Time to shed those happy tears at this peach of an idea!

YOU CAN cry tears of joy at this news – the world’s first edible weeping peach is now all ready for planting – and delivering sweet mouthfuls.

Its apt name, taken from the adjective lachrymose meaning tearful, is Lacrima.

From Devon-based Suttons, this unique debutante will send out cascading branches that bear sweet, juicy peaches.

The yields begin from the second year of planting, so patience here will prove virtuous in the longer scheme of things.

The tree, reaching a height of 8ft-10ft and grown on Montclare rootstock, is perfect for small gardens and will delight by producing lovely pink blossom in spring followed by yellow-fleshed fruit in late summer.

Its other main credential is that it is self-fertile, so no worries about having to shell out for a similar, compatible variety. Lacrima does the job on its own and picking should begin in August.

One bare root tree costs £27.99.

Peaches – and nectarines, come to that – enjoy life in a medium loam with decent drainage and prefer a sunny spot to anything that’s too shady.

Despite fears to the contrary, they are quite hardy, especially in southern Britain, with nectarines ever so slightly less hardy than its better-known, close relative.

From peaches to persimmons, aka Sharon Fruit – not a particularly well-known fruit tree in the UK, though they deserve to be more widely grown.

They are well suited to life in a greenhouse, conservatory or a hot, sunny spot outdoor. Fruits should be picked in late October and allowed to ripen to sweet perfection on a sunny windowsill.

When ripe, eat them fresh by spooning out the smooth, custard-like flesh. You’ll find the taste is sweet and delicious, not terribly different from a mango.

They can also be used in desserts or even dried and will reach an eventual height of around 16ft.

Like peaches, persimmons are hardy and will respond well to a sunny spot. My own plant is probably in too much shade, but it is well clothed in foliage.

I pocketed the stone from a fruit I ate during a holiday lunch in Italy’s Puglia region some years ago, brought it home where it germinated in my greenhouse and was eventually planted out in the big outdoors. No fruits have been forthcoming yet, but there’s always another year.

Suttons persimmon, called Kaki, costs £31.99 for a young bare-root tree.

⏩⏩➡» www.suttons.co.uk or 0844 3262200.

⏩⏩➡» Juicy fruits: Left and above right – two images of Suttons new weeping peach, Lacrima; above right – Persimmon Kaki ready for harvesting.





What a difference one letter makes – or how two plants became one!

AND to think I was certain I’d spotted a typographical error in the plant catalogue.

There it was – Mukdenia Karasuba and, next plant down the page, Mukgenia Nova Flame. Which was correct, the “d” or the “g”.

Well, you can’t blame me for wondering . . . surely?

So now it’s confession time. Firstly I’d not heard of either of these shade-loving hardy perennials and, secondly, both spellings were spot-on and accurate  in Hartside Nursery’s latest booklet.

The reason for this “name game,” as horticultural boffins will recognise, is that one of them is a rare blend of two separate genera.

In this case, Mukgenia is a cross between Mukdenia and Bergenia, the well-known, spring-flowering  Elephant’s Ears.

I gather it’s the first time these two genera have been used in this manner. A nurseryman from Oregon, USA, dusted pollen from Mukdenia to fertilise an unnamed bergenia, knowing that the chances of success were boosted as both plants are members of the huge saxifrage family.

The outcome was dramatic – dark pink flowers from April to June and a mound of jagged, emerald green leathery leaves producing rich autumn patterns resembling brilliant scarlet flames.

Its Chinese parent, Mukdenia rossii, is also a hardy rhizomatous perennial bearing sprays of small, starry, creamy-white flowers and bronze-green, deeply lobed foliage that develops rich claret red tints in autumn.

Hartside stock two named varieties – Mukdenia Karasuba and Mukgenia Nova Flame.

Both relish damp summers and shady homes and both die back in late autumn, so do mark their spot with a white label and watch out for slugs and snails come the spring.

No doubt about it, both look irresistible – and that’s why I’ve ordered one of each!

Hartside is based near Alston, Cumbria, and run by Neil and Sue Huntley. Their plants have to be tough and resilient, growing as they do in the oft-chilly North Pennines, with 2018 a particular year of challenge, courtesy of the crazy weather.

I was immediately struck by the very reasonable prices of Hartside’s plants, most of them entering the realms of “choice,” “desirable” and “uncommon,” as well as many rarities.

Do study the hardy plant collections for even greater savings. Picking out three of these at random, there’s a bundle of eight dwarf rhododendrons discounted to £32; five primula vialii Alison Holland, a chance discovery of the popular “red hot poker” primula in a Northumberland garden and bearing pure white flowers and lime green-tinged buds (£25); and eight autumn gentians to include the sky blue Alex Duguid and deeper Blue Silk and The Caley (£32). There are also ferns, snowdrops and saxifrages . . . and look carefully and you’ll spy our friend the Mukgenia popping up with friends.

⏩⏩➡» http://www.hartsidenursery.co.uk or www.plantswithaltitude.co.uk/01434 381372.

⏩⏩➡» Confused? Top left – Mukdenia Karasuba; above – Mukgenia Nova Flame; above right – Hartside Nursery’s latest catalogue.


GROWING plants from seeds gives me a lot more pleasure than buying them mature and sticking them into the soil.

Why? Because you are there, right from the start, nurturing the tiny seedlings through their crucial, early days until they become stronger and self-sufficient.

In short, seed-sowing offers so much more satisfaction because you’re in for the longer haul and, when that first flower unfolds, you can gaze with pride and declare: “All my own work.”

And it’s so much cheaper!

Plant World Seeds has one of those catalogues that leave me quite engrossed during a spot of bedtime reading. Annuals and perennials from around the globe, from Acaena Blue Haze to Zinnia Purple Prince, followed by climbers, trees and shrubs, grasses and a bounteous array of veg, Plant World seems to have the lot.

Based in Newton Abbot, Devon, and situated on a supreme site overlooking the stunning Teign Valley, the family-run firm has produced a lively, 72-page catalogue for 2019 and – in a generous touch – only charges £2 per order for postage.

Now 33 years old, Plant World has often been dubbed Devon’s Little Outdoor Eden, reflecting the four acres of landscaped gardens being constructed as home to the five continents, while the nursery itself contains a wealth of rare and exotic plants seldom seen outside their native lands.

Among PW’s long-term work is that with erysimums, previously known as cheiranthus.

These are best-known as biennial wallflowers, normally planted out in autumn to bloom the following spring and then pulled up.

Plant World’s owner Ray Brown and his team have developed varieties that live for several years and come in all colours and sizes from 6in to nearly 3ft high. Jumbo Orange is the lofty one, long-lived, evergreen, shrubby and bearing fragrant bright orange flowers.

Other 2019 debutantes: Dahlia Autumn Dazzlers – a new generation of tall, elegant dahlias hybridised at Plant World. Hardy, single forms with the occasional dark-leafed specimen, make solid, almost shrubby, plants, flowering endlessly until the first frosts.

Erigeron alpinus Mauvette: Recently developed is this beautiful dwarf alpine (4in), adored by butterflies and bees, with golden-eyed mauve daisies that are darker than the species and happy to bloom from late spring to early summer.

Tomato Sweet Valentine: A well-branched bush F1 patio-type with a compact self-mounding or cascading habit full of attractive heat-shaped fruit and growing to between 12in-16in.

Sweetcorn Incredible: A sugar-enhanced mid-season variety, also an F1 hybrid, this is a reliable heavy cropper with a fabulous flavour. Plants show good tolerance of common rust which is a boon in wet summers.

For anyone new to seed sowing, the important lesson is: Don’t lose patience just because germination hasn’t happened.

Many hardy perennials can be notoriously slow to break dormancy, some will take several months, while others even need a spell in the fridge, paradoxically to wake them up.

Follow carefully the instructions on the packet and you’re sure to . . . suc-ceed!

⏩⏩➡» Plant World’s website has been drastically overhauled for increased mobile-friendliness and now features around six times more items listed than on paper. Go to www.plant-world-seeds.com

⏩⏩➡» Seed specialities: From top and clockwise – Erysimum Jumbo Orange, dahlia Autumn Dazzlers, erigeron Mauvette, the new catalogue, sweetcorn Incredible, tomato Sweet Valentine.

It’s still only mid-November yet Christmas has been with us a month!

NOTHING irritates my eyes and ears more than wandering around a superstore or garden centre in the first week of October and coming face-to-face with Santa and tinsel and having to listen to carols or some ghastly plastic creation suddenly bursting forth with “We wish you a merry Christmas”.

Believe me, it does happen. I could name a few prem-festive establishments but won’t be tempted if only to spare their blushes.

In other words, Christmas gets earlier and earlier each year as the retailers resort to desperate tactics to woo customers and sell their seasonal wares ahead of their arch-competitors.

Next Tuesday it will be five weeks before Christmas Day – still too early,  I reckon, to start winding up those Christmas jingles, but to save me from the “Bah, humbug, courtroom” here are a few ideas for gardeners to tick off their lists, courtesy of seed and plant people Mr Fothergill’s and Johnsons.

For anyone new to gardening Mr Fothergill’s offers patented GroBox (RRP £6.99) and GroMat (£4.99) ranges of easy-to-grow, pre-sown products. GroBox is a bio-degradable cardboard box containing four varieties of pre-sown vegetables or herb seeds in compost, which is planted, covered and watered in the garden or in a container.

The range also includes a children’s flower and veg garden.

GroMat is a two-metre, bio-degradable mat pre-sown with a mix of either flower or veg seeds and can be rolled out as it is or cut to fit any size of plot, border or container.

There are four windowsill kits (£7.95 each), each consisting of a galvanised metal container, seeds, compost and instructions.

Eye-catching grow kits in the caricature form of various animals would make perfect stocking-fillers to encourage youngsters to take an interest in growing from seed. The ceramic egg cup-style planters, known as Munakuppi – Finnish for egg cup – Hair Grow Kits are just £3.95.

Each Munakappi includes two sachets of seed – basil for short “hair” and ryegrass for longer “locks” plus compost and instructions.

For chilli lovers, there are Chilli Pepper grow kits (£4.99) for classic, great tasting, fiery red chillies or juicy medium-hot alternatives.

From Fothergill’s to sister company Johnsons – and for educational and entertaining presents for kids who like to get their hands dirty in the garden, the firm offers its Little Gardeners range. Starting from just £2.50, there’s plenty of choice, from seed starter pots and complete grow kits to flower mixes and activity kits.

There’s even a fully-functioning mini-greenhouse for them to construct.

The new Kitchen Seed Sprouter (£11.99) is a fanatstic gift for someone with little space outside. It’s a fuss-free way of producing fresh and tasty sprouts and microgreens all year round – and all from a kitchen windowsill.

Johnsons Microgreens Growing Kit (£4.99) is a simple way of producing baby leaves. Loved by chefs, microgreens are the closest thing yet to “instant” veg and add a fresh and punchy flavour to just about any savoury dish. They can be harvested with MicroSnips, mini-shears which can be bought from the Johnsons range for £3.99.

For that extra prezzie under the tree, the Johnsons Sarah Raven seed collections are a range of gorgeous cut flower and wildlife-attracting varieties. There’s rudbeckia Sahara with its delightful mix of soft coloured flowers (£2.60) and allium cernuum (£2.80) which bears blooms resembling a delicate chandelier.

⏩⏩➡» Both Mr Fothergill’s and Johnsons range of seeds and kits are stocked at garden centres, supermarkets and leading DIY stores as well as online at http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk and www.johnsons-seeds.com

⏩⏩➡» Happy Christmas gardening: Above – a selection of Mr Fothergill’s and Johnsons gifts. Right – Fun with Munakappi, the happy hair grow kit which I sprouted in my kitchen.



No need to cry – the Kelsae is back again after that disastrous Italian job

THREE YEARS after an epic Italian hailstorm wiped out an entire crop of the world’s most famous onion variety, the Kelsae is back from the dead. Thanks to the skill and dedication of D.T. Brown’s breeding experts, the fruit and vegetable seed firm have again been able to bulk up their mother stock of this giant onion to offer again module-raised plants to customers. It means that for the second year running D.T. Brown are announcing the availability of their exclusive Kelsae. Grown in four secret locations in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Holland and Italy, the company managed to harvest its biggest crop for several years, though are only offering it as modules for 2019 – as they were forced to do a year ago. DTB’s general manager Tim Jeffries – he took the doom-laden call from Italy three years ago after that storm – explains: “The Kelsae is a notoriously difficult crop to grow commercially and until the seed is harvested, cleaned and germination-tested it’s impossible to tell how much seed, if any, will be available for our customers. “This season, while the overall seed crop was good, the germination rates aren’t great and are lower than we are prepared to accept for offering it to our customers as packeted seed.” By selling them as module-grown plants, DTB has negated the germination issue and claims they’ll be doing the hard work on behalf of their customers instead. Plants will be despatched from late April and customers will receive healthy, strong young plants with well-developed root systems ready to plant out on arrival. Around show circles, the Kelsae has a legendary reputation that’s second to none. A regular winner at the National Vegetable Society national championships in the “large exhibition” and “1kg to 1.5kg” onion classes, it’s unusual in also having a delicious, sweet flavour. The variety has had an unrivalled pedigree for many years and is a first choice among growers who enjoy growing their onions with HUGE dimensions. They are available to buy now –  40 plants cost £12.95. ■ To order plants of the Kelsae Onion or to request a copy of the Fruit & Vegetable Grower’s Seed and Plant Catalogue 2019, write to D. T. Brown, Bury Road, Newmarket, CB8 7PQ, telephone 0845 371 05 32, or go online www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk Kelsae onion (DTB) ⏩⏩➡»Onion giants: Kelsaes maturing in the veg patch and (inset) how it dwarfs the human hand when grown in ideal conditions.


Phylliopsis Sugar Plum

SOME of the loveliest plants around are often those few have ever heard of – no matter what the shape, size or colour.

The one that springs to mind in my garden is a “little darling” that thrives in acid soil and which delivers its pink bells in mighty numbers and, as a bonus, also out of season – like now.

Its name – Phylliopsis hillieri Sugar Plum, pictured above. It sits in a rather unsunny spot, has reached no more than 6in high in the four years it’s been with me – without any trimming – and most certainly doesn’t call out for attention.

Unusually, this alpine is an exciting cross between two closely related genera, Kalmiopsis and Phyllodoce, and created by Hilliers Nursery in Hampshire in the 1980s.

The leaves are deep, glossy rich green, somewhat needle-like and up to half an inch long, so the little bells have no difficulty in rising above and putting on quite a show for a little fairy of a plant.

And even now, deep into autumn, several of those delightful blooms are tinkling in the breezes which is not at all bad for a plant that should flower in springtime and often again in summer. But a second repeat performance? Now that’s what I call a true champion.

I bought my phylliopsis from the excellent Hartside Nursery in Cumbria, whose owners Neil and Sue Huntley specialise in rare and unusual hardy plants that not only thrive in the challenge of the North Pennines but which are offered little or no protection from the chill winds.

The couple keep a terrific range of primulas, gentians, anemones, dwarf rhododendrons and erythroniums, the dog’s tooth violet, among others.

With Hartside’s lofty location in mind, it stands to reason all their plants have to be toughies. Which is why my phylliopsis has done rather well down here in the more balmy climes of Devon – and possibly because I do keep my eye on it!

⏩⏩➡»www.plantswithaltitude.co.uk/01434 381372 for a catalogue.




It’s all systems glow at Rosemoor – and a poignant poppy display too

TREES, shrubs and sculptures lit up with dynamic, colour-changing illuminations – it’s got to be the Rosemoor Glow.

This eye-boggling experience is back at the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Torrington for a third year in a row and it looks set to be the best yet.

The Glow runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 15 November to 5 January, with extended opening until 8pm and discounted entry after 3pm.

This year there’s a brand new route, with the illuminations spread to the lake for the first time.

But that’s not all. Rosemoor’s poignant Unknown Soldier and 100-strong ceramic poppy display, marking the centenary of the ending of World War 1 hostilities, will be a focal point and will be dramatically radiant in a new position.

Winter at Rosemoor is always a treat and can often be one of the most glorious sights in all seasons.

Soon visitors can once again soak up the atmosphere as the gardens glow thanks to innovative and vibrant colour-changing lighting, providing a magical festive trail around trees, shrubs and sculptures.

The award-winning Garden Kitchen Restaurant will, as before, be serving delicious, simple family suppers from 5pm-7pm – booking recommended – while the Shop and Plant Centre will stay open until 7pm too on these nights.

Visitors enjoy the launch of the winter illuminations at RHS Garden Rosemoor

Rosemoor prides itself on being environmentally friendly and, with this in mind, the lights have been created using a permanent electricity supply, as opposed to smelly and noisy generators, and LED lights have a!so been used for lower energy consumption.

The popular annual Winter Sculpture Exhibition will also be up and running, from 15 November to 24 February. Last year more than 40,000 visitors enjoyed the eclectic mix of exhibits set against the backdrop of the gardens.

This time the display has been freshened up with a high proportion of new exhibitors. Most of the sculptures featured are for sale.

To make the most of your visit, there is also a special Winter Wonders Garden Trail which includes many specimens from Rosemoor’s National Collection of hollies.

⏩⏩➡» For more information on events go to www.rhs.org.uk/rosemoor


⏩⏩➡» Glowing with the flow: Three images of last year’s electrifying display and one of a family making friends with a beautifully created deer. Pictures courtesy of RHS Rosemoor.