How to grow the 'Elephant Ear' Fig - Ficus auriculata


Commonly known as the Roxburgh fig (named after the Scottish botanist and founder of Indian botany, Sir William Roxburgh), Ficus auriculata is a species of fig tree, native to the Himalayas, Nepal, China and Southeast Asia. It is noted for its large round leaves which can grow upto 15 inches long hence its common name of 'Elephant Ear'. 

Ficus auriculata is a perennial evergreen shrub or small, multi-stemmed tree. Although it is classified as an evergreen, it can be deciduous during extended periods of cold temperatures. Leaves are ovate and when emerging being red before turning to green. The edible fruits are pear-shaped and reddish-brown, hanging on peduncles 2.5 cm or longer. The fruits appear on thin branches emerging from the trunk and, perhaps strangely, even from the roots! The fruits are are used to make jams, juices and curries in India. In Vietnam, unripe fruits are also used in salads. Leaves are used as fodder for cattle.

Ficus auriculata fruits
It is a small tree growing to 5–10 m  high with numerous bristle-covered branches. Ficus auriculata is dioecious, with male and female flowers produced on separate plants.

In its natural habitat,  Ficus auriculata is generally found in moist, lowland tropics, and is often seen growing along stream banks. So when growing as a house or garden plant it will require good drainage and considerable watering during the growing season. The optimum growing temperatures range from 16 to 25 degrees Celsius, however it will tolerate a range from 13 to 33 degrees Celsius. Be aware that   temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius may severely damage or kill the plant.This means that it can be grown outside over the summer in the more temperate Northern European countries but will need to be brought in under protection during the cooler months. In Mediterranean climates it can be planted outside permanently in the ground although winter protection may need to be provided once overnight temperatures start to drop below 7 degrees Celsius. 

Be aware that under protected environments Ficus auriculata can be susceptible to scale and may have minor issues with gall, mealy bugs, thrips, whitefly, and spider mite.

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How to propagate passion flowers from cuttings

Passion flowers are among the most exotic of all ornamental climbing plants, yet despite many species and hybrids being relatively hardy there are very few in general cultivation, particularly in the United Kingdom. However, while the range of passion flowers available from most plant retailers is generally limited, if you can find the species or hybrid that you are looking for and get permission from the owner they you can propagate your own passion flowers from cuttings. So, How do you propagate passion flowers from cuttings?

The best results are achieved by either taking softwood cuttings in the spring or semi-ripe cuttings during the summer. As a general rule passion flowers become hollow a certain distance back from the growing tip. These hollow sections are notoriously hard to root and are also prone to fungal rots so unless you are short of propagation material avoid using cuttings with hollow stems. If you have little choice other than to use material with hollow stems then consider blocking the hollow ends with lard or horticultural wax. Passiflora incarnata is a good example of this and have stems which become hollow a short distance behind after the growing tip.

Particular species can experience particular problems. For example Passiflora racemosa cuttings are relatively easy to root but will not produce any further stem growth unless the apical tip is left on the cutting.

How to propagate passion flowers from cuttings
Stem cuttings are at their most viable during the softwood stage which occurs around May. This is recognised when the growth tips break off easily when being bent. Be that as it may you can also receive good results from semi-ripe cutting in July and August. The best time to take cuttings is in the morning and if there has been little recent rain, thoroughly water the mother plant the day before. Using a sharp, sterilized blade take 3 to 5 inch cuttings, making your cut just below the leaf node of the first or second mature leaf from the end shoot. Remove the bottom half to two-third leaves and tendrils. Larger-leaved specimens may need part of the remaining leaves removed to prevent the cutting from drying out before it has a chance to produce roots. If you are not striking the cuttings immediately then place them in a polythene bag containing some damp kitchen roll. Keep the bag in cool, dark conditions until you are ready to work with the cutting material.

For the potting compost either use a sphagnum moss peat-based seed and potting mix or make your own using a 50:50 mix of horticultural sand and fine sphagnum mos peat. Using 3 inch pots, fill with the compost mix and then pre-drill one hole in the centre using a dibber. Dip the ends of the cutting rooting hormone and place it in the hole being careful not to wipe the rooting hormone off the end of the cutting. Gently compress the compost to secure the cutting in place, then lightly water.

Place the pots inside a heated propagator or propagating frame at a temperature of between 16-21 degrees Celsius. Alternatively seal the pots inside a clear polythene bag and place on a warm bright windowsill, but avoid direct sunlight. Don't let the cuttings get to wet inside their respective protection so provide adequate ventilation to allow the foliage to dry off each day.

You can expect new foliage to be produced within 3-4 weeks, but avoid tugging on the cuttings to check if rooting has occurred as this can easily damage the new root system. Instead check the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot to see if any root growth can be seen. Once the root system has established in the pot the cuttings can be potted on into 4-5 inch pots using John Innes 'No2' compost. If you are propagating plants from Tacsonia subgenus of Passiflora then use an ericaceous compost instead as they prefer alkaline to slightly acidic conditions.

Overwinter hardy species and hybrids under the protection of a cold greenhouse in their first year. Then harden off before planting outside into their final position once the threat of late frosts have passed.

HOW TO GROW HIPPOPHAE SALICIFOLIA - Willow-leaved sea buckthorn

How to grow Hippophae salicifolia

Native to the Himalayas, Hippophae salicifolia is a rare species of sea buckthorn found growing in the high altitudes of dry valleys. Introduced to European gardens in 1822, it was first described by the Scottish botanist, David Don 1799 – 1841.

While visibly similar to the common sea buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides, it is a taller species growing to approximately 15 metres tall, with less spiny pendulous branches. Hippophae salicifolia also displays broader and less silvery foliage, but the most obvious difference are its yellow berries. It will in flower in April, and if pollinated the fruits will appear from September to October. Hippophae salicifolia is dioecious, meaning that both male and female plants must be grown to produce berries.

How to grow Hippophae salicifolia
A wild variant also exists which occurs in the same restricted area of the Himalayas. However this form is found at even higher altitudes in the alpine zone, and rarely seen growing beyond 1 metre in height. The leaves are also much smaller reaching a length of between 1–3 centimetres.

Hippophae salicifolia will require a position of full sun as it will noticeably struggle in even partial shad.  However it is suitable for a range of soils, including those which are nutritionally as the roots are able to fix nitrogen. It will tolerates strong winds but unlike Hippophae rhamnoides it is not tolerant to a maritime exposure.

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HOW TO GROW SEA BUCKTHORN - Hippophae rhamnoides

How to grow Sea Buckthorn

The common sea buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides is one of just seven species within the genus and is by far the most widespread. Native to the fixed dunes and sea cliffs of the United Kingdom, Europe and temperate Asia it is a hardy, spiny, deciduous shrub chiefly grown for its ornamental berries.

Sea Buckthorn berries and juice
It is a tall, bushy species growing to approximately 3-4 metres tall, however under favorable conditions it can morph into a small tree reaching a height of up to 10 metres. The brown scaled branches are clothed with sharp spines and linear, silvery leaves. Inconspicuous flowers are borne in April on male and female plants. When grown close enough together for effective pollination, the female plants will produce thick clusters of bright orange-yellow edible berries which can remain on the plants from September right through to December. While the berries are indeed edible they have an intensely acrid juice which are usually avoided by most birds. Be that as it may, it is said that pheasants are somewhat partial to them.

The common sea buckthorn will happily grow in any well-drained, ordinary garden soil, however it is particularly suitable for coastal positions where few plants can cope with the salt spray brought on the wound or a certain amount of salt contamination present in the soil. They thrive in sandy areas by the sea and make suitable windbreaks when planted close together in exposed regions. Plant in a sunny or partially shaded position from October to February.

When growing as a hedge, one male plant will easily pollinate six female plants. Set the young plants 18-24 inches apart, but this can be extended to one plant every 4-5 ft apart when growing or windbreaks. After planting, remove the upper third of all shoots to promote bushy growth.

The common sea buckthorn received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1944, and then the Award of Garden Merit in 1984.

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How to grow Amelanchier canadensis?

Commonly known as the Canadian serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis is a medium sized suckering shrub or small tree with tall erect stems, oblong leaves and erect or curved racemes. Native to Canada from Newfoundland to southern Ontario, and in the United States from Maine to Alabama it is a deciduous species grown as both a medicinal plant as well as for its ornamental value.

Be aware that Amelanchier canadensis is often confused with Amelanchier lamarckii, however Amelanchier lamarckii has a more spreading habit and the potential to become a small tree, not just a large shrub. Alo the racemes of Amelanchier lamarckii tend to be more pendulous.

Amelanchier autumn colour
Growing up to 3-4 metres high with a similar sized spread, the mid-green leaves are woolly on both sides, sharply-toothed and produce soft red or yellow over the autumn before leaf-drop. A profusion of pure-white, star-shaped blooms appear in April which are followed by round, black, edible sweet-tasting berries which ripen in June. So if you fancy growing one of these gorgeous trees in your garden, just how do you grow Amelanchier canadensis 

Plant Amelanchier canadensis from November to early March in a sunny or partially shaded position. In its native habitat it is largely restricted to wet sites, and as you would expect will perform well in any decent garden soil that remains moist throughout the growing season. That being said it will always do better in a lime-free or slightly acidic soil.

Amelanchier canadensis received its Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1938.

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What does Pomelo taste like?

Derived from Dutch word pompelmoes, the Pomelo is bit of a stranger to the UK supermarket but that doesn't mean you won't come across one from time to time. However if you do find one in front of you in the fresh produce aisles it will catch your eye. Its botanical name, Citrus maxima, explains why as it means 'biggest citrus', so it is no surprise that the Pomelo is the largest citrus fruit from the family Rutaceae and will positively dwarf all other citrus offerings. The fruit is approximately 15–25 cm in diameter, usually weighing 1–2 kg . It has a thicker rind than a grapefruit, to which unsurprisingly the Pomelo is the principal ancestor of and is divided into 11 to 18 segments. 

What does Pomelo taste like?

Nutritionally raw pomelo flesh is comprised of 89% water, 10% carbohydrates, 1% protein. It is rich in Vitamin C with a 100 gram portion providing 73% of your daily requirement as well as 38 kilocalories.

So what does a Pomelo taste like? The juice is regarded as delicious while the flesh tastes like a mild grapefruit, with little of its common bitterness. However the enveloping membranes around the segments are chewy, bitter and generally considered inedible, and unpalatable. The rind can be candied or used to make preserves. or may be candied.

Main image credit - By Ivar Leidus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Intext image - By Ivar Leidus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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