June 14th, 2015
At the time of writing this – mid May – the oriental poppies are coming into bud. They are so quickly over I vow every year to look them out every day to make sure I enjoy every minute of their short lives. My best laid plans to stake them properly and effectively early in May have been forgotten as usual ; the best way when I have got round to it is to use brushwood stuck into the ground around and between them. It disappears as the poppies grow up and looks more natural than those green wirey jobs.
May 1st, 2015
A new friend walked round ‘Charnwood’ with me in March and kindly commented on how she appreciated the naturalistic style of planting; ‘a woodland garden’ was her description. Those of you who read this column regularly will know that this is a big compliment – I am not in the ‘neat’ or ‘formal’ garden fan club. That’s not to say that, if you like it neat, I am right and you are wrong; one of the fun things about gardening is that we all do it in different ways. Not all of us are verging on being obsessive about plants like me; most of you are much better balanced human beings. The trick is to combine your favourite plants in an overall scheme that works for you, your family and your pets. Dogs and cats in my experience aren’t fab gardeners.
April 12th, 2015
Easter means primroses, cowslips and violets to me. Daffodils too, but I have written many times about those fab bulbs, so it’s the first two lovelies I am going to wax lyrical about this time.
The name ‘Primula veris’, the cowslip, appeared in literature as a remedy as far back as 1101. Leonardo da Vinci was supposed to have found their leaves tasty – I don’t recommend you try that at home! The common primrose Primula vulgaris has also been around for centuries, and the two often cross pollinate to make what is commonly called the false oxlip, P. variabilis. It’s is a big family, also producing polyanthus which flood our garden centres in March and April with a massive range of bright colours. Polyanthis means ‘many flowers’ and you will see if you look closely they have several flowers at the end of one stem, unlike the primrose.
March 29th, 2015
I’ve a friend who is really excited as she is about to take custody of an allotment. You will know if you read this column regularly that I’m no Monty Don when it comes to vegetable gardening, but when she asked for advice I suggested two things I could not be without in any garden: compost bins and fruit. We share our garden with too many rabbits to grow many leafy crops!
February 17th, 2015
I hope you gardeners have some good, strong gloves, a warm coat, sharp secateurs and a compost bin empty and ready to be filled. Between now and April is the time to get out there and get ready for the rest of the year; time spent now is always worthwhile and saves more work later on. Here are a few jobs to get you going:
• Wisteria should be hard pruned now. If you have an already established framework of stems, make sure they are well tied in and cut back each branch to 2 or 3 buds (see photo). It sounds drastic, but you will be rewarded with more flowers. Do it in a mild spell and give it a good water and a handful of bonfire ash or sulphate of potash to get those flowers moving;
December 28th, 2014
Our little woodland area is looking lovely at the moment with many small clumps of hardy cyclamen sprinkled around in pink and white. There are precious few flowers around at this time of year so they are a very welcome sight.
November 29th, 2014
If you’re a bit of a dreamer like me the mild weather may have lulled you into a false sense of security – or more accurately a false sense that the garden will stay looking like it’s late summer for the next 6 months! Clearly, and as certain as death and taxes, winter will come, so it’s worth getting ready for it. As much as anything else a bit of planning and toil now will not only get your garden looking tidier, but it can also make sure you have a good show next year.
October 1st, 2014
Now the days are getting shorter, time in the garden is more precious, especially if you are out at work all day. Sitting among the flowers or under a tree in a favourite spot is a lovely, relaxing way to end the day so it’s worth doing a bit of planning.
Scent is a big consideration. A waft of something nice and smelly in the evening is fabulous with a glass or a cup of something recuperative. It’s easy in the spring and summer when there are roses, honeysuckle and stocks; we are spoilt for choice, but what about the colder months? Here’s a few suggestions:
Several of the Virburnums have gorgeous scents. There is a winter flowering one V. bonantense with little pink flowers that smell of almonds. In spring V. judii comes into its own, one of the best perfumes of all in my humble opinion, fills the whole garden.
August 3rd, 2014
How do you like your flower borders – cottagey, neat, blousy, colour themed, bold as brass? We all have our own preferred style, apart from those of us who just buy a plant, dig a hole and enjoy it. Who is to say which of us is right? In the end it’s your garden so do what you want and have fun. (barring illegal and antisocial stuff I hasten to add).
July 23rd, 2014
Have you heard of the ‘Chelsea chop’? If not, it’s nothing to do with what you may be having for dinner. It refers to the practice of cutting back your perennials early this month (or bit earlier, hence the nod to Chelsea flower Show at the end of May) to make them shorter so less likely to flop and flower a little later. It works well with plants such as the bigger sedums, phlox and helenium.
It does look a bit drastic, so what I do is cut some back and leave the rest. That way you get a longer flowering season. Of course if you have wonderfull y staked, sturdy plants there is no need.