From a pluot to a fig discovered on the banks of the Thames – it’s Pomona

Pluot Flavor Candy

AFRUITFUL opening decade in business is being celebrated by Pomona, the experts who put the flavour and tastebud torment into all things fruity.

In launching their 68-page autumn 2019 catalogue, Pomona Fruits hail the arrival of several tempting new varieties, including a strawberry, raspberry, fig, blueberry, walnut and a pluot.

A what? Well, like a labradoodle in the doggy world or a heucherella in the plant world, pluot is a hybrid that’s genetically 75% plum and 25% apricot . . . as opposed to an aprium that’s threequarters apricot and a quarter plum. That’s no joke – it’s in the catalogue too.

Pomona principal directors Claire Higgins and Ming Yang, who boast a combined 50-plus years of expertise in fruitfulness, endeavour to bring us a few surprises each year and, at the same time, continue to market those tried, trusted and long-established names that never fade into obscurity.

So let us start with that pluot which is named Flavor Candy and delivers heavy crops of red-flushed fruits with yellow flesh. Fruits are as big as a peach and combine the juiciness of a plum with the fragrant taste of an apricot. Season: Early September.

Strawberry Malling Allure: Matching the high quality of Malling Centenary but 14 days later to produce. The orange-red fruits are juicy and sweet, plants are heavy yielding and have good resistance to powdery mildew. Late June-late July.

Fig Chelsea

Raspberry Malling Juno: Early to ripe and heavy to crop, berries are medium size with firm texture and sweet to taste. Spine-free canes and resistant to cane diseases. Late June-mid-July.

Fig Chelsea: Found growing on the banks of the Thames close to Chelsea Bridge – yes, honestly! – this variety is a cropper supreme and shows great hardiness to chilly weather. Fruits are pale brown when fully ripe and have an excellent flavour without being sickly-sweet. Compact, so suitable for small spaces. August-September.

Blueberry Hortblue Petite: The world’s first double-cropping blueberry, producing a crop in July followed by a further delivery in September. The dark blue berries are small but taste superb. Shrub reaches 3ft maximum and will do well in patio containers.

Walnut Europa: The naturally dwarf variety crops generously and fruits just 2-3 years after planting. Nuts are large and the kernel sheds its skin easily when the nut is opened. Delicious creamy flavour with no bitter after-taste.

There are also two new asparagus contenders which many will consider as veg rather than fruit and it’s worth noting what Claire and Ming say about it: “In our opinion there is no other vegetable that beats home-grown asparagus, simply steamed and served with melted butter or Hollandaise sauce.”

Blueberry Hortblue Petite

Aiming to emulate such praise is Guelph Eclipse, bred by the University of Guelph in Canada, thriving in cooler conditions and producing heavy crops of thick, succulent, green spears. Early-mid season. Alongside this one is Vittorio, with medium-thick green spears, superbly textured and can be grown as white asparagus if the plants are covered with a mound of sandy soil and harvested before they push through the ground. Early season.

Pomona offer a supreme range of apples – nine pages, in fact – plus two pages of crab apples, or malus, which are perfect for jam or jelly making. And lots more fruit to suit all tongues – gooseberries, blackberries, currants of various colours, grapes, pears, cherries, gages, damsons, plums, peaches, apricots, mulberries, quinces  . . . the list just goes on and on.

Make the most of Pomona’s 10% discount on selected items if ordered before 30th November. 440410

Fabulous fruits: From top – the pluot Flavor Candy, fig Chelsea, blueberry Hortblue Petite, walnut Europa and Pomona’s latest catalogue.




A firm with 250 years of rose-growing knowhow unveils its 2020 newbies

Cants cat 2020

ANOTHER rose catalogue slides through the letterbox . . .  but here is something truly historical. Cants of Colchester proudly announce they have been in the rose trade for more than 250 years.

Now that’s worth a wow! The firm was founded way back in 1765, the year a young George III was early in his 60-year reign and the birth year of Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who took the world’s first photograph in 1826 from an upstairs window in Burgundy.

So Cants has pictured a few thousand varieties come and go over the centuries.

For as long as I can recall, Cants has been in the hands of the Pawsey family and has evolved into one of the most highly respected rose empires across the entire globe.

The 48-page 2020 handbook packs in a huge quantity of info, tips, advice and ideas, including planting and pruning.

On planting, one of the Cants team told me how she had overheard to her “horror” that a radio caller on the Essex Gardening Show had been advised to pot up a bare-toot rose until it had become established and then transfer to the open ground.

No, no, no! If a rose could protest it would surely beg not to be dumped in a tub first.

From experience, I’ve never found roses to be totally at home in pots or tubs, but if is it absolutely necessary do keep a close eye on your watering routine and make sure pots are no less than 14in deep or 12in in diameter, with a sprinkling of a granular feed after the spring pruning and again in mid-June.

Rose Sweet Honey (Cant)

Cants front page “pin-up” is an exclusive floribunda called My Lovely Friend and raised by Gareth Fryer, while other newbies include the 2020 ROTY – Rose of the Year – Sweet Honey, a tallish, fragrant floribunda in delicate apricot shades bred by Kordes in Germany, and a delightfully fragrant yellow hybrid tea named Golden Delicious.

For those who warm to the dark and mysterious you’ll find a handful of deep purple contenders – Twilight Zone, Midnight Blue and Ebb Tide – which come in the sort of colours aimed at getting the neighbours talking.

You’ll find an impressive range of roses in this catalogue – HTs, floribundas, English Roses, ground coverers, old-fashioned shrubs, patio, Renaissance and rugosa varieties, species and a mix of standards.

Back in 1765, King George would surely have given Cants a royal seal of approval – and maybe even grew one or two in the palace gardens! 844008.

Rose Golden Delicious (Cant)

Ravishing roses: From top – the new Cants catalogue highlighting My Lovely Friend;  Sweet Honey; purples clockwise – Twilight Zone, Ebb Tide and Midnight Blue; Golden Delicious.

A bloodthirsty zombie with ghoulish petals – yes, it’s a tulip!

Fosteriana tulip Zombie (Lub)

AS DESCRIPTIONS go, this has to be one of the most cut-and-thrust I’ve ever heard – a tulip that has a bloodthirsty bloom with red-rimmed, yellow eyes and ghoulish pale petals.

Add to that a spooky combination of wistful delicacy with a hint of danger that is bound to draw you into the Lubera labyrinth of no return.

This time I’m not guilty, m’lud, of such a colourful portrayal of perhaps our favourite – or maybe our second favourite – spring flower.

The clue is in Lubera and in the tulip’s name – Zombie. And, for good measure, the flower and veg experts advise us to “watch it crawl out of the soil in spring”.

Lubera are, of course, focused on Halloween with what they say is a perfect trick or tulip treat for all flower bulb lovers.

Zombie – yes, it’s hard to imagine a beautiful tulip given such a handle – is pink-red with a yellow edge. Bulbs should be planted about 4in deep and 4in apart and the firm cheekily announce that the “Vincent Price” for ten bulbs is £3.90.

This variety, along with two other recent introductions, Red Alert and Purissima, are Fosterianas, one of around 15 different types in the Tulip Divisions which include such names as single and double earlies, Darwins, lily flowered – my favourite – Gregeii and Rembrandts.

Fosterianas are among the earliest to bloom, usually from early to mid-spring, and reach a height of between 12in and 20in.

Of course, even though you may order Zombie from Lubera, you will have to be patient for a few months before you see the rewards – long after Halloween is done and dusted.

Check out Lubera’s many other tulips at

Just remember that name . . . and mind how you go!

Tulip Red Alert (Lub)

Tulips Purissima (Lub)

Tantalising tulips: From top – Zombie; Red Alert; Purissima.


ULB planting is now in full swing. If you keep your eyes peeled you can pick up some tempting bargains, especially from the narcissi family.

But here’s a piece of handy advice: If you discover one or two bulbs are soft to the touch do not plant them as they and doomed and will not survive.

If they do go underground, they will rot and contaminate the soil and that will do the healthy bulbs no good at all.

As October wends its way into November, the risk of finding a few “softies” increases as packs or nets have been hanging around the warmth of stores or garden centres for some weeks.

The rule of thumb is: Check each bulb individually. If there is any sign of give as you squeeze gently, turf it out to protect the healthy remainder.

Heucheras: Rockies stars with vibrant coats of many colours

thumbnail_Heuchera Morello

WHETHER you  pronounce them hoo-cheras, her-cheras, hoi-cheras or hew-cheras is entirely your choice, but one thing cannot be misinterpreted – their luscious leaves take some beating and, as I write, they are hot property right across the UK.

Heucheras – popularly articulated as hoo-cheras with a ‘k’, not a ‘ch,’ – are the kings of ground cover and princes of gorgeous colours.

Their often frothy, bell-shaped flowers, in white, pink, red and fascinating combinations, are no shrinking violets either!

Over the past two or three decades, these hardy American woodland perennials – many originating in the Rockies – have been transformed from near-unknowns to nationwide treasures.

It’s easy to see why. Their fabulous foliage comes in almost every colour of the rainbow – sorry, no true blues – ranging from the rich red of Fire Chief to the striking green of Key Lime Pie and beyond to the purple tints of Frosted Violet.

And the variety that sits on practically all supermarket shelves – Palace Purple, boasting a livery of metallic bronze-red leaves and delightful greenish-cream flowers with red anthers. Ubiquitous but undeniably still among the best.

thumbnail_Heuchera Indian Summer

Just as dog breeders have crossed a labrador with a poodle to create a labradoodle, so those clever botanical boffins have merged heucheras with its close cousin tiarellas to offer us heucherellas – a relatively new plant group that combines the dark bronze veined highlights of tiarellas with the leafy hues of the amber heucheras.

Flowers, usually white or pink and starry, tend to be smaller than those of heucheras, while tiarella blooms are “frothier.”

As for giving this trio their shangri-la, it’s worth noting that most thrive in shade or part-shade, though a few varieties – especially the darker types – are just as happy under the sun, so it’s best to check before you buy, depending on the sort of garden you look after.

The real colour explosion began in the US in the mid-1990s when Marmalade and Lipstick hit the headlines, while today there are even trailing varieties of heucherellas perfectly suited to life in hanging baskets or window boxes.

As a rule, heucheras are hardy and evergreen or semi-evergreen, depending on nwhether you live down south or up north. One new growth is spotted in spring, snip out the tatty, older leaves for a seasonal tidy-up.

Heuchera Blondie in Lime (St J)

Remember, too, not to overfeed as this tends to make them less hardy and somewhat dishevelled. A high potash feed about a month after planting will help to enhance the colour of the young foliage.

Some famous varieties – Persian Carpet with burgundy leaves and purple veins; Snow Storm in marbled silvery white; Marmalade, in an unusual “Paddington Bear” shade darkening towards the centre; Paris in shades of green, dotted white and with long-lasting rose-red flowers; Chocolate Ruffles, with cocoa-brown and burgundy ruffled leaves; Can-Can with maroon leaves marbled with silvery-grey and pink panicles; and Firebird, with glowing crimson-scarlet blooms over dark green foliage marbled pale green.

There are many, many more awaiting a home when you scour the garden centres. Heuchera – an adaptable choice with a coat of many colours!

Two leading growers – Vicky and Richard Fox at Plantagogo Nursery in Crewe, Cheshire, have held the National Collection for ten years and grow 450 varieties, while Julie Burton grows more than 350 different sorts at Boldre Nurseries, Lymington, Hants, which rejoices in its popular title  of Heucheraholics. 820335 670581

Flirtatious foliage: From top – Heuchera Morello; Indian Summer, both pictured in my garden today; Blondie in Lime; two stunning displays showing the heucheras’ range of colours, top, at St John’s Garden Centre, Ashford, Devon, and, above, at Bernaville Garden Centre, near Exeter.

The forgotten face of the dazzling dahlia: Go collar a collerette!


THE FLOWER with a thousand faces is no bad way to describe the dahlia.

Yes, there is a distinct Marmite flavour about them as I’ve known gardening zealots deride them as suckers for earwigs and blackfly, a mushy mess in autumn and a pain in having to dig up the tubers and keep them snug in winter.

Yet, dismissing all these moans and groans, I quite like these mid-summer to mid-autumn flamboyant charmers. Let’s face it – not everyone likes roses!

Of all the numerous different forms of dahlia, there’s one that has been largely ignored, both by amateur growers and exhibitors.

They are members of Group 3 in the classification list – the collerettes.

These are the delights with an outer ring of petals which are flat and reasonably broad and with  a central ring of smaller florets – the collar – that are usually half the length of the outsiders.


The effect of this central cluster set again the back petals offers a unique form that is perfect for colour contrasts, such as yellow and bright red, as well as many other permutations.

Note the spelling of collerette. It’s not collarette, contrary to what many gardeners and retailers believe.

The spelling is not only oddly confusing, but many catalogues incorrectly use an ‘a’ instead of an ‘e’.

But I am assured that ‘collerette’ is correct and that assurance was given to me by an old friend of mine, Philip Damp, whose book, Growing Dahlias, is a definitive work on the genus.

Philip, who sadly died some years ago, was full-time general secretary of the National Dahlia Society with his office based at his home in Leamington Spa.

He was a champion exhibitor and international judge for more than 35 years and won gold medal awards from several European countries.

I had the chance to interview this genial fellow for a newspaper feature when I lived not far from him, in Coventry, in the 1970s.

Philip explains in his book that collerettes originated in France at the turn of the century and were quickly exploited by British flower traders.

That’s not surprising since the colour variation is huge and, as cut flowers and for floral art, they also earn top marks.

Dahlia forms, of course, are many and varied and have made quantum strides since arriving in Britain from Mexico about 200 years ago.

Nowadays, there are are 11 groups – single-flowered, anemone-flowered, waterlily, collerette, peony-flowered, decoratives, balls, pompons, cactus, semi-cactus and miscellaneous – and five sizes, ranging from giant flowered down to the miniatures.

Collerettes used to top 3ft or more and so needed staking, but breeders are gradually trimming their stature to make them more bed-friendly and manageable.



Dazzlers: From top – A parade of dahlia Pooh at Dunster Castle; Pooh up-close with a Painted Lady dropping by; two more collerettes in contrasting colours and pictured in my garden;above – a spectacular cactus dahlia in red and yellow and one unusually coloured in pale pink and cream.

During last weekend’s visit to Dunster Castle in Somerset I noticed a spectacular display of the collerette Pooh in vibrant orange-red and yellow. Several clusters of collerettes came under my admiring gaze at RHS Harlow Carr in Yorkshire a few days earlier yet, overall, seeing them in beautiful bloom tends to be an exception rather than routine.

More’s the pity!

So next time you take a dip into dahlias so consider the collerettes – a forgotten form in urgent need of a profile push.

To find out more about the National Dahlia Society- established in 1881 – email the secretary, June Nash, at or go to Alternatively, write to the secretary at Woodside, Warwick Road, Chadwick End, Solihull, B93 0BP.


These roses will grow on you -and stir the memory of those happy days


ROSES are like pop songs in the way they can mirror life’s memory milestones.

Whenever, for instance, I hear Del Shannon’s No 1 hit Runaway, it reminds me of my one and only family Euro-holiday in my late teens in 1961.

A few years later, in 1965, the Seekers’ The Carnival is Over was topping the charts at the precise time our first-born arrived.

And there’s still a tangible emotional tug all these years later whenever the Four Tops’ 1968 hit Walk Away Renée comes over the airwaves, coinciding as it did with my agonising search for our cat that disappeared into the night and never returned.

Ah, the memories, happy and not so!

Fiind That Rose 2019

Roses, too, do the same, far more effectively than any other flowers, simply because many varieties stand the test of time and often survive more than a century after taking their first public bow.

Several such roses exist for me, such as the pink Victorian hybrid perpetual Mrs John Laing and the pale pink China rose of similar vintage, Cecile Brunner – both still in commerce after a century and more – and the modern purple-pink HT Lady Iliffe that has recently died on me. All of these far too personal a nostalgic journey for airing here!

And many others, I must add, that have vanished into the archives but which still evoke personal memories.

Find That Rose! is a handy booklet that tells us who grows what. Now in its 37th edition, it has again been painstakingly compiled by its editor Angela Pawsey and lists no fewer than 3,750 varieties, 138 new or reintroduced varieties and around 34 leading rose nurseries complete with contact and general info details.

Inside its 76 pages, you’ll find chapters on roses with specific christian names, where to find rose fields or display gardens, handy tips, rose nurseries that export or sell wholesale as well as retailers and, of course, a mile-long scroll of varieties that includes a fragrance indicator, a colour code, the type of rose, date of introduction and all those nurseries in the frame.

Taking centre stage on the front cover is 2020 Rose of the Year – known as the ROTY – Sweet Honey, an upright apricot-yellow blend fragrant floribunda raised by acclaimed German breeder Kordes and unveiled at July’s Hampton Court Show.

In short, for a quick reference, perusing a fascinating name game and a guide that doesn’t take up a chunk of space on the bookshelf, “FTR” is a smart spend.

To buy a copy of the handbook to include postage, send a cheque for £4.70, made out to Find That Rose, to Angela Pawsey, 303 Mile End Road, Colchester, CO4 5EA. To purchase a download for £2.90 go to the website for details.



ADDENED to hear of the recent death of Lady Anne Berry, a wonderful plantswoman and an iconic figure in the world of horticulture – not least because in 1988 she gave her home, Rosemoor at Torrington in North Devon, lock, stock and everything floral to the RHS.

Anne was three months short of her 100th birthday when she passed away at her home in New Zealand, her adopted country where she had settled on marrying her second husband, tree expert Bob Berry, in 1990.

Remarkably, Bob was 102 when he died last year, giving the couple each a glorious innings and a shared love of all things horticultural and arboricultural.

Yet – and here’s the intriguing twist – had Lady Anne not caught measles in 1959 one wonders if she would have ever become a plant fanatic. She went off to Algeciras in Spain to recuperate and, while there, she met Collingwood Ingram, a noted English plantsman, who opened her eyes to the world of flowers, shrubs and trees.

Collingwood then sent her numerous plants from his own garden in Kent . . . and that became the catalyst  for the start of Anne’s huge collection based at Rosemoor.

By 1979, after travelling thousands of miles globally to check out plants’ likes and dislikes, she opened a small nursery at Rosemoor, by 1987 she had more than 1,000 items in her catalogue – and the rest is, of course, history.

In 1980 her first husband, well-known councillor and local mover-and-shaker Col Eric Palmer, died and eight years later came the supreme gift to the RHS. By 1990 Rosemoor went public and has expanded into the international garden and learning centre it is today – a sort of Wisley of the West.

Without Anne Berry it is doubtful if Rosemoor, in its present multi-awardwinning, multi-activity form of 68 stunning acres plus woodlands, would have existed.

Harlow Carr – steering its way as one of Britain’s truly magical gardens


Rudbeckias and echinaceas create a contrasting colour palette.
AT LAST I’ve made it to Harlow Carr – Rosemoor’s sister RHS beauty box “up North.”

Mid-September is perhaps not the best time of the year to enjoy eyefuls of colour and vibrant shapes and statures, yet no way was I going to be disappointed. And I wasn’t.

Slightly smaller at 58 acres than North Devon’s Rosemoor – just ten miles from my home – and to the discerning eye somewhat less formal, Harlow Carr lies in the heart of rural Yorkshire, just a mile and a half from that elegant town, Harrogate.

From its early life as a Victorian health spa, Harlow Carr has blossomed into a garden brimming with variety and dominated by water, stone and woodland.

Originally known as Harlow Car – the second ‘r’ was added later, though I wasn’t able to find out why – the garden welcomed its first public visitors in 1950 when overseen by the former Northern Horticultural Society.

Dahlia Bright Eyes, the Diarmid Gavin Garden and the stunning Euonymus alatus compactis.

A series of influential curators guided the garden’s development throughout the second half of the 20th century, despite being hampered by a paucity of funds. Then along came an RHS-NHS merger, followed by TV publicity and backing from gardening “celebs” such as Percy Thrower and Geoffrey Smith – and the momentum duly accelerated. So did the cashflow.

Nowadays, as I quickly found out, it’s a garden of immense charm and contrast, full of meandering streams, wildflower meadows and surprises, seemingly around every corner.

You’ll discover such delights as an alpine house, scented and foliage gardens, streamside and lakeside walks, a host of borders, a teaching garden, kitchen garden, tree house, arboretum, plant centre, gift shop, some eye-popping animal wood sculptures and the renowned Betty’s Tea Rooms and Tea House.

Sensational cactus dahlia and a superb squirrel wood carving.

Autumn may have cast its mantle, yet my camera was kept busy snapping a host of still-dazzling dahlias, vivid Euonymus alatus Compactis, rows of sunny rudbeckias, columns of sweet peas, Scabious Flutter Deep Blue and a Happy Pig among the rhubarb, to name just a few subjects.

Harlow Carr, pride of Yorkshire, is a garden of creative planting, inspirational design and practical ideas. And, just as crucial, you’ll feel a million miles from those ever-busy highways and hectic pace of day-to-day life.

If ever you find yourself in Harrogate, there’s a glorious 1½-mile walk through the town’s Valley Gardens and cool pinewoods that will take you right up to Harlow Carr’s entrance.

Alpine zone

Impressive features in the Alpine Zone.

Happy pig&rhubarb

He’s hogging it! The Happy Pig sits among the rhubarb.


Alnwick Gdns2

The Bamboo Labyrinth will keep you guessing on how to get out.
FURTHER north, I stayed a few days at Alnwick – pronounced Annick – a lively market town lying somewhere between Newcastle and Berwick.

My second wander around the famous Alnwick Gardens in nine years was as enjoyable and eye-consuming as the first.

Its fascinating features across 12 acres range from a Bamboo Labyrinth and Grand Cascade – fountains and a superb waterfall as a garden centrepiece – to a Poison Garden where potentially dangerous plants such as henbane, woody and deadly nightshade, laburnum and arum thrive.

There’s also a rose garden, a flowering cherry orchard – the largest Tai Haku orchard in the world – roots and shoots garden, woodland walk, water sculptures, music, arts and theatre, an astonishing treehouse restaurant, daily guided tours and surrounded by a lovely pastoral landscape in the heart of equally lovely Northumberland.

And looking imposingly down is magnificent Alnwick Castle, the second largest inhabited castle in England after Windsor and home to the Duke of Northumberland’s family, the Percys, for more than 700 years.

As well as historically important, its fame has spread to modern times as starring roles in a number of film and TV productions, featuring as Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter films and as a location for ITV’s Downton Abbey.

A clump of colchicums, often known as autumn crocuses, create a bright spot and (right) a red admiral makes the most of a sunny day.