Getting Good Results from Japanese Maples

Japanese maple or Acer palmatum are popular trees and small shrubs. They are grown for an attractive habit and dramatic foliage. The purple, crimson or creamy green leaves change to russet or scarlet in autumn. These leaves can scorch and dry and turn brittle when water is lost from the leaves by frost, wind, hot sun or salty air but they are worth the effort of giving them ideal conditions.

Ideal Growing Conditions

  1. Cool dappled shade is preferable to open, windy locations.
  2. Red leaved varieties need some sun to intensify their colour
  3. Plant Japanese maples in slightly acidic well drained soil that doesn’t dry out in summer nor become water logged in winter.
  4. The shallow roots benefit from an organic mulch.

Growing In a Pot

  1. Some smaller varieties adapt well to growing in a pot that has good drainage and aeration.
  2. Crock the pot and fill with loam based compost and mulch the top to avoid water loss.
  3. Water every day especially during hot weather.
  4. Repot in spring every 3 or 4 years before they restart in growth.
  5. Protect roots in the pot from very cold, wet weather.
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A Quick Spruce Up

I am not thinking of a Spruce conifer but an early smarten up and tidy of your garden. Here are some instant and relatively easy wins.

  1.  Initially focus on areas you can see from your windows and main viewing points. Then tidy, trim and weed even if it is still wintery.
  2. Turf out any old pots, hanging baskets or unsightly remnants that will never look as good again.
  3. Give borders a 10 minute make over to remove the worst looking offenders.
  4. Brush paths and tidy hard landscapes.
  5. If time and weather permits cut your lawns on a high setting for the first time this year
  6. Renovate and fill any bird feeders.
  7. Paint or clean garden furniture

Other quick improvements to your gardening enjoyment include:

  1. Treat yourself and garden to some seasonal gap filling plants such as bulbs or primulas.
  2. Plan or start a new project to give a bit of style to an area in your garden.
  3. Put some peat around ericaceous plants like rhododendrons and camellias and reapply bark chippings to improve appearances.
  4. Start your spring shopping with seeds or seedlings if you can protect them from frost.
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Orchid Shows

 

Winter and early spring is often a good time for Orchid shows in the UK. We have already missed half a dozen shows in January.

 Feb  6     Hinckley & District Orchid Society A.G.M and Quiz
Barwell Constitutional club
7-300pm – 10-00     Contact: keith bates 01455444177 keithbates185@hotmail.com
Trade Attending :-
     Feb  9     The North of England Orchid Society Monthly Show and AGM
Barton Village Hall, the A6 north of Preston
10.30am – 3.30pm     Contact: George Barnes 01942 810958 or via website form http://orchid.org.uk/email.htm
Trade Attending :- Phoenix Orchids, John Keeling
     Feb  20     Royal Horticultural Society RHS Orchid Committee
Council Room, Vincent Square
1130 –      Contact: Jill Otway jillotway@rhs.org.uk
Trade Attending :-
     Feb  23     The South West Orchid Society  Annual Orchid Show
West Monkton Village Hall, nr Taunton TA2 8NE
10.30am – 4pm     Contact: Marian Saunders 01278455170 msaunders1@mail105.co.uk
Trade Attending :-
     Feb  24     East Midlands Orchid Society displaying at the Harrogate OS Annual Show
Pavilions of Harrogate, Great Yorkshire Showground, HG2 8NZ
10:00 – 16:00     Contact: Melv. Stephen 01159 198124 melv_and_hil@hotmail.com
Trade Attending :-
     Feb  24     Harrogate Orchid Society Annual Show
The Pavilions Harrogate Showground Wetherby Road Harrogate HG2 8NZ
10.30am – 4.00pm     Contact: Ivor Pawson 01909 477832 ivor.pawson@sky.com
Trade Attending :-

However here are some as listed by the British Orchid Council to tempt you in February. I will be going as a spectator to the Harrogate show and potential some others. The trade usually attend to show their products and will offer advice to the novice. For other pending shows see orchid.org

 

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January Rose Pruning

I was reading an old book by Adam the Gardener the Sunday Express tipster and looking at his suggestions for January.

Rose Pruning In January

  • In January your roses should be dormant and some pruning has advantages.
  • Winter pruning can therefore be done lightly leaving harder pruning to be completed in march or april when you can see how the tree is responding.
  • This pruning reduces wind rock that can lead to frost getting down to the roots from loose soil.
  • Start pruning by removing dead wood and growth that crosses and crowds the center.
  • Standards and wispy growth should be pruned harder. Floribunda varieties need more top growth for a mass display
  • Tools should be really sharp to prevent bleeding and branch damage.
  • Do not prune during hard frosts.

I have been astonished how many rose trees I have growing in the garden. It was only when I embarked on the January prune/trim that they became visible and obvious.  The rugsa roses that I cut back in autumn were treated to a bag of horse manure to set them on their way in spring.

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Chill Out Music in Your Garden

You may want a tranquil peaceful garden but sometimes you need some supplementary relaxation. After your toils to achieve a neat restful space you can reward yourself with some gentle music. The National Trust recognise this and have launched a CD collection of ‘Music for Tired Gardeners’.

Relax after a hard days gardening to the music of Vaughn Williams’ Greensleeves, or if the weather in inclement Chopin’s Raindrop prelude may refresh you. Other composers on the CD include Tchaikovsky, Delius, Debussy, Schumann and Eric Coates etc. You may not be  ‘In a Monastery Garden’ but the Delius operatic composition ‘The Walk to the Paradise Garden’ will be some compensation.

Walking around your garden you can sign the old traditional song ‘How many kinds of sweet flowers grow In an English country garden?
How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know
Those we miss you’ll surely pardon
Daffodils, heart’s ease and phlox
Meadowsweet and lady smocks
Gentian, lupine and tall hollyhocks
Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, blue forget-me-nots
In an English country garden

Like me you may not remember the next two verses about ‘How many insects come here and go In an English country garden?’ and ‘How many songbirds fly to and fro In an English country garden?’

Happy listening and Happier gardening

 

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Oranges and Lemons on One Tree

 

Sorry the title may be a bit misleading if you were thinking of citrus fruit (not something I try to grow).

This is one of my prized Acer Palmatums that cost me all of 10 pence when our local garden center was closing down some years ago. I believe this mini tree is called ‘Orange Dream’ but the ticket was missing still what can I expect for the price. Luckily it was one on several varieties of Acer whose leave turn a brilliant orange, lemon  or red in autumn. Well worth giving them a space in your garden.

As you can see it was planted near a Mahonia referred to in yesterdays post

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My Mahonia

My Mahonia

I have been a bit short of things to say since Christmas but I recently got the camera out to snap the rain on my favourite Mahonia.

Growing in some shelter by a golden conifer this mahonia doesn’t suffer from any wind. The shrub has grown dramatically over the last few years. In late summer I lopped four feet off the top and trimmed the side shoots that were taking too much space. Now a respectable six feet tall I am getting good flowers that are still a bit too high to get my nose into. I have two other lower growing mahonia growing in acidic soil with other ericaceous plants.

The prickly side shoots no longer reach over the path.

Wet Spines on Mahonia

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New Gardeners Do Not Need A Garden

It is possible to enjoy gardening without having a traditional garden. Budding new gardeners can get a lot of pleasure and experience from a simple approach to plants and growing.

  1. Children can learn from growing mustard and cress from a packet of seeds in the kitchen. Put some cotton wool in half a clean eggshell dampen and sow some seeds. Better still may be a saucer with a damp face cloth.  A bean or pea seed in a jam jar wedged against the glass with some blotting paper will grow a root and a shoot to demonstrate the wonders of nature.
  2. Pot plants are often an introduction to gardening. Indoor they need light and water but most can survive at least 6 months without feeding. Green leaved plants may be easier to keep alive than flowering plants which in my experience need more care and attention.
  3. Without a traditional garden you can use grow bags on a balcony or path. I fill some bags and containers with bulbs or young, ready grown plants.
  4. Windowsill in my house are chock-a-block with plants from herbs and salad to exotic orchids. Even new gardeners can give some of these a go.
  5. If all else fails new gardeners can visit parks & gardens, garden centers and even look around the hedgerows and neighborhoods to get gardening knowledge and experience.


Cyclamen in a Pot on the Drive

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Grass for a New Gardeners Lawn

A well maintained green sward with stripes from a lawnmower is the epitome of a British garden. It could be something to do with the amount of rain we get but it also depends on the type and care of the grass.

  1. High quality grass (HQG) seed mixtures containing fine bent grass and fine fescue grass seed are for top class grass but can be high maintenance.
  2. General purpose grass seed contain a mixture in  varying proportions of HQG seed plus smooth stalked meadow grass and timothy.
  3. Hard wearing grass similar to that used for football pitches and children heavy use grass also include quick growing perennial ryegrass.
  4. In new gardens I have often resorted to buying turves. Turf is best laid in autumn. Stagger the turf like a brick wall and stand on a plank as you lay the turf.
  5. The secret of a great lawn is in the preparation. Dig over, remove weeds, firm down with your heels, rake over and firm down again, collect any stones and rake to get a fine tilth into which you can sow your seed. Trim the edges and keep them that way for a tidy appearance.

Book CoverDo not think of yourself as a gardening dummy – you will learn most by experience

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Stopping or Pinching Out for New Gardeners

Some plants want to grow their own way without human intervention. It is a gardeners job to try get the best result by growing for crop quality, size of floral display. Knowing what you aim for will help you decide how to train your plants to do what you want not what nature will allow to happen.

  1. A good example is a tomato plant that will continue to grow taller and produce more leaf and less tomatoes if left to its own devices. So tomato plants are ‘stopped’ when the plant has 5 – 7 flower trusses so the energy goes in to producing fruit not leaves. Nip out the growing tip two leaves above the last flowering truss.
  2. As tomatoes try to throw side shoots at every opportunity these also need ‘pinching out’ before they sap energy. This is similar to stopping but nipping the side growth with finger and thumb. Bush tomatoes can carry more side shoots but I still constrain mine and it is fatal to allow cordon varieties to run amok.
  3. Many ornamental plants benefit from restricting the number of flowers by pinching our excess buds. HT Roses, Chrysanthemums and Dahlias that have groups of buds together are among those I dis-bud.
  4. Dis-budding works well on apples and fruit trees as well. Instead of a clutch of small fruitlets take off all but one of a cluster and let the remainder grow larger.
  5. Deadheading plants will often encourage another flush of flowers. Once plants set seed they think it is all over but cutting off old flowers delays reproduction of seed. Try this on sweet peas.

 

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