RECOMMENDED WEBSITES



adekun's japan blog Allotment Growing: Vegetable, Fruit and Herb Gardening on an Allotment Amateur Entomologists' Society news Gift ideas for entomologists avonbeekeepers.co.uk Beds Northants branch of Butterfly Conservation Bougainvillea Growers International (BGI) Butterfly Conservation - Glasgow and South West Scotland Branch Butterfly Conservation - Bedfordshire & Northants Butterfly Conservation - Glasgow and South West Scotland Branch - Links to other web sites and resources Butterfly Conservation - Gloucestershire Branch Butterfly Conservation - Gloucestershire Branch Butterfly Conservation - Sussex Branch - Links to other web sites and resources Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire Homepage Butterfly Conservation: Highland Branch Cornic Directory - Only The Best Websites Cornwall Moth Group - an independent group of enthuiasts studying and recording British and migrant moths in Cornwall, England. 

Scottish Beekeepers Association


MINT TEA – THE LATEST IN PAIN RELIEF?





A research team from Newcastle University has just published a study on the pain relieving qualities of the Brazilian mint – Hyptis crenata. Working on mice, the study suggests that when the plant is used to make a decoction it can produce qualities that match those of commercially available analgesics. The decoction is made by boiling dried leaves in water for 30 minutes. It is then allowed to cool before drinking it like a tea.

Although new to the scientific world, the use of Hyptis crenata has been used by traditional Brazilian healers for thousands of years, not just for general pain relief but for fevers and influenza too.

The team went to Brazil to carry out the survey to find out how the medicine is typically prepared and how much should be consumed. They found that when the mint was given at a dose similar to that prescribed by traditional healers, the medicine was as effective at relieving pain as the synthetic aspirin-style drug called Indometacin.

The lead researcher - Graciela Rocha, is herself Brazilian and she remembers being given the tea as a cure for every childhood illness. She had this to say on the matter:

"…The taste isn't what most people here in the UK would recognize as a mint. In fact it tastes more like sage which is another member of the mint family.Not that nice, really, but then medicine isn't supposed to be nice, is it?"

She also added

"…since humans first walked the Earth we have looked to plants to provide a cure for our ailments - in fact it is estimated more than 50,000 plants are used worldwide for medicinal purposes… besides traditional use, more than half of all prescription drugs are based on a molecule that occurs naturally in a plant. What we have done is to take a plant that is widely used to safely treat pain and scientifically proven that it works as well as some synthetic drugs. Now the next step is to find out how and why the plant works..."

The next step for the team is to launch clinical trials to find out how effective the mint is as a pain relief for people.

Graciela is in fact herself Brazilian and remembers being given the tea as a cure for every childhood illness.
.
The Brazilian Mint, is also Brazil's official national mint.
.
For more information click onto:

DETOX YOUR BODY WITH FRESH FRUIT





The world today is becoming an increasingly unhealthy place. The air we breathe is contaminated by pollutants, the food we eat has often been treated by agro-chemicals, and throughout the world many of us are dependant on stimulants such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine or perhaps worse. In the twenty first century, toxicity is becoming a subject of growing concern. Major diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular illnesses can be directly associated to the accumulation of toxic wastes within the human body - along with less obvious health issues such as obesity, skin and gastrointestinal problems. It's because of such factors that the use of detoxifying diets is becoming evermore popular.

The human body constantly strives to remove toxins from within itself and this is – of course - a perfectly natural process. However, through the choices that we make, we can often create a build-up of toxins that remain in our bodies for extended periods of time – much of which would be stored within our body’s fat cells and liver.

There are two ways with which to approach this issue. One is to stop putting toxins into our bodies while the other is to eat those foods that enhance our bodies abilities to remove such poisons. One of the best-known and highly effective methods to do this is through a fruit detox diet – it is also one of the least expensive.

When commencing a fruit detox diet, you are encouraged not to eat anything other than fruit from morning until mid-day. The reason for this makes a lot of sense as the human body is still in the process of detoxification from the previous night.

It is the choice of fruits that are important here. Acid fruits such as grapes and lemons have a very strong detoxifying effect in comparison to all other fruit. Their natural enzymes give the digestive system a boost helping to breakdown food quicker and more efficiently as well as helping to release more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into the body.

Another benefit of detoxifying the body with fresh fruits is that fruit does not create mucus - unlike meat and dairy products - as it travels through the gut. Any undigested fruit fibres that are left behind in the colon are moist and cleansing in nature, and are able to soften and remove existing mucus that has been allowed to build up over time.

In addition to this and to make the most of your time on a fruit ‘detox’ diet, try to avoid adding more stimulants - such as alcohol and caffeine - into the body. Also try to limit your intake of fast food, junk food, and any other heavily processed food items.

Before beginning a fruit ‘detox’ diet, you should consult with your doctor first, especially if you have any medical problems or are on any medications.

For more information click onto:

WHY IS FRESH FRUIT SO GOOD FOR YOU?





Much is said about the importance of maintaining a decent amount of fruit and vegetables in our diets, and even the government is in on the act promoting ‘5 a day’ every day. But what is it about fresh fruit that make it so good for us?

We know that the human physique has been evolving over hundred of thousands of years and perhaps part of our success on this planet is due to our ability to make do with a wide variety of foods.

Typically, we would have survived on diets consisting mainly of berries, fruits, nuts, roots and leaves, but there would have been the odd fish, bird, reptile and occasional handful of insects thrown in (some of these insects would of course have been ingested unwittingly).

Fresh fruit consists mainly of water, carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. More importantly, they also contain very little - if any - fat. In fact most fruits will contain less than one gram of fat per serving, although Avocados are an exception to this containing about 31 grams of fat per fruit.

The carbohydrates found within fresh fruit are available to us in the form of starches and sugars (fructose, sucrose and glucose), and along with the small amounts of fat are – or at least should be - the primary sources of energy in the human diet.

Many fruits are also able to provide valuable folic acid and magnesium. Folic acid is essential for a number of chemical processes in the body, although most notably for the synthesis of haemoglobin and the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. Magnesium is essential for cellular metabolism, protein digestion, and the healthy function of the nervous system.

As well as being an important source for vital vitamins and minerals, fresh fruit is a food source that contains no cholesterol, little or no sodium, and is an excellent resource for dietary fibre. The term fibre - sometimes known as roughage - is commonly used to describe the indigestible portion of plant foods (skin, seeds and pulp) that helps to ‘push’ food through the digestive system. It also forms bulk for the stool.

It is important to eat foods that are high in fibre because they help to promote normal bowel function. In addition to this, fibre is also very useful in the prevention and treatment of constipation. Research from Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) recommends that a healthy adult should have an intake of fibre equivalent to 20 - 35 grams per day. However, further research by the USDA – United States Department of Agriculture - showed that the average intake of both men and women is around half this amount.
.
Diets that are high in cholesterol, and in fat - especially saturated fats - can contribute to increased cholesterol levels within the blood. This in turn can significantly increase the risk of heart disease. However, there is some indication that dietary fibre can also play a role in helping to lower blood cholesterol.

If further proof were needed the taste organs within the human mouth are genetically pre-disposed to prefer sweet tastes over bitter ones. This ability is in fact an ancient one and common with many mammals, it helps to protect us from selecting foods that may include bitter-tasting, harmful toxins. The fact that we naturally enjoy and seek out sweet fruits is just further proof that they are perfectly suited to our bodily needs.

For more information click onto:

THE ‘NATIVE’ TREES OF ENGLAND




The word ‘native’ in this context has to be used loosely because many of the tree species that you would consider as native to this country are not. There are intellectuals out there who believe that only those species that existed here before the formation of the English Channel – approximately 20,000 years ago - actually qualify as our true British natives.

However, there is a slight problem with that definition because prior to that specific period in time the British land mass – as it was then – was either covered in frozen tundra or melting glaciers. These conditions would have made the spread and growth of existing trees virtually impossible.

