Molten Gold is its name but just what colour are its blooms?

DROPPING BY at the excellent Bernaville Nursery on our way home from Exeter last week, I spotted some interesting plants in a “three for £10” tempter.
And, naturally, my temptation caved in!

One of my choices was a rhododendron called Molten Gold, widely regarded as one of the best – if not the best – variegated rhodo currently on the market.

My own plant is quite small, though even without its pinky-purple trumpets it still looks handsome in its striking foliage of dark green splashed with a cream-yellow flash.

I’m told it seldom reverts to solid green, as happens with many variegated plants, but I will still keep a watchful eye as it grows . . . just in case.

Molten Gold is hardy and evergreen and will demand a lime-free home like most rhodos and azaleas, though my soil does veer towards acid so no worries there.

But I had to smile when I checked a few facts online, not least the disparity in the plant’s colours which appeared to be deep purple according to plant firm Thompson & Morgan. Hardly molten gold!

My own label seems more accurate, describing the flowers as “soft pink” though, bizarrely, there’s no mention of the variegated foliage dividend in the write-up to back up the pretty picture on the label.

Molten Gold will eventually reach around 6-7ft high, flowers in May and June and will be happy in full sun or partial shade.

Whatever colour finally emerges, I shall be happy to strike gold early next summer and, hopefully, for a few years down the line . . . just like the gardener who discovered it for the first time on his Norfolk patch a few years ago and probably shouted “Eureka.”

⏩⏩➡» A rhododendron by any other colour? Top – as it appears on the label; above left – as it shows on the Thompson & Morgan website; above right – no doubt about its gorgeous variegated leaves.



Rose reference book lands in a bed of thorns, but let’s keep it blooming

AHIGHLY-USEFUL reference book for those passionate about roses is fighting for its financial survival – after 36 years of continuous publication.
Find That Rose! which tells all you need to know about every rose in commerce, is battling a series of setbacks that could mean the 37th edition won’t hit the printing press.

Editor Angela Pawsey bemoans “a tale of woe” in her 2018 preface notes.

Adding to the handbook’s troubles were a lack of publicity, the closure of the Royal National Rose Society, a shrinking number of professional growers,  the achievement of only modest sales and the loss of Find That Rose’s website after what appears to have been some fraudulent activities from a firm of website designers resulting in a sizeable sum of Miss Pawsey’s cash going missing.

This loss, she says, proved “extremely upsetting and costly”.

As things stand, she adds, it is difficult  financially to justify Find That Rose’s existence. With these problems in mind, she is unable to commit in advance to another edition.

That, surely, would be a major loss to the rose world.

Find That Rose! lists no fewer than 3,700 varieties in all classifications across its 74 pages. There are sections on many aspects, including how to  find a rose with a particular christian name, roses for special occasions, roses named after your favourite Royal Family member, varieties lost in the past year, contact details of nurseries and much more.

So if you are searching for Rhapsody in Blue, for instance, you’ll see it became Rose of the Year in 2003, is stocked by 32 growers, has exceptional fragrance and is a lilac-purple floribunda.

But if you’re after an oldie such as Cynthia Brooke from 1943, you’ll find only one stockist and that it is a hybrid tea in yellow blends.

A rose for twins? There’s Double Delight and Dynamic Duo. A golden wedding? You’ll find a dozen varieties with suitable names for the occasion.

So you can help to keep Find That Rose! in the public eye by sending a cheque for £4.60 (to include postage) to The Editor, 303 Mile End Road, Colchester, Essex, CO4 5EA, with payment made out to Find That Rose.

As well as a heap of info, you’ll also receive a discount voucher towards purchases of roses from participating growers.

Also available is a 40-page booklet, What’s in a Name?, covering the origins of over 500 varieties and including an additional leaflet with updates and around 150 further varieties added since its publication. This costs £2.40 to include postage.

⏩⏩➡» Since the demise of the RNRS 18 months ago, a new groups has germinated and seems to be flourishing – the Rose Society UK – which has garnered valuable support from the rose trade. To find out much more, go to


Find That Rose 2018

⏩⏩➡» Find That Rose – is there a future? Pictured is the 2019 Rose of the Year, a climber, Starlight Symphony.

