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 receives direct sun all day, and that’s fantastic for growing the old favourites such as tomatoes, peppers, and melons. But what are you supposed to grow if you have no other choice than to grow in the shade?

Well you may be surprised to learn that there are plenty of varieties that will not only tolerate these lower light levels, but 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, and 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. Remember though, that no crop is going to do particularly well in heavy shade. As with all plants they will need a minimum level of light to survive and grow.

Below are groups of the best fruits and nuts for growing in the shade:

Woodland crops such as raspberries, blackberries and gooseberries will usually do well but also consider their modern hybrids such as Tayberries and Boysenberries.

The same will apply to Rhubarb and Blueberries.

Nut trees such as the filbert, and hazelnut will also be able to produce a good crop in the shade but they will need to be in a position where they will receive sun in the morning

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 related articles click to the following links:
Grow Fruit & Nuts in the Home Garden in Temperate Areas 


As with many things, familiarity breeds contempt and while we are lucky in Great Britain to have such a fantastic range of bird species – native as well as seasonal visitor – they are wrongly regarded as commonplace and therefore undervalued and often ignored.

Many of our native bird populations are struggling due to the loss of habitat, while others are finding that their once abundant food sources (insects, slugs and snails) have been drastically cut due to the industrial and private use of insecticides and molluscicides.

House sparrow
It is the combination of non-specific insecticides and light pollution that has caused the greatest damage causing a massive reduction in native insect populations upon which many of our native bird species depend on for their survival. Perhaps worse still is the slow creep of agro-chemicals into the food-chain, affecting both adults and their young from generation to generation - clearly the environmental lessons of DDT have not been learned.

While global warming has an influence on local habitats there is of course much that we can do to help preserve the local populations of birds that are most at risk. Bird boxes, food supplementation, wildlife ponds and sympathetic planting schemes that can all improve the local habitat, and create an all-year-supply of natural food. In suburban areas, an almost continual supply of suitable shop-bought bird foods has already helped to supplement the diets of a range of seed eating wild birds, but the fate of our insect eating birds is much less secure. Without the help of a concerned and interested public our native tit and finch populations would be in a far worse state.

It is of course an exaggeration to say that the beauty of our native birds is equal to that of the Indonesian birds of paradise, but they are still beautiful nonetheless. The sideshow above shows a small selection of birds that are still commonplace to our shores, but a number of these have already been in steady decline over the past 60 years. Try to imagine looking at them with fresh eyes or with the very real thought that some of these species may well become extinct in our lifetime.
If we can’t value the life around us, the how can we expect to truly care about the environment at large.

For related articles click onto the following links:
British Birds


Just recently, I have had a number of requests asking about which part of the world the ‘Seeds of Eaden’ website comes from. So at the risk of being found by my debtors and having my identity stolen, I shall tell you. I am based in Sevenoaks, an old Saxon market town, slap-bang in the middle of Kent, otherwise known as Tudor country – a term I have just made up.

It sits on the crossroads of the Pilgrims Way, made famous by Chaucer, which leads from the historic port of Dover, through Canterbury and passes by a number of Archbishop's palaces on its way up to the Royal courts of London. The life of Henry VIII was played out through most of this area as he systematically bought up large hunting estates– Knole house, Leeds Castle, Hever Castle, Otford Palace, Penshurst Place and many more besides –all paid for with money generated through the dissolution of the Monasteries. Within a 25 mile radius you probably have the largest selection of period Royal Tudor properties in the country.

My Christmas present to the viewers of the 'Garden of Eaden' website – the majority of which are American – is a montage of photographs that I have taken over the past few years of my favourite properties. I know this has little to do with plants and gardening but if you look carefully there are definitely some in the background.

People who like plants also tend to also like history, so if you are interested in the Tudors then hopefully you will like this too. If you have any questions then leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Please enjoy these views from the old country- including a couple of oddballs - and keep an eye out for the rogue camel.

History Channel: Christmas


Every now and again you can walk into someone’s home and within an instant, the warm luxurious fragrance that greeted you has transported you back to Christmas’s past.

It is truly amazing how certain smells - or even a combination of smells – are able to evoke such powerful imagery. So why not use this natural phenomenon to your own advantage? If you are planning on having guests round this holiday period, then why not make then most of this time by adding the extra dimension of Christmas fragrance to your home?


Truly a classic Christmas spice, but it’s one thing to sniff some cinnamon sticks while they are under your nose, but how do you get that luscious scent to drift around your home?

Answer. Choose an old drinking glass making sure that the bottom is wide enough to fit a tea light. Next, glue - or tie into place - cinnamon sticks vertically around the outside of the glass until it is completely covered. Should you wish, you can decorate the outside of the glass with an appropriate Christmas ribbon. When completed, place the tea light on the bottom of the glass and light it – the warmth of the candle will bring out the smell of the cinnamon. Remember though, never leave a naked flame unattended!


Another great spice for creating that Christmas feeling is the musky fragrance released from cloves - especially when combined with the smell of oranges or lemons . An easy way to take advantage of this is to make an orange/Clove ball, otherwise known as a pomander. Start by using something like a toothpick to make holes in the orange. Next, place a clove into each hole and continue until the whole orange is covered, you can even position the holes in order to create festive patterns. When finished you can leave in bowl in the fashion of a large pot pourri or decorate with ribbon and hang somewhere appropriate.

An easy cheat

There is - of course - a quick way to get a whole combination of Christmas flavours to permeate throughout the house. Place 4 to 6 cups of water into a small saucepan and add to it the peels from 2 oranges, 3 to 4 cinnamon sticks, a tablespoon of whole cloves and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. Bring the pan to the boil and then reduce the heat so it just sits there simmering gently. Of course, you will need to keep an eye on it so that the pan doesn't boil dry. When the water gets low, add more water, and when the scent begins to diminish you will need to discard that batch and make a fresh one. Never leave the pan simmering on the stove unattended.

For related articles click onto the following links:
6 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Like Christmas


The ‘Christmas Cactus’ or Schlumbergera truncata - as it is otherwise known - is a plant of singular deceit. Although its botanical name is derived from Frédéric Schlumberger (1823-1893) - the well known French collector of cacti and other succulents – the plant was neither discovered by him nor named by him. In fact, it received its name through another Frenchman - botanist and botanical author Charles Antoine Lemaire, a contemporary expert of the Cactaceae genus and colleague of Frédéric Schlumberger.

But it doesn't stop there! For all intents and purposes, the Christmas cacti has no ‘French connection’ whatsoever as it was actually discovered by Englishman Allan Cunningham (1791 –1839), who in his day was a well known botanist and explorer.

Between 1814 and 1816, and on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks - President of the Royal Society, founder of the Royal Horticultural Society, and unofficial director of Kew Botanic Gardens - Allan Cunningham was sent on an expedition to Brazil aboard the HMS Mermaid. Under the employ of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, he was tasked to collect, document, and bring back to England any new and unknown plant species – particularly those that may have valuable economic importance. Amongst the many new species that were discovered on this - his first - journey, was of course an unnamed, tree dwelling cactus.

This newly discovered species was unlike any cactus that had been seen before. It was a true, tropical rainforest epiphyte that - instead of growing as you would expect in the ground - was found high up in the tree canopy rooted onto tree branches.

Despite the high rainfall encountered within the Brazilian rainforest, water drained away quickly in the tree canopy, mimicking the drought conditions encountered by the more familiar members of the cacti family.

Not surprisingly, because of their specialised environment, these epiphytic cacti are quite different in appearance to that of their desert-dwelling cousins.

So why are they called Christmas cactus?

Move away from the seasonal winter cold of northern Europe, and the traditional Christmas tree isn't always a suitable option. Instead, those living in the warmer climates of Africa, Australia, and some of the Latin American countries have developed their own version of the traditional tree.

They have developed their own ‘Christmas Cactus’ custom of decorating a decent sized, indigenous cactus the same as you would a ‘normal ‘Christmas tree. The Schlumbergera truncata is not that cactus.

Unsurprisingly, the Schlumbergera Christmas cactus – apart from flowering over the Christmas period – has nothing to do with either the Christmas tradition or the story of Christ’s birth.

Its common name derives only from its ability to flower at the right time, and so I apologise to anyone who has been misled by implied marketing. However in all fairness, it isn't really the plants fault – it’s all down to the French, or is it?

For related articles click onto the following links:
ECHINOCACTUS GRUSONII - The Golden Barrel Cactus
EUPHORBIA OBESA - The baseball plant
RHS Xmas Cactus
THE CHRISTMAS ROSE - Helleborus niger


Scientists believe that the recent explosions in jellyfish populations are the reflection of a combination of factors. The severe over-fishing of their natural predators - such as the tuna, sharks and swordfish - rising sea temperatures (caused in part by global warming), and years of man-made pollution that has depleted oxygen levels in coastal shallows. .

Although there have already been beach closings due of jellyfish swarms on the Côte d'Azur in France, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, and at Waikiki and Virginia Beach in the United States, it is the threat to the world's fishing industry which is considerably more worrying.

Swarms of jellyfish are now seen to be hunting in packs, able to decimate large numbers of fish. Because jellyfish are both slow moving and semi-transparent, they are able to get relatively close to unsuspecting fish without them realizing the danger. Given the opportunity, they ensnare the fish in their poisonous tentacles and are able to dissolve the bodies in their stomachs within minutes.

In Japan - which is home to the world's largest fishing industry - fishing boats are regularly catching jellyfish in their nets instead of fish. Sometimes it’s both, but then any fish caught along side large numbers of jellyfish are so full of venom they are rendered inedible.

The Nomura's Jellyfish, commonly found off the coast of Japan, has a body that can weigh as much as 200 lbs and grow as long as 2 meters - not including the length of their tentacles. According to estimates by the Japanese government, this plague is 100 times the size of normal Nomura's Jellyfish populations and they are now taking aggressive actions.

The Japanese fishermen have begun the practice of chopping up netted jellyfish and dumping their bodies back into the sea, but the Japanese government are taking matters further by creating a committee and a task force dedicated to hunting down and destroying jellyfish in order to protect the other fish that makes up their livelihood. Unfortunately the practice of chopping up jellyfish may be making things worse. When jellyfish are under attack or killed, they release millions of sperm or eggs, which if return back to the sea can produce yet more jellyfish.

So what can be done about the jellyfish problem? Create fishing amnesties around the worst affected areas; place an international legislated fishing ban on the natural predators of jellyfish? Promote jellyfish as a ‘new’ delicacy for the Asian market? At the moment there are few answers forthcoming, but unless our burgeoning populations wake up to the problems of climate change, pollution, overfishing and the unsustainable consumption of the world’s resources - catastrophe is inevitable.

For related articles click onto the following links:
Giant Jellyfish Swarms – Are Humans the Cause?
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – The American Signal Crayfish


Throughout much of Asia, the Chinese delicacy of shark fin soup is widely recognized as a status symbol of the wealthy. Usually only found only at special occasions – such as weddings or banquets - it is an item of such luxury that it is often served to important guests as a way of bestowing them great respect.

To give an idea of the high costs involved, Scalloped hammerhead fins are among the most highly sought after as they help to create a particularly thick, gelatinous soup. In the Asian market place just 1 kg of these coveted fins can sell for as much as $120.00.

Unfortunately, the premium prices commanded by shark fins have fueled a global shark hunt of epic proportions. Research has shown that up to 73,000,000 sharks are killed annually to supply the fin markets, placing the future survival of many shark species in doubt. Further research from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada has also shown that shark populations - as well as populations of all large predators in the worlds oceans - have dropped an estimated 90 per cent in the last 30 years. Some species of shark, such as the tiger, bull and dusky shark have dropped by more than 95 per cent.

Unfortunately, further controversy hangs over the practice of shark fishing, mainly because shark bodies have little, substantial value. This has caused many fishermen to use the practice known as ‘finning’. This is where the fins are cut away from the sharks body while the remainder of the fish - which is often still alive - is thrown back into the sea. Once back in the ocean, the finless shark is unable to swim and sinks to the ocean bottom to die, a slow and extremely painful death.

Animal rights activists and environmentalists have called the practice brutal, and have also named it as a primary contributing factor in the global decline of many shark species.

Hong Kong is responsible for handling anywhere between 50% and possibly up to 80% of the world’s trade in shark fins. Of that number 21% of fins were found to have originated in waters off of coastlines of the United States, Belize, Panama and Brazil. Surprisingly, these are areas where the shark has been categorized as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature!

