Tag Archives: flower

Harvesting the Seeds of Calendula officinalis

So these final few warm dry days of Summer have encouraged my Calendula seeds to ripen to the point where they need to be collected.

I know they’re ready because they have turned a dry brown colour.

They need to be collected at this stage as the plant will shed them soon after, which is okay if you want them growing there again next year, but I don’t.

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Pot Marigold for the Flower Garden

Pot Marigold

Calendula officinalis, the Pot Marigold is native to central Europe and the Mediterranean.

It’s common name, “marigold” is most likely derived from its association with the Virgin Mary and its Latin name Calendula comes from the Latin word Kalendae, “first day of the month” in the Roman calendar possibly because it can  be found in flower at the beginning of most months of the year.

It was used in ancient Greece and Rome and in early Indian and Arabic cultures.  Because of its excellent antiseptic, healing and detoxifying properties it is a major herb in modern Western medicine.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used it to colour foods, fabrics and cosmetics, as well as for medicinal purposes.

Pot Marigold

Its petals can be used as a substitute for saffron in soups and rice dishes as well as used fresh in salads.  When infused it can add colour to dairy products such as cheese, butter and milk desserts.

Calendula is a hardy annual which self seeds profusely.  Removing dead flowerheads will prolong flowering and help to control self seeding if desired.  Because it is hardy, seeds can be sown in situ in either spring or autumn.  There are a few pests and diseases that you should look out for namely powdery mildew (as you can see in the photograph, mine have succumbed), rust, cucumber mosaic virus and caterpillars.

Powdery Mildew

This is such an easy flower to grow and one of my all time favourites.  Mine are setting seed which I’ll be collecting for next year’s crop.

Seeds ripening …

Medicinal, Cultural, Culinary and Ornamental Chives

Flowers appear from April – June and are great for bees …

Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, have been around for over 5000 years and have  been cultivated in Europe since the Middle Ages when it was believed that bunches of herbs hung around your home could ward off evil and disease.  The Romans believed that chives could relieve sore throats and sunburn and Romanian gypsies apparently used them in fortune telling.

The chive is a hardy bulb forming herbaceous perennial which grows to between 30cm and 50cm tall.  It’s leaves are hollow and 2mm to 3mm in diameter and it’s flowers are purple, produced in a dense inflorescence.  The seeds are produced in a small three-valved capsule and mature in summer.  Mine, seen here, were bought and planted after flowering so I’ll have to wait a while to see them flowering next year.

Allium schoenoprasum

Chives are generally free of insect attack due mainly to the sulphur compounds they contain, though thankfully this doesn’t deter the bees.

Chives are known to have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system by lowering blood pressure, much the same as garlic but much weaker which is probably why it has limited use as a medicinal herb.  In native North American medicine they are used internally as a spring tonic as well as for worms in children!

The culinary uses of chives are far more familiar as it is commonly used in small amounts for flavouring all kinds of dishes.  In England they are used to flavour Cotswold  cheese.  Over-consumption should be avoided however, as they can cause digestive problems.  On the plus side, they are rich in vitamins A and C and contain trace amounts of sulphur and iron.  The flowers are also edible and look great in salads.

If you’re more interested in using chives for ornamental purposes here’s one cultivar you should consider :~

Allium Schoenoprasum ‘Forescate’

Allium schoenoprasum ‘Forescate’

This cultivar is larger than the species, growing to around 45cm and has pink flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand if you’re wanting to grow chives for either their edible flowers or foliage, here are two further possibilities :~

 

 

Allium schoenoprasum ‘Grolau’

Allium schoenoprasum‘Grolau’

Otherwise known as Windowsill Chives, has dark green foliage with good flavour, grows well in low light and re-grows readily when cut.

 

 

 

Allium schoenoprasum ‘Profusion’

This cultivar has sterile flowers making it excellent for edible flower production.

 

 

 

Chives grow best in rich, well drained soil in full sun although they will tolerate heavier, wetter soils and a less open position than many other Allium.  My soil has a pH of 6.5 (slightly acidic) and they seem to be thriving so far.

Caring for your Moth Orchid

Phalaenopsis is a large genus of epiphytic plants, that is they grow on other plants but aren’t parasitic.  The moth orchid produces superb flower spikes which are extremely long lasting.  If the plant is strong it may produce several flower spikes a year and some might even flower continuously.  The species can be found ranging from India to New Guinea on the upper branches of trees in forests where there is heat and humidity.  Most of those currently in cultivation can be found in the Phillipines and its neighbouring islands.

Growing indoors is easy.  Orchid compost, which is essentially bark, can easily be bought at most garden centres.  Heat and humidity are essential to the plants health but direct sunlight, especially in summer will scorch the foliage so a bright windowsill where light is filtered or shaded greenhouse are best.  Because Phalaenopsis are essentially hot-house orchids, the plant shouldn’t be allowed to dry out especially during the summer when the roots are actively growing.  Fresh air and ventilation are important but avoid draughty spots.

Where the potting compost has deteriorated, rather than disturb the actively growing plant, it can topped up as necessary.

