Real World Gardener Useful and Beautiful Shrubs in Design Elements

March 30th, 2018


Useful and Beautiful Shrubs

We’re into the shrubbery but we’re not the Knights of Nee, for all those Monty Python fans listening out there.

So last week we outlined the sub-shrubs, in other words those plants that don’t grow too much over a metre, and most likely much less.

This week it’s shrubs that grow much bigger so won’t be at the front of the border.

These shrubs are larger but not more than 4 metres if that.


Rabbit Ears: Ruttya fruiticose photoM Van Der Schiff

Let’s find out what they are.

I'm talking with Peter Nixon, Garden Designer and  Director of

PLAY: Useful & Beautiful Bigger shrubs_21st March 2018


Peter mentioned these shrubs:

Rhinacanthus beesianthus –very luxurious looking, grows quite tall - around 2m or higher - and has large attractive quilted leaves which form a glossy background to other plants in a border.

Its clear white flowers, shaped like scalloped shells, begin to appear in March or April and continue for several months

Ruttya fruiticosa or Rabbit Ears, because the flower is dark red and looks just like a rabbit or from a distance a bit like Sturt Desert Peas.


Dichroa versicolour: photo M. Cannon

Iochroma fuschoides has an upright vase shape, with red trumpet flowers.

Dichroa versicolor - Evergreen Hydrangea is a nice alternative to the regular hydrangea with more like

If you have any questions about sub-shrubs , either for me or for Peter or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to


Real World Gardener Fixing Indoor Plant Problems in Plant Doctor

March 30th, 2018


Looking After Indoor Plants.

You may have heard that having indoor plants make for a healthy home.

The reason is that the plants and in fact mostly the soil that plants sit in, absorb the VOC’s or volatile organic compounds that all your furniture, flooring, household cleaners give off.

But those plants are made of plastic so will need attention. 


You may not have noticed that your indoor plant/s were in decline even though you've been walking past them everyday for most of the year.

Here are some pointers to get you started.

Let’s find out . 

Indoor%2BPlants.JPGI'm talking with Steve Falcioni, General Manager of


PLAY: Indoor Plant Problems_21st March 2018

The first tip: Top up that potting mix.

After 2-3 years, potting mix becomes compacted and shrinks down several cms.

Plus old potting mix needs replacing after a while anyway because of this "slumping" and becoming acidic over the years.

The second tip: Check if the soil has become hydrophobic.

Scratch the surface after you've initially water to see if it has actually penetrated.

If not, apply a soil wetting agent.

The third tip: Now your pest or disease.

If you have any indoor plant problems is important to first diagnose what is exactly happening with the plant.

Is it just the soil, or is it something that needs spraying. 

Because your plants are indoors I would recommend using organic sprays


If you have any questions either for me or for Steve, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Real World Gardener Peruvian Lily in Talking Flowers

March 23rd, 2018



Named after Baron Claus von Alstrome, a Swedish baron who collected the seeds in the late 18th century on returning from a trip to South America.

You may know alstromeria as a gorgeous garden plant, but it makes a fantastic cut flower too, on its own or as part of a mix. There are at least 190 cultivars in just about any colour but blue. 

They flower nine months of the year so they are readily available. 

Reminded me of cats whiskers because of the markings on the inside of each flower.

They are poisonous to pets though, so bear that in mind. 


Alstromeria: Flickr photo

Mercedes Sarmini of Flowers by Mercedes tells you how to select your cut flower bunch and how to make them last.

I'm talking with florist, floral therapist, and floraholic, Mercedes Sarmini of

Real World Gardener Subs-Shrubs that are Useful and Beautiful in Design elements

March 23rd, 2018


Useful and Beautiful sub-shrubs

What are sub-shrubs?

Sub-shrubs is a category that you may not have thought about but it’s certainly worth investing in some of these to fill out your garden.

Large shrubs could be considered to be at least over 3 metres in height, maybe up to 4 metres.

Sub shrubs are a category that is for those plants that are around 1 metre to 1 1/2 metres in height.

Garden designer Peter Nixon always finds the unusual that are a little bit harder to source but are worth the effort because they turn your garden from just nice to just beautiful.

Let’s find out what they are. I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of


Kohleria eriantha


PLAY: Useful & Beautiful sub-shrubs_14 2018

Peter mentioned sub-shrubs like Plectranthus ecklonii, the spur flower reaches about 1.2m

Barleria cristata “Lavender Lace,” with a lavender and white striped flower.

Barleria micans grows to 40cm flowering in April-May.

Kohleria eriantha with a scarlet tubular flower.

Justicia carnea and J carnea alba and Justicia betonica: Called Brazilian Plume-

A very useful plant.

Lastly, Brazilian Snapdragon or Otocanthus caeruleas with deep blue flowers.

If you have any questions about sub-shrubs , either for me or for Peter or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675




Real World Gardener Plants for Chickens on The Good Earth

March 23rd, 2018


Plants for Chickens

Have you hankered after keeping chickens or have some of your own already?

If you’ve thought about it for ages, it may be time to bite the bullet and get three.

Chickens are a flocking bird so three’s the minimum so that they feel safe.

But what else can you do to keep the chickens happy other than having a nice chicken coop and daily fresh water?


3 Bantams photo: M Cannon

Let’s find out . I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska from


Chickens self-medicate if they feel something is missing.

They will eat more of the food that will help them. 

Plant plenty of Rue, wormwood and Comfrey.


Ruta graveolens: Rue

Comfrey has plenty of Calcium which is good for chickens because that's what they need for shell forming.

If you have room to plant a deciduous fruit tree like a mulberry tree near your chicken coop, that would be ideal.

Other trees that are useful or Fig trees, Apple trees and Elderberry trees.



If you have a small back yard you still a tree because there are plenty of dwarf apple trees to choose from.

While the tree grows to a suitable size, you will have to put up some other sort of protection from the sun, and rain.

Of course if they’re free ranging during the day, they can shelter under other big trees or shrubs you have in the garden


If you have any questions either for me or for Margaret, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Real World Gardener Powder Puff Tree is Plant of the Week

March 16th, 2018


 Calliandra heamatocephala 

If someone told you that the flowers on a particular tree were like a powder puff, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that it was from a lily pilly.

Lily Pillies don’t hold the whole ball of wax on staminous flowers.

In fact if you think about it, gum trees have staminous flowers: that is, flowers that are made up of stamens but no petals.


Calliandra tweedii, Pom Pom bush

Today though, it’s another family that has this trait and it’s one to look out for.

Let’s find more.

I'm talking with Karen Smith of



Calliandra tweedii is also known as the Mexican Flame bush because of its fiery red flowers. 


Calliandra tweedii: Mixican Flame Bush photo: Magnus Manske

Real World Gardener Useful and Beautiful Hedges in Design Elements

March 16th, 2018


Useful and Beautiful Hedges


The “useful and beautiful” series is up to hedges.

You’re probably thinking that we’re going to be talking about Murraya paniculata, or just Murray or the colder growing version, Choisya ternata.

Perhaps you even thought we would talk Buxus or Lilly Pilly?

But no, we’ve chosen something completely different, after all, it has to be useful and beautiful.

Let’s find out what they are.


Choisya ternata, Mexican Orange Blossom

I'm talking with Peter Nixon Director of

PLAY: Useful & Beautiful Bulbs_28th February 2018

Peter mentioned shrub roses like Miss Lowes Rose, Bengal Crimson and Rosa sanguinea.

For more scent choose Rosa chinensis 1,000 lights.


Rosa sanguinea photo: T. Kiya from Japan

If you have any questions about hedges , either for me or for Peter or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675 

Real World Gardener Australia’s Oldest Garden in Garden History

March 16th, 2018


Camden Park Estate

Have you ever wondered how gardens became established during colonial times?

You might be surprised that there were even catalogs of plants that grew in many large colonial gardens.

It’s a real treasure and rare to discover that a historical garden complete with dwelling is still around, but to find such a place that has remained with the same family is even rarer.

When you hear that growing in the garden is one of Australia’s trees, then you have an enticing combination.


Camden Park Estate Pic: Creative Commons

This estate is so interwoven into Australia’s Colonial history, that it would be unthinkable that it would be developed into blocks of apartments.

Let’s find out how this garden estate continues.

I'm talking with Stuart Read, committee member of the Garden History Society of Australia.

PLAY:Camden Park Estate_7th March 2018


Stuart mentioned that you can view the old plant nursery catalogues online.

The website is

The Hortus (which is a collection) attempts to correctly identify, describe, illustrate and provide a brief history of all the plants grown at Camden Park between c.1820 and 1861.

You can also just look up when a certain plant came into cultivation in Australia.

For example the Hoop Pine entry in the Hortus reads


Hoop Pine Araucaria cunnimghamiana

Pic: Tatters @ Flickr


“‘Grows naturally in warm temperate riverine and costal rainforest or as a pioneer in subtropical forest, on poor soils from the Macleay River in N New South Wales to Townsville and offshore islands including New Guinea, occasionally close to the seashore. Widely grown in the nineteenth century in public parks and gardens; now rarely planted in SE Australia. […] The timber, grown in rainforest plantations in N New South Wales and S Queensland, is used mostly for plywood, but also for joinery, furniture and boat-building. More recently this species has been used experimentally for agroforestry.’”


If you have any questions either for me or for Stuart, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Real World Gardener All About Snapdragons in Talking Flowers

March 10th, 2018



Family: PlantaginaceaeAntirrhinum majus

Where did it get its scientific name?

Not from a botanist this time. Derived from the Greek words "anti," meaning like, and "rhin," meaning nose, antirrhinum, because the snapdragon's botanical name reminded the botanist of a snout or nose.

When the flower is gently squeezed, it apparently makes the flower look like a dragon’s head.

A bit of a mystery exactly where this flower originated but most likely originally wildflowers in Spain and Italy.

Flower colours: Colour range is pastel to bright colours including pink, orange, yellow, peach, purple, white, red and bicolour.

In the studio is floral therapist Mercedes Sarmini of Snapdragons.JPG

Real World Gardener 10th February NEW Tibouchinas are Plant of the Week

March 10th, 2018


Tibouchina cultivars

Ever heard of a plant godfather? 

There surely is one, and he’s the godfather of these next plants because one, he discovered how to pollinate them, and two, he bred smaller more compact and cold tolerant varieties with outstanding colours . All of this meant that gardeners suddenly had a plant that was manageable in size and could be grown in areas of Australia where it hadn’t been known before.

Let’s find out all about it

I'm talking with  Karen Smith editor of Hort Journal mamagzine


Tibouchina "Cool Baby" Image courtesy of Plants Management Australia



The newer varieties of Tibouchina were

Groovy Baby with vivid purple flowers that grows to 40 cm.

Peace baby with white flowers and deep purple stamens that grows to 60 cm and Cool Baby has white and pink flowers on the same bush and grows to 45 cm.

If you have any questions about groundcovers, either for me or for Karen or have some information to share, why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


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