Monday 26 October 2015


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I recently went on holiday to Tenerife and in the hotel grounds was an amazing Franzipani tree.  It looked similar to a magnolia tree but had the most wonderful, scented white flowers.  
Plumeria (common name Frangipani) is a small genus of 7-8 species native to tropical and subtropical Americas. Frangipanis are relatively small trees growing only to about 5-6m in height. They have gnarled branches, long leaves and distinctive flowers. Frangipani flowers appear in clusters at the the end of the branches, and are distinctively scented. The petals are waxy with the centre of the flower a different colour to the rest.

This tropical plant cannot be grown outside all year round in the UK, and requires moving to a heated greenhouse for the winter. However this makes it ideal to be grown in pots and brought in during the colder winter period. 

You can grow them successfully in large containers filled with well drained, fertile soil.  Mix two parts John Innes No 3 with one part horticultural grit. Choose a large container with a diameter of at least 40 cm and plenty of volume. If over time the tree becomes pot-bound, lift it out and prune back the roots before re-potting into fresh potting mix.

Frangipanis should be positioned in sheltered, sunny position with at least 6 hours of sun each day. These are tropical plants so place them in the warmest, sunniest spot in the garden.  During the growing season feed your frangipani occasionally with a soluble fertiliser, high in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Water moderately in summer and just enough to ensure that young trees become established.

Frangipanis respond well to pruning, which should be carried out in late winter or early spring. Frangipani flowers appear only at the end of branches that are two years old, so in order to ensure a continuous display of flowers consider pruning the plant over two years. Cut back the branches to half or one third of their natural length to encourage them to sprout multiple branches near the pruned ends.

The plants require a dormancy period during in the winter. In the autumn move them to a warm protected area such as a hot house or placing your frangipani on a concrete path against a brick wall where it will get radiated heat (and be protected from frost and wind).  Do not water or feed the plants as Frangipani will not tolerate its root system being over wet and cold at the same time.

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Friday 16 October 2015


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Looking at the sky on a starry night is fantastic, but how do you distinguish between a star and planet?

There are several ways to tell whether that point of light you’re seeing is a planet or a star. A common method to distinguish between them is to see if the light appears to twinkle, change its colour or brightness. Another is to look at the movement of the planets and stars.


Stars are enormous but they are so far away that they appear very, very small. Unlike planets stars twinkle.  This is because the light for the star gets refracted (bent) as it passes through the different layers of the Earth's atmosphere.

Planets in our solar system are much closer to the Earth, and because they are closer they appear larger than stars. It is the sunlight that is being reflected off the planet that makes planets visible to us at night. The amount the light bends in Earths atmosphere is much smaller than that of a star compared to how big the planet looks and consequently  planets do not twinkle. 

So if you see a bright, non-twinkling light along that path, there’s a good chance that it’s a planet. However, it is important to note that sometimes the Earth’s atmosphere is moving around so much or has such a large amount of pollution that even the light from planets can appear to twinkle. 


Whilst stars do appear to change position in the night sky, they do so all together. In contrast planets move in specific orbits, independent of the motion of the stars, following the ecliptic path that the sun follows from east to west.

  • Stars twinkle at night.
  • A star has its own light.
  • A star has very high temperature.
  • The relative positions of the stars do not undergo any noticeable change.
  • Since the stars are very far away, the telescope can only make them look brighter but not larger.
  • There are billions of stars in the celestial sphere.


  • Planets do not twinkle
  • A planet has no light of its own. It shines by reflecting the light of the sun.
  • Planets have low temperatures.
  • Since planets are very mush closer to the earth than the stars are, their motion around the sun is noticeable as a daily shifting of their relative positions in the sky.
  • Most planets on the other hand are near enough to the earth to be magnified by the telescope.
  • There are only nine planets in the solar system. 

Thursday 1 October 2015



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Sweetcorn is easy to grow here in the UK and you cannot beat the test of fresh corn cobs picked from the garden.

You may choose the tried and tested traditional large varieties  of corn, and notable varieties include: Swift F1,  Golden Giant, ‘Earlibird' and ‘Lark’. If you are short on space you may decide to grow mini sweetcorn, which don't need to be grown in large blocks like their bigger brother but will still provide an impressive yield. 

Traditional sweetcorn is pollinated by the wind and so should be grown in blocks rather than rows. Mini sweetcorn is harvested before fertilisation and therefore can be grown in rows or individually as plants.

Chose a fertile soil in a sheltered, sunny position.  Prepare the soil by digging it over and adding organic matter.  Apply a granular fertiliser such as growmore and rake in.
Plant traditional sweetcorn in blocks, spacing 45 cm between plants. Mini sweetcorn can be planted in rows or individually. Mulch your plants with organic matter to conserve water and suppress weeds. Mound up the soil over roots that appear at the base of the stems.
Stake tall plants as necessary and protect from birds by placing netting and CDs over your crop.

Water your sweetcorn well in dry weather, especially when they are flowering. Sweetcorn is wind pollinated so tap the top of the plants when the tassels (male flowers) open. Feed the cobs with a liquid fertiliser weekly.

Harvest your corn when the tassels have turned dark brown. Twist the ripe cobs from the stem and eat straight away by boiling in water.

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