HOW TO GROW ACTINIDIA KOLOMIKTA

How to grow Actinidia kolomikta


The variegated kiwi vine - Actinidia kolomikta is one of the more unusual climbing plants that you can expect to find on display at your local plant retailer. Unlike most ornamental climbers its flowers are rather insignificant at no more than 1/2 inch across, but this isn't really a problem because Actinidia kolomikta produces some of the most beautiful foliage that money can buy!

How to grow Actinidia kolomikta
It is a large plant capable of growing up to between 25-30 metres and as a member of the kiwi family it will produce delicious, kiwi fruit-like berries. The fruits themselves are relatively small with each fruit weighing no more than 2-5 grams. The flowers are white, slightly fragrant and borne in June.

The leaves start of green when they first appear in the spring, but as the season progresses  they develop the very striking yet random pink and white variegation on the terminal half of the leaf. However not all of the leaves with develop this attractive and sought after colouration.

Native to temperate mixed forests of the Russian Far East, Korea, Japan and China Actinidia kolomikta is the hardiest of all the species within the genus Actinidia, and despite its exotic looks is capable to tolerating temperatures as low as −40 °Celsius. However, it can be somewhat susceptible to late spring frosts once the new seasons growth has emerged.

How to grow Actinidia kolomikta
Actinidia kolomikta will grow well in any soil except that which is chalky, lacking in humus or poorly drained.

They will do best in a rich loam in a sunny or partly shaded position. It will need some initial training on wall supports but once it become established it will become self supporting.

Strangely, cat are extremely attracted to Actinidia kolomikta and may damage the stems which in extreme cases will kill the plants.

The plant was introduced to the gardens of Europe by Charles Maries who discovered it in 1878 on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Actinidia kolomikta received its Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.

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HOW TO TREAT FOR CLEMATIS WILT?

How to treat for clematis wilt


Clematis wilt is a very common, fast acting and devastating fungal disease that can affect all species of clematis, although it is more associated with the large flowering hybrids. The fungus has been identified as Ascochyta clematidina but it is believed that other fungal species may also have a part to play. Unfortunately the causes behind clematis wilt are still poorly understood and may not be the same from one plant to another.

Symptoms

Clematis wilt
Typically the younger leaves will suddenly begin to droop as though they are suffering from drought and will not recover when watered. Then the upper parts of the leaf stalks will then blacken followed by the leaves themselves which wither and die. The infection takes hold so quickly that the entire plant can be destroyed within just a couple of days!

Discoloured lesions can occur on the stem at or near ground level and you may witness dark patches on older, otherwise healthy leaves.

How the fungus acts upon the plant is not really known although it is believed that clematis wilt could be a soil based fungus whose spores enters the plant through wounds or insect damage during times of high humidity. Be that as it may there is no evidence that the fungus then develops either mycelium inside the plant or any external fruiting bodies.

Control

How to mitigate clematis wilt
Spraying your clematis with a general systemic fungicide may act as a preventative measure but once clematis wilt has taken hold all that can be done is to cut all the stems down to ground level as soon as the disease has been identified.

The infected stems should be immediately bagged up for burning to prevent the spread of infection. Usually you can expect to see new growth from the base that same season which will be unaffected by the disease.

This is the reason why when planting new clematis, the current practice is to sink the root-ball 6 inches or so below the existing soil level. This encourages the formation of roots from the submerged section of the stem and these appear to be less liable to infection.

However if symptoms do recur repeat the above process and then remove the soil surrounding the root-ball to a depth of 12 inches and replace with fresh sterilised soil.

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CLEMATIS MONTANA - The Anemone Clematis

CLEMATIS MONTANA - The Anemone Clematis


Clematis montana is a popular species of vigorous, ornamental, flowering climber. Commonly known as the Anemone clematis it is a native to the Himalayas, and was first introduced to European gardens in 1831 by Lady Amhurst. It produces stems up to 6-9 metres in length with trifoliate, almost glabrous leaves.

Clematis montana seed head
Its strong growth can even be considered rampant which makes it ideal for growing in trees, over walls, outhouses and arbours and in particular those with a northern aspect.

Clematis montana supports itself by means of their petioles - the stalks that attach the leaf blade to the stem. These petioles are able to twine themselves round any slender support.

The flowers are a fantastic pure white and are borne in great profusion from mid April until May. Once the flowers have finished they are followed by attractive silky seed heads.

Clematis grandiflora will grow best in a slightly alkaline, free-draining soil and positioned in full sun. However they will need their roots kept in the shade in order to help provide cool moist conditions. This can be achieved by either positioning another plant next to the root-ball in such a way that it will cast shade, or cover the soil around the root-ball with some large flat stones or a thick mulch of gravel.

Clematis montana
Clematis can be prone to attack from clematis wilt. This is recognisable by the shoots first wilting and then rapidly dying from the top of the stem downwards.

 Unfortunately there is no known control for clematis wilt by current practices advise planting the root-ball 6 inches or so deeper than the existing soil level.

If you plant does suffer the effects of clematis wilt then there is a good chance that new shoots will develop from the ground later on in the season.

There are a number of excellent cultivars to choose from within the Clematis montana species. Of those Clematis grandiflora 'Grandiflora' and Clematis grandiflora var. rubens 'Testarossa' have both received the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society.

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HOW TO OVERWINTER BIRD OF PARADISE PLANTS

How to overwinter bird of paradise plants


If you are lucky enough to be growing bird of paradise plants outside in your northern European garden then you would be right to have at least some concerns with regards to protecting it from the winter cold. Native to South Africa it should really be grown under protection in areas where temperatures fall below 6 degrees Celsius. In fact bird of paradise plants are best suited planted in a greenhouse border, however it will of course benefit enormously from being outside in the heat and sun of the summer months. Bird of paradise plants are tough enough to tolerate freezing temperatures and there is even anecdotal evidence of them surviving temperatures as low as -7 degrees Celsius, but this is only for a few hours and they are certainly not capable of surviving outside in areas which receive a sustained period of cold weather for several months.

How to overwinter bird of paradise plants
In only the mildest areas of the south of England can you possibly consider keeping bird of paradise plants permanently in the ground, and even then only if it is planted in a very free-draining soil. To ensure good drainage plant your bird of paradise on a soil mound or in a raised bed. It will not be able to cope with frost damage so make sure that it is protected from strong winds and has the shelter of a warm house wall.

Keep it packed in straw during periods of extreme cold and leave it there until the last frosts have passed. You must also keep the roots on the dry side as the bird of paradise will not tolerate with both the cold and the wet. Take precautions against slug damage when the plant is cold protected, and if in doubt always bring your bird of paradise inside.

Pot grown plants can be brought in under the protection of a warm, bright room or heated greenhouse and will require a minimum winter temperature of 10 degrees Celsius to keep it both in optimum condition and to have any chance of it flowering the following year. Birds of paradise can be watered freely over the summer but gradually decrease the amount of water given from September onwards. Over the winter period always allow the compost to dry off before watering again and then only give it enough to keep it moist. Never let the roots become water logged.

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HOW TO GROW THE MORNING GLORY FROM SEED

How to grow the morning glory from seed



The Morning Glory - Ipomoea species and cultivars, is a large genus containing a number of exceptionally ornamental annual climbers. Native throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world the genus includes herbaceous perennials, lianas, shrubs and small trees. However it is the twining climbing plants that are of most value to the ornamental garden. Perhaps the most popular of all species is Ipomoea purpurea, the Purple, Tall, or Common Morning Glory native to Mexico and Central America.

How to grow the morning glory from seed
Morning glory seeds will need to be sown under protection early in the year in March to April to make the most of their flowering period over the summer.

Ipomoea seeds have an inbuilt dormancy so notch or nick the thick coat of the seed and soak overnight in tepid water before sowing.

Using a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting' sow the seed, 1/8 inch deep in biodegradable pots (at a rate of one seed per pot) and cover with a thin layer of horticultural grit, perlite or vermiculite.

Place the pots in a propagator or seal inside a clear polythene bag.

Move the pots to a warm bright area such as a windowsill, and keep at a temperature between 20-25 degrees Celsius. Make sure the pots receive as much light as possible as the seeds need light to initiate germination.

Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged. You can expect to see the seedlings emerge any time between 7-30 days.

Ipomoea plants do not like to have their roots disturbed which is why biodegradable pots are the preferred choice.

When they reach about 6 inches in height you will need to gradually acclimatise plants to cooler conditions for a couple of weeks before planting out in their final position outside.

Plant the entire biodegradable pot in the ground in a position that receives as much sun as possible, however they can only be planted after all risk of frosts have gone.

Main image credit - Simon Eade gardenofeaden@gmail.com
In text image credit - John Alan Elson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Free_Documentation_License

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The Tree peony -Paeony suffruticosa

HOW TO OVERWINTER TREE PEONIES

How to overwinter tree peonies


Tree peonies are an uncommon and usually expensive specimen plant to purchase, however they can be at risk of damage from late frosts in the spring. If you want to get the best display from your tree peonies then it is important that over-winter protection is put in place at the appropriate time.

How to overwinter tree peonies 
Tree peonies are surprisingly winter hardy, even if you suffer from quite harsh weather. However, if you are growing tree peonies in a northern European climate then you can be prone to late frosts and this will be devastating to new growth.

Although replacement growth will emerge later on in the spring the chances are that you would have lost any chance of seeing flowers for that season.

To ensure flowers each and every year it is prudent to provide artificial protection against night frosts prior to the new growth emerging.

A sacking or reed screen can be erected onto a frame of bamboos and placed over the tree peony before nightfall during periods of frost. These can be removed once the frost has been burned off in the morning.

Once the new growth has hardened off the screen can be removed completely until the risk returns the following year.

Position new tree peonies in a site that is shaded from early morning sun as the early blooms can be damaged further if they been subjected to frost. New plants can be grown in any well-drained soil, but any cultivars that are grown on on a grafted rootstock will need to have the union sunk about 3 inches below the surface to protect from freezing conditions.

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The Tree peony -Paeony suffruticosa

THE TREE PEONY - Paeonia suffruticosa

THE TREE PEONY - Paeonia suffruticosa



The tree paeony - Paeonia suffruticosa is an absolute darling of the spring garden. Rare to find and expensive to buy the tree peony has been in cultivation for many thousands of years. The large blousey flowers are particularly attractive and are borne high on the new seasons growth at a time when most camellias would have finished. This almost always makes them the prime show in the garden. The flowers can be any size between 6 and 12 inches wide and they come in a range of colours from white to maroon depending on the variety.

Tree peony illustration
Also known as the Moutan Peony, Paeonia suffruticosa is a deciduous branching shrub that can reach up to 2 metres in height and spread.

The tree paeony is a native of China and Tibet, and has possessed significant cultural meaning throughout Chinese history. Wild plants do still exist but because they been coveted for such a long time its origins are now unclear.

It was first introduced to the western world by Henry Charles Andrews in 1804. Andrews was an English botanist and botanical artist, and since his discovery almost 600 cultivars have been recorded.

Tree peonies will do best when planted in well-drained, humus-rich soil with plenty of organic matter or well-rotted compost mixed in. The plant itself will grow well in both full sun and dappled shade, but the flowers will perform best in dappled shade. If you are growing grown in full sun, it is important to provide plenty of water otherwise the flowers can dry off. If it is possible choose a site that is shaded from early morning sun.

They are exceptionally hardy and will emerge undamaged even after the harshest winter. However if cold weather returns in the spring any new growth will be susceptible to damage from night frosts. A screen of sacking cloth can be used to protect the new growth during periods of frost, but can easily be removed during the warmth of the day. Once the new growth has hardened off the screen can be removed until the following year.

Mulch annually with a well-rotted farm-manure in the spring and water freely over the summer. Avoid disturbing the root system once planted and dead-head the flowers as they fade.

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HOW TO GROW A PINEAPPLE FROM SEED

How to grow a pineapple from seed


The pineapple fruit - Ananas comosus, is a common sight in most supermarket fresh produce aisles, but as familiar as it is today the pineapple is steeped in history and was once considered to be the most coveted of all fruit.

Pineapple illustration
Discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus during his voyages to the Americas, the pineapple became an instant hit when it was introduced to Europe.

Unfortunately the pineapple has a notoriously short shelf life and the 1-2 month sea voyage it made obtaining one was almost impossible.

Its extreme rarity meant that the pineapple quickly became a symbol of wealth and luxury, but despite the best efforts of European gardeners it was almost two centuries before they were able to mimic the conditions required to bring a pineapple plant to fruition.

With the benefit of modern air freight obtaining a fresh pineapple is no longer the pricey affair it use to be, but if you are up for a challenge you can still follow in the footsteps of those early pioneering gardeners buy growing a pineapple from seed yourself.

Germinating pineapple seeds
In order to get your hands on some seed cut a fresh and fully ripe pineapple into slices and remove the small, black seeds in the fruit's flesh. You will find them nearest the skin. Separate the seeds from the flesh using a small spoon and then wash them with water to remove any fruit pulp.

Place the seeds into a clear, plastic bag with a sheet of damp kitchen towel. Seal the bag and place in a warm bright position (such as a windowsill) but out of direct sunlight.

Usually germination will occur after about 4 weeks or so but it can take up to 6 months depending on light levels and temperature. Once germinated you will be able to see small, white and green roots sprouting out of the seeds, however keep them in the bag until the roots are about 1 inch in length.

Pineapple seedlings
Fill 3 inch pots with a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. Carefully remove the seedlings from the bag and planting one in each pot place them on top of the compost.

Gently cover the seed with some more compost but in such away that the green shoots are left exposed above it.

Water in, then place the pots in a propagator or seal them insider a larger clear polythene bag to maintain humidity. Return the pots to their warm bright position.

Water the pots once a week so that the compost is moist but not waterlogged. After another 3 weeks or so they should be ready for potting on into 6 inch pots. If you are growing your pineapple seedlings in a northern European climate then they will need to be kept in a heated greenhouse with a minimum temperature of 20-25 degrees Celsius.

Pineapple plants
In tropical climates they can be planted outside in a free-draining soil positioned in full sun, but only once they have been hardened off for a couple of weeks first. Greenhouse plants will need to be potted up once more into a 10 litre pot once they have reached a suitable size.

These larger pots should be big enough to sustain the full growth of the pineapple plants until the fruit is ready to be harvested. You will need to feed pineapple plants once a month with a water-soluble high potash fertiliser.

Continue watering and feeding your pineapple plant throughout its life or until you decide to harvest the fruit. You can expect your plant should produce its first bear fruit within 2-3 years.

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HOW TO GROW GARLIC IN POTS AND CONTAINERS

How to grow garlic in pots and containers




Like it or not, garlic is one of the most widely used culinary seasoning in the world. Popular in Asia, Africa, and across the whole of Europe, garlic is actually a native to central Asia and has been used as both a culinary and medicinal plant for approximately 7000 years. In fact there is even documented evidence that it was used by the ancient Egyptians!

Garlic cloves
Of course the freshest and best flavoured garlic plants are going to be those that have been grown using traditional methods and sadly supermarket garlic is grown primarily for its size and shape. This means that home grown garlic bulbs are almost always of a superior quality.

Sadly not everyone has the space to grow garlic in the garden but that does not mean you have to go without as garlic will grow perfectly well in containers.

Garlic bulbs are purchased as pre-packed bulbs and are best planted between November and April although bigger and better crops can be produced if you plant a little earlier in the autumn. Luckily you do not nee to worry about which garlic bulbs are planted when as they are sold according to their suitability for spring or autumn planting.
How to grow garlic

To start with you will need a pot that is at least 8 inches in diameter and with a similar depth to allow for good root growth. Fill the container with a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No 3'and incorporate a little Sulphate of Potash or growmore as fertiliser. Do not any any further fertiliser for the rest of the growing period

Plant each clove a 1 inch deep and space them at least 4 inches apart to give space for the bulbs to swell and don't plant too close to the container edge. Move the container to a sunny position and remove any weeds by hand to prevent damage from hand tools.

Make sure the compost remains moist, especially during dry spells, but do not allow the compost to become waterlogged.

HARVESTING

When do you harvest garlic
Garlic planted in the autumn will be ready to harvest in June and July. Spring-planted garlic will be ready slightly later. They will be ready for lifting once the leaves have started to wither and turn yellow.

Loosen the bulbs from the soil using a trowel, but take care not not to damage the bulbs as this will your trowel as this will reduce their ability to store.

Once the leaves have withered do not to leave the bulbs in the pot for too long as they can re-sprout increasing the chance that they may rot when stored.

Lay out the bulbs to dry in a warm and dry place before storing them. Any soil left on the bulbs can be gently removed brushed off. The  garlic bulbs are now ready to be stored in a ventilated container or room for up to 3 months.

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HOW TO GROW SAGE

How to grow sage




The garden sage - Salvia officinalis is a perennial, evergreen subshrub with a long history of medicinal and culinary use. Native to the Mediterranean region, although it has naturalized throughout Europe and north America, sage has a long history of medicinal and culinary use. In England it is listed as one of the one of the essential herbs, along with parsley, rosemary and thyme.

Garden sage illustration
It has a savoury, slightly peppery flavour and is an important herb in many European cultures notably Italian and Balkan. In British and American cooking, it is traditionally served as sage and onion stuffing, pork casserole, Sage Derby cheese and Lincolnshire sausages.

As you would expect sage is very easy to grow and will tolerate a wide range of conditions. However the closer you can get to its native environment the better its flavour will be for culinary purposes.

Sage will grow best in a site exposed to full sun for as much of the day as possible and planted into any rich well-drained soil. They will do better on alkaline soils but avoid any area that is prone to waterlogging.

Get the roots too wet and the plant will quickly suffer. In extreme cases the roots can be damaged to the point that will result in the death of the plant.

Avoid growing sage in densely planted areas as it can be susceptible to fungal infections such as mildew in wet climates. In fact it is almost impossible to avoid getting mildew in hot, humid weather. Instead make sure that there is plenty of space around it for good air circulation. If mildew does develop on your plant, try spraying it with horticultural oil or a sulphur spray.

Sage - Salvia officinalis
After about three to five years, the sage plant will start to become woody and straggly and will lose flavour from within its leaves. In this case you will need to consider replacing your old plant with a new, more vigorous specimen. You can either start again with a new plant or grow one from seed, or use the old plant for cuttings or layering.

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HOW TO GROW PITCHER PLANTS

How to grow pitcher plants


The Pitcher plant - Sarracenia species is a carnivorous plant that captures its prey within a specialised leaf structure and drowns them in a pool of water at the base. Native to most of north America, Sarracenia are broadly distributed and even include a cold hardy species Sarracenia purpurea. So hardy is it that it has even successfully naturalised in Ireland.

How to grow pitcher plants
Prey items of the pitcher plant include flies, moths, ants and even spiders, but in their native habitat they tend to mostly attract mosquitoes and midges.

As you would expect with specialist plants they will require specialist conditions, but when it comes to pitcher plants these are relative easy to replicate.

Pitcher plants require waterlogged conditions in an acidic, nutrient poor soil. They will also need to be planted in a sunny position. With regards to being waterlogged the water should be relatively clean and fresh but so long as the water isn't stagnant there shouldn't be any problems.

You can grow pitcher plants in pots either indoors or outside, but if you have the space you can create a specific bog garden to display them. If you are artistically inclined then old bathtubs can be used to make an especially attractive bog gardens, as can old half-barrels lined with plastic. However perhaps the easiest way is to use a preformed plastic pond. Just remember to never allow your pitcher plants to dry out and always place them in a position of full sun.

Pitcher plant illustration
Remember that pitcher plants have evolved to survive in an acidic, nutrient poor environment and as such the root systems will not be able to cope in conditions with high nutrient or mineral contents. With this in mind do not use cement, concrete or terracotta containers as the minerals that can leach out will damage the plants. Instead, grow them in a non-draining container such as a plastic or glazed ceramic.

Pot on in a one-to-one mix of peat and sterilized horticultural lime free sand or grit. Do not use river sand or beach sand as the salts within them will quickly kill the roots. Placing a layer of sphagnum moss on top of the soil mix to reduce evaporation and help to retain moisture.

Pitcher Plants like boggy, humid environments, so make sure their soil remains constantly moist. Use only distilled water, rainwater or water collected from condensation, like from an air conditioner. Now this is the important part! You cannot use tap water to water your plants as the soluble minerals within it will also damage the root systems of your pitcher plants. This problem is compounded if you water source is collected from a chalk basin, such as you find in south-east England.

Even if your local water is relatively soft, it is still not a good idea to use tap water as your main water source (unless you pass it through a reverse osmosis filter) as it will reduce the acidity of your water as well as adding unwanted chemicals and minerals. It goes without saying that you do not add plant fertilizers to the water.

