Saturday, 28 April 2018

Gardens, Lavender and Carnations to Fill Our Senses

hat’s On The Show Today?

Join Garden Historian Stuart Read talk about some gardens of note in the garden history segment, find out which veggie is a hiding place for little demons in Vegetable Heroes; spice up your home with these fragrant flowers you can grow in Plant of the Week.;Lastly, a flower that’s strongly linked with perfume in Talking Flowers.



There are a lot of heritage items in Australia that get commemorated by a plaque but how many gardens get the same recognition?

Probably only a handful and these are not even well known.

So the Garden History Society started to take note of some historic gardens and with a local council in Sydney, are recognizing that it’s not just built spaces that make up the fabric of history.

Let’s find out about some of these.

I'm talking with Stuart Read, Garden Historian and committee member of the Australian Garden History Society
These 'garden plaques' celebrate famous gardeners and notable gardens.
Does your local council have a garden plaques program?
If so let us know so we can give them a shout out. 
The Australian Garden History Society has branches in all states and the A.C.T. which arrange local activities and act as advocates for issues which are of interest to the society. 
For further information contact

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.


Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts are a member of the Brassicaceae family which also includes, cabbage, broccoli, kale and kohlrabi.

Is there one veggie that you have trouble growing?
For some reason, that veggie doesn’t work out to how it looks on the seed packet.
Maybe it’s your environment, think weather or your soil or your regime of fertilising.
It could also be that whenever you try to grow this veggie, hordes of pests descend onto your veggie plot and turn those plants into a horrible version of what they should be?
That’s my lot with Brussel sprouts.
Before we go any further, you may not be surprised to know that Brussel sprouts are one of the most hated veggies in the UK and US.

So why call a veggie Brussel sprouts?

Maybe because it was sold in Brussels' markets in the 1200's, or, maybe Brussels sprouts were named after the capital of Belgium where some say that’s where they were first grown.
Brussel sprouts are also one of the few vegetables to have started off in the northern Europe.
You probably know what a Brussels sprouts looks like - miniature heads of cabbage-about 2.5 to 4 cm. to be precise.
They taste a bit like cabbage, but slightly milder in flavour and denser in texture.
If you’ve ever grown Brussel sprouts, you’ll know that the sprouts grow like buds in a spiral along the side of long thick stalks of around 60 to 120 cm tall.
They all don’t mature at once but take several weeks, starting from the lower to the upper part of the stalk.

If you want to grow them well, there’s a few tips that you need to know about.
  • Firstly, when learning how to grow brussel sprouts they need a firm, fertile soil because the main cause of failure (blown buttons) is the opposite, that is, loose, infertile soil. 
  • Those gardeners with a fairly heavy soil have an advantage over those of us with loose sandy soil. 
  • If your soil is loose, then your sprouts will be tasteless, loose and open, and only you’re to blame and not the seed company. 
  • If you’ve got the room to follow crop rotation, then you’ll be planting them where you last planted peas and beans. 
  • If not, dig in a whole lot of compost and cow manure and leave it for a couple of weeks to mature. 
  • AND, because compost, especially home- made compost can be on the acidic side, add some lime to your soil while you’re in the veggie bed. 
  • That old saying “feed the soil not the plant” applies especially to Brussel Sprouts. 
  • Tamp the soil down with the back of your garden rake to make it firm when the soil is dry. 
When to Sow;
For temperate districts, February until May, for arid areas until the end of June, for cool temperate zones, until the end of April and for sub-tropical areas, April seems to the month for you.
To grow sprouts, sow the seeds into seed trays or direct into the garden, or you can buy seedlings from a garden centre, organic markets and so on.
It’s cheaper of course to start from seed.
The seedlings are ready to transplant when they’re 10cm high.
Did you know that you can get early and late cropping varieties?

You can plant out your brussels sprouts either in full sun or partial shade, in fact partial shade is a bit better in warmer districts.

