Saturday, 23 January 2016

Birds, Butterflies and Bushes


ZEBRA FINCH or Chestnut Eared Finch.
What grows only to 10cm in size and 10 - 12 grams , is mostly found in only Australia, it’s favourite food is grass seeds and are often kept as pets?
The Zebra Finch as the title suggests?
Zebra finches have a chunky reddish coloured beak, with fine boned, tiny little legs.
Males have chestnut cheek patch; both sexes have zebra stripes with some barring.
Let’s find out about another unique Australian bird.
I'm talking with Birds in Backyards Manager, Dr Holly Parsons.

In the wild they tend to be in flocks and are not territorial.
They pair for life and will re-pair on the death of a partner.
Zebra Finch photo: Birds in Backyards.
You might’ve seen them for sale in pet stores but don’t tempted to buy them unless you like loud singers and untidy eaters that drop bird seed everywhere.
The male zebra finch also doesn’t like contact with other birds.
I prefer to see birds in the wild.
If you do want to keep them as a pet I would recommend that you seek expert advice before taking a finch home.
As small and as simple as they look, finches needs patience and proper care in order to breed successfully.
By the way, cats are the biggest threat to finches so do keep yours in at night.
If you have any questions about Zebra finches or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Radishes or Raphanus sativus. 

Have you thought why we don’t see too many radishes being served up in salads these days except for the floral radish on the side?
Yes, they seem to have gone out of favour but that’s about to change
The word radish stems from the Roman word “Radix” that means “Root”, and it belongs to the mustard family.
Did you know that radishes were first grown in China thousands of years ago, then in Egypt before the building of the pyramids?
 What’s more interesting is that in Ancient Greece the radish was so revered, that gold replicas were made and offered to the god Apollo.
Perhaps the Pandora people can make a gold radish to hang off t
As usual there are myths and legends about eating vegetables throughout history and in England in the 1500’s, it was rumoured that eating radishes cured kidney stones, intestinal worms and gave you a blemish-free complexion.
If only that were true.
radishes. Photo RHS UK

Growing Radishes.
But there is more than one way to grow radishes
Not only are radishes sown direct in to the vegetable garden, but radish seeds can be even grown in a sprouter and eaten just as you would eat mustard and cress or any other sprouted bean or seed.
When to sow
Radishes grow in all climates and like to be in moist shady places, especially on hot summer days.
Later on in autumn, you’ll have no trouble growing radishes in sunnier locations.
Plant them all year round in tropical and subtropical areas, in temperate zones they can be grown almost all year except winter, and in spring, summer, and autumn in colder districts.
TIP: Radishes will take light frost.
Radishes are closely related to cabbages, so they need much the same type of thing.
The best thing about radishes though is that they’re quick, being ready 6-8 weeks after planting and because of that you can plant them among slower growing veggies like carrots.
To sow seed, make a shallow furrow (about 6mm deep,) lay down some chicken poo pellets or something similar, cover with a little soil and sprinkle in some radish seed. They also love a dose of potash.
You could also fill the furrow with compost or seed raising mix and water in.
Important TIP: Seedlings will appear in a couple of days but makes sure you thin them out to 5cm apart otherwise your radish won’t grow into a big enough sized root for the dinner table and you’ll end up with mostly leaf.
Feed with a liquid fertiliser such as worm tea every week at the seedling stage.
Tip: As radish is one of the fastest growing vegetables, too much fertiliser causes the leaves to outgrow the root.
Long leaves have no shelf life, just look in your local supermarket
Pick the radish when they are the size of a ten cent piece and leaves about or 10cm long.
Make sure radishes have enough water and don't let them become too enormous.
If they are water deprived or get too big, they can become bitter.
Here are some varieties to get you interested.
Radish Black Spanish Round: The radish chefs prefer, this unique black skinned radish has a delicate black circle around the pure white flesh when sliced. Can also be pickled.

Radish Watermelon: You'll never see this one on the supermarket shelf.
When you slice through the bland looking white skin of this radish you’ll see that it looks like a mini watermelon with white 'rind' surrounding a bright pink interior; And it’s deliciously flavoured.
Or you can buy an heirloom mix from
This seed packet contains a kaleidescope of healthy bright round radishes that add a spicy punch to salads and sandwiches:Includes golden Helios, Purple Plum, scarlet Round Red, pink and white Watermelon and Black Spanish.Radish
There’s also Champion cherry bell that has deep red skin and firm white flesh, good for cold districts.
Radish China Rose has a smooth rose coloured skin and is a great Chinese winter radish.
French breakfast is readily available, scarlet skin with a white tip, and a mild flavour. Ready in 28 days.
The unusual varieties are available through mail order seed companies such as Eden seeds or online.
Why are they good for you?
Radishes are a very good source of fibre, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese.
Radishes are also mildly anti-inflammatory, which is another good thing. A diet containing anti-inflammatory foods can help to control inflammation in the body, which is an underlying factor of so many allergies and illnesses.


According to the Telegraph in the UK, Piet Oudulf is the most influential garden designer of the past 25 years.
Not just one of them, but THE one!
The article goes on to say that Piet has redefined what’s meant by the term ‘Naturalism” in planting.
Naturalism’s the exact opposite of clipped hedges and neat structured rows of planting.
Prior to Piet’s designs, Naturalism also tended to mean looking a bit wild, in the way of a wild meadow that you might come across somewhere in the UK.
Scampston UK Photo: M. Cannon

Not terribly wild by Australian standards.
No wonder the owner of Scampston Manor employed him to restore their garden which had been in the family for 900 years.
What an inspirational garden.
I'm talking with Garden Designer Louise McDaid

Naturalistic planting can be appealing, and look quite tidy, if not hard to photograph.
Just follow the type of plants that Piet Oudulf recommends, and also the ones that Louise suggested to substitute, because we can’t get them all here in Australia.
In the Perennial Meadow Piet Oudolf uses his technique of naturalised planting which gives a long season of interest. The form of each plant, leaf, flower head and stem is equally important, as well as the colour and shape.
Scampston, swathes of Molinia grass. photo M. Cannon
The perennial beds have plants that are not higher than a metre – they’re planted in groups that might cover an area around anything from 1m x 1m to 2m x 2m roughly. So that an area of flower might sit beside an area of grass with seed heads, beside an area of foliage plant – the textural combinations are really important, with height differentiations between the areas – it’s mass planting without space in between.
The colour palette is lots of purples, blues, burgundies with green foliage as well as silvery hints, bronzed seed pods – there are low seats in the centre of the garden to view have been specially chosen from this area in the centre of the garden.
Some of the plants were:

Nepeta Walkers Low,
Eryngium tripartitum,
Achillea “summer Wine, and A. “Walter Funke.’
Baptisia australis,


Buddleia davidii

Horticulturalists, botanists and many gardeners often lament those common names because they’re very confusing and often very different plants have the same common name.
Take Jasmine, there’s heaps of different types and some not really jasmine at all.

Then there’s Butterfly Bush, I know a few that don’t even belong to the same family of plants.
The species is reputed to be weedy but the plant panel is discussing the NEW CULTIVARS.
These Buddleias are a compact and eco-friendly Buddleia with a unique horizontal, low spreading habit.
Deep green leaves are graced with dark purple flowers that are continuously blooming.
These flowers are sterile so won't produce unwanted seedlings.
Buddleia "Black Knight" photo. M.Cannon

Buddleia Blue Chip-This breakthrough Buddleia has all the fragance and appeal of traditional varieties in a small, easy to maintain package.
Stays under 1m tall without any pruning, blooms from mid summer to first frost.
Sterile, self cleaning flowers.
What could be better?
Buddleia Ice Chip-Ice Chip features pure white flowers against a backdrop of silvery foliage.
It has a neat, low spreading habit that makes it the perfect ground covering plant. Seedless, and requires no deadheading.
Buddleia Lilac Chip-Lilac Chip features soft, lavender-pink fragrant flowers bloom continuously from summer until frost without deadheading.

Lilac Chip is a good groundcover for mass planting. Does not produce seed.

