Jim’s Plant of the Week – Pieris Japonica Katsura

I woke this morning with great anticipation. I had 6 volunteers coming to help for the day. I had been praying for good weather because I was wanting to paint some large planters bright red and stain some weary old benches. The weather was cold, but beautifully sunny (a rare thing here in Wigan!).

They were due at 9:30am. By 10am I was wondering what had happened. I checked my work email, only to find out that due to illness they weren’t coming. Feeling a touch disheartened I set about the task on my own. The planters were in an inner courtyard. It was whilst there I discovered a stunning plant, which instanteously changed my mood. I decided that I had to share this plant and came up with the idea of “Jim’s Plant of the Week”.

So Jim’s first ever plant of the week is…. “Pieris Japonica Katsura”

Pieris Japonica Katsura

The bright, glossy maroon leaves are just gorgeous and mesmerising. Sadly they turn a rather dull green in due course, but hey ho, you can’t have everything.

I didn’t end up painting the planters, but I did paint 5 benches instead. The planters can wait for the volunteers to get better.

Bench before

Bench after







Thank you Pieris Japonica Katsura for cheering me up. I wonder what will be my next plant of the week?


Let The Battle Begin!

I’m back! After an enthusiatic start, I ran out of steam after only 2 posts. After a long days gardening I don’t always feel like sitting down to write. But I am going to try to persevere.

Some days gardening is a joy to behold. Other days it is a battle. Today was in this second category. It was a battle… literally.

In the pink corner (hospice colours) we have Jim the Gardener (BIG CHEER). In the green corner we have “Horsetail” (BOO HISS). Let the battle commence!


Horsetail, or Equisetum Arvense to give it it’s full name, is a gardeners nightmare. But it is actually a very interesting plant. It is the sole survivor of a line of plants that go back 300 million years to the Carboniferous period – it is sometimes known as a living fossil. It’s descendants grew as tall as 30m high and gave rise to many of our coalfields – a fitting fact considering Wigan’s mining past and that the Hospice is built on an old coal mine.

Apparently it has many medicinal properties, from being a diuretic and used for the treatment of incontinence, to being used to stop bleeding. The high levels of silica in it are used to improve the absorption of calcium, which in turn strengthens connective tissues and bones. It has been used in the treatment of osteoporosis. The Chinese sometimes use it to treat hemorrhoids. For me personally, I find that rather than treating the pain, horsetail is actually the cause of pain in the backside!

It loves wet, clay soils, which abound in Wigan. The stems grow from deep, fast growing  rhizomes. There are 2 types of stem. Firstly, as seen above, are the green, sterile stems, which generally grow in summer (although they seem to be growing pretty well at the hospice). Secondly, are the brown spore bearing stems which appear in spring.

Horsetail - spore

Horsetail is spread by these spores, but also by growth of the underground rhizomes. Unfortunately, these rhizomes can be 7ft deep, making them very difficult to remove. When weeding, if any of the rhizome is left, it will quickly start growing again, hence it being a problem for gardeners.

Today, I was battling a fairly small flowerbed at the front of the hospice. In the past it hadn’t been looked after and had become very overgrown. Last autumn I spent a couple of days weeding it and removing the dreaded weed suppressing matting (now I know why it was there!). When I inspected the bed this morning I was greeted with a mass of horsetail. So I set to work. The battle between me and the horsetail took nearly 4 hours. I slowly and meticulously removed as much of he roots as possible. Using a fork I slowly teased them out. By the time I had finished, the bed was weed free. Round 1 to me in the pink corner!

Front bed weeded

But I am under no illusion. After 300 million years of hard training, I am sure that the horsetail will be back for more. Let’s just hope that I will be up for the challenge.