Friday, 30 December 2016

HOLLY SPECIES


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

Holly (Ilex) is such a festive plant but it would probably surprise you to know that these are a diverse group of trees and shrubs.  They range in height from a couple of feet to 30 metres high and although most are dark green, you can also find purple tints and variegated forms. With so much variation in holly varieties, you’re sure to find one to suit your need.


Holly belongs to the Aquifoliaceae family and can be deciduous or evergreen.   Holly leaves are often dark green, glossy and oval. Younger plants usually feature spiky leaves, but the leaves of older trees are much more likely to be smooth. 

Almost all holly species are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers occur on different trees. Flowers are white with four petals. Once pollinated by insects, female flowers develop into scarlet berries, which can remain on the tree throughout winter.  One male plant is able to pollinate a few female plants. They produce drupes (not berries) that are often red, but may come in shades of white, yellow, purple or black. 

Ilex aquifolium (English Holly)
A medium-sized evergreen tree, slow-growing when young, with dark, glossy green, undulate and usually strongly spiny leaves. Small, dull white flowers in spring are followed by bright red berries, on pollinated female plants.


Ilex cornuta (chinese holly) 
This evergreen shrubs has dark green leaves with pronounced spines. They tolerate hot temperatures but sustain winter damage in cold zones. The different types of hollies in this group include ‘Burfordii,’ which is one of the most popular cultivars for hedges, and ‘O. Spring,’ a variegated type with irregular bands of yellow on the leaves. 

‘Nellie R. Stevens’
This is a cross between hybrid between English holly (Ilex aquifolium and Chinese holly(Ilex cornuta).  A parthenogenic cultivar that does not require make and female plants, and so is ideal if you only have room for one plant. 

Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly) 
Generally softer in texture than Chinese hollies, Ilex crenata comes in a range of shapes and sizes. These hollies don’t do well in areas with hot summers, but they tolerate colder temperatures than the Chinese hollies. 


Ilex opaca (American Holly)
These North American natives grow into up to 60 feet tall, and a mature specimen is a landscape treasure. Although these types of hollies are common in woodland settings, they aren’t often used in residential landscapes because they grow very slowly. ‘Old Heavy Berry’ is a vigorous cultivar that bears lots of fruit. 

Ilex glabra (Inkberry Holly) 
Similar to Japanese hollies, inkberries are distinguished by their black berries. Species types tend to have bare lower branches because they drop their lower leaves, but cultivars such as ‘Nigra’ have good lower leaf retention. 


How to grow mistletoe from seed
How to grow Holly from seed
Holly species
How to keep your cut Christmas tree
How to keep your Christmas tree
Christmas trees
Poinsettia care


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

HOW TO GROW AUBERGINES


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

I love aubergines, or eggplants as they are known, as they are great in all sorts of dishes. Given some warmth during germination and a hot summer you can successfully grow aubergines in the UK in mild areas.  However as they like plenty of sunshine and warm conditions they are best grown undercover in a greenhouse to ensure a good crop.


Sow the seed early in the year (February to March) to make the most of the available sunshine.  Fill 9 cm pots with john Inness seed and potting compost and place five seeds on the surface of each pot. Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite. Water gently and place in a heated propagator set to 21 degrees, or warm greenhouse until germination, usually about 2-3 weeks later.


When the first true leaves have fully developed prick out the seedlings into individual 7 cm pots.  Feed weekly until the roots have filled the pot and then transplant to a larger pot filled with multi purpose compost, repeating the process until they are in a 30 cm pot. 

Stake the plants as necessary to ensure adequate support is given. Remove the growing tip when the plant is 20-30 cm high to encourage branching. 

If planting your seedlings outside harden off first and then select a sheltered, sunny position such as a warm wall when the risk of frost has passed, spacing them 60 cm apart. You can protect them further with a cloche for the first few weeks until establishment.

Water your plants well and spray the leaves and flowers with warm water twice a day during the summer to help the fruit set and to discourage red spider mite. When the first fruits start to appear feed fortnightly with liquid feed high in potassium.  

How to grow aubergines

Friday, 16 December 2016

HOW TO GROW HOLLY FROM SEED


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop


At this time of year (Winter) certain plants really shine, and Holly is one of them. With fantastic spiky evergreen foliage and stunning berries, Holly is a sure fire winter winner. It looks so festive and fabulous no wonder it is still so popular. 


If you want to save some money, and have a little patience, you could grow holly from seed. You can collect berries from late autumn and right through the winter.  Pick the berries by hand, removing all twigs and separating berries from the bunch. You can store your berries in a cool, dry place for several weeks. 

Holly seeds have a tough outer seed coat that requires warm summer temperatures to break the dormancy, and so germinate in the second year after planting. However you can shorten this germination period by pre-treating the seed in a process called stratification. 


Place your seeds in a clear plastic bag covered sandwiched between two layers of damp moss peat. Tie the top and store the bag in your fridge for 20 weeks, after which they will be ready for planting. Sow your holly seeds directly outside in a nursery bed until they are ready to be transplanted a year later. 

Holly likes deep, loamy soil in full to part shade, but avoid areas that are prone to waterlogging during the winter. Plant the seeds 2 cm deep and 30 cm apart, then cover with soil. Clearly mark the area of planting to identify the seedlings when they emerge. 

Water lightly frequently to keep the soil damp but do not waterlog the plants. Transplant your holly seedlings when they are 30 cm tall. Dig out a generous root ball as holly has a long tap root so dig down 30 - 45 cm to avoid damaging this when transplanting.

Christmas cake
Christmas mince pies
Christmas puddings
Gingerbread Christmas Decorations
Growing Christmas trees
How to grow mistletoe from seed
How to grow Holly from seed
How to grow an apple from seed
Holly species
How to make Christmas cake
How to keep your cut Christmas tree
How to keep your Christmas tree
Christmas trees How to roast turkey
Poinsettia care
Recipe for Christmas pudding
Santa
Spiced brussels sprouts
What is a tree?
What is Boxing day?
What is Christmas?
What is mistletoe?
Why do we kiss under the mistletoe?
What is frankincense?
What is Myrhh?

Sunday, 4 December 2016

SELECTING YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop


Selecting a Christmas tree to bring home and decorate is a key part of Christmas. Take the stress out of the task by following this guide to selecting and keeping your tree.

Whether you choose a traditional Norway spruce or decide to go for a non-drop variety, you need to ensure that you choose a well-balanced, quality trees that will last throughout Christmas and into the New Year.


The longest lasting trees are the ones you get cut down when you buy them.  You know that they have not been hanging around for weeks on end waiting to get sold.  Buying fresh ensures that the needles are held fast and the tree is in a good condition.  As soon as the tree is cut, it will slowly start to shrink and die so newer is best.

Ensure you see your tree unwrapped before you buy it.  Check the branches are not damaged, are even in spacing and that the branches are sufficiently covered in needles. The supplier should offer a wrapping service after you have selected it.  If not, you risk getting a damaged or poorly balanced tree.

Don't get carried away with the tree experience.  Take a tape measure with you to ensure you stick to the correct height and width of tree you require.  Unless you have ample ceiling height 8 feet will be the maximum height you select.  Go any higher and you will end up cutting out large chunks of the tree.  Ensure the width fits too or you will end up with a enormous visitor to the house over Christmas.

Allow adequate transportation home for the tree.  many trees get damages trying to wedge into vehicles or tied onto roof racks and speed along roads.  Be gentle to your tree and treat it well and it will last much longer.

Once home place the tree in a good quality Christmas Tree Stand.  Ensure it has a water reservoir as the tree will require water to prevent the needles form dropping at a alarming rate. Don't place the tree near extremes of temperature such as a radiator, window or draughty area.  You can buy spray cans of anti-needle dropping products, which work by locking in water to the tree by blocking the tiny holes in the needles (stomata).  There can be useful but are highly flammable so ensure no naked lights get near the tree.

You may choose a traditional tree, or wish to select a variety with better needle retention or in a different colour.  There are many varieties of fir, spruce, cyprus, pines and cedar trees that are sold as Christmas trees including:  

Norway Spruce, Picea abies 

This is the traditional British Christmas tree. Trees are triangular shaped, with dark green needles and dropping branchlets. Needles are rectangular in section and at the base of each needle is a twig-like projection (sterigmata) which remains after the needle is lost. Picea abies has a tendency to drop its needles, particularly towards the end of the Christmas period. Purchase your tree in the week just before Christmas to ensure your needles look good over the festive period.

Blue spruce, Picea pungens

The blue spruce offers an attractive blue colour and holds it needles well.This tree has stiff, waxy grey-green needles, a symmetrical form and a dense habit.  Needles are four sided with a very sharp point on the end, but are retained well on your cut tree. 

Nordmann fir, Abies nordmanniana

This is the best selling non drop tree variety.  Nordmann firs have long, full, lush, dark green foliage, which is soft to the touch and have excellent needle retention. It has attractive foliage, and its needles are flattened, glossy and dark green in colour.  The tip of the leaf is usually blunt so the needles that are not sharp and do not drop readily when the tree dries out. 

Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii

The needles are soft, dark green-blue green in colour and radiate in all directions from the branch. This variety holds it needles well and when crushed, these needles have a sweet fragrance.

Noble fir, Abies procera


The noble fir has a shape similar to a Douglas fir but is a deeper, richer green. It has stiff branches which make it a good tree for heavy ornaments, as well as providing excellent greenery for wreaths and garland. The Noble fir keeps as a cut Christmas tree for a long time.

Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris


A really fragrant native conifer with an attractive blue-green foliage and soft needles.

Lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta

A bushy tree, similar to the Scots Pine, with long green needles and a wonderful natural pine scent. Probably the best tree for needle retention and is perfect for those who like to decorate their tree a little earlier .



For related articles click onto:

Christmas cake
Christmas mince pies
Christmas puddings
Gingerbread Christmas Decorations
Growing Christmas trees
How to grow mistletoe from seed
How to grow Holly from seed
How to make Christmas cake
How to keep your cut Christmas tree
How to keep your Christmas tree
Christmas trees How to roast turkey
Poinsettia care
Recipe for Christmas pudding
Santa
Spiced brussels sprouts
What is a tree?
What is Boxing day?
What is Christmas?
What is mistletoe?
Why do we kiss under the mistletoe?
What is frankincense?
What is Myrhh?

Sunday, 27 November 2016

HEDGEHOGS



Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop


The common hedgehog, Erinaceus Europaeus, is familiar across Britain and Ireland.  These nocturnal animals are the largest of our insectivores and can often be seen at dusk in woods, hedgerows and gardens.

Hedgehogs are stout animals that are about 25 cm long and covered with distinctive dense, stiff spikes over their back, sides and top of the head. These spines are 20 mm long and pale brown with a dark band below the tip, giving a flecked effect.  They have a hairy face, rather than spiny, and a long pointed muzzle with a shiny black nose. Ears are visible in front of the spines, the legs appear short and the tail is hidden.

They feed on slugs, earthworms, caterpillars, beetles and other small invertebrates, along with small frogs, slow worms, mice and eggs.  They breed may till October, producing an average of five young, which are born small and helpless. After six weeks they are weaned and ready to face the world.

Hedgehogs hibernate during the winter usually from October till April depending on temperature, wrapping themselves in leaves, under dense bushes or in piles of cut brushwood. They can become very fat prior to hibernation, gaining a body weight of around 400 g or more in order to survive the winter.

You can encourage nest building by leaving patches of dense bramble, piles of shrub trimmings or a purpose built hibernation box.  Also check bonfires prior to lighting as hedgehogs will often nest here.  If you see a hedgehog out during the day its is a sign that something is wrong.  Relocate to a nice quiet area in a safe location and allow to rest. Emergency food can be provided in the form of tinned cat food, never milk.

Bat boxes
British Bats: Common Pipistrelle
Hedgehogs
How to make an insect house
Hummingbird hawk moth

Sunday, 20 November 2016

BRITISH BATS: Common pipistrelle


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop


Watching bats fly around at dusk during the summer nights is a true delight. However this is becoming a rarer sight, as bat populations have suffered severe decline during the past century due to loss of habitat and modern agricultural policies.

There are 18 species of bat in the UK, made up of resident and vagrant species.  British resident breeding species include:

·       Alcathoe bat
·       Barbastelle
·       Bechstein's bat
·       Brandt's bat
·       Brown long-eared bat
·       Common pipistrelle
·       Daubenton's bat
·       Greater horseshoe bat
·       Grey long-eared bat
·       Leisler's bat
·       Lesser horseshoe bat
·       Nathusius' pipistrelle
·       Natterer's bat
·       Noctule
·       Serotine
·       Soprano pipistrelle
·       Whiskered bat

Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)

Pipistrelles are the commonest and most widespread of all British bat species and are the ones that you are most likely to spot flying in the sky catching insects on the wing. There are two pipistrelle species found in the UK, the common and soprano pipistrelle. They were only identified as separate species in the 1990s as the two species look very similar 

Pipistrelles are medium brown in colour, 35-45 mm long with a wingspan of 200 mm. They are busy creatures, and in fact a single pipistrelle can consume up to 3,000 insects in one night. 

They feed in a wide range of habitats comprising woodland, hedgerows, grassland, farmland, suburban and also urban areas. They generally emerge from their roost around 20 minutes after sunset and fly 2-10 m above ground level searching for their insect prey, which they catch and eat on the wing.

Summer roosts of both common and soprano pipistrelles are usually found in crevices around the outside of often newer buildings, such as behind hanging tiles, soffit and barge or eaves boarding, between roofing felt and roof tiles or in cavity walls, although this species also roosts in tree holes and crevices, and also in bat boxes. 

Echolocation Sounds produced by common pipistrelles are above the range of human hearing with the exception of social calls that may be heard by children and some adults with good hearing. With a bat detector the echolocation calls can be picked up between about 45 and 70kHz. 

Populations of pipistrelles pipistrelles have declined dramatically in the last few decades, at least partly as a result of modern agricultural practices, although common pipistrelle populations have started showing signs of recovery in recent years. Their reliance on buildings for roosting makes them vulnerable to building renovations, exclusion and toxic remedial timber treatment chemicals.

Bat boxes
British Bats: Common Pipistrelle
Hedgehogs
How to make an insect house
Hummingbird hawk moth

Thursday, 3 November 2016

ORANGE BLOSSOM TURKISH DELIGHT


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop


This turkish delight is a fabulous gift to give for Christmas and looks brilliant in a glass jar or pretty box.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons orange blossom water
3.5 oz / 100 g cornflour
1 oz / 25 g icing sugar
3 x 12 g sachets powdered gelatine
Juice from 1 lemon

Method


Wet a 20 cm cake tin with water and line with cling film. Sift icing sugar and 25 g cornflour into bowl and use 1 tablespoon of the mixture to dust teh base and sides of the tin/cling film.

Place the sugar, gelatine and cornflour into a saucepan and whisk, gradually add the water and the lemon juice.  Gently heat until the sugar dissolves and bring to the boil.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the mixture is thickened and turns a pale yellow. Allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.

Whisk in the orange blossom water and pour into the prepared tin. Leave to cool for at least 6 hours but do not cover or refrigerate.


Turn out onto a surface lightly dusted with some of the reserved cornflour mixture, and invert the Turkish Delight on to it.  Cut into small squares and coat with teh cornflour mixture prior to serving.

Store in an airtight container with the remaining cornflour mixture at cool room for up to a month. Pack into boxes sprinkled with a little more of the cornflour mixture.  

Monday, 31 October 2016

RECIPE FOR FRANGIPANE MINCE PIES


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop


I love Christmas - ask anyone!  I love preparing food for the family and eating lots of special Christmas treats.  These mince pies are extra yummy and make a great gift too. This recipe makes 12 pies.

Ingredients

For the pastry & pie filling:
7 oz / 200 g plain flour
3.5 oz /100 g butter
1 egg
1 oz / 25 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 jar mince meat

For the topping:
1 oz / 25 g plain flour
2 oz / 50 g unsalted butter
2 oz / 5o g caster sugar
1 egg
2 oz / 50 g ground almonds
1 oz / 25 g flaked almonds
Almond extract
Icing sugar to dust

Method

Pour the flour, sugar and cubed butter into a mixing bowl and rub together with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the egg and water and mix together until a smooth pastry dough is formed.  Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile make the frangipane topping by beating the butter and sugar until smooth.  Add the egg, Stir in the almonds, flour and almond extract until a soft mixture is formed.

Roll out the pastry onto a lightly floured surface  until 3 m thick. Use a 10 cm round pastry cutter to cut out the pastry and place the in a 12 hole muffin tin.  Fill the cases with mincemeat.


Add the frangipane topping to each pie and sprinkle on the flaked almonds.  Chill for 10 minutes.

Place into a preheated oven 190C / gas mark 6 and bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden.  let the pastry sit in the tin for 5 minutes to set the pastry before removing to a wire rack to cool.  Dust with icing sugar.



Thursday, 13 October 2016

HOW TO GROW BAMBOO



Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop


Bamboo always looks fab in a garden, but way too often it is shoved in a pot and looks poorly and sick.  However get the planting right and they can form impressive clumps that add structure and drama in a garden.
Bamboo can be invasive, taking over small areas and looking unsightly. Although some types of bamboo are vigorous there are plenty of varieties to choose from that are slower growing and will suit a garden border.

Bamboo is a evergreen, woody perennial grown for their attractive cane stems. They are either classed as running or clump forming bamboos.  Running bamboos spread extensively by producing long underground stems (rhizomes) and will spread rapidly.  These include Arundinaria, Bashania, Chimonobambusa, Clavinodum, Hibanobambusa, Indocalamus, phyllostachys,  Pleioblastus, Pseudosasa, Sasa, Sasaella, Sasamorpha, Semiarundinaria, Sinobambusa and Yushania.

Clump forming bamboos are better behaved but will also spread out each year. They include: Bambusa, Chusquea, Dendrocalamus, Drepanostachyum, Fargesia, Himalayacalamus, Schizostachyum, Shibataea and Thamnocalamus.


Bamboos can be restricted by planting in a pot, although they never reach their full potential and always look a little sickly.  It is better to encase them with a physical barrier when planting, using paving slabs, corrugated iron sheets or root barrier materials.  However a large trench has to be dug (1 to 1.5 metres square) and the barrier needs to extend 6 cm above ground so a mulch around the base is essential.

Position in a sunny position in moist, but well drained, soil. Prepare the soil prior to planting by digging in well rotted farm manure to ensure the soil retains lots of moisture.  Bamboos are best planted in the spring as this allows them to establish upright canes during the summer and root into the soil prior to the windier weather at the end of the year. Plant the root ball slightly lower than the soil level and water and mulch after planting.


Water your bamboo regularly during dry periods and feed with a nitrogen feed in the spring, and a general purpose fertiliser for the rest of the growing season. the leaves can be stripped from the canes to provide a decorative stem effect. Allow the bamboo leaves to collect around the base of the plant as they contain silica which helps to provide strength and stability.


To ensure fresh new growth, divide the bamboo every couple of years in the spring.  Reduce the canes to 30 cm high and cut through the root ball, retaining the younger rhizomes and canes.


Friday, 9 September 2016

GARDEN POND PLANTS


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop


Plants around and in your pond help to visually soften its outline and provides a suitable habitat for many insects and invertebrates.  

Aquatic planting is essential to providing a healthy pond. As well as enhancing the appearance and provide a much more natural environment, they provide shelter and security for pond animals.  Plants produce oxygen and absorb the carbon dioxide and ammonia,  and so the improve the water quality. Because they compete with algae for nutrients, they can help to reduce algae growth.

