Flowers, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants, Uncategorized, Watering

Rhododendrons and azaleas usually bear their spectacular, large, often scented flowers in spring – but do you know the difference between the two?

Well, both are in the genus Rhododendron –  but azaleas can be distinguished by having five stamens per flower (one per lobe), whereas rhododendrons have 10 or more (two per lobe). Azaleas can be deciduous or evergreen but rhododendrons are all evergreen. Finally there is a difference in size. Azaleas are small to medium shrubs – rhododendrons range from prostrate shrubs to huge trees.

Within this guide you will find information about some of the different varieties of rhododendron and azaleas, as well as information about how to successfully plant and maintain your own.

Main Species

There are more than 28,000 rhododendron or azalea hybrids, as the plants readily cross breed. However, here are the most popular varieties for gardeners:

  • Hybrids or hardy hybrids: What gardeners would consider a ‘traditional’ rhododendron with large flower trusses, some scented, blooming anywhere between January until July – often growing very large.
  • Dwarf rhododendrons: Mainly alpine varieties, ranging from 20cm-80cm, flowering in April.
  • Yakushimanum: Mound-shaped plants reaching 80-100cm, often with unusual leaves. Many brilliant flower colours available.
  • Williamsianum: Unusual rounded leaves, 80-100cm.
  • Deciduous azaleas: Sun lovers, growing up to 150cm, often scented, (especially R. luteum) with rich autumn foliage. They can be divided into Species (Sciadorhodion, Pentanthera, Rhodora, Sinensi or Brachycalyx); Ghent (the oldest hybrid group with multiple small flowers); Knaphill (large flowered hybrids, some of which are scented); Mollis (earlier flowering, more compact and spreading); Rustica (small double flowers, some scented). Other deciduous azaleas include Pratt hybrids, viscosum, occidentale and the Northern Lights series.
  • Evergreen azaleas: Small, slow-growers, suitable for pots, up to 75cm, some are prostrate in habit, with autumn colour. Flowering season is usually May.

Planting

Choose a sheltered site with dappled shade, however, dwarf alpine species will tolerate full sun. Avoid sites exposed to early morning sun in spring, as this may damage frosted flowers.

The most important factor deciding whether rhododendrons or azaleas will grow well in your garden is the pH of your soil. They must have moist but well-drained, acid soil between pH 5.0 and 6.0 that is rich in organic matter. Reducing soil pH is not easy.

October or March/April are the best times for planting – dig in acidic organic matter before you begin (leafmould, rotting pine needles or composted bracken will work well). Don’t just concentrate on the planting hole – mix well around the surrounding soil. Don’t plant deeply, as rhododendrons are surface rooters. Apply a loose 8cm mulch of acidic organic material and water well to finish.

Care

To keep your plants performing at their best, in spring, apply slow-release ericaceous fertiliser and renew the acidic mulch and keep well watered.

Rhododendrons grow best in areas of high rainfall, which is naturally slightly acidic. Using tap water, especially in hard water districts, is not good for the plant as it contains too much calcium which reduces the acidity around the plant’s roots. However, if rain water runs out, tap water is OK to use for a month or so in summer.

Rhododendrons don’t require pruning apart from removing dead wood and deadheading if practical. If the plant outgrows its space, cutting back is tolerated best from deciduous azaleas and rough-barked rhododendrons. After cutting back, mulch, feed and keep well watered.

Growing in Containers

If you have alkaline soil, grow rhododendrons and azaleas as container plants. Use ericaceous loam-based compost and repot every other year into fresh compost in spring. When not fully repotting, top dress the top 5cm of growing medium with fresh compost.

Common Problems

Most problems with rhododendrons and azaleas stem from the soil being too alkaline, drought or other extreme weather conditions. Here are signs to look out for:

  • Non-flowering and bud drop: Flower buds actually start forming in late summer – dry conditions at this time can lead to a total bud formation failure or a partial formation, causing buds to dry up and dropping unopened in spring. Mulch and water thoroughly and regularly during dry periods in summer.
  • Leaf drop: Older leaves droop and roll, then drop off, following extreme moisture conditions – drought or waterlogging. Newer leaves show browning at the leaf tip or edge. However, it is normal for the shrub to shed some older leaves in spring and summer.
  • Leaf droop: Usually a response to severe cold, but they usually recover.
  • Leaf scorch/flower damage: Often caused by windy, cold or wet weather.
  • Yellowing foliage: Caused by nutrient deficiency known as chlorosis, an iron deficiency caused by high alkalinity in the soil.
  • Pests: Vine weevil can be a nuisance for container-grown plants, as can rhododendron leafhopper and scale insects.
  • Diseases: Relatively uncommon are bud blast, azalea gall and honey fungus.

Composting, Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants, Primrose.co.uk, Uncategorized, Watering, Wildlife

Rose

There is no doubt that roses are one of the most popular flowers to grow in Britain. In fact, so many are planted each year that if you set them out as a single row these plants would circle the equator! With the proper care and maintenance you can expect your rose to last for at least 20 years. However, many roses fail to thrive and a lot of that is due to improper planting and care. There are several elements to consider before attempting to plant a rose in your garden and this step-by-step guide should help you to navigate the pitfalls ensuring your rose is a success!

Planting

Planting Position 

Choosing the correct position for planting your rose is crucial. If it is not in a suitable spot it will not thrive. Plenty of sun is needed for your rose to grow, slight shade in the afternoon is good but not continuous shade. Your rose needs shelter from the cold winds. A nearby hedge or fence is good but should not be too close that it shades the bush. Your rose will need good drainage as it will not grow in waterlogged soil.

 Soil Conditions 

When planting your rose it is important that the soil is suitable. Ideally the soil should be medium loam, slightly acid with a PH of 6.0-6.5 and reasonably rich in plant foods and humus. Roses cannot thrive if the soil conditions are poor. Roses should be planted from Late October to March and the ground should not be waterlogged or frozen.

Preparing the Rose 

Cut off any leaves, hips or buds that may still be present. If the stems are shrivelled place all of the bush in water for several hours. Cut off any decayed or thin shoots before planting. Plunge roots into a bucket of water if they seem dry. It is crucial that the roots do not dry out before planting and make sure they remain covered until you are ready to set the bush in the planting hole. Cut back any long or damaged roots to about 30cm.

Planting the Rose 

Mark out planting stations to make sure your rose bush has enough space. There should be a distance of about a metre between each plant. When planting make sure that the bud union is about 2-3cm below the surface.

Caring and Maintenance

Mulching 

Roses benefit from having a layer of mulch on the soil surface around the plants as it reduces weeds, keeps soil moist in summer, improves soil structure, reduces black spots and some mulching material provides plant foods. Some suitable materials used for mulching include moist peat, shredded bark, well rotted manure, good garden compost and leaf mould. Prepare the soil surface for mulching by clearing away debris, dead leaves and weeds. Water the soil surface if it is dry. Spread a 5-7cm layer around the rose. Mulching reduces the need for watering and hoeing but does not replace the need for good feeding.

Watering 

Roses have a deep-rooting habit meaning that the watering of established plants is not crucial in some seasons. However, some roses need watering after a few days of dry weather. For example, newly planted roses, climbers growing against walls and roses planted in sandy soils. All roses will need plenty of water in a period of drought in spring and summer. When watering, use about 5 litres of water for each bush or standard rose and 15 litres for a climber.

Hoeing 

The main purpose of hoeing is to keep down weeds that are not smothered by mulching. Hoeing needs to be done frequently to make sure that the underground parts of the weeds are starved. Do not hoe any deeper than 2-3cm below the surface or the roots could be damaged.

Cutting 

Roses are perhaps the most popular flower for cutting and using as decoration. To make sure you don’t weaken the rose bush, do not take more than one third of the flowering stem with the flower. Cut just above an outward facing bud. Do not cut struggling or newly planted roses.  

Feeding 

Roses make heavy demands on plant food reserves in soil. If one or more vital elements run short your rose will not thrive. Feed your rose every year using a proprietary compound fertiliser containing nitrogen, phosphates and potash. You can use powder or granular fertiliser, liquid fertilisers or foliar feeding.

Deadheading 

It is important to regularly remove dead blooms. Remove the whole truss when the flowers have faded. Cut the stem just above the second or third leaf down. This will help the rose conserve energy.

 Pruning 

Roses do not produce shoots that increase in size steadily each year. Therefore, if they are not pruned the rose becomes a mass of live and dead wood. The purpose of pruning is to get rid of the dead wood each year and encourage the regular development of strong and healthy stems. For more details click here.

 

Jorge, Plants, Trees

As a species, the underrated crabapple has many great features. Its fruit is long lasting and can survive well into winter, providing a source of nutrients for birds and welcome colour in the garden. Like Malus in general, crabapples are a great source of pectin and can be used to create a range of culinary delights; and are often used as a substitute for pectin products, saving unnecessary expenditure and increasing self-sustainability. Like its wonderful blossom, its fruit is profuse it can be harvested over a long period, providing abundant nutrients for the family.

The blossom is often fragrant and constitutes a worthy competitor to cherry blossom with numerous tones available. Constituting great pollinators, they are the perfect addition to your apple orchard, increasing cropping and enhancing taste. Its deep roots allow one to maintain the perfect lawn and as a native species, they are hardy and great for wildlife. Finally, they are versatile and suitable for all but well drained soils and will often thrive as part of a bed.

Primrose Crabapples A-Z

Malus ‘Butterball’

Originating from North America, the Butterball is among the best crabapples for autumn colour, producing an abundance of yellow fruits. Great for cottage planting schemes, this small tree slots well into any bed and produces pink-blushed white flowers come spring.

Malus ‘Evereste’

An offspring of no fewer than four cultivars, the tree was developed over a long time span, first in the United States and later in France when it was completed by the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in 1977. Not actually named after Mount Everest, its name is a play on words with evereste signaling the eve (apples) reste (rest) on the tree all winter. The tree is known for its disease resistance and is immune to fire blight, apple scab and powdery mildew. Profuse, the tree produces white flowers and orange fruit with streaks of red.

Malus floribunda ‘Japanese Crabapple’

Highly popular and deservedly so, the tree is great for form and flower, producing a dense rounded canopy with fragrant deep pink flowers emerging from deep red buds, which turn white over time. The fruits can vary from nursery to nursery and are sometimes red, but often yellow. First introduced from Japan in the 1860s, the variety is naturally resistant to apple scab and its gene has been spliced into many cultivated varieties.

Malus ‘John Downie’

Named after a Scottish nurseryman, this popular crabapple is notable for its gorgeous fruit, great in both taste and appearance. Perfect for crabapple jelly, its fruit is large and red-yellow in colour, while its single-flower blossom is white.

Malus ‘Montreal Beauty’

Perfect for small gardens, Montreal Beauty is notable for its large white flowers, backdropped by crisp green leaves.

Malus ‘Pink Perfection’

Pink Perfection is one of the few crabapples with double-flowers and henceforth has more petals than most cultivars. Emerging from pink buds, its flowers are white and are intricately clustered as if arranged by a florist.

Malus pumila ‘Royalty’

The Royalty is notable for its bronze-leaved foliage and dark purple blossom. It was developed from the Malus ‘Niedzwetzkyana’, a cultivar from central Asia from which all bronze-leaved and purple-flowering crabapples derive. Its fruitlets are deep red and unsuitable for culinary use.

Malus ‘Sun Rival’

Weeping in habit, this small tree forms an unusual umbrella shape and has distinctive cascades of white flowers.

Malus x atrosanguinea ‘Gorgeous’

A fantastic ornamental, Gorgeous creates an array of colours throughout the seasons starting with its white flower, emerging from pink buds. Next come crimson fruit in great numbers that are highly suitable for jelly. And finally, unlike other crabapples, its leaves turn yellow and orange come autumn.

Malus x moerlandsii ‘Liset’

If you love intense colours, the Liset is for you with its deep reddish-pink flowers and small cherry-like fruits, completed by dark-green foliage.

