How to grow Oxalis triangularis

Commonly known as the 'False' or 'Purple' Shamrock. Oxalis triangularis is a bold coloured perennial bulbous plant native to Brazil. Its subtropical to tropical origins mean that it is a frost tender species and can only be grown as a bedding, conservatory or house plant in the cooler temperate regions of northern Europe.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Oxalis triangularis to reach a height and spread of between 10-50 cm. It is a winter dormant species with a mounded habit and striking purple leaves which emerge from the bulbs in the spring and lasting until the autumn. The white to pale-pink starry flowers appear over the summer.

Besides its excellent ornamental colour, is a great example of photonasty (non-directional responses to stimuli). This is expressed by the leaves opening out in high ambient light (as in during the day) and closing at low light levels.

When grown outside as bedding provide a sheltered, partially shaded position in a moist but well-drained soil

When grown under protection or has a houseplant indoors provide cool, frost-free conditions. Oxalis triangularis will requires a moisture retentive but well-drained good quality compost. Alternative you can make your own mix using of equal parts loam, leaf mould and grit.

Water moderately when in growth and apply a liquid soluble fertiliser monthly. When dormant over the winter months allow the soil to dry off more and just keep it just barely moist until new growth emerges in the spring. Repot every other October

Main image credit - KENPEI - KENPEI's photo, CC BY-SA 3.0,


How to grow Oxalis versicolor from seed

Commonly known as the Candy Cane Sorrel, Oxalis versicolor is a bulbous perennial native to South Africa. The species name versicolor means 'changing colour', referring to the eye-catching red and white flowers.

It is a clump forming species which under favourable can be expected to grow to approximately 8 cm height. The light green leaves are composed of three narrow leaflets. Appearing from late summer into winter the funnel-shaped, each white petal is margined with a crimson vertical stripe underneath. This provides an unusual yet attractive candy-stripe effect while in bud, hence the common name.

Due to its warm-temperate to subtropical origins, Oxalis versicolor can only be considered half-hardy in the cooler temperate conditions of northern Europe.

Plant outside in a sheltered position in either full sun or partial shade. Alternatively grow under the protection of an alpine house in bright filtered light. It will perform best when grown in a well-drained sandy loam.

Growing Oxalis versicolor from seed

In northern Europe Oxalis versicolor seeds will need to be sown in a modular seed tray under protection in the spring. Sow the seeds onto the surface about 1mm deep in a well-drained soil-based seed compost such as John Innes compost or make your own mix from equal parts loam, leaf mould and grit. Press the seeds into the compost buy do not bury and then cover with a very light covering of compost, horticultural grit or vermiculite.

Gently water in, but not too much water and the leave in a heated propagator with the vents closed with temperatures between 15ºC to 21ºC during the day and 13ºC to 18ºC at night. Germination will take approximately 14-60 days. Once the first seedlings start to emerge increase ventilation. Each seeding can be potted on into a 9cm pot once its roots have established in the module. Take care not to disturb the root system while completing this action.

Water moderately when in growth and apply a balanced liquid fertiliser monthly. Avoid waterlogged soils and only water once the top 5 cm of soil has dried out. Keep barely moist when dormant over the winter and do not fertilize as this can cause the bulbs to soften and rot.

Once the threat of late frosts has passed, harden the young plants to outdoor conditions for 10-14 days before planting outside into their final position.

Protect seedlings from damage from slugs and snails.

Main image credit -NZ Fauna


How to grow Convolvulus sabatius

Commonly known as the ground blue-convolvulus or blue rock bindweed, Convolvulus sabatius
is a woody-stemmed trailing perennial plant native to Italy and North Africa. Often found and sold under the synonymous name Convolvulus mauritanicus, it is generally cultivated as an annual in the cooler climates of northern Europe. It has a tufted, mat-forming habit making it a popular as summer bedding.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Convolvulus sabatius to grow to approximately 20 cm in height.  It has slightly hairy, ovate to obovate leaves and light blue to violet, funnel-shaped blooms which appear from June to September. The flowers have a light-blue to white centre, and are approximately 2.5–5 cm in diameter.

For best results Convolvulus sabatius can be grown in any well-drained garden soil in a sunny position. Water regularly during periods of drought and apply a liquid soluble fertiliser fortnightly once in bloom. Remove the seed heads as they form to ensure a succession of flowers.

Convolvulus sabatius received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

By Frank Vincentz - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

HOW TO CONTROL BINDWEED - Convolvulus arvensis


How to grow Acer pseudoplatanus 'Esk Sunset'

Acer pseudoplatanus 'Esk Sunset', also known as 'Eskimo Sunset', is a gorgeous ornamental selection of the common or garden sycamore found in the Esk Valley on the North Island of New Zealand
It is a deciduous cultivar is noted for its fresh spring foliage which emerges orange-pink. This then matures to deeper shades of green, splashed with cream, tan and pink. The leaf undersides are a rich purple. The flowers are insignificant, and the subsequent winged seeds are borne in pairs and twirl to the ground when ripe. Be aware that any viable seedlings produced are likely to emerge as the original Acer pseudoplatanus species.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Acer pseudoplatanus 'Esk Sunset' to reach an approximate height of 4 metres tall, with a width of 3 metres after ten years or so. Once fully mature, a height of  25 ft. tall may be achieved.

It will perform best in a sheltered position away from drying winds, in a full sun to partial shade, but in regions which experience particularly hot summers, it would be best to provide afternoon shade to avoid leaf scorch. While the foliage tends not to burn in full sun it will affect the foliage colour.

Plant in a moist, humus-rich soil, but avoid soils prone to waterlogging. During its first year water regularly, especially during extended periods of drought.

HOW TO GROW MILK THISTLE - Silybum marianum

Also commonly known as carduus marianus, blessed milk thistle, Mediterranean milk thistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, Saint Mary's thistle to name just a few, Silybum marianum is an robust biennial s native across Southern Europe through to Afghanistan and Asia although it has naturalised into North America, Iran, Australia and New Zealand. There is also some debate to whether it is a native the south coast of England. Incidentally the main image was taken on a roadside of the coastal town of Littlehampton.

How to grow Milk Thistle - Silybum marianum
It is a thistle-like species which forms a rosette of large, glossy dark-green leaves with prominent white veins and spiny lobes. Terminal heads of purple flowers with spiny bracts appear in the second year. The blooms are approximately 5 cm across and appear from July to September.

If you are growing from seed then sow in September or March if they are to be grown as annuals, or in May or June if being grown as biennials. They will grow in almost any soil in an open sunny site. Sow the seeds in their flowering site and cover with a thin layer of soil. Thin out seedlings to approximately 40-50 cm apart when they are large enough to handle.

Besides the milk thistles ornamental use, it is also has culinary and medicinal uses. The roots can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled and buttered or par-boiled. The new growth in the spring can be cut down to the root and also boiled and buttered. The young flower heads can be eaten like globe artichoke, and the peeled stems can be soaked overnight and then stewed to remove the bitterness. The leaves can be boiled and use as a spinach substitute or added raw to salads.

With regards to medical uses, it is believed that milk thistle may have some value in the treatment of liver disease, and cancer, however current research is so far inconclusive.

Main image credit Simon Eade
In text image - Public Domain,


General James Wolfe

It is very much a national peculiarity, but we English do love a good underdog. For those unfamiliar with the term, it describes someone who steps up to the fight knowing that they are likely to lose, but gets on with it anyway.

However, history tells us that in every generation there are a special few who are made of stronger stuff. They give their all and win the fight, but end up dying in the process. Take Lord Nelson for example, already a national hero through fighting in the Napoleonic wars, he immortalised himself by dying at the brink of victory during the battle of Trafalgar. What makes his accomplishments all the more heroic is that throughout his career as a naval officer, he suffered from ongoing chronic seasickness!

Unknown to many of us we had rejoiced in heroism like this before, but unlike Nelson the name has not been engraved in the national psyche. The significance of this can only be described as a travesty of justice because in his time he was perhaps one of the most famous men the world had ever seen. And the name of this forgotten fallen hero? James Wolfe the ‘The Hero of Louisbourg’ and the man singularly responsible for defeating the French bringing Canada under British rule.

Modern day Westerham
His story begins in the beautiful Kentish village of Westerham, much of which remains the same as it was in Wolfe’s day. The eldest son of Henrietta and Edward, his father was a lieutenant colonel in the British army serving under the Duke of Marlborough. From the moment he was born on 2nd January 1727 he had already received his first lessons on the hardships army life. Being on active duty his father was unable to attend the birth. The result of which meant that instead of being at the family home of Spiers (later known as Quebec House) his mother gave birth over the road in the vicarage. It was unfortunate timing as she was only staying to enjoy a little company. Later that year the he was baptised in St. Mary’s, a beautiful 14th century parish church that stands on rising ground just behind the family home. Although no longer used, the old stone font used to christen James Wolfe can still be seen to this day.

Westerham 1831
He was considered frail as a child, but was still very much his father’s son. He proved this by following in his footsteps and joining the Duke of Marlborough’s regiment of marines at the tender age of 13. Working hard he received his first commission as second lieutenant at 14. He proved himself to be a determined and gifted career soldier, but like many of his compatriots he took a rather dim view of the men under his command. Acknowledged as a brilliant trainer of infantry he managed to win their loyalty and obedience by introducing his own highly effective measures for training and discipline. Best known for the alternate firing and bayonet system, he reinforced these ideas by the new concept of regular parade ground drilling. This system subsequently provided the foundation of British infantry tactics in the American War of Independence and was further built upon in the Napoleonic wars. Along with a strong interest in his soldiers welfare he was very much ahead of his time and this enabled him to accomplish victories when less enlightened leaders would have failed.

Explosion on anchored French warship
The year of 1758 saw the first of his most memorable victories. Having reached the lofty rank of brigadier-general, Wolfe was charged with leading an assault against the great sea fortress of Louisbourg. His forces sailed under the cover of darkness along the coast from their base at Halifax, Nova Scotia, but heavy fog had settled into the bay forcing them to an agonizing delay of almost a week. Finally the fog lifted and the troops followed Wolfe into Freshwater cove, not only one of the most inhospitable shores in the world, but one that was also under a strong French defense. Fortunately the British had luck on their side and, even though they were under fire from the French, a small band of sailors managed to land and secure a beachhead.

British ships began firing on those of the French which were still anchored in the bay. By chance, a lucky shot hit a French gunpowder store which in turn set fire to stationary French warships. It wasn’t long before the anchored fleet became nothing more than a gigantic fireball.

Map of Quebec
The Fortress held fast, but with the British onshore, it was only a matter of time. The outposts were captured, and soon the British cannon turned their rage towards the French fortress. The battle had turned into a siege and for several weeks the constant roar of British bombardment sang of their inevitable doom. By the end of July the walls of Louisbourg began to crumble, and the French garrison finally surrendered

The victory at Louisbourg was vitally important to the British command as it effectively cut off both French supplies and their reinforcements allowing the British forces to sail down the St. Lawrence River to Quebec unimpeded. The victory at Louisbourg was only one element in a three part strategy to capture Quebec, the last real French stronghold in North America. But with winter closing in, the final attack on Quebec had to be delayed.

