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Learn how to distinguish the spring onion from the leek and the “normal” onion. The different characteristics are explained here.
The large genus of Allium encompasses numerous species of plants. Once several dozens of synonyms for one plant are included, it can all become a bit of a mess. In this article, we discuss the differences between some representatives of the Allium genus. Here are a few simple tricks that can help distinguish between the common onion, leek and spring onion.
Spring onion and its synonyms
The spring onion (Allium fistulosum) has a plethora of synonyms: Welsh onion, bunching onion, green onion and scallion. And these are just the most frequently used ones. But it is all one and the same plant. The key distinguishing feature of the spring onion is the long green to milky white body and hollow leaves. Moreover, the spring onion does not develop bulbs, unlike its other relatives. Some supermarkets sell spring onions that are supposed to form an actual onion bulb. However, the only plants from the Allium genus that have this ability are the common onions.
The common onion (Allium cepa) is easy to recognise. As mentioned above with the spring onions, only the common onions have the ability to form round, thickened bulbs. This ability has also won them their other name: the bulb onion. The green leaves of the common onion can be used for cooking just as well as spring onions and it makes hardly any difference in taste.
Leek (syn.: broadleaf wild leek, Allium ampeloprasum) also belongs to the genus Allium like the spring onion and the common onion. Just like the spring onion, the leek is not able to form an onion bulb. The lengthy body of the leek has a similar shape to that of the spring onion. The most obvious distinguishing feature of the leek, however, are the green leaves. While onions, whether they are normal onions or spring onions, always have tubular leaves, leeks have broad and flat leaves. Moreover, the leek tends to be bigger and thicker than the spring onion.
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The box tree moth caterpillars feed on the toxic buxus. Find out here whether the box caterpillars are poisonous and if they can be touched safely.
Many regions of Europe are affected by the box tree moth (Cydalima perspectalis). During the treatment, one has to really get up close and personal to the moth as well as its caterpillars. The bright green colouring and the hairs of the caterpillar can lead to the question if the insect is dangerous. Allow us to reassure you. The caterpillars are definitely annoying but not poisonous to humans.
Are box tree moths poisonous?
Can they be touched with bare hands and can birds eat them? In the following, we will explain everything about the toxicity of the box tree moth.
Is the box tree moth poisonous? We have to answer this question with a yes. The larvae of the box tree moth eat the leaves of the box tree (Buxus), which contains about 70 different, mostly poisonous alkaloids in leaves and bark. Young larvae even prefer older leaves, which contain alkaloids in particularly high concentrations. Some of these substances are metabolized by the caterpillars, others are stored in the body as effective predator repellents. In this way, the offspring of the box tree moth becomes inedible or even poisonous for many animals (so mind your pets around box trees and box tree moths!). Also for humans, the toxins contained in the box tree are actually poisonous. The good news is: according to experts, touching the box tree and box moth or caterpillars is nevertheless harmless, because the alkaloids involved are not absorbed through the skin. In short, you can touch the box tree moths without any worries. Just avoid eating the insect and its caterpillars (which we assume shouldn’t be hard!).
Tip: Allergic skin inflammations after contact with the box tree are possible, although very rare. Therefore, always keep a close eye on children when handling box trees and box caterpillars.
Is the box tree moth poisonous to birds?
Although the box tree moth caterpillars should be poisonous to birds and other animals, there have been reports that titmice, redstarts, sparrows, starlings and even wasps are growing to like the larvae. It remains to be seen, however, whether these birds and insects are actually suitable as natural predators, as it has been observed several times that birds regurgitate their prey after some time. The adult moths, on the other hand, are eaten by birds seemingly without issues.
Tip: If you want to profit from the birds’ interest in the box tree moth, you should promote them and other beneficial animals in the garden. You can find out more about these and other natural control methods in our special article.
Can I touch the box tree moth with my hands?
The box tree moths can be touched safely. This also applies to the box tree caterpillars with restrictions. Allergic skin reactions occur only in extremely rare cases. What would do little harm to an adult could possibly affect children more severely, which is why you should not let them play too long with the caterpillars. Short contact is normally not a problem. If you are worried and want to be on the safe side, you can wear gloves when collecting or examining the caterpillars and wash your hands after contact with the insects.
Collecting box tree moth caterpillars by hand
Simply collecting the caterpillars of the box tree moth can be a first control step if the situation is still manageable. If, for example, only a few eggs were laid in the outer areas, the hatched larvae can be removed by hand before they move into the dense interior of the shrub. If you find well-developed caterpillars, that are approximately five centimetres long, on the outside of the shrub, you can assume that the infestation is already so severe that collecting them will no longer have any effect. Now you should resort to other means to get rid of the box tree moth. Here you will find all the information you need for treating the box tree moth. If you are specifically looking for natural methods of treatment, you will find what you are looking for in this article.
Tip: Cutting back the box tree is even easier than trying to collect the larvae and eggs by hand. The cut off parts should be packed in sealed bags and disposed of as residual waste. The cutting back should take place no later than two weeks after observing the first flight of the adult moths – discovered, for example, with a pheromone trap – is the first step towards a box tree without the pest.
Treating the box tree moth without poison: here is our guide to natural methods of control against this annoying pest. Even though your boxwoods (Buxus) might be under attack by the ravenous box tree moths (Cydalima perspectalis), it does not mean all is lost. It is…
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Peonies are an extremely diverse group of plants. In this article, we will introduce you to different types of peonies you can grow in your garden.
The genus of peonies (Paeonia) has an almost unlimited variety of flower colours and shapes. This is thanks to the intensive and lengthy work of numerous plant breeders around the world. For this reason, it is almost impossible to name a favourite among the countless peony species and their varieties. To make your decision-making process a little easier, we have listed the most beautiful types of peonies below.
Peony species and varieties at a glance
Well-assorted horticultural businesses can offer up to 600 perennial varieties of peonies and up to 200 varieties of shrub peonies. As you can see, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with so many options. With such an immense number of plants, it might be helpful to familiarise yourself with some distinguishing features between them.
Different growth forms of peonies: shrub peonies vs. herbaceous peonies
Basically, the genus Paeonia can be categorised into two subgroups: the shrub peonies and the herbaceous perennial peonies. Both forms of peony growth do credit to their name: the non-lignifying shoots of the herbaceous peony die in autumn and sprout again the following spring, bursting with vigour. The shrub peony, on the other hand, develops lignified wooden shoots and does wither when winter approaches. This means that under favourable conditions, the shrub peony’s growth is usually much more extensive than that of the perennial peony. Therefore, if you decide to plant a shrub peony in your garden, be sure to give it sufficient space to grow.
Choosing a type of peony: which species is the best?
First, the perennial peonies (especially Paeonia lactiflora) have a tuberous, thickened rootstock and herbaceous growth, which means that the plants sprout in spring, retreat into the earth in autumn and survive there with the help of their hibernation organs. These types of peonies can reach a height of 130 cm and can even grow beyond that with increasing age. For this reason, adequate space in the bed should be available from the outset. Second, shrub peonies (especially Paeonia suffruticosa) develop woody shoots and branches. Although they also lose their leaves in autumn, they still remain visible with their branch structures poking through the soil. This plant species can reach a height of 250 cm and more in the course of many years, if they are given a good spot in the garden.
Furthermore, there is also one other group of peonies that should not be omitted from any list of peony varieties. Peony hybrids are somewhat a botanical sensation, as they are a cross between the perennial and shrub peony species. This type of peonies exists since the middle of the 20th century owing to the Japanese horticulturist Toichi Itoh. It has only been known in Europe for just about two decades, though. Over time, more varieties of this species have been created, which means that there is now a whole range of new peony hybrids that bloom in different colours, grow compactly and have a long period of bloom. The hybrid peonies only lignify at the base and often have very attractive foliage combined with the characteristic compact growth typical of perennial peonies.
Flowering period of peonies
In summary, the period of bloom of peonies is between mid-April and the end of June. The following list of plants is intended to give you an overview of peony species and, at the same time, to briefly introduce you to the respective peony varieties and their characteristics (growth, flowering, etc.). This will hopefully help you decide which kind of peony you would like to grow in your garden.
The flowering periods of the peonies in this article are structured as follows (keep in mind that this applies mainly to temperate climate zones):
- very early = between middle and end of April
- early = between the end of April and mid-May
- medium = between middle and end of May
- late = between the end of May and mid-June
- very late = middle to end of June
Perennial peonies, the herbaceous type of peonies, are one of the most popular as well as robust plants one can cultivate in their garden bed. These plants prefer to stay in a location that suits their needs without having to be replanted afterwards. They come in many colour variations – with and without fragrance and with different growth heights. In the following paragraphs, you can learn everything you need to know about perennial peony varieties.
Wild perennial peonies
No other wild plant, apart from the shrub peony, produces such large flowers as the wild varieties of herbaceous peonies. The coloured calyxes of these individuals can grow up to 15 cm in size. The home of the wild types of peonies is on the slopes of the Caucasus, in the Urals, the Himalayas and also in the Atlas Mountains in Algeria and Morocco. Sadly, the European species are now almost extinct and can only be found in the southern parts of the Alps and in some areas in Siberia.
The following representatives of the wild peonies are particularly attractive:
- Common peony (Paeonia officinalis): reaches a height of 50 cm; white to pink flowers, 7 – 9 cm flower diameter, without fragrance; flowering time is very early to early
- Arietina peony (Paeonia mascula subsp. arietina): reaches a height of 60 cm; white to pink to carmine red flowers, 10 – 12 cm flower diameter, no fragrance; flowering time is very early to early
- Paeonia peregrina: reaches a height of 70 – 100 cm; red flowers, 7 – 11 cm flower diameter, no fragrance; flowering time is early
- Paeonia tenuifolia: reaches a height of 30 – 40 cm; red flowers, 5 – 7 cm flower diameter, delicate fragrance; flowering time is very early
- Golden or Caucasian peony (Paeonia mlokosewitschii): reaches a height of 50 cm; yellow flowers, 10 cm flower diameter, delicate fragrance; flowering time is very early
- Chinese peony (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 50 – 60 cm; white or pink flowers, 7 – 10 cm flower diameter, delicate fragrance; flowering time is late
Heirloom perennial peony varieties
These varieties of peony, which were developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, are no longer as present today as they were in those days. However, they are just as indispensable as the heirloom roses, which are still unrivalled in their beauty and fragrance. They have one disadvantage, though: their flower stems often cannot carry the weight of their enormous flowers. Therefore, heirloom perennial peonies usually need a solid support. The majority of known and commercially available shrub peonies can be traced back to the species Paeonia lactiflora.
The following peony varieties have been loved by gardeners for several hundred years and these plants still have a lot to offer even today:
- ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 80 – 100 cm; white flowers, 13 cm flower diameter, fresh scent with a hint of lemon; flowering time is late
- ‘Festiva Maxima’ (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 80 cm; white flowers, 12 cm flower diameter, delightful typical peony scent; flowering time is medium
- ‘Karl Rosenfield’ (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 70 cm; red flowers, 14 cm flower diameter, delicate, spicy fragrance; flowering time is medium
- ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 95 cm; pink flowers, 16 – 20 cm flower diameter, strong fragrance; flowering time is late
- ‘Königswinter’ (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 65 cm; white to purple flowers, 14 cm flower diameter, pleasant fragrance; flowering time is late with late blooming
- ‘Schwindt’ (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 95 cm; carmine pink flowers, 14 cm flower diameter, delicate fragrance; flowering time is medium to late
- ‘Wiesbaden’ (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 80 cm; light pink flowers, 13 cm flower diameter, no fragrance; flowering time is late
Japanese perennial peonies
The plants in this group have a unique flower shape and were largely bred in Japan. The stamens of these varieties were transformed by breeding and purposeful selection into petals and thread-like structures (petaloids) which fill the inside of the flower. These peony varieties were also known in Japan as the imperial flowers.
Another key feature of Japanese peonies is that their outer petals often have a different colour than the inner part of the flower. At the beginning of the 20th century, this type of cultivation also reached America, whereupon numerous American cultivars with Japanese characteristics were developed within a short time.
The following varieties are one of the best peonies to grow in the garden:
- ‘Bowl of Beauty’ (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 65 cm; vintage pink flowers with light yellow inner petals, 15 – 16 cm flower diameter, no fragrance; flowering time is late
- ‘Neon’ (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 90 cm; pink to purple flowers with red inner petals, 12 cm flower diameter, delicate fragrance; flowering time is late
- ‘Sword Dance’ (Paeonia lactiflora): reaches a height of 70 cm; garnet red flowers with carmine pink inner part, 14 cm flower diameter, delicate fragrance; flowering time is very late
Moving on, there are about 1,000 varieties of shrub or bush peonies as well as several different species with a shrub-like growth. However, most of the varieties of shrub peonies that are commercially available belong to the species Paeonia suffruticosa. Shrub peonies grow taller than their herbaceous counterparts and tend to have more stable flower stems.
Wild shrub peonies
Next, the plants listed below are currently one of the most commonly bred decorative plants and they originate from China. If you are interested in growing these types of peonies at home, they can usually be bought as one to four year old seedlings.
- Paeonia rockii: reaches a height of 150 – 200 cm; single or double-flowered white to pink blossoms with dark basal spots, up to about 20 cm flower diameter, light fragrance; flowering time is early; some might know this species as Paeonia suffruticosa rockii
- Paeonia delavayi: reaches a height of 150 – 200 cm; mahogany to orange-red flowers, up to 8 cm flower diameter, lily scented
- Paeonia ludlowii: reaches a height of 180 – 250 cm; yellow flowers with a diameter of 5 – 8 cm, no fragrance; flowering time is late to very late
- Paeonia lutea: reaches a height of 100 cm; yellow flowers with a diameter of 5 – 6 cm, lemon scent; flowering time is late
Shrub peonies: Paeonia suffruticosa
Some of the varieties in this group are also considered to be heirloom peonies as they are several centuries old. Both the Chinese and Japanese varieties and the old European varieties belong to this group. These varieties tend to grow taller and some of them have light green to bright green leaves. Additionally, these kinds of peonies are also often referred to as Paeonia suffruticosa hybrids because the genetic identity of other peony species cannot be clearly distinguished (the crossing partners can no longer be positively identified).
The following plants are guaranteed to enrich every private garden:
- ‘Hana Kisoi’ (Paeonia x suffruticosa): reaches a height of 150 – 200 cm; pink flowers, 20 cm flower diameter, fragrant; flowering time is early
- ‘Higurashi’ (Paeonia x suffruticosa): reaches a height of 130 cm; dark, vintage pink flowers, 16 – 18 cm flower diameter, fragrance-free; flowering time is early
- ‘Shimadaijin’ (Paeonia x suffruticosa): reaches a height of 150 cm; red to violet flowers, 18 cm flower diameter, no fragrance; flowering time is early
Peony hybrids are the product of crossing two different Paeonia species. Depending on the genetic similarity, a cross between two different species can be more or less successful. In the case of peonies, combinations of varieties of different Paeonia species are possible. In general, the aim of crossing is to combine the positive traits of the parent plants in the succeeding hybrid generation.
Perennial Paeonia hybrids
Compared to the historical, classic perennial peonies, modern peony hybrids are usually characterised by stable growth and early flowering time. The latter is usually four to six weeks before the start of flowering, which is usual for Lactiflora peonies. Perennial peony hybrids are available in many different forms ranging from white to pink to dark red and yellow and also with open, semi-double or double flowers.
The following hybrids are particularly attractive:
- ‘Carina’ (Paeonia x hybrida): reaches a height of 70 cm; scarlet red flowers, 14 – 17 cm flower diameter, without fragrance; flowering time is medium
- ‘Coral Charme’ (Paeonia x hybrida): reaches a height of 80 cm; coral pink flowers, 18 cm flower diameter, no fragrance; flowering time is medium
- ‘Cytherea’ (Paeonia lactiflora x Paeonia peregrina): reaches a height of 50 cm; raspberry red flowers, 16 cm flower diameter, no fragrance; flowering time is early
- ‘Paula Fay’ (Paeonia x hybrida): reaches a height of 50 cm; candy pink flowers, 12 cm flower diameter, no fragrance; flowering time is early
- ‘Roselette’ (Paeonia x hybrida): reaches a height of 70 cm; pink flowers, 9 cm flower diameter, delicate fragrance; flowering time is early
Shrub peony hybrids
These hybrids are the result of crossing the regal Suffruticosa varieties with the wild species Paeonia delavayi, Paeonia lutea and Paeonia rockii. The growth of these peony hybrids is usually postponed for about three weeks compared to their classic shrub relatives.
- ‘Black Pirate’ (Paeonia lutea x Paeonia delavayi): reaches a height of 90 – 120 cm; dark red flowers, 15 cm flower diameter, no fragrance; flowering time is medium
- ‘High Noon’ (Paeonia lutea x Paeonia delavayi): reaches a height of 150 cm; yellow flowers with red basal spots, 10 cm flower diameter, no fragrance; flowering time is late
- ‘Souvenir du Maxime Cornu’ (also: ‘Kinkaku’, Paeonia suffruticosa x Paeonia lutea): reaches a height of 150 cm; yellow flowers with orange edges, 16 cm flower diameter, sweet fragrance; flowering time is medium
- ‘Tria’ (Paeonia lutea x hybrid): reaches a height of 150 cm; yellow flowers, 10 cm flower diameter, sweet fragrance; flowering time is early to medium
Tip: The later flowering time of these hybrids is suitable for extending the overall flowering time of the shrub peonies.
Itoh hybrids: intersectional peony hybrids
The so-called Itoh peonies are truly unique and simply had to make it onto our peony varieties list. They are hybrids between the perennial and shrub peonies (Paeonia lactiflora x Paeonia lutea, synonym: Paeonia x itoh). These intersectional crosses combine the evergreen foliage and flower size of the shrub peony with the compact growth and winter hardiness of the perennial forms. The crosses of the Itoh group were named in honour of their discoverer, the famous Japanese horticulturist Toichi Itoh.
- ‘Bartzella’: yellow Itoh hybrid with internal red basal spot; maximum height 100 cm; very popular, but also expensive
- ‘Cora Louise’: creamy-white with purple eye in the middle of the flower; loose growth; reaches a height of 100 cm
- ‘Love Affair’: pure white flowers; half full flowering with late flowering
- ‘Old Rose Dandy’: changeable flower colour from light beige to vibrant purple with all intermediate stages; semi-double flower; 70 to 80 cm tall
- ‘Red Double Seedling’: intense dark red flowers; partly double with medium flowering time; up to 80 cm tall
- ‘Scarlet Heaven’: bears bright red flowers; maximum 80 cm tall with very bushy growth
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