Author Archive | hortoris

New Design Ideas to Green Grey Britain

Where to Get New Garden Ideas

  • Your own imagination is the prime source of ideas for your own personal garden.
  •  If you can’t get to Chelsea there are other horticultural and flower shows and many  open gardens.
  • Magazines, newspapers and books can spark off a new thought or provide a combination of ideas.
  • Just walking around looking over walls and fences may give you an idea. I saw some very useful use of trellising offering privacy on a street-side garden without dark dense hedges.
  • Trial and error has been my fall back design method but it is a slow process and after 60 years It is still to produce the goods!

Greening Grey Britain

  • The RHS advocates gardens to help preventing flooding, ease stress and encourage exercise, support wildlife, and be ‘the equivalent of an air conditioning system for our cities’.
  • Decking, block paving and parking spaces have taken over from front lawns and small gardens to the detriment of the environment. Turning grey areas green with new design ideas and plantings can help rectify the damage caused by urbanisation.
  • I had three garages and drives for access but one was a lean too that served no real purpose. I knocked it down and have a pond, some maturing trees and a Japanese area that is  a pride and joy. It’s awkward tarmaced drive was too hard to remove so it was covered in a large mound of soil that became a quick draining alpine zone.
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What is the RHS Good For?

Diarmuid Gavin Garden Recreated

I declare an interest as I have a love hate relationship with the Royal Horticultural Society. As a national institution and registered charity I would prefer if it were more inclusive and less overtly commercial. Since rejoining after a few years break I expected to start this note on the negatives but based on the last few months that would be wrong so I leave them and my personal views to the last paragraph.

Where is the RHS Excelling

  • With an international horticultural reputation the RHS makes a strong  contribution to British culture, tourism and education sectors.
  • The society is working harder than ever to increase the connections with children, schools and communities.
  • The open sharing of knowledge through multiple channels is priceless.
  • Campaigning and acting as a catylist with other organisations is creating a bigger impact with Greening Grey Britain, Britain in Bloom, National Gardening week, and the RHS Campaign for School Gardening.
  • It is summer and the gardens are all looking in good fettle. The developments at Harlow Carr since the society took over from the Northern Horticultural Society demonstrate the strength of the RHS.
  • Gardening qualifications, scientific developments, libraries, partner gardens and plant trials are not headline grabbers but contribute to the membership ‘feel good factors’.

 Negatives or ‘What The RHS is not Good For’

  • As a charity benefiting from the tax breaks and ‘public’ support is it fulfilling all the requirements to enjoy this support.
  • The society has £96 million held in cash and investments which is well in excess of the annual income of £73m. Even bearing in mind the new garden in Salford this seems excessively conservative.
  • On one level the RHS is a glee club for the county and wanabee set. Evidenced by all the luvvies at Chelsea where social climbers out number horticultural climbers and scramblers.
  • There is an appearance of commercial and personal vested interests & cliquishness.
  • The Chatsworth flower show could be renamed a clothes show with flowers.
  • My experience as a volunteer at the RHS was frustrating due to the corporate ethos and management of the time (2005-2009).

 

 

 

 

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Compost Corner Experiences

                                                   Compost bins

This is a view of a corner in my Yorkshire garden that shows some recycling activity. I have tried various compost bin methods over the years. Initially I started with an open pile which was untidy and slow. At about this time I acquired a shredder which chopped up brown twiggy waste but only  squelched leaves.

I graduated to a wooden frame compost bin  structure the remnants of which are showing next to the dustbin. This was fine particularly when I used ‘garrotta’ as a speed enhancer but as the volume of compostables grew the space needs also grew. (The more compost I had the more the plants grew and thus the more compost I got until Les Barker made a song out of it).

Thermo Plastic Bins

  • Now the latest incarnation is the thermo plastic green bins. One is always in current use and the other is rotting down older compost. The volume reduction continues for about six months.
  • This has been a good investment in terms of conversion speed, heat generation in the pile and crumbly results.
  • I leave the lid open occasionally to increase the dampness.
  • Despite using hard standing the big bins twist as they fill and the double split lids do not work very well.
  • The bottom half is separately hinged so in theory you can extract compost from the bottom as it rots. I find it is too solid and prefer to empty the bin in total. Coarse bits can start off the new bin.

Other Compost Corner Items

  • The black plastic bin is used for leaves and slow to compost items that will take a couple of years to rot down. I sacrifice pure leaf mold for composting coarser items.
  • The burner dustbin with air holes and chimney was used for burning far more before the plastic bins came into use. Now I tend to put bits of trash, old labels, broken pots etc in this bin as I work near the compost bins.
  • The blue lid in the fore front is a local authority recycling bin that is the 4th they have supplied and is now superfluous to my needs. Now I recollect there were also two other bins one now buried to make a second pond and one converted into a potato barrel.
  • The bird feeders and brush speak for themselves.
  • The wheelbarrow is full of recycled seed and potting compost mixed with perlite. This will be used up on some pot plants after adding some granular fertiliser.
  • There is a tub of grit and gravel which I plan to use but never get around to doing so.

                                    An Old Bin System

Tips based on Looking Back

  • Heat is key to quick compost. It is increased by air so fork or turn the pile.
  • In days gone by I creosoted the fence see above. Keep chemically treated matter away from an organic compost heap.
  • There is a sense of achievement by creating and using good compost. It is worth the effort and beats taking everything to a landfill tip.
  • Hedges grow and in my case have created a rain shadow and trimming problem.
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Carnation Street

 

Green fingers held this wet carnation still for a photograph of the captivating colour scheme. I have loved carnations for over 60 years but never really got on top of growing or breeding for showing.

Carnations through the Ages

  • Dianthus caryophyllus have been around for over 2000 years well known to the ancient Greeks. Since that time they have been bred into a vast range of varieties.
  • Standard Carnations are the large single headed varieties grown in a greenhouse environment.
  • Hardy border carnations of the sort by family grew in their little cottage the 1950’s. These are the family of carnations that were depicted in old Flemish paintings.

Jan Albertsz Rotius – A Four-year-old Girl with a Pot of Carnations – 1663

  • Perpetual flowering carnations well-loved by the florists who sold these by the million as one of the longest lived cut flowers. Now overtaken by supermarket and garage forecourt sales of bunches in plastic.
  • Vintage varieties  have been very popular in bridal bouquets for years
  • Spray carnations have multiple flowers per head by removing the terminal bud and leave the side buds to flower.
  • Pinks have smaller flowers than carnations and either single or double.

 

The British National Carnation Society   growing the flowers of the three main types of Dianthus – Pinks, Border Carnations and Perpetual-flowering Carnations.

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Help Plants Through a Wet Winter

Plants can drown when roots are left in wet soil for protracted periods. Short immersion whilst dormant is seldom fatal but saturated soil drives away the oxygen needed by plants to help them transpire.
Also in winter some plants are prone to root rot Phytophthora or rot off at soil level.

waterlogged garden

Not Waving but Drowning

Selecting Appropriate Plants for Wet Winters

  • Avoid silver leaved or grey perennials.
  • Mediterranean hot arid loving plants and many alpines do not like our cold, wet winters.
  • Pot plants that suffer quite easily and can die include Orchids, African Violets and other fleshy rooted plants.
  • Bog lovers, Hydrangeas, Cornus, Dogwoods and Hosta are just some of the plants that may thrive through a wet winter.

Improving Survival Chances

  • Wet soil is created by compaction or because of a high water table and poor drainage.
  • Incorporating grit or pea gravel as a surface mulch will help keep the base of the plant drier.
  • Plant on top of a slight mound
  • Improve drainage by spiking, trenches and with soak-aways or land drains.
  • Avoid compacting the soil by walking on the ground when it is wet.
  • Work your soil and dig in organic matter during the other seasons.
  • Spring flooding is especially dangerous when plants and roots start to respire. Divert excess water and be prepared

Pot Grown Plants

  • Lift pots off the ground with pot feet or onto bricks.
  • Lay pots on their side to avoid excessive rain settling on the center of the plants.
  • Improve drainage by incorporating perlite and coarse grit in the compost.
  • Move pots under cover or into a rain shadow.
  • Put a slanted pane of glass or cloches over special plants. Allow air to circulate.
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Selecting a New Apple Tree

There are over 7000 different varieties of apple tree including those classed as eaters, cookers, crab or cider apples. 10% of these are available from RHS plant finder recommended nurseries.

