Intersectional (Itoh) Peonies are modern hybrids between herbaceous and tree peony. This combines the best of both, freely produced and much larger flowers which are deliciously fragrant and remain open much longer than normal Peonies. They are the product of decades of meticulous work by a small number of inspired breeders. These are long lived plants, easily more than 50 years with no susceptibility to normal pests and diseases, even left alone by rabbits and dear, established plants can have dozens of flowers in one season. Flower colour can be difficult to describe and one of the attractions of these plants is that the colour can vary as the bloom ages. The very first flowers of young plants may not always be typical until the plant is established.
These Peonies are grown in airpots to promote excellent root development. Winter planting is the idea but they can be planted at any time of the year provided irrigation is available over the first summer.
The sumptuous flowers are proudly held above the foliage and last much longer than either of the parents, often a month or more. These flowers are excellent for cutting for a vase. Pruning is simply a matter of cutting back the top growth in winter, by then the new buds which are next year’s flowering shoots will be visible also cutting back old flower shoots to the ground after flowering often induces a second flush of flowers. All are compact seldom more than 2'6" high and so do not need support even when carrying the large flowers they are extremely hardy throughout the UK. In spring the new growth is beautifully tinted and in autumn the foliage colours red and orange truly a plant for all seasons.
Try them as a collection in a border on their own, among compact shrubs, or other quality perennials. They like an open sunny site in ordinary soil some varieties are still scarce and this is reflected in the price.
We have a few very large display plants in 20 litre airpots not listed on our site. These are available by request (between £50-£80) if you would like a quotation for carriage please enquire by email. However most are strong 4-5 year old plants with a well developed root system.
2015-08-28Our range of Salvia today celebrates over 35 years of cultivating Salvia, many of our plants were donated to us by some of the most notable plantsmen and women; it has been our privilege to carry on their work and keep these plants in gardens. Salvia species and cultivars are, in many ways, the perfect 21st Century plant, able to tolerate drought and an unpredictable "climate change" weather, and being of easy, labour saving temperament. In Salvia we have a genus of garden plants that provide true blue, a colour rare amongst plants for both alkaline and acid soils.
Salvia apiana 'Bee Sage' Silver foliage gives a pleasing effect, white flowers, Full sun and well drained soil. Looks lovely among shrubby sages flowers in summer.
Salvia blerophylla Scarlet Red flowers. A compact species, famed for its free flowering nature, trim back the lengthy flower stems as they go over this maintains a shapely form. Flowering June - October 18" -8°C
Salvia bullata ' Pale Form' Pale turquoise blue, a Peruvian endemic endangered in the wild and rare in cultivation. Makes a permanent root stock from which the freely produced flowering stems arise. Liable to be only hardy in sheltered gardens, but any bits of shoot will root providing an insurance against loss. 2' sun full drainage.
Salvia confertiflora An essential for the exotic garden, spires of orange red flowers up to 18" long! Wonderful with autumn coloured shrubs. Mulch well in winter if outside, great in the conservatory. 5' high -7°C
Salvia curviiflora magenta pink flowers on this attractive species from Mexico, elegant drooping flowers from a permanent woody rootstock. Likely to be hardy in the sheltered garden but produces lots of cutting material 4' -3°C
Salvia gregii 'Blue Note' Deep blue flowers. Shrubby sort flowers June - November open sunny site hardy to -10°C looks lovely in groups. (Plant patent applies)
Salvia microphylla 'Royal Bumble' Shrubby Salvia, ruby red flowers. Likes an open sunny site, pinch out spent flowers, great in a mixed border or tubs, 2' high, flowering from June to November hardy to -12°CSalvia confertiflora Salvia 'Blue Note'
Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips' Red flowers with a white 'lip' treat the same as above, -14°C (early flowers produced in cooler weather may briefly be all white)
Salvia microphylla 'Kew Red' Red flowers, Although Botanists disagree on the nomenclature of this species for gardeners its more important that this is known to be a profuse, shrubby plant of great merit 2'6" sun, -12°C well drained soil.
Salvia guaranitica 'Amistad' Purple flowers, like the very similar S. Purple Emperor, this comes through winter in cold gardens merely requiring a mulch over the crown. Development in late Spring is rapid and by July plants are 2' 6" high with developing flowers, sun or light shade -10°C. (Plant patent applies)Pucker up for Salvia 'Hot Lips' Salvia 'Amistad'
Salvia guaranitica 'Blue Enigma' One of the most free flowering selections of this variable species, especially effective in the mixed border, among the daisies of autumn. 3' high -12°C
Salvia guaranitica 'Black n Blue' Differs from above in that the beautiful blue flowers are enhanced by black calyces.
Salvia involucrata 'Boudin' (Sausage sage) Deep pink flowers. Free flowering herbaceous perennial, a good doer, smaller than the usual species involucrate. Sun or shade, average soils lovely with ornamental grasses 3' flowers July to November -12°C (Possibly a hybrid)
Salvia involucrata 'Hadspen' Rose pink flowers, handsome selection notable for showy flowering self-supporting stems 4' high. Herbaceous, mulch base where necessary -10°C
Salvia 'Mulberry Jam' Rose pink flowers, an involucrata hybrid, very free flowering, splendid among the 'flowers' of ornamental grasses 2' sun or light shade -12°CThe distinctive flowering spike of Salvia involucrata
Salvia leucantha ' Midnight' One of many lovely Leucantha forms, this one has reddish purple flowers. A great site in late September, flowers are showier and deeper in colour than usual species. Sun, poor well drained soil where it will be hardy to -5°C 3' high mulch crown.
Salvia 'Nachtvlinder' (Night Owl) Dark purple. Hardy shrubby sort, long season of flowering in an open sunny site. 2' dead head flowers throughout the season flowers June to November Harmonious effects can be achieved with silver foliage plants. -12°C
Salvia patens Blue. This has been in cultivation for 180 years, a hardy herbaceous species for sun, good drainage and uniquely blue flowers 2' -12°CSalvia 'Knachtvlinder' Possibly the best blue of any plant, Salvia patens
Salvia 'Dysons Joy' Pale rose pink, attractive new selection from the National Collection, shrubby and free flowering from June to November. Lovely with purple Monarda and Phlox in an open sunny site 2' -10°C
Salvia 'Penny's Smile' Pink flowers, hardy sort which even after a hard winter will re-grow from below ground. Flowers May - November, but back spent flowers, a hybrid from Salvia darcyii Sun 2'6" -10°C
Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy' White flowers showy violet calyx. A bushier form of S. Waverley, like but even better than a Buddleja. Sunny sites 3' flowers July - November colours better in the autumn. -7°CSalvia 'Phyllis Fancy'
Salvia 'Waverley' White flowers lavender calyx, free flowering a very popular selection sunny sites 3'+ flowers July - November, lovely with Asters -7°C
Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' This new maroon hybrid has taken down to -5°C re-shooting from the base, but it is best considered borderline hardy, so take a few cuttings; your friends will want it as well. Sun, great in the border or in tubs, ceaseless flowering from June to November, just trim back spent flowers 3' (Plant patent applies)
Salvia 'Embers Wish' A coral red selection just as free flowering as Wendys Wish (Plant patent applies)
Salvia 'Love n Wishes' the most recent introduction in this series, violet maroon flowers, possibly no other sort of salvia produced such abundant flowers (Plant patent applies)
Salvia uliginosa Mid .blue flowers, perennial species we have always found perfectly hardy however those little black slugs that eat potatoes also like this so a few slug pellets will avoid the plant being eaten away. -12°C 4'
Salvia uliginosa 'Bleu Boule' A selection of reduced stature around 2' 6" otherwise same as above.
Many other plants are available on our winter mail order list which includes Perennials, Hollyhocks, Foxgloves and less usual Shrubs.
This year Botanic Nursery has been peat free for ten years, you may think this sounds a bit like a recovering addict, perhaps it's a good analogy.
Over 40 years ago container plant production was highly reliant on Irish peat, some growers still used a John Innes formulation, featuring peat. Traditional nurseries grew their plants lined out in fields, for customers to view in summer, order, and receive in autumn. Increasingly however modern enterprises turned to peat based loamless composts (substrate). It has to be said results were excellent, with the rise in the predominance of garden centers, peat based composts allowed an unprecedented resurgence in British nursery production, with many family businesses enjoying success not seen since before WW1.
The many millions of plants sold graced gardens in all parts of the country, trees and other woody plants produced with the benefit of peat are, even today the main feature of all public parks, private gardens, and arboreta, in fact all the treasured green spaces with all their environmental benefits owe their existence to peat.
Many hundreds even thousands of years ago the natural vegetation of wet boggy areas, sedge, rushes and mosses, decayed, settling into partly anaerobic masses, upon which more vegetation developed, which rotted down in turn, building up, layer upon layer. This became peat, 7.5 million acres in Britain and Ireland alone and vastly more in eastern Europe. Stored carbon in the form of a fibrous normally acidic substance. For generations this has been cut for fuel, still the main end use, and for the production of composts, sensitivity to environmental concerns ensured that this was extracted from sites with little scientific interest. Only some 5% was extracted for garden use, and hobby gardeners have always found peat composts to give dependable results.
Today there is growing awareness of how undesirable this now is. In one article it was stated that gardeners should be prepared to accept less successful results, the loss of a few seedlings is not that important, is this right? Gardeners want the best possible productivity, if they have invested in F1 hybrid seed this can be very expensive and the number of seeds few, an effective compost is essential.
So far it might seem I'm still addicted to peat, were this the case I would be in good company, most of the larger high profile nurseries in the country still use peat. Government, always driven by pressure groups have decreed that peat composts should be phased out, within the next few years for hobby gardeners, and with a longer period of grace for the trade. It's not that garden peat is likely to run out, the concern is more to do with the carbon released to the atmosphere when peat decomposes. At the behest of government DEFRA and others have been researching growing media, a report is due this summer. So, many millions of pounds and, probably thousands of hours of committee time, as well as seemingly a woodland worth of trees, (to make paper,) have been expended to achieve something that little Botanic Nursery has been doing for years, namely producing plants peat free.
Lets explore why we have been so successful. We started by looking at various options, a compost modeled on a John Innes formula depended on the availability of good quality loam, a variable commodity especially on our shallow limestone soil, this also required sterilizing with a machine equipped with a rather fearsome gas burner, to this loam we still had to add 25% peat and sharp sand together with a range of fertilizers and lime. All this was very time consuming and the results although effective resulted in a rather heavy medium. Already concerns about peat extraction were making headlines and the National Trust membership voted to boycott plants grown in peat. So another option was needed, local authorities began providing dedicated bins for the collection of green waste, briefly we looked at using this in various formulations, one immediate concern was, well, just think what people are likely to put in their green bin, food waste, dog mess invasive weeds, there was no guarantee that every part of the end result was brought to a high enough temperature during fermentation to kill the inevitable pathogens, other problems included the variability in the material and the way it lost integrity, slumping, causing the mix to be inhospitable to root development. Trust me, avoid green waste composts.TR John Innes, TL Coir + loam + grit, BL Coir + loam compost for growing plug plants, BR Conventional peat based compost
Are there cost effective and workable alternatives, well yes, as I've said we have been potting peat free for 10 years, and even the 2 bags of peat based seed compost we used to use have been superseded. The best results have come from processed coir, a waste product from the coconut industry, used to manufacture matting brushes and rope but produced in such huge quantities that it used to be burnt in enormous bonfires. Not environmentally friendly so utilising it in compost is far better, giving it a economic value too. It comes into Britain in the spare space on container ships, recognised to be an acceptable means of bulk transport, and as it contains little free water is very much lighter than peat adding to the ease of transportation. Other advantages are, that once rewetted it remains easy to maintain moisture levels, with a tendency to be dryer in the topmost layer. We find this dryer layer very inhospitable to slugs and snails, and have never found eggs of either amongst the plants. Coir does not break down in the way peat does, this means shrinkage is not a problem. The natural potassium content is corrected, to give a balanced nutrient availability, and sterilized loam added, this gives a buffer to further moderate nutrients and a little weight to stabilise the pot, also sharp grit for the same purpose. A very little well decomposed bark is added, this adds texture but no more than 5%, as it is of no other benefit. Slow release fertilizer rounds off the recipe.
For our plug plant production a finer milled grade of coir is used, still with loam but no grit. The new seed sowing mix is as for plug but 50% Vermiculite is added this gives a very aerated compost with little nutrients, important, the biggest cause of 'damping off' in seedlings is excessive nitrogen.
The clock is ticking on peat based composts but growers need not fear the future, and the world's peatlands will continue to be part of it.Botanic Nursery has, uniquely, always ran in what we call 'Harmony Gardening', that is harmony with the wildlife that shares our site, it has been the bedrock upon which what we do is built. Just as I conclude these notes the current Government has facilitated a 12 point action plan to discuss the future of the horticultural industry, few of these points will have a meaningful effect. Sustainable, or eco.hort is going to be vital if gardening and those who work in it, is to have a future. Let's talk about this further, next time. Follow on twitter using the EcoHort hashtag: #EcoHort
2015-03-22Ah, what an exciting time of year, every post brings a fresh crop of plant lists and catalogues, online offerings are just as extensive, if you go by 'Plantfinder' in excess of 70,000 taxa are available to you, if only your garden and glasshouse were big enough. Growers are great enthusiasts, in the main they only grow things they like, lets face it if they didn't they would probably be far more successful, become fabulously wealthy and not need to do it anymore.
When it comes to describing our plants that very enthusiasm tends to send most of us in to hyperbole, sometimes verging on rapture. Hardiness is one area. Various formula exist to categorise plants to suggest how likely they are to survive winter, but so many variables exist. Here in the nursery we tend to go by practical experience based on good garden practice and are always happy to give specific advice if you can furnish us with some detail of your proposed site.
Ultimate size is another question, if you research a plant or tree on line, very often it will terrify with tales of enormous stature, theoretically correct in the plants natural habitat and after many years of development but seldom attainable in gardens, one such plant is Buddleja, in the wild one species is described as reaching 25 metres, just over 82 feet in height, even making it into books specializing in trees. However one would not want it that big in the garden, so, we prune it. Manipulating a plants development is one of the basic tenets of gardening, we prune and shape a plant to suit our requirements. An indication of height, again tends to be based on good cultivation practice, with variation to create the size of plant that suits your garden 'picture' unlike a garden centre we are always able to advise on this at the nursery.
One of the most misused words in plant catalogues however must be 'rare'. What does it mean? A plant collected in the wild, perhaps introduced by a few seeds may be represented in cultivation only by those individuals, despite it colonizing whole ravines, mountains or acres of prairie in it's natural environment. If those seedlings are dispersed to competent growers and propagators a very large stock can be quickly built up, making it available to everyone. Should it linger in an institution unwilling or unable to circulate it the chance of it being lost to cultivation increases. This reminds me of the original c.1930s introduction of Caryopteris x clandonensis. Nothing like them had been seen before, grey, linear foliage and terminal clusters of blue flowers in late summer, a lovely thing. From one introduction by continually taking tip cuttings several thousand plants were raised in the first year, not bad, proving the effectiveness of growers in the story of plant conservation. Now it's seen everywhere.
Rarity can also refer to a plant that frankly, is of dubious merit. An example might be Olearia virgata, botanically interesting, small greyish, slightly linear leaves even smaller flowers of white, but of little effect, rare certainly but is it worth growing? Of course every plant has it's place, and a right to survive but perhaps it should have been left in New Zealand...
Then again there are those plants that are critically endangered. Before the advent of CITES that is the Convention on the International Trade In Endangered Species, huge numbers of wild collected plant species were imported into the country some times with too little regard to preservation in their natural ecosystem. One area, once of particular interest to me is xerophytes, plants often from arid areas and deserts. I've grown most of them at one time, passing them on to other growers when they grew too big, or conflicted with other interests. It's rightly not acceptable to disturb wild plants nowadays but from those original introductions many plants have been propagated by grafts or seed, conserving the plants in cultivation and giving students and enthusiasts the chance to grow them. If a trusted and responsible source can be found it is always rewarding to grow such plants.
Of most interest, perhaps, are those rare plants that are both beautiful and seldom seen, due to their being difficult to propagate, or, in need of a particular expertise to ensure some success, add to these, those plants which are only appreciated by the cognoscenti, often simply because they don't suit a wholesalers production system, so are never seen in garden centres and you have the type of plants for which the word rare, might be most appropriate. It's fun to have something, few, if anyone else may have, nurturing a rarity will offer great satisfaction and can only help develop your gardening skills and reputation! If you do though go against all your instincts to preserve its rarity and pass it on, you will be following the example of some of the most prominent 'plantsmen' (plantspeople) in the country.
I write this whilst sitting in the sun as it streams through the lounge window, lovely, but outside an icy wind robs the garden of warmth, I'll stay in.
It's still late winter, and I'm struck by how important the 'structure' of the gardens planting is, true, odd pin-pricks of colour are emerging. Hellebore, Cyclamen, Pulmonaria and all the backup cast are teasing in their promise of joy to come, but it's the bones of the garden that stand out. If one can get that right it makes such a difference, if not the effect jars horribly, mistakes are vivid.
What do I mean by "structure", and "bones of the garden"? It's the hedges, topiary, edges that define a lawn, paths and even the drive. If these things are wrong, out of proportion or incorrectly placed, it is always more evident at this time of year.
Of equal importance though, are evergreens, those so essential shrubs or trees which appear to always to be in leaf. Failing to place, or group these in a balanced way gives your garden picture a lumpy look. Are not words fun! Here, I wanted to use the word lumpen which I regard as meaning ugly, or misshapen,. However, my word processor which always seems to have my best interest at heart, despite the challenge, suggests that it is in fact a rather derogatory term for a certain political class. How interesting! Anyway, evergreens, mostly putting energy into foliage, these essentials are sometimes frowned upon by those who assess a gardens worth by the amount of bright flower colour that assails them, whilst all evergreens do flower, few are bright, some barely noticeable, yet often they sport the most delectable scent. This attracts pollinators, and is at it's most intense at times when the flowers favourite pollinator is most active, insects that are busiest during daylight especially during sunny periods appreciate a sweeter smell, this the plant supplies, those that fly at night often like a richer more musty scent,. attracting the most beneficial insect improves seed set, for the insect the reward is nectar or pollen.
Scent allows a plant to expend energy in producing more flowers, without the need to attract by size alone. So evergreens are rarely known for flowers. Their value in gardens comes about due to their form, the shape and gravitas that they give to a planting, we should remember though, that like pieces of new modernist art the space around them is as important as they themselves! Let's not crowd them, allow space so they can develop and be admired, of course one can plant more than one of a kind if the desire is to have an immediate effect, but plan to remove the excess in good time.
Having established that evergreens provide good form, have smelly flowers and add structure, what about colour? I don't mean the gauche colour of certain sorts of variegation, or those 1970s conifers, but the innumerable shades of green that dance and play with light, that one sees in say Osmanthus species, or the handsome foliage of Ilex latifolia, Sarcococca humilis and so many more.
Green is a colour too! When combined with the excitement of leaf shape, and form do we even need flowers?
Did you know of the more than twenty species of Foxglove (Digitalis) only one is biennial, that is it forms robust basal clumps which the following season throw up stems of the most beautiful flowers, set masses of seed then die. All the others are perennial, they flower but then come up the next year to flower again, not only that but they will also seed about too.
Over 250 years ago Digitalis grandiflora was introduced from Eastern Europe, as with any plant with a huge geographic distribution there are many variants, some have been given cultivar names, but the true wild species, particularly from Poland and Bulgaria have the best flowers.
Phillip Miller, curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden from 1723, first described this foxglove in his hugely successful Gardeners Dictionary.
Originating in Eastern Europe suggests a proven hardiness, this is very much the case, being herbaceous the summer foliage dies back in autumn to resting buds, thus enabling the plant to endure the harshest winters.
In early summer development is rapid, and by June the stems will be 60cm high and sporting many soft yellow bell like flowers, each attractively marked within with honey brown veins that serve to direct pollinating insects. Save some of the freely produced seed, and grow them on, or let it self seed to form groups, they give a great look among shrub roses, or as part of the mixed order, should you favour trees and shrubs this foxglove is splendid naturalized among them. Any average soil will suit, not too rich, but well prepared by forking over, in full sun or half shade, they never need staking.
If yellow is not your thing D. grandiflora is the seed parent for a wonderful hybrid with our native foxglove Digitalis purpurea, namely Digitalis x mertonensis rewarding the planter with large, the largest in the genus, flowers, in colour rosy pink, mindful of strawberry puree.
This was raised in 1921 by the John Innes research institute, part of a project to see how two disparate species can be hybridised but made fertile, usually, like a mule such plants would be sterile. After treatment with colchicine an extract from bulbs, these, once diploid became tetraploid, rendering them very robust and floriferous. They make handsome plants perhaps in groups underplanting a tree, or individually in the mixed border. 60cm high stems carry the pendant bell like flowers, arranged, mostly, on one side of the stem a characteristic descended from the purpurea parent.
Cultivate in a good well prepared soil, 'humusy' but not too rich, in sun or dappled shade. Being fertile this will set plenty of seed, some will self sow enlarging the colony, or, if you prefer divide up after flowering, reduce the foliage by half and replant firmly. All the foxgloves we've spoken off can be added to your garden by seed, plugs or flowering sized specimens. Let's talk about some of the other perennial foxgloves soon, in the meantime have a look at our pinboard of perennial foxgloves or see the full list we have available on our website here.
2015-02-07Just happened to see, on an antiques programme of all things, a piece about poisonous plants, this always makes me smile. We seem to see our inevitable demise in everything these days. Of course the poor old foxglove was highlighted, the seemingly slightly hysterical commentary failed to mention that daffodils, in fact a lot of bulbs, Daphne, Aquilegia, (Grannies bonnets) sweetpeas, are all poisonous. Almost all legumes, peas and beans that is, are only edible because humanity has spent hundreds of years selecting out the toxin, and buttercups and the box hedging that surrounds your parterre to name just a few, are far more dangerous, mostly because to the lay person their toxicity is unexpected.
Foxgloves are, to the mammalian digestive system an emetic if accidentally eaten they cause immediate vomiting. Their intense bitterness makes them extremely difficult to ingest and even hungry Deer will avoid eating foxgloves, unfortunately they will happily trample them and anything else!
So lets all enjoy our garden not eat it, educate our young about the natural world we all live in, just as we do about crossing the road, and avoiding fast food. After all, if 30,000 years ago our hunter gatherer mothers hadn't done so, we wouldn't be here now.
2015-02-01Thirty years ago this month l planted a garden, or, perhaps l should say, started planting a garden, for, is that a job that ever really finishes? My name is Terry Baker, professional horticulturist and not naturally adept at writing about me, having always thought my plants should do the talking! Still l'm told folk might be more inclined to find a blog more interesting if they get a chance to get to know the contributor. My great gardening interest is in woody plants, shrubs that is and trees, but over the forty years of my gardening life l can say l've grown pretty much everything. As a compulsive propagator the obvious 'fix' was to start a nursery, as l garden on the Wiltshire limestone it makes sense to specialise on the rarer, lime tolerant plants. My main business however is the restoration of large or very large gardens, parks and arboreta and advising on the replanting and adaption of the garden to suit a much reduced staffing or even no staff at all. Naturally the nursery provides a ready supply of garden worthy plants, luckily clients mostly have the same taste in plants that l do, if not, they soon do. I'll tell you about some of my favourite plants, as they come into flower, next time.