Growing Campanula, Canterbury Bells or Bellflower


Alpine or border Campanulas come in many species and varieties.

Campanula lactiflora ‘Loddon Anna’ above was grown from seed distributed free to members by the RHS. It grows four feet tall and has many very attractive open bell shaped flowers. The flowers are arranged on a stem in a loose cone shape but with each of about 60 flower about an inch wide the effect is light and flowing. This species is commonly called the Milky bell flower and is a lilac colour.

Growing Campanula.

  • Most Campanulas bloom in June and July, but some varieties continue all summer.
  • Plant seeds or seedlings in May, though they can be sown in August and protected during the winter.
  • Most Campanula plants tolerate full sun but like some moisture in the soil. The smaller varieties grow in walls and rockeries.
  • Thompson Morgan have a fine seed collection.
  • There is a white Campanula persicifolia alba

Continue Reading →


Extraordinary Leaves in Pictures

Book Cover
Extraordinary Leaves by Armytage and Schrader is available from amazon.

The horticultural industry put most of it’s effort into flowers, trees and shrubs. Leaves however appear on all most all these plants and repay close inspection.
As this book Extraordinary Leaves shows there is an amazing world out there for those who look closely and want to find new visual and sensual experiences.


Ptilostemon casabonae
Continue Reading →


Uses for Aromatic Roses


‘Marriage is like life in this….
That it is a field of battle
And not a bed of Roses’


Uses for Aromatic Roses

  • A large vase of cut flowers, rose buds and full blooms offer a scent experience not to be sniffed at.
  • When drying rose petals, cut out the white heel, dry in an airing cupboard (finish off in a low oven if needed), then use in pot pourri or scent bags.
  • Rose water is meant to be distilled but can be made as follows. Beat a pound of rose petals in a blender and leave to stand in there own juices for 5 hours then cover with water and add a further pound of petals infusing for 24 hours. Boil, strain and bottle leaving it in a sunny position for a couple of weeks. It may need diluting 50% before use.
  • Rose Oil is not for the ordinary gardener as it takes 50,000 roses to make an ounce of oil. Rosa Damascena and Rosa Centifolia are the traditional roses for making oil by distillation but Tea Roses will make a third fragrance of oil.

Cheat your Senses

  • Cheat and grow the rose scented  Pelargonium graveolens.
  • Cheat and buy ready made perfume.
  • Cheat and use synthetic rose oil (not a patch on essential oils though).
  • Do not cheat and be happy to leave the scent in your garden.
  • Grow Old Fashioned Roses (top ten) you will find great perfume and no cheating.

Ehow says ‘… that rose scent is used in various beauty and health treatments and considered a very powerful aphrodisiac? It’s true! The scent of rose is also thought to be a potent scent that heals emotional wounds, anger, resentment, depression, and nervous anxiety. One way to get the full benefits of the rose scent is to use it in combination with bath salts.

Just Joey is as aromatic as its parent Fragrant Cloud.


Easy Herbs to Grow and Eat

Chive flowers


  • Scented basil is a key part of Italian cooking and a perfect companion to tomatoes. Eat your own basil in omelettes or as a pesto sauce.
  • Growing from seed on a windowsil in a 3″ pot is easy peasy
  • Pick leaves as needed, pinching out the top encourages growth


  • Curly parsley is best used as a garnish and with cold dishes.
  • Flat leaved parsley is used with hot dishes according to Jamie Oliver.
  • Grown from seed Parsley will last through winter as it is a short lived perennial


  • With a strong warming taste and very aromatic Coriander can be added in stir fries, couscous and other dishes just before serving.
  • Grow from seed


  • Mint is available in several flavours all with that refreshing minty taste to accompany new potatoes.
  • Crushing the mint stems brings out extra flavour but chopped leaves are traditionally used in mint sauce with lamb.
  • Mint can be grown from seed but I would buy a plant of your chosen mint type.
  • Mint is long lived and can spread rapidly via stolens under ground.


  • See them in flower above. Use the edible flowers to decorate a dish
  • A mild onion flavour makes Chives useful in potato salad, cheese sauce and egg dishes.
  • Sprinkle on cheese sandwiches or make a herb butter to serve with steak or chops.
  • Grow from seed and cut leaves as needed.
  • Chive plants will regrow each spring and flower in June.

Buying Herb Seeds

  • Thompson Morgan have a good selection available on this link.
  • Try the windowsill variety pack as a starter.
  • Do not use all the seed at once but resow every few weeks to keep a steady supply of tasty aromatic plants.

