
In these ancient times dried peas were an essential part of the diet because they could be stored for long periods and provided protein during the famine months of winter. No fridges then, remember!
  • Did you know that both dwarf and field peas were part of the cargo of the First Fleet to Australia in 1788 and, on arrival at Sydney Cove, each convict and marine was given a weekly ration of three pints of ‘pease’.By 1802 Peas were growing in Port Jackson and in Parramatta gardens.

  • The best time to sow Peas, if you are living on the East Coast is from April until September;
  • In arid climates from April until August.
  • In sub-tropical districts, from April and until July and for cool zones, late winter until October. On the Tablelands they should be sown after the last frosts.
  • Peas are best planted at soil temperatures between 8°C and 24°C.
  • Sow the seeds directly into the soil 15mm to 20mm deep (knuckle deep) and 75mm to 100mm apart . Water in well and don't let them dry out.
  • I like to soak my Pea seeds overnight because this gives a better strike rate.
  • Some gardeners prefer to sow their seeds into tubs/punnets so they can keep a closer eye on them especially if there is a possibility of a frost.
  • Once they have their second crop of leaves and no more frost, they can be transplanted out in the garden.

Peas Don't Like:
  • Have you ever found that Peas don’t seem to grow well near Onions, Chives, Garlic?
  • Peas don’t like a lot of mulch or manure especially up against the stalk/stem, or being over-watered as they tend to rot off at the base of the stem.
  • Don’t over-feed young plants or they’ll grow lanky and you won’t get too many pea pods.
  • Wait until they’ve started flowering and then give them a good feed of liquid fertilizer at least once a fortnight.
  • I prefer to feed my plants with liquid fertilisers in winter because in the cold weather, plants can use liquid fertilisers, easier and faster than the granular type.
  • TIP: Water your Peas in the mornings to avoid mildew.
  • Don’t overhead water late in the afternoon.

With dwarf Peas you will have one main crop, with a second lighter crop and some pickings in between for the pot.
Peas freeze well and, providing they are processed immediately after picking, lose no more of their nutritional value than in just cooking them.
Chewing pests

  • If you’re bothered with snails and slugs, a good idea is to place a bottomless container around the young seedlings to stop the pests, or in my case the dragon lizard, from cutting/biting the tops off the new shoots; this will also give the new plants some protection from the wind.
  • Dwarf Peas only grow about 300mm to 600mm high but need some support.
  • You can use pretty much anything from wire/mesh, string and bamboo.
  • The support or trellis should be facing towards the midday sun, (that’s north).
  • Climbing Peas grow to about 2m and crop for quite a long time.
  • If you pick them regularly, your pea plants will grow like mad and you’ll get a bigger crop.
  • After the Peas have stopped producing the trellis can also be used for growing cucumbers, pumpkins or tomatoes.
  • Before you start ripping the pea vines off the trellis cut the stems off at ground level; leave the roots in the ground as pea roots produce nitrogen nodules.
  • These roots will break down and give your next seedlings a good kick start.

Why are they good for you?
Being low in calories, green peas are good for those who are trying to lose weight.
Green peas are rich in dietary fibre, may potentially lower cholesterol.
Peas have a  high amount of iron and vitamin C to help strengthen the immune system.
Green peas slow down the appearance of glucose in the blood and thus, help keep the energy levels steady.


Old Fashioned Plants for the Hot Sub-Tropics

What to plant in those parts of Australia which have no rain for months, and then never ending rain in others?
What if they don’t get rain for 12 months like in Madagascar?

You need plants that can store water but look good.

What is on offer for the hot dry sub-tropics. Let’s find out.

I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer & project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.

 Cool sub-tropics is not a zone you would normally think of but there it is.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum_Queen of the Night
Peter mentioned these plants

  • Cussonia paniculata-the Mountain Cabbage tree from Sth Africa
  • Brachychiton bidwillii-exceeds 10m over a long time.
  • Brachychiton rupestris-Qld Bottle tree
  • Pachypodoium geayi or P lamerei -similar white flowers to Frangipani
  • Gardenia aubreyi-white flower- a small gardenia like tree
  • Adenium obesum-the Desert Rose- with a swollen base or caudex and fleuro coloured flowers.
  • Zamiocalcus zamiifolia-ZZ plant, no water in winter for semi-shade.
  • Ephipyllum oxypetalum-queen of the night.
  • E. anguliger and Epiphyllum 'Curly Sue' Guatemalense Monstrose.


