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Category: Tips Hints and Ideas

Help for the new and not so new gardener

Top Ten Old Roses

Top Ten Old Roses

Repeat flowering old Rose varieties do what it says in their name however the first 5 in my Top Ten only flower once per year but still inspire.

Old Rose Top Ten

  1. Celsiaha  this Damask rose is strong and vigourous with good clusters of large, lasting, pale pink flowers.
  2. Enfant de France is a compact gallica rose with sweet scented, double flowers in a silvery pink with quilled petals.
  3. Rosa gallica Versicolour or Rosa mundi is a 16th Century semi double variety with candy striped red and white flowers.
  4. Mme Hardy is a pure white rose opening from a slightly pink bud on a shrub up to 6 feet tall. It is disease resistant and good in an organic garden.
  5. Mme Sancy de Parabere is a thornless climber. Early flowering yet hardy plant with double, saucer-shaped flowers and ragged petals of deep lavender pink.
  6. John Hooper is a strong scented pink hybrid with perpetual flowering.
  7. Gloire Lyonnaise Semi-double creamy white blooms on a very erect shrub. Virtually thornless shrub that withstands wet weather better than most.
  8. Captain Hayward has light crimson, shapely, double flowers with excellent orange hips.
  9. Paul Neyron has large 6″ flowers in a deep shade of pink.
  10. Souvenier du Doctor Jamain has medium-sized flowers of the richest maroon colouring, opening flat. Grows 6ft. tall x 3ft. wide.

Classes of Old Roses

The Gallicas are probably the oldest of all garden roses forming short bushy shrubs, many of which are quite suitable for small gardens. They were grown by the Greeks and Romans then bred in 17th century by the Dutch and French.
Among them are some very fine roses with magnificent mixtures of colour particularly among the crimson, purple and mauve shades. They have beautiful flower formation with open upright blossom which shows the yellow stamens
All of the Gallicas are once blooming and most have very good fragrances. Tuscany variety is an almost black purple may be the oldest surviving Gallica from pre 1596.

Damask roses are another very old group, said to have originally been brought from the Middle East by the Crusaders.

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My Ground Cover Ideas

My Ground Cover Ideas

Ground cover plants are designed to do what they say in the title. They can cover the ground by design, happy accident or conscious neglect.

Creeping Jenny

Benefits of Ground Cover

  1. Treasure the ground cover plants that clothe the soil and rocks with leaves or stems preventing wasteful moisture loss.
  2. Ground cover reduces weed seed germination as the seed can’t reach the soil. Any weeds that do grow will likely be smothered or hidden from view.
  3. Most ground cover will flower and even foliage only plants are more aesthetically pleasing than bare or patchy ground.
  4. Ground cover is useful on hard to access land such as scree or steep slopes.
  5. Ground cover may creep or mound but most will grow lower than one feet high and be ornamental.
  6. They are easy to maintain with an occasional clipping after flowering or an edging trim to keep them in control.
  7. Ground cover can support wild life and help create a special habitat.

Hart’s tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium

Selected Ground Cover Plant Species

    1. Ajuga reptans like plenty of water to produce purple-green leaves and spring flowers of blue spikes.
    2. Erigeron karvinskianus has small white flowers like lawn daisies. A copious self seeder.
    3. Lysimachia nummularia also called creeping jenny for reasons you will discover as it moves around your garden. In summer it has numerous smal,l yellow flowers.
    4. Sedum acre or Stone crop is a popular low growing succulent for ground cover.
    5. Stachys byzantina has grey wooly leaves on 6″ high stems. They look like Lamb’s ears hence the common name.
    6. Often excluded from ground cover plant list is lawn grass. I guess meadow achieves a similar purpose.


Happy Accidents

Many times a garden will develop its own style with a series of what I call ‘happy accidents’. Looking at ground cover I would include the semi-evergreen strawberry with its habit of forming runners in my list of accidents. Other ground hugging evergreen plants include a range of recumbent or prostrate dwarf conifers such as Juniper horizontalis or Juniper squamata blue carpet.