Moth orchids should only be re-potted when absolutely necessary, when it is clear the root system has outgrown its pot.  When re-potting, the older roots should be pruned back.  Rockwool or a proprietary orchid compost (bark based) are the usual potting media.  Drainage should be sharp so adding a few crocks to the pot when potting on is a good idea.

During the flowering period, August onwards (length dependent on growing conditions) I water mine once a week, more if necessary.

I’m not a lazy gardener, but I’d have to recommend this orchid as being one of the least troublesome plants I’ve ever had the pleasure of growing.

 

 

My Sweeties and a Flowerpot

‘Cupani’, ‘Winston Churchill’, White Supreme’ and ‘Painted Lady’

Had a simple idea, in the event of a vase shortage just turn a flowerpot upside down!

My Sweeties …

Gladiolus Flowering

Well the rain we had last week spoiled the blooms on the lilac Gladiolus but we now have a white one flowering and what I think is going to be a yellow one too!

Got a great shot of this bumble bee visiting the white Gladiolus.

A welcome visitor …

Umbellicious Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ (Bronze Fennel) is a hardy perennial, tall and stately with attractive deep brown feathery foliage and yellow flower umbels.  I have been trialing it in my herb bed as a potential for mass planting in the borders which I plan to develop next year.  It has grown well in the clay soil and is flowering beautifully attracting plenty of beneficial insects.

Bronze Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’

As I’m gardening on a budget I’ll be propagating from seed collected this autumn and sowing them under protection next spring ready for planting out in mid spring.

If any part of this plan fails I can divide the mature plant in mid spring but this obviously won’t give me as many plants as propagating by seed so fingers crossed for a decent harvest.  Over time as the plants become established they will self seed if soil conditions are right, in other words light, which mine isn’t at the moment but I’ll be working on that over the coming months.

How is it Used?

Fennel has many culinary, medicinal and economic uses as well as being a good garden plant.

It’s oil is used in the food industry for flavouring, and in liqueurs such as Sambuca and Fenouillette.  It’s also used in perfumes, soaps, toothpastes and air fresheners.

Bronze Fennel

Feathery Leaves of Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’

The leaves can be eaten in salads and used to make herbal tea and its seeds can be used whole, ground or cracked to flavour tea, biscuits, bread, stuffings and sausages, in particular finocchiona which is an Italian salami.  The flower heads can be used to flavour capers and the dried stems add a subtle fragrance to barbequed fish.  Every part of this plant has value.

Fennel has been proved to relieve symptoms of indigestion, colic, wind and poor lactation (seeds), and urinary complaints (root).  It can be used externally as a mouthwash or gargle for sore throats and gum disease.  Its oil is mixed with the oils of Eucalyptus globulus and Thymus vulgaris , diluted with vegetable oil and used as a rub for bronchial congestion.  It is also used in laxative preparations to relieve griping and added to “gripe water” for infants.  However, it is not given to pregnant women.

Cultivation

Cultivating fennel requires a fertile soil and full sun.  Seeds can be sown in autumn or spring 60cm apart where they are to grow.  Otherwise, young plants can be planted in mid spring or autumn or clumps divided and planted 60cm apart in mid spring or autumn.  During the growing season you can keep the plant trimmed to provide a succession of young leaves but leave some flower heads if you want to harvest its seeds.  Established plants should be lifted, divided and replanted every three years.

Harvesting

Harvesting should take place just as the seeds are ripening.  Cut near the base of the plant and hang the stems upside down in small bunches in a dry, well ventilated shed.  Place a sheet or container beneath the bunches to catch the seeds as they are shed.  Allow the seeds to dry out before storing them in a cool dry place ready for sowing the following spring.  Sounds easy, I’ll let you know next year!

Attention!!!

A few words of warning, fennel shouldn’t be grown near coriander, dill and caraway as these plants will cross-pollinate.  Fennel tea shouldn’t be drunk if you have cirrhosis or any other liver disorder.  Though not proved conclusively some medical practitioners believe that fennel can aggravate liver disorders.

It’s still a super plant however and I can’t wait to see it gracing my borders next year.

Lavender’s Blue

Not actually blue, but a rather lovely purple.  Lavandula is in the family Lamiaceae and within the genus Lavandula there are around 25 evergreen aromatic shrubs and perennials.

Lavandula stoechas, pictured here, was used widely as a toiletry herb and antiseptic by the Arabs, Romans and Greeks.  It is not widely used today except as an ornamental plant.  It’s oil has a pungent odour and contains 24-72% camphor.  In Australia this species is considered a weed and bound by statutory control.

Lavandula stoechas subsp. pedunculata (Spanish Lavender)

You can propagate this plant by seed sown in Spring or by taking semi-ripe cuttings in Summer.

Pumpkins Flowering Among the Nasturtiums

Pumpkin Flower

A friend gave me a pumpkin last year,  I saved the seeds and grew this plant.  It’s growing among the Nasturtium ‘Salmon Baby’, Calendula and Phacelia.  I love these big, no nonsense flowers.

 

 

Pumpkin among the Nasturtiums

Gladiolus Flowering Update

Half way there …

Gladiolus

And close up …

Gladiolus