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Author: hortoris

A Trio of Purple Leaves

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 below 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. It must have been self sown but I have not got any other plants except the parent.

Heuchera Facts and Varieties

Heuchera Facts and Varieties

I am hoping for some coloured Heucheras for Fathers day later this year – well hope is free!

Uses of Heuchera

  • Heuchera are commonly used as specimen plants or in small groups of the same variety.
  • They are at home in woodland gardens, rock gardens or as groundcover.
  • Heuchera are useful in patio pots or as components in mixed containers. They are often used at this time of year for winter containers
  • Flower panicles make fine additions to cut flower arrangements.
  • Heuchera attracts butterflies.
  • Heuchera consists of over 50 species and there are many new varieties so you could make a study and collection of these interesting plants.

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Kew a Year of Visits

Kew a Year of Visits

Book Cover

Six DVD’s in a boxed set ‘A Year at Kew – The Collection’ (Series 1-3) with Alan Titchmarsh is available from Amazon  in time for a Christmas gift. Over 1000 minutes of gardening in a month-by-month journey via the BBC through the world’s greatest botanical garden.

I enjoyed a winter perusal of the BBC Book that accompanied the series. With monthly highlights and in sights into the inner workings of various specialist department there is enough to encourage return visits.

Kew 066

Rather than punt the book for the negligible commission we get if you buy after clicking the cover or link above I will just post some seasonally coloured photos of plants taken at Kew.

Kew 200

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Roses with Single Petals

Roses with Single Petals


My book de Jour is ‘Fifty Favourite Roses’ Michael Gibson. A second reading has given me some new insights and some varieties to look out for: 5 petalled Tea Roses Dainty Bess,  Mrs Oakley Fisher (golden) and Ellen Willmott (white) rugarosa Robusta and colour changing Mutabilis

Above is a true red rose that also flowers very early on a robust plant 5 feet tall.


Now a more commonly available single rose this Rosa ‘Canary Bird’  is a tall growing very floriferous lemon- yellow rose with good foliage.

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Top Ten Old Roses

Top Ten Old Roses

Repeat flowering old Rose varieties do what it says in their name however the first 5 in my Top Ten only flower once per year but still inspire.

Old Rose Top Ten

  1. Celsiaha  this Damask rose is strong and vigourous with good clusters of large, lasting, pale pink flowers.
  2. Enfant de France is a compact gallica rose with sweet scented, double flowers in a silvery pink with quilled petals.
  3. Rosa gallica Versicolour or Rosa mundi is a 16th Century semi double variety with candy striped red and white flowers.
  4. Mme Hardy is a pure white rose opening from a slightly pink bud on a shrub up to 6 feet tall. It is disease resistant and good in an organic garden.
  5. Mme Sancy de Parabere is a thornless climber. Early flowering yet hardy plant with double, saucer-shaped flowers and ragged petals of deep lavender pink.
  6. John Hooper is a strong scented pink hybrid with perpetual flowering.
  7. Gloire Lyonnaise Semi-double creamy white blooms on a very erect shrub. Virtually thornless shrub that withstands wet weather better than most.
  8. Captain Hayward has light crimson, shapely, double flowers with excellent orange hips.
  9. Paul Neyron has large 6″ flowers in a deep shade of pink.
  10. Souvenier du Doctor Jamain has medium-sized flowers of the richest maroon colouring, opening flat. Grows 6ft. tall x 3ft. wide.

Classes of Old Roses

The Gallicas are probably the oldest of all garden roses forming short bushy shrubs, many of which are quite suitable for small gardens. They were grown by the Greeks and Romans then bred in 17th century by the Dutch and French.
Among them are some very fine roses with magnificent mixtures of colour particularly among the crimson, purple and mauve shades. They have beautiful flower formation with open upright blossom which shows the yellow stamens
All of the Gallicas are once blooming and most have very good fragrances. Tuscany variety is an almost black purple may be the oldest surviving Gallica from pre 1596.

Damask roses are another very old group, said to have originally been brought from the Middle East by the Crusaders.

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Boost Your Patio Roses Now

Boost Your Patio Roses Now

Spring Booster For Pot Roses

  • My patio roses have been given some TLC (TenderLovingCare) to set them up for flowering this summer.
  • TLC has involved checking over the pots and how they and the roses over wintered. Luckily there were no disaster or significant problems.
  • Pots were on the dry side, no bad thing through winter but now I will up the watering with dilute fertiliser.
  • The high growth had been trimmed in late autumn but now I undertook some careful pruning. Old and dead wood was cut out and the center of the rose was opened up to allow in air as they develop.
  • I took off the top 3 inches of soil and replaced it with a top dressing of John Innes and compost. I added a few slow release granules to each pot first.
  • Last year I covered the top of each pot with an inch of Strulch to suppress weeds and help watering. That worked so well I am repeating this mulch for this year. The old Strulch and top compost has gone on the heap.
  • I checked the pots for winter damage, fortunately they survived intact

Future Care and Boosting Plans

  • Black spot can be a problem on susceptible varieties so I will spray with a fungicide. Infected leaves will be taken off and dustbinned.
  • I will feed with a rose feed in may and a tomato feed after the first flush of flowers.
  • I am potentially over feeding as I hope to get some more cut flowers this year.
  • I also plan to buy another plant, or several, they are great value for money.

Pot Observations

  • My pots are a mishmash but I prefer those that are uniform terracotta pots.
  • Even in my glazed pots and two twelve inch square plastic efforts the patio roses produce masses of flowers annually.
  • Most pots contain roses over 5 years old and I do not re-pot them.
  • My favourite pots are 16 inch high ‘Long Toms’ that make a group of three. This grouping helps a micro-climate and a blowsy display.
  • The shortest pot in 9 inches high and I should have selected a miniature rose rather than a fully fledged patio variety. Several miniature roses are in my shallow soiled rockery.



Grow Top Patio Roses

Grow Top Patio Roses


What is a Patio Rose if it isn’t a rose grown on a patio?
Patio roses grow bigger and bushier than miniatures and are about 14 -24 inch high, yet they are perfectly formed. H.T. Bush and Floribunda roses grow bigger but Patio roses are easy and decorative.

Patio Roses are easy for growing in small spaces and can be useful in many other garden locations. They can be grown in containers and pots or just planted near your front door.

Easy Places to Grow Patio Roses

Edging plants in front of other plants or in a narrow border on their own.
Some varieties make an attractive small hedge.
They all look well planted in groups 3-5-7 of each variety.
They are not house plants and are as hardy as larger roses.
Patio Roses are great for tubs and containers but remember to feed, water and mulch them.
Combined with summer bedding plants they will flower all summer long.

Patio Rose - Birthday WishesGrowing Tips For Patio Roses

Minimum pruning in late February or March will help keep them tidy.
Plant in full sun for the best show.
They are of course totally hardy and being perennials will appear year after year.
Roses are outdoor plants and do not survive in the house.

More information from Amazon in ‘Growing Miniature and Patio Roses’ by Dawn and Barry Eagle £6.99

Rose in our patio in Berwick upon Tweed

Top Ten Repeat flowering Patio Roses

Some special varieties providing a great display of colour and scent include:

  1. Loving Wishes A free flowering rose with good disease resistance and scented, scarlet-red blooms
  2. Golden Wishes The flowers are golden yellow with a slight fragrance and 14″ tall
  3. Flower Power produces peach-salmon blooms with a spicy scent
  4. Golden Anniversary Large fragrant golden rounded flowers with yellow centres from summer to autumn. Upright bush habit.
  5. Red or Yellow Sunblaze,
  6. Sweet Dreams, or  Sweet Magic,
  7. Charmant,
  8. Flirt,
  9. Diamond Wishes
  10. One of the smaller varieties is not surprisingly called Peter Pan.

There seems to be a named patio rose for most birthday and anniversary event if you shop around – that is modern marketing for you.

June is a wonderful time to appreciate the variety of easy care patio roses that are now available.

Third Year of outstanding Flowering

Facts about Patio Rose

  • Small and miniature versions of the traditional floribunda type of rose are being bred of the smaller gardens, window boxes, patios or decking areas.
  • ‘Peter Beales’ rose grower offers patio climbers, ramblers and a variety of shrub roses for patios
  • Patio roses can thrive in pots, containers or direct in the ground
  • The smaller cousins ‘miniature roses’ grow to a height of between 12 and 18 inches.
  • Patio plants grow up to 30″ tall are generally hardy and repeat well.

 Yorkshire Princess Patio Rose

Care Tips for Patio Roses

  • I have been fortunate but there have been no greenfly or bug infestations of any note. I would be ready with a garlic spray or proprietary insecticide if needs must.
  • Only one out of a dozen plants has suffered from black spot and as you can see the pots are close together so I must be lucky.
  • I gave my plants a mini prune in early spring after a winter prune to keep the plants short and prevent wind damage

On My Patio with Room for More

See also Top Ten Old Roses

Patio rose by Charles D P Miller CC BY 2.0
Patio Rose – Birthday Wishes by jovike CC BY-NC 2.0
Rose in our patio in Berwick upon Tweed by Karen V Bryan CC BY-ND 2.0

Ground Cover for Formal Gardens

Ground Cover for Formal Gardens

Vinca ground cover

Formal gardens generally rely on geometric shapes and repetition and so you may not think about ground cover in these situations. Balance and proportion are also key features of a formal garden and generally have fewer species of plants than may be found in in informal gardens.

With the structure of a formal garden in place from paths and symmetrical beds in squares, oblongs or circles you can then consider appropriate plants. The ground cover should complement the focal plants in colour, leaf-shape and height. They should also be manageable and not prone to take over or the formal effect may be lost.

  • Liriope spicata or Lily turf  is evergreen with neat, low, grassy foliage. It can be left undisturbed for many years to form low-maintenance ground cover in beds of its own, or in light shade beneath trees or shrubs.
  • Sempervivum tectorum and Hens-and-Chicks are small scale spreaders that may combine with Aremria maritima to create clear outlines in concentric shapes within a formal layout.
  • Saxifraga umbros or London Pride is apt to wander over path edges but is an easy to grow and gives prolific, spreading ground cover.
  • Hellebores and Hostas can also work well or Barbara Ellis in her book ‘Covering Ground’ recommends Tiarella cordifolia the Allegeheny foamflower.

Colour may not be the key issue in ground cover for a formal garden but Blue grass Festucu glauca can be massed planted so that clumps join together. Other grasses to consider include Hakonechloa macra or the lower growing sedges Carex pensylvanica.

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Vivid Ground Cover Plants and Ideas

Vivid Ground Cover Plants and Ideas

A colourful carpet of ground cover plants may be a creative, low maintenance alternative to a lawn. Alternatively a pattern of coloured stone or chippings with feature plants in containers may be your preference.

Collection of Low Growing Plants

  • A mix of flowers and shrubs can include conifers like Golden Juniper Juniperus x media ‘Golden Sovereign’, Juniperus horizontalis, Juniper squamata ‘Holger’ and Picea pungens ‘Glauca Prostrata’ all around one foot tall with varying spreads.
  • For colour in summer you can’t beat some Petunia multiflora and vibrant Busy Lizzie Impatiens. Try the ‘accent’ series from Thompson Morgan
  • Bulbs of Dutch Iris, Cyclamen, Crocus and Muscari can provide spring and autumn colour.
  • Fillers and good doers include Bugle Ajuga reptans, Pinks Dianthus Indian hybrids, Geranium, Sedum and Vinca.

Design Features

  • Wide flat rocks can break up the verdant space and give the gardener a place to stand and weed.
  • Think in terms of 8-12″ as the average height with accent plants if required.
  • Create a backing or edging with taller uniform plants. Roses box or taller Conifers may suit.
  • Plant in bold blocks of colour with annuals close together for maximum effect.

Patterns of Gravel

  • Ground cover of pebbles, chippings or gravel can add colour. I like plum coloured slate chippings.
  • The covering can be used to stand elegant containers perhaps containing trailing plants like lobelia or geraniums.
  • Make sure you have a weed barrier under the gravel.
  • Gravel should be comparatively low maintenance but keep it spruce and moss free.

Similar rule apply when planting ground cover that grows taller. Select a height 18-24″ in this case and plant appropriate plants in the designated area. Tree ferns have been used as accent plants in this design.


Ground cover plants ‘beat weeds’ and many of the plants recommended below will flower year after year. Plant healthy young plants from pots or modules about 12 inches apart and the fast growing ground cover will produce a dense carpet of colour for many years.

Ground Cover Selection

Helianthemum grows strongly in my garden with bright orange flowers. Reds and whites are available.

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Columbines, Aquilegia, Paraquilegia & Semiaquilegia

Columbines, Aquilegia, Paraquilegia & Semiaquilegia

Aquilegia pumilla Alba

Genetic purity cannot be guaranteed with a species that has been bred and cultivated for centuries. The above Aquilegia flabellata is an alpine species found in Japan and the Kurile Islands. (Flabellata means fan-shaped)

Columbine Growing Tips

  • A porous soil is better than hard clay but Columbines grow in most soils preferring alkalinity.
  • Columbines like partially shady spots, and may be happy planted under leafy trees.
  • With long tap roots, they establish themselves where they are planted, so they may be difficult to move after a couple years.
  • Plants are hardy and do not require extra fertilizer.
  • Columbines are relatively pest and disease free but aphid attacks may need treatment

Columbine Features

  • Columbines range from 4″ to 4′ high
  • Columbines last 4 years and more depending on variety. You can extend life expectancy by cutting down flowered stalks prior to seeding.
  • Grow these beauties from seed – a variety pack of columbine seeds will no doubt delight you with the end product. If you are in a hurry you can buy pot grown plants but division of plants is seldom successful.
  • Columbines cross-pollinate readily and willingly so it can be fun growing from your self- collected seed.
  • 65 species are discussed in Robert Nolds book ‘Columbines’

Book Cover

More photos on Growing Aquilegia

The long spurred Aquilegias are showy perrenial plants that are easy to grow from seed sown March to June. These cottage garden favourites grow up to three feet tall on thin stems without hindering other plants. They are not too fussy about conditions tolerating some shade and dry spells.

Tips on growing  – Aquilegia

  • Aquilegias can be grown and used as cut flowers.
  • There are smaller varieties for rock gardens and patio pots such as A .Tiddlywinks
  • For a quick impact buy ready grown plants
  • Spurless double flowers like A. Noral Barlow and A William Guiness tend to be longer lived but I think they are less showy.
  • A. chrysatha is tolerant of shade try A. Yellow Queen and I like A. vulgaris with pure white flowers and grey green foliage.
  • The plants can be short lived but self sow and hybridise with other aquilegias. This can lead to inferior smaller seedlings and it may be best to start again as the plants are so easy to grow.