Saturday, May 11, 2013

Growing your own tomatoes

Growing your own tomatoes can be very rewarding - the resulting tomatoes are much more tastier, you always have fresh fruits, and you have a high level of satisfaction by eating your own product.

Nevertheless, it's not completely free of issues either. I was looking for some good advice about growing your own tomatoes, and found this great link:

Last year I didn't follow much of these advices, but did take care to provide them with a lot of water, plant them in the sun, and remove the weeds as much as possible. This is how it looked like:

and the crop:

I had to fight some tomato warms, but applying a solution helped solve the problem rather quickly.

So start planting and enjoy it!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hedera helix (common ivy)

Hedera helix (common ivy)

A woody climber native to Europe, common ivy has long been collected for winter decorations and is an important food-source for wildlife.

Hedera helix (common ivy)
Hedera helix (common ivy)

Species information

  • Scientific name: Hedera helix L.
  • Common name(s): common ivy, English ivy
  • Synonym(s): Hedera poetica Salisb. (nom. illeg.), Hedera poetarum Bertol. (nom. illeg.), Hedera helix var. vulgaris DC., (nom. inval.)
  • Conservation status: Not assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria; widespread, abundant and not considered to be threatened.
  • Habitat: Woodland and hedgerows.
  • Key uses: Ornamental, medicinal, traditional uses.
  • Known hazards: Ingestion can cause mild gastrointestinal upset; may cause skin allergy on contact or via airborne allergens.


  • Class: Equisetopsida
  • Subclass: Magnoliidae
  • Superorder: Asteranae
  • Order: Apiales
  • Family: Araliaceae
  • Genus: Hedera

About this species

Common ivy is a popular ornamental, valued for its ability to thrive in shady places, provide excellent groundcover and cover unsightly walls, sheds and tree stumps. Many cultivars are available, including variegated forms that can be used to brighten shady depths of winter gardens.
Long collected for winter decorations, common ivy is associated with Christmas and frequently features in festive designs. It is also an important source of food and shelter for wildlife during winter.
Ivy is not a parasite, does not normally damage sound buildings or walls, and is rarely a threat to healthy trees. Regular trimming can prevent ivy becoming too heavy, a problem that can be exacerbated by the additional weight of rain and snow.

Geography & Distribution

Hedera helix is native to western, central and southern Europe. Its distribution extends from southern Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden) in the north to Latvia and the Ukraine in the east and southeast to Bulgaria, western Turkey, Greece (including Crete) and Cyprus. It is found up to about 515 m above sea level.
Common ivy is an invasive species in Australia, New Zealand and western USA.


Juvenile leaves of Hedera helix (common ivy)
Juvenile leaves of Hedera helix
Overview: A woody climber (liana) with distinct juvenile and mature stages, both with evergreen leaves; the juvenile stage usually has lobed leaves and rooting stems, and the mature stage has rootless, flowering shoots with unlobed leaves. Stems are purple-green.
Juvenile leaves: Dark green, leathery, 3–5-lobed, the two basal lobes reduced in size to give the typical ivy-leaf shape. Dotted with white, star-shaped hairs.
Adult leaves: Unlobed, markedly narrower on shoots exposed to light.
Flowers: Borne in spherical clusters, each held on a stalk (peduncle), with a proteinaceous scent. From September to November.
Fruits: Yellow-orange to black berries, up to 9 mm in diameter, each containing five seeds.
Hedera helix f. poetarum is a form with dull orange fruits, found in the Mediterranean and known as poet’s ivy or Italian ivy.

Common ivy and wildlife

Ivy berries are a favoured winter food for blackbirds and if not eaten remain on the plant until spring, providing an important food-source for young birds. Branches and leaves of Hedera helix also provide shelter and nesting sites for birds, and a ready supply of insects can be found living on and around them.
Hedera helix flowers open late in the year (September to November) and are pollinated by insects such as wasps and moths. They are an important source of nectar and pollen for bees when other sources such as heather are not available.


Hedera helix 'Pennsylvanica'
Hedera helix 'Pennsylvanica'
Common ivy is a popular ornamental, and many cultivars are available, including non-climbing ones for ground cover and compact forms for potted plants. Being evergreen and shade-loving, ivy is perfect for winter gardens and can form an attractive covering for garden structures. Ivy was a fashionable ornamental in Victorian Britain and represented fidelity in the ‘language of flowers’.
Hedera helix is frequently used in cut flower arrangements, particularly in winter displays. The custom of decorating homes with ivy and evergreens dates back to pre-Christian times when they were associated with the power of the eternal and represented continuation of life through the winter.
Early herbalists, having seen common ivy smothering grape vines, held the belief that ivy berries could counteract the unwanted side-effects of alcohol consumption. Hedera helix has in the past been used in the treatment of verrucas, warts and corns.
Ivy wood has been used as a substitute for boxwood (Buxus sempervirens). The glossy, cream, ivory-like heartwood is sometimes used in flower arrangements.
Young twigs were formerly a source of dyes, and it is said that a red dye can be obtained from the berries when boiled with alum.
Ivy is browsed by cattle and sometimes used as an emergency winter fodder.

Common ivy as a symbol

In ancient Rome, ivy was a symbol of intellectual achievement and ivy wreathes were used to crown winners of poetry contests. They were also given to victorious athletes in ancient Greece.
The Roman custom of hanging a branch with leaves (often ivy because it was readily available, and the leaves, being evergreen, lasted a long time) on a pole to indicate that the premises sold wine or ale spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages and became known as an alepole or alestake.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.
Five collections of Hedera helix seeds are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.
See Kew’s Seed Information Database for further information on Hedera helix seeds.


Where ivy is grown on structures, it should be clipped over every other year to ensure the growth does not become too heavy.


Allium Sphearocephalon

Allium sphaerocephalon

Allium sphaerocephalon
This green to purple summer-flowering ornamental onion looks great planted in combination with Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant', Centranthus ruber and Rosa 'Gertrude Jekyll' ('Ausbord') AGM. Its oval flowerheads stand about 60cm or more tall - insects love them, and they add movement and interest to borders.

Vital statistics

Common name
Round-headed leek
Height & spread
60 x 90cm (2 x 3 ft).
Bulbous perennial
Fertile, well-drained soil
Full sun
Fully hardy but may be tender when young
Round-headed leek is easy to grow. The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply, in a light well-drained soil in a sunny position. Once established the plants are fairly drought-tolerant. It grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes. It should not be planted near alfalfa, as each species affects the other negatively. Plants often divide freely at the base.

allium neapolitanum

Allium Neapolitanum, which is often referred to as the Naples Onion, or the Star Of Bethlehem, and goes by a number of other names as well, is a member of the allium genus, a huge genus, consisting of many different species. It's commonly believed that not all of the species of allium have yet been discovered or classified. Many species, certainly most species, grow wild. Others are grown as ornamental plants, and yet others, such as leeks, onion, and garlic, are found in vegetable gardens or grown commercially for food. Allium species range from the Giant Allium with its blooming heads reaching nearly a foot across, to many small species, some of which are quite invasive.
allium neapolitanum Like many members of the Allium genus, Allium Neapolitanum grows from bulbs. It is hardy only in USDA Zones 7 and above, and is found primarily in California, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, though it can be grown in pots elsewhere. Allium Neapolitanum attains a height of between 12 and 18 inches. The flowers are white, and somewhat delicate, branching out from the stem in a globe-like pattern. This allium species will grow in most soils and is somewhat drought tolerant. It is primarily propagated from bulbs and bulb offsets, but can also be grown from seeds, which may be collected once the blossoms have died back. The Allium Neapolitanum plant is native to Southern Europe, including Italy (Naples) and also native to North Africa.
allium neapolitanum The allium in general is easy to grow, and most varieties, though not Allium Neapolitanum, are quite hardy. Over time the plants tend to become somewhat crowded. They are then usually lifted from the ground and divided. When cut or bruised, most allium plants have the familiar onion odor. The blossoms on the other hand can be quite pleasantly fragrant. While most species grow from bulbs, a few grow from rhizomes and others from tuberous roots. There are several species which do not form bulbs or rhizomes at all, but are propagated either from seed or by leaf cuttings. All varieties and species are relatively easy to propagate.
allium neapolitanum Allium Neapolitanum may be forced indoors in a pot. If this species is not suitable for the climate you live in, there are so many species of allium, most of which have white blossoms, that to find an acceptable substitute may not be all that difficult. If you must have this species however, growing it in pots indoors or in a greenhouse may be the answer.

Allium oreophilum - ceapa decorativa

Allium oreophilum, grows 2 to 8 inches tall and blooms in dainty heads of pinkish purple flowers. Blooms in June. Allium is a bulbous plant with linear leaves and blooms in flowers with umbels on the top of a sturdy stem. Several of the species have foliage which is unpleasant smelling. They will not release their smell unless they are walked on.

Size:Height: 0.17 ft. to 0.67 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 0 ft.  
Plant Category:annuals and biennials, bulbous plants, ground covers, landscape, perennials,  
Plant Characteristics:columnar, dwarf, edible flowers, low maintenance, seed start, spreading,  
Foliage Characteristics:fragrant, medium leaves,  
Foliage Color:green,  
Flower Characteristics:erect, horizontal, long lasting, showy, unusual,  
Flower Color:pinks, purples,  
Tolerances:deer, rabbits,  

Bloomtime Range:Early Summer to Early Summer  
USDA Hardiness Zone:4 to 9  
AHS Heat Zone:Not defined for this plant  
Light Range:Part Shade to Part Sun  
pH Range:6.5 to 7.5  
Soil Range:Sandy Loam to Loam  
Water Range:Normal to Moist