Purple Pansy Please

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Winter pansies start to come into their own in February and March. It is also a great time to stock up on new pansies for the coming year.

Increase Your Pansies.

  • Kinder pots of seedlings are available for sale in many garden centers but they are usually only available for a few weeks. You need to prick them out and grow on so they are labour intensive but you may get as many plants as you would from your own seed packets.
  • Plug u grow are slightly larger pansy plants that also need protection and growing on until planted out.
  • Seed packets are available mail order or at many retail outlets. Purple rain smaller F1 spreading pansy Bingo a deep purple and Karma may fit your colour schemes.
  • In spring small and large trays of pansies are offered in ready to plant out modules. Thompson & Morgan search for seeds and plants

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Dahlia In Containers

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Dahlias are not the first flower you think about when looking for container plants. The large flowers from tuberous roots are very thirsty, very hungry and can grow 4-6 feet tall. So I would leave the dinner plate varieties alone unless you have an enormous pot or barrel.

Annual Dahlias may be the answer and there are many colourful mixes available to grow from seed. Mostly they are single flowered annuals and are less fussy than the larger varieties.

  • Bambino mix grow to 12-18″ tall miniature semi-double flowers that are recommended for bedding, pots and containers. Sow in February or March.
  • I like the idea of Bishops Children which are seeds to grow as offspring from the Bishop of llandaff and various cathedral cities which have red-purple dark leaves and red to orange flowers. They are mid sized dahlias from seed and you may grow a great flower.
  • Double Extreme is an attractive dwarf selection, producing a mass of high quality double and semi double flowers in an rich colour mixture.

If you want to try larger flowered varieties, preferrably in their own space with lots of compost and mulch the Thompson Morgan have a selection.

Enjoy growing Dahlias and let us know how you get on with containers. Read about Cactus flowering Dahlias.

Dark leaved Bishop’s children Dahlias are looking very good as Autumn comes to an end. Children will be surprised the leaves are not green and the flowers remain so colourful read more
See a mosaic of Pink Dahlias with top ten pointers

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Best Snowdrop Tips and Locations

Snowdrops are officially called Galanthus. This snowdrop is Galanthus elwessii with larger than normal blooms and a honey scent the other main species are Nivalis and Plicatus. The snowdrop is very hardy, grows in most soils and prefers partial shade.

Gardeners Snowdrop Tips

  • Other AGM snowdrops include Galanthus nivalis and the double flowered version pleniflorus ‘Flora Pleno.’
  • For late flowering Galanthus there is a bell shaped flower Diggory or David Shakelton, Ikariae or Hill Poe
  • One of the earliest flowering is called Atkinsii.
  • For double varieties there is Lady Elphinstone, Nivalis  Flore Peno,  Hill Poe and Mrs Thompson.
  • Reginae-olgae can prove tricky to cultivate and seems to appreciate a drier and sunnier spot than but it is autumn flowering
  • There are some 75 species of snowdrop and many more cultivars and hybrids. Well worth making a collection of your favourites.


  • Snowdrop bulbs should not be allowed to dry out or they die.
  • Plant  with green leaves shortly after flowering no later than mid summer as they go dormant.
  • You can do worse that scrounge off neighbors when they split clumps as snowdrops spread quite effectively.
  • Snowdrops do not come true to seed except species but you can propagate by twin scaling.

The process was originally developed for narcissus, but works well with galanthus producing 10-30 new bulbs from one old one.

Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus by M. Bishop Continue Reading →

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Fertilizers for Growth

Growmore Fertiliser

Feed Your Plants

Plants need food at the right time and in roughly the right quantities to deliver the best results for you in terms of flowers, leaves or fruit. Fertilizer is a concentrated form of food as opposed to bulky conditioners and organic manures. On bottles or boxes of fertilizer you will often see the N P K ratios where N = Nitrogen, P = Phosphates and K = Potassium.

Nitrogen encourages leaf growth so it is useful for Lawns, Houseplants, Spinach or other leafy vegetables. Good leave coverage is also important for photosynthesis so virtually all plants need nitrogen but too much can make a plant ‘soft’.

Phosphates are needed for healthy root growth in seedlings and beetroot or parsnips. Onions are big feeders on super phosphates or bone meal.

Potassium in the form of potash encourages flowering, fruiting and good colour. It is an essential component for feeding Tomatoes and other heavy feeders like Roses and Sweetpeas.

Bought Fertilizers

On my Baby Bio plant food bottle the NPK ratio is 10.6- 4.4 -1.7 which shows it is formulated for house plants which are often grown for foliage hence the high nitrogen content. Roots are also important in houseplants whilst flowers are often preordained at the growers prior to sale. If you are trying to get your plant to flower for a second or subsequent time you may want to use some tomato feed occasionally.
My other household fertilizer is a concentrated tomato feed 26- 17 -52 which is much more skewed to flowers and fruit. The higher these figures the greater the concentration of fertilizer and the more dilution you may need.

Organic fertilizers like blood, fish and bone and bone meal, hoof & horn and guano have a place in most gardens particularly for organic culture. Growmore is one of my staples for fertilising the garden prior to planting out and has equal proportions of NPK usually about 7-7-7.

Applying the Feed

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Seeds to Grow Next Year

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This list of seeds is just a short selection of those I may grow this summer  January is a good time to read seed catalogues


Alyssum Carpet of Snow the dwarf spreading variety that grows 8cm high . I bought by weight to get a quantity that will fill parts of the garden with that strong floral fragrance in late summer.

Alyssum Royal Carpet a deep violet I have not tried before – just a packet for fun.

Antirrhinum Tall Cut flowering to about 2 feet tall and useful for cutting. My first choice La Bella F1 were sold out so I will try again next year.

Aquilegia Alans Delight bought to give to a friend called Alan who admired my Aquilegia and has just started an allotment

Gaillardia New Giant Hybrids a two foot tall mix of this desirable perennial.

Helenium Helena a perennial to flower in the first season, bought for cut flowers


Courgette Green Bush for cutting when small a family favourite amongst the vegetarians

Courgette Tuscany F1 as it is resistant to mildew and I am worried about another damp summer

Parsnip Improved Marrow from an organic collection of canker resistant strain

Broad Bean Witkiem Manita for early beans to be sown in February

Broad Bean Masterpiece Long Pod as a contrast to the other beans

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Hedges of Laurel


The large leaves of the evergreen  spotted laurel, Acuba japonica crotonifolia, are not one of my favourites but my wife likes them. This could be because she comes from the seaside where they tolerate the salty winds.

Tips and Other Laurels

  • Cuttings can be taken in summer April to August – seeds are poisonous
  • The gold-blotched and finely-speckled leaves  show the best colour in full sun but will tolerate shade.
  • Flowering periods are usually April to May this is a versatile evergreen shrub for almost anywhere in the garden. Slow-growing, it will only reach 5-6 feet after ten years.
  • Laurels thrives in most soils, including dry ground near hedges and trees.
  • Shrubs may be  pruned to create hedges or left to grow unchecked.
  • The dwarf cherry laurel Prunus laurocerasus “Otto Luyken ” is a dense evergreen shrub. It has upright dark green glossy narrow leaves. It has spikes of white flowers in the Spring followed by cherry-like fruits.
  • They are related to the Portuguese laurel, Prunus lustianica, with their red winter stems.
  • Prune laurels carefully with secateurs to avoid damaging the leaves.
  • The Laurel or Acuba crotonifolia is either male or female with the latter bearing berries.


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Different Pots for Plants


Unusual plant pots can make a different and eye catching features. These old steel capped boots should have had holes in the soles and the alpines are a good choice of plants for this display.  I like the moss beginning to grow on the right boot, I bet the old gardener didn’t let the grass grow under his feet.

Old gardening equipment can be recycled and called into service for a second time. An anodized watering can can be suspended from a tree used as a pot, or more creatively as part of a water fountain in a continious pouring action.  I am envious of the old wheel barrows that have been called into service as a mobile plant pots sometimes with a range of plants you wouldn’t expect to see close up. The extra height makes for less bending and the barrow can be repositioned whenever required. Perhaps they should sell modified barrows just for eye-level plant displays. They would work well on hard landscaped gardens or to show off special plants.

My wild life garden pond is an old plastic dustbin buried in an out of the way spot and disguised by Hellebores.

Whilst not an unusual plant pot I grow all sorts of seasonal plants in pots to be burried in gaps or lifted as I wish. I have a lot of tulips growing in this manner. It also helps to keep plants in a defined geometric shapes and this can be an added attraction.

Give your imagination free reign and let us know what new garden features you come up with.

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Golden Winter Colour

Lonicera nitida Baggessen's Gold

What colours predominate in the grey winter days when greens seem muddy and mud seems very grey. Well I like golden yellow colours and here are a couple of January examples that didn’t take much trouble finding in the garden during a short sunny spell.

Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ tips you off in the title. This relative of the honeysuckle is grown for its leaf and the ability to prune to shape. It will not flower and is easy to propagate from cuttings. Unpruned the leaves can appear bicoloured but young growth will be fresh and bright golden coloured. It is easy to prune and a very forgiving shrub. Close up these small ovate leaves are not made from gold leaf unfortunately.

Tight leaf formation

Choisya ternata Sundance was another yellow shrub doing its best in the weak January sun this afternoon. If the winter is too prolonged some young yellow leaves may get slightly frost burnt but despite -8 degrees last week these shrubs are still showing well. I also like the smell of bruised leaves and the delicate white spring blossom. This golden wonder performs even in a crisp winter frost.

Choisya ternata golden sun

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10 New Year Gardening Resolutions


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My gardening New Year Resolutions

  1. Enjoy The Garden. Will take time to enjoy the garden without feeling obliged to pick up weeds …
  2. Grow more from seed. There is a thrill in growing things from seed. Will use cold frame and pots to grow sweet peas. – Hard work, but, one plant always worth the effort.
  3. Will be more focused in Doing jobs. A lot of my gardening is done without planning. I just go out in my slippers to pick some flowers and before I know it – I’ve started cutting back a shrub and pulling up pernicious weeds. It means I often do jobs without proper tools or focus. If really target 1 problem at a time with all the right equipment, you can solve it rather than doing things half heartedly.
  4. Be Bolder. As gardeners, we often think what would other people do, what are we supposed to do. I’m going to be bolder in planting sweet peas and tall plants in front garden, which has traditionally been a place of low growing bedding plants.
  5. Time Saving Plans. Some bamboo has become time consuming, because it is sending runners all over the place. Rather than dealing with the endless runners – I’m just going to take it all out and replant something new or a bamboo which definitely doesn’t send runners everywhere.
  6. Build a Pond. A pond will attract more wildlife and add a new element of interest. I have been put off doing it because it is a big project, so I’m going to scale down the size to something more manageable and add it.
  7. Spend as much time Planting as weeding. Last year, I was always weeding and creating wonderful beds of blank soil. The result was I didn’t have enough time to spend time growing plants from seed / diving e.t.c. This is the fun part of gardening so I will do more of it.
  8. Grow Something new. For the past few years, I have been relying on same plants. There is great fun in trying something new from seed – something completely different and see how it gets on.
  9. Visit More Gardens. The best way to gain inspiration from a garden is not through books or talking about it, but visiting other gardens. Visiting  professional and well kempt gardens you come back with lots of enthusiasm for creating a better garden and also combinations of plants which work well.
  10. Clean Tools. A good gardener doesn’t just keep order in the garden, but, also his tool shed. If tools are kept in great working order – blades sharp and well oiled then it makes the whole experience of garden more enjoyable.


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Roses in Winter


What to do with Roses  in Winter

  • Planning ahead  in January to get the best from your garden roses can be a restful pastime. What varieties and forms do you want to try? Check out some catalogues for ideas and more information.
  • Tidy up leaves that may hold blackspot spores
  • Prune any broken or damaged branches. Tie up loose ramblers or climbers.
  • Spray with tar-oil wash to kill over-wintering pests if you are troubled by them.
  • Prepare sites for new roses to be planted in spring. Double dig the ground and add organic matter, compost, humus and/or manure. Mix in bone meal or long lasting fertilizer.
  • Transplant any old roses you wish to move but into a fresh site where roses have not been grown before. Continue Reading →
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