Jam of the tropics: growing and using Rosella

Rosella makes one of my favourite jams and as it is such an easy plant to grow in the tropics and subtropics I try to grow a crop each year. Over summer and autumn, the plants look stunning in the garden as they come into flower. The brilliant red fruit are eye catching, particularly when backlit by the western sun. Continue reading

How to grow tamarillo or tree tomato

The tamarillo (Cyphomandra betacea) must surely be the most under-rated and under-planted fruit tree in my region… and yet it is unfussy, extremely fast-growing and bears delicious fruit (peel the rind after dunking in boiling water for 3 minutes, or halve fresh and scoop out the inside). The red cultivars are tart – ideal for preserves, pies, salads and desserts, whereas the orange ones are lovely eaten fresh as well. Continue reading

Spargelzeit: asparagus season in Germany

It’s spring in Germany with those beautiful, mild, sunny days; the trees clothed in tender, luminous, green leaves; and colourful flowers, such as azaleas, hydrangeas, laburnums, lilacs, rhododendrons and wisteria everywhere you look. It’s also ‘Spargelzeit’, asparagus season, and the Germans are mad about asparagus. Not just any asparagus, but white asparagus, the ‘vegetable of kings’, ‘edible ivory’, or ‘white gold’. Continue reading

The remarkable genus Camellia

For many gardeners around the world, the word camellia conjures up images of a reliable shrub that produces gorgeous autumn and winter displays of pink, red and white flowers or sometimes combinations thereof. These flowers come in a range of interesting flower types from the simple ‘wild’ types to the multi-petalled  ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ double types. The glossy dark green foliage also makes a wonderful backdrop in the garden as a stage for displays of other flowering plants. Continue reading

When growing food is too hard

We are constantly being told these days growing our own food is just so easy that everyone should be doing it. As an eco-gardener my inability to feed my family out of my own garden left me feeling somewhat inadequate. No, actually I felt like a total failure. My husband doesn’t like vegetables much so he is quite happy for me to not grow them and for years kept telling me to just grow flowers instead. Continue reading

Mango tree of Fort Cochin

Checking in to our Fort Cochin Hotel, the friendly staff invited us to relax in the garden while waiting for our room. We didn’t need an invitation – I was already out there craning my neck to see what caused the dappling in the courtyard. It was an enormous mango tree, and as I looked up something caught my eye. There was someone sitting on a branch, a very long way up. Continue reading

How to grow and use licorice

Today I’m talking with herb specialist Ian Hemphill of Herbies Spices about growing that very tasty plant, licorice (or liquorice if you are in the UK). Forget the sticky black confectionary licorice – you can make your own sweet treats like licorice icecream and even chewable sticks from your own home-grown plant. Continue reading

Common names versus scientific names

What’s in a name, you might ask? A scientific name is a two-word name, which is unique to a particular organism, unlike common names where there may be several different common names for the same organism. Take the scientific name of a large American native cat, Felis concolor, for example. The cat has several common names across its range including puma, cougar, mountain lion, panther and catamount. Continue reading

Minuscule harvests

Hooray, hooray, it’s my first avocado harvest! Yep, that’s avocado harvest, singular. It was delicious – not quite the bushels I planned to give away to family and friends, but at least Geoff and I enjoyed half each as a mid afternoon snack… a small snack, as the avocado was not very big! Here it is: Continue reading