Category Archives: Garden Design

Autumn Pruning – some Questions and Answers

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Plews Weekend Blog

Our regular blog has moved back to the website – or more precisely moved onto the new website!

you can find it here –

http://plewsgardendesign.co.uk/autumn-pruning-questions-answers/

We’re still sorting out a few wrinkles but  you shouldnt have any problems still following the blog; if you do please drop us an email and we’ll do our best to sort it.

To celebrate our new website, there’ll be a special offer in the October monthly e-newsletter; you can sign up and find out what it is on the website: http://plewsgardendesign.co.uk

Your feedback is appreciated

Marie, Nathan and all the Team at Plews Garden Design

Resolving Your Gardening Issues

Plews Garden Design Team including Sharpe

Plews Garden Design Team including Sharpe

Plews Potting Shed – Information for You

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We’re moving this gardening blog onto our new Plews website very shortly. You should be able to find us ok, as we’re hoping to have an automatic re-direct. But we’ll add the link on here as soon the new site is live.

We’ll be celebrating when it’s all done, and we’ll be posting up an offer for you, Gentle Reader as well.

This Harvest and Autumn Equinox weekend will see the Plews Blog still here, so until then, why not click on this link to one of our  ‘how to’ videos  and enjoy a Harvest Festival picture of the Earth Mother , Gaia, from the front cover of  Plews Autumn Almanac. We hope you keep following, reading and viewing us as we’ll still be following you.

Marie, Nathan and the Plews Team

Plews Garden Design – Resolving Your Gardening Issues with Inspirational Ideas and Flexible Solutions
In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design - cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design – cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

Spring flowering bulbs

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bulbs laid out ready to plant

bulbs laid out ready to plant

Although it is possible to have bulbous plants flowering in your garden nearly all year, most of us in the UK and USA treat spring as the most important season for a flowering bulb display. Although they flower in the spring, these bulbs need to be planted in the autumn; so now is the time to be planning and purchasing your spring flowering bulbs.

At Plews we don’t generally plant too many bulbs at one go. Planting hundreds in one day is a chore we leave to those who have park displays to organise. However, we do offer bulb planning and planting as part of our service to regular clients, as well as part of an overall garden or planting design. Designing and planting containers whether for seasonal variation or for a special occasion is one of those tasks which is pleasant to add into a regular maintenance schedule.

Rather than dashing into spring bulb buying and then regretting the result next year, make yourself a coffee and

“Take the time to plan before you buy. Some questions you may like to ask yourself: are you planting in borders, containers, naturalising in grass? How many containers and how big are they? If in the borders, let’s be practical, consider how many bulbs you have the time to plant. Oh yes, and is there currently room in the border where you’d like to plant or do you still have late flowering Helenium and dahlias in full bloom?

Let’s find some answers. If your borders are still full and looking lovely, then congratulate yourself on a having a fine late display of colour. Make a note to look for and buy later flowering tulips and narcissus (daffodils). These could be planted when your Heleniums have gone over and still flower when they should next year. Another option is to buy the early flowering varieties you covet but plant them in pots. A further choice is to accept that they are likely to flower a bit later as you’ve planted them later.”

(Extract from Plews eBook “In Your Autumn Garden”)

Tulip 'dolls minuet'

Tulip ‘dolls minuet’

As for planting, the rule of thumb is to plant bulbs about three times as deep as the diameter of the bulb. This could be time consuming if you’re going to measure each one! The rough guide we use at Plews is that for larger bulbs, for example, Tulip, Daffodil and Hyacinth, we make a hole about 6-8” or 15-20cm deep. For smaller bulbs, for example, Crocus, Muscari, Bluebell, we make the hole about 4-5” or 10-12cm deep.

So, what are some of the more popular spring flowering bulbs? Some of Plews favourite spring flowering bulbs are:

Narcissus 'jetfire'

Narcissus ‘jetfire’

For vibrant displays:

Narcissus ‘February Gold’ and Narcissus ‘jet fire’ – a mix of to give you a brightly coloured display to liven up your mornings from February to April;

Bright red Tulip ‘Red Riding Hood’ has variegated foliage so extends the interest beyond flowering time; looks good in pots and borders.

Hyacinth 'Delft blue'

Hyacinth ‘Delft blue’

For softer shades:

Tulipa ‘dolls minuet’ has soft crimson red petals, with the subtle markings of the viridiflora tulip group;

Hyacinth ‘delft blue’ has the added pleasure of a delicate scent; plant it near a door so you can enjoy the perfume.

daffodils and pansies in patio container

daffodils and pansies in patio container

Remember to protect your bulbs once planted, so the squirrels don’t dig them up. If you’re planting in pots, we’ve found that adding shallow rooted winter bedding over the top of the spring bulbs generally works. The flowers in your winter display should keep going until your spring bulbs flower; how organised is that!

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design
Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design - cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design – cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

Planting Ideas for Colourful Autumn Borders

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Dahlia 'Ruskin marigold'

Dahlia ‘Ruskin marigold’

We’re in September; schools have started and university looms; for some people it’s a chance to take a well–earned break away from the crowds; for others it brings an opportunity to spend more time in the garden and on the garden.

The following ideas are taken from a chapter in our newly published eBook “In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design”.

“A jewel-box autumn border with contrasts of flower and foliage is easy to plant and enjoy. Why not try some of these suggestions; you may have time to put them in and enjoy this season, but if not, then why not look out for some end of season bargains and snap them up ready for next year?”

Sedum 'purple emperor'

Sedum ‘purple emperor’

Sedum telephium ‘purple emperor’ has flat heads of ruby red flowers and chocolate purple foliage. The seed heads can be left on over winter; they’re very decorative when silvered with frost.

Ceratostigma wilmottianum is the 3 foot tall shrub, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides is the ground covering version. Both have rich, gentian-blue flowers and foliage which becomes redder as autumn progresses. Red and blue together on the same plant – maybe it’s a Crystal Palace Football Club fan?

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Cotinus coggygria ‘royal purple’ (‘smoke bush’) although deciduous, this bush keeps its red-purple foliage well into October; the leaves are sometimes flecked with shocking pink. Here it has yellow Solidago (Golden Rod) planted in front, which gives definition to the Solidago as it can sometimes be a bit straggly.

Cotinus coggygria ‘royal purple’ and Solidago (Golden Rod)

Cotinus coggygria ‘royal purple’ and Solidago (Golden Rod)

Dahlia ‘Ruskin marigold’ (above) is a really solid orange colour; like all dahlias it will keep flowering until the frosts blacken the foliage. Still with the red spectrum, Helianthemum ‘moorheim beauty’ has yellow/orange / bronze flowers that add depth to an autumn planting scheme (below)

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea has flat-petalled reddish pink daisy flowers which provide late season nectar for bees. For an architectural dimension Stipa gigantea (giant oats) is stunning against an autumn sky; the rustle of the grass adds sound and movement to a planting scheme.

stipa gigantea

stipa gigantea

And as a backdrop to all this floral exuberance, why not have Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)? Hopefully this has inspired you into planting an autumn border full of colourful flowers and bright foliage; we like to help! Drop us an email if you’d like to know more.

Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design


Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

Helenium 'moorheim beauty'

Helenium ‘moorheim beauty’

 

 

 

Turquoise birds and turquoise flowers

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blue pottery bird and geraniums

blue pottery bird and geraniums

“How do you find the inspiration to design gardens?” is a question I’m often asked. So I thought I’d share one of the ways in which this particular garden designer finds her inspiration to create a practical paradise in your ‘back yard’.

A few days away in a different part of the country where ‘things to do’ did not specifically include gardens to visit offered an opportunity to enjoy some different pleasures, including local food and attractions. However, habits are not easy to break, and I still found myself awake early and needing to go out for a run, dog or no dog! The weather was lovely and a walk / run through a local nature reserve was hardly a hardship. On the contrary I had the (for me) rare delight of seeing a Kingfisher; that flash of cyan blue is unmistakable.

