Saturday, 3 December 2016

Jerry's Gone Amongst the Rhubarb


Brown Gerygone

Belonging to the family of Scrubwrens means this tiny bird is very hard to identify if you see it flitting about in the bush. 
In fact if you were on a guided walk you might be told that they belong to the group SBB or small brown birds. 
Brown Gerygone photo John Gunning

Did you know though that this particular bird builds a truly unusual nest and you can recognise the call if you think of a little phrase, "which is it?"
Let’s find out what it is.. I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons Manager of www.birdsinbackyards. 

Gerygone is pronounced Jerr-Ig-O-Knee  
By the way the phrase to help you recognise the call “which is it” is an Onomatopoeia: a word or a grouping of words that imitates the sound it is describing. 
And a note from a photographer about this bird reads “I'm convinced these birds are physically unable to keep still and take great delight in hiding behind leaves in perfect light or perching on open branches in the darker areas.” 
If you have any questions about the Brown Gerygone or have a photo or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Rhubarb Rhubarb or botanically Rheum x hybridum.
The word rhubarb originates from Latin.
Do you think of Rhubarb as a fruit?
You wouldn’t be the lone ranger on that one, because we’re used to eating it mainly in deserts, such as Rhubarb and apple crumble, or Rhubarb and Apple pie or strudel.
But did you know that rhubarb is actually a close relative of garden sorrel, which means it’s a member of the vegetable family.
If that’s a bit Confucius, in 1947, in the United States, a New York court decided since it was used as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.
Rhubarb [Rheum x hybridum] came to Australia from England with the first free settlers, and was well established by 1840.
Did you know though that until 1890 all culinary rhubarb worldwide was winter deciduous, until an Australian market gardener [Mr Topp of Bendigo Victoria] bred an evergreen variety and called it "Topp's Winter”

Rhubarb x hybridum photo M Cannon
So what is Rhubarb?
Rhubarb-the vegetable used as a fruits, is an herbaceous perennial.
Herbaceous because it dies down in winter, perennial because it regrows from year to year.
Rhubarb has short, thick Rhizomes –the underground horizontal stem part of the plant.
The leaves are sort of triangular shaped and crinkly with small greenish flowers.
What we all like to eat is the long, thick (and tasty) petioles or stalks.
How do you prefer to eat your Rhubarb? In sauces or pies, you can actually eat the stems raw in a salad or stewed.
Perhaps Rhubarb and ginger muffins or for something savory, how about rhubarb with pork or chicken with baked rhubarb?  
Normally I would talk about when to plant Rhubarb crowns which for most districts is a bit late now.
Instead today I’m going to suggest that you can sow seeds of rhubarb.
You can buy the seeds online from a variety of seed companies in Australia or you might be able to source some from your local garden club.
How to sow Rhubarb seeds
The seeds are encased in a rather large paper-like shell. You need to first soak the seeds in water for a few hours before planting.
After that sow them into punnets using a good quality seed raising mixture.
Don’t use potting mix because it’s too coarse and doesn’t contain the right amount of fertiliser to get those seeds going.
Rhubarb seeds photo Flora Cyclam Flikr

Seeds should germinate in about 10 days at this time of year.
Keep your seedlings evenly moist but don’t over-water (the seedlings can die from root rot if the ground is too wet).
The stems of rhubarb grown from seed will not all have that intense red colour that you see in fruit and veg stores.
Some stems will be red, some green, and some in between.
But they will all taste the same, perfect for your rhubarb and apple crumble.

IMPORTANT TIP: In case you think you can also eat the leaves-DON’T.

The leaves contain oxalic acid and are toxic. There’s no safe method of using them in cooking at all.
A few vegetables have oxalic acid but in this case the concentrations of oxalic acid is way too high and it’s an organic poison as well as being corrosive. Other methods of growing Rhubarb is by planting pieces or divisions of 'crowns' formed from the previous season.
If you have a friend that grows rhubarb, ask them to make divisions by cutting down through the crown between the buds or 'eyes' leaving a piece of storage root material with each separate bud.
This is a good way to share your plant with friends.
Divide your Rhubarb in Autumn or winter when it’s dormant but here’s another tip- not before it’s at least five years old.
Rhubarb is a heavy feeder, that means needs lots of fertiliser during the growing season.
Use large amounts of organic matter like pelletised poultry manure and/or cow manure mulches applied in late autumn and work that mulch carefully into the soil around the crowns.
Tip: Use only aged manures, not something fresh from the paddock, or you will get fertiliser toxicity which will stop the plant from thriving and you might even risk losing your rhubarb plant.
During the active growing season you will also need a side-dress of fertiliser using some sort of complete fertiliser at three-monthly intervals do this also after you picked off some Rhubarb stalks for dinner as well.
You don’t have to dig up your rhubarb plant, as it’ll last for 10-15 years.
So plant it in a place that’s permanent, otherwise choose the pot alternative.
The biggest question people have about rhubarb is why aren’t the stems red yet? There’s good news and then there’s bad news.
The good news, stems stay green for the first few years on some cultivars, but they will eventually turn red.
On others, especially those grown from seed, they will always be green or red or in between and this is because seed grown rhubarb isn’t always reliably red, even if the seeds came from a red stemmed parent plant.
So the bad news for you is that these plants will always be the same colour that started out with.
When you’re picking those rhubarb stems here are some tips to keep your plant growing well.
Let some leaves remain on the plants during summer to generate energy and reserves for the following year.
The recommendation is harvesting a few stems at a time, in spring and autumn only. It’s best not to stress the plants during the summer, so avoid harvesting at this time. Frost will kill all the leaves, so harvest all the leaves when frost threatens in Autumn.
There isn’t much that goes wrong with Rhubarb …although some districts may get mites in the leaves or borers in the stem. Unless you are growing plants in really heavy clay, you won’t get crown rot either.
Which Seed Variety Should You Buy?
Until now seed grown rhubarb has had a bad name, because almost all available rhubarb seed is the winter dormant “Victoria” or variations of it.
Some people will tell you that green is all you will get.
It goes to seed readily, and is extremely variable; often only one plant in 1000 is worth keeping.
There’s a company called French Harvest that collects seed from its extensive rhubarb trial fields which are open-pollinated with over 50 different superb non-deciduous red commercial clones grown in close proximity.
They say that it germinates well, and if sown in the spring, can be ready to pick in only 6 months. Approximately 90% of the plants will be red, with a good percentage of stunning red clones.
Growing rhubarb from French Harvest seed has many benefits over root division.
It’s virus free.
The variations obtained from seed raised stock increase the chances of finding a variety suitable to grow on your site.
Large numbers of plants may be obtained quickly.
Low cost per plant. Their trial fields contain unrelated Rheum X’s (rhubarb) resulting in many of their seedlings exhibiting hybrid vigour.
The chance of finding your own new clone and naming it.
Remember all of today’s commercial rhubarbs were once seedlings
The Website
Why is Rhubarb a vegetable Hero?
The good: news rhubarb is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol.
It’s also a good source of Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Potassium and Manganese


Scented Leaves to "Brush By."
Continuing the series on scented plants and scented leaves.

Lavandula sp. photo M Cannon
Was it a term coined by Peter? It seems likely but until Peter mentioned the term, “brush by” I had never come across it.
In fact if you did a search on the internet for “brush by plants” you get a selection of Bottle Brush plants.
That’s not it. If you put in just “brush by”, you guessed it, a selection of definitions on brushing and websites selling hairbrushes.
So what does it mean? 
Let’s find out..I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and project Manager of Paradisus Garden Design.

Scented leaves on Geraniums, Lavenders, licorice scented leaves of Agastache, and Bee Balm or Bergamot. Just some of the plants to choose from for your brush by garden.


Artemisa vulgaris Common Wormwood
If you’re hankering after scented leaves with silvery-grey foliage, you can’t go past these (wormwoods) plants. 
Not only do they have lacey foliage, but their scent makes them a perfect “brush by” plant.