A monster new blackberry sure to bring music by the mouthful!

NO FRUIT evokes memories of country lane rambles better than the humble blackberry.
Bags, baskets or tubs overflowing with those so-juicy, so-tasty deep red fruits and fingertips to match – there’s nothing quite like a few hours of blackberrying in the peace of those rural lanes.
But blackberries don’t have to be wild and wonderful. Over the years, cultivated blackberries have become increasingly popular for growing right outside your kitchen door or on the local allotment.
Fruit experts Lubera have scored with a new version of the Navaho range. And they are beckoning customers to “Come with us and feel the sticky, sweet, sensuality of the Big Easy.”
Lubera are quick to point out they are not talking about New Orleans or the wonderfully atmospheric 1986 film starring Dennis Quaid and set in America’s music city, but instead a brand new blackberry.

This, say Lubera, is a worthy successor to the original Navaho.  It has a strong and upright habit, just like the the mother of the Navaho blackberry family, and large leaves and flowers, which make this variety really stand out.

Ahhhhh….but what about the fruits? Are they worthy of such a wonderfully mysterious name? Lubera insist: Indeed, they are, with black, elongated, cone-like fruits which are about 30-50% larger than the Navaho Bigandearly berries, and much larger than the original Navaho.

But can such a big black fruit even taste good?  “Yes”, comes an immediate response. “The Big Easy tastes great.”

It must, of course, be harvested when ripe and then it has a balanced ratio of sweetness and sourness as well as a fine blackberry flavour, which is somewhat perfumed and more conspicuous than, for example, the old standard variety Loch Ness.

✴ Maturity/Harvest: Medium ripening, starting a little later than Bigandearly and the harvest does not last as long as Summerlong.

✴ Fruits: Huge, elongated, with relatively large, individual fruits. Despite the size, the whole fruit, including the calyx, is very pleasant to eat. It almost melts on the tongue.

✴ Flavour: An intense blackberry aroma, slightly perfumed, with enough sweetness.

✴ Price: From £13.90 for a plant on a bamboo stake in a 3 L container.

Musical note: In the early 1900s there was a dance hall in New Orleans called The Big Easy. But the nickname didn’t become famous until the early 1970s when a Louisiana newspaper writer began calling the city the Big Easy, comparing the easy-going pace and music-loving lifestyle to the hurly-burly of New York city, aka the Big Apple.
Blackberry The Big Easy (Lub)
⏩⏩➡» Finger-licking good: The huge fruits of The Big Easy 
which boast an intense blackberry flavour.


Take a bow, oh fragrant one, and remember to trail, not climb!

TEMPTATION resisted! Under no circumstances should I sow sweet peas before the third week in October – and maybe later.

I always choose an autumn sowing because it gives the plants time to grow a strong root system and, of course, it means blooms as early as the following May.

But sow the seeds too early and, if temperatures are higher than average, they will emerge within days and grow far too quickly for the time of year, so it’s wiser to let them struggle a bit and earn their keep!

I may even delay until the first few days of November if the predicted Indian summer materialises.

Autumn sowings will naturally mean the flowers will finish by July’s end or August’s beginning, so it is not a bad plan to wait until springtime for a second dip into the seed packet that will guarantee lots of colour until summer 2019 draws to a close. Simply pull out the old plants, turn the soil, work in some compost and a handful or two of fish, blood and bone, and pop in the new generation.

And here’s news of a debutante sweet pea from Suttons of South Devon that trails instead of climbs and who hail it as the perfect way to bring scent and colour to a small garden.

Fragrant Tumbler “does what it says on the tin,” as the somewhat overworked saying goes.  You can grow it in pots, tubs or even growbags on the patio where the plants, having minimal tendrils, will cascade and trail, smothered in sweetly scented blooms in a decent range of colours.

If you wish, allow Fragrant Tumbler to tumble over the edge of a raised bed or low wall or for use as summer ground cover in a garden border.

It will bloom from June to August with a height of between 3ft and 3ft 3in and spread across 40in-60in, producing two – and sometimes three – large, frilly picotee flowers per stem, smothering the plants in glorious fragrances and a rainbow of shades.

As a useful bonus, sweet peas are perfectly hardy and are just what the butterflies and bees will be searching for.

And they will be well worth cutting and popping into a vase for a few days of heady scents. Or how about presenting your neighbour with a bunch for an instant smile?

⏩⏩➡» or phone 0844 326 2200.

Sweet pea Fragrant Tumbler (Sut)

⏩⏩➡» P for Perfection: A potful of Suttons Fragrant Tumbler.


A 6ft oddity from Paraguay – where pistol duelling is still legal!

PARAGUAY. Most of us have heard of it, some of us can pinpoint it as a landlocked nation in the heart of South America, but few of us have actually visited the place. And package tours to Paraguay seem in short supply.

My curiosity over this somewhat mysterious country was brought into sharper perspective when I sent for a packet of seeds of a plant that’s native to Paraguay and which I hope to have in “flower” by next year.

It’s one of the many species of eryngium, though not the sort we see flaunting its spiny and striking foliage and trying to be scary.

The Paraguayan sort of eryngium was ebracteatum, a six-footer which thrives in the country’s moist pastures and is certain to surprise us all by displaying no bracts whatsoever.

Chiltern Seeds (, who stock this oddball of a plant, say it forms a basal rosette of narrow, glaucous, sword-shaped leaves. From the centre rises a lofty stem with many wiry peduncles, carrying at their ends dark maroon “cylinders” that sway with the breeze and sound like a swarm of wasps. And that’s why I called them “flowers”, not flowers.

In fact, the stems are so wiry that, against a white wall or background, they look appear almost invisible.

This strange-looking hardy perennial is one of many eryngiums you’ll find listed in Chiltern’s “unputdownable” catalogue, including bourgatii, the Mediterranean sea holly, alpina Blue Star, the alpine sea holly and Miss Willmott’s Ghost, so named after the renowned and eccentric Victorian and Edwardian horticulturist.

So what else to we know about Paraguay, one of only two nations – the other is Bolivia – without a coastline?

✴ It’s a bilingual republic, with Guarani as its first language and Spanish its second. Its national flower is the passion flower, Passiflora caerulea.

✴ It shares borders with three countries – Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil.

✴ Its capital is Asuncion and its rail link to Encarnacion was the first railway line in South America, constructed by British engineers from 1858 to 1861.

✴ It is home to huge swathes of swampland, subtropical forest and chaco – wildernesses consisting of savanna and scrubland.

✴ The Paraguay River runs through the centre of the county from north to south.

✴ Paraguay has a population of just over seven million and is ruled by President Mario Abdo Benitez.

✴ The country receives 99.9% of its electricity from hydroelectric plants, with 75% of that coming from the Itaipu Dam.

✴ Pistol duelling is still legal, provided both parties are registered blood donors.

⏩⏩➡» Images of Paraguay: Top left – Eryngium ebracteatum; top right – Passiflora caerulea; below – a ceiba tree; above – dramatic Jesuit ruins at Antisema.


Plot your path to becoming an expert veggie grower – the Rosemoor way

IF YOU fancy running your own veg plot, sowing, hoeing, harvesting and learning how to grow it, then Rosemoor’s 2019 allotment course may be right up your garden path.

The famous garden and educational centre at Torrington, Devon, is once again looking for ten gardening enthusiasts to take part in their informative and practical allotment course which begins next February.

Successful candidates will receive expert RHS tuition, have their own plot to tend, and take away home-grown harvests. They will receive regular allotment master-classes and weekly access to their plots, all in Rosemoor’s picturesque woodland setting.

Course leader Pete Adams said: “Our allotment course has grown from strength to strength over the past four years, and once again we are excited to welcome new novice vegetable growers to join us to learn from our expert team.

