SPIRAEA JAPONICA 'GOLDFLAME'

Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame'
Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame'
Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame' is a popular ornamental foliage and flowering garden plant. The original species is a native to the wetland habitats of Japan, China, and Korea, while the 'Goldflame' cultivar is a selected form developed in America, entering general production in the early 1970s.

Botanical illustration of Spiraea japonica
Botanical illustration of Spiraea japonica 
It is a small, compact deciduous shrub which under favourable conditions can be expected to reach an approximate height and spread of between 1-2 metres. Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame' is usually a little wider than it is tall. It is particularly noted for its striking spring foliage which emerges a rich bronze-red, turning a light russet-orange as they mature. By the end of the growing season they lose some of their attractiveness ending up a rather dull greenish-yellow. Each serrated-edged leaf is formed alternately on wiry stems, ovate in shape and approximately 2.5 cm to 7.5 cm long. There can be some reversion of the leaves back to the original deep green and these stems should be removed immediately.

The deep, rosy-red blooms are small, appearing on widely spaced corymbs (flattened or convex flower cluster) 10-15 cm across from July to August. Periodic blooms will continue to appear until the end of the growing seasons.

To get the best effect out of the colourful foliage, position Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame' in full sun, although the plant itself can tolerate partial shade. It is suitable for planting in a wide range of soil types, but a rich, moist loam is prefered. Water well during the first year and avoid conditions where the roots can become waterlogged.

For compact growth and larger flowers prune back the stems in late winter to within 10 cm of ground level as the flowers are formed on new wood.

Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame' received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.

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HOW TO GROW SPIRAEA JAPONICA 'GOLDFLAME'
SPIRAEA JAPONICA 'GOLDFLAME'

JASMINUM BEESIANUM

Jasminum beesianum
Jasminum beesianum
Jasminum beesianum is a vigorous scandent (climbing) shrub which develops a dense tangle of slender stems. Native to Southwest China, it was discovered for western science in 1906 by renowned Scottish botanist and plant hunter George Forrest (1873 – 1932), one of the first explorers of the remote Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. It was subsequently named and described by Forrest along with German botanist Dr. Friedrich Ludwig Emil Diels (1874 – 1945).

Jasminum beesianum
Jasminum beesianum blooms
Under favourable conditions you can expect Jasminum beesianum to reach and approximate height of between 2.5 to 3.5 metres. It is an evergreen species (although deciduous in cooler temperate climates) with long, dark green ovate leaves formed opposite each other on the stalk and taper to a long point.

The heavily fragrant blooms appear in May and June and are comparatively small next to the other species within the genus at just 1-2 cm long. However they are an unusual but attractive deep velvety-red colour. Once pollinated shiny, black berries appear and will often last on the stems well into the oncoming winter.

Grow Jasminum beesianum in any ordinary well-drained, fertile garden soil in a warm sheltered position. In the more northerly European climates winter protection may need to be applied, Cover with a couple of layers of horticultural fleece or protect with wattle hurdles or wire netting back-filled with bracken or straw.

No regular pruning is required except to cut back flowering shoots once the blooms.

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EUCRYPHIA CORDIFOLIA

Eucryphia cordifolia
Eucryphia cordifolia in bloom
Commonly known as the 'Ulmo', Eucryphia cordifolia is an extremely attractive evergreen shrub, although under favourable conditions form a broad columnar tree. Native to both Argentina and Chile, its native habitat stretches along the Andean Mountains, the longest continental mountain range in the world. It was introduced to western science in 1851, and first named and described by leading Spanish taxonomic botanist Antonio José Cavanilles (1745 – 1804).

Eucryphia cordifolia
Eucryphia cordifolia botanical illustration
You can expect Eucryphia cordifolia to achieve a maximum height of between 9-12 metres. The leathery, dull-green leaves are oblong, wavy-edged, and often heart-shaped at the base (hence the species name). This species is particularly noted for its white 'Rose of Sharon' blooms which appear in February and March from the leaf axils. The four-petaled flowers are approximately 5 cm wide and have conspicuous rust-coloured stamens. Once pollinated this is followed by a capsule-shaped fruit approximately 1.5 cm in length.

Plant Eucryphia cordifolia in a sunny, sheltered position in a moist, slightly acidic loam. however this species has proven itself to be somewhat lime tolerant. The roots will benefit from being shaded from strong sunlight. Over the winter juvenile specimens will need cold protection such as bracken or horticultural fleece.

Eucryphia cordifolia received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1936.

Main image - Franz Xaver CC BY-SA 3.0

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HOW TO GROW MAGNOLIAS FROM SEED

How to grow magnolias from seed?
Magnolia soulangeana in full bloom
Magnolias can be propagated in a number of ways but perhaps the easiest methods for the enthusiastic gardener is either by seed. In fact the majority of Magnolias under cultivation are propagated from seed.

Magnolias seeds are best sown fresh from the tree or bush which in northern Europe will be around October. Collect the seeds when the cones begin to split, then clean off the orange-red fleshy covering with water to reveal the shiny black seeds. Using a seed pan, or deep seed tray comprising of large modules, fill with a good quality, peaty seed compost. If an ericaceous seed compost is available to you then this would be preferable, or make your own mix containing a ratio of 60:40 moss peat to horticultural grit. Plant the seed 1 inch below the surface and gently water. Place the tray or pan in a cold frame over winter as magnolias seeds will need a cold period to break dormancy. If you do not have a cold frame then leave them outside either in a propagator or under a sheet of glass to prevent the seeds from being eaten by slugs, snails, or mice.

How to grow magnolias from seed?
Magnolia grandiflora seeds
Germination rates will vary depending on the species but as a guideline you can be looking at germination occurring from 8-18 months.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle they they can planted directly into a nursery bed outside or potted on into 3 inch pots containing John Innes 'No.1' and kept in the cold frame or in a plunge bed. Seedlings grown in pans should left well alone until leaf-drop in the autumn. Only then should they be lifted from the pan and even then disturbing the root system as little as possible to reduce root shock.

Continue to grow them in container for a couple more year, potting on as necessary, before Planting them out into their final positions.

Magnolia prefer a acidic, well-drained loamy soil. If you soil is particularly alkaline then add plenty of either moss peat or ericaceous compost to the soil before planting. Choose a position that is sheltered from cold north or easterly winds and support your young plants with a stake for a year or two until the root system becomes established. During this period provide a top-dressing each April of leaf-mold, moss-peat or ericaceous compost.

In text image credit - By The original uploader was Paxsimius at English Wikipedia. - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2801085

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HOW TO GROW MAGNOLIA x SOULANGIANA

HOW TO GROW MAGNOLIA x SOULANGIANA

Magnolia × soulangeana in full bloom
How to grow Magnolia × soulangeana


Commonly known as the saucer magnolia, Magnolia × soulangeana is one of the glories of early spring. Noted for its magnificent blooms, it is a popular deciduous tree tolerant to both wind and alkaline soils. The original hybrid (a cross Magnolia denudata with Magnolia liliiflora) was bred in 1820 by French plantsman and retired Napoleonic cavalry officerÉtienne Soulange-Bodin (1774–1846).

Magnolia × soulangeana flowers
How to grow Magnolia × soulangeana
Grown either as a large multi-stemmed large shrub or small tree,

The following forms have received the Award of merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Magnolia x soulangeana 'Brozzoni' 1993
Magnolia x soulangeana 'Étienne Soulange-Bodin' 1993
Magnolia x soulangeana 'Pickard's Schmetterling' 2012

Main image credit - Badgernet https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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MAGNOLIA X soulangeana

HYDRANGEA SARGENTIANA

Hydrangea sargentiana
Hydrangea sargentiana 
Commonly known as the 'Bigleaf Hydrangea' or 'Sargent's Hydrangea', Hydrangea sargentiana (correctly classified as Hydrangea aspera subsp. sargentiana) is a upright medium-sized deciduous shrub of open habit. Native to China. it was introduced to western science in 1908 by E. H. Wilson (1876-1930) from a plant collecting trip on behalf of the Arnold Arboretum, Boston, Massachusetts. . The species name is in honour of Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927), director of the Arnold Arboretum.

Hydrangea sargentiana
Botanical illustration of Hydrangea sargentiana
Under favourable conditions you can expect Hydrangea sargentiana to achieve a height and spread of between 1.5-3 metres. The dark green leathery leaves can be up to 45 cm long and the shoots are thickly clothed with an unusual moss-like covering of hair and bristles. As the stems age the bark will begin to peel.

The large, flattened, lacecap-type flower clusters can be up to 20 cm in diameter, appearing in July and August. The clusters are composed of small, blue to purple-violet, fertile flowers surrounded by white ray-flowers.

It is a winter hardy specimen and suitable for a sheltered shrub border or woodland. To keep the blooms in optimum condition Hydrangea sargentiana will requires both partial-shade and wind protection. Hydrangea sargentiana will perform best grown in a rich, moist, well-drained soil. It will tolerate a position of full sun but only if soil remains constantly moist throughout the summer. Be aware than in alkaline soils the flower colour will fade to a pink or purple-pink.

Hydrangea sargentiana received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1912 and the Award of Garden Merit in 1984.

Main image credit: Андрей Корзун (Kor!An) licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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HYDRANGEA SERRATA 'Bluebird'

Hydrangea serrata 'Bluebird'
Hydrangea serrata 'Bluebird'
Previously classified as Hydrangea acuminata 'Bluebird', Hydrangea serrata 'Bluebird' is a small robust, ornamental garden plant with stout shoots and abruptly acuminate leaves (hence its precious species name). It is a hardy, deciduous shrub whose species is native to the mountainous regions of Korea and Japan. It has dark green, serrated, ovate leaves which can be up to 6 inches long. They also provide an element of autumn colour by turning red when leading up to leaf drop. When grown under favourable condition you can expect to achieve an approximately height and width of up to 120 cm.

The blue fertile blooms appear from June to September and are borne in slightly dome-shaped corymbs surrounded by large ray-florets. The flowers will appear reddish-purple on chalky soils, and a gorgeous, cobalt-blue on acid soils. It is reputably a selected form of Hydrangea serrata forma. acuminata, but there is little evidence to prove that there is any difference between the two.

Hydrangea serrata 'Bluebird' will perform well in a rich, moisture, yet well-drained soil. It will do best in partial shade but avoid full sun as this can bleach the flowers and scorch the leaves. If you have no choice other than a sunny position then make sure that soil is consistently moist. If not then water during extended periods of drought.

The flowers occur on old wood, and so little pruning is needed. Hydrangea serrata 'Bluebird'  can be pruned after flowering by cutting back flowering stems to a pair of healthy buds. Overwintered flowerheads, weak or winter-damaged stems can be pruned in early spring.

Hydrangea serrata 'Bluebird' received the Award of Merit (AM) in 1960 and Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1984 from the Royal Horticultural Society.

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HYDRANGEA MACROPHYLLA

Hydrangea macrophylla
Hydrangea macrophylla
The popular garden species Hydrangea macrophylla is name which covers a large and varied group of hydrangeas, many of which are possibly of hybrid origin. They can be divided into two groups, namely the Hortensias and the Lacecaps. The original species is native to both China and Japan, and in the United Kingdom will come into bloom from July to September.

They have an average height of between 1.2 and 1.8 metres in most garden environments. In sheltered gardens and woodlands it is possible for them to achieve a larger height of approximately 3.5 metres. They are particularly suitable for coastal planting.

Hydrangea macrophylla forms will perform best in  a good loamy soil that is moisture retentive and has been previously enriched with well-rotted farm manure and garden compost. They will prefer a sheltered position in either full sun or partial shade. Avoid areas where they will receive early morning sun as this can cause damage to new growth after night frosts.

Hydrangea macrophylla
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer'
In very shallow chalk soils Hydrangea macrophylla and its forms can become chlorotic (a condition in which leaves produce insufficient chlorophyll producing leaves which are pale, yellow, or yellow-white), however this can be counteracted by generous feeding and mulching. In alkaline soils it is impossible to maintain the blue coloured blooms without additional treatment - usually the application of Aluminium sulphate (often called 'bluing powder'). It is easy to stabilize the blue pigmentations of container grown specimens and those in soils which are only slightly alkaline. Where its use is desirable bluing powder should be applied every seven to fourteen days during the growing season at a rate of 85 grams being dissolved in 13.5 litres of water.

Hortensias

This group covers the familiar mop-head hydrangeas. The florets are sterile, forming large globular heads of white, pink, red or blue or even a combination of these colours. In some cultivars this can produce a gorgeous and almost metallic sheen.

Lacecaps

This is a smaller group to the Hortensias, but are similar in growth and and requirements. They produce large flattened corymbs of fertile flowers, around which are borne a ring of coloured ray-florets.

Pruning

This out and cut back immediately after flowering (except in colder, northern regions). Prune old flowering shoots to within a few centimetres of the old wood.

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WHY HAS MY BLUE HYDRANGEA TURNED PINK?

WHY HAS MY BLUE HYDRANGEA TURNED PINK?

Why has my blue hydrangea turned pink?
Why has my blue hydrangea turned pink?
It is hard to resist the intense, cobalt-deep blue blooms of any of the container grown hydrangeas that appear for sale over the summer. However once the flowers have faded, and eight months of delicious anticipation and expectations have passed, the '...as if by magic...' replacement pink blooms can be something of a shock to the system!

Ok, so you purchased gorgeous blue but have ended up with dirty pink. What on earth has gone wrong? Well as it happens it really is down to the condition of the earth, or perhaps it would make more sense to say soil, which has caused the problem.

Why has my blue hydrangea turned pink?
Why has my blue hydrangea turned pink?
Blue flowers turning pink is a problem most associated with the cultivars of Hydrangea macrocarpa, however it can also be seen to a lesser extent with cultivars of  Hydrangea involucrata and serrata. This colour change is due to the soil pH, which most gardeners will associate with ericaceous plants and the effect pH can have on their ability to take up iron and magnesium. In the case of hydrangeas it is aluminium which is the problem element.

For hydrangeas, aluminum becomes unavailable to them under alkaline conditions and aluminium is required so that the plant can produce (among other things) the blue pigmentation in the blooms. Put simply, hydrangeas will flower blue on acidic soils and pink on alkaline soils.

If you have already purchased blue flowering hydrangea then they can be kept blue by growing the plants in acidic soil of between pH 4.5-5. If the soil is not acidic to start with then consider acidifying your soil by digging in plenty of moss peat or ericaceous compost. You also have the option of purchasing 'hydrangea blueing compounds which works by adding aluminium sulphate to the soils. This increases the available aluminum in the soil as well as acidifying the soil further with the sulphur. Be aware though that if the soil is on chalk or is particularly alkaline this treatment will not work. However it can be very effective solution for improving the flower colour in container-grown plants.

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HYDRANGEA QUERCIFOLIA

Hydrangea quercifolia with white flowers
'Oak-Leaved Hydrangea' - Hydrangea quercifolia
The 'Oak-Leaved Hydrangea' - Hydrangea quercifolia, is a spreading deciduous shrub with large, handsome, deeply-lobed leaves. Native to the Southeastern United States, it most notable feature is the magnificent fiery shades of its autumn colour. It was first described by American botanist John Bartram in 1803, and has received both the Award of Merit (1928) and the Award of Garden merit (1984) from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Hydrangea quercifolia has a loose habit with dark green foliage, and under favourable conditions can grow up to 6 ft with an approximate spread of between 4-6 ft.

'Oak-Leaved Hydrangea' - Hydrangea quercifolia, red autumn colour
 'Oak-Leaved Hydrangea' - Hydrangea quercifolia, autumn colour
Its conical blooms are white and are produced on erect terminal panicles 4-12 inches high in July. The sterile outer florets will often turn purple in colour as they fade.

Plant Hydrangea quercifolia into a moist, loamy soil, with some well-rotted farm or garden manure dug in beforehand. It can be grown either full sun to partial shade but specimens grown in shade will produce larger leaves. Hydrangea quercifolia is usually found as an understory shrub, often in the shade of large in mixed hardwood forests, along streams and on forested hillsides. It is usually found growing on calcareous soils, and often where limestone is close to or at the ground surface.

In England, Hydrangea quercifolia has a reputation for flowering less profusely than expected and even has a reputation for being tender. Be that as it may you should experience no such issues in the milder southern regions, however it is always best to grow it in a sheltered position against a wall or hedge or beneath a canopy of high trees.

Hydrangea quercifolia will require watering during prolonged periods of dry weather, and mulch young plants with a well-rotted manure or compost in spring. Once the threat of late frosts has passed remove any faded flowerheads still remaining, cutting back the flowered stems to a strong pair of buds.

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WHY HAS MY BLUE HYDRANGEA TURNED PINK?

HYDRANGEA PETIOLARIS

Hydrangea petiolaris in flower
Hydrangea petiolaris
Perhaps more commonly known as the Japanese climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea petiolaris is a vigorous woody, deciduous plant native to the woodlands of Japan, the Korean peninsula, and Sakhalin island in the Russian Far East. It was originally named Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris by German botanists Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold and Joseph Gerhard Zuccarini. They subsequently renamed it to the simpler Hydrangea petiolaris which remains with us today. It was introduced to western gardens in 1865 and received its Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.

Mature Hydrangea petiolaris in full bloom
Hydrangea petiolaris
It is a strong growing, self-clinging climbing shrub which can reach and overall height of between 9 and 25 metres depending on conditions, and  approximately 2 to 3 m wide. In its native environment it grows up trees and rock faces by means of small aerial roots on the stems, and it tolerant of shady walls and north-facing positions.

The leaves are broadly ovate, abruptly pointed and finely toothed. The flowers are produced in flat corymbs 15–25 cm which appear in June. The blooms are a dull, greenish-white colour, with several large, conspicuous, white, sterile florets along the margin. Young plant will need to be tied in to a suitable support until the aerial roots take hold.

Hydrangea petiolaris will perform best when grown in a rich, fertile, moist, but well-drained soils in semi-shade. In lighter soils dig in plenty of organic matter before planting, and do not allow the soil to dry out while the plant is getting established.

Avoid exposed east-facing sites, where cold winds may damage the emerging spring growth, and also dry, sunny spots.

Hydrangea petiolaris flowers on the previous season’s wood, so when pruning, do so in the late autumn or early spring. However be aware that this will restrict flowering the following year.

Just one more thing, Hydrangea petiolaris is absolutely my go to plant when I need to cover ugly north facing walls. It is arguably the most ornamental of all shade tolerant climbers, rarely troubled by pests and diseases and will still give a strong flowering season. Ten out of ten from me.

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HOW TO GROW HYDRANGEA PETIOLARIS

Mature Hydrangea petiolaris growing up wall
How to grow Hydrangea petiolaris


Commonly known as the 'Climbing Hydrangea', Hydrangea petiolaris is a large self-clinging, deciduous climber, made popular as a garden plant due to its excellent shade tolerance. It is a woodland plant, native to Japan, the Korean peninsula, and Russia's Sakhalin island. It was introduced to western science in 1865.

Hydrangea petiolaris white flower
How to grow Hydrangea petiolaris
The leaves are ovate, with a heart-shaped base, 4–11 cm long and 3–8 cm wide. The margins are coarsely serrated with an acute apex. The white blooms appear in June and are produced in flat corymbs 15–25 cm in diameter. In its native Asian habit, Hydrangea petiolaris uses it aerial roots to climb trees and rock faces, and is capable of attaining heights of 18-25 metres. Under cultivation in northern Europe, heights of 12 metres (sometimes more) and a width of 4-8 metres are more likely.

Avoid planting in full sun and shelter from cold, drying winds as the leaves are easily scorched. Hydrangea petiolaris will perform best where it receives morning sun and afternoon shade. It will grow well in any rich fertile, moist soil. Consider improve the soil prior to planting by digging in plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost. Although vigorous once established, young specimens may require some support until the aerial roots establish.

Hydrangea petiolaris received the Award of Garden Merit AGM) from the Royal Horticultural society in 1984.

Main image - By Sten, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=620466

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EUONYMUS FORTUNEI 'Emerald Gaiety'

Specimen Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety'
Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' 
 Commonly known as the Spindle 'Emerald Gaiety', Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' is a small, compact bushy shrub noted for its ornamental foliage. The original species is an extremely hardy evergreen that was introduced to western science from China in 1907. The 'Emerald Gaiety' variety was raised in the USA by Corliss Brothers.

Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' foliage and flower bud
Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' 
It is an excellent ground cover plant however it can assume a climbing habit if planted against a wall. Under favourable conditions can achieve a height of approximately 0.5-1 metres with a spread of 1-1.5 metres. The broadly rounded dark-green leaves are patterned with an irregular white margin, These are tinged pink in winter. The small flowers pale green and produced in loose cymes (flat-topped or convex flower cluster) during the summer although these are rarely produced.

For the best leaf colour, plant in a sheltered position in full sun, although it will happily grow in partial shade. Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' will perform well in most, moist but well-drained soils.

Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' require very little in the way of pruning, except for the removal of unhealthy, dead, diseased and damaged shoots.

Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' received the Award of merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.

In text image - Emőke Dénes CC BY-SA 2.5

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HOW TO GROW PHYLLOSTACHYS AUREA - Golden bamboo

How to grow Phyllostachys aurea - Golden Bamboo


Commonly known as the 'Golden Bamboo or the 'Fishpole Bamboo', Phyllostachys aurea is a gracefully, arching evergreen Bamboo. Native to Korea, China and long cultivated in Japan, it was introduced to western science prior to 1870.

It is a clump forming species whose canes emerge bright green, then mature to a pale creamy-yellow to dull yellow when grown in full sun. Under favourable conditions Phyllostachys aurea will reach an approximate height of 2.5-3.5 metres, with mid-light green leaves 7.5-18 cm long and 1-2 cm wide.

It is a hardy species, characterised by a peculiar crowding of the nodes at the base of each cane and the curious swelling below each node.

How to grow Phyllostachys aurea - Golden Bamboo
Phyllostachys aurea will perform well in most in fertile, humus-rich, moist but well-drained soils. Plant in a sheltered position as the leaves can become wind-scorched, especially in dry conditions. It is tolerant of both full sun and partial shade. Be aware that due to its suckering habit it can become invasive under suitable conditions.

Remove any weak, dead, damaged or spindly stems in the spring. To show the ornamental stems at their best, consider removing all side shoots to approximately 1-1.5 metres from the base. Remove any flowering shoots as soon as they appear.

Be aware that, under favourable conditions Phyllostachys aurea, the vigorous root system will send runners out from the mother plant, able to establish itself from one garden to the next in suburban environments. To avoid upsetting the neighbours or to prevent growth in areas where bamboo is not wanted, dig up and removed the extending roots and subsequent shoots befor they become too matted and established. Alternatively, provide a significant physical barrier such as concrete or heavy duty rubber liner to stop the runners passing through. Be aware that these runners may appear above ground to overcome an obstacle, but these are both easily seen and removed.


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JASMINUM NUDIFLORUM - The winter jasmine

Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum with yellow blooms
Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum
Commonly known as the Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum is hardy, deciduous, ornamental flowering shrub native to western China. It is often grown as a wall shrub and although not a true climbing plant it is usually found tied to cane in the climbing plant section when purchasing from plant retailers.

Winter Jasmine botanical illustration
Winter Jasmine botanical illustration
It was first introduced to western science in 1844 by famed plant hunter and botanist Robert Fortune (1812 – 1880). It was subsequently named and described in 1846 by English botanist John Lindley (1799 – 1865).

Under favourable conditions Jasminum nudiflorum can reach an approximately height of 3 metres. It has smooth, trifoliate, dark-green leaves on arching green shoots. It is noted for its bright-yellow blooms which appear on usually leafless stems from November until April. The species name 'nudiflorum' reflects this, being Latin for 'naked flower'. The flowers are approximately 1 cm across, appearing in small clusters from the axils of the previous year's leaves.

You can grow Jasminum nudiflorum in any ordinary, well-drained garden soil in either full sun or partial shade. However unlike many other ornamental jasmines, Jasminum nudiflorum will not support itself when grown against a wall of trellis etc, so it will need to be tied-in by hand.

When grown as a shrub in the borders the habit of Jasminum nudiflorum can be quite straggly so cut back the flowered shoots to below where the flowering started as soon as the flowers have finished. For wall trained specimens, shape the flowered growth with a pair of shears, again once the plant has finished flowering.

Jasminum nudiflorum received the Award of Garden Merit in 1984 from the Royal Horticultural Society, London.

Main image Jean-Jacques MILAN - CC BY-SA 3.0
Leaf image Pancrat - CC BY-SA 3.0

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NEON TETRA DISEASE

Neon tetra shoal in aquarium
Neon tetra disease
Neon tetra disease - Pleistophora hyphessobryconis, is a fast acting, devastating and deadly sickness that despite its specific common name is not just limited to affecting neon tetras. Infected fish can display a range of symptoms which unfortunately are similar to several other diseases including systemic bacterial infections, poor diet, unfavourable environmental conditions, and even old age.

Low levels of infection can display few visible symptoms, and it is only once the fish is a few days away from death that the disease becomes apparent.

Cause

Neon tetra disease is a caused by a a single-celled organism which enters the body of the fish by accidental ingestion. This occurs through eating infected foods such as infected tubifex worms, or through scavenging or cannibalizing the parasites from infected dead fish. The most common way that Pleistophora hyphessobryconis spores enter an aquarium is by the introduction of infected fish.

Neon tetra with Neon tetra disease
Neon tetra disease
Symptoms

Initially you will notice a change in behaviour and condition. Infected neon tetra will lose their iridescent colouration, and may display white or grey patches on their flanks. They will also break away from the shoal, preferring to hide, and show little interest during feeding times. As the disease progresses infected fish may being to have trouble swimming, develop contortions to the musculature and swollen areas along the body. Secondary fungal and bacterial infections may also shoe at this point.

Treatment

Unfortunately there are no off-the-shelf medications available, although once diagnosed veterinary surgeons may prescribe Toltrazuril or general antibiotic. Removal of infected fish to a quarantine tank as soon as possible will be the first control, but all new fish should be quarantined for 4 to 6 weeks before being placed into an aquarium - provided you have a spare aquarium!

There is some evidence to show that when kept in optimal conditions the neon tetras own immune system is generally capable of fighting off the Pleistophora hyphessobryconis infection. This would involve providing a temperature of between 72 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit,  2 to 10 degrees dH, and a pH 6 to 7.5.

Maintain the high quality of your water by maintaining filters and carrying out regular water changes.

Do not purchase fish from tanks which have dead fish or obvious signs of diseased fish.

Alternative measures

Always quarantine neon tetras before introducing them into an aquarium. Avoid live foods and substitute with gamma-irradiated frozen foods. If neon tetra disease is constant issue with your aquarium then consider choosing fish that are less susceptible disease. Although more expensive, cardinal tetra are similar in appearance yet far less prone to Pleistophora hyphessobryconis spores.

For related articles cick onto the following link:
HOW TO CARE FOR CONGO TETRA
NEON TETRA
PENGUIN TETRA

PENGUIN TETRA

Shoal of penguin tetra in an aquarium
penguin tetra - Thayeria boehlkei
Although not as colourful as their neon tetra cousins, penguin tetra - Thayeria boehlkei, do have an interesting yet unusual 'head raised' resting posture which is exaggerated by the black, hockey stick stripe which follows the lateral line from directly behind the gill plate to the very tip of the lower caudal (tail) fin. Aside from the conspicuous stripe, the penguin tetra is usually an iridescent silver-grey or pale-golden, bronze colour.

Penguin tetra are often confused with the strikingly similar Thayeria obliqua, whose black stripe does not always does not run the entire length of the body, instead it can start from lower tail tip and along the lateral line until is reaches a point vertically to the adipose fin.

one Penguin tetra in an aquarium
Penguin tetra
Native to the small streams and the margins of smaller rivers in the Amazon Basin Amazon and Araguaia river in Peru and Brazil, Penguin tetra are often found hiding among the scatterings of aquatic plants.

Growing to between 2-3 inches in length they make ideal companions within a community aquarium. Like most other schooling tetra species they will display nervous characteristic when kept in low numbers and will need to be in groups of at least 6 for them to feel comfortable and secure. Avoid keeping them with large, or boisterous fish and provide plenty of cover (such as aquatic plants and bogwood) for them to escape to when they feel threatened.

In the aquarium environment that has proven to be quite a robust species. They are adaptable to a wide range of water conditions, although there is some evidence to show that they are particularly sensitive to high Nitrate levels.

To maintain their condition they will be happy in soft to moderately hard water, with a temperature around 72 -80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they will be at their best a pH around neutral (7.0) na d a dH of between 4-20.

Penguin tetra will be happy taking flake food as their main diet but will also benefit from periodic feeds of bloodworm, daphnia and brine shrimp.

Image credit - By Andrew Gray - Own work; uncropped original posted on flickr, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3411409

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO CARE FOR CONGO TETRA
HOW TO CARE FOR PENGUIN TETRA
NEON TETRA
NEON TETRA DISEASE
PENGUIN TETRA

NEON TETRA

large shoal of neon tetras in an aquarium
Neon tetras - Paracheirodon innesi
Neon tetras - Paracheirodon innesi, are a popular freshwater aquarium fish native to the soft, acidic blackwater and clearwater streams of tropical South America, notably southeastern Colombia, eastern Peru, and western Brazil. Named in honour of American aquarist Dr. William T. Innes, it was as first described by renowned ichthyologist (fish scientist) Dr. George S. Myers in 1936.

Four neon tetra in an aquarium
Neon tetras 
Growing to approximately 3-4 cm in length the most notable features of the neon tetra are its brightly coloured horizontal stripes. An iridescent blue stripe extends from above the eye to the base of the adipose fin, while a lower iridescent red stripe that begins at the middle of the body and extends to the base of the caudal fin. As a shoaling species the eye-catching stripes are believed to help individuals maintain their position in the group, particularly in the dark blackwater streams.

The iridescent colours are known to become subdued in the evening and at night and also when fishkeepers work on the tank. Surprisingly, aside from the iridescent stripes, the body of the neon tetra is completely transparent - including the fins.

Neon tetras display slight dimorphism in that the females have a slightly larger belly. The male also has a relatively straight blue stripe whereas the females stipe has a slight kink in it.

Under aquarium conditions, neon tetra will require an approximate temperature of between  26 degrees Celsius, with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 and a KH of 1.0 to 2.0, which resembles in part their native Amazon environments. They will perform best in groups of six or more otherwise they can display timid, nervous behaviour. They are considered to be a 'mid-level' tank species and are most suitable for amazon style or community aquarius composed of slow-moving, non-aggressive fish. Because of their relatively small size they will be prone to being bullied and even eaten by larger, more aggressive fish species.

Neon tetras are omnivorous in the wild but in the aquarium environment will happily feed from dried, flaked fish food. To maintain optimum condition, occasionally feed with freeze-dried or live foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia or bloodworms. Tubifex worms should be avoided as can be infected with various diseases.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO CARE FOR CONGO TETRA
NEON TETRA DISEASE
PENGUIN TETRA

HOW TO CARE FOR CONGO TETRA

shoal of Congo tetra in aquarium
How to grow Congo tetra
Congo tetra - Phenacogrammus interruptus, are a relatively small, but highly ornamental species native to the central Congo River Basin in Africa. They are a common sight in retail aquariums, yet are unfortunately often overlooked. Why? Well because Congo tetra only show their iridescent colours once they have matured.

The Congo tetra has the typical tetra shape although a little more wide bodied, wither larger scales and extending tail and dorsal fins. The iridescent colors run from front to back,  with blue on top changing to red through the middle, to yellow-gold, and back to blue just above the belly. The tail fin, is a beautiful grayish-violet with white edges. Male Congo tetras can be expected to grow to 8.5 cm long, while females are a little smaller up to 6 cm. The males are generally more colourful with longer tail and dorsal fins.

Single adult Congo tetra in full colouration
How to grow Congo tetra
To keep them successfully provide an aquarium of at least 30 litres of water will be required, although larger tanks are preferred. Like the Amazon cousins, the Congo tetra will perform at their best in a well planted conditions with low light levels and a dark substrate. Provide soft, peat-filtered water conditions with a dGH of between 4–18 °,  a pH of 6.2 and a temperature between 24–27 ° Celsius. They are known to tolerate neutral pH levels but this can affect their health and colouration.

 They are a shoaling species which should be kept in groups of at least a dozen or so. They have a nervous disposition and so should be kept in a slow moving aquarium without potential predators and plenty of hiding places to swim to if they become spooked.

Congo tetras are omnivorous, but will readily take to a good quality flake food. To maintain good condition, periodically feed with bloodworms or brine shrimp, but avoid tubifex worms as these can pass on a variety of diseases.

If successful you can expect Congo tetras to achieve a lifespan of between 3-5 years, although older specimens have been recorded.

Congo tetras are egg-layers but little is known about their wild breeding habits. Under optimum aquarium condition a single female can lay up to 300 eggs, which once released are left to drop to the bottom. If successfully fertilized, the subsequent fry are large enough to eat newly hatched brine shrimp.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO CARE FOR CONGO TETRA
NEON TETRA
NEON TETRA DISEASE
PENGUIN TETRA

PHOENIX DACTYLIFERA

Phoenix dactylifera in Morocco
Phoenix dactylifera

Commonly known as the 'Date Palm', Phoenix dactylifera is an important commercial crop cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. The species name dactylifera is from the Greek - meaning 'date-bearing'. Incidentally it also means 'finger-bearing', presumably as a reference to the 'finger-shaped' seeds.

Phoenix dactylifera has been cultivated in the Middle East and the Indus Valley since ancient times. In fact there is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in eastern Arabia since 6000 BC! As such its origins are hard to place but Phoenix dactylifera is generally believed to native to the lands around Iraq.

Dates deglet from Biskra
Dates deglet from Biskra
Under favourable conditions, you can expect Phoenix dactylifera to reach a height of between 21–23 metres. It will grow as a single stemmed specimen, but can often form a clump with several stems from the same root system.

The mid-green, outward arching leaves can grow to between 4–6 metres long with approximately 150 leaflets. Each leaflets is roughly 30 cm long and 2 cm wide. Once mature, the crown can range from 6–10 metres in width.

Phoenix dactylifera is a dioecious species meaning that male and female flowers are produced on separate plants. Fossil records show that the Phoenix dactylifera date palm has existed for at least 50 million years and like a number of ancient plant species pollination is by both wind and insect. The inconspicuous blooms are yellowish-brown and about 1 cm wide. These are produced on large multibranched panicles 30–90 cm long. Once pollinated, the subsequent edible fruit (botanically called a drupe and commonly known as a date) are 1–7 cm long, turning yellow to red-brown or dark purple when mature. Inside each date there is one elongated, deeply grooved seed.

Phoenix dactylifera avenue Elche, Spain
Phoenix dactylifera avenue Elche, Spain
Unfortunately Phoenix dactylifera is not hardy enough to grown outside in Northern Europe. When cultivated as a pot grown specimen, plant in a good quality potting compost such as John Innes 'No.3' and temperatures above 7 degrees Celsius. Provide a bright, well-ventilated position, and once overnight temperatures stay regularly above 10-13 degrees Celsius they can be hardened off to outside conditions over a couple of weeks. Once outside provide a sheltered position in full sun. Water sparingly during the resting period from November to mid-March, then more plentifully from May to October. Feed with a liquid soluble fertilizer every 10-14 days during the growing period. Re-pot every 2-3 years.

When grown in warmer climates, Phoenix dactylifera has proven to be a surprisingly resilient. It is not particular about soil type and will even grow in poor soils. It has a deep root system, essential for both supporting such a tall plant and for seeking out subterranean water sources. It will perform well in hot arid climates although it is less happy in these more tropical surroundings where it can drop its fruits before they have fully ripened. Water during periods of drought for the first couple of years until the roots have established. Once established Phoenix dactylifera will prove to be a particularly drought and wind tolerant species.

Main image credit - By No machine-readable author provided. MPF assumed (based on copyright claims). - No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=768173

Secondary image credit By M. Dhifallah - M. Dhifallah, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5008481

Third image credit - me, Simon Eade

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HOW TO GROW MISCANTHUS SINENSIS

Field grown Miscanthus sinensis in flower
How to grow Miscanthus sinensis





Commonly known as Japanese silver grass (amongst many other), Miscanthus sinensis is a herbaceous perennial grass native throughout most of China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea. The genus name Miscanthus is derived from the Greek words for 'stalk' and 'flower', and was first described by Swedish botanist Nils Johan Andersson (1821 – 1880) in 1855.

Miscanthus sinensis grown in ornamental border
How to grow Miscanthus sinensis
It is a strong growing, densely clump-forming species which can be expected to grow to a height of approximately 0.8–2 metres. However under favourable conditions, exceptional specimens have been known to reach 4 metres! The narrow, arching blue-green leaves have a white midrib. Purplish blooms extend beyond the height of the foliage, The flowers are purplish, held above the foliage appearing from late summer onwards.

Plant Miscanthus sinensis in March or April in any ordinary, moist garden soil. Avoid soils prone to waterlogging. It will perform best in a sunny position. No staking is required despite the height they can attain.

To maintain a fresh and tidy habit cut all dead leaves and flower stems down to ground level in late March before the new growth emerges from the base.

Main image credit - By Miya.m - Miya.m's photo taken in 熊本県産山村, Japan., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=337594
In text image credit - Simon Eade gardenofeaden@gmail.com

ALSTROEMERIA 'Indian Summer' ('Tesronto')

ALSTROEMERIA 'Indian Summer'  in a garden
 Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer'
Commonly known as the Peruvian Lily, Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' is arguably one of the most ornamental of all the Alstroemeria hybrids and cultivars. It is noted for its gorgeous burned orange and yellow flowers, which bloom against a backdrop of dark green-purple leaves making it is one of the most striking of all late summer flowering plants. There is some confusion with the cultivar name as it is can also be found under the more difficult to pronounce of  Alstroemeria 'Tesronto'.

Despite its exotic looks Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' is a frost hardy, deciduous herbaceous perennial making it a perfect, if not comparatively expensive, specimen for northern European gardens. It has an upright, and clump-forming habit with lance-shaped leaves. Under the right condition you can expect Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' to achieve an ultimate height of  between 60 - 100 cm in 2 -5 years.

The eye-catching, fiery blooms are produced early on in the summer but continue in succession until mid-autumn. The flowers open in funnel-shaped, cluster and are intricately marked with red tones and brown flecks on the inner petals.

Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' is protected by plant breeders rights and is not available from seed. Pot grown plant should be available in the spring but will need to be kept under protection until the threat of late frosts have passed. There is no reason why you cannot pot on established specimens into larger containers at his time.

Once the risk of late frosts has passed, plant Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' in a sunny or semi shaded position in fertile, moist, well drained soil. If you wish to grow your Alstroemeria in a patio containers then use good quality soil based compost such as John Innes No.3.

Water regularly over the growing season and feed container grown plants with a water soluble plant fertilizer one a month.

Old stems can be cut back to neat ground level in late autumn and a dry mulch of bark chips, straw or bracken. This will help to protect the roots during extended periods of freezing weather, however in the warmer regions of southern England ths will not be necessary. Container grown plants can be brought in to a cool frost-free position.

Alstroemeria does not like to have its roots disturbed by but mature specimens can be divided in the autumn or spring if clumps become overcrowded.

Remove spent flower heads as they appear to encourage further blooms, and be aware that they will attract damage from slugs and snails if not controlled.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW ALSTROEMERIA
HOW TO GROW ALSTROEMERIA FROM SEED

HOW TO GROW ALSTROEMERIA

Yellow Alstroemeria flower
How to grow Alstroemeria
Commonly known as the 'Peruvian lily' or 'lily of the Incas', Alstroemeria species are a genus of mostly herbaceous perennials plants native to South America, though mostly restricted to central Chile and eastern Brazil. While the many of the species are only half hardy there are a number of hardy form which are capable of surviving outside in northern European gardens. They have twisted lanceolate leaves that are in most cases glaucous, and irregular trumpet-shaped flowers.

Alstroemeria seedlings in a seed tray
Alstroemeria seedlings
Popular hardy Alstroemeria cultivars and hybrids are usually only available as pot grown stock in the spring. Plant them in the ground in March or early April, taking care not to disturb the roots. Plant them in groups for best effect at a depth of 4-6 inches. They will be happy growing in any in any well-drained, fertile soil, but will do best in a sheltered position that is unlikely to be disturbed by other close plantings. Heavy soils will need to be improved with well-rotted garden compost, well rotted manure or even gravel. Light soils will also benefit with the addition of plenty of organic matter and additional watering during their first summer.

If relatively very little top growth occurs in the first year do not be disheartened as this can sometimes happen. When top growth follows normal growth patterns the stems can be cut back to ground level during late autumn after leaf drop. Provide a dry mulch such as bark chips, bracken or straw in areas prone to periods of freezing weather.

Half-hardy or tender Alstroemeria species will need to wait until late May when the threat of late frosts have passed before being permanently left outside. Although they can go in the ground they are unlikely to survive outside without being completely protected from freezing weather.

Unless you are planting in a warm temperate or subtropical region half-hardy and tender cultivars will be best grown under greenhouse conditions or kept as a container plant and brought in under protection when overnight temperatures look to drop below 8 degrees Celsius. Alstroemeria can be grown in any well-drained pot using a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No.2'. When the first flower buds form feed weekly with a liquid soluble fertiliser.

Main image credit - By JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5504703

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW ALSTROEMERIA
HOW TO GROW ALSTROEMERIA FROM SEED

YUCCA WHIPPLEI

Yucca whipplei flowering in its native habitat
Yucca whipplei
Yucca whipplei is an evergreen, stemless flowering plant native to southern California, United States and Baja California, Mexico. It was first named and described by American botanist John Torrey (1796–1873), and was introduced to European gardens in 1854. However it has since been reclassified and is the accepted name is now Hesperoyucca whipplei. Unfortunately there is still some controversy regarding this change.

Yucca whipplei blooms
Yucca whipplei blooms
As a separate genus,  Hesperoyucca was first described by German-American botanist George Engelmann as long ago as 1892. Surprisingly it is only recently that DNA analysis has been able to confirm that it is genetically distinct from Yucca. That being said, the accepted name of Hesperoyucca whipplei is still not widely reflected in current literature or online, and so (at least for now) Yucca whipplei is still name in general usage.

Yucca whipplei is a stemless species which develops a dense, globular clump of long, narrow, rigid, spine-tipped leaves. Each leaf is finely toothed, glaucous, 20–90 cm (rarely to 125 cm) long and should only be handled wearing suitable gloves and arm protection. The large fragrant blooms are greenish-white, edged with purple, and appear in May and June. They are produced in densely packed panicles at the end of an erect 1.0-3.6 scape ( long, leafless flowering stem). It is pollinated by the California yucca moth which has since become a classic example of symbiosis.

In its native habitat, Yucca whipplei is usually found growing in chaparral, coastal sage scrub, and oak woodland. It is suitable for planting in subtropical, mediterranean and warm temperate environments.  Although able to withstand frost, in the United Kingdom it can only be recommended for sunny positions in the mildest counties and will require a very well-drained soil. Avoid heavy or clay soils or any which are prone to waterlogging.

Yucca whipplei received the Award of Merit (AM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1945.

Image credit - By Noah Elhardt - Own work. Camera: Sony DSC-S70., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=642379

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YUCCA GLORIOSA
YUCCA ELEPHANTIPES
YUCCA FLACCIDA
YUCCA RECURVIFOLIA