Author: Peter Nyssen

  1. How to plant triteleias (brodiaeas)

    Inexpensive, easy to grow and long-lasting, triteleias truly deserve to be more widely grown.

    Providing your garden with years of colours from late spring to early summer, triteleias or brodiaeas have a striking yet delicate appearance. Appearing from grass-like foliage, the thin and wiry stems of these pretty perennial plants are adorned with twelve to twenty tubular to star-shaped flowers. Almost resembling dward agaphantus, they look especially fabulous drifting through hardy perennial plants like alchemillas, lower growing perennials and low growing grasses. Plant them near a south facing wall, in the open garden or rockery where they will offer you weeks of colours and will provide you with excellent cut flowers.

    Triteleia corms require to be planted in a well-drained, light and fertile sandy soil that does not get waterlogged. Plant them around 8 to 10 cm deep and approximatively 5 to 8 cm apart, allowing for 50 to 75 corms per square meter. In frost-prone areas, provide them with a good winter mulch.

    Triteleias will naturalise easily, simply lift and divide congested clumps every few years to improve flower production.

    Always unpack corms on arrival and store in a cool place until ready to plant.

    Potential problems, pests and diseases:

    Triteleias do not usually suffer from any serious diseases or pests problems.

  2. How to plant zantedeschia (calla lilies)

    Commonly known as calla lilies or arum lilies, zantedeschia are exotic and elegant plants native to South Africa bearing beautiful waxy spathes held above lush long green leaves adorned with a fluted edge. Whether they are grown as marginal aquatics, in the garden border or in a container, these tough and robust beauties will grace your garden with years of colour and will provide you with excellent long-lasting cut flowers. Depending on the area where you choose to plant them, their foliage can be semi-evergreen to evergreen.

    Zantedeschia will thrive in fertile, humus rich, moist, well-drained soil benefitting from partial shade or full sun. If planting as a marginal plant, make sure to use aquatic compost. On the other hand, if planting in pots, use John Innes Compost № 2 as it is ideal for plants grown in containers. Plant your corm just below the surface and feed every couple of weeks with high potash feed. If you garden organically, liquid seaweed is ideal as it is organic and comes from a sustainable source. In late autumn, provide your zantedeschia with a good mulch of organic matter around the base. In the winter, cut away any frost damaged leaves and give protection to the crown; you can cover it with straw or a deep mulch of bark chippings.

    Always wear gloves when handling your zantedeschia since they can cause skin irritation. All parts of the plant are highly toxic to humans, dogs, cats and should not be eaten.   

    Always unpack corms on arrival and store in a cool place until ready to plant.

    Potential problems, pests and diseases: 

    • Aphids: these insects will spread viruses and diseases and will weaken the plants.

    • Thrips: these microscopic insects will suck the zantedeschia's sap, causing the leaves to fleck with white and later preventing the flower corm to open. As soon as you notice any signs of this, cut back all the foliage and destroy. Both organic and non organic sprays will be able to help control the attack.

    • Fungal and calla lily rot: dig out and destroy all parts of the plant and corm.
    1. Zantedeschia Mercedes
      • £6.60 for 3
      • £200.00 for 100
    1. Zantedeschia Odessa
      • £6.60 for 3
      • £200.00 for 100
  3. How to plant chionodoxas

    Also known as Glory of the Snow, chionodoxas enjoy full sun to partial shade and are excellent for planting in grass, at the front of a border or in a container - they are also happy in woodland settings. Hardy and carefree, they will naturalise easily by shedding seeds and will gradually increase in number over the years. They will also produce bulblets which can be removed and replanted.

    Planted en masse, chionodoxas will make a stunning display of starry flowers in early spring. For added texture and interest, mix them with early springs bulbs and perennial plants! Four weeks after flowering, their foliage will usually disappear.

    Plant your chionodoxas around 8 cm deep in a well-drained soil and allow for around 75 to 100 bulbes per square meter. Feed every couple of weeks with high potash feed; if you garden organically liquid seaweed is ideal as it’s organic and comes from a sustainable source. In late summer, provide them with a top dressing of organic matter. Do remember to lift and divide congested clumps every few years to prevent chionodoxas from losing some of their flowering potential.

    Always unpack bulbs on arrival and store in a cool place until ready to plant.

    Potential problems, pests and diseases:

    Chionodoxas do not suffer from any serious diseases or insect problems.

  4. How to plant iris Germanica and iris Sibirica

    Perfect for the middle to the back of the border, iris Germanica and iris Sibirica are excellent statement perennial plants that will bring pazzaz and a little wow factor to your garden, from the cottage style to the modern contemporary. They also divide very easily and are therefore excellent value for money.

    Easy to grow, Iris Germanica and Sibirica require to be planted in a sunny position where their rhizomes can bake in the sun. Avoid planting them with ground cover plants as these might hide their rhizomes from the sun.

    Iris Germanica produce large blade-like leaves and large beautifully structured flowers composed of three upper petals and three lower petals, also known as falls. The base of these falls are peppered with soft hairs, a quality that has earned these iris the common name of Bearded iris. They like a soil with good drainage and although they prefer a neutral soil, they will cope if the soil is chalky or alkaline. If you have clay or heavy soil, add in some grit to help with the drainage. 

    Iris Sibirica are slimmer family members. Beardless and sporting a more delicate look, they love the sun but will tolerate partial shade. They will tolerate any soil from light to heavy and although they do not like waterlogged soil, they will take more moisture than iris Germanica. Unlike the thicker fleshy iris Germanica, their leaves are more grass-like.

    Our iris are bare rooted so if you can’t plant them straight away, put them in some damp compost or give them a light soak to plump up the rhizomes before spreading their roots a little and planting at soil level. Give them about 30 cm spacing and provide them a good high potash feed while they are growing - make sure to always avoid high nitrogen fertilizer. Once the flowers have faded, bone meal will give them a boost to help see them through the winter.

    After 3 to 4 years and once the iris have established, you can divide them to make new plants. This will also prevent them from becoming woody which would eventually results in fewer and fewer flowers. Dig the clump up after flowering using a sharp knife and cut away the leaves to a fan shape. Each piece should have a portion of the rhizomes approximating a length of 15 cm. If a rhizome looks withered, it is best to discard them.

    Potential problems, pests and diseases:

    There are not too many problems to look out for but do keep an eye out for rhizome rot. Usually showing in the late spring, the first signs of rot appear at the base of the stem before travelling into the rhizome. Once infected, it will become brown and soft and will give off a distinct rotting smell. As soon as you see this, cut away any patches back to good clean root and dust with fungicide.

    Grey mould or botrytis is another problem you should look out for! Easy to spot, its fuzzy off-white or greyish brown spores usually appear in the leaves. It is vital you do not disturb the plant too much as it will release the spores into the air and will infect other plants. A good idea if to use a fleece to cover the iris to help prevent the airborne spread. Cut back and burn any infected growth and treat the plant with an appropriate grey mould fungicide. Slugs, snails and thrips can also be a problem.

    Once planted all you have to do is sit back and wait for the show.

  5. How to plant anemones Coronaria De Caen and St Brigid

    Anemones Coronaria, also known as poppy anemones produce charming single (De Caen) or double (St Brigid) flowers perfect for cutting. Please note that if you cut the flowers early, the corm will put its energy into producing a new stem.

    De Caen and St Brigid anemones prefer a light sandy soil and a full sun position. They do not tolerate waterlogged soil and prefer the soil to dry during the summer while dormant. Their corms should be soaked in tepid warm water overnight then dried before planting. Allow around 75 corms per square meter and feed them every couple of weeks with high potash feed. If you garden organically, liquid seaweed is ideal as it’s organic and comes from a sustainable source. Give your corms a light mulch in late summer early autumn.

    Always wear gloves when handling anemones as they contain toxins which can irritate the skin. They are poisonous to humans, cats and dogs and should never be eaten.

    Always unpack bulbs on arrival and store in a cool place until ready to plant.

    Potential problems, pests and diseases:

    • Slugs and snails: anemones are very appealing to slugs and snails. Apply sharp grit around the flowers to try and discourage these garden pests from eating their foliage.

    • Aphids: these insects can spread viruses and diseases.

    • Botrytis: thriving in cool wet weather, this fungus can cause grey mould.

    • Downy mildew: this disease is caused by poor air circulation. To prevent it, lift and divide congested clumps.
  6. How to plant iris Reticulata and Specie iris

    These delightful dwarf iris bulbs will sparkle in the late winter sunshine! Perfect for container planting or the front of a border, plant them in a sunny position and provide them with a well-drained neutral to slightly alkaline soil. If the soil is prone to be heavy, add organic matter with added grit to aid drainage. Plant around 10 cm deep allowing for around 75 to 100 bulbes per square meter and feed every couple of weeks with high potash feed. If you garden organically, liquid seaweed is ideal since it’s organic and comes from a sustainable source.

    Always wear gloves when handling your bulbs since they can cause skin irritation. All parts of the iris are poisonous to humans, dogs and cats and should not be eaten.

    Always unpack bulbs and plant on arrival.  

    Potential problems, pests and diseases:

    Iris can suffer from fungus, virus or bacteria which affects the foliage as follows:

    • Leaf spot: usually seen on the leaf either as sooty growths or spots which will eventually turn brown with a yellow margin. The leaves will eventually die.

    • Ink disease: this can be seen on the bulbs as black botches. The leaves will develop black botches before turning yellow. The bulbs should be dug out before being destroyed. It is advisable not to replant irises in the same place for a few years to ensure any infection has gone from the soil.

    • Virus: the leaves will become flecked or mottled and the flowers may also become infected. Only remove the infected leaves.

    If in doubt, destroy any infected bulbs.

    Slugs and snails will happily munch your irises. Apply sharp grit around the flowers to try and discourage these garden pests!

  7. How to plant agapanthus

    Agapanthus or African lily are not just good looking flowers! With their stately elegance, they will also bring a little of touch of exotism to your garden.

    Strictly available in blue or white, they however offer a good range of shades to choose from - from light blue to dark indigo blue and pure white to silver white with a hint of blue. Although they are not hardest plants to grow, they are also not the easiest and will need a little help and encouragement as they can be slow to establish. When they do however, the wait will have been worth it and you will be rewarded with amazing floral displays of large open flower heads from July to late August. These are also excellent used as cut flowers!

    Agapanthus grow from rhizomes (not bulbs or tubers) and produce fleshy roots which like to be constricted. The leaves, depending on the variety can have different shapes and colours from light to dark green, grey-green and variegated. Like so many garden favourites, choose the right variety for your garden. If you’re unsure, agapanthus Africanus blue or white and blue giant are good hardy varieties and excellent plants to start you off. You can always grow the other varieties in pots and bring them indoors for winter care.

    The best time to plant your agapanthus from bare root is from March to May. If planting agapanthus in pots, use a mixture of soil and compost mixed with a little sand and grit to help drainage. Agapanthus like a well drained soil/compost. Feed every couple of weeks with high potash feed, or at least once a month when you see the green shoots appear. Tomato fertilizer is excellent for this, although keep in mind that it is also important to add some general fertilizer as well to make sure the agapanthus plants receive the best nutrients you can give them.

    If growing in the garden, follow the same feeding tips for growing in pots. Agapanthus are tolerant of salty winds and therefore make good coastal plants. Hailing from South Africa, they love the sun so plant them in a south facing position where they will produce stronger stems and more flowers over the years. Drought tolerant, they will however need some water at least twice a week. It is important that they are planted in a part of the garden that does not hold water as they do not like watterlogged soils. They are not hungry feeders but will reward you with a fabulous flower display. Always leave the leaves to die back naturally and leave until at least March before removing them as they will provide some protection to the crown of the agapanthus plants. A good mulch is required if you live in very cold areas. You can also plant non-hardy varieties in pots before sinking them just below soil level which will hide the pots. After flowering, remove them for winter. I have a few varieties in pots which I move around the garden to highlight different areas and plants.

    They don’t suffer from major pests or disease and the taller varieties will do well in windy conditions.

  8. How to plant alliums

    Also known as ornamental onions alliums grow in fertile well-drained soil. Most prefer full sun with the exception of allium ursinum (wild garlic) that thrives in shady woodland settings. Alliums do not thrive in waterlogged ground so if your soil is poor dig in a well balanced fertiliser such as liquid seaweed.

    Plant your alliums between September and the end of November. The larger varieties like allium Beau Regard should be planted around 15cm deep and approximately 15 to 20cm apart (allow around 10 to 20 bulbs per square meter). The smaller flowering allium, Allium Moly for example, can be planted around 10cm deep and 8cm apart. For the large flowering allium for the smaller flowering allium (allow around 40 to 75 per square meter).

    Most alliums will do well in deep pots. Use a John Innes No.3 soil mixed with compost or garden soil with a little added grit. Underplanting with other plants will disguise the dying leaves that can look a little messy. Small hostas are good companions and will provide extra colour throughout the summer months.

    To keep your alliums flowering year on year lift divide overcrowded clumps after two to three years. Removing any tiny new bulbs and plant them in pots of in the garden until the bulbs are mature. It will take a few years for these to develop into flowering size bulbs but the wait is worth it.

    Trouble shooting Avoid poor flowering results by always unpacking your bulbs on arrival and storing them in a cool place until you’re ready to plant them

    Planting your bulbs too shallowly or in wet, soggy soil will also result in poor flowering so do follow the planting advice carefully.

    Allium bulbs and plants can be poisonous to cats and dogs. Most animals wouldn’t dream of nibbling them but do take care to protect your pets.

    Potential problems, pests and diseases:

    All bulbs from the onion family are susceptible to similar problems such as onion fly, onion white rot and mildew. If you're planting your alliums in your allotment for cut flowers it is important not to plant where onions were previously planted or close to onions in other beds. Slugs and snails are also problems for allium so provide some protection.

  9. Top tips for February gardening

    1. Do start off dahlia cuttings: if you want to take cuttings, it's time to get your tubers sprouting! Start them off as soon as you receive them by placing them in large pots or deep trays with a generous helping of a general purpose compost. Partly fill your container to half cover the tuber and water - without allowing the water inside the tuber. When the shoots are around 8 cm use a sharp knife to cut them away from the crown just above where they join the tuber. Trim off any growth under the top pair of leaves, dip in hormone rooting powder then pot up using John Innes No.2.  As the stems develop, pinch out any growth from the middle of the cutting to help create a bushy plant. Harden off before planting out around May and do keep an eye out for slugs and snails that will feast on your young plants.

    2. Do care for your soil: healthy soil is the key to all good growing so take some time to enrich yours before the spring gets started. Dig in plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure or leaf mould and, if your soil tends to be heavy, add some sharp sand or grit.

    3. Don't cut back perennials: it's still too early to cut back the old growth from perennial plants. Leave the old growth to protect the new emerging shoots until early spring.

    4. Do move shrubs: if you have any shrubs in the wrong place, now is the time to move them while they're still dormant.

    5. Do deal with pests: look out for any pests that have been hibernating and destroy them before they have a change to breed and cause havoc.

    6. Don't use old compost: old compost is a favourite hiding place for vine weevil larvae that destroy plants by munching on their roots. Clean pots with soapy water to ensure there are no germs left behind and fill with fresh compost.

    7. Do remove weeds: emerging weeds can be pulled up as they start to appear to prevent them from sowing seeds and becoming an invasive problem over the summer months.

    The celebrity dahlia Cafe au Lait
  10. Top tips for April gardening

    1. Prepare the soil for the growing season ahead by digging in plenty of well rotted manure or compost. You can also add a general fertiliser like blood, fish and bone.

    2. Tidy and cut back any old dead foliage from perennial plants to encourage new growth.

    3. Lift and divide any large clumps of perennial plants to improve their vigour and continue to plant new perennials and summer flowering bulbs.

    4. Carry a small note pad with you when out visiting gardens or shows to keep notes of the bulbs and plants you like. Write down the names as well as the colours and heights of your favourites.

    5. Treat yourself to the Yellow Book 2015 (National Garden Scheme) in which you will find a huge variety of creative gardens tended by ordinary people to visit for inspiration for your own garden.

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