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Radio Round Up October 17 - 18

Back in the home garden it was a huge effort to keep up the watering! Sandra’s ‘Jewelled Rose Garden’ is peaking at the right time to welcome her home from the South Coast NSW Tour. 

Last winter she planted bare rooted roses so they would mingle in with each other – and they did just that. I love to stand there at dusk and inhale – the old garden roses she chose are really very fragrant. More about her favourites on this week’s blog.

Sandra's rambling roses 

Linda’s ‘Port Douglas meets Singapore Sling’ garden in the back yard is also looking good – canna lily, shell gingers, snake ginger, spiral gingers, beehive ginger, hibiscus, orchids, are all jumping out of the ground. The Angel’s Trumpet burst into its apricot blossoms – the first of probably 20 flowering sessions it will have in a year. Hippeastrum papilio flowered for the first time – we were so thrilled – it was like another baby – red, cream and green stripes! Even the Queen of the Night cactus has buds on it - I’ve never known it to bud this early! Oh and our first Heliconia ‘Red Christmas’ is flowering– a great plant for full complete shade.


Our flowering vine of the week is the Indian Clock Vine (Thunbergia mysoriensis). We planted it two years ago and trained it along one stainless steel wire under the gutter on one of our verandas. 
Perfect! The red and gold flowers hang down, each looking like a lady’s slipper (another common name), suspended in mid-air, from the veranda so we can all see.

In the Bush Garden:

Buckinghamia are just coming on now. I think I was one of the first to bring it to market back in the 60’s. We planted them around Rockdale from the sands of Botany Bay to the clay soils of Bexley North just to see how they’d do, and they are still thriving. Most people like to let buckinghamia multi-stem. But I like to lift it up on one trunk. It doesn’t grow to the 6-8 meters it grows in rainforests, more like 2 – 3 meters, depending on local conditions. Right now it’s covered in new growth and the spring flowers bring in the pollinators. 

Kangaroo paws are at their peak now. Angus Stewart’s ‘Landscape Lilac' giant kangaroo paw is looking better than ever in Linda’s garden. She planted it years ago and it’s still performing. This isn’t that surprising, according to Angus. He tells us that the dwarf paws were originally bred for the cut flower market and don’t tend to live long. The larger paws tend to have better longevity.


Angus Stewart's 'Landscape Lilac' giant kangaroo paw in Linda's garden 

In The Veggie Patch:

We harvested all the broad beans and made a huge broad bean, mint and pecorino dip. It was delicious. Apart for the time we spent podding and then shelling each bean – the grand-kids helped – such a great way to use bigger slightly floury beans. Here’s our recipe.

Broad Bean Dip

150g broad beans (shelled weight), 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 lemon, juiced and grated zest, I handful finely chopped mint, plus more for finishing, pecorino cheese, salt and pepper

1.Boil the broad beans for 5 minutes or so until they’re tender. If you have time, squeeze them out of their skins. Purée them with most of the olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, mint and plenty of salt and black pepper. Without skins, the beans make a smoother purée.

2.Spread the crostini with the topping and sprinkle with olive oil, slivers of salty pecorino and a scattering of mint.

We also harvested artichokes. Don’t let them get too big, picking them smaller in tight bud the better. Delicious when dipped in hollandaise sauce.


Tomatoes are going great guns but we’ve had lots of calls to the Helpline about yellowing leaves. We trim off the lower leaves, in fact our plants are pretty nude at the bottoms for at least 40cm. It’s all about liquid feeding with seaweed to give them added strength and we like to dig in a agline line about 60cm long into the water roots delivering eater exactly where they need it – this drought proofs the plants for the summer - and it’s I can feel its going to be a hot dry summer!


Around the Traps:

In the Blue Mountains Wisteria are a nearing peak flower. Sandra had the pleasure of walking through 'Nooroo' in Mount Wilson where some of the finest wisteria displays can be seen Just head up the bells line of road to the Mount Wilson turn off, and don't forget to drop into Pie in the Sky for me. 


