Becoming a Compost Master

Good Compost

Good Compost

Composting garden waste is an important part of the gardening cycle and the more of the waste you can reuse in your own the garden the better, it will reduce trips to the local tip and the over following council collected brown bin and produce good organic matter to feed your garden so it is a win-win all round.

 Digging compost into the ground

Digging compost into the ground

Some basic compost rules: Your compost bin, must be siting on the ground, whether bare soil or lawn, but never concrete or paving. As well as micro-organisms that are going to break down the plant waste so are warms and they need to be able to get to into your bin. You need at least 2 compost bins, 1 that is in use and the second one which was filled the year before and is now being allowed to rot.

Vermin proof compost bin

Vermin proof compost bin

If you are going to compost food waste ( never cooked, or meat or fish) vegetable peelings etc., then this needs to be in a sealed vermin proof compost bin.

 Wooden slatted compost bin

Wooden slatted compost bin

There are many compost bins on the market, or you can make your own. The basic rule is the bigger you can build your compost bins the better, as the larger the volume of decaying matter the better and faster it rots. Good air flow is also an essential for quick rotting.

Building wooden compost bin

Building wooden compost bin

If you are building your own then a minimum workable size is a 1m x 1m by about 1m in height. Old pallets are good for the sides as they let the air in, or old scaffold boards cut to length with regular gaps left between the boards. The front wants to be open so barrows can be wheeled in and emptied, but as the garden waste gets higher there needs to be the ability to slot boards in across the front and slowly build the front up as the compost heap grows in time.

Adding boards to front of wooden compost bin

Adding boards to front of wooden compost bin

Now you are ready to get composting.

Composting: Use one bin at a time, all annual weeds can be composted,

DO NOT COMPOST perennial weeds, i.e. nettles, docks, bindweed, ground elder and mares tail (these will have to be taken to the tip or burned).

Stinging Nettles

Stinging Nettles

Docks

Docks

Bindweed
Bindweed

 Ground Elder

Ground Elder

Mares tail

Mares tail

Grass cuttings and some fallen leaves, these make good ingredients for the compost; layer these including layers of shredded paper and the odd torn up cardboard box. Also ‘hard’ garden waste, this is everything that is not green, i.e. branches and stems, these will be very hard to compost if they are not chipped first, add chipped layers into the compost, or remove woody material from the garden. It is also important that the compost bin dose not dry out, so if the contents are looking very dry, put a couple of cans of water on it.

Adding shredded paper and grass clippings

Adding shredded paper and grass clippings

To help speed up the composting, old carpet or blanket can be put over the top of the compost heap.

Covering the compost with an old carpet or similar.

Covering the compost with an old carpet or similar.

There are two schools of thoughts either turn the compost regular every 4 to 6 weeks, this requires 2 bins, so the heap is regularly turn from one to the other, or leave in the layers, perhaps experiment to see what works best.

Turning compost

Turning compost

Once the bin is full it will take approximately 1 to 2 years to break down, it maybe quicker depending on how large the heap, the larger it is the hotter and the quicker it rots, also how dry it is and of course what garden waste is in it.

Digging out rotted compost from the compost bin ready for use

Digging out rotted compost from the compost bin ready for use

Leaf mould, this is a wonderful soil improver and almost any gardener can make this, no matter how large of very small your garden is. It can be dug in or act as a top dressing.

Rotted leaf mould

Rotted leaf mould

If you have enough space then you can build a leaf mould bin again 2 are needed. Each bin should be a minimum of 1 x 1m and 1m in height. A post on each corner and 4 strong straining wires set at equal distances up the posts, then attach the chicken mesh to the wires, again the bin will compost quicker if it is on soil. If you only have a small garden then black bin liners can be used and stored in a shady spot out of the way, like behind the shed.

Bag up raked leaves.

Bag up raked leaves.

Rake up and put some leaves in with the compost the rest to go in the wire bins, use one at a time, to speed up posses can cover the bin, or fill up a bin liners half full, twist the top and tie with string, next punch 5 to 7 holes in the bottom of the bag with a garden fork, store in a shady spot. It will take about 1 to 2 years for the leaves to rot and become leaf mould.

Digging out rotted leaf mould for use.

Digging out rotted leaf mould for use.

Food waste, even if you have a tiny court yard garden then you can produce good compost from food waste.

Putting food waste into a vermin prof compost bin

Putting food waste into a vermin prof compost bin

A rat proof compost bin (provide by the local council, or brought from a good garden centre) place on bare earth. For all vegetable, bread, eggshells and food waste. This must be placed onto the bare soil. Layer the food waste with shredded paper and unprinted cardboard torn up. Do not allow the compost to dry out. It will take 1 to 2 years to rot.

Digging out rotted compost from the compost bin ready for use

Digging out rotted compost from the compost bin ready for use

Now you should have all the knowledge you need to be a compost master.

Good Luck!

Autumn Bulbs

A mass of autumn crocus

A mass of autumn crocus

Most people think bulbs are all about the spring, but in fact they can put on a good show in the autumn, Whether autumn crocus planted in sweeps in longer grass or in pots. or striking Nerines planted in flowers beds. These bulbs add a much need splash of late flower colour to the autumn garden.

A mix of Nerines

A mix of Nerines

Nerines are not fully hardy, but in a shelter spot in the south eastern corner of England, planted hard up against a south facing wall, where they can be suitably baked and in gritty free free draining soil, they should do very well. Otherwise they will grow well in tall pots of at least 10 to 12cm tall, in a cool green house or conservatory or sunny porch.

 N. 'November Cheer'

N. ‘November Cheer’

N. November Cheer: A bare stem reaching up to 50cm tall with a wide flower cluster of the classic trumpet shaped flowers in a delicate salmon pink, late October, followed by mid green foliage.

 C. cartwightianus Alba

C. cartwightianus Alba

C. cartwightianus Albus: growing to 8 to 10cm tall flowers produced before the leaves, white with delicate veining. Ideal of group planting in the front of a flower bed.

N. 'Red Pimpernal'

N. ‘Red Pimpernal’

N. Red Pimpernel: this eye popping red Nerine flowers mid to late October reaching to nearly 60cm tall, with a dense head of trumpet flowers. Followed by glossy foliage.

 C.sutivus

C.sutivus

C.sativus: the original saffron crocus, need to be planted deep at 12-15cm and needs a hot and sunny spot. The flowers are a egg yolk yellow with the important bright red stamens that are used in cooking to flavour and colour food. The growing of this crop on mass in the fens is what gives Saffron Weldon it’s name. A great looking autumn crocus which is worth growing for the flower, even if you don’t intend to use the saffron.

 N. 'White Supreme'

N. ‘White Supreme’

N.White Supreme: An elegant Nerine reach about 45cm tall October flowering with clear white flowers in large heads.

 C.speiosu

C.speiosu

C.speciosus: this is the classic autumn crocus and naturalises well, seen growing in great sweeps through grass land. Making a sea of pink-light violet flowers of up to 10/15cm tall in September -October.

 naturalising autumn crocus

naturalising autumn crocus

Crocus grow well in full sun in well drained soil. Both of these bulbs need to be ordered about August for planting late August, follow the suppliers instructions about planting, spacing and depths for individual bulb varieties.

The many shades of Nerines

The many shades of Nerines

I hope I have inspired you to add autumn bulbs to your garden planting. If you want help with revitalising an existing planting boarder or developing a whole new planting area in your garden, the autumn is the perfect time to get planning,designing and ready for winter planting. I can help you, give me, Emily a ring on 01273 470753.

Dazzling Dahlia

 on mass Dahlias

on mass Dahlias

September is the month these bright and blousy garden drama queens come to the for, from the delicate with dramatic foliage to the massive dinner plate show stoppers. Making striking additions from garden boarders to centre pieces in a flower arrangement, Love them or loath them, there is much to admire in these old fashioned garden favourites.

D. Bishop of Llandaff

D. Bishop of Llandaff

D. Bishop of Llandaff: This old favourite, has striking dark purple foliage standing 90cm tall, with dramatic bright red single flowers with golden stamens. A striking addition to the late flower boarder.

 D. Bantling

D. Bantling

D. Bantling: A fine pompom Dahlia with rich mid green foliage and a mass of round vibrant orange flowers up to 90cm tall. Good for flower arranging.

D. Lindsay Michelle

D. Lindsay Michelle

D. Lindsay Michelle: This is a show stopper of a Dahlia with large flowers held above green foliage. The base of the petals are a clear yellow and the serrated tips a shocking pink. A dramatic planting and superb as a cut flower.

 D. HS Wink

D. HS Wink

D. HS Wink: dark burgundy foliage, with clear pink single flowers with a magenta base splash and yellow stamens, make this Dahlia a good choice for mixed late boarder planting. Up to 80cm tall.

 D.Witten

D.Witten

D. Witten: An elegant Dahlia with emerald green foliage and rounded white petals some flushed blush pink. At 55cm tall a good plant for the front of the boarder.

 D. Blackberry Ripple

D. Blackberry Ripple

D. Blackberry Ripple: A tall hansom Dahlia at 110m with green foliage and large striking flowers of white and purple stripes. A must as a cut flower and a garden talking point.

 D. Bishop of York

D. Bishop of York

D. Bishop of York: Purple foliage and clear yellow flowers with golden stamens standing at 90cm tall make this a must have addition to the central boarder planting.

All Dahlias like a good sunny spot in the garden and grow best in humus rich soil which dose not become waterlogged. They are not hardy, so here in the south of England they can over winter outside if protected from frost with either dry straw or horticultural fleece to protect the crown ( cut down to 20cm off the ground before the first frost and then protect).As long as the tubers do not get water logged , in heavy soils it would be best to lift the crowns. If you are concerned then you can treat dahlias in the classic way which is to lift the tubers, dust off the soil and allow to dry out in a shed.

Dazzling Dahlias

Dazzling Dahlias

For many years Dahlias went out of fashion and were rather sneered at for being to over the top and only for flower shows, but they are making a come back and it is well deserved!

Not such Exotic Fruit- From Apricots to Grapes.

 Bunch of grapes

Bunch of grapes

Gardening in the South-eastern corner of England has it’s advantages and one of these is, the ability to grow some more exotic fruit varieties, peaches, grapes and even figs grow and crop well, here are few mouth watering selections to consider.

 Peach Rochester

Peach Rochester

Peach Rochester: One of the best varieties for out sided growth, growing best against a warm wall, as a fan, in full sun. It has some resistance to peach leaf curl. Ripening late August, with good medium sized fruit yellow streaked red and sweet yellow flesh.

 Grape vitis Brandt

Grape vitis Brandt

Grape vitis brandt: Ideal for out door growth, very hardy, vigorous grower. To train up a up a large pergola or wall. Good disease and mould resistance. Crops reliably with good dark sweet fruit held in compact bunches towards the end of October. Dual-purpose grape, great for the table or to make wine. Good autumn colour is an added bonus.

Apricot Moor Park

Apricot Moor Park

Apricot Moor Park: a very good out door variety, grow up a warm sunny wall, in full sun as either a fan or an espalier. Apricots are easy to grow and relatively problem free. They do blossom very early though mid-Feb to mid- March, so may well need some protection from frost, with fleece. This variety is a vigorous grower. It produces sweet golden yellow to orange fruit blushed red. With apricot coloured flesh with a delicate sweet flavour. Good for cooking, bottling or just enjoying straight from the tree.