Let’s find out about one of these now. I'm talking with Karen smith editor of and Jeremy Critchley, owner of

We didn’t mention that Buddleia davidii is named after Basque missionary and explorer in China, Father Armand David, who first noticed it growing.
But they were also supposedly named after botanist Reverend Adam Buddle who was responsible for introducing them into England.
 Another botanist-missionary in China, Jean-André Soulié, sent seed to the French nursery Vilmorin, and Buddleia davidii began being sold in nurseries in the 1890s.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Super Ferns and Super Fruit


Preserving Summer Fruits
Do you have fruit trees in your garden?

Preserved oranges. Photo: Margaret Mossakowska

Citrus are fruits so you probably answered yes to that.
So what do you do when the fruits all come ripe at once?
Jams and preserves and possibly pickles are the first things that come to mind for most people, but there are a lot more methods of preserving fruit to use later on in the year. Let’s find out about this preserving business.
I'm talking with Permaculture North President, Margaret Mossakowska.

I hope that’s inspired you to try several different methods of preserving your fruit.

Electric dryers are a very efficient way of drying fruit because they're quite enclosed and don't use nearly as much gas or electricity as your conventional oven.

You can dry anything, any produce literally, even carrots.

Drying as a good alternative to other methods of preserving except of course if you have a root cellar or under-house garage where the temperature is constant and cool.
In here you can store your veggies in sand.
We didn’t even cover making pasta sauce with all those tomatoes that you’re growing right now.

If you have any questions about preserving summer produce or have some information you’d like to share, why not email
 or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


This weeks Vegetable Hero is ZUCCHINI or Cucurbita pepo.
Summer squashes, and winter squashes, are native to the Americas and belong to the family of curcurbita. 
Did you know that Archaeologists have traced their origins to Mexico, dating back from 7,000 to 5,500 BCE, when they were an important part of the diet which was mainly made up of maize, beans, and squashes. 
Ever wondered what a Courgette is?While Zucchini is the more common name in Australia, Italy,North America, and Germany, courgette is the name mostly used in the United Kingdom, Greece, New Zealand, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa.
So What Do They Look Like?
 Zucchini have a similar shape to cucumbers and can be dark or light green.
You can also get golden zucchinis that are a deep yellow or orange colour
The best times to sow Zucchinis for those who haven’t this season are;
In temperate areas, from September through to January, in Cool temperate areas, you have been October and January, in arid areas, yes that’s you in Alice Springs and Broken Hill, you have a bigger window, September through to March, sub-tropical zones, August to February, but for tropical areas, now’s too hot.
Your Zucchini planting time is April to August.
Very different from the rest of Australia!
Having said all that Zucchinis are great for the beginner gardener because they are quick and easy to grow.

Prepare your soil with the usual digging in some compost or cow manure.
Zucchinis are light feeders so won’t need much more than an occasional feed with some liquid fish fertiliser.
Sow your zucchini seed where you want them to grow.
TIP: Planting your seeds deeply will make your plant more drought tolerant.
Just like cucumbers, zucchinis take up a lot of space so maybe try growing them vertically.t
that way there’s also improved air circulation so the fungal problems are a lot less.
If you have heavy soil or only have a balcony garden, you could grow them in pot which would need to be about 30cm diameter.
TIP:The important tip with growing them vertically is have lots of soft ties, like old panty hose cut into strips, so you can tie up the stems as they grow.
That way they won’t flop all over the place and probably break their stems.
If you don't get many bees or pollinating insects around your way you might need to pollinate the zucchini flowers yourself

Fully grown zucchini leaves tend to look a motley silvery grey colour which looks like the fungal problem powdery mildew.
Unless you’re watering the leaves this shouldn’t happen.
Powdery mildew grows on wet zucchini leaves or on any veggie leaves that are wet.
By watering where it’s needed most, the roots, not the leaves you shouldn’t get this problem.
In summer you'll need to keep your zucchini's water levels high, because they dehydrate very quickly on hot days so mulch them heavily (but remember to keep the mulch away from the main stem).
Zucchini problems
There are two main problems that gardeners have when growing zucchinis.
when the fruits are 5cm long, they rot and drop off. This is a pollination problem.
You might have to pollinate them yourself.
Next year grow a whole lot of flowers nearby like Borage, nasturtiums or marigolds.
The second problem sounds like blossom end rot where fruit almost ready to harvest starts rotting from the top.
If this happens you need to add lime to the soil at the time of planting.