White varieties are among some of the wisteria on display at Nooroo

Another thing of beauty in the Blue Mountains at present are the red waratah, which can be see in the wild up on the dry open heath forests around Mount Hay and Fortress Creek. They're also very popular in home gardens and there are loads of new varieties available at good native plant nurseries, like Sydney Wildflower Nursery at Engadine.


This Waratah with harlequin cicada was photographed by Rebecca O’Brien in the Blue Mountains.

The cloud forests of Mexico are home to many rare gems, like the spectacular Blue Mist Flower - Bartlettina sordida (syn Eupatorium megalophyllum). This unusual shrub makes massive clusters of fuzzy, mauve-lilac flowers - like big, puffy pom-poms! It's an excellent backdrop to a wide border. The attractive leaves are equally large, growing as big as dinner plates. The plant is very rare in cultivation, usually only seen in botanical gardens. It does best in mild warm temperatures and might not thrive in super-hot climates. If you can provide the right conditions, it's a worthy collector's plant in morning sun or dappled shade. We found it for sale at swanes nursery.


Blue Mist Flower. Photo - Swanes Nursery 


From a winter wonderland only 3 months ago where the garden was blanketed in snow to a spring floral spectacular. Dominic Wong guided us around his sublime peonies taking care to stop by his cute chicken coop on the way. Dominic is amassing a fine collection of peony that connects with his Chinese heritage. Chinoiserie will be on Better Homes and Gardens Friday 23 October at 7.30.

Chinoiserie in the Southern Highlands is a must-see at this time of year for stunning peonies. Photo Leila M / 


Brisbane Hippy’s are looking really cool, man! No, I don't mean the Kombi-driving, tie-dye wearing variety. I mean the hippeastrums all over Brisbane's gardens. At the Brisbane International Garden Show last weekend the Hippeastrum display in front of the 'Theo’s Nursery' stall was just stunning. These bulbs can be purchased in flower or by bulb, make sure you plant the bulb high so the neck of the bulb is exposed and protect them from snail damage.


Far out, man. Hippy's at their peak right now.


Apricot, peach, lemon and now green and even deep blood red! Clivia are the go-to plant for dry shaded areas, tough as old boots, we’ve seen amazing new colour tones from Toowoomba to New Zealand with the recent Auckland Clivia Show 2015 , New Pymouth and Tauranga Clivia Show 2015


Lovely lemon clivia. Photo - Slowfish / 

Garden News:

Save the Sydney Gang Gangs and Powerful Owls 

We announced earlier this month that this week is National Bird Week, and we have some wonderful news for those of you who have followed the plight of birds under threat by a development at Byles Creek in the North West of Sydney. This Protect paddock of ground is one of the last places in the Sydney area where you will find a breeding pair of Gang Gangs. It is also a nesting area for the Powerful Owl.

Great news. Protection for these birds has been achieved for the time being. On Friday the 9th of October Hornsby Council have refused development consent for the destruction of this site, as the developer was unwilling to undertake the ecological survey council had stipulated.

We talked to Sydney gardener, Wendy Whiteley

Our Jacaranda cruises often go past a special spot in Lavender bay where I tell a story about the history of the bay. There is a secret in Lavander bay, but it isn’t in the water. High up on the hill side, beyond the railway is Wendy’s Secret Garden, the life’s work of Wendy Whiteley. Wendy joined me on the phone today.

Bang in the middle of the city, with a view right to the bridge, you could be forgiven for imagining the city was 100 miles away. It is just the place to hide away, take stock and reflect in peace. Meandering through the garden the pathways snake down the hillside and disappear around corners and under overhanging foliage.

The soil must have been quite shallow in the beginning, as the site was comprised of landfill from the railway, and had been used as an unofficial rubbish dump. Wendy and her friends have improved the soil and now the garden acts like a rainforest, self-sustaining the soil with composting leaf-litter.

It is staggering the amount of work Wendy and her team have done in this garden, building hard landscapes like stairways, and planting thousands of plants.

Well known Sydney journalist, Janet Hawley has just released a stunning new book about Wendy’s achievements with this garden, entitled Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden, published by Penguin Australia, brimming with incredible photographs by Jason Busch. The book is a culmination of 20 years work on the garden and is the story of the countless people who cherish this Sydney treasure.

The Book release coincides with a decision taken by the state government to lease the site of Wendy’s garden to the local council for 30 years with a further 30 year option, securing the garden’s future for generations to come.

To see this marvellous garden head to Lavender Bay. You can get their on the train by going to Milsons Pont station and walking around the bay.

Janet and Wendy will be hitting the road to promote the book and would be delighted to meet lovers of Wendy’s garden. On Tuesday October 20 they are in Canberra doing a lunchtime book signing at the National Gallery of Australia, 1-2 pm. On Wednesday October 21, also in Canberra, doing a morning tea slide show and Conversation at the National Portrait Gallery.
On Friday October 23 they will be at the Avalon community Centre at noon, 59A Barrenjoey Road Avalon for a slide show and conversation, thanks to Local bookshop ‘Bookoccino.’ (RSVP 99731244)


Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden in Lavender Bay. Photo - 


The Grand Gardens of Europe Tour is one grand tour to rule them all! The best opportunity to see all the highlights of a European spring – great flower displays in Holland, France and England including Monet’s Giverny, Kenkenhof’s tulips, the Chelsea Flower Show and so much more. If you would like to enquire about your seat on this tour go to the Ross Tours website, or call Royce or Roslyn at Ross Tours on 1300 233 200.


Bug Watch:

Unwanted guests 

I had many people talk to me in Queensland over the last week asking me about the presence of Cane-toad eggs in sugar cane mulch, so I asked the producers of the best sugar cane mulch I can think of, Sweet Garden Sugar Cane Mulch to look into it. It really didn't take them long to rule it out.

The process of making the bales involves cutting the leaves from the stems, heating, steaming, compressing and packaging the product in plastic before warehousing for transport and distributing to market. There is no way any of the toad eggs coud survive this process, according to the manufacturers of Sweet Garden. So i think the old adage should be your guide, that is, you get what you pay for. Get a good quality mulch and you will not have a problem.

Disappearing Roses   

If you’ve woken this morning to find yesterday’s roses are mysteriously missing, we may have found the culprit.


Hello possum!


We watched a fascinating thing last week at about 4:30 in the afternoon. @ Garden Clinic HQ at 4pm during a rainstorm. This little guy must have been hungry! After eating a few Iceberg roses he promptly fell asleep on the stake with peak hour traffic right next to his perch. None of us really minded losing a few blooms to fill this little guy's belly. Check out the video on our Facebook page. Tell us your possum stories!

Other repellents:

Strayban sonar device

Blood and Bone

Moth Balls


Thanks to our caller with the Magnolia enquiry. I recommended M.‘Teddy-Bear’, which is the dwarf ever-green magnolia (as opposed to M.‘Little Gem’, which is likely to become quite a large tree). Also look out for M. ‘Alto’, likely to be the next big thing in small magnolias.

Check out Sandra’s Magic Magnolia Mulch recipe here.

Roses, roses, roses. Do we have rose growers listening? Of course we do. And with roses looking so beautiful right now it’s no surprise there were lots of calls about roses today. We discussed my preferred rose understock, R. multiflora, which I think is the best, most reliable root stock to give you longevity and strong growth and flowering. We discussed the best treatment for the prevention and management of common rose pests and diseases. And of course, we have an abundance of other rose-growing tips and tricks on our website from our resident rose expert, Sandra.If you are growing roses north of Newcastle, check out  Linda's recent rose article, how to grow beautiful roses in a subtropical climate.