WHAT IS A STUMPERY?





When I visited Arundal castle gardens earlier in the year, they were still in the process of designing their brand new stumpery garden. At face value, it looked bleak, somewhat desolate and had a feel of a haunted graveyard rather than a stylised garden.

Of course, other than the up-turned tree stumps - impressive as they were - the ground was bare, and only a fool would judge an incomplete design.

Luckily I managed to fit in another visit to Arundal castle gardens over the weekend and the changes were impressive. Foxgloves were the order of the day, a favourite of mine at the moment as they are one of the few native English plants to make the grade in an ornamental garden.

Fully stocked with a range of herbaceous plants, the planting scheme had completely changed the character of the stumpery garden, giving it a peaceful, mystical feel.

The colour palette was kept muted across the display and so the eyes were not distracted away from the overall fantasy.  It would have been tempting to add splashes of colour, but this would have drawn away from the overall impact. That being said, rather than being the main attraction, the up-turned stumps had now become a wonderful backdrop worthy of a such a fanciful design. Well done to the gardeners.

So, just what is a stumpery?

A stumpery traditionally consists of tree stumps arranged upside-down or on their sides to show the root structure

 The first stumpery was built in 1856 at Biddulph Grange and they remained popular in Victorian Britain.

The pieces are arranged artistically and plants, typically ferns, mosses and lichens are encouraged to grow around or on them.

One of the most famous modern stumpery is found at Highgrove House, Gloucestershire. This is the home of Prince Charles, and is considered to be the largest stumpery in Britain. The Prince built the stumpery from sweet chestnut roots, held in place by steel bars, when he first purchased the estate in 1980, and it now provides a home for organically grown ferns, hellebores and hostas.

Understandably, stumperies can sometimes be mistaken for garden rubbish. When Prince Philip first saw his son's stumpery, he remarked: "When are you going to set fire to this lot?".

For related articles click onto:
What is a Stumpery?
Why is my Tree Fern Dead?
Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stumpery


GROWING ONIONS IN AFRICA






The problem with growing onions in Africa, is that they tend to produce little green plants with no bulbs. This is absolutely down to a combination of a harsh climate and shorter day lengths compared to its native habitat of Iran and central Asia. Although it is perfectly reasonable to say that the onion has evolved to cope with warm, dry environments, the high levels of heat, and light experienced in central African countries are far greater than this crop can be expected to cope with. This is why onion crops struggle to produce decent bulbs here.

Be that as it may, if you can find suitable onion seed and are prepared to make the effort to make your local environment more comparable to onion production, then why shouldn't you be able grow onions in Africa

I have come up with some solutions regarding, but be aware that the increased cost of producing onions using these solutions may end up being more that the actual value of the crop.

In Nigeria you have the problem with excessive rain. Of course, you can provide protection against the rain by planting your onions under cover. A simple frame protected by some a clear covering of plastic will do the trick, but you will need to provide adequate ventilation so that you don't end up 'boiling your crop.

Be aware that you will need a cover that won't break down under ultra-violet radiation. You can reduce the effect of this damage by re-enforcing any areas of the plastic that are resting on supports with a heavy duty tape.

Of course, once your crop is covered, your onions will still need to be watered especially during the growing season. Then, once your onions have stopped growing then they will need to be able to dry out for harvesting otherwise they will rot off.

If you can provide shade during the hottest part of the day, the risk of boiling your plants will be reduced.

Add automatic shade screens, additional lighting and better
ventilation and you could have the perfect
 conditions to growing onions in Africa!
Also, be aware that when onions get too hot their growth will become checked. Furthermore, if the onion plant is losing more water through transpiration than it can physically draw up through the roots then they can shut down and begin to dry out no matter how much you water you put on it.

Any hotter and you are at risk of losing the crop. You can try planting your onions through white plastic material  - called a plastic mulch - as this will help to reduce the amount that the soil will heat up by reflecting heat from the sun back into the air.

A simple solution to reducing the heat on the onion crop is to use lengths of shading material. This does mean physically putting it in place and then removing it later on a daily basis as your onion crop will actually benefit from the less intense morning and evening light levels and so may not be very practicable. Alternatively, plant in your crop where mid-day shade already exists or plant some suitable trees in the appropriate position.

