Posts Tagged ‘plants’

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.

How to Make a Self-Watering Plant Pot [video]

July 19th, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

plant potWatering plant pots can take up precious garden time.  Worrying about how your plants will fare when going away on holiday can cause problems too. The answer to this is to create a self-watering plant pot. It’s surprisingly easy to do so give it a go.  This video will take you through the steps of creating your very own self-watering plant pot. 

You’ll need;

  • Two buckets or containers, that can be stacked.
  • 1.5 inch/3cm diameter plastic pipe, long enough to run the length between both containers.
  • A plastic cup/yoghurt pot
  • Quality potting soil and plants
  1. Firstly check you have the right positional set up before starting.  The plastic pipe connecting the two containers needs to be able to reach from the top of the top bucket into the bottom of the bottom bucket.  The two containers also need to stack efficiently to allow enough space for the water underneath.
  2. Start by preparing the wicking chamber (your yoghurt pot) to connect your two containers.  This is a chamber that will draw water from the reservoir to the plants.  You will need to poke lots of holes through the pot to allow water to enter it for it to perform its function.
  3. Next, draw around the pot in the middle of the base of what will be your top bucket and then cut this out to make a large hole.
  4. For the water delivery pipe, cut one end at a 45 degree angle to allow the water to freely flow through to the reservoir. Cut the top end of the pipe so it stands clearly of soil level.
  5. Next cut a hole in the bottom of the top bucket for the pipe, make sure it’s a snug fit.  The top bucket will also require drainage holes for healthy root growth.
  6. Then stack the top bucket into the bottom bucket, then mark where the bottom of the top bucket sits. Remove the top bucket and drill a quarter inch or 5mm hole into the bottom bucket just below the line. This serves as an overflow hole so that the top bucket never gets waterlogged.
  7. Now you need to assemble the container, place the top bucket into the bottom bucket. Fill the wicking chamber with potting soil and slot it into its hole. Slide the piping into its hole in the top bucket.
  8. Fill the top bucket with potting soil, moistening it with water as you fill it, then you can plant into the top bucket.
  9. If you have a lid for your container, then you can go one step further by making a lid for your planter which will serve as a weed mulch, but will also reduce evaporation water loss.

If you think that creating a self-watering plant pot will save you a lot of hard work, then watch the video below which shows you how to make one in further detail.

How do you cope with holiday watering?  If you have top tips, then leave them in the comments below.

How to Make a Self-Watering Plant Pot

Find our range of potted hardy perennial plants here.

You may have missed them…

January 8th, 2016 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Coleus 'Kong Rose'  (annuals)

Last week I looked back into the 1800s and 1900s and picked out three annuals introduced long long ago that are still available and that we should all still be growing. This week I’ve picked three recent introductions that haven’t, perhaps, had they attention they deserve and which far more of us should try this year.

Coleus ‘Kong Rose’
Coleus are probably the finest of all foliage plants for summer containers and for dramatic summer borders. They were popular in Victorian times but then sort of migrated away from borders and pots into greenhouses and were brought out for short periods for special displays.

The Kong coleus changed all that but not everyone seems to have got the message. These are big plants, reaching 60cm, sometimes more, in height with no trouble at all and with leaves up to 30cm long. Superb in large patio containers and in exotic summer borders, the dramatic colouring of ‘Kong Rose’ will certainly make you take notice.

Lupin 'Snow Pixie' (annuals)Lupin ‘Snow Pixie’
We all know what lupins are – or do we? The perennial lupins in their brilliant colours and colour combinations are required elements of the herbaceous border but what about annual lupins?

‘Snow Pixie’ is neater than perennial lupins, it’s much bushier and with smaller and more refined foliage. It flowers from June to October (if deadheaded), the flowers are pure white with an occasional pink blush – and, what’s more, they’re strongly scented. Ideal anywhere sunny. ‘Snow Pixie’ was shortlisted for the Chelsea Plant of The Year award in 2013.

Geranium ‘Divas Orange Ice’
This is a slightly different case: if you don’t grow it this year you may never get the chance again.

This is one of the loveliest geraniums you can grow with a delightful colouring. Each petal of ‘Divas Orange Ice’ is white on the front and orange on the back, but the petals are thinner round the margins so that all round the edge the orange colouring seeps through from the back and the result is an orange picotee.

Developed in Norfolk by one of the world’s top breeders of new geraniums, it’s been around for about ten years but unfortunately it’s proved too difficult to produce enough seed that consistently maintains the colour pattern. So it will soon be disappearing.

So grow some this year. If you really like it you could save some seeds, but the problem is that with modern geraniums you never know what the seed will produce. So take a few cuttings.

Geranium 'Divas Orange Ice' (annuals)


Helping Cut Flowers Last Longer (Part Two)

July 31st, 2015 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

OK, time for another look at some of the most popular cut flowers in our gardens and how to ensure that they last as long as possible once we’ve cut them.

The simplest thing you can do with all cut flowers is to change the water every day or two – that really makes a difference. But each flower has its own needs: different flowers are best cut at different stages and each has an individual treatment that will help it last.

Last time I looked at cut flowers from Achillea to Cosmos, let’s take a look at some more with some advice from two award-winning books on cut flowers: The Cutting Garden by Sarah Raven and The Cut Flower Patch by Louise Curley.

Dahlia 'Karma Choc'Dahlia
One thing about dahlias that’s worth remembering is that some varieties are much better cut flowers than others; some hold their petals well, some drop them in a day or two. The Karma Series, now in nineteen colours, are the ones to look for.

Here’s what Sarah Raven has to say about making sure that cut dahlias last: “Only pick dahlias in full flower. The buds tend to wither and die without opening. Recut the hollow stem ends under water to avoid air locks.”

Order Karma Series cut flower dahlias when they become available later in the year.

Perennial delphiniums make spectacular cut flowers but it’s worth remembering that the more petals in the flowers – that is, the more double they are – the longer they’ll last.

Again, Sarah Raven has some good advice: “Pick delphiniums when most of the flowers on the spike are open. They are very sensitive to ethylene gas, which is emitted as fruit ripens., so do not put them near a bowl of fruit.”

Order delphinium seed to sow next month or in spring.

Dianthus (Sweet William)
These are amongst the most naturally long lasting of garden cut flowers but, like delphiniums, are especially sensitive to ethylene. Avoid varieties with very short stems and choose taller types such as ‘Monarch Mixed’ and especially ‘Electron’.

Cut them when about 20% of the individual flowers in the head are open and be sure to strip off most of the leaves from the stems.

Order seed of ‘Electron’ cut flower sweet William.

Books on cut flowers
These two books give useful cut flower advice, though the focus is mostly on how to grow them with relatively limited advice on how to treat them once they’re cut.

The Cutting Garden by Sarah Raven

The Cut Flower Patch by Louise Curley

Sweet William for cut flowers

Top Five Plants To Avoid in 2015!

January 2nd, 2015 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

I’ve written a piece for current issue of Amateur Gardening magazine about the ten plants that would improve anyone’s garden in the coming year. But there are also some to avoid like the plague, without fail, at all costs, on pain of excommunication – or whatever dire warning you need. These are my Top Five Plants To Avoid in 2015. (Click the images to enlarge them.)

Variegated Ground Elder
Seedlings of this variegated ground elder, Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegata', will be green.Often listed under its botanical name of Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegata’, this is a pretty variegated ground cover for shady places and poor soil. It looks very attractive. The fact that it spreads like crazy is bad enough, but when it flowers and sheds its seeds – the seedlings all have plain green leaves and so instantly turn into one of the nastiest weeds in the garden – ground elder. Don’t risk it. (And see update below.)

Free hellebores from friends
Most gardeners love hellebores. Most gardeners are happy to accept free plants from friends. Most hellebores throw lots of self sown seedlings which are easily dug up and given away. The problem is that hellebore flowers develop in such a way that the seedlings they throw are almost always inferior to the parent plant. And you’re never quite sure whether they’ll be murky pink or greeny white. Sometimes, it’s true, you’ll get a good one but, given that it may take a hellebore plant three or four years before it makes an impact, start with what you know is a good plant, from a specialist, rather than one you hope will be good.

Variegated Japanese knotweed
Fallopia japonica 'Milk Boy' ('Variegata') may look harmless but can revert to plain green and take over the world.This is an attractive variegated perennial, if you like this sort of thing, but it has an evil heart. Every now and again its stops being variegated and becomes green and in doing so turns itself into one of the worst invasive weeds in the world – Japanese knotweed. So if you see a prettily variegated plant being sold under one of these names, pass it by. It might be sold as: Fallopia japonica ‘Milk Boy’ or Fallopia japonica ‘Variegata’ or Polygonum cuspidatum ‘Milk Boy’ or Polygonum cuspidatum ‘Variegata’ or Reyneutria japonica ‘Milk Boy’ or Reyneutria japonica ‘Variegata’. They’re all the same disaster waiting to happen.

Unnamed mixed sunflowers
Helianthus 'Sunburst' guarantees you a blend of superb sunflowers in bright colours.In this Year Of The Sunflower (about which more in a few weeks) packets of unnamed mixed sunflower seed will be turning up all over the place as free giveaways or at silly prices (49p) in shops where they know no better. The problem is that the seed inside is usually the left overs, perhaps not the sweepings from the packing shed floor but you get the idea. It’s free, or cheap, for a reason. Instead, grow a specially created mixture of all colours, such as ‘Sunburst’, a collection of different varieties, all individually packed, or choose a named variety. You won’t be disappointed.

Leyland cypress
Leyland cypress, xCuprocyparis leylandii, towers over a house in a suburban back garden.We all know that this can grow a metre a year, block your light, suck moisture form nearby borders and need clipping almost every week. But don’t be misled by the fact that, following recent botanical research, it has a new Latin name. Decades ago it was xCupressus, then it was xCupressocyparis, but now it’s simply xCuprocyparis. But it’s the same scary plant. It makes a fine specimen tree in a huge garden, but as a hedge in a small garden – forget it.

With that advice Plant Talk wishes you a very happy new year – horticulturally, and in every possible way.

 UPDATE When this post went live, there was quite a flurry of comments on Twitter, especially from @SeeWhyGardens, @AnneWareham, @kelwaysplants, @EWGardens, @clayton_philip. Mainly they were about the variegated ground elder, and wondering if it really does throw seedlings that come up green. My evidence for it spreading by seed is: 1) I’ve seen it in flower and with seeds. 2) When I worked at Kew, decades ago, I came across a patch of variegated ground elder in the Arboretum. There were green leaved plants in the variegated patch, and also one or two green leaved plants a few feet away from the variegated clump. That was enough for me. When I used to grow it in a previous garden, if it started to run up to flower I always snipped off the developing flower stems so have no own-garden experience of green seedlings. Too risky! Now I don’t grow it at all.