Forcing Hyacinths

I have been asked a number of times ‘why are my forced Hyacinths so behind?’.  My first reply to that would be ‘Are you using prepared Hyacinth Bulbs?’  If you want to force them you must.  The difference between a prepared and ordinary Hyacinth Bulb is that the prepared ones have been kept in really cold temperatures during the summer months to trick them into thinking it is spring when they come into the warm.

Hyacinth Bulbs

Forced Hyacinths, Variety ‘Woodstock’

I start all mine off at the same time but stagger them coming into flower from Christmas day through the best part of January to lift my spirits on dull days with their dramatic colours and heavenly fragrance.

I am always moaning about drainage holes for plants but forced Hyacinths don’t need them.  You can use lots of decorative bowls as seen in the picture as long as you don’t overwater them!

I like to use bulb fibre as it contains charcoal to keep the soil ‘sweet’. I pot them all up at the same time, in the first week of October, except those I use in bulb vases with water. 3/4 fill your container with the fibre, place as many bulbs as you can fit in each container without touching, don’t mix colours as they tend to bloom at slightly different times and put in more bulb fibre so only about a quarter of the bulb is showing proud from the soil.  I give them a light watering  I then place them in the darkest place I can find in a cold but frost free, outbuilding.  You can put them in a dark place indoors but if you want them for Christmas, they may need to be started later if the room is warm.

By mid November, I check on them.  The greenest and thickest looking I bring out from storage but not all at that stage, some I will leave and they will be fine, the cooler the weather becomes, the more their progress will be slowed which means I can stagger my blooming time of varieties.  If the soil is very dry I will water lightly, add moss for a more attractive display and bring them in to the house.  Bear in mind that the warmer and lighter the room, the earlier they will be in flower but if they are coming too fast, you can slow them down again by placing them in the cool. Only water them if the soil seems very dry.

When I use bulb vases, I don’t force them in the cool and dark at all, I just bring them straight in and put them in a bulb vase filled with water which I drain and change weekly to keep fresh, holding the bulb in place so the roots don’t find their way out.  Because these are in the warm and I always place them in a sunny window, they don’t take very long at all to flower so by putting these in their vases towards the end of November, I can have them in flower for Christmas day, again if they are coming on too fast, slow them down by taking them somewhere cooler and darker.

After bulbs have finished blooming you can lift them and put them in a pot of compost to be planted out in the garden in the spring at 4 times depth of bulb. They won’t come early again in the garden the following year and they maybe single rather than double but they will still have that wonderful fragrance.

Hope this is helpful

Jane Edmonds 11 January 2017



Symptoms of the New Aquilegia Disease

I stupidly forgot to include symptoms of the disease yesterday.

I first noticed something was wrong in April after applying manure around 2 year old plants in the field where I grow my flowers for cutting.  Foliage that had emerged healthily suddenly became disfigured on a couple of plants in a planting of around 15.  These were plants that I had raised from my own seed that I had collected from a form that had proved quite stable as a strain.  It seemed to be a hybrid between vulgaris and the long-spurred ‘Dove’ strain with more delicate leaves than normal vulgaris and spurred pom-poms in a pretty powder blue.  All plants were proving vigorous.  The basal foliage looked singed at the edges and was beginning to shrivel.  I put it down to perhaps the manure in this area being a bit fresh and not properly rotted.

As the foliage worsened I thought I would do a search on Aquilegia problems and found information about this new disease which is a form of powdery mildew previously not known.  Healthy plants next to these two continued to grown on and flower.  Initially the flowers looked normal and beautiful.  Then I noticed that some of the new buds were distorting with brown speckles and some of these began to start turning brown as though rotting.  I have cut plants back to groundlevel as detailed in my previous post and intend to do as I said here.

Jane Edmonds


The New Aquilegia Disease

Granny's Bonnet

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Adelaide Addison’

I have 1000s of Aquilegia on this plot.  Two thirds are probably vulgaris strains. Ie the old Granny’s Bonnet type, some of which come remarkably true from seed if grown some way away from other forms, particularly ‘Adelaide Addison’ shown (although it sends up the odd fully blue one), ‘William Guinness’ deep plum with white as you might have guessed and the pom-pom types like ‘Ruby Port’ and ‘Nora Barlow’.

The remaining third are long spurred types.  Many are hybrids that have occured here from the species Aquilegia chrysantha which I have grown for many years, skinneri hybrids and crosses between those and vulgaris plus some long spurred Mckana type hybrids which flower much longer than straight forward vulgaris types and often with showier flowers.  However, it is this range that concerns me as I have noticed that the new Aquilegia disease has arrived here and is showing itself on some of these forms. The leaves of these forms are much finer and daintier than those of straight forward vulgaris forms and I wonder if they are more susceptible to the disease.  Little seems to be known about how and where it came from.  Most of the varieties here have been here for many years from when I had a nursery and I used to raise them from seed or collect seed from plants I had purchased some 20 years ago.  However, a few years ago, I bought a few plants of ‘Dove’ strain, a long spurred hybrid from a wholesale nursery and some of these have been affected.  I wonder if the disease came in from them or perhaps our mild wet winters have lead to it occurring naturally.

So what have I done about it?  Well worrying though it is I have not yet dug up and burned the plants as has been suggested.

However, I have cut the plants right back to ground level (cleaned my secateurs with methylated spirits) and plan to feed them first. If I see no positive results from this treatment, ie re-growth of healthy leaves, I will dig up and burn the affected plants.  I am also going to take measures to save seed from my best and most healthy forms even though they may not come true from seed as they are open pollinated, where they are growing away from other forms they possibly will give me a percentage of true forms.  By taking the seed and sowing it rather than letting it fall will allow me to introduce plants to different areas of the garden and flower field in the hope of re-establishing some forms a way away from where the disease has occurred (it has been spotted in two different places on this plot which extends to just under 2 acres).

Aquilegia disease

A hybrid cross between vulgaris and chrysantha type which is a good strain raised by me

Aquilegia seed is best sown fresh as soon as it turns black and I like to use a soil based seed compost and cover with vermiculite after sowing.

Let’s hope this disease is not here to stay, it may be weather induced.  A few years ago, Aquilegia saw-fly used to be quite a problem with me but I never seem to get that now but that is a pest rather than a disease and maybe the birds eat those.

I hope to make my next post a more positive one but I will keep you informed on how I get on with the cutting back and feeding.


Aquilegia ‘Dove’ strain has shown signs of the new disease







Jane Edmonds


The early umbellifers

To me, there is no other group of plants that says ‘country garden or country bouquet’ quite like the umbellifers.  They all belong to the family Apiaceae but cover several genus and can be annual, biennial or perennial.  They are mostly delicate and intricate but display nature’s detailed geometry to perfection within each umbel or flower.  They seem truly British but most hail from other countries.

The season of flower begins towards the end of April in South West UK starting with Alexanders, Smyrnium olosatrum.  It looks similar to Angelica and I love to forage it when I can to include in my flower arrangements of early Tulips and Tazzetta Daffodils. The frothy umbels are soft yellow and it brings lightness to larger, more showy flowers when in combination.  It was cultivated in cottage gardens up to the mid 18th Century as an alternative to celery and is now re-gaining popularity as an edible with fashionable London restaurants.

The related Smyrnium perfoliatum is perhaps easier to grow in a wider range of places and is also early but quite distinct from the former in the way the leaves cup the flower stems. Also the umbels are a more yallery-green.  Self-seeds widely when happy and looks great in a copse as the colour really brings light.  Also great as a cut flower.

Very quickly we move on to Cow Parsley which can span a long season as in some places it flowers incredibly early and others very late.  Although an essential ingredient in a spring bouquet, probably best for wilder parts in the garden as it quickly colonises areas.  However, the dark leaved Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ isn’t nearly as prolific and looks wonderful in a flower border with the claret thistle flowers of Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’.

There is also a yellow leaved form which is particularly handsome in February, March and


Anthriscus ‘Ravenswing’ just coming into flower

Anthriscus 2

Yellow leaved form of Anthriscus

April before flowering when the leaves are a yallery lime green.  I grow it amongst my Snowdrops and Hellebores in a lightly shaded border and visitors always comment on it favourably often requesting seedlings.

Another Cow Parsley type favourite which begins flowering in May is Chaerophyllum hirsutus ‘Roseum’.  I have had this plant for a very long time.  I love using it in flower arrangements and in the garden it looks brilliant with blue Camassia leichtlinii, Dicentra all forms and Honesty.  It likes a good, rich soil in not too much sun but other than that is easy and long lived.

pink cow parsley

Chaerophyllum hirsutus ‘Roseum’

Also coming into flower now is Mathiasella bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’.  I remember getting very excited about this plant when I found it at a specialist plant fair over 12 years ago.  Unfortunately, it is rather ungainly as a garden plant but as a cut flower it is fantastic.  It looks like a cross between a Hellebore and Angelica with a herby fragrance and lasts forever in water!


Mathiasella bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’


Also beginning into flower are the early Astrantia.  There are now a vast amount of cultivars to choose from.  Some have amazingly large flowers but I find the ones with larger flowers tend to produce fewer stems for cutting and make less of a show in the garden overall.  I love cutting them for arrangements but beware, some smell distinctly of cheese!  I avoid these for arrangements!!!

My two absolute favourites and I have many different varieties, are: ‘Buckland’ which I think was introduced by the amazing Keith Wiley of Wildside Nursery when he was at the Garden House in Buckland Monachorum, Devon, not only for it’s subtle colouration and shapely bloom but also it’s sheer intent on giving 3 good displays of blooms per year and always the first into flower with me; ‘Roma’ for it’s abundance of bloom and good pink flowers, usually giving two good shows a year.  This was introduced by Piet Oudolf when he was a mere nurseryman and was a real breakthrough at the time because prior to that the only good pink Astrantia was maxima which only usually flowers onces, burns in too much sun and sulks in too much shade so ‘Roma’ took a leap to stardom.

I could continue into June umbellifers but I will be here all day and no time for that so I will talk about, Ammi, Bupleurum, Daucus and others another time!

16 May 2016

Tulips, perennial or annual?

IMG_20160505_185433When discussing whether Tulips are annual or perennial I am actually referring to the large flowered hybrids readily available from the majority of bulb suppliers in all their many forms and not the diminuitive species selections such as Tulipa bakeri, linifolia, sprengeri which, if they like you, will multiply both vegetatively and by seed.

Sadly, in the flower field at Edmonds & Howard, we burn 99% of the bulbs after use.  This is due to the following: we mostly pull the flowers for extra length, this can often mean up to about 25cm extra stem length, thereby damaging the bulbs; many of the more blousy forms cannot be guaranteed to flower well the following year if left in situ particularly if summer is wet and we need the ground for Dahlias; Tulips left in the ground are more susceptible to Tulip Fire, a nasty disease which distorts leaves and flowers and is more likely to occur after lengthy wet seasons.  The ground becomes infected after this and tulips should not be grown in the same area for at least 3 years.  We rotate in the field so newly planted Tulip bulbs would only return to the same area after 3 years.

In our garden I do leave some in situ, this is mostly due to lack of time but I have had favourable results with some of the more simple forms.  Particularly perennial for me have been two lily forms, namely ‘Ballerina’ an elegant, luminous orange which looks fabulous with yallery-green Euphorbia bracts on characias wulfenii, polychroma and robbiae, add some blue Camassia leichtlinii ‘Electra’ and pure spring zing is achieved; the dark Tulipa ‘Burgundy’ has also been great, both have lasted over 3 years with no shrinkage in size (the ones I have lost of these have been dug up by the badger but am going to add more next year and cover them with wire cloches!) and this looks particularly good when teamed with the subtle colouring of Lamium orvala.

I have also had great success over three years with ‘Jan Reuss’ a late single of dark blood red with a real sheen to the petals.  Looks well when partnered with contrasting blue forget-me-nots or pale primrose Wallflowers and also harmonises well with the Wallflower ‘Blood Red Covent Garden’.  Two dark single Tulip have also stood the test of time, the old ‘Queen of the Night’ can’t be beaten, except perhaps by ‘Havran’ which is similar but larger and fuller in flower.  They both look dreamy when planted is association with the fragrant late Daffodil, Narcissus ‘Pipit’ of pale lemon colouration which is vigorous too and ordinary primroses, Primula vulgaris.  A reliable pale pink single Tulip for me has been Esther, a lovely soft colour.  I intend to plant some more of this and team it with the pretty double white Primula ‘Dawn Ansell’ which does very well here.

I think part of the secret for these more perennial tulips lies in the depth of planting.  As with most Narcissus too, they should be planted deeply, 20cm down at least, which is a bit of a pain but worth it.  Sadly, unlike the Narcissus, they will not readily multiply but you can add more over time.  It is worth giving a try as lifting Tulips every year is time-consuming and rather wasteful.  Experimenting is what gardening is all about!

Foliage, more important than flowers as a cutflower grower/artisan florist

As most florists will tell you foliage is key to creating beautiful arrangements.  The addition of good foliage and fillers will turn a bunch of flowers into something extra special,

If you grow all your own cut flowers as I do, you may find a quantity of good foliage difficult at certain times of the year, particularly early spring if it is cold like it is this year in the UK.

Florists can buy in Eucalyptus and Pittosporum but Eucalyptus grown outside in inland UK will not have that lovely fresh growth and your Pittosporum may


Hornbeam coming into leaf

sulk or even die if you begin hacking huge chunks of that away when nights are still cold.

I am fortunate in having a large established garden as well as my cut flower growing areas (sometimes I think that is not such a great plus point as takes a tremendous amount of work to maintain to a reasonable standard!) and one of the best things I did was to plant a Hornbeam hedge.  The emerging leaves of Hornbeam are such a brilliant lime green they are invaluable in providing zing and natural beauty to spring flower arrangements, particularly tulips.  We trim the tops in March but leave the sides long until the end of May so there is plenty of available material for use while the Tulips, Camassia, Anemone and Ranunculus are in flower.

I am also lucky in having a very large Osmanthus x burkwoodii which is really a medium size tree now.  It usually flowers towards the end of March but with the warm winter and cold spring I have been able to cut well over 100 branches from it from mid February right the way through to now.  The, nicer than privet-like leaves, make a perfect collar for arrangements and the small white flowers are deliciously fragrant.

Spring foliage/flowers

Osmanthus x burkwoodii, heavenly fragrance


I am not sure, as a gardener, that I think myself fortunate to have Euphorbia robbiae though!  It is a rampant thug but fortunately now, mostly in the hedgerow and in the wild parts of the paddock.  However, for cutting material from early to late spring it is invaluable.  Again it has that yallery-green zing which really brings flowers to life and unlike Euphorbia characias varieties it doesn’t stink!  I don’t know how florist/flower farmers can dare to use that, as far as I am concerned it has an acrid smell which I find most unpleasant and can identify immediately on walking into a room with one stem of it in a vase.

Of course, you need to sear the stems of Euphorbia before using to stop the milky sap from exuding.  I sear the base of the stems for 20 seconds in boiling water and then pour that all over the stems where I have stripped away the foliage before placing into cold water overnight.  Wear gloves if you have sensitive skin when stripping the leaves as it can be a major skin irritant to some and also your hands will feel like they have been covered with gloss paint.

Below is a list of other plants that I find very useful in raiding for foliage at this time of year.  These are all woody stems so I slit the ends after cutting and sear in boiling water for 20 seconds before plunging into cold water overnight.


  • Euonymous ‘Emerald Gaiety’ – Abundant over time, green leaves, variegated white and fully hardy
  • Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’ (you need several though) Lasts ages in water in bud, flowers open cream, delicious fragrance
  • Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’ – Neat grey eliptica leaves (nasty yellow daisies later which I remove)
  • Amelanchier lamarkii or canadensis.  Beautiful bronze leaves with white blossom
  • Cercis siliquastrum (prefers acid soil) Dainty bronze leaves
  • common Sycamore when leaves just unfurling, bronze tinted, looks amazing
  • Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’ a tree which likes being pruned with lovely soft grey, oval leaves
  • Stephanandra tanakae with pretty, bronze tinted, vine like leaves and arching habit (although nice to use later too with it’s cream flowers)
  • For coloured twigs, Cornus ‘Flaviramea’ and Cornus ‘Mid Winter Fire’ (the latter is a bit of a runner
  • For lovely pussy willow Salix daphnoides and dwarf Salix ‘ Wehrhahnii ‘

There are other things but this is a good starting list.  Foliage can be provided easily with annuals in summer but if you intend to cut flowers as early and as late as possible then it is wise to choose shrubs that you can use at these times!

29 April 2016





Welcome to my blog


26 April 2016

This is my first blog so here goes! I will be charting what I do in my personal garden and the flower field.  I might share my experiences from garden visits and my now small involvement with garden design.  I hope to give you lots of seasonal tips and there might be the odd rant occasionally as all gardeners and flower farmers, farmers moan about the weather! It is not an easy life growing all your own plants without pesticides or herbicides but that is what I choose to do and the rewards can be amazing.  I like to gloss over the bad times and failures, horticulture is full of them and I have become hardened to it in my 27 years of gardening extensively only occasionally becoming moved to tears if an animal

such as Ranunculusa Roe Deer has caused extensive damage overnight (only possible in my private garden as flower field like a prison!)

Upsets are often rewarded by pleasures but you can never have it all.  The weather is really, bitingly cold and the annuals and perennials are really holding back this spring.  My tunnel and glass house are bursting at the seams but planting out is slow.  Snow and sleet here today but the Ranunculus in the tunnel indicate warmer times.

Although summer things are slow to get going because of the cold spring, it is cheering that the spring bloomers, especially the ephemerals like Erythronium and Trillium last much longer in the garden.  I try my best to turn most negatives into positives these days so another positive is the fact that some winter and spring shrubs have excelled in length of flowering.

Noteworthy were my Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ and Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’, due to the mild winter followed by cold, flowered for nearly 4 months each, when normally it would be two months.  I have the most enormous Osmanthus x burkwoodii, a tree really and I love to use it’s branches with my tulips, so delicately fragrant,  as it usually begins flowering in April and I get about 5 weeks of bloom.  I was concerned when it began blooming in February this year and used it with my Daffodils but it is still blooming and I can use it with my tulips, so there are always positives even with vagaries of weather!