HOW DO YOU CARE FOR RIBES SANGUINEUM?

How do you care for Ribes sanguineum?

During the late 17th century when I was a pre-horticultural, yet eager, teenager working in a south London garden centre, I had clear memories of block displays of flowering Forsytha x  intermedia cultivars and Ribes sanguineum. Both were early flowering and both would flower strongly on the new wood. By pruning them back to the crown the previous year you ensured nursery stock with top to bottom blooms. Both very eye-catching, both very impressive and both very popular with the customers. However we are not talking about Forsythia we are focusing on Ribes, so how do you care for Ribes sanguineum?

Native to the dry open woods and rocky slopes of western United States and Canada, Ribes sanguineum is a deciduous shrub introduced into cultivation by 19th century Scottish botanist David Douglas. In the UK it has proven to be a hardy and trouble-free with Ribes sanguineum 'King Edward VII' being the most widely cultivated and therefore the most available selected variety. When left uncultivated Ribes horticultural references indicate that mature specimens can reach a height of approximately 1.5-2 metres however the abandoned specimen in my garden currently stands at 2.5-3 metres! 

Once purchased, Ribes sanguineum will perform best in full sun in all moderately fertile, well-drained soils. If you experience periods of drought during their first season then they will require periodic watering. However once established they are relatively maintenance free except for the cut back down to the crown immediately after flowering. After this heavy prune apply a generous layer of mulch, such as sterilized, well-rotted farm manure or garden compost around the base of the plant. Avoid having the compost touching the trunk.

NOTE!  - Please be aware that Ribes should never be planted near pine trees as they can be a host to white pine blister rust. Ribes are also very susceptible to honey fungus. Aphids, leaf spot and powdery mildew may also be a problem. Apart from all of that they are fine.



HOW TO BUILD A PROGRAMMABLE, DAY AND NIGHT, THERMOSTATICALLY CONTROLLED, PROPAGATOR FOR GERMINATING BANANA SEEDS

 

If you are looking for a touch of the tropics in your cold, northern European garden then their is very little that can compete with having banana plants growing in your traditional borders. Of course you can purchase banana plants from you local garden center, but let's be honest neither availability or range are particularly strong in the UK. That being said they is a usually a good range of banana seeds available on the internet, mostly eBay although other sites are available. The trick is with the propagation of banana seeds itself, which once dealt with is as easy as any other plants that requires a heated propagator. If you didn't know before, banana seeds require different germinating temperatures at night and during the day, therefore you will need a programmable thermostatically controlled propagator for germinating banana seeds.

Of course you can go out and purchase a heated propagator from almost anywhere, and this will work although you may need to manually set the temperature each morning and each night for up to three months or so. This is obviously a bit of a faff. Typically banana seeds will need a night temperature of approximately 15 degrees Celsius and a daytime of between 25-35 degrees Celsius depending on the species. Therefore a programmable, thermostat which can run separate time periods at separate temperatures is a must. A simple home thermostat for your central heating is ideal! However, and ths is the clever bit, if the environment where you propagator is housed has an ambient temperature of around 15 degrees Celsius then all you need is a simple thermostat and a timer. Run the heater at your required temperature then turn it off so that it falls to the ambient temperature overnight. For northern Europe this effectively means that you a have two opportunities in the year where there is a three month period when overnight temperatures hover around 15 degrees Celsius - late spring and late autumn.

As you can see in the video the perhaps the biggest issue is maintaining the high day temperatures required which is why a purpose built propagator has been fabricated from polystyrene due to its fantastic insulation properties. Now depending on the size of the heat mats purchased, you may be able to obtain prefabricated polystyrene boxes from you local aquatic store. 

As with pretty much all seeds, light is required for germination so a glass top to you propagator is essential, one which is double glazed is preferred albeit pricey. If you need to supplement lighting remember that you will need a light with spectrum as near to day light as possible. These can be purchased on light or at your local pet shop.








CAN YOU LEAVE TULIPS IN THE GROUND ALL YEAR?

Can you leave tulips in the ground all year?

Tulips are arguably the brightest and purest coloured plants for early spring flowering. And if you don't have a passion for the fruits of the genus Tulipa then you clearly have a heart made from frozen spiders. But of course you love tulips as much as I do otherwise you wouldn't be reading this article. So once your tulips have exhausted their abundant charms and have withered back into the abyss there is a question to be asked. Can you leave tulips in the ground all year?

This is a great question. If you had grandparents like me you would be familiar with the yearly ritual of lifting after die-back and drying bulbs over the summer, a routine that had been handed down through the generations since before the Victorian golden age of gardening. On the other hand, my own parents did no such thing and everything was left in the ground with their usual two chances of survival. They either did or they didn't.

So back to whether you can leave tulips in the ground all year. The most important aspects to this question are site and soil. Your tulips will need to be planted somewhere where they will receive as much sunlight as possible. Regarding soil conditions, tulips will perform best in a nutrient rich, free-draining soil which does not become waterlogged during freezing conditions. If you can provide these conditions then you should be able to leave you tulips in the ground all year round. However to help your plants along consider applying a liquid soluble fertilizer periodically between the end of flowering and when the old stems have turned brown.

Just a few more points, the further north in the country you are intending to grow your tulips the ore likely you are going to need to provide a dry mulch to protect the bulbs from freezing conditions. Also the traditional tulip varieties that have proven themselves capable of remaining planted outside are likely to fair far better than the more modern fancier varieties. So the true answer to this question, as it is in life, is to do your research first.

