Saturday, 28 October 2017

Grow the Flowers, Cut the Flowers

What’s On The Show Today?

Do we really need floristry tools in Tool Time? Not all beans are the same in Vegetable Heroes: Pincushions are go in Plant of the week, a flower that signifies beauty and strength in Talking Flowers.


Floristry Tools for the Home Gardener.
Do you love cutting flowers from your garden to bring inside?
Sure, why not especially if you have a flower garden.

But wait, are secateurs what we’re supposed to use to cut these flowers or is there something better?
Let’s find out all about which tools you could be using for your cut flowers….
I'm talking with Tony Mattson, general manager of

When it comes to florist cutting tools, there are a number of different tools for different jobs. 
Scissors are good for occasionally cutting flowers, but if you've got a few then you'll be better off with Snips.
Silver series 90mm snips from Cut Above Tools
Snips are good because you're only using your hand to close the snips onto the flower stem.
The spring in the snips returns them to the open position so you're not straining your hand as much.
Usually the blades of good quality snips are stronger than scissors too so your'e less likely to put them out of alignment if the stem is a little bit tougher than you expected.
Don't forget the role of secateurs in cutting those harder stems of Proteas, Waratahs, Camellias and Viburnums.
Using the right tool for the job is crucial to getting high quality arrangements.
The quality of these tools determines how much of the stem is left on your flower, how many thorns are left on a rose, and how neat your final packaging is cut.
If you have any questions about floristry tools, then why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


BEAN or Phaseolus vulgaris which is latin for the Common Bean.

Do you love your beans?
Did you know that beans have been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years?
Beans have been eaten by people for so long that they have worked their way in to everyday expressions.

Have you said
“He’s full of beans when you’re describing somebody with a lot of energy?”
Perhaps you wanted someone to spill the beans –tell you a secret or the truth?

Bean pods can be green, yellow, purple, or speckled with red; they can be flat, round and a yard long.

Beans are what’s called a legume in the Faboidea or the pea family.
Beans Make Their Own Nitrogen!

Growing beans is pretty easy and I would say essential in a veggie garden because beans, as well as other legumes, have nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots.
Yep, that’s right, the roots make nitrogen out of the air and deposit it into the soil.
Lightning storms are even better for that reason because they convert nitrogen into ammonium ions.
Bean varieties originated from different places or countries.

Green bean originated from Central and East Asia, North-eastern Africa and the Mediterranean.
Would you believe that beans are supposed to have been grown in ancient Peru from around 500 B.C?

Bean varieties such as green beans, French bean and long bean have been planted for their fruits or pods for vegetables in many regions in the world since 6,000 years ago

When to Sow Beans
  • Beans, either climbing or Dwarf Beans, are sometimes called Green beans are also called string beans and snap beans. 
  • To grow beans you need up to four months of warm weather. 
  • In subtropical climates beans can be grown almost all year. 
  • For temperate and arid zones, mid-spring through to late summer are the best times to plant. 
  • In colder districts, beans, don’t like the cold at all and they certainly don’t like frost. You have until the end of summer, certainly you wouldn’t be expecting any cold snaps now. 
  • Tropical districts, once again, need to wait until the winter months to sow beans.
String beans
  • Beans are best planted at soil temperatures between 16°C and 30°C so planting them from now on is ideal. 
  • Sow your bean seeds about 2.5cm deep or depending on the size of the bean I guess. 
  • Sow your beans, either climbing or dwarf beans either in rows or just scatter so the seed are 5-10cm apart (don't worry about the odd ones which are closer). 
  • Cover with soil, potting mix, or compost and firm down with the back of a spade or rake. 
  • Grown this way the beans will mostly shade out competing weeds and 'self-mulch'. 

An important fact about growing beans is that they need well-drained soils with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0 and are sensitive to deficiencies or high levels of minerals in the soil-especially climbing beans.

So make sure you spread some chook poo or cow manure before sowing your bean seeds.

TIP: When growing green beans, keep the soil moist.

A good rule of thumb is to put a finger in the dirt and if the dirt is dry up to the first knuckle, then it needs about an inch of water.

Keep your beans watered and watch for vegetable bugs and green caterpillars
Pods won’t set at temperatures above 27° C.
Why are my dwarf beans climbing? 
This is a question I get asked often.
  • The answer is like all vegies, beans need a sunny spot and dwarf varieties grow taller than expected due to environmental factors 
  • In fact, dwarf beans can have a peculiar reaction to insufficient sunlight: they can start to turn into climbers. 
  • That's because all beans were originally climbers and given half a chance, dwarf beans will head skywards, especially if they don’t think they’re getting enough sunlight. 
  • Another possible reason is that your soil is just too good and contains heaps of nitrogen which makes plants put on lots of vegetative growth. 
  • Just nip out the top growing point to begin with, at the height you would like your beans to be. 
Erect a sturdy trellis for your bean plants.
Fertilising Your Beans
Beans make their own Nitrogen so don’t use fertilisers that are high in this particular macro nutrient.
Use only those fertilisers where the N ( Nitrogen) in the NPK (Nitrogen:Phosphorus: Potassium) ratio is smaller compared to the other numbers.
This is usually somewhere on the back of packets.
For example Thrive Complete Fertiliser has a NPK ratio of 5: 7: 4 compared with say something like Cow Manure which contains about 3 percent nitrogen, 2 percent phosphorus, and 1 percent potassium (3-2-1NPK). 
TIP: Did you know that if you pick the beans as soon as they’re ready, you’ll get new flowers? 

If you neglect your bean plants and let your beans get large and stringy, flowering will slow right down and you probably won’t get any more beans from your plants.

Tip: To have beans all summer long, plant more seed as soon as the previous planting starts to flower.

Protect against snails and slugs by laying down straw or sugar cane mulch and sprinkling coffee grounds around the edge of the veggie bed.
Slugs and snails will completely destroy newly sprouted beans.
Beans do poorly in very wet or humid tropical climates because they get bacterial and fungal diseases.
Go easy on the fertiliser or you’ll get lots of leaves and no beans.
When picking your beans, pick times when your plants are dry.
Working with beans when the leaves are wet tends to spread any diseases.
When are beans ready pick I hear you ask? 
Usually in about 10-12 weeks.

TIP:Pick them when they are about as thick as a pencil, smaller if you want a better, tender taste. 
Why are they good for you? Green Beans are a good source of vitamin C and also contain calcium, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin A. But, the most important nutritional fact for beans is that they provide a major source of soluble fibre, wand we all need what that's good for.
Also is a source of folate .

Some varieties of the dwarf beans are Brown Beauty-flat pods
Dwarf Snake Beans-ready in 11 weeks.
Windsor Delight has long pods of about 15cm.
Blue Lake Climbing, long pods again but they’re round this time.
Dragons Tongue beans
Scarlet Runner Beans
Lazy Housewives Bean???



Pincushion Flower
Scabiosa columbaria hybrids
Have you ever wanted more butterflies to come into your garden?
Pincushion Flower
Well here’s a plant with plenty of nectar to get you started.
Nectar rich flowers isn’t all what butterflies need.
They need a flower that’s like a landing pad so they can have a bit of a rest while the sipping on the nectar. 
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.

Scabiosa or Pincushion flowers belong to the Honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae.
Easy to grow and spread.
As young plants they are a bit sensitive to over watering, but as mature plants, they can cope with frost and take some heat.
Pincushion flowers do best in full sun but well-drained soil is a must!
Those with heavy soils should grow these flowers in a raised bed. 
The flowers are on long stems of around 30 cm.
The foliage which is a pale green, makes a small mound around 20 cm

Jeremy recommends the Bliss Bomb series which have intense lavender blue flowers.

 You can also buy deep maroon pincushion flowers but they are harder to get.

Remember: if you try to grow them in clay soils, they won't last until the next season, preferring to grow in more free draining soils.

These plants can last for a few years in the garden before you need to replace them, much like Shasta daisies.

You can try cutting them back to increase their longevity.
The best thing is that these flowers are drought-tolerant, once they are established and will bloom from spring until the first frost.
Best of all they also make great cut flowers lasting for up to 10 days in the vase.
If you have any questions about growing Scabiosa or Pincushion flowers, why not write in to


Dendrobium or Singapore Orchid
Don't be confused because we're not talking about Australia's Dendrobium, but the ones that florists prefer.
These florists' orchids are also called Dendrobiums.
These orchids grow from a pseudobulb and are largely epiphytic or lithophytic, preferring high humidity to grow outdoors.
Keep in mind, these orchids don't like temperatures below 15 C

Native to Southeast Asia, the genus dendrobium is one of the largest of all orchid groups from the Orchidaceae family.
There are about 1,200 individual species, and they grow in a variety of climates, from hot, wet lowlands to high-altitude, colder mountains. 
Growers usually divide dendrobiums into groups based on their growing conditions.
I'm talking with flower therapist and florist Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during the radio broadcast of Real World Gardener , all about Dendrobiums.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Poppies, Redbuds, and Lilies, But Also Acquaponics in the Mix

What’s On The Show Today?

What to do about pests that shred leaves in Plant Doctor, grow a stunning tree with flowers on its trunk in plant of the week, discover the world of aquaponics in the Good Earth and a flower that signifies remembrance in Talking Flowers.


Lily Caterpillar
The secret to controlling pests in the garden is to understand their life cycle, and watch for early signs of infestation so they can be stopped in their tracks before they become a problem.
The first sign of infestation this next plant pest is the skeletonising of leaves. 
In the adult stage the parent (lily moth) lays up to 100 eggs at a time on the tip of a leaf, and the growing (pest) caterpillars then work their way down to the base of the plant.
These voracious pests ( caterpillars) can destroy a clump of clivias or other lilies in record time.
Lily caterpillars are a native pest common along the east coast of Australia but can be seen in other regions. Generally a dark grey to black colour with yellow and white markings down the side.; about 5 cm long.

The adult moth is like your average brown moth with a wing span of around 5 cm and can lay up to 100 eggs at a time.
Let’s find out all about this pest.
I'm talking withSteve Falcioni, general manager of

The Lily caterpillar attacks clivea, crinums, hippeastrums, the spider lily (hymenocallis) and other plants in the lily family.
Young caterpillars skeletonise leaves while older ones can strip leaves or attack the crown of the plant. 
Very quickly plants are an ugly mess of caterpillars, droppings and collapsing plant foliage. Attacked foliage dies and leaves the plants looking very unsightly.
Lily Caterpillar, calagramma picta, pupate under mulch and then travel up the stems of many types of lilies, munching as they go - eating leaves, stems and flower buds.
Caterpillars pupate in leaf litter or the soil before emerging as adult moths to start the cycle again. There are several generations a year with the most damage noticed during the warmer months.
Look for the caterpillars on the underside as well as the tops of the leaves.
Damage caused by the lily caterpillar is severe and can result in plant death.
Plants which survive usually take a long time to recover.
If you have any questions about growing your own turmeric, then why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Introduction to Acquaponics.
What is it?
Put simply, Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system. 
The fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants, and the plants naturally filter the water for the fish.
Start off with a fish tank, and buy your fingerlings ( baby fish) either Silver Perch or Barraminudi are a couple of excellent suggestions.
Attach plumbing to growing beds which contain a soilless medium such as Scoria, expanded clay balls ( Hydroton) even Perlite.
Each one has pros and cons for using it, for example, although Perlite is very light, it tends to wash away easily.
Water is reticulated ( circulated ) around the system so that the beds fill up with water constantly, then the water level drops as it's fed back into the fish tank.

The fish provide fish waste that feeds the plants.
The plants use this fish waste and filter out the water which is recycled back into the fish tank.
Robyn, says in here system of 5-6 growing beds, she never needs to flush out or replace the water other than to top it up due to evaporation.
There's more to it than that of course.
 Find out by listening to the podcast.
I'm talking with Robyn Rosenfeldt, editor of Pip Magazine.


Cercis chinensis " Avondale" 
Chinese Redbud.

Why this tree is so spectacular is that it has flowers not just at the end of the branches but all along the stems and trunk right down to the ground.
Masses of deep purple or deep rose-pink pea like flowers appear along the bare stems in late winter to early spring. 
The flowers are held close up and down the stem and right down to the bottom of the trunk.
A spectacular show of flowers that appear in large clusters.

Fruits are attractive bean like pot that's purple make a decorative feature in late Summer.
Flowers on the straight species are pink or milky white, and the leaves are a bit more rounded but still heart shaped.
Flowers last about 3 weeks.

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.

  • Cercis chinensis Avondale is very small for a tree being 3 x 2 metres, with spectacular flower and heart shaped leaves.
  • Does love a good water during dry spells but otherwise reasonably hardy.
  • All Cercis have a tap root so that's a no for transplanting and possibly for growing in pots too.


Poppies for Remembrance
Poppies were given the official title of Remembrance due them growing en masse in the fields where thousands of soldiers perished in WWI
Mercedes has an interesting anecdote about how you can make your dreams come true.
All you need to do is to whisper your dreams into your hand with the poppy seeds before sowing.
When the poppies grow and flower, your dreams shall come true. Let's hope.

Some of the most widely used grown types of Poppies include the Papaver somniferum ( only by licence because that's the Opium poppy), Papaver orientale, and Eschscholzia californica or Californian poppy.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini from

Recorded live as the show went to air on Facebook live.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Turmeric Spices, Growing Seeds and Citrus but admiring Daffodils

What’s On The Show Today?

How to grow this tropical looking plant because it’s good for you in the Good Earth, some great tips on germinating seeds in Vegetable Heroes; a native fruit with caviar like insides in plant of the Week and a flower that signifies “ new beginnings” in Talking Flowers.


Growing Turmeric
Cucuma longa
Gardeners like to grow unusual herbs that are also useful.
But you won’t be planting out seeds to start this next plant because you need rhizomes.
Not only that, for this herb you won’t be using the leaves in cooking but the roots or rhizomes instead.
Turmeric plants
What am I talking about?
Let’s find out all about Turmeric in the podcast. I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from

How To Grow
Turmeric Flowers
There are a couple of different types of Turmeric available in Australia.
One has bright orange flesh and the other is more yetlllow.
Sourcing it all depends on if you have " Crop Swap" or Farmers' Markets in your district.
Once you have a fresh rhizome or root, all you need to do is plant it. 
A large root will have several branches or fingers to it.
You can cut these apart and start more than one plant if you like.
The easiest way to get it to sprout is to just bury the root under 5cms of potting mix. If there are any knobs or buds on the root, turn it so they are facing upwards. 
Turmeric grows downwards and spreads sideways, so don't plant it in a narrow pot.
You can harvest the whole clump when the leaves have died , usually at the beginning of Winter of late Autumn depending on your district's climate.

If you have any questions about growing your own turmeric, then why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Growing from Seed
Growing from seed isn’t always easy and I know many a gardener from my days at Yates, that failed to germinate a whole bunch of different seeds. 

There's no need to be shocked if you seeds don't germinate.
It happens to the best of gardeners so don't despair.

Solutions to the problemThe answer to the seed raising question in a lot of cases was answered by saying that if seedlings get too wet or too dry, then they’re not going to germinate.
So, are there any sure fire techniques that could work for you for some of those tricky seeds? 

Keeping A Record

Some gardeners and horticulturalists keep a record of everything they sow.
Whether you are producing a few plants for your home flower and vegetable gardens or working at a larger-scale nursery, developing a propagation journal or notebook, is a good place to start if you’re having a hit and miss type of problem with your seeds.
  • What you need to do is keep a record of
  • when seeds are sown, 
  • the germination date and 
  • success rate, and 
  • when seedlings are ready for transplanting each year. 
At the end of the year, evaluate the timing of when you put the seeds in, noting what went right and what went wrong. 

Next year you might then consider making adjustments so that you’re growing plants under optimum conditions. 
Also keep track of where you bought the seeds, as their quality and reliability might vary.
Having said that, seed companies sell thousands of packets of each variety of seed and these have been batch tested for germination rates at above 85%.
It’s pretty unlikely that a batch of seeds is unreliable without implying that several thousand other seeds won’t germinate either. 
The Next Thing is Where to Store Your Seeds.
  • Store your seeds properly-not in a garden shed if it heats up during summer and is freezing cold in winter. 
  • The cold won’t matter so much as the heat. 
  • Seeds are a fragile commodity, and if not treated properly, their viability takes a dive. 
  • Did you know that some seeds can survive for thousands of years under the proper conditions, while others will lose viability quickly, even when properly stored? 
  • Parsnips is one that loses viability very quickly. 
  • The best way to store your precious seeds is to keep seeds in a cool, dark location with low humidity, like a cool laundry that won’t fluctuate in temperate that much. 
  • Some say put them in the fridge, but if you’re like me, you’d need a whole fridge just to keep the seeds in. 
  • Store the seeds in a plastic container, and label the top with the expiry date of the seeds. 
Seed Germination Test
There is a test you can do for seed viability for many of your seed, although it’s not 100% bullet proof, and that is once you are ready to sow, you can soak them in water for a few hours.
The seeds that are still living will sink to the bottom, while the dead ones will float on the surface. This test generally works better for larger seeds as a general rule. 
It’s worth a try in any case.
The other method is to lay seeds on one half of a damp paper tower, and put them into a zip lock bag.
Keep an eye on the moisture level of the paper towel, opening it when it looks dry and misting with water from a spray bottle.
You seeds that are viable will germinate and these can be planted out into the garden, so nothing is wasted.