  • Water plants the day before you aim to transplant them into that well-firmed bed that you prepared. 
  • After you have transplanted your seedlings, firm the soil around each plant with your hands or the dibber. 
  • Remember - firm planting helps to grow firm, tight brussels sprouts. 

Tip#3: a better reason to start your seeds off in punnets is that when you transplant your seedlings from pots or seed beds, this encourages a stronger root system to be established in their permanent bed.

Water the young plants in dry weather but unless you have a prolonged dry spell the mature plants shouldn’t need watering.
As the plants get taller make sure you support them so that the strong winds in winter don`t blow them over - tie them to stakes.

Should hordes of pests come a calling, you name it, Mealybugs, aphids, caterpillars and other grubs, use Derris Dust or a liquid concentrate containing Spinosad or Neem oil.
Try eco Neem from  and Success from Yates

When to harvest
When the brussels start looking like they’re ready you don’t have to pick them all at once because, the plant holds the mature buttons for many weeks without opening. 

Ways to eat Brussel Sprouts
To eat Brussel Sprouts, you don`t want those ` sprouts that have had all their colour and crispness boiled out of them.
Try dicing or grating your brussel sprouts raw and serve them up in a salad - go on, be brave!
Most importantly: Don’t overcook your Brussel sprouts; Overcooking Brussels sprouts produces a sulphur-like smell, which is usually what turns people off
Why are they good for you?
Brussels sprouts pack in 4 grams of protein per cup which is high for a veggie,
That same cup will give you 4 grams of fibre but only 56 calories— “
Brussels sprouts can also provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you use a steaming method when cooking them.
Brussels are also a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, and potassium .
One 80-gram serving of these healthy veggies delivers four times more vitamin C than an orange.
And finally, Brussel Sprouts should be kept cool at all times and eaten before the leaves discolour or they develop a strong smell.

One last anecdote:
If you ever ate Brussels sprouts at home, there's a good chance you cut little crosses cut into the bottom of each one.
Most people assume it is done to speed up cooking, but they would be wrong. The real reason we cut crosses into our sprouts is because of a medieval superstition.
It was once believed that leafy vegetables such as sprouts and cabbages were the hiding places of tiny demons, and eating them would expose you to their evil influence unless you exorcised them with the sign of the cross before cooking—and that's actually not a surprising conclusion if you consider the evil odours Brussels sprouts sometimes inspire. From


Carnations New and Old
Scinetific Name: Dianthus caryophyllus
Did your dad or grandad, grow certain flowers in your garden which you think are too hard to grow?
Well the plant world and it’s bevy of hybridisers have been working garden to make this old fashioned flower new again.
They probably grew the "old school"carnations which grew long and lanky and needed some type of staking to prevent them flopping over.
Let’s find out how to grow the newer varieties.
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner of

Dianthus caryophyllus Oscar series.
Carnations love alkaline soil , therefore adding lime to the garden bed will help with any acidic soil problems.
Tip: Not to be grown where Azaleas and Camellias like to grow.
Keeping your Carnations tip pruned will encourage more flowering.

Carnation Oscar is a dwarf growing to 10cm in only 5 colours but designed for the balcony gardener.
Super Trooper and Sunfloor-also a dwarf around 20-25cm in height, with a high amount of fragrance.
In fact it’s hard to choose between what makes carnations special;the fragrance or the flower.
If you have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Lavender, Lavender, Lavender.
Need to relax? Or get a good night's sleep? 
You need cleansing, calming lavender in your life. 
Lavandula angustifolia: English Lavender for cooking

Lavenders are a fabulous, long-lasting cut flower and you can dry them to use in sachets and pot pourri. And by the way, lavender is a great insect repellent.
Lavender is a favourite, whose flowers range from white to deep blue purple and include pink.
You can cook with Lavender flowers but you must use Lavandula angustifolia or English lavender flowers.
The other varieties have too much camphor and will make food taste a little bitter.
Use your Lavender spice flowers in cakes, biscuits, pasta and salads.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers By Mercedes 
 Recorded live during radio broadcast of Real World Gardener on 2rrr 88.5fm in Sydney

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Honeybees, Fragrance and Temptation Seeds

What’s On The Show Today?