These birds are such a stunning shade of turquoise, that later, whilst I was sipping my morning espresso, it made me think; turquoise is not a colour we often find in our garden flowers. It is one of my favourite colours (along with purple) and I began to ponder on whether it would be possible to have a ‘turquoise garden’ along the lines of the ‘white garden’ at Sissinghurst.

Meconopsis betonicifolia ‘lingholm blue’

Meconopsis betonicifolia ‘lingholm blue’

So which flowers could grow in a turquoise garden? Of course I thought of the Himalayan blue poppy, Meconopsis betonicifolia; Meconopsis ‘lingholm blue’ has petals of a particularly good shade of turquoise that retain their brightness. Readers of earlier blogs may recollect I extolled the delights of Meconopsis in Scottish gardens last year and at RHS Chelsea Flower Show this May. Personally, I have not been successful in growing Himalayan poppies; or rather I’ve managed to grow them but not to retain them for subsequent years. They are slightly tricky to establish needing cool damp conditions and an acidic soil; it is the cool damp that I have a problem with but I shall be trying again (although not when we’re promised a long hot summer!)

Around the feet of the poppies I would grow Forget-me-nots or Myosotis sylvatica. These delightful self-seeding annuals are easy maintenance gardening; let a few of them set seed and you have a guaranteed floral carpet the following spring. The petal colours are generally a turquoise blue, but pale blue, white and even pale pink variations are all possible.

Forget-me-nots

Forget-me-nots

Another annual flower that self seeds so offers low maintenance gardening is Nigella damascena or Love-in-a-mist. Like the Forget -me-not, there is some variation in the flower colour, especially after a few years, when there seems to be a higher incidence of whites and pale blues amongst the turquoise. This dilution of our chosen jewel colour once a bit of interbreeding occurs can be avoided by preventing the flowers from dispersing their seed. Nigella damascena ‘Miss Jekyll’ has petals that are sky blue but I have in the past found a few rogues in subsequent years to be a cyan tinged sky blue.

Nigella damascena

Nigella damascena

So far we’ve had turquoise flowers in our turquoise garden from April through to July, but the fine weather isn’t over and neither are the turquoise flowers for your garden. We can extend the season with a Hydrangea. There are plenty of blue hydrangeas and some of these do tend towards a turquoise hue. I particularly like Hydrangea macrophylla ‘brestenburg’, one of the mop head Hydrangeas. Those close packed domes of flowers pack a colourful punch at the end of the summer. Holehird Gardens in Cumbria hold one of the National Collections of Hydrangeas.

Like the Himalayan poppies we began with, to get the best turquoise blue hydrangea you need an acid garden soil. But also like the poppies it is possible to grow hydrangeas in a raised bed or (large) pot if your soil is not right. Both the Forget-me-nots and the Love-in-a-mist are easy to give the right soil to as they’re fairly tolerant; to the extent of seeding themselves in the cracks between paving stones. Seedlings in the wrong place are easily lifted and thrown onto the compost heap.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘brestenburg’

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘brestenburg’

So a turquoise flowering spring and summer garden is possible. As for what other flowers and foliage would complement or contrast the turquoise – well, why not drop us an email and ask about our planting design service?

I couldn’t finish this blog about turquoise flowers without mentioning the (not quite turquoise) Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys). This tropical beauty, seen here in the RHS Wisley glasshouse where it has produced a record number of hanging flower trusses this year. This climbing Philippine native produces flowers of a stunning aquamarine colour; you can see it at Wisley, Kew and in the botanic gardens of Oxford and Cambridge Universities; it flowers from April – July.

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design
Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

Jade Vine

Jade Vine

Rose gardens – can you smell the scent of paradise?

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Hever Castle rose garden

Hever Castle rose garden

Roses are one of those flowers that need to have a perfume. There’s such a choice from delicate through to musky that it seems a waste of the olfactory sense not to have aromatic roses. Roses have a long history in our gardens, and while Rose gardens waver in and out of fashion; roses themselves never totally leave the worldwide top ten favourite flowers list.