 Kiwi 'Jenny kiwi'

Kiwi ‘Jenny kiwi’

Kiwi Fruit ‘jenny Kiwi’: Otherwise known by their older and to my mind more elegant name the Chinese Gooseberry. This is a twinning climber, so a large warm wall or sturdy pergola is needed. Jenny Kiwi is a relatively new variety and the good news is that it is self-fertile. It needs a good sunny position in good moist humus rich soil to do well and fruit. It has rose scented flowers in mid summer and on good hot years should fruit mid-autumn.

Nectarine 'Lord Napier'

Nectarine ‘Lord Napier’

Nectarine Lord Napier: Everything you ,love about a peach, but with out the furry skin, probably best describes a nectarine. Grows best on a warm sunny wall. Some residence to peach leaf curl. Ripens early august, with orange flushed red shiny skinned fruit, with a golden yellow flesh, a sweet and juicy fruit.

Fig 'Brown Turkey'

Fig ‘Brown Turkey’

Fig Brown Turkey: This is one of the hardiest figs to grow outside, it is an old favourite and tried and tested. With large fruit, that when semi-ripe and still a little green, make a great addition to a salad, when fully dark brown and soft, are beautifully sweet, eaten straight from the tree, or for jam or ice-cream making. A fig is very easy to grow, it dose best on a warm to hot wall in full sun, the soil needs to be as poor as possible (think Mt. Ararat) A fig will produce 3 crops in a season given a chance, this of course does not work in an English climate, so make sure all late fruit and baby fruit are knock off the tree after the end of November, to encourage, figs to develop early in the season so they can ripen in a short English summer.

High summer fruit.

High summer fruit.

All of these fruits are worth the effort and not that difficult to grow, except perhaps dealing with the dreaded peach leaf cruel, then you just have to decide how much effort you are prepared to put in for the sweet juicy final lip smacking result!

I hope I have inspired you to get ordering your own exotic fruit, ready for planting in the autumn. Then this time next year, you could be getting ready to enjoy the fruits of your labours.

Acid lovers-Shrubs that thrive in neutral to acid conditions.

Acid loving shrubs

Acid loving shrubs

If you are gardening in the weld of Sussex and Kent and other neutral to acid soils, you may feel that gardening is a strenuous contact sport. Battling waterlogged and heavy soils in the winter which can set concrete like in the summer months, this gardening is only for the most hardy, but there are many small trees and shrubs that thrive in such conditions and make all the hard work worth while. Here are just a few to consider.

Hamamellis x intermedia 'Allgold'

Hamamellis x intermedia ‘Allgold’

Hamamellis x intermedia ‘Allgold’: ‘Which Hazels’ are superb shrubs and this is one of the very best. It has an attractive habit growing to a vase like shape with spreading branches. It has round mid green leaves similar to a hazel, hence it’s common name. With good copper hues in the autumn. The main attraction are the very fragrant deep golden spider like flower held on bare twigs in mid-January to mid-February. Grows well in any neutral to acid soil that is water retentive and humus rich, but not water logged. In dappled shade.

 Pieris 'Forset Flam

Pieris ‘Forset Flam

Pieris ‘Forset Flame’: This hansom large shrub is well worth a place in any garden. With glossy dark green foliage, which has striking bright red new growth every spring held as vertical candles above the older green foliage. This new foliage, turns through pink, to white and finally to green as it matures. In April- May it is smothered in pinnacles of dropping waxy white flowers which are almost lilly of the valley like. It makes quite a sight. Grows well in Dappled shade it will tolerate full sun. in acid soil which is moisture retentive but not water logged, with a good humus content.

Fothergilla major

Fothergilla major

Fothergilla major: Is a medium sized shrub which is moderately slow growing but worth the wait. It is a deciduous shrub with round curse toothed leaves that turn a brilliant blood red in Autumn. It has smallish white bottle brush flowers in the summer. It loves a rich acid soil with good moisture and needs full sun.

Magnolia liliiflora 'Nigra'

Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’

Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’: One bit of very good news about gardening on acid soils, is the whole of the Magnolia family is now at your disposal. A beautiful, multi-stem shrub or small tree, this magnolia is a show stopper, with an elegant wine goblet like habit. Mid green foliage that goes a beautiful butter yellow in autumn. In Mid -April to May, tulip shaped, dark rich purple flowers, pale white with in, held upright on the stems. It may even flower on and off right up till August. Likes full sun to a little dappled shade, humus rich neutral to acid soil.

 Kalmia latifolia 'Freckles'

Kalmia latifolia ‘Freckles’

Kalmia latifolia ‘Freckles’: A medium sized evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves. With clusters of white to pale pink flowers with delicate spots of burgundy, flowers are borne on mass in June. It is a striking display. Grows well in moisture acid soils in full sun. Caution all part of this plant are poisonous.

Cornus kousa 'Chinensis'

Cornus kousa ‘Chinensis’

Cornus kousa chinensis; This specimen shrub requires an open situation where is can be the focal point. It is a slow grower but will reward your patience ten fold.. A large shrub or small tree, it has a striking tiered like habit, with foliage held in pairs along the branches. It has rich red autumn colour. Mid summer papery white flowers are produced followed by pimply red round fruit which hang from the branches. Grows in full sun to dappled shade, and in humus rich neutral to acid soils. dramatic addition to any garden.

Dramatic planting with acid loving shrubs and Trees.

Dramatic planting with acid loving Shrubs and Trees.

So if you feel gardening on heavy acid soils has little to no rewards hopefully this will inspire you to think again about your garden.

If you need help with a planting scheme, either new or resorting an existing area, I know just the woman who can help you. Give me, Emily a call on 01273 470753. I will be delighted to talk to you about your garden project.

Restoring a Farm Yard Pond

view from Brye of over grown pond

view from Brye of over grown pond

Client’s Brief: The clients had been give planning permission to convert the Brye/Cattal shed into a dwelling and part of the planning permission was that the disused farm pond behind the Brye should be restored, using natural materials where possible and be planted with native plant species to encourage wildlife back into the pond garden, to produce a functioning habitat. There should be access from the new car park on the higher level above the flint retaining wall and access from the back door of the Brye, as well as the 1m wide side access. The pond and it’s planting should sit the Brye into it’s restored landscape, with a simple jetty out over the water.

before designing beings

before designing beings

Site: The clients had moved into a converted barn next to the Brye, the previous owners had converted the barn and a lot of the rubbish had been dumped in the farm pond. The site was completely over grown, with an existing planted weeping willow tree and a number of other self sown saplings, including hazel, field maple and elm, which sadly was diseased, crowding the edge of the pond. The main body of the pond did not hold water any more despite the high water table and was filled with a lot of building rubble and the side boundary was edged by a ruinous flint wall.

view of pond from Brye before landscaping begins

view of pond from Brye before landscaping begins

Site constraints: The access was challenging being only 1m wide by the side of the Brye. The Willow although a beautiful tree, had it’s roots growing into the pond. No one had any idea how much rubbish was in the pond and how deep it may be. The high water table was a great concern, and would need to be taken into account. The Brye was a good 1.5m above the level of the pond, and in places the pond edge was very close to the boundary, not allowing much room to grade slopes down to the waters edge. The pond had to be restored to the exact same shape and over all depth. The natural constraints which were put on the project by South Downs National Park, we had to make sure we used natural materials, that the disturbance of existing wildlife would be to the minimum and they had a tight rein on the native planting that could be used.

Designing the pond. The first thing to do was to have an ecological survey carried out over 6 weeks to assess what wild life was present. Also a topographic in-depth survey was carried out. Armed with this information and with the clients brief, I was able to start work on designing the project which would still have to go back to the planners. Luckily for the clients there was sadly not much in the way of wildlife present, including the rare great crested newt which would have been amazing to have in your garden, but would have made for an impossibly expensive build.

 

The first challenge was the difference in height, round the Brye and getting access to the garden. So a set of brick steps lead down by the flint wall from the car park to a Broadwalk, with a set of steps up from the Broadwalk to the back door and a set of steps down onto the sloping lawn round the pond. Wood was used as a Broadwalk as the client particularly liked this material and a wooden walkway had passed the initial planning that had been put in years before by the previous owners. Sadly planners change and so do tastes, so it was rejected so a new design of a brick path with brick steps into the garden was produced.

 rubble etc. removed from pond.

rubble etc. removed from pond.

The next was concern about the high water level and the Willow. SDNP planning said they were happy for natural ponds to now have a butyl liner over spread with puddling clay and this is how they restore dew ponds on the Downs. The Willow, was going to have to be root pruned and then have some very strong root barrier placed round the roots on the pond side of the tree. Under pond drainage was need with a pump, to remove excess water from under the liner, this was managed with a pump and floatation devise to keep the water table level below the liner level.

putting pipe work in.

putting pipe work in.

Restoring habitat to the pond. A wide planting shelf of up to 2m wide was to be constructed all the way round the pond and would gentle slope down so there could be different depth planting zones for the aquatic plants. A large bog garden area lined with puddling clay was created so that it could become an over flow area for water above the pond water level, particularly in the winter months when there was more rain. Areas of native shrub and understory planting were designed round the pond to create different habitats. The areas of grass were to have different moving treatments, with different grass lengths and some kept long through the winter months, to produce as many different habitats as possible. Piles of cut grass would be left through the winter months for invertebrates to hibernate and small mammals. The whole ethos of the design was to create new and varying habitats.

 spreading clay liner

spreading clay liner

The clients enjoyment in the new garden: In amongst all the thoughts on native planting and natural build processes, it was important to remember the clients, their family and their clients who would be using the garden, so they could all interact with it fully. Hence the wooden jetty, leading through the bog planting over the water. Also meandering grass paths cut through the meadow grass, leading down to the waters edge and round the blog planting. There will be simple seats set in quite niches where the pond life can be enjoyed.

 puddling clay spread over the pond surface.

puddling clay spread over the pond surface.

Landscaping: It was decide to use a SDNP recommend pond contractor for this very specialist project. It was important that the project was carried out over the dormant season, for both the existing plants and any wildlife, also so the winter rains could naturally fill the new pond.

 moving soil round the site

moving soil round the site

Access was the first problem to be solved. It was decide that a large ramp in earth and hard core should be created, over the top of the flint wall. This allowed the empty top garden to be used as a working area and gave access for the large machines needed to clear the pond and start the processes of re-shaping and grading the pond.

 moving soil around in the working top garden

moving soil around in the working top garden

Once the shape had been produced,all the pipe work needed to be put in place, this was not just the under pond drainage and pump but also a large rain harvest tank which was to collect water from the roof of the Brye and would be used to top up the water level in the pond.

 soil and rubble from the pond being stacked.

soil and rubble from the pond being stacked.

Next the underlay, butyl liner were to go in, next was 80 tones of pudding clay. Unfortunately as this work started what had been a record hot summer and very dry autumn gave way to some very heavy rain, just as the clay arrived, the site turned into a very muddy and difficult place to work.

 putting foundation stones in for the jetty.

putting foundation stones in for the jetty.

As the pond team struggled on they finally managed to finish the landscaping of the pond including putting the large sandstone foundation stones in place ready for the green oak jetty. The jetty had been build to an Arcadia design by a skilled set of carpenter, with no metal fixings below the water level.

Now the pond was ready to fill up and ready for May planting.

 finished pond

finished pond

May Pond Planting: The pond was planted in mid May right at the start of the pond planting season. All the native plants arrived from a local trade nursery that specialises in growing their own water plants. The pond had been pumped out a few days before hand so the water level was just below the planting shelf.

 pond, with water level dropped ready for planting.

pond, with water level dropped ready for planting.

The first plants to be planted were the lilies and other floaters, that had been planted in aquatic baskets. The baskets are lowered to the pond bottom on ropes. The next to be planted are free-floating floaters, these are plants like water soldiers, these are thrown out into the water round the edge of the pond and will float around the surface moving on a gust of wind.

 pond plants arrive.

pond plants arrive.

Then the all important oxygenators are planted, these are in bunches with small metal weights on, again you walk round the pond throwing them in, slowly they sink just below the surface.

lily baskets ready for planting with planting ropes.

lily baskets ready for planting with planting ropes.

The next plants to be planted are the marginal aquatics, the planting areas were marked out on the planting shelf round the pond. The shelf may be nearly 2m wide in places but the plants were to be planted on only 1.5 m wide sections of the shelf and in blocked areas. Native pound plants are very vigorous and can be invasive, so they would easily spread over time.

planting floaters in baskets.

planting floaters in baskets.

Then each area of marginal planting is set out in accordance with the planting plan, and the plants, planted. Each evening as these are water plants and need more water, all the newly planted plants were watered with a sprinkler and the remaining plants waiting to be plated which were in the shed of the willow, to keep them damp at all times.

planting marginal aquatics

planting marginal aquatics

Once all the marginal plants were planted, the bog garden was set out and planted.

marginal aquatics

marginal aquatics

Now the pond is being filled up, and all the clients have to do is watch the new plants grow and breath live into their newly restored farm pond over the coming growing season.

 planting bog plants

planting bog plants

If you would like help and advise on creating a wildlife pond, I know just the person to help you! Give Emily a ring on 01273 470753, to discuss all your pond needs.

 pond planting completed.

pond planting completed.

The Joy of Irises

A mass of Irises

A mass of Irises

Mid to late May sees the arrival of he elegant and delicate flowers of the bread irises, whether the tall Flag at 75cm to 1.20m or the dwarf bearded for rockery at 20cm, the colour combinations and varieties are endless and I defy anyone not to fall head over heels in love with them. As a devoted self confessed Iris fan here are some of my favourites.

 I. 'Braithwaite'

I. ‘Braithwaite’

Iris ‘Braithwaite’ this is a classic tall breaded Iris, with hansom wide glaucous grey leaves standing at 60cm high and flower stems up to 90cm. It has striking soft lavender standards ( the upright petals) and deep velvety falls with a splash of orange stamens. Flowers mid to late May.

 I. 'Edward of Windsor'

I. ‘Edward of Windsor’

Iris Edward of Windsor:fans of grey leaves up to 5ocm tall and flower stems to 90cm. A rich caramel pink with orange throat, a good addition to any mixed planting. Flowering late may early June

 I'Kent Pride'

I’Kent Pride’

Iris Kent Pride: this is a stunning tall bread Iris with silvery swords of foliage up to 70cm tall, late may the most striking flowers appear, a deep chestnut with splashes of white and some white veining and a bright yellow blaze, a stunner in a collective Iris bed. Mid to late may.

 I. 'Lilli-White'

I. ‘Lilli-White’

Iris ‘lilli- white’: this is a striking dwarf bearded Iris with leaves up to about 20cm and 30cm flower stems with delicate white papery flowers. Flowering late April early may.

 I. 'Amber Queen'

I. ‘Amber Queen’

Iris Amber Queen: Grey foliage up to 15/20cm and flower stems up to 20cm. Elegant primrose yellow flowers. Flowering April to May.

 I.'Cherry Garden'

I.’Cherry Garden’

Iris ‘Cherry Garden’: grey foliage with flower stems just held above at 25cm, Flowering mid April to early may. Light violet coloured flowers.

All beard Iris, need well drainage soil and will grow well in gritty mediums and even on the edge of gravel areas, They like a hot sunny position and the rhymes do best when lying near to surface ‘To bake’ They are easy to care for, needing little to nothing in the way of maintenance,their main predator is the deadly slug/snail, so a hot sunny spot in gravelly soil should help keep them at bay.

 A riot of colours.

A riot of colours.

When the clumps become large with central areas of woody rhizomes and only leaves towards the outer edges and flowering is starting to decrease, this is the time to divide them. Division is done after flowering in late July to the early September. Use a fork and lift the clumps. Using a sharp knife cut away the woody old sections of rhizomes, cut into sections with healthy rhizomes and a good cluster of roots. Cut the leaf growth back by 2/3rds. Plant in new positions. in shallow pits with a free draining gritty compost. Or pots to grow on before transplanting.

 Iris in all their glory

Iris in all their glory

Some say the bearded Iris is to fleeting and the slugs and snails too much of a problem, I would counter that some of the best things in life are here for but a short moment and therefore even more enjoyable for it. I hope I have inspired you to get started on your own Iris collection.

Caring for Clematis

Caring for Clematis

clematis the perfect planting partner

clematis the perfect planting partner

Clematis are wonderful climbers with one in flower in almost every season and a herbaceous group that scrabble across the ground. They are an easy plant to grow and very forgiving,But there seems to be a bit of a mystery about how to care for them, with pruning being high up the list.

Group 1

 C. cirrhosa var.purpurascens 'Freckles'

C. cirrhosa var.purpurascens ‘Freckles’

This group includes winter flowering clematis like C. cirrhosa, flowering in January and February. All the delicate alpine group with their soft green feather foliage and bell like nodding flower heads.

 C. alpina 'Markman's Pink'

C. alpina ‘Markman’s Pink’

and the evergreen massive C. armandi, with it’s large dark green leaves with masses of single white, blushed pink scented flower end of April into March.

C. armandii

C. armandii

To the very vigorous and show stopping C.montana group, with it’s palmate leaves flushed purple and mass of single pink or white flowers in end of April/early May. This beast can cover up to 2 stories and make a play on telegraph poles. But it is quite a sight.

