Allotment, Garden Edging, Jorge, Planters

The difference between softwood and hardwood sleepers is the wood the sleepers are sawn from and whether or not they are treated. Softwood is distinguishable from hardwood in that it comes from gymnosperm trees – that is, trees that with unenclosed seeds – while the latter comes from angiosperms – trees with enclosed seeds. Gymnosperms include such trees as pines and cypresses that bear cone-bearing seeds, while angiosperms include apple trees and oaks that inclose their seeds in fruits.

Horse Chestnuts and Pine Cones.

Gymnosperms differ from angiosperms in other ways. Most importantly, there are differences between the physical structures of the wood that can be viewed differently at a microscopic level and at the naked eye. Softwoods have a different cellular structure from hardwoods with tracheids and medullary rays transporting water, while hardwoods have vessel elements to do the same, which under the microscope appear as pores. Under the naked eye, softwoods have light grains, while hardwoods have prominent grains.

Hardwood (top) with its large pores.
Hardwood (left) with its distinctive grains.

The differences in structure lead to different physical properties. In general, hardwoods are denser and more resistant to fire, but they are also slower growing and heavier. Henceforth, this explains their greater price originating from higher transport costs and longer times spent in nurseries. Although, it must be noted that this is simply a rule of thumb as there are extremely dense softwoods such as yew and soft hardwoods such as Aspen. As such, you should research a timber’s properties when deciding whether it is suitable for the task at hand.

In regards to outdoor use, the most important property is a timber’s resistant to decay and in general hardwoods are far more resistant than softwoods. Oak, for example, is highly resistant to decay and can last up to 30 or 40 years untreated. Pine, on the other hand, from which our softwood sleepers are constructed, are less resistant to decay and are henceforth treated with either Tanalith green or Tanatone brown. Both have similar properties and one can expect 15 to 20 years of use.

Another difference between softwood and hardwood sleepers is that the former’s treatment colour will fade to grey within 18 months. Oak sleepers, on the other hand, will maintain colour, which is great for rustic beds; and as they are free from treatment they are suitable for use in building water features. As mentioned previously, hardwoods are denser than softwoods, so oak sleepers are heavier than pine, which can make construction more difficult.  

If you are interested in garden sleepers, Primrose stocks both the hardwood and softwood variants at only £4.99 delivery, regardless of quantity ordered.

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.

Animals, Current Issues, Jorge

Primrose is proud to support Wild Futures’ Monkey Sanctuary by providing planters for their rescued marmosets to play in. Located in Looe, Cornwall, the charity has been protecting primates for for 50 years and has campaigned to end the primate pets trade.

Currently, it is not only legal to keep certain primates such as marmosets, tamarins and squirrel monkeys, but there are no licensing demands or special regulations for their care as they are not deemed dangerous under the 1976 Dangerous Animals Act. There are an estimated 5,000 primates being kept in the UK as pets, of which hundreds are rescued each year by animal charities, but many more are left behind due to a lack of funding. Unlike other species, primates are highly intelligent and undomesticated, requiring companionship and specialised diets to thrive, and are not suitable as pets.

If you are against keeping primates as pets, you can sign the RSPCA’s petition here.

Wild Futures website can be found here.

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.

Grow Your Own, Jorge, Plants

Superfoods have exploded in popularity in recent years, helped by clever marketing playing on our ever present awareness of our mortality. Viewed as a special tool for keeping us fitter for longer, claims have been disseminated by wellness bloggers and celebrities, who do not have to stick to strict scientific principles, and remain unsubstantiated. Much of this goes back to a desire to move away from processed foods to traditional foodstuffs with legible ingredients lists, but also the rapid rise of allergies, the rise of vegetarianism and veganism and of course wishful thinking.

Nonetheless, while none of these foods are super, they are nutrient rich, and work well in moderation as part of a balanced diet. As if colour coded by nature, the different colours of fruit and veg originate from its dominant pigment, each containing different nutrient profiles. Beta-carotene, for example, that gives orange foods its colour is high in vitamin a – an essential nutrient for good vision. Hence, through eating a variety of coloured fruit and veg, you can ensure against nutrient deficiencies.  

Personally, part of the attraction of superfoods is the fact you can grow many of them yourself, both reducing emissions and saving money, and of course learning a skill. Now, without further ado, here are 5 exotic superfoods you can grow in the UK.

Pineberry

Fascinating in every measure, pineberries are a progeny of the same cross that gave us the common garden strawberry, although are the polar opposite in colour! With an acidic-sweet taste like pineapples, pineberries live up to the latin name for strawberries – Fragaria x ananassa with ananassa meaning pineapples. Suitable for growing outside, pineberries produce small yields and benefit from extended sunlight. Likewise with the common garden strawberry, the key is to keep the soil moist without inducing fungal diseases such as verticillium wilt. To do this be sure to use fresh compost and avoid spots where you have previously planted plants from the solanaceae family. If disease does occur, be sure to address it quickly. Too boost yields, it is worthwhile to plant in the autumn the year before, which allows time for the roots to establish themselves.

Kiwi

Two species of kiwis are sold in the UK, Actinidia augusta and Actinidia deliciosa. The former, known as the hardy kiwi can be found growing as far north as Siberia! Perfect for small gardens, the most popular cultivar, Issai, will reach a manageable 2.4m and can be trained into any shape. Known for its bumper crops, the cultivar requires a sheltered sunny spot of garden.

More familiar, deliciosa’ fruits are sold in supermarkets and are significantly larger than its hardier cousin’s. Originating from southern China, the species benefits from a greenhouse. Jenny, the most popular cultivar, is extremely vigorous and can reach a whopping 5m. We recommend you attach it to a pergola and prune to ensure its energy goes into producing fruits.

Passion Fruit

With one of the most beautiful flowers of any fruiting species, passion fruit doubles up as an ornamental. Ostensibly hardy to -6C, the plant can be killed down to the roots in the harshest winters, but will regrow. Like the kiwi, it is extremely vigorous and will swamp anything but the largest greenhouses unless checked.


Almond

Another fruiting species with gorgeous flowers, almonds are within the same genus as peaches, plums and cherries. Although perfectly hardy, producing fruits can be difficult due to the propensity of its blossom to get destroyed by late frosts. Hence, you can’t guarantee a crop every year. Almonds benefit from a pollination partner of another cultivar and must be kept away from peaches as hybridisation will produce bitter nuts.

Blueberry

The quintessential superfood, blueberries grow fantastically well in the UK. The most exotic cultivar, Pink Lemonade, produces large pink fruits that actually taste of lemonade! For a more traditional variety, try Goldtraube – a reliable producer of large fruits with excellent flavour.

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.

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.

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