Saturday, 30 November 2019

Pruning 101: Deciduous vs Evergreen and Sea Urchin Hakea

We start with part three of a new series “pruning 101” with landscape designer Jason Cornish, in Design elements and a fabulous pom pom flowers in plant of the week.
  • Pruning 101: Deciduous vs Evergreen.
Deciduous and evergreen plants have different pruning needs.
Have you ever had a shrub, say philadelphus that you thought wasn’t performing-no flowers for several years, so you transplanted it or pulled it out?
Perhaps you weren’t timing it right?
Philadelphus coronarius
I'm talking with Jason Cornish from
Let’s find out.

Marianne's Tips on Pruning
Pruning group
Pruning method
Time of pruning
Examples of plants
Flower on current season’s growth
Old wood thing. New growth shortened.
Winter/early spring
Roses, abelia, buddleia. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
Flowers on previous season’s growth
Immediately after flowering
Spiraea, Rondeletia,Prunus glandulosa, Acacia, Callistemon, Grevillea
Flowering on older wood and spurs
Maintain tidy shape
After flowering
Prunus cerasifera & other prunus species
For showy fruits
Cut away most of leaders
 After fruiting if needed
Cotoneaster, pyracantha, Berberis spp.
For showy foliage
Prune 50% of growth’ feed and water
Winter to spring
Abutilon, Aucuba japonica-gold dust plant. Buxus.  Hebe, Euonymus.
Non flowering evergreen
Do not prune back beyond green foliage into older wood
Late winter

If you don’t know what shrub or tree that you’ve got, the best advice is to wait until it flowers or sets fruit, and then prune after that.
  • In the case of philadelphus, as soon as the shrub had finished flowering, cut out all of the stems which have just flowered.
  • Prune them back to around a third of their length. They will soon start to produce new stems which will provide the flowering stems for next year. Don’t just prune little bits off the end 
If you have any questions for me or for Jason, please write in to


Hakea petiolaris; Sea Urchin  Hakea
There are many reasons to like a particular plant which affects our choices.
For some it’s the flowers or the perfume, for others it’s the colour of the leaves.
But for something completely different, others like a plant because of the sound the wind makes through the leaves of that particular plant.
Hakea petiolaris flower
So what will appeal with this plant?
I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.
Let’s find out.

For grey leaves, and spectacular flowers, the hakea is something to think about if you want a native small tree.
Medium tree 5 to 11 m high. Leaves are pale grey, broadly  obovate in shape and range from 5-15cm long by 2.3-6cm wide. 
Endemic to the south west of Australia, occurring at the coastal plain, jarrah forest and wheatbelt regions, often at the ancient granite outcrops of Western Australia. 

The only thing to watch for is high humidity can make them short lived.
Still, if you collect the seeds, then grow some more from seed and you’ll have another tree quite quickly.

If you have any questions for me or for Adrian, please contact us or write in.

Cinnamon But Not With Watermelon

We start with a look Cinnamon and cassia in the Spice it Up segment , and growing your own watermelon in Vegetable Heroes;


  • Cinnamon and Cassia part 1
Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Most if not all, cooks or chefs would’ve used cinnamon in their cooking at some time or other.
However, most likely the powdered form was used mainly.
What about the cinnamon sticks?
Is that where the powdered from comes from? 

If it's the bark of a tree, how does cinnamon get harvested?
Who rolls those sticks, is it by machine or by hand?
Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

  • There are two types of cinnamon, Sri  Lankan cinnamon or Cinnamomum zeylanicum, (pictured) and Cinnamomum cassia or just 'cassia."
  • They come from different trees and are grown in different countries.Cassia cinnamon is grown in China,  Japan and Vietnam.
  • Can you imagine all those cinnamon sticks that are from Sri Lanka, are all hand rolled by ‘cinnamon rollers.’
You will know be able to tell the difference between cinnamon and cassia.
  • The cinnamon scrolls have more rolls than cassia, and the cassia powder has quite a strong almost bitey flavour compared to the sweeter milder flavor or real cinnamon, if you test the powder on your tongue. 
  If you have any questions for me or for Ian, why not write in to or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville 1675


Watermelon Citrullus lanatus
  • Did you know that there’s an Australian Melon Association?
  • What’s more interesting though is that watermelons are thought  to have evolved from a Citron, which grew in the Kalahari desert in Africa.

And who would’ve thought that watermelon fruit can be seen in drawings in Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back 5,000 years.
Why? Because the Egyptians believed that by placing the Watermelons in the burial tombs of Kings, it would nourish the occupants in the afterlife.
From Egypt, watermelon spread via trading ships to other countries along the Mediterranean Sea and then to Europe by the Moors people during the13th century.
  • Where Belong Watermelon?

No surprises that watermelons belongs to the melon family or cucurbits, and can be round, soccer ball-size or an elongated, egg shape with smooth, hard, thick, green or yellow skin or rind.
Some watermelons are strongly striped with dark green markings, and others are only faintly mottled dark green.

