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 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 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 a mandarin orange from seed?


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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