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Monday, 28 November 2016

Living Willow Sculptures making an Igloo

Creating a living willow (Salix) sculpture is one of the most exciting projects you can do in your garden. Because this particular customer has children we decided to create something simple so they could take part in it's construction, and practical so they could have plenty of fun playing in it.
So we decided to build an Igloo.
This is a project that is best done over the winter months, when the willow has no leaves and is in it's dormant state. You can plant from the end of November until the end of March providing there is no frost.  This will give the willow a chance to develop a root system for the growing season in Spring and Summer. It is best not to plant after the end of March, as your willow may not do so well.
The Igloo you see here is now several years old, and the grass has now grown somewhat scraggly round the base. However when you first plant your willow you should remove all the turf in the  shape of the structure you want to create. Then dig in as much compost as you can to give your new willow a good start. The actual planting is then easy, simply push your willow canes into the ground. You should make sure that you keep the area around the new canes weed free. Some people put a heavy mulch or matting down to help with weed control. There are many willow growers who now supply kits. Our igloo was a kit which came with ready cut to length stems of fresh willow and a plan which was helpful. We got our kit from JPR environmental (follow link HERE ) There are other suppliers to visit and online for example Musgrove willow HERE or Yorkshire willow HERE
Once established your willow structure will require minimal maintenance. However during the Summer it will grow vigorously in all directions. You should tie in any new shots that will make the structure thicker and stronger and use a sturdy pair of secateurs to trim excess growth back to it's original shape.
Of course there are many ways to enjoy living willow. The structure pictured above is called The Cathedral. You could create an arbour, fence, windbreak, tunnel, indeed whatever idea you can come up with. Have fun!
General discussion and your views are welcome please say hello. I regret however because of my busy schedule, I am unable to answer many questions. Sneaky advertising will be deleted sorry. Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Blackspot on Roses: Top 3 best buy products review for prevention and treatment.

Roses are a delight in any garden but some varieties can be susceptible to a virulent fungal disease commonly known as Blackspot. The good news is that it is completely treatable by a range of fungicides that are readily available here in the UK. I will also give you a few tips below should you want to take a more organic approach.
Symptoms are easy to spot with fungal black spots appearing on the leaves which as they grow larger turn the foliage on which they are spreading yellow. Eventually the leaves fall off which leads to a dramatic effect on the overall health and vigour of the rose and how many blooms it produces. The disease can quickly spread to other plants so early treatment is recommended.
Fungus Clear ultra is one of the products I use and as with most fungicides is systemic. That is to say that it is absorbed by the leaves when applied and moves freely through the plants sap treating the existing disease and more importantly helping to prevent further fungal growth. A kind of 'immunization' if you like against further infection. Ideally you can start applying fungus clear as soon as new leaves emerge in the spring which should prevent the disease taking hold through the season but certainly as soon as you notice black spots appear. This product comes as a concentrate so a small quantity needs to be measured (measure supplied) and mixed with water and applied every 2-3weeks through summer. You will need a suitable sprayer with which to apply the mixture such as the one above which comes in 5L 7L(as picture) or 10litre capacity. Both Fungus clear and Sprayer come with full instructions.

Roseclear Ultra is another equally good blackspot fungicide. It is also systemic, controlling the existing fungus and preventing further infection to your roses from the inside out. In addition Roseclear has an added insecticide, which is helpful if you have an infestation of greenfly or blackfly which usually congregate under the leaves and around newly forming buds. I always take a bit more care when spraying Roseclear (or any garden insecticide) to avoid contact with bees. With this in mind spraying is usually best done in the evening when bees are less active. The product comes both as a concentrate that you mix with water and apply with a sprayer such as the one above. And in a mixed ready to use gun applicator, which is more suitable for smaller gardens with one or two roses.

Another great all round fungicide is Bayer's Fungus Fighter, giving excellent control of blackspot. Again this product is systemic but does not include an insecticide.  The product comes both as a concentrate that you mix with water and apply with a sprayer such as the one above. And in a mixed ready to use gun applicator, which is more suitable for smaller gardens with one or two roses.

Blackspot is caused by a fungus which releases spores. Collecting infected and fallen leaves will help in preventing the disease spreading to other plants. This is particularly useful in Autumn when roses shed most of their leaves. You should safely burn all that you find. A good idea is to then cover your rose border with a mulch such as mushroom compost or bark chips. This will help spores reaching new shoots as they emerge in the Spring. This is not a 100% cure unfortunately as spores can blow in on the wind from other infected gardens. The Organic community seems to have many different ideas and recipes on controlling blackspot including solutions containing milk, baking soda, vinegar etc. I haven't tried any of them but it must be said I don't discount any. Always worth a try if you don't want to use chemicals. Please share any success's you've had in comments.

