A brand new fruit – but its name may give you a dose of indigestion!

thumbnail_Robustikosa® Promessa di Giugno

JUST as well, perhaps, that we are spared having to visit our favourite fruit shop to ask: “A pound of Robustikosen Promessa di Giugno, please.”

It’s enough to make you choke on that stone in the middle of the flesh!

This is a fascinating newcomer where ordering online will most certainly prove far more appetising. And, right now, it’s the only way to pave the way to growing a tree in your own garden.

Those Swiss fruity rascals from fruit breeders Lubera have been beavering and breeding away to produce not one, but three gorgeous sweet varieties of Robustikosen. But what, you may ask, is that?

It’s a brand new stone fruit that’s an exceptional alternative to apricots. The Lubera team were struggling to find apricot varieties which were guaranteed to last in our climate – and that’s where robustikosen come in.

They are much smaller than apricots, weighing just under an ounce and resembling a giant cherry, yet their aroma, sometimes the leaves and shoots and especially the fine, hairy skin, are reminiscent of the peach’s smaller cousin.

Because two of the varieties are in extremely short supply, I am telling you about Promessa di Giugno only to avoid disappointment.

thumbnail_Robustikosa® Promessa di Giugno (1)

Quite a mouthful: Top – An attractively laden branch of Robustikosen Promessa di Giugno; above – fruits all ready to be savoured.

On close inspection, the fruit skin is not smooth and glossy but has very fine hairs giving a velvety impression – just like apricots, actually – only that the fruit colour is much darker.

For such an early fruit, this newcomer boasts an aroma both excellent and intense and a taste principally like that of an apricot but with hints of plum.

The variety was bred from seedlings of Eastern European black apricots that had freely faded. Among the selections from these seedling populations, Promessa di Giugno is the one with the brightest, reddest colour, as well as delivering that fascinating plummy-apricotty tang.

Harvest from the end of June, growth is attractively branched and very healthy and you’ll find the stone, or pit, is quite small.

So spit the pit and you’ll vote it a hit!

A strong tree in a 10L pot costs £37.40.



It’s almost late August so time to smooth out the garden’s rough edges


LATE AUGUST – which will be upon us in less than a week – can leave our gardens looking slightly rough around the edges.

It’s that time of year when the roses have strutted their stuff on Lap 1 and should now be trimmed back for the start of the second and final lap of the season.

Many herbaceous perennials are beginning to look tired and overworked and should have their spent heads clipped off to encourage the plants to send up a few more blooms in autumn.

Buddleias have had their say, therefore no point in letting them hang on to their unsightly bloom husks, so it’s best to do two jobs for the price of one –  dead-head and hard-prune. By cutting back fairly brutally, you are doing the tree a favour as, next year, it will have retained its shape and send up lots of healthy fresh shoots.


Poppy seed capsules can be left in situ as they provide an attractive autumnal image, but do be aware that seeds are produced by the thousand and most annual poppies will simply grow where the seed drops. You could end up with a veritable Pandora’s box on your hands, so be prepared for action!

It’s a sure sign that we are into the second half of summer when the shop shelves become laden with daffodils, tulips and numerous spring flowering bulbs.

It is always best to plant earlier rather than later, so try to complete your springtime ambitions by October’s end. By doing this you are giving the bulbs longer to settle in and to put down strong roots, as well as reducing the chance of daffs coming up “blind.”

My most precious plant – Arnebia pulchra, aka Prophet Flower – is doing well in a sunny spot and I look forward to welcoming its golden yellow blooms, each with a fading purple-black spot, next April. As reported here earlier, it has taken me around 50 years to track down a supplier, so I keep a daily eye on the progress and welfare of my “Half Century Hero”.

Always remember to dead-head dahlias as this most certainly boosts chances of dazzling blooms right up to the time Jack Frost has the final say.

And don’t forget – you can still sow hardy annuals straight into the bed for blooming in five to six weeks. Godetia, cornflower, love-in-a-mist and nasturtiums spring to mind and, if some plants don’t make it into colour this year, they will jump the gun in a few months’ time and bloom several weeks early in 2020.


