Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Not just the holly and the ivy

December 20th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Four Christmas Foliage Shrubs - Nandina, Pittosporum, Mahonia, Hebe.

Last year, about this time, I discussed holly and then ivy, the two favourite Christmas evergreens and the traditional evergreens for indoor decorating in the holiday season. But there are more, plenty more. And a quick look round my local garden centre, The Barn in Oundle near Peterborough, reveals some of them. And it’s the colours that are so appealing, not green but red and silver and purple and bronze.

Most are better suited to small arrangements, they just don’t have the vigour, and so the length of stem, of holly and ivy.

More and more varieties of nandina (top left) are now appearing and while some of them are rather dwarf and bushy, not ideal if you want to cut stems to bring indoors, many also have pendulous clusters of bright red berries alongside reddening winter leaves.

Two pittosporums feature purple foliage but one has green tints that let it down and another is short and dumpy. Silver ones (top right) are a better bet as many are vigorous and also respond well to having shoots cut to bring indoors.

Bronze shades always work well as they harmonise with red and contrast with whites and silvers. Some mahonias develop fiery winter tones while M. aquifolium ‘Atropurpureum’ comes in bronzed winter colouring and a bold, holly-like shape.

Most hebes, like ‘Red Edge’ (left, below), are only suitable for small table arrangements but the silvery colouring is invaluable and a the faint red margin to the leaf helps create harmony with red berries.

Elaeagnus and eucalyptus are also good for silvery colours and for background green try sarcococca, osmanthus, and trails of vinca.

It’s definitely time to complement ivy and holly with some new choices. Take a look round your own garden…

Green Christmas: Grow Your Own Gifts!

December 17th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

A row of five glass jars of jams, preserves and pickles in a row, sealed with burlap and string

We all like the idea of a white Christmas, but this year we’re dreaming of a green Christmas! How about giving gifts that don’t cost the earth, that are kinder to the environment and that allow your creative flair to shine. Are you with us? Then read on or watch the video for our favourite Christmas gift ideas for you to grow, make and share with your friends and family.

1. Bake Some Treats

Bake some treats to share – if you can resist the temptation to polish them off yourself first! Use up stored fruits to make delicacies such as a scrumptiously moist apple cake, or perhaps some cherry and strawberry scones. Box them up and gift them to your hungry friends and relatives!

2. Jams and Chutneys

Everybody loves homemade preserves, especially when they’re made using produce you’ve grown in your garden – no air miles here! Try your hand at jam making, or turn vegetables and fruits into a rainbow of pickles and lightly spiced chutneys, all neatly presented in preserving jars complete with gingham or burlap covers.

3. Vinegars, Oils & CordialsA homemade glass bottle of sloe gin with a brown label tied around the neck with red string

Transform fresh or stored produce into beautiful gifts by making vinegars, cordials and flavoured oils, or how about some fruit wines or sloe gin? Decorate bottles to make your culinary creations look as good as they taste.

4. Pots to Please

Plant up pots of herbs for the cook in the family. Mediterranean herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage work well together, and because they are evergreen there will always be something to pick. Use a classic terracotta pot or upcycle an old wine crate to give a rustic finish to your display. Buy new plants for this, or for a really green and frugal Christmas gift propagate your own months in advance by layering shoots or taking cuttings from existing plants.

5. Split Herbs

Make pots of living herbs go further and last longer by splitting them up into two or three. Replant clumps into a handsome trough of quality potting mix. Leave them on a windowsill to bush out over a couple of weeks, then give them to your nearest and dearest. For an extra burst of growth, use grow lights that you don’t need for the garden until spring.

6. Share House Plants

Split up house plants too. Plants such as aloe vera and bromeliads regularly produce offsets that can be carefully pulled away from the mother plant to pot up into pretty containers. Add a bow to make a handsome gift.

A wooden table with a tray of soil, a hand trowel, some bulbs in bags and a pot containing hyacinths growing from bulbs

7. Plant Some Bulbs

Plant bulbs into pots. Bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths form clumps that can be split up and shared, so the lucky recipient can enjoy a floral display long after the Christmas festivities are over.

8. Seed Sachets

For fellow gardeners, how about filling pretty envelopes with seeds saved from your garden? They make superb stocking fillers. Share heirloom varieties of prized crops such as beans and tomatoes. You’ll also be doing your bit to help preserve these horticultural treasures for future generations.

9. For Wildlife Lovers

Wildlife enthusiasts will appreciate new homes and hangouts for garden visitors like birds and bugs. Use offcuts of wood from other projects to make birdhouses, bird feeders and bug hotels. Help others help local wildlife!

10. Make Giftwrap

Finally, you’ll need something to wrap all those presents up in. Homemade gift wrap is fun to make and a great way to get the kids involved. Use vegetable stamps made from potatoes, celery and even okra. Use up old pots of paint to print onto sheets of plain brown paper.

There’s just a few ideas for you, but we’d love to hear your ideas too, so tell us how you’ll make giving a little greener this Christmas. Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

The holly…

December 21st, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Ilex aquifolium 'J. C. van Tol'

“How cheerless an aspect our gardens wear, in this dreary month of December,” Charlotte Elizabeth remarks in her delightful and slightly eccentric, Chapters on Flowers of 1842, “ had not some plants been endured with hardihood to retain their leaves, when the greater proportion have been stripped bare by chilling frosts and blighting winds.”

Charlotte Elizabeth was described in 1901 as “a woman of strong mind, powerful feeling, and of no inconsiderable share of tact.” She was also an early enthusiast for women’s rights. In Chapters on Flowers she has a tendency to divert her attention from the plants to religious matters but nevertheless continues wisely on the subject of evergreens.

“It is a point of wisdom, plentifully to intersperse our evergreens among the brighter, but more transitory children of summer; and now that the dead leaves are finally swept off, and my garden looks once more perfectly tidy, I can appreciate the taste that, in first laying it out–long before I had ever seen it–allotted no small space to plants that would defy the season’s severity.”

In today’s magazines, that fine sentiment would be expressed more crudely: “Grow evergreens for winter colour” .

She then continues, via a sly dig at lawns, with crisp reports of her own evergreens before “last, not least, the Holly-Bush abounds, valuable as a fence, beautiful in the lustre of its highly-polished leaves, sprinkled with berries of vivid red; and endeared by the sweetest, the purest, the most scared associations that can interest the mind, and elevate the soul.”

She then launches into, well, a bit of a rant against religious bigots who attack the use of holly as a seasonal decoration. “I wish, with all my heart, that the grandsires and granddames of this generation would do something to stem that sweeping tide of religious folly, yclept the march of intellect-the progress of refinement. It is now (thought) intolerably vulgar, insupportedly childish, and popishly superstitious to deck our houses at Christmas-tide with the shining holly… I have fought many battles with my pious friends, in defence of my pertinacious adherence to this good old custom. Sorry should I be, to leave the holly uncropped, or the house unadorned with its bright honours, on that most blessed anniversary….”

And just to remind you: ‘J. C. van Tol’ (above) produces red berries without the need of a different variety as pollinator and also has no spines.

Fascinating Facts: Brussels Sprouts

December 10th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

fascinating-facts-about-brussels-sprouts

Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera
Origins: Native to the Mediterranean region along with other cabbage species.

First cultivated: Although a forerunner to the modern sprout may have been grown in Ancient Rome, Brussels sprouts, as we know them today, were first grown in 13th Century Flanders (part of modern day Belgium).

Types: There are green varieties available (including the popular and reliable ‘Cascade’ and ‘Revenge’), and red varieties (such as ‘Rubine’).

Did you know?

Britons eat more Brussels sprouts than any other nation in Europe. Our sprout industry is worth £650,000,000, and the area covered by sprout fields in the UK is the equivalent of 3,240 football pitches. It’s fair to say that these days, no one loves sprouts more than the British.

It’s equally true that no vegetable divides opinion more than the humble Brussels sprout. While so many of us love them, others hate them, which could be due to the specific gene TAS2R38, otherwise known as the ‘Brussels sprouts gene’ which regulates bitterness perception. Or it could be down to the way they’re cooked.

fascinating-facts-about-brussels-sprouts

The precursors to modern Brussels sprouts were grown in Ancient Rome, but the sprouts we’re familiar with were first cultivated back in the 13th century, in what is now Belgium. It is thought that the vegetable is named after the Belgian capital, where they became a popular crop in the 16th century.

Sprouts only became popular in Britain at the end of the 1800s. However, up until relatively recently, many of us were only familiar with the overboiled Brussels sprout, dished up at festive family feasts in December. Mushy, yellowing and with a smell akin to rotten eggs, the tendency to overcook sprouts helped secure its reputation as one of the nation’s most hated vegetables.

These days, steamed, sautéed and stir-fried sprouts have helped drive the popularity of the vegetable, convincing sprout sceptics that they can be rather delicious. They’re also highly adaptable. From salads and skewers to curries and pizzas, Brussels sprouts can lend themselves to most recipes. For those who insist on boiling them, there remains the contentious matter of whether a cross should be cut into its base. While some cooks believe this age-old tradition helps the vegetable cook evenly, others feel it makes no difference, and a spokesperson for the Brassica Growers Association recently claimed it ruins the vegetable!

fascinating-facts-about-brussels-sproutsIn fact, the tradition of cutting a cross in the base of a sprout might have less to do with culinary technique and more to do with superstition. In Medieval times, it was believed that evil spirits and demons lived between the leaves of the vegetable, and they would enter anyone who ate them, making them ill. A cross cut into the base of the sprouts was thought to  drive the evil spirits away.

Nowadays, we’re more familiar with the nutrients hiding inside the vegetable. A 80g serving of Brussels sprouts contains four times more Vitamin C than an orange, which helps strengthen the immune system, repairs tissue damage and promotes iron absorption. Sprouts are also rich in Vitamin K, which contributes to strong bones and can help with blood clotting.

There are more than 110 different varieties of Brussels sprout available, as well as the Flower Sprout, a sprout/kale hybrid which contains double the vitamin B6 and C of a traditional sprout. It’s certainly worth devoting a section of your vegetable patch to Brussels sprouts, they’re relatively easy to grow, adaptable in the kitchen, and packed full of health-boosting nutrients. And what could be better than serving up your own homegrown sprouts at Christmas?

To browse all our varieties of Brussels sprouts seeds just follow this link to the Brussels sprouts seeds section of our website.

 

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners

October 16th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

It’s just 11 weeks to Christmas!

If you’re thinking of what to buy for your garden-savvy friends or relatives, we have got some great options with a wide range of gifts for kids, beginners and experienced gardeners. Choose from a number of innovative gardening gifts from windowsill kits to fun ‘grass head’ kits for youngsters – perfect stocking fillers!

For anyone new to gardening, why not try our patented GroBox and GroMat ranges of easy-to-grow, pre-sown gardening products.

GroBox is a bio-degradable cardboard box containing four varieties of pre-sown vegetable or herb seeds in compost which is then planted, covered and watered in the garden or in a container. Our range also includes a children’s flower garden and a children’s vegetable garden – great for the budding young gardener in your life.

GroMat is a two-metre bio-degradable mat pre-sown with a mix of either flower or vegetable seeds, and can be rolled out as it is or cut to fit any size of plot, border or container. You can choose from Poppy, Wildflowers, Blue Mix, Red Mix, Salad or Vegetable Mix!

We also have four windowsill kits – Herb Garden, Fragrant Garden, Strawberry Garden and Sunflower Garden – each comprising a galvanised metal windowsill container, seeds, compost and instructions.

The Herb Grow Kit has three galvanised pots on a tray, basil, parsley and chive seeds, plus compost discs, while the Grow Your Own Pesto Kit includes basil seed, compost discs, a ceramic pestle, mortar and instructions on how to make the much-loved Italian sauce for pasta.

Our eye-catching grow kits in the caricature form of various animals make ideal stocking-fillers and encourage youngsters to take an interest in growing from seed, like our ceramic egg cup-style planters – the Munakuppi (that’s Finnish for ‘egg cup’) Hair Grow Kit!

Each Munakuppi includes two sachets of seed – basil for short ‘hair’ and ryegrass for long ‘hair’ – plus compost and growing instructions, so anyone can simply sow, water and watch the green ‘hair’ grow. The six hand-crafted animals, including a frog, dog, pig, duck, seal and cow are becoming collectables.

Children will also enjoy our four new adorable smiley cats! These gorgeous kits come with a pot, coir pellet, rye grass seeds, instructions and growing tips for easy and instant display in the home. Unlike traditional grassheads kits, these ceramic characters can be used again and again.

Mr-Fothergills-Munakuppi-kits-now-come-in-four-new-adorable-reusable-cat-pots

For chilli lovers, there are Chilli Pepper Grow kits available for classic, great tasting, fiery red chillies or juicy medium-hot green chillies, perfect for pizzas. Available as complete kits!

Mr Fothergill’s range of seeds and kits are available from garden centres, supermarkets and leading DIY stores throughout the UK.