The First ‘Lawn Arranger’

I only have a garden to keep the weeds happy. In it trespassers will be composted and slugs treated to a grizzly end. However  the lawn deserves some reverence hence the following, first posted in 2011 and  based on an Original by Debbie, of Middletown – My Little Sister’s Humourous sayings

Imagine the conversation The Creator might have with St. Francis about lawns:
“Frank you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracted butterflies, honey bees and flocks of birds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.”

“It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great extent to kill them and replace them with grass.”

“Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?”

“Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.”

“The spring rains and cool weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.”

“Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it, sometimes twice a week.”

“They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?”

“Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.”

“They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?”

“No, sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.”

“Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?”

“Yes, sir.”

“These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.”

“You aren’t going believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.”

“What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.”

“You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and have them hauled away.”

“No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and keep the soil moist and loose?”

“After throwing away your leaves, they go out and buy something they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.”

“And where do they get this mulch?”

“They cut down trees and grind them up.”

“Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?”
“Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about…”
“Never mind I think I just heard the whole story.”


Alpine Show at RHS Harlow Carr

Yesterday I visited the 2018 alpine event at Harlow Carr. I was very impressed and I am sure the other people who braved the elements were well satisfied. One benefit of alpine gardening is that the cold greenhouse can protect the gardener as well as the alpine plants.

Big Pluses

  • The volunteers at the snack bar were doing a great job dishing out tea and coffee and there was a help yourself table of homemade cakes and scones. I had a piece of ‘Granny’s apple cake’ thinking she would be called Granny Smith.
  • The next plus was the range and excellent quality of the plants entered in the various show classes. Unfortunately I forgot my camera and note book but remember some of the advice I picked up talking to AGS members.
  • The attention to detail was noticable and must be a trait of those who show alpines. One room was dedicated to alpines native to other continents and they were well labeled. There was also a note of when a seed had been sown showing the age particularly of various cyclamen.
  • There were several specialist nurseries selling a good range of alpines. I could have spent lots of cash but would have had problems carrying so many plants. I opted to just buy 3 Dwarf Rhododendrons.
  • I then went next door to the RHS library and borrowed 3 books including the now out of print Dwarf Rhododendrons by Peter A Cox.

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Happy Christmas Cyclamen

Cool, dampish conditions ensure happy cyclamen plants from now until Christmas. Do not let them dry out in your centrally heated house. Nor should you put them in draft


Indoor Cyclamen persicum can provide a splash of colour when all else is white and drab. I bought two for a pound after Christmas and chose this one because the flowers had not started opening. The tightly twisted buds are now revealing a mottled petal with an interesting cerise colouring.

The other plant I have drowned with too much TLC but its flowers were already a bit blown. This Cyclamen is on gravel in the pot and I am taking greater care. When it finishes flowering I hope to grow the corm on then allow it to dry out in summer. It will be saved in the pot laid sideways and brought back into growth next winter.

Continue Reading →


Trees for Burning

I am indebted to Lars Mytting for the inspiration to write a post about ‘trees for burning’ that would fit with our gardeners tips. Trees are a good source of green energy that can often  be used for various constructions including boats and furniture instead of reaching a fiery end.

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Odd Facts about Wood and Trees for Burning.

  • All timber has pound for pound the same calorific value. Some burn hot and fast whilst other yield their heat treasure more slowly. The heating values per cubic meter vary with the weight.
  • Virtually all trees will burn once they have dried. They will dry quicker if they are split as the bark retains moisture.
  • Wounded Pine trees produce a lot of resin which produces ‘fatwood’ that burns strongly.
  • Rowan and Birch make great glowing embers with which to rekindle a fire.
  • Stacked would is measured in cords (not music to my ears).

Different Trees

  • Ash contains less moisture than many common trees and the wood is prized for burning, furniture making and its ability to be coppiced.
  • Beech grows slowly but can be long lived reaching 5 feet in diameter.It has a fine texture and can be steamed and used in furniture making.
  • Birch grows tall, knot free and straight a virtue in wood that needs drying, chopping or using for furniture making. It rots quickly if left on the ground.
  • Spruce and other conifers are prone to spitting and crackling when burnt but provides quick heat.
  • Oak is revered for its strength and has long been used as a building material. It will burn with great satisfaction but who would want to destroy such a useful wood.
  • More individual pieces of Aspen are burnt than any other wood because Aspen is used to make matches.

What About Gardens and Trees for Burning

  • It would take a large garden to grow enough wood for burning to heat a house but dry branches and twigs can be a start.
  • Clean air acts and pollution have curtailed garden fires but dry wood burns in a chimneyed dustbin without too much smoke.
  • Charcoal for a barbecue is best bought specially for the purpose.
  • Firethorn, burning bushes and bonfire night plots are not trees for our type of burning.

Old Sawn Derby Lime

Trees Burning with a Scent

  • All smoke smells to a greater or lesser extent but one all time favourite is wood from an Apple tree. The fruity aroma pervades the room.
  • Cedar has a strong scent that appeals to many. My house is named Cedar Ville for it’s cladding rather than burning (I hope).
  • Pine cones are a quick scented burner and the season wood will burn well if you can stand a pit of spitting.
  • If wood is hard to obtain you can get a herbal aroma from burning Rosemary or other fragrant herbs.

In the words of Lars –  ‘In Learning About Wood, We Can Learn About Life

Part guide to the best practice in every aspect of working with this renewable energy source, part meditation on the human instinct for survival, this definitive handbook on the art of chopping, stacking and drying wood in the Scandinavian way has resonated across the world, with more than half a million copies sold worldwide.’


Seed Distribution Methods

Trees, shrubs and all plants have developed methods to procreate and ensure the continuity of their species. ‘Natures Home winter 2018’ looks at trees that use Anemochory, Autochory, Zoochory, Barachory plus other methods. For our purposes we will look in the same order at wind distribution, explosive seed pods, animal dispersion and drop and roll plus other methods.

You might think this it is just an excuse to use this colourful photo of fruit and vegetables. Apples drop roll and rot on the ground. They are also consumed by animals and humans although most of use leave the core and seeds uneaten. Orange pips are distributed in a similar manner but the Dates at the back of the photo are eaten by animals and dropped in the dung.

Whilst potato plants multiply by underground tubers or spuds as we call them they also seed after the blue flowers. That is not the normal reproduction method in the UK. Tomato plants shed their seed when the fruit splits and can remain viable even after passing through the human body. Sewage works used to produce large numbers of tomato plants from digested seed

These Californian poppies Eschscholzia split open and spray the seed around. Here I am waiting to catch them as the ripened pods spring open.

Wind blown seeds are well known from our childhood with Dandelion clocks and Sycamore spinners  that fly away from the parent plant. Some seed like Alder are designed to float on water whilst many use a variety of distribution methods.

Animal dispersal or Zoochory is often achieved by the ingestion of berries so birds are a main method. There are seeds that stick to animal fur like Teasels to ‘hitch a ride’.

Honeysuckle Berries


Garden Ornaments, Outdoor Art and Statues

You can trim your hedges and shrubs and / or trim up your garden with ornaments. No two gardens will ever be the same and your ‘trimming’ will help create your own unique style. I for one want more humour including Sherlock Gnomes and fertilising leaks and peas among my cabbages.

But remember loam wasn’t built in a day

Commonsense Garden Decoration

  • Keep objects in proportion to the areas where they are on show – too small and you can’t see them properly – too large and they dominate
  • Chose a style and stick too it – contemporary, classical, cottage, trad or what ever, a mix of styles is hard to pull off decoratively. Give an eleborate object a plain backdrop so it stands out.
  • In a busy border opt for simple shapes to contrast with densely packed vegetation.
  • Spheres, spirals, chimney pots, classic statues, tall oblique poles can all help create a focal point or focus of interest

Lighting and Illumination

  • Spot lights can be softer than floodlighting
  • Floodlights show off good decorative features but think about how shadows will fall
  • Down-lighters can show a path
  • Up-lighters on structures like pergolas can be effective.
  • solar lights are improving but need charging in low light conditions
  • Enjoy and use your creative instincts

Gnomeo Book and Gardening Club


Umbels for Gardens & Ornamentation

Umbels are far from humble when grown well. When grown badly like Hemlock they are poisonous, even fatal but many species such as carrots, parsnips and fennel are edible or even medicinal.

Umbels flower in a parasol shape with short stalks of equal length rising from a common point opening to a flat or rounded spray.

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Unusual Facts About Umbels

  • A small umbel is called an umbellule
  • Fatsia japonica has a globular umbel reminiscent of a golf ball.
  • Sea Holly (Eryngeum) produces fruirlets rather than seed but is still a member of the umbel group of plants
  • Umbellifers are mostly aromatic flowering plants of the genus Apium such as the celery, carrot or parsley family.
  • Queen Anne’s lace is a development from the common carrot
  • The first ‘Herbal’ describing umbels was credited in a ‘History of Plants’ believed to be written circa 300 BC.
  • Coriander leaves produce ‘ cilantro’ which has strong antibacterial and fungicidal properties that helps kill Salmonella bacteria hence its use in food from hot climates

Herbal Umbels in Medicine

  •  Traditionally many umbelifereous plants have been used in herbal medicine.
  • One recurring use of plants from this group of plant is in treating digestive and stomach problems. Parsley, Dill, Fennel,  and Lovage are well known in this respect
  • Angelica, Wild Celery, Caraway, Coriander, Anise, Cow Parsnip and other plants are used for treatments and  a range of medicinal claims, toothpaste, tisanes and poultices.

Sea Holly                             Hedge Parsley  (Torilis japonica)

Ornamental Umbels and Uses

  • The ferny foliage of umbelliferous plants looks attractive when combined in borders with more robust foliage even before the flowerheads are taken into account.
  • See through backdrops and feathery borders can be included in your own bespoke garden design.
  • I grow Angelica in my border and it is a robust plant that survives our northern climate.
  • Many gardeners already grow Astrantia and Burpleurum a couple of other umbels without thinking of them as part of the carrot group.
  • You could grow a whole bed of Eryngium species including, yuccifolium, alpinum, higanteum and variifolium
  • Pennyworts or Hydrocotyle are useful in water gardens and the harder to find Oxypolis is used in wet land.

Wild Carrot                          Pig Nut (Conopodium majus)


Gaillardia Bring Sunshine like Flowers to Borders


Gaillardia is a genus of flowering plants in the sunflower family part of Compositae or Asteraceae like the daisy. Gaillardia are native to North and South America. I hope they grow well in Yorkshire as I have just created a new bed from birthday presents brought up from sunnier and warmer Oxford.

As a perennial  Gaillardia have a long flowering season are commonly called blanket flower, or if confused with Rudbeckia they can be called cone flower. The daisy-like flowers are produced from early summer to early autumn in shades of orange, red and yellow, add sizzle to the garden and attracting nectar-seeking insects.

Gaillardia Specifics from Gardeners Tips

  • Gaillardia do not require deadheading  but the plants will look better and be fuller if you do cut the stems back when the flowers start to fade.
  •  Gaillardia is easy to grow but can be a short-lived perennial so divide plants every 2-3 years and encourage reseeding.
  • Grow best in full sun.
  • Gaillarida forms a slowly spreading mound.
  • Gaillarida has lance-shaped gray-green leaves.
  • Flowers are 3 – 5 inches across in various shades of yellow and red. Most have petals surrounding a center disk which produces florets. Plants grow 18 inches high by up to  24 inches wide
  •  Gaillardia x grandiflora  Common Name: Blanket Flower
  • Part of the 1,620 Asteracea genera and 23,600 species of herbaceous plants. The  12 species of Gaillardia hybridise so we see a range of colours and forms.

Sowing Gaillardia Seed Tips

  • Sow fresh seed six to eight weeks before the last  frost  in your area.
  • Use a moist but not soggy mix including some vermiculite
  • Sow three seeds in the center of the pot. Do not cover the seeds.
  • Mist over the top of the seeds.
  • Try provide a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and eight hours of light per day.
  • To  avoid washing the seeds from the pot’s center or burying them under the soil apply water slowly when the soil becomes dry.
  • After germination remove the weakest seedlings and avoid disturbing the roots of the strongest seedling.
  • Fertilize the seedling every fortnight with a 10-10-10 nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium water-soluble fertilizer.

Suggested Gaillardia Flower Varieties

Gaillardia × grandiflora
  • Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’: popular  3-4″ flowers have a red center surrounded by yellow. And Arizona Apricot.
  • Gaillardia ‘Burgundy’: Wine-red petals with a yellow center disk that ages to burgundy.
  • Gaillardia ‘Summerina Orange’: Zingy orange shades from soft red through yellow radiating from a rosy center disk.And Sunseekers Orange.
  • Gaillardia ‘Goblin’: Large green leaves are veined in maroon. Very hardy.
  • Gaillardia ‘Smileys Giggling’ YellowStriking yellow flowers grow true from seed.

Gaillardia with slippers. It goes to show that a cool blue will tone well in the garden with the bright Gaillardia colours.


What a Day for Hemerocallis – the Daylily

Hemerocallis better known as ‘Day Lilies’ have given a wonderful show this year!

If you want extravagant colour Hemerocallis is a plant to  consider for  your garden. They are normally happy in sunny dry conditions.

Several varieties are shown here but many more can be seen on Google.

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It is worth deadheading Daylilies to prolong blooming especially if they are grown in an individual pot. This also has the benefit of improving the appearance your Hemerocallis


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