“We offer brilliant facilities, all the equipment and the know-how for a successful year of vegetable growing. So why not apply to join us for the 2019 course!”

The course attracts a small fee of £50 which covers the cost of the gardening boots, seeds and a contribution towards materials.

Students will have access to their plots every Wednesday (10.30am – 4pm) and attend two-hour tutorials at the start of each month.

The course is open to everyone, with the 2018 intake coming from a great variety of backgrounds and across all age groups. But they all have one thing in common – the passion for and a willingness to learn the basic principles of growing your own vegetables.

The hope is to see a similar diverse group of people apply this year too.

Comments from previous graduates:

■ “Thank you Pete, it’s been a blast! I’ve had so much fun and learnt lots” – Julie.

■ “What a wonderful experience. Thank you Peter for all your hard work and advice. This opportunity to learn gardening skills is so valuable” – Dan.

■ “Thanks, Pete. Working the allotment has made me realise that with the right knowledge and well-worked soil I can grow great veg. I’ve found the experience just so rewarding and great fun with great people.” – Steve.

The course will run from February through to the end of the year. Applications close on  26 November 2018.

To apply, please write to curator Jon Webster with a brief personal background (approx. 50 words), stating why you would like a beginner’s vegetable plot at Rosemoor (approx. 50 words), and indicating what you will do with your new knowledge (approx. 100 words) and letting us know how or where you found out about the course.

By post: Jon Webster, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington Devon EX38 8PH.

By email:


Open Art Exhibition, to Sunday, 23 September

Autumn Plant Heritage Plant Fair, Sunday, 23 September

Real Ale & Gin Fest, 28 – 30 September

Course-goers planting out

Harvesting carrots


Top – Happy horticulturists: Two young course-goers planting out; centre – harvesting carrots; above – the fruits of effort and endeavour. Pictures: RHS Garden Rosemoor.


EVERYTHING’S coming up ruby for seed and plant firm Mr Fothergill’s, with a late summer spectacle that simply glows red.

The Suffolk company are toasting 40 years in business this year and, as part of their ruby anniversary jollifications, they have created a Ruby Garden in Capel Manor Gardens at Enfield, Middlesex.

Mr Fothergill’s has a long-standing relationship with the horticultural college and, this year, a new and exclusive sweet pea bore Capel Manor’s name.

Pim Dickson, horticultural and technical content manager, comments on the new garden: “It’s a beautiful showcase for some of our most popular, as well as more unusual, red-flowered varieties, all of which produce a mass of flowers all summer long.

“Every year we design new spring and summer gardens and supply the seeds so horticultural students from Capel Manor College can grow the plants, plant them out and maintain the gardens as part of their studies.”

Among the most distinctive plants are french marigold Red Cherry producing bold double blooms, gaillardia Firewheels with its stunning burgundy flowers which are also a magnet for butterflies and other pollinators, and salvia Blaze of Fire that develops sizzling red-hot spikes of colour through the summer into late autumn.

French marigold Red Knight has open, weather resistant blooms, aster Balloon Red is great for cutting, with large domed flowers, and sun-loving, drought tolerant gazania New Day Red Shades F1 shows off its vibrant colour.

The garden is currently at its peak and sits alongside a host of other interesting gardens.

A dedicated leaflet can be found in the Ruby Garden greenhouse and at the Capel Manor Gardens entrance, which includes a map and details of all the flowers, along with a few words about Mr Fothergill’s anniversary.

All featured varieties are available as seeds and/or plants from Mr Fothergill’s retail stockists throughout the UK and from the company’s latest seed catalogue or online. Visit your local garden centre for the full range or head over to

Capel Manor College educates new generations of horticulturists, offering a range of courses for those who are interested in plants, trees and the environment.

The college grounds double as a garden open to the public for most of the year, with events including bushcraft, lambing weekends, heavy horse shows, leatherwork and garden festivals.

⏩⏩➡» Ravishing rubies: Top – part of the new Ruby Garden; centre – pennisetum Rubrum grass with gaillardia Firewheels; above – rudbeckia Cherry Brandy.