The colour of the inner cool, sweet and refreshing flesh varies from red to yellow.
Dark brown seeds are arranged around the centre.
What may be surprising to you is that the pale rind just beneath the hard skin, can be cooked and eaten like a vegetable. Now that's a surpirse!
  • In fact you can make rind pickles!

Sowing Watermelon
In temperate and subtropical districts plant out seeds or seedlings from September through to early January.
The same goes for Cool temperate districts, although December and January is better for seedlings rather than starting from seed.
In Arid areas, lucky you, you have from September through to March.
For tropical areas, another one you have to wait for the cooler months, April to July.
Growing Watermelon
Watermelon prefers to grow on new, fertile sandy-loam soils with a high humus content-that is, lots of compost and manures.
Plus they need lots of water and room.
The soil must be well drained.
Don’t try to grow watermelons in heavy soils.
Add Dolomite lime if your soil’s acidic because watermelons  prefer alkaline soils.
As with Zucchinis, make a mound full of that good stuff, and plant three watermelon seeds about 5 cm deep.
Watermelon flowers 

They may be thinned out later.
  • Don’t bother with pots, because they germinate so easily.
  • Another thing, don’t bother with saving seeds from the melon you bought from the supermarket, it’ll be a hybrid and your seed grown plant will be quite different.If you like saving seed, get an open pollinated variety of seed.

Where to Grow
Like Pumpkins, Watermelon needs plenty of room to grow sending out long vines and the fruits are quite heavy.
Watermelons also have very shallow root system and they need lots of moisture.
The soil should never dry out, and mulch helps with that.
Luckily, Watermelons are self -pollinating, so you only need one plant unless you are growing seedless melons which require a pollinator.

If you’re planning to grow your melons up a tepee unless you can work out a sling system using soft cloth or pantyhose, it’s probably better to grow them along the ground.
There are a few varieties of watermelon and I’m sure you’ve got your favourites.
The most popular is the Red Tiger –that’s a cylindrical melon with dark green skin and dark red, very sweet flesh. One of the few melons that have very few seeds.
Then there’s Viking- a medium to large, elongated melon.
Allsweet is large and oval-shaped.
My favourite is Sugar Baby, a small, round melon.
So how do you know when it’s ready?
Melons are ready to pick when the part in contact with the ground is turning yellow and the fruit sounds hollow when tapped.
Why Are They Good For You?
Watermelons are a good source of Vitamin A and C, the minerals potassium and iron.
Watermelons also contains high levels of lycopene a powerful antioxidant - lycopene is found only in small select group of fruits and vegetables. Watermelons are 90% water, that’s why they’re so refreshing.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Pruning When and Bluebells


When To Prune

Pruning is one of those jobs that eventually every gardener that grows anything will undertake.

Now that you’re committed to pruning that tree or shrub or hedge, what is the most important consideration do you think?
Do you know the name of the species of plant?
Some gardeners would have the ubiquitous plants like murraya, Viburnum tinus, star jasmine and Japanese box.
Others may be more adventurous and have Chinese fringe flower,(Loropetalum chinense), Bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides), or even a trumpet vine (Beaumontia grandiflora).

Do you know when it’s about to flower or set fruit?
So when should you prune it?
Well, today it’s about when’s the best time to prune.
Let’s find out.

I'm talking with Jason Cornish from
Jason's tip is to wait until after flowering before commencing pruning as a general rule.
Pruning hedges is different because the flowers are not the feature, but the neatness is.
Depending on what the plant species is, for hedging, pruning occurs 2-3 times a year.
fore example, viburnum hedges.
For vigorous hedges such as Plumbago, you will need to prune 4-5 times per year.
  • TIP:If you don’t know what shrub or tree that you’ve got, the best advice is to wait until it flowers or sets fruit, and then prune after that.
  • Jason's General Rule Nr 2 : Jason’s strategy is lightly and often.
If you have any questions for me or for Jason, please write in to


There are English (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and spanish bluebells. (Hyacinthoides hispanica).
  • Family: Asparagaceae
Flowering in Spring, the bluebell is blue.  but, there are also bluebells that have a creamy colour or an off white hue and even pink.
It might not look like it but bluebells has six petals.  These petals are all fused up together forming a narrow bell shape.
The main differences between a Spanish bluebell and  English bluebell 
English bluebells flower on one side, Spanish bluebells flower on both sides of the stem.
English bluebell is stronger scented. Spanish bluebell has only a very slight scent.
Spanish bluebell grows well in full sun but English bluebells prefers at least partial shade.
Spanish bluebell flowers lift their heads towards the sun. English bluebells never do.

  • Superstitions:
Bluebells is a tool used for calling fairies.
“Ring” the bluebells like you would a normal bell and the fairies would come. But the downside is - if you actually hear it ring, it’s a superstition that someone that holds dear to your heart will die.
  •  In a vase.
Cut the bluebell stem straight across the base and place in shallow water in the vase. Any more water and the stems will soften and fall over.
Replace the water in the vase daily.
I'm talking with florist Mercedes Sarmini of

Video was recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener on 13th November 2019

Pruning Saws and Blueberries

We start with a look at pruning saws and why you might need two in Tool Time,, growing your own super fruit in Vegetable Heroes; part two of a new series “pruning 101” with landscape designer Jason Cornish, in Design elements and a blue flowers in talking flowers.


