Monday 29 April 2013


We all know what vegetables are - the parts of your meal that isn't meat. However, with such a range of shapes, sizes, colours, flavours and plant parts to choose from, just what is it that constitutes a  true vegetable?

A vegetable is part of the plant harvested for food such as the seeds, root, stem or leaf of a plant.  It differs from a fruit, which is the swollen ovary of a flowering plant, and therefore contains seeds. 

Fruits and vegetables are referred to differently in botanical, culinary and retail terms, and terms are often used interchangeably. 

We use a variety of vegetables within our cooking, and utilise many parts of these plants.

What vegetables do we eat?

     Roots & Storage Roots
Beets, cassava (tapioca), horse radish, jicama, potato, parsnip, salsify, sweet, radish, rutabaga and turnip.

·       Leaves & Leafy Heads
Brussels sprouts, cabbage, endive, lettuce, kale, lettuce, parsley. 

·      Immature Flower Cluster (Inflorescence) & Stalk (Peduncle)
Broccoli, cauliflower.

·       Sunflower Head 

·       Stem
Asparagus, bamboo shoots and kohlrabi.

·       Tuber (Modified stem)
Jerusalem artichoke, potato, true yams (Dioscorea).

·       Bulb (modified stem)
Chives, garlic, onion.

·       Corm (modified stem)
Taro, water chestnut.

·       Rhizome

·       Leafy Stalk (Petiole)
     Celery, rhubarb and sweet fennel.

Saturday 27 April 2013


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

Garlic is very simple to grow at home, even if you do not have much space in your garden.  You can plant either directly into the soil or into pots if you wish to save space.

There are many different varieties of garlic that you could select, but ensure you select a cultivated variety which is suitable for colder climates. This is because you should plant garlic in in mid-October as the cold weather helps to produce garlic with larger bulbs and more cloves.  If you wish to plant as late as April you can, but the garlic will be smaller.   

Do not plant supermarket bought garlic as they would have been treated with a chemical to prevent sprouting and will not tolerate cold conditions. Growing garlic from seed is not possible at present because viable seed is very difficult to produce.

Planting garlic

Garlic is best planted between November and April, although you will generally get a bigger crop if you plant it in the autumn. Select your variety of garlic according to their suitability for spring or autumn planting. 

Plant your garlic in a sunny position in full sun, in a well drained, light soil. Dig in plenty of of organic matter such as compost or well rotted manure.

Separate the bulb into single cloves and select the bigger, stronger cloves. The individual cloves should be planted 10-15 cm apart.  Plant in an upright position, tip pointing upwards.  Push the cloves into the soil so that the tip of each one is just below the surface. Water thoroughly.  

Protect your garlic from birds by hanging cd's or netting to protect your crop.

Harvesting garlic

Keep garlic well watered during dry weather, but ensure they are not water logged. If it's too dry for long periods the cloves will not swell and the resulting crop will have a short storage life.

The garlic is ready for harvesting around August/September depending on variety type. You need to lift them when they are ripe, as lifting too early will mean the bulbs are too small, and lifting them too late will diminish their taste. 

They are likely to be ready when the leaves start to turn brown. You can check if they are ready to harvest by removing a bulb and peeling off the papery layers surrounding the bulb; if you can remove three layers than it is ready to harvest, but if you can remove more than they are not ready so leave them for a few weeks.  

When lifting garlic, gently remove the bulb with a trowel to prevent bruising.  To store garlic bulbs successfully, wash and dry the bulbs and place in warm area to dry out. Once dried they can be stored for 3-4 months.

Growing garlic in pots

Select a suitable container and fill it with John Innes 'Seed and potting' compost. Separate the bulb into single cloves and place a single clove in each pot.  Plant in an upright position, tip pointing upwards, in a hole 3 cm below the soil.  Water thoroughly and place the container in a sunny position.  Feed the containers in the summer with general purpose plant food every two weeks.

For related articles click onto:
Feeding plants
Growing Garlic in Containers
Growing herbs
Growing herbs on a windowsill
Growing herbs in pots
Herbaceous borders
How to grow garlic
How to grow lavender
How to build a cold frame
How to grow basil
How to grow coriander
How to grow garlic
How to Grow Ginger
How to grow lavender
How to grow mint
How to grow parsley
How to grow rosemary
How to grow thyme
How to make compost
How to propagate using division
How to propagate from seed
Plants for free
Preparing a seed bed
Watering plants

Thursday 25 April 2013


The sea sponge is classified as an animal, albeit simple in make up.  

This is because there are some key characteristics that defines the sea sponge as an animal, rather than a plant.

Their scientific name is Porifera, meaning animals that have pores. 

There are more than 15,000 varieties, and they live primarily in the ocean, some near the edge, some in deep water, some in fresh water.

The main reasons for classification of sea sponges as animals is outlined below:
  • All plants carry out photosynthesis, but sea sponges do not.  Instead they carry out cellular respiration typical of animals.  
  • Sea sponges do not have cell walls or chloroplast typical of plants, but contain animal cells.
  • However, like a plant, they do attach themselves to rocks, reefs and the ocean floor by rooting themselves to a spot.  This trait is shared by other animals such as mussels, coral and sea anemones.
  • Sea sponges lack a brain and have no true tissues, lacking muscles, nerves, and internal organs. Lacking a brain is not unique in the animal kingdom, and sea sponges share this trait with other creatures such as jellyfish and starfish.
  • Unlike plants, seas sponges have a skeleton. This is made of Calcium Carbonate, Silicon Dioxide or spongin protein.
  • Since it doesn't have much in the way of body functions, such as a digestive, nervous, or even circulatory system, it survives by filtering water through itself and eating the bacteria and microscopic organisms found there for food. It has a specialised cell called the choanocyte which forms an very basic digestive system 

Tuesday 16 April 2013


Majorelle Gardens, Marrakesh, is one of my the favourite gardens.  In fact, I would say it is truly world class; and the best garden I have ever visited.  If you are ever in Marrakesh then you simply must visit these gardens.  If you are not in Marrakesh, well…… had better plan a visit.

The garden was created in 1920s and 30s by the French artist Jacques Majorelle during the colonial period when Morocco was a protectorate of France.  Jaques Majorelle was influenced by the Berber style in the surrounding desserts and Atlas mountains, especially the outlining of windows and doorways in a deep colbat blue. He was an avid plant collector, and this is obvious from the quality and variety of plants within the garden.

The architecture within the garden is art deco in style, with rich colours, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation. Famously the 12 acre garden was home to Yves Saint Laurent, who restored the gardens back to their former glory in the 1980's.

Walking through the gardens

You enter the gardens into a small circular fountain courtyard, which is tiled in bright colours and surrounded by seating.  It provides a welcome area to sit and contemplate for a while (we ate our pickled onion monster munch here).

Travelling further into the garden you are led to a small square pond and get your first glimpse of the main garden, and all the cacti and palms.  The path leads you away to a mass of tall (VERY tall) bamboos.  The bamboo are very old and thick, and some even have graffiti initials carved into them.

You then leave the bamboo forest behind and are greeted by the tallest trachycarpus I have ever seen.  You do eventually look down and the mid height plants include fantastic grasses that have wonderful bulbous barks and  palms with fantastic leaves that look like bird wings,

The lower story is home to all the cacti, which contrast perfectly in regards to form, texture, colour and proportion.  At every viewing point you will see the mix of glauca blue, verde green, soft white and all other shades of green and blue.  There are cacti, agaves, aloes, succulents, palms, yuccas and tall grasses of all shapes, colours and varieties. 

Each plant within the garden is displayed brilliantly, both as a specimen plant and within a group. They are allowed to breathe and have the space required to admire them as an individual plant.  But then you look back away and realise that the grouping of plants is truly inspired, with contrasting groups of cacti, agaves, palms and grasses at every turn.

The cacti are set off with a mulching of red gravel, which is formed into distinctive sunken circles around the base of each plant.  This is very effective at highlighting each plant, and I saw this circling around the base of plants in Marrakesh used for retaining water when irrigating the beds. This spacing and the gravel around each plant reminded me a little of Zen gardening.  But then you look up to the enormous palms or bamboo above and you realise this is very different.

Geometrically the centre of the garden is very linear, with square pools and rectangular rills.  However, the edge of the garden is softened with the circular path and the tall planting that encloses the garden and allows you to travel informally around it. You forget that you are in the centre of busy Marrakesh.

There is a strong use of colour in the garden. Actually that is a huge understatement.  There is a MASSIVE use of colour in the garden.  From the red paths to the blue ponds, and bright yellow, red and (Majorelle) blue pots that line the pathways.  All the buildings are brightly painted (mostly blue) and decorated with contrasting features. The shade of bold cobalt blue used extensively in the garden and its buildings is named Majorelle blue after the artist who designed the gardens. The blue and the use of water gives a coolness within the garden, which is welcome in the scorching heat of Marrakesh.

Why I love Majorelle gardens

The brilliance of this garden is that it works on so many levels.  The hard landscaping within the garden is Islamic in it is design, with rills and water punctuating through the garden.  Water is a common theme, from the cool fountain garden at the entrance to the large rills that dissect the garden; and finally the cooling, milk coloured pools.

The gardens are truly awe inspiring.  The cacti are flawless. The level of horticultural expertise in maintaining and preserving these plants is first class, better than any RHS or Kew maintained gardens.  I did not see a leaf out of place or a single dead plant.  The plants looked well fed and healthy.  The continuity of the garden is brilliantly executed.  New, young plants were planted in beds where plants had been replaced prior to maturing.  The movement of planting in the garden meant it still felt young, and fresh.  It had an air of new and exciting planting, that could be changed at any moment. I cannot wait until I go back again.  

For related articles click onto: