Real World Gardener Butterfly Gardening part 2

March 20th, 2021

Butterfly Gardening

 part 2:

So you've listened to part 1 where we talked about what plants butterflies prefer, and in particular, what type of plants the caterpillars of these butterflies like to eat.

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Butterfly House Blenheim Palace, England, photo M Cannon

  • But what else do butterflies like and what should you be wary of using in your garden if you want to keep those butterflies and bees coming to visit?

What do butterflies need to survive?

WATER: Butterflies are like bees, they don't like to land on a large body of water. They want to land where their mouthpieces can take up the water. A dish of water with a stone in it will provide their water needs.
SHADE: When they're eating or laying eggs, butterflies prefer semi-shade, one of the  reasons is that they camouflage themselves better.
FOOD FOR CATERPILLARS: Don't go overboard with worry about a few eaten leaves on your citrus,, or other plants because of the odd caterpillar here and there.  Remember, that caterpillar on your citrus or some other plant, may not be doing as much damage as you think. Not all caterpillars are as destructive as say the white cabbage moth caterpillar. Identify it first, then decide to leave it alone or feed it to the chooks.
  • DON'T USE PESTICIDES, THESE ARE HARMFUL TO ALL BUTTERFLIES

Remember, the butterfly lifecycle is quite short, a mere two weeks before they pupate.

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Butterflies pupating, butterfly house, Blenheim Palace, England. photo M Cannon
Let’s find out more
I'm talking with  Steve McGrane, horticulturist, ecological agriculturist and garden writer.
 
If you have any questions either for me or for Steve you can email us Realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

 

Real World Gardener Butterfly Gardening part 1

March 20th, 2021

 BUTTERFLY GARDENING

Part 1: First Things First-what plants and how do they know which to land on?

Are you bemoaning the lack of butterflies in your garden?

Would you love to have more butterflies visit your garden, no matter how small or big it is?
Did you know that butterflies look for specific food plants or that they have a preferred temperature to flit about in?

The Monarch butterfly (pictured below)  was in my garden on buddleia bush 'Black Knight'  
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Steve mentions a good read  on the subject of butterflies is a book co-authored by Helen Schwencke, 

Create More Butterflies: a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants for south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales.
Some plant suggestions to get those winged beauties into your garden are:
  • Native senna cultivars are high on the list of plants that attract butterflies.
  • Blunt-leaf Senna there (Senna gaudichaudii), but there’s also the corky milk vine (Secamone elliptica) and emu foot, (Cullen tenax) a trailing native plea vine.
  • Think also about the native finger lime, great for container planting.
  • A lot of native butterflies will be drawn to your garden if you have the right flowers for them at the right time of the year.
The further you go south, the butterfly visits will be more seasonal.
  • Migrating butterflies are driven by the season's, wind direction and amount of rainfall.
Their preferred temperature range is between 23-27 degrees Centigrade.
How  do they find what they need?
 
The  antenna (mainly on males) is used to detect what food is available and if other male butterflies are present.
Females, however, can also use their feet. Chemoreceptors on their legs help them to choose their food plants.
 

Let’s find out more
I'm talking with  Steve McGrane, horticulturist, ecological agriculturist and garden writer.

Real World Gardener La Niña and Changing Weather in the Kitchen Garden

March 20th, 2021

 THE KITCHEN GARDEN

La Niña and your produce garden

Torrential rain is lashing the east coast of Australia as a write this while the west coast of enjoys a hot spell. Without sounding too dramatic, we’re starting off the kitchen garden segment with a topic about how the changing weather patterns are affecting the vegetable garden. At the moment Australia is in the grip of La Niña, a complex weather pattern, that bought rain for much of summer and now is causing flooding in many areas.
Last year's summer was quite different with bushfires in most parts of Australia.

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Torrential rain driven by La Niña in my garden.

We’re not so much spruiking climate change, but really it’s more about what you the gardener can do to mitigate problems in the veggie patch because of climate events like La Niña.

This summer, the produce garden is seeing cooler temperatures during the day, increased humidity, and higher night temperatures because of the consistent cloud cover.

For those gardeners on clay soil, the soil is staying damp even during the drier periods. Veggies do not like their roots in constant water.

For those gardeners who haven't prepared their gardens for these events, they may find collar rot around citrus and other fungal problems in the kitchen garden.

The answer for clay soil in produce gardens is build raised beds. Not only does this improve drainage, but saves all that bending to ground level.

Powdery mildew is a problem with all gardens in humid weather, particularly when the crops are coming to their end of their production.

Toni recommends using a bi-carbonate spray to change the pH of the leaf surface so that the fungus cannot thrive. This is only a preventative measure. Once the mildew takes hold.

Bicarb soda recipe:
1/2 teaspoon of sodium bi-carbonate
450ml water
couple of drops of vegetable oil to help emulsify it.

Spray both leaf surfaces well until run-off. Re-apply after rain.

Other problems can be fruit not ripening such as tomatoes staying green because of the lack of sunny days.

Dwarf beans are all descended from climbing beans when they perceive low light levels they will begin throwing out tendrils and revert to climbing beans. This can be just a run of cloudy days or overshadowing by trees or a neighbouring building.

Let’s find out-I'm talking with Toni Salter, the Veggie Lady. www.theveggielady.com 

Real World Gardener Tonka Beans in Spice it Up

March 19th, 2021

 SPICE IT UP

Tonka Bean

If you have thought that vanilla was a flavour all on its own, you would be wrong. Here is another bean that not only qualifies as a substitute for vanilla, but also for nutmeg.

Common Name: Tonka Bean, sometimes known as Brazilian teak.
Scientific NameDipteryx odorata
Family: Fabaceae
Fruit:The highly fragrant bean from a flowering tree in the pea family
Height: 25-30 metres. Grey outerbark with inner red wood.

Qualities: the presence of coumarin in the beans give the seed its odour or perfume.

Flavour: Marzipan like
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Like a lot of members of the pea family that are trees, tonka beans starts as a pod on a tree. 
The pod contains a single bean which is dried like so many other spices.
It’s used in the same dishes that you used vanilla or nutmeg for, like shortbread biscuits, custards, cream brulee' and so on.
 
To harvest the pods, they are picked when fully mature and have fallen to the ground.  Then they are broken open with a hammer to reveal a wrinkled oblong 2.5cm seed.
When this bean is cut in half lengthwise, it has a creamy white centre.
  • These beans are placed in the sun to dry, activating the enzymes within the bean.
  • But did you know this bean has been banned in America since 1954 because of the coumarin present? Coumarin is also present in cinnamon and that's not banned!

Tonka beans may be grated like nutmeg before adding to a recipe or soaked in warm water or milk to infuse the flavour.

  • Tonka is a strong spice, so only use in similar proportions to nutmeg.

I you wish to grow the tree yourself, it's a very pretty flowering tree suited to the tropics and sub-tropics. Not a tree for frost prone areas. The plant itself is not available for sale, but you can buy the seeds from overseas sellers.

 
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I am talking with Ian Hemphill from www.herbies.com.au
Let’s find out more

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

 

Real World Gardener Kangaroo Paws in Plant of the Week

March 19th, 2021

Kangaroo Paw: Anigozanthos spp

This next plant is the floral emblem of Western Australia where it has grown for millions of years.
The flowers, which bloom mostly in the spring and summer, are covered with a very thick, soft fuzz, making them look almost like velvet.
It’s also bird attracting and once a favourite of gardeners.

Common Name: Kangaroo Paw

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Scientific name: Anigozanthos flavidus
Family: Haemdoraceae
Flowers: spring and summer are main flowering times. Fine coloured hairs cover the flower giving it, its flower colour. Flowers are a distinct shape which can only be described as that of a kangaroo's paw! Cultivars known as 'Bush Gems" come in all colours of the rainbow.
Hardiness:Develop a blackening of the leaves in humid climates, known as inkspot disease. Cut it down to ankle height with clean secateurs to renew the growth if this occurs.
Uses: Mass planted in borders, in cottage gardens, native gardens, rockeries and containers.
Make sure you find a good colour form as it is great bird attracting garden plant that can be a feature at the back of beds.

Remove the dead flower stems and their associated foliage after flowering.

Let’s find out more
I am talking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

Real World Gardener Flannel Flowers in Plant of the Week

March 19th, 2021

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Flannel Flowers: Actinotus helianthi
Here’s one for the lover of all things flowers, this little sub-shrub is in flower for most of the year.
The flannel flower is one of the most recognisable Australian native flowers and Adrian says it's a very tactile plant because of the soft woolly feel of the grey-green foliage.
The creamy-white flowers occur in clusters, and the entire plant has a soft woolly feel because of soft white hairs.
Looking like a daisy, but it’s not in the daisy family, instead it’s in the same family as the carrot, dill, celery and parsley.

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Scientific name: Actinotus helianthi
Common name:Flannel Flowers

Family: Apiaceae
Flowers: a simple daisy flower flower with cream to white petals (bracts) tipped green. Flower size varies depending on soil conditions in which it grows but can be 3-8cm. Peak flower is Spring, with spot flowering throughout the year.
Leaves: Grey green and woolly to the touch because of the soft hairs.
Hardiness: tolerates light frost, dislikes wet feet. Avoid watering the leaves to prevent fungal problems. Grows naturally in sandstone country where soil is a bare couple of cms.
Maintenance: Tip pruning will give you more side branching and more flowers. Cut off spent flowers with snips or secateurs. Tidy up the plant by cutting off dead or yellowing foliage.
Height: up to 1.5m but in the natural habitat,  Adrian has only seen flannel flowers growing to only around 80 cm.
Flowering occurs mainly in spring to early summer (September to December) and is followed by fluffy seeds in a globular head.
But how did it get its strange name common name?
Botanists associated the flower to the soft woolly feel of er flannel.
Let’s find out more
I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

Real World Gardener Australian Paper Daisies in Plant of the Week

March 19th, 2021

Rhodanthe chlorocephala
Paper daisies
Some people call them paper daisies, some call them everlastings but as we say on Real World Gardener, don’t be fooled with common names because they are most often applied to an array of plants.
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Scientific name: Rhodanthe chlorocephala
Common name: pink & white everlasting
Family: Asteraceae
Flowers: from winter to spring, daisy like flowers 1-6cm in diameter, composed of white or pink papery bracts. Heads normally appear singly, but tip pruning will encourage branching to produce multiple flower heads.
Position: full sun in well drained, even sandy soils. easily propagated from seed. Best sown in late autumn or early winter.  If conditions are right, they will self-seed, otherwise collect the seed when the flowers turns into a fluffy head.Store the seed head in a paper bag until next season.

Whatever you call them, it’s something even beginner gardeners can grow to pretty up their patch.

Australia's version of meadow planting can be easily achieved with these paper daisies or
everlastings. All you need to do is scatter 1 gm of seeds per square metre and rake gently into the soil. The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days if kept moist. Expect a carpet of flowers as you would see in Western Australia.
Rhodanthe chlorocephala subspecies rosea is the most widely grown subspecies and is commonly known as “Pink and White Everlasting”, “Rosy Sunray”, “Pink Paper-daisy” and “Rosy Everlasting.”
The flowers can be dried like other native daisies and used in floral arrangements for months.

Let’s find out more, I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

Real World Gardener Billy Buttons are in Plant of the Week

March 19th, 2021

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Some plants you just love their flowers, some just have fabulous leaves, but here’s a plant, even though on the small side, packs a punch with bright golden flowers and grey leaves that would fit into any style garden.

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Scientific name:Craspedia globosus syn. Pycnosorus

Common name:Billy buttons, drumsticks.
Flowers:  golden-yellow tennis ball like spheres made up of tiny flowers on long stalks 80cm-100cm
Leaves: a rosette of grey green leaves above an underground rhizome.  
Interesting fact: Billy Buttons were part of the flower arrangement that were presented to medal winners of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Hardiness: tolerates light frost and extended periods of dry weather. Don't like wet weet.
Billy Buttons are very famous for being very long lasting cut flowers, their bright yellow spherical flowers can be dried like other native daisies and used in floral arrangements for months.
 
In areas with high humidity, treat them as an annual as they will succumb to fungal problems. Easily grown from seed but use wildflower seed starter to break the dormancy of the seed. 
Let’s find out more
I'm talking with was Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

Real World Gardener Topiary and Topiary Tools in Tool Time

March 9th, 2021

 TOOL TIME

Topiary Shears

During the warmer months of the year, your garden can start looking like a jungle because it’s growing so fast.
More so because of la nina bring welcoming rains to drench the parched soil.
What things can you do in the garden to tame it somewhat other than a short back and sides?
Have you thought of a bit of topiary?

You don't have to go all out and doing something like in this photo, although it is rather nice.
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You could just do a few simple balls on a stick instead. 

But what tools help you do the job properly?
Let’s find out what needs doing

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I'm talking with Tony Mattson general manager of www.cutabovetools.com.au
Normally you need to do the trimming fairly regularly and you're trimming the newer growth. 

Older wood may need a nip with secateurs.
  • The single handed topiary shears are great for small jobs such as perfecting that topiary ball. Topiary shears are similar to sheep sheers. (pictured
  • Two handed topiary shears are a lightweight hedge shear usually weighing less than 1 kg. 
  • The blades are straight and vary between 20-25cm (8-10 inches) in length.
  • There's also battery operated one handed shears.
Starting your own topiary from scratch like the balls in the photo,  you need to choose the right type of plant that responds well to topiary. 

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Think buxus species, lilly pillies, or the common myrtle,  (Myrtus communis) are great starting points to kick off your topiary garden.
Between each trim, step back and look at how you are progressing so it ends up symmetrical.  

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

 

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