Sowing seeds: mollycoddling versus tough love

As with most hobbies you can choose the level of challenge you wish to set yourself when it comes to gardening. Take seed sowing for example: you can choose just to sprinkle annual seeds onto the bare ground in March or April and rake them in, or germinate some tomato plants on your kitchen windowsill – even Caroline managed this last year.  But as your interest grows, you will need to learn and understand more about plant biology and ecology. Seeds have inbuilt mechanisms, often embedded in their tough seed coats, to make sure they only germinate when the...

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Bergenia emeiensis

Bergenia emeiensis Bergenia ciliata The name Bergenia might provoke a little shudder in some people, so I hope my photograph has instantly caught your attention, because this one is about as far as one can get from the murky pinky purple offerings most commonly seen in spring. B emeiensis is a compact, hardy, evergreen plant; a species with pure white, elegant flowers on pinkish stems, above shiny mid green leaves that are more oval than wide. It does not need any special attention; indeed mine is on the edge of a raised bed and could be deemed to be...

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Hellebores: a tale of lost innocence?

Did you know the latest fad (you know I like to be bang on trend) is to have freckles tattooed over your nose? I hated mine when I was young and now that they’ve morphed into the liver spots of advancing age, they’re the reason I try to keep my hat and shirt on (mostly). However, freckles are looking fabulous right here, right now…. inside a hellebore. I have a huge range from the glowing chartreuse green of tall Helleborus argutifolius to the dark sultry opalescence of the H.orientalis varieties. They are nothing short of a February miracle (just like Louise’s Great Plant this Month – and what a fabulous eye she has for planting combinations)....

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Pulmonaria rubra

Pulmonarias are among the earliest herbaceous perennials to flower in springtime, and Pulmonaria rubra is the first; its hairy stems and fresh green leaves emerging in January are soon followed by the flowers. These are a delightful shade of coral pink or red (with not a hint of blue!) and they associate well not only with some early bulbs, (snowdrops being the perfect partner), but also with hellebores, evergreen ferns and the delicate, bronze-tinted, fading leaves of many Epimediums. Pulmonarias are happiest in partial to full shade, but they need light in the spring and so do well beneath deciduous shrubs...

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