Centaurea Montana for Aficionados


The colour of this young Knapweed is dark almost purple. As it opens fully it will become blue and then fade as the flower ages. The colour helps Centaurea montana earn its nickname of Mountain Cornflower or perennial cornflower.


National Collection of Centaurea

  • There are many species of Centaurea in the National collection.
  • Centaurea Montana varieties held at Bide-a-wee Garden include
  • Centaurea montana alba
  • Centaurea montana carnea
  • Centaurea montana Dark form
  • Centaurea montana`Gold Bullion`
  • Centaurea montana `Grandiflora`
  • Centaurea montana `Joyce`
  • Centaurea montana`Lady Florence Hastings`
  • Centaurea montana `Lilac Strain`
  • Centaurea montana from Mark`s house
  • Centaurea montana `Ochroleuca`
  • Centaurea montana `Parham`
  • Centaurea montana `Parham`
  • Centaurea montana`Puurple Prose`
  • Centaurea montana violacea
  • Centaurea montana`Violetta`

Also see Centaurea Garden Gem or Invasive Weed and Growing Centaurea

New book from Amazon – Diffuse Knapweed Centaurea Asteraceae, Anatolia, Balkans, Biennial plant, Annual plant, Taproot, Head (botany), Leaf, Flower, Seed


Rhododendrons and the Danger of Frost.

Frost damaged Rhododendron
My Rhododendrons were in full bloom when a late frost caught them quite badly.
Winter has been wet and mild but if the USA is anything to go by hard frosts may still be on the way so look after your early flowering Rhododendrons.


Although Rhododendron ‘Nobleanum’ displays its pink flowers intermittently throughout the winter, the season really begins with a few early bloomers like Rhododendron dauricum after Christmas and continues until Rhododendron ‘Polar Bear’ calls it a day in August. The main flowering period tends to be late April and early May. This unnamed plant was in full bloom in Durham botanic garden on 1st March 2009.


frosted rhododendron
‘More frost damage on an Early Rhododendron’

Tips to Avoid Frost Damage

    • There is no cure after frosting has occurred but waiting for next year.
    • Avoid planting in a frost pocket. Frost flows, like water, downhill
    • Plant under light shade which will offer some frost protection and the Early Rhododendrons will still flower and thrive.
    • For small specimen shrubs it may be worth covering with horticultural fleece if a cold snap is predicted.

Himalayan garden Grewelthorpe Rhododendron

Ancient Mariners Rhododendrons

Frost Hardy

This picture shows what I call the rime of the ancient mariner as I groweth one of three. Most Gardeners look after the great and small, both bird and beast……

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small; ……


Potato Tips for Dry Weather.


So potato farmers were on the news complaining about the lack of rain which is a bit rich after such a wet winter.
Planted seed has not broken the soils surface on some farms.
‘Potato crops will be ruined, prices must go up, spuds have had their chips.’
Short of spudding a new well it is up to the gardener to augment the normal efforts.

Lack of Water

  • A Potato is 98% water, don’t believe you are eating lots of fiber and starch.
  • Chitted potato seed is already beginning to dry out hence the wrinkles.
  • Water is the main conveyor of food to any plant and Potatoes are very hungry plants.
  • No water means no nutrients to help your potato grow.
  • Leafy potatoes transpire lots of water through the leaves.
  • The more leaf, the more breeze, the more sun the more the water is taken away from the potato plant. Thus the more care you need to take
  • Dry plants will be droopy, prone to blight and poor croppers.

Watering Potatoes

Continue Reading →


Rhododendrons and Scotland

Arduaine Garden in Scotland is well-known in international Rhododendron circles for the number of wonderful species grown here, many of which are considered tender elsewhere and grow unusually under a canopy of mature Japanese larch. To some people, rhododendrons are those unpleasant purple-flowered objects which clog up our native woodlands. This is but one species, Rhododendron ponticum or a hybrid of it which spreads rapidly both by seed and sucker.
Buds on Rhododendron Continue Reading →


Get Flowers For Mother’s and Wives

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Alstromeria are one of the longest lived cut flowers I know. Several weeks of flowering are possible if the bunch is bought with colour just showing. Ensure there is plenty of bud and you will be delighted.


Mixed bunches can look exceptional but it is harder to cater for each type of flower in the bunch. Within a couple of days the tulips in this bunch had grown taller than the flowers they were arranged with. Tulips do tend to elongate as they mature.
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Daffodils are a seasonal must and this year is no different. Whilst these flowers were picked from the garden on mother’s day the photographs show who should have been thinking of mother.
Remember to keep daffodils in a separate vase as the sap can poison other flowers and encourage them to deteriorate rapidly.

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Carnations give Alstromeria a run for their money when it comes to longevity. The small flowered perpetuals are going to last at least 15 days and potentially far longer. The water will be changed and the bunch rearranged with a bit snipped off the end of the stalks every 5-7 days.

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Do a Selfie and Treat Yourself

Treat yourself now and regularly, you do not need a special occasion for a floral uplift. Spring is a time to be cheerful and there are many houseplants that can provide good value.
Primroses and primulas can last a couple of weeks in the house as long as you give them light and water.They also come in a bigger variety of shades, stripes and colours or you can pot up a plant from the garden.
Shops and garden centers are selling pot grown bulbs that are just about to flower. They are often crammed into a small pot but you can arrange them into your own display for visual effect.


This striped version caught my eye and had me digging in my purse for my own plant. After sometime in the house I will plant it out in a damp semi-shaded area and hope for the best next year.
primroses often have a growth spurt in autumn after dying back a bit after flowering.


What Makes a Good Cut Flower


A Gardener’s Perspective of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. A flower that need little specialist care or treatment and is easy to harvest.
  2. Reblooming often and for a long season so it looks good even when left uncut.
  3. Grows quickly and true from seed.
  4. Can be forced, so it flowers when required.
  5. Satisfies the recipient for the least consumption of resources in time and space.

A Customer View Point of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. Fragrance that is evocative, strong and distinctive.
  2. Colour or colour combinations that are appropriate. Rich and saturated or soft, contrasting or blendable
  3. Texture and proportion that can provide contrast of shape and form.Suitable length and flower aesthetics to match a display vessel.
  4. How long will it last in a vase or foam and will it need any special treatment or conditioning.
  5. Personal appeal or favourite reflecting a special association, event or season

To grow a generic mix of flowers for arrangements and bouquets check out Thompson & Morgan
A Retailers View of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. Availability for a long period from a variety of suppliers.
  2. Lots of colour and sales Pizzaz
  3. Long life in Florists pre-sale and then in the home
  4. Profitable and able to generate repeat custom

According to Linda Beutler in ‘Garden to Vase’ the answer is not just ‘Mums’ ‘Glads’ and ‘Carns’

Book Cover

Gardeners Tips to Condition and Extend Life by Plant

Fatsia Japonica
Corkscrew hazel


Tips for Dealing with Slugs and Snails


Slugs and Snails

I would like to say that slugs and snails are friendly, useful creatures to have in your garden – but I can’t. Slugs and snails have tremendous appetites for devouring your plants. The younger, tastier and more precious your plants the more likely they are to go for them. Young lettuce seedlings seem to be very tasty and a whole row can be devoured overnight by these innocuous critters.


What can be done short of killing slugs? – here are some Eco friendly tips:

Tips to avoid slug damage

  • Discourage slugs by removing edible debris and any slugs you can spot
  • A ‘beer trap’ consisting of a low tray full of beer or similar fluid can attract and drown the slugs.
  • An upturned cabbage leaf will attract a host of slugs overnight and they can be collected and dispatched according to your preference.
  • New ‘green’ sprays and pellets have not yet impressed me but there are a range to try.
  • Some plants are less attractive to slugs. Foxgloves, Aqualegia, Nasturtiums, Euphorbia
  • Leave Bran out. Slugs love bran it may fill them up. If they over-indulge it can even kill them.

Barrier methods to stop slugs:

  • Copper works as a barrier as they wont slide and slither on it. Copper bands and tape are available to protect your most cosseted specimens.
  • A raised bed with a copper edging can be used in your veg plot
  • Gravel, crushed egg shells, recycled wool pellets and other hard to slitter across barriers are recommended by various gardeners and companies but the column inches devoted to the subject show that few of them work totally. When it is wet they find a way across to gorge on your tasty crops.
  • ‘Slug Gone’ are wool based pellets that are organic and pet safe. The wool forms a barrier by felting together the small barbs on the wool fibres. Useful around prized plants but expensive for general use.

Beer Traps


If you sink a plastic pot into the ground and fill it with beer, slugs will go and drink the beer and probably get stuck and not be able to escape. In heavy rain, the beer becomes diluted. Quite effective for catching some.

Biological control

A higher tech solution is to buy a biological control called Nematodes which is watered in and the nematode microbes eat them and destroy the slugs.

These are watered into the ground. They don’t work in winter when it is too cold. They are effective in getting the underground slugs.

This is a very good method. Bio-friendly and you let the Nemotodes do the work.

Slug Pellets

slug exterminator

Size 9 gardening boots or fly them into the middle of a busy road.

Slug pellets containing metaldehyde spread every six inches or so are effective killers and last in my experience for about 10 days. However they are not pet friendly although most brands have been treated with a flavouring to deter.

Good luck and if you find a permanent solution you could be on your way to making a fortune.

Read more about  Slug Pellets and protecting Hostas from Slugs

Slug Pellets and Slug Exterminator at Amazon


‘How To Do The Flowers’

Formal or informal, neat or exotic, there are so many ways to do justice to the flowers. Here are just a few tips to get you thinking.

Vase of Roses

When you have spent time and effort growing some super blooms you may want to display them indoors. You may specialise in growing plants that will last well indoors like Chrysanthemums and Alstroemeria. You may be growing flowers for sale to florists or for special events, locations even church decorations.

Constancy Spry was a great one for’ doing the flowers’. She believed you needed to be aware of the mechanics of arrangement an the care and preparation of the material. Material includes more than just the flowers but holding them in place plus other plant items, display vessels and additional items. Secondly Constance also confronted the aesthetics of colour, shape , form texture and style. Work to your own pattern of ideas to develop taste and experience.

Gardeners Top Ten Tips For Cut Flowers

  • Plunge into water as soon as they are picked to condition the flowers.
  • Cut off an inch from the bottom of the stems when you are arranging them. When you change the water cut some more off the bottom. Do not cut poppies, hydrangeas or daffodils as they secrete a sap.
  • Put a small sterilizing tablet in the water. Milton or steradent will help flowers last longer and keep the water bacteria free.
  • Heat makes flowers bloom quicker and wilt so keep them cool to make them last.
  • Use individual bud vases if flowers are in scarce supply. Other small vases, shot glasses, jugs or old bottles will do just fine.
  • Strip leaves from the stems. Leaves rot quickly when submerged.
  • Spraying the underside of the leaves and petals with a minimal amount of hairspray could help keep cut flowers fresh.
  • Do not store fruit and flowers together. Fruit produces ethylene gas than speeds up decay.
  • Top up with luke warm water regularly.
  • Use plain, lukewarm water for most cut flowers, but use cold water for bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips. Continue Reading →

Prolonging the Life of Cut Flowers

Preparing Cut Flowers and Foliage

  • When harvesting take a container of water around the garden and plunge freshly cut flowers into it immediately.
  • Recut all stems at an angle with a sharp knife as you arrange them. This increases the area of stem that can take up water and also prevents a stem from sealing itself to the bottom of a vase and thus stopping water being taken up.
  • Allow flowers to draw in water in a cool dark place for several hours prior to arranging.
  • Remove any damaged or excess foliage and any that will be below the water line when arranged.
  • Lilac and Sunflowers benefit from having all the foliage removed.

Ten Tips for Prolonging Vase Life

  • Harvest early in the morning or just after sundown never in the heat of the day.
  • If using Oasis scrape of 1-3 inches of outer bark from woody stems.
  • Woody stems can be split vertically for 2-3 inches to help them drink. Do not hammer.
  • Change the water when it starts to cloud, recutting the stems.
  • Use a preservative in the water except for species where this causes problems like Campanulas, Bulb flowers, Orchids and naturally long lived tropical flowers.
  • Keep cool and out of direct sunlight.
  • Once in place avoid disturbing flowers which is apt to cause bruising.
  • Avoid draughts and dry air.
  • Certain flowers and blossoms carry a large amount of foliage in proportion to flower. Remove some foliage particulalry for Lilacs and Philadelphus.
  • Avoid a vase or vessel that warms the water.

Avoid Ethylene Continue Reading →


Rhododendron Sappho Labels

Rhododendron Sappho bud

I just purchased a new containerised Rhododendron named ‘Sappho’. The picture on the label is of white flowers with spotted purple centres. There are lots of buds, about 20, and they are looking lilac.  I thought of taking it back as that was not the colour I wanted.

Now the buds are opening I think it will be worth keeping and should fit in with my planting scheme.

Four Language Label

  • The label has minimal information but what there is can be translated. A pictured sun and sun half blached out must mean suitable for sun or partial shade.
  • A flower symbol V-VI implies it flowers late in May or June. Good that was what I was after and that seems to be how it is performing.
  • A vertical arrow and 1.5m says it will grow 4-5 feet high and possibly wide.
  • A complex symbol with a cross through it may signify no pruning
  • Strangely it is named as an Azalea for decoration do not consume. Submerge pot in a bucket of water for 10 minutes then plant in the garden. Fair advice.
  • The symbolic language may be classed as a fifth language since Esperanto never took off.

Rhododendron Sappho

Research on Sappho

  • Mauve buds open to lovely white flowers with a conspicuous dark purple, almost black, blotch.

Continue Reading →


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