Saturday, 28 March 2020

Australia's Kauri Pine:Agathis robusta


Kauri Pine: Agathis robusta-an Australian native

Over the last few weeks in this segment, we’ve been talking about big, big trees, and today’s offering is no exception. 
Kauri pine, like it's name states, is a conifer in the Araucariaceae family.
Also considered a dinosaur tree because it evolved millions of years ago when Australia was largely subtropical all over and not just in Queensland.
Kauri pine: Agathis robusta

So let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Adrian O”Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

Big trees in pots: 
  • The Kauri pine is quite happy in pots if you have limited space.
  • Just need to be root pruned every couple of years, but no more than 10% all round.
Being an ancient conifer it comes from an era when the world was much wetter and rainforest covered all of Australia.
The tree has  big wide, leathery leaves with parallel veins. Leaves are in opposite pairs and 5-12cm long. The bark is smoothish, grey or a sort of grey brown.
Leaves of kauri pine, no mid-rib.
The lower part of the trunk is free of branches, having dropped off as it grows.
The pine cones come in to shapes. Male cones are long and narrow, but female cones are rounded, 8-13cm in diameter.
Agathis robuasta female cones

  • The Queensland Kauri is a little known but magnificent specimen, that dates back to the mid-Jurassic period.
Agathis or Qld Kauri can live for centuries, but did you know that they were logged for their straight timber too much so by 1922, the Forestry Branch reported: ‘Of kauri pine the southern resource is utterly gone.’ 
The wood was used to cabinetry, floorboards, kitchen sinks, and boat building during the 1920's and 30's.
  • Geelong Botanic Gardens have an avenue of Kauri pine trees planted around the 1860's.
  • Sydney Botanic gardens have one large specimen not far from the kiosk and close to the giant Dragon's Blood tree.
If you want to hug these large mature trees, you'll find that the girth is massive and it's more likely that 4-5 people with arms outstretched might make it being 150cm or so in circumference.

If you have any questions either for me or for Adrian, why not write in to

Prepare for Spring Bulb Planting and Sow Cauliflower Seeds


Spring Bulb Preparation: No Time Like Now
Have you ordered your spring bulbs yet?
Spring might seem far away, but for the prepared gardener there’s planning and preparation to be done right now.
Especially if you like spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, freesias and many more.
photo M Cannon
Some of the planning involves looking at bulb catalogues, either ones you received in the post or online.
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Landscape Designer,  Glenice Buck, consulting arborist and landscape designer

Fun decisions need to be made as to which bulbs to buy and plant.
Spring bulbs include,tulips (cooler climates) snowflakes, jonquils, daffodils, freesias, spring stars, alliums (cooler climates), anemones, ranunculus, sparaxis,
  • Glenice mentioned. Allium giganteum, the giant alliums, and Allium atropurpureum from Southern Europe that carry golf ball sized heads of dark, almost black, maroon-purple flowers from late October well into November. 
  • If you want to grow these in temperate climates you need to place a 2 litre bucket of ice-cubes on where the bulbs are planted every morning.
TIP:Remember, bulbs are a living thing, and need to be planted out mostly in Autumn. If you wait too long, they will dry out and be totally worthless.
Photo M Cannon
  • Soil preparation: The big tip from Glenice, is dig in plenty of organic matter into the soil before adding your bulbs. Before planting, cultivate the soil and ensure that it is well drained  with plenty of compost and decomposed manures. 
TIP: When sowing ranunculus, soak in a weak solution of seaweed liquid for 1 hour before planting, claws pointing downward.
  • Bulbs in pots: don't place a saucer under the pot so that when it rains, the pot is sitting water.
If you want to know more or if you have any questions about spring bulbs, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea, Botrytis group)
 Cauliflower is native to the Mediterranean and Middle East region, but did you know that it’s been grown as a crop from at least 600 BC?
 Cauliflower is related to broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, rutabagas, and Brussels sprouts.

Why is Cauliflower called a cruciferous vegetable?Because the flowers have four petals and look like a Greek cross.
  • Did you know that Cauliflower leaves are edible, but have a stronger taste than the florets?

A bit of history
Some of the first crop plantings in Australia way back in 1788 were cauliflowers on Norfolk Island.
How we know this is because a letter exists from Governor Arthur Phillip the (first governor appointed by the British,) to Sir Joseph Banks, telling him that ‘colly flowers’ had been growing at Sydney Cove for weeks.
They were also recorded as growing in a garden at The Rocks, Sydney, in 1803 with some being as large as 4.5 - 5.5kg.
They obviously liked their cauliflower in the early life of the colony.
  • Botanical Bite

An interesting fact about Cauliflower is that it’s actually a flower that hasn’t fully developed yet.
Yes that’s right -  Cauliflower, is actually a flower growing from a plant.
In its early stages, it looks a bit like broccoli, its closest relative.
Cauliflower amongst broccoli
  • The difference is that broccoli opens outward to sprout bunches of green florets, but cauliflower forms a compact head of undeveloped white flower buds.
  • The cauliflower head itself is a sterile flowering structure whose buds are kept white by green leaves that cover the head, protecting the flower buds from the sunlight.

If the leaves are covering the floral head and so keeping the sun out, the cauli stays white because the green or chlorophyll in the plant, doesn’t get a chance to develop.
When to Sow.
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, you might be able to squeeze in seed sowing if you do it straight after the show, otherwise, transplant seedlings until the end of June also.
Caulflower seedlings
There is one exception, a variety called Caulifower All Year Round-Hybrid.
This robust variety is available from your local nursery and is ready for harvest very early at 15 weeks.
It grows quite big with a tight curd, and tastes great.
Soil and Site for Cauliflower
All cauliflowers need a neutral or slightly alkaline soil to do well.
  • If the soil is too acidic, the plants won’t be able to access the trace elements they need, and may develop whiptail.
  •  On the other hand, soils which are too limey or chalky can lead to stunted and discoloured cauliflower. If you’re at all unsure, whip out that pH test kit and give it a workout. If you need to add lime to the soil because it’s too acidic, leave at least four weeks between liming and manuring. 
  • As with all brassicas, avoid using a plot on which a brassica crop was grown within the past two years. Cauliflowers will definitely suffer if they are grown on the same plot for two or more years in a row. Winter cauliflowers are much more tolerant of soil conditions, and will grow on most types of soil, as long as there is no water-logging. 

  • Because they grow slowly over a longer period of time, and have to face winter conditions, the one thing you want to avoid is lush, rapid and therefore vulnerable growth.  No heads will form so go easy on the liquid food.

If plenty of organic ferts have been dug in, there is no need for additional fertilizers, before planting out winter cauliflowers.
  • Some tips are (i)they need a sheltered site, with some protection from winds. (ii)They do better in sun rather than in the shade.

So when do you pick your cauliflower?
A cauliflower is ready for cutting when the upper surface of the curd is fully exposed and the inner leaves no longer cover it. 
As usual in your veggie garden, cauliflowers are ready at the same time. 
If the weather is warm and you leave the cauliflowers in the ground once they have matured, the heads expand and start to yellow looking not that great.
Here’s a tip to not have to eat cauliflower everyday for a month, gather up the leaves and tie them together over the curd so that they cover it, using garden twine, an elastic band or raffia. 
It will also protect the winter ones from the frost.
Why is it good for you?
Cauliflower contains a high amount of vitamin C, and complex carbohydrates.
They’re a great source of dietary fibre and  a good provider of folate (one of the B vitamins)
Like cabbages cauliflowers contain substances called indoles which are responsible for the sulphur smell that can be released if they’re overcooked.
Today, thick cauliflower soups are popular in France and Eastern Europe. Sardinian cooks combine garlic, olive oil and capers with it to make zesty salads and hot dishes. In India, it's cooked with potato and onion to make a rich vegetable curry. Go on , plant some cauliflowers today.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Silky Oak: Nectar for the Gods


Silky Oak: Grevillea robusta

Here’s a semi-deciduous grevillea, that can grow into a big tree. Flowering at the same time as Jacarandas and just as spectacular.
When you see one, you don't think the Silky Oak as being a large tree. But here it is.
A bit messy, semi-deciduous, losing a lot of leaves from time to time.
Grevilleas like this one are nectar rich, loved by the lorikeets.

Apart from that drawback, the leaves are attractive with the added bonus is that the flowers are attractive to birds that come from all around the district to have a feast on the nectar of the flowers.
So let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Adrian O”Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

The silky oak flowers at the same time as Brachychiton querquifolia and Jacaranda mimosifolia, and there are some large gardens that have those big three. Very impressive to look at. 
  • Brachychiton has the striking red flowers, contrasting with the purple of the Jacaranda and the golden yellow of the silky oak. 
So much nectar that on hot days, the nectar ferments, so the birds become intoxicated when sipping on the nectar, and become quite territorial.
When growing in pots, they take on the classical conifer type shape.
Remember Adrian's maxim, "spend a penny on the pot and a pound on the soil."
The timber has a marbling dotty effect and is quite rot resistant should you come across this scarce resource.
The timber used to be used for frames around windows.
If you have any questions either for me or for Adrian, why not write in to

Rain Gardens and Growing Celeriac


Rain Gardens or Flood Mitigation.