 C. montana 'Elizabeth'

C. montana ‘Elizabeth’

Pruning Group 1: After flowering for all of them. For the more delicate winter flowering and the alpina, it is just about keeping it in check for the position and removing any dead sections, so they may not need pruning every year if you are going for the naturalistic look. For C.aramdi, again it is about keeping it in check so if the new growth is not making a bid on the neighbours garden prune it back to the main body of the plant leaving 3 to 4 buds of new growth. Remove any old and winter scorched growth. For the giant C.montana group again about keeping it with in limits, so prune as for C.aramdi. Also, the shears can be used just to cut of the dead flowers and keep it in check.

Rejuvenating an old and congested plant. For all of the types of clematis list above except C.aramdi. If the plant has become a woody mess, then cut to stems down to 30cm from the ground, saving any lower new shoots if possible, add a good balanced fertiliser, again carry this out after flowering. Water well. It may well take several years before the plant has returned to maximum growth and flowering.

Group 2

 C. 'The President'

C. ‘The President’

These are the classic clematis with large showy flowers up to saucer size in a range of colours from the deep single colours of rich purples and pinks like C.’The President’ to the flashy stripes of the old favourite C. ‘Nelly Moser’.

 C.'Nelly Moser'

C.’Nelly Moser’

to the striking C ‘Duchess of Edinburgh with it’s white double flowers.

 C. 'Duchess of Edinburgh

C. ‘Duchess of Edinburgh

These clematis flower May and June.

Pruning Group 2: late winter early spring, February is a good rule of thumb. The first thing to bare in mind is that these clematis flower on old wood. So firstly reduce the over all size the clematis so it fits back into the required space. The next thing is to work from the top of the clematis down, removing all weak wood. Always prune back to a strong set of buds. You want to be left with a good frame work of climber. If it is on a pillar or tripod, make sure it is a good 1m above the ground this gives the new shoots a fighting chance against the slugs and snails. Also if you prone off old flower heads and prune back a few of the long straggly stems after the main summer flowers you may get a sparser autumn flush of flowers.

Group3.

 C.'Gipsy Queen'

C.’Gipsy Queen’

This group of clematis flower late summer and well into the autumn The viticella group of clematis which C. ‘Gipsy Queen’ is one, are vigorous growers which produce an abundance of flowers 7/8cm across in a variety of deep reds and purples. Clematis tangutica and it’s varieties are like the alpinas in habit and growth, with the same fern like foliage and nodding heads of yellow flowers followed by attractive white seed heads which last through the winter.

 C. tangutica 'Bill Mackenzie'

C. tangutica ‘Bill Mackenzie’

Pruning Group 3: These clematis flower on new growth. So prune in February/March . Most books suggested hard pruning to only 30cm off the ground to be honest to steel a march on the slugs and snails I would take them down to 50cm off the ground, prune to a strong set of buds.

A Clematis to suit all tastes.

A Clematis to suit all tastes.

General Care: Most of us are quite crawl when planting clematis we plant them up against a wall where it is dry with poor soil. The old adage of planting the roots of the clematis in the shade and it’s flowers in the sun, has a lot in it. These plants do not like dry poor soils, they want a good soil which it moist all the time but not water logged. What a lot of people blame on clematis wilt- the disease is in fact a very dry and unhappy clematis. So pile on the leaf mulch, put on the tiles and slate to help shade the roots. As they are planted next to a fence, wall, house, it is dry as the roots are often in the rain shadow so water regularly.

 Less vigorous varieties can be grown up tripod in open borders

Less vigorous varieties can be grown up tripod in open borders

You should now have all the information you need to grow beautiful clematis. Enjoy!

Colourful Crocus

spring splendider

spring splendider

In early March sweeps of champagne fluted Crocus across lawned areas, in creams, whites, pale mauve and dark purple, butter yellow and lemon cream and with delicate veining can be enjoyed to the max, also in pots and containers near the house. With a bright sunny early spring day their delicate beauty is transformed, as these sun seekers open their petals wide to form shallow stars of wonderful contrasting basal beauty and bright orange stamens. This early spring show brings a splash of colour to the March srping garden. There are so many to close from but here is a selection of some old varieties that are proved to be good performers year on year.

Large Dutch Crocus, this group have larger showier flowers and are better in longer grass, some getting to the dizzying heights of 10 to 12cm Most flower in early to mid March.

Crocus Joan of Arc

Crocus Joan of Arc

  1. Joan of Arc. A brilliant pure white with a dark purple basal splash and brilliant orange stamens, this is a very hansom corm, making a good solid colour contract in a lawn planting.

 Crocus King of the Stripe

Crocus King of the Stripe

  1. King of the Stripe : A dramatic crocus with white petals and dark purple veining, reaching down to a dark purple base. This crocus works well in a tall pot brought closer to eye level so the delicate beauty of the veining can really be enjoyed.

Crocus Pickwick

Crocus Pickwick

  1. Pickwick: A show stopper of a crocus with light mauve petals with rich purple veining. Idea for a special spot in a flower bed close he the house or on a raised bank where the veining can be fully appreciated.

Chrysanthus varieties, These crocus are smaller then the Large Dutch varieties listed above growing to 7 to 10cm approx, For that reason they may be best for natural looking sweeps set in grass. They tend to flower earlier, Late January into February and some into March.

 Crocus Advantage

Crocus Advantage

C. Advantage: This is a very striking looking crocus with it’s three colours, the main petals are buttercup yellow, sliding down to the bottom of the petal to light mauve and to am imperil purple base. Quite a sight when the crocus opening fully in the winter sun.

 Crocus Cream Beauty

Crocus Cream Beauty

C. Cream Beauty: This classic crocus is a reliable performer, producing beautiful rich cream flowers with a contrasting bronze green basal splash of colour.

 Crocus lady Killers

Crocus lady Killers

 C. Lady killer: A dramatic purple violet crocus with a striking white rim, make this a good choice for a bold block planting.

Like all bulbs/corms they are very easy to grow, order/buy September. Plant end of September into October. Planted 7.5 to 10cm below the surface. For lawn and flower bed planting, plant 3 to 5 corms in a group in a single wide hole, carefully arranging the bulbs with the growing tip to the surface. Plant as single corms in pots and containers. They should be placed close to paths and doors, where they can be easily enjoyed with out a track down a cold early spring garden.

 pots of colour.

pots of colour.

There is one little and possible slightly bigger problem, these corms and more importantly their tender growing shoots are much beloved by mice and squirrels. In pots cover with netting or mesh, with a spacer making sure there is a good 10cm of space for the tips to grow and not get eaten. Out in flower beds and lawns it is pot luck and a case of over planting to compensate.

glorious crocus

glorious crocus

But do not let that put you off as these are inexpensive jewels of delight and a MUST for any spring garden from the window box to the country arced Estate.

Enjoy!

Winter Berries

Winter berries

Winter berries

By February the winter can feel at it’s longest and possible it’s gloomiest with still short days and the leaden skies of possibly the coldest month. A splash of, knock you between the eyes colour is just what your garden needs to help lift your spirits. A lot of winter flowering shrubs are delicate and scented with much to commend them, but the vivid colour of the winter berries packs a strong punch. Here are some plants well worth adding to any winter planting.

 Skimmer japonica foremanii

Skimmer japonica foremanii

Skimmer japonica ‘Foremanii’: This slow growing evergreen shrub is worth the wait, Its glossy emerald green foliage makes a dense low mound. It has sturdy groups of white waxy flowers held upright in the leaf axils and is not really scented compared to other Skimmers. However it is it’s striking groups of shiny red berries which it holds through out the winter that are the show stopper. It will tolerate dense shade and will grow on any humus rich soils. This female form needs a male to produce the berries, plant with S.japonica ‘Rubinetta’

 Iris foetidissim

Iris foetidissim

Iris foetidissima: This iris is as tough as old boots and will seed about freely in any dry soil, it will cope well with thin chalk soils and semi-shade to dense shade. It makes thick clumps of mid-green leaves, which gently arch. It has small and frankly rather unimpressive white and creamy flowers. It is of course the berries that are the star turn, the ride fruit capsule opens in three segments to reveal row upon row of bright orange berries, these last well into late winter and will brighten any shady stop at a low level.

 Pernettya mucronata

Pernettya mucronata

Pernettya mucronata ‘Bell’s seedling’: This low growing evergreen shrub makes dense sweeps of ground cover. With upright stems up to 50/70cm tall, with small dark green almost pricakly leaves. It has small insignificant white flowers early autumn followed by the most amazing berries. Which are round large pink berries that look like tempting gob-stopper sweets, which last nearly all winter. Bell’s seedling, is self-fertile but it will produce more berries if it is planted in a mixed group with male forms, P. mucronata ‘Mascula’. Grow in full sun to get the best berries although they will tolerate a little dappled shade. They need a good acidic humus rich soil with good levels of moisture but not water logging.

Symphoricarpos rivularis

Symphoricarpos rivularis

Symphoricarpos rivularis: The ‘Snowberry’ loved and hated it seems in equal measure, but perhaps it is just not used to the best effect in most gardens. A deciduous shrub with arching stems up to 1.2/ 1.3m tall, it will tolerate dry shade but will berry much more freely if in a sunnier spot. The small round green leaves, fall and give way to clumps of white berries borne along the upper reaches of the stems. There is also a pink form. It looks at it’s most striking planted with an evergreen backing like a yew hedge, so the almost opayic white berries glisten against the dark back ground. It does tend to sucker so it needs to be kept in check. It will cope with both very dry soils to heavy soils and will tolerate shade although the berrying is much reduced.

Gaultheria mucronata 'Procumbens'

Gaultheria mucronata ‘Procumbens’

Gaultheria mucronata ‘procumbens’: Beloved by the winter bedding sellers and popping up in pots and tubs outside pubs and in mixed plantings of winter flowering pansies, this versatile shrub is much more then a one trick wonder to be stuffed into a pot as a temporary bit of bedding. It makes a good dense creeping ground cover with dark green leaves. It grows in dry and dense shade so can be invaluable as under planting at the foot of mature trees. It needs acid soil. Tiny white flowers are followed by large ‘cherry’ like fruits of shiny red berries which look good enough to eat. But don’t be tempted as all parts of this plant are poisonous.

 Ruscus aculeatus

Ruscus aculeatus

Ruscus aculeatus: ‘Butcher broom’ A native low growing evergreen shrub with upright stems of small dark green leaves, With spiny tipped stems. Small bright red berries are held along the stems from September through the winter. It grows well on shallow chalk and will cope with dry shade.

To get the very best out of the winter colour these plants offer, they need to be carefully sited, either close to paths, near back doors, or the route to the garage, shed or log store or planted with an evergreen backing so the berry colour really stands out and can be easily seen.

A group of pernettya in containers that can be sited near the ho

A group of pernettya in containers that can be sited near the ho

I hope you feel inspired to look again at planting bright berry colour that lasts beyond the autumn months. If you want help extending the planting colour in your garden to include the Autumn, Winter and early Spring, I know just the person to help you. Give me, Emily a ring Tel;01273 470753, or contact me through the contacts page of my web site, to discuss your garden project and your planting needs.

Bare Root and Root Balled Planting Season.

Field grown nursery stock ready for bare root supply.

Field grown nursery stock ready for bare root supply.

January is slap bang in the middle of the busiest planting season, the bare root planting season, this is from mid- November to mid to end of March and down in the warmer climbs of the South East of England, 1st December to the end of February would be my cut off point.

Before the modern practise of being able to grow plant stock in containers so it could be planted all year round, this was the only time of year when planting could be carried out successfully.

 planting a bare root tree.

planting a bare root tree.

There is a lot to be said for still using bare root and and root balled stock. In my mind trees and hedges, establish much better, as the plants are being planted in the dormant season, They have an opportunely to get their roots well and truly saturated, and root growth and establishment can begin late winter and early spring, meaning that by the time the planting gets to June it has had the best possible nurtured start. The plant will cope better with it’s first Summer growing season, no matter what is throw at it, particularly if a prolonged hot summer like 2018, is in store.

planting root balled evergreens

planting root balled evergreens

Also you get a lot more plant for you money so planting bare root and root balled is cheaper. Traditionally, deciduous plants were bare root and evergreens root balled although often larger deciduous trees these days are root balled.

 Bare root Raspberries

Bare root Raspberries

Bare root fruit trees.

Bare root fruit trees.

So all trees, hedging, including evergreen can be planted as bare root or root balled. Also roses do very well planted bare root and traditional fruit nurseries supply must of their stock through the bare root season, with fruit trees and soft bush fruit supplied bare root, or for some of the larger trees and fan trained specimens possible root balled.

 Planting a bare root rose

Planting a bare root rose

Also quite a few of the smaller more specialist nurseries still supply bare root herbaceous, which can establish well. They traditionally used to arrive packed in damp news paper, sadly plastic segmented packaging has taken over but perhaps with plastic now rearing it’s ugly head the nursery industry is starting to really put its house in order and news paper may make a come back, only time will tell.

My top tips for planting Bare root stock.

  1. when the stock arrives, if you can’t plant it straight away then heal it in so the roots are protected from the weather, ready for planting.
  2. Soke stock for a couple of hours before planting, or over night so the roots can rehydrate.
  3. Prepare the ground, if you are planting into uncultivated ground than dig a hole about twice the depth of the root ball forking over and breaking up the ground at the bottom of the hole, the hole should be twice the width of the root ball. Fill the hole back with broken up soil and good organic material well rotted F.Y.M or horse manure is very good, it wants bulk if possible. So the hole is now 1.5 times the depth of the root ball.
  4. Put the tree in the hole and use a garden cane across the top to check the depth of the hole, the tree should go back at the same planting level as it was planted before, the tenancy is often to plant too deep.
  5. Stake, if 1 stack it should be on the prevailing wind side whether upright or angled stacking. Or for larger trees or very exposed sites 2 stacked and a cross beam. Remember to always ties the tree to the stack, allow extra length in the tree ties so it can be let out as the tree grows. Most trees will only need staking for the first 3 years of their life. Depending on the variety of tree and jow exposed the site is.
  6. Back fill with the soil and manure mix, firming in well. Label you tree, planted by who and when and variety.

So there are still a few months of the bare root planting season left, enough time to get those planting orders in quickly over the New Year and get planting before the end of February. Be warned stock gets thinner on the ground as the season begins to draw to a close, so don’t delay. Happy Planting.

If you would like help with the re-design of a planting area or the design of a new fruit orchard, then I know just the woman who can help. Please do give me, Emily a ring Tel:01273 470753, or get in contact through the contacts section of the web site.

The Holly & The Ivy

Holly adding mid-winter colour and structure to the garden.

Holly adding mid-winter colour and structure to the garden.

As we head towards the throws of mid winter it is the iconic Holly and Ivy that bring a rich evergreen to the garden and with their variegated forms a much needed splash of colour on dreary winter days. With the added bonus of red berries, these two valuable plants can be a main stay of

the winter garden. Here are some variates that are well worth a spot in your garden.

 Ilex aquifolium 'Aurea Marginata'

Ilex aquifolium ‘Aurea Marginata’

Ilex aquifolium ‘Aurea Marginata’: Medium to slow growing, large shrub to small tree, with a compact bushy habit, it has small glossy dark green leaves with a thin yellow margin and red berries ( female)

 Ilex aquifolium 'Aurea Marginata'

Ilex aquifolium ‘Aurea Marginata’

Hedra canariensis dentata ‘Varigata’: A vigorous large ivy that commands a large spot. Large hand sized leaves a dark mat green, with silvery and cream edges. It not only looks striking grown on a large wall, it also makes excellent ground cover forming mounds, and grows well in dry shade.

Ilex aquifolium 'pyramidalis'

Ilex aquifolium ‘pyramidalis’

Ilex aquiflium ‘Pyramidalis’: A slow growing, hansom small tree with conical habit, it makes a good focal point in a small garden. Bright emerald green foliage with wavy, spiny edges and an abundance of red fruit (female)

Hedra helix 'Green Ripple'

Hedra helix ‘Green Ripple’

Hedra helix ‘Green Ripple’: A delicate ivy, with small mid green foliage, with rippled edges and deep lobs. Good on small walls.

Ilex aquifolium 'Silver Milkmaid'

Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Milkmaid’

Ilex aquifolium ‘Sliver Milkmaid’: A Large shrub with open habit, spreading when mature, Dark green glossy leaves with white central splashes. Red berries freely borne (female)

Hedra helix 'Gold Heart'

Hedra helix ‘Gold Heart’

Hedra helix ‘Gold Heart’: A striking ivy, non vigorous, pink stems hold small neat dark green leaves with a bright yellow splash of colour in the centre. Ideal for a low fence or small wall.

ivy grown as ground covers

ivy grown as ground covers

Both Hollys and Ivies are low maintenance plants that thrive in semi-shade and in both cases will cope with some dry conditions, they will grow well in most soils but do not like water logging. Although holly has the dramatic berries the flowers/fruits of the ivy should not be missed, arriving mid autumn onwards and flowering in the winter months,it is a bonus to many insects. Of Course with Christmas not far off, holly will be brought into the home for festive decorations, Ivy can look equally good, either in it’s natural form or spayed silver or gold.

Holly& Ivy as Christmas decorations

Holly& Ivy as Christmas decorations

These two plants are often under used in the garden, which is a great shame as they have so much to offer, both as a back drop for other ‘showier’ plants and very much in their own right. I sincerely hope that will change.