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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

 

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Leek Day

Leeks

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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Scilla or Squill Should Look Like This?

After the ‘Lord Mayors Parade’ gardeners get the manure. After the snow and sometimes during the snow gardeners get the Glory of the Snow or at least the glory of Scilla.
To have a display that looks like a professional start 3 years ago.

To have a garden that looks like Kew start 30+ years ago.

Glory of the snow

I like to grow bulbs in the garden but am often put to shame by other displays. I sometimes wonder ‘Why Don’t My Scilla Look Like This?’ but then realise that comparing your garden to Kew garden or international locations means you are on a hiding to nothing.

Scilla auf dem Friedhof

Tips to Look Like This Continue Reading →

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Warm Your Soil

Late winter and unseasonal snow has left many garden soils cold and inhospitable.
Spring is the time for new root growth and annual plants and vegetables need the best start possible.
Vegetables and ornamental plants need a bit of warmth to get established and growing away.
Clay soils is traditionally slow to warm through as they hold a bulk of water.

runner bean

Warming Your Soil

I use several methods to warm the soil and control the amount of water.
A cloche will cover an unsown area until you are ready to plant. It will slow down heat loss at night, speeds germination and also offers protection to young plants – I have started off my onion sets under a plastic tunnel type of cloche this month.
Black absorbs the suns heat and white tends to reflect heat. You can lay black plastic on an area of soil to get some warmth but ensure a good contact between the two. Hoe off any weeds before planting out.
Horticultural fleece is best for protecting young crops from late frost and will only do a little to warm the soil.
Compacted soil is inhospitable and likely to be cold. Incorporate plenty of humus and dig over to get air into the soil.

More Tips for a Cold Soil

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Orchid Compost a Treat for Orchids

If you want to make your Orchids feel at home then use good Orchid compost and mimic natural conditions as best you can.
There are many proprietary brands available but you could do a lot worse than talk to an expert at a local Orchid show.

Orchids love humidity but hate wet feet so a free draining compost is preferred.
Some orchids are epiphytes that grow on other plants and trees and need to retain enough moisture when the opportunity arises.
All roots need air in greater or lesser proportions and some orchids have roots that grow out of pots into open air. That gives a clue as to what good Orchid compost will be like.
Orchids do not get any real food value from the free draining compost so need dilute feed in with the watering.
Orchids

Content of Orchid Compost

  • Bark chippings which come in differing sizes. For plants with thick roots choose a larger chips, if they are small and thin then choose small chippings.
  • Sphagnum moss, bark and  styrofoam mixed is good  for seedlings or very thinly rooted plants. It tends tol dry out quickly so watch the  watering.
  • Rock wool  mixed with a little perlite can seem dry on the surface   when very wet underneath and over time breaks down into a hard mass.
  • Lump peat and styrofoam is good for Phalaenopsis and those plants requiring a little more moisture retention.

Orchid Compost Tips

  • You can buy a proprietary Orchid compost at most garden centres
  • Compost breaks down and Orchids need repotting into fresh compost but only every couple of years.
  • Put some large crocks of foam at the bottom of the pot to aid drainage and retain air pockets
  • Repot just after flowering not whilst in flower.
  • Let bark compost soak in water overnight before repotting.
  • Thompson & Morgan Chempak orchid growth feed. It is a high nitrogen liquid fertiliser containing plant foods, magnesium and six trace elements to promote growth

Orchid compost is available from Amazon

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Growing Bulbs in Grass

Naturalising means bulbs growing and seeding as they would in the wild; i.e. “in nature”. In some gardens this means growing bulbs in grass instead of borders.
To naturalize bulbs they need to be planted where they can remain undisturbed without the need for the foliage to be prematurely removed. Leaves need to die back for about six weeks after the flowers have faded.

Growing  Bulbs in Grass

  • Crocus will thrive for years if planted in grass with a dry or fast draining soil. If the lawn is lush and gets lots of high nitrogen fertilizer it will stunt the flowering process of the bulbs. You’ll get lots of foliage but no flowers.
  • Plant in groups or clusters so you can mow the other area.
  • You need to be patient as a bulb seedling will take 5-7 years before it has built up reserves to flower. Above all do not deadhead the flowers so they can seed a couple of months after flowering.
  • Plant species bulbs rather than showy doubles.

Continue Reading →

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Gardeners Winter Vegetables

Get sowing for some winter greens and veg like Beetroot, Spring Cabbages, Lettuces, Spring Onions, Chicory, Fennel and Rocket.
cabbage

Unless you already have a well stocked allotment or vegetable garden you need to be thinking about next years winter vegetables. Settle down with a drink and some good seed catalogues and plan to enjoy the fruits (or veg) of your labours through to next Christmas.

The well named Tundra Cabbage will take all that winter can throw at you and still produce firm heads until April. Blue cabbage Aurtoro looks so good next to Autumn yellows and oranges and it can be planted in the flower garden. The heads are firm and the leaves tightly packed to make a vegetable that stands well. It will also help make a warming winter soup.

Cabbage Tips

Plant Spring cabbage 12in apart.
Earth up the soil around their stems to prevent rocking and help them against the cold.
In cold frost prone areas cover with fleece or cloches. Watch out for pigeons which may get deterred by netting.
Young plants can be thinned for spring greens and leave the rest to heart up.

Curly Kale with crinkly leaves is another vegetable that shouldn’t be restricted to the vegetable patch. Redbore a purple leaved variety grows on tall sturdy stems that look interesting through winter. Other varieties like January King 3, Red Winter or Westland Winter, a blue green, can add more variety to the garden and your winter grub. If you like the blistered crinkly leaved varieties go for Resolution or Traviata F1’s.

Parsnips are just ready to start lifting. They can be left in the ground until needed and I think a bit of frost does no harm to the flavour. Interceptor Carrots can be harvested through to March and reverting to the purple theme Purple Haze Carrots can be picked until Christmas.

Seasonal favourite Brussels Sprouts need that bit of frost to bring out the sweetness and take away some of the sulphur taste. Pick from the bottom of the stalk and then you can finish off eating the top of the stalk like a small cabbage. I find Maximus F1 have a long cropping season and a good flavour. Support the stalks if grown ina windy conditions.

Late Cauliflowers to consider are Haddin or Deakin F1’s that will hold until February if you don’t eat them first.

Autumn sown Spinach is a healthy crop containing iron and vitamins.
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Growing Excellent Auriculas

This spring has been a good one for my Auriculas. I have been please with a powder blue flower that I hope to propagate by division in July. First I will water well and add some dilute feed.

alpine-auricula

These Alpine Auriculas look excellent  when grown in 3 inch pots. The ‘Long Tom’ pots are silghtly taller than the traditional pot and are useful as Auricula tend to grow a ‘carrot root’ used to anchor the plant in the wild. Alpine Auriculas have either a golden yellow or cream centre surrounding the tube.

Show Auriculas are considered to be the star Auricula plants and must have a ring of dense Farina around the eye of the flower. Selfs (all one colour) and Edges including most stripes have an outside edge composed of leaf tissue such as the ‘Orlando’ a grey edged show Auricula. Green edges usually have larger flowers. Stripes have recently been reintroduced with Monmouth Star having red petals with yellow rays out to the flowers edge.

Double Auricula ‘Sibsey‘  is a blue to purple flower and can be found at Specialist grower Angus Auriculas. Doubles arise from mutations of border or garden Auriculas and were amongst the first novelties cultivated and shown. There is now an increasing number of doubles including striped doubles at NAPS shows.  The Fantasia variety is deep maroon with white frosting a real eye-catcher

auricula-2

Border or Garden Auriculas have old names like Dusty Miller, Recklasses and Ricklers. Only a few  have ‘Farina’ the white powder found on leaves and flowers that resembles flour or meal which is a must on Show Auriculas.  Some are European primula hybrids and occasional are scented. Best grown in a position that gives them shade from midday sun. Water in very dry spells but plant in well drained soil. Ideal for partially shaded positions on rockeries or borders, or spring flower beds, pots, tubs

Continue Reading →

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Streptocarpus Care and Propagation Tips

Windowsill orchids are a houseplant favourite and I repeat and update some tips given 3 years ago.
Streptocarpus

Plant care tips from Dibleys National Collection

  • Always cut off dead flowers.
  • Excessive or incorrect feed and poor light make the plants produce very large leaves and few flowers.
  • It is quite natural as plants age for the old leaves to die back, and the ends should be trimmed off, especially in winter.
  • In March or April gradually start watering more often and commence feeding.
  • Do not over-pot you will get more flower by keeping on the pot bound side. Using half of three quarter depth pots is a good idea.
  • Given this treatment you will be rewarded by a continuous display of flowers from about May until well into winter.
  • You will also find the flowers are good for cutting.
  • Shallow pots are recommended but I find the roots quickly mat up and become hard to water.
  • I have taken to only using clay pots (Wide Toms)
  • Start with AGM varieties.
  • Dibleys attend a large number of plant & flower shows where plants can be bought.

Continue Reading →

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Tips for Growing Hibiscus Indoors

Buying tips for indoor Hibiscus. Smaller plants with3-5 branches each with buds are generally the best value. If they loose there buds new ones should soon follow. Look at florists and chain stores as well and garden centres.

Hibiscus
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Hibiscus is a large genus of over 200 species. One species Hibiscus cannabinus, is extensively used in paper making. Another, roselle Hibiscus sabdariffa is used as a vegetable and to make herbal teas in the Caribbean but it is as an extravagantly coloured flower that we know it best.

If your hibiscus has flowers of red, pink, orange, yellow, salmon, peach, orange, or two coloured double or single flowers, it is probably a tropical hibiscus. Hardy hibiscus do not come in these colors or in doubles! If it is a perennial, hardy hibiscus they need very little care over the winter, they are root hardy and die to the ground each year.

Hibiscus

Houseplants and Indoor Hibiscus

  • Chinese Hibiscus are shrubby plants that make fine indoor exhibitions if given plenty of light.
  • Bought plants will have been treated to keep them small and compact. You can prune them to keep in shape.
  • Short lived, trumpet shaped flowers are available in many colours and there is a regular supply of new buds.
  • Keep in a constant temperature to avoid bud drop.
  • Don’t over-water, keep on the dry side but water copiously in summer.

Look at Thompson & Morgan for more ideas.

Hibiscus

Cultivation Tips for Hibiscus

  • Most hibiscus have a few yellow leaves when they get old and need replacing. If your plant too has many yellow leaves it is stressed probably from over watering.
  • Hibiscus want loamy, coarse open soil that is not too heavy.
  • For prolific flowering, hibiscus need weekly feedings during March-October. Low phosphorus and high potassium feed is best.
  • Repotting is usually carried out in spring if you can see roots poking out of the bottom of the pot or if they are filling the pot.

Hibiscus

Recommended Hibiscus Organisations

The American Hibiscus Society lists the following links

Hibisucus genevii in the Princess of Wales Conservatory
See the endangered hibiscus ‘hibiscus genevii flowering during May in the Princess of Wales Conservatory Kew. In the wild it is only found in small numbers in specific areas of Mauritius.’

Credits
Hibisucus genevii in the Princess of Wales Conservatory by Kew on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Book Cover

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