Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rosa 'Camp David'

Rosa Hybrid Tea 'Camp David'
This is a fantastic red rose. It is very free flowering, hardy and disease resistant. It was named for Camp David, the United States Navy installation in Frederick County, Maryland which is used as a country retreat of the US President and his guests.

David Eisenhower, grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower
photographed in 1960 by a Navy photographer

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rosa HT 'Moonstone'

Rosa Hybrid Tea 'Moonstone'

Rosa 'Moonstone' buds

A 'moon' rose to celebrate the 'blue moon' tonight which hasn't occurred in Australia since 2007.The moon will be at the largest apparent diameter of the year in the sky to the north east from about 10pm. I am heading down to the beach at that hour to take a look. Mars will also be at its biggest and brightest as seen from earth and will appear as the bright red globe to the left of the moon.The moon is having an impact on the tides which are going to be king tides and well over 2 metres.
And about this rose... I really should have included a photo of the rose 'Blue Moon' but I don't grow it.The rose 'Moonstone' is a beauty with very well formed flowers and a great vase life. It is a hardy rose with a delicate colour and is popular on the Show Bench.

Bird's-Eye Chilli Pepper

Capsicum frutescens
 Bird's-Eye Chilli Pepper

Many years ago I went to a cooking school in Bali in the beautiful town of Ubud where, among other things, I learned to make the local speciality Rujak Buah-Buah Petis which is basically fruit salad with chilli pepper. Adding something hot to what I had regarded as a dessert to be eaten with ice-cream seemed very strange at the time, but once you acquire the taste for chilli ,the sky is the limit as to the number of ways you can find to use them. The variety of chilli used in Bali is a short bulbous one and is called tabia Bali and is not dissimilar to the fiery hot bird's eye variety which is more associated with Thailand. Bird's-eye chilli goes by the unfortunate name of "rat droppings" owing to its small size and is called prik kee noo suan in Thai. On every dining table in Thailand is a small bowl of dipping sauce or chilli water which is added to whatever you are eating at the time. The ingredients are as follows: 3 tablespoons each of lime juice, fish sauce and water, 2 tablespoons sugar, white or palm, 1 teaspoon crushed garlic and 2 tablespoons finely sliced bird's eye chillies. Mix together until the sugar dissolves. It is often recommended when using chili to remove the seeds to reduce the heat but in this case the whole is too small. You get used to the heat and I always have some cooling cucumber salad with fresh mint as a side should I bite into a whole chilli piece at any time.
My summer crop of chilli peppers is slowly changing from green to red or yellow at the moment. I will have some more varieties to show over the coming weeks.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Plant of the week:Brugmansia

Brugmansia, Angel's Trumpet

The days are sultry, the humidity is 100% and if you are lucky you can take an afternoon siesta in the shade of that haven for bees the Brugmansia and probably have some very strange dreams indeed.. The Brugs love this weather. This one has flowers which start yellow and age to a watermelon pink.
Instead of gardening, I would like to be driving around in a sports car with the top down. Last night when a little MG parked outside my door I felt like adding grand theft auto to my CV.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Neomarica caerulea

Neomarica caerulea
 Twelve Apostles Iris
This tall clump forming perennial is from Sao Paulo State of southern Brazil and is an easy plant to grow in any warm temperate climate. It forms a handsome clump of sword shaped leaves to about 1.6 metres with flowers at the end of tall stems. The flower buds are violet coloured and these open to sky blue flowers with a brown stripy centre. The flowers last a day but a succession of flowers occurs all through summer. It prefers a spot with just morning sun and is happy growing in the shade of trees. It can be propagated by dividing the clump every few years.
2017 update: I currently don't have any stock available.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rosa floribunda 'Red-Gold'

Rosa floribunda 'Red-Gold'
This is one of the choice cluster flowering floribunda roses in flower at the moment. The edge of the petals are scrolled back and are a rich burnt orange to red colour.

Monday, January 25, 2010

222 true blue Aussie

First Prize Hydrangeas

The 222nd birthday of Australia tomorrow is a day of flag waving, celebration and citizenship ceremonies. In the garden you gotta love a true blue flower like my favourite the Hydrangea as pictured above.
Our friends in India also have a national holiday tomorrow. There it is National Day, in recognition of gaining independence from the British Empire.
Happy Australia Day!

The Australian Larrikin Car(Larrikin: a mischievous or frolicsome youth,a young street rowdy)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beetroot: the beet goes on....

Beta vulgaris var esculenta
aka Beetroot

Beetroot ready for harvest

An Aussie classic on every Summer picnic table Golden Beetroot at a Farmers' Market
(photo courtesy of George Gaston)

The Australia Day get together would not be complete without the Hamburger in the form of an 'Aussieburger' which includes sliced beetroot. Once upon a time, the tinned variety was the only kind we knew about. It was included in every picnic basket as an essential ingredient in salads, staining many a shirt in the process with red juice due to its habit of sliding out of the hamburger bun down into your lap.
Beetroot is a feature of Flemish and Slav cooking. In Poland and Russia it is used to make the well known soup Borsch. Borsch being based on stewed meat which is often removed and eaten separately, flour and sour cream, potatoes, white cabbage, mushrooms and kidney beans with beetroot added to give the characteristic bright red colour.The red colour is due to betalains, nitrogen containing pigments. In modern Australian cooking, fresh cooked beetroot is now more likely to be teamed with cumin, mint, coriander, limes ,walnuts and goats cheese. More traditional Slav style flavour partners are horseradish cream and caraway seeds.
It is an easy plant to grow at almost any time of the year. The young leaves can be added to salads . This can be done as you thin out densely planted seedlings. Older leaves can be cooked like spinach . Harvesting small beets, the so called baby beets ,means they can be used whole in salads or cooked dishes. Steaming or boiling of large beetroot may take about 30 minutes until they are tender. I like to oven roast them drizzled in olive oil with thyme and garlic. Cooked beetroot have about 8% sugar and a relatively high energy value, about 130kcal per 100g. They are also a rich source of magnesium and contain some Vitamin C. Different coloured beets such as the golden variety pictured above are available from specialist seed suppliers.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Brachychiton acerifolium, Illawarra Flame Tree

Brachychiton acerifolium, Illawarra Flame Tree
(growing beside the sugarcane fields of
the North Coast)
Flame tree flower detail

Seed pods

The term local legend or local hero is often applied to a sportsperson or entertainer who has had a successful career interstate or overseas, so perhaps the same could be applied to this tree from my district which has gained popularity far and wide. Brachychiton is derived from the Greek brachy meaning short and chiton meaning a covering or tunic, a reference to the seeds which are covered in yellow hairs. Acerifolium means the leaves are similar to a Maple leaf. This tree is unique in that it has a mind of its own as to whether it wants to flower or not. Normally it loses its leaves in late November and flowers in December and January. Sometimes it decides not to do this and sometimes half the tree retains leaves and displays half flowers. On the steep escarpment behind where I live and deep in the rainforest , the bright red flowers stand out like a beacon amongst all the dark green. The tree has made a successful transition to city gardens and is often planted alongside a Jacaranda which flowers at the same time. This year has been a great one for flowering so perhaps the rain fell at the right time to act as a trigger. When flowering does finish, the hanging seed pods are quite decorative also, being boat shaped and opening along one side they provide an opportunity to give an interesting nature lesson for children.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Canna x 'Eureka'

Canna x 'Eureka'

This is one of my favourite Cannas . It is a bit more subtle than the usual bright cultivars. I guess you would call it a sort of buttery cream colour.
The word Eureka has particular significance in the Australian language and is used as an exclamation of success or discovery: eg Eureka! We've finally found gold!.
It dates from the gold rush days of the mid 19th century around the Victorian town of Ballarat.
The famous miner's strike known as the Eureka Stockade is a pivotal moment in Australian history and is regarded by some as the birth of democracy in this country . The Eureka flag features the stars of the Southern Cross and has become a symbol of national pride.

The Eureka Flag

Swearing Allegiance to the Southern Cross
Charles Doudiet 1854
Ballarat Fine Art Gallery , Victoria

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Iceberg Lettuce

A huge Iceberg Lettuce

I am preparing a garden bed which has been used to grow tomatoes over the past months for a planting of salad greens. Always in a warm climate the best lettuce grow during the winter months and are perfect at the time of year you don't feel like eating salad, so I am watching the weather forecast for some days when the temperature is not likely to reach 30C. Lettuce seed exposed to heat above 30C germinate poorly and if you grow them in a tray and plant them out ,the shock of transplanting makes them bolt or taste bitter. I have heard that by moistening the seed and placing them in the fridge for a few days improves germination, so I will give that a go.
The much maligned and unfashionable Iceberg lettuce is the variety I want to grow. It needs a bit of space around it to grow well and form a big heart. What I like about it is that it can be used in cooked dishes as well as salads. Braised lettuce, Chow Sahng Choy, which is stir fried lettuce with ginger, garlic and soy sauce is a good side dish for an Asian style meal, and the popular San Choy Bow is a meal in itself whether made with mince or tofu and mushrooms.
San Choy Bow

Tecomaria capensis 'Aurea'

Tecomaria capensis 'Aurea'
 Yellow Cape Honeysuckle

The brassy orange flowering form of this South African shrub was once a popular hedge plant here on the South Coast particularly with dairy farmers as it formed a sheltered barrier in the milking yards to calm the cows down before they went into the sheds. It can form a huge densely packed hedge sometimes reaching 7 metres or more and in the warmer months it is never without a flower. Tolerating moist salt laden winds, cold down to -2C and drought, it is easy to see why it was once a popular plant. Its fall from grace in suburban gardens has more to do with it being a difficult plant to manage as it has the habit of sending out long horizontal cane like stems which send roots down whenever they find a piece of fresh ground. This yellow flowering form has a more subdued nature and is less vigorous in growth and can be kept under control with comparative ease. It flowers from now till late autumn and is not particular about soil or aspect.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Fiddler Beetle, Eupoecila australasiae

Bright green and black Fiddler Beetle on a Bougainvillea

I am going to have to get a macro lens for my camera so I can take better close-up photos of the insects in the garden. The fiddler beetle, measuring just 1.5 to 2 cm (0.6-0.8in) or Eupoecila australasiae, to use its scientific name, is a welcome visitor during the summer months on the east coast of Australia. It emerges from underground to feed on nectar of native trees such as Melaleuca and Tea-tree. Its larvae are good compost makers as they feed on rotting wood and help with the decomposition process . This beetle belongs to the large family of Scarab beetles which were much revered by the ancient Egyptians as their form was used to create decorative amulets.

Reproduction of an Egyptian amulet based on the scarab beetle

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Joseph Lent's 'Dark Opal' Basil

Ocimum basilicum 'Dark Opal' with the acid yellow leaves of Iresine

We have the University of Connecticut to thank for introducing this dark purple Basil to the world. Back in the late 1950's, the then Professor of Plant Sciences at the University, Joseph M. Lent and his colleague John Scarchuk began work on improving the existing purple form of Basil which always showed traces of green in the leaves. After a review of the list of the U.S.D.A. plant introductions, they found a purple-tinged Basil which had come from Turkey. Then followed years of intensive inbreeding and selection to obtain a Basil with a uniform purple colour which would come true to seed. In 1962, 'Dark Opal' was submitted to the All-America Selections and was awarded a Bronze Medal. Joseph Lent wrote of it in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Record..."In the garden 'Dark Opal' is a handsome compliment to rose, pink, light lavender or white petunias. The dark bronzy color of the foliage reflects an iridescent sheen whenever a breeze stirs it ,and provides a striking contrast to mass plantings of wax begonias,verbenas, zinnias, or similar bedding plants with flowers in pastel tones.Because of its neatly tailored, compact growth, it is an excellent for a low hedge along a walk or bordering a terrace or patio" Professor Lent didn't give it a rating as a kitchen herb but with its vibrant colour it sure adds a real zing to a salad or when used as a decorative garnish. Joseph M Lent is remembered at The University of Connecticut with a scholarship named in his honour.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Living Sculpture

Last year the Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli released a CD called Sacrificium, the cover art of which saw her posing as a living sculpture of the greco-roman kind. A fantastic CD of music incidentally even if it caused most grown men to go into a state of shock about what went on all those centuries ago...but that's another story.
It was probably the British duo of Gilbert and George who started the ball rolling on the development of living sculpture in 1970 when they posed at the gallery of art dealer Nigel Greenwood (1941-2004) at his Chelsea, London gallery. Their work was called Singing Sculptures and they performed the song 'Underneath the Arches' continuously. John Kaldor Art Projects bought this work to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1973. Living sculptures have become a fixture at shows and fairs across the country and delight crowds as public art works. Yesterday these young men posed as coal miners and put on a great show.

Local lads in the tradition of Gilbert and George

sublime music from Cecilia Bartoli

Quilts on display

Art quilts which incorporate fabrics using plant motifs can be an inspiration for gardeners and designers. I like to look closely at the combination of colours and intricate patterns. When you photograph them in section you enter into a whole new world of imagination.