Archive | Gardening

General gardening tips and hints

Shrubs to Screen Walls

file 1 027

You can just make out the wall behind this flowering Kerria Japonica. There are other plants to screen walls but the soil is likely to be dry and impoverished so chose with care.

Kerria Japonica
Planted towards the back of the border this shrubs habit can be scruffy looking and the serrated foliage is rather un-interesting. Kerria loves sun but is drought, heavy clay soil and exposed location tolerant.
Kerria is a tough plant suitable for problem areas that makes it ideal for fast growing screening.

Arbutus unedo
Wonderful all-rounder with reddish stems and good bark, glossy leaves, Lily-of-the-Valley flowers and unusual strawberry-like fruits.

Hippophae rhamnoides, Sea Buckthorn
Lovely silvery leaves and bright orange berries.

Mahonia leaves
Mahonia x media Charity
Vigorous architectural shrub with glossy pinnate leaves and scented yellow flowers in winter.

Daphniphyllum macropodum
Seldom grown evergreen, best grown in shade. Large, handsome leaves and scented greenish flowers.

Fatsia japonica
Often sold as a houseplant but perfectly hardy. Huge palmate leaves give a jungly effect. Does well in shade.

Buddleja davidii ‘Dartmoor’
Fast growing shrub with gorgeous magenta-pink flowers in branching panicles. Great for butterflies and sometimes retains its leaves through winter.

Clematis montana Tetrarosa.
Useful for larger areas that need covering. This Clematis montana provides a spectacular burst of colour in late spring with large flowers an a delicate scent.

Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’ or golden privet
Common, but very undervalued — the ‘sunshine’ shrub.

Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’ or spotted laurel
Tough but handsome with gold splashed leaves and large red berries.

Spotted Laurel

Tomorrows post will discuss Pyracantha



Blue Leaved Plants and Shrubs

Prostrate Juniper

Blue is not the colour you associate with foliage but if you can bend your eyes just a little around the silver – grey through to green spectrum there may be some surprises.

In Praise of Blue Foliage

  • A very distinctive colour attracts the eye in a uniformly green garden
  • Blue works very well with dark coloured leaves such as purples
  • Blue tends to increase the perceived depth of view making blue recede.
  • A fine blue line separates glaucous leaves and silver foliage.
  • Perception of colour is best left to the beholder

Blue Leaved Primulas

  • The bloom or farina on may primulas can look blue. See the Primula kewensis at the foot of the page.
  • Auriculas often display the blue dust.
  • Primrose ‘Arctic Blue’ has deep green leaves but on a frosty morning their foliage turns to shades of icy blue


Perennial Plant selection from The Oregon


Repotting Shrubs and Pot Plants

Hols spain 543

When a plants roots fill the pot then it is time to think about repotting. Compost breaks down overtime, becomes prone to waterlogging and is less aerated. Plants in John Innes No.3 compost will last a bit longer but repotting every couple of years may still be needed to retain vigour.

 Why Repot

  • Repotting helps consistency of watering. You are less likely to get waterlogging or dry compacted roots that are hard to water.
  • New compost and nutrient is made available to your plants.
  • Cramped roots will stunt the plants ability to perform above ground.
  • Tip for bulbs like Eucomis- Pot up in black plastic pots, then place inside a decorative pot in summer.

How to Repot

  • Early spring is a good time to do your repotting.
  • Gently ease out the root ball whilst supporting the plant.
  • Tease out some compost (upto a third) from the top and bottom and free any roots that are growing round and round the pot edges.
  • Lightly trim the roots from around the edges. If they are very tightly packed slice off a good sliver from one side.
  • Select a slightly larger pot, place the plant in the centre at the same depth and fill in the sides with fresh compost. Push compost down to avoid air pockets.
  • Add some slow release fertiliser granules as you repot and push some into the old root ball.
  • In years when you do not repot, top dress the pot with fresh compost by scraping away the top 2″ and adding fresh compost.
  • An over-potted plant will focus on root growth at the expense of new foliage and flowers.
  • Water the repotted plant and if the compost sinks top up or add gravel as a top mulch.

Root Pruning

  • Lay plants on a plastic sheet and tease out the roots removing a few inches of the compost from around the rootball.
  • Avoid damage to the main root and check for pests.
  • Lightly trim the fine hairy roots to restrict excess growth after repotting.

Book Cover


  • After repotting drench the rootball and soil.
  • Allow the soil to start drying before watering again
  • Subsequently water little and often feeding regularly when the plant is in active growth.
  • When new growth starts and the plant is re-established in the pot pinch back new shoots or trim as appropriate

Repotting House Plants

  • The process is very similar to other repotting.
  • It may be obvious that a plant needs repotting when roots grow out of the hole in the bottom of the pot.
  • Water the plant before you take it out of its current pot and let it stand for a couple of hours.
  • Once repotted do not feed for 6-8 weeks as the compost should provide new nutrients.
  • Keep your tools and pots clean and sterile particularly for Orchids.
  • Use appropriate special purpose composts for Citrus trees, bonsai, African Violets, Orchids etc.



Potbound Problems and Cures

The root of the problem Project 365(2) Day 111

What is a Potbound Plant

  • A plant that has been in a pot or container long enough to fill the pot with roots can be said to be potbound.
  • Roots often twist around the outer edge of the pot and form a knotty clump of roots.
  • The roots may be so tight that a plastic pot bulges and has to be cut away with secateurs to get the plant out.
  • A terracotta pot that has become pot bound may need to be broken to access the plant.
  • Houseplants that can’t take up water, have roots coming out of drainage holes and a hard impenetrable surface are likely to be pot bound

Problems Caused by being Potbound

  • The compost and nutrient is all consumed and used up.
  • It is almost impossible to water and get the centre of the root ball damp. The roots may be trapped in dry compost
  • Top growth and general health will be restricted where a plant suffers from being potbound.

Cures for Potbound Problems

  • You can surgically remove some of the twisted roots on many potbound plants including shrubs and herbaceous plants.
  • One third of the roots can be removed comfortably. The old thick, brown and damaged roots should go first.
  • Aim to create space for new roots to develop.
  • Fleshy rooted plants and those that dislike root disturbance such as Alstroemeria and Peonies should have their roots left whole.
  • Open up roots by gently tweaking the edges and shaking out some compost to open up the root ball.
  • Allow the root ball to soak for at least an hour
  • If planting out dig a large hole and lay the tweaked out roots as widely as possible. Do not leave the root as a ball or the they will never spread into the surrounding ground as you intend.
  • If repotting your plant shake off as much old compost as possible, plant in a larger container and do not leave it too long to repot in the future.

Opposite of Potbound

  • Some garden centres put plants in larger pots for sale so they can charge more for them.
  • Without time for the plant to develop roots in the new pot it may be immature and quite unsuitable.
  • This may mean the ball of compost falls away when you get the plant ready for its new home. I think this is just sharp practice.
  • Over potting is putting a plant in a pot far too large. At the most use a pot that is double the size of the existing pot for even distribution of nutrient and moisture.

Attribution ‘The root of the problem Project 365(2) Day 111’ by Keith Williamson, on Flickr Creative Commons License Deed Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Roots by billy liar, on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


Herbaceous Propagation

Divide and rule is the motto for those who wish to be king of the herbaceous garden. More plants for some little effort.

Primula denticula

Offsets and Crowns

One of my favourite jobs is growing more primroses, primulas and polyanthus. Probably more than my garden wants or needs but as I have said before I am a quantity man not necessarily a quality gardener.
After flowering, primulas produce baby plants as a means of propagating the species in addition to seeding. Virtually each of the flowers on this primula denticula has its own new plantlet.
On a damp day I dig up clumps of Primula and tease away the roots from each new crown. Sometimes the original plant has become old and frail but more often than not it can go back into the ground refreshed and renewed to grow again for next year.

Runners and Stolon

Strawberry plants produce growths that resemble floppy stalks with leaves growing at regular intervals. These stalks lay on the ground and the leaves are tempted into rooting – several on each length. Pot these rooted runners or encourage permanent residence in the strawberry bed by planting the roots and severing them from the main plant at the same time. The best plants will be on the part of the runner nearest the host plant and you only want to take 3/4 plantlets from each host.
To protect a young strawberry plant in the first couple of season cut off the runners as soon as they appear to allow strength to be built up.
Mint and Bergenia are among other plants that can be propagated by stolon which are similar to strawberry runners.

Clump Division

Many herbaceous plants form progressively larger clumps of root.
Older Hostas can have a solid root and crown mass that can best be divided by chopping into parts with a spade.
The slice with a spade method is how I deal with Day Lilies. The only thing to worry about is ensuring several buds or eyes are left on eack resultant cutting (or should it be clumping).
Ornamental grasses and bamboos lend themselves to root division in early spring. For Pampas grass you may need a spade or even a saw but most can be pulled apart.

Roots and stolons

More Herbaceous Propagation

Adventurous roots are those that wander off above or below soil level. They can often be used to grow new plants.
Several plants such as delphiniums and oriental poppies can be propagated from pieces of root as root cuttings.
Simple stem cuttings can be potted up in September when cutting back your plants. Often this will result in lots more plants.
Offsets are similar to runners and are often found on Sempervivum house leeks.
Book Cover


Houseplant Propagation

Leaf cuttings are a popular way of propagating African violets and Streptocarpus
Offsets are able to root and make new plants from Aloe and Agave

Photo credits
P1030686 by jessicareeder CC BY 2.0


Biological Pest Control The Pros and Cons

Biological controls work best when it is warm and activity is highest. The more pests the more there is for the control to eat and treat.


Biological controls are pest predators that can be bought mail order. Once introduced to the greenhouse or garden they can naturally take care of the relevant pest, enabling you to garden organically and free of pests. If you are considering using Biological pest control, these are the pros and cons

Advantages of Biological Control

  • They are totally organic and provide a natural solution to your pests.
  • They can be effective for upto two months.
  • Some biological control you don’t have to buy mail order. E.g. planting marigolds may encourage hoverfly and they will eat aphids.
  • Using Biological control means you won’t kill the natural predators like Thrushes for slugs, and ladybirds for aphids.
  • They don’t create an eyesore like slug pellets do.
  • Saves you having to kill pests, if you are squeamish at going round your lettuce leaves cutting slugs in half.
  • Some insects may develop resistance to domestic sprays.

Disadvantages of Biological Control

Continue Reading →


Dealing With Ants

I am not anti ant but aren’t you glad ants are only small or with their organisation and strength they could rule our gardens.


Photo by David Dennis CC

Ant at work. You have to admire the industry and organisation of ants.

Ants will be a common feature of any garden. To some extent, there is not much you can do about ants. In the garden they are a nuisance, but, sometimes it is just easier to live with them. Ants are more of a problem when they come into the house.

In the garden, you will notice ants, when areas of fine soil are created. (This actually makes very good topsoil). They are unlikely to do much lasting damage to your plants.

Generally, in the garden, I prefer to just tolerate ants, it isn’t really necessary to start using chemicals to kill them.

In the house they are more of a nuisance. But, before resorting to chemicals, simply try to block their entrances and keep areas clean of food.

Ants and Aphids


Photo by Martin Labar CC

This image shows ants and aphids working together. Ants are often attracted by aphids for the juice they excrete. In return, ants help protects aphids from predators.

