Carpet Bedding Tribute to Girl Guides

100 years of Girl Guiding is being celebrated in September 2009 by Girl Guides around the country with a range of appropriate events.

This floral tribute is in the grounds of Carlisle Cathedral and has been created from just 4 types of carefully chosen ‘carpet bedding plants’. Contrasting shades of leaf and low, slow growing, uniform habit are more important than flowers. In fact flowers can distort such a display.

Carpet Bedding Plants

  • For leaf colour and regular form Alternanthera lehmannii varieties take some beating like ‘Dark Purple Black’ Alternanthera lehmannii ‘Rosy Glow’ and Alternanthera lehmannii ‘Yellow Green Betty’
  • For grey foliage Lavender or Cerastium species with compact silver foliage and a white flower in summer.
  • Sempervivum arach’ ‘Rubin’ or Sedum spathulifolium ‘Purpureum’ for reds
  • Echeveria elegans for grey or the Glauca for a blue tinge
  • Sedums are probably the easiest for your first efforts with the wide selection available
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Making Cut Flowers Last Longer

Generic Tips

  • For perfect freshness pick flowers when halfway between bud and opening. Gather early in the morning when they have had a chance to drink over night or later in the evening never in the middle of the day. Plunge into water as you pick. Always use tepid water and keep vases and buckets clean.
  • Condition flowers by soaking in deep water. Cut off the bottom of stems under water to prevent and airlock in the stem.
  • Sugar or lemonade can extend the life of cut flowers like Roses. Bleach and salt can also help some flowers.
  • Woody stemmed flowers should have the ends crushed. If they show signs of wilting try standing them in hot water for a short time.
  • Strip off leaves that would be below the water line and change the water frequently.
  • Spring bulb flowers do not need water changes but a pinch of salt should revive them.
  • Higher the temperature the faster cut flowers will deteriorate so place arrangements where they won’t be exposed to direct sun, heat from appliances, electric lights, or hot or cold draft.

Flowers needing Special Treatment

  • Hydrangeas will last longer if water is taken in through the absorbent head so sink the whole flower into water first then spray the flower heads daily.
  • Forsythia should be picked when in tight bud and it will open of its own accord.
  • Poppies need to have the end sealed by singeing the cut.
  • Daffodils should not be mixed with other flowers as they poison the water.
  • Carnations need cutting between nodes as they can’t take up water if cut on a node.
  • Remember foliage needs to drink as well so condition foliage too.

Soft Garden Colours

Planning colour schemes can be an interesting exercise for summer when the garden needs less attention. You can sit and admire your current efforts and plan from the new catalogues that are arriving.  Observe what has worked well in your local gardens this year and do not be afraid to copy or improve on someones idea. I have been take by soft colour schemes that forswear reds oranges and purples in favour of a more pastle approach.

Pastel Pink Colours

  • Soft pink rather than shocking pink is restful and ‘the very essence of the traditional garden’ (Lance Hattatt Gardening with Colour)
  • The combination of this low growing Dahlia ‘Rosea’ has worked well with the continuous flowers of the hardy Geranium Anna Folkard. The strappy leaves of a pink Schizostylis will come in to flower in autumn hopefully before the dahlia has finished.
  • An off white or cream flower can also be used with pink to lighten up the general effect.
  • Phlox paniculata ‘Fairy’s Petticoat’ is a personal favourite with a pink eye and a lighter outer to the petals.
  • Pink can vary from the white with a pale blush through warm and cool shades to orangey pinks or blue tinged pink. This is seen in a range of single Roses   including    ‘Pink Bassino’ with a prominent white eye, the magenta ‘Pink Meidiland’ or the distinctive apricot pink of ‘Irish Elegance’.

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A Good Year for Lilies

‘My dustbins absolutely fully of Lilies’. ‘Well throw them away then’. ‘I can’t Lilly’s wearing them’. so sang Lonnie Donnegan when his old man was a dustman.


Where to Grow Sweet Peas

Where best to plant Sweet Peas? I have grown Sweet Peas in 3 locations this year and got very different results.

Best Growing Location

The best location by a country mile has been in a new bed which had plenty of garden compost incorporated last back-end. The roots are shaded from the sun so do not dry out whilst the plants get into the sun when about 18 inches tall.
2″ high seedlings were planted out in April from modules where 3 seeds had been germinated together. I did not split the seedlings leaving them in a clump. I guess this had the same effect of pinching out to get branching a task that I never got around too. I was given a tip to pinch out the tendrils that take energy and distort the lengthy stems of the Sweet Peas and I have done this where the support and my inclination allows.
I planted garlic cloves at the back of the bed but they have not done nearly as well. Other than that and some night scented stock at the front of the peas there has been no competition from other plants. I have lost count of the large bunches of sweet peas we have had in the house and given away. As long as I keep picking them I hope the floral display will last.

Worst Location
From the same batch of seedlings, treated in the same way I planted several near an obelisk that also has a Climbing Rose and Honeysuckle already established. I top dressed with compost but didn’t get it too the roots. Despite Growmore and liquid feed top ups, the plants have looked starved and are only now beginning to provide enough flowers for a vase. The summer has been wet so it is not down to moisture but the lack of humus and competition from other hungry feeders.

Middling Location
In a large terracotta pot some spare plants were supported by 5′ canes. The conditions could be controlled but flowers didn’t start until the plants were at the top of the support and now have nowhere to grow. Next year I will try one of the dwarf varieties of Sweet Pea in pots.

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Stump Removal

Redneck Gardening USA Style

When you have cut down a tree but can’t dig out the roots what do you do? You can hire a chipper or grinder that will take way some of the root wood by chipping away. If it is a large old tree you may have hired someone to do the job for you but make sure they have agreed to remove the stump.
Some trees are treated by drilling holes and pouring in sodium chlorate or special treatments to encourage rapid rotting but I find them less effective. Cross cuts and chemical treatment may stop regrowth but rotting still takes ages.

Tree Stump Killer Chemicals

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Lawn Mowers from Qualcast or Atco

Lawn mowers by Royal appointment come from Atco who were selling the above mower in 1924. You will now pay more than £95 for a 30 inch cut without the suit, pipe or hat. With models named Royale and Balmoral you can see how little effort the marketing people take by letting the grass grow under their feet. (Turf out the sod who is making these grasstuitous comments).

Qualcast made my first push pull mower and it may still be in use on some postage stamp sized lawn. New machines from Amazon cost about £32, are retro chic, environmentally very friendly and they help you keep fit. Cylinder mowers give you the stripes in the grass that are the hall mark of a manicured Lawn.

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Hardy Geranium Doubles

The compact foliage of some hardy geraniums make them desirable to grow as ground cover plants. The newer Geranium pratense Violaceum and Summer Skies have interesting  double flowers in purple and rose pink respectively. The variety Laura is a clean white double flower with less robust foliage. Hayloft plants currently offer these varieties in partnership with the Daily Telegraph.

The picture above shows hardy Geranium Rozane Gerwat in full flower. Other blue varieties included in the Telegraph offer are the low growing Sabini-Blue and Jolly Bee and AGM variety. Rather than spend too much money on offers look for friends well stocked gardens and ask for a root or two. I have just cleared out many hardy geraniums from my garden as they were getting too profuse. (Now the compost heap has a profuse overload).

New varieties and introductions like the double geraniums take longer to mature as plants and you will be lucky to find any being given away at the moment.


Weed Control Tips

  1. To prevent weeds from germinating on your vegetable patch mulch with an old carpet, black polythene or even cardboard.
  2. Regular hoeing is the best way of keeping weeds down and stopping annuals weeds from setting seed. Pick dry weather to avoid spreading cuttings or the weeds into damp soil.
  3. Do not compost Elder or other pernicious weeds whose roots may survive.
  4. Dig out deep rooted weeds like Dandelions and Docks, you may be able to fashion a special tool out of apple corer or potato peeler.
  5. Put your plants close together to deprive weeds of light to germinate
  6. Try not to spread weed seeds yourself. Grass clippings may be full of seeds and many seedheads like foxgloves and dandelions will not compost fully.
  7. Beware some ornamental plants can self sow like weeds – I have loads of foxgloves and forget-me-nots that are my weeds.

For weeds in a lawn try a combined weed and feed but wait until April when the grass and weeds are growing strongly.

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For persistent weed problems
you may have to resort to a chemical weed killer. Beware these weed killers do not know the difference between your prize plants and weeds – they kill that is why they are named killers.
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Systemic Roundup kills most garden weeds with a single application, Once dry children and pets need not be excluded from treated areas. Fully degrades in soil by microbial action leaving no harmful residues to allow replanting.


Bilberry and Blueberry Pie or Muffin

This is a wild Bilberry picked on August the 6th 2009 to make me a fruit pie. Bilberries are hard to grow in cultivation so the majority are picked from the wild moors and heaths as they like damp, acidic  soil. The fruit are small, very dark skinned with dark sweet juice, just right for those pies.

As a deep blue fruit, bilberries contain dense levels of anthocyanin pigments and are thought to be one of the ‘Super Fruits’ that have health benefits.  Below are a host of Bilberry plants or Vaccinium Myrtillus on our local moor. You need a lot of plants for one pies worth of Bilberries.

Below is a Blueberry or a cultivated Vaccinium with larger fruit and an easier plant to grow successfully. This plant is just coming into fruit with paler flesh than the Bilberry but it likes similar acid soil and moisture. The fruit are famous in USA for Blueberry Muffins but they are  not a patch on my Bilberry pie.


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