Archive | Flowers and Plants

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

Allotments Replaced by Trees



We used to have allotments in our village until the blight. That was not a gardening blight or a problem growing anything but a planners and local politicians blight.

A large green open space surrounding an old hospital ‘High Royds’ was too good an opportunity for power broking and developers profits so the old hospital and the village allotments all had to go. I blame ‘careless of the community’.

Now the ‘new’ village is built and called Chevin Park (not High Royds because the hospital was a former lunatic asylum. Other name changes such as Windscale to Sellafield also springs to mind.)    Many properties are empty partly due to the property recession but also due to the paltry size of the gardens and lack of allotments that could so easily have been restored.

What has replaced our allotments? As you can see a veritable forest of plastic tubes protecting newly planted trees and the flimsiest stakes you could imagine after 3 foot canes. As I said earlier this week this is an updated post for National Tree Week 2018. The plastic tubes are now litter around some decent young trees.

Tips for Planting Trees

  • Dig a good sized hole and incorporate some slow release fertilizer like bone meal. The tree should be there for a long time.
  • Spread the roots of a bare rooted tree or tweak the edges of a container grown tree to give roots the encouragement to spread. Trim off any broken roots.
  • Plant at the same depth to which the tree has been grown.  There is usually a soil mark on bare trees to help. Do not bury any graft.
  • Drive the stake into the bottom of the planting hole before planting the tree and try to ensure that 2/3rds of the stake is underground when the soil is returned to the hole. Continue Reading →

Roots Root For National Tree Week

Lets get to the root of the problem, we seldom get to see roots in action but they are crucial to most plants and trees.

When it comes to trees their roots have two critical functions. Firstly they take up water and minerals. Secondly they help to anchor the tree often utilising a longer tap root. The solid root plate near the trunk normally extends as far as the leaf canopy. Thinner finer lateral roots can extend twice as far in search of water and nutrients. Other root functions for some species include storage of food or nutrients and  as part of a reproduction or regeneration system.

Book Cover

Even today, few places can rival an English oak wood in early summer for peace and beauty with its carpet of primroses and bluebells. Or the cathedral-like majesty of the autumn beech wood with the sun’s light filtering through the leaves. Or the brooding quiet of the ancient holly wood. Perhaps it is not surprising that our remote ancestors performed their acts of worship in forest clearings and woodland glades, for this is where they came face to face with ‘Nature’ – however they close to see it.

Myths About Tree Roots

  • Trees have long been held as part of the superstitions about witches
  • Roots do not penetrate solid objects like wall of drainage pipes that are in good condition.
  • Roots wont affect foundations except on clay soil where they help take away moisture and cause shrinkage.
  • After planting roots are not always keen to extend into surrounding soil unless it is broken up and loosened before hand.
  • Trees need watering even after the first year. Roots take time to establish and be able to supply the needs of of a growing tree. Make sure it is watered for the first 3 years and seldom allowed to dry out completely.
  • Not surprisingly roots will take the easy route if they find cracks in pavements or leaking drains.

Book Cover‘Throughout our long history, forests have been places of shelter, providing food for man and fodder for the animals; the wood for fuel (i.e. warmth and cooking) and for making weapons and other utensils. At the same time they have also been places of fear, where the temperamental Faere Folk, wood sprites and elementals lurked in the dappled shadows.’

Roots Near Buildings further reading

Roots in Pots

  • Pot bound’ is the phrase used when a containerised plant has roots that fill or over fill the pot and satrt going round and round in search of new soil. The pot below has not quite reached a critical stage as the rooot ball can be teased out.
  • If roots are left in a tight circle that is how they will stay and the plant will not thrive. I have occasionally dug out a poor plant to find the original compost is all that is feeding the plant and it is often bone dry. It is hard to rewet plants grown in peat coir and other similar substances.


Best Trees for Toughness

Avoiding early onset of death caused by disease or climate change will affect the trees we plant in the future. Gardeners must consider tree selection carefully bearing in mind more than aesthetics and utility. Economics of forestry have increased there relevance to Britain as (the dreaded by some) Brexit nears. We import and export more wood than in previous years but with those extra tree miles comes risks. Toxins pests and disease are to readily spread from one country to another. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is designed to protect over-exploitation and endangerment  through international trade.

Some of the most reliable trees to plant with a view to them reaching maturity even if not in my life time include:

Tulip Tree Liriodendron tulipifera

American Sweetgum Liquidambar stryraciflua

Evergreen Oak Quercus ilex also Pin Oak and Chestnut leaved oak

Silver Lime Tilia tomentosa

Sweet Chestnut Castaneasativa

Hornbeam Carpinus

Dawb Redwood Metasequoia

Wedding cake tree Cornus controversa

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Trees That Produce Hard Tough Wood

  • Janka is the basic measure of hardness for a sample of wood. The toughest tree is  an ironwood tree which is native to Australia.
  • Lignum vitae is so hard it was used to make policemen’s truncheons
  • Ebony and Brazilian Olivewood have tightly packed grain making up the hardness.
  • Snakewood is an exotic hardwood which is particularly prized for it’s decorative grain
  • Other hard woods common in Britain include mahogany, maple, oak, and teak.
  • Tropical pear, cashew and walnut are hard hardwoods.

Trees for Carbon Capture and Global Warming

Church Lane

I am  unsure about all the fuss over carbon emissions and the impact of humans on the environment. There is a finite amount of carbon in our world and it cycles around in solids, dissolved in water or in gaseous forms. Plants helped convert the primordial carbon gasses and  volcanoes eruptions into solid carbons. Trees capture carbon and hold as wood for long periods and historically many trees fossilised into coal.

Other key examples of carbon capture include the stores of hydrocarbons in the form of tar, oil deposits and shale from which gas is now fracked. Less related to tree carbon capture is the vast quantities of limestone deposited from crustaceans and coral.

Many ecologists and scientist now believe we should invent mechanical ways of storing carbon as there is a perceived imbalance in the carbon cycle caused by human activity. I am amused by the idea of sending carbon dioxide down the mines and oil wells to be retained for some future ill defined purpose.

Personal View on Global Warming

  • The above photograph of the Yorkshire Dales including a tree and dry limestone wall contains a substantial amount of captured carbon as does the peat up on the moor.
  • All Yorkshire can’t compare to the Amazon rainforest or the dissolved carbon in the sea. Since I first wrote about carbon capture major advances with shale gas exploration have highlighted again the plants of eons ago that were converted into captured carbon and are now giving up their bounty to modern man.
  • All the hot air about global warming and political influence isn’t going to change me or my gardening approach.
  • I will garden responsibly but I do not think I will take my gardening to extremes. However, I am going to plant some trees, grow some hard carbon and hope these trees have a long and hard carbon producing life, I just regret I won’t be around to carbon date them.

Amazon Rain Forest

  • This resource is often quoted as a shorthand for the ills of global warming. Is it better to use the land freed up by deforestation for human or animal food production? I don’t think there is a perfect answer but avarice and vested interest is a poor driver of policy.
  • If a tree grows 10% each and every year ( at least until adult maturity) then if follows that small young trees will capture less carbon than stately relatives. There is also a potential amenity benefit from large well managed forests so lets encourage the big and beautiful.
  • In National Tree Week we should be celebrating our British heritage of trees and those organisationst and woodland charities that help manage them.

Herbs and Herbals

If you feel Herbie, the plants not the films, then sniff out the comments below:

Herbie the Love Bug

Herbie the Love Bug

Herb & Herbal Groupings

  • Culinary herbs for use in kitchens
  • Medicinal herbs, ancient and modern the basis of many drugs and remedies.
  • Vegetable herbs like onions and garlic.
  • Flowering and decorative herbs.
  • Spices and other plants at home in a herb bed.
    Continue Reading →


National Tree Week Tribute 2018

Gardeners tips would like to pay tribute to the nation’s trees, past and present and all those that use or care for them. The time to pay this tribute must be during National Tree Week which runs from 24th November to 2nd December 2018.

Where to Start the Tribute

  • I have ordered 3 bare rooted fruit trees to be delivered on the 24th November. These will be planted in my mini orchard to augment the apple and plum varieties I already grow. I don’t really need any more trees for fruit production as the family can’t eat a good years crop even when taking jam into account. Still another tree will be a good backstop should one of my current trees start to fail.
  • It may be a bit early for Christmas but I have agreed to give and have sourced a Kilmarnock Willow tree for my sister’s present. This is to replace a dead willow tree that used to provide a place for garden birds to congregate.
  • Whilst learning oil painting and watercolour I have set aside 2 books on how to draw and paint trees. It will make me look closely at all trees (during cold winter months that will probably be through a window.)
  • Historically gardeners tips have published 443 articles about trees. I will re-post and update one of these pages on each day during National Tree Week

Quirky Tree Facts

  • An 80,000 year old Quaking Aspen in Colorado formed a clonal colony linked to a single massive subterranean root system with all the trunks above ground remaining connected to each other.
  • Against all odds trees can have great survival instincts

  •  The process known as dendrochronology involves counting the rings of a tree trunk.
  • If a birdhouse is hung on a tree branch, it does not move up the tree as the tree grows.
  • There are over 50,000 tree species and some large specimens can drink 100 gallons of water a day.
  • There are numerous uses of trees including food production, energy creation from burning, construction of buildings and ships, decoration and furniture. Best of all I like the idea of a tree house.

Raise a toast including a tree botanical to the UK National Tree Week and all the great trees in the world


Michaelmas Daisies and Plants from Childhood

What plants evoke memories of your childhood. For me there are some old favourites that you can try again now in your natural garden. They are often available in a better form as seed and selection has improved over the years.

Michaelmas Daisy

Asters that flower in late summer are free flowering and with a flowing habit that conjures up summers of youth. A blowsy perennial that were prone to mildew but modern varieties are better. Try Aster novi-belgii or aster Frikartii Monch when you see them on offer.

This autumn my Michaelmas Daisies have performed very well probably due to the weather and the fact that the clumps are a good size without being over the top. Dividing such perennials every few years keeps them fit for flowering.Book Cover.

The photo was from old court nurseries. Golden acre Leeds formerly hel a national collection of Michaelmas Daisies

Night Scented Stock Continue Reading →


My Climbing Hydrangea

I like the idea of a climbing hydrangea more than the actual experience. Good specimens seem to produce a profusion of frothy, white blossoms particularly when grown by someone else.

My Problem Climbing Hydrangea

  • In my case I planted the sole attempt near a supporting wall. The soil my not be of the best quality, fertility nor humous rich. So what can I expect from Hydrangea petiolaris an Asian woodland native.
  • To compound my sins the wall faces north but in mitigation it is only 2 feet high and the climber now occupies both sides. However flowers are there none or sparse to say the least.
  • Nostrums, potions and plenty of compost have not stimulated leaf or branch growth so what hope of flowers.
  • I expected this Hydrangea to take a while to settle in and start producing but 5 years on and my patience is wearing thin. I guess that is true of the plant which is still keen on revenge for my earlier mistakes over its location.
  • I would prune it after flowering in mid summer but without flowers to set me off I have been a bit too lax. Then again the plant is a bit lax too.
  • In researching this post I discover Hydrangea anomala is a species of vine hydrangea and may be my plant is as confused as I am.
  • I trim the vine to control its height and width or make cuts at leaf nodes to encourage the plant to fill out. However I may be chopping of my buds to spite my face.


Where too Now

  • Cut my losses and turf the climbing hydrangea out.
  • Take cuttings and try new locations more in keeping with its needs. A poor strain of plant will not get better after vegetative propagation.
  • Stick with it and be happy there is one plant to have a moan about.
  • Either move to the south of the UK or buy this book about getting Hydrangeas to bloom in the north.

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Get Christmas Cactus Ready to Flower

Christmas Cactus are succulent  cultivars of Schlumbergera.

Tips For Growing Christmas Cactus

  • As the name suggests in the Northern hemisphere and the UK these plants normally flower between November and February
  • Flower buds are stimulated by shortened day length and need 12 hours  uninterrupted darkness from late summer through autumn.
  • To encourage Christmas flowering, from September, they need 8-10 hours of daily sunshine (don’t we all). A bright windowsill will suffice but cover in darkness the rest of the day.
  • Postion plants to avoid domestic lighting or cover every night with blackout material.
  • Keep temperature below 18c but above 10c
  • Fluctuating temperatures can cause the buds to fall but so can over watering

Christmas Cactus Varieties

  • Schlumbergera x buckleyi  have fleshy stems not leaves.
  • Stems are divided into flattened leaf-like segments with scalloped margins  and they can grow quite long and droop over the edge of a pot.
  • Schlumbergera x bridgesii another Christmas Cactus  do not have spines like many cactus
  • Easter cactus, also known as a spring cactus are not members of the Schlumbergera family. They look similar, bloom in spring but are Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri or Hatiora gaetneri plants.

Geraniums Over Winter

My mother very successfully grew Geraniums (pelargoniums) as indoor pot plants for many years. For the majority of gardeners the zonal geraniums are an outdoor feature of brightly coloured flowers that are often treated as annuals. Over wintering can be too much fuss and frustrating if you get it wrong. There are things you can do to optimise your success in getting a favourite plant through even a cold, soggy winter. Firstly select varieties that are worth the effort of preserving.

Pot Up Pre-winter

  • Unless already in pots replant your favourite geraniums in individual pots with a gritty compost.
  • Tidy up any nibbled leaves and poor stems cutting back a bit if necessary.
  • Keep the pots in a bright, cool spot such as a windowsill. Avoid a frosty reception from a cold window behind curtains.
  • A good plant will keep flowering for a while into winter.
  • Do not over water but keep on the dry side.

Mass Protection

  • If you wish to save a lot of plants you can try keeping them in a frost free area such as a garage or greenhouse.
  • Dig up before they are frosted and knock off as much soil as you can from the roots. Trim back by a half.
  • Either hang the plants in a cool, dark room or place them in paper bags. They will loose their leaves but the stems should reshoot in spring if planted in good compost.
  • Check every few weeks to make sure the plants are not shriveling or drying out completely. Mist or soak if they do get over dry.

Take Cuttings

  • If you have particular geraniums you wish to preserve I recommend taking cuttings.This method takes up less space but you need to start well before the first frosts.
  • Start by taking 3- to 4-inch cuttings from the green  part of the plant. Strip off any leaves on the bottom half of the cutting. Some gardeners recommend dipping the cutting into rooting hormone but I find it more important to ensure excellent drainage.
  • I would definitely use the cuttings method for Regals, Scented and special geranium plants.


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