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The garden in July

20 Jul

July is a tricky time in the garden. The roses are nearly over, especially if it’s been as wet and windy as we’ve had it recently. The peonies are finished , the early hardy geraniums- e g Johnson’s Blue – have done their bit.

Yet the late summer flowers – dahlias, daisies, fuchsias etc – are yet to flower.

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I visited a friend a few months ago to give her some advice on how to get her garden looking perfect for her daughter’s wedding at the end of July. My first suggestion of moving the wedding forward to June was not accepted ! So this is what I suggested instead-

1. Deadhead everything as often as possible – this will keep your repeat flowering roses flowering and many perennials will put up a second flush of flowers – delphiniums, lupins.

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2. Cutting many perennials down to the ground will prompt fresh foliage rather than more flowers but at least they’ll look fresh and healthy rather than dry and spent. This works well for many geraniums, alchemilla mollis, nepeta, hesperis. Remember to water well and feed to get them going again.

3. Plan in advance, to delay the flowering of some of your May/June flowering perennials. This method is sometimes known as the Chelsea chop – not because they do it at Chelsea, but because that’s the best week to do it. It involves chopping off the flower heads on selected perennials so that they effectively have to start again producing flower heads, thus delaying their flowering by several weeks. I know this sounds very radical, but it does work. You may get slightly smaller flowers but your plants will be sturdier for it. You can also just do it to a portion of a clump so that you get a longer flowering period. It works for many plants including geraniums, daisies, echinacea, phlox, sedum, helenium, solidago, nepeta, asters.

4. If you have a greenhouse, pot up lilies which will flower in July, dahlia tubers potted up in large 10l pots in a Greenhouse in March also have good chance of flowering in July. These pots can easily be slotted in amongst existing planting.

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5. Grow some annuals from seed to fill any gaps. By this I don’t mean small bedding plants like petunias as these will just get lost amongst your perennials. I grow a couple of dozen nicotiana langsdorffii every year – they grow to about 2ft high and their lime green bells flower from July through to the first frosts. Similar annuals that would work are nicotiana mutabilis , Malva trifida, snapdragons, cosmos. Find one that grows easily for you and grow lots – that way you get good repetition throughout your beds.

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I know I really should’ve told you all this in May but better late than never ! I’ll try and remember to re-post this in May next year !

My Top10 Selection – Plants for shady conditions.

15 Jun

It’s a well worn theory that it’s better to use fewer varieties in larger groups, but it’s a theory that really does work. By choosing the few varieties that will cope with the exact growing conditions, they will thrive and multiply much faster than slightly fussier plants that will always struggle.

So here are my current top 10 plants for shady areas.

1. Helleborus orientalis – an evergreen perennial with large glossy leaves, and long lasting flowers in late winter in shades of lime green through to dark pink.

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2. Polystitchum setiferum – shield fern – an evergreen fern with glossy fronds emerging every spring.

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3. Tellima grandiflora – a semi evergreen small perennial with a mound of bright green leaves and spikes of tiny green bells in early summer

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4. Hellebores argutifolius – large evergreen perennial with large glossy leaves and bright lime large flowers in late winter

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5. Sarcococca confusa – small evergreen shrub with small glossy leaves and tiny but highly scented flowers mid winter

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6. Pulmonaria officinalis – semi evergreen small perennial with spotted leaves and blue AND pink flowers on the same plant !

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7. Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum‘ – herbaceous perennial with marbled foliage, elegant hooded flowers and orange berries.

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8.Geranium phaeum – herbaceous perennial with leaves splashed with purple and dark purple flowers early summer.

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9. Geranium macrorrhizum – semi evergreen herbaceous perennial with delicate pink flowers early summer.

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10. Hydrangea ‘Annabelle‘ – medium deciduous shrub with new lime green leaves followed by huge white flower heads.

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The important thing to remember with shady conditions is to improve the soil as much as you can – add garden compost, well rotted manure or mushroom compost. And then once planted, do remember to water regularly for the first year to get everything established.

Add further colour with spring bulbs and you’ll have colour and soft structure all year round. And you’ll wonder why that shady dry spot was ever a problem !

All photos courtesy of www.crocus.co.uk

Signs of Spring.

5 Apr

I really do believe it might have finally arrived …. spring that is ! I’ve been busy cooking and eating all day today and finally at 6.30 managed a quick zip round the garden – quick because my garden really is quite small !

And the signs are everywhere ! We’ve been away for almost a week – in snowy, windy, cold Italy- and clearly it’s been quite mild here as everything seems to have sprung.

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My ‘Devon bank’ is the main burst of colour in the garden. I had planned to have it full of primroses and over the years I’ve planted dozens, transplanted from my mother’s Devon garden where they self seed like weeds. However the only one still growing is this one below that’s growing in a crack in the steps ! I think the problem is that they get swamped in the summer by the other perennials that pop up.

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It’s lovely to see plump buds on the camellia about to burst.

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Much of my planting relies on self seeders so it’s always reassuring to see plants like Anthriscus sylvestris Ravenswing have spread them selves liberally. Although there do seem to be a few plain green specimens I’ll have to weed out.

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Last autumn I planted a couple of dozen white camassia which have now burst into life – strong variegated foliage, which I wasn’t expecting, so very excited for them to flower.

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My philadelphus Aureus is pushing out bright lime leaves ahead of the gorgeously fragrant white flowers in early summer. I adore the colour of this shrub but do sometimes struggle to pair it with other colours as it’s so strong. So I’ve decided to go all out for the clash and have now under planted it with a hot pink bergenia that’s just about to flower – can’t wait to see it !

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The lupins have survived the slugs

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The Amelanchier is ready to flower any day now.

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The willow is in leaf already and looks wonderful with the evening sun streaming through it.

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My Rosa mutabilis is covered in delicate green/red foliage.

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And one of my auricula is looking beautiful !

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Apologies if I’m tempting fate and we end up having a month of heavy rain and snow but let’s hope not !

Looking back and forward…..

3 Jan

It’s that time of year again when it’s deemed appropriate to review the last 12 months and express disappointment in one’s performance and blame unexpected family commitments, unplanned overseas travel, or un scheduled box set binges. And then to look towards the approaching new year and to promise more commitment to the task in hand, combined with less procrastination.

Well, in a year long effort not to beat my self up too much about the few things I don’t actually achieve, and to take a little more credit for so much of what I have actually achieved….

I can say that I really enjoyed visiting this….

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And this…

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I learnt a few new things like this….

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And this …..

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I shall grow more of these….

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And these….

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I want to photograph more things like this….

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And this….

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I want to spend more time here….

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And here….

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I want to fill my house with more of these…..

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And these….

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I want to eat in more places like this….

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And this….

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I should probably eat more of these….

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And less of these….

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I must spend more time wearing these….

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But still make time to do more of this….

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And most importantly to make more time to appreciate things like this….

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And this….

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I’ll let you know how I get on !

Photos ( all mine)

1. Derek Jarman’s garden in Dungeness Kent
2. Sissinghurst Kent
3. Porcelain hearts
4. Appliquéd hare from workshop with Mandy Pattullo
5. American Dawn dahlia
6.asstd chillies
7. & 8. Beach combing still life
9. Loch Duich Rosshire Scotland
10. Isle of Lewis Outer Hebrides
11. Sweet peas
12. Flowers at Worton Organic
13. Worton Organic Oxfordshire
14.beach restaurant Istanbul
15. Amazing tomatoes from Worton Organic
16. Spiced blackberry bundt cake
17. My work boots
18. Liberty patchwork cushion
19. My favourite view Loch Duich Scotland
20. My favourite chair in my garden Warwickshire

Little things that help make work more enjoyable!

3 Dec

No one would call me a fussy man but I do like*…..,,,,,,, a well designed, well made, functional object. I don’t need fancy Christmas presents – a beautiful hand turned wooden spoon, a soft pair of alpaca boot socks, a hard wearing denim apron – all would be gratefully received !

And the same applies to my gardening equipment. It is used everyday and must perform so cheap, gimmicky products are a no no.

So here is a brief look at what works for me.

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First of all I need to keep warm and dry. I can’t afford to get cold and wet if I’m outside all day without the option to come inside to warm up/dry off. So these boots by Ilse Jacobsen are perfect. They’re fleece lined, natural rubber , with a good solid sole and I haven’t had cold wet feet since I bought them !

