Category Archives: Gardening Thoughts

The Shady Courtyard

 A Shady courtyard garden

A Shady courtyard garden

In town centres, surrounded by buildings or the basement flat, shady courtyards are common as the outdoor space for a lot of town dwellers. They can be more then the space to dump the bike or keep the bins. With good planting they can become a vibrant and beautiful outdoor place to sit and enjoy. Low light levels mean plants need to be chosen with care. Here are a few selections to consider, whether planting into the ground, raised beds or gardening in containers, all will do well.

 Hydrangea anomala petiolaris

Hydrangea anomala petiolaris

Hydrangea anomala petiolaris: a superb clinging wall climber which dose well in dense shade. Deciduous, with mid green leaves and open ‘lace cap’ type hydrangea flowers in white, in late summer, make this a must to brighten any courtyard wall. It is moderately slow growing but worth the wait.

 Buxus sempervirens 'Aureovariegata'

Buxus sempervirens ‘Aureovariegata’

Buxus semperviens ‘Aureovariegate’: this is the variegated Box, with it’s delicate creamy variegation to the dark green leaves it will add a splash of colour to a dark courtyard. It has the added bonus of being able to be clipped into topery forms from the traditional ball to cones, squares and even a wacky peacock.

Vinca minor 'Illumination'

Vinca minor ‘Illumination’

Vinca minor ‘Illumination’: a wonderful evergreen ground cover plant, with creeping stems of dark shiny green leaves with brilliant splashes of golden yellow in the centre, to help add vibrancy to your dark space. It has the added bonus of purple flowers produced from early March to late April early May.

 Hellaborus 'Nigra'

Hellaborus ‘Nigra’

Hellaborus ‘Nigra’: This is a more elegant Hellebore than the common orientallis. With finer palmate leaves in a soft grey-green. With clear white flowers from December round to the end of February.

 Carex 'Evergold'

Carex ‘Evergold’

Carex ‘Ever Gold’: This as an easy to grow evergreen grass which is as tough as old boots it makes neat clumps of mid green striped yellow leaves up to 20/25cm tall. It will help to bring colour to a dark corner.

 Phyllostachys aurea

Phyllostachys aurea

Phyllostachys aurea: A superb statuesque clump forming bamboo. With soft mid green leaves and canes that mature to a beautiful golden yellow.

 A hansom shady courtyard seating area.

A hansom shady courtyard seating area.

All the plants I have chosen are moderately easy to grow and will do well in most soils with good organic matter added. I have chosen mostly evergreen plants to help green a courtyard space and give a good constant back drop, variegation, yellow and golden foliage help to lift the light levels as do white flowers.

I hope I have inspired you to get creative with your courtyard space. If you need help with designing your courtyard garden, then I know just the person to help you. Give me, Emily a ring on 01273 470753, I would be delighted to discuss your garden project with you.

Conifers: Little and Large

 Giant church yard yew tree.

Giant church yard yew tree.

Conifers in more recent years have been much maligned in gardening circles, with thoughts of the mixed conifer and heather island beds. But this is to miss out on a superb group of plants, that come into their own as focal points and structural planting in the winter months, here a few choice selections from very large to the very small.

Pinus mugo pumillio

Pinus mugo pumillio

Pinus mungo ‘Pumillio :A wonderfully hardy pine, which is so forgiving it grows in nearly any soil including chalk. Pairs of long needles in a bright emerald green, with a dense bushy habit. A slow growing medium sized shrub, with prostrate or ascending branches up to 2m. It makes for a great addition to any planting.

 Chamaecyparis lawsoniana pygmaea argentea'

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana pygmaea argentea’

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Pygmaea Argente’: This conifer has all the good growing habits of all lawsonianas. It is a superb selection, with a dense compact habit of blue-grey foliage with white tips. It is slow growing and possibly one of the best dwarf conifers with variegated foliage, a must for the front of a boarder or the rockery.

 Juniperus communis 'Depressa Aurea'

Juniperus communis ‘Depressa Aurea’

Juniperus communis ‘Depressa Aurea’: A good low spreading conifer, making excellent ground cover, with densely packed foliage. Leaves are a particularity vibrant yellow when young, going darker green through the growing season and it has good bronze tints in the winter months.

Cupreeus macrocarpa 'Goldcrest'

Cupreeus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’

Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcreast’: An excellent conifer which is moderately fast growing and will cope well in coastal areas and is a good wind break. It is a medium sized tree, with a broadly conical habit when young, old trees broaden out. Golden sprays of foliage are densely packed, giving this conifer a striking look and is one of the best golden conifers, the colour is best in full sun.

 Picea pungens 'Koster'

Picea pungens ‘Koster’

Picea pungens ‘Koster’: A wonderful conifer with a striking habit, forming a conical small to medium sized tree, with flat tearied branches of bright blue grey foliage, a very striking addition to a mixed planting or great as a specimen tree.

 Taxus baccata 'Fastigata'

Taxus baccata ‘Fastigata’

Taxus baccata ‘Fastigata’: The humble yew, has lots to commend it and this fastigate form, just adds to those. Faster growing than most people think and coping on poor soils, this is a brilliant medium to large tree as a focal point in a garden or to act as sentinels on either side of a path, they add structure and elegance to the winter garden. Dense dark green foliage, acts as a foil to other planting, with a compact columnar habit.

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca'

Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’

Cedrus alantica ‘Glauca’:As conifers go they don’t get much larger or more hansom than a cedar and this is defiantly the one to consider. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, verging on the stately home size or a field or piece of land you are considering making into an arboretum, then this is the specimen tree for you. Remember you are planting it for future generations. It forms an attractive conical shaped tree when young and matures into a wide spreading specimen when older. The branches are clothed in whirls of deep blue-grey foliage.

 Conifers adding structure to a mixed planting.

Conifers adding structure to a mixed planting.

Growing conditions: conifers grow on a wide range of soils, some will cope with poor soils and little water, junipers for example, some will even cope with sitting in water, like Taxodium. Some will cope with thin soils and some chalk. But most prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil with a good quantity of humus and do not like to be water logged.

They can truly be the back bone of the garden, particularly at this time of year and should planted much more.

 Conifers adding green texture to a mixed border

Conifers adding green texture to a mixed border

 

If you would like some help, renovating a planting area with a new planting plan, then now in the dormant season, is the time to get planning and planting, then contact me, Emily on 01273 470753. I would be delighted to discusses your garden design project with you.

Elegant Camellias

A mass of Camellias

A mass of Camellias

By the time mid-winter comes about with short and dull days anything in the garden that adds a splash of colour, is to be grabbed and celebrated. So Camellias, with varieties that flower from October through to April are a good choice. With evergreen glossy foliage and attractive habit, whether grown in the garden as specimen shrub or on mass or even as an individual specimen in a pot are a must. Here are a few favourite

Camellia 'Cornish Cream'

Camellia ‘Cornish Cream’

C. ‘Cornish Snow’: This lovely Camellia rightly has a AGM award. With a good strong upright habit which can become a large shrub. Delicate single white flowers with gold stamens, which are produced on mass.

 Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’

C. sasanqua ‘Yuletide’: This is one of my top favourites, a medium sized shrub with an open habit. Flowers are borne in a succession a few at a time from mid -October until the end of January. Small single red flowers with a mass of yellow stamens, add a real splash of colour in the depths of winter.

 Camellia japonica 'Kramer's Supreme'

Camellia japonica ‘Kramer’s Supreme’

C. japonica ‘Kramer’s Supreme’: This camellia has a good compact habit forming an upright shrub. This Camilla packs a punch with large loose paeony like flowers in red and has a delicate fragrance, wonderful in an enclosed space or a pot by the back door.

 Camellia japonica 'Lady Vansihart'

Camellia japonica ‘Lady Vansihart’

C.japnica ‘Lady Vansihart’: this upright camellia has unusual holly like twisted foliage, which is a real talking point. With small sauces blushed pink flowers.

Camellia japonica 'Lavinia Maggi'

Camellia japonica ‘Lavinia Maggi’

C. japonica ‘Lavinia maggi’: A dramatic camellia which grows into a large shrub. Large double blousy flowers, some white, some, pink, some red. But most striped and blotch in all 3 colours. It is as if someone has had a mad Alice and Wonderland joke with a couple of paint pots. If you want a statement shrub this is the camellia for you.

Camellia sasanque

Camellia sasanque

C. sasanque: A graceful open habit, with sauce shaped white flowers with rich yellow stamens from late autumn through to early spring, giving a long display.

 Camellias grow well in containers.

Camellias grow well in containers.

Tips: All Camilla like a neutral to slightly acidic soils with a rich humus compost that retains moisture well but dose not become water logged. They do best in dappled shade but will cope with some full sun. It is best to avoid early morning sun so that frost covered buds and flowers do not brown. The important thing to remember is that even when they have stopped flowering they need a good water through the summer months and must not dry out as this is when the flower buds are forming for the following year. A good helping of rotted leaf mould and feed should be added as a topdressing after flowering to help with flower bud development for the following year.

