Archive | Flowers and Plants

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

Help Plants Through a Wet Winter

Plants can drown when roots are left in wet soil for protracted periods. Short immersion whilst dormant is seldom fatal but saturated soil drives away the oxygen needed by plants to help them transpire.
Also in winter some plants are prone to root rot Phytophthora or rot off at soil level.

waterlogged garden

Not Waving but Drowning

Selecting Appropriate Plants for Wet Winters

  • Avoid silver leaved or grey perennials.
  • Mediterranean hot arid loving plants and many alpines do not like our cold, wet winters.
  • Pot plants that suffer quite easily and can die include Orchids, African Violets and other fleshy rooted plants.
  • Bog lovers, Hydrangeas, Cornus, Dogwoods and Hosta are just some of the plants that may thrive through a wet winter.

Improving Survival Chances

  • Wet soil is created by compaction or because of a high water table and poor drainage.
  • Incorporating grit or pea gravel as a surface mulch will help keep the base of the plant drier.
  • Plant on top of a slight mound
  • Improve drainage by spiking, trenches and with soak-aways or land drains.
  • Avoid compacting the soil by walking on the ground when it is wet.
  • Work your soil and dig in organic matter during the other seasons.
  • Spring flooding is especially dangerous when plants and roots start to respire. Divert excess water and be prepared

Pot Grown Plants

  • Lift pots off the ground with pot feet or onto bricks.
  • Lay pots on their side to avoid excessive rain settling on the center of the plants.
  • Improve drainage by incorporating perlite and coarse grit in the compost.
  • Move pots under cover or into a rain shadow.
  • Put a slanted pane of glass or cloches over special plants. Allow air to circulate.
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Selecting a New Apple Tree

There are over 7000 different varieties of apple tree including those classed as eaters, cookers, crab or cider apples. 10% of these are available from RHS plant finder recommended nurseries.

Horticultural Considerations

  • Your apple tree should last a long time and be fruitful and satisfying. It is worth taking care to get the selection right.
  • The growth and size of your tree will depend to a large extent on the ‘rootstock’. The most common rootstocks are M27 5-6 feet tall, M26 8-12 feet tall and MM106 12-18 feet tall.
  • Some varieties of apple in clay based soil may grow slightly quicker and larger than an apple planted on light, sandy or chalky soil.
  • Most apple trees need another cultivar to pollinate their flowers and set fruit. It must flower at the same time. Triploid trees are very poor pollinators.
  • Some varieties are more disease resistant than others. Seek out award of garden merit AGM varieties or discuss with a specialist nursery.

Personal Selection Criteria

  • Warm country imports from supermarkets often have less flavour than your home grown apples.
  • Autumn apple days are held around the country and can offer a wealth of local advice. Sample tasting may be possible or you can select trusted well known favourites.
  • How you want to grow your tree can affect the selection. A trained espalier tree or cordon grown on a slant, a ballerina tree grown in a large pot or a ‘step over hedge’ tree are currently popular in designer gardens. The choice is yours but plan now for planting later this autumn.
  • Two year old trees will cost more but crop sooner than maidens.

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Yew Tree – Taxus baccata

Yew

Yew are used in many contexts and can feature in natural or formal situations. In the 18th century species of Taxus were brought to the UK from America and Asia to add to our native Taxus baccata. There are now many cultivars of upright, pendulous and ground cover forms of Yew.

Garden Uses of Yew

  • Yew provide evergreen structure to your garden
  • Hedging is an important garden use creating a dense living wall or sculptable feature.
  • Yew is famous for its use in topiary with its ability to take on shape and form and last for many decades.
  • Mounds can be planted with an upright yew underplanted with ground cover Yews.
  • Dwarf varieties of our native Yew include Corleys Coppertip and Dwarf White.
  • Specimen trees can be grown from Taxus baccata varieties such as Dovastoniana, Amersfoort and Fatigiata Aureomarginata
  • In a small garden select slow growing forms of Taxus baccata

Cultivation Tips

  • Yew can withstand hard or even drastic pruning.
  • For a slender upright growing Yew try a Japanese for Taxus cuspidata ‘Robusta’ as a change from the Irish yew. Train young plants to a single stem.
  • Prune annually in late summer. To substantially reduce a hedge cut in April and do half the tree one year and the other half the following season.
  • Well suited to chalky and lime stone soil but not too fussy.

