FOODS AND HERBS THAT BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM



Autumn is here. Along with the brisk air and pretty leaves on the ground, it also brings some other things: sniffles, coughs, and the flu. While some people are already running to the drugstore seeking remedies and flu shots, turning to mother nature first can give you a head start on the sickness that comes with the changing of the seasons. There are many fruits, veggies, and herbs that boost your immune system naturally. And, they usually cost less and are more enjoyable to ingest than the cough syrups and other medicines you'll get at the drug store. Check out these herbs, fruits, and veggies that will keep your body strong and happy.

Licorice Root
 Licorice root is an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years. Now studies have shown the science behind its purported immune system-boosting properties. The herb contains Glycyrrhizin, a chemical that has been shown to boost natural killer cell activity; natural killer cells are part of the immune system's defence. They pick out infecting viral and tumour cells and kill them before they can start making you unwell.

Garlic
Besides making nearly any dish more flavourful and delicious (and warding off vampires, of course), garlic has similar immune system building properties to licorice root. It also boosts natural killer cell activity, and makes the body better at getting rid of invading viruses. Just make sure you brush your teeth afterwards, or it can help ward off any kisses or conversation as well!

Citrus 
The upcoming winter does mean one tasty thing: citrus is in season. You'll be able to find tangerines, tangelos, oranges, and grapefruit by the bag in your local grocery. While you've heard it a million times, that doesn't make it any less true: Vitamin C does wonders for your immune system. In studies, animals deprived of Vitamin C are less able to fight off antigens and viruses invading their cells. And, over time, the phytochemicals in citrus can help decrease your risk of cancer and other cellular degeneration.

Almonds
Almonds are an excellent source of the antioxidant Vitamin E. Vitamin E eats up free radicals, oxygen atoms that wear away cell membranes and inhibit immune system function. The vitamin also lowers cell inflammation by interfering with an enzyme that causes cell oxidation. Over time, this reduction of inflammation can decrease your risk of cancer.

Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are incredibly high in the trace element selenium. Selenium is necessary for the correct formation of selenoproteins, a type of antioxidant which increases immune system function. Selenoproteins get rid of free radicals, the cell-damaging by-products of regular metabolism. Selenoproteins also help keep your thyroid functioning correctly.

Carrots, Spinach, and Kale
Vitamin A is a super-vitamin, and these three veggies have it in the highest amounts. Vitamin A not only helps your vision, bone growth, and cell division, but it's also a helper to the immune system. Vitamin A increases the amount of white bloods cells that your body makes; white blood cells help destroy infections by seeking out harmful bacteria and viruses.

So now you know what to load up on your plate this winter, to stay in tip top shape. But you don't necessarily have to buy all of it at the store: it's more fun to grow the foods that are going to ward off this season's colds.

For related articles click onto the following links:
EASY TO GROW PLANTS THAT CAN HELP TO FIGHT CANCER
FOODS AND HERBS THAT BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
HOW TO AVOID E.COLI WHEN PREPARING SALADS
HOW TO GROW GARLIC IN POTS OR CONTAINERS
HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT BY EATING FRUIT AND NUTS
WHAT ARE THE BEST FOODS TO EAT WHEN PREGNANT?
WHAT IS E.COLI?
WHICH FOODS ARE BEST FOR THE SKIN?
WHY IS FRESH FRUIT SO GOOD FOR YOU?

HARDY CACTI AND SUCCULENTS FOR GROWING OUTSIDE





In the cool regions of northern Europe, but where temperatures rarely fall below freezing, many cacti and succulent species will thrive outdoors in troughs, raised beds and pots - provided the plants are raised above ground level to allow water to drain away freely. A warm sheltered position – such as a walled south-facing corner, or a covered patio or balcony where the plants can more easily be protected from rain - will provide the ideal environment.
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The foliage shapes of Sedum and the neat rosettes of Sempervivum can be used to form a contrast with the leafy forms and brilliant blooms of Lewisia species and cultivars, the green-flowered Echinocereus viridiflorus, hardy Umbilicus, and the summer blooms of hardy Lampranthus. Other species, such as the Agave parryi, which has symmetrical rosettes of plump, grey-green leaves, or Opuntia polyacantha, with its brilliant display of yellow flowers, make striking focal points if they are planted in mixed displays or on their own in large bowls.

In warmer climates, there is a much greater scope for growing cacti and succulents outdoors in containers. In large pots, groups of plants that flower at different periods and have striking foliage forms such as the purple leafed Aeonium arboreum ‘Schwarzkopf’.


 Aloe barbadensis which has yellow flowers and the red flowered Crassula falcata will provide structural interest all year round, and give a succession of attractive blooms throughout the warmer months.

Where temperatures do not consistently fall below 13 degrees Celsius, any dwarf cacti, such as species and cultivars of Gymnocalycium, mammillaria, and Rebutia, make fascinating displays of form and texture in outdoor bowls and troughs in the garden. These dwarf, cluster-forming species also give a magnificent display of vibrant colour that will last for many weeks on end during the summer.

. The key thing is to provide the right conditions as the great majority of cacti and succulents need high light levels, warmth and good ventilation to thrive - although some, the leafy succulents in particular, may need protection from direct sun during the summer to avoid leaf scorch.

There is one important group of cacti however that requires shady conditions, or at least filtered light. These are the epiphytes that come from the humid and shaded rain forests of South America such as the Christmas cactus – Schlumbergera bridgesii and Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri.

For related articles click onto the following links:
AGAVE PARRASANA - The Cabbage Head Agave
COLD HARDY EXOTIC PLANTS FOR THAT TROPICAL GARDEN EFFECT
EVERGREENS FOR DRY SHADE
GASTERIA maculata
HARDY CACTI AND SUCCULENTS FOR GROWING OUTSIDE
HOW TO GROW SEDUM SPECTABILE 'AUTUMN JOY'
FLOWERING PLANTS FOR LATE SUMMER/AUTUMN COLOUR
HOW TO CARE FOR THE JADE PLANT
HOW TO CHOOSE PLANTS FOR HOT, DRY BORDERS
HOW TO GROW PEYOTE FROM SEEDS
HOW TO GROW SEDUM FROM CUTTINGS
ORNAMENTAL FLOWERING PLANTS FOR AUTUMN COLOUR
Puya Raimondii - 10 seeds
THE HARDY ALOE - Aloe striatula

HOW TO OVERWINTER LILY BULBS

How to overwinter lily bulbs

By and large, the majority of ornamental lilies are a pretty tough bunch and able to cope with most of what the winter weather has to throw at it. However, they can be prone to losses in cold wet conditions, especially those varieties that originate from mountainous regions, but with a little thought - and minimum of intervention – overwintering ornamental lilies is fairly straightforward.

Winterising can easily coincide with propagation. Species such as Lilium lancifolium, L. tigrinum and L.bulbiferum, and their hybrids, will produce stem bulbils (baby corms) in the leaf axils or bulblets at the base of the old flowering stem. Once the stems have died back it is a perfect time to lift the parent corm at which point the bulbils or bulblets can be picked off and the parent bulb replanted. However, make sure that the parent bulb is planted in free draining ground otherwise it can easily rot off over the winter period if left dormant in waterlogged conditions.
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How to overwinter lily bulbs
If you are planting lily corms into damp conditions or you live in an area prone to heavy rainfall over the winter period, it will be worth trying to improve the drainage of the soil by digging in plenty of horticultural grit, perlite or bulky organic matter.

It may even be worth creating a low mound to plant your corms into to help keep them away from a high water table. You can even consider protecting the area around the bulb from heavy rainfall by covering them with a large cloche or ‘makeshift’ plastic tent.

Species Lilies such as the Nepalese lily are particularly prone to this and are best potted on and brought into a protected cold environment where there is no chance of water reaching the bulb. Strangely they will tolerate temperatures down to about minus 12 degrees Celsius, but in it native environment and water would be frozen, effectively creating a ‘dry’ environment!