 Beautiful flowers of Camellias

Beautiful flowers of Camellias

If you would like help developing a winter garden, then I know just the person to give you a hand. Give me, Emily a ring on 01273 470753 to disuses all your garden design needs.

I hope I have inspired you to add Camellias to your garden, weather in a boarder or a couple in pots by the front door. Enjoy!

Ornamental Bark

Mass of birch with sliver trunks

Mass of birch with sliver trunks

Birch Bark

Birch Bark

As the leaves finally fall it is the skeleton of deciduous trees that give structure to the winter garden and distinctive and colourful bark in the rosy lights of the winter can be a truly stunning addition to the garden and are well worth considering when choosing trees to plant.

Acer capillipes

Acer capillipes

Acer Calliopes: The ‘snake bark’ maple, this hansom tree has real wow factor at all times of the year, with the new growth a lovely coral red and leaves turning a strong red in autumn. But the bark is truly magnificent, the mid green stems, have vertical stripes of white to light green and soft pink shades. This small tree makes a good focal point for a small to medium sized garden. Grows best in good humus rich soil in dappled shade.

 Betula 'Jermyns'

Betula ‘Jermyns’

Betula ‘Jermyns’: A dramatic medium sized tree with mop headed habit. With superb creamy-white pealing stems and trunk, showing coppery coloured bark beneath. Good golden yellow autumn colour, any free draining soil.

 Prunus serrula

Prunus serrula

Prunus serrula: ‘The Tibetan cheery’, this beautiful small tree has a lot going for it and is a great addition to a small garden. It has glossy mahogany coloured bark, which positively shines. With elegant small white blossom in April any good soil that dose not dry out.

 Acer griseum

Acer griseum

Acer griseum: The ‘paperbark maple’, A striking tree particularly if grown as a multi-stem. With attractive bronze coloured pealing bark, with qualities similar to papery birch. The trifliolate leaves have wonderful fury autumn colours. A small tree, which likes humus rich soil.

Arbutus andrachne

Arbutus andrachne

Arbutus andrachne: the ‘Grecian Strawberry tree’: This small evergreen tree, is tender and needs a sheltered spot, to get it started, but becomes hardy once mature. With dark green glossy leaves and delicate bunches of waxy bell shaped flowers in a stunning red, it is a dramatic tree. The added bonus is the smooth cinnamon brown bark. It needs an acid soil which is humus rich.

 Salix daphoides

Salix daphoides

Salix dalphnoides: The ‘Violet Willow’ This is a fast growing and striking tree for a small garden. It will grow in most soils although dose not like drying out. The new growth is a rich purple which matures with a white bloom. Catkins are produced in spring before the leaves.

 Group of hansom Eucalyptus

Group of hansom Eucalyptus

 Close of Eucalyptus

Close of Eucalyptus

With deciduous trees you have over five months with out the leaves, so the bark is well worth considering particularly if your garden is small as everything you plant needs to work hard for you. I hope I have given you food for thought. If you would like help choosing and planting trees as part of a new planting plan, I know just the woman to help you. As the bare root season will be starting shortly, there is no time like the present, give me, Emily a call on 01273 470753, to discuss all your garden needs.

Autumn Nuts and Fruit

Autumn Nuts and Fruit

 The Bounty of the Autumn

The Bounty of the Autumn

As the nights begin to shorten and the air cools, Autumn begins to feel on the way, but this is the time of harvest. There are a bountiful supply of both nuts and autumn fruiting berries that can be grown and enjoyed in the garden. Here are some to consider.

 Kent Cob Nuts

Kent Cob Nuts

Kent Cob: Also known as ‘Lambert’s Filbert’, is the largest fruiting cob nut and must productive. Producing a strong growing shrub with upright stems. Clusters of nuts are born from late August into September and should be picked in the green. The fresh nut have a fresh milky taste and can also be dried, for use latter in the season.

 Blackberry Oregan Thornless

Blackberry Oregan Thornless

Blackberry Organ thornless: Of course the hedgerows at this time of year are groaning with blackberries, but if you want large lush juicy fruit and more importantly no thorns, then this is the variety for you. It has attractive lacey foliage and the large fruit are ready for picking September to October.

 Walnut 'Broadview,

Walnut ‘Broadview,

Walnut ‘Broadview’: Walnuts are hansom and large trees, this is a more compact form and early to fruit producing nuts with in 3 to 4 years. It is also self-fertile. It produces nuts early in the season, with round green fruits appearing from early August, picking into October, but steel a march on the Squirrels. Top tip, walnuts are also used in the dying industry, the green husks that surround the nut have a dark tanning, so where gloves and pick just as the husks begin to crack. Either eat, when still quite green. Or they dry well for eating latter in the winter.

Worcester Berry

Worcester Berry

Worcester berry:This unusual berry is ready to pick in late September. It makes a vigorous prickly bush, but the advantage is that it is mildew free or very nearly. It produces round dark purple almost black fruit a bit like a gooseberry and has a good flavour.

Worcester Berry

Worcester Berry

Mulberry morus ‘Nigra’: Mulberry Trees are the stuff of medieval gardens and Shakespeare and make long lived rambling trees that seem to be as happy horizontal as they do vertical. In England it is the black mulberry that really produces fruit, so alas no good for silk warms, it is the caterpillar of the silk month that feed on white mulberry leaves. Red juicy fruits start to appear in July into August and they are truly ripe when they are nearly black towards the end of August beginning of September.

Sweet Almond 'Robijn

Sweet Almond ‘Robijn

Sweet Almond ‘Robijn’: No Christmas nut bowl would be complete with out Almonds and although they are not grown as much as Walnuts, it is still possible to get a good Almond crop particularly in Southern England. They are also a smaller tree than a walnut so more suitable for the small garden. This is a new variety of sweet almond with a softer shell and a good flavour, nuts appear late summer in the green and ripen for picking in October.

 Autumn Nuts

Autumn Nuts

Autumn would not be complete with out great crops of Apples and other tree fruit, but I hope I have inspired you to plant some nut trees to join the Autumn bounty.

Mulberries and Blackberries

Mulberries and Blackberries

Everyone loves Blackberries, but adding to the Autumn berries with some more unusual berries like Worcester berry and Mulberries only adds to the joy of the season.

Happy Planting! If you would like help designing and planting a Nut GArove or Orchard, then I know just the woman to give you a hand. Contact me Emily on 01273 470753. To discuss all your garden design needs.

Colourful Winter Stems

A mass of winter stems

A mass of winter stems

Colour in the garden can be created in many ways and although flowers are the most obvious, foliage and even stems can produce dramatic effects. None more so, than in the winter garden with thundery skies and low sun. The coppiced new growth of a number of shrubs can be truly striking. Here are just a few suggestions to wet you appetite.

 Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’: This variety of the native cornus, really packs a punch, the stems do produce a flame effect, with the lower section in rich shinning orange giving way to yellow tips of the younger growth, planted on mass with an evergreen back drop, this shrub sings out on a winter day.

 Cornus sericea 'Flarivamea'

Cornus sericea ‘Flarivamea’

C. sericea ‘Flariramea’: One of the best ‘yellow’ dog woods, this creeping shrub produces dense thickets of coppiced green-yellow stems, looking dramatic in the winter light.

Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi'

Cornus sericea ‘Kelseyi’

C. sericea ‘Kelseyi’: This variety is a good selection for the smaller garden growing to 45/60cm tall, it has golden stems, as with all cornus the new growth gives the best colour.

 Salix alba 'Golden Ness'

Salix alba ‘Golden Ness’

Salix alba ‘Golden Ness’: A vigorous grower makes dense clumps of coppiced stems up to 1.4/2m tall a rich golden colour, a wonderful contrast with groups of other colour stems like C. singuinea. Coppice regularly for best colour and to keep in check.

 Salix alba 'Yelverton'

Salix alba ‘Yelverton’

S. alba ‘ Yelverton’: This is the brightest pure orange of the salix, to grow as a winter stem, as with all Salix it is vigorous and if you don’t want a tree in the middle of the flower bed keep on top of your coppicing.

Rubus thibetanus

Rubus thibetanus

Rubus thibetanus ‘Sliver Fern’: It is a bit of a wild card, growing a black berry as a plant in a boarder rather than for fruit, will have most gardeners running to the hills with fright. But if you have the space and you are good at keeping on top of your garden maintenance then this is a truly striking plant. Tall arching stems 1.5m or taller, produced in dense suckering thickets. The stems are a beautiful dark blue/black with a white bloom and look truly dramatic when added to the rest of a winter stem garden. They look particularly good when under planted with winter flowering Ericas of hellebores. Cut out old stems in early spring and reduce the clump by ta 1/3, every April/ May to keep things under control, also reduce the length of stems in July/August.

Colourful winter stems

Colourful winter stems

The trick to growing winter stems for best colour is to have a strict coppicing system in place. This is for the Cornus and Salix. All the best colour is on new growth. There are two schools of thoughts about how to deal with this. 1) is you cut all the stems on every plant down to 200mm above ground level at the beginning of March. Or you selectively prune. 2) If you have the room to have a massive area of stems then perhaps cut one 1/3 of your plants down as above one year and then the other 2 areas over the next two years. 3) If you have a small garden and you only have one or 2 plants of each variety then consider dividing the plant into 3 and prune over a number of years as per point 2.

Winter stem planting

Winter stem planting

Remember when positioning colour stems the best results are had when having the morning or evening sun shinning on the stems. Or decide to have an evergreen back drop to the groups of stems so the colours glow and can be truly appreciated.

If you would like help producing a winter boarder call Emily 01273 470753.

Marvellous Mahonias

Mahonias as part of a mixed winter planting

Mahonias as part of a mixed winter planting

Mahonias are a wonderful shrub, not only acting as good screening, or boundary planting, but also as a glossy evergreen back drop to flowering perennial through the seasons. But they really come into their own during the mid-winter months, with dramatic and scented flowers. Here are a few of the many varieties on offer.

M. japonica

M. japonica

M.japonica: A large vigorous shrub, up to 1.5m in 5years. With stout stems and upright growth. A very good shrub for boundary planting. The leaves as with all Mahonias are held in spiral rosettes. With large pinnate leaves a glossy mid-green. Scented pendulous racemes of yellow flowers, December to March. Grows in most soils except dry shallow chalk. Sun part shade.

M.aquifolium'Apollo'

M.aquifolium’Apollo’

M. aquifolium ‘Apollo’: Often called the ‘Oregon grape’ as it sprawls along the wind swept coast of it’s native habitat. This more zooped up version of M. aquifolium, is a wonderful garden plant which makes a small spreading shrub, great for ground cover. It has small groups of stumpy pinnate leaves, which turn tints of wine red in the winter months. It has small clusters of golden flowers in March to April. It grows well in shade.

M.media 'Winter Sun'

M.media ‘Winter Sun’

M.media ‘Winter Sun’: A large shrub with upright habit, makes a dramatic back drop to the winter garden. Large spiny pinnate leaves of dark green, with clear yellow racemes of flowers held erect on the centre of the rosettes of leaves. The flowers are very fragrant, a must for planting near the back door or route to the garage. Flowers January to March. Grows well in semi-shade in any water retentive soil.

M.nervosa

M.nervosa

M.nervosea: A dwarf Mahonia, producing a low suckering shrub, ideal for a small garden at only 45cm tall. It has small pinnate leaves to 5cm, which turn a vivid red in the cooler winter months. It flowers late spring into April, with long golden racemes of 20cm. It will grow well in semi-shaded in most soils.

M. japonica Bealei Group

M. japonica Bealei Group

M. japonica Bealei Group: A large shrub up to 2m tall and above, with erect strong stems. With rosettes of medium length deeply toothed mid-green leaves. Short racemes of pale lemon flowers are produced in December to February. This shrub makes a good back bone to a mixed planting. Will grow in most soils, with good moisture, sun or part shade.

 M. x wagneri Pinnacle

M. x wagneri Pinnacle

M. x wagneri Pinnacle: A large striking shrub, with lightly toothed pinnate leaves of mid -green which are a dramatic bronze when young. Golden flowers are produced in dense upright racemes in mid spring, March to April.
* 8 lots of Mahonias.

Rejuvenating Mature Mahonias; although undoubtedly one of the reasons for planting mahonias, is their vigorous upright habit, particularly if you are using them for screening. There is the chance particularly in smaller gardens that you can be looking at a lot of tall ugly stems with a small cluster of leaves on top and the flowers far above sight and well and truly above nose level for catching that striking scent. But Mahonias respond well to pruning, it is best to rejuvenate your shrub over a number of years, a 1/3 at a time. After flowering so late March approximately, before leaf busts, cut down one third of the stems to the required height, just above an old leaf junction, these can be clearly seen in the form of lines and dots encircling the stem. Over the coming growing season the stem should produce a new leaf cluster just below the cut. Repeat the process section by section over the whole shrub over the coming years. If you want to ring the changes, so perhaps having taller stems towards the back of the shrub for screening but leaf and flowers on lower stems at the front, prune accordingly.

 Mahonias on mass

Mahonias on mass

Mahonias are a versatile shrub which are often over looked as something’ green at the back of the boarder, but have far more to offer and should be planted much more widely.

If you would like help creating a winter planting scheme or just re-planting an area of your garden, mid -winter is right slap in the middle of the planting season and now is the time to do it. I know just the person to help you, give Emily a call on 01273 470753.

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!

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: 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.

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!