For further reading click onto the following links:

WHAT TO DO WITH TULIPS AFTER THEY DIE?

What do you do with tulips after they die?

Tulips are arguably the most bright and colourful of all spring flowering ornamental plants and (assuming they are not ravaged by slugs as they emerge from the soil) provide a gorgeous display, not only of hope for warmer weather, but of perfect lush foliage. This is also enhanced by the anticipation of the opening of their glorious buds. As with many of the best things in life the beauty of the tulip is short lived, so it isn't long before the petals fall and the foliage discolours. So the question is this, what to do with tulips after they die?

Of course once they have finished flowering and the foliage and stems fade they are not truly dead, they are just moving into the next phase of their seasonal existence. If the blooms have pollinated then the tulip will divert its energy into producing hopefully viable seeds. If not the plant is absorbing carbohydrates, nutrients and sugars back into the bulb to repurpose the following spring. Of course, it maybe that you tulip is actually dead and if that is the case , just throw it into a incinerator along with the surrounding soil to reduce the spread of any possible pest of pathogen.

As far as good horticultural practice goes, you don't need to do anything to the tulip after they die as they are quite capable of looking after themselves, assuming they have been positioned and planted in favourable conditions. Of course, any brown shriveled foliage or stems can be removed one the bulb has finished sucking the life out of them. However if you are gardening in an area of the country prone to freezing wet weather, or are cultivating weaker, virus colour-broken cultivars or even species unsuitable for overwintering in northern european climates then you need to get your hands dirty by lifting and storing.

Lifting and storing tulips

If you need to lift and store tulip bulbs then it's all about technique and timing. Once flowering has finished, dead-head you plants to prevent them from producing seeds as this is an energy sapping process for your bulb. The same energy which you will need for the following seasons display. 

Once the foliage had turned yellow/brown your bulbs will be ready for lifting, choose a day when the soil is lovely and dry to aid lifting. Working with wet bulbs is no fun. Clean off the soil and discard and bulbs which are damaged or diseased. Place they bulbs in trays so that they are not touching and move to a warm (un-heated), dry, well-ventilated environment so that they can continue to dry off naturally. A  temperature of between 18-20°C will be perfect.

Come the autumn your bulbs can be planted back into position once again, however if a flowering display is paramount, use these stored bulbs in less significan borders and new bulbs in prominent areas.

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DO BLACK TULIPS REALLY EXIST?
How to Grow Species Tulips from Seed
HOW TO OVERWINTER RARE AND SPECIES TULIPS
HOW TO PROPAGATE TULIPS
LOST TULIPS OF THE DUTCH GOLDEN AGE - SEMPER AUGUSTUS AND THE VICEROY
OLD DUTCH TULIPS - Tulip 'Absalom'
OLD DUTCH TULIPS - Tulip 'Lac van Rijn'
SPECIES TULIP - Tulipa Wilsoniana
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DO DAFFODILS GROW BACK EVERY YEAR?

Do daffodils grow back every year?

While not the first bulb to come into flower in the spring, daffodils are certainly the most prominent. Planted in huge numbers every year, England can often appear awash with their perfect golden blooms. When priced per bulb, the more common varieties are among the cheapest ornamental flowering bulbs you can buy, but when purchasing the more fancier cultivars in bulb for mass planting schemes it can become expensive. So with such an investment it would be great to have an answer to the question that is on many a novice gardeners lips. Do daffodils grow back every year?

Native to meadows and woods in southern Europe and North Africa, daffodils have evolved to survive in the warm, dry climates of the Mediterranean basin. That being said, they have naturalized widely and in doing so have become an important commercial crop centered primarily in the Netherlands. The Netherlands being a relatively cold and wet northern European country. Now not all plants native to the Mediterranean basin are able to cope with the freezing wet winters of England and so it is reasonable to assume that daffodils would not be hardy enough to survive our northern European climate. However, as with many bulb genera, daffodils have proven themselves to be considerably robust and over time both wild and cultivated plants have become naturalized widely. In fact, the daffodil is the national flower of Wales in the United Kingdom.

Of course, not all daffodil species and cultivars are going to be hardy enough to survive year on year under the environmental stress of the British climate, but the upside is that so many do. So, as long as you choose tried and tested varieties you will find that daffodils will grow back every year. To choose form the best you only need to go to the RHS website to research which varieties and cultivars have been awarded the RHS Award of Merit.  

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CAN DAFFODILS KILL YOU?

Can daffodils kill you

Can daffodils kill you! This is a great question and one which summons images of roaming Narcissi with the capability of murderous intent. Of course daffodils are not Triffids, which are themselves a only a figment of author John Wyndham's mind, and neither are they sentient in the way that humans imagine. However the question remains and as some say, there is no smoke without fire. 

Now most gardeners will probably tell you that Daffodils can't kill you, and then question why would you ask such a strange question of one of our most popular and ubiquitous flowering bulbs. However as it turns out, Narcissi produce approximately 80 alkaloids (in particular the notorious alkaloid poison lycorine), some of which are there to protect the plant, but can also be poisonous if accidentally eaten. This has occured when certain species are mistaken for leeks or onions and cooked and eaten. Unintentional poisoning is generally rare due to the strong unpleasant taste realised.

Toxicity among daffodil species does vary, as does the concentration of these toxins within the bulb and the foliage. Ingestion of  Daffodil species N. pseudonarcissus or N. jonquilla is followed by one or more of the following side effects,  salivation, acute abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Unfortunately it doesn't end there as this is followed by neurological and cardiac events, including trembling, convulsions, and paralysis. Death can result if large quantities are consumed and there is documented history of Daffodils being ingested in order to commit suicide. So it is true, Daffodils can kill you.

So imagine that you or someone around had eaten a daffodil, what do you do? Go straight to you nearest Hospital A and E. It is likely that activated carbon, salts and laxatives will be administered, and for severe symptoms intravenous atropine and emetics or stomach pumping may be required.

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DO HYACINTHS PREFER SUN OR SHADE?

Do Hyacinths prefer sun or shade?

Despite being under commercial cultivation since the 1500's, Hyacinths have remained a firm favourite with both gardeners and plant breeders alike. Today's cultivars are a fantastic collection of stocky, densely flowered specimens with some extraordinarily rich colouration. They are generally sold as forced bulbs in late autumn for flowering during the Christmas period. This is so that the heavy, luxurious fragrance can be enjoyed over the holiday.  Once flowering is over it is in the interest of the Hyacinth growers it is in the interest of the growers for you to throw them away and purchase new bulbs the following season but this is not necessary as they can be planted outside once weather conditions allow. This then begs the question of do Hyacinths prefer sun or shade?

To find the answer to this you only have to look at the environmental conditions that Hyacinths have evolved to survive.This is an area that stretches across the eastern Mediterranean from the north of Bulgaria through to the northern part of the region of Palestine. This region experiences low rainfall, subtropical temperatures and high levels of sunlight. Therefore is planting outside in the garden it is imperative that Hyacinth bulbs are planted where they can receive as much sun as possible.

That being said, when grown indoors as forced bulbs is is generally recommend to place in a room which is bright but does not receive direct sunlight as thi scan can cause the blooms to fade somewhat depending on the cultivar. So there you have it, do Hyacinths prefer sun or shade? Well on the whole yes, unless you are growing them indoors then its kind of yes.

For related articles click onto the following links:
BBC Hyacinths

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH HYACINTH BULBS AFTER THEY BLOOM?

What do you do with Hyacinths after they bloom?

The producers of Hyacinths, notably the Dutch horticultural industry, want to sell you hyacinth bulbs every year. That way they can sell as many as the can, and maximize their profits every year. But here's the thing, Hyacinth bulbs are not annuals, the every fact of them being a bulb means that the have evolved to survive harsh conditions, ready to regrow and bloom the following season. This gives you two choices. Either pander to big business and throw your perfectly good Hyacinths away and contribute to our wasteful society, or try and care for them in such a way that they will have a chance to boom again in the coming spring. The question is this, what do you do with Hyacinth bulbs after they bloom?

For this answer I am going to presume that you have purchased hyacinth bulbs for indoor use so you can enjoy both the gorgeous scent and stunning full blooms. If you are thinking about bulbs already naturalized outside in the garden then you have two single choices. Either remove the flowering stalk to the base keep your borders tidy (either cut the stalk, or if it has died back enough it will just pull out by hand), or allow the flowering stalk to die back naturally so that the bulb can recuperate sugars and carbohydrates back into the bulb for re-use next spring - perfect recycling!

Back to indoor specimens, I accept that Hyacinths are not native to the freezing, wet condition of northern Europe. However given the right conditions they will indeed flower year on year with little maintenance. Firstly the aspect is important as Hyacinths have the capacity to produce enormous amounts of blooms and they will require two things to do this otherwise subsequent blooms will be considerably weaker. They need full sun, as much as they can possible receive and a well draining, warm soil. Absolutely avoid ground which becomes waterlogged, especially over the winter. Once flowering is over and the foliage is still lush, don't be afraid to provide a liquid fertilizer every week or so to help build up the bulb for next years display. In cooler northern regions of the country provide a couple of inches of a dry mulch (such as bark chips of gravel) to prevent the overwintering bulbs from being frost damaged. 

Alternatively, if you want to grown them on as container specimens you can do that too. Conditions remain the same as in full sun and well-drained compost. Choose something like a John Innes 'No 1' and add a handful of horticultural grit to it. In the winter you can easily move your container to a frost-free protected environment.

So that is what you do with Hyacinths after they bloom.

For related articles click onto the following links:
BBC Hyacinths


WHEN SHOULD I PRUNE MY HAMAMELIS?

When should I prune my Hamamelis?

Hamamelis species and cultivars are an absolutely glorious addition to the garden. There is literally nothing else which produces such a bold and yet bizarre display of late winter blooms. Unfortunately throughout the rest of the growing season I have to be honest and say, that when it comes to all-round-interest, boring is an understatement. But you know you can always hide them at the back of a border and use them as a backdrop for something more ornamental. So going back to their fantastic flowers, you are going to want your specimen to produce its best show and pruning will be an essential element to this. The question is therefore this, when should I prune my Hamamelis? Get this wrong and you could lose your seasonal display.

Native to North America, Japan and China the genus Hamamelis is composed or relatively slow growing deciduous shrubs, though arguably small trees which depending on the species can reach an overall height of between 10 and 40 feet tall. Selected cultivars will be considerably smaller. In general, Hamamelis will not require regular pruning so feel free to let them grow as the will. However it is always advisable to remove any dead, damaged, congested, crossing or weak shoots.

If you have planted one of the larger species and need to restrict the size of your specimen then cut back the previous season’s growth to two leaf buds from the main stem. This should be carried out immediately after flowering. Hamamelis flowers on the previous season new growth and usually before leaf-but break. If this cut is done later on in the year you will be removing the flowering wood. Be aware that leaf buds are longer and narrower than the more rounded flower buds, so always take care not to remove the flower buds in the process

If you have inherited a particularly large plant that has outgrown its allotted space don't worry. You can remedy this by remove some of the older, larger branches by cutting them back to a healthy new shoot. It’s best to stage this pruning over two or three years. Even over this is done in stages over a few years this will still stress your Hamamelis causing it to recover slowly. Furthermore these kind of hard cuts on grafted cultivars can encourage the rootstock to produce lots of suckers - long vigorous stems sprouting from the base o the stem

These suckers can be recognised as they usually hold on to their leaves longer in autumn. Try to spot these when they are as small as possible and tear them away from the rootstock. If you chose to cut them this can encourage even more suckering.

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ARE AZALEAS EASY TO GROW?

Are Azaleas easy to grow?

It's hard not to be tempted when faced with a garden centre full of flowering Azaleas. Of course it would lovely to have one or more in your own garden, and why wouldn't you want them? Evergreen, hardy and resistant to most plant nasties found in the UK, surely they are a perfect package? The trouble is this, they look a little exotic, and maybe that means they are a bit too-good-to-be-true? So the question is this, are Azaleas easy to grow?

Well the good news is that on the whole they are, assuming they have been given favorable growing conditions. Luckily there are just three things you need to know - root environment, watering and sunlight.

Sunlight

This is quite simple, position small leaved, alpine-like Azaleas in full sun. Place the large leaved varieties in partial shade away from first-thing-in-the-morning sun and full-strength midday sun.

Watering

Azaleas like a moist but well drained loam or sandy soil. Avoid areas which become waterlogged, especially during cold winters, and those which dry out over the summer. If you do experience extended periods of drought, make sure you water your Azaleas. At the base that is, I don't want to see water sprayed over blooms and foliage during hot weather.

Root environment

This is arguably the most important aspect to growing Azaleas successfully. Azaleas are within the ericaceae family and as such are known for tolerating acidic soils. They are so good in fact at tolerating acidic soils that they struggle to maintain any semblance of condition in alkaline soils. In fact they can easily become chlorotic and stunted in a pH over 6.5. With this in mind you will need to plant into acidic soil conditions, preferably within the 5.5-6.5 range. Don't worry if your garden soil is alkaline that there are remedies which can be actioned to rectify this. The easiest is to grow your Azalea in a contain filled with ericaceous compost. Avoid concrete containers as the lime within will leach out and increase the alkalinity around the root environment. When growing in the ground, again you can dig a large hole and fill with ericaceous compost.

Alternatively you can acidify the soil by digging in naturally acidic moss peat or by applying flowers of sulphur.

Main image credit - Famartin - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33017446

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WHERE DO AZALEAS GROW BEST?

Where do azaleas grow best?

Although promoted in many texts and garden centres as their own genus, Azaleas are in fact are Rhododendrons. That being said they are generally listed as the subspecies Azaleastrum. Of course while there are clear similarities, there are indeed differences such as stamen numbers, bud prominence and foliage size and structure. However when it comes to the growing conditions required within the garden environment they are very much the same. So where do azaleas grow best?

Being held within the genus Rhododendron, Azaleas are amember for the Ericaceae family which is known for its tolerance of acidic soils. Azaleas are no different and so when planting azalea in the garden you will need to provide a soil pH preferably between roughly 4.5–5.5, although they will tolerate between 5.0 and 6.0. If soil soil is not naturally acidic don't worry there are things that you can do to ameliorate this. The easiest is to dig a large hole and back fill it with ericaceous compost before planting your azalea. Alternatively you can dig naturally acidic moss peat into the soil or chemically alter it by apply flowers of sulphur. If you are intending to grow azaleas in pot the the solution is simple. When choosing which compost to use, you will need ericaceous, preferably one mixed with John innes compost. Just one more thing here with regards to container choice, avoid concrete pots as the lime within them will increase the alkalinity of your compost over time.

Assuming your soil is fine regarding acidity then choose a regularly moist position and dig in plenty of organic matter such as leaf mold and sterilized, blended, well-rotted farm manure. One thing you need to be aware of with, and not just for Azaleas but also Rhododendrons and Camellias, is to place them away from morning and full midday position so that their early flowers do not get frosted by a sudden thaw caused by sun.

Regarding light, Azaleas will perform best in partial shade and out of direct sun during the hottest part of the day. That being said, in the north of England they will be fine in full sun.

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ARE AZALEAS EASY TO GROW?

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WHEN SHOULD YOU PRUNE RHODODENDRONS?

When should you prune Rhododendron?

If you are looking for a fantastic spring flower display then Rhododendron have to be in your choice of top five shrubs.  Not only are they smothered in brightly coloured blooms, they are evergreen, and tough as old boots. Over time, many of the traditional cultivars can become quite large specimens and arguably not really suitable for the small suburban garden. So if you are facing a Rhododendron specimen that has grown beyond its appropriate space you are going to have to consider giving it a cut. The question you should then be asking then is when should you prune Rhododendron?

Typically, Rhododendrons won't need much in the way of pruning. Their normal requirements is just to removal unhealthy, dead, diseased or damaged shoots. This is performed mid-spring, just before the new growth emerges. Avoid trimming immediately after the spring flush of new growth as this can lose you the following springs display of flowers.

If flowering is paramount to you, and you are only looking at performing a light trim then the answer is simple. Prune immediately after flowering. That way you will minimise the impact on next years show. If you are looking at a severe cut then you are in luck as Rhododendrons are known to responding well to a hard cutting back. Such heavy cuts are advised to be performed when the plant is dormant in late winter.

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WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO PLANT A CAMELLIA?

Where is the best place to plant a Camellia?

If you have purchased a Camellia cultivar then well done, you obviously have good taste. Dark glossy leaves combined with absolutely gorgeous blooms, why wouldn't you want one in your garden? Well there may be a couple of reasons, one being the price of the more fancy varieties. The second, and arguably more pertinent is that once established they can often become pale and stunted! So in order to get the best performance out of your chosen specimen, where is the best place to plant a Camellia?

To begin with you need to check the family history and this will flag up one important piece of information. camellias are housed within the Ericales order meaning that they are closely related to plant in the ericaceous family. Ericaceous plants are known for their tolerance for acidic, infertile conditions and Camellias do indeed struggle when grown in alkaline soils. This means that even before you choose your site, if your soil is not naturally acidic you will then need to provide acidic conditions. You can achieve this by purchasing a couple of large bags of ericaceous compost, or help acidify the soil by adding flowers of sulphur or plenty of moss peat. Acidity between pH 7 and pH 5 is perfect. Humus rich soils are also preferable.

Now that has been dealt with the rest is easy although Camellias require a large amount of water, either from natural rainfall or from irrigation as in general they will not tolerate drought. let them get too dry over the summer and autumn and you can easily lose the growing flower buds. This means that planting in the ground will be so much easier than trying to grow them in containers.

Keeping is simple the rest of the requirements are simple. Camellias prefer a partially shady position, preferably out of direct sun during the hottest part of the day. To make it more challenging they also like to be out the way of early morning sun as this can dry out developing buds. One last thing, plant in a sheltered position protected from exposed conditions such as strong winds.

So to answer your question, if you can achieve all the points covered above then once again well done. You have now found the best place to plant camellias.

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WHY IS MY PIERIS GOING YELLOW?

Why is my Pieris going yellow?

Native to the mountainous regions of eastern and southern Asia, eastern North America and Cuba, the Pieris genus could be considered to hold some of the most perfect of all ornamental garden plants. Hardy, evergreen and clothed in glossy and luxuriant leaves, its colourful new foliage and attractive racemes of bell-like blooms means that it kind of ticks all the boxes. Well at least it does when it's on display in the confines of a garden centre. However once it becomes established in your own garden these qualities can quickly deteriorate. One of the biggest issues with planting Pieris is that they become stunted and yellow, a condition that is generally related and known as chlorosis. So the question often asked by gardeners is this. Why is my Pieris going yellow?

The reason is twofold. Firstly, the Pieris genus is found within the family Ericaceae which is noted for its tolerance for acidic, infertile conditions. Secondly, many suburban gardens across northern Europe have an alkaline soil and herein lies the problem. The roots of ericaceous plants are unable to take up certain nutrients, notably iron, magnesium and zinc. The yellow that you see in the foliage of affected Pieris plants are the orange/yellow carotenoid pigments found and usually hidden below the green chlorophyll pigments. These chlorophyll pigments are the power drivers of the plant producing the sugars and energy with the plant needs to grow. Iron, magnesium and zinc are vital components of the chlorophyll molecule (iron being used in greater quantities) and without it the plant is unable to produce it. Therefore if the plant is unable to produce green chlorophyll pigments the green colour of the leaf will fade and reveal the yellow pigments beneath. This is why Pieris can go yellow. Without being able to produce the energy needed to grow the plant will become stunted. 

The good news is that this decline can be reversed. Also you need to do it provide conditions suitable for healthy growth and this can be achieved by either acidifying the soil around the root system or by supplying iron in a form which an be taken up by the root system.

Chelated iron is more readily absorbed by Pieris root systems and can be found in products such as sequestrien and Hydrangea blue colourant. Alternatively provide a liquid soluble plant fertiliser specially formulated for ericaceous plants such as Miracid by Sotts.

If you want to acidify the soil around the roots, but do so without disturbing the root system, dig in moss peat and/or apply flowers of sulfur to the soil surface and water in. One last option is to spray the foliage with iron sulphate (generally sold as known as ferrous sulphate) directly onto the leaves as a rate of 1 to 2 oz of ferrous sulfate per gallon of water.

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HOW DO YOU TREAT YELLOW LEAVES ON CAMELLIAS?

How do you treat yellow leaves on Camellias?

If you look over at the various front gardens of suburbia, you can be forgive for thinking that Camellias are a lovely mid-green colour, often attractively patterned with yellow markings. However the reality is that Camellias should be a glossy dark-green and the reason they are often not this hue is due to their ericaceous nature! So if they are not supposed to be yellow, how do you treat yellow leaves on Camellias?

Camellias are lime intolerant. If they are planted in soil which has a component of lime to it (making the soil alkaline in nature) camellias struggle in their ability to uptake the nutrients iron, magnesium and zinc. This is called chlorosis and it is identified by the leaves turning yellow in a characteristic manner.

Iron deficiency is by far the most common cause of chlorosis and is identified with yellowings on the younger or terminal leaves and later works inward to the older leaves. Conversely, Manganese and zinc deficiencies develop on the inner or the older leaves first and then progress outward.