Warts and all: Top – Leucanthemums in my garden beginning to look frayed around the edges; centre – a clump of agapanthus now past its best; above – my prized Arnebia pulchra which has picked up a couple of gaps in the foliage, no doubt from those lovable slugs.

A few jobs in the veg patch worth a shot:

◙ Sow another drill or two of lettuce and, as seedlings emerge, thin them out and keep the remainder well watered for rapid growth.

◙ Check over cabbages and other brassicas for caterpillars and deal with them as you think fit.

Start to ripen onions by sprinkling small quantities of sulphate of potash around the plants and hoe it into the soil, taking care not to collide with the bulbs.

◙ Cover autumn-fruiting raspberries with fine garden netting to ward off hungry birds as the berries ripen.

Continue to sow spring cabbages at intervals in shallow, wetted drills, covering with dry soil and transplant to 6in apart when the seedlings can be handled safely.

◙ Raise marrows off the ground slightly, not only to allow them greater exposure to the sun but to help prevent rotting caused by the fruits sitting on damp earth. A block of wood or a couple of housebricks will do the job.

Pot up herbs such as chives for winter use by lifting a clump from the garden, split it two or three ways and rehouse in pots using multi-purpose compost. Cut back any old foliage and water well. You can also sow parsley now for winter cutting, either in outside drills or in a cool greenhouse – or even on the kitchen window sill.

A Jewell of a garden is rewarded after 30 years of NGS fundraising

The Croft4

ASUNDIAL to mark 30 years of opening for the Devon National Garden Scheme has been presented to Sam and Margaret Jewell.

The couple live at The Croft at Yarnscombe, a rural idyll somewhere between Barnstaple and Torrington, and received the sundial from North Devon NGS organiser Jo Hynes, who made the point that teas served at The Croft were simply “delicious”.

They open for the final time this year on Sunday.

Sam and Margaret are surrounded by a one-acre plantswomen’s delight featuring an exotic Japanese garden with tea house, koi carp pond and cascading stream, tropical garden with exotic shrubs and perennials, herbaceous borders with unusual plants and shrubs, bog garden with a collection of irises, astilbes and moisture-loving plants and a duck pond.

There are exotic borders and new beds around the duck pond and bog area, with a large collection of rare and unusual species.

This garden was shown on Gardeners’ World last October and featured in Amateur Gardening magazine both in 2016 and last September. It was also featured twice by myself in the North Devon Journal many years ago, but I fear it was too far back for me to be precise! I do recall, though, that the garden was an absolute delight even way back in the mists of time.

This year the Jewells celebrate their NGS landmark year and during this period there have been numerous visits by individuals and groups from Holland, France and Belgium, as well as from many clubs and organisations in the UK, and many return visits by people overwhelmed by the display and its plant diversity along with many other features.

Sunday’s final opening is from 2pm to 6pm. There are home-made teas and plant sales. Admission is £4 for adults and free for children.

✴ To find the garden, the postcode is EX31 3LW.  From the A377, turn opposite Chapelton railway station and follow Yarnscombe signs for three miles. From the B3232, a quarter of a mile north of Huntshaw Cross TV mast, turn east and follow Yarnscombe signs for two miles. Parking is available in the village hall park.

✴ www.ngs.org.uk or pick up a Devon NGS 2019 booklet.

✴ Top – A proud Sam and Margaret Jewell with their commemorative sundial; above – delphiniums and hydrangeas adorn the couple’s stunning one-acre garden.

Rosemoor gets on its marks for three days of flower showmanship

Rosemoor Show2

WEATHERWISE, it’s not predicted to be a memorable weekend – especially tomorrow – but let us hope it doesn’t mar major events at Rosemoor Garden, near Torrington in North Devon.

But panic not if you don’t fancy a watery visit to the only RHS Garden Flower Show in the South West.

It’s not only on tomorrow but Saturday and Sunday too, each day 10am to 5pm.

I’ve already reviewed the exciting programme here, so let’s just say there’s a whole heap of activities around the garden’s 65 acres set in a beautiful Devon valley.

