Archives for the month of: March, 2016

Every few months, our local Botanic Gardens hosts a weekend Cactus and Succulent Show. Growers bring a wide variety of prickly cacti and smooth succulents, from pin-cushion size to almost shrub proportions. At the last show, my daughter found the little ones irresistible, and came home with six tiny prickly things in pots. Given her busy student lifestyle, these are perfect on her window sill, waiting patiently until she remembers very occasionally to water them.

cactus n aloe veraBecause I live in a flat two floors up, and our shared north-facing garden is damp and uninviting, I do all my gardening on my kitchen window sill. As it faces south-west, I have the illusion of being a brilliant gardener because everything flourishes happily there. The spiky Aloe Vera you see above was once the size of my hand, but several pots later it is now taking over the kitchen! Next to it is my Christmas cactus, which bursts into riotous pink bloom every November. Now that spring is on its way I can see some new pink buds developing…

money treeI had a very old Jade plant for several years but it was getting tired, or so I thought. Then I noticed it had snuck one branch into a neighbouring pot and sprouted a new plant! When the sprout got to be about 8cm tall I took it out carefully and put it in a new pot. In no time at all it grew into the giant tree you see above. All it took was a little watering now and again. You can see why I’m a fan of these amazing regenerating plants!

jade plant flowersI discovered recently that a Jade plant (official name Crassula ovata) can have pretty white flowers like the ones above. I must find out how I can encourage my plant to do that!

At the last cactus show I stopped to chat with a grower about a tall, pink-tinged plant I quite liked. He explained how easy it was to start a new plant from a cutting or even just one leaf. He broke one off the tall plant I was admiring and gave it to me. Hurrying home, I found a pot and planted the little leaf. I placed it in the sunny kitchen window next to my Jade plant and waited.

baby cactusAnd waited. And waited. After about six months I could tell that the leaf was more firmly rooted (like a baby tooth becoming less wobbly). Then a few days ago, a tiny sprout appeared! My husband is dubious, and thinks this may be a weed, but I am not so pessimistic. It is growing bigger every day so we’ll soon see what sort of plant it is. I am convinced it will be a glorious succulent like the one I admired at the show.

If you’re looking for tips on how to grow cacti and succulents indoors, there are some good pointers HERE in an article by Heather Rhoades. I also found all sorts of interesting facts about cacti and succulents on a Texas website where these plants are native and grow outdoors. It even includes some cactus recipes!

And now for an update on my little plant’s progress. You’ll be pleased to learn that the sprout was not a weed, and five months later, this is how it looks:

rubber plant

The original leaf withered away and the healthy new plant is doing beautifully!

WBD HDlogo

March 3rd 2016 is World Book Day, and in schools and libraries across the country everyone is getting involved in the celebrations! To get kids reading, National Book Tokens have teamed up with publishers and booksellers to give everyone in school a free book of their choice. The £1 book token can be used in bookshops to buy any of the following excellent options, or you can use it to get £1 off another full-price book or audio book.

2016 book titles from the World Book Day website

The 2016 £1 book titles from the World Book Day website

On Thursday the 3rd, lots of people will also be dressing up as their favourite book character and donating funds to Book Aid International to send much-needed books to libraries in Africa. If you’re looking for last-minute dress-up ideas, check out their World Book Day Dress-Up webpage. Over the past 60 years, Book Aid International has sent 31 million books to African countries. Here’s a great video they have created called The Journey of a Book which shows every stage, from the initial printing of a book to its arrival in African schools, libraries and universities.

Book-related activities are happening all this week, and lots of children’s authors like myself are visiting schools and libraries to share their stories. I had a great time on Tuesday visiting the P3 and P4 classes at Darnley Primary School. I brought Lewis, Harris and Skye for a fun puffin-themed writing workshop. The puffin toys got a great reception (lots of ooos and ahhhs) and the children enjoyed a sneak preview of Skye the Puffling which comes out in a week or two.

puffin holiday plan

On Thursday I’ll be visiting Holy Cross Primary School, where authors and other interesting characters (such as North American hockey players and Scottish movie stars) are invited every World Book Day to share their favourite children’s book with a class. I’m going to read Gabrielle and Selena by Peter Desbarats, first published in 1968. The illustrations are in black and white and the text is quite long, so it’s very different from picture books you see nowadays. But the story is clever and very funny, so I’m sure the children will enjoy it!

A friend of mine works in a nursery, and she has invited me to come on Friday and read to the three- and four-year-olds she looks after. I’ll choose my simpler books, like One Potato, Clementine’s Smile and Never Bite a Tiger on the Nose to entertain the little ones. It’s lovely to have a chance to nurture a love of books with very small children. The sooner they discover the joys of reading a story, the better their chances of reading for pleasure when they grow up.

If you’re looking for ideas to celebrate books this year, have a look at the Big Book Off on the World Book Day website where you’ll find suggestions like making a book-based game, discovering a new author or illustrator, creating a picture of your favourite scene from a book, or acting it out for an audience! There are also lots of online games on the Play and Win page, where you can answer questions about Harry Potter or go on a Young Bond secret agent mission, among many other games. Time to get reading! Happy World Book Day!