Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Banksias, Fennel and Birds Nest Ferns Plus a Little Frangipani

Find out growing tips when I talk to the President of the Frangipani Society of Australia in part 2. Growing a veggie that’s has a little aniseed flavour in vegetable heroes, great for shade in Plant of the Week and an Australian favourite native in the Talking Flower segment.

Frangipani Culture part 2

Last week I had part 1 of the interview with the President of the Frangipani Society of Australia.
Anthony had so much to say it was necessary to split it over two weeks.
In this part, you’ll discover quite a few extra tips and growing frangi’s as they’re known by members, and how to get them to flower well.

Let’s find out. I'm talking with Anthony Grassi from the Frangipani Society of Australia.

General Tips:

Frangi's can be transplanted in winter when they're dormant.
Reduce the canopy by 50% because you will have to reduce the root system prior to moving the tree.
Frangipani seeds last 5-6 years but some can last upwards of 10 years before planting.
Sow the Frangi seed in seed-raising mix and stand the seed up. The fat end goes in first.
In warm temperate districts, the frangipani will flower 2-3 years after sowing the seed. In the sub-tropics it may be as little as one year.
Frangipani rubra flowers photo M. Cannon
Colder climates will take around 5 years or more.
They now are a FB society so you can join their FB page, but if you join the society, you get to also join the financial members FB page as well as receive a lovely calendar, CD and tips on how to grow the best Frangipanis ever.

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


Florence Fennel Foeniculum vulgare dulce and var. azoricum
Did I really mean Florence Fennel?
You might think that I’m trying to get you to grow that roadside weed that is found all over Australia.
No, I’m talking about the culinary fennel.
That other fennel was probably the Fennel  mentioned in the seed  inventory list brought out to Australia by the First Fleet in 1788.
Fennel is a member of the Apiaceae family, which include parsley, caraway, dill, cumin, anise and carrot.

Did you know that in Ancient Greece fennel juice was used as an effective cure for poor eyesight, night blindness and cataract?
In medieval Europe, fennel and St John's wort were used together to ward off evil.
  • The real fennel (Florence fennel Foeniculum vulgare Azoricum Group;) is a cultivar group with a sort of bulb at the base that you can use in cooking, salads and stir fries.
  • Also the real fennel or Florence Fennel has a much milder anise-like flavour, than wild Fennel and is more aromatic and sweeter.

Where  and When to grow it?
  • This plant is best in hot, dry climates but will grow in practically all climates of Australia. Knowing when to sow the seeds is the key.
  • Timing is crucial: if sown too early, cold can cause bolting; if sown too late, plants won't fatten up before the winter
  • Now is ideal, when the temperature is stable, day length is consistent and there's at least 16 weeks for bulbs to develop.
  • In sub-tropical areas, you can plant or sow seeds from March until May, in temperate zones, from February until May, in cool temperate zones, you have from February until about mid- March, and for cold or mountain districts, it was February then not again until November/December unless you have a greenhouse.
  • For arid areas you have March and April and again in July.
  • Should you have a soil thermometer, Fennel is best planted at soil temperatures between 10°C and 25°C  and as a general rule of thumb, soil temperatures are around a few degrees cooler than the current air temperature.

Likes and Dislikes of Florence Fennel

A perennial that’s rather stocky and really only grows to about 60cm
  • It resents disturbance and responds to any shock by bolting: so you’ll only get feathery fronds and flowers, but no swollen stems.
  • Because the bulb grows only partially below ground, and mostly above ground it suits those districts with heavy soils. Otherwise, you can grow it in a pot-by itself.
  • Florence Fennel isn’t too fussy with soils as long as the veggie bed, or garden bed is well drained as has compost or decayed animal manure dug in, In cool temperate districts cut back the plant to about 10cm above the ground as winter draws nearer.
  • Fennel likes a well-drained soil, fertile from having been manured the previous year.
  • When planting your Florence Fennel seeds –sow them about  5mm deep, and unless you’ve got a lot of space, you don’t need more than 2 or 3 because they need spacing of about 30cm.
  • Never let the soil dry out because water is needed for germination, steady growth and swelling.
  • If roots become visible or plants seem unsteady, earth them up to stabilise them.
  • This will help make bulbs white and tender and, later, exclude frost.

Looking After Florence
  • After about 6 weeks you can hill out the soil around the emerging bulb so that, like Celery, the base stays white and is more tender than if you allow the sunlight to turn it green.
  • Hilling up is just mounding soil or mulch around the base of the plant.
  • You can make sleeves out of newspapers or use bottomless milk cartons to keep the hilled soil from getting into the leaves of the Fennel plant.
  • Plants take several months to mature that’s 3-4 months after sowing.

When they look big enough to eat use a garden fork to loosen the roots and cut the bulb off about 2.5cm above the ground.
This way you’ll get more feathery shoots that can be used as celery/dill-flavoured seasoning in the kitchen.
 The bulb is best sweet, ripe and fresh (try it raw in salads) but it will also keep for several weeks in a cool, dry place.
You can get root cuttings from plants that have been lifted during spring, so any if you attend a garden club, ask if any members have this plant.
There are plenty of seed suppliers in Australia that have Florence Fennel Seeds.
Why is it good for you?

The fennel bulb is also an excellent source of Vitamin C
Did you know that if you don’t get enough Vitamin C that’s linked to the increase in the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis?
 Fennel also has folate (Vitamin B), fibre and potassium.
One cup of fennel has 10.8 per cent of the daily fibre intake, 5.9 per cent of the daily folate and 10.3 per cent of the daily potassium.
 An advantage of growing Florence fennel are that it attracts parasitic wasps and very small Praying Mantises.
It’s free of pests and it looks great and the Fennel bulb is delicious baked, too.

 NEW  Birds Nest Ferns
  • Asplenium nidus is an epiphytic species of fern in the family Aspleniaceae, native to tropical southeastern Asia, eastern Australia, Hawaii, Polynesia, Christmas Island, India, and eastern Africa.

Ferns are great for shady places in the garden where not many flowering plants will go.
But do you think of ferns as a tad boring?
They’re just green right?
Wrong. Ferns come in all shapes and sizes, with so many different frond shapes and a little variation in colour as well.
But here’s a fern that’s traditionally too big to consider for indoors unless you have a conservatory, now available in a dwarf form too.
Let’s find out why we should grow it.
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of the

Asplenium nidus 'Crispy Wave'
Jeremy grows a lot of birds nest ferns in different frond shapes and sizes.
Some of these are dwarfish and can be used as indoor plants.
Why not look out for these in your local nursery or garden centre.
Asplenium 'Crispy Wave' or Asplenium' Chrissie' and Asplenium 'Victoria.'

If you have any questions either for me Jeremy why not write in to


Banksia species
Australia isn't overwhelmed with different types of Banksias.
Banksia is a genus of only around 173 species in the plant family Proteaceae.
All but one occur naturally only in Australia.
Breeders have hybridised many more, think Banksia 'Birthday Candles.'

The flower heads are made up of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of tiny individual flowers grouped together in pairs. 
The colour of the flower heads appear very similar across many species. 
Think a honey coloured brown with some red.
Banksias are great for nectar feeding birds because they flower over autumn and winter when food is scarce for them.
The fruits of banksias (called follicles) are hard and woody and are often grouped together to resemble cones. they're not cones of course because Bankias aren't conifers.
In many species the fruits won't open until they have been burnt or completely dried out.
  • An easy way to release seed is to place the 'cone' in an oven at 120°­140° C for about an hour. 
  • The follicles then open and the seeds can be removed with tweezers. Two black winged seeds are usually found in each follicle.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini about Banksias as a cut flower.

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