Saturday, 30 September 2017

Gladdies, and Blueberries But Watch Out ForTPP

What’s On The Show Today?

A new pest to watch for in Plant Doctor, berries that are high in antioxidants in Vegetable Heroes; continuing the series on mass planting with Garden Designer Peter Nixon in Design elements, and an flower and Gladioli in Talking Flowers segment.


New Pest: Tomato-potato psyllid

A new pest that could be coming to your garden soon is not something we gardeners would be glad to hear about.
But it has been detected in Australia and New Zealand so it’s something we need to be on the lookout for because it seems to combine the damage of a couple of pests.

Worse than that, it attacks plants from the Solanaceae family, like tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes, and even some plants in the Lamiaceae like Catmint.

Let’s find out all about it….
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, general manager of

This new pest is something to watch out for and possibly a good time to take a hand lens with you out into the garden to have a closer look at the pests. 
The distinctive dame is when you see leaves that have curled up from the edge.
There is other damage as well that is similar to aphid and mite damage combined.
What does it look like?
The adults are 2-3mm in length or aphid size.
The main body is grey with some white markings. Click on the link below to see a photo.
The important distinction is the clear wings which sit at 45 degrees, almost like a mini cicadas wings or the peak of a house.
If you have any questions about this new pest; the tomato-potato psyllid, then why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


There are fruit that are at the some ranking as vegetable heroes,.

Would you have thought that the second most popular berry after Strawberries are Blueberries?

Blueberries are the fruit of a shrub that belongs to the heath family includes cranberries, azaleas and rhododendrons.

FACT: Did you know that Blueberries are one of the only natural foods that are really true blue in colour?

They’re sort of a bluey purple colour and have what’s called a waxy ‘bloom’ that protects the surface of the blueberry.
This bloom you can rub off with your finger if you’re curious to see what the true colour of blueberries are.

WE all know what blueberries look like from the punnets that are sold in the supermarket, but what do they look like when they’re growing on the plant?
Blueberries grow in clusters and come in sizes from a pea to a small marble.

Did you know that blueberries are one of the only fruits native to North America, but it wasn’t until the early 1950’ that blueberries were first brought to Australia.Why’s that?

A couple of guys- Messrs Karel Kroon and Ralph Proctor from the Victorian Department of Agriculture trialled growing them.

But, Australia was out of luck there because these guys couldn’t get past the disease problems.
Twenty years later, the Victorian Department of Agriculture tried again.
This time, a chap called David Jones carefully planted and tended to his blueberry seeds and eventually successfully grew several blueberry plants.
Still, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that Blueberries were commercially available.

Where to Grow? What They Need?

Blueberries need moist soil, good drainage and lots of organic material.
Blueberries are acid loving plants that do best in soils with a pH between 4.5 to 5.5
If you can grow Camellias and Azaleas, you can grow Blueberries.
If you don’t have that ph you will have to add either elemental sulphur (where the pH is too alkaline) or lime / dolomite (where the pH is too acid). If the soil pH is higher the plants may show signs of iron deficiency.
If that sounds too hard, grow you blueberry plant in a pot.

Tip:Very important when growing blueberries. they have a very fine fibrousy root system, just like Azaleas, and this root system needs a porous medium in which to grow, a bit like coarse sand from where they came from.

If you have poor drainage, then grow them in a raised bed or at the very least, on a mound of soil and use lots of mulch.

So, a little bit fussy there.

Which to Grow

Not all blueberry plants are alike, so choose the variety for your region carefully.
For temperate areas which don’t get too cold in winter, we need to grow a variety which is low chill.
Gardeners in the know about chill factor will now know, that means a certain amount of hours below 7°  C. 
Blueberry flowers being pollinated
Gardeners in cool temperate areas can grow the low bush variety
Low bush variety-is a dwarf shrub that only grows to around 30-60 cm.
Low bush varieties love colder climates and need very low temperatures for the fertilised flowers to “set” and form berries.

They’re not grown in commercial quantities here.

The highbush variety, grows to 1.5–3 metres, has many different cultivars that are well suited to the Australian climate.
In Victoria, Tasmania and Southern New South Wales, you are more likely to find the Northern Highbush, high chill variety for sale in your nursery.

Winter chilling is quite high -(over 1000 hours below 2°C) but they can still able tolerate high summer temperatures.
The fruit of the Northern Highbush is harvested later in the season, from December to April.

For Northern NSW and Queensland, you need to grow a variety called Rabbiteye
The rabbiteye is a low chill, late season variety that’s best at coping with warm and humid summers
Rabiiteyes can also cope with dry conditions, making it right at home in Arid climates too.


IMPORTANT TIP: Blueberries fruit on the tips of the previous season’s growth.
I spoke to a blueberry grower last year and was told to let the shrub establish first.
That means, you must pluck off the flowers in spring so it doesn't set fruit, but the 3rd year you can let it flower.
If you let them establish for the first two years apparently the plants will last a lifetime!

Once your Blueberry shrub is established new stems will come up and fruit for up to four years initially from the tip to down the whole branch.
From the third winter onwards, cut back old, dry stems every winter.
Cut them back either down to ground level or to a vigorous new shoot near the ground.