There comes a point in your pruning when secateurs, and loppers just won’t do the job.
Do you strain, grit your teeth and pull faces when cutting large branches in your garden that your garden loppers can’t handle?
Let’s face it, the size of the branch is too big but not big enough to call an arborist, so what do you do?   
Get a pruning saw and here’s why.
Let’s find out. 
I'm talking with Tony Mattson General Manager of

There are two main types of pruning saws and both have different purposes for different types of cutting.
  • Folding saw is typically straight and limited in length of blade-usually up to 200mm
  • Fix pruning saw is curved and used for branches that are greater in diameter than 200mm.
 The pruning saw blade is made as a metal blank and the teeth are then machined into the metal.
The metal is then hardened so they don't wear and chrome plated so they don't rust.
Chrome plating will wear off eventually, ( faster on cheaper blades,) so it's important to clean the blade after use and oil the blade with light machine oil.
Tony prefers not to use vegetable oil because it leaves a sticky residue.

Did you know that pruning saws have less teeth than most woodsaws?
The other difference is that the teeth on pruning saws are larger and sharper, making the job of cutting tree branches easier.

Tony’s Rule: the length of the pruning saw blade determines how big a branch you can cut. Half the length of the blade, is the maximum size of branch that you can cut.
Tony also recommends that , if the chrome coating has worn off, oil your blade after you have used and cleaned it.
If you have any questions for me or for Tony, why not write in to or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Would you have thought that the second most popular berry after Strawberries are Blueberries?
Blueberries are the fruit of a shrub that belongs to the heath family which includes cranberries, azaleas and rhododendrons.

  • Did you know that Blueberries are one of the only natural foods that are really true blue in colour?
  • They’re sort of a bluey purple colour and have what’s called a waxy ‘bloom’ that protects the surface of the blueberry.
  • This bloom you can rub off with your finger if you’re curious to see what the true colour of blueberries are.

WE all know what blueberries look like from the punnets that are sold in the supermarket, but what do they look like when they’re growing on the plant?
Blueberry bushes, Floriade Venlo
Blueberries grow in clusters and come in sizes from a pea to a small marble.
Did you know that blueberries are one of the only fruits native to North America, but it wasn’t until the early 1950’s that blueberries were first brought to Australia.
Why’s that?
A couple of guys- Messrs Karel Kroon and Ralph Proctor from the Victorian Department of Agriculture trialled growing them.
But, Australia was out of luck there because these guys couldn’t get past the disease problems.
Twenty years later, the Victorian Department of Agriculture tried again.
This time, a chap called David Jones carefully planted and tended to his blueberry seeds and eventually successfully grew several blueberry plants.
Still, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that Blueberries were commercially available.
Where to Grow?
Blueberries like a sunny position but will also get by in some shade (but not too much, otherwise you won’t get too many flowers.
Blueberry flowers

The best time for planting is between late autumn and spring, when plants are sold bare-rooted and are less likely to suffer from transplant shock than at other times of the year.
You can buy containerised blueberry plants all year-round though.
What They Need?
Blueberries need moist soil, good drainage and lots of organic material.
Blueberries are acid loving plants that do best in soils with a pH between 4.5 to 5.5
If you can grow Camellias and Azaleas, you can grow Blueberries.
If you don’t have that ph you will have to add either elemental sulphur (where the pH is too alkaline) or lime / dolomite (where the pH is too acid). If the soil pH is higher the plants may show signs of iron deficiency.
If that sounds too hard, grow you blueberry plant in a pot.
Tip:Very important when growing blueberries. they have a very fine fibrousy root system, just like Azaleas, and this root system needs a porous medium in which to grow, a bit like coarse sand from where they came from.
If you have poor drainage, then grow them in a raised bed or at the very least, on a mound of soil and use lots of mulch.
Or, like me, grow them in a pot, but grow a couple to increase pollination.
So, a little bit fussy there.
When to Grow
Not all blueberry plants are alike, so choose the variety for your region carefully.
Did you know that there are three varieties of blueberry species?
  •  Highbush, Lowbush (wild) and Rabbiteye.

Highbush varieties can be broken down into either Southern Highbush or Northern Highbush.
Gardeners in the know about chill factor will now know, that means a certain amount of hours below 70C.
The highbush variety, grows to 1.5–3 metres, and has many different cultivars.
In Victoria, Tasmania and Southern New South Wales, you are more likely to find the Northern Highbush, high chill variety for sale in your nursery.
Winter chilling  is quite high -(over 1000 hours below 2°C) but they can still tolerate high summer temperatures.
  • The fruit of the Northern Highbush is harvested later in the season, from December to April.
  • For temperate areas which don’t get too cold in winter, you need to grow the warmer climate Southern Highbush and Rabbiteye varieties (originally grown in the southern states of America)
  • These do well on the NSW North Coast and produce high value, early season fruit. These varieties are harvested from June to February.
  • For Northern NSW and Queensland, you can grow a variety called Rabbiteye
  • The rabbiteye is a low chill, late season variety that’s best at coping with warm and humid summers

Rabiteyes can also cope with dry conditions, making it right at home in Arid climates too.
And where does the name come from?
Rabbiteye Blueberries

Supposedly during the ripening stage when the blueberry is pink, if you look closely you will notice the calyx appears to be little rabbit eyes looking right back at you.
  • IMPORTANT TIP: Blueberries fruit on the tips of the previous season’s growth.

I spoke to a blueberry grower last year and was told to let the shrub establish first.
That means, you must pluck off the flowers in spring so it doesn't set fruit, but the 3rd year you can let it flower.
If you let them establish for the first two years apparently the plants will last a lifetime!
 Once your Blueberry shrub is established new stems will come up and fruit for up to four years initially from the tip to down the whole branch.
From the third winter onwards, cut back old, dry stems every winter.
Cut them back either down to ground level or to a vigorous new shoot near the ground.
They first produce sideshoots from the base of the plant soon after flowering in spring. Then in early to midsummer, vigorous growths push up from the base of the bush.
Hard pruning in winter will encourage this renewed growth and result in larger, earlier fruit.
Generally a tough bush that needs constant picking of the ripe fruit or they’ll get too soft.
MISTY another tough evergreen variety.. It is an early fruiting variety, with light blue, medium to large fruit of excellent flavour.
Blueberries are pest free apart from caterpillars and birds, and if you prune the shrub so its open in the middle it reduces fungal disease.
Selecting and Storing Blueberries
Pick or buy blueberries that are firm and have an even colour with a whitish bloom.
Important:Blueberries are another fruit that don’t ripen off the bush.
Blueberries should be eaten within a few days of picking or buying.
Ripe berries should be stored in a covered container in the fridge where they will keep for about 1 week.
Bees are needed to pollinate blueberry flowers

Don't wash blueberries until right before eating as you’ll remove the bloom that protects the berries' skin from going bad.
If kept a room temperature for more than an hour, the berries will start to spoil.
Blueberries can be frozen.
Why are they good for you?
Blueberries have large amounts of anthocyanins,- antioxidant compounds that give blue, purple and red colour to fruit and vegetables.
Not sure what all the fuss is about? Antioxidants are very well known for their health benefits, especially their ability to reduce damage to our cells and Blueberries contain more antioxidants than most other fruits or vegetables
Blueberries are also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, manganese and both soluble and insoluble fibre like pectin.
A cup of blueberries will give you 30% of your RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of Vitamin C.
Plus they’re low in calories.
If you think they’re too fussy to grow,  for the same price as a cup of coffee, treat yourself to a punnet of Blueberries, eat them straight out of the punnet (wash them of course) and enjoy the health benefits.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Bee Keeping part 2 and All Things Lettuce

We start with part 2 of a two part segment on bee-keeping, a veg that helps you sleep in Vegetable Heroes; a new series begins called pruning 101 with landscape designer Jason Cornish, in Design elements and a starry eyed violet flowered small shrub in plant of the week.


Last week part 1 of this two-part series about bee-keeping went to air, so I’ll revise a little of that in the interview.
If you are considering keeping bees, don’t just get a bee hive and hope for the best.
Don’t be like some people that have put Flow Hives in the backyard and not put any bees in and wondered why they don't get any honey.
Would you be game enough to collect a wild swarm of bees?

Or others that have put just one queen bee in a Flow Hive [without a colony]."
Be informed and do the right thing.
Let’s find out about things you need to know about keeping bees in part 2 of this 2 part segment.
I'm talking with John Scot from

Tip: using a smoker calms the bees quite a bit because it gives the bees a cue that something is going to happen.
You will also need to replace you queen bee after 3-4 years because she will have become less productive and your beehive colony will go into decline in as little as 6 - 8 months.
That is because the queen bee is unable to lay sufficient worker bee eggs.
Buying a queen bee can be done online and the best time to buy in Australia is from October until the end of autumn.
For a current list of queen bee producers refer to the Australasian Beekeeper (, or the Australian Honey Bee News.

photo Ulrike Leone from Pixabay
Just remember, one of the most important things you need to do if you want to keep bees is to register with your state’s DPI.
If there's an outbreak of disease in the bee population that could threaten Australia's crops and environment, the department needs to keep beekeepers informed.
Registration allows the DPI to identify owners of beehives and know where the hives are located and communicate with them if there's ever an outbreak of disease outside of Australia,
If you have any questions for me or for John, why not write in to or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


LETTUCE or Lactuca sativa, is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae..Lettuce helps you sleep better.
I’ll tell you why a little later on.

  • What to the words Tango, Red Leprechaun, Tennis Ball and Freckles have in common? They’re all lettuce varieties that you can buy.

