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Category: My Experiences

A gardeners personal gardening life over 70 years

Penstemon Cuttings

Penstemon Cuttings

Penstemon Arabesque Red

I liked the colour combination of this garden center penstemon and for less than £4 I thought it a bargain. The main reason it seemed a bargain, compared to others available for sale, was the lush growth from the base of the root. I have tried with stem cuttings with some success but usually achieved more failures. On this stock plant I could see I would be able to tease stems from the base by the root.  I have got now 10 potential plants several with small roots already growing.  With luck there are also two stock plants from halving the root ball, .

Reasons Why I Grow Penstemon

  • These semi evergreen plant have a long and colourful flowering season from summer until autumn
  • They are colourful perennials very popular with bees.
  • Penstemon are easy to grow and generally reliable.
  • They are easy to propagate from cuttings and benefit from keeping your garden stock quite young by regular replenishment.
Portmanteau Trees New Species

Portmanteau Trees New Species


If you notice dogs you may have seen a’ cockapoo’ using one of your trees as a loo or a ‘puggle’ leaving a puddle but what is a ‘labradoodle’ to do?  Every week there seems to be a new hybrid dog that is a cross between two or more breeds so I wonder if can this apply to trees.

If breeders could cross a Eucalyptus with a holly the European commission would be happy with a Eucalolly forest or a walnut would make a waolly or hollnut. My favourites would be a Sycayew or the tall but sickly Poplash

Paperbarked Maple

Back to the dogs for a minute, not to say silverbarkbirch or paperbarked maple both a bit wrouff ( or am I doing something up the wrong tree). How about planting a bulldogwood, a pitbull tree of heaven or a maidenhairweiler.

Trees portmanteaued or  crossed with board games would be chessnuts, planeludo or snakebarks and ladders. Mahonijong are related to chinese checkers and monopoly would be a self pollenator. Who let the dogs in there are terrible draughts in here (enough already go have some Chow ed).



Honeysuckle Belgica

Aromatic Honeysuckle

  • These aromatic plants are sometimes called “woodbine.”
  • The flower, seed, and leaves are used for medicine particularly Chinese medicine for which they are grown as a crop.
  • Honeysuckles are from a family of over 150  Lonicera species including,  L. periclymenum (common honeysuckle or woodbine),  L.nitada, invasive  L.japonica &   L.sempervirens.

My Honeysuckle Experiences

  • My memory goes back over 60 years to a great aunt who grew a superbly scented climbing plant in her small backyard in a through terrace house. It must have made an impression alongside french cricket where it had to competed for space in the yard.
  • Later in life I have taken numerous cuttings and bought some named Lonicera to add height in the garden
  • Now I neglect them and leave them to their own devices. They survive but don’t really thrive. I should give them some TLC and grow them nearer to paths where I can relish the scent.

Gardeners Pruning tips

More info on Honeysuckle

My Pulmonaria Experiences and Preferences

My Pulmonaria Experiences and Preferences

Pulmonaria Blue Ensign

The extensive borage family includes the blue flowering Pulmanaria Blue Ensign shown above with an early flowering Iris reticulata.

My Pulmonaria Experience

  1. If I was looking for more Pulmonaria I would go for the pink/red ‘shrimps on the barbie’ and the white Sissinghurst.
  2. These common named  ‘lungworts’ are perennials that die back to below ground level each  autumn making them hard to keep track of due to the rhizomas roots.
  3. The white mottled leaves were not as vibrant this spring and would have preferred more  shade and damper conditions.
  4. I find some members of the 10,000+ boraginaceae family can be a bit thuggish and I plant them with some trepidation. (Just consider Comfrey if left unchecked)
Mixed May Month

Mixed May Month

I love Iris as much as Iris love sunshine so we are both happy with this May’s weather. The Thuja occidentalis conifer offers a cool photographic backdrop after coming through a frosty patch of weather in early spring

Lupins are not just for Christmas in fact they are not even for Christmas. They are definitely one of our families favorite hardy perennials for use in a mixed border.

How I regret not remembering the name of this bulb that I planted several years ago. Now it is maturing nicely with many flowering stems and is becoming a distinctive feature plant.

A hardy stand by Ceanothus that I propagate from cuttings. The only draw back for me is that other growth habits, including prostrate  and tree forms cannot be propagated from this one plant. (Clone is as colnes does). Ceanothus is also called or known asbuckbrush, California lilac or soap bush,

Azaleas in this gloomy corner have survived for several years and I keep promising myself that I will add some other varieties when can I find a place to plant them.

My wife would see the back of this Mahonia to make the space I crave for Azaleas (they both like slightly acidic soil). The sharp leaves ‘needle’ her but I like the all year round interest the plant provides.

The slabs of paving provide a path through a short Japanese section of the garden which utilises bark chippings rather than a gravel mulch.

Rabbits breed harmlessly in this part of the ornamental garden. A new acquisition last Christmas was the door as an entrance to the gnomes homes (221b Baker Street elementary my dear watsonnia – is that freudian or the name of my bulb in the third photo)

Lush Time in the Garden

Lush Time in the Garden

Where has all the rain gone? In winter there were floods aplenty so I was predicting water rationing by summer. Now it is mid May and the ground is parched and rock hard.

I was struggling to plant my dahlias when I heard my neighbor having even more trouble getting his spade in deep enough. I said I was worried about my next water bill and low and behold there it was on the doormat by lunch time.

Lush is as Lush Does

  1. To me green is the lush colour for all seasons. Other colours supplement or provide great highlights but the framework is green.
  2. Evergreens are therefore a mainstay of my garden particularly the 50 plus evergreen conifers that look lush through the year.
  3. It seems sad to eulogise dying foliage but this year the daffodils and blubells have clung on to the strappy leaves and provided some ground cover until I can get some annuals ready.
  4. The water table and morning dew has been enough to keep the grass green and I am resisting the temptation to cut too close.
  5. Two water barrels are not enough to allow me to water lavishly and 2 outdoor taps are a temptation. I and the garden will survive the rest of the year even though I predict summer floods.
Pelargoniums Planted in Pelargonia

Pelargoniums Planted in Pelargonia

I have flirted with geraniums for several decades but never achieved the full satisfaction of a great display. Now I have a new plan to dedicate an area in the garden, dare I call it a zone? to some of these colourful plants. To give me an incentive to dedicate time and effort I have given it a name Pelargonia as I thought Geraniumistan was going to confuse the issue with cranesbill geranium or hardy geraniums.

As you can see from the search link I have blogged on 67 occasions about pelargoniums and geraniums over the Gardeners Tips years.

Frost Tender Pelargoniums

  1. After several good years I got careless one weekend and lost some good growth and suffered several set backs after an air frost. A similar event took place 6 years ago and that was at the beginning of June.
  2. Remember if your pelargonium stems get frosted then the plant will die and not recover!
  3. In the North of England there can be frosts late in May and early June. In Scotland and on high ground keep your thermometer handy whenever frost is threatened.


                            My flikr selection -hover & press the arrow

Zonal geraniums are more accurately called ‘Pelargoniums’. The zonal is named for the distinct bands of colour around the leaf. On the example below 3 distinct shades are obvious even in a black and white image. These distinctive colours and patterns are quite sought after and some varieties are grown for the leaf shade alone.

Engraved Zonal Pelargonium

Pelargonium House Plants

  • If you are worried about frost, geraniums make fine house plants. They can be kept in flower throughout the year and the flowers can be picked for a small vase. If you time it right when several ‘pips’ are showing full colour they can last a couple of weeks as the other pips keep opening.
  • Regular weekly feeding of high potash feed with an occasional nitrogen booster will grow a substantial specimen.
  • Pinch out the growing tip in April and June to get bushy plants with more flowers.

Regal Pelargonium indoor pot plant

Ideas for Better Garden Photographs

Ideas for Better Garden Photographs

Compose your photo shot with care to get the image you want and only that image. In this photo the moss and drainpipe do not add anything to the desired result so they need to be cropped out for the next image where ‘Carols’ bucket takes center stage. If the original has been taken with high resolution the cropped image will not suffer. The spade could have been aligned better to show the handle.

Know your cameras capabilities and take several shots until you find an image you like. Be self-critical of your work and regular practice will help to get better results next time

Despite standing on the low wall to look down on the garden only the crazy paving benefited and I should consign this to the compost (I mean the recycle bin). The aim was to have a foreground that didn’t compromise the key middle ground and then a background that didn’t distract. Shame that this photo failed on all aims with the neighboring houses standing out and catching the eye and the key middle ground achieving nothing much.

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Notes from my Seed Bank

Notes from my Seed Bank

Collected Californian poppy Eschscholzia pods and seeds

January Review of  Seeds in my Seed Bank

  • Many gardeners me included have collections of seeds from last year and prior. This is a summary of how I started 2020
  • Alliums of many varieties not kept separate – all destined for  my daughters newish garden as requested.
  • Some kept in a plastic box without being fully dried off. They don’t look too healthy so ditched them on compost heap where they could have gone much sooner.
  • Some well dried off and now labeled.
  • Set up a metal box for all bought and some dried seed
  • Best seeds were runner beans – will use largest for this year.  There were more than I will need to get a reasonable number of plants.
  • Several packets of annuals bought in the autumn sale – particularly those that can be expected not to have aged. I planned to be sowing in spring and am now very grateful for the stock as I can’t go out and buy more.
  • Empty packets of various autumn sown seeds Calendula, sweet pea, wallflower, etc
  • Saved seed from those plants I want to repeat, livingstone daisy, salvia, lupin, cosmos,
  • Specials to try to cultivate yellow tree peony, pieris and collected shrub berries from nature walks.
  • Salad leaf mixture, 6 varieties of tomato, climbing beans, broad beans etc.


  • Save in envelopes for better dry storage. Make sure they don’t have open corners I used school dinner-money envelopes and they leaked
  • Keep seeds separate and label with name and date
  • If seeds decanted from the original proprietary packet keep the bit of instructions, name etc.
  • Don’t use plastic bags in future they sweat and help cause rot-dry off seed before storing.
  • Take care with the usually good sweet pea seeds this year they all had maggots in them.
  • Separate dry seed from husks and pods.
My Personal Planting Tips

My Personal Planting Tips

Bamboo in a sheltered Glade

Shrubs and Trees

  1. ‘A good big one is better than a smaller one’ is an old yet valid quote and also applies to the size of a planting hole. Give room for the roots to spread. Brake up the bottom and sides of the hole, mix in some slow release fertiliser and puddle in (lots of water in and around the plant. Firm down the soil and offer support with a stake.
  2. A good big one quote should not be taken to extreme for new shrubs and trees. The larger the plant the more susceptible it will be to drought and wind damage. Over time most smaller plants will catch up and have suffered fewer ‘checks’. On large forced shrubs the root systems may not be strong enough to cope with a large head of leaf, fruit or flower.
  3. I prefer autumn as a time to plant when the soil will provide a warm home for new roots and rain will help with watering.
  4. Water new plants regularly and thoroughly. A slight depression around the plant will create a saucer effect. In dry situations they may need help for 12 months or more. Do not risk new plants dying from drought.

Protecting the Newly Planted

  1. Young trees need the support of a stake or cane. Wind rock can damage the tender roots and growth will be damaged by prevailing wind. Stake on the windward side and tie with soft string at least one third up the stem.
  2. Errect a wind break if the garden is exposed.
  3. Protect from animal damage with a plastic stem protector and slug pellets.
  4. Plant in groups rather in singles to get some mutual protection.
  5. Mulch to protect the soil temperature and moisture content.
  6. Keep weeds under control.

Planting out pot grown plants

  1. Before planting out give all new plants in pots a good soaking. Beware it can be hard to get water to soak into the center  You do not want to find the plant dying with a dry root ball in a few seasons time.
  2. Pot bound plants are those with the root twisting around inside the pot and most of the nutrient and compost consumed. Roots may be forcing their way out of the bottom of the pot or making plastic pots distort. They will struggle to get out of this vicious spiral/circle when planted out. The best solution is to tease out the roots on the edge of the root ball. If it is too tightly wound then break out any remaining composts and spread all the roots as best you can.
  3. Garden centers are businesses and some get up to dubious tricks. Small and immature plants that have  recently been repotted into larger pots to make them seem more valuable (for that read pricey). Before buying support the plant and invert the pot to see if the root ball crumbles.
  4. I put some mycorrhisal root growth aid in the hole to encourage roots to grow away from the root ball.
  5. Bare rooted trees and shrubs are often the best way to plant fruit trees, hedges and roses.