It was a few years ago when this particular time of year gave me an idea on attempting to grow a particular plant! Seeing bunches of Mistletoe (Viscum album) in various shops and market stalls I got to thinking on how to go about growing your own and what is involved in this. I did have some idea that Apple trees can be a host and also that it is like a type of parasitic plant but other than that I had absolutely no idea on how to go about attempting to grow it. So I did what most people do these days to suss out a bit of information and that was to look it up on the internet.
Well it turned out that the seeds had to be fairly fresh and they had to be pressed on to a host tree. The seeds themselves, once separated from the berry, are covered in a thick slimy gel type of substance and the reasoning behind this is that in the wild, birds would eat the berries and then wipe their beaks on a branch. The sticky substance ensures the seeds stay put until germination takes place after which 2 green shoots, which to me have the appearance of some alien like probe, work their way out of the seed, bend around digging in to the bark of the host tree, thereby setting off the parasitic requirements required to flourish as a plant.
This is pretty much how it stays for almost the first year, I kept checking on it for growth and suspecting it was perhaps dying off but the shoots remained green. After a period of months, there was a green sprout which unfolded 2 leaves on each seed, again this was a very slow process and was pretty much all that happened in the 2nd year. They do speed up a little, the second photo shows how they are currently this year the amount of shoots are now expanding and the amount of leaves growing in number so that it is now starting to resemble a bunch of mistletoe, but will it have berries? I am told it needs to be a female plant for that to happen and early on there is no way of telling, so fingers pretty much crossed on that subject.
Also it needs to be said that as mentioned before this is a parasitic plant so some people may not be very keen on unleashing it on to a branch of their favourite apple tree, I don’t think it will kill it as that would be defeating the object of living together in harmony! But it is said to weaken the tree, then again there should be plenty of people, friends or family willing to be recipients of bunches at Christmas time which in turn reduces the load on the host, it is after all the amount and size of the bunches that would affect the growth of a host tree.
Lastly, the obligatory warning that the seeds & leaves can be poisonous! So be careful when handling and don’t leave any lying around where children and pets play. Having said that, to me this was a fascinating thing to try and grow and to observe still growing now, taking almost no effort and what is more no compost, propagator or heat required! How many seeds can you say that about!
We ran an allotment completion this year so that we could see what you make of your allotments and why they mean so much to you. Our winning entry was from Caroline Lawson from Veg in the Park, who told us all about their community growing up;
V.I.P ( Veg In the Park ) is a community growing hub for all residents across East Oldham, we don’t say allotments as this indicates it’s their own, and everything we grow we share, sell and all money will be reinvested back into V.I.P
We are a very new growing hub as we only opened in July of this year, our age range is from 3 to 95, and we all benefit from each other.
The growing hub was an idea that me and a friend came up with as we realised not all kids knew where veg came from and had never even touched or tasted some vegetables. The hub site was funded by public health and our local councillors, but we opened with no money in the bank and limited tool. With friends, we grew some of the veg in our own gardens throughout the year so when the hub was opened we could transplant what we had grown. We have 3 local primary schools wanting to have their garden clubs with us now, and we have given each school a flat bed that they can grow and produce whatever they want , they will be taking over their beds soon.
We also want to help the older folk as well as most are in bad health and even though they have gardening skills, they can no longer manage their allotments, but can come and help us. We have 18 raised beds of various heights so no bending down to ground levels, and we get expert advice from people who have gardening skills.
We also have a 50 foot polytunnel, so we are not lacking in space! Our site is all about growing from seed to plate, and we tell everyone the one rule we have is to have fun, It also helps with health & well being.
A very worthy winner!
Despite it being the mildest November since records began, winter has arrived in Pembrokeshire, with 50mph winds, continuous rain and short dreary days. In fact over the last week we have had enough rain to fill the forty gallon water butt from the gutters of the greenhouses. The glass was rattling so loudly in the greenhouses on Sunday 15th that I felt a teeny bit scared to be in them. However, I had to go in and try to salvage my plants.
I am still getting amazing spinach leaves, and aubergines but the pepper is now producing bitter green fruits. I am not sure if I should dig it up or allow it to overwinter. Next year a pepper plant will go to the more sunnier side of the greenhouse.
In the little greenhouse a slug managed to get in and eat a good lot of my new salad leaves, as well as destroying the Pansy, Laurentia and most of the Yarrow seedling. The slug did leave the broccoli, cauliflower and radishes alone, so I was pretty lucky there. I found the critter in the Californian Poppy plugs looking very fat and satisfied. I put him on the bird table; I have no idea if it escaped the house sparrows at feeding time.
Unfortunately, the slug problem was not the only disaster to hit my crops, the higher than expected temperatures (it was 16 degrees Celsius one night) and strong winds have meant that I cannot vent the little greenhouse as well as I wanted too as it’s just too dangerous – which in turn has meant that I have now got a good case of what appears to be green slimy damp-off in some of the pots. I am not altogether convinced it’s down to the weather though, when I checked the ( Garden Centre ) compost ingredients I noticed that its moss based, so it appears to want to go back to its original form. The compost appears to hold the water in the top half inch whilst the lower pot seems to be bone dry. This happened in the summer also. I always sieve my compost before planting small seeds, and have done so for many years, as I find the seeds germinate better in a fine tilth. If I water from the top of the pots the water runs straight through the soil, if I water from the bottom it seems to help, but I can’t have the plants sitting in trays of cold water in the winter as it may freeze the roots if the temperatures drop. As a result I have lost my radish, the kniphofias some tomatoes and some broccoli and cabbage. The frustration is immense. Especially as we had just dug the fertiliser into the bigger greenhouse to grow our winter & spring veg. I will definitely be buying some Incredibloom® next year, and will dig the rest of the old bought compost into the flower borders. I am looking forward to the 2016 sunflower competition, and if you fancy winning a big cash prize click on the T&M community link and read all about it on the website. Also think about pre-ordering Cosmos at its going to be flower of the year next year. I have my seeds already, courtesy of a magazine last summer that I forgot to grow.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, I am on week thirteen of carrot growing, I don’t seem to have any slugs in the borders. The shoulders of the carrots seem to be raising themselves out of the soil, so I am thinking I can harvest them next weekend. The Begonias are still in leaf and the spiky cacti are a lovely shade of green. The pots of Tulips and other spring bulbs that I planted at the start of the month had to be moved outside as the bulbs shot up and if left in there they would probably be in flower by December. The Christmas cactus inside the house is starting to flower; I will bring the two in from the greenhouse in the week so they can start to bud. In the large greenhouse I have the Aloe Vera’s and the money plant which appear to be thriving.
At this point in the season I really have to weigh up what to do now, as it’s impossible for me to get in the greenhouses after work as its too dark. I don’t want to say, I should just cut my losses dig everything up and wait until the spring, as I would have nothing to write about and there may be some plant survivors that can be transplanted on early next year. However, I don’t want to waste time, money or seeds trying to persevere with plants that probably won’t survive the winter in an unheated greenhouse. What this month has taught me though, is that no two gardening years are ever the same. I have noted in my diary that the best plants for me to grow in the greenhouses from September onwards will be lots of lovely carrots onions and spinach. I will be trying parsnips next year, and possibly buy in some late veg plug plants that I can grow own. I think I left it too late into the season to attempt overwintering vegetable seedlings.
I haven’t included many photos in my blog from the greenhouse this month as I didn’t think you wanted to see photos of aubergines and beet again, and I didn’t think you wanted a photo of a fat slug on slimy green compost. If you want to look at some amazing pictures, I would say take a look at the T&M competition winners snaps, they are amazing. However, I have included a photo of my proud mum (Anna) who won the Johnston in Bloom Small Front Garden competition.
Next month will be the last update for this year in my Year in the Greenhouse story. I really can’t believe how quick this year has gone. I hope you will join me in December.
Happy Gardening, Love
I have a friend who asked me what bulbs are suitable to grow in glass bowls. I was ready to tell her that it was craziness and of course bulbs need soil to grow in… until I did a bit of research and saw that it was true! Certain bulbs can be grown in a glass bowl or carafe with water in.
Excited by the idea of growing bulbs indoors, rather than having to wait impatiently until spring, I got to work chatting to more experienced gardeners and reading a heap of forums. So my attempt began…
The best bulbs to try this with I’ve found are Hyacinths. T&M do a few different mixtures which are ideal for this type of cultivation. I personally prefer a mixture of colours so would recommend the ‘T&M Mix’ variety.
Whereas others might prefer the rarer, more gothic vibes of the ‘Midnight Mystic’
Either way, perfect for my trial. It’s a brilliant way to conquer not having a large garden, or a garden at all! You just need 3 things; a bulb, glass bowl or carafe and water.
I keep saying glass, but it’s not necessary, it’s just easier when you can see the water level. Checking the water level is crucial as you don’t want the bulb to sit in the water. This can cause the bulb to rot. If you’re using a bowl it would be a good idea to place some pebbles or stones along the bottom and carefully sit the bulbs on top.
You can actually buy hyacinth glasses too which are used for this exact purpose.
Step 1. Fill up the glass to a level just below where the bulb would sit.
Step 2. Rest your bulb on top carefully.
Step 3. Place in a cool, dark place for around 2 weeks.
Step 4. When the roots start to reach into the water, and the shoot is around 5cm in height, transfer to a sunny windowsill to continue growth.
Step 5. Enjoy the amazing fragrance and beauty of your hyacinth indoors!
As a novice gardener I’m slowly building up my experience and trialling new ideas regularly. Not all of it goes to plan, so I’ll see how this one turns out in a month’s time. Let me know if you have tried it before and works well/ doesn’t work so well – I’d love to know!
One of Thrive’s regular client gardeners, Phil Banbury, is a shining example of how, with the charity’s help and the love of family and friends, there is still much happiness to be had whilst living with a disability.
A former physicist and university lecturer, when Phil was told he had Alzheimer’s, the diagnosis came as no surprise.
At first, several symptoms were put down to ageing as it’s a disease that often develops slowly over many years and is not always obvious at the start. However, being an intelligent and scientific man Phil had already suspected that all was not right, so when the diagnosis was made after seven years of experiencing difficulties, he took the news quite well.
Being physically active has always been important to Phil and his wife Jean who were already keen gardeners, growing their own vegetables and looking after two raised beds at home. Up until a few years ago they also had an allotment which they had lovingly tended for 18 years.
When their local Memory Clinic run by the NHS told them about Thrive, the idea appealed to both of them. Now Phil attends weekly and Jean says the impact has been noticeable.
“There are the inevitable changes with Phil because of his Alzheimer’s – even making a cup of tea is becoming a chore. Sometimes I say to Phil ‘I miss the old you’ and he replies ‘so do I’. But knowing Phil loves coming here, is enjoying himself and is so well looked after makes me very happy and also means I can have a few precious hours to myself,” wife Jean.
For Phil, his visits to the Thrive gardens in Beech Hill, near Reading, provide a sense of adventure within a safe and supportive environment. The exercise helps him sleep at night and his circulation has improved. Thrive focuses on personal achievement and with the support of horticultural therapist Vicki, Phil has become highly proficient at potting on! Vicki, said: “I first met Phil last year when he joined our weekly Dementia Group for the summer here at our Trunkwell Centre in Beech Hill. Phil enjoyed it so much, his wife Jean felt he would miss it if he stopped, so he has carried on throughout most of the winter.
As long as he doesn’t need to tackle tasks involving bending, Phil is very capable, so we use raised beds and potting benches to make everything accessible. The weather can be a challenge at times so we create enjoyable indoor craft projects such as making lavender bags from the flowers we grew in the summer.
Phil’s so helpful and it’s a joy to see his confidence build as he tackles new tasks. Recently he chose flowers from the Thrive garden and made a posy for his wife. He can’t manage to order flowers for her anymore so it was touching to see the care he put into this. It certainly brightened Jean’s day when he got home!
