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Lavender

The Lavandula [labiatae/ lamiaceae]

A genus of about 25 species, this fragrant beauty is an absolute must in any garden. Particularly high in nectar and therefore extremely attractive to bees, the answer from a domestic point of view is to be careful where exactly they are planted. A case of beneficial versus pest, possibly?

Often used in rockeries, as low hedges, in herb gardens, en mass planting or as a border plant… they really are [once again] a must have/ no garden should be without plant.

My main note of advice if choosing to plant lavenders is that they are cut back every season. The problem is that when they aren’t, they do go leggy, the flowers and foliage only appearing on the lasts couple of inches of the stem and the lower [soft] wood becomes almost like a moist cardboard. This leaves them very prone to a soft woody fragile rotting at the base which breaks then quite easily….  which is great for garden centres and people like me…. but not for you 😉

To cut yours back, use a good, clean sharp secateurs. Grab a good tuft of the plant and cut straight across. In a two year old plant for example this will remove the most recent seasons growth.

Of course this all depends on the variety and the varying external conditions. But as a general rule cutting a plant back to half height is no harm. When you’re done give it a good ruffle. Trim up the loose ends and clean around the base of the plant.

However you chose to do it…. even though it might look like a sheep shearer just gave you a bad haircut [at the time] but it is well worth it in the long run 🙂

If you are thinking of cropping the flowers for pot pourri, do so before they open fully.

Helianthus

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In a garden recently and I spotted this little beauty growing in a widow box….

It brought me way back to my childhood days. Dad used to have these old cavity concrete blocks running along side the oil tank. Every summer we’d go down to the library to get our free seeds and plant them direct into the hole. Well… I’d plant the seeds that I didn’t eat… 😆 It sounds a little silly in hindsight going out every morning to see if they had sprouted… 😉 The innocence of it all…..

Anyhow… the sunflower or helianthus of the asteraceae [compositae] family are a genus of about 70 species of annuals and perennials. The flowers can rage from 3″ approx in diameter to 12″ in the annual varieties. And surprisingly [possibly] not all flowers are yellow/ yellow brown.

The annuals are generally grown by seed sown in spring but the perennials may propagated by division and base cuttings.  

Prepare for it now and mark it on the 2010 calender. You can start growing them indoors around the end of February or outdoors at the ned of March. These little beauties will flower for you all the way from June to October.  Remember: plant only twice the depth of the seed.

  

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Horse Chestnut Tree

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The Aesculus [Hippocastanaceae]  or horse chestnut tree is an absolute all time favourite of mine. I don’t know how many years I spent hanging out of them or trying to harvest the conkers from them… 😉 Love it.

A genus of about 15 species, these are the ultimate in examples of palmate [hand like leaves]. Do be extremely careful if/ when deciding to plant one of these as they grow extremely large. The most common variety for example [that I know] is the Aesculus hippocastanum which can grow to 80 feet tall, its leaflets 12″ long and its flowers [spring – early summer] up to 13″ tall.

Don’t say I haven’t warned you regarding the space. These guys really are in the large but also the ‘greats’ category.

Want to grow some for free… watch out for the conkers [the brown nut like seeds usually found hidden inside those spkiy fruits].  Place them twice the depth of the seed below any type of soil and walk away… 🙂

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the brainiacs guide to strawberries…

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Strawberries – the info that may prove useful in a pub quiz

better know in botanical terms as the Fragaria, commonly known as the strawberry plant. Surprisingly, [or confusing-ly] it is a member of the  Rosaceae or rose family.

Here’s the possibly boring bit fancy-speak bit and where this article may prove beneficial. They are a genus of 12 species and are by definition stoloniferous* perennials**

*stoloniferous – they produce stolons/ little plants in the form of offshoots
**perennials – complete their life cycle in more than one season

The leaves are 3 palmate*radical with toothed edges and bear white [or pink] flowers. They are mainly grown for their edible fleshy fruit.
*3 palmate – like 3 fingers of a hand shape

The difference between strawberry plants grown just for reproducing more plants [pause if you need to…]  is that the parent plant is prevented from flowering and therefore prevented from pollination. The point in this is that all of the plants energy goes into the production of stronger [new] plants.

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Strawberries – the info thats good to know if you want to grow them

Last season i bought some strawberry plants. I chose the Elsanta variety. No particular reason except for I was reared with this variety and [like a lot of thing Irish] if it’s not broke etc… Apart from that they are good croppers/ yield well, grow very well indoors and out and aren’t really that fussy on the type of soil.

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I keep mine in the wee little glasshouse [6’x4′] I own and have just 4 plants. I have however seen them growing in hanging baskets, buckets and all sorts of anything that can contain soil 😉 This is the good bit… Buy your wee plant, Bung it in the hole and simply keep it watered. Then wait for the fruit. Per plant expect to pay about €2 each **if** it is not potted. Its a good tip to keep yours in a good drafty spot to stave off pests and diseases.

Whatever about commercial growers who produce for the fruit or the plant – from a domestic point of view… when the plant does sprout the little ‘baby plants [as ‘her indoors’ calls them] just nip them off and pot them up. New plants for next year and a great gift that costs pretty much nothing 😉

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can you recommend a plant… ?

If you are looking for that splash of colour… for that flower-less bed that just never seems to appear bright at all or you simply wish to have a ‘bash’ at creating your own bit of inspiration…….

Then here are 18 little beauties that are guaranteed to bring a [greater] smile to your face. You need worry not, as none will grow to a gizillion feet tall or wide and all will, once planted, continue to flower year after year and are suited to small gardens and large….

Simply click on the image of the plant you like – to get the name – and then click again to enlarge.

Any problems…….. just leave a comment below 😉