Jorge, Plants, Trees

Historically it was believed that the common garden strawberry, or Fragaria x ananassa, was a hybrid of two wild species: F. virginiana, or wild strawberry, from North America, and F. chiloensis, or beach strawberry, from the pacific coast in North America and South America. Today genetic analysis has revealed its ancestry to be more complex as there are genes from other species as well. The original cross (from which all modern garden strawberries derive) occurred in occurred in France in the 1750s, once the chiloensis was brought back from Chile in 1714. Before the introduction of the common garden strawberry, the strawberry species consumed was the Fragaria vesca, or wild strawberry, that grows naturally throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s scientific name originates from the Latin fragum, meaning fragrant, and ananassa, meaning pineapples. Interestly, strawberries aren’t technically berries as with berries the entire pericarp (flesh surrounding the seed) is succulent tissue. Instead, strawberries, are aggregate fruits which form from a single flower with many pistils (seed-bearing female organ of a flower) that develop into fruits. Years of hybridisation has produced cultivars far superior to those of old with larger fruits, heavier crops and improved disease resistance.

Primrose Strawberry Cultivars A-Z

Albion

An offspring of the ‘Diamente’ cultivar, ‘Albion’ was first fruited at the University of California in the 1998 and released commercially in 2006. The university goes through 12,000 unique cultivars every year, making it extremely special. (It is the most popular strawberry among growers in California.) Day-neutral, the plant will flower regardless of the light it receives, making it suitable for summer and winter fruiting. It is also resistant to verticillium wilt, phytophthora crown rot and, to a degree, anthracnose crown rot. Its conical, red fruits are large and firm with good flavour. It will will produce abundant runners that we recommend you clip to reduce stress and increase yields.

Cambridge’s Favourite

Recipient of the RHS Award of Garden Merit and the Perfect for Pollinators badge, ‘Cambridge Favourite’ was developed at the University of Oxford – no just kidding – the University of Cambridge in 1947. A mid season cultivar, the cultivar possesses good disease resistance and will produce abundant runners from which average-sized berries will spring. The flavour is excellent, but notably soft.

Calypso

Calypso was developed at East Malling Research in 1991. The centre was set up all the way back in 1913 by the fruit-growing sector to address challenges to farmers. Perfectly located in the Garden of England, it is surrounded by about 70% of the UK’s grower with the county specialising in fruit. (Kent’s title originates from the fact it was the first counties to set up commercial orchards of exotic fruits such as cherries – a species Henry VIII loved).

A cross between Rapella and Selva, Calypso is a significant advance over its parents. Unusually prolific for a day-neutral, or everbearing type, it is able to produce large yields whether planted in Spring or Autumn, and again, we recommend you clip its runners to improve yields. It’s fruits are larger than average in size with moderate flavour and firm flavour. The cultivar is resistant to verticillium-wilt.

Elsanta

A widely grown commercial cultivar, Elsanta was developed by Wageningen Plant Research Institute (Netherlands) and released in 1975. It’s fruits are delicious with a good storage life and are less prone to bruising; hence, a supermarket favourite. The cultivar is notable for its huge crops and one can expect up to 500g of produce in its first year. However, it is susceptible to both mildew and verticillium wilt, so we recommend plant under warm conditions and spray against mildew.

Flamenco

Another everbearer from East Malling Research (EMR), the ‘Flamenco’ is highly versatile, suitable for both beds and containers and functions well when brought into the greenhouse. A heavy cropper, this cultivar can produce up to 800G of strawberries per plant all the way to Autumn. Its fruit is sweet, larger than average, classically conical in shape.

Florence

A midseason cultivar, Florence will produce fruit from the backend of June to the end of July. It’s fruit are tasty, sweet in flavour and firm in texture. The plant is notable for its exceptional disease and pest resistance, originating from the fact it is a crossbreed of many cultivars, bred by EMR.

Framberry

A cross between strawberries and raspberries, the cultivar is notable for sweet raspberry flavour. Like strawberries proper, they are low maintenance and grow well in pots.

Honeoye

A product of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, honeoye takes its name for the Seneca word for lying finger, which describes a lake in New York State. Recipient of the RHS Award of Garden Merit, the cultivar is hardy and one of the best strawberries to grow in the colder parts of the UK. It is suitable for cloches and tunnels, but grows best in a raised bed. An early-season cultivar, the cultivar will produce heavy crops of firm, medium-sized strawberries.

Judibell

A very-late season cultivar from EMR, Judibell was the first commercial cultivar released with the extended dormancy trait that keeps the plant dormant till mid-May. The cultivar is resistant to both Verticillium Wilt and Crown Rot, although is somewhat susceptible to powdery mildew, which can be fought against with spray. It’s fruits are juicy red and of superb quality.

Mara des Bois

Mara des Bois combines the best of commercial and alpine cultivars with a taste reminiscent of wild strawberries, intense aromatic flavour, vigour and heavy cropping. This aromatic flavour has its origin in the flavour compound methyl anthranilate, not present in most supermarket strawberries. The cultivar was created by nurseryman Jacques Marionnet in 1991 from four cultivars – Gento, Redgauntlet, Ostara and Korona – and is prized the world over by Michelin-starred chefs. Highly popular among hobbyists in France, over 15 million are bought every year, producing 10,000 tonnes of strawberries. Another day neutral cultivar, it will produce fruit intermittently throughout the summer.  

Pineberry

Appearing as inverted colour strawberries, pineberries are actually another hybrid of Fragaria chiloensis and Fragaria virginiana – the same hybridisation that gave us the common garden strawberry. The cultivar originates from Wil Beekers, a Dutch grower, who sought to exploit demand for niche fruit around the world. First sold commercially in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2010, the cultivar quickly spread to the UK, and then the States in 2012.

Smaller than the common strawberry with white colouring and red seeds, pineberries have a fresh acidic-sweet taste, much like pineapples, hence its name. This is interesting considering the Latin name for strawberries is Fragaria x ananassa with ananassa meaning pineapples – another early misnomer of plant naming. The cultivar produces small yields, but is understandably popular for its novel look and taste. Growing it yourself can save you a small fortune vis-a-vis purchasing it in the shops.

Red Gauntlet

A mid-season cultivar that will produce second crop come September, the Red Gauntlet is understandably popular among growers with large sweet-tasting fruits. Highly suitable to cloches and tunnels, the cultivar has good disease resistance with some resistance to botrytis.

Rhapsody

Another cultivar well-adapted to the colder parts of the UK, Rhapsody was developed by the Scottish Crop Research Institute and is recommended by both the Ministry of Agriculture and the RHS. A progeny of Talisam, Cambridge Vigour and Cambridge Favourite, Rhapsody has good resistance to disease (including the dreaded red core) and is a heavy cropper, more so than Cambridge Favourite. Superb in flavour, these strawberries are not to be ignored.

Sonata

Recommended by Which? magazine, Sonata is a mid-season cultivar with sharp flavour. The plant is widely marketed as a successor to Elsanta due to its uniform fruit shape and consistent quality of fruit. Well adapted to Northern Europe’s climatic conditions, Sonata is another cultivar suited to the colder parts of the UK.

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.

How To, Jorge, Planting, Plants, Trees


Bare root plants in winter pose challenges to growers and gardeners alike. Freezing temperatures make even the simplest tasks difficult, with nurserymen having to trudge for miles in the bitter cold to assess whether a plant is suitable for transportation. Facing staff shortages and delayed couriers due to severed transport connections and hazardous rural roads, fulfilling orders can be beset by delays. Gardeners face different challenges with rock hard ground making planting impossible, rendering plants brittle and vulnerable to damage.

During winter plants become dormant, transfering energy to their roots and shedding their leaves. Biological activity slows, but doesn’t stop, just like when animals enter hibernation. This allows plants to be removed from soil that provides support, nutrients, warmth, moisture and oxygen. This reduces the weight of the plant, reducing transport costs, making bare root plants significantly cheaper than alternatives.

Plants can survive for significant periods without soil and can even be grown without as in the case of hydroponics. Although they can suffer for transplant shock, in which the plant’s health is threatened due to broken roots, disturbance and dehydration.This is why plants are carefully wrapped and their roots covered in hydrogel. Hence, they should not be removed from their wrappings until you are ready to plant and be left alone in a location not liable to temperature fluctuations.

Bare root plants should never be left in direct sunlight, nor be taken into the house, but can be stored in a cold outbuilding. Plants are liable to tissue damage when warming too fast, just like when humans suffer from chilblains. Bringing a plant into the house can cause the plant to come out of dormancy.

Bare root plants can survive for up to ten days without additional nutrients and water and indefinitely in temperatures below zero. If you are unable to plant in this time we’d recommend you leave your plant in water with liquid fertiliser. You can begin planting when the ground defrosts and temperatures rise above zero, with optimal temperatures around midday. Be sure to give your plants roots a good watering.

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.

How To, Jorge, Mice & Rats, Pest Advice, Pest Control

Rats in the loft are a worrying sign for any homeowner due to their propensity to spread disease, damage property and steal food. Worse, rodents in the loft indicate that they have spread deep into the property, forming a network throughout your walls. To deal with rodents it is can be useful to first identify the type of rodent before addressing structural issues and then dealing with the rodents themselves.

Types of Rodent

In the UK, the most common type of rat is the brown rat, followed by the black rat a distant second. As omnivores, these rats will consume nearly anything and are fond of burrowing; hence, in urban areas they will enter properties for shelter and warmth, which usually occurs at the end of the summer and autumn when the weather starts to turn. Of the two, the black rat is incredibly agile and can often be found inhabiting the upper areas of buildings, while the brown rat is more likely to stick to lower levels.

The two rats can be distinguished by their length, weight, body proportions and facial features with the brown rat significantly larger (40 vs 24cm long) and heavier (500 vs 200g) with small ears and eyes and a slanted snout. By contrast, the black rat possesses large ears and eyes and a pointed snout. Unsurprisingly, its body is slender with its tail longer than the rest of its body, hence the difference in weight. The brown rat is the opposite with a thick body and tail shorter than the rest of its body.

brown vs black rat comparison
Rattus rattus is the scientific name for the black rat, and Rattus norvegicus for the brown rat. Picture credit: Sponk licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Of mice, the most common species found in UK homes is the house mouse followed by the closely related field and yellow-necked field mouse. The house mouse is particularly problematic as it can enter dwellings at any point of the year. Concentrated in rural areas, the field mouse will rarely enter homes, although may pose a problem to farm buildings. The house mouse can easily be distinguished from the field mouse by its colour with the former grey and the latter a sandy-orange.

A visual comparison of the field (L) and house mouse (R). Note the difference in colour. Picture credit: Hans Hillewaert licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Significantly smaller than rats, mice can survive on a mere 3 grams of food a day and even go without water for significant periods. They are all excellent climbers and can multiply quickly. The house mouse, for example, can produce up to 8 litters a year with a gestation period of only 30 days. Hence, we recommend you act quickly to solve any rodent problem.

Safety Precautions

Rodents carry a wide range of diseases, some of which are deadly and others airbourne. Hence, other than wearing gloves and using a facemask, we recommend you air out any space before removing carcasses or excrements.

Detection

Rodents are usually identified by their droppings or the sound of crawling, scratching and gnawing, although can also be identified by chewed wires or pipes. In general, rats are more audible than mice and you are less likely to hear the latter crawling. Brown rat’s droppings are the largest between 1.5-2cm, black rat’s up to 1.5cm and mice less than 0.75cm. If you are having trouble locating your intruders, you can use rodent tracker dust to identify their comings and goings and aid trap placement. 

Addressing Structural Issues

Rodents, along with other pests, can enter your property through small cracks in the brickwork. They can enter your property through climbing shrubs and trees, and black rats may enter your loft directly. Hence, we recommend you seal any cracks with insulation foam and cut back overgrown plants. Rodents will often first take interest in a home due to overgrown gardens and easy access to waste. Hence, it is important to keep your rubbish tidied away.

Solutions

Primrose has over 10 years’ experience developing pest control products and offers a large range of solutions to rodent infestations, divided into clinical and humane solutions. Of all our products, we’d recommend ultrasonic repellents. They work by emitting ultrasound waves, inaudible to humans, but painful for rodents, who use this frequency to listen for predators. Disturbed, they will move out of the vicinity of the sound. We offer both battery and mains powered repellents, of which the former can be useful if you do not have a socket in your loft.

Our battery-powered ultrasonic rodent repeller is perfect for lofts and camouflages as a smoke alarm.

Clinical solutions include mouse and glue traps. In the vast majority of cases a mouse trap will kill a rodent instantly, so they are humane in a sense. Glue traps are extremely effective and work great in tandem with conventional traps. However, the major problem with clinical solutions is that they rarely provide a long term solution as killing existing rodents simply makes room for new ones. Hence, we recommend you start with any ultrasonic repellent, before moving onto these solutions.

If you are using ultrasonic repellents, it is important to first give it time to work and then seal cracks in your property to allow room for the rodents to escape. If you plan to just use just clinical solutions, it is important to first seal your property. Ultimately, it can be useful to use all three solutions in tandem that have proven to be highly effective in dealing with the worst problems, and significantly cheaper than relying on professional pest control solutions.

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.

Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Jorge, Planting, Plants

Growing your own goji berries is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint, save money and provide a source of nutrients for your family. High in vitamin C, B2, A, iron, selenium and the antioxidant polysaccharides, they constitute a welcome addition to a balanced diet and are great as part of a smoothie, or served with oats. Growing goji berries is relatively easy as it is well adapted to the UK’s climate as with other himalayan species.

Growing goji berries from seed is not recommended as seeds are prone to rot and seedlings require warm conditions for 12 months, which is both impractical and costly. Hence, we recommend two year old plants that are winter hardy and ready to fruit. It you do wish to grow from seed, rot can be prevented through an irrigation system ensuring moist soil. Goji berries work well in containers and normal advice applies.  

Soil and Sun Requirements

Goji berries are from the solanaceae family and possess a similar nutrient requirements to tomatoes. Hence, as nitrogen hungry plants we recommend applying fertiliser at the start of the growing season. However, as they are sensitive to salinity, we recommend avoiding inorganic fertiliser, which contains soluble salts. Compost also contains salts, so should be a small proportion of the potting mix (20%). Goji berries require full sun, but also benefit from shelter. They work well as hedges and possess delicate white and purple flowers, so function well as an ornamental.

Planting

Mature plants can reach 3m high and 1.5m wide. Hence, we recommend they be spread at 1m apart. As with all potted plants, it is important to keep the soil ball intact and ensure it is planted at the same depth as it is in the container. (Using a spirit level or ruler can help you keep it is level.) This will ensure the roots are within range of the nutrient rich top soils, but not exposed as to lead to air pruning. We recommend you dig a hole bigger than the circumference of the container and fill it with a mix of fertiliser, compost and garden soil, which is superior in structure and nutrients to garden soil. Be sure not to pack the soil too tight or compress the soil as this will reduce retard root growth. Once this is complete be sure to water thoroughly.

Next, you are to remove all nearby plant life and mulch. By doing this you are reducing competition, allowing the growth of a healthy root system, and improving the soil’s structure, which gives the plant access to air and water. Mulch should not come into contact with the shrub’s main stem as to ensure it does not come diseased, and be level with a depth of 2 and 3-4 inches for fine and coarse materials respectively. Mulch can be replenished annually, depending on the material, and the area it covers should be increased as the shrub’s roots expand.

Pruning

The most important function of pruning is to remove old, dead and damaged stems to make room for new stems. (Flowers and berries are borne on stems grown in the spring and autumn of the year before.) By pruning stems you encourage the production of more laterals, leading to higher yields. Pruning has the additional advantage of increasing sunlight penetration and improving foliage drying, which is especially important with goji plants susceptible to verticillium wilt. Hence, it is also important to water at the base of the plant. We recommend watering thoroughly, every so often, rather than little and often, as this will encourage the formation of deep roots, which helps the plant endure dry periods. Pruning should take place in the spring, just as the plant starts to grow.

Harvesting

Goji berries produce the biggest yields in their fourth year, while at two you can expect a kilo of fruit. To harvest, wait till the fruit is deep red and fully ripe (usually midsummer), and then shake them onto a blanket. Handling can make them turn black. To dry goji berries, leave them on a sheet of baking paper in a cool, dry spot out of direct sunlight.

If you are interested in growing your own goji berries, Primrose offers two year old goji berry plants from just £4.99.

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.

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