Autumn is here. Along with the brisk air and pretty leaves on the ground, it also brings some other things: sniffles, coughs, and the flu. While some people are already running to the drug store seeking remedies and flu shots, turning to mother nature first can give you a head start on the sickness that comes with the changing of the seasons. There are many fruits, veggies, and herbs that boost your immune system naturally. And, they usually cost less and are more enjoyable to ingest than the cough syrups and other medicines you'll get at the drug store. Check out these herbs, fruits, and veggies that will keep your body strong and happy.

Licorice Root
 Licorice root is an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years. Now studies have shown the science behind its purported immune system-boosting properties. The herb contains Glycyrrhizin, a chemical that has been shown to boost natural killer cell activity; natural killer cells are part of the immune system's defence. They pick out infecting viral and tumour cells and kill them before they can start making you unwell.

 Besides making nearly any dish more flavourful and delicious (and warding off vampires, of course), garlic has similar immune system building properties to licorice root. It also boosts natural killer cell activity, and makes the body better at getting rid of invading viruses. Just make sure you brush your teeth afterwards, or it can help ward off any kisses or conversation as well!

The upcoming winter does mean one tasty thing: citrus is in season. You'll be able to find tangerines, tangelos, oranges, and grapefruit by the bag in your local grocery. While you've heard it a million times, that doesn't make it any less true: Vitamin C does wonders for your immune system. In studies, animals deprived of Vitamin C are less able to fight off antigens and viruses invading their cells. And, over time, the phytochemicals in citrus can help decrease your risk of cancer and other cellular degeneration.

Almonds are an excellent source of the anti-oxidant Vitamin E. Vitamin E eats up free radials, oxygen atoms that wear away cell membranes and inhibit immune system function. The vitamin also lowers cell inflammation by interfering with an enzyme that causes cell oxidation. Over time, this reduction of inflammation can decrease your risk of cancer.

Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are incredibly high in the trace element selenium. Selenium is necessary for the correct formation of selenoproteins, a type of antioxidant which increases immune system function. Selenoproteins get rid of free radicals, the cell-damaging by-products of regular metabolism. Selenoproteins also help keep your thyroid functioning correctly.

Carrots, Spinach, and Kale
Vitamin A is a super-vitamin, and these three veggies have it in the highest amounts. Vitamin A not only helps your vision, bone grown, and cell division, but it's also a helper to the immune system. Vitamin A increases the amount of white bloods cells that your body makes; white blood cells help destroy infections by seeking out harmful bacteria and viruses.

So now you know what to load up on your plate this winter, to stay in tip top shape. But you don't necessarily have to buy all of it at the store: it's more fun to grow the foods that are going to ward off this season's colds.



In the cool regions of northern Europe, but where temperatures rarely fall below freezing, many cacti and succulent species will thrive outdoors in troughs, raised beds and pots - provided the plants are raised above ground level to allow water to drain away freely. A warm sheltered position – such as a walled south-facing corner, or a covered patio or balcony where the plants can more easily be protected from rain - will provide the ideal environment.
The foliage shapes of Sedum and the neat rosettes of Sempervivum can be used to form a contrast with the leafy forms and brilliant blooms of Lewisia species and cultivars, the green-flowered Echinocereus viridiflorus, hardy Umbilicus, and the summer blooms of hardy Lampranthus. Other species, such as the Agave parryi, which has symmetrical rosettes of plump, grey-green leaves, or Opuntia polyacantha, with its brilliant display of yellow flowers, make striking focal points if they are planted in mixed displays or on their own in large bowls.

In warmer climates, there is a much greater scope for growing cacti and succulents outdoors in containers. In large pots, groups of plants that flower at different periods and have striking foliage forms such as the purple leaved Aeonium arboretum ‘Schwarzkopf’.

 Aloe barbadensis which has yellow flowers and the red flowered Crassula falcata will provide structural interest all year round, and give a succession of attractive blooms throughout the warmer months.

Where temperatures do not consistently fall below 13 degrees Celsius, any dwarf cacti, such as species and cultivars of Gymnocalycium, mammillaria, and Rebutia, make fascinating displays of form and texture in outdoor bowls and troughs in the garden. These dwarf, cluster-forming species also give a magnificent display of vibrant colour that will last for many weeks on end during the summer.

. The key thing is to provide the right conditions as the great majority of cacti and succulents need high light levels, warmth and good ventilation to thrive - although some, the leafy succulents in particular, may need protection from direct sun during the summer to avoid leaf scorch.

There is one important group of cacti however that requires shady conditions, or at least filtered light. These are the epiphytes that come from the humid and shaded rain forests of South America such as the Christmas cacti – Schlumbergera bridgesii and Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri.

For related articles click onto the following links:
AGAVE PARRASANA - The Cabbage Head Agave


With careful selection and skilful arrangement, attractive displays of cacti and other succulents can be grown outdoors – even in relatively cool conditions. However, to get the best out of your more exotic species, plant them into in porous troughs or pots, or even purpose built raised beds – in fact anywhere provided the plants are suitably raised above ground level to allow water to drain away freely.


Few succulents can tolerate excess moisture and even the truly hardy species require good drainage to perform their best. Among the hardiest to consider are the many species and cultivars of Sedums, Sempervivums (houseleeks), along with members of both the Crassula and Umbilicus family.

However, don't overlook the striking purple leaved Aeonium arboreum ‘Schwarzkopf’, and – if you can source it – the hardy Maihuenia poeppigii.


With excellent drainage and a good baking in the summer, a number of desert cacti - particularly some Lampranthus and Opuntia species – will withstand surprisingly low temperatures, although not a combination of cold and wet! Perhaps the best of these is the hardy Opuntia humifusa

If you live in milder areas which experience only a few frosts this range of exotic plants can be extended to include the spectacular rosettes of Agave americana cultivars. With a little winter protection you can also consider Agave filifera, Beschorneria yuccoides.

Half hardy species will need a freely draining site with the shelter of a warm, sunny wall for additional protection. Where temperatures are unlikely to fall much below 7-10 degrees Celsius, such as the Mediterranean or southern and south-western USA, there are few restrictions when choosing succulents for outdoors.

Hardy Bromeliads

Although neither a cactus or succulent, the hardy bromeliad is more than able to hold its own amongst its desert dwelling brothers. The best two varieties for availability and that will cope with the cold are Puya chilensis and Puya berteroniana.

For related articles click onto the following links:
AGAVE PARRASANA - The Cabbage Head Agave
ECHINOCACTUS GRUSONII - The Golden Barrel Cactus
EUPHORBIA OBESA - The baseball plant
Sulcorebutia rauschii


By and large, the majority of ornamental lilies are a pretty tough bunch and able to cope with most of what the winter weather has to throw at it. However, they can be prone to losses in cold wet conditions, especially those varieties that originate from mountainous regions, but with a little thought - and minimum of intervention – overwintering ornamental lilies is fairly straightforward.

Winterising can easily coincide with propagation. Species such as Lilium lancifolium, L. tigrinum and L.bulbiferum, and their hybrids, will produce stem bulbils (baby corms) in the leaf axils or bulblets at the base of the old flowering stem. Once the stems have died back it is a perfect time to lift the parent corm at which point the bulbils or bulblets can be picked off and the parent bulb replanted. However, make sure that the parent bulb is planted in free draining ground otherwise it can easily rot off over the winter period if left dormant in waterlogged conditions.

If you are planting lily corms into damp conditions or you live in an area prone to heavy rainfall over the winter period, it will be worth trying to improve the drainage of the soil by digging in plenty of horticultural grit, perlite or bulky organic matter.

It may even be worth creating a low mound to plant your corms into to help keep them away from a high water table. You can even consider protecting the area around the bulb from heavy rainfall by covering them with a large cloche or ‘makeshift’ plastic tent.

Species Lilies such as the Nepalese lily are particularly prone to this and are best potted on and brought in to a protected cold environment where there is no chance of water reaching the bulb. Strangely they will tolerate temperatures down to about minus 12 degrees Celsius, but in it native environment and water would be frozen, effectively creating a ‘dry’ environment!

