Cyclamen hederifolium

Plants in Season

There is always a plant of interest to look out for in Scotland, whatever the season  Whether it be for its flowers, fruits, foliage or interesting shape, there is a plant for every season.

So, from garden favourites to plants in the wider environment, we will keep you up to date with what is on show in every season of the year.


Christmas House Plants

Thousands of poinsettias will have been bought for Christmas. With care, they can stay as colourful additions to a room until Easter. They have been developed from a wild species, Euphorbia pulcherrima, which grows in Mexico so they like warmth and good light – but not too much water. Ideally, place your poinsettia near a sunny window.  Do not let the plant touch the glass. As with all house plants, avoid draughts.  Water only when the compost feels dry then soak the pot. Euphorbias have a bitter white sap, so if a stem is broken take care not to get any sap in your eyes. If your poinsettia drops its leaves or wilts despite good care, it may mean it suffered cold conditions before you bought it e.g. sitting outside a shop.  Poinsettias are grown using dwarfing chemicals and special light regimes which means they are not really worth trying to keep for another Christmas.

Florists’ cyclamen are another popular winter pot plant. They were developed from Cyclamen persicum and, unlike some of the dwarf species, they are not hardy. They do not, however, like very warm rooms. Keeping them in good light in a cool, well it room or conservatory will make them last longer. They can be grown on to flower in another year. Feed while still in growth then allow the leaves to die back as they naturally become dormant as summer approaches. Only repot if the corm is filling the pot. If a cold frame is available, they can sit there – though some very fine cyclamen are grown on window sills. In autumn water and feed again.

Paperwhite narcissus

Most of the pots of bulbs which are bought as Christmas decorations are outdoor types such as hyacinths which were specially treated to advance their normal flowering time. They will flower again if planted out into the garden, but not at Christmas time.   Paperwhite narcissi are not hardy in our Scottish climate so are not worth saving.

The large flowered Hippeastrums are still usually called Amaryllis by gardeners and are definitely indoor bulbs. The size and number of flowers depends on the size of the bulbs.  The two stems on Red Lion have 12 flowers between them. The Friends of Saughton Park had an Amaryllis challenge and Sarah Bennett’s Apple Blossom was one of the entrants. The plant has not needed staking as it has been grown in good light. A heavy clay pot helps.  Some people have trouble getting them to flower in succeeding years. Remove the flowers as they fade and use liquid feed as the leaves develop. Keep well-watered and in good light as growth continues. Move to a greenhouse if available. By autumn the leaves may start to die back but even if they are still green withhold water but keep in good light to ripen the bulb. Give them around eight weeks dry and cooler. When growth restarts try replacing the top layer of compost around the neck of the bulbs. They do well in relatively small pots so only repot when they obviously need it. With plants that will be in the same pot for more than one season most growers prefer a soil-based compost such as John Innes.

All sorts of plants are sold for the Christmas market. As a general rule, flowering plants need more light than foliage plants.  Some are really outdoor plants like this little rose. It was in ornamental packing which has had to be removed to allow it to grow. Plants like this need to be in maximum light and in as cool a room as practical.

Stan da Prato
January 2021


Just Berries

You may think that your garden can be dull in the winter months, but as Anna’s pictures show, there is plenty of colour around. All of these images were taken in Anna’s Edinburgh garden at Redcroft.


Watching the blackbirds devour the red berries of Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ has made me look at what is left of the other berries.  Here are some recently taken photos. Unfortunately, the Sorbus ‘Pagoda’ is now stripped of berries.  Anna Buxton

Sorbus ‘Pink Pagoda’

Callicarpa bodinieri

Gaultheria mucronata ‘Bell’s Seedling’

Cotoneaster rehderi with Cotinus ‘Grace’

Pyracantha ‘Red Column’

Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’

Cotoneaster ‘Rothchildianus’

If you would like some more inspiration for your garden in winter, pay a visit to the Caley Winter Border in Saughton Park in Edinburgh.  There is a plant to suit every space.


Autumn Bulbs

Many bulbs come from countries with hot, dry summers so they either flower in spring as winter snow melts or in autumn when rain starts them back into growth. Several crocus flower in autumn. Easily obtained types include the blue Crocus speciosus and lilac C. sativus.  Saffron used in cookery comes from the stigma of C. sativus. It takes c 50,000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron, which is why it is so expensive.   The saffron crocus has been cultivated for at least three thousand years but is unknown as a wild plant. It doesn’t come true from seed so is thought to be a mutant from another species.

There are many other crocus species which between them flower from September through to March, but some are better grown under cold glass. The alpine house in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a good place to see them. The yellow Sternbergia lutea is sometimes sold as a crocus which it isn’t, and it can be hard to establish outside; most people grow it in a pot.

Often wrongly called autumn crocus, colchicums are usually larger with lilac or white flowers. One species, Colchicum autumnale, grows wild in a few damp meadows in Britain. It is sometime called meadow saffron which is potentially dangerous as all colchicums are poisonous. The anti-inflammatory drug Colchicine is derived from these plants but should only be used in the correct doses. Colchicum leaves are quite different from the grassy leaves of crocus and don’t appear till spring when they are easily hoed out in mistake for weeds! With any bulbs it is a good idea to label or mark their position, so you don’t dig them up when they are under the ground. Although we associate snowdrops with the end of winter, a few flower in October.

With most bulbs planting depth should be two to three times their own height so, if the bulb is one inch tall it needs to be below two or three inches of soil. There are exceptions; one being the hardy cyclamen which are in flower now. These need to be just under the soil.   They are excellent for growing in light shade under shrubs or trees. Cyclamen hederifolium– which means ivy leaved – is the one in flower now.  It used to be C. neapolitanum as it grows wild near Naples and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. Later in the winter Cyclamen coum, with rounder leaves, will start to flower. These little cyclamen have very variable but attractive leaves. Some forms have silver leaves. There are some other species such as the dainty pink C. mirabile or C. graecum with beautifully patterned leaves, but in Scotland these are better in a pot under glass. Just now garden centres are selling pots and trays of colourful cyclamen.

These are dwarf forms of C. persicum, originally from the Middle East, so not entirely hardy if we get severe weather. They do well in tubs or pots, perhaps by a door where they provide colour and get some shelter. Another bulb which likes to be on the soil surface is Nerine bowdenii from South Africa. It makes a fine display of pink, especially when planted at the foot of a south facing wall as it likes warm sun. If you look at the website of the Scottish Rock Garden Club, they have many more examples of hardy bulbs and also Ian Young’s very good Bulb Log which he posts every week.

Stan da Prato
November 2020


Paeonia still coming in to flower

With the slightly cooler temperatures some, but not all Paeonia have decided to slow down their progress towards flowering.

These two images show the delightful change in colour over time of the first Paeonia to flower in my garden.

As you can see I have not always been good at recording the names of my Paeonia.  I thought this one was P. lactiflora Flame.  But I don’t think it is so have labelled it as another unknown!

Another unknown Paeonia in Pam’s garden!


More purples in Colin’s Garden

We seem to be having a bit of a purple day here at The Caley and it is not just because of my own particular bias against yellow flowers!

These plants are growing in Colin’s garden and are looking particularly fine at the moment. If only I had more room in my own garden for some of these.  One advantage of knowing lots of gardeners is that they are always willing to share plants.

Geranium ‘Lawhead Croft’

Colin acquired this plant at a Hardy Plant Society sale.  It first occurred in Hector Riddell’s garden many years ago and he described it as genetically unstable.  Colin admits that the pink can be variable.

Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’

Another Hardy Plant Society acquisition, this time from seed. As well as looking great in the garden, it makes an excellent cut flower.  Will grow in full sun or in partial shade.

Geranium phaeum

Geranium phaeum, commonly known as the dusky crane’s bill or, even more dramatically, the black widow.  Good for a shady spot.

Chaerophylum hirsutum ‘Roseum’

Pink hairy chervil, a relative of cow parsley, will grow in sun or partial shade.

Colin also has some non-purple plants.  This pear tree is over 50 years old and has been extensively pruned in the past couple of years.  Growing against a south facing wall, it had a crop of over 30 pears last year – fingers crossed for a good crop again this year.


Paeonia just keep flowering

As we move into June there will be more images of Paeonia in our gardens.  Most of the blooms this week originally came from Binny Plants but one of them came from Lidl.

I am looking forward to next week as I have a few ready to burst into flower.  And I know at least one more member is waiting with his camera at the ready!


Paeonia in profusion

When you think of Paeonia (Peonies) you probably expect a brightly coloured, big, blousy flower

But there are a less common species which are perhaps a little less blousy.

Sometimes we can be concerned by variation in the same variety. Look as the variation in these three images of Paeonia delavayi.


Hopefully the blooms will have survived the weekend winds.  But there will be more to share soon.


Paeonia time begins NOW

It is hard not to like Paeonia (Peony) and whilst these are usually considered to be summer flowering there are some varieties that are in flower now.  Over the next few weeks we hope to share images from Caley members and friends of the blooms in the their gardens and some images from The President of Paeonia in flower.

From the President:

Paeonia cambessedesii

Paeonia suffructicosa (Tree Peony)

Paeonia delavayi (Tree Peony)









Images from members:

Paeonia delavayi (Kathleen M)

Paeonia tenuifolia (Peter W)

Paeonia lutea var. ludlowii (Shona N)









Paeonia Lactiflora picotee (Peter W)

Paeonia Anne Marie (Tree Peony) (Kirsty L)

Paeonia suffruticosa niigata akashigata (Kathleen M)









However it is not uncommon for people to cherish a plant and not know what variety it is.  In this series we will include some images labelled as ‘unknown’ and it might even be possible to suggest a name.

Unknown (Peter W)                                                            

Unknown (Douglas B)

Unknown (Tree Peony )(Peter W)


Colin’s Garden

Caley member Colin has sent in some photos of the plants looking good in his garden at the moment.  Personally, I have very few yellow flowers in my own garden (only a few daffs), preferring to have pinks, purples and whites, but the yellow certainly helps to lift your mood.  Does anyone else have a colour preference in their garden or do you favour a riot of colour?

Trollius europaeus

Trollius europaeus: Flowers May – Jun and likes damp soil.

Ranunculus acris ‘Flore Pleno’

Ranunculus acris ‘Flore Pleno’: Flowers from late-spring into summer.  Likes moist soil and will grow in sun or part-shade. According to Colin, it can be a bit of a thug but it does look great.

Tulipa sprengeri sitting alonside Paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii.

Tulipa sprengeri: A late-flowering wild tulip. Colin grew these from seed – it takes 4 years to flower!

Paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii: delightfully nicknamed “Molly the Witch” the seeds of this plant take 2 years to germinate! Macplants recently posted about this plant on their Facebook page – worth checking out if you are interested in growing it in your own garden.

I was going to add that I can’t believe that Colin has a bit of bare soil in his garden, but I can see a couple of labels there, so obviously something is still to come up.  Watch this space to see what it is.


The last of the Auriculas

We have just for a few more Auriculas to share this week.  However this is now the time those of us who grow Auriculas will soon be removing offsets to grow on and perhaps swap or share!  In the meantime we plan to add a compilation of the entries to the website in the next few days.

Auricula Kingfisher (Sarah B)

Auricula Nymph (Colin A)

Auricula Prince Charming (Colin A)

Auricula Larry (Colin A)


Auricula Tummel (Pam W)

Auricula Joy (Pam W)

Auricula Black Jack (Pam W)

Auricula Callender Park (Pam W)

Auricula Rhubarb Rock (Pam W)

Auricula Sir Prize (Bill C)

Under normal circumstances there would be an annual Scottish Auricula and Primula Society Show in mid May but unfortunately it has, like all other shows, been cancelled.  But here are two pictures form 2016 to whet your appetite.


Caley members may recall an article in the 2017 Caledonian Gardener written by Graeme Butler of Rumbling Bridge Nursery.  It is well worth reading again. You can see it again here.


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