Regarding the high levels of rainfall, protecting the crops from the rain isn't going to work if the the water table is so high that the ground becomes waterlogged no matter what you do. If this is the case then growing your onions in raised beds 6-12 inches high should do the trick. You can also consider growing your crop on a slope or digging out drainage gullies around the crop to help remove the run-off.

It goes without saying that your onion beds need to be kept weed free.

Onions are very sensitive to day length. The kind of onion that is grown in the higher European latitudes
requires long day length to form bulbs.

When onions are grown during short days - as they are in equatorial Africa- it is important to plant what are called 'short day onions'. Most onions grown in the tropics are of the short-day type, but many different kinds of short day onions exist.

All onions are physiologically ‘long-day’ plants, but the mechanism that controls onion bulbing is really a phyto-chemical response to the length of the night. Therefore, in the so-called ‘short-day’ onions that are grown in the tropics, bulbing is in fact induced in response to night lengths, which are relatively long, at around 12 hours. Intermediate-day and long-day cultivars grown at higher latitudes are induced to form bulbs by nights that are relatively shorter - ie. nights of 11-8 hours, corresponding to days of 13-16 hours.

If you grow long day onions near the equator they grow into small green onions which may thicken a little at the base. This can be preferable because the short day varieties can form bulbs too soon.

So how do you overcome this? Providing additional lighting at the end of the day is clearly the key to getting around the short day issue. Light bulbs with a wave length as similar to natural day length are best, but if resources are limited then try using florescent tubes. My guess is that you will need an additional 2-3 hours of light extra each day, but this is something that you will need to find out through trial and error.

Growing onions from onion sets

Many growers in the tropics use onion set system to get onions going near the end of the rainy season in order to extend the onion harvest forward in time and therefore produce a larger bulb. Onion sets are commercially available in Zimbabwe.

However, the quality of onions grown from sets can be inferior, producing more double bulbs.

If you want to grow your own onion sets, try this method. Just as the hot season is starting, sow seeds at a very close spacing. Do not thin out the onions. Harvest at ½ inch (1.25 cm) diameter or else they will bolt. If they are sufficiently crowded and if it is well past the day length where the variety would normally bulb, they will die down naturally.

It may take a few seasons of trial to find out what works best for you.

Allium giganteum
Growing Garlic in Pots and Containers
Growing onions in Africa
ROUND HEADED LEEK - Allium sphaerocephalon

THE EYEBALL PLANT - Actaea pachypoda




Looking for all the world like a collection of disembodied eyes hanging from individual stalks, the Eyeball plant - Actaea pachypoda has got to be one of the creepiest plants around.

Each of these striking features is a 1 cm diameter white berry, topped with a black stigma scar. The size, colour and shape of these fruits gives this species its other common name of 'doll's eyes'. However, for those of who do not pander to such foolishness, it is simply known as the 'White Baneberry'. These bizarre looking berries ripen over the summer, turning into a fruit that persists on the plant until frost.

The white baneberry is an herbaceous perennial plant native to the hardwood and mixed forest stands of eastern North America. It grows up to 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide and prefers clay to coarse loamy upland soils. In cultivation it requires part to full shade, rich loamy soil, and regular water with good drainage to reproduce its native habitat.

If your conditions are not quite right then they can be improved by enriching the soil with organic matter, and watering thoroughly in dry weather.

Cut back after fruiting

WARNING: Both the berries and the entire plant are considered poisonous to humans. The berries contain cardiogenic toxins which can have an immediate sedative effect on human cardiac muscle tissue. This can lead to cardiac arrest and death. The berries are the most poisonous part of the plant, although they are harmless to birds, the plant's primary seed dispersers.

The eyeball plant, sorry, the white baneberry has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

For more information click onto:
Allium giganteum
Clematis montana 'Grandiflora'
Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'
Dahlia Pests and Diseases
Dahlia 'War of the Roses'
Echiums
Gardenofeadenornamental1
How do you Over-Winter Begonia Corms?
How to Grow Crocus from Seed
How to Grow Dahlias
How to Grow Species Tulips from Seed
How to Grow the Saffron Crocus
How to Over-Winter Dahlia Tubers
How to Over-Winter Rare and Species Tulips
How to Over-Winter the Glory Lily
How to Plant and Grow Daffodils
How to Plant and Grow Dahlias
How to Plant and Grow Hyacinths
How to Plant and Grow Snowdrops
How to Plant and Grow the Glory Lily
How to propagate Daffodils and Narcissus
How to Propagate DahliasHow to Propagate Hyacinths
How to Propagate Snowdrops
How to Propagate the Saffron Crocus
How to Propagate the Snake's Head Fritillary
How to Propagate Tulips
Lilium Nepalense - the Lily of Nepal
Lost Tulips of the Dutch Golden Age- Semper Augustus and Viceroy
Native Plants - The Snake's Head Fritillary
Old, Broken and Unusual Tulip Varieties
Old Dutch Tulips - Tulip 'Absalom'
Old Dutch Tulips - Tulip Duc van Thol 'Rose'
Species Tulip - Tulipa acuminata
Species Tulip - Tulipa Turkestanica
Species Tulip - Tulipa wilsoniana
Star Jasmine
The Sea Daffodil - Pancratium maritimum
The Glory Lily - Gloriosa rothschiliana
THE ORANGE PEEL CLEMATIS - Clematis tangutica
The Oriental Poppy
The Marlborough Rock Daisy - Pachystegia insignis
The Saffron Crocus - Crocus sativus
The Snowdrop
Top Tips For Tulip Care
Trachelospermum jasminoides
Tulip Diseases
Tulip History and Popular Varieties
Tulipa 'Rem's Sensation'
Tulip 'Semper Augustus' - does it still exist?
What is a Bulb?
What is a Baobab tree?
What is a Jade Plant?
Image care of http://www.dancingoaks.com/home/dok/page_108/actaea_pachypoda.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Actaea-pachypoda.jpg
Based on an article from http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=4362

HOW TO CARE FOR THE JADE PLANT

Crassula ovata


Jade plants are succulents, and as such, store water in their leaves and stems. Why? Because they have evolved in the arid regions of  South Africa and Madagascar.

With little water available in their natural environment, when it does rain the jade plant will make the most of this precious resource by locking as much of it away as possible within its own body.

Equally, the roots have evolved to survive in this harsh dry environment, so provide waterlogged conditions and they will quickly deteriorate!

So. although it sounds counter-intuitive,  they like very little water. In fact, too much water can easily damage and even kill a jade plant.

Therefore, it's recommended that you should only water when the leaves feel a little squishy or dried out. Sometimes it is hard to tell when this happens, so a good rule of thumb is to water just once a month in the summer and even less in the winter.

As for soil type, the jade plant will prefer a  sandy or coarse soil. The best mixture is four-parts loam and one part each of sand and broken brick. Jade plants don't mind being root-bound, in fact most seem to thrive on it. When you do need to re-pot your jade, only re-pot it in a pot one size larger than the original.

Wild plant from Karoo National Park - care of www.bihrmann.com
Jade plants enjoy a sunny location. When given enough sun, the leaves develop a reddish colour. Jades vary in size and shape, but can grow up to ten feet tall. They also make great bonsai. When old enough and if given enough light, the plant will produce a small white flower and seeds. In the summer they can live outdoors, but being a desert plant they don't like the cold, so bring them inside in winter.

If the jade plant becomes too top heavy, and is at risk of branches breaking under its own weight, try pruning some of the branches back to the first bud along the stem. This is best done in March. Alternatively, this could be caused by the plant having too small a root system. This can be attributed to watering the plant too often; the roots become lazy and don't grow. When they have less water they'll start to grow in search of more moisture.

What is a Jade plant?

As ornamental plants go, the jade plant is a bit of an enigma. Why? because it has so many names attached to it!

Not only is it often found under the two commonly seen botanical names of Crassula ovata and Crassula argentea, there are another five variety names that have been attributed to it.

Be that as it may, C. ovata is its currently agreed scientific name.

The very same issue occurs with common names. While the names 'Jade Plant' or Jade Tree'  are perhaps the most popular, Crassula ovata is also known as the the friendship tree, the Chinese rubber tree or even the money tree.

Chinese money tree
Even then there are still arguments as to whether the jade tree can really be called the money tree as another plant 'Pachira aquatica' seems to lay claim to that one by way of being the tree species that the Chinese traditionally knew as the money tree.

To make things even less clearer the Pachira aquatica  has the common names of the Malabar chestnut, Guiana chestnut, provision tree, or saba nut.

Back to the common name 'money tree' which has it roots far back in Chinese history.

Chinese legend has it that the original money tree is a kind of holy tree which can bring money and fortune to the local population. It is also a symbol of affluence, nobility and auspiciousness, and can be traced back to primitive societies when the adoration of a holy tree was prevalent.

Whilst Money trees may be derived from the Sun tree myth associated with paradise, the coins link paradise with a material bounty in this world.

 I think that I can confidently say that the Crassula argentea was not the tree species the early Chinese coveted.

Many people who practice Feng Shui say that having one of these plants in your home, with their small round leaves like coins, helps to bring money into your life.

In fact a wealthy employer of mine from my youth was so convinced of the power of the money tree that the larger his Crassula ovata plant became, the more wealth he would posses. He therefore forbid anyone from damaging it or removing material for cuttings in case the reduction in the size of his tree would cause a reduction in the size of his fortune.

I of course took several cuttings, two of which are still with me today.

Craasula ovata in flower
If you really want to know what the Jade tree is then it is an evergreen, succulent plant, native to South Africa. In time, it produces thick branches and smooth, rounded, fleshy leaves that grow in opposing pairs along the branches.

The leaves are a rich jade green - hence the common name, although some cultivated varieties may develop a red tinge on the edges of leaves when exposed to high levels of sunlight.

The new stem growth is the same colour and texture as the leaves, but becomes brown and woody with age. Under the right conditions, they may produce small white or pink star-like flowers in early spring. They are a popular house-plant in northern Europe, but can be grown outside in countries that enjoy a more Mediterranean climate. Be aware though that as tough and as rugged as these popular plants look, they are not frost hardy and will need to be brought in under protection if temperatures look to drop past 6 degree Celsius.

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Dinosaur Plants: The Sago Palm
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What is a Jade Plant?
Images care of myself and http://mowryjournal.com/tag/jade-tree/
Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crassula_ovata

THE GIANT HORSETAIL - Equisetum giganteum





Looking more like an emerging, ground dwelling snake than an actual plant, the giant horsetail - Equisetum giganteum, is (despite its looks) a true plant species, and furthermore, a member of the worlds oldest surviving plant family!

The genus Equisetum is now the only living genus of the entire class - Equisetopsida, which has managed to survive on this planet for over one hundred million years! Go back into pre-history, and this genus was far more diverse and dominated the under-story of late Paleozoic forests. In fact, some members of Equisetopsida grew in to large trees which were able to reach an impressive height of up to 30 meters tall.

Equisetum giganteum is native to South and Central America, ranging from central Chile east to Brazil and north to southern Mexico.

In our modern era it is one of the largest horsetail species, growing between 2 and 5 metres tall.

The stems are the stoutest of any horsetail, 1–2 cm diameter (up to 3.5 cm diameter in some populations), and bear numerous whorls of very slender branches.

The giant horsetail prefers wet sandy soils, in full sun to semi-shade. Like bamboo, the stalks arise from rhizomes that are deep underground and almost impossible to dig out. Once established, these deep root systems will travel so it is wise to try to put in place some form of subterranean physical constraint otherwise your garden may become over-run with it.

For more information click onto:
Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'
Dahlia Pests and Diseases
Dahlia 'War of the Roses'
Echiums
How do you Over-Winter Begonia Corms?
How to Grow Crocus from Seed
How to Grow Species Tulips from Seed
How to Grow the Saffron Crocus
How to Over-Winter Dahlia Tubers
How to Over-Winter Rare and Species Tulips
How to Over-Winter the Glory Lily
How to Plant and Grow Daffodils
How to Plant and Grow Dahlias
How to Plant and Grow Hyacinths
How to Plant and Grow Snowdrops
How to Plant and Grow the Glory Lily
How to propagate Daffodils and Narcissus
How to Propagate DahliasHow to Propagate Hyacinths
How to Propagate Snowdrops
How to Propagate the Saffron Crocus
How to Propagate the Snake's Head Fritillary
How to Propagate Tulips
Lilium Nepalense - the Lily of Nepal
Lost Tulips of the Dutch Golden Age- Semper Augustus and Viceroy
Native Plants - The Snake's Head Fritillary
Old, Broken and Unusual Tulip Varieties
Old Dutch Tulips - Tulip 'Absalom'
Old Dutch Tulips - Tulip Duc van Thol 'Rose'
Species Tulip - Tulipa acuminata
Species Tulip - Tulipa Turkestanica
Species Tulip - Tulipa wilsoniana
The Giant Horsetail - Equisetum giganteum
The Glory Lily - Gloriosa rothschiliana
The Saffron Crocus - Crocus sativus
The Snowdrop
Top Tips For Tulip Care
Trachelospermum jasminoides
Tulip Diseases
Tulip History and Popular Varieties
Tulipa 'Rem's Sensation'
Tulip 'Semper Augustus' - does it still exist?
What is a Bulb?
What is a Baobab tree?
Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equisetum_giganteum

PAEONY lactiflora 'Bowl of Beauty'



Native to central and eastern Asia, the habitat for Paeony lactiflora  ranges from eastern Tibet across northern China to eastern Siberia. It is one of 33 species of hardy herbaceous and shrubby perennials, and was first known as the white peony (P. albiflora) when it was first introduced into Europe. When it finally reached the gardens of England during the mid-18th century, its prolific became became an instant for the early cut-flower business.

The true species of Paeony lactiflora is rarely grown now as it has been superseded by hardy garden forms - one of the most eye catching being the sumptuous 'Bowl of Beauty'.

Image care of http://www.rhsplants.co.uk/
'Bowl of Beauty' is an herbaceous perennial that will grow to a height of up to 3 ft tall. It produces mid-green, divided leaves, but more importantly, delicious, cupped, cerise-pink flowers that can grow to an impressive 8 inches wide. Inside of each is a central mass of narrow, creamy-white petaloids.

It performs best when planted into a deep, fertile, humus-rich soil that is moist but well-drained. Avoid planting peonies too deeply though as it can take a few years to settle in before it begins to flower. Sometimes it is best just to have is slightly raised to the new soil level. In my experience, planting this way has away resulted in flowers during the very next season.

To save damage to these delicate flowers, choose a sheltered position in full sun or partial shade. Be aware that the blooms on Paeony lactiflora 'Bowl of Beauty'  are huge and as such can be weighed down which can subsequently damage the stems. Therefore, mature specimens may well need additional support.

Paeony lactiflora 'Bowl of Beauty' has been given the 'Award of Garden Merit' by the Royal Horticultural Society.

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Buy Bat Plant Seed
Dinosaur Plants: The Cycad
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How to Break Dormancy in Seeds
How to Collect and Prepare Hardy Passion Flower Seed for Sowing
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How to Grow Banana Trees from Seed
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How to Grow Foxgloves from Seed - By Terence Baker
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How to Grow Himalayan Blue Poppy - Meconopsis betonicifolia from Seed
How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed
How to Grow Bird of Paradise Plants from Seed
How to Grow Crocus from Seed
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How to Grow Foxgloves
How to Grow Lobelia from Seed?
How to Grow Native Wild Primroses and Polyanthus from Seed
How to Grow an Orange Tree from Seed
How to Grow the Pyrethrum Daisy from Seed
How to Grow Palm Trees from Seed
How to Grow Roses from Seed
How to Grow the Sago Palm from Seed
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How to Grow Sunflowers from Seed
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How to propagate and Grow Eucomis from Leaf Cuttings
How to Propagate and Grow Mistletoe
How to Propagate Box Hedging
How to Propagate Cowslips and Primroses
How to propagate Daffodils and Narcissus
How to Propagate Dahlias
How to Propagate and Grow Mistletoe
How to Propagate Hellebores
How to Propagate Hyacinths
How to Propagate Snowdrops
How to Propagate the Saffron Crocus
How to Propagate Tulips
Paeony lactiflora 'Bowl of Beauty'
The Bat Plant
The Blue Poppy
The Giant Horsetail - Equisetum giganteum
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Image care of

THE MARLBOROUGH ROCK DAISY - Pachystegia insignis



Looking a lot like a dwarf rhododendron, until it flowers of course, the Marlborough Rock Daisy - Pachystegia insignis is a rare and unusual sight in the English garden. And why wouldn't it be? After all, its home is found on the far side of the planet!

Rhododendron yakushimanum species displaying downy indumentum
It turns out the the Marlborough rock daisy is a native to the rocky cliff sides of Kaikoura, a town on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

Frost hardy, and evergreen, the Marlborough rock daisy has striking, dark green  leaves which, when new, are covered in a heavy felting of silvery, white tomentum.

This tomentum is a covering of closely matted, fine hairs which protect the young leaves from drying out in harsh conditions. This naturally sheds as the leaves toughen up with maturity.

From June to August the immature flower heads begin to emerge as felt drumsticks. These bear large white daisy-like flowers

As previously mentioned, Pachystegia insignis naturally occurs on dry, rocky and coastal areas, and this makes it extremely tolerant to both strong winds and salt damage.

However, for it to thrive in the garden you need to able to replicate its natural environment, so provide a fertile soil, in a sunny position with excellent drainage at the roots. Get it right and you will find that this jewel of a plant is trouble free and resistant to pests and diseases.

Get this wrong and your Marlborough rock daisy is likely to suffer from root damage in the form of fungal rots.

Alternatively, plant your Marlborough rock daisy into, preferably, a porous, terracotta pot using a compost mix that has had plenty of horticultural grit or vermiculite added.

How to propagate Pachystegia insignis

Sow seed in containers in a cold frame in the autumn using a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting', but add a few hand full of horticultural grit or vermiculite in order to improve drainage further. Alternatively, semi-ripe cuttings can be taken during the summer.

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Dinosaur Plants: The Sago Palm
Echiums
Geranium pratense 'Johnson's Blue'
How to Break Dormancy in Seeds
How to Collect and Prepare Hardy Passion Flower Seed for Sowing
How to Grow Agave from Seed
How to Grow Aloe vera from Seed
How to Grow Amaryllis from Seed
How to Grow the Angel's Trumpet from Seed
How to Grow Auriculas from Seed
How to Grow Bamboo
How to Grow Banana Trees from Seed
How to Grow Citrus from Seed
How to Grow Eucomis Plants from Seed
How to Grow Foxgloves from Seed - By Terence Baker
How to Grow the Glory Lily (Gloriosa superba) from Seed
How to Grow Hardy Passion Flowers from Seed
How to Grow Himalayan Blue Poppy - Meconopsis betonicifolia from Seed
How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed
How to Grow Bird of Paradise Plants from Seed
How to Grow Crocus from Seed
Growing Geraniums from Seed
How to Grow Dahlias from Seed?
How to Grow Lobelia from Seed?
How to Grow Native Wild Primroses and Polyanthus from Seed
How to Grow an Orange Tree from Seed
How to Grow the Pyrethrum Daisy from Seed
How to Grow Palm Trees from Seed
How to Grow Roses from Seed
How to Grow the Sago Palm from Seed
How to Grow Species Tulips from Seed
How to Grow Sunflowers from Seed
How to Grow Trilliums
How to Plant Bamboo
How to Propagate Bamboo?
How to propagate and Grow Eucomis from Leaf Cuttings
How to Propagate and Grow Mistletoe
How to Propagate Box Hedging
How to Propagate Cowslips and Primroses
How to propagate Daffodils and Narcissus
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What is an Agave?
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Image care of https://es.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Pachystegia_insignis_(Flower).jpg

TACCA CHANTRIERI



The incredible, yet stunning looking Tacca chantrieri is so unusual in its shape and design that it almost looks as though it has come straight out of a science fiction movie, but real it is! So bizarre is it design that some believe that it has eyes that follow you around. It's not surprising then, that it has a selection of common names that reflect its strange appearance -  the bat plant, the black lily, flower devil, and cat whiskers. Interestingly, there is also a history of the Tacca chantrieri flowers being used in magic rituals!

How to grow Tacca chantrieri

Growing wild in the tropical forests of the Yunnan Province, China, this Gothic plant can reach a height of up 36 inches! It grows best in a well-drained, slightly acidic soil and although it appears highly exotic, this beautiful plant is in fact hardy down to -3 degrees Celsius!

Growing bat plants from seed is relatively easy. Sow bat plant seed into plug trays filled with a good quality John Innes ‘Seed’ compost, then give them a light covering of compost or horticultural grit.

Bat plant seedlings
Gently water them in, then seal the tray into a clear polythene bag placing it on the window sill of a warm bright room. Make sure that the tray is out of direct sunlight.

Don’t hold your breath because - depending on light and heat factors - germination can take anywhere between 1 and 9 months! However, this can be significantly reduced by allowing the seed to soak overnight in warm water before sowing.

Once the bat plant seedlings are large enough to handle they will be ready for transplanting into individual pots. Using a good quality ericaceous compost mix, add about 30% horticultural grit or perlite to it for extra drainage.

TIP. During the growing season, these young bat plant seedlings must be watered regularly, and because they thrive in humid conditions, give them an occasional misting.

During the winter, watering will need to be reduced considerably, but do not allow the soil to dry out completely. To maintain the bat plant in its best condition, move it to a mild, sheltered area such as a conservatory, then re-pot into a larger container once new growth begins in the spring.

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Tacca chantrieri
The Bat Plant
The Blue Poppy
The Banana Tree
The Eyeball Plant
The Lemon Tree
The Pineapple
The White Bat Plant - Tacca integrifoilia
The Windflower - Anemone blanda
Trachelospermum jasminoides
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Photo care of http://www.mgonlinestore.com/

DIFFERENT TYPES OF PERLITE AND VERMICULITE IN HORTICULTURE AND HOW TO USE THEM IN YOUR GARDEN



Perlite

What's Perlite? Perlite is  inorganic mineral. Perlite occurs in the form of a siliceous rock, all over the world in mines from Turkey to China to northern Australia. When perlite becomes hot (850⁰-900⁰C) it can expand to 20 times the original volume. This makes it perfect for use as insulation. Perlite is light weight, clean and easy to use. It's also environmental, and offers advantages that will give your plants an advantage and help them grow healthy and strong. Perlite provides great aeration and drainage while still ensuring good water retention. You can use it on the flower bed or on fruit bearing trees in your home garden, and Exfoliators is also used commercially very often. Normally improves the soil structure and the air-holding quality of the soil in your garden, as well as preventing soil compaction.

Vermiculite

Vermiculite can also be really beneficial to your garden bed. Vermiculite is a fireproof mineral substance. Just like perlite, it's often added to potted and growing soil, because it improves aeration. It does this by loosening the soil so that roots reach down and grow through the soil.It also has an enhancing effect on drainage. Because vermiculite won't absorb water, the particle separate small sections of soil as the soil soaks water up. That means that water can flow through the soil and the roots. It's also a really great soil conditioner.

Already a lot of commercial potting mixture is mixed with vermiculite and perlite, so you don't have to add it unless you have read the label and found it absent. Using perlite and vermiculite will make your gardening easier and less labour intensive, because the soil can do the work for you. It will give you an advantage and make all the hard work that you put into your gardening worth its salt ( keep that away from your soil!), because the results will be more free-flowing, more luscious and fertile. Even if it's just a small pot or planter box you're working with, it should still make a big difference to your results. The most enthusiastic home gardeners use vermiculite and perlite, because they know that soil quality is key to producing good garden beds.

POO AND NEPENTHES

Npenthese attenboroughii

Carnivorous plants such as the Venus fly trap are well known for how they receive their nutrition – in fact, the clue is in the name.

However, the word ‘carnivorous’ is a little misleading as the majority of these specialised plants are actually insectivores - meaning that they predominately eat insects.

Of course, no-one should forget the fearsome reputation of the giant pitcher plants from the Borneo Montane rain forests, the largest and perhaps the most impressive of all the carnivorous plants

It turns out that these species of nepenthes are the only group of carnivorous plants that are capable of trapping warm-blooded prey!

But how much truth is there to this blood thirsty reputation? Is it merely a colourful story on behalf of plant explorers looking to make a name for themselves, or is there some factual evidence behind this grizzly tale?

The whole device is so effective that not only can they trap small insects, but also larger prey such as cockroaches, centipedes and scorpions. As mentioned before,

Research has shown us that certain species of the giant varieties of pitcher plant such as Nepenthes rajah, Nepenthes rafflesiana and Nepenthes attenboroughii have a specialised, prey-trapping mechanism which features a deep, bulbous cavity filled with up to 3.5 litres of digestive fluid! These cavities are in fact large enough to catch prey the size of a large rat – but is that really what they are designed for?

Rat in Nepenthes bowl
A research team led by Dr Charles Clarke - an expert on carnivorous plants from Monash University in Malaysia has made a study by on one particular pitcher plant, the Giant Montane pitcher plant of Borneo - Nepenthes rajah.

They have suggested an altogether different food source for this fascinating plant group and in the case of Nepenthes rajah, it looks as though it could it could be animal poo!

