The lady of Elche statue and pond at the Huerto del cura
The Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura

The Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura are a gorgeous jewel of a garden and well worth the visit to the historic town of Elche. Not only is it situated within one of the largest palm groves in the world, it is just a short drive from Spain's Alicante airport. That being said, just how do you get to the Gardens of Elche - The Huerto del Cura?

There are two things you need to be aware of before you go to The Huerto del Cura. You can't just arrive in the town and expect to find your way to the gardens of Elche. Why? Because the signposting to the gardens is intermittent at best and increasingly non-existent the nearer you get so be prepared and take a suitable map or preferably a satellite navigation or mobile phone downloaded with European mapping.

Entrance to Elche Gardens - The Huerto del Cura
The Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura
Secondly, if you are driving yourself then parking can be a real headache in Spain. Of course taking a taxi or organised excursion will always be a more relaxing although more expensive option, unless you are driving a car specifically hired for this visit.

Please note that a recent survey found that it takes an average of eight minutes to find a legal parking space in any of the main towns, and nearly twice as long in large cities.

With this in mind be aware that the Huerto del Cura does not have off street parking and on my last visit to the Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura there were no spaces available at all on any of the nearby side roads.

Cactus display at Elche gardens - The Huerto del Cura
The cactus gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura
Be aware that the garden entrance is on Calle Porta de la Morera isn't particularly conspicuous and is also frustratingly a one-way street so you can't just turn round of you miss it or a suitable parking space making a 5-10 minute long drive round the one way system before you can get back to it. To be honest, you are unlikely to find a space on Calle Porta de la Morera so it is advisable to continue onto the roundabout by the police station and turn right along Carrer Xop Illicita.

You are far more likely to find a spot here, but don't make the mistake of parking in a police reserved space. If you have no luck on this road then continued to the end and turned right again onto Calle Mangraner where you can expect to find a reliable amount of parking spaces. Admittedly it is a bit of a walk back to the gardens but what else can you do. Just don't forget where you parked and if you used satellite navigation do not leave it out on display as this can increase the risk of your car being broken into!

Images credit - Simon Eade

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Mexican Fleabane Erigeron karvinskianus growing in wall
How to grow Erigeron karvinskianus

Commonly known as the Mexican Fleabane, Erigeron karvinskianus is vigorous, spreading perennial plant which is native to Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela. Yet despite its native tropical and subtropical habitats it has managed over a short period of time to acclimatise to the cooler regions of northern Europe where it has become naturalised. It even has a foothold in the temperate climates of the south coast towns of England.

Mexican Fleabane Erigeron karvinskianus leaf flower
How to grow Erigeron karvinskianus
It was first described in 1836 by Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (1778 – 1841) The species name is in honour of Bavarian naturalist Wilhelm Friedrich Karwinski von Karwin, who according to de Candolle collected the plant in Mexico.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Erigeron karvinskianus to reach a height of up to 15 cm. It has narrow hairy leaves which are prone to dying off at the base if the is induced to bolt.

The aster-like blooms are approximately 1 cm wide with a golden-yellow central disc and a fringe of white ray florets. As the blooms mature the florets turn a pinkish-purple.

Erigeron karvinskianus will perform best in a fertile, well-drained soil that does not dry out in summer. It will need sunny position but will benefit with some midday shade. It is ideal for growing in wall or paving crevices, but be aware that it will often self-seed and become invasive in mild areas. The seeds can even be mixed with a little clay and pressed into hollowed mortar joints in walls. To encourage a second flush of blooms, cut Erigeron karvinskianus back to ground level in autumn.

As tough and as vigorous as this plant is, avoid areas prone to excessive damp or waterlogging if you want it to overwinter successfully.

Erigeron karvinskianus received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

Main image credit - Simon Eade
In text image credit - Hectonichus


 bird's foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus flowers and leaves
How to get rid of the bird's-foot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus

Although rarely seen in a well managed garden, the bird's-foot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus, is a surprising attractive specimen as far as lawn weeds go. Its exotic, eye-catching blooms are in part due to its origins in the grasslands in temperate Eurasia and North Africa and its classification within the family Fabaceae.

 bird's foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus flowers and leaves
How to get rid of the bird's-foot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus
As a lawn weed, it is conspicuous in bloom and will develop an extremely prostrate habit when mowed. This means that it has a change to establish relatively unnoticed before its flowering season. Furthermore, it is better equipped to cope with poor soils enabling it to easy outcompeted with the grass if the nutrient levels are not improved.This is because (like most species within the family Fabaceae it has the ability to fix nitrogen using specialist bacterial in its root system.

It characteristically grows in grassy places in full sun and well-drained soils although is deep, branched root system will tolerate both wet and moderately dry conditions. It performs particularly well in poor, low nutrient soils, and in particular lawns which are not routinely fed and/or have the clippings removed when mowed. It is also tolerant of poor drainage and soil salinity

Note. In warmer climates where summer temperatures are regularly over 24 degrees Celsius Lotus corniculatus can become susceptible to fungal diseases.

Organic control of the bird's-foot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus

Your best and only organic control option is to dig out the plant and root system by hand. Be aware that the bird's-foot trefoil can prove to be particularly invasive and all attempts to remove it must be thorough or it will simply grow back.

Chemical control of the bird's-foot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus

The bird's-foot trefoil is known to be intolerant of high levels of nitrogen so a twice yearly application of lawn food will help to keep your lawn from being out-competed by it. However to fully eradicate it you will need to apply a selective broadleaved weedkiller. You can purchase products such as Resolva lawn weedkiller concentrate by Westland from your local garden centre.

If you have the appropriate herbicide spray certificates you can consider Tritox, Intrepid 2, Greenor, Bastion T, Dormone or Supertox 30.

Main image credit - Simon Eade
In text image credit - FredrikL√§hnn public domain


Corydalis cashmeriana flowers
How to grow Corydalis cashmeriana

Although difficult to grow in the milder regions of the United Kingdom, Corydalis cashmeriana is arguably the most attractive of all the species and cultivars within this genus. Native to Kashmir, the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent, it is a gorgeous hardy perennial noted for its comparatively large, salvia-blue blooms and is particularly suitable for rock gardens or alpine houses. For those of you who care about such things the species name Corydalis is derived from the Greek meaning 'crested lark'.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Corydalis cashmeriana to reach a height of 15 cm high and a spread of 25 cm. The dissected blue-green leaves are 3-lobed and biternate. The brilliant clear-blue blooms are approximately 1-2 cm long and appear from May to August on racemes 5-8 cm long

In its native habitat Corydalis cashmeriana is usually found in open screes and scrub in an acidic, well-drained humus-rich soil. Under cultivation it require cool, humid conditions which makes it difficult to keep in the milder weather experienced in the south of England.

As you would expect, it will perform best in full sun planted in cool, humus-rich lime-free soil. Experience has shown that Corydalis cashmeriana will perform better outside in western Scotland than anywhere else in the UK. Avoid planting near deciduous plants as any leaf drop on corydalis can cause them to rot off. Remove any leaves that fall on the foliage as soon as possible.

The soil within its natural habitat will be generally poor, but a monthly feed of 50% of the recommended dose of liquid soluble fertiliser will be fine.

In England Corydalis cashmeriana is best cultivated in an alpine house in 15-20cm terracotta pans of John Innes compost 'No.1'. Keep the soil just on the moist side over winter and avoid waterlogging as this can increase the incidence of root rots. Repot annually in March, but avoid disturbing the root system as much as possible.



How to grow the Black-Eyed Susan vine - Thunbergia alata

The black-eyed susan vine - Thunbergia alata is a popular perennial annual self-twining climbing plant noted for its striking blooms. It is an easy to grow plant often grown as pot specimens or as a small climber.

Native to Eastern Africa is has proven to be surprisingly tough, and despite its subtropical to tropical origins it will often overwinter viable seed in the milder regions of northern Europe such as the south of England and Ireland. That being said self sown seeds are unlike to come into blooms until August.

Flowers of the Black-Eyed Susan vine
Under favourable conditions you can expect the black-eyed susan vine to reach a height of 1.8-2.4 m although in the United Kingdom 1-2 m is more likely. The mid-green leaves are heart or arrow-shaped.

The blooms, which can be up to 5 cm wide, have a flat orange-yellow corolla with a chocolate brown centre. They appear singularly from June to September from the leaf axils.

The Black-Eyed Susan will perform best in an ordinary, well-drained garden soil in a sunny sheltered position. Pot grown specimens can be grown in 15-20 cm pots containing a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No.2'. Provide suitable supports such as strings, wire or canes for he tendrils to climb up.

If you wish to grow them the following year then you can either overwinter the plants under frost-free protection at a temperature of 7-10 degrees celsius or collect the seeds for sowing in March. Overwintered plants will need to be kept on just the right side of moist. They can be hardened off to outside conditions over 10-14 days once the threat of late frosts have passed.

There are a number of colour variations available including red, orange, white and yellow. Depending on the selection they can also be with or without the characteristic dark centre.

Main image and in text image credit - Simon Eade


How to grow Corydalis solida

Native to northern Europe and Asia, Corydalis solida is a popular flowering herbaceous plant noted for its finely cut foliage and the colour variations of its blooms. It is an easy to grow species that does well in the gardens with northern European type climates.

How to grow Corydalis solida
It was originally named Fumaria bulbosa var. solida in 1753 by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), hence its rather unattractive common name of 'fumewort'. Its reclassification to the genus Corydalis was made by notable French botanist Joseph Philippe de Clairville (1742 – 1830) in 1811.

Found growing under the canopy of deciduous woodland, Corydalis solida is considered to be a spring ephemeral. This means that it will grow quickly in the spring coming into bloom before the leaves of the trees emerge to darken the woodland floor. It also means that there is a relatively short window of opportunity to purchase these plants in the spring before the blooms finished the foliage begins to die back.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Corydalis solida to grow to approximately 25 cm high with deeply divided, grey-green foliage.

It produces narrow, long-spurred flowers in March to April on narrow, dense, terminal racemes. The blooms are approximately 2 cm in length and can show colour variations (although not on the same plant), ranging between mauve, purple, red or white.

It will perform best in a well-drained but moist habitats in full sun (if the soil is permanently moist) to full shade under deciduous plants. The soil only needs to need moderately fertile.

The small pebble-like tubers of Corydalis solida are about the size of a marble usually available in the autumn. They should be immediately planted at approximately 5cm deep and 10cm apart.

Several varieties and cultivars have received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Main image credit - Corydalis solida 'George Baker'Peter coxhead

In text image credit - Bernd Haynold Dual License GFDL and CC-by-sa



How to grow Physoplexis comosa


Despite being a fascinating and much sought after alpine specimen, Physoplexis comosa is sadly rarely seen outside of botanical gardens and specialist nurseries.  Unlike many examples offered up as alpine plants in your local plant retailers, Physoplexis comosa is the genuine article native to the French and Italian alps. Commonly known as the 'Tufted Horned Rampion' or 'Devil's Claw', like all true alpines it has blooms characteristically larger than its foliage.

It is fairly easy to obtain Physoplexis comosa seeds online throughout the year. If growing under protection they can be sown at any time of year. If being started outside they will need to be sown under the protection of a cold frame in the autumn.

Outdoor germination

Fill a modular tray using a good quality, well-drained seed compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting' Sow Physoplexis comosa seeds onto the surface at a rate of one seed per module. Cover the seed with a thin layer or horticultural grit, or vermiculite. Gently water in using a can with a fine rose on it so as not to disturb the seed then. Keep the soil moist but never waterlogged and avoid the compost drying out completely during germination. You now have two ways to proceed. The first is to place the modular tray in a cold frame, where the natural winter cold should offer ideal conditions for germination to occur in spring.

Indoor germination

The second is to place the tray inside a heated propagator 18-22°C for 2-4 weeks or seal inside a clear polythene bag and place it on a warm bright windowsill (but one which is out of direct sun during the hottest part of the day) for the same time period. As these seeds are grown under protection they will need an enforce period of cold stratification so they will next be moved to a refrigerator for 4-6 weeks at a temperature of approximately -4 to +4°C. After this period return to a temperature between 5-12°C for germination which although will have some variability should expect seedling emergence in up to 6 weeks.

Once the root systems have established in their modules the seedlings will be ready for potting on into 9cm pots. again filled with a well drained compost. Avoid disturbing the root system and protected under glass before acclimatising the plants to outside conditions when danger of frosts have passed.

Physoplexis comosa will perform best in a gritty, well-drained, poor to moderately fertile alkaline soil in full sun. Be aware that it will needs protection from winter wet. Physoplexis comosa can be successfully grown outside under suitable conditions or keep as a container grown specimen in an alpine house.



Apricot trees with shot hole diseases on leaves
What is shot hole disease?

Caused by the fungal pathogen Wilsonomyces carpophilus, shot hole disease is most notable for affecting members of the Prunus genus. Also commonly known as Coryneum blight, it is rarely seen on garden specimens, however it is a serious problem for commercial growers of Almond, apricot, nectarine, peach and cherry trees. Infections can occur anytime between the autumn and spring, but is usually most severe following wet winters. As you would expect, Shot hole disease is most noticeable in spring as the new growth is most susceptible.

Apricot leaves with shot hole disease
What is shot hole disease?
Once a tree has become infected, shot hole disease produces small 1mm to 6mm reddish or purplish-brown spots occasionally surrounded by a light-green to yellow ring. As the disease progresses the spots dry out and then fall away from the leaf leaving characteristic small holes of various sizes. To some the leaves look as though they have been fired upon by shotgun pellets - hence its popular common name.

In significant infections, this loss of material from within the leaves will clearly reduce the amount of photosynthesis that can occur. This then has the knock-on effect of weakening the plant, and decreasing fruit production. To put this into perspective, it is estimated that approximately 80% of the California almond crop may be infested with shot hole disease. This is believed to result in a potential yield loss of 50-75%.


The shot hole fungus is known to overwinter in infected buds and twig cankers. The spores are dispersed in spring by rainfall. On ornamental prunus species avoid overhead watering as this is a particularly effective way of spore dispersal. Be aware that the spores will remain viable, albeit in a dormant state, for months.

For infection to occur temperatures will need to remain above 2 °C combines with approximately 24 hours of wet conditions. At higher temperatures shot hole infection will take hold in considerable less time. For example only 6 hours at 25 °C.


Remove and dispose of any infected buds, leaves, fruit and twigs, preferably by burning. This includes contaminated leaves around and beneath the tree. In the autumn, apply a spray of copper fungicide or Bordeaux mixture. A subsequent spray during favourable conditions over the winter may also be considered with severe infections. Research in the 1930's found that applications of Bordeaux mixture reduced shot hole disease on peaches from 80% to 9%.

Image credits - Simon Eade

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Bottlebrush plants - Callistemon species and varieties, are among the most exotic of all hardy garden specimens. However their unusual growth habit mean that most gardeners are reluctant to cut into the wood in case their shape and following season's blooms are affected.

To be fair, bottlebrush plants are usually low maintenance and will require little or no regular pruning. That being said, some forms can easily grow to large for their allocated garden space and will need cutting back one way or the other. Like conifers, avoid cutting back into the inside branches where there are few leaves as you may not see any regrowth.

How to prune back bottlebrush plants
The best time to pruning is from mid to late spring, but if you miss this opportunity you can light prune at the end of the summer. Removing any weak, crossed, rubbing, diseased or dying stems back to the trunk, and remove any suckers from the base as soon as you see them. Rip them from the trunk rather than cut to reduce the incidence of regrowth. This will be the same action for specimens grown with a single trunk but only do this as the suckers emerge. Shoots longer than a few inches will need to be cut. The best results are from rubbing away emerging buds with your thumb.

To guarantee that next season's blooms will remain unaffected and to just generally maintain a shape, lightly prune immediately after flowering - usually just a couple of inches from the growth tips and removing the spent flower structures.

If you are trying to reduce the size of an overgrown specimen, cut back down to size in the spring making sure that this is done well before the new seasons bud form.

In drastic situations, it is not unknown for mature specimens to grow back from being cut down to the ground. However this should only be done as a last resort.

Image credits - Simon Eade


SWISS CHEESE PLANT - Monstera deliciosa

The Swiss Cheese plant - Monstera deliciosa

Before I start I should mention that the Swiss Cheese plant is neither native to Switzerland and has nothing to do with any dairy product. It is in fact native to the tropical rainforests of southern Mexico and has proven itself to be one of the world's most popular foliage houseplants.

Swiss Cheese plant fruit
The species name 'deliciosa' means delicious referring to the edible fruit which are said to taste similar to a fruit salad, the genus name is derive from the word 'monstrous' and related to the huge size that this plant can grow to - over 10 meters feet in many cases.

Monstera deliciosa was named and described by the Danish botanist Frederik Michael Liebmann (1813 - 1856).

Although often shrubby in habit, Swiss cheese plants is in fact a climber whose native habitats are usually the understorey of tropical forests. They are technically classed as a hemiepiphyte meaning that it will spends part of its life cycle as an epiphyte (a plant that grows on the surface of another plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain or from debris accumulating around it)

To explain, the seedlings of Monstera deliciosa would have germinated in the ground like most other regular plants. Then unlike most other regular plants grows away from the light, which usually helps them to find the nearest tree trunk, up which they begin to climb. As they mature they produce aerial roots and can eventually lose all connection with the ground!

As a climber and under favourable conditions you can expect the Swiss Cheese plant to grow to up to approximately 20 metres high. The large, leathery, glossy, heart-shaped leaves are 25–90 cm long and 25–75 cm wide. the characteristic holes within the leaves are an adaptation to its low light level environment. By producing holes within the leaves each leaf is then capable of attaining a larger size therefore making it more efficient at capturing sunflecks and occasional shafts of sunlight.

Monstera deliciosa bloom
The flowers are self-pollinating and are composed of a special bract known as a spathe which enclosing a spadix.

Monstera deliciosa bloom will perform best high humidity and shade with between 20–30 °C and requires. Growth will stop once temperatures drop below 10 °C. You will only be able to grow the Swiss cheese plant in subtropical climates or warmer as it has no tolerance to frosts. This is why it can only be grown as a houseplant in northern European and Mediterranean climates.

Monstera deliciosa bloom image credit - rjones 0856
All other images credit - Simon Eade


Perfectly timed dolphin photograph
Although nothing to do with gardening, I couldn't help but post this image I took yesterday at Loro Park, Tenerife.

This gorgeous dolphin looks as though it is hanging out to dry on a washing line after a hard day's entertaining. However it is just a badly timed image that tells a story different to reality. What actually happened this. The dolphin was captured mid flow during its successfull jump over this line.


Specimen Polygonum baldschuanica with white flowers
How to grow Polygonum baldschuanica

Commonly known as the 'Russian vine' or 'mile-a-minute vine', Fallopia baldschuanica (previously and still widely known as Polygonum baldschuanicum) is an extremely vigorous deciduous climber native to most notably China, Russia and Kazakhstan. It is often found for sale in garden centres but truth be told it is not a particularly suitable plant for suburban gardens due to its rapid and difficult to contain growth. So vigourous is it that some may consider it to be little more than an invasive weed.

It is widely grown for its one redeeming feature which is its ability to quickly hide unsightly fences and other garden structures, and some even believe that it can look particularly attractive when trained into trees, old stumps and bare banks. The blooms are not particularly appealing to me, but are known to be a good provider of nectar and pollen for honey bees.

Polygonum baldschuanica white flowers
How to grow Polygonum baldschuanicum
Under favourable conditions the stems of Fallopia baldschuanica can reach an impressive 12 metres long, with pale-green, ovate to heart-shaped leaves.

The small, white tinged pink blooms are borne in conspicuous, crowded panicles appearing throughout the summer and autumn. Once pollinated the blooms can turn increasingly pink, followed by small, shiny black fruits.

Fallopia baldschuanica has proven itself to be particularly robust and will perform well in any type of soil including shallow soils over chalk. Aspect is not really important as it will simply tolerate where it is or grow to more favourable conditions. That being said, young specimens will appreciate a certain amount of shelter and initial support until they become established. Young plants will also need the leading shoots pinched out to encourage side growth. Water in its first year during extended periods of drought.

Prune back during late autumn to maintain its shape and to help contain its growth.

It is rarely affected by pests and diseases although it can be prone to attack from aphids.

Main image credit - Simon Eade
In text image credit - Jan Samanek


Red flowers of Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens'
How to grow Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens'

Callistemon species and cultivars are among the most spectacular and exotic of ornamental garden shrubs. Of which Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' is one of the most popular and rightly so. Commonly known as the 'Crimson Bottlebrush', Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' is an attractive evergreen shrub whose origins are found in New South Wales and Victoria in Australia.

The original species was first brought back to England in 1771 by British naturalist and botanist Sir Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820). However it was much later in 1925 that the 'Splendens' cultivar appeared, first named and formally described in Botanical Magazine. In 1970 its cultivar name was subsequently changed to 'Endeavour' in honour of the ship commanded by James Cook. This was one of several botanical name changes made as part of the bicentennial celebrations of his voyage to Australia. For those of you who are interested, the genus name is a combination of the Greek word 'kallistos' meaning beautiful and 'stemon' meaning stamen.

Close up of Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' red flowers
How to grow Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens'
It is a vigorous, spreading shrub of medium size and a more compact form of the original species. The narrow, rigid leaves are lemon-scented when crushed hence the species name. Under favourable conditions you can expect Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' to reach a height of approximately 1.5-2 metres. The brilliant blooms are made solely from stamens and appear in succession over the summer from June. As exotic as it looks it has proven to be perfectly hardy along the south coast of England and Ireland, although further north it will require the protection of a sheltered south wall and some horticultural fleece to be on the safe side.

The best time for planting Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' in during April and May to make the most of the growing season and to allow the roots to establish before the onset of winter. It will perform well in most ordinary garden soils so long as it is moist yet well-drained and in a sunny position sheltered from strong or cold winds. As implied is tolerant of light frosts and salt spray. When planting in more northerly regions provide the sheltered protection of a south-facing wall. A couple of layers of horticultural fleece would be beneficial over the winter. In areas which are prone to extended periods of freezing conditions grow Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' as a container plant so that it can be brought in under protected conditions over the winter.

Pruning isn't really necessary except to remove errant, diseased or damaged wood. You can remove the spent flowers structures but avoid cutting into leafless stems.

Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' received the Award of Merit in 1926 and the Award of Garden Merit in 1993 from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Image credits: Simon Eade

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Red blooms of Melaleuca viminalis 'Captain Cook'
How to grow Melaleuca viminalis 'Captain Cook'

Now reclassified and correctly known as Melaleuca viminalis 'Captain Cook', Callistemon 'Captain Cook' is a selected seedling of Callistemon viminalis discovered in Queensland, Australia with a dwarf and bushy habit and considerably more floriferous while young. It was originally sold as Callistemon viminalis 'Compacta', but the cultivar name was changed to 'Captain Cook' in 1970 in honour of the bicentenary of Captain James Cook's voyage to Australia. Since then it has becomes the world's most popular and widely sold form of all Callistemon species and cultivars.

Emerging red stamens of Melaleuca viminalis 'Captain Cook'
How to grow Melaleuca viminalis 'Captain Cook'
It is a dense, slightly weeping evergreen shrub which under favourable conditions will reach a height and spread of between 1.5–2.5 metres. The bark becomes fissured with age while the narrow lance-shaped leaves are approximately 50 to 60 mm long and emit a lemon-like fragrance when crushed.

The bright red, flowers are reminiscent of a bottlebrush (hence the common name of 'Bottlebrush') appearing from early June with further blooms sometimes occurring in late summer or autumn. The eye-catching inflorescences are actually prominent bundles of long stamens!

In its native habitat the original species is usually found along water courses on soils over sandstone or granite so when planting as a garden specimen best results are achieved by providing a moist well-drained neutral to slightly acidic soils. Avoid areas prone to waterlogging and be aware that Callistemon viminalis has proven to perform poorly when grown on thin soils over chalk.

In northern European climates Callistemon 'Captain Cook' is perfectly hardy in the milder regions such as southern England and Ireland. Plant in full sun, but further north it will require the shelter of a south-facing wall as well as some winter protection by way of several layers of horticultural fleece. In regions which regularly experience ongoing freezing temperatures Callistemon 'Captain Cook' is probably best grown as a container specimen so that it can be brought in under protection during the winter.

Prune back lightly after flowering but only to just behind the spent flower structures. Avoid cutting into leafless wood.

Main image credit: Geoff Fox
In text image - Simon Eade

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Dicksonia squarrosa
Plant Lists

Tree ferns have proven to be tough as old boots, capable of growing in deep shade to full sun so long as they have enough water. They are not particularly prone to any pests or disease. As the garden is maintained periodically I would recommend the use of drip irrigation to ensure that these plants do not dry out. Liquid soluble fertilisers can be applied as often as you like to improve the size and condition of the canopy. Prices start from £99.00 to as much as you would like to spend, however I would avoid Haskins as their stock appears to be double the prices of anyone else. Mail order prices are competitive but you do not get to see what you have bought until its arrives in the post.

Dicksonia antarctica
Apart from the tree ferns, all of the ground floor plants will need to be shade tolerant. The selection I have chosen specifically have bright, or eye catching foliage to help maintain interest in the lower light levels below the canopy.

Dicksonia antarctica and the slimer Dicksonia squarrosa are the forms to choose from.

Seagrave nurseries currently have Dicksonia antarctica at 3ft for £ 99.00, 4ft for £ 132.00, 5ft for 170.00 and 6ft for £ 240.00. Delivery will be on top although this is free when you spend over £ 300.00 however there may stipulate collection on anything bigger.

Dicksonia squarrosa does not seem to be available anywhere except from Trevena nurseries. You will need to call for current availability. Their website isn't working properly either but it appears that you will need to contract a courier to collect. Availability should return next spring.

Hosta cultivars

Hosta 'Patriot'
The chosen cultivars will be those with specifically bright variegation such as Hosta ‘Patriot’, White Feather and Autumn Frost. Availability is extremely variable and while there are hundreds to choose from only a dozen or so cultivars at best are on display in the garden centres at any one time. Prices vary from £7.99 to £14.99 per plant depending on size and quality of the cultivar. Specific forms may need to be mail ordered from online specialists.

Slug and snail damaged on Hostas will need to be managed.

Brunnera cultivars

Unlike Hostas there are only a few good cultivars suitable such as Brunnera macrophylla 'Alexander's Great', Jack Frost and my favourite Brunnera 'Looking Glass'. They cannot be grown in the sun as they will scorch and almost shine when planted in shady borders.

Availability is generally good while slug and snail damage will need to be managed. Unlike hostas which only produce new foliage in the spring Brunnera will often produce new foliage if the spring growth becomes eaten. 

Priced range from £ 7.99 to £ 12.99

 Japanese painted ferns

These are starting to be seen more and more in the shops but for specific varieties like the gorgeous Athyrium niponicum 'Ursula's Red' they will probably need to be obtained online. However I have seen them for sale periodically at Haskins, prices are between
£ 6.99 to £ 14.99.

These are very easy to grow if not a little slow but they have proven in my garden at least to be extremely resilient so long as they ground is kept moist.

Regular Ferns

For the traditional green ferns I am looking at the hardy, mostly evergreen ferns with a good range of architectural foliage.  Asplenium - Harts Tongue Ferns are particularly unusual, Dryopteris forms are nicely compact and Polystichum have great sword like foliage. They are mostly left unharmed by slugs and snail although Asplenium are known to be damaged if unprotected.

Ferns have been popular in this country since the Victorian period and so long as the soil is kept moist, especially during the first summer of planting they should be trouble free. To improve the looks remove old growth in the spring.



Heuchera cultivars
If any of the proposed selections offend your eye then don’t worry as there are two further shade tolerant foliage plants that can be substituted – cultivars from the genus Heuchera and Pulmonaria.

Heucheras come in some fantastic colour morphs but were not considered in the initial design as they can be temperamental in their vigour. However if they are ‘happy’ where they are planted then they will perform as excellent specimens. Prices range from £5.99 to £9.99 per plant depending on colour form and size.


Some of the lungworts also have some decent foliage and also attractive pink and blue flowers in the spring. Some forms such as Pulmonaria ‘Moonshine’ and 'Apple Frost' have excellent foliage but they were not in the original design as the foliage on Brunneria is better although the blooms on Pulmonaria are more attractive. The foliage can also 'tire' as the season progresses, but this is not a big problem as they will die back in the winter to provide fresh growth in the spring. Prices from £ 6.99 - £ 9.99.

Flower colour

Hosta blooms
Plants with excellent flower colour that thrive in shade are relatively limited however I have listed a suitable section which can be planted at the edges of the bed. All will be spring flowering.

These are not showing in the initial planting design as they are too small to show effectively. 

Note that Hostas also are in the initial design and will produce attractive bell shaped blooms which appear in July


Snowdrops are early spring flowering and can be purchased as bulbs in the autumn or as pot grown plants in the spring.  Prices are approximately £ 1.99 for a bag of bulbs or 1.49-1.99 for a pot.

The bulbs should be planted as soon as they are available in the shops as they tend to dry out, affecting the quality when they sprout out in early spring. Although more expensive snow drops are best purchased as pot grown in the spring

Anemone blanda – the wind flower

Like the snowdrops, Anemone blanda is spring flowering and can be purchased as bulbs in the autumn or as pot grown plants in the spring.

Once established, Anemone blanda can be lifted and planted elsewhere in the bed or larger garden

Prices are approximately £ 1.99 for a bag of bulbs or 1.49-1.99 for a pot.


Hellebores cultivars now have some fantastic blooms although the foliage will become dull and tired for the rest of the year once the blooms have finished. The blooms are long lasting and to improve their show the previous season's foliage can be removed.

However there are a few forms with some foliage colour such as Helleborus x 'Penny's Pink' Prices £ 7.99 to £12. 99

The more commonly found Hellebore white Christmas rose may be preferable as the flowers will stand out far more in the shade. Prices start from £ 4.99 - £ 7.99

Cyclamen Laser

Available from the end of November, Cyclamen laser are surprisingly hardy however they are forced into bloom in the nurseries over the winter.

These will usually flower in Feb-March and so when purchased they will need to be hardened off of 10-14 days or so before they can be planted outside.

Usually £ 1.99 for a small pot.

Slug and Snail control

The most effective method of snail control is the blue metaldehyde pellets, however these are still not 100% effect. Therefore I would recommend using two or more methods of control such as beer traps, environmentally sensitive pellets and sacrificial plants such as lettuce. When using sacrificial plants the slugs and snails can then be collected and disposed of in a fashion that suits.

The following article may be of further interest: