Swiss Chard a Vegetable Show Stopper

Swiss Chard Traffic Lights

Autumn sunshine sets off the traffic lights in the vegetable plot. A low angle for the rays of sunshine creates an extra opportunity to appreciate this vegetable. I like the leaf texture and think Chard can look so colourful that I will grow some amongst the flowers for next year.

Swiss Chard Varieties

  • Ruby Red has stunning deep veins and can be picked young.
  • Bright Lights is a seed mixture ready within a month.
  • Lucullus with a clean white stem.
  • Bright Yellow as it says on the label
  • Leaf Beet Rhubarb Chard is deep red burgundy coloured.
  • Leaf Beet Bulls Blood is used as a salad leaf.

available from Thompson & Morgan

Eating Swiss Chard

  • Also called Leaf Beet, Swiss Chard is similar to spinach with a slightly bitter flavour.
  • Swiss Chard is pungent and tastes slightly salty.
  • It contains an exceptionally impressive list of health promoting nutrients and is definately one of your five a day.
  • Both the leaves and stalk of chard are edible, although the stems vary in texture with the white ones being the most tender.

Continue Reading →


Crocus Buying & Cultivation Tips


Crocus Cultivation Tips


  • Allow foliage to die back. Do not tie foliage because it weakens the bulb and flowers for next year.
  • A little bonemeal in spring will help build up corms and bulbs for next year.
  • Crocus often like a rather heavy but well drained soil. Enrich sandy soil with leafmould.
  • If troubled with mice or squirrels eating corms, place wire netting just below the soil surface.
  • Bring a pot of Crocus into the house when the first buds show and keep in a light cool spot.
  • Allow species crocus to self seed to increase your display in years to come.
  • Suspend black cotton over the buds to stop them being attacked by birds.
  • After the foliage fades Crocus can be lifted and split every 4-5 years to avoid over crowding. Leave them be if they are naturalised under grass.
  • Mulch with garden compost only sparingly 5cm deep.

Types of Crocus

Colchium Autumnale Album

  • Autumn Crocus  flower before the leaves and are also sold as Colchium. If autumn is dry water the corms.
  • Crocus vernalis tend to have larger bulbs and spring blooms.
  • Crocus chrysanthus like sun or light dappled shade and a lighter soil.
  • Species Crocus Tommasinianus, C.sativus, C. angustifolius C. biflorus, C. korolkowii and C. olivieri will grow well under a late leafing shrub.

ledsham crocus

Buying Hints and Advice

  • Buy firm plump bulbs.
  • Avoid bulbs that are in the least bit soft.
  • Avoid bulbs which are already sprouted and showing green.
  • Avoid any bulbs that show signs of fungus, spots, rot or mould.
  • Buy as soon as Crocus become available and plant September-November


I have just planted 100+ crocus around a new Paperbark Acer and a similar number in a variety of pots and containers. When the containers have flowered the crocus will be fertilised and planted out.

See our other photos
Bulb: A Hand-Picked Selection of the World’s Most Beautiful Bulbs by Anna Pavord is a personal selection and authoritative guide to the most gorgeous bulbs on the earth.
Anna Pavord, world-famous author of “The Tulip”, writes charmingly about her favourite subject from Acis to Zigadenus via Tulip and Crocus.


Hardy Varieties of Fuchsias


Once established hardy Fuchsias need little maintenance. Growing outdoors they lose their foliage after frost and branches may or may not die back. However in spring they will send up fresh strong growing branches from the base or existing branch frameworks.
A big advantage of growing in the ground is that the unrestricted root run can produce an extremely  floriferous plant.

All the varieties we have selected below have the RHS AGM award.

Hardy Fuchsia Tips

  • Trim them back in late April not after flowering so that the twigs will protect the crowns from frost.
  • Spring pruning allows you to assess how fiercely you want to prune. Hard for a compact bush, gently for a larger shrub.
  • Generally having survived one winter Fuchsias will be successful for many years. All those below have been known to survive 5 years plus in the UK.
  • Give Fuchsias a slow release fertiliser in spring after cutting back. Then an occasional watering if they are very dry is all the other treatment needed.
  • Hardy Fuchsias come in a range of sizes, colours and shapes.

Smaller Hardy Fuchsias 1- 3 Feet Tall

  • Son of Tom Thumb with carmine and red flowers
  • Alice Hoffman with rose and white flowers and bronze tinged leaves.
  • Chillerton Beauty a vigorous grower with pale pink and violet flowers.
  • Conspicua deep red and white eye catching flowers
  • Dollar Prinzessing 18 inches tall with double flowers.
  • Genii with lime -yellow foliage and red stems but late flowering.
  • Heidi Ann less hardy but magnificent
  • Rufus the Red grows 24-30″ tall

Hardy Fuchsias 1- 3 Feet Wide

  • Annabel pink and white flowers on a trailing habit.
  • Empress of Prussia introduced in 1860
  • Garden News double flowers and surprisingly hardy.
  • Phyllis vigorous large leaved abundantly flowering plant
  • Mrs Popple introduced 1899 so it is a survivor.

Other Hardy Fuchsias

  • Hawkshead with white flowers and tall growing 3’plus.
  • Margaret Brown strong growing with smaller flowers.
  • Celia Smedley cream and flame coloured flowers on a strong plant
  • Species Fuchsia magellanica Whiteknights Pearl


Books on Fuchsias from Amazon


Looking After Garden Tools Old & New

Pots for potting

Clean your Garden Tools

  • Clean all of the dirt and soil from your spades, forks, trowels etc. after each use.
  • Allow your tools to dry completely before storing to prevent rusting, mould and handle rot.
  • Before storing, wipe the metal parts of pruners, shears, and loppers with an oily rag. A shot of products such as WD40 will also do the trick.
  • Rinse off tools with soap and water then dry and rub with an oily rag as chemicals such as fertilizers will quickly corrode any metal parts.
  • Disinfect old terracotta pots before reusing.

Oil Your Tools

  • Especially with old tools, rub linseed oil into the wooden handle of your tools to help prevent drying out and splintering.
  • Spray metal tools with WD40 or equivalent to prevent rust.
  • Rusted tools should be cleaned with a wire brush, sandpaper and steel wool. Penetrating oil will help with the more stubborn spots.
  • Oil tools well before storing for winter.
  • Mix builders sand and oil in a bucket to plunge tools into and it will clean and prolong the life of your tools

Sharpening and Repairing Garden Tools

  • Use a flat edged file to keep your tools sharpened to maximize their efficiency.
  • Pruners, secateurs and shears can be tricky to sharpen so you can leave these types of tools to the professionals. If you use a sharpening stone work on the outer side of the blade not the smooth cutting surface.
  • Sanding down a splintered handle then rubbing with linseed oil will restore it to a smooth finish.
  • Old good quality but rusted tools that you see at car boot sales  can be restored to almost new condition. A good old one often beats a moderate new one (see reuse recycle).


Read Garden Products Old Garden Tool Books

Consider insuring your better tools.


Paw Paw Fruit Trees


2010-02-05 10-26-42 Paw Paw leaf intricate patterns - IMG_1565


I never thought about growing exotic fruit like the Paw Paw That was until I saw a tree for sale in Thompson Morgan’s catalogue. The sun accentuates the intricate pattern in this paw paw leaf.

Asimina triloba Papaw or North American Paw Paw

  • This hardy pawpaw produces solitary, cup-shaped flowers and large, exotic foliage.
  • During long, hot summers it will produce edible fruits with a delicious, tropical flavour, that can be harvested from September.
  • In cool climates the Paw paw or Red Indian Banana forms an attractive multi-stemmed plant that makes an unusual addition to the shrub border with its buttery yellow autumn foliage.
  • Pawpaws are self fertile, and pollinated by insects, however the chances of pollination will improve when growing more than one paw paw.
  • Alternatively the flowers can be hand pollinated.
  • Height and spread to 19’ so they do need a spacious garden.
  • Happiest in full sun or dappled shade

Asimina Triloba / Paw Paw


‘Pawpaw (Asimina) is a genus of small clustered trees with large leaves and fruit. Growth Habit: The pawpaw is a deciduous, often narrowly conical tree growing from about 12 feet to around 20 feet. Pawpaw trees are prone to producing root suckers a few feet from the trunk. When these are permitted to grow, the single-clone pawpaw patch comes into being. The prevailing experiences of many individuals is that the pawpaw is a slow grower, particularly when it is young. However, under optimal greenhouse conditions, including photo-period extension light of approximately 16 hours, top growth of up to 5 feet can be attained in three months. Continue Reading →


Growing Towards the Light

Teasel seedheads


Light Affecting Growth

  • Some plants do not require high levels of light for growth, because they are adapted to low light conditions (such as jungle and forest plants).
  • Plants left in the dark will grow taller than plants in lighted conditions  but they will also be yellower and more spindly.
  • Increased height is often a response to low light levels – the plant is trying to grow over anything that may be blocking the light, and will grow towards any source of light.
  • Etiolation is an extreme form of photosynthesis, and it occurs when you keep a plant in the dark too long.
  • When a plant is blown down, like this teasel, its efforts to regrow will produce distorted stems or branches.
  • Plants on a windowsill may grow only one one side, towards the light, unless turned frequently. (I must turn my pelargoniums again this afternoon).
  • Seedlings need good, even light as a spindly plant many not recover. Beware sun through a window can burn seedlings.
  • Too little light and leaves may brown and drop off.
  • Blue daylight bulbs are the best if natural light is unavailable.

For more details read science for schools

Etiolation is a process in flowering plants grown in partial or complete absence of light. It is characterized by long, weak stems; smaller leaves and often pale yellow coloring. 

Blanching is the exclusion of light to prevent greening up of Celery Leeks and other plants


Flower Parts and Functions

1 Petals
The most attractive part of most flowers. Colour often attracts insects to aid pollination. A whorl of petals is called a Corolla

2 Sepal
In buds the sepals enclose and protect other parts of the flower. As the flower opens the green sepals curl away or fall. Several sepals together form the Calyx

Petals and sepals together form the Perianth. In tulips and some other flowers the petals and sepals are not separate and they are called Tepals.

3 Anther
The anther carries the male pollen. Anthers are supported by 4 the Filament that together with anthers make up the Stamen.

5 Stigma receives the pollen and is generally at the top of the 6 Style. The style connects to the 7 ovary and these parts collectively are called the Pistil or female organs. The ovary is where the seeds develop.

8 Receptacle is the fatter part that supports the flower above the stalk.

9 Pedicel is the stalk or stem of an individual flower. With a group of flowers on one stem or inflorescence this is named a Peduncle.

Poppy Bud

Just a bit of botany can go a long way for gardeners but it is good to know the basics.


Staimen & pistils on Alstromeria

Source RHS


Grow Healthy Hydrangeas


There are several types of Hydrangea to consider. The Mop Heads or Hortensia above, the lace caps or other species. They are a rewarding group[ of plants to grow well but need the right conditions to excel.

Provide Suitable Growing Conditions

  • All hydrangeas thrive in moist well drained fertile soil.
  • Too wet and humid and you may get root rot and botrytis on foliage.
  • Hydrangeas appreciate partial shade.
  • Shallow chalky soil or light sandy acid soil may cause yellowing of leaves. To cure this water or foliar feed with Epsom salt (Mangenisum Sulphate).
  • Hot dry conditions can encourage powdery mildew.
  • Hydrangeas can be prone to insect attack from Aphids, Red Spider mite, Capsid bugs and even Vine Weevil.




Flowering Problems

  • The main cause of non-flowering is pruning too hard and cutting off the buds. Just trim off the old heads in spring to the first fat buds.
  • The failure of flowers to turn blue is caused by a shortage of trace elements of Aluminium. This is available in acid soils but not alkaline soils.
  • Some species will change from pink to blue by using a proprietary preparation or colourant. This is unlikely to work when the soil is too alkaline.
  • If you have a pink flower this can be enhanced by applying limestone or chalk during winter.
  • White flowers remain white whatever you do. Some fade to a pink tinge.

8 foot hydrangea


Other Sources of information

Hydrangeas available from Thompson & Morgan

See Help to change Hydrangea colour
Hydrangea Hydrangea an enthusiasts site

Amazon for Hydrangea books


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