There are a variety of water plants available that will greatly improve the pond.  They can be either submerged, floating or emergent. In addition, adjacent planting around the outside of the pond is also important.

Submerged

Submerged plants provide habitats for pond animals under the surface of the water.
Calitriche stagnalis (Water starwort)
Elodia canadensis (Canadian Pondweed)
Myriophyllum spicatum (Water Milfoil)

Floating
Floating plants provide protection from predators and the sun.  They help to keep algae levels down by covering the surface area.
Nymphiodes pelata (Fringed waterlily)

Emergent
Emergent plants are a half way house for many pond animals, providing shelter and breeding places. They allow dragonfly nymphs to climb out of the water
Alisma plantago-aquatica (water plantain)
Butomus umbellatus (flowering rush)
Caltha palustris (Marsh marigold)
Myosotsis scorpiodes (Water Forget-me-not)
Polygonium amphibium (Amphibious bistort)

Adjacent
A marshy area adjacent to the pool will provide good cover for amphibians and provide good insect cover.
Eupatorium cannabinum (Hemp agrimony)
Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet)
Lythrum salicaria (Purple loosestrife)

Avoid introducing aggressive species such as Typha (reedmace) and Lemna spp (Duckweed).

Garden pond plants
Plants for seaside areas

Sunday, 4 September 2016

BAT BOXES


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop


With a decline in suitable roof spaces and other habitats, it is increasingly important to provide additional habitat for bats by putting up bat boxes on site. Bats may inhabit boxes for summer roosts or for winter hibernation.

Bat boxes differ in construction for bird boxes and are readily available to buy.  The entrance to the box should comprise of a slit measuring 2 cm and be located on the bottom, at the back. The rear interior should have rough grooves cut into it to allow the bats to hang easily.

You can easily make them yourselves with sawn timber.  Use untreated, rough sawn timber more than 15 mm thick by 1 metre long to construct. The thicker the wood the better as this provides better insulation from too much cold and heat inside the box. 

Position the bat boxes high off the ground, up to 5 m in height. Remove any crowding vegetation to allow  bats a clear flight path in and out.  Use multiple boxes to allow the bats to move from one box to another as the temperature changes.  Clustering three boxes together around a single tree trunk, all facing different directions, can be very successful but they can be placed under eaves and on walls of buildings.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

FAIRY RINGS AND TOADSTOOLS


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

When I was young I used to believe that the fungi rings left on lawns were where fairies lived and had magical properties.  I used to sit in them and make daisy chains and play. Now I realise that fairy rings are a fungal disease of turf caused by toadstools. 


The usual cause of fairy rings is buried organic debris, such as undergrounds rotting tree stumps or roots, and removing this organic matter will often eliminate the clump of toadstools. There are many types of toadstools which are capable of growing in a ring and some rings grow bigger each year.

Not all rings are created equal.  Some small rings may form that are small and do not require remedial action (class 1). However puffballs and mushrooms can produce bigger class 2 fairy rings which are recognised by the dark green grass at the edge of the ring, and these can be unsightly. 

The toadstool Marasmius oreades produces the largest class 3 fairy ring, and this is truly a problem. Two dark green rings are formed and the space between them is bare and moss ridden.  The ring may be small or it may cover the whole lawn, and control is always difficult.. 


The effect of fairy rings can be unsightly but they are difficult to eradicate unless the root cause of the ring (the buried organic matter) is removed.  In some instances masking of the dark green rings can be achieved through the use of lawn feeds containing iron sulphate, which greens up the remainder of the lawn to help blend the ring into the surrounding areas. 

Systemic fungicides chemicals such as Panama contain Azoxystrobin which can help to eliminate type 2 fairy rings from turf. The real answer is to remove the ring, turf and topsoil to a width and depth of 30 cm and replace with fresh soil and turf.

Prevention is better than cure, so remove all pieces of wood from the soil before making a lawn and keep it vigorous by following the correct lawn care techniques.

For related articles click onto: