Crocosmia (Montbretia)

Crocosmia or Montbretia

Crocosmia or Montbretia

Crocosmia or Montbretia if you like, is one of those very special bulbous plants that can literally grow standing in water.

Originally they are from South-Africa, where you might find them growing on the edges of a dams where they could be standing partly covered in water for many months.

It’s not surprising then, why they are so happy here in England, especially at the moment!

There are many varieties to choose from ranging anything in between bright yellow to orange and dark red, sometimes with some bright yellow variation in the centres of flowers.

Crocosmia will spread quite fast so you need just a few bulbs from a friendly neighbour to start off with.

They too love a bit of sunlight, by the way.

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Roses are Red…

It’s impossible for any mortal man to describe the beauty of a single rose adequately, especially if the man, who attempts has eyes to see and a sense of smell and a limited command of language.
What I do know is how to keep a rose plant happy in a fairly unconventional manner. Instead of pruning back heavily or de-bud  to force on more and bigger flowers, I tend now to prune only when absolutely necessary and tend to braid the shoots together, to form different shapes and form and let nature take its course.

Rose craft is what I call this practice, it’s a lot more fun, you hardly need tools and you do not see as many scars.

A beautiful fragrant soft pink climbing Rose

A beautiful fragrant soft pink

A magnificent miniature red Rose

A magnificent miniature red Rose

This beauty is called Happy Birthday!

This one is called Happy Birthday!

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Abelia grandiflora

Abelia grandiflora

Abelia grandiflora, its popularity spread over more than a few continents..

Evergreen, versatile, hardy, drought resistant to name just a few of the good qualities which had made Abelia grandiflora a worthy resident in many gardens all over the world.

Its foliage ranging from lime green to bright yellow in the new shoots to golden or glossy green summer foliage which will eventually turn reddish bronze during Autumn and winter. There are even more variations and variegation on the market these days.

It blooms consistently producing fragrant white to soft pink trumpet shaped flowers which remain the highlight of the year, playing host to honeybees and many other beneficial insects.

Due to excessive pruning Abelia grandiflora over the long term may suffer as a hedge plant.

It is best to let the long shoots hang loose somewhere in a difficult sunny corner of your garden and watch as it comes into its own.

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Rudbeckia hirta

Rudbeckia hirta 'Prairie Sun'

Rudbeckia hirta 'Prairie Sun' showing off beautifully with Mexican Feather Grass (Nasella tenuissima) in the foreground

If it is yellow daisies you’re after, Rudbeckia won’t ever disappoint and they do not discriminate; growing well in every garden, even under very harsh conditions they will flourish.

After a few years of undisturbed growth it will form a big clump which you may want to divide in the autumn.

During the season you can fill up a vase with these lovely long stems to brighten up the inside of a room too.

One other task you can expect is to cut down to ground level once the stems had died back.

Their tough rhizomes will spend the entire winter under ground.

Despite its tolerance Rudbeckia still prefers  full sun and lots of water.

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Helxine soleirolii

Helxine soleirolii

Helxine soleirolii

Make sure you love this one before you let it roam free, and even then, set definite parameters to make your life easy in case you change your mind in the future.

If you don’t, this lovely and seemingly innocent, water loving ground cover will take over and there are certain other plants unable to cope with its competitive nature and may end up smothered  by an expanding, dense green carpet, however pretty it may be.

I let Helxine grow in damp, shady areas, where stone borders or paved paths will prevent it from spreading out of control. They work well with most ferns, but keep them off the trunks of tree ferns, just to be safe.

There are many varieties commercially available, but for me, however plain, the lush green (as seen on the photo) remains a favourite.

It is said that the Victorians brought it to Britain to decorate their conservatories, but it had long since made its way into our outdoor green spaces. It is also known as Babies Tears and in S.A. as Peace in the Home.

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Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

The Star Jasmine is now covered with pretty star shape flowers and strong pockets of sweet fragrance is bound to seduce  more  gardeners into planting them.

They like to grow next to North facing walls and fences as they love their roots to stay cool and moist. For overcoming dry conditions use grass clippings  for an effective mulch around the bases of their twirly stems.

A Star Jasmine does not like to be pruned and like to swirl up wired walls and trellises at its own pace.

The main reason for its wide spread popularity is the fact that it is evergreen!

Star Jasmines are available on poles and trellis in various sizes which make it an excellent choice for instant green barriers to provide privacy on balconies and the likes.

Most importantly, keep them well watered. They will take a long time, if at all to recover from severe shock caused by draught.

Trachelospermum jasminoides provide nesting habitat for our much loved garden birds and nectar for honeybees. It won’t let you down.

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Lemon Scented Geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum)

Lemon Scented Geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum)

Lemon Scented Geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum)

There are hundreds of varieties of Pelargonium and many are strongly scented.

One of my favourites is the Lemon Scented Geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum); very popular as part of any substantial herb garden mostly because of the lovely strong lemony scent.

It is well loved by insects such as honey bees, bumblebees, butterflies and the like.

Despite the fact that most of the scent will disappear when the leaves are dried it is still popular for cooking within some cultures.

For a nice taste add some fresh leaves to a herbal infusion. Alternatively, infusing the flowers and leaves in cold water over night is a good way to produce a lovely scented water to splash your face with and maybe as a refreshing summer drink? Still a required taste, I might add.

Lemon Scented Geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum)

Lemon Scented Geranium will brighten up any space

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Delicious Rocket

Rocket Flower

The tiny Flowers of Rocket can be eaten raw & used to decorate salads.

I love Rocket. Its lovely pungent taste transports me instantly deep into a memory of another time and place when sunlight and Rocket was abundant…

Rocket sowed directly in a Flat Tray

The good news is that it is easy and fast to grow your own rocket.

However most of us just love the taste with pasta on a bed of rocket or in a raw salad, how ever you prefer to have yours, the good news is that it is easy and fast to grow your own.

Just fill up a tray with good compost like I do and then scatter the seeds evenly over the surface. Since the seeds are so small, there is no need to cover. Just keep Most until germination (within 5-7 day) and keep the tray always in a sunny spot and out of excessive rain.

Alternatively, clear a bed in the garden, scatter the seeds evenly over the surface and water in with a soft spray or watering can fitted with a fine rose. It is truly that simple.

The most difficult part about sowing rocket seeds must be, because they are so tiny, not to instantly drop all the contents of the packet on a single spot. If this happened don’t fret, just softly rake over to spread seeds.

I empty the packet on the palm of my one hand, then using the pinch fingers of the other hand to scatter them, very carefully to make sure the whole bed is covered. Some gardeners like to mix the seeds with fine sand and then sow this bigger volume more evenly.

Start to harvest as soon as the leaves are big enough to handle and start thinking, where you will sow next.

Enjoy fresh rocket all season!

 

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Busy Lizzie (Impatiens)

Few annual bedding plants live up to its names as does Busy Lizzie. All the many colours and hybrids make them the choice for every occasion and they grow happily the full range from sun (a bit of extra watering required) to shade (only bit les busy, if you catch my drift).

If you are a little bored of growing them, plant just one single plant in your favoured colour or a few plants well spaced which will have a huge effect on their own too, instead of  filling entire beds with them to make a great impact.

Maybe I am a little over protective, it’s just, as I was growing up, I use to keep them, in a Sub-Tropical micro climate on the North facing slope (think Southern hemisphere!) of the Magalies Berg, where they were perennial. Yes, as a result the plants got very big and by the time the season ended they were huge and on top of that they would overwinter in sheltered areas, so I guess, here in London England I feel a bit sad to see them die back in their masses when winter arrives..

Busy Lizzie (Impatiens)

Busy Lizzie Impatiens

Busy Lizzie (Impatiens)

Busy Lizzie Impatiens

Busy Lizzie (Impatiens)

Busy Lizzie Impatiens

You cannot help but love them!

 

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Calystegia sepium (Bindweed or Bellbine)

Calystegia sepium (Bindweed or Bellbine)

Calystegia sepium (Bindweed or Bellbine) One of the Most Beautiful "Weeds" We Love to Fight With

If you are blessed with bindweed and are in a constant battle to rid your garden of this vigorous climber, why not try a fresh new approach.

This year, why not leave a few strands to climb where they will? Enjoy their beautiful pure white trumpet flowers and so will the insects.

After flowering you have all the rest of the season to pull them off your precious hedges.

Even better, leave some to climb undisturbed somewhere in a corner to let them finish their rather short cycle and pull out only once the lovely yellow autumn  display had worn of.

I find that a friendlier approach in certain areas make them much easier to control where it really matters. You might just grow to love and appreciate them.

For me they show off best on a neatly clipped Yew hedge.

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One Home Grown Tomato in the hand..

Healthy fresh home grown crops full of nutritional value!

Healthy fresh home grown crops full of nutritional value!

Not enough can be said in favour of having a go at growing your own food yourself.

For the simplest way to start, you need one reasonably large container, good potting compost and to buy a one or two small vegetable plants from your local garden centre. Plant it up and take good care of it!

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot more anyone can do as a first attempt, but many a first time gardener may risk missing the point entirely by starting too big, being intimidated or discouraged by the variety and apparent quality of veggies in supermarkets or not being consistent in caring for plants once the excitement of the ‘new project’ had worn off. As a result I’ve seen too many significantly good crops going to waste.

Happy plants are well watered and cared for on a daily basis, especially during hot spells. Watching with childlike expectation as your plant grow and develop day by day until a flower magically appears then turning into a tiny little fruit waiting patiently until it ripens and then to savour the moment you would take the first bite into you very own home grown tomato, or whatever you chose to get. Isn’t this what it is all about?

I guess my message today is: rather not bite of more than you can chew and  chewing should mean in this case to really open your eyes to the tiny little miracles constantly taking place in nature all around you. Because let’s face it: One home grown tomato in the hand is better than a thousand on the shelf!

One home grown tomato in the hand is better than a thousand on the shelf!

Few things in life beat the true joy of growing your own tomatoes!

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Pennywort or Gotu kola (Centella asiatica)

Pennywort or Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)

Pennywort or Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) Plant of the Gods

Words are inadequate to describe the power of this plant wide spread over South-Africa and said to be the reason for the longevity of the Asiatic elephant.

Closer to home here in London it is a rare jewel and one should feel lucky to get your hands on a live specimen.

This plant is widely used in alternative medicine having a positive effect on circulation and skin disorders, and for its claim to fame which is its ability to dissolve cellulite which naturally makes it a sought after ingredient for slimming creams and the likes of. And the list goes on.

I personally simply love to drink it as a tea to induce an enhanced state of mental calm and clarity without excessive brain activity.

Best you consult a qualified Herbal Medicine practitioner.

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Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)

Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)

Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) a must for every wildlife garden

You probably recognize this one from having seen it somewhere along a nature trail.

No other geranium is as prolific as this one; once introduced to your garden, its seeds will germinate everywhere.

It simply bears an abundance of tiny pink flowers all through its fairly short lifespan. The leaves are intriguingly compound and deeply lobed in form and display colours ranging from green to bronze.

Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)

The flowers can be born white, however this phenomenon is much more rare.

 

Simply pull them out when they start to look scrubby, to be replaced with a seedling in no time.

They can basically grow anywhere in any type of soil and under most conditions. No wildlife garden can be called wild without them!

There has to be a spot in your garden where you can let them be.

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Yellow Fumitory (Corydalis lutea)

Yellow Fumitory (Corydalis lutea)

Yellow Fumitory (Corydalis lutea)

The Yellow Fumitory (Corydalis lutea) is now naturalized all over London. You will normally find them in church yards along cool and damp walls where they put up quite a show.

If conditions are ideal, it will eventually come to your garden. I was delighted when it appeared in mine on a pile of old bricks.

For the impatient gardeners amongst us, young plants transplant quite easily if you get them with the roots intact.

Corydalis lutea are not normally stocked in garden centres as many gardeners treat this pretty plant as a weed, but not me, I make sure to keep one or two seedlings and then I will pull out the older bunches which always leave loads of seedlings to choose from.

They flower non-stop the whole summer and require zero attention!

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Echinacea

A lot can be said for the medicinal properties of the Echinacea.

The following pictures taken through the development of a single flower lending to it, an almost magical characteristic.

And magical it is, the petals of the flowers can be eaten raw or dried and added to herbal infusions, cakes and anything else imaginable  and it will strengthen your immune system!

Echinacea

Echinacea on 26/06/11

Echinacea

Echinacea on 30/06/11

Echinacea

Echinacea on 03/07/11

 

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