Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Basilisk and The Chicken

 REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at 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. The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website


with Margaret Mossakowska from
Summer is not only just warm for us, but for our beloved creatures as well.
Keep pets cool over the summer break by making sure all of your pets have cool and shady areas.
Cats and dogs are able to move around and seek shade, but small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and birds can’t move from their cages or runs if you have chickens..
Let’s find out about keeping chickens cool.

Check and make sure that your caged animals are not in direct sunlight and that their cages are protected from the sun as the shade moves.
Here’s some tips from the RSPCA.

If your animal seems to be in discomfort, try wetting its feet and misting water onto its face.

This is an option for dogs, cats, ferrets, poultry and caged birds as many animals control their inner temperature through their feet.

It’s important not to saturate a bird's feathers as this can cause them to go into shock.

If you have any questions about your chickens or a photo, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Not a vegetable but Basil
Basil which is the common name for the herb Ocimum basilicum.
Would you believe basil is in the mint family?
If you check the stems of Basil plants, they’re square, like other members of the mint family.
Basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia and has been in used for the medicinal properties of its leaves and seeds.
Did you know that Basil was known in Greece in ancient times.
tTe Greeks came up with a legend about a dragon-like creature known as a basilisk.
This creature was supposed to have the head of a rooster, the body of a serpent, and the wings of a bat.
Basil was said to be the only cure for its bite as well as its withering breath, which could kill plants and animals.
Legend also had it that anyone who looked the basilisk in the eyes would instantly die.
Curiously, the Romans thought that basil would only have medicinal properties if it were planted while the sower was cursing.
Did you know there’s a French term for planting basil- semer le baslic that means to "rant and rave."

There are many varieties of Basil
Thai Basil photo M Cannon
The type used in Italian cooking and the one you see most in the supermarket or for sale in garden centres is called sweet basil.
On the other hand Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. X citriodorum) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), mainly used in Asian cooking.
Although I must say, lemon basil is pretty fine in just about anything and I’ve made pesto from Thai basil and not felt it was too pungent.
Have you ever wonder why is each variety of basil so different in flavour from each other?
The reason is because of the different essential oils that come together in different proportions in each variety.
The strong clove scent of sweet basil is derived from eugenol, the same chemical as actual cloves.
The citrus scent of lemon basil and lime basil  has a higher portion of citral, which is also prominent in lemon mint, and, which gives actual lemon peel its scent.
Licorice basil contains anethole, the same chemical that makes anise smell like licorice, and in fact is sometimes called "anise basil."
If you grow your own, you can choose from the many different basils that you'll never find in the supermarket. Not just purple leafed basil, or giant lettuce leafed basil, lemon scented basil, aniseed basil, cinnamon basil, intensely fragrant small leafed basil, mild perennial Sacred basil that goes so well in Thai, Vietnamese, or perennial Greek basil.
My perennial or bush basil has been growing in the same bed since 2006!
Most of us are familiar with what basil looks like, but just to be sure basils oval shaped, opposite leaves, brown or black seeds (also called nutlets) and flower spikes, but flower colour and the size, shape, and texture of the leaves vary by species.
Leaf textures range from smooth and shiny to curled and hairy, and flowers are white to lavender/purple. Leaf colour can also vary, from green to blue/purple, and plants can grow to from 30cm to 1 ½ metres in height, depending on the species.
When is the best time to grow some basil?
For temperate and cool districts-September through to January, for sub-tropical and Arid zones, August to January, and for Tropical climates-all year round-you win the jackpot.
What do basil plants love?
Have you ever bought Basil from the supermarket and wondered why the leaves go black after about a week in the fridge?
That’s because Basil is very sensitive to cold and even in the garden, towards the end of summer if you get a cool spell, your Basil will drop it’s leaves and start to yellow.
Yellow leaves towards the bottom of the plant are an indication that the plant has been stressed; usually this means that it needs more or less water, or less or more fertilizer.
That’s also why gardeners in tropical zones can grow Basil all year, with best growth in hot, dry conditions.
Basil behaves as an annual if there is any chance of a frost.
You can sow Basil straight into the ground but I always find it’s much easier and more reliable to start off in punnets.
Also, never throw out your out of date packets of Basil seed, because they’ll come up with a pretty good success rate.
This is what I’ve found when starting them off in punnets.
Basil seed is tiny and can take several weeks to germinate, so if you grow your basil from seeds, the weeds may grow before the basil does in this weather unless you grow it in a pot of course…for all you savvy balcony gardeners.
When you’re ready to plant out your Basil, find a well-drained spot or grow it in a pot.
In the height of summer, four hours of sunlight is all that’s needed for Basil to grow.
Some shade from the midday sun will stop the sun scorching the leaves.
Give your basil frequent doses of liquid manure throughout the growing season to keep up leaf production because the more you feed the plant the bigger the leaves become,  in fact underfed basil is less fragrant.

