Archive | Flowers and Plants

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

New Gardeners Do Not Need A Garden

It is possible to enjoy gardening without having a traditional garden. Budding new gardeners can get a lot of pleasure and experience from a simple approach to plants and growing.

  1. Children can learn from growing mustard and cress from a packet of seeds in the kitchen. Put some cotton wool in half a clean eggshell dampen and sow some seeds. Better still may be a saucer with a damp face cloth.  A bean or pea seed in a jam jar wedged against the glass with some blotting paper will grow a root and a shoot to demonstrate the wonders of nature.
  2. Pot plants are often an introduction to gardening. Indoor they need light and water but most can survive at least 6 months without feeding. Green leaved plants may be easier to keep alive than flowering plants which in my experience need more care and attention.
  3. Without a traditional garden you can use grow bags on a balcony or path. I fill some bags and containers with bulbs or young, ready grown plants.
  4. Windowsill in my house are chock-a-block with plants from herbs and salad to exotic orchids. Even new gardeners can give some of these a go.
  5. If all else fails new gardeners can visit parks & gardens, garden centers and even look around the hedgerows and neighborhoods to get gardening knowledge and experience.


Cyclamen in a Pot on the Drive

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Tree Books – More than Three Books

2018 has been a remarkable year for tree books and the publishing trade has done a good job listing new and older titles. There is now a forest of books to acquire and collect and I hope they have been printed on paper from sustainable sources.

Book Cover

A ubiquitous book that has been a star seller on the shelves this year. The bright cover and eclectic mix of poems has hopefully started many saplings on a journey with trees.
Book CoverA compendium of National Trust History & Heritage. We can take pride in our tree history.

Book CoverFascinating facts that are hard to comprehend until you study what is going on with trees in groups. A clever update of another edition, a sort of sucker from the parent tree.

Book CoverWe are not alone in venerating trees and if you want an excuse to travel the world then this book will provide some inspiration. Continue Reading →

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Where to See Trees

Trees can be individually inspiring but when trees are gathered or clumped together they can range from the majestic to the commercially relevant.  Over centuries trees have provided the largest social impacts from shelter, sustenance and products from timber.  Through changing seasons the aesthetic benefits of the wide variety of trees also give a significant amount of personal pleasure.

Despite problems of disease in some species and Sheffield council contracting to chop down trees close to highways, trees are  ubiquitously visible throughout the UK.

 Tree Zones and Areas Where You See Trees

  1. Woods in all shapes and sizes
  2. Forest – now applied to conifers but historically area where forest laws applied
  3. Copse – broad leaved woodland
  4. Spinney
  5. Stand
  6. Park  – traditionally containing more widely spread trees
  7. Arboretum
  8. Clough or Ghyll
  9. Gill or Dingle – wooded valley
  10. Ancient Woodland
  11. Carr – usually alder & willow on wetland
  12. Chase or firth – a hunting area
  13. Enclosure – once land held in common
  14. Glade
  15. Plantation
  16. Hanger   -wood on a  steep slope or bank
  17. Ride
  18. Shaw-  small wood
  19. Spring  – coppiced woodland
  20. Wildwood- original forest from the last ice age
  21. Landscapes
  22. Orchard
  23. Woodlot
  24. Jungle
  25. Thicket
  26. Memorials –  graveyards crematoria  and special areas
  27. Swamp
  28. Grove
  29. Nurseries and specialist tree vendors
  30. Woodland Trust
  31. National Trust Properties
  32. Botanic gardens
  33. Wild in nature

If you wish to take issue with my selection or know where I have ignored a favourite ‘tree zone’ then send us a comment.

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Kelp Forest and Seaweed Growing

It may seem unusual to feature a subsea area in a  series about gardens but this post may provide some food for thought. The oceans and seas are still capable of surprising us with a bountiful harvest including new and exotic eating experiences.

