HOW TO GROW MALUS 'RED SENTINEL'


How to grow Malus 'Red Sentinel'


Malus robusta 'Red Sentinel' is a hardy deciduous ornamental tree, valued for its attractive flowers and fruits. Growing to approximately 3-5 metres high and with a spread of 2.5-4 metres it has slightly arching branches with ovate, mid-green leaves. The single, white 2.5 cm wide blooms are produced in mid-May. Although attractive in its own right as a garden plant, Malus 'Red Sentinel' is also used as a pollinizer in commercial apple orchards. It is an excellent choice for exposed sites and being pollution tolerant makes it particularly suitable for urban areas.

The most notable feature of Malus 'Red Sentinel' are its large crops of glossy, bright scarlet apple-like fruits which can persist on the tree until March. They being as yellow fruits blushed with red however this deepens as the year goes on turning to a dark glossy scarlet by the winter.These fruits are edible but also extremely sour.

Although tolerant of exposed conditions they will perform far better in a sheltered, sunny position. They can be planted in any fertile, well drained soil, but prior to planting, dig in plenty of well-rotted farm manure or garden compost into the soil. They will require the support of a sturdy the stake for the first few year but avoid damaging the root ball.

 'Red Sentinel' gained The Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Merit in 1959 and the Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

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HOW TO GROW AMELANCHIER OVALIS 'Edelweiss'

Amelanchier ovalis 'Edelweiss'

Amelanchier ovalis is one of the slower growing species within the genus but is notable as an ornamental garden plant for its gorgeous blooms, in particular the 'Edelweiss' cultivar. Native to Central and Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia Amelanchier ovalis was introduced to European gardens in 1596 and has since become one of the most popular of all available Amelanchier forms.

Amelanchier autumn colour

Under favourable conditions you can expect Amelanchier ovalis 'Edelweiss' to grow between 3-4 metres height. It has an upright habit with ovate leaves. The leaves emerge dark green in colour but are white and woolly underneath which gives them an overall silvery effect. As the leaves mature the woolly growth disappears. Come the autumn the leaves will often provide a good show of colour turning to shades of orange, red and yellow before leaf drop.

The large white flowers appear in April in clusters of 6 inch long panicles. Once pollinated small, red edible fruits will form from mid to late summer turning black as they ripen.

Amelanchier ovalis 'Edelweiss' can be grown in either full sun or light, dappled shade. It will perform well in any well drained, fertile soil and will even tolerate chalky soils. However, it will perform best in a moist, acidic or neutral soil.

In exposed areas support newly planted trees with a  stake to prevent wind rock. Amelanchier do not like to be in soils which are prone to drying out, so for the first year or two water during periods of drought. 

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HOW TO GROW HEDERA COLCHICA 'Sulphur Heart'

How to Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart'


There are a number of excellent, large-leaved ornamental ivy's available for garden use, but Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart' is arguably one of the best. In fact it is my cultivar of choice of all hedera species and cultivars. The original species is native to the Near and Middle East, hence its common name of 'Persian Ivy'. However the 'Sulphur Heart' cultivar has several other pseudonyms (including 'Gold Leaf and 'Paddy's Pride') which can be a little misleading when purchasing stock.

It is a woody, evergreen climbing shrub, with large ovate leaves 20 cm in length which are marked by an irregular central splash of yellow, merging into pale-green and finally deep-green. In the spring the young growth is covered in a yellow down.

Insignificant yellow-green flowers appear from October to November, which are usually followed by clusters of small, black berries.

Hardier than the similarly ornamental Hedera canariensis 'Gloire de Marengo, Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart' is a vigorous, self-clinging plant that can be expected to an overall height of between 4-8 metres, and an approximate spread of 2.5-4 metres depending on conditions. It attaches itself to suitable surfaces by means of aerial rootlets with matted pads. It is both tough and adaptable, able to grow in a in a range of conditions. It will perform best in moist, well-drained or alkaline soils rich in nutrients and humus. When planting into their final position try and keep the roots in cool shade and with the main body of the plant in full sun.

Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart' has received two awards from the Royal Horticultural Society.

