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Canberra Today 9°/15° | Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Blue flowers brighten a drab plant

Common chicory… not a plant to add to the garden border but a worthy addition to the vegetable patch. Photo: Jackie Warburton

“The sky-blue flowers are most interesting with a little frill on each of the petals that make up for this drab-looking plant,” says gardening writer JACKIE WARBURTON of common chicory.  

The woody herbaceous common chicory (Cichorium intybus) is an old-fashioned plant that grows and flowers well in our climate. 

Jackie Warburton.

Despite having beautiful blue, bee-attracting flowers, it’s an underwhelming looking plant with its wiry growth.

The sky-blue flowers are most interesting with a little frill on each of the petals make up for this drab-looking plant. 

In its juvenile stage, the plant has small flat leaves and resembles a dandelion. With age it will establish tall stems that grow to 70 centimetres or so. 

While probably not a candidate for the garden border, it can be a worthy addition to the vegetable patch. 

All parts of the chicory plant are edible and are mainly known as a coffee substitute. It also has many medicinal properties. 

Plants to grow also from the chicory family (or endive and radicchio) can be sown or planted out now and until the end of April. There are a lot of seed options to try and for little or no cost. 

Endive is a biennial plant, and the leaves can be cooked or eaten raw and has a mild bitter taste and radicchio has a red leaf, head forming plant and looks like cabbage. Unlike endive, radicchio is harvested all at once. 

They both need lots of water and good organic compost around their roots, otherwise they will turn more bitter and bolt to seed. Fertilise with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser a month after planting to keep them growing fast. 

Hardy, old-fashioned petunias… they do not mind the heat and will cope with full sun. Photo: Jackie Warburton

HARDY petunias are the most common summer flowering annual for a good reason: they don’t mind the heat and will cope with full sun.

A small plant can flower for up to five months through summer and into autumn and is one of the easiest plants to grow. 

They’re from the Solanaceae family, the same as potatoes and tomatoes, and have similar shaped flowers with fine hairs (trichomes) with sticky stems. 

Petunias benefit from being planted close by tomatoes, strawberries, basil and alyssum, just to name a few, for a long-lasting summer display.

They also can be planted in the vegetable patch as their flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects.

There are many cascading varieties that do well in hanging baskets. 

A close relative is the short-lived perennial Calibrachoa “Million Bells” that resembles a miniature petunia. If grown in the right spot it can just about flower all year round and a light tip pruning will keep the flowers coming. 

It likes good soil with good drainage and a pH of about 6-7. It will definitely benefit from a dusting of dolomite lime. 

It dies when the heavy frosts arrive and is treated as an annual in our climate. 


  • Fertilise sasanqua camellias. 
  • Net apples and pears if needed. 
  • Fertilise citrus before the soil goes cold.
  • Remove paspalum and crab grass from lawns.

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Ian Meikle, editor

Jackie Warburton

Jackie Warburton

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