Lily varieties and cultivars that are not able to survive the freezing temperatures of an exposed mountain environment can be given the added protection of a good autumn mulch

Although bulbous in character, i.e. the plant is produced from a swollen underground storage organ known as a corm, it is not a true bulb. Instead it is tight, concentric ring of succulent scales which are attached at their lower end to a basal plate..

How to overwinter lily bulbs
Lily bulbs never really go dormant, and do best when out of the ground for as short a time as possible. If you've got the space, I would recommend potting the bulbs up right away. You can cram them in, bulb to bulb, you're just trying to keep the root system fresh and growing. You can store the pots in an unheated garage or cool basement until spring, then tease the roots apart and plant again.

If you can't pot them up right away, get some moss peat, wet it and squeeze out as much of the water as you can. Dust the bulbs with a fungicide, then store the bulbs in the moss peat in an open container (which you will need to mist periodically to keep it barely moist) and store in the basement or garage until you can plant in the spring.

Planting Bulbils

It is possible to collect bulbils throughout late summer but only once the bulbils have naturally loosened from the parent stem. Collect them from the leaf axils of the lily stems by carefully picking them off.

Insert the bulbils into pans of moist, loam based compost - such as John Innes ‘Seed and Potting’ compost – pressing them gently into the surface. Cover with grit and don't forget to label the variety before placing in a cold frame until the young bulbs develop.

Planting Bulblets

After flowering, lift the corm and dead stem – replanting the parent corm. Alternatively, leave the parent bulb in the ground and cut the stem directly above it to remove the bulblets.

Plant the bulblets at twice their own depth into 13 cm pots of moist, loam-based potting compost. Cover with a layer of grit before placing in a cold frame until the spring. Don't forget to label the variety.

For related articles click onto the following links:
GARDENERS WORLD - How to overwinter lilies
HOW TO PLANT LILY BULBS
HOW DO YOU OVER-WINTER BEGONIA CORMS?
HOW TO OVERWINTER CANNA LILIES
HOW TO OVER-WINTER CITRUS PLANTS OUTSIDE
HOW TO OVERWINTER COLOCASIA
HOW TO OVERWINTER BRUGMANSIA
HOW TO OVERWINTER BANANA PLANTS
HOW TO OVERWINTER DAHLIA TUBERS
HOW TO OVERWINTER FUCHSIA’S
HOW TO OVERWINTER ROSES
THE JAPANESE COBRA LILY - Arisaema ringens
LILIUM NEPALENSE - The Lily of Nepal
THE BLACK LILY - Lilium 'Landini'
The Stargazer Lily
THE TURK'S CAP LILY - Lilium martagon
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HOW TO MAKE OLD FASHIONED FRUIT CHUTNEY





I love old fashion English fruit chutney, it was something my grandmother used to make and nowadays - whenever I tasted someone's homemade recipe - the memories of childhood always flooded back. I can't get enough of the stuff which is fine in itself but I am addicted to eating it with a slab of cheese which is not so good

This recipe will make 900 grams / 2 lb of preserve.

450g / 1lb of pears, peeled, cored and chopped
450g / 1lb of cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped.
2 x onions - chopped
600ml / 1 pint of vinegar
225g / 8 oz of dates - chopped
15ml / 1 tbsp of salt
450g/1lb of golden syrup (light corn)
A pinch of ground ginger
15ml / 1 tbsp of mustard powder


Put the pears, apples, onions and vinegar in to a pan and bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until the mix is tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients and boil for about 20 minutes until thick and golden. Stir well, then pour into warmed jars and leave to cool. Then seal and label.
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How easy is that?

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO MAKE OLD FASHIONED FRUIT CHUTNEY
HOW TO MAKE PLUM CHUTNEY
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HOW TO MAKE PLUM CHUTNEY




I came across this recipe by accident, and it was all down to have plums stolen off my tree last year. This year I decided that it wasn't going to happen - so as soon as the fruit was ripe I stripped the entire crop and brought it home. Two plum crumbles later - superb, I can now make them the way my grandmother used to - I needed a plan to clear the rest of the fruit. Luckily a good friend of mine had lent me a cookbook for its simnel cake recipe and in it I found this traditional, simple English recipe for plum chutney. It is gorgeous, but the only reason I have listed the recipe on this site is because I have had to give the book back. Now of course the recipe is easy to hand whenever I need it.

I hope you like it - it is gorgeous!

This recipe will make approximately 3 lb / 1.5 kg of preserve

900g /2 lb plums - stoned and pitted and cut into quarters
450g /1 lb of carrots - grated
600ml / 1 pint of malt vinegar
350g / 12 oz of raisins
450g / 1 lb of light brown sugar
1 garlic clove - crushed
5ml / 1 tsp of chilli powder
15ml / 1 tbsp of ground ginger - or a knuckle worth of finely chopped fresh ginger
30ml / 2 tbsp of salt

Mix together the plums, carrots and vinegar, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes until the mix is tender. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes until the mixture is thick. Stir well, then spoon into heat sterilised jars and leave to cool. Seal and label.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO MAKE OLD FASHIONED FRUIT CHUTNEY
HOW TO MAKE PLUM CHUTNEY
Fruit
WHAT IS A PRUNE?

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HOW TO GROW THE TREE DAHLIA - Dahlia imperialis




This article has been written by guest writer Marco - from livetogarden.com

Native to South America, the tree dahlia - Dahlia imperialis can be grown farther north with proper care and maintenance. Hardy to Zone 8, it is becoming increasingly popular among gardeners in the southern and western United States, and even grows wild in parts of Hawaii.

This tall, late-blooming perennial will add drama to any garden. Averaging between 10 and 15 feet in height (though some report plants as high as 30 feet), the tree dahlia blooms in autumn with pink, lavender or white flowers about 6 to 7 inches in diameter.

If you're looking for a sun-loving plant to add a little height to your garden and provide a splash of colour the Dahlia imperialis may be the perfect addition to your landscape.

Planting Tree Dahlias: Soil and Sun Considerations

Dahlias thrive in sunlight. Full sun is best, though some gardeners have reported success with as little as half-day sun.

Soil for dahlias should be rich and moist but can range from sandy loam to slightly clay. Drainage is extremely important, as dahlias are sensitive to both too much and too little water. Consider adding perlite or horticultural grit to your soil for improved drainage, especially if you live on the West Coast, where winters are particularly wet. Plant your tree between 8 and 12 inches deep, and mulch it heavily.

Protecting Tree Dahlias: Pruning and Sheltering

Although they like full sun, tree dahlias also need to be sheltered from wind as their bamboo-like stems are brittle and break fairly easily. You may also need to stake the stems and tie every foot or so of growth, leaving the top few feet free. Pieces of nylon make great ties because they'll stretch as the plant grows, unlike plastic or string, which may cut into the stem, causing damage.
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Tree dahlias are sensitive to frost, so if your area experiences 'colder than normal' temperatures, especially overnight, you may want to cover your plant to protect it. Use burlap, linen or even newspaper, which will let the plant breath. Plastic will trap moisture on the plant, potentially doing more harm than good.

After it flowers, the tree dahlia may prune itself, reducing its height to just a few feet. If it doesn't, you'll need to cut the stems down for winter. You may also wish to trim new growth by up to half. If you want a bushier, rather than a taller, plant, trim the top of the dahlia tree every few months through the growing season.

Don't be surprised if your tree dahlia does not emerge with the rest of your herbaceous plants come the following spring as they are particularly late to appear, It isn't unusual for them to start their growth as late as mid-May, but don't worry as once they get going they are extremely vigorous.

For related articles click onto the following links:
CERINTHE MAJOR 'PURPURASCENS' - The Honeywort
DAHLIA PESTS AND DISEASES
DAHLIA 'War of the Roses'
HOW TO GROW ALSTROEMERIA
HOW TO GROW ARGYROCYTISUS BATTANDIERI
HOW TO GROW DAHLIAS
HOW TO GROW DAHLIAS FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW THE TREE DAHLIA
HOW TO OVERWINTER DAHLIAS
How to grow Isoplexis canariensis
HOW TO GROW NANDINA DOMESTICA - The Sacred Bamboo
HOW TO PLANT AND GROW DAHLIAS
HOW TO PROPAGATE DAHLIAS
THE HISTORY OF THE DAHLIA

SISSINGHURST GARDENS - a secret history




Acquired by Vita Sackville West with her husband Sir Harold Nicolson in 1930, Sissinghurst Castle gardens have become one of the brightest jewels in a spectacular crown of English country gardens. It was their unique vision and uncommon single mindedness that took this dilapidated Tudor estate and moulded it into a breathtaking series of compartmentalised gardens. But there is something at Sissinghurst which makes it quite unique, a quality of peace and tranquillity that has enabled it to become regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.

However, scratch the surface and you will reveal a history so sinister that you may never look at this place the same way again. To uncover the truth we must go back to over 250 years to when Britain was in the grip of a punishing war against France.

With the success of the British Navy during the ‘Seven Years War’, many ships from of the French fleet were captured as prizes and their seamen confined in prison hulks at Plymouth. As prisoner populations rose this proved to be an unpopular choice, and so the Government of the time decided that it needed a more suitable location to house them. With the owners of Sissinghurst being in considerable debt, they leapt at the chance of leasing it to the government, and did so in 1756. If prison conditions were believed to have been bad then, they were about to get much, much worse!

Unfortunately for the French, English prisons were traditionally run by the Royal Navy, and Sissinghurst had extra security in place by way of short term army garrisons. This made the inmates at Sissinghurst not just prisoners but also the enemy and as such, the treatment they received here was significantly worse compared to other British prisons. So powerful became its reputation, that the very threat of being sent to Sissinghurst was often enough to enforce discipline in other prisons across the country.

DISEASE

New prisoners would have been greeted by the stench of overcrowded, dilapidated and unsanitary accommodation, although the word ‘overcrowded’ is somewhat of an understatement. Even after 250 years, inscriptions still survive above the cell door frames indicating the maximum population levels for each room. For example, one particular chamber of no more than 16ft by 20ft would have been home for up to eighteen men. Another, found under a staircase in the Elizabethan quarters, indicates a population of only 6, but it’s a cell of no more that 4ft square. If that wasn't bad enough, there was no running water or toilets in these makeshift cells so imagine how intolerable the heat of summer would have been - bringing with it the stink of human faeces, and what would have seemed like a plague of lice and flies.


Of course with this many men living in such poor and barbaric conditions, diseases ran rife through the camp infecting prisoners, guards and the garrison alike. These were terrible times and instances of smallpox and dysentery were commonplace. There was enormous pressure to find somewhere suitable for treating the large numbers of infections and so the large Elizabethan brick barn - found to the left of today’s main entrance - was converted into a makeshift hospital.

CORRUPTION

With 18th Century jailers subjected to very poor pay and conditions it was down to them to come up with ways of making a little extra money, in fact they were expected to.

It was common practice for all new inmates to be fitted with heavy irons. This was so that for a small payment they could be replaced with lighter ones, or - for an additional charge - they could be removed altogether. Unfortunately many of the guards had a strong sadistic side, so on top of stealing prisoner belongings and fiddling the exchange rates of foreign nationals, they also used their position to impose conditions of starvation, isolated confinement, and inadequate clothing.


Although the jailors were widely known for being institutionally corrupt, the French soon learned that it could be used to work in their favour. This was done by using bribes to condition the guard’s behaviour.

In one particular case, the guards were conditioned to such an extent that a number of prisoners were able to smuggle in explosives in an attempt to blow a breach in the castle walls. It was only when guards intercepted a prisoner's letter, describing the escape plan to one of their mothers, that the plot was discovered.

MURDER

Murder and fighting would have been commonplace at Sissinghurst, and although you'd think it would be in the guards interest not let such incidences become common knowledge, several letters of complaint on the subject managed to find their way to a Court of Enquiry.


Perhaps the most senseless death was that of prisoner Jacobus Lofe who was shot as he lay sleeping in his hammock, secured in one of the topmost rooms in the tower. A statement from the sentinel charged with firing the shot - who was believed to have been drunk at the time claimed that ‘…he called out to the prisoners several times to put out their lights, which they refused to do so, and bid him fire and be damned…’ However, evidence from three other prisoners who were in the room at the time declared that there were no lights on and as such they didn’t feel the need to answer - believing the sentinel was shouting to another room. Unfortunately, this incident was caused by nothing more than a trick of the light because - on certain clear nights - the moon rises to a point where it can shine directly onto the tower lighting up the inside of these topmost rooms. Even today, its reflection in the glass can often look as though there has been a light left on inside.

Once in a while the prisoners managed to get their own back. On one recorded occasion, water was being brought to the top of the tower by a system of ropes secured to the outside wall. Rather than using the steep internal staircases this was the preferred way to supply water to these top most rooms. Unfortunately, once the bucket reached the top it became untethered and crashed down on the head of the supervising sentinel - killing him outright. It was put down as an accident but you can make up your own mind as to the ability of a French sailor to tie a secure knot?

TORTURE

As we have seen, the early days at Sissinghurst were little more than a slow and painful death sentence, with beatings and kickings routinely administered by the guards.

Although associated with medieval times, torture was an accepted part of prisoner interrogation right up until the eighteenth century and would have been authorised in order to retrieve valuable information on enemy troops and fortifications.

Typically, irons and fetters would have been fitted - to prevent sleeping or cause paralysis, and on occasion prisoners were known to have been forced to stand in water until their feet rotted.

However there would have been times when more extreme devices were demanded such as the torture chair, the rack, foot crusher and the little known Scavenger’s daughter.

WHERE DID THEY GO?

By the end of the war in 1763 the prison camp was closed down with the garrison sent back to their regiments. Many of the released prisoners returned home to France, while some opted to stay and work within the grounds. A few even married local girls.

Unfortunately the Elizabethan court yard had suffered tremendous damage during the French occupation, and 15 years later much of the house and furniture had been destroyed for firewood. Sissinghurst and its future looked bleak.

And it was as a soulless shell that Sissinghurst stayed for a further 150 years until it was rescued and loved by Vita Sackville West and her husband Sir Harold Nicolson.

By the creation of these wonderful gardens it has since become a fitting memorial to the atrocities that occurred here all those years ago. May God give peace to their souls.

For related articles click onto the following links:
ELCHE GARDENS - The Huerto del Cura
HEVER CASTLE
KNOLE HOUSE AND THE GHOST WITH NO NAME
MAJORELLE GARDENS – MOROCCO
Sissinghurst gardens
THE PLANT HUNTERS
THE SECRET LIVES OF THE KNOLE HOUSE GHOSTS

PLANTS FOR DRY SHADE




As any schoolchild will tell you, plants need light and water to grow. So when it comes to those awkward, dry shaded parts of the garden what do you do? Well. below is a list of commonly available dry and shade tolerant plants for your consideration. Just remember that although these plants will tolerate dry conditions, they are not cacti and as such will appreciate being watered every now and again!

Alchemilla mollis
This hardy perennial thrives in well-drained soil, and heavy shade. Lady’s Mantle is prized for its large leaves, pleasant rounded growth habit and airy yellow flower clusters that appear late spring through early summer. This perennial will grow about 18” tall and wide.
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Anemone blanda
The delightful flowers, like large daisies, have a dozen or more petals neatly arranged around a gold centre and come in a complete range of colours including blues, purples, pinks and whites. It is fully hardy requiring a light and well drained soil in partial shade.
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Aquilegia vulgaris
This is a charming, old-fashioned cottage garden plant with bonnet-shaped flowers, often two-tone and with long graceful spurs. Flowering in early summer, aquilegias fill the seasonal gap between the last of the spring bulbs and the first of the summer flowers.
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Aster divaricatus
This is a is a bushy, upright perennial with rigid branches bearing small dark-green, spiny leaves and dense clusters of long-lasting white daisy-like flowers in late autumn.
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Bergenia
Another hardy perennial with evergreen, glossy leaves. Commonly known as ‘Elephant Ears’ this architectural plant is available in a wide range of colourful hybrids available. They can also make a great ground cover plant.
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Brunnera macrophylla
This is one of the most attractive and useful spring-flowering perennials, producing a dense ground-covering layer of foliage. The leaves, up to 15cm (6in) across, are roughly kidney-shaped and provide an attractive foil for the long lasting sprays of starry pale blue forget-me-not flowers that appear shortly after the leaves cover the ground.


Lily of the Valley – Convallaria
Lily-of-the-valley plants are charming and often grown as an attractive ground cover where they will naturalize well when conditions suite them. Fragrant, white, bell-shaped flowers on 6” stalks appear mid-spring and were popular as cut flowers in wedding bouquets.
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Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)Native to Eastern North America the Christmas Fern is a non-flowering, evergreen perennial. It will reach a height of 2 feet tall and the rhizomatous clumps will slowly grow to over 2’. It is very low maintenance and highly attractive with upright, evergreen foliage frond.


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Comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum)
An herb, long used medicinally, this perennial will tolerate dry shade once established. Growing about 12” with handsome, semi-evergreen foliage, comfrey does well under shrubs or small trees. Use comfrey in the shade garden and ways to use this early spring-flowering perennial plant.


Cyclamen coum and Cyclamen hederifolium
These popular species Cyclamen will produce exquisite blooms from late winter to early spring. The leaves, which have silver patterning over dark green, and the flowers appear at the same time from tubers underground. Flower colour can vary from white to deep red. Mulch annually with leaf mould to help prevent the tubers from drying out during the heat of the summer and from the cold of winter. Both species have been given an Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Epimedium grandiflorum
A wide range of plants are available in this species from low-growing ground covers only 6” tall to much larger plants up to 2’ in height. Also known as Barrenwort, this perennial plant has foliage which can turn red or orange in the autumn and remain over winter providing winter interest.


Galanthus 'S. Arnott'
Whilst almost all snowdrops require a moist soil in order to thrive, Galanthus ‘S.Arnott does not. It produces flowers with a subtle fragrance, that are almost twice the size of common snowdrops, on stems that can reach 25cm (10in) tall.



Galium odoratum
Commonly known as the Sweet Woodruff, this vigorous, mat-forming perennial produces sweetly fragrant flowers during June and July. It can also be used a s a ground cover plant.It is a vigorous mat-forming perennial with whorls of bright green, lance-shaped leaves and clusters of small white, starry flowers from late spring.


Geranium
Not to be confused with the common bedding geraniums, this family of hardy herbaceous perennials will often do a stunning job of brightening up an area of dry shade. Species to look out for are Geranium nodosum - Bluish pearly pink flowers, Geranium phaeum 'Album' an excellent geranium for shade as the white flowers light up a dry shaded spot, and Geranium 'Katherine Adele' - heavily mottled foliage almost completely purple flushed, with lined pink flowers.


Hypericum calycinum
This vigorous and spreading semi-evergreen shrub with lance-shaped leaves. It produces golden –yellow flowers up to 3 inches across through the summer and early autumn.is a fast-growing, spreading, semi-evergreen to evergreen shrub with lance-shaped leaves and yellow flowers throughout summer into early autumn is a fast-growing, spreading, semi-evergreen to evergreen shrub with lance-shaped leaves and yellow flowers throughout summer into early autumn.

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Iris foetidissima
A native Iris that does well in dry soils in shade, purplish and yellow flowers in summer, but the real interest are the seed pods which split in autumn to reveal scarlet fleshy seeds.



Lamium galeobdolon 
Commonly known as the Yellow Archangel, this perennial plant will grow to 1-2ft tall and wide. Archangel would make an excellent, low-maintenance groundcover for a woodland area but is probably not the best choice for small mixed borders. Consider planting Lamium orvala - the ‘Giant dead nettle’ in warmer climates.


Lathyrus vernus
Spring pea, a non-climbing woodlander from Eastern Europe. Blue-purple flowers.
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Liriope muscari 'Big Blue'
Predictably large with blue flowers. One of the best of the good flowering forms, to 40cm tall and wide, evergreen.




Mahonia aquifolium
This is a suckering shrub with glossy, dark green, leathery foliage. Fragrant rich yellow flowers are produced in numerous dense clusters in March and April followed by blue/black berries. The variety ‘Atropurpurea’ has leaves which turn a rich-red-purple in winter.

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Omphalodes cappadocica
A clump forming species with bright green leaves. It produces, comparatively large blue flowers in masses in spring.

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Oxalis
All hardy species should do well under dry and shady condition – although not heavy shade. Enrich the soil before hand with peat or leaf mould.





Pulmonaria
Commonly known as Lungwort due to the plants medicinal uses throughout history. A spring flowering perennial, Pulmonaria grows about 12” tall and 18” wide and has long, lance-shaped leaves that are often speckled, splotched, variegated or frosted looking. Highly attractive foliage and vivid flowers make lungwort a favourite understory plant. Part shade and well-draining soil are preferred.

Ruscus
Species from this family are well known for being hardy evergreens. They have unusual stemless leaves and while the flowers are inconspicuous they do display handsome, large red berries in the autumn on the female varieties.




Scilla
Related to our English bluebell, scilla are a species of easy-to-grow bulbs. They will do well in any free draining soil but enrich the soil before hand with peat or leaf mould.




Tellima grandiflora
This hardy evergreen is chiefly grown for its leaves which make good ground cover throughout the year. The variety ‘Forest frost ‘produces heavily mottled leaves which are to a burgundy colour, pink flowers in Spring.



Tiarella
Two species from this family of hardy evergreens are of particular interest – T. trifoliate and T. polyphylla. Happy in the shade they need a free-draining soil but these plants will die back if the soil dries out completely so enrich the soil before planting with plenty of organic matter.



Vinca major and Vinca minor
These popular ground cover evergreens are happy in any ordinary free draining soil. There are a number of varieties available flowering any time from March until July.





For related articles click onto the following links:
EVERGREENS FOR DRY SHADE
HOW TO GROW CYCLAMEN FROM SEED
PLANTS FOR AUTUMN COLOUR
RHS Plants for Dry Shade
THE SNOWDROP 'GRUMPY'

HOW AND WHAT DO WORMS EAT?




When you look at a worm you can be forgiven for not knowing which end is which. However, and as you would expect, one end is definitely the head and for this article this is the end we are interested in.

What a worm eats will depend on whereabouts in the soil they live as they can be found living both close to the surface or much deeper underground.

To make sense of this earthworms have been split into three different categories. The first are the surface dwellers, the Epigeic worms. Then there are the upper soil worms, the Endogeic worms. Finally, there are the deep burrowing species, the Anecic

Surface and upper surface worms ( Epigeic and Endogeic worms) will eat a variety of organic materials, such as dead grass, any other larger leaf material, and even decaying animals! However there are a huge variety of microscopic organisms that also live on these food sources. This allows earth worms to not only feast on the decaying matter, but also on a 'balanced diet' of algae, fungi and bacteria - essential for a worms healthy lifestyle!

The deep burrowing species (the Anecic worms) live deeper under the ground have a diet that is primarily raw soil, but these worms survive once again by digesting the bacteria, fungi and algae found living there.

The soil passes through the worm and comes out as what is known as worm casts. This is a nicer way of saying worm poo! However, these casts are also beneficial to your garden plants due to their nutritional value. In their search for food worms also naturally aerate the soil, improving the root environment for your plants.

How does an Earth worm eat?


Earthworms eat by pulling food into their mouth with their prostomium - the small, nose-like portion of the worms first body segment. It is then 'sucked' into the body using a muscular pharynx. The food is stored in a crop and then ground up into small digestible pieces in the gizzard - a specialized stomach that contains small pieces of grit or sand that helps break down and digest the food.

Earthworms need a gizzard because they do not have any teeth. The nutrients are then absorbed into the body by way of the small intestine.

They can consume a great deal of matter in a relatively short period of time. In fact, they can produce their own weight in worm casts every 24 hours!

For related articles click onto the following links:
DO WORMS HAVE EYES?
WHAT DO WORMS EAT?