Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Old Fashioned Shrubs Plus Spices to Entice

Starting with the vanilla bean story with herb and spice guru Ian Hemphill, growing winter savory and why you should in vegetable heroes, a new series on old fashioned shrubs for every region in Australia in Design Elements and groundcovers that suit in Plant of the week.


Vanilla planifolia and cvs
Have you ever wondered how and when the spice trade started?
Maybe not but did you know that nutmeg was once worth more by weight than gold?
Also that in the 16th century, London dockworkers were paid their bonuses in cloves?
There was so much to tell with the story of this spice that I had to split it up into two parts.
Here's part 1.
To produce the green bean, each vanilla flower needs to be hand pollinated.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

The vanilla bean is  a long green bean. When it's mature the beans are put on curing racks during the day, then wrapped up in woollen blankets at night. 
this is done everyday for 15 - 28 days.
It's up to the head curer to judge the readiness of this stage.
After the 28 days have been reached, the beans are then wrapped for a further 2 months. 
Vanilla bean curing is very labour intensive and so far hasn't been mechanised successfully enough to give the complexity of aromas reached by the manual method.
Thanks to Ian’s encylopeadic knowledge of the spice trade we can look forward to part 2 of the vanilla bean story next week.
There’ll be plenty of tips on how best to use vanilla in cooking plus a surprise tip that will just delight you. We’ll also re-cap a little tiny bit of the story.
If you have any questions either for me or for Ian, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Winter Savoury
Did you know that Savory, is the Herb of Love!
  • How many times have you heard the phrase "a savory stew?"
  • Or, it’s got a savoury flavour or taste?
  • Now you know that savory is actuallyherb, in fact an annual or perennial herb, Satureja hortenis, for Summer Savory, or Saturejo montana being for Winter Savory
  • Did you know that Savory is used in herb combinations, such as Herbes de Provence, a French combination of herbs used for seasoning.

If you’ve heard of Savory before, you might already know that it’s best known for its use in dishes made with beans.
  • So where does savory come from?

All Savory’s belong to the mint or Lamiaceae family. They have dark-green, very narrow little leaves for winter savory and light green narrow leaves for summer savory.
The savories can be used fresh or  dried and crushed.
I can’t say that it’s a well know herb but the history of savory goes back about 2000 years and it’s one of the oldest culinary herbs.
Satureja montana: Winter Savory

  • Interestingly, the botanical name Satureja was named by the Roman scholar Pliny and is derived from the word satyr, the half-man, half-goat creature in mythology who owned the savories.
  • Would you’ve guessed it was used in a love potion? Of course.
  • Weren’t they all back then? Sure seems like it.
  • Apparently it’s been associated with love potions for centuries.
  • Romans also used savory as a medicinal (for example for treating bee stings) and culinary herb long before they discovered pepper.
  • When the Romans brought savory to England, it was used there as an herb for chicken stuffing instead of a medicinal.

There are two distinct varieties of savory - summer and winter. Summer savory is most often used for healing.
  • There is a myth or old wives tale that Summer savory increases your sex drive, while winter savory decreases it.
  • Make sure you get your savories right.

Savory has active ingredients called  carvacrol, p-cymene and tannins.
Because it’s an astringent and mild antiseptic if you made a tea from summer savory,  it was said to control diarrhea, stomach-ache and mild sore throat.
Rubbing a sprig of savory on an insect bite will bring instant relief.
How To Grow Savory:What does winter Savory like?
  • It’s an evergreen perennial plant, with dark green narrow leaves that are aromatic.
  • The tiny 5mm flowers are white and pink and appear in the middle of summer on terminal spikes. The plant itself only grows 30cm high with a small spread of 20cm.
  • If you do manage to get savory seeds, they’re very tiny, so it’s probably best to start them in punnets –and they need light to germinate usually
  • also, it's a bit like Coriander, these tiny plants resent being transplanted.
  • The better method of getting new plants is either by cuttings in spring or by root division, also in spring time.
Winter Savory flowers
  • If you know of someone with this plant, put a note in your dairy to ask them for cuttings later on in the year-the cuttings should be soft-stem cuttings of about 2-3 cm long.
  • Put them in some seed raising or propagating mix.
  • You probably don’t even need to cover it, because, just like the herb Thyme, it strikes very easily.                 
  • As for grow ing you winter savory, well, it’s no different than growing Thyme, it likes full sun with well-drained soil.
Savory prefers to be planted in soil that's slightly alkaline.
  • Give it a side-dressing of compost or worm castings whenever possible.
  • All savories are a bit bushy and low-growing so it makes an excellent edging plant for a kitchen garden, herb bed, or vegetable garden.
  • Trim your savory plant from time to time, to promote new growth and keep it looking good.
  • Savory doesn’t like wet feet or clay soils, or cold wet winters.

If some of those conditions sound like something you have, you need to put your savour in a pot in a sheltered position.

Harvesting and Storage
You can begin to take the leaves from your savory plant as soon as it reaches 13cm or about 6 inches in height. Keeping the plant pruned means you’ll always have some. When they insist on flowering, cut the whole plant and put on a some paper in a warm shady place. When dry, strip the leaves and store in airtight jars or tins. When the seed begins to turn brown, harvest them for next years planting. My plant dies down a bit in winter, but always regrows, so that’s a good reason to get some summer savory for your herb garden.
Tips For The Chef
  • Winter savory, Satureja montana, is a nice herb to use when you are cutting back on salt-it's flavour is mild, a little bit similar to thyme, but with it's own unique flavour.
  • Both summer and winter savory are used in cooking. Summer savory has a peppery taste much like thyme, while winter savory has a more piney taste. To me, it has a slightly peppery flavour, but a piney fragrance when you crush it in your hand.
  • Savory blends well with other herbs such as basil, bay leaf, marjoram, thyme and rosemary. It is said that the taste of savory brings all these herbs together in a unique taste.
  • Savory is popular in teas, herbed butters, and flavoured vinegars. It complements beef soup and stews, chicken soup, eggs, green beans, peas, rutabagas, asparagus, onions, cabbage, and lentils. Use savory when cooking liver, fish and game. Winter savory, which has a stronger presence, works well with game that has a strong flavor.
  • You can chop up winter savory finely and combine it with bread crumbs for coating fish or add some leaves to vegetables such as squash before sautéing or steaming.
  • Of course there’s that famous bean, garlic and savory dish.

Why is it good for you?
The Savory herb has many minerals and vitamins which make it an excellent herb to use for medicinal purposes.
The shoots and leaves of this herb are a rich source of zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, and selenium. The vitamins that this herb contains include Vitamin A, Vitamin B-complex group vitamins, Vitamin C, pyridoxine, niacin and thiamine. You would need to eat about 100g of savory leaves which is a bit too much, but making a tea of the leaves would have health benefits as well.
Make baked mozzarella sticks by cutting the cheese into squares, dip in eggs and dredge in bread crumbs with minced savory leaves. Bake in a 180 Degrees C until the cheese just begins to melt.

 Old Fashioned Shrubs: Introduction of 5 part series.
Gone are the days when you had lots of variety in garden centres to choose from.
Now you only get the familiar plants like Murrayas, lilly pillies, star jasmine, viburnum odoratissium, with a spattering of smaller sub-shrubs like Osteospermum with a kaleidoscope of colour.
Thanks for that. Gardeners need colour.
Lilac: Syringia vulgaris
But what happened to the shrubs of old?
Have they just disappeared or can we still get them and which ones suit where?
Let’s find out with this new series on old fashioned shrubs
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer and project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.

What could be nicer than a lilac bush ( for colder climates), May bush (most climates) or even a Daphne or two?
May Bush
You can visit Peter’s garden Sea-Changer’ which is opening Sat 4th May no gate, 10am to 2pm at 21 Lavinia Street Forresters Beach 1 hr from Wahroonga Pacific Motorway on ramp.
For a day out of the city, lunch at Bamboo Buddha Holgate and BURSTING with freshness & flowers. WHAT could be nicer?


Carpet Bugle:Ajuga reptans

Do you want a ground cover that suits shade, still flowers and provides plenty of colour?
William Turner, a 16th century physician and naturalist described it as ‘It is a blacke herbe and it groweth in shaddowy places and moyst groundes.’-

I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of and Karen Smith editor of

Let’s find out. more.

Spoiler alert, there’s a new variety out now called Ajuga Princess Nadia. Lookout for it in your nearest garden centre.
Not only does Carpet Bugle cope with shade but it copes with sun as long as it gets sufficient watering.
Nobody knows why it’s really called Bugle flower , it’s one of botany’s mysteries.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Apples, Queen of Bulbs and Why Purple Veggies?

What affects apples, even those ballerina ones growing in pots in the Plant Doctor segment; growing purple veggies in vegetable heroes, why you need a green wall in Design Elements  and the queen of bulbs, in Plant of the Week.


Black Spot on Apples; Apple Scab
We all love to eat perfect apples but if you grow apple trees, then watch out for this.
If you’ve ever grown roses you would’ve heard about the fungal disease called black spot that starts of as black blotches on the leaves.
The spots become bigger, in some cases joining up, the leaves turn yellow, and then drop off.
Sound familiar?
Well you’ll be surprised to learn that there is another type of black spot, don’t worry, it’s not on roses, but it appears on apple trees.
In fact this disease is a serious problem for apple orchardists.
Let’s find out more.. 
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager of

Black spot on apples looks different than black spot on roses because there isn’t the typical yellowing of the leaves.
The spots are also more irregular than blackspot on roses.
The problem with this fungal disease is that it also spreads to the apples, especially in humid weather.
Spotting on fruit develops a corky layer which resembles a scab. If this happens on young fruit it can also cause cracking. On mature fruit it's still a problem with the appearance of corky scabs on the surface, affecting the re-sale value.
Apple Scab
One thing to note, if your tree has had it in the past, be a good neighbour and spray your plants to prevent further spread because it’s a major problem for orchadists.

If you have any questions apple scab or apple black spot. or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675 and I’ll send you a packet of seeds.



What veggie can you think of that’s purple?
Did you say eggplants and then were a bit stumped?

What about purple carrots and beetroot?

Ok beetroot is sort of a reddish purple, but it can be considered purple, I’ll tell you why in a minute.

There’s also purple cauliflower and purple sweet potato not to mention purple chilli peppers.

Let’s not forget purple podded peas and purple king beans, red/purple mizuna, red Russian Kale, Red/purple cabbages. Need I go on?

So there are a few purple veggies out there.

Why should we grow purple veggies and why are they purple in the first place?

They’re purple is because purple vegetables contain pigments called anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in red wine.

Think blueberries that are marketed as a superfood.
They also contain other health-promoting pigments such as betacyanins and carotenes.
Those anthocyanins and other pigments are good for our health.

Did you know though that anthocyanins are not the only cause of red colour in fruit and vegetables?
Betacyanins, members of the betalain family, are distinct from anthocyanins and the two pigments are not found in the same plants together.
Betacyanins also have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which contribute to health.

Here are some growing information for some of these purple veggies.

Purple cauliflower

In Arid zones, plant direct into the garden from April until June.
In cool temperate and temperate zones, February was the recommended time to sow seeds but you can sow seedlings until the end of May.

If your district is sub-tropical, transplant seedlings until the end of June also.
Purple caulie is a lovely coloured vegetable that contains all of the health properties of white cauliflower with the added bonus of extra anthocyanin (that lovely antioxidant that's so great for you!).
Just don't be surprised when it turns green once cooked. You can use purple cauliflower in any recipe that calls for cauliflower.

Purple Cabbage.

  • To sow cabbage, in temperate, sub-tropical and arid districts, March until June is the best time, but temperate and sub tropical districts can have another go from August until November,
  • In cool temperate areas March until May is best then again in August.
  • Purple cabbages are not only lovely in colour, but extra good for you with more than double the amount polyphenols than green cabbage.

Purple Carrots.
Purple carrots can grow year round in subtropical and arid climates.

  • In Temperate zones, you have from September through to May,.
  • In Cool temperate districts, September through to February, and in the tropics you can grow carrots from April to June.
  • Different-coloured carrots carry different health properties. The purple carrot specifically has 28 percent more of the antioxidant anthocyanin than orange carrots.
  • Eggplant seeds/seedlings can be planted in spring to autumn in tropical areas, spring to early summer in temperate zones and during late spring in cool climates.
This pretty, purple-skinned vegetable also contains some of the most potent antioxidants: phytonutrients found in the skin.
Eggplant is also a good source of iron, calcium and a host of other vitamins.

Purple Potatoes.
  • Purple Potatoes can be planted August to October, in temperate and sub-tropical districts.
  • Arid areas August until December is your best time.
  • In cool temperate zones, September through to January.

These potatoes add more than four times the antioxidants in comparison to regular potatoes, according to reasearch, and score as high as kale and Brussels sprouts in antioxidants.
Purple potatoes were once considered the "food of the gods,

Always steam your vegetables , not boil them.
The steaming process preserves the vitamins and minerals, rather than leaching out a portion into the water as in the boiling method.


Floriade Venlo photo M Cannon
Green Walls
You may not have thought of the idea of having a green wall in your garden.
You might’ve thought that they were really expensive.

Some facts first about green walls.
Green walls can provide:
• aesthetic improvements
• protect the building they are attached to because they shield the the building or fence from the sun.
• reduce building heating and cooling costs due to increased insulation
• increased property value
• a place to grow food
• rain water run-off management and water filtering/pollution reduction
• habitat creation and increased biodiversity
• cooling effect
• cleaner air, with less pollutants

But did you also know that green walls suit any size garden, even if you have a large garden?
How do you achieve this?

Let’s find out? I'm talking with Peter Nixon from Paradisus garden design.
You can make your own green wall using recycled material or you can buy ready made ones from the big box stores that have garden supplies.
They’re fine too.
If you have any questions about green walls, why not contact Peter or email us here at


Nerines; Guernsey Lily (Nerine bowdenii)

Some garden writers describe this next plant as one of the most exotic of bulbs for the Autumn garden.
Although it’s a bulb, it looks nothing like the flowers of regular common bulbs such as daffodils or tulips.
Instead in belongs in the Amaryllis family, which includes agapanthus and alstroemeria. 
Let’s find out more… 
I'm talking with the plant panel :Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner. 

 Did you know that exposure to cold temperatures can cause the flower heads to turn slightly blue?
If you like planting bulbs that you can set and forget, then Nerines are your thing.
Plant them with Cyclamens and Colchicums which are lower, as the stems of Nerine flowers are very tall, between 30 – 50 cms.

What Nerines Like
Nerines like a position in sun or part-shade.
Plant them in light, gritty, well-drained soil, with the neck of the bulb exposed.
Hardy to moderate frosts, even down to -15 C.
In cold areas, growing in pots is another option.
Water well during the growth period but keep dry when dormant.

Nerine varieties & flowering time:
Bowdenii: A softer, clear pink. Excellent colour for the Autumn garden. (Flowers April) Most frost tolerant. Can withstand -150 C
Gold `Nerine` (Which is actually a very closely related Lycoris): Flowers of golden, sunshine yellow. This variety is excellent for growing in warmer climates. 
In cool/cold climates, this variety likes a nice warm & sunny spot. Flowers Feb-March.
Fothergill Major: Brilliant tangerine with a golden sheen to each petal as if dusted with gold. Flowers Autumn (Feb-March)
Fothergill Minor: Brilliant florescent orange-red blooms that appear in March-April.
Note: In very cold climates (eg: Tasmania) plant the bulbs in a warm spot.. This is a new dwarf variety to only approximately 20cm- 25cm tall.
Salmonia: Salmon pink blooms. The many frilly petals (up to 30) make beautifully shaped umbels. Flowers April.
White: (Alba) Their Winter blooms appear whiter-than-white against the dull colours of Autumn. Flowers Autumn. (May)
Winter Cheer: The strong pink of these flowers which appear in in Winter do indeed add `Winter cheer` to the garden. Flowers June

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Hydrangeas, Proteas and Whip Snip Snip

Garden trimming tools in the spotlight on Tool Time, growing beans that suit winter conditions in vegetable heroes, they may be old fashioned but we love them in Plant of the week and the oldest flowers on earth in Talking Flowers.


Trimmers; Whipper Snippers; Brushcutters

  • Which jobs do you hate doing in your garden aside from weeding?
  • Lawn edges could be one of them?
  • There’s always ways to make gardening a bit easier and this next garden tool or perhaps machine is for those jobs that are generally too hard to do by hand.
  • Although some gardeners still like to do those jobs by hand, trimming lawn edges for example, it’s very time consuming and just plain hard work.
  • So what type of device do we need for our lawn edges?
  • Let’s find out.

I'm talking with Tony Mattson from 

  • Whipper snippers, brush cutters, or just trimmers, all do similar things. 
  • You’ve got heaps to decide from; there’s petrol driven, electric and now battery powered garden tools
  •  Like a lot of garden tools don’t be swayed by just the price alone. 
  • If you’re going to use it for any length of time, make sure you can hold it without causing strain to arms and shoulders. 
If you're annoyed with the whipper snipper cord constantly breaking why not change to a pivot head.
Trimmer Head
This can be fitted onto most whipper snippers or brush cutters.
The pivot action is 360 degrees and as it hits a bit of concrete or post or tree trunk, it just bounces off, so that there's less wear and tear on the line and less breakage.
  • Tony's Tip: Don't go for cheap whipper snipper line. Buy good quality commercial grande line of 2 - 2.7mm thickness. 
If you have any questions either for me or for Tony, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Broad beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your veggie patch.
Vicia faba or BROAD BEANS or some people know it as the Faba bean.
Broad beans are native to North Africa and southwest Asia, but they were cultivated in other regions very early on as well.
Fossil evidence has been found of Broad Beans being grown at least 4500 BC.
Did you know that in the Roman Senate the beans were used to vote, white bean for yes and black bean for no? Maybe that’s where the term bean counters comes from?
Red Flowered Variety of Broad Beans

For a long while, when cooks and mistresses went to the markets for beans, they were buying only broad beans because they were “ ‘the bean’, for century after century”.
Only after “scarlet runners, haricot, kidney and butter beans” turned up, did “they become known as broad beans.
Although broad beans are from the Fabaceae family, they look different and grow differently to their bean cousins.
What Do They Look Like?
  • Broad beans grown into a large, upright, bushy plant up to about 1 ½  metre.
  • Most varieties have white flowers with black eyes, but some older varieties have red flowers that look nice, but don’t set pods nearly as much as the white flowering ones.
  • Each pod is shiny green with very short fuzzy hair, and is roundish, and quite long with a pointy end.
  • Each Broad Bean pod also has a firm, pliable skin and contains 4-8 light green  to white, rounded and kidney-shaped beans.
  • The beans are quite chunky, about 2cm and the pods can grow to as much as 50cm
  • The bean plants tend to be bushy, with square, hollow stems and without beany tendrils. 
  • There’s two main varieties, the dwarf bush or the tall variety that needs staking.
  • Like all beans, they fix atmospheric nitrogen and so, are also useful as a green manure.
  • Best of all, they are hardy, easy to grow.

Plant them in March to June in temperate and sub-tropical areas, April to July in arid areas, , and April and May, then August and September for cool temperate zones in Australia.
Broad beans prefer a sunny well-drained position in the garden.
Broad beans can be grown in soils with high salinity, as well as in clay soil, so they're pretty adaptable.
As far as soil in the veggie bed goes, don’t put in too much of the chook poo or other  rich manure as you'll only get leaf growth rather than flower (and bean) production and will make the plant more sensitive to frost and disease.
Direct planting into roughly prepared soil is the best way to grow Broad Beans.
Sow the seeds at a depth of 5-10cm, with 15-20cm between plants and 70cm or 2 ruler lengths between rows.
That's if you've got the room, but there's a reason for this..
I'll tell you later.
Your broad beans will start sprouting in about 2 weeks after sowing, but will be slower the later you sow towards winter.
Soaking seeds overnight in diluted liquid seaweed can speed up germination.
Water seeds well as soon as you've put them into the ground and, then, don't water them…MOST IMPORTANT   until after germination, to prevent the seeds from rotting. Ok, YOU CAN'T DO MUCH ABOUT IT IF IT RAINS.
Broad beans will need to be staked or supported to stop the plant collapsing under the weight of the mature beans.
If your district experiences a bit of frost, flowers formed during frosty weather are probably not going to set pods.
Once spring arrives, pinch out the tips of the plants to encourage pod set.
Try to limit water stress as this will also affect pod set.
That means don't let them dry out!
In  3-5 months, depending on how cold the weather is, the beans will be ready.
Broad bean pods can be picked at several stages.
Firstly, they can be picked when small and can be snapped crisply in half.
In which case you can eat them like young green beans.
Different stages of broad bean pods
Secondly, if allowed to grow larger but the seeds are still soft, you don’t have to shell the bean seeds, but don’t eat the pods at this stage.
Finally, they can be grown until fully mature and the seeds have dried.
In this last case the seeds are used as dried beans and are called Lima Beans.
Broad beans are prone to fungal attack - brown spots on stems and leaves - particularly if planted too closely together or if planted in soils too rich in nutrients.
Towards the end of the crop, rust - producing powdery spots on the leaves - can become a problem.
Plants with black tips may suffer from root rot, caused by poor drainage.
Get rid of those beans and put in a new lot..
Freshly shelled broad beans can be frozen, blanched and then frozen or stored in the fridge for about 5 days.

Broad beans are legumes meaning they convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into nitrogen in the soil. The nitrogen is attached to their roots and becomes available in the soil once the beans die down.
Dig in the roots and leaves after picking all the beans, to add nitrogen to the soil.
You can then lay the tops on the soil or use it as mulch elsewhere in the garden. It, too adds nitrogen to the soil as it breaks down.

The fresh beans are eaten steamed or boiled.
As the beans mature it is better to remove their tough outer skins after cooking.
The leafy top shoots of the adult plants can be picked and steamed after flowering.
Beans are high in protein and carbohydrates, rich in vitamin C and are also a good source of vitamins A, B1 and B2. a good source of folate.
Beans also provide potassium and iron in fact 100g of beans has as much iron as a pork chop.
Broad beans are a good source of fibre.  100g green beans have 120 kJ

Hydrangea  macrophylla: Mophead Hydrangeas; Lacecap Hydrangeas.
Family: Hydrangeaceae

Hydrangeas have a long history and during the period when plant hunters searched the globe for fame and fortune is when the flowers we know today were brought back from China
Let’s find out what else they have to offer.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Ayesha'
The large heads of pink, blue or white flowers are very attractive as a cut flower also.
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley from

  • Did you know that around 1879 the famous English nursery Veitch , sent the plant hunter Charles Maries to China and Japan?
  • So what did he come back with? 
  • Two different plants, a Hydrangea with flat flowers (lacecap) he called H.macrophylla 'Mariesii' and a spherical type , he called Hydrangea macrophylla ' Rosea' . 
Jeremy's tip: Cut back to a few centimetres above the ground to rejuvenate old and young plants alike.
Marianne's Tip: . The pink or blue flowers depend on the soil pH in which they grow. 
pH of 5.0 to 5.5 for blue flowers; pH of 6.0 to 6.5 for pink flowers.
If you want to change colour of your hydrangea flowers, do it in winter by applying either aluminium sulphate for blue flowers or several cups of garden lime around the plant for pink flowers.


Protea Pink Ice: 
Protea nerifolia "Special Pink Ice"
Family: Proteaceae.
  • Proteas are one from one of the oldest families on earth dating back 300 million years.
Protea neriifolia x susannae Special Pink Ice is larger growing between 2 – 4m
This variety produces stunning pink flowers through autumn and winter - great for cut flowers and attracting birds into your garden.  
Prefers full sun, well-drained soils.
Tolerates frost (-4 C)and extended dry periods once established.
  • Pruning your Protea plant is never more than 50% of the leaf cover. Don't prune non-flower stems as they will bear next year's flowers.
Mercedes Tips: Cut stems at an angle and change the water daily. Use only filtered water and plenty of it as they are waterholics.
Marianne's Tips: Not suitable for areas with severe frosts or for sub-tropical and tropical zones.

Protea nerifolia 'Pink Ice'
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini from

Recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2RRR 88.5 fm

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Frenchy Chic and Indoor Plants

Indoor plants are making a great revival in Plant Doctor, growing a coffee substitute in vegetable heroes; herbalist and naturopath Simone, talks about Parsley in Plant of the week and what makes a garden French and provincial on garden styles in Design Elements?


Indoor Plants: Pests, Diseases and Watering
If we were fashionable and hip young gardeners, we would all be talking about where to go to find the next happening for indoor plants.
Usually a trendy café or other venue where indoor plants are sold to the unsuspecting young folk for enormously inflated prices.
But, if we’re not in that category, we probably would like to refresh our memory about looking after those indoor plants.

I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from
Let’s find out

New to gardening and not sure how much to water?
Leaves yellowing or browning on the tips can be under or over-watering. 
Different plants have different responses to watering so it's important to do some research about the plant.
Find out if your plant likes to be dry between waterings, such as Zee Zee plant ( Zamiocalcus spp) or Anthuriums.
Stick your finger into the potting mix to test for wetness or dryness.
If you’re averse to sticking your finger in the dirt to check how much moisture is being held in the soil, you can buy a moisture meter fairly cheaply.
If you’re electronically inclined you can even make your own moisture meter.
If you have any questions either for me or for Steve, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Chicory! Cichorium intybus
Have you ever eaten chicory?
  • What do you do with it other than give it to your chooks?
  • Apparently the leaf chicory is very good for them?
Did you know that there’s actually two types of chicory, both of which are considered a vegetable?
There’s the leafy type and the one where the tap root is used more.
But let’s begin with some interesting facts.
Green leaf chicory
  • Chicory comes from the daisy or Asteraceae family, and like dandelion, chicory has been grown since ancient times as a pot herb.
  • A pot herb is one you put in a pot along with your meats and vegetables and cook together for a while-usually a long while.
Chicory is most likely native to the Mediterranean region and it’s an interesting plant because it’s been used in coffee substitutes and additives where the roots were baked and ground.
  • You probably didn’t realise that Chicory used as a coffee substitute during the Great Depression in the 1930s and during World War II in Continental Europe.
Chicory, together with sugar beet and rye was used as an ingredient in East German Mischkaffee (mixed coffee),  during the "East German coffee crisis" of 1976-79.
  • Do you realise that if you’ve ever drunk a coffee substitute, like Caro, then you’ve drunk roasted chicory root?

  • Some beer brewers even use roasted chicory to add flavour to stouts.
  • Some other beer brewers have added it to strong blond Belgian-style ales, to add flavour to the hops, making a "witlofbier", from the Dutch name for the plant.
So how come chicory can be used as a coffee substitute?
Chicory contains two polysaccharide, inulin and fructose.
When these are roasted, inulin is converted to something called oxymethylfurfurol, (OXY-METH-OL-FUR-FUR-OL) and this gives off that coffee-like aroma.
  • Did you know that the first person to grow and process chicory in Australasia was Edwin William Trent (1839 - 1883)?
Eddy or Edwin, operated a steam coffee mill in Nelson in New Zealand, and later moved to Christchurch where he established the first steam coffee mill in Australasia in1863.
How it worked was by coke fired furnaces in kilns producing hot drying air.
This hot air passed up through the chicory roots which had been cut into small cubes and laid on floors of perforated tiles.
The steaming chicory had to be turned every two hours and five tons of green root were needed to produce one ton of kiln-dried root.
After the drying process was over, the chicory was taken to where the roasting and grinding was done and the chicory blended with expensive coffee imported from the West Indies, South America and Africa to make the coffee and chicory essence.
  • Did you also know that Chicory, or Cichorium intybus, was grown as a crop on Phillip Island for nearly 100 years from the 1870s?
  • If you’ve visited Philip Island you’ll see some unusual small brick towers dotted about the island.
  • These are chicory kilns, once used in drying chicory dock – a parsnip-like underground root of the Chicory plant that was grown widely in Phillip Island’s rich volcanic soil.
Are you thinking, I’m not going to bother drying and roasting the chicory root, what on earth do I need to grow this ahem, vegetable?
Here’s the reason: Chicory is actually a nutritious food.
  • The leaves of the chicory plant can be eaten in salads to add flavour and crunch.
  • They can also be lightly roasted in olive oil.
  • You can buy seeds of Chicory “Red Dandelion: this plant has red stems with deeply cut frilly deep green leaves.
  • As a microgreen or ‘baby leaf’ this variety adds great flavour to salads and it’s a colourful addition to any mesclun mix.
  • If you get the red variety, it’s one of the few red leafy vegetables that keeps the crimson colour when cooked.
Chicory ‘Red Palla Rossa’ is a small heading chicory, 8 - 10 cm across .
The bright red, very tight heads have prominent white midribs. It has a slightly bitter, tart taste.
As a ‘baby leaf’ they add great flavour to salads.
There’s also the coffee chicory plant or Chicory Coffee 'Magdeburg' which also has the same botanical name of Cichorium intybus.
What Does it Look Like?
This chicory is also a frost hardy plant but with a long taproot topped by a whorl of oblong, broadly toothed, milky-sapped leaves.
The flowers are on top of 1 ½ metre tall, zig-zagging flowering stems with a few sparsely placed leaves and lots of sky-blue to purple flowers.
Flowering is mostly in summer and the 50 cent-sized flowers open at the beginning of the day but close as the heat becomes intense.
Chicory plants flower for several months and the flower looks quite a lot like a purply-blue dandelion flower.

Like dandelion, the seeds are spread by wind.
Also, like dandelion, the leaves are concentrated in a whorl, just above the soil surface.
If you really wanted to you could dry and roast the roots, then grind them for a coffee substitute.
The leaves and young roots can also be cooked as vegetables.
The roots can grow up to 30 cm long and weigh as much as 1 kg.
The one I have in my garden has been there for over a year so I’m guessing that it’s going to have a heavy large underground root.
Chicory is a hardy vegetable and frost tolerant but does wilt a bit on hot days.
It’s a useful cool season crop to add interest to winter salads.
To grow the leafy Chicory, for sub-tropical areas, April to June is the time to sow, in Temperate areas March until May, for Arid areas June to August, and Cool temperate districts, sow late summer to mid-autumn.
In all cases sow the seeds directly where they are to grow.
So to grow Chicory you need a well- drained, deep soil.
Chicory will also grow on heavier soils as long as they’re not likely to get waterlogged for extended periods.
If you’re wondering where to buy the seeds of coffee chicory, there are some stores that sell them if they carry an Italian seed line otherwise online seed suppliers do so as well.
Are you wondering if Chicory is just as weedy as Dandelions?
It’s unlikely to become a weed since plants tend be short lived.
If you’re growing the coffee chicory, the fleshy taproot of the first year’s growth is dug up in winter, dried, ground and roasted.
(Roast the roots on low heat (around 25 C) until crisp, then grind with a little roasted barley (around 400F or so) for a wholesome coffee substitute.
Chicory Roots
It contains no caffeine and just adds bulk to coffee, although its bitter flavour can give bland coffee a bit more "bite".)
  • Here’s an interesting fact: Coffee is readily available now in all types of strengths but until the 1960s, before instant coffee was invented, coffee and chicory essence was a popular alternative to using roasted coffee beans.
  • Do you remember that thick black liquid with a very distinctive attractive aroma and sold in squarish bottles with a blue label?
  • It was often drunk with sweetened condensed milk.
Why is Chicory, good for you?
One of the major functions of chicory is to increase the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
The leafy greens of chicory are a good source of calcium and vitamin K;
They also contain folate and like other green vegetables chicory contains good  amounts of potassium.
Chicory is also good for the digestion, and the circulatory system.
From an agricultural point of view, Chicory is used as a short and medium term forage, and is an alternative to lucerne in areas where soils may be too acid for lucerne. Tolerates a pH down to 4.2.


Parsley (Petroselinum hortense and Petroselinum crispum) is an herb that originated in the Mediterranean region of southern Italy.
Parsley is used a lot by some gardeners to feed the winter possums that are looking for something to eat.
Curly Parsley: Petroselinum crispum
It’s used a lot in cooking and much better to grow your own and only harvest as much as you need without needing to store it in the fridge.
Let’s find out what else parsley has to offer.
I'm talking with Simone Jeffries, naturopath and herbalist.
Grows as a biennial in temperate climates or annual in subtropical & tropical areas.
Grows a taproots used as a food store over winter.
Others grow parsley and let it go to seed to attract the benny’s which means the beneficial insects.
Really nice in a potato salad.
The secret is to cut it up very finely because it’s quite coarse so it doesn’t get stuck in your throat when you eat it.
Juice it with apple and celery so it doesn’t taste so medicinal.


French Provincial Style Gardens
If someone asked you to describe a French Provincial garden what would you say?
What would be the key elements of such a garden?
Would it be quirky frenchy nic nacs, and include a trompe l’oeil or a parterre?
Would it include plants that are French?
Let’s find out. 
I'm talking with Danielle Collier from Artistic Horticulture.

PLAY:French Provincial Style gardens_3rd April 2019

  • Favourite garden plants: for a French garden might include architectural plants. Agapanthus. Canna. 
  • Mediterranean Plants. Acanthus mollis, bear's britches. Iris. 
  • Perennials. Aquilegias. Dahlias. Grasses. Phormium Tenax. 
  • Shrubs and Hedging Plants. Roses. Garden Bulbs and corms. Alliums. 
  • Climbing Plants. Bougainvillea. 
  • Trees. Acacia dealbata, Toon chinensi or Chinese cedar. 
If you have any questions either for me Danielle why not write in to