Flowers in Early Morning

Christ Church Meadow Dawn

Daffodils just after sunrise

Christ Church Meadow Dawn

A misty Daffodil sunrise. Reflection in stream.

Christ Church Meadow Dawn

Daffodils by the River Isis, in Oxford


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What Kills Rhododendrons

It would be nice if your Rhododendrons were only to die from old age. Rhododendrons are generally long lived shrubs that would then outlive most of us and this article wouldn’t be needed.
However the natural world is not like that and accidents do happen. Gardener inflicted death can be caused by being over protective or trying too hard.


What Makes a Rhododendron Die

  1. Rhododendrons are fibrous, shallow rooted plants that need good drainage to perform well and excess water is currently the major cause of death. Digging a big planting hole that creates a water sump is the way to drown your Rhododendrons.
  2. Rhododendrons do not have taproots to take a drink, unlike trees. Therefore Rhododendrons need frequent watering particularly when young or if spring is very dry.
  3. Another cause of rhododendron death is the excessive application of fertilizer directly at the base of the trunk of the plant. A good rule of thumb is to fertilize more frequently at lower concentrations rather than one large dose especially for small plants or newly transplanted plants.
  4. A fourth reason for rhododendron death is planting too deep. As indicated earlier, rhododendrons are shallow rooted plants and if buried they will stagnate or even die.
  5. Another reason that rhododendrons die is from cold winter temperatures with deep frozen soils. Most rhododendron can be grown in cold areas but I mulch around tender species.
  6. Not many varieties can survive unprotected all-day sun and some say they ‘are doomed’. In general rhododendrons in extreme climates benefit from filtered light and partial shade but there are some varieties that can stand direct sun.
  7. Sudden oak death fungus Phytophthora ramorum has recently infected Rhododendron ponticum and some container grown plants so this problem is moving up the chart of the causes of dieing.
  8. Fungus that causes ‘die back’ thrives in the same general conditions preferred by most rhododendrons. I am sometimes tempted to use a fungicide.
  9. Physical damage by rabbits, Deer or football playing grand children may cause breakages but should not lead to death.

Frost damaged Rhododendron

None Fatal Rhododendron Problems

Rhododendrons are a hardy species – they need to be coming as most do from the Himalayas
Frost has got to these rhododendron flowers but that is not cold enough to kill the plant.
Dried black buds may be caused by insect damage or water shortage.
Burned tips on this year’s new growth is typically indicative of lack of water as the plant withdraws water from the tips of the new foliage first.

June Rhododendron

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Serendipity in Nature and the Garden

Reflective Pollination

I like the way the insects wings have veins that are replicated in the crocus petals.
Also the shadow of the bee caused by the early spring sunshine gives another dimension to the photograph.
I can’t claim any special skill or patience when I took this picture but put it down to serendipity.

Serendipity can play a big part in our gardens. The happy harmony of two colours working well together, the apparently random self-sown seedlings that appear in the right place or even the new seedling that has characteristics not previously noted are all part of serendipity, sometimes you just need to look for it. Many variegated leaved plants were discovered and propagated after acute observation.

Be alert,
(Gardens need Lerts).

Book Cover
‘The Lucky Buggers Case Book’ the harder you Garden the luckier you get.


I am trying to become alert having discovered the way to white wash my greenhouse for shading is to paint the inside. For years I have struggled to clean the windows from the outside after whitening them to provide some shade.

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Tips for Weeding a Garden

March is a great time to sort out any weeds that are showing after winter. Perennial weeds need to have the root sorted whilst annuals like bitter cress can be hoed off and starved of moisture.

Some tips for weeding a garden.

Firstly – Is It a Weed?

One of the most common questions in gardening is – what is a weed? Well one answer is that a weed is a plant that shouldn’t be there. This may differ from gardener to gardener. In fact, I like to tolerate daisies in my lawn because I think they look attractive. However, to others they may appear weeds. Of course there are some weeds that nobody would want in their garden like bindweed, Japanese knot weed e.t.c

Be Thorough.
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Magnolia Trees Bloom


Magnolia in Oxford


Magnolia bloom in early April

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My Chinodoxa – Glory of The Snow


Chinodoxa are beautiful, hardy spring flowering bulbs that are easy to grow. They grow 6inches tall from small bulbs and have pretty star-shaped flowers with long narrow leaves. (Also spelled Chionodoxa and common name Glory of the Snow)

Cultivation 0f Chinodoxa

They do well in most garden soil. Plant 2-3″ deep.
Chinodoxa are most effective when planted in clumps and allowed to naturalise.
Suitable for rockeries and growing in pots.
Flowers lasts for 3-4 weeks, after which both the flowers and the foliage die back.

Chinodoxa Varieties

Chinodoxa Lucilliae is widely available and flowers bright blue
Chinodoxa Luciliae Alba is a clear white with star shaped flowers in March.
Chinodoxa  Forbesii Pink Giant produces a wealth of pink flowers.
Chinodoxa Forbesii is bright blue with a white centre.

Chinodoxia Alba

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Tips for Growing Geraniums (Pelargonium)


There are two great uses for Geraniums that make it worth growing these fine flowering plants. Outdoors they make fantastic border plants and the red varieties are very popular in formal bedding schemes. The second use is as a long flowering houseplant and if you deadhead and feed you plants you will get lots of geraniums from one windowsill plant.

Geranium Cultivation

Grow from seed, plug plants or cuttings. They root quite easily from spring cuttings.
Plant out when the danger of frost has gone.
Geraniums can go straight into a border/bed or be put in containers, troughs or baskets.
Pinch-out the growing tip in April to encourage bushy plants.
Feed in summer with a high potash fertilizer to encourage more blooms.
Geraniums can survive with little water so can be planted in dry conditions but they do appreciate a drink like the rest of us.

Tips and Ideas for Planting Geraniums

Use one variety or colour and plant together to get a bold swathe of colour. Continue Reading →

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Growing Aubretia in Blue and Purple


Aubretia is available in many colours of blue through to the deepest purples. Reddish tinges help create the pinker varieties but it is the blues and mauves which really catch the eye.

  • Aubretia will tumble happily from cracks in walls, creep across rockeries, and crawl through the front of mixed borders.
  • Aubretia forms dense mats of evergreen foliage with a profusion of spring blooms, these little plants thrive in reasonably poor soils with a toughness that belies their beauty.
  • The leaves are a grey green and are not unsightly but cut back hard after flowering to promote a fresh flush of growth and maintain its compact form.
  • Aubretia is perennial and will spread for upto 24 inches at a low height of 2-3 inches.
  • Plant in any reasonably drained fertile soil and will spread naturally by seed. Aubretia is quite hardy.
  • Aubretia is also know and sold as Purple Rock Cress and Aubretia deltoides.

Aubretia plants and seeds are available from Thompson Morgan.  Once established you will get many years of happy spring  flowering.

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Tips for Growing Million Bells Petunia – Calibrachoa

A very popular plants for hanging baskets, pouches and containers, due to their fantastic flower power and colour range!

Characteristics of Million Bells
Upright plant with a mound forming habit, height 12″-15″ spread up to 20″
Blooms all season long, June to October
Easy to grow and maintain, deadheading unnecessary.
Heavy bloomer, well-branching that withstands hot summers.
Versatile in baskets, containers and borders.

Some of the named varieties also hint at the colour range now available :- Million Bells® Flamingo, Crackling Fire, Terracotta, Tangerine, Peaches and Cream, Lime, Neon Yellow and Apricot. Calibrachoa is the more accepted name and the series have been developed and registered by Suntory.

Growing Tips
Buy as plug plants and pot up plugs into 4″ pots to grow on for transplanting into final containers or baskets late May. Continue Reading →

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Help Growing Petunias


Petunias do not need to be lonely and relegated to the onion patch. Petunias are generally a very forgiving species of half-hardy annuals that are easy to grow from seed. Some special varieties may be easier to grow from plug plants or cuttings although it is not worth the effort of over wintering the plants.

Description of Petunias

  • Petunias generally have masses of vibrant coloured flowers throughout summer.
  • Leaves are fleshy, unremarkable and grey-green. That is no problem as they are usually covered in lots of blooms
  • Plants grow 6-12″ high or trail in the case of Surfina varieties.
  • A wide range of colours are available as demonstrated in these photos.
  • Grandiflora flowers can be large, showy and 4″ across or Million Bells varieties have masses of 1″ flowers.

Cultivation Tips for Growing Petunias

  • Petunias spread during summer and do well if watered and fed.
  • Use Petunias in containers, borders or hanging baskets.
  • Seed is very fine and hard to collect for next year.
  • Sow seed in late winter – mid spring at 21-27C on the surface of a good seed compost.
  • Do not exclude light, keep compost damp but not wet and seal in a polythene bag after sowing.
  • Germination usually takes 10-21 days.

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