How to grow Physoplexis comosa


Despite being a fascinating and much sought after alpine specimen, Physoplexis comosa is sadly rarely seen outside of botanical gardens and specialist nurseries.  Unlike many examples offered up as alpine plants in your local plant retailers, Physoplexis comosa is the genuine article native to the French and Italian alps. Commonly known as the 'Tufted Horned Rampion' or 'Devil's Claw', like all true alpines it has blooms characteristically larger than its foliage.

It is fairly easy to obtain Physoplexis comosa seeds online throughout the year. If growing under protection they can be sown at any time of year. If being started outside they will need to be sown under the protection of a cold frame in the autumn.

Outdoor germination

Fill a modular tray using a good quality, well-drained seed compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting' Sow Physoplexis comosa seeds onto the surface at a rate of one seed per module. Cover the seed with a thin layer or horticultural grit, or vermiculite. Gently water in using a can with a fine rose on it so as not to disturb the seed then. Keep the soil moist but never waterlogged and avoid the compost drying out completely during germination. You now have two ways to proceed. The first is to place the modular tray in a cold frame, where the natural winter cold should offer ideal conditions for germination to occur in spring.

Indoor germination

The second is to place the tray inside a heated propagator 18-22°C for 2-4 weeks or seal inside a clear polythene bag and place it on a warm bright windowsill (but one which is out of direct sun during the hottest part of the day) for the same time period. As these seeds are grown under protection they will need an enforce period of cold stratification so they will next be moved to a refrigerator for 4-6 weeks at a temperature of approximately -4 to +4°C. After this period return to a temperature between 5-12°C for germination which although will have some variability should expect seedling emergence in up to 6 weeks.

Once the root systems have established in their modules the seedlings will be ready for potting on into 9cm pots. again filled with a well drained compost. Avoid disturbing the root system and protected under glass before acclimatising the plants to outside conditions when danger of frosts have passed.

Physoplexis comosa will perform best in a gritty, well-drained, poor to moderately fertile alkaline soil in full sun. Be aware that it will needs protection from winter wet. Physoplexis comosa can be successfully grown outside under suitable conditions or keep as a container grown specimen in an alpine house.



What is shot hole disease?

Caused by the fungal pathogen Wilsonomyces carpophilus, shot hole disease is most notable for affecting members of the Prunus genus. Also commonly known as Coryneum blight, it is rarely seen on gaden specimens, however it is a serious problem for commercial growers of Almond, apricot, nectarine, peach and cherry trees. Infections can occur anytime between the autumn and spring, but is usually most severe following wet winters. As you would expect, Shot hole disease is most noticeable in spring as the new growth is most susceptible.

What is shot hole disease?
Once a tree has become infected, shot hole disease produces small 1mm to 6mm reddish or purplish-brown spots occasionally surrounded by a light-green to yellow ring. As the disease progresses the spots dry out and then fall away from the leaf leaving characteristic small holes of various sizes. To some the leaves look as though they have been fired upon by shotgun pellets - hence its popular common name.

In significant infections, this loss of material from within the leaves will clearly reduce the amount of photosynthesis that can occur. This then has the knock-on effect of weakening the plant, and decreasing fruit production. To put this into perspective, it is estimated that approximately 80% of the California almond crop may be infested with shot hole disease. This is believed to result in a potential yield loss of 50-75%.


The shot hole fungus is known to overwinters in infected buds and twig cankers. The spores are dispersed in spring by rainfall. On ornamental prunus species avoid overhead watering as this is a particularly effective way way of spore dispersal. Be aware that the spores will remain viable, albeit in a dormant state, for months.

For infection to occur temperatures will need to remain above 2 °C combines with approximately 24 hours of wet conditions. At higher temperatures shot hole infection will take hold in considerable less time. For example only 6 hours at 25 °C.


Remove and dispose of any infected buds, leaves, fruit and twigs, preferably by burning. This includes contaminated leaves around and beneath the tree. In the autumn, apply a spray of copper fungicide or Bordeaux mixture. A subsequent spray during favourable conditions over the winter may also be considered with severe infections. Research in the 1930's found that applications of Bordeaux mixture reduced shot hole disease on peaches from 80% to 9%.

Image credits - Simon Eade


Bottlebrush plants - Callistemon species and varieties, are among the most exotic of all hardy garden specimens. However their unusual growth habit mean that most gardeners are reluctant to cut into the wood in case their shape and following season's blooms are affected.

To be fair, bottlebrush plants are usually low maintenance and will require little or no regular pruning. That being said, some forms can easily grow to large for their allocated garden space and will need cutting back one way or the other. Like conifers, avoid cutting back into the inside branches where there are few leaves as you may not see any regrowth.

How to prune back bottlebrush plants
The best time to pruning is from mid to late spring, but if you miss this opportunity you can light prune at the end of the summer. Removing any weak, crossed, rubbing, diseased or dying stems back to the trunk, and remove any suckers from the base as soon as you see them. Rip them from the trunk rather than cut to reduce the incidence of regrowth. This will be the same action for specimens grown with a single trunk but only do this as the suckers emerge. Shoots longer than a few inches will need to be cut. The best results are from rubbing away emerging buds with your thumb.

To guarantee that next season's blooms will remain unaffected and to just generally maintain a shape, lightly prune immediately after flowering - usually just a couple of inches from the growth tips and removing the spent flower structures.

If you are trying to reduce the size of an overgrown specimen, cut back down to size in the spring making sure that this is done well before the new seasons bud form.

In drastic situations, it is not unknown for mature specimens to grow back from being cut down to the ground. However this should only be done as a last resort.

Image credits - Simon Eade

SWISS CHEESE PLANT - Monstera deliciosa

The Swiss Cheese plant - Monstera deliciosa

Before I start I should mention that the Swiss Cheese plant is neither native to Switzerland and has nothing to do with any dairy product. It is in fact native to the tropical rainforests of southern Mexico and has proven itself to be one of the world's most popular foliage houseplants.

Swiss Cheese plant fruit
The species name 'deliciosa' means delicious referring to the edible fruit which are said to taste similar to a fruit salad, the genus name is derive from the word 'monstrous' and related to the huge size that this plant can grow to - over 10 meters feet in many cases.

Monstera deliciosa was named and described by the Danish botanist Frederik Michael Liebmann (1813 - 1856).

Although often shrubby in habit, Swiss cheese plants is in fact a climber whose native habitats are usually the understorey of tropical forests. They are technically classed as a hemiepiphyte meaning that it will spends part of its life cycle as an epiphyte (a plant that grows on the surface of another plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain or from debris accumulating around it)

To explain, the seedlings of Monstera deliciosa would have germinated in the ground like most other regular plants. Then unlike most other regular plants grows away from the light, which usually helps them to find the nearest tree trunk, up which they begin to climb. As they mature they produce aerial roots and can eventually lose all connection with the ground!

As a climber and under favourable conditions you can expect the Swiss Cheese plant to grow to up to approximately 20 metres high. The large, leathery, glossy, heart-shaped leaves are 25–90 cm long and 25–75 cm wide. the characteristic holes within the leaves are an adaptation to its low light level environment. By producing holes within the leaves each leaf is then capable of attaining a larger size therefore making it more efficient at capturing sunflecks and occasional shafts of sunlight.

Monstera deliciosa bloom
The flowers are self-pollinating and are composed of a special bract known as a spathe which enclosing a spadix.

Monstera deliciosa bloom will perform best high humidity and shade with between 20–30 °C and requires. Growth will stop once temperatures drop below 10 °C. You will only be able to grow the Swiss cheese plant in subtropical climates or warmer as it has no tolerance to frosts. This is why it can only be grown as a houseplant in northern European and Mediterranean climates.

Monstera deliciosa bloom image credit - rjones 0856
All other images credit - Simon Eade


Perfectly timed dolphin photograph
Although nothing to do with gardening, I couldn't help but post this image I took yesterday at Loro Park, Tenerife.

This gorgeous dolphin looks as though it is hanging out to dry on a washing line after a hard day's entertaining. However it is just a badly timed image that tells a story different to reality. What actually happened this. The dolphin was captured mid flow during its successfull jump over this line.


How to grow Polygonum baldschuanicum

Commonly known as the 'Russian vine' or 'mile-a-minute vine', Fallopia baldschuanicum (previously and still widely known as Polygonum baldschuanica) is an extremely vigorous deciduous climber native to most notably China, Russia and Kazakhstan. It is widely grown for ts ability to quickly hide unsightly fences and other garden structures, and can look particularly attractive when trained into trees, old stumps and bare banks.

How to grow Polygonum baldschuanicum
Under favourable conditions the stems of Fallopia baldschuanicum can reach an impressive 12 metres long, with pale-green, ovate to heart-shaped leaves.

The small, white tinged pink blooms are borne in conspicuous, crowded panicles throughout the summer and autumn. Once pollinated the blooms can turn increasingly pink, followed by small, shiny black fruits.

Fallopia baldschuanicum will perform well in any type of soil including shallow soils over chalk. Aspect is not really important as it will simply tolerate where its or grow to more favourable conditions. That being said, young specimens will appreciate a certain amount of shelter until they become established.

Main image credit - Simon Eade
In text image credit - Jan Samanek