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Olive trees in pots: planting, pruning & fertilising potted olive trees

Olive trees in pots: planting, pruning & fertilising potted olive trees

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Evening primrose: growing, varieties & benefits

Evening primrose: growing, varieties & benefits

With its beautiful flowers, the common evening primrose steals the show from all the other plants in the garden. In this article, we will tell you what you need to consider when growing evening primrose and what are the benefits of using evening primrose.

When dusk falls in the evening, the common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) unravels its beauty. In the twilight, the bright yellow blossoms are in stark contrast with the dimming light of the day. The flowers will also greet you in the morning and you will be able to enjoy the beauty of the evening primrose in daylight, too.

Evening primrose: origin & characteristics

The common evening primrose seems to fit into the native flora of Europe seamlessly. However, it has not always been so, because the evening primrose is a plant that has been introduced to the continent. It was only in the 17th century that the perennial was brought to Europe from North America as an ornamental plant. Garden bed borders and fences did not stop this plant and soon it conquered the entire Old World. Other representatives of the genus of evening primrose (Oenothera) did the same. Some of them were created by crossing, and soon numerous species of evening primrose enriched the European plant kingdom.

The common evening primrose is by no means inconspicuous. Growing tall, it reaches heights between 80 and 180 centimetres and sticks out well above many of its leafy neighbours. Underground, things are no different, because its fleshy taproot can grow as deep as the plant is tall. In the first year, however, the biennial plant presents itself quite inconspicuously. Its lanceolate leaves are initially arranged in rosettes on the ground. It is not until the following year that the main shoot sprouts, with a long inflorescence appearing at its tip from June onwards. The bright yellow and sweet-scented flowers bloom gradually from bottom to top. They attract numerous species of hawk moths as well as many other species of moths and butterflies. Among them is the hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum), which, as the name suggests, is reminiscent of a hummingbird with its way of flight.

how to grow evening primrose
The gorgeous flowers of evening primroses attract numerous beneficial insects and pollinators [Shutterstock.com/Maren Winter]

If you are interested in what kinds of butterflies fly outside your window, have a look at our article on butterfly species that are native to Europe. If you are wondering what do butterflies eat, you can find the answer in this article.

The most beautiful evening primrose species

The common evening primrose is just one among many relatives in its genus. Together with about 200 other species it belongs to the genus called Oenothera. In Europe, there are about 30 species of these plants. The common evening primrose is probably the best known of these. Here are other interesting representatives of the evening primrose genus:

  • Large-flowered evening primrose (Oenothera glazioviana): This species is widespread and can reach a height of up to 2 metres. Its flowers are slightly larger than those of the other evening primroses. The main difference, however, lies in the red buds and the red dotted stem of this plant.
  • Narrow-leaved sundrop or narrowleaf evening primrose (Oenothera fruticosa/ Oenothera tetragona): Although the flowers of this species of evening primrose shine in a typical evening primrose yellow, the growth of the narrowleaf evening primrose is not straight and upright but rather branched. The flower stems of narrow-leaved sundrops reach heights of up to 70 cm.
  • Pinklady or pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa): The appearance of the pink evening primrose is completely different. Its growth is not upright but branched to the side. Its maximum size is 30 cm. The flowers go from whitish to pink. Unfortunately, this species is extremely hard to control and spreads easily.
  • Bigfruit evening primrose or Missouri evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa): This species does not grow taller than 30 cm and is perfect for planting in rockeries or alpine gardens. There, it forms a dense and lush carpet of yellow flowers.

Planting evening primrose

You can buy evening primrose either as young plants or in the form of seeds. Potted plants can be planted out from spring until summer. The plants are hardy, but should not be exposed to frost too soon, as they will probably have grown up in a greenhouse.

The perfect location for evening primrose

Although the evening primrose is incredibly diverse, all species found in Europe somehow prefer the same thing. Outside of gardens and plantations, wild evening primroses can be found mainly where other plants have a hard time growing. They colonise gravel banks, railway embankments and fallow land as well as old quarries. Because evening primroses love sandy and nutrient-poor soil, they like to grow in soil with some lime. Of course, sunshine is crucial for evening primroses. They can still cope with partial shade, though. Most importantly, the location for evening primroses should be dry and not damp in winter.

