Saturday, 24 February 2018

Roses Are Red, Radishes and Gloxinias Too

What’s On The Show Today?

Continuing the series “useful and beautiful” in Design Elements growing radishes of all kinds in Vegetable Heroes, orchids flowers on trees in plant of the week plus the world's most famous flower, the rose, in Talking Flowers.


Useful and Beautiful part 2
Groundcovers for shade.
Part 2 of a new series in Design Elements starts and it’s all about plants.
Gloxinia sylvatica

In fact it’s so much about plants that it’s been named ‘useful and beautiful.”

Last week we covered groundcovers for sun.
But now it's time for the shadier areas of your garden.

So sit back, with pen and paper and enjoy.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of

You may have inherited that large tree that gives plenty of shade but with root ridden soil.
So what will grow in only 200mm of top soil?
Farfugium japonicum Aureum-maculata : Leopard Plant
Peter mentioned Gloxinia Goldfish, Begonia domingensis, Farfugium japonicum aureum maculatum or Leopard plant, Nidularium innocentii , Streptocarpus, and Ruellia macoyana.

If you have any questions about groundcovers, either for me or for Peter or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Radishes or Raphanus sativus.

When was the last time you had radishes served up in a meal?
Can't remember?

Have you thought why we don’t see too many radishes being served up in salads these days except for the floral radish on the side? 

Yes, they seem to have gone out of favour but that’s about to change
The word radish stems from the Roman word “Radix” that means “Root”, and it belongs to the mustard family.

Did you know that radishes were first grown in China thousands of years ago, then in Egypt before the building of the pyramids.

In Ancient Greece the radish was so revered that gold replicas were made and offered to the god Apollo.

As usual there are myths and legends about eating vegetables throughout history and in England in the 1500’s, it was rumoured that eating radishes cured kidney stones, intestinal worms and gave you a blemish-free complexion.

But there is more than one way to grow radishes.

Radish seeds can be even grown in a sprouter and eaten just as you would eat mustard and cress or any other sprouted bean or seed.

Radishes grow in all climates and like to be in moist shady places, especially on hot summer days.

In autumn, you’ll have no trouble growing radishes in sunnier locations.

Plant them all year round in tropical and subtropical areas, in temperate zones they can be grown almost all year except winter, and in spring summer and autumn in colder districts.

Radishes will take light frost.

Because radishes are closely related to cabbages, so they need much the same type of thing.

The best thing about radishes though is that they’re quick being ready 6-8 weeks after planting and because of that you can plant them among slower growing vegetables like carrots.
How to Sow:
To sow seed, make a furrow about 6mm deep, lay down some chicken poo pellets or something similar, cover with a little soil and sprinkle in some radish seed. They also love a dose of potash.
Fill the furrow with compost or seed raising mix and water in.
Radish Seedlings
  • TIP Seedlings will appear in a couple of days but makes sure you thin them out to 5cm apart otherwise your radish won’t grow into a big enough sized root for the dinner table and you’ll end up with mostly leaf. 
  • Feed with a liquid fertiliser such as worm tea every week at the seedling stage. 
  • Tip: As radish is one of the fastest growing vegetables, too much fertiliser causes the leaves to outgrow the root. Long leaves have no shelf life, just look in your local supermarket 
  • Pick the radish when they are the size of a ten cent piece and leaves about four inches or 10cm long. 
  • Make sure radishes have enough water and don't let them become too enormous. If they are water deprived or get too big, they can become bitter. 
Here are some varieties to get you interested.

Radish Black Spanish Round: The radish chefs prefer, this unique black skinned radish has a delicate black circle around the pure white flesh when sliced. Can also be pickled.

Radish Watermelon You'll never see this one on the supermarket shelf. When you slice through the bland looking white exterior of this radish you’ll see that it looks like a mini watermelon with white 'rind' surrounding a bright pink interior. And it’s deliciously flavoured.
Radish Watermelon

Or you can buy an heirloom mix. This seed packet contains a kaleidescope of healthy bright round radishes that add a spicy punch to salads and sandwiches.
Includes golden Helios, Purple Plum, scarlet Round Red, pink and white Watermelon and Black Spanish.Radish
There’s also Champion cherry bell that has deep red skin and firm white flesh, good for cold districts.
Radish China Rose has a smooth rose coloured skin and is a great Chinese winter radish.
French breakfast is readily available, scarlet skin with a white tip, and a mild flavour. Ready in 28 days.
Plum purple is bright purple with crisp sweet firm white flesh.

The unusual varieties are available through mail order seed companies such as Eden seeds or 

Why are they good for you? 
Radishes are a very good source of fibre, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese.

Radishes are also mildly anti-inflammatory, which is another good thing. A diet containing anti-inflammatory foods can help to control inflammation in the body, which is an underlying factor of so many allergies and illnesses.


Bauhina x blakeana: Hong Kong Orchid Tree

We love our orchids because of the spectacular showy flowers, which can seem tricky to grow.
What if they were easy to grow and you didn’t have to fuss about the growing medium or the fertiliser?
Bauhina x blakeana: Hong Kong Orchid Tree
Would you want that? Of course.
Let’s find out .how.
I'm talking with Karen Smith editor of

The Hong Kong orchid tree was discovered by a monk in the 1800’s then propagated and grown in the Hong Kong Botanic gardens. 
The residents there thought it was such a lovely tree that it was planted out all along the coastline.
If you live in the tropical parts of Australia, say Darwin, then expect to see this tree in flower from February right through to November.
If you are planting from seed you can expect your Bauhinia to flower from a year to two from when it was a seedling.
If you have any questions about HK Orchid tree either for me or for Karen, why not write in to


Roses are Red......
 “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” 
But did you know that  the Latin expression "sub rosa"(literally, "under the rose") means something told in secret, and in ancient Rome, a wild rose was placed on the door to a room where confidential matters were being discussed?

Floral meanings of each colour:
  • Each colour offers a distinct meaning:
  • red, the lover's rose, signifies enduring passion; white, humility and innocence;
  • yellow, expressing friendship and joy;
  • pink, gratitude, appreciation and admiration;
  • orange, enthusiasm and desire;
  • white lilac and purple roses represent enchantment and love at first sight. 
Botanical Bite
All roses have a flower head that is round in shape and symmetrical across its face and down its vertical axis
The fruit of a rose is called a rose hip. The berry-like hip are usually red in colour, but can sometimes be dark purple or black.
The sharp spikes on the stem of a rose bush are usually called “thorns”.
However, these are actually technically prickles.

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Video taken live during broadcast of Real World Gardener program on 2rrr, 88.5 fm in Sydney, every Wednesday at 5 pm.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Useful and Beautiful Flowers and Sweet Corn

What’s On The Show Today?

A new design series starts named appropriately “useful and beautiful” growing corn in Vegetable Heroes, is there such as thing as environment history and what has it got to do with gardens, plus reconnect with lost loves in Talking Flowers.
Kalanchoe fedchenoi or Lavender Scallops


Useful and Beautiful: Groundcovers for full sun.
A new series in Design Elements starts and it’s all about plants.
Useful and Beautiful: Plants that don't fail for every situation, but plants that are not as common to make your garden outstanding.

This series will go through the different levels of planting in your garden starting in with ground covers for sun and shade, bulbs, sub-shrubs, hedges, bigger shrubs, small trees and climbers.
There’s quite a lot there but we will only cover one of those categories at a time.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of
Ruellia elegans
Peter mentioned mini mondo grass, Foxtail fern, Ruellia elegans or Kalanchoe fedchenkoi or Lavender Scallops as good ground covers for sun.
Next week the series continues with groundcovers for shade.
There’s always somewhere in the garden where you need that.
If you have any questions about groundcovers, either for me or for Peter or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Sweet Corn :Zea mays var. saccharata
Sweet Corn or  is a grass, native to the Americas.
Yep, a grass.
Sweet Corn Fruit
But wait, is Corn actually a vegetable, a grain, or a fruit.
Would you have guessed that corn is all of these?
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.
That’s why 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.

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.
Sweet Corn Sprouts

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.

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.
  • 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.

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

  • Having a windy problem? Not you the corn.

  • Build a post and rail fence out of bamboo or tomato stakes by hammering them in 1.8 metres apart, around the perimeter and down the centre of the corn plot.

  • When the plants are a 1 metre high, horizontally tie (with wire) a stake or bamboo stick on to the stakes, like a top rail on a fence.

  • As the corn grows, lift the horizontal rail higher; this will more than support your corn from strong winds.

Sweetcorn forming on the stalk

There are a number of heirloom varieties of sweet corn and maizes with different shapes and sizes.
There are golf ball shapes, bantam and lady-finger shapes.
There are a large variety of colours; multi coloured, blue, red, white, purple and the typical golden yellows and not forgetting 'pop corn'.

