Growing Cacti

Cacti come in all sorts of shapes and sizes with differing textures and flowers. Desert cacti are usually covered in spines and jungle or rainforest cacti are often without spines.

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Tips for Growing  Cacti

  • Getting the watering right is the key issue. All plants need regular water during their growing period in spring and summer.
  • I water weekly in spring and early summer cutting down drastically by autumn leaving winter almost watering free.  Provide a weak fertiliser solution in spring and early summer.
  • Good drainage is as important as watering. Most succulent prefer a free draining sandy or gritty soil. Do not stand in water.
  • Keep most varieties free of frost.
  • Plants can be grown from seed and many root well from cuttings or grafting.
  • Cacti are trouble free but like adequate light, warmth and ventilation in order to thrive.

Repotting Cacti

  • Cacti should be repotted as soon as roots show through the bottom of the pot.
  • Repot in the spring every 2-3 years for fast growing plants.
  • Water 2 days before repotting so the roots are moist but no saturated.
  • Remove from the pot and discard top dressing and any dead or damaged roots.
  • Increase the pot size only marginally and add slictly acidic compost.
  • Plant at the original depth and trickle a thin layer of grit on the surface which will help water drain quickly.



Olympic Flowers and Plants

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It shows how long this blog has been operating. The Rio Olympics 2016 will be the third time we have commented on suitable Olympic  flowers. See Beijing 2008 and London 2012 below. Today is the ‘Anniversary Games’ in London a curtain raiser for the Brazil games.
For Brazil we should start with the nut (OK so that is the author) and then the Cacti as he is a prickly sort of guy.
Feeding plants and flowers with fertiliser or hormone treatment will not fall foul of the drug testing rules – there are no plant urine samples to test!

White Rose of Yorkshire

London Olympics 2012

  • Back in 2008 I wrote about the flowers and plants to be used at the Beijing Olympics.
  • ‘Budding companies’ for London Olympics can now demonstrate they have the skills and resources to design, assemble and deliver bouquets and floral arrangements. Olympics tendering authority Locog.
  • Approximately 29 London venues need 6,700 identical bouquets for the London 2012 Victory Ceremonies.
  • 30 arrangements for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and 130 arrangements for conferencing facilities are also in the tender.
  • They will be delivered every other day during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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Soya Bean Superfoods ‘Glycine max’

Grow and Crop your own Soya Beans

  • For a little grown vegetable Soya are an easy and attractive crop to grow.
  • Sow in a propagator or into warm soil May or June if sowing direct outside.
  • Plant in well-drained, moist rich soil, 6 inches apart. Keep well watered, particularly as pods are setting.
  • You will get 3-4 beans to a pod but you get lots of hairy self pollinated pods at the top of the plant.
  • Plants are virtually pest and disease free.

How to Use Your Soya Beans

  • You can pick pods whilst beans are still green and boil them in the pods with salt. Butterbean & Envy are good varieties for this purpose available from
  • Shelled the green beans can be treated like broad beans
  • When pods turn brown harvest the dry beans and they can be stored in an airtight container. Soak them for 12 hours before using.
  • Good varieties include Ustie, Butterbean and Elna.
  • Commercially grown Soya is often GM but produces oil, Soya milk, Bean Curd or Tofu and can also be fermented to make Soya sauce.

Japanese Beans

  • Azuki beans are a hairy annual similar to Soya beans. They have yellow flowers and longer pods.
  • Daizu is the Japanese Soya rich in oil and protein. Flowers are violet or white and pea shaped.
  • Miso is a bean paste made from Soya beans rice and salt.
  • Tofu is an easily digested protein made from soaked and curded soya beans.
  • Natto is fermented Soya beans often eaten at Japanese breakfasts.

Primary Coloured Spring Bulbs & Primula Bed

If you are looking for a show stopping display of spring flowers then why not try planting   primary colours of Red, Blue and Yellow in the same bed.

A sweeping display of blocks of colour contrasting with the other primary colours can have a stunning effect. Over planting with primary-coloured annuals will help the design continue through summer. This list starts off with bulbs in the primary colours but you can use whatever takes your fancy,  as you will see, I like Polyanthus.

More Primula seeds from Thompson & Morgan

Reds mainly Tulips

  • Small early red Tulips are Daylight and Show-winner.
  • For elegant Tulip shapes try Fosteriana Red Emperor, Charles or the more muted Rosy Dream.
  • Abba and Carlton are doubles to sing about.
  • Appledorn, Hollands Glory and Red Impressions remind you where most tulips come from but Barbados is a stunning fringed red to add to your selection.

Blues avoiding Purples

  • Muscari Azureum or other Grape Hyacinths are some of the best blues. I like Blue Spike, Super Star and Valerie Finnis.
  • Hyacinths, Crystal Palace, Blue Star, Delft Blue, Ostara and Kronos are just some of the blue varieties to try. Personally I would not bother with the yellow Hyacinths such as City of Harlem
  • Camassia, Chinodoxa and Anemone ‘Lord Lieutenant’  are varied bulbs flowering blue.
  • Dutch Iris are some of the finest blue flowers, Hildegard and Sapphire Blue. Iris reticulata, Joyce and Cantab are also well worth growing.

Yellow Aconites to Zantedeschia

  • For something a bit different try yellow Iris Danfordiae, Fritilliaria Raddena or Ixia Yellow Emperor.
  • Crocus species Chrysanthus Dorothy, Fuscotinclus and Romance are small yellow crocus whilst Golden Mammoth is just what it says, Golden and Mammoth.
  • Jonquilla Daffodills grow to about one foot and bloom freely. Baby Moon, Trevithian and the double Pencrebar are worth trying.
  • King Alfred did more than burn the cakes he had ‘the’ yellow Daffodil named after him.
  • Tamara, Carlton and Fortune are worthy substitutes

Japanese Mume, Apricot or Plum

The Japanese have a long and detailed affair with fruit tree blossom. Apricots, Prunus armenaica and Plums, Prunus salicina are well known to western gardeners but what of Mumes.

What are Prunus Mume or Mumes

  • The wild Mume has single white or pink flowers in February-March which cluster densely on dark brown branches.
  • The flowers are intensely fragrant that has encouraged the breeding of many 100’s of cultivars throughout Asia.
  • The blossom opens before the Cherry blossom season and is the harbinger of spring.
  • A ‘Mume’ is a green to yellow, downy fruit with a groove running the length of the fruit from the stalk.
  • Prunus mume, commonly known as ‘ume’ is also confusingly called Japanese apricot, or Chinese plum.

Uses of a Mume

  • The tree is cultivated for both  fruit and flowers.
  • Old decorative trees are venerated and used near temples.
  • Mume are grown as Bonsai to flower at the new year. Wild varieties perform best.
  • The flowers are the subject of many traditional painting in Japan and Vietnam.
  • The fruit is grown as a crop although it is very sour.
  • In Japan the fruit is dried in the sun and preserved in salt to make a pickle.
  • They can be put with sugar into strong alcohol to make a drink like cherry brandy.



Prune stone fruit like plums and apricots in summer. In winter the wounds do not heal and trees are susceptible to silver leaf and infections


Wild Plant Habitat Classifications


Vegetation of open habitats can be an interesting form of study for the keen gardener. Knowing what grows where in the wild, inform us about our own harden habitats.

Develop an understanding of ecology and wild plant development to augment your gardening interests.

Plant Habitat Classifications

Plants growing in the wild are found in several types of location that have been classified below.

  • Mires and heaths
  • Woodland and scrub
  • Grassland
  • Aquatics
  • Maritime

The authoritative texts are written by J S Rodwell provide a framework for a wide variety of teaching, research and management activities in ecology, conservation and land-use planning.

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There are sub-classifications including geological, geographical and environmental.
These situations include:-  Height above sea level, rainfall, wind direction and strength. Soil fertility, cultivation practices now and in the past all can play a part.


If you want to develop an area then chose an appropriate classification and research what grows well in similar areas and circumstances. Try not to fight nature (you know who will win). Work with the climate and landscapes and try not to force plants into an unnatural habitat.


Sedum Ice Plants for Autumn

Sedum telephium matrona

This fleshy leaved Sedum Telephium Matrona is just colouring and clumping up in my garden. It is not as vigorous as Sedum spectabile Autumn Joy which can be come a bit of a thug if left unchecked.

  • Look out for even stronger burgandy coloured foliage and flowerheads
  • Try the ‘Chelsea chop’ on plants in May to encourage later growth that isn’t as prone to flop. Cut back the young growth and wait for the plant to rejuvenate
  • Sometimes called Ice Plants the heads can be left on over winter and look good rimed in frost.
  • Nearly as attractive to Bees and Butterflies as the Buddleia
  • Easy to grow even in poor soil and work well in cottage gardens

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Seedheads for Display and Drying

Allium seeds


Alliums produce some of the most interesting seedheads. Each capsule is about to burst on this Allium cristophii (AGM) sending dozens of hard black seeds to perpetuate the family.

There are over a thousand species of Allium or onion and this is one of the most eye-catching of them all both in flower and in seed. Large flowered Alliums should be planted in groups of odd numbers to enhance the effect. They like a sunny site where it will tolerate competition from other roots. Each spherical flower-head helps create a perfect ball shape. The complete stem will last for many weeks as part of a dried flower arrangement.

Other Plants to Grow for their Seed Heads

  • Pampass Grass (Cortaderia selloana) for the large fluffy plumes and a whole range of other grasses
  • Teasels (Dipsacus) to feed the birds and to catch the frost
  • Honesty for the shimmering white seed heads
  • Iris Foetidissma for the red berries bursting out of the seed pod
  • Paeonia lactiflora for the red furry seed head
  • Zea Mais, Mexican Corn on the cob for the multi-coloured cobs after drying
  • Papaver, Phlomis fruticosa, Phlomis samia/russelliana, Phormium tenax are also recommended by the gardener

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Flowers Grown for Your Vase

My perennial Phlox have been a good stalwart flower for cutting and filling a vase this last few weeks. I found the pink colours had more scent but all the Phlox seemed to drink copious amounts of water (I wondered if water and scent were related). The Penstemon in the same vase as the Phlox was not as successful as they had a far shorter life. Another successful long lasting cut flower is the Alstromeria. The Reds performed better than the yellows but both lasted over a week.

Our local garden center has been selling off Gerbera plants at £1 and I bought some just for the flowers that I could cut and put in a small vase. Even one flower in a bud vase looks good. There are now more buds to open and I think I got a good deal even though I will not bother to over winter the supposedly perennial plants. Gerberas come in a wide range of colors from light to dark yellow, orange, pink, brilliant scarlet and deep red ray flower centres.

The variety and colour of the Peruvian Lily or Alstroemeria, makes a colourful and long lasting display. Once established the plants continue to provide a good supply year after year. Pull the stalk up from the plant to encourage more flower stems. I grow my Alstroemeria in large pots.


Dahlias tend to flop a bit for me but Chrysanthemums can’t be beaten for longevity and impact.

Tip – Grow flowers that are easy to cultivate and flower in profusion but also last well when cut. Spray Chrysanthemums can give maximum pleasure for minimal outlay.


Prickly Shrubs For Prickly Gardeners

Mahonia 'Charity'

I am not suggesting you want to keep your neighbours out of your garden but there are some circumstances where a Prickly Shrub is just what the doctor ordered.

Choice Prickly Shrubs

  • Mahonias scores highly on my list. It is evergreen and the leaves are quite prickly. The flowers are a joy in late winter in a bright yellow cluster with a wonderful scent.
  • The Berberis family of shrubs include evergreen and deciduous varieties. I particularly like the evergreen, sharp leaved Berberis Darwinii with orange flowers.
  • Pyracantha or the Firethorn is popular with orange-scarlet berries. Try the freely available Pyracatha coccinea lalandii
  • Roses particularly the Rugarosa and wild species can be a feast of prickles to suit most occasions.
  • Holly is planted just outside my window in a mixed hedge that the birds love.

Holly in the Wild
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