Real World Gardener Australian and South African flowers in Talking Flowers

October 25th, 2018


Australian Native Cut Flowers vs South African Native Cut Flowers

A lot of customers to florists shops ask for a bunch of Australian native flowers, then point to some King Proteas in the shop, saying, " yeah, some of those."

Of course they're surprised to learn that the King Protea is from South Africa.

Sure, Australia was once connected to Africa millions of years ago when it was still Gondwana, but there's no reason to be confused.

The reason some people think that the King Protea is an Australian flowers is possibly because both the Proteas, Waratahs, Banksias, Grevilleas, Leucondendrons reside in the same family, namely Proteaceae, and

that causes confusion?



In any case, time to learn how to look after some of these hard stemmed flowers.

  • Never leave fresh flowers in a hot car.
  • Recut the stem ends neatly with sharp secateurs, removing the bottom 3 cm.
  • Prepare your vase or container: make sure it is clean.
  • Add fresh clean filtered water but NOT flower food to these flowers
  • Check every day, as your flowers can use a lot of water.
  • If cut-flower food is not used, change the water at least every second day.
  •  Do not display your flowers in areas that are exposed to full sun, draughts or high temperatures.
  • Keep as cool as possible without freezing.

I'm speaking with floral Therapist, Mercedes Sarmini.from

Real World Gardener Chillin with Chives in Spice It Up

October 25th, 2018



There’s no end of uses to his herb which is will loved by chefs.

What would a baked potato with sour cream be without it?

What would instant noodles and packet soups be without the freeze-dried version?

Something less than ordinary. 


But did you know there were two types?

Onion chives and garlic chives, but what's the difference?

Let’s find out what it is.

I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

The leaves of onion chives are hollow and round, think "O" for onions. 

The leaves of garlic chives are flat.


Onion chives

You may not find them identified as such in your garden centre, but now you know what to look for.

Also, chives are one of the few herbs that dry quite effectively, but they are commercially freeze dried.

Freeze drying means the moisture is removed very rapidly by placing the chives in a special pressurised chamber. The water is taken from the chive leaves; the liquid goes straight to the gaseous state.

Ian says if you get good quality freeze dried chives, it’s very hard to tell the difference between that and the fresh ones!

Remember, when the chive clump gets to about 20cm, that’s the time to divide them up.

If you have any questions about chives, either for me or for Ian, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Real World Gardener Tropical and Exotic Cut Flowers in Talking Flowers

October 18th, 2018


How to care for Tropical and Exotic flowers.

So, what does your florist do to keep their flowers in such fantastic shape? 


Chandelier Orchid photo: M Cannon

For every florist, no matter where they are in the world, keeping flowers at just the right temperature is essential. 

That’s what makes their refrigerator(s) the most important piece of equipment. 

A small flower shop might have just one fridge in the back of the shop whereas larger florists will have larger, walk in fridges and their premises might resemble more of a warehouse design. 

Small flower shops usually place just a few bouquets on display in the front on the shop while the rest of their flowers are safely stored in temperatures ranging from 50 to 120 C.

This is what a commercial cut flower grower in FNQ recommends. 

Cut Flower Care


Chandelier Orchid photo: M Cannon

  • Never refrigerate tropical’ s they should NOT be stored below 13 degrees.
  • Tropical’ s like tempered conditions.
  • Keep Tropical’ s away from direct heating and air-conditioners units.
  • Drastic changes in temperature burns fresh cut flowers.
  • When handling exotic tropical flowers keep in mind that cold weather can affect them, keep your exotic tropical flowers in a relative warm area.
  • To get the best out of your Tropical flowers after you unpack them you can submerse them in a bath tub or a large bucket/bin for 20 mins with tempered water NOT ice cold tap water to re hydrate them from travelling.
  • Re-cut stems at least 2 to 4 cm with sharp secateurs.
  • Preservative is optional.
  • Replace water every day – these large flowers are thirsty.
  • Misting is recommended once or twice a day as they like high humidity.


I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini from

Real World Gardener Gardening in Tight Spaces part 2 in Design Elements

October 18th, 2018


Gardening in Tight Spaces part 2:

Eco Pillows, grow baskets, and vertical gardens turned on their side.

Tired of hearing about green walls because a) you think they’re too expensive, b) sounds too hard to maintain or c) you’re just not into green walls.

So what else can you have that’s much cheaper, easier to put up and more of what you want?

I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and director of Paradisus garden design.

Let’s find out more.

If you want a more relaxed style of vertical planting then go for these vertical grow baskets. Pictured are eco-pillows.



In them you can put in plants with pendulous foliage such as:


aeschynanthus, anything from the 

gesneriad family, such as


columnias, and gloxinia sylvatica or whatever you like really.

Of course we did mention that green wall again but this time put it on its side then there’s those eco-pillows.If you have any questions about gardening in tight spaces or have a suggestion either for me or for Peter why not write in or email me at  

Real World Gardener Expert Hedging in Tool Time

October 18th, 2018


Expert Hedging

Chances are you have a hedge in your garden, maybe to hide the back fence or just for show.

Hedges come in sizes and shapes and even vary in the colour of their leaves.


Chosen carefully hedges don’t need that much maintenance in the form of pruning or clipping or even disease control.

Perhaps you’ve let it go over the years, and now it’s that bit too high to manage easily making you dread having to tackle it.

Let’s find out how to get the hedge back into shape.

I'm talking with Tony Mattson General Manager of

Today’s episode was all about bringing that 3-4 metre high hedge back to a more manageable height, starting with the top first and only lightly pruning the front.

Tony's expert hedger, Simon was tackling a lilly pilly, Acmena smithii minor "Goodbye Neighbour," and Murraya.


Plumbago and Muehlenbeckia hedge

Recommendation:Simon's recommendation was to hard prune hedges only in March-April, and August-September.

Each time you

You will need to use long handled (1.2m shears) as well as normal sized hedge shears.

Also, a pair of secateurs to cuts some of the thicker stems that are too hard for the hedge shears.

BIG TIPcut or trim the hedge back, do it in stages, that is , a bit deeper each prune, otherwise you risk losing the hedge or getting a lot of dieback. 

You might start off with cutting the top back 1/2 metre in the first stage, wait a month, then come back and cut a bit deeper .

At this point, only lightly prune the front of the hedge 5-8 cm leaving lots of new growth.


If you have any questions about hedge pruning either for me or for Tony why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Real World Gardener Small Value for Money Cut Flowers in Talking Flowers

October 12th, 2018


Shorter Lasting Flowers for the Vase:

True love may last forever, but flowers do not. Some flowers only last a day. But what a day!

Some flowers do alright in the garden, but not so good in the vase.

So which ones are they?

 Short vase life, anything less than 7 days.

Daylilies make the top of my list. Not true lilies because they belong in the Hemerocallis family.

Each flower only lasts 1 day like its name says but they come in all colours of the rainbow. In fact there used to be a daylily farm called Rainbow Ridge.

 Hibiscus flowers only last 1 day, but in temperate climates they flower for at least 6 months of the year. Longer in warmer climates.

The hardy hibiscus bush can produce up to a hundred flowers in a season. Hibiscus%2Bflower.jpg

Evening Primrose-flowers that open in the evening and close again the next morning. If it’s cloudy though, the flowers will stay open. They just don’t like opening for the sun.

Queen of the night.-member of the cactus family, you’ll have to stay up late to watch this one flower. Also known as night flowering cereus.

Desert plants and cacti can have gorgeous, sometimes also fragrant, flowers which last less than a day.

Bearded Iris-only flower for a few weeks then are gone until next season can also be cut for the vase. Will last 4-5 days..

Iceland Poppies have a short vase life of 4-5 days.

Cosmos also 4-5 days. Pick them when they’re not 100% open.

Things you need to do to keep the flowers longer in the vase.

Change the water every two or three days, making fresh stem cuts and adding more floral preserver. Never use tap water, only filtered water.

With roses, avoid fully opened blooms, but also pass on stems with tight buds. Roses harvested too early will not last as long as those that have been cut later.

And remember, true love may last forever, but flowers do not. “It’s OK for flowers to die,” Miller said.

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini from

Real World Gardener Gardening in tight Spaces part 1 in Design Elements

October 12th, 2018


Gardening in Tight Spaces Part 1


Gardening in tight spaces seems to be a modern day occurrence with people living in smaller and smaller accommodation.

Today we’re tackling a tiny balcony situation high up on the 7th floor.

That may not be where you live, but there’ll be something that you can take from this.

Let’s find out.


Tillandsia capitata

I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and director of Paradisus garden design 

If you have a westerly aspect that’s under cover, go for anything in the Tillandsia family.

Peter suggests Tillandsia fasciculata hybrids and Tillandsia capitata hybrids.

And the suggestions were if you’re stuck with a tiny balcony, or even courtyard, then do use those vertical surfaces.

Those modular units can be a bit pricey, but there are alternatives if you’re prepared to do your own hand watering. If you have any questions about gardening in tight spaces or have a suggestion either for me or for Peter why not write in or email me at


Real World Gardener Easter Spinebill in Wildlife in Focus

October 12th, 2018


Eastern Spinebill

Did you think all honeyeaters were on the large side in Australia?

Well if you did, you’ll be surprised to learn that there’s a tiny honey eater weighing only 11 grams.

Not only that, the Eastern Spinebill is the only Australian honeyeater that will feed will flying.

So how can you spot them because they’re bound to be terribly shy?

Firstly get up at the crack of dawn, when most birds are out and about then listen to what Holly has to say about them.



Let’s find out more.


 I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons from

America has the humming bird but Australia has the Eastern Spinebill which can hover will extracting nectar from flowers.

Not as spectacular as the hummingbirds, but pretty amazing all the same.

You can spot the eastern spinebill male has a grey black crown, white chest and throat with a rusty patch right in the middle, plus a beautifully curved beak to get the nectar from flowers, particularly tubular flowers.

Listen out for their call which as a few variations. Often though it includes a staccato like twittering.

If your garden is near bushland and you want to attract the eastern spinebill, then think about planting more of those tubular flowers like epacrids ( pictured below) and correas.


Epacris impressa var, grandiflora

Also smaller flowering grevilleas like Grevillea sericea and Grevillea speciosa.

If you have any questions about beds either for me or for Holly why not email 

Real World Gardener Value for Money Flowers in Talking Flowers

October 4th, 2018


Value For Money Cut Flowers


Cut-flowers are a luxury product and consumers demand a certain standard of quality and value for money.

How much would you like to spend on your cut flowers?

$35? $45? Or much more?

If you’re bit on the Scottish side, and moths fly out of your wallet when you open it you might want to consider those flowers that might cost a bit more but will last for up to two weeks in the vase?

Hang on, I think we all want that really don’t we?


Alstromerias and Carnations

But let’s first delve in to what happens between the grower and you the consumer.

Sure there’s roadside stalls where Jo the flower seller can you give you “quality flowers at a cut rate price.”

But how often is Jo there, and he’s growing them in his backyard.

What about the real grower?

This is how the chain goes, grower, then wholesalers, exporters, auctioneers, florists or supermarket buyers and the local shop.

So don’t whinge about the price of cut flowers, got it?

Here are some suggestions for long lasting flowers in the vase.

  • Carnations -2-3 weeks
  • Chrysanthemums-3-4 weeks ( bargain)
  • Astromeria-2 weeks
  • Delphiniums-2 weeks
  • Gladiolus-10 days.

I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini from 

Real World Gardener Gardening for Taste in Design Elements

October 4th, 2018


Gardening for the 5 Senses: Taste

Probably one of the easiest senses to stimulate when it comes to gardening because it’s all about food and eating.

The sense of taste of course so how else can you stimulate the sense other than putting in a veggie garden.


Coffee bean tree.


I'm talking with Chris Poulton, Sydney Convenor for the Australian Institute of Horticulture and an experienced horticultural lecturer and consultant.

Our suggestion is to grow as many herbs as you can.

Don’t be limited by the fact you’ve only got a windowsill, or balcony garden because all you need is 4-5 hours of sunlight a day to grow these things.

Increase your taste range in the garden with some native bush tucker such as finger limes or those bromeliads which have fruits on them.

You could also try growing a coffee bean tree, Coffea arabica, pictured above.

Not only do you get the red berries but the flowers that appear all along each branch, are heavenly scented

If you have any questions about five senses gardening or have a suggestion either for me or for Chris why not write in or email me at

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