How To, Jorge, Planting, Plants, Trees

Cherry Tree Blossom

Cherry blossom trees are perfectly adapted to the UK’s climate and will flourish in your garden. As cherry trees can be quite large, it is important is to choose a location large enough to accommodate the variety you choose. The most important message to take home is the need to regularly water young trees, especially in the months after planting.

Location, Location, Location

Be sure to check the eventual height and spread of your tree before deciding on a suitable location. Cherry trees can be very large. Prunus ‘Kanzan’, for example, can grow to above 10m tall.

Cherry trees benefit from full sun, but will suffice in shady locations.

Planting in a sheltered location is recommended to prevent uprooting in strong winds. Avoid waterlogged soils.

Planting near a building should be fine, but the distance away should be based on a tree’s spread. Most cherries are grafted onto rootstocks, which ensures the roots are weak and are unable to damage foundations.

If you are worried your tree will be too large for your garden, you can always plant in a large pot (40-60cm+ depending on the variety) which will constrain a tree’s growth.

Water, Water, Water

The message we wish most to convey to your customers is the need to water your tree regularly and thoroughly in the months after planting. This will help your tree recover from the effects of transplant shock in which a tree loses much of its water absorbing capacity.

Planting Your Tree

Follow steps A for containerised trees and steps B for bare root trees.

  1. Ensure your tree is hydrated before planting.
    1. Give the rootball a good watering. Free up any spiralised roots.
    2. Leave your tree’s roots to soak in water for half an hour. Pruning woody roots back a few inches can help stimulate the growth of new water-absorbing roots.
  2. Dig a square hole three times the radius of the rootball, but only a few inches deeper than the rootball. Loosen any compact soil around the sides.
  3. Place your tree in the hole. Ensure the graft point is above the soil. The highest roots should be no more than an inch below the ground. (Containerised trees roughly level.)
  4. Fill your hole with a mix of garden soil and compost. Do not compress the soil!
  5. Plant a stake with the stake facing away from the prevailing wind.
  6. Give your tree a good watering.
  7. Add a layer of mulch. Mulch helps improve moisture levels. Ensure the mulch doesn’t touch the base of the tree.
  8. Depending on your location, a rabbit guard can be useful as hungry rabbits will nibble on bark come winter.
    1. Cutting back branches will produce a better balance between the root system and top growth, ensuring your tree does not rock in the wind. Cut the central stem back up to a third and branches by half, snipping right above buds.

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.

Indoor Plants, Lotti, Planting, Plants

how choose houseplant

Houseplants are a great way to add colour and life to your home, especially during the winter. We’ve touched on some of the benefits of houseplants before, so it might not come as a surprise to learn that keeping plants indoors is great for both your mental and physical health! Houseplants help to improve the quality of the air in your home and some studies show that they reduce stress levels and even increase productivity. Making the decision to buy a houseplant can, however, be a daunting task: especially if (like me) you have trouble keeping them alive! We’ve put together a handy guide on choosing the right houseplant for you so you can have all of the benefits with none of the stress.

Choosing a Houseplant

Choosing the perfect houseplant for your home can often feel a little overwhelming. There’s a lot of factors you need to consider when choosing a plant: how much light it needs, how much watering and how much space you’ve got. The best advice to follow if you’re new to house plants (or not feeling very confident) is to pick a hardy plant which doesn’t need a lot of looking after. The two most important factors you need to take into account when buying a plant is space and lighting.

succulents

Space

Even the tiniest apartment can benefit from a selection of houseplants. If you’ve not got a lot of floor space, trailing plants like String of Pearls (Senecio Rowleyanus) or Hearts on a String (Ceropegia Woodii) are great for placing on a high shelf or hanging from the ceiling. Desks, workspaces and nightstands can benefit from small potted plants, and succulents or cacti are easy to care for and as well as being compact. Air Plants are also becoming more common: these miniature plants are fairly easy to keep alive and they don’t need soil, great for avoiding mess and saving space! Lucky Bamboo can be picked up in most garden centres fairly cheaply, and while it can grow to 3ft it can be easily maintained with regular trimming.

