This beautiful alpine was sent to me yesterday from Deb along with quite a few other surprise plants. Strangely enough I had bought myself one earlier in the year and had lost it during the long hot spell we had recently. Its common name is Rock Rose and it is described as good ground cover and as a hardy plant once established.
This is an evergreen mat forming perennial producing masses of rose pink flowers over grey green foliage and is suitable for the rockery, as ground cover in the borders, or in gravel gardens. It is equally at home in a container.
The advice is when newly planted always keep watered until the roots have grown down and it is able to find its own moisture. Trim after flowering to maintain a good shape.
I have received a package of herbs from Smartplantapp.com that was sourced from www.tregothnan.co.uk who apparently are the only tea growers in Cornwall. They have been established since 1999 and boast Europe’s Largest Tea Garden.
My package was a selection of herbs that Tregothnan grow both for sale in their gardens and for use in their tea infusions which they sold at the best hotels and stores before the Pandemic arrived.
Tregothnan Botanical Gardens
Tregothnan means The house at the head of the valley and from the look of this photo they aren’t exaggerating. It looks beautiful.
Everything we do here at Tregothnan brings us back to the magnificent botanical garden. It provides us with produce and inspiration; our range of English estate teas and herbal infusions are grown here, our Manuka and wildflower honeys are produced here, our seasonal British flowers and foliages are sourced here. The gardens, both in Cornwall and in Kent, are the beating heart of the estate and we are constantly inspired by their fecundity and resilience.
Tregothnan is the only place outside of New Zealand to grow the Manuka plant (Leptospermum scoparium), which have been recorded on the Estate since the 1880s. Tregothnan’s tea bushes (Camellia sinensis) are surrounded by Manuka plantations, in part to protect the tea from the prevailing winds due to Manuka’s thick, coarse characteristics. The Manuka bushes provide essential shelter for tea but also a delicious treat for the bees whose hives are nestled in amongst the kitchen garden.
Tregothnan also keep their own honey bees and produce and sell their own honey. Its a little expensive for me but I’m sure its delicious.
My tiny package of herbs arrived and included six young plug plants of Marjoram, Thyme x 2, Sage x 2 and Hyssop. Plus a complimentary tea bag.
I have planted them up straight away into a large blue ceramic planter that I have had by my kitchen door for many years. It was bought for me by the children one Mother’s Day and has been in the same place since then. Since Adam died it had contained Spring bulbs and Viola Sororia Freckles which have both multiplied again and again and this year the plants needed splitting and the soil refreshing . I have left a few of the viola in there and arranged the herbs around the pot. There is plenty of space for them to spread as it is a very big container.
Hyssopus officinalis Blue
I have never grown or cooked with this herb so a little research was needed. Apparently Hysoppus officinalis is a versatile herb. It can be planted in the border or used in the kitchen. Bees and butterflies are attracted by Hyssop’s electric blue flowers. The flowers are aromatic and long lasting and the foliage is evergreen so it could be a real bonus in the blue pot outside the kitchen door.
Although not well known Hyssop is a useful culinary herb used sparingly. Chop and scatter young leaves onto salads, meat or oily fish dishes or use to flavour soups, stews and fruit dishes. Hyssop is said to aid the digestion of fatty or rich foods.
Hyssop also has medicinal properties. A tea made from the dried flowers infused with honey is soothing for coughs.
Origanum Vulgare Aureum
The label says that Golden Marjoram has brilliant golden foliage and is of a low growing habit. It produces pink flowers in late summer, dies back over winter and reappears in spring. It advises cutting back old dead flowers in early spring. This woody perennial can be propagated by cuttings of non flowering shoots in mid-summer or by division in the autumn or spring.
Fresh or dried marjoram leaves are used to season soups, sauces, salads, fish, legumes and meat dishes. It is also great in marinades and may fragrance vinegars, oils and liquers. An essential oil, used by the pharmaceutical industry, is made from the foliage. Some medicines utilise marjoram in healing for respiratory and digestive system diseases. Its greens contain taurine, vitamin C and carotenes.
Salvia officinalis is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae and native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalised in many places throughout the world.
The Latin name salvia officinalis is derived either from the Latin salvus, which means healthy, or salvare, meaning to heal. The name officinalis is derived from officina, which stands for the traditional storeroom in an apothecary where the herb was kept. It also refers to the fact that the herb is officially used as a medicinal plant.
During a major outbreak of plague in 1630, faith in the healing effects of sage was so strong that thieves in Toulouse rubbed a sage/herb/vinegar mix into their skin to protect themselves against infection before going out into the night to rob cadavers. When caught, they were told that their lives would be spared if they revealed the secret of how they inoculated themselves. Ricola.
My two Sages are a little different to the common sage. Sage Tangerine is described as a semi-hardy sage with bright green foliage and a strong citrus aroma. Sage Icterina Gold is described as a perennial with gold and green variegated leaves on a rough but keenly scented upright foliage.
Salvia elegans, commonly called pineapple sage or tangerine sage, is a perennial shrub native to Mexico and Guatemala. It inhabits Madrean and Mesoamerican pine-oak forests. The foliage of this decorative culinary sage has a tangerine-like scent, while the summer flowers add a vibrant shot of colour to borders or pots. Both the foliage, particularly the younger leaves, and the flowers can be used to dress salads, while the leaves can be brewed for tea.
Sage has been used for centuries as a culinary herb, Tangerine Sage is grown as a tender perennial herb plant primarily for its flowers, which are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. However, the leaves and flowers can be used to flavour food and drinks. The leaves can be snipped into salads and the flowers make an attractive addition to a salad too. In addition the leaves add a herby tangerine taste to fruit drinks and cocktails or on their own make a refreshing tea.
Golden Sage is a very popular herb. This variety has a milder taste in comparison with common sage . It is also a great companion with rich foods as it can aid digestion.
Golden sage can be propagated from cuttings. Many growers say Icterina does not bloom and is strictly an ornamental but the plant produces purple flowers in late spring. Seeds can be unreliable so growing golden sage through spring cuttings is a quick and easy way to make more of these lovely little shrubs. Root cuttings in sterile potting soil and keep evenly moist. To enhance rooting, provide heat and humidity by placing a bag or clear cover over the plant. Remove the cover once per day to release excess moisture and prevent root rot.
Thymus vulgaris is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe from the western Mediterranean to southern Italy. Wikipedia
Thyme is thought to have the powerful ability to kill off bacteria and viruses and should be taken at first signs of a cold or illness. Thyme does contains antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, carminative, diaphoretic and expectorant properties which supports healing throughout the entire body. A very useful herb to have in the garden.
The two tiny starter plants of Thyme in my package are Thymus Vulgaris, common thyme, and Thyme Coccineus.
Thyme Coccineus, the second variety is a creeping woody based perennial.
Thymus praecox Coccineus or Creeping Thyme with a degree of spicy fragrance. This flat-growing Thyme features fragrant dark green leaves, smothered by bright magenta-red flowers in early summer. A strong grower, ideal as a drought-tolerant lawn substitute or for planting between slabs. Creeping Thyme is easily divided in spring or early autumn and even small pieces will take root and grow. It is evergreen and attractive to butterflies.
Secret Garden Club sprang out of our popular promotion of overstocked plants. We noticed they sold fast to our growing market of seasoned gardeners! Knowing a number of high quality plant nurseries across the UK, we’ve started to sell off their stock too, to our Club members.
I ordered a few more perennials from secretgardeningclub.co.uk and after soaking them for a couple of days I planted them into the garden last night.
Jacobs Ladder – Polemonium Caeruleum
Jacob’s ladder is quite a rare plant in the wild these days. It can be found in three areas in England. It can be found primarily in the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland, where it inhabits the steep slopes of limestone or riverbanks, usually growing in partial shade around trees or shrubs. It prefers sites where the soil remains damp. However, it is a popular garden plant now. I have planted in at the foot of a tree at the edge of the pond so I hope it will be happy there.
Trollius Alabaster – Globeflower
Trollius x cultorum Alabaster is a moisture loving perennial from the Ranunculaceae family bearing pale yellow flowers in late spring and early summer. It grows best in damp soil such as around the pond edge or a bog garden. I have placed this plant at the front of the pond.
The elegant, creamy white shade of Alabaster was an important color break in Trollius. Blooms appear in late spring and a repeat show may happen in late summer. Alabaster is apparently slower growing than many other varieties. Trollius is a genus of the Buttercup family.
Caltha Palustris – Marsh Marigold
Commonly known as the marsh marigold or Kingcup this plant has golden yellow flowers appearing in profusion from Spring to Summer and are surrounded by large scalloped leaves that serve as great shelter for small wildlife that might appear around ponds and marshes. This hardy perennial is happiest in damp areas around ponds or in marshes. I have placed this plant at the back of the pond.
Knautia Macedonica – Macedonian Scabious
This relative of the Scabious has deep wine red flowers in clusters on wiry stems. It has a long flowering period and is very attractiveto bees. Knautia macedonica seems a perfect plant for a cottage garden. Another name for Knautia macedonica is Scabiosa rumelica. Both Knautia and Scabiosa species come from the eastern Mediterranean where they grow wild in grassland.
Knautia are clump forming perennials, are totally hardy and will grow in most well drained soils. Siting in full sun ensures maximum flowering from July to September. Remove dead flower heads will encourage more flowers.
Propagation is straightforward either from basal cuttings in the spring or clumps can be lifted and divided.
I love Secret Gardening Club and would love to visit the gardens one day.
I have planted bulbs of Snakeshead before several times to no avail. Last year I bought another bag of bulbs from Wilko. Only one flower popped up last year. which was encouraging, so we left it in the same large pot and this year we were blessed with about five flowers which have now gone to seed and all but two had popped and cast their seeds to the wind. The remaining seed heads had many seeds inside so Laura has sown some in a tray and I have kept a few in order to research how to grow these beautiful and endangered wildflowers from seed.
We are hoping that this years plants, having already scattered their seed to the wind, will grow on for us next Spring so as with all gardening its a waiting game now. The undisturbed bulbs should multiply too so fingers crossed.
Fritillaria seed ripens in mid to late summer and is best sown as soon as ripe or soon after in autumn. While older seed may still be viable it develops germination inhibitors that can make late sowings germinate erratically. In the wild Fritillaria spreads its seed by wind dispersal and seeds germinates on the surface of the ground. When sowing at home it is best to sow the seed on the surface of gritty compost and not bury it.
Water the seeds and place in a cool, sheltered place out of doors such as in a cold frame. Fritillaria seed requires a period of cold to stratify before germination so the pots can be left outdoors through the winter until they germinate which is usually in the Spring. Check the seed regularly for any germination and remove immediately to a bright place.
Once germinated keep the pot in a sunny position and keep watered throughout the growing season until the seedlings start to die down for their summer dormancy. By the end of the first year the baby bulbs will be small and difficult to handle so it’s better not to pot them on until the end of their second year. A typical Fritillaria will probably take 5 to 6 years from sowing to flowering.
The snake’s head fritillary is one of the most exquisite jewels in the treasure house of British wildflowers with a long list of common names which include Checkered Daffodil, Chess Flower, Frog-cup, Leper lily and Guinea-hen Flower. The bell-shaped flowers are unmistakable for their nodding heads, sometimes of pure white, or more frequently marked with a delicate chequerboard pattern in shades of purple. This rare British wildflower is now protected in its native meadows, but will always attract attention in a woodland garden, rockery, or naturalised in grass .
The white form of this rare British native is rarely found in the wild. It flowers from March to May growing to between 15 and 40 cm in height. In the wild it is commonly found growing in grasslands in damp soils and river meadows and can be found at altitudes up to 800 metres, although it takes readily to garden culture where it makes a superb border plant.
The header picture is Chico Grande, one of our many cats over the years at this house. She is long gone but was a mouser and would often present a mouse or a young bird to us.
We have noticed that we have been having mice in the garden since last Autumn. I am assuming that the fact that we have chickens is probably the main reason as they have a regular source of food and bedding plus warm hidey holes under the chicken houses. They are very attractive little creatures and although I am aware that they breed prolifically, I am loathe to do anything cruel to them.
The Wood Mouse
The wood mouse is sometimes known as the long-tailed field mouse and is widespread; it is probably most common in woodland, rough grassland and gardens. It is mostly nocturnal and an agile climber. Wood mice will gather food stores of berries and seeds in the autumn, which they keep in underground burrows or sometimes in old birds’ nests. Females have up to six litters a year of between four and eight young, and may even breed over winter if food is abundant.
The wood mouse is golden-brown, with a pale underside, large ears and eyes, and a long tail. It is bigger than the harvest mouse, and browner in colour than the house mouse.
The wood mouse is our commonest mouse and the one you are most likely to find in your garden. Because of this, it often falls prey to domestic cats, foxes and owls; in fact, tawny owls may not breed if wood mouse numbers are low as it restricts their diet. The Wildlife Trust
Laura has noticed that she has lost quite a few seeds and young plants from her greenhouse too.
This is only the second year that we haven’t had a family cat or two as our old girls and boys finally died and we haven’t replaced them. I can only assume that, although I was never happy when the cats brought me a mouse, the cats must have acted as a deterrent to the mice.
On the positive side, since the cats died, we have many more small birds inhabiting the garden now too.
Gardens are ideal habitats for these small mammals as they provide plenty of cover and a wide range of food sources. Sometimes, however, they come into conflict with gardeners when they eat highly valued plants, seeds and bulbs. When populations peak mice are more likely to become a nuisance in the garden. Mice are small mammals that sometimes feed on garden plants. They are shy nocturnal animals so there could be more of them in your garden than you suspect. Which Magazine.
Field mice commonly live in gardens, where their vegetarian diet can cause problems for gardeners. For most of the year their numbers tend to remain low. However, in autumn they can build up high populations and cause a great deal of damage into early winter. Which Magazine
A wild, green garden full of colour and life is far more rewarding for both people and wildlife than a grey square of paving slabs and our garden is definitely a paradise for wildlife so I suppose we should welcome these creatures. Following a bit of online research, I think maybe our tiny lodgers must be Wood Mice.
This young tree was presented to me by Sean and Deb, my son and his partner, following their move to a new house. I believe it was in the garden already in a pot so they brought it here. It is a beautiful thing with striking colouring and looks very healthy. It survived the winter and though I was concerned that it looked a bit dead early on in the Spring it is now a pleasure to behold. I had heard of a copper beech of course but had no idea of the size that it might grow to.
On researching this species I have found that as well as large trees this can be used as hedging. I am also confused as to whether I actually have a Copper Beech or a Purple Beech.
Fagus Atropunicea – purple beech – creates a beautiful, dense hedge with attractive copper purple, oval wavy-edged foliage that changes throughout the season with small white flowers in spring. A very rewarding hedge they have been known to bring wildlife into the garden as well. The Purple Beech is a very popular choice as a standalone specimen and makes a great alternative to fences or walls when grown as hedges. It has stunning dark purple-red foliage in the spring, turning into a dark green-bronze gradually over the year. They will grow perfectly well in either sun or partial shade and thrive on almost any well-drained soil. Monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers grow on the same tree. In April and May, the copper beech’s tassel-like male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup.
Fagus – Beech
Fagus – Beech is a traditional English Tree. They have lovely green or copper purple, oval foliage that changes to yellow and then a rich russet brown in Autumn. They do tend to keep hold of some of the leaves during the Winter months but they are mainly a deciduous plant. The leaves then start to bud up around February / March time and the leaves open from April onwards depending on the weather. Monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers grow on the same tree. In April and May, the copper beech’s tassel-like male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup.info from Grasslands Nursery.
Well for the moment I think my Copper Beech? or Purple Beech? Fagus Sylvatica? or Fagus Atropunicea? will be staying in its pot and looking beautiful.
On further research, I came across this information. Copper Beech, also known as Purple Beech, is a cultivated form of common beech. It grows to a height of more than 40m. The bark is smooth, thin and grey, often with slight horizontal etchings. Twigs are slender and grey but not straight, their shape resembles a zig-zag. Torpedo-shaped leaf buds are coppery and up to 2cm in length with a distinctive criss-cross pattern.
40 m. Oh dear. Well unless I win the lottery and move to a big house this tree will stay in its pot for a few years.
I have wanted one of these plants for a while and last year Laura turned up with a beautiful young plant that has come on really well this year. The new leaves have emerged green but are changing to deep burgundy and already has flowers. I have placed it into the sun.
Multiple stems are crowned with flattened heads of fragrant pink, lightly perfumed, flowers that complement the dark foliage. Later in the season, glossy black elderberries appear that are traditionally used in preserves and homemade drinks.
Sambucus nigra Black Lace has very finely cut, almost black foliage, which is the perfect foil to the pink blooms in late Spring and early Summer. In autumn its leaves turn a rich red. To produce the best coloured leaves prune plants back to ground level every year in early spring. Nigra works well when planted on its own or as part of a hedge.
For best results grow Sambucus nigra Black Lace in moist but well drained soil in full sun to partial shade. However, it will tolerate waterlogged or very chalky ground.
Over the years I have gathered quite a few varieties of Aquilegia Vulgaris from the very first seeds given to me many many years ago by my Sister-in-law Janice who had gathered them from her Mothers garden one Autumn. Her mother has long gone but I think of her often when these flowers start to bloom.
Just like Joyce these flowers are hardy and no nonsense. They look after themselves and pop up year after year to bring colour to the garden. There are so many varieties and hybrids so my wish list is very long.
You can start Columbine flowers from seeds or buy young plants. Seeds should be sown throughout spring. The seeds need light to germinate so simply press them on the soil surface and lightly cover with soil. Germination is about 30 days and because Aquilegia is a perennial it will take two years from planting the seeds for them to bloom.
Most varieties of Columbine plants will bloom for at least four weeks. They look delicate but are tougher than they appear. They tend to be short-lived perennials but self seed and spread bringing pleasure and colour to your garden for years.
Varieties of Columbine include dwarf varieties that are just 6 inches tall as well as large varieties that are more than 3 feet tall with large flowers. Keep in mind that Aquilegia varieties readily cross-pollinate. If you plant more than one variety be prepared to see new colors and combinations.
Aquilegia is a genus of about 60–70 species of perennial plants that are found in meadows, woodlands, and at higher altitudes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, known for the spurred petals of their flowers. The genus name Aquilegia is derived from the Latin word for eagle (aquila), because of the shape of the flower petals, which are said to resemble an eagle’s claw. The common name “columbine” comes from the Latin for “dove”, due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together.
Aquilegia Vulgaris William Guiness
Also, known as Magpie, this variety has purple-black flowers with contrasting white centres in late spring and early summer above fern-like, mid-green leaves. The unusual flowers of this old fashioned columbine creates an eye-catching display. The plant self seeds freely.
Aquilegia Vulgaris Pink Flamingo
This is a large flowering pink variety. Appearing in late Spring it is a new columbine variety. Coming quite true from seed it should be planted away from other Aquilegia with which it could hybridise.
Aquilegia Vulgaris Crystal Star
Aquilegia Crystal Star is a long spurred aquilegia with pure white flowers. A cottage garden favourite and an excellent and unusual cut flower possessing a clean crisp bright whiteness. “This has to be one of the easiest and most rewarding Perennials available producing masses pure brilliant white flowers with stunning spurs”. so says the company that I bought the seeds from so I hope so as this is the first year that I have sown them and I am hoping for them to become a permanent presence in the garden.
Aquilegia Vulgaris Blue Bird
From the Songbird series this blue Aquilegia is one of my favourite flowers in the garden. Such a perfect blue.
The songbird series is a range with compact habit and very large flowers with bright clean flower colours. A clump-forming perennial which forms a basal rosette of foliage and from May to July huge flowers with long spurs produced on strong upright stems. Varieties still to add to my collection from the Songbird Series are Goldfinch, Nightingale, Cardinal, Bunting, Early Bird and Chaffinch.
The Songbird hybrid series has a long history that started back in the 1980’s, and it’s story involves at least two breeding programs. The breeders used many species and selections in creating this mix. McKanna Giants formed the foundation of this complex cross. Breeders also reportedly used A. skinneri, A. californica, A. chrysantha, A. canadensis and a number of other strains. It’s a real mix, but is still sold under the botanic name of Aquilegia caerulea, as this remains the primary species used in the strain.
Aquilegia Wild Variety
A perennial often found at woodland edges and roadsides, long stalked with long-spurred blue-violet flowers. This variety grows to a height of 60cm and prefers damp woodland. It flowers during June and July. The foliage is very pretty.
Aquilegia Crimson Star
Crimson Star hybrida has striking red and white flowers. Columbines are attractive foliage plants that grow well in fertile soil in the sun or partial to full shade.
This cranesbill is an improved form of Geranium cantabrigiense Biokovo which holds the white flowers for longer before ageing to pink. It is an Alan Bremner hybrid, bred and named in Orkney. A cross between G. dalmaticum ‘Album’ and G. macrorrhizum Album with aromatic, evergreen, glossy green leaves. It grows well in most soils, is low growing and forms good ground cover.
I bought this plant as a bare root from wilko.com and it seems to be growing as it should. Unlike the tulips that I bought from there as pale pink and white that turned out a beautiful cerise colour. It was a slow starter but is now looking very good with a good amount of healthy bronze leaves. I am looking forward to flowers this year as it is supposed to bloom from May till first frost. It is listed as deciduous but perennial so hopefully will reappear next spring. All I have to do now is decide whether to keep it in the pot or put it into the border.
The Cranesbill group of plants are very easy to manage. Remove old overwintered leaves in spring, tidying up any damaged by winter weather. Propagate by division in spring. Pest and disease resistant. This will be the last addition to my cranesbill collection for a while. I have Beth Chato already in flower at present and many more to look forward to.
We have waited patiently for years for the frogs to appear in our garden pond. We did have frogspawn last year and during the summer saw some tiny frogs appearing but this year our patience has been rewarded with evidence of a resident group of our very own frog family. Garden slugs look out! We have moved all the chickens to their own enclosure now as they would eat the frogs.
Common frogs have smooth skin that varies in colour from grey, olive green and yellow to brown. They have irregular dark blotches, a dark stripe around their eyes and eardrum, and dark bars on their legs. They are able to lighten or darken their skin to match their surroundings.
This species is widespread in mainland Britain and can be spotted in the garden from March to October. Common frogs are most active at night and hibernate during the winter in pond mud or under piles of rotting leaves, logs or stones. They can breathe through their skin as well as their lungs. They can emerge to forage during warm spells.
Males can be distinguished from females by the hard swellings, called nuptial pads, on their first fingers. The nuptial pads are used for gripping females when mating. Males also possess paired vocal sacs, which the females lack.
In spring males croak to attract females. The male embraces a female and fertilises her eggs as she lays them in shallow, still water. Frogspawn is a familiar sight in Spring. Tadpoles hatch and over about 16 weeks gradually change into froglets, a process known as metamorphosis.
Adult frogs eat insects that they catch with their long, sticky tongue plus snails, slugs and worms. Young tadpoles feed on algae, but then become carnivorous. Frogs cannot swallow, so they ‘push’ their food down by using their large eyes, this means they must close their eyes to swallow.
Outside of the breeding season, common frogs live a solitary life in damp places near ponds or in long grass. They are normally active for much of the year only hibernating in the coldest months. In the British Isles common frogs hibernate from late October to January. They can re-emerge as early as February if conditions are favourable and migrate to bodies of water to spawn. Common frogs hibernate in running water, muddy burrows or layers of decaying leaves and mud at the bottom of ponds. The oxygen uptake through the skin suffices to sustain the needs of the cold and motionless frogs during hibernation. In the wild the Common frog has a life span of around 8 years.