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 


  1. Enjoyed the interview with Peter Nixon . Love Epiphyllums and have a few in my greenhouse . I especially love the E.oxypetallum in your first interview. These are not so easy to find over here in the U.K . Debbie :) x

  2. More like princess of the night/belle-de-nuit. Selenicereus grandifloras is 'Queen'... I've got a princess and she's a magnificent monster. The Queen needs a tree / more space than I 've got, alas. Stuart

  3. More like princess of the night/belle-de-nuit. Selenicereus grandifloras is 'Queen'... I've got a princess and she's a magnificent monster. The Queen needs a tree / more space than I 've got, alas. Stuart