Archive | Gardening

General gardening tips and hints

Fine Ferns and Damp Moss

I am not a great fan of ferns as I live too near moorland that shares its bounty with gay abandon and I spend significant time removing uninvited guests. These are usually Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) or  Buckler-fern (Dryopteris
dilatata) with fronds that are arranged like a shuttlecock. There are some exceptions such as the Hart’s tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium) and the  Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) shown in this wall. The strap like fronds  and pinnate rectangular leaflet fronds make a simple  feature on this mossy wall.

Ferns Favourite Locations

  • Due to the microscopic airborne spores British species of ferns can grow in many unusual places such as rocky habitats.
  • Woodland ferns such as Dryopteris species are easy and accommodating in the garden.
  • The striking Osmunda regalis aka The Royal Fern prefers a wetland area.
  • There are several ferns suitable for ground cover and a selection can be found  on the native fern website





Tips for Growing Clematis all Year Around


There is a clematis for every season, every aspect and every place. The flower size and colour range is also wider than you may imagine. Update I have just bought (2.9.19) another clematis Madame Le Coultre for flowering june to august.

Types of Clematis for growing all year around

Early Flowering Species like alpina or montana types.
Summer Flowering hybrids like patens and florida types
Late flowering Hybrids and species like jackmanii, tangutica and viticella types
Herbaceous clematis x jouiniana or Koreana lutea
Evergreen and tender species armandii, cirrhosa and tender plants from the southern hemisphere

Selected Varieties by Colour

White – Marie Boisselot, Montana sericea, Armandii or Clematis chrysocoma.
Red – Ville de Lyon, Madame Juklia Correvon or Ernest Markham.
Yellow – Clematis tangutica, Moonlight, Ligusticifolia or Otto Froebel.
Violet – Etoile Violette or Clematis alpina Francis Rivis.
Blue – Ascotiensis, Macro petal Blue Bird or Multi Blue.
Pink – Clematis montana Elizabeth, Bees Jubilee or Hagley Hybrid.
White and purple Clematis florida Sieboldii.

Soil and Growing Condition Tips

Soil for Clematis should not be too acidic but alkaline soil is fine. Impoverished soil near a wall or under a hedge should be improved with plenty of humus before planting. Sandy soil looses moisture quickly and also needs humus adding.
All clematis will grow better if the roots are kept cool. Plant a bit deeper than the soil level in the pot where they were grown and cover the roots area with a tile, rock or mulch.
Large flowered varieties will have stronger colours if the flowers grow in light shade.
Use a good Foliar feed every 7-10 days and a good root drenching weekly.

Types of Clematis Support

All clematis even the herbaceous varieties need some support. The easiest support is often other plants with matching characteristics – heather for small macropetala types or a tree for the more robust viticella varieties.
Walls are fine as long as the mortar and brickwork is sound for a network of wire. Clematis montana can cover a large wall quickly.
Trellis itself needs to be securely attached to battens but can be attractive when cloaked in Clematis or on it’s own in winter.
Archways, tripods and obelisks look great when covered with a climber such as clematis. Similarly pergolas can have both climbing roses and clematis co-existing.
Try a pillar made from a length of Oak or hardwood to train your clematis because you are bound to want to grow more once you start.

Varieties of Clematis from Thompson & Morgan

Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’ also known as Old Man’s Beard flowers is a superb evergreen clematis bears its delicately fragrant, waxy, bell-shaped flowers in the depths of winter.
The foliage is so lush, that you’ll think its summertime all year round!
Plant Clematis ‘Winter Beauty’ against a warm house wall so that you can appreciate its winter flowers from your window. This sought after variety will appreciate a sheltered site with some winter protection.
Height: 4m (13’). Spread: 1.2m (4’). Pruning Group: 1

Clematis ‘Bill MacKenzie’ really couldn’t be easier. Watch it scramble over fences, covering unsightly sheds with ease. From midsummer this versatile climber is covered in small canary yellow blooms, which give way to large fluffy seedheads for an attractive autumn display.

Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’™ are quite extraordinary.A fountain of crystal-blue stamens radiate from the centres of the dazzling blue, 15cm (6”) wide blooms. Terrifically floriferous, this clematis continues to bloom throughout summer and into early autumn. It’s compact habit makes it ideal for containers and small gardens.

Clematis armandii flowers in spring with exquisitely fragrant, star-shaped white blooms literally smother this beautiful evergreen clematis in spring. The new foliage emerges bronze tinted, gradually maturing to glossy dark green that will quickly cover walls and fences within a few years. Best suited to a sheltered position, this vigorous clematis requires plenty of space to twine its long evergreen stems.

Companion plants for Clematis
Tips on Pruning Clematis

Cultivating Clematis All Year Around

  • Pot up small clematis plants and grow them on until large enough to plant in their final positions.
  • When planting clematis, choose a position in sun or semi-shade and plant the climber deeply in moist, fertile, well drained soil.
  • Position the top of the rootball at a depth of at least 3″ below soil level to encourage new shoots to form from the base of the plant and prevent wilt.
  • Clematis dislike soils that are particularly wet or dry. Soil can be improved by the addition of plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost.
  • Train clematis plants onto a suitable support such as trellis, wires or a freestanding climbing frame.

See also The Climbing Clematis Family


Plum Rot and a Rotten Crop

From this to this 

With clear blue skies and good blossom spring 2019 started so well for my plums. But then many things began to  go wrong. The first disaster was a snap frost that did for my Victoria blossom. Fortunately another variety of plum flowers a bit later, is better sheltered and survived unaffected by frost. That didn’t save the crop from the fungal attack of ‘brown rot’.

More on Plum Problems

  • Plum fruit infected with Monilinia laxa have grey coloured pustules. This fungus can also be responsible for end of stem wilt.
  • Plums infected with Monilinia fructigena have pustules that are buff coloured.
  • It looks like I might be blessed with both fungal infections.
  • Brown rot survives on mummified fruit and small cankers on the tree. It passes quickly on to other fruit in the cluster particularly in moist weather.
  • There is no spray available to gardeners so I will have to improve my hygiene and collect up and burn or bury deeply all infected twigs and fruit.
  • Unhappy with previous years crops I had invested in a new victoria plum tree  and I will hope for more success in years to come.

Stingers in the Garden Get Me Nettled

I was picking the Czar plums to make more jam when a wasp was disturbed from eating it’s lunch. Wasps go for my plums just as they are at their sweetest best. My problem was I couldn’t see which plums had a wasp in the fruit if they were above head height or facing away from my hand. The resulting sting set me on the trail of other stingers in the garden.

Plants Stingers

  •  Who has not been stung by a common nettle or the stinging nettle  a herbaceous perennial aka Urtica dioica. More likely to be stung walking on country paths or unkempt areas not in your garden I am sure!
  • The nettle family are stinging plants with  hairs on  leaves or stems that are capable of injecting formic acid that cause pain or irritation. Brushing bare skin against the leaves causes initial pain with the potential for more effects caused by histamine, acetylcholine and other chemicals that are also present.
  • Giant hogweed  contains a corrosive sap that causes severe rashes,  burns and even serious eye damage if you get the photosensitive chemicals  in your eyes . aka Heracleum mantegazzianum.
  • Poison ivy & its cousin, poison oakone is a noted rash-maker. It’s toxin, urushiol oil, is in the sap of the plant and present in minuscule quantities in some other food stuff.
  • Other plants, often those with hairs or irritating sap, can cause irritation and allergic reactions. I suffer with some verbascum Optunia cacti and euphorbia.





Take a Close Look

We tend to see gardens in the round and I seldom inspect individual plants. I often think I am missing something by not paying close attention. This obviously casual approach doesn’t work for those who specialise in a species or collect special examples of plants.

Careful Looking

  • Patterns and repetitions can be fascinating. Not all are immediately obvious. There is a repetition of colour in the flowers, stems and hairs on the stems of this Geranium maderensis.
  • Seed heads and capsules have their own shape and attraction. They also give good clues as to the species or family of the plant. You could guess this was a part of the geranium family.
  • Plant explorers often took magnifying glasses to get to the crux of a plant.
  • Insect life is not always visible to a casual observer and on the dahlia below the second fly could be missed. No big deal may be but for come the extra attention would be worthwhile.


Diverse Use of Hostas

Hostas can be used for in a variety of situations due to their diversity as a species. As basically known as foliage plants they prosper in the shade but have other uses.

Use of Hostas

  • Available to the gardener as foliage plants from spring to the first frosts, hostas only miss out without a winter display.
  • Used as pot plants they can be moved around the garden and the right pot complements the colouring or leaf shape.
  • Pots can be grown indoors and even cultivated during winter.
  • Different varieties offer colour, size, shape, texture and form. This can be used to create architectural effects, ground cover  or lush tropical effects.
  • Add to this the flowers, the reverse colours and bicolours and you have some great design opportunities.
  • You can even grow your hostas in a window box.
  • Hostas combine well with water locations and as companion planting.
  • Hosta collecting can be an interesting pastime.
  • Flower arranging using hostas is very popular in Japan where many plants originate.



Woody Prunings and Compost

I have 3 good sized compost bins and the Metro district council supplies and takes away a brown bin  each month (for an annual fee). However that is still not enough at this time of year and I can fill the car boot many times over to take thick hedge prunings and woody bits to the local recycling center.

I need one of those – a big rolling compost smasher. It is used to tamp down the tipped compost so we can tip more and the trailer can carry larger loads to the ultimate council compost site.

Other Woody Composting

  • In the past I have had a shredder that was great when it didn’t get clogged up. Sadly it rusted away and I couldn’t foil to do all the extra shredding hence the trips to the tips.
  • In my enthusiastic days I spent many happy hours cutting twigs and prunings into small pieces to encourage early rotting down.
  • Oft times I had a bonfire but then moved on to a dustbin with chimney that is useful for collecting those annoying bits that I want to burn.
  • I had a special 2 year compost bin which reduced volume considerably but the woody bits lingered longer. It is now one of my 3 bins.
  • Garotta compost maker is not man enough for woody items even though I have tried more in hope than expectation.
  • I have never tried guerilla composting ( called fly tipping) but I often see the result of other people trying this antisocial method of eliminating their compostibles.

August Garden Needs More Colour Less Green

Shrubs rule the roost in August and apart from some Hebe there is not much other than green and a bit of leaf colour. Roll on the second flush of roses.

Next year I will think about more annuals and a better range of perennials with August in mind.

There is nothing wrong with green, it is what Chlorophyll is all about.

It is no surprise that many colours related to green have connections with natural items: –

Lawn green, sap green, chartreuse, sage, lime, olive, moss, mint, emerald, viridian, virdigris, avocado and British racing green.

Not real greens :-

Envy green, Lorne Green, Hughie Green, Ever Green, Green Gills, Thumb or finger green (enough ed.)




Good Gardeners Tips

A tip for today

  1. Fertilise weekly weakly
  2. N for leaves
  3. P for roots
  4. K for fruit and flowers
  5. Fertilise when plants need to grow not as they go into a rest period
  6. Stand thirsty houseplants on damp clay granules to maintain humidity
  7. Houseplants can burn from strong sun through a window
  8. Houseplants will grow towards the light so turn the pot regularly.
  9. Houseplants can get pests like other plants so watch and treat when spotted.
  10. Do not sow seeds too early (they can get a growth shock in cold snap). They will catch up by up to 4 weeks no problem.
  11. Sow seeds thinly, smaller the seed thinner the sowing.
  12. Sow big seed individually
  13. If sowing in plastic cell trays chose an appropriate size 4’s, 12’s 15’s etc
  14. If sowing in plastic cell trays keep
  15. Mark or label what and where you have sown seeds.
  16. Practice gardening until you get it right – keep on gardening for the rest of your life hoping to never get it wrong.
  17. Keep conifers well watered or they will go brown.
  18. Golden conifers go greener in the shade, golden in the sunshine.
  19. It is bad luck to be superstitious about your plants.
  20. Mulch to keep soil moist.
  21. Mulch to keep down weeds.
  22. Mulch to make an area look tidy.
  23. Mulch to improve soil texture
  24. Deadhead flowers to try get another flush of youthful blooms.
  25. Deadhead to direct energy away from making seed.
  26. Deadhead to maintain a tidy appearance
  27. Prune to remove sick and damaged shoots
  28. Prune to keep plants tidy and in check
  29. Prune to encourage flowering and fruiting
  30. Prune to maintain a hedge’s shape
  31. Prune to encourage new growth
  32. Plant bulbs as deep as the bulbs size
  33. Daffodil bulbs need time in the ground plant early autum
  34. Tulips can be planted up until November/December
  35. Grit or gravel on top of pots deters moss and helps watering
  36. A saucer under a pot holds water – beware of water-logging which will rot roots
  37. A saucer under a pot holds water to help watering. Use some gravel to keep pot out of a permanent puddle.
  38. Clay pots dry out quicker than plastic or ceramic pots
  39. Black plastic pots get hot in the sun.
  40. Standing pots close together creates a useful micro climate
  41. In winter keep tender plants in pots frost free.
  42. Stand pots on feet so they do not freeze to the ground (a cause of damage to pots)
  43. Refurbish plants in pots by removing the surface soil/compost and replace with fresh compost
  44. Pots rely on you for care, there is no worms to aerate or feed the soil nor a water table.
  45. The bigger the pot the more water it can hold – small pots dry quicker
  46. Some plants like to have the roots constrained in a smaller pot to encourage flowering.
  47. Plants become pot bound when the roots fill the pot – repot with fresh compost in a bigger pot
  48. For a low maintenance garden try conifers of varying sizes.
  49. Dwarf conifer are available in different varieties, shapes, textures and forms.
  50. Keep tools sharp
  51. Keep tools clean and disinfect to avoid transferring pathogens
  52. Keep tools where you can find them and where you want use them.
  53. Appropriate tools for the job make gardening and  life much easier
  54. If your orchid loses   its leaves and turns yellow, it’s dead.
  55. Wait until daffodils are in bloom before pruning roses.
  56. Cut the roses down to the same height as the daffodils – this requires some commonsense as there are small and tall daffs and a wide variety of roses but it provides a rule of thumb.
  57. You don’t need to cut down your fuchsias for winter but stuff Strulch, straw or pine needles between the branches.
  58. When new growth starts you can trim up your Fuchsiaskale
  59. When planting out leeks or onions dip the roots in water just prior to planting. The weight of the water keeps the roots extended.
  60. Make a homemade birdfeeder in an old hanging basket and add a perch by using a strong stick or cane.
  61. The soil on plants from garden centers is often too dry and hard to re-wet. With care you can shake off this compost and replace it with your own.
  62. Alternatively leave the pot in a dish to soak in water, with a drop of washing up liquid to break the waters meniscus and simultaneously water from the top.
  63. Pansies and to a lesser extent viola are prone to black root rot if over watered. Be sparing when watering.
  64. Create smaller beds they are easier to maintain in tight spaces.
  65. Take photographs of your garden regularly and at least every season.
  66. Take photos before and after a renovation project or new planting.
  67. Take photographs of plant labels at botanic or show gardens of those plants you like.
  68. Keep old plant labels (and seed packets) in date order as a reminder
  69. Use some sort of mulch to line the spaces between your vegetable beds.
  70. Birds adore the red, egg-shaped hips of the wild dog rose.
  71. Best rose hips are produced by species roses.
  72. Where there’s muck there’s brassicas – they love a lot of horsesh…
  73. When summer sets in with all it’s usual severity don’t walk on frozen grass.
  74. Visit New Zealands exotic Taranaki world-renowned rhododendron garden
  75. Keep reading Gardeners tips

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Comments made about Overwintering

Irena Dorney a reader of my chrysanthemum post has asked ‘ Tell me do you overwinter your plants? I can no longer afford to keep buying new plants for my planters so I want to invest in plants with a perennial habit that will work hard in my raised bed.’

Overwintering Generally

  • I am a Yorkshire man so yes I try to over winter many of my plants. I want value for money and the thrill of getting or keeping ‘summat for nowt’.
  • A major proportion of my garden is planted with evergreen shrubs and they overwinter themselves.
  • Alpines are generally designed for cold wintery weather but HATE  wet so I don’t worry about frost but will shield or deflect rain from auriculas and damp haters.
  • Bulbs I leave in the ground or pots but take up begonias and dahlia tubers and keep them frost free for planting the following year.
  • You can forget about your tender annuals but the seeds are worth collecting. You then overwinter them as seeds or biannuals.

Overwintering Planters

  • Selecting ‘hardy’ plants that are more likely to survive to survive is a skill worth learning. Violas will last better than pansies for example and dwarf conifers and acers do well in my pots.
  • One of the biggest risks to plants in pots is death by frozen roots. A big pot holds more soil and is harder but not impossible to freeze.
  • I gather pots together for wind and frost protection. A group of pots can create there own micro climate.
  • Under a hedge row I store many pot plants where I am fatalistic. If they survive great if not then c’est la vie & I try to propagate more.

Overwintering in a Raised Bed

  • Selecting herbaceous perennials can fill your raised beds. Herbaceous plants die back every year when the weather gets cold but the right ones regrow next year. If the winter conditions are harsh then mulch around the root area. Delphiniums, alstromeria and primroses have done well this year.
  • Tender subjects like musa (banana) or ferns can be wrapped in hessian or covered in straw but that is too much bother for me.
  • I grow rhododendrons and deciduous azaleas in a raised bed for the want of a larger area. Like many woody shrubs they do fine.


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