May 2015

May 1st, 2015

Woodland gardening and Beth Chatto

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. Read More...

April 2015

April 12th, 2015

Primroses and violets

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. Read More...

March 2015

March 29th, 2015

Allotments, compost and a flowering cherry

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! Read More...

February 2015

February 17th, 2015

Get your garden ready for the new season now!

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; Read More...

December 2014

December 28th, 2014

Looking good in December

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. Read More...

November 2014

November 29th, 2014

Putting the garden to bed for winter

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. Read More...

October 2014

October 1st, 2014

Winter scent

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. Read More...

August 2014

August 3rd, 2014

Structural plants for drama

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). Read More...

July 2014

July 23rd, 2014

The Chelsea chop, getting the hang of astrantias, and fab ferns

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. Read More...

June 2014

June 3rd, 2014

Roses rule in June

The June garden speaks to me in roses. I know some are out earlier in the year, but walking through the sight and smell of their gorgeous blooms gladdens my poor old gardeners’ heart right now. Talking of earlies, if you passed our front gate late April/early May you will have seen a single, yellow flowering rose covering our front gate. That is R. ‘Canary Bird’. It is really easy shrub rose so not fussy about pruning, with lovely ferny leaves. Apart from the odd smattering of flowers later on it tends to only flower once but it is a really good show when it does. R. Glauca flowers mid spring; good for more natural settings as it is a small, species rose with small pink flowers. We have it as underplanting in an area shaded by silver birches. It copes well and has big, showy hips later on. Read More...