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Gardening articles that may not include tips

The Iceman Cometh

Norwegian Iceman Sculpture Cardiff

As if all the heavy rain has not been bad enough the icy weather is just around the corner. Jack frost will be nipping into your garden this month and may stick around for 5/6 months or so. It is worth revisiting some of the issues and options gardeners face.

Early Preparations

  • Consider your water features including both still and moving. I start by lagging my outside taps and draining hosepipes.
  • Be prepared for frozen bird baths and ponds with means of breaking the ice.
  • I have cleared moss of the paths and hope to reduce icy slips.
  • Check out hessian wrapping and/or horticultural fleece stock. I always remember to buy it when the frost has bitten.

Plant Protection

  • Every gardeners tip says do not walk on frozen grass the stems become brittle and snap.
  • Give tender plants shelter in a greenhouse, cold frame, window ledge or under some cover.
  • Mulch well to protect roots.
  • Sweep snow falls off the leaves and branches to stop them being permanently damaged.
  • Wrap banana plants, tree ferns and exotics in sacking or other frost prevention measures.
  • Some plants, particularly alpines, suffer more damaged from water than frost . So maintain drainage and don’t panic in the frost

Growing Curmudgeons

To me a curmudgeon is not something to plant or see growing in your garden. That is because a curmudgeon is great, galumphing, gormless gardener a bit like me.

Other Definitions of Curmudgeon

  • Curmudgeons who garden with bitterness are a symptom rather than a disease and should be treated like weeds.
  • A cantankerous naysayers acting as self appointed gadflies to be insecticided.
  • A crusty, ill-tempered or difficult and often elderly gardener potentially from Yorkshire.
  • Lest we forget the many female versions of curmudgeonliness  would be battle axes with a few choice synonyms added.
  • ‘National Curmudgeons Day, celebrated on January 29, is growing in popularity. That particular date was selected to honor the ornery among us because it is the birthday of comedian, writer, and self-professed curmudgeon W.C. Fields’.



Hawaii Gardeners Delight

You are unlikely to be able to recreate the conditions and zones of Hawaii in your garden but you can still gaze at some of the exceptional plants and study their habitats. Isolated by thousands of miles of ocean for millions of years, the Hawaiian islands are home to many unique plants and flowers described with great photographs in this book

Book Cover

This book describes more than 130 indigenous (originating or occurring naturally) and endemic (native and restricted) species of many unique plants and flowers.

Interesting Facts to Delight Gardeners

  • The Hawaiian islands, isolated by thousands of miles of ocean. Prehistoric evolution may have resulted from seeds that have been dispersed by oceanic drift, air flotation but most probably by birds droppings and attachment.
  • There were an acknowledged prehistoric 26 plant species before Polynesian immigrants arrived and developed knowledge of medicinal and other uses of plants. They introduced breadfruit, mulberry, coconut, yam, sweet potato, banana, sugar cane and ginger among other useful species.
  • Species have adapted to colonise lava flows in vegetation called ‘kipuka’.
  • The diverse ecosystems found throughout Hawaii include coastal areas, rain forest, bogs, sub-alpine , mesic forest and dry shrub land.
  • Hawaiian islands’ native flora are fast-disappearing nature conservation
  • The state flower of the Aloha State  is the Yellow Hibiscus.


Book Cover

If you are lucky enought o visit one of the many volcanic islands of Hawaii get out and about to visit different ecoregions and botanical sanctuaries. If you stick to coastal and tourist areas you will miss a brilliant and unique horticultural journey. If you can’t visit you can still wonder at the photographs and reports of others that I have hinted at.


Long and Short Gardens

Begonias look best in groups or where they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their colourful dexterity. (Most of my photos are produced uncropped but in this case I done some editing).

Honeysuckle tends to ramble upward and is not easy to do it justice with a photograph. Here are two attempts.

Long vistas benefit from repetition of planting. These dwarf rhododendrons and primula denticula make the point


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?

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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.

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