Irish Yew

Golden coloured Yew

See Also

Yew Root and Branch Review

Old Yews

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Bromeliad, Vriesea and Guzmania

Most Bromeliad of the thousands of species are tropical plants. In the UK they make good house plants and pot plants for a conservatory. Others plants in the same family are the  genus including  Aechmea, Neoregelia, Vriesea and Guzmania

Bromeliad Care

  • The foliage  grows in a natural rosette of sword shaped leaves.
  • A central cup of leaves catches water in the plant’s natural habitat. In the home just top up this cup with soft water once a week. Over-watered  can cause root rot.
  • Use a liquid feed once a  month but not via the cup.
  • Avoid direct sunlight but the plants need plenty of light. Semi-shade is ideal.
  • Keep the air humid by putting the pot in a saucer of gravel.
  • The brightly colored leaves are  called bracts.
  • After flowering the Bromeliad may start to produce offsets called pups.

 Water in the ‘cup’
Kew 092
Guzmania

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June 17th Potatoes from a Waterbutt

This £1 packet of supermarket potato tubers have just been harvested to cook as new potatoes tonight. The variety was Charlotte, they were chitted in February and planted out in a frost shelter in March.

The results were better than usual in that they didn’t ‘go into the water’ when boiled. The potatoes were quite waxy, tasty and good value considering the price I paid. I used an old waterbutt rather than these special gro’bags see below. They had let me down in the past as I think they do not hold enough moisture. One advantage of both planters is that the ground stays clear and the space can now be used for other items.

I am now going to try use these planters for some late Chrysanthemums that can be kept outside in summer but brought into the greenhouse for autumn.

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New Photos of Senicio or Senetti

Sorry but I have been to Madeira again on holiday. The gardens, walking and vibrant colours are major attractions

With old age I am growing to like Daisy and all the related family particularly these vibrant coloured flowers from Pericallis genus.

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Garden for Cut Flowers

Book Cover

On the new craze of gardening for cut flowers, where America starts will we follow or is it really voice versa?

Olden Times

  • The Romans brought many plants to the UK in the first century including  various herbs and  the grape.
  • Dating from the early 15th century a book called The Feate of Gardening mentions more than 100 plants.
  • Gardens as a form of creative display properly began in the sixteenth century, often described as Tudor gardens.
  • Oh…. did Christopher Columbus stumble on the new world around then?

Flower Farms

  • Skip to the 21st century and ‘flower farms are all the rage’ as though selective cultivation is something new.
  • Stunning flower gardens of rewarding species can be grown for seasonal bloom
  • A corner of your garden or an allotment plot for sweet peas, chrysanthemums, dahlias and  cosmos can produce bunches and bunches.
  • With more space flower production for gate sales or local retail supply can supplement plant and seedling sales.
  • Do not forget to grow ‘greenery’ to sell with bunches of flowers.

Book Cover

Possible Markets for Your Flowers

  • Bridal displays and bouquets for special occasions are worth a premium price.
  • Selling as a producer to a retailer means the retailers  margin and wastage needs to be accounted for in your pricing.
  • Market stall, farmers markets and local event selling is seasonal but may generate  some cash.
  • Supply agreements will commit you to regularity and consistency so have a good plan to be able to deliver.
  • Crafters, flower arranging clubs friends and neighbors are also possible targets.
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Seed Dispersal

How do Plants Spread their Seeds

To maintain the species plants have developed many strategies for dispersing their seed. They make flowers and fruit attractive so gardeners buy them in seed packets or propogate them to eat. More importantly they have evolved specific techniques:

Major Seed Dispersal Methods

  • Wind is an obvious method from weeds like dandelions and their seed clocks and willowherb to trees such as Sycamore with the helicopter twirly ‘double samaras’ which spin to the ground.
  • Cyclamen have an ingenious method to get the fresh seed away from the parent plant. In addition to the pod on a long twisting stem the seeds are coated in a  sticky substance that is attractive to ants. The ants then unwittingly move the seed  to the new location.
  • The gravity ‘dead drop’ of seed is fine for annuals and seeds that are happy to germinate near the old (now dead) parent.
  • Seeds that want to move a bit away from the parent such as Alliums and Aquilegia have a seed pod that progressively tightens around the maturing seed. The pod then spritzes or squeezes the seed as a cherry stone would when squashed between your finger and thumb. Pea pods pop open when ripe.
  • Bird Cherry is named for the creatures that eat the flesh and excrete the stone. There are other seeds that are spread after animals and birds have eaten the fruit but not digested the seed.
  • Animals also disperse thistles, teasels and burdocks via their fur after the seeds hooks or spines attach themselves.
  • Squirrels and some animals also bury or hide nuts and fruit and if forgotten they may germinate. Humans may throw an apple core away spreading the seed.
  • Plants growing by water such as Willow and Flag Iris can have the seed transported by the water.
  • A combination of dispersal methods may be used eg a seed blown by wind may be transported by water to somewhere else.

Book Cover

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Re-Blooming ‘Remonant’ Plants

              Creskeld Iris

A little used gardening term is ‘Remonant’, said of a plant flowering more than once in a season.

I first came across the term in an article ‘Autumn Encore’ by Simon Garbutt in  The Garden September 2003 . The main thrust was on reflowering varieties of Iris, called rebloomer at Seagate Irises.

  • Where the growing season is long enough, remonant irises are bred to produce an autumn flush of flowers. In the USA where they are popular they are also known as “Cycle rebloomers”.
  • Continious flowering or Repeaters are now being bred to extend the flowering period. The answer to a regular display of Iris is to choose your species and variety with care.

Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘David Ramsey’ is one of the remonant bloomers in the Hydrangea range that is similar to Endless Summer. ‘Blooms age green and red during the summer for an antique look. This one can rebloom in more climates if cut right after first bloom’.Hydrangeas Plus.com

Many perennials are regular rebloomers to the point where they are not worth calling remonant as it is our normal expectation. The exception I would make is the ‘Rose’ or to be more specific some old garden roses that flower either once a year or once in the spring and again in Autumn. By specific variety derived from parenthood some roses are remonant.

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Trust Woodland to Supply Timber

What do Acute Oak Decline, The Red Squirrel Survival Trust and the silviculture reduction of oak rotation from 140 years to 100 years have in common? I can think of two or three answers around the work of the late Peter Goodwin.

Peter was from a family of cabinet makers and with Lewis Scott founded the Woodland Trust a charity focused on forestry and users of the different types of wood. The trust is a fount of knowledge about our native trees, tree planting advice and woodland based education.

Book Cover

Acute Oak Decline (AOD)

  • AOD is an aggressive disease which can result in high levels of tree mortality within 5 years of diagnosis.
  • Like chronic Oak decline, AOD affects pendunculate and sessile oak trees that are over 50 years old
  • AOD is caused by a pathogenic bacteria that attacks the trunk of the tree causing a dark, sticky fluid to ooze from cracks or lesions in the bark.
  • Trees may also suffer from canopy dieback, similar to that in chronic oak decline.
  • Chronic Oak Decline is a less vociferous disease caused in part by insect damage caused by the leaf roller moth caterpillars .
  • The Woodland Trust has sponsored research into the problems and potential treatment.

The Red Squirrel Survival Trust

  • The American grey squirrel is a destructive pest that has displaced many colonies of red squirrels.
  • By keeping reds and greys apart, red squirrels can be allowed to thrive protecting the biodiversity of Britain’s native woodlands.
  • Other activities of the trust include establishing new red colonies across the UK wherever feasible and funding research.

 Ancient and veteran trees

  • The British love ancient trees, the stories associated with them, cultural connections and historic uses of timber for dwellings ship building etc.
  • The number of ancient trees in the UK (127,595) is exceptional. Many look special and support rare fungi, plants and animals.
  • Visit the Woodland Trust’s  Ancient Tree Inventory to find ancient trees near you. ‘You’ll be able to record one that is missing or search the database for the largest or oldest trees in any part of the UK.’
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