Archive | My Experiences

A gardeners personal gardening life over 70 years

Oranges and Lemons on One Tree

 

Sorry the title may be a bit misleading if you were thinking of citrus fruit (not something I try to grow).

This is one of my prized Acer Palmatums that cost me all of 10 pence when our local garden center was closing down some years ago. I believe this mini tree is called ‘Orange Dream’ but the ticket was missing still what can I expect for the price. Luckily it was one on several varieties of Acer whose leave turn a brilliant orange, lemon  or red in autumn. Well worth giving them a space in your garden.

As you can see it was planted near a Mahonia referred to in yesterdays post

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My Mahonia

My Mahonia

I have been a bit short of things to say since Christmas but I recently got the camera out to snap the rain on my favourite Mahonia.

Growing in some shelter by a golden conifer this mahonia doesn’t suffer from any wind. The shrub has grown dramatically over the last few years. In late summer I lopped four feet off the top and trimmed the side shoots that were taking too much space. Now a respectable six feet tall I am getting good flowers that are still a bit too high to get my nose into. I have two other lower growing mahonia growing in acidic soil with other ericaceous plants.

The prickly side shoots no longer reach over the path.

Wet Spines on Mahonia

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Wicker Wigwam Christmas Gift for Sweetpeas

Thank you Father Christmas – as I am usually Father Christmas to my children the wicker wigwam was a nice present to get from my offspring.

The wicker wigwam was not wrapped up in Christmas paper nor even adorned with a bit of tinsel. Still as a seasonal present I and the sweet peas will both appreciate the support. Getting height in our  garden has always posed some difficulty as the house has a 3 foot wide path all the way around and it is hard to take advantage of the shelter from the walls or the reflected heat that would be appreciated by the more tender plants. I have still to see a plant pot system that would cater for similar garden layouts perhaps with an oblong tub, half arch or corner feature. Mmmn that has set me thinking.

Plants To Grow up my new Wicker Wigwam

I am renown for over planting and squeezing to much into the available space. It is a feature not just of my garden but my art, hobby collecting and other activities. So I resolve to stick to sweet peas for 2019. I have a few autumn plant seedlings but lost most to mice and or pigeons in late November.

  • The alternative fast climbing plants I could have considered and companion plants around the wicker wigwam include: Morning Glory (Ipomoea triclour) in deep blue or purple. There are  other species in red, scarlet and white with blue dashes. In the past I have found them unproductive. Spanish Flag is from the same family with sprays of tubular flowers often with 3 different coloured flowers maturing at the same time.
  • Climbing nasturtiums are a traditional favourite but leaves far exceed flowers in a rich soil. I plant some near the boundary fence and they self sow for the following year.
  • Tropaeolum speciosum or the Flame Creeper can look spectacular with its flame red bright flowers. If your conditions are right ( rich, moist ,verging on acidic soil; head in the sun roots in the shade) then it can look fantastic and will flower year after year. I have lost several after one season so doubt my gardening skills and conditions.

What the experts say

Indeed as Obelixx says, the willow will look great with your sweet peas, and last about as long! Metal lasts longer, how long depends upon what you paid for it in the first place, and of what it is made – but there is something special about organic support for beautiful flowers like sweet peas – either way- gardeners world

 

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Watering Lessons from a Dry Summer

After a wet early spring 2018 the UK had a very dry summer. You are never to old to learn and I picked up some new tips and reinforced some old watering tips.

                        water butt but where is the water?

Dealing with Dry Weather

  • Water the plants not the soil in between them. Pay special attention to new plants as their roots are more vulnerable than established plants. Cut back perennials if they look like they might die, be cruel to be kind.
  • A wet spring will not leave the soil wet through summer. Chalky and sandy soils will dry out fastest.
  • Water the right amount at the right time. A good soaking once a week is better than a light sprinkling every day. Water when it has time to soak down to the roots in an evening or early morning.
  • Protect plants from drying wind with a windbreak.
  • Let lawn grass grow a bit longer during dry spells and do not bother watering your lawn.
  • Don’t bother watering fruit trees once the fruit has started to set and swell.
  • Group vegetables together according to their watering needs. Leafy crops, tomatoes, runner beans and potatoes need most water. Courgettes only when they start to swell and asparagus and root crops are more drought tolerant.
  • Patio plants need attention and care. The bigger the pot the more moisture the compost will hold. If they are drying out add a drop of washing up liquid the the water and or create a sump in a saucer or tray.
  • Don’t let clay soil develop cracks for more evaporation to escape. Add organic compost, mulch and sharp grit.

Make Watering Easy and Effective

  • Watering around the base of a plant means some water evaporates before it reaches the roots.Dig a channel between rows and fill with water from a can or use a length of guttering with holes in the sides to channel water where you want it.
  • Sink pots into the ground near plants so roots do not need to come to the surface to get a drink. Larger pots for established plants can have an old dish cloth in the bottom to deter slugs and slow down the seepage.
  • A mulch of grass clippings or Strulch will slow down evaporation .
  • Many contraptions can be created to drip feed or target water to the roots. A half buried plastic pop bottle with holes in the side or try a piece of hose with a funnel.
  • Soaker hoses need to be in the right place but are a simple solution to efficient watering.
  • Turn off your fountains and moving water when practical.

