At what temperatures to Citrus seeds germinate at?

Growing Citrus from seeds is easy, or, at least it should be. However when good natured gardeners try and flex their horticultural wings by planting these babies up for cossetting on their kitchen windowsill often nothing happens and their hopes are dashed! So what is going wrong? Assuming that all other conditions are correct then it is likely to be the soil temperature. So unless your windowsill is in the Mediterranean or some similar warm and lovely environment your seeds just won't have the impetuous to initiate germination. Therefore the question is this, at what temperatures to Citrus seeds germinate at?

The simple answer is at a surprisingly high temperature so assuming you live in a cooler temperate country you will certainly need a heated propagator - unless of course you sow your seeds during the summer months. 

Lemon seeds

A study by R. E. Rouse and J. B. Sherrod at the University of Florida tested the optimum germination temperatures of 17 citrus varieties using a temperature gradient from 15 to 38 degrees Celsius. The results showed that the optimum temperatures for germination Citrus seeds ranged from 25° Celsius for Citrus trifoliata to 33° Celsius for the Citrus limonia and Citrus sinensis hybrid rootstock. This gave a mean optimum temperature for all the citrus varieties covered in this study of 30°Celsius.

This is of course great for a laboratory experiment but for kitchen purposed I would suggest setting your temperature to approximately 25°Celsius with the view to increasing temperatures incrementally if germonation hasn't commenced after two to three weeks. With regards to the higher germinating temperatures it is worth considering manufacturing an insulated propagator using a polystyrene box (usually obtained from your local tropical fish shop) and a heat mat.

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How do you grow Actinidia chinensis?

Commonly known as the 'Chinese Gooseberry' or 'Kiwi Fruit', Actinidia chinensis is a vigorous climbing, deciduous species capable of reaching up to 9 metres in height. Native to northern Yangtze river valley in China, it was introduced to Europe in 1900 by the notable English plant collector  Ernest Wilson (1876 – 1930).

It has a dense covering of reddish, hairy shoots and large heart-shaped leaves which can be up to 20 cm wide. The blooms open to a creamy-white colour but fade to a buff-yellow as they mature. The fragrance flowers are produced in clusters over the summer and are approximately 4 cm across. However the most notable feature of Actinidia chinensis are its edible fruits.

Actinidia chinensis fruit
Once the flowers have been pollinated, the fruits appear, first green then turning to brown as they mature. They are 4-5 cm long and resemble a large, elongated gooseberry. Even the flavour is somewhat reminiscent of gooseberry. Actinidia chinensis is dioecious (meaning that the male and female flowers appear on different plants) and so to obtain fruit you will need to plant both sexes in near proximity. Only one male plant is necessary for effective pollination although several females can be planted. So how do you grow Actinidia chinensis?

Actinidia chinensis will be happy growing in any ordinary, reasonably drained garden soil, but will perform best in rich loams. Avoid chalky soils, those lacking in humus (although this can be improved prior to planting) and any ground prone to waterlogging.

Plant Actinidia chinensis from November to March in a sunny or partially shaded position against a high wall, tress or purpose-built supporting structures.Pinch out the growing points when young to encourage a spreading habit.

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How to grow Passiflora edulis 

Commonly known as the 'Purple Granadilla', Passiflora edulis is a tender, evergreen, vigorous climber with highly ornamental blooms and edible fruits. Native to the subtropical and tropical regions of Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina, it was introduced to the gardeners of England in 1810.

It is a shallow rooted, self-clinging species, and perhaps most notable for its extremely showy bowl-shaped, fragrant, purple-white passionflowers. The blooms are approximately 6 cm across and are produced throughout the summer. Each flower has white tepals, and a corona comprising of curling white filaments which are marked by a broad, purple band at the base.

Passiflora edulis is also grown for its edible fruit which are round to oval in shape, and either yellow or dull purple at maturity. They have a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with as many as 250 seeds inside. Each seed being surrounded by an orange sac containing juice.

