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Plant of the week: Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’

img 1990 1 Plant of the week: Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’

img 1900 Plant of the week: Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’

The plant of the week this week is a widely planted shrub that’s really starting to look great at this time of the year. And it rightly deserves this wide planting for its a tough plant

Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ is a evergreen shrub that sometimes is called Silk tassel bush or Quinine bush. It is a native of USA where it grows in a couple of different areas, the first one is on the coast of South Oregon and into California very near the coast well within 20miles of it. The other place it can be found growing on the mountains around the Pacific coastline in areas like Montana and San Bruno mountain ranges. It tends to grow 200m above sea level in the more damper spots along the coast.

img 1990 Plant of the week: Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’

It was first discovered by one of the greatest plant collectors of all America, David Douglas in 1828. Garrya was named after Garry Nichols. Garry Nichols was the deputy governor of the Hudson Bay company and managed the merger between them and North West Company. Hudson Bay Company controlled the fur trade throughout North America and is still going as a trading company selling anything from clothes to digital space. The cultivar James Roof was named after the director of Tilden botanical gardens, California where this form was found growing in amongst some seedlings.

img 1993 Plant of the week: Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’

Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ is an evergreen shrub with a sea green foliage. It makes a shrub that will reach 4m in height and width and makes both a great free standing shrub as well as a wall Plant. Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ makes a Great Wall shrub thriving on a north facing wall. It’s grown for its very beautiful greenish/grey catkins at start showing early winter and then open up around now to their full length of 20-35cm in the case of the male form James Roof. These catkins are really what this stunning shrub is grown for. Once they have finished flowering, they can stay on the shrubs for months after they have finished. It is pretty tough shrub, Hardy down to -15c but it will suffer a bit of browning on the leaves and some dieback at these temperatures. It prefers a soil that is pretty damp but is free draining, it will survive in drier soils but never does as well. It will quite take slightly acidic and alkaline soils, ideally in the PH range of 6-8. I have grown it on shallow soils over chalk without too many problems. It’s prefect for poor soils and coastal areas. Pruning wise it just needs a little shaping in April cutting the growth from last year down to a couple of buds on established plants and trim new growth on plants in training, down by half. Feeding is down using a compost mulch and vitax Q4 in around March time. Propagation is best done by semi-ripe cuttings taken in late summer. It is pretty disease and pest free, rabbits and deer don’t really like eating them!

Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ is available in most good garden centres and can be seen in most public gardens and in a lot of private gardens as well

img 1879 Plant of the week: Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’

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Pruning Wisteria

img 2681 Pruning Wisteria

If that’s one plant that’s more than likely to get us into a tied up pickle on how to prune is certainly a wisteria. Wisterias seem to have long tentacle like growths that wrap around everything in its path indeed I wonder if J K Rowling thought about wisteria when she came up with Devils snare in Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. Wisteria is actually pretty easy to train and prune, you just need to remember a few things to get the best from it

First the growth

wisteria tend to put on two types of growth, flowering growths that tend to be a short in length up to about 15cm maximum and extension growth. The flowering growths are indeed where the flowers will be borne from May onwards and the extension growth is what helps the plant to expand both in height but also these stems are designed to fit into rock spaces, expand and root and so forth produce another plant. This is part of the reason they love getting underneath slates and tiles.

img 1904 Pruning Wisteria

The shorter growths, these are the flower bearing growths

img 1903 Pruning Wisteria

The longer extension growths, these can be over 5m in length in some cases, also note the seedpods on the shorter growth.

knowing the differences between the two types of growth helps to know which ones to prune. It’s worth remembering also that wisterias can take up to 10 years to flower depending on how they are propagated, so if you can’t see any of the shorter growth on a younger Plant, it means it’s not old enough to flower yet.

It’s very easy with all this very long growth to just tie it in to the height that you want the plant to get too in the end. This ends up with a bare middle and all the growth at the top. It is worth taking time to allow the plant to fill up the gaps and build a frame work of branches up. This is done by reducing the young stems down in length to between 30-60cm. Why do this? Well whatever plant you prune it is the first 2-4 buds that will break. Having them break lower down the plant, will give you a chance to build up a frame work of branches over time. This pruning down to 30-60cm can carry on until the plant has cover the space with each new break treated the same. Once it has a good framework up or indeed the plant is already got a established framework, the extension growth should be pruned down to 3 buds above where it started growing last spring. This is done during the dormant season from December to end of February. If you need to summer prune from July onwards, prune back to 5 buds above the breaking point each time but when pruning in the winter, take these shoots hard back right down to 3 buds from where in broke in the spring. It may seem hard but by doing this, you will encourage more shorter flowering stems to form. If the plant is more established, just forget the 30-60cm training bit and cut straight to the pruning down to 3 buds. The buds on Wisterias are indeed opposite so need a slanting cut away from the bud, more information can be found on my pruning cuts blog here and part 2. Right enough words and onto the photos on how to do it

img 1906 Pruning Wisteria

New growth being cut down to 30-60cm to help form framework branches from the base up. When planting it’s also worth untwisting all the stems as eventually they will strange each other

img 1909 Pruning Wisteria

The extension growth being pruned back to 3 buds on an established framework branch.

img 1902 Pruning Wisteria

A plant before pruning with all the extension growth going a little mad!

img 1912 Pruning Wisteria

And afterwards with the extension growth pruned back to 3 buds and any new framework branches being trained in and cut back to approx 45cm.

img 2681 Pruning Wisteria

This is why we prune them as per above, this is the same plant in flower, every cm of it is covered in flower without one area being bare. It took me 4 years to get it looking like this and it was planted about 6yrs ago now. Taking time to build the framework up is very important.

img 1919 Pruning Wisteria

With older plants that haven’t had as much work done on them in the past, it is worth thinning out the older stems. I find it easier to compare them and after taking out the dead ones, remove the stems with the most length of bare stem or with the smallest amount of branches on. On a plant like this I would be looking at removing 2/3rds of the existing wood to open it up more and then start training in younger stems as a framework into the gaps. Some of the existing large branches can also be bent down to fill in the gaps as well.

img 1923 Pruning Wisteria

The finished plant and you can see how much clearer and managed it looks now. It will take about another 2-3yrs to get the plant to its best

I hope you have found this blog on pruning wisterias helpful, if I can help any more, please feel free to comment below and I will try and answer the query as soon as I can

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Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

img 1827 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

Yes we all do it, plant a plant in the wrong spot or a spot that for various reasons, ends up being the wrong spot in the end. But what to do with it? The cost of mature plants is a fair bit of £££ now and it’s such a shame to lose such a beautiful plant, and there’s that new perfect spot, Just there in the corner, it’s a perfect size, will cover that item you would like to hide quite nicely but the plants just too big to put a spade around it and heave it up. So what’s the best way of moving it and giving it the best choice of surviving. The answer is of course is to lift it with a root ball attached. This rootball is a area of fibrous roots still in their soil just lifted carefully. The key work is fibrous root system, plants that produce more of a tap root or fang type root system. Tools needed for this job are a digging spade and fork, a border spade and fork, a sheet of hessian sacking and if you are doing a lot of them, a sack needle and 4ply string.

The method is pretty easy but does take time and practise to perfect it, this is a roughly how I do it

img 1867 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

Working out the size of the rootball can be tricky, there’s no method that allows you to work out the size but more comes down to the age of the plant and how long has it been in there for. For this size shrub that’s been in the ground for a few years, I went big at just over a length of a spade. Bearing in mind it’s the fine fibrous roots you are after and they are normally found on the drip line of the shrub/tree. Once I have worked out the estimated size of the rootball, I go around the outside of the plant a little bit bigger than I require, with a spade, pushing the spade into the ground to the full depth all the way around. This is to cut though any roots that are there

img 0620 1 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

Next step to work out the exit point ie the point where you want to remove the plant from the hole. It’s important to think of it now before you start digging. Once that’s worked out, start digging a trench around the outside of your spade cut that you have made already. The areas shaded red in picture above.

img 1821 1 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

You can see the trench is formed now and the exit point has been kept clear. You need to go down a couple of spades deep. This area is your working channel for the next bit

img 1824 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

Now using a fork, gently tease back the soil until you hit the fine roots like in the picture, this bit takes time, it’s best to do a little at a time and work your way around the rootball doing this. Once you have teased some soil away, clear it out of the trench. You have to tease the soil away without putting any pressure on the rootball, so it’s almost like a flick away more than a tease. As you do this around the plant, it is also time to start going underneath as well. This is more tricky but follows the same method of going around the outside but this time you are going under! Using the curved in part of the fork, start making a slight V shape underneath the plant, again flicking the fork rather than put pressure on the rootball. Dig under the bottom of the V to give yourself a little more room. Just keep on going around until you are at least a third (preferably a bit more like 4/10ths) under on each half. Any roots can be either cut with a saw if big or just a sideways movement of the fork will snap them

img 1827 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

img 1133 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

Then you should get to a stage when the plant will be able to start moving slowly and should be able to break free of the ground. This is the time you need to be very careful of any cracks forming, these cracks can quickly destabilise the rootball making it fall apart. The stop them, it’s a case of reducing more soil from around the cracked area and so reducing the pressure on that part.

img 1868 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

Next part is to get a sheet of hessian sacking that’s approx 1m bigger in length and width than the root ball you are lifting the roll the width up until 2/3 or 1/2 way up. Then fit it underneath the rootball so the rolled upside is soil side and the flat side is rootball side. Then push this under the rootball as far as it can go, gently push the plant over slightly onto the hessian, clear a bit of soil from underneath section that was still attached and unroll and pull the hessian though, having it rolled side down makes it so much easier to pull through!

img 1135 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

Then grab the two left hand corners of the hessian and wrap together until it’s tight to the rootball and then do the same of the other side and there it is ready to lift out!

img 1137 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

If it’s too heavy to lift out of the hole, you can either make a ramp to drag it out or lay the plant on its side, add a bit of soil underneath the rootball and then push it over on top it’s opposite side and add more soil, keep on doing this until the plant is at top of the hole and can be slid out onto boards

img 1829 Step by step guide to Rootballing shrubs and small trees

It’s not an easy job, indeed it can take many years of trail and error to get right but it is certainly a skill that’s worth mastering in the garden!

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Rose and other workshops at Chawton House

img 2045 Rose and other workshops at Chawton House

Well I am delighted to announce that in conjunction with the Chawton House, we will be offering a series of garden workshops over the next year. These workshops are to be held is the beautiful surroundings of Jane Austin’s brothers Hampshire house, where Jane spent many happy days walking around the garden.

The first one on the 6th of March is looking at pruning rambling and climbing roses and the second on the 13th of March is looking at bush and shrub roses. These are all day course with a light lunch and refreshments part of the £75 ticket. There is a maximum of 15 tickets for sale for each day

img 3863 Rose and other workshops at Chawton House

I have many years of experience pruning roses after learning my trade working with the roses at Mottisfont Abbey Gardens. During these workshops, we shall be looking at the type of roses, the basics of pruning and the reasons behind it, a demonstration followed by a have-ago session with me on hand to advise you.

These workshops cover a wide range of topics looking at detail of getting the best from your roses, looking at feeding, underplanting, pests and diseases that may attack them and how to control them both organically and using chemicals. We all want Plants for nothing don’t we, here’s your chance to learn how to lift and divide Plants, learning how to divide herbaceous Plants with fibrous or more woody root plates. Unsure about what pest and diseases you have in your garden and how to treat them? Then we have a workshop for you, learn about the common pest and diseases in the garden and the ways to control them both chemically and organic!





Rose pruning-rambling and climbing roses


Early March


Rose pruning-bush and shrub

1 day

Mid March


Lifting and dividing perennial plants

1/2 day

End of March


Common pest and diseases in the garden




Herbaceous Plant staking

1/2 day



Looking after roses

1/2 day



So if you find your roses a rambling mess, no idea how to control your Hybrid Teas, please contact Chawton House to book yourself on these workshops, their details are as follows: or telephone: 01420 541010.

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Pruning cuts-how to get them right! Part 1.

img 0590 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

It’s the time of year we all start pruning the dormant summer and autumn flowering shrubs and trees and getting the pruning cuts can be crucial for some plants for so many reasons. First of all you have to remember that you are being a surgeon on the plant and you would hate to have someone cutting you up with a blunt tool so make sure the tool you are using is not only sharp (will be featuring a bit of sharpening soon) but clean as well, if in doubt, just spray it with so household cleaning product that kills 99.9% of all know germs dead! You know the one I mean.

img 1287 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

Now one thing to remember is that all plants don’t heal themselves but work to reduce the damaged area to stop fungi and other diseases entering the plant. The plant first of chemical process that reduces the risk of the wound becoming infected and then it callus over in time using callus cell in the stems of the plant. This all depends on the type of shrub or tree you are pruning. Some plants can have very thin bark with a thinner layer of callus cells that can mean the cut takes much longer to heal, roses and beech trees are good examples of this. There is a difference on age of the wood too, the younger twiggy wood doesn’t heal at the wound but near the next available bud. Again that something worth remembering for in a bit.

For this next bit, I am focusing on using secateurs and loppers and will do a bit of using saws later.

img 1613 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

First thing to look for is whether the buds are opposite each other or alternate (see pictures) this does change the angle of the cut. With plants that buds are opposite, its best to cut level just top of the buds so basically you don’t damage them. The plant will boast either one or both these buds into life in the spring. Now with alternate buds, you are looking at taking a sloping cut away just above the bud and angled so the bud is at the top of the slope. Some people think that you do that to allow the water to drain away but that’s not the main reason why, it’s done like that so the plant pushes the sap into that bud and allows that bud to break. The cut should be ideally no more than 10mm above the bud as any more above it can result in die back and the stem dying back past that next bud and down to the next, leaving more dead wood in the plant to attract in diseases. One thing to remember though, no one can get it right all the time, not even us professionals, the idea is to aim to get it right most times and try and achieve at least 80% good cuts. Hopefully the pictures below will explain a bit more.

img 1578 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

A rose has alternative buds, as you can see there’s no bud opposite

img 1579 1 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

While this Hydrangea has its buds opposite each other

img 1594 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

When pruning plants with opposite buds, you aim for a level cut just above the top of the bud

img 0586 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

This picture shows the dieback from poorly angled cuts for a rose that has alternate buds. notice the church window of doom and also the damage down into the next bud at times

img 0590 Pruning cuts how to get them right! Part 1.

The alternate bud cut at the right angle with the blue lines showing what is happening to the sap and how it pushes it towards the bud to encourage that one to break.

Well that’s the end of the first part, next time we shall look at using a pruning saw and how to make the bigger cuts with that.

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Cutting back Hellebores

015 Cutting back Hellebores

As we head towards Christmas, one of my last jobs I like to do in the garden is remove the leaves on helleborus orientalis and H. x hybridus type hybrids. These are the hellebores that shoot up the flower buds from the base of the plant while others like H.niger, H.argufolius, H x sternii etc all bear the flowers on the leave stems and these should be cut back when they have finished flowering. Helleborus orientalis are also know as Christmas roses as they start flowering roundabout Christmas time and carry on to March. Cutting back the Hellebores helps to show the flowers off much better then they bloom, on some forms, the flowers can be hidden from view by the leaves and again it makes them visible. Another advantage of pruning them back now is removing the old leaves reduces the chances of the new foliage getting hellebore leaf spot (Microsphaeropsis hellebori).

Here’s my step by step guide

img 1406 1 Cutting back Hellebores

1)A group of Hellebores ready to cut back

img 1408 Cutting back Hellebores

2) pull back the leaves to show the crown of the plant

img 1429 1 Cutting back Hellebores

3) the red circled bits are the flower buds coming up, these are the ones you want to avoid cutting with the secateurs.

img 1409 Cutting back Hellebores

4) now carefully start cutting down the stems as close to the ground as you can

img 1418 2 Cutting back Hellebores

5) I find it best to clear any old stems and leaves out from the crown of the plant as I am cutting back as it makes it clearer to see what I am cutting back and avoiding the buds

img 1425 2 Cutting back Hellebores

6) the finished clump!

015 1 Cutting back Hellebores

6) and in flower!

It’s a nice and easy job to do and one perfect for this weekend!

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Plant of the week- Vinca difformis ‘Jenny Pym’

vinca difformis jenny pym 2 Plant of the week  Vinca difformis ‘Jenny Pym’

vinca difformis jenny pym 4 Plant of the week  Vinca difformis ‘Jenny Pym’

The plant of the week this week is from a group of Plants I am not too keen on, I just find most of the vincas a bit too, well something of nothing, yes they provide good groundcover in the case of V.minor but what on earth does V.major do? So yes I was hard on this group of Plants until I saw this one in flower a few weeks ago! And Jenny Pym changed my views of this plant in a few seconds, Why you may ask, Just look at the flower! How stunning is that! It’s amazing you can change your view of Plants by just seeing one particular good form.

vinca difformis jenny pym Plant of the week  Vinca difformis ‘Jenny Pym’

Vinca difformis or the intermediate periwinkle as it is more commonly know as, is a native of Southern Europe, countries like Italy, Sardinia and Iberia where it is found growing in damp woodland areas. As it comes from the more warm parts of Europe, it’s thought to be semi tender in some parts of the uk with the Hilliers manual of trees and shrubs stating it may become herbaceous in more colder areas with the plant dying to the ground and coming back in the spring. however it’s certainly doing well in most areas without any real damage to the plant. It does prefer a shady spot in the garden but will quite happily grow in some sun as well, it does take most soils rather well, apart from very water logged soils. Like all vincas (depending on view of thought!) it makes very good groundcover, producing a dense growth up to around 30cm tall and spread can be about 60cm+ over time, something that makes it great ground cover. Growth wise, unlike other forms of Vinca, difformis puts on 2 forms of growth, a long arching form for growth and spreading about and a shorter growth of about 30cm which is from where the beautiful flowers are borne. It starts it’s main flowering in October but keeps on flowering right up to February/March but also will throw out flowers all year around. The name Vinca comes from Ancient Greek word Vinco meaning to bind, whether that’s the roots binding the soil together or the stems being used to tie things together, no one is sure which one it is, same with difformis, some thinking it means the odd shape of the flowers, other schools of thought, think it’s the 2 different types of growth from where the name comes from. Not managed to find out where the name Jenny Pym came from… anyone out there who can advise me

vinca difformis jenny pym 2 Plant of the week  Vinca difformis ‘Jenny Pym’

Planting is simple, plant into a well prepared bed, I now prefer to fork the bed over removing all weeds as possible and then add a planting mulch of composted green waste on top, nice square hole with a handful of Vitax Q4 added and that’s it. For good groundcover, try and plant about 6 of these per m2. They don’t need too much aftercare, trimming to shape in early summer if needed, reducing the long stems if they start becoming a problem. If it starts spreading too much a sharp spade is all that’s needed to reshape it, cut around the shape you require, leave the middle bit and carefully remove the rest using a fork. Pest wise, not much causes it problems, deer and rabbit proof.

You can but this plant from Dorset Perennials and Botanica. It can be found growing in many different gardens including Sir Harold Hillier Gardens where it can be found in the winter garden

2YnoBk1500924993 Plant of the week  Vinca difformis ‘Jenny Pym’
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Plant of the week- Betula albosinensis ‘Bowling Green’

betula albosinensis bowling green 3 Plant of the week  Betula albosinensis ‘Bowling Green’

betula albosinensis bowling green 3 Plant of the week  Betula albosinensis ‘Bowling Green’

This is the first time I have featured a family of Plants twice in the plant of the week but as it is the Betula I hope you will all let me off! At this time of year, bark effect is coming to the forefront. As the leaves unveil the delights they have hidden away for the summer months, the stems, seemingly polished, appear from underneath. Their stems shine out on all our winters days, from those wet, dull horrid days when they seemly glow in the dark, shining out like lighthouses in the fog to the crisp sunny ones there they shine like polished metal in the sun.

betula albosinensis bowling green 2 Plant of the week  Betula albosinensis ‘Bowling Green’

This tree is not native to the uk, indeed as the sinensis part of the name suggests, it is native to Western China where it grows between 1000-4400m above sea level in the temperate broadleaved forests. The Chinese red birch was first of all described from material collected by the French missionary Père Farges in 1899. It wasn’t introduced into Europe until one of the greatest plant hunters of all time, Ernest Wilson collected the seed and sent it back in 1901. His plant trips were sponsored by nurseries and also wealthy landowners, who would have a share of the seeds of plants collected on the trip and indeed the owners of Werrington Park in Cornwall, did just that and many years later, this form called Bowling Green was introduced. That tree grew to almost champion size and was also worthily of the great WJ Bean to include it in his great reference books ‘Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles’. A few of you may also recognise the plant featured in this blog as the one on the front cover o the Hilliers Guide to tress and shrubs.

What makes Betula albosinensis so special is the colour of its bark, while most other birches are a mix of white, this one is a mix of pinks, bright orange and red, indeed into brown with a slight hint of cream, these different colours really do shine out in the winter light. In Latin, albo means white and it’s always confusing with this tree as nothing appears white apart from the sheets of thin bark has a whitish glaucous bloom underneath. It makes a smallish tree up to 10m in height and 6m wide. The leaves are a dark green colour on top and have a slight greyish underside, they turn a lovely yellow colour in the autumn. The catkins, borne in April are quite stunning and can reach about 10cm in length.

betula albosinensis bowling green Plant of the week  Betula albosinensis ‘Bowling Green’

It can take most soils types from chalk to clay and unlike other forms of birches, it doesn’t mind drying out a little during the summer. When planting a young tree, it’s well worth adding lots of good well rotten compost with both mycorrhizal rubbed into the roots and Vitax Q4 fertiliser around the planting hole. It requires very little pruning just a little shaping. Pest wise, the worse one is the damn sawfly, who’s horrid little caterpillar will strip the tree of all the leaves within days, so watch out for it!

Betula albosinensis ‘Bowling Green, can be brought from PanGlobalPlants and BlueBell Nurseries. Gardenwise, I have only seen it at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens but would also think it would be at Wakehurst As part of the National Collection of Birch that currently grow there.

2YnoBk1500924993 Plant of the week  Betula albosinensis ‘Bowling Green’
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Chemicals or no chemicals? The great glyphosate debate

img 1231 Chemicals or no chemicals? The great glyphosate debate

The great glyphosate debate has been rumbling on and on for the past few months, both camps have been rather vocal in their condemnation of each other’s facts and reports one report saying it could cause cancer and another say it doesn’t, it has covered the whole discussion in a smoke screen of confusion. So I thought I would try and muddy the waters even more with my little view on the subject.

I suppose I have been using chemicals like roundabout since coming a professional gardener and passing the PA1 and 2, that allows all professionals to use chemicals, ones a basic measuring test, working out how much we need to use in a certain area etc and the next part is more about using the equipment ie the knapsack sprayer. That was it, I have been using them ever since and seen some big changes with the chemicals we can use and our thought processes using them. Quite a few chemicals have disappeared from our use and new ones come in, reaching for chemicals isn’t also the first thing we reach for when dealing with some insect problems.

I personally don’t like using them at all. I have had a few things go wrong using them, first time as when 20litres of mixed paraquat managed to leak all over my back, though the spray suit and on to my clothes, for those who don’t remember paraquat, it was a truly horrid chemical that was used to control weeds by chemically burning the leaves and killing the weeds. It was also highly toxic and it stank! Didn’t get any problems from it but a few years later I managed to get a lungful of soil sterilant when the 24 hrs it was supposed to take before working ended up being about 24 seconds, it wasn’t pleasant and led me to having 3 day’s off sick.

As much as I don’t enjoy using them, I can see a need for our use of chemicals in controlling pests, diseases and weeds. In the case of diseases in Plants, it’s almost the same as our need on medicine to improve our health when we are ill. But and there’s always a but, we should be doing more to improve the health of our soils, moving away from the wide spread use of non organic fertilisers, trying to add more organic matter back into the soil and making the crops we so need more healthy and more capable of fighting disease. Look at increasing the wild areas both around the fields and in our gardens to encourage more wildlife that will feed on the insect pests, use more natural barriers like hedges to stop the spread of wind borne diseases. That way we can reduce our need on the use of those chemicals

img 12251 Chemicals or no chemicals? The great glyphosate debate

But it is weed control in the form of glyphosate that is in the news at the moment as the EU decides whether to reissue the license for another 15 years. It is reportedly one of the safest chemicals to use in the garden and one that deactivates when it comes into contact with soil. But there are some reports that suggest it may cause cancer. Cancer is a terrible illness and people are right to be concerned about anything that can be a factor in causing it and I certainly agree that more and more research is needed into it. But I think the thing that frustrates me is that the two biggest causes of cancer in the uk you are available to buy in any corner shop and supermarket, tobacco and alcohol! If we are looking at reducing our risk to cancer causing substances, shouldn’t we remove those huge risks as well, I don’t smoke but I may enjoy the odd drink but I don’t have a choice when I inhale other people’s smoke while walking down the street, surely if we are looking at reducing our risk getting cancer, then more direct action is needed to remove all cancer causing chemicals from our environment starting with the ones that make the biggest contribution?

Biggest worry for me with glyphosate is that traces can be found in our food chain, big question has to be how did it get there, it is sometimes used on cereal crops like wheat to ensure the whole crop is ready at the same time, ie kill off the plants that are still green, what I don’t understand is one the crops already finishing the end of their living cycle, how the chemical is transported around the plant? In normal cases it’s absorbed into the plant and transported around the plant via osmosis and that is how Glyphosate is taken around the plant, but in dead and dying Plants, osmosis doesn’t happen so how can it be transported around the plant? My gut feeling is that it stays put on the outside and then ended up in the food chain that way? According to the various investigations, it becomes deactivated once it hits the soil so it cant enter that way can it?

img 0524 1 Chemicals or no chemicals? The great glyphosate debate

Why not just stop using it? TBH there’s not an real alternative out there at the moment and weed control is something we need both in our gardens, urban areas and within the agricultural sector. Yes there are alternatives to using chemical weed control, manual weed control is certainly one of those and I think it is the best one for our gardens, it doesn’t work that well with hard surfaces where pulling out of weeds can damage the material ie mortar. This can lead to bigger repair work using up more materials and producing waste, in other words increasing the damage to the environment. In urban and agricultural areas, going back to hoeing and hand weeding over large areas is certainly possible and would take up huge numbers of the unemployed but would push up food and flower prices and lead to higher council tax bills to pay for the extra labour needed with weed control within council ran areas. With a large number of the population on low incomes, would this really be welcome? With the amount of use food banks are getting now, many 100,000s of people are already struggling to buy food, pushing prices up even more may mean the poor in this country are even more deprived. And of course there are other methods, using a vinegar/salt based method does indeed work but with the method not researched properly, the damage caused could be as bad, with vinegar thought to cause death to bees and salt changing the ecology of the soil (take a look at the spread of sea scurvy grass on the middle lanes on the motorways). Then there’s the heat methods, the naked flame, normally using gas or hot steam or boiling water methods, one with added palm oil. It does work but what about the damage of pouring boiling liquid or treating with steam do to the soil and plant roots, how far does this hot liquid go down? What damage to bacteria, mycorrhizal, Micro insect life and plant roots will this do? No one has the answer and believe me I have asked, the research hasn’t been done on this at all, could we be causing more damage to the top 30cm of the soil? That part of the soil that provides all the basics of live on this world, we should know and understand what we are doing before starting out on anything.

img 0525 Chemicals or no chemicals? The great glyphosate debate

Personally (not that my option matters much) I think we should take this time to look at the environmental impacts of all we do to the soil and what happens if we don’t control the weeds in any given area, long term impact on repairs and plant species taking over. Good research is needed to put a long term plan of the best way to control weeds, protect the environment and be cost effective. After the mistakes of the 50/60/70s when chemicals and nitrates were used like sugar in a sweet factory, we need to make sure we use our modern research methods to get it right now for our children. I also think we need to revisit the whole use of chemical approach. Maybe instead of a once a lifetime test, we professionals should be retested every few years and the use of non professional pesticides reduced down so there application is done as per instructions and yes spot checks should happen to those professionals who do use them to make sure they are being used and stored properly. I have seen too many times of spraying being carried out in too windy weather and causing drift, people not wearing no form of protection or eye protection while using and measuring out chemicals and being used in higher quantities just to make it ‘kills the bloody stuff!’. Maybe that’s too far but something needs to change!

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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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Planting bareroot roses 

img 3342 Planting bareroot roses 

As we move more towards the middle of November, the Rose nurseries start lifting the bareroot roses from the ground. What are bareroot roses I hear some of you ask? Well there’s two main ways of buying roses, first one is in a pot with compost that allows the rose to be sold all year around and planted all year around, that’s called containerised. The second way is what is called bareroot and that is just as it sounds, the Rose is dug up without any soil and is sold on like this. As there’s no soil on the roots, this can only happen during the dormant season ie the winter. Main advantages over containerised roses is the cost, generally speaking they are much cheaper to plant this way, other advantage is you can buy a wider range of roses bareroot as it is more cost effective for the growers to grow small amounts of some varieties. It is also felt that bareroot Plants also can establish better as the root system isn’t trained into a pot and will push out into the surrounding soil much better.

Whatever the reason you wish to choose, it is a great time to order and plant bareroot roses and hopefully my simple method will help you to get the best start for them if you are trying it for the first time

img 3335 11 Planting bareroot roses 
First thing you need to do is dig a hole, the hole should be ideally about 40cm square and deep. I always do square holes as it helps to force roots out of the planting hole. With circular holes, the roots can go round and round but in square holes, they can’t, they hit a corner and then have to break out into the wider bed around them
img 3336 Planting bareroot roses 
Add about a handful of good fertiliser around the hole and at the bottom of the hole. Vitax Q4 or blood, fish and bonemeal are good choices. I also add some good compost around the hole at this stage, I prefer to use garden compost or recycled green waste product like pro grow rather than manure. This is because the manure is too strong for the mycorrhizal and will kill it off
img 1720 Planting bareroot roses 
Add some form of mycorrhizal to the bare root plant , mycorrhizal is forms of friendly fungus that live on all plant roots, they form a symbolic relationship with the plant, helping it to get up more water and nutrients from the soil, this can be up to 1/3 more. It is a naturally occurring around all plants but in cases of bareroot Plants, it’s all been left behind, so they will benefit from some being added. This will help the plant establish much quicker and grow away much stronger than one without it. There’s 2 ways of adding it at this stage, best way is to use a root dip, which is a paste mixed to wallpaper paste thick and has the mycorrhizal added to and then you just dip the roses into it. This is ideal if you are planting a lot of roses
img 3338 Planting bareroot roses 
Then you put the rose carefully into the middle of the hole, I would also aim to have the base of the rose ie where all the stems are coming from, about 25mm deeper than the surrounding soil height. if you are adding dry mycorrhizal instead of the root dip, I sprinkle half on the exposed roots now
img 3340 Planting bareroot roses 
Next stage is to work the soil into the gaps around the roots using your fingers and firming it in as you go. Once I have gone halfway up, I add the rest of the dry form of mycorrhizal if I am using it

img 3342 Planting bareroot roses 
And then back fill the rest of the soil around the plant being careful not to bury the stems of the roses. All you need to do now is tidy up any rough cut stems down to a bud, remove any weaker growths down to the base and try and aim for 3-4 good stems from the root stock, if there’s less, done worry, and enjoy the rose in the summer months

And that is all there is to it, nice and simple. If you would like further advice, please feel free to ask away 

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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’