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Plant of the Week-Acer griseum

acer griseum 2 Plant of the Week Acer griseum

acer griseum Plant of the Week Acer griseum

I have been wanting to add this most beautiful of trees to the plant of the week for many months now, just other plants have got in the way but on Saturday I was staring at quite a few of them at The Sir Hillier Gardens and decided this is the week to feature this tree.

acer griseum 2 Plant of the Week Acer griseum

Acer griseum is a small tree, native of the central area of China in the Sichuan, Shaanxi, Henan, Hubel,Gansu, Hanan and Shanxi provinces, where it grows in woodland between 1500-2000m above sea level. It was introduced into to western civilisation by one of the greatest plant hunters of them all, a chap called Ernest Wilson, for the famous Veitch Nursery in 1901. Ernest Wilson or Chinese Wilson introduced 1,200 new plants into our gardens during his time as a plant hunter in China. This included 400 new species and 4 new genera. The name comes from Ancient Greek, Acer means bitter and griseum means greyish.

acer grisum Plant of the Week Acer griseum

Acer griseum or the paper barked maple can grow up to 50ft tall over a period of many years, it is quite a slow growing tree and most specimens reach no more than 30ft often nearer 20ft in height. Making it an ideal tree for the smaller gardens. The leaves themselves as quite attractive with a greyish underneath and a light green on top and are formed of 3 leaflets on each leave. The leaves do turn a beautiful red and orange colour in the autumn months. The flowers are borne in mid spring around April time and are small and yellow in colour. As the common name may suggest, it’s for its bark this tree is really grown for. The bark ranges in the different shades of brown and peels off the tree in sheets of brown paper that is very stunning! This effect normally starts happening when the tree is at least 4 years old and so does require a good size specimen for the garden if you would like to see the best from it. With the sunlight behind it, it is breathtakingly beautiful and has fast become one of the main stays in a winter garden.

grisuem Plant of the Week Acer griseum

It is also Acer griseum’s ability to grow in all types of soils including clay, chalk and sand that has also helped it become so popular. The only thing it needs is for the soil to be moist and fairly free draining. It is also pretty disease and pest free. It’s size and slow growth, means it’s ideal for most size gardens, from the small to the massive, where it can look magnificent grown in small groves. It requires very little pruning, maybe removal of lower branches when young to give a clear stem if required and removal of crossing branches and dead wood, that is about it. The one fault Acer griseum has is that the seeds tend to be pathenocarpy, which means they will form but will contain no seed. This reduces the germination rate down to around 5% for them but seed is still one of the best ways to grow it. Grafting is another way it is propagated.

Garden wise, Acer griseum can be found in most large gardens, there’s a lovely one At Mottisfont Abbey gardens, great examples at RHS Wisley and Rosemoor and of course Sir Harold Hilliers Garden. It is also pretty easy to buy, with most good Nurseries and garden centres able to supply it

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Plant of the week- Cornus Alba ‘Sibirica Ruby’

cornus alba sibrica ruby 2 Plant of the week  Cornus Alba ‘Sibirica Ruby’

cornus alba sibrica ruby Plant of the week  Cornus Alba ‘Sibirica Ruby’

Ahh another week returns and this plant of the week is surprisingly one of a group of plants that haven’t featured yet, so there’s no time like the present is there!

Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ is as its name suggests is a form that came from Siberia. Cornus alba itself does have a wide range, growing from Siberia into Russia and China. These forms of C.alba also grow in thickets up to 3m tall while ‘Sibirica’ is slightly smaller growing up to 2.4m tall, which is some of the reasons it makes it a good plant for the smaller gardens. This form Ruby was selected from a batch of seedlings for having the most brightest red stems. Sibirica was first introduced into the uk though Westonbirt arboretum in around 1838.

cornus alba sibrica ruby 2 Plant of the week  Cornus Alba ‘Sibirica Ruby’

Cornus alba ‘Sibirica Ruby’ is mainly grown for its bright red stems that give us so much delight during the winter months. If left unpruned, it will make a shrub up to just over 2.4m in height that produces while flowers in May and June which are followed by white flushed with purple fruits. The dark green leaves turn a stunning dark red colour before falling off to expose the red stems.

cornus alba sibirca 4 Plant of the week  Cornus Alba ‘Sibirica Ruby’

Growing wise, it prefers a nice damp soil but will grow away quite happily in alkaline or acidic soils. It prefers a sunny or semi shady spot in your garden. When planting, it is best to add plenty of organic material. It can be left to form a medium sized shrub but if you do this, you lose The intense redness of the stems. To get the best stem colour, you have to prune hard back down to 150mm each spring around the end of March, you can prune the whole plant like this or if you would like flowers, thin out half the plant as per above and leave half, next winter it is these 2yr old stems you cut down and leave the 1yr stems alone. After pruning, I tend to mulch with garden compost and feed with Vitax Q4. It doesn’t suffer from too many pests and diseases. Propagation wise, it is pretty easy to grow from either layering a stem onto the ground or from hardwood cuttings taken in early November and left in a cold frame until the spring

Best place to see it, is indeed RHS Wisley where it can be found near the big pond. Buying wise this form can be a bit tricky! Last in the plant finder in 2015!

cornus alba sibrica ruby 3 Plant of the week  Cornus Alba ‘Sibirica Ruby’

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Plant of the week- Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

hamamelis x intermedia orange peel 6 1 Plant of the week  Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

hamamelis x intermedia orange peel 5 Plant of the week  Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

Yes after a couple of weeks break the plant of the week is back and opening up 2018 with a really special plant indeed and one of my favourites. Hamamelis have been one of my favourite group of plants since I was 18 and caught their scent on a cold January day, then I saw their tiny spider like flowers in such a wide of colours and I was even more hooked, even now 27yrs on, they have never lost their appeal to me.

hamamelis x intermedia orange peel 6 Plant of the week  Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’ isn’t my favourite of all the witch hazels but it’s close too it and one that has such an adapt name! Every time I see I, I imagine Jamie Oliver with a zester, peeling off line thin lines of orange zest. It is a hybrid between H. Japonica and H. Mollis and this particular form was bred by one of the most famous of Hamamelis breeders, a Dutchman named de Belder. Unlike a lot of the hybrids, it does have a stunning spicy scent, thought to be like marmalade by many. As well as great scented flowers, this is also a good form to grow for autumn colour, with its leaves turning a brilliant orange colour during this time. The name Hamamelis comes from the Greek words, Hama means at the same time and Melon meaning apple or fruit, the earlier flowering autumn forms quite often have the fruits on the branches at the same time as the flowers

hamamelis x intermedia orange peel Plant of the week  Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

It grows ideally in a moisture retentive soil that doesn’t dry out or get too wet, it dislikes Both greatly, almost as much as it dislikes thin chalky soils, it will tolerate alkaline soils as long as they are deep and loamy. That said it is well worth growing in a big container as long as it doesn’t dry out. When planting, it is worth adding lots of organic matter into the soil as well as some Vitax Q4 so the plant gets off to the best start it can. Once growing, it requires very little care, some formative shaping and removal of crossing branches etc is all that is required for the plant to reach its maximum size of around 3mx3m. There are no pests or diseases that target this plant apart from the normal ones like aphids etc and to make matters even better it’s pretty deer proof as well.

It can be seen at various gardens but the RHS at Wisley has a cracking specimen that is looking beautiful at the moment. Again it is stocked by a few nurseries with pan global plants being a good place to start

hamamelis x intermedia orange peel 2 Plant of the week  Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

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Plant of the week-Miscanthus nepalensis

miscanthus nepelaensis 2 Plant of the week Miscanthus nepalensis

For this weeks Plant of the week, I have gone for a group of Plants I have been rather neglectful on, the grasses. This isn’t for any real reason, just there’s so many beautiful plants to feature, I haven’t got around to featuring one!

miscanthus nepalensis 1 Plant of the week Miscanthus nepalensis

Miscanthus nepalensis is indeed a hidden jewel amongst Miscanthus, it’s height at 1.2m means it can happily fit into most gardens no matter of the size but its the delicate fine looking flowering plumes and then seed heads that makes this one stand out from other grasses. It’s common name of the Himalaya fairy grass just says it all doesn’t. The name miscanthus comes from the greek miskos meaning stem and anthos meaning flowering. As the second part of the name suggests, it is indeed a native of the Himalayas and into Burma, where it grows in the sub Himalayan grasslands. It can be slightly tender in some areas but like a lot of tender plants, it doesn’t like to be sat in winter wet. Growing wise, it likes to be in a sunny site in a fairly fertile free draining soil. It is indeed very tolerant of drought and indeed is pretty deer and rabbit resistant. In some parts of New Zealand and parts of the USA, it has become a problem plant but there’s no case of this happening in the uk.

miscanthus nepelaensis 2 Plant of the week Miscanthus nepalensis

It is very easy to look after, just needs to be cut back in around March just before the new growths start appearing at the base. It can be raised from seed and that’s best sown in a cold frame in March, it can also be divided up at the same time as you cut it back.

It can be found growing in many gardens and public places around the uk, I saw this at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens.

Nurserywise, it’s not sold widespread but there are quite a few supplies including Knoll Gardens and Edulis

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Plant of the week Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’ 

camellia sasanqua crimson king Plant of the week Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’ 

camellia sasanqua crimson king 2 Plant of the week Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’ 
Well after a couple of weeks of autumn colour through foliage and berries, it’s time for a few flowers that are blooming at this time of year. We always think of Camellias flowering in the spring but the gorgeous sasanqua is an autumn and into early winter flowering type. My plant of the week is indeed a hybrid called ‘Crimson King’ which is one of the best hybrids. It’s large single mainly red  flowers open in late October into November and are indeed so beautiful at this time of year.

camellia sasanqua crimson king 3 Plant of the week Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’ 
They are native to Japan, where they are indeed one of the most popular of all Camellias grown and bred there. Camellia was named after Georg Kamel, a 17th century Jesuit missionary while sasanqua comes from the Japanese name for this plant, Sazanka. It is not only grown for the beautiful flowers but the young foliage is used to make a special tea and seeds are used to make the best camellia oil. Camellia oil has a wide variety of uses in Japan including being used to heat cooking and tea equipment and lighting. It also has lots of health benefits to the skin and hair, it was used by the Geisha girls to produce their famous soft skin and also sumo wrestlers in their hair. I also use it to keep my hand tools free of rust just like the Samurai warriors of old did on their swords.

camellia sasanqua crimson king Plant of the week Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’ 
It is hardy here in the uk and is one tough plant, the only problem being that the first frosts can effect the flowers making it an ideal plant to grow in a sheltered part of a garden or against a wall or even a in heated glasshouse or orangery.  It makes a pretty open plant floppy at times but can be pruned after flowering to help keep its shape. Soilwise it does like a nice water retentive fee draining acidic soil in full sun. A mulch of organic material and a feed of Vitax Q4 is helpful to the plant in the spring. It is also well worth making sure it doesn’t dry out in the early summer as it is at this time the flower buds for the autumn months are formed. If they dry out they will fail to form properly and fall off the plant. It will make a large shrub overtime in the right spot but don’t let that put you off as regular pruning can keep it in shape. It also does grow very well in pots as long as it is watered enough for the above reasons. Thankfully it’s pretty pest and disease free.

It can be found growing in a lot of gardens like Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, RHS Wisley and Kew. This form is widely for sale but Camellia specialist nurseries like Trehane are good places to try for mail order

2YnoBk1500924993 Plant of the week Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’ 
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Plant of the week- Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’

callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii profusion 6 Plant of the week  Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’

 Plant of the week  Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’

This weeks plant of the week is once more mainly planted for its berries and is commonly called the ‘Beauty Berry’ for this reason. The stunning purple berries hang on the plant for a great deal of the winter, all for us to enjoy

