22 April 2014

Book Review: James Wong's Homegrown Revolution by James Wong

This book has introduced me to so many different food plants. Some I've known forever, but hadn't realised that they had edible parts, such as the berries of Fuchsia or tubers of Dahlia. Others I'd never heard of before this book such as electric daisies and Peruvian mint marigold.

I really like the layout of the book, which I think flows really well. with food groups split into separate chapters such as: leaves and greens, fruiting veg and grains buried treasure, experimental herbs, spices and flavours, and dessert fruit. These  Inter spliced with sections on tips and tricks, natural sweeteners, and natural colours. I wasn't sure that I've be able to read a book like this from front to back, being that it covers the growing, harvesting and eating of each plant, but James has a wonderful vocabulary and before I knew it vast portions of the book had been devoured.

I also liked the recipes that are scattered through the book and find it a shame that they didn't have a separate contents page, which would really assist in finding them again. There are loads of interesting facts and ideas in this book, such as the idea of keeping carnivorous plants in the greenhouse to control pests. Something else that I hadn't realised was that chop suey has a literal English meaning of 'bits and pieces' - there are points of interest scattered throughout this book as well as interesting illustrations and photographs of the plants themselves.

You'll find everything you need to know about growing and harvesting the plants discussed all within the pages of this book. I enjoyed reading it and think that our 'must try' of the book is the red strawberry popcorn as I think it'll be a great educational tool for our niece and nephew. Give it a go and let me know if you try anything from the book!

07 April 2014

Book Review: RHS Botany for Gardeners by Geoff Hodge

When I first moved to Wiltshire I came across the word 'lush' for the first time. It's just not something I ever remember hearing where I come from in North Lincolnshire. It's current urban usage means something that's really pleasing, desirable, or even ultra-nice. Of course the current usage can be traced back to various sources but tended to be in reference to the luxuriance of plants. A great example being Shakespeare's Tempest: "How lush and lusty the grasse lookes?", but goes even further back to the Latin, luxuria for luxury. To this book, both definitions well and truly apply.

This book follows on from the previous year's RHS Latin for Gardeners and is similarly not just a book, but a work of art.

Geoff Hodge has a wonderfully readable way of describing various aspects of botany from cell division to how plants sense the environment around them. But this isn't just a reference book, where possible the book delves into the practical benefits that an understanding of botany can provide gardeners, from soil pH to a chapter on pruning.

Along the way we meet some of the botanists and botanical artists that have made a big impact on the history of botany, from Barbara McClintock to Richard Spruce and from Matilda Smith to John Lindley. We learn briefly about their lives and the importance of their work as well as the lasting legacy they left behind.

This book is made ever more lush, page by page, with the inclusion of wonderful illustrations of plants. Some illustrate concepts such as phyllotaxis, others are just plain gorgeous, all are botanically accurate.

This book was a pleasure to read. It's one that not only looks epic on the shelf next to Latin for Gardeners, but it's a book that I will continually be dipping into. I can only hope that the series will continue and I've even cheekily asked for an RHS Ecology for Gardeners (only time will tell)!

If you're interested in gardening, but haven't read a botany book before, then start here - it's a wonderful introduction that will prepare you for more indepth books on botany if you choose to go deeper down the rabbit hole.

01 April 2014

Desktop Calendar - April 2014

A couple of years ago my lovely fiancée, Lucy, bought me a Magnolia Stellata for my birthday. It didn't do much the first year, but last year it put on a good show of leaves and really started growing, finishing the year with some flower buds. So, here is the very first flower from our Magnolia tree! There are so many starting to open and I'm really enjoying spending time looking at them. I hope you enjoy it too :)

1) To ensure that you get the best quality, click the photo so that lightbox opens the image.
2) Right-click the image so that the context menu appears:
Firefox: Select "Set as Desktop Background..." and choose from the position options as below (Center or Fit will generally provide the best look).

Options from Firefox
Internet Explorer: Select "Set as Background". To change position settings you will need to set the personalise settings for the desktop in Control Panel:
Control Panel settings
Mac OS10.6.8
Chrome: Command click on photo (above); it opens in a new Tab. Drag to desktop. Use "Desktop & Screensaver" in System Preferences to center and choose background color.

To Hollis, over at In the Company of Plants and Rocks, for the Mac instructions.
To Jessica Burke from Moss Plants and More for such the idea.

Note: If anyone uses other Operating Systems and could let me know the instructions for applying the photo as a desktop image, please get in touch!