The seedy side of rose growing

The seedy side of rose growing

By Jane Scorer

The seedy side of rose growing

Rose ‘Garden Party’

I’m rose-obsessed and I admit it! I love them all, from the teeny, weeny miniatures to the towering giants, and my intention is to cram as many as I can into my garden. So, how happy was I, last year, to see plug plants of miniature Rosa ‘Garden Party’, for sale online. I was so happy that I bought 72 of them, and used them as edging for borders, or underplanting for bigger roses. They were fantastic. In just one season they bulked up considerably, and they flowered their little pink hearts out all summer long. All I had to do was to pot them up when they arrived, then keep them in the greenhouse until they were large enough to be transplanted outside, by which time it was late May, and all chance of frost had passed.

The seedy side of rose growing

‘Garden Party’ roses in the border

(In the photo, right, the young Rosa ‘Garden Party’ plants have just been transplanted outside, and are underplanted beneath a hedge of ‘Charles de Mills’ roses).

Rosa multiflora nana perpetua ‘Garden Party’ grows to a height of around 25cm and has a spread of around 35cm. The flowers are single, open blooms in a wide range of soft pinks. It is bred to cope well with life in a container, but is equally happy planted out in the garden, in beds or borders. It is really good as an edging plant, and unlike geraniums or Alchemilla Mollis, it doesn’t need to be cut back halfway through the season, but keeps looking good, flowering right up to autumn. Although growing in full sun is recommended, I have tried planting a few in light shade and they coped. They weren’t as happy as they would have been in full sun, but they hung on in there and even flowered. Seed can be sown from January through to May, and plants will flower the same year, from an early sowing.

The seedy side of rose growing

Rose seeds

I was so delighted with the performance of these little roses, that I vowed to buy another batch of plug plants for this coming season. Then, when I was mooching around on the Thompson & Morgan website, I saw that Rosa ‘Garden Party’ seeds were available – a bargain and a challenge all rolled into one. The gauntlet was thrown down for this gardener!

I bought two packets, which cost about the price of a couple of loaves and a pint of milk. Each packet supposedly contains 20 seeds in a packet, mine contained well over that, having 23 and 24 seeds in each.

The seedy side of rose growing

How to grow roses

On learning that an early sowing would hopefully flower the same year, I decided to sow in January, using a propagator. I don’t really like making early sowings because light levels are so low that it is difficult to keep seedlings from growing leggy and sickly. The actual germination is usually no problem, due to the constant heat of the propagator, at around 20 degrees but I was a little apprehensive about the germination of the rose seeds, as I read  a customer review on the T & M website where someone had only achieved a 20% germination rate. However, the seed is said to be pre-treated to facilitate improved germination, with a time frame given of 30 – 90 days, so I decided to give it my best shot.

I sowed the seed, then sat back and waited, hardly bothering to check for emerging seedlings, as I thought that I was in for a long wait. However, after just two weeks I spotted the first shoot emerging, followed by several more every day.

The seedy side of rose growing

Rose seedlings

I sowed the seeds just over three weeks ago, and I have currently got 16 seedlings, with more emerging every day. Keeping them healthy is a challenge, as I try to keep them both warm and well lit, which is tricky in most houses in the UK in February. I want seedlings with short, straight stems, not pale leggy ones, lurching drunkenly towards the light.

They take a little trip into the unheated conservatory through the day, so that they can benefit from higher light levels, and, who knows, maybe even the odd ray of sunshine ! At dusk they journey back into the warmth of the kitchen, and I switch on the propagator again, to try and maintain soil warmth to aid germination of the other seeds.
So far so good, and they are looking happy and healthy. I am pleased with germination rates so far, as presumably more may peep through over the next couple of months.

The seedy side of rose growing

Rose plants, growing nicely

When they are large enough to be handled, I will transplant the seedlings into individual modules so that root systems can develop unhindered. When they are big enough and tough enough, I will move them outside into the unheated greenhouse to grow on, before planting them out later in the season, follwing a period of hardening off. Hopefully, by early summer, I will have forty or so lovely new roses brightening up the garden.

You can read more of Jane’s blog posts at Hoe hoe grow

Ho ho sow

In ‘Ho ho sow’, Jane Scorer shares some great ideas for Christmas gifts.

Are you in the midst of your Christmas shopping? If you are, then I bet you can feel an oppressive weight on your shoulders, that burden of what to buy for people this year. What do you buy for the ones who have everything they need? You’ve done pants and novelty socks to death, you’ve racked your brains for inspiration and you still haven’t got a clue.

Take my advice… buy them all seeds!

Ho ho sow

Buying seeds as Christmas gifts takes the stress out of Christmas shopping

Wisdom has it that you should choose presents which you, yourself would enjoy. Well, I can’t think of anything I would rather have than seeds – they are pure hope in a packet. The promise of colour, scent and… the return of the sun. All that optimism in a tiny, wrinkled seed!

Many of us have children to buy for, and even if they only have a tiny growing space, like a windowsill, it’s still worth choosing seeds as part of their gift. They won’t want to wait for months to see a result, and you hope to get them hooked on growing, so choose something with a quick return. You might just give them a gift which will last a lifetime – a passion for gardening and growing things. The obvious choices are mustard and cress as the results can be eaten very quickly, and they will grow happily in a tiny space. If they enjoy trying new vegetable tastes and textures, you could buy them alfalfa or mung beans so that they can be eating the germinating sprouts in days.

If the children you buy for have access to a patch of garden, then there are so many more seed options to explore. Sunflowers are an obvious choice, and there are lovely varieties to try like Thompson & Morgan’s dark reds, ‘Claret F1 Hybrid’ and ‘Velvet Queen’. The seeds themselves are very tactile, and large enough for small fingers to plant easily. Although there will inevitably be a wait for germination, that will be richly repaid after the seedling appears, as growth will be rapid – and measurable!

Ho ho sow

Sunflower seeds – the perfect Christmas gift for children

Children also enjoy novelty, so it might be worth trying Thompson & Morgan’s ‘Snake Gourds’, which produce snake like fruits that can be painted when dried. There is also an easy-to-grow ornamental cucumber, ‘Hedgehog’, which produces a fascinating variety of striped and prickly fruits.

Any seeds chosen for children to grow should germinate easily and reasonably quickly, so that success is only a seed tray away. A negative experience is hardly going to encourage a small, potential gardener. The plants themselves should be tough, vigorous and hard to kill off!

Adolescents are notoriously difficult to buy for, and unless a present hits the spot precisely, it will remain untouched and unused. Seeds are only a couple of pounds a packet though, so if your teenager’s imagination does not ignite, then you haven’t broken the bank. What might appeal? Maybe something exotic, dark and unusual, like sweet pepper ‘Black Knight’ or tomato ‘Black cherry’. Teenagers usually love to eat! Unless your teenager is an experienced gardener, then any seeds chosen would have to be easy to germinate and grow.

For adults, it is more about matching the seeds to an individual’s interests and character. A traditional vegetable grower, who sticks religiously to the same varieties every year, might relish the challenge of unusual varieties like dwarf bean ‘Purple Teepee, zingy ‘Rainbow Beet’ or courgette ‘Zephyr’, (which is yellow with a green tip). The same is true of the traditional annual grower, who may, without question, grow the same lobelia and marigolds every year. Encourage them to widen their horizons with new annuals such as yellow and white nemesia cheiranthus ‘Shooting Stars’, whose name describes it perfectly… and it smells of coconut!

Ho ho sow

Give unusual seeds as gifts to tempt gardeners into trying something different

Passionate gardeners love to try new things and to grow plants they have never grown before. Even someone with a tiny garden could find room for an unusual annual climber, and a good one to try is cobea scandens, with large purple or white flowers. It germinates very easily and grows on well, flowering from late summer onwards. The ‘cup and saucer’ blooms are truly spectacular. Another unusual annual climber is mina lobata or ‘Spanish Flag’, so named because it displays all the colours of the Spanish flag. It is quite vigorous and will ramble over walls and fences.

Ageing or less mobile gardeners can be a problem to buy for, but seeds solve the present predicament yet again! For example, cacti seeds are easy to grow and a mixed packet is full of surprises. It is fascinating to watch the young plants develop and grow into different shapes and sizes. They germinate more easily and quickly than you might think and within a couple of years, they will be reasonably substantial plants, requiring minimum care. Succulents and ‘living pebble’ plants (lithops) are also interesting options.

There are some seeds which you should never buy for a gardener, and I speak from personal experience here! Never buy seeds which will turn an interest into an obsession. That means no auriculas, dahlias, giant veg seeds or alpines. Buying any of those could mean that you see very little of the person you bought them for, as they will be in the greenhouse constantly, or whizzing round the country to show and exhibitions.

So, what would I like Santa to bring me, in his sack? Now, I grew ‘Bishop’s Children’ this year and was amazed by how large and floriferous the plants were in the first season. I vowed I would grow dahlias from seed every year from now on. So, I would be delighted to find dahlia variabilis ‘Redskin’ in my stocking on Christmas morning. It is a mix of dark foliaged dahlias with flowers of varying colours, all compact and free flowering.

Last summer, I visited Sissinghurst garden and fell in love with ‘love in a mist’, such a traditional annual, which is often overlooked. In my own garden I have grown an unnamed variety, saving the seed every year, and scattering it the following spring. The blue of the flowers has become more and more washed out over the years. Sissinghurst grows the most spectacular sapphire blue with a darker blue eye, and the nearest match I can find to it is nigella damascena ‘Oxford Blue’. Go on Santa, get me some!

So, there you are, all your Christmas presents sorted now, and you get a good excuse to spend hours trawling through the seed catalogues too.

You can read more of Jane’s blog posts at Hoe hoe grow

Variegation across the nation…

Guest blogger Jane Scorer has gardened the same half acre plot for over 30 years and has opened her garden for the NGS (Yellow Book) scheme. She has an RHS qualification, but feels that her main qualification is the years she has spent with her hands in the soil.

Variegation across the nation…

So, the dahlias are a fading memory and the Delphiniums are just blackened stalks and sadly, another fantastic growing season has fizzled out like a rainy Bonfire Night. But, surely there must be some reasons left to be cheerful! When all around is in tones of Sepia, there must be something in the garden to lift the gloom and lift our spirits.

There are still a few flowers blooming in the garden, but they are the last, lone remnants of the warm summer days. A rose here, a Michaelmas Daisy there, just welcome pools of colour amongst the falling leaves. Soon they will all have finished.

The berries are very plentiful this year and bunches of vivid lipstick colours dangle from the trees, but they are too transient and will be all too quickly gobbled down by hungry birds. I can’t rely on them to be there all winter, until the Spring bulbs begin to appear.

So … it HAS to be foliage which saves the dreary day, and brings some interest to those winter days. Not any old foliage, but lovely crisp variegated foliage in shades of greens, greys, yellows, creams and silver. I took a trip around my local nursery and found lots of lovely new variegated plants to buy.

When I buy a new plant it has to earn its place in the garden, and it has to offer me as much as possible … flowers, a long season of interest, interesting foliage, perfume and so on. The new variegated plants I have seen tick lots of boxes anyway, and the variegation adds another important element.

I bought a variegated Honeysuckle, ‘Harlequin’, for just £1 in the Bargain Corner. Now, Honeysuckle ticks so many boxes for me, beautiful flowers, strong scent, often evergreen, hardy and healthy. To add variegation to that list makes it a very special plant indeed. That means that even when not in flower,there is interest in the foliage. I would have thought that these little crackers would have flown off the shelves, but the owner of the nursery told me that people were just not interested… even discounted to £1. I cannot imagine why not!

Hydrangeas also have a variegated form, ‘Hydrangea Tricolour’ and again that is an additional element for an already attractive plant. The top leaves in the photo show how the variegation develops, with shades of green in irregular patches, contrasting with the crisp cream edging. It must look spectacular when it is also in flower.

Variegation across the nation

Hydrangea

There are few lovelier sights in late Spring than that waterfall of blue created by the flowers of the Ceonothus. That interest can be extended for a much longer season through the use of variegated plants, like Ceonothus ‘Silver Surprise’.

Variegation across the nation

Ceonothus

Some variegated plants, it has to be said, may not have the same vigour or hardiness of their plainer cousins. I will be interested to compare the performance of the new variegated varieties in the garden.

An old favourite of mine is Euonymus ‘Emerald n Gold’… tough, hardy, evergreen and reliable. Easy to propagate through cuttings, and great for filling any awkward little spots. The variegation is a bright sunny yellow, which makes you think of sunshine even when the skies are low and grey.

Variegation across the nation

Euonymus

So, even though it is gloomy old November, there are still some reasons to be cheerful

You can read more of Jane’s blog posts at Hoe hoe grow.

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