Scots pine
The so called ‘true natives’ – as far as I can ascertain - are list below.

Scots Pine – Pinus sylvestris
Common Juniper – Juniperus communis (S)

Trees that would have quickly colonised the wet mudflats after the last ice-age had passed are as follows

Bay Willow – Salix pentandra
Black Popular – Populus nigra
Crack Willow – Salix fragilis (S)Common Beech – Fagus sylvatica
Downey Birch – Betula pubescens
Elder – Sambucus nigra (S)European Aspen – Populus tremula
European Larch - Larix europaea
Silver Birch – Betula pendula
European or Black Alder –Alnus glutinosa (S)
Common Hornbeam – Carpinus betulus
Goat Willow – Salix caprea (S)Grey Willow – Salix cinerea (S)
Wych Elm – Ulmus glabra
English Elm – Ulmus procera

Silver birch
Trees considered useful by early colonists, merchants and occupying forces.

Apple – Malus sylvestris
Common Ash – Fraxinus excelsior
Blackthorn – Prunus spinosa (S)Common Box – Buxus sempervirens (S)Common Lime - Tilia cordata
Damson – prunus insititia
English Oak – Quecus robur
Field Maple – Acer campestre
Gage - Prunus domestica
Hawthorn – Crataegus monogynea (S)
Hazel – Corylus avellena (S)
Holly – Ilex aquifolium (S)Large leaved Lime – Tilia platyphyllos
Osier Willow – Salix viminalis
Pear – Pyrus pyraster
Purple Willow – Salix purpurea
Rowan – Sorbus aucuparia
Sessile Oak – Quercus petraea
Small leaved lime – Tilia cordata
Spindle – Euonymous europeus (S)Sycamore – Acer pseudoplatanus
Common Walnut – Juglans regia
Wild Cherry – Prunus avium

Strawberry tree
The more recent introductions

Bird Cherry – Prunus padus (S)Sweet Chestnut – Castanea sativa
Strawberry tree – Arbutus unedo (S)Common Lime - Tilia cordata
Large leaved Lime – Tilia platyphyllos
Whitebeam - Sorbus aria (S)
White Willow – Salix alba
Wild Service tree – Sorbus torminalis
Yew tree – Taxus baccata (S)

All of these groups - apart from the last - would merit inclusion with regards to individual or government woodland planting schemes. However for those of you who have limited space but would still like to make a difference by planting native trees then consider growing the smaller species. My suggestions have a (S) for ‘small’ listed after them – small being a tree that grows between approximately 3 and 5 metres.

For more information click onto:

WHICH SALAD CROPS AND HERBS ARE TOLERANT OF SHADE





Wouldn't it be wonderful, if everyone who wanted one had a perfect plot for vegetable growing? However - as with many things in life - perfection is usually out of reach, and unfortunately gardening is no different.
Most people’s image of a vegetable garden is one that will receive direct sunlight all day long, and that’s fantastic for growing old favourites such as tomatoes, peppers, and melons.

But what are you supposed to do if you have no other choice than to grow in the shade? Of course, if your shade is caused by overhanging trees then you can try and improve the growing conditions - ambient light levels can easily be increased by careful pruning. Unfortunately that may not be the end of it as you will probably need to improve the soil too - established tree roots will not only remove a large percentage of the available nutrients they will also be taking out a good proportion of the soil water.
.
A good rule to remember is that if you are growing crops for the fruit or edible roots, then you are best suited with a sunny position. If you are growing crops for the leaves, stems, or buds, then a certain amount of shade will actually improve the crop.
.
Luckily there are plenty of herbs and salad varieties around that will not only tolerate these lower light levels, they will in fact prefer them, and positively thrive.

There are of course some benefits to growing in the shade because you won't need to water as often and crops that are quick to bolt in hot weather - such as lettuce and baby leaf spinach - will have a sweeter flavour and a far longer harvesting period. This is especially true for crops within the mustard family - cruciferae - such as radish, lettuce and herb rocket.
.
When growing crops from the cruciferae family you should find them reasonably productive during the early part of the year. However if they are grown in full sun during the beginning and height of the summer the quality of their flavour can drop enormously - often to a point where they become unpalatable. This is due to the production of bitter tasting compounds known as Glucosinolates, and these are produced in significantly increased amounts when the plants become stressed. These stresses can include high temperatures, high light levels and reduced moisture content within the root environment. Supplying these plants with a certain amount of shade will reduce environmental stress and in turn prolong the productivity of the crop.
.
Below is a list of the best salad crops and herbs for growing in the shade:

SALADS
Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce - cruciferae
Herb rocket - cruciferae
Arugula
Endive
Radish - cruciferae
Baby Spinach
.
HERBS
Cress
Parsley
Chives
Mint
Wild garlic
Sage
Dill
Oregano
Borage
Chamomile

If your shade is caused by overhanging trees then you can try and improve the growing conditions. Light levels can be increased by careful pruning, and the soil will probably also need to be improved as tree roots will remove a lot of the available nutrients and water.

Take advantage of warmer and hopefully brighter conditions at home by germinating seeds earlier on in the year using modules. This will get them off to a far quicker start and will also help to establish their root systems before they are planted into the ground.

For more information click onto:

TULIP ‘SEMPER AUGUSTUS’ - DOES IT STILL EXIST?






Many believe that the Tulip ‘Semper Augustus’ is the holy grail of all tulip bulbs. Made famous during the well documented Tulip-mania period of 1637-1637, they were considered by many to be the most beautiful of all flowers and a pinnacle of achievement from the breeders. Unfortunately, such exquisiteness commanded incredibly high prices making the Semper Augustus tulip affordable only to the very rich.
.
Tulip ‘Semper Augustus’
Even before the madness of bulb price hyperinflation took place, a single Semper Augustus bulb was documented to have been sold for 5,500 guilders. In 1637 - just before the crash - the price for even a single Semper Augustus bulb was valued at approximately 10,000 guilders.

When you consider that the average yearly earnings for a skilled craftsman would have been around 150 florins, 10,000 guilders was such an exorbitant amount of money that it would have easily purchased a grand house on the most fashionable canal in Amsterdam.

Unfortunately the extraordinary beauty of Semper Augustus is the result from a viral infection which 'breaks' the single block of colour normally displayed on tulips. In doing so it added a stunning striation of white or yellow coloured stripes.

As beautiful as this effect may be, there is a terrible downside due to the harmful effects of the virus. In many cases the virus is severely detrimental to the health of the bulb, reducing its vigour, and making it difficult to propagate. Eventually the bulb would lose its strength and wither to nothing effetively ending the genetic line. It's for this reason alone that the famous colour broken Semper August bulb no longer exists.

 Tulip ‘Wakefield Flame’
Or at least it doesn't as a direct genetic line. What is often forgotten is that the breeding of tulip bulbs and their subsequent production and marketing was not in the sole domain of the Dutch.

The fashion for rare and beautiful bulbs was common throughout Europe with one of the more significant countries following the fashion being Great Britain.

Broken flame-patterned tulips - like the Semper Augustus - are said to have come to England from merchants in Holland and France and have been recorded in the UK since at least the 17th Century.

From this time period Tulips societies sprung up throughout the country attracting enthusiastic amateurs interested in developing and perfecting the broken, flame-patterned cultivars. These societies reached their peak in the 1850’s when interest in such things was at an all time high. Unfortunately since their heyday, these old tulips societies have lost their base of interest and one by one they have become disbanded over the centuries. Today we are incredibly lucky to still have once society left - the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society and it is the only place that still actively continues trying to develop the broken tulip cultivars.
.
Tulip 'Adonis Flame'
Over the years the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society have developed their own creations and although techniques and the science behind tulip breeding have changed, the breeders of 17th century Holland would easily recognize the results.

Once such cultivar of particular interest is the tulip ‘Wakefield Flame’, perhaps the most beautiful of the modern cultivars. But how does it stack up against the legendary Semper Augustus?

Well - taking into consideration a certain amount of artistic licence you can decide for yourself - Photograph courtesy of Oldhousegardens.com and the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society.

I am happy to hear you comments.
For more information click onto:

WHY DO LEAVES CHANGE COLOUR IN THE AUTUMN FALL




If you live in northern Europe or North America/Canada then you will be familiar with the stunning seasonal colour changes of the native deciduous trees. Although it may look pretty to us, this movement from the usual green colouration to an often spectacular red and orange hue is actually just a by-product of the plants natural leaf dropping mechanism.

The chlorophyll pigment – as used for photosynthesis - is green, and the reason why the majority of leaves are coloured green is because leaves are packed full of the stuff. So how is it then that they are then able to change their colour?

Well, besides the highly specialised green chlorophyll pigment, there are two other important pigment groups that found within the leaf - carotenoids and anthocyanins. Carotenes are yellow coloured pigments while anthocyanins are red coloured pigments and along with the chlorophyll they all occur in differing ratios depending on the plant species, the variety, and sometimes the uniqueness of the individual plant.

Carotenoids and anthocyanins exist within the leaves for good reason because they are there to perform two important tasks. Firstly, they help by absorbing, and then transferring some of the light energy to drive the photosynthetic process. The second is to protect leaves from the damaging effects of UV light if they become over-exposed to high levels of sunlight. They do this by harmlessly dissipating excess light energy by – once again - absorbing it as heat. In the absence of carotenoids and anthocyanins, this excess light energy could easily destroy proteins, membranes, and other vital molecules within the leaf structure.

Leaf abscission layer - image credit http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/
During the growing season the abundance of chlorophyll pigments effectively masks these other two pigments in the majority of plants. However, as winter approaches, days will become progressively shorter and cooler, and this small yet crucial day by day change acts as a trigger for dormancy in deciduous plants. This environmental trigger begins the absorption of leaf nutrients and carbohydrates back into the stems, but it also starts an irreversible phase of leaf drop.

At the same time a membrane of specialised cells known as the abscission layer will begin to develop at the base of the leaf’s stem. As the membrane grows, it increasingly restricts the flow of sugars and water between the leaf and the rest of the tree. Incidentally, this change also helps to promote the breakdown of chlorophyll pigments for absorption back into the stems. As the building blocks for chlorophyll are absorbed back into the plant the carotenes and anthocyanins remain and it is their remaining red/orange/yellow pigmentation which gives autumn leaves their colour. The intensity of the colour will also depend on the concentration of remaining stored sugars still within the leaf.

When the abscission layer is completely formed, it is then dissolved causing the physical separation of the leaf from the tree.

For more information click onto:

WHICH VEGETABLES ARE TOLERANT OF GROWING IN THE SHADE


CLICK HERE FOR THE NEW 'GARDEN OF EADEN WEBSITE' AND SEED SHOP

.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if everyone who wanted one had a perfect plot for vegetable growing? However - as with many things in life - perfection is usually out of reach, and unfortunately gardening is no different.

Most people’s image of a vegetable garden is one that will receive direct sunlight all day long, and that’s fantastic for growing old favourites such as tomatoes, peppers, and melons. But what are you supposed to do if you have no other choice than to grow in the shade? Of course, if your shade is caused by overhanging trees then you can try and improve the growing conditions - ambient light levels can easily be increased by careful pruning. Unfortunately that may not be the end of it as you will probably need to improve the soil too - established tree roots will not only remove a large percentage of the available nutrients they will also be taking out a good proportion of the soil water.

Luckily there are plenty of vegetable varieties around that will not only tolerate these lower light levels, they will in fact prefer them, and positively thrive.

There are of course some benefits to growing in the shade because you won't need to water as often and crops that are quick to bolt in hot weather - such as lettuces and spinach - will have a far longer harvesting period.

A good rule to remember is that if you are growing crops for the fruit or edible roots, then you are best suited with a sunny position. If you are growing crops for the leaves, stems, or buds, then a certain amount of shade will actually improve the crop.

Below is a list of the best vegetables for growing under shade.
.
Brassicas such as Broccoli, Brussel sprouts and Cauliflower
Peas
Beets
Swiss Chard
Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, and spinach.
.
You can also try growing vegetables that have been selected for their shade tolerance. Consider varieties such as beetroot 'Boltardy', calabrese, kale, and kohl.
.
If your shade is caused by deciduous trees then it is possible to try and work around it by making the most of growing early vegetables such as spring cabbage, and broad bean ‘Aquadulce’. Their seeds will need to be in the ground in early autumn so they are well established by early spring.
.
Take advantage of warmer and hopefully brighter conditions at home by germinating seeds earlier on in the year using modules. This will get them off to a far quicker start and will also help to establish their root systems before they are planted into the ground.
.
For more information click onto:

HOW TO OVER-WINTER BRUGMANSIA




Commonly known as the ‘Angels Trumpet’ – and for good reason to – this spectacular native of South America is a stunning addition to any tropical effect garden.

Often confused with its close relation the Datura, the Brugmansia is distinctly different in that it can grow as large into a small tree whereas Datura's are annuals and will only attain the size of a small bush. In addition, the majority of Brugmansia will display their dramatic flowers pointing downwards while those of a Datura will point upwards.

In the cold winter climates of northern Europe and North America the subtropical Brugmansia is highly unlikely to survive without the help of increased global warming, and so for now your only option is to give it a helping hand.

You can begin preparing Brugmansias for overwintering from the end of September by slowly reducing the amount of water they receive. If they are growing in the ground then carefully lift the plant and pot it on into a suitably sized container. Give it a good watering initially, but the plant will still need its watering sufficiently reduced afterwards to help bring it into a state of dormancy. It is also a good idea to reduce the plants canopy by 1/3rd to help reduce water loss from its core through transpiration.

Keep an eye on overnight temperatures because Brugmansias can be severely damaged by frost. You will need to have brought them in under protection before frosts occur otherwise you will risk losing the entire plant. However, because Brugmansias can reach a fairly unwieldy size over the course of the year, it is likely that they will need a fairly severe pruning before bringing it inside. You can be quite brutal here as Brugmansias will readily grow back in the spring. Remember that the more you can trim it back - the easier it will be to deal with.

A word of caution with regards to Brugmansia –and it’s not about their well-known toxic nature – is their attractiveness to insect pests. Before bringing inside it is best to check the plant over and remove any pests that may themselves be hoping to overwinter in the leaves, stems and even the root system. Spray with an organic insecticide or remove all the leaves before placing the plant into a cool, dry, frost-free position - such as a basement - where it can be allowed to go dormant. It is important that temperatures do not drop below about 5 degrees Celsius during this period.

Check every few weeks to make sure the soil doesn't dry out too much and only water as necessary to keep the soil slightly moist.

In the spring, once the danger of frosts are over, move over-wintered Brugmansias back outside or plant in the ground for the following season.

For more information click onto:
Can You Over-winter Citrus Outside?
How to Grow Datura - The Angels Trumpet
How to Make your Own Organic Pyrethrum Insecticide
How to Over-Winter Fuchsia's
How to Over-Winter Geraniums
How to Over-Winter the Glory Lily
How to Over-Winter Rare and Species Tulips
How to Over-Winter Roses
How to Over-Winter Tree Peonies
How to Overwinter Strawberries
How to Plant and Grow Snowdrops
How to Protect and Over-Winter Bananas
How to Protect Tree Ferns Over Winter
How to Winterize Begonia Bulbs
How to Winterize Dahlias
How to Winterize Geraniums
How to Winterize Lilies
Overwintering Your Herbs
What is Over-watering and How to Recognise it?
Why do Trees drop their Leaves in Autumn Fall

For more on climate change click onto:
What can we do to Help Save the Rainforests
What is 'Slash and Burn' Farming and How does it Affect the Rainforests?
Why are Tropical Rainforests so Important?
Why Should we Protect the Rainforest?

WHY DO TREES DROP THEIR LEAVES IN THE AUTUMN FALL



Every year, the seasonal progression from summer to autumn is marked by the changing colours of deciduous plants. Most notably - and by far the most famous - are the displays witnessed in the ancient forests of New England. Unfortunately for those of us who appreciate such things, just as the leaves are at their most spectacular - they fall off, making an untidy mess on the floor.

But why do trees (and of course shrubs) drop their leaves in winter? Surely this is terrible waste of resources as the plant then has to replace them all – plus a few extra – during the following spring? But before that question get answered it is important to understand what is it a leaf does?

WHAT DO LEAVES DO?
.
Each individual leaf is a miracle of evolution – without which, plants as we know them would not exist. Every one of them is a tiny factory which uses energy from the sun (in the form of light) to convert carbon dioxide and water into energy rich sugars – this is the metabolic process known as photosynthesis. Once produced, these sugars are transported throughout the plant - via its vascular system – where the energy is used to power growth and all other metabolic processes. Without these sugars plants would be unable to survive.

However - to photosynthesise effectively - leaves need to be able to collect as much light as possible, and their size and shape are vital in this. Nevertheless, compromises have to be made between the strength, size and weight of the leaf. Too heavy and the plant may not be able to support or direct the leaf to the optimum position for maximum light collection. Too small and the leaf may be unable to produce enough energy to sustain the plant. And is the leaf is not strong enough, it will become damaged in adverse weather and may end up not working at all!

SO WHY DO TREES DROP THEIR LEAVES?

The winter season is always guaranteed to bring two things. The first is far lower light levels while the second is terrible weather.
.
With the lower light levels leaves will become increasingly unproductive, but with a drop in temperatures the plants metabolic rate is also reduced and so photosynthesis can effectively stop.

With regards to poor weather conditions, a combination of strong winds, snowfall and freezing temperatures would provide any large broad leaved tree a serious risk from damage if they kept their leaves in place. Firstly, heavy snowfall would remain in the canopy placing huge stress on the branch framework, and if you combined that with strong winds you’ll definitely have a recipe for disaster. Of course, the leaves of deciduous plants are particularly sensitive to freezing temperatures anyway as internal cells are easily ruptured when exposed to large enough ice crystals.

The lesser of two evils is to absorb as much of the available and usable nutrients that are within the leaf structures as possible and then lose the remaining ‘leaf husk’ before snow appears. Of course – as with many things in nature – nothing is wasted as the following leave litter is broken down further by bacterial activity to create a humus rich mulch.

WHY DO LEAVES CHANGE COLOUR?

Besides the highly specialised green chlorophyll pigment, there are two other major pigments found within the leaf - carotenes and anthocyanins. Carotenes are yellow coloured pigments while anthocyanins are red coloured pigments and along with the chlorophyll they will occur in differing ratios depending on the plant species and variety, and sometime can depend on the uniqueness of the individual plant. During the growing season the chlorophyll pigments mask the other two pigments in green leaved plants. As the chlorophyll is absorbed back into the plant the carotenes and anthocyanins remain and it is this which gives autumn leaves their colour. The intensity of the colour will also depend on the concentration of remaining stored sugars.

HOW DO TREES KNOW WHEN TO DROP THEIR LEAVES?

As winter approaches, days will become progressively shorter and cooler, and it is this small yet crucial day by day change that acts as a trigger for the trees winter dormancy mechanism. As mentioned before, this environmental trigger begins the absorption of leaf nutrients and carbohydrates back into the stems, but it also starts an irreversible phase of leaf drop.

A membrane of specialised cells known as the abscission layer, will begin to develop at the base of the leaf’s stem. As the membrane grows, it increasingly restricts the flow of sugars and water between the leaf and the rest of the tree. Incidentally, this change also helps to promote the breakdown of chlorophyll pigments for absorption back into the stems. When this layer is completely formed, it is then dissolved causing the physical separation of the leaf from the tree.

For more information click onto:

HOW DO YOU OVER-WINTER BEGONIA CORMS?

