March 11th, 2014
|Image credit - Stan Shebs|
If you are looking for plants a little on the unusual side then you will find it hard to beat this extremely creepy species. Commonly known as the Devil’s hand tree – Chiranthodendron pentadactylonis, it is an evergreen tree from Central America noted for the unusual design of its flowers.
Native to the cloud forests of Guatemala and Mexico, the Devil’s hand tree is typically found growing on the wet slopes where it can reach heights of up to 40 feet tall. Besides the bizarre flowers, it also produces distinctive oversized leaves with ruddy metallic veins and fuzzy undersides.
The genus name ‘Chiranthodendron’ comes form the Greek language meaning ‘hand-flowering tree’. The species name ‘pentadactylon’ means five fingered.
The distinctive flowers appear in late spring and early summer. The five blood red stamens are shaped like a clawed hand with a double row of saffron yellow pollen running along each finger.
The flowers are pollinated by nectar sipping bats and birds which drink the nectar from the bowl-like petals hidden beneath the hand-like stamen. Once fertilized the stamens begin to fade and gently curl to resemble claws. Its fruit is a 3–4 inch long oblong, five-lobed capsule contains black seeds.
The Devil’s hand tree was well known to the Aztecs who revered a single grand specimen which grew in Toluca – the Valley of Mexico. This lone tree was famous and venerated, and healers used parts of it to make medicine for treating lower abdominal pain and heart problems.
For reasons unknown, the Aztecs harvested every single flower off the tree to prevent it from producing seed from which others of its kind could grow. However there were rumours seedlings hidden in royal gardens as well as the private gardens of those who were responsible for looking after the tree’s welfare.
Today Devil’s hand tree can be found in gardens around the world, but mostly in North America where it grows well near to its native range.
Stan Shebs file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
The Garden of Eaden
March 6th, 2014
The Mimosa tree, also known as the Silver wattle, may not be the earliest flowering ornamental tree in cultivation but it is one of the most outstanding. Coming into bloom from late-February onwards, the mimosa tree explodes into a thick cloud of golden, nectar-rich flowers which not only look amazing, but will also provide a valuable source of food for early emerging bees and other insects. The fragrant, pompom-like blooms are displayed against the backdrop of feathery, silvery foliage.
Native to south-east Australia and Tasmania, this small evergreen tree is typically a pioneer species after bush fires, and was brought back to Europe for cultivation in 1820. Since then it has become widely grown as an ornamental plant in warm temperate regions of the world, however it will not survive prolonged frosts. Be that as it may, the Mimosa tree can be grown outdoors in the milder parts of the UK, making a brilliant specimen for sheltered borders.
The Mimosa tree will require a rich fertile, non-alkaline soil with good drainage.
In frost prone areas Acacia dealbata will need to be grown in containers, and move them to a frost free position in winter.
Growing the Mimosa tree in a container
Pot up Acacia dealbata into a good quality, well-drained compost such as John Innes ‘No.3′ mixed 50:50 ericaceous compost, and grow them on in frost free conditions. It may be worth adding some horticultural grit or perlite to increase drainage further. Mimosa plants become hardier as they mature and have been known to tolerate temperatures as low as -10°Celsius for short periods! However, maintaining winter temperatures of around 4°Celsius is much more preferable.
Gradually acclimatise them to outdoor conditions over 7 to 10 days prior to moving outside. Choose a sheltered position in full sun, ideally against a south facing wall. Feed with a liquid soluble fertiliser every two weeks from May to August. In frost prone areas, will need to be moved back into a conservatory or greenhouse during winter.
Acacia dealbata recieved the Award for Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1935.
The Garden of Eaden
March 3rd, 2014
You Grow Girl – Gardening for the People.
I kid. A little hyperbole on a Thursday afternoon. The leaves on this particular plant expand as much as 25″ across! Those of you living in warmer climates must wonder why in the heck I have such a large agave indoors! They’re big, heavy, and their spines are painful. At this size they are not …
Read Giant Agave Threatens to Take Over Small Office on You Grow Girl.
You Grow Girl
February 28th, 2014
As promised, here’s a follow-up to Ruth Kassinger’s guest rant. She wrote the very popular Paradise Under Glass and now A Garden of Marvels, which was published just this week.
I don’t review many garden books because I passed the learning-to-garden phase years ago and of the few books I try, I rarely like one well enough to recommend it. But Ruth doesn’t write how-to books; she’s a storyteller. (Like our Amy.) And stories, if they’re this well written, I enjoy.
A Garden of Marvels is subtitled “The Discovery that Flowers have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of the Way Plants Work” and that’s a tip-off to the good news that this is no Botany for Gardeners, which was about as readable as an outdated textbook. (Sorry!)
In contrast, A Garden of Marvels is thought-provoking and a delight to read, and the reviewers seem to agree. Some of my favorite parts of it cover:
- How early scientists gleaned their misunderstandings of how plants work through reason, rather than observation, an approach that was “embraced and interpreted by the medieval Catholic Church and then the late-medieval universities.” Thus, knowledge of botany progressed not at all from the third century B.C. to the 17th century!
- The “extreme gardeners” who compete to grow the largest pumpkin use gardening tips unknown to us regular gardeners: “So, many growers cap their emergent female flowers with a plastic cup or a sock – a sort of pumpkin condom – so that some randy flower on some loser vine won’t knock up their pedigreed virgins.”
- I’m considerably more respectful of roots after reading that: “It takes an extensive root system with trillions of bacteria supplying billions of root hairs to gather sufficient nitrogen, as well as water and other minerals, to support even a small plant.”
- The search for a perennial substitute for the easy-to-harvest but resource-intensive annual wheat species that dominates agriculture.
- The “amazing grasses” that may be the biofuel of tomorrow, especially Miscanthus giganteus, which grows to 15 feet tall and produces twice the biomass per acre as switchgrass.
- The chapter on “Cheap Sex” that sent me to this Youtube video of a bee “pseudocopulating” with an orchid.
- The author’s own journey from writing poetry to international reports for federal agencies and finally to freelance writing anything and everything that needed to be written. But with a growing portfolio, mere pamphlets turned into books, especially science books for young readers, and finally two plant-centric books for adults. And what she’ll do next is anybody’s guess.
- And why Ruth Kassinger is an indoors-only gardener. “No outdoor gardening with dog’s-breath heat and humidity, murderous mosquitoes, and horrible hundred-legged beasties for me.” But Ruth, how do you really feel about the outdoors?
Win a Copy
Just leave a comment here and we’ll choose one at random to receive a copy of A Garden of Marvels. Contest ends Friday March 7.
Ruth’s Famous Greenhouse Revealed!
After reading the book I boldly contacted the author to invite myself to meet her on her home turf so that I could see her “paradise under glass. Hey, it was January and I needed a plant fix – at least that was my excuse. And it turns out that her version of a greenhouse is prettier and more homey than the usual type because it’s a large addition that flows naturally into the living room but can be closed off to retain moisture and the right temperature. Here’s a quick video, followed by photos.
Click here to view the embedded video.
Ruth sent me home with kumquats and Meyer lemons. They’re so much tastier than the ones shipped up from Florida in winter.
A Garden of Marvels Highlights and Giveaway originally appeared on Garden Rant on February 28, 2014.
February 26th, 2014
|Image credit - http://wordsandherbs.wordpress.com/|
Young, freshly picked rocket leaves are one of the summers secret pleasures. The trouble is that when you purchase rocket from the supermarket, sealed in its protective environment, it never tastes as crisp or a sweet as the home-grown alternative. Luckily enough, rocket in all of its guises is extremely easy to grow from seed.
Rocket seed can be sown as soon as the threat of late frosts have passed and right up until September. Rocket plants will prefer a rich, fertile well-drained soil in full sun.
Using a prepared seed bed, mark out a straight line with a suitable board or strong twine. Then using a hand trowel or draw-hoe make a channel no more than 1 inch deep and probably no longer and a couple of yards long. You can always make subsequent sowings as the season progresses in order to ensure a fresh supply of rocket throughout the year.
Thinly sow the seeds along the row at a rate of 1 seed every 1 1/5 inches, then back-fill the channel with the resulting spoil. Gently water the seeds in and you can expect to see your rocket seedlings emerge in a week or so. Thin out the weakest seedlings to leave one plant every 6-10 inches. For subsequent crops re-sow every three to four weeks.
Keep the soil moist throughout the growing period as this will help to keep the plants growing well. Be aware that if the crop is kept too far on the dry side the plants will run to seed (bolting), and the leaves will become tough and unpalatable.
Always keep the seed bed free of weeds and avoid over-watering as this can lead to root damage which in extreme cases will kill off your crop. You can begin harvesting rocket leaves roughly 4 weeks after sowing. Regular picking will keep the new growth young, tender and tasty.
Remove flower buds as they appear to extent the life of your crop, however once the leaves begin to loose their flavour discard that particular plant.
Rocket plants can be prone to attack from flea beetles. While the beetles themselves can be difficult to spot the mottled damage on the leaves is quite recognisable. To control flea beetle damage organically grow your rocket crop under horticultural fleece.
For related articles click onto the following links:
The Garden of Eaden
February 23rd, 2014
You Grow Girl – Gardening for the People.
Starting from seed is not just an economical way to produce edible crops or access unusual plants and specific varieties. Over the years I have found that it is also a good way to really get to know a specific plant type more intimately and I’ve found myself ordering seed from all types of plants …
Read Grow Write Guild #22: Seed to Seed on You Grow Girl.
You Grow Girl
February 20th, 2014
The peacock is arguably one of the world’s most beautiful creatures. Outrageous plumage combined with stunning, iridescent colours, it really is a jewel amongst birds. Native to India, in Babylonia and Persia, the peacock was introduced into Mesopotamia 4000 years ago, and since then this magnificent bird can now be seen all over the world.
|Image credit - Jebulon|
1. While peafowl are often and incorrectly called peacocks, only the male is accurately called a peacock. The female is a peahen, and the offspring peachicks.
2. White peacocks are not true albinos. They have a genetic mutation known as Leucism, which causes the lack of pigments in the plumage.
3. The peacock is the national bird of India and is protected in that country.
4. Peafowl are forest birds that nest on the ground but roost in trees.
5. Peafowl are omnivorous and eat most plant parts, flower petals, seed heads, insects and other arthropods, reptiles, and amphibians.
|Image credit - Frankyboy5|
6. During the Medieval period, the aristocracy and landed gentry were privileged to more exotic foods, and as such peafowl were eaten as an ostentatious display of wealth.
7. In the wild the peafowl are preyed upon by tiger and leopards. The peafowl often acts as an early warning system for other game animals.
8. Incredibly, the average male train will contain over 200 feathers.
9. The large train is used in mating rituals and courtship displays. Females are believed to choose their mates according to the size, colour, and quality of these outrageous feather trains.
10. A group of peafowl is called a ‘party’ or a ‘pride’.
11. In the Hindu religion, the peafowl is a sacred bird because the spots on the peacock’s tail symbolize the eyes of the gods.
Jebulon file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
Frankyboy5 file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
The Garden of Eaden
February 17th, 2014
Mr. Lincoln For President’s Day, you have a couple of choices. Mr. Lincoln won the All-America Rose Selection top prize in 1965 (Conard Pyle) and many in the industry still consider it the best red rose ever developed. It’s a hybrid tea with a strong damask scent and dark red…
February 15th, 2014
O, my luve’s like a red, red rose, That’s newly sprung in June. O, my Luve’s like a melodie, That’s sweetly played in tune… Robert Burns And this rose is surely what the poet had in mind. “Valentine’s Day,” new from Weeks Roses in 2006, is a climbing mini-flora with…
A garden is a luxury for many people. There are many houses or properties that don't have an attached garden so those that have one should feel quite privileged that they do. That being said, there are properties and people who are lucky enough to have an attached garden however they don't actively want it.
When you have a garden space that you don't want, it will usually fall into a state of non-caring and into an overgrown mass of old plants, weeds and general mess. It's a shame when a garden goes into an overgrown area as gardening and keeping on top of your garden space isn't as difficult as one may think. It’s pretty simple to create a basic garden space that's both tidy and functional. Following these tips, you should have no problem with a great looking garden;
- Get out there. There's no point sitting inside thinking about what you can do to make your garden look more appealing. You have to get out there in amongst it all to get a feel for how the garden is working.
- Can you see the ground? If your garden is so overgrown that you can't even see what's under your feet, make cleaning the area your first priority. Dig up all of the weeds, cut down any foliage that's overhanging or overgrown and generally give everything a good pruning.
- Clean the rubbish out. Hire a skip if you need to, but make sure you clear all of the rubbish out of your garden so you can see what you’re working with.
- Dig up or put down. Turn over the soil and put down some new turf if you want a lawn, or dig up the previous turf and maybe create a patio area. These ideas all depend on the size and shape of your garden and of course what you want to do with the area itself.
- Add some low cost garden ornaments or accessories to create a complete new look. Garden benches, tables, chairs or even beautiful wall planters from a company like Lucas Garden (call 01902 423 500 or Luca Designs Ltd, M3 Moorfield House, Moorfield Road, Wolverhampton, WV2 4QT)
- Enjoy your newly created garden space!
I hope the above has given you some food for thought. Keeping a garden looking good isn't a hard task but finding the time and even the motivation to do it could be more of a chore. Make a start now if your garden is in need.