So let’s find out wwhy they're so good. I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Artemisia vulgaris photo M Cannon
PLAY: Artemisea vulgaris_23rd November_2016
 All wormwoods are member of the Asteraceae or Daisy family, and are related to Tarragon.
Wormwood silver-grey leaves look almost likefeathers and both the stem and upper surface of the leaves are covered with small, whitish hairs.
Once established, this plant can cope with any amount of dry conditions because it’s that tough.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Passionfruit and the Scent of Lilac


I was going to have Tony Mattson from Cut above tools, on the program until I realised that I needed to talk to one of the judges of the Tesselaar rock Star Florist competition.
The art of floristry has come a long way from posies of yesteryear.
Floral Design is the ‘in thing’ or buzz word, where creating anything from simple bouquets to floral chandeliers, to floral head dresses are the go.
Where can they showcase their stuff?
At a floral competition and today I’m talking to Julie Rose, one of the judges and former competition finalist for 4 years.

This year there are three bona-fide Australian RockStar Florists to judge  the competition as expert judges and mentors:

•Holly Hipwell from The Flower Drum
•Melanie Stapleton from Cecilia Fox
•Julia-rose from Flowers by Julia-rose
These industry superstars will help select finalists and the ultimate winners. They will also then offer their valuable time and expertise to train up our lucky winners.
The way it works is the judges chose their finalists (9 each for a total of 27 finalists), which they have already done, then from 16th -23rd November, the public can vote on, where you, get to select the 3 category winners – then back to the judges who will decide amongst themselves who is to be the overall winner - 2016’s RockStar Florist!


Passionfruit or Passiflora edulis.
Almost every garden has space for a passionfruit.
Yes, it’s a fruit but botanically it’s a berry.
Plant a Passionfruit or two- Passionfruit Panama Red, Panama Gold, Nellie Kelly and Banana passionfruit.
The passionfruit vine has the look of a tropical vine with it’s lime green glossy 3-lobed leaves and its intricate purple and white flowers with a crown like appearance.
So distinctive is this flower that 16th Century Spanish Catholic missioniaries named it "Flor de las cinco llagas" or "flower of the five wounds."
They thought the flowers portrayed ‘Christ’s passion on the cross’ because it showed the Three Nails, the Five Wounds, the Crown of Thorns and the Apostles
Passiflora edulis

So it could have come from Brazil but no-one knows for sure.
PASSIONFRUIT is a well known and loved vine in Australia.
Passion fruit grew here before 1900 in what had been banana fields.
Until1943, passionfruits were a high yielding commercial crop but when the vines were devastated by a widespread virus, the industry was devastated.
Although some plantations have been rebuilt, they can’t produce enough passion fruit to satisfy the demand.
So Why Grow A Passionfruit?
Passionfruit vines are have twining tendrils that grab onto anything within reach and can clamber up trellis, fence or pergola in most soil types.
They’re also suitable for large pots on a balcony.
The passionfruit vine is very ornamental in leaf and flower and will improve the appearance of fences, stark walls, tanks and just about anything else.
Almost every garden has space for one passionfruit vine, so try to find a suitable spot against a sunny fence or wall.
The common, or purple, passionfruit are the size of an egg, round to egg-shaped with a thick, purple skin, which becomes dull and wrinkled as it ripens.
Inside, the pulp is yellowish-orange, sweet and jelly-like with many edible, black seeds covered in jelly-like pulp.
Some varieties are yellow, some are banana-shaped, others are larger than the purple passionfruit.
Commercial growers in cooler climates often use hybrid varieties of the purple and golden passionfruit.
That way they get a plant that tolerates cooler weather.
How to grow Passionfruit from seed.
Growing passionfruit seeds isn’t hard.
The seed just needs to be fresh.
For some reason old seed takes a lot longer to germinate.
So buy some nice passionfruit, separate half a dozen seeds from the pulp, and plant them as soon as possible.
They take about ten to twenty days to germinate.
Keep in mind that most passionfruit found in the fruit and veg shop are hybrid varieties and won’t come true to type.
Another problem with growing from these seeds is that the plant that grows will be more susceptible to the fungal disease, Fusarium Wilt.
If you have this problem in your district, often in cool temperate zones, then you’ll have to buy a grafted variety of passionfruit.
If you buy your seed then it's likely older, so be prepared to wait.
Old passionfruit seeds can take months to germinate.
The best way seems to be to just put them in the garden and leave them be, and they may came up.
Next Thing.
When your seeds germinate and are ready to transplant, dig in some Chook poo pellets before planting,
Sprinkle  the soil with 0.5 kg dolomite lime, and mulch with an organic mulch once the vine’s in place.
All passionfruit like full sun and protection from wind and frost.
They also need something to climb over.
You only need two wires along a north facing fence.
One placed near the top of the fence and another one 50 cm lower.
Train the young plant up a stake until it reaches the first wire, then allow two shoots to go out along the wire.
Of course you can grow it along other structures, it’s really up to you.
Like all fast growing plants passionfruit needs a lot of nutrients.
Passionfruit are notoriously short lived, so it’s a good idea to plant a new vine in a different part of the garden every couple of years.
In colder areas you can grow the banana passionfruit which have a similar taste and pink flowers.
Regular water and fertiliser will increase vigour and crop size.
Passionfruit plants have a vulnerable root system.

A fertile soil with lots of organic matter is the ideal situation.
If your soil is poor you will get problems with wilt diseases, root rot and nematodes. Heavy clay soils also cause problems with rot diseases.
The root system also can handle lots of water as long as the soil it’s in is well drained.
The plant also needs plenty of water when it’s fruiting.
In warm areas you will get fruit for most of the year.
In temperate areas expect a crop summer and late autumn.
In cold areas only summer.
 (Passionfruit - Panama Gold vigorous and sweeter than the others.
Black Passionfruit - (Passiflora edulis) Will tolerate light frosts. Self pollinating.)
Why Are They Good For You?
They’re an excellent source of beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.
A good source of vitamin C
They’re an excellent source of dietary fibre. Australian figures rate passionfruit higher than any other fruit for dietary fibre.
Also contain more of the B complex vitamins riboflavin and niacin and also more iron than other fruits


Scented Plants for Cool Temperate Gardens. (The envy of warm climate gardeners!)
Earlier this year Garden Designer Peter Nixon started a series on scent for your garden.
We now take it up again with a focus on scented plants for cool climate gardens.

Sometimes I think cool climate gardens have it all.
Not that you need to have a palace as in the photograph of lilacs taken in Vienna.
Those gardeners can plant an English style garden, they can even plant a tropical style garden by choosing cold hardy large leaved plants.But best of all, they can plant these sumptuously scented plants that gardens further north struggle with.
Let’s find out more.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and project Manager of Paradisus Garden Design.

Daphnes, Luculias, Bouvardia,  and Lilac are all plants that gardeners other than in cool climates try to grow with limited success.
Sometimes they last for a few years, sometimes they don’t survive the season.
Their allure keeps drawing us in.
The plants that Peter mentioned are:

Philadelphus coronarius
Daphne odorata : Viburnum carlesii
Luculia gratissima, L. pinceana, L. grandifolia
Siringa vulgaris - Lilac
Edgeworthia chrysantha - Paper Bush
Chimonanthus praecox - Winter Sweet
Lonicera fragrantissima - Woodbine
Narcisis - jonquils, daffodils Lavendula


Amaranth caudatus_Love Lies Beeding

Described as have brilliant red seed heads that dangle like rubies, the tassles of this flower can reach up to 30cm long.
That means that if you want to display them in a vase, the vase has to be quite tall.
So let’s find out what it is.
I'm talking with the plant panel:Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Did you know that Love-Lies-Bleeding grew in many Victorian English gardens and in the language of flowers, it represents hopeless love?
Tiny blood red petal-less flowers that bloom in narrow, drooping, tassel-like, panicles throughout the growing season.
The tassels contain thousands of tiny flowers and hang straight down to 30cm (occasionally 60 cm) long and look like velvet cords.
Did you know that the red colour of the inflorescences is due to a high content of betacyanins?
This plant grows best in full sun and well drained soil.
It tolerates dry conditions and poor soil, but can’t grow in the shade.
If you have any questions about growing  Amaranthus or Love Lies Bleeding, why not write in to

Saturday, 19 November 2016

A House, A Garden, and Luscious Scented Plants.


The House and Garden at Glenmore :author Mickey Robertson.

Imagine a ramshackle set of buildings dating back to the 1850’s set way out on the outskirts of a big city.
No garden, but plenty of land.

Imagine also your partner or husband coming home and telling you that he’s just bought such a property.
What would you do?

Let’s find out ..'[m speaking with author of The House and Garden at Glenmore Robertson
Glenmore House was once a dairy farm and when Mickey's husband came across it 28 years ago, it was a collection of once dilapidated buildings.
These buildings took time to restore and in the book, Mickey describes the long process.
Mickey wrote the book in 1 month, working every day fro 10 hours.
Being an inveterate compiler of lists she was able to draw on them for the names of plant material and order of things.

Ideas for the garden came from notable famous gardens like Sissinghurst in England but the garden isn't entirely English.


Not only does Mickey provide heaps of plant information in this book but there are gardening tips along with 30 seasonal recipes, including that recipe for cumquat Ice-cream.
Next time there’s an open day at Glenmore, we should make an effort to go and visit. You won’t be disappointed.
You can catch up that segment by listening to the podcast
If you have any questions Glenmore house, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW


OKRA Abelmoschus esculentus
The answer to the question What vegetable, was used to thicken soups and stews, and the seeds were toasted and ground then used as a coffee substitute? 
OKRA the way to pronounce is "Oh krah" not "Aukra"
Okra is also known as Lady’s fingers.
Okra is in the Malvaceae or Mallow family and called
Abelmoschus esculentus. (A-bell-mow- shus es-kew-lent-us)
It used to be called Hibiscus esculentus so that may you give you a clue as to what the bush might look like.
Did you know that Okra is related to cotton, cocoa, hibiscus and Rosella plants?
"Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia  and Okra is found growing wild on the banks of the river Nile.
According to records, the Egyptians were the first to grow it as a veggie it in the basin of the Nile during 12th century BC .
And as Okra made its way to North Africa and the Middle East, more uses were developed.
Not only were the seed pods eaten cooked, the seeds were toasted and ground, and used as a coffee substitute (and still is).
You might have also heard of a dish called gumbo. This comes from using Okra or gumbo as a thickener especially in soups.
So what does the Okra bush look like?
Okra varies in height from 60cm to 2m high depending on the variety of seed you buy.
 The leaves are heart shaped with plenty of yellow hibiscus-like flowers with a maroon throat.
In case you don’t know Hibiscus flowers, think of Hawaiian or Tahitian girls with flowers in their hair. Might also be a Hibiscus or a Frangipani.
 As you know, after the flowers comes the fruit that looks like a five-ribbed small pod with a cap on it, sort of like a gumnut cap.
Much smaller than beans or cucumbers.
Pick these a week after the flowers emerge because the Okra, gets too tough and stringy after that.
I’m told the leaves can be used as Spinach.
Doubly useful.
When to sow.
So when do you grow it?
In sub-tropical districts, you can plant them in August and September and then again January and February.
In temperate climates, sow seeds in October through to December,
Arid areas have between August and December to sow seeds directly into the soil.
 Cool temperate districts, including Tasmania, for you, the advice is to grow them in a greenhouse, but I discovered a blog from Adam whose from a cool mountain climate and Adam says “Okra does indeed grow in the cool areas, it just needs a bit of help to establish.
Adam puts an old plastic milk bottle over the plant until it fills the bottle, then away it goes.
Just pick the warmest part of your garden.
You’ll get a small crop if you have a cold Summer, but should have heaps if the summer is warmer. Thanks Adam!.
Finally for Tropical districts, you’ve won the jackpot this week, because you can grow Okra all year round!
Growing Okra
Okra seeds germinate reasonably well, but will be helped along if you soak them in a shallow dish of tepid water for 24hours.
This will soften the hard outer seed coat.
Pick a spot that gets full sun and has plenty of compost dug into the soil.
One thing that Okra detests, and that’s wet, boggy soil or soil with poor drainage.
Okra will also be set back if you get a cold snap in your district.
Either sow the seeds directly or into punnets for later transplanting.
I have heard that they don’t like being transplanted that much so you could try sowing them in pots made of coir, or make them yourself from newspaper or toilet rolls.
A very permaculture thing to do.
Because they grow as a largish bush, space the seeds or seedlings if transplanting, about 50cm to a metre apart.
Water your Okra fairly regularly, and if your soil is too hard or clayey, grow some Okra in a pot no problem.
TIP:By the way, Okra are partial to high amounts of Potash.
During the growing period, water in lots of liquid fertiliser, such as worm tea and add handfuls of compost.
Tip pruning will also give you a bushier plant with more flowers and more Okra pods.
In warm areas of Australia, your Okra will be ready to pick in 10 weeks.
In cold temperate zones however, it may take as long as 16 weeks.
Pick your Okra when they’re small and certainly before they get bigger than 10cm in length. Around 5 – 10 cm length is best.
Tip: Okra pods are referred to as mucilaginous.
What does that meant? Ughhhh! This can make them a bit slimy in cooking, so if that bothers you, don’t slice them, keep them whole.
Alternatively, add a couple of drops of vinegar or lemon juice.
I’ve also read that you should avoid growing Okra where you’ve had tomatoes, capsicums or potatoes growing previously.
For different varieties of Okra, go to
Two varieties I found online in Australia, are Okra Clemson Spineless, a bush that grows to 1 ½ m and Okra red Burgundy. Red Burgundy has red pods on a vigorous 1.5m tall plant with green leaves and attractive bright cherry red stems.
I’ll put a link to this site on my website. You can get many rare and hard to find seeds at this company. Well priced too.
Why are they good for you?
Okra contains lots of valuable nutrients, almost half of which is in the form of soluble fibre.
A half of a cup of okra contains about 10% of the recommended levels of B6 and folic acid.
By the way, Okra has black seeds inside the pod. Don’t feel you have to remove them because you don’t. The seeds add flavour to the cooking.
The fibre is in that mucilage.
How about trying a mix with peppers and eggplant! Or grill it on the BBQ! :) try it !! grill it on its side for 2 minutes each!its yummy!!!!



Scented Bulbs for Your Garden
Earlier this year Garden Designer Peter Nixon started a series on scent for your garden.
We now take it up again with a focus on scented bulbs.

So many plants are lovely, with beautiful blooms, but only a smaller section of these also include a wonderful fragrance.
When it comes to bulbs you probably know hyacinths and peonies and paperwhites as fragrant choices - but did you know there are bearded iris, daffodils, hostas and even tulip varieties with a luscious scent?
Let’s find out more. I'm talking with
Peter Nixon, garden designer and project Manager of Paradisus Garden Design.
So many gardens are planted without a thought to scent – perhaps because there has been such a shift to perennials, which are the least-scented group of plants.
They’re missing the third dimension – fragrance puts the whole garden onto another level.

Why not grow all of these plants so that you can turn your garden in to a perfumed paradise all year round.
You can hear that segment again on the website
Sometimes, the first indication that you have that a plant is flowering is from the drifting perfume.
How much nicer to inhale the luscious waves of sweet smelling flowers than the exhaust fumes from our big cities.
Summertime should include the sweet scent of flowers, freshly mown grass or even that undefinable smell of a garden having just been watered.
Don’t hold back, plant more scent in your garden.


NEW Gazania hybrids
Have you ever seen grey leaved daisy like flowers growing on someone’s nature strip.
They seem to take over the whole path and usually only come in bright colours or yellow and orange.
Showy flowers, which appear throughout the warmer months, are large, brightly coloured, often marked, and the ray florets tend to be darker at the base, with a contrastingly coloured central disc.
The species usually have yellow or orange flowers, but the newer hybrid garden forms are available in a wide colour range
So let’s find out more about the new kids on the block.

I'm talking with the plant panel:Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.
New Gazania hybrids have doubles and anemone style flowers making them sterile
The clever thing the plant breeders have done is to replace the male parts of the flower with petals.
The flowers is so full of petals that these new Gazanias can't close up at night as the old fashioned singles are wont to do.
Gazania species are grown for the brilliant colour of their flower-heads which appear in the late spring and are often in flower throughout summer into autumn.
They prefer a sunny position and are tolerant of dryness and poor soils so all the more reason to plant some out soon.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Spice with Fish and Wafting Scented Trees.