They first produce sideshoots from the base of the plant soon after flowering in spring. Then in early to midsummer, vigorous growths push up from the base of the bush.

Hard pruning in winter will encourage this renewed growth and result in larger, earlier fruit.

Generally a tough bush that needs constant picking of the ripe fruit or they’ll get too soft.
MISTY another tough evergreen variety.. It is an early fruiting variety, with light blue, medium to large fruit of excellent flavour.
GULF COAST: The bush is vigorous and upright, with moderate toughness. The fruit is medium to large blue with a medium colour. The fruit has a problem in that it holds the stems on many of the berries at harvest. The flavour of the fruit is medium. 

BLUEBERRY BURST Good all rounder with super-sized fruits but best in pots.

Blueberries are pest free apart from caterpillars and birds, and if you prune the shrub so its open in the middle it reduces fungal disease.
Selecting and Storing Blueberries –
Pick or buy blueberries that are firm and have an even colour with a whitish bloom. Blueberries are another fruit that don’t ripen off the bush.
Blueberries should be eaten within a few days of picking or buying.
I tend to eat mine straight of the bush.
Ripe berries should be stored in a covered container in the fridge where they will keep for about 1 week.
Don't wash blueberries until right before eating as you will remove the bloom that protects the berries' skin from going bad.
If kept a room temperature for more than an hour, the berries will start to spoil.
Blueberries can be frozen.

Why are they good for you? 
Blueberries have large amounts of anthocyanins,- antioxidant compounds that give blue, purple and red colour to fruit and vegetables.
Not sure what all the fuss is about? Antioxidants are very well known for their health benefits, especially their ability to reduce damage to our cells and Blueberries contain more antioxidants than most other fruits or vegetables

Blueberries are also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, manganese and both soluble and insoluble fibre like pectin.
Plus they’re low in calories.
If you think they’re too fussy to grow, for the same price as a cup of coffee, treat yourself to a punnet of Blueberries, eat them straight out of the punnet (wash them of course) and enjoy the health benefits.



Mass Planting for Tropical Gardens part 2

Tropical gardens have a different regime of wet and dry compared to other climate zones in Australia.
The advantage is plants grow outside as if they’re in some huge greenhouse with perfect temperatures and irrigation or rainfall to make them grow like blazes.
But is the planting really all that different in tropical climates, and can we gardeners further south still grow these plants?

Let’s find out about in part 2 of mass planting in the tropics.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, landscape designer and Director of Paradisus garden design.

Peter mentioned the following plants.
Flowering shrubs to 3m 
Heliconia pendula - Waxy Red
Crinum augustum
Hakea bucculenta - large blood red flowers
Small trees to 5m
Malus ioensis plena - Double Crabapple
Plumaria obtusa  - Frangi pani
Xanthostemon chrysanthus - Golden Penda 

If you have any questions about mass planting for tropical climates, why not email us


1.      Gladiolus bulbs are not true bulbs. Gladiolus bulbs, in botanical terminology, are referred to as corms.

2.      A corm is a shortened and thickened section of the stem that appears at the base of the plant. On the corm are buds for each layer of leaves. Except for production of new varieties, Gladioli are not cultivated from seed.
3.      Gladiolus plants are outstanding perennial herbs being semi hardy in temperate climates. 
     They grow from rounded, symmetrical corms that are enveloped in several layers of brownish, fibrous tunics.

Best time is to plant Gladioli bulbs or corms now for Summer flowering.

Rain is usually not enough especially after the plant has grown around 5 sets of leaves.
That’s the time you need to start giving it lots of water.
The new corm and the new roots are formed on top of the old one during the growing season.

Mercedes recommends cut the stalks straight across the stem for vases.
Remember: Burped water which is Merecedes' way of saying, NO TAP WATER, but filtered water or water from the kettle for your vase.
Gladioli only like to sit in a small amount of vase water.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini about how to get the most vase life from your Gladioli.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Pruning Up High, Tubers to Eat and for Flowers

What’s On The Show Today?

There’s more to know in how to prune in high places, part 2 in Tool Time, tuberous roots that will propel you in Vegetable Heroes; continuing the series on mass planting with Garden Designer Peter Nixon in Design elements, and an Iris that signifies love in the new Talking Flowers segment


High Reach Pruning part 2
Now’s a good time of the year to do a bit of pruning, wherever you live in Australia.
Last week we talked to Tony Mattson, general Manager of Cut Above Tools on how to prune up high.
There was so much to say that we created a part two of high reach pruning.

Kifsgate, England photo M Cannon
So how do we prune this safely, and if possible, without getting up on a ladder?
Let’s find out….
I'm talking with Tony Mattson General Manager of 

Heavy Duty Gear Action Pruner can be attached to a 5m or 6m pole

Tony says using a straight ladder isn't too bad in that you can wedge the top two rungs into tree branches.
A better solution is to use platform ladders because it gives you space to walk along the platform and trim say a hedge before needing it to be moved.
Pol pruners are good for stems up to 35-40 mm in diameter.
For bigger stems thant 40 mm in diameter, you should be using a pruner with mechnical assistance.
Ratchet pruners and pole pruners with gears are the way to go.

Here are some things that you don't want when you’re selecting high reach pruning tools or pole pruners.

•Blades on pruners that separate when you try to cut a tough branch.
•Poles that bend too much.
•Telescopic poles that start to twist around each other as the friction lock wears out.
•Also, ropes on the outside of the pole are more likely to get tangled in small branches than chains.
Chains inside the pole are better; they will never get tangled up.I
If you have any questions about high reach pruning why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Jerusalem Artichokes.  Helianthus tuberosus.

There are other names for this vegetable, such as earth apple and sunchoke but here in Australia, we just call the Jerusalem artichokes as far as I can tell.

From the scientific name, would you’ve guessed that the sunflower, Helianthus annuus is in the same family.

It’s not only in the same family but a large part of the fun of growing this veggie is that it also grows sunflowers.
Here’s another surprise, this veggie originates in America and Canada.

That’s right, Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America, growing in the wild along the eastern seaboard from Georgia to Nova Scotia.

Did you know that the Jerusalem artichoke was titled 'best soup vegetable' in the 2002 Nice Festival for the Heritage of the French Cuisine?

So what do they look like when they’re growing? 

As with potatoes, the top part of the plant looks nothing like what you get underneath the ground.
The top part of the plant grows like a bushy sunflower plant. 

The gnarly tubers would remind you of ginger roots if you saw them.

Why grow them?

Because they’re going to surprise you how delicious they are.
They have a sweetness about them and they’re not starchy.
That’s because they don’t contain starch but the carbohydrate inulin which is component of the fructose molecule.
In fact, Tubers stored for any length of time will convert their inulin into its component fructose.
That explains why Jerusalem artichokes have an delicious sweet taste. 

Fructose by the way is about one and a half times sweeter than sucrose.
Definitely one for the sweet of tooth.

When and how do you grow Jerusalem artichokes?

  • In temperate climates plant the tubers between September to December –because the best time is when the soil temperature is between 8°C and 15°C 
  • For cool temperate districts buy the tubers now and plant them in November and December, 
  • In sub-Tropical climes, they’re best planted in Autumn-winter. You can plant them in tropical climates but they’re likely to rot off during the wet season. 
  • Lastly for arid districts you can grow them from April until October. 

Jerusalem artichoke will be ready to dig up in around 4-5 months.

Tubers, or chunks of tubers can be planted in full sun or in part shade.
The sunflowers will make their first appearance in late spring or early summer and look like little baby sunflowers.

For great tasting Jerusalem artichokes add some organic fertiliser during planting otherwise they’ll taste quite bland.
That being said, the plants themselves are not picky and will grow in just about any soil.
If you are going to grow Jerusalem Artichokes or sunchokes, make sure dig them up every year to prevent them from going taking over the garden. Otherwise confine them somehow with a border stop.

Roots can be dug in the autumn after the plant dies back.
Re-plant the tubers you don’t eat or at least save some to replant.

Once you taste them you’ll be tempted to eat them all.
As mentioned before, these tubers as with other members of the Daisy or Asteraceae (including the artichoke), store the carbohydrate inulin (not to be confused with insulin) instead of starch.

Warning: Some people have no problem digesting them but they are a minority.
Over 50 percent of their carbohydrate is in forms we don’t have enzymes to break down

Store them in a cool place that isn't too dry.
Wrapped in plastic in the fridge will do nicely.

TIP: They’ll get bitter if kept too long in storage so that’s why it’s best to leave them in the ground and dig them up as you need them.
You can continue digging them up from autumn right through to early spring in temperate districts anyway.

If you’re put off with the wind theory, let me tell you it’s a bit overstated.
But just in case you’re worried here are some steps that are supposed to alleviate the problem.
Windy Problem?
Put the tubers in the fridge for a month, then slice and boil in lots of water for 15 minutes, adding one tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 litre after 10 minutes, or right at the start if you want crisp tubers. Drain, slip off peel, and pat dry. Then use them as you would in recipes with pumpkins.

Actually the best way to eat them is to roast them in the oven with some olive oil for 40 minutes. Just yummy.

Why Is It Good For You?
Nutritionally, Jerusalem artichokes has very high potassium.
In fact jerusalem artichokes have six times the potassium of a banana.
They are also high in iron, and contain 10-12% of the US RDA of fibre, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper.
For a half cup serve of Jerusalem artichokes you only get a tiny 57 calories, along with some1.5. gr. protein, 1.2 gr. fibre, 10.5 mg. calcium.
So if you like sunflowers, why not have an edible crop as well?


Mass Planting for a Tropical Garden part 1
Tropical gardens have a different regime of wet and dry compared to other climate zones in Australia.
The advantage is plants grow outside as if they’re in some huge greenhouse with perfect temperatures and irrigation or rainfall to make them grow like blazes.
But is the planting really all that different in tropical climates, and can we gardeners further south still grow these plants?

Let’s find out about in part 1 of mass planting in the tropics.

I'm talking with was Peter Nixon, landscape designer and Director of Paradisus garden design.

Peter mentioned the following plants:
Ground cover -  Canavalia rosea 

Tall Groundcovers:
Peperomia argyreia - Watermelon Peperomia  
Stroemanthe sanguinea tricolor
Hedichium arundelliana - Wavy Leaf Native Ginger

Costus woodsonii ‘French Kiss’
If you have any questions about mass planting with a tropical them why not email


Dutch Iris

Dutch Iris-not an iris at all.

One of the world’s most popular florist flowers because of its dramatic flowers with long straight stems that are easy to arrange and last a long time in bouquets.

Dutch iris, also known as Iris hollandica, which has orchid-like flowers with silky petals.
Flower colors range from pale blue and lemon through deep purple, bronze, rose and gold.
Did you know that the Dutch Iris never grew wild in the Netherlands?
Instead, it’s been refined over many years through hybridisation by Dutch growers.
Dutch iris are popular cut flowers because they are dramatic, easy to arrange and long-lasting. Unlike other types of iris that grow from thickened roots called rhizomes, Dutch iris grow from teardrop-shaped bulbs that are planted in the Autumn.

The iris's mythology dates back to Ancient Greece, when the goddess Iris, who personified the rainbow (the Greek word for iris), acted as the link between heaven and earth.

It's said that purple irises were planted over the graves of women to summon the goddess Iris to guide them in their journey to heaven.

Irises became linked to the French monarchy during the Middle Ages, eventually being recognized as their national symbol, the fleur-de-lis.I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers with Mercedes.

Dutch Iris like rich, well-drained soil is important and, while it is quite acceptable to leave the bulbs in the ground, there is a risk of disease.
Mine have never come up the following year.
Facebook live during the Real World Gardener radio broadcast.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Pruning Up High, Growing Fruit Trees, and Gifting Gerberas

What’s On The Show Today?

How to prune in high places, part 1, in Tool Time, growing fruits from seed in Vegetable Heroes; continuing the series on mass planting with Garden Designer Peter Nixon in Design elements, and talking about one of the top 5 cut  flowers, the Gerbera in Talking Flowers.


High Reach Pruning Part 1
Now’s a good time of the year to do a bit of pruning, wherever you live in Australia.
Sometimes though our garden gets away from us because we all lead busy lives, and can’t fit enough things in the day.

The problem is, there are some branches of either a shrub or a tree, that are quite high up.
So how do we prune this safely, and if possible, without getting up on a ladder.
Let’s find out…
I'm talking with Tony Mattson General Manager of

Just in case you’re thinking of getting up on a ladder, is a couple of information from Staysafe NSW, which I’m sure will apply to all states.
Only use ladders for simple access jobs, or for a short duration.
It’s best to work from ground level whenever possible.
If you must use a ladder:
Always maintain three point of contact with the ladder. This means two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand on the ladder at all times.
Never lean or reach away from the ladder while using it. 
Tony suggests that tie the ladder to the tree so that it won't move.
The staysafe link:

Instead of ladders consider the different types of pole pruners.
Keep in mind that you'll be holding it up for a period of time so choose one that suits your strength capability.
If you have any questions about high reach pruning why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Growing Fruit Trees From Seed
Is growing fruit trees from seed just something for kids or is it something that we can do ourselves?

But if we grow it ourselves from seed, is it going to be useful?

That’s a good question and something that is hard to answer because it all depends on what seed you’re trying to grow.

The thing to remember is that most of the time, you will be getting a chance seedlings of perhaps the mother plant or perhaps something a bit weaker.

What Are The Drawbacks?
Then there’s the drawback of when growing from seed, it takes a lot longer before the tree starts to fruit.

But there’s even one more drawback.
A lot of fruit trees are grafted onto understock.
The reason for this is because the understock is more hardy and a stronger grower than the scion.
The scion is that bit of the tree that is the actual tree that you want.

Of course the disadvantage of grafted trees is that when the tree graft gets damaged or the top part of the tree dies for whatever reason, the understock takes over.
Quite often the understock is not a great fruiting tree.
Think those rough or bush lemons with the thick yellow nobbly skin and inside, the fruit is most probably not very juicy.

So do you still want to give growing a fruit tree from seed a try? Why not then?

Let’s start with growing a lime tree from seed.
Lime trees are great because you can use them in cooking, especially Thai food or with your gin and tonic.

Since the lime seeds you’re going to use is from fruit that you buy from the shops, they’re most likely hybrids.

Therefore, planting lime seeds from these fruits often won’t produce identical limes. Polyembryonic seeds, or true seeds, will generally produce identical plant.

I’ve never heard of these types of seeds being available in Australia.

Keep in mind that other contributing factors, like climate and soil, also affect the overall production and taste of lime tree fruit.

You can plant the seed directly in a pot using potting mix or place it in a plastic bag. Before planting lime seeds, however, be sure to wash them and you may even want to allow them to dry for a couple days, then plant them as soon as possible.

Plant seeds 1 cm deep in containers in potting mix

Germination usually happens within a couple of weeks.

As I mentioned before the downside to growing lime trees from seed is that it can take anywhere from four to ten years before they produce fruit, if at all.

Nectarines from seed
Let’s go for something bigger like a Nectarine seed.

Fruit trees are most often likely to be hybrids as well so that the new plant will be the same kind of plant, but its fruit and vegetative portions may not look the same as the parent, because the plant is "heterozygous."

There’s a good word.

The genetics term heterozygous refers to a pair of genes where one is dominant and one is recessive — they're different.

This means that all fruit trees must be vegetatively propagated by either grafting or budding methods.

The seeds of all common tree fruits (apple, pear, peach, and cherry) require a chilling period before they’ll germinate and grow into plants.

What you need to do know is put the seeds through a cold treatment.

·         First take out the seed from the fruit and clean off any fruit the is sticking to the seed and allow the seeds to air dry.
·         Then place them in a glass jar with a loosely fitted lid or cover.
·         Set the seeds aside June of next year.
·         Mix the seeds (in mid-June) with either moist (but not wet) sphagnum peat moss, sand or shredded paper towels.
·         Put the mixture to the jar and replace the lid.
·         Place the jar with the seeds in the fridge.
·         The seeds should stay in the fridge for at least 60 days.
·         Early in Spring plant the seeds out.
But before you rush outside to plant your seeds, there’s one more thing that you need to do.

Special Note

·         Stone fruits have a hard covering over the embryo.
·         It’s a really good idea to crack the hard covering slightly using a nutcracker just before planting so you’ll have a better chance of germination.
·         Be careful not to crush the embryo inside the covering.
·         The new seedlings will develop a tap root.
·         You can also improve the rate of germination by soaking the seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours before planting.
·         Keep the soil moist but don’t fertilise at this time. 

Once the seedlings have gotten going, you can plant them out into the garden or a larger pot.
If you’ve started your seeds in the ground first up, then to make transplanting easier,
You need to cut the taproot by pushing a spade under each plant.
Of course now what you can do is learn the art of budding or grafting, but that’s for another day.


Mass Planting For a Mediterranean Climate
You may have heard that some parts of Australia experience what’s called a Mediterranean climate.
That’s where you can have moist mild to very cold winters and warm to hot and mostly dry summers.
Sometimes the winters are a bit harsh and cold so how do you plant out a garden that has harsh freezing cold frosts but warm to blazing hot summers with little rain?
Do you stick to just having a desert style garden or one with succulents, but that has limited appeal really.

Perhaps you would like a garden with lots of mass planting instead and plants of different heights and flowers?
So what can you really plant in this climate.
Let’s find out about. I'm talking with Peter Nixon, landscape designer and Director of Paradisus garden design.

Peter mentioned plants like Chinese plumbago, Grevillea rhyolitica and Cistus species which do well in mass plantings and definitely work in a Mediterranean style climate.
If you have any questions about mass planting for Mediterranean climates, why not email us


Gerberas as Cut Flowers
Did you know that Gerbera flowers were named after Trauggott Gerber, a botanist and physician from the 1700s?
Another fascinating fact is that supposedly, many people place gerberas by their bed to enjoy a better sleep!
Gerberas emit oxygen and absorb toxins and carbon monoxide at night instead of during the day like most flowers.
I’ve heard that they’re the longest lasting cut flowers in a vase.

The Gerbera is the birth month flower for April.

If you look at gerbera flower, you would think that it’s just one big flower head with lots of small petals. In fact, the flower head is a huge cluster of hundreds of flowers.
Gerbera seeds are expensive because each flower only produces a few seeds that are only viable for 1 year.
Plus the large fluffy seeds don’t fit into automatic seeding machines so need to be hand sown, maybe still today?
They are native to South Africa, but a lot of breeding has gone into developing the large daisy-like flowers we see today.
Listen to the podcast here

Watch the video of Mercedes Sarmini talking with me (host) on Real World Gardener radio show.
We're talking about how best to look after Gerberas in the Vase.

How to grow a Gerbera-

Gerberas are perennials and do best in full sun, in well-drained soil.
They’ll grow in most parts of Australia but are happiest in a warm climate.
In cool or moist areas plants need excellent drainage and shelter from the cold. I
If your soil is poorly drained, grow the plants in a raised garden bed.If you experience wet autumns and winters plant gerberas where they will keep dry during the colder months.
If you have any questions for Mercedes, why not write in to

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Mr Tulip, Miss Iris and Go Go Goji Berry.

What’s On The Show Today?

The Orris root iris is important in cooking and aromatherapy in Spice it Up, the best source of antioxidants in the goji berries in Vegetable Heroes; continuing the series on mass planting with Garden Designer Peter Nixon in Design elements, and a new segment about flowers called Talking Flowers with Mercedes Sarmini.


Orris Root: Iris germanica var Florentina

A little while ago on this show, in fact in the spice it up segment, featured the juniper berry as a major flavouring ingredient for Gin.
That is if you’re making your own Gin.
Today’s spice is something you would never think of being a spice let alone it being another one of the three major ingredients in Gin.
So what is it and what else can you use it for?
So let’s find out….I'm talking with Ian Hemphill owner of

So, how about the fact Juniper, Orris root and Coriander are the major ingredients in gin? Then you add all the other flavours, but Orris root is the one thing that brings all those flavours together because it's a fixative.

The rhizome is technically what's used in making Orris Root powder. 
The Iris rhizome is lifted, dried, sliced and then powdered.

If you were to inhale the smell of dried orris root you would be rewarded with a lovely scent of violets.

Unfortunately if you can't remember where you planted your orris root iris, than lifting and drying is the only way to identify it from all the other white irises you have in the garden.
Then there’s those pomander balls and real pot pourri.

Wouldn’t you like the real deal rather than coloured bits of bark?

Turns out though you might just have to make the pomander and real pot pourri yourself.

If you have any questions about Orris root powder why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675 


Goji berries Lycium barbarum var goji

Something I’ve never talked about on this segment and that’s goji berries.
Regarded as a superfood now they have been used for thousands of years in those areas where they’re native, that is, the Himalayas and inner Mongolia.
This shrubby vine is scientifically Lycium barbarum or sometimes the added var. goji.
Botanical names are important because there’s also a declared weed that has a similar name, and that’s African Boxthorn or Lycium fericossimum.

This weed has thorns whereas the proper goji berry for eating doesn’t.

Goji berries are known as wolfberries in China and the United States, and as goji berries in Tibet and Mongolia and Australia.
Traditionally they have been used to treat inflammation, skin irritation, nose bleeds, aches, pains and as a sedative.
They are also commonly used with other botanicals in Chinese medicine for poor vision, anemia, and cough. 
What does it look like? 
The small and shiny red berries grow on a shrubby deciduous fast growing vine.
The vine has small trumpet-like white and purple flowers and olive like dark green leaves.
Other than the fruit and flowers, the plant has thin white canes and the bush itself looks nothing special.
Interestingly, it’s a member of the Solanaceae family along with tomatoes and peppers.

Why are goji berries so expensive? 
The reason why they’re expensive is that all the berries need to be handpicked, because the berries grow just like coffee berries.
You may know that coffee berries grow along the stem and they don’t all ripen at once.
That makes for careful picking of the fruit which can’t be done by machinery.
One thing to note if you plan to grow this plant is that the only drawback is that they take two to three years before they start fruiting although they’re supposed to start fruiting a year earlier if you grow them in pots.

Vals Seedlings

Rather than buying those dried berries at a handsome price, grow your own instead. 

A listener from Queensland wrote in to say that she had trouble germinating seeds that she bought from a seed company.

So instead Val soaked some dried berries that she bought from a health food shop for 2 weeks and planted them.
Val even went to the trouble of stratifying one lot in the fridge for three weeks but reckons that wasn’t really necessary.
Strangely enough, these all germinated and now she has 100 little plants growing in her shade house.
Val recommends raising the seeds in pure coir peat or 50% sand and 50%mill mud.

Mill mud is a by-product of the sugar cane industry and something most of us won’t be able to access. 
The best time to sow goji berry seeds is in Spring when they should germinate in around ten days.

Germination is best at 18-20°C.
Where Goji berries grow.
Of course using Val’s method you can’t be sure of what variety you’re getting.
As mentioned before, anywhere in Australia, is fine for growing goji berries, in fact from Toowoomba where Val lives to along the mountainous terrain south to the Snowy Mountains, also doing well in most capitals except Darwin.
Plants also don’t do too badly when grown in Tasmania.

Goji plants can cope with a temperature range of –15°C to over 40°C.
The best time to plant it is after the last frost if your get frost in your areas.

Picking a Site for your Goji Berries.
Choose a sunny spot, sheltered from the wind, in any type of well-drained soil; but Gojis like a high pH of 6.5–8.
Lycium barbarum fruits
In districts where summer gets pretty hot, some afternoon shade will see your goji berry bush last through the warmer months.
Tip: Goji berries like moist soil for the first 2-3 years and after that, they’re fairly drought tolerant.
If you plant to grow your goji berries in the ground, don’t just leave the soil bare, but cover it up with mulch to keep the soil moist.
You can use any organic material you can get your hands on.
To look after you goji plant it’s best to think of this it as a trailing plant rather than a shrub or tree. 
In the home garden it can be grown like a berry fruit (bramble-think raspberry, blackberry, and so on) against a fence or on wires or frame.
This will help control its sprawling nature and habit.
Tying the canes will also prevent damage from wind and the berries touching the ground.

How to Prune Goji Berry Canes the Correct Way

Each winter, the long whippy growths can be tied back to the wire and shortened a bit.
If you do this you’ll get lots of new laterals forming in spring each bearing clusters of delicious Goji berries.
With each year the plant will increase in size and amount of berries so you’ll be able to harvest a quite sizeable crop over a long period. 

  • You might be thinking that if they flower/fruit on new growth, can they not be grown like raspberries? ie. can't you prune off last year's growth and let new canes sprout from the trunk to flower/fruit this year? 
  • The answer is basically they’re different from raspberries in one aspect. 

  • The new canes from the base grow and only have a cluster of flowers at the end (10-20 flowers) in the first year. 
  • In the second year, the buds along the length of this cane produce shorter flowering spurs and unlike raspberries that only last one season, goji berries go on producing for some years. 

  • If you cut off all of last year’s growth then you’ll not develop the recurring fruiting structures. 

