Saturday, 20 April 2019

Hydrangeas, Proteas and Whip Snip Snip

Garden trimming tools in the spotlight on Tool Time, growing beans that suit winter conditions in vegetable heroes, they may be old fashioned but we love them in Plant of the week and the oldest flowers on earth in Talking Flowers.


Trimmers; Whipper Snippers; Brushcutters

  • Which jobs do you hate doing in your garden aside from weeding?
  • Lawn edges could be one of them?
  • There’s always ways to make gardening a bit easier and this next garden tool or perhaps machine is for those jobs that are generally too hard to do by hand.
  • Although some gardeners still like to do those jobs by hand, trimming lawn edges for example, it’s very time consuming and just plain hard work.
  • So what type of device do we need for our lawn edges?
  • Let’s find out.

I'm talking with Tony Mattson from 

  • Whipper snippers, brush cutters, or just trimmers, all do similar things. 
  • You’ve got heaps to decide from; there’s petrol driven, electric and now battery powered garden tools
  •  Like a lot of garden tools don’t be swayed by just the price alone. 
  • If you’re going to use it for any length of time, make sure you can hold it without causing strain to arms and shoulders. 
If you're annoyed with the whipper snipper cord constantly breaking why not change to a pivot head.
Trimmer Head
This can be fitted onto most whipper snippers or brush cutters.
The pivot action is 360 degrees and as it hits a bit of concrete or post or tree trunk, it just bounces off, so that there's less wear and tear on the line and less breakage.
  • Tony's Tip: Don't go for cheap whipper snipper line. Buy good quality commercial grande line of 2 - 2.7mm thickness. 
If you have any questions either for me or for Tony, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Broad beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your veggie patch.
Vicia faba or BROAD BEANS or some people know it as the Faba bean.
Broad beans are native to North Africa and southwest Asia, but they were cultivated in other regions very early on as well.
Fossil evidence has been found of Broad Beans being grown at least 4500 BC.
Did you know that in the Roman Senate the beans were used to vote, white bean for yes and black bean for no? Maybe that’s where the term bean counters comes from?
Red Flowered Variety of Broad Beans

For a long while, when cooks and mistresses went to the markets for beans, they were buying only broad beans because they were “ ‘the bean’, for century after century”.
Only after “scarlet runners, haricot, kidney and butter beans” turned up, did “they become known as broad beans.
Although broad beans are from the Fabaceae family, they look different and grow differently to their bean cousins.
What Do They Look Like?
  • Broad beans grown into a large, upright, bushy plant up to about 1 ½  metre.
  • Most varieties have white flowers with black eyes, but some older varieties have red flowers that look nice, but don’t set pods nearly as much as the white flowering ones.
  • Each pod is shiny green with very short fuzzy hair, and is roundish, and quite long with a pointy end.
  • Each Broad Bean pod also has a firm, pliable skin and contains 4-8 light green  to white, rounded and kidney-shaped beans.
  • The beans are quite chunky, about 2cm and the pods can grow to as much as 50cm
  • The bean plants tend to be bushy, with square, hollow stems and without beany tendrils. 
  • There’s two main varieties, the dwarf bush or the tall variety that needs staking.
  • Like all beans, they fix atmospheric nitrogen and so, are also useful as a green manure.
  • Best of all, they are hardy, easy to grow.

