Azaleas for your Home

A grand house plant that will last and last if you give it soft water.


Rhododendron simsii or indoor azaleas produce large funnel shaped flowers in a range of bright colours almost gaudy.

  • They dislike warm conditions and are more suited to a cool room or porch.
  • Buy in tight bud and they will open progressively indoors.
  • Plants need an acidic, loam compost and will benefit from misting with water on a daily basis until their buds start to show colour.
  • Keep plant roots just moist at all times and water with soft water to keep plants healthy.
  • During summer they can go outside but keep the moist.
  • Flowers are better when the plant is root bound in a pot.

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Blazing Deciduous Azaleas

Autumn is the best time to plant Azaleas so you get a blaze of colour next spring. If you want to see the colour before you buy than aim for a pot grown plant in spring.

Azalea & Aquilegia

Deciduous Azaleas have trumpet shaped flowers in a range of bright often fiery colours. The flowers appear before or at the same time as the leaves.

Types of Deciduous Azalea

  • The Ghent hybrids are generally fragrant plants growing 4-6′ tall.
  • Knapp Hill hybrids, Exbury and Mollis Azaleas do not have much scent but are available in vivid colours.
  • Occidentale hybrids have fragrant pastle coloured flowers in May.

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Capability Brown Landscape Gardener

Lancelot Brown 1716 – 1783

Lancelot Brown is the most famous gardener who popularised English landscape design. Lancelot Brown’s nickname ‘Capability’ came from his saying about an estate he was commissioned to work on ‘It has great capabilities’ .

During his life he was Sheriff of Huntingdon, gardener to King George III, architect and innovator of ‘Landskip’ gardening. At the age of 24 he went to Lord Cobhams garden at Stowe where he learnt from William Kent who had studies Italian and Grecian gardens and John Vanbrugh. In 1764 Lancelot Brown was appointed Master Gardener at Hampton Court.

Lancelot Brown described himself as a ‘place-maker’ not a ‘landscape gardener’. He didn’t want a series of tableaux within a garden, he wanted a piece of countryside. Formality and straight lines had to go and to avoid fences he created the Ha-ha a sunken version. Flowers were cosigned to walled gardens and trees imported to suit his design.

Some of his designs were elaborate and involved changing hills and lakes and some thought them lavish. After his death the strong vision he had carried through in his work fell out of favour and only in the last century was he fully rehabilitated.

Capability Brown is believed to be responsible for over 170 gardens surrounding the finest country houses and estates in Britain. He never worked in Ireland saying ‘he hadn’t finished England yet. His work still endures at Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Harewood House, Milton Abbey and below is a further edited list of his work. Get out and visit some of these 18th century landscapes:-

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Growing Year Around Pansies

purple pansy

The smiling face of a pansy greets the gardener during most season of the year.
Pansy is a thoughtful flower as thoughtful is what the name Pansee means in French. In the wild form it is tricoloured and often called Heartsease and is a member of the Viola family.
There are many varieties to choose from including 46 on our T&M list below.

Growing Pansy

  • Great and quick results can be achieved from plug plants or seedlings.
  • Treat as annuals or biennials even though they may survive longer.
  • From seed, sow late winter/spring or mid-late summer 1.5mm deep in good seed compost excluding light as darkness helps them germinate.
  • Germination usually takes 14-21 days at 19-24C no warmer or germination suffers.
  • When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant and grow cool.
  • Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10-15 days before planting out after all risk of frost.
  • Prefers sun or part shade in borders or containers .
  • The flowers are edible and useful to colour a salad.
  • Summer sowings of winter flowering pansies should be  planted out in autumn or early spring.

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Growing Peony or Peonies

double peony

For centuries Peonies have been great favourites of the Chinese and are one of their national flowers. Peonies are easy to care for once established.

Peonies are shrubby herbaceous plants that will come back perennially (year after year). They can live 75 years and still produce a brilliant profusion of flowers. Herbaceous means the leaves and stems die back at the end of the season and new growth will start again in Spring.

Growing Peonies

  • Flowers are often strongly scented to attract bees and have double or single blooms.
  • The colours are deep red through pink to white.
  • Peonies do not like to be disturbed or moved once they are planted.
  • Because they will live in the same spot for many years add some bone meal and good compost at the bottom of the planting hole.
  • Peonies are best grow from plants bought at a nursery
  • Plants are hardy but may make take some time to flower.
  • Only plant Peonies at the same depth as they were grown, never deeper.
  • Peonies and special fertilizer from Thompson & Morgan

Tree Peonies are harder to grow successfully and cost more to buy but can have show stopping displays of flowers once they mature.


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Tips for Growing Nasturtiums

photo by Photofarmer

Even young children can manage to plant the large seeds of nasturtiums and watch them grow into Triffid like flowering plants in reds, yellows and oranges.

Tips for Growing Nasturtiums

  • Plant the seeds individually in a sunny spot in poor soil straight in to the garden.
  • Climbing nasturtiums will spread for several feet or clamber up a near-by support. These are the sort to amuse the kids.
  • The dwarf nasturtiums are better behaved and will flower well without any fertilizer.
  • Handle the stems with care as they are brittle and easily snapped.
  • Nasturtiums are no use as cut flowers but you can pick and eat flowers and leaves.
  • Collect the fallen seed for next year. You get 3 big seeds per flower.
  • Plants are loved by black fly that may colonise the underside of leaves. Wash off with soapy water or use an insecticide if you are not going to eat them.

One variety you can plant in a hanging basket is Jewel Mixed which adds fragrance to the dwarf trailing habit. Alaska has variegated leaves and two tone flowers. Black velvet is very deep purple that it looks as it says on the packet, black.

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Tips for Growing Gazania

Gazina mixed colours

Gazanas are brightly coloured flowers that are easy to grow on dry sunny sites. Many of the plants flower with a striped effect on the petals that open to resemble a 6 inch daisy. The leaves are a narrow grey-green or silvery and the plants grow 6-10 inches tall.

Choose the right variety. Seed is available in a range of varieties like Mini-star White, Tiger Stripes and the Kiss seriessuch as the ‘Kiss Rose’.
Harlequin are slightly larger, growing to 15” tall spreading 18” and come in a mix of colours.

How to Grow Gazania. If buying plants choose healthy well formed clumps of lower leaves. You can buy when at least one flower is open so you have an idea of the colour you are buying but a mix of hot oranges, yellows and reds is quite popular. If you grow from seed, sow 8 weeks before the last frost is expected and keep in the warm, then gradually acclimatise them outdoors.
Whilst the plants may survive British winters, you could take cuttings in Autumn and protect from frost, however, I would treat them as annuals. The plants produce lots of flowers but you can deadhead (cut off faded flowers) to encourage more blooms.

Where to Grow. Gazania is a bright filler plant for in between shrubs or any hot dry part of the garden. They grow happily at the seaside as they are not affected by salty air. Sandy, well drained soil, that Gazanias get in there native South Africa, is best. They are  also fine for window boxes, tubs or planters and can survive if you occasionally forget to water them.
The flowers are borne on short stems making them excellent for windy sites.
Aka the Treasure Flower, Gazania have delicately cut, silvery-white foliage which makes the plant a pleasure  with the bright blooms, opening in the sun and closing at night.


I have cheated for 2015. I have just bought a pot of germinated seedlings from our local garden centre. For £2.99 I got and pricked out 40 plants which I will grow on until May before planting out.

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Old-Fashioned and David Austin Roses

Book Cover

Old-Fashioned and David Austin Roses by “Barbara Lee Taylor

Instead of the usual division into Gallicas, Damasks, Albas, Centifolias, Moss roses etc. the chapters are divided into History, once-flowering old-fashioned roses, Repeat-flowering old-fashioned roses, David Austin roses, Cultivation, Landscaping with old roses and the book contains over 160 rose varieties. As you read this book you can virtually smell the scent of your successful roses as though it were a warm June evening.

‘Discovering old-fashioned roses is often the beginning of a love affair that lasts a lifetime. These beautiful plants offer you not only fragrance and beauty, but also a fascinating link with the past. In this beautiful yet practical book, some of the most popular old-fashioned roses are described in detail and illustrated in full colour. There is a complete chapter on the work done by David Austin in the 1950s and 1960s to create new English roses. Topics include species roses; Gallicas; Damasks; Albas; Centifolas; Moss roses; Ramblers; China roses; Portlands; Noisettes; Bourbons; Hybrid perpetuals; Teas and early hybrid teas; Hybrid musks; Climbers; Shrub roses & ramblers; Rugosas; David Austin roses; Cultivation; Pruning; and Landscaping ideas.

Gardeners Tip

Plant an Old Fashioned Rose or two as near to your bedroom window as practical. Enjoy the evening scent.

Try Just Joey HT Rose

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Eating Nasturtium a Peppery Food Crop


I think of Nasturtium as an ornamental, annual, flowering plant but my vegetarian children take a different view. For many vegetarians ‘Nasturtiums make a salad’. In the case of Watercress they also make a soup and a vegetable.

Growing Nasturtium Leaves, Flowers and Seed Pods

  • Grow Nasturtiums from seed in your vegetable patch.
  • Rich soil will encourage leaves at the expense of flowers. Nasturtiums grown for decoration need a poor soil.
  • Nasturtium seeds from Thompson & Morgan
  • Before planting Nasturtiums in containers make sure they are well rooted in smaller pots started under cover.
  • Watercress Nasturtium Microphyllum or Nasturtium Officionale are best grown from rooted cuttings. Rooting in water is relatively easy.

Salad: Watercress, spinach and apple.

Eating Nasturtium Leaves and Pods

  • The leaves of the nasturtium plant are edible, with a peppery flavour. They can be tossed into salads mixed with sweeter varieties of lettuce.
  • The flowers make a unique garnish to fresh foods and add a splash of colour.
  • The seed pods can be treated like Capers and pickled or used as a crunchy addition to salads.
  • For tastiest nasturtium leaves, keep the plants well watered, which helps to moderate the spiciness of the leaves and flowers. Keep a bit drier to add a sharper tangy flavour to your summer salads


Growing Watercress Nasturtium Officinale

  • Watercress is called Nasturtium Officinale or Nasturtium Microphyllum
  • Watercress is traditionally grown in gardens with chalk streams or a good supply of water as a semi-aquatic plant
  • Buy watercress with roots on at your local supermarket
  • An ordinary bunch placed in a bowl of fresh clean water will develop roots. Discard any that turn yellow or do not root and plant the rest.
  • You can grow watercress in a container but keep it exceptionally well watered.

chicken watercress salad

Growing Nasturtiums near Brassicas can deflect greenfly and white fly on to the nasturtiums to protect your other crops.
Pickling the seed pods of Nasturtium produces a crop similar to Capers.


Nasturtium by Dvortygirl CC BY-SA 2.0
Salad: Watercress, spinach and apple. by ulterior epicure CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
nasturtiums by artolog CC BY-NC 2.0
chicken watercress salad by aquino.paolo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Nasturtium-FowlersVacola-Num10-9108 by graibeard CC BY-SA 2.0 Pickled Nasturtium seeds look like and taste similar to capers.
Nasturtiums by robynejay CC BY-SA 2.0


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National Plant Collections Scheme Tips


National Plant Collections have a membership scheme costing £25 p.a. They now have 650 collections in private gardens, allotments, nurseries, parks and botanic gardens throughout the country.

Collection holders undertake to document, develop and preserve a comprehensive collection of one group of plants in trust for the future.

A Heuchera collection is now at The University of Essex in Colchester. I couldn’t track down a national collection of Alstroemeria (above) but that must be an opportunity for someone.

‘The National Plant Collections Scheme is the flagship of Plant Heritage and is the prime mechanism for ensuring the survival of cultivated plant species and cultivars. Because of the involvement of botanic gardens, universities and expert horticulturists (both amateur and professional alike), the National Plant Collections Scheme has earned the respect of the horticultural world. This prestige helps the NCCPG as a whole. Reputation is important. It follows that prospective collections and their holders need to be carefully assessed, and existing collections properly monitored to maintain the standard of custodianship.’

Listings of Open Days appear in the National Collections Directory.

The Natural History and Gardening Book fair is at Caple Manor Gardens . I will try add to my collection of circa 500 books at the next fair. For more information on book fairs.

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