Sowing Seeds in Punnets
When sowing seeds in punnets, especially if you’re re-using them, give the punnets a good soak with a 10% solution containing bleach so that any pathogens that might kill of the seeds is killed.
This’ll take about 15 minutes.
You’re better off sowing plants
that resent root disturbance when transplanted into small, individual containers like cell packs or plug trays.
Recycled plastic containers, like empty yogurt or margarine tubs, work well, too, as long as you've poked holes in the bottom for drainage.
It doesn’t matter what type of container you use as long as it’s clean and free of pathogens. 

How to Best Cover Your Seeds

Another big factor in seeds not germinating is covering them with too much or too little seed raising mix.
  • If you’ve got an old kitchen sieve, use that to sprinkle the mix over the seeds after you’ve sown them into the punnets or vegetable garden. 
  • Very fine seeds that need light to germinate should be barely covered if at all. 
  • In this case, I tend to light sprinkle some soaked vermiculite over the seeds, so they won’t dry out but are weighed down by the mix. 
  • Each seed must make good contact with the soil and the best way to do this isn’t with your fingers-the seeds might stick to them, but with a small piece of wood, or the bottom of a glass jar. 
  • Water in your seeds either from the bottom up, or with a spray bottle so the seeds aren’t dislodged. 
  • Then cover your seeds with a plastic bag, a cut off plastic drink bottle, or in a mini greenhouse. 
  •  Don’t water again unless you that you need to rehydrate your seed container. 
  • The best way to do this is, place the entire punnet, pot or whatever you’re using in a basin with about 5-7 cm of luke-warm water and allow the planting medium to wick moisture from the bottom. 
  • If just the surface has dried, you can lift the plastic covering and spritz the surface with water from a spray bottle. 
  • As soon as the seeds germinate, remove the plastic covering.. 
  • Most seeds like temperatures of around 18 ° to 25°C to germinate. 
If your put your seeds near a hot heater or use, a heating pad designed for germinating seeds, you’ll get a much fast germination rate in the cooler months.
In this case be sure to check for moisture often, since the seed containers may dry out more quickly.
Keep in mind that most seeds won’t germinate without sunlight.
Once the seeds have germinated they’ll grow best if they have at least 8 hours of sunlight each day.
 For indoors, place seed trays in a sunny, north-facing window and give the tray or whatever a quarter turn each day to prevent the seedlings from overreaching toward the light and developing weak, elongated stems.

Once your seedlings have grown at least 4 leaves, they’ll need some nutrients fairly regularly to keep your seedlings growing strong.
When the embryo inside a seed is developing, it relies on food stored in the endosperm to fuel its growth.
s the shoot emerges from the soil and the true leaves develop, the initial nutrients supplied by the endosperm will be depleted.

Most seed-starting mixes contain a small amount of nutrients to help the initial seedling growth and not burn the developing roots.
But, once the true leaves emerge, it’s time to begin a half-strength liquid fertilizer regimen on a weekly basis and to get the most out of your seedlings, start using some kind of seaweed solution to get strong root growth. 

Australian Native Citrus: Citrus australasica
Citrus Gems
The lemon tree is ubiquitous to most home gardens but are you aware that Australia has its own native citrus?
The fruit from Australia’s citrus is so unique though that top chefs are using it as a garnish in their cuisine.

Australian Native Citrus is still citrusy but not as we know it.

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.

 What it looks like
The leaves are similar to Murraya Min a Min being much smaller and finer that the leaves of a regular citrus tree.
The inner fruit consist of vesicles that aren’t joined as in the segments of say a Mandarin, making them pop out like the finest of Beluga caviars.
The trees are thorny, as Karen says, they're not called nature's barbed wire for nothing.
Australian native citrus produce finger shaped fruit up to 12 cm long with a typically green-yellow skin and pulp. 
These citrus trees tolerate light frost; grows best in light shade or sunny spot.
Suits sub-tropical. Warm temperate, cool temperate and Mediterranean climates.
Prune: Lightly, in spring. Don't prune too hard when fruit is forming as you can accidentally cut off your upcoming crop.


Daffodils of all kinds for the vase.
What is a Daffodil?
All Daffodils belong to the genus narcissus, which includes jonquils and paperwhites. 
Some gardeners call yellow narcissus, daffodils and the smaller, paler versions as jonquils, but they all belong to the genus narcissus and technically all carry the common name of daffodil. 
The genus name comes from the Greek god narcissus. 
According to legend, Narcissus was so enamored with his own reflection in the river that he drowned trying to capture his reflection.
The daffodils growing along stream banks in their native Mediterranean origin and all soon became associated with Narcissus and took on the Greek god's name.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Lilies, Poppies and All Things Sweet with Stevia

What's On The Show Today?

Illegal in some countries but we can safely use it in Spice it Up, beat that sugar addiction with this plant in Vegetable Heroes; a showstopper of a flowering tree in plant of the week, and flowers that bring your money in Talking Flowers segment.


Poppy Seed. Papaver somniferum
This next spice may have some people wondering as to how safe it is.

The reason is that the name suggests links with the underworld and drugs, but nothing could be further from the truth.
After all it’s there for all to see in the spice aisle of your supermarket, and is often seen as an ingredient in ready mix cakes.
did you know that poppy seeds have been used for thousands of years because of the wonderful, some say nutty flavour?
What am I talking about?
Let’s find out all about it
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

Poppy seed is a beautifully culinary spice used in dishes of many countries.
Drugs are made from the latex of the poppy, however the seeds contain negligible amounts of any narcotic content.
The ones that Ian is talking about are the blue poppy seeds for your cakes, breads and sprinkling over pasta.
Ian recommends sprinkling some poppy seeds over cooked pasta because it compliments carbohydrates so well.
There's also white poppy seeds which is used a lot in Indian cooking. 
The white poppy seeds are soaked in water and then macerated, before using in Indian dishes as a thickeners.

Be warned though, some countries in Asia, like China, Thailand, and the Arab Emirates, have banned poppy seeds of any kind, culinary or otherwise.
If you have any questions about poppy seeds, then why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Stevia Leaf

Native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) has leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that remain stable even after the leaves have been dried.

Stevia is a member of the chrysanthemum family and the Stevia leaves have been used to sweeten teas and other drinks throughout South America for centuries.

So why are Stevia leaves’ so sweet?
Because the leaves contain something called steviol glycosides.

Steviol glycosoides are high intensity natural sweeteners, 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.
The leaves of the stevia plant contain many different steviol glycosides and each one varies in sweetness and aftertaste.

So what does Stevia plant look like? 

  • Stevia is a small perennial shrub with lime green leaves that do best in a rich, loamy soil — the same kind that most of your plants in the garden like. 
  • Stevia is evergreen in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climates, but in cold and arid districts, it’ll lose its leaves in Autumn. 
  • Stevia is native to semi-humid, sub-tropical climates where temperatures typically range from -6°C to 43°C. 
  • Stevia tolerates mild frost, but heavy frosts will kill the roots of the plant. 
  • Since the feeder roots tend to be quite near the surface add compost for extra nutrients if the soil in your area is sandy. 
  • Stevia plants also hate being water logged. 

By the way, I’ve grow my stevia plant in a pot for several years now without any problems and it’s survived several bouts of dry hot summers and lack of watering during spells with a house sitter.

But, it really isn’t drought tolerant like a succulent or a cactus and won’t tolerate long term neglect.

During warm weather don’t forget to water it and if you’re going away for a few weeks put in a dripper system, otherwise you’ll lose your Stevia plant.

But don’t plant your Stevia in waterlogged soil and don’t overwater it.

Adding a layer of compost or your favourite mulch around your stevia plant so that the shallow feeder roots won’t dry out.

Stevia plants do best with fertilizers with a lower nitrogen content than the phosphorus or potassium content.

Which means the artificial fertiliser aren’t your best bet, but most organic fertilizers are because they release nitrogen slowly.

HINT: Stevia leaves have the most sweetness in autumn when temperatures are cooler and the days shorter.

Definitely the best time to pick those stevia leaves.

If your district is prone to frosts in Autumn, make sure you cover the Stevia plant for another few weeks’ growth and more sweetness.

How do you store Stevia leaves?
If you Stevia plant is big enough, the easiest technique is to cut the branches off with secauteurs before stripping the leaves.

TIP:As an extra bonus, you might also want to clip off the stem tips and add them to your harvest, because they have as much stevio-side as do the leaves.
  • If you live in a mostly frost-free climate, your plants will probably cope with winter outside, as long as you don’t cut the branches too short (leaving about 10cms of stem at the base during pruning). 
  • These plants do last a few years in temperate and warmer climates. 
  • In cool temperate districts, it might be a good idea to take cuttings that you’ll use for next year’s crop. 
  • Cuttings need to be rooted before planting, using either commercial rooting hormones or a natural base like honey. 
  • Stevia seed is apparently very tricky to germinate, and the cutting method is your best option. 
I should mention that the stevioside content is only 12% in the leaves you grow compared with the 80-90% that commercially extracted stevia has.
It’s still had a decent amount of sweetness all the same.
So you’ve picked the leaves now you need to dry them.
As with drying all herbs you can hang your bunch of leaves upside down in a warm dry place.
Otherwise, on a moderately warm day, your stevia crop can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours. (Drying times longer than that will lower the stevioside content of the final product.)
If you have a home dehydrator use that instead.
Finally crush the leaves either by hand, in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle that you use for spices and herbs.
The dried leaves last indefinitely!
If you add two or three leaves added whole or powdered, that’s enough to sweeten a cup of tea or coffee.
HOT TIP: Another way is to make your own liquid stevia extract by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated.
Why are they good for you?
Stevia is a natural sweetener that has zero calories and isn't metabolised by the body.
Stevia isn’t suitable for everything in cooking but you can use it to sweeten drinks, fruits, salad dressings, stewed fruit, yogurt and most creamy desserts.
The processed Stevia that you buy in the shops has been stripped of all the natural goodness that Stevia contains, so it’s better to grow your own Stevia.


CRABAPPLES Malus floribunda

Flowers on this tree are so spectacular that you’ll be wondering why you’ve never planted it in your garden. 

Not only that, it’s easy to grow, is a small tree and is quite hardy.
But maybe you have one in your garden, and you’ve had it for years.

So instead you’re the envy of neighbours all around you but they’ve been either too afraid to ask you what it is or have been trying to sneak cuttings.

Let’s find out about this plant.

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

There’s quite a few other varieties of crabapples to choose from with enticing names like Sugar Tyme,  Showtime, Royal Raindrops and Golden Raindrops. 

The bonus is even though it’s a small ornamental tree, you get these crab apples and if you’re into masterchef or other cooking shows, you’ll be wanting to make crab apple jelly to use on your cooking creations. 
If you have any questions about growing crab apple trees, why not write in to


All About Lilies

Lilies-Tiger, Asiatic and Oriental

The genus Lilium belongs to the family of plants known as Liliaceae. True lilies belong to this genus and, despite their names, some species such as the Peace lily or Day lily are not true lilies, despite the ‘lily’ part of their name.

There are true lilies and there are fake lilies.
What I call fake lilies are thoese flowers that look like lilies, have lily in their name, but are members of the Liliaceae family.
Some of these fake lilies are  Daylilies, water-lilies and arum-lilies.
Lily Flower Meaning
White: Virginity, purity, majesty. It’s heavenly to be with you.
Yellow: I’m walking on air. Happy.
Tiger lily: Wealth, pride.
Pink stargazer lily: Daydreamer, pure of heart. Heaven in your eyes. Congratulations.
White stargazer lily: Sympathy
Taurus flower
Lily contains compounds that induce renal failure in cats.
Even small amount of pollen can induce poisoning in cats.
If you want to have lilies inside the house, and you have cats, cut of the stamens which hold the pollen, and this will also prolong the life of the lily in the vase.
I'm talking with expert florist Mercedes Sarmini of

Facebook post was recorded live during Real World Gardener radio program