Archive for May, 2012

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May It Always Be My Favourite Time Of The Year…

May 29, 2012

gardenblog76.jpg Undoubtedly May is my favourite time of year in the gardening calendar. It is the loveliest month in the garden as a lot of plants are putting on a splendid show of new growth, blooms, scent and colour.

With lovely warm long days everything is really doing well, but if you still find you have gaps in your borders or you simply want to add more colour to the garden, then around this time of year you have a wide range of wonderful colourful bedding plants to chose. For example, how about adding Geraniums, Busy Lizzies, Salvias, Petunias and Pelargoniums to really brighten up any gaps in your garden?

If you have woodland near you, then take a visit and see nature’s blue carpet of bluebells, which is so beautiful around this time of year. Also see the stunning Rhododendrons and Azaleas with their incredible range of colours from vivid pinks, purples, vibrant reds, oranges and yellows to softer pinks and lilacs. If you are tempted to buy a Rhododendron from the garden centre then remember that it favours acid soil, so it would be best to keep it in a large pot or container with ericaceous compost.

One of favourite climbers is the wisteria, which you will find blossoming now with its cascading waterfall-like pendent fragrant flowers in lilac-mauve or white. Grow this climber on a sunny wall, on a strong pergola or into a tree to give support to this showy climber.

One shrub that has a gorgeous pretty blue colour this time of year is the Ceanothus.

Grow it with a pink Clematis montana next to it or even scrambled through it and you’ll find that this pretty comnination will certainly give colour to any bare part of your garden.

If it’s scent you want for around this month then the heavenly rich fragrance of lilacs is fabulous. This shrub and tree comes in a variety of colours; from white, pink, almost red to magenta, lilac to purple or blue. If you only have a small garden then there are some species that will not grow too big such as the neat habit of the Syrina mircrophylla ‘Superba’.

The Peony is a favourite flower found in many old gardens, and this flower always reminds me of traditional English gardens. They are grown for their large showy blowsy blooms, which are often sweetly scented and have interesting foliage.

This is certainly the month for getting out and about, not just in your garden, but also visiting public gardens and woodlands for a display of nature’s abundance around this time of the year.

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Hooray For Hostas!

May 25, 2012

I think that a well-designed garden should have good green foliage, as this is where the eye can take a rest from all the other colours going on in the garden. Foliage also adds shape, form and texture to the garden and complements flowers.

One super plant that provides excellent elegant large foliage interest is the Hosta, Plantain lily. This perennial produces long stems with bell-shaped flowers, but this plant is mainly grown for its architectural foliage, which on some varieties can be up to fourteen inches long, and the whole plant can grow to a height of three feet tall.

The bold Hosta leaf comes in four main shapes: ovate, lance, round and heart-shaped and many Hostas also have lovely attractive variegated markings of white or yellow. Hostas come in a wide range of different lush shades of greens, from lime greens through to glaucous grey-blue leaves.

Most Hostas are clump forming perennials and like to grow in moisture-retentive fertile but well drained soil with a bit of shelter from cold drying winds. Hostas also prefer a full or partial shady site and don’t like the soil to dry out, so remember to give them a good mulching each spring to conserve moisture. A regular feed of nitrogen will also keep Hostas in tiptop condition.

The only down side to Hostas are that they are one the favourite foods to slugs and snails (see last week’s article) and after these pests have fed on them they can end up looking very much like lace curtains. Professional growers are now trying to produce Hostas with tougher leaves so that they’re not so tasty to slugs and snails. I personally grow my Hostas in containers to minimise slug and snail damage and use a John Innes No 2 compost with some grit to help drainage.

Hostas are so versatile as they can be used in many ways and in different styles of gardens. They can also be grown as individual specimen plants or ground cover and I think they really look super around ponds or water features.

My favourite Hosta is the Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans as it has rounded heart-shaped, heavily deeply puckered glaucous grey-blue leaves and this specimen makes a wonderful planting combination with my contrasting red Acer and the lovely deeply cut fronds of ferns.

So, for super irresistible foliage plants for a garden, Hostas certainly get my vote.

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The Outside Room…

May 25, 2012

gardenblog782.jpgUnfortunately I wasn’t able to report from there this year due to work commitements. however I was able to catch it on tv and pick up so many hints and tips.

So, on with this week’s blog 🙂

Although many people would like an ‘outdoor room’ to be able to enjoy and perhaps entertain in around this time of the year, not everyone is a keen gardener.

Also, many people are just too busy and simply haven’t got the time or even perhaps the knowledge of how to design their gardens and grow plants so that they look their best and give the best decoration to the “outside room”.

Impatient gardeners want an instant garden and don’t necessarily want to spend hours working in it.

Luckily, a mature looking garden can be achieved by buying large mature plants from a specialist nursery or buying plants that grow fast and putting it all together in a creative way – in other words – garden styling.

A shabby boundary can really let down a garden and generally make it look unattractive, so spruce up a wooden fence with a coat of wood preserving stain or if you want to hide the fence then you could cover it with bamboo, reed or willow screening. This type of screening comes in rolls and you can simply attach it with wire or nails to an existing fence.

If mowing the lawn is too much hassle, or your grass is unkempt and overgrown then change the garden floor. A quick DIY option is to dig up the lawn, lay down a permeable membrane and cover with gravel or decorative stone. You could then place stepping stones for easy access. In addition to this, you could plant some easy-growing evergreen shrubs, just to give some green interest. The gravelled area could also be dressed with decorative pots or some nice chunky rocks or cobbles. So you could go from overgrown tatty lawn to stylish garden in relatively short time with some effort.

Nowadays there are so many attractive hard landscaping materials that can be used to pave the garden with and to make the garden floor more interesting. There is even decking and sleepers available which are actually made of stone and make a longer lasting patio.

The use of ornaments and sculptures are a good way to artistically stylise the garden and add interest. They can be placed to liven up dull emptygardenblog782.jpg spots, used as focal points or even to give a theme to the garden, such as an oriental, Mediterranean or romantic style.

Garden structures, such as arches, pergolas, gazebos and obelisks are very useful to use as they’ll provide height interest and create attractive and distinctive focal points. Finally, a simple water feature will more or less transform any garden instantly and give that finishing touch.

Go for a low maintenance water feature such as a wall fountain or bubble fountain kit and always ensure that you get a qualified electrician to check out the electrical side of things.

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Making “Sense” Of Your Garden

May 22, 2012

gardenblog77.jpg I thought this week we’d take a look at a Sensory Garden – a garden which can literally delight the 5 senses… a garden which is just a joy to be in…

So. let’s first take a look at some things to delight the visual senses…

I’d opt for plants that have bold bright coloured flowers or plants with bold architectural foliage such as Fatsia japonica, Yucca or Verbascum olympicum with its large woolly leaves and candelabra of yellow flowers.

The heavenly scent of the lovely perfumes of flowers and the delicious aromatic smells of herbs will elevate the emotions and certainly stimulate the olfactory senses. For scent in the garden, Lavender and Rosemary are a must. I also love the fruity aromatic smell of the Phlomis fruticosa when you rub its foliage.

For strong winter scent go for the Winter Box, Sarcococca confusa and Wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox.

The relaxing sounds in a garden, like the gentle rustling of leaves, water flowing in a pond, the sweet song of birds and the soft hum of a bee can be really soothing.

Natural sounds in a garden are a good way of being distracted from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Plants that can provide the gentle rustle of foliage are large ornamental grasses such as the Pampas grass or Zebra grass. Bamboos too are also very good for providing natural sound in the garden.

Different textures of leaves or the interesting surfaces of tree trunks can be used for the sense of touch. Number one on the list for foliage texture has to be the Stachys byzantina otherwise known as Lamb’s Tongue or Bunnies’ Ears with its wonderful woolly foliage.

There’s nothing better to stimulate the sense of taste than wonderful fresh fruit from a garden, or the full flavour of home-grown vegetables. Don’t forget herbs, such as traditional Mint or Rosemary and Sage to flavour home cooking.

So, the next time you’re planning your garden, see what plants and features you can add to awaken your five senses with such safe and interesting plants.

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May… Busy May…

May 17, 2012

gardenblog81.jpgMay is usually the busiest month in the gardening calendar. With the weather warming up and the days getting noticeably longer it’s a pleasure to be outdoors in the fresh air.

By the end of the May, when hopefully the threat of any frost has past, bedding plants can be planted out and hanging baskets can be prepared to give fabulous splashes of colour to the garden.

Hardy annuals flowers from seeds can be sown into prepared soil around this time and is a good way of getting a mass of colour in the garden for just the cost of a packet of seeds.

A useful tip is to sow the seeds in rows about 4″ apart so that when they start to germinate, you can easily tell which are your germinating flowers and which are the weeds.

Also by sowing this way, you’ll have enough room to hoe the weeds away between your rows of plants. Another good way of getting plants cheaper is to buy plug plants.

These are small plants that can be potted up, grown on and then planted out when they are bigger and stronger.

To help make plants go further; you can divide existing overcrowded perennials clumps and replant them elsewhere in the garden.

If you fancy growing your own tasty organic vegetables, then now is the time to sow crops such as beans, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, peas and radish.

Some crops may need to be started off under a cloche in order to give them some more warmth. You can easily make your own cloche tunnel with strong wire or metal coat hangers bent into arches and covered with strong plastic sheeting. On warmer days remove the plastic sheeting, but cover the young plants at night.

Around this time of the year lawns need a bit of looking after if you want to keep it looking good. So treat your lawn with moss killer and then rake out the dead moss to help keep the lawn healthy.

If your lawn is small enough, then you may be able to weed by hand, but if it’s larger then you may need to use a lawn weed-killer. To encourage the grass to grow stronger you can also apply a high nitrogen fertiliser to feed it.

With the weather warming up, remember to water pots and start watering the garden, especially fruit and vegetables if the weather is going through a dry spell.

Around this time of year we are often too busy outdoors and easily forget about our indoor plants, so remember to check if any indoor plants have outgrown their existing pots and check to see if any need to be re-potted into bigger pots.

Make the most of the better weather around this time of the year and enjoy the onset of summer in your outdoor room.

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Hunting Out Those Pests!

May 17, 2012

It’s so satisfying seeing one’s hard work paying off in the garden with healthy plants blooming making a garden look great… however lurking in the undergrowth are some unwelcome garden visitors that are just waiting to munch away and destroy your hard labour.

Number one on the garden pest hit list are slugs and snails. These invaders will quite happily eat through soft young growth on herbaceous plants and vegetables. Nature’s way of controlling these pests is to encourage birds, hedgehogs, frogs and toads into the garden to help eat them up.

Another way is to collect slugs and snails after dark by torchlight on mild evenings, as this is when you’ll more likely to find them feeding. What you then do with the slugs and snails is up to you, but I always prefer a biological approach to eradicating these pests from my garden.

Vine weevil is another pest you need to look out for. The adult vine weevil beetle emerges at night and damages plants by eating around the edges of leaves leaving tell-tale irregular notches. It then lays its eggs mainly in flowerpots and the larvae (which look like maggots) will feed on the roots of the plant and will cause the plant to wilt and quite possibly die. To try and get rid of them you could search for them by torchlight and remove the feeding beetle from the plant.

You can also use a biological control method whereby you water the soil with nematodes, which then in turn will eat into the vine weevil grubs. Remember to use this watering method by watering your flowerpots in late summer while the soil is warm and moist.

You may recall that last year we have a mini-invasion of ants. Although ants cause little direct damage to plants they’re more of a nuisance than a pest. They make nests by heaping small mounds of fine soil on lawns, flowerbeds and pathways. Ants also collect the sugary honeydew that is excreted by sap-feeding aphids and in the process the ants drive off the useful aphid predators. Although we can’t totally eliminate ants from our gardens, we can reduce their numbers by hunting out their nest site and then dealing with the source of the ants.

One rather troublesome sap-feeding aphid is the Woolly aphid, so called because of the fluffy white waxy substance it develops on the bark of trunks and branches of trees and shrubs during the middle to late spring. There are various sprays that can be used but a heavy infestation is difficult to control. If you have the patience, then you can use a soft bush with which you could brush away the fluffy white substance.

Another method I have heard of, but not tried myself, is to paint menthylated spirit onto the affected area. You could also try some companion planting of Nasturtiums around under the infected tree or shrub.

So, if you think that your garden looks nice and that all is well… beware… as there may be hidden dangers lurking… just waiting to eat away at your favourite plants and shrubs.

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PL Series of Planters by Collaboration » CONTEMPORIST

May 15, 2012

Vancouver, Canada-based sculptor Marie Khouri and landscape designer Dave Demers have formed a new design company called Collaboration. They will be exhibiting their first collection of sculpted planters this week at the 2011 ICFF show.

I think these are fabulous.  Totally organic and funky at the same time.  What do you think?

PL Series of Planters by Collaboration » CONTEMPORIST.