Pros and Cons of Clematis

Positives for Clematis

  • As climbers these plants occupy little space at ground level
  • Clematis are available in a variety of colours from white, rose, purples and blue. Many varieties produce abundant flowers and some have a second flush.
  • Clematis can flower from early spring through to autumn and some varieties are good from midsummer onward.
  • Look for different varieties of Clematis such as  alpina, macropetala, montana, chrysocoma or  X jackmanii.
  • Flowers can be as large as dinner plates or as dainty as small stars.
  • Seed heads can also look nice.

Negatives of Growing Clematis

  • They can be hard to get going and roots should be planted deep and kept moist. I place a slate over the planting site as a temporary mulch until a new plant gets going.
  • Some varieties including the montanas can grow rampantly and high into the branches of trees. This can leave bare stems.
  • Pruning is complicated by garden advice and it is easy to prune out the next flowering season if you get t badly wrong.

Clematis seedhead


Small Spaced Kitchen Gardens

Where space is limited or very limited there are still many ways to create a productive kitchen garden.

Optimising Space for your Kitchen Garden.

  • It seems common sense to plan to use what you have available. That covers layout, sequential growing and innovation.
  • If you have a ‘general’ garden then you can interplant kitchen plants eg herbs with box hedges, colourful veg with annuals and fruit trees instead of conifers.
  • Substitute kitchen garden plants for other plants and features as they did when digging for victory.
  • I grow potatoes in old compost bags and pots on my many paths.
  • Other garden veg can be grown in pots even runner beans. Another plant I am having success with is tumbler (Cherry) tomatoes in smallish pots. The are compact easy to grow and are currently producing lots of small sweet fruit.
  • Chose plants and varieties that grow and mature quickly eg salad, radish courgettes and edible flowers.
  • Herbs can be grown in slender strawberry pots with several opening spaces.

Small Garden Fruit

  • Dwarf rooting stock has opened up the opportunity to grow and pick fruit from  small constrained trees or shrubs.
  • Trained apple, pear or currants can be grown as cordons, espalier or fans against a wall. I have also seen a gooseberry grown this way. ( Cordons are diagonal branches that are only allowed short laters, espaliers are grown with a vertical and one or two level branches forming a cross).
  • Grape vines normally need a lot of space but with rigorous training and the right location you can succeed in a small plot.
  • Soft fruit including strawberries and blue berries are ripe for pot growing.
  • I would always find space for rhubarb but that is due to my ‘pie fetish.’

Diverse Use of Hostas

Hostas can be used for in a variety of situations due to their diversity as a species. As basically known as foliage plants they prosper in the shade but have other uses.

Use of Hostas

  • Available to the gardener as foliage plants from spring to the first frosts, hostas only miss out without a winter display.
  • Used as pot plants they can be moved around the garden and the right pot complements the colouring or leaf shape.
  • Pots can be grown indoors and even cultivated during winter.
  • Different varieties offer colour, size, shape, texture and form. This can be used to create architectural effects, ground cover  or lush tropical effects.
  • Add to this the flowers, the reverse colours and bicolours and you have some great design opportunities.
  • You can even grow your hostas in a window box.
  • Hostas combine well with water locations and as companion planting.
  • Hosta collecting can be an interesting pastime.
  • Flower arranging using hostas is very popular in Japan where many plants originate.



Lemon Sunflowers

Sunflower seeds are now available in a range of colours and growing habits. These Lemon Queen plants provide several heads on one compact growing plant. Contrast that to the wilder plants I have to weed out as seedlings that grow from my bird feeders.

Tips on growing and displaying Sunflowers for cutting




Old Venerables and Trees That Disappear

It is hard to picture how old this tree would be had it lived. Judging by the spread of it’s roots, which were over 12 feet in diameter, it would have been some sized tree.

Up on Friars Crag near Derwentwater the remnants of this trunk are now gone. It is interesting to note that the roots are the only parts that are still rotting. Was it the moss that protected the roots?

Nearby is a monument in recognition of the writer, social reformer and artist John Ruskin’s  visit to Keswick in 1824. I would guess that was around the time the tree died to start the rotting process but that is only a guess. Ruskin was fascinated by nature and would have a better idea about this tree remnant. He build his own garden at Brantwood near Conniston Lake ‘A paradise of art and nature’

Keswick has some grand trees in a distributed arboretum in the parks and near the river Greta. Try the tree trail in Upper Fitz Park.
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Woody Prunings and Compost

I have 3 good sized compost bins and the Metro district council supplies and takes away a brown bin  each month (for an annual fee). However that is still not enough at this time of year and I can fill the car boot many times over to take thick hedge prunings and woody bits to the local recycling center.

I need one of those – a big rolling compost smasher. It is used to tamp down the tipped compost so we can tip more and the trailer can carry larger loads to the ultimate council compost site.

Other Woody Composting

  • In the past I have had a shredder that was great when it didn’t get clogged up. Sadly it rusted away and I couldn’t foil to do all the extra shredding hence the trips to the tips.
  • In my enthusiastic days I spent many happy hours cutting twigs and prunings into small pieces to encourage early rotting down.
  • Oft times I had a bonfire but then moved on to a dustbin with chimney that is useful for collecting those annoying bits that I want to burn.
  • I had a special 2 year compost bin which reduced volume considerably but the woody bits lingered longer. It is now one of my 3 bins.
  • Garotta compost maker is not man enough for woody items even though I have tried more in hope than expectation.
  • I have never tried guerilla composting ( called fly tipping) but I often see the result of other people trying this antisocial method of eliminating their compostibles.

August Garden Needs More Colour Less Green

Shrubs rule the roost in August and apart from some Hebe there is not much other than green and a bit of leaf colour. Roll on the second flush of roses.

Next year I will think about more annuals and a better range of perennials with August in mind.

There is nothing wrong with green, it is what Chlorophyll is all about.

It is no surprise that many colours related to green have connections with natural items: –

Lawn green, sap green, chartreuse, sage, lime, olive, moss, mint, emerald, viridian, virdigris, avocado and British racing green.

Not real greens :-

Envy green, Lorne Green, Hughie Green, Ever Green, Green Gills, Thumb or finger green (enough ed.)




Gloxinia as Houseplant Gifts

Can you grow too much of a good thing? Yes I think so. There are only so many plants you can accommodate in the garden, house or even through life. So as part of enjoying the growing aspect of gardening I have started to deliberately grow for giving plants away in this case Gloxinia.

Selecting the Gift

  • A plant in flower is far more attractive than one the recipient has to grow-on or wait to see how it looks.
  • A plant that still has lots of buds to open or develop will extend the pleasure. (See the latent buds on the next photo).
  • Presenting the present in an appropriate way is worth a bit of effort. I have been buying a range of bowls and plant pot holders from charity shops to act as containers. In many cases I can colour co-ordinate to match container and plant. Artistically minded may want to add a label or bespoke wrapping.
  • Not everyone believes the Gloxinia I am giving are houseplants so I should consider providing a bit more information.

Simple Advice For Gifted Gloxinia

  • Gloxinia like plenty of bright light without direct burning sun.
  • Turn the pot round so the plant and flowers develop evenly. They love to bend towards the light.
  • Water from the bottom when the compost is dry and the leaves are floppy. Err on the side of too little rather than too much water.
  • After flowering which may last 6-8 weeks, allow the plant to rest and die back.
  • Keep the dry tuber until next spring if you want to try to regrow your gift.

Tips on Growing Gloxinia

Tubers or corms may be found under the name Sinningia speciosa or Gloxinia and are part of the Gesneriaceae family that includes African Violets. They have been grown as florists gloxinia since being discovered in Brazil in 1815.

    • Plant shallowly in good compost with the buds facing upwards, this is usually the concave side like begonias.
    • Water the compost with warm water from the bottom to stop the tuber rotting and keep the atmosphere humid without getting the leaves or flowers wet or they will be stained with brown blotches.
    •  If the furry leaves elongate it is a sign they need more light.
    • Do not expose to direct mid-day sun as the leaves are liable to become scorched.
    • Gloxinia  like a temperature above 60º when in growth.
    • Plastic pots are fine but I add some grit or perlite to help avoid water logging.
    • Feed with half strength liquid fertiliser



Thank the Romans for Latin Names not Linnaeus

Book Cover

‘What else did the Romans do for us’ asks Monty Python. ‘All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? ‘ Well if you include Latin as a language they gave us modern gardening nomenclature.

What can Latin Names Tell Gardeners

  • Latin names are full of information and can hide the secrets of where the plant is found or to which areas it is endemic. eg Cyclamen persicum, the Persian cyclamen.
  • The name can show the  colour,  albicans or albus flowers will be whitish, virdis or virens will be green.
  • A name prefixed with melano… caulon,  melano… cococus,  will be black, stemmed or berried respectively. Other plants with black features will follow this pattern.
  • Fragrans means propensity for scent often sweet-scented and the best fragrantisimus is likely to be very fragrant
  • Other horticultural information may include; flowering times,natural habitat or fruitfulness- fructifera.
  • Latin for a shady place sylvestris or woodland in the name ending will show where a plant will be happiest.
  • Plants that are named after the shape of their leaves like palmate.
  • The time of year that they flower as in vernalis of spring.
  • Melleus in the name pertains to honey and will likely attract bees and other insects.
  • There are numerous other identifiers and features in Latin based plant names but you just need a learn a few (and a book or PC) to enjoy the skills  of plant selection.

So Monty Python was on the right lines but ‘he is a very naughty boy’ of he doesn’t learn some gardeners Latin.


Public Green Spaces in Britain’s Floral Resort

As befits a town with the sobriquet ‘Britain’s Floral Resort’ Harrogate is again a picture of vibrant colour in most of its green public spaces. Despite the crown (hotel and garden bed above ) it can not be called Royal Harrogate nor can it usurp Britain’s Floral Resort for it’s exclusive use.

Blood red features strongly at the beginning of August in the Brexit era of 2019. Back in the day 2003/4 Harrogate won a gold medal in the Flowery Alliance of Europe horticultural competition  for excellence in horticultural display. I wonder if that was a bloodless coup?

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