A Trio of Purple Leaves

It is hard to ignore plants with leaves as stunning as these in a Parks garden. The purple is from one of the Sumachs or Rhus family. Selecting plants that contrast in colour shape or form is part of the skill of gardening but starting with plants like these is a good beginning.

Purple is one of my favourite leaf colours of the moment and the Lamium below is called Perilla fructenscens. I am putting several plants in one area of my garden and will see how well they get on with one another.

This Heuchera surprised me growing in a wall cleft with thin soil. I do not remember planting it in what I thought would be a hostile location.


Purple Patch in Your Garden

As gardeners mature they enter a purple patch in their life and potentially in the garden. Some of the best plants with purple or coppery coloured leaves take several years to mature like the notional gardener. Amongst the favourites must be the copper beech and the many Acers with reddish leaves.

Photographed against a blue sky the colour glows out in the morning sunshine. Unphotographed this purple patch gardener is probably very content for it to be so.

Acer palmatum have fine leaves that are not very dense and allow light and breeze to pass through. If it is a wind rather than a zephyr the leaves can suffer from wind burn. Many purple gardeners have got that way from wind and sun burn



I was struck by the two pictures of plants flowering virtually two seasons apart but similar in colour and floral form. The spring Primula has a purple outer petal getting redder by the centre until it becomes yellow. The late summer flowering Redskin Dahlia has a similar pattern to the petals with the yellow stamen having a similar kaleidoscope effect.

The leaf textures and colours are quite different but like the purple flowers they will also repay close attention. Colour in the garden needs close observation and sometimes a bit of serendipity. This will be helped by a passing understanding of light and reflections within the colour spectrum. For more information see Garden Colour Tips

Gardeners Tips 2011 acer

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Tree Peonies from the Far East

tree peony

History of Tree Peonies

The ancient Chinese have cultivated Tree Peonies for over 1500 years. Prized specimens are and were grown for medicinal purposes as they contain glucocides and alkolides. The  imperial palace gardens had many specimens that became quite valuable.

The tree peony was, for a time, the national flower of China and it is thought Chairman Mao sought to ban their growth as a decadent pastime. The root of P suffruicosa has been used in medicine for centuries.

Plants were transported to Japan in the 14th century. The Japanese  bred tree peonies creating over 1200 hybrids some of which are still grown today.

The cult status of Japanese Tree peonies encouraged 18th century plant hunters to import tree peonies in to Europe, particularly France and England. These plant hunters like Veitch, Joseph Rock and Kelway started their own breeding programmes from some of the five wild species and other hybrids.



The Americans crossed P.lutea (above) and P. delavayi with Japanese hybrids to produce some of the vibrant colours now available. The flowers have a short but colourful life! The shrubs are far more long lived.

Tree peonies have long featured in oriental watercolour paintings. by Zou Yigui (1686–1772). Some of the varieties, like ‘Yao’s Yellow’ and ‘Wei’s Purple’ are  depicted in a series of paintings  mentioned in the Record of the Tree Peonies of Luoyang  Ouyang xiu (1007-1072 CE).


Imagine the splendid sight when all the buds open.




A Garden by any Other Name

Naming of Garden Areas

Previously I have stuck to traditional names for bits of my garden. Veg plot, rockery, orchard (when I feel posh), rose bed, border, hedge and similar names have delineate what and where I was trying to grow.

Then I  launched some new names including the Den Den for a mixture of lolly pop like Primula denticulata .  This naming obsession started some years ago with the ‘Stumpery’ when I couldn’t dig out and dispose of the whole of a conifer root.

‘Alpine Land’ speaks for itself and reflects the time I was a keen member of the AGS. I collected lots of rocks and build slopes and appropriate habitats. Perhaps it deserves a better name.

The Pinkery has many dianthus and Japan Land has more statues and hard landscape and deserves more space.

My favourite bed is Rhodo Road which will come into its own as spring develops. There are currently 3 early white bloomers that have eluded the frost.

Mole Mound contains some plastic moles or heads thereof, a big pile of dumped top soil which turned out to be subsoil and some shrubs.

The whole plot is named Fairfaxery Gardens after the street where it edges the roadside. I do not grow any more successfully but ……..they say give a dog a bad name but the garden may not be perfect but it isn’t a dog.


Primrose Pathway

2018 has been a very good year for Primroses and Primula. The cool, wet spring and occasional bursts of sunshine have played their part.

Reason for Popularity

    • Over many years there have been incremental improvements in breeding and cross pollination of varieties.
    • Gardeners have a wider choice of colour, form and more reliable vigor.
    • Retail has hit the mass market with most supermarkets and many other stores having a primula offering.
    • Cost has been reasonable and it is easy to maintain plants from year to year.

The Primulaceae Family

  1. Primrose is the common name for Primula vulgaris
  2. Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii is the base for coloured primroses mainly in reds and pinks
  3. Cowslip is the common name for Primula veris
  4. Polyanthus, are a cross between  P. vulgaris x P. veris creating multi-coloured strains of longer stemmed flower heads.


Best Tips for Outdoor Containers

A mantra from my gardening experience is that ‘A good big one will beat a good small one’ and this applies to containers growing plants outdoors. Big containers offer more control over watering and feeding, they bring plants closer to your senses and can be architectural in their own right. In a plant poll they also opted for a big one over a small one!

Instant Tips

  • Think about the plant roots. Roses grow long deep roots needing deep pots, other plants take moisture and food from surface or shallow roots.
  • Think about the plant leaves. Fleshy leafy growth will need more water as they transpire.
  • Globular pots are popular but very hard to empty when repotting as the neck is narrower than the circumference.
  • Use matching saucers so you can also water from underneath. It can be hard to get enough water in from the top.


Use Heavy Containers

  • ‘A good big one will beat a good small one’ and this applies to most containers. When full of loam based compost a big container will be heavy.
  • You do not want containers to fall over, plants get damaged and grow at funny angles striving for light.
  • Do not let containers become top heavy or too light through lack of watering.
  • Thin walled containers gain and loose heat rapidly. Thicker containers keep roots at a more even temperature.
  • Choose heavy terracotta or reconstituted stone over plastic. If you must use a light container put rocks in the bottom.
  • You can get special casters to wheel your container around the garden. This can be useful to seek out the sun.

Planting Outdoor Containers

  • Decide which is your star plant and put it in place first, slightly off centre. Infill planting densely for a quick result, containers should be about show.
  • Aim for plants that add about 50% in height. Tall thin plants will dwarf the container and may make it unsteady.
  • Think of using a ‘shock and awe’ plant to grab attention.
  • Bury some plants in smaller pots that you can replace with fresher plants.
  • Use some trailing plants to break the edge of the container and make a link with the ground.
  • Plan a colour scheme green and gold foliage looks warm, silver foliage is cold. Spot plants with pink or purple flowers can add sparkle to a white combination.

Moss Garden

Quick Tips for Containers

  • Use slow release fertiliser mixed with loam based compost if you are using longer term plants as opposed to annuals.
  • Provide good drainage and stand containers on pot feet so water can drain away.
  • Terracotta containers were used by ancient Greeks 2500 years ago so they are a well proven method of gardening.
  • Experiment with shapes and sizes of container. Make container gardening fun.
  • Get further inspiration for a book on Container Gardening from amazon.

Book Cover

Outdoor Containers for Special Purposes

  • You can grow ‘Crops in Pots: 50 Great Container Projects Using Vegetables, Fruit and Herbs.’ by Bob Purnell
  • Old sinks are often used for alpine and small plants.
  • Bonsai need to grow outdoors in natural conditions. Some beautiful containers are available
  • Quick growing salad crops can be grown in containers to avoid slugs.

Unique container at Bolen residence

Photo Credits
3 PLANT POTS by KTDEE….popping in and out CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Moss Garden by Flatbush Gardener CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Unique container at Bolen residence by Gardening in a Minute CC BY-NC 2.0
Potted Plants by Yoav Lerman CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Potted PlantsSlightly Potty? Needs some potty training?


Tree Close Ups

Spring buds bursting into life.

Barking up the wrong tree


Patterns from nature inspire painters – is this natural or an artists impression?

Stake out your support for  trees

Limes in Malaga botanic garden lead to a interesting garden


Spring is Sprung – Finally

It is still be very cold and dank in some  parts of the UK but the flowers hint that spring has finally sprung. It has been a stuttering start for 2018 and the ground is still fearfully wet and therefore very cold.

Star performers so far this year have been Helebores that have taken all the snow and cold that could be thrown at them and still come out well. The Primula family have produce strong colour and my Drumstick primulas in 3 distinct colours have been reconsigned into a ‘Den Den’ to produce showy blooms close together. (Primula denticulata give rise to the new named zone). Unlike previous years the daffodils in pots have done better than those in open ground.

More effort has gone into plants kept in the house as these white Muscari show. I have planted these back out into a white zone within the garden to add to the special daffodils next year. I have had mixed success with bought mothers day houseplants like roses (No I tell a lie they were a great disappointment and a waste of the kids money).






Veins and a Varicose Pansy

Roses are red Pansies are blue -They’re available in other colours – but what can you do?

Blue Vein Pansy is a character in the Greenskeeper Gathering andgarden dragon game of ‘Flight Rising’ where ‘These flowers fend for themselves, uprooting to seek sunlight, shade, and water as required.’
Would that all plants were so accommodating.

Plants can be segregated into two groups Monocots with parallel veins that begin at the base of the leaf and end at the tip without any branching. The Dicots that includes Pansy have veins that start at the bottom and branch out in an ordered network all over the leaf.

Unlucky Gardeners

  1. The amorous corpuscle loved in vein but gardeners are not vane about the weather and this is a vain attempt at humour!
  2. I had a rock garden but the rocks died
  3. I crossed Poison Ivy with Clover and got a rash of good luck
  4. The CO2 emissions and new weather has led to Global Worming
  5. The forecast for tonight  – Dark

Thanks to pin interest there are lots of Pansy pictures in the same vein.



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