Gardening News

Miscanthus Sinensis Red Chief

Written by  on October 30, 2014

Miscanthus sinensis red chief,  relatively new introduction of an ornamental grass which I think will soon become very popular

Miscanthus sinensis red chief (3)

in our garden 

Most of us, when we first get into gardening, usually find its all about eye catching blooms.

Well, ornamental grasses can also be very eye catching, in – perhaps a more subtle manner.

Take Miscanthus sinensis red chief, well I think it is looking just great in our back garden planted just in front of an apple tree.

This position was suggested by Myra,so that’s where I planted it in mid Summer. Now at the end of October I have no hesitation in repeating myself in saying it really is looking  terrific.

Being placed in such a position, extra care had to be taken in making sure the new plant did not dry out.

Miscanthus sinensis red chief (5)

plant description 

Miscanthus Sinensis Red Chief is a perennial grass, and in its first year in our garden it has grown to a height of a little more than 1mtr tall,  the label suggests it can grow a bit taller reaching 1.5 mtrs about 5ft.

The flowering plumes/seed-heads start to show off in August with an eye catching shade of, well –  not exactly red, maybe, claret, burgundy, rust, I don’t know, more or less the colour which the picture shows above.

As you can see, the red seed heads mature to feathery plumes which are a shade of cream. It looks very interesting, as the red flowers develop into the cream shade, new ones continue to be produced giving a mix of both red and cream.

This plant is fully hardy in the UK.

Pruning —  Hanging on to its plumes, Red Chief gives a good show in Winter, in early Spring. cut back the old stems individually so as not to damage the new shoots which are being produced.

position — best results achieved when planted in full sun. Not too fussy regarding soil type as long as its reasonably free draining.

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Miscanthus sinensis red chief (4)


Having moved to Cheshire almost a year ago,  we felt it was about time we had a look at the nearby City of Chester.

An American poll placed Chester in the top five of Europe’s prettiest City’s.

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In early July we had a day trip to Chester and was pleasantly surprised at the vibrancy and charm of the old world feel to the city.


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In Aberdeen we lived by the River Dee where there was an ancient bridge, not unlike the one above in Chester. Chester is only about thirty miles from where we live now, and the river of which this bridge spans is also named  (the Dee)


Chester (10)

Weather was just perfect for a riverside stroll.


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Must book a trip on the ferry next time.


Chester (9)

The wall and fortress which surrounds the City, was at first a wooden structure built by the Romans 2000 years ago. In 100 AD the Romans rebuilt part of the wall and fortress using stone. In Roman times the town of Chester was known as (Deva)

The stone structure survived long after the Romans left around 400AD.   In the early 900s the Saxons made good use of the Roman walls as a defence against Viking raids.  (the Saxons named the town Chester)

 In 1066 the Normans  invaded the country and between 1120 and 1350AD  repaired, strengthened and completed the walls surrounding Chester.

In the 18th century the walls were made into a walkway surrounding the city and have been well maintained to this day.

History of the City of Chester


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The Roman gardens in Chester were set out in the 1950s, displaying Roman artefacts excavated from the area in the 19th century.

Roman gardens



Ilex Aquifolium Silver van tol

Written by  on October 7, 2014

The Holly Ilex Aquifolium Silver Van Tol, well it was a toss up between JC Van Tol with the green leaves, or the variegated form Silver Van Tol, silver won the day.

Holly Silver Van Toll (2)

Performance in our garden

(Ilex Aquifolium Silver Van Tol)  All this faffing about with making sure the Holly which you plant will have berries gets on my nerves. Perhaps you only have room for the one plant, did you buy a male instead of female, not surprised considering some of the males are called Queens and some females are Kings.

Best bet is to get a self fertile variety, one that really does work, like, JC Van Tol or the hard to find Silver Van Tol.

In Aberdeen, a few years ago,  I planted JC Van Tol, the plain green leaf variety in a friends garden.  The shrub thrived and produced masses of berries each Autumn/Winter


Holly Silver Van Toll (10)

Here, in our new Cheshire garden, I have planted a full standard specimen. of Silver Van Tol.

We did get it at a reduced price, as it was the last one available, and was actually looking desperate to be planted out.

A few weeks later, it fairly perked up and the yellow berries have now turned red,  the lollipop shrub is looking good in early October.

Silver Van Tol has pride and place in the central border of our back garden, and being self fertile like JC,  will I am sure look even better next year as the garden develops.


Holly Silver Van Toll

plant information

The green oval shaped leaves of Silver Van Tol  are edged in varying  shades of cream, and not at all silver as would be expected.

White insignificant flowers are produced in Spring,  masses of them will indicate a bumper crop of berries to look forward to come Autumn.  Which brings us on to the pruning of Holly.

In Aberdeen I have cut back Holly shrubs in all four seasons without causing any harm to the plant. However it makes sense that if you prune back stems in Spring which have flowers  or for that matter cut back stems in Summer which did have flowers, then it stands to reason that you will be reducing the amount of berries which it will  produce come Autumn.

The simple answer which has worked well for me is to prune lightly, by shaping up the shrub if necessary just after the berries have gone over in Winter.  If you feel it is getting too large and out of hand then hard pruning in early Summer will cause no harm, and will rejuvenate the plant, you will of course have very little or no berries in the Winter of that year. Pruning is easy with JC Van Tol as it bears no spines, the silver one which is a sport of JC is more or less spineless, some leaves at the tip may be a little prickly.

Our new standard form of Silver Van Tol will probably not require  pruning in the first two seasons.

Thrives in any decent free draining soil in full sun or semi shade.

Silver Van Tol is difficult to get a hold of, if you see it being offered, as I have done, as being green with silver edges and very spiky, this is not van tol and will be one which probably is not self fertile.

JC Van Tol available on the link below. This is the Nursery where I purchased Silver Van Tol, I think they are out of it at the moment, pretty sure they would order it for you.

mail order

Below, are plants which were blooming in our garden in early October, some of which were clearly just hanging on.

Place your cursor over the the picture to reveal the plant name.

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Trumpet Lily African Queen

Written by  on September 12, 2014

If you landed here expecting to find Humphrey Bogart or Katharine Hepburn, sorry!  this African Queen will not cope with getting waterlogged. 

Trumpet Lily African Queen (3)

Perhaps not as exciting, however the Trumpet Lily (Lilium African Queen) is still a show stopper.

performance in our garden

In March of last year I potted up three of the Trumpet Lilies (African Queen).

This was when we were still living in Aberdeen.  I placed the tub in a sheltered sunny position. The blooms opened in mid August, becoming a little damaged due to an unseasonal cold spell.

When I planted these bulbs little did I realise that in nine months time we would be uprooting and heading down to Cheshire.

No way was I going to leave these beauties behind, we arrived in Cheshire in early December, the tub containing African Queen sat outdoors  throughout the Winter and virtually was forgotten about, whilst having a nosey around the garden in late February I noticed that growth had already started.

Trumpet Lily African Queen

In the second week of July the blooms of African Queen started to open, and continued flowering well into August.

Quality of the blooms were excellent, mind you constant destruction of the Lily beetle was essential, never seen these pests in Aberdeen.  It was pointless leaving Myra to dispose of them as she is unable to destroy any insect, she simply flicked them off the plant.  Solution was simple, given Myras good eyesight she would point to the offending bug, I would get them between my fingers and squeeze.

We are considering  introducing  more Lilies to the garden for next year.  However I am not too keen on using a pesticide   If you know of any safe procedure in dealing with Lily beetle I would be keen to hear from you.

Trumpet Lily African Queen (2)

plant information

The Trumpet Lily African Queen has large scented blooms with a unique colour, often described as burnt orange.

Growing to a height of 120cm/4ft, often a bit taller than this.

Your bulbs can be planted between October and April, three or five bulbs  together  approximately 45cm apart give the best results. African Queen like most other Lilies are best planted deep, at a depth of at least 15cm. To help with drainage and to keep the slugs away from the bulbs place a little sharp sand at the base and also above each bulb when planting.

Position your Lily bulbs  in part shade or full sun. Soil should be free draining and on the alkaline side. It is recommended that in the growing season you should regularly  give a liquid feed high in potash.  Stand back and admire the blooms in July and August.

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When we planted African Queen we also placed another three varieties of Trumpet Lilies in pots. Below are pictures of them growing sucessfully in our Cheshire garden this Summer.

Trumpet Lily Pink Perfection 

Pink Perfection

Pink Perfection this year was the most floriferous of the four, all of them have a fantastic fragrance.

Trumpet Lily Regale. 

Trumpet Lily Regale (4)

 Regale in the first week of July was the first to open its blooms. This one has been a firm favourite with gardeners for many years.

Golden Splendour 

Trumpet Lily Golden Splendour

Golden Splendour started to bloom in the last week of July a little later than the other three.  Well worth the wait though, the fragrance of this one was intoxicating.


In the last week of August we decided that we would indeed go ahead and make more changes to the back garden.

I did suggest in my last post that a large chunk of the lawn had to go..  We came up with a couple of ideas, the first one would have made the garden much more formal looking. However we decided to go with our second option and create a large central herbaceous bed.

I am very happy with the result and although it is a small garden, it gives that walk around feel, with a feast of plants wherever you cast your eyes.

I really like perennials and will look forward to seeing them coming into fresh growth in early Spring.

It was hard work digging and clearing all those sods of grass. The soil in our garden is clay and very heavy so I didn’t make much attempt to clear the soil from the sods.  In previous months I had been dumping unwanted material from the garden in our woodland area, which would break down and probably be advantageous.  There was no way that I could do this with my unwanted grass so I had to hire a skip. I use the term (OUR woodland area very loosely)

Well, after topping up with two tons of fresh top soil, it is now, more or less fully planted, using plants purchased in 2ltr pots, at my age I make no apology for going down the route of instant gardening. Pictures below show the build up to how it is now looking in the second week of September

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