Southsea rose garden -Rosa rhapsody in blue

Southsea rose garden -Rosa rhapsody in blue

This is a small selection of some of the rose gardens we’ve visited in the last year or so. They are gardens which are purely a rose garden, or are a separate rose garden within larger gardens. Unfortunately the internet doesn’t yet have a ‘scratch and sniff’ facility, so you’ll need to use your imagination, but the warm sun certainly brought out the exotic and subtle scents for us to enjoy when we visited these rose gardens.

Southsea rose garden

Southsea rose garden

Southsea Rose Garden in Portsmouth has been developed on the site of a Victorian fort – ‘Lumps fort’ on the esplanade. High walls surround the roses, and this helps retain their delightful scent, as Portsmouth is notoriously gusty! Not all rose varieties like the salty air but this garden has a selection well beyond the trusty Rosa rugosa. Good use is made of the brick pergolas with roses climbing up and over these; and the axis of the main avenue has the sea beyond as its focal point.

Southsea rose garden - pergola

Southsea rose garden – pergola

The Rose Garden in Greenwich Park lies next to the eighteenth century Rangers House, at the top of the hill; more Blackheath than Greenwich. The arc shaped beds give a long vista of roses and allow a strolling between borders with opportunity to stop and sniff.

Greenwich Park rose garden

Greenwich Park rose garden

Greenwich Park rose garden - Rosa loving memory

Greenwich Park rose garden – Rosa loving memory

We visited after the ‘Run for Life’ in aid of cancer and were particularly pleased to find that our favourite rose for scent and colour combined was Rosa ‘loving memory’.

Greenwich Park rose garden -sniffing the roses

Greenwich Park rose garden -sniffing the roses

In Nymans rose garden (a rose garden within a larger garden) it was interesting to see the use of some companion planting; in this case, Nepeta, or catmint.

Nymans rose garden - underplanting with nepeta

Nymans rose garden – underplanting with nepeta

Roses, like many plants, thrive when planted in a community rather than as a single species. Nepeta offers both aesthetic companion planting with soft foliage and purple blue flowers complementing all the roses in the garden, but also ‘true’ companion planting, as it helps deter pests.

Nymans rose garden

Nymans rose garden

Still with the companion planting, we spotted this standard rose surrounded by lavender in Hever Castle gardens, although not in their delightful walled rose garden.

Hever Castle garden - rose underplanted with lavender

Hever Castle garden – rose underplanted with lavender

At Penshurst Place, the rose garden also sports companion planting. Furry leaved Stachys byzantina offers a silver ground covering carpet with purple flowers spikes in summer.

Penshurst Place rose garden - underplanting with stachys

Penshurst Place rose garden – underplanting with stachys

Paired with white flowering standard roses this is a subtle combination and one to copy in any sunny border; perhaps one rose at each end of the border with Stachys below, then the rest of the border filled with Santolina, Lavender and white Lychnis coronaria: lovely.

Penshurst Place rose garden - sundial

Penshurst Place rose garden – sundial

The silver foliage planting I’ve just suggested as a design idea for a south facing border would look good all year as, except for the rose, the planting is all evergreen. The bees would love it too.

Happy sniffing!

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design
Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

Sitting in the garden enjoying the sun or sitting on a cool veranda in the shade?
“In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design” – the newest in our series of Gardening Almanacs makes good reading wherever you are.

Hever Castle rose garden - falling petals

Hever Castle rose garden – falling petals

Summer gardens – summer holidays – architectural plants that can cope without watering

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teasels in bud

teasels in bud

Most established planting, both shrubs and herbaceous perennials, should be fine without watering by you, whether you’re at home or away. This does assume that the soil is good and that the plants have been chosen correctly, shade lovers in a sunny border are not going to be happy, for example.

This isn’t a blog about drought tolerant planting (that’s another one) but some suggestions for planting that will be quite happy if you ignore it and don’t water it, don’t deadhead it but simply admire it. I was considering the idea from a ‘going on your summer holiday’ perspective, but the plants are easy maintenance once established so would of course be happy in your garden at all times of the year.

persicaria red dragon

persicaria red dragon

The term architectural planting generally describes tall, statuesque plants often seen in very contemporary gardens, although it also includes ornamental grasses, Phormiums and bamboos. People are often put off from choosing some of these plants, concerned that they may not fit into a mixed border, or might be too big for their garden. Generally speaking though, adding a ‘wow’ plant can really lift a border, giving it a new lease of life.

Architectural plants may be herbaceous perennials, annuals and shrubs as well as ornamental grasses and bamboos, and it is herbaceous perennials that I’ll be suggesting as if it’s your first foray into architectural plants you may feel reassured by the domestic familiarity of plants which die back over winter and shoot up in the summer.

acanthus mollis

acanthus mollis

The plants will work as part of cottage style planting, minimalist and contemporary gardens, many historically inspired schemes (the Victorians in particular were great Plant hunters and introduced quantities of species to Britain). They’ll also be useful in potager and ornamental kitchen gardens as pollinating insects and predator insects will be encouraged in by their flowers.

persicaria

persicaria

Persicaria are members of the knotweed or Polygonaceae family, but are now often referred to as smartweeds, rather than knotweeds to distinguish them from their invasive cousins. Persicaria like a moist or damp soil and will tolerate shade partial shade and sun, but this latter with moist soil, or it will droop and look unhappy. There are a range of varieties to choose from, with the dark pink flowered Persicaria ‘firetail’, the bronze leaved Persicaria microcephala ‘red dragon’, and the edible Vietnamese coriander, Persicaria odorata.

acanthus flower

acanthus flower

Acanthus mollis, ‘bear’s breeches’ is a wonderfully architectural herbaceous perennial that is drought tolerant, so will not notice if you’re away on your holidays and haven’t watered it. What Acanthus is not so keen on though, is being under the shade of evergreen trees, where it has to fight for its water and nutrients; it grows to a large plant and doesn’t do so well with competition. However, it will cope with being grown against a wall, so long as the soil is humus rich at root level. With its glossy green leaves and tall flower spikes Acanthus mollis suits both modern and cottage garden planting. Acanthus spinosus has similar leaves but with a spine at the tip – hence ‘spinosus’.

giant scabious in garden

giant scabious in garden

Giant scabious (Cephalaria gigantea) is a plant that is happy in the Isle of Skye, Cornwall, Greater London and all gardens in between. With large heavily dissected foliage and soft yellow flowers that are fascinating from bud stage to seed head this plant has to be a winner. Bees and pollinating insects also adore the flowers, whilst birds enjoy the seed heads. The flowers are carried on long stems and may need staking in very dry conditions, so if you’re growing it against a wall or fence where it may not benefit from rainfall, be sure to dig in lots of organic matter into the soil when first planting.

giant scabious flower

giant scabious flower

Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) is a British native species. I’ve cheated a bit as this is a bi-ennial not herbaceous perennial, but once established by sowing seed two years running you will have plants every year. As with the Giant Scabious, Teasels are a popular feeding plant for wildlife. The seed heads often last right through to the following spring, although the birds will have eaten the seed off well before then. One lovely feature of these plants is the way rain water collects in the cup like depression of the leaf where it meets the stem. Both stem and leaves are covered with prickles, so it’s a good idea not to plant too near a path or seating area.

teasel with water in stem cup

teasel with water in stem cup

When established, Giant Scabious and Teasel both have a tendency to self seed with enthusiasm but the seedlings are easily recognisable and simply removed by hand or with a dandelion trowel.

Hopefully this selection has given you some inspiration for adding a different type of plant to your garden – one which once established you can wave goodbye to when you venture on your summer holiday, knowing it will be quite happy while you’re away.

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design
Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

teasel flowers

teasel flowers

Sitting in the garden enjoying the sun or sitting on a cool veranda in the shade?
“In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design” – the newest in our eBook series of Gardening Almanacs makes good reading wherever you are.

Lawns – is the Grass always Greener over the fence?

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Lawns have been around in Europe for some thousand years, although not always a recognisable lawn in the contemporary sense. Early lawns were really the grasslands which surrounded castles, giving a clear view of approaching visitors and enemies. They were also common meadow on which sheep and cattle were grazed. This was true until the eighteenth century when a cheap labour force enabled rich landowners to create and maintain lawns using men with scythes.

Lawns became popular with a wider range of society after the invention of lawnmowers in England in 1830 by Edwin Budding. They were originally manpowered, push mowers; although petrol mowers followed fairly soon after in the1890s. Mowers became universally available after the First World War and so the tradition of an English lawn was born.

Worcester Lawn Mower Advert 1956 Illustration by Pete Hawley

Worcester Lawn Mower Advert 1956 Illustration by Pete Hawley

The Second World War saw many lawns, large and small, dug up to produce food crops. But the great British lawn bounced back when peace was declared, with new technologies such as the hover mower being introduced in the 1960s and the more recent programmable robot mowers. Traditional mowers are still around; check out the Lawnmower Society and the Lawnmower Museum or try your hand at some lawnmower racing

However, not all grass is as green as it looks. There are issues with productive farmland being used to produce turf for the domestic and sports markets rather than using the land for food crops. It’s not just the turf that is taken up and transported away; about one inch of topsoil comes away with it; that top soil then needs replacing.

So if your lawn needs repairing or replacing what choices do you have? You could choose a ‘regular’ turf or grass seed lawn. If you need a good sized area for children to play on this is the traditional option, but you may like to consider artificial turf.

Artificial turf, first used on sports pitches, can be useful in at least some parts of a family garden. Think of it as an alternative to bark mulch in a play area or under a trampoline where the real grass would normally die off. With good preparation of the sub surface, it can conform to safety standards, particularly in relation to children falling off play equipment.

artificial turf in garden

artificial turf in garden

Many dog owners also find it a useful alternative to a paved area, and we have laid it for a client for this reason; a mid range rather than a luxury quality turf was used.

Mixed with well planted borders it can make an attractive and easy maintenance garden. You will need to rake leaves off in the autumn, and raise the ‘pile’ a few times over the year, but it is still an option worth considering for many busy families. For example, no lawn to mow and mower to maintain; the children can play on the surface more quickly after the rain as mud is not an issue.

daisies in lawn

daisies in lawn

But you may prefer a grassy sward in your garden. Starting a lawn from seed is cheaper and there is more choice in the type of grass available; you can choose a combination of grass varieties that will most suit your needs. For example, you can get mixes that are hard-wearing or do better in shade. You can also make it more wildlife-friendly by adding clover. Clover is a member of the pea family and its roots fix atmospheric nitrogen, or fertilising the soil in a way that helps grass grow. This is best added after the grass has started to germinate and grow. In fact many wild flower seeds can be added in this way, so if you want a lawn full of daisies for making daisy chains you can have one. This is a more practical option for many small gardens than a full wildflower meadow with paths cut through it.

For areas which are not subject to heavy wear, an herb lawn is also a non-mow option that can still be walked over and sat upon. You don’t even have to deadhead the flowers if you don’t want to. Non-flowering species such as lawn chamomile are perfect for a sunny spot, and scented when crushed underfoot. Creeping Thymes and creeping Mint lawns are other possible. There are a surprising number of plants which are suitable for both sunny and shady lawn areas.

lawn chamomile

lawn chamomile

There are many factors to consider before deciding which option best suits your needs for a lawn or non-lawn. For example, there are the practical, the economic, the biodiverse or environmental and the aesthetic.

I don’t think a thousand years of lawns are going to disappear just yet, but I do think they are in for a change.