Malus x moerlandsii ‘Profusion’

A fantastic tree for year round colour, the Profusion’s leaves first start coppery red, before turning dark green when mature and then bronze come autumn. Its flowers are dainty with long elliptic petals, dainty in appearance, and long white stamens with yellow tops. Rounding off the year are its purple fruits, which are unsuitable for culinary use, but great for bees.

Malus x purpurea ‘Neville Copeman’

Heavy cropping, high in pectin, the Neville Copeman’s plum-like fruit is sometimes eaten fresh, but be warned it’s sour! It is a great pollinator and very popular with bees. Its foliage is purple-flushed and blossom two-tone pink.

Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

Regardless of weather, the red sentinel’s red fruit can last all the way to Christmas and longer, constituting a fantastic source of colour and nutrients for birds. Shapely, the tree constitutes an ideal center-piece and come spring is covered in numerous fragrant white blossom.

Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’

An offspring of the Malus prunifolia rinki, the Hornet was first raised in the UK in 1949. Its fruit is high pectin and is henceforth useable as a source of pectin and great for jams. A great pollinator with long lasting pink white blossom, the tree can be commonly viewed at the end of rows of apple trees in commercial orchards. Profuse in bloom and fruit, the Hornet creates great colour throughout the year with its leaves turning yellow come autumn.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Current Issues, Garden Design, Gardening Year, Gardens, Guest Posts

garden trends 2018

When spring and summer are on the horizon our attention turns to how much we’re looking forward to enjoying the garden on sunny days, and what we can do to make the most of our space. This is going to be a big year for gardeners, so put on your gloves, roll up your sleeves and get ready to get covered in grass stains. From completely restyling a huge back garden to enjoying your balcony or terrace, here are five of the best garden trends for 2018.

1. Growing your own

Growing your own has always been popular, but with a rapidly growing trend towards eating a more plant-based diet it’s destined to become even more so. Depending on the space you have you can be as ambitious as you like – the garden is your oyster. However, if space is of a premium, runner beans, tomatoes, herbs and hanging fruit plants can all be grown in small areas. There’s nothing more rewarding than tucking into the fruits (and veg) of your labour!

2. Dining al fresco

What better way to enjoy the fruits of your labour than outdoors? Al fresco dining is a wonderful way to enjoy the garden, in both the day and the evening; in the sun and even when the temperatures drop. Set aside an outside dining space, complete with furniture, cool lighting and either a fire pit, chimney or patio heater so you can enjoy it at all times.

3. Forest-inspired colours

If you’re really into the latest trends and colour is an important part of your garden theme, then natural is the way to go in 2018. And by natural we mean lush forest-inspired deep greens, woodland golds and browns, shades of berries and rustic reds. These are some of the shades included in Pantone’s Verdure palette for the coming year. You can of course impart your own personality with bright tones found in flowering shrubs and herbs, bold colours on your fence or some funky dining furniture. But keep a base of natural for an on-trend look and add a twist with other colours of your choosing.

4. The wonder of Wabi-sabi

Sticking with the natural theme, and it doesn’t come more natural than this, is the Japanese art of Wabi-sabi. This garden art form has been around for over 500 years and actually requires pretty minimal effort. It’s all about combining the slight nurturing of your garden with embracing the natural imperfections of your outside space: the moss on your brickwork and stones, those rusty gate handles and hinges, that overgrown shrubbery and those distressed pots. If the thought of getting covered in dirt isn’t for you, this trend is perfect.

planting cacti

5. Small-space gardening

It’s not always possible to create elaborate garden themes, particularly when you don’t actually have a garden, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still create a cool outside space. Whether it’s a balcony, tiny courtyard or even a windowsill, you can still get growing. Rather than looking down, look up! Use balconies and wrap them in climbing shrubs, buy vertical structures to grow flowers on and create a palette of outdoor tones in your window box. With a little space and a lot of imagination there’s plenty that can be done. With space being more at a premium than ever, small-space gardening has become a big thing.

Have fun implementing some of this year’s best garden trends into your outside space and enjoy!

Eleanor CainesEleanor is a freelance writer. She loves to write about everything from gardening to travels. Her favourite part of her outside space is the fairy garden she created with her daughter.