Sunday, 22 February 2015

Hens and Chickens Amongst the Roses.

 REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF).
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 Steve Falcioni general manager of
As flowers go, roses are probably the most popular garden plant and cut flower.
Who doesn’t like receiving a bunch of roses?

Rosa Cornelius photo M Cannon
As gardeners and horticulturalists go, growing roses can be problematic if you’re trying to grow them out of their comfort zone.
The wrong spot or climate can make some problems seem hard to eradicate.
Let’s find out how to treat this next problem in the rose garden.

The scale itself is 203mm big, roughly circular and off white in colour. Rose scale stands out against the brown stems and can get a complete covering of the stem.
If you’ve only got one rose in a pot, then scrubbing off the scale with soapy water is probably all you need to do but you may not get all the crawlers and the problem will persist.
Rose scale
Or if you find a stem that’s just covered with so much scale that it’s practically white-get out the scrubbing brush or just prune it off.
Certainly a good scrub can break through all the layers if it's badly infested but then treat with eco Oil.
Otherwise, applying horticultural oil based on botanical oil is the best treatment for rose scale because it does the least harm to beneficial insects.
Also botanically based oils can be sprayed onto plants at higher day temperatures- up to 350 C If you have any questions about scale or rose scale or a photo of a plant you want diagnosed, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


One you’ve probably not heard of and one I’ve not grown myself.
Scorzonera also known as Black Salsify and black oyster plant.
 Scorzonera hispanica
This is a perennial root veggie from the sunflower or daisy family-that’s Asteraceae.

As you would expect then black salsify or scorzonera has yellow daisy-like flowers.
You might be thinking that black salsify is a new vegetable that some plant breeder has come up with but no, it’s been around for a few hundred years.
Native to southern Europe it was sold in markets in Syria in the mid 1500’s.
An interesting fact is that the roots were once a popular, though ineffectual, treatment for bubonic plague.
Did you know that the world’s largest producers of black salsify are France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and even Germany? Yes, that’s today.
I found an article by one of Australia’s top chefs Steve Manfredi
He says
"There is a newish member of the winter vegetable brigade called salsify. The root vegetable has been grown in Australia for some years. The small crop has been mostly gobbled up by restaurants and ethnic fruit markets. Its flavour is similar to white asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke but it really has a taste all its own.
There is some confusion with the name here in Australia.
Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) looks a lot like a hairy, creamy-brown carrot with leek-like leaves.
What is more commonly sold here as salsify is scorzonera (Scorzonera hispanica).
Though they are both members of the daisy family, scorzonera has black or dark brown skin and, rather than tapering like a carrot, it looks like a cane. While they are interchangeable in recipes, scorzonera is less bitter than salsify and more highly regarded, not to mention harder to pronounce."

What does it look like?
Scorzonera has long thin roots with chocolate coloured outer skin and a milky white inner flesh.
The skin you need to peel because it’s too tough to eat.
In the ground, the leaves don’t look anything like that of a carrot but more like a clump of grass.
So mark your veggie bed well where you plant it so you don’t mistake it for some grassy weed and pull it out.
For those lucky gardeners with good deep soil, you’ll be amazed to know that the tap root can grow up to a metre long.
Because it’s a perennial, if you leave it in the ground for two years, it’ll just get bigger.
In fact, you’ll probably end up doing this because they’re quite slow growing taking as much as 3-4 months.
Seeds are relatively easy to buy if you use mail order catalogues or online seed companies.

Sow your scorzonera seeds from spring right through to the end of summer.
Scorzonera seeds are a bit hard to germinate and take a long time, so don’t be too careful with the seeds because you can thin them out if they all come up.
As with carrots-use fresh seed because they don’t stay viable for long.
In fact, treat you black salsify seeds as you would carrots seeds-that is, plant them directly into the ground and use the same tricks that you did with carrots.
Like carrots and parsnips, scorzonera likes deep, loose soil.
Avoid adding manure as this causes the roots to fork.
Keep moist during the growing season.
You’ll get larger roots if you leave off harvesting until the second year. The roots are brittle, so dig them out carefully.

How do you eat black salsify?
Dig them up and scrub as best you can, then cook in their skins and peel. They have a savoury flavour that’s a little like artichoke hearts with a unique earthy flavour.
The roots are used in soups and mashed, while the leaves are eaten in salads.
You can also steam and eat the flower buds.
Steve Manfredi’s tips for cooking scorzonera are:
Preparing salsify is easy. First, peel and place immediately into acidulated water made by adding a little lemon juice or vinegar.
For soups it can be added raw in appropriate lengths.
If roasting or pan-frying, cook first in plenty of water for 10-15 minutes until tender.
If pureeing, cook a little longer so it's easily mashed.
Salsify is excellent with fish or shellfish, roast meats or in stews.
One thing that the top chef forgot to mention is that black salsify oozes a sticky white latex if you should break off a piece.
Wearing rubber gloves if you want to peel it before you boil it is recommended.
Otherwise cook it unpeeled.
Why Is It Good for You?
Black salsify has proteins, fats, asparagine, choline, laevulin, as well as minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, and vitamins A, B1, E and high levels of vitamin C.
It also contains the glycoside inulin, also found in Jerusalem artichokes.



with landscape designer Jason Cornish
Whether you’re short on space in the garden or you have a wall or fence that could do with some greenery, vertical gardens could be the answer.
Or are they really all that they are cracked up to be-a panacea for gardens short on space?
Perhaps they are instead something that is a drain on the pocket, and out time to keep them looking good. We examnine the pitfalls in part 1 of a 2 part look at vertical gardens.
But just what is a vertical garden and how do you make one and what are the pitfalls?
Venlo, Netherlands photo M Cannon
Let’s find out in part 1 of this  2part look at vertical gardens.

Vertical gardens sound impressive and difficult, and some of us have been procrastinating months if not years about building one.
Jason doesn’t beat around the bush and over the next two weeks we’ll be going through ways you can build a vertical garden and the pros and cons of having one.


with Karen Smith from
Do you have enough ferns in your garden filling out the shady damp places?
Fernery, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. photo M Cannon
It’s amazing how some ferns spring up out of nowhere it places where you’d think it was impossible to grow ferns.
I have maiden hair ferns sprouting out of the bottom of a sandstone retaining wall and surviving without any care at all.
Hen and chicken fern, is another one that’s easy to grow and has an really interesting way of growing.
Let’s find out about this plant.

Asplenium bulbiferum, or Hen and Chicken fern,   is native to Australia and New Zealand.

In nature, native ferns usually are usually found growing in the damp, dim places that frogs would like to call home.
Asplenium bulbiferum-Hen and Chicken Fern
They will grow well outdoors in any shady area, as long as they have enough moisture and are protected from drying winds.
Use them as ground covers or accents in shady areas or along a north-facing wall or fence.


It's called a 'hen and chicken' fern because it grows small bulbils on the top of its fronds. 

Once these bulbils grow to about 5 cm (or are carrying three of four miniature fronds, they can be easily detached by pulling them off and planting them into small pots.).
If you don't pick them off, these  bulbils will fall off of the main plant and as long as the soil they land in is moist, they’ll develop a small root system and then start to grow on into a new ferns. 
In 3 to 6 months they will have developed a good sturdy root system and will be ready to pot on to the next size.

Much easier than propagating using the spore method.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Sprouting With Goodness

 REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF).
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 Ian Hemphill from

Fennel has its origins in the Mediterranean but today it's often thought of as a weed.
Fennel is sometimes sold as "Aniseed Plant," which although it has a faint aroma of aniseed because it contains anethole. But it's definitely a fennel.
Did you know that Fennel seeds were used by Romans as far back as 750 AD?
Fennel Seeds
Remember, a spice comes from the seeds and the herb from the leaves.
Also in this case, you can buy Fennel Pollen which is the fennel flowers with the pollen.
The flavour is delicate but with a distinct fennel aroma. Chefs sprinkle it on desserts.

Let’s find out what else this spice can be used for…

You can grow Florence fennel at this time of year in pretty much all of Australia. February and March seem to be the best time.
This veggie has a pale whitish green bulb with that has small shoots topped with ferny leaves.
The bulb can be used in lasagne,  shaved into salads in stir fries and has a pleasant aniseedy taste-not overpowering at all.
Florence Fennel bulbs

The leaves of course can be used as a garnish in lots of things as well.
Plants grow to about 60cm and need plenty of water and nutrients to stop them from going to seed.
If you want the seed, best buy it from a reputable source like Herbies Spices, so you know it doesn't contain rat droppings.
If you have any questions about growing fennel or a photo of your veggie bed, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Well it’s TIME FOR VEGETABLE HERO  Sprouts and shoots.
What’s something you can grow on your kitchen bench and it’s even something that schoolkids can do?
Sprouts of course.
Did you know those white sprouts that you see in Asian dishes or in packets in supermarkets are mung bean sprouts that you can do yourself?
Are you disappointed when you buy commercially prepared sprouts in that sealed plastic bag only to find that after a couple of days they’ve gone slimy and brown?
Or you go to the supermarket to buy sprouts only to find that they’re out of them?
If that’s you, then you need to grow your own sprouts.
All you need are the seeds to start with, a jar with a wide mouth and muslin  or cheesecloth or some other lightweight mesh to cover the top of the jar, a rubber band and water.
Oh and a dark place to put your sprout jar until they’ve sprouted then you need to move them to a lighter location, otherwise they won’t grow and will probably go mouldy.
That’s it.
Here’s a tip: don’t use seeds that are meant to be sown in the garden because these may be treated with a fungicide.
In fact it’s best to use organic seed that are sold as sprouting seeds.
Also seeds that are split, like split lentils and split peas aren’t any good for sprouting.
You need whole seeds most likely from the health food section of your supermarket or a health food store or from a seed supplier.
Start off with mung beans, green peas or lentils.
Did you know there’s about 50 different types of seeds that you can sprout?
From Alfalfa, Dill, and Fenugreek, through to sunflower seeds.
Another tip: sprouts will need their water changed a couple of times a day.
If you’re going away for a couple of days and won’t be able to rinse your sprouts then don’t start them.
How to grow sprouts.
Sprouts can be grown all year even in winter, but you’ll need a warm kitchen at that time.
Remove any broken or discoloured seeds, stones, twigs, or hulls that may have found their way into your sprouting seeds.
Place one type of seed in the jar.
Use about a tablespoon of seeds or one-third cup of beans.
Why so little? Because you’re going to be soaking the beans or seeds and they’ll grow in size when they sprout.
Cover the seeds with distilled or filtered water.
How much water?
For a couple of tablespoons of seeds, cover with at least one cup of water. For beans, nuts, or grains, use at least three times the water of the amount of seed.
That will meant one cup of water for one third cup of mung beans for example.
The seeds need to soak for about 6 to 12 hours in general but some need more and some need less.
Small seeds: 3-8 hours
 Larger seeds or legumes: 8-16 hours
Grains: 10-16 hours
It’s a good idea to start them before going to bed if you’re working, otherwise during the daytime is fine.
Cover the jar with the cheesecloth and make the cloth tight using a rubber band.
Then drain off the water.
Rinse the beans or seeds with fresh water and drain off the water again.
Set upside down in a clean, cool spot in your kitchen area, preferably on a slight angle to allow excess water to drain off.
Otherwise you could put the jar on a stainless steel dish drying rack which gives the sprout jars the perfect angle for draining.
Rinse the sprouts two to three times a day.
Be sure to drain them well each time so they’re not sitting in any water.
When the jar is full the sprouts or legumes are ready to use.
Alfalfa or mung bean sprouts are ready in about a week.
Now’s the time to put them in a large bowl of cool water and stir them around to loosen hulls and Skins from the seeds (this is an optional step).
They’ll usually come to the top so you can remove them.
Don’t worry about removing every hull but if you do take the time to remove the hulls, the sprouts will last longer.
Drain your sprouts well and store in the refrigerator covered for a week to 10 days, depending on the sprout type.
Store in an airtight container (a capped sprouting jar is fine) in the fridge.
Don’t put them into a plastic bag because they’ll go slimy.

If this sounds like to much hard work, there are electric sprouter kits available too. www. and

These (Easy Green)  automatic sprouters will: soak, rinse, mist, oxygenate and drain through the full seed to sprout growth cycle.
Some can hold 5 cartridge-style sprouting trays (supplied 320 x 60 mm,)
So you can have 5 different sprouts or use the one big tree for larger quantities of wheat, barley or oats.
You can also buy sprouter jars with special sprout friendly lids-have mesh for airflow and come with a stand that leans at 450.
How do you use sprouts-one great dish to put them on top of is Laksa-a sort of spicey soup with noodles and your choice of fish, chicken, meat or tofu.
Why Is It Good for You?
Sprouts are full of antioxidants; they’re also full of protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Plus they have beneficial enzymes making them easy to digest.


with garden designer Lesley Simpson

Royal Palace Seville photo M Cannon
When you think of oriental gardens, do you think of a quiet peaceful place where you can sit and meditate?
Where does the term Moorish garden or the Moors come from?
Back in Spain during the 8th century until the 14th century, the Arabs that invaded, conquered and ruled Spain, were referred to as Moors.
The oldest preserved Moorish garden is the palace in Granada in south of Spain.
You need to book well ahead to visit that particular garden.
Instead of all that-
Let’s find out how to create an moorish garden….
PLAY: Moorish Gardens_11th February 2015
Moorish gardens always have a water feature and a courtyard or patio.
These gardens always seem to include mandarins, cypresses, oranges and oleanders.
If you have any questions about how to create a  moorish garden why not write in?


with Hort Journal Editor Karen Smith

Pimelia linifolia and Pimelea "Sunset Blush."

Pimelea linifolia photo M Cannon

If you like native flowers, you’ll like this delicate pom pom style of flower that cluster together like smaller versions of Hydrangea flowers.

The flowers always stand out against the dark green leaves.
Only a small perennial plant that can be grown in pots, small courtyards or patios.
Let’s find out about this plant.

Pimelea ferruginea-The "pink rice flower" is a low, densely growing shrub to 1 metre x 1-2 metres in width.
It will grow in a range of soil types as long as the drainage is reasonable. The plant is well suited to coastal gardens and will grow in full sun or partial shade.
Pimelea-the species does best in temperate, and cool temperate and coastal areas, not liking humidity that much.
The grafted variety is a different kettle of fish and can grow almost anywhere, say the growers. Worth a try.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Mostly Purple in the Garden

  REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF).
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 Steve Falcioni from

Deficiencies in plants are hard to diagnose especially if it’s in the leaf.
Sometimes though they stick out like a sore thumb, particularly on some veggies like tomatoes.Other times with other vegetables, it’s a bit confusing because it could fungal, or you didn’t fertilise or water enough.
The problem will show up when the fruit is about half-size or half ripe with zucchinis.

With tomatoes, they'll still be green when you start to see the blackness on the bottom end of the tomato.
Let’s find out how to treat this next problem in the veggie bed

Too much or too little water can mean the plant can't take up calcium, even more so if you've used artificial fertilisers.
The artificial fertilisers include those powders that you mix with water. These sodium and nitrate ions which mean the plant prioritises take up other nutrients at the expense of calcium.
Lack of calcium is most likely the cause if the problem shows up when the fruit is bigger-almost half ripened.
Calcium deficiency is treatable but it won’t reverse the problem you’re seeing on your vegetables right now.
So those veggies that have got it now-you’re stuck with.
I have read about crushing egg shells and mixing them into the soil to correct calcium deficiency, but that takes months and months before the calcium is available to the plants. Just not worth it.
If you apply gypsum in a liquid form, it gets absorbed quicker and may just fix the problem on your zucchinis on tomatoes in as little as a couple of weeks.
Gypsum is calcium plus sulphur, which doesn't change soil pH.
Otherwise, applying the powder form of gypsum takes at least a season to work it’ way into the soil.
If you have any questions about blossom end rot or a photo of a sad veggie you want diagnosed, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea gongyloides or B. Oleraceae variety caulo-rapa)
Although kohlrabi and brussels sprouts (B. oleracea variety gemmifera) look like they belong in two different families, they are in the Brassicacea family, along with cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower .
It’s a useful veggie to grow because you can use the bulb and the leaves-so nothing is wasted.
Would you believe that all these vegetables came from a common parent, "the wild cabbage"?
You don’t see a lot of Kohlrabi today but it’s been around awhile.
A bit of history.

By the year 800 A.D., the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne ordered that kohlrabi be grown in his Imperial gardens.
King Charlemagne although thought to be French, was actually from western Germany.
No surprise then that "Kohlrabi" is a German word where Kohl means cabbage and Rabi means turnip. "Kohlrabi" Means "Cabbage Turnip"
By the end of the 16th century it was known in Germany, England, Italy, Spain, Tripoli, and the eastern Mediterranean.

Kohlrabi is another one of those vegetables that has the person at the supermarket checkout stumped.
You’ll be asked what’s that?.
If you get a mental blank at that point, be prepared for a flurry of activity as someone else is called to the checkout to inspect what you’ve got and identify it.

Where to get the seeds?
Kohlrabi for sure has fallen off the flavour of the month vegetable chart.
In fact, you probably won’t be able to find the seeds at a lot of garden centres.

The funny thing about Kohlrabi is that even though it looks like a root vegetable, it actually isn’t.
The bit that you eat grows above ground and not below the ground like carrots and turnips.
The bulb sits on top of the soil, and the way the leaves branch out makes the whole vegetable look like a sputnik.
So far I’ve only seen the purple variety in shops, and when I used to work for a large well known seed company, the seeds were available but have since been taken off due to lack of interest.
The seeds are easy enough to buy online and I’ll post the links on my blogs spot.
Another company sells two varieties, Early Vienna White and Purple Globe.,

How and when to grow Kohlrabi.
Brassica oleracea gongylodes).
Kohlrabi is a good choice for beginner gardeners because it’s fastest and easiest to grow of all the Brassicaceae family.
Your kids will love kohlrabi because of it’s funny appearance.

In temperate districts sow the seeds in January to March and the same for cool temperate districts.
For arid zones, February to June is the best time.
March to August for sub-tropical and April to August for tropical zones.

Kohlrabi-photo M Cannon
Sort of like little aliens from other space-a little round body with little "legs" coming out of the ground.
You could plant your Kohlrabi with Beetroot because they have need  the same amount of water.
You can also fit Kohlrabi in between lettuce, onion and radicchio, because it sits above the ground and doesn’t take up as much room as cabbages.

Sowing the Seeds.
You can either put Kohlrabi seeds direct into the ground or start them in punnets or seed trays because they don’t mind being transplanted.

Sow the seeds about 1 cm deep in rows 30 cm apart and thin them out to 15 cm or a couple of hand-widths apart.
Or like me, just put them wherever you’ve got space in your veggie bed.
Kohlrabi can be rather closely spaced (or interplanted) and is out of the garden in 60 days (2 ½ months) or so, leaving time to plant something else. As with all vegetables a standard application of an organic fertilizer, mixed into the soil according to label rates prior to planting, is all you need to do.
So when do you pick your Kohlrabi?
If you want small kohlrabi pick them when they’re about 3-5cm in diameter, with the leafy greens still attached.
The greens should be deep green all over with no yellowing.
Although kohlrabi stores well, up to one month refrigerated, yellow leaves means that the vegetable is not fresh.
Now you may be wondering how to eat Kohlrabi, and it wouldn’t be fair if RWG didn’t pass on that information.You’ll be surprised at how good it tastes and wonder why you haven’t bothered to try some before.
  • Eat them RAW
  • Kolhrabi sort of tastes like a mildly sweet, crunchy pear crossed with a cucumber, but not as hard as an unripe pear.
  • To prepare your Kohlrabi, remove the stems by pulling or cutting them off the kohlrabi globe.
  • If the kohlrabi is small, there is no need to peel it, but you might want to cut off the tough base end.
  • If you've bought large kohlrabi, peel it and slice off the tough woody base before slicing or dicing.
  • Slice or cut into julienne and include it on a relish tray with dips.
  • Coarsely grate kohlrabi into a tossed salad. 
  • Slice kohlrabi, put it in a container, and pack in your bag for lunch for a crunchy snack.
  • Why not try kohlrabi pancakes  — what vegetable doesn't taste good mixed with a little flour and eggs and fried up in olive oil and butter?
  • What about  kohlrabi slaw, roasted kohlrabi and even raw, thinly shaved kohlrabi or steamed or stir fried Kohlrabi?

Recipe- Kohlrabi Pancakes Makes 4 big pancakes.
4 small purple or green kohlrabi, peeled and trimmed of woody bits
1 small onion, very finely chopped or grated on the large holes of a box grater
1 egg, lightly beaten
1⁄4 cup (or more) all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Grate the peeled and trimmed kohlrabi on the large holes of a box grater. Wrap the grated kohlrabi in a clean dishtowel and squeeze until most of the excess moisture has been removed.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the shredded kohlrabi, chopped or grated onion, optional chilies or chili flakes, beaten egg, flour, coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until just combined. Add additional flour by the teaspoon if batter seems too wet (mixture should be somewhat firm).
3. In a large, heavy frying pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat until the butter stops foaming. Add ladlefuls of the pancake batter (about 1⁄3 of a cup at a time) to the pan, gently pressing down on the cakes with the back of a spatula. Cook kohlrabi pancakes until crispy and golden brown on each side
4. Drain on paper towels and serve with sour cream, crème fraîche, yogurt or applesauce.
Note: The original recipe includes 1⁄2 teaspoon of ground ginger, which you might like to try in place of the coriander. Chopped cilantro or parsley would also be a nice addition.

Why Is It Good for You?
Kohlrabi is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
It’s rich in thiamine, folate, magnesium and phosphorus and is packed with dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, copper and manganese.
The only bad thing about kohlrabi is that a large portion of the calories in this food come from sugars.


with garden designer Lesley Simpson
An oriental garden can be many things-Japanese, Chinese, or Zen.

When you think of oriental gardens, do you think of a quiet peaceful place where you can sit and meditate?
Seems to be a key ingredient-quiet contemplation.
If you want on oriental theme then your garden, whether it’s Chinese or Japanese needs to reflect nature.
So how do you achieve that in a garden?
Let’s find out how to create an oriental garden….

You can create your oriental garden on a small scale; rocks represent mountains or islands, sand or gravel can represent water, and paths represent your journey through life. Symbolism in the garden is an important part of design."
Also the water feature is very prominent but it doesn’t have to be a waterfall as much as we would like one, it’s probably beyond most of our means.
Perhaps a small bowl that has a little bubbler in it will do the trick?
What do you think?


with Karen Smith editor Hort Journal magazine.

Echinacea purpurea has been in cultivation a long time but, over the past 10 years, a whole range of new varieties has appeared, with breeders here, in Holland and in the United States churning out new variants as fast as they can.

Echinaceas are perennials, but not all perennials last forever. You’re doing well if you can get your Cone flowers to last 5 years, but often it’s a bit less.
If you want to add height to your garden border but also want cut flowers and flowers that attract bees and butterflies, you can’t go past this next perennial.
What’s more it’s pretty easy to grow from seed and the flowers last for about a month in your garden bed. So there’s plenty of cost savings to be had.
Let’s find out about this plant.


Did you know that in America before white settlers, Echinacea root was used as a remedy for snake bite, the Cheyenne tribe chewed the root to quench thirst, and another tribe washed their hands in a decoction of echinacea to increase their tolerance of heat.
European settlers learned of the North American herb's many uses, and soon lots of  echinacea-based remedies were commercially available from pharmaceutical companies in the United States.

New colours and hybrids are because of crossing E. purpurea with other echinacea species. For those for whom the simple pink daisy of E. purpurea, with its slightly reflexed petals, does not offer enough excitement, there are lots of other colours: white, salmon-apricot shades, yellows, greens (yes, really); and different shapes: doubles, reflexed petals, petals with frills, fluffy central cones.

Like all daisies, echinaceas are composite flowers – that chunky central cone (which gives rise to the name “coneflower”) is actually a mass of tiny fertile flowers(technically-disc florets), which bees and butterflies home in on to collect nectar.

Those big showy “petals” are actually sterile flowers (technically “ray florets”) that advertise the flower to passing pollinators. Once fertilised, these outer florets fall off and the cone turns into a seedhead.
Echinaceas are extremely frost hardy so it’s not the  cold that knocks them off, but “they appear to be competition-intolerant; they grow well on their own, but suffer if other plants crowd them.”
So says one expert, another says might be winter damp… a plant which habitually goes into a deep-freeze winter just goes dormant… warm and moist conditions encourage pathogens, so echinaceas might rot easily in our mild, wet winters.”
What’s good about the plant-you can grow them easily from seed, not the hybrids of course, but the straight species. The seed doesn’t even have to be fresh.
I’ve sown an out of date packet 2009, and they all came up.
At around (80-100cm) in height, echinaceas are quite big plants.
If you’re prepared to pay for perennials that are potted up, there are dwarf varieties such as ‘Kim’s Knee High’ but because it’s smaller it has lots of smaller flowers on 60cm-high plant; ‘Kim’s Mop Head’ is similar in size, with white flowers
How to grow _Echinaceas need full sun and fertile, well-drained soil.
Avoid damp spots and heavy mulching over crowns in winter.
Deadhead to encourage flowering into the autumn after the main August-September season.

Once planted, they are best left alone — they do not transplant well.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Perfumery in the Garden Everywhere

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF).
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 Sue Stevens, ecologist
Not all brightly coloured birds are Lorikeets in Australia.

Crijmson Rosella photo Ralph de Zilva
Crimson rosellas are kept as pets but they aren’t great talkers.
Rosellas are great whistlers and can learn to whistle songs.
Have you ever heard of the Red Lowry, Mountain Lowry or Pennant's Parakeet? Not sure what that could be?
Let’s find out ?

photo Ralph de Zilva
The sound of the crimson parrot was provide by Fred van Gessel of the Australian Wildlife Sound Recording group.
The following research is from Prof. Andy Bennett of Deakin University.
Prof. Bennett says (Beak & Feather Disease virus) BFDV is only found in parrots and how nasty it is varies from species to species. In some species it can be really nasty – leading to extensive feather loss and death.
The Australian Government lists BFDV as a Key Threatening Process to biodiversity under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
Fortunately, it currently appears that BFDV in Crimson Rosellas is rather benign.
If you have any questions about crimson rosellas or have a photo , send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Today’s vegetable hero Carrots!
Carrots or  Daucus carota var. sativus were one of the first vegetables grown by man and are related to parsley.
Think about it? Carrot tops look similar to Parsley don’t they.
Daucus is Latin for parsnip or carrot and carota is Greek for carrot.

Sativus simply means cultivated, so altogether we have the cultivated carrot!
Carrots were thought to have originated in present day Afghanistan about 5000 years ago.
Did you know that the first carrots were mainly purple, with some white or black - not orange at all.
Another thing, in early times, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, not their roots and ancient Greek physicians only gave carrot juice as a stomach tonic.
Some relatives of the carrot are still grown for these, such as parsley, fennel, dill and cumin.

So where did the orange carrot come from?
It seems that in the 1500s, some farmers in the northern Dutch town of Hoorn seemed to have preferred orange carrots.
These farmers selectively bred the orange carrots which ended up dominating the carrot market.
Did you know that William of Orange who was a German nobleman, founded the House of Orange- which later became the royal family of the Netherlands? "
This explains why in the Netherlands orange is a very special colour and a more likely reason why those farmers bred an orange carrot.

Carrots are cheap and easy to grow carrot but did you know carrots were a staple food  during Victorian times especially between the two World Wars when other food sources became scarce?

When to SowSow them all year round in arid climates, February through to November in sub-tropical areas, April to June in the tropics, September through to mid-June in Temperate districts, and September through February in cool temperate districts unless you have a greenhouse or shadehouse,
Carrots are cold tolerant .- but are best not sown in heavy frost.
Here’s another one of these vegetables that even though they prefer full sun they can also grow in partial shade.
Carrots take about 10 weeks from sowing to harvest.

Important tip: Unless you want funny shaped carrots, don’t add fertilisers and manures to the soil just before sowing, or you’ll get carrots that will fork and become hairy.
They like beds manured in the previous season.
Make sure the soil has been worked over with no stones or sticks otherwise the carrots will grow into funny shapes or be stunted as well.

