WHICH FRUITS AND NUTS ARE TOLERANT OF GROWING IN THE SHADE





Wouldn't it be wonderful, if everyone who wanted one had a perfect plot for vegetable growing? However as with many things in life perfection is usually out of reach, and unfortunately gardening is no different.

Most people’s image of a vegetable garden is one that receives direct sun all day, and that’s fantastic for growing the old favourites such as tomatoes, peppers, and melons. But what are you supposed to grow if you have no other choice than to grow in the shade?

Well you may be surprised to learn that there are plenty of varieties that will not only tolerate these lower light levels, but will in fact prefer them and positively thrive.

There are of course some benefits to growing in the shade because you won't need to water as often and crops that are quick to bolt in hot weather, such as lettuces and spinach, and will have a far longer harvesting period.

A good rule to remember is that if you are growing crops for the fruit or edible roots, then you are best suited with a sunny position. If you are growing crops for the leaves, stems, or buds, then a certain amount of shade will actually improve the crop. Remember though, that no crop is going to do particularly well in heavy shade. As with all plants they will need a minimum level of light to survive and grow.

Below are groups of the best fruits and nuts for growing in the shade:


Woodland crops such as raspberries, blackberries and gooseberries will usually do well but also consider their modern hybrids such as Tayberries and Boysenberries.

The same will apply to Rhubarb and Blueberries.

Nut trees such as the filbert, and hazelnut will also be able to produce a good crop in the shade but they will need to be in a position where they will receive sun in the morning

If your shade is caused by overhanging trees then you can try and improve the growing conditions. Light levels can be increased by careful pruning, and the soil will probably also need to be improved as tree roots will remove a lot of the available nutrients and water.

Take advantage of warmer and hopefully brighter conditions at home by germinating seeds earlier on in the year using modules. This will get them off to a far quicker start and will also help to establish their root systems before they are planted into the ground.

For related articles click to the following links:
CLIMBING PLANTS FOR SHADED WALLS AND FENCES
EVERGREENS FOR DRY SHADE
Grow Fruit and Nuts in the Home Garden in Temperate Areas 
PLANTS FOR DRY SHADE

BRITISH BIRDS OF PARADISE




As with many things, familiarity breeds contempt and while we are lucky in Great Britain to have such a fantastic range of bird species – native as well as seasonal visitor – they are wrongly regarded as commonplace and therefore undervalued and often ignored.

Many of our native bird populations are struggling due to the loss of habitat, while others are finding that their once abundant food sources (insects, slugs and snails) have been drastically cut due to the industrial and private use of insecticides and molluscicides.

House sparrow
It is the combination of non-specific insecticides and light pollution that has caused the greatest damage causing a massive reduction in native insect populations upon which many of our native bird species depend on for their survival. Perhaps worse still is the slow creep of agro-chemicals into the food-chain, affecting both adults and their young from generation to generation - clearly the environmental lessons of DDT have not been learned.

While global warming has an influence on local habitats there is of course much that we can do to help preserve the local populations of birds that are most at risk. Bird boxes, food supplementation, wildlife ponds and sympathetic planting schemes that can all improve the local habitat, and create an all-year-supply of natural food. In suburban areas, an almost continual supply of suitable shop-bought bird foods has already helped to supplement the diets of a range of seed eating wild birds, but the fate of our insect eating birds is much less secure. Without the help of a concerned and interested public our native tit and finch populations would be in a far worse state.

It is of course an exaggeration to say that the beauty of our native birds is equal to that of the Indonesian birds of paradise, but they are still beautiful nonetheless. The sideshow above shows a small selection of birds that are still commonplace to our shores, but a number of these have already been in steady decline over the past 60 years. Try to imagine looking at them with fresh eyes or with the very real thought that some of these species may well become extinct in our lifetime.
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If we can’t value the life around us, the how can we expect to truly care about the environment at large.

For related articles click onto the following links:
British Birds
HOW TO CARE FOR INSECT EATING BIRDS OVER WINTER 
SEED BEARING PLANTS FOR ATTRACTING WILD FINCHES

MERRY CHRISTMAS - FROM WHERE I LIVE




Just recently, I have had a number of requests asking about which part of the world the ‘Seeds of Eaden’ website comes from. So at the risk of being found by my debtors and having my identity stolen, I shall tell you. I am based in Sevenoaks, an old Saxon market town, slap-bang in the middle of Kent, otherwise known as Tudor country – a term I have just made up.

It sits on the crossroads of the Pilgrims Way, made famous by Chaucer, which leads from the historic port of Dover, through Canterbury and passes by a number of Archbishop's palaces on its way up to the Royal courts of London. The life of Henry VIII was played out through most of this area as he systematically bought up large hunting estates– Knole house, Leeds Castle, Hever Castle, Otford Palace, Penshurst Place and many more besides –all paid for with money generated through the dissolution of the Monasteries. Within a 25 mile radius you probably have the largest selection of period Royal Tudor properties in the country.

My Christmas present to the viewers of the 'Garden of Eaden' website – the majority of which are American – is a montage of photographs that I have taken over the past few years of my favourite properties. I know this has little to do with plants and gardening but if you look carefully there are definitely some in the background.

People who like plants also tend to also like history, so if you are interested in the Tudors then hopefully you will like this too. If you have any questions then leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Please enjoy these views from the old country- including a couple of oddballs - and keep an eye out for the rogue camel.

HEVER CASTLE
History Channel: Christmas
KNOLE HOUSE AND THE GHOST WITH NO NAME
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS
WHAT IS BOXING DAY?

CLOVES AND CINNAMON – SPICES WITH THE SWEET SCENT OF CHRISTMAS




Every now and again you can walk into someone’s home and within an instant, the warm luxurious fragrance that greeted you has transported you back to Christmas’s past.