How to Deal With Ants

  • Ants follow trails of food. Make sure you don’t have trails of food to your house
  • Ants do not manage to cross sticky substances. Using a jelly or slippery grease will prevent ants climbing in.
  • Often the easiest and most effective way of preventing ants entering in the house is to locate the hole where they are managing to enter. (Often ants follow a trail and you can see them returning out the same way they came – carrying food with them.)
  • If you find a colony of ants in a plant pot, you could drench the pot with water. (though make sure you don’t drown your plants.
  • Boiling water on an ant hill may also kill many of the ants in their. Though in the garden it might not be worth it.
  • Use Chemical pesticides.

Book Cover
Ant Spray at


Common Garden Pests

Sometimes we don’t see the pest, but we definitely see their work.

What are the most common garden pests we are likely to encounter and how can we deal with them?


Anyone who has sought to admire their garden, will have come across the devastation that slugs can do. From new shoots of delphiniums to prize hostas and lettuce leaves, slugs can leave a trail of devastation before you can say ‘where are those slug pellets…’
Fortunately, slug populations can be controlled through both the popular slug pellet and more environmentally friendly organic methods. See: Tips for dealing with slugs


There’s not too much difference between slugs and snails when it comes to pests in the garden. I remember my grandma going out in the morning with a plastic bag full of salt, she could easily fill a bag with snails almost every week. The methods for dealing with snails are similar to slugs.

Continue Reading →


Cuckoo Spit and The Froghopper

It is nothing to do with birds or frogs but there is a lot of it about this year.
Cockoo Spit froth containing nymph of Froghopper

Cuckoo spit is the white froth found on plants in early summer. It contains and protects the grub or nymph of the Common Froghopper .
They are called Froghoppers because from above they appear frog-like, and they are able to hop significant distances when disturbed.

Problems Caused by Cuckoo Spit

  • Froghoppers are a pest known particularly to fruit-growers. They feed on plant sap which they extract from the leaves and stems of plants.
  • The grubs causes minor damage in itself, but the insects can carry viruses which can cause serious harm to crops.
  • The eggs are laid on a variety of plants including tender young shoots of Willow, Cherry, Canterbury Bells, Primulas and Apple.
  • Tender shoots and leaves can distort.
  • In gardens they are frequently encountered on such plants as chrysanthemum, dahlia, fuchsia, lavender, rosemary and rose.

Grub on leaf

The immature light green grub can be seen in this froth on the back of this leaf which is now distorted and curling round the wound.

Treatments For Cuckoo Spit

  • Hose off the froth with water or soapy water and the grub will desiccate and die before it can lay its own eggs. Continue Reading →

Understand Mildew in Your Garden

Mildew is an airborne fungus that requires wet weather and warmth to come to life. It is most visible during spring and autumn as the winter is too cold and in summer it may be too hot. The wetter spring and autumn is when the white powdery mold-like mildew shows up most.

When mildew is dormant or being blown around your garden as spores it is invisible. When it has infested your plants it often shows up as a white powdery substance which are dead spores. Black mildew is seen on wood an in damp places in the home whilst yellow patches with brown furry blotches underneath affects Rhododendrons. No plants are immune although some suffer a lot worse than others, roses, gooseberries, marrows, apples, sweet peas, clematis etc.


Tips to Control Mildew

  • It seems contrary but keep plants very well watered at the roots but do not splash the leaves.
  • Stress or lack of air circulation causes mildew to grow & thrive.
  • Mix one tablespoon baking soda with one gallon of water and spray all the plants as a contact fungicide
  • A spray made up with 10% milk and 90% water is not EU approved but is said, after trials, to be effective.
  • Look out for mildew resistant varieties.
  • Mulch when the soil contains plenty of moisture.
  • Do not plant too densely as mildew fungus loves stagnant air.
  • For severe infections, on roses for example, prune out infected parts and white patches on stems immediately. Burn or dispose of all infected debris.

Mildew on Phlox

Effects of Mildew

Lest you think mildew is a benign substance you should be aware of some of its effects.
Corn crops can be devastated by mildew and is of major concern to farmers.
Fruit crops can become mis-shapen and unsaleable.
Severe attacks can and will kill your garden plants.


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes