Friday, September 19, 2014

Longleaf Pine

I grew up with pine trees in country South Australia. Pinus Radiata and Australian Cypress Pines were everywhere. But when I went to high school I saw the most lovely pine tree that had a long clean trunk with long weeping needles. It was magnificent! I spent many art classes trying to draw that tree. Then when I moved to the Adelaide southern suburbs, in a park behind my house...there was that same pine tree{sigh}. Who would have thought I would like a pine tree so much? Admittedly it is a little quirky.

So researching this tree a little more, all I could find was its Longleaf Pine category, but no official name. So if you know what Pine this is, please let me know.

Pine cones are beginning to grow right now, and most notably they only grow on the end of each branch.

Growing from this:

To this:

To become this:

Big beautiful pine tree. I always think of the needles as being pom-poms.

If you can identify this pine species, leave me a note in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Can Fennel and Dill Cross Pollinate?

Gardening forums have been divided on whether the herbs fennel and dill can cross pollinate. This year my garden decided to prove that the warnings are true after all.

I planted my dill in a container right next to the fennel last year. This year, after the dill had died back, new plants began to emerge. I let them grow to see what would develop, and sure enough they weren't dill...and they weren't quite fennel. In fact the foliage colour seemed to indicate that it was a little bit different.

The bottom of each plant has a more fennel bulb look.
The taste is a confusion of both fennel and dill. A bit more fennel but less aniseed.
The texture, however, is far tougher than both fennel and dill which are much more softer.

Having learnt my lesson, I am now growing my dill far away from my fennel plants.

How to prevent cross pollination

  • Plant fennel and dill as far away from each other as practically possible.
  • Since both herbs grow well in pots, moving pots makes controlling their proximity easier.
  • Only plants from the same family can pollinate each other, so the same applies to any other vegetable or flower in the garden.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Magnolia season at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden

September is the best month to visit Mount Lofty Botanic Garden to see the Magnolias in full flower. We celebrated Father's Day this year with a picnic beneath the gorgeous Magnolia trees.

Access via the bottom car park off of Lampert Rd from the Piccadilly Rd from Crafers.

A beautiful visit! Every month and every season it is different and a great workout. It is steep.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


This month I had a very special guest come visit me and my garden, gardening guru Michael Keelan who helped me create some amazing terrariums for Channel 7's SALife program (Sunday 5:30pm).


Terrariums are a great way to garden indoors especially if you live a busy lifestyle or you are away often. In fact these are a great gift for any one who loves gardening. This is even one for the lazy gardeners.

Being low maintenance and clean, a terrarium adds a beautiful living design element to any room that has naturally filtered light. Dress them up, get creative because there are no limits to your imagination when creating a terrarium.

And terrariums are so easy to create!

They really are like a mini rainforest, working on the principles of condensation, evaporation and precipitation. To get your terrarium working well there are some basic rules to follow so that the water cycle works effectively for your plants.

To get started:

Download the Fact Sheet

What you will need

  • Clear glass or plastic container (with or without a lid)
  • Pebbles or coarse gravel
  • Activated charcoal (the smaller granular type from aquarium shops are ideal)
  • Potting mix (Premium or Cacti & Succulent Mix)
  • Plants
  • Mist Water Spraying Bottle with fresh water
  • Decorative objects (optional)

Terrariums on a Budget

Terrariums can be made from the simplest and cheapest materials all the way through to the high end fancy display. Use an old 2 Litre soft drink plastic bottle or even an old food jar. It can start that simple.

So I did my shopping around to find the best buys to get the most for your money.

Choosing your Jar

To activate the water cycle, choose a jar or container that either has a lid, side opening or rounded top opening to help the condensation return to the soil.

If you like tall plants then choose a tall container. Just remember that the pebbles and soil will raise the internal height.

The width of your container and plants are also important to consider as we do not want the foliage to touch the sides of the container or this will lead to rot and fungal problems. Simply snip back any leaves that don't quite fit whenever you see them touching a side.

Homemade polymer clay mini mushrooms dress up this Moss terrarium

Plant Choices

Standard Terrarium Garden
Head to your local nursery to the shade plants section and choose from the mini pots.
Terrariums rarely host flowering plants, but African Violets do very well.


Its not always the mini shade plants that take pride of place in a terrarium.
How about these other combinations:

Moss Garden
Moss gardens do not need any form of drainage as they thrive in boggy conditions. Just remember to check on it daily to see that it is still moist. Dryness will kill the moss off quickly. Mosses are not commercially available in South Australia, so it will be up to you to hunt in those darker moist areas of the garden.

Cacti and Succulent Garden
Not all cactus are spiky. Using a more open bowl to allow extra moisture to escape will keep these beautiful plants in the best condition. Always use the right potting mix blend.

Air Plants Garden
Air Plants do not need any soil to grow, just attach to a rock or piece of wood with florist wire or a dab or glue. If your container only contains pebbles, simply wiggle the plant into place between rocks very gently and place in a location that receives fresh air flow as the particles in the air feed Air Plants. A little light misting every now and again is recommended. Air Plants come in plastic containers are available at most nurseries and hardware store garden sections.

Air Plants planted among pebbles

I hope this has inspired you to create your very own terrarium.
They make beautiful gifts as well as brighten up any room.

They only need a light spray of water every 2 to 4 weeks or as needed.

If you have made one, please let me know. You can follow me on Facebook and show off your terrarium creations there too.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Amazing Chinese Five Spice Recipe

I know what you are thinking: Does that spice ever make it out of the cupboard? Have you ever made Salt & Pepper Squid? This spice not only enhances the flavour, it IS the flavour. And WOW!

Having thrown out some old spices from my pantry I did not have a jar on hand so I searched for a recipe to make my own, and I found this amazing recipe and gave my own twist.

My secret? Long Pepper from Beach Organics (Middleton, South Australia).
Scored this from the Willunga Farmers Market.

Amazing Chinese Five Spice Powder


1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground Cloves
1 teaspoon Fennel Seeds
1 teaspoon Star Anise
1 teaspoon Long Pepper
1/2 teaspoon cracked Black Pepper

  1. Grind up the Fennel Seeds, Star Anise, Long Pepper and Black Pepper in a coffee bean grinder or similar.
  2. Add the ground Cinnamon and Cloves.
  3. Mix the spices together and store in an airtight jar.

The original recipe says to toast the fennel seeds first. I did not do this.
Szechuan Peppercorns are used in the original recipe.
I have substituted the peppercorns with Long Pepper and Cracked Black Pepper.