Unfortunately for General Wolfe poor health had been a constant companion throughout his life. Throughout this time he was suffering from tuberculosis and kidney failure, but the demands of battle were making him weaker still. He decided to take this opportunity to return to England and spend some time convalescing in the ancient Roman spa town of Bath. When he arrived in England news had already spread and he found himself to be already famous. It was at this time he became known as ‘The hero of Louisbourg’. William Pitt, the then British Prime Minister, arranged for a meeting with James Wolfe and, suitably impressed, gave Wolfe command of the forthcoming Quebec assault force.

In June 1759, the stage was set and Wolfe, along with 9000 men, sailed up the St Lawrence River towards the treacherous cliff face of Quebec. He landed unopposed on the Island of Orleans, placing them virtually opposite the French position who had been expecting attacks from Lake Ontario in the West and Lake Champlain in the South. Wolfe’s new battle plan was beginning to come together, especially as his arrival along the St Lawrence had taken the French by surprise.

French fireships
At midnight on the 28th June, seven ships were witnessed to be sailing towards the British position. They were French fireships and their aim was to destroy the British fleet. Their burning hulls lit up the sky on that warm summer’s night but a miscalculation by the French commander had made him give the order to ignite them too soon. The fireships were easily spotted by the British sentries and subsequently held off, leaving them to burn harmlessly by the shore.

On 31st July 1759 Wolfe attempted a direct attack on his opponent the Marquis de Montcalm on his riverside fortifications at Beaumont, but the land was too well protected and it failed. An even greater disaster followed when a landing was made on the Falls of Montgomery. Over 400 of Wolf’s men died in the final attack forcing the British to withdraw. Wolfe’s plan to siege Quebec was beginning to falter.

Slipping on the cliffs
Unused to failure and suffering once more with failing health, Wolfe was becoming desperate to finish the campaign before the oncoming winter. After heavy consultations with the fleets’ admiral and his own brigadiers, a brilliant final plan was formed. With echoes of Alexander the Great he sent out reconnaissance to find a way up the unscalable cliffs to the west of the fortress. Incredibly Wolfe’s luck returned and a path was found at the base of Anse au Foulon (now known as Wolfe’s Cove), but there was a problem. The cliff path was no wider than two men standing abreast making it an extremely dangerous climb, but if Wolfe’s plan had any chance to succeed then his men had to make the ascent at night!

On 12th September Wolfe received intelligence that French supply ships were going to venture down the St Lawrence under the cover of darkness. In fear of their plan being discovered it was decided to feign an attack on Montcalm’s fortifications east of the city. They hoped that this would have the effect of drawing the French commander’s attention away from the proposed landing site. If the deception proved successful then it would also present Wolfe with an unexpected opportunity, tipping the balance in favour of the British!

The diversion worked and while Montcalm’s forces were concentrating on the opposite side of Quebec, Wolfe’s orders were read out to the troops to effect their final assault. The ending of which is eerily similar to Nelson's famous signal at Trafalgar. “…The officers and men will remember what their country expects from them…”

It was close to midnight when the English troops embarked in their small boats, taking advantage of a turning tide they began their three hour passage to Anse au Foulon. It was now that the earlier intelligence report was used to their gain. Although the French sentries who lined the route challenged the British advanced party they were answered by a by a highland officer who spoke fluent French. He was able to convince them they were the expected French supply ships enabling the force to land virtually without incident. Within two hours Wolfe had a force of 4828 men on top of the cliffs, but what was more astounding was that he was even able to bring up some artillery!

The Plains of Abraham
As the morning sun rose over the open ground, the British troops prepared for battle and once again the French were caught completely by surprise. Montcalm only become aware of the British incursion when he saw their lines forming in the distance. Certain that Wolfe could only have a token force at the cliff tops, he refused to wait the two hours it would take for his troops to return from the west. Instead he attacked Wolfe with the garrison at Quebec, made up of French, Canadian, and native Indians. They streamed through the city towards the British lines held at the Plains of Abraham. Montcalm immediately applied to the city’s’ governor for some of the guns from the ramparts, but only three of them were released. Nevertheless, Montcalm was still determined to reach the British before they had a chance to properly dig in so he called for an immediate attack.

It was 9.30 in the morning when the French were first ordered to advance, but they were excitable and poorly discipline. With no return fire from the British they sensed victory and began to run towards their lines firing prematurely. It wasn’t long before the French attack began to loose its cohesion. Wolfs forces, instilled with his legendary parade ground discipline, waited until the enemy was only 40 yards away before they fired off a single, deadly volley from their Brown Bess muskets. As Montcalm’s army broke and fled, a second volley was released which all but destroyed the French line.

Death of James Wolfe
With typical disregard for his own safety he joined his men in the thick of the fighting. Unfortunately, he chose to wear the scarlet coat of the Grenadiers making him an easy target for French marksmen. He was only there a few minutes before receiving an shot which shattered the bones in his wrist. This was quickly followed by a second that caught him in the groin. Incredibly, he remained on the battlefield until hit by a third shot that lodged deep within his chest. The pain must have been agonizing and no longer able to command two men were called to support him back behind the British lines.

He was offered the services of the regimental surgeon but believing the battle about to be lost Wolfe refused saying “…it is needless; it is all over with me...”. Dejected he asked to be laid on the ground and from then on he prepared for his end. Moments later, according to Captain John Knox of the 43rd regiment, someone cried out “See them run!” Wolfe, lying motionless, stirred as though woken from a deep sleep. “Who runs?” he asked weakly. The answer he received strengthened him considerably, “The French!”

Wolfe’s final orders were this “... go to Colonel Burton – tell him to march Webb’s regiment down to St. Charles River to cut off their retreat from the bridge…” Turning on his side he then added “...Now God be praised, I will die in peace...” And so, victorious in battle, ended the life of one of England’s greatest military geniuses.

Death of Marquis de Montcalm
Canadian forces, under command of the French, continued to fire on the British until they too were driven back. Meanwhile, the French army retreated back into the city amidst the confusion. The Marquis de Montcalm, who also made himself out to be an outstanding target, was mortally wounded by foolishly riding along the front lines. He was carried back to the city by a crowd of fugitives and taken to the Ursuline Convent hospital. It was around 4 o'clock in the morning on the 14th September when he died, just 24 hours after the British first set foot at Anse au Foulon. The city of Quebec surrendered four days later.

History tells us that both Wolfe and Montcalm were killed in the battle, both surviving to know the outcome. It was the very nature of this battle and his death at the moment of victory, which made Wolfe a national hero. The news of his death was received with mourning across the whole of Britain and his services to his country were rewarded by a monument erected in Westminster Abbey. However, the tremendous bravery and tactical brilliance of the man would have counted for nothing without his extraordinary knack for having luck on his side. If Montcalm hadn’t blundered into an early attack, Wolfe’s forces would have been crushed and his reputation would have turned out very different. And so to conclude, it’s because of this very reason why Wolfe possesses all the qualities necessary to hold the title as one of England’s greatest underdogs. Long may he be remembered.

In text image - By No machine-readable author provided. Ross Burgess assumed (based on copyright claims). - No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Public Domain,
By Engraving by Richard Paton, 1771 - Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Reference no. M55.7.1, Public Domain,
By Benjamin West - The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain,
By Hervey Smyth (1734-1811) - Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence, Public Domain,
By Hervey Smyth (1734-1811) - Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence, Public Domain, - public domain

For related articles click onto the following links:


Acer pseudoplatanus 'Brilliantissimum'

Commonly known as the sycamore 'Brilliantissimum', Acer pseudoplatanus 'Brilliantissimum' is a small deciduous tree noted for its bright pink emerging foliage. Entering cultivation in around 1905, it has since become a popular garden specimen. However its slow rate of growth does means that it is comparatively more expensive than other choice garden trees.

This slow growth rate has another downside in that when left to its own devices tends not to produce a straight stem. So in order to produce a larger plant quicker, and with the favoured straight stem, Acer pseudoplatanus 'Brilliantissimum' is usually propagated by top grafting.

Under favourable conditions it will produce a mounded campy and an approximately height and width of between 4-8 metres. In the spring the new growth opens up a bright shrimp pink, turning to a yellow-green as the foliage matures, finally ending up a dark green colour, mottled with cream.

Grow in a moist but well-drained soil in a sunny or partially shaded position. Avoid soils prone to waterlogging as this can cause significant roots problems. Deep shade will adversely affect the colour and size of the leaves.

Acer pseudoplatanus 'Brilliantissimum' can be prone to reverting back to the true species plain green leaves, and any stems that display this must be pruned out immediately. No other pruning is required other than to removed dead or diseased or errand stems.

Water regularly during period of drought during the first year following its planting and keep the base of the tree free of grass or garden plants for the following three years to reduce failure through competition.

Acer pseudoplatanus 'Brilliantissimum' has received the following awards from the Royal Horticultural Society, the Award of Merit in 1925, the First Class Certificate in 1977 and the Award of Garden Merit in 1984.


How to grow Cerinthe major purpurascens

Commonly known as the 'Purple Shrimp Plant' or 'Honeywort', Cerinthe major purpurascens is a popular herbaceous garden plant noted for its unusual yet gorgeously coloured blooms. The true species is a native to a large proportion of the mediterranean basin although it is far less attractive with green foliage and yellow-bronzed blooms

Cerinthe major
Cerinthe major purpurascens has a bushy, erect habit and readily self-propagates from seed (sometimes to the point of becoming a weed) in the milder regions of southern England and Ireland. Further north it tends to be only grown as an annual.

Under favourable conditions you can reach heights of between 50 to 60 centimetres. The leaves are a bluish-green colour, while the tubular flowers are yellow and purple with conspicuous purple bracts which appear from mid-April to the end of May. Once pollinated, black seeds drop to the ground in late summer .

Cerinthe major purpurascens will perform best in a sheltered position in full sun, preferring to be planted in a well-drained, fertile soil. Avoid soils prone to waterlogging and cut back after flowering to prevent re-seeding. If full sun is not available it will tolerate light shade.

Main image credit - Simon Eade at
In text image - By © Hans Hillewaert /, CC BY-SA 3.0,


How to grow African rain daisies

Also known as 'Rain daisies', 'Daisy Bushes' or 'African Daisies' amongst several other common names. the African Rain Daisy - Osteospermum sp. is not just one plant but a huge number of selected cultivars from a range of approximately 85 half-hardy perennials or subshrubs native to both southern Africa, and the southwestern Arabian Peninsula.

How to grow African rain daisies
That are an extremely popular garden and park plant, noted for their densely packed brightly coloured blooms, floriferous habit and long flowering season. They are largely pest and disease free, and easy to grow so long as they are not allowed to become too dry at the roots.

Depending on the species, cultivar and growing conditions you can expect African Rain Daisies to reach a height between 10-50 cm. They have a densely mounded habits and can achieve a spread of between 50-100 cm.

Although predominantly grown as annuals in England most specimens are in fact hardy to -2 degrees celsius. This means that in the milder regions of southern England and Ireland even the more tender forms can survive the winter. For those living further north, Osteospermum jucundum and Osteospermum 'Stardust' are considered to be the hardiest of all with reports of them recovering from temperatures down to as low as -15 degrees Celsius!

White Spoon Osteospermum
Be that as it may their sub-tropical origins mean that African Rain Daisies will always perform at their best when given a warm, sunny position, and planted in a rich soil.They will of course tolerate poor soils and even drought conditions but do not expect the same kind of display. Have the root system too dry and they will become difficult to encourage back into bloom. Avoid waterlogged soils as this can cause plants to fail due to root rots.Heavy soils should be improved by adding plenty of coarse grit to the ground prior to planting

Flowering is nutritionally exhausting for African Rain Daisies and so feed with a liquid soluble fertilizer once a week to maintain flowering. While deadheading is not necessary to encourage further flowers (Osteospermums do not set seed easily), removing spent blooms from the base of the flower stem will result in a tidier plant.

Shop bought or seed grown plants should only be planted outside in to their final positions once the threat of late frosts has passed.

In text image credit -


How to grow Beschorneria yuccoides 

Often confused with the humble Yucca flaccida, Beschorneria yuccoides is a stemless, succulent plant native to the states of Hidalgo, Puebla and Veracruz in Mexico. Indeed the species name 'yuccoides' is derived from the Greek meaning 'Yucca-like', which is not surprising as both genera are from the same subfamily - Agavoideae. However the differences between the two end when they come into bloom.

Although usually associated with mild gardens on the East Coast of the United States Beschorneria yuccoides has proven itself to be tough enough to survive the warmer temperate climates of southern England and Ireland. That being said there are significant clumps at both Cambridge Botanic Gardens and Staunton Park, albeit with minimum winter protection.

How to grow Beschorneria yuccoides 
It is a clump-forming species with fleshy, grey-green, strap-shaped leaves up usually between 30-60 cm in length. Under favourable conditions you can expect it to reach an approximate height and spread of 1-1.5 metres. The impressive flower spike can reach a height of 1–1.8 metres although they are prone to bending over if not supported. The stems and the bract are a sumptuous red with nodding, yellow-green tubular-flowers borne from arching racemes.

It is a rarely seen species in cultivation however it is arguably one of the most exotic when grown successfully. Provide a position that receives as much sun as possible, in a soil that is particularly well-drained. Sandy loams are best, but you can add plenty of horticultural grit-sand and humus rich compost in less well-drained soils. Do not consider soils prone to waterlogging as the poor root conditions will result in minimal growth and certainly no blooms.

As with many of the more tender specimens a sheltered, south-facing wall is usually perfect. Before planting mix in a good quality, nitrogen rich fertilizer such as 'Blood, Fish and Bone' at the base of the hole.

There is a belief that larger specimens cope better outside in cooler regions than smaller ones, however it is usually only the smaller specimens which are available to purchase. Therefore for a better long-term effect, pot on small specimens into as large a container as possible and grow on for a year or two before planting out into their permanent position.

Image credit - Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0
In text image -  Hect onichus CC BY-SA 3.0


How to grow Convolvulus cneorum

Commonly known as the 'Silver Bush', Convolvulus cneorum is a half-hardy, evergreen shrub native to the coastal regions of Spain, Italy, Croatia and Albania. It is a popular garden plant, which despite is propensity to look quite sickly after its first year in the ground, is widely grown and sold in the south of England. The reason behind it consistent poor performance is quite simply because really isn't suited to the British climate. It is generally too cold, too wet, with not enough heat and not enough sun. That being said under favourable growing conditions Convolvulus cneorum has proven itself to be cold hardy down to -9 C.

How to grow Convolvulus cneorum
When collected from your local plant retailer, Convolvulus cneorum will display a compact, bushy habit with silvery grey foliage. The narrow, lanceolate leaves are actually a dark green colour, the silver quality is the result of a covering of silky, silvery hairs. Once established you can expect Convolvulus cneorum to achieve a height of between 75-100 cm.

Pink buds open to white blooms with yellow throats from May to September. The flowers are somewhat funnel-shaped, 2.5 cm across and borne in terminal clusters.

The prefered time to plant Convolvulus cneorum is during April to May to allow the roots to become established before the onset of winter. It will require a sheltered position (preferably against a south-facing brick wall) open to as much sunlight as possible. In its natural habitat Convolvulus cneorum is often found found growing in within cracks in rocks and so well-drained conditions are an absolute must. Most ordinary garden soils will be fine, just so long as they are well drained. Alkaline soils are best. Do not plant in soils prone to waterlogging. In areas where high rainfalls are expected (in particular over the winter) protect the foliage with panes of glass or perspex, or cover with an open-ended closhe. This retains excellent ventilation, reducing the incidence of fungal infection.

Failure to provide adequate conditions will result in weak growth, dull foliage and quite often root damage due to waterlogged conditions. Poor conditions usually result in the plants failure.

In more northerly climate, consider growing Convolvulus cneorum in a protected alpine house using John Innes No.1.

Main image credit - Valérie Agnès CC BY-SA 3.0,
In text image Simon Eade -

HOW TO CONTROL BINDWEED - Convolvulus arvensis


What is bindweed?

Bindweed - Convolvulus arvensis, although more accurately commonly known as the field bindweed, is a pernicious perennial weed common to many gardens and allotments in the south of England. Native to Europe and Asia it is a species of the the morning glory family.

Bindweed root system
It is a climbing or creeping herbaceous vine which left unmanaged can grow to between 0.5–2 metres high. It is considered problematical for two reasons:

1. A single plant can produce up to 500 seeds in one season, and each seed can remain viable in the soil for up to 20 years!

2. The extensive root systems can be several metres long and due to its brittle nature is prone to snapping when weeded. These roots are rich in carbohydrates and proteins and allows it to sprout new growth repeatedly from the remaining fragments.

