Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Plants need nitrogen to live, thrive and survive. However, some environments are a little lacking in this nutrient - for example peat bogs and rock outcrops. So, what is a plant to do? They have to find an alternative source of nutrients.
It's the pitcher plants which have really taken to alternative sources of nitrogen-rich materials.
The pitcher plant which inspired this post, however, wasn't aiming for insects, rodents or other such prey. No. This plant has taken a more prosaic route to improving its nutrition. Nepenthes lowii has evolved to act as a toilet to a shrew. Droppings are full of nutrients, and the pitcher design has evolved into a shape "manoeuvring the animal to sit astride the pitcher orifice". The droppings can then be broken down in the pitcher's liquid, to provide much needed nutrients for the plant.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Chester has been nominated as a Cycle Demonstration Town, and so cycles have featured heavily in the planting this year. The planting scheme has been changed to winter plants recently, and these cycles in the grounds of Chester cathedral show a range of hardy plants.
They also have baskets planted up with some evergreens, and supplemented by cut branches.
Finally, something which technically wasn't Out on the street, but can currently be found at Ness Gardens. In 2008, Liverpool went Superlambananas as part of its celebrations as the City of Culture. Currently, Liverpool and the surrounding areas are hosting a colony of penguins. This horticultural chap was found at Ness Botanic Gardens.
With celery and sweetcorn cobs for feet, isn't the Grow Your Own penguin handsome!
Please visit VP's blog for links to many more December OOTS
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The one fact that everyone seems to know about parsnips is that they taste better after they have had a frost through them. The starches turn to sugar, making them sweeter, that's what all the web pages say. But why? With sweetcorn, it's the opposite. You have to run to the pan of boiling water to throw them in before the sugars turn to starch. Vegetables are contrary things.
According to this website (which describes the parsnip as "slightly mucilagenous" - not a great marketing slogan), at low temperatures starches are converted to sugars. This has been known for quite some time, as this textbook from 1867 mentions the change.
This paper from the 1940s looks at how these changes occur in potatoes, but the physiological reason behind the changes from starch to sugar is best explained by this article. Again it looks at potatoes but the reason must be the same - the change of starch to sugar lowers the freezing point of the fluid in the plant cells. This makes the vegetable cells less likely to be damaged by the cold weather (if you want to do an experiment, water with sugar or salt added to it will freeze at a lower temeprature than pure water).
So - great for the plant as it can cope with lower temperatures without its precious storage organ being damaged over winter, and great for us as we get a sweet, tasty veg for our Christmas dinner table.
Just don't try and make parsnip cake.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
I can still have shrubs, trees, bulbs, even annuals, but just five herbaceous perennials.
Some of what I have in there at the moment (for details see GBBDs passim)
Aster x frikartii 'Monch' - a delight;
Penstemons from pink, through blue to deep purple. I like the fact that they flower forever, but am beginning to find them a bit 'twee';
Verbena bonariensis - hmmm, bit of a pain
Verbena hastata - nice but not something you can plant a drift of;
Sedum - several. Worth it just for the butterflies and bees.
Alchemilla mollis. Love the acid green colour of the new growth but never get round to dead heading it before it sets seed. Consequently everywhere;
Dierama - delicate flowers with hidden depths but scruffy (probably my fault);
Self sown poppies - fun and flouncy for a while;
Asters - nice and bright late autumn colour but they die ugly;
Nepeta - appreciated by the cats, who splat it;
Perovskia - hmmm.
Japanese anemones - lovely flowers but rather frisky. I've grown them in clumps but better off as individual plants, I think.
