Saturday, 31 March 2018

Drinking Lemon Balm Tea Indoors with Plants

What’s On The Show Today?

Some hot tips on keeping your indoor plants happy in Plant Doctor, grow this most useful herb in Vegetable Heroes and " Useful & Beautiful" bigger shrubs in Design Elements .


Looking After Indoor Plants.
You may have heard that having indoor plants make for a healthy home.
The reason is that the plants and in fact mostly the soil that plants sit in, absorb the VOC’s or volatile organic compounds that all your furniture, flooring, household cleaners give off.
But those plants are made of plastic so will need attention.

You may not have noticed that your indoor plant/s were in decline even though you've been walking past them everyday for most of the year.
Here are some pointers to get you started.
Let’s find out .
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager of

The first tip: Top up that potting mix.
After 2-3 years, potting mix becomes compacted and shrinks down several cms.
Plus old potting mix needs replacing after a while anyway because of this "slumping" and becoming acidic over the years.
The second tip: Check if the soil has become hydrophobic.
Scratch the surface after you've initially water to see if it has actually penetrated.
If not, apply a soil wetting agent.
The third tip: Now your pest or disease.
If you have any indoor plant problems is important to first diagnose what is exactly happening with the plant.
Is it just the soil, or is it something that needs spraying. 
Because your plants are indoors I would recommend using organic sprays

If you have any questions either for me or for Steve, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Lemon Balm; Melissa officinalis

Melissa officinalis, known as lemon balm, balm, common balm, or balm mint, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the mint family; Lamiaceae.

Lemon balm is native to south-central Europe, and the Mediterranean region.
You may not be into scientific names but there are two subspecies of Lemon Balm; Melissa officinalis subsp.officinalis, is the commonly grown lemon balm; and Melissa officinalis subsp. altissima, naturalized in New Zealand and known as bush balm.

Apparently the scent of Melissa. officinalis. subsp. altissima is sometimes described
as fruity, herbal or powdery, but often doesn’t have any scent at all.

Did you know that Lemon Balm has been used for over 2,000 years?
  • Another fact is that Lemon balm has white flowers that attract bees, and because of that, the genus name is Melissa which is Greek for 'honey bee'. 
  • In fact the ancient Greeks believed that if you put a few sprigs of lemon balm in an empty hive, it would attract a swarm of bees, or if you planted some lemon balm near a beehive, the bees would never go away. 
  • Officinalis of course means used in medicine and in the 11th century a Persian physician and philosopher named Avicenna recommended the use of lemon balm in treating depression and melancholy. 
  • Would you believe that according to the London Dispensary (1696) lemon balm in wine could even prevent baldness? 

What does it look like?
It’s a fairly low to medium growing herb not growing more than 70 cm tall and being in the mint family, it has square stems.
You only need one plant because it spreads out quite a bit once it gets going, up to 1 ½ metres or more. 

Lemon balm leaves have a sweet lemon scent, and because it’s related to mint the leaves look very much like the leaves of common mint.

Those flowers that I mentioned occur during summer, and are full of nectar.

Interestingly although over 100 chemicals have been identified in Melissa officinalis, the main flavour comes from just two essential oils: oil of citral (neral and geranial), and citronellal, with a hint of linalool, geraniol and β-caryophyllene-oxide (1,90).

Why grow lemon Balm?

One reason to grow it is that sachets made with Lemon Balm and put under your pillow or near the bed are supposed to give you a refreshing, relaxing sleep.
  • Lemon balm seeds are fairly easy to germinate and need light and at least 20°C 
  • Seeds will germinate in 10 – 14 days and are best started off in a punnet. 
  • TIP: The seeds don’t like being overly wet so after the first watering, let them alone but not completely dry out. 
  • Lemon balm is probably one of the easiest herbs to grow and is ideal for beginners. 
  • Lemon balm grows well in both sun and shade, soils of a wide pH, and either dry or damp conditions. 
  • Lemon balm grows in clumps and doesn’t spread vegetatively (veggi-tate-ivv-lee) like mint does, that is putting down roots where the stems touch the ground or through underground rhizomes, but only spreads by seed. 
  • If you don’t want it to spread in your garden, then cut back the clump after flowering so that it doesn’t self-seed. 
Where it grows

In mild temperate zones, the stems of the plant die off at the start of the winter, but shoot up again in spring.
Lemon balm doesn’t like temperatures much below 5 C so in cool temperate climates you may lose your plant unless you put some into a pot for replanting next Spring.
You could also just put some protective mulch over the spot when it dies down as long as you remember what you have growing there.
Lemon balm can also be propagated by dividing the rootstock in Spring or Autumn and planting straight into the ground after doing this.

How to use lemon balm?

The best time to pick leaves for drying is before it flowers.

However, you can pick leaves for use lots of ways from flavouring vinegars, teas, especially Early grey or green tea, marinades, dressings, jams and jellies, stuffings and sauces to using it chopped with fish and mushroom dishes or mixed fresh with soft cheeses.

Lemon balm complements many fruits, including honeydew, rockmelon, pineapple, apples and pears.

What about lemon balm with ginger in scones?

That’s the leaves, but the flowers can also be used as a garnish in fruit salads, drinks or with rice

Did you know that in the commercial food industry, lemon balm oil and extract are used to flavor alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, confectionary, baked goods, gelatin, and puddings.

Lemon balm is also an ingredient in liqueurs like Benedictine and Chartreuse.

Why is it good for you?
Lemon balm tea is good for relieving mild headaches and possibly helping with memory as well.
The crushed leaves when rubbed on the skin can be used as an insect repellant.
Lemon balm also has anti-oxidant and calming or mild sedative properties. 


Useful and Beautiful Shrubs
We’re into the shrubbery but we’re not the Knights of Nee, for all those Monty Python fans listening out there.
So last week we outlined the sub-shrubs, in other words those plants that don’t grow too much over a metre, and most likely much less.
This week it’s shrubs that grow much bigger so won’t be at the front of the border.
These shrubs are larger but not more than 4 metres if that.
Rabbit Ears: Ruttya fruiticose photoM Van Der Schiff
Let’s find out what they are.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, Garden Designer and  Director of

Peter mentioned these shrubs:
Rhinacanthus beesianthus –very luxurious looking, grows quite tall - around 2m or higher - and has large attractive quilted leaves which form a glossy background to other plants in a border.
Its clear white flowers, shaped like scalloped shells, begin to appear in March or April and continue for several months
Ruttya fruiticosa or Rabbit Ears, because the flower is dark red and looks just like a rabbit or from a distance a bit like Sturt Desert Peas.
Dichroa versicolour: photo M. Cannon
Iochroma fuschoides has an upright vase shape, with red trumpet flowers.
Dichroa versicolor - Evergreen Hydrangea is a nice alternative to the regular hydrangea with more like
If you have any questions about sub-shrubs , either for me or for Peter or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Clucka Tucker, Passionfruit and Peruvian Lilies

What’s On The Show Today?

Some hot tips on keeping chickens happy on the Good Earth, a member of the Rare Fruit Society in Bundaberg talks about growing passionfruit in Vegetable Heroes, Useful & Beautiful sub shrubs in Design Elements and flowers that symbolize friendship and devotion in Talking Flowers.


Plants for Chickens
Have you hankered after keeping chickens or have some of your own already?
If you’ve thought about it for ages, it may be time to bite the bullet and get three.
Chickens are a flocking bird so three’s the minimum so that they feel safe.
But what else can you do to keep the chickens happy other than having a nice chicken coop and daily fresh water?
3 Bantams photo: M Cannon
Let’s find out . I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from

Chickens self-medicate if they feel something is missing.
They will eat more of the food that will help them. 
Plant plenty of Rue, wormwood and Comfrey.
Ruta graveolens: Rue
Comfrey has plenty of Calcium which is good for chickens because that's what they need for shell forming.
If you have room to plant a deciduous fruit tree like a mulberry tree near your chicken coop, that would be ideal.
Other trees that are useful or Fig trees, Apple trees and Elderberry trees.
If you have a small back yard you still a tree because there are plenty of dwarf apple trees to choose from.
While the tree grows to a suitable size, you will have to put up some other sort of protection from the sun, and rain.
Of course if they’re free ranging during the day, they can shelter under other big trees or shrubs you have in the garden

If you have any questions either for me or for Margaret, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Growing Passionfruit: Passiflora edulis
Almost every garden has space for a passionfruit.
Yes, it’s a fruit but botanically it’s a berry.
Plant a Passionfruit or two- Passionfruit Panama Red, Panama Gold, Nellie Kelly and Banana passionfruit.
The passionfruit vine has the look of a tropical vine with it’s lime green glossy 3-lobed leaves and its intricate purple and white flowers with a crown like appearance.
So distinctive is this flower that 16th Century Spanish Catholic missioniaries named it "Flor de las cinco llagas" or "flower of the five wounds."
They thought the flowers portrayed ‘Christ’s passion on the cross’ because it showed the Three Nails, the Five Wounds, the Crown of Thorns and the Apostles
So it could have come from Brazil but no-one knows for sure.
Passiflora edulis: Passionfruit flower. Photo M. Cannon
Right now across Australia, many gardeners are harvesting their passionfruit while others are scratching their heads and wondering why they haven’t got any.
Passionfruit or passiflora edulis has the most amazing flower and you’d think by the way it grows, that there wouldn’t be any real problems.
You would be wrong.
In this interview I'm Val Wright of Bundaberg who is a member of the Rare Fruit Society and the Organic Garden Club up there.
PLAY: Interview

Val correctly suggests that for the problem of flowers but no fruit, or thick skin and little pulp, you need to add potash to the soil and plenty of it.
Adding granular Potash is best coming into Spring and Autumn.
Add liquid Potash any time.
If you vine is dropping it's leaves, check the amount of watering you are doing.
Has it been raining a lot lately and do you have the right amount of drainage?
Passionfruit vines are subject to phytophthera, or root rot if they are sitting in too much water, henc the falling leaves. 
Correction: Phosacid sometimes sold as Yates Anti-Rot.
When to expect a passionfruit harvest?
In warm areas you will get fruit for most of the year.
In temperate areas expect a crop summer and late autumn.
In cold areas only summer.
 (Passionfruit - Panama Gold vigorous and sweeter than the others.
Black Passionfruit - (Passiflora edulis) Will tolerate light frosts. Self pollinating.

Vals  passionfruit fertiliser recipe

2 parts Blood 'n Bone
1 part Potash
1 part Epsom salts
Sprinkle a good handful around the passionfruit every 2 months.


Justicea carnea
Useful and Beautiful sub-shrubs
What are sub-shrubs?
Sub-shrubs is a category that you may not have thought about but it’s certainly worth investing in some of these to fill out your garden.
Large shrubs could be considered to be at least over 3 metres in height, maybe up to 4 metres.

Sub shrubs are a category that is for those plants that are around 1 metre to 1 1/2 metres in height.
Garden designer Peter Nixon always finds the unusual that are a little bit harder to source but are worth the effort because they turn your garden from just nice to just beautiful.

Let’s find out what they are. I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of

Kohleria eriantha
PLAY: Useful & Beautiful sub-shrubs_14 2018
Peter mentioned sub-shrubs like Plectranthus ecklonii, the spur flower reaches about 1.2m
Barleria cristata “Lavender Lace,” with a lavender and white striped flower.
Barleria micans grows to 40cm flowering in April-May.
Kohleria eriantha with a scarlet tubular flower.
Justicia carnea and J carnea alba and Justicia betonica: Called Brazilian Plume-
A very useful plant.
Lastly, Brazilian Snapdragon or Otocanthus caeruleas with deep blue flowers.
If you have any questions about sub-shrubs , 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


Named after Baron Claus von Alstrome, a Swedish baron who collected the seeds in the late 18th century on returning from a trip to South America.
Alstromeria: Flickr photo
You may know alstromeria as a gorgeous garden plant, but it makes a fantastic cut flower too, on its own or as part of a mix. There are at least 190 cultivars in just about any colour but blue. 
They flower nine months of the year so they are readily available. 
Reminded me of cats whiskers because of the markings on the inside of each flower.
They are poisonous to pets though, so bear that in mind. 

Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers by Mercedes tells you how to select your cut flower bunch and how to make them last.
I'm talking with florist, floral therapist, and floraholic, Mercedes Sarmini of
Recorded during the broadcast of Real World Gardener show

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Powder Puffs, Historic Gardens and Beautiful Hedges

What’s On The Show Today?

We’re visiting a historic garden in Garden History segment, why do my beans taste bad in Vegetable Heroes, Useful & Beautiful hedges in Design Elements and flowers without petals in Plant of the week.


Camden Park Estate
Have you ever wondered how gardens became established during colonial times?
You might be surprised that there were even catalogs of plants that grew in many large colonial gardens.
It’s a real treasure and rare to discover that a historical garden complete with dwelling is still around, but to find such a place that has remained with the same family is even rarer.
When you hear that growing in the garden is one of Australia’s trees, then you have an enticing combination.
Camden Park Estate Pic: Creative Commons
This estate is so interwoven into Australia’s Colonial history, that it would be unthinkable that it would be developed into blocks of apartments.
Let’s find out how this garden estate continues.
I'm talking with Stuart Read, committee member of the Garden History Society of Australia.

Stuart mentioned that you can view the old plant nursery catalogues online.
The website is
The Hortus (which is a collection) attempts to correctly identify, describe, illustrate and provide a brief history of all the plants grown at Camden Park between c.1820 and 1861.
You can also just look up when a certain plant came into cultivation in Australia.
For example the Hoop Pine entry in the Hortus reads
Hoop Pine Araucaria cunnimghamiana
Pic: Tatters @ Flickr

“‘Grows naturally in warm temperate riverine and costal rainforest or as a pioneer in subtropical forest, on poor soils from the Macleay River in N New South Wales to Townsville and offshore islands including New Guinea, occasionally close to the seashore. Widely grown in the nineteenth century in public parks and gardens; now rarely planted in SE Australia. […] The timber, grown in rainforest plantations in N New South Wales and S Queensland, is used mostly for plywood, but also for joinery, furniture and boat-building. More recently this species has been used experimentally for agroforestry.’”

If you have any questions either for me or for Stuart, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


VEGETABLE HERO has a problem.

So, you’re looking at your spinach and you see holes in the leaves, but they’re all uniform and perfectly formed, right?

What insect does that?
Or, are the stems or your Silverbeet have an ugly blackish brown stain down the middle of them?

Perhaps the leaves have got that rusty look, and definitely look some-one had a go with a blow torch?

Wait, have your cucumber leaves gone all white and crispy, then start turning brown and collapse in a heap in the veggie bed?

You probably have read or heard the advice that the most important things you can do to prevent fungal problems is to avoid overwatering, overhead watering and excessive fertilizing and keep your garden free of debris.

O.K. what about some of us that had all that rain?
Powdery mildew on Okra
Or you might’ve heard that you need to mulch well and avoid watering the leaves or splashing soil borne particles on the leaves.
One things for sure, you can water or fertilise away the problem.

Firstly what is this fungus thing anyway?

What causes fungal diseases?

  • Fungus are structures which produce spores. 
  • Disease‑causing fungi penetrate the plant for food during their growth stage, then produce spores which can, in turn, produce new fungus. 
  • The fungus feeds of your plants because not containing chlorophyll, it can’t make its own food. 
Did you know that there are two main types of spores ?
  • Short-lived spores which quickly produce new fungus to grow and spread through plants while there is plenty of food. 
  • These spores allow a fungal disease to spread very quickly during the growing season. 
  • Then there’s the Long-lived spores which are very hardy and allow a disease to carry over during periods of stress, for example when there is no food. 

So what does fungus love?

Which fungus shall I start with?

How about powdery mildew?
A fungal disease around a lot in spring and autumn when days are warm and nights are cool.
Powdery mildew is a white or grayish powdery/mouldy growth that you see on the leaves and new shoots.
Powdery Mildew on Cucumber Leaves: notice white powder covering the leaves and then the decayed leaves.
The leaves look deformed, and will always start to collapse, particularly on the cucurbit family, like Pumpkins, zucchini and cucumbers.
The leaves are never going to return to a normal appearance, so getting rid of them will help to stop the spreading of fungal spores.
Yes, that includes the ones that have fallen into a crumbled mess in the veggie bed.
Cercospora leaf spot on Swiss Chard: photo Scot Nelson Flickr

Fungal Leaf Spot

The next fungal problem I’m going to mention appeared on my spinach this year. That is Fungal leaf spot.

There are many types of leaf spot diseases that can affect beetroot, broad beans, carrots celery, peas, potatoes (early blight) silverbeet and tomatoes (targetspot).

Sometimes the leaf spots cause only slight damage, but other times they practically destroy the leaves of the plant in question.

How do I fix this?
  • Basically, if you’ve already got it, you can’t because as I mentioned, the leaves won’t return to normal, but you can stop the spread to other new leaves and other plants in the garden. 
  • All of these above symptoms signal fungal problems in the garden, a lot of which can be fixed with physical things like improving air circulation around the plants. 
  • You can also dig the problem leaves into the soil since sexual spores of the fungus won’t develop on buried leaves. 
  • In all cases, fungal problems can be treated organically 
  • You can try spraying with a good compost tea, or seaweed extract. 
  • Or secondly, try spraying with bi-carbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate) because it will also kill powdery mildew. 

RECIPE:To make mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 2 ½ tablespoons of vegetable oil with 4 litres of water.

TIP: The sodium in the baking soda will combine with chlorine in your water supply to form table salt (sodium chloride).

A better choice is  eco carb which contains potassium bicarbonate where the potassium becomes a plant nutrient. 



Useful and Beautiful Hedges

The “useful and beautiful” series is up to hedges.
You’re probably thinking that we’re going to be talking about Murraya paniculata, or just Murray or the colder growing version, Choisya ternata.
Perhaps you even thought we would talk Buxus or Lilly Pilly?
But no, we’ve chosen something completely different, after all, it has to be useful and beautiful.
Let’s find out what they are.
Choisya ternata, Mexican Orange Blossom
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of
PLAY: Useful & Beautiful Bulbs_28th February 2018
Peter mentioned shrub roses like Miss Lowes Rose, Bengal Crimson and Rosa sanguinea.
For more scent choose Rosa chinensis 1,000 lights.
Rosa sanguinea photo: T. Kiya from Japan
If you have any questions about hedges , 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 


 Calliandra heamatocephala 
If someone told you that the flowers on a particular tree were like a powder puff, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that it was from a lily pilly.
Lily Pillies don’t hold the whole ball of wax on staminous flowers.
In fact if you think about it, gum trees have staminous flowers: that is, flowers that are made up of stamens but no petals.
Calliandra tweedii, Pom Pom bush
Today though, it’s another family that has this trait and it’s one to look out for.
Let’s find more.
I'm talking with Karen Smith of

Calliandra tweedii is also known as the Mexican Flame bush because of its fiery red flowers. 
Calliandra tweedii: Mixican Flame Bush photo: Magnus Manske

This is a much lower growing sub-shrub, to a height of 60cm x 1.2m
This variety of Calliandra has fern like foliage like all of the other Calliandra varieties.
The leaves are evergreen except in districts that experience a hard frost.
The leaves will then drop off, but the shrub will recover in Spring.
Like all Calliandras, in warmer areas the shrub will spot flower during all the warmer months.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Cool Flowers Cooler Ginger and Cool Baby Tibouchina

What’s On The Show Today?

We’re going underground in the series “useful and beautiful” in Design Elements growing a tropical spice in Vegetable Heroes, a revolution in plant breeding in Plant of the week, plus this flower conveys courage and admiration in Talking Flowers.

Design Elements

Bulbs that are "Uuseful and Beautiful."
You could consider bulbs as ground covers, well some bulbs anyway because there is a pretty good range of different sizes when it comes to the actual resulting plant.
You may even think that most bulbs are useful and beautiful, but there’s some that perhaps stand out from the crowd.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of Paradisus Garden Design 

Hippeastrum papilio
Peter mentioned several cultivars of Hippeastrum which incidentally means Knight’s Lily Star.
Strangely though , no-ones sure exactly why William Herbert called it that.
Peter mentioned Hippeastrum aulicum, Hippeastrum papilio, Hippeastrum psittiacinum which is very ornamental.
Most of these are for the semi-shaded garden. 
You may want to try "selfing" or hand pollination to get new varieties between two different cultivars, that is, grow them from the resultant seed.
Also Drimmyopsis maculata which puts up with dry shade and makes a nice clump with its spotted leaves.
For full sun try Jacobean lily or Sprekelia.
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.


Ginger! Zingiber officianale

Ginger is in the Zingiberaceae family along with Turmeric and Cardamom.

Have you ever wondered about growing edible ginger?

For years I’ve wondered about growing the real deal ginger.
Of all the times I’ve bought the nobbly brown root, it’s never sprouted until now.
Probably because now I’ve bought organic ginger that’s not sprayed with stuff to prevent it from sprouting-some sort of growth retardant usually.

Before those of you in cooler climates get put off, I daresay, my own climate zone is a bit out of its range, but I’m growing it in a pot and so can you.
Indoors if we have to.
Sprouting Ginger
For those of you who don’t have a piece of sprouting ginger, mail order garden catalogues supply pieces of ginger that are sprouting between July and September usually. I’ll put links on my website and facebook.

If you’ve ever seen ginger in supermarkets, and all supermarkets have them, you’d know that it comes from the root of a plant that has lots of underground tubers with roots.

Edible Root or Rhizome?
  • Are you thinking that bit of edible ginger is the root, technically it’s not, but most of us think of it as ginger root. 
  • Tuber or rhizome is what is should be known as. 
  • Did you know that ginger has been around for at least 2000 years but mostly used in medicine rather than cooking? 
  • Did you also know that together with black pepper, ginger was one of the most commonly traded spices during the 13th and 14th centuries? 
  • Ginger is native to south China, but it was the Arabs who spread it around the globe by carrying rhizomes on their voyages to East Africa to plant at coastal settlements and on Zanzibar. 
  • Around the same time in England, ginger was much sought after, and one pound in weight of ginger was equivalent to the cost of a sheep. 

So what is Ginger? What does it look like already?
  • It’s a herbaceous perennial which grows annual stems about a meter or 1 ½ m tall with narrow green leaves and insignificant greeny-yellow flowers. 
  • The leaves are much narrower than Canna leaves, and look more like the leaves of bamboo. 
  • They’re also a very limey green. 
  • Zingibar officianale or ginger is a tropical plant as you’d expect so it doesn’t like frost, waterlogged soil direct sun and high winds. 
  • But if you’ve got a sheltered area, maybe on your back veranda, and rich moist soil, or some good stuff potting mix, you can get by growing ginger. 
  • If you’ve also got warmer weather and high humidity you definitely can grow ginger. 
  • From reading garden forums on the web, ginger does well in the ground in temperate climates as well. 
  • For most of us, growing ginger will mean growing it in pots. 
  • If you plonk it in cheap potting mix, don’t expect much. 
  • If you’ve got water storage crystals in the mix, that’s good, but if you’ve added some coir, that’s even better, because what ginger needs, apart from free draining potting mix, is a mix that has some water holding capacity 
  • In other words, potting mix that doesn’t dry out too quickly. 
  • If you’ve only got one sprouting rhizome, put it into a 20cm pot, if you have 3 put them in together into a large 35cm pot. 
  • You can also add one part of good compost to two parts potting mix, and that’s going to add some nutrients as well. 
  • For those gardens with tropical or sub-tropical climates you can put that piece of sprouting ginger straight into the garden after you dug in a spadeful of compost. That should be good enough. 
  • Put in your piece of ginger about 5cm below the soil surface. 
    Ginger growing in Sri Lanka
  • Remember, filtered sunlight not direct sun for the position. 
For cooler climates, your ginger plant can take full sun because it won’t be as intense for the most part as in the tropics.
Near a north facing wall is ideal so the plant can get reflected heat.
If it gets too hot in summer, move the pot into semi-shade if you can.
Also, for cooler districts, move it inside at the first signs of cold weather and don’t water it too much.
The best planting time is late winter/early spring, but if you’ve got a piece sprouting now, don’t waste an opportunity to garden, put it in anyway.

Ginger grows quite slowly and doesn’t mind being a little bit root bound if it’s in a pot.
A good thing about Ginger is that it won’t overtake your garden, because, it’s slow growing and after all, you’re going to be digging it up every year to harvest the rhizomes for your cooking.
Drying out will most likely set the plant back quite a bit, and even cark it so in hot weather keep up the water supply.
To supply humidity for arid climates, you’ll have to get out there with the spray bottle and spray it when you think of it, hopefully every day.
For those growing ginger in the ground, add plenty of mulch to keep the ground moist.

Ginger growing in pots will need fortnight feeds of liquid fertiliser if you haven’t added any controlled release or organic slow release fertilisers to the mix before planting. 

Now the most important question, when can you dig it up?
All books will say the best time to dig up your ginger plant is when all the long green leaves have died down, 8 – 10 months after you’ve planted it.
This is easy if you’ve been growing it in a pot, because you can tip the whole thing over and just pull it out.
For areas where ginger growing is out of its range, you might be best to leave it for a couple of years for the rhizome to build up in size before tipping it out.
Break up the rhizomes into smaller useable pieces and either store it in the freezer, or my tip is, put the pieces into some Chinese cooking wine or sherry in a resealable jar and place it in the fridge.
Doing it this way keeps it fresh for quite a few months.
Don’t forget to replant some rhizomes for your next years’ crop of ginger if you’ve been successful that is.

Why is Ginger Good for You?
Ginger is said to stimulate gastric juices, and provide warming and soothing effects for colds and coughs.
Ginger is an excellent natural remedy for nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness and general stomach upset due to its carminative effect that helps break up and expel intestinal gas.
Ginger tea has been recommended to alleviate nausea in chemotherapy patients mainly because its natural properties don’t interact in a negative way with other medications.
Ginger is a very good source of nutrients and essential vitamins.
It is also a good source of minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and copper.
Ginger also has Calcium Carbohydrate Dietary Fibre Iron Magnesium and Manganese, but wait there’s more.
Potassium Protein Selenium Sodium Vitamin C, E and B6
Many thanks to the tropical permaculture group for providing some of the growing information.



Tibouchina cultivars
Ever heard of a plant godfather? 
There surely is one, and he’s the godfather of these next plants because one, he discovered how to pollinate them, and two, he bred smaller more compact and cold tolerant varieties with outstanding colours . All of this meant that gardeners suddenly had a plant that was manageable in size and could be grown in areas of Australia where it hadn’t been known before.
Let’s find out all about it
I'm talking with  Karen Smith editor of Hort Journal mamagzine
Tibouchina "Cool Baby" Image courtesy of Plants Management Australia
The newer varieties of Tibouchina were
Groovy Baby with vivid purple flowers that grows to 40 cm.
Peace baby with white flowers and deep purple stamens that grows to 60 cm and Cool Baby has white and pink flowers on the same bush and grows to 45 cm.
If you have any questions about groundcovers, either for me or for Karen or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Family: PlantaginaceaeAntirrhinum majus
Where did it get its scientific name?
Not from a botanist this time. Derived from the Greek words "anti," meaning like, and "rhin," meaning nose, antirrhinum, because the snapdragon's botanical name reminded the botanist of a snout or nose.
When the flower is gently squeezed, it apparently makes the flower look like a dragon’s head.
A bit of a mystery exactly where this flower originated but most likely originally wildflowers in Spain and Italy.
Flower colours: Colour range is pastel to bright colours including pink, orange, yellow, peach, purple, white, red and bicolour.
In the studio is floral therapist Mercedes Sarmini of
Recorded during the live broadcast of Real World Gardener on 2rrr, 88.5 fm in Sydney

Saturday, 3 March 2018

All You Need to Know to Grow Basil Eat Gumbo and Grow Baby's Breath

What’s On The Show Today?

A spice used in Cajun cooking in the Spice it Up segment; growing the main ingredient for Pesto in Vegetable Heroes, continuing the series “useful and beautiful” with groundcovers for cool temperate climates in Design Elements plus this flower that convey innocence in Talking Flowers.


File' Powder
(Pronounced feelay)
Ever heard of a spice from the leaf of a tree?
The tree is Sassafras albidum and it originates in America.
File' powder is used a lot in Southern American cooking.
Sassafras albidum: Native to America

Ever heard of gumbo? 
It’s not something you chew but a dish from America’s south and in fact this spice s main attribute is to thicken the dish. I'ts a type of fish soup, very delicious I'm told.
Think New Orleans, Louisiana and Cajun cooking.
Let’s find out about it.

File powder is made from leaves of the sassafras tree. 
When ground, file powder smells like eucalyptus or juicy fruit gum.
File powder is a necessary ingredient for Cajun cuisine, especially Gumbo.
File' powder adds a sort of gummy consistency to the dish but it doesn't thicken in the way that cornflour thickens a dish.
File' powder has a similar effect to Okra, which in itself has no substitute.
Not only does it add an unusual flavor, the powder also acts as a thickener when added to liquid. 
You can use any ingredient you have to hand, not just fish. Chicken would be a good substitute.

Did you know that long before the use of file powder for Creole and Cajun cooking, Choctaw Indians pounded sassafras leaves into powder and added them to soups and stews.

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


BASIL: Ocimum basilicum

Would you believe basil is in the mint family?

If you check the stems of Basil plants, they’re square, like other members of the mint family.
Did yo know that the word basil comes from the Greek (basileus), meaning "king?”

Basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia and has been in used for the medicinal properties of its leaves and seeds.

Curiously, the Romans thought that basil would only have medicinal properties if it were planted while the sower was cursing.
Basil Types:
There are many varieties of Ocimum basilicum.
The type used in Italian cooking and the one you see most in the supermarket or for sale in garden centres is called sweet basil.

On the other hand Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. X citriodorum) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), mainly used in Asian cooking.

Although I must say, lemon basil is pretty fine in just about anything and I’ve made pesto from Thai basil and not felt it was too pungent.

Have you ever wonder why is each variety of basil so different in flavour from each other?

  • The reason is because of the different essential oils that come together in different proportions in each variety. 
  • The strong clove scent of sweet basil is derived from eugenol, the same chemical as in actual cloves. 
  • The citrus scent of lemon basil and lime basil has a higher portion of citral, which is also prominent in lemon mint, and, which gives actual lemon peel its scent. 
  • Licorice basil contains anethole, the same chemical that makes anise smell like licorice, and in fact is sometimes called "anise basil." 
  • If you grow your own, you can choose from the many different basils that you'll never find in the supermarket. 
  • Not just purple leafed basil, or giant lettuce leafed basil, lemon scented basil, aniseed basil, cinnamon basil, intensely fragrant small leafed basil, mild perennial Sacred basil that goes so well in Thai, Vietnamese, or perennial Greek basil. 
My perennial or bush basil has been growing in the same bed since 2006!

What does it look like?

Most of us are familiar with what basil looks like, but just to be sure basils oval shaped, opposite leaves, brown or black seeds (also called nutlets) and flower spikes, but flower colour and the size, shape, and texture of the leaves vary by species.

Leaf textures range from smooth and shiny to curled and hairy, and flowers are white to lavender/purple. Leaf colour can also vary, from green to blue/purple, and plants can grow to from 30cm to 1 ½ metres in height, depending on the species.

When is the best time to grow some basil?

For temperate and cool districts-September through to February, for sub-tropical and Arid zones, August to February, and for Tropical climates-all year round-you win the jackpot.

What do basil plants love?

Have you ever bought Basil from the supermarket and wondered why the leaves go black after about a week in the fridge?

  • That’s because Basil is very sensitive to cold and even in the garden, towards the end of summer if you get a cool spell, your Basil will drop it’s leaves and start to yellow. 
  • Yellow leaves towards the bottom of the plant are an indication that the plant has been stressed; usually this means that it needs more or less water, or less or more fertilizer. 
  • That’s also why gardeners in tropical zones can grow Basil all year, with best growth in hot, dry conditions. 
  • Basil behaves as an annual if there is any chance of a frost. 
  • You can sow Basil straight into the ground but I always find it’s much easier and more reliable to start off in punnets. 
TIP:Also, never throw out your out of date packets of Basil seed, because they’ll come up with a pretty good success rate. This is what I’ve found when starting them off in punnets.
  • Basil seed is tiny and can take several weeks to germinate, so if you grow your basil from seeds, the weeds may grow before the basil does in this weather unless you grow it in a pot of course…for all you savvy balcony gardeners. 
  • When you’re ready to plant out your Basil, find a well-drained spot or grow it in a pot. 
  • In the height of summer, four hours of sunlight is all that’s needed for Basil to grow. 
  • Some shade from the midday sun will stop the sun scorching the leaves. 
  • Give your basil frequent doses of liquid manure throughout the growing season to keep up leaf production because the more you feed the plant the bigger the leaves become, in fact underfed basil is less fragrant. 
  • The more you pick your basil the more you need to feed it. 
  • Basil has a very vigorous root system. 
  • If you grow basil in the garden then the basil roots will go and find what the plant needs. 
So even if the soil is not so great, you can still grow basil.

IMPORTANT: Taking Cuttings

  • TIP: If you’re having trouble getting Basil seed to germinate, you know Basil strikes easily from soft tip cuttings, 
  • One way to take Basil cuttings it to cut short stems and suspend them for two weeks or so in water until roots develop. 
  • The other way is to take a tip cutting off any plant at any time of the year. 
  • Cut off all the leaves except for the tiny ones that are emerging at the top and stick the thing in a pot. 
  • Keep it in partial shade and keep it moist. 
  • Basil cuttings root very quickly. Once the little basil plant is actively growing again you can plant it This is a good way of getting some of the more fancy varieties going, BECAUSE they seed they produce won’t be true to type. 
TIP:Once a stem produces flowers, leaf production stops on that stem, and the stem becomes woody, and essential oil production also declines.
To stop this from happening pinch off any flower stems before they are fully mature. 

One other thing: Pest Repellant
Basil is another herb that can also double as a pest repellent.
The pungent odour the basil leaves give off are what keep pests at bay.
And since all kinds of basil work to keep flies and mosquitoes at bay, feel free to explore and find the right types of basil to mix into your garden.

Why are they good for you?
Apart from the fact the Basil and tomatoes may perfect partners in cooking, Sweet basil is low in calories, has almost no fat, and is a good source of vitamin A and is very rich source of many essential nutrients minerals and vitamins AN D another thing--
Basil seeds, in particular, are high in dietary fibre .
Basil also includes flavonoids and antioxidants.



Useful and Beautiful:Plants that won't let you down.

We’re still doing ground covers but we’re now talking cold climates or cool temperate.
Sometimes these districts have rather harsh winters so you need a utility planting that withstand these conditions.
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of  Paradisus Garden Design

Peter mentioned Ceratostigma plumbaginoides which commonly called Plumbago but it’s not the common plumbago.
Ruscus aeculiatus or Butcher’s Broom which can be cut with hedge shears into a shape.
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.


Gypsophila paniculata: Baby's Breath: Soapwort
Easy to grow perennial.
The name is derived from the fact that all the flowers in this family grow well on soil high in gypsum, a mineral that makes the soil too thick and heavy for many other types of plants.
Will grow in sandy dry soil.
Etymology:The genus name is from the Greek gypsos ("gypsum") and philios ("loving")
These bright white dots symbolize
 Floral meaning:
Gypsophila paniculata: Baby's Breath
Everlasting and undying love, including family, platonic, and romantic bonds-used in wedding bouquets and centrepieces.
Pureness and freedom from outside influences or corruption
Easily grown from seed.
Gypsophila sets off other flowers
 Grow it in full sun or partial shade in alkaline soil.
  • Well suited to xeriscaping.
  • Makes a low-maintenance addition to the perennial garden.
  • Like lavender or catmint, baby’s breath creates a charming, soft look in the garden.
  • Because the plant blooms from early summer toAutumn it’s an excellent filler for hiding other perennials after they’re done flowering.
  • Pair it with delphinium, iris, columbine, poppies, yarrow and other cottage garden flowers.
I’m talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Video recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2rrr 88.5 fm in Sydney every Wednesday at 5 pm.