Bottlebrush plants - Callistemon species and varieties, are among the most exotic of all hardy garden specimens. However their unusual growth habit mean that most gardeners are reluctant to cut into the wood in case their shape and following season's blooms are affected.

To be fair, bottlebrush plants are usually low maintenance and will require little or no regular pruning. That being said, some forms can easily grow to large for their allocated garden space and will need cutting back one way or the other. Like conifers, avoid cutting back into the inside branches where there are few leaves as you may not see any regrowth.

How to prune back bottlebrush plants
The best time to pruning is from mid to late spring, but if you miss this opportunity you can light prune at the end of the summer. Removing any weak, crossed, rubbing, diseased or dying stems back to the trunk, and remove any suckers from the base as soon as you see them. Rip them from the trunk rather than cut to reduce the incidence of regrowth. This will be the same action for specimens grown with a single trunk but only do this as the suckers emerge. Shoots longer than a few inches will need to be cut. The best results are from rubbing away emerging buds with your thumb.

To guarantee that next season's blooms will remain unaffected and to just generally maintain a shape, lightly prune immediately after flowering - usually just a couple of inches from the growth tips and removing the spent flower structures.

If you are trying to reduce the size of an overgrown specimen, cut back down to size in the spring making sure that this is done well before the new seasons bud form.

In drastic situations, it is not unknown for mature specimens to grow back from being cut down to the ground. However this should only be done as a last resort.

Image credits - Simon Eade gardenofeaden@gmail.com

SWISS CHEESE PLANT - Monstera deliciosa

The Swiss Cheese plant - Monstera deliciosa

Before I start I should mention that the Swiss Cheese plant is neither native to Switzerland and has nothing to do with any dairy product. It is in fact native to the tropical rainforests of southern Mexico and has proven itself to be one of the world's most popular foliage houseplants.

Swiss Cheese plant fruit
The species name 'deliciosa' means delicious referring to the edible fruit which are said to taste similar to a fruit salad, the genus name is derive from the word 'monstrous' and related to the huge size that this plant can grow to - over 10 meters feet in many cases.

Monstera deliciosa was named and described by the Danish botanist Frederik Michael Liebmann (1813 - 1856).

Although often shrubby in habit, Swiss cheese plants is in fact a climber whose native habitats are usually the understorey of tropical forests. They are technically classed as a hemiepiphyte meaning that it will spends part of its life cycle as an epiphyte (a plant that grows on the surface of another plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain or from debris accumulating around it)

To explain, the seedlings of Monstera deliciosa would have germinated in the ground like most other regular plants. Then unlike most other regular plants grows away from the light, which usually helps them to find the nearest tree trunk, up which they begin to climb. As they mature they produce aerial roots and can eventually lose all connection with the ground!

As a climber and under favourable conditions you can expect the Swiss Cheese plant to grow to up to approximately 20 metres high. The large, leathery, glossy, heart-shaped leaves are 25–90 cm long and 25–75 cm wide. the characteristic holes within the leaves are an adaptation to its low light level environment. By producing holes within the leaves each leaf is then capable of attaining a larger size therefore making it more efficient at capturing sunflecks and occasional shafts of sunlight.

Monstera deliciosa bloom
The flowers are self-pollinating and are composed of a special bract known as a spathe which enclosing a spadix.

Monstera deliciosa bloom will perform best high humidity and shade with between 20–30 °C and requires. Growth will stop once temperatures drop below 10 °C. You will only be able to grow the Swiss cheese plant in subtropical climates or warmer as it has no tolerance to frosts. This is why it can only be grown as a houseplant in northern European and Mediterranean climates.

Monstera deliciosa bloom image credit - rjones 0856 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en
All other images credit - Simon Eade gardenofeaden@gmail.com


Perfectly timed dolphin photograph
Although nothing to do with gardening, I couldn't help but post this image I took yesterday at Loro Park, Tenerife.

This gorgeous dolphin looks as though it is hanging out to dry on a washing line after a hard day's entertaining. However it is just a badly timed image that tells a story different to reality. What actually happened this. The dolphin was captured mid flow during its successfull jump over this line.


How to grow Polygonum baldschuanicum

Commonly known as the 'Russian vine' or 'mile-a-minute vine', Fallopia baldschuanicum (previously and still widely known as Polygonum baldschuanica) is an extremely vigorous deciduous climber native to most notably China, Russia and Kazakhstan. It is widely grown for ts ability to quickly hide unsightly fences and other garden structures, and can look particularly attractive when trained into trees, old stumps and bare banks.

How to grow Polygonum baldschuanicum
Under favourable conditions the stems of Fallopia baldschuanicum can reach an impressive 12 metres long, with pale-green, ovate to heart-shaped leaves.

The small, white tinged pink blooms are borne in conspicuous, crowded panicles throughout the summer and autumn. Once pollinated the blooms can turn increasingly pink, followed by small, shiny black fruits.

Fallopia baldschuanicum will perform well in any type of soil including shallow soils over chalk. Aspect is not really important as it will simply tolerate where its or grow to more favourable conditions. That being said, young specimens will appreciate a certain amount of shelter until they become established.

Main image credit - Simon Eade gardenofeaden@gmail.com
In text image credit - Jan Samanek https://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5256087 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/deed.en


How to grow Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens'

Commonly known as the 'Crimson Bottlebrush', Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' is an attractive evergreen shrub whose origins are found in New South Wales and Victoria in Australia.

The original species was first brought back to England in 1771 by British naturalist and botanist Sir Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820). However it was much later in 1925 that the 'Splendens' cultivar appeared, first named and formally described in Botanical Magazine. In 1970 its cultivar name was subsequently changed to 'Endeavour' in honour of the ship commanded by James Cook. This was one of several botanical name changes made as part of the bicentennial celebrations of his voyage to Australia. For those of you who are interested, the genus name is a combination of the Greek word 'kallistos' meaning beautiful and 'stemon' meaning stamen.

How to grow Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens'
It is a vigorous, spreading shrub of medium size and a more compact form of the original species. The narrow, rigid leaves are lemon-scented when crushed hence the species name. Under favourable conditions you can expect Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' to reach a height of approximately 1.5-2 metres. The brilliant blooms are made solely from stamens and appear in succession over the summer from June. As exotic as it looks it has proven to be perfectly hardy along the south coast of England and Ireland, although further north it will require the protection of a sheltered south wall and some horticultural fleece to be on the safe side.

The best time for planting Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' in during April and May to make the most of the growing season and to allow the roots to establish before the onset of winter. It will perform well in most ordinary garden soils so long as it is moist yet well-drained and in a sunny position sheltered from strong or cold winds. As implied is tolerant of light frosts and salt spray.

Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' received the Award of Merit in 1926 and the Award of Garden Merit in 1993 from the Royal Horticultural Society.


How to grow Melaleuca viminalis 'Captain Cook'

Now reclassified and correctly known as Melaleuca viminalis 'Captain Cook', Callistemon 'Captain Cook' is a selected seedling of Callistemon viminalis discovered in Queensland, Australia with a dwarf and bushy habit and considerably more floriferous while young. It was originally sold as Callistemon viminalis 'Compacta', but the cultivar name was changed to 'Captain Cook' in 1970 in honour of the bicentenary of Captain James Cook's voyage to Australia. Since then it has becomes the world's most popular and widely sold form of all Callistemon species and cultivars.

How to grow Melaleuca viminalis 'Captain Cook'
It is a dense, slightly weeping evergreen shrub which under favourable conditions will reach a height and spread of between 1.5–2.5 metres. The bark becomes fissured with age while the narrow lance-shaped leaves are approximately 50 to 60 mm long and emit a lemon-like fragrance when crushed.

The bright red, flowers are reminiscent of a bottlebrush (hence the common name of 'Bottlebrush') appearing from early June with further blooms sometimes occurring in late summer or autumn. The eye-catching inflorescence are actually prominent bundles of long stamens!

In its native habitat the original species is usually found along water courses on soils over sandstone or granite so when planting as a garden specimen best results are achieved by providing a moist well-drained neutral to slightly acidic soils. Avoid areas prone to waterlogging and be aware that Callistemon viminalis has proven to perform poorly when grown on thin soils over chalk.

In northern European climates Callistemon 'Captain Cook' is perfectly hardy in the milder regions such as southern England and Ireland. Plant in full sun, but further north it will require the shelter of a south-facing wall as well as some winter protection.

Main image credit: Geoff Fox https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en
In text image - Simon Eade gardenofeaden@gmail.com


Dicksonia squarrosa
Plant Lists

Tree ferns have proven to be tough as old boots, capable of growing in deep shade to full sun so long as they have enough water. They are not particularly prone to any pests or disease. As the garden is maintained periodically I would recommend the use of drip irrigation to ensure that these plants do not dry out. Liquid soluble fertilisers can be applied as often as you like to improve the size and condition of the canopy. Prices start from £99.00 to as much as you would like to spend, however I would avoid Haskins as their stock appears to be double the prices of anyone else. Mail order prices are competitive but you do not get to see what you have bought until its arrives in the post.

Dicksonia antarctica
Apart from the tree ferns, all of the ground floor plants will need to be shade tolerant. The selection I have chosen specifically have bright, or eye catching foliage to help maintain interest in the lower light levels below the canopy.

Dicksonia antarctica and the slimer Dicksonia squarrosa are the forms to choose from.

Seagrave nurseries currently have Dicksonia antarctica at 3ft for £ 99.00, 4ft for £ 132.00, 5ft for 170.00 and 6ft for £ 240.00. Delivery will be on top although this is free when you spend over £ 300.00 however there may stipulate collection on anything bigger.

Dicksonia squarrosa does not seem to be available anywhere except from Trevena nurseries. You will need to call for current availability. Their website isn't working properly either but it appears that you will need to contract a courier to collect. Availability should return next spring.

Hosta cultivars

Hosta 'Patriot'
The chosen cultivars will be those with specifically bright variegation such as Hosta ‘Patriot’, White Feather and Autumn Frost. Availability is extremely variable and while there are hundreds to choose from only a dozen or so cultivars at best are on display in the garden centres at any one time. Prices vary from £7.99 to £14.99 per plant depending on size and quality of the cultivar. Specific forms may need to be mail ordered from online specialists.

Slug and snail damaged on Hostas will need to be managed.

Brunnera cultivars

Unlike Hostas there are only a few good cultivars suitable such as Brunnera macrophylla 'Alexander's Great', Jack Frost and my favourite Brunnera 'Looking Glass'. They cannot be grown in the sun as they will scorch and almost shine when planted in shady borders.

Availability is generally good while slug and snail damage will need to be managed. Unlike hostas which only produce new foliage in the spring Brunnera will often produce new foliage if the spring growth becomes eaten. 

Priced range from £ 7.99 to £ 12.99

 Japanese painted ferns

These are starting to be seen more and more in the shops but for specific varieties like the gorgeous Athyrium niponicum 'Ursula's Red' they will probably need to be obtained online. However I have seen them for sale periodically at Haskins, prices are between
£ 6.99 to £ 14.99.

These are very easy to grow if not a little slow but they have proven in my garden at least to be extremely resilient so long as they ground is kept moist.

Regular Ferns

For the traditional green ferns I am looking at the hardy, mostly evergreen ferns with a good range of architectural foliage.  Asplenium - Harts Tongue Ferns are particularly unusual, Dryopteris forms are nicely compact and Polystichum have great sword like foliage. They are mostly left unharmed by slugs and snail although Asplenium are known to be damaged if unprotected.

Ferns have been popular in this country since the Victorian period and so long as the soil is kept moist, especially during the first summer of planting they should be trouble free. To improve the looks remove old growth in the spring.



Heuchera cultivars
If any of the proposed selections offend your eye then don’t worry as there are two further shade tolerant foliage plants that can be substituted – cultivars from the genus Heuchera and Pulmonaria.

Heucheras come in some fantastic colour morphs but were not considered in the initial design as they can be temperamental in their vigour. However if they are ‘happy’ where they are planted then they will perform as excellent specimens. Prices range from £5.99 to £9.99 per plant depending on colour form and size.


Some of the lungworts also have some decent foliage and also attractive pink and blue flowers in the spring. Some forms such as Pulmonaria ‘Moonshine’ and 'Apple Frost' have excellent foliage but they were not in the original design as the foliage on Brunneria is better although the blooms on Pulmonaria are more attractive. The foliage can also 'tire' as the season progresses, but this is not a big problem as they will die back in the winter to provide fresh growth in the spring. Prices from £ 6.99 - £ 9.99.

Flower colour

Hosta blooms
Plants with excellent flower colour that thrive in shade are relatively limited however I have listed a suitable section which can be planted at the edges of the bed. All will be spring flowering.

These are not showing in the initial planting design as they are too small to show effectively. 

Note that Hostas also are in the initial design and will produce attractive bell shaped blooms which appear in July


Snowdrops are early spring flowering and can be purchased as bulbs in the autumn or as pot grown plants in the spring.  Prices are approximately £ 1.99 for a bag of bulbs or 1.49-1.99 for a pot.

The bulbs should be planted as soon as they are available in the shops as they tend to dry out, affecting the quality when they sprout out in early spring. Although more expensive snow drops are best purchased as pot grown in the spring

Anemone blanda – the wind flower

Like the snowdrops, Anemone blanda is spring flowering and can be purchased as bulbs in the autumn or as pot grown plants in the spring.

Once established, Anemone blanda can be lifted and planted elsewhere in the bed or larger garden

Prices are approximately £ 1.99 for a bag of bulbs or 1.49-1.99 for a pot.


Hellebores cultivars now have some fantastic blooms although the foliage will become dull and tired for the rest of the year once the blooms have finished. The blooms are long lasting and to improve their show the previous season's foliage can be removed.

However there are a few forms with some foliage colour such as Helleborus x 'Penny's Pink' Prices £ 7.99 to £12. 99

The more commonly found Hellebore white Christmas rose may be preferable as the flowers will stand out far more in the shade. Prices start from £ 4.99 - £ 7.99

Cyclamen Laser

Available from the end of November, Cyclamen laser are surprisingly hardy however they are forced into bloom in the nurseries over the winter.

These will usually flower in Feb-March and so when purchased they will need to be hardened off of 10-14 days or so before they can be planted outside.

Usually £ 1.99 for a small pot.

Slug and Snail control

The most effective method of snail control is the blue metaldehyde pellets, however these are still not 100% effect. Therefore I would recommend using two or more methods of control such as beer traps, environmentally sensitive pellets and sacrificial plants such as lettuce. When using sacrificial plants the slugs and snails can then be collected and disposed of in a fashion that suits.

The following article may be of further interest: