Archive | Flowers and Plants

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

War Memorial Flowers Chosen with Care

This war memorial is still well adorned with flowers in late October. The Sweet Alyssum ‘Carpet of Snow’ is doing the job of providing a pervading scent. The Geraniums with white and green bicoloured leaves are probably Caroline Schmidt or a relative of Frank Hedley but the variety is less important than the over all effect.

The setting was evocative of Peace but in November the reminder of less peaceful times will be demonstrated by the Poppy Wreaths and tributes. The Poppy, long a symbol of death and rebirth and now of wartime remembrance, is Papaver rhoeas, the Common Poppy or red flowered Corn Poppy.

British Legion Poppy Appeal donation site

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Cyclamen for Woods and Shade

Cyclamen are happy in dappled shade and grow well under trees. If you want to imitate suitable conditions use uncomposted bark chippings as in the photograph.

Ivy-leaved Cyclamen or Cyclamen hederifolium also called Cyclamen neapolitanum have numerous scented, white or light pink flowers in autumn before the leaves grow.
This species readily naturalizes and seeds prolifically.
Like other cyclamen, it resents being transplanted and corms can grow up to a foot in diameter.
Roots emerge from the upper surface of the tuber and not from the lower surface.
Cyclamen like a light soil and good drainage protects the corms from rotting.

Round-leaved Cyclamen Coum flower during the early spring from January to the middle of March. They prefer some protection from bad weather.
They make interesting alpine pot plants.

Book Cover ‘Cyclamen: A Guide for Gardeners, Horticulturists and Botanists’ by C. Grey-Wilson is available from Amazon

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Black Eyed Susan or Susie

This simple annual climbs or clambers upto 2 feet tall. Provide a simple support with a triangle of hazel twigs or canes. Black Eyed Susan do best in a sheltered position or as a conservatory plant. Also called Thunbergia Alata they are annuals that should grow easily from seed.
The late summer flowers are intense in colour and the name comes from the dark center or eye. Cream, white, yellow and orange varieties are available.

Thunbergia fragrans Angels Wings has twining stems with 2inch wide white flowers. Whilst notionally it is perennial it blooms well in the first year and can be treated as a half hardy annual.

  • Black Eyed Susan at Thompson & Morgan
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    Tips for growing Magnolia x soulangeana

    Spring flowering Magnolia x soulangeana can be planted now. Container grown plants from grafts or cuttings will flower sooner than bare rooted shrubs. Check the container is not pot bound and older, grafted plants will perform quicker. It is a case of paying a bit more to get what you want as it can take up to 5 years for Magnolias to start flowering.

    Growing Tips

    • Blooms may fall during spells of warm weather so avoid planting in very sunny parts of the garden. Also avoid early morning sun and wind which can damage young growth. Other than that magnolias are hardy shrubs and trees.
    • You can under plant Magnolias as their structure is open but avoid damaging the shallow, delicate roots. I suggest you try Muscari (grape hyacinth) or other small bulbs.
    • You can layer your existing magnolia in August using current year shoots but rooting may take a couple of years.
    • Pruning should not be needed except crossing branches and reshaping. hard pruning can set back flowering for several years.

    Varieties to Grow

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    Knapweed Garden Gem or Invasive Weed?

    Centaurea macrocephala also called Knapweed is a tall perennial plant in the cornflower family. Even wikipedia can’t decide about the scale and desirability of the Centaurea family.  As with many families there are good and bad and this species seems fine in my garden.

    Growing Centaurea macrocephala

    • At 3′ to 5′ high this bold plant is ideal for providing vertical interest in a sunny, well-drained herbaceous border.
    • The golden-yellow thistle like flowers are on stiff stems from July to late summer and  mid-green, lance-shaped leaves are followed by attractive seed heads.
    • The flowers are attractive to butterflies bees and many insects as you can see. This and the attractive seed heads make this variety an eco-friendly plant to grow.
    • When dried the seed heads are excellent for use in flower arrangements.
    • Other Centaureas are blue and purple and can make fine cottage garden plants.
    • Avoid Spotted Knapweed that are invasive and ugly cousins  Centaurea biebersteinii , Centaurea maculosa and Centaurea maculosa subsp. micranthos

    • More insects on a Purple Centaurea that flowered in June.

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    Heather Moors and Gardens

    On Ilkley Moor the heather is blooming and smelling a treat. Certainly the horseflies seemed to think so until we got to the top of the moor where the heather really made a statement.
    In your garden heaths and heathers can be very useful perennial plants. They have all year round interest and are generally low maintenance plants (and being hardy they take a bit of killing).

    There is a Heather Society for the enthusiast which can be found on this link

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    Making Cut Flowers Last Longer

    Generic Tips

    • For perfect freshness pick flowers when halfway between bud and opening. Gather early in the morning when they have had a chance to drink over night or later in the evening never in the middle of the day. Plunge into water as you pick. Always use tepid water and keep vases and buckets clean.
    • Condition flowers by soaking in deep water. Cut off the bottom of stems under water to prevent and airlock in the stem.
    • Sugar or lemonade can extend the life of cut flowers like Roses. Bleach and salt can also help some flowers.
    • Woody stemmed flowers should have the ends crushed. If they show signs of wilting try standing them in hot water for a short time.
    • Strip off leaves that would be below the water line and change the water frequently.
    • Spring bulb flowers do not need water changes but a pinch of salt should revive them.
    • Higher the temperature the faster cut flowers will deteriorate so place arrangements where they won’t be exposed to direct sun, heat from appliances, electric lights, or hot or cold draft.

    Flowers needing Special Treatment

    • Hydrangeas will last longer if water is taken in through the absorbent head so sink the whole flower into water first then spray the flower heads daily.
    • Forsythia should be picked when in tight bud and it will open of its own accord.
    • Poppies need to have the end sealed by singeing the cut.
    • Daffodils should not be mixed with other flowers as they poison the water.
    • Carnations need cutting between nodes as they can’t take up water if cut on a node.
    • Remember foliage needs to drink as well so condition foliage too.
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    Soft Garden Colours

    Planning colour schemes can be an interesting exercise for summer when the garden needs less attention. You can sit and admire your current efforts and plan from the new catalogues that are arriving.  Observe what has worked well in your local gardens this year and do not be afraid to copy or improve on someones idea. I have been take by soft colour schemes that forswear reds oranges and purples in favour of a more pastle approach.

    Pastel Pink Colours

    • Soft pink rather than shocking pink is restful and ‘the very essence of the traditional garden’ (Lance Hattatt Gardening with Colour)
    • The combination of this low growing Dahlia ‘Rosea’ has worked well with the continuous flowers of the hardy Geranium Anna Folkard. The strappy leaves of a pink Schizostylis will come in to flower in autumn hopefully before the dahlia has finished.
    • An off white or cream flower can also be used with pink to lighten up the general effect.
    • Phlox paniculata ‘Fairy’s Petticoat’ is a personal favourite with a pink eye and a lighter outer to the petals.
    • Pink can vary from the white with a pale blush through warm and cool shades to orangey pinks or blue tinged pink. This is seen in a range of single Roses   including    ‘Pink Bassino’ with a prominent white eye, the magenta ‘Pink Meidiland’ or the distinctive apricot pink of ‘Irish Elegance’.

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    A Good Year for Lilies

    ‘My dustbins absolutely fully of Lilies’. ‘Well throw them away then’. ‘I can’t Lilly’s wearing them’. so sang Lonnie Donnegan when his old man was a dustman.

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