It is truly amazing how certain smells - or even a combination of smells – are able to evoke such powerful imagery. So why not use this natural phenomenon to your own advantage? If you are planning on having guests round this holiday period, then why not make then most of this time by adding the extra dimension of Christmas fragrance to your home?

Cinnamon

Truly a classic Christmas spice, but it’s one thing to sniff some cinnamon sticks while they are under your nose, but how do you get that luscious scent to drift around your home?

Answer. Choose an old drinking glass making sure that the bottom is wide enough to fit a tea light. Next, glue - or tie into place - cinnamon sticks vertically around the outside of the glass until it is completely covered. Should you wish, you can decorate the outside of the glass with an appropriate Christmas ribbon. When completed, place the tea light on the bottom of the glass and light it – the warmth of the candle will bring out the smell of the cinnamon. Remember though, never leave a naked flame unattended!

Cloves

Another great spice for creating that Christmas feeling is the musky fragrance released from cloves - especially when combined with the smell of oranges or lemons . An easy way to take advantage of this is to make an orange/Clove ball, otherwise known as a pomander. Start by using something like a toothpick to make holes in the orange. Next, place a clove into each hole and continue until the whole orange is covered, you can even position the holes in order to create festive patterns. When finished you can leave in bowl in the fashion of a large pot pourri or decorate with ribbon and hang somewhere appropriate.

An easy cheat

There is - of course - a quick way to get a whole combination of Christmas flavours to permeate throughout the house. Place 4 to 6 cups of water into a small saucepan and add to it the peels from 2 oranges, 3 to 4 cinnamon sticks, a tablespoon of whole cloves and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. Bring the pan to the boil and then reduce the heat so it just sits there simmering gently. Of course, you will need to keep an eye on it so that the pan doesn't boil dry. When the water gets low, add more water, and when the scent begins to diminish you will need to discard that batch and make a fresh one. Never leave the pan simmering on the stove unattended.

For related articles click onto the following links:
RECIPE FOR TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS CAKE
6 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Like Christmas
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS

WHAT HAS THE CHRISTMAS CACTUS GOT TO DO WITH CHRISTMAS?




The ‘Christmas Cactus’ or Schlumbergera truncata - as it is otherwise known - is a plant of singular deceit. Although its botanical name is derived from Frédéric Schlumberger (1823-1893) - the well known French collector of cacti and other succulents – the plant was neither discovered by him nor named by him. In fact, it received its name through another Frenchman - botanist and botanical author Charles Antoine Lemaire, a contemporary expert of the Cactaceae genus and colleague of Frédéric Schlumberger.

But it doesn't stop there! For all intents and purposes, the Christmas cacti has no ‘French connection’ whatsoever as it was actually discovered by Englishman Allan Cunningham (1791 –1839), who in his day was a well known botanist and explorer.

Between 1814 and 1816, and on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks - President of the Royal Society, founder of the Royal Horticultural Society, and unofficial director of Kew Botanic Gardens - Allan Cunningham was sent on an expedition to Brazil aboard the HMS Mermaid. Under the employ of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, he was tasked to collect, document, and bring back to England any new and unknown plant species – particularly those that may have valuable economic importance. Amongst the many new species that were discovered on this - his first - journey, was of course an unnamed, tree dwelling cactus.

This newly discovered species was unlike any cactus that had been seen before. It was a true, tropical rainforest epiphyte that - instead of growing as you would expect in the ground - was found high up in the tree canopy rooted onto tree branches.

Despite the high rainfall encountered within the Brazilian rainforest, water drained away quickly in the tree canopy, mimicking the drought conditions encountered by the more familiar members of the cacti family.

Not surprisingly, because of their specialised environment, these epiphytic cacti are quite different in appearance to that of their desert-dwelling cousins.

So why are they called Christmas cactus?

Move away from the seasonal winter cold of northern Europe, and the traditional Christmas tree isn't always a suitable option. Instead, those living in the warmer climates of Africa, Australia, and some of the Latin American countries have developed their own version of the traditional tree.

They have developed their own ‘Christmas Cactus’ custom of decorating a decent sized, indigenous cactus the same as you would a ‘normal ‘Christmas tree. The Schlumbergera truncata is not that cactus.

Unsurprisingly, the Schlumbergera Christmas cactus – apart from flowering over the Christmas period – has nothing to do with either the Christmas tradition or the story of Christ’s birth.

Its common name derives only from its ability to flower at the right time, and so I apologise to anyone who has been misled by implied marketing. However in all fairness, it isn't really the plants fault – it’s all down to the French, or is it?

For related articles click onto the following links:
CHRISTMAS CACTUS CARE
CHRISTMAS COOKIE RECIPE
CLOVES AND CINNAMON – SPICES WITH THE SWEET SCENT OF CHRISTMAS
ECHINOCACTUS GRUSONII - The Golden Barrel Cactus
EUPHORBIA OBESA - The baseball plant
HOW TO GROW DELOSPERMA COOPERI
HOW TO GROW MESEMBRYANTHEMUM FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW PORTULACA FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW PORTULACA GRANDIFLORA - THE SUN PLANT
HOW TO GROW PRIZE WINNING CACTUS
MERRY CHRISTMAS - FROM WHERE I LIVE
RHS Xmas Cactus
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS
THE CHRISTMAS ROSE - Helleborus niger

JELLY FISH SWARMS – THE LATEST MAN MADE DISASTER?




Scientists believe that the recent explosions in jellyfish populations are the reflection of a combination of factors. The severe overfishing of their natural predators - such as the tuna, sharks and swordfish - rising sea temperatures (caused in part by global warming), and years of man-made pollution that has depleted oxygen levels in coastal shallows. .

Although there have already been beach closings due of jellyfish swarms on the Côte d'Azur in France, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, and at Waikiki and Virginia Beach in the United States, it is the threat to the world's fishing industry which is considerably more worrying.

Swarms of jellyfish are now seen to be hunting in packs, able to decimate large numbers of fish. Because jellyfish are both slow moving and semi-transparent, they are able to get relatively close to unsuspecting fish without them realizing the danger. Given the opportunity, they ensnare the fish in their poisonous tentacles and are able to dissolve the bodies in their stomachs within minutes.

In Japan - which is home to the world's largest fishing industry - fishing boats are regularly catching jellyfish in their nets instead of fish. Sometimes it’s both, but then any fish caught along side large numbers of jellyfish are so full of venom they are rendered inedible.

The Nomura's Jellyfish, commonly found off the coast of Japan, has a body that can weigh as much as 200 lbs and grow as long as 2 meters - not including the length of their tentacles. According to estimates by the Japanese government, this plague is 100 times the size of normal Nomura's Jellyfish populations and they are now taking aggressive actions.

The Japanese fishermen have begun the practice of chopping up netted jellyfish and dumping their bodies back into the sea, but the Japanese government are taking matters further by creating a committee and a task force dedicated to hunting down and destroying jellyfish in order to protect the other fish that makes up their livelihood. Unfortunately the practice of chopping up jellyfish may be making things worse. When jellyfish are under attack or killed, they release millions of sperm or eggs, which if return back to the sea can produce yet more jellyfish.

So what can be done about the jellyfish problem? Create fishing amnesties around the worst affected areas; place an international legislated fishing ban on the natural predators of jellyfish? Promote jellyfish as a ‘new’ delicacy for the Asian market? At the moment there are few answers forthcoming, but unless our burgeoning populations wake up to the problems of climate change, pollution, overfishing and the unsustainable consumption of the world’s resources - catastrophe is inevitable.

For related articles click onto the following links:
ARE JELLYFISH FISH?
PORTUGUESE MAN OF WAR STINGS
Giant Jellyfish Swarms – Are Humans the Cause?
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – The American Signal Crayfish
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – THE CHINESE MITTEN CRAB
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – THE JAPANESE KNOTWEED
WHY SHARK FIN SOUP IS DEVASTATING WORLD SHARK POPULATIONS

WHY SHARK FIN SOUP IS DEVASTATING WORLD SHARK POPULATIONS




Throughout much of Asia, the Chinese delicacy of shark fin soup is widely recognized as a status symbol of the wealthy. Usually only found only at special occasions – such as weddings or banquets - it is an item of such luxury that it is often served to important guests as a way of bestowing them great respect.

To give an idea of the high costs involved, Scalloped hammerhead fins are among the most highly sought after as they help to create a particularly thick, gelatinous soup. In the Asian market place just 1 kg of these coveted fins can sell for as much as $120.00.


Unfortunately, the premium prices commanded by shark fins have fueled a global shark hunt of epic proportions. Research has shown that up to 73,000,000 sharks are killed annually to supply the fin markets, placing the future survival of many shark species in doubt. Further research from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada has also shown that shark populations - as well as populations of all large predators in the worlds oceans - have dropped an estimated 90 per cent in the last 30 years. Some species of shark, such as the tiger, bull and dusky shark have dropped by more than 95 per cent.

Unfortunately, further controversy hangs over the practice of shark fishing, mainly because shark bodies have little, substantial value. This has caused many fishermen to use the practice known as ‘finning’. This is where the fins are cut away from the sharks body while the remainder of the fish - which is often still alive - is thrown back into the sea. Once back in the ocean, the finless shark is unable to swim and sinks to the ocean bottom to die, a slow and extremely painful death.

Animal rights activists and environmentalists have called the practice brutal, and have also named it as a primary contributing factor in the global decline of many shark species.

Hong Kong is responsible for handling anywhere between 50% and possibly up to 80% of the world’s trade in shark fins. Of that number 21% of fins were found to have originated in waters off of coastlines of the United States, Belize, Panama and Brazil. Surprisingly, these are areas where the shark has been categorized as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature!

But it is not just the Americas that are helping to fuel this enormous market, a third of all fins imported to Hong Kong come from Europe with Spain by far the largest supplier. Of course they are not alone with Norway Britain, France, Portugal and Italy all making major contributions to this barbaric trade. Currently there are only a couple of dozen countries, including those in the EU, which have banned the practice of shark finning – and mostly in just the last five years.

In 2004 was the first fish was placed under the protection of the ‘Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ (CITES). Today there are at least some species of sharks listed on CITES such as the Great White and some of the Basking sharks.

By systematically removing the top predator from every ocean we're destroying the balance of the world’s most important ecosystem, one that is vital for our own survival - hopefully we are not too late. Just as awareness and education has help to bring back many whale species from the brink of extinctions, hopefully shark populations can also be saved. We lose them at out own peril!

For related articles click onto the following links:
GREAT WHITE SHARK FACTS
JELLYFISH SWARMS – THE LATEST MAN MADE DISASTER?
LIVING DINOSAUR SHARK - The Frilled Shark
The Brutal Business of Shark Finning
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – The American Signal Crayfish
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – THE CHINESE MITTEN CRAB
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – THE JAPANESE KNOTWEED

EASTER ISLAND - A LESSON IN ENVIRONMENTAL EXPLOITATION




Many of us are familiar with Easter Island, but only from its association with the spectacular stone statues known as Moai – a creation of the early Rapanui people.

Now a World Heritage Site, Easter Island sits in a remote area of the south-eastern Pacific Ocean, formed as the result of volcanic activity from three extinct coalesced volcanoes 750,000 years ago.

The island was originally populated by Polynesian explorers believed to have journeyed from either the Marquises islands (3200 km away), the Tuamotu islands, Mangareva, 2600 km away) or Pitcairn (2000 km away). Incredibly, these early inhabitants they found their way to Easter Island using only simple wooden canoes or catamarans. Originally the Island was covered by a thick, sub-tropical rainforest which included both palms and hard-woods, but by the time the island was discovered by Europeans in 1722 the Island had become almost totally barren.

The story of this Island is of particular relevance to those concerned with climate change and global warming. This is because recent history shows that Easter Island experienced the collapse of its ecosystem. This resulted in the extinction of many of its prehistoric plant and animal species to the detriment of the local population - an event associated with the over-exploitation of the island's resources.

When Captain Cook visited the island, one of his crew members, who was a Polynesian from Bora Bora, was able to communicate with the Rapa Nui. They found out that the island had a very clear class-based social system, with a King – known as an Ariki – who wielded absolute god-like power. The main element of their life on the island was the cult of the birdman, and a central part of their worship was the production of the massive, ceremonial Moai which are found erected along most of the coastline.

As the islands population grew in size it began to divide into separate clans – each competing for the same natural resources. As these resources began to dwindle an atmosphere of competitive rivalry began amongst the clans who began a self destructive pursuit of building bigger and bigger Moai. This intensified the islanders need for wood from mature trees - one of the islands main resources - essential in the production and placement of the completed Moai.

To move the statues from the island's Rano Raraku quarry in the south-east of the island, the Rapa Nui needed to cut down large trees for use as logs in the construction of long ‘canoe ladders’. This enabled them to carry the massive carvings to the island's coast, but they also needed to manufacture heavy ropes which were made from the fibrous bark of the larger palms.

The scale of operation required to move such enormous stone statues was vast. Research has shown that teams of between 50 and 500 men dragged the statues which weighed anywhere between 10 and 90 tons. Some 887 statues were carved in total, but nearly half of them still remain at the Rano Raraku quarry, which appears to have been abandoned mid-way through production. For transport alone, each statue would have required several trees to be cut down; however other trees would have been taken for housing, fuel and the construction of the large stone platforms, or "ahu", upon which the Moai were placed.

As a result of the steady deforestation, food production began to fall dramatically as crops became exposed to harsh winds and the semi-arid conditions of the region. Starvation and desperation ensued followed by violence clashes as each clan competed against each other for survival. Consequently, the Island population collapsed - unable to sustain itself - from perhaps as many as 15,000 at its peak to just a few thousand at the time of its discovery.

The Easter Island story is not only the most extreme example of forest destruction and its effect on indigenous populations in the Pacific area; it is perhaps the most extreme example in the world. Not only had the islands almost entire forest disappeared, its unique collection of tree species, as well as the animals that lived within them had also become extinct.

The importance of such a story is not lost in this age of modern globalization. With the ever increasing threat of climate change and a rapidly growing world population of more than 6.5 billion people, the parallels between what happened here at Easter Island, and what could happen to the rest of the modern world - if suitable steps aren't taken quickly enough - are chillingly obvious.

For related articles click onto the following links:
JELLY FISH SWARMS – THE LATEST MAN MADE DISASTER?
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – The American Signal Crayfish
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – THE CHINESE MITTEN CRAB
NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES – THE JAPANESE KNOTWEED
The Mystery of Easter Island
WHY SHARK FIN SOUP IS DEVASTATING WORLD SHARK POPULATIONS
WHY SHOULD WE PROTECT THE RAINFOREST?

DETOX YOUR BODY WITH FRESH FRUIT





The world today is becoming an increasingly unhealthy place. The air we breathe is contaminated by pollutants, the food we eat has often been treated by agro-chemicals, and throughout the world many of us are dependant on stimulants such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine or perhaps worse. In the twenty first century, toxicity is becoming a subject of growing concern. Major diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular illnesses can be directly associated to the accumulation of toxic wastes within the human body - along with less obvious health issues such as obesity, skin and gastrointestinal problems. It's because of such factors that the use of detoxifying diets is becoming evermore popular.

The human body constantly strives to remove toxins from within itself and this is – of course - a perfectly natural process. However, through the choices that we make, we can often create a build-up of toxins that remain in our bodies for extended periods of time – much of which would be stored within our body’s fat cells and liver.

There are two ways with which to approach this issue. One is to stop putting toxins into our bodies while the other is to eat those foods that enhance our bodies abilities to remove such poisons. One of the best-known and highly effective methods to do this is through a fruit detox diet – it is also one of the least expensive.

When commencing a fruit detox diet, you are encouraged not to eat anything other than fruit from morning until mid-day. The reason for this makes a lot of sense as the human body is still in the process of detoxification from the previous night.

It is the choice of fruits that are important here. Acid fruits such as grapes and lemons have a very strong detoxifying effect in comparison to all other fruit. Their natural enzymes give the digestive system a boost helping to breakdown food quicker and more efficiently as well as helping to release more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into the body.

Another benefit of detoxifying the body with fresh fruits is that fruit does not create mucus - unlike meat and dairy products - as it travels through the gut. Any undigested fruit fibres that are left behind in the colon are moist and cleansing in nature, and are able to soften and remove existing mucus that has been allowed to build up over time.

In addition to this and to make the most of your time on a fruit ‘detox’ diet, try to avoid adding more stimulants - such as alcohol and caffeine - into the body. Also try to limit your intake of fast food, junk food, and any other heavily processed food items.

Before beginning a fruit ‘detox’ diet, you should consult with your doctor first, especially if you have any medical problems or are on any medications.

For related articles click onto the following links:
FOODS THAT IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE
WHAT ARE THE BEST FOODS TO EAT WHEN PREGNANT?
WHICH FOODS ARE BEST FOR THE SKIN?
WHY IS FRESH FRUIT SO GOOD FOR YOU?
20 Foods that Detox Your Body & Mind

WHY IS FRESH FRUIT SO GOOD FOR YOU?





Much is said about the importance of maintaining a decent amount of fruit and vegetables in our diets, and even the government is in on the act promoting ‘5 a day’ every day. But what is it about fresh fruit that make it so good for us?

We know that the human physique has been evolving over hundred of thousands of years and perhaps part of our success on this planet is due to our ability to make do with a wide variety of foods.

Typically, we would have survived on diets consisting mainly of berries, fruits, nuts, roots and leaves, but there would have been the odd fish, bird, reptile and occasional handful of insects thrown in (some of these insects would of course have been ingested unwittingly).

Fresh fruit consists mainly of water, carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. More importantly, they also contain very little - if any - fat. In fact most fruits will contain less than one gram of fat per serving, although Avocados are an exception to this containing about 31 grams of fat per fruit.

The carbohydrates found within fresh fruit are available to us in the form of starches and sugars (fructose, sucrose and glucose), and along with the small amounts of fat are – or at least should be - the primary sources of energy in the human diet.

Many fruits are also able to provide valuable folic acid and magnesium. Folic acid is essential for a number of chemical processes in the body, although most notably for the synthesis of haemoglobin and the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. Magnesium is essential for cellular metabolism, protein digestion, and the healthy function of the nervous system.

As well as being an important source for vital vitamins and minerals, fresh fruit is a food source that contains no cholesterol, little or no sodium, and is an excellent resource for dietary fibre. The term fibre - sometimes known as roughage - is commonly used to describe the indigestible portion of plant foods (skin, seeds and pulp) that helps to ‘push’ food through the digestive system. It also forms bulk for the stool.

It is important to eat foods that are high in fibre because they help to promote normal bowel function. In addition to this, fibre is also very useful in the prevention and treatment of constipation. Research from Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) recommends that a healthy adult should have an intake of fibre equivalent to 20 - 35 grams per day. However, further research by the USDA – United States Department of Agriculture - showed that the average intake of both men and women is around half this amount.
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Diets that are high in cholesterol, and in fat - especially saturated fats - can contribute to increased cholesterol levels within the blood. This in turn can significantly increase the risk of heart disease. However, there is some indication that dietary fibre can also play a role in helping to lower blood cholesterol.

If further proof were needed the taste organs within the human mouth are genetically predisposed to prefer sweet tastes over bitter ones. This ability is in fact an ancient one and common with many mammals, it helps to protect us from selecting foods that may include bitter-tasting, harmful toxins. The fact that we naturally enjoy and seek out sweet fruits is just further proof that they are perfectly suited to our bodily needs.

For related articles click onto the following links:
DETOX YOUR BODY WITH FRESH FRUIT
Is Fruit Good or Bad For Your Health? The Sweet Truth
WHAT ARE THE BEST FOODS TO EAT WHEN PREGNANT?
WHICH FOODS ARE BEST FOR THE SKIN?
WHY DON'T WE VALUE OUR FOOD ANYMORE

THE ‘NATIVE’ TREES OF ENGLAND




The word ‘native’ in this context has to be used loosely because many of the tree species that you would consider as native to this country are not. There are intellectuals out there who believe that only those species that existed here before the formation of the English Channel – approximately 20,000 years ago - actually qualify as our true British natives.

However, there is a slight problem with that definition because prior to that specific period in time the British land mass – as it was then – was either covered in frozen tundra or melting glaciers. These conditions would have made the spread and growth of existing trees virtually impossible.

Scots pine
The so called ‘true natives’ – as far as I can ascertain - are list below.

Scots Pine – Pinus sylvestris
Common Juniper – Juniperus communis (S)

Trees that would have quickly colonised the wet mudflats after the last ice-age had passed are as follows

Bay Willow – Salix pentandra
Black Poplar – Populus nigra
Crack Willow – Salix fragilis (S)Common Beech – Fagus sylvatica
Downy Birch – Betula pubescens
Elder – Sambucus nigra (S)European Aspen – Populus tremula
European Larch - Larix europaea
Silver Birch – Betula pendula
European or Black Alder –Alnus glutinosa (S)
Common Hornbeam – Carpinus betulus
Goat Willow – Salix caprea (S)Grey Willow – Salix cinerea (S)
Wych Elm – Ulmus glabra
English Elm – Ulmus procera

Silver birch
Trees considered useful by early colonists, merchants and occupying forces.

Apple – Malus sylvestris
Common Ash – Fraxinus excelsior
Blackthorn – Prunus spinosa (S)Common Box – Buxus sempervirens (S)Common Lime - Tilia cordata
Damson – prunus insititia
English Oak – Quercus robur
Field Maple – Acer campestre
Gage - Prunus domestica
Hawthorn – Crataegus monogyna (S)
Hazel – Corylus avellana (S)
Holly – Ilex aquifolium (S)Large leaved Lime – Tilia platyphyllos
Osier Willow – Salix viminalis
Pear – Pyrus pyraster
Purple Willow – Salix purpurea
Rowan – Sorbus aucuparia
Sessile Oak – Quercus petraea
Small leaved lime – Tilia cordata
Spindle – Euonymus europaeus (S)Sycamore – Acer pseudoplatanus
Common Walnut – Juglans regia
Wild Cherry – Prunus avium

Strawberry tree
The more recent introductions

Bird Cherry – Prunus padus (S)Sweet Chestnut – Castanea sativa
Strawberry tree – Arbutus unedo (S)Common Lime - Tilia cordata
Large leaved Lime – Tilia platyphyllos
Whitebeam - Sorbus aria (S)
White Willow – Salix alba
Wild Service tree – Sorbus torminalis
Yew tree – Taxus baccata (S)

All of these groups - apart from the last - would merit inclusion with regards to individual or government woodland planting schemes. However for those of you who have limited space but would still like to make a difference by planting native trees then consider growing the smaller species. My suggestions have a (S) for ‘small’ listed after them – small being a tree that grows between approximately 3 and 5 metres.

For related articles click onto the following links:
CORYLUS AVELLANA 'CONTORTA'
HOW TO GROW ARGYROCYTISUS BATTANDIERI
HOW TO GROW A CONKER TREE FROM A CONKER
HOW TO GROW HOLLY FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW LIQUIDAMBAR STYRACIFLUA
HOW TO GROW SWEET CHESTNUTS FROM SEED
List of Native British Trees
SCIADOPITYS VERTICILLATA
WALNUT TREES

WHICH SALAD CROPS AND HERBS ARE TOLERANT OF SHADE





Wouldn't it be wonderful, if everyone who wanted one had a perfect plot for vegetable growing? However - as with many things in life - perfection is usually out of reach, and unfortunately gardening is no different.

Most people’s image of a vegetable garden is one that will receive direct sunlight all day long, and that’s fantastic for growing old favourites such as tomatoes, peppers, and melons.

But what are you supposed to do if you have no other choice than to grow in the shade? Of course, if your shade is caused by overhanging trees then you can try and improve the growing conditions - ambient light levels can easily be increased by careful pruning. Unfortunately that may not be the end of it as you will probably need to improve the soil too - established tree roots will not only remove a large percentage of the available nutrients they will also be taking out a good proportion of the soil water.
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A good rule to remember is that if you are growing crops for the fruit or edible roots, then you are best suited with a sunny position. If you are growing crops for the leaves, stems, or buds, then a certain amount of shade will actually improve the crop.
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Luckily there are plenty of herbs and salad varieties around that will not only tolerate these lower light levels, they will in fact prefer them, and positively thrive.

There are of course some benefits to growing in the shade because you won't need to water as often and crops that are quick to bolt in hot weather - such as lettuce and baby leaf spinach - will have a sweeter flavour and a far longer harvesting period. This is especially true for crops within the mustard family - cruciferae - such as radish, lettuce and herb rocket.
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When growing crops from the cruciferae family you should find them reasonably productive during the early part of the year. However if they are grown in full sun during the beginning and height of the summer the quality of their flavour can drop enormously - often to a point where they become unpalatable. This is due to the production of bitter tasting compounds known as Glucosinolates, and these are produced in significantly increased amounts when the plants become stressed. These stresses can include high temperatures, high light levels and reduced moisture content within the root environment. Supplying these plants with a certain amount of shade will reduce environmental stress and in turn prolong the productivity of the crop.
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Below is a list of the best salad crops and herbs for growing in the shade:

SALADS
Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce - cruciferae
Herb rocket - cruciferae
Arugula
Endive
Radish - cruciferae
Baby Spinach
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HERBS
Cress
Parsley
Chives
Mint
Wild garlic
Sage
Dill
Oregano
Borage
Chamomile

If your shade is caused by overhanging trees then you can try and improve the growing conditions. Light levels can be increased by careful pruning, and the soil will probably also need to be improved as tree roots will remove a lot of the available nutrients and water.

Take advantage of warmer and hopefully brighter conditions at home by germinating seeds earlier on in the year using modules. This will get them off to a far quicker start and will also help to establish their root systems before they are planted into the ground.

For related articles click onto the following links:
Buy Cilantro Seed
CLIMBING PLANTS FOR SHADED WALLS AND FENCES
EVERGREENS FOR DRY SHADE
HOW TO GROW LETTUCE INDOORS
PLANTS FOR DRY SHADE
SALAD CROPS FOR LATE SUMMER/AUTUMN PLANTING
Shade Tolerant Vegetables
WHICH SALAD CROP SEEDS CAN BE SOWN IN AUGUST?

TULIP ‘SEMPER AUGUSTUS’ - DOES IT STILL EXIST?






Many believe that the Tulip ‘Semper Augustus’ is the holy grail of all tulip bulbs. Made famous during the well documented Tulip-mania period of 1637-1637, they were considered by many to be the most beautiful of all flowers and a pinnacle of achievement from the breeders. Unfortunately, such exquisiteness commanded incredibly high prices making the Semper Augustus tulip affordable only to the very rich.
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Tulip ‘Semper Augustus’
Even before the madness of bulb price hyperinflation took place, a single Semper Augustus bulb was documented to have been sold for 5,500 guilders. In 1637 - just before the crash - the price for even a single Semper Augustus bulb was valued at approximately 10,000 guilders.

When you consider that the average yearly earnings for a skilled craftsman would have been around 150 florins, 10,000 guilders was such an exorbitant amount of money that it would have easily purchased a grand house on the most fashionable canal in Amsterdam.

Unfortunately the extraordinary beauty of Semper Augustus is the result from a viral infection which 'breaks' the single block of colour normally displayed on tulips. In doing so it added a stunning striation of white or yellow coloured stripes.

As beautiful as this effect may be, there is a terrible downside due to the harmful effects of the virus. In many cases the virus is severely detrimental to the health of the bulb, reducing its vigour, and making it difficult to propagate. Eventually the bulb would lose its strength and wither to nothing effetively ending the genetic line. It's for this reason alone that the famous colour broken Semper August bulb no longer exists.

 Tulip ‘Wakefield Flame’
Or at least it doesn't as a direct genetic line. What is often forgotten is that the breeding of tulip bulbs and their subsequent production and marketing was not in the sole domain of the Dutch.

The fashion for rare and beautiful bulbs was common throughout Europe with one of the more significant countries following the fashion being Great Britain.

Broken flame-patterned tulips - like the Semper Augustus - are said to have come to England from merchants in Holland and France and have been recorded in the UK since at least the 17th Century.

From this time period Tulips societies sprung up throughout the country attracting enthusiastic amateurs interested in developing and perfecting the broken, flame-patterned cultivars. These societies reached their peak in the 1850’s when interest in such things was at an all time high. Unfortunately since their heyday, these old tulips societies have lost their base of interest and one by one they have become disbanded over the centuries. Today we are incredibly lucky to still have once society left - the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society and it is the only place that still actively continues trying to develop the broken tulip cultivars.
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Tulip 'Adonis Flame'
Over the years the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society have developed their own creations and although techniques and the science behind tulip breeding have changed, the breeders of 17th century Holland would easily recognize the results.

Once such cultivar of particular interest is the tulip ‘Wakefield Flame’, perhaps the most beautiful of the modern cultivars. But how does it stack up against the legendary Semper Augustus?

Well - taking into consideration a certain amount of artistic licence you can decide for yourself - Photograph courtesy of Oldhousegardens.com and the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society.

WHY DO LEAVES CHANGE COLOUR IN THE AUTUMN FALL




If you live in northern Europe or North America/Canada then you will be familiar with the stunning seasonal colour changes of the native deciduous trees. Although it may look pretty to us, this movement from the usual green colouration to an often spectacular red and orange hue is actually just a by-product of the plants natural leaf dropping mechanism.

The chlorophyll pigment, as used for photosynthesis, is green, and the reason why the majority of leaves are coloured green is because leaves are packed full of the stuff. So how is it then that they are then able to change their colour?

Well, besides the highly specialised green chlorophyll pigment, there are two other important pigment groups that found within the leaf - carotenoids and anthocyanins. Carotenoids are yellow coloured pigments while anthocyanins are red coloured pigments and along with the chlorophyll they all occur in differing ratios depending on the plant species, the variety, and sometimes the uniqueness of the individual plant.

Carotenoids and anthocyanins exist within the leaves for good reason because they are there to perform two important tasks. Firstly, they help by absorbing, and then transferring some of the light energy to drive the photosynthetic process. The second is to protect leaves from the damaging effects of UV light if they become over-exposed to high levels of sunlight. They do this by harmlessly dissipating excess light energy by – once again - absorbing it as heat. In the absence of carotenoids and anthocyanins, this excess light energy could easily destroy proteins, membranes, and other vital molecules within the leaf structure.

Leaf abscission layer - image credit http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/
During the growing season the abundance of chlorophyll pigments effectively masks these other two pigments in the majority of plants. However, as winter approaches, days will become progressively shorter and cooler, and this small yet crucial day by day change acts as a trigger for dormancy in deciduous plants. This environmental trigger begins the absorption of leaf nutrients and carbohydrates back into the stems, but it also starts an irreversible phase of leaf drop.

At the same time a membrane of specialised cells known as the abscission layer will begin to develop at the base of the leaf’s stem. As the membrane grows, it increasingly restricts the flow of sugars and water between the leaf and the rest of the tree. Incidentally, this change also helps to promote the breakdown of chlorophyll pigments for absorption back into the stems. As the building blocks for chlorophyll are absorbed back into the plant the carotenoids and anthocyanins remain and it is their remaining red/orange/yellow pigmentation which gives autumn leaves their colour. The intensity of the colour will also depend on the concentration of remaining stored sugars still within the leaf.

When the abscission layer is completely formed, it is then dissolved causing the physical separation of the leaf from the tree.

For related articles click onto the following links:
AMAZING TREE FACTS
Why Do Leaves Change Color in Autumn?
WHY DO TREES DROP THEIR LEAVES IN THE AUTUMN FALL
WHAT ARE PLANT MACRONUTRIENTS AND MICRONUTRIENTS

WHICH VEGETABLES ARE TOLERANT OF GROWING IN THE SHADE





Wouldn't it be wonderful, if everyone who wanted one had a perfect plot for vegetable growing? However - as with many things in life - perfection is usually out of reach, and unfortunately gardening is no different.

Most people’s image of a vegetable garden is one that will receive direct sunlight all day long, and that’s fantastic for growing old favourites such as tomatoes, peppers, and melons.

Image credit - https://www.facebook.com/SunCoastGrown/photos/
But what are you supposed to do if you have no other choice than to grow in the shade? Of course, if your shade is caused by overhanging trees then you can try and improve the growing conditions - ambient light levels can easily be increased by careful pruning. Unfortunately that may not be the end of it as you will probably need to improve the soil too - established tree roots will not only remove a large percentage of the available nutrients they will also be taking out a good proportion of the soil water.

Luckily there are plenty of vegetable varieties around that will not only tolerate these lower light levels, they will in fact prefer them, and positively thrive.

There are of course some benefits to growing in the shade because you won't need to water as often and crops that are quick to bolt in hot weather - such as lettuces and spinach - will have a far longer harvesting period.

A good rule to remember is that if you are growing crops for the fruit or edible roots, then you are best suited with a sunny position. If you are growing crops for the leaves, stems, or buds, then a certain amount of shade will actually improve the crop.

Below is a list of the best vegetables for growing under shade.
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Image credit - http://shawnacoronado.com/
Brassicas such as Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and Cauliflower
Peas
Beets
Swiss Chard
Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, and spinach.
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You can also try growing vegetables that have been selected for their shade tolerance. Consider varieties such as beetroot 'Boltardy', calabrese, kale, and kohl.
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If your shade is caused by deciduous trees then it is possible to try and work around it by making the most of growing early vegetables such as spring cabbage, and broad bean ‘Aquadulce’. Their seeds will need to be in the ground in early autumn so they are well established by early spring.
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Take advantage of warmer and hopefully brighter conditions at home by germinating seeds earlier on in the year using modules. This will get them off to a far quicker start and will also help to establish their root systems before they are planted into the ground.

For related articles click onto the following links:
Best Shade-Tolerant Vegetables
EVERGREENS FOR DRY SHADE
HOW TO USE CROP ROTATION ON AN ALLOTMENT
WHICH SALAD CROPS AND HERBS ARE TOLERANT OF SHADE
WHICH VEGETABLE SEEDS CAN BE SOWN IN AUGUST?
WHICH VEGETABLE SEEDS CAN BE GROWN IN OCTOBER?
.WHICH VEGETABLE SEEDS CAN BE GROWN IN OCTOBER?

HOW TO OVERWINTER BRUGMANSIA

How to overwinter Brugmansia

Commonly known as the ‘Angel's Trumpet’ – and for good reason to – this spectacular native of South America is a stunning addition to any tropical effect garden.

Often confused with its close relation the Datura, the Brugmansia is distinctly different in that it can grow as large into a small tree whereas Datura are annuals and will only attain the size of a small bush. In addition, the majority of Brugmansia will display their dramatic flowers pointing downwards while those of a Datura will point upwards.

In the cold winter climates of northern Europe and North America the subtropical Brugmansia is highly unlikely to survive without the help of increased global warming, and so for now your only option is to give it a helping hand.

You can begin preparing Brugmansias for overwintering from the end of September by slowly reducing the amount of water they receive. If they are growing in the ground then carefully lift the plant and pot it on into a suitably sized container. Give it a good watering initially, but the plant will still need its watering sufficiently reduced afterwards to help bring it into a state of dormancy. It is also a good idea to reduce the plant's canopy by 1/3 rd to help reduce water loss from its core through transpiration.

Keep an eye on overnight temperatures because Brugmansias can be severely damaged by frost. You will need to have brought them in under protection before frosts occur otherwise you will risk losing the entire plant. However, because Brugmansias can reach a fairly unwieldy size over the course of the year, it is likely that they will need a fairly severe pruning before bringing it inside. You can be quite brutal here as Brugmansias will readily grow back in the spring. Remember that the more you can trim it back - the easier it will be to deal with.

A word of caution with regards to Brugmansia – and it’s not about their well-known toxic nature – is their attractiveness to insect pests. Before bringing inside it is best to check the plant over and remove any pests that may themselves be hoping to overwinter in the leaves, stems and even the root system. Spray with an organic insecticide or remove all the leaves before placing the plant into a cool, dry, frost-free position - such as a basement - where it can be allowed to go dormant. It is important that temperatures do not drop below about 5 degrees Celsius during this period.

Check every few weeks to make sure the soil doesn't dry out too much and only water as necessary to keep the soil slightly moist.

In the spring, once the danger of frosts are over, move over-wintered Brugmansias back outside or plant in the ground for the following season.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW DO YOU OVER-WINTER BEGONIA CORMS?
HOW TO OVERWINTER GRAPEVINES
HOW TO GROW THE ANGELS TRUMPET FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW BRUGMANSIA - The Angel's Trumpet
HOW TO GROW BRUGMANSIA FROM CUTTINGS
How to Grow Datura - The Angels Trumpet
HOW TO OVERWINTER BANANA PLANTS
HOW TO OVERWINTER CANNA LILIES
HOW TO OVERWINTER GUNNERA MANICATA
HOW TO OVERWINTER LILY BULBS

WHY DO TREES DROP THEIR LEAVES IN THE AUTUMN FALL



Every year, the seasonal progression from summer to autumn is marked by the changing colours of deciduous plants. Most notably - and by far the most famous - are the displays witnessed in the ancient forests of New England. Unfortunately for those of us who appreciate such things, just as the leaves are at their most spectacular - they fall off, making an untidy mess on the floor.

But why do trees (and of course shrubs) drop their leaves in winter? Surely this is terrible waste of resources as the plant then has to replace them all – plus a few extra – during the following spring? But before that question get answered it is important to understand what is it a leaf does?

WHAT DO LEAVES DO?
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Each individual leaf is a miracle of evolution – without which, plants as we know them would not exist. Every one of them is a tiny factory which uses energy from the sun (in the form of light) to convert carbon dioxide and water into energy rich sugars – this is the metabolic process known as photosynthesis. Once produced, these sugars are transported throughout the plant - via its vascular system – where the energy is used to power growth and all other metabolic processes. Without these sugars plants would be unable to survive.

However - to photosynthesise effectively - leaves need to be able to collect as much light as possible, and their size and shape are vital in this. Nevertheless, compromises have to be made between the strength, size and weight of the leaf. Too heavy and the plant may not be able to support or direct the leaf to the optimum position for maximum light collection. Too small and the leaf may be unable to produce enough energy to sustain the plant. And is the leaf is not strong enough, it will become damaged in adverse weather and may end up not working at all!

SO WHY DO TREES DROP THEIR LEAVES?

The winter season is always guaranteed to bring two things. The first is far lower light levels while the second is terrible weather.
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With the lower light levels leaves will become increasingly unproductive, but with a drop in temperatures the plants metabolic rate is also reduced and so photosynthesis can effectively stop.

With regards to poor weather conditions, a combination of strong winds, snowfall and freezing temperatures would provide any large broad leaved tree a serious risk from damage if they kept their leaves in place. Firstly, heavy snowfall would remain in the canopy placing huge stress on the branch framework, and if you combined that with strong winds you'll definitely have a recipe for disaster. Of course, the leaves of deciduous plants are particularly sensitive to freezing temperatures anyway as internal cells are easily ruptured when exposed to large enough ice crystals.

The lesser of two evils is to absorb as much of the available and usable nutrients that are within the leaf structures as possible and then lose the remaining ‘leaf husk’ before snow appears. Of course – as with many things in nature – nothing is wasted as the following leave litter is broken down further by bacterial activity to create a humus rich mulch.

HOW DO TREES KNOW WHEN TO DROP THEIR LEAVES?

As winter approaches, days will become progressively shorter and cooler, and it is this small yet crucial day by day change that acts as a trigger for the trees winter dormancy mechanism. As mentioned before, this environmental trigger begins the absorption of leaf nutrients and carbohydrates back into the stems, but it also starts an irreversible phase of leaf drop.

A membrane of specialised cells known as the abscission layer, will begin to develop at the base of the leaf’s stem. As the membrane grows, it increasingly restricts the flow of sugars and water between the leaf and the rest of the tree. Incidentally, this change also helps to promote the breakdown of chlorophyll pigments for absorption back into the stems. When this layer is completely formed, it is then dissolved causing the physical separation of the leaf from the tree.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW A CONKER TREE FROM A CONKER
WHY DO LEAVES CHANGE COLOUR IN THE AUTUMN FALL
Why do trees shed their leaves in the fall?