Flowers in Soft Colours and Pastel Shades

This autumn has produced many great displays of reds and yellows but think on about next years softer colours.

The garish and brash have no place in some muted garden designs. Out with fiery reds and sizzling oranges and in with pastels and soft colours.

White and Creams

  • Stark white doesn’t always work for me. A pure white Campanula may draw the attention away from the surrounding display.
  • White edging such as Alyssum works well and as with other white flowers looks good with dark green leaves.
  • Off-white is a favourite and some cream Roses work extremely well in soft colour schemes.
  • Avoid creams that verge on being pale yellow.
  • White in leaf colour as with some variegated Hostas helps lift a colour scheme.

harlow 17.4 027

Pink – Shocking or Candyfloss

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Tips for Dark Winter Gardening

Book Cover

What can gardeners do in the cold wet months of December and January? The soil will probably be cold and wet as so will be the weather particularly if you live in the north of England.
Stay warm and dry and do all the cleaning and maintenance jobs you have avoided. When the growing season starts in earnest you wont have the time.

One tip for indoors is to invest in a ‘blue light’ or natural light bulb. This can con plants into thinking the days are a bit longer and the light levels a bit brighter.

A top ten tips

  1. Curl up with a good internet connection and browse away on the host of gardening web sites including Gardenerstips.
  2. Ask Father Christmas for a gardening book on your favourite subject or by a popular set of authors like Matthew Biggs, John Cushnie, Bob Flowerdew, and Anne Swithinbank.
  3. Plan your garden campaign for the coming seasons. Record what you want to achieve and the actions that will help you achieve it.
  4. Order your seeds and summer bulbs from a quality supplier.
  5. Check your over wintering plants, cuttings and stored vegetables.

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Scented Indoor Plants


Do you remember scratch and sniff adverts during the 1980′s? Well, you can grow your own sniffs without needing to scratch them. Top of my pile is going to be scented Orchids but there are many other house plants with exotic scent.

Scented Houseplants

  • Orchid dendrobium is the second largest group of orchids after bullbophylium. Many species and hybrids are scented including kingianum, loddigesii, monoliforme and nobile. I find the white varieties are strongest in the scent stakes. Star Class is a variety being strongly marketed this year
  • Gardenia have glossy green leaves that set off the pearl coloured flowers of the seasonally named Snowball. The scent is nothing like a snowball unless it has been dunked in Channel No 5.
  • Third and last choice in white flowers (from pale pink buds) has to be the popular Jasmine. A twiner often grown in a loop or on a framework the scent is powerful even ‘heaven-scent’ according to RHS adverts.
  • Back to Orchids with Sharry Baby an Orchid Oncidium with a vanilla scent. (Vanilla is a spice made from Orchid seeds ). The flowers are small but there are going to be lots of them.
  • Keeping it simple you can’t go wrong with Hyacinths either forced for Christmas time flowering or natural for later scented blooms. Newer multiflowered varieties have masses of bloom but I found they were not as strongly scented as selected individual flowers.
  • Short in flowering time when indoors but strong on scent the Narcissus Pheasant Eye, Erlicheer, Cheerfulness or Paperwhite are hard to beat.

Cattleya Angelwalker

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Take a Cue and Queue for Kew Succulents

Kew 150

I took this photograph of a flowering succulent in Kew garden arid house in early spring.
Foolishly I failed to note the name of the plant,.

To try to trace some of the pictures I took at the same time I bought a book ‘Exotic Houseplants’ and that led me to look at Luckhoffia beukmanii as a possible species but sadly not.

For more Kew succulent photographs
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Echium candicans an Exotic to Grow

One of 60 species in the borage family Echium candicans can be a stunning flower in the right location and that is probably not the North of England.
Echium candicans
‘The Pride of Maderia’ is an Echium named candicans. It is more photogenic than my photograph indicates.

Growing Echium candicans

  • Echium candicans is an evergreen perennial that may act as a biennial but can grow quite bushy if it likes the conditions.
  • In the first year Echium candicans produces a broad rosette of leaves then in subsequent years blue or purple-blue spires of flowers on short stalks.
  • It grows in dry sunny positions and is very drought tolerant.
  • Echium candicans is not frost tolerant so cover it in fleece when frost threatens and hope for the best.
  • Flowers attract insects and birds.
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Gallardia and Monardia are Ardia plants to Grow

Monarda Gardenview Scarlet

As a suffix Ardia can mean ‘continuous quality’ (on its own it means ‘Sheep’ in Basque.) I guess the former definition is why Gallardia and Monardia are so named but then again….

‘Monarda astromontana Bees’ Favourite has masses of flower spikes bearing tiers of soft mauve flowers are produced by this quick and easy to grow border plant. It flowers easily in its first season from an early sowing, producing a bold display of flowers over a long period. Exceptional for its unusually shaped flowers on strong square stems and the rich minty fragrance, which is freely released when the plant is brushed. Compact upright habit and makes a very neat and tidy plant which will add structure and shape to the border, particularly if planted in groups of three. Excellent for cutting and beloved by bees. Requirements: One of the easiest perennials to cultivate. Happy in sun or light shade and any ordinary garden soil, although they prefer a rich moisture retentive soil which doesn’t dry out in the summer. They are very easy to grow, the mat like roots soon forming a large clump. In dry soils they don’t grow quite so tall.’

Monardia seeds as described above from Thompson and Morgan

As a suffix Ardia can mean ‘continuous quality’ (on its own it means ‘Sheep’ in Basque.) I guess the former definition is why Gallardia and Monardia are so named but then again….

Gallardia is a clump forming perennial that produces stunning red and yellow flowers.
Gallardia Arista Goblin is a low growing variety, which often flowers in the first year from sowing. Mid-height plants produce masses of fiery red blooms surrounded by a ring of rich flame yellow.

Seeds from Thompson and Morgan

See Monardia or Bee Balm

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Help with Growing Persicaria

Available in Red Pink and Mauve shades there are many versions of Persicaria to grow in your garden.

Help Chosing Places for Growing Persicaria

  • As moisture loving plants Persicaria are used in boggy areas or near water.
  • Most Persicaria have creeping stems and bottle brush flowers that form good ground cover.
  • There varieties suitable for the rock garden and even aquatic ones for the pond.
  • Some varieties look good in a cottage garden or as part of a mixed border.

Help Selecting and Growing Persicaria

  • Dead head spent blooms by pulling off the flowering stem at its base to encourage further flowers throughout the summer.
  • Whilst Persicaria prefer moist soil most will tolerate dry conditions but won’t spread in those circumstances.
  • Propagate by division, splitting larger clumps in autumn or spring.
  • Persicaria nepalensis is low creeping ground cover for shade. Boldly patterned leaves turn redder in the sun.
  • Persicaria amplexicaulis “Blackfield” has slender flowers in very deep red.
  • Persicaria virginiana Variegata is grown for its variegated leaves
  • Persicaria polymorpha has large pointed leaves and white heads of frothy flowers in May.
  • Persicaria affinis “Superba” or Dimity AGM has pink flowers and leaves that turn red in autumn

Persicaria bistorta
Persicaria are from the family Polygonaceae which includes the weed like Polygonums. However the herbaceous species named above make good garden plants.

Like many flowers Persicari bistorta repays close attention. From afar the flowers look small and unexceptional but close too they are frilly and delightful tubes of flower power.

Persicaria bistorta

The RHS says ‘Persicaria can be annuals, herbaceous or evergreen perennials or sub-shrubs with simple leaves and small bell-shaped white or pink flowers in long-lasting spikes or panicles’ and have awarded an AGM to Polygonum amplexicaule ‘Fire Tail’

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Himalayan Gardens in England

Book Cover

First read the authoritative book ‘The Himalayan Garden: Growing Plants from the Roof of the World ‘ by Jim Jermyn

This book will provide tips and advice about cultivating species indigenous to the Himalayas. Understanding the ecology of the area gives a better appreciation of the Himilayan garden. It covers all the usual species including but not limited to Daphne, Euphorbia, Gentiana, Meconopsis, Primula and the classic Rhododendron. The book also considers different zones that are worth bearing in mind as we only associate Himalayas with big mountains. Jim covers chapters on Temperate, Sub-alpine and Alpine zones.

So now you are better prepared where can you visit?

  • The Himalayan garden The Hutts, Grewelthorpe, near Ripon Yorkshire not only has an interesting address but a good display of hybrid Rhododendrons. Also on display are Eucryphia, Bamboo and Cornus.
  • Also in Yorkshire is Harewood Himalayan garden opened by Alan Titchmarsh, in May 2009, says ‘The Harewood Himalayan Garden is a hidden gem and second to none in the UK…’
  • At Muncaster in the lake district check out the wonderful Sino-Himalayan Garden featuring many specimens rarely seen in the West.
  • If on the other hand you want your kids to have fun seek out Yeti at Riverhill Himalayan garden or climb the summit of Little Everest (the biggest hill in Sevenoaks)

Suppliers and other locations are listed on Rhododendron growers Glendoick’s web site.

See also Himalayan Gardens near Home

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Himalayan Gardens in Yorkshire

In Yorkshire we are lucky to have several gardens designed using the theme of a Himalayan Garden. Near Ripon at Grewlthorpe is   ‘The Himalayan Garden’ with all the plants you would expect in such a setting including

Rhododendrons both Hybrid and Species over 50 varieties
Evergreen and Deciduous Azaleas
Eucryphia varieties growing 10′ – 30′ as trees and large shrubs
Magnolias and Camellias
Primulas and Meconopsis
Himalayan garden Grewelthorpe Meconopsis7
Visit between April and June for the best colour display.
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Antirrhinum siculum in Soller

Antirrhinum siculum

The Sicilian Antirrhinum is yellow in flower and has thin atypical leaves.
These pictures were captured in Majorca at the botanic Garden at Soller.

Wild plants of Malta has the best description, history and morphology and I would recommend you check it out if you are interested in Antirrhinum siculum

Antirrhinum siculum

Somehow I doubt the plant will grow in Yorkshire. I will stick to my own Snapdragons

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