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.

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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.

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

WHAT IS THE MOST FRAGRANT DAPHNE?

Daphne perfume princess and Mark Jury

Plants from the genus Daphne, at least those found in your local garden centre, are some of the most fragrant plants available. There is good reason for this and that is due to the environments they have evolved to inhabit. Many Daphne species inhabit high altitude, mountainous regions which due to the cooler conditions have fewer pollinating insects compared to those of warmer, lowers altitude environments. Therefore to help attract sufficient pollinators to their blooms they must make their presence known over a greater area and they achieve this buy emitting significantly more insect attracting perfume.

Of course, everybody's nose is slightly different when it comes to registering scents with some able to smell some fragrances more than others so rather than propose just one Daphne we will consider those generally accepted to be the most fragrant. However there is a recently hybrid which is generally agreed to knock the socks off the others.

Daphne odora
Historically, if you were looking for the most fragrant Daphne you would most likely be directed to Daphne odora. In fact the Latin specific epithet odora means "fragrant". So powerful is it perfume that in Korea it is commonly known as 'chunhyang', meaning a thousand-mile scent!

Not quite as fragrant, but still gorgeously pungent by anyone's standards are the species and cultivars of Daphne bholua, Daphne mezereum and the hybrid Daphne x burkwoodii.

So when it comes to being the king of all fragrant Daphne's there is one that is considered to take the crown. Unsurprisingly it is a hybrid of two of the best selected species already mentioned and that is Daphne x Perfume Princess, the result of a hybrid between Daphne odora and Daphne Bholua.

Beginning in 2003 this new hybrid was developed over a period of some 10 years by plant breeder, Mark Jury. His aim was to combine the tough, strong growth habit of Daphne bholua with the heady fragrance and flowering performance of Daphne odora.  However, Mark found the seed set extremely low, and almost gave up on the project. Finally, he found 6 ripened seeds, yet only one of these went on to germinate.

Over time, Daphne Perfume Princess was nearly forgotten in the breeders nursery in New Zealand as Mark Jury had moved on to develop new breeds of Magnolia. Luckily he was bowled over by the heady scent when the plant first bloomed. Not only does the resulting hybrid combine the strong growth of Daphne bhola and the unforgettable fragrance of Daphne odora, it is earlier and longer flowering than other varieties and produces larger blooms! To add another layer excellence Daphne Perfume Princess is both the first and the last daphne to bloom each year, flowering up to 8 weeks earlier than traditional Daphne odora and continuing longer that all other daphnes!

Some would say that not only did he produce the most fragrant daphne, he may have inadvertently produced the world's most fragrant shrub!

In text image credit - Miya 's file: I took this photo in Hyogo, Japan., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=667053

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WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO PLANT A DAPHNE?

Where is the best place to plant a Daphne?

The most popular cultivars of Daphne grown today, such as Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata', Daphne x transatlantica 'Pink Fragrance' and Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill', are all known for their glorious fragrance. And it's because of their scented superiority that they are often planted near front and back doors. That way, those-in-the-know can profit the most from their heady, early-spring perfumes.

However, being near a door doesn't really cut it when it come to providing favourable environmental conditions, So just where is the best place to plant a Daphne?

Daphne glomerata in its natural habitat
To begin which it is always best to research the conditions plants live in their native environments, assuming that information is readily available. That way you can work out how to provide the most favourable conditions for your plants. In general these species are found in Asia, Europe and north Africa. Though specifically, Daphne odora is a native to China, although later spread to Japan and Korea. Daphne bholua habitat stretches from Nepal to southern China, while Daphne x transatlantica is a hybrid of Daphne caucasica and Daphne collina. As you would expect, Daphne caucasica is from the mountainous Caucasus. 

Daphne bholua grows at altitudes of 1,700–3,500 m and usually found in pastures and grassy glades. In a northern European gardens it will perform well it in a fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. 

Daphne odora grows best in fertile, slightly acid, peaty, well-drained soils in either full sun or partial shade.

Daphne x transatlantica will enjoy being planted in a moderately fertile, slightly acid to slightly alkaline, humus-rich, well-drained but not dry soil. Position in sun or partial shade and due to its high altitude parent consider mulching during the summer to keep the roots cool.

In text image credit - By Sergei Kazantsev - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39928093

Main image credit - Miya GFDL, cc-by-sa-2.5, cc-by-sa-2.1-jp

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HOW POISONOUS IS DAPHNE?

