1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. Top tips for planting bulbs

    Spring flowering bulbs should be planted in the autumn. To help you in your gardening efforts we’ve put our heads together and come up with our Top 10 Bulb Planting Hints and Tips. Do let us know if you have any you’d like us to add to the list!

    1. Prepare your soil by adding garden compost and, in heavy soils, horticultural grit and sand. For containers use a mix of John Innes No.2 with a little added grit.

    2. Squirrels, rabbits etc just love tulip, crocus and iris bulbs (amongst others). Aside from choosing Animal Resistant bulbs (use our special filter on the website) try planting your bulbs in an open weave net bag, such as an onion bag making sure the holes are big enough for the shoots to come through. Plant the whole bag in the ground and deprive the furry critters of their bulb feast.

    3. For a good rule of thumb, plant your bulbs three to four times as deep as they are high. Tulips and daffodils should be planted at least 15cm deep.

    4. Running out of space in your garden? Try planting a mix of early flowering, naturalising bulbs such as snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils in your grass. Plant them using a bulb planter randomly across the lawn for a natural splash of spring colour.

    5. If you’re not sure where you have gaps in your spring planting try planting a selection of bulbs in pots ready to transplant into the spaces once the shoots start to show.

    6. Not all bulbs need dry conditions to flourish. In damp areas try Camassias or Fritillaria Meleagris.

    7. Not all bulbs need sun! Erythronium, Wood Anemone and Scilla Bifolia or Siberica all do well in the shade.

    8. Try using layer planting in containers for weeks of flowers or plant en masse in your borders for dramatic effect. Give us a call if you’d like more help with choosing suitable varieties.

    9. Water your bulbs as soon as you have planted them. This encourages root growth.

    10. If left in the ground, tulips degenerate year on year. To preserve your favourites, remove the seed head after flowering and let the foliage die back before lifting the bulbs. Store in net bags in a cool, dry place until you plant them out in the following autumn.
  8. How to choose bulbs by colour

    We know there’s a mind-boggling array of bulbs and plants available on our website. It’s what we’re famous for! To make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for, we’ve added filters to our category pages so you can go straight to the products you are after. In this simple “how to” guide, we show you how to narrow your search down to the colours you’ve chosen for your garden and how to add your choices to your basket. The principle can be easily applied to other attributes in the side menu: “blooming time”, “garden position”, “height”, “special features” (including whether the flower is scented or suitable for cut flower), “planting time”, “type of soil” and “hardiness”.

    Step 1: From any page on the website, hover your mouse over the category displayed in the top menu that you are interested in (autumn planting, for example). A large drop-down menu will appear.

    Step 2: Move your mouse over the sub-category you are interested in (tulips, for example) and click on it.

    Step 3: Scroll down the page until you see the bold title colour in the left hand menu.

    Step 4: Tick the box next to the colour you require to select it. Your screen will refresh and show you only tulips in your chosen colour. You can tick as many colours as you like. We’ve chosen black and orange for this example.

    Step 5: For more information on a product and to add it to your basket, move your mouse over the picture and click on it (we’ve used Tulip Black Parrot as our example).

    Step 6: If you wish to purchase the product, use the up and down arrows to choose the quantity you want.

    Step 7: Click on the blue “add to basket” button.

    Step 8: To return to your shopping move your mouse over the “back to previous” message and click on it.

    TOP TIP: if you are logged in as a customer to the website, your shopping basket will not expire and you can keep adding to it as you wish.

    Step 9: To checkout and pay for your shopping, click on the “my basket” link at the top right of the page.

  9. 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 gladioli's sap, causing the leaves to fleck with white and later preventing the flower bulbs 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 bulb.
  10. How to plant urgineas maritima

    Native from the rocky Mediterranean regions, urginea maritima or sea squill is a dramatically distinctive early summer flowering bulb. Not often found in the UK, this stunning beauty is a rare must-have that will thrive planted in full sun in costal locations or in the garden border. In the spring, its large 24/+ cm bulbs will produce clumps of fleshy rosettes of long and impressive 90 cm long and 10 cm wide green strap-like leaves. One day lush and tropical, these will fall flat on the ground in the space of an evening before gradually dying away. In late summer and early autum, they will be replaced by maroon flower spikes formed of long stems, each adorned with an impressive flower head measuring between 20 to 40 cm long and around 15 cm wide that will soon be covered in hundreds of starry flowers, opening in succession from their base. Starting straight, the flower heads will quickly start to twist and turn, providing your garden with additional interest. They are also excellent long-lasting cut flowers.

    Urgineas enjoy south facing, hot locations and require to be planted in a dry, well-drained soil, especially during the winter months as they will not tolerate too much water. Plant your bulbs around 30 to 40 cm apart, allowing for 6 bulbs per square meter and make sure that they are almost placed on the surface with their top half exposed. There is no need to feed your bulbs as they should find enough nutrient from your soil. When first planted give them a small amount of water at the base to help them settle into their new home. Since it is a Mediterranean plant, do provide your bulbs with winter protection! They do not like cold wet weather.

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

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

    Potential problems, pests and diseases:

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


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