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Talking about Rhododendrons and Azaleas with Dan Turner, Director of the Award-winning Specialist Rhododendron and Azalea Nursery, Millais Nurseries

When we think of Rhododendrons and Azaleas, we tend to imagine lush, leafy plants adorned with an abundance of large and blousy, colourful flowers in May.  May is undoubtedly the main flowering season for Rhododendrons and Azaleas and we celebrate these magnificent plants in all their glory now, making this the ideal time to visit Millais Nurseries, our local, award-winning Rhododendron and Azalea growers. 

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I just love this time of year when everywhere is developing a beautiful shade of green!  Every year it’s like a revelation, as hedgerows, trees, lawns, everywhere, turn the most beautiful shade of fresh, new, positive, wonderful, green!  There are many jobs you can do now to keep your garden or allotment looking beautiful; here are some ideas to get you started…

The Chelsea chop, so called as it’s carried out around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show, is simply a term to describe cutting back herbaceous, perennial plants, reducing the plants’ height by to up to a half, before flowering.  

Some plants don’t flower for long and although they can excite us with their fleeting beauty, the brevity of their blooming often leaves us wanting more.  If you’re looking for a plant with a generous, floriferous nature, and ability to bloom throughout the summer months, let me recommend Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (‘Gerwat’) (PBR).

‘Rozanne’ is a hard-working perennial.  Plant ‘Rozanne’ in your garden now and enjoy her blooms all summer, safe in the knowledge that next year (and in future years) ‘Rozanne’ will return to delight you! 

Sow seeds of something different this spring!

April is the month for seed sowing.  We can sow hardy annuals and half-hardy annuals now, as well as the seeds of fruit and vegetables, but perhaps you’d like to grow something different?  Mistletoe berries are ripe now, so it’s the perfect time to gather berries and raise your own mistletoe plants!

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Mistletoe doesn’t grow in the soil; it grows up in the branches of trees. 

The simple act of adding one or two houseplants to a room can revitalise the space making it feel more inviting, inspiring, and relaxing.  To succeed with houseplants, choose plants that are suited to the light levels and temperatures you can offer, and adapt your watering to suit each plant.

Tradescantias are houseplant superheroes that will grow in almost any light level. 

I’ve got a wonderful weekend of outdoor gardening lined up, as our lovely friends Ian and Martin are coming over to help us in the garden.  I am so grateful for their help and I can’t wait to see my friends and spend time together outside.  I am hoping we hear lots of birdsong.  I’ll be doing my best to remember to turn the Merlin Bird ID app on. 

Sow pea seeds now to enjoy decorative flowers and the sweet taste of delicious peas, pods, leaves and tendrils in late spring and summertime!

Homegrown peas are a taste sensation!  Peas are decorative plants that produce handsome flowers and tasty edible leaves, tendrils, pods, and peas.  You’ll need a bright and sunny area to grow these delicious vegetables (peas won’t grow in the shade). 

Aerangis hyaloides: an exquisite miniature orchid species

I’ve been caring for these miniature orchids for quite a few years now, so the chances are you’ll have seen both of these Aerangis hyaloides plants before, as they’re plants from the National Collection of Miniature Aerangis and Angraecum Species.  My plants are blooming now, so in this update I hope you’ll enjoy seeing these miniature orchids in flower.

I adore my houseplants.  I relish the tranquil, serene, and yet simultaneously refreshing atmosphere that indoor plants bring to my home.  Not all houseplants are easy to grow.  Many plants need much higher humidity and light levels than we naturally have inside our homes.  I want to help you find houseplants that are true heroes, eager to grow in the same conditions we have indoors. 

Orchids in bud and flower today!

It’s always nice to share the joy of plants; with this in mind, I thought you might like to see an update on a few of my orchids.

Angraecum equitans update!

First of all, let me show you my Angraecum equitans plant.  You might remember this plant, as I’ve been writing about it for eight years now and I’ve trialled this particular Angraecum equitans plant in a number of different terrariums. 

I feel great affection for all the orchid species and indoor plants I grow, but I have a few individual plants in my collection that hold a very special place in my heart.  This is one of my favourite orchids, it’s an Angraecum equitans plant that I bought back in August 2015.  The photograph above shows my Angraecum equitans plant this week; let me show you what my plant looked like when it had been in my care for just a few weeks – here’s a picture below….

At this time of year one of my favourite plants is Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’, an absolutely gorgeous shrub that gives me everything I dream of but don’t expect to find in the midst of winter – namely enchantingly pretty flowers with an exquisite fragrance.  This delightful shrub was raised by Hillier’s legendary plant breeder, Alan Postill and named for his wife, Jacqueline back in 1982.

I relish any plants that flower at Christmas time.  I hope you’re having a lovely Christmas so far and I wish you a very merry Christmas for tomorrow.  Today, on Christmas eve, I’m enjoying this Vanda nana plant’s first flowering.  I purchased this sweet little miniature orchid from Spicesotic Plants in 2022.

NB: I meant to take of the sprinkling of moss that’s attached itself to my Vanda nana‘s plastic mount, but I totally forgot and instead took the orchid out of my Tall Orchidarium, took some pictures for you, and then put the plant back inside its enclosure! 

At this time of year, as temperatures plummet and frosts highlight winter foliage with sparkles that glisten in the morning sunlight, gardeners are blessed with a seasonal window of opportunity to plant bare root plants.  Be sure to capitalise on this moment, as bare root plants are only available during the winter months  This is a chance to purchase top-quality plants, whilst making a substantial saving on usual retail prices.

Rather than traipsing around the shops and frittering the weekend away in seemingly endless queues to buy gifts this December, I’d like to encourage you to head out into the garden to propagate your favourite plants and share the joy of home-grown gifts this Christmas!

Mint is a fast-growing and spreading plant.  I always recommend growing mint in containers to prevent this plant’s naturally assertive growth from taking over your garden, patio, and any nearby countryside! 

In my last pond update, I showed you the shape of our wildlife pond after it was dug out and explained my thinking behind the design for the contours of my new wildlife pond.  With the pond now all ready to set up, the next phase of our wildlife pond project is to prepare and install the equipment needed to make it all work!

November is a wonderful time to head outdoors in search of seed heads, pine cones, interesting stems and fallen branches to create stunning indoor decorations for Christmas.

Honesty (Lunaria annua) seed heads are called silicules.  As a whole they may appear a little drab, but gently flex Honesty seed capsules between your fingers and the outer casing will peel off and reveal the elegant beauty of Lunaria annua

Nurseries, garden centres, and online retailers are now displaying Thanksgiving Cacti on their shelves!  Thanksgiving Cacti are easy to grow houseplants.  One of the many endearing qualities about these plants is that we can enjoy Thanksgiving Cacti this season, but these long-lived plants can flourish for over one hundred years, allowing Thanksgiving Cacti to be celebrated and passed on to future generations. 

Designing our new wildlife pond

Back in June I shared the first stage of my project to build a wildlife pond in our new garden.  We hoped to have our pond up and running this summer, but due to the cost of buying the liner, plants, and other equipment, plus the sheer monumental task of shifting so much concrete and the need to repeatedly dig up reappearing bamboo suckers, it has taken us longer to get everything in place. 

Trialling the new BiOrb AIR 30

I was very excited when BiOrb contacted me to see if I was interested in trialling their new BiOrb AIR 30.  This is a smaller sized terrarium than the BiOrb AIRs you’ve seen in my earlier BiOrb AIR Trials (see my Miniature Orchid BiOrb AIR Trial, my White Orchid BiOrb AIR Trial, my Madagascar BiOrb AIR Trial, and my Long-term BiOrb AIR Trial).