SOMETIMES plants turn out not exactly as described on the packet and when they are it’s sometimes hard to believe they should be like that...

Some of my Opal Red Leaved basil is variegated or green; a reader sent in a photograph of his chrysanthemum which is blooming again in the centre of a wilted flower and my Green Knight aubergine looks deformed — but isn’t.

Scroll through the gallery of pictures above to see more oddities...

My packet of 50 Opal Red seeds from De Ree cost a bargain 99p and delivered nice but slightly surprising results.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Richard's unusual Green Knight aubergine looks deformed - but it isn't.

Most plants produced the striking purple tasty leaves as shown on the packet but one is green and several are attractively variegated.

This is an example of the role genetics play in growth; the green and variegated examples returning in differing degree, to the colour of their genetic roots.

Everyone knows that basil — that must-have accompaniment to a tomato salad — is meant to be green.

All are attractive but the deep purple leaves and pale pink flowers of Opal Red make an especially eye-catching ornamental with the same culinary uses as sweet basil.

Basil can be sown indoors between February and April and, after potting-on, planted outdoors or in containers. Be careful when moving them, though, the root system is vulnerable.

A different genetic mutation in his chrysanthemums was highlighted by reader Barrie James (main image, top).

In this case fasciation has, unusually, caused wilting blooms to produce new flowers from the centre.

It’s all down to changes in the genetic code.

“After the petals lost their colour the centre continued to grow on blooms of two different plants in the same pot,” says Barrie.

Any occurrence of fasciation has several possible causes, including hormonal, genetic, bacterial, fungal, viral and environmental triggers like extreme cold or heat. Mutations can result in striping on a flower, variegation, different colours among blooms or foliage, a double flower among singles, or, as in Barrie’s case, unusual repeat flowering.

When favourable plant mutations are spotted cuttings, grafting or division can duplicate the effect.

The F1 aubergine Green Knight, on the other hand, while it may appear a mutant, is just as described on the packet. Eggplant fruits naturally occur in various shapes — slender, globe and pear-shaped — sizes and colours, ranging from almost black to purple, violet, striped, white and green.

The Green Knight hybrid is probably developed from Blanca de Mallorca which is grown on that isle. Introduced by seed company DT Brown, Green Knight has this year produced high yields of long, smooth-skinned fruit.

The fruits are extremely versatile in the kitchen where the mildly sweet flesh lends itself well to roasting, sautéing or baking.

And moussaka, for which I am a pig. Who isn’t..?

  • Aubergines do best in an unheated greenhouse but will crop reasonably in a sunny, warm, sheltered spot outdoors.


Water greenhouse plants at this time of year early in the day so the environment is drier come evening. Damp, cool, nights can encourage botrytis and blight.

In late afternoon, close greenhouse vents and doors to help keep up temperatures overnight. This will ensure your heat-loving plants crop for as long as possible.

Clean out your greenhouse when cropping has finished to reduce the risk of pests and diseases next year. Milder climes can mean tomatoes can continue cropping well into winter.

Now is the perfect time to create a new lawn from turf or seed. It will mean it is well-established for next year’s growing season.

Raise the height of your mower blades as the rate of grass growth slows.

Remove the ‘thatch’ of dead grass and moss from the surface of your lawn with a rake and repair dead patches with a mix of topsoil, sharp sand and seed.

Are you an Isle of Wight gardener with a query? You can email Richard on