Archive for the Category ◊ Flowers ◊

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• Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Dahlias invariably form part of my flower borders each year. With over 50,000 different dahlias to choose from, it’s a real pleasure at this time of year to be browsing through the horticultural catalogues for ideas of new dahlia varieties to grow.

My Red Dahlias

My Red Dahlias

I feel a sense of nostalgia associated with dahlias, which hangs around memories of allotments separated with rows of dahlias. Commonly used as cut flowers in allotments, they are often arranged in a garish display of colour with all shapes and colours lined up casually. One benefit of growing dahlias is that they have a long flowering season which extends well into autumn and sometimes winter.

My favourite dahlia types:

Various types of dahlias are available to choose from: pompon style; daisy-like flowers – the Bishop of Llandaff is particularly recommended for its stylish red blossoms on a dark foliage; cactus flowered type; and they come in all sizes and colours. Personally I prefer the tall varieties which I can use as filler at the back of my borders. And I love their striking colours as well as the size of the plant and flowers.
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• Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Spring is here and with the weather being so good lately I have enjoyed going for a walk in the east-anglian countryside, through the fields and along the streams.

Primula Vulgaris

Primula Vulgaris

At this time of year the wild primroses (primula vulgaris) and the common dog violets thrive in the countryside and also in my garden in fact.

This reminds me of a little poem which can be found in the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by E. Holden and edited in 1906. And I wonder: will there always be violets and primroses?

This is the poem from the diary:

“Long as there’s a sun that sets
Primroses will have their glory
Long as there are violets
They will have a place in story”

Source: Wordsworth, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by E. Holden.

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• Wednesday, April 08th, 2009

Many of us will be looking for flowers to plant in our garden over the coming Easter Bank Holiday weekend and heading straight to the garden centres. Ideally we will be looking to bring instantaneous colour to our gardens and get planting over the weekend.

Fritillarias

Fritillarias in my garden

There are always the usual pansies, primroses and potted bulbs which are easy-to-grow plants that won’t suffer too much from the frost which we may still have to endure until mid-May. But if you are looking for something different, I would recommend the following:
Aubrieta – these are in full bloom at present and are very handy as ground cover, looking like a carpet of purple/pink flowers. They will grow and cover more ground each year and are also easy to propagate.
Primula auriculata: lovely delicate flowers which comes in so many different colour combination. Not scented though.

The Pasque flower is similarly a very stylish flower which is referred to in the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady and in bloom at this time of year.

For scented bliss, try Skimmias who are in full bloom at present although the flowers are probably not their best asset. Similarly Mahonias are average size bushes which yellow blossom at this time of year and could make a nice addition to the back of a border or near a fence.

Otherwise, although not yet in bloom, I will be looking to plant more perennial flowers which will grow on and blossom for many years. For my blue border the addition of the heart shaped pink flowers of the Dicentra bleeding heart may complement the blue theme nicely.

Delphiniums are also a must-have perennial which are dominating my blue border and this year I shall try to propagate them this by doing some cuttings for the first time.

Happy gardening!

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• Sunday, March 29th, 2009

My long border in summer is a vibrant display of flowers, shrubs and textures which attracts butterflies and friends alike. At present it is looking rather plain; the last crocuses have shriveled away and the tulips are just about to bloom. My border is not as wide and large as the magnificent ones which you can see when you visit national gardens like Wisley or Kew, however there is still scope for creativity.

Weeding in my English Garden

Weeding in my English Garden

On this sunny yet chilly day I have started to tidy up the border by trimming back some of the hellebores (also known as Christmas roses) which provided a bit of winter blossom over the last few months. Hopefully this should provide more light to my bulbs and allow them to grow quicker.

I have also finished pruning the roses which are at the back of the border. I found a few slugs as I was weeding that area and promptly disposed of them with my secators.

There is a semi permanent structure to my border in the sense that the rose bushes always form the background colour of the border and a few perennials and bulbs make an appearance when the season is right for them.

Each year I look forward to selecting the flowers which will make up my border throughout the seasons. And that’s probably the most challenging part of the task: finding plants which will contribute to a constant display of flowers from april to september. You can see a picture of my long border in full bloom in the introduction page to my English garden.

There are flowers which I am really fond of, and will include invariably in my borders and it includes: Dahlias, Cosmos, Clarkias, Californian poppies and sweet williams. This year however I shall remove the self seeded sweet Williams and try some new Crinum bulbs, as well as Gallardias which I have not grown for a long time (I have chosen a variety with double flowers called Razzledazzle). The seedlings for most of these plants are still indoors for now and doing well.

One thing you can guarantee with a border like mine is that whatever I plan to do, there is always some unexpected flower, usually of an odd colour, that will crop up amongst the composition. But I guess that’s all part of the magic of gardening…

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• Sunday, March 01st, 2009

I have just received my Gardeners’ World magazine and noticed an article about whether people prefer to grow flowers or vegetables, with Alan Titchmarsh and Carol Klein sponsoring their favourites. There seems to be a lot of surveys happening at the moment as I have also seen a Gardeners’ World awards which is a survey where gardeners can vote for their favourite plants and nurseries.

You can take part in the Gardeners’ World survery on their web site.

Personally I like to grow both vegetables and flowers and as you can see from the seeds that I am growing in March – I enjoy growing a wide variety of both. But if I had to chose then it would have to be vegetables because nothing compares to freshly home-grown vegetables and the sense of satisfaction which comes from cooking and eating quality vegetables.

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• Saturday, February 28th, 2009

March is the month when the sowing activity really picks up for me. Already I feel like spring is just around the corner since I have noticed this morning that the crocuses are out; although my daffodils don’t look like they will be ready for St David’s day which is tomorrow.

Garden Crocuses

Garden Crocuses

Now is the time when a lot of seeds can be sown indoors on a warm and light windowsill ready to be potted next month and then transferred to the garden once we have had our last frost.

I have already started to sow a few seeds over the last two weeks however the majority of the flowers and some of the vegetables that I grow will be sown in March.

I have purchased most of my seeds online and selected carefully the following seeds which I will sow in this month:

Marigolds : my old favourite, easy-to-grow seeds, perfect for the front of the border, and useful companion planting for tomato plants
Tomatoes: I sow various varieties but I particularly like to grow cherry tomatoes because they ripen quicker in our variable British climate
Cosmos: charming tall flowers which remind me of my childhood in the garden
Sweet peas: easy to grow and right now there is still time to sow a few of these lovely climbers. You may want to soak the seeds in water beforehand prior to sowing them in a pot as it helps with germination.

Also, I have already started to sow some pea seeds in modules in my greenhouse. I tried sowing peas that way last year and it worked well for me. Since the modules are sheltered in the greenhouse, the peas tend to grow quicker than in the cold ground and suffer less from the bad weather. You can do the same with beans.

Top TipMy top tip: if like me you grow peas, beans or sweet corn in modules/pots in your greenhouse, make sure that you protect the seeds by covering them with a protective plastic lid otherwise the mice will make a meal of it!

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• Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

My passion for roses came about when I discovered English roses. Until then I had only known about cup roses which, whilst they are lovely, often lack the fragrance of the English rose.

To me nothing compares with the fragrance of an old English rose and certainly 2008 has seen the resurgence of the famous English rose amongst gardeners. In my garden you will find fine specimen of luscious roses – a total of 12 varieties, mainly from the David Austin nursery.

Gertrude Jekyll rose

Gertrude Jekyll rose

Amonst my favourite roses are Teasing Georgia for its abundance of flowers, its Tea Rose perfume and its repeat flowering habit. My rose bushes are planted next to the path leading up to the terrace and I cannot fail to notice the succession of fragrances as I am walking along.

Also high on my list of favourite rose varieties is Jude the Obscure. It is said to be rather susceptible to rain damage on the petals but I like the shape of the flower which is quite distinct (very large incurved cup shaped flowers) as well as the subtle perfume: sweet and aromatic like a glass of chardonnay wine.

Finally, it is said to be the nation’s favourite rose and it is surely mine too: Gertrude Jekyll – stunning with its rich pink blossom and the true perfume of the English Old Rose.

English roses are generally fairly easy to grow. I have had some diseases with my roses but I still do not use any pesticides or other chemical products.
For example one of my apricot-coloured rose (called Pat Austin) was badly affected by blackspot two years ago. A friend of mine recommended to cut the bush right back and to dispose of all the cuttings in the green bin.

So we cut the rose back to 2 inches from the ground which seems quite cruel at the time and I wasn’t sure that the bush would recover from this drastic approach.
The following year the bush grew back some new shoots and admittedly the rose was overall smaller than before; but last summer it looked healthy and good and it is coming back to its original height.

Roses and Sweet Williams

Roses and Sweet Williams

What about aphids on roses?

They tend to appear in mass in Spring and they feed on the sap of roses. Because I try to garden organically I do not spray my roses. At the beginning of summer I try to squeeze the insects between my fingers. But then the lady birds take over and I guess I am lucky to have enough lady birds to rid me of the little aphids throughout summer. Or is it because I don’t spray my plants that I get so many of the beloved insects?

Certainly I have noticed that my greenhouse offers the little ladybirds a nice shelter to over winter each year. And yes – the early rose buds do get damaged by the first aphids but I believe that it is worth it to remain organic.

Top TipMy top tip: the perfect combination: roses & sweet williams.
Sweet williams are fairly compact plants which surround the rose bush tightly hence preventing a lot of weeds to come through. I definitely recommend growing them together.

Was it tip-top for you? Please leave a comment – thank you!