Archive | Tips Hints and Ideas

Help for the new and not so new gardener

Streamside Gardens to Delight


If you are lucky enough to have a stream running through your garden you can plant many colourful plants at the side.

Plants for a Streamside

  • Primula Candelabra hybrids look special in spring and early summer. The flowers appear on the 18 inch stems in tiers of red, yellow and orange.
  • Many Iris varieties are at home by the side of water. The Siberian Iris sibirica can be yellow, white, purple or blue and the sword shaped leaves grow well in moist soil. Iris laevigata flowers purple and can grow right at the margins with its feet in 3-4 inches of water.
  • For soft greens, Alchemilla Mollis grows almost anywhere in my garden and Hostas also like a moist soil.
  • Astilbe can be a fine herbaceous plant with fern like foliage and plumes of frothy flowers.
  • For a bit of annual colour you could sow Mirabilis jalpa the Four o’clock flower growing to 3-4 feet tall with some Impatiens accent series for a lower grower.
  • Bugle is good for ground cover Ajuga reptans Burgundy Glow for blue flowers and tricolured leaves. Persicaria superba has pink flowers later in the year and spreads well.
  • For a tree in acid soil the Amelanchier is hard to beat with flowers, berries and coloured autumn leaves or the Spotted laurel and Black Pussy Willows both like a moist soil.

Other Tips for Gardening by a Stream

  • Plants that prefer dryer conditions should be planted higher up the banking.
  • Give plants enough space to develop, the moist and humid conditions will generally encourage lush growth.
  • Beware fast flowing streams and those likely to over flow there banks lest they wash away your prize plants.
  • Foliage and texture can be as important as colour but a bright splash (no pun intended) of yellow or bright white can be reflected by the water.

harlow-carrHarlow Carr Candelabra primula by the stream 2008.

Read more about Wild Iris on Gardeners Tips.


Growing and Recognising Arisaema sikokianum

Arisaema sikokianum

Arisaema sikokianum is a herbaceous perennial plant with vertically patterned  flowers.


  • In an alpine house or garden it flowers in springtime upto 18″ tall.
  • It can be planted with shade-loving hostas and Bleeding hearts.
  • They need neutral to acid soil in a moist, well-draining, protected location in dappled shade to flourish.
  • Seeds have a low rate of germination, and take a very long while to get going. Harvested in December & store at room temperature for one month, then planted in shady situations.

Other names for Arisaema sikokianum include Shikoku cobra lily, Gaudy Jack or Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit.
Arisaema sikokianum is one of 150 species and an unusual woodland plant noted for its unmistakable smoky-purple base, white cup and large hood with purple, green and white stripes.

There is a specialist international society for Aroids or Arum family plants with Arisaema links.


Ideas Growing Hostas


Facts about Hostas

  • Hostas are attractive foliage plants that prosper in the shade from spring to the first frost.
  • Hosta varieties vary in height from the Blue Angel at 4 feet to  Thumb Nail at 4 inches.
  • Blue green and yellow leaved hosts all like water and the yellow & gold leaved varieties will stand more sunshine like Sun Power .
  • Varied textures are available from smooth, crinkled, puckered and leathery all  to tempt you.
  • Hostas do not seem to die of old age and require minimum maintenance.
  • Continue Reading →

Super Veg 2017 Ornamental Kale


Kale is the newly rediscovered easy to grow vegetable.

Many plants sold as “ornamental cabbage” are in fact kales. They are grown for the coloured and ornamental leaves which are brilliant white, red, pink, blue or violet in the interior or the rosette. Because they supply colour in winter Ornamental Kale is popular with some designers. The green kales (Borecole) can also be very ornamental. Keep tidy by pulling old outer leaves off

Ornamental kale is every bit as edible as any other variety, provided it has not been treated with pesticides. Special recipes

For more Tips and other Kales

Continue Reading →


Growing Runner Bean – Scarlet Emperor

Tips for good Runner Bean crops

  • Prepare the soil to retain moisture by incorporating good compost and/or wet newspaper at the bottom of a trench in winter.
  • Rotate crops to a new patch every year on a three year cycle.
  • Do not feed with heavy nitrogen fertilisers or you will get leaf and less flower.
  • Flowers pollinate best if the air is humid so mist over if there is a dry spell.
  • Water plants well and regularly or stunted ‘C’ curved beans will disappoint
  • Support with a cane each or on a wigwam. I am trying an X shape this year so that the top half of the X encourages beans to hang down outside the plant and be easy to pick.
  • Harvest when beans are still young and have a snap in them
  • Try a variety know for its flavour like Kelvedon Marvel or Red Knight
  • Ruby moon has maroon pods that turn green when cooked and Painted lady has red and white bi-coloured flowers
  • Runner Beans can be grown for the bean inside or for the whole pod to be eaten

Tips for entering Runner Beans for a local show

  • Stick to the schedule for the show – if it says three runner beans submit three runner beans and label the variety correctly
  • Chose straight beans of equal length and form – size isn’t everything
  • If beans need a bit of straightening keep them in a wet towel overnight pressed straight.
  • Grow and take some spares to the show
  • Display as instructed or on black velvet to show off your specimen
  • Collect the seed of good plants for next year and develop your own strain or get good seed from a specialist
  • If you want a giant bean to become a world record you will be looking for bean in excess of 48 inches and it will be too woody to eat.

