Archive | Flowers and Plants

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

In the Pink – My Latest Geraniums

Marketing Blurb on  a recent purchase

  • Florensis Smart GMX Light Pink .
  • Annuals · Pelargonium …
  • Plant habit: Upright;
  • Flower size: Large; Semi-Double
  • Cuttings raised varieties pack a real punch when it comes to flower size and power! All have an upright and bushy habit with strong and sturdy flower stems.

Experience

  • I bought the plant at a charity garden fete for £4.
  • It was full of bloom (but I should have checked for more buds). It had been forced for sale and was frail .
  • It has struggled since May to fulfill a destiny I aspired for it. It needs more tlc to continue excelling.
  • I have put it with my stock plants as I want cuttings and the opportunity to achieve the same result of the professional growers.
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Geranium Stock Plants & Growing On

I am trying to establish some good stock or ‘mother’ plants. These should be strong healthy plants from which I can take cuttings. I feed them up and disbud to get stems rather than flowers. The first step is to select plants you want to replicate. You want to aim for quality stock of a variety you like. I am interested to see if the children from the 2 tone plant below have similar characteristics.

How to take geranium cuttings

  • Take lots of cuttings from your geraniums in April – August.  They should be ready to be replanted in a month.
  • The healthiest part of a plant is nearest the growing tip so short cuttings are best I aim for 3-5″.
  • Choose individual cuttings that are firm healthy and without flower buds.
  • For more cuttings chop your geranium mother plant back by two-thirds aiming to cut immediately above a  bud. The stem tips will then form the basis of your cuttings. Select cuttings that have plenty of shoots or nodes.
  • Strip almost all the leaves from the stem, leaving only the top pair.
  • Pinch out any tips that look like they might develop into flowering shoots.
  • Insert the geraniums cuttings  into a gritty mix of compost.

Growing On

  • Experience says you get better growth and flower density from younger stock.
  • Place cuttings somewhere bright but cool and keep their compost moist at all times.
  • If you want to keep the mother plant thin out all the spindly wimpy stems. With geraniums some growers keep the grandmothers and great-grandmothers –.
  • Pinch 1/4  inch off the top of a stem and 2 new stems will grow making a bushier plant.
  • For a quick result plant three cuttings of the same variety into a large pot to grow into one bumper-sized plant.

 

 

 

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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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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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Gloxinia as Houseplant Gifts

Can you grow too much of a good thing? Yes I think so. There are only so many plants you can accommodate in the garden, house or even through life. So as part of enjoying the growing aspect of gardening I have started to deliberately grow for giving plants away in this case Gloxinia.

Selecting the Gift

  • A plant in flower is far more attractive than one the recipient has to grow-on or wait to see how it looks.
  • A plant that still has lots of buds to open or develop will extend the pleasure. (See the latent buds on the next photo).
  • Presenting the present in an appropriate way is worth a bit of effort. I have been buying a range of bowls and plant pot holders from charity shops to act as containers. In many cases I can colour co-ordinate to match container and plant. Artistically minded may want to add a label or bespoke wrapping.
  • Not everyone believes the Gloxinia I am giving are houseplants so I should consider providing a bit more information.

Simple Advice For Gifted Gloxinia

  • Gloxinia like plenty of bright light without direct burning sun.
  • Turn the pot round so the plant and flowers develop evenly. They love to bend towards the light.
  • Water from the bottom when the compost is dry and the leaves are floppy. Err on the side of too little rather than too much water.
  • After flowering which may last 6-8 weeks, allow the plant to rest and die back.
  • Keep the dry tuber until next spring if you want to try to regrow your gift.

Tips on Growing Gloxinia

Tubers or corms may be found under the name Sinningia speciosa or Gloxinia and are part of the Gesneriaceae family that includes African Violets. They have been grown as florists gloxinia since being discovered in Brazil in 1815.

    • Plant shallowly in good compost with the buds facing upwards, this is usually the concave side like begonias.
    • Water the compost with warm water from the bottom to stop the tuber rotting and keep the atmosphere humid without getting the leaves or flowers wet or they will be stained with brown blotches.
    •  If the furry leaves elongate it is a sign they need more light.
    • Do not expose to direct mid-day sun as the leaves are liable to become scorched.
    • Gloxinia  like a temperature above 60º when in growth.
    • Plastic pots are fine but I add some grit or perlite to help avoid water logging.
    • Feed with half strength liquid fertiliser

 

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