Clerodendron Ugandense: Butterfly Bush
There are plenty of shrubs that are called by the common name of Butterfly Bush so it can be confusing if you want a particular one but don’t know the botanical name.
Some are called butterfly bush because they attract butterflies in that they have heaps of nectar and a landing pad for the butterflies to rest on while they’re having a drink.
Others are called butterfly bush because the flowers look like little butterflies.
But first, let’s find out about this plant.

I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

We mentioned several different varieties namely
  • Clerodendron thomsonii, the white flowered climber, 
  • Clerodendron schmidtii _white flowered shrub 
  • Clerodendron ugandense-the blue flowered shrub
  If you have any questions about growing this particular butterfly bush either for me or for any of the plant panel, then why not write in to 

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Rosemary, Old Fashioned Shrubs and Beeswax Wraps

The show started with the herbalist segment of plant of the week, Simone is talking about the ‘dew of the sea.” growing a crop that’s good for the soil but not for eating in vegetable heroes, the new series on old fashioned shrubs for every region in Australia continues in Design Elements and how to use less plastic in the lunchbox with these beeswax wraps in the Good Earth.


Herbal: Rosmarinus officinalis: Rosemary
Dew of the sea, what can that be?
Not a rhyme but a riddle about which herb that grows by the coast, and is used by herbalists and naturopaths.
Rosemary flowers
With a pretty little flower either white, pink or blue and needle like leaves, this herb grows easily and has a minty-sage or pine like flavour.
No surprises that it belongs to the mint family. ( Lamiaceae).
Let’s find out more. I'm talking with Simone Jeffries, herbalist and naturopath.

The herb rosemary, is pretty hardy in any climate zone and most soils.
One thing it detests is wet feet being a herb originating from the Mediterranean.
Rosemary leaves contain many essential components and strictly speaking, the distilled oil isn't a real oil because it contains no fat.
The main chemical components of rosemary oil include a-pinene, borneol, b-pinene, camphor, bornyl acetate, camphene, 1,8-cineole, and limonene.
Rosemary is regarded as a memory herb, probably because it helps your blood to circulate.
Good for tension headaches and energises you if you drink it as a tea
Steep a large bunch in hot water for 10 minutes in this case.
In Cooking:
Use it scones and orange cake or saute rosemary and fresh mushrooms with some butter. 
In stuffing for chicken, combine rosemary with thyme and sage with either rice or breadcrumbs. Delicious!

If you have any questions either for me or for Simone drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Green Manure Crops for Winter
  • If you want to improve your soil structure and at the same time add nitrogen to the soil, consider a green manure crop in an overworked vegetable patch.
What are the benefits of green manure crops and why is it called  green manure?
  • Green manure crops are called that because the crop or plants are not for eating but when they are nearly mature, and before they set seed, the oats, or wheat or whatever are slashed and then turned into the soil.  This adds nutrients to the soil especially if you use legume type crops.
Field peas
They increase organic matter, earthworms and beneficial micro-organisms
Green manure crops increase the soil's available nitrogen and increase moisture retention
They stabilise the soil to prevent erosion
Green manure crops also bring deep minerals to the surface and break up hard clods in the soil structure.
The provide habitat, nectar and pollen for beneficial insects and reduce populations of pests
Improve water, root and air penetration in the soil
Smother weeds.
The crops used for green manure tend to be a combination of:
  • Legumes – These add nitrogen (critical for food crops) to the soil, such as cow pea, mung bean, woolly pod vetch, lablab, broad bean, fenugreek and soybean;
  • Grains and grasses - These add organic substance to the soil, such as millet, buckwheat and oats.
At this time of year, it’s called a cool season green manure crop.
Try faba bean, field pea, oats and wheat.
  • This will improve your soil incredibly, and, for a bit of forward planning, you’ll find it well worth the effort.
How do you do this? I hear you ask, well here are the steps.
Avena sativa, Oats
  • Rake the garden smooth to prepare the seed bed.
  • Plant seeds that sprout and grow quickly for your green manure crop. Use what's popular in your area or choose from alfalfa, white clover or wheat or oats.
  • Or, recycle any kind of seeds for green manure - leftover flowers, outdated or extra veggies. You can add any out-of-date vegetable seeds you have left over from last season as well. Legumes like beans and peas are especially good, since they’ll fix nitrogen in the soil, but anything else you have will help.
  • Just scatter the seed around your garden bed, about two handfuls per square meter. Then lightly rake it over to get the seeds into the dirt, and water it in well. You may need to cover the bed with a net if the birds discover the free feast you’ve laid out for them.
  • Fertilize once with organic nitrogen if it seems slow to get growing.
  • Let the green manure crop grow 7-10 cm tall. Leave the green manure on the garden until it matures to control erosion and existing weeds in the bed - call it a cover crop. 
  • Don't let it seed – With legume crops, when the plant begins to seed after flowering, the nitrogen fixing potential of the crop becomes less because  the nitrogen is partly used up in seed the forming process.
  • With grain/grass crops, they will seed without flowering so if you let them seed, you will have lots of seeds falling into the bed and this will make it hard for you to stop the seeds sprouting of the green manure crop instead o the one you want.
  • Cutting it down – When it has reached a good height (half a metre) and is not seeding, cut it down to the ground.
  • If it is a small bed, use shears. If it is a large space, use a mower.
  • Place all the green matter back on the bed and it will cover the bed and the roots of all the plants will remain in the soil.
  • Leave the bed for about a month and don't dig up the crop, let it rot in the bed. It should not grow back because you haven’t let it seed.