General discussion and your views are welcome please say hello. I regret however because of my busy schedule, I am unable to answer many questions. Sneaky advertising will be deleted sorry. Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Nepeta Catmint Six Hills Giant Growing & Pruning

Part of the Lamiaceae family of flowering plants, there are quite a number of different varieties of Nepeta commonly known as Catmint, but we will focus on probably on of the most popular, easiest to grow and most widely available variety here in Britain.  Nepeta Gigantea 'Six Hills Giant'.
 A vigorous perennial, Six Hills Giant requires up to 80cm x 80cm of space due to its rather floppy nature. It's leaves are a greenish grey and when flowering it throws up long spikes of  mauve Lavender like flowers. It is one of the longest flowering plants of Summer and can bloom for months with little or no attention. Not surprisingly it is a great favourite of bees, butterflies, and hummingbird moths.
Depending on the season some gardeners decide to cut back Nepeta in the middle to late July in order for fresh growth to emerge and to bloom on into late Autumn. It has to be said I tend not to do this, finding enough colour if a little faded in late summer, but it is purely my personal preference. That said however and as with most perennials, old growth should be cut back and cleared in Autumn ready for new shoots next season.                   
 Nepeta grows best in a light loamy soil which is well drained and is happiest located in full sun. It is ideally located at the front or toward the middle of a large border and is well suited as a terrace of path edging. Feeding Catmint is not necessary as this only encourages the plant to become  leggy and floppy but be sure to water well new plants at least for the first few weeks.                          
Nepeta of course is commonly called Catmint or Catnip for a very good reason best known to cats themselves. Our feline friends simply adore the stuff. Nepeta cataria with it's tall white flowers is the variety that seems to have the greatest effect. Cats rub themselves around the plant and play and roll on the leaves which makes them happy and relaxed in equal measure. My cat is always particularly eager to greet me if I've been working with Catmint that day.  I should be noted that the effects are completely harmless.
Pictures: Southern England The Walnut tree pubs annual vintage gathering. A hummingbird hawk moth takes advantage of the blooming Nepeta.
General discussion and your views are welcome please say hello. I regret however because of my busy schedule, I am unable to answer many questions. Sneaky advertising will be deleted sorry. Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

English Lavender Growing, Planting & Pruning.

 Lavender (Lavandula) is one of the easiest shrubs to grow. It is grown the World over with  well over 200 varieties. Quite a few are stocked by local garden centres here in the UK.  More varieties including dwarf and variegated foliage Lavenders as well as white and pink flowering cultivars that can usually be obtained at specialist nurseries. Popular here in Southern English gardens are the more common violet-blue flowering Lavender angustifolia Hidcote and Lodden Blue, which can grow in excess of 2ft (60cm) in height and width and are ideal for a low border hedge. For a standalone shrub or in a container the smaller more compact Munstead is still a popular choice.  Lavenders greyish leaves remain evergreen in winter and in spring vigorous new growth emerges eventually leading to sprouting stalks of up to approx.12''(30cm) in height on which fragrant flowers begin to bloom in June.

 There are many historical references to Lavender through the ages, indeed it is mentioned in the Christian Bible under the generic name Spikenard, a blend of essential oils which in those days included Middle Eastern Lavender. The Egyptians are thought to have used it as a perfume at the time of the Pharaohs. Traces of Lavender was found in urns discovered among their mummified remains in the tombs of the pyramids. The Greeks also used Lavender in times before Christ.
  It was Romans who really took Lavender to their hearts using it to infuse and scent their bathing water hence the origins of the it's name Lavender coming from the Latin verb 'Lavare' which means 'to wash'. They are thought to have been responsible for introducing the plant to Britain during the Roman occupation which began in AD 43. It was grown in Monastery herb gardens in the Middle Ages, the monks using it mainly for medicinal purposes. And later in England's grand country houses. Queen Victoria is said to have enjoyed a Lavender scented bath. Today one can buy Lavender essential oils to use as a natural soother for a wide range of ailments and indeed to bath in.
Cultivating your Lavender plant is relatively easy. They prefer an alkaline loamy soil so if you have a more clay or peaty garden be sure to work in some loamy sandy soil first. It should be well drained, Lavender does not tend to do well in damp shady areas, indeed you will probably find the roots rot in the winter. So be sure to plant in full sun. Once planted just a light dusting of fish blood and bone fertilizer will help growth in the spring. Pruning should ideally be done in late summer by removing the tall stems of flowers down to the main plant. Sadly Lavender plants only last up to five years before they becoming old and woody. The only option then is to replace them.
Down at Sir Humphrey and Lady Binoche's plans are afoot to create our own Lavender hedge of Hidcote blue.  Lady B and I are down at my one of my favourite nurseries for professionals buying containerised plants and are looking forward to having a heady aroma of scent wafting across the garden on those long summer evenings.

 General discussion and your views are welcome please say hello. I regret however because of my busy schedule, I am unable to answer many questions. Sneaky advertising will be deleted sorry. Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Summer flowering purple border plant: Verbena bonariensis (Argentinian Vervain)

Verbena bonariensis lilac-purple flower heads look spectacular swaying gently in the breeze in the late summer sun. It is part of the Verbenaceae family and a wild growing native of South America where it is commonly called Argentinian Vervain. Indeed the name bonariensis is thought to derive from the Latin meaning 'from Buenos Aires'.
 Cultivated here in the UK as a herbaceous perennial, Verbena bonariensis can grow to over 4ft tall given the right conditions, and spread to a large clump of slender stalks which have clusters of flowers at the top which are slightly fragrant and loved by pollinating butterflies and bees.
Verbena bonariensis flowers from August through to October here in Southern England so is ideal if you want to add late summer colour. It is ideally placed in the middle or back of your herbaceous border given it's height. They are reasonably easy to grow, largely pest free although mildly susceptible to powdery mildew in Autumn. Readily available in the UK as a potted plant or from seed they do best in well drained loamy soil in full sun and are fairly drought tolerant. Seeds can be sown directly into the ground in early spring.
Once your semi hardy Verbena has finished flowering and has succumb to the first frost you should cut your plant down two thirds.  Propagating Verbena bonariensis is fairly easy as every following Spring you will find that the dozens of seeds that your plant shed in autumn have sprouted shoots so you should have more than enough to transplant elsewhere or let naturalize if required.
Pictures : Top. The George Inn Pub, North Hampshire, Southern England, pictures 2-6 Verbena Bonariensis, Bottom. Enjoying a pint or a glass of wine at the George Inn.
General discussion and your views are welcome please say hello. I regret however because of my busy schedule, I am unable to answer many questions. Sneaky advertising will be deleted sorry. Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.

Monday, 30 March 2015

White Rambling Roses for walls,trees & pergolas: Rector, Kiftsgate, Bobbie James & Wedding Day

 Rambling Roses as the name suggests are rampant growers, happily climbing on the walls of grand houses, country cottages, barns, trellis, pergolas and stable blocks all over the UK. They are equally at home growing up trees and do particularly well growing through fruit trees in old orchards. They flower usually from late June to mid September in the UK, and some varieties produce small red hips after flowering. Almost all are 'multiflora' that is to say they bear clusters of small flowers. They do best in full sun but will happily tolerate partial or dappled shade.
It's best to ask yourself the question 'have I got enough space' before you consider growing one, as they can grow to 20ft or more tall and wide. Planting: As with all roses make sure the ground is frost free, then dig a hole at least twice the size of the pot for a potted rose or a significantly sized hole to backfill with compost if you have a bare rooted plant. Mix in a handful of fish, blood and bone or similar to your compost and mix well. Most roses have been grafted on to a stock so make sure the union of the bud is buried around 2cm below the soil. Soak the rose in a bucket of water for a while before planting and soak the ground again when planted to give your rose a good start.
The Rambling rector (above 2) is one of our most popular ramblers and is quite sweetly scented. The origins of this rose are somewhat vague but one perhaps can imagine a rather romantic scenario in that it began life in an English village, perhaps in the Vicars garden. Flowering from late June it is a good tree climber and ideal for a wall or pergola. It is shade tolerant and will cope with a North facing aspect and is disease resistant although it's possible some blackspot may occur which will need treatment with a suitable fungicide. If you intend to grow this rose on a wall you should first affix some wires to support the main stems. These should be paced horizontally from 45-61cm  (18-24inches) apart. Tie in the main stems as they grow and remove any dead wood and heads when flowering is finished.
Named after Kiftsgate Court Gardens which is situated near the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford on Avon. The Kiftsgate rambler originated in this lovely Cotswold garden (which is open to the public for information on Kiftsgate Court Gardens follow this link: here). It was planted there by the well known horticulturalist and rose expert Graham Stuart Thomas in 1938 and named by him in 1951. They claim to have the largest Kiftsgate rose in England and say that every year their rose produces huge growth and already covers three trees. It I'm sure is a magnificent sight when in full bloom. Kiftsgate then ( pictured above courtesy Hal Hambrook) is a giant of a rose, so you will need plenty of space for this beauty.  I have two to look after, one on the side of a barn the other on a grand country house. The main stems are sturdier than the Rector but do need support wires. Fairly disease resistant, but some blackspot may occur. The need for pruning is limited to old growth but tying in stems and removal of flower heads and wayward shoots is desirable.
Bobbie James is another of the great classic white ramblers. (above courtesy Kurt Stueber) It has a heady powerful scent from its billowing flowers and is notable for its long rather fierce spines. It is thought that this is another Graham Stuart Thomas rose. He of course being the famous collector of heritage roses of Sunningdale Nurseries whom by chance came to discover this rose in 1961 as a seedling in the garden of Lady Serena James at St Nicholas, her house, nr Richmond in North Yorkshire. Thomas, named it after Lady Serena's husband The Hon. Robert 'Bobbie' James the well known Yorkshire horticulturalist who created the wonderful gardens at St Nicholas. (The gardens are open to the public for information on St Nicholas Gardens follow this link: here )  Suitable for shaded areas, it flowers from late June onwards and is like other ramblers resistant to fungal diseases. Needs support if on walls but will happily climb up trees and over arches.  Lady Serena James incidentally died at the turn of the Millennium aged 99 and Graham Stuart Thomas passed on in 2003 having being awarded the Order of The British Empire OBE.
The Wedding Day rambling rose must surely cover the front porches of many an English cottage since it is so often given as a gift to remind a couple of their special day. (above courtesy Kurt Stueber) It has a small creamy five petal pointed flower which is very well scented. Again this Rose was discovered as a seedling in Worthing, in Sussex England. It is thought that Sir Frederick Stern first introduced the rose some when in the 1950's. Ideally as with all roses it should be planted in a humus rich soil but is really tolerant and will thrive in a north aspect and in partial shade. Eventually your Rambler may need to be restored as over a period of years some of the original stems may get old. It is a good idea every few years then to thoroughly remove any dead wood and strip the main stems back. Cut out approx. one third of the old stems particularly if they are showing signs of dieback or disease to the base, that will encourage new growth.  All roses benefit from a handful of fertilizer in March and again in June, lightly dug in around the base.
Pictures: from top 1 cakes a plenty in celebration of HM the Queens Diamond Jubilee 2/3 Rambling Rector 4 Kiftsgate 5 Bobbie James 6 Wedding Day 7 Afternoon tea on a grand scale outside the village pub in celebration of HM the Queens Diamond Jubilee. General discussion and your views are welcome please say hello. I regret however because of my busy schedule, I am unable to answer many questions. Sneaky advertising will be deleted sorry. Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Ground Cover Plants Lily of the Valley

When Prince William married his bride Kate Middleton at the Royal Wedding in Westminster Abbey in London, one of the five flowers in Kate's bouquet was Lily of the Valley  (Convallaria majalis).
It is a native of the more temperate parts of the northern hemisphere and can be found in some regions growing wild in the clearings of woods and forests, since it tends to do best in partial or full shade. The national flower of Finland it is sometimes commonly called Mary's tears, this is because it is said that when Jesus died his Mother Mary cried at the foot of his cross and where her tears fell Lily of the Valley grew on the ground in abundance. Interestingly the name Convallaria majalis probably gets its name from the Latin convallis meaning steep or deep valley hence 'of the valley' and the Latin word maius meaning May which perhaps points to its flowering time in that month.  
 Once established Lily of the Valley it is a prolific spreader, so is an ideal ground cover plant. However it should be noted that because of the denseness and spread of its roots, in my experience, I have found it quite difficult to dig up and remove in it's entirety so make sure when you plant it, that's where you want it. The plant is highly toxic so obviously it is not wise to ingest any of it's leaves or flowers and sensible to wear gloves and thoroughly wash hands after handling.
Lily of the valley sprouts single flower stalks among it's many green leaves. Each stalk usually produces 8-12 bell like white flowers that are very sweetly scented which is much of the plants appeal. There are other cultivars notably 'Rosea' which have pink flowers.  After flowering it produces green berries that ripen to orange or red fruits which are equally poisonous. Growing this plant is very easy, it will tolerate heavy clay or lighter loamy soils whether they are acid or alkaline. The only real note to mention is to plant it in a dappled shady spot which is mostly moist.
Pictures: 1 Westminster Abbey in London scene of the Coronations and weddings of the British Royal Family. The Abbey was begun in 1245 on the orders of King Henry III  Pictures: 2 Lily of the Valley. General discussion and your views are welcome please say hello. I regret however because of my busy schedule, I am unable to answer many questions. Sneaky advertising will be deleted sorry. Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.