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Recommended specialist books and data sources

Hedgerows Worth Watching

Hedgerow flowers

January started the year quite well with a few early snowdrops and the remnants of primulas. February will be even better snow permitting. Leap forward to June which is a spectacular month for flowering hedgerows and particularly in the under-storey.

Identifying plants whilst out walking as a child, was my first introduction to the environment and natural gardening. There is still a buzz seeing a plant growing in the wild that some careful gardeners has subsequently developed for the garden or nursery trade.

Why not under-plant your garden hedges with native species of hedgerow flowers. The trick is to leave them undisturbed, unfed and untreated with chemicals. I would bank up the soil to start your hedge’s lower storey.

Hedgerows by County

  • I nominate Somerset as my favourite hedgerow county but I would like to know what other UK counties can lay claim to be hedgerow county 2010.
  • Cornish hedgerows have a soil banking (so that helps the smaller plants) with a rocky top and shrubs.
  • Devon hedges are similar to Cornwall but with turf on and at the top of the banking.
  • The Yorkshire Dales tends to have dry stone walls rather than hedges but the understorey plants can still be attractive.
  • In Perth, near Blairgowrie, is the tallest and longest hedge on earth. Meikleour Beech Hedge, planted in 1745, is 98 ft in height and nearly half a mile long. (I wouldn’t want to trim it).

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‘Hedgerows, moors, meadows and woods – these hold a veritable feast for the forager.’ and all is laid bear in the River Cottage Handbook. Book link

The English Hedgerow Trust provided this apposite quote from Shakespeare.

I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite canopied over with luscious woodbine
With sweet muskroses and with eglantine.

For a bit of fun read Copper Beech Hedges
Green Garden Habitats


Gardeners Year for Organic Fruit and Veg

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‘Organic Fruit and Vegetable Gardeners Year, The A Seasonal Guide to Growing What You Eat’ by Graham Clarke

Yesterdays Gardeners Question Time on radio 4 featured many questions on this subject. The main advice that appealed to me was to concentrate on growing more fruit. (We all more likely to take the advice we want to hear.)

Gardeners Tips on Organic Fruit Growing

Organic Principles
Organics should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animals and humans as one.
Organic growing is based on ecological systems and cycles that are worked with and sustained.
Organic gardening should be done in a precautionary manner to protect the health and well being of current and future generations.
Organics promotes the concept of fairness with regard to common environment and life opportunities.

Soil Fertility

Chemical fertility is the availability in the soil of all the elements, nutrients, ions,   traces and inorganic chemicals that plants need to grow.
Biological fertility includes micro organisms that help nutrient recycling’ including fungi, bacteria and protozoa that clean up bacteria. It also covers macro organisms such as arthropods that break down organic matter in the early stages of decomposition, worms that help drainage and aeration and nematodes that help in various ways but   occasionally act as pests.
Physical fertility is the mix of sand, silt and clay that makes up the soil and determines texture, ability to hold water and sustain life.

Weed Management Continue Reading →


Dangerous and Mind Altering Plants

Many plants have dangerous components, leaves, seeds and roots. Some of the most dangerous must be grown under government license.
Below are notes on just a few plants to avoid eating.

Mandrake is one of the most poisonous plants that is known. The specimen above is grown under strict control with a fence around it. A member of the nightshade family, Mandrake also contains atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine and hyoscyamine that affect brain functions.

Strychnine, the deadly poison, is produced from the beans of Strychnos ignatii. It is also found in the orange fruit and nuts of Strychnos nux vomica.

Ricin is a poison found naturally in the seeds of the Castor oil plant that also produces the oil that is fed to babies. Ricinus communis ‘Gibsonii’ has red-tinged leaves with reddish veins and pinkish-green seed pods but there are other Castol oil plant varieties.
If castor beans are chewed and swallowed, the released Ricin can cause injury.
Ricin can be made from the waste material left over from processing castor beans into castor oil.

Mescaline is a hallucinogen compound made from the small, spineless cactus Lophophora williamsii or Peyote. It is also present in other cacti including Echinopsis peruviana.
Mescaline is also found in certain members of the Fabaceae bean family.

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Continue Reading →


1000 Gardens to Visit and other 1000’s has now reached over 1000 tips on this blog. To celebrate this milestone I have looked for other notable 1000’s and have come up with the RHS Garden Finder last published in 2007 – 2008. This publication advertises ‘More than 1,000 gardens to visit and enjoy‘ and is a weighty 500 page reference book edited by Charles Quest-Ritson. Available from Amazon at a remaindered price from 1p plus postage.

Listing gardens to visit by country and county within the United Kingdom it also lists all the NCCPG National Collections. I guess the Philadelphus collections at Pershore College and The Hollies Park Leeds will smell just wonderful on the first of July.

Not to be out done on the tips front Readers Digest publish ‘1001 Hints and Tips for the Garden‘ with more contributors than you can shake a pea stick at.

Amazon also sell a couple of books celebrating one thousand including ‘1000 Fuchsias’ by Meip Nijhuis and ‘Emeralds 1000 Green Flowers and 500 Choice Green Foliage Plants’ by Karen Platt


Tulips from Catalogues

Tulips grow from bulbs not catalogues but I guess that is obvious. Nevertheless I think the first job is to check over any Tulip bulbs you lifted last spring to dry off. Bin any with mould or soft centers, do not add them to your compost heap.

There are many bulb catalogues now available and they usually supply a lot of information about the Tulips origin, size and flowering characteristics. If you are not on a mailing list you can respond to numerous off the page adverts in the press and magazines.
I like J Parker for the range and wholesale prices on larger volumes.
Bloms bulbs have been around for over 100 years and supply good size bulbs at a price and DeJager is another old established supplier.
Spalding bulbs are over marketed with too many gimmicks and free gifts so personally I tend to avoid them.
Of the many other bulb sources most seed companies supply bulbs by mail order but I particularly like the niche suppliers like Miniature Bulbs.

The big plus from mail order catalogues is that you can browse the pictures and specifications selecting the types and varieties you want. On the down side you are trusting that a good sized bulb will be supplied (a good big one beats a good small one). Remember too complain if you are unhappy with the bulbs you get, most companies value their reputation amongst gardeners.


Top 500 Gardening Books at Gardeners Tips HQ

400 gardening Books

My Top 420 Gardening Books

I wish to pay tribute and offer thanks to all those who have contributed to the tips on this web site through their words and wisdom in numerous books and published works. It is the inspirational gardeners, plantsmen and horticulturalists that are celebrated by authors, publishers and photographers, that deserve the praise.

If I have failed to cite or reference a particular comment in the past I apologise. I have tried to give appropriate credits and increase sales of some books by offering a link to an appropriate page on Amazon. This should cover the other 80 or so titles that go to make up the top 500.

Gardening Books a pdf  file highlights over 420 gardening books that I dip into from time to time.

If you have a preferred book that I have missed, or if you have written a gardening book yourself let me know and I will add it to our list.

I am an acknowledged hoarder and collecting gardening books became a passion several years ago. Most of my 12 book cases are overflowing as you can see from the picture.

The internet has made information so ubiquitous and freely available that it is good to remeber the fun and tactile joy you can get from thumbing through a specialist book.

RHS Books and Libraries

  • Additionally I volunteered at RHS library at Harlow Carr and helped move the book collection from ‘the old potting shed’ to the superb new Bramall Learning Center.
  • The new library section at Harlow Carr stocks 8,000 books, DVDs, magazines and offers online facilities.
  • Members can borrow books from the RHS at any of the ‘Lindley Libraries’, Wisley, London, Rosemoor and Hyde Hall. I think this is one of the pleasures of RHS membership.
  • There is a web search facility available to members and non-member
  • Lindley Library in London was recently closed after a small fire but should now be reopen.

Notes on my Books file

  • I have tried to arrange titles in a way that highlights the subject matter.
  • The authors should be listed by surname followed by first names.
  • The year published, number of pages and publisher is self explanatory.
  • I have a personal scoring system to highlight how useful or pleased with the book I feel at the time of recording it on the data base.
  • I have suppressed several other columns that are of less interest.

Send us a comment with your favourite gardening book details.

Thank you to those who use our link to amazon when buying a book. The small commission we recive helps pay for the site maintenance.

With around 2000 web pages we have got as much content as many books.


What is a Coronary Garden


A Coronary Garden was more popular in late Victorian times but as I discovered it goes back beyond the 17th century.
Coronary gardens were  used to grow flowers that could be used for wreaths and garlands and take their name Coronary from the word crown not the health problem.

The modern day equivalent is probably the florist shop or stall located at Crematoria

This photograph is not a true Coronary garden but a memorial garden in front of the cenotaph at Otley.

Tips for the Coronary Garden (1686)

  • Do not separate off sets from Tulips until they are quite dry.
  • Cotton Lavender makes a foot high hedge or border if kept well clipped.
  • A layer of stable litter under the soil that is planted with Tulips, Anemonies and Ranunculus will help them thrive. They my survive without lifting.
  • To grow Stock Gillyflowers chose a plant with excellent double flowers. Make it beare one branch of flowers and collect the seed. Sow in February in the hot bed and transplant in Michaelmas (September).

Note about Stock Gillyflower. – I originally took it to mean Carnation or Pinks of the Dianthus family but other plant dictionaries include stocks like Matthiola incana, or say stock gillyflower is the Cheiranthus; the queen’s gillyflower is the Hesperis or even any of several Old World plants cultivated for their brightly colored flowers.

Wordswarmnet Dictionary for Stock Gilly Flower

Plants for the Coronary Garden

  • Lilies in red, white, Crown Imperial or Persian.
  • Tulips, Crocus, Narcissus or Anemonie for spring
  • Snap dragons, Sweet Williams and Gladiolus
  • Iris and Fritillaries.
  • Daisies, Pansies and Violets
  • Various annuals or exotics like Amaranthus and Heliotrop.

The tips and flower selection have been taken from ‘ Directions for The Gardiner at Says- Court in 1686’. They were published in a wider more embracing form in ‘Directions for the Gardiner and Other Horticultural Advice’ by John Evelyn the diarist and OUP available via Amazon

The original manuscript was first transcribed in 1932 by Sir Geoffrey Keynes

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Himalayan Gardens in England

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First read the authoritative book ‘The Himalayan Garden: Growing Plants from the Roof of the World ‘ by Jim Jermyn

This book will provide tips and advice about cultivating species indigenous to the Himalayas. Understanding the ecology of the area gives a better appreciation of the Himilayan garden. It covers all the usual species including but not limited to Daphne, Euphorbia, Gentiana, Meconopsis, Primula and the classic Rhododendron. The book also considers different zones that are worth bearing in mind as we only associate Himalayas with big mountains. Jim covers chapters on Temperate, Sub-alpine and Alpine zones.

So now you are better prepared where can you visit?

  • The Himalayan garden The Hutts, Grewelthorpe, near Ripon Yorkshire not only has an interesting address but a good display of hybrid Rhododendrons. Also on display are Eucryphia, Bamboo and Cornus.
  • Also in Yorkshire is Harewood Himalayan garden opened by Alan Titchmarsh, in May 2009, says ‘The Harewood Himalayan Garden is a hidden gem and second to none in the UK…’
  • At Muncaster in the lake district check out the wonderful Sino-Himalayan Garden featuring many specimens rarely seen in the West.
  • If on the other hand you want your kids to have fun seek out Yeti at Riverhill Himalayan garden or climb the summit of Little Everest (the biggest hill in Sevenoaks)

Suppliers and other locations are listed on Rhododendron growers Glendoick’s web site.

See also Himalayan Gardens near Home


Be Safe from Poisonous Garden Plants

Datura, Brugmansia or Angels Trumpets















Datura also called Brugmansia or Angels Trumpets are not very angelic particularly when it comes to dangerous plants. They could easily feature in an Agatha Christy thriller.

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After our recent post – Flowers that can be eaten. We though it worth sharing a list of plants which are dangerous if eaten. In addition avoiding consuming these plants many common problems arise from contact with the sap.

  • Aconitum – Monkshood
  • Arum – Cuckoo pint.
  • Colchicum – The autumn crocus
  • Convallaria – Lily of the Valley
  • Cytisus – the Broom – All parts can be fatal if eaten.
  • Daphne – Shrub grown for its beautifully scented flowers. Berries very dangerous
  • Delphinium – All parts Highly toxic – can be fatal if eaten
  • Digitalis – Foxgloves cause irregular heart beat and digestive problems. Digitalis is used in heart medicines but is poisonous eaten straight from plant
  • Gloriosa superba
  • Laburnum – Beautiful flowers that flower in May but can be fatal if eaten
  • Lantana – (Spanish Flag)
  • Nerium – A beautiful conservatory plant
  • Phytolacca – The poke weed
  • Ricinus communis – Castor Oil Plant. Not to be confused with Fatsia.
  • Taxus – A hedge favourite.
  • Veratrum – The false Hellebore.

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Be Also Careful Not To Eat

  • Daffodils
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Buttercups
  • Hyacinth
  • Wild mushrooms that are really Toadstools

Eating these can cause various health problems.
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Poisonous Plants For Animals

  • Ragwort is poisonous to animals and can cause kidney failure and liver damage which is irreversible. Often fatal to horses and cattle and a number of dogs die by eating a small amount.
  • Other Senicio plants and Castor beans can also be fatal to animals.
  • Leaves and branches of Oleander produces digestive problems.
  • Even the water that flowers have stood in can become poisonous to animals.
  • Datura stramonium and Angels Trumpets are poisonous to humans and animals.
  • Easter Lily is poisonous to cats and dogs should not be allowed to eat cocoa shells.

Propagate Plants – Help Books

Your book shelves wont propagate themselves but with just a bit of help from Amazon……

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‘RHS Propagating Plants’ a Paperback by Alan Toogood is a good present for a favourite Uncle (I hope my relatives are reading).
The RHS own review says ‘Each plant is described briefly, followed by in depth descriptions of the main forms of propagation which can be used to increase stock, gathering seed, taking cuttings, grafting and so on. Earlier chapters cover basic botany required to understand how plants grow and also describe the various techniques in detail.’ At around £10 I think it represents good value.

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‘Creative Propagation’ by Peter Thompson is a scientifically sound book based on a readable approach to the propagation of a range of plants.
At around £15 this book helps the gardener understand the processes that makes propagation work.

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Readers Digest and Miranda Smith bring us ‘The Plant Propagator’s Bible’ but with Readers Digest I often feel like I have just had a chinese meal – shortly afterwards I want something of more substantial. Continue Reading →


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