But it is not just the Americas that are helping to fuel this enormous market, a third of all fins imported to Hong Kong come from Europe with Spain by far the largest supplier. Of course they are not alone with Norway Britain, France, Portugal and Italy all making major contributions to this barbaric trade. Currently there are only a couple of dozen countries, including those in the EU, which have banned the practice of shark finning – and mostly in just the last five years.

In 2004 was the first fish was placed under the protection of the ‘Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ (CITES). Today there are at least some species of sharks listed on CITES such as the Great White and some of the Basking sharks.

By systematically removing the top predator from every ocean we're destroying the balance of the world’s most important ecosystem, one that is vital for our own survival - hopefully we are not too late. Just as awareness and education has help to bring back many whale species from the brink of extinctions, hopefully shark populations can also be saved. We lose them at out own peril!

For related articles click onto the following links:
The Brutal Business of Shark Finning
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – The American Signal Crayfish


Many of us are familiar with Easter Island, but only from its association with the spectacular stone statues known as Moai – a creation of the early Rapanui people.

Now a World Heritage Site, Easter Island sits in a remote area of the south-eastern Pacific Ocean, formed as the result of volcanic activity from three extinct coalesced volcanoes 750,000 years ago.

The island was originally populated by Polynesian explorers believed to have journeyed from either the Marquises islands (3200 km away), the Tuamotu islands, Mangareva, 2600 km away) or Pitcairn (2000 km away). Incredibly, these early inhabitants they found their way to Easter Island using only simple wooden canoes or catamarans. Originally the Island was covered by a thick, sub-tropical rainforest which included both palms and hard-woods, but by the time the island was discovered by Europeans in 1722 the Island had become almost totally barren.

The story of this Island is of particular relevance to those concerned with climate change and global warming. This is because recent history shows that Easter Island experienced the collapse of its ecosystem. This resulted in the extinction of many of its prehistoric plant and animal species to the detriment of the local population - an event associated with the over-exploitation of the island's resources.

When Captain Cook visited the island, one of his crew members, who was a Polynesian from Bora Bora, was able to communicate with the Rapa Nui. They found out that the island had a very clear class-based social system, with a King – known as an Ariki – who wielded absolute god-like power. The main element of their life on the island was the cult of the birdman, and a central part of their worship was the production of the massive, ceremonial Moai which are found erected along most of the coastline.

As the islands population grew in size it began to divide into separate clans – each competing for the same natural resources. As these resources began to dwindle an atmosphere of competitive rivalry began amongst the clans who began a self destructive pursuit of building bigger and bigger Moai. This intensified the islanders need for wood from mature trees - one of the islands main resources - essential in the production and placement of the completed Moai.

To move the statues from the island's Rano Raraku quarry in the south-east of the island, the Rapa Nui needed to cut down large trees for use as logs in the construction of long ‘canoe ladders’. This enabled them to carry the massive carvings to the island's coast, but they also needed to manufacture heavy ropes which were made from the fibrous bark of the larger palms.

The scale of operation required to move such enormous stone statues was vast. Research has shown that teams of between 50 and 500 men dragged the statues which weighed anywhere between 10 and 90 tons. Some 887 statues were carved in total, but nearly half of them still remain at the Rano Raraku quarry, which appears to have been abandoned mid-way through production. For transport alone, each statue would have required several trees to be cut down; however other trees would have been taken for housing, fuel and the construction of the large stone platforms, or "ahu", upon which the Moai were placed.

As a result of the steady deforestation, food production began to fall dramatically as crops became exposed to harsh winds and the semi-arid conditions of the region. Starvation and desperation ensued followed by violence clashes as each clan competed against each other for survival. Consequently, the Island population collapsed - unable to sustain itself - from perhaps as many as 15,000 at its peak to just a few thousand at the time of its discovery.

The Easter Island story is not only the most extreme example of forest destruction and its effect on indigenous populations in the Pacific area; it is perhaps the most extreme example in the world. Not only had the islands almost entire forest disappeared, its unique collection of tree species, as well as the animals that lived within them had also become extinct.

The importance of such a story is not lost in this age of modern globalization. With the ever increasing threat of climate change and a rapidly growing world population of more than 6.5 billion people, the parallels between what happened here at Easter Island, and what could happen to the rest of the modern world - if suitable steps aren't taken quickly enough - are chillingly obvious.

For related articles click onto the following links:
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – The American Signal Crayfish
The Mystery of Easter Island