As a kid I recall the neighbour across the street planting seedling petunias for summer bedding displays each spring. While the candy-striped varieties weren’t to my taste even then I had to admire the show he achieved. Lawn and roses provided the stage for a gay spectacle of petunias in mid-summer – a geometric picture […]Read more "Petunias – ‘I made you take time to look at what I saw’"
“In Sri Lanka, there grows to this day, a tree, the oldest historical tree in the world.” – H.G. Wells Late last year our family made a pilgrimage to the ancient city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. The World Heritage site illustrates millenia of Sri Lanka’s cultural history and remains a lively contemporary religious and regional […]Read more "The oldest historical tree in the world"
American artist Taryn Simon’s exhibition Paperwork, and the Will of Capital explores re-creations of floral arrangements associated with the signing of peace treaties and other international accords. The exhibition began at the 2015 Venice Biennale, and was shown at the Gagosian in New York, The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and the Gagosian […]Read more "Utility and art – why plants matter"
White bread began as a luxury food. In 1800 only half of Britons had access to white bread. Even the wheat grown by tenant farmers was generally a cash crop while barley, oats and rye crops were grown to feed both families and stock. So a diet of up to a kilogram of oatmeal, oatcakes, […]Read more "White bread and Densuke melons – plants as luxury foods"
While acknowledging that some botanists might disavow algae as plants I’m still inclined to corral them into greenspace – after all they do have chlorophyll. A year ago in this column we explored the wonders of south-eastern Australia’s most spectacular seaweeds – bull kelp washed in the havoc of high energy rocky coasts and the […]Read more "Diatoms: Love at first sight & In every fifth breath"
In Christmas’s past we’ve explored almonds and marzipan, sugar and glace fruits, frankincense and myrrh, Christmas trees and the rather gothic interpretations of Santa and his flying reindeer. For this Christmas Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet, a rare celebration of economic botany, provides the botany of Christmas.Read more "Tchaikovsky’s tribute to economic botany"
2013 was the International Year of Quinoa – as there hasn’t been a crop that’s had this honour since, perhaps it’s still not too late to consider quinoa. The story of quinoa is an important one beyond the fashionable marketing hyperbole of quinoa as a ‘superfood’, and perhaps especially important if you suffer from gluten intolerance.Read more "Quinoa – A Pseudocereal (Or Is That Keen-Wah?)"