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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Break into a sweat – get yourself an allotment

I RECENTLY had the pleasure to help the Egremont Tenants and Resident Association with the judging of the Best Garden Competition on the Smithfield Estate, and I can tell you it was very hard to pick the winning three.

cepinelily
most common Pineapple Lily grown: Eucomis bicolor

The quality of the grades were very high and there are some talented gardeners residing in the Smithfield estate.

All the prizes were donated by local councillors and these will be presented on August 21. May I also thank Margaret Woodburn, the association’s secretary, for organising the competition.

Each week seems to be some National Week and interestingly last week was National Allotment Week.

Supported by the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners and, like all national week events, the intention is to promote the benefits of allotments which there are many.

For me the best benefit of being an allotment holder is that whatever you produce will always be fresh and you know exactly how it’s been grown, something you cannot always say about shop brought produce!

Being an allotment holder is also a good and free way to get plenty of exercise, try turning over a compost heap or double digging the veg plot without breaking a sweat!

Readers will be aware that my health has not been as it should, apparently one source of some of the problems I have been experiencing is the discovery of a kidney stone and those of you who have had these will know how painful it can be; currently I’m in the queue waiting to see the specialist.

In my own garden the showy flower is the Pineapple Lilly (Eucomis) this is a hardy bulb which I planted some eight years ago and at this time of the year it takes centre stage. Eucomis belongs to the same family as Asparagus (Asparagaceae)interestingly Eucomis means “pleasing hair of the head” and when you look at the flower you can see why.

Although a quite hardy bulb the plant and flowers do look exotic and it’s appropriately named as the Pineapple Lilly.

For me the best form is Eucomis vandermerwei with its striking purple speckled leaves and flower, though Eucomis comosa Sparkling Burgundy and Eucomis comosa Cornwood are excellent alternatives. The most common Pineapple Lily grown is Eucomis bicolor.

Another reason for growing Eucomis is that it has little problems from pests and diseases. In fact it’s quite a robust plant.

Propagation is easy, although like most bulbs it produces “bulblets” which you collect and grow on.

Not many people are aware that you can reproduce Eucomis by taking leaf cuttings, and the time is right to do this.

Cuttings need to be taken from strong leaves by trimming across the leaf midrib, the cutting needs to be about two inches long, so you can get quite a few cuttings from one leaf.

Place the leaf cutting into a gritty compost about one inch deep and place in the propagator.

After 10 to 12 weeks little bulblets will have formed, these then need to be potted individually for growing on and planting the following season.

Have a good weekend in your garden.

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