Aug 152011

(Smallanthus sonchifolius, Syn.: Polymnia edulis, P. sonchifolia)

Cultivated for centuries in the Andean mountains this root vegetable is relatively new to Australia. Yakon produce two types of roots, the rhizomes which develop just under the soil surface and produce the aerial shoots and the large edible storage tubers which are attached to the rhizomes.

The plants are a vigorous herbaceous perennial up to 2m tall, with large triangular leaves which die back over winter. Tough: tolerating heat, drought and poor soils. The plants need 220 frost free days to produce the large tubers. The plants flower at the end of the season, after which the foliage dies down and then the tubers are ready to be harvested. For good production, protect from the heat of the hot afternoon sun and keep moist.

Why grow Yakon?

They are a wonderful crunchy crisp texture (similar to water chestnut) and a flavour described as a cross between an apple and watermelon. They can be eaten raw or their own or finely sliced and mixed into salads. They can be chipped, baked fried or pickled.

Like Jerusalem Artichoke (a close relative), Yakon contains fructooligosaccharides (an inulin). These taste sweet, but are indigestible and have a low caloric value – so great for those watching their weight. In addition they have a prebiotic effect (used by ‘friendly’ bacteria, promoting the growth of ‘good’ intestinal bacteria). They are reported to increase the absorption of calcium and possibly magnesium. (Note: Consuming large quantities of inulins can cause gas and bloating, and people with fructose intolerance should avoid them.)

You’re not likely to find this rare vegie in the supermarket, but now you can grow your own supply at home!

Aug 152011

Ipomoea batatas

Also known as Kumera, a perennial trailing tuber, developing over the warmer months. Plant in spring and harvest 4 to 6 months after planting. Highly digestible, rich in vitamin C, just as useful as ordinary potatoes in the kitchen, and have a distinctive sweet flavour.

Sweet potatoes are easy to grow but they do need a few things to grow really well. They need well dug, compost rich soil, and good drainage (essential). Plant in raised beds or on mounds 15cms high. This will avoid tubers rotting in wet weather. Before inserting the cuttings, spread a handful of all purpose fertiliser (avoid high nitrogen fertilizers or you will get lots of leaves and not enough tubers). Sweet potatoes don’t need much water and are vigorous with a habit of scrambling through the garden like pumpkin.

Harvest once the leaves start to yellow. The longer you leave them in the ground the better, but must be lifted before any frosts or tubers will rot. Dig up carefully to try and avoid nicking or slicing into the tubers. Leave in the sun to dry for a few hours. Sweet potatoes can be used fresh from the ground but will be sweeter if cured. This is simply storing in a warm (30ºC) airy space for 7-10 days. You can line boxes or baskets with newspapers and leave in a greenhouse or any space where the temperature is stable. After curing, store in a cellar or basement, ideally at around 12ºC.

Aug 152011

Colocasia esculenta

A perennial, tropical plant primarily with large arrow or heart shaped leaves. Primarily grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, but also as a leaf vegetable. Taro cannot be use raw.

The corms can be roasted, baked, fried, steamed or boiled, used in stews and soups, and the natural sugars give a sweet nutty flavour. The starch is easily digestible and grains are fine and small and often used for baby food. The leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms.

Growing Taro
Plant taro as soon as the frosts have finished in spring and the soil has warmed. They require a minimum of 200 frost free days to mature, so get them in as soon as you can. Space 40cm – 60cm apart in rows at least 1m apart.

Taro corms can be planted in dry or wet settings. In Asia taro is often planted in wet paddys. In dry setting, taro corms are planted in furrows or trenches about 6 inches (15cm) deep and covered by 2 to 3 inches (5-8cm) of soil. Keep very moist and feed with a lot of compost and a rich organic high potassium fertiliser.

Tubers are harvested around 200 days after planting when leaves turn yellow and start to die. Lift the roots before the first autumn frosts. Leaves can be picked as soon as they open, but never strip the plant of all its leaves, just pick a few at a time.

Aug 152011

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Pumpkins are easy to grow from seed or seedling and are a fast and vigorous plant. With their spreading habit they can take up a lot of room in the garden, so give them plenty of space or grow up over a sturdy support. They will need to be tied up and pointed in the right direction but are highly ornamental when grown in this way.
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Aug 152011

Broccoli is a favourite for the autumn / winter vegie patch. It can be steamed, boiled, battered, stirfried, steamed with white sauce in side dishes, chopped into florets, boiled in stock or blended into tasty, nourishing soups. Broccoli is also packed with vitamins and freezes well after blanching.

Broccoli likes to grow fast, is a hungry feeder and needs regular watering. So save your rainwater for them and plant them into limed and manured soil to keep them happy and strong. Also watch out for hungry green caterpillars!

Broccoli is ready to harvest in 10-12 weeks from planting so for winter harvest, plant in late summer or EARLY autumn. Yes, we know it seems so early but it needs to be done or you’ll have to wait until spring to be eating them.

For spring harvest, plant mid-autumn – early winter. You can also plant again in late winter – early spring for early summer harvest.

Broccoli produces a large central head, followed by smaller side shoots when you harvest the centre. Dwarf Broccoli is also available, the central head is smaller and therefore takes less time to mature. Be aware though that the plant takes up just as much space in the garden. Height 40cm x Width 50cm.

All types of broccoli will produce side shoots but some are specially bred for their superior side-shooting tendencies like Brocolette, Green Sprouting Calabrese (Seed), Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Seed).

Choose a spot to plant in full sun that hasn’t had Brassicas (Cauliflower, Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts) planted in it the year before. Sprinkle some dolomite or garden lime on top, tip a heap of cow or sheep manure on then dig it all in. Alternatively, just dig in a heap of mushroom compost instead as it already contains lime. Le the soil rest for a week or two if you can, but otherwise, just make sure the manure is blended thoroughly before planting.

Keep well watered, stick your finger in to see if the soil is dry or not. Every 2-3 days in the autumn / winter should be just about right. Liquid feed or side dress with manure or organic fertiliser regularly.

While the weather is mild, the green caterpillars of the white cabbage moth are still out and about. They adore broccoli and can devour seedlings overnight so control this pest by inspecting the undersides of leaves regularly for the little yellow pointed eggs and squash them with your nail onto the leaf. Also, look out for chewed leaves and little dark green ‘balls’ which is caterpillar poo. That’ll help you find the caterpillars, they like to hide along the mid rib on the underside of the leaf. Squash them onto the leaf too, (gently fold the leaf over it and squish, please kill them quickly and thoroughly) this should prevent other caterpillars wanting to eat there. Would you eat food that had squashed people all over it?

As a safe and effective last resort, (as even environmentally friendly sprays should be used with discretion) spray your plants with Dipel or Success, which are both made from a naturally occurring bacteria that’s particularly harmful to caterpillars, but safe for other insects and mammals. Wait 3 days after spraying before picking for eating.


Okay, so you’re always hearing about Broccolini and similar words like, Broccoletti, or Broccolette. These are hybrids of your common Broccoli crossed with Chinese Broccoli.

It came about in the late 1980’s in Yokohama, Japan. The Sakata Seed Company are responsible for selling 80% of the Broccoli seed and being run by successful business men, they asked themselves: “How can we sell more Broccoli?”. Common Broccoli has a relatively small window for commercial growing due to its love of cool weather. However its cousin, the Chinese Broccoli, aka Gai Laan, or Chinese Kale, is much more heat tolerant, and if you know it at all, it has succulent, sweet edible stems and leaves, rather than flower heads.

When they crossed the two, they came up with what is known today as Broccolini.

It can be grown over a much longer period and has a very loveable sweet flavour somewhat between Asparagus and Broccoli, and the whole lot is eaten, making less waste and quicker preparation.
There the story goes. The “Broccolini” seed is nearly impossible to buy in the Australian gardener seed market and consequently the name “Brocolette” is appearing in nurseries and from what we understand is the same as Sakata’s form.

