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Plant of the week- Stachyurus praecox

stachyurus praecox 4 Plant of the week  Stachyurus praecox

stachyurus praecox 3 Plant of the week  Stachyurus praecoxAt this time of year, there’s lots happening in the plant world and it’s so difficult to choose one plant of the week, then one plant just jumps out at you and screams add me add me so you do! Stachyurus praecox is indeed one of those plants. The shear beauty of the flowers will take your breathe away and rightly so!

stachyurus praecox Plant of the week  Stachyurus praecoxStachyurus praecox is indeed a native of Japan and into the Himalayas and was discovered in Japan by the great German explorer and physician Philippine Von Siebold. He discovered and introduced many of our Japanese plants that we grow in our gardens. Stachyurus praecox in its native Japan, can be found growing around the forest edges in the warmer temperate areas of Japan and is indeed know as a pioneer shrub, meaning it is one of the first plants to grow in a newly cleared areas.

stachyurus praecox 6 Plant of the week  Stachyurus praecoxThe name comes from Greek words Stachys meaning an ear of corn and oura meaning a tail, praecox means early for the early flowering. And it does flower early, in a normal year, it flowers from February to April, but this year it has only just started flowering in the past few weeks. The tiny flowers are borne on large racemes measuring up to 5″ long on some plants and in Japan, they are pollinated by bees. The shrub itself can grow up to 3m in height over 5 years or so. The mid green coloured leaves, turn in the autumn to a blaze of oranges and yellows and it is well worth growing for the autumn colour as well.

stachyurus praecox 4 Plant of the week  Stachyurus praecoxStachyurus praecox makes a great garden plant. It prefers a semi shaded or sunny spot in the garden with the soil being on the neutral to acidic side. Stachyurus praecox prefers a well drained soil but will be happy in a sandy loam and again despite what the books and internet says, it will grow away quite happy in a clay soil. As it comes from the warmer areas of Japan, it will tolerate temperatures as low as -15c but ideally to do its best for you, it does need a sheltered spot in the garden or indeed makes an unusual wall shrub.

Stachyurus praecox is also generally pest and disease free and requires a little pruning. To get the best flowers from the shrub, some feel it’s best to remove the older wood, say anything over 4yrs old. This keeps the Plants young and healthy and the flowering wood at its best. Of course you can also leave it alone, just removing the crossing stems and dead wood. It’s also pretty easy to propagate. Stachyurus praecox comes easily from seed, laying the plant and also by semi-ripe cuttings taken in late summer

Stachyurus praecox can be found in most of the bigger botanical gardens like Kew, Wisley and Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and can be brought from good Nurseries like Burncoose of Southdown and the welsh plant chocolate shop Crûg Farm

20180226 202933 Plant of the week  Stachyurus praecox
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Plant of the week- Sophora ‘Sun King’

sophera sunking 4 Plant of the week  Sophora ‘Sun King’

sophera sunking 2 Plant of the week  Sophora ‘Sun King’This weeks plant of the week is one that just seems to flower for months and months although I feel it’s March and into April when they really are their best. It is certainly one of my favourite plants since i moment I saw it growing in Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, down near the pond, indeed it was the original plant that was introduced by Hillier Nurseries.

This original plant of Sophora ‘Sun King’ came from some seed Nothofagus seed sent to Sir Harold Hillier Gardens from Chile. When the Nothofagus germinated it was found to have an interloper amongst them, this grew into a very beautiful shrub indeed, flowering some years later. It was thought to be a form of S.microphylla although it is now thought to of been a hybrid. It was introduced by Hilliers in the late 1990’s after it had done so well at the gardens surviving many cold winters and it is indeed still growing away strong to this day, my photos are of that particular plant!

