WHAT IS EATING THE FLOWERS ON PANSIES AND VIOLAS?

What is eating the flowers of pansies and violas?

It can be extremely frustrating to find that after all the effort of purchasing and then planting garden displays of pansies and violas that the flowers become ragged and attractive, seemingly overnight! Usually there is little evidence of a culprit but it is likely to be the works of caterpillars, slugs or snails. The work or earwigs should also be considered

Caterpillars

What is eating the flowers of pansies and violas?
Caterpillars will happily feed on pansy and viola flowers leaving ragged buds and petals. They will also leave torn leaves. Depending on the species, excessive damage can defoliate the pansies if not controlled. Finding the caterpillars themselves is easier said than done, but have a good look through the foliage

Biological controls include a soil bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis. This will control caterpillars without affecting beneficial insects, humans or mammals.

Chemicals controls are widely available in all good garden centres.

Slugs and Snails


Slugs and snails are also known eat pansy and viola blossoms and buds. but will also leave large holes in the leaves. Unless the slugs and snails are particularly small their presence can be identified by silvery mucus trails

Both organic and chemical controls are easily available. Slug pellets are easy to use and apply. Nematodes are an excellent organic method while others are a little hit and miss.

Earwigs

Earwigs are well known for eating blooms but are also notoriously difficult to find. Earwigs can be trapped using cans sunk into the ground filled with a little fish oil and then removed from site simply by emptying them every day. Alternatively set out some crumpled, damp newspaper, the dump the contents into a bucket of soapy water in the morning. Alternatively, empty out the earwigs a long way, away.

HOW TO GROW THE LODDON LILY - Leucojum aestivum

How to grow the spring snowflake - Leucojum aestivum


So called because it was once commonplace along the valleys of the River Loddon in the English counties of Berkshire and Hampshire, the Loddon lily - Leucojum aestivum, is an ornamental flowering bulbous species widely cultivated as a garden plant. Outside of the UK, Leucojum aestivum is perhaps better known as the spring snowflake, the same common name used for the smaller Leucojum vernum.

Also commonly known as the spring snowflake, it is native to most of Europe including the United kingdom. Although now rarely seen in the UK it can still be found in good numbers along the River Thames at Church Meadow, below the Wittenham Clumps. In its native habitat the Loddon lily is almost wholly associated with rivers, although cultivated plants will establish in poorly drained, consistently damp soils.

How to grow the Loddon lily- Leucojum aestivum
Under favourable condition you can expect the Loddon lily to grow up to 60 cm tall. It has bulbs up to 4 cm across. The arching strap-shaped leaves are long, narrow, up to 70 cm long, and usually collapse as they mature. The white, bell-shaped blooms are approximate 2-3 cm long and appear in March to April. The flowers are nodding, with up to 7 on each umbel. The tepals white with a yellow or green spot near the tip.

Once pollinated fruits develop containing ingenious flotation chambers. In their native riverbank habitat these remain attached to the stem, however in the event of flooding the stems break and the fruits are carried downstream and hopefully become stranded on floodplains further down river. The bulbs can also be uprooted when rivers swell.

Plant fresh bulbs as soon as they are available or lift existing clumps in the autumn for replanting as soon as the leaves begin to die back. Plant bulbs 8-10 cm deep in a moist yet well drained, humus rich soil, preferably in full sun.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW THE LODDON LILY  - Leucojum aestivum
HOW TO GROW THE SPRING SNOWFLAKE - Leucojum vernum

HOW TO GROW THE SPRING SNOWFLAKE - Leucojum vernum

How to grow the spring snowflake - Leucojum vernum


Looking like, and often confused for a larger, less attractive version of the regular snowdrop, the 'Spring Snowflake', Leucojum vernum is a popular spring flowering bulb native to southern and central Europe from Spain to Ukraine. Like the snowdrop it is a member of the family Amaryllidaceae.

How to grow the spring snowflake - Leucojum vernum
Under favourable conditions the spring snowflake will achieve a height of approximately 15-20 cm, although it can reach up to 35 cm. It has narrow, strap-like, mid to dark green leaves.

Leucojum vernum will usually come into bloom from mid-February to March, one or two weeks later than the common snowdrop species. The fragrant flowers are small and bell-shaped, white with a green (occasionally yellow) spot at the end of each tepal.

The spring snowflake will perform best in moist conditions and is also tolerant of shade. The are best planted as fresh bulbs (in the green) in late summer to early autumn. Plant Leucojum vernum bulbs 8-10 cm deep.

Once clumps become overcrowded, lift and divide as the leaves begin to die down in the autumn.

Since its introduction, Leucojum vernum is now considered to have become naturalized in Ireland, Great Britain and Florida

Main image credit - Charles J sharp https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
By Johann Georg Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm) - Figure from Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen at http://www.biolib.de, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=737845

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HOW TO GROW THE LODDON LILY  - Leucojum aestivum
HOW TO GROW THE SPRING SNOWFLAKE - Leucojum vernum

HOW TO GROW GRISELINIA LUCIDA

How to grow Griselinia lucida







Commonly known as puka, akapuka or shining broadleaf, Griselinia lucida is handsome, usually epiphytic plant species (a plant that grows harmlessly upon another plant such as a tree) native to the North Island of New Zealand, and restricted areas of the South Island. In its native habitat, Griselinia lucida is usually found in wet, lowland forests and open or rocky coastal environments.

How to grow Griselinia lucida
It is noted for its large, asymmetrical, shiny, dark-green leaves that can be up to 18cm long when mature. When grown as an epiphyte it will also produces distinctive fluted roots descending down from its host tree. That being said, Griselinia lucida will also grow well as a soil-grown species where it can reach an approximately height of 5 metres, with a width of 2 metres.

Greenish-yellow buds are produced on panicles open up to display small star-shaped blooms. It is a dioecious species meaning that the male and female flowers are produced on separate plants. Once pollinated, small fruits appear which ripen to a dark purple colour.

Griselinia lucida can be planted in both full sun or semi shade. It will perform best in a free-draining soil, in a sheltered position and as you would expect from its native habitat it is tolerant of coastal conditions. Avoid soils prone to waterlogging.

While it has proven to be frost tolerant, the tender new leaves are easily damage by cold weather. Despite this, Griselinia lucida is only really suitable for growing in the very mildest regions of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Main image credit - Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia Griselinia lucida growing on scoria on Rangitoto Island https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain
In text image credit - Frederick Polydore Nodder - The Endeavor Botanical Illustrations, The Natural History Museum, London - Public domain

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW GRISELINIA LITTORALIS 'Variegata'
HOW TO GROW GRISELINIA LUCIDA

HOW TO GROW PHOTINIA RED ROBIN

How to grow Photinia 'Red Robin'

Commonly known as the 'Christmas Berry' Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' is an attractive evergreen, ornamental garden plant noted for the bright-red colouration of ts spring growth. It was first discovered in 1943 as a seedling (believed to be a hybrid of Photinia glabra and Photinia serratifolia) in Fraser Nurseries in Birmingham Alabama in 1943. The 'Red Robin selection was developed later on in New Zealand, and has now become the most popular and compact of all Photinia species and hybrids.

How to grow Photinia 'Red Robin'
It is a dense medium-sized shrub of erect habit which under favourable conditions can be expected to reach a approximate height and width of between 2.5-4 metres. The glossy, elliptic leaves are sharply toothed and can be up to 10cm in length. The new leaves emerge bright red, fading as they mature to become later dark green. The sparse, creamy-white flowers are borne mid to late spring.

Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' is tolerant of most soils, even clay as long as it has been improved by incorporating well-rotted compost or manure. However it will perform best in a fertile, moist, well-drained soil. Avoid heavy clay or waterlogged conditions.

It has proven to be hardy in most areas of the UK, able to withstanding temperatures down to -12°C. Be that as it may, Provide a sheltered position in sun or partial shade as the young shoots can become scorched by cold or drying winds and late frosts.

Newly planted specimens will need to be watered during their first year, especially during periods of prolonged drought, but once they become established they have proven to be reasonably drought resistant.

Prune once or twice a year in spring and summer to maintain its size and shape. Avoid cutting after mid-August,

Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1977, and the Award of Garden Merit in 1984.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW GRISELINIA LUCIDA
HOW TO GROW PHOTINIA RED ROBIN
HOW TO GROW GRISELINIA LITTORALIS 'Variegata'

HOW TO GROW FICUS ELASTICA 'VARIEGATA'

How to grow Ficus elastica 'Variegata'

Commonly known as the 'Variegated Rubber Plant', Ficus elastica 'Variegata' is a highly ornamental foliage plant grown both as a house plant in temperate climates and as an outdoor specimen in mediterranean or subtropical gardens. It does not perform so well in the heat of tropical climates. There are of course many names variegated hybrids under cultivation, but for the purpose of this article they will be generalised under the 'variegated' cultivar name. Two of the most popular forms are ‘Doescher’ which has yellow-variegated leaves and ‘Decora’ which produces broad, reddish-green leaves with ivory-colored veins running down center of each leaf.

How to grow Ficus elastica 'Variegata'
The original species is a large evergreen tree from within the banyan group of figs, and native to southeast Asia. It can be expected to grow to 30–40 metres, although sometimes taller in favourable climates. Thankfully the variegated forms are not as vigorous.

Ficus elastica 'Variegata' has characteristically thick, glossy leaves which can mature to between 10-30 cm long, Depending on the variety, height of between 30 cm and 3 metres can be expected. It can produce multiple trunks, attaining a spreading, irregular canopy once mature. To create a single-stemmed specimen remove any additional trunks early in the life of the tree and prune back the lateral branches so they remain smaller than half the diameter of the trunk. Be aware that in exposed conditions, branches left to grow unchecked have a tendency to break apart in high winds.

You will be able to grow Ficus elastica 'Variegata' in full sun to partial- shade, and it has proven quite resilient on almost any well-drained soil. Once established, Ficus elastica 'Variegata' is surprisingly drought resistant.

Container grown, houseplant specimens will perform well in a good quality, well-drained soil based compost. Position in a bright room but out of direct sunlight as the leaves can become scorched. Allow the compost to become fairly dry between waterings. Apply a liquid soluble fertilizer every week to two weeks during the growing season.
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For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW THE CREEPING FIG - Ficus pumila
HOW TO GROW FICUS ELASTICA 'VARIEGATA'
HOW TO GROW FICUS PUMILA
HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM FICUS ELASTICA

HOW TO GROW THE CREEPING FIG - Ficus pumila

How to grow the creeping fig - Ficus pumila


In northern European homes the creeping fig - Ficus pumila, is a popular trailing houseplant noted for its small, yet attractive foliage and compact habit. However this is just the juvenile stage in its life cycle and so when grown outside in more favourable, warmer conditions the creeping fig changes in habit to a vigorous woody climber with considerably larger leaves.

How to grow the creeping fig - Ficus pumila
It is a self-clinging evergreen, which under favourable conditions can grow to approximately 2.5-4 metres in height and a width of between 1.5-2.5 metres. Juvenile specimens have ovate, heart-shaped leaves to 2.5 cm long, while on mature plants the leaves change to an oblong to elliptic shape. They are also thicker, shinier and up to 10 cm long.

The creeping fig produces tiny, insignificant blooms which are borne within a hollow receptacle. Once pollinated this receptacle enlarges to form purple fruits approximately 5 cm in length. Flowers and fruits are unlikely to appear on house plants, but are expected on mature outdoor specimens.

Grow house plant specimens in a good quality loam-based compost such as John Innes 'No 2 or 3' in filtered light with protection from the afternoon sun.

Outdoor plants will require a minimum temperatures of 7 degrees Celsius, and will perform best in a humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil. Provide a sheltered position in full sun or partial shade with protection from wind in a frost-free area. That being said, you can grow the creeping fig outside in cooler climates but only as an annual.

How to grow the creeping fig - Ficus pumila
With both outdoor and houseplant speciems, water regularly during the growing season, then steadily reduce watering in the autumn. There is no need to water outdoor plants over the winter, houseplants will only need the compost to be slightly moist.

Over the growing season feed pot grown specimens every 10 days or so with a liquid soluble fertilizer.

No specific pruning is needed, other than to maintain a tidy shape.
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HOW TO GROW THE CREEPING FIG - Ficus pumila
HOW TO GROW FICUS ELASTICA 'VARIEGATA' 

HOW TO GROW COMFREY FROM SEED

How to grow comfrey from seed

Comfrey - Symphytum officinale, is a perennial flowering plant native to Europe. It has long been recognized by organic gardeners as a natural fertilizer, in particular the Russian 'Bocking 14' cultivar. Comfrey is very deep rooted and acts as a dynamic accumulator (a plant which plants that gather certain micronutrients, macronutrients, or minerals and store them in their leaves) which effectively 'mines' a host of nutrients from the soil. These are then made available through its fast-growing leaves.

How to grow comfrey from seed
It is relatively easy to grow comfrey from seed, however be aware that the Bocking 14 is sterile and therefore seed will not be available.

Comfrey seed is easily grown by direct sowing outdoors from March to June. You will need a large, prepared seed bed in a sunny position away from smaller plants. For best performance the soils should be moist, fertile and well drained. Sow comfrey seed thinly at a depth of 1 cm in rows 30 cm apart. Germination is variable, but keep the seedbed moist and you can expect the seedlings to emerge anywhere from 4-8 weeks. When large enough to handle, thin seedlings out to just 1 plant every 60 cm.

How to grow comfrey from seed
Water as needed during dry periods, and keep the bed weed free. Enrich the soil regularly with well-rotted farm compost or garden compost.

Alternatively you can sow Comfrey seeds in pots or trays using a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Potting' and place under a protective environment such as a greenhouse. Germination will be considerable quicker, usually from 10 days onwards.

Lift and divide overcrowded clumps in the autumn to maintain their vigour and produce new plants.

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HOW TO GROW COMFREY FROM SEED

HOW TO GROW GRISELINIA LITTORALIS 'Variegata'

How to grow Griselinia littoralis 'Variegata'





Commonly known as the New Zealand broadleaf, Griselinia littoralis 'Variegata' is a large evergreen shrub which can achieve a tree-like habit in mild locations. Its dense growth and ornamental foliage as made it a popular choice for suburban gardens, it also make for an excellent hedge for maritime exposure. Native to new Zealand, the true species was introduced to western science around 1850. The species name 'littoralis' is Latin for 'growing by the sea'. It is a dioecious species meaning that male and female blooms appear on separate plants. The select sport 'Variegata' is male only.

How to grow Griselinia littoralis 'Variegata'
The leathery, apple-green leaves have a conspicuous and variable white variegation, usually as a thick border around the margin. Each leaf is oval shaped 6–14 cm long, with a smooth margin.

The yellow-green, blooms are very small  (3–4 mm across) and borne on 2–5 cm long panicles. Each panicle can comprise of 50-100 individual flowers.

It is native habitat, Griselinia littoralis is typically found growing in coastal locations up to 3,500 ft altitude, and can achieve a height of up to 20 m. However in the United Kingdom heights of approximately 4–8 metres are more likely. It is an extremely tolerant cultivar, able to succeed in all soil types. Young plants are best planted in the spring to give them a chance to establish before the winter. Plant in full sun but be aware that it can be liable to frost damage in cold inland regions. Be aware that Griselinia littoralis 'Variegata' is not as hardy as the true species and may need winter protection in more northerly parts of the country, especially during the first few years.

Griselinia littoralis 'Variegata' received the Award of Merit (AM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1978.
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For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW GRISELINIA LITTORALIS 'Variegata'
HOW TO GROW GRISELINIA LUCIDA
HOW TO GROW PHOTINIA RED ROBIN

HOW TO GROW SEA KALE

How to grow sea kale

Sea Kale - Crambe maritima, is a mound-forming, spreading edible perennial found growing wild along the coasts of Europe. In southern England it is commonly found above the high tide mark on shingle beaches.

During the early nineteenth century (when sea kale popularity was at its height) local people heaped loose shingle around the naturally occurring root crowns in early spring, blanching the emerging shoots. These shoots are then cut, steamed and served like asparagus. either with a béchamel sauce or more simply with melted butter with a touch of salt and pepper.

How to grow sea kale
You can either purchase root cuttings available from specialist nurseries and plant in a rich, deep and sandy soil in full sun, or sow from seed in the spring.

Grow sea kale in a permanent bed and blanch using forcing pots - much like small rhubarb pots. The bed should be very stoney, slightly alkaline, and enriched with plenty of rich organic compost. If the soil is at all heavy then is will need to be raised to ensure good drainage. The bed should be topped with 30 cm of peat, leaf mould or sand. If using peat or leaf mould consider a further topping of 15 cm or so of sand and/or grit. Feed with a seaweed-based liquid fertiliser every few weeks during the growing season, and take steps to protect for slugs, snails and caterpillars. Old gardeners also recommend adding a teaspoon or sea salt to the liquid fertiliser once a month.

Plants grown from Root cuttings (known as thongs) may be large enough for harvesting by the end of the first year, while seed grown specimens should be allowed to reach their second year. The blanched stems can be cut once they reach about 20 cm long. Harvesting time in the south of England is from February and March and avoid harvesting more than 2-3 cuts per plant. Come April the forcing pots can be removed. Replace the forcing pots at the end of December. Replant the beds after 5 years.

The height of its popularity was during the early nineteenth century when sea kale appeared in Thomas Jefferson's Garden Book of 1809. It was also served at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, when Prince Regent George IV (1762–1830) used it as a seaside retreat. It is recorded that the Prince Regent approved of the dish and coined the name 'Sickell' for it - how clever.
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Main image - Siim CC BY-SA 2.5
In text image credit - By Stevechelt - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30985300

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HOW TO GROW SEA KALE

HOW TO GROW CHEALS WEEPING CHERRY

How to grow Cheals Weeping cherry



There are approximately 550 forms of weeping cherry, but in England at least Cheals Weeping cherry is by far the most popular in cultivation. The 'Cheal's Weeping' common name is often interchangeable with the Japanese name ‘Kiku-shidare-sakura’ meaning ‘Weeping Chrysanthemum Cherry’. However although very similar they are in fact different forms. Prunus ‘Kiku-shidare-zakura’ has a slightly less weeping-shaped canopy.

How to grow Cheal's Weeping cherry
As with most Japanese Cherries their origins have been obscured having been in cultivation for some 1000 years. This is why so many are not named according to strict nomenclature. All we really know is that it is an old Japanese cultivar which is known since the end of the 19th century and subsequently introduced into Europe around 1915.

With regards to its anglicised name, the Cheal in question is Joseph Cheal (1848-1935), a Quaker, nurseryman, gardener and landscape designer active. He is perhaps best remembered for his work carried out as part of the family firm 'Joseph Cheal and Son', who were a partnership of designers active during this period. He is best known for his hand in designing the gardens at Hever Castle, Kent, Kirkstall Abbey, Yorkshire and Polesden Lacey, Surrey.

Along with his father (John Cheal 1800-1896) and brother Alexander, Cheal worked at the Lowfield Nurseries at Crawley, Sussex, England, which was established in 1871. Presumably Prunus ‘Kiku-shidare-sakura’ was propagated here in significant numbers to fulfil their own garden designs, hence the attachment of the 'Cheal' name.

How to grow Cheal's Weeping cherry
Cheals Weeping cherry is a small tree which under favourable conditions (and dependent on chosen rootstock and grafting technique) can be expected to reach an approximate height and spread of 2.5-4 metres. It has steeply arching or drooping branches, clothed with glossy-green, serrated leaves. In the spring the new foliage emerge a bronze-green colour.

Of course, Cheal's Weeping cherry is favoured for its stunning and comparatively large, double pink blooms which wreath the branches in April or May. Each flower can be upto 3.5cm wide and usually , but not always, appear on bare branches before the leaves emerge.

So long as it is positioned in full sun, Cheal's Weeping cherry will perform well in all types of well drained soil, including chalk soils. Avoid soils prone to waterlogging, and add plenty of organic matter to poor soils before planting.

Cheal's Weeping cherry received the Award of merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1915.
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HOW TO GROW CHEALS WEEPING CHERRY

HOW TO GROW DAPHNE BHOLUA 'Jacqueline Postill'


Commonly known as the Nepalese paper plant, Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is an evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub noted for its showy blooms and strong, yet sweet fragrance. The original species is a native to the Himalayas and entered cultivation in England in 1938. The 'Jacqueline Postill' cultivar is a selected seedlings from Daphne bholua 'Gurkha', raised by Hilliers nursery propagator Alan Postill in 1892. In turn, the 'Gurkha' form was a naturally occurring variation collect in 1962 by Major Tom Spring-Smith at 3200 metres on the Milke Danda ridge, East Nepal.

How to grow Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'
Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is a more evergreen form and arguably the hardiest of all the Daphne bholua varieties in cultivation. It has an erect habit and under favourable conditions can reach an approximate height of 1.5-2.5 metres with a width between 1-1.5 metres. The dark-green leaves are leathery and oblanceolate.

Clusters of small, sweetly scented, deep pink buds appear in January and February, opening white with a reddish-mauve reverse. Once pollinated the blooms are followed by rounded, purple-black berries. The flowers are much larger and just as powerfully scented as the 'Gurkha' form.

For the best floral displays provide a sunny, sheltered position, although it will tolerate partial shade if needed. Plant in a moderately fertile, well-drained, humus-rich soil, including chalky soils.

Despite being the most widely available and most popular Daphne cultivar, Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' has only received a First Class Certificate (1991) from the Royal Horticultural Society. By comparison, Daphne bholua 'Gurkha' received the Award of garden Merit in 1984. and Daphne bholua was awarded both the Award of Merit in 1946 and again an Award of Garden Merit in 1984.
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HOW TO GROW DAPHNE BHOLUA 'Jacqueline Postill'
HOW TO GROW PHOTINIA RED ROBIN

ELCHE GARDENS - The Huerto del Cura

The Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura

The gardens at Elche, known as the Huerto del Cura is a botanical garden located in the city of Elche, 20 km from Alicante airport, Spain. This is arguably the best gardens to visit in the area, but I have to be honest and say that I have visited the gardens at Elche a few times over the years and have not been particularly impressed. However on a recent trip down to Torrevieja I thought I would take a detour to break up the journey and take one more look at Spain's National Artistic Garden.

The Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura
There are two things you need t be aware of before you go to he Huerto del Cura. The first is that signposting to the gardens is almost nonexistent so take a map or preferably satellite navigation. Secondly, if you are driving yourself then parking can be a real headache in Spain. A recent survey found that it takes an average of eight minutes to find a legal parking space in any of the main towns, and nearly twice as long in large cities. Be aware that the Huerto del Cura does not have off street parking and on our visit there were no spaces available on any of the nearby side roads. The garden entrance is on Calle Porta de la Morera which is a one-way street so you can't just turn round of you miss a space. It'sa 5-10 minutes drive round the one way system to get back to it. To be honest, you are unlikely to find a space on Calle Porta de la Morera so continue onto the roundabout by the police station and turn right along Carrer Xop Illicita. You may find a spot here, but don't park in a police reserved space. We had no luck further up on this road either so we continued to the end and turned right again onto Calle Mangraner where we finally found a couple of spaces. Admittedly it is a bit of a walk back to the gardens but what else can you do. Don't forget where you parked!

The Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura
Translated, Huerto del Cura means 'Orchard of Healing'. and is named in honour of its last private owner chaplain José Castaño Sánchez. As far as publicly owned gardens go it is not particularly large, only 13,000 m², but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for with dense planting schemes, good plant quality, excellent housekeeping, and overall landscaping and bed designs.

The most notable feature of the gardens is the abundance of palm trees, mostly Phoenix dactylifera - the date palm.There are approximately 1000 date palms at the Huerto del Cura, including the magnificent 'Imperial Palm Tree'. However this is just a small reflection of the municipal area of Elche which holds the largest population of date palms in Europe which are estimated to number between 200,000 to 300,000 specimens. The surrounding palm plantations (of which there are many) are believed to be Phoenician in origin. The Phoenicians were a seafaring nation and used dates as part of this diet during their maritime voyages. This therefore dates (no pun intended) these plantations to between 2500 and 3000 years old!

THE IMPERIAL PALM TREE

The Imperial palm tree - The Huerto del Cura
The Huerto del Cura first came to public attentions in 1873 with the unusual truck formation of one of its palm trees. Once they have reached between between 10 and 15 years old it is not unusual for Phoenix dactylifera to form a multi-stemmed habit, but these secondary trunks are produced at the base of the parent. In the case of the Imperial palm tree it produced its secondary stems when it was more than 60 years old and at the very unusual height of 2 metres of the ground! The Imperial Palm Tree currently has 8 stems including the original parent trunk.

In 1894 the wife of Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria and Hungary and his wife arrived at the sea port of Alicante. They traveled to Elche, where they was shown the gardens . The Empress was deeply impressed when she looked at the palm tree, telling the then owner (Chaplain Chestnut) that the palm tree had

'...a power and strength worthy of an empire...'

and advised him to give it a suitable name. After this visit the chaplain named the specimen the 'Palmera Imperial' (The Imperial Palm) in honour of his illustrious guests . This also began the tradition of dedicating palm trees to some of the gardens most high profile visitors. Sadly this invitation was not extended to me!

THE GARDENS

In addition to palm trees, there are a number of themed gardens, the most impressive of which is 'La Rocalla'. This is a large collection of cacti and succulent plants, mostly from the desert regions of California and Arizona and Mexico, and displayed in the design of a rock garden. Around La Rocalla are a number of cooling ponds that help to give some relief from the summer heat.

There are a number of typical Mediterranean themed beds with pomegranates, orange, fig and such-like, however these do show signs of struggle due to the hot semi arid climate of this region.

Sculptures

Sculpture of the Empress of Austria and Hungary
The Huerto del Cura is also noted for a number of sculptures that are scattered around the garden. Arguably the most impressive is the a copy of the Iberian sculpture known as the Lady of Elche. Also of interest is the bust of Ortiz Roman, the owner of the Huerto del Cura from 1940 to 1958 and the man responsible for the gardens being declared the national Artistic Garden.

Another sculpture of importance is the bust of Jaime I the Conqueror. Jaime I who took city of Elche from the Arabs in 1265. It was the custom of this time to deforest the area around a conquered city, however Jaime I allowed the palm plantations to remain, and as such they survive for our pleasure to this day.

Conclusion

If you want my honest opinion then I would say that the gardens here at the Huerto del Cura are in a far superior condition that I have seen before. I would definitely recommend, but take water and a satnav.

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ELCHE GARDENS - The Huerto del Cura
WHAT IS THE LADY OF ELCHE

WHAT IS THE LADY OF ELCHE

What is the 'Lady of Elche'

Also known as 'La Dama de Elche', the 'Lady of Elche', is an Iberian (people of the east and south of the Iberian peninsula) bust found on a private estate two kilometers south of Elche, Spain on August 4, 1897. The bust was discovered by farm workers who, for agricultural purposes, were clearing of the southeast slope of the hill of La Alcudia. This area is now an archaeological site where numerous Iberian and Roman artifacts have now been found.

What is the 'Lady of Elche'
The 'Lady of Elche' is a limestone sculpture which dates back to the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Prior to its discovery, the last known description of the sculpture was around the year 100 BC, by Artemidorus of Ephesus, a statesman who traveled along the coasts of Iberia.

It is well preserved piece (although there is a pronounced mark made by one of the farmers hoes), and is believed to have been originally used as a funerary urn. This is based on an analysis of microparticles found within the posterior hole of the Lady of Elche which were found to belong to ashes of human bones.

It measures 56 cm tall and weighs approximately 65 kg. The almost spherical posterior cavity is 18 cm in diameter and a depth of 16 cm. The sculpture represents a woman with almost perfect features, and is splendidly adorned with clothes and jewels. It is well preserved, although it has lost almost all its original polychrome and the vitreous paste that filled its eyes. That being said the lips do retain traces of their red colour.

The sculpture is crafted with jewels characteristic of the Iberians. The large, ornamental wheel-like coils (known as rodetes) which cover the ears, would in reality have been hung from a few chains attached to a strip of leather that girdles the forehead.

The original 'Lady of Elche' is currently is exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, Spain. A copy of the 'Lady of Elche' is also on display at the Huerto del Cura (meaning Orchard of Healing), Eche.
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WHAT IS THE LADY OF ELCHE