Archive | Flowers and Plants

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

Judas Tree – Root and Branch Review

Judas Tree

At the heart of the Judas tree is an ornamental flowering tree with rich, pink to red, pea shaped flowers in May followed by long pods.

Key Features of the Judas Tree

  • Latin name – Cercis siliquastrum aka Flowering Judas or Love Tree
  • Height – Ornamental tree up to 35 feet
  • Type of tree – Deciduous
  • Leaves – Kidney shaped, untoothed, smooth grey-green
  • Flowers – Sweet pea-like magenta-pink
  • Fruit – Flat brown pods
  • Bark – Dark grey with ridges when mature
  • Family – Fabaceae

Leaf of Japanese judas tree

Origins and Distribution of the Judas Tree

  • Native to southern Europe, western Asia and possibly originating in Judea hence the name.
  • Just about hardy for UK gardens.

Uses and Attributes of the Judas Tree

  • Eye catching spring flowering ornamental tree.
  • Flowers are edible in salads, fried in batter or pickled as a caper substitute.
  • The wood is hard and fine grained making it suitable for veneer work
  • A popular tree in parks and ornamental gardens.

Cercis siliquastrum (I) -vainas-

Gardeners Tips for the Judas Tree

  • The flowers arrive in spring before the leaves and also bloom from old wood and stems.
  • Requires full sun and good drainage.
  • This leguminous tree has decorative, long, purple pods

Other types of Judas Tree and key species

  • Varieties include ‘Afghan Deep Purple’ ‘Bodnant’ and ‘Alba’ – white flowers and Carnea’.
  • Other Cercis include Cercis canadensis (Redbud), Cercis chinensis heart shaped leaves and Cercis racemosa drooping flowers.

Judas Tree comments from elsewhere

  • Top ten UK garden trees.
  • The Judas tree appreciates a warm spot and is a star in May when the leafless branches are adorned with lilac/pink flowers. Grow your own from seeds in February or March.
  • According to legend this is the tree on which Judas hanged himself after betraying Jesus. After Judas died the white flowers are said to have turned red with his blood and shame.
  • Avoid anywhere too exposed as the stems are rather brittle

Judas Tree

Credits
Judas Tree by Vassilis Online CC BY-SA 2.0 ‘Cercis siliquastrum, commonly known as Judas Tree, is a small deciduous tree from Southern Europe and Western Asia which is noted for its prolific display of deep-pink flowers in spring.’
Leaf of Japanese judas tree by Amehare CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Cercis siliquastrum (I) -vainas- (Pods) by .Bambo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Judas Tree by Ava Babili CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Plum Rot and a Rotten Crop

From this to this 

With clear blue skies and good blossom spring 2019 started so well for my plums. But then many things began to  go wrong. The first disaster was a snap frost that did for my Victoria blossom. Fortunately another variety of plum flowers a bit later, is better sheltered and survived unaffected by frost. That didn’t save the crop from the fungal attack of ‘brown rot’.

More on Plum Problems

  • Plum fruit infected with Monilinia laxa have grey coloured pustules. This fungus can also be responsible for end of stem wilt.
  • Plums infected with Monilinia fructigena have pustules that are buff coloured.
  • It looks like I might be blessed with both fungal infections.
  • Brown rot survives on mummified fruit and small cankers on the tree. It passes quickly on to other fruit in the cluster particularly in moist weather.
  • There is no spray available to gardeners so I will have to improve my hygiene and collect up and burn or bury deeply all infected twigs and fruit.
  • Unhappy with previous years crops I had invested in a new victoria plum tree  and I will hope for more success in years to come.
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Stingers in the Garden Get Me Nettled

I was picking the Czar plums to make more jam when a wasp was disturbed from eating it’s lunch. Wasps go for my plums just as they are at their sweetest best. My problem was I couldn’t see which plums had a wasp in the fruit if they were above head height or facing away from my hand. The resulting sting set me on the trail of other stingers in the garden.

Plants Stingers

  •  Who has not been stung by a common nettle or the stinging nettle  a herbaceous perennial aka Urtica dioica. More likely to be stung walking on country paths or unkempt areas not in your garden I am sure!
  • The nettle family are stinging plants with  hairs on  leaves or stems that are capable of injecting formic acid that cause pain or irritation. Brushing bare skin against the leaves causes initial pain with the potential for more effects caused by histamine, acetylcholine and other chemicals that are also present.
  • Giant hogweed  contains a corrosive sap that causes severe rashes,  burns and even serious eye damage if you get the photosensitive chemicals  in your eyes . aka Heracleum mantegazzianum.
  • Poison ivy & its cousin, poison oakone is a noted rash-maker. It’s toxin, urushiol oil, is in the sap of the plant and present in minuscule quantities in some other food stuff.
  • Other plants, often those with hairs or irritating sap, can cause irritation and allergic reactions. I suffer with some verbascum Optunia cacti and euphorbia.

 

 

 

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Roses as Center of Attraction and Attention

Roses can be a center of attraction in a photograph as these local garden subjects show. With the morning sun behind the photographer the intense colour shows through despite some risk of colour burn-out. However, for me it is the petal pattern and form that takes center stage.
Roses can also hold your center of attention for both colour and scent in many a  garden
Photographs with a dark background help with the contrast and emphasise the quality of the rose flower. A shame about the black spot on the lemon sorbet.
Is this a  hover fly or a randomly attracted flying creature that wants the nectar or to have a rest & bask in the sunshine.

Roses have been out of fashion but this summer could be the start of a Renaissance – let us hope so.

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Take a Close Look

We tend to see gardens in the round and I seldom inspect individual plants. I often think I am missing something by not paying close attention. This obviously casual approach doesn’t work for those who specialise in a species or collect special examples of plants.

Careful Looking

  • Patterns and repetitions can be fascinating. Not all are immediately obvious. There is a repetition of colour in the flowers, stems and hairs on the stems of this Geranium maderensis.
  • Seed heads and capsules have their own shape and attraction. They also give good clues as to the species or family of the plant. You could guess this was a part of the geranium family.
  • Plant explorers often took magnifying glasses to get to the crux of a plant.
  • Insect life is not always visible to a casual observer and on the dahlia below the second fly could be missed. No big deal may be but for come the extra attention would be worthwhile.

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Primula as Waterside Plants

If I was starting a collection of plants for a bog garden or streamside I would look at a collection of different primula.

Primula Species for Water Gardens

  • Primula viallii like rich moist soil and produce a scarlet opening to purple spike or pyramid of flower in late spring.
  • Primula sieboldii like a damp sheltered position.
  • Primula florindae flowers yellow and lasts for several weeks in summer. A must have plant for this location
  • Primula Japonica a compact plant for early summer flowering. Try Postfords White or Apple Blossom.
  • Primula pulverulenta, aka the candelabra primula. They flower on a leafless stem at varying points like a candelabra. They  can grow 3 feet tall.

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Pros and Cons of Clematis

Positives for Clematis

  • As climbers these plants occupy little space at ground level
  • Clematis are available in a variety of colours from white, rose, purples and blue. Many varieties produce abundant flowers and some have a second flush.
  • Clematis can flower from early spring through to autumn and some varieties are good from midsummer onward.
  • Look for different varieties of Clematis such as  alpina, macropetala, montana, chrysocoma or  X jackmanii.
  • Flowers can be as large as dinner plates or as dainty as small stars.
  • Seed heads can also look nice.

Negatives of Growing Clematis

  • They can be hard to get going and roots should be planted deep and kept moist. I place a slate over the planting site as a temporary mulch until a new plant gets going.
  • Some varieties including the montanas can grow rampantly and high into the branches of trees. This can leave bare stems.
  • Pruning is complicated by garden advice and it is easy to prune out the next flowering season if you get t badly wrong.

Clematis seedhead

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Small Spaced Kitchen Gardens

Where space is limited or very limited there are still many ways to create a productive kitchen garden.

Optimising Space for your Kitchen Garden.

  • It seems common sense to plan to use what you have available. That covers layout, sequential growing and innovation.
  • If you have a ‘general’ garden then you can interplant kitchen plants eg herbs with box hedges, colourful veg with annuals and fruit trees instead of conifers.
  • Substitute kitchen garden plants for other plants and features as they did when digging for victory.
  • I grow potatoes in old compost bags and pots on my many paths.
  • Other garden veg can be grown in pots even runner beans. Another plant I am having success with is tumbler (Cherry) tomatoes in smallish pots. The are compact easy to grow and are currently producing lots of small sweet fruit.
  • Chose plants and varieties that grow and mature quickly eg salad, radish courgettes and edible flowers.
  • Herbs can be grown in slender strawberry pots with several opening spaces.

Small Garden Fruit

  • Dwarf rooting stock has opened up the opportunity to grow and pick fruit from  small constrained trees or shrubs.
  • Trained apple, pear or currants can be grown as cordons, espalier or fans against a wall. I have also seen a gooseberry grown this way. ( Cordons are diagonal branches that are only allowed short laters, espaliers are grown with a vertical and one or two level branches forming a cross).
  • Grape vines normally need a lot of space but with rigorous training and the right location you can succeed in a small plot.
  • Soft fruit including strawberries and blue berries are ripe for pot growing.
  • I would always find space for rhubarb but that is due to my ‘pie fetish.’
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Lemon Sunflowers


Sunflower seeds are now available in a range of colours and growing habits. These Lemon Queen plants provide several heads on one compact growing plant. Contrast that to the wilder plants I have to weed out as seedlings that grow from my bird feeders.

Tips on growing and displaying Sunflowers for cutting

 

 

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Old Venerables and Trees That Disappear


It is hard to picture how old this tree would be had it lived. Judging by the spread of it’s roots, which were over 12 feet in diameter, it would have been some sized tree.

Up on Friars Crag near Derwentwater the remnants of this trunk are now gone. It is interesting to note that the roots are the only parts that are still rotting. Was it the moss that protected the roots?

Nearby is a monument in recognition of the writer, social reformer and artist John Ruskin’s  visit to Keswick in 1824. I would guess that was around the time the tree died to start the rotting process but that is only a guess. Ruskin was fascinated by nature and would have a better idea about this tree remnant. He build his own garden at Brantwood near Conniston Lake ‘A paradise of art and nature’

Keswick has some grand trees in a distributed arboretum in the parks and near the river Greta. Try the tree trail in Upper Fitz Park.
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