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Category: My Experiences

A gardeners personal gardening life over 70 years

Protect Your Garden from Wind

Protect Your Garden from Wind


Specimen tree sheltered by High Hedge

A windbreak can make a big difference to a garden creating safety and an improved micro climate. After we reduced a large conifer by half many plants got flattened by the wind which was now able to flow over the shorter windbreak.

Top Windbreak Tips

  1. Hedges, gorse and natural planting will help break-up the flow of wind. Banked up soil with a hedge on top often features in large windswept gardens.
  2. Solid barriers such as walls can create eddies and vortex effects that cause more damage than they protect.  This was forcefully demonstrated to me with lost greenhouse window panes after a big blow.
  3. Plan a first line of defence to break the winds full force followed by a second line. Design both together to be complementary. I prefer natural breaks of trees as the prime windbreak but for ground level protection I use smaller shrubs.
  4. In really wind areas windbreak trees will grow lower or be stunted so bear this in mind when planning the number and proximity of plants needed.

Mixed Shrub Secondary Windbreak

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I Do Like to Garden by the Sea

I Do Like to Garden by the Sea

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to garden by the sea -Tiddely om pom pom. Seaside gardening has its challenges and it has it’s rewards as my west coast brother-in-law knows. (At the age of 82 he is thinking of giving up his gardening business to concentrate on his own relatively new garden).

The Filey Seaside Gardener

Seaside Gardening Challenges

  1. To garden by the seaside you face virtually all the challenges inland gardeners face and then some.
  2. The first to single out is the salty air borne on winds that have blown over the sea to deposit there munificence on your prized plants. Salt is not a natural fertiliser! Salt is not a natural plant killer although you may come to think that it is so if you plant the wrong plants.
  3. In the UK you may expect westerly winds  around half of our coastline. However there are additional strong winds that blow on-shore on a regular basis to the detriment in the East, North and South gardens. Seaside wind is desiccating and abrasive as we know from personal wind chill effects.
  4. Sand dunes, beaches and sand castles amuse the children but sandy soil is a garden staple that adds to the challenges. Such soil has little humous, hold little water or goodness and is desiccated so lacking in nutrients.
  5. Geological and geographic features need to be contended with including the possibility of a high water table, limey seashell based soil or pebbles and rocks. The worst issue of the moment is soil erosion on the East coast where your cliff top garden or allotment may crumble into the sea.

The Filey Fisherman’s Friend

Seaside Gardening Rewards

  1. Defeating the challenges or holding them to a scoring draw is reward in it’s self (or so I’m told).
  2.  Others common plants will do far better at the seaside than one expects. Hydrangea macrophylla can do well despite the lack orf water as do annual plants chosen for public gardens by tourist minded local authorities. See our selection of  Perennials for the seaside from gardeners tips 2012. Careful plant selection could even introduce some new species to even the most avid gardener.
  3. There are far more detailed selections in the book ‘The Seaside Gardener’ by Richard Mortimer
  4. There can be special rewards from the introduction of wind breaks. Walls add height to a flat landscape providing scope for climbers or crevice plants. Selective planting of trees and shrubs will be rewarded by breaking the flow of the wind and possibly directing it up and over your patch.
  5. The proximity of the sea can provide some winter warmth to keep the worst of the frost at bay. On the other hand you may suffer from a sea fret that prevents you from seeing your garden.
  6. Low growing locally successful wild plants will do even better with your tender care.

Odd Seaside Gardening Tips

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Double Suckers and Tomato Plans

Double Suckers and Tomato Plans

Yesterday I effectively got suckered twice. It was all over 99 pence so in truth I have lost little and may yet gain but that is in the lap of Priapus the god of vegetable gardening.

Tomato Growing Plan for 2020

  • I start each year with clear plan and often good intentions and this year my aim is to harvest more tomatoes from 10 plants grown in my green house.
  • Gardeners Delight is intended as my main variety with Moneymaker as an auxiliary. I intended to buy plants, when the weather and I are ready, which will save time, space and reduce the chance of germination failure. But I have been suckered into buying and sowing a double dose of seedlings already.
  • I have several half packets of last years still viable seeds but am very determined not to sow and grow them. (San Marzano, Marmande and Tigerella)
  • The main success last year was growing cherry tomatoes in pots on the top of staging once other spring seedlings had been planted out. So I am looking for red and yellow types of suitable bush varieties. Thompson & Morgan had a trial price of 99p on a packet of Sweet Baby and I was suckered by the name and price but failed to read the back of the packet that informs me that cordon plants will grow to 2 meters high even with pinching out.
  • On the plus side with self isolation for us wrinklys I will have time to nurture some outdoor tomatoes this year after I have dug up more lawn to make the space. Add this to the fact that our local garden center is 99p better off I should worry.

Thompson & Morgan Redemption

  • 22nd March 2020 only 4 days after this original post T&M have partially redeemed themselves in my eyes. In today’s Daily Telegraph newspaper there is a plant offer for ‘six cherry tomato plants for £4.99; 3 ‘Bite Size and 3 ‘Tumbling Tom Red’. Whilst one is cordon the tumbler is determinate and just what I wanted. As I can’t go out during the corona virus restrictions  I will buy the mail order. It will cost more than a packet of seed but a lot of effort will be saved.
  • The only moan is now paying an additional £4.95 P&P. Still I can order online to save postage which increases tomorrow.
Gardening Jobs Not Done Before

Gardening Jobs Not Done Before

The year 2020 is set to be memorable for far too many reasons. At the moment I will only stick to comments about plant and garden viruses but note we ‘caught a cold’ on the wet winter.

Jobs New to My Garden

  • I have had  new roof felting and tiles on my bungalow that has some garden on all four sides of the house. The job yesterday was to go around the beds and edges to collect the bits left or blown on to the garden from the, mainly tidy, roofers. I was surprised at the amount of brash, jib and detritus that had collected under plants and all around the garden, not all the roofers doing. I will repeat the clear up exercise as part of an annual spring clean.
  • The second new garden job was also roofing related or more specifically scaffolding. Despite being a bungalow the house is built into a slope and the eaves are as high in places as a tall two story house. At pinch points around the house the scaffold poles had to be grounded on parts of the lawn ( a wet lawn as you can imagine). Where the grass was covered by a steel plate as support the yellowing of the grass returned to normal after a couple of weeks. The problem was where the exit from the scaffold was on to one patch of grass that became compacted and very muddy. I have spiked and forked the area and over-sown with some grass seed in the hope it will recover but muddyness is in the lap of the rainmakers.
  • Strulch was at the heart of my next new gardening job in what I now call ‘restrulching’. Last year I used a lot of Strulch to top off my ornamental plant pots particularly those that contained a new collection of patio roses. This was a success reducing maintenance and improving appearance. Now after pruning the roses I wanted to feed and top dress them. Where the old strulching was deep enough there was a mat of material that would survive at least another year but I broke it up to add blood fish and bone fertiliser then reapplied fresh Strulch.
First time Sunflower Success Diminishes

First time Sunflower Success Diminishes

In 2008 a google search for sunflowers would have found gardeners tips in the top 3 results. Now it would be luck to be found in the top 3 million. We are number 115th for the more specific ‘sunflowers gardeners tips’ as Tips for Easy Sunflowers from 2015.

So why are the mighty fallen?

  • We have not kept up with search engine etiquette, metrics and optimisation techniques preferring to have our fun with with 2000+ somewhat random posts.
  • There are a great number of tipster sites and commercial businesses whose need for  traffic drives them to focus and stylise there offerings.
  • Google algorithms and analytics are far superior to those of 10 years ago.’
  • We were not mighty and do not claim mightyness yet but we hope to keep sowing, growing and gardening.

Sunflower Titan

Rabbits Don’t Eat Cyclamen

Rabbits Don’t Eat Cyclamen

Rabbits do not eat Cyclamen at least not if they are stone replicas rabbits.

In front of the cyclamen I have just planted  100 Chionodoxa lucillia alba to provide spring sparkle and (rabbit food)!

The home made tufa pot has a plastic pot sunken in the center. I can replace this potted Auricula with another pot of the same size when necessary. The gravel improves drainage and the tufa looks natural now the moss has colonised the pot.

This form of cyclamen is one of my autumn favourites. The corm is now 4″ in diameter and you can see how many flowers one bulb can produce.

Plastic and the New to Me Clematis Madame Le Coultre

Plastic and the New to Me Clematis Madame Le Coultre

The Shopping Experience

  • I had some birthday money from a brother-in-law and opted to but a clematis. One of the few spaces in the garden to accommodate a new plant was just alongside a conical climbing frame – that spot is now taken.
  • Initially I looked at a garden center chain which had a comprehensive stock but was well priced for the profit they would want. The information about each plant was quite comprehensive.
  • Then I visited and supported a local family garden center come nursery. They had bought in a fair selection of clematis at about half the cost of their bigger rival and that is where I made my purchase. I also bought some other plants that they had grown themselves ( there is a lesson there somewhere).
  • The label was 18″ long (or 46cm for the Dutch supplier’s benefit) but the gardening information was sparse, needed decoding and was not worth all the plastic used.
  • The label did not say from what group the clematis came. Clematis jackmanii group 2 as I found out.
  • There were no planting or growing aids just lame graphics with ticks and crosses, oh and a bar code but no price (I guess that changes to suit circumstances not buyers) .
  • There were 5 support canes that needed 2 plastic ties and a plastic label stake.
  • You could have guessed the pot was black plastic with an unusual and unreusable oval base designed to support growth and retail presentation.

The Plant Experience

  • This jackmanii hybrid is a real show stopper! It can also be trained to cover walls, trellises or arches.
  • The large white flowers with golden stamens are produced all summer from June to September or Vl -Vlll as the label has it.
  •  Clematis ‘Madame le Coultre’ grows to  Height: 3m (10′). Spread: 1m (3′) Pruning group: 2 ie. in late winter or early spring and after its first flush of flowers in summer to encourage flowers again later in summer.
  • Also known as ‘Marie Boisselot’ Clematis.
  • I will update progress quicker than my post from November 2011 which is still relevant.

Permission is granted to copy  this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2


It’s A Rambler From Manchester Way

It’s A Rambler From Manchester Way

It is not quite red enough to be Lancastrian but I am happy to call it ‘a rambler from Manchester way’ in tribute to the old folk song (and the very old folk of Lancashire). You knew there may be a sting in the tail!

‘I am not the only one who finds this rose attractive’ she said waspishly

‘A fine crop of pink blossom on this rambler or Rosa multiflora’ he said prickly.

Photographs actually taken on 27.8.19 at Brighouse Basin on the river Calder in Yorkshire.

Diverse Use of Hostas

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.


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.