Archive | Tips for Growing Series

Help with growing popular and interesting flowers and plants. Simple, easy guidelines for growing good plants.

Growing Dried Flowers

I guess when they are growing they are not dried flowers so the real title should be growing flowers for drying. As the display above shows you can get colour and texture into a bunch of dried flowers. The display is likely to last longer than a bouquet of fresh flowers and will be available when other material is expensive or in short supply.

There are 5 stages of development when a plant can produces flowers for drying.

  1. In bud as colour appears, examples being Helichrysum (Straw flowers) and Ammobium ( Everlasting flowers).
  2. As the buds open, with Echinops (Globe thistle), Eringium (Sea Holly), Lavender and Ornamental Grasses.
  3. In full bloom, with Achillea (Yarrow), Alchemilla mollis, Gypsophillia and Alliums (ornamental onions)
  4. After seeds have formed, like the Honesty in the bunch above and Antirrhinum, Poppy and Digitalis (Foxglove)
  5. Just before the seed pods open, but after spraying with hair lacquer to prevent seeds scattering, Nigella and Scripus ( Bulrush)

The best way to dry flowers is to pick them  in mid morning when the dew has evaporated.

  • Group them into small bunches and hang them upside down to dry.
  • To preserve the colours, hang them in a dry well ventilated space with little or low levels of light.
  • Large heads like Alliums and Artichokes need to be dried standing up. Make a chicken wire frame to separate and hold each bloom.
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Growing Pots of Grass

This is not an injunction to grow Pot, Hash, Skunk, Kief, or Marijuana all correctly forms of Canabis sativa relatives of which produce hemp. Rather my suggestion is to use a  pot or container to grow a collection of Grasses.
Contrasting colours, textures, habits and heights will provide long lasting interest. The grasses will be tactile and give a sense of movement in a breeze.The pot can be moved around to change the display.

The combination of plants are endless but this is a selection of easy to grow and obtain grasses that you could start with.

  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’
  • Carex flagellifera
  • Carex comans ‘Frosted Curls’
  • Stipa tenuissima
  • Festuca glauca ‘Golden Toupee’

How to Pot Up
Select a pot, 15″ diameter will hold the 5 plants.
Put broken crocks or stones at the bottom of a container with holes for drainage.
Half fill with compost containing slow release fertilizer and water storing gel granules.
Cram the plants in close together to get an instant effect.
Pack in the remaining compost around the roots and sides of the plants.
Put some pebbles or grit on the surface of the compost to retain moisture.
Water and enjoy the display.


Growing Sweet Bell Peppers


Sweet Peppers or Bell peppers can be grown from seed in a range of colours. Ideal for a greenhouse or conservatory they may also thrive in a hot summer.

Seed Selection

Sweet Jumbo F1 Seeds  produce Peppers that are green turning red. Often fruit are more than 6in long and 3½-4in across, ‘Jumbo Sweet’ can ‘weigh up to 200g (½lb) and we are sure much bigger, and dare we say – world records may be shattered with this super new hybrid. It is vigorous, early and a prolific cropper. It is very crisp and sweet eaten fresh and because it has a small central core it is ideal for stuffing. Best crops will be achieved in a greenhouse or conservatory but it is worth trying a few outdoor plants if the summer is hot.

With a flavour so juicy, crisp and clean you’ll eat them right ofl the plant! Sweet Pepper Big Banana produces fruits up to 25cm (10in) long and 5cm (2in) wide mature to a deep shiny scarlet. Amazing yield – up to 50 full-sized fruits per plant.

  • Capsicums Chinese are some of the hottest Chilli Peppers around. Seeds from 10 Habanero vaieties and Scotch Bonnet are able to compete with C. annuum ‘Tepin’ and C. frutescens ‘Zimbabwe Bird Pepper’ for the hottest seeds around.  Available from Thompson Morgan a seed, Chilli and vegetable specialist.


Sweet Pepper Sweet Chocolate is a delicious sweet pepper with a ‘come and eat me’ appeal once the fruits have ripened from green to a rich chocolate colour on the outside and brick red on the inside with thick, sweet flesh. Sweet Pepper Sweet Chocolate plants are very productive throughout the summer.

Orange bell   Very productive plants producing typical ‘blocky’, thick walled fruits with delicious sweetness. Sweet Pepper Orange Bell is very productive, with fruits that start green, ripening to a gorgeous orange.
Sowing Instructions

Sow seeds March to April. Place seeds on the surface of a free draining compost and cover with a fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Place in a propagator at 18-21C (65-70F) until after germination, which takes 7-10 days. Do not exclude light as this helps germination.
Growing Instructions

Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle into 7.5cm (3 in) pots. Plant in final situation when 10cm (4in) high, 45cm (18in) apart. For indoor crops, plant into growbags or pots. For outdoor crops, acclimatise plants to outdoor conditions for a few days before planting in sunny, fertile, moist, well drained soil , after all risk of frost has passed.

For a heavier crop, feed all peppers once the flowers have started to set fruit with a high potash fertiliser each week .

Read Gardeners tips
Book Cover
The Complete Chilli Pepper Book: A Gardener’s Guide to Choosing, Growing, Preserving, and Cooking


Growing Anemones

phot by Lynne Pettinger

Anemone has over 100 species with several interesting varieties that produce colour and a light form. I have picked out 3 contrasting sorts that are worth seeking out.

Wood Anemones, Wind Flower and Anemone Blanda

  • Daisy-like flowers in white and purple to form a carpet of dazzling colour.
  • These low-growing Anemones are extremely free-flowering and produce an eye catching mass
  • With lush, fern-like foliage, they’re great for planting beneath Daffodils and Tulips, shrubs and trees.

