Plant now: Thyme


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Ever wanted to plant a thyme lawn? Get a load of these gorgeous examples to inspire you. Thyme flowers come in all shapes and sizes and the different species and their hybrids flower at different times. Which means you can achieve a patchwork effect, and extend the flowering season, by planting several different varieties. In the bottom four images, you can see just how different the flower heads of different species are.

In small gardens, thyme can be planted in between pavers, or even in pots. In large gardens, the world’s your oyster.

Plant in a sunny spot in free-draining soil. Add pumice or horticultural grit to your soil if necessary, because thyme won’t tolerate wet feet.

Read more about planting a thyme lawn here.

The second photo from the top is from Zest Your Garden; the third photo is from Lankford Associates Landscape Design.

Join the Grow Your Own Club


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My gardening pal Sarah O’Neil (aka Sarah the Gardener – you may know her through her column in NZ Herald) is starting a new club for those of you who want to grow your own food but don’t know where to start. Join the club and each season you’ll get a box full of goodies, including a collection of family favourite gardening seeds and all the know-how you need to get going and growing successfully.

Sound good? Read more about it here.

Plant Now: Beautiful Pansies


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Pansies are a cheerful addition to the winter garden and make pretty posies for indoors. Plant seedlings or potted colour in moist, fertile soil in full sun or partial shade. Most pansies are bi-coloured, or single coloured with a yellow eye – in either case the range of hues these days is extensive. There HAS to be a pansy for everyone.

Pansies really do make lovely cut flowers; fill several small vases and place them on windowsills indoors.

The top image is from Mellow Stuff; the second image down is from Out the Front Window.

Online Herbal Workshop


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Want to learn about herbs? Don’t know where to start? Take an online class.

Online Herbal Workshop – Do it in your own time.

Learn about herbs for STRESS and SLEEP; herbs for BEAUTY (how to make lip balms, creams, lotions); herbs for COMMON AILMENTS (make your own salves, tinctures, etc); and herbs for GREEN CLEANING. Learn more over on my sister website, Sweet Living HERE.

HURRY!!

You’ve got only a few hours before the price of my Online Herbal Workshop goes up! PLUS, sign up before end of day Monday 20th June and you’ll get 3 free ebooks (Reducing Blood Pressure Naturally; Naturally Cure Your Headaches; and Herbal Remedy Secret Uncovered). PLUS, you will also get a FREE tea strainer!

You’ll learn about:

  • Herbs for stress and sleep (which herbs work and which don’t)
  • Herbs for beauty (make your own face and body creams, oils, perfumes, etc)
  • Herbs for common ailments (make salves, tinctures, etc)
  • Herbs for cleaning (make your own natural cleaners)
  • Cooking with herbs (plus make herb mixes, and preserve your herbs)
  • How to grow and propagate your own herbs

Includes information on stevia (the ‘sugar herb’ to use in place of sugar) plus recipes using stevia.

You can learn more about my online herb course here

Remember, you’ve only got until 11.59pm tomorrow (20 June) to get your special price and free bonuses. Hurry!

Plant Now: Sweet peas


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Bouquet of sweet peassweet peas in vase

If you haven’t already, you should get your sweet peas in now. You don’t have to mollycoddle them – you can sow the seeds directly in the ground. Or sow them in peat pots and plant the whole pot in the soil when the seedlings are 5-8cm (2-3 inches) tall. They are hardy annuals and tolerant of low temperatures. In fact, high light levels in winter combined with cool temperatures are perfect for sweet pea growing. Plant in a spot that gets good sun; low light levels will result in smaller and fewer flowers.

The plants are vines, so they will climb trellises, fences, or even string, and produce more shoots with flowers as they do. When the plants get around 15cm (6 inches) high, tie the shoots to their growing frame.

Watch out for snails and slugs – you may need to use a bait.

When it comes to harvesting, pick your sweat peas when 2-3 flowers start to show some colour.

Image credits: Top photo (which includes sweet peas and stock) via Mod Wedding; middle photo via Love ‘n Fresh Flowers; bottom photo via Sussi’s Sussinghurst.

Plant Now: Buddleja globosa


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Buddleja globosa, aka orange ball buddleja, is named for its globe-shaped orange flowers that appear from late spring through to summer. The fragrant blooms are showy but different from most buddleja, the balls only 2cm wide. The plant itself grows up to 5m high, but it’s easily kept lower if trimmed.

This plant grows in full sun or part shade in well-drained soil. It’s available from Marshwood Gardens.

Image credits: top image from Vaitea; bottom image from Portland Nursery.

The 7 Most Expensive Flowers in the World

Gloriosa rothschildiana - Flame Lily. Illustration by Denise Ramsay http://www.deniseramsay.com/flamelily

Gloriosa rothschildiana – Flame Lily. Illustration by Denise Ramsay http://www.deniseramsay.com/flamelily

In her non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean mentions the mystery ghost orchid, which charmed flower poacher John Laroche. This character can be called one of the most famous flower collectors of the modern world, but the first person who started collecting flowers (that we know of) was the female pharaoh Hatshepsut. She sent botanists to Somali to retrieve the olibanum (frankincence) tree to plant in Egypt – and they were successfully planted at her mortuary temple complex.

However, the most notable period of flower collecting was during the 1630s in the Netherlands. People caught in the grips of Tulip Mania gave away their family estates to purchase rare bulbs.

But the fever existed only up to the beginning of the 18th century. In 1700, the planting of flowers in greenhouses in the Netherlands was established. Now any florist like Reids is able to order and receive tulips, roses and lilies to sell in his/her shop straight from that country.

While roses and lilies are the bases of the flower industry, there are a great number of expensive and rare flowers that you might not have realised were so expensive. Here are seven of the world’s rarest and most expensive flowers.

glory-lilyGlory lily (6-10 USD per flower)

Also known as the fire or flame lily (Gloriosa superba, aka Gloriosa rothschildiana and Gloriosa superba ‘Rothschildiana’), this striking flower is as beautiful as it is poisonous (all parts of the plant are poisonous) and can be fatal if eaten – not that you’d want to do that.

But the high cost is because this spectacular plant, native to tropical Asia and Africa, is not often seen in shops. It’s also because harvesting can be tricky. These plants are climbers and can grow up to 5m in their native soil.

Tulip ‘Semper Augustus’ (10,000 guilders per bulb)

Tulip-Semper-AugustusHarking back to Tulip Mania, ‘Semper Augustus’ was originally grown in Holland in the 17th century. It was especially valuable because of its rare, fiery vein-like patterns on its white petals. Shortly before the Tulip Mania period was over, one ‘Semper Augustus’ bulb cost 10,000 guilders (about 5700 USD). In those days for the same amount of money you were able to buy a huge house in Amsterdam or supply a whole family with food and clothing for half a century.

Saffron crocus (1200-1500 USD per 500g)

crocus-saffronThe bright red stigmas of Crocus sativus are the source of saffron, which is the world’s most expensive spice. Each flower produces only three stigmas, and each bulb produces only one flower. To make up 500g of spice, you need more than 80,000 flowers, which, as you can imagine, amounts to an incredible cost. Another way to put it: about 50-60 flowers produce 1 tablespoon of saffron. The plants also need specific soil and growing conditions to grow well.

Rothschild’s slipper orchid (5000 USD per plant)

Paph._rothschildianumPaphiopedilum rothschildianum, known as the Gold of Kinabalu orchid, was discovered in 1987, after which it came close to extinction due to the increased interest of smugglers. Thankfully, the population was restored by scientists, but the flower itself is still hard to reach. Wild species can be found only in the Kinabalu National Park in Malaysia, and from planting to getting the first flower, a number of years are needed.

Shenzhen Nongke orchid (202,000 USD per plant)

Shenzhen-Nongke-OrchidYou won’t find this orchid in the wild. It was cultivated in the lab by the Shenzhen Nongke Group – and it took the Chinese agricultural scientists eight years to develop it.

In 2005, it was sold at auction to an anonymous buyer for 1.69 million YUAN (about 202,000 USD). It is the most expensive flower purchased… ever.

The orchid blooms only once every four to five years.

‘Juliet’ rose (5 million USD)

juliet-roseOK, so the rose itself doesn’t cost that much, but it’s what it cost famous rose breeder David Austin to develop it. ‘Juliet’ was the first David Austin rose to be cultivated specifically for the cut flower industry and it took 15 years to create.

And it’s a beauty. When fully open, the blooms reveal neatly arranged petals nestled in the heart of the flower. Gorgeous!

In 2006, at the Chelsea Flower Show, UK, it attracted thousands of florists and rose lovers.

Epiphyllum flower (the price is not determined)

Kadupul-flowerEpiphyllum oxypetalum grows in Sri Lanka and blooms very rarely. When it does bloom, the petals open only at night, making this a very elusive yet beautiful flower. The flowers wither again before dawn.

In their native wild, the flowers are pollinated by bats and large moths, hence there is no need for them to be open during the day. Being white, the flowers stand out at night.

Plant Now: Sea Holly


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Sea holly (Eryngium planum) is a head turner, with its steely blue pincushion-like flower heads perched atop 80-120cm high stems. The blooms appear from around midsummer to late autumn and are long-lasting as a cut flower (fresh or dried), with fresh blooms lasting 10-12 days in the vase.

Eyrngiums are clump-forming perennials that thrive in full sun. They won’t tolerate any hint of waterlogging, so make sure your soil is free-draining. They’ll grow in most types of soil, including dry, sandy and poor soils, though plants may sprawl if the soil is overly fertile.

Look for plants at your local garden centre.

Image credits: Top image is by Richard Loader; middle image is via Whimsical Wonderland Weddings.

Plant Now: Iceland Poppies


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Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule) are short-lived perennials that are usually grown as annuals. They’re hardy plants that bloom in winter and early spring.

They’re stunningly beautiful up close, with their tissue-paper blooms and yellow stamens that surround a prominent central pistil. Both stalks and buds are covered in hairs, the stalk often arched over, with its bud pointing downwards. When the bud splits open, the stem straightens (though not always) and a beautiful bright or pale coloured flower is revealed. It’s amazing to watch, and equally amazing when you have a whole bed of these wonderful blooms.

Iceland poppies can be planted by seed or seedlings, though it may be a couple of months yet before you find the seedlings in the garden centres. Sow the seeds now ready for transplanting in a month or two.

Plant in a limed, free-draining soil in full sun. Water well to maintain growth. Iceland poppies are excellent cut flowers.

Photo credits, from top to bottom: Datura; Floret FlowersBlue Cloud Farm; Blue Cloud Farm; Bloom & Co.

Plant Now: Viburnum x burkwoodii


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Viburnum x burkwoodii has richly fragrant, waxy, white spring flowers that open from pink buds. The flowers smell a little like vanilla ice cream, which is hands down my favourite.

In warmer areas it’s semi-evergreen in winter; in cooler areas it loses all its leaves. Either way, it’s a hardy plant that tolerates frosts. It can sometimes grow a little scraggly, but some of the named hybrids, like ‘Anne’ Russell’ (second from top), have a tidier shape.

The fully white viburnums are ideal for white gardens (obviously), like this Viburnum plicatum at Loseley House & Gardens (image second from bottom).

Viburnum x burkwoodii grows well in sun or light shade in well-drained soil. It’s not particularly fussy about soil type – acid or alkaline – which makes it easy to grow. Plants reach a height of 2-3m and its flowers are some of the most fragrant among all the viburnums.

Plant it by itself as a specimen tree or in amongst the borders as a foundation to smaller shrubs. This viburnum can also be grown as a hedge or espalier.

Autumn is a great time to plant viburnum, which are available from garden centres.

Image credits: The top image is from Style & the Bride. It features a spring bouquet by G Lily called ‘Shades of Pink’, with roses, genestra, veronica, viburnum and heather. The second image is from The Plant Store; the third image is from The Garden Show Online; the bottom image is from PhytoImages.