28 February 2014

Friday Five: People of Plants - Vera Scarth-Johnson

Vera Scarth-Johnson
Photo credit:
John Hill
Creative Commons
Born near Leeds in England in 1912, Vera was an avid botanist and gardener since childhood. She attended finishing school in Paris before studying art at two colleges back in England. But Vera was so keen to work in horticulture that she worked various jobs for five years; just long enough to save up for a horticultural course at the Hertfordshire Institute of Agriculture.

In 1947 while Vera was in her mid-thirties, she moved to Australia. She settled in Queensland, buying a small property in which she grew vegetables and tobacco before moving on to sugar cane. She was an incredibly hard-working woman and was the second woman to be awarded a sugar assignment.

During her spare time, Vera sketched and painted local flora amassing a large collection. During the mid-1960s, Vera heard a radio interview that featured the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The director mentioned that botany was poorly funded and that the Gardens relied on the assistance of volunteers, especially collectors. Vera wrote to him offering her assistance, enclosing some of her drawings. This was the beginning of a long and passionate association with the herbarium at Kew.

During this time, Vera made many self-funded journeys around Australia and the Pacific Islands collecting many plant specimens that she then sent off to Kew and some other herbaria in Australia, Europe, and North America. The Queensland Herbarium received more than 1700 plant specimens as a result of Vera's research and passion. Vera also published three books on the wild flowers of Australia. In 1995, Vera was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her wonderful contributions to art and the environment. She died in May 1999 surrounded by friends and family.

Along with having her work exhibited in the Nature's Powerhouse building in the Cooktown Botanic Gardens; the Vera Scarth-Johnson Wildflower Reserve in named in her honour. There is also a rare shrub named after her, Argophyllum verae.

Hodge, G. (2013) RHS Botany for Gardeners, London, Octopus Publishing Group
Vera Scarth-Johnson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2014. Vera Scarth-Johnson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vera_Scarth-Johnson. [Accessed 28 February 2014].

26 February 2014

In the Garden - February 2014

This is the earliest month I've ever done one of these posts. That's mainly because I do very little in the garden around this time of year and partly because we don't have many plants that are putting on a display this early in the year!

However, this year I've done a couple of things, including bought seeds! Any good gardening year begins with the selecting of seed of the coming season. We bought our from The Works and Aldi this year. Our courgette was really productive last year, so we're going to grow another this year - and scout around for some good recipes to add them too! Of course, sweet peas are must! But along with those I'm going to try cornflowers and nigella, growing them as cut flowers; both of which are new to me.
Seed packets
I've already been sowing the sweet peas! I decided to sow them in two batches in an attempt to prolong their flowering season and to try to prevent the glut that we had last year. I sowed the first lot a couple of weeks ago, followed by the second lot yesterday. I've even brewed up some chamomile tea spray to ward of damping off - which I'll cover in a future post.
Sweet peas

There's not a lot going on outside, but Lucy did plant some crocus bulbs last year and they've started to make a much appreciated appearance. I also found some ivy-leaved speedwell (Veronica hederifolia) with such dainty flowers covering ground near our plum tree. When the crocuses are finished for the year we need to give the bed a hoeing to remove the weeds that have already gotten a good start. We'll then cover the bed with a good layer of the soil conditioner from our local recycling centre, ready for the sowing of the cornflowers and nigella seeds in a few months.
Crocusivy-leaved speedwell (Veronica hederifolia)

While I was doing this Poppy, one of Lucy's rabbits took an interest with her 'So what are you up to' face or it could have been 'Stop messing about taking photos and bring me my treat'; I never quite know for sure! And it's with Poppy I'll close off this post. Thanks for reading.

Have you been in the garden or planning to be? Let me know in the comments :)

24 February 2014

Spider Plant Flowering Experiment

Spider plant
A year or so ago, Lucy's mum kindly gave us a pot of three spider plants. I'd not had one before and had never seen them flower, so decided to find out how to get ours to flower.

The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) hails from tropical and Southern Africa and was first formally described by the celebrated Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg as Anthericum comosum in 1794; after being moved around in a taxonomic version of musical chairs, it eventually ended up in the genus, Chlorophytum in 1862. Chlorophytum comosum has a small selection of popular variegated cultivars.
Ours, I think being C. comosum 'Vittatum'.

21 February 2014

Friday Five: Efficient cooking

I'm not up on the science behind a lot of these tips, some of them may even just be the placebo effect working its magic on me! While they may not save you a lot of money or energy, every little helps: so give them a try. Let me know what you think of these tips and any tips you have for making your cooking efficient.

19 February 2014

James Wong: Homegrown Revolution Tour Review Part 2

Welcome to part two of my review! Part one is here.

Another exciting proposition was being a botany astronaut. Plant science is going on in space right now. A great example being NASA's Mike Hopkins, who grew up on a farm outside Richland, Missouri and ended up being an astronaut. He has been sharing photos of the plants he's growing during his stay on the International Space Station, including this pumpkin:

17 February 2014

James Wong: Homegrown Revolution Tour Review Part 1

Last week my better half and I went to a talk held at Wiltshire College, Lackham. The talk was one stop of many in James Wong's Homegrown Revolution Tour entitled 'Grow Your Own Way'. I'll run through a very brief summary of the talk and finish with what you can do next to ensure you're in the right position to advance your career (future or present) in horticulture. If you can't get to a talk, then it has very kindly been made available by University College Cork. The talk starts around 20 minutes in and is available here.

James conceived the idea for this talk on the back of an article in Horticulture Week (possibly this) and a press release from the RHS (possibly this) about horticulture being at crisis point with a real lack of people studying horticulture and botany.

14 February 2014

Friday Five: People of Plants: Charles Darwin

This week saw the 2014 International Darwin Day (#DarwinDay on Twitter). So to participate, I've chosen to write this week's Friday Five about the great man himself.

Charles Robert Darwin was born on the 12 February 1809 in Shrewsbury at Mount House, the family home. He was born to Dr Robert Darwin the son of Erasmus Darwin - who himself wrote about evolution in his book Zoonomia - and Susannah Darwin the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood who created the Wedgwood pottery firm. Together, this family is known as the Darwin-Wedgwood family, known to have at least 10 fellows of the Royal Society.

12 February 2014

Book Review: Garden Natural History by Stefan Buczacki

I've been aware of The New Naturalist series for quite a few years now, but have always found them a bit daunting. It's a very popular series with titles ranging from Bumblebees to Caves & Cave Life. I don't know whether it was because each title was so specific that I thought I'd lose my way within those 300 or so pages of small font or if I thought the author would delve so deeply into the subject at hand that I'd reach a point I could no longer understand or enjoy the topic. However, I needn't have worried!

10 February 2014

What a Plant Knows

I've written before about how much I enjoyed Daniel Chamovitz's book What a Plant Knows, in a short review of the book. I also wrote a Five Fact Friday (now Friday Five) series on plants and their senses:

07 February 2014

Friday Five: Looking after your computer

This may seem a bit off topic for a nature blog! But if you're reading this, the likelihood is that your one of the 92% (according to Blogger stats) of my readers that are reading this post on a PC or laptop.
Recently I've noticed a lot of people in the Facebook groups I'm a part of having problems with their computer, but not knowing that there are some very easy to use software tools that can help them out.
In a past life I used to be an ICT Technician registered with UK Engineering Council (ICTTech) and over the years I've come across some tools that are not only easy to use, but are both reliable and powerful.
These applications are free to download and use - there are versions that you can pay for if you want additional features, like real-time protection rather than manual running. And of course, there are other applications similar to the ones I've chosen - so make sure you choose one your happy with!In no particular order are 5 software applications that you can use to pro-actively look after your computer.

05 February 2014

Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima

While we're all impatiently waiting for Spring, we're stuck in a transitional period - so I thought I'd post these pictures of the poinsettia plant from my parents house. With spring taking its time, we may as well remember the joys of Christmas!

03 February 2014

Desktop Calendar - February 2014

This past month of continuous rain I've really enjoyed growing some Narcissus 'Paper White' bulbs that my mum gave me. So I've decided to use them as my February calendar and I hope you'll join me in enjoying them too! Of course as it's February, I've chosen a quote related to love from the author of Peter Pan. I scoured through many lovely quotes, but this one really stood out to me - I hope you like it. If you need 'em; the instructions are below the photo.