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Gloves are another must. Once the dirt gets ingrained into your fingernails it’s very difficult or shift and i don’t really want to look like a gardener all the time ! So these light weight gloves from Atlas have stood the test of time.They fit well, they stand up to general use but they are fine enough to do pricking out and seed sowing if needed. I throw them into the wash and they come out brand new. I used to be able to get them at the local garden centre but no more so I have resorted to buying a years worth direct from Atlas and so now have a rainbow of gloves to brighten my day up!

When the pruning gets serious – ie roses and pyracanthus – I use my Bradley pruning gauntlets. I was given a pair of these a long time ago and thought they were a bit impractical – pretty but not for serious Gardeners like me ! Well I was wrong! They are tough leather and suede and nothing gets through them. The leather glove part softens up beautifully after a couple minutes of wear and the suede gauntlet bit is invaluable for protecting your sleeves and and arms from nasty scratches. And the pink suede just makes me smile !

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Felco secateurs are world famous for good reasons. They are so sturdy they can cope with anything – I use the No.2 as they are small enough for my hands but strong enough to deal with most jobs. They rarely need sharpening but can be sharpened easily. And I feel quite naked if they’re not sitting snugly in my back pocket! In fact I now own two pairs as I lost them whilst gardening a few years back – must’ve fallen out of my pocket whilst I was wrestling with a large shrub – but luckily Felco do a next day delivery so I had a new shiny pair by the next day. And then 6 months later , in the same garden, the dog appeared at my side with my old ones in his mouth !

I also have a lovely pairs of snips from Burgeon & Ball – just a bit lighter and finer than my Felcos and great for deadheading and flower arranging.

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My go-to hand tool is my Sneeboer Great Dixter trowel. It’s the perfect size for wriggling weeds out between other plants and for planting bulbs. It also has my name on the handle which makes me feel very professional !

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And finally my newest and oldest tool – I picked up this gorgeous ladies border fork at the local junk shop for £3!! It probably needs a bit of tlc and oiling of the wood but otherwise it’s the perfect size for tickling border soil and forking out pernicious weeds.

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Do you have a favourite tool ?

* a quote from my favourite AA Milne poem -The Kings Breakfast!

This week’s Design Dilemma…

17 Feb

This week one of my clients came to me with a familiar issue regarding climbing plants.

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In today’s increasingly overlooked gardens and the desire to soften modern brickwork, I am often asked to cover boundaries and walls with some form of planting.
I have a list of favourites that I usually specify but I always come up against the same old issue – ‘ I want it to cover instantly, it must be evergreen, it must have flowers, and it must be maintenance free’ !!!
We’ll I’m not sure such a plant exists – if it does please tell me about it !

Those that insist on the fast option usually end up with this…….

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Whilst in their heads they’re after this…..

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In my own garden I go for the overgrown look……

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But this does entail a major attack every few years to keep it under control.

I generally specify roses on south / east or west facing walls as they grow at a rate that can be managed. The problem with the Clematis Montana and jasmines of this world are that they grow so fast that they just get away from you before you have a chance to establish a good framework of branches on a suitable trellis or wire support. A rose may not cover your wall in a season but you can manage its progress and once established it is relatively easy to keep it under control.

The same can be said of espalier fruit trees and wall trained shrubs such as ceanothus

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On north facing walls I’d go for hydrangea petiolaris , pyracanthus and garyya elliptica

If you want a bit of blousy amongst your climbing roses , grow a Clematis vitacella– the easiest form of clematis – late flowering , simply needs cutting down to the ground in spring and then will flower on that summers growth.

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Which climbers would you recommend ? Let me know !

 

Things I should’ve done in the garden this weekend…….but didn’t !!

27 Jan

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  • Remove the rather tatty leaves of Helleborus orientalis as the flowering buds are emerging. This way I get to see the flowers better and the plant will put up new fresh leaves.
  • Plant any left over bulbs – I put them in pots if I’m not sure where to put them in the garden.
  • Remove any perennial foliage that has been frosted and is now black and slimy !
  • Reduce the size of any over ambitious perennials in herbaceous beds – I have several geraniums that are rather thuggish !
  • Weed out perennial weeds that are now more visible as other things have died down. I struggle with geums, creeping buttercup and bittercress and its much easier to get them out now then later in the summer.

Photo above is to inspire me to get out there and tidy so that my garden looks just as gorgeous this summer !!

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