Author Archive | hortoris

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.

Iris Reticulata and Histroides Species


Whilst these Iris bulbs are grown in a gravel topped bed Reticulata make great pot plants for an alpine house. Flowering in February many varieties have deep purple or violet flowers with conspicuous yellow blotches on lower petals or falls.

  • If you have relatives called Joyce, Gordon, Natasha, Pauline, George or Katherine Hodgkin there is an Iris bulb named after them.
  • Iris Reticulata Cantab is a cobalt blue with a small orange tongue and a most striking colour worthy of close inspection. Whilst Iris Histroides Katherine Hodgkin is a light blue with distinctive marking.
  • Gently force batches of early bulbs by bringing pots of them into a cool greenhouse. When the flower buds begin to colour up, you can bring the bowls into the house.



Frogspawn Tips and Hints

From me’nthedogs on flickr

Frogs can be very useful in the garden eating more than their share of slugs. On a warm day from February onward frogs and toads will emerge from hibernation, mate and lay eggs as spawn. Do not worry about too much spawns as one frog will lay up to 2000 eggs of which only half a dozen become adult frogs. If you get far too much spawn so that it is chocking the top of the pond you can transfer some to a bowl so you can watch the tadpoles develop over the next 6 weeks or so. Transferring spawn to another pond may transfer disease or unwanted plants. Toadspawn is formed in long strings rather than the clumped or bunched frogspawn. Newts put there spawn on the underside of leaves.

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Garden Sculpture from Found Materials


This council maintained flower bed claims a wooden sculpture which looks to me like 4 poles stuck in the ground at angles. It meets the specification of a sculpture in that it acts as a focal point, creates a new dimension with the extra height and becomes a topic of discussion.

Found materials can be any surplus matierial discovered in the wider garden or on your travels. If you have an artistic eye they can arranged in the garden to create a special feature. Old roots can be used to form a stumpery and old sea washed tree trunks can become a seat or decorative piece. I like natural wood as it harmonises in the garden without effort. Other wooden features include bird houses and tables, so much more pleasing than the rusty metal efforts.

Tips for Choosing Garden Sculpture

  • Select items that are in proportion to the space and surroundings. Too small and the sculpture will be lost. Too large and it may dominate a natural setting to the exclusion of the natural garden environment.
  • Plan why you want a sculpture and how it will integrate into your garden and the chosen site. Do not leave these items to chance or serendipity. Consider maintenance from the outset some items will tire rapidly.
  • Unless you have a particular reason do not copy similar sculptures in neighboring gardens. If everyone bought the same stone sculpture from the same garden centre there would be no frisson of interest. Why not try to find a unique item that achiever the same end.
  • Repeat a theme or stick to standard. It can be untidy having a glass,stone and wood sculpture in close proximity. Aim for harmony in the items you choose.
  • Even well selected rocks can be sculptural features and I have many rocks in the garden that I have collected as small sculptures.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose in the Garden


Now part of this garden is down to crazy paving the Qualcast grass box is needed less and can be put to a different use.  It looks like a ‘unibarrow’  has got in on the act to make a feature planter for these pansies.

Being green is second nature to Gardeners because we are so near to nature so reuse, reduce and recycle is part of our DNA.

Tips to help you reuse old tools

  • Sharpen blades, even on old spades, with a whet stone – angle the blade at 5-10° and push and pull across the stone – 5 times should be enough
  • Bind the handles of old tools with bright insulating tape so you can find them easily.
  • Look at car boots and secondhand sales for special tools that you will only use occasionally. I got an Onion hoe this way.
  • Put on a new handle or repurpose a tool so it can do an easier task. An old hand fork can be given a long handle for light digging without bending.
  • Go to a hire shop and reuse their tools
  • Old tools are often very well made and it is worth the effort of having them repaired professionally. If they have lasted a long time it is a sign they are fit for purpose.
  • Remember the 70 year old spade that had 10 new handles and 3 new blades.

Other Re-Tips

  • I get most of my many gardening books from charity shops and I recycle them there too.
  • I reuse garden center pots for seedlings and growing-on but would prefer more compostable materials to be used by suppliers.
  • Good gardeners recycle old plants via cuttings, seed collecting and splitting of clumps.
  • Buy locally grown plants as they will suit the local conditions and don’t come with exotic airmiles

What to Reduce in the Garden

  • Make low maintenance areas and reduce the labour you need.
  • With the right plant selection you will also reduce the amount of chemicals required.
  • Reduce the need for water by clever garden design
  • Reduce your carbon footprint. Grow dense hedges and trees to capture carbon.

Recycled greenhouse

Recycled greenhouse by scrappy annie CC BY-NC 2.0 ‘A greenhouse spotted in Stropkov, Slovakia a few years ago.
It was made from recycled plastic bottles, strung on to wires. A brilliant idea….’

Book Cover

Cooking Green: The Essential Guide to Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen by Kate Heyhoe


Late Tulip Planting


Normally I try and plant my Tulips by the end of December but this year I am a bit late. Still Tulips have a great capacity to catch up before April when they flower.

Varieties Just Planted

  • Monte Carlo a double yellow only 12 ” tall. They have an AGM and are reputed to be fragrant.
  • Apricot Parrot has feathered bicoloured petals. There is a bit of green on the outer petals with red and apricot shades on the inner petals. These Tulips are about 22″ tall
  • Another lower growing  Tulip Greigii called Queen Ingrid at 14″ caught my eye with red petals edged in white
  • Bulbs varied in size from 10-13cm. I have planted most in pots that I can bury in the ground where there is a gap and take up quickly after flowering. I will let you know how they all get on.

The Garden Museum formerly Museum of Garden History

The museum of garden history in St Marys Church at Lambeth Palace London reopens after refurbishment on the 18th November 2008. Renamed The Garden Museum, extra space has been created inside the medieval church to display paintings, drawings and ephemera related to gardening.

Visit to The Garden Museum (Garden)

  • I arrived a week too soon expecting the refurbishment to be completed ( I should have checked). It had been several years since my last visit when it was still called the museum of garden history.
  • The Cafe and garden were still open and the graveyard was planted up with lots of plants including some strong growing Acanthus.
  • The knot garden contained a large spirally pruned Ilex altaclariensis Golden King as a center piece.
  • Evidence of the links to the Tradescant family were all over the small garden and for the most part the plants were well labeled.
  • My favourite feature was an old stone seat that had been surrounded by a small hedge clipped to make it look like a sofa.

See more pictures
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Nearly Free Seeds

RHS Seed Distribution 2009

One of the joys of RHS membership is the annual free seed distribution. A 24 page listing of available seeds, collected from the RHS gardens, provides a wide and unusual selection.

The descriptions are short and the official Latin names send me off to look up the species in books or the internet before deciding. At the beginning of next year I will receive the 20 packets together with a germination guide. In addition to recommended temperatures and likely germination times there are many tips on covering seeds, chilling to break dormancy and other influencing factors.

I have just ordered my 20 packets from the catalogue of over 500 different options. Half of my selection this year are trees or shrubs as I like to have something different and taller than usual from the RHS. This was my selection:

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Peace the Top Rose

Named ‘Peace’ after the second world war this ‘Peace Rose’ could have been named not for the absence of war but for the tranquility of a peaceful garden.


In 1935, Francis Meilland cross-pollinated a french  rose with Margaret McGredy, from which was born a seedling of unknown qualities. Some eyes were budded in 1936, and by fall one of the plants had developed into an especially fine specimen with lush dark green, glossy foliage, and it had magnificent blooms of the most delicate ivory-yellow brushed with pink at the edges. From Kitty Belendes.


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