The Award of Merit after trials (AMT) in 1979
The Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1984

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HOW TO GROW THE BURMESE BLUE BANANA 'Musa itinerans' FROM SEED

How to grow the Burmese blue banana from seed

Growing any banana plants from seed can be a little tricky if you are hoping to do so out of their native environment. However if you live somewhere with a more temperate climate (such as anywhere in Northern Europe), it is still possible if you get your timing right. The best way of course is to use an insulated heated propagator which makes germinating banana seeds an absolute breeze, but I will get to that later.

Musa itinerans seeds
If like many gardeners all you have is a greenhouse then it will be about timing. You will need to wait for over night temperatures of between 16-24 degrees Celsius, while maintaining day-time greenhouse temperatures of around 30-32 degrees Celsius. Automatic vents will probably be required to prevent accidentally cooking seeds and germinating seedlings. Anything over 40 degrees and you can expect plant death.

Before you commence soak your Burmese blue banana seeds seeds for a day or two in lukewarm water. An airing cupboard would be ideal for this. Next, using a large modular seed tray fill with a good quality, free draining seed compost. Sow the seeds on the compost at a rate of 1 seed per module 5 mm - 10 mm deep. Gently compress the soil surface then gently water in. Place in your greenhouse and keep the compost moist, perhaps cover the tray with a sheet of horticultural glass or clear perspex if the modular tray doesn't already come this a clear lid.

Burmese blue banana fruits

If you have produced your own insulated heated propagator then you can germinate your seeds indoors at any time of year assuming the overnight temperatures don't dip below 16 Degrees Celsius. You can make you own quite easily with a polystyrene box (these are often given away at local aquatic shops) a heat mat, a thermostat and a timer. See link below for more details.

Banana seeds will germinate irregularly, but your seedlings should begin to emerge after about three weeks and then can carry on for a further 2-3 months. Once the roots have established in their modules they can be carefully lifted and potted on into a larger sized pots. If you are planning on growing your Burmese Blue bananas outside then they will need to be hardened off for 10 days before being placed in their final position.

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HOW DO YOU GROW MUSA ITINERANS 'Burmese Blue'?

How to grow Musa itinerans

Amongst banana growing aficionados, Musa Itinerans is a species that doesn't normally have its name bandied about in general conversation. However that should really change. Why? Well for two reasons, the first is that once established its hardiness is comparable to the bullet-proof Musa basjoo, and B because of the absolutely gorgeous colour of its juvenile fruits. 

Commonly known as the Burmese blue banana, its native habitat actually stretches from China to the assam region of India, including; Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. Its cold hardy prowess comes from its ecological niche of high altitude forests between 200 and up to 1800 meters above sea level. Known as an important staple for wild Asian elephants Musa itinerans is increasingly under threat due to its jungle habitat being cleared for commercial agriculture.

Musa itinerans 'Burmese Blue' fruits

Under favourable conditions the pseudo stems of Musa itinerans can reach a height of approximately 6 metres once mature with mid-green, paddle shaped leaves of approximately 2 metres long. Despite its tropical looks it is the small, purple blue bananas which are the real show stopper with this plant. t occasionally produces suckers 1-2 metres away from the parent plant unlike the typical tight cluster of suckers near to the base of the pseudo stem lie many other species.

So how do you grow Musa Itinerans? If planting outside choose a sheltered position in full sun in a moist free draining soil. Consider adding a humus rich and/or ericaceous compost to the ground before planting to help mimic the acidic conditions of its native woodland habitat. A handful or two of fish blood and bone (or something similar) wouldn't go amiss either. Just make sure it is well forked in before planting otherwise you can 'burn' the roots with a high concentration of fertiliser. water in well and then regularly during its first year, then only during periods of drough thereafter.

Musa itinerans is known for its frost hardiness but there is little anecdotal evidence on how it performs during a British winter. In the southern coastlines of the UK it will require little more than a dry mulch around the roots, the leaves removed back to the pseudostem and a wrapping of a couple of layers of horticultural fleece. Venture further north than Waltham forest and you may wish to consider growing your Musa as a container plant and bringing it under protection for the winter.Temperatures over 8 degrees Celsius should be suffice, just don't allow the compost to fully dry out.

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CAN YOU GROW MANDARIN ORANGE FROM SEED?

Can you grow a mandarin orange from seed?

LOOKING FOR MANDARIN ORANGE OR OTHER RARE AND UNUSUAL SEEDS? THEN CKICK HERE FORTHE 'SEEDS OF EADEN' SEED SHOP

Mandarin oranges are a seasonal, easy to peel, sweet tasting fruit usually eaten plain or in fruit salads. However, if while spitting out seeds you have thought to yourself....