How to plant evening primrose properly

You can grow your evening primrose in a pot as well as out in the open air. If you plant several specimens, you should make sure to plant large species such as the common evening primrose at a sufficient planting distance of about 30 centimetres. This keeps the plant well aerated and fungi stand no chance in infesting it.

growing evening primrose
When growing evening primrose, make sure that the plant has enough space in the soil for its lengthy taproot [Shutterstock.com/Mariola Anna S]

Since evening primroses have deep roots, you should always use a deep flower pot when planting evening primroses in pots. The substrate in it should consist largely of sand. For example, you can mix normal garden soil with 30 to 50 percent sand.

  • Choose a deep planter
  • For substrate, mix garden soil with at least 30 % sand
  • Keep the planting distance in the garden bed (at least 30 cm between plants)

Growing evening primrose: tips for evening primrose plant care

Evening primroses are extremely resistant. It is not for nothing that they have so quickly made the European wilderness their own. In any case, the undemanding plants do not need a fertiliser. And you can largely save yourself the watering, because the plant doesn’t mind even long periods of drought. One step that we recommend not skipping when it comes to evening primrose plant care is pruning. A vigorous pruning in autumn or towards the end of winter stimulates early flowering.

Propagating evening primrose from seeds

Evening primroses produce an incredible number of very small seeds. For this reason, if you don’t want to find this rapidly reproducing plant all over the garden, don’t throw the cut flowers in the compost.

Sowing evening primrose is very easy. If you want the plant to grow as an annual, early sowing at the end of April or the beginning of May is recommended. Evening primroses sown in July or August, on the other hand, will not flower until next year.

When sowing you should remember that evening primrose seeds require light to germinate. Therefore, do not cover the seeds with soil at all or leave them just lightly dusted with some soil on top. After about 12 to 16 days the first seedlings will appear.

Once the plant is established and allowed to ripen, it will seed reliably and provide you with new plant for next year.

Propagating evening primrose from seeds in brief:

  • Evening primroses produce numerous seeds
  • Sowing in April/May or July/August
  • Evening primrose seeds require light to germinate

Are evening primroses poisonous?

Evening primrose is not poisonous at all. On the contrary: all of the parts of the common evening primrose can even be eaten as a vegetable. The plant can also be used in various naturopathic ways, which we will further explain in the following.

Evening primrose use & benefits

Evening primroses provide eye-catching spots of colour in your perennial garden bed, but they also attract various insects, such as moths, butterflies and bumblebees. For this reason, the evening primrose is an excellent source of food for butterflies and many other insects.

However, the common evening primrose is not just a delicious treat for the insects in the garden. You too can enjoy the plant with all your senses. The fleshy taproot, for example, can be harvested in autumn and prepared as a delicious root vegetable. In spring, the fresh leaves are ideal for salads. The highlight in summer are the edible, bright yellow flowers, which can decorate all sorts of dishes. The flowers look enchanting in home-made ice cubes, which can then be added into lemonades or cocktails.

There is still more that the evening primrose can offer. The oil from the seeds of the evening primrose has a soothing and anti-inflammatory effect on irritated skin. Dandruff, dry skin and even neurodermatitis can be soothed. Evening primrose oil is used to make excellent natural cosmetic products.

evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil has calming effects on irritated skin [Shutterstock.com/Madeleine Steinbach]

The tea made from dried leaves, on the other hand, can counteract stomach and digestive problems. Even mood swings, moodiness and other signs that many people experience before their period are supposed to be calmed with evening primrose teas and extracts.

Clothes moths: detection, prevention & control

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What do butterflies eat?

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Pruning roses: expert tips on how and when is best

Pruning roses: expert tips on how and when is best

When and how to cut roses? In this article, we will show you how to prune roses correctly and what you should pay attention to when cutting back roses.

Cutting various types of roses (Rosa) is not as difficult as is often assumed. Even hobby gardeners can achieve the perfect rose cut with just a little practice. All you have to do is to be informed about the different growth habits and flowering behaviour of the rose type you are growing in your garden. In this article, we will explain in detail how to cut roses correctly. We will show you what you need to consider when pruning roses, so that your roses grow luxuriantly year after year and produce an abundance of flowers.

When to prune roses?

Roses should be pruned in spring and only if the weather is mild. In areas prone to late frosts and if roses are unprotected from cold, the first cut can be postponed until May. This is because frost can cause damage to the fresh cuttings and the new shoots.

When to cut back roses in summary:

  • Pruning: Should be done in spring (March to May), regardless of whether the rose is planted in autumn or spring.
  • Annual spring pruning: This can be done on all types of roses and is also done between March and May. How it is done depends on the growth and flowering of the rose. In the following paragraphs, we will explain in detail what this means.
  • Annual summer pruning: Summer pruning is limited to the removal of unnecessary shoots and withered flowers. When it comes to deadheading roses, i.e. the removal of withered flowers, there are some differences in how it should be done depending on the rose type.

Tip: A sufficient supply of potassium makes your roses more resistant to cold winter frosts. For example, the beauty of your roses can be strengthened with a dose of our potassium-rich fertiliser. Even during lukewarm winters, which are often followed by sudden cold spells in spring, you should cover the young, sensitive shoots with some sort of winter protection.

How to prune roses?

These basic rules should be followed when cutting roses:

  • Use sharp scissors for a smooth cut
  • Always cut above an outward pointing bud
  • Cut about 5 mm above the bud so that it is not damaged
  • To prevent diseases cut at an angle so that water can run off the wound

Tip from a professional: Roses have the so-called buds on their shoots, from which side shoots can develop. In roses these buds can be easily recognised: they form a kind of inverted “V” or a rounded base of the soon-to-be shoot.

Pruning roses when planting

Pruning roses can help promote good rooting of the plant and ensure an even balance between the underground roots and above-ground shoots. If you plant your rose plant in autumn, postpone pruning until spring. If you plant in spring, pruning can be done immediately. Here are a few small and simple rules to follow:

  • Root pruning: Shorten the roots to a length of about 20 – 30 cm below the grafting point. This stimulates the branching of the roots and the rose will grow quicker.
  • In shrub and wild roses, all shoots should be shortened by half so that they are about 40 cm long.
  • Climbing roses are cut back to 10 buds above the ground.
  • All other roses should be shortened to 3 – 5 buds above the ground.
  • You can use these rose pruning rules also when planting roses. By slightly pruning roses when planting them, you can promote healthy growth and rooting of the freshly planted rose plant.

Cutting roses in spring

Spring is the best time to prune all roses. The following three basic rules apply to all types of roses, according to which the basic pruning is carried out:

  1. Removing dead wood: Dry and withered wood is removed close to the transition to healthy wood or, if necessary, right at the base.
  2. Removing thin and diseased shoots: These rob the healthy and stronger shoots of the strength to flower. They are completely removed at the base of the plant or at their origin on a stronger shoot.
  3. Thinning out shoots that grow too densely: If the shoots are too close together, the one with the weaker growth or less favourable direction of growth should be removed. In this way, the air circulation in the rosebush can be improved, thus preventing rose diseases, such as mildew on roses.

These are the basic rules for the most primitive type of pruning. Pruning can then be also individualised to the needs of your specific plant – depending on what kind of rose you are growing to promote healthy growth and abundant blooming. This will be explained in the following.

Tip: An exception is the group of ground cover roses. These are not cut with this basic cut explained above.

We have summarised the correct pruning technique for each rose group for you:

Type of rosesPruning in spring
Heritage and old garden rosesOnly the basic pruning described above is carried out on old and heritage garden roses. If necessary, dense or rotten shoots are removed at the base.
Once flowering climbing roses and ramblers (flowering in June and July, then declining)In the case of climbing roses that bloom once, only the basic cut described above is carried out. If necessary, dense or rotten shoots can be removed at the base.
Once flowering shrub roses
(flowering in June and July, decreasing thereafter)
For once blooming shrub roses, only the basic pruning described above is carried out. If necessary, dense or rotten shoots can be removed at the base.
Wild rosesFor wild roses, only the basic cut described above is carried out. If necessary, dense or rotten shoots can be removed at the base.
More often flowering shrub roses
(flowering June - September)
In the case of more frequently flowering shrub roses, light thinning out is carried out as required by removing whole shoots. Every 4 - 5 years, older shoots should be removed directly above the ground.
Ground cover rosesGround cover roses should not be pruned annually. Every 3 - 4 years, they are trimmed to a height of about 30 cm without regard to their buds. Use a hedge trimmer to prune them.
Tree rosesThe crowns of the tree roses are cut back to 3 - 5 buds above the grafting point.
Hybrid tea rosesHybrid tea roses are pruned to 3 - 5 buds above the ground. Weakly developed shoots are cut back more thoroughly than the strongly developed ones.
English rosesDepending on the flowering habit of the English roses, they should be pruned in the same way as once or more often flowering shrub roses.
More often flowering climbing roses
(flowering June - September)
After the first flowering in spring, the side shoots growing on the long shoots are shortened to 3 - 5 buds. Only old, long and rotten shoots are removed completely at the base.
Garden bed rosesCut back to 3 - 5 buds above the ground. Weakly developed shoots can be removed. Keep the more strongly developed shoots. Extremely strong growing varieties (like 'Gloria Dei') are not cut back quite as deep (6 - 9 buds above the ground), dwarf roses are cut back thoroughly (2 - 3 buds above the ground).
Hanging or trailing rosesHanging or trailing roses are treated as once or more often flowering climbing roses, depending on their flowering behaviour.

Cutting roses in summer

No other major pruning operations are carried out in summer. What you can do is remove wilted rose flowers. Here, too, each removal should be done above the buds that point outwards. This promotes growth and further formation of flowers.

Tip: If you want to keep rose hips as a bright spot of colour in the garden or as food for the birds, you should not remove withered inflorescences from once blooming roses, as no further flowers will be formed. With roses that bloom continuously, you should not cut off the flowers in late summer, so that the rose hips can form.

cutting back roses
If you would like to enjoy some rose hip tea in the autumn, do not deadhead your roses [Shutterstock.com/OlgaPonomarenko]

Rose hips are an amazing natural source of vitamin C. If you would like to boost your immune system, you should definitely keep the withered flowers of roses on the plant and then make some tea from rose hips in autumn. You can learn more about fruit rich in vitamin C here.

Identifying side shoots on roses and removing them

In spring and summer, grafted roses – i.e. almost all garden roses – might have a side shoot growing out of their rootstock. Unnecessary side shoots, sometimes referred to as wild shoots, can be easily recognised by their smaller, lighter leaves. They also have at least seven or more leaves on a pinnate leaf, whereas grafted varieties usually have five leaves on the pinnate leaf.

Cutting roses in autumn and winter?

In autumn and winter there is not much to do in rose care. We do not recommend pruning roses in autumn or winter, mainly because this might stimulate the formation of new shoots. These young shoots would then be defenceless against the cold. However, what can be done during winter in terms of rose care is winter protection. To protect your roses from cold, cover the grafting point with a small heap of soil, mulch or with fir branches. Of course, correct fertilisation is essential to keep roses resilient in winter. To do this, use organic rose fertilisers that are rich in potassium in autumn.

If you are on a hunt for white varieties of roses to grow in your garden, this article will help you find the right fit. If you are interested in fragrant types of roses, read here.

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Growing climbing hydrangeas: tips on varieties, care & propagation

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Oxheart tomato: tips for cultivating the beef tomato

Oxheart tomato: tips for cultivating the beef tomato

Oxheart tomatoes are known for their large and fleshy fruits. In the following, we will explain what to pay attention to when planting and caring for oxheart tomatoes.

Oxheart tomatoes are popular among many hobby-gardeners because they are low-maintenance and can grow enormous fruits. In this article, we will tell you everything there is to know about the bull’s heart tomato.

Oxheart tomato: origin & history

The oxheart tomato probably originated in Russia (where it was first mentioned) towards the end of the 19th century. It later reached the USA where it is still widely cultivated today. Oxheart tomatoes are also very popular in France and Italy, where the fruits are often sold at farmer’s markets.

Oxheart tomato: characteristics & taste

As the name suggests, oxheart tomatoes are reminiscent of bull’s hearts in their shape as well as size. With their fruit weighing from 100 to over 1000 grams, they belong to the beef tomato group. While some of the fruits are heart-shaped and smooth, other are strongly ribbed with many folds. They only have few seeds inside, which is common in beef tomatoes. Most oxheart tomato varieties are open-pollinated, however, some of the newer varieties are hybrids which do not produce seeds that can be sown again. If you do select an open-pollinated variety, though, you can grow oxheart tomatoes from their own seeds. You can find tips for obtaining tomato seeds in this article.

Very often, oxheart tomato plants look rather sickly. Their leaves tend to be twisted and hang downwards noticeably. But don’t worry, this is totally normal. Their ripe fruits turn soft quickly and should therefore be eaten or processed fast after harvest. The bull’s heart tomatoes are delightfully aromatic and taste sweet with a slight acidity.

The best oxheart tomato varieties

Oxheart tomatoes are a treat, both visually and in terms of taste. We will introduce you to the five best oxheart tomato varieties for your garden.

  • ‘Anna Russian’ is an oxheart tomato variety which produces heart-shaped, large fruits that turn a deep pink colour when ripe. Some parts of the fruits are of a light beige. They have a mild taste and are ideal for making tomato sauces.
  • The ‘Bulgarian Oxheart’ tomato grows numerous pink, heart-shaped fruits in summer. The robust tomato plants can grow up to a height of 180 centimetres.
  • ‘Coeur de Boeuf’ is probably the best known oxheart tomato variety with its strongly ribbed, light red fruits. The ‘Coeur de Boeuf’ tomatoes originate from France and ripen from mid-July onwards. The plants can reach a height of up to 200 centimetres and are suitable for outdoor cultivation with some rain protection.
  • The ‘White Oxheart’ variety has a light-yellow colour and, like most almost white tomatoes, has a very fruity and sweet taste. It grows to a height of 200 centimetres and produces very good yields when grown in a greenhouse.
  • ‘Orange Russian’ is a heart-shaped, beautifully orange and red marbled ox-heart tomato. The fruits weigh up to 300 grams and taste wonderfully fruity-sweet and spicy. The tomato should be grown in a greenhouse.

Growing oxheart tomatoes

Oxheart tomatoes require a lot of warmth and should not be kept outdoors without some type of protection from rain. They also grow well in a pot by a south-facing wall of a house. You should use a substrate that is specially adapted for the needs of tomatoes. In this way, your tomatoes are provided with all the necessary nutrients for a good start and a rich harvest.

Many tomatoes can benefit from mulching. Read more about mulching and watering tomatoes here.

How to care for oxheart tomatoes

Oxheart tomatoes are grown with only one main shoot, all side shoots should be removed. As the plants grow very tall, they need a pole to support the weight of the fruit. A primarily organic slow-release fertiliser provides the plants with all the nutrients it requires.

Oxheart tomatoes: what can you use them for?

The large beef tomatoes ripen from the end of July to the beginning of October. Oxheart tomatoes are ideal for salads, but they also work great in soups and sauces.

oxheart tomatoes
Oxheart tomatoes are absolutely delicious in salads, soups or filled and baked [Shutterstock.com/Patrick Daxenbichler]

Our tip: try filling the tomatoes and baking them in the oven – oxheart tomatoes are delicious when prepared this way!

If you would like to add more colour into your tomato garden bed, have a look at our articles on yellow tomato varieties and green tomato varieties.

Agapanthus: growth, care & varieties

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