Author Archive | hortoris

My Climbing Hydrangea

I like the idea of a climbing hydrangea more than the actual experience. Good specimens seem to produce a profusion of frothy, white blossoms particularly when grown by someone else.

My Problem Climbing Hydrangea

  • In my case I planted the sole attempt near a supporting wall. The soil my not be of the best quality, fertility nor humous rich. So what can I expect from Hydrangea petiolaris an Asian woodland native.
  • To compound my sins the wall faces north but in mitigation it is only 2 feet high and the climber now occupies both sides. However flowers are there none or sparse to say the least.
  • Nostrums, potions and plenty of compost have not stimulated leaf or branch growth so what hope of flowers.
  • I expected this Hydrangea to take a while to settle in and start producing but 5 years on and my patience is wearing thin. I guess that is true of the plant which is still keen on revenge for my earlier mistakes over its location.
  • I would prune it after flowering in mid summer but without flowers to set me off I have been a bit too lax. Then again the plant is a bit lax too.
  • In researching this post I discover Hydrangea anomala is a species of vine hydrangea and may be my plant is as confused as I am.
  • I trim the vine to control its height and width or make cuts at leaf nodes to encourage the plant to fill out. However I may be chopping of my buds to spite my face.

 

Where too Now

  • Cut my losses and turf the climbing hydrangea out.
  • Take cuttings and try new locations more in keeping with its needs. A poor strain of plant will not get better after vegetative propagation.
  • Stick with it and be happy there is one plant to have a moan about.
  • Either move to the south of the UK or buy this book about getting Hydrangeas to bloom in the north.

Book Cover

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Watering Lessons from a Dry Summer

After a wet early spring 2018 the UK had a very dry summer. You are never to old to learn and I picked up some new tips and reinforced some old watering tips.

                        water butt but where is the water?

Dealing with Dry Weather

  • Water the plants not the soil in between them. Pay special attention to new plants as their roots are more vulnerable than established plants. Cut back perennials if they look like they might die, be cruel to be kind.
  • A wet spring will not leave the soil wet through summer. Chalky and sandy soils will dry out fastest.
  • Water the right amount at the right time. A good soaking once a week is better than a light sprinkling every day. Water when it has time to soak down to the roots in an evening or early morning.
  • Protect plants from drying wind with a windbreak.
  • Let lawn grass grow a bit longer during dry spells and do not bother watering your lawn.
  • Don’t bother watering fruit trees once the fruit has started to set and swell.
  • Group vegetables together according to their watering needs. Leafy crops, tomatoes, runner beans and potatoes need most water. Courgettes only when they start to swell and asparagus and root crops are more drought tolerant.
  • Patio plants need attention and care. The bigger the pot the more moisture the compost will hold. If they are drying out add a drop of washing up liquid the the water and or create a sump in a saucer or tray.
  • Don’t let clay soil develop cracks for more evaporation to escape. Add organic compost, mulch and sharp grit.

Make Watering Easy and Effective

  • Watering around the base of a plant means some water evaporates before it reaches the roots.Dig a channel between rows and fill with water from a can or use a length of guttering with holes in the sides to channel water where you want it.
  • Sink pots into the ground near plants so roots do not need to come to the surface to get a drink. Larger pots for established plants can have an old dish cloth in the bottom to deter slugs and slow down the seepage.
  • A mulch of grass clippings or Strulch will slow down evaporation .
  • Many contraptions can be created to drip feed or target water to the roots. A half buried plastic pop bottle with holes in the side or try a piece of hose with a funnel.
  • Soaker hoses need to be in the right place but are a simple solution to efficient watering.
  • Turn off your fountains and moving water when practical.

A Word About Recycled Water

  • Adjust water features to minimise splashing and spray drift.
  • Use a pond liner near the water feature to capture excess water and channel it back into the sump or reservoir.
  • Clean household water can be used in water features as any soap or detergent is not aimed at your plants.
  • Rain water is a valuable commodity for watering some plants as it is soft and gently acidic.
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Lily Beetle Spotting & Prevention

What has got 6 legs, a head, 2 eyes and red wings and  is not a dice game of Beetle. It is the red lily beetle Lilioceris lilii that consumes large quantities of one of our favorite plants.

How to Spot Lily Beetle

  • Adults are 8mm long, bright red with a black head and legs.
  • Eggs are 1mm long and orange-red, found in groups on the underside of lily leaves and they hatch in around a week.
  • Larvae have orange bodies with black heads but are normally covered with their own slimy black excrement.
  • The fully grown larvae are 8-10mm long.
  • At the pupal stage they lie in the soil.
  • Both the adults and larvae can defoliate lilies and fritillaries in short order.
  • Leaves get ragged and black gungy deposits can be seen on infected plants.
  • The red beetles easily fall off leaves and hide in the soil when gardeners try to remove them by hand.
  • The beetle was initially confined to south east England but has spread north.

The Lily Beetle Cycle

  • Adult lily beetles emerge from the soil from late March to May and feed on  foliage between May and  September.
  • Adults feed and lay eggs on the underside of leaves of host plants from late April until early September.
  • After about two weeks, when the larvae are fully grown, they pupate in the soil. Two to three weeks later new adults emerge.
  • The beetles overwinter as adults in sheltered places, often in the soil but not necessarily near lilies.
  • This non-native pest became established just before the second world war.

Prevention, Predators and Parasites

  • Red lily beetle overwinters in soil, leaf litter and other sheltered places so good husbandry can help.
  • Small infestations can be picked off by hand. There is some pleasure in squashing a red beetle that has caused your plant so much damage.
  • There are some parasitic wasps but probably not enough to help your lilies survive.
  • The RHS to which I am indebted for this advice say ‘ Pesticides are likely to be more effective on larvae than adults
  • Heavy infestations which are impractical to remove by hand can be treated with pesticides
  • Organic insecticides containing natural pyrethrins  Several application of these short persistence products may be necessary to give good control
  • Synthetic pyrethroid pesticides such as lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), or deltamethrin (e.g. Sprayday Greenfly Killer) can be used
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) can also be used’
  • In my experience it is wise not to expect miracles with chemical treatments and beware they can kill pollinating insects.
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Get Christmas Cactus Ready to Flower

Christmas Cactus are succulent  cultivars of Schlumbergera.

Tips For Growing Christmas Cactus

  • As the name suggests in the Northern hemisphere and the UK these plants normally flower between November and February
  • Flower buds are stimulated by shortened day length and need 12 hours  uninterrupted darkness from late summer through autumn.
  • To encourage Christmas flowering, from September, they need 8-10 hours of daily sunshine (don’t we all). A bright windowsill will suffice but cover in darkness the rest of the day.
  • Postion plants to avoid domestic lighting or cover every night with blackout material.
  • Keep temperature below 18c but above 10c
  • Fluctuating temperatures can cause the buds to fall but so can over watering

Christmas Cactus Varieties

  • Schlumbergera x buckleyi  have fleshy stems not leaves.
  • Stems are divided into flattened leaf-like segments with scalloped margins  and they can grow quite long and droop over the edge of a pot.
  • Schlumbergera x bridgesii another Christmas Cactus  do not have spines like many cactus
  • Easter cactus, also known as a spring cactus are not members of the Schlumbergera family. They look similar, bloom in spring but are Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri or Hatiora gaetneri plants.
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A Gardener’s Christmas Present List

There are all sorts of presents you can give an avid gardener for Christmas. A concept present may be a small collection of garden ornaments or some funny sayings. More seriously garden tokens are always useful but I like to select my own tools.

Another present could be a subscription to the Royal Horticultural Society or a specialist plant or society or charity such as one of the following (other clubs are available):

I hope you aren’t spoilt for choice but if so there is still:

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Geraniums Over Winter

My mother very successfully grew Geraniums (pelargoniums) as indoor pot plants for many years. For the majority of gardeners the zonal geraniums are an outdoor feature of brightly coloured flowers that are often treated as annuals. Over wintering can be too much fuss and frustrating if you get it wrong. There are things you can do to optimise your success in getting a favourite plant through even a cold, soggy winter. Firstly select varieties that are worth the effort of preserving.

Pot Up Pre-winter

  • Unless already in pots replant your favourite geraniums in individual pots with a gritty compost.
  • Tidy up any nibbled leaves and poor stems cutting back a bit if necessary.
  • Keep the pots in a bright, cool spot such as a windowsill. Avoid a frosty reception from a cold window behind curtains.
  • A good plant will keep flowering for a while into winter.
  • Do not over water but keep on the dry side.

Mass Protection

  • If you wish to save a lot of plants you can try keeping them in a frost free area such as a garage or greenhouse.
  • Dig up before they are frosted and knock off as much soil as you can from the roots. Trim back by a half.
  • Either hang the plants in a cool, dark room or place them in paper bags. They will loose their leaves but the stems should reshoot in spring if planted in good compost.
  • Check every few weeks to make sure the plants are not shriveling or drying out completely. Mist or soak if they do get over dry.

Take Cuttings

  • If you have particular geraniums you wish to preserve I recommend taking cuttings.This method takes up less space but you need to start well before the first frosts.
  • Start by taking 3- to 4-inch cuttings from the green  part of the plant. Strip off any leaves on the bottom half of the cutting. Some gardeners recommend dipping the cutting into rooting hormone but I find it more important to ensure excellent drainage.
  • I would definitely use the cuttings method for Regals, Scented and special geranium plants.

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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.”

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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.

Book Cover

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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

cyclamen

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.

Cyclamen
Continue Reading →

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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.

Book Cover

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.’

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