  • Did you know that Lettuce was considered an aphrodisiac in Egypt?
  • And that the Greeks used lettuce as a medicinal plant to induce sleep?

Lactuca sativa or lettuce is just everywhere and thought to have started in the wild as a prickly lettuce, found as a weed in the Mediterranean.
Why should you grow your own lettuce?
Nothing beats the freshness of home grown lettuce though.
What you mightn’t realise is that the flavour is lost in as little as 24 hours, and there’s no way supermarket lettuce is only 24 hours old.
  • When to plant in Australia

 Lettuce can be planted all year round in all areas of Australia.
Having said that, in Arid districts, it might be a good idea to avoid the hottest months of the year, and in cool temperate districts, you might like to grow your lettuce in a greenhouse or undercover somewhere during winter.
  • Not all kinds of lettuce are created alike however!

For all areas, planting or sowing in the summer months, should only be the loose leaf types of lettuce.

  • Summer is not for sowing hearting types of lettuce.

Now’s not the time to be planting Iceberg and the other hearting lettuce varieties, like Butterhead and Cos Romaine because they prefer being grown in the cooler months of Autumn, and in some districts during winter.
These hearting varieties are OK in the coolest months. (The upper temperature limit to grow heading lettuces is 28°C)
Summer is just too warm for the hearting types.
  • How to Grow Summer Lettuce

If you don’t want bitter lettuce leaves, they you have to grow it
as fast as possible and for that they need plenty of water and plant food.
Ideally your soil should hold lots of water and lots of nitrogen and other nutrients.
Sandy soils need help from your compost bin or worm farm.
If you have clay soils, growing lettuce shouldn’t be a problem, as is growing them in pots.
Remember this, Lettuce has shallow roots, so it dries out easily.
You must keep up a steady supply of water because any set back will at least, make them tough and bitter, at worst it will cause them to bolt to seed straight away without making any leaves for you!
So make sure they never get stressed (e.g. by forgetting to water them).
  • Sowing lettuce 101

To sow lettuce seed, either spread the seed very thinly along a row and ever so lightly, in fact hardly at all, cover the seeds with soil, or sprinkle it over a bed and rake it in.
 For all you balcony gardeners, any largish pot will do for 3 or 4 lettuce seedlings.
Lettuce seed is very fine so just press the seeds into the soil and don’t cover them.
If you’re off to work everyday, sprinkle some vermiculite over the seeds and spray with water.
The vermiculite holds want but lets light through.
  • By the way, lettuce seed doesn’t germinate that well at soil temperatures over 250C. 

So if you are sowing it in a pot, keep the potting mix cool by putting it in light shade until the lettuce seed germinates.
I mentioned before that hearting types of lettuce will go to seed in summer very quickly and not form a heart at all.
For tropical and sub-tropical districts, the most heat tolerant kinds of lettuce are the open leafed varieties (Looseleaf).
All the pretty fancy lettuces you see in the shops, the frilly and curly varieties, they are your lettuce varieties you need to grow.
If your lettuce grows slowly even though you’re giving them plenty of water, then they need more food.
 Did you add organic compost, manures or worm castings to the veggie bed before you sowed the seed?
If you didn’t, then you need to supply extra nutrients, especially nitrogen. Some of the liquid fertilisers will do right now.
Some lettuce varieties for you to try are,
Lettuce Freckles-yep it’s freckly and it’s a butter lettuce as is Lettuce Tennis Ball.
Lettuce Amish Deer Tongue- Amazing two-in-one lettuce that can be cooked like spinach or used like lettuce, so you have a hot or cold vegetable to suit the season. Repeat harvest makes it a highly productive choice for space saving gardens.
Lettuce Crispmint is an outstanding variety with excellent flavour and crisp, minty green leaves. Seed Savers in the US have over 200 varieties of lettuce and rate this as one of their best.
to the elegant deep brown-red leaves that fade to green near the heart.
Lettuce Crispmint photo Diggers Seeds

So why is it good for us?
Lettuce is very good for digestion and promotes good liver function. It can reduce the risk of heart attacks and is good for healthy eyesight. It has good levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene and fibre.
You won’t put on any weight eating Lettuce  because most varieties have over 90% water and are extremely low in calories.
Lettuce contain the sedative lactucarium (lactoo-caree um) which relaxes the nerves but not upsetting digestion.
As a general rule, the darker green the leaves, the more nutritious the salad green.
For example, romaine or watercress have seven to eight times as much beta-carotene, and two to four times the calcium, and twice the amount of potassium as iceberg lettuce.
By varying the greens in your salads, you can boost the nutritional content as well as vary the tastes and textures.  

To Prune or Not to Prune


  • Series: Pruning 101
Pruning is one of those jobs that eventually every gardener that grows anything will undertake.
Except of course if you’ve only got a lawn and nothing else, but those gardeners are probably not listening to the radio show or reading this blog.