This beautiful shrub is a native of China, mainly around the provinces of Szechwan, Hupeh and Shensi. It was first discovered by the famous plant hunter, Augustine Henry in around 1887 but it wasn’t until the late 1890’s that the German missionary Giraldi collected seed and sent it back to Hess’s Nursery in Germany, that it reached Europe. Hess sold the plants as giraldii but sadly the name wasn’t published until much later, after the name bodinieri had been given to this species. However var giraldii does differ from the bulk of C.bodinieri as the undersides of the leaves are less hairy and silvery. It reaches 6 to 9ft over a number of years, it’s leaves are a mid green colour on top with a slightly silver side underneath. The small white flowers are borne in the summer and really aren’t something you would notice but it’s the shining purple berries that really highlight this plant to us, these purple berries are one of the longest berries to stay on any plants, helped by their very bitter taste that puts the wildlife off until there’s nothing else to eat.

 Plant of the week  Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’

It is an easy plant to look after as well, it is happy to grow on most aspects including north facing sites, it does prefer to be in a sunny or semi shaded spot. It is happy in most types of soil as long as it is fertile and not water logged, not fussy whether it’s acidic or alkaline, clay or sand, all it needs is a good humus soil, so well worth mulching it with garden produced compost and also feed it with Vitax Q4 fertiliser in the spring it also requires very little pruning, just a little bit of shaping and dead wood removal. Easy to propagate from soft wood or semi hardwood cuttings. Also it has very few pests attacking it! In all, it does make it a very useful plant indeed!

It’s pretty well widely sold and grown in gardens, so should be easy to buy and see.

callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii profusion 4 Plant of the week  Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’

2YnoBk1500924993 Plant of the week  Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii ‘ Profusion’
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Plant of the week- Fothergilla major Monticola Group

fothergillia major monticola group 2 1 Plant of the week  Fothergilla major Monticola Group

fothergillia major monticola group Plant of the week  Fothergilla major Monticola Group
There’s so many plants that could make the honour of plant of the week at the moment, those plants have so many attributes like flowers, leaf and stem colour and berries, it makes my job of choosing one beautiful plant for my Plant of the Week so hard.

fothergillia major monticola group 2 Plant of the week  Fothergilla major Monticola Group
This week I have chosen one that has really great autumn foliage but unlike many, it’s a pretty smallish shrub, indeed this form of the Mountain Witch Elder takes up to 10yrs to gain its maximum height of 2m. It is a member of the Witch Hazel family and was named in honour Dr John Fothergill, an physician, who in the 18th century, was one of the earliest collectors of North American plants, all kept in his garden in Essex. He also helped to fund several plant hunting expeditions in North America. The first Fothergilla to be discovered was a form called F.gardenii in 1765. It was discovered by Dr Garden, a Scottish physician based in Charlestown in South Carolina. Dr Garden spent over 20yrs discovering the local plants and wildlife and sending quite a few new plants back home to the uk. No one knows who or when F.major was discovered but it has certainly been documented to being grown since 1780. Its native habit, it grows 500m above sea level in the mountains though North and South Carolina and into Georgia and Alabama. It grows in light woodland often under Plants like Quercia coccinea, rubra, Lirodendron tulipifera and Magnolia fraseri. In these environments, it can grow to 6m in height although rarely achieves this in our gardens, with this group Monticola being a bit smaller too.

fothergillia major monticola group 3 Plant of the week  Fothergilla major Monticola Group
It can be grown on most types of acidic soil from sand to clay but does prefer it to be free draining very fertile soil with lots of humus. It is good to grow in full sun or semi shade and is one of the few plants that will grow away comfortably in any aspect whether it’s North, South, east or west. The flowers are borne in late March, early April and appear just before the leaves, it was the flowers that made me first notice this plant when I was only 18yrs old and working at Hilliers Garden. The leaves when they appear, are a good green colour but turn this stunning mix of colours in the autumn months. It is pretty easy to propagate as well, either softwood cuttings taken early summer works or air layering a branch during the summer works equally well. It doesn’t need any real bits of pruning, just removal of crossing branches, taking out any dead wood and just generally shaping it up if required. This work is best done during the winter months.

fothergill majir Plant of the week  Fothergilla major Monticola Group
The flowers are borne in later March early April

It can be found growing in gardens like Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and the RHS gardens like Wisley. It can be brought from such fine nurseries like Burncoose of Southdown.

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Plant of the week- Sternbergia lutea

sternbergia lutea 3 1 Plant of the week  Sternbergia lutea

This weeks Plant of the week is a small bulb that delights us at this time of the year, with its bright yellow flowers. It’s also known as yellow autumn crocus, Autumn daffodil and lily of the field.

sternbergia lutea 2 Plant of the week  Sternbergia lutea
It is a native plant of Western Mediterranean though into Central Asia where it can be found growing on grassy and stoney banks on limestone hills and mountain sides, both in full sun or slight shade. Sterbergia produces its glossy narrow green leaves in early autumn and will remain though the winter before dying off in the spring.  The crocus like 15cm tall flowers appear a few weeks after the foliage appears and depending on the time of the year flower until later autumn. Although it looks like a crocus, it differs from crocuses as crocus have 3 stamens but sternbergia has 6. 

sternbergia lutea 3 Plant of the week  Sternbergia lutea
It can be grown outside in most of the uk although it does need a well sheltered and drained site ideally in alkaline soil, that will  get sun during the summer to really bake the bulbs. That’s the key to getting the flowers, a period of dry hot weather. It makes an ideal plant to grow in pots again remembering the above. As it is a autumn flowering bulb, it’s best to plant the bulbs in late summer or divide after it finishes flowering.

It can be found growing in most major botanical gardens like Sir Harold Hilliers Garden and can be be brought from most good bulb suppliers like Bloms Bulbs 

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The day giant pumpkins came!

img 0607 The day giant pumpkins came!

img 0605 The day giant pumpkins came!
Every year for the past 20yrs, giant pumpkins have invaded a small part of Hampshire! The quiet Royal Victoria Country Park in Netley Abbey, normally home to dog walkers, joggers and others enjoying the views down across the Southampton waters, watching the ferries, container ships and cruise liners going to and fro, becomes home to the biggest pumpkin show in the uk. Pumpkins converge here from all over the uk, to take part in this massive event.

img 0602 The day giant pumpkins came!
It’s a very popular event

This was the first year I have managed to go and I could tell it was going to be busy, the traffic started as soon as we left the M27 and headed slowly down the roads to Netley Abbey. Netley Abbey, it’s self is a great place. The country park is set on the grounds of what was the biggest every purpose built military hospital that help thousands of people though the Boer, WW1 and WW2 before being mostly levelled with only the chapel left. Now it’s a large green space, enjoyed from people all around the area either for relaxing or excising

img 0619 The day giant pumpkins came!
The weighing board was consistently being updated

I wasn’t too sure what to expect going to a pumpkin festival, never been before. It’s a massive event put on by the Jubilee Sailing Trust as a fundraiser for their great work allowing abled and disabled people to sail together. The cost of £5 per adult didn’t seem to expensive. As well as the pumpkins, there was many stalls selling local produce and promoting local events and good causes, a lot of these stands were selling pumpkin based products like homemade pumpkin soup and roasted pumpkin. This added a lot to the main event, which of course was the pumpkins and giant vegetables on display. This was sponsored by Thompson and Morgan, the great seed company. And wow just springs to mind! Just massive veg! Marrows weighing at 165lb, (make a lot of stuffed marrow that will) squashes at 457.3lb and the tallest sunflower I have ever seen at 18.81/2ft just massive!

img 0613 The day giant pumpkins came!
A pumpkin being put on the scales using the purpose built cradle

Then came the massive pumpkin weigh in. Now these guys are just massive! There was one that did shine head and shoulders above the rest. It just filled up the trailer! They had a great way of weighing these beasts, they had a specialty made bracket from which these straps hanged down from and with a rope around the bottom. They lower the straps and rope down over the pumpkin and tighten the rope once it was around the bottom of the pumpkin. It was then slowly lifted and then to a digital scale to get an accurate weight. The first uk record to fall was the uk outdoor grown Pumpkin. Grown by the excellent Matthew Oliver, he works as a vegetable horticulturist at the RHS Hyde Hall where this beast of a pumpkin was grown, now I have been following the pumpkins growth on twitter so was rather excited to see how big it really was. Well it smashed the record that Matthew had only just set a year ago, weighing in at a huge 1498.4lb he looked over the moon to say the least.

img 0621 The day giant pumpkins came!
The monster being lifted and on its way to the scales

The tension was slowly building up now to the weighing of the big big monster, would it break the uk, European or even the world record! One of those surely most go! The twin brothers, Ian and Stuart Paton from Lymington, have spent hundreds of hours in the last 4 months into producing this 100 gallons a day water drinking monster and you could tell the tension was getting the better of them, pacing up and down while the beast was carefully lifted, the underneath being checked to make sure it wasn’t hollow and thankfully it was solid, slowly this monster was put on the scales, the straps came off and the pumpkin was settled………… and the weight was called over a dead quiet crowd of a few hundred people 2269lb! A new British record!! What a fantastic achievement. The national press surrounded the successful brothers while we silently went home.

img 0626 The day giant pumpkins came!
The weight is being announced!

We are always worried about getting people interested in horticulture and this just seemed such a brilliant event to get people interested in growing vegetables. Seeing so many people coming for exciting horticulture event, maybe this is the type of event the industry could use to promote itself a lot more. Many congratulations to Thompson & Morgan for sponsoring the giant vegetables and to the growers for spending so much time and effort in growth such monsters.

img 0606 The day giant pumpkins came!

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Plant of the week- Decaisnea fargesii

decaisnea fargestii 1 Plant of the week  Decaisnea fargesii

decaisnea fargestii 4 1 Plant of the week  Decaisnea fargesii

As autumn appears, so do so many other Horticultural delights, brought to us by the change in the season, the plants start to turn wonderful shades and nature’s bounty of fruits and seeds start to ripen and it is only right that the my weekly feature of Plant of the week tries to feature all sides of autumn so this week, we have a very unusual shrub that has some stunning seed pods for us to admire

Decaisnea fargessii is sometimes better known as dead mans fingers, blue sausage plant and blue bean plant. This name comes from the dark blue long finger like seed cases that hold a mushy sweet flavoured flesh and of course the seeds themselves. The flesh inside the pods is supposed to taste of watermelon and is a valued food source in the Plants native area, western China by the indigenous Lepcha people. One word of warning, while the mush it’s self is edible, the black 1cm wide seeds are slightly toxic so avoid eating those at any cost!

decaisnea fargestii Plant of the week  Decaisnea fargesii

It was discovered by Abbé Farges growing in western China, in around 1895. It was named after the French botanist Joseph Decaisne and also after Abbe Farges.It can be found growing in damp woodlands and in damp areas in mountain ravines, normally in areas 900-3600ms above sea level. It can make a large shrub up to 6m tall and 4m wide but normally it is a lot smaller than this, with most groups of plants I have seen around the 3m mark after many years of growing. It is pretty happy in most soils from alkaline to acidic as long as the soil doesn’t dry out, this is the thing the plant hates more than anything else is to dry out. It does prefer a semi shady spot in the garden, it will grow in full sun but the leaves do suffer a little sun scorch. It is pretty pest and disease free. The leaves are pretty impressive as well being pinnate and up to nearly a metre in length. They do change to a yellowly colour in the autumn as well, so you do get some autumn colour appearing. The flowers themselves are not too easy to spot being a greenish colour and born in May. It does have both male and female flowers on the same plant, although it’s not always necessary, it is better to have a couple of plants in your garden and they will fruit much better if there is. Pruning wise, it doesn’t need any real pruning to help make it fruit better, just a bit of shaping pruning to keep in in check if it’s growing to big. I would try and reduce the long walking stick like stems down to a side branch if possible to keep the shape, ideally in late winter while the plant is dormant. Propagation is easy, just sow the seeds into a cold frame in November, about 25mm deep and they should germinate in the spring.

If you don’t want to grow one yourself, they are offered by a few nurseries with Burncoose of Southdown again being one of my favourites

Can be seen in places like Sir Harold Hillier gardens, RHS Wisley or Kew Gardens

decaisnea fargestii 2 Plant of the week  Decaisnea fargesii