Join permaculture guru Margaret Mossakowska talking about beeswax in the Good Earth segment; how best to look after those saved seeds in Vegetable Heroes; brighten up dark corners in the garden with this new groundcover in Plant of the Week.
Lastly, a flower that’s strongly linked with perfume in Talking Flowers.


Beeswax And How To Use It At Home
Honey isn’t just the only thing that beekeepers produce.
Beeswax is a by product of honey making.

So how can we use around the home other than for making beeswax candles?

Let’s find out I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from

Margaret mentioned that you can make Florentine Wax tablets with pieces of melted wax in a muffin tray.
Making Florentine Wax Tablets:
Mix in a little coconut oil so you can spread the beeswax better, then add a few drops of essential oils for perfume.
You can even press dried flowers into the top to make them decorative.
Leave them around the house to let off their fragrance into the rooms.

TIP: Did you know that you can also coat things with beeswax, like hand tools, cast iron pieces and shovels to prevent them from rusting out.
You can even rub beeswax on the wooden handle of your shovel to help protect against wear and tear.

NSW amateur beekeepers associations
The ABA currently has 20 clubs/branches around NSW.
There are also a number of areas where new clubs are being started.
If you need any help finding a club near you, please contact the ABA Secretary.
For listeners outside NSW there’s also a national body,
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.


Shelf Life of  Packet Seeds

Shelf life of packet seeds.
We gardeners are guilty of buying too many seeds and realise, we just don’t have enough space to grow everything we would like to from seed.

Marketing gurus say that impulse buying is one big factor in seed sales. 
That’s why they make the packets so attractive with those lovely photos on the front of the packet to entice your to buy them.

What to do with all those seed packets?

Shall you throw them into the compost or give them a go?
Now’s a good time to get out your seeds and take a look at the dates on the back usually.
You’ve probably got seeds lurking in a drawer, or maybe you’re more organised and they’re in a storage box.
Firstly let’s deal with how you’re storing your seeds. 

  • If you’re keeping them in the garden shed that gets quite hot in summer, then the shelf life of your seeds is going to drop right down and possibly kill of your seeds. 

  • Never store your seeds in a humid warm or sunny spot. 

  • Seeds need to be kept cool and dry, ideally the temperature should be around 5°C and 10°C. 

  • Keeping them in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge is good but who’se going to have enough room in the fridge for all those seeds? 

  • A dark place somewhere in the garage or laundry that stays cool in summer is the best place. 

When properly stored in a cool, dry place, seed’s shelf life can be extended. - So how long do our veggie seeds last? 

If you want to be really sure that the seeds you’ve got will germinate and you’ve got quite a few to burn, why not do a simple germination test? 

  •  Fold over the paper towel and place in a zip-lock plastic bag and seal it; this helps to keep the towel moist and protected. 
  • Germination test: Take around 10 of your seeds, and place them in a row on top of a damp paper towel. 
  • Then put in a warm location, like a high shelf or on top of the fridge but make sure the spot you’ve picked is away from exposure to direct sunlight. 
  • This can overheat your seeds. 
  • Next, check the seeds often—around once a day—to see if they’ve begun to germinate and to check the moisture of the paper towel. 

  • But don’t keep opening it everyday otherwise your experiment will go mouldy in not time. 
  • Only open the zip lock bag if it needs more water, and carefully mist the towel so it’s only just damp, but not soggy. 
  • Don’t apply too much water. 

I’ve recently heard that adding a drop of tea to the water helps with the germination rate. 

TIP: Your seeds should begin to germinate in several days up to a couple of weeks, depending on the seed-type. A good rule of thumb is to wait roughly 10 days;

We know that the packet comes printed with the expiry date of seeds.

But we want to know can they last longer?

In Australia, seed companies are generally required by law to germination test seeds before they sell them.

These definitely have a very short shelf life.

The longest lasting seeds that I’ve germinated well past their expiry date, let’s say 3-4 years past, without any problem, are Basil, Kohlrabi, Broccoli and Rocket.

But let’s talk in families of plants such as in the Brassicaceae family.
The long lasting seeds here are Beetroot, Silverbeet, Swish chard, Radish, Turnip, Cauliflower, Cabbage and Kale and Broccoli.

Next are those from the Solanaceae family, including tomato and eggplant.

Lastly, the Cucurbitaceae or Melon family.
Long lasting seeds in this family include cucumber, squash and watermelon.

Then there’s those seeds that aren’t so long lived but usually have a shelf life of 3-5 years like lettuce, and possibly parsley. Parsely is one herb that I don’t need to sow anymore.
By leaving a Parsley plant flower and set seed, you’ll have, like me, a continual supply of Parsley year round.
Until a regular visitor to the garden, a ringtail possum, decides they need something to eat in winter.
Then no Parsely. 

There’s also the pea or Fabaceae family.
So yes, peas and beans are on the list.
A few seeds have a relatively short shelf life and are good for one to two years at the most.
These include onions, parsnips, chives, scorzonera and leeks.
That isn’t definitive and depending on who you ask, some will say that they were able to get their 10 year old bean seeds to germinate or some other vegetable.

The "sow by" date is based on the validity of the germination test and is not necessarily an accurate indication of the freshness or shelf-life of the seed.

Of course flower seeds are another category and I don’t have time to mention those other than to say, Pansies, Echinaceae, and Nasturtiums have germinated for me well past their use by date.

Seeds are best sown fresh.
Even stored in a fridge or freezer, the germination percentage and vigour will reduce over time.



Lamium Mega
Are you after a groundcover for dry shade?
Would you like something with more colour where nothing colourful grows?
Something different perhaps than native violets, dichondra or ferns.
Dry shade tends to be dark, and the main way of enhancing a dark spot is planting something with either pale or white flowers or pale or silver foliage.

Cheer up the gloomiest of corners in your garden with this suggestion.
Let’s find out how to grow it.
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner of

Its common name, deadnettle, is unglamorous, but this lamium makes the best ground cover for tricky, shady spots.

Its silver, heart-shaped leaves with a green rim lighten up dreary corners, and the mauve (OK, "Mega Purple", if you must) flowers appear reliably throughout Summer.
This is a ground hugger, though, reaching a height and spread of just 30cm x 45cm
If you have any questions about Lamium mega , either for me or for the plant panel or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Meet Hyacinth Bucket! A bucket full of sweetly scented Hyacinth is this week's star in Talking Flowers with Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers By Mercedes. Mr Hyacinth will grace your home with scent and colour for at least a couple of weeks, especially if you grow it from a bulb yourself. Hyacinths can be grown in a special water vase. Colours include red, white, blue, pink, orange, violet and yellow. 

Asparagaceae family.
Hyacinthus orientalis; Dutch or garden hyacinth.
Not to be confused with Muscari which are also called “grape hyacinths.”
You can buy bulbs right now and plant before autumn is over for divine spring fragrance.

TIP: Don't forget to pre-chill them in a brown paper bag in the fridge crisper for 6 weeks. but away from fruits and veg.
This will allow the stems to grow nice and long

I'm talking with florist, floral therapist, and floraholic, Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2rrr 88.5fm Sydney

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Magnificent Lilies, Blue Bonnets and Yummy Fruit

What’s On The Show Today?

Join Dr Holly Parsons as we delve into the wonderful world of Blue Bonnets in Wildlife in Focus, a crop that’s edible as well as used to improve your soil in Vegetable Heroes, plus yummy fruit tree in Plant of the Week.
Lastly, a flower that says magnificent beauty in Talking Flowers.


Blubonnet: Northiella haematogaster

If I say this next segment is about parrots, do you go through a very short checklist?
This checklist might include, the Sulphur Crested, several Galahs, King Parrot, and Gang Gang Cockatoos.
Northiella haematogaster
You may even realise that Rosellasand Lorikeets are in the parrot category.
But what about this next parrot with a very different name?
Let’s find out about it
I'm talking wiht Dr Holly Parsons, Manager of

The parrots species have short, powerful bills that they use for cracking seeds, but some of them also feed on fruit, nectar, underground plant stems, and wood-boring insect larvae.
Blue bonnets have not only similar calls to other parrots but fly in a similar way as well.
From Graeme Chapman’s website comes this information “They have a particular liking for areas where sheoaks such as belah or bulloak (genus Allocasuarina) grow, mainly because these trees provide them with their preferred nesting sites.
Where available, they prefer a narrow split in the main trunk of a tree which opens out into a hollow that often continues down to (or even below!) ground level.
It is amazing just how narrow a split they can fit into and such sites are not uncommon in quite small trees such as Myall (an Acacia) out in desert regions.
These narrow nest entrances would provide good protection from the larger of the predatory goannas.”
If you have any questions either for me or for Holly, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Lupins or Lupinus species belong in the pea or Fabaceae family.

This of course means that Lupins fix Nitrogen into the soil from the atmosphere.
You might know about Lupins as a perennial flowering plant for gardens, coming in a variety of colours and leaf shapes.

Maybe you think of them as Russell Lupins?

Did you know, seed from some perennial flowering Lupins are edible and have been used as a crop feed as well as food for humans?
Did you know that lupins as a food have been used for thousands of years.

In fact, Lupin dishes were popular during the Roman Empire, but they seem to eat just about everything didn’t they?

Members of native tribes in South and Native America used to soak Lupin beans in salt water before eating them.
These are grown even today as a Soy substitute.

Lupin flowers come in a rainbow of colours but not all have edible seed pods.

But before you go snacking on the seed pods of these flowers, be warned, unless you’ve bought edible Lupin seeds, the other varieties of Lupins are TOXIC.

THESE Lupins contain Lupin alkaloids which can cause Lupin poisoning.

DPI Victoria says there are 2 types of Lupin; the narrow leaf species (Lupinus angustifolius-blue flower) and the larger seeded and broader leaf Lupinus albus, with a white flower.
  • Lupinus albus is grown mostly for human consumption, while the higher protein narrow leaf lupin, Lupinus angustifolius, is better as stock feed. 
    Lupinus albus
  • Yellow Lupins are also a new crop in W.A. 
  • These legumes were popular with the Romans, weren’t they all? 
  • The Andean Lupin L. mutabilis, the Mediterranean Lupinus albus (white lupin), Lupinus angustifolius (blue lupin) and Lupinus hirsutus are only edible after soaking the seeds for some days in salted water. 
  • These lupins are referred to as sweet lupins because they contain smaller amounts of toxic alkaloids than the bitter lupin varieties. 
  • Newly bred variants of sweet lupins are grown extensively in Germany; they lack any bitter taste and require no soaking in salt solution. 
  • The seeds are used for different foods from vegan sausages to lupin-tofu or lupin flour. 
  • Lupins are currently under widespread cultivation in Australia, Europe, Russia, and the Americas as a green manure, livestock fodder and grazing plant, and high protein additive for animal and human foods. 
  • Australia is still to realise Lupins as human food because 95% of Lupins are grown for stock feed. 
    Lupinus angustifolius

How and when to sow your Lupins.
Sow Lupin seeds 3-4 cm deep. Sowing deeper than 5 cm can lead to very poor crop emergence.
Lupins prefer moderate temperatures and rainfall, they are not tolerant of frost and most of your flowers will drop if frost is serve enough or ongoing.
They like moderate temperatures, too many days over 30o C will also see flowers drop.
Sow in temperate areas autumn and spring, in subtropical areas April-June.
Lupins will also grow in a cool climate, for example if you live in southern Victoria, then February to March is the best time.
Make a note in your garden diary for next year.

