CAN I GROW A LEMON TREE OUTSIDE IN THE UK?

Can I grow a lemon tree outside in the UK?

Lemon trees, along with their romantic spirit, are synonymous with the gardens of Versailles, Villa Costello and the Amalfi coast. In fact they can be grown anywhere in northern Mediterranean, albeit with a little help from automatic irrigation and fertilisation. However despite being associated with an area covering most of the old Roman empire, Lemons are actually a native to Asia, primarily to the cooler, more temperate regions of Northeast India (Assam), Northern Myanmar or China. So this then begs the following question, can I grow a lemon tree in the UK?

With the UK capable of growing many plant species collected from southwestern China, growing a lemon tree is perfectly possible assuming you can source the hardiest varieties such as Meyers variety or Eureka, both of which are hardy down to -5°C. Of course winter temperatures will vary across the whole of the UK but if your are bless with living in the warmer southern counties, south-west Ireland, London or Essex there is a good chance that you can grow the hardier varieties outside in the ground all year round with little further maintenance. There is of course no guarantee that a colder snap may fall upon your region but if this happens apply a couple of layers of horticultural fleece around both the trunk and the branch-work.

Over-wintered lemons - Florence

To improve their ability to survive outside there is more that can be done in the preparation. Place your lemon tree in a sheltered site in full sun (a poorly insulated house wall would be perfect) and plant in a free draining soil so as to avoid water logging over the winter. A ground grown lemon tree with have far more root protection than one which is left outside in its container. Prior to planting, add a rich ericaceous mix to the soil to reduce the inevitable chlorosis that lemons always seem to be susceptible to.

Take note that all lemon trees can be grown outside in the UK while overnight temperatures remain above 7°C.  Once temperature drop below this they will need to be brought under protection such as an unheated greenhouse. If your area is prone to temperature dropping to below -5°C then even the hardiest varieties will need to be brought in under protection. If you are planning to grow lemons in the north of England or Scotland then always grow your lemons in container and consider overwintering under heated conditions at around 7°C. If overwintering temperatures regularly go beyond 16°C, the accompanying low light levels with cause weak extending growth as well as increase the risk of greenhouse pests o your plants.

Just remember that even in the Tuscan garden of Villa Costello, all of their lemon trees are container grown and over-wintered inside barns.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GROW A LEMON TREE FROM SEED?



ARE SEA BUCKTHORN BERRIES EDIBLE?

Are sea buckthorn berries edible?

Walk along the main roads of my coastal town in the early autumn and you can't help but notice the huge clusters of bright orange-yellow berries glowing on the sea buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides wind breaks. Similar in effect to the distantly related pyracantha (thorns and all), the berries are largely ignored by the local bird populations. So as pyracantha are eaten by birds, yet can cause mild gastrointestinal problems in humans, does this mean that sea buckthorn berries should also be avoided? Are sea buckthorn berries edible?

Sea buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides

Well it turns out that sea buckthorn berries are not only edible they are so nutritious that they could even be considered a superfood! The only problems are that when eaten fresh from the plant the berries tend to collapse when picked, and the juice within the fruits has a particularly acrid taste - hence its unpopularity with the local wildlife. That being said it is an acquired taste, which once you have moved past the wincing facial expressions, can be particularly cleansing to the palate.

Sea buckthorn berries have a very high vitamin C content, on average exceeding that of citrus fruits. They also contain high levels of vitamin E, flavonoids, carotenoids and phytosterols which help to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. Surprisingly, sea buckthorn berries also include omega-3, omega-6, omega-7 and omega-9 fatty acids.

As mentioned previously, the berries can be eaten fresh from the plant but harvesting is best accomplished by running your fingers along a fruit laden branch squashing the berries into a suitable container. Sieve out any seeds leaves or other impurities before drinking. However if you really can't cope with the raw flavour then you can improve it by heating the juice with sugar to make a syrup.

Sea buckthorn berries can also be used to make a fruity wine, fermented for liquor or processed into jam. In parts of India the berries are used to make Buckthorn tea.

Main image credit - By Kirechko - Self-photographed, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3561519

For related articles click onto the following links:

HOW TO GROW KALANCHOE 'Pink Butterflies'

How to grow Kalanchoe 'Pink Butterflies'

Kalanchoe 'Pink Butterflies' is an absolutely gorgeous hybrid from a selected form of Kalanchoe × houghtonii -  a hybrid of  K. daigremontiana and K. delagoensis named after Arthur Duvernoix Houghton. This selection is both difficult to find as well as being expensive to purchase as the copious plantlets struggle to form roots and have low levels of chlorophyll in the foliage. As suck the majority of plantlets fail to establish. So assuming you have managed to find a specimen, jus how do you grow Kalanchoe 'Pink Butterflies'?

Like both its parents, Kalanchoe 'Pink Butterflies' is surprisingly easy to grow however you just need to be aware of light levels as high intensity light can cause the tips of the leaves to scorch. That being said, on the south coast of England where I am based I have had both  K. daigremontiana and K. delagoensis outside in full sun throughout the growing period and they have suffered no ill effects.

It can be grown in most quality composts but a soil-based example would be best as this will avoid the root-ball shrinking if it gets to dry

Water regularly over the summer but do not allow the compost to become waterlogged. If you live in a region prone to frosts then Kalanchoe 'Pink Butterflies' will need to be brought in under protection once temperature start to dip below 10 degrees Celsius. Once inside provide a brightly lit position but one which does not receive direct sunlight.

Use a liquid soluble fertiliser every 10-14 days and during the winter allow the root-ball to dry out between watering's.

As your specimens increase in size they will need repotting. In fact taller plants in light, plastic pots have been known to topple under their own weight if the root-ball is dry. This can cause a lot of damage to the plant as both the leaves and stems are quite brittle. To avoid this calamity plant into heaver clay or ceramic pots. Just make sure they have adequate drainage beforehand.