If you’ve been moved by Phil’s story and would like to help, please make a donation to Thrive here. http://www.thrive.org.uk/donate-to-thrive.aspx
Thompson & Morgan will also be selling Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ in 2016, with sales going towards Thrive training programs at the charity’s four regional centres and local community venue.
Gardening with Alzheimers or Dementia
With careful planning, people with Alzheimers and Dementia can undertake a wide range of activities. As the illness begins to show signs of deterioration people can continue to garden at home, however, it is best to have a structure in place so stimulation can still be gained in a safe way, although this maybe in a different way.
Before you start the following points need to be considered. Activities need to be planned for short sessions, e.g. 1hour or less and have an element of fun to them. This can support the individual to remain focused and engaged. Sometimes things may not work, but you must not give up hope.
Activities can include:
- Planting a large pot with a choice of plants chosen by the individual, this can encourage an individual to take ownership of their pot
- The choice of plants can provide opportunities for the individual to reminisce. Especially, by choosing old varieties, or heritage seeds. A wider variety of plants can also trigger people’s memory
- Growing vegetables to prepare and eat the produce
- Care of plants can provide the individual with a valuable role, such as weeding or watering
- Seed sowing is a focused job, and can allow people to learn new skills, especially if they are passionate and motivated about the subject
- Indoor gardening, for people who may be in the more advance stages, such as table top gardening which could be propagation or harvesting vegetables in pots
- Caring for indoor house plants can be an easy introduction to gardening, eg propagation of Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum)
Many activities can be chosen to increase mental awareness and stimulation, but essentially they must all bring a sense of fun into the activity. Bringing the family together can also contribute to the learning experience
For hints and tips on how gardening could help you or somebody you know visit www.carryongardening.org.uk or the main website www.thrive.org.uk
I can’t remember such a mild November since 1992 when my best friend got married in an off-the-shoulder dress on November 5th!
So today, in nothing warmer than a T shirt and jeans I had a serious cut back and filled our green recycle bin in two hours. Great tall brown stems of lythrum, crocosmia, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’, iris & tree lilies (bless T&M for all their tree lily trials, I feel like I have the national collection!) all gone for another year. With that lot out of the way I’m enjoying others such as giant melianthus major, Miscanthus grass, fennel and Sanguisorba as well as hidden gems like variegated sedum and Hydrangea ‘Little Honey’
There is still so much colour, especially roses and salvias: climber Summer Wine, County series Oxfordshire alongside lemon and white carpet roses, For Your Eyes Only, Rhapsody In Blue and my favourite rosa Mutabilis. New addition salvia confertifolia is at its peak and two year old salvia involucrata is about 8ft wide, full of blooms and covered in bud. I am not taking any chances with the confertifolia; I sank it in a pot into its temporary space in July and intend to lift it for overwintering in the greenhouse as it is too precious to risk losing if we do have a cold winter.
My two salvia Amistads in patio containers are also having a new lease of life, as are the red canna lilies. I suppose the first frosts can’t be far away so I shall enjoy their flowers all the more while they last. I was told by the nurseryman who sold me my half hardy perennial Rudbeckia Prairie Glow that it is best newly grown from seed each year, but have decided to try and overwinter this year’s three plants in the greenhouse anyway.
Clearing the perennials on the roof terrace is challenging as there is so much herbaceous material and fallen leaves from adjacent tree canopies to bring down the ladder for composting. Last to die back were eupatorium and helianthus, cut down to make way for the grasses. Nasturtium Jewel of Africa (Trial Summer 2015) has re-grown since its haircut in September, and what’s more, it’s variegation has come back twice as strong, just as the T&M website said it would. No doubt this variety will be with us for many years as it is bound to have self-seeded vigorously throughout all the containers up there.
I’m so not ready to come indoors for the winter yet, and am thoroughly enjoying the transformation from blowsy abandon to formal structure. I’m getting reacquainted with the evergreens that carry the garden through the bleak winter months and am even enjoying clearing up the leaves as they reveal next year’s perennials emerging at soil level. Whilst the apple tree is still hanging on to its fruit (more apple crumbles in the offing), daffodil shoots are already putting in an appearance, reminding me that spring is after all only round the corner.