Archive | Tips Hints and Ideas

Help for the new and not so new gardener

Australian Plants & Trees



This white barked tree is an Australian Eucalyptus debeuvillei’ Snow Gum’. It is planted in the special southern hemisphere enclosure at Marks Hall in Essex as part of the Arboretum. Gondwanaland was the ancient name of a super continent that split apart to form Australia, Antartica, New Zealand and South Africa (although I don’t know who was around to call it that).

In the planting there are a large number of as yet quite young Monkey Puzzle trees Araucaria araucana but that adds to the attraction of this fine garden. It is good to see new planting that will be there when the 500 year old Oaks reach their millennium. One of those plantings will be the the Wollemi Pine one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants dating back to the time of the dinosaurs. With less than 100 adult trees known to exist in the wild, the Wollemi Pine is now the focus of extensive research to safeguard its survival.It is far sighted to plant several of these trees as part of the Southern hemisphere garden which will itself develop as the trees mature and provide shelter and (globally warmed) conditions.


Marks Hall Gardens & Arboretum

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Gardeners Tips on Feeding Plants

Plants need Air, Water, Sunlight and Nutrients to grow.
The top 3 nutrients are Nitrogen N Phosphorous P and Potassium K


Various plants also need other smaller amounts of minerals or trace elements such as Sulphur, Calcium, Iron. Magnesium, Copper and Zinc.

Liquid fertiliser is available as a concentrate or powder that is diluted and applied to the roots and surrounding soil. At larger dilution levels it can act as a foliar feeder adding nutrients through the leaves.

Solid Fertiliser is usually granular, pellet or powder form. They release feed over a longer perion as in Bone Meal, blood Fish and bone or Growmore. They can be incorporated in a planting hole or scattered on the surface to be washed in to feed existing plants.

Green Manure is a crop that is dug back into the soil to improve fertility and soil condition. Clover and pea plants fix nitrogen into the soil whilst grass clippings need nitrogen to rot down.

Apply fertilizer in spring at the start of the growing season and give a boost to vegetables in summer with a granular or liquid fertilizer

General Purpose fertilsers have a combination of all 3 key nutrient NPK and this is shown on the packaging in proportions 2:2:6 would have the same proportions of nitrogen and phosphorus but twice as much pottasium so would be good for flowers and tomatoes.

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Quick Gardeners Tips


Lettuce seed only germinates below 20 ° C ( 68° F) so avoid a position that is in full sun. Drying out can cause lettuce to bolt.

Sow some Oriental vegetables to use as cut and come again. They will be ready to harvest in a few weeks and good in salads or stir frys.

If growing salad crops in a container box or grow bag make sure it is deep enough to keep the compost moist at all times. If needs be, shade or insulate the container so it doesn’t dry out too quickly

Beetroot leaves look good and can be eaten as well as the roots.  Try a few in a deep pot if you are short of space.

Onions shredded onto a salad are one of my favourites. You can pull young sets as spring onions so plant them close and eat as you start thinning out.

General Tips

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Tips for Growing Acer – Japanese Maples


Acer trees and shrubs can be spectacular from Spring through Autumn due to the leaf colours and patterns.  This Acer Palmatum Taylor’s leaves with pink foliage will last through summer turning into rich Autumn colours at the backend. It will grow to about 10 feet in 10 years and is suitable for even a small garden.

Top Low Growing Acers

  • The cut leaf  maple Acer Palmatum Dissectum is an umberella shaped shrub with unusually shaped fresh green leaves. The leaves develop a red stripe in the Autumn. The name gives away a description of the shrub – Palmatum refers to the 5 segments of the leaf like the palm of your hand. Disscetum indicates that the leaves are disected into thin often feathery shapes.
  • Acer Pamatum Orange Dream is a slow growing Japanese maple with vivid orange spray foliage which turns golden yellow in Autumn.
  • Acer Palmatum Atropurpureum is a slow growing purple leaved variety grown for both the colour and the attractive shape of the tree. There is a Dissectum variety Garnet which combines the leaf colour with the feathery foliage.
  • Beni Maiko is a dwarf Acer Palmatum growing to  2-3 feet in 10 years and can be kept in a large pot or used in even a small garden. The scarlet leaves progressively turn dark red and green.

Top Tips for Acers

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Topical Gardening Tips – Mid-Spring


Mid Spring Garden

Garden waste composts best and quickest in a hot heap. Cover the heap and insulate the sides if practical. Mix hard and soft waste if you have mainly grass clippings tear up some cardboard or newspaper to avoid a soggy mess.

Keep sowing summer bedding indoors. Half hardy annuals can be sown out doors in May. Prick out seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle.

Start a weed suppression routine. Hoe out any weeds or hand remove any pernicious perennials. Mulch to suppress and avoid weeds.Spot spray weed killer on hard to get at weeds in paving and wall cracks. Treat patios and paths with algicide or moss killer to remove slippy green paths.

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Colour of Spring


What is your favourite colour combination? 
Cerise, Shocking Pink scarlet and yellow seems a bit off colour to me.


Your second choice includes a white Hyacinth perhaps Carnegie or Aiolos
A bit better at keeping the colour temperature in check.


Which Parks Gardener thought up this combination?
My kids would call it yucky and I think that is polite.
Think about colour schemes when putting plant close to one another.
The stripped greens of newly mown grass have a lot to commend them.

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Honesty Seedheads & Flowers


Honesty also called Lunaria annua has beautiful purple flowers in April and May that are one of the few early nectar attractions for butterflies. In spite of it’s Latin name, Honesty is actually a biennial putting down a long tap root in it’s first year. This is why you seldom see it for sale in garden centres.

Gardeners Tips Growing Honesty

  • Honesty will also grow in shade and the seed heads make a great Autumn and Winter attraction as the coin shaped seed heads shed an outer skin and become luminous white moon shapes like tracing paper.
  • The growth is stiff and entirely self-supporting, a central stem branching out freely and bearing abundance of small flowers like Wallflowers.
  • Honesty should be massed with say a dozen plants in a group to give the best effect. The white variety is well worth growing, the colour being very pure and luminous in quality but purple is the main colour.
  • Honesty self sows quite freely and young seedlings can be transplanted with care being take of the tap root. Collect the seeds in October as the husks are shed but leave the papery head.
  • Seed heads can be cut, hung to dry in Autumn and used as dried flowers in floral arrangements. They look good with Christmas arrangements.
  • Most are anything but nondescript, and there are some strains with richly coloured flowers of a vibrant deep purple with a hint of magenta.
  • Lunaria annua is a biennial belonging to the brassica  family and will grow in most soil, if it looks unhappy try a bit of lime. When it is happy, which is most of the time since it generally chooses for itself where to live, it can develop into a robust, branching plant, 2ft tall and 1.5ft across.
  • Unfortunately it has no scent. Although a biennial, with each plant living only two years, when it is established it will go on forever, becoming a feature of the late spring garden. When left to its own devices it often turns up in unexpected places.
  • There is a perennial honesty Lunaria rediviva that is an exceptionally beautiful plant. It has a simple grace with yard-high stems clothed in similar fresh green heart-shaped leaves. Its cross-shaped flowers are pale lavender and sweetly scented.
  • Honesty develops thick storage roots, almost like tubers, and, in common with other brassicas, has deep tap roots.
  • Avoid overfeeding and do not use manure Honesty does best without pampering.

Read Honesty is the best policy


Simple Gardening Tips for Spring

Foliar Feeding

  • Plants can take up food through their green leaves and stems. Dilute liquid feed by twice the recommended volume of water to avoid burning the leaves. Spray a good quantity on to  the leaves later in the afternoon is more effective. Bulbs like Crocus and Daffodills benefit as they are building up reserves for next year. Stressed and weak plants will probably pick up after a foliar feed  but thick leaved plants are less receptive to feeding this way.

Frost Damage

  • Hardy shrubs that have had the leaves browned off by frost damage will recover all being well. My hydrangeas have been frosted despite leaving the old mopheads on for a bit of winter protection. I will trim the brown very lightly to avoid damage to the buds. Other shrubs can be trimmed back to the healthy shoots or leaves but if another heavy frost is likely I would leave the trimming job or protect with horticultural fleece. My Pieris japonica have been damaged but the new red leaves should still perform.
  • It is still too early to sow half-hardy annuals as even cold weather will kill them off. Hardy annuals should be acclimatised to cold and wind gradually. This gardeners call  ‘hardening off’ and is done by bringing plants into exposed areas during the day and moving them indoors or protecting them at night.

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Great Garden Chrysanthus Crocus


Hocus pocus this Crocus is out of Focus but it illustrates my main theme. Your 2010 garden depends on decisions you take now and I think it is worth recording every plant you aspire to grow. I record things in picture and notebook form and am not as well organised as I claim to be. However I am building a list of plants and designs features that I want to try for next year (it also doubles as a present list family take note). High on my list is the early flowering Chrysanthus Zwanenburg Bronze shown above.

Chrysanthus Crocus Species.

  • The flowers are smaller than the blousy, large flowered crocus of public parks and gardens fame.
  • The colour range is more varied with several varieties having purple outer petals and white or yellow insides. Eye Catcher, Prince Claus, Herald and this example Zwanenburg Bronze.
  • Lighter colours amongst the creams are Jeannine, Snowbunting, Romance and Cream Beauty.
  • Chrysanthus flower a little earlier than large crocus but are less robust when naturalising though grass.
  • Bought in bulk from 3p each the corms look good value for a range of pot grown applications including growing your own presents and gifts.

Tips for Tomatoes in September

I am picking more and more Cherry Tomatoes as the days get longer. I still have a lot of other vines in the greenhouse with fruit to pick and if they won’t ripen I will try some of these tips. Let me know if you have other methods.

Encourage late ripening

  • If you haven’t taken the greenhouse shading off, do so and clean all the glass.
  • Bunny Guinness suggests you cover plants with horticultural fleece or perforated plastic.
  • Stop pinching out as it is too late and excess water can be transpired through the new leaves to help avoid splitting.
  • Reduce the plants work load by selecting the fruit you want to ripen and take the rest off.
  • If you pick green tomatoes hang vines in a dark dry place to ripen.
  • Wrap a tomato in newspaper and put in a drawer  or cardboard box. Tomatoes ripen best in the dark and sunlight will make the skins get tough.
  • Put a banana in with green tomatoes will speed up the ripening/decay process
  • Pick green tomatoes as they start to change colour. Hard, dark green tomatoes get to a point where they won’t ripen and are only good for Chutney.

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