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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Community Gardens are Go!

Sydney Garden Talk Saturday 12noon-1pm 2RRR 88.5 Fm

Feature interview: Talking with Mandy Stubbs, coordinator for Permaculture North, Lane Cove and team leader for Lane Cove's first community garden on the grounds of Chatswood South Uniting Church, cnr of Mowbray road and Pacific Highway, Lane Cove.. Go to
Open day on Sunday 31st Jan 2-5pm. Learn about no dig gardening.
Vegetable Hero:
Celery (Apium graveolens) belongs to the Apiaceae family and is related to parsley, parsnips and carrots. The edible parts of the plant are the fleshy leaf stalks. So why are we eating it exactly? Celery has many health benefits. It is high in Vitamin C and when celery juice is combined with a little lemon juice it can be used as a remedy for the common cold.
In fact, drinking celery juice before meals helps suppress appetite, but eating Celery takes up more calories than it has, supposedly,
Celery likes rich soil. Give it good drainage and soil pH 5.8-6.7, with constant moisture.
Celery has a very shallow root system, and needs frequent watering because the roots are concentrated in the top few centimetres of soil and so they will dry out quickly.
Every couple of weeks give plants a liquid seaweed feed, and even some fish fertiliser, worm castings or more compost/compost tea.
Harvest celery after 10-12 weeks. You can pick off a stem one at a time so can keep harvesting for quite a few weeks.
Design Elements: Courtyard Gardens-Functionality of the desgin.
Install irrigation right from the start.
Choose several focal points standing from your living space. Place a plant, water feature or statuary at the focal points to lead your eye. It could be a plant in a tall elegant pot or bubbling urn shaped fountain.
Decide on a style- go with plants that fit that style.
Decide on what you're going to use the space for and where shady places need to be created, what views need to be masked.
Plant of the Week:Mandevilla-Mandevilla sanderi
Mandevilla is known by a host of plant names. In South American countries, people know it as mandevilla, sometimes as the Chilean jasmine, Bolivian and Brazilian rose. Mandevilla is a native plant of Argentina, not Chile as originally believed. In Mexico and Central America, the plant is routinely known as the Mexican love vine.
Evergreen throughout the year, mandevillas features light-green elliptical leaves and spike-like clusters of funnel-shaped blossoms at the tips of branches (shoots). Prefers full sun or part shade.
Happy in a pot or raised garden bed.
During the summer, mandevilla will enjoy some morning sun, but it must be shaded from noon on to prevent the fun from burning the foliage. Continue bi-weekly feedings with a liquid fertiliser through the summer, and keep the soil lightly moist. The only exception to the rule is the “My Fair Lady” mandevilla. Allow the soil to dry between waterings.
Also, it's quite O.K to use a complete release fertiliser like Garden Gold as well.
Next April-Most mandevillas drop their flowers in early april, some a bit longer.
Prune the plant after the flowers drop. Go to the hard wood on the branch (shoot), and prune to within two inches of this hardwood. Repeat this to each and every branch that has flowered.
Having pruned, you now must cut back on how often you water the plant. For the month of April, let the soil go dry for three or four days, then apply tepid water.
What's On:
Wednesday 3 February. Willoughby Council is holding a workshop: All you need to know about installing a rainwater tank. This workshop will introduce you to both the practical and regulatory issues associated with installing a rainwater tank at your home. The workshop will cover government rebates, health considerations, greywater reuse and tank sizing to ensure maximum benefit.
Contact: Please contact: Assistant Sustainability Education Co-ordinator on 9777 7674 or email RSVP by Wed 27
Saturday 6 Feb, Mt Tomah Botanic Garden. Orchid Penjing Botanic Sculpture workshop. Penjing is the ancient Chinese art of creating miniature trees and landscapes. Join Tony Lennon in creating your own Penjing work from carved sandstone and orchids. 10a,-3pm, Waratah Education centre. $95 includes materials. Bookings essential on 4567 2154.
Saturday 13 Feb. Growing Friends plant sale at the Royal Botanic Gardens from 9am – 1pm. Free entry.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Princess Lillies, and Butterflies

