Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

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Gardening Can Be Spooky

November 2, 2012

dscf0070.jpgThis year seems to have gone by so quickly and it’s already just gone Halloween, rich with tradition, mystery and symbolism.

Not surprisingly, much of the symbolism surrounding Halloween has connections to the natural world, including plants, fruits and vegetables.

Also it might interest you to know that Halloween is celebrated in some form in many parts of the world, including, Japan, Mexico, Sicily, China, Korea and Sweden among others.

The time around Halloween is a time when plants start to die down as they near the end of a cycle and many deciduous trees and plants drop their leaves for the winter.

For ancient people, this was a time to honour their dead along with the “death” of the year and to offer sacrifices to nature hoping that spring will return with its fresh and welcome bounty.

Many garden plants are associated with this season. Rue, a hardy perennial bitter herb of the Bible was hung in doors and windows around this dark time of the year to deter evil spirits.  Rue has also been used in fall to repel fleas from coming in the house by rubbing areas with the bitter, pungent juice released from a crushed stem.

Sage or Salvia is a symbol of domestic virtue and immortality and was often planted on graves in days of old as it was said to live forever, often thriving on neglect and so be a symbol of life.

Rosemary, often thought of as the loveliest of herbs was brought to England in the 14th century. It had been used for thousands of year before in all of the Mediterranean countries where it was hung over the cradle of infants to protect them from the evil eye. It was also called the bride’s herb, and believed to ward off evil. Burned with thyme and Juniper the smoke was said to get rid of witches and evil spirits and also clean the air in a sick room.

So, if you took part in Halloween celebrations this year, remember that it’s not all just plastic marks, false fangs and pointy hats; there’s a strong tradition that links this spooky festival to your garden.

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Indoor Horticultural Styling

October 31, 2012

My love and passion for gardening and garden designing led me to study flower arranging and floristry for the horticultural styling part of my business.

gardenblog78.jpgSo now I not only enjoy the flowers outside in my garden but I can enjoy their splendid beauty and wonderful scent indoors at close quarters.

More and more people are taking up the popular hobby of flower arranging. While it is easy to go along to a florist and buy wonderful flowers, foliage is sometimes limited and can work out more expensive to buy. So why not grow your own?

A garden does not have to be just ornamental it can be functional as well. Many of us grow fruit and vegetables to eat, so how about growing a selection of plants and shrubs that can be used for your flower arranging?

Many of us will have Ivy growing on our gardens, or at least know someone who has, and this is such a useful plant to have in many flower arrangements as it can give a great effect by trailing over the side of a container.

With Christmas coming up, if you spray just the black berries of the Ivy with a silver or gold spray and place it around candles it can form the basis of a very attractive table display.

However, it goes without saying that you always need to take care with such plant / candle arrangement.

Holly is another useful evergreen shrub and tree for its distinctive leaves to use for Christmas decorations.

A versatile evergreen shrub or tree that is number one on my list to have for flower arranging is the Pittosporum tenuifolium with its lovely wavy edged medium size leaves and can fit into numerous types of flower arrangements.

The Eucalyptus gunnii with its distinctive round disc-shaped aromaticwwwgardendesignercouk-18.jpg glaucous leaves will give a more contemporary style to a flower display.

If you constantly harvest this shrub it will keep growing new useful shoots and this will prevent it growing into a large tree which can become too big for the average suburban garden.

For bold foliage go for the Fatsia japonica, with its large finger lobed glossy green leaves, or the Phormium with its broad sword-shaped leaves or the Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’, the Spotted Laurel with its interesting yellow blotches.

For variegated foliage interest go for the Euonymus fortunei. ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ is green in the centre of the leaf with bright yellow margins or the ‘Emerald Gaiety with its white margin will look really stunning with white roses.

So next time you are given some flowers go out into your garden and snip off some foliage and create an instant lovely flower arrangement to enjoy indoors.

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Indoor Gardening For Well-Being

October 30, 2012

Just because you may not have garden it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the world of gardening completely, as there are so many gorgeous and exotic houseplants that can be grown indoors.

A house filled with lovely lush plants will immediately give your house a welcoming atmosphere and a homely feel. I think that indoor plants really are the finishing touch to any décor as they beautify and add style to any home.

Houseplants are not just for décor alone, just like plants in the outdoor garden they have therapeutic benefits and help promote feelings of relaxation and wellbeing, especially at the end of a long stressful day. It’s no accident that plants are used in so many public places such as offices, hospitals, wait rooms and shopping centres.

Scientific studies have proved that houseplants help remove harmful household chemicals from the air that are given off from everyday household products like synthetic furnishings, computers, electrical equipment and cleaning products.

Houseplants will help freshen the air, absorb noise and lessen dust in the home. Indoor are also said to lower blood pressure, help concentration, improve memory and generally promote feelings of tranquillity and calm.

Outdoor plants need to be placed in their preferred place and aspect and the same goes for indoor plants, as some plants prefer a shadier cooler part of a room, such as ferns or ivy, while others will prefer a warmer sunny room, like cacti for example.

Other plants will welcome warm steamy conditions such as a kitchen of a bathroom, such as the Caladium, Peacock plant with its distinctive foliage. So always check the label before you purchase your houseplant to see what aspect it will thrive in.

Because houseplants are grown in pots, they will tend to use up the nutrients of the compost, so therefore they will need feeding on a regular basis to give them nourishment to grow. If you have a houseplant with broad leaves, then it’s also worth giving them the occasional wipe down with a damp cloth to remove the dust and to allow the plant to breathe.

As with outdoor plants, some houseplants will prefer more watering than others, for example azaleas will like a good drink while bromeliads will need very little water. However, if you would like a virtually maintenance-free plant, then opt for air plants. As their name suggests, these plants obtain most of their requirements from the air.

Do remember that some houseplants will have a dormant period during which time they will need less feeding and watering; again always check the label for instructions.

One interesting indoor plant is the good old common Spider houseplant as this plant is the most effective plant in fighting pollution. It will actually absorb many toxic gases and household chemicals, even cigarette smoke. It is also said that the spider plant will absorb gasses which some refrigerators produce.

As outdoor plants are vital to our wellbeing, our houseplants can be just as important and not only this, but they look great in our homes too.

 

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Off With Their Heads!

October 27, 2012

“Should I cut off the seed heads or not?” is a question asked by many gardeners. Usually there are two answers to this question.

If you want to stop the seeds from self-sowing themselves, then the answer is “yes”, go ahead and cut them off.

Also if you are one of those gardeners who like to keep the garden immaculate and tidy, then “yes” again. The reasons for keeping the seed heads and spent flowering stems on is to allow the seeds to self-sow, to provide food for wild life and to add more protection for the remainder of the plant from frost damage.

The seed head of plants can be very attractive and add seasonal interest in there own right. The Achillea ‘Gold Plate’ has flattened yellow flowerheads in summer, which go pale to brown by autumn. The Ice Plant, Sedum spectabile has heads of small star-shaped pink flowers in late summer, which turn brown for winter.

Clematis orientalis has bell like orange-peel blooms that turn into wonderful fluffy seed heads of silky, silvery strands. Crocosmia – the leaves turn a rustic colour and the flower stems develop beaded seed heads.

The Gladwin, Roast-Beef Plant (because it smells of the meat), Iris foetidissima, has an orange/ yellow ting with purple vein flowers through out the summer then goes on to produce brilliant orange seed clusters.

The African Lily, Agapanthus is architectural with its long stem with a pom-pom like head of seed capsules. Also architectural is the bold Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus spinosus, with its spine-toothed leaves and its spire of seed heads.

Many English garden have a Hydrangea, and their mop-heads or lace capped dried flower heads can look very attractive.

I’m a fan of ornamental grasses and their seed heads can be good value for autumn interest too. How about the Dwarf Pampas Grass, Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’, with its lovely creamy white plumes or the Chinese Sliver Grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Fontane?

Seed heads can be very attractive with wind movement, especially when they are glistening or coated with frost, and I do admit that they are my favourite when dusted with snow.

So take a second look at your garden and see which seed heads you need to remove and which can stay. Enjoy your autumn garden with the gifts it can bring.

 

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When The Leaves Are Falling…

October 25, 2012

Now that plants are shedding off their leaves, fences and boundaries will get revealed showing whether they’re in need of repairing or replacing.

When you’re designing or planning your garden, then the fencing should be one of the first things you consider, not just what style you would like but also durability and cost.

Also, the type of fencing you have can actually effect the microclimate of your garden. For example, did you know that if you have a solid fence of brick in a sunny aspect then the brick would take in the heat of the day and release it at night?

This would give a warmer microclimate by the wall area and therefore would be a great place for growing fruit against it.

If your garden is in a windy position then a solid structure would make the wind more turbulent as the wind would hit the wall and then swirl into the garden. In a case such as this a trellis type of fencing would let the wind defuse through it.

You could plant up in front of it with wind tolerant shrubs and plants such as Kniphofia uvaria ‘Springtime’; the Common Torch Lily, Santolina chamaecyparissus; Lavender Grey Cotton or Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’; Yellow-Edge Elaeagnus.

If you prefer a solid wall with colour then a cost-effective type would be one of breeze blocks, which can be smoothed over with cement and painted with the colour of your choice. For a warm Mediterranean feel you could go for a terracotta or cream, or how about a more tropical feel with a bolder colour such as burnt orange?

Wooden fences are the most common such as panel or the close-boarded types. Until recently the main way to preserve and colour the wood was creosote.

Nowadays there are wonderful ranges of coloured wood preserving stains to choose from. If you want your fence to recede into the background then go for a green colour but if you want your fence to stand out then go for a more bolder colour, how about a daring black?

A very simple way to change the look of your fence would be to use a reed or willow screen. Strips of reed or willow held together with wire come in handy rolls that can then simply be nailed onto an existing fence. I did this with my own garden onto my dark panel fencing I nailed a golden coloured reed screening which now gives my garden a warmer sunnier feel and also fits in with my oriental theme.

 

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Garden Lighting

October 25, 2012

The summer is coming to a close and autumn is starting to set in and the days are now becoming notably shorter all too soon. Still, with a garden carefully designed, these dark evenings are the prefect opportunity for using garden lighting.

During the summer months the use of candles can be very attractive and are wonderful for atmosphere on a lovely warm evening. Those late dinner parties in the garden have a little extra magic with candle lighting. There are so many types of candles available for outdoor use and these often incorporate insect repellents.

There are types that come in various pots and containers, or there are types that you stick into the ground and there are type of lanterns that you can hang on the branches of trees, although I would advise great care with these types. I know it goes without saying, but please do remember that candles, any candles, not just in the house, should never be left unattended, and should be kept out of the reach from children and animals.

Candle garden lighting is obviously more suitable for the summer months. Let’s look at lighting that can be used all year round.

The use of electric lighting has become so popular in recent years and the advent of the “safe type” of lighting using very low voltages have made garden lighting accessible to everyone. This type of lighting is so safe that it can be used all year round in all sort of weathers.

It is best to plan your garden lighting when you are having your garden landscaped, if possible. That way you will ensure that your lighting is an integral part of your garden’s design and not just an afterthought.

Remember that lighting isn’t just “lighting”. It can be use in many creative and artistic ways. It can be used to accent various features in your garden, or not as the case may be. Spotlighting is great for highlighting specific garden features or ornaments, and shadowing can create dramatic effects. Cast the light onto a wall or a fence through an architectural plant to get a nice effect.

Uplighting as the name suggests shines upwards and can be used with subtle effects. Uplighting is great for lighting a tree as the bark, branches and leaves take on a different character with such lighting

With carefully positioned garden lighting you can enjoy your garden after dark during the winter evenings. Lighting up the garden brings the garden to life in such a unique and different way than usual. It allows the best features to be shown off and leaving others hidden.

On a practical note, lighting is useful for simply lighting paths to and from various parts of the garden during the dark evenings. Movement or heat sensitive security lights for the garden are a sensible thing to have, but do check with neighbours that it is not intrusive into their property.

A winter’s garden with snow on the garden features, ornaments and plants with the crystals of snow and ice twinkling in the concealed lighting is simply magical in any garden.

Please remember that if you are considering any garden lighting or electrical work then always consult a qualified and experienced electrician

 

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An Orchestra Of Autumn Colours!

October 25, 2012

wwwgardendesigner7.jpgAs I’ve said before, my favourite time in the garden is in the spring but for my husband it is the autumn. He loves to see all the wonderful rustic colours that the leaves turn into before they fall from the trees.

Around this time of the year there are some super trees to provide orange, gold, bronze and crimson colours for autumn interest and on the top of my list is the Acer palmatum atropurpureum, which I have in my own back garden. This will be turning from its usual purple colour foliage to bright red and when the rays of sun shine through it, it is absolutely stunning.

Autumn is also the season for ornamental berries to show off their splendour. The evergreen Pyracantha is one such shrub that has super bright orange berries and can be grown in a shady or sunny position against a wall. The more sun it’s exposed to, the better, brighter and more berries it will produce.

For clusters of red berries Cotoneaster shrubs are good for this and they are easy to grow in any ordinary garden soil.

For really unusual stunning purple berries that are shown off on bare stems go for the Callicarpa shrub. It can grow to a height of thirteen feet and it’s definitely one for my shopping list.

An interesting perennial that comes into its best around this time of the yeargardenblog761.jpg is the Physalis alkekengi, otherwise known as the Chinese lantern, because of its super decorative papery orange calyces, which resemble lantern shapes. This plant is a vigorous spreader, so leave plenty or room for it. It is also useful for dried flower arrangements.

A dainty and exotic looking hardy flowering perennial is the Schizostylis coccines ‘Sunrise’, The kaffir lily. It has lovely salmon-pink showy, gladiolus-like spikes of open cup-shaped flowers that flower from late summer to early winter and it’s good value for money in any flower border.

Another hardy perennial to flower outdoors this month is the Chrysanthemum. There are so many forms to choose from and a wide variety of colours too. Chrysanthemums can also be used as cut flowers to provide some indoor interest too.