Last year, around mid-December, one of my pair of Chinese finger-root plants (Boesenbergia pandurata) flowered. I was thrilled as I had grown them both from tubers, and there isn‘t a lot of good advice on the subject.

One is flowering now. In fact only one of them is doing anything – the other hasn’t even thrown out a shoot after dying back last winter.

For a fleeting moment it did cross my mind that they might be monocarpic i.e. die after flowering, but I dismiss that quickly because the tuber seems absolutely sound.

It is perhaps sulking, or more likely needs re-potting.


Whenever I read about somebody growing something different (especially to eat) I get a bit excited.

Actually excited, is probably too strong a word and makes me seem a bit odd. Curious is probably a better word. No, not strong enough. Actively curious? No, that’s no good – it makes me sound like a category in some kind of psychometric test, or pollster’s demographic.

Anyway, I hope you get my drift, so I’ll get to the point.

I was reading in a book, some old boy talking about one of his fellow allotment plot holders, who was Asian, growing a plant called Mehti, for the edible leaves. I immediately looked this up and found that the crop concerned is best known in the UK as fenugreek. “Oh I know fenugreek,” I said to myself, “I must try it” and made a mental note to get some.

So, earlier this week, when I saw a large packet of seed marked down to 50p I picked it up as a bargain.

The thing is that the packet was for ‘sprouting seeds’ which meant that there were no instructions on how to grow the things in soil. At this point it dawned on me that my comment “I know fenugreek” was actually a load of rubbish and that I knew just one thing about fenugreek – it’s a herb. Or a spice. In fact I don’t know anything about it. 

So I looked it up in my herb books and found . . . that it was popular for ‘sprouting seeds’. And no more.

Then I consulted some wider-ranging books about growing. And found . . . . more on ‘sprouting seeds’.

More scholarly tomes told me that it was ‘popular for ‘sprouting seeds’

I was still at a loss as how to cultivate it, and whilst of course there are general principles that apply to any seeds in terms of planting depth etc, I wanted to be sure that there weren’t any specific requirements that would make the difference between success and failure.

I asked a colleague who knew what it was and was able to give me some advice on cooking with it, but she’d never grown it.

So I’m just going to have to suck it and see. Or should that be chuck it and seed?

If you are one of the select group of people who read this blog, you may recall my Magic Beans post.

Well I planted some of the beans. I had been able, through some low-level mithering, to establish that they were yard-long type beans and so after checking with Joy Larcom’s Oriental Veg book and finding that they needed quite a bit of heat to get them going, stuck them in the heated ‘poppa-grator’.

Planted on Monday evening, the seed leaves broke the surface of the compost on Thursday. Overnight the first true leaves emerged and the thing grew to two inches tall inside ten hours, so that they went from the above to this……

With such an astounding rate of growth I ‘m wondering if  they might be magic beans after all. I’ve got a quite a few left – maybe I can swap them for a cow.

Boring botany bits

  • Seeds germinated and emerged from the soil surface within 72 hours
  • Epigeal germination – cotyledons above the soil
  • Cotyledons grew to around 3 times the size of the planted seed within this period and seeds were not soaked prior to sowing

One of the stems of a ginger in the office allotment got bent over as a result of the banana leaves’ swamping effect. Eventually it kinked and hung down like a cow’s tail.

I was able to prop it upright with a cane and whilst the stem was clearly compromised it didn’t seem to have caused withering damage.

With this ginger, everytime it throws up a new stem, the oldest one dies off. Thus, it was not surprising when the damaged stem started to die back. But then something unusual started to happen. A strange round, reddy-coloured nodule started to emerge from the stem. It was odd for a number of reasons:

  • It wasn’t near the site of the damage site (although it was above it) – sometimes plants do unusual things where they are damaged.
  • It wasn’t from a leaf axil – where plant growths often develop from.
  • And perhaps weirdest of all, it was actually from within the stem.

And I mean within – it actually split open. A bit like the monster emerging from John Hurt’s chest in Alien. It was a bit creepy.

As the stem deteriorated the nodule developed from a globe to a pointed shape reminiscent of one half of a lobster’s claw making it both creepy and surreal.

It’s still growing, and is clearly a new plant developing, but it is both beguiling and a touch unsettling at the same time. Especially as I can’t find a reference anywhere to the phenomenon.

Yesterday the OH bought me a copy of “Grow It!” – not the sort of magazine I’d ever buy, after all (even if I wasn’t put off by the unnecessary exclamation mark) I have plenty of books on growing things, and for what they don’t cover there is the internet.

That said there were quite a few bits and pieces inside that were of interest, chief among which was news of this project by the organisation that I still think of as the HDRA.

Then today, the same thing was covered in the Guardian gardening blog.

I used to think that a subject appearing in a number of publications at around the same time was due to coincidence. But that was when I was a naive soul and didn’t realise that journalists either do not have the freedom, or don’t posses the wit, to seek out interesting pieces, and so simply pick up on the same press releases.

What was a true coincidence is that the news of this initiative found its way to me on the day that my Indian squash seeds started to poke their heads up.

Whether they will prove to be Garden Organic’s desireable dudi/Indian bottle gourd, only time will tell.

You may know of Beverley Nichols, a British 20th century novelist amongst whose output can be found some rather camp and amusing gardening books. Actually, it might be that all of his books are camp and amusing, but I have only read those with a horticultural bent.

In one of them he wrote, “We all know that a garden never stops outside the doors of a real gardener. It comes in. Not only in the shape of mud on the carpet, but of catalogues on the piano, twine round the telephone and seed-packets on the mantelpiece”.

This is very true.

And it’s very true of Boot Hall. The garden seeps into the house. Actually, it’s a more of a torrent.

Since the kitchen door leads to the garden, unsurprisingly it’s the room that’s worst hit. There’s always a pile of stuff by the backdoor that is either going to or from the garden/greenhouse. Elsewhere is a ever-present small red trug of stuff ready to take to the allotment, and a recent addition, a small propagator of pelargonium cuttings from Saturday’s RHS study day, is perched on the window sill.

A bit like the rats in London, by my reckoning, in the kitchen you are never more than 3 feet from a seed packet.

Aside from this a quick scan of the house reveals:

A slick of horticultural books and magazines in the living room

More seed packets on the stairs and landing window sill, where there’s also a knotty ball of fillis

Another tidemark of garden books/mags in our bedroom.

Our smallest bedroom (laughing known as the office) is chock-full of plant related stuff – books, magazines, pictures, paper cuttings, more seed packets and so on. And it has a windowsill full of pots plus the electric propagator and a smaller unheated propagator with gingers in tucked away down by the radiator.

None of this bothers me, but it does drive the OH a bit dotty. Which raises a question.

Where is a good (and covert) place to start some sweet potato slips?

I’ve been stuck on the sofa for most of this week – hence the rash of rather boring blog posts. At first because I was keeping watch on Little Boots who’s been laid low with a bug. And then because I’ve been ill with the same thing.

Should you find yourself in a similar position and stuck for things to do here‘s a suggestion:

First turn out a 9cm plot of damp compost, onto a tray and then try finding half a dozen small black seeds that are somewhere in said compost.

I can guarantee hours of ….well if not fun and amusement, then diversion from gastric gurgling.

There is a reason that I’ve been indulging in this tedious activity. You see, when I planted my banana seeds 50% were planted in some African Violet compost and the other 50% in a mix of John Innes and sand, since I was unsure what sort of medium to use.

Well, the bananas that have so far germinated have all been in pots of the richer compost and so I thought it’d be a good idea to move them all into that medium. It also gives the opportunity to resoak them (this worked with my Ensete ventricosum seeds), assuming you can find the blinking things.

It is very nearly as boring as being ill.

(BTW – if you want to do this in under two hours – wait till the compost has dried a bit then sieve it).