Saturday, 25 June 2016

Camellias and Persimmons R Us


Camellias have a reputation for being hardy and thriving in neglected gardens.
For the most part this reputation is unsullied, but sometimes climatic factors or an insect event can lead to a pest or disease problem with your camellia plants.

What then?

Let’s find out what can go wrong in this 2 part series on pests and diseases of Camellias.

I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager of

Scale insects that most commonly attack Camellia plants are brown scale, cotton cushiony scale and white wax scale.
Control is with eco Oil or Neem and depends on the temperature and the species.
Camellia japonica photo M. Cannon
In warmer climates the home gardener could have several generations of scale pests so control could be at any time.
However, for those in warm temperate and colder climates, control of scale is best done in the warmer months, from Spring onwards.
Other common pests are Camellia T-mite which is best known for the symptoms that look like a grey dusting or bronzing of the leaf. In other words loss of greenness.
Control is with the organic oil, eco Oil or Neem oil.
Mite damage on Camellias
Before your reach for a toxic chemical to fix the problem, be sure that you know what the problem really is.
Most non-organic insecticides cause a blanket kill effect (non selective) on all the insects, spiders and mites wiping out both good and target bugs.
After which there’s a bit of a hiatus when there’s no bugs and then the bad bugs come back first.
Using organic sprays is the best way to control large infestations and live with minor ones, because it’ll save you money in the long run.
If you have any questions about growing fruit trees or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Asparagus or Asparagus officinalis from the Liliaceae or lily Family.
Asparagus is a perennial plant that is native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas.
Vegetable names are an interesting lot and the name “asparagus” comes from the Greek language meaning “sprout” or “shoot.
Did you know that Aspargus has been around for at least 2,000 years.
Fast forward to the 16th Century, where asparagus was eaten a lot in France and England. 
During that time Asparagus was known as the “Food of Kings” because King Louis XIV of France loved to eat them.
In Fact King Louis loved them so much that he ordered special greenhouses built so he could enjoy asparagus all year-round?
According to some, Asparagus is considered an Aphrodisiac, possibly because of its shape more than any other reason.
There have been asparagus recipes found in Arabian love manuals as far back as the 6th century, and experts say you need to it over three consecutive days to get the full effect. Heh Heh.
If you look in old seed catalogues that date back as far as the 19th century you’ll find that Asparagus was popular with Australians even back then.
What is Asparagus exactly?
The plant has a crown that is actually an underground stem from which asparagus spears shoots

Asparagus Bracts
The roots are called rhizomes (pronounced rye-zomes).
 On top of these rhizomes grow spears, which are tender and succulent to eat, are slightly glossy, about 18-25cm long and 1.5-2cm wide, with many small, bumpy, triangular scales (called bracts) concentrated in the top quarter of the stem.
Some gardener might be thinking where can I buy Asparagus to grow?
In fact, do I buy seed, or tubers or what?
I’m here to tell you all that.
You can in fact buy Asparagus seed, including Purple Asparagus seed from online companies such as Green Harvest or diggers.
But now’s the time to buy something called Asparagus Crowns, and you can buy these from just about anywhere even some supermarkets.
I saw some this week in a supermarket, they were the Mary Washington variety.
You can buy the Crowns online or from mail order catalogs as well
In sub-tropical districts, plant Asparagus crowns from May until July.
In temperate, arid and cool temperate zones, you have June and July to plant Asparagus crowns.
So what do you do with Asparagus really?
Asparagus is a perennial so if you haven’t a perennial veggie patch find somewhere else in the garden, maybe near those rhubarb crowns, because the crowns last for many years, and need to be left in the one spot.
Normally, your veggie patch gets a makeover every 6 months or so, -not that good for the crowns of these plants.
So find a sunny spot in the garden where you don’t mind some veggies growing there year after year.
Asparagus Crowns being planted
Preferably with soil that’s been given some Dolomite and heaps and heaps of compost and complete plant food.
To plant, dig out a shallow trench 30cm wide and 20cm deep. Incorporate well-rotted manure to the base of the trench and cover the base with a 5cm layer of excavated soil. Be sure to buy fresh crowns, as they often dry out while on display.
Place the crowns onto a small mound in the centre of the furrow, so that the roots point down at about 45°, spread the roots out carefully. Backfill with compost to a depth of 7.5 cm.
Space the plants 45cm apart, with 1.2 m between rows.
Fill in the trench gradually as growth progresses.  Doesn’t sound too hard does it?
In spring Asparagus will grow long and slender with soft fernlike foliage.  Don’t cut any spears in the first Spring, because this is when the crowns are developing.
Spring is also the time you need to add 100g per sq m of fertiliser like fish meal or blood and bone.
Then top with a thick hay mulch.
Asparagus produces both male and female plants shoots as male plants. 
Asparagus leaves are ferny.
Modern cultivars are all male, as male plants produce more and better spears. If you have any Female plants, which have berries, pull these out   because the red berries are poisonous and don’t produce as many edible spears.
During Autumn and Winter the tops will go yellow and brown off, cut off the old tops about 7.5 cm from the soil surface.
Frost damage causes distorted or dead spears, often some time afterwards if the tips are just below soil level.
Cloches or fleece can hold off light frosts.
Don’t cut any spears for the first two years after planting. In the third year, gather spears for the first month of the growing season, but in following years, if the plants are strong, cut for eight weeks.
Slice off spears with a sharp knife just below the soil before they exceed 18cm tall. In warm weather, this may mean cutting every few days.
Don’t cut any more after late December so that plants have enough time to build up their growth reserves for winter. 
Green Asparagus

In the following years, mulch the beds thickly with compost and manure in late winter. 
Remember patience in the early stages will help to get a life span of 15 years or even longer for your asparagus.
Spears are harvested in two ways which gives them a different colour.
White asparagus is grown below the ground and not exposed to light.
When harvested it’s cut below the surface before being lifted out of the soil.
If spears are allowed grow in sunlight they turn a green colour. 
For green, only hill about 10cm (4”) and allow the spear to grow 15cm (6”) above the soil, making sure to cut the spear just below ground level. 
Asparagus is most delicious when the time between cutting and serving is kept to a minimum.
When you’re cutting the spears, do it carefully to avoid injuring the crown. 
Farmers harvest by a rule-of-thumb, if the spears are thicker than a pencil cut them before the spears branch, usually at approx. 20 cm high, if they are skinnier, leave them to develop and feed the crown.
Why Is It Good For You?
Asparagus has a great flavour and is very affordable.
Asparagus is low in kilojoules, without fat or cholesterol, while providing fibre. That makes it a must for any diet, including a weight loss diet.
Asparagus contains B group vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and biotin-is a great source of folate, with a serve giving us over 20% of our daily needs.
A serve of asparagus has ¼ of your RDI of vitamin C and lastly Asparagus has potassium to help keep our blood pressure healthy.


Climbing Plants An Introduction-Why Use Climbers?

Pandorea jasminoides photo M Cannon

Pandorea pandorana
With so many gardens decreasing in size don’t forget to make the most out of your vertical planes.  The walls of the house, ugly boundary fences, posts on your pergolas, decking balustrades or even the letterbox can act as a support for climbers or surfaces for the climbers to grab on to. 
Allowing some greenery to cover these surfaces will give your garden another dimension.

Do you realise that you can stuff heaps of these types of plants into the smallest of gardens and have something in flower for most of the year.
We’re talking climbing plants in this new series.

So how do plants climb?
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Glenice Buck, Consulting Arborist and Landscape Designer.

Ever thought about why plants climb and where they came from?
Climbing plants originate in rainforests and started life on the forest floor.
As rainforests developed a thicker canopy there was less and less light that reached the forest floor so that plants gradually evolved ways to climb up towards the sunlight. Here’s an amazing fact, 90% of the world’s vines (climbihng plants) grow in tropical rainforests.

Pandorea jasminoides needs a strong supporting structure.
What You Need To Consider When Using Climbing Plants
What type of climber will be able to climb on the structure you want to use? Do I need a twiner, a scrambler, one with aerial roots or one with far reaching tendrils?  The answers to these questions will be determined by the materials the structure is made out of


They’re orange and can be put into your kid’s lunchbox unpeeled, and can be eaten sliced or whole like a pear.
You can dice and freeze them, adding them to a smoothie as a thickener.
They can also be dried, changing them from a crisp consistency to a soft, date-like, chewy texture. Eaten this way, they are deliciously sweet and taste more like candy than dried fruit.
What is this tree? Let’s find out..I'm talking with horticulturalist Sabina Fielding-Smith

Persimmon Trees
Did you know that unripe Japanese persimmons are full of tannin, which is used to brew sake and preserve wood in Japan?
The small, non-edible fruit from wild persimmon trees in Japan are crushed and mixed with water. This solution is painted on paper to repel insects.
This solution is also thought to give cloth moisture-repellent properties.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Clove Pinks Not Onions


Small or Dwarf Fruit Trees
Normally fruit trees grow to 8 - 10 metres in height, such as Avocado or Mango.
What do you do if you want to plant fruit trees in your garden but want ones that aren’t that big.
There’s usually dwarf varieties of the particular type that you want but how dwarf is dwarf really?
Is there another way to grow fruit trees without going dwarf?
Fruit trees can be espaliered photo M Cannon
Have you ever heard of fruit tree hedges?
Let’s find out what it is now. I'm talking with sustainability consultant and permaculture guru, Margaret Mossakowska of Moss House

You can plant your fruit trees closer together and prune them from a young age to have an open canopy so that they don't get diseases.
Trees that are too dense inside the canopy are prone to scale and fungal problems.

Meyer Lemon tree comes in a dwarf form.
The concept of a dwarf fruit tree is really fruit trees that are naturally occurring as a small tree but they still grow to 4 metres.
Unless of course they're grafted onto dwarfing stock.
Multi-grafted trees are a great way to get multiple fruit trees in one planting hole but you have to be on top of the pruning of each variety very early on or the strongest one will take over and the others will die.
The other alternative is to plant two of something into the one planting hole or if you have the time and inclination, espalier your fruit trees.
If you have any questions about growing fruit trees or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Onions.  Or allium cepa are from the Alliaceae family that contains Garlic, Leeks Shallots and Chives.
Most of these have corms or bulbs or underground stems with long thin leaves and clusters of varying numbers of flowers. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Did you know that onions were grown as a crop and eaten since prehistoric times?, Onions are even mentioned in first dynasty of ancient Egypt, circa 3200 BCE, and have appeared in tomb paintings, inscriptions and documents from that time on. Some paintings depict onions heaped onto a banquet table.
When to grow Onions?
In sub-tropical, cool temperate, warm temparate and arid climates you can plant them from April until August.
Onions are sensitive to the day length for formation of flowers, so it’s important to select the right variety (early – mid-season – late).
These varieties have different requirements in the length of daylight hours.

Early varieties are short day length onions, mid-season varieties are medium day length onions, and late varieties are long day length onions.
If planted out of season, onions may bolt to seed prematurely.
For example in temperate climates mid-season onions are sown in winter, growing through spring and harvested in summer. These include Sweet Red and Brown Spanish Onions.
They love sunny well drained beds, especially when the bulbs mature in summer.
So why Grow Onions?
Onions are a good companion plant.
Grown around the garden they repel pests.
They contain sulphur which is a strong disinfectant.
Did you know that onions were was used to heal gun shot wounds and during World War 1, sphagnum moss was soaked in the juice as a wound dressing.
How to Grow Onions with Success.
Remember to always lime your soil well a week or two before planting onions.
They love a sweet or alkaline soil.
I don’t really know why alkaline soils are called sweet.
Don't forget avoid applying manures and blood and bone to the beds in which you're about to grow your onions because they prefer alkaline soil.
You can use spent mushroom compost instead of cow manure.
Sowing seeds with Success
Onion seeds can be sown into seed raising mix into punnets.
 Or if you want to sow them directly into the garden, make it easy for yourself, mix the seed with some river sand-say one packet of seed to one cup of sand and sow it that way. Bit like sowing carrots!
They can be transplanted to garden beds when the seedlings are arond 3 inches (8 cms) tall.
According to the “Vegetable Patch” website, there is a secret to planting onion seedlings.
Instead of planting them sticking straight up, lay them down in a trench and move the soil back over their roots.
In about 10 days they're standing up and growing along strongly.
Some tips to keep your onions growing strongly is
1.   Hand weed around onions to avoid disturbing their roots and bulbs.
2.    Keep away from nitrogen based liquid fertilisers when your onions are maturing. Otherwise their efforts will go into their leaves instead of their bulb.
3 Regularly water your onions. Lack of water can delay growth or split the bulb.
Because of their strong taste pests generally leave onions alone.
When Do you Pick Your Onions?
Harvest onions (except spring onions) when the tops yellow and start drying.
This usually takes 6 months,so if you plant seedlings today, yours will be ready  in December.
Add a couple of weeks if your using seeds.
Pull the whole plant from the ground and leave it to dry in the sun.
Turn it every few days and avoid getting them wet (eg dew or rain).
Hang them in a cool dry place for around 3 weeks to cure.
If you store them in a cool dry place they should keep for a year.
This explains why you can buy onions all year round.
Eat the bulbs without a good dry skin first .
Why do we cry when we cut onions?
Onions contain complex sulphur compounds.
When you cut into an onion, two chemical reactions take place.
First, when a knife cuts through the cells of an onion, its enzymes release a strong odour.
Second, the onion releases allicin, a volatile sulfur gas that irritates the eyes and sends one rushing for a tissue.
Keeping Onions in the fridge can help with this problem.
To avoid a bitter flavour never, never buy onions that have begun to sprout greens from their stem portion.
This means they’re more than a year old.
If you see sprouts forming in your onions stored at home, simply snip them off and use the green part like chives, put the rest in the compost.
Why Are They Good For You?
Some health studies have shown raw onions to be effective in lowering overall cholesterol while raising HDLs, the good cholesterol.
Additionally, onions kill infectious bacteria, help to control blood sugar, aid in dissolving blood clots, and help to prevent cancer.
Perhaps we could do with eating some French Onion soup. Bon Appetit