SYDNEY GARDEN TALK  Saturdays 12noon-1pm 2RRR 88.5fm

Feature Interview: Lucinda Coates from Permaculture North, Hornsby.
Vegetable Hero: Basella alba"Rubra" or Climbing Spinach
The plant is also much better suited for summer growing than Spinach itself.
Malabar spinach grows 2-3 metres or eight to ten feet tall and wide and produces almost unnoticeable white-tinged pink flowers in its leaf axils. When the flowers are fertilised, small, attractive, single-seeded purple berries will grow. The juice from the berries is so intensely purple that it puts beet juice to shame. A bit like Dianella berries I think. It's used as a natural food colorant for agar (vegetable "gelatine") dishes, sweets, and pastries.
Indonesian-Style Malabar Spinach
•4 cups Malabar spinach leaves
•3 tablespoons peanut oil
•3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
•½-inch piece galangal root or fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
•1 red chile pepper, seeded and slivered lengthwise
•1¾ cups cream of coconut (not coconut milk)
•¼ cup fresh lime juice
•¼ teaspoon salt
•1 scallion sliced into thin rings, including green tops
•2–4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, or 2 dried leaves pulverized in a spice mill
Plant of the Week:Alstroemeria or Peruvian Lilly or Princess Lillies.
I have several colours in large 20cm terracotta pots on some stone steps. In winter I move them into a sunny spot but in summer they don’t like being blasted by the hot summer sun, so I move them to the other side of the stone steps, where it’s shade by a building.
There’s no reason why they can’t be grown along a border instead of having annuals. There spread fairly slowly and I would say that the height of this plant is about 25 - 30 cm and about 40 cms wide in a garden
They will look their best if you position the plants so they receive bright light or full sun in spring and autumn then move them to a site with dappled shade during summer.
You need to make sure that the crown of the plant (the place where new shoots arise) is not buried too deeply when planting as this can lead to rotting and possibly death of the plant. The top of the crown should be just below or equal to the top of the pot, and as the grow, you’ll find that they’ll push up even higher.
Princess Lilies continually produce new shoots to replace those that have finished flowering. These old flower shoots should be removed regularly and this can be done by pull and twist action to remove the old stems completely from the plant..
That means that you need to completely remove the shoot that has finished flowering.

What's On
Tuesday 26 January. If going into the CBD is your thing for Australia Day, The Royal Botanic Gardens has a special ceremony at 8am – Woggan-ma-gule Morning Ceremony. This event acknowledges Sydney’s traditional landowners and gives recognition to the original shoreline of Sydney Harbour. Band Lawn, Farm Cove, Royal Botanic Gardens. Free for everyone to attend.
Friday 29 January 5-7pm “South Side Swing” in Lane Cove Plaza
Enjoy listening and dancing to some 40’s – 60’s swing numbers from the Big Band era and modern jazz tunes.Contact: Faith Wieland at Lane Cove Council on 9911 3594
Saturday 30 January. Opera in the Park. Opera Australia, in conjunction with the Sydney Festival, presents Leonard Bernstein's Candide. Put the champagne on ice, pack the picnic and head to the Domain for a night of music.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Frangipani Fever

SYDNEY GARDEN TALK 2rrr 88.5 fm Saturdays 12noon-1pm

Today I spoke with Anthony Grassi, Events Co-ordinator for the Frangipani Society of Australia.
Next weekend 23rd and 24th January, between 10am and 4-m the society is holding a show at the Tropical centre in the Sydney Botanic Gardens.
There are 2 talks-11am-Frangipani rubra cultivation and care; 2 pm Tropical frangipanis.
If you want to join the Frangipani society go to

Worm farms and composting workshop also at the Botanic gardens on Wednesday 20th January.
I spoke with John Coco, Horticultural Education Officer and my colleague at the gardens.
John said the you need to sprinkle some water over your worm farm everyday to keep the worms moist and alive.

Vegetable Hero: Rungia klossii or Mushroom Plant.
This mainly tropical plant family includes plants like Snapdragon, Acanthus mollis or Oyster plant, and African violets.
Apparently, the leaves are extremely rich in chlorophyll, making them, valuable for blood cleansing and building. Mushroom plant leaves have 3% protein (higher in protein than mushrooms). 
Has dark green, glossy succulent leaves. Blue flowers in spring. Recommend a semi-shaded position, with morning sun.
The plant will grow from cuttings or from root division. It can be slow to strike. Once established it can grow quite quickly.
If you plant it in the ground it’ll spread by suckering and will form a large clump over time. It needs a fair amount of watering but needs good drainage.

Plant of the Week: Lavender:
When you purchase your lavender, the best you can do first is prune it back by half to two-thirds in the first year. This is to make sure that the plant stays healthy looking and bushy. Otherwise plants soon get straggly and the lower part becomes quite woody with no foliage. Most important in humid climates.
 Lavender. angustifolia and Lavender intermedia, flower in summer, prune in autumn.
Lavandula. dentata or French Lavender, should be pruned in summer so that it is in flower for winter and right through spring.
When taking cuttings of lavender-the best is to take a heel cutting and plant in a sandy mix.

