Archive for the ‘Plant Selection’ Category
Monday, July 18th, 2011
Summer is an exciting time for gardeners but, following the driest spring in over 100 years, UK Gardeners are facing a difficult time ahead.
According to the Met Office, England and Wales recorded the driest Spring since 1893 and it has meant problems for gardeners. Already this has meant gardeners having to plant seeds quicker and be more selective when deciding what to plant. They also need to consider how plants that will fare well in a hot dry summer will do when the cold eventually returns.
Of the recent dry weather, East Anglia was the worst affected area in the country as it has seen the driest spring for 101 years. And in Kent, gardeners are having to take extra measures to preserve that status.
Best plants for dry weather
- English Lavender
- Trees and shrubs
- Ornamental alliums
Dr Phil Gates, a senior lecturer in botany at Durham University, says “It’s a confusing time for gardeners as a lot of things that can be put in are high risk and may not survive the winter”.
Plants to avoid
- Bedding plants
- Salad crops such as lettuce and rocket
- Busy Lizzies
Plants such as geraniums and petunias are flourishing, as are wild flowers, whereas water-absorbing busy lizzies and salvias have all been given the cut. Gardeners are using hanging baskets with reservoirs to stop water seeping through the bottom as well as water retention tablets.
Dry weather gardening tips
- Scrape back the surface to make sure water goes to the roots
- Re-use house water, collect rain water
- For vegetables, step up watering two weeks before eating
- Water late at night so it’s absorbed before evaporating
- Add a layer of mulch to keep moisture in
- Don’t cut the lawn too short in the summer
- Put soaked newspaper under crops that need lots of water
- Use screens or windbreaks to reduce effects of drying winds
As average temperatures have increased the growing season has extended and when to plant seeds has also changed. If you want your roses to bloom perfectly in June, you really would have had to have planted them in October rather than in March, so that the roots can be established and get a good soaking over the winter months.
Monday, June 13th, 2011
The world of gardening has leapt into the 21st century with the creation of LeafSnap, a new mobile phone app, the first of its kind, that can identify a tree’s species by looking at a photograph of the leaf.
Using facial recognition technology to analyze the leaf’s contour, LeafSnap selects a match from its index of species. If it’s not entirely sure it will bring up a list of possibles which you can then browse to determine which tree’s leaf you’re holding. To make this easy, LeafSnap has a botanic dossier on all of its trees, including information about the tree’s habitat, growth, and other specifics (e.g. are the fruits poisonous or sweet?), as well as a collection of photographs that show the tree’s seeds, bark, flowers, and fruits. The tree’s entire life cycle is captured in a pocket-sized album, at very high resolution and the photographs can be magnified to examine it more closely.
The app also invites contributions from users who, having identified a leaf, can tag their tree and this data is then added to a collective map of the different species. While the guide is initially limited to species in the United States, plans are underway to expand its range.
Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Slightly wild areas or where a formal garden meets woodland are good places for spring bulbs and blossom. Small plants in soft pastel colours canopied by delicate blossom merge together to create a gentle and romantic look and planting on a slope means that you will see the blooms in more detail.
Preparation and planting:
- Clear, dig over and weed the main area for planting
- Plant the magnolia and prunus (cherry), staking them if necessary. Ideally, do this in autumn or winter although if the trees are container grown they can be planted any time.
- Plant hellebores randomly to look as natural as possible.
- Plant the bulbs (narcissus, muscari, chionodoxa and scilla) around the hellebores in small groups and drifts. For a natural effect, scatter the bulbs and plant them where they fall.
- Finally, plant pot-grown primroses and erythroniums. For ground cover, try spreading Vinca minor (lesser periwinkle) and Tiarella wherryi.
Monday, April 18th, 2011
How does your garden look at night ? The evening can extend our pleasure of the garden immensely. How often do we work all weekend in the garden then all week in an office and never take time to enjoy the triumphs of our labour. Evenings can be a time when we can enjoy and savour the garden, when moonlight illuminates the flowers and foliage and presents a different, almost surreal, experience.
The obvious way to enhance the darkness is to use flowers that are white or bright in colour. Many varieties are best viewed in the shadows, the popular impatiens is a lovely example of a simple everyday flower that thrives in shady locations; plant them in pots on the deck or in masses in the front of borders and see how they reflect the moonlight to create beautiful mounds of brightness. Tall elegant trumpet lilies, towering at the back of your border, their deep outer petals contrasting with the brightest of white, or golden yellow, centres that glow in the moonlight. Many flowering shrubs, such as peonies, roses and hydrangeas, come in brilliant whites and yellow to add splashes of brightness to borders in the evenings.
Bright foliage is another way to create an evening glow in the garden. Lamium spreads in the garden bed while the mint-green silvery coloured Silver Licorice forms long draping sweeps that shine in the moonlight.
The smell of a night garden can be quite intoxicating with aromas tending to carry further than in the daytime. Evening blooms have a strong fragrance to attract to attract night-flying moth pollinators. The heady smells of Trumpet Lilies, Alyssum and the sweet vanilla scent of Heliotrope are just a few to consider.
Careful garden planning and design can enhance the night garden. Place plants that suit the evening glow close to the house, windows and patio so you can enjoy the sights and smells. The use of artificial light can create shadows and reflections as well as serving a practical use. Twinkling Christmas lights, draped through trees or around pergolas create a magical glow for parties. Water features can look stunning at night, perhaps add candles to add to the moon’s reflections on the water
The visual impact of bright colours, the scents of flowers and the sounds of the evening combine to make the evening garden a place to calm and soothe the spirit. In the evening we often have more time to sit, relax and entertain. Make your garden one that shines at night.
Monday, April 4th, 2011
A well-tended garden is always attractive, but does it provide more than something pretty to look at? Whether yours is a minimalist Zen retreat or a riot of English country perennials, a few select items can turn any garden into a feast for the senses.
Hear your garden
Forget the wind chimes. Natural sounds are less intrusive and more relaxing.
- Water: You don’t have to install an expensive waterfall or pond to enjoy the sound of water. Modern fountains are affordable and often operate on little more than an electric pump. You won’t hear an engine, just the sound of trickling water.
- Birds: Feeding stations will have birds singing your praises, but many love flowers and berries which are easy to grow and will keep them happy.
- Sound of silence: A garden provides its own music. No trees in your area? Fast-growing pampas grass or bamboo provide privacy and gentle whispers.
Smell your garden
Many expensive fragrances mimic the scent of flowers. Create your own perfume counter from the ground up with these aromatic picks:
- At your feet: Walking on woolly thyme, creeping thyme or Corsican mint releases their fragrance. Plant these aromatic carpets on pathways or between flagstones.
- In the middle: Lavender makes a fragrant border while bergamot (the essential oil that gives Earl Grey tea its distinct flavour), releases a scent when brushed against. Peonies, iris and lily-of-the-valley are as fragrant as they are beautiful.
- Overhead: Flowering climbers, such as wisteria and honeysuckle, can dangle over arbours or pergolas, releasing their heady perfume as you walk by. Larger flowering shrubs, like lilac provide a fragrant hedge.
Touch your garden
No one wants to pet a cactus, but some flowers beg to be stroked or explored with the fingertips. Gardeners of all ages want to touch plants that are:
- Fuzzy: Moss and pussy willow are soft to the touch and provide visual texture.
- Feathery: The silky tufts of feather grass help this plant live up to it’s name.
- Papery: Silver pennies, Chinese Lanterns and Globe Amaranth are so delicate and paper-like, they feel more like art projects than plants.
Taste your garden
Not all plants are edible, but these plants are delicious and safe—providing you don’t use chemical herbicides or pesticides.
- Herbs: Easy-to-grow herbs include rosemary, mint, basil, thyme, oregano and chives. Nibble them straight from the garden or bring them into the kitchen to add a fresh boost to soups, salads and meat dishes.
- Edible flowers: Nasturtiums’ peppery flavour makes a spicy and stylish garnish for soups or salads, while delicate roses, violets and pansies can beautify any dessert.
- Fruits and vegetables: No room for a vegetable patch? No worries. All you need are a few pots or a fence. Strawberry planters provide a cascade of berries while sugar-sweet cherry tomatoes grow well in pots. Runner beans can grow over fences providing a crunchy treat after their showy flowers have disappeared.
Monday, March 21st, 2011
Many flowering and foliage shrubs including hollies, Japanese maples and camellias will thrive in containers with a little care and will be a focal point in your garden. So whatever the size of your plot, you can include a shrub in a tub.
Growing shrubs in containers is also a good opportunity to try plants that you might not be able to grow elsewhere in your garden as you can create bespoke planting conditions. For example, if you want to experiment with acid-loving shrubs and you don’t have the right soil, it’s ideal.
What to do
- There’s a vast range of containers available in all sorts of shapes, colours and sizes, and made from many different materials including metal, stone, plastic and wood. Pick a container that suits the style of your garden and is large enough for the roots of your plant to grow and heavy enough to balance the top-heavy growth.
- Make sure it has drainage holes and if you go for terracotta, buy good quality, frost-proof pots.
- Use John Innes no 2 compost. It has more nutrients and drains better than general purpose compost. The compost is also heavier, which will prevent plants from being blown over in the wind.
- Plants like rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias need special ericaceous compost, ideal for acid-loving plants.
How to plant
- Put a layer of broken terracotta pot or even chunks of polystyrene at the bottom of pots. This will prevent drainage holes from becoming clogged up with compost and soil from falling out. Good drainage stops roots from being damaged by water logging and prevents damage over winter, where frozen water can expand and cause the container to crack.
- Standing the container on pot feet or even bricks will also help it to drain more effectively.
- Fill pots with John Innes 2 compost or ericaceous compost for acid-loving plants.
- Mix in a handful of controlled release fertiliser granules. Depending on the formulation, this will feed the plant for several months. Shrubs grown in ericaceous compost can be given a special fertiliser for acid-loving plants.
- Containers need regular watering, even after heavy rain, as shrubs have large root systems that take up a lot of water. In hot or dry weather they may need watering once or twice a day.
- After the initial feed has run out, give plants a boost with liquid feed added to a watering can.
- If your shrub appears to lack vigour or is too large for its pot, repot into a slightly larger container. Remove from old pot, teasing out the roots gently if they’re congested.
- If your plant doesn’t need re-potting, perk it up annually by removing the top 5-10cm (2in-4in) of compost in the spring, taking care not to damage the roots. Replace with fresh compost that has been mixed with a few controlled release fertiliser granules.
- Container-grown plants are more at risk from damage than plants growing in the border. Protect plants with fleshy roots, such as camellias and hollies, by wrapping the pots with bubble wrap. Move tender plants into a sheltered place, such as a porch or cold greenhouse, to help get them through the worst of the winter weather.
Monday, February 7th, 2011
Here’s a can’t-miss tip for beautifying your garden: make sure you’re providing something of interest in each of the four seasons. DIY landscaping for 4-season interest begins with a well researched plan for plant selection. The aim is to have flowering trees and/or shrubs throughout spring and summer, followed by autumn foliage and good structure in winter.
Garden design for year-round interest begins by drawing a landscape plan. Unless your property is very large, trees and shrubs simply take up too much space for you to plant them haphazardly. For smaller properties, it is better to allocate space for trees and shrubs in a methodical and disciplined manner so that they don’t end up outgrowing their homes and causing problems.
Consequently, tree and shrub selection must take into consideration the mature sizes of the plants. Other practical issues such as the sun and soil requirements for the trees and shrubs that you have in mind must also be taken into account.
Once you’ve researched the practical issues, you can allow your more creative side to shift into gear. But remember, the idea is to distribute the colour that trees and shrubs offer across the four seasons, as equally as possible, so as to achieve year-round interest.