Nathan Waterfield, Partner, Plews Garden Design

 Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

This blog was based on a chapter in our latest Gardening Almanac eBook –
“In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design” 

how to use a grass lawn

how to use a grass lawn

Gardening tips for watering in the hot weather

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oriental poppy

oriental poppy

Many parts of Britain are basking under a summer sun; and our gardens are potentially baking under a summer sun. How do we enjoy the fine weather, keep our flowers blooming , our grass green and still have an easy maintenance garden?

We would all like to have an easy life and a beautiful garden in the hot weather. There is the option of not having any organic planting whatsoever, but I will be looking at zero planted gardens in another blog, so we’ll leave that topic for now.

The two main areas to consider for hot weather gardening are watering and drought planting. Watering your garden during a sustained hot spell or drought is  a short term response to the weather. Drought planting is a longer term design plan to reduce the maintenance requirements of your garden in hot, dry summer weather and in cold icy winter weather.

The short term – what do I do about it now? – tips for reducing the amount of watering that needs to be done in your garden during a drought period can be broken down into three types: re-think what and when you water in the garden; reduce the amount of water needed; re-use water when you can.

As most people would prefer to spend their leisure time enjoying the weather rather than watering the garden we’re concentrating on easy maintenance options.

santolina in need of watering

santolina in need of watering

Focus on the plants that need watering; this sounds obvious, but many people use limited water supplies on tending their established shrubs first and have run out by the time they reach their tomatoes! Food crops have different watering requirements. Fruit bushes and trees need watering at key times such as pollination & fruit setting. Annual food crops such as peas and tomatoes need more frequent watering as they have a shallower root system.

Flower, shrub and tree borders planted this year will need watering too as they won’t have had time to send roots deep into the soil. A thorough watering of the roots is more effective than spraying water all over the soil or plants. Not all of your new plants will need watering everyday even in prolonged hot, dry summer weather if you’re thorough in your ‘root watering’ . Check the soil at root level by gently digging down; if it’s damp then the plant doesn’t need watering.

Established plants should rarely need watering. There will be some exceptions, flowering herbaceous perennials under the shade of a tree, for example. Pot plants and annual bedding will also need watering.

Lawns – when you’re in your local park have a look at the grassy areas. They haven’t been watered. Neither do you need to water your lawn at home; the grass will recover when it rains. Set your mower to a medium rather than short cut as the longer blades of grass tolerate drought better. The only exception is where you have a recently laid turf or seeded lawn. These will need regular watering for about six weeks after installation and will require you to water them during a prolonged period without rain in their first growing season.

newly laid lawn with edges of strips separating - not laid by Plews!

newly laid lawn with edges of strips separating- not laid by Plews!

When should you water? Water in the evening as this reduces evaporation; unless you have a slug/ snail problem in which case watering in the early morning is better. This reduces the moistness around the plants overnight, when those gastropods are most active.

Re-use water; how? Your water butt may be empty, but there’s plenty of spare water in western households. When you’re washing up dishes in the sink rather than the dishwasher, wash them in a bowl instead. The water can be tipped into a bucket outside the back door and used on your ornamental plants once it’s cool.

Put a bowl in the basin so when people wash their hands this water can be used as above. This ‘grey water’ doesn’t store without treatment so use within a day or two.

Do you need to run the tap to get hot water? Make sure the water is running into a basin not straight down the drain! As this is clean not ‘grey’ water it can be used on food crops as well as ornamentals.

tomato tigerella

tomato tigerella

If you need to feed your peppers and tomatoes, water them first, as they then absorb the feed more efficiently.

Whilst we need to get the water to the plants’ roots rather than the top level of the soil, the soil surface shouldn’t be crusted. This will cause both your watering efforts and the rain (when it arrives) to bounce off the surface rather than be absorbed, which is not what is wanted! Break the soil up with a hoe if necessary.

Drought planting or designing a garden which is sustainable in prolonged hot weather is a long term view, something which we would plan for at the beginning of a garden design. Part of the design brief and discussion would be to look at how hot the climate is and for how long; what is the water availability for watering ornamental plants; how much time does our client wish to spend maintaining the garden (watering, deadheading, pruning etc) ; and the size of their budget. It’s an interesting topic, relevant to sustainable gardening and easy or low maintenance gardening and worthy of a blog post in its own right. (Watch this space)

For more tips on watering your garden during a drought, check out our blog archives or drop us an email with your specific query. We like to help.