What about trying Sweet Corn Honey and Cream F1?
Yes, it’s a hybrid but it’s so sweet it doesn't need cooking, with plump yellow and white kernels.
Harvest in 12 weeks.

Important tip: Sow the seeds when soil temperature is more than 20 C.

What’s the most asked question about growing sweet corn?

Q Poor germination and too few corncobs.
Poor Sweet Corn Pollination results in missing kernels

  • 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.


Dahlias are perennials  related to sunflowers and Asters in the Asteraceae family.

Dahlias can be grown from seed, eg Pom Pom Dahlias, but mostly the large flowered varieties are grown from tubers that are sown in Autumn for Summer flowering.

Like all members of the Asteraceae family, the flower head is actually a composite with both central disc florets and surrounding ray florets. Each floret is a flower in its own right, but is often incorrectly described as a petal.

Where they came from:
The wild Dahlias originally grew in Mexico and other South American countries, primarily in mountainous valleys that were protected from harsh conditions in the spring and summer.
One species Dahlia pinnata is the national flower of Mexico.
Some floral meanings
  • ·         Staying graceful under pressure, especially in challenging situations
  • ·         Drawing upon inner strength to succeed
  • ·         Traveling and making a major life change in a positive way
  • ·         Standing out from the crowd and following your own unique path
  • ·         Commitment to another person or a certain ideal
  • ·         Warning someone about a potential betrayal.

I’m talking with Mercedes Sarmini
Video recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener on 2rrr 88.5 fm in Sydney

Sunday, 11 February 2018

How to Get More Out of Your Flowers and Veg Plus a Brown Booby.

What’s On The Show Today?

Find out the components of fertilisers, grow a love apple in Vegetable Heroes, all about no –dig gardening in part 2 of starting from scratch in this new series in Design Elements, plus a ray of sunshine in Talking Flowers.


Sula leucogaster Brown Booby
It’s not just seagulls that frequent our shores but Australia is home to one of the world’s most spectacular divers.
Brown Booby
This bird is seen around harbours, river mouths and the like where they are partial to roosting on moored boats, channel markers and other structures.
I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of
Let’s find out about it .

Their flight is fairly distinctive - alternating between a few flaps and a glide, often low over the water.
Did you know that the Brown Booby can accelerate up to 90 kph?
The booby’s sleek and velvety profile serves a double purpose, for not only is it aerodynamically adapted for speed in the air, but it is also aquadynamically adapted for swiftly penetrating the surface waters of the ocean.
Brown Boobies on top of piers
"In Australia, the Brown Booby is found from Bedout Island in Western Australia, around the coast of the Northern Territory to the Bunker Group of islands in Queensland with occasional reports further south in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria (Marchant & Higgins 1990). The species is reported further south to Tweed Heads, NSW, and to near Onslow, Western Australia and may be becoming more common in these areas." (ref Birds in Backyards.)
If you have any questions about the Brown Booby, either for me or for Holly or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


All About Pollination

The reason this topic is being mentioned is because although gardeners realise that pollination is vital in a plants reproductive cycle so that seeds, fruit or veg is formed.

The problem is though, gardeners often struggle with the question,
“ why haven’t I got fruit on my zucchini plant, when there’s plenty of flowers, and plenty of bees buzzing around.?
Substitute what fruit or vegetable that you’ve had trouble with getting it to fruit in place of that zucchini.
Bee on flower
Sometimes it seems so random, for example, last year, I had plenty of flowers on my passionfruit vine, but not a single passionfruit.
This year, though, there’s plenty of passionfruit.
So what happened?

First , let’s start with what is pollination

To simplify things, during plant reproduction, pollination is when pollen grains move from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another flower.

Regular flower part
Silk of Sweet Corn
  • Insects can pollinate flowers, and so can the wind. 
  • Insect-pollinated flowers are different in structure from wind-pollinated flowers. 
  • Insect pollinated flowers are large and brightly coloured, mostly scented and with nectar. 
  • All of this is needed to attract the insects. 
  • The pollen grains are sticky or spiky so that they stick to the insect good and proper. 
  • Inside the flower, the anthers are stiff and firmly attached so that they remain in place when an insect brushes past. 
  • The stigma, usually higher than the anther, has a stick surface to which pollen grains attach themselves when an insect brushes past. 
  • Wind pollinated flowers are often small, dull green or brown with no scent or nectar. 
  • The flower usually has hundreds of thousands of pollen grains that are smooth and light so that they can easily be carried by wind without clumping together. 
  • Anthers are outside the flower, and usually loos and long. All the better to easily release pollen grains.

    Grass flower parts.
  • The stigma is also outside the flower and looks more like a feather duster so it can more easily catch those drifting light pollen grains.
  • That’s important to remember if you think about sweet corn which is from the grass family and therefore wind pollinated. 
  • When it comes to insect pollinated flowers, the different heights of the anther and the stigma is designed by nature so that the plant avoids self-pollination or inbreeding. 

Did you know that most plants are hermaphrodites because they have both male and female parts in the same flower?

Even corn is a hermaphrodite but because it’s in the grass family, it has separate male and female flowers on the same plant rather than on different plants like Spinach.

In Corn the male flowers are position above the female flowers, ie, silks, below containing the ears.
The flowers are self-compatible with pollen being spread by wind and not insects.
This means it’s subject to inbreeding depression, so seed saves need to replant at least a hundred plants for true to type maintenance.
Pumpkin and zucchini is another variation in that the separate male and female flowers are on the same plant and are self –compatible just like corn, but relying on insects.
Without insects to transfer the pollen there would be no fruit.

Did you know that our favourite vegetable, the tomato, is a hermaphrodite too?
Botanists call the flowers of tomatoes, perfect flowers because they have male and female flowers within the same flower.
That means they are self-pollinating and don’t need cross-pollination by wind, birds or insects.

Now to that sticky question, “why isn’t my plant fruiting?”

  • There’s plenty of flowers and insects but still no fruit. 
  • Weather conditions are key factors in successful pollination. 
  • High humidity creates sticky pollen which does not transfer well. 
  • Plants in the cucurbit family rely on honeybees for pollination, and honeybees do not fly in cool, cloudy weather. 
If you need to you can hand pollinate the cucurbit’s flowers.
  • As temperatures reach the high 20's and the humidity level is also high. the success rate for pollination declines. 
  • A heat wave in the thirties, will result in poor if any, pollination. 
  • When the weather is very hot and dry with temperatures over 29 C, the pollen becomes very dry and isn't easily transferred. 
To help with fruit set, try misting the flowers with water occasionally and keep up the mulch around the base so the plants don't dry out too much. 
This is common with many plants, especially with more northerly climates. 
The cure, shade covers .
Passionfruit flower with fruit in background.
  • Another factor is plant stress: 
  • In nature when a plant is under stress, it will not produce fruit. 
  • Or, it will abort existing fruit. 
  • It’s a survival mechanism, allowing a plant to focus upon survival first. 
  • That stress is caused by: 
  • Water Too little or too much water. 
  • The Cure: Keep soil consistently moist, not wet and not dry. 
  • Soil pH imbalance pH levels are too high, or too low. 
The Cure:: Get your soil tested. Alter pH levels as indicated by the test.
And if you don’t have enough insects like bees visiting your garden, you know what to do, plant more bee and other insect attracting plants like Borage and Alyssum around your garden.


China Aster or Michaelmas Daisy.
Belongs in the Asteraceae family. Aster means Star in Latin.
Aster novae angliae Barrs Pink
China Aster is the September birth flower and the 20th wedding anniversary flower.
Common flower meanings are:
  • ·         Patience
  • ·         Love of Variety
  • ·         Elegance
  • ·         Daintiness
  • ·         Afterthought  (or the wish things happened differently).
  • ·         Purple asters symbolize wisdom and royalty, and are the most popular colour.
  • ·         White asters symbolize purity and innocence.
  • ·         Red asters symbolize undying devotion.
  • ·         Pink asters symbolize sensitivity and love.

 A Greek Legend
The ancient Greeks have got it all when it comes to romance and mysticism with their stories about various Gods.

It all started with the ancient Greeks burning aster leaves to ward off both snakes and evil spirits.
According to Greek mythology, when the god Jupiter decided to flood the earth to destroy the warring men, the goddess Astraea was so upset she asked to be turned into a star.
Her wish was granted, but when the flood waters receded she wept for the loss of lives.
As her tears turned to stardust and fell to earth, the beautiful aster flower sprung forth.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Video recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener on 2RRR, 88.5fm