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December 2022

DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Christmas in Your Garden

Christmas Garden 2

A Christmas Tree in Your Garden
Although the cutting of a tree and bringing indoors to celebrate the winter season and then Christianity, is an ancient tradition, the modern-day Christmas tree as we know it was popularised by Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert after a newspaper illustration of them with their children around the palace ‘Christmas Tree’ captured and inspired the people of the time. The delight of a decorated tree has now become synonymous with Christmas through across many regions the world. The debate as to what is more eco-friendly, a cut tree or a manufactured tree may rage but all would agree, a living Christmas tree in your garden is perhaps the best solution of them all!
Although there are traditional Northern Hemisphere trees that can be grown in your garden, how about an Australian native tree that will give you the look but will be far better suited to the environment here and fit in with the wildlife locals better? Let’s begin with the magnificent Norfolk Pine Araucaria heterophylla.
5@5 Norfolk Pine
They do grow up to 35m in height and they certainly will be the closest native that you will find in appearance to a traditional l tree. Houseplant lovers listen up as this tree grows well indoors while young for a few years as well.

Oh, Woolly Bush Adenanthos sericeus
5@5 Woolly Bush
how divine you are! Perfect for small gardens as it will grow up to an easily manageable 5m and with bonus vivid orange-pink flowers in spring and early summer this will delight both you and your local pollinators. 

If you have a dinosaur lover or botanical history buff in your family, then you just have to make a
5@5 Wollemi Pine

 Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis your garden Christmas Tree. One of the rarest and oldest trees on Earth, it will grow comfortably indoors and in sheltered spots in the garden.  

Australian Christmas Bush

Depending on where you find yourself in our beautiful country, will indicate the type of plant known locally as as ‘Christmas Bush’. Here on the Central Coast and across our state, NSW Christmas Bush Ceratopetalum gummiferum is our Aussie festive native and it becomes more popular each year.
People in colonial times simply looked to flowers that reminded them of the key symbolism of the European Christmas of their birth places. Christmas bush, with its red flowers in tiny bell shapes and its appearance at the 'right time' would of more than fit the bill. Christmas Bush is mentioned as such in colonial letters and also found sketched and painted by the artists of the time on gifts, cards and greetings. Louisa Anne Meredith, an artist of the time, refers to it as such in the 1830s: “We used to meet numbers of people carrying bundles of beautiful native shrubs to decorate the houses, in the same way we use holly and evergreens at home… it is a handsome verdant shrub, with flowers, irregularly flower shaped and go from green to crimson in colour”

Similar in ways to the poinsettia, the flowers are not the part of the plant that endear us to it. The flowers are small creamy-coloured blossoms that fall away in spring to leave sepals that turn a gorgeous red by late December. Find a full sunny spot to plant your Christmas Bush and feed during spring with a native-specific fertiliser only. This is advised to increase the number of blossoms which will lead to a showier festive display. When harvesting your Christmas bush, never remove more than a third of the plant and cut branches at an angle with sharp secateurs. Remove all foliage that will sit below the waterline in your vase, change water every second day and snip drying bottom of stems as required. You should see your cut Christmas Bush last well into the New Year with a vase life of at least two weeks.
Other Christmas Bush varieties include Victorian Christmas Bush Prostanthera lasianthos and South Australian Christmas Bush, also known as Tasmanian Christmas Bush Bursaria spinosa, both of which will grow in Coast gardens.

NSW Christmas Bells

The flaming yellow-red Christmas Bells Blandfordia nobilis

and Blandfordia grandiflora

two of my personal favourite flowers. They are members of the Lily family say everything ‘New South Wales’ to me and remind me of summer bush walks, family picnics and home. As with any native flower, it is illegal to pick these in the wild but that’s ok as they will grow easily in Coast gardens. You will find that Blandfordia nobilis grows well in full sun but is semi-shade tolerant while Blandfordia grandiflora needs full sun.

Christmas Colour Indoors
If you want to liven up your home in an instant, collect big bunches of foliage and display in vases. They will look very much like dramatic potted plants, fill your home with living greenery and if you are selective in your foraging, will add delightful fragrances to your living spaces. Soft Lemon Teatree branches are divine indoors and also help deter mosquitos. Try grouping different sized and shaped vases together for a really lush, tropical look, especially if you are using palm and fern leaves.
Our local nurseries are also bursting with summer colour at the moment and now might be the time to pop in a few new beauties in your garden to welcome visitors or for your own delight. Before you do get planting, why not make a blooming bright display for a day or two? African Daises, Inpatients, Coreopsis, Hydrangeas, Zinnias and Kangaroo Paw are all coming into flower at the moment and you could leave them in their pots (maybe cover with cloth or paper) and create a lovely display but only for a day or two at most as they do need to be out in the garden. 

Congratulations Doyalson Community Garden
Doyalson Community Garden

On top of their fourth consecutive year winning the ‘Best Community Garden’ category in the Wyong Garden Competition, Doyalson Community Garden has taken out a big national win in the inaugural National Community Gardens Awards. Doyalson Community Garden has been named the ‘2022 Australian Community Garden Champion’. This award celebrates the gardens that reach out to their community with valuable connections, activities and opportunities for locals. Garden Co-Ordinator Jules is proud of the achievement and the far-reaching possibilities, “I think the award is a good thing to help people realise what our community gardens do and hopefully they will want to join.” She commented. “Here at Doyalson we host community group gatherings and have opened our garden to a local support group to share education and life skill opportunities.”
Community Gardens Australia, the body that runs the awards, is a networking organisation that connects community gardeners around Australia. It is growing source of information, networking opportunities and support for all those currently working with community gardens or have an interest in them. Another feature is their very handy, interactive map to help you find a community garden near you.


Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app:

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]





DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Kids in the Garden

Gardening kids 1

Tips to inspire the gardening bug in young kids:

* Ask your kids what they would like to eat and then grow it.

* Involve them in the daily chores like watering.

* Let them get dirty and have fun.

Garden Dress Up 
Most kids love the idea of dress-up so by designating ‘gardening clothing’ you can not only save their everyday cloths but make gardening seem a little special, (which it is!). They will need protective footwear, and this could be a fun pair of gumboots, rubber clogs or an old pair of runners. Gloves are also a must as little fingers like exploring and this will give some protection to them from bites, cuts and irritants. There are kids aprons and overalls that are garden-specific but even a set of colourful clothing that you suggest are kept ‘just for gardening’ will fit the bill. You could even look out for floral, botanical or garden creature themed tops, shirts or pants or have fun with a set of fabric markers and let their imagination go wild.

Tools and Gardening Materials for Kids
I’ve seen the cute kids gardening tools/toys out there, but I would suggest that if your kids are old enough to work with scissors supervised then I’d be much more inclined to purchase a child sized ‘real’ set. Gardening is lots of fun, but it is a real-life skill and using ‘real’ tools generates an environment of responsibility that hopefully your kids will connect with. If your child can manage adult sized tools, I would be investing in these but be mindful as cutting tools such as pruners and secateurs are a lot more powerful than general household scissors. You should never leave these around any children at any time. Go organic as this will be safer but make sure proper handling of soil, even organic pesticides, composts and mulches and the like are handled under strict supervision. Masks must be worn to avoid inhalation of microorganisms and gloves worn when handling these substances and materials.

Technical Buzz
There is no getting away from the fact that kids love electronics, and you can capitalise of this by introducing ways of using their gadgets for gardening goodness. YouTube has a huge amount of gardening videos just for kids and often by kids. Perhaps you have a budding ‘Costa’ or ‘Dirt Girl’ in your family and they would like to make their own gardening channel! There are also heaps of gardening apps out there. Beware of the free ones that require additional payments though. One that is a lot of fun that I can recommend is ‘Plantsnap’, ( This app costs about $4 upfront with no additional payments and lets you take photos of plants and will help identify them. It is not 100% accurate but it will get kids on the right track in their botanical exploration. Others will also help you identify insects for the bug lovers in the house.

Design a Garden
you will need
graph paper
tracing paper/baking paper
graphite (lead) pen and eraser
coloured pens/pencils
masking tape
tape measure (optional)

You can measure the garden by pacing it out and kids find this really fun. Get them to make sure their stride is even (a game in itself!) and work out how many paces wide and long your garden area is. You could also measure with a tape measure.
Stick down a piece of graph paper to a table/surface to keep it steady and mark out the existing garden with all its features. You will have to work out how many squares equal a pace as the bigger the garden design is on the paper the better.
Draw the garden on the graph paper and colour in as you wish. Tape a piece of tracing paper/baking paper over the top of this design and now redesign the garden. You can move things around, place new things in the design, do whatever you wish! This is pretty close to what real garden designers do when they are creating for their clients.

Make a Botanical Press
Version One: Grab two sheets of thin flat wood (around A5 size is best) and drill holes in each corner and then secure together with screws and wingnuts. Version Two: Use those sheets of wood and secure with four thick rubber bands. Version Three: Use heavy cardboard (around A5) and secure with four thick rubber bands. After collecting leaves, petals and flowers, lay two sheets of newspaper (cut to A5 size) onto the sheet of wood or cardboard and then top with one sheet of white A5 paper. Lay out your botanical specimens carefully on the white paper and then lay another sheet of A5 white paper on top and then another sheet of newspaper. You can continue for a few layers and then finish off with two sheets of newspaper and the top of your press (wood or cardboard). Secure with screws and wingnuts or rubber bands. If it is loose, place press under heavy books as well. Leave for at least two weeks or more. Botanical specimens are ready for use in your journal or crafts when they are completely dry.


Start a Garden Journal Kit
you will need: a blank journal, a waterproof pencil case large enough to fit journal, pens/pencils

stickers/stamps (optional). Keeping a journal is a great way to record what is happening as you garden grows and to keep your personal observations, garden wishes, plans and feelings. You can add your garden designs, drawings of your plants, dates you planted seeds or seedlings and notes about when they sprouted, flowered, and produced fruit. Keep a record or what you might like to change next time and new plants you see on tv, magazines, books or in other gardens.

Use the botanical press (above) to dry and flatten leaves and flowers and add to your pages with tape. The other thing garden journals are good for is making a note of when things don’t go right. Make sure you describe exactly what went wrong, was it a pest, a disease, not enough water or maybe something else. If you keep your garden journal and a few pens and pencils in a waterproof case, you can take it out into the garden with you.

Make a Rain Gauge
you will need: a clear plastic bottle, ruler, permanent marker/s, gardening wire (rubber coated), scissors. Your garden needs at least 3cm water per week (some plants more and the whole garden in the summer!) so creating a rain gauge is a very helpful project. Soak off any labels and then cut the top of the bottle off so that you are left with a straight container with a bottom.

Mark out each centimetre on the bottle with the permanent marker/s. Use black for the measurements for easy viewing but you may like to add a bit of artistic water themed artwork with the markers as well! Wrap the coated wire around the bottle and secure in the garden to a fence, pole or structure that is completely straight, with nothing above it so it can catch the rain. You can keep a record of rainfall in your gardening journal, and it will help you know when your garden needs more water.

Down in the Garden is looking for Central Coast gardeners who would like to share their garden with us.
We are particularly looking for: Evergreens, Tulips, Spring Bulbs, Water Feature Gardens, School Gardeners, Commercial Kitchen Gardens, Medicinal Plant Gardeners, and Community Gardens but all gardens and gardeners are welcome
contact: [email protected]

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app:  
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]



Down in the Garden: Christmas Gift Guide

ChristmasHave you got a gardening friend? Are you a gardener looking for a hint to give to your family? Well, I’ve wrapped up a bunch of the most interesting of gifts for all budgets and all different types of plants lovers.

For the ‘I Want to Start Gardening’ Gardener
*A gardening journal is an excellent present for those beginning their steps into the botanical world. Look for one with gardening tips in it. 
*Everyone should have a good gardening hat. Find one to suit their style and make sure it offers sun protection. This could be anything from a wide brim straw hat (my favourite) to a bucket hat.
*You can’t get enough knowledge as well as up to date information so apart from encouraging them to read my column, you might want to gift the new gardener a magazine subscription.

Book: ‘Australian Geographic Gardening School’, Simon Akeroyd and Ross Bayton is simply brilliant for those venturing into the garden for the first time or wanting to renew their skills. Although it does drive deep into the technical aspects of gardening, it does so in an easy to read way.

For the ‘Houseplants are Everything’ Gardener
*Houseplant people cannot get enough pots. Just make sure they have drainage holes and for goodness sake, make sure the pot/s match their decor perfectly.
*Is this houseplant person very special in your life? Then a larger cactus might be on their wish list, so are rare plants but a large cactus is far easier to track down this close to the big day.
*Encourage your indoor plant guru to start propagation of their prized treasures. There are ready made kits out there or you could make up a kit yourself from supplies. Not sure how to do that? Ask one of the lovely staff at our many gardening centres.
Book: There seems to be a new houseplant book coming out every other day and I don’t think this is a bad thing as it encourages people to get into gardening (I’ve written one myself! Apart from mine, ‘The Language of Houseplants’, Cheralyn Darcey; I really love The Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Practical Houseplant Book’, Fran Bailey and Zia Allaway as it not only shares 175 in-depth plant profiles, there are lots of general indoor growing tips and clever ideas to show off your houseplants within.

For the ‘I’m Saving the Planet’ Gardener
*A basket weaving class or online course is a wonderful idea for those who are crafty eco-warriors. Using up the fallen botanical materials in the garden to create something new should appeal to them. I can personally recommend any course from as I’ve done them.

*Native beehives are a must to protect and encourage our precious naïve bees. They are readily available from most garden centres and you might like to create you own for your nature-passionate friend. Instructions can easiest be found online, search: DIY native beehive.  
*Paper pot making kit. These consist of two wooden parts that help twist newspapers into a small pot. Once seeds germinate and the seedling is established, you simply plant the whole pot.
Book: ‘Milkwood’ Kristen Bradley and Nick Ritar is probably one of the more recent and inspiring works for those wishing to garden with more care of the earth.

For the ‘I Kill Everything but I Want a Garden’ Gardener
*An indoor smart garden. These can be found in lots of sizes and are made up of a hydroponic growing system that includes a light, pot and usually the growing medium and nutrients.
*A beautiful watering can may be a subtle hint, but it might just give your brown-thumbed, but garden-interested mate, more motivation to keep their plants watered.
*Are you a gardening guru? They why not gift them your time. Make up a gift certificate for one-on-one gardening lessons from you. An alternative is a gardening class or course online or in person.  
Book: ‘Top 50 Edible Plants and How Not to Kill Them’ Angie Thomas is a Yates gardening guide just for them!  

For the ‘Foodie-Master Chef’ Gardener
*Harvesting baskets are such lovely and handy items and make practical gifts as well. They can be found in lots of materials and sizes. Look for one that is perhaps a little sturdier for the kitchen gardener. 
*If they don’t have one, a raised garden bed may just be the ticket to creating a kitchen garden. With so many styles out there, I’m sure you will find one perfect to get them growing.
*Although I’ve used lots of different containers to hold my kitchen scraps while they are awaiting their journey to the compost bin, I am a fan of the purpose-built compost bucket. Most have a charcoal filter and inner removable bucket. You might also want to consider an indoor compost bin for those with limited space. These do the composting right there within the bin.
Book: ‘Matthew Bigg’s Complete Book of Vegetables in Australia’ describes itself as the definitive sourcebook for growing, harvesting and cooking vegetables and it is right. Highly recommend book for all actually.

For the ‘Mystical and Meditative’ Gardener
*How about a tinkling set of wind chimes?  Soothing and beautiful they can be found in endless designs to match the taste of your gardening friend and their space.  
*A sundial would be a brilliant gift and can be found in all sorts of sizes. Don’t worry about how it works, I’m sure your magical friend will know how or where to find that information.
*A Zen garden. Those Japanese-inspired trays filled with sand, stones and a rake are much appreciated by the mind, body, spirit focused.

Book: ‘The Art of Mindful Gardening’ Ark Redwood is a lovely title that explores the healing and mediative aspects of gardening. Another book I think this type of gardener would enjoy is ‘The Garden Apothecary’ by Reece Carter which is a fantastic resource for those wanting to create their own herbal remedies.

For the ‘Art and Craft is Life’ Gardener
*One of the best things I found this year was a set of metal alphabet stamps so I could create my own metal garden label stakes. They can be found in hardware and craft stores.  
*It might be getting a bit late to order this but have a look for custom stamp creators or if you are arty/craft as well, get the carving tools out and create a personalised stamp reading something like ‘from the garden of….’. This is a great idea for those who garden and create things from it.
*A plain terracotta pot and a selection of suitable art materials such as weather-proof paints or markers so they can make their own garden art masterpiece would be much appreciated.
‘The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling’ by John Muir Laws is a drawing course in a book and one that has been the foundation of many modern botanical artists.

For the ‘I’m not sure why I’m not on Gardening Australia yet’ Gardener
*There are lots of very gorgeous gardening labelling stakes to be found in metals, ceramics and weather-proof timbers. Find a style that suits your gardening friend and their garden and home.
*Have I told you how much I adore gardening hand balms and creams? Well for the gardening obsessed in your life this is a very thoughtful gift. My favourites include Aveeno Intensive Relief Hand Cream, L’Occitane Intensive Hand Balm and The Body Shop Hemp Hand Cream.
*Most of us have stopped using reusable coffee cups this year due to COVID but you know who needs them? Gardeners! We don’t want bugs in our drinks so look for a garden-themed lidded mug, cup or water bottle.
Book: I bet they share loads of pictures of their garden on social media or if they don’t, you could hop on over and take a bunch of photos and create a handmade scrapbook of their garden or even create a hardbound book at one of the stores that offer this service. A great read for the holidays for the master gardener is ‘Banks’ by Grantlee Kieza. It is a new biography that any garden and plant lover will appreciate.

For the ‘I may be young, but I can do it’ Gardener

*Children love inviting friendly creatures into the garden, so a bird house is a lovely idea. Buy a ready-made one or better yet one they can make or decorate themselves.
*Dress up is loved by most children so a gardening apron and gloves are not only essential to protect the little ones, they will also bring a sense of play time and excitement to gardening.
*Pets! The best gardening pets are worms and if you gift a child their own worm farm, they will love you forever and so will their garden.
Book: ‘Easy Peasy Gardening for Kids’, Kirsten Bradley and illustrated by Aitch is a beautiful introduction to gardening for children that not only explains how to garden but also shares lots of practical and fun activities.

Chritmas screen

A few other ideas to suit everyone:
wishing well, seed raising kit, heirloom seeds, a flower press, beekeeping course, bees, native edible food plant, a bird bath, a bird window feeder, a compost bin, a garden gnome, garden sculpture or art, personalised signage, kneeling pad, seed storage tin,  boot scrapers, gardening boots/shoes, houseplant display stand, mushroom growing kit, birdbath, watering globes for houseplants, tool basket or trug, seed bombs or cannons and if you really can’t decide then nothing say ‘I love you and know you love gardening’ like a gift card from one of your local gardening centres.

(early Summer, temperate areas) 
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, beans, beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, chicory, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, shallots, silverbeet, squashes, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), California poppy, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, marigold, petunias, phlox, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragons, sunflowers, vinca, 

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app:
Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:

Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]


Down in the Garden: Vegan Gardening


Vegan gardening

DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Gardening for Vegans
Cheralyn Darcey

This weekend the Central Coast welcomes Vegan Fest again to Gosford. A plant-based day of markets, entertainment, and demonstrations down at Leagues Club Park on Saturday 4th December and a great opportunity for those wanting to explore a bit more about the vegan lifestyle. It’s a popular event on our calendar, growing larger every time it is held which prompted me to explore ‘Vegan Gardening’.
While it may seem that gardening in itself is a vegan, as it’s all about growing plants, that’s not exactly true because there is much more to living as a vegan than simply not eating meat. In Veganic Gardening, as vegan based gardening is often called, there is also a dedication to not using any animal products directly or indirectly while working organically. As all gardeners are aware, soil preparation and fertilisation are important first steps in any garden and this is where the differences between traditional and vegan gardening will be most noticeable.

Many of the popular, especially organic, fertilisers are created from animal by-products like manure, blood, bone or even entire carcasses, such as fish emulsions. It would seem obvious that fertilisers that include actual parts of animals would not be acceptable in a vegan garden, but you may be wondering why animal manures are not. The answer is that the use of animals in the production of products is also often thought of as cruel in the ethics of veganism. So, using manures/products that contain these manures is supporting these animal-based industries. However, not all vegans have this view and some do accept the use of manures in gardening.

While there are a few vegan branded fertilisers now on the market, my early inspection showed level of some minerals that seemed a bit high for my liking. My advice is to do your own research on these types of fertilisers and their contents before using them. Natural fertilisers and plant tonics that would be considered vegan and are also safe to use include seaweed, green manure crops and composts created from vegetation only.  

Making your own liquid fertilisers, called ‘teas’, from plants is also an option as this concentrates the goodness from botanical matter ready to give your garden a super boost. To brew a fertilising tea, soak cuttings in water in covered containers for a few weeks. Some suggested plants that can be used include, comfrey, nettles, grass clippings, dandelions, yarrow, borage and most weeds.

Looking after what you plant in your garden is vital and even more so as your fertilisers are not going to be as nutrient-dense without the use of manures. Garden soil will need to be protected from leeching out any goodness it does hold and the best way to do this is with mulch. An organic, easily composted material will be best so that your mulching does double duty and feeds the garden as it breaks down.

Mulch also helps retain water, keep the soil cool in summer and warm in winter and can hold back some pests. Speaking of bugs that we don’t want in the garden, pest control will of course need to be organic but most vegan practices I have found do frown on killing insects and to this end, companion planting as well as sacrificial planting will be the best options to implement. Sacrificial planting is simply planting a crop of something on the perimeter of your garden that is more desirable for the bugs. Things like lettuce and kale are suggestions. Companion planting will include plants that have aromas and attributes that pests don’t like but can also include plants that help other plants to thrive usually via reactions in the soil. An example is basil and tomatoes.

Barrier pest control methods like netting to deter birds and insects work exceptionally well, just make sure holes are small enough to not capture creatures. Copper tape will turn back snails and slugs and not do them harm but you will find the popular methods of using crushed eggshells or beer traps are not acceptable.

Two other living creatures that are often seen in gardens and raise vegan debate are bees and worms. Many vegans do not eat honey as the keeping of bees to work for us is thought to be exploitive and so having them in the garden unless they are wild is out. Gardeners don’t just keep bees to create honey of course, they also help with the pollination of plants.

All is not lost as you can still invite them in naturally but growing plants that have bee-attracting flowers like borage, basils, lavender, yarrow, dandelion, bottlebrush, eucalyptus, grevillea and westringia. Worms enrich the soil via their castings and help aerate it as well and while worm farms seem to be given the green light by some vegan gardeners but not others and those plastic fully contained units are probably not ok with any vegan. Rather, encourage worms to the garden by using worm towers and by adding sheets of damp cardboard and finely chopped vegetation.

Vegan gardening is possible with a bit of planning and the dedication to follow through with a completely plant based plan and if you have vegan garden, I’d love to see it in action.

Vegan screen

Early Summer, temperate areas
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, beans, beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, chicory, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, shallots, silverbeet, squashes, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), California poppy, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, marigold, petunias, phlox, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragons, sunflowers, vinca, zinnia

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app:
Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog:
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]


Gardening with Edible Flowers: Down in the Garden

Edible Flowers copy

Edible Flowers are growing in popularity every year. While zucchini and squash flowers have had their popularity as pretty cases for delicious stuffings, dainty sugars violets and rose petals have also enjoyed favour over the years. These days with the rise of farm to plate interest and a focus on what can be grown at home for our own cooking explorations, edible flowers of all types are popping up everywhere yet again. I’ve put together a list of blossoms that you can grow and eat along with suggestions for their use based on their inherent flavours. Please note that not all flowers can be consumed with many being toxic or even deadly so be sure of identification and that they are organically grown.
(Borago officinalis)
They taste like fresh cucumbers and make a refreshing tea but can also be added to just about any dish or drink to add a delightful splash of blue with their brilliant royal to sapphire blossoms. It is an annual that requires a very sunny spot, most soils and should be planted in spring through to late summer.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) This traditionally medicinal flower with fantastic skin-healing properties is also a culinary hero as a natural food dye. It has a mild aromatic flavour and works well in almost any form of cookery. Plant from spring through to autumn in a moist, rich soil in a sunny position.
(Dianthus caryophyllus)
People have been writing about the joys of eating carnations since writing began! They have a peppery taste and make amazing pickles, drink additives and desserts. Plant in spring through to autumn in a full sun position with a free-draining soil.

Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
Best with stronger and bitter flavours like dark chocolate or drinks such as wines and spirits, this is a flower that also alienates a few with its strong sweet perfume flavour. The mistake most gardeners make is overwatering lavender. They are a Mediterranean plant and likes full sun, the best drainage you can ensure and light feeding.
(Tropaeolum majus)
They have zingy pepper flavour that also works well with stir-fries and salads while looking so bright and inviting.  Plant by seed in autumn and you will find that they are also a wonderful addition to vegetable gardens as pollinators. Soak seeds overnight before planting in full sun in most soils.
Rosella/Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) The dark red calyx of the flower can be used to create jams and syrups and can be candied or persevered in a sugar syrup as well. The flavour of the calyx is berry-like and can be used best in drinks and sweet dishes while the flowers do well in salads. Grows easily from plant cuttings or seed in late spring through to early summer and needs full sun.                                                 
Roses (Rose spp.)
Most people have a love/hate relationship with rose flavoured foods. They are the base of Turkish Delight, and give an exotic aroma and taste to desserts, drinks and sauces. Sugared rose petals are also a pretty decoration for confections and baking. The trick to using roses is to separate the petals and trim away the white base end of each petal as it has an undesirable flavour. Roses need full sun, at least six hours a day, in a wind-sheltered position with rich well-draining soil.
Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo var. giromontiina)

With flowers that mildly taste like their yummy vegetables, these blossoms are one of the most popular of the edible flower bunch. They are delicious stuffed with anything you can imagine but are particularly good filled with cheese-based recipes and then fried or baked. They also make wonderful additions to stir-fries and Mexican cuisine. Plant in spring after the risk of frost has well and truly past. They need a compost-rich soil that is free-draining and full sun.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
Brighten up your next salad with sunflower petals and you will also find they work very well in breads and other baked goods. Their flavour is mildly earthy and reminiscent of leafy greens. Plant seeds from late winter through until late spring but I have personally had success planting year-round on the Central Coast and in Sydney. They need full sun, a moisture-retentive soil and if you are growing taller varieties, a stake for each. 

Violet (Viola spp.)
Popular as a sugared decoration for baked goods, violets can be tossed into salads, desserts and drinks to add colour and sweet flavour. Plant in autumn and late summer in a semi-shade but bright spot, in a rich moist soil. They are mostly annuals but all easily self-seed.

Bel and Steve – Tranquil Haven, Edible Garden Trail
This is another gorgeous and productive garden joining the Central Coast Edible Garden Trail this weekend. Permaculture practices are employed throughout Bel and Steve’s haven in Avoca that blends more traditional plants, like roses, in with a huge array of edibles.  The front garden isa dedicated to veggies and you will find tomatoes, peas, beans, kales, chokos and even cucamelons popping up everywhere. Two years ago, the lawn mower died so Steve dug up the backyard and continued the permaculture dream on. Their garden is on 637 squares and jammed packed with inspiration, love and chickens. Hop onto the Facebook page of the Central Coast Edible Garden Trail to find out more.
Bel & Steve Garden

Late Spring, temperate areas
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, beans, beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, chicory, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, shallots, silverbeet, squashes, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), California poppy, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, marigold, petunias, phlox, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragons, sunflowers, vinca, zinnia


Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app:
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