27. Clover

I remember searching for hours, more than once. Four-leaf clovers were tantalising: they dangled the possibility that I, an inconsequential child, could root around in any old field for bit, and discover a powerful talisman of fortune. Read More

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25. Cacao

We don’t find chocolate as impressive as we should. We find it exciting, yes, particularly when we are young. We love the taste. But we don’t see it as remarkable. Anything you can buy with the change in your pocket is apt to lose its wonder. Read More

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24. Seville orange

My wife is a cook. She’s very good at it, and she enjoys it, which means I’m rarely called upon to do day-to-day cooking. Instead, I go for longer-term and more esoteric projects: pickling, preserving, steeping and infusing; the kind of cooking that is about turning seasonal gluts into a year of good eating. This blog began with me picking blackberries in late summer, which ended up in vinegars and crumbles and jams. In May, I will turn elderflowers into cordial. And each January, I make marmalade. Read More

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23. Hellebores

I screwed up last year. I didn’t plant nearly enough things to get me through the winter. We’re still a couple of months away from spring proper, and my garden is still defiantly, obnoxiously inert. Even my compost heap seems to be inert. Read More

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21. Snowdrops

You can’t really see my garden from my house. We live in an Edwardian terrace, with a bathroom plonked on the back, and a paved side return. No big picture window. No French doors. Unless you step into the garden, you don’t really see it, and over winter, you can all but forget it’s there. Read More

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20. Poinsettia

You see them at supermarket checkouts, or clustered at the entrance to garden centres, a forest of red and green that at first glance – and probably at second and third glance too – looks fake. Poinsettia, the ubiquitous Christmas plant. They cost nothing: each plant goes for about £4 before Christmas, and £1 just after. And I am here to tell you why they are one of the greatest botanical bargains going. Read More

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19. Douglas-fir

David Douglas is probably the most successful plant collector of all time. On his two expeditions to North America, in 1824 and 1833, he discovered hundreds of species unknown to science – or at least, to the scientists of Europe. He also brought over 240 new plants back to Britain. Read More

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18. Norway spruce

I put my Christmas tree up this week.

I know, I know. It is early. It is, in fact, still November. I could make excuses for this. I could tell you it’s because we’re away for our wedding soon, and then away for Christmas, so if we don’t get it up early, there’s no point getting it at all. I could also tell you that IKEA had trees for £25 with a £20 voucher, and that’s a helluva deal. Read More

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