This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Chelsea 2006, Lilac and Whitefly Control

Kazahana Co Ao Arashi (Blue Storm)*

Everything is getting into full swing, certainly behind the scenes, for the Chelsea Flower Show in London which takes place 23rd-27th May at the Royal Hospital Grounds. In recent years the show gardens have taken centre stage as far as the media has been concerned, and I guess it will be the same this year. Already many of the garden designs can be previewed on the Royal Horticultural Society’s web-site click here.

As previously, they include the innovative and downright bizarre, but the public seem to love them, even though some of the modern designs leave me cold. I suppose that I am a traditionalist and like a show garden to be like a real garden that you might have at home. A design that incorporates planting that is realistic and that could be maintained as a garden, rather than what amounts to a one week theatre display. Many of the exhibits at major flower shows are only viable for the duration of the show. While this is fine as a spectacle, it is important that newcomers to gardening recognise horticultural theatre when they see it, and realise its ephemeral nature.

I have had a message from one of our group members - Jean from Manassas, Virginia, US. She likes the blog and hopes that I will be able to maintain the regularity and quality of the writing. I do too Jean, it is a commitment, rather like having a dog that needs to be taken for a walk every day. I have no dog, so I will give that time as a writing commitment to the blog and I hope that I can maintain it. It was lovely to hear from Manassas. My late Aunt June used to live there in a large rambling house in Quarry Road where her and Uncle Bill raised thirteen children. I loved my times there and trips out to Front Royal and then into the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Skyline Drive to see the wild flowers. Aunt June was a great enthusiast for flowers of all kinds. However, on her own admission she was not the world’s best gardener, but she loved her plants, especially lilac.

Common Lilac or Syringa

Wherever in the world you happen to live, unless it is the tropics, lilac or Syringa is a good, tough, reliable shrub to grow for late spring and early summer colour. There are so many different kinds, including the Preston Hybrids. These are amongst my favourites. They were raised by Miss Isabella Preston, of Ottawa, and are really lovely, with loose panicles of richly coloured flowers. ‘Elinor’, which is dark purple-red in bud, opening to pale lilac and the purple-pink flowered ‘Isabella’ are very reliable. Amongst the standard or Syringa vulgaris cultivars I rate the mauve pink ‘Firmament’ and the pure white ‘Maud Notcutt’, introduced by the famous Woodbridge nursery Nottcutts in the east of England, as being amongst the best.

Lilacs are quite difficult to propagate, and they are not infrequently grafted on to a common Syringa vulgaris rootstock. This works quite well when the bush is grown in a border and mulched, but if you cultivate regularly around it, suckering is likely to occur. The roots get slightly damaged and shoots are initiated. Once this starts, removing suckers becomes a continual battle. The answer to the problem lies in the careful selection of the original plant. Only purchase one grafted on to privet. This overcomes the suckering nightmare before it starts. Syringa and privet, Ligustrum ovalifolium, are close relatives and compatible for grafting one upon the other. The privet is unlikely to present a suckering problem.

The whitefly are back!

Finally, I see that white-fly have returned to the houseplants. My wife Hazel never likes me spraying indoors and so I have to resort to natural methods of control. Many years ago, when involved with a question and answer charity evening at a gardening club I was given great advice by a little old lady in the front row. The question of whitefly on houseplants and its control without spraying was raised. She provided a perfect solution that I have used ever since. Grease the inside of a saucepan. Hold it inverted over an infested plant and tap the pot. The flies will rise in the air and stick in the grease. They can then be disposed of without difficulty. Do this regularly and their life cycle will be broken.

Happy Gardening



*Kazuyuki Ishihara, the designer of the garden, also designed a garden in 2004 for which he won a Silver Gilt Medal. His garden for 2006 has Japanese scenery as its theme. Kazuyuki Ishihara describes the inspiration behind his garden: "I stand up and pleasant sensations flood my mind: the smell of moist earth, the softness and sheen of wet rocks, the irregular flow of water. Thus I experienced the ‘Blue Storm’ while passing through the grass, trees and fields."

The garden is sponsored by Akatsuka Botanic Garden, Mistuo Akatsuka, Japan.

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Photos:Royal Horticultural Society
University of Nebraska

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