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English Walled Kitchen Gardens

English Walled Kitchen Gardens

Walled gardens make great spaces for your special kitchen garden. Traditionally associated with larger estates, country houses and stately homes many were designed to provide a continual supply of fresh fruit, flowers and vegetables for the ‘big house’. It is the micro climate that walled gardens induce thus creating the facility to grow more exotic fruit trees against walls or with the aide of heated glasshouses.

There are many more discrete kitchen gardens where you can model your own food producing plot with ideas in this National Trust book. Even one well situated wall can provide shelter climbing space and support within a kitchen garden.

 

Book Cover

Winnowing My Garden Books

Winnowing My Garden Books

On this first of August 2020 I am resolved to winnow down my collection of books on gardening and related subjects. I want to separate the wheat from the chaff and boy is there a lot of chaff to sort, probably 500+ tomes plus related ephemera. Not all of this winnowing activity will lead to new posts on this site but my first effort has done.

The most recent book I have read from cover to cover was the entertaining ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben. To me it is a master piece of accessible writing about trees, what they feel, how they communicate and how nature interacts  with them. It is based on years of experience as a forester. Peter has acute observational and analytical ability that is well reasoned and simply communicated. The main themes I have taken into my wider gardening and ecological understanding include:

  1. Trees show we can take the long view and there is no need to rush, in fact time may create a far better and sustainable result.
  2. There is a place for everything and with everything in its place we disrupt it at our peril.
  3. We don’t know what we don’t know and there are more things in heaven and earth ( but what the Hamlet to mix my metaphors.)
  4. If trees have social networking with many skills similar to human abilities and traits, then what else can our gardens teach us.
  5. Look at what is easily visible and look again to develop understanding.

Fired with this enthusiasm I looked through for further enlightenment before I  pass on the books to others as part of winnowing down from  my book shelves. I came across a 1974 book ‘Plants and Environment’ by R F Daubenmire a self professed Textbook of Plant Autecology. The book’s definition of Autecology is wider than a dictionary definition claiming it considers: geology, soils, climatology, zoology, chemistry and physics which are connected to the welfare of living organism and evolution of species. Not dissimilar to Wohlleben’s offering.  As I have only read the preface and introduction in detail some chapers have been dipped into to suit my mood at the time. These include; soil, water, temperature, light, atmospheric, biotic, fire, evolution and complex environmental chapters.

As a text book it is more detailed and less apocryphal than the Hidden Life of Trees but aims at ‘the intelligent management of plant life (and trees in particular) for the good on mankind’. Both books have excellent notes and references.

 

Neat and Trim Tree

Neat and Trim Tree

In a garden the weeping willow can look untidy and in need of a trim as it has a propensity to straggle and have branches trailing on the ground. Along side water it will favour the wet side. This can play havock with the area underneath and the designs symmetry.  A solution has been found in this garden which I spotted on a lockdown walkabout. The lower branches have been trimmed to a uniform height around the bole.

The lawn stripes and the neat hedges smack of a professional garden maintenance crew who doubtless have the best tools for the different tasks job.

I liked this photograph of the same garden from another angle. The trim willow is framed by the leaves of the overhang. A shame I couldn’t get a shot without the telegraph pole. See an earlier post from 2009 weeping willow in trim taken in Hay-on-Wye.

Portmanteau Trees New Species

Portmanteau Trees New Species

Elmonkey

If you notice dogs you may have seen a’ cockapoo’ using one of your trees as a loo or a ‘puggle’ leaving a puddle but what is a ‘labradoodle’ to do?  Every week there seems to be a new hybrid dog that is a cross between two or more breeds so I wonder if can this apply to trees.

If breeders could cross a Eucalyptus with a holly the European commission would be happy with a Eucalolly forest or a walnut would make a waolly or hollnut. My favourites would be a Sycayew or the tall but sickly Poplash

Paperbarked Maple

Back to the dogs for a minute, not to say silverbarkbirch or paperbarked maple both a bit wrouff ( or am I doing something up the wrong tree). How about planting a bulldogwood, a pitbull tree of heaven or a maidenhairweiler.

Trees portmanteaued or  crossed with board games would be chessnuts, planeludo or snakebarks and ladders. Mahonijong are related to chinese checkers and monopoly would be a self pollenator. Who let the dogs in there are terrible draughts in here (enough already go have some Chow ed).

Mixed May Month

Mixed May Month

I love Iris as much as Iris love sunshine so we are both happy with this May’s weather. The Thuja occidentalis conifer offers a cool photographic backdrop after coming through a frosty patch of weather in early spring

Lupins are not just for Christmas in fact they are not even for Christmas. They are definitely one of our families favorite hardy perennials for use in a mixed border.

How I regret not remembering the name of this bulb that I planted several years ago. Now it is maturing nicely with many flowering stems and is becoming a distinctive feature plant.

A hardy stand by Ceanothus that I propagate from cuttings. The only draw back for me is that other growth habits, including prostrate  and tree forms cannot be propagated from this one plant. (Clone is as colnes does). Ceanothus is also called or known asbuckbrush, California lilac or soap bush,

Azaleas in this gloomy corner have survived for several years and I keep promising myself that I will add some other varieties when can I find a place to plant them.

My wife would see the back of this Mahonia to make the space I crave for Azaleas (they both like slightly acidic soil). The sharp leaves ‘needle’ her but I like the all year round interest the plant provides.

The slabs of paving provide a path through a short Japanese section of the garden which utilises bark chippings rather than a gravel mulch.

Rabbits breed harmlessly in this part of the ornamental garden. A new acquisition last Christmas was the door as an entrance to the gnomes homes (221b Baker Street elementary my dear watsonnia – is that freudian or the name of my bulb in the third photo)

Having a Good Lilac Season 2020

Having a Good Lilac Season 2020


Sorry if this post is a bit repetitive from one at the beginning of May but my mind is socially distanced from my memory. My garden lilac has never smelt so good but I am sure the colour has been stronger in previous years.

The white lilac has been OK but lacks pizzaz despite the blue skies and strong sunshine. Perhaps it is a lack of focus and I should polish my photography skills.


The best varieties have been the darker purples which I have spotted on my lockdown compliant walks around the village. Ten years ago the gardens looked very different.

Ideas for Better Garden Photographs

Ideas for Better Garden Photographs

Compose your photo shot with care to get the image you want and only that image. In this photo the moss and drainpipe do not add anything to the desired result so they need to be cropped out for the next image where ‘Carols’ bucket takes center stage. If the original has been taken with high resolution the cropped image will not suffer. The spade could have been aligned better to show the handle.

Know your cameras capabilities and take several shots until you find an image you like. Be self-critical of your work and regular practice will help to get better results next time

Despite standing on the low wall to look down on the garden only the crazy paving benefited and I should consign this to the compost (I mean the recycle bin). The aim was to have a foreground that didn’t compromise the key middle ground and then a background that didn’t distract. Shame that this photo failed on all aims with the neighboring houses standing out and catching the eye and the key middle ground achieving nothing much.

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Roses for Good Hips

Roses for Good Hips

Some gardeners say the best hips are produced by species roses. Here are some Hips Tips that I have discovered over the years.

  1. Rugarosa for big juicy spherical hips
  2. Birds adore the red, egg-shaped hips of the wild dog rose Rosa canina which are also good for cooking.
  3. Masses of orange-red hips adorn the rampant rambler Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’. It needs a large tree or building to grow over  as does Rambling Rector.
  4. Rosa ‘Madame Grégoire Staechelin’ is a glorious climber with huge hips that turn from yellow to pinkish-red.
  5. The Scotch rose, Rosa spinosissima is a  very prickly species rose with purplish-black hips
  6. Bristly, urn-shaped, dark red hips hang on the arching stems of Rosa setipoda, make a striking autumn feature.
  7. Hips vary in shape and colour with Rosa moyesii Evesbatch having long elongated hips and Rosa pimpinellifolia round black hips.
  8. Rosa villosa has gooseberry like hips whilst for small, orange-red hips try Rosa ‘Fru Dagmnar Hastrup’ that look like cherry tomatoes.
  9. The fatter and juicier the hip the better they make rose hip syrup.
  10. As a child we used to break open the hip and push seed down the back of friends shirts to cause itching. I haven’t tried that for 60 years or so! but I still get the itch.

A few  older shrub roses that are recommended by the RHS:

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My Personal Planting Tips

My Personal Planting Tips

Bamboo in a sheltered Glade

Shrubs and Trees

  1. ‘A good big one is better than a smaller one’ is an old yet valid quote and also applies to the size of a planting hole. Give room for the roots to spread. Brake up the bottom and sides of the hole, mix in some slow release fertiliser and puddle in (lots of water in and around the plant. Firm down the soil and offer support with a stake.
  2. A good big one quote should not be taken to extreme for new shrubs and trees. The larger the plant the more susceptible it will be to drought and wind damage. Over time most smaller plants will catch up and have suffered fewer ‘checks’. On large forced shrubs the root systems may not be strong enough to cope with a large head of leaf, fruit or flower.
  3. I prefer autumn as a time to plant when the soil will provide a warm home for new roots and rain will help with watering.
  4. Water new plants regularly and thoroughly. A slight depression around the plant will create a saucer effect. In dry situations they may need help for 12 months or more. Do not risk new plants dying from drought.

Protecting the Newly Planted

  1. Young trees need the support of a stake or cane. Wind rock can damage the tender roots and growth will be damaged by prevailing wind. Stake on the windward side and tie with soft string at least one third up the stem.
  2. Errect a wind break if the garden is exposed.
  3. Protect from animal damage with a plastic stem protector and slug pellets.
  4. Plant in groups rather in singles to get some mutual protection.
  5. Mulch to protect the soil temperature and moisture content.
  6. Keep weeds under control.

Planting out pot grown plants

  1. Before planting out give all new plants in pots a good soaking. Beware it can be hard to get water to soak into the center  You do not want to find the plant dying with a dry root ball in a few seasons time.
  2. Pot bound plants are those with the root twisting around inside the pot and most of the nutrient and compost consumed. Roots may be forcing their way out of the bottom of the pot or making plastic pots distort. They will struggle to get out of this vicious spiral/circle when planted out. The best solution is to tease out the roots on the edge of the root ball. If it is too tightly wound then break out any remaining composts and spread all the roots as best you can.
  3. Garden centers are businesses and some get up to dubious tricks. Small and immature plants that have  recently been repotted into larger pots to make them seem more valuable (for that read pricey). Before buying support the plant and invert the pot to see if the root ball crumbles.
  4. I put some mycorrhisal root growth aid in the hole to encourage roots to grow away from the root ball.
  5. Bare rooted trees and shrubs are often the best way to plant fruit trees, hedges and roses.