Plews Garden Design – Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner

Chilean Glory Flower (Eccremocarpus scaber)

Chilean Glory Flower

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show – the Plews view

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RHS Hampton Court - Long Water

RHS Hampton Court – Long Water

We thought a roundup of some of the gardens and exhibits that caught our eyes, amused us, inspired us and educated us from our visit this week might just be the sort light entertainment that you’d enjoy.

sanguisorbia and curved bench

sanguisorbia and curved bench

This year the RHS Flower Show at Hampton Court has been given a different layout, with three main zones – Grow, Escape, Inspire – and the various Show Gardens, trade stands and demonstrations fit into these.

eryngium and allium

eryngium and allium

Naturally, the inclination is to wander and to back track, and at Hampton Court there is plenty of room to do that, and to stop for a coffee, an ice cream or a Pimms by the Long Water, which divides up the show areas.

Nathan and pimms by the Long Water

Nathan and pimms by the Long Water

The Long Water is the canal excavated during Charles II’s reign in 1662 as part of the refurbishment of the gardens. The idea was to bring the English palace gardens up to the modern and innovative standard of the Versailles gardens; Charles was in many ways a forward thinking monarch, and had spent much of his exile during the Commonwealth years in France, so it is no surprise that he was a lover of Le Notre’s French style of gardening.

bees enjoying the show

bees enjoying the show

The Inspire section contained most of the show gardens. Many of the gardens had water as part of their design,  but we had two favourites. We loved the shape of the corten steel rill in the Cool Garden and found the ability to walk right into the middle of a landscape of reflective water in the Valley Garden extremely cooling. (Yes, we did go on a warm day!)

valley garden

valley garden

There were plenty of hot colours to contrast with the cooling water, and not only in the gardens. Congratulations need to be given to an old friend’s son, Graeme of Outdoor Creations, who constructed the Best in Show garden in the the Low Cost, High Impact section. Loved the hot orange wall in this garden.

Derek and Graeme

Derek and Graeme

The overall Best in Show winner was the Ecover garden. We liked their clever placing of the ‘window’ to make use of the views beyond the garden. It’s a trick that garden designers often use, although we don’t all have a royal palace in the distance.

Ecover garden

Ecover garden

We found the Butterfly dome and Bee garden in the Escape zone; fascinating.

in the butterfly dome

in the butterfly dome

In the Grow zone on the far side of the Long Water we found the Plant Heritage Marquee; you may have read about them in other blogs of mine.Plant Heritage is the world’s leading plant conservation charity and its members include people like yours truly, but also gardens and individuals who give their time and garden space to hold ‘National Collections’ of one or more plant genus (that means group of plants that are related, to the non-botanists amongst you).  This year is their thirty-fifth anniversary.

Plant Heritage

Plant Heritage

Flowers get everywhere at the RHS Flower Show at Hampton Court Flower Show, as you’d expect;

Lily 'gizmo'

Lily ‘gizmo’

but be careful if you stay still for too long…

floral mini

floral mini

These irises really caught our attention; they’re not real, but a water feature created by Neil from Dragonswood Forge whose work we adore.

Iris

Iris

We’re back to water again; but that’s not surprising, the large RHS London Flowers Shows – Chelsea and Hampton Court are both set on the banks of the River Thames. At Hampton Court the Long Water provides a means of separating show areas, but more importantly provides a long, sociable stretch where you can sit and discuss the gardens and just watch the rest of the world go by for a time.

On reflection, every year, my favourite aspect of the RHS Flower Show at Hampton Court is this one…

on reflection

on reflection

Marie Shallcross

Plews Garden Design  – Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions


“In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design” – the newest in our series of Gardening Almanacs is now available on both Amazon and Smashwords

stipa gigantea

stipa gigantea