Lily varieties and cultivars that are not able to survive the freezing temperatures of an exposed mountain environment can be given the added protection of a good autumn mulch

Although bulbous in character, i.e. the plant is produced from a swollen underground storage organ known as a corm, it is not a true bulb. Instead it is tight, concentric ring of succulent scales which are attached at their lower end to a basal plate..

Lily bulbs never really go dormant, and do best when out of the ground for as short a time as possible. If you've got the space, I would recommend potting the bulbs up right away. You can cram them in, bulb to bulb, you're just trying to keep the root system fresh and growing. You can store the pots in an unheated garage or cool basement until spring, then tease the roots apart and plant again.

If you can't pot them up right away, get some moss peat, wet it and squeeze out as much of the water as you can. Dust the bulbs with a fungicide, then store the bulbs in the moss peat in an open container (which you will need to mist periodically to keep it barely moist) and store in the basement or garage until you can plant in the spring.

Planting Bulbils

It is possible to collect bulbils throughout late summer but only once the bulbils have naturally loosened from the parent stem. Collect them from the leaf axils of the lily stems by carefully picking them off.

Insert the bulbils into pans of moist, loam based compost - such as John Innes ‘Seed and Potting’ compost – pressing them gently into the surface. Cover with grit and don’t forget to label the variety before placing in a cold frame until the young bulbs develop.

Planting Bulblets

After flowering, lift the corm and dead stem – replanting the parent corm. Alternatively, leave the parent bulb in the ground and cut the stem directly above it to remove the bulblets.

Plant the bulblets at twice their own depth into 13 cm pots of moist, loam-based potting compost. Cover with a layer of grit before placing in a cold frame until the spring. Don’t forget to label the variety.

For related articles click onto the following links:
GARDENERS WORLD - How to overwinter lilies
THE BLACK LILY - Lilum 'Landini'


I love old fashion English fruit chutney, it was something my grandmother used to make and nowadays - whenever I tasted someone's home-made recipe - the memories of childhood always flooded back. I can't get enough of the stuff which is fine in itself but I am addicted to eating it with a slab of cheese which is not so good

This recipe will make 900 grams / 2 lb of preserve.

450g / 1lb of pears, peeled, cored and chopped
450g / 1lb of cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped.
2 x onions - chopped
600ml / 1 pint of vinegar
225g / 8 oz of dates - chopped
15ml / 1 tbsp of salt
450g/1lb of golden syrup (light corn)
A pinch of ground ginger
15ml / 1tbsp of mustard powder

Put the pears, apples, onions and vinegar in to a pan and bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until the mix is tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients and boil for about 20 minutes until thick and golden. Stir well, then pour into warmed jars and leave to cool. Then seal and lable.
How easy is that?


I came across this recipe by accident, and it was all down to have plums stolen off my tree last year. This year I decided that it wasn't going to happen - so as soon as the fruit was ripe I stripped the entire crop and brought it home. Two plum crumbles later - superb, I can now make them the way my grandmother used to - I needed a plan to clear the rest of the fruit. Luckily a good friend of mine had lent me a cook book for its simnel cake recipe and in it I found this traditional, simple English recipe for plum chutney. It is gorgous, but the only reason I have listed the recipe on this site is because I have had to give the book back. Now of course the recipe is easy to hand whenever I need it.

I hope you like it - it is gorgous!

This recipe will make approximately 3lb / 1.5 kg of preserve

900g /2lb plums - stoned and pitted and cut into quarters
450g /1lb of carrots - grated
600ml / 1pint of malt vinegar
350g / 12 oz of raisins
450g / 1 lb of light brown sugar
1 garlic clove - crushed
5ml / 1 tsp of chilli powder
15ml / 1 tbsp of ground ginger - or a knuckle worth of finely chopped fresh ginger
30ml / 2 tbsp of salt

Mix together the plums, carrots and vinegar, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes until the mix is tender. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes until the mixture is thick. Stir well, then spoon into heat sterilised jars and leave to cool. Seal and label.