Flowers, Gardening, Gardens, How To, Liam, Plants, Ponds, Weeding

Water HyacinthWhat to do with pond plants in winter

Pond plants are categorised as hardy or non-hardy which determines how you prepare them for winter, while for some it may be best to throw them away others can be protected and sprout again come spring. Hardy pond plants such as hardy water lilies can be moved to the deeper areas of the pond (at least 18 inches), pruned to the crown and then submerged in the water which will remain warmer than the outside air. For some non-hardy pond plants such as Water Hyacinth or Water Lettuce it may be worth simply to remove them and then replace them come spring. For more expensive non-hardy plants such as tropical Water Lilies you can place them in a tub or bucket and to move them inside to a greenhouse or garage provided the temperature remains above 12°C.

What pond plants survive winter?

Hardy Water Lilies from the Nymphaeaceae family, hardy oxygenators such as Variegated Pennywort or hardy shelf plants such as aquatic Forget-me-nots will all survive winter but how they should be prepared will differ. Depending on the plants preferred growing habitat (i.e deep water, marginal etc) these plants have different methods of preparation if they are to survive through to spring. If the plant is growing in the water, such as Rushes or Iris then you should cut to roughly 20cm above the water line ensuring that the plant does not become submerged otherwise it could drown. Hardy water Lilies or floating plants should be moved to the deepest parts of the pond as the water will stay warmer than the surrounding air. Hardy marginal or moisture loving Perennials should be cut down to as low as 5-10cm.

Water LilyWhat pond plants are the best?

Water Lilies (Nymphaeaceae) are brilliant for adding colour and a subtle beauty to your aquatic space and are among the best plants for your pond. Water forget-me-nots provide a delicate yet bright shade of blue through the summer months and are a pollinators favourite so will be sure to boost the biodiversity in the pond. Hornwort is an essential native oxygenator that will keep ponds of all sizes healthy and clean supporting aquatic life but preventing the growth of weeds and algae. There are a vast number of truly spectacular pond plants, however, depending on what function you want them to serve or what aesthetic you are trying to create some will be wholly better than others.

What pond plants are good for wildlife?

The right pond plants can make your pond a haven for wildlife; oxygenating plants help support aquatic life while floating plants and marginal plants provide shelter and spaces for animals to climb out of the water and rest. Having around 30% of the surface area of your pond covered with plants provides ample shelter while preventing the growth of weeds. Many flowering pond plants are brilliant for attracting bees including Iris stocks and Pontederia.

Pond ReedsWhat pond plants are oxygenators?

Oxygenating pond plants are those which photosynthesis underwater releasing oxygen into the water which can be incredibly beneficial to your pond supporting aquatic life and preventing the growth of weeds and algae. Varieties include Slender Club Rush Scripus cernuus which is an outstanding oxygenating plant for your pond as it retains its luscious shade of green throughout the year with tiny white flowers emerging in the summer. Common Water Starwort – Callitriche autumnalis floats on the surface growing a thick oxygenating layer providing shade and shelter for aquatic life and preventing the growth of weeds.

How to keep the water clear in a pond

The best way to keep your pond water clear is regular maintenance including removing any twigs, leaves or algae from the surface to prevent decay and regularly checking the health and vitality of your pond plants. In addition to this routinely cleaning the ponds water filter and draining your pond annually to clean the bottom and sides will go a long way to keeping your pond clean and looking great.

Water LilyWhat causes pond plants to die?

There are a number of reasons as to why you pond plant may be dying including lack of sunlight, murky or toxic water, planted at an incorrect depth or an incorrect temperature. It is important to always check the specific plant requirements and upkeep a cleaning routine to ensure the health and vitality of the pond. Make sure there is enough space between the plants and none of them are becoming too deprived of light. Remove dead plant matter and this can decay and encourage the growth of weeds which will add competition for nutrients and light. Additionally it may be necessary to check the pH of your pond water if several plants appear to be dying at the same time and to clean the bottom of any toxic sludge that has developed.

Are water lilies poisonous (to cats/dogs)?

Water lilies are not true lilies and are instead a part of the genus Nymphaea and so are not poisonous to cats but still can be poisonous to dogs if ingested in large amounts. It is, however, essential to check which species as the White Water Lily is not poisonous but the Yellow Water Lilies are poisonous. Symptoms of poisoning in cats or dogs includes lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting and depression.

If you are a fan of pond plants  head over to our website where we have many to choose from.

Liam at PrimroseLiam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports his favourite pass-time is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing your own food.

See all of Liams posts.

Flowers, Gardening, Liam, Planting, Plants, Trees, Weeding

Cherry blossom banner

What does the cherry blossom tree symbolise?

Cherry blossom has traditionally symbolised the ephemeral nature of beauty and life itself. In Japan people have picnicked under the spectacular displays of blooming cherry tree’s since at least the 8th century in a celebration known as Hanami. Cherry blossom only lasts two weeks and so the celebration is a time of reflection on the fleeting nature of existence.

Do cherries grow on a cherry blossom tree?

Yes, and all are edible. However, cherry blossom trees have been bred over centuries specifically for their blossom and so the fruit may be very small and won’t have a good taste. Be careful of wild cherries or black cherries as these may need to be cooked and always try to identify the tree before eating them.

Do cherry blossom trees lose their leaves?

Yes, cherry blossom trees are deciduous. Their ornamental factor is richly supplemented by their autumn displays of various colours and tones.

Can you eat the cherries on a cherry blossom tree?Cherries

Yes. However, cherry blossom trees have been bred over centuries specifically for their blossom and so the fruit may be very small and won’t have a good taste. Be careful of wild cherries or black cherries as these may need to be cooked and always try to identify the tree before eating them.

Where is the best place to plant a cherry tree?

Cherry blossom trees are best planted in areas of full sunlight and protection from the wind with deep, fertile, preferably alkaline soils. To fully bloom the tree will need around 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Dry, cold winds may also damage the flower buds leading to their premature death.

How close to house can you plant a cherry tree?

A mature blossoming cherry tree will need around 4 hours of direct sunlight and 1.5 meters between its base and any wall, such as a house, for its roots to develop. If you want to plant your tree close to your house be mindful of petal and leaf full and if this will cause any unwanted mess.

What is the best time to plant a cherry blossom tree?

A cherry blossom tree if it is pot-grown can be planted at any time of year and only in the dormant months if it is bare-root but it is always important to ensure the ground is not frozen or waterlogged.

Are cherry blossom trees fast growing?

Cherry blossom trees have a moderate of medium growth rate and usually take between 10 and 20 years to reach their mature height. The eventual height of the tree however is dictated by the rootstock on which it is grown but the rate of growth remains the same.

How tall does a cherry blossom tree get?Cherry Tree

Cherry blossom trees on a dwarfing rootstock will reach an eventual height of around 2-3 meters but those on a vigorous rootstock will grow up to around 8-10m tall. Despite the differences in height the rootstocks do not affect the growth rate of the tree which will remain moderate. The exact cultivar of tree will also define the eventual size and shape with some trees being more naturally dwarfing than others.

How do you prune a weeping cherry tree?

To prune a weeping cherry tree you should cut two thirds of the branches to the nearest outside bud directing the growth outwards to form a neat umbrella shape. Additionally it is always important to remember to prune out any dead, dying or diseased branches along with any cross branches to allow sunlight and air to reach the leaves. The best time to prune a cherry tree is in late summer and this is to prevent the spread of disease such as silver leaf canker.

When should you prune a cherry tree?

With many plants the correct time to prune is in late autumn and winter however the cherry tree is more susceptible to diseases such as silver lead canker and as such the majority of the pruning should be done in mid summer, around June or July.

How long do cherry trees live for?

Cherry trees typically live for around 20-40 years but the lifespan is entirely dependent on the variety. Ornamental cherry trees have only a short lifespan with many barely making it past 20 years whereas the cultivars more prized for their fruit tend to live for around 30-40 years.Cherry Tree Blossom

What causes cherry tree leaves to curl?

