HOW TO GROW THE STONE PINE - Pinus picea

How to grow the stone pine

Cultivated in Europe for approximately 2000 years, the Stone pine is a hardy, ornamental conifer noted for its umbrella-shaped canopy and edible seeds. Known commonly also as the umbrella pine or Italian stone pine, it is native throughout the coastal areas of Mediterranean Europe usually found growing on coastal dunes and flats.

Harvesting stone pine nuts
The Stone pine (so called due to its large, stone-like seeds) is a distinctive-looking small to medium tree, which under favourable conditions can grow to at least 12 metres tall and 8 metres wide. It will usually grow with a single trunk that can be up to 1 metre in diameter, or occasionally will forks into multiple stems low to the ground. It has a dense, flat-topped umbrella-like appearance with thick, fire-resistant bark and large shiny, nut-brown cones. The stiff, and slightly twisted, needle-like leaves are formed in pairs and can be up to 15 cm long. The bark is orange to reddish-brown and will break into large, hard plates divided by deep irregular fissures as it matures.

Stone pine cones and nuts
The cones can also be up to 15 cm long, and take a full three years to mature. They are harvested with hooked poles which release the cones allowing them to fall to the ground for collection. They are then heated to release the large seeds (which commonly purchased as pine nuts), which were considered a delicacy by Roman soldiers.

The Stone pine will grow in any well-drained soil so long as it is planted in full sun. It will also perform well in sandy and nutritionally poor soil and is proven to be drought tolerant once established.

Avoid shady positions, especially in cooler northern European climates. It should be mentioned that while it is hardy enough to tolerate winters in the United Kingdom it will be too cold for the cones to mature. The Stone pine will tolerates strong winds, but not maritime exposure.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW THE STONE PINE - Pinus picea
HOW TO GROW THE WOLLEMI PINE

ORNAMENTAL FLOWERING PLANTS FOR AUTUMN COLOUR


For many gardeners, autumn is the time for preparing the garden for winter. The lawn has stopped growing (hopefully), the leaves are turning on the trees and there is a crisp bite in the air that suggests you go back indoors and make a cup of tea.

However, as the nights are drawing in and most plants species are in the process of dropping their seeds, there is n reason why the garden should remain a landscape of green. Chose wisely and even in November you can still have a riot of colourful blooms - at least until the first hard frost! Incidentally, the majority of the autumn flowering plants are from the Americas.

So to save hours of research, check out my top ornamental flowering plants for autumn colour.

Rudbeckia species and cultivars

Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy'
As one of my favourite autumn perennials, the genus Rudbeckia gets the top spot. Commonly known as coneflowers or black-eyed-susans, all species are native to North America. All species are herbaceous and mostly perennial plants (although some are annual or biennial) growing to between 0.5–3 m tall.

Arguable the most ornamental are cultivars of Rudbeckia hirta. 'Cherry Brandy' is a particularly attractive example, although it is not fully hardy and will need protection from frosts in cold areas. However cultivars of Rudbeckia fulgida also worth considering

Helenium species and cultivars

Helenium 'Summer Circle'
Closely related to the genus Rudbeckia, Helenium is a genus of annuals and deciduous herbaceous perennials native to the Americas. They may be upright, clump-forming annuals, biennials or herbaceous perennials with simple leaves and showy daisy-like flower-heads which flower over a long period.

Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty' is a particular favourite as is the cultivar 'Summer Circle'.

Grow in any fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Provide support for best results and cut down dead stems in november. Divide and replant every few years to improve flowering.

Verbena bonariensis

Native to tropical South America, Verbena bonariensis is a tall and slender-stemmed perennial. It bears sparse, oblong leaves and large branched clusters of small, purple flowers.

Growing to approximately 120 cm tall, it will grow well in a moist but well-drained or well-drained, moderately fertile soil in full sun. In cold areas, protect with a dry winter mulch

Cut down stems in the spring as new growth emerges from the base. The spent flowers can be deadheaded in the autumn if seed is not required

Anemone hupehensis

Commonly known as the Japanese anemone, Anemone hupehensis is flowering herbaceous perennials and a native to central China. The Japanese common name is due to it being naturalised in Japan for centuries.

It has an erect habit, growing to a height of approximately 75cm. It will be happy growing in any garden soil but avoid excessive winter wet.

Be aware that Anemone hupehensis can spread rapidly once established and can be difficult to eradicate
Nerine bowdenii

Nerine bowdenii
God bless Nerine bowdenii, as they are the brightest show of any plants at this time of year. Commonly known as the 'Guernsey lily', it is a hardy, herbaceous, bulbous perennial native to the mountainsides of South Africa.

Nerine bowdenii is the most commonly found species available to purchase, but that is because it is the hardiest and most reliable.

In colder areas it can be overwintered using the protection of a dry mulch such as bracken or straw, or grit. Just make sure that the mulch does not become too wet which can cause the bulbs to rot.

Sedum spectabile cultivars

Sedum spectabile 'Purple Emperor'
Sedum spectabile is already a popular drought-tolerant garden plant noted for its ornamental succulent leaves and 'butterfly-attracting nectar rich blooms. Now while not as popular with beneficial insects the cultivars, Sedum 'Brilliant' has a far richer flower colour, while the cultivars 'Purple Emperor', 'Matrona' and 'Jose aubergine' also display stunning foliage colour.

Grow Sedum spectabile cultivars in any moderately fertile, but well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil. It will need a position that receives full sun to promote flowering and encourage a compact habit.
Salvias

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'
The genus Salvia contains approximately 1000 species, but it is the late summer to autumn flowering species from Central and South America that are of most interest for the purposes of this article. Perennial species and cultivars such as Salvia elegans, Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips', Salvia patens and Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' are a particular favourite, but can be tender in regions with experience freezing, wet conditions.

Ornamental Salvias are best grown in full sun in well-drained soil with shelter from cold winds.

For related articles click onto the following links:
BUY RUDBECKIA HIRTA 'Cherry Brandy' SEEDS
HOW TO GROW RUDBECKIA FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW SEDUM FROM CUTTINGS
ORNAMENTAL FLOWERING PLANTS FOR AUTUMN COLOUR

HOW TO GROW THE SNAKE'S HEAD FRITILLARY - Fritillaria meleagris


The Snake's Head Fritillary - Fritillaria meleagris, is a perennial, bulbous plant from the lily family, noted for its large chequered blooms. First described in the 16th century by botanist, herbalist and author of the author of the most widely circulated botany book in English in the 17th century (Generall Historie of Plantes) John Gerard (c. 1545–1612), it is a popular garden plant native to Europe and western Asia

How to grow the Snake's Head Fritillary
Once commonplace in England, particularly in the ancient hay meadows of the Thames Valley and parts of Wiltshire, it is now rarely seen due to modern farming practices introduced during World War II. The genus name Fritillaria comes from the Latin 'fritillus' meaning dice-box while the species name meleagris means 'spotted like a guinea fowl'.

You can purchase the Snake's Head Fritillary either as bulbs in the autumn or in bloom as pot grown specimens in the spring. They will thrive in reliably moist, well-drained soil that has been previously enriched with organic matter. If not then add plenty of leafmould, well-rotted farm manure or garden compost to the soil prior to planting.

When growing the Snake's Head Fritillary from bulbs, be aware that they are are fragile so always handle them with care. Plant them at a depth of 10 cm and with a spacing of 10 cm apart. Fritillary bulbs can be prone to rotting in areas which experience cold, wet winters. In this instance either plant the bulbs on their sides or within a pocket of horticultural grit sand. This will help to avoid water collecting in their hollow crowns and to prevent the bulbs from rotting.

If you are looking to create a natural looking drift gently cast the bulbs across the planting area and plant them where they land.

In the autumn it is essential to allow the foliage to die back naturally as this will provide energy for the bulb and improve flowering the following year.

Main image - Attribution: Sten Porse https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW THE WINTER ACONITE - Eranthis hyemalis
WINTER ACONITE - Eranthis hyemalis
HOW TO GROW THE GIANT HIMALAYAN LILY - Cardiocrinum giganteum
HOW TO GROW THE GIANT HIMALAYAN LILY FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW THE FOXTAIL LILY
HOW TO GROW THE SNAKE'S HEAD FRITILLARY - Fritillaria meleagris
HOW TO PROPAGATE THE FOXTAIL LILY

HOW AND WHEN TO PRUNE SPIREA

How and when to prune Spirea

The genus Spiraea contains approximately 100 species of deciduous shrubs. Native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere, although the majority of species are found in eastern Asia, they are noted for their blooms and in some cases (such as Spiraea 'Goldflame') exceptional ornamental foliage.

