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The Voice - April 2022

Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

With the political elections in London soon to take place, all of us, including the elected politicians, have a duty to protect our local environment.

What has raised the important question of how our urban environment is managed, is the fact that at least one local authority seems determined to break environmental laws, and not provide full information to its planning committee.

The reasons for such actions are never clear, but we must seek out the true facts and act accordingly.

If you value having someone campaign on your behalf to protect the environment and having access to useful articles about gardening and local environmental matters, please make a donation to help us with the cost of maintaining The East London Garden Society.

Walk the Great Eastern Parks Route

Great Eastern Parks Route

Walking through the natural environment is beneficial to the soul and mind. Walking with companions, venturing into the nature of parks, gardens, rivers and canals of any part of London is an enjoyable exercise for all the family.

We must all understand how we can be at one with the nature that surrounds us. Only that way are we able to understand its ultimate importance.

On 16 April 2022 The East London Garden Society is joining GoParksLondon to walk part of The Great Eastern Parks Route to understand its history and going forward to the present day. Read More and how to Register

How to Care for Orchids


Was irrigation ever so complicated as it is for orchids? If you have already tried to water one, you know how fast every drop of water you pour into the pot runs out. That's because orchids are not potted in traditional potting soil, so you need to be creative about getting that bark mix wet.

You need to get each bark particle to soak up as much water as possible. The best plan is to put the entire pot in water for 10 or 15 minutes, then let it drain. Use this technique for orchids in a clay plot, because clay lets in water.

For orchids in plastic pots, add the pot to the bowl before you put in the water. Otherwise, the water pushes the bark up and out, away from the orchid roots. If an orchid is potted in long-grain sphagnum moss or soilless mix, just add water until it runs out to the saucer below.

You should water your orchid once every four to seven days. Drought-tolerant orchids, such as cattleyas, oncidiums, and dendrobiums should get water once a week. Others should get water every four to five days. Thoroughly water orchids every time you irrigate, and then let them dry out before watering again.

For fertiliser, make it easy on yourself and purchase orchid food at your local flower store. Apply it according to the directions.



Many consider rhubarb to be a fruit due to the dominance of rhubarb dessert recipes. Although botanists and horticulturists do not agree on the taxonomy of this species it is considered a dessert vegetable.

More surprisingly, rhubarb’s role was medicinal rather than culinary throughout the majority of its period of use. Widespread culinary uses began only two centuries ago whereas medicinal uses go back 5000 years or more.

The word rhubarb is of Latin origin. The ancient Romans imported rhubarb roots from unknown barbarian lands. The lands were beyond the Vogue river, sometimes known as the Rha River, so Rha was first adopted to mean rhubarb. Imported from barbarians across the Rha, the plant became Rha barbarum and eventually rhabarbarum, Latin for rhubarb plant. The modern English word rhubarb derives from rhabarbarum.

There is no record of common culinary rhubarb prior to the 1800s. Widespread consumption of rhubarb stalks began in Britain in the early 19th century with its popular adoption as an ingredient in desserts and wine making.

Forced rhubarb

The accidental discovery of forced rhubarb (growing rhubarb in winter) accelerated the growing popularity of rhubarb to the point of a mania in 1800’s Britain. Since then rhubarb’s popularity grew to a peak just before World War 2.

It was always more popular in Britain and the United States than elsewhere but rhubarb also achieved noteworthy popularity in Australia and New Zealand. Culinary uses also spread to northern Europe. At its peak, commercial quantities of rhubarb were grown outdoors as well as in greenhouses and dark cellars.

Culinary use dropped dramatically during WW2, possibly as a direct result of the deprivations of war; most notably the rationing of sugar. Rhubarb’s medicinal uses began at least 5000 years ago, when Chinese used dried roots as a laxative. The first documented uses in western civilization are 2100 years ago when rhubarb roots were an ingredient in numerous Greek and Roman medicines.

Dried rhubarb roots are also astringent. The astringent effects closely follow the cathartic impact, which made rhubarb roots a popular laxative in days of old. Though uncommon, dried rhubarb root is still sold as a laxative.

Therefore, it is noteworthy that the medical efficacy of rhubarb roots varies significantly by variety. Unfortunately, rhubarb hybridizes easily and there are no standards for the names of varieties or cultivars. This makes it very difficult to know the pedigree of any particular plant.

The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree

We are once again at a point when we will have to fight to protect trees, including The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree at the old Chest Hospital site.

The original plan was to remove this tree, which is thought to be the oldest in East London, to another area of the grounds. The developer, Crest Nicholson, and Tower Hamlets Council stated that the tree would be saved, but if it failed, they would take cuttings.

The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree was not the only tree in this conservation area since approximately another 100 trees are in the immediate vicinity with protected trees living alongside mature trees.

When an ecological system is severely damaged, as would have been in this case, the whole site would have been impaired. As a result, the local people raised a substantial amount of money to protect The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree.

Crest Nicholson, who wish to develop more of this conservation area with the agreement of Tower Hamlets Council, want to increase the original number of buildings planned for this site on the understanding that Tower Hamlets would be able to have a small percentage of affordable flats.

The case went to The High Court who found the council's planning committee had misinterpreted national policy when making its ruling. Councillor Brady said it was thrown out on a technicality, but would be achieved the next time.

The site has to be developed and the developers have to resubmit a reduced plan. The problem is that the original designs could be submitted again with Tower Hamlets approving them having followed the correct procedures in law, so the fight is certainly not over with round two imminent.

Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Rhubarb Crumble


Rhubarb crumble


Finally ...

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