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September 2012

August 2012

On the road

It’s been a bit hectic recently. I've been galloping round Britain visiting plant breeders, nurseries, gardens, family and friends - I did more than twice as many miles as usual - and readying the house for some major building work.

I saw some impressive new Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum) on trial (above, click to enlarge), a field of 10,000 buddleias, a delightful new fragrant verbena, grafted melons, hundreds of different heucheras, some dramatic variegated euphorbias and variegated phlox, cultivated wildflowers like a field of jewels, spectacular angel pelargoniums for patios, and much more. And the first two weeks was accompanied by the superb BBC radio coverage of the Olympics on the car radio.

I’ll be bringing you more on these sights and discoveries, but it wasn’t just the nurseries and gardens that held so much appeal. After a very wet summer the roadsides were unusually colourful for August with scabious in particular in clouds of soft blue.

And one of the last roadside flowers I saw on the road to the airport to fly out from the US was also one of LathyruslatifoliusRoadside_G022228the first I saw after landing in Britain. The perennial pea, Lathyrus latifolius, was sprawled through the roadside grasses on both sides of the Atlantic having spread from gardens far from its natural habitat in Southern Europe and North Africa. I shot the picture on a steep skope in British a gale when I feared rolling down into the traffic (rifght, click to enlarge). But I was also able to cut spikes from the blushed white form growing in our English garden (once I’d untwisted the bindweed) which made a prettty posie with some pink rosebuds.

Plants featured on my New Plants blog

Over on my Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog, I feature a plant which is newly available to British gardeners about every five days. I've featured some wonderful plants over the last few months - all new to British gardeners. Many are probably new to American gardeners too, but these are the plants featured over the last few months.

The new RHS Plantfinder is out today

Clematis Alaina: New in the 2012 Plantfinder RosaWollertonOldhall('Ausblanket')700

Rose Wollerton Old Hall: New in the RHS Plantfinder (picture right, click to enlarge)

Choisya ‘Aztec Gold’: New from Hillier

Daphne odora Marianni ('Rogbret'): New in the 2012/2013 Plantfinder

Pelargonium ‘Skyscraper’: New from Vernon Geranium Nursery

Geum ‘Fire Storm’: New in the 2012 Plantfinder

Chelsea Plant of The Year 2012: The ShortlistDianthusGreenTrick

Chelsea Plant of The Year 2012: The Winners

Dianthus Green Trick: New from Thompson & Morgan (picture right, click to enlarge)

Dianthus Memories: Plant of the Year runner-up

Heuchera ‘Circus’: Plant of The Year finalist

Aeonium 'Cornish Tribute' and ‘Logan Rock’: Plant Of The Year finalists

David Austin Roses: Five new varieties

Double laced polyanthus: New from Hayloft Plants

Five new roses from Peter Beales

New plants at the 2012 Hampton Court Show

Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream': New for 2012 LeucanthemumBananaCream700(picture right, click to enlarge)

New autumn and spring flowering wallflower

Strawberry ‘Sweetheart’: New from D T Brown

Six new roses from Harkness Roses

Two new heucheras from America

Blueberry 'Pink Lemonade': The first pink-fruited blueberry

New clematis from Raymond Evison

Aster oblongifolius 'Autumn Skies': new bushy aromatic autumn aster

Three new double-flowered echinaceas

My Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog continues over on the Royal Horticultural Society website.


Book Bullet: Just Vegetating – A Memoir by Joy Larkcom

Just Vegetating by Joy Larkcom is published by Frances LincolnI always wondered what was in Joy Larkcom’s filing cabinets. In her house in Suffolk she had a whole row of them - steel, four drawers each – all along one wall of her work room. And then when we visited her in her new home in Cork – there they all were. But without them she would not have been able to produce this extraordinary memoir.

For decades, Britain’s “Queen of vegetable growing” has directly or indirectly influenced just about every home vegetable grower – on both sides of the Atlantic. An influential pioneer of organic growing, she also introduced many heirloom European and Asian and American varieties to a far wider community of growers as a result of her research trips around Europe, China, Japan and North America. She learned Mandarin for her Chinese trip, took her kids out of school for a year to tour Europe in ramshackle caravan, pioneered baby leaf salads, brought seed back from round the world and grew it, and tested and tasted the results. She took copious notes, took copious pictures too, kept decades of old seed catalogs and research reports – that’s what was bursting out of those filing cabinets.

And some of all that has found its way into her new book. Joy has distilled her life’s experience – well, some of it anyway – into this unique memoir which brings us accounts of her on-a-shoestring travels, her discoveries and insights, the best of the articles she’s written over forty years, together with her more recent reflections. It’s an approach which is hugely engaging, consistently revealing and which bursts with proven approaches to growing food.

Just Vegetating – A Memoir by Joy Larkcom is published by Frances Lincoln

  • A unique presentation of a life’s work helping us all grow better vegetables
  • Fun to read, with great pictures of Joy’s gardens (and family) and veg growing around the world
  • Combines entertainment with top class practical advice

Just Vegetating was published in Britain in June. It becomes available in North America in September but advance orders can be placed now. There’s a review for British readers on my Simply Gardening blog, and a profile of Joy I wrote ten years ago on my website and some thoughts on visiting Joy in Cork on a 2009 Transatlantic Gardener blog post.



Guest post: one of judywhite's favorite orchids

Paphiopedilum primulinum var.flavum. Image © (all rights reserved)
Guest post from judywhite, author of Bloom-Again Orchids.

One of my favorite indoor orchids is also one of the easiest to grow. Even in the middle of summer, when most of the gardening attention is outside, and the majority of houseplant orchids are flower-less, gearing themselves up for fall and winter blooming, one very cute plant is still shining away on the windowsill.

Paphiopedilum primulinum (above, click to enlarge) is a tropical ladyslipper orchid species from Sumatra, only discovered as recently as 1972. It’s so named because of the classic primrose yellow color on the pouch and in its wavy petals, often also with green in the top (dorsal) sepal. There’s another version of it that adds pink to the color palette (var. purpurascens), which is equally adorable. (The yellow version is var. flavum, also known as var. album.) Whichever the colors, everyone who sees Paph. primulinum is instantly smitten.

Besides its obvious flower charm, this species keeps blooming sequentially, one bloom at a time, over many months, and, in fact, can be in dainty flower almost constantly over years. Each flower lasts about a month. The only time you will have two flowers at once (as pictured here) is when the oldest one is just about to fall off, which it will do abruptly, generally without shriveling up first. The plant is small and compact (except for the ever-elongating flower spike) with a total leaves span of about 6 inches (15cm) wide. The flowers are about 2.5 inches (6.4cm) long.

Paph. primulinum makes a good parent in hybridizing, and one of its best offspring is the primary hybrid Paphiopedilum 'Pinocchio'. Image © (all rights reserved)Pinocchio (glaucophyllum x primulinum) (right, click to enlarge), which keeps the sequential blooming but adds clearer pink coloring, bigger blooms, and often two or more flowers at a time.

Grow the species and its hybrids on a windowsill that gets any exposure except north – it doesn’t need too much intensity, and it even does fine under four fluorescent light tubes. It likes average room temperatures where night temperatures don’t get much below 60°F (16°C) in winter. Water thoroughly about twice a week, so that it just stays damp, and use a fine orchid mix in a small but deep pot. Weekly orchid fertilizer is appreciated but I find that it blooms well even when you forget for a while.

I got my yellow Paph. primulinum at the very splendid Parkside Orchid Nursery (2503 Mountainview Drive, Ottsville, PA 18942; 610-847-8039; British orchid fans can find it at the Yorkshire mail order nursery, Orchid Species.

judywhite is the author of Bloom-Again Orchids - 50 Easy Care Orchids That Flower Again & Again & Again

Lush Pennsylvania beds and borders

Our Pennsylvania garden flourishing in late July. Image © (All rights reserved)
What a relief. After last year’s plague of voles, this year we’ve not seen a single one and our beds and borders are transformed. They look lush, verdant, and from early wood anemones, arums, epimediums and spring hellebores (now doing a great job as foliage ground cover) through lilacs then daylilies and clematis and luscious black raspberries… to today’s hydrangeas and bee balm and cleomes and hibiscus and bugleweed foliage… with phlox and rudbeckias just starting and asters and fall foliage and fruits to come – it’s a great year.

We improved the soil in places where it was too stony and thin and, as you can see, we like to see dense planting and that demands good soil. judy’s dedicated weeding and hand watering when it was so dry, coupled with extending the soaker hose network, have made a big difference. [Actually, judy’s done most of the work this year – credit where it’s due.]

True, that ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ bee balm has mildew and the phlox, including the supposedly resistant ‘David’s Lavender’, will probably get it soon as well, but if the plants are moist at the root mildew is less destructive.

And under this richness of summer foliage and flower, are those spring plants – shaded by summer’s leafage, quietly winding down their season as the summer plants take over. In such a densely occupied rootzone, crowded with roots and bulbs and tubers, sufficient nutrients and sufficient moisture are needed to provide enough for everyone.

So I’ll be finishing off the soaker hose network in late fall or early spring, after again enriching the soil. To ensure an extended season of flower and foliage we have to provide the conditions to make it happen. So the displays never stop – as long as the gardening never stops.