Nitrogen cycle diagrams for kids

February 19, 2014
Author: Tom

At our Freaky Nature event this half term (15–28 February 2013), you can explore the weird and wonderful world of plants, including some really strange specimens.

Like oxygen, nitrogen is essential for living things to survive on Earth. Animals and plants need nitrogen to build amino acids in proteins, which are the building blocks of life. Unlike oxygen, nitrogen cannot be absorbed directly from the air by animals and plants.

The nitrogen cycle, illustrated on this page, shows how nitrogen gets from the air into the soil then plants then animals, and back into the soil­­. Plants are a crucial part of the nitrogen cycle.

Nitrogen cycle diagram

Nitrogen cycle diagram

1. About 78% of the air around us is nitrogen but this gas is unreactive and needs to be processed into nitrates before it can be used by plants:

  • a) Nitrogen gas in the air is converted into nitrates by lightning. Rain and other precipitation then bring the nitrates down into the soil. Although not shown on the diagram, the man-made Haber process also uses nitrogen in the air to produce plant fertiliser on an industrial scale.
  • b) Nitrogen gas in the soil is converted into nitrates by bacteria in the soil and in nodules in plant roots.

2. Plants absorb nitrates through their roots and then use them to build proteins and grow.

3. Animals (including humans) eat the plants and absorb the nitrates by converting them into animal proteins that enable them to grow and function healthily.

4. Nitrogen returns to the soil as ammonia through:

  • a) animal droppings and urea being broken down by decomposers, such as bacteria and fungi
  • b) decomposers, such as bacteria and fungi, breaking down the dead bodies of animals.

Illustration for nitrogen cycle diagram above by Chris Bisson, Eden Project Plant Records Manager. Follow him on Twitter (@edenscience) and see more of his illustrations on his personal blog.

Learning about the nitrogen cycle

We hope that adults will find our diagrams useful for teaching children the crucial role of plants in the nitrogen cycle. Teachers of GCSE Science (Biology and Chemistry) pupils (aged 14-16 years) should find it useful.

Processes in the nitrogen cycle

The diagram below is another interpretation of the nitrogen cycle, showing each part of the process in more detail. You can download a larger PDF of this nitrogen cycle diagram here.

Nitrogen cycle diagram

Education, Freaky Nature, Plants, Science
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Plant an olive tree in your garden

February 18, 2014
Author: Guest

Shirley WalkerEden horticulturalist Shirley Walker takes a detailed look at the olive tree and shares her tips on how to grow your own at home.

The history of the olive tree

My love affair with the olive began many years ago on the Ionian island of Paxos. I was captivated by this ancient and beautiful tree, brought to the island by the Venetians in the 15th century. The history of the olive, however, stretches back much further and it has become one of the most powerful symbols of the Ancient World.

The olive has been a part of everyday life in the eastern Mediterranean since the beginnings of civilisation more than 6,000 years ago, but began life as a sprawling, spiny shrub in the Levant (present day Syria and Lebanon). Thousands of years of selection and breeding have turned it into the productive tree we know today. The olive is now an integral part of the Mediterranean landscape and the most important economic plant in the region with 800 million trees in cultivation.

European olive fruit

Botanical details of the olive tree

In spring the silvery canopy is covered in tiny flowers, like scattered stars, and the swaying branches protect a wealth of spring bulbs and wildflowers beneath, like cyclamen, poppies, field marigolds, purple viper’s bugloss and tassel hyacinths. During the long, hot Mediterranean summer the trees become heavy with fruit, ripening from green to black as the winter approaches.

Olive trees are extremely tough and can withstand searing heat, drought, fire and temperatures as low as -7oC for short periods. I really admire Mediterranean plants because they have adapted over thousands of years to cope with extreme climatic conditions, poor soils and the effects of fire. Many plants, including the olive have the capacity to regenerate from the base when damaged by fire – that’s how the olive came by its name ‘tree of eternity’.