Read about Winter herbs or Herbs for Drinks, Pillows and Baths


Gardeners Tips For Spraying Aphids


Occasionally a tip comes to us that we have not tried for various reasons. Here are a few of examples:

Organic Aphid Treatments

  • Boil orange peel, lemon and or lime in water & use the solution as an aphid control. Aphids should hate citrus oil.
  • On the same theme steep garlic cloves and chilli left overs as a ‘toxic bug blaster’. (The Oldie summer 2010)
  • When the leaves of tomato plants are chopped, they release   alkaloids. When the alkaloids are suspended and diluted with water, they make an easy to use spray that is toxic to aphids.
  • A simple soap spray, water and some liquid soap can work wonders by dissolving the aphids wax coating
  • Teas made from elderberry or rhubarb leaves can act as a deterrent assuming you use it as a spray.
  • Place banana peels at the base of infested plant. The peels give them a shot of potassium too.

With all homemade sprays, strain out the residue before spraying.


General Aphid Tips

Aphids can do a lot of damage to plants. Firstly they weaken it by drinking the sap. Secondly they can spread disease such as powdery mildew. Aphid action also often attracts ants, who enjoy the sticky residue left by aphids. Ants are not directly a problem, but, they can damage the base of plants and look unsightly.

If you have some prize specimens, keep a close eye for first sign of infestation in April, May. At first sign you can try squeezing them with your fingers or blowing them off with water.

If you are going for organic control, you will want to be encouraging natural predators such as hoverflies and ladybirds. This can be done by using plants which attract the hoverflies. For example stinging nettles and marigolds.

I use proprietary chemicals and spray on a still day

Spray in the evening or early before the adults take flight.
Read more


Growing Hardy Perennial Geraniums

Great plants for the herbaceous border, these hardy Geraniums are top notch plants that are easy to grow and cultivate.

Growing Characteristics

  • Low growing plants seldom higher than 12″. Geraniums make good plants for the front of borders.
  • Varieties exist to have flowering all through summer. Some varieties are continuous bloomers others once per season.
  • They will thrive in all types of soil and be rampant in good soil.
  • Flowering in shade, sun or partial shade makes them very acceptable additions in difficult parts of the garden.

Selected Varieties

  • Sanguineum Max Frie has a shocking pink flower.
  • Johnsons Blue, shown above, is a deep blue verging on lavender in the light used for this photo.
  • Sanguineum alba is, as you would guess, a clear white with yellow stamen.
  • Sanguineum Striatum is white with pink veins giving a stripped appearance.
  • Geranium pratense  is purple whilst Cinereum Ballerina is pink with deep pink stripped veins.
  • Geranium pratense ‘Laura’ double white with long lasting flowers
  • Hardy Geranium ‘Foundlings Friend’

Thompson Morgan supply a range of hardy geraniums in addition to their Zonal and indoor Pelargoniums which are some times called geraniums just to confuse.


Roses July Spruce Up


It is mid July and the Roses have performed very well with an abundance of flower, scent and leaf growth. With the June flush over here are some quick tips to boost your Roses for the rest of the season.

Quick Rose Tips.

  • Water your Roses with a couple of gallons at least once a week. Do not be tempted to spread it out a pint at a time, they prefer a good long drink.
  • Mulch again after watering or rain
  • Trim over hanging plants that are robbing your roses of sunlight. More sun will equal more flowers!
  • You can give your plants a final Rose fertilizer boost. Do not leave it any later in the season as leggy and sappy growth from late fertilizer will do no one any good.
  • Deadhead all repeat flowering roses (if in doubt deadhead all those not being grown for the hips).
  • A summer tidy prune can help by trimming ungainly stems by 12-18″ to make the bush more shapely.
  • Stop deadheading in September to get the roses to think about winter.

Check out Rose Tips for June

Planting a new container grown Rose

  • Soak the container for 12 hours to give the rose chance to drink.
  • Dig an over sized hole and add some bone meal and or root grow fungi.
  • Plant the rose, teasing out the roots   and back fill with humus rich soil.
  • Water and mulch and keep watering until autumn.

garden rose

Read about Just Joey HT Rose


Growing Difficult Gentian – Gentiana


I have a phobia or total lack of ability when it comes to growing Gentians. Because I expect to fail I have done so many many times and now I avoid Gentians like I wanted to avoid Gentain Violet bactericide as a child.

Gentian Facts

  • The Gentians are evocative of the mountains (and that should tell me something about there cultivation).
  • The majority of species flower in the deep, intense shade of blue for which Gentains are renown. ( New Zealand Gentians are white and there is a yellow Peruvian variety).
  • Larger Gentians have 5 petals in a trumpet shape whilst smaller varieties have 5 petals that open like a star.
  • In general European varieties flower in spring whilst the ‘easier’ Asian varieties flower in Autumn.
  • This is a large genus with over 400 species and varieties.

Growing Tips

  • Gentians are fiercely lime hating and require moist but fast draining soil.
  • Gentians are thought to be difficult to grow outside their wild habitat.
  • Good clumps of root should be planted out between October and February.
  • Once established the less the plants are meddled with the better
  • Top species to grow in England include Gentain Acaulis, Gentian verna, the spring Gentian and Gentian septemfida the  Crested Gentian.
  • Gentiana sino-ornata is not only one of the easiest and most reliable, but also one of the loveliest with spectacular colour (BBC)

See tips for growing Gentians and I resolve to try again in my Rockery


Top Ten Violas to Grow

Viola self sown

Violas are more than just small pansies in fact Pansies are just over blown Violas. They are both in the family that also includes many species of Violets, Violas and Violettas.

Benefits of Violas

  • Many varieties and colours to select from without being overwhelmed by choice.
  • Masses of small flowers from spring / summer that virtually cover the plant.
  • Sweet scent on many varieties particularly the blue and purples.
  • Perennial habit on most varieties but annual varieties also set viable seed.

Viola profusion

Top Ten Viola Selection.

  1. Viola Tiger Eye with deep yellow petals and black veins radiating from the centre.
  2. Viola Scentsation lives up to it’s name with bright yellow scented flowers.
  3. Viola hybrida Rose Shades is bushy, compact and free flowering in various rose shades. Each bloom has an attractive yellow eye and darker whiskers, plus the bonus of a sweet fragrance.
  4. Viola Meteor is a compact form suitable for hanging baskets and containers.
  5. Viola Friolina will trail for up to 3 feet and is available in yellow, blue, orange, white or bi-colours.
  6. Viola x williamsiana Singing the Blues is an annual in several shades of blue.
  7. Viola Amber Kiss looks great in the catalogue but I have yet to try grow this semi double golden Viola.
  8. Viola x wittrockiana Jolly Joker with purple outer petals and orange inner petals has become a firm favourite.
  9. Viola x wittrockiana Water Colours Mixed F1 is another popular variety in pastel shades.
  10. Viola sororia ‘Albiflora’ is hard to track down but is a small white flowering species with purple whiskered petals.

Many of these seed and plant varieties are available from Thompson & Morgan Other suppliers include Gardening Direct or your local nursery.

Yellow Violas

Growing From Seed

  • Germination is not easy and some experience is useful.
  • Sow December to March or July to September on the surface of lightly firmed, moist seed compost in pots or trays.
  • Exclude light by covering with paper for 2 weeks.
  • Germinate around 65-70 °F too high a temperature prevents germination .
  • Overwinter late sowings in a coldframe then plant out the following spring.
  • Easy to grow on and care for.

Viola profusion

Pansies Violas and Violettas The Complete Guide from Amazon.

Description of Violas

  • Half-hardy annual or hardy perennial
  • Flowers in  Spring and Summer.
  • Green fleshy, leaves are heart shaped with jagged edges.
  • Ideal for  border edges, containers, patios and hanging baskets
  • Height  3-10 inches dependant on variety

Wikipedia lists over 200 species of viola for further exploration.

A Viola odorata national collection is maintained at groves Nurseries in Dorset where this cultivation guide can be found.

More pictures from Google


Book Cover

Viola Photographs and Species

Violas and Violettas

Ilkley 002

Viola palustris
Viola palustris by pastilletes CC BY-SA 2.0

Viola riviniana
Viola riviniana by Jörg Hempel CC BY-SA 2.0

Viola uliginosa_3
Viola uliginosa_3 by amadej2008 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Bog Violet

Viola ocellata Western Hearts-ease
Viola ocellata Western Hearts-ease by davidhofmann08 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Viola purpurea ssp. quercetorum Mountain Violet
Viola purpurea ssp. quercetorum Mountain Violet by davidhofmann08 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Plants for Dry Gardens

French lavender

Hosepipe bans and talk of drought conditions turns gardeners minds to plants that can still thrive in those circumstances. I have suggested several types of plant to consider in the lists below.

Mediterranean Originated Herbs and Oil Producers

  • Lavender has pungent foliage and makes a scented oil. The dried flowers retain scent indoors.
  • Rosemary and Thyme are both herbs that will survive hot dry conditions. The sun even makes the flavour stronger.
  • Oregano or Origanum laevigatum is blooming fine in my herb bed. The deep pink flowers are a bonus to the aromatic leaves.
  • Other aromatics that will do well in dry conditions include Sage and Achillea.

Silver Leaved (sun reflecting) Plants

  • Pinks and carnations have fine thin leaves so they do not desiccate easily.
  • Santolina with fluffy yellow pompom flowers are good dry spot shrubs.
  • Cistus is a family of flowering shrubs that has developed an oily leaf to protect against water loss.
  • I like the silvery Sea Holly Eryngium giganteum which is a good doer in the dry spots.

Cistus Albidus Continue Reading →


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