What's On:
Sun 17 Jan – Lane Cove Alive Art & Design markets, 9am – 3pm in Lane Cove Plaza between Burns Bay and Longueville Roads. Free entry. Artists and high end craft; original jewellery, print making, etching, linocuts, handmade soaps and fashion and childrens’ wear. 25-30 stalls.
Sat 23 and Sunday 24 January, Royal Botanic Gardens. Frangipani Show. Beautiful and fragrant frangipanis on display, plants for sale and advice on how to grow them. Hosted by Frangipani Society of Australia. Runs from 10am – 4pm at the Tropical Centre, Adults $5.50, children $3.30.
Tuesday 26 January – free Australia Day concert at North Ryde Common. Time: 5 - 9pm
Venue: North Ryde Common, cnr Twin and Wicks Rds North Ryde Celebrate our nation at our Australia Day Family Concert, with rides, foods, entertainment and fireworks at 9pm. Featured artists include Jenny Biddle, The Beatnix, The BBQ Kings and Go Seek.
Tuesday 26 January – Hunters Hill Council Australia Day at Clarke’s Point. The Australia Day festivities commence with official proceedings in the morning and in the afternoon a family and jazz picnic. The official ceremony is at 10am.  Hunters Hill Rotary will provide a traditional Aussie BBQ. Local Jazz outfit, The Riverside Jazz Band will fill the air with some fantastic traditional Jazz music and 2RRR’s own DJ Streamer will be providing music too.
Tuesday 26 January. If going into the CBD is your thing for Australia Day, The Royal Botanic Gardens has a special ceremony at 8am – Woggan-ma-gule Morning Ceremony. This event acknowledges Sydney’s traditional landowners and gives recognition to the original shoreline of Sydney Harbour. Band Lawn, Farm Cove, Royal Botanic Gardens. Free for everyone to attend.
Sunday 31 January, 12noon – 2.30pm. Guided walk of the Priory and Gladesville Hospital by Peter Colthorpe. Meet at the Priory, 2 Salter St Gladesville with your gold coin donation. Gladesville Hospital has beautiful grounds to walk through with plenty of mature trees and plantings. For more info call Peter on 0434 673101.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pollination, bats, bees and butterflies.

SYDNEY GARDEN TALK Saturdays 12 noon-1pm 2RRR 88.5 fm
Feature interview: On Asthma gardens-go to for the plant list.

Madiera Weed: Bev Debrincat talks about this environmental weed.

Vegetable Hero /Healthy Herbs: Coriander, coriandrum sativum.
Sow about 1 cm deep, cover the seeds and keep them moist.
Sow it in rows, scatter it amongst your other veggies, you can use it as a shade plant for your lettuce.
It takes a couple of weeks to germinate, so go do it after my program.
Coriander grow fairly big, about 50 cm or 2 feet tall.
Remember, last week I said grasshoppers don’t like Cilantro er, coriander, so plant it around the spinach.
You want about 5 cm between the plants if you grow it for the leaves.. Leave a few plants to go to seed, yes, on purpose.
When your plants is big enough, take the leaves off from the base of the plant. Just make sure the plant is big enough to cope and leave some leaves on it so it can continue to grow.
Coriander flowers are an important food source for beneficial insects, especially little parasitic wasps and predatory flies.
So to attract many beneficial insects you want lots and lots of coriander flowers in your garden.

Plant of the Week: Frangipani.
Plumeria acutifolia and Plumeria rubra belong to the Apocynaceae (dogbane)family.
Common names: plumeria, frangipani, melia (Hawaiian), temple tree, and many named cultivars.
Plumeria is native to tropical America. In Hawaii, it is grown as an ornamental
and is not found in the wild.
Plumeria is generally a small tree growing to about 5-8 metres. Its broad, usually round-headed canopy with a thick trunk and several broad branches.Often as wide as the tree is tall. The species and hybrids vary somewhat in tree size, compactness, and branching character, leaf and flower size and color, and deciduousness. The leaves are usually glossy green but may be dull green; they are generally ovate, may be blunt-tipped (P. obtusa) or pointed (P. rubra var. acuminata or var. acutifolia),.
Sydney has the deciduous types, the leaves fall during wintertime, and new leaves emerge during or following the spring flowering period.
P. obtusa and its hybrids tend to retain their foliage year-round. The flowers are tubular, expanding into a “pinwheel” of five petals that averages 70mms diameter and may be white, red, yellow, pink, or multiple colors. Flowers of most cultivars are highly fragrant and bloom from October to March.
Plumerias only occasionally produce seed. When pollinated, the flower produces two hard, narrow, pointed pods up to 7 inches long containing 20–60 winged seeds. Maturation

What's On:
Sat 16 Jan – Sun 21 Feb, Mt Tomah Botanic Garden. Under the Sun exhibition. Australian ecological artists Scott Cardeamatis and Joseph Saad have captured the essence of Australia’s rich floral diversity. They use recycled products purchased from conservation organisations. Selected works will be for sale though the Gardens shop. 10am -5pm in the Visitor Centre. The exhibition is free but you’ll have to pay Garden entry fees). Enquiries 4567 2154.

Sun 17 Jan – Lane Cove Alive Art & Design markets, 9am – 3pm in Lane Cove Plaza between Burns Bay and Longueville Roads. Free entry.

Sat 23 and Sunday 24 January, Royal Botanic Gardens. Frangipani Show. Beautiful and fragrant frangipanis on display, plants for sale and advice on how to grow them. Hosted by Frangipani Society of Australia. Runs from 10am – 4pm at the Tropical Centre, Adults $5.50, children $3.30.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Grasshoppers vs Neem Oil

Sydney Garden Talk on 2RRR 88.5 fm, Saturdays 12 noon-1pm
Todays Show:
Crickets, grasshoppers, kaydids and locusts are a group of insects that have strong chewing mouthparts designed for chewing leaves, and they have extra large hind-legs designed for jumping.
There are two types of grasshopper.

Short Horned Grasshopper & Locust s belong to one group called the Acrididae Family.
Antennae are short, horn shaped & half the body length. Length is from 1/2 to 3 1/8 inch long. They feed on all crops and are active during the day. Eggs are laid below the soil surface.
The other type is the…
Long horned Grasshopper & Katydid belong to the Tettigoniidae Family.
Antennae are quite long, bodies are from 1/2 to 3 inch in length.
Hoppers range from dark brown to shades of green Katydids are generally green.
Eggs are laid inside plant tissue. They feed on tree and shrub foliage. These hoppers are mainly nocturnal.

Controlling Grasshoppers
Plant barrier plants like Horehound (Marrubium vulgare, Cilantro, Calendula), netting your crops, catching them early in the morning,
Small traps can be made out of jars or buckets filled with water and a 10% molasses solution, cover with a film of canola oil to deter bees and mosquitoes. Bury the containers up to their rim in the soil; clean and renew the bait as needed.
Insecticidal potassium soap sprays work best on small grasshoppers.
Make up a garlic or chilli spray as a repellent.

Neem Oil:
Neem Oil: Made from the seed of the Neem (azadirachta indica) tree, a shade tree native to India. The active compound azadractin is extracted using water, alcohol or petroleum ether.
Neem has many different effects on insects. It acts as an insect antifeedant and repellant. It can stop or disrupt insect growth (IGR = insect growth regulator) and sterilizes some species.

Plant of the week: GARDENIA
Gardenias prefer regular substantial watering, but they also need moderately well-drained soils with plenty of organic materials worked in before planting. Equivalent to the Rhododendrons and Azaleas, the Gardenia does best in an acidic soil. The root system is shallow and sensitive, so a thick layer of mulch to control weeds is better than cultivating.
Yellow leaves
One of the most ask questions about Gardenias is the yellowing of older leaves in late winter and spring. This is usually a sign that the plant is moving its magnesium to the new growth. In the beginning of spring feed with Epsom Salts (Magnesium sulphate) will usually solve this problem.
To avoid getting other nutrients out of balance, only apply Epsom Salts no more than once a year.
Flower Problems
Watching plump flower buds drop or fail to open is no fun. Neither are blooms that yellow and brown prematurely. Most flowering problems are caused by poor cultural conditions like dry soil, poor drainage, extreme temperatures (hot and cold) and lack of light.
Fertilising:Gardenia plants require to be fed through spring, summer and autumn with Azalea & Camellia food.

What's On:
Hope you recycled that green Christmas tree into the green bin.
Visit For more tips on recycling.
January 2-3, 6-10, 13-17
Movies in The Overflow at Sydney Olympic Park is a FREE outdoor cinema series and one of the Park’s most popular summer entertainment events. The 2010 program will kick off on Saturday January 2 and will feature 11 films in addition to an array of international short films which will be screened in The Overflow (opposite ANZ Stadium).