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Gardening articles that may not include tips

Small Spaced Kitchen Gardens

Where space is limited or very limited there are still many ways to create a productive kitchen garden.

Optimising Space for your Kitchen Garden.

  • It seems common sense to plan to use what you have available. That covers layout, sequential growing and innovation.
  • If you have a ‘general’ garden then you can interplant kitchen plants eg herbs with box hedges, colourful veg with annuals and fruit trees instead of conifers.
  • Substitute kitchen garden plants for other plants and features as they did when digging for victory.
  • I grow potatoes in old compost bags and pots on my many paths.
  • Other garden veg can be grown in pots even runner beans. Another plant I am having success with is tumbler (Cherry) tomatoes in smallish pots. The are compact easy to grow and are currently producing lots of small sweet fruit.
  • Chose plants and varieties that grow and mature quickly eg salad, radish courgettes and edible flowers.
  • Herbs can be grown in slender strawberry pots with several opening spaces.

Small Garden Fruit

  • Dwarf rooting stock has opened up the opportunity to grow and pick fruit from  small constrained trees or shrubs.
  • Trained apple, pear or currants can be grown as cordons, espalier or fans against a wall. I have also seen a gooseberry grown this way. ( Cordons are diagonal branches that are only allowed short laters, espaliers are grown with a vertical and one or two level branches forming a cross).
  • Grape vines normally need a lot of space but with rigorous training and the right location you can succeed in a small plot.
  • Soft fruit including strawberries and blue berries are ripe for pot growing.
  • I would always find space for rhubarb but that is due to my ‘pie fetish.’

Thank the Romans for Latin Names not Linnaeus

Book Cover

‘What else did the Romans do for us’ asks Monty Python. ‘All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? ‘ Well if you include Latin as a language they gave us modern gardening nomenclature.

What can Latin Names Tell Gardeners

  • Latin names are full of information and can hide the secrets of where the plant is found or to which areas it is endemic. eg Cyclamen persicum, the Persian cyclamen.
  • The name can show the  colour,  albicans or albus flowers will be whitish, virdis or virens will be green.
  • A name prefixed with melano… caulon,  melano… cococus,  will be black, stemmed or berried respectively. Other plants with black features will follow this pattern.
  • Fragrans means propensity for scent often sweet-scented and the best fragrantisimus is likely to be very fragrant
  • Other horticultural information may include; flowering times,natural habitat or fruitfulness- fructifera.
  • Latin for a shady place sylvestris or woodland in the name ending will show where a plant will be happiest.
  • Plants that are named after the shape of their leaves like palmate.
  • The time of year that they flower as in vernalis of spring.
  • Melleus in the name pertains to honey and will likely attract bees and other insects.
  • There are numerous other identifiers and features in Latin based plant names but you just need a learn a few (and a book or PC) to enjoy the skills  of plant selection.

So Monty Python was on the right lines but ‘he is a very naughty boy’ of he doesn’t learn some gardeners Latin.


Public Green Spaces in Britain’s Floral Resort

As befits a town with the sobriquet ‘Britain’s Floral Resort’ Harrogate is again a picture of vibrant colour in most of its green public spaces. Despite the crown (hotel and garden bed above ) it can not be called Royal Harrogate nor can it usurp Britain’s Floral Resort for it’s exclusive use.

Blood red features strongly at the beginning of August in the Brexit era of 2019. Back in the day 2003/4 Harrogate won a gold medal in the Flowery Alliance of Europe horticultural competition  for excellence in horticultural display. I wonder if that was a bloodless coup?

Continue Reading →


Gardeners Against Deforestation

It is not only in the Amazon rainforest that excessive deforestation is taking place. Africa is suffering as well! According to an educational charity the ‘deforestation in the Gambia is dreadful, many of the largest trees have been sold to China! Lots of protests but nothing seems to be done about it.’
‘A British charity the Gambian Schools trust is helping schools in the Gambia to counter this deforestation and teaching an awareness of beneficial fruit trees. They have encouraged school children who have planted about 200 mango, mandarin orange, avocado, flame trees, tamarind, banana, palm,  and pomegranate. The largest number were Pomegranate which do not grow in the rural east of the country, they introduced them to our schools and together they have propagated about 120 from seeds. Hopefully they will fruit next year and any excess fruit can be sold at market to supplement school funds.’
The photographs are from the summer 2019 activities at the Gambian Schools trust locations.
Mango planting
A government minister  has said ‘the Gambia is endowed with a wide range of forest and woodland ecosystems which include gallery forest, closed and open woodlands, trees and shrub savanna, mangrove, riparian and fringing savanna ecosystems…… constituting 43% of her land area and that the country’s resources provide an important basis for economic and social development, directly affecting the livelihood of the majority of the populations.’
Banana planting
Back at home we gardeners should bear in mind the areas in the world where horticulture and related activities are crucial to survival. We can help via education and practical support.

Conifer Corner in Poor Shallow Soil

There are 7 or 8 different conifers in this photo from a total of 16. The whole bed is roughly rectangular 6 yards by 5 yards. It has one unusual feature in that the soil is very shallow and poor.

The Beds Origin

  • Originally the area was a tarmacked drive that was not used or needed. The answer should have been to dig it up, and almost one third of it was, but my tactical bad back intervened.
  • The solution was to buy a large lorry load of top soil and make a hump of soil that we called our rockery. The drainage from the start was excellent.
  • The depth was 1′ at the edges and may be 2′ in the middle. With a few rocks it looked like an alpine garden without the real height.
  • Alpine enthusiasm waned after several years and some dwarf conifers were planted for coverage in the now compacted and impoverished soil.
  • Little or no fertiliser has been used in 20 years but in dry summers there has been some occasional watering.
  • Despite all this the conifers survive and the prostrate spreading junipers grow year on year.
  • The rockery stones provide stepping off points.
  • Some bulbs were planted but only grape hyacinths seem to have thrived. Patio roses succumb to black spot.

As was 10 years ago at the start of the conifer plantation era.


  • Plants want to grow and will adapt to many conditions as this bed demonstrates
  • Losses have been minimal and most conifers still seem happy.
  • It remains to be seen how the roots of any shrub to be replaced will have grown through the tarmac and substrate. It may be hard to dig out but not as hard as clearing all the original tarmac in one go. The disposal of just a part was a job in it’s self.
  • The lack of soil depth has turned the taller growing conifers into partial bonsai and all the better for that.

Overhead view of the same garden bed five years earlier.


Lily Ponds Starting to Look Good

July is the season to look out for mature lilies in older ponds. There is nothing to beat the calming influence of a white lily on a pond of still water. Of course not all ponds are and remain tranquil. This smaller pond on Filey cliff tops acts as an advertising hoarding for ice cream. Who invented ice cream for dogs? It is already enough to encourage kids to splash in the pond never mind dogs.

 Waterlily Tips

  • Waterlilies need a position in full sun to flower at  their best.
  • Waterlilies need calm, still water. Warm water and light provide the best conditions.
  • Even deep varieties can’t grow when the water is more than 5 feet deep. Most varieties grow happily in 3 to 4 ft of water if allowed time to establish.
  • Waterlilies are best planted from late spring to mid-summer.

Lily Pond Tips

  • Do not allow trees to over hang a pond
  • Keep fountains and running water away from lilies as they do not like disturbance or flowing water
  • A base of natural clay and silt are the best medium into which you plant lilies
  • Read Gardeners Tips
  • Aim for a minimum two thirds water to one third water lily and you will get the best reflections.

Burnby Hall Pocklington

Burnby Hall Yorkshire (above) has two magnificent lakes holding a national collection of Water Lilies.


Looking for the Unusual

Visual nature can be found all around in your garden, local park or field. Keep a look out for interesting or unusual shapes, patterns and textures and take a camera around with you. I like the contorted Hazel branches that weave their own pattern.

This log in parkland had an amazing pattern created by the symmetry of the old bark. The teeth shapes remind me of cogs on a rustic wheel. Continue Reading →


Delphiniums Plural

Stately and statuesque, the blue Delphinium is one of the best tall features in a herbaceous border. I questioned my English teacher whether they should be called Delphinii as there always seemed to be several upright stalks like the chunky dark blue examples above. As regular readers will know spelling is not one of my greatest strengths.(nor is grammar).

The keen eyed will spot one of the secret ways of helping these 6 feet high giants stay upright. At Newby Hall garden a great deal of time and effort is expended on good quality staking and support and delphiniums are no exception. There is 3″ square mesh of fine filament placed at about 3′ high and the flower stems allowed to grom through. There is no need to support individual blooms.

There are many shades of blue from the dark almost purple to powder blue and even white.

Slightly gone over these flowers were displayed in a white border. Delphiniums have been a minor success in my flower vases this year and I will try again next year after feeding and water the plants extra sustinence.

Varieties courtesy of Old Farmers Almanac

  • Belladonna Group: Upright, loose and branching perennials with single flowers that grow 3 to 4 feet tall. ‘Blue Bees’ is a Belladonna producing clear blue flowers with white centers.
  • Elatum Group: These are the tallest spiked hybrids growing to 6 feet or more. ‘Blue Nile’ is a medium plant bearing semi-double, bright, and mid-blue flowers with white centers (called bees). ‘Bruce’ is a tall Elatum bearing semi-double, violet-purple flowers, paler towards the center, with brown bees.
  • Pacific Hybrids: Similar to Elatum Group, although not as tall, this hybrid is short-lived and often grown as annuals or biennials. ‘King Arthur’ bears plum flowers with white bees with 5- to 6-foot tall flower spikes.
  • According to the RHS Delphinium x ruysii  ‘Pink Sensation’ is a short-lived perennial with deeply divided leaves and slender spikes.

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