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Gorgeous to look at, but hard to say

BLAST OF COLOUR: Megaskepasmas make a beautiful show.
BLAST OF COLOUR: Megaskepasmas make a beautiful show. Contributed

A DELIGHTFUL shrub that has been flowering for several months now is the eye-catching Brazilian red-cloa: Megaskepasma erythrochlamys.

And with a name like that, who can blame most of us for calling it by its common name.

Red-cloak is a tall, bushy, evergreen shrub that grows up to 3m tall, but is not difficult to keep down to about 2m with regular pruning.

We had one in Mapleton that never gave us any problems keeping it about shoulder height, but the cooler weather on the Range would have also helped with that.

The large panicles of crimson bracts are the eye-catchers.

The flowers are white and most effective and these remain attractive from late summer to early winter.

Their requirements are few, growing well in full sun or semi-shade, with compost- enriched soil, and regular watering in dry periods. We found an annual dose of controlled- release 9-month Osmocote excellent, or you may prefer Powerfeed in the growing period.

The latter boosts plant growth, and contains active liquid compost to break down clay or reduce nutrient losses in sandy soil.

This great product also breaks down organic matter to release soil nutrients, so it's a win-win.

Megaskepasma (rehearse saying it to impress your friends) makes a great display as a central plant in a garden bed surrounded by lower growing plants. Perhaps if your choice of planting is where they will receive morning to early afternoon sun, a circle of the popular dwarf growing Gardenia radicans that produce delightfully perfumed white flowers for most of the year would be lovely.

Finish it off with some low-growing annuals or the continuous flowering native violets (Viola hederacea) with their gorgeous tiny upright blue and white flowers.

The photo here was taken from a property near us with a row of red-cloaks growing along the side fence, making a wonderful display and obviously catching many people's eyes.

Garden fresh

An excellent book for folk who enjoy growing and using their own fresh produce is the Yates Garden Fresh Cookbook, which starts with the fascinating Yates story, then lists vegetables, herbs and fruit for home gardeners, together with some great tips on growing and using each one.

For instance, under "cabbage" you'll find where, when and how to grow them along with the different varieties and their best uses, then some recipes and extra tips such as "finely slice and wash cabbage, and dry in a salad spinner, or wrap in a tea towel and swing over your head".

Now that's the kind of down-to-earth information many of us would appreciate.

Then, how about in the potato section, having learned how to grow these necessary vegies, find out how to dig them up, and make a delicious potato salad.

An addition at the bottom of the page reads:

"Option: Any leftover salad can be removed from the oil and drained. Heat 1 tbsp each of light cooking oil and unsalted butter in a large pan, add the drained potatoes and sauté until browned and crispy - delicious with steak and green salad". It is!

So, if you need a good produce growing book, try this one, the recipes alone are worth the money without the rest of the excellent information.

New workshop

How to make a Solar Food Dryer with Barb Ford is the next interesting free workshop at Yandina Community Gardens, corner Farrell and North Sts on Saturday, May 26, at 9.30am.

Barb previously touched on the basics of food drying using solar, now learn how to make one from a cardboard box or other durable material, and no electricity needed.

Bookings are not necessary, and workshops last 90 minutes to two hours.

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Topics:  gardening plants