Image credit - BotBln



Tuberous Begonias offer truly magnificent value for money, especially when you consider how much of a show they give for their initial cost.

And although this lush, tropical looking plant is often sold as a half-hardy annual, tuberous begonias are mostly perennial, and unlike the fibrous rooted cousins, they can be over-wintered for progressively better results year after year.

HOW TO OVER-WINTER POT GROWN TUBEROUS BEGONIAS

If your begonias have been grown in pots outside then the easiest way to winterize them is to leave them in their pots. Preparation can begin as early as August - in order to give them time to adjust - by bringing them indoors to a cool, and well-ventilated room. Begin withholding more and more water until the foliage dies back - then stop watering altogether. Leave the foliage in place to naturally die back, then within a few weeks, you will be able to remove the dried-up stem and leaves without causing damage to the tuber.

The next thing to do is to remove the tuber from the compost, clean it off and remove any damaged or soft parts with a sterilised knife. Dust it – especially any cut areas - with a fungicidal powder. From this point on the tuber can be stored until it is ready to be replanted in the spring. .

Store the tubers as a single layer inside a suitable cardboard box - spaced evenly apart - and keep them in a dry, frost-free and dark place until the spring. Alternatively, pack the tubers in dry peat, sand, sawdust, or vermiculite to prevent excessive moisture loss.

HOW TO OVER-WINTER TUBEROUS BEGONIAS GROWN IN THE GROUND

Image credit - http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbainfo/
If your begonias are planted directly in the ground then you can start preparing them for winterizing at the end of the autumn season. Begin by cutting back on water, but make sure they are allowed to dry out between each watering.

When the tops of tuberous begonias are damaged by the first autumn/winter frost, do not to make the mistake of removing all the old stems and foliage. Instead allow the plant to die back naturally so that the tuberous storage organ can benefit from absorbing the nutrients and carbohydrates that remain in the old growth.

Carefully lift the entire plant leaving the root-ball and soil as intact as possible. Place in a dry, cool storage area, and allow the tubers to harden off for a couple of weeks. After this period you can remove any remaining soil as well as any old stems and roots.

Cut away any damaged or soft parts with a sterilised knife. Dust it – especially any cut areas - with a fungicidal powder. From this point on the tuber can be stored until it is ready to be replanted in the spring.
.Store the tubers as a single layer inside a suitable cardboard box - spaced evenly apart - and keep them in a dry, frost-free and dark place until the spring. Alternatively, pack the tubers in dry peat, sand, sawdust, or vermiculite to prevent excessive moisture loss.

WHAT TO DO NEXT?

Check the begonia tubers occasionally over the winter period to ensure they are still dry and rot-free. Remove any that look suspicious to prevent the risk of further infection.

Plant again in spring after the soil has warmed and once the threat of late frosts are over – this will be around the third week of May around the south-east of England.

BotBln file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

For more information click onto:
Allium giganteum
Baobab
Crocus 'Orange Monarch'
Dicksonia antarctica
Dinosaur Plants: The Tree Fern
Do Black Tulips really exist?
Gardenofeaden
How do you Harden off Seedlings?
Can You Over-winter Citrus Outside?
How and Why does Over-watering Kill Plants?
How to grow Allium Giganteum from Seed
How to Over-Winter Brugmansia
How to Over-Winter Dahlia Tubers
How to Over-Winter Geraniums
How to Over-Winter the Glory Lily
How to Over-Winter Lily Bulbs
How to Over-Winter Rare and Species Tulips
How to Over-Winter Roses
How to Over-Winter Tree Peonies
How to Protect and Over-Winter Bananas
How to Protect Tree Ferns Over Winter
How to Save and Recover an Over-watered Plant
How to Winterize Begonia Bulbs
How to Winterize Dahlias
How to Winterize Geraniums
How to Winterize Lilies
The Marlborough Rock Daisy - Pachystegia insignis
The Mushroom
The Oriental Poppy
The Pineapple Lily
The Sago Palm
The Snake's Head Fritillary - Fritallaria meleagris
What is Composting?