Acid Soil pH and Acid Loving Plants
By now you know what your soil pH is and want to know what to grow in it without having to change it.
There’s quite a lot of plants that prefer either alkaline or acid soil, so today’s episode is concentrating on the acid loving plants.

Wisterias are acid loving plants. photo M Cannon
These plants are poor at obtaining iron – Iron is more widely available in an acid soil. The reason why these plants love acid soils is because they can obtain this iron under these conditions In an alkaline soil there will be an iron deficiency this can be identified by a yellowing of the leaves on the plant.
Quite a few gardeners would know about quite a few plants that are acid loving plants, like Azaleas, Camellias and Rhododendrons.
What about any others? Let’s find out. I'm talking with Glenice Buck, Consulting Arborist and Landscape Designer.

What if you want to grow some of these acid loving plants in more alkaline soil ?
A short term fix is by giving them more iron
Iron can be supplemented in the form of cheated iron, bought as a yellow powder.
Place a large spoonful into a watering can and water over the leaves and into the soil.
This type of iron as it soluble will be absorbed readily by the plant, however it is only a temporary solution and long-term remediation of the soil may be necessary.

Rhododendrons are acid loving plants. Photo M Cannon
Some acid loving plants are:
Coniferous shrubs and trees, Abelia ,citrus, azaleas and rhododendrons Ph4.5 -5.5

Magnolia, hydrangea,gardenias ,camellias, crepe myrtle, holly shrubs, calla lilies, wisteria, strawberries, ajuga and willows.
If you have any questions about measuring soil pH drop us a line to


Dianthus x plumaris "Regency."
Dianthus Regency.
A plant with low mounding grey leaves doesn’t sound too crash hot or enticing but what about perfumed flowers?
The flowerways come in singles, doubles, frilly, semi-doubles and flecked with colours mainly in the pink to red colourways and you can eat them as well.
Let’s find out what this group of plants is.
I'm talking with the plant panel :Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Dianthus or Clove Pinks have been around since the 14th Century.
Flowers may be single, double, or semi-double and may be all one colour, flecked, picoteed, or laced. 
The leaves of all Dianthus members are linear to lance-shaped and are often blue-gray or gray-green with a waxy bloom. 
All Dianthus like full sun and average, well-drained, unmulched soil, because their crowns tend to rot beneath it.

Dianthus Mojo
Propagate most perennials by cuttings, division, or layering.
Dianthus don't mind a bit of humus in the top soil layer, but don't like wet feet.
Clove pinks prefer a neutral to alkaline soil.
Dianthus or Pinks have fine root hairs that prefer to be in terracotta pots if not in the garden and because they’re quite small you can stuff in quite a few different colours and flower shapes in the many nooks and crannies in your garden.
If you have any questions about growing Dianthus regency, why not write in to

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Quiet Birds and Quirky Conifers


Black Faced Cuckoo Shrike Coracina novaehollandiae
It’s funny that some birds live in our urban areas but we don’t know that they’re there.

Mainly because they’re not aggressive, a bit on the quiet side and don’t pick up leftovers from the barbecue.
But there they are all the same, living quietly amongst us.
Let’s find out what it is now.I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of Birds in Backyards.

That was Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of Birds in Backyards.

Black Faced Cuckoo Shrike photo Birds in Backyards
So Cuckoo-shrikes are neither cuckoos nor shrikes, but are called that because their feathers have similar patterns to those of cuckoos and their beak shape resembles that of shrikes?
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes have a black face and throat, blue-grey back, wings and tail, and white underparts.
These Shufflewings or Black Faced Cuckoo Shrieks forage in trees, and sometimes over open paddocks, for caterpillars, other insects, and occasionally fruit.
They fly from tree to tree, often landing on a prominent perch  which gives them a vantage pointfrom where they can pounce on their prey.
The Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike is found many suburbs, where these birds are often seen perched on overhead wires or television aerials.If you have any questions about the Black Faced cuckoo shrike or any other bird or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Garlic-Allium sativum comes from the Onion family. Alliaceae
You might have guessed that in medieval times, hanging Garlic outside your door warded off vampires.
Not exactly in the same league as vampires but did you know that eating garlic helps keeps mosquitos away?
There’s even a fact sheet from the DPI about growing garlic
There’s also a website devoted entirely to garlic growing in Australia.
Where does Garlic come from?
Well it’s been around for so long that there’s only records of cultivated Allium longicupis  sometimes known as Wild Garlic, growing naturally in central Asia.
Did you know that garlic as a crop, was used in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt from at least 2000 BC.
The Greeks and Romans saw garlic as a food that would give strength so that workmen and soldiers would use it.
What about this for a sure fire hangover cure from Roman times- boil 16 bulbs (not cloves) of garlic in a bucket of wine, mmm lovely.
Later on people thought that hanging garlic bulbs on doors would check the spread of diseases such as smallpox.
I think this was mistaken for what the London College of Physicians really recommended during the great plague in 1665, which was to eat the garlic not hang it somewhere.
But then, Louis Pasteur demonstrated, in 1858, that garlic could kill infectious germs.
Garlic was used throughout World War I to treat battle wounds and to cure dysentery.
During World War II, garlic was known as "Russian penicillin" because it was so effective in treating wound infections when adequate antibiotics were not available.
Sow direct in garden where they are to grow.
Garlic grows best when the temperature is between 13º to 24ºC.
That’s why Garlic is traditionally planted in cold weather and harvested in summer ("plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest").
You can plant Garlic blubs now in all districts of Australia, including cool temperate.
For cool districts, you’re right on the edge of when you can plant, so don’t delay, plant today.
Garlic grows best on fertile, well-drained, loamy soils.
Any soil suitable for onions is good enough for Garlic.
As long as you give garlic a sunny position garlic is easy to grow.
 Soil pH should be in the range 5.5 to 7.0.
So you’ve bought your Garlic bulb, what do you do with it?

Garlic bulbs from online suppliers

Do you plant it whole or what?
What you need to do first is separate them from the bulb, point upwards, deep enough to just cover each clove with soil.
When you plant the cloves, don't plant too deeply otherwise they will rot off.
TIP: Plant them so the tops of the bulbs are just below the surface and about 8 cm apart with the point end facing up.
Garlic usually takes about 17-25 weeks. 4-6 months to mature.
People always ask how do you know when my Garlic is ready?
You can tell because the leaves or stalks have flopped over and turned brown.
While your garlic is still growing, give it plenty of water, (especially in the coming spring).
Also fertilise, 2 or 3 times throughout the growing season.
Some young shoots can be cut off for a garnish or you can even pick the young garlic and eat the 'green' garlic leaves and all.
Reduce water at end of Spring (4 weeks prior to harvesting) that’s if you plant them right away.
When they are ready to be dug up, ease bulbs out with a fork, careful not to damage bulbs because these won't store well or go a bit mouldy.
If you’ve got some good weather let them dry in the sun for a few days.
Otherwise hang to dry for 4 weeks in a warm place with good ventilation. 
Garlic plant photo M Cannon

Store in a cool airy place.
This will prevent the bulbs from rotting.
Garlic is a fairly tough and easy-growing plant.

TIP: Leave a garlic PLANT  to go to seed, and you will probably get plenty of self-sown plants the following year.

Remember most garlic in supermarkets comes from China and has been sprayed with Methyl Bromide in quarantine.
Garlic plants will grow to be 50 – 75cm  tall.
Like onions, there are early, mid season and late varieties available.
These are softneck and hardneck varieties.
Softnecks are the most common garlics grown, and are the ones found in supermarkets.
Softneck garlic usually doesn’t have a flowerhead and have a longer shelf life (up to 9 months).There’s one called “Italian White” that’s available online.
Monaro purple, and Rocambole- are Hardnecks variety and these do have flowerheads like onions, and usually bigger cloves.
They don’t have as good a shelf life as the softnecks and prefer cooler winters.
Rocamboles have excellent flavour, glamorous red-purple skins and easily peeled, with a single circle of 6-12 plump cloves.
There’s also the extra large garlic called Elephant or Giant Russian garlic and has a milder flavour but is great for roasting.
This is actually a type of leek that you can get these from some markets that are around or from an online bulb company.
Why is it good for you?
There’s so much to be said about the health benefits of garlic. Garlic has been known to, ‘thin the blood’, much in the same way as fish oils.
It can help in lowering blood pressure.
If you eat only small amounts of garlic – like 1-2 cloves in the family dinner, you won’t get that many nutrients, but if you eat lots of garlic, like they do in Italy, Korea and China, where people there eat as much as eight to 12 cloves per day; then you’ll get  lots of dietary fibre, potassium, iron, zinc and vitamin C.
While that sounds like a lot of garlic, increasing the amount; you eat five or more cloves a day isn’t hard if you use it every time you cook.
Include it in soups, casseroles, even mashed potatoes.
You could also make a habit of snacking on garlicky dishes like hummus with vegetables.
TIPs from the chef.
Garlic plant photo M Cannon

Many home chefs mistakenly cook garlic immediately after crushing or chopping it, but to maximize the health benefits, you should crush the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. That triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts the healthy compounds in garlic.

Growing plants on Alkaline Soil; which plants love this type of soil?
By now you know what your soil pH is and want to know what to grow in it without having to change it.
There’s quite a lot of plants that prefer either alkaline or acid soil, so today’s episode is concentrating on the alkaline pH.
I'm talking with Glenice Buck, Consulting Arborist and Landscape Designer.
Beared Iris are alkaline soil loving photo M Cannon
Let’s find out which plants in this segment about soil pH.

Soils in arid climates and also on coral tropical islands tend to be alkaline, with a pH factor of 7.0 or higher.
Also those parts of Australia that are based on Limestone parent material such as the Limestone Coast, will have alkaline soils.
This is caused by the high percentage of lime (calcium carbonate) in soil of these regions. 
That Hydrangea Question:
Pink Hydranges photo M Cannon

Pink Hydrangeas means you have alkaline soils.
Some of the plants that were mentioned as preferring alkaline soil:

Evergreen shrubs (e.g.Buxus , Ceanothus - California lilacs, Aucuba, Bottle brush (Callistemon Harkness), Coastal Tea Tree (Leptospermum laevigatum), myoprum, plumbago, acacia, agonis and banksia)
Deciduous shrubs (e.g., lilacs, mock oranges, Forsythia species, tamarix)
Perennials (e.g.Acanthus, dianthus, Heuchera hellebores,Helichrysum, Plectranthus, Bearded Iris,
Trees – eg Hibisicus syriacus, Quercus robur, Crabapple, Poinciana trees, Arbutus unedo -  Irish Strawberry tree
Many succulents.
Just a reminder that soil pH is important because it influences how easily plants can take up nutrients from the soil.  If you’re soil’s too acidic or too alkaline, it will take quite a few months to change the pH, but that doesn’t mean you should give up now.


What makes a conifer?
A tree which bears cones and needle-like or scale-like leaves the majority of which are evergreen.
Long before flowering plants ruled the plant there were these guys, standing tall and covering most parts of the land mass.

Mt Tomah Botanic Garden photo M Cannon
Some of those ancient trees that have survived today grow really, really tall, but we’re not talking tall at all today.
Let’s find out what this group of plants is.

I'm talking with  the plant panel : Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Conifers come in all shapes, colours and sizes.
Did you know that conifers from hotter areas with high sunlight levels (e.g. Turkish Pine Pinus brutia) often have yellower-green leaves, while others (e.g. Blue Spruce Picea pungens) have a very strong glaucous wax bloom to reflect ultraviolet light.
Some of the varieties mentioned were:

Thuja orientalis "Aurea nana"
Thuja orientalis 'Aurea Nana'  "Golden Biota or Bookleaf
" A very popular conifer, forming a neat globular shape with a smooth outline. In summer the plant is bright gold, greener in winter. Very hardy, excellent in pots. Supposed to grow to only 1 metre but when in the ground, has expanded to be over 2 metres by 3 metres wide.

Juniperus communis 'Depressed Star'
A low spreading shrub growing to approx 1metre wide by 30cm high. The foliage is a fresh green colour in summer, coppery green in winter.

Cedrus deodara 'Feelin Blue' 
A low spreading Cedar with beautiful blue foliage. In 10 years a spread of more than 1metre should be achieved.
Often grafted as a standard.
Picea glauca 'Elf' 
A very slow grower, forming a beautiful round ball. Covered in soft, light green, fluffy foliage in spring; darker green for the rest of the year. In 10 years, it may reach 30cm x 30cm.

Don’t be put off by the few specimens that you’ve seen in gardens or are available in garden centres because they’re only a small percentage of what’s available.





Saturday, 4 June 2016

Best Camellias and Better Parsnips


Have you noticed some plants in your garden that look like they’re wilting even though you’re watering them?

Tree health reflects what is below ground. photo M Cannon
Then the whole thing dies and you plant another one in the same spot.
Guess what the same thing happens.
Something’s going on with your soil surely?
Let’s find out what it is now.
I'm talking with Penny Smith, a horticultural scientist who specializes in soil science.

Your soil needs lots of animals or mini beasts and micro-organisms to be healthy.
Commercial compost although sterilised, does have some of these things because it's compost after all and does break down.

Tree rot photo M Cannon

Root disease can occur when you've disturbed the roots.
Dieback here are there on the plant is one of the symptoms as is wilting and not recovering after watering.
The plant above the soil reflects what happens below the soil, so that if there's damage to certain roots from either disease or cultivation, then that will show up above the soil.
This might mean death of some branches.
Fungal diseases that grow in your soil are only growing bigger every time you water that wilting plant.
Before you replace it with another, take out soil from that failed location and put in a heap of compost.
Hopefully the micro organisms will overtake that fungus and so killing off that fungal infection and let your plant survive.
If you have any questions about disease in your soil or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Recently I saw a comedienne ask her audience what the name of the vegetable she was holding.
A couple of them said Swede which was close, others didn’t have a clue.
Iit was actually a Parsnip.
Did you know that the Romans ate Parsnips?
In the Middle Ages, especially during Lent, Europeans ate parsnips because of its flavour, and satisfied their hunger through meatless fasting periods
Interestingly, before sugar was widely available, parsnips were used to sweeten dishes such as cakes and jams, and they were also commonly used for making beer and wine.

Parsnips have been grown by the Germans for more than 200 years, along the banks of the Rhine which is a well known wine making region.
I wonder if there’s a connection?
But as the weather cools down, are you starting to think of slow cooked meals that need flavouring type vegetables like carrots and parsnip?
Not Swedes, but those pointy cream coloured thing. No, not Daikon or white radish either, that’s much larger.
What is Parsnip? Pastinaca sativa, a member of the Apiaceae family-same as carrots, Parsley and Celeriac.
These vegetables may look like white carrots but, although related, they have a totally different flavour and are much closer to parsley or celery.
For arid zones, April to October, April to September in sub-tropical climates, July through to March in temperate zones and August to February for cool temperate districts,
Parsnips are best planted at soil temperatures between 6°C and 21°C.
If you can grow carrots, you can grow parsnips.
You need the same type of soil, friable, not sandy and not clayey. A pH of 6.5-7. Yes, do go out and buy that pH testing kit.
If high school geography students can measure pH, so can you.
As with carrots, soil with stones or compacted soil will give you deformed and stunted turnips that not only look funny, but taste a bit that way as well.
After planting keep the seeds moist  perhaps by covering them  with a wooden plank or mulch until seeds germinate.
Parsnips are difficult to grow in summer as the seed dries out fast and won't germinate
How to Sow Parsnips
Parsnips need to be started from seed. Because they resent being transplanted even more than Coriander.
They just won’t grow.
I haven’t seen Parsnip for sale in a punnet anyway.
Sow Parsnip seed in directly into the garden.
Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed.
Now I read this information on the back of the Parsnip seed packet, and wonder, are there gardeners out there with their micrometers measuring the width of the tiny seeds? 
Parsnip seeds are quite small, so I just give the soil a light covering of seed raising mix and hope for the best.
Germination rates of parsnip seed are not great so sow about 3 seeds per couple of centimetres.
Germination may take up to 20 days.
Fresh seed is a major requirement because the viability of Parsnip is about 12 months.
If you have left over seed from the previous year, you may as well forget it.
Tip: Soak the seeds overnight in a shallow saucer.
I always say: There’s no need to drown them.
Thin seedlings down so they are about 8cm apart.
If you are planting in rows then space the rows about 50cm apart.
So are we out there with our rulers measuring judiciously? 8 cm here, 50 cm there.
No matter which book you consult, you never get practical advice.
For me, four fingers across measures 7 cm, and that’s plenty good enough because with gardening gloves, I’ll get my 8cm spacing.
Did I mention that parsnip is a flavouring vegetable?
Parsnip flowers
Keep your parsnip seedlings growing strongly with regular watering and applications of liquid seaweed, liquid manure or compost tea.
Harvest in 17-20 weeks, that’s 4-5 months.
If you plants seeds in March, expect results in July sometime.
Parsnips have the best flavour if harvested after a frost or very cold weather.
.The cold results in the starch in the roots being converted into sugars which give the parsnip its sweet taste. Use a spade to dig the parsnip out of the ground.
Why is it good for you?
Well, parsnips don’t keep that long so if they’ve been in the greengrocer or supermarket shelf for more than a few days, than they’re probably tasteless, rubbery, and probably what put you off parsnip in the first place.
Nutritionally the parsnip is superior to the potato containing Vitamins C, E, K and B6.
They also contain Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, along with high quantities of potassium, which is an energy booster and good for the immune system


Now that you know what your soil pH is in most of your garden, or you’re going to find out soon, what’s the ideal pH for plants to grow in?
What can you do if you don’t have that ideal pH and how do you actually use that pH kit?
Let’s find out in this segment about soil pH. I'm talking with Glenice Buck, Consulting Arborist and Landscape Designer.

Alkaline soil pH

Acid soil pH
Just a reminder that soil pH is important because it influences how easily plants can take up nutrients from the soil.

If you’re soil’s too acidic or too alkaline, it will take quite a few months to change the pH, but that doesn’t mean you should give up now.

Measuring pH is easy even with the most basic kit.
All you need to do is dig up some soil samples from several parts of your garden, and spritz them with some water, but don't make the soil sample soggy. Next add a few drops of dye indicator fluid followed by a few shakes of the powder (Barium sulphate.)
Wait a couple of minutes and the powder should colour up.
You can then compare the colour of the powder with the soil pH chart.


CAMELLIA SPECIES: Which are your favourite?
There are many gardening books written and societies that you can join dedicated to the many flowerways of this next plant.

Camellia reticulata Red Crystal photo M Cannon

Camellia Grape Soda

Flowerways is my invention for the many flower type variations and colours that you can choose from.
There are even plant nurseries dedicated to growing this one genus with an endless selection that you can buy.
Surely there’s something that you could find to love for your garden.
Let’s find out what it is. I'm talking with the plant panel who were Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Camellia Easter Morn
Camellias Australia say that the camellia growing areas are in a coastal band on most of the eastern coast of Australia and the southern coast (and Tasmania) with occasional penetration of the interior such as Canberra, the national capital, Albury and Narrandera, and some regions with higher altitude such as the Central Tablelands of NSW and Mount Tamborine in Queensland.
So pretty much everywhere.
If you have any questions about growing Camellias, why not write in to