Archive | Flowers and Plants

Annual, perennial and interesting flowers with advice on culture, information, tips and recommended varieties

Primula, Primroses and Polyanthus

‘Kinlough Beauty’ is an exceptionally hardy Primrose from the Primula family. . To maintain vigour divide ‘Kinlough Beauty’ every couple of years or so after blooming. This is when your free plants arise. I have just got nine new healthy plants from one clump. Other primroses can be divided in a similar manner.


Gardeners Tips

To divide a primrose separate new crowns with some roots from the old root. Pull apart or prise loose with two forks back to back.

Alternatively take divisions with a trowel whilst plants are still in the ground for more reliable performance.

Do not split into too many divisions as they take longer to establish.

Plant firmly in soil and keep moist as new roots are established.

Kinlough Beauty is a hardy evergreen or semi-evergreen Juliana cultivar with deep green, oval leaves 6 inches long. Plants produce loose clusters of wine red to rose-pink yellow eyed flowers held above a mound of foliage.


Plant labeling of primrose family can be a bit hit and miss. Continue Reading →


Best Garden Colour – Yellow?

Is yellow your favourite garden shade or colour. Certainly it is present is so many plants if only as pollen or as straw as old grass dies and colour fades away. At it’s brash best Yellow is stunning well able to stand on its own aor as support to other plants. With some plants such as Choysia even the leaves can be yellow.


For traffic stopping colour in your garden then you need blocks of the same plant all flowering at the same time. These primula are in a near-by garden in a long row against a wall. It catches early morning sun and is protected from wind and the worst of the frost. The colouring is stronger than the primrose or many other primulas and even one or two plants whould look good but massed together they are stunning. Continue Reading →


Root Vegetables a Gardeners and Bakers Dozen

After salad crop failures in Spain and shortages of courgettes, broccoli and other ‘long distance’ vegetables gardeners could to worse than focus on traditional and non-traditional root crops.

Book Cover

Chinese artichokeStachys affinis was popular in Edwardian times. It is a sprawling plant that produces knobbly roots for baking, mashing, frying or stir frying. Harvest as needed, after a long growing season, as they do not store well

Jicama or Yam bean have crunchy roots similar to dahlia tubers useful for adding to salads.Can only be stored for about a month.

Rampion have a strong taste, knobbly and fiddly roots and would be at the end of our list of experiments.

Hamburg parsley is popular in Germany with edible, evergreen leaves. Roots are upto 8inches long. Roast or use in stew.

Salsify and Scozonera look and taste similar and have been grown in the UK for hundreds of yaers . Salsify or Oyster plant, is biennial Scozonera is a hardy perennial that grows 3ft high.

Mouli or winter Radish cultivars of Raphanus sativus grow to the size of grapefruit. Round black are best for storing and all varieties red and yellow are prone to bolting unless sown after mid-summer.

Sweet potato Beauregard has been cultivated for UK growing and is available from Marshalls, Thompson Morgan and others. Protect from frost. Tubers tend to be smaller Sweet Potato ‘T65’. They have salmon-orange flesh and a sweet  flavour.

Old faithful Root crops

  • Potato
  • Carrot
  • Swede, turnip and rutabaga
  • Beet and manglewurzels
  • Parsnips
  • Jerusalem Artichoke

Root out some Tips

  • Root crops are generally heavy feeders.
  • Roots will ‘fang’ or fork if the soil has been freshly manured.
  • To get the straightest roots avoid stony soil and keep soil light
  • Plenty of water and high potash feed will help grow better crops.
  • Grow in full sun with adequate space and avoid competition from weeds.
  • Look after the leafy tops to get good underground growth

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.

Book Cover
Continue Reading →


Gourmet Vegetable Production

There are as many different vegetable plots as there are gardeners and everyone has its place. My default position is clear, I seek good yield or output from lower effort and less space than in  previous decades.

My allotment days are over and although I expected to be time rich and veg plot area poor I can still be a Gourmet Producer of fresh tasty items. I say still, because retirement isn’t a guarantee of more gardening time.

Essentials Of a Gourmet Producer

  1. Grow what you will eat
  2. Do not grow food that is better or cheaper in the shops. Main crop potatoes and onions are generally better and cheaper from retailers.
  3. Grow what is best picked and eaten fresh. Lettuce, mangetout and beans are potential gourmet foods.
  4. Avoid growing gluts, you need only grow for the family table and occasional dinner party – who needs 5 rows of romaine lettuce all ready at the same time.
  5. Grow in succession by planting seeds a few weeks apart so they mature at different times.
  6. Maximise the length of the growing season by growing endive, raddichio and numerous varieties of brassica.
  7. Eat carrots and leaks as micro veg from thinnings with fewer left to maturity.
  8. Sow mixed salad leaves in rows and ‘cut and come again.’ You can do this with autumn sown cabbage too.
  9. Work to a plan to use your time on the plot rather than standing and pondering rather than gardening.
  10. Little and often works better than periodic onslaughts.  Daily visits, even just 30 minutes, lets you feel what is and isn’t working well.


Gourmet Maintenance & Time Management

  1. Even gourmet gardeners need to dig and hoe. Remove weeds – you can’t eat them.
  2. Split larger jobs in to manageable slots.
  3. At the beginning of the year use roundup to clear larger areas.
  4. Make compost and use it for mulching and soil improvement. Buy in extra if necessary for autumn.
  5. Buy plug plants when you only need a limited number of a type of plant. Masses of seedlings cost and take time.
  6. Cover plants with cloches and use slug pellets. You are growing for you to eat not feeding  pigeons and slugs.
  7. Water what needs watering eg runner beans and lettuce.
  8. Keep an eye on the weather and adjust your gardening accordingly.
  9. Do not forget to use the greenhouse. Tomato varieties have never been more numerous and tasty.
  10. If you have the conditions and patience then asparagus can be a delight and I wouldn’t be without Rhubarb!


Edgeworthia Gardeners Tips

Edgeworthia is a genus of shrubs that flower in small clusters of scented 4 petaled flowers tightly packed to form a ball shape. The genus is related to the Daphne family and can be grown in the UK with similar treatment and success.

You can get a long display as they flowers open progressively from winter through February until it leafs up in spring. Varieties may be evergreen or deciduous.

Key Tips

  • Avoid waterlogged soil and soil prone to drying out.
  • Plants grow well around other shrubs without being too enclosed.
  • Despite being called the Paper tree it only responds well to light pruning to retain shape.
  • Buy when the plants are in leaf so you can assess it’s health

Growing Characteristics

  • Plants mature to a height of  5ft by 5ft in a rounded shape.
  • Plants  would survive  in a greenhouse or conservatory if your garden is too exposed.
  • Flowers are in terminal clusters opening in January February before the leaves.
  • Leaves of the deciduous varieties are lance-shaped, dark green and 6ins long.
  • The bark is  cinnamon-coloured with papery flakes.   Bark was used in the manufacture of high-quality paper for Japanese banknotes.

Edgeworthia Varieties

  • Edgeworthia chrysantha produces a tight yellow ball shaped flower on a leafless stem
  • Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Rubra’
  • Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Red Dragon’ as the name implies has fiery red flowers when fully open
  • Edgeworthia papyrifera is also known as the paperbush
  • Edgeworthia chrysantha Grandiflora is reputed to have larger flowerheads

Plants are available from Thomson and Morgan (credit the Photo) and Burncoose


Make a Woodland Garden

Bluebells in Woods
First Steps

  • Think through your short term and long term plans. Woodland gardens are likely to last and last.
  • Ensure you have the right space, location and environment for a woodland.
  • Work with nature not against it.
  • Make careful consideration of the type of garden you are aiming for and think in 3 dimensions at the planing stage.
  • Keep your first designs and plans basic so you can  make changes after the key plants are in place.

Tips for making a woodland garden

  1. Trees are the framework and backbone of your woodland garden.
  2. Plant some evergreens to provide structure through winter
  3. Lift the canopy of trees regularly to allow light through to the plants below.
  4. Introduce brightness to shady spots with golden leaved plants and shade tolerant varieties.
  5. Spring will be OK with bulbs and wild flowers but introduce plants for summer interest
  6. Provide varying light levels to increase the range of plants grown.
  7. Avoid hard landscape and make design features simple and natural.
  8. Mulch and consider ferns, Rhododendrons and Cornus if the soil is on the acid side.

On a hot summers day (what is that ? ed.) there is nothing better than a woodland walk with its distinctive scents and surprising colours. Well spaced deciduous trees often provide the best displays as the filtered sun helps develop then highlight the woodland growers.

  • Aconites are one of the earliest woodland flowers and do well under trees
  • Bluebells are an favourite but can expand rapidly in a garden.
  • Anemone nemorosa or Wood anemone grow well under shady trees as long as they can get some moisture.

Continue Reading →


Dahlias from Tubers a Seasons Review

It will soon be April and I need to check my over wintered tubers and buy some new varieties. The I can start my Dahlias in to growth. It is too cold to plant them out in the garden in April in the north so I start to get them going in pots in the greenhouse.


I planted the tubers in pots big enough to hold the tuber easily and covered with potting compost. After a good watering I left them under the bench in the greenhouse. Within two to three weeks I expect to see the first shoots poking out of the compost and beginning to green up. Another month will have to go by before all danger of frost will have disappeared in the North so it will be the end of May when I knock them out of the pots and they go into their final planting position

Tips For Good Dahlias

  • Choose strong healthy varieties
  • Dahlias like plenty of space and their own area to grow so space them well.
  • Dahlias need water and are hungry feeders so give them rotted compost in the hole before planting.
  • Through summer give them water containing a high potash based feed and an occasional foliar feed through leaves
  • Dahlias can grow 3 – 4 foot tall and need some support. 3 or 4 canes or a proprietary wire support is appropriate.
  • Deadhead the plants regularly and they will flower until the first frost
  • Dahlias are good for cutting but I find them short lived in the vase but that’s just me preferring flowers in the garden.
  • Dahlias can be left in the ground over winter and subject to a very late frost will survive -give them a deep winter mulch when you cut them back after the leaves have been blackened by the first frost.
  • Digging up dahlias and keeping the tubers gives you chance to dived the plants or take cuttings from stock started into growth early in the year. If you want to bulk up stock of one plant start them into growth in wet compost in the warmth in February – when shoots are 2″ or more take them as cuttings and give them warmth at the roots.

Seeds and tubers from Thompson Morgan


October Review

  • The season was wet and the dahlias enjoyed rapid leaf growth.
  • Slugs ate the white varieties but left other leaf alone – strange!
  • I did not deadhead enough and lost some of the flower power.
  • Now the first frost has sent the leaves into soggy decline I will dig up the tubers, allow them to dry and store them for next year. The North of England is too cold and damp for the tubers to survive in the ground through winter.

Sparkling Summer Bulbs

Reliable flowering can be expected from summer bulbs and tubers.
Early Summer Flowering
Alliums flower May-July, I like those that look like a burst of stars
Anemone start in April with the woodland varieties then come the blousy De Caen and larger corm types through summer

Dutch Iris look good for a short while in midsummer but I find I get poor results in containers.

Continue Reading →


Geranium Cranesbill Variety Review

The hardy perennial geranium is a good ground cover plant with many varieties to choose from. Do not confuse hardy Geraniums with Pelargoniums which are also sometimes referred to incorrectly as Geraniums.

Geranium Splish Splash

Geranium ‘Splish Splash’

Geraniums are one of the easiest and most versatile low growing plants. They are not fussy, but given a reasonable level of care they will reward the gardener with ground cover and 1 or 2 extended flowering periods.

Care for Geraniums

  • After flowering cut back geraniums to their base. Feed and water and you will get a second flush of leaves and flowers later in the year.
  • Geraniums are easy to divide. It is best done after the growing season is over in October. Just use a spade and divide their crown into two or three. If cut back, Geraniums can be divided at any time of they year but they will need more attention with watering.
  • Geraniums grow best in full sun or partial shade but they are versatile and in our experience not that fussy.
  • The great thing about Geraniums is that the mature plants seem relatively resistant to the most common pests – slugs and aphids. However, plug plants will need the usual protection from slugs and snails.

Geranium Plugs and Bare Roots

Dwarf hardy geraniums from Jersey direct

Geranium from Thompson Morgan

G. Johnsons Blue pictured is a strain of G. pratense and is a strong growing, self spreading plant. Mrs Kendall Clark is another clear blue but Rozanne has a longer flowering period from early summer to late autumn.

A pink geranium G. sanguenium is commonly found in many cottage gardens with it profuse pink flowers that have two flushes if cut back after the initial show. G Anna Folkard with lime green leaves has a trailing habit and needs some control in my garden.

Along with Johnsons Blue and Anna Folkard, Kashmir White has an Award of Garden Merit but I recommend you see plants in flower if you are looking to acquire it for a special colour or habit so that you make sure you are getting a good base stock that is worth the AGM.

The black Mourning Widow G. Phaeum like shade and self seeds profusely. My stock is also a weedy short lived flowering example that I am trying to throw out.
Greanium renardii has sage green leaves and delicately purple-veined flowers.
Geranium himalayense ‘Birch Double’ is vigorous and versatile. this superb cranesbill tolerates almost any situation; even full shade. A mass of double purple-pink blooms stand above the delicately serrated foliage which turns to shades of burnt red and orange in autumn. will quickly blend with other herbaceous perennials to create colourful groundcover and looks equally attractive in herbaceous borders and shady woodland gardens. Height: 25cm (10”). Spread: 60cm (24”).

Geranium wallichianum ‘Sweet Heidi’ have rich purple, cup shaped blooms with clean, white centres that are decorated with distinct maroon veining. Forming loose mounds of attractive lobed foliage, this robust hardy geranium makes excellent ground cover through the front of informal borders

Geranium cinereum Laurence Flatman”


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