Friday, 24 July 2015

Aloe Aloe I See Dutchmans' Britches


Why do plants' leaves turn various shades of yellow?
Yellowing leaves on your plant can be confusing, frustrating and even annoying if you don’t know what the cause is.

You’re plant could be in a container or in the ground, and during the colder months, those yellow leaves seem to become more prominent.
One of the reasons your plant's leaves may be turning yellow is because all leaves have a limited life-span, and just before they drop, the nutrients are pulled out of the leaf turning it yellow.

But what about other problems?
Let’s find out we can do about yellowing leaves.
Talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager

If the new leaves are paler but the old leaves are still a bright green, it's generally a sign of nutrient deficiency.
If the veins are distinctly green and the space between the veins is yellow, then it's probably iron chlorosis or iron deficiency.
Did you know that iron deficiency is pretty common in acid loving plants such as roses, fruit trees, camellias and even vegetables.
In this case the young leaves are yellow and the veins are green.
Magnesium deficiency on the other hand is more common in citrus as well as camellias and vegetables. Again acid loving plants.
It can be confusing because there’s a third deficiency that looks like a worst cause iron deficiency caused by not enough zinc and manganese
However, there are a range of products you can buy to fix these deficiencies.
If you have any questions about yellowing leaves and are not sure what the problem is, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


The botanical name of Aloe vera is Aloe barbadensis Miller.
Aloe vera
It belongs to the Asphodelaceae family which has a subgroup (Liliaceae) whose members are also the lily plants as well as onions and garlic.
Aloe vera’s use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings.
Known as the “plant of immortality,” aloe was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs.
The name Aloe vera derives from the Arabic word “Alloeh” meaning “shining bitter substance,” while “vera” in Latin means “true.”
Did you know that the word Aloe in Sanskrit means Goddess?
Because of aloe’s well-known healing properties for the skin, aloe is one of the primary compounds used in the cosmetic industry.
There are even Aloe vera drinks that you can buy, or you can use the juice straight from the plant.
What's So Good About Aloe vera?
Aloe leaves contain a clear gel that is often used as a topical ointment.
The yellow sap that oozes from the base of the leaf when it is cut is called bitter aloes.
This bitter sap when dried  is called latex.
This bitter sap contains anthraquinones, used quite a lot in medicines that act as a strong laxative.
Be warned though, don’t feel you can make your own oral medicines from Aloe and I’m not recommending that you drink the gel straight from the leaf either.
The reason is because not only is aloe vera juice pungent to taste, but there is no scientific evidence that drinking the juice does anything.
On the other hand, Aloe plants improve air quality, and when grown in pots inside the house, help remove toxins from the atmosphere.
So what is Aloe vera?
Aloe vera isn’t a cactus but a low growing spreading, xerophytic, succulent.
It grows mainly in the dry regions of Africa, the Arabian peninsula and nearby islands such as the Canary Islands and Madagascar.
Aloe barbadensis "Miller" 
Not to be confused with other ornamental Aloes, Aloe vera has triangular light green fleshy leaves with serrated edges, but also with elongated pale creamy white spots on the leaves.
The Aloe plant is grown in warm tropical areas and because the leaves consist of 95% water, they’re extremely frost tender.
However the root can survive freezing air temperatures, so long as the ground is not frozen and the root destroyed.
On the other hand, Aloe vera doesn’t grow all that big and can be easily moved indoors in colder climates if outside temperatures are less than 5°C.
Place it near a sunny windowsill and it will survive for a few weeks or a couple of months if it needs to.
On the upside, for those gardeners living in warm climates, Aloe vera can cope with temperatures in the high 30’s and can even withstand severe drought.
Don’t water during the winter months if your plant is able to grow outdoors because it’s practically dormant.
Aloe vera tolerates either full or partial sun for at least 8 – 10 hours a day, but will require a little more frequent watering in full sun.
If you’re area receives a lot of rain, you may find that the plant turns to mush so move it under cover.
During the summer months, the soil should be completely soaked, but then be allowed to dry again before re-watering.
If you’re growing your Aloe vera in a pot, because Aloes have a shallow, spreading root system, when it‘s  time to repot choose a wide container, rather than a deep one.
Always use planters or containers with a drainage hole, or put a 3-4 cm layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot so it receives sufficient drainage.
Use a good commercial potting mix with extra perlite, charcoal, or coarse sand added.
Or you could use a packaged 'cacti mix' soil.
Fertilising is only necessary once a year in spring but use only half strength. Aloe plants have relatively short roots and heavy leaves, so it’s best to move your plant to a heavier pot when they become top-heavy and tip over.
 If Aloe vera runs out of space for its roots to grow, it may start to produce "pups" that can be moved to their own pot .

