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People : Dan Pearson, Garden & Landscape Designer, Created Paul Smith’s Garden & Japan’s Millenium Forest ……

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Dan Pearson (born 9 April 1964) is an English garden designer, landscape designer, journalist and television presenter. He is an expert in naturalistic perennial planting.

Early life

Pearson was brought up in an Arts and Crafts house on the Hampshire-Sussex border. His father is a painter who taught fine art at Portsmouth Polytechnic and his mother taught fashion and textiles at Winchester School of Art.

He had a weekend gardening job for Mrs. Pumphrey at Greatham Mill Gardens, Hampshire that cultivated his interest in gardening. He decided against going to Art College, and dropped out of his A levels (backed by his parents) to be able to go to the RHS Garden, Wisley, at 17. During 1981–1983, he became an RHS Wisley Trainee, Certificate Course, aged 17. While at Wisley his mother introduced him to Frances Mossman, for whom he designed a garden. Dan then went to the Royal Botanic…

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Euphorbia tirucalli – a childhood memory that turns out to have been a bit of a monster.

Ruma Chakravarti

euphorbia tirucalli (own)3
There are some times in life when coincidences can pile up and make you wonder. The other day I was part of a secret Santa on a gardening page and the only plant my gift receiver was hoping to receive was one called Euphorbia tirucalli. I didn’t know what it was but when I Googled the image it turned out to be something I had driven past every weekend for nine years of my life. It is also called the pencil plant. I knew it through out my childhood as kraalmelkbos or milky fence bush. Sadly I was not able to send it to her as the local Bunnings nursery has a very limited sense of adventure when it comes to plants. But at least I now knew what the giant candelabras of branches that lined every highway in East Africa in the seventies were.

Tirucalli is not a nice…

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Spider wasp vs. spider: Garden epic

Ruma Chakravarti

Yesterday I went outside to the patio to be greeted by a very large spider apparently struck dead while doing yoga. Now, this is not a normal event even by my very strange and relaxed standards, but I can swear that the arachnid looked exactly like it had bent over to touch whatever passes for toes on an eight legged freak with its pedipalps and keeled over from a heart attack in the process. I was still wondering about how the spider had learned yoga when my own morning calm was disturbed by a fairly long shape flying about my feet and knees. When I looked closely I saw the usual warning colours of orange and black which told me that the flier was either not friendly or pretending to appear not friendly. I have to add here that I have not seen this particular kind of flying insect very…

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Through a window, happily.

Ruma Chakravarti

I now have a new addition to my room, next to the floor length window – a little desk. I have my laptop there, a jar of paper beads, sheets of paper, three pairs of scissors, a fine brush, some PVA glue (Fevicol) and a host of good intentions.

But outside the window is where all the action is. The earliest to turn up are a couple of large crow like magpies, picking at bits of bark and eyeing the occasional uncovered beetle with great surprise before eating it with a sense of doing the poor insect a favour. This makes them break into the most melodious crooning, far better as a wake-up call than my phone’s mechanical alarm. I pull the curtains open and check what the day will be like. This is usually also a signal for them to hop and fly heavily away across the road…

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G is for Geometry in the Garden

So many plants and flowers have patterns and colours that the garden is never short of something interesting to look at. Some may lack bright pinks and purples but they compensate by having the most wonderfully geometric patterns and textures if one looks closely enough. Have a look at some of these!

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A Flanders poppy in bud and then fully unfurled to reveal a sheen like silk and the most incredible boss of stamens!

 

Succulents such as Aeonium have colourful fleshy leaves arranged geometrically.

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The herbs are not to be left behind either. Lemon balm or Melissa officinalis, has insignificant white flowers but its leaves are beautifully veined and shaped.

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Lemon balm leaves

Another succulent which is strikingly patterned is the Haworthia. Members of the lily family, they are from South Africa and are commonly called Zebra plants. The colour is brightest in strong sunlit positions.

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Haworthia attenuata

Then there are of course the real flowers, the parts of the flower that are meant to assist the plant in propagation. Some of these are highly coloured and unusual and none more so in my garden than the flowers of the passion fruit vine. They have been called passion flowers as they are thought to illustrate the passion of Christ; the pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance, the tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ, the ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (excluding St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot).The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail. The 3 stigmas represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).The blue and white colors of many species’ flowers represent Heaven and Purity.

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Passiflora flower

 

The end stage of the plant is the seed head. These are often weirdly and wonderfully shaped. The poppy seeds we put on cakes and breads are held inside the seed cases below.

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Pepper pot seed heads of poppy Papaver

 

 

Passionate…………about fruit!

The things we do I thought, when I heard that someone had said to my daughter we must pollinate our passion fruit ourselves! I mean, I know my quota of devices used by humans to bring about a situation helpful to passion and perhaps, if one is lucky, even pollination! But to do the same to a plant? It all seems so wrong! But then I was brought to my senses by said child as we stood outside wondering whether we would have to get a room for the flagging plant and play music to make the flowers do what should come naturally to them. I mean they even have the word passion in the name! And are used in a number of exotic cocktails, the kind that come with paper umbrellas, and tropical desserts of the kind people eat on their honeymoons! 

 ImagePassion flower: They get their name from the passion of Christ. The tendrils are the whips, the three stigmas are the three nails, the frill of radial filaments represent the crown of thorns and so on.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passiflora)

 

To my great relief, I was assured there are no fruit motel chains yet and best of all, there was no kink involved. All I would have to do was stand very close to the flowers, early in the morning, before the wind was up and tickle the anthers on each flower with a brush. Hang on! That is not my idea of no kink! 

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But wait, there is more…Having tickled the anthers which are the male bits on the flower, I must then proceed to annoy the pistils or the female bits by brushing them too. This transfers the pollen to the pistils and some time in the coming weeks there should be a nice green baby fruit growing from each of the flowers. Now, I don’t know about you, but having to use a brush after a man or anyone else has used it? Not my idea of fun at all! Being subjected to the same by someone else holding the brush! I would rather shave all my hair off before I let that happen. But if that is what the passion fruit needs, who am I to stand in the way of long term happiness? Or the promise of large quantities of fruit in December, January and February. So I went outside, soft sable brush in one hand, Barry White playing on the phone in the other and I did it. It was mildly amusing and naughty as the flowers despite all their alien boldness in looks have shy parts when it comes to fruit making. But I persevered. I was worse than a thirty eight year old woman with a harried mother at a speed date dinner! I brushed and I batted my eyelashes, I spoke in low tones of how good it would be – when I eventually made passion fruit icing, and even said something about Vatsayan(author of the Kamasutra) as I promised to create a special vodka cocktail.

 ImageResult! Baby fruits!

 

I am now indoors fanning myself. If you should wish to grow passion fruit and want to see what I was up to, you will have to click on the link below. It is an instruction video and you do not have to be 18 to click on the link! The guy looks very vaguely like that actor who played Jack Sparrow..but you probably don’t need that kind of inducement any way.

 

http://youtu.be/HFx92jfdkzo