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.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Seed Saving, Sorbus and Chelsea Show Garden

Seed saving information

One of the greatest pleasures in gardening is seed saving and swapping with fellow enthusiasts. This has been shown by the rapid development of the
SeedMessenger seed exchange group, which now has over 1100 members from all over the world. It is part of the GardenMessenger group of on-line communities and until recently had its own eNewsletter. Now the eNewsletter has been converted into a monthly blog called SeedMessenger. The present issue, apart from providing seed swapping information for members, includes articles about saving Primula seeds and raising rhododendrons from seed. There are also items about the Canada Tomato Project, Trading with Sweden, Seed Collecting Sunday and much more. If you are into seed saving and you have not yet visited click here

Tree seed collecting

The item that I found very interesting when compiling the SeedMessenger blog was the concept of Seed Collecting Sunday. This has been designated for the second Sunday in September by the UK Tree Council, as this is a good time to go collecting. The idea is that groups and families go out collecting fruits and seeds of native trees with a view to raising additional and replacement trees for the community. This shows a refreshing amount of faith in the practicality of raising trees from seed. Most gardeners regard such an enterprise as too long term to be troubled with. While it is true that many species take more than a lifetime to produce a tree that is anywhere approaching maturity, equally there are some that will be above head height within three years of sowing.

Some of the best trees for the newcomer to seed raising to start with are Sorbus. These are easily raised from seed sown in an outdoor seedbed in the autumn. As most Sorbus are apomictic, that is they come true from seed, they are very rewarding to grow. A few are propagated by grafting, but they are mostly named garden cultivars. The great thing about Sorbus too, is that they are excellent trees for most situations and are amongst favourites in the garden as well as in many places in the countryside too, for they produce masses of fruit that are greatly appreciated by wildlife.

The Sorbus embrace both the Mountain Ash or Rowan and the Whitebeam. Excellent garden trees of similar stature and habit, but with very different leaves, those of the Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, and its forms being divided, plain green and fern-like, while those of the Whitebeam, S.aria, and its allies are all solid, roughly heart-shaped or oval, greyish-green and entire. Sorbus grow on almost any soil and in most situations providing that they are in the open. Pruning is restricted to shaping the tree and this is done during the dormant winter period.

Sorbus aucuparia

Of the Rowan type of Sorbus the best of the red-fruited traditional kinds is S.'Embley'. In spring this is laden with creamy white flowers which yield a rich harvest of berries. Most rowans produce good berry crops and none finer than S.'Joseph Rock'. Not only does this have bright yellow fruits, but also divided foliage which turns a port-wine colour at the approach of autumn. There are also white-fruited species and a magnificent small growing pink-fruited one called S.vilmorniana. For those who have a very restricted space then there is the tiny S.reducta, a red-fruited dwarf species that can be grown on the rock garden.

The Whitebeams are not so diverse, but they do have pleasing clusters of creamy white blossoms during late spring and early summer and their fair share of red or orange fruits in the autumn. Sorbus aria is a good reliable sort, but 'Majestica' has much larger elliptical leaves and bigger fruits. 'Aurea' has gold tinted leaves and 'Chrysophylla' has a pale yellow infusion of the foliage throughout the summer.

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.

The Rockwool Garden Room

This garden aims to show how the inside of a house can relate to a garden via a garden room. A house façade is situated at one edge of this garden and translucent panels allow visitors to view the garden looking through the garden room, which is an energy-efficient alternative to a conservatory. The three main elements of The Rockwool Garden Room are a contemporary garden, typical of a size found in many suburbs, the wall of a house and the garden room attached to it. All structures, including boundaries, are in white to provide a neutral backdrop to enhance the carpet of planting. Central to the garden is a circular pool with an inverted bowl spout. Around the pool is a rope pathway and at the rear is a modern seat in cast polished white stone, allowing a view back to the house.


New F1 Hybrid Zinnia
Zinnia 'Zowie! Yellow Flame' is an All America Selections award winner for 2006. It is the first semi-tall zinnia that has flowers with a bicoloured pattern. Each blossom has a scarlet-rose centre and yellow edges. It has long flowering season and is excellent for cutting. The University of Maryland conducted cut flower trials and found this cultivar had a vase-life of up to two weeks. It has also recommended for container cultivation.

New South African Gardeners’ Forum
A new forum for gardeners from South Africa has been established at Gardening Eden, the main portal for South African Gardeners.
To join click here.

Do not forget also that there is a GardenMessenger sub-group South African Gardener.To join click here


BBC Gardeners’World Live
14th-18th June
National Exhibition Centre,

BBC Haymarket Exhibitions Ltd,
22 Bute Gardens,
W6 7HN,
Web-site click here

Happy Gardening



Today’s Sponsor

Seeds, Fruit, Cycad: Wikipedia
Zinnia: All America Selections

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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