Iron is essential for the production of the green chlorophyll pigment and so without iron, there is no green pigment and that is why you are left with the underlying yellow carotenoid pigments showing through instead. There are of course other reasons why iron uptake is prevented such as high levels of copper in the soil but for the benefit of tis articles we will concentrate on the most likely causes which is the increasing insolubility of iron in alkaline soils.

One of the easiest treatments is to plant your camellia into ericaceous compost smaller plants can be dug out and replanted in it, while container grown plants can be potted on into their next sized pot with it.

With regards to established garden plants treatment of yellow leaves on Camellias can be dealt with in a number of ways such as digging sulfur (often sold in garden centres as flowers of sulphur and always use the recommended doses) or moss peat in around the root system, while trying not to damage the roots themselves. Moss peat is naturally acidic and will therefore acidify the surrounding soil. Be aware that sedge peat can be acidic or alkaline and so unless you have checked its pH first it is not recommended to be used for soil acidification.

One simple method to treat yellow leaves on Camellias is to regularly apply a liquid soluble ericaceous fertiliser. Over time this will help to increase the acidity  around the root ball, allowing the plant t take up the available iron.

The last best option is an application of chelated iron. Ths is iron combined with an organic chemical (called a chelate) that helps keep it in a plant-available form. Always apply using recommended dose rates, but be aware that this treatment may need to be repeated several times during the growing season.

If all else fails, one last option is to spray iron sulphate (otherwise known as ferrous sulphate) directly onto the plant leaves as a rate of 1 to 2 oz of ferrous sulfate per gallon of water.

HOW TO GERMINATE BANANA SEEDS


Hardy banana seed can be sown at anytime of year so long as you can break its seed dormancy. To achieve this, soak the seeds for 24 hours in warm water before planting. 

Using either a seed tray of modular tray, fill with a good quality seed compost such as John Innes ‘Seed and Potting’. Then using a dibber – or an old pencil as in my case - sow the hardy banana seed ¼in deep. Backfill the hole with a little more compost then water thoroughly. Allow the excess water to drain then seal the tray inside a polythene bag in order to keep the compost moist. Now place the tray in a warm area while the seeds germinate. Be aware that germination is slow and erratic and even at a temperature of around 28 degrees Celsius banana seeds can take 1-6 months to germinate.

It is worth mentioning here that most banana seed will respond well to fluctuations in temperature. If you have both the time and the facilities, consider give your seeds alternating temperatures of 19 hours cool and 5 hours warm. You will find that some species will respond well to larger fluctuations of temperature – between 35 degrees Celsius and 15 degrees Celsius, while others are better with less severe fluctuations 25 Celsius – 15 Celsius or even 20 Celsius -15 Celsius. However, do not go much below 12 degrees Celsius as this can place your hardy banana seed back into dormancy.Perhaps the easiest way to produce your fluctuating temperatures is keep your seeded trays in a heated propagator. Switch it on during the day and turn it off at night. If your night temperatures are too cold then have the propagator on a night and turned off during the day.

How to grow banana plants from seed
Banana seedlings
Tropical species of banana will do better with a constant temperature between 20 and 35 Celsius - depending on the variety. Fresh seed will always be the best, although it has been known for banana seed to germinate at room temperature after being stored for 2 years! There are still a lot of unknowns with regards to germinating banana seeds, but the following research may be of help to you.

At a germinating temperature fluctuating between 35 – 15 Degrees Celsius. The banana species listed below had the following success rate:

Musa Helen's Hybrid 21%
M. Sikkimensis 23%
M. Sikkimensis Red tiger 0%
M. flaviflora 3%
M. Formosana 4%
E. Glaucum 1%

At a germinating temperature fluctuating between 25 – 15 Degrees Celsius. The banana species listed below had the following success rate:

E. Glaucum 24%
M. Sikkimensis Red tiger 30%
M. Sikkimensis 34%
M. Helens Hyb. 11%
M. Flaviflora 7%
M. Formosana 0%

At a germinating temperature fluctuating between 21 – 15 Degrees Celsius. The banana species listed below had the following success rate:

M. sikkimensis 3%
M. Sikkimensis Red tiger 27%
E. glaucum 18%
M Helens Hyb. 30%
M. flaviflora 15%
M. Formosana 2%

How to grow banana plants from seed
How to grow banana plants from seeds
It should be noted that further germination will occur so long as you have the patience to wait for it – including the difficult Musa Formosa which eventually germinated about 50% of all seeds sown.

As each seed germinates, lift carefully from the tray so as to prevent any damage to the juvenile root system, and transfer it to a 3 in pot of good quality, free draining compost. Pot on as required because the larger the container the larger your banana plant will grow.

Grow on in warm well lit conditions. During summer they can be stood outside or planted in the border but should be brought into well lit frost free conditions for the winter when it should be kept moderately dry. Some discolouration of the leaf ends may occur through the winter months but this won't harm the plant.


HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF A CAMELLIA BUSH?

How do you take care of a Camellia bush?

Originally native to eastern and southern Asia, the glossy foliage and outstanding colourful blooms of modern Camellia cultivars makes them a luxuriant, albeit often expensive, choice for the garden. However, once planted issues may occur in subsequent years which can take the metaphorical shine off of your coveted specimens. So to avoid this, how do you take care of a Camellia bush?

How do you take care of a Camellia bush?
If you have recently purchased a camellia and you just need to know where and how to plant it then here is a quick break down. If you have a choice, Camellias are best planted in autumn while the soil is still warm to encourage the roots to establish before winter sets in. However container plants can be planted at any time of year, just avoid disturbing the roots in the rootball a this will delay your plant from establishing. 

Most Camellia cultivars will prefer partial or dappled shade, but Camellia sasanqua can tolerate sunnier positions. If you do not have the benefit of acidic soils, plant you Camellia into ericaceous compost and subsequently feed with a water soluble ericaceous fertiliser such as Miracid.

Plant Camellias in a sheltered position, away from cold winds and early morning sun as this can cause the blooms to scorch. 

When Camellias are newly planted they will need to be watered regularly until they become established. This particularly important during the summer months as this is when the flowers are produced. Allow the plant to dry out during this crucial period and you can lose the flower buds. Try to keep the soil constantly moist but avoid becoming waterlogged as this will damage the root systems and once again the flower buds can be lost.

Once established, camellias require very little care but if you plant becomes too large for its position it may need trimming back. This will do no harm to your plant, it fact it will tolerate server lopping but be mindful of the following easons blooms. If you cut your plants back in the autumn or winter you will be effectively removing the dormant flower buds which will result in a complete lack of spring blooms. Always try to time your cutting to immediately after flowering.

Camellia with chlorosis
Quite often you will see established Camellias with yellow/brown foliage, often accompanied with black spots. The spots are usually caused by environmental stress, while the yellow foliage is due to the plants inability to produce adequate chlorophyll pigment due to alkaline soil conditions.This is called chlorosis. In extreme cases of chlorosis camellias can also exhibit stunted or malformed new growth, as well as leaf and bud drop.

Luckily this can be resolved by a weekly feed of liquid soluble ericaceous and forking in iron chelate around the root system, while trying to acid damaging the root system. If you can't find iron chelate in your local garden centre, you can supplement this is hydrangea blue colourant

Main image - By junichiro aoyama from Kyoto, Japan - Camellia sasanqua, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2787079

For related articles click onto the following links:
ARE AZALEAS EASY TO GROW?

Camellia japonica 'Black Lace'
Camellia japonica 'Desire'
Camellia japonica 'Mrs. Tingley'
Camellia 'Royalty'

HOW DO YOU TREAT YELLOW LEAVES ON CAMELLIAS?
How to Grow Camellias
HOW TO GROW CAMELLIAS FROM SEED
HOW TO PROPAGATE ABUTILON FROM CUTTINGS
HOW TO GROW THE VIRGINIA CREEPER FROM CUTTINGS
How to propagate the Foxtail Lily
HOW TO PRUNE CAMELLIAS
HOW TO TAKE CHRYSANTHEMUM CUTTINGS
HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM ABUTILON
HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM CAMELLIA
HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM CLEMATIS
How to take Cuttings from Strawberry Plants
HOW TO PROPAGATE BOX HEDGING PLANTS
HOW TO TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM THE STRAWBERRY TREE - Arbutus unedo

WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO PLANT A CAMELLIA?
Why are my Camellia Flowers going Brown?
Why are my Camellia Leaves Turning Yellow?

HOW POISONOUS ARE HELLEBORES?

How poisonous are hellebores?

Native to large swathes of Europe and Asia, Hellebores are a great choice for when deciding to introduce early flowering plants to the garden. This is especially true when you consider the number of improved hybrids being released from plant breeders on a year to year basis. Despite their beauty, there is a shadow that hovers over the Hellebore genus and that is down to its toxicity. In fact every part of the plant is considered poisonous! Luckily Hellebore poisoning is rare, but just how poisonous are hellebores?

How poisonous are hellebores?
In folk law, there is a long history of poisoning by hellebore, some of which misleading. Most notably hellebore poisoning is thought to be the cause of death of  Alexander the Great who was felled by a mysterious illness that left him too weak to move. However current research points towards the white hellebore which is believed to have been slipped into his wine. Despite the common name of white hellebore, it is actually a false friend as it actually denotes the species Veratrum album which is clearly not a true hellebore.

In the early days of medicine, black hellebore, a general name which included various species of the genus Helleborus, was used to treat paralysis, gout and in particularly insanity!

While Black hellebore is indeed  toxic, it contains protoanemonin, or ranunculin depending on the species which has an acrid taste. So if ingested you will quickly know about it as these compounds can cause burning of the eyes, mouth, and throat, oral ulceration, gastroenteritis, and hematemesis.

However, if you ingest enough of it Hellebore poisoning can cause tinnitus, vertigo, stupor, thirst, anaphylaxis, vomiting, slowing of the heart rate, and finally collapse and death from cardiac arrest! That is how poisonous Hellebores are.

For further reading click onto:
ARE CHERRY LAUREL FRUIT POISONOUS?
HELLEBORUS 'Penny's Pink'
HELLEBORES AND HAND POLLINATION
HOW TO GROW HELLEBORES FROM SEED
How to Plant and Grow Hellebores
How to propagate hellebores
Helleborus and Hand Pollination
Pests and Diseases of Hellebores
THE BLACK HELLEBORE
THE CHRISTMAS ROSE - Helleborus niger

WHICH IS THE BEST CLEMATIS MONTANA?

Clematis montana var. grandiflora

Clematis montana has proven itself to be a fantastic garden climbing plant and rightly so. It produces exotic, luxurious foliage and is one the first impressive early bloomers of spring. Native to the mountainous regions of Asia, from Afghanistan to Taiwan, it is a vigorous, deciduous climber coveted for its mass of small, fragrant blooms which appear for a period of about four weeks in late spring. Is is almost bulletproof hardy and a fantastic addition to the northern European garden. 

Clematis montana ‘Van Gogh’
So when it come to choosing a Clematis montana cultivar for your garden, assuming that you have enough room, which is the best clematis montana? This of course depends on your point of view and requirements, but with so many selected cultivars to choose from we will consider the following as the best of the bunch.

As an overall winner, Clematis montana ‘By the Way’ is arguably one of the best single flowering, medium cultivars, producing a flurry of soft-pink, deliciously fragrant open blooms from top to bottom.

If perfume is important then Clematis montana 'Mayleen' is the cultivar for you as it produces the strongest fragrant scent of all. This one must be at top of your list.

When looking for something with maximum sized blooms, look no further than Clematis 'Giant Star'. This mid-pink, upward facing form has some of the largest sized cup-shaped flowers in the genus.

Clematis montana are usually in bloom for no more than a few weeks but if that isn't enough for you then consider Clematis montana ‘Van Gogh’. It has some of the deepest coloured flowers and can remain in bloom for an impressive six weeks!

If you want a Clematis montana but don't have the space then you have to look at Clematis ‘Primrose Star’. Not only is it an excellent compact choice it is unusual in that it produces a lemon-yellow, double-flower. If this colour is not your cup of tea then the compact Clematis ‘Freda’ with its single mauve-pink blooms will tick the box.

Many gardeners just want hardy and reliable and you can beat one of the original garden favourites Clematis montana var. grandiflora. This white flowered marvel is one of the best selling and well known of all the montana cultivars and for good reason.

For related article click onto the following links:
CLEMATIS CIRRHOSA species and cultivars
CLEMATIS MONTANA - The Anemone Clematis
CLEMATIS montana 'Grandiflora'
CLEMATIS 'NELLY MOSER'
CLIMBING PLANTS FOR AUTUMN COLOUR
HOW TO GROW CLEMATIS ARMANDII
HOW TO GROW CLEMATIS ‘Bill Mackenzie’
How to Grow Clematis florida 'Sieboldii'
HOW TO GROW CLEMATIS TANGUTICA
HOW TO GROW LAPAGERIA ROSEA FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW THE SNAIL VINE FROM SEED
HOW TO PROPAGATE CLEMATIS BY LAYERING
HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM CLEMATIS
HOW TO TREAT FOR CLEMATIS WILT?

IS CLEMATIS ARMANDII SELF CLINGING?

IS CLEMATIS ARMANDII SELF CLINGING?

Is Clematis armandii self clinging?

Named after Father Armand David (1826-1900), a Jesuit missionary and plant collector of note in China, Clematis armandii is a gorgeous, choice specimen climber from China and Northern Burma. With its exotic, evergreen foliage, it is a fantastic choice for northern European gardens, able to withstand freezing conditions and happy to be sited in full sun or partial shade. So if you have purchased one then well done, it is one of my favourite climbers, but when it comes to providing support, are Clematis armandii self clinging?

Is Clematis armandii self clinging?
Once you have planted your Clematis armandii, it can take a little while to get going so it's best to try and provide it with its favourable conditions. Unlike the large flowering hybrids which should be planted approximately 30 cm below soil level to help combat clematis wilt infections, Clematis armandii will need to be planted at its same soil level. Do not bury it! Also the soil should be damp yet well drained and protected from cold winds otherwise your specimen can just sit there showing only weak growth.

Regarding whether Clematis armandii is self clinging the answer is no, it is more self twining, producing vigourous, extending tendrils which search for support of any kind to connect to. Unlike ivy or climbing hydrangeas, Clematis armandii does not produce adventitious roots along its stem which can secure itself into brickworks or fissured bark and so a support will need to be provided in the garden situation.

Yes, this Clematis armandii collapsed from its support!
When it come to support, be aware that over times Clematis armandii can grow huge over time, and huge means heavy. Even a well screwed in section of trellis can be pulled from the wall in high winds if the trellis itself is only stapled together! This means reinforcing your trellis prior to your specimen growing over it. You can consider using tension wires but unless the connections are well planted they will be pulled out the wall eventually.

Trying to deal with an enormous fallen specimen Clematis armandii is no joke. So my advice is this. When dealing with established plants 'cull' large sections of it every other year, taking the old growth back by as much as a half each time. I am aware that this sounds dramatic but it is better than dealing with a fallen specimen. 

If you do experience having a specimen Clematis armandii falling from its support you may need to cut it back to its main trunk, but don't worry. Once the plant gets over its initial shock it will produce new rigorous, extending stems from dormant buds. It will establish itself over its framework within a year and within two years you would never know anything had happened.

For related articles click onto the following links:
CLEMATIS CIRRHOSA species and cultivars
CLEMATIS MONTANA - The Anemone Clematis
CLEMATIS montana 'Grandiflora'
Clematis montana
HOW TO GROW CLEMATIS ARMANDII
HOW TO GROW CLEMATIS ‘Bill Mackenzie’
How to Grow Clematis florida 'Sieboldii'
HOW TO GROW CLEMATIS TANGUTICA
How to Grow the Morning Glory from Seed
HOW TO PROPAGATE CLEMATIS BY LAYERING
HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM CLEMATIS
HOW TO TREAT FOR CLEMATIS WILT?
How to Prune Honeysuckle
Passiflora 'Silly Cow'
THE EVERGREEN CLEMATIS - Clematis armandii
The Maypop - Passiflora incarnata

WHICH IS THE BEST CLEMATIS MONTANA?
WHY IS MY CLEMATIS NOT FLOWERING?