How to grow pitcher plants - Sarracenia species
Pitcher plants require a period of dormancy in order to maintain their healthy condition and are quite happy to overwinter outside if the species you are growing are hardy enough for your climate. In northern European climates the less hardy species can be overwintered in a cool garage. Those plants tough enough to left outside can be given a dressing of moss peat in late autumn.

If your plants have been grow indoors and you do not have access to garden space then you can force dormancy by overwintering your pitcher plants in the refrigerator! There is of course a knack to this.

At the end of autumn, gently remove the soil from its roots and wash with clean rainwater. Trim off any dead leaves and place in a clear, resealable polythene bag with some moist sphagnum moss and a small dressing of fungicide to prevent rots. Leave the plant in the refrigerator for at least three months, and replant in spring.

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HOW TO GROW TRILLIUMS

How to grow trilliums


You may not be familiar with Trilliums, but they are one of the most unusual and beautiful of all the early flowering woodland plants. Native to temperate regions of North America and Asia, Trillium is a genus of about 40–50 species of perennial flowering plants.

Trillium flower - Bernard B. ILarde
Unusually, trilliums do not produce any true leaves, instead they produce three large bracts. Each bract is a specialized leaf attached to the flower structure and for all intent and purposes takes the role of a true leaf. The reason why each bract is so large is because these are the only photosynthetic structures the plant produces.

Each stem produces a single flower set in the axis of the bracts. Each flower contains three green or reddish sepals and usually three petals. Depending on the species, the flower can be coloured in shades of red, purple, pink, white, yellow, or green.

Trilliums will grow in any moist, well-drained soil, but will need plenty of humus added if not already incorporated. They require a partially shaded site and as you would expect deciduous woodlands are ideal. Trilliums will grow in a sunny position but the soil must be kept moist through its growing period.

Trilliums are available as pot grown plants in the spring or as pre-packed bare root stock in the autumn. Plant the rhizomes as soon as they are available in small groups 3- 4 inches apart.

Bernard B. ILarde file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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DO BLACK TULIPS REALLY EXIST?

Do black tulips really exist?




For many years now those clever fellows that we know as plant breeders, have been working hard to prove that the impossible is indeed possible. For decades we have been told that there is no such thing as a black tulip and the best offering for years has been the rather purple-ish Tulipa 'Queen of the Night'.

Black tulips
It now seems that all that all their hard work has finally come to fruition with the introduction of the Tulipa 'Paul Scherer', a cultivar successfully bred by Dutch grower Geert Hageman in 1986, and produced from the group known as 'Triumph tulips'.  This group is particularly prized for their beautiful, traditional "tulip" flower shape and sturdy stems, which allows them to stand up well to bad weather.

Unlike the majority of tulips bulbs Tulipa 'Paul Scherer' will not need a cold period in order to initiate flowering so when purchased in the autumn as pre-packed dry bulbs. They can be planted either directly in the garden or a flower pot. Plant Tulipa 'Paul Scherer' bulbs in a hole that is three times as deep as the height of the bulbs, and about 4-5 inches apart.

Tulipa ‘Paul Scherer’ received its Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 2012.

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THE WINDFLOWER - Anemone blanda

The winter windflower- Anemone blanda




The winter windflower- Anemone blanda is a herbaceous tuberous perennial that is a popular as a garden plant as it comes into flower so early on in the spring. The species name blanda means 'mild' or 'charming', and not certainly not 'boring' as you would expect.

The winter windflower- Anemone blanda
Also known as the Grecian windflower, Anemone blanda is a native to south-eastern Europe, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria. It has naturalised in areas of northern Europe but is this is limited to specific areas that have the excellent drainage and dry summers that they prefer.

The daisy-like flowers of the true species is an intense shade of blue but there are cultivated varieties available in white, mauve and shades of pink.

Growing to no more than 6 inches tall, Anemone blanda will grow in any humus-rich well-drained soil so long as the tubers are able to dry out in the summer. It is for this reason that Anemone blanda is often used for underplanting beneath deciduous trees which provide the necessary conditions. It will rapidly colonise any location that fits its requirements. The dark green foliage dies down in summer.


Anemone blanda seeds - http://torontogardens.blogspot.co.uk/
They are best planted in autumn when quite newly lifted and still damp, which is convenient as they are available to purchase as pre-packed tubers at this time of year.

They will not do well if they have dried out completely and so it is worth soaking them in a bucket of water overnight before planting.

Plant them on their longest side, rather than flat, about 2 inches deep and 3 inches apart. If you have it, mix some leaf mould into the soil before planting.

Anemone blanda and its cultivar Anemone blanda var. rosea 'Radar' have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

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BOMAREA CALDASII

Bomarea caldasii - http://farm5.static.flickr.com/



Bomarea caldasii is a gorgeous evergreen vine that can reach up to 3 metres in height. Native to the tropical and Andean regions of America, Bomarea caldasii is known for its gnarled stems and highly ornamental flowers. It is typically found growing in the forest under-story, in lightly shaded conditions although it will grow best in full sun. The stems emerge from short underground rhizomes and will vigorously search out for support as it grows. In countries where is has naturalised it can be considered an invasive weed as it will smother and kill native plants given the right conditions.

Bomarea caldasii seeds - http://images.summitpost.org/
The blooms are produced in late spring/early summer in a dense umbel at the end of the growing shoots. Each umbel can be composed of as many as 30-45 flowers consisting of three outer tepals and three inner, sometimes of contrasting colours.Once pollinated the flowers develop into capsules about 2 cm in diameter and when ripe will open to reveal bright orange, fleshy seeds.

Bomarea caldasii is considered to be a perennial vine, but it will die back over winter if exposed to severe frosts. You can propagate Bomarea caldasii from its roots suckers or by seed.

The genus Bomarea was first described by the French botanist Charles-Fran├žois Brisseau de Mirbel in 1802 but it is named after the French pharmacist Jacques-Christophe Valmont Bomare (1731-1807).

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CAMELLIA JAPONICA 'BLACK LACE'

Camellia 'Black Lace' - http://materredebruyere.blogspot.co.uk/


I recently got it into my head to purchase a Camellia after watching an old black and white Japanese film which featured an absolutely stunning camellia garden. Even though it was in black and white you could tell the petals were a rich, dark red and the yellow stamens were particularly conspicuous.

Camellia 'Black Lace' - http://apps.rhs.org.uk/
After several weeks of scouring the local garden centres and various text books I was beginning to learn the truth of my folly. If you want a traditional styled Camellia with the pronounced yellow stamens then red isn't really red. The best you can get is a dark pink and if you do have red it will not be in the traditional 'rose' shape, rather it will be one of those over-blousey pompoms - pompoms is not the technical term!

I had given up until I had a glimpse of a photo card of Camellia 'Black Lace', a cultivar not listed in my old Hilliers Manual of Trees and Shrubs. It was indeed a red camellia that wasn't over-blown and while it wasn't the traditional rose shape it was very similar in design to my most favorite of all camellia cultivars - Camellia 'Desire'.

Camellia 'Black Lace' an evergreen shrub with a dense upright habit. It produces particularly dark green leaves with act as an excellent foil for the flowers. As compact as it is, it is not a dwarf form and is able to reach up to 10 ft both in height and spread once mature.

Camellia 'Black Lace' - http://www.ciarrocchi.info/
The formal, double blooms are produced in the early spring either solitary or in clusters. Each one is a deep red and can house around 60 petals.

Like the majority of Camellias, Camellia 'Black Lace' is ideal for growing in pots or containers as they have a shallow, fibrous root system.  The are best planted at the back of the border for structural effect and provide much needed colour over the winter season.

They prefer a moist free-draining soil but more importantly the soils will need to be acidic or at the very least have a neutral pH. They do not like to be grown in shallow soils on chalk, but if in doubt you can always add a decent amount of ericaceous compost to the soil before planting.

While camellias are perfectly capable of coping with harsh winter weather the flowers are not, so while a sunny south facing position may be best for growth the flowers are more likely to suffer damage. Camellias are best positioned on a sheltered north or east facing wall and sheltered from cold, dry winds and early morning sun.

Be aware, particular in northern European climates that damage can occur on the flowers as a result of the effects from early morning sunshine followed by frost. In areas prone to late frosts, avoid planting Camellia 'Black Lace' in a south or west facing site unless there is some light overhead shade from other trees that can offer some protection.

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JAPANESE FLOWERING CHERRIES - Prunus species

pink flowering cherry
Japanese flowering cherries


For those in the know, Japanese flowering cherries are collectively known as 'Sato zakura' which means domestic, village or cultivated cherry trees, and as a group they are solely grown for their ornamental qualities. Of course there are many other flowering cherries cultivars that have been developed from northern hemisphere species and these are often erroneously grouped together with their Japanese counterparts. However for the purpose of this article only the true 'Sato zakura' are considered.

pink double flowered ornamental cherry
Japanese flowering cherries
Japanese flowering cherries have been extensively bred for over a thousand of years and so its not surprising that a huge number of cultivated varieties exist, most are of an obscure origin and differ in form, flower, fragrance, and vigor.

Some are hybrids, while others are undoubtedly cultivars developed from Prunus speciosa, Prunus jamasakura and Prunus serrulata var. spontanea.

The various cultivars bloom at different times of year from late March through to late May. The blooms themselves will vary greatly from large petals pure white to creamy-yellow, and all shades of pink, usually semi-double or double-flowered in between. Sadly the majority of cherry blossoms are usually scentless.

avenue of light-pink double flowering ornamental cherries
Japanese flowering cherries
Compared to wild cherry trees, the branches are stout, the leaves large, and the young foliage is more often than not bronze rather than pure green in colour. Furthermore, with only a few exceptions most Japanese flowering cherries will produce excellent autumn colour as their leaves turn from shades of yellow to a burned orange.

The majority of Japanese flowering cherries are small trees which have proven themselves to be easy to cultivate. They vary from low and spreading to tall and erect in habit. Like their edible counterparts, Japanese flowering cherries will do well in all soil types, including chalk soils, just so long as they are free draining.

Over the winter the buds of the Japanese flowering cherries can be subject to bird damage, although this is rare. It isn't usually necessary to prune Japanese flowering cherries unless it is to remove diseased or damaged branches. If pruning is undertaken it should be carried out in late summer to that the wounds get a chance to heal before the onset of winter.

Some of the most popular sato zakura are as follows:

double pink flowers of cheal's weeping cherry
Prunus 'Cheal's Weeping'
Prunus 'Amanogawa'

This a small columnar tree with erect branches and dense upright clusters of fragrant semi-double, shell-pink flowers. Prunus 'Amanogawa' will bloom from mid-April to mid May. The young leaves emerge a greenish-bronze and mature to a virid green.

Prunus 'Cheal's Weeping'

Often incorrectly called 'Kiku-shidare Sakura', this is a small tree with arching or drooping branches. The deep-pink double flowers are some of the most impressive of all flowering cherries

Prunus 'Kursar'

This beautiful small tree was raised by Captain Collingwood Ingram. He was responsible for breeding many cherries grown at Wisley and for reintroducing Prunus 'Taihaku' to Japan after finding a plant growing in Sussex. Prunus 'Kursar' is one of the best plants he raised and has masses of small deep pink flowers and fantastic autumn colour.

light pink blooms of Prunus incisa 'The Bride'
Prunus incisa 'The Bride'
Prunus incisa 'The Bride'

In spring this small cherry, which has a dense shrubby growth habit, is smothered with large single white flowers. The anthers are a vibrant red which stands out well against the white petals.

Prunus 'Shogetsu' 

This is one of the finest Japanese cherries and has a wide spreading growth habit. Its produces large double pink flowers which hang from the branches in clusters. The double pink flowers quickly fade to reveal a beautiful pure white.

Prunus 'Accolade'

During April this tree is covered in masses of large light pink semi-double flowers. It also has some of the best autumn colour as its green leaves turn a vivid rich orange/red colour. This cherry has a spreading growth habit.

white flowers of Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai'
Japanese flowering cherries
Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai'

This delightful small cherry is very slow growing and compact, making it suitable for growing in containers. Its branches have a fascinating zigzag growth habit and these are covered in small, blush pink flowers. In autumn this cherry will reward you with great foliage colour.

Prunus 'Pink Perfection'

This is a striking cultivar producing bright, double pink flowers which hang in drooping clusters from the branches. The leaves are a delicate bronze colour when young, before turning green and then a bright fiery red and orange in the autumn.

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