Japanese Anemone

  • Named varieties to look our for Prinz heinrich a semi-double with purple flowers. Queen Charlotte semi-doule pink, September Charm pink, Whirlwind semi-double white and Honorine Joberet the popular white with golden stamens
  • Unlike the spring varieties they flower in Autumn on long stems up to 5′ tall
  • The white Honorine Jubert is a striking plant and flowers in a shady position
  • Propagate economically by root cuttings from established plants

Blousey Florists Anemones

  • Anemone De Caen ‘Hollandia’ a scarlet flower on 10″ stems and St Brigid The Governor have performed exceptionally well this year. I have grown them in peat and peat with some grit to keep the compost open and they have remained reasonably moist.
  • In pots the flowers are less robust than those in the garden.
  • You can grow them from dark wrinkled tubers bought later in summer.
  • Soak overnight in rain water before planting will speed up germination.

Anemone de Caen at T&M

Blue and white wind flowers

Anemone blanda


Growing Blinking Big Beetroot

There are many different kinds of Beet and that is the root of the problem. Beetroot Bulls Blood shown above is  ornamental, edible and is a heritage variety worth seeking out. Seakale beet, Chards and Spinach beet are grown for their edible leaves and the young green leaves of all Beetroot can be eaten in a salad. However we want big roots to make our eyes blink.

Growing Big Beetroots

  • Soil should be deeply cultivated in Autumn with plenty of humus and or peat incorporated. Do not use farmyard manure to avoid canker and aim to keep the ph level below 6 as beetroot do not like lime.
  • In spring ridge up the soil to about a foot high with 2 feet between rows. Prize plants will eventually need 3 feet spacing.
  • Sow the seed in groups of 3 at the top of the ridge in late spring keep the ground moist until germination. Expect 4 months growing time for the big beetroots.
  • When seedlings reach 2 inches thin out to two plants per station. From each seed several plants may have grown as each seed is really a clusters of seed.
  • Key Tip. One evening when the beetroot are 6″ high carefully scratch away the soil on the ridges away from the roots leaving only the tips of the root in the soil and the plant laying on the ground looking half-dead. Water the plant and soil and next morning they will have recovered and be working extra hard by swelling to survive.
  • As they swell thin out for a final time to 3 feet apart. Feed with a balance liquid feed from mid-summer and use a heavily dilute foliar feed from summer in addition.
  • Giant Beetroot are weighed without soil or foliage but may be you are just going to turn them into soup and chutney.

In August 2008 the Times online reported ‘Ian Neale … once grew the world’s biggest beetroot at 51lb 9oz (there is no metric system in the world of giant veg) – gets his monsters off to a good start by feeding them rock dust, essence of pig slurry and a material called “dinosaur fertiliser”, from a “big pile on the top of a moor in Yorkshire”.  Will August 2009 top that weighty tale and will 2010 be your year to top 50lbs?


Growing Phormium or New Zealand Flax


Spiky perennial plants sold as Phormium are available in variegated or self colours but all have striking sword shaped leaves. Phormium Tenax is the larger more commonly available variety but there are now approaching 100 varieties to choose from.

Growing Phormium

  • Phormiums are best growing in a sunny position although they will tolerate a fair amount of shade and like a stream side position.
  • Phormium have tough leaves that are resistant to desiccation so in the garden they rarely need any extra watering.
  • Varieties with upright leaves, such as ‘Sundowner’ and ‘Dusky Chief’ are reputed to be suitable for growing indoors
  • P. cookianum varieties are less hardy but with some bracken leaves for winter protection they should be OK. Try Black Adder or Maori Maiden.
  • Fernwood Nursery has a national Collection of over 70 varieties



Tips for Growing Seeds


June is a good month for sowing seeds to get the plants you want for next year. I have sown some biennials today and will sow other seeds after the ‘hot’ summer.

Growing from Seed General Tips

  • Do not sow in winter or in waterlogged ground or the seed will rot. ‘Sow dry and plant wet’.
  • Annuals will flower 12 weeks after sowing but perennials may take up to 12 months or more.
  • Do not cover seeds with 6 inches of soil they will never see the light of day. Generally a light covering will suffice.
  • Seed in foil packets may stay fresh for 2 years as advertised on the packet but you want good germination rates so use good fresh seed.
  • Read and follow the instructions on the packet but don’t be afraid to try collected seed.

Biennial Seeds Sown Today

  • Sweet William Early Summer Scented are a mixture of Dianthus barbatus to flower from next April. I filled a seed tray with moist seed compost (peat and peat substitute tends to dry out then be hard to re-wet) then took a pinch of seed and sprinkled them evenly.
  • Wallflower Blood Red is another fragrant spring flower sown in shallow rows outside. (Rows help show where the wallflowers grow compared to weeds which will come up at random).
  • Campanula Pyramidalis’s very fine seed has been sown in modules and also direct into cultivated soil raked to a fine tilth. (Tilth is very fine top soil with lumps broken down in which to sow your seeds). I haven’t tried these before so they got a bit more TLC.
  • I could have sown other biennials including Foxgloves and Honesty or winter flowering Pansy but there is still time for me to buy them.

Seeds to Sow this Year for Next Year

  • Perennials like Aquilegia McKana Giant mixed will be sown on the surface of compost as they need light to germinate in September or October.
  • Marigolds (Calendula not French) and Cornflower sown in September will survive the winter and should get off to a quick start next year.
  • Sweet Peas can be sown in October to over winter. They need a deep root run and can be sown in long tubes.

Seeds from T&M


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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