Friday, 14 November 2014

Our big autumn 'spring clean'......!!

NO ... this is not the new nursery gnome!! It's Philip tackling the job we all love to hate - the big autumn clean up. It's dank, gloomy, getting colder, on-site customers (except the very keen and brave) have gone into hibernation - oh dear!. Never mind, put on a smile, on with the layers, out we go and time to get the vulnerable. more tender plants cleaned up and put under cover for the winter. 
(The glorious red haze in the background btw is Cornus alba 'Sibirica').

The greenhouse has been scrubbed clean both outside and in and is already filling up with plants that need some frost protection - dahlias, cannas, some of the S African bulbs etc. In a few days time every available space will be taken up in here.


Meanwhile the crated plants below, and many more yet to be sorted, will be overwintered in well ventilated polytunnels mainly as a precaution not knowing what the next few months will throw at us!. These can withstand frosts but can suffer from winter wet when in pots of water retaining compost. In the garden situation with reasonably drained soil they will be fine. Come the spring they will be back in their outside beds, looking good and saying 'buy me'!

And finally the toughest (plants not staff) will be left to overwinter in situ (as above) once the beds have been sterilized, shingle replaced where necessary. If all goes to plan before the end of November after which we start the same process with the shrubs! 
And you thought we spent the these quieter months sitting in  the office playing cards ... ha !!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Mail ordering

Mail order is now in full swing and here we see Kevin packing boxes ready for dispatch by courier later in the day (has just arrived to collect today's consignment as I type) arriving at our customers within 24 hours. Plants are carefully packed in sturdy boxes using plenty of fresh straw to ensure they arrive in good condition. Each year we send out hundreds of boxes, mainly in the seasons when plants are dormant, with many repeat orders from satisfied customers.

Customer requests are received via telephone, email or an order form available to download from our website - then click on the 'Ordering' section on the left column. If certain items are out of stock we can recommend a near alternative or a more suitable plant - a system which ensures our customers can often complete a planting scheme in one hit!   

Plants are dispatched in our standard pots complete with descriptive label. We can send up to 25kg per box. We are able to send any plants from our huge range, ie herbaceous, shrubs, roses up to 1.0m tall but regret no trees. However we now have an arrangement with one of our main growers who will arrange delivery of trees and fruit from their huge stock direct to you. 
Payment by card is deducted from the customer account on the day of dispatch.
So if you are looking for plants and want a personal service with good experienced advice why not give us a call? You will find listing of plants on our website - see the link above. In the unlikely event that you are not satisfied with the quality of our plants or service we will offer you a full refund. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Where's my birdy breakfast....?

Normally our bird feeders are busy, busy, busy...especially in the mornings

with greenfinches, goldfinches hogging the feeders and blue, great and coal tits diving in for a quick snatch when they get the chance

meanwhile those that find it difficult to land onto the feeders like dunnocks, robins & chaffinches + others feed off the scraps down below.

However in the early light this morning there was only one bird to be seen..
so where's my breakfast? Anything down there..

or behind me..

or maybe up in the trees?
 Sorry chum but no sensible bird is going to hang around when you, the sparrowhawk, are perched on top of the feeder stand!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Colourful 'Crabs'

Crab apples are members of the genus 'Malus'. Following a profusion of flowers in May these small to medium size trees are now producing colourful, edible fruit the larger of which are suitable for making 'jelly'. Excellent for attracting bees when in flower and birds will often come to take the ripened fruit in late autumn. They are also good for pollinating domestic apple trees. Below a selection of our container grown plants currently available

Malus 'Adirondack'

A small, upright form bearing dense clusters of waxy white flowers from carmine buds; late spring. Persistent fruit. A Malus halliana seedling with good disease resistance. To 7.0 x3.5m

Malus 'Butterball

Small, round headed tree with slightly weeping branches. Single white flowers with a pink flush; late spring. To: 8.0 x8.0m

Malus 'Evereste'

A small, conical form bearing a profusion of large, white flowers, from red buds, in late spring followed by an abundance of fruit. To: 7.0 x 6.0m 

Malus 'Nuvar Marble'

Another small variety bearing very high yields of quite large fruit of good flavour ideal for making 'jelly'. Single, white flowers in spring. To 5.0 x4.0m

Malus 'Rosehip'

Another small, upright form bearing huge yields of largish fruit with high pectin levels so excellent for making 'jelly' Clusters of white flowers in spring. To: 5.0 x 4.0m 

Malus brevipes 'Wedding Bouquet'

Another small form the glossy, marble-like red fruit persisting from early autumn often to beyond Christmas. Profusion of snow-white flowers in late spring. Long, tapering, glossy green leaves. To: 8.0 7.0m.

Malus floribunda

A wild species from Japan forming a graceful, spreading tree with arching tips. Covered in pale blush-pink blooms in late spring. To 6.0 x 6.0m+

Malus hupehensis

Vigorous, spreading tree from China & Japan. A profusion of fragrant, white flowers from pink buds in spring followed by an abundance of smallish, rich red fruit. To: 12 x 12m.

Malus princeton 'Cardinal'

Smallish tree laden with bright red, single flowers in early spring which look stunning against the rich purple foliage. 

Malus transitoria

Elegant, spreading tree from NW China. Covered in clusters of small, white flowers from pink buds in late spring followed by pea-like yellow fruit. Attractive 3 lobed, maple-like leaves. To: 8 x 10m.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Have you seen these?

A small selection of some of the more unusual plants we currently have available......
Quercus dentata 'Swamp Pygmy'

Think of oaks, think of large trees on a grand scale, however this miniature is ideal for the modern garden, rarely attaining more than 2.0 metres when fully grown. It forms a small, gnarled deciduous shrub with new growth a delightful soft copper-red. At it's best in autumn when the leaves turn a glowing scarlet red. The pin-oak is not tolerant of alkaline soils, preferring a retentive, acid one. Certainly a talking point!

Typhonium roxburghii

Aroids have long been popular with Arisaemas, Arums & Arisarums now widely grown. Typhoniums have always been slow & tricky, however this Chinese species has proved very strong growing, multiplying well in a woodland garden. We first received it as Typhonium alpinum, which it definitely was not. Some research led us to this species. The radial leaves emerge in spring with a velvety sheen, taking on purple overtones as late summer progresses. The lurid red spathes appear at ground level during early summer, smelling of rotting flesh, which attracts the insect pollinators. Our photograph shows the developing seed pod in its papery sheath. So much easier than those tricky Arisaema's.

Blechnum brasiliense

Although not likely to be hardy, this small tree fern from Brazil is well worth the effort to protect, possibly in a cold greenhouse in winter. With time, it will form a stubby trunk up to one metre. Arching, thick textured glossy fronds. Most startling is the new growth with is a rich coppery-orange, continuously produced throughout the year. Could make an ideal pot feature for several years. Prefers a sheltered, sunny spot.
Prostanthera walteri

This small, rounded bushy evergreen from Southeastern Australia is an unusual choice for a warm, sheltered garden. Woody stems with small, mint scented leaves. Reliably flowers twice a year, the first flush from February to May, the second flush during August & September. Most noticeable for it's trumpet-shaped soft jade-green-blue flowers with violet veining, there is certainly nothing like it colourwise. 

Acanthus sennii

Recently introduced species from East Africa, hardy in very mild gardens, but a world apart from what you would expect of the normal Bears Breeches. This forms a woody, upright shrub with intensely spiny, rather holly like, glossy green leaves. Late into flower, often October onwards, it has spikes of scarlet-red flowers for several months. Always likely to be scarce as it is so slow to propagate. Probably best cossetted in a cold greenhouse. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Echinacea extravaganza

Perhaps the greatest 'boom' plant of the past decade is the humble coneflower or Echinacea, which has been transformed from a simple single pink or white daisy into a myriad of colours, as exhibited in the picture of our sales beds (left)
The most popular species E.purpurea, has long been grown in British gardens, mainly for it's ornamental value but also for it's medicinal properties. E.angustifolia & E.pallida are less popular. With long, drooping ray petals  & hairy, elliptic basal leaves they are less useful in modern breeding programmes as this is considered an undesirable trait.  The introduction of a yellow flowered species from Texas & Arkansas, named paradoxa has led to the plethora of new introductions in the orange range.

Ten years ago all British gardeners had were 'White Swan', still a good, tall white & breeding totally true from seed, 'Robert Bloom', a deeper pink from Blooms of Bressinghams. A lovely softer dusky pink from Germany called 'Augustkonigin' followed & then nothing, for many years.

Dan Heims, of Terra Nova nurseries in America, has a great interest in native plants & led a very detailed breeding programme which has transformed the range. Each year we are now seeing 30-40 new varieties coming onto the market giving improved colour & garden performance.

On the back of this other breeders like Ball Horticulture in the UK & Marco van Noort in Holland have joined in the chase to swamp the UK in new varieties.

Initially the new colours were well received, the first of which was 'Arts Pride' a rich salmon orange. Unfortunately it proved to be a poor garden plant & has all but quickly disappeared. The initial problems with the new varieties were caused by one of the breeding parents, E.paradoxa, being very short lived or annual & also being rather tender.

As breeding improves, they are now becoming much better, coming through mild, dry winters easily. When buying plants in flower, it is best to remove the flowers, giving the roots the best chance to get ready for the winter. Alternatively enjoy them in a pot & overwinter in a coldframe or cold greenhouse & plant them out in the spring.

Echinaceas need a light, free draining soil in sun, unimproved clay is sure to lead to failure.

A plant we are really looking for is the original 'Magnus' which received an Award of merit at the last trial Wisley undertook. A magnificent, large flowered big, pink purple. However seed companies quickly jumped on the bandwagon of it's success & offered it as a seed strain, denying the fact that it never breeds true from seed. The AGM will be recinded as the true plant does not seem to be around now. The picture has further been muddied by a seed company who has identified this & offers 'Magnus Improved', an even inferior seed strain. If you have a plant of impeccable provenance, please let us know.

Below are a selection of the varieties we currently grow ;-

Echinacea '12th of July'
A strange little plant, unusually bred in Hungary. Only a foot tall with very large leaves & jet black stem. 
One of the first quilled varieties, not overly stable. 30cm

Echinacea 'Caribbean Green'
Strong grower from Darwins Plants, opening pink, becoming greener with age. 60cm.

Echinacea 'Chiquita'
Short form from Terranova, shows some quilling but not yet very stable. 35cm.

Echinacea 'Coupe Soleil'
One of the first 'Anemone' centred varieties, still good. 65cm

Echinacea 'Cranberry Cupcake'
Short form from Terra Nova, strong for an anemone type. 40cm

Echinacea 'Evening Glow'
Subtle creamy yellow flowers, suffusing pink around the cone as the flower ages. 50cm.

Echinacea 'Flame Thrower'
Highly recommended. Very bushy, easy. from Terra Nova. 90cm.

Echinacea 'Gemini Pink'
Simple, semi-double dusky-pink, a good garden plant. 60cm

Echinacea 'Green Envy'
Has some pallida in it with drooping ray petals dipped in green. 75cm

Echinacea 'Green Jewel'
A rather beautiful, fully double lime green. 50cm

Echinacea 'Green Line'
Not really green but gently suffused on opening. 50cm.

Echinacea 'Guava Ice'
Nice two-tone effect with a salmon cone & pink ray petals. 85cm.

Echinacea 'Hot Lava'
Really in your face & well named.  Not a strong grower. 60cm.

Echinacea 'Hot Summer'
Unusual form with salmon-orange flowers, the reverse of the petals are a bright pink. 80cm.

Echinacea 'Leilani'
Close to E.paradoxa but more persistent & long lived. 90cm.

Echinacea 'Mac 'n' Cheese'
Very intense, glowing golden-orange flowers. From Terra Nova. 90cm

Echinacea 'Mama Mia'
Subtly bicoloured salmon flowers taking on violet-pink overtones. 90cm

Echinacea 'Maui Sunshine'
Very profuse yellow form with narrow ray petals. 60cm.

Echinacea 'Meditation'
Short, heavily branched plants, the first to flower & last to finish. 40cm.

Echinacea 'Mozzarella'
A real pure-white anemone form, continuously in flower. 70cm.

Echinacea 'Piccolino'
From Nico Rijnbeek, a strong growing Anemone form. 40cm.

Echinacea 'Pink Poodle'
'Doubledecker' was the first hose-in-hose variety & very unstable. This is much better. 60cm. 

Echinacea pallida
A true species & great garden plant with very long, spidery, drooping ray petals. Not seen often enough. 90cm.

Echinacea purpurea 'Adam Saul'
From It Saul nursery, this short form is never out of flower from late summer. 45cm.

Echinacea purpurea 'Augustkonigin'
An old German hybrid, still popular today. A great garden plant. 75cm.

Echinacea 'Raspberry Truffle'
Very distinct 'Anemone' form with rich raspberry-pink flowers. 50cm.

Echinacea 'Secret Lust'
Striking, glowing rich orange 'anemone' form. Not a strong grower, but wow! 60cm.

Echinacea 'Secret Passsion'
Another from the same series, stronger growing this time. 45cm.

Echinacea 'Sombrero Sandy Yellow'
Short form with well branched stems having small, soft creamy yellow flowers. 50cm.

Echinacea 'Spider'
Has a lot of E.tennesseensis in it's breeding. Narrow ray petals are all quilled.  40cm.

Echinacea pupurea 'Fragrant Angel'
Terra Nova introduction with a rather strong scent. Few have any form of scent so this is a breeding breakthrough. 90cm.

Echinacea purpurea 'Green Eyes'
Named for the central cone of which has two distinct rings of green, well illustrated above.  60cm. 

Echinacea purpurea 'Meringue'
A very profuse 'Anemone' flowered white form, always in flower. 45cm.

Echinacea purpurea 'Southern Belle'
Distinct two-tone form with a bright pink cone & dusky pink ray petals. 80cm.

Echinacea purpurea 'Tom Thumb'
A strong grower, said to be suitable for a pot (not really recommended !) 40cm.

Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan'
Still popular, for the back of the border & true from seed. 120cm.

Echinacea 'Tangerine Dream'
A good contrast between the orange ray petals & almost black cone. 55cm. 

Echinacea Tomato Soup'
Aptly named, this is really glowing, not a strong grower however. 50cm.

Echinacea 'Yellow Spider'
From the new 'Spider Series' this has soft creamy-yellow quilled petals.  50cm.