sophera sunking Plant of the week  Sophora ‘Sun King’There is a lot of rubbish spoken about Sophora ‘Sun King’ about its height and soil dislikes. It does only get to a maximum size of about 3m in height and width as a few standing shrub, trained as a wall shrub it is able to get a little taller, up to 4m in height but no where near the 8m I have seen written down. Soil wise, Sophora ‘Sun King’ will take most soils from shallow chalk to clay, (yes even read it dislikes clay, the original plant is on solid london clay!) as long as it isn’t waterlogged. Again it will take most aspects although if the garden is particularly cold, a slightly more sheltered spot is better. It flowers much better if it is in a sheltered spot. Sophora ‘Sun King’ starts producing its yellow pea like flowers after its around 8yrs old and these start appearing in January and will continue flowering well into May some years. In Chile, the flowers of Sophora sp are mainly propagated by hummingbirds but here in the uk, it’s the bees that help the process. These flowers are offset by the stunning dark green foliage with up to 40 leaflets are used to form each leaf. It is evergreen but in a very hard winter, it will drop its leaves. The Name Sophora comes from Arabic meaning a small tree with pea like flowers. Sun King is partly in homage to its Chilean roots as well as the colour of the flowers.

sophera sunking 4 Plant of the week  Sophora ‘Sun King’Sophora ‘Sun King’ has very few pests and diseases that attack it apart from the usual slugs and snails when young. Like all plants, it would benefit from a feed of Vitax Q4 in the spring as well as a compost mulch to help increase the health of the surrounding soil. Sophora ‘Sun King’ is propagated by grafting on to a rootstock of Sophora microphylla in the late winter early spring. It is very difficult to propagate from cuttings although I have heard of people succeeding using Air layering methods.

Sophora ‘Sun King’ is now widely available from most nurseries and is seen in most big gardens like RHS Wisley but it’s Sir Harold Hillier Gardens where the original plant is still growing strong

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Plant of the week- Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’

camellia x williamsii j c williams 2 Plant of the week  Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’

camellia x williamsii j c williams Plant of the week  Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’One of the sure signs of spring to me has to be the camellias opening up. I know that their are forms like C. sansanqua types, like the one I featured late last year. But those just start the Camellia season and it’s not until the main flowering groups like C.japonica, C.retectulata and of course the C.x williamsii hybrids start flowering in their droves I feel that winter is on its way out.

Camellia x williamsii are a cross between Camellia japonica and Camellia saluenensis. This hybridisation was done on purpose by the great plantsmen J C Williams and Col. Stephenson Clarke at Borde Hill Gardens. It was John Charles Williams who made the first cross in 1923 down in his great garden in Cornwall called Caerhays. The Williams family supported many plant hunting trips by some of our greatest plant hunters and some of the wonders grow quite happy in this real plantsperson garden. The magnolias are of particular note, with some of the very best cambellii trees in the uk. It was indeed at the walls of Caerhays, Camellia saluenensis flowered for the first time in the uk and was crossed soon after by J C Williams to form the Camellia x williamsii hybrids. Indeed from the first batch of seedlings, Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’ was selected and named.

camellia x williamsii j c williams 3 Plant of the week  Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’

Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’ starts the odd flower from the end of November and it can flower right up to the end of March but I feel in February it is at its best. It’s single flowers range from light pink to a dark pink, are highlighted by the dark green foliage. Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’ is also one of the best hybrids to grow on a wall, preferably one that does get a little shade. Over time Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’ can make a shrub up to 5m high and 3m across but if you don’t have the space, they can be lightly pruned after flowering. If it does get too big, camellias can be reduced down to stumps if required.

Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’ is like all other Camellias in the the fact it does grow best in lime free soil, ideally one that hold moisture well but is also free draining. It is effected by few pests, scale insects are the worse, they live under the leaves and drop their honeydew poo onto the leaves below, Black sooty mould then grows on this, making the plant look unsightly. It is also pretty resistant to Honey Fungus so maybe worth adding to a spot where the existing plant has been killed off by the disease.

camellia x williamsii j c williams 2 Plant of the week  Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’ is also pretty easy to grow, a yearly feed of Vitax Q4 and a mulch of well rotted compost just after it has finished flowering would be ideal. As would watering if we get a dry spell in mid-late summer as this is when the flowering buds are formed. Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’ can be easy propagated by heal cuttings in late summer. These are short lengths of newish growth, ideally a couple of years old, pulled gently off a cut branch so some of the existing branch is still there and gives it a heal. These cuttings are best given a little bit of heat in a propagator and should start to grow away before the winter months.

Camellia x williamsii ‘J C Williams’ can be seen in most large gardens that have a good Camellia collection like RHS Wisley and is quite widely sold. Burncoose of Southdown, in Cornwall are still owed by a branch of the Williams family and it’s well worth ordering one from there

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Changing world of plant names, confusion or clarity

aster little carlow 2 Changing world of plant names, confusion or clarity

img 0736 Changing world of plant names, confusion or clarity

The plant commonly known as the Iceplant, former Latin name sedum spectabilis ‘Autumn Joy’ now Hylotelephium Herbstfreude

Now we all need names for the plants and we all need to know what plant is meant by that name. Common names can vary so much not only from county to county but also country to country so it was very important to have a name form that everyone commonly understand. I can remember as a young trainee being told that Latin was the only name to learn and I have kept that up up today, nearly some 30 odd years ago.

img 0855 Changing world of plant names, confusion or clarity

Mexican feathergrass is the common name of is Nassella tenuissima formally know as Stipa tenuissima

The use of Latin names as we know it, was set up by the great botanist Carl Linnaeus, who is know as the Father of taxonomy. In 1735, he published the first addition of his famous works, Systema Naturae, which laid out his system of categorising plants into various family’s and groups. These where all named by their reproduction systems, Both in numbers and arrangements. This system has been used ever since. In 1867 the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) was first set up to carry on writing the guide lines for nomenclature and carried on this work until 2011 when it went under a big change and became International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN). The guidelines are used by botanists to write papers on why a particular plant should be changed, reasons including older names from which with Plant as first named but never caught one. International Association for Plant Taxonomy is the group that agrees the Plant name changes, these changes are written by botanists and have to have all the information and supporting documents explaining why the plants should change and now with the use of DNA, it can be proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the plant should be in its own family or indeed moved to another family. And it this DNA technology that is the reason we have so many plant changes happening over the past few years and I am afraid to say will be happening a lot more in the future.

Now I agree it’s right that plants should be known by the correct Latin name and like a true professional I will do my best to learn the new name, how ever difficult it is to say! A lot of these changes I can totally understand, Sedum speciblis ‘Autumn Joy’ so different from the smaller alpine forms so it does make sense to change it to Hylotelephium Herbstfreude but my gripe isn’t about it changing for me but the fact it causes so much confusion to the trade and general public that may of known this plant under that name for 20 odd years and suddenly it’s not there in one Nursery under that name but in another under its old name, magazines add to the confusion, taking ProLandscaper as a example, last year in one magazine, it had Stipa tenuissima Both as it’s old name of Stipa and it’s new one Nassellatenuissima again adding to the confusion. With more changes on the horizon like Iris possibly being spilt into 18 different names, this confusion is going to happen more and more. What we need if possible is some sort of agreement with trade, press and public gardens that each part of our industry agrees to put these new names in place within a certain timescale of say maybe 5 years during which the old name maybe is in brackets after the new one? Maybe better signage on sites would also let people know and get used to the new name. Changing anything let alone labels does cost so there’s always a cost involved, one well know Nursery told me they had a 60% drop in sales on the from aster family members that changed too Symphyotrichum and Eurybia.k

aster little carlow 2 Changing world of plant names, confusion or clarity

Was Aster little Carlow now Symphyotrichum ‘little Carlow’

But I suppose my biggest problem with it, is my internal one, we advise people to learn the Latin names as that’s the name that everyone knows it as worldwide, common names differ in different areas of the uk let alone around the world. It also the most stable name for the plant, one that explains how it grows, who discovered it etc. But by changing in as big away as is currently happening, aren’t we just adding more confusion into the world of gardening? Plant names are hard enough to remember without changing. Seeing bits and pieces on social media and talking to people as well, it seems to me there’s a 3rd level of plant names occurring, botanical latin is the first, common names the second and the new one gardeners Latin. Gardeners Latin is the form when the old name is used instead of the new one. Whether you agree or disagree, that to me seems to be happening, maybe until it’s all sorted out a little more and the names become more we’ll known, that’s what is going to have to be done and let’s be honest, changing a name from a simple one to a more complex name is going to take a long time to catch on, we need to give it time and for everyone one supplying and growing the plant in the public domain to be on board, let’s be honest, that sadly won’t happen but let hope!

049 Changing world of plant names, confusion or clarity

Bleeding Hearts used to be called Dicentra spectabilis but is now Lamprocapnos spectabilis

Whatever the name or indeed how difficult it is to say or learn, don’t forget it is still an amazing form of life on our planet and the beauty is there no matter what tag with give it or call it. And names are just tags, given to plants so we can identify them, if you want to enjoy their beauty just as nature intended without boxing it in, well there’s no harm in that what so ever.

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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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Plant of the week-Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectabilis

phyllostachys aureosulcata f spectabilis 1 Plant of the week Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectabilis

phyllostachys aureosulcata f spectabilis 3 Plant of the week Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectabilis

Well it’s time for another large group of plants I haven’t featured before, bamboos. They are a very useful group of plants as well, even more so at this time of year, as their bright canes help to enhance the winter garden and there is no bamboo that can do this better than Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectablis.

phyllostachys aureosulcata f spectabilis Plant of the week Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectabilis

Phyllostachys aureosulcata is also know as the yellow-groove bamboo. It is a native of Zhejiang Province, Eastern China and was introduced in the USA in around 1901. In its native sites, it grows on the edges of woodlands and into woodland glades. Bamboos are normally divided up into clump forming and runners. Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectablis is a clump forming bamboo and can make a very big plant up to 7m in height and well over 3m wide. Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectablis has stunning yellow stems, that unlike others in the family, has a green strip in the distinctive groove in the back of the canes, hence the common name. They also sometimes make Zig Zag shape kinks in the canes as well. When the new canes emerge from the ground they are called Colms. With Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectablis they emerge with a pinkish tinge to them and are quite beautiful indeed. The name Phyllostachys is derived from the Greek phyllon meaning ‘leaf’ and stachys meaning ‘spike’. Aureosulcata is derived from the Latin aurea meaning ‘golden’ and sulcus meaning ‘furrow’.

phyllostachys aureosulcata specabilis 4 Plant of the week Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectabilis

Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectablis is a pretty tough bamboo, it will grow in most soils but it does prefer to be in sun or semishade. Even though it is a clump forming bamboo, it still can send out underground stems called rhizomes that help it spread into new areas. It is best to encase the bamboo in a root barrier, leaving enough room for the plant to grow. These clump forming bamboos tend to spread if they run out of food and water, so the best idea to keep them from spreading is to mulch once per year in the spring with garden compost, green waste and ensure that it has enough water during the dry spells. Each cane or colm, grows to its maximum height within 1 year. It is a good idea in each spring to remove a few of the older weaker canes from the clump to keep the clump looking young. It also give the new colms room to grow within the clump. The worse thing you can do is try and control the spread by removing the new canes, this will make the plant want to spread even more as it feels it’s under threat in this space. In the autumn it is also worth removing the lower leaves on the stems up to 5ft to let the stems shine though. Only other maintenance required is cutting back any rhizomes that spread from the plant. It is pretty disease free and is only propagated by dividing up the main clump.

It’s height and size makes it prefect to block off not so pleasant views from the garden so is excellent as either a specimen plant or as a screening plant.

It can be found at Both Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and round RHS Wisley. It can be brought from many Nurseries including The Big Plant Nursery and Burncoose of Southdown.

phyllostachys aureosulcata specabilis Plant of the week Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectabilis

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The great Snowdrop addiction

galanthus gone fishing The great Snowdrop addiction

img 2999 The great Snowdrop addiction

As soon as Big Ben finishes chiming into the new year, I start seeing the little green spires appearing though the soil and my heart starts to race a little faster. What delights could do that to a fully grown man? Not the start of hops appearing, but the slow start of the snowdrops slowly appearing. These tiny bulbs, with their snowy white flowers are now the equivalent to 17th tulipmania, with some of the bulbs reaching a massive £1300 a few years ago.

img 9748 The great Snowdrop addiction

I have always wondered what the magic was with them, yes I loved the massive displays of Galanthus nivalis, carpeting gardens and woodlands as far as the eyes can see, but I couldn’t see the differences between all the different forms , then one year a couple of years back, it twigged and somehow I started on the slippery slope of becoming a galanthophile!

galanthus franz josef 2 The great Snowdrop addiction

Everything about the snow drop is charming from the Latin name derived from Ancient Greek meaning the milk flower and there are so many common names like Candlemas Bells, White Ladies and Fair maids of February, all describing the first real carpeting flower over the season. Snowdrops are seen to to portray purity, hope and rebirth by most although the Victorian’s it mean death and sorry and was considered to be a harbinger of death. That’s not surprising considering the bulbs are indeed poisonous. However it is used in modern medicine though the compound Galanthamine to treat Alzheimer’s, nervous problems and being researched for use in treating HIV.

img 0604 The great Snowdrop addiction

Although they are spread all around the country they are not a native of the uk but of Greece, they have been spread around Europe and the uk possibly by monks. Some of the best collections happen to be around sites of old Abbeys and there is a old Christian belief that snowdrops represent the Virgin Mary and every candlemas day that falls on the 2nd of February, snowdrops are scattered on the altar in place of her picture. Indeed there are so many traditions surrounding the Snowdrop from all different countries, it is so easy to see how it has become such a desired plant. These tales both encompass Christianity like Eve when she left the garden of Eden, God sent snow to her, as she sat weeping, a angel appeared and took a snowflake, breathed on it and and when it touched the ground, a Snowdrop appeared or the Moldovan one where the Winter Witch didn’t want to let go on her hold of the season when the Lady Spring arrived, a fight broke out between then, the Winter Witch struck Lady Spring and from where her blood touched the ground, a Snowdrop grew and Lady Spring had won the battle. With such lovely tales, how can you not fall in love with a simple Snowdrop?

galanthus trym 2 The great Snowdrop addiction

. Galanthus ‘Trym’

Now what are the signs of this addiction? Well it starts with ground watching or in my case, pot watching! Every day, just checking to see how much the shoots have grown. Every day the shoots grow and slowly a flash of white starts to appear and then gets bigger and bigger until it slowly opens and there is the most simple but pure looking flower you could ever wish for. Then you start buying them! Maybe just the odd one to start with, you know Just with the slight differences to the common forms G. Nivalis, but that obsession grows until you start spending time looking at all the other snowdrops falling in love with their broad wide take on the simple colours of mainly green and white, seeing forms that have lovely green tips and green veining like Rosemary Burnham, tall forms like Fred’s Giant, small forms like Tiny Tim and not forgetting the more yellow forms like Wendy’s Gold. Whatever form you like, there’s loads to grow. Go on try a few different ones and see how you get on but be warned, they are really addictive once you start………

img 1753 1 The great Snowdrop addiction

Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’

galanthus nivalis pusey green tip 2 The great Snowdrop addiction

Galanthus ‘Pusey Green Tips’

galanthus magnet 3 The great Snowdrop addiction

Galanthus ‘Magnet’

galanthus mighty atom The great Snowdrop addiction

Galanthus ‘Mighty Atom’

galanthus gone fishing The great Snowdrop addiction

Galanthus ‘Gone Fishin’

galanthus sallys double The great Snowdrop addiction

Galanthus ‘Sally’s Double’

galanthus elwesii comet 3 The great Snowdrop addiction

Galanthus elwesii ‘Comet’

galanthus james backhouse 4 The great Snowdrop addiction

Galanthus ‘James Backhouse’

To finish off here’s a poem

Stunning spring is my favourite season

She swirls her skirts and drapes the garden in her finest clothes

Dressing the naked winter trees and bushes with bright brilliant foliage

Spring showers us with confetti of pink cherry blossom petals in the warm breeze

Gently opening the eyes of the snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils

They crane their necks from the melting snow and smile sweetly

Creating colour and scent in our glorious gardens

Written by Jan Allison

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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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Mistletoe and how to grow it

img 1577 Mistletoe and how to grow it

img 1576 Mistletoe and how to grow it

Mistletoe (Viscum album) is in most homes at this time of the year, indeed it’s history has deep roots into ancient England and Europe. Those fans of Asterix, will know of the Druid Getafix would be spending his time looking and finding mistletoe to use in his various potions and indeed it was actually set to facts. The druids cut mistletoe using a golden sickle from an oak tree on the 6th night of a new moon after the winter solstice. At the same time 2 white bulls were also scarified as a thank you for the mistletoe. It was then divided up amongst the villagers and hung above their doorways to prevent evils like lighting hitting the house. The druids also thought that the berries were indeed the sperm of the gods and used as a magical aphrodisiac. The leaves where also made into a tea and drink to ward off all kinds of evil like witchcraft, poisoning ect.

img 1575 Mistletoe and how to grow it

The Norse tale of mistletoe is also a good one. The most loved of all Norse gods was Balder, his mum, the goddess Frigga, so loved her son, she went around the world making peace treaties with all apart from the Loki, an evil spirt, who made an arrow from a mistletoe branch and used it to kill Balder. Frigga’s tears became the white berries and then Balder is restored to life and the plant mistletoe, becomes a symbol of love. Even in the Anglo-Saxon times, the mistletoe was a symbol of love goddess Freya and a kiss under the mistletoe was seen as a marriage proposal.

img 1577 Mistletoe and how to grow it

Throughout history, this plant has been a focus in our lives, mainly I think for its odd life cycle. Unlike most plants, it doesn’t grow in soil but is indeed what is called a hemiparasite. Hemiparasite are parasitic plants that need to grow on a host plant and use them for most of water and nutrients but the European mistletoe does have green leaves and does photosynthesise so can not be called a parasitic plant but a hemiparasite. It’s lifecycle is indeed fascinating too. It has male and female plants and it’s of course the female plants that have the white berries. It does need a host plant to live on and this European species can be found growing on over 200 species of trees but does favour members of the Rosacea family like apples, where it was grown like a second crop. As it does grow on a host species it can weaken it over time if it gets too big size wise. When his happens, it weakens the stem above the mistletoe clump, leaving it prone to dieback and breaking off, this is a particular problem in trees prone for breakages like populars and Robinias. Also if the mistletoe takes over the whole tree, it can increase the chances of the tree being blown over in strong winds. Best way to control the size and weight of the mistletoe on a tree is to prune it back hard if it getting too big. This doesn’t do it any harm what so ever and it will happily regrow away.

Mistletoe is however a very clever plant when it comes to reproducing itself. It’s made it’s berries very sticky indeed! Why may this be useful? Well for it to reproduce successfully, the seed needs to be on a host tree branch, normal seeds from other plants are normally eaten by the birds and pass though its digestive system and come out the other end, this is a bit hit and miss where the bird poo ends up! So they developed very sticky White berries that aren’t attractive to most birds, just ones that know how to deal with it best, Mistle thrushes and mainly Blackcaps. Whilst the Mistle Thrush tends to swallow a few whole, mainly them and the Blackcaps pick off the berries carefully on their beaks and wipe the berries onto the tree branches. This helps them push the inedible seed to one side and allows them to eat the edible pulp and skin. This is exactly what the mistletoe needs to germinate. First the little green leaves open and the root tries to push into the bark of the tree, this is the stage which is most difficult and the reason they do have a high failure rate but once the root has broken though, the young plant can then start taking the water and nutrients from the host plant and using its own photosynthesis, turn it into food for itself. Knowing how the birds spread mistletoe around makes it easy for us to do the same if required, just squeeze the seeds out of the pulp onto a good host plant like an apple tree, lime tree and that’s it, doesn’t need you to make a cut into the tree, cover with hessian as done in the past, just nice and simple. It’s worth doing this with at least 10 seeds to make sure you get a couple to germinate.

img 2002 Mistletoe and how to grow it

A wiped seed on a branch ready to germinate

img 2005 Mistletoe and how to grow it

Mistle thrush poo on a apple tree branch

img 2001 1 Mistletoe and how to grow it

Mistletoe a year after germinating

Next thing is in a few years time you have mistletoe to enjoy at Christmas from your own plant.

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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’