Green Fingers I Wish

Monday, August 28, 2006

Closer to home in the UK - Tatton Park`s Japanese Graden

At the end of the garden, between the Choragic monument and the arboretum lies one of Tatton's most famous features, the Japanese garden. Constructed between 1910 and 1913 for Alan de Tatton Egerton, Lady Anna's husband, it is rated to be one of the finest examples of Japanese gardens in Europe. It is in the style of a tea garden connected to an island upon which rests a shinto shrine. Every season brings it own beauty here, although the spring and autumn are renowned for their colour.

During the autumn and winter of 2000/2001 the Japanese garden was fully restored utilising records of the garden's construction and research work undertaken by the Osaka University of Art.

Golden Gate Park

When I visited California several years ago we went to the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. One of my favourite sites was this:-

Japanese Tea Garden:
Many people's favourite part of the park, this was originally built as part of the sprawling Midwinter Fair. Begun by an Australian in 1894, this intricate and private (depending on the season) complex of paths, ponds and a teahouse features native Japanese and Chinese plants. Also hidden throughout its five acres are beautiful sculptures and bridges. Makato Hagiwara, a Japanese gardener whose family took over the garden from 1895 to 1942, also invented the fortune cookie. The garden is located just east of Stow Lake between JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. drives.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

House Centipedes Beneficial Too

The house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) is a fast-moving carnivore that feeds on insects such as cockroaches, house flies, and other small house pests, and is thus beneficial in nature. Though generally harmless to humans, its alarming appearance and painful bite (like a bee sting) result in its extermination from residences.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Use Plants To Attract Beneficial Insects

Utilizing beneficial insects as a biological control to destructive insects is not by any means a new concept. Gardeners have long known of the effectiveness of Ladybird beetles to eliminate aphids. There are many more 'good bugs' out there, they just haven't received the notoriety of Lady bugs, because they may not be quite as cute, or maybe the name of a Trichogramma wasp may not sound as sweet. Nonetheless, these beneficial insects will help to keep your garden free of harmful pests. and hopefully reduce or eliminate the need for much of the use of insecticides in the home garden.

Invite beneficial insects to your garden by growing plants and flowers which provide food and a home for them. You can also purchase many good bugs at most larger nurseries and garden centers, but you will still want to provide them with suitable plants. Ladybirds are one such insect which are readily available for this purpose. Don't over populate your garden with beneficial insects though, because if there isn't enough prey for them, they will simply leave your garden in search of food elsewhere. Monitor your plants, and if you find that the beneficials are outnumbered, you may need to add reinforcements.Many of the insects which you will utilize don't actually do any control work themselves. They spend their lives enjoying the nectar and pollen from your flowers, and creating offspring. It is the larvae stage of these offspring which does the actual hunting and eating of the harmful insects.Plants which attract and provide homes for beneficial insects include:-

Alyssum, Butterfy weed, Caraway, Clover, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Wild carrot, Yarrow.

Some of those plants are available here

I`m going to continue on with my list of beneficial insects before I turn to those which are a real nuisance in the garden.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

There are some BIG Centipedes!

Some centipedes have up to 40 eyes and some has less and some centipedes are blind and the eyes are beside the antennae. If centipedes have 40 eyes they still can not see very well.

Some centipedes can more backwards as fast as they more forwards. They even have feelers at the back to help them find their way.

The fastest centipede can run 50cm a second. In South America there is a centipede that has an electric blue body and bright red fangs.

The centipede has huge jaws on the sides of its head. Centipedes are long and curved and tipped. The biggest centipede in the world is 25cm.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Centipedes are reddish-brown, flattened, elongated arthropods in the Order Chilopoda. They usually have between 30 and 80 legs with one pair attached on most of their body segments. The first pair of legs is modified into poisonous fangs (chelicerae) located below the mouth, they inject a poison which immobilises the victim allowing the jaws to macerate the body and the fluids to be extracted. Their antennae are longer than those of millipedes. They are totally carnivorous, feeding on live insects and other small animals, they do not damage plants. They may bite if crushed, causing some pain and swelling. A natural predator of vine weevil eggs and grubs, so leave them alone!
They overwinter as adults and lay eggs during the warm months. Usually eggs are laid in the soil and are protected by adults. A few species give birth to living young.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

History of the four leaf clover

The four leaf clover is a universally accepted symbol of good luck with its origin ages old. According to legend, Eve carried a four leaf clover from the Garden of Eden.

"The clovers also occupied a position in the cultural life of early peoples. White clover in particular was held in high esteem by the early Celts of Wales as a charm against evil spirits."

Druids held the 4 leaf clover in high esteem and considered them a sign of luck. In 1620, Sir John Melton wrote: "If a man walking in the fields find any four-leaved grass, he shall in a small while after find some good thing.

The mystique of the four leaf clover continues today, since finding a real four leaf clover is still a rare occurrence and omen of good luck.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Red Clover used in Herbal Medicines

Did you know there is also a Red Clover? This is widely used as a herbalist medicine, and is said to contain properties to help `clean the blood.` Only the flowers are used for this purpose. Some people suggest it is helpful in the treatment of upwards of 30 medical problems, many of them affecting women.

Red Clover
Latin name: Trifolium pratense
Other names: Purple Clover, Trefoil, Wild Clover

A Remedy For

  • Bronchitis
  • Cough
  • Eczema, boils, acne
Taken internally, Red Clover is used for respiratory problems, particularly whooping cough. Externally, it's considered a treatment for chronic skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

What It Is; Why It Works
Red Clover contains isoflavone compounds that theoretically could help prevent certain types of cancer, including breast and prostate cancer. However, an actual protective action in humans remains to be demonstrated.
In the meantime, Red Clover is valued for its ability to loosen phlegm and calm bronchial spasms. A small perennial herb with fleshy red or white flowers, it is native to Europe, central Asia, and northern Africa, and is naturalized in many other parts of the world. For medicinal purposes, only the flowers are used.

Avoid If...
No known medical conditions preclude the use of dried, unfermented Red Clover. However, fermented preparations should be strictly avoided.

Special Cautions
At customary dosage levels, Red Clover appears to present no problems.

Possible Drug Interactions
No interactions have been reported.

Special Information If You Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding
No harmful effects are known.

How To Prepare
Red Clover is available as a dried herb, and in tablets, capsules, and alcohol solutions (tinctures).
To make a tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 to 3 teaspoonfuls of dried Red Clover flowers, cover, and steep 10 to 15 minutes.

Typical Dosage
Tea: 3 cups per day
Capsules and tablets: 2 to 4 grams 3 times per day
Tincture: 2 to 4 milliliters 3 times per day

No information on overdosage is available.


More About The Shamrock

The shamrock, an unofficial symbol of Ireland and Boston, USA, is a three-leaved young white clover, sometimes (rarely nowadays) Trifolium repens (white clover, known in Irish as seamair bhán) but more usually today Trifolium dubium (lesser clover, Irish: seamair bhuí). However, other three leafed plants such as Black medick (Medicago lupulina), Red clover (Trifolium pratense) or Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) are sometimes designated as shamrocks. The shamrock was traditionally used for its medical properties and was a popular motif in Victorian times.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Facts About Shamrocks

Having just returned from a visit to Ireland I thought I`d take a look at the Emblem of Ireland - the Shamrock. Now, hands up if you thought there was an actual Shamrock plant? I have to admit I half thought there was myself, so I was enlightened by this piece of research:-

Facts About Shamrocks

Do you know that there is no such thing as a "Shamrock Plant"? The word shamrock comes from the Irish word "seamrog" meaning "little clover". However, there are hundreds of varieties of clover. The question is...what is the "Original Irish Shamrock"? Here is what some respected authorities have to say:

"The true Irish Shamrock, as identified by Nathaniel Colgan c. 1893 is a clover. It is not one of any or many clovers, it is one species, collected from a majority of counties at that time and with the exception of a very few plants, the majority were Trifolium repens or a form of this plant - White clover also known as Dutch Clover".

"White Clover, Trifolium repens forma minus, family Leguminosae, was the original shamrock of Ireland..." Academic American Encyclopedia, Vol. 17, 1990.

"In Ireland, the plant most often referred to as shamrock is the white clover." The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 17, 1993.

"Those most commonly called shamrocks are: the white clover, Trifolium repens, a creeping white-flowered perennial..." Collier's Encyclopedia, Vol. 20, 1992.

"The clovers also occupied a position in the cultural life of early peoples. White clover (T. repens L.) in particular was held in high esteem by the early Celts of Wales as a charm against evil spirits. According to Evans (1957), this pagen tradition was continued by early Christian leaders and became the symbol of the Holy Trinity for the Irish people." Clover Science and Technology, N.L. Taylor, 1985.

Saint Patrick used the plant to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Shamrocks have been considered by the Irish as good-luck symbols since earliest times, and this superstition has persisted in modern times among people of many nationalities. On March 17th, St Patrick's Day is celebrated around the world, with the "wearin' o' the green".

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Earthworms - Another Of The Gardener`s Friends

Earthworms feed on partly decomposed organic matter in and on the soil, this is broken down further and after excretion the 'castings' are acted on by the soil micro-organisms. This means that the earthworm is an important part of the recycling of nutrients in the soil. In addition their burrowing aerates the soil and improves drainage, helping other soil organisms and plant roots.

The worm casts contain higher levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium than the surrounding soil - the products of digested organic matter and trace elements brought up from deeper levels. Calcium carbonate is also added and this can make acid or alkaline soils more neutral. This 'fertilizer' is distributed throughout the soil and research has shown that each worm can produce about 150g per year - much better than a dry or granular fast-acting chemical fertilizer which has no humus, leaches away and may repel the worms.

Earthworms usually dwell in the top few centimetres of the soil, but some species will go down nearly 2m. They need moisture to breath, and burrow deeper if the soil dries out or freezes. However, they will drown in waterlogged soil so the increasing periods of prolonged wet conditions may harm the population. They come to the soil surface at night when temperatures are lower and humidity higher. Most soil types are suitable except very acidic, and coarse sand.

They can reproduce when 3 - 6 weeks old, making a cocoon in the soil from which live worms emerge. The common view that cutting a worm in half makes two is not true, they can regenerate body parts in some cases, but usually both parts die. Many of us will at one time have heard that story, particularly children who may have a seen worm perhaps cut in half with a spade and watched as both ends continued to wriggle.

With over 2,700 kinds of earthworm they truly are an asset to the gardener, the only nuisance being to greenkeepers due to the mounds that worms leave on the surface of the grass which makes a playing surface less smooth.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Ladybirds are often one of the gardeners best friends. Here`s some information about ladybirds, with a look at some of the more common ones in the U.K.

Latin name: Adalia bipunctata

Size: Approximately 5mms long

Distribution: Found throughout the U.K.

Months seen: March to October

Food: Aphids

Habitat: Fields, parks, gardens and woods.

Special features: Colours can vary greatly. Some specimens have black wing casings with red spots.

By introducing ladybirds from May onwards (temperature should be above 10°c / 50°f) you can increase the number of these beneficial insects in your garden. Each ladybird will eat approximately 5000 aphids and will soon produce ladybird larvae which in turn also eat aphids

The Coccinellidae is perhaps the best-known family among our native beetles (Coleoptera), because it contains the brightly coloured ladybirds. There are nearly 100 species of ladybirds found in Europe and about 40 of these are resident in the British Isles.

The commonest species in most localities are the two-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata) and the larger seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata). The largest of the native British species is the eyed ladybird (Anatis ocellata), found in conifer forests and plantations. The black spots on the back of this species each have a distinct yellow boarder or halo, giving the appearance of 'eyes'. Hence its common name of eyed ladybird.

