Saturday, 29 June 2019

Protecting Peppy Plants and Stone Paths.

We’re going up the garden path in a new series in Design Elements; and today its in stone. How to protect those seedlings from cold weather in Vegetable Heroes plus plant that was discovered 65 years before botanists ever heard of it in Plant of the Week; and where do insects go in winter in the plant doctor segment.


Garden Path Series:Stone Paths

  • Garden paths are essential in anyone’s back or front yard but are you happy with your garden path or would you like one that is a bit less work to maintain?
  • Last week we mentioned the pros and cons of a gravel path which was the easiest to install and also the cheapest, but what about local stone in a path?
  • Local stone can be sandstone, granite, slate bluestone or even limestone.
  • But what do you need to do to make this path?

Let’s find out
  • I'm talking with Landscape Designer, and, Director of Urban Meadows Jason Cornish.

There’s a few things to think about when putting in a stone path, chiefly the minimum size of stone which will prevent any trip or twisting injury. 
You need to be able to stand on the stone without thinking you'll overbalance.
The stones should also be placed so that it fits your walking gait.
You can use any local stone from your area, sandstone, granite, bluestone etc, which can look very nice in an informal setting more so than a formal setting.
There are a few pitfalls with putting in gravel or decomposed granite between the stones, so not advised to have it leading to your front door.
If you have any questions either for me or for Jason, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Protecting Seedlings from Cold and Frost.
This week’s Vegetable Hero is about keeping your seedlings warm through the winter months.
  • Extreme cold can stunt or kill your vegies so today, I’m going to go through some ideas for you to try out to help keep your seedlings warm and cosy.

First Idea:
The first idea is pretty simple and could be just right for all your seedlings, although you may need to collect quite a few plastic 2L drink bottles.

The first thing you need to do is remove the label from the bottle and then cut it in half.
You can actually use both halves but put some holes in the bottom half to let heat or humidity from building up and cooking your seedlings.
Leave the top off on the other half.
Mini Greenhouses:
Mini-greenhouses are good for small seedlings as well.
They usually have a clear plastic top with vents over a plastic tray.

If you’re really keen, you can buy a heat pad that’s just for seedlings.
The heat pad needs to be on at least overnight and it should raise the temperature of the potting/seed raising mix a minimum of 5 degrees.
I found one that you can buy online from a company based in Dromana.
The specifications say that you can germinate seeds faster with this simple,
well-priced heating mat which creates a surface temperature of between 10-20c above the ambient room temperature.
There is no controller, so to adjust the soil temperature increase the spacing between the mat and the tray.
The mat measures just 52cm x 25cm, and can be used with any pot or tray size.
You can also use heat mats to help cuttings take root faster at other times of the year.
There are similar designs elsewhere online some of which you can buy as an extra, a handy thermostat.
Using Horticultural Fleece 
Another idea is to buy some horticultural fleece or nursery grade plastic, like the ones used for poly tunnels.

  • You’ll then have to make some supports from wire in the form of hoops, over which the plastic or fleece can rest.
  • The plastic or fleece will allow enough light to penetrate so that they’ll get their minimum hours of 6 hours sunlight a day.
  • You’ll probably have to remove the cover though for watering and fertilising purposes.

Polytunnels for the Really Cold Places
For those districts that get a lot of frost or have very cold winter, you may want to install a polytunnel.
Polytunnels are usually made of steel and in Australian there are three different varieties of covering: polythene, net, and fleece, creating perfect cover for your vegetable garden rows to keep heat in, and protect plants while they’re growing.

The polyethylene is UV-stabilised 150-micron forms a complete barrier, keeping in the humidity and warmth while protecting against frosts, harsh weather and some pests.
The other benefit is that not only any pests that are around are excluded, the season for cold sensitive crops is extended.
If you go the fleece option you can keep your plants toasty warm, even in cold, wet weather and get the advantages of the net and poly tunnels rolled into one. Standard: L300 W45 H30cm
One disadvantage with these is that the rain doesn’t penetrate so irrigation is required and pest and disease problems can build up quickly in the enclosed space.
  • A polytunnel should be easy for you to access, not too remote from your house, and have an adequate water supply available.
  • It’s best to build a polytunnel on level ground in a sunny but sheltered position. Leave yourself at least a metre around the outside of the polytunnel to make it easier to build and maintain.
  • Another tip is use a thermometer that indicates the maximum and minimum temperature so that you can track the changes in your polytunnel’s climate. Also make sure that doors, windows and vents are open as the weather warms up so that the polytunnel interior doesn’t over-heat.
  • Poly tunnels are also relatively inexpensive.


Pilea peperomioides: Pilea pep
This plant has a really interesting backstory.
  • It’s common name is Chinese Money plant or Friendship plant, but I think there’s a few plants around with those same common names.
So as I always say, you need to know the scientific name to avoid confusion if that’s the case.
Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley,

Pilea peperomioides or Pilea pip,as it’s called in Jeremy’s nursery, was discovered and grown years before scientists ever got a hold of it.
It never occurred to anyone, that it was a new species until a member of the public want to know it’s real name.
How good is that?
Easily grown indoors or on a warm verandah because it doesn’t like to be below 15 degrees C much
  • Hot Tip: healthy Pilea peperomioides plants produce baby plants both from their roots and their stems.
  • Keep it away from direct sunlight. 
  • Likes to be kept moist but not overly wet.
  • Although it can be kept outside in warmer regions, Pilea peperomioides is only suitable as a houseplant in most locations. It doesn’t appreciate temperatures below 10 °C and should be protected from sudden temperature swings.
  • Pilea peperomioides will produce little plantlets growing in the soil next to the mother plant a. Once these have grown to a size of around 5-7 cm they are large enough to separate.
  • Cut away the plantlet with a sharp, clean knife. They should already have their own root system and can simply be potted up.


Where Do Insects Go Over Winter?

Have you ever thought what happens to insects in winter?
In particular insect pests, we don’t see as many pests but come Spring, they seem to emerge in their hundreds from somewhere.
How are they managing to hang on, especially in those districts where temperatures fall below zero.
You’ll be surprised to find out the methods that insects use .
So let’s find out.
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from

Is it really winter? Monarch Butterfly
Did you know that the shorted daylight lengths of Autumn trigger insects to enter something called diapause.
What’s that? 
Well, diapause (and also the definition of an evening spent watching TV) is "an inactive state of arrested development."
Diapause insects sees their metabolic rate drop to one tenth of what it is normally so it can use stored body fat to survive winter.
If you have any questions about insects, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Up The Garden Path With False Bird of Paradise

We’re going up the garden path in a new series on just that, in Design Elements; grow peantues for real in Vegetable Heroes plus environmental history, will it affect us in the Garden History segment, and flowers to impress in the Talking Flowers segment.


Garden Paths Series Part 1: Gravel Paths

Garden paths serve an obvious function but they can also be aesthetically pleasing.
This next series in Design Elements, is all about garden paths that work and that you can do yourself.
Over the next 4 weeks, landscape designer, Jason Cornish, and I, will delve into 4 different types of paths and things you need to now before you put them in.
Let’s find out the first one is:Gravel
I'm talking with Landscape Designer, and, Director of Urban Meadows Jason Cornish.
Gravel Path: Hear The Crunch When You Walk

There’s a few things to think about when putting in the cheapest path option. The stone's colour can be used to tie into the scheme of the garden.

Limitations are when walking with a wheelbarrow or wheelie bin whose wheels can sink into the gravel making it hard going.

On the other hand, if it's too thin a layer of gravel, weeds can take over making it a chore to maintain.
Weedmat underneath the gravel is good for a time, but as the leaf litter builds up on the surface of the gravel, weeds will still find a foothold.

Then again, it might suit your location or garden, or maybe just the thing before you decide on one of the more expensive options. 

If you have any questions either for me or for Jason, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Arachis hypogaea:Peanuts!
  • The peanut is not a true nut but a legume, like peas, and beans.
Why peanuts? Because people tell me it’s easy, and fun thing to try.
Another announcer here at the station, bought a small plant from a low cost supermarket a few years ago, planted it in a pot and harvested some peanuts.
He was amazed at how easy it was and wondered if it would continue to crop the following year.
I’ll answer that later.
  • Did you know that anthropologists working on the slopes of the Andes in Brazil and Peru have discovered the earliest-known evidence of peanut farming dating back an amazing 7600 years?. Amazing!
  • Did you also know that peanut growing was introduced into Australia in Queensland during the gold rushes of the 1870's?
Chinese gold diggers on the Palmer River near Cooktown in the 1870's and 1880's first grew peanuts.
How Does It Grow?
Peanut bushes
  • The peanut plant develops from an embryo embedded between the two cotyledons of the kernel and grows to a bush about 50 cm tall and up to 100 cm wide.
  • Small, yellow, pea-type flowers emerge at 30-40 days after planting give or take a few weeks, and, after self-pollination, the ovary's base elongates, bends downwards and penetrates the soil.
  • The tip of this 'peg' then enlarges to form a pod containing one to three kernels.
  • Depending on what variety you managed to get, where you’re growing your peanuts and what the weather’s like that season, the growth period can take from 14 to 26 weeks, or 3 ½ to 6 months.
  • Peanuts aren’t too fussy about the type of soil you’ve got.
  • Peanuts are a subtropical legume crop needing relatively warm growing conditions and 500 to 600 mm of rain.

  • As long as the soil is well-drained and friable with no large stones, sticks, stumps or chemical residues.
  • Peanuts can tolerate a wide range of pH - from 5 to 8, but can’t tolerate heavy clay soils.
  • Planting usually occurs from October to January in Queensland and NSW. In the Northern Territory, plantings occur in March-April.
  • Peanuts have been commercially trialled in Western and South Australia, so give them a go there too.
  • For cooler zones, plant your peanuts in pots or containers and keep the going by placing them in the warmest part of the garden.
Grow Your Own
  • To grow your own peanuts if you can’t find any peanut bushes to buy, it’s sort of easy.
  • What you need is a packet or raw peanuts. Not salted or roasted or any other fancy shmancy types.
  • It has to be raw peanuts.
  • Then, like any other seed, you sow some raw peanuts either into jiffy pots, punnets or into a garden bed.
  • Sow each seed 3-5cm deep and if they are fresh they should germinate in one to two weeks).
  • There’s a few strange and weird things about looking after your peanut bushes though.
  • For instance, you might be surprised to know that the pods take most of their calcium and boron directly from the soil rather than through the roots.
  • Calcium, such as in Dolomite, is best applied to the plant before flowering.
  • Next, watering is critical particularly during the critical stages of germination, flowering, pegging, and pod filling.
When To Harvest

The next trick is to know when to dig up the peanuts, and like a lot of things that grow in the veggie bed, it’s when the leaves start to turn brown.
You can check to see if they’re ripe by digging a few up.
What you need to see are dark-coloured pods inside the shell, where the kernel should be changing from a pink to gold colour.
Not all the pods will be ready at once so timing is important.
But look, if you get it wrong, that try again next year.
Now Brian, the answer to will the plant grow again next year.
No, because you have to dig up the whole plant, shake off the excess soil and hang the entire thing up in a warm, dry place, such as the garage or garden shed.
Dry the bush for a week or two until brittle then break off the pods.
Wash off any dirt-dirt isn’t too tasty- and air-dry for a couple of weeks.
If you like raw peanuts you don’t have to do any more.
If you like roasted peanuts, then put them on a tray in the oven at 160-180°C in an oven for 15-20 minutes for shelled kernels or 20-25 minutes for peanuts still in the shell.
Why is it good for you?
Peanuts are high in fibre and protein but free of cholesterol.
They’re a high energy food but with a slow energy release over a long time because of the high oil unsaturated (good) fat content.
They also have a high folic acid (iron) content


Environmental History

Does history play a part in all manner of things, or is it just built structures , gardens and events?
What about environment history is there such a thing?
There is a definition which goes, “Environmental history is the study of human interaction with the natural world over time, emphasising the active role nature plays in influencing human affairs and vice versa.”
Australian Landscape: photo Edward Dalmuder
You can even study that subject at University so there must be something in it.
Let’s find out. I'm talking with Stuart Read,a garden historian and a member of the Management Committee of the Australian Garden History Society.

Change tends to come from the bottom up.
Did you know the first public parks in England didn’t eventuate until the early 1800’s.
In Australia it was 1850 when Paramatta Park in Sydney was allocated.
Documenting say land clearing and land use over time, but not just land, water use it’s a great tool for understanding what we are doing right or wrong.
If you have any questions for Stuart or for me, you know what to do.


Common Names: Imposter bird of paradise, false bird of paradise, wild plantains and lobster claws.
  • Heliconia flower is not actually a flower but highly modified leaves and bracts.
  • A bract is a leaf structure at the base of a flower.
The trick about growing Heliconias outdoors is that the climate must be tropical.
1.      The far north of Australia is perfect because it's hotter and the more north, the hotter it gets. 
  • They are also really thirsty; give them roughly 120 ml of water a day. ;
  • Mulch is really important.: cut the leaves off and put them under the plant to help with water retention.". 
 Some of the commonly grown Heliconia species include 
Heliconia lennartiana; 
Heliconia Augusta, 
Heliconia bihai, (pictured right)
Heliconia brasiliensis, 
Heliconia caribaea, 
Heliconia latispatha, 
Heliconia pendula, 
Heliconia psittacorum, 
Heliconia rostrata, 
Heliconia schiediana, and Heliconia wagneriana. 
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini of

Video was recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener Radio Show on 2RRR 88.5 fm in Sydney

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Tropical Planting Without Crying Over Onions

Old Fashioned plants that suit wet tropics and possibly elsewhere starts off the show, in Design Elements; grow nature’s antibiotic in Vegetable Heroes plus an old-fashioned plant re-made in Plant of the Week, plus, sharpening your secateurs just in time for pruning in Tool Time.


Old Fashioned Plants for the Wet Tropics

What is wet tropics? Is it your zone?
High humidity, but not too much over 35 degrees C perhaps? 
In Australia, we would say that Cairns, Babinda, 'cyclone alley' but not the Atherton tablelands, would fit the bill.
Darwin also, although, the Summer's are much hotter.
So what are the plants that would love that?
Let’s find out
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and project manager of Paradisus garden design

Peter mentioned: 
Pisonia umbeliffera-bird lime tree.
Mussaenda philippica or M. erythrophylla-showy bracts-large shrub with pink or white bracts.
Warszewiczia coccinea-Pride of Trinidad-bract type red flower.2m sprawly shrub.
Plumeria spp-P obtusa, P.rubra, P. caracasana, P. pudica- but not hybrids like P acuminata who get rust in this zone.
Plumeria rubra photo M Cannon

Perennials, and sub-shrubs:
Pseuderanthemum laxiflorum-purple Prince, open habit, 1m, purple flowers all year.
Heliconia rostrata-red and yellow
Dichorisandra thyrsiflora-Blue ginger.
Persian Shield
Rhinacanthus nasutus,, commonly known as snake jasmine, white butterfly flowers.-Low groundcover
ForShade: try these
Crossandra spp. Firecracker Flower-apricot flower, 400m
Crossandra infundibuliformis- Firecracker flower, (another form)
Strobilanthes dyerianus-Persian shield
Xanthostemon youngii
-red penda, brushlike

If you have any questions either for me or for Peter, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville  


Onions.  Or allium cepa are from the Alliaceae family that also contains Garlic, Leeks Shallots and Chives.
Most of these have corms or bulbs or underground stems with long thin leaves and clusters of varying numbers of flowers. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Did you know that onions were grown as a crop and eaten since prehistoric times?,
Onions are even mentioned in first dynasty of ancient Egypt, circa 3200 BCE, and have appeared in tomb paintings, inscriptions and documents from that time on. Some paintings depict onions heaped onto a banquet table.
  • Did you know that onions were was used to heal gun shot wounds and during World War 1, sphagnum moss was soaked in the juice as a wound dressing?
When to grow Onions?
In sub-tropical, cool temperate, warm temperate and arid climates you can plant them from April until August.

  • Onions are sensitive to the day length for formation of flowers, so it’s important to select the right variety (early – mid-season – late).
  • These varieties have different requirements in the length of daylight hours.
  • Early varieties are short day length onions, mid-season varieties are medium day length onions, and late varieties are long day length onions.
  • If planted out of season, onions may bolt to seed prematurely.
  • For example in temperate climates mid-season onions are sown in winter, growing through spring and harvested in summer.
  • These include Sweet Red and Brown Spanish Onions.
  • They love sunny well drained beds, especially when the bulbs mature in summer.

So why Grow Onions?
Onions are a good companion plant.
Grown around the garden they repel pests.
They contain sulphur which is a strong disinfectant.
How to Grow Onions with Success.
Remember to always lime your soil well a week or two before planting onions.
They love a sweet or alkaline soil.
I don’t really know why alkaline soils are called sweet.
Don't forget avoid applying manures and blood and bone to the beds in which you're about to grow your onions because they prefer alkaline soil.
You can use spent mushroom compost instead of cow manure.
Sowing seeds with Success

  • Onion seeds can be sown into seed raising mix into punnets.
  • Or if you want to sow them directly into the garden, make it easy for yourself, mix the seed with some river sand-say one packet of seed to one cup of sand and sow it that way. Bit like sowing carrots!
  • They can be transplanted to garden beds when the seedlings are around 8 cms tall.
  • According to the “Vegetable Patch” website, there is a secret to planting onion seedlings.
  • Instead of planting them sticking straight up, lay them down in a trench and move the soil back over their roots.
  • In about 10 days they're standing up and growing along strongly.
Some tips to keep your onions growing strongly is
Hand weed around onions to avoid disturbing their roots and bulbs.
 Keep away from nitrogen based liquid fertilisers when your onions are maturing, because the fertiliser will go into their leaves instead of their bulb.
Regularly water your onions.
Lack of water can delay growth or split the bulb.
Because of their strong taste pests generally leave onions alone.
When Do you Pick Your Onions?
  • Harvest onions (except spring onions) when the tops yellow and start drying.
  • This usually takes 6 months, so if you plant seedlings today, yours will be ready  in December.
  • Add a couple of weeks if your using seeds.
  • Pull the whole plant from the ground and leave it to dry in the sun.
  • Turn it every few days and avoid getting them wet (eg dew or rain).
  • Hang them in a cool dry place for around 3 weeks to cure.
  • If you store them in a cool dry place they should keep for a year.
  • This explains why you can buy onions all year round.
  • Eat the bulbs without a good dry skin first .
Why do we cry when we cut onions?
Onions contain complex sulphur compounds.
When you cut into an onion, two chemical reactions take place.
First, when a knife cuts through the cells of an onion, its enzymes release a strong odour.
Second, the onion releases allicin, a volatile sulphur gas that irritates the eyes and sends one rushing for a tissue.
Keeping Onions in the fridge can help with this problem.
To avoid a bitter flavour never, never buy onions that have begun to sprout greens from their stem portion.
This means they’re more than a year old.
If you see sprouts forming in your onions stored at home, simply snip them off and use the green part like chives, put the rest in the compost.
Why Are They Good For You?
Some health studies have shown raw onions to be effective in lowering overall cholesterol while raising HDLs, the good cholesterol.
Additionally, onions kill infectious bacteria, help to control blood sugar, aid in dissolving blood clots, and help to prevent cancer.
Perhaps we could do with eating some French Onion soup. Bon Appetit!


Nandina domestica spp.

  • Best known for it’s hardiness and loved by local councils who seem to plant it willy-nilly, this next plant has morphed into somewhat finer forms.
  • Which is a good thing because it’s one
  • of those old fashioned plants that gardeners would screw up their noses at.
  • Perhaps we can change your mind?

Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley owner of out.

Jeremy mentioned Nandina filamentosa with superfine leaves. Use it as a filler plant.
N. citylights-dwarf-60cm also.
N Lemlim-new foliage is green instead of red.


Sharpen Those Secateurs
What’s the state of your gardening secateurs?
Do they open easily, are the blades sharp? You know they’re sharp if they make a clean cut through a plant’s stem without leaving a little tear behind.
Almost as if you only cut through part of the stem and then pulled off the remaining part.
Secateurs and garden snips photo M Cannon
If they’re not sharp, those cuts that you make on your plants will end up with bruising and tearing on the stems leading to dieback and fungal disease problems.
Let’s find out some tips about sharpening those precious garden tools.
I'm talking with Tony Mattson, General Manager of
  • Clean your tools at the end of the day, even if it's just a wipe over with a rag or cloth.
  • What you should be doing is give them a wash with warm water and two teaspoons of dish soap to scrub away sap and dirt from the  blades with a stiff brush
  • This is to prevent that gunk build up on the blades which can harbour disease.
  • Rub some vegetable oil onto the blades before putting them away to prevent the blades from rusting.

To quote a long time gardening presenter on Gippsland FM Community radio, 
"The jobs not done until the tools are put away."


Saturday, 8 June 2019

Lalage Leucomela Among the Bells of Ireland and Rock Samphire

Not tra la la but trill trill trill in the Wildlife in Focus segment: a most unusual fennel in Vegetable Heroes plus the series old fashioned plants continues in Design Elements, today it’s warm temperate coastal and Bells of Ireland in Talking flowers.


Varied Triller: Lalage leucomela

Today it’s a pretty looking bird that is Australian but with a French sounding scientific name.
Varied Triller's have a wide-ranging diet, about anything from fruits, to nectar, and insects.
Don’t be alarmed though, they go for the fruits of native figs and not your fruit trees in you backyard or orchard.
Varied Triller
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons from

The varied triller is a small to medium, about the size of a noisy miner and weigh around 35grams.
The male is black on top, with white eyebrows and grey barring on the chest. The Females are similar to the males, but with a little bit more brown in their feathers.
Lalage leucomela
Their call is a softish churring sound. Rather pleasant to listen to.
The Varied Triller builds a beautiful cup shaped nest held together with spider’s web and placed in the fork of a tree.
Sorry Tassie and Victoria, you miss out, but maybe when you’re travelling to other parts of Australia, you can listen out for them.

If you have any questions either for me or for Holly, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Sea Fennel: Crithmum maritimum
  • Did you know that this sea fennel is in the same family as carrots?Apiaceae-that is.
  • It’s called sea fennel because it can grow in saline soil.
It was Shakespeare, in the Tragedy of King Lear. London. (Act IV, scene VI,) who referred to the collecting of this herb “Half-way down, Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!" Meaning that people often lost their lives trying to collect Rock Samphire halfway down cliff faces.
Crithmum maritimum
Being a rare herb I was originally not going to mention this however, of late, these herbs are making a resurgence in various retail outlets, from seed, to dried herbs and pickles.
In fact an Australia seed company on the Mornington peninsula in Victoria does sell seeds of Sea Fennel, although they call it Rock Samphire in their catalogue.
  • The word Crithmum: comes from the Greek krithe: barley, because the fruit looks a bit like barleycorn. Of course maritimum means of the sea.
What's In A Name?
  • This plant also goes by the name of SAMPHIRE or Rock Samphire : a corruption of French St. Pieere, (St.Peter) the patron   saint of fishermen, also known as the rock.
  • In German, this plant is also given a name equivalent to sea-fennel: Meerfenchel, Sea Fennel also goes by the name of Herba di San Pietra (contracted to Sanpetra) its Italian name. It is dedicated to the fisherman saint, because it likes to grow on sea-cliffs.
Where It Grows in The Wild
Sea Fennel is still common round the coasts of Southern Europe and South and South-West England, Wales and Southern Ireland, but less common in the North and rare in Scotland.
How to Eat It?
Sea Fennel or Rock Samphire has been used in different ways for centuries, from the time of Greeks and Romans, as a food - raw, steamed, boiled or pickled, but it was also used as an medicament due to it's therapeutics and aromatic contents. Even today it is widely used in modern cosmetics perfumery and medicine.
  • Sea Fennel, or Rock Samphire is a perennial, frost hardy and easy to grow.
Where It Grows
  • It grows in its native environment from rocks and shingle and on cliffs to rocky shores, and is the last dry-land plant exposed to strong wind, salt, sea waves, drying sun... it survives extreme weather conditions.
  • From that if you thought that it likes sandy gritty soil that’s always moist,  you’d be right.
  • Samphire grows to anywhere between 15 and 45cm in the home garden, depending on local conditions.
  • Being a halophyte, it can withstand very dry conditions as well, so there’s no reason why it can’t grow anywhere in Australia.
  • However, Rock Samphire can tolerate being always moist as well as drying out between waterings, but not for long.
  • It can even tolerate frost.
What It looks like
Rock Samphire is a muted blue or pale aqua- green edible plant which also grows on tidal marshes.
Rock Samphire or Sea Fennel is a succulent, smooth or glabrous, multi-branched herb, and woody at the base, naturally growing on rocks on the sea-shore and wettened by the salt spray.
You can assume that it likes to grow on sea cliffs, rocks, or sandy well drained soil.
You could say that stems of Sea Fennel are long, fleshy, -green, shining leaflets (being a succulent they’re full of aromatic juice) and lots of clusters or umbels of tiny, yellowish-green flowers, although the flowers aren’t a real feature.
Rock Samphire
Being a succulent, if you have success with growing Aloe vera, than good, Rock Samphire likes the same growing conditions.
  • The whole plant is aromatic and has a powerful scent.Some say it has a strong smell of furniture polish, but I think that’s a bit harsh and think it’s more like aniseed.
  • Don’t confuse this plant with Sea Asparagus  or Marsh samphire, also known as glasswort (Salicornia europaea), that grows in coastal areas of Australia during the summer months.
Plants of Rock Samphire, will last you for many years in a pot or in the ground.
  • For those listeners with clayey soils, I would recommend growing them in pots at first, but seeing as they also grow in marsh land, you may be lucky if you tried it directly in the ground.
Grow it in full sun in a warm sheltered position.
When you buy the seeds of Rock Samphire and grow it, you can divide in up into more plants next spring or save the seed and grow more plants that way, to share amongst your friends or gardening group.

  • Sow seeds in autumn or spring, lightly cover the seed, grow on in pots and plant out in the summer.
  • Prefers a dry well drained soil in full sun sheltered from cold winds, benefits from a salty soil.
In the 19th century, samphire was being shipped in casks of seawater from the Isle of Wight to market in London at the end of May each year.
Sea Fennel or Rock samphire used to be cried in London streets as "Crest Marine".
  • The plant is quoted by John Gerard in his Materia Medica and Herbals (1597): “The leaves kept in pickle and eaten in salads with oil and vinegar is a pleasant sauce for meat, wholesome for the stoppings of the liver, milt and kidnies. It is the pleasantest sauce, most familiar and best agreeing with man’s body”.
Where do you get it? The Royal Botanic gardens nursery have started propagating this plant-where I got mine from. You can also buy it online and I’ll put on link to that nursery on my website.
By the way, you can also buy it on that auction site ebay in Australia and they promise to express ship the plant to you.

Why is it good for you?
  • Crithmum maritimum  or Rock Samphire, is a strongly aromatic, salty herb; it contains a volatile oil, pectin, is rich in vitamin C and minerals, has diuretic effects, cleanses toxins and improves digestion, and helps weight loss-possibly because of the diuretic part.
It has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • The easiest way to use Samphire, is to steam the stems, minus the leaves, and dress with lemon juice and some extra virgin olive oil. Use it as a side vegetable. It’s saltiness goes well with seafood and eggs.
Pickled Sea Fennel (Rock Samphire, Motar...)
Pick the young and green rock samphire beginning of March (in Australia) before it flowers. Break into 2 in. lengths, lay on a dish and sprinkle with dry salt. Leave for 24 hours. Drain, then cook gently until tender in enough vinegar to just cover it, but don't allow it to get soft. :
Plain vinegar is best for this as the samphire has its own spicy flavour.
Seal down securely in hot jars
Hand pick sea Fennel before it flowers. Pick of the small leaves and use them in a salad.
Wash the stems.
Cook it in mixture of water and vinegar (70:30) for 15 min until tender.
Leave it to cool and store it in jars filled with diluted vinegar (half water, half vinegar).
You can use it for seasoning salads, or as a cold relish to round meat or fish dish!
Experiment with it and you will discover wonderful ways to enjoy this extraordinary plant!

Old Fashioned Shrubs: Warm Temperate Coastal and Inland Mediterranean zones.
This includes Adelaide, even Melbourne, and Alice Springs with temps in the 40’s in the Summer and rain in the winter.
What is on offer for the hot dry sub-tropics. Let’s find out. 
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer & project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.

Temperate coastal and inland mediterranean are zones that would suit many a location around 
    Arbutus unedo
Australia as long
Peter mentioned these plants
Shrubs and small trees: 
  • Carpentaria californica-white flowers.
  • Alyogyne heugeli-mauve flower, also in white.
  • Nerium oleander-cut them any which way and they respond.
  • Arbutus unedo-Irish strawberry tree.

Romeya coulteri photo M Cannon
Perennials & sub-shrubs: that are easy in that climate
  • Perlagoniums, peltatum, sidioides, Sims carnations, hate humidity
  • Salvia spathaceae-pinky red flowers
  • Monarda didyma-heaps of hybrids
  • Phlomis italicum-sage like in appearance
  • Romneya coulteri with very large poppy like flowers.
  • Mimulus or Diplacus, both are monkey flowers-semi-shade location.
  • Acca sellowiana-fejoa, prefers low humidity.
  • Caeselpina ferrai-Leopard tree
  • Iochrama-violet tube flowers
  • Artemisia arborescens-wormwood.


Bells of Ireland: Molucella laevis:
Native to Syria and Turkey and not as Carol Linnaeus thought, native to the Molucca Islands of Indonesia.
  • Is it grown for the foliage or the flowers?
Not actually a flower, but instead are amplified calyxes that grow into a flowering plant. Calyxes (or bells) are leaves or sepals that develop into a protective house for the quite small and slightly fragrant, white or pink flowers.
The prominent part is actually the calyx.
Best grown in light sandy soil, the molucella plant also requires a good, openly sunny spot. Flower right through spring, summer and into autumn, Bells of Ireland offer interest.
Can grow to 1 metre tall.

  • Mercedes says that "slip on the heels" if you want to use the stems in a flower arrangement. That means of course that you need to cut the bottom of the stem on a diagonal.
  • Easily grown from seed but cold stratification will help with germination.
How to cold stratify
You can expose them to cold by sowing them outdoors in the Autumn, or by refrigerating them for a week before starting them indoors.
  • Don't just place the seed packet in the refrigerator.
  • Sandwich seeds between moist coffee filters or paper towels in the refrigerator, followed by planting in soil. 
  • Experts say this moist stratification results in a higher germination rate than simply exposing dry seeds to cold temperatures.
I'm talking with floral therapist, Mercedes Sarmini, of

This video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2RRR 88.5 fm in Sydney.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Caring For Brassicas and Hot Old Fashioned Shrubs

Growing brassicas in the Good Earth segment and more green veggies in Vegetable Heroes plus the series old fashioned plants continues in Design Elements, today it’s hot sub-tropics and a butterfly bush, but which one? In Plant of the Week.


Caring For Brassicas
Brassicas are a large family of plants which include not just white cauliflowers and green broccoli, but all manner of purple caulis, purple sprouting broccoli and purple or green cabbages just to mention a few.
Lovely cabbages Photo: Margaret Mossakowska
There’s even a veg that’s a cross between brussel sprouts and kale, called Brukale. Whatever next?
So what’s needed to grow the best brassicas? Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from Moss House.

TIPS: Don't overdo high nitrogen fertilisers for the heading brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflowers. That means blood 'n' bone, and chook poo pellets.
Too much nitrogen will result in smaller heads.
  • Be careful what you use to control pests on your brassicas, so that you don’t kill ladybird, hoverfly and lacewing larvae which are all beneficial insects.
  • Margaret's tip is to use upturned wire baskets that you may have seen in offices from days gone by.
  • These may be obtained from recycle stores or from the $2 shop.
  • When the cabbages or other brassicas have outgrown these baskets, you can then cover them with exclusion netting.
Exclusion netting photo: Margaret Mossakowska
If you have any questions either for me or for Margaret, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Peas: Pisum sativum
We growing peas!
  • Peapods are botanically a fruit, since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower.
  • But as always, cooks don’t stick to Science and peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking.

Peas or  Pisum sativum, belong to the Fabaceae family, which means they fix Nitrogen from the air into their roots.
And you thought you knew everything there was to know about peas?
We all know what Peas look like-those green spheres inside green pods around 10cm long.
Did you know that Peas have been found in ancient ruins dated at 8000 years old in the Middle East and in Turkey?
In these ancient times dried peas were an essential part of the diet because they could be stored for long periods and provided protein during the famine months of winter. No fridges then, remember!
  • Did you know that both dwarf and field peas were part of the cargo of the First Fleet to Australia in 1788 and, on arrival at Sydney Cove, each convict and marine was given a weekly ration of three pints of ‘pease’.By 1802 Peas were growing in Port Jackson and in Parramatta gardens.

  • The best time to sow Peas, if you are living on the East Coast is from April until September;
  • In arid climates from April until August.
  • In sub-tropical districts, from April and until July and for cool zones, late winter until October. On the Tablelands they should be sown after the last frosts.
  • Peas are best planted at soil temperatures between 8°C and 24°C.
  • Sow the seeds directly into the soil 15mm to 20mm deep (knuckle deep) and 75mm to 100mm apart . Water in well and don't let them dry out.
  • I like to soak my Pea seeds overnight because this gives a better strike rate.
  • Some gardeners prefer to sow their seeds into tubs/punnets so they can keep a closer eye on them especially if there is a possibility of a frost.
  • Once they have their second crop of leaves and no more frost, they can be transplanted out in the garden.

Peas Don't Like:
  • Have you ever found that Peas don’t seem to grow well near Onions, Chives, Garlic?
  • Peas don’t like a lot of mulch or manure especially up against the stalk/stem, or being over-watered as they tend to rot off at the base of the stem.
  • Don’t over-feed young plants or they’ll grow lanky and you won’t get too many pea pods.
  • Wait until they’ve started flowering and then give them a good feed of liquid fertilizer at least once a fortnight.
  • I prefer to feed my plants with liquid fertilisers in winter because in the cold weather, plants can use liquid fertilisers, easier and faster than the granular type.
  • TIP: Water your Peas in the mornings to avoid mildew.
  • Don’t overhead water late in the afternoon.

With dwarf Peas you will have one main crop, with a second lighter crop and some pickings in between for the pot.
Peas freeze well and, providing they are processed immediately after picking, lose no more of their nutritional value than in just cooking them.
Chewing pests

  • If you’re bothered with snails and slugs, a good idea is to place a bottomless container around the young seedlings to stop the pests, or in my case the dragon lizard, from cutting/biting the tops off the new shoots; this will also give the new plants some protection from the wind.
  • Dwarf Peas only grow about 300mm to 600mm high but need some support.
  • You can use pretty much anything from wire/mesh, string and bamboo.
  • The support or trellis should be facing towards the midday sun, (that’s north).
  • Climbing Peas grow to about 2m and crop for quite a long time.
  • If you pick them regularly, your pea plants will grow like mad and you’ll get a bigger crop.
  • After the Peas have stopped producing the trellis can also be used for growing cucumbers, pumpkins or tomatoes.
  • Before you start ripping the pea vines off the trellis cut the stems off at ground level; leave the roots in the ground as pea roots produce nitrogen nodules.
  • These roots will break down and give your next seedlings a good kick start.

Why are they good for you?
Being low in calories, green peas are good for those who are trying to lose weight.
Green peas are rich in dietary fibre, may potentially lower cholesterol.
Peas have a  high amount of iron and vitamin C to help strengthen the immune system.
Green peas slow down the appearance of glucose in the blood and thus, help keep the energy levels steady.


Old Fashioned Plants for the Hot Sub-Tropics

What to plant in those parts of Australia which have no rain for months, and then never ending rain in others?
What if they don’t get rain for 12 months like in Madagascar?

You need plants that can store water but look good.

What is on offer for the hot dry sub-tropics. Let’s find out.

I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden Designer & project Manager from Paradisus Garden design.

 Cool sub-tropics is not a zone you would normally think of but there it is.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum_Queen of the Night
Peter mentioned these plants

  • Cussonia paniculata-the Mountain Cabbage tree from Sth Africa
  • Brachychiton bidwillii-exceeds 10m over a long time.
  • Brachychiton rupestris-Qld Bottle tree
  • Pachypodoium geayi or P lamerei -similar white flowers to Frangipani
  • Gardenia aubreyi-white flower- a small gardenia like tree
  • Adenium obesum-the Desert Rose- with a swollen base or caudex and fleuro coloured flowers.
  • Zamiocalcus zamiifolia-ZZ plant, no water in winter for semi-shade.
  • Ephipyllum oxypetalum-queen of the night.
  • E. anguliger and Epiphyllum 'Curly Sue' Guatemalense Monstrose.


Clerodendron Ugandense: Butterfly Bush
There are plenty of shrubs that are called by the common name of Butterfly Bush so it can be confusing if you want a particular one but don’t know the botanical name.
Some are called butterfly bush because they attract butterflies in that they have heaps of nectar and a landing pad for the butterflies to rest on while they’re having a drink.
Others are called butterfly bush because the flowers look like little butterflies.
But first, let’s find out about this plant.

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

We mentioned several different varieties namely
  • Clerodendron thomsonii, the white flowered climber, 
  • Clerodendron schmidtii _white flowered shrub 
  • Clerodendron ugandense-the blue flowered shrub
  If you have any questions about growing this particular butterfly bush either for me or for any of the plant panel, then why not write in to