Horticultural Considerations

  • Your apple tree should last a long time and be fruitful and satisfying. It is worth taking care to get the selection right.
  • The growth and size of your tree will depend to a large extent on the ‘rootstock’. The most common rootstocks are M27 5-6 feet tall, M26 8-12 feet tall and MM106 12-18 feet tall.
  • Some varieties of apple in clay based soil may grow slightly quicker and larger than an apple planted on light, sandy or chalky soil.
  • Most apple trees need another cultivar to pollinate their flowers and set fruit. It must flower at the same time. Triploid trees are very poor pollinators.
  • Some varieties are more disease resistant than others. Seek out award of garden merit AGM varieties or discuss with a specialist nursery.

Personal Selection Criteria

  • Warm country imports from supermarkets often have less flavour than your home grown apples.
  • Autumn apple days are held around the country and can offer a wealth of local advice. Sample tasting may be possible or you can select trusted well known favourites.
  • How you want to grow your tree can affect the selection. A trained espalier tree or cordon grown on a slant, a ballerina tree grown in a large pot or a ‘step over hedge’ tree are currently popular in designer gardens. The choice is yours but plan now for planting later this autumn.
  • Two year old trees will cost more but crop sooner than maidens.

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Tree Stump Removal

Are you stumped about how best to remove the stump and roots of  a tree after you have taken down the trunk and branches? This is the stump of an over grown Eucalyptus that was removed in spring. The slit was intended to hold weed killer but as the side shoots show it hasn’t worked. (Thank you EU for no help at all see below.) The scale of the stump and thus the size of my digging out problem is shown by my spectacles. I guess I should have known Eucalyptus are successful at regenerating.

Reasons to Remove Old Stumps

  • Stumps left in the ground after felling can cause replanting issues. Roots may get in the way, nutrients may be missing and the stump may look unsightly.
  • When simply felled the old tree can produce new shoots and suckers.
  • Roots can play host to various fungus and disease’
  • Roots may continue to cause uneven surface problems.

Removal Methods

  • Grubbing out by hand, spade and mini digger are the first port of call.
  • Winching out using the old trunk as a lever can be done with the right machinery and is often seen in operation on forestry land.
  • The root can be ground out and turned into coarse saw dust with a grinder or chipper often owned by a tree surgeon.
  • Applying brushwood or weed killer containing commercial strength  glyphosate or ammonium sulphamate. Drill holes in the stump around the circumference and fill with the weedkiller. Roots should die within a couple of months but the stum will take years to rot away depending on the species.
  • Root Out was a popular,  RHS recommended, product that encourage rotting. Crazily it has had its approval for use as a  herbicide, weed, tree and bramble killer withdrawn by EU and  it is now only sold as a Compost Accelerator. It was used, amongst other purposes to help prevent the spread of Honey Fungus Armilleria
  • Nature will eventually rot down your stump slightly quicker if you cover it in garden compost so the micro organisms can get to work. In the meantime it can be ‘tarted up’ for other purposes such as part of a stumpery or support for a decorative pot.
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Yew Tree – Taxus baccata

Yew

Yew are used in many contexts and can feature in natural or formal situations. In the 18th century species of Taxus were brought to the UK from America and Asia to add to our native Taxus baccata. There are now many cultivars of upright, pendulous and ground cover forms of Yew.

Garden Uses of Yew

  • Yew provide evergreen structure to your garden
  • Hedging is an important garden use creating a dense living wall or sculptable feature.
  • Yew is famous for its use in topiary with its ability to take on shape and form and last for many decades.
  • Mounds can be planted with an upright yew underplanted with ground cover Yews.
  • Dwarf varieties of our native Yew include Corleys Coppertip and Dwarf White.
  • Specimen trees can be grown from Taxus baccata varieties such as Dovastoniana, Amersfoort and Fatigiata Aureomarginata
  • In a small garden select slow growing forms of Taxus baccata

Cultivation Tips

  • Yew can withstand hard or even drastic pruning.
  • For a slender upright growing Yew try a Japanese for Taxus cuspidata ‘Robusta’ as a change from the Irish yew. Train young plants to a single stem.
  • Prune annually in late summer. To substantially reduce a hedge cut in April and do half the tree one year and the other half the following season.
  • Well suited to chalky and lime stone soil but not too fussy.

Irish Yew

Golden coloured Yew

See Also

Yew Root and Branch Review

Old Yews

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Is Green a Colour?

The answer to the question is ‘of course green is a colour.’ Green is a mixture, a hybrid in gardening terms, as it is made from yellow and blue combined in varying quantities. But the emphasis is on the ‘made from’ of this answer.  The leaves above contain a higher proportion of blue whilst those below are more yellow in content.

Green is fixed in our minds when we are taught the colours of the rainbow. Mnemonics and acronyms includeed Richard Of York Gained Battle In Vain, ROYGBIV,   Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo and Violet, Roy G. Biv,  and the song ‘Red and orange and yellow and green, blue and indigo violet too………….I can sing a rainbow’

Red is the complementary colour to green. They are opposite each other on the colour wheel.   A splash of red brings out the many contrasting green shades in this photograph.

 

 

There are many shades of green counted in the Irish  song ‘The 40 Shades of Green’. It is surprising how many of these shades use plants as a reference to the type of green colour such as; lime, pea, sage, olive, fern, juniper, shamrock, mint, moss, pine, seaweed and forest green (below with Lime) which all spring to mind.

Forgive this word play as here we have ‘Bowling Green’.

Frosted green has a blue hue as would most gardeners working in the cold.

The last Green picture is one of my favourite Hart’s Tongue Fern.

This post has been an excuse to use some of the many pictures of plant life that all rely on photosynthesis and chlorophyll to produce the greens we see.

 

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Grandchildren and Gardening

Book Cover

Gardeners are keen on offspring in the garden when they come from their own propagation. That may not always be the case with grandchildren except in controlled circumstance.
Grandma saw a youngster eating a slug and rather than be critical asked ‘what does that taste like?’ After a pause the kid replied ‘worms’.

Safety of Children in the Garden

  • You can be too prescriptive about musts and don’ts. Commonsense is crucial and grandparents can help teach that to the kids.
  • Garden tools can be very sharp and need to be used correctly, carefully and kept under your supervision.
  • I am prone to leaving items in the garden to trip over and rakes can jump up and hit the unsuspecting. Now grandkids are visiting I am tidying up before after and during the visits.
  • Learning by experience will cover stinging nettles, irritating sap, prickly roses and some other plants to avoid. A warning or two (hundred that is) will still fall on deaf ears – I still get stung and pricked!
  • Not everything belongs in a child’s mouth but  most plant matter will not cause too much harm. However look out for poisonous seeds, Laburnum, Monkshood and anything you grow that you know to avoid eating.
  • Water is seductive and ponds dangerous. I know you will put up protection near open water and remember water and electric tools don’t mix

Keeping Grandchildren Amused

  • If you get rostered into child minding on a regular basis it is worth setting up regular garden related tasks the kids can get involved with.
  • Get them kitted out with waterproof clothes.
  • Don’t push too hard it may put off the next generation of Throwers and Titchmarshes. We may find routine gardening fun but kids may need a bit extra and activity changes every 20 minutes or so.
  • Gardening has lessons for all of us and the kids have a lot to learn from you and your garden or open air classroom.
  • There are lots of lists of easy to grow plants from large easy to handle seeds like sunflowers, Peas and beans but they take ages (eons in kid time) to show life much less crop. The old standby mustard and cress are more reliable.
  • Plant pots, containers, baskets and boxes are all small areas where kids can have there own ‘patch’ so to speak.

 

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