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Giant Pumpkin Growing

Third in a short series about Curcurbits.

The British record for the heaviest pumpkin weighing 1,725 pounds can be beaten and you can win local shows next year by striving for this level of achievement.

Growing Tips for Giant Pumpkins

  • Start in February with a large hole filled with up to a ton of well rotted horse manure
  • Buy ‘giant seed’ via the internet or use Atlantic Giant seed.
  • In March sow the flat seeds, edge downwards not flat, in good sized pots in the greenhouse.
  • Plant out on top of the compost or manure pile when the risk of frost has gone. Keep a cardboard box to cover the plant on nights when frost is a danger.
  • Remove all but one (the chosen one) of the pumpkin fruits. If there are several, choose one that is about 8 feet from the roots.
  • Cull all further fruit regularly.
  • Continue Reading →


Best British Trees Reviewed

Our series of tree reviews covers exotics and UK trees with a few specials thrown in. Each separate post covers;

  • Latin names and other common names
  • Height, uses and normal distribution. –
  • Type of tree – Evergreen/ Deciduous – dictoyledons, monocotyledon, Conifer etc
  • Description of Leaves, Flowers, Fruit and bark –
  • Family links, varieties and near relatives –


Below are links to a dozen British natives with short descriptions.

English Oak
Top of most lists for great British Trees. Our list of tree reviews is no different, Oak is the tops!

Rowan – Mountain Ash
The trees can be quite singular in appearance when shaped by wind on high moors and mountains.

From the copper coloured leaf to solid green hedges the Beech deserves a place in most gardens.

Silver Birch
Seem to be growing everywhere you look with some very distinctive varieties like Jacquemontii.

Horse Chestnut
Brought to England by William the Conqueror (no not really the conkers were there first).

Norway Spruce
Despite containing a foreign country name this Spruce grows freely on Forestry Commission land in the UK.

Ideal for hedgerows and feeding birds. May blossom in May maybe.

Lime or Linden
a useful ornamental for parks and large gardens.

Grows well in my garden and trains easily into a shapely tree.

Related to the other Acers but I would let someone else grow Sycamore on their land. (not my favourite)

A fast growing deciduous conifer good in forests.

Longest lived and slowest growing British tree synonymous with church yards and pagan worship.

Along with the Oak and the bonny Rowan tree the Ash is justly popular.


  • This completes our bakers dozen of British trees. If you want to learn more click on each link.
  • If you want to look for a different tree, type in the common or Latin name in our Google search box.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment or make a request on tree or garden related matters.
  • For more information of tree leaf shape design and function read this section.

Tree Organisations and Links
The Woodland Trust
The International Dendrology Society
The Royal Forestry Society
The Arboricultural Association
International Society of Arboriculture UK


Photographs and Images of Purple Iris

bearded iris

The Bearded Iris offers a huge range of colours. This is a deep purple variety growing in the Oxford Botanic Gardens. The furry hairs on the petal or ‘Fall’ give the plant the bearded image.

Bearded Iris do well in a sunny, well drained soil. They can provide years of spectacular colour in May – July.


Other Iris are well adapted to grow in damp conditions.

Iris B

Bulb Iris are useful in rockery and Alpine arrangements and in this case are appreciated by passing Bees..


The next two pictures are taken as the rain stopped and the light improved.


Some flowers veer towards the lilac in shade but just about fit into my purple patch.

Iris are able to stand without staking as this large clump demonstrates.

George Iris

Named varieties include George an Iris reticulata.

Iris reticulata

Another Iris Histroides looks similar to a Dutch Iris but smaller.


Growing in the Oxford Botanic Gardens with the other Oxford beardies.
25 Iris bulbs from Amazon (the book people not the river).


Tree Peonies like Dinner Plates

tree peony

Fantastic, traffic stopping flowers at least 12 ” across are a wonderful feature of some Tree Peonies.

Tree Peonies

  • These slow growing shrubs reach around 4 foot high and wide.
  • They are drought tolerant but should not be made to compete with larger trees for water.
  • They are reasonably easy to grow in deep loamy soil.
  • In China they are mountain plants so survive our winters quite well.
  • Grafted shrubs are available in garden centres. They may send up suckers of herbaceous peonies that need cutting out (the leaves are greener and are not as finely cut as tree peony leaves).

Varieties of Tree Peony

  • I bought some varieties 2 years ago ‘Yu Lou Dian Cui’, above, looks white with pink overtones and ‘Shan Hu Tai’ is a strong pink really a red.
  • P Delavayi bears scented crimson flowers on 5′ stems whilst P lutea ludlowii has yellow flowers.
  • A good selection of Tree Peonies and Peony lactifolia are available from Peonies Thompson & Morgan

tree peony

Old Comments on Tree Peonies

Tree peonies These shrubs grow to about 4 foot square and are drought tolerant. Do not provide extra water or allow the roots to suffer from too much competition from other trees. P Delavayi bear crimson flowers on 5′ stems whils P lutea ludlowii has yellow flowers. They are reasonably easy to grow in deep loamy soil. In China they are mountain plants so survive our winters quite well. Grafted shrubs are now freely available in garden centres. I bought two varieties this weekend ‘Yu Lou Dian Cui’ what looks like a white with pink overtones and ‘Shan Hu Tai’ a strong pink. I have nipped out the flower buds that were showing and will wait until next year to see what colours I get.

Other Peony Comments
I am fond of the double peonies that flower so extravagantly in June. Over the years the plants give a great deal of pleasure lots of colour and a light and welcome spring perfume. That is not to say the single and specie Peonies are not also worth a place in the garden.

  • As plants mature they bulk up well and produce ever larger numbers of stalks and flowers.
  • Peonies dislike root disturbance and take a while to settle down
  • Provide a rich deeply dug soil well manured before planting and you will be rewarded for years
  • Water in dry summers and top dress in Autumn this well rotted compost
  • The single varieties include a yellow type Peony Mlokosewitchii
  • 6″ White flowers with yellow stamen P. Lactiflora varieties are readily available
  • The pink P. Sarah Bernhardt has an AGM award for the large scented blooms
  • The strong reds of the common Peony are very good for a cottage garden
  • Blooms make good cut flowers
  • Float one flower head in a bowl of water for an interesting table centre piece

Peonies and special fertilizer from Thompson & Morgan


Joshua Tree – Root and Branch Review

Joshua Tree

See the Joshua tree as early Mormon settlers did in the barren desert lands of Utah and Arizona. Deep roots and leaves designed to minimise transpiration allow this tree to survive for many years.

Key Features of the Joshua Tree

  • Latin name – Yucca Brevifolia other common names Palm tree yucca, Tree yucca
  • Height – Can grow to 40 feet tall
  • Type of tree – Evergreen
  • Leaves – Sharp edged, spiky, strap shaped and leathery
  • Flowers – Bell shaped, pungent, cream or yellow flowers in upright clusters
  • Fruit – Fleshy red-brown capsule
  • Bark – Grey – brown ridged
  • Family – Asparagaceae agava

Origins and Distribution of the Joshua Tree

  • Found in the rugged cowboy country deserts of North America.
  • Mojave desert where it may have been named by Mormon pioneers.

Uses and Attributes of the Joshua Tree

  • Native Americans wove the leaves into baskets.
  • Flowers and seeds are edible.
  • Settlers used the wood for fence posts

Joshua Tree Blooming

Gardeners Tips for the Joshua Tree

  • Unless you live in a desert give this tree a miss.

Other Varieties of Joshua Tree

  • Yucca brevifolia jaegeriana or Jaeger’s Joshua tree is also called the pygmy yucca .
  • Yucca brevifolia herbertii is also called Webber’s yucca or Herbert Joshua tree but both may two varieties of the same tree.
  • The Yucca family is a large genus in the Agaveacea group

Joshua Tree comments from elsewhere

  • The tree is pollinated by the yucca moth which is attracted by the flowers scent. The larvae then survive by eating the seeds. This seems self defeating but then there is little food in the desert.
  • Joshua Trees have a deep and extensive root system, with roots reaching up to 36 ft from the fibrous trunk

Joshua Trees in Winter

Joshua Tree by cybaea CC BY-SA 2.0 Joshua tree from the Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree Blooming by outdoorPDK CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Joshua Trees in Winter by Rennett Stowe CC BY 2.0


Banana Republic in Kew Hot House

Banana hand

I am in the middle of a series of posts on fruit trees from exotic climes and realise that the Banana will not quite fit. Therefor I offer some of my photographs to show different varieties of Banana growing in Kew hot house and Madeira.

Kew Red Banana
Red Banana

Musa coccinea Red banana
Very Red Banana Musa coccinea

Commercial Banana plantation

Banana in Flower

Banana plantation
Banana Crop in Madeira

Read these articles for more information.

Banana growing in UK
Exotic Gardens to Visit to see Banana growing in UK


Pelargoniums are Something Special

Something Special

This pelargonium was sold to me By Fir Trees Nursery as called ‘Something Special’. The colour in bloom is clearer and softer pink than I can get on the computer screen and is something special in appearance.

In 2012 they have 3 brand new releases and have many new introductions which are new to us throughout the catalogue.

[‘The first new release is a decorative regal from a hybridist in Italy Riccardo Gallucci.
I was given a small plant of ‘Donatella Love’ by Derek Lee about 2 years ago who thought it unusual-as did we when we saw it flower. It is a striking variety and very free flowering with an unusual colour combination. I later found out from Derek that it was bred in Italy and he would put me in touch with Gwen Ward who passed my details on to Riccardo who kindly agreed to let us release his wonderful variety so that it available in the UK for you all to grow and enjoy. ‘Donatella Love’ is named after Riccardos wife.


The second new release is a sport found on our nursery about 3 yearsago from ‘Quantock Double Dymond’. It has green bracts rather than petals which gives the appearance of a green flower. It starts off as a small green rosebud shaped bloom, then as the weeks go by these extend to form little green catkins which gave us the name. Like ‘Quantock Double Dymond’ it has a lax habit so is suitable for small hanging pots or around a trough edge. It is a very tidy plant as it doesn’t drop petals anywhere! It is a compact plant and a relatively slow grower.

The Third and final new release is an angel bred by John Green and named after Pearl Sulman who many of you know as a very good nurserywoman and grower of pelargoniums until her retirement in 2010. Pearl along with husband Brian Sulman won many gold medals over the years with their displays of pelargoniums, specialising in miniature, angels and regals among a range of other pelargoniums. John raised the variety for Pearl to release at Chelsea 2011 but unfortunately due to Pearls illness they had to retire at the end of 2010 so John asked if we would release the variety and of course we were delighted to. I hope you will enjoy growing ‘Pearl Sulman’, a very free flowering variety.’


This variety looks a deeper shade of pink in the evening sunshine.

I bought these plants when passing a specialist Fir Trees pelargonium nursery in Stokesley

It is said to be a good exhibition variety and my plant has a good habit and several strong flower stems each with numerous pips.

The leaves are small and not deeply zoned with the usual ‘geranium’ fragrance

Pelargonium regal

This Regal Pelargonium waited until late September to show any buds but the flowers were worth waiting for. I will cosset this plant through winter.


Photos are just a representaive sample of the pelargoniums you could be growing for next year


Help With Plant Photography

Photo A
Please help with my plant photography!
Which of these Hypericum – St Johns Wort photographs looks best and why.

Photo B
The West Yorkshire branch of the Alpine garden society had Peter Cordall as speaker on Saturday. The title of his talk was ‘Photography in the garden – garden landscapes to close-ups’.
Whilst I listened carefully I am painfully aware that I have breached many of his rules of thumb from the very start.

Photo C
I should have had a title and know what I was photographing before I started.
‘Hypericum’ is not a great title but ‘Hemispheres and Hypericum’ may have worked better.

St Johns Wort
Photo D
I did take several shots and tried to use my favourites, the rest wont see light of day again.

Other Photography Failings

  • I failed in composition even though I tried hard to divide the frame into thirds and place the interest on a crossing point. This is harder than I thought.
  • So is picturing the main subject as though it was moving into the frame rather than facing out.
  • Crystal sharp focus on the critical part of the photo has been sacrificed to an extent in favour of decent depth of field automatically without engaging brain.
  • I have done no cropping or editing – I very seldom do.
  • Some backgrounds are a distraction but fortunately I have no unintentional lamp posts in view

I should have read up on Related posts


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