Plant them in March to June in temperate and sub-tropical areas, April to July in arid areas, , and April and May, then August and September for cool temperate zones in Australia.
Broad beans prefer a sunny well-drained position in the garden.
Broad beans can be grown in soils with high salinity, as well as in clay soil, so they're pretty adaptable.
As far as soil in the veggie bed goes, don’t put in too much of the chook poo or other  rich manure as you'll only get leaf growth rather than flower (and bean) production and will make the plant more sensitive to frost and disease.
Direct planting into roughly prepared soil is the best way to grow Broad Beans.
Sow the seeds at a depth of 5-10cm, with 15-20cm between plants and 70cm or 2 ruler lengths between rows.
That's if you've got the room, but there's a reason for this..
I'll tell you later.
Your broad beans will start sprouting in about 2 weeks after sowing, but will be slower the later you sow towards winter.
Soaking seeds overnight in diluted liquid seaweed can speed up germination.
Water seeds well as soon as you've put them into the ground and, then, don't water them…MOST IMPORTANT   until after germination, to prevent the seeds from rotting. Ok, YOU CAN'T DO MUCH ABOUT IT IF IT RAINS.
Broad beans will need to be staked or supported to stop the plant collapsing under the weight of the mature beans.
If your district experiences a bit of frost, flowers formed during frosty weather are probably not going to set pods.
Once spring arrives, pinch out the tips of the plants to encourage pod set.
Try to limit water stress as this will also affect pod set.
That means don't let them dry out!
In  3-5 months, depending on how cold the weather is, the beans will be ready.
Broad bean pods can be picked at several stages.
Firstly, they can be picked when small and can be snapped crisply in half.
In which case you can eat them like young green beans.
Different stages of broad bean pods
Secondly, if allowed to grow larger but the seeds are still soft, you don’t have to shell the bean seeds, but don’t eat the pods at this stage.
Finally, they can be grown until fully mature and the seeds have dried.
In this last case the seeds are used as dried beans and are called Lima Beans.
Broad beans are prone to fungal attack - brown spots on stems and leaves - particularly if planted too closely together or if planted in soils too rich in nutrients.
Towards the end of the crop, rust - producing powdery spots on the leaves - can become a problem.
Plants with black tips may suffer from root rot, caused by poor drainage.
Get rid of those beans and put in a new lot..
Freshly shelled broad beans can be frozen, blanched and then frozen or stored in the fridge for about 5 days.

Broad beans are legumes meaning they convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into nitrogen in the soil. The nitrogen is attached to their roots and becomes available in the soil once the beans die down.
Dig in the roots and leaves after picking all the beans, to add nitrogen to the soil.
You can then lay the tops on the soil or use it as mulch elsewhere in the garden. It, too adds nitrogen to the soil as it breaks down.

The fresh beans are eaten steamed or boiled.
As the beans mature it is better to remove their tough outer skins after cooking.
The leafy top shoots of the adult plants can be picked and steamed after flowering.
Beans are high in protein and carbohydrates, rich in vitamin C and are also a good source of vitamins A, B1 and B2. a good source of folate.
Beans also provide potassium and iron in fact 100g of beans has as much iron as a pork chop.
Broad beans are a good source of fibre.  100g green beans have 120 kJ

Hydrangea  macrophylla: Mophead Hydrangeas; Lacecap Hydrangeas.
Family: Hydrangeaceae

Hydrangeas have a long history and during the period when plant hunters searched the globe for fame and fortune is when the flowers we know today were brought back from China
Let’s find out what else they have to offer.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Ayesha'
The large heads of pink, blue or white flowers are very attractive as a cut flower also.
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley from

  • Did you know that around 1879 the famous English nursery Veitch , sent the plant hunter Charles Maries to China and Japan?
  • So what did he come back with? 
  • Two different plants, a Hydrangea with flat flowers (lacecap) he called H.macrophylla 'Mariesii' and a spherical type , he called Hydrangea macrophylla ' Rosea' . 
Jeremy's tip: Cut back to a few centimetres above the ground to rejuvenate old and young plants alike.
Marianne's Tip: . The pink or blue flowers depend on the soil pH in which they grow. 
pH of 5.0 to 5.5 for blue flowers; pH of 6.0 to 6.5 for pink flowers.
If you want to change colour of your hydrangea flowers, do it in winter by applying either aluminium sulphate for blue flowers or several cups of garden lime around the plant for pink flowers.


Protea Pink Ice: 
Protea nerifolia "Special Pink Ice"
Family: Proteaceae.
  • Proteas are one from one of the oldest families on earth dating back 300 million years.
Protea neriifolia x susannae Special Pink Ice is larger growing between 2 – 4m
This variety produces stunning pink flowers through autumn and winter - great for cut flowers and attracting birds into your garden.  
Prefers full sun, well-drained soils.
Tolerates frost (-4 C)and extended dry periods once established.
  • Pruning your Protea plant is never more than 50% of the leaf cover. Don't prune non-flower stems as they will bear next year's flowers.
Mercedes Tips: Cut stems at an angle and change the water daily. Use only filtered water and plenty of it as they are waterholics.
Marianne's Tips: Not suitable for areas with severe frosts or for sub-tropical and tropical zones.

Protea nerifolia 'Pink Ice'
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini from

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

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