Why aren’t carrots sold as seedling?
The reason is because carrots must be directly sown into your veggie bed. This is because carrots resent being transplanted and won’t grow properly for you. Probably get stunted and funny shapes too.
The easiest way to sow carrots is to mix a packet of seed with one cup of river sand, pouring the contents into seed drills or just broadcasting them in 10 cm wide row.
Cover the seed with finely sieved compost or a drizzle of sugar cane mulch. Not too thick or they won’t germinate.
The sand makes germination easier; but because sand drains so quickly you need to make sure the carrot seedlings don't dry out at this crucial stage.
If you have trouble germinating them, cover with hessian or something like that until they germinate which is usually about 5-6 days

Another tip, add a packet of radishes.
These germinate in 4-5 days, and help break the surface crust of the soil. The radishes will be gone in a few weeks so no problems with overcrowding there.
Thin the carrot seedlings out when they're about 5cms (2 inches) tall, when they have 4 little leaves.
Carrots need about 5cm between plants so they can grow the root without pushing onto other carrots, otherwise you will get stunted growth.
Watering is fairly particular for carrots.
Too much water and the roots might crack so only give carrots small amounts in the first eight weeks of growth.
If the soil dries out near harvest time, you can water more heavily then.

How do you know when they’re ready?
The good thing about carrots is that you can pick them at whatever size you want them and they’ll still taste good.
If you’ve forgotten how long they’ve been there, scratch away the soil surface to see how wide the carrots have grown.
When they’re ready to pick, use a garden fork to lift them gently out of the ground so the roots don’t snap.
Here are some varieties to get you interested;
All Seasons mainly for Queensland and NSW,  and
Royal Chantenay suits heavy soils, both need 10-11 weeks.
Carrots Little Fingers-are sweet baby carrots about 10cm long-8weeks.
-and another one for pots Chantenay Red-is very short, an orangey-red colour and sweet. Suited to heavy soils. 7-10 weeks.
Round and short varieties can be grown in planters or pots,  but the long types need about 20cm of soil depth in the open garden.

Why Carrots Are Good To Eat
 Carrots are the reason why the whole family of brightly coloured compounds in foods are called carotenoids – they’re such a rich source, especially of beta carotene. Beta carotene gets converted to to vitamin A in our bodies.

With many vegetables cooking destroys some of their vitamins, but you can absorb more beta carotene from cooked carrots than from raw ones. If you prefer to eat carrots raw, that’s fine because even one carrot has two day’s supply of beta carotene.
 Carrots are sweet because they have some natural sugars, but younger carrots have more folate, one of the B vitamins
Carrots are also good source of dietary fibre



with Lesley Simpson garden designer.

Do you like fragrance in the garden?
Have you a lot of plants with fragrance?
That includes anything from Lavender and Jasmine to the more exotic like Magnolia champaca or Stephanotis and of course roses.
Do you have enough plants with smell or could you add a whole lot more?
Let’s find out what you can do to make your garden more fragrant.

Some plants are no trouble to grow and have the added bonus of perfume.

The perfume is of course an adaption by the plant over time, to attract pollinators to the plant in the first place.

Not all perfumed plants have fragrance that pleases.

Some people detest the common jasmine because of it’s overwhelming scent, and others find that their noses can’t tolerate jonquils if they’re brought into the house.

You just need to find the scents that best suits you and your garden.

If you have any questions about how to create a fragrant garden why not write in?



with Karen Smith editor Hort Journal magazine.
Stephanotis floribunda photo M Cannon
Along the same vein as fragrance in the garden, plant of the week not only looks exotic, but for many years, the flowers have been used in bridal bouquets because they’re so lovely.
Even though it prefers warmer climates gardeners is Europe love it so much that it’s sold as an indoor pot plant, even though it prefers to climb.

In fact it’s available there from florists climbing attractively over small frames in pots.
Also known as the Hawaiian Wedding Plant, this plant’s a must for the fragrant garden.

Let’s find out more about this plant.

Stephanotis does really well in pots-in fact flowers more if it's pot bound.
Full sun is best for having repeat flowering during the warm months of the year, but on really hot days over 30 deg. C, give it some shelter either with an umbrella or move it under shade.
Of course if it's in the ground, you will get scorched leaves but the plant will recover.
If growing Stephanotis in a pot, tip prune the tendrils often to promote branching, otherwise you'll have no leaves on the bottom third of your climber.
Stephanotis looks lovely all year round and flowers more than once.
Did you know that the genus name-Stephanotis comes from the Greek words stephanos (crown) and otos (ear), supposedly because the flower tube looks like an ear canal surrounded by a crown of five ear-like lobes.
Stephanotis flowers photo M Cannon
(Stephanotis is in the dogbane and milkweed family whereas true jasmine (Jasminium officinale) is in the olive family.)
If you have any questions about growing Stephanotis, why not write in to