KEEN ON ROSELLAS: Don and Lil O’Donnell, Gympie Horticultural Society members, rest in their Fisher Rd garden with their dog Harley.
KEEN ON ROSELLAS: Don and Lil O’Donnell, Gympie Horticultural Society members, rest in their Fisher Rd garden with their dog Harley. Contributed

The joy of growing rosellas

GARDENERS often ask, "What will I plant in this spot and will it add interest to my garden?".

"Have you ever thought of growing rosellas?" Lil O'Donnell asks.

Rosellas are a striking plant with their rhubarb red stems and pretty pink hibiscus-like flowers which can grow up to2m high and the same width within six months.

Lil and her husband Don live in a frost-free area and, therefore, have no problems growing rosellas providing the soil temperatures are between 20 and 35 degrees.

It has been suggested that the best time to plant them is from September to March for those living in sub-tropical regions of Australia.

To grow rosellas successfully, gardeners should water regularly as this helps maintain growth, flowering and fruit development.

There are two ways of propagating rosellas: from seeds or cuttings.

Just bear in mind that cuttings produce shorter plants and the number of fruit is relatively low compared to those with seedlings.

Rosellas can not tolerate shade and must be grown in well-drained soil.

Lil and Don have worked hard for the past five years to improve their shale soil by applying lots of mulch, and their garden is loving every bit of attention it gets.

During the initial rosella flowering stages the vibrant red calyx development may seem disappointing but wait until the second flowering appears in autumn. Gardeners will not be disappointed with the abundant supply of calyxes, and will be able to make several good-sized jars of jam.

Harvesting the fruit is not difficult but it has been suggested that gardeners should wear gloves so they do not get pricked by the fine hair-like prickles around the stems. Secateurs may be required as well.

Picking and eating calyxes straight from the bushy, herbaceous shrub has a similar taste to a slightly sour plum with a hint of a sugary after-taste.

Surprisingly it tastes much better when made into a delicious jam with Lil using three ingredients: rosellas, sugar and water.

There is a green, round seed pod holding about a dozen seeds inside the calyx. If the calyxes are left to mature and dry out on the plant it will eventually deteriorate, turn brown and shrivel around the seed pod with the pod itself drying out, opening and spreading its seeds.

Gardeners may like to keep the seeds in a small container or paper bag for the next season.

It has been found that rosellas calyxes are high in calcium, niacin, riboflavin and iron. Seeds also make a good feed for chickens.

  •  The Gympie Municipal Horticultural Society is holding its next meeting on Saturday, June 21, at Don and Lil O'Donnell's residence.
  • Please do not forget to bring a mug, hat, chair and a plate to share with gardening friends. For more information contact president Henry Kross on 5486 242.
  • Guest speaker will be Sunshine Coast-based The Micro Gardener, Anne Gibson, who will give members loads of creative ideas for maximising space - vertical gardens.
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