Monday, August 19, 2013

Kick start you Natives

To all our loyal readers

Here is a great voucher you can use instore.

Just print is off and bring it in. More information at our website:

Hope to see you all soon

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Brilliant Bromeliads For Winter Colour

ONE of the few benefits of possessing an overgrown garden is the treasure it can turn up, seemingly out of nowhere. Bromeliads are my particular booty and in the depths of winter when deciduous leaves are long gone and colour can be thin on the ground, these striking ground (terrestrial) and tree (epiphytes) dwellers stand out like dazzling jewels.

It’s the twinkle of winter colour I love best but members of the Bromeliaceae or pineapple family, also provide the solution to a host of site challenges. These exotic American perennials lend themselves very well to creative and unusual displays, especially in the shade of a tropical garden.

Provide interest to a leafless deciduous tree in winter. Epiphytic bromeliads happily grow up a trunk and can be tied into forked branches, spilling leaves from nooks and crannies along shady lower boughs. For even greater effect, dress with delicate silver tufts of a very different bromeliad sub-family, Tillandsia usneoides, the dreamy air plant, Spanish moss.

Create beauty on the move and pot up bromeliads to provide a dramatic accent of sculptural interest, indoors or out. Use a light, open potting mix with good drainage.
Often hardy, many bromeliad genus require little maintenance other than the removal of a spent mother plant to allow her offsets (pups) to thrive.

Bromeliads In Bloom Now

With a greek name meaning `spear tip’, the Aechmea genus is ideal for beginners and offers many species ranging in size from 30cm to 1m, all featuring colourful foliage and flowers.

A clumping habit makes Aechmea gamosepala (Matchstick Plant), a cold hardy, epiphytic species from Brazil, versatile as a groundcover and tree adornment.  
or try...

Cultivated in Europe since 1828, the shade-loving slow grower, Aechmea fasciata (Silver Vase), grows to 1m, both on and off the ground. Wrap roots in moss and wire to rough bark for a stunning vertical display.
Named after Swedish botanist Gustav Billberg, the Billbergia genus offers several species of colourful rosetted epiphytes, however some flowers, like those of Billbergia pyramidalis, are relatively short-lasting.
or try...

Beautiful and practical, Billbergia nutans (Queen’s Tears) forms a dense weed suppressing ground cover and requires plenty of moisture.

THE pineapple, Ananas comosus, is the most famous member of the Bromeliaceae family and the first one to leave the New World after Columbus took it to Spain in 1493. It is the only one of 3,000 species grown for its edible fruits. All the rest are tropical American ornamentals highly regarded for their varied, architectural forms and vivid flowers. Over 99% of bromeliads will flower only once, soon after producing multiple pups to continue their life cycle. The family is named for Swedish botanist and medical doctor, Olaus Bromelius.

Happy planting!


Monday, June 24, 2013

Keep Camellias Blooming - A Guide To Preventing Bud Drop

words and images by Lynsey Hughes

MY last house came flanked with a divinely tall, mature Camellia japonica specimen which thrived in the shade of a two-storey neighbour and produced a stunning carpet of candy- pink blooms each winter. All this buddy love without a single scrap of attention from moi!

Opening Bud Stage 1
Bud Opening Stage 2
Bud Opening Stage 3

Fast-forward to my current abode and you’ll see me hovering, gloved-fingers crossed, over a stubby, shrubby as-yet-unidentified Camellia, waiting for the first tight bud to reveal her winter petals.

Last year I was bitterly disappointed in this little woody shrub, which survives on the edge of a bed filled with tree stumps; the remnants of shade long gone, and no doubt a contributing factor in the pathological rate of bud-drop we experienced last winter.

Bud failing to open
It started out with such promise, too. Branches from top to bottom, were laden with scores of tiny green orbs which developed long enough for a small burst of pink hue to peep through only to drop to the ground or stagnate on a branch until brown and crisp. Aghast, I consulted gardening friends, the internet and pored over countless reference books to find a clear answer to the rather common problem of Camellia bud-drop, also called bud-balling.

It seems the causes are largely unknown, but a few common themes appear: lack of water, too much water, too much sun, too many buds, incorrect soil pH levels and the plain ol’ fact that some types, like formal doubles, are just more susceptible. Among the practical tips gathered (see below), all except number three were carried out last Spring. It’s been a slow drum roll so far, but it’s almost showtime. My bud clusters are looking plump, green and encouragingly healthy. A couple have burst their barriers, but only time will tell if we’ll be rewarded with a much-wished for explosion of blooms.

Six Tips To Combat Camellia Bud-drop

1. Pinch out buds by one-third in Spring. Over-production of buds can dilute plant resources, resulting in no beautiful singles, doubles or anemones unfurling. Best to reduce the number of buds at the early stage to ensure the lucky survivors receive adequate nutrients.

2. Ensure soil never dries out. Buds need coaxing with an adequate supply of water to see them flower. Maintain constant moisture during Summer while buds are developing. During the flowering season, heavily budded plants should be soaked well and often - once a week, especially if rainfall is low.

3. Provide enough shade. Avoid direct early morning sun in Winter to prevent dewy buds from burning and perishing. Remember, most Camellias hail from a woodland environment. 

4. Prune dead wood and any crossing branches that restrict internal air flow. It’s basic shrub management to stop pests and disease taking hold. Remove spent flower heads at the end of each season.

5. Ensure soil pH is slightly acidic, between 5.5 and 6.5, by using a soil testing kit. Lower pH with applications of ammonium sulphate, commonly found in specialty Camellia fertilisers. Throughout the year, sprinkle used tea leaves (Camellia sinensis) at the base to provide a boost of tannic acid. Or better yet feed with a Camellia and Azalea fertiliser for the best results. We have a range available at Four Seasons Nursery

6. Mulch with old compost in Spring to keep roots cool and well fed. 

Tea leaves are harvested from the Camellia sinensis, 
 and can be fed to your growing camellia.

Fast Facts
NAMED after amateur botanist and Moravian Jesuit Priest, George Kamel, who surprisingly never laid eyes on the species, Camellias grow wild in Japan, parts of China, the Himalayas and Indo-China.

Commonly cultivated in the West as ornamental shrubs and trees, it was the tea variety, Camellia sinensis that was first taken from China by the British to colonial India over 200 years ago.

They love cool, moist roots and slightly acid soil. The darker the flower, the more sun it can handle, especially the `ideal for hedging’ sasanqua varieties. 

Happy Planting


Monday, June 17, 2013

Grow Like a Pro no. 3: How to grow succulent asparagus & cultivate your patience

ABOUT this time last year, I took the plunge and included Asparagus officinalis `Sweet Purple’ on the list of edibles I planned to grow from seed. Excited by the prospect of harvesting my own nutty flavoured, deep burgundy spears for the next couple of decades, I have to admit I was daunted by the patience required to see these perennial vegetables through their infant years.

You see planting an asparagus patch is the gardening equivalent of becoming a parent. It’s a real commitment that requires foresight and a watchful eye. As a perennial, this graceful ferny plant needs permanent lodgings for a potential lifespan of several decades, so prepare your soil and choose your spot wisely. If container gardening is your only option, pick a nice deep trough positioned in full sun, adding a rich, well-draining but moisture retentive soil. Mixing through a product such as 5 in 1 will increase organic matter in the soil, helping it to feed your plants as well as hold moisture but still be free draining. Visit us at Four Seasons Nursery for all you manure needs.

As a gardener, the real test of your love of asparagus comes with the appearance of your first succulent shoots in spring. You mustn’t pick any for at least two years! Giving your asparagus crown time to build up its root system - three years is usual - in preparation for its years of productivity ahead, will test your patience, but the thrill of snapping off a spear which requires nothing but a light steaming before hitting your plate, will make you glad of your nurturing efforts.

Be prepared for a touch of seasonal maintenance in the early years, especially if female asparagus plants are revealed, producing bright clusters of tiny red seed berries in the first  year. Some gardeners will remove the girls (which produce pretty but much thinner spears than their fat male counterparts) and fill in the gaps with two year old male crowns. Others use the seed to create more plants.

For a decent supply of fresh spears throughout the growing season plant a dozen crowns per person. This will mean dedicating a good bit of room (see Step 2 below) to accommodate your asparagus patch and the beautiful drift of ferny foliage which will develop.

Follow these steps to Grow Asparagus From Seed. If you can’t muster the patience, plant two year old male crowns and harvest half of its spears the following spring. By the fourth spring you can get picking! But remember, never ever deplete all of the spears in the bed as this will eventually weaken the root system.

1.  Sow seeds in Spring when the soil temperature is around 25C (this can take up to 21 days, so don’t give up!). Fill a seed tray with a suitable seed-raising mix and place your seeds in manageable rows, covering them lightly with 5mm of soil.
2.  Transplant seedlings to 45cm apart in furrows about 20cm deep by 30cm wide, into deep, rich, well drained soil. Any rows should be 1.2m apart. Asparagus likes neutral or alkaline soil (6.5pH), so adding a touch of lime 3 weeks prior to planting can help balance any acidity in the bed.
3.  Fill in the trench as the seedlings grow taller, taking care to create enough support for the mass of ferny foliage which will develop up to 1.5m high.
4.  Remove female berry-producing plants in Autumn after the 1st year to prevent self-sowing and extra plants choking your bed.
5.  Mulch the bed with composted manure in Winter to feed the crowns ready for their spear production the following Spring.
6.  Harvesting should be avoided for the first 2 years, to allow the crowns to build up their strength. In the third year, harvest approximately half of the spears.


Named by the Ancient Greeks for it’s spear-shaped shoots, Asparagus officinalis is native to Central and Western Asia, Europe and North Africa. A known diuretic, long prized for its delicate nutty flavour, it was cultivated by the Ancient Egyptians and the Romans who believed it to be the King of Vegetables. To this day, it is associated with wealth and elegance - especially the white variety (which is the same plant grown underground without sunlight). It is a cool climate herbacious perennial which is not suitable for the tropics, but is ideal for coastal and sandy regions.

Happy Planting


For more information visit us at Four Seasons Nursery, 200 Forest Way Belrose