Rain isn’t always reliable so rather than letting it flow into the stormwater especially when there’s a deluge, there are ways to let slow the water. 

Of course there’s rainwater tanks, but you may need more than what they can hold.
You need to change your thinking and work out a way to keep water in your garden longer.
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Celeriac Margaret Mossakowska, director of

Slowing the rush of water when there’s a deluge, will prevent your drains from backing up and possibly flooding your house.
  • You can create rain gardens, wetlands or bog gardens.
If you have a spot in your garden where water likes to gather after rain, that's a good spot to create a bog garden.  It doesn't have to be any deeper than 10cm.
There are many Australian natives that would suit to grow in a bog garden.
Plants that suit for this situation are 
Marsh Flower (Villarsia exaltata), 
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), 
Tassel Sedge (Carex fascicularis), 
Jointed Twig-rush (Baumea articulata) and Water Ribbons (Triglochin procerum).

Rain gardens are a filtering garden and aim to slow water from leaving your property.
Think of all that water gushing out of your downpipe going to the storm water, when instead, it could be passing through a rain garden.
Choose any container, such as half a rainwater tank, or any sort of large plastic container.
Have an overlow at least half way up rather than letting the soil at the top float away.
Put in lots of sand at the bottom with soil/compost on top. The rain should just percolate through this soil rather than rushing down the drain.
Reed and native grasses suit to be planted in this type of garden.
There’s a choice of rain gardens or bog gardens, it’s up to you.
If you want to know more or if you have any questions about reed beds, rain gardens or flood gardens, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


  • Ever heard of the ugly duckling of the vegetable world?

I could think of several but Celeriac or Apium graveolens var rapaceum has been described as the ugly duckling of vegetables, or just plain ugly.
But if you don’t think of vegetables as pretty or ugly, don’t be put off by all that talk because it’s pretty useful to have in your garden.
  • Celeriac is closely related to celery even though it looks nothing like it.
  • The early Greeks called celeriac, selinon and it’s mentioned in Homer's Odyssey in 800 B.C., That means, Celeriac has been grown as an edible plant for thousands of years.

Celeriac looks like it might be the root of something, but it actually is the swollen stem.
The usual size you see in the supermarket is roughly 10cm, a very pale brown, rough, almost acne’ed looking ball with lime green tops.
  • Celeriac, like many "roots", is a long-season, cool-weather crop;

The green tops look a bit like celery, and the smell is similar but a bit stronger.
The thick, rough brownish skin covers a creamy white, crisp inside that’s slightly hotter tasting than celery.
Celeriac also grows more easily and keeps longer than celery, making it an excellent winter vegetable.
You also don’t have to do any of that blanching the stems as they’re growing like you do with celery.
  • When to grow it?

In sub-tropical areas you can sow the seed in March, April and August.
In arid areas, you’ll have to wait until next Spring and in most other regions of Australia, you can sow the seed in Spring, Summer and Autumn, except for the tropics. It’s not really suited to that region.
But should you be listening somewhere in tropical Qld, and have grown Celeriac, please drop us a line about your success.
  • Celeriac is best planted at soil temperatures between 8°C and 21°C. Hot summers won’t suit this plant. Wait until this hot weather takes a break or  start the seeds off in punnets.
  • Tip:Celeriac seeds are a bit hard to germinate, but if you soak the seeds in a saucer of water with a splash of seaweed solution, this will help the germination rate.

Like a lot of members of the Celery family, Celeriac likes soil that has plenty of organic compost and manures, otherwise, it’ll bolt to seed.
If you start your Celeriac seed in punnets, you can control the moisture content of the mix more easily rather than in the garden bed. Transplant when there’s at least 4 leaves.
Celeriac loves wet soil. You can’t water it too much, and a thick layer of mulch will help in keeping the soil moist and keeping out the weeds, unlike in this picture.

  • If you don’t water it enough you might get hollow roots or the plant will bolt to seed.
  • Keep the weeds down as well because celeriac doesn’t compete well with weeds,  but don’t disturb its shallow roots.
  • As the root develops, snip off side roots and hill the soil over the developing root.
  • Side dressing periodically during the growing season with an organic fertilizer high in nitrogen, like chook poo, is also helpful, but don't overdo it, otherwise you’ll get lots of leaf, rather than root, growth.

Easy Does It: Take It Slow
Celeriac is slow-growing, taking around seven months from seed to  maturity (that is, about four months from transplanting), although the root is edible at any earlier stage.
  • The longer you leave celeriac in the garden, the larger the root gets; some say they don’t really get woody when large, while others say dig them up when they’re small (10cm diameter).
  • And again, some say celeriac is frost-tender, while others say a few light frosts won't bother it. I’ve heard that "celeriac increases in flavour after the first frost.

You can leave them in the ground over-winter, harvesting as you need them..
  • One other thing, some recommend drawing soil up around the stems in early autumn, to blanch them; but that’s entirely up to you and I tend not to bother.
  • When it grows, the swollen Celeriac stem tends to push itself out of the soil, sitting just a few centimetres of soil level.

If it doesn’t do that for you, you might have to give it a helping hand, and scrape away some of the soil towards the end of the growing season.
  • Apart from the long growing season, pests don’t seem to like Celeriac, so a bonus. No spraying needed.

What do you do with this vegetable?
Whatever you do with potato you can do with celeriac.
You can also eat it raw. –can grate it or cut it into thin strips or cubes, and to serve it as a salad seasoned with a dressing.
Celeriac can also be cooked, either on its own or together with other vegetables.
It makes a good puree mixed with potatoes, but best of all, it makes a non-starch substitute for potatoes.
Why is it good for you?
Raw celeriac is an excellent source of potassium and a good source of vitamin C, phosphorus, vitamin B6, magnesium and iron.
Cooked celeriac is a good source of potassium and contains vitamin C, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
Celeriac is said to be diuretic, demineralising, and a tonic, and stimulates the appetite and cleanses the system

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Plum pines and Brussel Sprouts


Podocarpus elatus: Plum Pine

Are you of the opinion that all pine trees have pine cones and needle like leaves?
Most gardeners associate pine trees with Christmas because after all, that’s a conifer. Right?
Podocarpus elatus:plum pine
Before the continents separated, there was a lot of rainforest over the earth and there was no need for trees or any plants to adapt to dry periods.
Needle like leaves are for conserving moisture after all.
So what did conifers look like millions of years ago?
So let’s find out.
I'm talking with Adrian O”Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

The plum pine has been around for 250 million years back when the world was a big rainforest with plenty of rainfall.
No need for needle leaves to conserve water back then, but instead large leaves, and they do not have cones like the other conifers but instead have a single seed attached by a fleshy stem to the branch.
The purple fruit have a sort of plum like flavour and can be used for making sauces, jams and relishes.
  • Botanical Bite: Trees are dioecious, (different house), meaning the male and female flowers parts are on separate trees.
You would need to consider planting two or three of these trees together to ensure you get any fruit at all.
  • Be aware, when the pines do bear fruit, birds and flying foxes will come a calling and spit out the pips, leaving a purple stain on your nice paving. Best to not grow it near your driveway or paving.
Adrian had a plant in a pot, which does quite well with root pruning every few years. In the ground the tree will grow to 12 metres in its natural habitat, but a lot less in your backyard garden.

If you have any questions either for me or for Adrian, why not write in to


Brussel Sprouts
Brussel Sprouts are a member of the Brassicaceae family which also includes, cabbage, broccoli, kale and kohlrabi.
  • Is there one veggie that you have trouble growing?
  • For some reason, that veggie doesn’t work out to how it looks on the seed packet.
  • Maybe it’s your environment, think weather or your soil or your regime of fertilising.
  • It could also be that whenever you try to grow this veggie, hordes of pests descend onto your veggie plot and turn those plants into a horrible version of what they should be?
  • That’s my lot with Brussel sprouts.

Before we go any further, you may not be surprised to know that Brussel sprouts are one of the most hated veggies in the UK and US.
So why call a veggie Brussel sprouts?
Maybe because it was sold in Brussels' markets in the 1200's, or, maybe Brussels sprouts were named after the capital of Belgium where some say that’s where they were first grown.
Brussel sprouts are also one of the few vegetables to have started off in the northern Europe.
You probably know what a Brussels sprouts looks like - miniature heads of cabbage-about 2.5 to 4 cm. to be precise.

They taste a bit like cabbage, but slightly milder in flavour and denser in texture.
  • If you’ve ever grown Brussel sprouts, you’ll know that the sprouts grow like buds in a spiral along the side of long thick stalks of around 60 to 120 cm tall.
  • They all don’t mature at once but take several weeks, starting from the lower to the upper part of the stalk.

If you want to grow them well, there’s a few tips that you need to know about.

  • Firstly, when learning how to grow brussel sprouts they need a firm, fertile soil because the main cause of failure (blown buttons) is the opposite, that is, loose, infertile soil.Those gardeners with a fairly heavy soil have an advantage over those of us with loose sandy soil.
  • If your soil is loose, then your sprouts will be tasteless, loose and open, and only you’re to blame and not the seed company.
  • That old saying “feed the soil not the plant” applies especially to Brussel Sprouts.
  • Tamp the soil down with the back of your garden rake to make it firm when the soil is dry.

When to Sow;
For temperate districts, February until May, for arid areas until the end of June, for cool temperate zones, until the end of April and for sub-tropical areas, April seems to the month for you.
To grow sprouts, sow the seeds into seed trays or direct into the garden, or you can buy seedlings from a garden centre, organic markets and so on.
It’s cheaper of course to start from seedlings

The seedlings are ready to transplant when they’re 10cm high.
Did you know that you can get early and late cropping varieties?
TIP: Sow early varieties outdoors in early March, transplanting in early May.
This will give a crop of brussels sprouts during September or October.
If you sow late varieties outdoors in April and transplant in June, you’ll have
brussels sprouts between December and March.
You can plant out your brussels sprouts either in full sun or partial shade, in fact  partial shade is a bit better in warmer districts.
Water plants the day before you aim to transplant them into that well-firmed bed that you prepared.

After you have transplanted your seedlings, firm the soil around each plant with your hands or the dibber.
  • Remember - firm planting helps to grow firm, tight brussels sprouts.

Tip#3: a better reason to start your seeds off in punnets is that when you transplant your seedlings from pots or seed beds, this encourages a stronger root system to be established in their permanent bed.
Spacing is important-make it about 45 cm. Quite a distance but you can fill it with lettuce, endive and other quick growing crops.
Water the young plants in dry weather but unless you have a prolonged dry spell the mature plants shouldn’t need watering.
  • As the plants get taller make sure you support them so that the strong winds in winter don`t blow them over - tie them to stakes.
  • Mulch around the base of the plants with well rotted compost to feed the plants and conserve moisture.

Should hordes of pests come a calling, you name it,  Mealybugs, aphids, caterpillars and other grubs, use Derris Dust or a liquid concentrate containing Spinosad or Neem oil.
When to harvest
When the brussels start looking like they’re ready you don’t have to pick them all at once because, the plant holds the mature buttons for many weeks without opening.
To eat Brussel Sprouts, you don`t want those ` sprouts that have had all their colour and crispness boiled out of them.
Try dicing or grating your brussel sprouts raw and serve them up in a salad - go on, be brave!
Most importantly: Don’t overcook your Brussel sprouts; Overcooking Brussels sprouts produces a sulphur-like smell, which is usually what turns people off
Why are they good for you?
Brussels sprouts pack in 4 grams of protein per cup which is high for a veggie,
That same cup will give you 4 grams of fibre  but only 56 calories— “
Brussels sprouts can also provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you use a steaming method when cooking them.
Brussels are also a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, and potassium .
One 80-gram serving of these healthy veggies delivers four times more vitamin C than an orange.
And finally, Brussel Sprouts should be kept cool at all times and eaten before the leaves discolour or they develop a strong smell.
One last anecdote:
If you ever ate Brussels sprouts at home, there's a good chance you cut little crosses cut into the bottom of each one.
Most people assume it is done to speed up cooking, but they would be wrong. The real reason we cut crosses into our sprouts is because of a medieval superstition.
It was once believed that leafy vegetables such as sprouts and cabbages were the hiding places of tiny demons, and eating them would expose you to their evil influence unless you exorcised them with the sign of the cross before cooking—and that's actually not a surprising conclusion if you consider the evil odours Brussels sprouts sometimes inspire. From

Red Flowers and Green Endive


All Flowers that are red

In the studio, we held the flowers of Tiger Bay dahlia, Red Pierre rose, red geraniums, red gladioli, buds of flowering gum and a leucodendron.
For all flowers that arise from tubers, cut the stems flush across the bottom. Mercedes calls these :male' flowers. Not to be confused with the male parts of flowers or male flowers on cucurbits.
This is simply a term to distinguish how to treat the stems of cut flowers.
Tip: Gladioli needs the top few cms removed so that the blooms sit up straight.
  • List of red flowers available as cut flowers in February.

China aster, bouvardia, dahlia, gerbera, nerine, roses, water lily.
The colour red increases your heart rate and appetite, but is also a symbol of passion.
  • Trees that have red flowers in February: Stenocarpus sinuatus: Firewheel tree. (pictured.)

Video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener on 19th February 2020



Endive-the bitter version of lettuce or is it?
Scientifically, Cichorium endivia is a leaf vegetable belonging to the daisy or Asteraceae family, like all lettuces really.
Because it’s in the daisy family ,should your Endive bolt to seed, or you let a few go to flower, you’ll attract beneficial insects to your garden that’ll control your pest population.
Endive is a green leafy plant that looks a lot like frizzy and crinkly lettuce with a slightly bitter taste.
  • If you don’t like bitter notes in your food I’ll tell you how you can grow it without it turning bitter a little later.
  • Did you know that Endive is a cool weather green, because like hearting lettuce, it bolts to seed in warm weather?
  • Now is the perfect temperature to sow the seeds of Endive.

Traditionally lettuce is eaten raw but Endive can be cooked or used raw in salads.
There are two main varieties of cultivated endive:
Frisée or Curly endive, (var crispum) and Escarole or broad leaved endive. (var latifolia.)
  • Curly Endive has narrow, curly outer twisted leaves that are firm and bitter to taste. The outside leaves are dark green, while the core can be yellow or white.
    Curly endive
  • Escarole, or broad-leaved endive (var latifolia) has broad, pale green leaves and is less bitter than the other varieties. Broad-leaf Endive consists of a bunch of thick broad leaves that are coarse and slightly tough in texture. This type of Endive is eaten like other greens, sauteed, chopped into soups and stews, or as part of a green salad.

Endive broad leaf
Belgian Endive or Witloof Chicory is really quite different to the other types of endive, with a narrow, lightly packed pointed head that looks like a  spearhead.
Witloof as I’ve seen it called, ranges in colour from pale yellowish-green to white.
But whatever type of Endive you grow, you’ll find that’s it’s dead easy, like a lot of lettuce type vegetables.
If you grow Endive yourself you’ll save money because it tends to be the more expensive of the greens in the supermarket or greengrocer.
When to Grow
Are you asking when shall I put in the seeds of Endive ?
For Tropical, sub-tropical and Arid areas, sow your endive seeds from April to July,
In temperate zones, March until May, then again in early Spring, and in cool temperate districts you had March, possibly still try in April, but unless you have a greenhouse of some sort, wait until September, October.
Endive is best planted at soil temperatures between 15°C and 25°C. and should be ready to pick in 10-11 weeks.

Endive seeds are very fine but try and spread the seeds as thinly as possible directly into the garden.
Cover the seeds with a very fine layer of loose soil or seed raising mix.
Water lightly, and keep soil moist.
Thin plants to 15cm apart, in rows 45cm apart.
Tip: Some people sprinkle the seeds on top of a fine soil, and just water them in.
You can start endive in punnets or trays just as you would for heading lettuce and transplant later if you want to.
If you’re doing the punnet thing, spray them daily with a fine mist of water until the seeds germinate, transplanting them about 20 - 30 cm apart
Like other greens, endive tastes best when it grows quickly and steadily.
Make sure it gets enough water and fertilizer.
  • Now here’s the tip on reducing the bitterness.

Endive  has a slightly bitter taste which can add zing to a salad bowl but if you’re not into bitter tasting lettuce, you can take out the bitterness by blanching.
Not in boiling water, but out in the garden.

Blanching is a technique used in vegetable growing.

  • Young shoots of a plant are covered to exclude light, so that they don’t produce as much chlorophyll, which is that green stuff in leaves.
  • The result is leaves that are paler in colour.
  • Blanched vegetables have a more delicate flavour and texture than unblanched vegetables.
  • You can also blanch your Endive by tying the leaves together when a rosette begins to form or cover with a large pot for about 3 weeks.

Tip: An easy way to blanch your endive is to cut off the top and bottom of a milk carton and pop it over your Endive plant 1-3 weeks before they are ready. That should be about 7 weeks after you sowed the seeds, so put a note in your diary.
That way, the stems will be whitish and not so bitter.
Why is it good for you?
Endive is rich in many vitamins and minerals, especially in folate and vitamins A and K, and is high in fibre. Endive is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, a great addition to your weight loss program.

Frangipanis and Not Much More

Frangipanis and...

Some plants develop a following or have societies created around them, where fellow collectors swap cuttings, ideas and seeds of that particular genus. 
JJ's Desert Sunrise photo Susan Newie
Frangipanis are tropical trees are loved by many collectors, and funnily enough, these collectors are going for the darker coloured flowers, like the dark reds, or almost black flowers.
  • But it’s not only the colour of the flowers that drives collectors crazy, it’s the size of the flowers and how they lookEvery so often that present a show, usually annually or biannually to sell some of their plants to the public.
This is the time to pick up something rare and exciting that you will never find in a nursery, garden centre let alone a big box store, and it’s not to be missed.
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Anthony Grassi, President of the Frangipani Society of Australia.

Anthony, mentioned the Moragne hybrids.
Bill Moragne is the father of Plumeria breeding.
A professional horticulturist in Hawaii during the 1950’s he pioneered and perfected the cross breeding/hybridizing technique for frangipanis.
His best hybrids set the standard years ago and they still do today.

  • Why Doesn't My frangipani flower?

  • It may be too young. 
When you first buy your frangipani plant, whether just a cutting or in a pot, it will most likely flower in the first year. The second year, it will put all its energy into growing strong roots and lengthening branches.
While it's still young, the stems will need a minimum of 2 years before the wood is ready again to produce buds and flower. The same applies, if you prune it.

  • After that, you may need to think about your fertilising regime.
Anthony recommends Sudden Impact for Roses, but following it up with a couple of applications of potash granules applied in spring and summer.
  • The third factor is, sunlight. 
Is your frangipani growing in full all day sun?
If it's not getting enough sun,  a minimum of 6 hours, it will resolutely fail to flower.

Not all the colour variations have strong perfume, but quite a few have flowers that are 10cm across, and imagine that amplified with a bunch of flowers,.
You end up with a cluster of flowers the size of a basketball.
Now that’s something to see.

If you want to know more or if you have any questions about where to get these amazing cultivars, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Why not find out more gardening facts with Autralia's top 10 gerdening blogs.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Firewheel Tree and What Next After Fire


Stenocarpus sinuatus: Firewheel tree

At this time of year (late summer in Australia), there’s a spectacular tree in some parks and gardens that is full of the native birdlife because they’re after the nectar laden bright red flowers.
One of my favourite trees. The flowers are just magnificent and so unusual.
Like the spokes of a wheel, they inspired the logo for my radio show.
Stenocarpus sinuatus : firewheel tree
A beautiful tree that is often overlooked for gardens but maybe you should grow it.
I'm talking with Adrian O”Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

The tree is laden with nectar and as usual, the crazy parrots, such as lorikeets, go for the flowers, screeching their delightful tune as they take a sip.
Sometimes, the nectar ferments in the hot sun making the birds a little more jolly.
Ring tail possums like to chew on the new leaves during the warm months.
The leaves are quite large, up to 20cm in length and they are quite leathery.
The green, lobed leaves are similar to those of maple trees, featuring five main veins which are yellowish-green and prominent on the underside of the leaf. One of this tree’s most outstanding features is its distinct autumn foliage – a highlight of the autumn season, so people reckon, but not so much in my garden.
My tree has profuse bright red and orange flowers creating a spectacular display from summer to autumn. Shaped like the spokes of a wheel before they open, these symmetrical blossoms may be up to 10 cm in diameter and are highly attractive, especially to birds.
The leaves are not great for composting, in fact it would take years, so best to put them in the green bin.
Adrian says that you can grow this tree in a pot for some years, but make it a large pot.
When the leaves start dropping you might need to think about putting in the garden or shifting it to an even larger pot. 
You can also root prune the tree and keep it in the same pot.
Worth having.
If you have any questions either for me or for Adrian, why not write in to


What Next After Fire?

This series is about the task of assessing and rebuilding a garden after a fire event.
There may be burnt trees and shrubs on your property, but can you just get out the chainsaw, axe or other pruning tools and chop them down?
Yep, burnt ground and trees after fire
Should you seek advice first?

Let’s find out.
That was Wayne van Balen, immediate past president of the Institute of Horticulture and Manager of the registered horticulturist program.
A fire event is not open slather to remove trees and shrubs from your property unless there’s a risk of person or property damage.
Assessment has to be done first.

garden Rakes and Spring Onions


Garden Rakes
Garden rakes have got to be one of the many of the must have tools in a garden shed.
But like the old successful tv ad about engine oils where they said, oils aint oils, the same applies to garden rakes.
There’s no one formula that suits all garden situations, but some are more flexible than others,
Let’s find out more. 
I'm talking with Tony Mattson of

  • Do you hate raking the leaves because your garden rake catches on everything or is heavy so the job is tiring?
  • Believe me when I say, that once you find the right garden rake, one that is light, adjustable, with tines that seem to scoop up leaves without too much effort, then happy days.
The rake with the adjustable fan width and handle height seems to be the most versatile of rakes and would be a great addition to the tools in the garden shed. 
Tony mention that out of the plastic rakes, Polyamide nylon and high impact nylon will last a lot longer but of course will cost a bit more. 
There is also specific rakes for dethatching lawn, or raking up gravel or spreading soil.
These are all different to the rakes that are for raking leaves. 
Why is it that gardens seem to have lots of leaves?
If you want to know more or if you have any questions about garden rakes, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Spring Onions
Spring Onions or are they shallots?
Firstly spring onions are Allium fistulosum. are really like thick chives.
Did you know that all manner of onions were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans?
There’s even a reference to spring onions in Chinese literature dating back over two thousand years.
Australians are often confused about what a shallot actually is, because we call them spring onions as well.
Allium fistulosum

