Architectural Phormium

Tips for Growing Phormium

  • Phormiums make a striking architectural plant and feature in your garden.
  • Called New Zealand flax the sword like leaves are leathery and useful for flower decorations.
  • This variety of variegated Phormium tenax is 6 foot tall.
  • Plants are usually vegetatively propagated  so look like the parent plant.
  • Some plants can be grown from seed but I have no experience.
  • Try Phormium as a potted plant.
  • Propagate by division cutting slices from the edge of a root ball.

Lots of varieties including, Apricot Queen, Black Edge, Bronze, Bronze Baby, Co-ordination, Copper Beauty, Coppershine, Dark Delight, Duet, Emerald Isle, Emerald Pink, Evening Glow, Gold Sword, Jack Spratt, Jester, Maori Sunrise, Pink Panther, Pink Stripe, Platt’s Black, Rainbow Maiden, Rubra, Sundance, Surfer Boy, Thumbelina, Tom Thumb, Tricolor, Yellow Wave. are available from


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Chrysanthemum – Pot Mums


Last year I had a colourful,  long lasting display of short Chrysanthemums grown in pots. The purple variety had hundreds of flowers on each plant and looked good despite a general lack of care other than the frequent watering of the container. I have kept them over winter in a cool greenhouse and they are bulking up quite well for another show this year. One problem is that they are not as compact as last year so I will have to see how they perform.

Pot Mum Pointers

  • Chrysanthemums start to form buds and flower once the nights start to get longer.
  • Spray Chrysanthemums will grow a bit lax if they are over fed but  a balanced feed will suit the pot mums.
  • Pinching out the growing tip helps increase the amount of flower. June is the last time I will  pinch out my pot plants this season.
  • You can often buy multi-packs of plants suitable for containers or borders even in June. If already in flower I snip the flowers off to get a bushier later flowering plant.
  • Put Mums grown as indoor plants can be planted outdoors. They may have been treated with chemicals to modify the plants behaviour so you wont necessarily get the same result outdoors.

Continue Reading →

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Rhododendron Care and Deadheading after Flowering

It is hard to know where to start with Rhododendrons and the 850+ species. Perhaps a good book will help the beginner get an overview.

Book Cover

Failing that there is membership of the RHS specialist section The Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group. This society controls ‘The International Rhododendron Register and Checklist’ of the named 29,000 +varieties, cultivars and group names.


  • Look out for plants with the Award of Garden Merit including the following Lepidote species Augustinii, Edgeworthii, Keiskei, Racemosum and Yunnanense.
  • Elepidote species are generally larger and AGM’s include Niveum, Morii, Fluvum, Arboreum and Decorum.

Soon the display of colourful Rhododendrons will falter and be over for another year. I still like the leaf colours, textures and shapes and Rhododendrons are easy to for.
There are some good tips to get a great show next spring, it is never to early too start.


Deadheading Rhododendrons

On the above photo the petals have just fallen and the long,  tubular seedheads are just beginning to form.
It is not worth letting the seedheads fill up and develop as you are unlikely to be trying to breed your own from seed. So any energy put into the seedheads is energy lost from next years plant and flowers.
If you look closely on the next picture you will see that at either side of the seed spikes there are leaf buds. Generally there are two leaf buds for each dead flower.


It can be a long job on a large Rhododendron but I pinch out the seedheads to divert energy back to the shrub and give the leaf buds space to develop.
Pinching the often sticky seedsheads, I give a twist to break the stem just above the new leaf joint. It only takes a little practice, you soon pick up the knack without causing any damage. To me it is therapeutic on a warm spring afternoon to be helping channel the natural energy into plants that have given so much pleasure already.


Here you can see the seeds have been removed and added to the compost heap. The light green new buds will generate leaves and new branches that can develop in the space now vacated.
Failing to deadhead is not to say leaving the shrub to its own devices will be a failure but as we are growing for ornamental purposes every bit to care helps. In the wild Rhododendrons manage quite nicely thank you without this TLC.

Rhododendron Care after Flowering

Try some commonsense housekeeping but leave the pruning shears in the shed.
New flower buds for next year are formed on Rhododendrons during summer so I try keep them well supplied with water.
Rhododendrons are shallow rooted so they like a drink and an occasional feed of ericaceous fertiliser.
After flowering and a wet spell in late spring I often give the Rhododendrons a top dressing of peat (Agh! I hear some of you say but it is the natural ericaceous medium for Rhododendrons).
I also sometimes spray with diluted Miracle Grow ericaceous fertiliser.
Keep the area weed free. I find the canopy of Rhododendron leaves works well keeping weeds down.

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Best Gardening Tools

From my experience of gardening, these are some of my favourite and most useful gardening tools.

  1. Secateurs. When it comes to secateurs, there is no  point in buying some cheap variety. I recommend buying a really good pair and looking after them (i.e. don’t leave them out in the rain!).    Secateurs are the most versatile and indispensable tool in the garden. They can be used from everything from pruning to picking flowers. With secateurs you can feel like an artist in the garden! – Secateurs at Amazon
  2. Long Handled Shears. I’ll never forget the first time we bought my mother a pair of long handled shears, it makes the job of cutting lawn edges so much easier and more satisfying. Don’t break your back and knees using old shears. Get some long handled shears and make it easier. Long handled shears
  3. Stainless steel spade and trowel are expensive but well worth the extra investment. Do not short change on your tools.
  4. Bulb Planter. A bulb planter makes planting bulbs easier but also more targeted and specific. It means that you can plant bulbs in grass or borders. It is particularly useful for small gardens where you need precision in planting bulbs. Bulb Planters
  5. Cold Frame. A cold frame offers excellent value for the keen gardener. If you grow a modest range of seeds, you can get a lot of benefit from a cold frame without the cost and difficulty of a greenhouse. A cold frame can be used for hardening off plants and bringing plants on. Cold Frame
  6. Hoe. On a dry day when the soil is dry, there is nothing more satisfying than  a bit of hoeing, killing off all the unwanted weeds, with easy movements, a great gardening job – much easier than getting down on your knees with a trowel. Hoe
  7. Garden Stool. Great for getting up off the ground and keeping your knees dry. Can be turned over for impromptu stool. Garden Stools
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Easy Houseplants Tradescantia – Wandering Jew


Wandering Jew is the common name of Tradescantia purpurea shown above. the leaves have a brownish  upper surface with a purple underside and fleshy paler stems. The colourvarieation is stronger if the plants get plenty of light.

How to grow Tradescantia

  • Put five or six cuttings together in the same pot. This will produce several plants and a fuller pot.
  • Tradescantia purpurea likes a moist soil whilst other Tradescantias like to be kept on the dry side. Purpurea can be kept in a shallow pot and are not a trailing variety.
  • The quicksilver Tradesacntia fluminensis is bold and bright with silvery variegation on the leaves from a supply of bright light. this is a trailing variety that likes a regular liquid feed.
  • The trailing Tradescantia blossfeldiana has pale green hairy foliage capable of withstanding rough treatment. It is easy to root from cuttings. Often grown in hanging baskets it needs less feeding than other Tradescantias.
  • Trim back straggly growth after summer. Root new cuttings on a regular basis using them to fill gaps in the pot.
  • Tradescantia flower with three petals but it is the leaf form that attracts most attention. Continue Reading →
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Ash – Root and Branch Review

frêne fraxinus
Common Ash trees row widely in the UK and other Ashes grow in Asia and America. Our Ash has dark almost black buds and some species have interesting flowers but it is as a tree the provided wood to make bows that the Ash is best known in Britain.

Key Features of the Ash

  • Latin name – Fraxinus excelsior – other names; Common Ash or European Ash
  • Height – up to 150 feet
  • Type of tree – Deciduous
  • Leaves – Green pinate with 7-15 ovate-oblong leaflets
  • Flowers – small purplish in short clusters
  • Fruit – winged keys in clusters of glossy green turning brown
  • Bark – grey-brown fissured when mature
  • Family – Oleaceae

Origins and Distribution of the Ash

  • Grows widely across Europe and there are many North American species.
  • Tolerant of wind swept and coastal areas.

Common Ash Tree

Uses and Attributes of the Ash

  • Ash can make a noble shade tree quite quickly.
  • Use to make bows, hurling sticks, baseball bats and historically car and plane frames.
  • Strong, flexible and easy to turn the wood also burns well and is used in some smoking.

Gardeners Tips for the Ash

  • Select a smaller growing variety like the Manna Ash.
  • Dislikes sandy or acid soil.
  • Weeping Ash make a statement tree.

Ash Tree

Other types of Ash and key species

  • Members of the Sorbus family, Mountain Ashes or Rowans are unrelated.
  • Fraxinus is an extensive genus of hardy Ash trees including White Ash or Autumn Purple Ash, Black Ash, Blue Ash, Singleleaf Ash and Fragrant Ash.
  • The Ornus group of Ashes are attractive flowering trees also called Manna Ash.

Ash comments from elsewhere

  • In Norse mythology the first man was made from Ash.
  • Yggdrasil the ‘Tree of the World’ is thought to be an Ash

Read about our series on British tree reviews with a bakers dozen fact sheets

frêne fraxinus by Luberon (sb) CC BY-NC 2.0
Common Ash Tree by denovich CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Ash Tree by Gemma Grace CC BY-NC 2.0

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‘Ready’ Primula Plants for Spring

It is mid July and I have just placed an order for some colourful spring Primulas.
Choosing from a good selection at   Jersey Plants Direct  I opted for Auriculas and Rosebud Primroses.  As an alternative I could have ordered  Polyanthus (primrose flowers on stems) or a wide range of self-coloured primroses.

frosted auricula

What and Why Buy Now

  • Ordering now, the plants should be delivered in good time to be planted and settled whilst the soil is warm and getting damp.
  • I do not do well growing these plants from seeds (which is very expensive) so I find the investment in plants well worthwhile.
  • My supplier offers various sizes of seedlings from 160  plugs 4-8cm, ‘Ready’ plants 6-10 cm, jumbo 7-11cm and super jumbo 8-12 in 5.7cm wide modules. I opted for the ready size as growing on small plants in the past has caused me higher losses
  • The quantities mean I can split the delivery into two and plant half in a cold frame and half in their flowering position to see which section performs best.
  • As recommended by Jersey I will grow some Rosebuds in pots for the house.


Photo credits
frosted auricula by framheim CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
primrose happiness by windsordi CC BY-NC 2.0
Auricula Dolly Viney by abriachan nurseries CC BY-NC-ND 2.0  ‘Auriculas are one of my favourite flowers, they are so unique and cheerful.
We grow and sell a wide selection of Auricula at the nursery and send out our catalogue and mailorder all over the UK.’

Auricula Dolly Viney

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Five Primrose Pictures

Primroses that bloom in the spring tra-la seemed a good title for these pictures with short pithy comments attached.

Hedgerow primroses grow well in the shade but flower better when a bit of sun breaks through the woodland branches waiting for their new leaves.

Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, tra-la
The inspiration for these five pictures of Primrose in their many colours.

Primroses in Spring

Leaves can die back shortly after flowering. The longer they are green the more they are feeding the roots and plant for future flowering.
Water and feed after flowering, you would be hungry and thirsty after producing so much seed and progeny.

Haworth primroses

Some colour look good and faithful on computer screens. I think that this applies to these Primroses.

Bred as a double flower this Primrose has interesting colouring. Some plants can be over bred and are then hard to keep from one year to the next. This is the second year of this plant.

Picture and other credits

Primrose seeds at Thompson & Morgan
Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, tra-la by cobalt123 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 ‘Perky blooms in full glory, seen at the entrance to the Westin Hotel at LAX in Los Angeles. I don’t know what these are, so an ID is appreciated. I now believe these are primrose flowers. There were many colors and varieties of these flowers, which must be hardy against peaks of high and low temperatures and the gusty winds near the airport.’
Primroses in Spring by Chiot’s Run CC BY-NC 2.0 ‘…this one plant is 7 years old. All the other ones died, but this one blooms every spring…’


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Primula Denticulata or Himalayan Primrose

Spring flowering Primulas are one of gardens wonders. The ‘denticulata’ flowers are held on firm high stalks up to 12″ above ground. The globular appearance is due to the mass of small florets that group together to form a ball shape.

Primula denticula alba

In early March this white Drumstick Primula Denticulata is full of flowers on stalks that are just breaking free from ground level.
Within a week the stalks will be over 10 inches tall and fully open.
Admired by the neighbors I often split the plants and give examples away.

Primula denticula
Continue Reading →

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Sycamore – Root and Branch Review

Sycamore Gap - Hadrian's Wall

The Sycamore is a picturesque tree the largest member of the European maples. It is one of the most common trees in the northern temperate zones enjoying exposed situations in most types of soil.

Key Features of the Sycamore

  • Latin name – Acer pseudoplantanus – other common names; False plane-tree, Scottish maple, or mock-plane.
  • Height – 120-140 feet
  • Type of tree – Deciduous
  • Leaves – Grey palmate leaves with 5 toothed lobes
  • Flowers – Borne in pendulous clusters, green insignificant
  • Fruit – Winged keys in pairs.
  • Bark – Grey-pink
  • Family – Aceracea

The Drumlanrig Sycamore

Origins and Distribution of the Sycamore

  • Western Europe and Northern temperate zones.
  • Colonises open ground with some success.

Uses and Attributes of the Sycamore

  • Strong creamy white timber is not durable outdoors.
  • Sycamore is used for flooring, furniture making and joinery.

Sycamore in Bud

Gardeners Tips for the Sycamore

  • The seeds are held in pairs with wings that allow the seed to spin and ‘helicopter’ down some distance from the aprent tree.
  • Leaves can attract a fungus that leaves the leaves with unsightly black or red spots .
  • The mature trees have a large canopy and are not suitable for small gardens.

Other types of Sycamore and key species

  • Sycamores are not to be confused with Plane trees the ‘American Sycamore’ Platanus occidentalis, Platanus racemosa or Platanus wrightii the Arizona sycamore nor with Ficus sycomorus a fig.
  • Atropurpureum has purple undersides to the leaf and ‘Brilliantissimum’ is a cultivar notable for the bright salmon-pink colour of the young foliage.

Sycamore Gap

Sycamore comments from elsewhere

  • Sycamore was the favoured wood for making ‘love spoons’ in Wales. These wedding gifts are linked with rings and were traditionally made from a single peice of wood.
  • The Drumlanrig Sycamore is reputed to be the UK’s tallest sycamore.It dates back to the 18th Century and is one of the largest girth and spread in Britain. It is one of Scotland’s top 100 Heritage Trees.

Read about our series on British tree reviews with a bakers dozen fact sheets

The Drumlanrig Sycamore by I like CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Sycamore Gap – Hadrian’s Wall by El Villano CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Sycamore in Bud by Durlston Country Park CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Sycamore Gap by Jonathan_W CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 ‘Sycamore Gap is where they filmed on of the opening scenes in “Robin Hood Price of Thieves”

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