Saturday, 16 July 2016

Flowers and Weeds and Coffee Trees


If you’ve ever been travelling through Europe, or even England, you might have noticed that Camellias aren’t one of those plants that you’re likely to come across all that much.
According the English Broadcaster and gardener Monty Don, over there, the main problem with the Camellia japonica and Camellia reticulata varieties is that, when their flowers start to fade, they cling to the shrub, looking for weeks like used tissue. The only way to deal with this is to dead-head each bloom by hand – otherwise it is like having a wonderful party then failing to tidy up afterwards.
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The combination of this extra work and the belief that most camellias were tender and therefore needed special protection meant that interest in camellias went into decline at the beginning of the 20th century.
But for us here in Australia, Camellias are one of the most popular winter- and spring-flowering shrubs, providing a vivid splash of colour when little else is in bloom.
So today we’re talking how to look after them when disease strikes these wonderful shrubs.
So let’s find out how to fix this.I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager of

In this country the greatest problems are from wet winters and spring frosts, so to get away from this you need to add grit and compost to the planting hole so that the roots do not sit in wet soil.
Freezing conditions dehydrate the leaves, which lose more water as they thaw, especially if exposed to wind.
Camellia japonica Lovelight
The frozen roots mean that no water is taken up to replace this, and the result is often that the top or exposed part of the shrub dies back.
The extent of the damage will not become fully apparent until spring, when new growth appears and, if the roots are damaged, will drop and die back.
Draping fleece over the plant is a short-term remedy, but the most importantfactor is to provide permanent shelter from the wind.
If you have a camellia in a pot, wrap the pot in bubble wrap or bring it indoors in cold weather.
If you have any questions about problems with your Camellias or any other shrub, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Weeds you can eat. 
What weeds are popping up in your garden right now? 
With the world’s population bursting at the seams and agriculture land becoming a more rare commodity, are we to start harvesting and eating weeds?There’s a movement afoot that thinks just that so I thought I’d explore what are the does and don’ts of eating weed plants.After all, how hard is it to grow them right? Here are some points to think about first. Did you know that many common weeds are edible, and some are more nutritious than store-bought greens? But you need to do your research before you go hunting for weeds in your garden, nature strip or nearest park. Most importantly, never eat anything you cannot positively identify.
Puslane weed
Got some dandelions, for example? The yellow petals and young leaves can be used in salads, and the roots can be used as a coffee substitute.
Most edible weeds were high in nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and minerals such as potassium. Weed haven't been bred the way commercial crops have been bred, which is for less bitterness, greater yield, ease of transport and bigger leaves.
Weeds like dandelion and chickweed and purslane, have just been left to grow themselves. The best this is that they're free are dead easy to grow and appear to be higher in certain nutrients.
But edible weeds do have some nutritional drawbacks.
Many wild leafy greens, like the sorrel varieties and purslane, have high concentrations of oxalic acid, which has been linked to kidney stones and is poisonous in very large amounts.
Something to note:
 There's no need to panic because oxalic acid is also present in store-bought foods including almonds, spinach, bananas and tea.
A growing interest in weed foraging has seen "edible weeds tours" spring up in many major Australian cities.
How can you go about making sure you’re getting the right weeds?
You could try reading a book on edible weeds, taking an edible weeds tour or studying reputable online sources are good places to start.
There are several Australian books on the subject, including a handbook by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland.
Although most of the plants that we call weeds, especially the annuals, are edible … there are some very toxic plants.

Yellow flowered Oxalis

Dandelion weed
One important aspect that you need to be aware of is the environment your weeds have come from.
You need to consider whether the area you're picking in is likely to be polluted and also whether the plants may have been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides.
In terms of not eating things that have been sprayed, I think the safest place to eat plants from is your own backyard.
To give you just a small taste of how many edible weeds are out there, here are
Two of the easiest to identify
What next and Why are they good for You?
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion is probably one of the most common and recognisable varieties of edible weeds and it's also very versatile. Dandelion is a perennial plant with jagged, bright green leaves to 30cm long, a hollow flower stem to 30cm and one terminal yellow daisy.
Dandelions are good source of essential vitamins. The leaves, flowers and roots of the dandelion are all edible. The yellow petals from the dandelion flower and the leaves can be eaten in salad, and the leaves can also be cooked and eaten like spinach. The roots of the plant can also be dry-baked and used as a coffee substitute.
The leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium and iron. 
chickweed is not just for chickens
Another easy one.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) Chickweed is not just for chickens
Chickweed is often popping out at this time of year.
Did you know that Chickweed can be cooked or eaten as a salad vegetable?
It's a little, delicate, herbaceous winter green, also rich in vitamins A, B and C, and a good source of Omega 6 fatty acid. It can be cooked like spinach or used as a salad green, and since ancient times it has been used to treat itchy skin conditions as a topical ointment or a poultice.
There’s a whole lot of others like clover, Fat Hen, Crowsfoot Grass, Wild fennel, Cats Ear or Flat Weed, and Docks.
You just have to be prepared to look them up to make sure you’re getting the right thing before you tuck into them.


Climbers for a Tropical Zone

In a Tropical Zone there are many climbers that will grow well in the warmer climates.  One thing I did notice when I was thinking about the plants suitable for warmer climates is that the climbers suitable for this area do have brightly coloured flowers.
There’s so much to be said about climbing plants, even if you have a small garden, climbers can be used to hide walls, or fence off boundaries, without spreading into the limited space of the garden.
Mandevilla sanderi
They are also a cheap and easy way to cover up something unsightly, such as a shed or water tank, or to soften a harsh wall, fence or tree trunk.This segment is all about tropical climbers which by the way don’t always have to grow in tropical climates because you know, gardeners want to test the boundaries.Let’s find out. I'm talking with Glenice Buck, Consulting Arborist and Landscape Designer.

The Pandorea species are exceptional because they can tolerate quite a range of conditions and temperatures even though they’re from tropical zones.
On the other hand, Mandevillas not so much, but then again, indoor is not a bad idea for these if you like them.
Glenice's top 5 tropical climbers are

  • Pyrostegia venusta
  • Beaumontia grandiflora
  • Climbing Frangipani (Chonemorpha fragrans)
  • Yellow Allamanda or Golden Trumpet Vine
How about "Bauhinia Corymbosa" Or Butterfly Vine
Butterfly vine is an evergreen vine in sub-tropical conditions that can be semi-deciduous in cooler climates with older leaves dropping in cold winters, a beautiful vine with attractive and unusual foliage and small orchid-like flowers with unique 2 lobed leaves hints at its placement in the pea family. All through the warmer months there are plenty of pale pink flowers with dark veining and ideal for covering a pergola, fence or over a tree and is spectacular as a groundcover especially when in flower.


Coffea arabica Coffee Tree
 Would you like to grow a relatively problem free large shrub  or small tree that grows well in sub-tropical and cooler climates? 
Coffea arabica

Not only that, but in as little as three years the ( coffee) tree will be covered with white, jasmine-scented flower clusters.  
Then is followed by masses of green berries that mature to a beautiful cherry-red?What could this plant be?
Let’s find out. I'm talking with the plant panel:Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Coffea arabica is a small understorey tree, 2 to 8 m tall, with unusual horizontal branching, and jasmine scented white star-shaped flowers that appear all along the branches. Its leaves are evergreen and usually shiny.

When Jeremy was living in Tanzania coffee plantations were under-planting nut trees.
In Laos, the trees were trimmed to 3 - 4 metres in height in plantations to make it easier for mechanical harvesting. These were also an understorey plant.

So, what sort of micro climate do you need to grow coffee? 
Coffee prefers temperatures between 15 and 24 degrees C, although if it’s within the range of 7-30 degrees C, it will still grow quite well. 
Choose a shady spot, sheltered from cold or hot winds.
Coffee berries on Coffea arabica
Frost is the big enemy in cooler climates, and below -2 degrees C  will probably kill the plant. 
The good news is that home-grown coffee doesn’t get any pests or diseases.
Did you know that coffee has been grown in Australia for over 200 years? Why it stopped for a while was because labour costs made it unviable but with mechanical harvesting, the interest and growth of plantations saw a resurgence from the 1980’s.

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