Garden Water Features

A pond makes a great addition to any garden creating new interest and providing a foil for the plants and flower.

Tulips next to fountain

A pond also helps create a greater sense of life and vibrancy attracting more insects, frogs and birds to the garden.

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Growing Hardy Orchids

Butterfly Orchids

This wonderful variety of Orchids is known in its native Japan as ‘Butterfly Wings’ Its delicate and beautiful flowers bely its relative hardiness. This variety can stand temperatures down to 0 degrees or even lower if not over watered.

Like other orchids it benefits from bright conditions but needs to be sheltered from direct sunlight. An east facing window is ideal.

Orchids need careful watering in free draining soil.

In the growing season, you want to feed them with a proprietory orchid feed once a month – following instructions to avoid over feeding.

This variety of Ponerorchis are supplied as naturally small tubers. Their flowering season is from April to early June. As well as beautiful flowering, they provide a delicate vanilla fragrance to fill any room.

Always use special (usually bark based) orchid compost. These composts help provide the free draining conditions orchids need.

Extended Flowering Season. One of the delights of orchid growing is the length of blooms that can be maintained. After a flowering stick has faded, try cutting it just above the second node to try and encourage a second bloom.

The Orchid family is very large and diverse and it is advisable to take note of particular requirements of different varieties. But, don’t let their reputation of being difficult put you off!

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Skunk Cabbage for the Waterside Lysichiton americanus


American Skunk Cabbage Lysichiton americanus is planted in groups along the streamside at the Valley Garden Harrogate. Over the years the plants have seeded themselves freely and now make a fantastic display covering the full length of the stream and beyond. The yellow flame-shaped flowers really called spathes, are 18 inches high and look magnificent reflected in the water in April and May. Then the flowers are followed by enormous paddle-shaped, leathery green leaves which remain until dieing back in autumn.
Lysichiton camschatcensis has a hypnotic white spathe and lime green flowering head and a cross between the two species produces a cream spathe (I like to call a spathe a spathe). This spathe surrounds a cigar shaped stem called the spadix which bears many small, bisexual green flowers.
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Taking Delphinium Cuttings


The towering spires or spikes of Delphinium are to be admired from near and far. How much better if you can increase your stock of a favourite plant by ‘Vegetative Propagation Methods’.

Method 1
April is a good time to take a cutting from the base of the plant below soil level. Cut out a sturdy 3-4 inch shoot that is about pencil thickness. Too thin and the shoot wont make a sturdy plant and to thick and it will be hard to root. Make sure you get low down taking a shaving of the old root with the cutting. Failing to do this will encourage a rapid but spindly growth that wont last the summer. A bit of hormone rooting powder can be used but the cutting should root quite easily. Pot on or plant out when healthy and strong growth is showing.

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Fringed Tulips a Crispa Flower

Tulip Crispa or the fringed Tulips looked really good at our Spring show so I have planned to grow some next year. These photos were taken on the bench demonstrating what good cut flowers Tulips can be. The fringed or lacerated petals are unusual yet elegant and add to the attraction of these strongly coloured flowers.

Tips on Fringed Tulips

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Garden with a Bird Bath


A bird bath can be popular with our feathered friends and be a focal point in the garden. If creating a new bed, for plantings, that will have a bird bath as a centre piece locate the bath just off centre. Work into the soil suitable compost  about 4 inches of garden compost will give the bed a good start.

Plant suggestions

  • Use plants of varied heights and colours and bear in mind you are trying to attract native bird species.
  • For the back of the bed try a Persian lilac growing upto 10 feet. Syringia Persica has fragrant mauve flowers.
  • If there is a wall or sturdy fence try Virginia creeper Parthenocissus tricuspidata with it’s red autumn leaves and hiding place for the birds.
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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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Plum Blossom


Spring is well underway but I must take care of my blossom on the Victoria plum. It looks fantastic at the moment and speaks of a good crop this summer but a nip of frost just now would be a real let down. Plums are prone to frost damage and as I am prone to eat Plum jam I will try protect this tree and its blossom.

As the tree has grown above a safe picking height I will trim the upper branches later in summer when the danger of silver leaf disease is much lower.

To augment my plum crop I planted a Czar plum (see below) at the beginning of 2008 and it is showing a very upright habit. This I will encourage into a bowl like shape to get air and light into the centre of the tree for future years. At the moment the rhubarb is a bit too rampant under the plum so I think it will have to come out .

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Topical Gardening Tips – Mid-Spring


Mid Spring Garden

Garden waste composts best and quickest in a hot heap. Cover the heap and insulate the sides if practical. Mix hard and soft waste if you have mainly grass clippings tear up some cardboard or newspaper to avoid a soggy mess.

Keep sowing summer bedding indoors. Half hardy annuals can be sown out doors in May. Prick out seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle.

Start a weed suppression routine. Hoe out any weeds or hand remove any pernicious perennials. Mulch to suppress and avoid weeds.Spot spray weed killer on hard to get at weeds in paving and wall cracks. Treat patios and paths with algicide or moss killer to remove slippy green paths.

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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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