Cactus House Durham Botanic Garden


Why are Cacti raised in a Cactus House and not a Cacti House? A prickly question if you are pedantic but if you are just interested unusual forms of plants then the Cactus family will interest you. Originally all  Cacti are of American origin from Patagonia in the South to the 50th parallel in the USA. Some have reached an age in excess of a thousand years. Mexico is famous for old globose cacti Echinocactus ingens.

Cacti Propagation Tips

  • Growing from seed needs patience but plants started in this way adapt to the conditions and give pleasure as they grow and develop. Sow on the surface of porous sandy soil at 20-30°C and cover with glas to retain heat and moisture.
  • Take vegetative cuttings in summer from side shoots root as long as the cutting is not too small. To encourage shoots cut off the top of a catus to disrupt the growing centre. Many varieties like the cut surface to dry before they are potted up when rooting can then be rapid.
  • Grafting is a popular commercial technique as it helps speedier growth. Even small seedlings can be grafted uniting in a few hours. Stock and sion are cut at right angles and can be held in place with rubber bands.


Comments { 0 }

My Leeks and Pot Leeks

I first went to a Leek show in the North East one September about 40 years ago and the Pot Leeks on show were really something to behold.
It is an art, a science and a bit of black magic that helps create a show stopper in this region renown for its prize leeks.
Pot leek exhibition standards require a blanch of up to 6” which can give a circumference of 28″. Intermediates are up to 14″ blanched length and Long leeks are anything in excess of this.

For eating purposes, size is much less important than flavour. We will  concentrate on normal garden culture for flavour.

Leek flags

Tips on starting to grow Leeks

  • Seeds can be sown in Mid march until June as the plants like a long growing season.
  • Set out the plants at the end of May.
  • A quick and easy start can be made by buying seedlings from a nursery or market stall.
  • Continue Reading →
Comments { 2 }

Wallflowers for Scent

Good wallflowers are not to be sniffed at – well actually they are as I find them one of the most aromatic flowers.
Oh to Bee a Wallflower

You can’t beat wallflowers for scent in the spring garden. On a still morning and through the day the aroma is quite intoxicating. I am looking at seed catalouges now to buy the seeds I want to sow in June – July 2009 to grow sturdy bushy plants to flower next spring 2010. In truth most varieties will do and I will probably get some cheap packets from a local store.

  • The bushy plants will be grown by pinching out the growing tip in September to encourage the bushy growth and they will be planted in the flowering position in Autumn when the space is cleared.
  • Plants may survive more than on flowering year but become very leggy so treat as biannuals.
  • Wallflowers are related to brassicas like cabbage and cauliflower so do not plant them where you want to grow these vegetables next year



As wallflowers pass their best they need to be turfed out to make room for new annuals or plants such as Dahlias.

Tips for Growing Wallflowers.

  • I can’t wait for Wallflowers to self seed as they look very leggy and seldom do as well as newly sown plants.
  • If some plants have grown in neglected spots you can leave them as they often survive several years.
  • Sow Wallflowers for next year from July onwards – they are best grown as biennial plants.
  • In Autumn pinch out the growing tips of seedlings to make bushy plants.
  • Try growing Wallflowers in tubs or old pots. They can be moved into place for the scent and colour in spring, then the pots get replanted for summer.
  • I think the red bedder varieties smell the best but scent is in the nose of the sniffer.

Thompson Morgan’s Wallflower collection is available by mail order from this list.


Comments { 0 }

Warning on Problems of Japanese Knotweed

Not Knotweed

Warning About Knotweed

  • It is an offence to plant or otherwise cause the Japanese Knotweed to grow in the wild.
  • Japanese Knotweed is classed as ‘controlled waste’ and as such must be disposed of safely at a licensed landfill site and buried to a depth of at least 5 m.
  • This law also applies to the surrounding soil.
  • Infringement can result in an unlimited fine and you can also be held liable for costs incurred from the spread of Knotweed into adjacent properties.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 1 }

Snowdrops at the Harrogate Orchid Show

Snowdrop woods

At month I visited Bramhope and the local Harrogate Orchid show. I guess I could post quite a few pictures of Orchids but the grounds of the hotel were full of Snowdrops hence the photo above.

Wether it is growing naturally outdoors or displayed indoors the visual impact is one of the key areas where we seek perfection.The way an item is displayed or shown to others is one of gardening’s greatest skills.

So I have succumbed with these display shots

Orchids show 2010
The host societies display in the main room.

The display case below had a deep recess but with a matt black backing it looked more like a picture frame. Also ideal for Auriculas I would imagine.

Orchid display case

For me and many others visitors to the show it was the scented Orchids that seemed to attract the most attention. For me the star of the show was Dendrobium kingianum with a very strong hyacinth-type scent to the flowers. The flowers were less than an inch across and pure white with a hint of purple.
Dendrobium like plenty of bright filtered sunlight but not direct sunlight that may burn the leaves. They can be difficult to re-flower if they do not receive sufficient light.

As usual there was a good mix of suppliers and other interested parties. For a small show the number of exhibits seemed to fill every nook and crannies in the hotel. Next year look out for the dates or consider joining.

Comments { 0 }

New Plant Ideas


Try something that you don’t often see in your neighbours garden for this summer. There are many new varieties of traditional plants like this fancy Auricula or new seed packets on sale.
Horticultural suppliers are always breeding new stock and launching plants when they have built up salable stock levels. My guess is that the multi-coloured Coreopsis will be popular this year. The Limerock series is being pushed by the RHS with Lavender Pink ‘Passion’, Apricot Pink ‘Dream’ and Ruby Red ‘Ruby’ available at £14.99 each (not quite a snip).

Gerbera ‘Sweet Hardies’ are the new form of hardy Gerbera. Up to now the flowers have been smaller and less attractive than the tender types.

Frilly petaled Roses are being imported from USA for this years Chelsea show. If  Harpageant ‘Easy Does It’ catches the eye, with its range of colours that blend through Red, Peach and Apricot at different stages of the flowers life, then I would seek out one for my garden.

Variegated Impatiens Masquerade has unusual lime green and green foliage to offset the red flowers. Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

When & What Seeds To Sow

You can have success with successional sowing of seeds.


A wonderful variety of colour from a mixture of hardy annuals and hardy perennials.

Sowing seeds is great fun. The good news is that there are different types of seeds that can be grown at different periods of the year. Apart from October – December there is probably some seeds that you can be sown under protection of gentle heat. This could be a sample seed sowing season

January – February.

This is time for early season crops like lettuce and spinach. They will need heat and cloche protection to grow. But, vegetables like Spinach may do better in colder times because they are less likely to grow from seed. Later crops may bolt in the heat of summer. February is also a good time for slow growing annuals like Datura.

However, if you do sow in February, growth will invariably be slower because of the lower light levels. Seed grown early, will need more care and time, but, can reward the patient garden with early season flowers and vegetables.

March / April.
Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Growing Hepaticas The Japanese Way

Hepatica nobilis Cobalt

Hepaticas deserve the cult status they have long enjoyed in Japan. In early spring the most beautiful cultivars are displayed in all their glory.

Japanese Methods of Growing Hepaticas

  • Hepaticas are strongly grown in Japan where new cultivars and hybrids can change hands for large prices.
  • Growers in Japan developed special pots called Tanba-Yaki pots (similar but smarter than our ‘Long Toms’) for their Hepaticas. They are made from clay and deeper than our traditional pots.
  • Hepaticas enjoy sunshine whilst in flower but the Japanese move the pots into the shade for the rest of the year.
  • The Japanese name for Hepaticas is Yuliwariso which translates as ‘the plant that breaks through the winter snow’.
  • Grow in moist well drained soil containing leaf mould. Woodland slopes can work very well.
  • Hepaticas are still a Japanese cult plant and there are several hundred forms available to collectors. British alpine specialists are beginning to obsess about these little flowers, which belong to the Ranunculus family and come in various colours and forms.
  • There are more than 650 forms of these rarefied Japanese miniature forms in cultivation.

Hepatica nobilis

Hepaticas Cultivation

  • This photograph was snatched at Harlow Carr alpine house. Such an environment saves them from becoming water logged.
  • On bright sunny days Hepatica flowers open wide to display their simple beauty and unobtrusive charm.
  • The colour range includes mainly blue, pink and white in single, semi-double or double forms.
  • The colour and form of the stamens also vary so that all sorts of delightful combinations are possible.
  • Hepaticas are small clump-forming, almost evergreen herbaceous perennials with attractive lobed leaves, usually green, but some varieties having beautiful variegations or marbling on the upper surface.

Hepatica pyrennaica Apple Blossom

Hepaticas Growing Tips

  • Hepaticas are among the most beautiful flowers of early spring. February and March is the best time to see them in flower.
  • Also known as liver-leaf they are small herbaceous perennials of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).
  • Hepaticas are tolerant of alkaline limestone soils.
  • Hepaticas grow in deeply shaded deciduous woodland and scrub or grassland in full sun.
  • They like cool roots and a humid atmosphere.
  • Bare rooted plants can be bought from February to October.
  • Seed is dispatched mid April – May, within 48 hours of gathering as it must be sown fresh. Even then it is slow to germinate taking 9-24 months so be patient.
  • Pollination is by butterflies, moths, bees, flies and beetles.

Hepatica nobilis rosa (II)

Varieties and Species of Hepatica

  • Hepatica nobilis the blue flowered are the easiest variety to grow. They may be slow to become established but are long lived plants.
  • Hepatica pyrennaica Apple Blossom or Elison Spence varieties
  • Hepatica japonica is a variety or range of cultivars that are based on Hepatica nobilis
  • Hepatica transsilvanica has larger blue, white or pink flowers.
  • Hepatica acutiloba looks like a cluster of small Hellebores.

Sharp-lobed Hepatica

Hepatica nobilis rosa (II) by .Bambo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Sharp-lobed Hepatica by pchgorman CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Source of comments, tips, plants and seeds Ashwood Nursery

Read Hepatica Old new kid on the block

Comments { 1 }

Hepatica the Old ‘New Kid’ on the Block

A pot grown favourite is still trying to make its mark in main stream gardening.

Hepatica pyrennaica Apple Blossom

Hepatica nobilis cultivation has been popular as a ground cover plant. Blue purple flowers like a simple Anemone flower in blue/purple at about 4 inches high. Now special varieties are capturing the hearts of British growers and alpinists.
They are named after their leaves which look like the three lobes of the human liver.

Leaves and Foliage

  • The leaves are basal and dark leathery green, each with three lobes.
  • The foliage, which follows the flowers, can be almost as interesting as the blooms.
  • Some leaves are arranged in glossy green clover shapes with delicate, dark markings. Others are almost bronze, or marbled, with a pale variegation.

The Flowers

  • Flowers with doubled petals and a range of colour patterns have been developed
  • Hepatica reaches a height of 3-4” and flower from February to May. Flowers may be white, bluish purple or pink; they are supported singly on hairy, largely leafless stems.
  • Hepatica var. japonica f. magna flowers are large and come in shades of blue, purple, red and white, green and occasionally yellow, with contrasting colours for the stamens.
  • Some Hepaticas come with frilly centres, or totally double. Some have two-tone petals and their variations are even more subtle than those seen in auriculas, but you do have to peer closely to appreciate them.

Hepatica nobilis Cobalt

Growing Conditions

  • Hepaticas are not easy to grow and dislike dry conditions.
  • In the wild they grow on sunny mountain slopes and under deciduous trees up to 3,300ft high.
  • Hepaticas are renown for their tolerance of alkaline limestone derived soils
  • Hepatica will grow in both sandy and clay-rich substrates in deeply shaded deciduous woodland and scrub associated with limestone.
  • Moist soil and winter snowfall is a requirement but they dislike dry frost.
  • In spring they need shade and to be kept a little drier through the summer.

Varieties and Species

Hepatica nobilis var. pyrenaica (H. pyrenaica) – Pyrenees slightly easier to grow
Hepatica nobilis var. japonica (H. japonica) – Japan
Hepatica nobilis var. nobilis – European Hepatica – Alps north to Scandinavia
Hepatica nobilis var. pubescens (H. pubescens) – Japan
Hepatica nobilis var. acuta Sharp-lobed Hepatica -
Hepaticanobilis var. obtusa Round-lobed Hepatica – North America
Hepatica transsilvanica – Carpathian Mountains and Transylvania slightly easier to grow

Read Growing Hepatica in Pots or Gardens

Comments { 2 }

Growing Excellent Auriculas

This spring has been a good one for my Auriculas. I have been please with a powder blue flower that I hope to propagate by division in July. First I will water well and add some dilute feed.


These Alpine Auriculas look excellent  when grown in 3 inch pots. The ‘Long Tom’ pots are silghtly taller than the traditional pot and are useful as Auricula tend to grow a ‘carrot root’ used to anchor the plant in the wild. Alpine Auriculas have either a golden yellow or cream centre surrounding the tube.

Show Auriculas are considered to be the star Auricula plants and must have a ring of dense Farina around the eye of the flower. Selfs (all one colour) and Edges including most stripes have an outside edge composed of leaf tissue such as the ‘Orlando’ a grey edged show Auricula. Green edges usually have larger flowers. Stripes have recently been reintroduced with Monmouth Star having red petals with yellow rays out to the flowers edge.

Double Auricula ‘Sibsey‘  is a blue to purple flower and can be found at Specialist grower Angus Auriculas. Doubles arise from mutations of border or garden Auriculas and were amongst the first novelties cultivated and shown. There is now an increasing number of doubles including striped doubles at NAPS shows.  The Fantasia variety is deep maroon with white frosting a real eye-catcher


Border or Garden Auriculas have old names like Dusty Miller, Recklasses and Ricklers. Only a few  have ‘Farina’ the white powder found on leaves and flowers that resembles flour or meal which is a must on Show Auriculas.  Some are European primula hybrids and occasional are scented. Best grown in a position that gives them shade from midday sun. Water in very dry spells but plant in well drained soil. Ideal for partially shaded positions on rockeries or borders, or spring flower beds, pots, tubs

Continue Reading →

Comments { 5 }