How poisonous is Daphne?

Daphne has always been considered a plant for the connasseur, and I guess there is some merit for that. However they tend to be overlooked as ornamental plants for the following reasons. They flower outside of the times most frequented by garden centre visitors They tend to look small and weak in the pot and they are comparatively expensive compared to other  similar plants on the display beds. All this means that you generally need to know what you are buying before hand.

So assuming you have purchased a Daphne for your garden or have correctly identified an existing specimen, you may be wondering how poisonous is Daphne? Hopefully your are asking this question out of general curiosity but if a pet of a child has accidentally eaten part of this plant what is the risk and what should you do?

All parts of Daphne species are poisonous however the berries are especially so. Luckily the fruits are particularly bitter and as such act as a deterrent to eating any in significant numbers. Depending on the species toxins can be variable, however they will contain daphnin, a glycoside which combines glucose with daphnetin. Some species within the genus are also known to contain the toxin mezerein. If digested symptoms can include include gastroenteritis, diarrhoea as well as burning sensations and lesions in the mouth and upper digestive tract. In severe cases, damage to the kidneys, irregular heart rhythm, and coma can occur.  Be aware that prolonged chewing on the flowers, foliage, bark, or red berries can be fatal.

With pets or farm animals symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, bloody diarrhea could point to the ingestion of Daphne.

Main image credit - Miya GFDL, cc-by-sa-2.5, cc-by-sa-2.1-jp

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WHAT IS THE MOST FRAGRANT DAPHNE?

WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO PLANT A DAPHNE?

HOW DO YOU PLANT ERYTHRONIUM BULBS?

How do you plant Erythronium bulbs?

Erythronium bulbs, or Dog's tooth violet as they are commonly known, are a great addition to the spring garden. The blooms are exotic and luxuriant while the leaves are architectural and handsomely mottled. Of course you can purchase pot grown Dog's tooth violets and simply plant them in the ground, but quite often you can have a larger range to choose from should you buy them as bulbs. This then begs the following question. How do you plant Erythronium bulbs?

Erythronium dens-canis
To begin with it's always a good start to find out the native conditions of any new plant you wish to grow. Unfortunately with regards to the Erythronium genus they have a huge international range which extends across north America and Eurasia. Twenty to thirty of these the hardy, spring-flowering perennial plants, all of which posses the long, tooth-like bulbs from which they receive their common name. In fact one species Erythronium dens-canis has the 'dog's-tooth' description latinized in its species name. 

As a point of information, Erythronium tuolumnense 'Pagoda' is arguably the most popular of all cultivars and is native to the Sierra Nevada of Tuolumne County, California. This, like many Erythronium species has evolved to thrive in moist, light deciduous woodland. Incidentally, the species and the hybrid cultivar 'Pagoda' have been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

As a general rule, Erythronium bulbs are best planted in the autumn and can be planted in any aspect so long as they have the protection of shade during the hottest period of the day. Be aware that they will be prone to scorching if left in full sun. Place the bulbs 10-15 cm deep in a fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil with the pointed end of the bulb facing upwards. If you soil is dry then it can be improved by digging in plenty of organic matter. If it is prone to waterlogging then plant the bulbs within a mound, a raised bed or as a container-grown specimen.

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CAN YOU CUT FORSYTHIA TO THE GROUND?

 

Can you cut forsythia to the ground?

If you are a big fan of yellow then Forsythia species and cultivars are definitely for you. They are one of the earliest of all ornamental flowering shrub to bloom and they are tolerant of most sites and soil conditions. However, when left to their own devices Forsythia can become large and unruly so if you wanted to cut a Forsythia down to ground level there are a couple of questions to ask first. Can I cut a Forsythia to the ground without killing it and, what is the best way to cut a Forsythia to the ground?

The good news is that for the most part, almost all of the species and cultivars within the Forsythia genus are as tough as old boots, so if the reason for such an aggressive cut it to reinvigorate a tired, old specimen then you can, but on very old specimens I would advise cutting the plant back in progressively lower sections over a period of two to three years as old plants can be shocked to death this way. The truth is that the ornamental value of Forthysia specimens can benefit from such a cut in order to maintain a good show of blooms the following year. 

Can you cut forsythia to the ground?
This is because Forsythias flower on the previous seasons wood, so by cutting back hard it will produce invigorated growth which in turn will produce new flower buds from along its entire length. However if this is the reason behind cutting it down to the ground you will be better off leaving 12-24 inches of truck proud of the ground so that there are plenty of dormant buds available to fire off the new growth. If you are dealing with a small specimen then this can be cut down to between 6 and 12 inches. 

Always make sure that you make an angled cut on your truck to reduce the risk of water sitting on top of the fresh cut which can increase the risk of pathogen infection. A horticultural bitumen paint with added fungicide will further reduce this risk.

However if your drastic cut is designed to kill your plant then no, this will not kill it. It is likely to just shoot out new stems from below ground. That being said they can be dug out, eventually, or just used one of the many insidious weed killers available on the market. Then once it has been killed off you can cut it down to the ground with peace of mind.

Main image credit - 松岡明芳 - 松岡明芳, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11642218

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HOW DO YOU GROW FORSYTHIA?

How do you grow Forsythia?

Come the spring and you will probably notice that every man and his dog is growing a forsythia in the front garden, and when you think about it it's not really surprising. They are one of the first of the truly ornamental flowering shrubs to come into flower in the spring and they do so with a huge abundance of showy blooms. So long as you like yellow, you may have purchased a dream come true. 

Unfortunately their omnipresence tends to lose their shine, but if it is possible to look at a well maintained Forsythia as though you have never seen one before then you will truly see what is a magnificent gift it is to Horticulture. 

Named after William Forsyth (1737 – 25 July 1804), a Scottish botanist, royal head gardener, founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society and Bruce Forsyth's great, great, great, great grandfather, the genus Forsythia is mostly a native to eastern Asia, although there is one species found native to southeastern Europe.

How do you grow Forsythia?
With something as exotic as a blooming Forsythia, one may be forgiven for thinking that they are difficult to grow. So how do you grow Forsythia? Well luckily for British gardeners, Forsythia environmental requirements are very similar to those experienced in the UK. This means that you can plant it just about anywhere, and in most soils, and still get a decent display.

However to get the best performance when growing Forsythia plant them in a position that will receive as much sun as possible although it will easily tolerate a partially sunny spot. With regards to soil conditions Forsythia will grow best in a fertile, well-drained soil. Poor soils can be improved by adding sterilized, blended farm manures and those which are known for water-logging can be improved by adding plenty of organic matter and, or, grit. In extreme conditions of water-logging consider planting within a mount or raised bed. If you experience periods of drought in its first year or two then apply water as required.

To promote flowering in following season, prune back your Forsythia after flowering to approximately 6-12 inches from the ground in young specimens and 1-2 feet for mature specimens.

Forsythias are rarely affected by pests and disease, however it is always good practice to sterilize your tool blades before cutting to avoid any pathogen transference. 

Consider an autumn much around the base of the stem, although avoid having the mulch touching the stem.

Main image credit - 松岡明芳 - 松岡明芳, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11642218

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HOW TO GROW LEYMUS ARENARIUS 'blue dune'

how do you grow Leymus arenarius 'blue dune'?

Looking around at images in the internet it's easy to believe that they are plenty of amazing blue coloured grasses around. However the reality is different. In fact there is probably a choice of probably no more than three. You have the festuca glauca cultivars (which tent to suffer from fungal infections), then there is Panicum virgatum, and also Helictotrichon sempervirens. Unfortunately blue grasses are usually significantly bluer in the images than they are in real life. Which kind of leaves (excuse the unintentional pun) Leymus arenarius 'blue dune'. As blue as it is, it does require specific growing conditions. So how do you grow Leymus arenarius 'blue dune'?

Commonly known as known as sand ryegrass, sea lyme grass, or simply lyme grass the clue to its prefered environment is clearly there to be seen.  Leymus arenarius is what you would call psammophilous, a fantastic word meaning sand-loving. The native habitat Leymus arenarius are the coasts of Atlantic and Northern Europe including the British isles and Iceland. 

However before you walk down to the beach, spade in hand, in search of some free plants take care. During the 17th century reign of William III, the Scottish Parliament passed a law protecting Leymus arenarius growing on the Scottish coasts. A century later and under the reign of George I, the British Parliament expanded this law to protect it on English coasts. In fact, this law went as far as declaring the cutting or possession of the grass to be a penal offense. Why? Because the stems are used for roof thatching and for weaving into a coarse fabric. Nowadays, Leymus arenarius extensive root network is used in stabilizing sands on at-risk coastal beaches.

Assuming you have found a specimen you need to be aware that under favourable conditions this plant can produce an absolutely massive root system, hence its sand stabilising abilities. Therefore this is not a specimen you want to be growing in your herbaceous borders. If you already have it and you want to dig it out then it is still likely to return as it can grow back from even small pieces of root. It is best cultivated in a large container, in a well drained sandy soil in full sun. To make the most of the attractive foliage, cut back down to soil level in the autumn to allow a shock of fresh growth in the spring.

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SHOULD I DEADHEAD FRITILLARIA?

 

 Should I deadhead Fritillaria

As far as ornamental flowering corms and bulbs go, Fritillaria species have to be rated amongst the best. At least they are in my opinion. However as gorgeous and structural as they are they can also be expensive and so most gardeners like to cultivate them to the highest quality standards. With this in mind the question of whether you should deadhead Fritillaria often comes up. But first, why should you even ask?

If you are hoping to encourage further blooms then you're out of luck. Unlike most annuals and some perennials, Fritillaria will not produce further flowering stems once the initial inflorescences have bloomed. This is a one time only production and once its over its over, so there is no need to deadhead for this reason.

If you want to collect the seed from your Fritillaries then of course there is no point deadheading until the seeds within the seedpods have matured and dried ready for harvesting, At that point they can be deadheaded. If you are not planning to collect the seed then the seed pods be removed as soon as the blooms are spent. There is good reason for this as seed production takes a lot of energy from the corm which, if the seedpod is removed in a timely fashion, will remain in the corm to power next years blooms. However in this scenario leave the stem in place to die back naturally as this will help replenish the corm with valuable nutrients and carbohydrates.

If all you want to do is maintain a tidy looking specimen then by all means remove anything that you consider unsightly. Be aware that this may cause a reduction in blooms the following year, but this can be mitigated by providing a high potash, liquid soluble fertilizer in the spring prior to the flowers appearing.

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IS FORSYTHIA POISONOUS?

Is Forsythia poisonous?

Named after Scottish botanist William Forsyth (1737 – 25 July 1804), the genus Forsythia has been a popular garden plant in northern European gardens for almost two centuries now. And why wouldn't it be? It is one of the earliest and most spectacular ornamental flowering shrubs commonly available, particularly if you have a passion for yellow, and robust in nature. However, a situation may occur, presumably with a pet or farm animal, where you may need to know if Forsythia is indeed poisonous?

Forsythia is in the olive family Oleaceae which is strong clue to its toxicity - in that it isn't considered particularly toxic. In fact the species Forsythia suspensa is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese herbology, the fruit of which used for the treatment of bronchiolitis, tonsillitis, sore throat, fever, gonorrhea and general inflammation.Whether Forsythia is an effective treatment of such conditions remains to be proven.

For those interested in foraging, Forsythia flowers are in fact considered edible, though not necessarily tasty with some believing that the blooms are able to produce lactose (the milk sugar). Rarely produced in other natural sources except milk, the presence of lactose Forsythia flowers has yet to be confirmed by the scientific community so this may be nothing more than an old wives tale.

The new foliage of Forsythia are also eaten by foragers as a salad leaf. However these leaves contain Phillyrin, an endophytic fungal isolate with anti-obesity activity, and it’s not yet clear how much of this you can ingest safely.

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HOW POISONOUS IS THE LILY OF THE VALLEY?

How poisonous is the lily of the valley 

While almost all of us choose our garden plants based on suitability and ornamental value, hardly any decisions are based on whether these plants are toxic or not - which of course many of them are! One plant in particular where this should be considered is Convallaria majalis, the lily of the valley. So just how poisonous is the lily of the valley and should gardeners take precautions?

All parts of the lily of the valley are indeed poisonous, containing approximately thirty eight different cardiac glycosides which are highly toxic if consumed, notably slowing down the heart and causing irregular heart rhythm. However as a rule, people don't have a habit of eating the leaves, roots and stems of ornamental garden plants. That being said, the red, sweet-tasting berries are attractive and unfortunately there are cases of young children who consider them worthy of ingesting. Conversely, there are relatively few cases of animal poisoning reported.

If ingested, these cardiac glycosides can also cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. If lily of the valley poisoning is suspected then vomiting is advised even if it is not a system.  Be aware that lily of the valley toxicity can be severe and difficult to treat. If you believe that a pet or child has eaten this plant then you will need to get immediate medical advice.

That being said, handling the plant with bare hands should not cause any issues but if you are concerned then wear gloves. However if you are not happy with any risk you can remove the plant either by digging it out or by spraying it off with a suitable weedkiller.

Main image credit - By liz west from Boxborough, MA - lily of the valley, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28876599

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DO TULIPS COME BACK EVERY YEAR?

Do Tulips come back every year?

Do Tulips come back every year should be a simple question to answer, and in some respects it is. As far as native species growing in their natural environments are concerned the answer is of course yes. The whole evolutionary point of the bulb is so that it can survive extended periods of harsh conditions, such as drought and high temperatures, by moving into a period of dormancy. Once conditions improve the bulb is triggered back into life and we have a growing, thriving tulip once more.

Do Tulips come back every year
When growing Tulips in northern Europe they question of whether Tulips come back every year can become a little greyer. As far as the commercial producers of Tulip are concerned they would like you to think that they are only annuals and indirectly promote them as such to generate year on year sales.

The thing is this, Tulips are native to a large region from Southern Europe to Central Asia which experiences hot dry summers and winters, with rain most likely experienced in the spring and autumn. So if your garden has similar conditions then congratulations your tulips should return year after year. In the green and pleasant lands of England we generally receive prolonged wet and freezing conditions which are not ideal for sustaining healthy Tulip bulbs. If you leave them in place then there is a risk that they will die after the first season, however you can do as the Victorian gardeners do and lift them for overwintering under protection they should mostly survive. 

Alternatively you can try and create more conducive growing condition such as planting into well-drained raised beds in full sun and away from leaf fall. If you have a penchant for growing rare and unusual Tulip species then consider growing them in a large terracotta pot and providing a dormant period by leaving it in an unheated greenhouse once flowering has finished.

So to answer the question of do Tulip come back every year the answer is yes, sometimes yes and if you don't research and put the work in then possibly no.

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HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR A LEMON TREE TO BEAR FRUIT?

How long does it take for a lemon tree to bear fruit

How long does it take for a lemon tree to bear fruit may seem like a simple question but it as actually surprisingly complicated. The first issue is with it its inheritance, that is to say that a lemon tree is a not a true species, meaning that it did not originally exist in the wild. Recent research has indicated that modern lemons are in fact a hybrid between bitter orange (itself a cross between the pomelo, Citrus maxima, and the mandarin orange, Citrus reticulata) and the citron - Citrus medica. This means that every single seed grown lemon is subject to genetic variability. On the up side, this is the reason why there are so many thousands of citrus cultivars. It is also the reason why there will be variability as to when a seed grown lemon tree will bear fruit which can be any time from ten to fifteen years! So while propagating lemons from seeds is indeed very simple, using this method as a way to produce commercially fruit plants is a terrible idea.

How long does it take for a lemon tree to bear fruit

This leads me to cuttings. Lemon trees grow well from cuttings but you will have the same ten to fifteen year wait form then to fruit. That being said, assuming your cuttings will be from the same mother plan, at least they should bear fruit in the same year.

To avoid the many long years required to wait before a lemon tree naturally comes into fruit, the lemon tree production industry bypasses this wait by grafting their preferred varieties onto a rootstock. This has the result of stressing the tree which will bring the plant into maturity and therefore into fruiting condition maybe as early as two years but usually three to five years.

Now once your lemon tree starts producing flowers it still does not mean that it will set fruit. Young plants are often prone to blossom drop. This is when many of the newly forming fruits fall off well before they can begin to grow and can happen for one or two years until the plant becomes older and more established. Blossom drop can be caused by one or more factor notably due to an excess of fruits, too much water, low nutrients, extended periods of drought during the growing season or exposure to cold.

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CAN I GROW A LEMON TREE IN THE UK?

CAN I GROW A LEMON TREE IN THE UK?

Can you grow a lemon tree in the UK?

Harvesting lemons from your own lemon tree is usually just a fantasy for many English men and women. However this ambition is generally only realised by those adventurous or lucky enough to move abroad to warmer mediterranean climates. But if you really want to make it happen, can you really grow a lemon tree in the UK?

Well, depending on where you live in this climate varied country it may be possible, even if it is with the benefit of modern technology. But let's look into it a little more deeply. You can certainly purchase grafted lemon trees, in fruit, in the UK, usually arriving from Italy for Mothers day, or you can grow your own plants quite easily from seeds, although subsequent seedlings may not produce fruit for approximately ten years or so. Container grown plants can be hardened off and kept outside once the threat of late frosts have passed and overnight temperatures remain above 10 degrees Celsius. Once these temperatures drop these plants will need to be brought in under the protection of a heated greenhouse or unheated conservatory. Avoid heated conservatories as this will encourage citrus to produce soft, extending branches which usually become a haven for aphid species.

Lemon Meyer variety
Of all the citrus species and cultivars available, lemon trees are among the hardiest although not the hardiest. Now while you may believe that a lemons are a naturally occurring species it is not and the true parents of this cultivar have been lost to antiquity. That being said, modern  genomic techniques have indicated that modern lemons are a hybrid between bitter orange (itself a cross between the pomelo, Citrus maxima, and the mandarin orange, Citrus reticulata) and the citron - Citrus medica. the good news is that this means that within this genetic diversity some cultivars will be hardier than others.

One of the hardiest around and reasonably available is the Meyers lemon, a cross between a citron and a mandarin/pomelo hybrid. It has a certain level of tolerance to frost, although it will suffer from tip dieback in hard frosts although providing frost protection such as horticultural fleece and bubble wrapping the container will mitigate this. This makes it an ideal choice for for the milder regions of the UK. In fact, the meyers lemon can be planted outside all year round so logas it can be provided with a sheltered south-facing wall. Again additional frost protection may need to be put in place if colder weather is expected.

If you live further north in the UK and are determined to grow a lemon tree outside in the ground then there is an even hardier choice, so long as you are not too worried about the culinary qualities of the non-traditional fruits. This is the Rough lemon - Citrus jambhiri, a reliably cold-hardy, large tree cold-hardy citrus usually grow for use as a citrus rootstock.

In text image - By Debra Roby - originally posted to Flickr as Meyer Lemon, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9701422

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HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GROW A LEMON TREE FROM SEED

HOW TO GET RID OF BLACK MOULD ON A LEMON TREE
HOW TO GROW A LEMON TREE FROM CUTTINGS
HOW TO GROW KIWI FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW MANDARIN ORANGE FROM SEED - Citrus reticulata
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WHY ARE MY LEMON LEAVES CURLING?
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DO HYACINTHS LIKE SUN OR SHADE?

Do Hyacinths like sun or shade?

Native to the area of the eastern Mediterranean, Hyacinths have been a mainstay of British gardens since the 18th century. In fact during this period over 2,000 cultivars were grown in the Netherlands, its primary commercial producer. Modern cultivars are particularly vibrant and floriferous and so to get the most of you plants you will need to provided their ideal conditions which means mimicking their natural environment as much as possible. Of course this means knowing whether Hyacinths like sun or shade.

Found north of Bulgaria through to the northern part of the region of Palestine, hyacinths are typically found growing in hot semi-arid climates with mild winters and dry hot summers. Spring arrives around March–April and the hottest months are July and August, with the average high being 33 °C. The coldest month is January with temperatures usually at 7 °C. Rain is scarce and generally falls between November and March. Hyacinths manage to cope in these conditions due to the bulb which is in a fact a sophisticated storage systems allowing them to survive through long periods of extended drought.

So when growing Hyacinths in Northern Europe you actually get two choices. Firstly you can grow them indoors as a flowering houseplant then either dispose of them or plants them in the garden once they have finished flowering. The second choice is to purchase the specifically for growing outside.

When growing Hyacinths indoors as a houseplant then provide a light bright position that is out of direct sun.

When growing Hyacinths outside in the garden they will need a position that receives direct sun, and planted in a free draining soil.

Therefore to answer the question of do Hyacinths like sun or shade? Hyacinths like sun.

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BBC Hyacinths
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WHEN SHOULD HELLEBORES BE CUT BACK?

When should Hellebores be cut back?

Like me, you may have a love-hate relationship with Hellebores. The blooms are detailed and stunning, although not in every cultivar. The blooms generally hang face down, although not in every cultivar. And they spend most of the year with untidy foliage, although not in every cultivar. That being said there are cultivars I do enjoy but even so they will still require maintenance to get the best out of them and that means cutting back their knackered foliage. So when should Hellebores be cut back?

When should Hellebores be cut back?
If you are looking at what is best for the plant then you will be removing any leaves that have entirely died back, meaning that any nutrients and carbohydrates from the old leaves has been drawn back into the plant proper to help power new foliage and blooms.

However if you are looking at what will look best in your garden then remove from the base any large collapsed foliage as this will keep your specimens tidy.

That being said, the reason for this question is usually in relation to what will look best during the production of the plants spring blooms. In this case, the old leaves will need to be cut either prior to the emergence of the new spring growth, or just as this new growth breaks above ground. So this will be from late winter to early spring depending on the cultivar. For the south of England this is usually done around November to December. If you leave it until the new growth is clearly noticeable then you will be at risk of cutting back not only new foliage but even the new emerging flower stalks due to the confusion of stalks at the base.

There is a side benefit to removing the old leaves which is this. The thick untidy growth of Hellboures can often be a favourite haunt of snails and slugs, furthermore the leaves themselves are often targeted by slugs and snails.

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GARDENERS WORLD HELLEBORES
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STORIES, MYTHS, LEGENDS AND THE FOLKLORE OF HELLEBORE
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WHERE DO CROCUSES LIKE TO GROW?

Where do crocuses like to grow?

Next to snowdrops, crocus are a harbinger of spring and arguably the first decent spots of colour in an otherwise bleak winter landscape. For years the colour palette was quite limited with only yellow, white and a purplish-blue available, but with the help of plant breeders we now have monarch orange (although this is not a particularly strong cultivar) and the stunning Pickwick amongst others. 

So to get the best out of your crocuses it's important to provide them with environmental conditions as similar to they native environment. This then begs the question - where do crocuses like to grow?

To begin with, they come from quite a wide reaching band on the map including central and southern Europe, North Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia to western China. They are particularly noted for inhabiting the Greek island Krokos, from where they receive their species name.  They particularly inhabit woodland, scrub, and meadows from sea level to alpine tundra.

For garden use in northern mediterranean climates, most crocus species and hybrids will grow perfectly well planted in a sunny position (avoid planting under trees, especially deciduous forms unless the bulbs are not covered by a thick layer of fallen leaves), in a gritty, well-drained soil and this will be absolutely fine for most of the cultivars available in your local garden centre. However research your species as some will prefer shadier sites in moist soil, while other will perform better when used for naturalising in grass. When planting, the corms should be positioned about 3 to 4 cm deep, but when planting in heavy soils, work in a quantity of sharp grit to help improve drainage.

Be aware that as a general rule for commonly available crocus species and hybrids they do not like heavy, permanently wet soils and will not flower in shade.

Main image credit - Simon Eade Eaden Horticulture

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BBC: Crocus 'Pickwick'
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WHAT IS SAFFRON?

WHEN SHOULD I PLANT SNOWDROPS - Galanthus species and cultivars

 

When should I plant snowdrops?

'I don't like snowdrops', nobody ever said, and why would they? Snowdrops are pure, gorgeous and the antithesis of everything wrong in the world today. A little dramatic perhaps? Maybe so, but that doesn't take away the fact that when these perfectly formed species produce their exquisite springtime blooms my heart figuratively melts, even if the snow around them remains intact. So assuming that by reading this you too are a fan and also wish to have a display of said gems in your own garden then perhaps you would be interested in this question. When should I plant snowdrops?

When should I plant snowdrops?

Well luckily you get a couple of options here. The first will be in late autumn when pre-packed bulbs become available to purchase in all good garden centres. But there is a word of warning here! Galanthus bulbs are small and as such have a habit of drying out in the bags under the warm conditions of a shop. However this is the cheapest way to buy snowdrops so if you are planning to purchase pre-packed snowdrop bulbs, buy them as soon as the displays go up which can be as early as late October.

The best time to plant snowdrops in is the spring after flowering, but while the foliage is still lush. And you do this by physically going out in the miserable cold and wet weather to where snowdrops are already growing and dig up small sections, taking care to minimise disturbance to both the bulbs and the root-system. Just make sure you get permissions from whoever owns the plants first! These can then be replanted where you want them assuming conditions are suitable.

There is one further option though. Garden centres will begin selling pot grown snowdrops in the spring. These can be planted as and when, again disturbing the root ball as little as possible. Now this will be the most expensive way of purchasing snowdrops but if you can time it right you may be able to purchase then for mere pennies from the garden centre once the flowers have passed.

Main image - Bank hall bretherton at en.wikipedia CC BY 3.0

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