But still we have some confusion. As when someone asks for Broccoletti, we have two options for them, the oh so similar sounding “Broccolette” discussed above, or the “Rapa” Broccolis, which are sometimes known as “Broccoletti”. The two are totally different from one another in looks and taste. Further on, you’ll find out more on Rapa Broccolis.

Ways of distinguishing the different types of Broccolis:

For the sake of this factsheet I’ll say “True Broccoli”: These plants form a main head and after the main head is picked they will prolifically produce side shoots for harvesting over an extended period. These are sometimes called “Calabrese Broccoli’, with varieties like Di Cicco, Purple Sprouting, Green Sprouting, Green Comet, Green Emperor, and Green Dragon, just to name a few. (Purple Sprouting are hardier to cool weather). In this range you’ll also come across dwarf types e.g. Magic Dragon, Mini Broccoli. These also produce side shoots after the main head is cut off, but will be smaller in size. An excellent variety to grow if you need fast developing Broccoli.

Then you have Chinese Broccoli, which as explained earlier is mainly a leafy vegetable with edible stems, and can be cooked whole (stir fried with garlic is delicious). Other names include Gai-Laan, Chinese Kale, Kai-Laan, and depending on whether you’re in Thailand, Indonesia, China, Vietnam or Malaysia, it could be another name completely. It’s great for growing in warmer weather.

The Romanesco Broccoli, an old Italian heirloom, which you’ll find are grown for their decorative central spiral head, must be picked before flowering shows or it’s too late. These need very cool weather to develop, so planting in late summer-early autumn is best.

Finally as mentioned before “Broccoli Rapa”, sometimes called Broccoletti is another variety that’s different from the rest. A super nutritious and traditional Italian vegetable grown for its tender stems, leaves and tiny button sized heads. The flavour is different to others, and is a mildly pungent and spicy. It does best when grown in cooler weather so planting late summer, or autumn is recommended. Eg. Cima De Rapa, Spring Rapini.

Jul 282011

Our 2011 citrus order arrived this morning and is currently being put away by our incredibly efficient (and handsome) nursery staff. Andy gives it the double thumbs up, so it must be ok.

There are loads of Lemons, Limes, Oranges, Mandarins, Cumquats, Tangelos, Grapefruit. For those who love to Google stuff… we even have the odd Buddha’s Hand, Etrog and Pumelo (aka Shaddock).

There are loads of both full size and dwarf trees in stock, as well as a wide variety of Multi-Grafts.

May 272011

We have some interesting additions to the Veg and Herb benches this month. Check it out:


Saffron (Crocus sativus) Worth more than its weight in gold, this special spice is made from the dried stigmas of a crocus flower. Pairs of flowers grow from underground corms providing three stigmas each. Good drainage is essential as these corms are prone to rotting. For the herb collector or enthusiast.

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) Grow your own soap with soapwort, a hardy clumping perennial herb that has high saponin content. Boil the leaves, stems or roots to make a liquid soap or shampoo.


Vitamin green (Brassica rapa narinosa group) Upright, deep green Chinese vegetable that is both heat and cold tolerant, with a mild cress flavour.

Yukina (Brassica juncea) Like a large Tatsoi, this Japanese vegetable has crinkled deep green leaves forming a rosette that becomes more upright as it gets larger. Delicate flavour.

May 202011

A quick thank you to all those that participated in this years Biggest Afternoon/Morning Tea, and also purchased some of the delectable goodies on offer, we raised a total of $246.00 for the Cancer Council of Victoria. Congratulations to Maria for taking out this years best in show with her authentic baclava. We may hold a similar event in the spring with a more savory feel, focus would be on a local charity or group so if anyone has any suggestions please let me know.

May 072011

Bulleen Art & Garden takes very seriously the problems caused by environmental weeds. It aims to take every precaution to ensure that no plant material stocked or sold at Bulleen Art & Garden has a ‘serious’ environmental weed potential.