Spiraea nipponica 'Snowmound' pruned after flowering
To encourage a compact habit and to promote larger blooms, Spiraea x bumalda and Spiraea japonica species and cultivars should be cut back to within 8-12 cm of ground level in late February to early March. All other species should be trimmed back to shape immediately after the main flowering period.

Overgrown shoots and stems can be removed from the base at anytime during the growing season. Mature, neglected plants which need to be brought back under control should be cut back to within 25-30 cm of ground level as soon as leaf drop occurs in the Autumn.

However there is no need to worry if you cut back too much at what is accepted to be the wrong time of year. Severely pruned back Spiraea will almost always grow new stems from the base in the spring, all of these will be capable of producing flower buds.

Note. Turn the clock back 20 or even just 10 years ago and Spiraea species and cultivars were well known for being generally trouble-free. However today they are prone to a range of fungal attacks such as Cylindrosporium Leaf Spot, Powdery Mildew and unfortunately even fireblight! With that in mind, if you have more than one Spiraea specimen in the garden always clean your cutting tools (secateurs, garden shears etc) before moving on to another plant. This will help to reduce the risk of disease transference.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW AND WHEN TO PRUNE SPIREA
HOW TO GROW EXOCHORDA x MACRANTHA 'The Bride'
HOW TO GROW SPIRAEA ARGUTA 'BRIDAL WREATH'
HOW TO GROW SPIRAEA JAPONICA 'GOLDFLAME'

HOW TO GROW OSMANTHUS DELAVAYI


Unimaginatively known as the Delavay osmanthus, Osmanthus delavayi is gem of an ornamental evergreen shrub noted for its fragrant spring blooming. Native to southern China, it was discovered for western science in 1890 by Jesuit missionary-botanist Fr Pierre Jean Marie Delavay (hence the species name) in the mountains near Lan-kong in the Yunnan province.

How to grow Osmanthus delavayi
Osmanthus delavayi is a slow-growing, medium-sized shrub which under favourable conditions will reach a height and spread of between 2.5-4 metres. The dark-green, rounded or ovate, sharply-toothed opposite leaves are up to 2.5cm in length. Abundant small, highly-scented jessamine-like white flowers are produced in clusters and are freely produced in April. These are then followed by small, blue-black berries.

It is best planted between October and March during suitable weather in any well-drained soil. Position in full sun or partial shade, but sheltered from north and east winds. Osmanthus delavayi makes for an ideal specimen in woodland gardens

Osmanthus delavayi received the Award of Merit (AM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1923, the First Class Certificate (FCC) in 1931, and the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993

For related articles click onto the following links:

WHEN AND HOW TO PRUNE BACK CHOISYA TERNATA

When and how to prune back Choisya ternata https://maddergardener.files.wordpress.com/


Native to southern North America, Choisya ternata is an aromatic, evergreen shrub commonly known as the 'Mexican orange' or 'Mock orange'. Grown primarily for their abundant and fragrant flowers

When and how to prune back Choisya ternata
To maintain the shape of Choisya ternata, just thin out an straggly shoots immediately after the main flowering. In colder, northern European gardens, the foliage is liable to be damaged from frost damage. Any frost damaged shoots should be removed entirely in March. New shoots will then appear from the base.

Choisya ternata does not require regular pruning however as they begin to approach their maximum height and width of approximately 2 metres, they can overshadow smaller species and extend out from the borders onto paths and walkways. Just be aware that Choisya ternata flower on the new seasons wood, so if you want to have flowers the following any hard cuts will need to be made immediately after flowering. This will result in the exposure of unsightly woody growth but this will need to be tolerated to get an unruly specimen under control.

It's not all bad news though because if you look carefully you will see plenty of young shoots already formed lower down in the shrub. Now that they are no longer shaded by the mature growth they will quickly grow to fill the available space.

For related articles click onto the following links:
WHEN AND HOW TO PRUNE BACK CHOISYA TERNATA
WHEN AND HOW TO PRUNE COTINUS COGGYGRIA 'VELVET CLOAK'
WHEN AND HOW DO YOU PRUNE BACK GARRYA ELLIPTICA

HOW TO GROW ACANTHUS SPINOSUS

How to grow Acanthus spinosus

Commonly known as the 'Spiny Bear's Breech', Acanthus spinosus is an ornamental herbaceous flowering and foliage plant native to southern Europe. Introduced to Britain by the Romans who boiled the roots for poultices, it is now a popular hardy garden plant due to its deeply cut leaves and tall racemes of two-lipped flowers which are housed within coloured bracts (modified leaf often associated with flowers).

How to grow Acanthus spinosus
It is similar, and arguably more attractive, species than the commonly planted Acanthus mollis, but with a denser and less invasive habit. Under favourable condition you can expect Acanthus spinosus to grow to an approximate height of 150 cm and a width of 60–90 cm. The dark green, lanceolate leaves are deeply cut and spiny. The purple-veined, white blooms appear in late spring and summer from within spiny purple-green bracts.

Plant Acanthus spinosus from October and March in a sunny or lightly shaded position. They prefer a deep, well-drained soil and will tolerate exposed conditions. Once established they have proven drought tolerance.

Avoid disturbing the plants unless they become overcrowded. However at this point, and preferably when the plants are dormant in the winter, they can be lifted and divided.

After flowering cut the stems back to ground level.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW ACANTHUS SPINOSUS
HOW TO GROW MONKSHOOD - Aconitum napellus

THE PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLY

The Painted Lady butterfly - Vanessa cardui

Despite is association with English gardens, the Painted Lady butterfly - Vanessa cardui, is actually a long distance migrant species native to North Africa. However its range in not just limited to these two regions. It is in fact one of the most widespread of all butterflies, and found on every continent except for Antarctica and South America.

The Painted Lady butterfly - Vanessa cardui
It is a large, orange-brown (sometimes pinkish) species with black markings and with black wingtips that contain white markings. The underside has a pale marbling of similar colours, and a small eye-spots on the rear edges of the hindwings. The adult wingspan usually sits between 54-58 mm.

The majority of the migrant population will arrive in the UK from May to June with numbers varying from year to year. Research has shown that the Painted Lady’s migration pattern does not follow a strict northwest heading to the UK. There is a range of headings which suggests that the butterflies may adjust their migration patterns in response to both local topographical features and weather patterns.

The Painted Lady caterpillar - Vanessa cardui
The Painted Lady butterflies immediately mate and lay eggs as soon as they arrive in the Mediterranean in the spring (May onwards), and will continue to reproduce throughout their migration to the UK.

The eggs are laid singularly, and start off green in colour turning more brown as they mature. The caterpillars are up to 28 mm in length, and a blackish colour with fine white speckling with a yellow line along the side. The spines are usually black or yellow-ish. The pupa is greenish grey, sometimes with a metallic sheen.

The food plants of the caterpillars will include thistles, mallows, burdocks, viper's bugloss and nettles, The adults feed from buddleia, burdocks, brambles amongst others.

For related articles click onto the following links:
THE PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLY

HOW TO GROW SEDUM SPECTABILE 'AUTUMN JOY'

How to grow Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy'

Now re-classified as the unpronounceable Hylotelephium spectabile 'Herbstfreude', Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy' is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial, the true species of which is native to China and Korea.

How to grow Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy'
It is a popular garden plant not due to its ability to cope with drought, but for its nectar rich blooms which provide a valuable late summer source of food for butterflies and other insects. It is even recommended by Butterfly Conservation and the Royal Horticultural Society no less for attracting butterflies into the garden.

Under normal conditions you can expect Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy' to achieve an approximate height and spread of between 0.1-0.5 metres. Once near their maximum height, the stems can be prone to collapsing like a ring of dominoes. However if this habit offends you then consider cutting back one third of the new growth in May. This will result in slightly smaller (but more numerous) flowers and less leggy growth.

 It has broadly ovate white-green succulent leaves that can appear in twos or threes at each node.

The pink flower heads appear from September to October in flat cymes which can be up to 15 cm across.

Grow Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy' in any moderately fertile, well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Just make sure that it is positioned in full sun. The best time of year to plant is during suitable weather between October and April.

Cut back after flowering to maintain shape or leave seedheads overwinter and remove the spent stems in the spring.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW SEDUM FROM CUTTINGS
HOW TO GROW SEDUM SPECTABILE 'AUTUMN JOY'
THE PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLY