Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Why does the Holly Tree play an important part in Christmas tradition?

Holly Tree for Christmas.

Flowering in May, the holly tree is a dioecious plant (both male and female plants) and is prized throughout history for having distinctive dark shiny green leaves and red berries. Supporting wildlife during the winter months with it's berries, winter food for many berry eating birds (poisonous to humans). Festive imagery of the holly tree was introduced to Christmas cards during Victorian times, though association with the festive period dates back to pagan times when it was customary to bring holly boughs to desk out the home.

Traditional holly, Ilex Awuifolium, is good for security around boundaries. It is the traditional Christmas holly with bright red berries that many of us are familiar with.


Further varieties of holly include Ilex Alaska, Ilex Golden King, Ilex aquifolium Gold Flash, Ilex aquifolium Ferox Argentea, Ilex J C Van Tol, Ilex Madame Briot, Ilex meserveae Blue Angel and Ilex Silver Queen.

The holly tree connection with Christmas is towards the Christian symbolism connecting the prickly leaves of the holly with Jesus' crown of it's thorns and berries with the drops of his blood shed for human salvation. It is also recorded that before the 1800's, that a Christmas tree was in fact actually a holly tree, not a common fir tree as many of us are used to today. Throughout history, Holly has been used to symbolize the likes of holiness to gaining revenge, beauty, goodwill, health and peace. Holly was believed to be an effective charm to ward off witches, bad spirits and ill-fortune and for this reason it was often planted close to homes and outbuildings.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

What festive plants to have for your home at Christmas?

Christmas is a great time of year to decorate your home, 'of course' you all say, but when it comes to plants, what selection do you have to choose from to give your home that festive feel? Christmas trees are now in massive demand with families all across the UK visiting markets, DIY stores and ordering their focal point piece online. We have already spoken about Christmas trees in a past blog, now let's look at some other plants for Christmas:


This really does define the festive period as much as the daffodil represents spring.

The Poinsettia's brightly coloured red bracts are often mistakenly thought to be flowers, which are in fact the small insignificant yellow buds in the centre.


Vaccinium 'Red Candy'

This is a small berried plant offers clusters of pink flushed white flowers which then offer attractive shiny red berries which really stand out nicely in any display at home over Christmas. Not forgetting that the fruit it offers are very tasty and can be used to make cranberry sauce, a traditional sauce to accompany any Christmas day turkey roast.

Originating from the Artic and alpine regions of Northern Europe and North America - An incredibly tough and robust plant.

Helleborus niger

A plant that is very much of the Christmas tradition, offering pure white flowers along with golden stamens which act as beacons of light in the garden during the bare winter months. These make a charming centrepiece for your dinner table during the festive season and also make a great small floral gift for when visiting friends and families over Christmas.


This plant offers plenty of sparkle and scent for your home at Christmas, their energy packed bulbs are specially coaxed to flower throughout the Christmas period and well in to the New Year. These offer white and a frenzy of pink with unmistakable fragrance - Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Hyacinths!

Skimmia Magic Marlot

Magic Marlot offers excellent colouration from autumn into spring and good winter hardiness, a unique and successful plant for a variety of garden situations. It is highly ornamental over a long period, and surprises everyone with each colour-change.

At Christmas time the festive colouration also makes them a superb gift for any one! They can be enjoyed indoors for a couple of weeks before popping outside in to the garden. Place these plants potted on the Christmas dinning table to give great colour and life!

Trouble free house plants, perfect gifts for the festive season and a great flower to have around the home in amongst the Christmas decorations and atmosphere. Great for table decorations on Christmas day itself, these great plants offer many more buds to come that continue to bloom for as long as three months - Great value plant / flower for you home.

Cyclamen have attractive green marbled foliage, and this one of the toughest Cyclamen for the home taking low temperatures, and even recovering quickly from light wilting with out any damage if it gets too dry.

Dendrobium Nobilis

The ultimate house plant, Superb, long lasting value and ideal for the Christmas period for your home. If you normally buy cut flowers for your home, or just love the idea of an exotic house plant, you'll absolutely adore this stunning scented 'Dendrobium' Orchid. Not only are the blooms beautifully fragrant, they're incredibly long lasting too - up to 15 weeks a year!

With it's long lasting blooms, the Dendrobium nobilis orchid with its impressive column of white flower clusters makes a fantastic gift at any time of the year. The sophisticated and stylish look of the snowy white twinkling blooms are especially popular at Christmas time.

These trees make a great decoration for the festive season, in a porchway for example as one enters the home and docarated with Christmas lights they are sure to get noticed and receive compliments. All year round they provide a high-class property enhancing look, and can be used in place of where the popular bay tree is often paraded.
Competing with the Holly tree in popularity for Christmas displays outside homes across the country, the Bay tree will instantly transform the appearance of any garden or home frontage (formally in pairs beside your doorway of next to a flight of steps).
Perfect for positioning in formal gardens or courtyards or as statement on terraces, balconies and patios where the glossy, green leaves provide all year foliage interest and structure. During the festive period you will see these Buxus balls decorated in lights and offering a great festive feel to any front garden and patio area.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The GXP100 supporting Horticulture on Social Media.

The #GXP100 was founded and launched by GardeningExpress to support national horticulture projects across the UK through use of Social Media. Each week, a league table is generated which obtains data from Twitter and ranks players depending on their weekly activity - Fair to all and rewarding all those that are keeping busy on social media. Players are anyone and everyone involved within the horticulture industry (please email us at if you want to be included).

Already there have been a host of winners who have donated the £25 GardeningExpress vouchers to good causes across the UK to include Allotment Associations, Farms and GreenFingers. Charities such as Alzheimers and The RHS have also been supported by way of donations.

The RHS have acknowledged the #GXP100 to include reTweeting and collaborating in GardeningExpress donating two vouchers for £50 & £25 for their chosen winners.

Supporting Horticulture.

GardeningExpress would like more people and companies within the horticulture industry to join the #GXP100 leaderboard both to further diversify the weekly winners and charity / organisations that are donated to, but also to build a strong community on Twitter who are able to use the hashtag of #GXP100 to voice concerns, news and views on our industry.

There are so many good associations, events and charities across the UK that rarely get seen and heard of - We believe that social media is a great way to get many out in to the public eye and by offering our a donation of plants as a prize, we hope that highlighting the winners on Twitter will give them added exposure and following to the good within horticulture that they offer.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Venus flytrap

The Venus flytrap are carnivorous plants native to a small region of wetlands in the eastern United States.The Venus Flytrap or Seymour, is an intriguing plant and a species that will amaze and WOW many who see them, something straight out of a monster movie many will say - They will actively catch and digest their own food! These small plants have leaves that have special clever traps attached with tiny hairs inside which trigger the trap to close when an insect enters which then is digested for dinner!This carnivorous plant that is better known as the Venus Flytrap (Dionea Muscipula) is a carnivorous plant that catches and digests animal prey such as small insects, flys and arachnids. These trapping structure is formed by the terminal portion of each of the plant's leaves. The name of this plant comes from Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love & Plant Life.

This plants trapping mechanism is now so advanced that it can easily distinguish between living prey and non-prey stimuli such as falling raindrops. These kind of carnivorous plants have existed on our planet for many thousands of years with more than 500 different kinds of plants to be found with appetites ranging from insects to one / two cell aquatic organisms. These plants simply attract their pray, capture then kill and finally digest.

How to care for your Venus FlyTrap

These plants require three things to survive: Light, water and soil. Try and give them as much light as you can and ideally direct sunlight for at least four hours per day though artificial lighting is also welcome by this plant. Water with pure water which is low in mineral content and plant within a proper mix of nutrient, peat, moss, sand and perlite combination. Keep the ambient humidity high is possible, if low humidity just make sure the soil is damp at all times.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

This is the time of year to buy Christmas Trees for the festive season, many people buy them online and from within their local markets and garden centres. When buying your Christmas Tree online, there are certain guidelines to stick to and if necessary, questions to ask before placing your order.

You can get a great deal on Christmas Trees online as many centres will be holding a vast stock throughout the year and you can be guaranteed that your Xmas tree is sent out fresh and certainly to last you throughout the festive period and if potted, can be planted in your own garden to re-use for next year!

When is the best time to buy a Christmas Tree? Should I buy potted or cut trees? Which variety should I choose? The below tips should help you to answer these common questions.

What to look out for and ask when buying your Christmas Tree online:

  • Consider the variety that you are looking for, there are varied types and some last longer than others.
  • Choose a tree with healthy bark, no cracks, splits of evidence of rot / sawdust etc.
  • Make sure that the needles look bright and fresh.
  • When you receive your tree give it a shake, it shouldn't drop many needles (depending on time with courier).
  • Not so good for the courier, but your Christmas Tree should feel heavy, a good sign of it being fresh with high water content.
  • As with any online purchase, generally the brands that have been around for a few years have built a solid reputation and are more likely to take pride in what they supply their customers with.
  • Norwegian Spruces are the most common of Christmas Trees and the best priced, the Nordmann Fir is slightly more expensive usually with the Fraser Fir being the variety that generally commands the higher prices.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

When is a good time to be planting roses in your garden?

Planting bare root roses:

Roses are deciduous so winter is a great time to be planting them into your garden, being in a dormant state they can easily be pruned and planted ready for growth in spring. They are usually purchased with no soil making them easier to transport and for planting, not highly attractive, but will usually offer a good bloom in their first year.

Roses generally appreciate a sunny position in your garden that is sheltered from strong winds, you will not see great results from planting roses in shaded areas. Soil is ideally well-drained and complimented with organic matter as well as being recently well cultivated.

Ideally, dig a hole to a depth of approx 20-30cm depending on size of the rose and when planting, add some compost or manure. Water the soil well (ideally the day before) and prepare your bare root rose by placing it into a bucket of water to soak and hydrate the roots and clean the roots from any past attached soil.

Spread the roots when planting in the prepared hole then fill in the soil to create a small mound in the base and continue to fill up to the bud union bump which should remain above ground level. Water once done to drain away any air pockets and re add soil if needed.

Spring time will produce shoots and depending how well you have planted and fed your rose, you will gain bloom throughout summer months and autumn.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Guide to Garden Hedging.

An evergreen hedge in your garden provides smart boundaries to areas and perimeters though will require maintenance throughout the year to encourage and keep it's shape. With good pruning schedules you can hope to keep hedges under control with not too much effort.

Top Tips in looking after evergreen hedges:

  • Most evergreen formal hedges requiring trimming two to three times a year, (conifer hedges such as the leylandii will require more regular pruning as they are faster growers.
  • If neglected they can soon grow too tall or spread out of their allotted space and this will make for more difficult pruning to take place.
  • Water and mulch your hadges after trimming / pruning.
  • Keep flowering hedges in good shape by occasionally cutting off older branches and taking off excess growth to keep them within bounds.

The most popular kind of hedge for urban gardens is beech or the hornbeam for wet areas. Evergreen hedges are good for all year round 'screen' for your property such as the Cypress or the Western Hemlock. The ideal setting for planting these hedges is approx 4 per metre for a single row hedge or 6 plants per metre in a double staggered row for thicker requirements.

For rustic hedge the Hawthorn is the preferred choice.