Saturday, 26 November 2016

Passionfruit and the Scent of Lilac


I was going to have Tony Mattson from Cut above tools, on the program until I realised that I needed to talk to one of the judges of the Tesselaar rock Star Florist competition.
The art of floristry has come a long way from posies of yesteryear.
Floral Design is the ‘in thing’ or buzz word, where creating anything from simple bouquets to floral chandeliers, to floral head dresses are the go.
Where can they showcase their stuff?
At a floral competition and today I’m talking to Julie Rose, one of the judges and former competition finalist for 4 years.

This year there are three bona-fide Australian RockStar Florists to judge  the competition as expert judges and mentors:

•Holly Hipwell from The Flower Drum
•Melanie Stapleton from Cecilia Fox
•Julia-rose from Flowers by Julia-rose
These industry superstars will help select finalists and the ultimate winners. They will also then offer their valuable time and expertise to train up our lucky winners.
The way it works is the judges chose their finalists (9 each for a total of 27 finalists), which they have already done, then from 16th -23rd November, the public can vote on, where you, get to select the 3 category winners – then back to the judges who will decide amongst themselves who is to be the overall winner - 2016’s RockStar Florist!


Passionfruit or Passiflora edulis.
Almost every garden has space for a passionfruit.
Yes, it’s a fruit but botanically it’s a berry.
Plant a Passionfruit or two- Passionfruit Panama Red, Panama Gold, Nellie Kelly and Banana passionfruit.
The passionfruit vine has the look of a tropical vine with it’s lime green glossy 3-lobed leaves and its intricate purple and white flowers with a crown like appearance.
So distinctive is this flower that 16th Century Spanish Catholic missioniaries named it "Flor de las cinco llagas" or "flower of the five wounds."
They thought the flowers portrayed ‘Christ’s passion on the cross’ because it showed the Three Nails, the Five Wounds, the Crown of Thorns and the Apostles
Passiflora edulis

So it could have come from Brazil but no-one knows for sure.
PASSIONFRUIT is a well known and loved vine in Australia.
Passion fruit grew here before 1900 in what had been banana fields.
Until1943, passionfruits were a high yielding commercial crop but when the vines were devastated by a widespread virus, the industry was devastated.
Although some plantations have been rebuilt, they can’t produce enough passion fruit to satisfy the demand.
So Why Grow A Passionfruit?
Passionfruit vines are have twining tendrils that grab onto anything within reach and can clamber up trellis, fence or pergola in most soil types.
They’re also suitable for large pots on a balcony.
The passionfruit vine is very ornamental in leaf and flower and will improve the appearance of fences, stark walls, tanks and just about anything else.
Almost every garden has space for one passionfruit vine, so try to find a suitable spot against a sunny fence or wall.
The common, or purple, passionfruit are the size of an egg, round to egg-shaped with a thick, purple skin, which becomes dull and wrinkled as it ripens.
Inside, the pulp is yellowish-orange, sweet and jelly-like with many edible, black seeds covered in jelly-like pulp.
Some varieties are yellow, some are banana-shaped, others are larger than the purple passionfruit.
Commercial growers in cooler climates often use hybrid varieties of the purple and golden passionfruit.
That way they get a plant that tolerates cooler weather.
How to grow Passionfruit from seed.
Growing passionfruit seeds isn’t hard.
The seed just needs to be fresh.
For some reason old seed takes a lot longer to germinate.
So buy some nice passionfruit, separate half a dozen seeds from the pulp, and plant them as soon as possible.
They take about ten to twenty days to germinate.
Keep in mind that most passionfruit found in the fruit and veg shop are hybrid varieties and won’t come true to type.
Another problem with growing from these seeds is that the plant that grows will be more susceptible to the fungal disease, Fusarium Wilt.
If you have this problem in your district, often in cool temperate zones, then you’ll have to buy a grafted variety of passionfruit.
If you buy your seed then it's likely older, so be prepared to wait.
Old passionfruit seeds can take months to germinate.
The best way seems to be to just put them in the garden and leave them be, and they may came up.
Next Thing.
When your seeds germinate and are ready to transplant, dig in some Chook poo pellets before planting,
Sprinkle  the soil with 0.5 kg dolomite lime, and mulch with an organic mulch once the vine’s in place.
All passionfruit like full sun and protection from wind and frost.
They also need something to climb over.
You only need two wires along a north facing fence.
One placed near the top of the fence and another one 50 cm lower.
Train the young plant up a stake until it reaches the first wire, then allow two shoots to go out along the wire.
Of course you can grow it along other structures, it’s really up to you.
Like all fast growing plants passionfruit needs a lot of nutrients.
Passionfruit are notoriously short lived, so it’s a good idea to plant a new vine in a different part of the garden every couple of years.
In colder areas you can grow the banana passionfruit which have a similar taste and pink flowers.
Regular water and fertiliser will increase vigour and crop size.
Passionfruit plants have a vulnerable root system.

A fertile soil with lots of organic matter is the ideal situation.
If your soil is poor you will get problems with wilt diseases, root rot and nematodes. Heavy clay soils also cause problems with rot diseases.
The root system also can handle lots of water as long as the soil it’s in is well drained.
The plant also needs plenty of water when it’s fruiting.
In warm areas you will get fruit for most of the year.
In temperate areas expect a crop summer and late autumn.
In cold areas only summer.
 (Passionfruit - Panama Gold vigorous and sweeter than the others.
Black Passionfruit - (Passiflora edulis) Will tolerate light frosts. Self pollinating.)
Why Are They Good For You?
They’re an excellent source of beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.
A good source of vitamin C
They’re an excellent source of dietary fibre. Australian figures rate passionfruit higher than any other fruit for dietary fibre.
Also contain more of the B complex vitamins riboflavin and niacin and also more iron than other fruits


Scented Plants for Cool Temperate Gardens. (The envy of warm climate gardeners!)
Earlier this year Garden Designer Peter Nixon started a series on scent for your garden.
We now take it up again with a focus on scented plants for cool climate gardens.

Sometimes I think cool climate gardens have it all.
Not that you need to have a palace as in the photograph of lilacs taken in Vienna.
Those gardeners can plant an English style garden, they can even plant a tropical style garden by choosing cold hardy large leaved plants.But best of all, they can plant these sumptuously scented plants that gardens further north struggle with.
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and project Manager of Paradisus Garden Design.

Daphnes, Luculias, Bouvardia,  and Lilac are all plants that gardeners other than in cool climates try to grow with limited success.
Sometimes they last for a few years, sometimes they don’t survive the season.
Their allure keeps drawing us in.
The plants that Peter mentioned are:

Philadelphus coronarius
Daphne odorata : Viburnum carlesii
Luculia gratissima, L. pinceana, L. grandifolia
Siringa vulgaris - Lilac
Edgeworthia chrysantha - Paper Bush
Chimonanthus praecox - Winter Sweet
Lonicera fragrantissima - Woodbine
Narcisis - jonquils, daffodils Lavendula


Amaranth caudatus_Love Lies Beeding

Described as have brilliant red seed heads that dangle like rubies, the tassles of this flower can reach up to 30cm long.
That means that if you want to display them in a vase, the vase has to be quite tall.
So let’s find out what it is.
I'm talking with the plant panel:Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Did you know that Love-Lies-Bleeding grew in many Victorian English gardens and in the language of flowers, it represents hopeless love?
Tiny blood red petal-less flowers that bloom in narrow, drooping, tassel-like, panicles throughout the growing season.
The tassels contain thousands of tiny flowers and hang straight down to 30cm (occasionally 60 cm) long and look like velvet cords.
Did you know that the red colour of the inflorescences is due to a high content of betacyanins?
This plant grows best in full sun and well drained soil.
It tolerates dry conditions and poor soil, but can’t grow in the shade.
If you have any questions about growing  Amaranthus or Love Lies Bleeding, why not write in to

Saturday, 19 November 2016

A House, A Garden, and Luscious Scented Plants.


The House and Garden at Glenmore :author Mickey Robertson.

Imagine a ramshackle set of buildings dating back to the 1850’s set way out on the outskirts of a big city.
No garden, but plenty of land.

Imagine also your partner or husband coming home and telling you that he’s just bought such a property.
What would you do?