Fish Tamarind: Kokum Spice: Garcinia indica
Garcinia indica plums
The seed of the fruit of the plant Garcinia indica, contains enough oil (23–26% oil, so that it remains solid at room temperature.
The name Fish Tamarind refers not to the taste but to the fact that it's traditionally used in fish curries.It’s used in the preparation of confectionery, medicines and cosmetics.

Let’s find out what else it can be used for.

That was Ian Hemphill, owner of Herbies Spices and author of the Herb and spice
The tree is ornamental, growing 5-6 metres, with a dense canopy of green leaves and red-tinged, tender, young leaves.
The fruits look just like a plum.
The spice is mainly from the skin of the fruit, although sometimes it's the whole fruit.
When the whole fruit is sliced and dried it may be referred to as Kokum flowers.
Salt is used to assist in drying the skins and what you are left with is a leathery round fruit.
Quite tasty on its own but when added to cooking it adds acidity with a fruity background.
You can put 3 or 4 bits of Kokum in a curry.
The oily extract called kokum tel is used in foot massage, and to treat burns. You can catch up that segment by listening to the podcast
If you have any questions about Kokum or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Sweet potato or Ipomoea batatas
 Sweet potato originated in Central America and South America.
Sweet potato belongs to the Morning Glory family or Convolvulaceae so it does have pretty purple flowers, just like the weed Morning Glory and it is a vine also just like morning glory.
The flowers team nicely with the large heart shaped leaves.
Normal potatoes are in the Solanaceae family along with tomatoes.
Here’s a fact, Sweet potato has been radiocarbon-dated in the Cook Islands to 1000 AD, so it’s been around a while as a crop.
Sweet Potato Vine
 Did you know that Queensland is the biggest producer with over 70% of production, centred mainly on Bundaberg.
The second major producing area is around Cudgen in northern New South Wales. Sweetpotatoes are also grown at Mareeba, Atherton and Rockhampton (QLD), Murwillumbah (NSW), Perth, Carnarvon and Kununurra (WA).
Growing Sweet Potatoes is very easy in tropical and sub tropical climates, and not too difficult in cool climates, either.
Sweet potato is a great crop in places where it can often be difficult to grow traditional potatoes.
Not only is it easy, but it’s also hardy because it doesn’t need much water and feriltiser.
You also get a lot of tubers for your efforts plus you can also eat the leaf tips and young leaves as spinach.
In fact, sweet potatoes produce more kilos of food per hectare than any other cultivated plant, including corn and the potatoes.
They’re more nourishing than potatoes because they contain more sugars and fats, they are a universal food in tropical America.
But be warned, sweet potato is a vine that’s too easy to grow and can take over your veggie patch.
When to Plant.
In temperate districts, it’s September to November,.
For example in Melbourne plant them in October, ready to harvest in March as the foliage begins to turn.
You ‘ll need a warm sunny position, against a north facing wall is excellent.
You’ll also need to keep them moist.
In Sydney you can plant them a month earlier, September as a rule.

Further north, from the north coast of NSW through to the tropics you have more options, from July right through until March and in Cool temperate areas,  according to the Garden Web, you can even grow them in Tasmania, planting them out after the last frost but no later than the end of November.
Sweet potatoes do need four to six months of reasonably warm weather to mature
Growing Sweet Potatoes.
The quickest and easiest way to grow sweet potatoes is to use cuttings. Simply cut a piece of a runner, about a foot or 30 cm in length.
Remove all the leaves except for the tiny leaves at the very tip.
Plant the cutting by covering the whole length with soil, only the leaves of the tip should stick out of the ground.
The cuttings will root at every leave node.
Not just the leave nodes under the ground will root.
A sweet potato also grows roots from every leave node that develops as your cutting grows.
If you can't get hold of cuttings you can start growing sweet potatoes by planting the tubers.
You can use any shop bought sweet potatoes.
Place them on the ground, cover them with soil, and keep them moist.
The tubers will develop shoots, called slips.
Slips can be snipped or pulled off and planted out when they are about 15 cm in size. The original root will continue to produce more slips.
Hints and Tips
The best soil for sweet potatoes is sandy, but they can grow in all soils.
If you have heavy soil plant sweet potatoes on mounds or ridges.
Dig in mature compost in the bed to add plenty of organic matter.
TIP: Don’t use fresh manures or any fertilizers high in nitrogen, like pelleted chicken manure.
The reason is because you'll just end up with lots of leaves and no tubers.
Growing sweet potatoes requires some space, so plant them where they can spread. Space your cuttings or slips about a 30cm apart in a row, and leave 1 ½ m  between rows. (If you plant in rows, that is...)
Mulch thickly between plants and even between the beds to intially keep the weeds down.
Sweet potatoes don't keep well after harvest, so the best way is to plant a few cuttings every week or two.
Just one row of one metre length, with three cuttings.
They will take about 16 to 18 weeks to mature in warm weather, longer in cooler weather.
That way you can grow sweet potatoes all year round, and you don't find yourself with a big pile of them all at once.
Harvesting sweet potatoes
After four to six months, depending on the temperatures, your sweet potatoes will be ready.
You’ll see that the original stem of your cutting or slip will have thickened, and when you carefully lift the plant with a fork you should find two or three sweet potatoes at the base.
You can harvest sweet potato leaves and young shoots at any time, it doesn’t affect the plant or tubers.
Why is it good for you?
Besides simple starches, raw sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fibre and beta-carotene, while having moderate contents of other micronutrients, including vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and manganese
When cooked by baking, small variable changes in micronutrient density occur to include a higher content of vitamin C at 24% of the Daily Value per 100


Scented Trees for your Garden
Earlier this year Garden Designer Peter Nixon started a series on scent for your garden.
We now take it up again with small trees to suit any size garden, but trees with some sort of scent.
Brugmansia sp.-Angel's Trumpet

Perfume adds that extra sensory dimension to gardens and some of the trees only turn on their perfume in the evening.
How mysterious is that?
Let’s find out more about them.
I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and project Manager of Paradisus Garden Design.

Sometimes, the first indication that you have that a plant is flowering is from the drifting perfume.H
Gardenia thunbergia
Peter mentioned the following trees:
Small Trees:
Brugmansia candida, versicolor, alba, suavaolens Plumeria acuminata, pudica, bahamiensis, obtusa, rubra,
P. caracasana ‘Angel of Love’
Plumeria caracasana x P. obtusa ‘Annie Prowse’ - Stephen Prowse at Sacred Frangipani
Pachypodium lamerii Gardenia thunbergia
Large Trees
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Kaye Paris’, ‘Teddy Bear’, St. Marys’, Exmouth, Michellia alba, maudiae, champaca,
How much nicer to inhale the luscious waves of sweet smelling flowers than the exhaust fumes from our big cities.
Summertime should include the sweet scent of flowers, freshly mown grass or even that undefinable smell of a garden having just been watered.
Don’t hold back, plant more scent in your garden.


Gingko biloba Maidenhair Tree
This (gingko biloba) is an ancient tree that predates conifers or cone bearing plants, and is thought to be the link between cycads and those conifers.
These type of plants had the planet to themselves along with dinosaurs for over a 100 million years.
Dr Peter Valder in “The Garden Plants of China” (1999) refers to an 800-year-old ginkgo at Jianshan, Zhenjiang and “The King of Trees”, a ginkgo said to be 1,000 years old, which grows in a courtyard at Tanzhe Si (temple), southwest of Beijing.
So let’s find out what it is.
I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

In Australia, Ginkgo grows best in most places including Sydney and Perth.
In Adelaide there is a 100 year old tree in Kingston Terrace and a grand tree in Medole Court at the University of Adelaide.

Gingko biloba is decidiuous, with the leaves turning a buttery yellow before falling.

In Sydney’s Hyde Park is a ginkgo near St James Station planted c. 1900 and in the Sydney Botanic Gardens.
An old ginkgo grows at The Gorge, Launceston, in Tasmania.
There is a fine specimen in Albury Botanic Gardens,
 If you have any questions about growing  Maiden Hair tree, why not write in to