The mid-green leaves are linear to arrowhead-shaped, and usually between 2–5 cm long. The white or pale pink, funnel-shaped blooms appear from June to August. Each flower is approximately 1.5-2.5 centimetres in diameter, with five slightly darker pink radial stripes and are subtended by small bracts. Once pollinated light brown fruits appear (approximately 0.3 cm wide) containing 2 seeds.

Arguably the best method of controlling bindweed is to use chemical herbicides although this isn't always practical if it is smothering economically or emotionally important plants. Digging out the roots is also a viable method although it will be a repetitive chore that will need to be maintained over several years until the underlying root system becomes exhausted.

To find out more about controlling bindweed click onto the following link:
HOW TO CONTROL BINDWEED - Convolvulus arvensis
In text image credit - Bouba - Convolvulus arvensis, 28 juin 2004, Jardin des Plantes de Paris (fr:Jardin des Plantes de Paris)

HOW TO CONTROL BINDWEED - Convolvulus arvensis

How to control bindweed - Convolvulus arvensis

The common name bindweed is unfortunately used for a number of plant, but for the purpose of this article (which relates to the common garden weed - Convolvulus arvensis) the more accurate common name of 'Field Bindweed' will be used.

Closely related to the morning glory family, the field bindweed is a native to Europe and Asia. However, as pretty as its blooms are, the field bindweed is also a pernicious garden weed which if left unmanaged can easily swamp a suburban border and contaminate lawns. It is also notorious for out-competing ornamental species for sunlight, moisture and nutrients and is one of the most serious of agricultural weeds in the temperate regions of the world!

How to control bindweed - Convolvulus arvensis
A single plant can produce up to 500 seeds in a season, with each seed capable of remaining viable in the ground for up to 20 years! However it is arguably the deep, extensive, brittle root system which causes the biggest headaches. Any attempt to hand dig out the field bindweed invariably results in the roots snapping. Even a small section of root can contain sufficient carbohydrates and proteins to allow it to sprout repeatedly following the removal of the above-ground growth.

Organic control of bindweed

It is possible to manage bindweed by persistent digging and hoeing. Over time the plants will weaken and over a couple of years of relentless pursuit it is possible to wear out the root systems. Just remember that dormant seeds will stay viable in the ground for decades and so consider organic control of bindweed as an almost permanent feature .

On allotments, one popular method is to cover the area in old carpet for a year or so as the lack of sunlight to the soils effectively killing off most vegetation.

Chemical control of bindweed

The chemical of choice is Glyphosate. This is a non-selective weed killer which will affect any plant when applied to green growth, so be careful what you spray and avoid windy conditions. The reason why it is the chemical of choice is because it travels throughout the plant's vascular system killing both the top growth foliage and the roots. It also deactivates on contact with soil so that you can replant without the risk of damaging newly planted or sown plants.

In text image credit - Bouba - Convolvulus arvensis, 28 juin 2004, Jardin des Plantes de Paris (fr:Jardin des Plantes de Paris)

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO CONTROL BINDWEED - Convolvulus arvensis


Black spots on pansy and viola leaves

Your precious pansies and violas seem to be doing well until one day you notice that the leaves are covered in tiny black spots. The plants appear otherwise healthy and the spots themselves are difficult to see. However once you know they are there the evidence becomes glaring.

The spots can appear as either small, round pin pricks or irregular blotches. These are caused by one, and sometimes more of three specific fungi, namely Ramularia lactea, Ramularia agrestis and Mycocentrospora acerina.

There is some bad news as these fungal spores are only spread by rain over short distances and not wind-borne, so the likely source of the fungus is from the purchase of infected plants.That being said it is possible that wild pansies and violas may also provide sources of infection for garden specimens. To add another layer of bad news non-chemical controls only go as far as to avoid repeat planting on the same site to prevent the build-up of these pathogens in the soil. There is no specific chemical control for black spots on pansy and viola leaves however consider using Bayer Fungus Fighter Concentrate, Bayer Fungus Fighter Plus, Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra and Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra Gun.

These fungal spores develop in humid, moist conditions and so as a precaution, and while it is not always easy always try to water from the base and avoid splashing leaves and flowers.

Be aware that without preventive measures these fungal spores can contaminate the soil for several years.

For related articles click onto the following links:


How to grow Prunus shirotae

Also commonly known (or if you prefer - confused) and sold as the similar Prunus 'Mount Fuji', Prunus shirotae is a one of the most popular of all the ornamental flowering Japanese cherries. Like all selected forms this will be a grafted onto a rootstock either at the base of the tree or at the crown. Prunus serrula is often used for its ornamental bark or 'Colt', or Gisela 5. It is a vigorous tree with a wide spreading head of horizontal or drooping branches. The leaves a are bronze-green colour when young, turning to a mid-green as they mature, with a distinctive fringed appearance.

How to grow Prunus shirotae
It is noted for its profusion of fragrant, snow-white blooms which appear from late March to April. The flowers are single or semi-double, approximately 1-2cm across, and borne on long, drooping clusters.

Under favourable conditions (and depending on the rootstock) you can expect Prunus shirotae to reach a height of between 10-25 ft, with an approximate width of 15-35ft - depending on the rootstock.

It is best to plant Prunus shirotae in the autumn while the soil is still warm, but so long as you keep an eye on watering, container grown specimens can be planted any time of year. It is a shallow rooted selection that should not be planted too deeply nor should the soil around the base of the plant be cultivated too often or too deeply. It will be perfectly happy in most ordinary garden soils, preferably with a trace of lime. Just avoid soils that are prone to drying out over the summer or that become waterlogged during the winter.

Provide a position of full sun and stake with a stout support, especially in exposed areas. Pruning is not necessary other an to maintain a tidy shape or to remove weak, diseased or damaged branches.

Prunus shirotae was introduced to Western gardeners in 1905, and later received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.

For related articles click onto the following links:


What is sea kale - Crambe maritima

If you have ever walked along the stoney coastlines of southern England, you may have chanced across the leathery, rosettes of our native sea kale - Crambe maritima. It is a mound-forming, spreading perennial related to the cabbage with large, fleshy, glaucous leaves. It produces dense racemes of small white flowers in early summer.

Sea kale can be found growing wild above the high tide mark on shingle beaches along the coasts of Europe, from the North Atlantic to the Black Sea.

It is an edible species, and has in fact been recorded as being served to none other than the Prince Regent George IV (1762–1830) at his seaside retreat - the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. The shoots are usually blanched for a better flavour and then steamed and served with a hollandaise sauce. Once cooked sea kale is said to have a flavour like a cross between asparagus and celery. Be aware that in the UK sea kale is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and must not be picked without permission from the landowner.

Perhaps more interestingly, sea kale is a rare halophytic species, that is to say it is a plant which is capable either of of growing in waters of high salinity, or comes into contact with saline water through its roots or by salt spray. It is believed that only 2% of all plant species can be regarded as a halophyte.

Historical fact

Sea Kale is naturally high in vitamin C and was preserved and used by the Romans on long ocean journeys to prevent scurvy.

Click onto the above image for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop
Main image - Siim CC BY-SA 2.5
In text image credit - Attribution: Andrew Hill cropped

For related articles click onto the following links:


What is eating the flowers of pansies and violas?

It can be extremely frustrating to find that after all the effort of purchasing and then planting garden displays of pansies and violas that the flowers become ragged and attractive, seemingly overnight! Usually there is little evidence of a culprit but it is likely to be the works of caterpillars, slugs or snails. The work or earwigs should also be considered


What is eating the flowers of pansies and violas?
Caterpillars will happily feed on pansy and viola flowers leaving ragged buds and petals. They will also leave torn leaves. Depending on the species, excessive damage can defoliate the pansies if not controlled. Finding the caterpillars themselves is easier said than done, but have a good look through the foliage

Biological controls include a soil bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis. This will control caterpillars without affecting beneficial insects, humans or mammals.

Chemicals controls are widely available in all good garden centres.

Slugs and Snails

What is eating the flowers of pansies and violas?
Slugs and snails are also known eat pansy and viola blossoms and buds. but will also leave large holes in the leaves. Unless the slugs and snails are particularly small their presence can be identified by silvery mucus trails

Both organic and chemical controls are easily available. Slug pellets are easy to use and apply. Nematodes are an excellent organic method while others are a little hit and miss.


Earwigs are well known for eating blooms but are also notoriously difficult to find. Earwigs can be trapped using cans sunk into the ground filled with a little fish oil and then removed from site simply by emptying them every day. Alternatively set out some crumpled, damp newspaper, the dump the contents into a bucket of soapy water in the morning. Alternatively, empty out the earwigs a long way, away.

Image credits - Simon Eade at

For related articles click onto the following links:

HOW TO GROW THE LODDON LILY - Leucojum aestivum

How to grow the spring snowflake - Leucojum aestivum

So called because it was once commonplace along the valleys of the River Loddon in the English counties of Berkshire and Hampshire, the Loddon lily - Leucojum aestivum, is an ornamental flowering bulbous species widely cultivated as a garden plant. Outside of the UK, Leucojum aestivum is perhaps better known as the spring snowflake, the same common name used for the smaller Leucojum vernum.

Also commonly known as the spring snowflake, it is native to most of Europe including the United kingdom. Although now rarely seen in the UK it can still be found in good numbers along the River Thames at Church Meadow, below the Wittenham Clumps. In its native habitat the Loddon lily is almost wholly associated with rivers, although cultivated plants will establish in poorly drained, consistently damp soils.

How to grow the Loddon lily- Leucojum aestivum
Under favourable condition you can expect the Loddon lily to grow up to 60 cm tall. It has bulbs up to 4 cm across. The arching strap-shaped leaves are long, narrow, up to 70 cm long, and usually collapse as they mature. The white, bell-shaped blooms are approximate 2-3 cm long and appear in March to April. The flowers are nodding, with up to 7 on each umbel. The tepals white with a yellow or green spot near the tip.

Once pollinated fruits develop containing ingenious flotation chambers. In their native riverbank habitat these remain attached to the stem, however in the event of flooding the stems break and the fruits are carried downstream and hopefully become stranded on floodplains further down river. The bulbs can also be uprooted when rivers swell.

Plant fresh bulbs as soon as they are available or lift existing clumps in the autumn for replanting as soon as the leaves begin to die back. Plant bulbs 8-10 cm deep in a moist yet well drained, humus rich soil, preferably in full sun.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW THE LODDON LILY  - Leucojum aestivum


How to grow the spring snowflake - Leucojum vernum

Looking like, and often confused for a larger, less attractive version of the regular snowdrop, the 'Spring Snowflake', Leucojum vernum is a popular spring flowering bulb native to southern and central Europe from Spain to Ukraine. Like the snowdrop it is a member of the family Amaryllidaceae.

How to grow the spring snowflake - Leucojum vernum
Under favourable conditions the spring snowflake will achieve a height of approximately 15-20 cm, although it can reach up to 35 cm. It has narrow, strap-like, mid to dark green leaves.

Leucojum vernum will usually come into bloom from mid-February to March, one or two weeks later than the common snowdrop species. The fragrant flowers are small and bell-shaped, white with a green (occasionally yellow) spot at the end of each tepal.

