Book review: House of Plants

This charmingly idiosyncratic book seeks to enthuse its readers about the humble houseplant. Its arrival on my desk was perfect timing: as a landscape historian and fervently keen gardener, I have increasingly been wondering why my house is not full of beautiful, healthy plants. Some potted herbs in the kitchen and a dusty gloxinia upstairs are about all I can currently muster. So I was delighted to dip into this passionate, personal account of the wonders of indoor gardening. Continue reading

Crazy about cristation and fasciation

Cristation, cresting or fasciation is an accident of nature that occurs in either vegetative or flowering buds, the former bearing new stems and leaves and the latter, well, flowers. This may seem quite obvious to most of you, but I must say that I am surprised how many of my horticulture students are not aware of this small fact. To confuse matters you can get mixed buds, but inside each of these will be smaller flowering and vegetative buds. Continue reading

Behold! The MASSIVE Shōgoin Daikon!! 聖護院大根

Last week I was casually doing a little snack shopping at my local Kyoto supermarket when I unexpectedly came across WHOPPER of a vegetable! It was round with slightly translucent skin like a radish, but I’ve never seen radishes that big, so I assumed it must be a big-ass old turnip. I wish I had weighed it too, because as you can see in the video, it was actually hard to lift with one hand!
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Roscoea: unusual flowers cast a lemon glow in a dark spot

I am currently between houses – but I’m not unhappy about this state of affairs as I have the privilege of staying in a little cabin owned by friends. I have enjoyed the (KonMari style) downscaling … but the cabin is also in the midst of fabulous Rhododendron gardens (more on the gardens’ genesis and the original plant-hunting owners in future posts). Not only do I wake to a multi-coloured vista of maples, copper beaches and other rare trees, I walk twice daily in the grounds to make ‘discoveries’. Continue reading

How to brine black olives

A few months ago a friend gave me a wonderful gift of about fifteen kilos of olives…. and not just any olives. Peter Taverna had picked them but was too busy to brine them – would I care to do the honours? You bet I would! When he arrived with a food grade 20L bucket and the olives, I was gobsmacked. The fruit were enormous, way bigger than the giant Greek kalamatas we occasionally see in shops. Most fruit measured 50-55 mm in length, with some even bigger. Continue reading

Women in horticulture: award-winning Sonja Cameron

Late last month, Sonja Cameron from Cameron’s Nursery at Arcadia in New South Wales accepted the Nursery and Garden Industry NSW and ACT’s Environmental award. Sonja Cameron is no stranger to awards, she wins them consistently for her strong commitment to sustainability and she is happy to share her story with other growers and gardeners. Some 300 plus visitors come to the nursery each year to look at its sustainable infrastructure. Continue reading

Celebrating the kangaroo paw at Cranbourne Gardens

After 35 years breeding and growing kangaroo paws I was delighted to be invited by Rodger Elliot on behalf of the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne to help plan and be involved with a unique event titled the Kangaroo Paw Celebration. The event is a month-long exploration of the Kangaroo Paw family, Haemodoraceae that also includes the cottonheads (Conostylis species) and blood roots (Haemodorum species) amongst others. Continue reading