Too late this season. Otherwise it can be caused by irregular watering, that means, too much drying out in between waterings.
If your plants have many days of no water and then a glut of it, blossom end rot can develop, ruining the fruit.
By picking your Zucchinis regularly, usually when they’re about 20cm long; this helps the plant keep on cropping. If you let Zucchinis grow too big-like a metre long, they’re not much good as a vegetable to eat because they become too tough and contain mostly seeds.
The flowers are also edible - they can be used in salads, as garnish, and even fried.
Why is it good for us?
Zucchini and other Squashes
The zucchini vegetable is low in calories, about 15 calories per 100 g fresh zucchini.
1/2 cup of zucchini also contains 19% of the recommended daily amount of Manganese
As well as Zucchini containing large amounts of folate and potassium, the rind contains the nutrient beta-carotene, so to get the most out of your zucchini, you should also eat the rind.
If you want some unusual varieties, go online to buy the seeds of Goldfinger Hybrid, or Costata Romanesco-speckled with light coloured ribbing.
Storing Zucchini-Store zucchini fresh and unwashed in a cold dry place, like the fridge, for about 3-5 days.
After that they start to get soft and wrinkly, and nobody wants that. Makes you wonder about the zucchinis that you buy in supermarkets. How has their shelf life been increased? Better to grow you own.


Green as the Main Colour Scheme
Foliage colour leads this garden design.
Would you believe that not everyone likes flowers in the garden.
But colour just doesn’t colour from flowers, it also can come from, foliage, bark, pottery, furniture, fences and even artwork, but in the end it is all about colour.
So what kind of a garden is it with no flowers?
Let’s find out; I'm talking with English Garden Designer Lesley Simpson.

The easiest colour scheme to use is the one that uses only one colour and green as the main colour is very calming and refreshing.
Green doesn't need the addition of anything else to make it work and of course we're really talking about using different types of foliage colour in the garden scheme.
There's a huge range of foliage colour to choose from; the blue-greys of Eucalypts, silver foliage of Mediterranean plants to lime greens and variegated foliage.
When you get down to it, our gardens are really about colour and are meant to enhance our lives.
Perhaps also to make our homes look better from the street.


Staghorn Fern Platycerium superbum
Staghorn Fern
They make a nice plant for your balcony, verandah or just somewhere perhaps on a tree in the garden and are very easy to care for.
They can be grown year-round outdoors in areas protected from frost and freezing. In their natural habitat they can be seen growing high up in the crowns of trees.
Let’s find out some more by listening to the podcast.

Staghorn ferns are native to tropical central Africa including Madagascar, southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and Australia.
One species is native to the Andes mountains of Peru.
Platycerium superbum has greyish green fronds that lay flat over the root system which is attached to a support.
This fern has two distinct leaf forms.
Flattened sterile shield fronds protect the anchoring root structure and take up water and nutrients. This ‘nest’ frond is designed to collect falling leaves and insects and funnels it to the feeding roots.
This is the place gardeners usually throw in banana peels for the same reason.
Platycerium superbum

These give the fern a valuable source of potassium and calcium, nutrients required for the production of their large fronds.
It's from this frond that the fern attaches itself to the host tree.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Keep Cool Colours, Borage and Pimms


Design with Cool Colours in the Garden
This colour series hopefully has made you use the colour wheel because it is the gardener’s best friend when it comes to creating a pleasing garden palette.
It's based on the three primary colours -- red, yellow, and blue.
A full colour wheel looks like a rainbow, with red and orange next to yellow, followed by green, blue, purple, and violet.
Cool Perennials photo M Cannon
We know that warm colours are red through chartreuse while cool colours are green through violet.
Let’s find out about using the cool colours this time. Talking with English Garden Designer, Lesley Simpson.

