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Gardening

Topical news and advice from our gardening experts

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  • Butterflies and newts awake, pond snails laying eggs

    Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 18 Mar 2014 at 03:22 PM

    The warm weather just lately has encouraged a huge amount of wildlife activity. Species of all types are suddenly visible and active and, in some cases, they are being seen in larger numbers than at the height of last summer. Last Sunday, the 16th, I saw more butterflies in one day than all of last year put together. Some of them, the Peacocks (Inachis io) in particular, had overwintered on the rafters in our garage and we left the door open so they could get out. After warming themselves in the sun for 15 minutes or so, they flew off in search of the flowers holding their first meal of the year. I also saw the beautiful Comma (Polygonia c-album) and yellow Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni).


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  • Agastache ‘Arcado Pink’: New from Plants of Distinction

    Posted by Graham Rice on 10 Mar 2014 at 12:35 PM
    Agastache 'Arcado Pink' flowers in its first year from a spring sowing. Image ©FleuroselectIn recent years, more and more agastaches have appeared in catalogues and many of them are very good plants - but few seem have really taken off and become widely popular. Perhaps this one will prove to be the exception.

    This is a first year flowering perennial - if seed is sown early in spring it will flower from summer into autumn – and, as can be seen in the picture (above, click to enlarge), it’s extraordinarily productive. The following year it will start to come into flower earlier.

    The spikes of vivid purple-pink flowers open over a long season above fresh green aromatic foliage and are unusually attractive to butterflies, bees and many other beneficial insects. Plants reach about 2ft/60cm and branch well from the base to create a mass of flowers. They’re good for cutting, too; cut when the spikes are about half open and be sure to add flower food to the water. They should last about ten days.

    ‘Arcado Pink’ is best in full sun and in a site that where the soil is fairly well drained. Good drainage will help ensure that plants overwinter well and start into growth early to begin a long summer and autumn display. Agastache ‘Arcado Pink’ has been awarded Fleuroselect Approved Novelty Status.

    You can order seed of Agastache ‘Arcado Pink’ from Plants of Distinction.

     

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  • Topping up

    Posted by Helen Bostock Plantsforbugs on 03 Mar 2014 at 05:18 PM

     

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  • We have a resident Sparrowhawk

    Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 02 Mar 2014 at 02:26 PM

    It seems we have a resident sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). Regularly during the last couple of years, I have found the scatterings of feathers indicative of a sparrowhawk having plucked its prey in the garden. This morning’s breakfast bird appears to have been a white domestic pigeon (Columba livia).


    We see a lot of white domestic pigeons here - these two were on nextdoor's roof
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  • Crows dropping walnuts on driveways

    Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 24 Feb 2014 at 03:13 PM

    I like crows (Corvus corone), but when they drop walnuts right next to where I’m standing, which just miss landing on my head, it has to be said that my affection for them is somewhat diminished. Saying that, they have to make a living somehow and their chosen method for cracking walnut shells is straightforward and yields results for a minimum of effort– find a whole walnut, fly up to around 9m in height above a suitably hard surface and drop your nut. Hopefully, it will break open on impact and reveal the tasty flesh within and the crow will get to it before another crow sees and eats it up. 

     

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  • Begonia 'Fragrant Falls Improved': Scented trailing begonias from T&M

    Posted by Graham Rice on 20 Feb 2014 at 03:35 PM
    Begonia 'Fragrant Falls Improved': Scented trailing begonias from T&M. Imes ©Thompson & MorganScented trailing begonias for hanging baskets – doesn't that sound marvelous? Well, here they are, after almost ten years development – the latest from the breeding work at Thompson & Morgan.

    T&M introduced ‘Aromatics’, the work of a Belgian breeder, in 2005 but they felt that the scent needed to be stronger and the colours needed to be better. So in 2006 they began to develop their own range and introduced ‘Fragrant Falls Apricot’ at Chelsea in 2011. Unfortunately, it proved rather difficult to propagate as it produced so few cuttings. But, now, after more development, T&M are introducing ‘Fragrant Falls Improved’, in three colours (left, click to enlarge) – all scented, all with double flowers.

    Each flower of ‘Apricot Delight’ features a blend of apricot shades with a rose fragrance while the flowers of ‘Lemon Fizz’ come in shades of lemon with a sharp citrus scent. The rose-scented ‘Rose Syllabub’ is pale pink with a dark pink picotee edge.

    All are ideal for hanging baskets, with a compact semi-trailing habit. They will bloom through the summer until frosts and even put on a good show in wet summers and on shady parts of the patio.

    You can order a collection of ‘Fragrant Falls Improved’ begonias from Thompson & Morgan. Or you can order Begonia ‘Apricot Delight’ and Begonia ‘Lemon Fizz’ and Begonia ‘Rose Syllabub’ separately.

     

     

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  • What species might cause damage in the garden this year?

    Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 19 Feb 2014 at 12:37 PM

    I’m playing a game with myself to try and guess which garden wildlife might cause a problem in 2014. In 2013, there was a noticeable increase, in the gardens I frequent, in vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) larvae eating plant roots, especially Heucheras. In those cases, I got to them in time and managed to root up what was left, so the plants survived. The larvae were put out for the birds and quickly eaten up by a robin. This year, on the other hand, I’ve been finding more Angle shades (Phlogophora meticulosa) moth caterpillars than previously.

     

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  • Conference and quiz

    Posted by Helen Bostock Plantsforbugs on 19 Feb 2014 at 12:17 PM

    It may have gone a little quiet here in the Plants for Bugs blog but be assured we are busy preparing for a special event; the Plants for Bugs Conference!!

     

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  • Pelargonium ‘Angel’s Perfume’: Colourful flowers, fragrant foliage

    Posted by Graham Rice on 14 Feb 2014 at 01:21 PM
    Pelargonium 'Angel's Perfume' is ideal for basketsDevelopments in what we all call geraniums – zonal pelargoniums – are fast and furious around the world with new colours and colour combinations, and continual refinements and improvements in habit and reliability. Ivy-leaved geraniums, too, are steadily being improved and in recent years we’ve also seen better Regal pelargoniums, especially for outdoor containers. Now Angel pelargoniums are also in focus.

    Many of us will remember the long series of fine exhibits at flower shows from Derek Lloyd Dean who did such an admirable job ensuring that so many Angel pelargoniums were preserved. Now PAC-Elsner, for many years the world’s top pelargonium breeders, have turned their attention to these small-flowered prettily patterned Angel types in the form of the Angel Eyes Series – the latest of which adds aromatic foliage to the colourful flowers.

    ‘Angel’s Perfume’ features a mass of flowers, over a long summer season, each bloom made up of two burgundy upper petals and three pink lower petals splashed in burgundy. The plants start to bloom in June, continue into the autumn, and if containers are brought into the conservatory they should flower into the winter. Reaching 30-38cm in height, plants develop a spreading, slightly arching habit making them ideal in containers, especially as specimens.

    The final flourish - the perfume - comes in the form of the lemon-scented foliage giving this plant the rare combination of an amazingly colourful floral display plus aromatic leaves. Ideal in a patio container.

    By the way, just to be clear, the correct name for this plant is Angel’s Perfume (‘Pacperfu’) but some nurseries are selling it as ‘Angel Eyes Perfume’.

    You can order Pelargonium ‘Angel’s Perfume’ from Thompson & Morgan and also, as ‘Angel Eyes Perfume’, from de Jaeger and from J. Parker’s.

     

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  • Boosting garden soil after flooding

    Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 13 Feb 2014 at 02:25 PM

    Being a gardener, one of my major concerns is the soil and the life in it. There can’t be a square inch of soil in the UK that hasn’t been waterlogged these last two months and large areas have been, and still are, under water. I look at the sodden gardens and the fields that now resemble lakes and wonder what’s happened to all the creatures that live under ground or who are caught out by flooding – voles, moles, hedgehogs, mice. Some will have made it to higher ground while others, sadly, will have been washed away and drowned.

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