Peas – Garden, Snap or Snow, which is best.

Garden Peas

Whatever happened to the garden pea?  Finding them in veggie shops is so rare these days.  Yet the Chinese Snow Peas or Snap Peas (sometimes called Mange Tout) seem to have taken their place.  Seems a pity really as the common Garden Pea is so sweet and tasty and we were always told they were full of goodness.

Well its one of the examples of how big business technology actually serves us better because 90% of all Garden Peas consumed today are frozen or canned.  And this is simply because they are generally better this way, being blanched and flash frozen within a few hours of picking.  The process really does lock in the flavour, texture, nutritional value and freshness –  unlike any other vegetable.

Pisum sativumGarden Peas – Pisum sativum – do taste best when hand picked and eaten right away but they do become dry and mealy in texture after a day or so.

Shipping them to veggie stores is therefore a very difficult operation with the distinct possibility that they’ll just not be at their best.

Then you have to shell them as the pods are bitter to taste and stringy in texture ! Not many of us want to do that.

Snow PeaSnow PeasPisum sativum macrocarpon – on the other hand have edible shells and can be popped into boiling water for the quickest preparation of any vegetable.  They are sweet and tasty and also go very well in stir fries.

But the drawback is that they are lower in nutritional value.  This doesn’t mean they are not good, just less good than the fuller shaped garden pea that has had more time to develop.

Snap Peas or Sugar Peas are a cross between the Garden Pea and Snow Peas are plumper in shape and have a crisp, snappy texture.  The pods are also edible.  Again though, they are lower in nutritional value and calories than Garden Peas.

So next time you scoff at a slick TV commercial claiming that Frozen Peas are better . . well Mr Birds Eye and Mr McCain have actually  got it right this time.  Unless of course you are patient enough to grow them yourself then you can have the best of both worlds.

What do you reckon?  Is it worth the effort to grow them yourself?

Green Goddess – Ixia viridiflora

Ixia Viridiflora

Its a beauty isn’t it?  Delicate, unusual hues, but a certain energy in the shape and form.

Its common name is Green Ixia or Turquoise Ixia – I’d say its more a Duck Egg blue.

Easy to grow from bulbs that are generally available, yet this delightful, frost hardy spring flower isn’t all that common – which is a bit of a puzzle really.

Hence this blog entry – this is quite simply, a promotion for one of nature’s loveliest.

Ixia ViridifloraMore info here.

Author: Bob Saunders (

Patsy Durak’s Rose Garden

On a recent visit to Perth I was lucky enough to be recommended to visit a garden that will go down as one of the “Best Garden Days Out”.

Patsy Duraks Garden

The back garden of Kareela

This is not a huge tourist trap garden, but a specialist rose garden lovingly created and nurtured by Patsy Durak in the Gooseberry Hill region of the Perth Hills.

In 1988 she and her husband Ian Kirton bought Kareela, the old Archbishop of Perth’s house and promptly went about demolishing the existing garden to build a totally new one dedicated to roses.

Floribunda Rose Aspirin

Floribunda Rose Aspirin

They had such success that they then purchased the house over the road to extend the gardens even further.  Today Patsy looks after over 900 rose bushes spread over the two properties.  They include fabulous collections of Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas, Climbers, Delbart and David Austin English roses.

Roses Radox And Carson

Floribunda Roses #1. Radox Bouquet #2. Violet Carson

Her dedication is apparent at every turn with all plants kept in tip-top condition – yet she manages to do this without spraying, just by being diligent in removing any signs of disease or infestation immediately and following best practice in garden hygiene.

Floribunda Rose Magic Fire

Floribunda Rose Magic Fire

She ensures all plants are promptly dead-headed (e.g. around 40cms worth removed) to minimise plant energy wastage, and regular fertilising plays a vital role as well in maintaining plant vitality – a healthy plant is less likely to succumb to infections or infestations.

Hybrid Tea Rose - Helmut Schmidt

Hybrid Tea Rose – Helmut Schmidt

Our visit was not perfectly timed, being at the end of one of the most scorching summers in recent memory, followed just days earlier by heavy rain and blustery winds – so the plants were not necessarily at their peak.  But if these blooms are considered a touch below par then I cannot imagine how good it would be to arrive on a perfect day.

David Austin English Rose Heritage

David Austin English Rose Heritage

Patsy donates a portion of the small entrance fee to the Cancer Council and in doing so has created excellent value for visitors.  There is a delightful shop at the entrance selling many of her unique products and she also serves wonderful Devonshire teas on the splendidly shady Old Colonial verandah.  But there’s also something extra useful you’ll not find in many open gardens – she has labelled most of the plants so if you like a rose you know what to look for in your local garden centre.

Patsy Duraks House

Devonshire teas served on the verandah.

The gardens are open every Sunday between 10am and 4:30pm from October through to May.  But she will, if possible, open up for you if you call in advance to request access on other days of the week.

Hybrid Tea Rose Lovers Meeting

Hybrid Tea Rose Lovers Meeting

The Perth Hills enjoy a mediterranean type climate which is ideal for growing roses due to the hot and dry summers.   But perhaps its the combination of ideal climate and dedicated gardener that makes Patsy’s garden such a delightful place to visit.

Grandiflora Rose Tournament Of Roses

Grandiflora Rose Tournament Of Roses

Here’s her website to help you plan your visit:-

Author: Bob Saunders (

Money Plant – Location, Location

Crassula ovata is a succulent plant native to South Africa but it has become a big favourite amongst the Chinese because it is reckoned to be very auspicious – in money, health and friendship.

Crassula OvataIt is commonly known as Jade Plant, Money Plant, Friendship Tree or Lucky Plant and is a popular ‘Gift’ plant due to these associations – but especially to bring financial benefit to the owner.

Crassula Ovata Money TreeThe concept is that if you plant one (or place one in a pot) by your front door then it will encourage money into your household.  

However the reverse comes into effect if you plant one by your backdoor (or have a potted one in the same location) – that then encourages money to flow out !

Money Tree FlowersWhether you buy into this or not, it is a great plant for pots or gardens, is almost indestructible and can take sun or shade in any quantities.  It also has flushes of delicate white flowers at least once a year, sometimes more if its happy (and when they appear good fortune is due for the owner at that time).

So my question to those who know is…… as the number eight is a powerful omen for prosperity, if you plant four on either side of the path approaching your front door, should you go out and buy a lottery ticket next day?

P.S. I am not superstitious but I have two, one on either side of my front door, simply because I like them – and yes I’ve had quite reasonable financial fortune since they have been there !


See more on how to grow and maintain the Money Plant here 

Author: Bob Saunders (

A Callistemon Worth Cultivating

Callistemon are very popular garden plants being easy to grow, producing wonderfully colourful blooms and they are also great at attracting birds.

Popular Callistemon

1. Callistemon citrinus Endeavour 2. Callistemon Anzac White 3. Callistemon Reeves Pink

They come in many colours though most tend to be shades of red.  Callistemon citrinus and Callistemon viminalis are the two main species that have helped established the plant as a garden favourite over the past 50 years.

Many cultivars have appeared in recent years including Calistemon viminalis ‘Little John’ which is prized for it’s compact form and lovely grey/green foliage.

There is one, however, that has not yet achieved great market acceptance yet deserves to due to its outstanding blooms of deep red with golden tips that appear throughout summer.

Callistemon PearsoniiCallistemon pearsonii is an absolute stunner, relatively easy to grow and it is quite hardy to drought and borderline tolerant of frosts.  The recently introduced cultivar ‘Rocky Rambler’ is more compact and low growing only reaching 30cms high by around a one metre spread, but still just as spectacular.

They go extremely well in borders and rockeries but take care (as with all natives) to keep phosorous rich fertilisers away.  A light sprinkling of blood and bone once a year is really all they need.

Click here for more information on this plant in the GardensOnline Plantfinder.

Author: Bob Saunders (

Bee – right place, right time

With the re-launch of GardensOnline recently, the team have been extremely busy creating extra content for the site, including taking hundreds of new photos of plants to illustrate the interactive Plantfinder database.

So while Annie was focussing on a patch of Arum Lillies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) she noticed a bee heading straight for the golden spadix for a feed.

With uncanny timing she managed to capture one of those rare moments, (not unlike the two fingers touching in ‘Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind’) where the bee makes the lightest first touch in exploration of nature’s larder.

Arum Lily and Bee

Arum Lily and Bee

And, yes, you can just see the flurry of wings holding the bee in a perfect hover.

Amazing nature.

You can grow Arum Lillies from climate zones 8 to 11 and they are extremely easy to raise and maintain.

Find out more in the GardensOnline Plantfinder 

Author: Bob Saunders (

Growing Roots

My family always had a greenhouse, it was a revered part of the garden, and if I was lucky I was allowed in while dad re-potted or sowed fresh seed trays.


The Greenhouse

No matter what time of year it was, the greenhouse was always lush and chock full of lusty growth.  The earthy smells, extra humidity, lime dustings on the glass in summer and kerosene heater aromas in winter all contributed to a unique and special place for a very junior apprentice gardener to spend time.

Setting roots

Setting roots

It was here that I learned the importance of roots, in fact the greenhouse is a temple to roots.  This is where they are teased out of twig cuttings, air layers or seeds.  It seems that roots are the start of everything (for humans and plants alike).
The Importance of Roots:
In the greenhouse I learned about soaking seeds, especially runner beans and other legumes, before planting.  Seeds also need a steady supply of warmth and moisture while they germinate – not too much of either, but always constant.  If roots dry out when forming, then they’ll just shrivel up and die very quickly.  Delicate things, roots, especially the very fine ones that grow in amongst the thicker ones.  These are the roots that can break off when you transplant, which is why it’s best to try to carry a tight rootball of soil with the young plant to its new position – this way the fine ones remain intact.
Transplanting seedlings:
Always prepare the hole first – just a bit bigger that the rootball you’re going to move.  Water your seedling first then insert the trowel or garden knife into the damp soil at an angle around the plant on all four sides.  Gently lift it out with a restraining hand on the other side, keeping the plug of soil around the roots intact as you insert it into its new home.  Backfill the hole with potting mix and firm down, followed by a gentle sprinkle of water.  Think of it as taking a sleeping baby from the car seat to its cot.
Transplanting seedlings

Transplanting seedlings

Softwood cuttings:

Hibiscus are perhaps the easiest shrub to propagate from cuttings.  I’ve often broken off a twig on a walk, then plopped it into a glass of water on the windowsill to grow roots.  There are half a dozen beauties in my garden as testament to the technique.   But the proper way to do it is to cut the sample cleanly with a sharp knife, trim off all but a couple of leaves, then place it in a water container that is as light proof as possible, allowing only the leaves to enjoy the sunshine.  This is because roots naturally grow in the dark and, having learned this trick only recently, I can attest that they grow much faster in the dark.
Hibiscus rooting

Hibiscus growing roots quicker in the dark

Author: Bob Saunders (