A Word About Recycled Water

  • Adjust water features to minimise splashing and spray drift.
  • Use a pond liner near the water feature to capture excess water and channel it back into the sump or reservoir.
  • Clean household water can be used in water features as any soap or detergent is not aimed at your plants.
  • Rain water is a valuable commodity for watering some plants as it is soft and gently acidic.
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Garden Problems Caused by Wind

Problems Caused by Wind

  • Wind desiccates leaves – moisture is gone with the wind
  • Even well rooted plants can be rocked by wind and this can be fatal to roses or fruit trees. Shrubs and tree growing at a slant caused by wind will never give of their best.
  • Wind abrades, rips and tears. I have just lost a good spray of chrysanthemums that I was looking forward to seeing in flower. Chrysanthemums stems often break near the joint with the main stem and I should have tied them up with more care or kept them out of the wind. Fleshy leaves like dahlias do not do well in wind.
  • A cold wind does no one any good and the wind chill factor can damage plants as well as gardeners.
  • In severe windy conditions pots can be blown over, loose debris scattered and even structural damage may occur. Pots appear top heavy when there is lots of growth that catches the wind. My clematis and runner beans  have caught the wind and both are leaning from the wind.
  • Trees and shrubs can be stunted by wind and will not reach thier normal potential. You seldom see giant trees on our windy coastline.
  • Unwanted seeds can be dispersed with only a gentle breeze

May all your winds be zephyrs and all your gales be miss spelt girls

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Watering My Way or Not At All

It has taken a long, hot, dry spell in my Yorkshire garden for me to catch on to the blinking obvious.

  • If I decide to have a lot on new pot plants to house good specimens or prize plants (which I did) I should know better (which I didn’t). It should have been obvious that the weather would win.
  • With plants dying around me I decided to learn more about roots and water uptake. About time some my say!
  • I never applied my brain but it seems obvious now that plants take up most of their water needs from the tips of their roots.
  • More plants have died in this drought than I would like. e.g.  Annuals run to seed quicker, new plants do not have established root systems, heat increases water loss, trees take up more than their share of ground moisture etc.

Water

  • Leaves wilted since water and nutrients weren’t being transported up. Even if the plant survives the older leaves begin to fall off prematurely.
  • Roots are important to a plant because they are its primary source of water and food and are also crucial for the uptake of oxygen.
  • Over-watering, in simple terms, drowns your plant. Soil that is constantly wet won’t have enough air pockets and the roots can’t breathe. Roots that can’t breathe are stressed roots.
  • Plant roots meander through soil absorbing water and nutrients. Both are needed to help the plant grow below and above ground. All the action below ground happens at the very tip of each root: cell division, cell growth, absorption of stuff from the soil.

Having shown the after picture here is one before the swimming attempt. New Guinea impatiens do need regular watering or they wilt but I took it to extremes.

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Spring is Sprung – Finally

It is still be very cold and dank in some  parts of the UK but the flowers hint that spring has finally sprung. It has been a stuttering start for 2018 and the ground is still fearfully wet and therefore very cold.

Star performers so far this year have been Helebores that have taken all the snow and cold that could be thrown at them and still come out well. The Primula family have produce strong colour and my Drumstick primulas in 3 distinct colours have been reconsigned into a ‘Den Den’ to produce showy blooms close together. (Primula denticulata give rise to the new named zone). Unlike previous years the daffodils in pots have done better than those in open ground.

More effort has gone into plants kept in the house as these white Muscari show. I have planted these back out into a white zone within the garden to add to the special daffodils next year. I have had mixed success with bought mothers day houseplants like roses (No I tell a lie they were a great disappointment and a waste of the kids money).

 

 

 

 

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RHS Garden Book Resources

Harlow Carr Library

RHS and Books

This week I revisited RHS Harlow Carr library for the first time in several years. I previously volunteered in the ‘old potting shed’  library before the new building was completed. Then I was part of the team that moved and reshelved all the books from one part of the garden to the ecofriendly new premises.

At the time of our relocation there had been a spate of thefts from the Lindley Library and some very valuable tomes had been taken. Good old artistic books with frameable prints were also susceptible to loosing pages to the ner-do-wells. So the powers that be decided to install anti theft devices in the spine of all the books at Harlow Carr. After much painstaking work we volunteers were told the exit was not compatible with the spine tags and another exit system had been purchased. As a consequence new RFID tags a couple of centimeters square had to be fixed inside all the books that already had a metal spine. Several good looking end papers were damaged or covered in this process. Imagine my ‘surprise’ (not) when the 3 books I borrowed this week were passed to my by the librarian in a way that circumvented the exit alarm because it wasn’t working properly.

The harlow-carr-library-learning-centre-is-eco-friendly as reported here eight years ago see’ library’

 

Garden Library

Orville Lyttle    A Tree of Knowledge?

 

RHS Lindley Library Disaster Prone

  • Named after botanist and artist John Lindley the library is a multisite operation with books, paintings, photographs and old documents at Wisley, London HQ and other RHS gardens.  In addition to old and modern books  the RHS has an extensive collection of paintings and photographs plus horticultural paraphernalia.
  • When I tried to visit the library last January it was closed for stock taking!  Now I bother to check the website and warn you it is again ‘Closed: First fortnight in August’.
  • The library in Vincent Square London was saved from a proposed closure in 1995 by refurbishment of the downstairs area. Then in 2011 it was damaged by fire but reopened in 2012.
  • Bigger disaster occurred when a notable book thief stole 13 volumes published between 1848 and 1860 of  ‘Une Nouvelle Iconographie des Camellias’ by nineteenth-century Belgian horticulturist Ambroise Verschaffelt.
  • William Jacques, also known as the ‘tome raider’ stole antique books worth £50,000 from the world-famous Lindley  library and was jailed for three-and-a-half years after skipping bail and evading recapture for several years.
  • Jacques used a false name to sign in to the Library before stuffing valuable books under his tweed jacket and fleeing, Southwark Crown Court. I was shown how easy it was to circumvent the security gates by balancing items on your head (but keep that under your hats).

 

RHS as Hard Copy Publishers

  • The most popular RHS publication is probably ‘The Garden’  a members monthly magazine that often ends up in charity shops or NHS waiting rooms.
  • Also very popular are the annual Members’ Handbook, The Plantsman and the RHS Plant Finder
  • Coffee table books are produced regularly often in a joint venture with other publishers like Dorling Kindersly. This supplements the technical treatise on specific subjects under the RHS own imprint including Botany, Genealogy, Latin for Gardeners and encyclopedias.
  • I have cheekily chosen the following title to highlight because I am not sure ‘How Do RHS managers Work?’

Book Cover

What Others Say about RHS

  • RHS is a charity generating over £82m last year 2016/17. The accounts are silent on how much of this relates to publications, RHS enterprises ltd operates some commercial activities with profits gifted back to the charity.
  • The Lindley Library contains works dating back as far as 1514. It is widely regarded as one of the world’s most extensive horticultural collections, including books, journals, pictures and art concerned with botany, garden design and history, as well as practical gardening.
  • The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £4.8 million in a first stage grant towards an overall project of £160 million  10 year development project.   HLF said  “Wisley is such an important site in the history of plants and gardens – a superb setting for some rare and fascinating plant specimens along with thousands of books, artifacts and photographs…….
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White Fly Infestations

My Experiences of Whitefly

Sometimes I am too tolerant and generally that is true with whitefly infestations. Perhaps that is because I have not had a serious outbreak or a great deal of resulting damage. So live and let live unless an edible crop is involved. The worst that happens is on houseplants where these sap feeding insects can breed continuously through the year. As a gift to the windowsill they leave a sticky secretion on leaves which drops from the plant. Only in the greenhouse have the white-winged adults taken to flight from tomato plants when disturbed. Adults and the scale like nymphs have secretions that can make plants sticky and prone to sooty mould.

Brassicas, particularly my broccoli  are prone to large collections of aphids and or white fly that make the crop unappetising. Who wants to eat bugs unless they are on a bush tucker trail. If picking and squishing is not enough control I remove affected leaves or use soapy water as a spray.

What the Experts Say

  1. There are many forms of whitefly including those on outdoor plants that are species specific for azalea, honeysuckle and  phillyrea. (Over 1500 species)
  2. Avoid getting Trialeurodes vaporariorum whitefly from newly acquired plants.
  3. Treatment and cures include the use of sticky traps, a parasitic wasp called Encarsia formosa a tiny, parasitic wasp that preys on the greenhouse whitefly.
  4. Some strains have become resistant to controls but a insecticidal soap may be an efficient control.Failing that try a systemic insecticide such as Provado ultimate bug killer.
  5. Ladybirds love eating whiteflies and they are very cheap. Encarsia Formosa is
  6. ‘Due to the whitefly feeding, plants can quickly become extremely weak and may be unable to carry out photosynthesis. Leaves will wilt, turn pale or yellow, and growth will be stunted.
  7. Check undersides of leaves around the veins for white insects, even if they aren’t visible, and feel leaf surfaces for honeydew. If the whiteflies are feeding, they’ll suddenly all fly off the leaves in a swarm, so it’s very obvious.
  8. A half-and-half mixture of petroleum jelly and dishwashing detergent, spread over small boards painted bright yellow, is sticky enough to catch little whiteflies. To whiteflies, the color yellow looks like a mass of new foliage. The bugs are attracted to the cards, get stuck in the jelly, and die.’  Old Farmers Almanac

 

Gardener! gardener!  there is a white fly in my soup – well button up!

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