It’s been a while

Somehow, Easter 2015 is almost upon us. We’ve been sweeping, weeding, tidying and generally sprucing the place up because we’re opening for the year on Good Friday, 3rd April. We’ll also be open on the Saturday and on Easter Monday, from 10am to 3pm on those days. We have a selection of bulbs, including dwarf narcissus, tulips and crocuses, as well as new peonies, Dicentra spectabilis Alba, drumstick Primulas, Bergenia, Camelia, Pulmonaria, Erysimum and some hardy Palms. We hope to see you then.

Regular readers will have noticed our blog posts rather tailed off last summer. I wish I could give you an exciting reason but no, we didn’t win the lottery or anything like that. We just had too much on to keep it going. 2014 was a great year for us and the nursery was very busy, so writing up the blog got pushed further back down the list of things to do.

2015 is going to be different – we’re going to devote more time to writing and publicising the blog, and hopefully keep you up to speed with the exciting things we have in store.

One of the things we did get finished last summer was the installation of a solar powered irrigation system. We have no mains electricity on site, so we needed to come up with a system that relies on renewable energy. We’re lucky that our son is a keen design engineer and so we put the whole thing in his capable hands.

If you are of a technical persuasion, you can read about how he designed and created the irrigation system on his blog. Without giving away the ending, his system works perfectly and has saved us a 2-3 hours a day during the height of the watering season.

Mix and match herbs

You can tell it’s a Bank Holiday Weekend because it’s raining. But we don’t care – this weekend we’re all about herbs. With summer just around the corner (we hope!) now is the perfect time to plant a herb garden.

We have 20 different herbs to choose from, including Tarragon, Parsley, Rosemary, Coriander, various types of Mint, assorted Sage, Fennel, Bay, Sorrel, Chives, Marjoram, assorted Thyme, Lavender, Oregano and Basil. We also have Artichokes and Nasturtiums.

Sizes start at 9cm pots for £1.75 (buy 10 for £15 to set up a small herb planter), and we have larger Sage, Thyme, Parsley, Rosemary, Bay and Lavender plants too.

We also have the usual wide range of garden perennials in stock.

This weekend we’re also open on Monday, 10-4. Hope to see you there!


Looking Good: Geum ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’

As the season moves into late spring it’s getting harder to choose a highlight. We have lots of plants looking at their best right now, but this weekend we’ve picked Geum ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’ – we have a sneaky feeling you might be seeing a lot of Geums this year at Chelsea…

Also known as Avens, this low growing hardy perennial sets many beautiful red/orange, semi-double blooms to brighten up your spring border. It’s easy to look after – remove faded flower heads to encourage further flowering, and prune back hard after flowering to rejuvenate the foliage.

It likes full sun or partial shade, in all soil types except dry. Geums flower from late spring through to late summer.

Looking Good: Diascia ‘Blush Pink’

New in, and looking good this weekend is Diascia Sundiascia ‘Blush Pink’ – a brand new series of Diascia bred to give an exceptional display of blooms over a very long period.

More robust than other Diascia, with longer flower spikes, they will give a stunning display in containers and borders all summer long and well into the autumn.

Slug resistant, Diascia Sundiascia ‘Blush Pink’ prefers well-drained soil in sun or part shade. Height and spread is 30-45cm (12-18”). A half hardy perennial, new shoots may be cut back by hard frosts but the crown will survive to -8°C – but it might be a good idea to take semi ripe cuttings in summer just in case.

Looking Good: Hosta ‘June’

We have a fine selection of hostas here at Blackfordby Nursery, and Hosta ‘June’ is one of my personal favourites.

Shown here in the foreground, ‘June’ is a compact, clump-forming herbaceous perennial with large green/grey leaves which develop a yellow centre during the summer. It produces pale purple flowers in late summer.

‘June’ prefers moist but well-drained soil, and partial shade. It has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Also pictured behind are Hosta ‘Regal Splendor’ (left) and Hosta ‘Patriot’ (extreme right). ‘Regal Splendour’ is a taller plant, growing to a height of 30cm, with blue/green leaves with cream/white margins.

‘Patriot’ is possibly the best white-edged hosta. It has mid-green leaves with wide white margins. A real stunner for the border or shady patio.

The sworn enemy of hostas are slugs and snails – but you can grow hostas without resorting to chemical slug pellets by mulching around them with crushed egg shells or coarse gravel, or hair clippings work well. Beer traps in jam jars sunk into the ground also work. If you want to grow your hostas in pots you can buy self-adhesive copper tape to encircle the top of your pots, that slugs will not cross. At the nursery we are lucky in that we have a family of frogs on-site, and they keep our hostas slug- and snail-free.

Bedding and hanging baskets

New in – we now have a fine selection of plants for bedding and for summer hanging baskets:

  • Trailing geraniums (white) which will flower all summer and into autumn.
  • Zonal geraniums – we have large 3-litre potted ones in cerise, white and coral, which would be ideal for the centre of a large pot, and we also have smaller 9cm pots of ‘Victor’ in red.
  • Petunias – we have three trailing varieties; Thumbelina ‘Rosy Ripple’ are double hanging Petunias in pink; ‘Trailing Mixed’ are, as the name suggests, a mixture of colours; and ‘Pink Ice’ have pale pink flowers with dark pink centres, and are ideal for hanging baskets and containers.
  • Nemesia ‘Golden Eye’ is a free-flowering plant with a light scent and blue flowers with a bright yellow centre, which flower from April to late autumn.
  • Verbena ‘Sky Blue’ are well suited to baskets, containers or planting in the ground – they have excellent weather tolerance and mildew resistance.

We also have stocks of Bacopa (known as Water Hyssop) in white, and for foliage we have Helichrysum,  and Plectranthus.

The danger of a late frost is not quite over yet, so care should be taken with these plants – bring them in if a frost is forecast over the next few weeks.

To follow later in May we also have Lobelia, Scaveola, Nemesia, Diascia, Begonia, Fuschia and Marguerite ‘Crazy Daisy’.

We are also taking orders for hanging baskets – please ask us for prices.


Looking Good: Camassia leichtlinii

This is the start of the 3-day Early May Bank Holiday weekend, so we’re going to have one Looking Good plant per day, as we’re open Sat-Mon. Today’s are proving to be very popular, so if you fancy them, you’d better hurry.

Native to North America, this tall, spiky-petalled plant is a bulb which is sometimes known as great camas or squamash. It flowers during April-May on tall stems up to 120cm long, and puts out six or more star-shaped flowers. We have the blue version in flower now, and the Alba variety will be in flower within 5-10 days.

They prefer moist soil and can tolerate some shade, and would make an excellent border plant or would look good planted into grassy meadows.

Although we do not recommend it, camassia bulbs are edible.

Looking Good: Zantedeschia aethiopica

The rain we’ve had this week has been especially welcome for this week’s featured plant, Zantedeschia aethiopica, or as it’s more commonly known, the arum lily.

It’s a very popular plant, which works well as a water plant in an aquatic basket, or in the moist soil near a pond or stream. The leaves are bright green, glossy, arrow-shaped and large, growing up to 40cm (16in) long. The trademark white flower heads make superb, cut flowers and are a wedding bouquet favourite.

We have a selection of Zantedeschias in 1-, 2- or 3-litre pots, ranging from £4-£9.

3 good reasons to visit this Easter

As I write the sky is blue and it’s a lovely, bright spring morning. As you may know, we’re not usually open on a Friday, but today is Good Friday and we’re open 3 days this weekend, so we thought we’d give you 3 good reasons to visit us this Easter.

Reason 1 – Doronicum orientale ‘Little Leo’


We have a limited stock of this little beauty, which will brighten up any garden. A slow spreading perennial, it produces single, daisy-like flowers in a vibrant yellow. It will flower from now until late spring and, once watered in and settled, requires little after care, eventually growing to 50cm high with a 60cm spread. The perfect low-maintenance garden plant.

Reason 2 – Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Winky Mixed’


Despite a horrid cutesy name, this flowering shrub has lots of impact. Like the Doconicum before, this Aquilegia flowers from now until late spring, and once settled will form clumps, producing single and double slowers in shades of red, blue and white. We have new stocks of these in now, but we don’t expect them to last for long.

Reason 3 – Pelargonium x Horortum (Zonal Geraniums)


We’re not huge fans of annual bedding plants here, but these Zonal Geraniums are actually topical perennials which are grown as annuals. Zonal geraniums are bushy plants, mainly used for containers and bedding, and these would look wonderful in a large tub or planter. They are quite large, so would probably not suit hanging baskets. We have white, coral pink, white and coral mix and cerise pink in stock now.

If you’d like to read my tongue-in-cheek opinion of bedding plants in general, hop over to my other blog for The Trouble with Bedding.

I hope these three wonderful plants can tempt you into a visit. We’re open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10–3 (although it’s been more like 10–4 the last couple of weeks). We even have some Easter treats for the young ones. Hope to see you there.


Looking Good: Erythronium ‘Pagoda’

Morning all! As spring slowly gets underway our Looking Good plant of the weekend is Erythronium ‘Pagoda’, commonly known as the Dog Tooth Violet.

Erythronium 'Pagoda'

It’s not violet, as you can see, but a beautiful yellow-flowered perennial bulb, with slightly mottled, rich green leaves. A popular garden plant, it has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

It thrives in fully or partially-shaded areas, such as under deciduous trees or in rock gardens, and it prefers humus-rich, free-draining soil. Fully hardy, Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ blooms from March-April and each stem produces up to ten nodding, star-shaped flowers. Once planted, over time they build steadily into impressive clumps that are best left undisturbed.