The spring snowflake will perform best in moist conditions and is also tolerant of shade. The are best planted as fresh bulbs (in the green) in late summer to early autumn. Plant Leucojum vernum bulbs 8-10 cm deep.

Once clumps become overcrowded, lift and divide as the leaves begin to die down in the autumn.

Since its introduction, Leucojum vernum is now considered to have become naturalized in Ireland, Great Britain and Florida

Main image credit - Charles J sharp
By Johann Georg Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm) - Figure from Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen at, Public Domain,

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW THE LODDON LILY  - Leucojum aestivum


How to grow Griselinia lucida

Commonly known as puka, akapuka or shining broadleaf, Griselinia lucida is handsome, usually epiphytic plant species (a plant that grows harmlessly upon another plant such as a tree) native to the North Island of New Zealand, and restricted areas of the South Island. In its native habitat, Griselinia lucida is usually found in wet, lowland forests and open or rocky coastal environments.

How to grow Griselinia lucida
It is noted for its large, asymmetrical, shiny, dark-green leaves that can be up to 18cm long when mature. When grown as an epiphyte it will also produces distinctive fluted roots descending down from its host tree. That being said, Griselinia lucida will also grow well as a soil-grown species where it can reach an approximately height of 5 metres, with a width of 2 metres.

Greenish-yellow buds are produced on panicles open up to display small star-shaped blooms. It is a dioecious species meaning that the male and female flowers are produced on separate plants. Once pollinated, small fruits appear which ripen to a dark purple colour.

Griselinia lucida can be planted in both full sun or semi shade. It will perform best in a free-draining soil, in a sheltered position and as you would expect from its native habitat it is tolerant of coastal conditions. Avoid soils prone to waterlogging.

While it has proven to be frost tolerant, the tender new leaves are easily damage by cold weather. Despite this, Griselinia lucida is only really suitable for growing in the very mildest regions of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Main image credit - Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia Griselinia lucida growing on scoria on Rangitoto Island
In text image credit - Frederick Polydore Nodder - The Endeavor Botanical Illustrations, The Natural History Museum, London - Public domain

For related articles click onto the following links:


How to grow Photinia 'Red Robin'

Commonly known as the 'Christmas Berry' Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' is an attractive evergreen, ornamental garden plant noted for the bright-red colouration of ts spring growth. It was first discovered in 1943 as a seedling (believed to be a hybrid of Photinia glabra and Photinia serratifolia) in Fraser Nurseries in Birmingham Alabama in 1943. The 'Red Robin selection was developed later on in New Zealand, and has now become the most popular and compact of all Photinia species and hybrids.

How to grow Photinia 'Red Robin'
It is a dense medium-sized shrub of erect habit which under favourable conditions can be expected to reach a approximate height and width of between 2.5-4 metres. The glossy, elliptic leaves are sharply toothed and can be up to 10cm in length. The new leaves emerge bright red, fading as they mature to become later dark green. The sparse, creamy-white flowers are borne mid to late spring.

Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' is tolerant of most soils, even clay as long as it has been improved by incorporating well-rotted compost or manure. However it will perform best in a fertile, moist, well-drained soil. Avoid heavy clay or waterlogged conditions.

It has proven to be hardy in most areas of the UK, able to withstanding temperatures down to -12°C. Be that as it may, Provide a sheltered position in sun or partial shade as the young shoots can become scorched by cold or drying winds and late frosts.

Newly planted specimens will need to be watered during their first year, especially during periods of prolonged drought, but once they become established they have proven to be reasonably drought resistant.

Prune once or twice a year in spring and summer to maintain its size and shape. Avoid cutting after mid-August,

Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1977, and the Award of Garden Merit in 1984.

For related articles click onto the following links:


How to grow Ficus elastica 'Variegata'

Commonly known as the 'Variegated Rubber Plant', Ficus elastica 'Variegata' is a highly ornamental foliage plant grown both as a house plant in temperate climates and as an outdoor specimen in mediterranean or subtropical gardens. It does not perform so well in the heat of tropical climates. There are of course many names variegated hybrids under cultivation, but for the purpose of this article they will be generalised under the 'variegated' cultivar name. Two of the most popular forms are ‘Doescher’ which has yellow-variegated leaves and ‘Decora’ which produces broad, reddish-green leaves with ivory-colored veins running down center of each leaf.

How to grow Ficus elastica 'Variegata'
The original species is a large evergreen tree from within the banyan group of figs, and native to southeast Asia. It can be expected to grow to 30–40 metres, although sometimes taller in favourable climates. Thankfully the variegated forms are not as vigorous.

Ficus elastica 'Variegata' has characteristically thick, glossy leaves which can mature to between 10-30 cm long, Depending on the variety, height of between 30 cm and 3 metres can be expected. It can produce multiple trunks, attaining a spreading, irregular canopy once mature. To create a single-stemmed specimen remove any additional trunks early in the life of the tree and prune back the lateral branches so they remain smaller than half the diameter of the trunk. Be aware that in exposed conditions, branches left to grow unchecked have a tendency to break apart in high winds.

You will be able to grow Ficus elastica 'Variegata' in full sun to partial- shade, and it has proven quite resilient on almost any well-drained soil. Once established, Ficus elastica 'Variegata' is surprisingly drought resistant.

Container grown, houseplant specimens will perform well in a good quality, well-drained soil based compost. Position in a bright room but out of direct sunlight as the leaves can become scorched. Allow the compost to become fairly dry between waterings. Apply a liquid soluble fertilizer every week to two weeks during the growing season.
Click onto the above image for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop
For related articles click onto the following links: