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.

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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 →

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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 →

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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

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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

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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 →

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Books on Primula, Auriculas and Polyanthus

Book Cover
The Primula; Being the Report on the Primula Conference Held at South Kensington, 1886, Together with a Report on the Orchid Nomenclature Conference,

Comment on Primula Books

The internet can’t give you all the knowledge and joy that a book can provide. I am biased as I collect gardening books but am drawing the line at buying books that are digital publications of the Wiki content (sorry I have included one book in this list of books on the Primula family.)
Books and records on the history of plants and how they have been grown, bred and developed can add extra interest for the gardening amateur, professional or obsessional alike.
This is just a list of some of the books in English about Primulas and related species that are available, even if currently out of print.
Part of the fun is adding to a collection via secondhand book shops and I hope to add to this list as I realise other books are in publication.

Book Cover

Primula by John Richards

Primula The Complete Guide by Mary A Robinson shares a fount of knowledge from her nursery in Lincolnshire.

Generic Primula Books

Primulas by Sidney Clapham (1973)
Primulas by A. G Puttock (1957)
Primulas Old and New by Jack Wemyss-Cooke
The Genus Primula In Cultivation And The Wild. by J. J. Halda (1992)
Hardy primulas by H.G Lyall (1959)
Primrose and Polyanthus by Peter Ward
Synoptic Guide to the Genus Primula by G. K. Fenderson
A Plantsman’s Guide to Primulas (Plantsman’s Guide Series) by Philip Swindells (23 Mar 1989)
Primulas of the British Isles (Shire natural history) by John Richards (Jun 1989)
Primulas Of Europe & America. by Smith GF & Burrow B & Lowe D B an excellent Alpine Garden Society Guide
Asiatic Primulas Gardeners’ Guide by Roy Green
‘Primula’ Wikipedia consolidated articles
Book Cover

Auricula and Polyanthus Books

Book Cover
Primroses and Auriculas Wisley Handbook by Peter Ward
The Auricula: History, Cultivation and Varieties by Allan Guest
Auriculas Through the Ages: Bear’s… by Patricia Cleveland-Peck
Auriculas for Everyone: How to Grow and Show Perfect Plants by Mary A. Robinson
Auriculas and Primroses by W.R. Hecker (22 Apr 1971)
Auriculas: Their Care and Cultivation (Illustrated Monographs S) by Brenda Hyatt (22 Jun 1989)
Auriculas by Roy Genders (1958)
Auriculas by Gwen Baker and Peter Ward (5 May 1995)
Alpine Auriculas. by Telford Derek (1993)
Florists’ auriculas and gold-laced polyanthus by C.G Haysom (1957)
The auricula its culture and history. yr. 1898 by George William Johnson (1 Jan 1847)

Book Cover
Auriculas: An Essential Guide (Crowood Essential Guides) by Paul Dorey

Primroses and polyanthus by Harold Charles Taylor (1954)
The polyanthus for garden exhibition and market (Foyle’s Handbooks) by Roy Genders (1958)
The POLYANTHUS : Its History and Culture. by Genders Roy (1963)

I am happy to receive any additions or corrections to this list via the comments section.

Auriculas for Everyone
Mary A. Robinson.
GMC Publications.
ISBN 1-86108-149-9
£14.50 plus £2.50 p&p

G.Baker & P.Ward
B.T.Batsford Ltd.
ISBN 0-7134-7366-5

Book Cover

The Auricula: History, Cultivation and Varieties Allan Guest

Auriculas – Their Care and Cultivation
B.Hyatt Cassell, London.
ISBN 0-304-34070-7

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Remarkable Gooseberry Tips

Sweet or sharp and sour the gooseberry is a remarkable soft fruit.

What a grand way to grow Gooseberries ‘up a stick’ (or Cordon).   Trained like ballerina apples this  Gooseberry variety London was grown as one vertical trunk. Gooseberry London has very large oval fruit with a smooth skin. The flavour is good and is normally a spreading bush but it makes few branches. It is renown as heavy yielding as can be seen below from a 1st June photo below.

Planting Layout

  • Two rows one meter apart were created by 3 very stout posts 4’6″ above the ground and a similar distance apart. Vine wire was strung between the posts to create a rigid support.
  • Two cordon plants supported by their own cane were placed between each post (4 per row).
  • The Gooseberries grew 5-6 feet tall and were pruned to have only one main vertical stem. Other growth is pruned out in March to channel energy into fruiting.
  • Despite some Saw Fly damage the quantity and quality of fruit was exceptional.
  • Double cordons can also be grown in a similar manner

Continue Reading →

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Gooseberry History


One of the first fruits to be available for the kitchen and table each year, the gooseberry is an old stalwart. Rhubarb is earlier but is not a true fruit but a herb, still both are good in crumbles.

Gooseberries Since the Middle Ages

  • Great show varieties have names redolent of our military past such as Roaring Lion, Hero of the Nile, Wellingtons Glory or my favourite Hampson’s Tantararara. Far better than the soppy names used for plants in the 21st century.
  • Gooseberry bushes can easily live for 30-50 years and are one of the reasons for their longlived popularity
  • Edward I had gooseberry bushes planted at Tower Bridge in 1275
  • The young leaves were eaten and used as a diuretic according to 16th century Herbals.
  • Gooseberry clubs were popular in England from the 19th century
  • Gooseberries make jam and are grown for pectin for other fruit jams.
  • Gooseberries thrive in most parts of the British Isles.
  • The world record berry weighs 2.19oz and is from the Woodpecker variety
  • The phrase “to play gooseberry” comes from the days when the fruit was a euphemism for the devil.

Gooseberry Shows

  • Competitive gooseberry shows were wide spread but growing for size rather than flavour has fallen out of favour. A handful of shows still survive.
  • Egton Bridge, on the North York Moors National Park, is the setting for the oldest surviving gooseberry show in the country.
  • The show is held in August each year as it has been since 1800. It is organised by the Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Society.
  • Gooseberry shows were particularly popular over the North of England but have dwindled from about 170 to only 20.
  • Show photos

Links and Sources


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Regal Pelargonium Images

Sumptuous flowers from a houseplant we often call a geranium.
Regal pelargonium

Regal Pelargonium prefer a clay pot and plenty of calcium, so hard water is ideal for watering rather than rain water which will be softer.

Regal pelargonium

Regal Pelargonium do not require as much cutting back and require a slightly higher winter temperature than zonals.

Regal pelargonium

Never allow Regal Pelargonium plants to dry out completely as the roots will seal and blackleg will kill your plant.

Regal Pelargonium Mrs Innes Rogers

Deadhead old flowers frequently and feed regularly with high potash so that they will perform as well as your Zonals.

Pelargonium regal
Growing Regal Geranium Pelargonium

Regal Pelargoniums

Build Your Regal Geranium Collection

pink regal pelargonium

Crimped edges on some petals add to the allure.


‘Apparently this is a Regal Pelargonium’ sure is David(ed).

regal pelargonium

Other links and information on Pelargoniums

Top 10 Scented leaved Pelargoniums
Pelargonium Grandiflorum and other ‘Geraniums’
Stellar Pelargonium – Bird Dancer Geranium
Photogenic Pelargonium
The Secret of Geranium (Pelargonium) Cuttings
Growing Regal Geranium Pelargonium
Miniature Pelargonium
Dwarf Pelargonium aka Geranium
Tips for Growing Geraniums (Pelargonium)

Regal Pelargoniums by Destinys Agent CC BY-NC 2.0
pink regal pelargonium by Chris & Angela Pye CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
IMG_2434 by DavidQuick CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Swanland Nurseries Pelargonium Cultural tips

Thompson & Morgan supply seeds and plants in season.

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