In accordance with the CaLP (Catchment & Land Protection) Act, Bulleen Art & Garden does not stock those plants that have been identified as noxious weeds in our region and are thus banned from sale by Victorian state legislation. Common garden plants that will not be sold by Bulleen Art & Garden for this reason include:

Botanical Name Common Name Indigenous Alternative Other Alternative
Crataegus monogyna Hawthorn Hymenanthera dentata Leptospermum scoparium
Cynara cardunculus Cardoon Gahnia radula Artichoke
Cytisus scoparius ssp. scoparius Broom Viminaria juncea
Eichhornia crassipes Water Hyacinth Villarsia reniformis Water poppy (Hydrocleys)
Equisetum spp. Horsetail Restio tetraphyllus Cyperus alternifolius
Foeniculum vulgare Fennel
Genista linifolia, G. monspessulana Broom Daviesia leptophylla Acacia fimbriata Dwarf form
Hieracium spp. Hawkweed Dillwynia cinarescens
Hypericum perforatum St John’s Wort
Juncus acutus ssp. acutus Spiny rush Juncus pallidus Cyperus papyrus
Lavandula stoechas Italian Lavender Spyridium parvifolium Any other lavender
Lycium ferocissimum African Boxthorn Correa reflexa Box hedging
Opuntia spp. Prickly pear
Physalis viscose Sticky cape gooseberry
Reseda luteola Wild mignonette Warrigul greens
Rosa rubiginosa Sweet briar Any other rose
Watsonia meriana var bulbilifera Watsonia Bulbine bulbosa Kangaroo paw

In addition to this we have also identified a number of horticultural plants that have the potential to become environmental weeds; to spread from gardens and threaten local natural areas. Bulleen Art and Garden may stock cultivars and varieties of these species, especially when they are sterile forms and pose less of a risk to the environment. Our nursery does not stock these plant species:

Botanical Name Common Name Indigenous Alternative Other Alternative
Acacia baileyana Cootamundra Wattle Acacia dealbata
Acacia decurrens Early Black Wattle Acacia mearnsii
Acacia elata Cedar Wattle Acacia implexa
Acacia floribunda White Sallow Wattle Acacia verticillata
Acacia longifolia Sallow wattle Acacia melanoxylon
Acer negundo cultivars (except for ‘Sensation’ which does not seem to revert) Box Elder Gynatrix pulchella Acer ‘Sensation’
Agapanthus orientalis Common Agapanthus Dianella tasmanica NZ Rock Lily (Arthropodium)
Albizia lophantha(Syn. Paraserianthus lophantha) Cape Wattle Acacia mearnsii Cassia bicapsularis
Chamaecytisus palmensis Tree Lucerne Ozothamnus ferrugineus Westringia fruticosa
Cotoneasters (other than C. dammeri) Cotoneaster Spyridium parvifolium NSW Christmas bush
Fraxinus angustifolia Desert Ash Acacia implexa Ornamental apple
Hakea salicifolia Willow Hakea Acacia pycnantha
Hedera helix Ivy Clematis microphylla Climbing fig
Ipomoea indica Morning Glory Vine Hardenbergia violaceae Pandorea jasminiodes
Lonicera japonica Japanese Honeysuckle Pandorea pandorana Snail creeper
Melaleuca hypericifolia Hillock Bush Callistemon sieberi Callistemon viminalis
Myriophyllum aquaticum Parrot Feather Myriophyllum crispatum Myriophyllum varifolium
Pennisetum clandestinum Kikuyu Weeping grass Buffalo grass
Pittosporum undulatum Sweet Pittosporum Olearia lirata Pittosporum Silver Sheen
Prunus cerasifera Cherry Plum Hop bush Smoke bush
Sollya heterophylla Bluebell Creeper Billardiera scandens Solanum ‘Monet’s Blue’
Vinca major Blue Periwinkle Hardenbergia violaceae Convolvulus mauritanicus
Zantedeschia aethiopica White Arum Lily Restio tetraphyllus Arthropodium cirratum

Certain plants have been identified by Bulleen Art & Garden as useful garden plants within residential areas, but which may pose weed potential in parklands or waterways. These plants will have warnings displayed to customers suggesting they should not be planted in close proximity to natural areas, parklands or waterways. If you have any questions about environmental weeds please do not hesitate to ask one of our qualified nursery staff.

What else is BAAG doing to combat the threat of environmental weeds?

  • Having local council lists available and displayed within the nursery of Common Garden Plants that are Environmental Weeds in the region.

  • Bulleen Art & Garden, through SGA will organise with the Department of Sustainability & Environment for regular updates of plants listed as noxious or environmental weeds or those listed as having weed potential to be forwarded to the nursery manager.

  • Bulleen Art & Garden will communicate with local council about plants that present potential for local weed impacts.

  • Staff will monitor any areas of parkland surrounding Bulleen Art & Garden for evidence of escaped plants from within the nursery.

  • The staff at Bulleen Art & Garden will be trained to advise on appropriate plant selection and educate customers on the environmental implications their buying decisions may have.

  • Plant purchasers will at all times remain up to date and aware of local weed lists when purchasing plant stock to be sold at BAAG.

May 072011

Environmental Sustainability Practices at Bulleen Art & Garden

Bulleen Art and Garden aims to deliver a service to its customers that recognizes the importance of environmental issues, both local and global. In this respect, concentrating on long-term custom, we are prepared to sacrifice individual sales to offer customers a range of environmental gardening options and outcomes.

Bulleen Art & Garden is prepared to sacrifice sales, but not customers on environmental issues. For example, if a customer asks for a more toxic spray than needed, we expect staff to suggest an alternative, even if it means not selling a product at all. However, we do insist that staff do not get into arguments over the environment with the customer, which may lead them to shop elsewhere. Our policy is strong customer education.

Bulleen Art and Garden aims to take the lead in respect of retail nursery practice, to encourage customer interest in an environmentally friendly approach to gardening that encompasses the following issues:

- To foster the concept that our land and gardens, however large or small, are not ours to ‘do with as we wish’, but rather, something we have the responsibility to care for and enjoy, leaving it in good health for those who follow us.
- Fewer adherences to strictly formal garden design.
- Increased interest in produce gardening.
- Increased awareness of the environmental benefits of using native and indigenous plant species within the garden.
- A style of garden design and practice that encourages the use of water and soil conservation principles.

In light of these aims, staff at Bulleen Art and Garden are encouraged to consider the environmental implications of any advice they give to customers. It is hoped that staff will avail themselves of environmental information and literature available at the nursery, so they are able to give informed advice to customers. Staff are also encouraged, where possible, to draw to the customers’ notice environmental initiatives, information handouts and signage throughout the nursery.

Strategies that will enable Bulleen Art and Garden to achieve the policy guidelines include:

- To undertake a yearly audit of the environmental policy, concentrating on outcomes achieved or otherwise, and possible updates to the document.
- Building environmental policy objectives into ongoing business systems and procedure; (for example, stock ordering systems, both plant, chemical, irrigation and yard; staff job descriptions; consultancy specifications and nursery signage). In this way environmental policy goals are included in the normal running and operation of the nursery.
- To nominate the role of environmental officer to a staff member, and to allocate sufficient time so that person may oversee the promotion and implementation of environmental practices and procedures throughout the nursery and to educate staff and customers.
- To have the environmental officer or delegate report at each monthly staff meeting on a relevant environmental issue or information of importance to customers.
-To work with the local authorities to enhance the flora and fauna of the surrounding precincts (including the adjoining Yarra river reserve), with works such as weed control and revegetation programs, educational and interpretive signage.
- To actively pursue a policy of recycling nursery and office materials such as paper, cans and containers.
-To provide an environmental consultancy service, whereby customers can access a range of environmental options specifically tailored to their garden requirements. In the long term this service would aim to offer customers a broader ‘whole-lifestyle’ environmental audit that identified both strengths and weaknesses and offered a range of alternative lifestyle practices that imposed a lessened impact on their immediate and larger environment.
-Included consideration of the environment as a condition of employment in our certified agreement.

To maintain a consistent commitment to environmentally friendly product options throughout the nursery, the managers of the following areas aim to provide the following:

1. A range of indigenous plant species that are ideally suited to the climatic and soil conditions of the local area thus conferring both aesthetic and environmental benefits to the home garden are actively promoted. This also creates a habitat for local birds and other animals. We also supply nest boxes for birds, possums, etc.

Produce Gardening2. Build a display garden of local plants with interpretation in the adjoining parklands with the assistance and direction of Parks Victoria.

3. A wide range of produce plants and produce display gardens, for those wishing to grow home produce, thereby lessening customers need to rely on massed produced foodstuffs.

4. A wide range of plant species, both native and exotic, within the nursery, thereby offering the customer the capacity to create more biodiversity within their garden, which generally means a healthier garden less prone to severe pest and disease problems and one that is conducive to an increase in animal, insect and avian presence.

5. A range of measures to combat pest and disease problems in the gardens, which ideally encompass a selection of environmentally options as well as traditional chemical treatments.

6. Concrete environmental information, both verbal via staff and through written handouts giving customers instructional and technical advice regarding environmentally sustainable gardening practices (including topics such as; mulching, composting, water conservation, soil conservation, safer pest and disease control, holistic garden design/biodiversity within the home garden).

7. To source only non-threatened plant species, or if threatened, that sourced from those commercially propagated material, and not obtained from the wild populations.

8. To provide on-ground composting and worm-farm displays, with additional information and technical advice.

9. To provide a used pot recycling service.

10. To reduce the use of herbicide within the nursery via the use of hot water treatments.

11. Encourage people to plant trees in some parts of their gardens and use them to reduce heating/ cooling consumption.

Click here to read our policy on Environmental Weeds.

To maintain a consistent commitment to environmentally friendly product options throughout the nursery, the managers of the following areas aim to provide the following:

Landscape Supplies Yard

1. To provide a commitment to environmental products where possible, including the stocking of recycled materials (such as recycled railway sleepers, recycled plastic edging, recycled compost materials) or products obtained from plantation areas rather than those cut from native forest (eg, pine bark mulch range).

2. To encourage and offer incentives for those customers using their own containers to take away product.

3. To encourage the use of products that have soil and water conservation benefits, such as mulches, composts and manures.

4. To offer a refund on bags taken from the yard to encourage the recycling of plastic products.


1. To provide among the range of irrigation, gardening, and sundry products stocked, where available, those that offer environmental benefits to customers.

2. To encourage and offer incentives for those customers using their own containers to take away product and provide alternatives to the use of plastic bags such as newspaper and cardboard trays and boxes.

3. To provide a centralized point in a high customer traffic area for the posting of environmental information additional to general handout material, as sourced by the staff environmental officer, providing customers with a range of information both at a local and international level.

4. Actively promote composting, with a wide range of composting bins and other products.

5. Introducing products made from recycled material into our product range, eg. Basket liners from recycled tyres, garden edging from recycled plastics.

Mar 282011

The highlight of the year for the garden and landscape industry has to be the Melbourne international Flower and Garden show (MIFGS). The show attracts thousands of people over the 5 days and really puts gardening in the spotlight. There were quite a few BAAG Trade Customers involved in MIFGS this year, including the garden pictured here which was constructed and designed by long-time BAAG customer Summit Landscapes. (on behalf of Sustainable Gardening Australia and Melbourne Water)

MIFGS 2011 had something for everyone, the designs and installations of the display gardens were all of great quality and workmanship, all the landscape crews did an amazing job getting them together in the short time frame available.

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Mar 242011

Our yard staff are generally incredibly busy, but they are always happy to make time to show off in front of a camera. Join them for a tour of our Landscape Supplies Yard. Grab some popcorn, strap yourself in to a comfy chair and enjoy.