Archive for 23/01/2014

My Botanical Garden




There were many beautiful illustrations in the old zoological textbook I wrote about in my last post. Today I’ve picked some illustrious examples of what is known as masquerade or mimesis. Basically, prey animals during evolution developed mechanisms, to camouflage and have higher surveillance rates. Mimetic animals look like something else, not interesting to the predator, like bark, twig, leaf or even lichen. You have the examples on the pictures above, they are actuary  full of  mother nature’s wit. But could it be presumed, that mimesis is a form of  aggressive influential behaviour? Meaning ,that flora in general, is in a way pushing other species to try to survive by being more flora like. Which in turn ends in better surveillance rates of real flora, as the, so to say, fake mimetic subjects de facto are ”incompetent plants”? Would like to hear your opinion about this science-fiction idea!

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In play, ‘loose parts’ are skirting the edges of nirvana. Ask any kid. Now they probably won’t call them ‘loose parts’. They’re more likely to use the generic and all encompassing ‘stuff’ prefaced by cool, awesome, or great. It might even go the way of ‘this stuff is epic’.

Simple play is best for kidsStudents at Emmaus Primary Catholic School – Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Jay Town. Source: HeraldSun

Wood, rope, tarps, tires, milk crates, cardboard boxes, fabrics and apparently hay bales too can make up a loose parts inventory. It’s what the kids do with it that’s a real blast. They create, they build up and pull down, they improvise, they move, groove and PLAY!

Now, thanks to Australian researcher Brendon P. Hyndman we have empirical evidence that loose parts in primary schools go way beyond a good thing. From the perspective of increasing physical activity, engaging a broad cross-section of kids and being light…

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Eremurus 'Shelford Hybrids'
Eremurus ‘Shelford Hybrids’

With Spring round the corner and thoughts of summer-flowering bulbs, this week’s timely question comes from George White of Walthamstow, London:

‘A friend has some magnificent border plants which he knows only by the name Foxtail Lilies. What are they, and are they easy to grow?’

George, these plants are a glorious addition to summer borders and belong to the genus Eremurus. They are also known as ‘Desert Candles’ and are hardy herbaceous perennials in which tall spikes of star-shaped flowers arise from a ring of narrow, pointed foliage. The best and tallest are the series known as  ‘Shelford Hybrids’, whose flowers vary in colour but are often a pleasing soft, pinky beige. They can reach 2.75 metres tall and bear hundreds of primrose-sized flowers.

Eremurus stenophyllus bungei  is the yellow-flowered parent of these hybrids and reaches 1 metre in height. The other parent E. olgae, is late flowering, bears pink blooms, and reaches a height of 1.5 metres.

Other fine examples are the very tall E. elwesii with soft pink flowers (and it’s white-flowered variety ‘Albus’), and the even taller (up to 3 metres) E. robustus with pinky yellow flowers on spikes up to 1.2 metres long. Eremurus are quite easy to grow as long as they have a free draining soil around their roots and have lots of warm sunshine. Here’s a video on how to plant Eremurus bulbs. It will probably be at least one season before you see any flowers.

If you can’t wait until next year then now’s the time to  think about some other unusual summer flowering bulbs for your borders.

Camassia (Quamash) are easy to grow and are attractive late spring performers that look good with late tulips (I have some whose lavender-purple flower spikes contrast well with the orange tulip ‘Ballerina’). C. cusickii is 200mm tall with lots of pale blue flowers, while C. quamash (syn. esculenta) has spikes of white to deep-blue flowers and grows to 250mm tall. C. leichtlinii, 900mm tall, has white or blue star-like flowers and C. semiplena has semi double creamy flowers on sturdy stems.

Other summer bulbs of interest are Fritillaria persica ‘Adiyaman’ which stands between 800mm – 1.2 metres tall and in May produces unusual, deep -hanging bells of rich plum-purple. Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’ is probably the best of the summer flowering ‘snowflakes’ standing 300-500mm tall and has wide- hanging white bells in April and May.

If you are in a frost free area or able to lift your bulbs to protect them from winter frost, then Watsonia is a colourful spike- flowered border plant. And why not go for a touch of the exotic with a Canna or two? (better make that 3 at least). Summer flowering bulbs are already available to buy online through various well-known nursery companies and should soon start appearing in your local Garden Centre or nursery. Plant them in the spring as the soil begins to warm up.

Further information:

BBC gardening guide – summer flowering bulbs

Foxtail Lilies

How to grow Eremurus robustus

How to grow Eremurus stenophyllus AGM

Old School Gardener

Norfolk Green Care Network

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