Why is it good for you?
Goji berries are widely known as being a "Super Fruit" packed with vitamins, anti-oxidants, amino acids and polysaccarides.
Goji berries are considered to be the best source of antioxidants and vitamin C and are sweeter and juicier than cranberries.
You have to believe its properties given the price currently charged for Goji juice, dried berries and similar products.



Mass Planting for a Mediterranean Garden part 2.
This series is all about mass planting but so it’s not boring.
There’s different levels, different leaf shape and textures and different colours of green to make your garden all that more interesting.

Warm temperate coast regions around Australia can look forward to these next plants.
There are so many plants for these regions that we’ve had done split it into two parts of this four part series. So this is part B
Let’s find out about what they are.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, landscape designer and Director of Paradisus garden design.

Plants that are used to the sunny tropics may have a hard time in temperate winters s because often there’s rain, but weak sun, so plants can struggle.
Peter mentioned if you need weed suppression, something low but in semi-shade will suit Plectanthrus ciliatus, Carissa Desert Star with a dark green gloss leaf and starry perfumed flower or Acanthus mollis.
Jasminum nitidum
For sub-shrubs try Jasmin nitidum, which is a sub-shrub to about 1.2 metres and not invasive.
For difficult banks with a slope of 1:5, then go for Helichrysum petiolare Limelight, sometimes called Licorice plant.
For the 3m tall shrubs, try Hibiscus rosa-sinensis varieties or Mackaya bella.
Small trees that suit would be Brachychiton bidwilli- a semi-deciduous tree with a reddy pink barrel shaped flower.
If you have any questions about mass planting for temperate climates, why not email us?



Today a new segment starts and it’s all about flowers.
Not growing flowers, but cut flowers.

How good are you at floral arrangements?
Gardeners are often good at growing the flowers but not so good and floral arrangements.
Flower arranging is a skill that requires a good eye but most all it requires knowledge about how to treat the flowers in the first place.
It’s not easy for some but others just seem to know how to treat each flower. 
This series is all about how to cut the flower stem, how much water to put in the vase for different flower species, and how to look after those cut flowers in the vase.

So let’s kick off this new series by introducing the Managing Director of Flower by Mercedes with Mercedes Sarmini who has been in the floristry industry for 18 years.
Studio Interview with Mercedes Sarmini.
To see the video, click here.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Fermenting Veggies, Shore Birds, and Colourful Crotons.

What’s On The Show Today?
An Australian Shore bird the migrates thousands of kilometres each year to reach Australian shores. We’re up to something good for your health in Vegetable Heroes; continuing the series on mass planting with Garden Designer Peter Nixon in Design elements, and a fabulous multi-coloured leaved plant in Plant of the Week.


Bar Tailed Godwit.

How well do you know Australian Shore birds?

Did you know that even though a bird is migratory, it’s considered an Australian bird because it spends quite a number of months on our shores? 
Even though it's a largish bird, weighing around 190g, flying thousands of kilometres from the breeding ground in Siberia and Norther Scandanavia to shores in Australia and New Zealand is no mean feat.
Did you know that when they’re in Australia they look quite different to what they do when they’re overseas.
So let’s find out more about the Bar Tailed Godwit .
I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons from

You'll find these birds in Australia now, feeding up so that they can make that long journey back to their breeding ground in March-April. 
These birds will then head north, stopping off in Korea, China or Japan, ending up in Alaska which is their breeding ground.
Holly mentioned one bird that was tagged called E7
E7 was tracked as taking the longest non-stop flight of any bird, flying 11,500 kms from Alaska to New Zealand.

Sadly, thousands of Bar Tailed Godwits' don’t make it back because of the lack of places to stop to re-fuel.
So if you do see these birds along the shore, please don’t release you dog to chase them away.
If you have any questions about Bar Tailed Godwits why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Fermenting Vegetables-it's easy.
From time to time I like to break up just growing a veggie and put in something about how to treat a problem in the veggie garden, or pick out a something different about a veggie.
Today, we’re going really different because I’m going to talk about how to ferment your veggies.
Fermenting vegetables is not only a way of preserving them, but it’s also really good for you because of the way the fermentation process works.
Did you know that fermentation is an ancient method of preserving food that’s been around for thousands of years? Ever heard of sauerkraut?
Yes, eating sauerkraut with meat actually helps you digest the meat.

So how does fermentation work?

Without getting too much into science here’s a quote from the book, Lacto-fermenting: The Easy & Healthy Way,
“Lacto-fermentation happens when natural starches and sugars found within vegetables and fruits are converted to lactic acid by the friendly bacteria lactobacilli. The term “lacto” in lacto-fermentation, refers to the production of lactic acid.
This acid is a natural preservative, inhibiting the growth of putrefying bacteria.
Of all the acids common to food preservation, lactic acid is the one most easily used by the body and does not cause over-acidifying effects.”
An anaerobic environment (without air), enhances the production of lactic acid and this is why fermenting kits were developed.

How do you ferment your vegetables then?

First you need to prepare the vegetables.There are several ways to prepare the vegetables for fermenting: grating, shredding, chopping, slicing, or leaving whole.
How you choose to prepare your vegetables is a personal choice, though some vegetables are better suited for leaving whole, while others ferment better when shredded or grated.
 Let’s talk about which food can be grated, usually by hand.

Grating is good for hard or crunchy vegetables, because grating creates the mnost surface area letting the salt penetrate the veggie more whickly and drawing out the moisture.

You really need to add brine to grated vegetables,

Brine is of course, salt and water.

What about slicing? 
Good veggies are the softer ones that can be sliced thickly although you can slice firm vegetables such as beetroot into thinner slices.
Chopping veggies is also good, but these take loner to ferment and also need more of that brine mixture. 
Candidates for this method are cauliflower, celery and carrot pieces.

What about whole vegetables? 

You can also ferment whole vegetables and I’m sure you would’ve heard of pickled gherkins and pickled cucumbers.
You can also ferment radishes, green beans and Brussel sprouts.

How do you actually ferment now that you’ve chopped, grated or sliced the vegetable?

Did you know that you can use salt, whey or a starter culture?
Salt is good because it stops the growth of undesirable microorganisms,
Starter cultures such as whey (brine from a previous ferment) or freeze-dried starter cultures can add bacteria to the culturing process to get things going more quickly.
But you ‘ll have to source them from somewhere.

In this segment, salt is the only method that will be covered because it’s by far the easiest.

Salt pulls out the moisture in food, denying bacteria the aqueous solution they need to live and grow.

Salt  also allows the natural bacteria that exist on the vegetables to do the fermenting. Only the desired salt-tolerant Lactobacilli strains will live and propagate.
Salt hardens the pectins in the vegetables, leaving them crunchy and enhancing the flavor. 
How Much Salt Then?
Use 1-3 tablespoons of our authentic, finely-ground Celtic Sea Salt per 950 mls or close enough to a litre of water to prepare brine for fermenting vegetables.
By the way if you want salt free fermentation you can use celery juice or seaweed, but they won’t prevent your vegetables from going mushy.

That’s the drawback of salt free fermentation.

Tip: make sure you get a good centimetre of juices sitting above the veggies…otherwise mould grows, ruining the whole lot. 

“Some lacto-fermented products may get bubbly, particularly the chutneys.

This is natural and no cause for concern.
And don’t get upset if little spots of white foam appear at the top of the pickling liquid.
They’re completely harmless and can be lifted off with a spoon.

The standard amount of salt to add is 3 tablespoons per 2 ¼ kilos of vegetables. 
Here’s a recipe for homemade sauerkraut. 

It uses just plain salt but there’s no need to add water.
1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
1 tbls caraway seeds
2 tbls sea salt
Mix all ingredients in a sturdy bowl and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer or just squeeze with your hands (this is actually very soothing and meditative) for about 10 minutes to release juices.
This takes a little work and some patience. Spoon into a mason jar and using the pounder or meat hammer press down until juices come to the top of the cabbage and cover it.
Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days, make sure the room is not too hot or cold; it should be at comfortable room temperature.
Then transfer to cold storage.

Why is it good for you? 
Natural fermentation of foods has also been shown to preserve nutrients in food and break the food down to a more digestible form.
The probiotics created during the fermentation process, could explain the link between eating fermented foods and improved digestion.


Mass Planting for a Mediterranean Climate part 1
Groundcovers and small shrubs.
This series is all about mass planting but so you're garden won't be boring.
photo Louise McDaid Cloudhill Gardens
That means not just a sea of the same green and the same leaf shape and texture but a variety of colour interesting features.
There’s different levels, different leaf shape and textures and different colours of green to make your garden all that more interesting.

Warm temperate coast regions around Australia can look forward to these next plants.

Let’s find out about what they are.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, landscape designer and Director of Paradisus garden design

Plants that are used to the sunny tropics may have a hard time in temperate winters s because often there’s rain, but weak sun, so plants can struggle.
Peter mentioned if you need weed suppression, something low but in semi-shade will suit Plectanthrus ciliatus, Carissa Desert Star with a dark green gloss leaf and starry perfumed flower or Acanthus mollis.
For sub-shrubs try Jasmin nitidum, which is a sub-shrub to about 1.2 metres and not invasive.
For difficult banks with a slope of 1:5, then go for Helichrysum petiolare Limelight, sometimes called Licorice plant.


Crotons: Colourful leaves
Codiaeum variegatum
Flowers are great, but not all plants flower for a long time so it’s good to have a plant that has plenty of colour in its leaves in your garden or even inside your house as an indoor plant.
Plant breeders are having fun with the colours and sizes too, so you can soon buy the same plant but in the miniature form as well as the standard sized shrub form of 1 metre.
Let’s find out about this plant.
I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

A well-grown croton keeps its leaves all the way to the soil level, but the trick to this is to provide steady warmth. 
Even outside, crotons drop leaves after a cold night. 
These plants do alright after a hard prunes so if a croton becomes leggy, prune it back hard at the beginning of the growing season and move it outside. 
The plant will regrow from the cut part.
A tough plant in the right environment; often seen in old and neglected gardens in Qld

Also a great plant to grow indoors even if you do have the right climate to grow it outside.
Just remember not to overwater it and give it some slow or controlled release fertiliser at the beginning of the warmer season.
If you have any questions about growing Crotons, why not write in to