A Kelp Forest

Kelp Facts

  • Kelp is part of the brown seaweed family phaeophyceae or laminariales. There are many different genera and species that grow in shallow, temperate saline water.
  • All Kelps are seaweeds but not all seaweeds are Kelp
  • Kelp captures and stores carbon
  • Kelp provides shelter for numerous fish species. It is also a breeding ground for juvenile sea creatures and a key part of the ecostem. The fronds or leaves sway in the temperate waters across the globe including thearound the UK.
  • The stipe or stalk stretches down to root in the seafloor anchoring the plant around rocks and boulders.
  • Iodine is present in Kelp along with many other important minerals. There is dramatically more calcium in Kelp than a similar volume of milk.

Is Kelp Good For You?

  • Kelp, produces a thickening agent used in ice cream, toothpaste and other products.
  • Some kelp species are eaten in salads and as edible decorative wrapping for sushi rice.
  • Kelp is used to produced Soda ash by burning.
  • These uses makes it a progressively more valuable commodity. Harvesting these sea-vegetables by hand sustains several coastal communities. Mechanical kelp harvesting is too intrusive, damaging of future crops and the ecosystem but it is on the increase.

Seaweeds are primitive sea plants

  •  There are at least 10,000 different species of seaweed
  • Salads can be made with Sea Lettuce or Purple Laver.
  • Laver bread is made from seaweed.
  • Agar and Carrageenan can be extracted from seaweed for use is used in the production of  paper and toothpaste.

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Mythical Gardens and Antiquity

Shangri-las

I will use Shangri-la as an all encompassing name for spiritually based gardens and areas of harmonious natural beauty stealing a name from James Hilton in his novel Lost Horizon.

To many Shangri-la conjures up a ‘place regarded as an earthly paradise, especially when involving a retreat from the pressures of modern civilization.oed’  a remote or an imaginary, beautiful place,  where everything is pleasant and life approaches perfection

The essence of a spiritual, peaceful gardens is represented in different ways across the world by Buddhists from Tibet, Daoists from China or in Zen gardens from Japan. Some of these forms of a Shangri-la are known to feature in ancient literature from 200 BC.

Book Cover

Gardens with Spiritual or Religious Background

Persian Gardens over the last 5 millennia have soothed and calmed societies with the use of water representing the great rivers of the Tigris and the Euphrates. Building on this spiritual tradition Islamic Mogul gardens stretch across Asia. There have been examples of Hindu influences in India and other developments in Kashmir, Pakistan and Bangladesh together with gardens in other parts of the Mogul empire. Islamic Charbagh gardens are based on the four gardens of Paradise mentioned in the Quran.

Monastic gardens in the UK and Europe are now renown for medicinal  herb and vegetable growing. In the middle ages these gardens also acted as pleasure gardens, orchards and even cemeteries, in fact most of the aspects required to enjoy a healthy and spiritual  life .

Other Mythical Gardens

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were reputed to have been built alongside a grand palace known as The Marvel of Mankind, by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II around 605 BC). This was  a gesture for his Median wife Queen Amytis, because she missed the green hills and valleys of her homeland.

 In the Oldest Gardens in the World CWS records claim that ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh, thought to have been written as early as 2100 BC contains the oldest mentions of gardens in surviving literature. Gilgamesh states that his city Uruk was ‘one third gardens’, and in the story visits the ‘Garden of the gods’, a garden with precious stones, pearls and jewel-laden trees.’

In the knights of the round table Avalon was  where King Arthur was nourished back to health after his battle with Mordred. Unlike Camelot Avalon was ‘a land of plenty, where wild apple trees and vineyards grow of their own accord no matter what the season.’

Tír na nÓg in Celtic mythology is the supernatural land only ever seen by a lucky few. Al0ong side the ‘Little Folk’ the slow pace of life has lush dwelling’s in peaceful trees with sumptuous flowers and landscapes that remain green all year round.

 

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Best British Trees Reviewed


Our series of tree reviews covers exotics and UK trees with a few specials thrown in. Each separate post covers;

  • Latin names and other common names
  • Height, uses and normal distribution. –
  • Type of tree – Evergreen/ Deciduous – dictoyledons, monocotyledon, Conifer etc
  • Description of Leaves, Flowers, Fruit and bark –
  • Family links, varieties and near relatives –

Below are links to a dozen British natives with short descriptions.

English Oak
Top of most lists for great British Trees. Our list of tree reviews is no different, Oak is the tops!

Rowan – Mountain Ash
The trees can be quite singular in appearance when shaped by wind on high moors and mountains.

Beech
From the copper coloured leaf to solid green hedges the Beech deserves a place in most gardens.

Silver Birch
Seem to be growing everywhere you look with some very distinctive varieties like Jacquemontii.

Horse Chestnut
Brought to England by William the Conqueror (no not really the conkers were there first).

Norway Spruce
Despite containing a foreign country name this Spruce grows freely on Forestry Commission land in the UK.

Hawthorn
Ideal for hedgerows and feeding birds. May blossom in May maybe.

Lime or Linden
a useful ornamental for parks and large gardens.

Hornbeam
Grows well in my garden and trains easily into a shapely tree.

Sycamore
Related to the other Acers but I would let someone else grow Sycamore on their land. (not my favourite)

Larch
A fast growing deciduous conifer good in forests.

Yew
Longest lived and slowest growing British tree synonymous with church yards and pagan worship.

Ash
Along with the Oak and the bonny Rowan tree the Ash is justly popular.

Notes

  • This completes our bakers dozen of British trees. If you want to learn more click on each link.
  • If you want to look for a different tree, type in the common or Latin name in our Google search box.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment or make a request on tree or garden related matters.
  • For more information of tree leaf shape design and function read this section.

Tree Organisations and Links
Woodland Trust

The Arboricultural Association
International Society of Arboriculture UK

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Best Trees for Small Gardens UK

A common site in many town gardens are trees that have outgrown their space. Large native trees like Oaks, Copper Beach, Planes, Weeping Willow and horse chestnuts are wonderful, but to be really enjoyed they need suitable space, like in a park. If they are planted in the garden they will

  • Create too much shade
  • Create too much ‘water shade’ – their canopy can make a garden quite dry.
  • Planted too near the house, they can also undermine the foundations of a house as their roots spread deeply into the structure.

To remove these trees is a big job. But, it’s better to do now, rather than leaving until it is even higher. (Though you may have to be careful and check planning regulations before cutting old trees down – some may be protected)

However, though some trees are too big to enjoy, there are many excellent varieties which will be good for the small garden.

Best Trees For Small Gardens

Acers – There are a huge varieties of acers. They can be very attractive in the small garden. They are also ideally suited for the small garden.

acer

Acer Palmatum – a great tree for small gardens. They are very slow growing so stay nice and small. I’ve found they can be a bit tender in a cold windy winter. More on Acers

Birch – Betula Pendula

birch

Birches make excellent garden trees, there canopy is not too dense, providing a lovely dappled shade. There small delicate leaves and bark can also be quite attractive, especially the white barked silver birch.

Hawthorn Tree. Can be used in hedges or used as a specimen tree. Will not grow too tall and provides good blooms in May or June.

Laburnum


Laburnum

The Laburnum provides a wonderful display of yellow flowers in May / June. It shouldn’t grow too tall (though this tree from Italy has grown as tall as house. One important point is that its leaves and flowers and bark are all poisonous. If you have young children, it may not be suitable unless closely supervised.

The best variety is Laburnum wateri vossii’ which produces long blooms of flowers.

Continue Reading →

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Crab Apple Trees for Fruit & Ornament

Malus Red Sentinel

The flowering crab apples, Malus Rosaceae, are excellent floral trees with the added bonus of small usually edible fruit. The Malus Red Sentinel above has a profusion of small hard red autumn fruit that can be admired in the garden, left to feed birds, converted into a jelly or added to other food dishes. Crab apples generally contain a deal of pectin and are seldom eaten uncooked.

Favourite Crab Apple Varieties

  1. Golden Hornet is a small tree with white flowers producing a large crop of small yellow fruit.
  2. John Downie perhaps the best fruiting large conical crab apples of bright orange to red.
  3. Jay Darling is ornamental with large, deep red flowers and crimson tinted foliage.
  4. Eleyi has purpleish shoots and very decorative purpleish fruit in Autumn. Slightly later flowering and a good pollinator.
  5. Profusion is a fragrant hybrid with large wine red clustered flowers. Ox-blood red fruit make this one of the best Crab Apples.

Continue Reading →

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Grow Flowering Cherry Trees

upright-spreading

Flowering Cherry trees contribute most to the floral pageantry of spring blossom and they are easy to grow. Cherries are graceful and well shaped trees and many varieties have excellent Autumn colour. (Scarlet leaves of Prunus sargentii and pubesens, yellow of hybrids Pandora or Tai-Haku or coppery Ukon.)

Historically most varieties originate from China and Japan including the doubles called Yae zakura. Special parties and holiday trips are arranged to visit flowering cherries in Japan where they are revered as inspiration for artists and warriors as a symbol of purity.

Designing with Cherries

  • Double flowered varieties give the best effect when planted as solitary specimens or groups of 3 of the same variety.
  • Do not mix varieties that flower at the same time as they detract from one another. Continue Reading →
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Five Trees & Shrubs for Chalk Soil

The best trees for chalk soil conditions tend to be locally grown and not be Dutch imports. In fact they resemble shrubs more than trees but there are the odd exception that are tree like.

Syringia
Lilac

Lilac trees will tolerate limey chalk or clay soils. They are grown for the wonderful scent of the lilac blossom in spring and other than that they are not much of a feature. Syringia vulgaris Primrose is a white flowered variety and Syringia vulgaris Sensation has purple flowers with white edges. The flowers of the lilac make conical panticles which are useful in large flower arrangements.

Crataegus
Großkelchiger Weißdorn (Crataegus rhipidophylla)
Generically called the thorn these small trees have a variety of flowers and berries depending on the species including the Hawthorn. All species seem to do well in chalk soil. Crataegus laevigata Crimson Cloud has bright red flowers whilst Pauls Scarlet is a round-headed tree with red haws in autumn.
They are hardy and will tolerate pollution and some shade but perform best in full sun.

Aesculus
Conker
Horse Chestnuts produce conkers not edible chestnuts. They are stately trees needing room to grow to over 16 feet.
Aesculus parviflora is one of the smaller growing varieties that will suit a garden with chalk soil.

Carpinus betulus
Hornbeam
Hornbeams are a small genus of medium sized trees for chalk soil. Carpinus betulus Frans Fontaine is a slender fastigate form retaining its narrow habit with age. Carpinus japonica has many catkins, corrugated leaves and grows in a wide spread suitable for garden use.

Sambucus
Schwarzer Holunder (Sambucus nigra)

Sambucus is a hardy shrub or small ornamental tree for chalk soil or many other conditions. Sambucus nigra has black leaves and light pink to white flower bracts.

Cotoneaster
cotoneaster berries

Cotoneasters will grow in most soil conditions. They are invaluable for attracting hoverflies to the white flowers, birds to the red berries and gardeners to the shape and form of a good all-rounder.
Cotoneaster hybrid pendulus can be grown as a small weeping tree with arching branches. Cotoneaster horizontalis is commonly referred to as the Fish Bone cotoneaster

Read about our review of British trees with a bakers dozen links to our favourites.

Credits
Großkelchiger Weißdorn (Crataegus rhipidophylla) by blumenbiene CC BY 2.0
Schwarzer Holunder (Sambucus nigra) by blumenbiene CC BY 2.0

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