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Gardening articles that may not include tips

Transpiration for Gardeners

Transpiration is a basic and crucial function that moves water around plants to cool and keep them healthy. Leaves have pores or stomata that open to allow moisture to transpire or evaporate. Large trees can transpire up to 500 gallons per day, our garden plants transpire far less but enough to cause wilting if there is insufficient moisture for the plant. Stems and flowers can also transpire and loose water.

Transpiration Strategies

  • Many trees have wide spreading and deep roots to provide the moisture they need.
  • Tomato plants have a deep main root to gather water and surface roots for feeding. Leaves can also wither or be defoliated to reduce water loss.
  • Succulents save water by opening the stomata pores at night to reduce transpiration and often have  waxy leaves. Cacti don’t have leaves and few stomata elsewhere so transpire very little.
  • Many plants loose there turgidity when short of water and thus transpiration is reduced.
  • Other  plants have small leaves or hairy leaves
  • Mediterranean natives may have silvery reflective leaves, or produce volatile  oils to reduce transpiration by reduced evaporation.


Plants & Gardeners Water Strategies

  • Many plant leaves are designed by nature to funnel water to suit the plants needs. Check how Rhubarb leaves collect water over a large surface but it is channeled to the ridges that take it to the roots. You may have heard the saying ‘ water rhubarb even when it is raining’.
  • Soft leaves seem to loose more moisture and the more leaves then the more they transpire. Hence gardeners need to mulch and water plants during dry spells to sustain transpiration.
  • Plants in pots still transpire and water hungry plants may not be suitable for containers for that reason. Remember the bigger the pot the more soil and thus moisture it could contain.
  • Shade and wind breaks can reduce water loss by cutting down on transpiration. You can have too much of a good thing and wind and sun are an enemy to successful transpiration.
  • Evergreens transpire even in winter but our climate is generally able to provide the water needed but be wary of long hard frosts particularly for young plants.

Kale leaves are shaped to harvest rain.

Brugsmania build in a water trap

Pink Rose Dew by name and nature








Gardening Robots

Where would we be if there weren’t already numerous robots used in the gardening industry. Do you imagine there are thousands of Dutch gardeners pricking out the seedlings of the soon to be gaudy annuals on supermarket displays or thousands of Chinese coolies picking individual seeds for our packeted seed industry (well may be in this case).

Glasshouses have many automated facilities from sowing, watering and potting and these are becoming economic for some gardeners. Soon we will be able to do all our gardening from this position.

What of other robots to help individual gardeners in their own gardens perhaps for weeding? Early gardeners would be fascinated with the electronic tools now available not least the automatic programmed lawn mowers.

Robot Gardeners Questions

  • I wonder how robots will be propagated
  • What task would your first robot be programmed to do?
  • Farmers are gaining a new range of precision implements for spraying and crop management. Will the cost saving be passed on to consumers.
  • Will garden centers become full of robots instead of gifts and bric-a-brac

Fruit picked by human robot!

I will not be allowing robots to take on my favorite task of drinking a gin and tonic at he end of a session in the garden.


A Trio of Purple Leaves

It is hard to ignore plants with leaves as stunning as these in a Parks garden. The purple is from one of the Sumachs or Rhus family. Selecting plants that contrast in colour shape or form is part of the skill of gardening but starting with plants like these is a good beginning.

Purple is one of my favourite leaf colours of the moment and the Lamium below is called Perilla fructenscens. I am putting several plants in one area of my garden and will see how well they get on with one another.

This Heuchera surprised me growing in a wall cleft with thin soil. I do not remember planting it in what I thought would be a hostile location.


A Garden by any Other Name

Naming of Garden Areas

Previously I have stuck to traditional names for bits of my garden. Veg plot, rockery, orchard (when I feel posh), rose bed, border, hedge and similar names have delineate what and where I was trying to grow.

Then I  launched some new names including the Den Den for a mixture of lolly pop like Primula denticulata .  This naming obsession started some years ago with the ‘Stumpery’ when I couldn’t dig out and dispose of the whole of a conifer root.

‘Alpine Land’ speaks for itself and reflects the time I was a keen member of the AGS. I collected lots of rocks and build slopes and appropriate habitats. Perhaps it deserves a better name.

The Pinkery has many dianthus and Japan Land has more statues and hard landscape and deserves more space.

My favourite bed is Rhodo Road which will come into its own as spring develops. There are currently 3 early white bloomers that have eluded the frost.

Mole Mound contains some plastic moles or heads thereof, a big pile of dumped top soil which turned out to be subsoil and some shrubs.

The whole plot is named Fairfaxery Gardens after the street where it edges the roadside. I do not grow any more successfully but ……..they say give a dog a bad name but the garden may not be perfect but it isn’t a dog.


Best Tips for Outdoor Containers

A mantra from my gardening experience is that ‘A good big one will beat a good small one’ and this applies to containers growing plants outdoors. Big containers offer more control over watering and feeding, they bring plants closer to your senses and can be architectural in their own right. In a plant poll they also opted for a big one over a small one!

Instant Tips

  • Think about the plant roots. Roses grow long deep roots needing deep pots, other plants take moisture and food from surface or shallow roots.
  • Think about the plant leaves. Fleshy leafy growth will need more water as they transpire.
  • Globular pots are popular but very hard to empty when repotting as the neck is narrower than the circumference.
  • Use matching saucers so you can also water from underneath. It can be hard to get enough water in from the top.


Use Heavy Containers

  • ‘A good big one will beat a good small one’ and this applies to most containers. When full of loam based compost a big container will be heavy.
  • You do not want containers to fall over, plants get damaged and grow at funny angles striving for light.
  • Do not let containers become top heavy or too light through lack of watering.
  • Thin walled containers gain and loose heat rapidly. Thicker containers keep roots at a more even temperature.
  • Choose heavy terracotta or reconstituted stone over plastic. If you must use a light container put rocks in the bottom.
  • You can get special casters to wheel your container around the garden. This can be useful to seek out the sun.

Planting Outdoor Containers

  • Decide which is your star plant and put it in place first, slightly off centre. Infill planting densely for a quick result, containers should be about show.
  • Aim for plants that add about 50% in height. Tall thin plants will dwarf the container and may make it unsteady.
  • Think of using a ‘shock and awe’ plant to grab attention.
  • Bury some plants in smaller pots that you can replace with fresher plants.
  • Use some trailing plants to break the edge of the container and make a link with the ground.
  • Plan a colour scheme green and gold foliage looks warm, silver foliage is cold. Spot plants with pink or purple flowers can add sparkle to a white combination.

Moss Garden

Quick Tips for Containers

  • Use slow release fertiliser mixed with loam based compost if you are using longer term plants as opposed to annuals.
  • Provide good drainage and stand containers on pot feet so water can drain away.
  • Terracotta containers were used by ancient Greeks 2500 years ago so they are a well proven method of gardening.
  • Experiment with shapes and sizes of container. Make container gardening fun.
  • Get further inspiration for a book on Container Gardening from amazon.

Book Cover

Outdoor Containers for Special Purposes

  • You can grow ‘Crops in Pots: 50 Great Container Projects Using Vegetables, Fruit and Herbs.’ by Bob Purnell
  • Old sinks are often used for alpine and small plants.
  • Bonsai need to grow outdoors in natural conditions. Some beautiful containers are available
  • Quick growing salad crops can be grown in containers to avoid slugs.

Unique container at Bolen residence

Photo Credits
3 PLANT POTS by KTDEE….popping in and out CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Moss Garden by Flatbush Gardener CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Unique container at Bolen residence by Gardening in a Minute CC BY-NC 2.0
Potted Plants by Yoav Lerman CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Potted PlantsSlightly Potty? Needs some potty training?


Old Adverts How Are You Doing My Old Fruit?

It is interesting to see how gardening adverts have changed with the horticultural industry and modern developments. Yet a top fruit business has in some ways stayed the same.

We are all pleased to see Ken Muir’s specialist fruit business is still on the go although Ken himself died in 2011 at the age of 85. This advert in The Garden October 1976 was placed when his mail order business was 10 years old. Ken Muir was famous for starting the Pick Your Own trend and supplying strawberries to Marks And Spencer. Unfortunately I can find no trace of Oldfield Nurseries – they claim an admiral slogan that we can take to heart  ‘We are NOT a garden Center –  We grow what we sell.’ Is it another case of use it or loose it?

Are weather vanes as popular now as they were? We get modern weather forecasts via all sorts of media but gardeners need to understand local conditions and what impacts on their own micro climates so there is a place for wind vanes.

Landsman bookshops suffered the fate of other specialist bookshops when information became a cheap commodity on the internet. This coincided with a drop in the number of students studying horticulture and farming. They lasted another 32 years after this advert  running a mobile bookshop which visited major agricultural and horticultural shows but then liquidation followed.

Andrews Lawn Edgers LTD  are not ‘ALE and hearty’ either! The Vintage Horticultural and Garden  Machinery Club reports ALE ‘sold many items including the Spintrim lawn edger, Billy Goat vacuum, Bluebird scarifier and the Cyclone spreader’ they have the adverts to proove it. I like the thought of Jenny the generator for the garden.


Garden Seats to view Cyclamen

The 18th century Union Jack Gardens at Wentworth Castle were originally called the ‘wilderness’. It was dense with shapes, texture and contrasts of shade and light. Now it may be a suitable place to take a seat in the garden and see the original Yew trees and the variegated ‘creamed’ Hollies.

Wentworth Castle starts with an invitation to take a seat while you admire the unusual grounds. The seats are unusual too!

The living plants are less unusual but in the stumpery there are shaped tree roots riven from the soil and replanted upside down. This fails to affect the well mulched cyclamen growing from what must be substantial corms.

Gardeners can be a hardy lot but you need a hard bottom for this type of seating.

More traditional cast iron seat. Why do we paint them and other garden items in Wedgewood Blue?

Cyclamen mulch is made from coarse wood and bark chippings

In the last year the renovated garden originally designed in 1707 was forced to close. The Yorkshire Post reports ‘Talks are underway to secure the future of the only Grade I-listed landscape in South Yorkshire, which is said to be “nationally significant” for its extensive monuments including some of the earliest follies in the country. In an irony which would not have been lost on its founder Thomas Wentworth, who only built the estate due to a bitter dispute over the inheritance of the family seat at Wentworth Woodhouse …’ Sadly there has been no progress and I have to rely on my old photographs.


Raised Beds


Cottage Garden and Annuals Triptych

This is a series of 3 photographs of my favourite cottage garden on Main Street Menston. Late summer each year will see me leaning over the Yorkshire stone wall to admire the ‘gaudy’ collection of flowers that create one enormous display.

Design Features

  • The hard landscape is suitably constrained and smacks of belonging to a true plantsman or plantswoman. The red brick from the family home and a small section of slatted paneling limits the borders of this front garden.
  • The garden barely needs to borrow from the surrounding landscape but the old grey Yorkshire stone walls add a timelessness to a short lived period of glory from the plants.
  • Like my garden this garden suffers from a drain cover in an inconvenient spot but it is as disguised as practical with the wooden hooped barrel used as a plant pot. (How else can they get more flowers on show?)
  • The central bed is designed as a lozenge rather than a more normal oval or circle. It works well and allows the gardener access from all 4 sides.

Flowers on Display

  • The main feature is not of structural plants or herbaceous perennials but the selection of  bright cheerful annuals.
  • Wispy Cosmos and Nicotiana edge over the roadside wall on which I lean to take these three photographs.
  • Good strong yellow flowers predominate and link the whole composition together. I particularly like the Tagetes, Marigolds and Rudbeckia .
  • It would be churlish to mention the grass which is in fair condition towards the end of summer.

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