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Garden Ramblings, Issue #005
January 14, 2005
January 2005

Monthly musings on the garden scene

*********************************************************** If you prefer, you can view this month's issue online where you can also subscribe if this copy has been forwarded to you by a friend. ***********************************************************

In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Plant of the month
- From the papers
- Pick of the scented blooms
- Special offers
- Useful resources




Welcome to the January issue of Garden Ramblings your monthly window on what's going on in the world of gardening.

The "Plant of the Month" is the hardy cyclamen (cyclamen coum)

For the scented blooms section it is Part 3 of fragrant shrubs which covers those that flower in early summer.

Now that Christmas has passed there are rather more special offers this month.

There just two items in the resources section. They are rather different this month but I hope that you will find them both useful.

I must apologise for an oversight in the last issue. Existing subscribers will know that at the end of this newsletter I mention my blog. This was previously hosted at and called "The Garden Supplies Advisor", but last month I substituted my new blog "Garden Supplies News" which is hosted on my own site. In fact both are still running, but the new blog will be updated on a more-or-less daily basis, whereas the original one will only have occasional entries.

Enjoy the issue.




Plant of the Month

Name: Cyclamen coum

Description: A hardy perennial with heart-shaped green leaves which are dark red below and sometimes marbled with silver above. The plant blooms from December to March producing rounded flowers with inverted petals which have been likened to shooting stars. Growing to a height of just three inches, this is a relative of the florist's cyclamen, that somewhat tempremental houseplant.

Origin: Native to Southeast Europe into Asia.

Cultivation: Cyclamen prefer a partially shaded position in deep, but well drained, soil containing ample organic matter. A sheltered position out of the wind is also necessary. The ideal is a woodland setting where they can remain undisturbed all year round. Since the corms of cyclamens do not divide or produce offsets, propagation by seeds is the only means by which these plants can be increased. Collect the seeds when they ripen in summer and plant by September at the latest. Overwinter in a cold frame, and plant out in their flowering positions in May or late summer.

Pests and diseases: The corms can be eaten by mice and mites, aphids and thrips can also be troublesome. Black root rot and cucumber mosiac virus are diseases that affect these plants.

Folklore: The tubers are regarded as the favourite food for pigs in the South of France, Sicily and Italy where they are known by the common name of Sowbread. The tubers contain “cyclamin” which is harmless to pigs, but, when eaten by humans, can cause gastritis and nervous tension. However the poison is destroyed by roasting. Thus in ancient times, tubers were roasted, beaten, and made into small cakes, said to be an aphrodisiac. Much of the folklore about cyclamen refers to love and conception. If its leaves were added to an herbal concoction that would make anyone who ate it fall madly in love. The power of the plant was considered so great that it was dangerous for a pregnant woman even to step on it. There are many other powers believed to be held by cyclamen including: healing snake bites, warding off magic spells, and the juice would stop bread from going sour. The essence of the cyclamen is supposed to bring good luck.



From the papers

A review of the year 2004

Have you enjoyed any spectacular successes or suffered any dismal failures? If you are anything like me, there will have been some of each. Here is one gardener's review from Seattle.

Your garden's bones?

Nancy Brachey is someone who believes that winter is appealing in the south. After answering a reader's question as to what kind of gardening gloves work best in the North Carolina climate, she then instructs you to think about your garden's bones. Read more..

Do you want to lose weight? Just garden!

If one of your new year resolutions is to lose weight and shed some of those excess pounds that you put on over the holiday, Restuccio has a novel approach that should appeal to gardeners. "Restuccio (ress-TOO-she-oh) is a fitness buff who preaches the gospel of aerobic gardening. That means engaging in low intensity, sustained workouts feeding on oxygen for energy. Aerobic exercise builds endurance, burns fat and strengthens the heart and lungs" reports Dean Fosdick. "Restuccio doesn't believe in buying fancy exercise equipment or pricey gym memberships. Instead, he recommends swapping your treadmill for a lawnmower, your stair-climber for a spade." Read more...

Colored carrots

Hannah Stephenson writing in The Scotsman has been scanning the seed catalogues for new varieties. She highlights some cottage garden favourites, summer scorchers and one for the conservatory. And then those colored carrots, "Samurai" which is red and pink inside and "Purple Dragon" which is burgundy when pulled from the soil. Although the seed suppliers she mentions are all UK firms, two of them, Thompson & Morgan and Mr Fothergill's Seeds do export to the US. Read more..

Gardening in a glass bowl

If your green thumbs are suffering withdrawal symptoms while you contemplate the snow and ice outside, here is an idea for a gardening project that can be carried out indoors. Create a terrarium. You will need a demi-john locally called dama juana, large candy jar, large wine bottle, fish bowl, alum glass case and/or any other container made of clear glass. For instructions on how to prepare and plant your terrarium read the advice of Serapion Metilla or watch Skip Richter's video.

Beat smog with rooftop grass

It sounds like one of those New Age schemes that are fine in theory but unrealistic in practice yet this is just what is happening in Beijing. The polluted city is planning to plant grass on rooftops as part of its drive to improve air quality in time for the 2008 Olympics.

"Downtown Beijing is too crowded to insert more green belts, so we'll try it on the roofs," Yang Zhihua, an official with the city's parks and woods bureau, was quoted as saying. Green belts are urban areas set aside for planting trees and shrubs.

Rooftop "green belts" could sprout on 30 percent of the city's high rises and 60 percent of its lower buildings by 2008, Yang said. Read more..



Fragrant Shrubs - Part 3

Ceanothus dentatus is native to Noth America. It is an evergreen shrub with a height and spread of ten feet or more on a wall. Small blue flowers are borne in round clusters up to one and a half inches across in May and June. The scent is something like that of the lilac.

Choisya ternata or Mexican orange is an evergreen shrub which grows up to six feet high with a spread of 6-8 feet. The flowers are somewhat similar to Orange Blossom and are sweetly scented. They appear in April and May and then intermittently until the winter.

Jasminum officinale or common white jasmine is native to India and China. It is a vigorous and hardy deciduous twining climber which can reach a height of 30 feet. Pure white flowers are borne profusely from June to October. It is so strongly scented that Gilbert White of Selborne wrote that "the jasmine is so sweet that I am obliged to leave my chamber".

Lavendula stoechas or French lavender is native to the Mediterranean regions. Height and spread up to 24 inches. Dark purple tubular flowers are carried from May to July. Lavender water and oil of lavender, which have been popular perfumes for centuries, are produced from this shrub.

Myrtus communis or common myrtle is also native to the Mediterranean regions. It is a half-hardy evergreen shrub with a height and spread of 8-10 feet. The fragrant white flowers measure one inch across and are borne from June to August.

Philadelphus coronarius or Mock orange was introduced in 1562 to Europe from Turkey. It is a deciduous bushy shrub with a height and spread of 6-9 feet. The white cup-shaped flowers , which open in June and July, are 1-2 inches across and have a strong fragrance reminiscent of orange blossom. According to some writers nothing the garden has to offer is more sweetly scented.



Special Offers

Now that Christmas is behind us for another year, there are more special offers around. Dutch Gardens has 56 items in their "Spring in Winter" sale. Gurneys have a number of offers including $25 off when you spend $50. You either need to be a subscriber to their newsletter or quote coupon number 501786 to benefit. Gardeners Supply Co have 85% off in their "After Holiday" sale which includes a wide range of items. Krupps are displaying 47 items in their "Clearance Items" section. These are mainly statues.

With Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Allposters there are some good reductions which are well worth a look.



Useful Resources

January is the ideal month to start a Garden Journal in which you can record all the important information about your garden so that you have a handy record when you want to check when you planted your tomato seeds or when you sprayed your fruit trees etc. And the beauty of it is that it comes as a PDF file that you can print off as required. (And it is a freebie)

In just nineteen pages it contains a grid to allow you to plan your plot, then a page where you can record details of your soil type and treatments that you have applied. This is followed by pages for seed starting dates, planting dates and a calendar that you can use for each month. Two more pages allow for fertilizing and pest control.

The next section is where you record your harvest and yields. Pages for preserving records and canning recipes. Finally a few more pages where you can make notes on your successes and those that did not do so well with space for hints and reminders for next year. If you don't need all the pages just print those that you want. All in all this is a great free resource that you can get from Homestead Harvest.

The second item is for anyone who has an interest in the moon. Whether you are into moon-planting or would just like a handy record of the current moon phase, here is a free display that you can add to your site with a simple piece of HTML code.



Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to [email protected]

That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my new Blog

or the original Blog

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