Let’s find out ..'[m speaking with author of The House and Garden at Glenmore Robertson
Glenmore House was once a dairy farm and when Mickey's husband came across it 28 years ago, it was a collection of once dilapidated buildings.
These buildings took time to restore and in the book, Mickey describes the long process.
Mickey wrote the book in 1 month, working every day fro 10 hours.
Being an inveterate compiler of lists she was able to draw on them for the names of plant material and order of things.

Ideas for the garden came from notable famous gardens like Sissinghurst in England but the garden isn't entirely English.


Not only does Mickey provide heaps of plant information in this book but there are gardening tips along with 30 seasonal recipes, including that recipe for cumquat Ice-cream.
Next time there’s an open day at Glenmore, we should make an effort to go and visit. You won’t be disappointed.
You can catch up that segment by listening to the podcast
If you have any questions Glenmore house, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW


OKRA Abelmoschus esculentus
The answer to the question What vegetable, was used to thicken soups and stews, and the seeds were toasted and ground then used as a coffee substitute? 
OKRA the way to pronounce is "Oh krah" not "Aukra"
Okra is also known as Lady’s fingers.
Okra is in the Malvaceae or Mallow family and called
Abelmoschus esculentus. (A-bell-mow- shus es-kew-lent-us)
It used to be called Hibiscus esculentus so that may you give you a clue as to what the bush might look like.
Did you know that Okra is related to cotton, cocoa, hibiscus and Rosella plants?
"Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia  and Okra is found growing wild on the banks of the river Nile.
According to records, the Egyptians were the first to grow it as a veggie it in the basin of the Nile during 12th century BC .
And as Okra made its way to North Africa and the Middle East, more uses were developed.
Not only were the seed pods eaten cooked, the seeds were toasted and ground, and used as a coffee substitute (and still is).
You might have also heard of a dish called gumbo. This comes from using Okra or gumbo as a thickener especially in soups.
So what does the Okra bush look like?
Okra varies in height from 60cm to 2m high depending on the variety of seed you buy.
 The leaves are heart shaped with plenty of yellow hibiscus-like flowers with a maroon throat.
In case you don’t know Hibiscus flowers, think of Hawaiian or Tahitian girls with flowers in their hair. Might also be a Hibiscus or a Frangipani.
 As you know, after the flowers comes the fruit that looks like a five-ribbed small pod with a cap on it, sort of like a gumnut cap.
Much smaller than beans or cucumbers.
Pick these a week after the flowers emerge because the Okra, gets too tough and stringy after that.
I’m told the leaves can be used as Spinach.
Doubly useful.
When to sow.
So when do you grow it?
In sub-tropical districts, you can plant them in August and September and then again January and February.
In temperate climates, sow seeds in October through to December,
Arid areas have between August and December to sow seeds directly into the soil.
 Cool temperate districts, including Tasmania, for you, the advice is to grow them in a greenhouse, but I discovered a blog from Adam whose from a cool mountain climate and Adam says “Okra does indeed grow in the cool areas, it just needs a bit of help to establish.
Adam puts an old plastic milk bottle over the plant until it fills the bottle, then away it goes.
Just pick the warmest part of your garden.
You’ll get a small crop if you have a cold Summer, but should have heaps if the summer is warmer. Thanks Adam!.
Finally for Tropical districts, you’ve won the jackpot this week, because you can grow Okra all year round!
Growing Okra
Okra seeds germinate reasonably well, but will be helped along if you soak them in a shallow dish of tepid water for 24hours.
This will soften the hard outer seed coat.
Pick a spot that gets full sun and has plenty of compost dug into the soil.
One thing that Okra detests, and that’s wet, boggy soil or soil with poor drainage.
Okra will also be set back if you get a cold snap in your district.
Either sow the seeds directly or into punnets for later transplanting.
I have heard that they don’t like being transplanted that much so you could try sowing them in pots made of coir, or make them yourself from newspaper or toilet rolls.
A very permaculture thing to do.
Because they grow as a largish bush, space the seeds or seedlings if transplanting, about 50cm to a metre apart.
Water your Okra fairly regularly, and if your soil is too hard or clayey, grow some Okra in a pot no problem.
TIP:By the way, Okra are partial to high amounts of Potash.
During the growing period, water in lots of liquid fertiliser, such as worm tea and add handfuls of compost.
Tip pruning will also give you a bushier plant with more flowers and more Okra pods.
In warm areas of Australia, your Okra will be ready to pick in 10 weeks.
In cold temperate zones however, it may take as long as 16 weeks.
Pick your Okra when they’re small and certainly before they get bigger than 10cm in length. Around 5 – 10 cm length is best.
Tip: Okra pods are referred to as mucilaginous.
What does that meant? Ughhhh! This can make them a bit slimy in cooking, so if that bothers you, don’t slice them, keep them whole.
Alternatively, add a couple of drops of vinegar or lemon juice.
I’ve also read that you should avoid growing Okra where you’ve had tomatoes, capsicums or potatoes growing previously.
For different varieties of Okra, go to
Two varieties I found online in Australia, are Okra Clemson Spineless, a bush that grows to 1 ½ m and Okra red Burgundy. Red Burgundy has red pods on a vigorous 1.5m tall plant with green leaves and attractive bright cherry red stems.
I’ll put a link to this site on my website. You can get many rare and hard to find seeds at this company. Well priced too.
Why are they good for you?
Okra contains lots of valuable nutrients, almost half of which is in the form of soluble fibre.
A half of a cup of okra contains about 10% of the recommended levels of B6 and folic acid.
By the way, Okra has black seeds inside the pod. Don’t feel you have to remove them because you don’t. The seeds add flavour to the cooking.
The fibre is in that mucilage.
How about trying a mix with peppers and eggplant! Or grill it on the BBQ! :) try it !! grill it on its side for 2 minutes each!its yummy!!!!



Scented Bulbs for Your Garden
Earlier this year Garden Designer Peter Nixon started a series on scent for your garden.
We now take it up again with a focus on scented bulbs.

So many plants are lovely, with beautiful blooms, but only a smaller section of these also include a wonderful fragrance.
When it comes to bulbs you probably know hyacinths and peonies and paperwhites as fragrant choices - but did you know there are bearded iris, daffodils, hostas and even tulip varieties with a luscious scent?
Let’s find out more. I'm talking with
Peter Nixon, garden designer and project Manager of Paradisus Garden Design.
So many gardens are planted without a thought to scent – perhaps because there has been such a shift to perennials, which are the least-scented group of plants.
They’re missing the third dimension – fragrance puts the whole garden onto another level.

Why not grow all of these plants so that you can turn your garden in to a perfumed paradise all year round.
You can hear that segment again on the website
Sometimes, the first indication that you have that a plant is flowering is from the drifting perfume.
How much nicer to inhale the luscious waves of sweet smelling flowers than the exhaust fumes from our big cities.
Summertime should include the sweet scent of flowers, freshly mown grass or even that undefinable smell of a garden having just been watered.
Don’t hold back, plant more scent in your garden.


NEW Gazania hybrids
Have you ever seen grey leaved daisy like flowers growing on someone’s nature strip.
They seem to take over the whole path and usually only come in bright colours or yellow and orange.
Showy flowers, which appear throughout the warmer months, are large, brightly coloured, often marked, and the ray florets tend to be darker at the base, with a contrastingly coloured central disc.
The species usually have yellow or orange flowers, but the newer hybrid garden forms are available in a wide colour range
So let’s find out more about the new kids on the block.

I'm talking with the plant panel:Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.
New Gazania hybrids have doubles and anemone style flowers making them sterile
The clever thing the plant breeders have done is to replace the male parts of the flower with petals.
The flowers is so full of petals that these new Gazanias can't close up at night as the old fashioned singles are wont to do.
Gazania species are grown for the brilliant colour of their flower-heads which appear in the late spring and are often in flower throughout summer into autumn.
They prefer a sunny position and are tolerant of dryness and poor soils so all the more reason to plant some out soon.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Spice with Fish and Wafting Scented Trees.


Fish Tamarind: Kokum Spice: Garcinia indica
Garcinia indica plums
The seed of the fruit of the plant Garcinia indica, contains enough oil (23–26% oil, so that it remains solid at room temperature.
The name Fish Tamarind refers not to the taste but to the fact that it's traditionally used in fish curries.It’s used in the preparation of confectionery, medicines and cosmetics.

Let’s find out what else it can be used for.

That was Ian Hemphill, owner of Herbies Spices and author of the Herb and spice
The tree is ornamental, growing 5-6 metres, with a dense canopy of green leaves and red-tinged, tender, young leaves.
The fruits look just like a plum.
The spice is mainly from the skin of the fruit, although sometimes it's the whole fruit.
When the whole fruit is sliced and dried it may be referred to as Kokum flowers.
Salt is used to assist in drying the skins and what you are left with is a leathery round fruit.
Quite tasty on its own but when added to cooking it adds acidity with a fruity background.
You can put 3 or 4 bits of Kokum in a curry.
The oily extract called kokum tel is used in foot massage, and to treat burns. You can catch up that segment by listening to the podcast
If you have any questions about Kokum or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Sweet potato or Ipomoea batatas
 Sweet potato originated in Central America and South America.
Sweet potato belongs to the Morning Glory family or Convolvulaceae so it does have pretty purple flowers, just like the weed Morning Glory and it is a vine also just like morning glory.
The flowers team nicely with the large heart shaped leaves.
Normal potatoes are in the Solanaceae family along with tomatoes.
Here’s a fact, Sweet potato has been radiocarbon-dated in the Cook Islands to 1000 AD, so it’s been around a while as a crop.
Sweet Potato Vine
 Did you know that Queensland is the biggest producer with over 70% of production, centred mainly on Bundaberg.
The second major producing area is around Cudgen in northern New South Wales. Sweetpotatoes are also grown at Mareeba, Atherton and Rockhampton (QLD), Murwillumbah (NSW), Perth, Carnarvon and Kununurra (WA).
Growing Sweet Potatoes is very easy in tropical and sub tropical climates, and not too difficult in cool climates, either.
Sweet potato is a great crop in places where it can often be difficult to grow traditional potatoes.
Not only is it easy, but it’s also hardy because it doesn’t need much water and feriltiser.
You also get a lot of tubers for your efforts plus you can also eat the leaf tips and young leaves as spinach.
In fact, sweet potatoes produce more kilos of food per hectare than any other cultivated plant, including corn and the potatoes.
They’re more nourishing than potatoes because they contain more sugars and fats, they are a universal food in tropical America.
But be warned, sweet potato is a vine that’s too easy to grow and can take over your veggie patch.
When to Plant.
In temperate districts, it’s September to November,.
For example in Melbourne plant them in October, ready to harvest in March as the foliage begins to turn.
You ‘ll need a warm sunny position, against a north facing wall is excellent.
You’ll also need to keep them moist.
In Sydney you can plant them a month earlier, September as a rule.

Further north, from the north coast of NSW through to the tropics you have more options, from July right through until March and in Cool temperate areas,  according to the Garden Web, you can even grow them in Tasmania, planting them out after the last frost but no later than the end of November.
Sweet potatoes do need four to six months of reasonably warm weather to mature
Growing Sweet Potatoes.
The quickest and easiest way to grow sweet potatoes is to use cuttings. Simply cut a piece of a runner, about a foot or 30 cm in length.
Remove all the leaves except for the tiny leaves at the very tip.
Plant the cutting by covering the whole length with soil, only the leaves of the tip should stick out of the ground.
The cuttings will root at every leave node.
Not just the leave nodes under the ground will root.
A sweet potato also grows roots from every leave node that develops as your cutting grows.
If you can't get hold of cuttings you can start growing sweet potatoes by planting the tubers.
You can use any shop bought sweet potatoes.
Place them on the ground, cover them with soil, and keep them moist.
The tubers will develop shoots, called slips.
Slips can be snipped or pulled off and planted out when they are about 15 cm in size. The original root will continue to produce more slips.
Hints and Tips
The best soil for sweet potatoes is sandy, but they can grow in all soils.
If you have heavy soil plant sweet potatoes on mounds or ridges.
Dig in mature compost in the bed to add plenty of organic matter.
TIP: Don’t use fresh manures or any fertilizers high in nitrogen, like pelleted chicken manure.
The reason is because you'll just end up with lots of leaves and no tubers.
Growing sweet potatoes requires some space, so plant them where they can spread. Space your cuttings or slips about a 30cm apart in a row, and leave 1 ½ m  between rows. (If you plant in rows, that is...)
Mulch thickly between plants and even between the beds to intially keep the weeds down.
Sweet potatoes don't keep well after harvest, so the best way is to plant a few cuttings every week or two.
Just one row of one metre length, with three cuttings.
They will take about 16 to 18 weeks to mature in warm weather, longer in cooler weather.
That way you can grow sweet potatoes all year round, and you don't find yourself with a big pile of them all at once.
Harvesting sweet potatoes
After four to six months, depending on the temperatures, your sweet potatoes will be ready.
You’ll see that the original stem of your cutting or slip will have thickened, and when you carefully lift the plant with a fork you should find two or three sweet potatoes at the base.
You can harvest sweet potato leaves and young shoots at any time, it doesn’t affect the plant or tubers.
Why is it good for you?
Besides simple starches, raw sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fibre and beta-carotene, while having moderate contents of other micronutrients, including vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and manganese
When cooked by baking, small variable changes in micronutrient density occur to include a higher content of vitamin C at 24% of the Daily Value per 100


Scented Trees for your Garden
Earlier this year Garden Designer Peter Nixon started a series on scent for your garden.
We now take it up again with small trees to suit any size garden, but trees with some sort of scent.
Brugmansia sp.-Angel's Trumpet

Perfume adds that extra sensory dimension to gardens and some of the trees only turn on their perfume in the evening.
How mysterious is that?
Let’s find out more about them.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and project Manager of Paradisus Garden Design.

Sometimes, the first indication that you have that a plant is flowering is from the drifting perfume.H
Gardenia thunbergia
Peter mentioned the following trees:
Small Trees:
Brugmansia candida, versicolor, alba, suavaolens Plumeria acuminata, pudica, bahamiensis, obtusa, rubra,
P. caracasana ‘Angel of Love’
Plumeria caracasana x P. obtusa ‘Annie Prowse’ - Stephen Prowse at Sacred Frangipani
Pachypodium lamerii Gardenia thunbergia
Large Trees
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Kaye Paris’, ‘Teddy Bear’, St. Marys’, Exmouth, Michellia alba, maudiae, champaca,
How much nicer to inhale the luscious waves of sweet smelling flowers than the exhaust fumes from our big cities.
Summertime should include the sweet scent of flowers, freshly mown grass or even that undefinable smell of a garden having just been watered.
Don’t hold back, plant more scent in your garden.


Gingko biloba Maidenhair Tree
This (gingko biloba) is an ancient tree that predates conifers or cone bearing plants, and is thought to be the link between cycads and those conifers.
These type of plants had the planet to themselves along with dinosaurs for over a 100 million years.
Dr Peter Valder in “The Garden Plants of China” (1999) refers to an 800-year-old ginkgo at Jianshan, Zhenjiang and “The King of Trees”, a ginkgo said to be 1,000 years old, which grows in a courtyard at Tanzhe Si (temple), southwest of Beijing.
So let’s find out what it is.
I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

In Australia, Ginkgo grows best in most places including Sydney and Perth.
In Adelaide there is a 100 year old tree in Kingston Terrace and a grand tree in Medole Court at the University of Adelaide.

Gingko biloba is decidiuous, with the leaves turning a buttery yellow before falling.

In Sydney’s Hyde Park is a ginkgo near St James Station planted c. 1900 and in the Sydney Botanic Gardens.
An old ginkgo grows at The Gorge, Launceston, in Tasmania.
There is a fine specimen in Albury Botanic Gardens,
 If you have any questions about growing  Maiden Hair tree, why not write in to

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Beans on Trees And Welcome Swallows


The Welcome Swallow is a native bird that makes a mixture of twittering and soft warbling notes.
The Welcome Swallow belongs to the family of Passerines which are Australia's songbirds.
Easily spotted flying low around sport’s fields and open grassy areas, it’s probably one you seen but probably not seen it still for long enough to make out its markings.
What is this bird?
Let’s find out .I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of

Welcome swallows belong to a group of songbirds and do have a lovely call if you ever hear them when they’re still.
They are mainly metallic blue black with a light grey chest but their characteristic feature is the lovely long forked tail, sometimes with spots.

They're on the wing the majority of the time catching their prey which is mainly insects.
They make mud nests on the sides of houses and buildings which can be a nuisance, however, they're only a short time in the nest, 2 - 3 weeks, so it's not that much of an inconvenience.
Remember that they are native and therefore a protected species.
Wait until the young swallows have fledged before removing the nest if it's in an awkward location.
The welcome swallow is found in most places of Australia and it’s only in Tasmania that they migrate across the Bass Strait for the winter.
Although there has been reports of young fledglings staying put in Tasmania for their first winter.
You can catch up that segment by listening to the podcast
If you have any questions about welcome swallows or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Is there a fruit or vegetable you detest?
Maybe it’s the texture of it in your mouth you can’t stand, or the smell puts you off, especially when it’s being cooked.
I’m not talking allergy type of detest, but purely because, Nah… you just don’t like it.
You don’t order any food that even has a slight hint of it being there.
That’s my lot with corn.
Well, after seven years of broadcasting, I’ve only mentioned sweetcorn once, and it’s time to look over what corn cob lovers want to hear.
So you might think I know nothing of corn growing, but no, from my years at Yates in technical advice, it seems that growing corn has its fair share of problems and I’ve heard and solved most of them.
Sweet Corn  or Zea mays var. saccharata  is a grass, native to the Americas.
Yep, a grass.
But wait, Corn is actually a vegetable, a grain, and a fruit.
Sweetcorn Honey & Cream
It’s a vegetable because it’s harvested for eating; a grain because it’s a dry seed of a grass species; and a fruit because that’s the botanical definition.
Corn (Zea mays) is sometimes called a vegetable grain.
Did you know that a vegetable is defined as a plant cultivated for an edible part or parts such as roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds/fruit, corn is a vegetable?
If you wanted to be very picky, all cereal grains could be called vegetables, but for some reason the cereal grains are separated from the rest of the "vegetables" such as peas, lettuce, potatoes, cabbage
Corn has a long, long history.
Apparently tiny ears of corn have been discovered at ancient village sites on the Mexican plateau or the highlands of Guatemala.
Kernels dating back to 6600 BCE have also been found in caves in Mexico.
There’s even evidence that in central Mexico, about 7000 years ago, sweetcorn was domesticated from wild grass.
However, the fresh, or sweet corn, the kind we like to eat as corn on the cob, didn’t come about until the 1700s.
Along with wheat and rice, corn is one of the world’s major grain crops.
Would you have guessed that only 9 percent of all the corn grown is used to produce food for humans?
64% of all corn grown is used as feed for livestock.
Then there’s food manufacture which include corn meal and other food products such as cooking oils, margarine, and corn syrups and sweeteners (fructose) and breakfast cereals, flour.
But there’s also non-cooking uses such as dyes, paints, chemicals, Ethanol, a renewable fuel made from corn, has shown the possibility of becoming a major renewable fuel for the world’s automotive industry.
That’s just to name a few.
 Much of the corn now grown around the world is genetically modified for herbicide and/or pest resistance, so a good reason to grow it yourself.
Sweet corn belongs to the grass family. Poaceae
There are various different types of corn and some have been around longer than others.
By the way, Popcorn is made from a corn variety that dries on the stalk, while the corn we eat on the cob is referred to as sweet corn.
When to Plant-
You can plant sweetcorn all year round in tropical and subtropical climates, for temperate and arid zones, from September to the end of January, and for cool temperate districts, October to the end of January.
TIP: Before planting out your corn, soak the seeds in a shallow saucer of water overnight.
You can either sow the seeds directly into the garden, 25cm or a hand span apart in short rows 50-60 cm apart, or in seed trays.
Dig in some pelletized manure of some sort a couple of weeks before you plant the corn.
By sowing your corn seed directly into the garden you mightn’t always get a 100% germination rate; and you may have breaks in your rows, particularly if you’re growing the high sugar varieties.
Try growing your corn in seed trays or in punnets first, then transplant the seedlings out into the garden, when they are 50 to 75mm tall.
You’ll have complete rows then.
Corn being a grass has no nectar or odour to attract a physical pollinator.
In fact all grasses are wind pollinated, so sweetcorn needs to be planted closely for pollination.
You could also try planting your corn in a circle.
Something you need to know.
If you’ve experienced partially formed cobs or a low amount of cobs it’s most likely a pollination problem.
Corn plants have separate male and female flowering parts.
The male flowers or tassel are at the top of the plant and female flowers or silks form the kernels on the cob.
Pollen grows on these tassels.
corn Tassels

It then falls down onto the silks, or female parts of the plant.
Each silk is connected to a kernel of corn inside each ear.
If pollen reaches the silk, it causes a corn kernel to grow.
If a silk doesn't receive pollen, the kernel stays small.
Tip: Don’t wet the tassels as they emerge.
If you have a small garden and are in need of space, you could also plant climbing beans and cucumbers in between the rows of corn, the beans and cucumbers will climb up the corm stems, making a temporary trellis.
The seed for the beans and cucumbers need to be sown out at the same time as the corn.

Corn silks

Hints and Tips.
 A good tip is, once the corncob has been pollinated (the corncob tassels have gone brown and you can feel the cob forming) cut the top flower off about a 10cm up from the cob.   Hopefully this will let the plant concentrate on feeding the cob, making it grow larger and sweeter.
Remember: Corn likes lots of compost, comfrey, old animal manures, liquid fertilisers and heaps of mulch (around the main stem of the plant) give them a good soak around the roots, every second day, depending on the weather conditions
What’s the most asked question about growing sweet corn?
Q Poor germination and too few corncobs.
Can be caused by a number of problems. For example: 
 poor seed quality - if the seed is old or hasn't been dried or handled properly after harvest; 
 seed rots (Pythium and Rhizoctonia fungi); 
 planting into cool, wet soil, planting too deep and soil crusting.
Supersweet corn has lower vigour than normal sweet corn and needs warmer soil to germinate, but generally has poorer germination ability than normal sweet corn. 
 Uneven plant stands can also be caused by soil crusting and insects, mainly cutworms and wireworms; 
 Nematodes, particularly root lesion nematodes, are often associated with poor crop establishment and growth.
Why is it good for you?
As corn cobs mature they develop more starches and sweet corn is one of the few vegetables that is a good source of the kind of slowly digested carbohydrate that gives you long-lasting energy.
Corn is an excellent source of dietary fibre vitamin C and niacin (one of the B group vitamins) and folate (one of the B group vitamins)
Corn is also good source of potassium to help balance the body’s fluids if you eat salty foods.
Lastly 100g corn kernels has 395kJ Corn is high in fibre.


With a plethora of gardening books being constantly published RWG has steered away from book reviews, until now that is.  

This following feature interview is sort of a book review because I’m talking with the author and her ideas about why she wrote the book in the first place.Let’s find out what it’s all about.
I'm talking with Sophie Manolas, nutritionist and author of The Essential Edible Pharmacy.

Sophie’s aim  was to quote from her book, “ to simplify the process of making the best dietary choices and to show you that whole foods in their own way, are superfoods.
Use it as bed time reading, a recipe book, or just advice on what nutrition you get from certain veggies, fruit or nuts.

But what you don’t get is how to exactly grow everything, there wasn’t enough room.
That’s where Vegetable Heroes fills the gap.
Maybe I need to write a gardening book.


Black Bean Tree, Castanospermum australe

The seeds from this tree are a real novelty.

Not only do they come in large boat like pods, but nature has packed them in like large sardines, or perhaps rounds of cheese.
Would you believe this tree made it into the top 10 toxic plants according to interflora?

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

The reason the black bean tree made it into the top 10 toxic plants is because those large seeds weighing about 30g each, that I mentioned earlier are actually toxic.
You’re not meant to eat them, but interestingly the Black Bean seeds are also used as food in some aboriginal communities after extensive preparation to remove the toxins, of course!
Not really for your garden because the tree is quite large growing to 15 + metres.
The roots are also water seeking and this tree should not be planted near drain pipes or buildings.