Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Bushland Gardens and Red Banskias

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on
Design Elements:So you live near the bush, or your garden is all bush. How do you connect the house and the garden so that they’re not two separate entities. Do you see the best part of the garden from your house? Well you can’t move the house around, but maybe you can do something about the garden.

Vegetable Heroes:     Leeks, known scientifically as Allium ampeloprasum var. Porrum, are related to garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions.
Sow the seeds of Leeks from Spring until the end of Autumn in cool temperate climates, and late summer and autumn in warm and tropical zones,  and in arid districts, seeds must be sown in February/early March and then you can transplant them in April and May. 
I sowed some seed a several weeks ago and have already transplanted them into the veggie bed because they were a couple of inches-about 20cm high and were the thickness of a pencil.
Using some kind of dibble tool or the end of a rake handle to make a hole that's just deep enough to leave only the top inch of the seedling exposed. Set the leek seedling into the hole and fill it loosely with soil. Space seedlings a handspan apart.
So that the lower portion of the leeks are nice and white, you need to blanch them with either soil or mulch.         When they’re 4 weeks old in the veggie bed, use a thick mulch of sugar cane or similar. In another 4 weeks or when they reach about 10” that’s 24cm, do the same again, or you can use shredded newspaper.      
To be honest you can do all this, but if you don’t the leeks are just as tasty.
Make sure the plants get at least an inch of water a week; otherwise the stems will toughen.
Begin harvesting leeks as soon as they're big enough to use.
They usually take 16-18 weeks--4 ½ months.
Online seed suppliers_- and
Plant of the Week:Banksia Coccinea or Scarlet Banksia grows to about 5m. this is a spectacular W.A Banksia that most people in the eastern states would love to grow. It’s always featured in books about Australian plants. The flower spikes themselves aren’t big, but they’re just so spectacular looking that everyone wants one for their garden.

The leaves are leathery ovate and toothed margins, light green above and greyish white below.
The flowers are small and tubular grey with bright scarlet straight protruding styles tipped with gold and arranged in vertical rows. On a terminal short cyclindrical spike of about 6cm long set in rosette of leaves. This Banksia flowers in winter.
It naturally grows in sandy or marshy areas on the south coast of W.A. However, in the book on Australian Native Plants by Wriggley and Fagg, the author notes that this plant is difficult to establish in the eastern states except in Millicient in S.A. where it’s thriving in acid sandy soils over limestone. So if you’re area has underlying limestone, it’s well worth a try.
It has been grown with some success on the sandy soils of the Mornington Peninsula, southeast of Melbourne, as well as in Adelaide.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Magpie Larks and Bed Bugs

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition.
Wildlife in Focus:This bird has a bit of an identity crisis? It’s neither a magpie nor a lark, so what is it? Find out in by listening to Kurtis Lindsay talk about the Magpie Lark, Pee-Wee, Mud Lark or Murray Magpie!
Vegetable Heroes:Coriander flowers belong in the Umbelliferae family. The name coriander is derived from the Greek word koris, meaning bedbug, since the unripe seeds and leaves when crushed supposedly have a smell suggestive of a crushed bedbug.
Always grow coriander from seed, sown in the exact spot you want it to grow as it absolutely HATES being transplanted.
Transplanting coriander stresses it so that it goes straight to seed and then it dies. And you never get any leaves at all!
Coriander gets a has a big taproot as it grows so growing it in a pot won’t work either, it’ll go straight to seed as well.
In Temperate and cool temperate climates, in sub-tropical districts, you got until May, and in arid zones, you’ll probably best to wait until August to sow Coriander.
Sow about 1 cm deep, cover the seeds and keep them moist.
Sow it in rows, scatter it amongst your other veggies, you can use it as a shade plant for your lettuce. It’s a good idea to leave in a few plants that have gone to flower because the Coriander flowers are an important food source for beneficial insects, especially little parasitic wasps and predatory flies.
To attract many beneficial insects you want lots and lots of coriander flowers why not sprinkle some coriander and parsley seeds through your other vegetables under your fruit trees and in any other place you can fit them.
Design Elements:I have a friend who is renovating her house and her garden. We stood in her ruined front yard and when I suggested that she put a focal point in front of the lounge room, say a standard maple so that she would have a nice plant to look at, out of the ornate Federation windows. She was rather nonplussed. It had never occurred to her, yet to plants-people, gardeners, plant addicts, call us what you will, this is essential to the soul . Listen here to Lesley Simpson garden designer set you on the right path in fixing  a garden in ruin.

Plant of the Week:    Fraxinus excelsior 'Aurea'
Yes it’s deciduous, and grafted too. The understock is Fraxinus oxycarpa or Desert Ash-hardy and reliable.
Great autumn colour and distinctive yellow bark on young branches provides year round interest.
The Golden Ash is an old favourite, suitable as a shade or specimen tree., it grows 7 x 7 metres so would suit most gardens around Australia.
The shape of the tree is broadly conical to rounded. Eventually develops into a medium sized, spreading, multi-branched tree.
The leaves are pinnate-think of Grevillea leaves like Grevillea Robyn Gordon.
Leaf colour is a pale lemon  in spring, becoming very pale green in summer, turning to brilliant gold in autumn.
You don’t plant this tree for the tiny and insignificant greenish-yellow flowers in spring. Totally hidden by the leaves.
Bark:Young branches yellow with distinctive black winter buds. Becoming yellow-grey with age.
Tolerances:Best in moist, deep soil in cooler areas but tolerates both wet and relatively dry conditions. Performs well on alkaline soils. Reasonable tolerance to heat and low levels of dought.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Broad Beans on Red Alert

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on Click on 2RRR
Design Elements is continuing the series on connecting home to garden and today Lesley simpson, garden designer and Marianne (host)are tackling design ideas for those gardens with mature trees and nothing much else.
Vegetable Heroes:Vicia faba or BROAD BEANS Fabaceae Family.
Broad beans grown into a large, upright, bushy plant up to about 1 metre. They tend to be bushy, with square, hollow stems and without beany tendrils.  They can be tall or dwarf growth habits and can produce long or short pods.
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 early Autumn in warm temperate climates, and autumn and winter for milder temperate to cooler 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.
Sow the seeds 5-10cm deep and 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 this 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.
Pick the pods when the seeds are looking about the right size but not hard. If left too long on the plant, beans are likely to be dry and less tasty.
Dig in the roots and leaves after harvest to add nitrogen to the soil.
Plant of the Week: Callistemon "Red Alert,"
Callistemon viminalis Red Alert™ is a compact Callistemon with  deep red new growth. It is a native alternative to exotic Photinia.
It has longer periods of red new growth than Photinia - bright red foliage for 2 months in autumn and 2 months in spring, and lighter new growth foliage in other months.
Red Alert™ grows 2-2.4m high x 1.5-2m wide unpruned and 50cm-2m high x 40cm-1.5m wide when pruned.
Position-Requires full sun to part shade and works in most soil types. Tough and drought tolerant. More drought tough and frost tolerant compared to exotic Photinia.
Water well until established -usualy 2 season are required for establishment of most plants.
Prune after red new growth in autumn and spring.
It is more drought tough, very frost tolerant, and has longer periods of red new growth compared to Photinia. 
Expect it to have a maximum height of 2-2.4 metres after 6 to 8 years, which is significantly
To keep Red Alert looking like a tightly pruned hedge it is suggested to prune it each 10-16months. Red Alert is a much better low hedge than Photinia.
Callistemons are generally less prone to drought stress, particularly when firstplanted. It works better in windy situations than Photinia as well.
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Garden Connections and White Ibis

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition.
Tell us what you like, answer the survey below:
Wildlife in Focus: Changes to their natural habitat cause birds to move to places where water and food are more predictable. As a result of changes to inland wetlands ibis are now part of the urban environment in NSW. In fact, White Ibis look quite elegant along creek and river beds, their natural habitat. Let’s find out more with ecologist Kurtis Lindsay.
Vegetable Heroes:Parsnip,Pastinaca sativa, a member of the Apiaceae family.
Seeds need to be sown from autumn to winter in sub-tropical areas, anywhere from mid-winter to mid-autumn for temperate areas and spring to summer in cold districts, around Australia.
  Seed doesn’t keep for long so check the use by date of your seed packets.
Best planted at soil temperatures between 6°C and 21°C.
Parsnip likes to be grown in deep sandy, loamy soil. After planting keep seeds moist - can cover with a wooden plank or mulch - until seeds germinate. Difficult to grow in summer as the seed dries out fast and won't germinate.
If you can grow carrots, you can grow parsnips. You need the same type of soil, friable, not sandy and not clayey. A pH of 6.5-7. Yes, do go out and buy that pH testing kit. If high school geography students can measure pH, so can you.
As with carrots, soil with stones or compacted soil will give you deformed and stunted turnips that not only look funny, but taste a bit that way as well.
Parsnips need to be started from seed. They resent. Germination takes up to 3 weeks. sp quite a long time.   Tip: Soak the seeds overnight in a shallow saucer. There’s no need to drown them.
Keep your parsnip seedlings growing strongly with regular watering and applications of liquid seaweed, liquid manure or compost tea.
Harvest in 17-20 weeks, that’s 4-5 months.
If you plants seeds in March, expect results in July sometime.
Parsnips have the best flavour if harvested after a frost or very cold weather.
The cold results in the starch in the roots being converted into sugars which give the parsnip its sweet taste. Use a spade to dig the parsnip out of the ground.
Design Elements:        Around the 6th century BC, Roman gardens were a place of peace and tranquillity, and used as a refuge. Back then, porticos were developed to connect the home with the outdoor to create outdoor living spaces. This month’s series is all about the connect between the home and garden, listen here to the first instalment with Lesley Simpson, garden designer.
Plant of the Week: Clerodendron splendens Flaming Glorybower,
seems to be a plant from old fashioned gardens. Certainly not that much available from large garden centres that deal in all things other than just plants.
The Flaming Glorybower is well behaved.
The Flaming Glorybower will climb by twinning up supports or by sending its branches out across the ground or over an embankment.  It has large, 18cm or 7 inch oval leaves when mature, that are arranged in opposite pairs. The branches will climb over top of themselves, forming a dense, course textured growth pattern. The individual flowers are red to scarlet. They are 3cm or 1 inch long, with many individual flowers forming a dense terminal cluster 12.5cm or 5 inches across. The densities of the flower balls give this plant a real "WOW!" affect when in full flower.
My plant has been flowering since December and is still flowering. There’s one growing on the wall of the nursery in the Botanic Gardens here in Sydney. A lot of people coming into the nursery want this plant when they see it, but no. The problem is every method conceivable has been tried by the nursery volunteers to propagate this vine-seed, cuttings of all types, but no luck.
I had it growing in the front garden when I move here-all I did was pull out a root sucker and replant in around the back. It did take off. I have it scrambling over a rocky outcrop and this year, with all the rain, it has been outperforming other plants.
Clerodendrum splendens is a rather easy plant to care for. It likes acidic soil, but will do well in almost any condition. Flaming Glorybower will take drought conditions well once it has established itself, and will require only an occasional watering. Prune it hard  or lightly, as you like because it responds well to shaping.
Full sun is the best for flowering, but it will also do well in bright light. You'll get less flowers in deep shade.. It will grow to a height of 4 to 5 metres if given a suitable support. The support must be rather substantial as the Flaming Glorybower will form a dense, heavy growth.
Flaming Glorybower is a tropical plant, and will be damaged if it is subjected to frost condition for any length of time. If the temperature doesn't get low enough to damage the roots, the plant will survive and recover.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Florence Fennel Goes Alfresco

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm Sat. 12noon, 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available  on
Why not fill out the survey below?

Design Elements: How do you create that spot in the garden to make having lunch there inviting? Have a few friends around, share a cup of tea, or maybe a glass of wine on some comfy chairs around a big table. Listen here for some other ideas with Lesley Simspon garden designer and Marianne (host)

Vegetable Heroes:       Florence Fennel Foeniculum var. azoricum
Florence Fennel? Some might think that I’m promoting the roadside weed that is found all over Australia. No, I’m talking about the culinary fennel.
 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 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.
  •  Florence Fennel is a perennial which can grow quite tall-to about 1 ½ metres-about 5 feet, so at the back of your garden bed so it doesn’t shade out the other veggies. It resents disturbance and responds to any shock by bolting: producing feathery fronds and flowers, but no swollen stems.
  •  Because it grows so tall, the feathery leaves may need some support, particularly if you have windy days in your area.
  • 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. 
  • Florence Fennel seeds need to be planted 5cm 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 50cm.
  • Never let soil dry out. 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.
  • 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.
  •  Plants take several months to mature that’s 3-4 months after sowing. 
  • Use a fork to loosen the roots and cut the bulb off about 2.5cm above the ground. Further, feathery shoots will appear which can be used as celery/dill-flavoured seasoning in the kitchen.- Some seed uppliers online and

Plant of the Week: Plumeria rubra-Frangipani. Plumeria rubra  Apocynaceae (dogbane)family.
Plumeria is generally a small tree growing to about 5-8 metres. Its broad, usually round-headed canopy with a thick trunk and several broad branches.
Often as wide as the tree is tall. . The leaves are usually glossy green but may be dull green; they are generally pointed (P. rubra var. acuminata or var. acutifolia)
In temperate and colder  districts no matter what type you bought, the leaves will fall during wintertime, and new leaves emerge during or following the spring flowering period.
It is easy to grow in hot, dry areas and is found in Adelaide in sheltered positions, as well as further north.
It grows and flowers best in full sun and in a well drained, slightly acidic soil. Shadier positions tend to give it problems like scale which then leads to sooty mould growing on the leaves, and the Frangipani won’t flower as well.
It has moderate wind resistance and salt tolerance. For best growth and flowering in the landscape, irrigation is needed during dry periods.
The trees reach maturity (full size) in about five years in tropical climates, but take quite a bit longer here in colder districts.
Plumeria can be grown to a relatively large size in large tubs because they have such tiny root systems.
Propagation:The usual way to propagate plumeria is by hardwood cuttings in late winter, early spring  because this method maintains the selected cultivar. Tip cuttings 30-60cm or even longer.
The old-fashioned method says you should be allowed to “cure” in a dry place for at least two weeks before planting.
The new method needs none of this. Get a plastic bag about 7cm in size. The frangipani society of Australia use zip lock bags. Half-wet some sphagnum moss, not dripping, just like a wrung out sponge and place it around the cut end. Enclose this in the bag, then tape it up with duct tape or something similar.
Put it upright into a pot so the leaves will grow upright. In 6-8 weeks you should have new roots-they look quite white and brittle. Leave it longer if you like but be very careful when you’re potting it up. The roots are extremely brittle. Any pulling of the bag, and you’ll rip the right off. Proceed with caution.
Pot your cutting up into a very small pot and stake it as well. Large pots will mean that surrounding soil won’t heat and enough and this will set back the growth of your Frangipani cutting.
Do not water too much or too often while plant is settling in. It can stay in the pot for 2-3 years or you can plant it out into the garden at that point..
The young root systems are brittle, and transplanting, if necessary, must be done carefully. Do not leave plants in small containers too long, or the circling roots will cause problems of weak establishment when the plant is transplanted into the landscape.

Photo of new method of taking Frangipani cuttings.

    Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.