BUY AQUILEGIA VULGARIS 'MAGPIE' SEEDS



Aquilegia vulgaris, perhaps better known by its common name of columbine, is a hardy herbaceous perennial native to Europe. The species and the various ornamental hybrids derived from it make for popular garden plants, in fact there are illuminated manuscripts dating back to the 13th century showing Aquilegia hybrids being grown in English gardens.

Aquilegia vulgaris 'Magpie' is an upright perennial with divided foliage which is able to reach a height up to 75 cm and a spread of 30 inches.  The with deep maroon-purple flowers are approximately 5 cm across and have an attractive, contrasting white corolla. The blooms also have deep purple spurs which curl at the tips

Be aware that there is some confusion with the name as the Aquilegia vulgaris 'Magpie' is also goes by the cultivar name of 'William Guiness'.

Aquilegia 'Magpie' seeds are very easy to germinate and will do so though the spring, summer and autumn. They will best is a cooler part of the garden under partial or dappled shade. Sprinkle the seeds straight onto the ground and gently rake them in so that the seeds are just covered with a small amount of soil as they need the presence of light to help initiate germination.

AQUILEGIA 'CHOCOLATE SOLDIER'
Aquilegia Chocolate Soldier - 20 seeds
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Aquilegia McKana Giants - 200 seeds
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HOW TO GROW AQUILEGIA FROM SEED


Aquilegia, although perhaps better known by their common names of 'Granny's Bonnet' or 'Columbine' is a genus of hardy perennials, the smallest of which can be considered as alpine species. They are very easy to grow from seed and readily hybridize between cultivars so be aware that seed collected from mixed aquilegia plantings will not grow true to the parents unless protective measures are put in place.

Image credit - http://tmousecmouse.blogspot.co.uk/
It is best to sow the seeds as soon as they are ripe on the plant, usually in July or August,  and if you miss the summer sowing period you can always have another go in March. That being said aquilegia seeds will germinate naturally in the garden at most times of the year beginning as early as february if the weather is mild, and as late in the year as October.

To begin with, fill a deep seed tray with  a good quality compost such as John 'Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. Gently water the compost in then sow the aquilegia seeds on the surface. Do not cover with layer of compost as aquilegia seeds require light to help initiate germination. However, to keep the compost moist you can cover the seed with a fine sprinkling of vermiculite.

Place the tray inside a heated propagator at a temperature of between 15-20 degrees Celsius and place on a warm, bright windowsill but one that does not receive direct sunlight as this can dry out the compost and scorch the new seedlings as they emerge. If you do not have a propagator, the seal the tray inside a clear, polythene bag.

Image credit - http://rambleonrose-rr.blogspot.co.uk/
Germination will usually takes anywhere between 1 and 3 months, and once the seedlings are large enough to handle, transplanted individually into 3 inch pots containing John Innes No1 and grown them on in cooler conditions such as a cold frame.

Once the roots have established in the pot and the plants themselves are large enough to plant outdoors they can be hardened off to acclimatise them to outdoor conditions over 7 to 10 days. Do not plant outside into their final position until the threat of late frosts have passed.

Aquilegias will do best planted in a moist, well-drained soil in a sun or part shade.

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AQUILEGIA 'CHOCOLATE SOLDIER'
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Aquilegia Magpie - 75 seeds
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BUY AQUILEGIA VULGARIS 'MAGPIE' SEEDS
RHS Aquilegia

THE BLACK LILY - Lilium 'Landini'

Image credit - http://www.vanengelen.com/


If you consider yourself to be a connoisseur of the dramatic, then the black lily - Lilium 'Landini' could be right up your street. Named after the Italian ‘Landini’ tractor factory (don't ask me why), it is currently the darkest lily in cultivation. While the flowers do not express a true black pigment they are an extremely rich, black-purple.

Like most ornamental lilies, Lilium 'Landini' a hardy bulbous perennial with erect stems. It will growing between 3-4 ft tall with spirally-arranged, glossy, dark green leaves. It will produces large, upward-facing, non-fragrant purple-black flowers in  June.

Image credit - http://davidsgardendiary.files.wordpress.com/
When grown in northern European climates it can be grown outside in full sun although in warmer mediterranean or sub-tropical climates the tips of the flowers can become scorched and so a position that is shaded during the hottest part of the day would be more suitable.

Black lily bulbs are purchased on the spring as soil-free, pre-packed and will need to be planted as soon as possible to prevent them from drying out. If this is not practical you can delay planting for 2-3 weeks by keeping the bulbs in a cool, frost-free position but any longer and you risk damage to the bulbs. Lilium 'Landini' will perform best in a well-drained, sandy loam in a position that has good air circulation. Avoid soils prone to waterlogging soils, and improve heavy soils with horticultural grit, perlite, leaf mold or moss peat. Lilium 'Landini should be planted approximately 4 inches deep in light soils but maybe only a couple of inches deep in improved, heavy soils.

Alternatively plant Lilium 'Landini' into well-drained, raised beds 8 to 10 inches above ground level. If your lily corms are at risk of damage from rodent then secure 1/4-inch galvanized hardware cloth on the bottom of the bed.

Remove the flowers as they fade in cluding the seed heads, but do not cut back stems until autumn. Allow the stems to die back naturally as this will help to bulk up the corms for the following year. Provide a dry mulch such as gravel, or bark-chips over the winter.

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ORGANIC CONTROL OF CATERPILLARS

Image credit - http://caterpillar-eyespots.blogspot.co.uk/

Believe it or not, caterpillars can cause absolute devastation within the garden, but because they're not as obvious to the naked eye as slugs or have characteristic bite marks such as the dreaded vine weevil they often get away with the damage they inflict blame free.

Parasitic wasp - image credit http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Of course, a small amount of damage is neither here nor there, and if you are talking edible crops a few holes does not stop your plants from being edible. Furthermore, if you control your caterpillars in such away that they don't survive then you are denying the environment the adult butterflies which are in the majority of cases important pollinators. But there is another side this coin. Given the right environment and if left uncontrolled infestations of certain caterpillar species can quickly explode in the locale and in such cases economically important crops will be lost.

While caterpillars are extremely adept at hiding within the foliage, arguably the best technique to controlling caterpillars is to cover with a protective fleece or netting. This is fine for the allotment but impractical in an ornamental flower garden.

In the garden the most organic method is still to pick them from the plants by hand. Finding them is the difficulty but their presence is betrayed by irregular holes and large, dark green droppings. If doing it yourself seems like an awful lot of hard work then why not employ nature. Encourage insect eating birds into your garden by providing water, nest sites and appropriate foods.

This is one product which you can spray on you plants which is caterpillar specific and won't kill other beneficial insects. The product is called Dipel and contains the bacterial Bacillus thuringiensis. The bacteria works as a bacterial stomach poison for all caterpillars.

Parasitic wasp egg cases - Image credit http://www.harvesttotable.com/
Tip 1. If it is the caterpillar from the cabbage white butterfly that you are hoping to control then try this old gardener's tip. Place broken eggshells from white eggs only around your susceptible crop. It is believed the the butterfly mistakes the shells for other cabbage white butterflies and flies on to an area where the competition is less.

Tip 2. Sometimes it is easier to search for caterpillars at night using a torch to find their the caterpillars themselves or locate them using their shadows.

Tip 3. If it is a particular plant that is showing susceptibility to caterpillar damage then place white card or plastic below the plant and shake out the branches. Collect and dispose of fallen caterpillars.

Tip 4. Use companion plants that are known to deter specific butterfly species from your crops. Predatory wasps that will actively seek out and caterpillars can be attracted to your garden by planting lemon balm, parsley, chamomile, peppermint and catnip.

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HOW TO GROW ISOPLEXIS CANARIENSIS


Commonly known as the Canary Island foxglove, Isoplexis canariensis is a gorgeous, evergreen shrub native to both the Canary islands and the island of Madeira. Upright in habit, it will usually grow to 4 -5 feet tall, although some individual specimens can reach up to 6 ft tall given the right conditions.

Image credit - http://botany.cz/
In its native habitat Isoplexis canariensis is usually found in humid woodland areas although it is occasionally seen growing in far drier woodland areas. Despite its subtropical origins it performs at it best in cooler conditions making it a suitable plant for the temperate regions of southern Europe. It will even grow outside in the south and west of Great Britain so long as it can be provided with a sunny, sheltered position out of the way of cold winds. In warmer countries, a position that is shaded during the hottest part of the day with give better results.

Although capable of surviving temperature down to as low as -4 degrees Celsius, it will not thank you for it and so it is best to avoid freezing temperatures wherever possible. To keep your plant in optimum condition, keep winter temperatures above 6 degrees Celsius which for many of us in the cooler climates of northern Europe will mean growing your Isoplexis canariensis in a pot so that it can be brought in under protection in freezing weather.

Image credit - http://biodiversidadeflorestal.webnode.pt/
Luckily Isoplexis canariensis does particularly well in a pot as it is easy to emulate the well-drained, low nutrient soils of the volcanic islands upon which it has evolved. Use a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No 2', but mix in a good quantity of horticultural grade grit-sand to improve the drainage further.

Keep the roots moist over the growing period but avoid having them waterlogged. A 10 liter pot will be fine, but if you are happier with moving heavier specimens then consider using up to 25 litre pots. Feed with a liquid soluble-fertilizer once a month and keep the compost just on the moist-side over the winter.

Isoplexis specimens that are going to be planted in the ground will prefer a light, moist, well-drained conditions. Dig in plenty of humus-rich compost such as leaf-mold or peat but avoid nutrient-rich matter such as well-rotted farm manures or garden composts.

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HOW TO GROW CHIVES




Chive are a great and flavoursome addition to fish, potatoes, and soup dishes. Not only are that packed with flavour they are also popular with organic gardeners are they have insect-repelling properties. Chives are a bulb-forming, herbaceous hardy perennial plant and are also the smallest species from the edible onion genus - Allium.

Image credit - http://travelingchili.com/
Chives will do best in a medium, loamy soil, in a position of full-sun to semi-shade.  However they will grow quite happily in any fertile, well-drained soil. Once planted they need little maintenance other than frequent watering during dry periods.
If you are growing chives for culinary use then remove flowerheads as the form, otherwise the plant will direct its energy away from produce edible foliage.

Chives will die back to ground level in the winter and re-appear in the spring with a flush of new growth ready for use by early May. For an earlier crop of leaves consider protecting your chive plant with a cloche over the winter period. Under these conditions  you can expect your first harvestable leaves by March or April.

Give unprotected chives a top dressing of well-rotted farm manure in March or April, making sure that the leaves are washed thoroughly before eating fresh.

You can divide clumps of chive bulbs every four years for propagation in September or October. Divide them using a sharp, sterilized blade into smaller clumps containing approximately half a dozen shoots and replant them 12 inches apart in ground that has been newly dug over with well-rotted manure.

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HOW TO GROW KOHLRABI

Image credit - http://www.diseaseproof.com/

Although Kohlrabi is not a particularly popular crop in Great Britain although it is quite widely grown in other parts of Europe. Be that as it may the Kohlrabi is a much more suitable crop for our climate faring better in out hot, and usually dry, summers than the far more popular turnip!

Image credit - http://floweryprose.com/
Although considered to be a root vegetable, the edible part of the Kohlrabi is not really a root at all, instead it is a swollen stem base known as a 'globe'. It is a biennial vegetable that is grown as an annual for cropping purposes. There are two forms in cultivation, a small, tender quick-growing cultivar and a larger, coarser slower growing form that is only really used for feeding cattle.

Kohlrabi will grow well in any fertile, well-drained soil, but avoid ground contaminated with clubroot. The idea situation is to have a sunny position on light soils. Heavy soils can be improved by digging in plenty organic matter during the previous autumn. Lime the soil if needed during the winter. If cabbage root fly is known to be an issue in the area then use protective discs around the base of the seedlings. A week or so before sowing, prepare your crop bed by treading down the soil and raking the surface to a fine tilth.

Image credit - http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/
Sow the seeds very thinly, 1/2 inch deep in shallow drills 12-15 inches apart from each other.  As soon as the seedling show their third true leaf they can be thinned out to one plant for every  6 inches. For continual cropping make successional sowings every three weeks from March until August. The young seedlings may need protection against damage from birds.

Hoe along the rows regularly to prevent competition for nutrients from perennial weeds. If growth is slow then feed occasionally and soak the ground during periods of drought. Do not allow your crop to dry out as this can result in woody, bitter flesh

Once the globe has reached the size of a tennis ball it will be large enough to harvest. Seeds sown in March should be ready to harvest in June. Do not lift and store kohlrabi, as they will begin to deteriorate as soon as they leave the ground. Instead leave them in the ground and harvest as required until December. Be that as it may it is possible to keep kohlrabi in a plastic bag in the fridge for a couple of weeks. The bag helps to keep the globe from drying out.

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BUY TREE FERN SPORES

Tree fern spores

The hardy tree ferns - Cyathea and Dicksonia species, are highly ornamental garden plants and among the most impressive of all fern species. Native to eastern Australia, New Zealand, Norfolk Island and Tasmania they include some of this region's most abundant trees.

Tree fern spores - http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/
All shop bought stock in Europe is sourced from old growth forests, and larger specimens of which can be hundreds of years old. Australian logging practices allow the tree ferns to be removed before the heavy machinery moves in which would otherwise damage and destroy the existing plants. However this practice has been criticized by environmental groups for several decades.

The cost of removal and then shipping to Europe makes the tree ferns an expensive purchase but you can always grow your own tree ferns from spores.

The 'Seeds of Eaden' now has tree fern spores available as part of their regular stock range. The spore mixture is sourced from popular Cyathea and Dicksonia species and are all hardy in light to medium frost areas. Each packet contains enough spores for 25 plants.

How to grow tree ferns from spores

Tree fern seedlings - http://growingontheedge.net/
Using modular seed trays containing a good quality soilless seed compost, water first then press the tree fern spores onto the surface. Sow just one spore per module. Do not cover the spores with compost as they require the presence of light to help initiate germination.

Place the tray in a heated propagator at an optimum temperature of between 20-25 degrees Celsius. Alternatively seal inside a clear polythene bag. Place in a warm room that receives subdued light until germination.

Tree fern spore germination is erratic, especially when you are dealing with multiple species so expect the seedlings to emerge over a period of 10 days and up to a year or more.

Once the seedlings have established in their modules, carefully pop them out and transplant them into 3 inch pots containing a free-draining compost. Keep the compost consistently moist but not waterlogged and pot on as required into 5 inch and finally 8 inch pots.

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HOW DO YOU STOP A CHRISTMAS TREE FROM GROWING?

How do you stop a Christmas tree from growing?





If last years rooted Christmas tree survived the rigors of being brought into the home for the seasonal celebrations, then the chances are that you will wish to bring your tree in again for the following Christmas period. Hopefully it would have retained its ornamental value, but you can guarantee that it would have increased its overall size though natural growth.

How do you stop a Christmas tree from growing?
Like all trees, they will do far better when grown in the ground which means it will be taller and wider by the end of the growing season compared to how it was when it first went in.

If your Christmas tree was kept throughout the year still in its pot then its growth would have been restricted due to amounts of available water and nutrients within the pot.

There are two reasons as to why you would want to try and stop a Christmas tree from growing.

1. You have planted a rooted tree in the garden and only later realized that mature specimens are capable of growing to huge 'garden-unfriendly' heights.

2. You want to keep bringing in your traditional pot-grown Christmas tree inside the house but it is getting to a point where the growing tip is about to touch the ceiling.

How do you stop a Christmas tree from growing?
Of course only a dead Christmas tree genuinely stops growing so for specimens taking over the garden you may need to face facts, put your hand in a deep pocket, and call in a tree surgeon to remove the tree.

If the tree is not too big, and you feel that with the appropriate safety equipment to could successfully attempt some work, then remove the leader shoot and trim back all of the side branches to produce an attractive cone-shape.

Always cut back to a bud, never cut back into brown wood. For example, on trees that are approximately 6ft tall, you are probably only looking at cutting the stems back only by a few inches.

You will need to trim back your tree every year, but in vigorous specimens this may need to be increased to twice a year. Once when the tree is dormant in the winter and again during the height of the summer.

If you have access to commercial herbicides then you can consider applying a plant growth regulator either as a foliar spray or as a granular application to the soil surrounding the trunk. Perhaps the most commonly used product on the market is 'Cutless' which works by suppressing terminal growth. Treated plants require less trimming and exhibit a more compact habit. However due to the larger concentrations of oils, resins and latex materials exhibited within some Christmas tree species plant growth regulators may only have a limited effect.

How do you stop a Christmas tree from growing
The last solution is to restrict growth by treating your Christmas tree like a bonsai. As mentioned earlier, keeping a Christmas tree in a pot will restrict its growth but with limited nutrients and water can result in weak, unattractive growth.

To avoid this, either re-pot into a larger size pot pot in the spring using fresh, good quality compost, or if the pot is as large as you are already comfortable with then remove the tree from the pot during the early winter (when the tree is dormant) and carefully remove the outer few inches of the rootball.

Repot the tree back into its original pot using fresh, good quality compost to fill the gaps. Water in, and then water as necessary over the summer. Feed the Christmas tree with a water soluble ericaceous fertiliser.

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HOW TO GROW CARAWAY FROM SEED

Image credit - http://www.harvesttotable.com/

Caraway - Carum carvi is a hardy biennial herb native to western Asia, Europe and Northern Africa. Commonly known as the 'Meridian fennel' or 'Persian cumin', it is an aromatic plant  with ferny, mid-green leaves which are similar to that of a carrot - to which it is related. Dried caraway seeds are used in flavoring cakes, breads, salads and cheeses, but can also sprinkled on lamb and pork before roasting.

Image credit - http://www.spicesherpa.com/
Caraway will grow in any fertile, well-drained soil, preferably in full sun. Note that caraway is only grown for its seeds so there is no need to apply fertilizers or top dressings during cultivation.

In order to produce the largest plants and therefore crop the most seeds, sow caraway seeds in September to make the most of the following years growing season. Alternatively, and in case you miss this sowing time, you can have an additional sowing in March.

Sow the seeds directly into their final position into shallow drills 12 inches apart and ½ inch deep. Germination can be sporadic but once the seedlings emerge they can be thinned out to one plant every 8 to 12 inches. The soil will need to be kept moist but not waterlogged and avoid getting the foliage wet.

The seeds are ripe when they turn a rich deep brown color. At this point cut the plant down to ground level and tie the stalks into bundles, and then place each bundle into a brown paper bag to dry for a few days. Shake the bag to remove the seeds and then pour into a fine sieve to remove any dust.

With regards to pests and diseases the caraway plant is generally trouble-free.

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BUY BLACK SWEET PEPPER SEEDS


When it come to fresh produce, sweet peppers seem to be 'all things to all men'. Served raw in salads, indispensable in Mediterranean and Asian dishes, and even roasted as an accompaniment to the good old British Sunday lunch, they are one of the most versatile of all vegetables (although botanically the sweet pepper is actually a fruit).

Perhaps the most stunning of all the sweet peppers is the gorgeous Sweet Pepper 'Black Knight' F1 Hybrid. The fruits of this early-to-set, heavy-cropping pepper actually start off green in colour and then as they mature turn to an attractive deep purple as they ripen.

Like regular sweet peppers, sweet Pepper 'Black Knight' is easy to grow from seed. Sow in March, under protection, in modular seed trays containing a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'.

Gently water the compost and once drained either sow the seed 1/4 inch deep or press one seed into the surface of the compost and give a light covering of vermiculite. Place inside a heated propagator at approximately 16 degrees Celsius of seal inside a clear polythene bag and keep in a warm bright room that does not receive direct sunlight.

Germination should occur in 7-10 days at which point remove the tray from the propagator or bag. Once the seedlings have established into their pots they can be transplanted into 3 inch pots containing a multipurpose compost.

Once the threat of late frosts have passed, harden the pepper plants of over a week or two before planting out into their final position.

Sweet peppers prefer a well-drained, fertile soil that has been previously enriched with plenty of well- rotted farm manure or garden compost. They will do well in a sheltered position against a sunny wall, but even better if grown in the ground under the protection of a greenhouse or polytunnel.

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HOW TO OVERWINTER CHILLI PEPPER PLANTS


In northern Europe, most chilli pepper plants are grown outside in a sunny position, although a few well-tended plants may have the advantage of the protection of a greenhouse or polytunnel. Either way, they are usually grown in the ground as this ensures the best crop. All Chilli plants originate from the subtropical or tropical regions of South America, and while they are quite happy growing outside during the warm summer season but they will begin to suffer when light levels and temperatures begin to drop. Leave them to their own devices and they will be cut back by the frost and eventually die.

However, in their native habitat chilli peppers are actually perennial plants and while they may well be treated as an annual crop in cooler European climates, it is quite possible be overwinter them under protection and plant them out the following year.

If you want to overwinter field grow plants then be aware that chilli peppers only really have a shallow, delicate and fibrous root system and care will be needed when lifting to keep the root-ball intact. When potting on you will need to cut back the foliage to at least half to prevent the plant from drying out while the root systems re-establishes itself. Remove any brown stems or leaves as well as any fruits or flowers so that the plant can direct its energy into root production.

How to overwinter Chilli pepper plants
It is advisable to main humid conditions during this time but be aware that this can also increase the incidence of fungal infection. This will always put the plant at risk and so it is really only recommended to overwinter pot grown chillies. Pot grown chillies will not need to be pruned for over wintering.

Unfortunately when it comes to chilli peppers a frost-free greenhouse or cold frame isn't really going to be good enough so unless the greenhouse is heated to above 10 degrees Celsius you will need to move them to more comfortable conditions. They need as much light and warmth as possible and for most gardeners this will mean bringing chilli pepper plants into the home or at the very least a heated conservatory.

If it is not practical t bring your chilli plants in then consider constructing a secondary inner tent within your greenhouse made from heavy duty bubble-wrap or fleece. The plants will need to be raised of the ground and preferably kept on benching with heated mats.

Water and feed as you would do your other foliage houseplants. Once the threat of late frosts have passed in the spring you can begin to harden off your chilli pepper plants for a week or so before leaving them outside in a sunny position for the forthcoming growing season.

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HOW TO PROPAGATE AND GROW THE BELL PEPPER FROM SEED

WHAT IS A PINEBERRY?

What is a pineberry?

The pineberry is a relatively new, and particularly expensive, cultivar of strawberry. Unlike the traditional red strawberry, the pineberry is white in colour and is noted for its distinctive pineapple flavour. Despite this, the pineberry is not a pineapple/strawberry hybrid, but is in fact a selected cross between the South American Fragaria chiloensis and the North American Fragaria virginiana.

Pineberries - http://www.centralmarket.com/
The botanical name for the pineberry is Fragaria × ananassa, the hybrid name 'ananassa' eludes to the pinapple genus name 'Ananas'.

When fully ripen the fruit is almost perfectly white although the seeds remain red. The flesh of the fruit will range from white to orange.

Unlike the traditional strawberry plant, the pineberry will only produce a few fruits per plant and even then the fruits are smaller than its more common counterpart at between 15 and 23mm across.

This means that the production costs for growing pineberries is far higher than for the traditional strawberry cultivar and this is responsible for the higher prices when the crop comes to market.

Surprisingly, the Fragaria chiloensis x virginiana hybrid is believed to the the oldest recorded strawberry hybrid and is in fact the basis for all the common strawberry varieties we have today.

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HOW TO OVERWINTER AGAPANTHUS

How to overwinter agapanthus



Agapanthus, commonly known as the 'African lily' in Great Britain or 'Lily of the Nile' in the rest of the world ( although it is neither from the Nile region nor the Liliaceae family) is a genus of herbaceous perennials native to southern Africa. There are are up to 10 species within the genus (4 of which are still in discussion) and many valuable, ornamental hybrids.

How to overwinter Agapanthus
Despite their subtropical and warm temperate origins, many agapanthus hybrids are surprisingly hardy in the cooler temperate regions of northern Europe, however the further north you go the more important it becomes to provide adequate winter protection. Of course half-hardy species and hybrids should be pot grown and then brought in under frost free protection once night temperature begin to drop below 8 degrees Celsius.

For outdoor grown agapanthus it is advisable to provide cold protection in all but the mildest areas of northern Europe from October to April. Before you commence, cut back all old flowering stems down to ground level and remove any yellow leaves as they occur. Provide a 6-9 inch deep dry mulch over the top of the crowns to protect the roots from ground frosts. You can use either straw, bracken, horticultural grade coarse sand or weathered ashes. The straw and bracken will need to be secured in place.

Once the threat of late frosts have passed in the spring the mulch can be removed.

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HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM ARTICHOKES

How to grow cuttings from artichokes

All globe artichokes are selected forms of the ornamental cardoon - Cynara cardunculus and unless you are growing artichokes using F1 hybrid seeds then you can expect a certain amount of variation from seed grown plants.

Of course if you have a particularly good variety of artichoke available to you then you can ensure that all subsequent progeny are genetically identical by taking cuttings. This means that the crop produced from the cutting material will look and taste exactly the same as the parent plant.

Traditionally, propagation material is taken in the form of rooted suckers - otherwise known as basal side-shoots. The most successful method is to take suckers which are approximately 9 inches long, in April or November. Pot them on into 4-5 inch pots containing a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No 1'.

For suckers taken in November, overwinter in a bright, frost-free position such as a greenhouse of cold frame. Suckers taken in April can be kept outside in a position of light-shade until they establish their root system. Once they are well rooted they can be planted out into their final position at 3ft intervals

Artichokes will require a sheltered, sunny position in a well-drained and well cultivated soil. They are not fully hardy in the cooler northern European gardens, so just before the onset of winter, usually around November, cut the stems down to 18 inches and draw soil up to the stems.

Cover the artichoke bed with a 12 inch layer of straw or bracken to protect the roots from ground frosts. In particularly cold and wet winters you may need to replace this covering to ensure continued and adequate protection.

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BUY AGAVE SEED


If you are looking to purchase Agave seed then you are in luck as the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop now has Agave Collection seed as part of its 'Rare and Exotic Plant' range.

The Agave collection contains 15 seeds of the  following species:

Agave americana
Agave angustifolia
Agave angustifolia marginata
Agave attenuata
Agave filifera
Agave victoriae reginae

Buy Agave seed
Agave seed can be sown at any time of year although February to July will fit well with the Agave growing season in northern Europe. Using modular trays, fill with a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting', although it is worth adding horticultural grade grit-sand or perlite to improve the drainage further. Water the compost and then press one seed into the surface of each module. Do not cover the seed with compost as it will require the presence of light to help initiate germination. However a thin layer of vermiculite will be fine.

Place the tray inside a heated propagator at a temperature of between 20-25 degrees Celsius and place on a bright position out of direct sun. Alternatively, seal the tray inside a clear polythene bag and place on the windowsill of a warm room, again, keep out of direct sunlight. Once the seedlings begin to emerge, remove from the polythene bag or propagator once the seedlings begin to emerge (but still keep in warm bright conditions) and apply a light sprinkling of coarse gravel to help support the seedlings and reduce the incidence of damping off.

Always allow the compost to dry out before watering and only then to just keep the soil moist. Do not overwater and do not allow the root system to become waterlogged. Once the seedlings have established in their module, carefully pop them out and pot them on into 3 inch pots containing a good quality, free-draining compost. Pot on as necessary and water carefully until established.

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Agave X 'Royal Spine'
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THE 'SEEDS OF EADEN'  - THE WORLD'S GREATEST ONLINE SEED SHOP