Archive | Gardening

General gardening tips and hints

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
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Strulch does well in Pots

Widgeon

Strulch is an organic mulch made from straw with embedded minerals. I made use of a lot of Strulch this spring and it has done a good job in several ways most visibly on the plants grown in pots.

Pot Plants With Strulch

  • Strulch mulch reduces weed growth by up to 95% but as you see a couple of weeds poked through. However, they were easy to hand weed the recalcitrants.
  • In the hot dry spring the pots needed a lot of watering but the mulch  helped retain moisture around plants.
  • Enriching the soil and its structure as it slowly decomposes is not critical to pot plants but there are some benefits. I would have added some straw to my homemade compost if it was available.
  • Even with my thin layer it lasts up to two years saving water and fertiliser but next year I will make the layer a bit thicker.
  • As claimed there was no sign of Slugs and Snails so I will try to use it on my dwarf hostas next spring.
  • The light brown appearance was aesthetically pleasing and seemed neat and tidy.
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Planning for Next Year

I have made a list in my garden note book of what has performed successfully this summer. The multi-headed sunflowers have done exceptionally well and take up little space in proportion to the amount of flowers I obtained. I will definitely be growing them again despite trying to cut down on annuals from seed. The note book also records the failures of crops and in greater number my horticultural inadequacies. First and most distressing has been my tomato failures. Gardeners Delight and small cherry toms have produce in number but other varieties have let me down (or vice versus).

October Plans for a better 2020

  • Spread the rotted compost heaps to improve the soil texture and moisture retention around young shrubs, rhubarb and fruit trees.
  • Prune out and destroy fungally infected stems, twigs and wood as soon as leaves drop. Collect these leaves for destruction.
  • Label and store delicate tubers of begonia, dahlia etc.
  • Keep clean and tidy all around the garden, greenhouse and shed.
  • Keep to the plan of low, low maintenance gardening (as if).

 

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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

 

 

 

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Tips for Growing Clematis all Year Around

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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

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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.
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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.

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.
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