If you’re after a splash of colour, Polka Dot Plants and Flowering Kalanchoe come with vibrant leaves and blooms. You can also make the most of your space by investing in a window box for sun-loving plants. Houseplants don’t need to be purely decorative: you could also grow herbs, great for saving money and making tasty meals.

Light

A tricky hurdle when choosing houseplants can be figuring out how much light your home gets. If you’re looking for plants for your home or office, you’ll probably need to find plants that thrive in low light or artificial light. While all plants need light to photosynthesise and grow, there’s still lots of plants on the market which are great for homes with low lighting levels or offices and workplaces with artificial light.

Aglaonemas are a hardy, leafy plant that copes well with low light. These plants can also grow quite large – great for filling a lot of floor space if you only want to buy one or two house plants. Devil’s Ivy, so-called because it can grow almost anywhere, will also thrive in the shade and is small enough to fit on a shelf or desk. If you’re after a plant that’s super-hardy and easy to grow, then Spider Plants are great for window sills and mantelpieces. If you’re looking for a way to brighten up your space at work, Bromeliads can survive on fluorescent light alone.

potted succulents

Non-Toxic Plants

A big concern for households with pets or babies is toxicity. There’s lots of pet-safe plants on the market, and it’s a good idea to look up a plant before you buy it to double check if it’s safe for your family. There are a number of household and garden plants and flowers which are harmful to cats, so it’s good to check before introducing any if you’ve got cats or kittens.

To save having to google every plant that piques your interest (only to find that it’s not safe for Fluffy), we’ve put together a list of indoor plants that are both non-toxic and easy to care for:

  • Spider plant – also known as chlorophytum comosum, Spider plants are a great choice for novice gardeners thanks to their bouncebackability.
  • Chinese money plant – chinese money plants are easy to care for and requires less watering than many other houseplants. They’re also said to bring wealth if you plant a coin in the soil!
  • Kenita Palm – a large palm great for growing indoors thanks to being super durable. When grown indoors, Kenita palms can grow up to 12 feet tall!
  • Bromeliad – a colourful, trumpet-shaped plant that’s great for growing on a windowsill or mantelpiece. Bromeliads are non-toxic and can be found in most garden centres.
  • Donkey’s Tail – also known as Sedum Morganianum, Donkey’s Tail is a small but hardy succulent that thrives best in a sunny spot, great for desks or bedside tables. It can also be hung from a hanging basket.

hanging pot

Hardy Plants

If you’re more worried about practicality than aesthetics, then simply buying the hardiest plant you can get your hands on might be the right direction for you. By investing in an easy, durable plant you can get used to sticking to a watering routine and gain more confidence before moving on to plants that are more impressive – but also more difficult to keep alive. Here’s a list of some of the hardiest plants that we’ve found that are great for first-time indoor gardeners.

  • Aloe Vera – as practical as it is tough, the gel inside the aloe’s succulent leaves is great for treating burns.
  • Zanzibar Gem – also known as ZZ Plants, Zanzibar Gems are incredibly hardy and make an impressive statement in your home. Be warned, though: these plants are toxic to humans and animals so aren’t suitable for houses with pets or young children.
  • Snake Plant – this spikey plant is also called “Mother-in-Law’s tongue” due to its sharp shape. This plant needs little watering and grows very tall, great for adding colour to small spaces.
  • Peace Lily – a popular houseplant, Peace Lilies are easy to care for and fairly low maintenance. They come in a lot of sizes, too, so they’re great for small and large homes alike.
  • Devil’s Ivy – also known as Scindapsus, this trailing plant is great for hanging from a ceiling or placing on a tall shelf where it’s heart-shaped leaves can cascade down.

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.

Mandy, Planting, Plants

planting azaleas

Rhododendrons and azaleas are extremely popular, despite their reputation as being tricky customers! However, by avoiding these basic mistakes, you’ll have beautiful shrubs with spectacular flowers, whether they are for a Japanese-style border or as the year-round evergreen backbone of your garden.

Soil Type

This is the number one cause of failure. Rhododendrons and azaleas need acid soil to thrive (between pH 5.0 and 6.0). If you don’t know the pH of your soil, you can buy simple home test kits for a few pounds. If your soil is alkaline, choose compact varieties and grow them in containers in ericaceous compost – reducing soil pH is difficult. The soil needs to be well-drained but rich in acidic organic matter – dig in composted tree bark, leafmould, decomposing conifer needles, or composted bracken.

Planting Problems

Avoid planting when the rhododendron/azalea could get waterlogged in winter or dry out in summer – October or March/April are ideal times. Don’t plant too deeply, as members of the family are surface-rooting and the roots should be just covered. Apply an 8cm-deep loose mulch of chipped conifer bark or other acidic organic matter. Renew the mulch each spring.

Growing in Pots

The only way to grow successfully if you have alkaline soil. Use the biggest pot possible and John Innes ericaceous loam-based compost. Plants will need to be carefully watered and fed. If you’re using soil-less or peat-free potting compost, they can lose their structure, leading to poor drainage, causing leaves to brown and die back. Repot every other year into fresh compost in early spring and replace the top 5cm of compost in between.

Size and Leaf Type

Not doing your homework about your chosen plant’s eventual size can be disastrous. There are tens of thousands of rhododendron and azalea varieties, ranging from dwarf alpines to massive trees.

Two popular RHS Award of Garden Merit winners demonstrate the difference –  R. macabeanum is an evergreen tree with cream/deep yellow flowers, 30cm long leaves and an eventual height of 15m and spread of 6m. Meanwhile, R. ‘Ptarmigan’ is a spreading dwarf shrub with dark green leaves and white flowers, height and spread 1m. Read those labels!

All rhododendrons are evergreen but there are two distinct types of azaleas. Evergreen azaleas (Japanese azaleas) typically grow to 40-80cm. Deciduous azaleas reach 120-150cm and lose their leaves in the autumn, often with stunning colours.

Placement

Choose a sheltered site with dappled shade but avoid deep shade beneath trees. Dwarf alpine species will cope with full sun as long as the soil does not dry out. Avoid frost pockets and sites exposed to early morning sun, which will damage flower buds.

Watering

Even though rhododendrons grow best in areas of high rainfall, soils need to be well drained. They like moist soil, not sopping wet mud. This airless mass will lead to root rot and will kill your plant. To avoid overwatering, use your hands – stick a finger in the soil. If it’s moist, leave well alone and check again in a couple of days. Don’t kill with kindness.

Tap water, especially in hard water districts, reduces acidity around rhododendrons’ roots.

Use rainwater for watering rhododendrons and azaleas, but if your water butts run dry, tap water is better than nothing for a month or so in summer.

Wrong Fertilisers

Using the wrong fertiliser can lower the soil’s acidity; don’t use lime or other alkaline-based additives. Keep the soil’s pH level to about 5.5. Try to use organic fertilisers, as rhododendrons are susceptible to chemical burn. Fish or seaweed fertiliser is ideal.

Shallow Roots

Rhododendrons’ root systems are shallow and wide, so don’t use a hoe near the plant. Also, the roots of perennial weeds can get tangled up with your plant. Weed by hand and with care, as you could rip up some of your plant’s roots along with the weed, stunting its growth.

Mandy at PrimroseMandy Watson is a freelance journalist who runs www.mandycanudigit.com.

A plantaholic with roots firmly planted in working-class NE England, she aims to make gardening more accessible to the often excluded – the less able, the hard-up or beginners.

Advocate of gardening for better mental health.

See all of Mandy’s posts.

Mandy, Planting, Plants

Growing soft fruit is very cost-effective, as they’re usually the most expensive crops in the supermarket and are suitable for most small gardens and even containers, as they take up little room.

What do we mean by soft fruit? Well, think blueberries, raspberries, blackberries (and their hybrids like loganberries and tayberries), gooseberries and currants.

Soft fruit does best in well-drained, loamy soil. Before planting, dig over the patch to loosen the texture and add well-rotted manure or granular fertiliser.

Here’s how to plant and recommended planting distances:

Blueberries

If planted in a fruit bed, the soil must be lime-free, as they thrive on acid soils. If your soil is alkaline, try growing in a pot. Plant in a hole that is just deeper than the root ball. Firm in and water thoroughly.

Planting distance: 1m apart in full sun/partial shade.

Suitable for pots: At least 30cm in diameter for young plants, in ericaceous compost.

Best time to plant: Blueberries dislike being disturbed during the growing period, so late autumn or winter when they are dormant.

Raspberries

These much-loved berries are cane fruit and have summer or autumn fruiting, plus long cane varieties.

Canes need to be planted 1cm deeper than they were at the nursery – you’ll be able to see the soil mark. Plant in deep, rich well-drained, slightly acidic but moisture retentive soil in a sunny or partially shaded position. Avoid a windy site. Cut back canes to 5cm above soil level after planting. Keep well watered and top dress with a balanced fertiliser in spring. Do not hoe to remove weeds, as this can slice through growing shoots.

Long cane plants should not be cut back after planting, as they develop fruit-bearing side shoots at the top of each cane. In subsequent seasons, treat as regular canes.

Suitable for pots: Plant single canes in a 38cm container with canes for support in 80% multipurpose compost, 20% loam-based.

Planting distance: Space canes 40-45cm apart and allow 1.25-2m between rows of summer-fruiting varieties and at least 2m between rows of autumn-fruiting types.

Best time to plant: Between November and March, when plants are dormant.

Blackberries (and Hybrid Berries)

Blackberries are not the impenetrable brambles of old – many varieties are thornless with pretty flowers and autumn colour, so are ideal for use in an ornamental garden. They are also parents, along with raspberries, of many hybrid berries, such as  boysenberries, loganberries, tayberries, etc, most of which are treated the same as blackberries.

They’re very easy to grow and unfussy – plant in well-drained but moisture-retentive soil in full sun or partial shade. Cover the rootball with 8cm soil and incorporate plenty of well-rotted manure or compost. Provide support with wires up walls and fences. Cut back to a healthy bud after planting to promote fresh growth.

Suitable for pots: Choose compact, thornless varieties, at least 42cm wide.

Planting distance: Space 2-4m apart, depending on variety.

Best time to plant: Winter-spring.

Gooseberries and Currants

Blackcurrants, redcurrants, whitecurrants and gooseberries are particularly rewarding to grow as they’re so expensive to grow commercially, being very difficult to pick on a large scale. For all varieties, avoid planting anywhere susceptible to late spring frosts and enrich soil with well-rotted manure or compost and a spring top-dressing of Growmore.

Currants like a moisture-retentive soil in an open position in full sun or partial shade. After planting, cut blackcurrants down to 8-10cm above ground level and prune the stems of red and white currants and back by about half.

Gooseberries prefer a deep, well-drained but moisture-retentive soil in full sun or light shade.  Shallow soil will result in poor-sized fruit. Cut stems back by about half after planting.

Planting distance: Space currant bushes 1-1.25m apart, gooseberries 1.25m apart.

Suitable for containers:Yes but repot regularly and top-dress with new soil each spring – avoid spiny gooseberry cultivars.

Best time to plant: November-March.

Mandy at PrimroseMandy Watson is a freelance journalist who runs www.mandycanudigit.com.

A plantaholic with roots firmly planted in working-class NE England, she aims to make gardening more accessible to the often excluded – the less able, the hard-up or beginners.

Advocate of gardening for better mental health.

See all of Mandy’s posts.