Delphinium Spires to Aspire too

Flower spikes can reach over 6 foot and when massed together at the back of the border look really special. Delphinium are worth the effort to grow successfully and here are some tips to help.

  • Sow seed of Delphinium elatum types in preference to pacific hybrids or buy plant in spring prior to the showing the flowering stem.
  • Add plenty of compost and water well in spring and during flowering
  • Plant near walls or hedges to protect from wind but stake the plants as well to at least two thirds the eventual height tying in the flowers as they grow.
  • Snails and slugs like the jucy foliage so use your favourite slug protection system
  • On established plants remove less vigorous shoots to leave 4-6 strong stems. Use these as cuttings.
  • Feed with a slow release fertiliser such as bone meal
  • Cut flowers off as they fade under the lowest flower then when a new stalk is a foot tall cut out the old stalk and you may get a second autumn flowering
  • Mulch with ‘Strulch’ the organic straw based mulch

Delphinium range to try

Continue Reading →


Astilibe Perennials for a Shady Border

Astilibes chinensis

Astilibes aka False Goats Beard

This summer flowering perennial has good disease and pest resistance. The plumes of flowers stand above fine foliage

Dependant on variety it grows from 12 inches to 4 foot tall with up to a 2 foot spread. The flowers vary from raspberry red (above A. pulmila ) and pinks A. Bressingham Beauty to cream and some clear whites with dark leaves like A. Deutchland.

Compact varieties like Perko, Inshriach Pink, William Buchanan and Sprite will grow less than a foot and are suitable for rockeries.

Tips on Growing Good Astilibes

Continue Reading →


Watering Houseplants

This Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum) houseplant is being killed with kindness by the family waterer. Too much water kills quicker than too little.This plant likes humidity from a mister or being stood on a damp gravel base but doesn’t want to be flooded.

Watering Houseplants

  • Plants that transpire lots of water from large fleshy or soft leaves need more watering.
  • Plants with frail, rubbery or sticky leaves are generally conditioned to survive with less water. Look at the leaves to learn what works best.
  • Most cacti & succulents with juicy leaves are often able to survive dry spells.
  • Plants that are actively growing need more water and the converse is true in winter when growth is slow they need little or no water.
  • Try aim for evenly moist soil from top to bottom after watering
  • Good drainage in needed for the majority of houseplants so if in doubt err on the side of an open compost
  • Stagnant water is a no-no causing chills, decay and harbouring potential pests.
  • The tepid water with no chemicals is OK or try rain water.
  • Ailing plants should be given only little water and no fertilizer.
  • Gloxinia like other hairy leaved plants dislike water on the leaves as the sun’s heat can be magnified and damage the leaf.

Expert Watering


Tips for Growing Giant Vegetables

Book Cover

This is one of the many books in my collection but the only one to focus on growing big, bigger and biggest vegetables. If you want to grow giant vegetable for exhibition or to get large crops then there are many pointers in ‘How to Grow Giant Vegetables’ by Bernard Lavery and below.

If you want to see 14 feet long carrots or parsnips, the 28 pound radish or the monster cabbage weighing 120lbs then encouragement to join the monster vegetables growing movement may be our gardeners tip for you in 2011.

Starting with Giant Vegetables

  • A good big one will beat a good small one and that applies to seed so consider what you sow. Good genetic potential will grow good plants.
  • Pumpkins are a good starter vegetable as a heavy weight can be achieved in the first year. It is also fun to see them grow by inches every day.
  • You need to learn by experience so you improve growing conditions, feeding and watering based on your own observations.

Large Crops from a Small Garden

  • Harvested whilst still in peak growing condition, giant vegetables taste every bit as good as smaller varieties.
  • Continue Reading →

The Joy of Gardening

Gardening is one of the most popular pastimes; everyone knows we are supposed to enjoy our garden but do we enjoy gardening or at times does it just feel like hard work? Is it similar to the Joy of Sex or 50 Shades of grey-green?

These are some tips for enjoying gardening.

Don’t Expect Perfection

Some people are never happy until every weed is removed and every plant is in the right place. This means that, even in a small garden, you will always be facing an uphill struggle to keep on top of the garden. A good gardener places emphasis on getting the important structure right, but then allows nature to have her own say as well. Don’t feel guilty just because some weeds are creeping through your borders. Don’t expect plants to behave exactly as you want. If you look at nature, you rarely see plants in a nice neat rows. (see: definition of a weed)

80 / 20 Principle

The 80 / 20 principle says that you can achieve 80% of your improvement with 20% of your effort. When gardening start with the jobs that make the biggest difference to the look of the garden. Don’t start with weeding an area out of sight by the compost heap. Start with making small changes in your main border which will make a big difference.

Take Time To Enjoy

A garden isn’t just a place of work, but somewhere to enjoy. You will always be able to find jobs to do in a garden; but, sometimes you need to say that you are just going to enjoy the garden – the weeds can wait for another day. Similarly, when you work, be focused. In one hour of concentrated weeding, you can probably do more than several odd 5-10 minutes sessions.

Garden is Living Entity.

Don’t just think about plants. Try to encourage wildlife such as birds; they help to create a feeling that the garden is being lived in rather just something to admire like a museum.

Continue Reading →


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