Archive | Shrubs and Trees

Tips on the selection and growing trees shrubs and hedges

Growing Blue Ceanothus or Californian Lilac


This Sea of Ceanothus blooms is typical of this densely flowering shrub. Most Ceanothus are blue flowering, evergreen shrubs from low growing prostrate forms to good sized bushes (this one is 5 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide).
The blooms are very attractive to bees and hover flies and during flowering it is covered from dawn till dusk with pollinating insects. They grow from cuttings so I have take to dotting them around the garden in case I loose one or two but they seem quite hardy.

Varieties of Ceanothus

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Best Flowering Shrubs



Broom or Cytisus scoparius
is an old favourite shrub for the pea shaped flowers in June. The traditional yellow is now supplemented by many cultivars in red and bi colours. They are short lived shrubs and need to be pruned to stop energy going into seed production. They flower on wood produced in the previous year. In the wild they can be perceived as weeds and seed prolifically in the right conditions. Broom is sometimes confused with Genista or Spanish Broom which is similar in flower and habit.


I have included this Abutilon vitafolium for its height (20′) and its colourful blossom. They can be grown from the little hard, black seeds similar to lupin’s. The flowers are 1-2″ across and come in good bunches. The shrub retains most of its grey-green leaves through winter.


A good workhorse in my garden is the Pieris ‘Forest Flame’ or Lily of the Valley bush. It flowers a bit earlier than June with a host of small delicate white bell shaped flowers in large panicles. The leaves that follow the flowering are glossy, strong bright red or pink and give the shrub great character. After 5 years the evergreen plants will grown to about 3-5 foot and are well behaved easily controlled shrubs.


Honeysuckle Climbing Lonicera Varieties


Lonicera Heckerottii 'Gold Flame'

Woodbine is the common name for this Honeysuckle that provides a strong sweet scent in the cottage garden from the end of May. The climbing twining Honeysuckles are part of a large family of Lonicera that also includes a range of shrubby plants.

For sweetly flowering honeysuckle in winter try Lonicera fragrantissima or Lonicera Standishii whilst the best flowering summer species are the evergreen Lonicera Japonica. Sacrificing some scent for colour tryLonicera tellmannianawith flowers that are orange with red streaks on the outside or ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ for a terrific summer show of long scarlet flowers.
Belgica or the later flowering Serotina are true Honeysuckles that with a little support on a wall will scramble away to 10 feet or more. They will twine through branches of other trees quite happily and combine with robust roses to good effect.
Honeysuckle can be cultivated from cuttings and I have one plant that has had progeny in 5 gardens over the last 50 years as I moved house.
Pruning tips: Continue Reading →


Flowering Currant – Ribes sanguineum


In my garden the flowers of the flowering currant are over for another year so this morning I started to prune the shrubs. The lobed leaves of the Flowering Currant are seldom of special merit although they look lime green fresh at the moment. Therefore I am happy to prune very hard immediately after flowering.

Pruning Tips

  • Cut out dead, damaged or diseased wood as a first priority.
  • Cut out some of the old thick blackened stems at ground level to reduce the thicket and open up the shrub. At least one third of the branches should be removed in this way.
  • For an over grown shrub prune all branches right down to the ground immediately after flowering.
  • Shape the shrub by reducing the length of the remaining branches to create an open framework with space for new branches .
  • From the pruned branches new growth will grow and buds form this summer and provide the base for blossom next year.

If you want to grow more plants stick some of the pruned branches into the soil in an out of the way spot and chances are good that several will root. I try get a cutting 6+ inches long with a bit of the older wood as it breaks in to new wood,  I strip off the leaves for the first 4 inches or so and plant in normal soil with no special effort.

History from The Daily Mail

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Tips for Growing Acer – Japanese Maples


Acer trees and shrubs can be spectacular from Spring through Autumn due to the leaf colours and patterns.  This Acer Palmatum Taylor’s leaves with pink foliage will last through summer turning into rich Autumn colours at the backend. It will grow to about 10 feet in 10 years and is suitable for even a small garden.

