Sunday, 2 September 2012

Espaliered Gardens and Did You Thryptomene?

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.

Design Elements:Espaliered Gardens

Rousham, England. photo:M. Cannon
with Garden Designer Lesley Simpson.
The word espalier is French, and it comes from the Italian spalliera, meaning “something to rest the shoulder against.”
During the 17th Century, espalier meant only the actual trellis or frame on which a plant was trained to grow, but it’s now used to describe both the practice and the plants themselves.
Espalier seems difficult but looks great. I went to a friends house when I was filming a segment for Better Homes& gardens some years ago and he’d espalieredCamellia Sasanqua plants on the south side of his garage.
He tells me they’re still there today, and looking fabulous, so why not give it a go. I know I should!

 Let’s find out more….
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Vegetable Heroes: Rhubarb

Rhubarb Plant Rheum Rhabarbarum or  Rhubarb:     People regard Rhubarb as a fruit because we’re used to eating it mainly in deserts, such as Rhubarb and apple crumble, or Rhubarb and Apple strudel.  It's actually a vegetable and related to garden Sorrel.  Rhubarb is an herbaceous perennial (the kind that grows from year to year)of the botanical family Polygonaceae. Rhubarb has short, thick Rhizomes –the underground horizontal stem  part of the plant. The leaves are sort of glaucous triangular shaped with small flowers.  Rhubarb crowns can be bought and planted in September if you live in, sub tropical areas, September and October if you’re in Temperate zones; October and November in cool temperate districts and for once, arid zones have hit the jackpot and can plant Rhubarb from July right through to February. Can’t get much better than that.
  •  In temperate and cool climates the above ground parts of the plant completely withers away during the colder months, so don’t be alarmed, your plant hasn’t died it’s just dormant. That’s why, you can buy the dormant crowns now and plant them.Rhubarb can be grown in pots as long as the pot is large enough, say 30 cm wide. The leaves contain oxalic acid and should not be eaten because Rhubarb leaves are toxic and have no safe culinary use.   Rhubarb is a heavy feeder, that means needs lots of fertiliser during the growing season. Use large amounts of organic matter like cow manure mulches applied in late autumn and work that mulch carefully into the soil around the crowns.  
  • Tip:Use only aged manures, not something fresh from the paddock, or you will get fertiliser toxicity which will stop the plant from thriving and you might even risk losing your rhubarb plant. Divide your Rhubarb in Autumn or winter when it’s dormant but not before it’s at least five years old, I'm told.
  •   The biggest question people have about rhubarb is why aren’t the stems red yet? There’s good news and then there’s bad news. The good news, stems stay green for the first few years on some cultivars, but they will eventually turn red.  On others, especially those grown from seed, they will always be green and this is because seed grown rhubarb isn’t always reliably red, even if the seeds came from a red stemmed parent plant.
  • So the bad news for you is that these plants will always be green. If you really want red stems, and I don’t advocate adding red food colouring to the cooking, look out for a friend or neighbour with rhubarb that has red stems, and ask for a piece.
  • The friend or neighbour will have to divide existing crowns, and division is one of probably the most reliable way to get red stemmed rhubarb.
  • Otherwise there’s mail order, and you can mail order crowns with guaranteed red stems from online gardening centres around Australia. Try or    and even 

 Plant of the Week:Thryptomene spp.

Thryptomene "Payne's Hybrid" Photo M.Cannon


with fellow horticulturalist Sabina Fielding-Smith.
  • Is it a plant or a disease? For native plant lovers, you would know that Thryptomene is in fact a great flowering shrub that you can have lots of in your garden Thryptomene-is a Greek word meaning made small, and most Thryptomenes are small in size.
  • Some Thryptomenes have the word calycina as their species name because they have a prominent calyx –that is the underpart of flowers.
  • Thryptomene is a tough, drought tolerant evergreen shrub, perfect for a low maintenance garden. With flowers for inside and outside, what more could you ask?
  • Thryptomene branches show off hundreds of tiny white flowers and small spear-shaped leaves. They also have a pleasant scent. In good seasons the flowers are so many that they can almost completely cover the branches, so they are a mass of white.
  • Like my plant here.(photo above..). Thryptomene is a good vase filler, and that can provide enough material for many arrangements.  It has long been a popular wildflower in Australia, particularly in Victoria as it flowers naturally in the Grampians, a few hours drive west of Melbourne. The Grampians Thryptomene or Heath Myrtle is in fact, Thryptomene calycina.
  • In areas of frot prone, like Armidale or Canberra, it usually needs protection in its early years, although in some sheltered positions, as under tall trees, this may not be necessary. It’s worth some trouble and should be covered in flowers from mid-May to September. 
  • Thryptomene prefers light well-drained soil either in full sun or semi-shade. These types of plants are great for any garden because they have masses of long-stalked small pale pink or white flowers starting in winter and continuing through spring that are attractive to various insects including butterflies. So why not plant three or more?

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