I received a marketing email today, warning me that my autumn-sown broad beans [US: fava beans] will be rotting away in the soil in this unseasonal December weather we’re having. They won’t, because I haven’t sown any, and I would imagine it would very much depend on where you are in the country and when you sowed your beans. It would be worth checking on yours if you’ve sown any, I guess, but probably not worth panic-buying broad bean plants for delivery next March, which is what the email is suggesting. It says there’s no point sowing at the moment, with short days and waterlogged soil, but I would probably give it a go – if I had anywhere to plant them out! The Garden Professors have been pondering why some plants are “fooled” by warm winter weather, and some aren’t. Apparently it’s pretty warm in Michigan, as well.
BBC Future have been wondering why Brits talk about the weather so much, looking at the work of social anthropologist Kate Fox, whose book ‘Watching the English’ I read during my ethnobotany Masters degree: “Weather talk is a kind of code that we have evolved to help us overcome social inhibitions and actually talk to one another.”
Unless you’re a gardener, in which case you’re more likely bemoaning the effect that a sun-less summer has had on your tomato crop 😉
A couple of weeks ago in Tendrils we had a link to an article about the Moon trees – grown from seeds that had been taken to the moon. This week Tim Peake became the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station, where he will be staying for the next six months. Whilst he was on his way up (it took a while!) I took the opportunity to investigate the space gardening exploits of the first Briton in space, Helen Sharman – who was also the first female visitor to the Mir space station.
Tim Peake’s mission is called Principa, after Isaac Newton’s world-changing text Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which described the principal laws of motion and gravity. According to the Grantham Journal, seeds from the famous apple tree that inspired Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity were sent into space on the Orbital 4 supply rocket on December 6. They were supplied by the National Trust from the tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, Newton’s home and birthplace. In six months the seeds will return with Tim Peake and be distributed to various places, including Woolsthorpe, with the aim of nurturing the ‘space’ pips into new apple trees.
Heading back towards more festive topics, the Culham Research Group at the University of Reading have been putting together a plant-related advent calendar (to which I will be contributing next week) of festive plants. Some of my favourites so far include Sgan t’sek, or the North American beaked hazelnut – Corylus cornuta, and mahleb (Prunus mahaleb), which has apparently been used in festive bakes for its aromatic properties since the time of the Ottoman Empire.
The Kew Science blog has stayed a little more recent, looking at the botanical origins of the Victorian Christmas pudding, a festive treat that I have completely failed to develop a taste for. However, the link contains both a recipe and the botanical details of the ingredients, so it’s an interesting read 🙂
A few years ago I was blogging about how to grow mistletoe. I think my dad’s plants are doing OK in the apple tree, I will have to check next time I visit them. I don’t think they’re going to be providing any sprigs this year, but you never know. Atlas Obscura feel slightly less than romantic about this festive plant, describing it as a parasitic, explosive plant that maybe you shouldn’t stand underneath. I doubt it’s that dangerous (although it’s poisonous, so don’t eat it!), but its reproductive cycle does involve slimy bird poop.
Do you want a fresh issue of Tendrils for Christmas Day (might make a nice break from the in laws and the telly!) or do you want a break now until the New Year? Vote by leaving a comment 🙂