Whilstnot planted as ground cover I notice saxifrage, Euonymus, Bergenia and even clumpy Dianthus are all fulfilling the cover role. The special evergreens have the edge over plants that loose there leaves in winter but I have some great covering clumps of cyclamen at the moment. Ivy, I would not consider a happy accident more a gardening disaster.

Pink Flowered Strawberry Lipstick

Conditions for Good Ground Cover

  1. There are plants for most circumstances and conditions. Problem areas of poor soil and poor access are often the drivers of the decision to plant ground cover.
  2. Heaths and heathers are good for soils with acidic ph and will cope with a comparatively low top soil on top of stone or rubble. Some ferns may be suitable in these conditions.
  3. Flowering ground cover generally appreciate full or partial sun with a soil that retains some moisture.
  4. Damp conditions offer there own challenges and plants from the primula, iris, polygonum or marsh marigold families may suit.
  5. Once the ground is virtually covered you may not want lush growth and for that a reason I do not apply extra fertiliser as it is not required.
  6. Delineate the boundary of the ground cover to give a smart appearance.
  7. If you are happy with an informal aspect allow several varieties to inter-mingle.


My Ground Cover

When I moved into my new house in 2004, I dug up a lot of grass to increase the size of the borders. However, having done that I found I had less time for gardening than I expected. This meant it has felt hardwork keeping on top of the weeding. Therefore I have come to really appreciate the role of ground cover plants. The best thing about ground cover plants is that they reduce the time of weeding and prevent weeds from seeding. When you are ready to plant specific plants these ground cover plants are easy to cut down and replace. But, it is much better to have these ground cover plants than leaving blank soil. Blank soil is an invitation to nature to send some weeds along!

  1. Comfrey. The plant pictured here is comfrey. It really is an excellent plant and worth growing for its own sake. It has nice delicate flowers which attract bees. It also helps to make excellent compost, you can regularly cut down its leaves to add as accelerator layer to your compost and it will quickly grow back. As you can see from its dense coverage, it is also an excellent weed suppressor.
  2. Geraniums. Great at low growing ground cover. Just cut back after flowering
  3. Pulmonaria officinalis: Lungwort
  4. Mahonia aquifolium: (oregon Grape) shrub
  5. Hosta species as long as they don’t provide cover for slugs..
  6. Campanulas
  7. Strawberries
  8. Peltaria alliacea: Garlic cress
  9. Sedums
  10. Lamiums
  11. Winter heathers
  12. Ivy – though can become invasive

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Simple Daffodils

Simple Daffodils

Autumn is a good time to think of planting some more daffodils for cutting or naturalising.

Daffodils near Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire

Daffodils are one of the easiest plants to grow. If basic care is given, the bulbs can flower year after year.

Planting Daffodils.

The best time for planting daffodils is in September and October. They can be planted in the green in late spring. But, usually do fine through planting in autumn.

The most important thing when planting daffodils is to plant them at the correct depth. As a basic guide the depth want to be 3 times the length of the bulb. E.g. if the bulb is 2.5 inches. They should be planted at a depth of 7-8 inches. However, it is better to err on the side of planting more deeply. Planting them more deeply makes it less likely they will dry out.

Feeding Daffodils

After flowering, it is advisable to sprinkle a fertilizer around the base of the leaves. This gives the chance for the bulbs to gain greater strength for future years.

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Extra Gardening Storage

Extra Gardening Storage

Where do you keep all your gardening needs if you don’t have a special shed. Mine is spread over the garage with seedlings being raised on the window ledge in a variety of containers.

Nailed to the wall

  • Double U hooks support several bags. The cloth bag holds bulbs or plant material awaiting planting. Other bags are bags of bags including plastic bags,  bubble wrap, cloths, fabric pieces, string and a bag for recyclable specials.
  • Above the window is a home made shelf for bits not in use like hanging baskets mesh supports and general gibb.
  • On the right is a shelf for dry goods, fertiliser, and sundry potions and  …icides.
  • G hooks are fixed to wooden battens and hold tools
  • The white line on the left hangs from the roof and is a device to warn me when the car is far enough into the garage. The black line half way across the window is a power cable between the heated sand bed and the other wall and the plugs.

Quick Ideas in the Greenhouse.

  • I have a stock of pegs on one of the aluminium supporting struts. They are thus ready to hand and can be used as temporary fixing devices. You don’t know what you will want until you want it.
  • I also have support wires strung across the length of the greenhouse which helps support tomato plants.
  • Under the staging I have a tub formerly containing growmore for greenhouse bits, support clips and odd pieces.

Look After Your Containers

Look After Your Containers

Routine Care

  • Neglect spoils many a display.
  • Water and feed remember containers are a constricted environment.
  • Good hygiene is important, remove debris, weeds and dying foliage.
  • Deadhead and consider cutting back a bit harder. Keep plants in good shape and prune topiary regularly
  • Remove plants that are not doing well or are finished
  • For permanent planting such as shrubs remove and replace the top inch or so of soil annually.

Seasonal Care

  • In hot weather consider shade and check water levels.
  • Spray leaves early in the morning to avoid scorching.
  • Prepare and make arrangements to look after pots if you are going on holiday.
  • In winter protect from plants and pots from frost damage. Move to safety and shelter.
  • Damp increases the risk of cracking from frost damage. Keep good drainage and keep on the dryside.
  • Plants in small pots are more vulnerable to problems.
  • Group pots together for mutual protection.
  • Reduce height of plant to avoid pots being blown over.
  • Use bubble wrap, hessian and fleece as needed for frost protection.

Pests & disease & General

  • Clean and disinfect pots before reuse.
  • Start with healthy plants.
  • Use fresh compost.
  • Regular care and maintenance including keeping on the lookout for problems
  • Position pots from wind or consider screening



Readying the Greenhouse 2021

Readying the Greenhouse 2021

It is Mid February and the milder weather encouraged me to focus on my greenhouse in preparation for the new year. For once I made a list of more than a dozen greenhouse related actions and as I progressed down the list more items were added. Without the list I would drift off to do other jobs with lower priority but higher instant gratification.


I started by read a couple of books on ‘cold greenhouse & conservatory’ and ‘greenhouse gardening’ and picked up some obvious and less obvious tips.
Plants need air, water, a medium to root into and sustenance. For the air part I turned the soil in the bed where I may grow direct into the soil but resolved, henceforth to provide more ventilation. A disaster struck when I left the door open and a pheasant walked in and was too thick to find its way out without my firm handed help. Jumping and flapping its wings it managed to break a pane of glass and I spent ages doing unplanned  reglazing and there was no pheasant for supper.

As you may see in the before photo above I had suffered an excess of algae and moss. This was caused by lack on regular ventilation, an excess of nutrients and low levels of winter gardening. Using water from an old water barrel may not have helped. I now plan to feed little and often and to keep the soil aerated.


Planned Uses for my cold Greenhouse

  • Overwintering and care for delicate plants needing shielding. I had few losses except a couple of chrysanth stools and with care could have contained more items and grown early Daffodils, Vallota, & Fucshias
  • Just visible is some of the paving I have placed under the staging. I will use this for keeping dry goods, tools and fertilizers together and accessible.
  • The 4 station tomato growing box with a fertiliser sump is in place for later . I may add some ring cultured plants or, like previous years have tumbler tomatoes in pots on the bench. I had potted up some strawberry plants to try on the staging but am still thinking about that.
  • I have left a strip between the path and staging where I will grow lettuce and may be the odd sweetpea like the weedy example

Gizzmos for my Greenhouse

  • On the diagonal struts I have a collection of household pegs that I use for lots of holding purposes during the year. Currently open, half used packets are pegged closed.
  • As an aluminium greenhouse the frame has grooves to accept support devices to string moveable plant ties. I also wire across the length of the greenhouse at varying heights for more support or for short strings
  • I may move the bench below to go across  the end of the greenhouse to support seed trays when the need for temporary benching arises. So the next job is to sort the items currently overwintering by the fence.

Garden Crime Prevention

Garden Crime Prevention

                           Garden Sculpture Fishy Business

When theft and wanton damage  happens  you and your garden suffer so safeguard your property. You do not need to be paranoid but take appropriate care by just walking around your garden and see what you can improve in the way of prevention

Protect Tools

  • Power tools and lawn mowers have a high theft value as they are easy to steal and turn into cash.
  • To stop opportunist thefts do not leave tools in the garden unattended or visible in open sheds or garages.
  • Mark your tools with your postcode and name. Keep a record on serial numbers and identifying marks.
  • When not in use chain them down so they are harder to take.

Secure Sheds and Outbuildings

  • Fit good quality, strong locks  and use them not just last thing at night.
  • Use secure hinges on doors
  • Fit locks or grills on windows
  • Only store valuable items in the shed if it is fully secure.
  • Consider an intruder alarm and lighting systems.

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Lawn Edge Trimmers

Lawn Edge Trimmers

Cloche Crop Protection

Cloche Crop Protection

Octagonal cloche

A cloche is used as a protective covering to shield plants, usually vegetables from the undesirable effects of cold, wind, and predator damage.

  • Cloches may be just smaller poly-tunnels used to protect a small number or individual plants.
  • Cloches made from plastic are much lighter than glass making them easier to move around. The advantages of glass is that the temperature within a glass cloche will be slightly warmer, they are less likely to be blown around and look better.
  • A home made cloche can be made from a cut down plastic pop bottle.
  • There are attractive bell shaped cloches available and various shapes like the one above.

How to Use a Cloche

  • Put the cloches in place a month before sowing to help warm the soil.
  • Sow seeds or plant out under the cloche for protection.
  • Cloches can be used in September to protect late crops of Lettuce.
  • Consider ventilation and watering when buying a cloche. The roof of this cloche can be lifted off.
  • I use a cloche to keep mice away from germinating peas and beans.

A Floating Cloche can be made from sheets of polypropylene fleece which are placed over the seed bed – when the seedlings emerge, the polypropylene is light enough to float up as the plants grow. I like this method for Broad beans peas and early potatoes.

A floating cloche is cheap, easy to put in place and protects the seedlings from three or four degrees of frost. Water permeates the fleece.

Poly Tunnels are another alternative.

Poly tunnel’s supporting hoops should be no more than 2½ feet apart. If spaced further apart the plastic sheeting will droop over the crops and may damage them in rainy or snow conditions.
Make sure the height is adequate for the crops you want to protect.


Garden Frost Protection

Rhodo labels & Records

Rhodo labels & Records


Kenneth Cox at Glendoick   Offers some of the best advice on rhododendron identification and recording. …..Using GPS handheld devices would allow reasonably accurate mapping to made by taking positional readings in each area of the garden and recording what is planted there. If you want  you can then allow garden visitors to access these records on their own devices. There is no limit to the interactive potential if you are prepared to invest time and money…..

The three best examples of private (as opposed to botanic garden) record keeping I have seen outside the major botanic gardens are Philip de Spoelberch’s collections at Herkenrod in Belgium, Lord Howick’s collection in Northumberland and the late James Russell’s plantings at Ray Wood, Castle Howard, Yorkshire. All of these gardeners believe passionately in the value of accurate and detailed records……

Rhododendron Golden Eagle Label at YSP


  1. To a gardener a label should be easily seen unobtrusive, legible, long lasting and easilt fixed so that it is not broken off by wind or clumsy gardener. To a plant seller the label is designed for one purpose, to relieve you of your cash.
  2. I am still seeking the ideal label and hate those little white plastic sticks that become too brittle.
  3. The longest lasting labels are embossed metal labels I have some thin copper labels to scratch the details into but they are hard to see. Glendoick recommend aluminium labels written on with a soft pencil tend to last well
  4. Beware of label death, where a branch or stem is girdled metal, by the failure to loosen a label as the plant grows.
  5. Dymo labels are surprisingly long lasting
  6. Most botanic gardens use expensive engraved labelled on UV stabilised plastic or modified acrylic laminate.