Attractions include the opening of Rosemoor’s new Cool Garden, dazzling floral displays, flower power in the garden shelters, a local community “village,” expert advice on hand, fabulous food and drink, live music drifting through the gardens, the Gift Shop and Plant Centre and, of course, numerous specialist and rare plant nurseries and trade stands – currently more than 40 – where info talks will be ongoing, as well as from Rosemoor’s garden team.

There’s a free park and ride shuttle from Torrington Rugby Club (EX38 7BT) and from South Street car park (EX38 8AE).

All this and more adds up to a day out where enjoyment and adventure are surely blooming well guaranteed.

✴ www.rhs.org.uk/rosemoor

Rosemoor Show3 (RHS-Jim Wileman)

✴ Top – Colour cascade: Tara Pahari, a staff member at Rosemoor, arms herself with sunflowers as she prepares for tomorrow’s annual Flower Show opening. Above – And here she is again amid a myriad of colour in one of the eye-catching beds. Pictures courtesy of RHS/Jim Wileman.

A campanula cousin but best not to struggle with its name!

KEEP your eyes peeled next time you stroll around your favourite garden centre and you may just spot something out of the ordinary.

I did just that at Merry Harriers Nursery, near Woolsery, North Devon, when my gaze unearthed a nondescript-looking little plant at the rear stalls and looking rather lonely.

Its name was new to me – Symphyandra zangezura, which is not too easy to recite unless you practise a few times.

Inexpensive at under £3 – OK, it had no blooms to show off – I duly took it home and went to look it up, surprised that my two or three main plant “bibles” gave it not a mention.

I then found the genus in the A-Z of Garden Plants by Kenneth A Beckett and discovered it was closely related to the popular campanula – but with subtle differences. Yet my particular species was not included among the three or four others such as armena and hoffmannii.

Symphyandra (PW)

✴ Beautiful bells: The glorious blue petals of Symphyandra zangezura.

Its common name is Caucasian Ring, or Rock, Bellflower after its native region of Armenia and bears pretty bell-shaped, dangling, lilac-blue bells and hairy, jagged-edged leaves on a wiry-stemmed cushion between 8in-12in high and a similar spread.

This particular hardy symphyandra tolerates full sun or part-shade, lives in normal or sandy soil and blooms in high-summer. Its recurved petals are especially appealing.

Perfect for a stony rockery or front-of-border, Symphyandra zangezura should live for several years, given optimum conditions.

Now for the tech spec: The anthers are unusually fused together instead of splitting as in the true campanula. But otherwise the flowers look very much like campanula and several nurseries now list it as such.

I was pleased to discover seeds are stocked right here in Devon by Plant World Seeds, of Newton Abbot, but do be patient as germination may take several weeks or even months. As for plants, these are available from Kevock Garden Plants, of Lasswade, near Edinburgh.

Both nurseries also offer an impressive range of conventional campanula species in their respective forms.

✴ Factoid: The name symphyandra comes from the Greek symphuio, meaning to grow together, and aner, meaning anther, referring to the way the anthers are joined.

✴ www.plant-world-seeds.com/01803 872939.

✴ www.kevockgarden.co.uk/0131 4540660.



Z is for Californian fuchsia – and it’s zimply zuperb!

RIGHT at the end of the plant directory or nursery listings you’ll come across the Californian fuchsia.

How come, you may well inquire? It’s because it is botanically Zauschneria californica – a little known 90% hardy perennial that performs impeccably in my border beneath the shelter of a sizeable pyracantha.

And it’s a smashing little gem of a plant that hails from sun-soaked California.

What surprises me most of all is that my one and only specimen gets little or no TLC, yet it produces its brilliant orange-scarlet tubular flowers in profusion from July to early autumn, alongside slightly hairy grey-green leaves.

In fact, to halt its determination to spread, I pull out several “wandering” wiry growths each year. The stems are very brittle and I confess I’ve accidentally snapped a few when gathering a heap of fallen and dried-up pyracantha leaves around this time of year.

The sun-loving zauschneria has four species, with californica the best-known by far. Its most attractive feature is its protruding stamens, somewhat fuchsia-like, that gives it its popular title.

Zauschneria G3

Z to A : Top – Up-close shot of the glistening funnels of zauschneria; above – my expansive plant with an Agapanthus in the background.

And in its native US, I’m told the fabulous funnels are a magnet for hummingbirds.

Increasing this plant is something of a challenge – something I’ve not yet attempted. You can take cuttings of basal shoots when 2in-3in long and usually in May, while seed sowing is another choice, though I haven’t discovered a UK supplier.

Bu if it’s plants you are after, I’ve found a nursery that sells the hybrids Western Hills, Ed Carmen and Dublin, all of which will almost certainly be slightly superior to the basic species.

Good luck with this rarity!

Try East Northdown Farm Nursery in Margate, Kent, on www.botanyplants.co.uk/01843 862060 or 07714 241668.

Plant, plants and more plants – it’s a three-day show treat at Rosemoor


THE ONLY RHS Garden Flower Show in the South West returns next week to North Devon – bigger and better. And if last year’s spectacle is any guide it’s going to be  another absolute cracker.

For three days, from 16 to 18 August, Rosemoor Garden at Torrington will do what Chelsea, Hampton Court and Chatsworth have difficulty in achieving – offer a lovely relaxed atmosphere and experience where the crowds wander around in first gear and at their own pace.

And the show is that bit different from the rest.

Unlike traditional shows such as those big two in London, Rosemoor’s “show gardens” are permanent features.

And instead of a large a cramped floral marquee, the nurseries taking part – more than 40 are expected – each have a mini show garden and their own marquee, spread throughout the stunning 65 acres of gardens.

Key changes this year include giant floral installations created by top florist Jonathan Moseley which include huge RHS letters, and famous at such RHS shows like Chelsea, Tatton and Cardiff, together with two archways stretching across the Long Borders.

Rud Indian Summer

Jonathan  will also be giving flower arranging demonstrations on all three days.

There’s a brand new Very Hungry Caterpillar Floral Display Trail created by local floristry clubs and linking five garden shelters . . . which is also theme for the summer holiday trail for families.

Rosemoor is also proud that the brand new Cool Garden designed by Chelsea gold medallist Jo Thompson will see its official opening at the show. This new garden, with its flowing water features, has been designed to inspire gardeners dealing with heavy rainfall and flash floods caused by things like climate change.


✴ Jonathan Moseley will have created some stunning floral installations and will be on site for three days to talk about British flowers.

✴ Staff will be on hand to talk to visitors about the design and planting of both the Cool Garden and the Hot Garden.

✴ A new Community Village with a number of local charities, businesses and other organisations including Devon Air Ambulance, North Devon Beekeepers, Tarka Valley Railway, Torrington Rotary and Children’s Hospice South West among others.

✴ Relax by the lake while listening to music and sipping on a proseccco or Rosemoor’s very own gin. Keep an eye out for acoustic minstrels ambling through the showground.

✴ The enlarged Plant Centre & Gift Shop will be hosting book signings from local authors such as Liz Shakespeare, talks from specialist nurseries and stocked with pretty well everything horticultural and souvenir-esque.

✴ A limited number of early admission VIP ticket for Friday and Saturday, giving ticket holders guaranteed on-site parking and exclusive early access to the show from 9am – an hour before normal admission.

✴ Free park and ride shuttle from two locations in Torrington – the Rugby Club at EX38 7BT and South Street car park at EX38 8AE.

The show  promises to be a grand day out for all the family and is included with normal garden admission, but free for RHS members. Non-members can either enjoy 10% discount by online booking or can join the society either on entry or exit.

✴ rhs.org.uk/rosemoor

Glad nanus Volcano

✴ Ravishing Rosemoor: From top – Crowds flock to the 2018 garden show; Rudbeckia Indian Summer; a collection of colourful heucheras (left); lofty gladioli captured much attention; the vibrant pink, splashed purple, of Gladiolus nanus Volcano.