Lupins also grow in Mediterranean climates and grow in regions with average temperatures under 32C

What Lupins Love
  • The Lupin plant loves well-watered areas and soil with slight acidity. 
  • The plant grows best in regions that have coarse, well-drained soil preferably with an acidic value between 6 and 7. 
  • Lupins can also grow in any area that has loose, light-coloured fertile soil and plenty of water. 
  • In fact the recommendation is to water Lupins for 10-20 minutes every day. 
  • Lupins need direct sunlight daily for at least four hours. 
  • Lupin roots can grow down to 2.5 metres, and rhizobium is needed for nodulation and nitrogen fixation. 
  • Lupinus alba is available as a mail order seed and is used for a green manure crop. 
  • Lupinus alba adds nitrogen to your soil, and because of the long taproot, opens and aerates the soil 
  • Another soil benefit is that Lupins accumulate phosphorus; and the flowers are attractive to bees and other beneficial insects. 
  • Lupinus albus seeds
Why are Lupins good for you?
Lupine flour, used in bread products and pasta, is high in protein and is highly nutritious for human body.
This is one of the main health benefits of Lupins.
Lupin seed has a low GI and makes us feel fuller for longer.
Apparently Lupin enhanced bread is available in some health food stores, and is said to reduce your hunger.
Lupine oil is edible oil extracted from Lupin seeds and used to manufacture technical as well as edible refined oil.
So either grow the Lupins as a green manure crop, or a flowering perennial.

The flowers are considered a must for the cottage garden, combining perfectly with poppies, catmint and roses.
As far as growing Lupins as an edible crop, only commercial quantities are available to the crop farmer.
But you never know, there could be a breakthrough soon, and we might be making our own Lupin enhanced bread in the not too distant future.
If you have any questions about growing LUPINS or any other vegetable, JUST EMAIL ME



Red Paw Paw Bisexual

Paw Paw and Papaya, are they the same fruit?
Papaya (Carica papaya), also called pawpaw in Australia, is an exotic, tropical fruit with a juicy, sweet flavour.

Papaya and pawpaw are the same species, however they look and taste different.
In Australia, the red-fleshed sweeter fruit is called papaya, while the yellow-fleshed fruit is called pawpaw.
Just to confuse everyone, from an Australian industry perspective however, the term papaya covers both fruit.
Let’s find out how to grow it.
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner of

The papaya is a small, sparsely branched tree, usually with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 m tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk.
Something to note:

  • Papaya plants grow in three sexes: male, female, bisexual (hermaphrodite meaning they produce flowers which have both male and female functioning parts).
  • The male produces only pollen, never fruit.
  • The female will produce small, inedible fruits unless pollinated.
  • The hermaphrodite can self-pollinate since its flowers contain both male stamens and female ovaries 

If you have any questions about red paw paw , either for me or for the plant panel or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


CALLA LILY Zantedeschia aethiopica  
Family: Araceaea
Known as arum lily but not a lily at all, instead an aroid.
Aroid because it’s a member of the 3,300 strong arum family and most have flowers that consist of a spathe (floral bract) surrounding the central pale yellow spadix (floral spike) bearing tiny flowers.
Think Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum,  Anthurium and Philodendron.
Zantedeschia aethiopica is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant, evergreen where there's plenty of  rainfall and moderate temperatures but deciduous where there is a dry season. Its preferred habitat is in streams and ponds or on the banks.

The plant actually contains calcium oxalate making it poisonous to animals or people that may attempt to eat the plant raw.

This is basically a protection mechanism for the plant so that it can survive in the wild.
Apart from that, these flowers look fabulous in the vase ,just don't let kitty nibble on the leaves.
Calla Lily
I'm talking with  florist, floral therapist, and floraholic, Mercedes Sarmini of

Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2rrr 88.5 fm Sydney

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Small Trees for Everyone

What’s On The Show Today?

Join Peter as we stroll through Useful & Beautiful small trees in Design Elements This plant share its name with a famous biscuit, no not Tim Tam, in Vegetable Heroes, and a small tree that’s tough, but with the prettiest flowers. Lastly, one of the world’s most popular fragrant flowers, and it’s not a rose, in Talking Flowers.


Small Trees that are "useful and beautiful."
Have you got a small or large garden?
Chances are a lot of you are thinking, mmm, it’s pretty small but I used to have a large garden.
Either way, there’s always room for a small something, to fit into the design scheme that won't take up too much room, is out of the ordinary, and is "useful and beautiful."
Bauhinia hookerii or White Bauhinia
Today, we’re talking about something that’s either a very large shrub or a very small tree. 
Let’s find out what they are.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of Paradisus Garden Design

Peter mentioned Hibiscus schizopetalus also known as Japanese Lantern which has the daintiest red flower.
Hibiscus schizopetalus: Japanese Lanter photo credit: M Cannon

The flower almost looks like a ballerina suspended by a fine thread and are terminal, meaning that they're at the ends of the branches.

White Bauhinia or Bauhina hookerii with white butterfly like flowers.
Brachychiton bidwillii which may be grafted but can be summer deciduous in areas such as Adelaide.
If you have any questions either for me or for Peter, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Not a biscuit : Arrowroot
Canna edulis

Today’s vegetable is loaded with carbohydrates or carbs as we refer to them.

Why am I talking about carbs?
Because a study released not too long ago from Sydney University showed that a high carbohydrate, low protein diet can help you live fifty per cent longer.

But first a question.
Ever heard of arrowroot as in arrowroot biscuits perhaps?
Did you know Arrowroot is actually a plant and not just the name of a type of biscuit?
The scientific name of the type of arrowroot that I’m talking about today is Canna edulis but it’s known as edible canna and Qld arrowroot.

There are other types of arrowroot, but generally not available to buy or grow in many places in Australia, so I’ll stick to the Canna edulis one.

Some of you might know that Canna plant already, with its sword shaped leaves and brightly coloured flowers.
Canna Lily: Not Edible

Did you know though that there was an edible canna as well?

Yes, Canna and Arrowroot are one and the same.
An amazing fact though it’s bit like edible Ginger or Cardamom because it’s a very hardy, clump-forming perennial plant with thick stalks and large bright green leaves 300-600mm long to 2m high.
But which part do you eat?
  • In this case, like the edible ginger, you eat the tubers. 
  • If you dig them up when they’re small - about the size of a tennis ball and the skin is still white is the best time. 
  • Here’s something you won’t know: Arrowroot tubers can be used all year round, as a potato substitute. 
  • HINT: Another good thing about Arrowroot tubers is that you can plant them at any time of the year. 
  • The large round red rhizomes can be eaten raw, cooked as you would a potato or used as a flour and thickening agent. 
  • Young shoots can also be eaten as a green vegetable. 
  • Edible Canna is easy to plant, to grow and to harvest. 

  • While the tubers grow at a rate of knots, in deep rich friable soil, they are the most hardy of all the tuber crops and grows well in any type of soils. 
  • These tubers can even grow where most other tubers refuse to grow.
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You can start digging the tubers up USING A GARDEN FORK after 6 months usually around Summer and Autumn.

In fact if you had planted a tuber last Spring, you would’ve had a clump about 1 metre across by now.

  • Even though the books will tell you that Arrowroot needs a warm sunny position; Arrowroot will tolerate heat and light frosts. 
  • The only drawback is growth is much slower in cold areas 
  • Suitable for temperate, subtropical and tropical areas but there’s no reason for you not to try it in Gippsland or even Canberra, just not out in the elements. 
  • An idea would be to plant it under a shrub as protection from deep frosts. 
  • Arrowroot can be grown in any soil even clay soil because it likes moisture and even copes with poor drainage. 
  • Full sun is the key, so even though I said shelter it from frosts under a shrub, the position has to be north facing. 
  • Of course if you add compost, manures and all those great organic fertilisers you have in that garden shed, you’ll get fast growth and lots of tubers. 
  • One other thing, if you’ve got poor sandy soil, don’t forget to keep up the watering. 
Edible canna or arrowroot does develop small orangish flowers that will set black seeds.
  • If you live near a watercourse or creek, there’s potential for the seeds to spread into bushland or along creek-lines, so do cut off the flowers as they finish, and definitely cut off the seed heads. 
  • HOT TIP: seed grown plants are slow to mature and vary in the type of plant you get. 
  • It’s faster and better to divide your plants if you want to give some to other gardeners. 
  • TIP If you can grow Cannas you can definitely grow edible Cannas and arrowroot has few problems with pests and diseases. 
As mentioned arrowroot is starchy and can be eaten like potatoes.  But what do you do?
  • Digging them up when they’re small is the best because as they get older they become dry and stringy. 
  • Just peel them like potatoes and soak them in water if you want less starchiness. 
  • Freshly grated arrowroot can be used as a thickening agent. 
  • By the way, unlike potatoes, unless you’re thinking of making arrowroot flour, which is a longer process than I have time for, you need to dig up your tubers and use them soon after. 
Why are they good for you? 
  • Excellent carbohydrate, the starch is easily digested. 
  • Arrowroot also has 10g of protein for every 100g of tuber. 
But apart from the carbs and its use as a thickening agent, and extracting arrowroot flour, there are no vitamins or minerals in this plant.

So back to that study, Sydney University research found mice fed a high carbohydrate, low protein diet had a longer lifespan and better cardio-metabolic health despite the fact they were overweight.

I recently spoke to Professor Steve Simpson who conducted the study, and his suggestion was that a diet that consists of 15-20 per cent high quality protein, low in fat and high in good quality carbohydrate will deliver the best metabolic health and longest life.

No need to cut out those carbs, just the fried chips.



Blueberry Ash: Elaeocarpus retiuculatus
Here’s a small tree with lily of the valley type flowers and olive like fruit.
The flowers are either pale pink or white, often referred to as “fairy pettioats.”
A very tough small tree that’s native to the east coast of Australia that is also bird attracting especially to all types of parrots.
Blueberry Ash: Pink form
Let’s find out more about it. 
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of

Karen’s neighbour keeps her blueberry ash trimmed down to 4 metres or you could leave it a bit bigger and “limb up” as Peter Nixon would say so you have a lovely shade tree to sit under.
The only place it doesn’t suit is those areas with heavy frost. If you have any questions about blueberry ash , either for me or for Karen or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to


All about Freesias
If you have a cottage garden big or small, chances are you've invested in Spring bulbs which include Freesias.
Gardeners will be ordering Freesias in their Spring bulb order now.
TIP: Just remember, plant them pointy end upward when your receive the bulbs
Botanical Bite

Freesia flowers are “zygomorphic” which just means that they grow along one side of the stem, in a single plane.
 When you look at a flower stalk, you'll see that the blooms are facing upwards. 
How does this work? 
Freesias stems have the unusual habit of turning at right angles just below the bottom flower. 
This causes the upper portion of the stem to grow almost parallel with the ground. The flowers bloom along the top side of the stalk, facing upwards. Isn't nature clever?
Recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener program on 2rrr 88.5 fm Sydney.