So over the next 4 weeks, Jason and I will be talking about various pruning jobs and methods.
Today it’s an introduction into what pruning is and different levels of pruning.
Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Jason Cornish from

  • There's several types of pruning.
Tip pruning: removing just the tip of the branches or stems to encourage bushy growth. Using your thumb and middle finger, it's easy to nip out the top couple of leaves at a point just above the next set of leaves lower down. This will stimulate two pairs of leaves to grow from that point.
Light pruning: to remove just the outer leaves without cutting into the semi hardwood or hardwood.
Medium pruning: not a hard prune, but somewhere between  a light prune and removing 30% of growth.
Hard prune: chopping the shrub or tree almost to the ground. A risky undertaking and may result in death of the plant. Some plants such as callistemons and lilly pillies will reshoot from being pruned in this way.


Rock Isotoma: Isotoma axillaris
Family: Lobeliaceae
Fancy a shrubby ground cover plant with purple starry flowers that’s a real standout?
Of course, we all want those in our garden because they fit into any bare spot.
Let’s find out why we should grow it.
Isotoma axillaris
I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

Rock isotoma is a flowering perennial that grow up to 40cm high x 40cm wide.
Upright stems are often a purplish colour and covered with short, soft hairs quickly becoming smooth.
The leaves are about 1.5–15 cm long and 0.5–5 mm wide with deep, toothed, linear lobes sharply pointed at the apex.
Rock Isotoma grows naturally in sandstone rock crevices in bushland, but don’t let that stop you from growing it in your garden.
Treat it as a biennial plant, but as it self seeds that’s not really a problem.
You may see if for sale in your local nursery Isotoma ‘Blue Star’
It’s a terrific plant with multibranched stems, that grows into a great mound of lilac-coloured, star-like flowers
If you have any questions either for me or Adrian, why not write in to

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Living Path Edges and Scrub Apple Trees

 Continuing the blog for Real World Gardener:part 4 of lawn alternatives-plants that create living path edges in Design elements and smaller relative of the giant Angophora in plant of the week.


Living Path Edges.
Lirope Stripey White 
Continuing the series on lawn alternatives but this time we’re throwing in those plants that will suit
growing along a path like a living edge.

What do you have growing along your path?

Perhaps you have terracotta or brick borders or maybe even a steel edge.
But what about a living path edge?
Plants that are suitable for path edges are necessarily a lot of hard work.
They can soften a path and make it look that much greener.
We’re not going to walk on them so what can grow along the path?
Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Glenice Buck from

The top picks for living path edges were
Santolina chamaecyparissus-very hardy and self-shaping.
Alternanthera Little Ruby
-not for frosty areas.
Liriope muscari variegated such as Glenice’s favourite called 'Stripey White' growing to a max of 20cm in height.
Teucrium fruiticans or Germander.
Repeat flowering dwarf agapanthus with white flowers called Bingo. Lookout for it in your nursery.
Agapnathus Bingo White: photo curtesy
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Angophora hispida: Dwarf Apple

Here’s a much smaller relative of one of Australia’s native giant trees, Angophora costata.
The genus name is the same but this tree fits into a small garden and with the profusion of flowers in summer that will attract all manner of bees and nectar feeding birds.
  • How do angophoras differ from eucalypts?
Angophoras have leaves that are opposite always, but in eucalypts and corymbias, the leaves are for the most part alternate except for juvenile leaves.
The seed capsules of angophoras have ribbing on the outside.
Angophora hispida flower
 Let’s find out why we should grow it. I'm talking with Adrian O'Malley, native plant expert and horticulturist.

Angophora hispida has an extremely small distribution but worth growing because of the many features. Growing naturally in heath and open woodland as a smallish gnarly looking tree, however it will grow in a variety of soil types including clay.
  • Height is a maximum of 6m.
Plus,if it grows in Orange in central west NSW, one of the coldest places in the state where it generally snows in winter, it will cope with frost. 
Protection from frost is only need when the tree is still young.
The tree's habit is a single trunk but if you prune right down to the ground, it will resprout from a lignotuber with multiple trunks.
If you have any questions either for me or Adrian, why not write in to

Bee Keeping and Cucumbers

We start with a two part segment on bee-keeping, being cool as a cucumber in Vegetable Heroes; part 4 of lawn alternatives-plants that create living path edges in Design elements and smaller relative of the giant Angophora in plant of the week.


Thinking about keeping bees but didn’t know where to start?
Is keeping bees a lot of hard work?
Marianne & John Scott
Are you wondering why keep them in the first place?
Well there’s the pollination of flowers, both ornamental and on vegetables in your garden as well as neighbouring gardens, plus the reward of honey by the kilo, not to mention the hive byproduct of beeswax.
Let’s find out about things you need to know about keeping bees in part 1 of this 2 part segment.
I'm talking with John Scot from
Langstroth Hive: Image-CSIRO
NOTE:  If you are keen on keeping bees, then you must register with the Department of Primary Industries.
  • A hive is made up of a bottom board, a box and a lid. When you expand a put another box on top, this box is called a 'super.'

    What type of hives are out there?

Flow Hive
Langstroth: the traditional hive with wooden frames.
  • There are two sizes, an 8 or 10 frame box.
  • Each frame has hexagonal wax moulds that the bees can then use to build their own comb on top of. 
Flow HiveThe bees fill the honey cells and cap them off. When you insert the Flow Key and turn it,  the hone cells are split so that honey flows into the trough, through a tube and into your jar.

We all know what honey is but did you know that that bees make it by gathering nectar from plants and processing it in their stomachs?
They keep the honey in cells, adding an enzyme to ripen it.
It's stored as a food reserve for the colony in winter but, since they make more than they need, beekeepers can collect the surplus.
If you have any questions for me or for John, why not write in to or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


  • Everything you wanted to know about Cucumbers or Cucumis sativus..

Cucumbers just love the hot weather, so they’ll germinate and grow quickly at this time of the year.
Cucumbers are a member of the gourd or cucurbita family and have been grown for 4000 years!
Did cucumber start off in India?
No-one’s really sure although some sources point to somewhere in the lower Himalayas where the ancestor of the cucumber was probably a plant with 7 pairs of chromosomes and small, very bitter fruit.
According to legend, in Ancient Rome during the short reign of Emperor Tiberius (14 – 16 AD) he demanded to eat cucumber on every day of the year.
During summer special gardens were tended just for his vegetables, and in winter cucumber was grown on moveable bed frames that were moved to be exposed to the sun, or illuminated with the mirror-stones.

  • Cucumbers are the fastest and easiest of vegetables to grow so say some gardeners. I would’ve thought radish, but maybe they’re a close second.

When is the best time to grow some cucumbers?
  • Cucumber plants do best in all types of temperate and tropical areas and generally need temperatures between 15°-33°C.but are happiest when the average temperatures are around 21°C
  • Cool temperate districts: sow the seeds of Cucumber in late Spring, say October and early Summer 
  •  Arid and temperate zones: spring and summer 
  • Sub-tropical areas,from August until March in 
  • Only the cooler months for tropical areas-so April until August unless you’re inland.

And where can you grow these delicious cucumbers?
You need to pick a sunny, well-drained spot, because Cucumbers are a subtropical plant, that needs full sun.
Cucumbers also want a decent amount of growing space in your garden.
If you’re short on space, try growing them up vertically on a trellis or even on some netting, perhaps a tomato trellis?
In fact, growing up a trellis would be a great way to avoid all the mildews and moulds that cucumbers are prone to in still humid weather.
So Which Cucumber Should You Grow?
The list is pretty long but you have to decide between regular and burpless varieties to begin with.
Then do you want slicing, or pickling cucumbers?
After that, heirloom or greenhouse varieties.
The burpless varieties don’t need peeling which is an added bonus and would be the way to go if cucumbers repeat on you.
Pickling Cucumbers are shorter, stouter, and have a rougher outer skin, as well as drier flesh that allows them to soak up more of the brine they’re pickled in.
Obviously cucumbers for slicing need to be straight.
The ones you see in the supermarket are regular English cucumbers, usually long thin with a dark green skin.
Cucumbers-probably lemon
Great for slicing, and not suitable for pickling.
Let’s start with cucumber “Sweet and Striped” that can grow to a metre long but it will curl.
Armenian cucumber?
This cucumber is a pale almost limey green, it’s burpless with drier flesh so it can be stored up to one month.
Great for slicing or pickling.
My favourite is Cucumber 'Lemon'
'Lemon' is an apple type, heirloom variety, introduced in 1894.
The fruits are round, sweet and crisp with a thin yellow skin and white flesh.
It can be eaten like an apple and is easy to digest.
This cucumber is a good all-rounder because I can be used for salads, pickling and slicing.
For regular eating there’s Lebanese Cucumber 'Beit Alpha'
A Lebanese style of cucumber is thin-skinned, dark green, tender, and burpless.
This one can grow cucumber, up to 30 cm long.
If you pick it when it’s smaller, it has the best flavour whether pickled or fresh and is never bitter.
Lebanese cucumber vines bear early, are disease resistant and very productive
There’s also a number of dwarf varieties if you’d like to grow your cucumbers in pots.
Try Mini White- one of the most popular.
The 10cm long fruit and is best picked when young.
This one gives you lots of fruit per plant and it’s burpless 
Or you could try Cucumber Little Potato which as the colour or a potato or Kiwi fruit, with a zesty lemon burpless inner flesh.
Then there’s Cucumber 'Spacemaster'
'Spacemaster' is a bush variety, 90 cm across; suitable for growing in containers. Fruit is slender, dark green, 17 - 22 cm long with a crisp, sweet flavour.
It’s supposed to be disease resistant.
Good for salads or pickles, if picked young.
You’ll need to go to a seed mail order place for some of those, or if you’re in Adelaide or Melbourne, go to the shop in the Botanic Gardens.
The best thing is that Cucumbers aren’t picky about soils.
Parthenocarpic Cucumbers What?
  • Did you know that you can grow a seedless variety that doesn’t need pollination?In fact, pollination creates an inferior fruit so these are best grown in a closed environment such as a greenhouse.
  • This type of plant is called parthenocarpic which is just the name of a plant that can produce fruit without pollination.
  • So what’s a cucumber plant that needs pollination called? Gynoecious.
  • Gynoecious varieties have mostly or only female flowers ― the flowers that produce fruit ― and typically are earlier and have higher yields.

And do you get this information from seed packets?
No because most of the seeds you can buy are monoecious cucumbers that have male and female flowers.
  • In a monoecious cucumber ( nongynoecious cucumber) plant, the first 10–20 flowers are male and for every female flower 10–20 male flowers are produced.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen that information on the back of a cucumber seed packet?

Why has my cucumbers not got fruit?

  • For most cucurbit family plants, the humidity and temperature has to be within a fairly close range for pollination to occur, even with hand methods.
  • If the humidity is too high, the pollen sticks together, if too low, the pollen will not fertilize.
However, do you find your Cucumber seeds sometimes don’t germinate?
  • They’re big seeds but if you’re raising them in punnets and the seed raising mix dries out, then the seed most like has dried up as well; And if you keep it too wet, then the seed rots.
  • If this keeps happening, try using another type of seed raising mix, or even some good quality potting mix and try again.
  • What cucumbers like is soil that’s well-draining and has a pH of around 6.5.
  • Add in plenty of organic compost and fertilisers like chook poo or cow manure.
When your cucumber has gotten going, water it regularly at the base of the plant, that way the leaves stay dry and you lessen the chances of the leaves getting the white powdery stuff growing on them, powdery mildew disease.
Powdery mildew on cucumber leaf
  • Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is spread by spores carried by the wind.
  • Look for white to grey fungal deposits on the leaves and stems of your cucumbers. As the mildew spreads, the leaves become brittle then start to die off.
  • There are some types of cucumbers that resist this disease for a time anyway.
  • You can also try a natural fungicide. 1 part whole milk to 10 parts water, and spray in the cool of the day.
Don’t forget to feed your cucumber plants every couple of weeks with a soluble plant food.
There’s so many now on the market, an some come with seaweed added into them as well.
Disease no 2.
  • Sudden wilt is a disease is caused by pythium fungus and causes the entire plant to die and wilt. Look for root rot. This disease usually happens in poor draining soil, so add organic compost to the soil before planting to improve drainage.
  • Growing your cucumbers in pots and raised beds, can help this problem.
Disease No.3 
  • Verticillium wilt, is a fungal disease called by the Verticillium fungus. Symptoms include wilting leaves and brown discoloration of the stems and roots. You’ll typically have to open the stem to see the problem. Eventually, this disease will cause the entire plant to wilt and die. This problem often lingers in the soil where tomatoes, potatoes, chillies, and other members of the nightshade family have been planted.
Crop rotation is important to avoid this disease. There’s no spray of any kind for this problem. Leave the garden bed empty for quite a few months before planting again.
Commercially grown cucumbers avoid diseases with vertical trellising.

Who out there hasn’t tried a cucumber that’s tasted bitter?

I’m sure some time in your life, that’s happened hasn’t it?
One theory is that the bitterness is caused early in the plant’s development by terpenoid compounds that give a bitter flavour to the entire plant.
Usually the bitterness accumulates at the stem and below the surface of the skin of the cucumber.
According to this theory it’s a genetic problem.
Newer cucumber hybrids seem to have fewer problems with bitterness.
  • I’ve always thought it to be the result of Cucurbitacin. Found in most cucumber plants, Cucurbitacin causes fruit to taste bitter.
  • Cucurbitacin levels increase when a plant is under stress, and can make the fruit taste really bitter. 
  • The concentration of these compounds varies from plant to plant, fruit to fruit, and even within the individual fruit itself.
  • Did you know that the ability to taste detect bitterness or cucurbitacins also varies from person to person.
  • Even insects have varying preferences for cucurbitacins- the compounds attract cucumber beetles but repel other insects, such as aphids and spider mites.

Anyway, it proves that you shouldn’t stress out your cucumbers!
  • By the way, if you do get a bitter cucumber, peel it and cut of the ends by about 2.5cm, that’s where the bitterness concentrated.
Just like zucchinis, cucumbers have separate male and female flowers. Male flowers come out at first, but don’t worry too much because the female flowers will arrive soon after. Cucumbers should be ready at about 50-60 days and picking fruit often stimulates more to start growing. Some of you probably have realised that if you pick your cucumbers when they’re quite small, this is when they’re at their sweetest.
Twist the cucumbers off the plant or cut the stalk just above the cucumber tip.
They keep for 7-10 days in the fridge then the start to look like something that came from outer space…green and slimy
Why are they good for you?
Cucumbers have lots of Vitamins C but why you should eat them is because the silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, you know, like muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone.
Cucumbers have some dietary fibre and Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin, plus cucumber's high water content makes it naturally hydrating—a must for glowing skin.
So eat them quick in sandwiches, salads or juice them for healthy glowing skin!
Happy CUCUMBER growing everyone!