I hope that’s inspired you to try several different combinations of cool colours:
how about blue, pink and white, you can’t go wrong with that combination, or silver, white and blue for a supercool combination?
Cool Colours in Garden Design photo M Cannon
Then there’s the romantic touch with soft purples, blues, pinks and whites. They would look good around a bird bath, garden seat or other ornament you might have in the garden.
If you have any questions about choosing cool colours in the garden or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


This weeks Vegetable Hero is Borage or Borago officinalis.I thought I would add this to the Heroes segment because I was asked last weekend why on earth I was growing it???
I have some growing in my veggie bed you see as well as around my roses.
Borago officinalis is a native of Northern Europe (Aleppo) and it is now naturalized in most part of Europe and in the temperate region of North America. It has been grown in kitchen garden for its herbal and culinary properties and for honey from its flowers.
Did you know that Borage was used by the Ancient Greeks and the Romans?
They believed that the herb was a source of courage and comfort.
It was usually steeped in wine or brandy and given to travellers before a long journey or to soldiers before battle.
Borage photo M Cannon
In medieval times borage tea was given to competitors in jousting tournaments as a morale booster and again as a source of courage. "Always borage brings courage", was a popular rhyme of the day.
Borage is an easy growing annual plant with vivid blue flowers and leaves with the flavour of cucumbers. It is considered a herb, but is I have ig growing in my vegetable gardener and I’m not the lone ranger on this one.
Did you know that Borage is in fact considered a good companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries?
It’s even supposed to deter tomato bugs and improve the flavour of tomatoes growing nearby.
Easy to grow. Borage has a cucumber aroma and is great added to salads - it can be used like spinach as a vegetable or added to spinach and cabbage.
 It's also slightly salty in flavour so if you're on a salt reduced diet you need to grow this plant.
The fresh blue flowers can be added to salads, candied and used as cake decorations or dried and put in a pot pourri.
When to Grow Borage
It’s very quick growing. If you put in some seeds today, you would have Borage in 8-10 weeks before harvest.
Use leaves before flowers appear, otherwise they will be 'hairy'. .
To sow seed in the garden, this is what you have to do.
Borage likes a sunny spot with well drained fertile soil.
Borago officinalis photo M Cannon
The warmer months are best when soil temperatures are between 10°C and 25°C. (Show °F/in)
Here’s a tip-Borage grows best if direct seeded. 
Where to Grow
Barely cover the seeds with soil and keep well watered. They are tolerant of any type soil, even poor dry soil.
Space plants 20 cm apart as they grow quite big and you might want to stake them because they flop over quite a bit in windy weather.
Borage is a tall annual plant, attractive but rather gangly plant, often grown in flowerbeds as well. Borage has vivid blue star-shaped flowers. Will grow almost anywhere but prefers well-drained soil
Borage dies down in the winter in colder areas but mine has been going most of the winter. Although it’s only been flowering when spring started.. It self seeds quite vigorously and spreads around the garden. Luckily, it is so attractive that it adds to the general design. So if it’s not growing in the right place, transplant it or give it away
Can be transplanted when young but older plants don’t move well. The root system is quite weak at the early stage and no problem to pull out
Culinary hints - cooking and eating Borage
Has a slight cucumber taste which goes well in salads and when cooked with silver beet or cabbage and cauliflower.
The flowers make a pretty drink decoration when frozen in an ice-block.
Use the cucumber-tasting leaves fresh in drinks.
Older leaves will get prickly, making harvesting anything on the plant a bit unpleasant because they're slightly prickly to touch.
The young leaves and flowers do add a bit of flavour and a great deal of colour to salads, soups, dips & spreads, open face sandwiches. Chopped leaves of borage are added to soups just after you’ve taken it off the heat. Because boiling, frying and simmering loses the borage fragrance quickly.
As with all edible flowers, use only a little until you know how they effect you. Borage is reputed to be a gentle laxative.
I quite like blue borage flowers in my lemonade.
Summer cocktails and other drinks are also garnished traditionally with leaves and flowers. The English like Borage flowers in their Pimms!
In Germany, sauces prepared from herbs are very popular in summer. Green sauce is made in Frankfurt and its ancient formula contains seven herbs - parsley, chervil, chives, cress, sorrel, burnet and borage.
Lemon balm is a popular extra herb.
Why Is It Good For You?
Well apart from uplifting the spirits, Naturopaths have used Borage for colds, Menopause symptoms and inflammations to name a few.
One cup of Borage-either leaves or flowers has lots of Vitamin A , B1,2,3,6and B9, large amounts of vitamin C and about 15 other nutrients that include protein iron and calcium.

Borage is open pollinated and it is very easy to collect and save the seed from flowers allowed to remain on the plant and turn brown.
The blue flowers are very attractive and this plant can easily find a place in the flower border as well as the herb garden
Apart from anything else, you’ll never find Borage leaves or flowers for sale in the shops
So grow some yourself today.
If you haven’t room to grow Borage, try getting some Borage oil capsules, 



An alternative to compost bins and worm farms.

Greg Hales with his Composting Cannon
You probably have heard that worm farms are great for the garden, but there is a bit of work involved with changing the layers and keeping the worms cool during warm weather.
Then there’s the compost bin.
How many of us have a compost bin in the corner of the yard but never bother to turn the compost or actually put it on the garden?
Seems like a hassle, and who has the time?
Here’s an alternative. Let’s find out about a portable worm farm. I'm talking with Greg Hales.

The other alternative is to dig holes in the garden, but in some scraps and then cover it up doesn’t seem that great.
By composting directly into your garden bed or pot, the composting cannont delivers nutrition and worms right where your plants need it.
Saves you the trouble of getting it out of your worm farm doesn’t it?
If you have any questions about composting cannons, why not write in with your question or ask for a fact sheet. Greg's website


GYMEA LILY Doryanthes excelsa

Plant of the week this week has a few common names.
Common names are often confusing especially if plants have different names in different states.
Doryanthes is the sole genus in the flowering plant family Doryanthaceae. The genus consists of two species, D. excelsa and D. palmeri, both native to the coast of Eastern Australia.
But there’s no mistaking this plant once you see it, you’ll remember it no matter what name you choose to call it.
Let’s find out some more…I'm talking with Landscape Designer Jason Cornish

Doryanthes or even Dory’s is probably just as easy to remember as Gymea Lily.
Plants do best in deep soil and grows as a large clump with numerous sword-like fibrous leaves, to 1 m in length and up to 100 mm wide.  
Plants grow in a rosette form, only flowering after more than 7-10 years.
The red, trumpet-like flowers each 100 mm across are held on a compact terminal head on a leafy flowering stem 2-4 m high. For this reason, and because they are surrounded by brown bracts, the flowers aren't that easily seen from the ground.
Did you know that honeyeaters love the nectar of the large flowers?
Besides that, Aboriginal people (in the Lake Macquarie district of NSW) used to roast the stems, after chopping the stem off when it was about 40cm high and as thick as a person's arm?
They also roasted the roots which they made into a sort of cake to be eaten cold.
If you have any questions about Doryanthes, why not write in to


Sunday, 3 January 2016

Pines, Mushrooms Plants and Hot Colours

The Discovery of The Wollemi Pine.

Wollemi Pine. photo L. Brooks

In 1994, 3 canyoners found a stand of trees that they had never seen before in Wollemi National Park. The leader, David Noble, took some specimens to have identified at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.
Louise Brooks is reporting for Real World Gardener and here she talks with Dr Cathy Offord, Research Scientist at Mt Annan.
Cathy is researching various aspects of the Wollemi pine, listen to the podcast to find out more.

Thank you to Louise Brooks for recording and producing that interview with Dr Cath Offord, Research Scientist at Mt Annan Botanic Garden.
Wollemi Pine trunk displays bubbly bark.

Bubbly Bark of Wollemi Pine/


If you have any questions about growing Wollemi Pine or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


MUSHROOM PLANT: Rungia klossii

Have you ever heard of a mushroom plant?
I bet you’ve never heard of a it?

Rungia klossii or Mushroom plant is from the Acanthaceae family, that has quite a lot of ornamental plants with names like, Acanthus mollis or Oyster plant, Justicia sp.
You might’ve heard of the shrimp plant, or even grow it yourself.
Why are these plants in the same family? For one thing, these plants have sympetalous corollas-that means the petals are fused into a tube and they also have four stamens (sometimes reduced further to two).
Members of this family that grow in Australia or New Guinea (Australia was part of New Guinea in Gondwana time.) are usually small herbs or shrubs.
They usually have quite dark green leaves.

Where do you get it?
Well local markets are a good thing, and it’s at one of these market plant stalls that I found such a plant. At first I didn’t really believe the stall holder so she made me try a leaf. It wasn’t until I was chewing on the second leaf that the real mushroom flavour came through.
You can also buy it now from online shops, or ring them and they’ll send you a catalogue, or your local garden centre might even carry it.
Mushroom Plant in Garden Bed
What Does It Look Like?
The mushroom plant is a perennial-that means it flowers and sets seed over a number of years, growing to about 60cm high.

It originates from the highlands of Papua New Guinea, so it’s a tropical plant or sub-tropical plant, but seems to grow alright in cooler areas that only get a light frost.

Don’t despair, if you want to try this plant, I’ve been growing mine for years in a pot, and even though there’s not that much frost where I live, it seems to survive quite well.

In cooler areas, the plant will die down in winter but comes back up in spring.

Mushroom plants have dark green, glossy succulent leaves and stems with a yellow central mid-vein.

The leaf is crinkly, about 2 cm long with a sharp point.

The leaves are arranged on a stem in opposite pairs at right angles to those above and below, this is what’s known as decussate.
In fact you if you bite on the leaf, it’s quite crunchy, and very tasty.
Tip: Don't worry if it hasn't flowered.
Mine has never flowered but it’s supposed to have blue flowers in spring.
It probably flowers in more tropical areas.
The flowering doesn’t matter really because you’re growing it for the leaves to put into your cooking, sandwiches and salads.
How Does It Grow?
There isn’t much information about growing this plant in books or on the web, but I’ve found that it grows well in ordinary potting mix, and I’ve also put a plant in the edge of my veggie bed.
I have heard that it doesn’t like being waterlogged so for those people who have clay soils, you need to grow it in a raised bed or pot of any size.
You could say it copes in most soils, but it must be well-drained and kept fairly moist.
Mushroom plants can be grown in a position that gets morning sun or semi-shade.
If your district experiences temperatures in the mid-30’s for stretches at a time, I would say that you should only try this plant in a semi-shaded spot.
In cool temperate climates you could grow the mushroom plant in a full sun position.
This year I hedged my bets, I put one in the veggie bed in full sun, although it’s next to a taller Angelica plant and I kept another one in a pot in semi-shade.
The full sun plant is more bushy but shorter than the potted plant.
This plant certainly won’t cope with any frost in winter.
Rungia klossii
So if you want to grow it in, grow it in a pot and move it to a sunny spot when it gets really cold or under the verandah or patio.
Picking the leaves often means the plant gets more bushy-a bit like pruning most plants, the new growth that comes after is better.
Colder Climate Growing Tip:
In colder climates it becomes dormant in winter, may even die right down, but in tropical and sub-tropical areas it doesn't always lose its leaves.
The plant will grow from cuttings or from root division.
Spring is the best time, and it can be slow to strike.
Although once you get it going it can grow quite quickly.
If you plant it in the ground it’ll spread by suckering and will form a large clump over time.
How To Use In Cooking:
You can eat the leaves in salads, they have a nice crunch to them, or chop them up and put them into scrambled eggs. They won’t go that grey colour.
Add them to soups, stews and stir-fries towards the end of cooking time. Heat enhances that mushroom flavour.
Why is it good for you? The leaves are extremely rich in chlorophyll, making them, valuable for blood cleansing and building.
Mushroom plant leaves have 3% protein (higher in protein than mushrooms!!)
What I don’t get is that have a few calories, in fact they have 33 calories per 100 grams of leaves,
But the good part is calcium content is 272mg to 100 grams of leaves the highest in any plant!
Other plant foods with high sources of calcium are: kale at 249, almond 234, soybean 226, parsley 203, dandelion leaves 187, watercress 151, chickpeas 150, horseradish 140, sunflower seed 120, wheat bran 119, broccoli 103, fennel 100, spinach 93, lentils 97, raisins 62, Chinese cabbage 43 … which shows us that the mushroom plant is very high in calcium. The plant is also a rich source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, iron and other vitamins and minerals.
It’s a very tasty herb and there should be more of it around.
The mushroom taste gets stronger with cooking.
Go to your local markets and buy one today.


Designing with Hot Colours

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Are you one of those gardeners that avoids using plants with red flowers or red leaves in the garden?
For some reason, the colour red has that reaction when gardeners are choosing colour in the garden.
Perhaps it’s because of the fear of red clashing with the other colours in the garden?
Knowing how to use colour in the garden can be a bit tricky because there are so many variations of the one hue.
This is part two in the series, Designing with Colour in the garden-this week is all about using Hot Colours, of which red is one-what would we avoid when using hot colours?

Let’s find out. I'm talking with English Garden Designer, Lesley Simpson
Knowing how to combine colours so that the final product will be one we like takes practice, or perhaps even trial and error.
We know what we like when we see it and to stop your garden from looking like the clash of the titans, take the opportunity to visit other gardens,  or visit parks that have displays of colour to see what you really like.

1-DSC_0186.JPGOnly practice and experimentation will develop your eye for colour and allow you to see the differences between colours.
I you have any questions about colour schemes in the garden why not email me at


gloxinia2.pngGloxinia speciosa: GLOXINIA
This next plant is the type you buy after seeing it in a florists display because it looks so exotic with it’s rich velvety petals. You think to yourself, “ I’ll get that” as a reward for something you’ve done like finishing a horticulture course, gardening or floristry course or a difficult task.
Perhaps even after losing some weight.  If you find the right location, they last for years and years.
-let’s find out about this plant.


These modern hybrids have brilliantly coloured trumpet-shaped flowers and very beautiful, large, flat, velvety mid-green leaves. 
gloxinia1.pngThe flowers vary in colour from rich crimson, deep red, violet and white to various combinations of such colours.
Some forms, called the tigrina gloxinias, have flowers heavily spotted or delicately veined in these colours on a white background, and others have frilled edges, touched with white.

I used to treat myself to a red velvet flowering gloxinia when I finished my horticulture exams. They would last a couple of years, then it was time for a new one.
The tubers will survive from year to year but they should not be kept longer than 2 or 3 years as old plants tend to lose their vigour.
Yes, I spent quite a few years studying.
As a rule of thumb, if you can successfully grow African violets, you can probably grow gloxinias.
Having said that, Gloxinia prefer higher humidity than African violets or Streptocarpus, and many serious growers find that they must supplement the humidity in their grow rooms with pebble trays or a humidifier in order to grow Gloxinia successfully year-round.
If you’re ever fortunate enough to be able to attend an African Violet show, then you’ll find that Gloxinias, along with Streptocarpus are also exhibited and for sale.

The biggest difference between growing Gloxinia and growing African violets or Streptocarpus is that Gloxinia require a period of dormancy or “winter rest” in order to flower again.
Your plant will start to wind down, usually around April or May with flowers fading more quickly and fewer or no new buds being formed.
When that happens, your plant is telling you it’s time to rest.
Reduce watering to about half the usual amount and remove dead flower stems.
The really great news is that once you have a mature gloxinia plant, it can live for years. There’s the belief that if you can successfully grow African violets, you can probably grow gloxinias. They both are members of the Gesneriaceae family.
Funnily enough I can grow my Gloxinia outdoors under a peach tree in a pot, but can’t do that with my African violets.
If you have any questions about growing Gloxinias, why not write in to