Elsewhere in the world the word ‘shallot’ is only used to describe a small bulb, growing much the same way as a garlic bulb, with mild, delicate flavour.
  • ''True shallots (Allium cepa, aggregatum) are grown for their bulbs only. Unfortunately, spring onions are marketed as Shallots in NSW

Is it because shallots have a mild flavour that they've been confused with spring onions, which is what they’re supposed to be called?
To onion lovers and growers here's where there’s a difference.
A spring onion or bunching onion has is one that’s got a hint of a bulb when it matures; 
Spring Onions are a non-bulbing, perennial onion.
  • Did you know that in Australia we also call Spring Onions,.Green Onions? In fact, I’ve never seen the term Green Onion in the greengrocer or supermarket, have you?So now we know that Spring or Green onions have long, - up to 40cms long, hollow green, delicate stalks and small, very slender, white bulbs.
  • The bulb of a spring/green onion is really only slightly defined.

Spring or Green onions come out of the ground early in their lives... in fact you can sow them from very early spring until at least the end of march.
Usually you can pick them about 7 weeks later.
What’s good about spring onions is that they’re mild tasting because they haven’t been in the ground long enough to gain much pungency.
Spring onions can be used sliced or chopped raw in green salads or creamy salads like potato salad, pasta salads, or on top baked .

Where do spring onions grow?
They’re a versatile plant with tube-like hollow leaves; that grows from cold regions right through to hot, tropical areas.
Spring onions prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline soil and are extremely hardy and pest resistant.
  • Grow them in full sun.

All onions need an open sunny site, fertile soil that is free draining.
Raised garden beds are the best if you have clay soil.
  • You can sow Spring Onions anytime really in Australia, because unlike other onions, day length doesn’t affect their growth. Plus, spring onions aren’t affected by frost.
  • Raising them in seed punnets or tray seems to work best, then transplant them when they’re several cms high or as half as thick as a pencil.
  • It’s normal to sow the seeds of spring onions closely, and because these onion seeds are planted densely they bunch together so that the bulbs have little chance of fully maturing and rounding completely out
  • When planting into the garden, dig lots of compost through the topsoil first and then use a dibbler to make holes 10cm apart.
  • Place a seedling in each hole and gently push the soil around the rootball. Water the seedlings very lightly but if they fall over, don’t worry as they will soon stand back up.
  • Keep your onions weed free.
  • Water them when dry weather is expected, otherwise ease back a bit.
  • In about 2 months, your spring onions should be ready to eat.
  • You can tell they’re ready because the leaves are standing tall, green and succulent.
  • If you want to harvest an entire bulb, use a fork to dig around the plant to keep from damaging it accidentally.
  • You can also just use scissors to cut the leaves and use them as a garnish in salads or casseroles for flavour.
  • Spring Onions belong to the class known as bunching onions and have a mild, sweet flavour; the green shaft plus a few cm of the green leaves are eaten.

Spring Onions must be harvested when the stalks are still green and you eat the whole plant, except the hairy roots
TIP:There is never any hint of a bulb in a Spring Onion so you can't leave the plants in the ground for the tops to dry off — they will, but you won't be able to save any bulbs.
  • If you forget to pick your spring onions, and they’ve started to flower.
  • Let them keep flower and save the seeds.The flowers are attractive to bees and other useful insects.
  • The seeds can also be sprouted.

You want to grow your own spring onions for freshness alone, because the ones you buy from the supermarket are only fresh for a handful of days.
For a dash of colour why not try Brilliant crimson spring onion red bulbs that are rich in antioxidants.
This one will grow into bulbs that can be used like shallots if left in the ground.
After you your spring onions from the ground, when preparing them in your kitchen, save the rooted bottoms and replant them.
Simply cut off the bottom inch (3 cm) of your green onions and plant them in damp soil, or keep them in a jar of water in a sunny spot.
You’ll a new lot of spring onions in a couple of weeks.
Why are the good for you? 
Spring Onion is:
Low in Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Cholesterol
High in Dietary Fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Manganese, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper. Whew!
If you have never tried growing onions before, why not give them a go this year? 
They are a very versatile, easy to grow vegetable that can be grown from seed most of the year.
Happy Spring Onion growing everyone!