Dr. Clarke had this to say on his findings:

"…this species has always been famous for its ability to trap rodents, but I've been looking at the pitchers of this species on and off since 1987, and I've never seen a trapped rat inside. This made me wonder - if it is large enough to trap rats, but it only traps them very rarely, it is likely that the pitchers are large because of some other reason..?"

Nepenthes raja
Dr Clarke and his colleagues soon turned their attention to tree shrews after noticing that they sometimes left faeces in the traps of the larger pitchers.

‘…all of a sudden we realised that there may be some relationship between big pitchers and tree shrews. So we decided to look at the pitcher geometry. What we found totally blew us away. In order for the tree shrews to reach the exudates, they must climb onto the pitchers and orient themselves in such a way that their backsides are located over the pitcher mouths. The tree shrews then appear to defecate as a way of marking their feeding territory. That suggests these supposedly ‘meat-eating’ plants have evolved a mutualistic relationship with tree shrews…’

Dr Clark believes that there is still much to learn about the true habits of carnivorous plants. In fact his team suspects that another highland species, Nepenthes ephippiata, is likely to feed on faeces too, as may the recently discovered Nepenthes attenboroughii.

‘…150 years after the discovery of N. rajah, we finally have an explanation for why the largest carnivorous plant in the world produces such big pitchers. The findings should radically alter how we look at these plants…’

For more information click onto:
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How Does a Pitcher Plant Attract, Catch and Trap Insects
How does a Venus Flytrap Work?
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Why do Carnivorous Plants Eat Insects and Animals?

Images care of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nepenthes_rajah_(8).jpg

VILLA ADRIANA



Villa Adriana at Tibur - now known as Tivoli, is so-called because it is named after Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus - the Emperor of Rome from 117 to 138. 

Built almost 2000 years ago, Hadrian's Villa  was created with the purpose of being Hadrian's retreat from Rome, and in its day was the greatest Roman example of an Alexandrian garden - a recreation of an ancient and sacred landscape. During the later years of his reign, the Emperor Hadrian actually governed the empire from this villa.


Me and Antinous  - probably?
Unfortunately, most of what was here is now largely lost, partly due to the ruins being plundered by the Cardinal d'Este who had much of the marble removed to build his own palace at Villa d'Este.

Although the gardens haven't survived, there was enough evidence in what remained of the original layout to inspire the great renaissance gardens. 

The renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the period roughly from the 14th to the 17th century.

It began in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spread to the rest of Europe.

Built around the same time as his famous wall which separated Roman England from the wild lands of Scotland, Villa Adriana was destined to be his Palace, his Court, and the military headquarters for Rome's vast empire.


The Canopus
The Emperor Hadrian travelled more widely than any other Emperor, and his gardens were directly inspired by ancient Greek and Egyptian architecture and mythology.

After Hadrians death, the villa was used by his various successors. However, during the decline of the Roman Empire the villa fell into disuse and was partially ruined. 

For centuries these ruins at Villa Adriana were ignored, and it wasn't until the beginning of the Renaissance (when people began to take an interest in classical Greek and Roman culture, architecture and literature) that they realised that something special was hidden here.

Gradually, the statues, columns and water features found at Villa Adriana became highly valued both as prized possessions, and examples of high art. 


Me, just before being shouted at for standing on a statue.
Don't worry, it is a reproduction.
Unfortunately, as soon as they became valuable enough, they were often removed/stolen/excavated or sold on the open market or more likely, behind closed doors.


As such, elements of Roman art and archaeology were included in the designs of the new renaissance gardens - the very latest fashion of the wealthy European aristocracy. 

So prized were these Roman antiquities that it wasn't uncommon for privately funded expeditions to be sent out to Italy from across Europe to secure what they could for their wealthy benefactors.

To the renaissance man, the most exciting part of this sprawling site was the gorgeous Canopus. 

The statues that line the huge, colonnaded pool are borrowed designs from the caryatids found in the Parthenon, Athens, and they culminate in a large banqueting hall complete with an impressive, domed opening.

The canopus was important to great renaissance artists and architects, and were visited by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michaelangelo. 

Why? Because they were looking for both inspiration and measurement. 

More specifically, they believed that the architecture here held the secrets to the 'magic' formula that would enable them to create perfect proportions in art and architecture.

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Villa Adriana