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Best British Trees Reviewed

Best British Trees Reviewed

Our series of tree reviews covers exotics and UK trees with a few specials thrown in. Each separate post covers;

  • Latin names and other common names
  • Height, uses and normal distribution. –
  • Type of tree – Evergreen/ Deciduous – dictoyledons, monocotyledon, Conifer etc
  • Description of Leaves, Flowers, Fruit and bark –
  • Family links, varieties and near relatives –

Below are links to a dozen British natives with short descriptions.

English Oak
Top of most lists for great British Trees. Our list of tree reviews is no different, Oak is the tops!

Rowan – Mountain Ash
The trees can be quite singular in appearance when shaped by wind on high moors and mountains.

From the copper coloured leaf to solid green hedges the Beech deserves a place in most gardens.

Silver Birch
Seem to be growing everywhere you look with some very distinctive varieties like Jacquemontii.

Horse Chestnut
Brought to England by William the Conqueror (no not really the conkers were there first).

Norway Spruce
Despite containing a foreign country name this Spruce grows freely on Forestry Commission land in the UK.

Ideal for hedgerows and feeding birds. May blossom in May maybe.

Lime or Linden
a useful ornamental for parks and large gardens.

Grows well in my garden and trains easily into a shapely tree.

Related to the other Acers but I would let someone else grow Sycamore on their land. (not my favourite)

A fast growing deciduous conifer good in forests.

Longest lived and slowest growing British tree synonymous with church yards and pagan worship.

Along with the Oak and the bonny Rowan tree the Ash is justly popular.


  • This completes our bakers dozen of British trees. If you want to learn more click on each link.
  • If you want to look for a different tree, type in the common or Latin name in our Google search box.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment or make a request on tree or garden related matters.
  • For more information of tree leaf shape design and function read this section.

Tree Organisations and Links
Woodland Trust

The Arboricultural Association
International Society of Arboriculture UK

Banana Republic and Musa Review

Banana Republic and Musa Review

Banana hand

I have just finished eating a Fyffes banana grown in Costa Rica. They were certified by the Rainforest Alliance and were sold as ‘Ripe, snack size bananas’ and a very appropriate  name it was. In our fruit bowl we also have ‘organic Fairtrade bananas fro the Dominican Republic cutesy of the EEC at least until brexit by which time they will be well overripe.

This encouraged me to dig out an old post with photos from Kew in 2010. I was in the middle of a series of posts on fruit trees from exotic climes and realise that the Banana didn’t quite fit. Bananas are herbs and do not grow on trees. The stem,  can grow quite tall in some species and is really just matted together leaves.

Therefore I offered some of my photographs to show different varieties of Banana growing in Kew hot house and Madeira.

Kew Red Banana
Red Banana

Musa coccinea Red banana
Very Red Banana Musa coccinea

Commercial Banana plantation

Banana in Flower

Banana plantation
Banana Crop in Madeira

Read these articles for more information.

Banana growing in UK
Exotic Gardens to Visit to see Banana growing in UK

Other Musa Species and Genra

  • Plantains are  a cooking variety of Musa and a member of the banana family
  • Wild banana species, Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana generally have seeds but cultivated bananas are almost always sterile and seedless
  • Wiki as usual has an authoritative list of Bananas and an explanation of their classification.
  • The false banana or ensete is a member of the Musa genra
The Perfect Rose

The Perfect Rose


When Roses are in full bloom I can’t resist taking photos of them. With this rose I tried putting white paper behind the rose to highlight its colour. The rose below is taken with a dark background but is still satisfactory.


It is far from perfect, but, still very nice.

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Growing Witch Hazel

Growing Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel or Hamamelis is a scented winter-flowering shrub. The spicy fragrance and spidery flowers in yellow, orange or red  make it a must for the winter garden.

Where to Plant Witch Hazel

  • Do not plant young shrubs in a frost pocket even though plants are hardy.
  • Witch Hazel like an open sunny position and need space to develop all be it slowly.
  • Avoid exposed and windy positions.
  • Clay soil needs improving with added humus and drainage.
  • Acid or neutral soils are best but chlorotic yellow leaves can be treated and fed with chelated iron.

On Going Cultivation

  • Water young plants during dry spells.
  • Propagation is from budding to root stock. It is difficult to grow from cuttings.
  • Witch Hazel needs little pruning provided there is room to let them grow freely to their full size.
  • Prune out any dead or damaged wood and any congested, crossing or weak shoots.
  • Remove suckers in autumn  as these will probably be from the rootstock plant.

RHS Recommended Varieties

H. x intermedia ‘Diane’ AGM: The finest red flowered witch hazel. It has a long flowering period throughout midwinter and is lightly scented. Height 2.5m (8ft). Spread 3m (10ft).

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Senetti, Cineraria or Senicio? No Pericallis

Senetti, Cineraria or Senicio? No Pericallis


I received a pot plant as a gift and thought it was a Cineraria. The plant was in bud but the leaves looked like soft grey-green Cineraria or Senicio.

On reading the label, not something I always do, I discovered it was named Senetti Deep Blue. Since then Senetti seem to be everywhere, agh! the power of marketing and big money.

Further research showed that the botanic name is Pericallis x hybrida. It is thought to be a hybrid between Pericallis cruenta and Pericallis lanata.
The common name is Florist’s Cineraria so I wasn’t far wrong with my first thoughts. Have you ever seen one in a florists?
Some call it Senecio cruentus Senetti Series.
Senetti may be just a brand name registered by Suntory. If so lets drop the name for now and go by Pericallis.

Pericallis Cultivation

  • Pericallis are tender, cushion-forming or loosely branched perennials. Height 12″ spread 18″.
  • The single daisy-like flowers are in a variety of vibrant blues and purples. Some have white centres like the old Cineraria
  • Pericallis will flower early, providing a splash of colour before other bedding or container plants are ready
  • After flowering cut down to 4-5″ and feed then you should get a second flush of flower.
  • Pericallis are generally raised from seed but cuttings may be possible.
  • Grow in pots or open ground but water and feed well.

Pericallis (Senetti) Update

  • I got more flowers from my fathers day present than you could shake a stick at!
  • I got 3 massive flushes of flowers often over 100 blue daisies open at once!(there are about 40 on at the moment mid October)
  • Hopefully the seed I have saved will grow next year.
  • The host plant deserves to be protected over winter so the pot I have grown the Pericallis in will go into a cool greenhouse

For information on Plant Breeeders rights read ‘I name this plant and all who sail in her’.
Pictures of Pericallis

Pictures of Senetti

Pictures of Cineraria stellata

So now you can see the difference ( can’t you).


Jersey Plants Direct were selling Senetti plugs check out the web site. Super Ready or Jumbo sized just type in Senetti in the search box (free postage). I had to buy some because they were such ‘Good Doers’ last year. Jersey say they are able to cope with early frost which will suit my Yorkshire garden!


I have  received my plugs  and potted them on. They are on an east facing window sill and I have pinched out the early flower buds to get more leaf and roots.

Floral Vistas Plan Before Planting

Floral Vistas Plan Before Planting

floral vista

Greenery is all very well but I like to see swathes of colourful flowers.
I try to envisage how mixed planting will shape up in terms of colour but generally my minds eye falls short when it comes to the imagination department.
The best tip is to keep it simple with only a very limited number of varieties chosen because they are due to flower around the same time.

By contrast my wife, on the other hand, is wedded to green leafed houseplants, green conservatory plants and even green outdoors. (She is also wedded to me and I am not as green as I am cabbage looking so at least I get some colour into the garden)
Perhaps she should grow Gloxinia

I do not mind seeing my colour in wild meadows or just as yellow in a field of buttercups. This photo looks like a pointillist painting rather than a snap shot but it was planned by RHS gardeners to look something like this when the ground was laid out.

A friend at our village gardeners club insists she only grows flowers that avoid yellow – I guess she thinks it too garish and she misses out on some grand flowers.

Snowdrop park

Woodland walks in Spring would not be the same if it wasn’t for the Snowdrops, Aconites and Narcissus.
Even wild garlic is better when you can see the white flower.
Is white really a colour some folk ask – to me a resounding yes, just consider a rainbow.

Ylang Ylang Perfume Tree – Root & Branch Review

Ylang Ylang Perfume Tree – Root & Branch Review

Unassuming in appearance the evergreen Ylang Ylang tree is highly valued for the essential oil it can produce.

Cananga odorata (Lam.) Hook.f. & Thomson

Key Features of the Ylang Ylang

  • Latin name – Cananga odorata , other common names Kenanga kebun, Macassar-oil plant, Perfume tree
  • Height – up to 80 feet
  • Type of tree – evergreen
  • Leaves – Oval green leaves sometimes with wavy edges
  • Flowers – clusters of fragrant green flowers turning yellow with six long twisted, hanging petals
  • Fruit – clusters of small, oval, black berries
  • Bark – Pale grey
  • Family – Annonaceae the Custard Apples

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Horse Chestnut – Root and Branch Review

Horse Chestnut – Root and Branch Review

Horse Chestnut tree

Conker collecting has encouraged many a stick to be thrown into a Horse Chestnut tree. The candle or flower heads are even more spectacular than the crop of conkers that they give birth too.

Key Features of the Horse Chestnut

  • Latin name Aesculus Hippocastanum buckeye in USA or Conker tree
  • Height up to 130 feet
  • Type of tree – deciduous –
  • Leaves – Large green palmate with 5-7 fingers or leaflets
  • Flowers White or pink candle shaped upright panicles
  • Fruit Green spiky spherical husks containing a glossy brown inedible seed or conker
  • Bark Dark brown, coarse and scaly when mature
  • Family Aesculus has about 20 species


Origins and Distribution of the Horse Chestnut

  • Native to the Balkans.
  • Planted in temperate zones as an ornamental specimen.

Uses and Attributes of the Horse Chestnut

  • Distilled the conkers make acetone.
  • The seed extracts were used for fulling cloth and whitening hemp, flax, silk and wool.
  • Herbally used to treat varicose veins and haemorrhoids.

Gardeners Tips for the Horse Chestnut

  • Used along avenues, parks and in churchyards.
  • Horse Chestnuts can make large bonsai.

candles in the wind

Other types of Horse Chestnut and key species

  • Texas, californian and other american buckeye or Aesculus species.
  • Aesculus × carnea the red horse chestnut.

Horse Chestnut comments from elsewhere

In Britain, the return to school after the summer holidays is synonymous with conkers. Originally played with cobnuts or snail shells, the use of the horse chestnut in the popular children’s game was first recorded in 1848. Since 1965, the World Conker Championships have taken place every year in Oundle, Northamptonshire.

The fruits of this tree vaguely resemble those of the (Sweet) Chestnut tree but they are not related. They develop in prickly cases, and are ripe in September and October – the ‘conker’ season.

Read about our series on British tree reviews with a bakers dozen fact sheets

“Horse Chestnut tree by JeanM1 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
“Conkers by MamaPyjama CC BY 2.0

Sausage Tree – Root and Branch Review

Sausage Tree – Root and Branch Review

Sausage tree

An unusual tree with even more unusual fruit.

Key Features of the Sausage Tree

  • Latin name Kigelia Africana other common name kigeli keia
  • Height 30-50 feet high 12m
  • Type of tree – deciduous but evergreen with adequate rainfall
  • Leaves Pinnate with 3-6 pairs of lenceolate green leaflets
  • Flowers Large, dark red, strongly scented, bell flowers hanging in panicles
  • Fruit Pendulous grey-green sausage shaped unpalatable fruit that give the plant its common name
  • Bark Rough grey-brown
  • Family Bignoniaceae.

Sausage tree

Origins and Distribution of the Sausage Tree

  • Occurs throughout tropical Africa.
  • Sausage tree in Arabic means “the father of kit bags” .

Uses and Commercial Attributes of the Sausage Tree

  • The tree is grown as an ornamental for flowers and seed pods.
  • Medicinal uses include treatment for abscesses, rheumatism and venereal disease
  • Beer can be brewed from the fruit
  • The many seeds are good parrot food.
  • The tough wood is used to make dug out canoes

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