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.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Flaming Katy, York Gate and New Roses

Kalanchoe ‘Don Domingo’

Flaming Katy must be amongst the most successful houseplants of recent times. Further improvements have now been announced by growers in Holland who are heavily promoting their new and much improved Rosalina strain. This is a fantastic range of free-flowering compact cultivars, all prefixed Don. I especially like ‘Don Domingo’, but I will leave you to judge your favourite, although I can only illustrate this short article with a few.

Kalanchoe ‘Don Leon'

The original Flaming Katy is Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, a lovely perennial from Madagascar. All the popular Flaming Katy hybrid strains have bright red, orange or yellow blossoms in dense heads above tight mounds of glossy, succulent, evergreen foliage. They are derived from semi-arid land plants and are related to the troublesome (and in some districts prohibited) weedy succulent known as Devil's Backbone, K.daigremontiana, although Flaming Katy shares none of this plant’s unfortunate characteristics and behaviour.

Kalanchoe ‘Don Garcia’

Flowering all year round, Flaming Katy is popular because of its tolerance of a wide range of conditions. It does not perform if it gets too wet or is grown in the shade, but other than that it is easy-going, enjoying the dry heat of modern central heating systems in the winter, and surviving an irregular watering regime. Grow in free-draining compost, one consisting of two thirds of soil-based potting compost and one-third sharp sand is ideal. When purchased from the garden centre plants are often growing in soil-less compost, which is totally unsuitable for their long-term well-being so after flowering repot them in a more suitable long term compost. Keep the glossy leaves clean by using a leaf-shine product or wiping them with cotton wool dipped in warm milk.

Kalanchoe ‘Don Juan’

Some gardeners discard kalanchoes after they have flowered, treating them as annuals, for it is true that they rarely flower as profusely a second time around. They also become woody and less attractive. However, there are many strains that are easily raised from seed sown during spring or summer. Seeds germinate freely, even on the window ledge, and the seedlings can be pricked out into pans or trays until large enough to move into individual pots. They can also be increased from stem cuttings, but this is only appropriate for especially fine coloured kinds.

Chelsea Show Gardens Preview
During each of the days running up to the Chelsea Flower Show I am previewing a show garden. Although these are often regarded as garden theatre and not as sustainable under normal gardening conditions, they are often full of interesting and innovative ideas which can be taken, at least in part, and used in our gardens at home.

A Garden For Robin

This is a contemporary space to capture the spirit of York Gate Garden in Leeds, UK. The garden art and design students of Leeds Metropolitan University say that this renowned small garden is considered by many to be a masterpiece of 20th century garden design. The Chelsea garden has been named after the designer of the York Gate Garden, Robin Spencer. A rill of clear water gurgles over reclaimed stone steps into a deeper pool, adding sound and movement. Three mounds unite the space; a dome of corten steel contrasts with the delicate plant forms, and two softer moss-covered domes. Towards the rear of the garden a more naturalistic effect is achieved with meadow grasses and wildflowers.

York Gate Garden

York Gate

The garden at York Gate is now owned and managed by Perennial, the Gardener’s Royal Benevolent Society. Although in its entirety the garden is not to everybody’s taste, it is a masterly creation of many integrated design ideas that the visiting gardener can take home. The garden was the design of Robin Spencer, a talented amateur gardener and garden designer who sadly died prematurely at the age of 48. His mother Sybil, whom I got to know well while the curator of nearby Harlow Carr Gardens, was a larger than life figure in flowing skirts and broad-brimmed sun hat. A great gardener and plantswoman, she maintained York Gate, with some assistance, until her death in 1994. Despite her passing, the Gardener’s Royal Benevolent Society have managed to retain the spirit of the Spencer garden. I always expect Sybil, trug and secateurs in hand to appear around the corner from her potting shed, and to direct me down the garden to show me her latest treasure. If you are ever in the Leeds area be sure to visit York Gate. It is one of the finest small gardens. Details click here.


New Roses From Peter Beales
These two new roses are being introduced at the Chelsea Flower Show by Norfolk, England rose breeder Peter Beales. These will be available this coming autumn and winter in Europe and North America. Details of the Peter Beales Nursery and the UK National Collection of species roses click here.

'Our Beth'
This is a shrub rose with delightful soft, blush pink flowers with a deeper centre, opening flat from rounded buds to a beautiful old fashioned cushion shape. It is very fragrant and has a generous amount of dark green foliage on a vigorous wide-growing shrub.

'Rural England'
This is a continuous flowering rambler. It produces masses of medium-sized, soft pink flowers in large cascading clusters all summer. Ideal for pergolas and arches, it has mid-green foliage with stems that have few thorns. Although a good climber this cultivar is also effective if left to tumble in the border.


Gardening Australia Expo Brisbane
19th-21st May
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre,
South Bank,
Web-site click here.

Happy Gardening



Today’s Sponsor
Spring Hill Logo 120x60

Kalanchoes: KP Holland
Chelsea Garden and roses: Royal Horticultural Society
York Gate. Perennial

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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