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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Change to Real World Gardener

You can even access old posts for Sydney Garden Talk at the Real World Gardener blog.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Who Gives a Fig?

Sydney Garden Talk 2RRR 88.5fm wed 5pm
Feature Interview: with Dr Dale Dixon, Manager Collections at Sydney Botanic Gardens Herbarium. Dale talks about the role of the fig wasp in pollinating the flowers inside the fruit. Inside the female fig tree’s fruit is black insects with wings-these are the female fig wasps. Fig wasps develop from eggs laid in the fig flowers. The male wasp apparently never leaves the fig because he dies after mating. The female wasp gathers pollen from male flowers before departing. Not that the female wasp used this pollen.The female wasp now has to tunnel into a fig that has unripe male flowers but ripe female flowers. She lays her eggs into the flask like flowers at the same time leaving the pollen behind that she collected from another fig. The flower that has the eggs turns into a gall and becomes food for the wasp baby or larvae. There’e more to this story, but that’s it in a nutshell.
Vegetable Hero: Herb Alloysia triphylla or Lemon Verbena. - Lemon verbena thrives in full sun; even better is a site in the reflected light of a white fence or garage wall.
Prune hard every Autumn or early winter to keep it from looking straggly.
Why is it good for you?- It helps in digesting food, strengthening the nervous system and relieving nausea and cramps. - Lemon verbena is often used as a slimming aid, since it breaks down cellulite and regulates metabolism. - Lemon verbena is used as a mild sedative during times of stress or to help with sleeplessness
Design Elements: Gertrude Jekyll-famous English garden designer. Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), created over 400 gardens in the UK, Europe and America; her influence on garden design has been pervasive to this day. She spent most of her life in Surrey, England, latterly at Munstead Wood, Godalming. She ran a garden centre there and bred many new plants. She was famous for her painterly style being influenced by such artists as Turner. She also designed hardy flower borders rather than just perennial borders.
Plant of the Week: Tulips.Depth & spacing: Plant 12-15cm deep and 10-15cm apart.
Aspect: Full sun to very light shade. In warmer climates, Tulips like a cool, part shaded spot. Top dress with a complete fertiliser after planting & water in. Otherwise incorporate fertiliser into the soil a week or more before planting. For best results in subsequent year, top dress again immediately after flowering. Use a complete fertiliser like Dynamic Lifter for Roses.
Drying leaves & flower buds This is often caused by Botrytis (Tulip Fire). To protect against Botrytis, spray the Tulips with a fungal spray designed for ornamental plants (ask at your local nursery).
Foliage but no flowers: This is usually a result of bulbs becoming too hot (which cooks the flower bud). This can happen during storage or after planting. To avoid this, ensure the storage spot stays relatively cool (ie less than 25C) and don't plant the bulbs until early May. This gives the soil a chance to cool down after Summer.
What's On: September 18th, Fluid fibre and food -walk and talk at the Sydney Botanic Gardens, 2-4pm. Book 9231 8182.
Richmond Tafe Open Day 18th September-Horticulture courses for everyone.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Natural Remedies

Sydney Garden Talk 2RRR 88.5fm Wed5pm Sat. 12noon
Feature Interview:
Alan Hayes author of 27 books about natural remedies for the house and home, talks about living the sustainable and carbon lifestyle in his Duralong Valley home. Go to for more information.
Vegetable Hero: Mint or Menthe spp, in the family Lamiaceae. Ideal growing temperatures for mint are warm sunny days (25°C) and cool nights (15°C). This is why, in the hotter climates, mint generally grows better in the more shaded areas of the garden. Mint can be propagated either cuttings or by seed. You can grown new plants by digging up plants in late winter–early spring (like now) and dividing them into runners with roots, then replanting. This will prevent the plants from becoming root-bound and prone to disease, giving you strong, healthy plants for the new season.
Most of the time we are busy trying to just keep it tidy. It can take over your garden if your not care so, be like me, and grow it in a pot that you can sink in the garden bed. Mint, when planted nearby will help beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, chili and bell peppers, Chinese cabbage, eggplant, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, salad burnet and squash. Planting mint near peas, cabbage or tomatoes will improve their health and flavor. Mint will attract hoverflies and predatory wasps to your garden. Mint is also a favorite of earthworms.
Design Elements:Lawns-BUFFALO Sir Walter (Patented Turf)
Australian grass - Soft Leaf Buffalo grass has excellent drought tolerance
due to its strong and deep root system. Because it is Winter Active it maintains its colour
longer than other Buffalo and does not go purple in winter. It can handle full sun and grows well in the shade. The crisp green colour of Sir Walter makes it a most attractive lawn in summer and winter.
"Palmetto is an emerald green Soft Leaf Buffalo that has a long broad soft leaf which is shade and drought tolerant. This turf is extremely hardy once established and does not go purple in winter. Palmetto is a medium grower with a strong root system which recovers very quickly from damage.
Shademaster "This variety of Soft Leaf Buffalo has a broad and long course leaf. It is good in high traffic areas as it is a very fast grower. It loses its colour and turns purple in winter."
Nara Native Turf-or Zoysia macrantha, sacts the same way as any Buffalo lawn, can be bought in rolls. Use the same fertilizers and cut the same way.
CT2 Couch-"This is a blue/green couch with a longer blade than the Winter Green and Green Leaf Park couch. It is very hardy and has very good drought tolerance. CT2 recovers in half the time as most other couches. It will however discolour if the temperature drops below 3° C.
Windsor Green Couch (Patented Turf)-"This dark and very dense lawn has a small leaf with very few seedheads. Windsor Green discolours if the temperature drops below 3° C. It is a hardy grass with good wear and tear tolerance. Grows best with a minimum of 4 - 5 hours of sunlight per day. Considered the best grower in the shade of all the couch lawns."
Greenleaf Park Couch "This is a blue/green couch with small blades. It is not however frost tolerant and will discolour if the temperature drops below 5° C. It is a very hard wearing grass and is used in most bowling greens."
Winter Green-"This is an olive/green coloured grass with small blades (smaller than Green Leaf Park Couch and does slightly better in the shade). Will discolour if the temperature drops below 5° C. This couch produces a lot of seedheads unless it is well fertilised. It has a tendency to get patchy. It will take some shade but needs at least 6 - 7 hours of sunlight per day."
KIKUYU I think this is a weed.
Plant of The Week: Culture:  Strelitzia Reginae: This South African genus is a member of the Musaceae family.An evergreen perennial that will reach 1.5m—2m in most situations. It is grown for its spectacular flowers and are used all over the world for cut flowers.Strelitzia Reginae needs full sun to light shade with warm temperatures, when planted in pots keep them crowded for the best amount of blooms. In very cold climates it is better to grow them in pots that could be moved indoors when freezing temperatures are expected.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Orchidaceous Time

Sydney Garden Talk 2RRR 88.5fm Wed 5pm, Sat 12noon
Feature Interview: Kevin Hipkins of Royale Orchids talks about care for orchids.Tip: flush your orchids in summer, late in the evening to cool the bark. Heat builds up in the bark during the day and cooks your orchid. Avoid watering the leaves.
For upcoming shows
Vegetable Hero:Tetragonia tetragonoides, Warrigal Spinach. An Ice Plant because it exhibits Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM. That's an ability to store carbon at night, not requiring the stomates to open during the heat of the day. Very drought tolerant, growing on sand dunes on the east coast of Australia. Needs minimum blanching of 2-3 minutes to get rid of the high concentrate of oxalates.
Design Elements:Mulch for your garden. Most bark and leaf mulches add to a level of 7 -10cm. Tea tree and sugar cane mulch, only 5 cm is needed.
Apply soil wetter over the top to stop an impenetrable mat forming.
Plant of the Week:Boronia spp. Best to grow from seed so that a tap root is formed. Adventitous roots from cuttings are very prone to root rot from too wet a soil. Otherwise treat as an annual plant. High perfume.
What's On: Kauri Project at Lion Gate Lodge-Sydney Botanic Gardens from 21-29 August, 10-49 each day. Agathis moorei, a 150 year old Kauri pine in the gardens was decimated by the resident flying foxes. Tablets of the trunk of the tree were distributed to 15 craftsmen to fashion items of art and decoration such as frames of mirrors, bangles, a boat, dining table and much more.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Power and Passion of Days Gone By

Sydney Garden Talk 2RRR 88.5fm Wed. 5pm. Sat. 12noon
Feature Interview: Hilary Valance, great great granddaughter of Lachlan Macquarie's Aide de Camp,  talks about how Sydney's Botanic gardens were largely responsible by the vision of Governor Macquarie and his wife Elizabeth.
Vegetable Hero:Chokoes. This unusual climbing plant Sechium edule belongs to the pumpkin or Cucurbitaceae family and is a single species native to tropical America.Put one or two in a warm dark place for a few weeks, till they put out a runner, then put in a warm light place for a few weeks, by the time your ready to plant them they will have a strong runner maybe a foot or 2 long, a head start, crushed egg shells around the vine when planted in the ground is a good deterrent to snails and slugs,When you plant them, after any danger of frosts is over, plant the seed with the sprouted end pointing upwards. Plant the whole fruit - half in the soil and half out but wait till it starts sprouting. Back fill with a mix of soil, compost and animal manures like composted chook poo.
Design Elements: Irrigation for your garden. For certified Irrigation installers go to and Smartwatermark gives lots of handy tips on irrigation.
You need th have a "backflow valve" or preventer to stop contaminants like fertilisers and other garden chemicals going back into the water supply should there be a revers in pressure.
Plant of the week: Pansies, Viola wittrockianum.Pansies can be difficult to start from seed. They require cool temperatures (60 - 65 degrees F.) And darkness, to germinate. Covering the soil with black plastic or a sheet of newspaper, will help germination, but the soil should be checked daily to make sure it doesn’t dry out under the cover. Once the shoots are visible, the cover should be removed. Seeds generally germinate in 1-2 weeks, but allow 15 weeks from seeding to flowering.
Maintenance: If you can allow your pansy plants to remain in your garden and rest during the hottest months, they will probably begin blooming again in autumn.
sShearing the plants back when they start to set seed, will encourage new growth. Deadheading will encourage more blooms. As with any long blooming annual, pansies appreciate some fertilizer. However too much food will just make them leggy. They respond well to monthly foliar feeding.
What's On: 21-29th August. Kauri exhibition at Lion Gate Lodge, Sydney Botanic Gardens Botanic. The gardens lost Agathis moorei or Kauri pine (one type) in 2008 due to roosting of flying foxes. Parts of the tree were handed out to 20 craftsmen who have made desirable wooden objects for exhibition and purchase.
August 22nd: Herbarium open day10.30-4pm at Sydney Botanic Gardens.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Go On, Plant a Tree!

repeat Saturday 12noon
Feature interview: Bushcare coordinators from Hunters Hill. Eastwood branch ofTzuchi foundation leader Kim Lee. or Phone Tzu Chi foundation on 98747666
E-mail:  for more info.
Vegetable Hero:Pisum sativum var.Saccharatum or Snow Peas.Edible podded peas do best under cool, moist growing conditions. The crop is sensitive to heat, and temperatures above 30oC will cause early maturity and lower yields. Day temperatures from 15o to 18oC average, and a minimum of 7oC, are ideal. Peas and other legumes (plus wattles) have symbiotic bacteria in their roots called rhizobia, that 'fix' nitrogen in the soil mean that peas are capable of manufacturing their own nitrogen.. This means they don't need as much fertiliser as other vegies do and are good to dig into the soil to concentrate available nitrogen for future crops. I assume that they're still pretty hungry for other nutrients though - so a bit of fertiliser won't go astray.
Design Elements: Garden Lighting. Three main types-fuel, electric and solar.
Recommended:-Electric low voltage using transformer, and use LED lights in your fittings. !st-place path lights in to light your way around the garden.
2nd-select an ornamental tree and shine a torch (at night) across the tree to determine the best effect to light it. You can use uplights to highlight other shrubs or ornanments in the gardens.
Plant of the Week:Pyrostegia venusta-Orange Trumpet Creeper. Native of Brazil and South America. Member of Bignoniaceae Family.Regular heading back several of the stems can help develop some of the flowers and foliage on the lower and middle portions of the fence.
It looks magnificent climbing over a large tree or high fence with its cascading effect that looks just like an orange blanket. I heard it referred to as the “Dunny Vine” and most gardeners my age know which vine I am referring to, as when we were kids our grandparents used to have them growing over chook pens, out houses and sheds.
This evergreen vine produces curtains of brilliant orange tubular flowers from autumn to spring. Several months of flowering, means it’s worth growing.
This South American vine climbs by tendrils to 6m or 30 feet or more but is easily controlled by pruning.
To grow this vine, make sure you put it in a place that gets full winter sun-it loves that location
What's On:Passion and Power-Walk and Talk on 14th August 2-4pm Sydney Botanic Gardens. Life of Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie. Bookings: 9231 8304/9231 8134 Cost $15
If you missed National Tree Day, get involved this September 18th at Gladesville Reserve 9-12noon and get planting trees to create a cleaner and healthier environmental for the next generation,”

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Historical Camellias

Sydney Garden Talk 88.5fm 2RRR Wed 5pm, Sat12 midday
Feature Interview: Jim Lykos from
the Sydney branch of the Camellia Research society. Jim talks about the project to re-introduce some of the 400 camellias that were lost from Camden Park, the historical home of William MacArthur of the 1800's.
Vegetable Heroes:Pisum Sativum or Peas from the Fabaceae family.Peapods are botanically a fruit, since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower. However, peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking. Peas belong to the Fabaceae family, which means they fix Nitrogen from the air into their roots. Sow the seeds directly into the soil 15mm to 20mm deep (1'' or knuckle deep) and 75mm to 100mm apart (3'' to 4''). Water in well and don't let them dry out.By watering Peas in the mornings will help to avoid mildew. Don’t overhead water late in the afternoon. If you do have mildew, try spraying with MILK mixed with a couple of drops of detergent.
Design Elements:designing small water gardens. Small water gardens are just a collection of submerged potted plants. If they don’t work for you, just lift them out and start again.
A half wine barrel, or terracotta pot of similar size, can house a small water garden
You can get glazed pots with no holes or plug one you’ve got with some cork and seal it with silicon to make absolutely sure. You will have to water proof your regular terracotta pot with with a sealer.
For the wine barrel, line it with a pond liner cut to size.When you place your pot or tub in it’s final position, make sure you use a level so that it sits right, otherwise you’ll have to tip all the water out and adjust it.
Some suggest that putting some sand underneath the pot gives it a flat even surface. Otherwise you can put your pot on your paved area.
Pumps are optional, but they are a good way to keep your pond clear instead of filling up with algal bloom. The drawback is you need a handy power point.
Combine marginal plants like a tall spiky planted like yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) with broad leaves like Alocasia or Colocasia spp.
If you want to build a frog pond, you can pick up a kids paddling pool-those shell shaped ones that you might see on a throw out day, and sink that into the ground. Place a few large rocks around the edge and inside the pond so that the tadpoles when they are frogs can climb out.Plant some sedges and other marginal plants around the edges. Put in some floating duckweed and one or two dwarf lilies (otherwise it wont flower) as this type of pond is really shallow.
A note from your local council: Generally, there is no point in releasing frogs in a garden. They have a homing drive and are unlikely to stay.
Plant of the week: Magnolia soulangiana Common names for the Saucer Magnolia include Tulip tree and Japanese magnolia., their showy flowers are large and goblet shaped and may vary in color from light to deep pink. The size and shape of the flowers are what gave the Saucer Magnolia its common name. When fully opened into the "saucer" position the petals range from 5" to as much as 10" in diameter. The large flower buds are covered with pubescent scales. The flower itself is made of 6 tepals, mostly pure white inside. Each tree flowers for about 28 days.
Needs protection from hot dry winds and from frost. Water well in summer to avoid leaf burn.
Fertilise with a complete fertilizer when young otherwise it’s not necessary.
This tree is difficult to propagate from cuttings and doesn’t like being transplanted.
If you do prune a branch take the whole branch out rather than leave a stunted stump-because that’s how it will stay. Generally tends to have its own shape.
What's On: National Tree Day. Sunday 1st August