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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bonsai Prayer Ribbons, Rhododendron Discovery and New Plants

Bonsai in China with prayer ribbons

My daughter, who is an English teacher living in Nanchang, China, periodically sends me photographs of interesting plants, especially bonsai. Yesterday she sent another group of photographs, amongst which was this one taken outside a temple. It is of a bonsai festooned with prayer ribbons. From what I can see from some of the other photographs, this tree is one of maybe twenty or so, all similarly hung with bright red ribbons, and all placed neatly on a long low stone plinth, along what she referred to as the Temple Path in front of a temple. I am very curious about plants and customs, especially when these are linked to plant culture, and so I thought that I would investigate prayer ribbons and bonsai on the Internet. Now I know a little about prayer ribbons and prayer flags, as they appear in many cultures and are mostly associated with trees. However, my quest for information about prayer ribbons and bonsai specifically came to nothing. I am sure that many bonsai enthusiasts will share my curiosity, so if you know anything about the custom, please share it with us in the comments section at the bottom of today’s blog. Thank you.

Rhododendrons at Bowood

It is exciting when a discovery of the horticultural past is uncovered. So I was thrilled to hear this week that some of the earliest hybrids to be created in Europe between North American and Nepalese rhododendrons, have been rediscovered in the gardens of Bowood House, near Chippenham, Wiltshire, England. Bowood is famous for its 60 acre rhododendron garden, which in recent years has been undergoing restoration and improvement. These rediscovered historically important plants date from around 1850, and were found by Michael Robinson, a rhododendron specialist and member of the South East Rhododendron Group. He discovered thirty of these old hybrids, all of which he took cuttings from last year. He has since confirmed their identity and their unique position in horticultural history. To visit the web-site of Bowood House and Garden click here.

GardenMessenger - one year old

GardenMessenger, the global Internet gardening community is celebrating its first birthday! Thank you everyone for making this gardening community a great success. The group itself now has over 1900 members from more than 55 countries spanning the globe. However, it has spawned other groups like SeedMessenger, the free seed exchange (with 1100 members) and specialist groups from RoseMessenger and TomatoMessenger to the GardenMessenger Fruit Growers’ community. All work harmoniously together, and although some people belong to more than one group, my wife Hazel, who takes care of all membership details, suggests that we have around 5000 members in total if all the GardenMessenger groups were added together. A lot of diverse horticultural talent into which each of us can dip freely. These on-line gardening communities are a really marvellous use of the world-wide web. Thank you for being a part of them. If you are not a member and would like to visit or join GardenMessenger click here.

Planting a hardy waterlily

For those gardeners who are interested in water gardening, the latest PondMessenger blog has just been published click here. The planting of hardy waterlilies is discussed, along with the background to goldfish and koi colour. As with plants, colour is important with fish, and the blog provides a little insight into how it occurs and how it can be safely enhanced by the water gardener. There is also information about the latest products and introductions for the water gardener, including a novel koi feeder with a link to a fascinating video which shows it in action. There is also diary section listing various events and seminars that are taking place.

Chelsea Flower Show Update

This part of the blog is intended as an update about what is going on at the Chelsea Flower Show this week, more especially about the new plants that have been introduced. However, I start today with the President’s Award. I mentioned the winner yesterday, but was not able to illustrate the report. A photograph is now available and I am bringing this together with a brief review of the exhibit. My hearty congratulations to all who created this great award winning floral spectacle.

The President's Award: Bournemouth Borough Council

‘Beautiful & Healthy’

This three-dimensional exhibit was inspired by the Bournemouth motto ‘Beautiful & Healthy’ and it encompasses the healthy lifestyle of Bournemouth residents and visitors. The display features five giant pieces of fruit and vegetables that are made from cut flowers, which are around 3m (10ft) high. The cut flowers are situated within a giant willow basket that is surrounded by fruit and vegetables, which spell out the phrase '5 a day'. Circling the '5 a day' feature are three sections depicting work, rest and play, which are planted in carpet bedding with points of the compass facing north, south, east and west. The different sections include the classic crest of Bournemouth, a typical beach scene with a giant deck chair and a hand-crafted sculpture depicting a surfer riding a wave. This is Bournemouth’s first time at the show and the team working on the display includes representatives from Bournemouth Council’s municipal parks department and also horticultural experts based within Bournemouth, including the floristry department from Bournemouth & Poole College.

Plants Launched at the Chelsea Flower Show
During the period of the Chelsea Flower Show, I will be selecting some of the more interesting new plant introductions launched by exhibiting nurseries to introduce to you.

Coreopsis ‘Crème Brûlee’
Introduced by Blooms of Bressingham, UK, this is a new thread-leafed cultivar of this popular hardy perennial. It has fine lacy foliage and large deep yellow flowers with serrated petals.

Coreopsis ‘Limerock Passion’
This new cultivar has also been introduced by Blooms of Bressingham UK. It is of more conventional habit and growth with lavender-pink coloured blossoms all through the summer.

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ Notcutts Nurseries, UK, are introducing Chelsea visitors to a dark foliage hardy perennial Euphorbia, which apparently originally arose as a chance seedling. It has yellow summer flowers and will be available to gardeners during the northern hemisphere autumn.

Rhododendron ‘Pridenjoy’
Although not completely new, UK rhododendron specialists Millais Nurseries, are showing recently released hybrids not seen at Chelsea before, including those raised by the late Ted Millais, and Hans Hachmann from Germany. These include: ‘Coral Mist’; bi-coloured flowers with a cream throat and pink edging; ‘Kabarett’; wide open frilled lilac flowers, paler in the centre, and with a prominent wine-red blotch; 'Pridenjoy';(illustrated) soft glowing orange-yellow.


Marvellous Mushrooms
It has just been announced that the UK seed company Fothergills will be launching a range of mushrooms in the UK in 2007. Being marketed under the brand Marvellous Mushrooms, the range offers a choice of Shiitake, Pearl Oyster, Pink Oyster, Winter Enoki and Yorkshire Oyster, suitable for indoor or outdoor growing, depending on species, on straw, logs or even old books.

Horticultural Library Opens in Pakistan
A new horticultural library was opened in Karachi, Pakistan, yesterday by Defence Housing Authority Administrator, Brig. Maqsood Hussain, in the conference hall at the Garden Center of the Horticultural Society of Pakistan. The Society is very active in horticultural education, and during the ceremony certificates were also distributed to twenty successful lady participants in the recent gardening course. They have all been taught the basics of caring for the domestic garden and arranging flowers.

Happy Gardening



Today’s Sponsor

Bonsai: B.Swindells
Rhododendron: Bowood House
Waterlily: Interpet
New Plants: Royal Horticultural Society

If you have enjoyed this publication, you may also like to visit the monthy SeedMessenger gardeners’ seed saving and seed exchange blog click here.
and the weekly water gardening blog PondMessenger click here.

To join the GardenMessenger gardening community
click here

To visit the SeedMessenger seed exchange web-site
click here

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