Category Archives: Gardening Tips

Quinces and Pears- The Noble Fruit

An orchard of pear trees

An orchard of pear trees

While apples are all about quantity and glut, buckets of apples for cider making, huge pies and crumbles and endless chutney etc. Pears seem revered for their singularity and delicate flavour, if there was ever a fruit to be carried on a velvet cushion it would be a beautiful, blushed perfect pear. The Quince on the other hand is an ancient fruit enjoyed and praised for its culinary uses from ancient Prussia to medieval England and although more modern fruits have pushed it to the margins, it still has lots to recommend, not least it produces a tree with a beautiful habit, a rarity in most fruiting trees. Here are some to consider.

 

 Pear Buerre Hardy

Pear Buerre Hardy

P.Buerre Hardy:  Pollinator, from group 4.  A pear that will cope well with the colder conditions in northern England. A strong grower with good upright habit and good autumn tints. It is dual use. Fruiting in October with large, copper, russeted red fruit, with an excellent flavour. Pick when still hard and allow to ripen in store.

 

Quince Meech's Prolific

Quince Meech’s Prolific

Q. Meeches’s Prolific: Self-fertile, with a hansom shaped tree, which is slow growing and needs no pruning. With delicate wide single open blossom white blushed pink, it is a beautiful tree. Large pear shaped fruit, October, with a dusty down finish. A regular and heavy cropper.

 

 Pear Concorde

Pear Concorde

P.Concorde: This well know pear is very reliable and partially self-fertile, although fruiting will be more guaranteed with a pollinator from group 3. This pear produces a good compact tree. Fruiting October/November with dessert fruit, which are born in clusters, Long pale green fruit, ripening blushed yellow. Can be picked ripe from the tree, or equally pick hard and keep in the fridge and ripen one at a time.

 

 Quince Vrunja (Bereczchi)

Quince Vrunja (Bereczchi)

Q. varanja (Bereczchi):A very vigorous tree, with all the habit and growth as described above. Named after the Serbian Pomologist called Bereczchi. It produces large very golden fruit, with a good flavour and is a good cropper. Fruit September/October.

 

 Pear Doyenne du Comice

Pear Doyenne du Comice

P. Doyenne du Comice: Pollinator from group 4. One of the best know older varieties of fruit, produces a strong growing tree, with vigorous growth. Fruit November/December. Large golden fruit, with slight russeting and a red flush. A delicious flavour, this dessert pear is a good keeper, lasting up to April in store.

 

 Pear William Bon Chetien

Pear William Bon Chetien

P. Williams Bon Chrretien: Pollinator group 3. Must be one of the most widely planted and best known of pears, it will even grow very happily on a north wall as an espalier. This dessert pear fruits in September. With large pale yellow fruit and juicy white flesh with a delicious flavour.

 

 Pear Shinseiki

Pear Shinseiki

P.Shinseiki: Asian pears, offer a delightful twist on pear growing. This early variety is self-fertile, producing at the end of August into September, round rust coloured fruit about the size of an apple. With white crisp flesh with an aromatic flavour.

 picking pears

picking pears

All pears do best in a warm sheltered spot. They like a good water retentive soil, they do not like dry conditions. Root Stocks, Pears are grown on either Quince A ( approx 16ft.)

or on Quince  C (approx 10 -12ft) root stock. They can be grown as stand alone trees or a cordons or as traditional espalier, up a warm wall and a more modern approach is now fan trained pears up a wall.

 Pears and quinces, making it to the table

Pears and quinces, making it to the table

Storing of Pears and Quinces: Quinces, bruise easily and even if you have picked the perfect fruit and keep it in ideal conditions, they just do not keep. Best to get going with the pies, jams, and fruit cheese straight away. Or peal and quarter dip in cool water with lemon juice, pat dry and weigh, bag and freeze for future use.

 

 Quince jam in the making

Quince jam in the making

Pears on the other hand vary, some it is best to pick when hard and store to ripen. All fruit that is to be stored must be without any blemishes and dry. Store somewhere with out strong odours, so not next to the stack of paint pots and the old tub of creosote in the garage. The store wants to be dry and ventilated if possible and most important of all vermin free, as the mice will love your stored fruit.  Then put the fruit on trays lined with tissue paper, so each pear dose not touch. Or if space is an issue then wrap each fruit in a couple of  sheets of tissue paper and stack in a box, 1 layer per box is best but 2 layers is the maxim. Keep an eye on your fruit, it is a fine line between a slightly hard pear and a ‘sleepy’ pear.  For a small crop, keeping the pears in the bottom draw of the fridge and just bringing a couple out at a time to ripen over a few days in a fruit bowl, also works well. Long term storage of pears is only for ‘keepers’. Others will need to be enjoyed ripened straight from the tree.

 Pear pie

Pear pie

I hope I have inspired you to find a spot for the ‘noble fruit’ or enjoy the ancient fruit of the Quince tree. Making sure you choose the right root stock, for your site and situation.

Enjoy!

 

Native Pond Plants- For A Wildlife Pond

A large pond with native planting

A large pond with native planting

Most of us want to encourage wildlife into our garden and a pond planted with native aquatic plants is high on the list to increase the biodiversity of your garden. One thing to bare in mind right from the start when planning what aquatic natives to use, is that nearly all pond plants are very vigorous, so less really will become more! So that your pond has a wide range of habitats, grade the sides of your pond to create different planting depths, each of these planting steps will become mini habitats and will suit different pond life. Here are some natives to consider.

 

Starting with shallow water on the margins of the pond.

Mentha quatica

Mentha quatica

Mentha aquatica: is the water mint, with creeping stems and aromatic leaves when crushed and pink/ purple flowers in spring. It will be happy in damp areas and in water up to 150mm. It is very vigorous so better in larger ponds.

 Caltha palustris

Caltha palustris

Catltha palustris: King cup/Marsh marigolds, this is a much better behaved marginal shallow water plant, forming a compact habit, with bright yellow large buttercup flowers in mid spring. Planting from damp margins up to 50mm deep water.

 Iris pseudacorus

Iris pseudacorus

Iris Pseudacorus: Yellow flag, no wildlife pond would look right with out this beautiful native, very tolerant from almost dry soil to damp boggy margins up to 75mm of water. Mid green sword like leaves and a secession of yellow flower from April into May.

 

Medium depth of water from  100 to  150mm deep.

Butomus umbellatus

Butomus umbellatus

Butomus umbelletus: Flowering Rush, this beautiful reed has dark leaves up to 70cm tall and in May heads of dropping pink bells, borne on  thin stems that radiate out, like an umbrella, it forms dense clumps in water from 50 to 100mm deep, not quite as vigorous as some other pond plants.

 Menyanthes trifoliata

Menyanthes trifoliata

Menyanthes trifoliata: Bog Bean, this lovely pond plant creeps around in deeper water, round the base of reeds, with pink buds in mid spring giving way to white fringed flowers. From 100 to 150mm deep water.

 

Deeper water planting from 130 to 170/200mm deep.

 Scirpus lacutris

Scirpus lacutris

Scirpus lacustris: common club rush, this is a very hardy rush from the margins to deeper water, with rounded rush leaves in dark green. With a ‘fuzz’ of brown flower/grass heads about 100mm below the top of the rush stem. It may not be the most glamours plant, but it is invaluable as a habit maker in a pond.

 Sagittaria trifoliata

Sagittaria trifoliata

Sagittaria Trifoliate: Swamp potato, it’s common name dose not really sell it, it has arrow head shaped leaves held upright with white flowers in the spring. Suitable for smaller ponds. Water depths from 100 to 130mm.

No pond would be complete with out a water lily, and don’t be tempted, one is all you will need unless we are talking lake in size.

 Nyhoides Alba

Nyhoides Alba

Nyphoides ‘Alba’, is the native white water lilly, in any still water, but it is big so if your pond it only a couple of meters in size it really will be to big. But it is a beautiful addition to any pond.

All natural ponds that do not have moving water are going to need oxygenates. These can be very vigorous and it is important to work out the water volume of your pond, to work out the numbers you are going to need, most good Aquatic Nurseries will help you with this.. Here are 2 native varieties to consider.

 Potamegeton crispns

Potamegeton crispns

Potamegeton Crispns, curled pond weed

 Ranunculus aquatilis

Ranunculus aquatilis

Ranunculus aquatilis, common water crow foot

Planting tip: either plant into aquatic plant baskets or to get a more natural growth pattern, cover your planting shelves in screened aquatic plant soil ( this will be very low in nutrients and mostly clay and will have been screened for stones) and plant straight into the soil. It is fine to spread the pond soil on top of the liner, just take great care of the liner when planting.

 Planting pond plants in an aquatic planting basket

Planting pond plants in an aquatic planting basket

If you want to learn more about looking after a wildlife pond then have a look at November 2015 Blog also have a look at the portfolio section of the web site to see wildlife ponds that Arcadia Garden Design has created.

 A wildlife Pond created by Arcadia Garden Design.

A wildlife Pond created by Arcadia Garden Design.

I hope I have inspired you to think about creating a wildlife pond or replanting with natives an existing pond. If you want help with your pond project, then do give me Emily a ring 01273 470753, I would be delighted to discuss your project with you.

 

 

 

Planting on thin Chalk Soils

 

 

Planting thieving on poor soils.

Planting thieving on poor soils.

For most gardeners, the soil is the thing that gets us all most worked up, and thin chalky soil for most would seem a real challenge and perhaps a hurdle to far; but do not despair, because in fact there is a huge variety of plants that love thin poor well draining chalky soils. Think of all the billowing scents and colours of the southern Mediterranean and you already have a plant palette to build on. Here are just a few to whet your appetite.

 Thymus vulgaris 'Sliver Posie'

Thymus vulgaris ‘Sliver Posie’

Thymus vulgaris ‘Sliver Posie’: this is one of my favourite thymes, it grows to  about 15cm high and produces a compact habit. With soft evergreen silvery leaves with cream variegation and light mauve flowers in the mid summer. It will do well in a sun baked spot.

 Iris 'Brathwaite'

Iris ‘Brathwaite’

Iris ‘Braithwaite’: Breaded Irises do very well on poor soils with good sharp drainage. This tall variety up to 75cm, wants full sun. it has grey leaves and stunning flowers with regal purple velvet uppers and soft mauve falls and an orange throat, flowers produced in May. It will flower well, where its rhizomes can be baked.

 Lavendula angustifolia 'Munstead'

Lavendula angustifolia ‘Munstead’

Lavendulea angustifolia ‘Munstaed’: This small compact variety has all the traditional traits of the common ‘English lavender’ but without the size, so is more suitable for a small garden growing to 40/50cm tall. With good evergreen aromatic sliver foliage and the light mauve of traditional lavender flowers produced freely in midsummer.

Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens'

Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’

Salvia offcinalis ‘Purpurascens’: Herbs are not just for the herb garden of the cooking pot and this is one of them. This beautiful evergreen purple sage, makes a good low growing ground cover plant, with soft grey/purple foliage and spikes of  small purple flowers in the summer, it likes a good sunny spot.

 Helianthemum nummularium 'Wisley Primrose'

Helianthemum nummularium ‘Wisley Primrose’

Helianthemum ‘Wisley Primrose’: is one of the best ‘rock roses’ there is, it thrives in dry poor spots  in full sun and it will happily grow on the tops of walls or the edge of dry Rockies. Reaching the dizzying height of about 10cm, with soft evergreen sliver foliage  and a succession of  round open clear yellow flowers from midsummer onwards.

Ulex europaeus 'Flore Pleno'

Ulex europaeus ‘Flore Pleno’

Ulex europaeus ‘Flore Pleno’:  There is nothing quite as tough as old boots, than gorse, it will grow on the very poorest and thinnest of soils and in the south of England has an unbelievably long flowering time, starting from late February through to midsummer and even a flush in the autumn. This variety has a compact habit with dense spiky evergreen foliage and  brilliant yellow pea like flowers, which bees love.

A garden of planting for poor soils.

A garden of planting for poor soils.

I hope I have inspired you to think more positively about your chalky poor garden soil and realise that there is a large variety of plants that can be grown and even thrive  on your garden soil type. All of the plants I have chosen happen to be sun worshippers but there are also shade lovers that will do well.

If you need some help planning the planting in your garden, then I would be delighted to help you, give me,  Emily a ring on 01273 470753.  Also have a look at the portfolio section of the web site to see some of the many garden projects we have been involved in.

Happy Gardening!

 

 

Delightful Daphnes

Delightful Daphnes in mixed planting

Delightful Daphnes in mixed planting

Daphens are a welcome addition to any early spring to mid summer garden, with fragment flowers over a long season and with attractive foliage and a compact habit. They are worth including in a planting scheme, particularly one near a path, so their gorgeous scent can really be enjoyed. Here are a few to consider.

 D. bholua'Gurkha'

D. bholua’Gurkha’

D.bholua ‘Gurkha’: A medium sized shrub, with a dense upright habit with mid green foliage. Clusters of richly scented purple to white flowers are produced from December to February, plant in a sunny sheltered spot to get a, long flowering period. The flowers are followed by black fruits.

 D. x 'bankwodii'

D. x ‘bankwodii’

D x burkwoodii: A small moderately slow growing shrub with compact habit and small whirls of evergreen foliage. Groups of pale pink flowers open white, with a good fragrance and are produced along the branches from May to June, it likes a sunny spot.

D.creorum 'Variegata'

D.creorum ‘Variegata’

D.cneorum ‘Variegata’: A low growing prostate shrub, that makes good ground cover, with vargated evergreen foliage. It is a vigorous grower and is happy in semi-shade. Dark rose pink flowers are produced in clusters from April to May.

 D. collina 'neapolitana'

D. collina ‘neapolitana’

D.collina ‘neapolitana’: A compact moderately slow growing dwarf shrub, with mid green evergreen foliage, grows well in full sum. One of the darkest pink flowers of any Daphne, with good scent produced April to June.

 D. mezereum

D. mezereum

D.mezereum: An upright small shrub, which needs full sun, it will cope well with growing on chalk. Flowers are produced up the stems in pink clusters and are highly scented, from February to March. Small orange poisonous berries follow.

 

 D. odora 'Aureomarginata'

D. odora ‘Aureomarginata’

D.odora ‘Aureomarginata’: a beautiful small to medium shrub with long glossy emerald leaves with a creamy white edge. Scented clusters of waxy blush to white flowers are produced from  February to early April, it will tolerate a chalky soil. Best grown in semi shade to full sun.

 

Bringing Daphnes indoors, to enjoy the scent.

Bringing Daphnes indoors, to enjoy the scent.

Growing conditions: most Daphnes prefer semi-shade, although some do well in full sun. also as a rule they needs to be neutral to slightly acidic soil which is humus rich which has good moisture retention but is not water logged. The one big exception to this rule is Daphne odora, which will cope with an alkaline soil, but it still needs lots of compost and humus, it will not like drying out and very poor soils, so it will be important to make sure it dose not suffer from magnesium deficiency with yellowing leaves.

I hope you will be inspired to add these worth while shrubs to your next garden planting scheme.

 

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.

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.

Container Gardening

 container gardening

container gardening

Of course the best place for plants is in the ground, but if your garden is a small paved courtyard, or a a bit of pavement by the front door or even a balcony, then pots and containers will form your garden. The container garden can be a vibrant and stunningly beautiful place with good plant choices and containers and growing medium to match the plant requirements, you can create a wonderful garden.

 Pots of vegetables

Pots of vegetables

A few golden rules: Think about your pots/containers carefully, bigger is better, they will dry out less quickly and the growing medium will not get exhausted as quickly either. Funky shapes with bulging sides and narrow necks look great, but are a real problem when the time comes to re-pot your beloved specimen into a larger pot. Pottery and terracotta look lovely and are very traditional but are  heavy so it you have seasonal displays or you want to move pots about after they have flowered or into a more shelter position for the winter months, they can be very heavy. Also be warned even frost proof terracotta can ‘blow’ in a very cold winter. So consider lighter weight options such as ,GRP, plastic planters, Resin-stone composite, from www.potsofplanters.co.uk Also the plant will need regular turning say once a week so the growth is even all the way round. It is also important to think about the colour of your containers, all in a similar hues, shades of blue for example, or traditional colours or contrasts, and consider the colours of foliage and flowering colour going in them. There is lots to think about,

 mix and match colour, size and shape of containers

mix and match colour, size and shape of containers

Container gardening has advantages as there is possibly less weeding and less chance plants are going to grow beyond the size you want. But it dose mean diligent planning of watering and feeding, as you are expecting your plant to put in a top performance on limited resources. For extensive container gardens a simple irrigation system running off an out side tap may well be the answer.

The other main point to consider is that for most container gardens, a few plants have to do a lot of work, as normally they are small areas so you want a plant that looks good all year round. For that reason all the plants I am going to suggest here are evergreen with good foliage as well as flower.

 Camellia x vernalis 'Yuletide'

Camellia x vernalis ‘Yuletide’

Camellia x vernalis’Yuletide’: This is a ‘must have’ camellia, it grows well in a container and will brighten any semi shady shelter corner. It is moderately slow growing with dark green shiny leaves and small single red flowers with a mass of golden stamens and it flower intermittently from mid -October the the end of January. Plant in a good ericaceous compost, top dress with bark chip feed with ericaceous plant feed and most important of all keep it moist.

 Rhododendron 'President Roosevelt'

Rhododendron ‘President Roosevelt’

Rhododendron ‘President Roosevelt’: This is a hansom Rhododendron and makes a very good container specimen with large green leaves with a vibrant golden splash in the middle. It produces cluster of deep pink/soft red flowers with a deep white throat, mid March to early May. The same growing conditions as above, in semi-shade. PLEASE NOTE with both camellias and Rhododendrons it is very important to keep them well watered in the summer months as this is when they produce flower buds for the next year.

 Phyllostachys nigra

Phyllostachys nigra

Phyllostachys nigra: This is a statuesque bamboo, that can thrive in a container, with tall upright stems up to 2m and above, the green stems when mature turn a shiny black, with rustling mid-green foliage, keep it in a more sheltered position so the leaves do not get scorched in the winter winds. Semi-shade it will struggle in full sun. A good humus rich compost, keep moist.

 Laurus nobillis

Laurus nobillis

Laurus nobillis: The humble Bay, but what a wonderful container plant it makes especially if clipped into an elegant cone. Glossy dark foliage a great foil for seasonal bedding. A must have addition to many Italian recipes, it deserves its place in the container garden. Good multi-purpose growing medium, will cope with some drying out, full sun or dappled shade.

 Lavendula angustifolia 'Hidcote'

Lavendula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’

Lavendula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’: A small neat lavender with silvery foliage, and short flower stems of dark purple lavender flowers from June to mid August. Wonderful for the bees and insect life, brilliant for adding scent to your container garden. A great ingredient in home baking and as lavender bags to keep the months out of your woollen jumpers. A must for a sunny spot. A good multi-purpose compost, add 2 parts grit, and keep on the drier side, grows well in full sun.

 Phormium cookianum 'Flamingo'

Phormium cookianum ‘Flamingo’

Phormium cookianum ‘Flamingo’: Adds a bit of drama to your container garden. Grows well in a container, with soft arching leaves up to 70cm tall, with central mid-green and cream stripes, giving way to pink and red edges. This shrub looks good year long. Grow in good multi-purpose compost, add good crocks to aid drainage, but keep moist, best in full sun, but will cope with some shade.

olystichum polyblepharum

olystichum polyblepharum

Polystichum polyblepharum: a hansom fern for a shady to semi-shady spot. Arching fronds up to 50cm tall, mid green, with yellow edging hairs and in spring dramatic shuttle cocks of new growth. A humus rich compost, slightly acidic and keep damp.

 dramatic planted containers

dramatic planted containers

I think it is important for a good container garden to have a good back bone of dramatic evergreen shrubs of different heights and textures and to add seasonal colour with small pots of bedding and bulbs to ring the changes. I hope I have inspired you to get creative, no matter how small your outside space is, there is always room for a garden.

Winter Walls

Winter Wall

 The joy of winter walls

The joy of winter walls

When everything has died back the winter garden can look a bleak place, particularly in a small garden when boundaries can dominate, and you may feel the view from the kitchen window, is just of the fence. But there are varying climbers and wall shrubs that can enhance the winter garden and come into their own with delicate flowers and fine scents. Here are a few to consider.

 Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens 'Freckles'

Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’

Clematis cirrhosa var.purpurascens ‘Frekles’: This is a vigorous clematis, with fine feathery evergreen foliage and very delicate creamy white nodding bell like flowers, flecked with red spots. It flowers intermittently from October to January. The roots should be in a shady spot with a good moisture retentive soil in full sun.

Garrya elliptica 'James Roof'

Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’

Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’: When grown as a wall shrub, this Garrya is a hansom specimen, with evergreen,dense, dark green holly like foliage. This male form has long dramatic greenie grey catkins in February to March. A good humus rich soil in sun to part-shade.

 Jasminum nudiflorum

Jasminum nudiflorum

Jasminum nudiflorum: The winter flowering jasmine is the main stay of clothing winter walls, it produced a scraggy shrub, which responds well to being clipped into order. The bare green stems produce small buttercup yellow flowers from December to early March. Sun to part shade on almost all soils.

Chaenomeles x superba ‘Crimson and Gold’: One of the must dramatic of the ornamental quinces, this wall shrub can grow in to a hansom large specimen engulfing a large wall or can be neatly trimmed to fit round a front door. A deciduous shrub with neat gloss dark green foliage, bright red flowers with rich golden stamens are held on the bare branches from mid February to mid -March. Golden fruits appear late summer into the autumn. It will tolerate most soils, but dose not like drying out, on thin dry chalk it will need feeding well. Grows best in full sun, but will tolerate a bit of shade.

 Camellia 'Cornish Snow'

Camellia ‘Cornish Snow’

Camellia ‘Cornish snow’: This is a very reliable Camellia and an old favourite that has a vigorous habit and will do very well trained up a sheltered wall. Glossy green evergreen foliage with clear white cup shaped single flowers, February to March. Good humus rich soil which is slightly acidic, do not let dry out. Grow in semi shade and not on an east wall.

 Lonicera fragrantissima x purpusii 'Winter Beauty'

Lonicera fragrantissima x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’

Lonicera fragrantissima x purpusii’Winter Beauty’: This is a shrub form of Lonicers not to be confused with the climbing ‘honeysuckle’ It will make a slightly shaggy wall shrub with mid green foliage. Highly scented small cream flowers appear on bare stems from December to February, will grow in most soils, do not let it dry out at the foot of a wall or fence, full sun to part shade.

Winter wall shrubs

Winter wall shrubs

So rather than having a view from your kitchen window in January of a bare fence, get inspired and get planting.

If you need help planning and planting a new area of your garden, I know just he woman to help you. Give Emily a ring 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!

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.