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Category: Top Ten Tips

Gardeners and gardening tips for the day. Hints, ideas, advice and suggestions in list form

Top Ten UK Garden Trees

Top Ten UK Garden Trees

homestead Ivy

Trees small enough for your garden can still provide a range of interest. That may be leave shape, blossom, berries, bark or colour changes.
This selection grow 15-50 feet high with a maximum spread of 30 feet.

Top Ten Garden Trees

    1. Sorbus or Mountain Ash make fine specimen trees. Sorbus vilmorinii has creamy white flowers and a typical scent in spring. Clusters of red berries fade to white but the feathery leaf turns a dark red in autumn.
    2. Arbutus andrachne or unedo aka the Strawberry tree has  glossy evergreen leaves and white flowers. The trunk is also a feature on these 20′ trees.
    3. Ornamental cherry trees have stunning displays of spring flowers. Try Prunus x subhirtella Autumnalis


    1. Silver birches Betula jacquemontii Grayswood Ghost has yekllow catkins and good autumn colour.
    2. Ornamental Crab Apples have caught my attention recently and malus floribunda with pale pink flowers followed by golden fruit gives interest through until winter.
    3. Judas Tree, Cercis siliquastrum is covered in pink blossom before the leaves arrive in spring. This is followed by purple pods that can last through winter.
    4. Acers are ever popular and the palmatum varieties offer late season colour changes to the leaves. Osakazuki and sango-kaku are currently on offer.

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Quick Guide to Chelsea Designers & Gardens

Quick Guide to Chelsea Designers & Gardens

Book Cover

‘Take Chelsea Home’ by Chris Young shows the “Best Garden Design from the Chelsea Flower Show”. Below is a brief preview of the 2010 gardens and designers.

  1. Tom Stuart-Smith; The Laurent-Perrier a champagne of gardens featuring a woodland of birches.
  2. Roger Platts; The M&G garden roses for the main sponsor.
  3. Sue Hayward; The Stephen Hawkins MND garden with unusual plants.
  4. Pual Stone; Place of Change a large community design.
  5. Leeds City Council; Hesco garden trying to pretend Leeds is  a tourist destination.
  6. James Wong;  Malaysia tourism garden, now here is a tourist destination.
  7. Robert Myers; Cancer Research garden, charities normally perform well at Chelsea.
  8. James Towillis; The L’Occitane garden a landscape of Provence.
  9. Andy Sturgeon; Daily Telegraph garden with international plants
  10. Thomas Hoblyn; F&C Investments garden that should grow better than the investments.
Top Tips for Growing in Pots

Top Tips for Growing in Pots

Sedum bootimus-Don’t judge the results by the crop you harvest but by the seeds you sow

Ten Tips for Growing in Pots and Containers

  1. Terracotta is a sympathetic choice for containers in your garden. They are also porous and let in air and allow plant roots to cool through evaporation.
  2. Try several pots of the same size and or shape in a group (I like ‘long tom’ pots). Planted with Agrostis Cloud grass will create a real impact.
  3. Exotics like Banana plants look shapely and they can be moved, pot and all into shelter or wrapped for winter protection.
  4. Keep a sense of balance between the needs of your container plants. They need water, food and light but not an excess of any one feature. The pot is a micro environment that needs regular care such as watering / drainage, fertilizer and shelter.
  5. Trailing plants will benefit from a bit of training in  the right direction.  Pinch out rampant plants and those you want to branch. Pick off faded flowers.
  6. Constant watering can wash out nutrients so give a weekly liquid feed.
  7. Mix plants of different colours, textures, habits and heights. Variegated plants and scented plants often work well.
  8. Locate the pot carefully as the aesthetic of the base and pot combination can be important. A gravel or coloured chipping base can be very effective.
  9. Do not be too conventional with the container. In addition to the old gardeners boot (above) I have seen a wheel barrow planted with courgettes and fire buckets (with holes) used for displays. Use your artistic skills like many container on the top of barges that are brightly painted.
  10. Choose appropriate plants. Below is a second top ten of plants you may want to try in pots.

Top Ten Plants for Outdoor Pots

  1. Clematis cartmanii ‘Joe’ is a white, spring flowering trailer that can be tied to an upright. Try it with blue Crocus or Muscari.

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Top Ten Violas to Grow

Top Ten Violas to Grow

Viola self sown

Violas are more than just small pansies in fact Pansies are just over blown Violas. They are both in the family that also includes many species of Violets, Violas and Violettas.

Benefits of Violas

  • Many varieties and colours to select from without being overwhelmed by choice.
  • Masses of small flowers from spring / summer that virtually cover the plant.
  • Sweet scent on many varieties particularly the blue and purples.
  • Perennial habit on most varieties but annual varieties also set viable seed.

Viola profusion

Top Ten Viola Selection.

  1. Viola Tiger Eye with deep yellow petals and black veins radiating from the centre.
  2. Viola Scentsation lives up to it’s name with bright yellow scented flowers.
  3. Viola hybrida Rose Shades is bushy, compact and free flowering in various rose shades. Each bloom has an attractive yellow eye and darker whiskers, plus the bonus of a sweet fragrance.
  4. Viola Meteor is a compact form suitable for hanging baskets and containers.
  5. Viola Friolina will trail for up to 3 feet and is available in yellow, blue, orange, white or bi-colours.
  6. Viola x williamsiana Singing the Blues is an annual in several shades of blue.
  7. Viola Amber Kiss looks great in the catalogue but I have yet to try grow this semi double golden Viola.
  8. Viola x wittrockiana Jolly Joker with purple outer petals and orange inner petals has become a firm favourite.
  9. Viola x wittrockiana Water Colours Mixed F1 is another popular variety in pastel shades.
  10. Viola sororia ‘Albiflora’ is hard to track down but is a small white flowering species with purple whiskered petals.

Many of these seed and plant varieties are available from Thompson & Morgan Other suppliers include Gardening Direct or your local nursery.

Yellow Violas

Growing From Seed

  • Germination is not easy and some experience is useful.
  • Sow December to March or July to September on the surface of lightly firmed, moist seed compost in pots or trays.
  • Exclude light by covering with paper for 2 weeks.
  • Germinate around 65-70 °F too high a temperature prevents germination .
  • Overwinter late sowings in a coldframe then plant out the following spring.
  • Easy to grow on and care for.

Viola profusion

Pansies Violas and Violettas The Complete Guide from Amazon.

Description of Violas

  • Half-hardy annual or hardy perennial
  • Flowers in  Spring and Summer.
  • Green fleshy, leaves are heart shaped with jagged edges.
  • Ideal for  border edges, containers, patios and hanging baskets
  • Height  3-10 inches dependant on variety

Wikipedia lists over 200 species of viola for further exploration.

A Viola odorata national collection is maintained at groves Nurseries in Dorset where this cultivation guide can be found.

More pictures from Google


Book Cover

Viola Photographs and Species

Violas and Violettas

Ilkley 002

Viola palustris
Viola palustris by pastilletes CC BY-SA 2.0

Viola riviniana
Viola riviniana by Jörg Hempel CC BY-SA 2.0

Viola uliginosa_3
Viola uliginosa_3 by amadej2008 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Bog Violet

Viola ocellata Western Hearts-ease
Viola ocellata Western Hearts-ease by davidhofmann08 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Viola purpurea ssp. quercetorum Mountain Violet
Viola purpurea ssp. quercetorum Mountain Violet by davidhofmann08 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Best Gardens In China for a Visit

Best Gardens In China for a Visit


China is one of the great destinations for visiting gardens. The influence over garden design and the vast array of plants and flowers is secondary to the investment in time and dedication demonstrated in so many great locations. This is just a selection of those you may consider visiting if you can make the journey..

The Garden of Contentment has an evocative name that for many sums up the essence of gardening. This feeling of tranquility will be found in many of the gardens we are considering visiting but this Shanghai location is an exceptional place to start our virtual garden tour.

YuYuan Garden

Whilst in Shanghai it is worth a visit to the local Botanic Garden with its collection of old bonsai and many acid loving plants.

For a strange, modern, garden in Beijing the Grand View Garden was built in 1984 to represent a fictional garden replicating one described in a classic Chinese tale ‘ A Dream of Red Mansions’ available in English

For keen gardeners the best location must be the ‘Silk City’ of Suzhou where you have a choice of choice gardens to visit.  The name Lingering Garden makes me want to invent a name for my own patch, perhaps that should be the patchwork garden. The image is of the Lingering garden from Wonderlust and Lipstick inspiring women travellers.

Humble Administrator's Garden
The Canglingting or Dark blue wave garden is deceptive in its use of pools and local scenery whilst the Humble Administrators Garden is anything but humble as the largest garden in the city. The Circular Grace  Mountain Villa blends with the rocky out crops making traditional use of the landscape evocative of Chinese painting.

The star amongst so may great  cultural heritage sites is the The Master of the Nets Garden a household garden and one of the smallest but highly recommended. It is about one thousand years old and is inspirational particularly in the design and linking with the living accommodation.
Imperial Garden in the Forbidden City

See more information courtesy of Travel Guide China
The Master of the Nets Garden

‘Even more than the architectural achievement is the mood of tranquillity and harmony that this humble garden embodies.
This exquisite garden was first designed during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) as part of a residence that was used until the Taiping Rebellion in the 1860’s. It was later restored and became the residence of a government official from whom the garden got its name.
The garden is divided into three sections: a residential section, the central main garden and an inner garden. The main garden has a large pond that is surrounded by pathways and a variety of buildings such as the Ribbon Washing Pavilion, and the Pavilion for the advent of the Moon and Wind. There are many more buildings that are situated so that there is never a sense of crowding, but always of spaciousness. As is common in Suzhou gardens, the pond has a small pavilion in it. Here the pavilion is accessible by a bridge that is less than one foot wide.
As you walk about the gardens and along the walkways, there are often views through windows onto beautiful flowers or plants framing them from a distance and drawing you to a single sight, a moment of peaceful natural beauty. As you walk through the buildings, it is easy to imagine the life that the original residents lived in a feudal society where these gardens were solely for their pleasure and the pleasure of their guests. The various buildings are constructed so that you can always access the main garden from any room.’

Guo Zhuang Botanical Garden and traditional private gardens are often on the tour circuit on trips to Eastern China. Other Botanic gardens to consider include Sun Yat-sen Botanical Garden in Nanjing , South China Botanical Garden, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden
Kunming Botanical Garden, Wuhan Botanical Garden Lushan Botanical Garden, Hangzhou Botanical Garden and Guilin Botanical Garden.

Book Cover

Great book on Great Gardens in China by Peter Valder
From amazon ‘Valder’s illuminating compilation of more than 200 gardens promises to provide the ultimate resource for future travelers before mbarking on a trip they can study and savor images and information on diverse horticultural realms located throughout China… A lavish record of famed Imperial gardens as well as fascinating examples of lesser-known temples, parks, and botanical arboreta… Encompassing a treasury of plant portraits, stunning architectural details, and awe-inspiring vistas, Valder’s chosen topic is rendered in such depth as to rouse armchair dreamers and act as a call to action for avid garden trekkers.

YuYuan Garden by Wolfgang Staudt CC BY-NC 2.0 ‘Yuyuan Garden, first established in 1559, is located in the center of the Old City next to the Chenghuangmiao in Shanghai.
Humble Administrator’s Garden by Jan Langhaug CC BY-NC 2.0
Imperial Garden in the Forbidden City by ajft CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Yuyuan Garden by ksbuehler CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Yuyuan Garden

Top Ten Miniature Daffodils and Narcissus

Top Ten Miniature Daffodils and Narcissus

Miniature Daffodils and Narcissus are easy to grow with these simple tips that includes a top ten variety list.
Miniature daffodils grow from 4 inches to just short of a foot. Varieties Minnow, Toto and Canaliculatus have several flowers on the one stem and are particular favourites of mine. Try growing some in pots in the cold greenhouse or as welcome additions to your alpine plants.

Daffodil selection

Top Ten Selection

  1. Little Beauty 5″ with white perianth and yellow corona
  2. Rip Van Winkle
  3. Sun Disc a consistent bulb with round disc shaped yellow flower.
  4. Hawera with reflex bachward pointing petals
  5. Petrel has several ivory-white hanging flowers per stem.
  6. Segovia -with a white perianth contrasted by a neat lemon cup
  7. Snipe A classic 5″ tall white cyclamineus type with a green tinge.
  8. Baby Moon late flowering and scented jonquilla type.
  9. Baby Doll with pink cups and a nice scent.
  10. La Belle with yellow flowers and shallow coronas in orange-yellow with a distinct reddish-orange rim

Daffodils are organised into groups and classes called divisions. Read more about Daffodil divisions that encompass miniature daffodils and narcissus varieties.

miniature daffodil

Tips on Miniature Daffodil and Narcissus

  • Look in spring for successful varieties that you may want to buy for planting this Autumn.
  • Buy pots in bloom this spring so you know what you are getting. Deadhead before the seedheads start to develop and feed the bulbs with a high phosphate feed.
  • One of the smaller varieties is Bulbocodium Conspicuous, yellow hooped petticoat at 4 inches tall with golden yellow flowers.
  • The scented Jonquilla has a couple of varieties that are low growing including Jonquil Single, Sugarbush and the ivory white flowered apricot cup of Waterperry.
  • Cyclamineus varieties tend to be low growing. One of the most popular is the Tete-a-Tete with fluted golden trumpets which bulks up quite well year on year.
  • For something different try the double Rip Van Winkle or the pinky yellow Nanus.
  • Place your order from a reputable bulb supplier during summer so that you get the varieties you want before the best bulbs are sold out. The best time to plant miniature daffodils is from September until mid October. They like to make long roots before flowering and fully produce their leaves first. .

Try growing Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’ commonly called the Hoop Petticoat Daffodil! Bulbs from Thompson & Morgan

Cyclamineus – Div 6 are eye-catching daffodils with reflex petals.
Triandrus Daffodils – Div 5 are a result of breeding from the species N.triandrus. There are mid flowering height and usually 2 to 5 delightful hanging flowers per stem. Available from the Miniature Bulb Co
The Daffodil Society has a list of other bulb suppliers

Autumn Annuals for Late Colour

Autumn Annuals for Late Colour

Mixed Annuals

As summer turns towards autumn you may be looking forward to a bold splash of colour from your late flowering annuals. To blanket the ground you can use a mass planting of easy to grow annuals with long flowering characteristics. Below we offer a list of top ten annuals to consider but there are many varieties and species that fit the bill.

Autumn Annual Bed

  • Plan where you are going to plant your annuals for autumn flowering. Consider height, colour and shape of the plants in your selection. Plan low at the front and contrasting colours in opposition
  • Improve the soil with compost dug in to improve water retention.
  • Rake the top soil smooth and mark out a plan of what you want to grow where.
  • Individual potted or plug plants can be set 3-4inches apart.
  • Some plants you can grow from scattered seed to fill the gaps. They may need thinning later.


Plant Varieties for Autumn Annuals

  • Low growers to consider include the white Sweet Allysum ‘Little Dorrit’, Tagetes tennufoila ‘Tangerine Gem’ and Viola ‘Maxim Marina’ light blue with dark faces.
  • Zinnias can be free sown and a good mixed packet will flower in red, orange, yellow, pink and cream.
  • Wax begonias semperflorens is a popular low grower that will stand a bit of shade if necessary.
  • I like African Marigolds a big double flower in yellow or orange. French Marigolds are smaller but intensely coloured and will go on flowering until the first frost.
  • Cineraria senecio is a plant grown for it’s light grey- silver finely cut leaves.
  • For mid height and airy foliage try Cosmos ‘Sonata white’ or Mexican sunflowers.
  • If you have some form of support for climbers there are several annuals that work hard to give you a good display including; Ipomea alba or ‘Cardinal’, Mirablis jalapa, Lablab purpureus and the cup and saucer vine Cobaea scandens.
  • I am already over the ten plants and you probably only need 5 varieties repeating in a pattern. However the best value seeds are often from the annual Dahlias which flower for fun.

2008-07-08 Mohave Autumn Bronze - Bracteantha

Photo Credits
Mixed Annuals by dbkfrog CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“2008-07-08 Mohave Autumn Bronze – Bracteantha by rosepetal236 and 2008-07-08 Colorado State University Annual Flower Trial Garden by rosepetal236 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

2008-07-08 Colorado State University Annual Flower Trial Garden

Footnotes for Autumn Annuals

Some plants may last more than one season but I recommend treating all these plants as annuals.
Collect the seed in autumn if you want to grow then again and compost the old plants.
Deadhead and pick for indoor use to encourage even more flowers.
In the UK plant in early June to give your annuals chance to develop good roots.

My Top 10 Sweet Pea Varieties

My Top 10 Sweet Pea Varieties


Sweet Pea – Antique Bouquet

Traditional varieties of sweet pea colours with great scent.


Sweet Pea – Blue Ripple

Delicate light blue frills on the end of white flowers. It is a lovely blue reminiscent of delphiniums


Sweet Pea – Grandiflora

Strong bold colours in fashion of Union Jack. Great contrast between colours


Sweet Pea – Melody Rose

Very charming colours with a light delicate touch. Great fragrance


Sweet Pea – Sugar and Spice – bicolor

Like traditional old fashioned varieties. Shorter stems, but wonderful old fragrance – evocative of cottage gardens.


Sweet Pea – Sugar and Spice

– basket variety. Makes intense display of flowers


Sweet Pea – Cream Southbourne

Delicate wavy flowers. Great large frilly blooms with extravagant scent to give a great allrounder sweet pea


Sweet Pea – Firecrest.

Uniformity of red, eyecatching colour on strong stems


Sweet Pea – Fragrant Ripples

A long strong stem, with wonderful wavy colouring. Also provide beautiful smell



Lovely lilac flowers and fragrance

Sweet Pea Harvest
Photo Credit
Sweet Pea Harvest by Baha’i Views / Flitzy Phoebie CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Book Cover
Sweet Peas: An Essential Guide by Roger Parsons
The sweet pea is a favourite flower of the gardener because of its delightful scent and diverse range of beautiful colours as this Top 10 Sweet Pea variety selection shows. The book by Roger Parsons looks at the genus in detail and explains how the novice gardener or the seasoned grower can get the most from their sweet peas.

Ten Summer Bulbs to Try

Ten Summer Bulbs to Try


  1. Eucomis – The pineapple flower last for months and are very decorative.
  2. Dahlia – A perennial favourite that is returning to fashionable gardens in need of late summer colour.
  3. Allium – Globemaster looks like it says in the name.
  4. Arum or Calla Lilies have distinctive spadix spikes of yellow through white petals.
  5. Canna – I like the dark leaved varieties with vibrant red flowers
  6. Stargazer Lilies – are very showy and fragrant.
  7. Galtionia – The summer Hyacinth worked very well in my garden last year and produced plenty of bloom.
  8. Gladioli – Always make a fine show plant, cut flower and vertical statement in your garden
  9. Agapanthus – The bulb of the last decade for my taste but still very popular in clumps or pots.
  10. Regal Lily – saved to the last on this list but one of my first choices. Can be planted through till June for flowering in 3 months.

Let us know in the comments which varieties and colours catch your attention. If you have another summer bulb you prefer let us know that as well and we will publish your views.

Read Growing Habranthus

Top 10 Garlic Varieties

Top 10 Garlic Varieties

Garlic is increasing in popularity in the UK and a wide selection of varieties are now available. They grow well under glass or poly tunnel but also produce worthwhile crops in most sunny gardens and allotments.

Top Ten Varieties for the UK

    1. Solent Wight – a heavy cropper with large cloves
    2. Albigensian Wight – spring or autumn planting good keeper
    3. Purple Wight a ‘hard neck’ best used fresh as it is a poor storer
    4. Long Keeper large white bulbs to harvest in July from autumn planting.
    5. Early Wight another ‘hard neck variety’ with AGM in purple variety

Planting Garlic

  1. Luatrec Wight fat pink cloves with white outer skin and a good keeper.
  2. White Pearl autumn planted will store reasonalble well.
  3. Pink Lady a pink skinned bulbs and gloves that can be eaten raw.
  4. Germidore softneck variety that is well adapted to British conditions. Produces large, white bulbs with a mild but rich flavour.
  5. Chesnok Red a hardneck variety from Georgia with attractive purple striping and a lovely, full-bodied flavour. Lovely choice for baking as it has a lovely creamy texture. Great for garlic bread!

Elephant Garlic would be in many best top ten lists but is closely related to the Leek side of the allium family   see Gardeners tips

To buy a selection of Garlic at Thompson & Morgan

Planting Garlic by Chiot’s Run CC BY-NC 2.0
Garlic by mrwalker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

‘It’s that time of the year to plant garlic. I’ve read that you should plant it around fall equinox, which I missed by about a month. I received my planting garlic the day before we left on vacation and just planted it on Sunday. I ordered 2 garlic samplers from Gourmet Garlic Gardens again this year. Each year I’ve grown garlic, I’ve tried a few different method for planting. I’m hoping this year I’ll finally be able to grow nice big heads of garlic. Mine usually end up being small, but they’re still quite tasty. I chose a free-draining area of the front garden and amended the soil heavily with compost.

For specific varieties planted and planting directions from another site visit:’

For more information  read Tricks to get great garlic