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

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