Top Low Growing Acers

  • The cut leaf  maple Acer Palmatum Dissectum is an umberella shaped shrub with unusually shaped fresh green leaves. The leaves develop a red stripe in the Autumn. The name gives away a description of the shrub – Palmatum refers to the 5 segments of the leaf like the palm of your hand. Disscetum indicates that the leaves are disected into thin often feathery shapes.
  • Acer Pamatum Orange Dream is a slow growing Japanese maple with vivid orange spray foliage which turns golden yellow in Autumn.
  • Acer Palmatum Atropurpureum is a slow growing purple leaved variety grown for both the colour and the attractive shape of the tree. There is a Dissectum variety Garnet which combines the leaf colour with the feathery foliage.
  • Beni Maiko is a dwarf Acer Palmatum growing to  2-3 feet in 10 years and can be kept in a large pot or used in even a small garden. The scarlet leaves progressively turn dark red and green.

Top Tips for Acers

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Fuchsia from Cutting to Show


My Fuchsias didn’t over winter very well so I wanted some new ‘cheap’ stock. My first attempt was to buy strong looking plants from a nursery but foolishly left them to get frosted in a very cold greenhouse. These cuttings were on sale in there own nifty mini greenhouse with the roots in a water-gel to sustain then through the retail lifecycle.

I got 12 plants for less than £3 and I have potted them on on a window ledge and 4 days later the largest is already for ‘stopping’. I will pinch it and then others out at the growing tip to encourage branching.  If you are wanting a ‘standard’  shape ie a single bare stem topped with a globe of flowers, then do not pinch out the top but remove all the side shoots and main leaves on the stem until the stem is 12 inches tall and the head has been formed.

Training Fuchsias

  • Standards have already been discussed and they follow the training of a bush fuchsia. The bush fuchsia will be trained to have a stem of about 1.5 inches without branches and all growth then eminated from a selected number of laterals.
  • A shrub has multiple growths from below soil level. training starts ater 2 or 3 pairs of leaves have formed by pinching out the growing tip. this process is repeated until the plant is the size and shape required.
  • After every stop give the plants a nitrogenous feed to promote new branches. Plants flower 6-8 weeks after the last stop and in that time the feed can be changed to a 1:1:2 ratio with more potassium to encourage flowering.

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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. Windscale and 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 platic tubes protecting newly planted trees and the flimsiest stakes you could imagine after 3 foot canes.

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 →

Hydrangea Houseplants


Hydrangeas make good houseplants flowering in spring from a shop bought plant. Hydrangea have been successfully grown as blooming house plants for many years. They are colourful full of flower and relatively trouble free if you give them a good drink of water regularly. Keep plants cool between 50-60 ° F when in flower but give them some good light.

Indoor Hydrangea Tips

  • Buy a new plant each year and plant the old one in the garden when it has finished flowering. It may not be hardy enough to survive but getting it to reflower indoors will mean you have to emulate the seasonal conditions it would expect in the wild.
  • To buy a good hydrangea for indoors look for a plant with just a few blooms showing color and lots of buds still developing. The plant should fill out the pot with healthy dark green leaves.

hydrangea-buds Continue Reading →


Taking Late Autumn Cuttings

It is still not too late to take semi ripe and hard wood cuttings. Many perennials are short lived, like penstemon above, and they can be reinvigorated from new cuttings. Plants are not at there best in Autumn so results may not be perfect but I find it pays to experiment.

Gardeners Autumn Cutting Tips

  • Take more cuttings than you need to cover losses.
  • Add perlite to your  compost or use damp sand and peat
  • Hardwood cuttings of roses, hebe, choysia and other shrubs and trees can be taken and left outside under some shelter from a hedge.
  • Pelargonium and decorative Fuchsia need to be over wintered away from frost and I find it easier to do this with cuttings rather than large plants.

Rhus typhina, Stag Horn Sumach

This tree in my neighbours garden is about 9 foot tall. The panticles looks spectacular in the evening sunlight but overall the plant is prone to suckers and consumes a lot of space.

Growing Rhus

  • If you get sucker problems try cut out at the root. They can become invasive.
  • As part of a large family select your Rhus from a reputable nursery avoiding the Poison Ivy ‘Rhus toxicodendron’ (several species have irritating sap)
  • Autumn leaf colouring of yellow, orange, red and purple can be spectacular. It is one of the main reasons for giving these plants garden-room.
  • I am happy to admire these plants in other gardens, at least until I have a lot more space to fill.

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