Friday 18th January 2019

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Not a drop of snow – but there are snowdrops!


We looked at a variety of indoor and outdoor plants, and identified them all as Euphorbias (spurges).  This is a large and very diverse genus of flowering plants (there are over 2,000 types) varying from annuals to shrubs and trees, coming from all over the world.  Even the Christmas poinsettia is a euphorbia.  What unites them is their milky white, poisonous sap and the shape and form of their heads of flowers.  It is essential that they (and all plants) be labelled correctly so that they can be uniquely identified.

Euphorbia splendens, or crown of thorns


Euphorbia myrsinites


Euphorbia mellifera


Euphorbia wulfenii


When writing labels, the genus name comes first, starting with a capital letter.  This is followed by the species name, written in lower case.  Often there is a third descriptor – the cultivar name – indicating that the plant is a cultivated variety.  The first letter of this name is also capitalized and the name itself is set within single quotation marks.

Here, for example,  is Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

….not forgetting the label, written with a permanent ink marker


Plant Ident.

This week, Bridge focused our attention on the beauty of twigs and buds.  There are ways of identifying trees and shrubs, even without their flowers and leaves.

Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’


Buds appear symmetrically opposite each other on pale new shoots.  Eventually the buds present as creamy-pink before opening to produce pale pink flower heads, which contrast with the almost black, dissected foliage. An excellent ornamental plant which responds well to being cut hard back in the winter.

Cornus sp.


The stems of this wild dogwood are flushed red and green, typical of the species.



The vivid green stem of this willow is pliable and lends itself to being woven into decorative garden arches, living willow sculptures, baskets etc.

Carpinus betulus


The name hornbeam comes from the hardness of the timber: it seems that ‘horn’ means ‘hard’ and ‘beam’ means ‘tree’ in Old English. Very similar in appearance to beech, but hornbeam leaves are more deeply veined and the edges more noticeably serrated.

Betula jaquemontii


The shiny red-brown bark of the twig indicates it is from the silver birch.  However, as trees mature, it is their silvery-white bark which makes them so distinctive in winter.

Ginkgo biloba 



Also known as the Maidenhair tree, the bark of this ancient tree is pale grey-brown.  The buds emerge from stubby spurs.

 Fraxinus excelsior


Ash has the darkest of black buds.  Its bark is ash grey and smooth until the tree gets older, when fissures appear.  In spring, shoots emerge from the buds which produce clusters of small purple flowers.

Prunus serrulata ‘Tai Haku’


The fat little buds of the great white cherry glow chestnut brown and are clustered together.  The twigs are knobbly in appearance.

Cattus problemicus


This is a perennial difficulty when trying to do an accurate plant ident.

Jobs for the week:

Plant up window boxes


Using polystyrene to fill the base means that less compost is needed and the container is lighter to carry.  It also helps with drainage.  This box is going to be planted up with primulas.


Et voilà!


And this one is getting Festuca glauca and some fuschias

Take hardwood cuttings from prunings 


This philadelphus is in need of a good haircut, and now is a good time.  Pruning and cutting back shrubs like elder (Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’), Kerria japonica and Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’ keeps them in check, thins them out and encourage strong new growth.  Taking hardwood cuttings from the prunings is a means of propagating new stock.  (We call it “free plants”.)



A few judicious snips and…..


Cover with grit and water.  Say the magic words.  Then it’s a waiting game.

Prune the apple tree

….. and prune the rosehips scrambling through the tree


Hmm.  I need to get a bit higher


This is more like it


I don’t think she’s coming down

Well, this looks like one way of getting her down









Work on tulip tree bed 

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The sun shines on the righteous

Prune the winter flowering honeysuckle

That’s Lonicera fragrantissima, for the Latin speakers amongst us, being pruned on the left-hand side of the photo below.  Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ will also be pruned, and pulmonarias added to the bed to provide spring interest.


It’s a hive of activity here.

Clear out the shed

The Marie Kondo life-changing magic of tidying.


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Any bidders?

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Something is definitely sparking joy




Well impressed

Pot up new camellias


Hope that’s ericaceous compost?

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It most certainly is!

The end of another productive session


Primulas looking prim and perfect