Author Archive | hortoris

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


Firethorn or Pyracantha For Berries

Snape pyracantha

Pyracantha, can be a neat shrub with attractive flowers and magnificent red, yellow or orange berries. The white flowers in summer are followed by autumn and winter berries, in fact my shrubs are still in berry this March.

Growing Tips

  • Train  your Pyracantha against a wall or fence or as a specimen plant.
  • Clipped regularly Firethorn, or Pyracantha as it is correctly known, also makes an excellent evergreen hedge.
  • Plants will grow in most fertile garden soil  in sun or partial shade.
  • Avoid  water-logging but if near a wall or hedge water your plants in dry spells.
  • Berrying may be reduced in shady sites or against north-facing walls.
  • Plants grow 5-10 feet high and wide if unrestricted.
  • A general purpose spring feed and mulch is welcome.
  • Propagate from cuttings or seed that may not come true to the parent plant.


Pruning and Clipping

  • Pyracantha flowers on shoots produced the previous year so avoid trimming off too many flowers. Try to retain as much two-year-old wood as possible.
  • Pyracantha has long, sharp thorns hence it’s common name Firethorn. It can be used in a hedge to deter unwanted visitors
  • When overgrown, Pyracantha can be heavily pruned  to get back into shape.
  • Prune to make the berries more visible and to keep the plants in shape.
  • Shorten all sideshoots that grow from the main framework in late summer. Stop just short of the clusters of berries   about two to three leaves from the base of the side shoot.
  • While young shoots are still flexible so tie them in or train to form shapes.
  • Trim Pyracantha hedges a couple of times between spring and the end of summer

Continue Reading →


Shrubs to Screen Walls

file 1 027

You can just make out the wall behind this flowering Kerria Japonica. There are other plants to screen walls but the soil is likely to be dry and impoverished so chose with care.

Kerria Japonica
Planted towards the back of the border this shrubs habit can be scruffy looking and the serrated foliage is rather un-interesting. Kerria loves sun but is drought, heavy clay soil and exposed location tolerant.
Kerria is a tough plant suitable for problem areas that makes it ideal for fast growing screening.

Arbutus unedo
Wonderful all-rounder with reddish stems and good bark, glossy leaves, Lily-of-the-Valley flowers and unusual strawberry-like fruits.

Hippophae rhamnoides, Sea Buckthorn
Lovely silvery leaves and bright orange berries.

Mahonia leaves
Mahonia x media Charity
Vigorous architectural shrub with glossy pinnate leaves and scented yellow flowers in winter.

Daphniphyllum macropodum
Seldom grown evergreen, best grown in shade. Large, handsome leaves and scented greenish flowers.

Fatsia japonica
Often sold as a houseplant but perfectly hardy. Huge palmate leaves give a jungly effect. Does well in shade.

Buddleja davidii ‘Dartmoor’
Fast growing shrub with gorgeous magenta-pink flowers in branching panicles. Great for butterflies and sometimes retains its leaves through winter.

Clematis montana Tetrarosa.
Useful for larger areas that need covering. This Clematis montana provides a spectacular burst of colour in late spring with large flowers an a delicate scent.

Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’ or golden privet
Common, but very undervalued — the ‘sunshine’ shrub.

Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’ or spotted laurel
Tough but handsome with gold splashed leaves and large red berries.

Spotted Laurel

Tomorrows post will discuss Pyracantha



Around Blooming Heather

Ground cover March Heather

Heather is an overlooked plant that can perform well in most gardens even though they generally prefer an acidic soil. They are evergreen plants that flower in pinks, purples and white.

Planting Heather.

  • Take into account how much space the mature plant will consume.
  • An average heather plant will grow to be between 8 and 20 inches tall  and two to three feet wide.
  • Plant them at least three feet apart for a better shape and easier pruning
  • Keep at least two feet away from other shrubs to encourage good air circulation.
  • For ground cover use low-growing heather and  plant them about a foot part.
  • Heather can be planted anytime the ground is not frozen.
  • Heaths and Heathers prefer full sun and well-drained, acidic soil. To prevent dessication provide protection from cold winter winds.
  • Heather should be planted so the root-ball is level with the soil surface.

Growing Heather

  • Heather should be pruned or trimmed each year immediately after they have finished flowering.
  • Poor foliage color, or stunted growth could indicate the need for feeding.
  • The best time to feed is in late winter or late spring with an ericaceus feed but this is often unnecessary and dangerous as heathers ‘burn’ easily.
  • Take cuttings from existing heather plants in July or August when the wood is “half ripe”.
  • If plants look straggly cover lower branches with peat or good compost.
  • Heather is reasonably long lived if given some care.

Read top 10 reasons for growing Heather

Heather in Yorkshire



Leek Day


March 11th and today I have finished harvesting my Leeks from last year. St Davids day whose symbol is the Leek is celebrated on March 1st every year so I am a bit behind the times.
I have also sown the 4th and last batch of this years seeds for indoor germination.
I may try some direct into the ground in early April.

Leek Easy Tips

  • Prizetaker will be ready to harvest from September until December.
  • Musselburgh I have sown for a later crop in November – February 2012. (It seems strange to be thinking about what to eat in 2012 but forward planning is part of gardening.
  • I will not grow my Leeks in the same soil as the crop I am just harvesting just in case of fungus.
  • I added some horse manure late last year and have a good moist soil bed ready when the seedlings need replanting.
  • I will hoe and earth-up the stems to get a longer blanched stem. This was something I forgot to do last year.


Canny Leek Growing is a book available from Amazon by Dan Calderbank that describs the best methods of growing leeks for culinary use or for exhibition, together with the historical development of this garden crop. Dan has developed his own leek strains and new methods of cultivation.


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