'Could I grow a mandarin orange from seed?'

..well the answer would be a resounding yes!

Like most citrus fruits, mandarin orange seeds are relatively easy to both germinate and then cultivate. To begin, collect your Mandarin orange seeds and then wash of any fruit residue under tepid water as the residue will contain natural germination inhibitors. If you are using dried seed then allow to soak, again in tepid water for 12-24 hours.

Mandarin orange seeds
Using 9cm pots filled with a good quality seed mix such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting' plant one seed per pot just below the surface. If it is available then an Ericaceous seed mix would be preferable, but it is not essential. Water in gently and then keep the soil moist during the germination period. Germination times will vary but however the warmer the compost the quicker the germination period. If you have a heated propagator available then set the temperature to approximately 25 degree Celsius. At this temperature you can expect germination to occur within 3-4 weeks. If a heated propagator is not available then position on a warm bright windowsill and place a clear cover over the pots such as a sheet of perspex or a cut-in-half plastic bottle. germination time will be longer under these conditions.

Once the first leave begin to show through the compost remove any covering and reduce watering allowing the soil surface to dry out before watering again. Avoid the compost becoming waterlogged as this can cause damage to the young roots.

When the root system has become established you young seedling will be ready to pot on to a larger pot using either a good quality, soil-based multi-purpose or ericaceous compost. If you live in a Mediterranean or sub-tropical climate then you will be able to harden off your mandarin orange plants for growing outside permanently. In cooler, northern European climates you will be able to harden off your plant for outside conditions once overnight temperature remain above 12 degrees Celsius. However they will need to be bought back in under protection once night time temperature start to drop below 10 degrees Celsius.

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HOW TO GROW GIANT BAMBOO FROM SEED?

How to grow giant bamboo from seed?

LOOKING FOR GIANT BAMBOO SEEDS? THE CLICK THIS LINK FOR THE 'SEEDS OF EADEN' SEED STORE

There are a number of species and even genera associated with the 'Giant bamboo' common name although it is usually the impressive Bambusa arundinacea or Dendrocalamus giganteus which are mostly regularly cited. So, how do you grow giant bamboo from seed?

Once you have obtained your giant bamboo seeds they will need to be pre-soaked for approximately 24 hours in lukewarm water, somewhere about 86 F - 30 C. To maintain this temperature in cooler climates place the seeds in an airing cupboard or other such permanently warm position.

Giant bamboo seeds
For sowing use  a modular seed tray filled with a good quality seed compost or Jiffy 7 Peat Pellets. When using modular seed trays place one seed per module and press to just below the surface. Water in well then place in a heated propagator at approximately 30-35 degrees Celsius with the vents closed. If you have a timer on the thermostat then provide a slightly lower night temperature of 25-30 C.

When using Jiffy 7 pellets, soak them in water first before placing them into in a plastic pot. Sow the seeds on the peat pellets and cover the seeds with a thin layer of peat (about 2 mm). In warmer countries you can put the plastic pot in a zip-lock bag then fill the zip-lock bag with enough water (along with a few drops of water soluble general fertilizer), so that the compost is fully soaked a few mm of water remaining at the bottom of the bag on the bottom. The zip-lock bag can be sealed and no further maintenance will be required until germination. In cooler countries place the pot in a heated propagator set at the above temperatures.

The germination time for bamboo seeds, depending on the species, will be between 10 and 40 days. Once germinated provide adequate ventilation and pot on once the root system has established in is existing container.

In text image credit - Simon Eade

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WHY ARE MY HOUSEPLANTS DYING?

Why are my houseplants dying?

Having worked in the garden centre industry for may years the most often asked question I would receive is this - 'Why has my house plant died?' The second most asked question, if your are interested, was 'do you have a plant that is evergreen, will flower all year round, will quickly grow to 4 ft and then stop at that height?' They would of course be directed to the artificial plant section as such a plant does not exist. Anyway, back to the question as to why are my house plants dying. Usually the reason is the same in 80% of cases, and if the plant has died with a few weeks of purchase then it tends to reach 95%. That reason is too much water, and it is particularly prevalent during the winter and early spring period when most house plants are dormant.

I understand why it happens, people often cherish their house plants like their children. Children require feeding and watering every day and so without instruction the inexperienced house plant enthusiast will treat their prized specimens the same way. This is fine if you are growing tropical marginal house plants such as papyrus or the umbrella palm, but certainly not for all other plants that have not evolved to grow in waterlogged conditions.

Waterlogged houseplants sitting in water
I will explain. The tiny root hairs that grow from the tertiary or lateral roots are just a specialised, single plant cell. And like all plant cells will require oxygen for respiration in order to survive. Plant composts are formulated to have good drainage so as to maintain tiny air pockets within its structure in order to promote a healthy root environment. If the compost is full of water then there are very few air pockets and over time the root hair will die, preventing the plant from taking up live-sustaining water and nutrients. Unable to take up water the plant will begin to wilt, at which point inexperienced house plant owners will water more beginning a never-ending downward cycle of death. As a general rule (and there are exceptions like Saintpaulias)  if you pick up a houseplant and water drips out of the base then it is probably over watered. If you have a thin crust of grey slats on the surface of the compost then you are over watering. If you do not allow the top inch or so of compost to dry out before watering then you are probably over waterings. Be aware that plants will require more water during the growing season (late spring to early autumn) and far less during their dormant period. As a rough guide, water weekly during the growing period and monthly outside of the growing period.

The other reasons which can caused plant death are as follows:

1.Too hot! Do not site your houseplants next to a heat source such as a radiator.

2. Too cold. Tropical plants have no resistance to frosts.

3. Fungal infections. These tend to be secondary infections due to the plant being in a poor conditions, such as being over-watered!

4. Insect infestation - keep your eyes peeled.

5. Too drafty. Cold or hot draughts can shock a plant to drop it leaves. 

6. Neglect, as in not watering enough.

Just one more thing. Never over-water cacti or succulents as they just cannot cope with this. Equally, cacti and succulents do not live in the desert and will require some water to never watering them will also kill them. You need to work out a happy medium. Again, go back to the water weekly during the growing period and monthly outside of the growing period, but about a quarter of what you would give a regular plant.

In text image credit - By Qumarchi - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=108987691

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HOW DO YOU START A 'MOTHER OF THOUSANDS' BABY?

How do you start a 'Mother of Thousands' baby?
LOOKING FOR MOTHER OF MILLIONS AND THOUSANDS PUPS? THEN CLICK HERE TO FIND THE SPECIES AVAILABLE AT THE 'SEEDS OF EADEN' SEED SHOP 

The 'Mother of Thousands' ornamental plant, as well as  the 'Mother of Millions', are amongst several species within the Bryophyllum (previously known as Kalanchoe) genus known for their ability to produce baby plants known as 'Pups' along the edge of their leaves. Although not unique, it is because of the Bryophyllum's unusual ornamental quality that many gardeners are tempted to try and propagate these pups in order to produce new plants. So how do you start a 'Mother of Thousands' baby?

Mother of Thousands pups growing on soil surface
You will be pleased to know that it is surprising simple, in fact just allowing a pup to land on some damp compost is enough for one to take root and establish itself as a mature specimen, however this can take several weeks. This process can easily be sped up with a few appropriate horticultural techniques.

To begin which (and to make things easy for yourself), choose as large a pup as possible, preferably with some roots already produced. These large rooting pups usually appear after the parent pant has flowered. Next prepare a 9cm pot, teracota is best but plastic is fine, and fill to 2 cm of the brim with a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seeds and Cutting', or a proprietary cactus compost. That being said they will still root in a standard multipurpose compost of even the dirt found between cracks in the pavement!

While you can just lay the plantlet on the soil surface, it will root quicker if you can place the roots plate in the soil, the secure it on the sides with a small amount of compost. If you have some root on your pup then using a dibber or a pencil create a hole in the soil so that the root can be dropped in without being damaged. Once again, carefully push the soil back against the back of the pup avoiding both the root or roots, or pup. Being extremely careful so as not to dislodge the pup from the soil water in. You may wish to do this with a mister bottle to be on the safe side. Now remember that 'Mother of Thousands' are succulents and as such are drought tolerant. This means that they can be prone to damage from over-watering, especially from late autumn to early spring. Avoid water-logging the compost and re-water one the top centimetre of so is dry.

Once your 'Mother of Thousands' baby has become established in its pot it can be potted on onto one which is larger. Your 'Mother of Thousands' will begin producing its own babies once it has matured.

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HOW FAST DOES THE WOLLEMI PINE GROW?

How fast does the Wollemi pine grow?

LOOKING FOR RARE AND UNUSUAL SEEDS? THEN CLICK HERE FOR THE 'SEEDS OF EADEN' SEED SHOP

Believe to have been extinct for approximately 200 million years and previously only known from the fossil record, the Wollemi pine -Wollemia nobilis, was re-discovered 1994 when around 100 specimens were found by accident in a gorge in the Wollemi nation park, Australia. Despite the name, the Wollemi pine is not a true pine, nor a member of the pine family - Pinaceae, but is in fact related to Agathis and Araucaria in the family Araucariaceae - many of whose species are also known as 'pines'. So back to the question of how fast does the Wollemi pine grow?

Well of course this will depend on your Wollemi pine being provided favourable growing conditions, otherwise growth rate will become either insignificant or even attritional! Luckily, Wollemi pines are tough and adaptable, and will grow best in a well-drained, acidic to neutral soil. Do not plant in areas prone to waterlogging as the Wollemi pine is susceptible to the water mould Phytophthora cinnamomi  . Choose a well-lit location but preferably not exposed to the full sun in mid-summer. You may need to water during period of drought.

Assuming all things are equal, young specimen plants up to 18 months old can grow approximately 50 cm a year with the capability of reaching an overall height of 20m in its lifetime. Mature specimens can grow around a metre a year in nutritious soil so make sure that wherever you are planting it just make sure that the site can accommodate such a large plant. Depending on how you get on with thm, it may be worth thinking of the neighbours in case the tree ends up blocking all of their light! Of course if your Wollemi pine is not fertilized or kept in low light conditions, it will grow more slowly.

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SHOULD YOU PLANT ARUNDO DONAX?

Should you plant Arundo donax

LOOKING FOR RARE AND UNUSUAL SEEDS? THEN CHECK OUT THE 'SEEDS OF EADEN' SEED SHOP

Arundo donax, otherwise known as the Spanish cane or reed amongst others, is a tall growing cane species native to the middle east. That being said it has successfully naturalised in the mild temperate, subtropical and tropical regions of both hemispheres, especially in the Mediterranean, California, the western Pacific and the Caribbean. It will happily grow in most fresh and saline damp soils including the milder regions of northern european countries such as the UK. However as exotic as it looks should you plant Arundo donax?

Arundo donax var. versicolor
If you have ventured around the sunnier lands of the Mediterranean then you may well be familiar with large stretches of Arundo donax growing along roadsides and railway lines, so clearly once it has taken hold in a favourable environment Arundo donax has the capacity to run wild and untamed. With an average mature height of 6 meters, which can extend further to an incredible 10 meters under favourable conditions, Arundo donax has the capacity to become a massive problem if planted in areas where it cannot be properly managed. Furthermore, Arundo donax reproduces tough, fibrous underground rhizomes that form knotty, spreading mats which penetrate deep into the soil, up to 1 metre deep. Just one piece of stem and rhizome less than 5 cm long and containing a single node can readily sprout under a variety of conditions producing a viable specimen with a few weeks. In fact it is among the fastest-growing terrestrial plants in the world at nearly 10 centimetres day and soil temperatures only need to be above 7 degrees celsius for Arundo donax to enter active growth.

So at face value and if considered as a suitable ornamental plant for the garden, the evidence would suggest that you should avoid this plant - unless you hate both your neighbours and your own garden. However if you have a passion for its exotic looks and architectural effect then all is not lost as there are selected cultivars which you may wish to consider such as the epic Arundo donax var. versicolor.

Of course all plants are subjective and while I don't find Arundo donax particularly inspiring Arundo donax var. versicolor is an absolute diamond of a garden plant! It sports incredibly bold white and green striped foliage, and mature specimens are simply magnificent when in full growth. Arundo donax var. versicolor will not get anywhere near as tall as its natural species with a height of 2.5-3 metres and while it will readily clump form and propagate from devision it will not run wild. 

So to answer my own question, should you plant Arundo donax. Well no, but if you are considering Arundo donax var. versicolor then the answer is a resounding yes.

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HOW TO GROW A DATE PALM FROM SEED?

How do you grow a date palm from seed?