Growing New Plants
New Aloe Vera plants are grown by removing these offsets which are produced around the base of mature plants, when they are about 5 - 7cm tall (or larger). They can also be grown from seed.

Aloe Vera pups or offsets
Has your Aloe vera ever flowered?
Growing Indoors
Keeping an Aloe vera plant at home is one of the easiest ways to get the freshest and most concentrated gel.
Plant Problems Solved
If the leaves start getting burnt on hot days, you ‘ll definitely need to move your plant to a location with light shade.
If the leaves are growing flat and low, that means the need more sunlight. Aloe vera leaves should grow upward or outward at an angle, toward the sunlight.  
Growing low to the ground or growing flat outward,  is an indication that the plant is probably not receiving enough sun.
Move it to a sunnier area.
If it’s indoors, consider keeping it outdoors during daylight hours.
If the leaves turn yellow or fall apart, stop watering.
Yellowed or "melting" leaves are suffering due to excess water.
Stop watering altogether for the next week (or two weeks during the dormant season), and water less often after that.
You can remove the discoloured leaves from the plant without doing any damage.
Tip:Remember, water it only when the soil has become dry.

Using the Leaf
Using aloe vera gel, that’s the inner portion of the leaf, topically is OK straight from the leaf.

 TIP: To use the gel, break off a leaf and cut it lengthwise to expose the inner layer.

Scoop the gel out and apply generously to the area needing treatment.

Discard whatever gel is not used immediately, as it will degenerate quickly.

Why is it good for you?
Aloe Vera contains many vitamins including A, C, E, folic acid, choline, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6. Aloe Vera is also one of the few plants that contains vitamin B12.
Soothes and heals sunburns because it contains cooling properties similar to menthol.
Takes the sting or itch out of insect bites.
Use it on those joints that have osteoarthritis.
Aloe gel has not been shown to prevent burns from radiation therapy.


talking with Landscape Designer Glenice Buck
Last week a new series about re-working a garden on a farm property.
Today, Glenice works out where to put the fences to mark the garden.

Peppercorn Tree Drive-way photo Glenice Buck
It’s always interesting finding out what it’s like to be on someone’s personal journey in starting a garden on a location that used to be a farm paddock?
Finding out what challenges they faced. Was the soil be any good? Did they leave the existing trees? Was there a weed problem?
As the property is a working farm, Glenice said the she knew that for any plants to be able to grow, they needed to fence off the garden area so that the sheep and cattle wouldn't eat the plants.
The existing mature trees are about 100 years old and need to be considered as well.
Do they make up the garden?
Let’s find out some more in part 2….

You would think that you should just get in there and start planting things without worrying too much about the soil and stuff.
Not so. If you don’t get the soil right, the aspect right and the drainage right, your putting yourself onto a patch of unhappy gardening. You also have to consider the climate to know what plants will survive.
Truck arriving with first load of plants photo Glenice Buck

The climate in the area has a temperature range of -4 C to mid 40's C
They also experience heavy frosts in winter and heat-waves in summer.
Average rainfall is 24 inches per year.
The weeds included Marshmallow weed, that had to be eradicated before the first truck of plants arrived.


with Jeremy Critchley  owner of and Karen Smith, editor

Ever heard of a Twinspur? Yes it’s a plant with heart shaped leaves and flowers not unlike a Snapdragon because Snapdragons are its cousin.

Native of South Africa, these plants are perennial in warm and temperate climates and possibly even survive longer than annuals in cooler climates.
Newer varieties have names like Apple Blossom, Little Charmer, Apricot and Snow.
 What is this plant? Let’s find out …

Diascias have been around for many years and in the past have been known as Dutchman's Britches!
Why Dutchman's Britches?

Because the lower part of the flowers looks like those blowsy pants that Dutchmen used to wear in the 19th century.
Whether you want to call them Twinspurs or Dutchman's Britches, these plants are fast growing garden plants in most well-draining garden soils where the beds have been well prepared with some compost incorporated in the bed before planting.
Use an organic fertiliser like Blood and Bone pelleted manures.
Also fortnightly applications of a weak solution of a balanced liquid fertilizer will help them along.
When flowering seems to be fading the plants can be pruned to rejuvenate them and get a second flush of flowers.

Tip: Plants in pots seem to last for years and years. My friend Sabrina says she had one survive for at least 10 years! Now that's value.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Seeds Soils and Daisies in a Row


An incredible diversity of organisms make up the soil food web.

They range in size from the tiniest one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa, to the more complex nematodes and micro-arthropods, to the visible earthworms, insects, small vertebrates, and plants.
These organisms not only benefit our soil but the plants that grow in them.
So how do we feed those organisms or attract them to the soil in our garden?

I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska, President of Permaculture North and
Let’s find out some more…

You probably have never thought about what soil organisms are doing in your garden or even wondered why you garden soil should even have them?
Did you know that by-products from your plants’ growing roots and plant residue feed soil organisms?
That’s good because in turn, soil organisms support plant health as they decompose organic matter, cycle nutrients, enhance soil structure, and control the populations of soil organisms including crop pests.

You can make a weed tea which when poured over your garden will get those micro-organisms working for you.
Weed Tea recipe.
One bucket with lid: Big bunch of garden weeds to about half the bucket: Cover with water.
Stir daily.

Your mixture will become frothy and smelly-that's fermentation.
When the smell has dissipated, your weed tea is ready.
Strain off the weed seeds, and dilute in the ratio 1 part weed tea to 10 parts water.
Most watering cans are 9 litres so your weed tea will be 90 ml or if you like, just a bit less than a litre.
If you have any questions about food for your soil, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Shelf life of packet seeds.

We gardeners are guilty of buying too many seeds and realise, we just don’t have enough space to grow everything we would like to from seed.
Marketing gurus say that impulse buying is one big factor in seed sales.
That’s why they make the packets so attractive with those lovely photos on the front of the packet to entice your to buy them.
But what about the mail order companies? No photos there, but we still go crazy buying up too many because the seed catalogues are so alluring.

Why? Because they’ve that alluring promise that you’re buying something no mainstream gardener will have.
What to do with all those seed packets?
Shall you throw them into the compost or give them a go?
Now’s a good time to get out your seeds and take a look at the dates on the back usually.
You’ve probably got seeds lurking in a drawer, or maybe you’re more organised and they’re in a storage box.
Storing Your Seeds
Firstly let’s deal with how you’re storing your seeds.
If you’re keeping them in the garden shed that gets quite hot in summer, then the shelf life of your seeds is going to drop right down and possibly kill of your seeds.
Never store your seeds in a humid warm or sunny spot.
Seeds need to be kept cool and dry, ideally the temperature should be around  5°C and 10°C.
Keeping them in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge is good but who’se going to have enough room in the fridge for all those seeds?
A dark place somewhere in the garage or laundry that stays cool in summer is the best place.
When properly stored in a cool, dry place, seed’s shelf life can be extended. -

If you want to be really sure that the seeds you’ve got will germinate and you’ve got quite a few to burn, why not do a simple germination test?
Germination test: Take around 10 of your seeds, and place them in a row on top of a damp paper towel.
Fold over the paper towel and place in a zip-lock plastic bag and seal it; this helps to keep the towel moist and protected.
Then put in a warm location, like a high shelf or on top of the fridge  but make sure the spot you’ve picked is away from exposure to direct sunlight.
This can overheat your seeds.
Next, check the seeds often—around once a day—to see if they’ve  begun to germinate and  to check the moisture of the paper towel.
But don’t keep opening it everyday otherwise your experiment will go mouldy in no time.
Only open the zip lock bag if it needs more water, and carefully mist the towel so it’s only just damp, but not soggy.
Don’t apply too much water. 

Germination after 7 days.

I’ve recently heard that adding a drop of tea to the water helps with the germination rate.

TIP: Your seeds should begin to germinate in several days up to a couple of weeks, depending on the seed-type. A good rule of thumb is to wait roughly 10 days;

So how long do our veggie seeds last?

We know that the packet comes printed with the expiry date of seeds.
But we want to know can they last longer?
In Australia, seed companies are generally required by law to germination test seeds before they sell them.

The longest lasting seeds that I’ve germinated well past their expiry date, let’s say 3-4 years past, without any problem, are Basil, Kohlrabi, Broccoli and Rocket.
But let’s talk in families of plants such as in the Brassicaceae family.

Longest lasting seeds:
The long lasting seeds here are Beetroot, Silverbeet, Swish chard, Radish, Turnip, Cauliflower, Cabbage and Kale and Broccoli.
Next are those from the Solanaceae family, including tomato and eggplant.
Lastly, the Cucurbitaceae or Melon family.
Long lasting seeds in this family include cucumber, squash and watermelon.
Moderately lasting seeds 3 - 5 years.
Then there’s those seeds that aren’t so long lived but usually have a shelf life of 3-5 years like lettuce, and possibly parsley. Parsley is one herb that I don’t need to sow anymore.
By leaving a Parsley plant flower and set seed, you’ll have, like me, a continual supply of Parsley year round.
Until a regular visitor to the garden, a ringtail possum, decides they need something to eat in winter.
Then no Parsley.
There’s also the pea or Fabaceae family.
So yes, peas and beans are on the list.
Short shelf life-1 - 2 years
A few seeds have a relatively short shelf life and are good for one to two years at the most.
These include onions, parsnips, chives, scorzonera and leeks.
That isn’t definitive and depending on who you ask, some will say that they were able to get their 10 year old bean seeds to germinate or some other vegetable.
The "sow by" date is based on the validity of the germination test and is not necessarily an accurate indication of the freshness or shelf-life of the seed.
So, that’s why, when you hear, beans can be viable for up to 10 years shelf life.
That means, 10 years if they were stored in a cool dry and dark place, and that the seed company put fresh seed into the packet in the first place.

Of course flower seeds are another category and I don’t have time to mention those other than to say,

Pansies, Echinaceae, and Nasturtiums have germinated for me well past their use by date.
Before you start buying up seeds in the hope you’ll beat price rises and food shortages.
Seeds are best sown fresh.
Even stored in a fridge or freezer, the germination percentage and vigour will reduce over time.
Just a note on seed  provenance.
According to the experts, cucumber mosaic virus is transmitted via the seed.
Also, from those in the know, they say that there are other viruses that are seed born, so that gardeners can’t afford to be complacent.
Buy your seeds from a reputable source and if you’re not happy, let them know.



talking with Glenice Buck
Today starts a new 4 part series on re-designing a garden.
The setting is rural on a farm property, but within that property, a garden is created around the house.
"Berkshire" photo Glenice Buck
Over the next 4 weeks, you’ll be taken on a journey from the initial assessment of the site, the design process and planning, then the planting.
Let’s get started with part 1.

Even though your garden may not be as big, there’s some aspects of this project that you can borrow.

photo Glenice Buck
It may be the layout of the front garden or the plants that are selected, or even considerations of what to do with the slope of the land.
Or maybe it’s just an interesting insight to how your go about developing a 5 acre garden.
Did you know that in colonial times, farmers would plant 2 Bunya pines at the front of their property as "way finders?"

Bunya pines grow very tall, so that looking from a vantage point from a long distance, the stockmen or farmers, could find their way back to their own homestead.

Of course back then, there probably was quite a lot more native vegetation and no roads like we have today.

Or maybe it’s just an interesting insight to how your go about developing a 5 acre garden.

 It may be the layout of the front garden or the plants that are selected, or even considerations of what to do with the slope of the land.



Talking about Marguerite daisies with Karen Smith editor of and garden nursery owner Jeremy Critchley

In the past, when we’ve planted out daisy bushes, they’ve become straggly or just too big to look tidy.

In steps these new daisy varieties, and who can tell if they’re a Shasta daisy or a Marguerite daisy?

Is there a difference and does it matter?

Because they're so bright and colourful, you just want some in your garden

These particular daisies are colourful, easy to grow, flower a lot and have grayish green, deeply lobed leaves that are ferny and emit a strong fragrance when crushed.

They’ve been around in our Australian gardens for a long time, but what’s new about these plants?

Let’s find out …

Often mistaken for Shasta daisy and other daisies.
Argies can have flower types such as single or semi double and double flower types.
Plants are salt and wind tolerant and will grow in full sun to part shade, although they'll flower less in part-shade.
Those Marguerite daisies where you can see the centre, these are yellow centres and are the disc florets. The outside petals are the ray florets.

Jeremy's photo
Leaves are finely divided glaucous green foliage with a fragrant (to some) scent.

Argyranthemum or "Argies" are evergreen woody-based perennials or sub-shrubs, that grow no more than 30cm in height with white, yellow or pink, daisy-like flower-heads from late spring to autumn .

As Jeremy mentioned the new Sassy® Series of Marguerite daisy are compact plants with frilly foliage and many daisy-like flowers.

These rounded plants give off lots of flowers on their stem tips.
They first appear early in the spring and continue for a long flowering season. Each flower opens with a button-like golden yellow eye, and depending on the cultivar, have either lemon yellow, white or pink petals


Friday, 10 July 2015

Winter Roses and Ivory Princes

The Good Earth

Gardening After Heavy Rain

So your ground’s all soggy and damp in your backyard. Should you wait until it dries or get out there and do a bit of gardening?
photo M Cannon
The very least you should be doing is finding out “Where does water sit? What gets washed away? How are your drains working or failing? All things you can repair and get working for the future success of your garden.
Let’s find out what else you could be doing.
Talking with Margaret Mossakowska from

For the lawn, a bit of aeration with a garden fork will help improve the drainage of wet soil.
Mix some gypsum with some river sand and rake it into the holes in the lawn.
Apart from making some holes to allow air in and for the water to fill and again evaporate, check out those snails and slugs.
Snails and slugs are opportunists and thrive and reproduce when times are good – they love the rain and the wet conditions afterwards.
There’s plenty of ways to control them,
photo M. Cannon
from the whimsical container with a splash of beer in it, to snail traps placed level with the garden bed the snails go in and never leave.

Also look out for mould, moss and mildew that might grow on shady, damp paths over the winter months.
A weak solution of vinegar and water will kill mould and mildew.
If you have any questions about problems with your waterlogged garden, why not write in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


(Cymbopogon citratus) Lemon Grass in Poaceae Family
A perennial sedge and not really a grass native to India, but did you know that Australia also has it’s native lemongrass?
Not quite so useful in cooking though.
Another fact you mightn’t be aware of is that lemongrass oil is used as an ingredient of aerosol deodorants, soaps, household detergents, and even floor polishes.
The quality of lemongrass oil is usually determined by the content of citral, an organic compound or aldehyde responsible for the lemon odour.
Of course the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians used lemongrass to make medicines and cosmetics. They were into every herb weren’t they?
In India, it’s used as an antirheumatic, and antiseptic.
There they usually make a lemongrass tea by pouring boiling water on fresh or dried leaves.
The leaves are often also used in Indian and Asian cooking.
Of course you would know it has a wonderful lemony scent and taste.

Lemongrass will grow in a pot for a while.
How does it grow?
Lemon grass grows in a bushy clump to a metre tall and has long narrow pale green leaves.
It can be easily propagated by dividing the clump and when you pick the Lemon Grass, you can use in cooking or teas.
To make the most of the lemongrass stem that you’ve just picked. just cut off the bottom part leaving the roots - put this piece into a glass of water and it will shoot very quickly.
You can then replant it and this will ensure that you always have Lemon Grass in your garden.
Growing a clump of Lemon Grass in the vegetable garden has a good influence on all the plants around it because supposedly the vegetables will be much more flavoursome.
Cut back the old leaves in early Spring to strengthen the clump as well as tidy it up.
So how best to grow lemongrass?
Lemongrass is adapted to hot wet summers and dry warm winters, is drought tolerant and will grow in just about any soils but prefers rich, moist loams.
You might be surprised to learn that it dislikes wet feet but does like regular watering in summer.
If it’s damaged by frost in cooler areas, the tops should not be cut until all danger of frost has passed.
This helps to protect the centre of the plant from further cold damage.
A listener wrote in asking “How do I go about returning my massive clump of lemongrass to a manageable plant?
Or should I dig it out and start off again with a new seedling and keep chopping at it to keep it under control right from the start or in a pot?”
It’s been said about lemongrass, 'you cut it, it grows, you cut it, it grows....'. No, lemongrass in the garden bed can run away and really isn't manageable.
It will just keep on keeping on, spreading ever wider and the clump getting tighter and tighter.
If you grow it in a pot instead you’ll need a pretty big pot to contain it.
In a small pot, it gets too cramped too quickly. You can divide the clump, but it will soon be just as massive as it is now.
It's jolly hard work digging it, and every single piece with roots on it will in no time flat be just as big as the parent.
A year ago, I dug a clump of lemongrass out - I filled a compost bin with it and gave it all away, except for one tiny piece, which I replanted. It's now back to where it was before! So putting it in the vegetable garden will only work if you contain it in perhaps a bottomless pot.
The leaves can be picked at any time of the year and the stems can be used fresh or dried.
Why is it good for you?
Medicinally Lemon Grass can be drunk as a tea as it has a tonic effect on the kidneys.
If you have a fever the tea can be taken either hot or cold and iced Lemongrass is a mild sedative. 
Try it for your insomnia, or when you are under stress, or even if you need help to calm a nervous or upset stomach.   The herb is also said to relieve headaches.
Lemon Grass tea in summer is extremely refreshing.
It’s good for the skin as the oil contains Vitamin A. For an invigorating bath add a few drops of Lemon Grass oil to your bathwater. Teenagers with skin problems will benefit by drinking the tea regularly and it will also give eyes a bright clear look as well.

Cooking with lemongrass

Lemon grass has slender stalks about a 30cm long (12”). For cooking use the stalks only and pick the thick, light green ones that feel firm and are’ nt dried out and wilted. Cut off the woody root tip of each stalk until the purplish-tinted rings begin to show and remove the loose, dry outer layer(s). Also, if the top of the stalk is dry and fibrous cut this off too. When using it in cooked dishes, bang it with a cleaver to bruise the membranes and release more flavour.
Put a handful of the leaves into the saucepan when steaming or simmering chicken or fish to give a delicate but delicious taste of lemon. It can be used in many dishes as a substitute for lemon.
To store fresh lemon grass, wrap well in clingfilm and refrigerate, it will keep for up to three weeks.
Certainly an easy plant to grow in your garden and lots of benefits as well.


African Violet 'Tineke'
Talking with Horticultural Scientist Penny Smith
Potting mix can vary from brand to brand and of course there’s often a big price difference between the cheaper brands and the more expensive ones.
So should we just buy any old potting mix?
to begin with, you should always buy mix that's suitable for the plant.
African violets have their special mix so their fine roots can grow properly.
Orchids, on the other hand, need a very chunky, open mix because their roots need to have more space to grow.
After you hear this segment, you might want to rethink your purchase choice.
Let’s get started.

There’s quite a lot of information about potting mix, and I suppose the one thing we didn’t mention is that idea of putting broken pits of pot, or foam pieces over the drainage hole.
Not a good idea because you create what’s called a perched water table in that the water doesn’t want to make that leap from potting mix to another substrate and mostly stays at the bottom of the pot and around the roots.
If you’re worried about potting mix falling out of the hole, just put some open weave mesh across it.


Hellebore Ivory Prince
Sometimes called winter roses or Lenten roses, these small plants fit nicely into the shaded garden.

They used to have one problem with their flowers.

The flowers always pointed downwards and if you didn’t have them in a raised bed, you didn’t really get to enjoy the flowers so much.

Not so the newer cultivars of winter roses, with their much brighter colours.

What is this plant? Let’s find out …

Hellebore Jacob Royal
In their natural environment Hellebores love shaded conditions, such as the edges of deciduous woodland, dryer in summer and damp in the cooler months. If you’re wondering where to put your Hellebores think shaded but they’re more tolerant of exposed sunny positions in cooler, high altitude regions.

Winter Roses are both low maintenance and really hardy. They are useful for growing in hard to fill shaded areas such as beneath deciduous trees. Ensure they are planted in part shade or morning sun for best results. In heavy shade they will grow but not flower as well as they could.

Hellebore Lola
The flowers of Winter Rose can be picked and put in a vase or removed from their stems and floated in a bowl of water. Plunge the freshly picked stems into boiling water before putting in a vase to extend their show. Once established in a part shade location Hellebores are reasonably dry tolerant requiring only occasional deep watering during extended periods of heat.

Did you know Hellebores are related to Aquilegia, Clematis and Delphinium? As with some other members of the Ranunculaceae family, Hellebores are poisonous.


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Adorable Daphne and Treecreepers


White Throated Treecreeper

People have been fascinated by birds for centuries.
We look at them through binoculars and take photos of them with great big lenses. We even go around recording their sounds.
What have we observed?
We know that birds can fly, and that they can hop around on the ground and in tree branches.
They can even walk or waddle, swim, and dive.
But what about climbing a tree? How and why would they do that?
Let’s find out, talking with consulting ecologist Kurtis Lindsay
Have you ever seen a White-throated Treecreeper?
If you did, you’ll know why it is called a "treecreeper". Because it just does what its name suggests, creep up tree trunks, looking for insects and grubs to eat.
When it nears the top of the tree it flies down and starts again from near the bottom of the same or another tree.
Treecreepers have often been confused with woodpeckers, even though Australia doesn't have any of those.
The treecreepers bill is a lot softer than a woodpeckers' bill and they have short stiff tails that helps them to balance.
The white throated tree creeper prefers trees, mostly Eucalypts, that have flaking and peeling bark, such as ironbarks and stringybarks.
Some examples are Eucalyptus nicholi, Eucalyptus pilularis, Eucalyptus viminalis, Eucalyptus crebra.
They nest in hollows of trees, but if you want to encourage tree creepers into your garden, you can build nest boxes specific to tree creepers.
The white throated tree creeper is often seen in the Blue Mountains in native bush and in domestic gardens that are close to native bush.
If you have any questions about Tree creepers, or have a photo of one that visits your garden or nearby why not write in or send in a photo to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


 Mugwort is the common name for Artemisia vulgaris, a perennial herb used since the Iron Age in medicine, cooking and brewing.
Who would’ve thought?
Other names for this herb that you might’ve heard are wild wormwood, and croneswood and felon herb.
Or perhaps you’ve never heard of it at all?
Mugwort has also been used from ancient times as a remedy against fatigue and to protect travellers against evil spirits and wild animals.
A traditional ingredient in the medieval witches formula for flying ointment.
Would that mean witches flying on broomsticks?
Did they mention it in Harry Potter?
In the European Middle Ages, mugwort was used to repel insects, especially moths, from gardens.
Would you have thought that Roman soldiers put mugwort in their sandals to protect their feet against fatigue?
Perhaps you could try putting some Mugwort into your dancing shoes, boots, or joggers to relieve aching feet or sore leg muscles?
Then there’s the use medicinally, especially in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean traditional medicine.
Mugwort is also used as an herb to flavour food.
The leaves and buds, are picked just before flowering and is used as a bitter flavouring agent to season fat, meat and fish.
The flowers and leaves are also used to make a herbal tea.
 Did you know that mugwort has also been used to flavour beer before the introduction of or instead of hops?
Not only that, but it was also known as Sailor's Tobacco, because it was used when sailors ran out of tobacco at sea.
Mugwort grows easily in most of the temperate world and though it is classified as a weed in some places, its been planted in English herb gardens for hundreds of years.
Mugwort grows 1 -1 ½  metres  tall with grey green toothed leaves that are hairy and white underneath,  with reddish brown or small yellow flowers on woody stems and roots in late summer.
Seeds set easily so cut the dead flowers off if you don’t want the seeds to set.
Growing Mugwort
Mugwort can grow almost everywhere in Australia because it’s not frost tender.
Plant it in full sun or part shade and Mugwort isn’t fussy about soil, growing I anything from light sandy soil, through to loam and even heavy clay soils, as long as they’re well drained.
Plants are longer lived, are more hardy and more aromatic when they’re grown in a poor dry sandy soil
Mugwort is an adaptable plant and can tolerate a huge pH range from and acidic 4.8 to a very alkaline 8.2
One thing to note, mugwort is mostly wind as well as insect pollinated so that if you’re allergic to pollens or have asthma, then this plant isn’t for you.
It provides food and habitat for many moths and butterflies and a compliment to other summer flowers.
To grow more plants, just keep the seeds from the previous years and sow them in late winter through to summer.
How to use
Mugwort is botanically related to tarragon and the leaves can be used fresh or cooked and have a slight bitter flavour that suits or goes best with fatty foods,  such as in stuffing for roasted duck or turkey.
The dried leaves and buds can be made into a tea.
The fresh or the dried plant repels insects.
A weak tea made from the infused plant is a good all-purpose insecticide.
Just remember, these all-purpose insecticides don’t discriminate between good and bad bugs. It’ll kill them all.
sprouting brown rice and mugwort tea
Why are they good for you?
The leaves are said to be a good digestion and appetite stimulant. The Romans didn’t have it wrong when they places leaves in their shoes to relieve tired aching feet.
Some European farmers feed it to their stock as an all wormer.
If you keep chooks, leaves from mugwort among others, is a great poultry tonic and laying stimulant as well as helping to prevent parasites in your chooks.
General poultry tonics and laying stimulants include:- garlic, onion, chickweed, dandelion, fennel, wormwood, rue, cress, marigold, mint, vervain, comfrey, borage, thyme, marjoram, sage, nasturtium, mugwort, gotu kola and parsley.


with Horticultural Scientist Penny Smith

For many years I’ve been wanting a segment which deals with soils by a soil expert.
Here it is at last and for want of a better name we’re calling it Soil Savvy.

Together with horticultural scientist who specialises in soils, Penny Smith, RWG will be discussing all there is to know about potting mixes.
Covering everything from using the cheap mixes, how long do they last and even to mixing your own.
Today we’re discussing the need for potting mix versus garden soil, and what is it about potting mix that you really need to know.
Let’s get started.

How often do you repot your plants?
Never? Once in the last 5 years or every couple of years?
Some potting mixes only consist of composted pine bark fines
Perhaps more often that?
Growing plants in pots can be hit and miss if you forget to do this one thing and leave that plant coping with slumped potting mix for years on end.
Fertilising and pest control of your pot plants is only one part of the equation to keep those potted plants looking healthy.
Keeping a diary of what you did and when, is also a good idea if you’re saying to yourself, “ I can’t remember when I repotted those plants last?”


Sabina Fielding Smith
Do you love scent in the garden?
Perhaps not the cloying scent of Jonquils or common Jasmine, but a more delicate scent that floats through the air.
Often the scented plants we crave don’t grow that well in our region, but that’s not stopped gardeners from trying.
We love to grow hard to find, difficult to grow plants that hold that alluring something.
Today’s plant, Daphne odora, or Daphne is of course scented and has a reputation.
Listen to the podcast


Daphne eternal Fragrance
Odora of course means fragrant in latin.
Possibly the most strongly perfumed of the genus and the most commonly grown in Australia, mainly in the cooler, south-east.
As we mentioned, it grows best in fertile, slightly acid, peaty, well-drained soils.
Dahne grows in full sun or partial shade, and is hardy to −10 °C (14 °F), possibly lower.
The best advice seems to be: do not disturb the roots; provide fertile, well-drained soil, morning sun, shelter from afternoon heat and water; not too much and not too little! And, don’t feel too bad if it dies as you will be in very good company.