Category Archives: Gardening Tips

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'

Chaenomeles x superba ‘Crimson and Gold’

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.

Caring for Clematis

Caring for Clematis

clematis the perfect planting partner

clematis the perfect planting partner

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

Group 1

 C. cirrhosa var.purpurascens 'Freckles'

C. cirrhosa var.purpurascens ‘Freckles’

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

 C. alpina 'Markman's Pink'

C. alpina ‘Markman’s Pink’

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

C. armandii

C. armandii

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

 C. montana 'Elizabeth'

C. montana ‘Elizabeth’

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

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

Group 2

 C. 'The President'

C. ‘The President’

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

 C.'Nelly Moser'

C.’Nelly Moser’

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

 C. 'Duchess of Edinburgh

C. ‘Duchess of Edinburgh

These clematis flower May and June.

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

Group3.

 C.'Gipsy Queen'

C.’Gipsy Queen’

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

 C. tangutica 'Bill Mackenzie'

C. tangutica ‘Bill Mackenzie’

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

A Clematis to suit all tastes.

A Clematis to suit all tastes.

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

 Less vigorous varieties can be grown up tripod in open borders

Less vigorous varieties can be grown up tripod in open borders

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

Colourful Crocus

spring splendider

spring splendider

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

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

Crocus Joan of Arc

Crocus Joan of Arc

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

 Crocus King of the Stripe

Crocus King of the Stripe

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

Crocus Pickwick

Crocus Pickwick

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

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

 Crocus Advantage

Crocus Advantage

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

 Crocus Cream Beauty

Crocus Cream Beauty

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

 Crocus lady Killers

Crocus lady Killers

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

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

 pots of colour.

pots of colour.

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

glorious crocus

glorious crocus

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

Enjoy!

Winter Berries

Winter berries

Winter berries

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

 Skimmer japonica foremanii

Skimmer japonica foremanii

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

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

 Pernettya mucronata

Pernettya mucronata

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

Symphoricarpos rivularis

Symphoricarpos rivularis

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

Gaultheria mucronata 'Procumbens'

Gaultheria mucronata ‘Procumbens’

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

 Ruscus aculeatus

Ruscus aculeatus

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

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

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

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

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

Bare Root and Root Balled Planting Season.

Field grown nursery stock ready for bare root supply.

Field grown nursery stock ready for bare root supply.

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

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

 planting a bare root tree.

planting a bare root tree.

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

planting root balled evergreens

planting root balled evergreens

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

 Bare root Raspberries

Bare root Raspberries

Bare root fruit trees.

Bare root fruit trees.

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

 Planting a bare root rose

Planting a bare root rose

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

My top tips for planting Bare root stock.

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

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

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