Wednesday, 16 February 2011
If you have time in the next three to four weeks, visit the Massif de Tanneron, well known at this time of the year for the abundant flowering Mimosa trees.
To visit the Massif de Tanneron turn off at Les Adrets (A8 motorway) direction Lac de St. Cassien. Half way around the lake there is a turn off to Tanneron (D38-10km). The narrow, road winds its way through lovely countryside with Mimosa trees flowering all along the way to Tanneron. From Tanneron the route takes you to Mandelieu-la-Napoule with even more Mimosa trees to enjoy. From Mandelieu you can get back on to the A8.
lunch at Tanneron
Wonderful views of the surrounding area, Nice, Grasse, Alps du Sud and Massif de Maure are all to be seen by just walking around the village of Tanneron. It's other main attraction is the Mimosa forcerie. A forcerie is a dark room, where branches of mimosa are placed on to racks. The dark room has to be warm (20-22 deg. C), with maximum humidity. This gives the flowers a kick start to open up. Needless to say, large bouquets of mimosa are for sale.
Mimosa is the colloquial name for species of Acacia trees originating from Australia. In Australia they are called "Wattle". For the cut flower industry the most popular Mimosa varieties are: Acacia dealbata "Mirandole", Acacia dealbata "Gaulois", Acacia decurrens "Rustica" and the wild varieties already existing in the area since the middle of the 19th century, mostly Acacia dealbata and Acacia baileyana. Nowadays newly planted Mimosa trees in the area are grafted trees.
When you buy Mimosa in the shops, very often the flowers have not yet opened. If you put them, together with a sachet of conserving powder for cut flowers, in a vase filled with warm water the flowers get their kick start just like in the forcerie and open up. Mimosa basically likes moist and warm conditions. They tend to dry up very quickly kept in a warm living room. If you put them outside during the night they can absorb moisture during the night, this increases their longevity to 7-10 days. Don't forget to prune off the ends of the Mimosa branches before putting them in water.
Acacia longifolia (Mimosa chenille)
Mimosa trees are pruned after flowering. The object is to create a rounded form. To achieve this, prune the extremities of the branches that have carried the flowers. Cut out all the faded flower heads to ovoid the forming of seeds.
The other crop in the region are Eucalyptus trees again for the cut flower industry. It is quite curious that the young leaves and the adult leaves of the Eucalyptus tree are totally different in shape and in their formation on the branches. Young leaves are usually rounded and grey in colour and arranged opposite of each other on the branches. Adult leaves are sickle-shaped and arranged alternatively on the branches. There are some exceptions like Eucalyptus cinerea (Argyle apple) much sought after for its decorative foliage for flower arrangements. Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus gillii are two other species that retain their juvenile foliage for a considerable time.
The essential oil extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and twigs of the Eucalyptus tree has anti-septic, anti-viral, cooling and pain relieving properties. It is toxic, requiring caution in handling, storage and use. Our guide in the forcerie mentioned that if you planted a Eucalyptus tree near a fosse septic if would disinfect the area. It may well do that, but planting trees near a fosse septic is not a good idea. She mentioned as well as that you could ingest essential oil of lavender. I know in France there are aromatherapists who do ingest essential oils, but the advise in the U.K. is to never ingest essential oil. It is rather hard to break down in the body and can cause liver damage. It is o.k. though to use essential oil of lavender and only lavender directly onto your skin, especially good for burns.
Crassula ovata syn. C. argentea, C. portulacea (Friendship tree, Jade Tree, Money Tree)
Bibliography: RHS Herbs and their uses, G. Cavatore, nursery and national collection holder of Acacia trees, Photo's: Elisabeth Boutevin, Gerda Nagtegaal
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
The difference between organic fertiliser and our traditional compost and manure, is that organic fertiliser is much richer in nutritive elements. In addition its nutritive properties have an almost instant effect on the plants. Compost takes two to three years to be absorbed into the soil whilst organic fertiliser takes between a few weeks to a couple of months. Although organic fertiliser, compost or manure work differently, they are complimentary.
The use of compost and manure improves the structure of the humus level in the soil. It is best to think of them as soil improvers rather than fertilisers.
Organic fertiliser does not improve the soil, it is only concerned with the health of the plants. The particles are absorbed through bacteria in the soil. These bacteria decompose the particles in the fertiliser and return them to the roots of the plant in a form that is easily absorbed. Organic fertiliser supplies all the necessary trace elements the plant needs. This is one of the differences between organic and non-organic fertiliser. Non-organic fertiliser is a mixture of NPK, N= nitrogen, P= Phosphorus and K= Potassium.