There’s around 100 species of helicona, most of which are evergreen perennials native to tropical Central and Southern America. Their enormous glossy leaves are similar to banana plants and can grow to 120cm long. As heliconia can’t be grown in frost prone areas, there are few regions where these plants can be grown outdoors, although some varieties could be placed outdoors in summer. Heliconia flowers come in shades of red, orange, green and yellow.
One of the most well known varieties in the UK is Heliconia rostrata, known as the false bird of paradise. It has similar exotic flowers to bird of paradise (Strelizia) but instead of having upright flowerheads at the top of a stem like a bird’s plumage, heliconia flowers are arranged alternately all the way along the stem. The common name for Heliconia rostrata is hanging lobster claw because of its bright red and yellow bracts.
This exotic perennial is native to Ecuador and Peru. It grows from rhizomes and will spread indefinitely if left to its own devices. It can grow to 6m tall and can be susceptible to wind damage if grown outdoors because of its large leaves. In the UK it’s grown in glasshouses as it needs a minimum winter temperature of 15ºC. It would be an impressive plant for a large greenhouse.
Heliconia psittacorum is an easier plant to grow in the UK. It can be grown as a house plant in bright, indirect light and reaches only 50cm in height. It’s also known as parrot’s flower and has exotic red and yellow blooms.
How to grow heliconia
Grow heliconia in bright, warm conditions. These plants can’t be left outdoors in winter as they need a steady temperature above 15ºC.
Where to grow heliconia
Heliconia rostrata needs a sheltered position and should be grown under
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Native to the Mediterranean, parsley (Petrosilenum crispum) is a rich source of vitamin C and iron, and is said to cure bad breath and cleanse the skin. Parsley is a biennial, meaning it lives for two years, growing leaves in the first year, then flowering in the second, before setting seed. For this reason parsley is treated as an annual and it’s best to sow seed each year.
Autumn is often the most colourful season in the garden, and one of the longest as foliage tints and fruits develop over the course of many weeks. There are many trees and shrubs that are renowned for their autumn displays but it’s euonymus that really catch the eye, both for their unusual leaf colour and for their fascinating fruits.
Hazel trees are native to Britain and also grow in Europe and some areas of Western Asia. In the UK, you’ll often see hazel growing in hedgerows or woodland. A hazel tree is a good choice for the garden, especially with the wide range of cultivars available, as it can be used for hedging, as a tree in a mixed border or as a shrub. It’s a valuable plant for wildlife and can provide a delicious crop of hazelnuts.
Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) is a creeping woodland perennial in the Oxalidaceae family. It’s native to parts of Asia and most areas of Europe, including the UK. It’s used as an indicator of ancient woodland in southern and eastern England.
If your summer has been anything like ours, your lawn is probably in need of some extra care before the cooler months begin. Following heavy use over summer — whether that’s playing with kids or pets in the garden, hosting sunny picnics, or even a game of football — lawns can become compacted. There are various things you can do, however, to get your garden back into good shape before December, such as scarifying, removing moss, thatch and weeds, aerating, and even feeding if necessary.
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