Archive for August, 2012

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I Think It’s That Time Of The Year

August 28, 2012

gardenblog21.jpgSummer always seems to come to an end just that little bit too early and we’re already fast approaching autumn.

Gardeners are always planning ahead anyway, so even though autumn is more or less here already, lets hope we still get some more fine weather this month.

Although summer is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean that there’s any less to do in the garden.

You can still keep the lawn mower handy as the lawns is still going to need trimming regularly until the weather cools down.  As for dead heading the flowers, keep doing this regularly in order to lengthen the flowering time for your plants and some feeding won’t go amiss for your plants too, as this will also help keep them flowering for longer.

While you’re at it, give your hanging baskets some feed as well, as they’re certainly going to need it too.  As well as this, there’s still the hedge trimming and weeding that needs to be done.

September is the renewing month in the gardening calendar and it’s a good time to start planting evergreen shrubs, hedging and conifers while the soil is still warm enough to encourage good root growth and help get the plants established before winter sets in.

I think it’s always so satisfying to get cuttings and seeds from ones own garden and if you haven’t tried it before do give it a go this year.  If you have any pansies, violas or pelargoniums, then now is the time to take cuttings for new plants for next year.

Also around now you can also take cuttings from non-flowering shoots of shrubs such as hydrangeas and fuchsias. Collect the ripened seeds from perennials and other garden plants, and store them away in paper bags in a cool and dry place for next year.

Summer bedding plants will now sadly be fading and past their best, so this is a good time to dig them up and prepare your beds for winter flowering plants and spring bulbs. A light feed of bonemeal can be dug into your soil to give your winter flowering plants a bit of a boost.

If your lawn is looking a little worse for wear by children and pets making the most of it during the summer, then now would be a great time to re-seed the worn areas and to repair the turf.

You can also aerate your lawn by spiking the gardening fork into the turf and this which will promote better drainage, which will in turn improve root development and ease the compacted surface.

As leaves start falling around our gardens, it’s best to rake them up from the lawn to prevent rotting debris and to stop pests and diseases getting established.

If your lawn is beyond repairing then towards the end of the month as the weather gets cooler and wetter will be a good time for sowing or laying a new lawn.

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The Outside In And The Inside Out

August 21, 2012

wwwgardendesignercouk-19.jpgIt’s without doubt that the popularity of garden design over recent years has enabled many people to transform their gardens into an additional and possibly the largest “room” of their property.

Millions of pounds are spent every year on products to transform gardens into outside rooms, gardening books are always among the best sellers lists and television and radio programmes regularly feature one garden make-over programme or another.

However, even with a lot of time and a bottomless wallet there is one thing in this country which really can throw a spanner in the works with regards to our outside rooms… and that’s the weather.

Many gardens are extensions of the house, giving extra room, a place to entertain, to play and to relax.

As with many years, this particular summer hasn’t been great weather wise, but there are a few things we can add to our garden designs which can enable us to enjoy our summer days and evenings for just a little bit longer.

An awning is a great addition to any garden and can be pulled out from against the wall of the house to provide a bit of warmth on a cool day, shelter from that unexpected drizzle during a barbecue and even to give some shade during any hot sunny weather. wwwgardendesignercouk-24.JPG

Verandas are coming into fashion in many gardens as they are not only useful but can be decorative structures in themselves and some friends of mine have vines growing along the inside with delicate green garden lights intertwined among the branches.

Just like awnings, a veranda can lengthen an evening garden party before either people start drifting indoors or having to nip inside to grab a cardy. Also, a well-built veranda will also provide protection for outdoor furniture and thus extend their use.

A summerhouse will also give you extra living space and a ‘real’ outdoor room, but do check with you local authority about regulations in your area. A decorative gazebo will also provide you with covered garden area to sip your drinks under and also make an attractive focal point in the garden.

Most of us enjoy an outdoor barbecue but our evenings tend to get cool quite early, so investing in a free-standing gas patio heaters might be worthwhile for true garden party aficionados. Instead of a barbecue, how about a decorative cast iron or fired terracotta Chiminea oven, which can double as a barbecue as well as a source of outdoor heating?

Remember those holidays abroad when you spent long sultry evenings perhaps outside in the hotel’s gardens or at an outside restaurant, nursing a drink or three and pecking at nibbles? Remember how you remarked that “if only we could do this at home”? Well, with a well thought out garden design together with some consideration of our climate, we can make the most of our summer gardens without having to go inside early, grab a jumper, put the kettle on and call it an evening… and early evening.

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A Orchestra Of Colour!

August 17, 2012

wwwgardendesignercouk-18.jpgAs gardeners, we’re always looking forward and planning. We look forward to when our particular favourite plants will come into season. We anticipate when various flowers will go to seed and perhaps collect the seeds for the following year.

We plan for the next season, together with the new phase of plants that will appear in our gardens and we even make plans for our gardens for when we’re away on holiday.

It’s already high summer and it won’t be long before autumn is here with its abundance of gold, yellow and brown colours. However, for the time being, lets enjoy what the month of August has for us with regards to the spectacular splendour of colours that are around us in gardens everywhere.

Around now, many people tend to go for a rich kaleidoscope of colours which bombard the senses, however a part of the garden with a more subdued hue can make a garden look quite exquisite.

I think that it’s a nice idea to set aside a part of the garden where you have cooler colours during this time of the year with perhaps an area with more moody darker colours too. If planning such a cool area, then consider the Hosta “Midas Touch” with its leaves of yellow almost appearing to be dissolving into a delicate light green. Do remember though that it’s not only you who will like this particular plant, but so will the slugs and snails as they regard this plant as a gastronomic delight. Another plant that goes well in a cool area, and coincidentally another slug and snail favourite is the Veratrum Viride, with its lovely lush pleated foliage.

There are such wonderful moody coloured plants around now too. One particular elegant looking climber you can see around now is the Clamatis heracleifolio “Wyvale” with its deep purple flowers and its leaves which are a rich blue tinged green. If you have this in your garden, then remember that it needs to be cut back hard in the autumn and that way you’ll be rewarded next year with a bounty of flowers. Nice light blue coloured shrubs around now include the Hydrangea macrophylla “veitchii” which has nice blue flowers with outer florets of white fading to pink and is suitable to most types of gardens as it is lime-tolerant.

In my own garden I have the Perovskia atriplicifolia “Blue Spire”. This is a wonderfully graceful looking shrub with lavender-blue flowers, aromatic grey foliage and forms a lovely almost translucent mist of blue, especially when blown by a gentle breeze.

Although this time of the year is often the brightest and most colourful in many gardens, why not plan something different for next year with some “moody blues” and some cool tones?

Go on, be daring.

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A holiday or vacation in your outside room…

August 15, 2012

gardenblog21.jpgWell, the holiday season is truly here and it’s that time of the year when we can enjoy our gardens. The garden as an “outside room” really comes into its own when used for socialising with family, friends and their children spending many hours in the garden. There’s something special about lazily sitting around in the garden during an evening after a barbecue and watching the embers die down as the sun goes down. As well as for socialising this time of the year, gardens can also be a place of freedom and adventure where children can learn and start to understand about nature.

Why let your children get bored during the summer holidays when you could let them help you with some of the gardening jobs? Providing you keep safety in mind, why not give them a small area of the garden and let them create a mini garden? Let them plant their own plants and in the same way that children can learn much about responsibility by owning a pet, I believe that children can learn as much by having their own patch in the garden that they are responsible for. Kids love water, so why not get them to help with the watering? In fact, any help with watering this time of the year is very welcome indeed! Have your children help you this way around the garden and they’ll soon understand about, or better still, help with dead-heading! “So just why do plants grow better when you take the flowers off?”

This time of the year is also a great time for getting free plants and if you haven’t done so, have a go at propagating new plants from cuttings. You can take cuttings from tender perennials such as fuchsias, pelargoniums, osteospermum, verbena and marguerites. Also you can take cuttings from shrubs and houseplants too, pot them up into small pots and grow them on through the winter until next spring on a warm windowsill.

Its never too late to start growing your own crops and during August you can sow root vegetables such as turnips and beetroot, also you can get some salad crops going too, like lettuces, spring onions and radishes.

Other jobs to be getting on with in the garden this month include keeping the lawn under control with regular mowing, but do remember not to cut grass too short during dry spells as it could dry out too much. Slow growing evergreen hedges can be given a trim to keep them neat and tidy. Other shrubs that can be pruned this time of year to keep them from out-growing their allotted spaces include shrubs like deutzia, laurel, philadelphus, and weigela.

If you have Wisteria, then you might like to know that you can induce and promote flowering on a your Wisteria by pruning. Now is the time to shorten all long shoots growing out from the main framework back to approximately 6 leaves and then again in winter shorten those shoots further. That way, hopefully next season you’ll get an abundance of wonderfully scented cascading blooms.

If you would like a burst of bright autumn colour then look out for the autumn crocus bulbs, Colchicum and autumn daffodil, called Sternbergia as soon as they are available and plant them in your borders now.

It’s always nice to be a little self-indulgent around this time of the year and simply enjoy being in the garden relaxing. Many people spend so much time working in their gardens they tend to forget to do that one thing that’s great to do on a hot balmy summer’s day… nothing!

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Pizzaz Time!

August 15, 2012

If your planting colour is looking a bit drab, how about adding a twist of lemon, some orange and a dash of lime?

Creating a well thought out colour planting scheme in a garden can really give it some pizazz and liven it up. How about a lime green planting border with vivid yellow and bright orange?  Colours like this can’t help but cheer up a drab looking garden.

Have you considered painting or staining your garden fence a dark colour to contrast it against the colours in your garden?  Would you dare to colour your garden fence black?  Now that certainly would be a very powerful backdrop to bright planting, creating a stunning effect and giving a garden a “wow” factor.

An excellent shrub to have in a bold colour schemed garden is the Sambucus racemosa ‘Plumosa Aurea’ otherwise know as the Golden Elder. This shrub has super fine-cut leaves that are golden yellow to start with, turning lime green as the leaves grow older.  This shrub prefers a semi shady position as opposed to full sun which may scorch its leaves.

A couple of other shrubs which can give a bright splash of colour include the Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’, the Mexican orange blossom, which has bright yellow aromatic evergreen leaves and the Berberis thunbergii ‘Aurea’ which is a low dense compact shrub with small rounded vivid yellow leaves. Just like the Golden Elder, both these shrubs prefer a semi shady spot.

Hostas are great for adding some foliage interest to a shady corner of a garden.  I think that varieties with leaves of lime green or yellow look stunning. Hostas such as ‘Lemon Lime’ with yellow-green to yellow leaves or ‘September Sun’ which has lime green and yellow leaves and green margins look great. With hostas like these, no garden should have a boring shady corner.

For some vivid yellow and orange colours, the Hemerocallis, Daylily will certainly add some “flower power” to your garden.  This herbaceous perennial has bold trumpet shaped flowers and is definitely worth a try.

For easy low maintenance planting, Eschscholzia California Poppies in mixed yellow and orange will put on a colourful good show and will annually self-seed as well.

If you want to go big, bold and exotic, how about Cannas?  With their large foliage and magnificent flamboyant flowers in yellow or orange, this addition will certainly add a topical feel to any garden.

For ground cover you could choose the Alchemilla mollis with its plain green lobed foliage and its cymes of tiny lime flowers.  This plants makes a wonderful planting companion next to bright yellow and orange flowers.

With any planting plan and scheme always remember to include flowering plants for all four seasons so as to spread the flowering interest and colour throughout the year.

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Making A Splash With Water Features!

August 8, 2012

Water features in today’s domestic gardens are still very popular and nowadays there are so many fabulous designs to choose from.

If you haven’t got much spare time for gardening then you can opt for simple self-contained water feature that doesn’t need much maintenance, however, if you’re feeling more ambitious and would like to get more involved in water gardening, then consider creating your own pond.

Not only will a pond enhance a garden, creating a restful retreat, it will also help encourage wildlife into the garden.

Obviously, one of the most important factors is deciding where to position the pond. Ideally a pond should be situated away from extreme shade and extreme sunlight (four to six hours a day of daylight is sufficient). Also it’s best not to have a pond too near to trees as leaf litter will pollute the pond and it isn’t much fun having to constantly clean out a pond.

An informal pond is easier to construct and will give a more natural look and wildlife will love it.  Just remember to give them some form of easy access to the water and provide some shelter with waterside planting.

Aquatic plants not only enhance the natural beauty of your pond but also play an important role in maintaining a healthy balance of the pond’s ecosystem as well as helping to keep it clean and clear.

Water lilies floating on the surface of a pond will help reduce light levels in the water, which would otherwise promote the growth of algae, turning the water green.

Bog plants are ideal to plant around the pond edge where the pond water may overflow and as the soil remains damp a suitable bog area can quite be easily created. There are some lovely attractive bog plants available, such as the Arum Lily, Astilbes, Hostas and Irises to surround your pond.

Marginal plants are grown in the water around the edge of the pond and are best planted in aquatic baskets.  Not only do they provide cheery colour during the growing season but they are vital in providing some shade in the water and for providing shelter for the fish.

Oxygenating plants are considered to be the most important group of plants for a pond as they release oxygen into the water and they also help to minimise the growth of unwanted algae.

Other useful pond plants are the floating plants and as their name suggests these plants float on the surface of the water providing essential shade.

On a health and safety note, it goes without saying that you should never leave young children unsupervised playing near ponds. There are decorative metal covers available that you can put over the water surface for safety.

So, if you’ve always fancied a pond in your garden, do give it a go this year.

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The Right Place At The Right Time

August 1, 2012

What type of soil do you have in your garden? wwwgardendesignercouk-18.jpg

In some parts of the UK you’ll have clay soil which fortunately is highly fertile, however, the down side is that clay soil sticks together making drainage very slow and in hot weather clay soil dries out and compacts. The solution to this is to add grit or to dig in coarse organic matter.

Luckily enough, there is a large selection of shrubs that will quite happily grow in clay soil. For a sunny position you can go for Berberis darwinii which has cluster of orange flowers in spring followed by black berries. Also many brooms, or the Cytisus will tolerate clay soil. For some heavenly scent go for the Philadelphus, common name of Mock Orange. Other clay-loving shrubs include Escallonia, Spiraea, Potentilla and Weigela to name just a few.

There are some good hardy shrubs that will tolerate both clay soil and partial shade like the Aucuba japonica, the Spotted Laurel with lovely glossy green leaves with bright yellow blotches. For some early spring flowering colour the Chaenomeles, Ornemental Quince is a lovely shrub and Choisya ternata, is an evergreen shrub with aromatic foliage and white flowers. These are just a few shrubs that will grow in clay soil and you’re sure to find many more.

We all have parts in our gardens that get less sun than the rest, however the combination of the type of shade, together with the type of soil is also very important. Do you have full or partial shade with dry or moist soil? Once you know, it’s quite easy to narrow down the choice of plants that will do well in a particular area.

A stunning plant with bold foliage for a moist partial to full shade site is the Hosta, but be aware that slugs and snails love this plant too. Most Ferns like moist shade, but there are just a few that you can get for dry shade.

Dry shade is regarded as a difficult site to grow plants in, as it may be under a dense leafy tree canopy or in the rain shadow of a brick wall or building. This kind of soil could be improved by covering it with organic mulch and watering the area. Luckily, there are plants that will quite happily tolerate this type of condition. As I wrote last week, it’s a good idea to see what plants grow where in nature in order to give us some idea of where to plant them in our gardens. So, plants that are going to thrive in dry shade are varieties that grow in woodland areas. Some plants which do like dry shade areas include Lily of the Valley, latin name of Convallaria majalis, Dicentra the Bleeding Heart, Iris foetidissima and the hardy Geranium known to some as Cranesbill.

I hope that I’ve helped you learn a little more about plants and why they prefer certain areas of the garden. So, the next time you go shopping for new additions to your garden, remember that each plant has it’s own preferred home. It’s up to you to give it the right environment, one that will keep it healthy and happy.