Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

New Year’s day flowers

January 4th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Calendula and Cerinthe

Nights below freezing this week have, perhaps, finally announced the arrival of winter but the end-of-the-year mildness led to a longer than usual list of plants in flower on New Year’s Day.

Shrubs including mahonias and viburnums and winter jasmine we expect, hellebores too and the early snowdrops, but garden pinks? They were a surprise and two of mine yielded flowers to cut for a little jug on the kitchen table (sorry, my picture was terrible!). Two different Shasta daisies, too, have been flowering for weeks and although wet weather has spoiled the open flowers, picked as the buds open they develop well indoors.

Self sown hardy annuals can usually be relied on and this year is no exception. Germinating at different times through the late summer and autumn, there always seems to be a plant in flower and calendulas and blue cornflowers plus cerinthes have all carried at least a few flowers for many weeks.

The other dependables are polyanthus, often developing flowers months ahead of their traditional season.

Surprisingly, a perennial salvia that was cut down hard after its summer flowers had faded promptly burst into growth and has been flowering for weeks. The buds of Japanese honeysuckle opened indoors and the mice and birds have left alone the bright berries of the misleadingly named stinking iris (Iris foetidissima) to add sparkle.

None of these plants are growing in especially cosy situations, they’re growing on my trial garden which is similar to regular back gardens around the country although it has good fences to keep the wind off. True, they don’t look as pristine or have long stems as they do in summer – but who cares!

Of course, it’s been mild but leaving in place self sown seedlings of annuals at various stages of development is a big help. Good drainage and a dark mulch helps keep the soil warm, cutting away dead and dying shoots of annuals opens them up and avoids winter rots and clearing away what really is past it allows good air movement and, again, reduces rots.

Garden centres, catalogues and websites

October 19th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's Plants A-Z

I went to the garden centre yesterday to buy some shrubs and perennials for a new border in a friend’s garden. I had my list, I had my cart, I was all set. But where are they?

I know it was naive, I can’t get out of the habit, but I still expected to find the shrubs, well, in the Shrubs section, lined up A-Z. But there was no Shrubs section. There was a large A-Z choice of Ornamental Trees but no displays devoted to shrubs or perennials or ground cover.

Instead, the shrubs and perennials were all mixed together and presented under headings such as Sun, Shade, and Foliage. So I trailed round looking for caryopteris and perovskia in the Sun display – no. I found a yellow-leaved caryopteris in the Foliage collection but that was not the one I wanted. In the end, I became so irritated that I went home.

Compare with the Mr F seed rack in that same garden centre, or the Mr F catalogue or the seeds and plants on the Mr F website. Seeds start with Abutilon, end with Zinnia. Plants start with Achillea, end with Zinnia. Want some busy lizzie seed? You don’t have to wonder if it’ll be presented in the Sun or Shade department. There it is between Begonia and Calendula.

OK, you might quibble and suggest that busy lizzie seed should go under its Latin name: Impatiens. I had a botanical training so that’s where I started but reality long since took over!

Have to say… There is something that Mr F could learn from that garden centre. A-Z is great, but sometimes we do need help: Seeds for Sun, Seeds for Scent – that sort of thing. Hit the Flower Seeds button on the front page of the website and a list appears on the left that includes some of these categories. More would be good.

Poppies for foliage and flowers

April 27th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape'

There was a short time, about thirty years ago, when it looked as if growing ornamental opium poppies was going to be banned as it was thought people would buy seed in garden centres and grow heroin on their allotments! No.

It’s the same basic species but varieties developed for the garden – and to provide seeds for baking – are entirely different from those cultivated in Asia for legal (and illegal) drugs.

So, lest we forget, the increasing range of garden varieties of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, provides some of the most colourful of annuals you can buy.

From soon after they germinate, the plants are making their presence felt with their attractive blue-grey rosettes of glossy foliage. Then, from midsummer, the stiffly vertical stems are topped by large open flowers.

Those impressive flowers come in several forms: four-petaled single flowers, some with impressively frilled edges and some with black or white blotches at the base, and there are also frilly or peony-flowered double flowers.

The colours too range from soft pastel shades (‘Maanzaaad’), rich tones (‘Lauren’s Grape’, above), more vibrant colours (‘Victoria Cross’) and an appealing double flowered mixture (‘Peony Flowered Mix’).

Sow outside where you’d like them to flower, give them the usual hardy annual treatment but I find it often pays to wait until April to sow. Unless you dead head ruthlessly, you’ll have self sown seedlings next ear. And if you grow more than one colour, who knows what colours those self sown seedlings will provide.

More bulbs, bigger plants and exclusive Primrose feature in Mr Fothergill’s Autumn Catalogue

August 16th, 2016 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's Autumn Catalogue Mr Fothergill’s newly published Autumn Planting Catalogue 2016 offers more bulbs than ever before on four additional pages. All winter and spring bedding varieties now come as large plugs for even surer success, and there is a new and exclusive primrose with terrific ‘flower power’. The catalogue also includes bare-root wallflowers, perennials and several money-saving deals on multiple purchases.

The improved and extended bulb selection, top-size for the best results, has been extensively trialled by the Mr Fothergills’s to give an impressive display in spring. There are several new-to-Mr F narcissi and tulips, plus a focus on collections of both to aid customer selection. These include narcissi for successional flowering, naturalising, containers and double types, and tulips which are long-lived, scented, and suitable for containers, plus carefully chosen blends of complementary colours. Buy any four packs of bulbs and get the lowest priced one free-of-charge.

All Mr Fothergill’s autumn-planting bedding is offered as large plugs, as its recent trials proved these establish more quickly, grow more vigorously and flower earlier than the same varieties offered as standard plugs. In addition, large plugs do not need growing on, and can be planted straight-out if desired.

A superb addition to the bedding range is new and exclusive primrose Amore F1, a remarkably free flowering strain, which has butter-yellow blooms edged with rose-pink to create a lovely display in patio pots, window boxes and for edging paths. A pack of 20 large plugs costs £14.95. Buy any two packs of autumn-planting bedding plants and save £5.00.

Hand-graded, UK-grown, bare-root wallflowers in four single colours (£5.95 for 10)
and Persian Carpet Mixed (£4.95 for 10), are another highlight of the catalogue. All are supplied ‘in the green’ within 48 hours of lifting from the nursery for autumn planting and bigger, better plants next spring. They are despatched from mid-October onwards for immediate planting.

autumn-planting-press-release-flowerThere are also many new additions to the 14 pages of hardy perennials, all offered as sturdy, young plants in 9cm pots for despatch from late September 2016. New to the range are semi-double Anemone Ruffled Swan, bicolor Aquilegia Rhubarb and Custard, compact-growing Excalibur delphiniums, and three impressive kniphofias. Several perennial genera may also be bought as money-saving collections.

To request a copy of Mr Fothergill’s Autumn Planting Catalogue 2016, all you need to do is fill out the form found here. 






How To Grow Colourful Columbines from Seed (and beat disease)

May 29th, 2015 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Aquilegia 'Petticoat Pink' (Columbines)

Aquilegia downy mildew is devastating columbines across the country, as I discussed here recently. The best way to keep it out of your garden is never to buy any aquilegia plants but, instead, to grow your own from seed. The RHS says: “bought seeds are likely disease-free” so give it a go.

You can sow seeds in the spring, but I like to sow in June or July as this provides large plants for prolific flowering next year.

Sow your seeds thinly in clean pots of fresh, moist seed compost and cover then with a little compost. Water well and stand the pots in a shady place outside. It pays to prevent slug damage, and to protect the pots from cats and other creatures with wire mesh. They should germinate in about four weeks.

Prick the seedlings out into trays or individual pots and grow them on outside, keeping them moist and protecting them from slugs and other mishaps, and giving them a liquid feed occasionally – I find tomato food, which you may well be using in summer anyway, is fine.

You can either plant them out in September or keep them in their pots or trays and plant out in March – it depends on how big they are by the Aquilegia 'Mckana Giant Mixed' (Columbines)autumn. If you keep them in pots or trays through the winter, make sure they’re raised up off the ground to ensure that surplus water can drain away easily.

So, which varieties to grow? As you may have noticed, I always recommend separate colours because you can plan associations with other plants. ‘Petticoat Pink’ (above) is a lovely soft pink and white bicolour which looks lovely around roses of all colours. ‘Lime Sorbet’, with its double white flowers and slightly bluish foliage can fill the same role. ‘Yellow Queen’ is a more vivid colour, with larger single flowers, and perhaps best grown more as a specimen, against a dark background.

You need a little care with the mixtures. The old favourite ‘McKana Giant Mixed’ (right) comes in a dazzling blend which is great – as long as you don’t expect it to be subtle. ‘Biedermeier Mixed’ is like ‘Petticoat Pink’ and in a range or surprisingly harmonious shades. But I’m not a big fan of ‘Clementine Mixed’; the plants are very short and the flowers look up at you in an unnatural way. You can do better.

And if you grow these from seed yourself, you have a good chance of avoiding the dreaded downy mildew.