What you’ll get is soil which is full of organic substance, life and minerals, ready to use and produce an excellent crop of food.
  • Cover the newly dug bed with a blanket of organic mulch until planting time.
  • Use green manure crops in every unplanted vegetable, herb and flower bed.
  • Plant also in compacted areas - such as under trees - and newly graded lots. 
  • Allow little roots to break up the soil, which will aerate and renew its structure, before you plant a new lawn.
Take advantage of the natural power of peas and beans to take nitrogen from the air and hold it in their leaves.
Turn vines and leaves under, after picking the vegetables, for another green manure crop.
For a cheap alternative to buying the manure crops online, I’ve found this tip to be quite useful.
This is the absolute simplest, cheapest and best thing is do.
Bird seed
Just buy a bag of organic bird seed. Read the back of the packet and find one with the mix you want.
The last lot I planted contained millet, sorghum, wheat, oats, barley, rye, corn and sunflowers.
Bird seed will be chemical-free and fresh (since they don’t want to kill your pets!), and very cheap. It’s available at any supermarket.
Go on, give it a try, the whole thing should only take up about 6-8 weeks and it’s the best way to improve your garden soil.


Old Fashioned Shrubs for Cool Sub-tropical part 2
This series is all about what were those old fashioned shrubs that you may have some of in your garden.
Last week was part 1 of cool sub-tropics which is a zoning not mentioned before by any gardening book I know.
Leopard plant
Peter has added this zoning to cover parts of the east coast that are warm and humid but not as warm and humid as say Cairns or Townsville.
Let’s find out what old fashioned shrubs suit cool temperate areas.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer & project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.

Cool sub-tropics is not a zone you would normally think of but there it is.
Peter mentioned plants for shade:
Barleria cristata
Barleria cristata -Lavendar lace
Lobelia laxiflora 1.2m height with orange/yellow flowers;
 Ruellia mackoyana-groundcover

Plants for semi-shade:
Farfugia japonicum aureomaculatum-Leopard plant
Plectranthus ecklonii and P. grandis with blue flowers

If you have any questions for Peter or for me, you know what to do..


 Beeswax wraps.
Plastic is back in the media as being bad for the environment, so much so, that some countries have banned the use of plastic bags.
Soft plastics such as what you use for wrapping your sandwiches are just as much of a problem as the bags because, it doesn’t break down ever.
So what else can you wrap your sandwiches in other than putting it in a plastic container?
So let’s find out.
Beeswax wraps for food storage
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska, Director of and course coordinator for Permaculture North in Sydney.

You can spend the dollars and buy the ready-made beeswax wraps, or you can do it yourself quite cheaply. 
How to Make Beeswax wraps
12g Beeswax
40 x 40 cm piece of cotton. Quilting cotton density.
Jojoba oil in a spray bottle.
So go on, kick the plastic habit and make some beeswax wraps yourself

Monday, 20 May 2019

Backyard Tea and Marigold are Archangelica

Starting with Backyard Biodynamics and are weeds really bad? growing a why grow Angelica in vegetable heroes, a the new series on old fashioned shrubs for every region in Australia continues in Design Elements and all about Marigolds in the Talking Flowers segment.


Weed Tea
Have you ever though of weeds as messengers?
Probably not because like most gardeners, when we see weeds, we think of the work that’s needed to either pull them out or spray them with something or other.
Technically, weeds are classified as those plants which are growing in the wrong place as identified by the gardener. Weeds in paths and driveways are one example.
Weeds are plants that are not wanted
Either way, it often involves a bit of back breaking work which over the years doesn’t get any easier.
But is there a good side to the weed story?
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Diane Watkin, founder of Backyard Biodynamics Sydney,

Take heed of what weeds you have in the garden before you pull them out.
Identifying weeds by soil type can help you determine what your soil may ultimately be lacking.
If you have poorly drained soil for example, you may find that chickweed, spurge, violet, moss, knotweed and sedge  likes to grow there.
Stellaria media-Chickweed
chickweed and Spurge are also indicators of alkaline soil.
Weeds can also help you pinpoint nutrient deficiencies.
Thistles indicate lack of Magnesium and Copper.
Both are trace elements which is easy enough to treat your soil for.
Clover in your lawn indicates lack of nitrogen too..Another easy fix. 
Weed Tea Brew For Your Garden
Weeds are also good accumulators of specific nutrients.
Put this back into your soil by making a weed tea: all you need to do is steep a bucket of weeds (not seeded) in water for several weeks.
The resulting brew, can be diluted and poured back into the garden.
If you have any questions either for me or for Dianne, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Angelica archangelica or just Angelica
There are other varieties of angelica but only the one with the scientific name Angelica archangelica that can be used in cooking.
  • Did you know that supposedly an angel presented an angelica plant to man as a cure for the plague, and 15th and 16th century herbalists recommended eating or chewing the roots as a cure for a number of diseases?
    Angelica archangelica
  • Angelica is native to Europe, Asia and North America.
Although angelica is a biennial herb-growing the first year and flowering the second-it will keep growing for a few more years if you clip off the flower stems before they bloom.
So what does angelica look like?
  • There are a couple of different varieties.
  • One has yellowish green, feathery leaves that look tropical because of their large size which is about 0.7-1m long, and are divided into 3 leaflets with toothed edges.
  • This variety of Angelica has greenish white flowers that hang in umbrella like clusters at the ends of the stalks which are 1-1.5m tall, hollow, and stiff, so it's not really a plant for pots.
Another variety has by far the darkest of the Angelica's, with a rosette of near black delicately divided foliage.
During early Summer, dark flower stems carry broad umbels of purple buds, which open to soft pink.
How to grow it-
  • Angelica likes moist, rich soil that is slightly acid, growing best in semi-shade.
  • Angelica can grow it most of Australia although doesn’t grow that well in hot humid climates.
  • Find a shady, sheltered spot for growing angelica - it likes moist soil, so keep it well watered - if you have a pond and can provide shelter, then it would do well there because it’s normally found near water in the wild.
  • Although that’s not really necessary.
  • Mine grows well on the south side of a garage-but then it spread to a nearby veggie bed, and seems to be OK there too.
  • Angelica grows easily from seed that is if you’re growing your own or know of someone that has some.
  • To get the flower seed-it’s just a matter of waiting after the flowers have died.
  • One seed head has about 100 seeds.But you need to sow them within a few weeks after ripening or they lose their viability.
  • Either sow seeds in the late summer and thin to 15cm then in the second year to 60cm then to 150cm or buy plants in autumn or spring and set them a metre apart.
  • If they self seed, then keep the strongest as replacement stock.
  • You also can propagate angelica from root cuttings.
  • It grows for four to five years as a rule, then it’ll die.

One thing to note, Angelica dies down completely in winter and re-shoots in spring, so remember where you last planted it.
Harvesting Angelica. How Do I Use It?
So now you’re growing Angelica and you’re wondering what do I do with this plant.
Firstly, it’s a reasonably attractive addition to any cottage or perennial garden, because the flowers and leaves are various shades of either green or purpleso they blend well with just about anything.
Depending on which variety you have of course.
But you can use it in the kitchen if you’re prepared to wait a year.
Angelica stems
Plus, the candied angelica that you buy is not a patch on the real deal.
I’ll post the recipe on the website or you can write in for a fact sheet.
In the second year and onwards, you can cut the stalks for candying.
The books say do this in mid to late spring, whilst they are still young and green, but honestly, we’ve had such warm weather, that the Angelica I have in the garden is still green.
If you want to use the roots, then do it when the plant is still young in autumn or early winter or they may get woody
What Do You Do With It?
The roots, leaves, and stalks of angelica have a number of uses.
Young angelica stems can be candied and used to decorate cakes and pastries, and can also be jellied.
The leaves are used in herb pillows - it's said to have a calming effect - and the roots can be cooked with butter.
Chopped leaves may be added to fruit salads, fish dishes and cottage cheese in small amounts.
Add leaves to sour fruit such as rhubarb to neutralize acidity.
Boil the stems with jams to improve the jam’s flavour.
Remove the stems before canning or freezing. Young stems can be used as a substitute for celery.
You can also eat the boiled roots and stems like celery.
Commercially, the seeds and an oil made from the stems and roots are used as a flavouring in many liqueurs such as vermouth, chartreuse, and Benedictine, and the seeds also can be brewed into a tea.
Wait, there’s more, the leaves or roots can be cooked with rhubarb or gooseberries to lessen the acidity.
So, all round it's a good value plant and there's a great deal of satisfaction to be had from producing something that most people only buy in shops or see in restaurants - candied angelica.
TIP To keep your Angelica growing in the garden you need to make sure it’s well watered and remove the stems before they flower as the angelica will die after flowering and setting seed.
You can keep one or two going longer to fill in the gap left by waiting for seedlings to mature by not allowing them to flower.
Why is it good for you?
After the bacterial theory was disproven in relation to the bubonic plaque of 1665 it was realized that Angelica had antibacterial properties. 
Some people apparently chew the dried root for its anti-viral properties.

5 Old Fashioned Shrubs Cool Sub-Tropical Part 1

Last week I mentioned that gone are the days when you had lots of variety in garden centres to choose from.
This series is all about what were those old fashioned shrubs.
But we’re not just doing a blanket five but going through each climate zone in Australia, including some of Peter Nixon’s zoning.
Aucuba japonica

Some of these other zones might suit your area as well even though they’re classified as say arid or sub-tropical.
It all depends on whether or not you’ve got a micro-climate in your garden that will suit.
Let’s find out what old fashioned shrubs suit cool temperate areas.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer & project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.
PLAY: Old Fashioned Shrubs cool sub-tropics part 1 8th May 2019
Cool sub-tropics is not a zone you would normally think of but there it is.
Peter mentioned for the south side: shady
Thevetia peruviana
  • Platycodon homalocladium or bad hair day plant.
  • Aucuba japonica-gold dust plant ; Japanese Maple
  • Selection of Fuchsias eg Tom Thumb.
  • On the northern side: Hibiscus mutabilis; Rothmannia globosa-September Bells
  • Thevetia peruviana-Yellow Oleander; Hibiscus schizopetalus
  • Melastoma affine-Blue Tongue; Eriostemen_Philotheca myoporoides
If you have any questions for Peter or for me, you know what to do..


Marigolds: Tagetes erect: Tagetes patula
Native to North and South America
  • Sowing: They take off easily from seed, either grown indoors during the winter months or sown directly into the soil when it’s warmer out.
  • Good companion plant because they attract pollinators and improve soil quality.
  •  Be mindful not to water marigolds from the top. If their blooms get too wet, they will often turn into a mushy brown mess.
Did you know that one variety of the flower is even fed to chickens so that egg yolks have a more perfect yellow colour?

Myth or Fact?
Legend has it that Mother Mary of the Christian tradition was robbed by bandits, but when they cut open her purse all that fell out were yellow flowers, something that would one day by named “marigold” (Mary’s gold) in her honour.
Or was it because early Christians placed flowers instead of coins on Mary’s altar as offerings?

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

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