Category Archives: Planting Design

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

Garden Visits: Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye

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the ruined castle Armadale

the ruined castle Armadale

Planting inspiration from the historic Armadale Castle gardens on the Isle of Skye, where the Gulf Stream offers a mild climate and the chance to grow a wide variety of species, including many tender ones.

cat in the gardens castle Armadale

cat in the gardens castle Armadale

Armadale Castle is the home of Clan Donald Lands Trust in South Skye. We visited last summer, on a somewhat damp day. The ruined castle looks across to the mainland and formed the starting point of our walk through the gardens.

white peony

white peony

The yellow themed border with Giant Scabious (Cephalaria gigantea) and tall Elecampane (Inula), Achillea at middle height and low growing Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) was in its early flowering stages when we saw it. This was a good mix of plants, giving flowers from late April through to September, a range of heights that would change over the same period; and a variety of foliage colour and form. It’s the sort of mix that could look a mess unless you find a link between the different plants; here the link was, if I may sound artistic for a moment, that the flowers all had the same tone of yellow as their base, although the shades of yellow were different.

yellow flower border castle Armadale

yellow flower border castle Armadale

 

steps to the woodland walk

steps to the woodland walk

We decided it was a bit too wet to explore the woodland trials as fully as we would have liked, but we did have the opportunity to see the Museum of the Isles which had some fascinating displays and educated us about the Lordship of the Isles. The Raven on the Rock memorial outside the Museum is stunning and eerily lifelike when first viewed through a mist of rain.

Raven of the Rock memorial

Raven of the Rock memorial

The playful otter as a central feature to the pond was a welcome change from the more frequently found fish or small cherub. It is in keeping with the location of the gardens, and would look out of place in an urban garden; but the concept of adding a beautiful statue as the pond’s focal point, something which has meaning for the owner of the garden, is an idea worth considering.

pond with otter

pond with otter

As well as planting inspiration, we came away with two new herbaceous plants, Geranium ‘hocus pocus’ with dark highly serrated foliage and mid purple flowers and Centaurea Montana ‘Jordy’ a perennial cornflower with almost black flowers, both of which we’d seen in the castle gardens. There were quite a few different geraniums in the borders; they do well in the damp conditions being mildew resistant unlike some herbaceous perennials. A factor worth considering if you have a damp shady garden, as many of the varieties will tolerate shade. Many of them will also be happy in dry shade or even a south facing border; you just need to pick the right cultivar.

Geranium 'hocus pocus'

Geranium ‘hocus pocus’

The perennial cornflowers are more often found as blue flowering forms. They can be prone to mildew, and to flopping; the best way to get round this is to cut them hard back after the first flush of flowers just as they’re starting to flop. They will repay you by flowering again in only a few weeks; cutting the flowers to take into the house is another tactic to reduce the flopping tendency – and give you pretty flowers too.

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design

raindrops on Hosta leaf

raindrops on Hosta leaf

 

Patriotic Gardens or how to find Summer Planting Inspiration

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red pelargonium,blue front door

red pelargonium,blue front door

How does your garden grow: colourful in the spring and then all green in the summer? If you missed out on using last year’s Diamond Jubilee as planting inspiration why not celebrate sixty years since the Queen’s Coronation instead?

The plants below flower during the summer months so will brighten up your garden. Plant them in combination: for example, one white rose at the back, three blue delphinium and five low growing red dianthus at the front.

Red roses

Red roses

white iris

white iris

geranium johnsons blue

geranium johnsons blue

red dianthus

red dianthus

white rose

white rose

blue delphimium

blue delphimium

red cytisus (broom)

red cytisus (broom)

white lily

white lily

blue eryngium bourgatii

blue eryngium bourgatii

Some more planting combinations

red persicaria, white geranium, blue pansies

red persicaria, white geranium, blue pansies

white cosmos, red scabious, blue eryngium

white cosmos, red scabious, blue eryngium

You could even have Coronation colours in the vegetable garden with red strawberries, blueberries and white currants…well, at least until you ate them!

Marie

Plews Garden Design offers design and build gardens and planting designs for borders. Drop us an email with your query.

Gardens of Remembrance

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The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Even gardeners stop for two minutes to observe the silence.

Remembrance Sunday is about gratitude and respect for those who gave their lives to protect us. The planting around the headstones and in the graveyards is in the charge of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

Sir Frederic Kenyon summed up his vision for the Commission cemeteries in February 1918 thus:

“The general appearance of a British cemetery will be that of an enclosure with plots of grass or flowers (or both) separated by paths of varying size, and set with orderly rows of headstones, uniform in height and width.”