LOOKING FOR DATE OR ANY OTHER RARE AND UNUSUAL SEEDS? THEN CLICK HERE FOR THE 'SEEDS OF EADEN' SEED SHOP

Most of us will be familiar with edible dates - Phoenix dactylifera, usually available as a delicious treat during the festive holidays - or least it is in my family. Fossil records show that the date palm has existed for at least 50 million years but because it has been in human cultivation further back than human history can record (there is archaeological evidence of date cultivation going back to around 7000 BCE) the place of origin of date palms is uncertain. That being said scholars believe that it probably originated from the Fertile Crescent region straddling Egypt and Mesopotamia. Of course other scholars believe that that they are native to the Persian Gulf area or even western India. So in common with many of our ancient ancestors, just how do you grow a date palm from seed?

Dates -  - Phoenix dactylifera
To begin with you will need to obtain some date seeds which luckily for us modern humans it is relatively simple. All you need to do is make your way to your nearest supermarket and purchase some dates. First you must remove the tasty flesh to expose the seed. Then clean the seeds under tepid water to remove any remaining flest, you may need to use a sponge to help you here.

Now place the seeds in tepid water and leave in a warm position for 48 hours, change the water for fresh half way through. After 48 hours the seeds can be removed from the water. For this next stage take two sheets of a good quality paper towel, place them one on top of the other and then fully dampen them. Next place your seeds equally spaced around the paper town the place another two wet sheets on top. Carefully and loosely fold up the paper towel back on itself a couple of times, making sure that the seeds remain in their original spacing,  then place it inside a zip-lock plastic baggie. 

Place the baggies in a dark position either in a heated propagator set at a temperature of around 21-24 degrees Celsius or somewhere that remains at a reasonably warm temperature. The seeds will need to remain like this for around 6-8 weeks and being checked ever two weeks or so for signs of fungal infection or preferably root emergence. 

Once the seeds have germinated, and the first leaf appears carefully remove them from their 'mummification' so as not to damage the roots and pot them on at a rate of on seedling per 9-11cm pot containing a good quality seed compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. Don't worry if you have left some paper towel on the seed, it it better to do this than damage any parts of the seedlings by removing it. Water the compost thoroughly then position your seedling in a warm bright position such as a south facing windowsill or, if all risk of frosts have passed, a greenhouse or cold-frame. Water again once the top couple of inches of compost appears dry.

As soon as the plant becomes established in its pot it can be repotted although this time use a compost with a higher level of fertiliser in it such as John Innes 2 or 3. In time and assuming you have a favourable climate, you can harden off your date palm and plant it outside in its permanent position.

Main image credit - By Sergei Frolov - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79496793

In text image credit - By M. Dhifallah - M. Dhifallah, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5008481

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DOES THE BUDDHA'S HAND CITRUS HAVE SEEDS?

Does the buddha's hand citrus have seeds?

LOOKING FOR BUDDHA'S HAND OR OTHER RARE AND UNUSUAL SEEDS? THEN CLICK HERE FOR THE 'SEEDS OF EADEN' SEED SHOP

I get ths question a lot, although so far it is exclusively asked by American gardeners. And it's a great question too as the 'mechanics' required to answer it go back to 1865 when Gregor Mendel published his fundamental laws of inheritance. Lets start with some science.

These laws are as follows:

1) The Law of Segregation: Each inherited trait is defined by a gene pair. Parental genes are randomly separated to the sex cells so that sex cells contain only one gene of the pair. Offspring therefore inherit one genetic allele from each parent when sex cells unite in fertilization.

2) The Law of Independent Assortment: Genes for different traits are sorted separately from one another so that the inheritance of one trait is not dependent on the inheritance of another.

3) The Law of Dominance: An organism with alternate forms of a gene will express the form that is dominant.

That is the science part over and now I will attempt to explain this in simple English.

Botanical illustration - Citrus Buddha's hand
To begin with, the unusual fruit shapes of Buddha's Hand citrus are the result of a naturally occurring plant mutation. In horticulture this is known as sport, break, or chimera, and with plants species these naturally occurring genetic mutations can change the appearance of the foliage, flowers, fruit or stems. You night be surprised to know that there are many instances of this in nature and is in fact surprisingly common. So much so that these natural sports include the majority ornamental plants found in your local garden centre! So in the instance of the Buddha's Hand citrus this variation in the genetic code has resulted in the thickness and over extension of the fruits rind to give the Buddha's Hand effect. So Citrus medica and the cultivated varieties of Citrus medica 'Buddha's Hand' are the same species and not different species although they clearly have different characteristics. This is also exactly the same situation with cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, collard greens, and kohlrabi. All of these vegetables are, in fact, the same species - Brassica oleracea. They clearly look different due to generations of selection by gardeners but they are all man-made cultivated varieties (or cultivars) of the same species. To be specific, a cultivar is a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding. It is not a new or different species.

So back to whether the Buddha's Hand citrus has seeds. In countries such as the USA it is often and incorrectly considered as one variety, and that this variety does not produce seeds. However in China (for example) there are actually at least a dozen named Buddha's Hand varieties or sub-varieties currently under cultivation. All differing in fruit shape, colour and size, and the tree's growing habit, etc. yet all under the umbrella of  Buddha's Hand. As something of a botanical anomaly, they tend to not produce as much seeds as the species Citrus medical but this will vary dramatically from each specific variety (with a few cultivars producing a large number of seeds) but to say none of them would produce any seed at all would be quite incorrect. So while it is true to say that Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis generally rarely produce seeds (there will always be a seed produced periodically because, as Dr. Ian Malcolm said, life will find away - even triploid cultivars like Apple 'Brambly' will produce the odd seed when theoretically they shouldn't) it is equally true that the variety “Muli” or “Xiangyanggo” does produce seeds. A quick glance at the Wikipedia page for Buddha's Hand will corroborate this for you. 

Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis
The thing to remember is that the traditional Buddha's Hand is genetically and unavoidably Citrus medica and the wide range of varieties that you can find today would have, of course, originally been grown from seed. It is just that the genes for the production of fingered fruit are not dominant otherwise this unusual fruit shape would be constantly showing up in seedlings. Furthermore seeds produced from cross-pollinating different cultivars displaying Buddha's Hand characteristics will be governed by Mendelian theory fundamental laws of inheritance. This means that there will be an increased chance of germinating a seed from parent plants with the anomalous characteristics of the fingered fruits but as the genes for this are not dominant you will always have a larger chance of regular Citrus medica fruits.This makes it a numbers game. The more Citrus medica seeds you sow the more likely it is that you will produce a Buddha's hand fruit producing plant. However there is a greater chance of producing a Buddha's hand fruit producing plant using parent plants which produce Buddha's hand fruits although mendelian theory predicts that the majority of plants will show the characteristics of Citrus medica species. 

The only way to produce new Buddha's hand varieties is through seed propagation, cultivation and selection over numerous generations either starting with species Citrus medica or selected cultivars of Citrus medica. This is unavoidable as it is directly linked to the 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' proverb. In fact there is also a history of cross species fertilisation of Buddha's hand with other citrus species such as the various lemon and orange cultivars to create something new with more reliable seed production. However modern supermarket citrus varieties have such a long history of hybridizing with other citrus species that it will be impossible to produce any standard progeny.

There is of course only one way to ensure that the genetic code for your prefered Buddha's hand cultivar is transferred from plant to plant and it is to not to propagate using seed. To ensure this you can only propagate vegetatively using cutting, grafting and micro-propagation techniques.

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HOW TO GROW ARUNDO DONAX var. Versicolor

How to grow Arundo donax var. versicolor

Commonly known as the Spanish Reed or Spanish Cane, Arundo donax var. versicolor is an absolutely striking selected form than is a must for any cold hardy tropical effect garden design. And why not, as unlike the true species it don't ramage across the entire garden unchecked and  will attain a reasonable height in the harden without the risk of hiding your home. For those who wish to know, Arundo donax var. versicolor will usually reach an overall height of between 2-3 metres, which compared the possible 6-10 meters of  Arundo donax when growing in its native Middle East. So how do you grow Arundo donax var. versicolor?

Arundo donax
Well, it turns out quite easily as it will happily grow in most soil conditions. That being said it will perform much better in moist soils. Water frequently, particularly during dry periods in summer. Regarding light levels it will do best in full sun to semi-shade, but when grown in the cooler climates of northern Europe avoid planting in full shade. While the foliage is indeed magnificent, it is possible to encourage the ornamental feathery purple blooms by cutting back the stems after their second year.

Come the winter the leaves can look very sad and these can be removed, however you can always cut the canes down to ground level to produce a new crop of fresh stems.This will also help the increase the size of the clump should this be your intention. In colder climates when the top few inches of soil can regularly freeze a winter mulch will help protect plant roots. Alternatively,  the roots can be lifted and potted up in the autumn. Store them in a frost free greenhouse, keeping the root ball moist, until spring when all risk of frost has passed. then they can be replanted outside once under favourable conditions.

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HOW TO GROW THE KING KONG BANANA- Musa balbisiana 'Gigantea' FROM SEED

How to grow Musa balbisiana from seed

Commonly known as the 'King Kong' banana or the Giant Banana - Musa balbisiana 'Gigantea' is a surprisingly tough, fast-growing species noted for its enormous paddle-shaped leaves and striking black stems. Found growing in a remote region of Arunachal Pradesh, a North Eastern state in India, Musa balbisiana 'Gigantea' is a popular choose in its native lands due to a higher resistance to various pests and diseases compared to the original plantain species.

Under favourable conditions you can expect the stem to reach a height of between 16-20 feet. It is a fast-growing species with gorgeous upright leaves up to 9 feet long and about 2 feet wide. Leaves are a blue-green color above (caused by a relatively thick layer of surface wax ) and paler green underneath. The midrib is green to yellow-green. Musa balbisiana Gigantea produces huge yellow flowers, followed by large clusters of tasty bluish green fruits which eventually develop yellow skin as they mature. They do have a little pulp, are heavily seeded and difficult to eat. The fruits are bigger and more compact then normal Musa Balbisiana.

King Kong bananas
Surprisingly, its higher altitude environment has meant that Musa balbisiana 'Gigantea' has evolved to become one of the most cold-hardy of all banana species and cultivars, even capable of tolerating medium frosts. This means that it can be grown outside in the milder regions of the United Kingdom.

Before sowing your seeds soak for 24 hours in warm water. Then using a seed tray or large modular tray, fill with a good quality seed compost such as John Innes ‘Seed and Potting’. Using a dibber sow the Musa balbisiana seed ¼in deep, then backfill the hole with a little more compost. Water thoroughly, but allow the excess water to drain away before placing the tray in a heated propagator or sealing inside a clear polythene bag and placing in a warm bright area. If using a heated propagator set a day temperature of around 28-30 degrees Celsius and a night temperature of around 16-18 degrees Celsius. Be aware that the germination of Musa balbisiana can be slow and erratic taking between 1-6 months to germinate.

Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged and once germinated improve ventilation as fungal infections can take hold on both the foliage and the root system.

Once the root system has established the seedlings can be potted on into 9cm pots and allowed to grow on in a warm, frost free position. Water well during the growing season and feed with a liquid soluble fertiliser every couple of weeks.

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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PHORMIUM AND CORDYLINE?

Specimen Cordylines

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What is the difference between Phormiums and Cordylines? This may seem to be an odd question at face value if you are familiar with the respective mature specimens, but if your only experience of there two genera are the 3 litre potted plants found on your local garden centres sales bench's then there are most definitely a lot of genuinely similarities. They both have evergreen sword-shaped leaves, the leaves themselves are approximately 2 feet long in that pot size, they both have various single blocked colour as well as multi-coloured leaves. Furthermore both genera are indigenous to New Zealand, although Cordylines are also found further afield in the western Pacific Ocean region.

Specimen Phormiums

Now let's looks at the differences between Phormiums and Cordylines. Taxonomically they are both in the order of Asparagales but that is as close as it gets. When looking at pot specimens, Phormium leaves are all produce from the base of the plant in a kind of linear, bulbous sheath and they are usual thicker than those of Cordylines. Cordyline leaves are formed in a cluster around a central stem however on smaller plants the stem may not be visible. However on smaller cordylines they do tend to have a characteristic 'rosette' of leaves.

Once they are mature the differences between Phormium and Cordyline are super easy to tell. Cordylines will grow into a widely branched tree with a stout trunk. In northern European countries you can expect them to grow to a height of 4-5 metres tall, however in their native habitat they can achieve a height f 20 metres! Phormiums, on the other hand, are herbaceous perennials monocot with leaves grow up to 3 metres in New Zealand although 1.5-2 metres os more likely in the UK.

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