Archive | Flowers and Plants

Annual, perennial and interesting flowers with advice on culture, information, tips and recommended varieties

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.

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.



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.

Water Features and Planting Schemes

Tulips Fountain

Tulips Fountain

Water features offer one of the most effective ways to create a new dynamic in a garden. They add movement and dynamism and subconsciously help create a feeling of relaxation and lushness.
For the photographer or garden enthusiast, a water feature can provide a key focal point, which enables the plants to be effectively displayed. This particular water fountain (in Oxford Botanic Gardens) has been planted with tulips around the edge.

The tulips provide an interesting contrast. Here the tulips are neat, ordered and erect. – A perfect foil to the cascading nature of the waterfall.


Framed Archways in the Garden

the Garden of light

When designing gardens, don’t forget the power of architecture to frame inspiring shots. These two brick columns create the impression of a ‘window into the garden’. Windows such as this lead the eye to a certain aspect of the garden creating an additional sense of drama and interest in the garden.

One thing about his photo is that you want to instinctively go through the archway in order to see the whole garden.

It is a powerful technique to break up a garden into different rooms – keep creating different sections and layers of interest.

The other interesting thing about this photo is the contrast between light and darkness. The top of the archway is very dark and this serves as a contrast to the beautiful pink light of the apple blossome


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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