Archive | Flowers and Plants

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

Alpine Troughs and Plant Selections

Alpine trough

Outside Harlow Carr’s new Alpine house are a collection of troughs, stone sinks and other containers suitable for a collection of Alpine plants. The planting varies and is related to the soil and rock conditions each plant prefers. One container has old rotting logs and a richer soil for small rhododendrons and other species. Others have carefully inserted rock slivers to replicate mountain conditions giving shade and more importantly deep root runs and drainage.

Alpines in trough

Whilst the troughs vary in size they are all less than 6 feet by 4 feet and could fit into virtually any garden. There is also many more outdoor containers full of selected plants. I was amazed at the number and variety of plants on display in the middle of November. They are all carefully named on these black labels with a white fiber tip pen which I resolved to try in my garden. On some plants there is a topical note that explains why it currently features or how it is grown. ( An autumn flowering variety of snowdrop fit into that category)

Trough for alpines

The photographs can be enlarged using flickr by double clicking on the image and going to all sizes. I hope the name tags are then visible.
A picture inside the house is available on the RHS website. and for Alpine plant lovers Harlow Carr is now worth a special visit.
The Alpine garden society have a good article on your own Alpine trough

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Scented Phlox Give Gardens Aroma

What is the flower that groups of people look at and sheep meet in ? Well it has to be Phlox and in this case the perennial Phlox paniculata.

Top Variety Tips

  • Only 3 feet tall but the pure white Phlox of Mount Fuji earns its AGM. the flaring petals open out from twisted buds to form clusters of flat white scented flowers.
  • Another AGM winner is Bright Eyes with pale pink flowers having a deeper red centre. The foliage may take on the red tinge during summer and it grows to about 4 feet tall.
  • Phlox paniculata ‘Dodo Hanbury-Forbes’ AGM just for its name or Blue Ice or Blue Paradise to balance up the colour scheme.
  • Alpine phlox can also be strongly scented try Pholx divaricata

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Choisya Bonsai

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This small pot containing an even smaller Choisya ternata is growing happily in our front room. New leaves of light green are almost translucent and provide clean foliage. The leaves when crushed give off a very pleasant scent.

This plant was one of many grown from cuttings the siblings are now in the garden. Also called Mexican Orange Blossom I do not expect it to flower indoors but you never know and it is providing some interest in this quiet pre-Christmas season.

I have cheated a bit with the title as this is not yet a true bonsai plant but the restricted root run is constraining how it develops. I will prune and trim it carefully if it survives the dry conditions. That reminds me to water all the houseplants now the central heating is on full bore most days. Flushed with one success I may grow some Chiosya in bonsai pots for a miniature outdoor garden.

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Gardeners Sowing the Seeds of Success

Rose Hip

Sowing the Seeds of Success – Rose Hips containing Seeds

All good gardeners know that seeds are on your side they want to grow and thrive. Apart for some weedy exceptions that I will save until the end of this article seeds can be coaxed into blooming excess with only a little know how.

Help From the Seeds.
Every seed tells a story and you can learn to read that story by considering the parent plant and the seed itself. To set seed most plants need to be pollinated male to female and many plants are self-fertile. Having taken a deal of trouble to attract pollinators or pollination most plants package up the seeds and plan how to distribute them.

Berries and fruit have a soft or pithy outer case to help. Birds ingest elderberries and deposit the seed where they will.
Poppies have a pepperpot shaker type seed head that allows some ripe seed to be sprinkled each day over several days or weeks.
Aquilegia seed pods contort and twist to ping out seeds in a squirting motion so they travel a distance.
Dandelion seeds have feathery tufts to allow the wind to blow them where you don’t want them (but I said I would save these comments to the end)

So from these examples you can see seed pods protect and help distribution of the seed.

Seed Size and Features
Seeds vary in size and shape and many will become familiar to the regular gardener. A conker, pea or a grain sized Mesembryanthemum all have the same function to reproduce plants and maintain the survival of the species.

A good big one beats a good small one is a modern quote and in the vegetable garden leek and runner bean seeds are saved from good parent plants. Note it is the plant not necessarily the seed where size counts. Flower seeds should all be sown to get a choice of seedlings to plant out.

Some seeds have hard coats to protect them and legumes like Lupins or Sweetpeas may need the coat soaking in water or chipping or sanding the outer coat to allow moisture to start the germination phase.

Seeds from Alpines or bulbs generally need a period of cold so are sown in autumn or stratified in the fridge and brought into gentle heat in spring.

Special Treatment
Seeds are programmed to germinate when they expect conditions to suit. You can help provide the growing conditions they need.
Moisture or water is the first key ( so do not save seeds in damp conditions for later sowing they may have germinated and died before you get to sow them).    Temperature is the second issue as seeds are programmed to germinate when the seedling has a chance of survival. So tropical plants will need more warmth than say native Cornflowers.
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Heritage Seeds and Varieties

Lettuce -  Bijou & Freckles

Radishes not tasting like they use too?  Blemish free supermarket crops without taste or aroma?  A bland selection of seeds from your nurseryman to grow the same varieties as your neighbour? Well there is a movement to bring back and promote the old varieties that would change all that. Heritage varieties are an imposing collection of ancient vegetable and other varieties saved and collected by specialist companies to tempt our taste buds and maintain our heritage plants.

Here are some  UK seed supplier links together with many other international seedsmen offering specialist heritage and heirloom varieties.

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Gardeners Foliage Houseplants Top Dozen

red begonia rex

Gardeners like growing plants and in winter the best location to do this is indoors or a heated greenhouse and foliage houseplants are one group that work well in these environments.

Begonia masoniana has rough surface leaves with a distinctive central brown cross. The plant grows to a good size in the right conditions but may loose some lower leaves in winter. Begonia Rex above is available in all sorts of shapes and colours of leaf and can be propagated from leaf cuttings.

Ferns like the Maidenhair fern Adiantum make shapely plants with fine green leaves on black stems. Ficus, Yucca, Dracaena and Fatshedera plants are currently less fashionable (thank goodness) but you may wish to try a Creeping Fig Ficus Pumila with small oval leaves.

The old varieties are often the better for longevity than style so Tradescantia, Spider plants (St Bernards lily) Chlorophytum comosum variegatum and Aspidistra elatior with its large, tough, sword shaped leaves are still popular. These plants will survive most conditions but thrive when given good conditions.

For architectural leaves I like the Bromeliad family like Cryptanthus Foster’s Favouirite or Cryptanthus bromelioides tricolour with pink green and white leaves. Neoregelia carolinae tricolour has a rosette of leaves that creates an urn for water.

Houseplants can help keep a room fresh, produce oxygen, add precious moisture and filter toxins to reduce pollution. They are better value than a bunch of flowers and with the right TLC can last for years. For a last selection try the Peperomia family Magnoliaefolia Desert Privet, Argyreia, Caperata or the grey green leaved Hederaefolia

Book Cover Buy from Amazon

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Tree Paeonia Autumn Leaves

Some Paeonia plants are grown for the size, colour and scent of the flowers. This picture caught my attention with the dark red leaves on the three year old tree turning a magenta red offset by the orange red of the Geum Mrs J Bradshaw. Tip Select your Geums with care as many of the 50 species are weeds called Avens.

Tree Paeonies make handsome shrubs up to 6 feet high with very large decorative flowers. A couple of varieties have AGM including the large yellow flowered Paeonia Lutea ludlowii and Paeonia delavayi with crimson flowers are attractive anthers.
Various named varieties can be found in shades of pink, yellow and red and have deeply cut leaves. Look out for the fragrant ‘Souvenir de Maxime Cornu’ or the double yellow Chromotella.
Protect young plants from severe frost but mature specimens will be reasonably hardy.

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Eucalyptus Trees in Britain

Eucalyptus or Gum Trees are fast growing shrubs and trees best noted for their attractive scented leaves and stems. They tolerate a variety of soils preferring a deep loam. The leaves on this young tree are still coin shaped but will develop as the tree matures.

Gardeners Tips

  • You can grow Eucalyptus as a short lived shrub and do not need to let it grow to full height. Dig it out when it gets mis-shapen.
  • Plant in spring so roots can develop in the warmer soil but they are surprisingly hardy for trees from Australasia.
  • Plant near a Cotinus or a red Acer for contrasting colours.
  • There are 20 varieties of Eucalyptus seed available from Jungle Seeds
  • See Australian trees including Eucalyptus Snow Gums at Marks Hall garden and arboretum Coggeshall, where 200 Eucalyptus trees have been planted and ‘on warm days the oil aroma provides a heady scent’.
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Weeping Beech Fagus Pendula

Beech or Fagus are a small genus containing some of the most noble trees that can make a fine specimen tree. This weeping Beech’s full name is Fagus Sylvatica Pendula or the Weeping Beech although I have christened in the Crying Beech.
It is a large and spectacular form with the main stem or trunk covered in droopy hanging branch lets. There are several related weeper but this tree was quite singular in it’s habit and grew to 50 feet yet still looked immature.

Fagus sylvatica ‘Purple Fountain’ as an excellent tree with cascading branches and dark, bronze/purple/green foliage. Very similar to other weeping beech but much more columnar in shape. Leaves turn more green throughout the summer.


Beech in Autumn at Valley Gardens Yorkshire.

Amazon supply Beech trees and Purple Beech. but a nursery would have a wider selection.

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Autumn Crocus Naked Ladies

After seeing Naked Ladies at Harlow Carr gardens in Harrogate I decided to plant some Autumn crocus for myself. The blue Crocus speciosus were planted under some rhododendron shrubs and the colour has been a good strong blue. The corms would have flowered without being planted so it is little to do with the peaty soil but hopefully the leaves that follow the flowers will now help bulk up the Crocus for future years.

The blown flowers on the pink crocus were from far larger bulbs. As you can see they are too near the surface but many Crocus have the ability to use their roots to pull the bulbs deeper in to the soil. I will not be disturbing them to find out. I will cover with some more soil if only to deter mice from eating the bulbs.

Even now if you find bulbs on sale or special offer it may be worth buying some of these interesting bulbs.

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