TIP: If you’re having trouble getting Basil seed to germinate, you know Basil strikes easily from soft tip  cuttings,
Basil can also be propagated very reliably from cuttings with the stems of short cuttings suspended for two weeks or so in water until roots develop. Just take a tip cutting off any plant at any time of the year. Cut off all the leaves except for the tiny ones that are emerging at the top and stick the thing in a pot. Keep it in partial shade and keep it moist. Basil cuttings root very quickly. Once the little basil plant is actively growing again you can plant it out.
This is a good way of getting some of the more fancy varieties going, BECAUSE they seed they produce won’t be true to type.

TIP: Once a stem produces flowers, leaf production stops on that stem, and the stem becomes woody, and essential oil production also declines.
To stop this from happening pinch off any flower stems before they are fully mature

Why are they good for you?
Why are we eating the herb Basil exactly?
Apart from the fact the Basil and tomatoes may perfect partners in cooking, Sweet basil is low in calories, has almost no fat, and is a good source of vitamin A and is very rich source of many essential nutrients minerals and vitamins AN D another thing--
Basil seeds, in particular, are high in dietary fibre .
Basil also includes flavonoids and antioxidants.


with Lesley Simpson garden designer.

There’s a recent study which shows the Australia’s Noisy Miner bird is more responsible for the decline of our little native birds than previously thought.
People have always thought that Indian Mynahs were to blame, but the Noisy Miner is more aggressive.
So how do we make it unattractive to those aggressive birds and attractive to the smaller birds?
Let’s find out about how create one of these gardens.

Lorikeets photo M Cannon
Of course just because you planted all those small spiky shrubs in your garden doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get those small birds.
These birds only fly short distances, and your neighbours need to plant the bird attracting plants as well.
If you have any questions about how to create a bird attracting garden why not write in?


with Karen Smith, editor of

Duranta repens

Brazilian sky flower, Brazilian skyflower, duranta, forget me not bush, forget me not tree, golden dew drop, golden dewdrop, golden dewdrop duranta, golden dewdrops, golden tears, pigeon berry, pigeon-berry, pigeonberry
Native to southern USA (i.e. Texas and southern Florida), Mexico, Central America.
A garden and hedge plant used a lot in the wetter and sub-humid areas of Australia.

Duranta grows upright into a shrub or small tree usually growing 4-6 m tall, but occasionally reaching up to 7 m in height.

Several newer cultivars, which are thought to be less invasive, are still very popular in cultivation (e.g. Duranta erecta 'Sheena's Gold', Duranta erecta 'Geisha Girl', Duranta erecta 'Alba' and Duranta erecta 'Variegata').

Would you like to grow a bushy evergreen shrub with weeping branches, pale green leaves and deep blue perfumed flowers with white centres that are at the ends of the weeping branches?
Sometimes called golden dewdrop, skyflower and pigeon berry. Sound alright doesn’t it?
let’s find out about this plant.

Did you know that Duranta was named after Castor Durantes - a Roman physician and botanist?
Durant repens the species is a large, fast-growing, shrub that makes a great screen or background plant, but is too vigorous and tall to use against the foundations of a house or in small areas. Go for the smaller growing cultivars like Geisha Girl.
The clusters of fragrant, pale blue flowers attract butterflies in summer and are followed by bunches of golden-orange berries that’s popular with birds.
If you have any questions about growing pigeon berry or Duranta, why not write in to


  1. Can you tell me if Duranta Erecta (pigeon berry or golden dewdrop) is safe around chooks.

    1. yes, the fruit and flowers are poisonous if eaten.