Valerian Weed or Flower


A garden weed is a plant that grows in the ‘wrong  place’.

From self sown seeds I have Valerian growing in walls and cracks in pavements that despite the colour at this time of year are weeds. I must get them out before they seed and invade the few remaining gardens in our road that have not already received free plants from the overgrown Vicarage garden.

Facts about Valerian

  • When you hear it is called Jupiter’s beard and that it has fragrant, scarlet to red or white flowers growing in dense clusters on 3-foot stems you may start to like the plant.
  • They begin blooming in spring and continue over a long period if old flowering stems are removed but do not grow well if the soil is too rich.
  • If flowering stops due to hot summer weather cut plants back by about a half to promote another round of bloom in late summer.
  • This plant is best when massed and is often naturalized along old walls and rocky outcrops.
  • Valerian (Centranthus) makes a long-lasting cut flower and is a good plant to supply butterflies with nectar.
  • Centranthus rubervalerian alba has white flowers, coccineus has deep red flowers and roseus bears rose-colored flowers (no surprise with the names then).

Top Ten Annual Climbers


What is your favourite annual climber? Most of these  climbers grow 6-10 feet in one season.

  1. Sweet Pea lathyrus odoratus must rank near the very top of any list of favourite annual flowers. they will grow 6-10 feet tall and if the flowers are picked regularly they will give endless scent and pleasure.
  2. Morning Glory Ipomea purpurea or convolvulus major has purple funnel-shaped flowers from summer until the frosts. Or tricolour ‘Heavenly Blue’ is a great variety
  3. Cathedral Bells Cobaea scandens may be half hardy perennial but it is best grown an an annual each spring for the purple veklvety bell shaped flowers.
  4. Caiophora lateritia Frothy has 2″ wide flowers that turn from coppery orange to white and grows 4′ tall.
  5. Black-eyed Susan Thunbergia alata has yellow or white flowers with the charecteristic dark brown eye.
  6. Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus grows in poor soil and flowers in a variety of colours. The seeds leaves and flowers can be eaten as a bonus.
  7. Canary Creeper is also from Tropaeolum family Peregrinum and as the name implies it blooms with irregular yellow flowers.
  8. Climbing Snapdragons Asarina antirrhiniflora is tender but has purple or white snapdragon like flowers and grow 4-5′ tall.
  9. Lophospermum scandens also looks like a snapdragon with nlarger more colourful flowers.
  10. Golden Hops are grown from rhizomes and are not strictly an annual but I think the format fits well with this list. Growing Hops Yourself  website is full of useful information

Tzigane Best HT Rose


I have always assumed this Rose that I bought as Tzigane (Tsigane) was in fact that variety. When I recently compared it to pictures by other gardeners I found 4 totally different offerings under that name. I am happy with my rose, that it is a regular flowering rose of fair scent and pleasant disposition (no bugs or diseases  of note) and it is 10+ years old. Perhaps the inner petal shade should be pinker but the bicolour effect is still noticeable.

Tips on Plant Varieties

  • Even under the same name plants will vary. Parentage, growing situation, general cultivation and environmental factors will all influence a plant which may also vary of it’s own accord from one year to the next.
  • Plants can get mis-named by nurseries by accident, carelessness or even commercial imperative. If it is important buy from a specialist nursery and select your plant when it is in flower too check it is to your specification.
  • Do not be afraid to take a wayward specimen back to the retailer.
  • Even if the plant is not exactly what you want, by the time you find out it will have made a new home in your garden and it may be worth a compromise (a bit one sided as the plant can’t do much compromising)

Best Flowering Shrubs



Broom or Cytisus scoparius
is an old favourite shrub for the pea shaped flowers in June. The traditional yellow is now supplemented by many cultivars in red and bi colours. They are short lived shrubs and need to be pruned to stop energy going into seed production. They flower on wood produced in the previous year. In the wild they can be perceived as weeds and seed prolifically in the right conditions. Broom is sometimes confused with Genista or Spanish Broom which is similar in flower and habit.


I have included this Abutilon vitafolium for its height (20′) and its colourful blossom. They can be grown from the little hard, black seeds similar to lupin’s. The flowers are 1-2″ across and come in good bunches. The shrub retains most of its grey-green leaves through winter.


A good workhorse in my garden is the Pieris ‘Forest Flame’ or Lily of the Valley bush. It flowers a bit earlier than June with a host of small delicate white bell shaped flowers in large panicles. The leaves that follow the flowering are glossy, strong bright red or pink and give the shrub great character. After 5 years the evergreen plants will grown to about 3-5 foot and are well behaved easily controlled shrubs.


Bedding Tips


Bedding describes  plants  that are used en masse for a showy display of a temporary nature. They are often annuals but can also be bulbs like Begonia or biennials like wall flowers.

Tips on Bedding Plants

  • Plants need space to develop and you need to remember this when planting out – you do not want bare soil but you want developed flowers. Err on the side of being too close ( A 4″ diameter plant can be spaced every 3″-4″ but no closer).
  • If plants are very small when planted out or are grown in situ then ‘thin’ them out to make space. This means pulling out (or pinching at root level)  and throwing away weak  or over crowded plants.
  • To make a plant grow more bushy pinch out the growing tip. I do this too good effect with bedding Geraniums. More branches will equal more flowers.
  • Take off or deadhead flowers when they have finished. Once a plant starts to set seed it may stop all flower production and think ‘Job Done’.

Design of Bedding

  • Consider the colour scheme you are aiming for – white washes out cool colours like blues but highlights the pinks above.
  • It was common practise to put low plants at the front and tall plants at the rear of a Bed but it is your garden and a bit of variety can make the casual observer take a second look.
  • Consider if you want uniformity and rigid rows or a more natural planting.
  • Not everything needs to be a flower, grasses can add movement and refreshing greens or silver leaved plants can provide highlights.

Dwarf Pelargonium aka Geranium


This dwarf Pelargonium (called Geranium) is shorter than a paperback (I mean not as tall) and the leaves are correspondingly small. A perfect little miniature plant with all the habits and leaf colouring of a zonal Pelargonium.

Dwarf Pelargonium Tips and Hints

  • I guess you could grow them outside in summer in the rockery after the Aubretia and spring flowers have finished or in pots indoors and out..
  • I have several cuttings coming along very nicely that I took from this plant in March as I wanted to reshape it for this summer and couldn’t waste the trimmings. I used gritty compost and a normal window ledge and all 6 have rooted. I will cut them back in Autumn for growing slowly onward next spring.
  • I am looking  for other miniature Geraniums to complement this one as they are easier to maintain in good condition than the larger varieties.
  • The following varieties are suitable for exhibitions and I might give one or two a try; Dibbinsdale, Dovepoint, Barnsdale and Clatterbridge according to Fir Trees nursery where I buy my Pelargoniums.
  • I may also try a Dwarf Regal Pelargonium like Lily The pink or Tammy Ann

Continue Reading →


Save Water Garden with a Friend

Older gardeners may remember the water company slogan ‘Save Water bath with a friend’ used during the great water shortages of 1976. Are we in for another summer like 1976? Some thinks so others are still suffering floods and unseasonal cold still as Baden Powell said be prepared. I am suggesting help from friendly gadgets to save water in your garden this summer.

Watering Systems for Pots.

  • For a cheap system of ‘container watering’ use a big container (they hold more soil and water and have less pot surface area to soil) and mulch the top with 2″ of gravel, slate or bark. Plastic containers evaporate less from the sides but the soil gets hotter than with terracotta pots.
  • When you water make sure you give them a long drink. I stand all pots on a saucer and fill it up as well as watering from the top.
  • Self watering pots can be bought with a reservoir that avoid 2out of 3 watering requirements when compared to a normal pot.
  • The Rolls Royce system would be a full irrigation system from a header tank with computer control as used in commercial nurseries. An easy to use irrigation system based on a modular approach can start from less than £20 and be used in the greenhouse, garden or for pots and hanging baskets.

Buy an Thompson MorganIrrigation system from Thompson & Morgan from this link.


Killing Greenfly


This daisy is covered with blackfly a close relation of the greenfly. Greenfly can do damage to a plant by weakening it and helping to spread disease.

The importance of getting rid of greenfly depends upon the plant. For example, a daisy like this doesn’t seem to be that affected by infestations and it is often fine to leave it to nature’s control.


This hoverfly is an excellent predator of greenfly and blackfly, it can munch through a large quantity of greenfly.

However, if you have prize roses or want to grow cut flowers then you will want to get rid of the greenfly.

Insecticide’s from Amazon

Organic Method of Killing Greenfly

This greenfly killer is based on a fatty acid solution which kills greenfly on contact. The important thing is the spray needs to come into contact with the greenfly. But, it can provide an excellent alternative to chemical pesticides.



Honeysuckle Climbing Lonicera Varieties


Lonicera Heckerottii 'Gold Flame'

Woodbine is the common name for this Honeysuckle that provides a strong sweet scent in the cottage garden from the end of May. The climbing twining Honeysuckles are part of a large family of Lonicera that also includes a range of shrubby plants.

For sweetly flowering honeysuckle in winter try Lonicera fragrantissima or Lonicera Standishii whilst the best flowering summer species are the evergreen Lonicera Japonica. Sacrificing some scent for colour tryLonicera tellmannianawith flowers that are orange with red streaks on the outside or ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ for a terrific summer show of long scarlet flowers.
Belgica or the later flowering Serotina are true Honeysuckles that with a little support on a wall will scramble away to 10 feet or more. They will twine through branches of other trees quite happily and combine with robust roses to good effect.
Honeysuckle can be cultivated from cuttings and I have one plant that has had progeny in 5 gardens over the last 50 years as I moved house.
Pruning tips: Continue Reading →


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