Geraniums - the ones I have are too low growing and just sprawl on the floor, like a drunken student, but there are others which would do a better job;
Ooohhhh, my beautiful, beautiful peony. Gorgeous but a bit like a firework - anticipation followed by a brief spectacular bang, then the equivalent of the stick left in the milk bottle for the rest of the year. Actually that's a bit harsh, as the foliage is nice if rather nondescript;
Aquilegias - always a surprise what they'll flower like as they're more promiscuous than [insert appropriate bawdy comment here];
Solomon's Seal (at least until the sawflies get to it);
There are lots more individuals, shoehorned in. So, a real rag-tag mix. No "unity". I'm rather attached to many of the above list, but would any make it to a list of five? I think I would have to save Aster 'Monch', as it flowers for ever and would look good with a lot of plants. The sedums make it onto the list, too, for their butterfly attracting abilities, their nice shape and I love the way their new growth peaks through in the spring. As for the others? I'm not so sure, so there are three gaps in my list. A grass such as Stipa? It would add movement, and it feels so nice.
What is your 'must have' perennial?
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
So, please help me! What flower springs to mind when you read the short post below? A gold star to the best answer.
"If this flower was a song, its soundtrack would be the wonderful, cheesy "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", sung by Andy Williams. Love it."
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Saturday, October 31, 2009
So today, I took advice from friends on Twitter on the best way to carve a pumpkin without removing a limb in the process, and then I carved. He might not be as scary or as complex as some of the pumpkins on websites such as Zombie Pumpkins but I'm as proud as punch.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
A skip was hired and filled. Nice men came and took out overgrown shrubs and their stumps. A blank canvas. And no real idea of what to fill the space with except that I wanted lots of plants, lots of flowers, no lawn. Limited funds meant that a few shrubs (pittosporums, viburnum, smoke bushes) and a few herbaceous perennials (achillea, penstemons, japanese anemones and so on) were supplemented with a load of self seeding annuals (candytuft - I have an absolute love for this plant, with memories of simpler times many years ago when the time taken for these seeds to germinate seemed an entire lifetime, love-ina-a-mist, cerinthe, cosmos, bedding dahlias, californian poppies).
Visits to gardening shows helped fill the gaps. Even when there weren't gaps. What we have now is loved by butterflies and bees. And I enjoy it. The postman enjoys it rather less, as he gets thwacked in the legs by wet foliage as he walks to the door. But it seems like it is missing something, and that something is structure. There is nothing that captures the eye - it slides from plant to plant. No bad thing, maybe - I love plants. But I am starting to feel it needs something more. A little less chaos. A little less variety. A little more order. SomeBeans will barely be able to believe I've just written that - my middle names are Chaos and Disorder.
Just added this - Leee John certainly had some Imagination. Just look at the sequins on that!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The most interesting part of the day is the opportunity to view so many different varieties, many of which have a long history. A wonderful website that I have just discovered fro apple varieties is Orange Pippin.
Court of Wick is from Somerset (1790s).
How could I not take a photo of Pig's Nose Pippin? It originated in Herefordshire in the 1880s and is very sweet
Another great name, this apple arose in the 1850s.
Talking of diseases (well in this case a deficiency), there are examples of common apple problems on view.
Not just apples - there's the opportunity to stock up on pumpkins before little darlings start knocking on your door at the end of the month.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' - flowers for ages and looks after herself nicely. She's loved by the bees and hoverflies.
A Penstemon (no idea which one as I failed to make a note of the cultivar when I bought it). A lovely lilac blue.
Japanese anemone 'Pamina' - a lovely looking lady who appears tres elegante but can put up a very good fight in a crowded border. Handbags ahoy!
The cool blue of Perovskia
The elegant twisted petals of Cyclamen floating up from the darker hoop.
And if I may just extend the remit of GBBD and include some of the stunning colours from foliage at this time of year - as bright as many of the flowers...
Monday, October 12, 2009
Don't worry, it was a one off, never to be repeated event - I wouldn't wish to be responsible for further damaging the delicate sensitivities of James "yes please to lots of kewt kitties and bad rhymes on the internet" Alexander-Sinclair.
However, I couldn't let the date pass without some sort of recognition, so here is something for cat lovers...
And something for lovers of bad poetry....
Sunday, October 11, 2009
The title of this post is in tribute to Professor Denzil Dexter. SomeBeans and I are probably the only two people to remember the sketch.