Home' Christchurch Mail : August 22nd 2013 Contents 28 CHRISTCHURCH MAIL, AUGUST 22, 2013
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the master builders
Amaranth a great alternative
By VIRGIL EVETTS
This column is adapted
from the e-newsletter Get
Growing from New
Zealand Gardener. To
subscribe to Get Growing
visit the NZ Gardener
website at nzgardener.
co.nz, and click on the Get
Growing tab. To subscribe
to NZ Gardener visit
mags4gifts.co.nz or call
0800 mags 4 gifts.
HEDGING: Mulberries are reputed to make great hedges.
If you struggle to grow true
spinach, why not give callaloo
or leaf amaranth a bit of a
spin this season?
The tender young leaves can be
used just like spinach and have a
similar, if slightly more peppery
flavour. It's quite the looker too,
with gaudily splashed leaves and
pendulous, foxtail flower spikes.
The leaves are great wilted, drop-
ped into curries, or -- when young
and tender -- eaten raw in salads.
Callaloo is THE leafy green of
Caribbean cooking, and is enjoyed
both quickly cooked and simmered
long and slow in meat or fish-
based soups, stews and goat curry.
Sow amaranth seeds in trays now
and cosset the seedlings under
cover until the risk of late frosts
has passed. Kings Seeds has
several varieties to try.
HEDGES & HIBISCUS
Rosella or Jamaican Cocktail'
is a fast-growing, short-lived
hibiscus that's best treated as
A summer treat in warm spots,
the rosella grows to about 1.5m.
Treat it as you would sweet pep-
pers and chillies, and watch out
for snails. Rosella seeds from
Kings Seeds germinate very
quickly (within a few days) if pre-
soaked for 24 hours in warm
water. Plant out in November, in
full sun, in compost-enriched soil.
Pinch out the growing tip when
the plants are about 40cm, to
encourage branching. Each flower
lasts barely a day and is followed
by a hard, inedible berry set
within a ruby-red, and very edible
fleshy calyx. Fresh rosellas are
sour and need sugar. Pick the
fruit' (calyx) within 10 days of
flowering or it will be tough and
stringy. Once separated from the
hard true fruit, rosellas can be
cooked to make a passable cran-
berry jelly or jam. They can also
be juiced, dried to make hibiscus
tea, or boiled in light syrup and
strained to make rosella coulis.
Planting hedges? Why not make
them edible? Depending on the
height you're after and your local
climate, there are plenty of
Feijoa hedges are great, but
have a habit of becoming leggy
and unproductive. However, the
recent arrival of the naturally
low-growing cultivar Bambina'
should change this sorry trend.
These stout, easy-care shrubs
make fabulous low hedges and
produce lots of sweet, musky fruit.
Olives are popular with landsca-
pers trying to establish formal
please buy my villa'' hedges, but
they eventually outgrow most
situations and rarely ever fruit.
Mulberries are reputed to make
great hedges, and because they
fruit on new season's growth, they
should deliver the goods too.
Alternatively, you can let them
loose to grow into trees.
Black mulberry, Morus nigra, is
the species by which all others are
measured. Look for the old-timer,
Queenie', or European Black',
which is a stellar new import this
White mulberry, Morus alba,
confusingly often tends to ripen to
dark red. However, you can try
Apricot Shahtoot' or the dwarf
Red mulberry, Morus rubra, is
an American species and might be
the most overlooked of what is
already a neglected group. Its
fruit mature from fuzzy green
knots to pink, and eventually
black-red berries. Hicks Early' is
in the Incredible Edibles range.
BE MINDFUL OF BIRDS
If you've been thinking about
trimming, pruning, or obliterating
any dense vegetation, act now.
Within the next few weeks, birds
will start building their nests in
them, and as a courtesy, they
should then be left alone. It's not
just a courtesy though. When
rearing their young, many birds
dramatically increase their
appetites and will helpfully clear
your patch of any bugs and slugs
they can catch. Such efforts go a
long way when the garden is full
of vulnerable young seedlings.
Now's the time to admire the
magical blooms of magnolias and
their close cousins, michelias.
There are magnolias to suit just
about every situation, from
shrubby Magnolia stellata to
scented port wine magnolias
(Michelia figo) for hedges. Many
magnolias mature into very large
trees, so do your research first.
Evergreen Magnolia grandiflora --
the one with the huge white
flowers and leaves favoured by
florists -- is best avoided, as it
grows into a monster and those
leathery leaves refuse to break
down in the compost.
My favourite is the diminutive
Michelia alba, for its lush foliage
and small, but intensely scented,
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