Many of you will be surprised to learn that the CWGC is one of the world’s leading horticultural organisations. To keep the cemeteries looking good seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year in all weathers is not an easy task. Not only does the planting need to offer something in all seasons, but the number of visitors in all weathers puts particular stress on the turf paths and lawns.

The headstone borders are generally planted with a mix of roses and herbaceous perennials. Of these latter some will die back over winter and regrow in the spring; others will retain their foliage year round; the Heuchera in the photograph is an evergreen herbaceous perennial except in the hardest of weather. Care is taken in choosing plants for each cemetery, for example, there are Maples from Canada at Dieppe.

Designing the planting requires thought to the length of flowering season, of foliage interest, so that visitors have something to see. It also needs to be reasonably low maintenance, both for the border planting and for the turf, or grass. Not merely from a time and therefore economic perspective, but also because it would interrupt the mood for those paying their respects to have a gardener trundling around with a mower for a couple of hours. These particular pressures have encouraged the War Grave horticulturalists to be innovative in planting designs and in the equipment they use. Petrol lawn mowers were introduced in the 1920s; and many of the mechanical tools developed for the CWGC have since become standard domestic gardening tools and equipment.

Climate change has its own requirements and a proactive approach has been taken. Drought tolerant planting, including turf have been introduced and trialled.

So next time you buy a poppy for Remembrance, important though it is as a symbol, remember it’s not the only flower that grows in Flanders fields.

 

 

 

For garden design and planting ideas; or Christmas gift vouchers for garden lessons in your own garden from a qualified teacher, why not drop us an email? info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk

What is garden design?

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We’re often asked what garden design is, and what does having a garden designed actually involve, so I thought a blog on it might help answer some of these questions. Plus it will hopefully give an insight into one of the main services we offer, and help clarify what Plews could offer you in the way of garden design.

All too often the garden becomes an afterthought and the last priority in home improvement budgets rather than being considered as part of the whole ‘let’s improve and renovate our home’ process. Garden design is important in helping you get the best out of your garden, whatever its size.

However, many people are not fully aware of what garden design is, or should be. Getting it wrong can be costly; even ‘just a patio’ can cost thousands of pounds and it would be a shame to spend your money and not get good value and the garden you would like at the end.

If you’re having a total rethink of your whole home environment your garden designer should be part of the beginning conversations that you have with architects, builders, landscapers so that your house and garden flow seamlessly. Asking the garden designer to come in after you have added the extension and narrowed the access when you wanted the steep slope behind the house flattening out, is like asking someone to shut the door after the horse has bolted. Garden designers are clever people but not usually miracle workers.

It may be that your house is fine, but you’re thinking about refurbishing your garden. Once again, garden design is the first stage to consider. A good garden designer needs to consider you and your garden from an expert’s viewpoint to enable you to get the best out of our service (and therefore the best garden possible). It involves a lot of listening and asking of questions, and also includes other aspects that a designer needs to look at and consider, both practical and creative.

A design can be a total re-think of a whole garden, be that rear garden or front garden. It could also be a planting design for an existing border; or a partial garden design, for example, for a vegetable garden, new seating area or wildlife habitat within the existing garden.

We offer, as do most garden designers, an initial design visit. This is an opportunity for you to ‘dip your toe in the water’ and find out more about whether your hopes for your garden are achievable; and what other things may be possible, without committing yourself to a huge outlay.

A full garden design will look at the existing garden in all aspects; what your ideals are; whether these are achievable on your budget; how to manage the budget and project, for example, would a staged approach be more suitable; it deals with hard landscaping, for example, patio, decking, fences; soft landscaping turf, planting; the use of garden space, ie how you use it now, how you would like to use it, how this might change, for example, as the kids grow up or if you have a house extension; and sundries, for example, washing line, statuary, lighting.her your hopes for your garden are achievable; and what other things may be possible, without committing yourself to a huge outlay.
Plews Garden Design can offer you design only or a full design and build package. Look here for full list of options. And some more on the garden design process here. Or email us for more details and to start chatting.Your garden is in all probability the biggest “room” you own and deserves the same thought and design afforded to the kitchen, living room or bathrooms. A courtyard garden or a small roof terrace needs a good designer so the best use is made of restricted space.

“Outdoors and indoors are inseparable; they are complimentary and supplementary, two sides of the same door…” Garrett Eckbo

Spring into bulb buying

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ImageBulb purchasing and planting is an autumn task, but it involves thinking back to last spring and forward to next. A lot of gardening and garden design, if not most, is about planning the future and bulbs epitomise that aspect of gardening.

So, when faced with packets of bulbs with a close up picture of a tulip on the front what are you thinking? When flicking through bulb catalogues, what are you planning? Unless you have a large garden or lots of different areas to fill with bulbs, your main thought is probably how many spring flowering bulbs can you fit into your pots and borders. Or it should be. Be tempted by colour and from when you know how many you need.

Take the time before you buy to plan. 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.

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

Planting bulbs in the border requires thought as to what else will be on show at that time of year when the bulbs are flowering and also when the foliage is dying down. When designing a border to include bulbs, where the client’s brief is for easy maintenance, the bulbs are part of a long term planting scheme, so we will often plant herbaceous perennials for the bulbs to grow through. These won’t have much if any foliage the bulbs are in flower, but will help distract the eye from the bulbs’ foliage after flowering. They will live quite happily together for some years.Image

Alternatively, the bulbs can be treated as annuals, and dug up after flowering and composted if virus free. Where the space utilised is edged or framed with evergreens this is a good, if more labour intensive option. Hardy and half hardy annuals can fill the same space as the bulbs but at a later time.

Thinking back to the previous spring; this is an opportunity to review what worked and what didn’t in your garden. Taking photos helps with the process, which is why I tell my students to take photos of their own gardens on a regular basis. Perhaps you visited gardens in the spring and were inspired by their bulb displays, or combinations of colours? Much of that can be tweaked to fit your own garden.

ImageRemember to protect your bulbs once planted, so the squirrels or neighbourhood cats don’t dig them up.

If you’d like to know more about our design, maintenance or teaching services, why not get in touch?

Apples:Designing the Garden of Eden?

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Designing a garden to include lots of fruit is always satisfying: at this time of year my imagination leaps off the page and sees next year’s mini orchard in full harvest. Apple trees are especially popular – did you know that Britain is “apple monarch of the world” with over 2000 varieties available?Image

This year’s weather has affected the apple harvest, by reducing the quantity and quality, and generally giving a later harvest. A single apple tree can produce up to 200 apples and live for 100 years, so there is time for another harvest, a better harvest.

Not sure when to pick your apples? If they’re dropping to the ground as ripe rather than unripe ‘windfalls’ then it’s time to start picking. Cup the apple in your hand and twist gently; they should drop easily into your hand. Not all the apples may be ripe at the same time, so it may take 3 ‘goes’ at picking before the whole tree has been cropped.

What if you don’t have an apple tree of your own? If you’re thinking of buying one or two, now is an excellent time to taste different varieties and see which you prefer. You may find a good selection of apples at your local farmers market or farm shop. If you fancy them fresh off the tree why not find out if there’s an apple tasting day near you?

There are apple festivals aplenty – including one at Brogdale, home of the National Fruit Collection, where they’re also celebrating their diamond jubilee this year, just like Queen Elizabeth II. The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale houses the world’s largest collection of temperate fruit on a single site. To see row upon row of apple trees is an impressive sight. And then you move on to the pear trees, the quince, the medlar, the plums, the cherries…

Choosing an apple tree isn’t just about taste of course, the size of the tree, whether you’d like a free standing tree or a trained form are also important considerations. Trained forms are particularly suitable for smaller areas as they make use of often overlooked space, for example, training an espalier along a fence. Single cordon apples can be grown in a large pot, ideal for a patio; I remember seeing some of these at Trinity Buoy Wharf many years ago, as part of ‘growing food in the city’ project.

But perhaps you fancy a tree with history? If you’re a scientist perhaps the Isaac Newton tree might appeal? The story an apple landing on his head in 1667 thus leading to Newton’s laws on gravity may tempt you to have an offspring of the same tree. The original tree stood in the garden of Newton’s home at Woolsthorpe manor, in Lincolnshire, and over the years grafts have been taken to grow new Newton trees. It is claimed that the original is still there, having regrown after falling over in a storm.

ImageThe Egyptians were among the first people to grow apples – apart from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I suppose. But the first person to grow the world famous Bramley cooking apples was Mary Ann Brailsford in the family home in Nottinghamshire in the early 19th century. If you’re wondering why they’re not called ‘MaryAnn’s’ that’s because the family moved away and it was a man called Bramley who owned the tree when some fifty years later a local nurseryman took cuttings and grew the fruit and trees commercially.

So what else do you need to know? Apple trees are sold as scions or grafts onto a rootstock. Basically, the rootstock determines the ultimate size of the tree whilst the scion will give you the variety of fruit. You’ll also need more than one, or need your neighbours to have a tree as well, as apples are not self-fertile.

In the meantime, taste away!Image