Author Archive | hortoris

Dandelion a Martians Favourite


What is wrong with the humble Dandelion and why do we take against it so? The flowers are prolific, uniform with good and vibrant colour. The seed heads look light and airy before the Dandelion Clock strikes and blows all the seeds to germinate where they will. The leaves are lance-shaped, so deeply toothed, they gave the plant its name in Old French – Dent-de-lion means lion’s tooth. So is it the profligate flowering, the ability to seed so freely the French Connection or some other prejudice.

Dandelion Wine

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Honesty Seedheads & Flowers


Honesty also called Lunaria annua has beautiful purple flowers in April and May that are one of the few early nectar attractions for butterflies. In spite of it’s Latin name, Honesty is actually a biennial putting down a long tap root in it’s first year. This is why you seldom see it for sale in garden centres.

Gardeners Tips Growing Honesty

  • Honesty will also grow in shade and the seed heads make a great Autumn and Winter attraction as the coin shaped seed heads shed an outer skin and become luminous white moon shapes like tracing paper.
  • The growth is stiff and entirely self-supporting, a central stem branching out freely and bearing abundance of small flowers like Wallflowers.
  • Honesty should be massed with say a dozen plants in a group to give the best effect. The white variety is well worth growing, the colour being very pure and luminous in quality but purple is the main colour.
  • Honesty self sows quite freely and young seedlings can be transplanted with care being take of the tap root. Collect the seeds in October as the husks are shed but leave the papery head.
  • Seed heads can be cut, hung to dry in Autumn and used as dried flowers in floral arrangements. They look good with Christmas arrangements.
  • Most are anything but nondescript, and there are some strains with richly coloured flowers of a vibrant deep purple with a hint of magenta.
  • Lunaria annua is a biennial belonging to the brassica  family and will grow in most soil, if it looks unhappy try a bit of lime. When it is happy, which is most of the time since it generally chooses for itself where to live, it can develop into a robust, branching plant, 2ft tall and 1.5ft across.
  • Unfortunately it has no scent. Although a biennial, with each plant living only two years, when it is established it will go on forever, becoming a feature of the late spring garden. When left to its own devices it often turns up in unexpected places.
  • There is a perennial honesty Lunaria rediviva that is an exceptionally beautiful plant. It has a simple grace with yard-high stems clothed in similar fresh green heart-shaped leaves. Its cross-shaped flowers are pale lavender and sweetly scented.
  • Honesty develops thick storage roots, almost like tubers, and, in common with other brassicas, has deep tap roots.
  • Avoid overfeeding and do not use manure Honesty does best without pampering.

Read Honesty is the best policy


Lawns in Spring


Tips for Sowing a new Lawn

  • Mid Spring is a good time to sow a new lawn. The soil is warming up and light showers should help germination.
  • If it is too dry you will need to water the seedlings with a fine spray – do not be tempted to drown the seed.
  • Select an appropriate seed mixture. They are available for a range of lawns from bowling green, prize lawn, back garden, shaded lawn etc.  Shake the box of seed as some mixtures settle and separate out.
  • Sow at the rate of 1-1.5 oz (35 gms) per square yard and eventually cut the grass to half an inch
  • Prepare the ground thoroughly, remove perennial weeds and stones. Compact and level then rake to a fine tilth, Sow when the top is dry but the ground is still holding moisture.
  • Measure out a square yard at a time and spread evenly then try maintain a similar density across the whole area sown. Cast seed horizontally and vertically to avoid patched.
  • Rake very gently once sown to cover the seed. If troubled by birds get a cat if trouble by cats get netting or string across the new area.
  • If just reseeding a patch scratch the bare area incorporate some multi-purpose compost and sow at half the quantity.

Seed Mixes

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Selfsown Forget-me-nots


Some Mytosis (Forget me not) flowers are great self sowers. All the Forget me nots in my garden are self sown and have been for many years. I have white, pinky purple and the traditional blue varieties and they get all over. The white flower above has sown itsself between the external wall and pavement and it is just blooming now despite the attentions of a local dog.

  • I try to pull up as many as I can before they flower particularly if they are in the wrong place. Any plant in the wrong place can become a weed in my mind.
  • It is hard to pull up for erradication of Forget-me-nots when they have flowered as many will have already seeded before the flowers are over
  • The blue flowers can create a pleasing effect over a large area and after they are finished there is new space for summer half-hardy annuals.
  • Plants become straggly and spread as they age and it often a poor form of plant that is the most prolific self sower. Pull them up and compost them.
  • If you want Forget me nots not surprisingly you can grow them from seed or scrounge some plants from an over stocked garden.

See Growing Forget-me-nots seeds from Thompson & Morgan


Hydrangea Houseplants


Hydrangeas make good houseplants flowering in spring from a shop bought plant. Hydrangea have been successfully grown as blooming house plants for many years. They are colourful full of flower and relatively trouble free if you give them a good drink of water regularly. Keep plants cool between 50-60 ° F when in flower but give them some good light.

Indoor Hydrangea Tips

  • Buy a new plant each year and plant the old one in the garden when it has finished flowering. It may not be hardy enough to survive but getting it to reflower indoors will mean you have to emulate the seasonal conditions it would expect in the wild.
  • To buy a good hydrangea for indoors look for a plant with just a few blooms showing color and lots of buds still developing. The plant should fill out the pot with healthy dark green leaves.

hydrangea-buds Continue Reading →


Simple Gardening Tips for Spring

Foliar Feeding

  • Plants can take up food through their green leaves and stems. Dilute liquid feed by twice the recommended volume of water to avoid burning the leaves. Spray a good quantity on to  the leaves later in the afternoon is more effective. Bulbs like Crocus and Daffodills benefit as they are building up reserves for next year. Stressed and weak plants will probably pick up after a foliar feed  but thick leaved plants are less receptive to feeding this way.

Frost Damage

  • Hardy shrubs that have had the leaves browned off by frost damage will recover all being well. My hydrangeas have been frosted despite leaving the old mopheads on for a bit of winter protection. I will trim the brown very lightly to avoid damage to the buds. Other shrubs can be trimmed back to the healthy shoots or leaves but if another heavy frost is likely I would leave the trimming job or protect with horticultural fleece. My Pieris japonica have been damaged but the new red leaves should still perform.
  • It is still too early to sow half-hardy annuals as even cold weather will kill them off. Hardy annuals should be acclimatised to cold and wind gradually. This gardeners call  ‘hardening off’ and is done by bringing plants into exposed areas during the day and moving them indoors or protecting them at night.

Staking and Supporting Continue Reading →


Combinations of Plants


Some plants look right together because the gardener planned it that way. In my case happy accidents are often the cause of plant combinations that work well. In yet other gardens it is the growing conditions that are the over riding factor that create the overall effect.

The Flag Iris above are in the process of being colonised by the small Euphorbia which spreads rapidly by creeping roots. In spring I am happy that the red shoots contrast with the lime-green, sword shaped leaves of the Iris so I plan to leave them until the Iris flower. By then the dark blue flowers will not need a red leaved under planting so they may have to come out. These Iris also need to be split as the rhizomes are old and each piece only produces one stem. I will do this splitting a few weeks after flowering and plant pieces of root and throw away the old woody center.

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Roses in Summer



Is it too early to think about your Roses in ‘Flamming June’ and the rest of summer? I think not as boy scouts say ‘be prepared’ and here are a couple of preparations to consider.

Tips for Summer Roses

  • Roses are heavy feeders so provide a granular fertiliser before flowering and a foliar feed before buds open. Specially formulated foliar feeds are available to give nurishment through the leaves. This can be very useful if the soil’s lime content restricts the uptake of all the nutrients needed.
  • Plan irrigation perhaps by burying a pipe to get water down to the tap roots. Do not encourage surface roots by just wetting the top soil, water needs to get deep down to do any good.
  • Pest and disease control will probably be necessary so stock up with the right products.
  • If you are planning Exhibition roses then you may want to disbud your flowers to channel all the energy into fewer larger blooms. Clear away any imperfections if you can and take off the thorns so the foliage isn’t ripped in transit.

Book Cover


Vegetables for a Drought

Book Cover

When you plan your crops you have no idea what the weather will be in summer when your vegetables need water the most. Herbs, plants from the Mediterranean and grey leaved plants tend to withstand drought conditions better than most. Some vegetables once established can be more tolerant than others and if you expect low rainfall this summer give them a try.

Drought Tolerant Vegetables

  • Leeks need to be ‘puddled in’ when planting in a hole but from then on  they will send down strong roots in search of moisture. Earthing up for blanching by drawing soil around stems helps preserve some moisture.
  • Root vegetables like Parsnip and Carrot can survive dry conditions as long as they get well established
  • Onions  will tolerate low rainfall but I find it encourages sets to run to seed. Continue Reading →

Great Garden Chrysanthus Crocus


Hocus pocus this Crocus is out of Focus but it illustrates my main theme. Your 2010 garden depends on decisions you take now and I think it is worth recording every plant you aspire to grow. I record things in picture and notebook form and am not as well organised as I claim to be. However I am building a list of plants and designs features that I want to try for next year (it also doubles as a present list family take note). High on my list is the early flowering Chrysanthus Zwanenburg Bronze shown above.

Chrysanthus Crocus Species.

  • The flowers are smaller than the blousy, large flowered crocus of public parks and gardens fame.
  • The colour range is more varied with several varieties having purple outer petals and white or yellow insides. Eye Catcher, Prince Claus, Herald and this example Zwanenburg Bronze.
  • Lighter colours amongst the creams are Jeannine, Snowbunting, Romance and Cream Beauty.
  • Chrysanthus flower a little earlier than large crocus but are less robust when naturalising though grass.
  • Bought in bulk from 3p each the corms look good value for a range of pot grown applications including growing your own presents and gifts.

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