Our olive grove in the Mediterranean Biome at Eden contains some old, gnarled specimens but these are mere juveniles compared with some you find in the Mediterranean region – many are more than 1,000 years old. Carbon dating of old specimens in Lebanon has revealed trees several thousand years old. I find it amazing that these trees have been producing fruit and giving oil since Biblical times!

Leccino olive trees in a Paxos olive grove

Growing your own olive tree at home

This wonderful, evergreen tree will add a touch of the Mediterranean to any garden and when I’m working in the Biome I am frequently asked how to care for them. Here are some questions and answers:

Can I grow an olive tree successfully in a container?

Certainly, olives do well in containers. When you buy your tree, pot it on into a larger pot, preferably terracotta rather than plastic and use a loam- based compost like a John Innes no. 3. Add 20% horticultural grit to improve the drainage. Place in a sunny position, keep the soil moist during the growing season and feed with a balanced liquid fertiliser once a month. In winter you can reduce watering but don’t allow the compost to dry out completely.

Can I plant my olive tree outdoors?

Olive trees are tougher than you think but try and choose a sunny, sheltered, well-drained position and plant in spring, after the risk of frost has passed, but before the end of June to give the tree plenty of time to establish before the following winter.

Will my olive tree need pruning?

Olives grow very slowly so don’t require much pruning when young. Container-grown plants tend to grow quicker, so if the canopy becomes dense, remove some of the branches to let more light into the centre. Keep an eye on the shape of the tree and remove any dead or diseased wood.

Will my olive tree produce fruit?

Trees should begin producing fruit at about three to five years old. Most olive varieties are self-fertile but they are wind pollinated so will need to be outdoors when in flower. (We use a leaf-blower to pollinate our olive trees in the Biome!) Olives need a two-month cold spell in winter and fluctuating day/night temperatures to initiate flowering and fruiting, so keep container-grown trees in an unheated conservatory or greenhouse, with plenty of light. Olive trees flower and fruit on one-year-old wood.

What are the best cultivars for growing outdoors in the UK?

  • Arbequina is a small tree from Catalonia in northern Spain, with a weeping habit, ideal for small gardens.
    Cipressino originated in Puglia, Italy, and is a vigorous tree with an upright habit. Its name comes from its similarity to the Italian cypress.
  • Leccino comes from Tuscany, Italy, and is a popular, widely planted variety with an open, pendulous habit. It is easy to grow and will tolerate a wide range of temperatures.
  • Picual is an extremely hardy and vigorous tree requiring regular pruning. It originates in Andalusia, Spain.
  • Pendolino is a small, compact, weeping form with architectural appeal from Tuscany, Italy. It will need a pollinator to provide fruit as unlike most olives, this one is self-sterile.

My favourite culinary tip

Try pot-roasting a chicken with plenty of black olives, sliced leeks and peppers, rosemary, lemon juice and olive oil.

Gardening, Horticulture
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Get ‘guerrilla gardening’ and make your own seed bomb

February 12, 2014
Author: Hannah

At our Freaky Nature event this half term (15 – 28 February 2013), you can explore the weird and wonderful world of plants, including a special focus on seeds that go bang.

Making and throwing seed bombs is a fun gardening activity for families and communities. When they sprout into beautiful flowers, the guerrilla-style seed bombs can bring colour to a patch of bare land, and the act of making and throwing the bombs adds a sense of excitement to gardening.

Seed bombs next to flowers and a picture of a grenade

You will need:

The ratios below for clay, compost and seeds should be multiplied to make more seed bombs.

  • A bowl: each person taking part needs their own bowl to mix in.
  • Newspaper: to dry the bombs on.
  • Clay: three parts (eg three handfuls). Use terracotta clay powder or air-dry clay (found in art supply or health food stores)
  • Peat-free compost: five parts (eg five handfuls)
  • Seeds: 1one part (eg one handful).
    Tip: Native wildflowers are a nice idea. If combing different species, check that they can all be sown at the time of year you’re planning to throw the ‘bombs’ (different seeds can be sown in spring or autumn – look on the packet for advice). Also think about the type of area you’re planning to plant. For shady spots, choose a woodland mix, for example including foxgloves or honesty. For sunny places, go for meadow flowers such as cornflowers, marigolds or hollyhocks.
  • A patch of land: seed bombing should not be done without permission on land you don’t own. But it’s a great activity for your own garden or a piece of community-owned land that you’re working to transform.

Hands in a bowl mixing soil and making a seed bomb


  1. Mix the compost and the seeds together in a bowl, then mix in the clay.
  2. Add water, so it’s wet enough to stick together, but not too wet so it’s a sludgy mess. It should have the consistency of biscuit dough.
  3. Make sure the seeds are surrounded by the clay and compost, so the bombs can be slowly broken down by the sun and rain to release the seeds.
  4. Shape the mixture into truffle-sized balls.
  5. Arrange the seed bombs on sheets of newspaper and leave to dry slowly for at least three hours (or even overnight) in a warm, dry place.
  6. Throw your seed bombs – ideally, timed to coincide with rain, so the seeds have a good start. (It’s best to use them straight away, as they could start to sprout. But if you do need to save them, keep the seed bombs in a cool, dark, dry place – and not for more than a few weeks.)
  7. Watch for growth. Seedlings should be visible within two to three weeks – and flowers within 12 weeks.

If you haven’t got time to make your own seed bombs, but fancy a go at throwing some, take a look at these Wildflower seed bombs for sale in the Eden Project online shop.

Thank you to Cedim News and Sarah Kanouse for the photos.


Enjoy fragrant winter flowers in your garden

January 24, 2014
Author: Guest

Shirley WalkerEden horticulturist Shirley Walker describes how small winter flowers can produce incredible aromas at this otherwise quiet time of year in your garden.

A winter garden can be a magical tapestry of dramatic, evergreen foliage; bright, shiny berries; golden grasses and colourful stems, but for me, on a crisp, clear winter day, it is the heady fragrance of winter flowers that surprises and intoxicates the senses.

Winter flowering plants are among the most highly scented of all garden plants and although they originate in many different parts of the world, they seem to be trying to outdo one another in the perfume stakes in order to attract pollinators. Winter fragrant flowers can sometimes appear small and insignificant but they have evolved in this way to lure the few pollinating insects around in winter with scent. What they lack in size they more than make up for in fragrance!

Aromatherapists believe essential oils lift our spirits and retrieve long forgotten memories and who am I to disagree? Whatever kind of scent appeals to you there will be many plants to choose from for your winter garden and no matter how small your patch, make room somewhere for at least one of these fragrant winter gems – you will not be disappointed.

Tips on growing fragrant winter flowers

You will derive most pleasure from your winter fragrant plants when you plant them by paths and walkways or by entrances and doorways in regular winter use. What could be more pleasurable than to be welcomed by a waft of sweetly scented cool air every time you open the door?


One of my all-time favourites is wintersweet, Chimomanthus praecox, with its delicious yet sophisticated spicy smell, stronger in the species than in cultivars. Cut a few twigs and bring them indoors – the tiny yellow flowers with inner maroon streaks are waxy with essential oils and the fragrance will fill the whole room!

Nepalese paper plant

Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill

The increasing power of the sun in the New Year triggers many winter shrubs into bloom. One of my favourites is the Nepalese paper plant, Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’, a medium- sized, ever-green shrub bearing clusters of highly fragrant, purplish-pink and white flowers in late winter. These are followed by attractive black berries.

Sweetest honeysuckle

A favourite with the outdoor gardening team here is Lonicera fragrantissima, the winter-flowering honeysuckle or ‘sweetest honeysuckle’. Pairs of sweet honey-scented, creamy flowers bloom from winter into spring, often followed by red berries.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

This plant has a perfume reminiscent of cloves, jonquils and heliotrope. If you bring this one indoors it can smell a little sickly, but in the garden on a calm, sunny day it smells heavenly. Look closely and you will see tight clusters of rosy-pink flowers that fade to white as they age.

Witch hazel


Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'

Here in the outdoor gardens of the Eden Project, the leafless branches of witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ are adorned with spidery, coppery-orange flowers that fill the air with a delicate perfume. This is considered to be one of the best cultivars around today and has the added bonus of spectacular red and gold autumn colour.


The only drawback to some of these wonderful plants is that they can look drab during the rest of year. The answer could be to plant them in containers so you can move them in and out of the limelight. However, one of the most dramatic exceptions to this is Mahonia, which looks great all year round. As autumn turns to winter, Mahonia x media ‘Charity’, throws up clusters of bright yellow flowers with a delicious, old-fashioned scent. The large, spiky, glossy leaves look good all year round and in summer the plant is covered in deep purple berries that you can make into juices and jellies, providing the birds don’t get to them first!

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Gardening, Horticulture, Plants
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Planting 24,000 tulip bulbs in our Mediterranean Biome

January 15, 2014
Author: Guest

Shirley WalkerEden horticulturist Shirley Walker reflects on the recent mass planting of tulips at Eden, which will ensure a colourful floral extravaganza here in the spring.

The annual tulip ‘plantathon’ came to Eden last month and the whole horticulture team along with our hard-working volunteers got together to spend a few hours on our hands and knees, carefully planting the tulip bulbs that will wow our visitors in the spring. You may be forgiven for thinking it’s a little late for planting tulips, and you would be right; however, these have been planted in our Mediterranean Biome where warmer conditions enable us to delay planting and still have a wonderful display in early spring. I often plant mine at home as late as December to reduce the risk of tulip fire.


Shirley’s choice of tulip varieties

Spring 2014 at Eden promises to be the most vibrant and spectacular yet. We have planted 24,000 tulip bulbs in the Mediterranean Biome, in a myriad of rainbow colours that will cheer us all after a long winter. We have planted nearly 100 different varieties of tulip this year and these are just a few of my favourites:

  • Angelique is an exquisite double tulip with many petals of the palest pink, changing to apple-blossom pink at the edges
  • The world’s first blue fringed variety, Blue Heron, is a real charmer! The violet-purple petals lighten to pale lilac at the crystalline, fringed edges.
  • Queen of Night is the classic, luscious black tulip with petals the texture of silk. Try pairing this with an orange variety, like Orange Princess for a stunning display.
  • I like to send off the season with this stunning, late-flowering variety, Red Georgette. The blood-red goblets, set against grey-green foliage, gradually open to reveal bowls of saturated colour.

My top culinary tip: The petals of fragrant tulips can be used in salads. Try Ballerina for the colour, flavour and aroma of oranges!

Say it with flowers!

I love to see a vase overflowing with tulips and nothing comes close to the incredible range of colours available. Choose the popular single, late-flowering varieties with long, sturdy stems, large, oval flower heads and surprisingly long vase life. My particular favourite is Blue Aimable, one of the best shades of blue I’ve seen in a tulip.

Little gems: smaller tulips

I love the little species of tulips – they look like sparkling jewels in the garden. These tiny, brightly coloured flowers have their origins in far-away places like Uzbekistan, Iran and the Caucasus, where it is hot and dry in summer and cold in winter and they thrive on dry, stony hillsides. Some are so small their little heads are only three or four inches above the ground!

Whenever I buy species bulbs, I always look for the label, ‘Bulbs grown from cultivated stock’. This means that they have come from a sustainable source and not taken from the wild. Apparently, more than 50 million bulbs are wild-sourced illegally every year and this is having a devastating effect on wild populations. Conservation organisations are working with local people and Dutch bulb growers to provide alternative incomes and promote artificial propagation on a local basis.

Shirley’s top tips for a stunning tulip display

  • Remember, tulips look great in formal and informal bedding schemes and in pots.
  • Always buy good quality bulbs.
  • Plant growing point upper-most, to a depth of two and a half times the height of the bulb.
  • Bulbs can be planted close together so long as they are not touching.
  • Plant a mixture of early, mid and late season varieties for a long-lasting display.
  • Dwarf species tulips look great in containers and rock gardens but make sure they come from a sustainable source.

Tulip Fire disease

This is a fungal disease that causes foliage to become distorted and covered in a fuzzy, grey fungal growth. The flowers either fail to open or are marked with bleached spots. I grow my tulips at home in a different bed each year to help keep this disease at bay. Destroy any infected tulip bulbs.


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Gardening, Horticulture, How to, Plants, Potting shed
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Bitter aloe plants flowering in our Mediterranean Biome

January 10, 2014
Author: Guest

Shirley WalkerEden horticulturist Shirley Walker describes the beautiful January colour of these plants, and gives a few tips on growing similar plants at home.

The vibrant candelabra-like flower-heads of the bitter aloe (Aloe ferox) are once again reaching skywards in the Eden Project’s Mediterranean Biome, bringing drama and colour to the South African Cape exhibit.

This magnificent plant is most famous for its medicinal properties and in many parts of South Africa the bitter, yellow juice found just beneath the skin of the large, succulent leaves has been harvested as a renewable resource for more than 200 years. The hard, black, resinous product known as Cape Aloes has laxative properties and the gel-like flesh from inside the leaves is used in cosmetic products. The bitter aloe is also reputed to have wound-healing properties similar to its well-known relative Aloe vera.

Aloe ferox plant

Growing your own aloes at home

Our aloes grow up to 3m high but if you would like to grow an aloe at home in your conservatory or greenhouse or even on a windowsill then Aloe vera is the plant for you. It is slow-growing and will measure less than a metre when fully grown at around ten years old. I have one at home and it makes an attractive feature on a plant stand in front of the hall window.

This evergreen perennial produces long spikes of tubular, greenish-yellow flowers in summer. It likes to be in full sun in a south or west facing, sheltered position. Grow your aloe in loam-based compost with added horticultural grit to improve the drainage and water moderately during the growing season, but sparingly in winter when the plant is dormant. Your aloe will benefit from being placed outdoors on a sunny patio in summer. Feed two or three times during the season with a balanced liquid fertiliser.

Aloes come in a variety of growth forms from small miniatures to tall, single-stemmed or branched trees and we have several different species on show in Eden’s Biome, flowering spectacularly at different times of year.

More information on the Aloe ferox

Read more on our Aloe ferox plant profile page.

Aloe ferox plant

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Horticulture, Plants
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Dogs’ Day Out event at the Eden Project

January 6, 2014
Author: Guest

Visitors have been able to enjoy a day out at the Eden Project with their dog since June, when we became a dog-friendly attraction. This month we’re laying on a special event; Dogs’ Day Out, on Sunday 26 January 2014 – featuring Monty Halls.

Owners walking their dogs at the Eden Project, Cornwall

The dog-focussed day will include a visit from TV adventurer Monty Halls with his four-legged friend Reuben, a fun dog show, plus a free treat for each dog.

If you and your trusty companion can’t make it this time, don’t forget that we welcome well-behaved dogs year-round. Or why not treat your dog to one of these toys and accessories from our shop in the mean time? Here are our favourite:

A packed of Cornish pasty dog biscuits, next to eco-dog accessories

Cornish pasty dog treats, £3.50
Treat your pooch to a yummy Cornish pasty treat made with local ingredients. They’re pasty-shaped and flavoured! Guaranteed to set tails wagging.

Dog bone, £8 
Every dog needs a bone; and these ones are made from natural materials. Ideal for chewing puppies and older dogs, they’re non-toxic and vanilla-scented.

Dog friendly walks in Cornwall book, £3.99 
Explore Cornwall in the company of your dog. This book features 14 dog-friendly walks in the county, with directions and maps.

Dog lovers’ gift bag, £21.50 
Treat your furry companion to this gift bag full of eco-friendly accessories and tasty treats. A perfect present for anyone with a new puppy.

Ball with rope, £9.00 
This toy is great for playing in the back garden or on walks. The rope means you can throw it even further than a conventional ball, making sure your dog gets lots of exercise.

Entry to the Dogs’ Day Out event is included within entry admission to Eden. Get more information on the event and on visiting our dog-friendly attraction in Cornwall.

By Lucy Dearn

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How to make a lantern from willow

December 16, 2013
Author: Hannah

Lantern making is a nice winter craft activity – for families, schools or community groups. Here in Cornwall lantern parades have become a real tradition, and part of the fun lies in actually making the candlelit lanterns themselves out of willow stems (‘withies’).

Lantern parade at the Eden Project

These instructions come from Emma Myers, who’s running free drop-in lantern-making workshops at the Eden Project in the run-up to Christmas, where you can then use your own lantern for the evening procession.

You can also download a summary of these willow-lantern-instructions – useful for reference when working with groups.

You will need:

  • Wet strength tissue paper
  • Masking tape
  • 1mm-thick wire, eg galvanised gardening wire (about 80cm per lantern)
  • Plastic-coated gardening wire (about 30 cm per lantern)
  • 1 sturdy cane
  • PVA glue and bowl to put it in
  • A paintbrush
  • Scissors
  • A candle
  • Metal piping (5cm per lantern)
  • A drill
  • A saw
  • Waterproof tape (eg gaffa / duct tape)
  • A plastic surface to work on (or a table with a plastic tablecloth that you don’t mind getting glue on)
  • Willow withies (about eight x 1.5m lengths per lantern). Buff willow is best, which you can get from a willow supplier.


To prepare the willow

1. Soak the willow in a bath of cold water overnight – the longer the better.

2. Before you use it, give it a wipe off so that it’s not dripping wet.

To make the frame

TIP: When using willow stems, take care not to get the tips in people’s eyes, especially when big groups of children are doing this activity.

1. You’re first going to make a very long piece of willow from two shorter pieces. So, take two withies in your hand, one with the thick end at the top, the other with the thin end at the top. Pull one of the thick ends up about 30cm, and the other down, so extending the length of the two to about 170cm.

TIP: It’s worth cutting some 10cm-strips of masking tape before you start, so you have them to hand when you’re joining the willow together to make the frame.

2. Twist them around each other gently to intertwine a little, then use masking tape to attach the two together at the thin tip of each stem.

TIP: To make neat joins with your masking tape, place the willow stems you want to stick about 2cm along the tape strip, and fold this 2cm-protruding end of the tape over to stick to the tape on the other side. The remaining tape should be neatly wrapped around the willow stem until all the tape is stuck down.

Two stems of willow joined with masking tape

3. Create a second long piece of willow in the same way.

4. Now make a ‘dog leg’ – or a slight bend – at about 10cm from each end of the first long piece of willow you have just created. To do this, hold the stems firmly in your fists and bend them gently until you hear a snap. Now you can bend them into a slight angle. Be careful not to snap the stems right through.

5. Next, measure 60cm from the dog leg bend and bend again.

6. Measure 30cm from that and bend again.

7. Finally, measure 60cm from that and bend again!

8. Join the willow piece into a triangle by joining near the ends with masking tape, just at the point where the two dog legs bend. You’ll end up with a tipi shape, with the dog legs sticking out of the top.

Willow triangle with inset diagram

9. Using this triangle as a template, do exactly the same with the second piece of long willow you made.

10. Next, you need to join the two triangles together to make a pyramid-shaped frame. Do this by cutting two pieces of willow 40cm long. These are going to form the missing two base sides of your frame.

11. Now give these pieces dog legs at 5cm from each end.

12. Using masking tape, join each of the dog legs at right angles to the bottom of the vertical sides of your two triangles.

14. Now join the tops of the two triangles together to form a pyramid shape.

Pyramid lantern

15. Take another two strong pieces of willow to serve as diagonal supports for the base of the pyramid. These will need to be about 50cm long, but you should measure the actual length needed for your lantern by holding them at a diagonal to the base of your pyramid – and adding 5cm at each end for dog logs.

16. Attach these ‘cross braces’ to the base of the pyramid using masking tape around the dog legs.

Detail of cross braces, with diagram inset

16. The next job is to attach a variety of pieces of willow to fill in the four sides of the pyramid – using masking tape at each junction, and dog legs if helpful. These pieces support the tissue paper that you’re going to stick to the sides. They could even be curved, or could form a pattern, which will show as a silhouette once the candle is lit.

Image of sides of lantern filled in, with diagram inset

To make the candle holder

1. The candle holder sits in the centre of the cross braces. At the Eden Project we make ours out of a 5cm-section of metal piping, with four holes drilled at intervals at its base.

TIP: If you’re making lots of lanterns with a group, get one person to prepare these candles holders and the strips of wire beforehand; it’s not a great or particularly safe group activity! You’ll definitely need to clamp the piping as you saw and then drill it.

Wire and metal candle holder attached to the base of the willow frame

2. Next, take a piece of your galvanised wire (30cm long) and feed it through one of the holes and out of the opposite one. Do the same with a second piece of wire the same length – using the other two holes.

3. Place the pipe at the centre of the cross brace, with the holes at the bottom, and wrap each of the four protruding pieces of wire around the diagonal cross braces on the base of the pyramid. Your candle holder should now sit steady inside your willow structure.

To cover and decorate the lantern

Decorated willow lanterns

You can simply cover the lantern in white tissue paper, get creative with coloured sheets, or even stick little balls of coloured tissue paper on for effect. You could consider using a touch of paint for your design as well. But remember, the candlelight against the willow shapes will make great effects anyway.

1. Lay a sheet of paper on a plasticated surface and paint a layer of PVA glue over it. Then slowly and evenly lift the sheet up, taking care not to rip it, and place it over the sides of the lantern, wrapping it around the corners.

2. Continue until all four sides of the lantern are covered. The sheets should overlap.

3. Now do the same to cover the base, leaving just one of the four sections of the bottom open so that you can get your hand in to light the candle.

4. Leave to dry – ideally overnight where there is good air circulation, for example hanging from a washing line or under cover in the garden, or even in the garage.

To hang the lantern

Willow lantern with a wire loop attaching it to a cane

1. When the lantern’s dry, snap off the dog legs and wrap masking tape over and under the willow stems to form a sturdy tip at the top of the pyramid.

2. This is where you’ll hang your lantern from. Take a 15cm-length of your thicker, plastic-coated and feed it through the top of the frame, twisting the ends together to form a loop.

3. Now feed your second piece of plastic-coated wire through this loop and attach each end of the wire to the top of your cane with the waterproof tape. Your lantern is now ready to be carried, Dick Whittington style!

Come and take part in our free drop-in lantern-making workshops at the Eden Project in the run-up to Christmas, where you can then use your own lantern for the evening procession. Or find out how to arrange a lantern parade in your own community or school.

1 comment
Celebrations, Christmas, Community

Coffee: the bean to cup story

December 13, 2013
Author: Tom

The coffee plants in our Rainforest Biome have been bristling with the bright beans or ‘cherries’ that are used to make the drink that is so popular around the world. Here’s a quick, caffeinated whizz through the story of how coffee gets from bean to cup.

Coffee journey map

Bean to cup process

1. Grow

Coffee plant

There are two types of coffee commonly grown for drinking:

  • Robusta coffeeCoffea canephora
    These robust plants are easier to grow, cheaper and have a higher caffeine content but they also have a neutral taste. They are used in espresso blends and instant coffee.
  • Arabica coffeeCoffea arabica (pictured at the bottom of this article)
    These delicate plants are harder to grow and pricier but offer a wider range of taste. They are used for single estate coffees and high-quality blends.

The plants prefer rich soil, lots of rain and semi-shade. Each plant produces enough for about 500g of coffee. Altitude, soil and climate affect the flavour.

Hand picking coffee beans

2. Pick

The beans are mostly picked by hand but increasingly by machine. The latter is tricky as coffee often grows in mountainous areas and cherries ripen at different times. It’s the low quality coffee grown on a large scale that is often machine-picked.


Green and red coffee beans

3. Sort

Once the cherries are picked they are sorted by hand or machine to make sure only the ripest are processed.




Coffee bean with pulp removed

4. Process beans

The pulp is removed from the beans.


5. Roasting

Coffee roaster

The roasting provides the flavour and aroma. It is considered something of an art and timing is key: it usually takes between 7 and 14 minutes depending on the desired coffee (espresso takes the longest).

Beans ’pop’ like corn as the heat increases. Once roasted, beans lose their freshness quickly, so most roasting occurs in the country of consumption.

Coffee grinder

6. Grind

The fineness of grind will affect the brewing time and the coffee-making equipment you use. Coffee releases up to 60% of its aroma within 15 minutes of grinding.


7. Brew

  • Filtered coffee: freshly-brewed tastes best. Use unbleached paper for your filters for good results.
  • Espresso: hot water is forced through coffee at high pressure for maximum flavour. Espresso coffee is also used in drinks such as cappuccino.
  • Plunger coffee: boil water, cool a tad, and pour over medium-to-coarse-ground coffee. Stand for 3-4 minutes then plunge.
  • Vacuum pot coffee: this is a bit special. Made under pressure in pure glass containers.
  • Percolator coffee: the coffee is boiled and passed over the coffee grounds several times.

Cartoon man drinking coffee

8. Drink

Espresso, cappuccino, café latte, flat white, long black or even a ristretto (an extremely short espresso), doppio (two shots of espresso in an espresso cup) or a Macchinato (espresso “stained” with a dash of milk or a dollop of foam). However you take it … enjoy!


More information on coffee plants

Find out more about coffee and see more photos on our coffee plant profile page

The coffee sold our on-site shop and in our webshop comes from Fairtrade farms in Central America, ensuring the farmers get paid a fair wage.

Coffee cherries growing on bush


Food, Plants

Christmas present ideas on a budget

December 6, 2013
Author: Lucy Dearn

Don’t panic about Christmas shopping this year. We’ve picked 10 great gifts from our web shop that are all £10 or under. From pressies for kids to gifts for grown-ups, we’ve got something for anyone on a budget.

Allotment kitAllotment kit, £10
A useful Christmas present for anyone venturing into gardening, this beautifully packaged kit contains everything they need: floral gloves, giant wooden labels, tools, and even palm-oil-free soap for those who like to get their hands dirty.

Kids t-shirtDaisy & dragonfly t-shirt, £9.50
Made from 100% organic cotton – which is supersoft on the skin – and featuring pretty designs, these children’s t-shirts would make an ideal present for little ones this Christmas. They’re locally printed with environmentally friendly ink.

Puppy teddy bearTeddy bear puppy, £6.50
We love this teddy bear puppy; he’s so cuddly. The silky soft bamboo fibres are good for the environment, too, and he’s filled with recycled materials. He’d make a lovely Christmas present for children.

Nepenthes Bio-DomeNepenthes bio-dome plant, £10
Amaze someone with this tropical plant that comes with its own bio-dome – and looks just like our Biomes. Easy to care for, this rainforest plant is a nice present for the family to grow together.

Cornish cider gift setCider & preserve gift set, £7.50
A hearty Christmas present for cider lovers, this Cornish Orchard’s Cider & preserve gift set includes a 50cl flagon of award-winning farmhouse cider and a jar of tasty country chutney.

Charm earringsCharm earrings, £9.00
These affordable earrings make a pretty present. The charms are produced from reclaimed acrylic here in Cornwall and come in a choice of four designs inspired by the plants and wildlife at Eden.

Bug safari kitBug safari, £10
Let the kids loose in your back garden to see what they can find hiding in the undergrowth. The kit has everything they need to learn about creepy crawlies, including a magnifying pot, tweezers and bug tongs.

Wildflower planter giftsetWildflower gift set, £9.50
Give someone a present they can enjoy well into the spring. This starter kit comes with seeds, compost and a brightly coloured planter. A great present for anyone short of space who wants to do a spot of gardening.

Seasonal food book by Paul WaddingtonSeasonal food book, £8.99
A nice Christmas present for foodies or anyone that enjoys cooking, this book guides you through the seasons, suggesting recipes throughout the year when the ingredients taste best.

Paper pot pressPaper pot press, £9.50
Definitely a Christmas present for garden lovers, this paper pot press turns strips of newspaper into biodegradable plant pots for seedlings and cuttings. It’s a brilliant way to cut down on plastic pots.

Get more Christmas present ideas in our webshop.


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