November 22, 2013
Early Winter gardening notes
We did quite well with our long mild Autumn. The leaves are late falling and some bedding plants survived in sheltered places up to last week, as have Dahlias. We have been happy (apart from getting wet) with the delay of the hard frosts. The only conditions that we struggle to work in is frozen ground and snow. Actually snow is not too bad because at least we can make ourselves useful clearing paths etc.
There is still time to plant bulbs, just about. It is good to chose different varieties of daffodil, some flowering early and some later. One thinks of Narcissus as having smaller flowering heads with white elements to the flower and Daffodil being lager, bolder and yellow. They are actually all from the Narcissus genus, technically. When planting, as a rule of thumb, plant to twice the depth of the length of the bulb with the root end at the bottom, obviously.
Roses need pruning now. We prune hard and we prune once. If you prune half way down now with the intention of doing the rest in March, it is easy to miss the boat because once the new shoots form there is a reluctance to cut them down.
Any leaves with black spot or any other fungal disfigurement will hopefully be taken out at the pruning stage. If you have time pick off any remaining leaves and remove from the bed.
Time to move pots into sheltered positions. Any pot based Acers and exotics will need to be protected from the worst of the frost and as importantly the wind. Find a position which is a south facing nook or cranny for maximum effect. I gave up on trying to cover shrubs in cotton fleeces etc. They always seem to unravel in the wind - most frustratingly!
Clear pots of the summer flowering bedding plants. Panzies are now past their best and can be dead headed and left until the Spring when they should come back with some warm March sunshine. Again they should be placed in a sheltered south facing place. Cyclamen are the best pot plant to give flowering interest up to Xmas, or the first really severe cold snap. They need good drainage and less rather than more watering.
Leaves need clearing off the lawns by the end of the month with the exception of Oak which will not fall until mid December. It is a mast year (loads of acorns). The word mast comes from the medieval word maest which means nuts of the forest. Nobody knows what causes a mast year although there is a chemical signal hypothesis. Acorns are difficult to deal with because they can't be raked (they pass through the teeth of the rake) and you wouldn't want to individually pick them up! We use very powerful blowers to blow them into piles such that they can be picked up with leaf grabbers and taken away. Alternatively you could hire pigs to eat them or rats....
Best wishes from Charles
September 22, 2013
Late Summer Gardening Notes
There is some decent weather coming up so please don't give up on Summer yet! It is time to freshen up the pots and hanging baskets. Pansies are a good bet and in particular I like violas, which are like a mini version and very free flowering. Asters (Michaelmas Daisies) are an excellent choice for pots and will give colour for 3-4 weeks. You have to love the vibrant Autumn colours of blues and mauves with a softness unique to the cultivar.
Please continue to dead head. As well as making tidy it will encourage new buds. Rather than pulling off dead heads of the roses, it's best to cut the stem approx. 2 inches down from the head. With a mild spell of weather roses will flower twice and well into October and exceptionally into November.
Now is the best time to plant new shrubs. The soil is warm and also moist, an ideal growing environment. Shrubs planted in the early Autumn get a head start the following year.
Sweet William plants (Dianthus) as well as Wall Flowers should now be planted. Sweet William is a biennial so it is planted at the end of one season as an immature plant and then will flower the following year. It is a charming plant with lots of small vivid red and mauve flowers needing little attention and flowering through the season.
Wall flowers are also a biennial. They are put in now as small plants and will flower very early the following season. A little old fashioned, their virtue is that of economy, with a large bunch costing only a few pounds and the fact that they flower very early.
It is good to put a treatment on the grass around now. There are the Autumn treatments with a special moss formula containing ferrous sulphate, which is advisable if there is already a serious moss problem. Otherwise I have found that a regular slow release feed does just as well. Feeding and treating at this time does benefit the grass for next season giving it a head start and most importantly reducing the development and infestation of moss. Moss is caused by low light, bad drainage, but most importantly cutting too short early and late in the season. I know that we all love those beautiful stripes but you must consider those poor little blades of grass fighting for their life against the evil weeds and moss. The lady who delivers our local paper was kind enough to say to me that I had the best piece of grass in the whole area. Now I am not one to boast, but I do know what I am talking about!
This months featured shrub is the common Viburnam , which you will find in almost every garden. It is an evergreen late winter flowering shrub with a delicate white flower tinged with pink which needs trimming very early in the season to give it sufficient time to form it's buds for next year. Very robust, they seem to live for ever becoming large and bushy. So, the upside is the nice early flowing. The downside is that it looks untidy for most of the summer and mature shrubs have a tendency to smell of old socks mid to late season....
Best wishes from Charles
May 1, 2013
May Gardenig Notes
We are struggling into Spring with the East wind relenting for the odd day. Everything is so late, although it all happens quite quickly once the temperature stays over 10 degrees for more that just a couple of hours. The daffs have lasted so long this season. It is time to dead head now so that all their energy gets concentrated into building the bulb for the following year. Please leave the foliage until the end of May to allow for the photosynthesis process to do it's stuff.
The Red Robins are now looking stunning with their bright crimson leaf tips. They have become stressed this year and hence suffering with black spot (they are part of the rose family) because of the long cold and wet Winter. Best to discard any fallen leaves and spray with a fungicide if you are worried. It will not cure the existing but will help not to get worse.
Now is the time to walk around the garden and tidy any frost damaged shrubs. You can test if it alive by scraping the stem with the secateurs blade. If it shows green then it is alive but if brown and with a woody feel than it is deceased. Cut back any section of the shrub with scorched leaves. Hopefully the rest will prosper and fill in the gap. If in doubt then give it a chance until the end of the month.
It is quite a good time to plant fresh shrubs this month while the soil is warming up but the sun not too hot. You will need to keep an eye on them for one season until they establish. Some shrubs will dry out and become damaged more easily than others. An example is the Hydrangea which will become easily damaged if allowed to become parched. On the other hand Photina Red Robin is quite drought tolerant.
Please don't be tempted to plant out summer bedding until the end of the second week in May. You will only add to the profits of the garden centers when you need to go back in for a second lot.....
Best wishes from Charles
March 11, 2013
It takes more than one mild afternoon (Tuesday 5th) to make a Springtime. It has been a long cold winter. The grass in particular is suffering, with moss enjoying it's perfect conditions of low direct sunlight and damp ground. We will only be grass cutting very lightly and to tidy on our first visit ensuring that we leave some longer grass growth. See it as being like a horse retaining it's winter coat a little longer.
I know that the daffs are only just coming into flower, but once finished it is best not to cut down the foliage too quickly. I know that it can look untidy, but resist running the lawn mower over them until end April, giving them a chance to take in the nutrients that will help them return strongly the following year.
In terms of pot plants, it is too early for pansies. For flowering interest then primroses are the best bet. These will survive cold conditions (but not arctic) and being a woodland plant are shade tolerant. It is necessary to make sure that they don't dry out in the chilly wind. Easy to overlook watering in the Winter.
Now is a good time to target bare grass patches. All our teams carry grass seed and we would be pleased to apply on request. Larger areas need forward planning and the special purchase of materials and probably a special visit.
It is the last chance to prune roses before they develop active shoots. Always cut hard and you will be rewarded with strong and vigorous shrubs. Some rich organic manure or compost could be dug around the plant at this time. No need for seasoned well-rotted manure, the rose will take it as soon as it becomes available.
This months featured shrub is Rhododendron. This slow growing evergreen shrub is an acid lover and normally prospers in a line south of the Thames. When planting new shrubs please dig in generous amounts of ericaceous compost to guarantee success. The shrub flowers early in the season and if you feel it necessary to trim then do so soon after it finishes flowering to give it a chance to form new bud for the following year.
Let's hope for mild weather soon. The cool weather will have the advantage of extending the life of the flowering spring bulbs, but everything else suffers......
Best wishes from Charles
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