Cuttings

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The Independent Online
Hands across the sea Roger Phillips, horticulturist and photographer, met Leslie Land at a mushroom conference in the United States, sparking an exchange of letters that has been turned into a six-part television series, The 3000 Mile Garden. Separated by the Atlantic Ocean, but joined by a common passion for gardening and food, the two writers share the frustrations and delights of their very different gardens. Mr Phillips, chairman of the Society of London Squares, looks after a communal garden in Eccleston Square, London. Ms Land gardens at Cushing in the north-eastern state of Maine. The first programme in the series, directed by Mike Hutchinson, will be screened on Friday at 8pm on Channel 4.

Get busy, Lizzie

In 1993 we spent £352m on houseplants. That sounds like a lot of rubber plants, but the figure, according to those who want us to buy more, is the lowest in Europe. It is not surprising that the citizens of winter twilight zones in Norway, Denmark and Sweden spend nine times more on houseplants than we do. Their growing season is much shorter. But it is surprising that even in sunny Greece, people spend twice as much than we do in Britain.

Thirty per cent of indoor plants are sold through garden centres and half that amount through florists. And, according to figures gathered by Mintel Market Intelligence, Marks & Spencer alone shifts 11 per cent of the houseplants we buy.

Flowering begonias are top of the list in terms of the amount of money spent. Then come large foliage plants, such as ficus, umbrella plants and palms, followed by ivies and small foliage plants such as dieffenbachia and croton. Miniature pot roses have a long way to go to catch up with these. They are at the bottom of Mintel's list, along with busy lizzies, the New Guinea hybrid type.

The market for indoor plants may increase, since the number of people with conservatories doubled in the four years between 1988 and 1992. Now, more than one in 10 houses has one. Not everyone thinks houseplants are a bonus. Too keen on dying, says one group. Too difficult to care for, says another. And 9 per cent of people refuse to have indoor plants in the house because they are too messy. Good grief! Seed 'em and weep

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Independent on Sunday's Captain Moonlight, whose list of bans for 1995 included any mention of monster vegetables, I would like to remind readers that they should be sowing seed of onions now if they want suitable scale-crushers to exhibit this coming season. Use a John Innes seed compost and sow seed thinly in a deep seed tray, covering it with another quarter of an inch of finely sifted compost. The ideal temperature is about 55F. Higher temperatures inhibit germination. The seed should sprout within two weeks, and the seedlings will need transplanting into pots or boxes of stronger compost when they are about half an inch tall.

For authentic mammoth strains of onions and other vegetables, contact W. Robinson & Sons Ltd, Sunnybank, Forton, Nr Preston, Lancashire PR3 0BN (0524 791210).

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