Archive | Tips for Growing Series

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

Growing Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectabilis)

bleeding heart

Dicentra spectabilis or bleeding heart name is actually – Lamprocapnos spectabilis.
Bleeding heart is a rhizomatous perennial herbaceous plant native to eastern Asia from Siberia south to Japan. It produces wonderfully delicate flowers from long arching stems. It makes a wonderful addition to any mixed border, and can be very easy to grow.

  • In the UK, after flowering, the plant tends to die back where it lies dormant until next spring.
  • In fact the biggest problem with Bleeding heart is forgetting where you planted and then digging it up or planting other shrubs too close.

bleeding heart

Bleeding Heart makes good cut flower.

  • The plant is a natural woodland plant so needs protection from intense sun. In the north of England full sun, will probably be fine. Though in warmer climates it may need protecting from glare of midday sun.
  • When hot and sunny, keep well watered
  • Being a woodland plant, Bleeding heart are not heavy feeders, a good soil should be adequate for feeding requirements.
  • It is easiest to grow from tubers, which can be split when dormant. To grow from seed requires patience. Also you need to use fresh seed – the seed is very tiny – almost powdery.
  • Bleeding Heart do not need to be dead-headed or pruned. They will definitely not get too big.

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Growing Basil a Sweetherb

Fragrant and sweet tasting Basil is an easy to grow, popular herb. Aka Sweet Basil, with many other basil types including Sweet Genovese, Thai basil, Lemon basil and Mexican spice basil there is a good range to grow.

Sow From Seed
In May or June fill small pots with moist multi-purpose compost. I use 3″ plastic pots.
Sprinkle seeds thinly on the surface. About 10-12 seeds per pot.
Cover lightly with fine compost or vermiculite.
Keep on a warm windowsill and seedlings will appear in about 2 weeks.

Growing Onward
After 4-6 weeks the seedlings can be planted into individual pots.
Then leave on the windowsill or harden off for outdoor planting
Treat the Basil as an annual.

Outdoor Basil
Plant out in June or July in a sunny sheltered spot.
They make good fragrant container plants.
Feed with a general purpose liquid feed and water little and often.
Pinch out the growing tip to get a bushy plant.

Using Basil
Leave the stems on pick and come again plants taking a few leaves each time.
Grow several plants if you need large quantities for Pesto or other culinary uses.
The seeds can be used to flavour a drink.

Basil has medicinal and calming properties.
Photo by Marmot on flickr
Seed suppliers


Tips for Growing Cherry Tomatoes

Chris Winters

Bush tucker trials could refer to Tomatoes grown on bush varieties because they make great ‘tucker’. I love the sweet sharp taste of some of the new Cherry Tomato varieties.

Quick Tips for Growing Cherry Tomatoes

Buy a variety like Sweet Million or Gardeners Delight.
Garden Pearl has been specially bred by Unwins for growing in containers.
Baby Plum Tomatoes are now available in a variety called Sweet Olive.
The Tumblin’ series can be grown in hanging baskets or containers.

Cultivation of Tomatoes

The surface roots take up the fertilizer and nourishment. Encourage them by building soil around the stem.
The tap roots go deep in search of water. Help by making sure you water well into the soil by sinking a pipe or pot near the plant to fill up & make sure the water gets deep down.
Do not be too greedy with each plant. Stop them growing when you have 5-8 trusses of fruit by pinching out the growing tips. This channels the energy into your fruit.
Feed and water on a regular consistent basis.
I still support my Cherry tomato plants with a cane and string.

Plants and seeds available from Thompson Morgan

More Tomato growing tips


Spring Shrubs Forsythia and Flowering Currant


Forsythia is now in rampant bloom around our village. The sunny yellow flowers compete with the Daffodils for a place in the yellow spectrum of colour.

Blossom arrives before any leaves on the twiggy growth from earlier years. This cloaks the shrub in a mass of yellow blossom that really takes some beating. Only the very old wood has not got blossom this year and I will be tempted to encourage new twiggy stems by selective pruning when the flowering has finished. This will only be a light trim like they say at the barbers not a No 1.

Forsythia grows 1-2 feet per year from cuttings taken in late spring when the wood is green. Push 6 inch stems into a gritty soil preferably with some peat added as they like acidic soil. The shrub grows to 7-10 feet tall and almost as wide if left untended but it is then open and erring towards straggly, so I recommend the post flowering trim.

Flowering Currant

Flowering Currants also called Ribes sanguineum are also early spring blossoming shrubs. The sprays of flowers are like racemes of red or dark pink that are on show as the scented grey green leaves start to open. There is also a light pink variety that is a strong grower reaching 10 feet tall if left to its own devices.It is best kept at a 4-5 foot height.

Some better know varieties include ‘King Edward VII’, with red flowers, ‘Pulborough Scarlet’, also with red flowers and ‘White Icicle’, with white flowers.

Pink Ribes

Tips for Spring Shrubs

  • Prune after flowering. This encourages new flowering wood to grow for next year.
  • Take cuttings to propagate new shrubs in spring or early summer.
  • Mulch shrubs after summer rain or a good watering to see them through a dry summer.
  • Both Flowering Currants and Forsythia are east shrubs to grow.



Tips for Growing Busy Lizzie

Photo by ndrwfgg

Busy Lizzie are bright and colourful bedding plants that you will find easy to grow if you avoid frost. Stick to the annual varieties and you will have flowers from June through to the first frost. They do not need pinching out unless they are leggy when you get them.

Busy Lizzie Tips

  • Buy plug plants or seedlings and grow them on until the danger of frost has gone. If you do not have a windowsill wait until mid May to buy them.
  • Seeds are very small and I have found germination is erratic. That may be due to my lack of green fingers.
  • Busy Lizzie are great for shady areas because nothing flowers in those positions as well as they do. They will perform in sun as well.
  • Busy Lizzie have a succulent stem and need plenty of water when they are growing quickly.
  • Plants grow about 8-12 inches tall with a similar spread depending on variety.
  • Busy Lizzie are fine in baskets, containers or the front of flower beds.

Colourful flowers is one of the main reasons for growing Busy Lizzie. Pastel shades called ‘Tempo’ , white, purple, candy striped Tuti and vibrant Spectra or even a bronzed leaf version are all available. Busy Lizzie do not make cut flowers.

Useful Links
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Grow Edible Flowers For a Salad

Day Lily

Do you like flavour and fragrance in your salad or would you like some more colour? If the answer is ‘Yes’ then I suggest you grow edible flowers in your own garden.

Harvesting Edible Flowers

It is normally the petals that are eaten but small flowers may be eaten whole.
Gather the flowers early in the day when the dew has just evaporated.
Cut with a small pair of scissors
Handle them gently and carry them in a basket to avoid bruising .
Leave them aside so any insects and beetles can escape. Only wash them if necessary then pat dry with a paper towel.
Keep in a closed plastic bag in the refrigerator until required and refresh with cold water before use.
Scatter over a salad in modest proportions.

Popular Salad Flowers

Pot Marigold or Calendula petals have a vibrant range of colours and can be used fresh or dried. They add seasoning as well as colour.
Nasturtium are popular as they are easy to grow and have been eaten for centuries. Buds flowers and seeds are all peppery to taste.
Pansy and Viola have little flavour but the colour can be made available virtually all year round with winter flowering varieties.
Primroses used to be collected from the wild but it is more PC to grow your own mild flavoured flowers.
Old fashioned Roses add colour and scent but test the variety first as the base of some petals can leave an after taste.
Dianthus such as Pinks and Sweet Williams can be strongly flavoured and scented.
The flowers of herbs;  Lavender, Sweet Bergamot, Sage, and Borage are suitable to eat in moderation.

Gardeners Tips

  • Pick young, small flowers and use with subtlety to enhance a salad not over power it.
  • Check the plants are identified correctly to avoid toxic flowers.
  • Add dressing to a salad before sprinkling with flowers to avoid discolouration.
  • Experiment with a wider range of flowers, there are lots to choose from. See Whats Cooking  America ‘Edible Flowers in salads’

Growing Sweet Rocket or Dame’s Rocket

I planted some seeds of Hesperis Matronalis also called Sweet Rocket or Dame’s Rocket, and the plants came up like grass in next to no time. I should have reacted to the advice on the packet ‘scatter thinly when sowing …..thin out as necessary. Plants will self seed in following years after flowering. Sow outdoors in May to June, transplant in autumn.’ Well now I have a veritable forest to prick-out and keep under cover until the frost goes.

Growing up to 3 foot high the open airy plant flowers in shades of purple and lilac to white.The fragrance is as sweet as a violet’s, and most pronounced in the evening. It looks good in a border or a cottage garden and is attractive to wildlife. Some plants may bloom until August but warm weather shortens the flowering period.

Treat the plant as a biennial although it can often be perennial. When established it can be invasive and seeds freely.

Seeds are available from Thompson Morgan Sweet Rocket

Photo by nicoretro on flickr


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


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