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.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Why do leaves change colour in Autumn?

Autumn offers us a burst of colour and beauty in our gardens before the Winter sets in. But what really makes the leaves on the trees turn from green to colours such as red / brown and yellow?

Tress normally change the colours of their leaves due to changes in the way in which they obtain their food. Trees, like a majority of our garden plants, produce food by the process known as Photosynthesis?

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the sun into chemical energy that can be used to fuel the organism's activities. Source WikiPedia

  • By product of Photosynthesis is Oxygen.
  • Sunlight energy is captured by chlorophyll (green chemical pigment found in leaves).
  • Converts carbon dioxide and water into organic sugars.
  • The sugars are stored in leaves or other parts of the plant for growth.
  • By product of Photosynthesis is oxygen.

Now we know that leaves are green due to containing chlorophyll, we will understand that during autumn and early winter when there is less sun around leaves start to drain of this 'plant food' which causes decomposition causing the green to fade.

Surging sugar concentrations cause increased production of anthocyanin pigments. Leaves which contain  primarily anthocyanins will appear red. Another pigment class is carotenoids which produce orange, yellow or red. Anthocyanin and carotenoids will appear orange. Tannins are responsible for the brownish color of some oak trees.

Factors effecting chemical reaction of leaves:

Cold temperature: Low temperatures destroy chlorophyll causes green to fade to yellow. If temperatures stay above freezing then anthocyanin production is enhanced and the leaves take on a red colour.

Dry weather: Causes sugars to become concentrated in leaves which produces more anthocyanin production.

Sunny days: Chlorophyll stops in the autumn though photosynthesis can still occur on sunny days which uses the remaining chlorophyll. Sugar concentration thus increases producing higher anthocyanin percentages and the leaves turn to red.

To see the best in colours of autumn leaves then we should of had a warm and dry summer with an autumn of cold, but not freezing days and fairly dry which will intensify the colours.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Buxus Pyramids for Christmas.

The popular Buxus pyramid is an ideal evergreen for Christmas displays with many home owners using these 'Christmas Tree' shaped plants as a festive feature by decorating with lights and other hanging decorations. Even though the Nordman Fir remains the most popular selling Christmas Tree in the UK, many people see the Buxus pyramid as the perfect outdoor plant to decorate for the festive season.

Buxus Pyramid (Buxus Sempervirens - Hardy Box Topiary Pyramid).

These classic evergreen box pyramids are ideal for modern or traditional gardens or courtyards, they have been used for centuries. These are best planted in fertile, well drained soil in a partially shady site, they are perfect for punctuating the end of a dwarf hedge or for use in pairs for flanking a set of steps, a doorway or pathway.
These Buxus are also popular for displays at Christmas time with many people using them as miniature Christmas Trees, decorating them with lights etc.

Looking after your Buxus Pyramid:

  • Ideally trim in spring time or late summer to keep it's shape.
  • Create topiary and clip into the required geometric shapes or figures etc.
  • These are ideal for containers though also grow well in fertile ground in gardens.
  • Direct sunlight can cause loss of foliage colour and can cause scorching.


  • Has dark green foliage which is in very tight and compact form.
  • Hardiness - Fully hardy and needing no protection during winter months.
  • Slow rate of growth compared to other varieties.
  • Propagation: Plant 4 inch cuttings for re-growth.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

What Christmas Tree should you buy and why?

As we approach the month of December it will be that time of year again to buy your Christmas Tree to decorate your home ready for the festive season. There is a lot more to a Christmas Tree than you think, a fair bit of history to charm us and many varieties to choose from. So, let's look at Christmas Trees in more detail!

Some did you know facts:

  • The first decorated Christmas Tree was in the town of Riga in Latvia, in 1510.
  • Since 1947, the people of Oslo in Norway have given a gift of a Christmas Tree to the City of Westminster, London as an expression of good will and gratitude for Britain's help to their country during World War II.
  • Electric Tree lights were first massed produced way back in 1890.
  • Christmas Tree remove dust and pollen from the air.
  • One acre of planted Christmas Trees provides enough daily oxygen for 18 people.
  • Artificial trees will last for less than six years in your home, but for centuries in a landfill.
  • In the first week, a tree in your home will consume as much as 2 pints of water per day.
Tips for your Christmas Tree:

  • Take time to pick your spot. Decide where your Christmas Tree is to go in your home, ideally choose a well-lit corner which gets plenty of footfall though safe from being knockered over by young children or merry adults!
  • Many people now purchase Christmas Trees online so when doing so make sure they are freshly harvested before confirming your purchase.
  • Handle with care. Make sure if you decide to have a live Christmas Tree to use gloves and possibly even clothing that you don't mind to get stained in sap especially when getting it into position at home.
  • Cut trees will be fine dunked in water, rather like a cut flower. Potted trees are also fine for home usage and can also be replanted in to your garden after Christmas, though remember they can grow very quickly so plant them away from building / structures.
  • Keep your trees well watered and also not too hot (keep away from positioning right next to radiators / open fires etc). There is no need to use foods or fertilisers for your Christmas Tree at home.
  • Think Recycle! There are many organisations and local recycling centres for your Christmas Tree, in most cases recycling is free of charge.

Christmas Trees species:

The traditional British Christmas tree is the Norwegian Spruce which does drop it's needles towards the end of the Christmas period. Recent years has seen an increase in non-drop varieties.

Nordman Fir: The most popular, best selling non-drop Christmas Tree variety that has good needle retaining properties that are soft, wide and flat, dark green needles.

Blue Spruce: A low drop variety which has distinctive silver/blue and a wonderful smell that is reminiscent of the Christmas season.

Traditional (Norway) Spruce: Another variety that gives off a festive scent, a good shape and is a very popular purchase with the British.

Potted Trees: Popular choice for Christmas and ideal for those wishing to keep their trees after Christmas as can be planted outside.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Miscanthus sinensis Zebrinus - Zebra Grass

Miscanthus sinensis Zebrinus - Zebra Grass is a deciduous, clump-forming, perennial grass that has upright to arching green leaves and pale yellow / cream eye catching bands running across them to make them a wonderful feature for any autumn or winter garden. This species of Miscanthus, Zebrinus or Zebra Grass, is a full hardy and looks great either as specimen plants or planted in groups in herbaceous borders. It's flowering period is between August and September where it will offer  hairy pink/white spikelets in fan shaped panicles which stay for months giving this plant a dramatic winter garden presence.

The distinctive foliage is what makes this plant an attractive addition for any garden, the zebra effect of horizontal pale / cream strips across the green makes it stand out especially during autumn and winter months. The variegation turns a more pronounced yellow as the growing season progresses.

This Miscanthus requires little maintenance, prefers full sun and will grow in a wide range of well-drained soils. The winter foliage can be left on the plant to provide protection to the growing crown, cutting back can take place in late winter just before the new Spring growth gets underway.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Which Ornamental Grasses are good for Autumn and Winter?

For those looking to added some colour and life to their autumn and winter gardens many will explore the huge variety of ornamental grasses for sale. Ornamental grasses are fantastic for softening hard landscaping and using as a contrast to other plants where many varieties can also be architectural in their own right. Most gardens can accommodate several varieties, ornamental grasses coming in a wide range of colours and textures which makes them versatile for virtually all garden styles and situations. Great for sensory gardens where you will be able to hear the breeze whispering through the taller varieties. Smaller grasses can be used to compliment containers.

There are many ornamental grasses to choose from for your garden, below are listed some which we recommend adding to your autumn and winter gardens.

Miscanthus Herman Mussel

A beautiful hardy ornamental grass for growing in beds and borders. This is a large grass with floaty, ferny seed heads which are perfect for adding some gentle movement to the garden with a relaxing rustle.
Easy to grow and it is an all year round ornamental grass that requires virtually no maintenance. Grows up to 2 metres in sun or partial shade.

Miscanthus Sinensis Zebrinus - Zebra Grass

Making a foliage feature all year around with a sensational Zebra Grass effect, this recommend addition for your winter garden offers eye catching green leaves with creamy white or pale lemon yellow horizontal bands.

Ophiopogon Planiscapus Nigrascens - Black Ornamental Grass

An award winning grass-like plant with low growing tufts of very dark purple blades that actually appear to be black. Racemes of pale lilac / pink flowers appear among the foliage in the summer followed by black berries in the Autumn / Winter. Looks fantastic with other grasses and especially attractive within grouped tubs.

Imperata Cylindrica Red Barron - Japanese Blood Grass

Imperata Cylindrical Rubra is better known to many as 'Red Barron' or 'Japanese Blood Grass' and is a highly recommend, especially for it's colour, ornamental grass for the simple reason of it's vivid and unusual colours which will offer a stunning feature to any autumn or winter garden.
The foliage of this stunning herbaceous grass is quite literally blood-red, fading off to a nice shade of bright green at the base of the plant which only goes to highlight the vivid red colouration of each foliage blade. This grass will make a fantastic addition to any garden and looks particularly good teamed with other grasses and perennials.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Plants with Amazing Colours for Autumn and Winter.

It is not only the Holly berry bush that should be appearing in gardens for winter, there are many more colourful berry plants for Autumn and Winter months. Evergreen and berry plants for winter are a great addition for any garden and will brighten your winter landscape through frost and snow with  brilliant coloured berries and colourful foliage. Below are some suggestions of berry plants ideal for a winters garden as well as providing natural bird food and for usage within your Christmas decorations at home.

The firethorns are all tough, very hardy shrubs which tolerate a wide range of demanding conditions, including shaded and exposed positions and make dense thorny evergreen growth ideal for intruder- proof hedging or for training on walls to display their profuse and brightly coloured berries. They also make attractive free-standing shrubs, although growth is then often more compact and arching. 'Red Column' is reliable, vigorous form, with dense growth and strong branches covered in Autumn with masses of long-lasting berries.

This Callicarpa or Beauty Berry, as it is better known, carries colourful Autumnal fruits that cannot be rivalled for a jolt of eye catching late season colour. Shaded in bright metallic purple, there is no other shrub with berries quite like it.
Full hardy and easy to grow, Callicarpa Profusion will perform best in a well drained brightly lit position in the garden, although it will also tolerate partial shade. Deciduous and bushy, it is a fantastic addition to beds and borders. Maintenance wise, simply trim and losing it's berries to keep as a smaller sized plant or to neaten it up.

Lustrous dark green leaves and small clusters of red-purple flowers in April and May, followed by large, bright red berries. This compact Japanese Laurel is perfect for a small shady site. Tolerant of dry shade and urban-pollution. The berries are highly attractive and retained all winter.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Guide to Autumn and Winter Hanging Baskets.

Hanging baskets are not just for summer nor either just for the front of your house, you can enjoy wonderful baskets during Autumn and Winter months throughout the outside of your home. They are such easy solutions to add some real colour and interest to any space and transform garden fences and walls plus add an extra eye catching feature. The summer will offer stunning colours within hanging baskets with Autumn and Winter months offering frost hardy flower and evergreen displays.

A Hanging Basket for Autumn

Your baskets should be prepared with an inner liner such as moss, filled with a shallow layer of hanging basket compost then some good quality soil.
Ideal plants to use include:

Trailing Pansy
Viola Roscastle Black

These kind of flowers and evergreen plants will really make your display vibrant in colour and volume. There are many variety of pansy that you can purchase during Autumn to fill your baskets with which will last you through to early winter months.

A Hanging Basket for Winter

You can plant your winter hanging baskets between the months of September and October and remember that it does not really matter if they are frosted as the plants you will be using should be hardy. Winter hanging baskets are best kept in sheltered and sunny spots to give them some protection from the very coldest of days. Gardeners must be sure to deadhead regulary to prevent the plants energy going in to seed production rather then on more blooming. Normally, watering of your basket will be once a week.
Ideal plants to use include:

Evergreen Azaleas

Top Tip: To create a spectacular display, you need a mix of upright, mound-forming and tumbling plants.


Winter Pansies:

A very reliable favourite for winter hanging basket displays and these flower non-stop for months on end so longer that on a regular basis you remember to dead head!

Clematis Winter Beauty:

The real interest is of course the flowers - in December, the plants are loaded with buds, they appear en-mass and are lovely shades of soft creamy lime, hanging amongst the foliage like small bells, they are poised with energy to continue blooming and bring joy to the gardeners heart throughout the dullest, shortest days.


Flowering from Autumn right through to Spring they bring real cheer in the duller weather when little else is happy to put on a show.


Friday, 1 November 2013

Autumn Flowering Perennials.

So it may very well be the time to put on your woolly jumpers and no doubt have already surrendered to putting on the central heating at home, but in your garden there will still be flowering colours to enjoy. Some plants fare much better than others when it comes late flowering potential and we will now take a look at these below:


Crocosmias lend themselves well to landscaping projects and large gardens where a mass of plants is required to create an impact, it an often to be seen planted around lakes and ponds for this very reason. The flowers themselves are trumpet shaped ranging in colour from orange-red-golden shades, creating the perfect impact for late summer plantings.


Penstemon will offer your garden bell-shaped flowers from midsummer to autumn.


The Sedum is as dependable and adaptable as they come for any garden. Its flowers bloom from August into November and is an ideal plant to add if you want some colour for Autumn!


A fantastic plant to add colour to a late summer border and it makes a wonderful companion for ornamental grasses. Heleniums are versatile plants that love plenty of sunshine and moist soil. They rarely suffer from pests or diseases.

Japanese anemone

The Japanese Anemone offers a succession of cup-shaped, rose-pink, semi-double flowers with reddish-pink outer petals from July to September.

Don't say goodbye to that summer garden with many late flowering options readily available to purchase at garden centres or easily online. The peaking flowers of late summer are wide-ranging with many of the exotics and tender perennial patio plants also staying in flower until late September / early October