Passiflora edulis fruit
The plant itself can grow to approximately 3-5 metres tall and 1-2 metres wide, clinging to its support by coiled tendrils. The finely-toothed, three-lobed leaves will grow to between  7-20 cm long. They are deep green and glossy above but dull green below with two small glands on the stalks. The young stems are tinged with red or purple.

Passiflora edulis will perform best when grown in moist, fertile, well-drained, sandy loams in full sun. They are in fact tolerant of positions which experience a certain amount of light shade, but this will reduce the number of blooms.

Despite its subtropical and tropical origins it is possible to grow Passiflora edulis in the mildest regions of Northern Europe, however wherever they are likely to experience freezing conditions they are perhaps best grown as a container plant and brought in under protect before the first frost are forecasted. Provide a humus rich compost, plenty of ventilation, and reduce watering.


How to grow Passiflora antioquiensis

Previously known as Tacsonia van-volxem, and originally named by French Botanist Charles Antoine Lemaire, Passiflora antioquiensis was first brought under cultivation in Europe in 1858.

It was subsequently renamed and re-classified under the Passiflora genus by German botanist Gustav Karl Wilhelm Hermann Karsten 1895. Native to the cool highland rainforests of Colombia, the species name 'antioquiensis' was named in honour of the Antioquia Department in Colombia from where the type specimen was collected.

How to grow Passiflora antioquiensis
Commonly known as the Red banana passionfruit or vanilla passionfruit it is a highly ornamental climbing species noted for its rich, rose-red pendulous blooms (one of the largest of all within the passiflora genus) and elongated, banana-like fruit. In European climates the flowers appear during late summer to autumn, each one approximately 10-13 cm across with a small violet corona and an exceptionally long, tube-like androgynophore which can be up to 6 cm long! The blooms are borne singularly on long peduncles which can be up to 70 cm long! Each flower will only last 3 or 4 days and in its native habitat would be pollinated by hummingbirds.

Once pollinated, green fruits will appear which look somewhat like a straight, small banana with rounded ends. After 6 months or so the fruits will fully ripen turning yellow. The fruits are edible with a sweet, slightly tart flavour.

The leave can occur in two distinct forms, either lanceolate, un-lobed leaves or deeply three-lobed leaves which are slender, pointed and downy underneath. Once mature, Passiflora antioquiensis can grow between 5-7 metres in height.

Passiflora antioquiensis will be best grown as a conservatory or greenhouse specimen in climates which are at risk from seasonal frosts. However it is intolerant to excessive heat and will prefers humid, semi-shaded conditions and temperatures of no more than approximately 27°Celsius. Any higher and it will refuse to flower. It has been reported that once mature it will be able to tolerate 2 or 3 degrees of brief frost, although i recommend protecting it from all frost.  Like most passionflowers it will perform best planted in a moist, humus rich, well-draining soil. Water regular during the growing season and feeding with a suitable water soluble fertilizer every 10-14 days.


How do you grow Passiflora incarnata?

Passiflora incarnata is a ornamental climbing plant native to the southern United States. It natural habitats include thickets, riverbanks and unmowed pastures, usually on sandy soils however it will also be found growing alongside roadsides, and railroads. It is a drought tolerant species which will thrive in areas with plenty of available sunlight, although unlike other species within the genus it is not found in shady areas such as beneath forest canopies. So , how do you grow Passiflora incarnata?

It is a fast growing perennial with edible fruits, and is surprisingly one of the hardiest of all passiflora species making it an ideal choice for gardens with a northern European climate. It features glossy, three-lobed, dark green leaves, and under favourable conditions will grow to an approximate height of 2-4 metres with a width of 1-2 metres.

The most noticeable feature of Passiflora incarnata are its highly ornamental, fragrant flowers which are approximately 7 cm wide and come into bloom from July to September. Each flower has five bluish-white petals with a white and purple corona at its centre. Radiating out from the corona is a structure of fine appendages which create a ring between the petals and stamens although these can extend beyond the tips of the petals.

Once pollinated, fleshy egg-shaped, yellowish fruits appear about the size of a hens egg. They appear green at first, but then becomes yellow-orange as it ripens.The edible part of the fruit are the pulpy, jelly-coated seeds within, not the skin.

Grow Passiflora incarnata in most moist, well-drained garden soils in full sun to part shade. They are surprisingly drought tolerant once mature. Apply a loose mulch to the roots in the spring.

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Can I grow a lemon tree outside in the UK?

Lemon trees, along with their romantic spirit, are synonymous with the gardens of Versailles, Villa Costello and the Amalfi coast. In fact they can be grown anywhere in northern Mediterranean, albeit with a little help from automatic irrigation and fertilisation. However despite being associated with an area covering most of the old Roman empire, Lemons are actually a native to Asia, primarily to the cooler, more temperate regions of Northeast India (Assam), Northern Myanmar or China. So this then begs the following question, can I grow a lemon tree in the UK?

With the UK capable of growing many plant species collected from southwestern China, growing a lemon tree is perfectly possible assuming you can source the hardiest varieties such as Meyers variety or Eureka, both of which are hardy down to -5°C. Of course winter temperatures will vary across the whole of the UK but if your are bless with living in the warmer southern counties, south-west Ireland, London or Essex there is a good chance that you can grow the hardier varieties outside in the ground all year round with little further maintenance. There is of course no guarantee that a colder snap may fall upon your region but if this happens apply a couple of layers of horticultural fleece around both the trunk and the branch-work.

Over-wintered lemons - Florence

To improve their ability to survive outside there is more that can be done in the preparation. Place your lemon tree in a sheltered site in full sun (a poorly insulated house wall would be perfect) and plant in a free draining soil so as to avoid water logging over the winter. A ground grown lemon tree with have far more root protection than one which is left outside in its container. Prior to planting, add a rich ericaceous mix to the soil to reduce the inevitable chlorosis that lemons always seem to be susceptible to.

Take note that all lemon trees can be grown outside in the UK while overnight temperatures remain above 7°C.  Once temperature drop below this they will need to be brought under protection such as an unheated greenhouse. If your area is prone to temperature dropping to below -5°C then even the hardiest varieties will need to be brought in under protection. If you are planning to grow lemons in the north of England or Scotland then always grow your lemons in container and consider overwintering under heated conditions at around 7°C. If overwintering temperatures regularly go beyond 16°C, the accompanying low light levels with cause weak extending growth as well as increase the risk of greenhouse pests o your plants.

Just remember that even in the Tuscan garden of Villa Costello, all of their lemon trees are container grown and over-wintered inside barns.

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Are sea buckthorn berries edible?

Walk along the main roads of my coastal town in the early autumn and you can't help but notice the huge clusters of bright orange-yellow berries glowing on the sea buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides wind breaks. Similar in effect to the distantly related pyracantha (thorns and all), the berries are largely ignored by the local bird populations. So as pyracantha are eaten by birds, yet can cause mild gastrointestinal problems in humans, does this mean that sea buckthorn berries should also be avoided? Are sea buckthorn berries edible?

Sea buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides

Well it turns out that sea buckthorn berries are not only edible they are so nutritious that they could even be considered a superfood! The only problems are that when eaten fresh from the plant the berries tend to collapse when picked, and the juice within the fruits has a particularly acrid taste - hence its unpopularity with the local wildlife. That being said it is an acquired taste, which once you have moved past the wincing facial expressions, can be particularly cleansing to the palate.

Sea buckthorn berries have a very high vitamin C content, on average exceeding that of citrus fruits. They also contain high levels of vitamin E, flavonoids, carotenoids and phytosterols which help to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. Surprisingly, sea buckthorn berries also include omega-3, omega-6, omega-7 and omega-9 fatty acids.

As mentioned previously, the berries can be eaten fresh from the plant but harvesting is best accomplished by running your fingers along a fruit laden branch squashing the berries into a suitable container. Sieve out any seeds leaves or other impurities before drinking. However if you really can't cope with the raw flavour then you can improve it by heating the juice with sugar to make a syrup.

Sea buckthorn berries can also be used to make a fruity wine, fermented for liquor or processed into jam. In parts of India the berries are used to make Buckthorn tea.

Main image credit - By Kirechko - Self-photographed, Public Domain,

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HOW TO GROW KALANCHOE 'Pink Butterflies'

How to grow Kalanchoe 'Pink Butterflies'

Kalanchoe 'Pink Butterflies' is an absolutely gorgeous hybrid from a selected form of Kalanchoe × houghtonii -  a hybrid of  K. daigremontiana and K. delagoensis named after Arthur Duvernoix Houghton. This selection is both difficult to find as well as being expensive to purchase as the copious plantlets struggle to form roots and have low levels of chlorophyll in the foliage. As suck the majority of plantlets fail to establish. So assuming you have managed to find a specimen, jus how do you grow Kalanchoe 'Pink Butterflies'?

Like both its parents, Kalanchoe 'Pink Butterflies' is surprisingly easy to grow however you just need to be aware of light levels as high intensity light can cause the tips of the leaves to scorch. That being said, on the south coast of England where I am based I have had both  K. daigremontiana and K. delagoensis outside in full sun throughout the growing period and they have suffered no ill effects.

It can be grown in most quality composts but a soil-based example would be best as this will avoid the root-ball shrinking if it gets to dry

Water regularly over the summer but do not allow the compost to become waterlogged. If you live in a region prone to frosts then Kalanchoe 'Pink Butterflies' will need to be brought in under protection once temperature start to dip below 10 degrees Celsius. Once inside provide a brightly lit position but one which does not receive direct sunlight.

Use a liquid soluble fertiliser every 10-14 days and during the winter allow the root-ball to dry out between watering's.

As your specimens increase in size they will need repotting. In fact taller plants in light, plastic pots have been known to topple under their own weight if the root-ball is dry. This can cause a lot of damage to the plant as both the leaves and stems are quite brittle. To avoid this calamity plant into heaver clay or ceramic pots. Just make sure they have adequate drainage beforehand.

HOW TO GROW THE SPIRAL ALOE - Aloe polyphylla?


How do you grow the Spiral Aloe - Aloe polyphylla?

Native to the South African Drakensberg mountains situated in the Kingdom of  Lesotho, the Spiral Aloe - Aloe polyphylla is a gorgeously architectural and surprisingly hardy evergreen succulent perennial. Looking at it at face value, Aloe polyphylla is very similar in looks and habit to many of the smaller, more tender and fancier Agave species and cultivars such as Agave Victoriae-Reginae and A. filifera. However, despite its exotic African origins, Aloe polyphylla is regularly subjected to being covered in deep snow as well as experiencing very high levels of summer rainfall. Two climate criteria which make it an almost perfect match for growing in southern English gardens. So how do you grow the Spiral Aloe - Aloe polyphylla?

Aloe polyphylla
Unfortunately, Spiral Aloes are particularly difficult to find as it is a criminal offence to remove plants or seed of Aloe polyphylla from their natural habitat. To make matters even more troublesome, they are also difficult to cultivate without understanding their specific requirements and will often die if lifted and removed once established in the ground. 

Anyway, assuming you have purchased a specimen, what do you do with it? Well its quite simple really, plant Aloe polyphylla in a sheltered position which receives full sun. A south facing or west facing site will be perfect. The soil will need to be well drained so add horticultural grit-sand to the soil before planting to help avoid water-logging. Water moderately when in growth from spring to early autumn, but then only very sparingly when dormant over the later autumn, winter and early spring. Apply a balanced liquid fertiliser 2 or 3 times during the growing season. For best results when planting, slightly angle the plant to ensure rainwater runs freely from the crown.

When growing further north, plant under glass in a loam-based potting compost with added extra grit. 

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Berberis darwinii

Berberis darwinii is an early flowering, hardy evergreen shrub and arguably one of the finest of all ornamental flowering species within the genus. Commonly known as 'Darwin's Barberry', it was first described for the scientific community by the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865) in 1844, and published in Hooker's Icones Plantarum.

Native to Chile, Chiloe and Argentina, Berberis darwinii was discovered for Western science in 1835 by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the 'Beagle'. It was eventually introduced to English gardens by renowned plant collector William Lobb in 1849.

Berberis darwinii berries
It has a bushy habit, with a height and spread of between 8-10 ft. The leaves are small, dark-green and glossy, and three-pointed similar to holly leaves. The blooms appear in clusters during April and May. Each flower is approximately 1-1½ inches long and depending on conditions will be a rich yellow or orange tinged with red. Once pollinated these are followed by edible blue berries although they may cause a mild stomach upset. In fact there is evidence that these berries have been eaten by the prehistoric native peoples of the Patagonian region for over a thousand years.

The best time to plant Berberis darwinii is either from September to October or March to April. It is adaptable to moist soil types including clay, chalk and sandy loams so long as they are moist and well-drained. Berberis darwinii will be happy in a position of full sun to semi-shade and has proven to be tolerant of exposed conditions.

Berberis darwinii received the First Class Certificate (FCC) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1967 and the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1984.


Hedera canariensis 'Gloire de Marengo' care

Hedera canariensis 'Gloire de Marengo' is arguably the most spectacular of all ivy species and cultivated varieties. Named in honour of the Battle of Marengo (the victory which sealed the success of Napoleon's Italian campaign of 1800), it is a popular, variegated, evergreen climbing plant.

There is some confusion regarding this particular ivy due to the number of indicated origins suggested by its various common and species names. The parent species Hedera canariensis (commonly known as the Canarian Ivy) is native to the Atlantic coast most notably the Canary islands and northern Africa. However this species name has been superseded and it should now be called Hedera algeriensis - the Algerian Ivy. Regarding the 'Gloire de Marengo' cultivar name, Marengo is is a town in Piedmont, Italy. That being said there are those within the scientific community who do not believe that it is a genuine species in its own right and is instead a variety of the humble Hedera helix.

Hedera canariensis 'Gloire de Marengo' 
In its native habitat Hedera canariensis can grow as large as 20–30 m high, however Hedera 'Gloire de Marengo' is more constrained reaching approximately 4 m in northern European gardens. As both a garden specimen and houseplant, it is valued for its attractive and colourful form.

Its large, three-lobed leaves are 10 to 13 cm long and triangular shaped on smooth, deep red leaf stalks. They are deep green in the centre which merge into a silvery-grey, surrounded by a white margin. When young, the stems and leaves are covered with thick brown felt.

Hedera canariensis 'Gloire de Marengo' is suitable for planting in full sun to partial shade, although the silver-variegated leaves will actually brighten up under partial shade. To perform at its best plant in a well-drained, alkaline soil. It is not as drought hardy as Hedera helix so water as necessary during hot weather and periods of low rainfall. Neither is as hardy as the original species and so will require the protection of a sheltered south or west facing wall.

Hedera canariensis 'Gloire de Marengo' received the following awards from The Royal Horticultural Society.

The First Class Certificate (FCC) in 1880
The Award of Merit after trials (AMT) in 1979
The Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1984


What does a Box caterpillar look like?

You don't need to keep you eye off the ball for long for your prized box plant to become decimated by Box caterpillar - Cydalima perspectalis . They are usually well hidden, well camouflaged and when you do notice some unusual damage on your box plants the accompanying webbing can be ignored as belonging to over-active spiders. However, move aside the foliage and once peering inside you can be surprised, or perhaps I should say shocked, at just how many Box caterpillar can be found hidden among the shadows. So just what does a Box caterpillar look like?

Box caterpillar moth
Well if you are on your toes you may spot the eggs. These are pale yellow and flattish, and are laid sheet-like, overlapping each other on the underside of box leaves. Newly hatched, young caterpillars are are greenish-yellow, with black heads but this changes as they mature. Typically, you are likely to  spot Box caterpillars when they are at their most active which will be when they are 25–30 mm long, green coloured with browning longitudinal lines.

The caterpillars eat the box leaves, in particular any new growth, and produce webbing over their feeding area, often hiding in a leafy tube held together with yet more webbing. Plants may also show patches of die-back which may be especially apparent on trimmed plants. Heavy infestations can create serious die back that does not grow back in subsequent seasons.

However, to try and avoid any damage to your Box plants it is advisable to try and  spot the moths themselves before the eggs are laid. These can be attracted using pheromone traps, and while these are not particularly good as a control method they are great as a tool for overall management.

Native to Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, far-east Russia and India, there are two variants of the adult Box caterpillar moth observed. The first and by far the most common found in the UK has conspicuous white wings with a faintly iridescent brown border. the second variant is almost entirely light brown. Both colour forms have a wingspan of around 4 cm.

Main image credit - böhringer friedrich - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,

In text image - By Didier Descouens - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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RHS Caterpillars



Box Tree Caterpillar - Cydalima perspectalis

Once upon a time, and up until about ten to fifteen years ago, the common box - Buxus sempervirens, was an incredibly robust, disease-free, hardy shrub. Perfect for topiary and hedging, it was a popular go-to plant for most gardeners. However due to an influx of pest and pathogens caused by the globalization of the horticultural industry more and more of our ornamental plants are at risk from imported dangers.

The one pest causing arguably the most concern for gardeners is the Box Tree Caterpillar - Cydalima perspectalis. The caterpillar itself is typically 25–30 mm long, and green coloured with browning longitudinal lines, however it is difficult to spot unless you are specifically looking for it. What is more noticable is the characteristic webbing and foliage damage. So. assuming you have an infestation of this insidious pest, how do you get rid of Box Tree Caterpillar?

Well the good news is that they are two excellent options for you which will indeed allow you to get rid of the Box Tree Caterpillar.

Xen Tari

Xen tari biological control
The first is a product known as XenTari. This is a biological insecticide containing a natural, potent strain of the microorganism Bacillus Thuringiensis subspecies Aizawai. It is easy to use, all you need is a small pressure sprayer. 

Simply dissolve the contents of 1 sachet in 3 Litres of water to treat 30 square meters of Boxwood surface. When a caterpillar eats the XenTari-treated leaves it will stop feeding within 1 hour, causing no more damage to your Box plants. The affected caterpillars will then die 1-2 days later.

 You will only need three treatments per season to keep the caterpillar pest under control. The Box tree caterpillar goes through 3 cycles each season, simply apply XenTari once every cycle at the moment when the first caterpillars are spotted. This moment can be more easily predicted by using a Box tree moth trap to monitor Box tree moth activity, when moths are trapped you can expect new caterpillars a couple of weeks later.

Box Tree Moth Trap

Box Tree Moth Trap
Covering an area up to 200 square metres, the Box Tree Moth Trap contains a pheromone dispenser which first attracts the moth and then traps them inside the container. This is a very effective method of catching this pest and several may be required to cover a large garden. 

In practice though it is not 100% efficient although its presence it extremely effective. For maximum effect it is advised to set out your Box tree moth traps around mid -April. Then once the moths become evident apply Xen tari biological control thereafter. By using these two methods of control you can effectively eliminate the presence of Box tree moths and their caterpillars in your area. 

Main image credit - böhringer friedrich - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,

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RHS Caterpillars



How to grow Berberis julianae

Berberis julianae is a handsome, dense, hardy evergreen shrub usually grown as either a garden specimen plant or for hedging. Commonly known as the Wintergreen barberry or Chinese barberry, it was first discovered for western science in 1907, in the Hubei province of central China, by the renowned English plant hunter Ernest Wilson. It was named and described by Austrian botanist Camillo Karl Schneider. The naturally occurring variety Berberis julianae var. oblongifolia was actually discovered by Wilson several years earlier in 1900. So assuming you would like to grow this gorgeous plant in your garden, how do you grow Berberis julianae.

How to grow Berberis julianae

Under favorable conditions, Berberis julianae can be expected to grow to a height and spread of between 2.5 and 4 metres. When handling wear thick, leather gloves as it has strongly spined branches. In fact individual spines can easily reach 10 cm in length on mature specimens, hence its suitability as a secure hedge. The oblanceolate leaves are also edged with tiny spines and emerge copper-toothed when young. Throughout the growing season the glossy foliage will remain mid-green, but under freezing conditions can turn to a glorious, crimson-red.

The flowers are yellow with a few red spot at the base, slightly scented and are produced in dense axillary clusters. They appear late spring and once pollinated will produce dark purple, elliptical fruits which exhibit a characteristic white bloom. Each berry is approximately 6 mm in length.

Berberis julianae will be happy planted in either full sun or semi shade in most moist, but well-drained, garden soils. For hedging use 30-40 cm plants, setting them at intervals of 50-60 cm. After planting, prune out the upper 25% of all shoots to promote bushy growth.

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8 Hardscape Ideas for your Garden

 Hardscape includes anything that is in your yard that is non-organic. These are usually permanent, such as cement driveways and walkways or semi-permanent as in a trellis with climbing roses. Not only is the hardscape functional, but it can also be decorative. It should complement or even enhance the beauty of your home and yard. Of course, many of us are living in homes that had a previous owner. Unless you are building your home and are starting with a clean slate, you have probably inherited someone else’s decision on some of the hardscape. Your driveway and walkways are already in place. Probably, the choice of deck or stone patio is made and in place also. It doesn’t mean they can’t be changed, but usually concern over budget will prevail.

When you are ready to change or add to the hardscape, keep in mind the style of your house. If you have a contemporary designed home, it will be complemented by contemporary design in the hardscape. If your home is a Victorian or cottage style home, contemporary accents may look out of place. The following ideas will give you a starting point for addressing the hardscape in your yard.

1. Driveway and walkway 

You may not be able to remove your cement driveway, but you could edge the drive with pavers to give the look you want. Continue the edging along the walk or, if possible, take up the cement walk and replace it with the same pavers. Choose pavers that give the look you want. Use old bricks if you have an older house with a cottage feel or use large bluestone pavers for a contemporary look.

2. Deck or Patio 

This is another part of the hardscape that you may have inherited. Sometimes, the appearance of the deck can change dramatically by just restaining in a different color. Another way to change the appearance of a deck without replacing it is to change the railings. Keep the deck stained, but paint the rail. If the style of the rails and posts are not the style of the house, change them to be more compatible.

If the patio is cement, again, edge with pavers. Choose furniture that will evoke the feel you are looking for. Add outdoor carpet to soften all that cement.

Then, add lots of containers with plants. If you choose pots that match, the look will be more formal and more contemporary. Mix up the shapes and colors of your containers for a more casual cottage look. Add some unexpected containers like a large tin can with the advertising still visible or an old picnic basket and fill it with flowering plants for a farmhouse look. Use the bowl of a birdbath and plant it with grey-green succulents for a cleaner look.

3. Retaining Walls 

While primarily functional, a retaining wall can also become an accent feature in your yard or garden. A rock retaining wall can also become a rock garden with a little planning during construction to leave some pockets in the wall for plants. Your retaining wall can also become seating in your yard. Combine the wall with a fire pit feature for a special area to enjoy with your family and friends in the evening.

Tetiana Shumbasova/

4. Fencing 

If you inherited an existing fence from the previous owner or even the backside of the neighbor’s fence, you may not be able to change it. Hide it instead. Cover your side of the fence with a trellis and some beautiful climbing roses or another vine. Make the fence a feature instead of an eyesore.

Another option is to paint the fence. If you paint the fence a dark color like a charcoal grey or forest green, it will act like a backdrop to the plants you put in front of it and be much less noticeable.

There are also planters available that can be attached to the fence and, when planted, disguise the fence even more with plants that grow vertical or hang over the planter and down the wall.

5. Water features 

If you have a multi-level yard, you have the ideal topography for a water feature that includes a waterfall culminating in a pond at the bottom. A simple recirculating pump will return the water to the top and gravity will do the rest. These are especially effective in a partially wooded area where it is easy to naturalize it with native plants. What a surprise for visitors to your garden who will enjoy the sound of water first and then discover this hidden and unexpected gem in your garden.

6. Arbors

Use an arbor at the entrance to your yard. There are wooden arbors in traditional styles and there are metal arbors that look sleek and modern. Some arbors also have seating. Plant a vine in a color that coordinates with your house or your patio furniture color. The roses on your arbor could also fill the air with a heady scent, depending on the plant variety you choose.


7. Garden Décor 

This can include bird baths, fountains or sculptures. Look for items that reflect your style. Try to find items in different heights for more interest. Most birdbaths are table height, but there are some that are only a foot high. It is fun to find a partially hidden surprise in the garden. Try to find unique garden decor items to add to the garden that are made of unexpected materials. Try colored glass items. If you have ever seen a Chihuly garden exhibit, you know how impactful glass can be in the garden.

8. Benches

Don’t forget to include seating in your hardscape plans. There should always be spots throughout your yard and garden for sitting and enjoying the results of your planning. It can vary from an upright log or stump to a teakwood bench or even a hammock strung between two trees.

With a little creativity, you can modify any part of your garden to give yourself the landscape and hardscape you’re dreaming of. 

Traditional Wedding Flowers – Find the Perfect Arrangement for Your Big Day

The flowers you choose for your wedding have a huge impact on the look and feel of your big day. This is especially true for your bridal bouquet. After all, when else do you get to carry a huge, beautiful array of flowers designed just for you?

In fact, you can plan your entire wedding around that specific arrangement of flowers. While ordering Bouqs Wedding Flowers is exciting for any bride, there are a few tips to keep in mind before finalizing the flowers you have selected.

Choose the Dress First

When you go to the florist to discuss your flower bouquet, make sure you take along a picture of your dress. The design of the bouquet will depend on the detail, shape, and style of your dress. The bouquet design shouldn’t drown you out, unbalance the line, or hide the silhouette of your dress.

Size and Shape of Your Bouquet

Don't choose a trailing bouquet if the main detail of your dress is on your skirt. However, if you have a longer bustle or train at the back of the dress, you may want to balance the look by choosing a more dramatic bouquet. Don't hide your waist, as this is the narrowest part of the body. Be sure the bouquet is narrower than your waist.

Even though fashions for bouquets will change over time, you need to make sure that everything works and that you have a balanced look.

Seasonal Options

You can't find some flowers during certain parts of the year. If you can find off-season flowers, they are probably going to be extremely expensive. Be sure you consider this when you select the flowers for your wedding bouquet.

Wedding Dress Color

Color is an essential consideration. This is especially true for creams, ivories, and whites. There are countless shades to choose from, and your florist will be able to recommend the best bloom type that will work with the dress's color, and that will complement the dress color your bridesmaids will wear. If you have swatches, be sure to take them to the florist with you.

If you plan to have your dress altered or custom-made, be sure to talk to your seamstress and find out if there is a dress-matching material that your florist can wrap the bouquet's stems with. This will ensure you get a perfect match.

Make the Bouquet Personal

It's a good idea to add flowers that have some type of personal meaning to you or someone in your family. Also, if you have a family heirloom, like a lace hanky or antique brooch, see if your florist can add it to the stems. This is also a great location for your something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

Broaches, in particular, look amazing. They also offer a great way to finish the handle of your bouquet. You can also implement cultural traditions, such as those that are seen in the Chinese culture.

Holding Your Bouquet

If you are nervous before your wedding and hold your bouquet for the first time, most brides may hold it with two hands and carry it high, which causes the shoulders to go up. This doesn't usually make a good picture. This is particularly true if you have chosen a strapless dress.

Try to keep the bouquet in one hand and below your hips, slightly away from your dress. This will ensure you can see the silhouette of your wedding dress. This position will also help to open and relax your shoulders, which improves your posture and creates a good pose for the photographer.


Select a Comfortable Bouquet

You need to make sure you choose a bouquet that is comfortable for you to hold. This means choosing something that will not be too big to carry or something that may make you stand off-balance or in an unusual position.

As you can see, there are more than a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing your wedding flowers and bouquet. With the tips and information here, you should be ready to make this important decision. Also, it is almost guaranteed that you will be happy with the final product by considering all these things.