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Category: My Experiences

A gardeners personal gardening life over 70 years

Comments made about Overwintering

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.

Aquatic and Aquarium Plant Tips

Aquatic and Aquarium Plant Tips

Like good gardeners, aquarists spend time and effort creating living conditions that approximate to those of the natural environment of their plants.

There are over 8000 species of fresh-water plants divided into 400+ genera and many are available for sale in Europe. Like garden plants some prefer max-min pH levels and others hard or soft water.


  • Plants do not enjoy being transported in packed conditions or transplanted to often. Try buy fresh plants as soon as they arrive at a trusted retailer.
  • The foliage of Myriophylles and Cabomba should be fresh green and errect. Vallisneria leaf edges shouldn’t be torn and Crypyto coryne foliage shoudn’t have brown markings.
  • Non-aquatic plants are sometimes sold as aquatic but cannot be grown properly in an aquarium. They include genera including Aglaonema, Didiplis, Dracaenia and Cordylina.
  • Plants can make useful breeding grounds for many fish species.
  • The heart or neck of the plant should not be covered in gravel.

Check out best and popular aquatic plants on aquarium advisor.


Oranges and Lemons on One Tree

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

My Mahonia

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

Wicker Wigwam Christmas Gift for Sweetpeas

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


Watering Lessons from a Dry Summer

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.
Garden Problems Caused by Wind

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

Watering My Way or Not At All

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.


  • 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.

Spring is Sprung – Finally

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).