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

For related articles click onto the following links:
YUCCA GLORIOSA
YUCCA ELEPHANTIPES
YUCCA FLACCIDA
YUCCA RECURVIFOLIA

YUCCA GLORIOSA

Yucca gloriosa growing in scrubland
Yucca gloriosa
Commonly known as 'Adam's Needle', Yucca gloriosa is a small, tree-like shrub with a stout stem and little to no branches.  Native to the beach scrub and sandy lowlands of the southeastern USA, it was first introduced to English gardens in around 1550, However it was named, properly classified and first described much later in 1753 by Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778). Incidentally, Carl Linnaeus is considered to be a 'giant' amongst botanists, known both as the 'father of modern taxonomy' and as one of the founders of modern ecology.

Yucca gloriosa -botanical illustration
Yucca gloriosa -botanical illustration
Yucca gloriosa is an evergreen species which under favourable conditions is known to grow to heights above 5 metres. It has straight, stiff leaves, each with a relatively dangerous spine at the tip. They are a glaucous green colour growing to approximately 30-60cm long and 7.5-10 cm wide, and are gathered into a dense, terminal head.

The creamy-white blooms (which are sometimes tinged red on the outside) are approximately 8 cm long and appear from September to November. They are borne on an erect, crowded, conical panicle which can be between 1-2.5 metres tall. The flowers are bell-shaped and if successfully pollinated will produce a leathery, elongate berry up to 8 cm long.

It is one of the hardiest species of Yucca and will happily growing outside in the south of England without the need for protection. It will perform best in most ordinary garden soils so long as they are free draining and positioned in full sun.

Yucca gloriosa received the Award of merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.

For related articles click onto the following links:
YUCCA ELEPHANTIPES
YUCCA FLACCIDA
YUCCA RECURVIFOLIA

YUCCA ELEPHANTIPES

Yucca gigantea in the Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona
Yucca gigantea in the Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona
Yucca elephantipes is a perennial, evergreen. palm-like, tree noted for its ornamental rosettes of sword-shaped leaves and large panicles of white flowers. Native to Mexico, Central America and Guatemala, it is a popular houseplant in Northern Europe and is the most widely cultivated of all Yucca species.

There has been some confusion with its botanical name as it was originally named and described as Yucca gigantea by French botanist and botanical author Charles Antoine Lemaire (1800–1871) in November 1859.

Yucca elephantipes - botanical image
Yucca elephantipes - botanical image
The synonym and more widely used name of 'Yucca elephantipes' was coined in the same year by German horticulturist, botanist and Director of the Russian Imperial Botanical Garden of St. Petersburg, Eduard August von Regel 1815-1892). In a published, non-scientific journal, he claimed that the species Yucca aloifolia was sometimes mistaken for Yucca elephantipes when grown in European gardens. The species name 'elephantipes' reflects the thickened stem base of mature plants which resemble the base of an elephant's leg. Then later, in a major article on yuccas and allies in the 1902 'Report of the Missouri Botanical Garden. St. Louis' 1902, American botanist William Trelease (1857–1945) reinforced the name Yucca elephantipes by referring to Regel's original publication. While the name now appears to have stuck, Yucca elephantipes is still an illegitimate name while Yucca gigantea had been previously established and is still the accepted name.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Yucca elephantipes to grow to approximately 9 m (30 ft) in height, with a spread of around 4.5 m (15 ft) for multi-stemmed specimens. The tough, sword-shaped leaves are spineless and can be up to 1.2 m (4 ft) in length on mature specimens. Avoid plant near buildings as Yucca elephantipes develop large root balls.

White bell-shaped flowers are produced in the summer on large terminal panicles up to 1 metre tall. Specimens grown as houseplants do not tend to bloom due to the lower light levels.

Yucca elephantipes is drought-tolerant species and can be grown in a variety of soils in a position that received full sun. It will perform best in well drained soils, however heavy or clay soils can be improved by digging in plenty of organic compost and grit. Avoid planting in frost pockets and soils prone to waterlogging.

It is not considered hardy in the cooler temperate regions of northern Europe although it have been known to successfully overwinter in the milders areas of southwest England and Ireland.

Main image credit - Georges Jansoone

For related articles click onto the following links:
RHS - Yucca Elephantipes
YUCCA FLACCIDA
YUCCA GLORIOSA
YUCCA RECURVIFOLIA

YUCCA FLACCIDA

Yucca flaccida - Royal Botanic Garden, Madrid
Yucca flaccida - Royal Botanic Garden, Madrid
Commonly known as Adam's needle, Yucca flaccida is a stemless, evergreen flowering shrub native to south-central and southeastern North America. The species name flaccida means 'weak' or 'feeble', which refers to the older leaves which often fold under their own weight. It was first named and described by English entomologist and botanist Adrian Hardy Haworth (1767–1833).

Yucca flaccida forms tufts of long, lanceolate, green or glaucous leaves. The terminal portion of each leaf bends down and the margins are edged with curly white threads. The blooms are creamy white and are borne in July and August. Each bell-shaped flower is 5-5.6 cm long, and are carried in erect, downy panicles which can be between 60 cm and 120 cm tall. As the blooms mature they open up to a more star-shaped design.

It will perform best in a sheltered, position which receives as much sun as possible. Mediterranean or subtropical climates are ideal. Plant in well-drained soil, avoiding heavy, clay soils and particularly those soils prone to waterlogging. Cold wet winters can knock back growth and can even promote fungal infections which, if not controlled, can lead to the death of the plant.

In the United Kingdom, Yucca flaccida can be grown successfully in the milder regions of the south and west, but will require cold protection further north. In areas which receive freezing temperatures and high levels of rainfall effective drainage becomes increasingly necessary.

It is rarely attacked from pests and disease although slug damage can be noticed on brown leaves and very rarely green foliage. The blooms can sometimes be a magnet to aphids.

Image credit - William Avery licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

For related articles click onto the following links:
YUCCA ELEPHANTIPES
YUCCA FLACCIDA
YUCCA GLORIOSA
YUCCA RECURVIFOLIA


YUCCA RECURVIFOLIA

Yucca recurvifolia in flower
Yucca recurvifolia
Commonly known as the curve-leaf yucca, Yucca recurvifolia is a medium-sized evergreen ornamental species native to the southeastern United States. Although introduced to English gardens in 1794, it was first named and described in 1806 by British botanist Richard Anthony Salisbury, FRS (1761 –1829), there has been a certain amount of confusion with its having a further 35 other botanical names attributed to it over the next 96 years!

Yucca recurvifolia botanical illustration
Yucca recurvifolia botanical illustration
The accepted name for this plant is now Yucca gloriosa var. tristis, given by American botanist William Trelease (1857-1945) after French botanist Élie-Abel Carrière (1818–1896) described it earlier as a variety. Believe it or not, but Carrière himself proposed 13 varying names! However, despite being an illegal name, Yucca recurvifolia is still the most widely used within the industry.

It is usually short-stemmed with several branches, and under favourable growing conditions can achieve a height of 1-2 metres and a spread of 2-3 metres. The long tapered leaves can growth to between 30-60 cm long and 7.5-10 cm wide. They are glaucous when young become more green as they mature. All but the upper, central leaves are characteristically recurved, hence Salisbury's species name.

The creamy-white blooms appear in late summer and are produced densely on erect, pyramidal panicles between 60 and 100 cm tall.

Plant Yucca recurvifolia in full sun in a light, free-draining soil. Avoid waterlogged conditions.

Yucca recurvifolia received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.

For related articles click onto the following links:
YUCCA ELEPHANTIPES
YUCCA FLACCIDA
YUCCA GLORIOSA

ACER PALMATUM 'BLOODGOOD'

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' viewed from underneath
Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'
Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' is a popular Japanese Maple noted for its very deep reddish-purple foliage. The leaves have 5-7 slender-pointed lobes, and hold their colour well during the autumn - usually turning an attractive red colour. Small purple flowers appear shortly after the leaves fully emerge in the spring, and are followed by red, winged seed pods which also add ornamental value. It is arguably one of the best purple-leaved forms of all of the Acer palmatum cultivars.

It is a large, bushy deciduous shrub with an upright habit, which under favourable conditions can be expected to grow to a height and spread of approximately 2.5 - 4 metres in 10 years. Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' is a particularly hardy cultivar capable of overwintering with little or no protection throughout the UK and northern Europe. In fact it has been recorded as surviving temperatures as low as -15 to -20 degrees Celsius.

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' viewed from above
Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' 
Grow Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' in a moist but well-drained soil, preferably one which is organically rich and slightly acidic. Unlike some of the more delicately leaved Japanese maples, it will not require a sheltered position, unless it is being grown in a particularly exposed position.

It will be happy in full sun or semi-shade although foliage colour will be best in partial shade. Water during periods of drought and be aware that leaf scorch can occur if the soil has been allowed to dry out or experiences excessive exposure. Some growers have complained that once their specimens have established themselves they can lose their attractive colour, turning a dull, muddy-brown. In this instance, consider moving to a shadier position, improve soil conditions and digg in plenty of ericaceous compost before re-planting. Feed during the growing season with a liquid fertilizer rich in micronutrients such as seaweed-based fertilizers.

The 'Bloodgood' cultivar is one of the oldest forms grown in the United States and believed to have been named in honour of the Bloodgood Nursery which was formed in 1798 on Long Island. However there is a certain amount of controversy as Dutch growers in Boskoop claim that it was a selected form of one of their the first Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum' specimens obtained from Japan through the sole trading port in Nagasaki.

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' is a Mississippi Medallion Award Winner and received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

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For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW ACER PSEUDOPLATANUS 'ESK SUNSET'
HOW TO GROW ACER GRISEUM FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW ACER PALMATUM 'OSAKAZUKI'
HOW TO GROW JAPANESE MAPLES

SKIMMIA JAPONICA 'RUBELLA'

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' with red flower buds
Skimmia japonica 'Rubella'

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' is one of those great all-round garden plants. It was named and first described by the Paris based, French botanist Élie-Abel Carrière (1818 – 1896). It is a popular garden plants with will provide a gorgeous backdrop of evergreen foliage along with long lasting ornamental buds and blooms. Skimmia japonica is diecious meaning that male and females appear on different plants. Rubella is a male form meaning that it will not produce the red berries which are characteristic of this genus.

botanical image of Skimmia japonica
Skimmia japonica botanical drawing
The parent species is a variable, small dome-shaped shrub of dense habit. Native to Japan, China and southeast Asia, it was originally discovered for western science in Japan and brought under cultivation in England around 1838.

The selected cultivar 'Rubella' has aromatic, leathery obovate to elliptical leaves. Under favourable conditions it can be expected to grow to a height and spread of between 1-1.5 metres.

However it is particularly noted for its panicles of showy red buds which appear in late winter. The buds will remain tightly shut until spring when the white, yellow anthered, slightly fragrant blooms finally open in April and May.

You can grow Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' in either full sun or semi-shade, although it will produce a more open and lax habit the shadier the position. Be aware that the leave can become bleached in exposed, hot direct sun. Provide a sheltered site in a moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil. It will be fine in a neutral to acid soil but will also tolerate chalky soils so long as they been previously improved with well-rotted organic matter.

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1962 and the Award of Garden Merit in 1993