These, and many other ladybirds, are voracious predators, feeding in both larval and adult stages on aphids (greenfly), coccids (scale insects), mealybugs, whitefly and, occasionally, on other insect pests of garden and crop plants. Indeed, some predatory ladybirds, such as species of Cryptolaemus and Delphastus, are mass-reared on a commercial scale for use as biological control agents against mealybug and whitefly infestations in greenhouses.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Yellow Courgette - Delicious

With a little help from a friend on the best way to cook my yellow courgette I have to say I really enjoyed it along with some green beans with my evening meal. Delicious, and it really did just melt in the mouth.

Courgettes are baby marrows. The home-grown variety is available from June to October. They are usually green but can also be yellow. Courgettes need very little preparation or cooking; if they're finger-sized they can be left whole and steamed or pan-fried in a little butter. Eat them raw, whole or halved lengthways, tossed in a little olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. As courgettes get larger, the flavour depletes and they benefit from additional flavours, such as garlic, basil, parsley, tomatoes and olive oil. Add courgettes to set omelettes, such as frittata, or to risotto and ratatouille, or slice thinly, dip in batter and deep fry them.

Outdoor Living Supplies

Geoff contacted me about a fairly new site which has all I might need for improving my garden. I`m happy to give this one a mention. He sells a huge range in garden tools and equipment, as well as seeds, plants and flowers. Now I`ve even less excuse for bringing my own plot of land up to scratch.

I have a friend who owns an allotment close to where I live, and he has given me some green beans and some other veg from his plot. I`ll enjoy eating them, somehow they always seem to taste better when they are `home` grown.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hover Flies - Beneficial Insects

Hover flies are in the Family of insects known as Syrphidae with just two wings like all the true flies, most other flying insects have four. The adults feed mainly on nectar and pollen, and can be seen among the flower borders hovering near to the blossoms.
The larvae feed on plant-sucking insects such as thrips as well as aphids. The female lays her eggs singly near to the sucking pests and the larvae hatch a few days later and are fully developed after about three weeks. The pupal stage which follows lasts for a further two to three weeks depending on the external conditions. There can be several generations throughout the year, but the final generation overwinters as pupae mainly in the soil before emerging the following spring.
There is some commercial use of hover flies to biologically control aphids with the added bonus of aiding pollination as the adults feed.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Facts and Figures About The Butterfly

Some interesting facts and figures about butterflies. Such a pity that many only live for about one month. 20,000 species- that`s amazing isn`t it?

How many kinds of butterflies are there?
There are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies in the world. About 725 species have occurred in North American north of Mexico, with about 575 of these occurring regularly in the lower 48 states of the United States, and with about 275 species occurring regularly in Canada. Roughly 2000 species are found in Mexico.

How many kinds of butterflies can I find near where I live?
In most parts of the United States, you can find roughly 100 species of butterflies near your home. The number is higher in the Rio Grande Valley and some parts of the West, somewhat less in New England. As one goes northward into Canada the number decreases, while as one goes southward into Mexico the number greatly increases.

How long does a butterfly live?
An adult butterfly probably has an average life-span of approximately one month. In the wild, most butterflies lives are shorter than this because of the dangers provided by predators, disease, and large objects, such as automobiles. The smallest butterflies may live only a week or so, while a few butterflies, such as Monarchs, Mourning Cloaks and tropical heliconians, can live up to nine months.

Adonis Blue Returns To Cotswolds

Rare blue butterfly returns home
Adonis Blue butterfly
The Adonis Blue is mostly found in southern England
One of Britain's rarest butterflies has returned to a spot where it has not been seen for more than 40 years.

The Adonis Blue, classified as a priority species, is usually only found at a few places in southern England.

But it has returned in numbers to a former site in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, after a National Trust campaign to restore its habitat.

The insect's numbers were decimated 50 years ago when a lot of its natural habitat, chalk grassland, was lost.

The Adonis Blue likes to live in habitats with short grass, and it is unusual for the butterflies to fly far from their home base.

When the rabbit-killing disease Myxomatosis broke out in the 1950s, the lack of rabbits meant grass grew too long and the Adonis Blue's former habitats became unsuitable.

But now large numbers of the species have moved back to its former home around Rodborough and Minchinhampton Common, as trust officers have brought in cattle to keep the grass down.

Suitable weather

Matthew Oakes, butterfly expert and adviser for the National Trust said: "Never underestimate a butterfly.

"We think that the Adonis Blue may be benefiting from milder winters and hotter summers and that it should produce a bumper brood this August and September.

"It is one of our loveliest butterflies and we are delighted to have it back in the Cotswolds."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Garden Friends - The Peacock Butterfly

The Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) is easily recognised with the striking eyespot markings on its wings, these are designed to frighten predators. Males and females are similar in markings, but the female is slightly larger with a wingspan between 65 and 75mm. The underside of the wing is dull brown with a feint pattern.

There is one generation in a year. The males are territorial, setting up their patch at the edge of wooded areas when they emerge from hibernation in the spring. They see off rival males and persue passing females. By May the adults from the previous year will have died off. The caterpillers of the new generation pupate in July and the new adults emerge shortly after. They can be seen sipping on the nectar of many plants, especially Buddleja, Hebe and Sedum. In September they go into hibernation to avoid the winter weather.

Cabbage White Butterfly

Exceedingly well known to most gardeners, the Cabbage White has spread throughout North America after its unintentional introduction to Quebec in the nineteenth century. No other butterfly is so successful over such a great variety and expanse of landscape. Its spectacular success has been blamed - probably erroneously - for the decline or retreat of some of its indigenous relatives. Farmers and gardeners consider the Cabbage White a pest, so great is its appetite for cabbages, radishes, and nasturtiums.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Are there fewer butterflies in our gardens?

Is it just me or does it seem that there are few butterflies to be seen? Maybe it`s because I`m getting old and things often appeared better when we were younger. It just seems to me that there are fewer examples of this beautiful creature in our gardens.

Down to pollution is it, or maybe the weather patterns, or maybe it`s just me imagining it? I miss them though, that`s for sure.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bees Like It Hot

Bees prefer to land on warm flowers and use colour to predict the floral temperature before landing, a new study has found. Although it has long been thought that bees choose certain flowers because of the amount of nectar or pollen they think they can get from them, researchers from Queen Mary, University of London, have found that the humble bumble bee seeks warmth as well as food. It is thought that they seek warmth as bees need to invest energy in maintaining their body temperature. Writing in the journal Nature, Professor Lars Chittka writes that bees pick flowers with warmer nectar and are able to learn to identify such warm flower species by learning these species' flower colours. In the study, the bees were offered a choice of four purple artificial flowers and four slightly cooler pink flowers in a random layout. The results found that 58 per cent of the bees chose the warmer, purple flowers. When the colours were switched and the pink blooms held the warmer nectar, 61.6 per cent of the bees preferred the pink flowers.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Who Got It Right? - The Flowerpot Men

In 1952 The Flowerpot Men were added to Watch With Mother on Wednesdays. The identical puppets, Bill and Ben were made out of flowerpots, their hands made out of large gardening gloves, and feet of hobnailed boots.
With their 'flibadobs' and 'flobadobs' as their way of communicating, they lived in two giant flowerpots at the bottom of the garden, behind the potting shed. They would secretly pop their head over the parapet that was the flowerpot when the gardener went home for a bit of lunch.The merest hint of the approach of 'The Gardener' was enough to send them scurrying back to their pots.
Keeping counsel was their neighbour Little Weed, who alerted them to any danger and a tortoise friend called Slowcoach made frequent visits. The burning issue of the day was always "Was it Bill or was it Ben?".
The storyline of Bill and Ben was more or less the same in every episode: The gardener goes off for his dinner; Bill and Ben appear from their flowerpots; Little Weed says "Weeeeeeed"; a minor mishap occurs; someone is guilty. "Which of those two flowerpot men, was it Bill or was it Ben?" the narrator trills, in a quavering soprano; the villain confesses; the gardener's footsteps are heard coming up the garden path; the flowerpot men vanish into their pots and the closing credits roll.

This is a real blast from the past. Hands up if you remember these three. C`mon, who`s willing to admit to their age group?

Clues tomorrow.