Curling leaves on cherry trees is usually a sign of aphids of black fly but could also be a symptom of Leaf Curl disease and is caused by a fungus called Taphrina cerasi and usually carried by the wind. Leaf Curl disease is a fungus which infects the branches and usually causes clusters of growth in the centre of the tree’s canopy with the leaves turning red in colour and are marked with white spores.

Why No Blossoms on My Flowering Cherry Tree?

Reasons why a flowering cherry tree may not blossom include a lack of sunlight, late damaging frosts or a warm winter as cherry trees need a certain amount of time in near freezing temperatures during their dormancy.

Is my Cherry Blossom tree dying?

If your cherry trees fails to produce any flowers or foliage it may well be dead, however the true indication will come from the wood; if it is is try and breaks easily under pressure this suggests the tree has died. Cherry trees also have a green lining under the bark, you can make a small incision and if this green layer has turned brown and dry unfortunately the tree has died.

When do cherry blossoms flower?Cherry blossom in bloom

Cherry tree’s tend to blossom in mid-April however exactly when is entirely dependent on the weather as they will only bloom simultaneously throughout the country in periods of extending sufficient mild temperatures. Unseasonably early warm weather or late frosts could offset bloom and in Japan they have a special blossom watch after the daily weather report!

What is peak bloom?

Peak bloom is defined by the day(s) in which 70% of the trees are blooming. Unseasonable weather may prompt some trees to bloom early but these may then be killed off by frosts, peak bloom indicates a sustained period of sufficient temperatures to prompt a mass bloom from the cherry trees.

vilmorin rowan
If you are a fan of cherry blossom trees head over to our website where we have over 100 to choose from.
 

Liam at PrimroseLiam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports his favourite pass-time is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing your own food.

See all of Liams posts.

Gardening, Jorge, Weeding

To many gardeners, weeds are a recurrent annoyance that you have to put up with as a fact of life. They can interrupt your otherwise perfect lawn or stifle your crop yields, and at worst cost thousands of pounds in damage as in the case of the Japanese knotweed. The effects of weeds are extremely costly, and it has been estimated that up to 10% of agricultural production may be lost because of them. But, weeds play a key role in transforming inhospitable environments into new habitats, and without them we would not exist today.

Weeds are good for the ecosystem

Weeds are important as they play a key role in transforming barren earth into rich fertile soils. They are, in effect, pioneers as the first plants to colonise a piece of land and improve its soil for the development of more complex ecosystems. They do this in a number of ways.

Weeds act to shield the soil from the sun, protecting both insects and microscopic organisms from sunlight. Their roots stabilise the soil, creating a secure environment for life, while their stems trap organic matter, which breaks down in the soil and provides sustenance for insects. Weeds with long roots draw up nutrients from deep in the ground, improving the quality of the surface soil. When they finally die, they decompose into humus which increases the soil’s moisture and nutrient retention, but decreases its bulk density, which is important in the early stages of soil development.

Curled Dock with its deep taproot draws up nutrients to the surface soil. Picture Credit:  Oliver Pichard (2007) licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Back hundreds of millions of years ago, the Earth was very different, as a barren rock with water running over the surface with no defined course. Key to transforming the Earth were plants that broke down rock into minerals and soil, which it then held in place with its roots. This led to the development of river banks that channeled water in a regular fashion. Periodically, such rivers would flood, depositing sediment over large areas, which allowed trees to take hold. Such larger plant life would produce even more debris that would block up rivers, causing more flooding, a process that would lead to the emergence of larger complex ecosystems.

The predecessors to the plants that we consider weeds today played a key part in all this as early pioneers that ensured soil stability in such flooded areas. Important to this were rhizomes that allowed plants to cope with severe disruptions in their environments. Rhizomes are branching stems that grow horizontally, often through the soil, and are the feature that makes weeds so durable, as even if you destroy a plant’s matter above ground any surviving rhizome in the soil will lead to its reemergence. Not only does the rhizome store energy, allowing a plant to reemerge in favourable conditions, the stems allow the plant to propagate vegetatively,  producing a clonal plant.

An artist’s (Édouard Riou) impression of early Devonian land flora.

One early example of a plant that helped stabilise the earth’s environment was the Drepanophycus from the Devonian Period, which was unearthed by a team from Peking University. It was discovered preserved in paleosols – fossil soils – that within were multiple sequences of sediment formed by river channels, which were periodically wiped out by floodplains. The plant grew continuously due to its rhizomes and trapped sediment, enabling stable soils to develop. And after the floods, the plant would reemerge, growing through the newly deposited layers of sediment. The team calculated that the plant had a modest, but significant role, in reducing soil erosion. It is believed to have carried out this function for centuries.

Today, many plants we consider weeds play an important role in the ecosystem. Weeds native to the UK provide food and shelter for numerous animals, especially pollinating insects, which are essential for crop yields. Many species of butterfly, for example, lay their eggs on nettles including the beautiful Red Admiral and Painted Lady. Keeping their habitats intact will be essential to prevent the UK’s insect population dwindling further.

Weeds constitute an interesting case study in evolution and humanity’s effects on the environment

Today weeds constitute a fascinating area of study due to their phenotypic plasticity, or simply put, their ability to change in response to changes in their environment. An example of phenotypic plasticity may be a plant’s ability to utilise more or less water (in photosynthesis) depending on its availability. Phenotypic plasticity is especially important for plants that do not have the ability to change their environment (as in the case of many animals, such as humans), and weeds are especially adaptive as agricultural practices make it necessary to be highly responsive if they are to survive.

Weeds evolve quickly in three principal ways: through adapting to continuous habitat disturbance, emerging in part from agricultural practices; through reproducing with different cultivars (groupings of plants selected for certain characteristics) as to produce hybrids; and finally through returning to natural seed dispersal methods when certain domesticates (plants dependant on humans for survival) are abandoned. This has led to the survival of certain species that are extremely difficult to control as they have developed such traits as early germination, rapid growth from seedling to sexual maturity, and the ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually. Fascinatingly, a 2013 study carried out by Fudan University of Shanghai found that if genetically modified crops did crossbreed with their weedy cousins, the resultant weeds would have higher rates of photosynthesis, more stems and flowers, and significantly more seeds. So, in the future, weeds may become even more troublesome than they are now.

Centuries of grazing has altered the landscape, benefiting plants that can’t be consumed by livestock.

As such, the battle between farmers and weeds constitutes an interesting case study of evolution in action and the selection effect humans exert on plants. There are many examples of the latter. For example, tilling tends to favour annuals at the expense of perennials, while no till systems benefit perennials. Frequent mowing, on the other hand, tends to benefit weeds that grow horizontally. The grazing of livestock has led to an increase in noxious thistles and other inedible species on the rangeland. In some cases, weeds have even begun to replicate crops in their appearance and life cycle as in the case of barnyardgrass growing with rice.

Weeds perform an important signalling function

Weeds can tell you a lot about your garden, providing information about what is best to grow. If your weeds multiple rapidly it is likely that your soil is extremely fertile, and that you do not need fertiliser. If not, it may be wise to start growing forerunners such as onions before moving onto more difficult crops. If the amount of weeds is diverse, it is likely that you can grow a wide range of plants in your garden. If not, it will be worthwhile to ascertain the soil type. And weeds can do this too. Very acidic soil will produce sorrel and plantain but no charlock or poppy, while chickweeds is sign of neutral pH. High levels of nitrogen can be ascertained by nettles, ground elder, fat hen and chickweed. Compacted soil is noticeable for silverweed and greater plantain, while creeping buttercup, horsetail and silverweed may indicate wet soil with poor drainage.

Weeds constitute a good source of nutrients

Dandelion leaves are high in vitamin a and k and can be useful addition to a balanced diet.

Many weeds are edible and good for you. They are also effectively free and environmentally friendly. In the UK, nettle soup comes to mind as one famous example. Back in the Middle Ages, ground elder was grown as a crop and was believed to cure gout – hence its alternative name goutweed. It possesses a nutty flavour and can be added to salad. Many health blogs recommend dandelion as a superfood, which can be found everywhere. Sorrel and horseradish can both be made into sauce and the latter is often used with beef. There are many great blogs dedicated to eating and cooking wild food. Why not check them out for yourself?

A concluding thought

Perhaps, our obsession with weeds tell us more about ourselves than we think. Why are we pursuing them with such vigour? Instead of hastily striving for a perfect world without weeds, perhaps we should examine why they are there in the first place. After all, a weed is a plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered (Emerson, apparently).

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.

Dakota Murphey, How To, Weeding

Every day when you come home from work you look up and notice the dark green patches of moss growing on your roof. It’s an eyesore and you’d like to get rid of it. You’re free this weekend and decide it’s the perfect odd-job for you to tackle. But before you rush into the garage, grab you ladder and shimmy up onto the roof, read on, as we’ve come up with some great tips to help you get rid of that moss safely and easily.

Tackling unsightly moss

What is this stuff we call moss?

Moss is a green, flowerless plant that has no true roots. It grows in low mounds or rounded cushions in shady, damp and wet habitats – it loves dark, cool, moist areas. Because it has no root system, it needs a damp environment to thrive. When leaves and grit are blown onto a roof and are lodged there for some time, they begin to decay and this provides the perfect ‘growing bed’ for spores of lichens, weeds and moss that are carried in the wind and blown onto them.

Should we clean moss off our roofs?

Some experts say that moss doesn’t cause a problem, but many others differ. ‘Moss only needs to be removed if it causes gutters, outlets, and other drainage points to be blocked, otherwise it can remain,’ say some. But others say that moss shouldn’t be allowed to grow and build up. Why? Because moss build-up could be one of the reasons for roof problems including raised tiles, leaks and damp.

As moss grows and thickens on your roof, it can cause lifting of the roof tiles, and when this occurs rain water can easily pass under them onto the roof timbers of your home and start to rot the wood. Water can also run down the interior walls of your house and cause serious damp and mould problems.

Raised roof tiles are also a danger in heavy winds – tiles can catch the wind like a sail, blow off the roof and cause serious injury to someone below. You’ll also be missing some tiles so there’ll be exposed areas on the roof, and you’ll need to replace these pretty quickly before it rains again. The more moss that grows and accumulates on your roof, the more debris that is trapped there. This invariably results in a build-up of water, and will leave your roof at risk of leakage and rotted timbers.

Roof moss

There are 3 factors that promote the growth of moss:

  • A cool or cold, moist climate combined with dark and/or shade.
  • An acidic environment where the pH level is between 5.0 and 5.5.
  • A hard surface like roof tiles – moss loves growing on these.

How to kill and prevent moss from growing on your roof?

There are a number of things you can do to prevent moss from growing on your roof. Here are some of the basic ones plus a few others you may not have heard of before but do the job very well.

  • Keep the roof out of the shade and in as much sunlight as possible. This may mean removing some tree branches, or even felling some trees.
  • At the crest of the roof ridges, fit some copper or zinc strips.
  • At varying intervals, string some copper wire across the roof, using screws or nails driven into timber on the sides of the roof (don’t drive them into the tiles as they could crack them and cause leaks).
  • Don’t let the dirt build up – keep the roof free of any leaves, dirt and debris.
  • Try to make the area extremely acidic (above a pH 7 level). There are roof spray products on the market you can use.
  • If you’re not exactly sure what to do, then hire a professional moss removal company to deal with the problem.

What shouldn’t I do to remove moss?

Finally, here are 3 key things you shouldn’t do to remove moss:

  1. Pressure washing your roof is not recommended as this can shorten the lifespan of your roof. The high-powered jet spray removes the asphalt tile granules which help protect your roof tiles. Also, if you spray at an upward angle, water will get in underneath the tiles, which can cause damp and wood-rot problems. Other gutter cleaning methods are advised however.
  2. Be circumspect when using acids to remove moss. If the acidic mixture is too strong, or it remains on the roof too long, it will eat away at the granules of your tiles. It’s a good idea to first test the solution on a few spare tiles before applying it to the entire roof.
  3. Don’t try to scrape moss off the roof, as this can result in cracked or broken tiles.

And finally, if you’d actually like to grow more moss in your garden you can read our tips on cultivating moss.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

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