Dib-Dib-Dibleys houseplants will send you scouting around for some stunners!

thumbnail_StreptocarpusPolka Dot Purple (6)

◙►» Spellbinding: Streptocarpus Polkadot Purple.

JUST LOOK AT HOW AFRICAN VIOLETS HAVE BEEN TRANSFORMED INTO SURE-FIRE WINNERS

GARDENING isn’t just about mowing and hoeing in the great outdoors. And Dibleys isn’t just about streptocarpus any more.

Though acknowledged as the foremost breeders and suppliers of these evocative, funnel-bloomed house plants in the UK – maybe the entire world? – you’ll unfold a host of other genera as you turn the pages of the family firm’s new 56-page catalogue.

Saintpaulias (African violets), achimenes (hot water plants), various gesneriads, begonias, impatiens, tradescantia and coleus, now confusingly renamed solenostemon, are all listed and ready to adorn sunny window sills, living room tables or the greenhouse staging.

Those African violets have taken a quantum leap in form and appearance in recent years, from the plain-looking purple things we all seemed to grow back in the 1960s to the 1980s. Now, whether you select miniature, semi-miniature or standard hybrids, you’ll get a huge choice of colour and shape – singles, semi-doubles, fully double, frilly edges, star-shapes, trailers or uprights.

These dinky plants with the velvety leaves are surely on the brink of another popularity surge. And all low-priced between £2.70 and £3.30.

The streptocarpus, unsurprisingly, reign supreme in the handbook, with three home-bred newcomers taking centre stage.

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◙►» Ravishing in red: This variety is Leah.

There’s Leah in deepest velvety plum-red trumpets and beguiling white border, Zoe in a rare combination of violet-blue flowers fading into a white-yellow throat, and Lemon Sorbet, rated the brightest, zingiest variety so far with months of continuous bloom.

Not forgetting the extraordinary Polkadot Purple. Well, what can I say? Dibleys, for their part, say “the quantity and quality of blossom on this variety is probably the finest we have ever seen and one of the best-ever bred on our nursery.”

A star attraction indeed!

◙►» Violet-blue streptocarpus Zoe (left) with the bright yellow Lemon Sorbet.

Years ago I grew a lot of strepts and watched as some plants sent up a succession of elongated and spiralled seed pods that were full of some of the tiniest seed I had ever seen. But grow they did, as they also did when I took leaf cuttings by chopping up the ribbed foliage into short lengths and pushing each one into potting compost, sometimes held firm by short lengths of wire.

As for looking after them, they are not tricky customers provided they don’t want for natural light. And do keep a watchful eye on the foliage as greenfly are the main attractions!

◙►» Dibleys, from Ruthin, North Wales, will be exhibiting at 12 major flower shows in 2019 including, in April, Cardiff RHS Roadshow on 12th-14th and Harrogate Spring Show on the 25th-26th.

Lemon Sorbet will be on the catwalk at Chelsea in May when Dibleys will be attempting to gain their 30th RHS gold medal – a sensational achievement by any standard.

◙►» www.dibleys.com/01978 790677.

 

◙►» The changing faces of African violets: Top left – the lavender semi-double Anthoflores Edith; top right – the deep ruffled red Buffalo Hunt; above left – semi-double light pink flowers with blue splashes from Ness’ Midnight Fantasy; above right – raspberry-frilled edges of Okie Easter Bunny.

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Take a gaze at these multi-coloured stars for a truly vivid experience

Gazania Scilly
GAZE into a gazania and I’ll guarantee it will gaze back at you, all colours blazing – but not after the sun goes down.

As though drained of energy after flaunting their wares all through the sunny day, these supreme daisies bid us farewell under cloud cover or at dusk and simply close their petals away under the next dawn.

Under the noonday sun, gazanias stretch open this dramatic costume to brilliant effect, encapsulating the entire colour range, apart from true blue, but often including a rare bronze-green.

In her sumptuous book, Wild Flowers of South Africa for the Garden, the late Una van der Spuy writes: “Of all our native flowers, few produce as glorious a show of colour year after year, under the most adverse circumstances, as does the gazania.”

Nearer home, Oxfordshire-based Chiltern Seeds say gazanias have some of the most brilliantly coloured flowers to be found in the garden.

You dare not argue with either description!

Gazania2Lib

Widespread in South Africa’s Northern Cape province and natives of more tropical climes further north, gazanias mostly grow to around 8in-10in. Their lance-shaped leaves, sometimes smooth, sometimes toothed, are usually felted in pale silvery grey on the reverse side.

But it’s those truly eye-jerking faces – up to 2½in across – that set gazanias apart from other bedding plants.

Colours can include shades of scarlet, pink, orange, yellow, brown, bronze and white, some with striped and zoned petals and many with a black band around the eye.

Truly exotic-looking and true dazzlers!

Gazanias are drought-tolerant, relish hot, sunny homes and are best grown as half hardy annuals, though in south western and southern coastal areas they should survive year-round and behave like normal perennials.

Gazania Apache (Tre)

You can sow seed in early spring under glass or take basal cuttings in late summer or early autumn and overwinter away from frost.

They look stunning in pots as well as in formal beds and will hold their own in hanging baskets, blooming from June to October.

If seed-sowing takes your fancy – it’s not too tricky – go for Sunshine Mixed (£2.74) in a vast colour array or Talent Red Shades (£2.95) in vibrant hues that will add an extra layer of glow to the sunniest of days. Both these are stocked by Chiltern Seeds.

For garden-ready plants, try Tiger Stripes Mixed from Thompson & Morgan (£9.99 for 15, £14.99 for 30) or Shepherd’s Delight (£12.99 for 36 plugs, £19.99 for 72) which, T & M claim, will stay open even when the sun isn’t shining.

So you can carry on gazing!

⏩⏩➡» www.chilternseeds.co.uk/01491 824675.

⏩⏩➡» http://www.thompson-morgan.com/0844 5731818.

⏩⏩➡» Colour cascade: From top – a gazania I snapped on the Isles of Scilly; a beauty pictured on a relative’s farm; one blooming at a local garden centre; above left and right – all aglow in my own garden.

The irresistible taste of a new raspberry with an awesome aromaaaah!

Raspberry Summer Chef (Lub)

INTREPID fruit breeders have been on a meaningful mission – to rekindle childhood memories of how a raspberry used to tantalise the taste-buds and excite the nostrils.

Now, given that raspberries are my favourite soft fruit, I’ve never really picked those rich-red berries from my own garden and been disappointed.

Yet those fruit folk at Lubera dared to ask: “Hands up who has forgotten what a raspberry should really taste like?”

Maybe I’m missing something. Perhaps my own pickings – Autumn Bliss among them – have been good . . . but not that good.

So what super-fruit has prompted this contentious inquiry? Answer – a new berry on the block called Summer Chef.

I hear that the Lubera fruit team have been looking for a summer variety for home gardeners that combines a powerful raspberry aroma like that of Tulameen with robust growth and good cane health.

Enter Summer Chef to fit the bill. The aroma of the large, bright red fruits is profoundly intense and concentrated with distinct vanilla-like floral elements.

As for the plants and berries themselves, take a note of their credentials:

✴ An exquisitely powerful aroma, fruity and aromatic.

✴ A healthy and relatively compact growth, thick canes with few thorns – non-prickly – and able to overwinter well.

✴ A maturity time of July that’s right in the gap between summer and autumn varieties and bearing fruit on two-year-old canes.

✴ Canes won’t grow much past 3ft and can withstand winter winds and general seasonal chills.

Insiders at Lubera claim that the name Summer Chief was chosen because you don’t need a chef or creative cook for a raspberry with so much flavour. The fruit, after all, speaks for itself.

So will this prove to be a raspberry that eclipses all its summer rivals to soft fruit oblivion? The answer, of course, lies in that taste.

⏩⏩➡» Prices start from £7.40 for well-rooted, vigorous plant in a 1.3 litre pot.

⏩⏩➡» www.lubera.co.uk

Raspberry Summer Chef2 (Lub)

⏩⏩➡» Top and above: Take the tongue and nostril test with new raspberry Summer Chef from Lubera.

From antirrhinums to zinnias, this catalogue serves up colour and quality

Chiltern spring 2019

⏩⏩➡» Caramel and copper classic: This is Rudbeckia Sahara which gets top billing in the new catalogue and grows to a height of 2ft.

WITH phrases like “incredible edibles,” “ethereal umbels” and “explore the cosmos,” you know you’re in for a fun ride when you thumb through Chiltern Seeds’ new-look flower and veg catalogue.

So click your seat belts and let’s go!

For spring 2019, the family firm have produced a new-look, A4-size handbook that bursts with colour and info and is an absolute cracker.

Most pages are colour-coordinated, but there are striking displays of floral families such as antirrhinums – the popular snapdragon – cosmos, foxgloves, sweet peas and poppies as well as sections on veggies and herbs.

There’s a host of new varieties to tempt you, among them Callistephus chinensis King Size Apricot, an extra tall aster with large double blooms; Cosmos bipinnatus Xsenia in rosy-pink overpaid with an orangey, shimmering glow and, for the salad dish, Nasturtium Blue Pepe, specifically bred for its attractive blue-green, tasty, peppery leaves.

On a purely random scan through the 52 pages, I spent awhile gazing at Calendula Touch of Red Buff in beige-pink with darker brownish, vintage-effect petal tips; Papaver (poppy) somniferum Black Swan, a handsome dark purple-red semi-double with frizzy petals; Pimpella major Rosea, a charming cow parsley bearing umbels of tiny rosy-pink flowers on strong stems; Salvia horminum White Swan in white with green veining; Rudbeckia hirta Cherokee Sunset, a lofty late-summer performer at 3ft with large double blooms in shades of rust, bronze, gold and mahogany.

Delphinium consolida Salmon Beauty, the well-known annual still known as larkspur and in tall spires of papery salmon-pink flowers; Nicotiana Perfume Deep Purple, a rich and ravishing half hardy annual in deep, velvety purple; and Zinnia elegans Benary’s Giant Lime in an intoxicating lime green that’s decidedly different.

And that page of foxgloves? Let me simply say “Wow!”

⏩⏩➡» For a catalogue and Chiltern’s full range of seeds go to www.chilternseeds.co.uk or phone 01491 824675.

Chiltern foxgloves 2019

⏩⏩➡» Fabulous foxgloves: The digitalis darling of the country hedgerows is barely recognisable in a huge range of colours and statures.

How to beat Brexit – go labour intensive and make it a celebra-tory harvest!

Brexit fruit

FIRST-TIME mention of Brexit on these pages and I hope it will be the last. But what’s this – a plant and seed firm jumping on the political band-wagon or offering a bounteous Brexit deal?

Happily it’s the latter, with Suttons giving us the choice of three “Brexit Boxes” to get people sowing and growing – veg, salad and fruit.

Devon-based Suttons don’t pretend to know how the latest unsavoury and extraordinary scenes in the Commons will unfold over the next few days – who does? – but they remind us that government reports have warned that fruit and veg are likely to be one of the most vulnerable areas post-Brexit, with 37% of the fruit we enjoy and 40% of our vegetables being imported from across the Channel.

“That means there’s never been a better time to roll up our sleeves and get growing in  our own gardens – and the Brexit Boxes make it simple,” Suttons announce.

Each Brexit Box can be customised to include pots and containers or even growing tables, giving us a golden opportunity to pick fresh produce straight from our own gardens.

Though I don’t personally grow a huge amount of fruit and veg – apples, raspberries, plums, runners and tomatoes excepted – there’s something beautifully British about getting our hands covered in soil and coaxing the best from our plots.

And – a big bonus – we don’t need a huge outside space to join in the fun. So make the most of raising your very own edibles and, maybe, Brexit won’t seem quite so bad, after all!

THE “BREXIT DEALS”

Summer Veg Collection at £15 – 2 grafted cucumber Mini Star, 2 grafted tomato Shirley and 2 grafted aubergine Scorpio, all super plug plants.

Salad & Seed Box Collection at £12, providing 67 plants and three seed packs – 22 lettuce All Sorts Mix as value plugs, 45 spring onion plants as extra value plugs, seeds of beetroot Rainbow Mix, seeds of rocket lettuce and seeds of Radish Rainbow Mix.

Fruit Collection at £15, with six strawberry plants for summer-long picking and a blueberry that’s packed with goodness and a way of avoiding paying those lofty prices in the High Street – 6 strawberry Delizz as super plug plants and a blueberry in a one-litre pot.

All deliveries will be from mid-May.

⏩⏩➡» Check out a variety of bigger Brexit Boxes at www.suttons.co.uk or phone 0844 3262200.

⏩⏩➡»  Brexit bonanzas: Top – The Fruit Collection; above left – Seed & Salad Collection; right – Summer Veg Collection.

Schizo-what? This Oriental charmer will bark up the RIGHT tree!

⏩⏩➡» Not so much a hydrangea: The delightful and delicate lacecap-like flowers of Schizophragma hydrangeoides.
ALONG WITH schizostylis, schizopetalon and schizanthus, there’s another “schiz,” doing the biz, but this one had been new to me – until now, that is.

Schizophragma is “the other hydrangea,” if you like, and is often marketed as the climbing hydrangea.

Closely related they may be, yet schizophragma proudly stands independently with its two species – or four or even eight, depending on which book you open! – namely hydrangeoides and integrifolium.

Surprisingly perhaps, I’ve found a spare nook in my garden to grow the first-named, having scooped one up at a local garden centre, and its route will be up a mature ash tree, mirroring its habit of attaching itself to bark by its aerial roots, just like ivy.

Schizophragmas are natives of woodlands and cliffs of China, Korea and Japan and bear showy lacecap hydrangea-like creamy flower heads, but with large, conspicuous, sterile outer flowers that are more distinct than in hydrangeas.

My plant, a variety named Roseum and capable of soaring to 30ft, has its bract-like sepals flushed pink with yellow hints so should be quite an eye-opener.

Its leaves will be similarly serrated like those of hydrangea, though sometimes plants in species integrifolium can bear almost toothless foliage that will further set them apart from their better-known cousins.

I shall grow my new tenant in good-quality, mulched soil in what will be in a part-sunny, part-shady home.

In checking my gardeners’ dictionary, I read that schizophragma comes from the Greek schizo, meaning to divide, and phragma, meaning a fence or screen.

I then spotted the rest of the text: “Parts of the vase-shaped fruits on these climbing shrubs fall away leaving them skeletonised.”

Fruits? I wasn’t expecting to grow the bearer of fruit, so I can’t wait to clap eyes on this Oriental mystery.

PICASSO AND FRIENDS – SCABIOUS AS PRETTY AS A PICTURE

Scabious Woolmans 2019

MEDITERRANEAN sun seems to shine from scabious, one of our prettiest perennials for the summer display.

Commonly known as the Pincushion Flower because of the shape of its tiny florets, scabious – mostly natives of the Med region but also in Africa and Japan – has made quantum leaps in recent years as breeders worked towards creating bigger and bolder blooms.

And they seem to have succeeded, judging by the latest offering from ornamental plant specialist Woolmans.

The company have just unveiled five new hardy varieties which it claims to have the largest flowers they have ever seen.

Spotted at a Dutch grower’s trial and representing the latest development in scabious breeding, these unique varieties were bred for the cut flower market and produce plants with long, slender stems and sizeable flowers in a range of both traditional and unusual colours.

Over to Woolmans’ Tom Stimpson: “I knew we had to find a way of offering these unique varieties to our customers and hoped they would be hardy and strong enough to cope with our ever-changing UK growing conditions,” he says.

After testing the five newcomers over two consecutive years on their Suffolk trial grounds, Woolmans were thrilled to discover the plants overwintered successfully and bore copious amounts of flowers from early summer and well into autumn.

The large pincushion-like blooms are held high on stems up to 20in in length and generally support themselves.

“The colours just gorgeous with clear differences between each variety – I can’t recommended them highly enough,” adds Tom.

The collection of five, pictured above, consists of purple Gauguin, bright red Matisse, white Munch, lilac Royo and velvet red Picasso.

⏩⏩➡» Woolmans are offering a collection of five young plant varieties for £18.95, to be despatched from mid-May. To order the firm’s Chrysanthemum & Ornamental Plant Catalogue go to www.woolmans.com or phone 0845 6589137.