Category Archives: Plants

Harvest festival and your garden

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gypsophilla

Harvest festivals are traditionally celebrated around the time of the Harvest Moon which is the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. It’s an important time in the garden as well as on the farms.

Harvest festivals are thanksgiving festivals, a way of showing gratitude to one’s God or gods for a good store of food to keep the people fed through the lean winter months. Historically, Harvest festival was also an opportunity for the Landowner to give a feast for his workers in recognition of their hard work over the growing season. The first new ale would be drunk and loaves of bread made with the freshly gathered and milled wheat.

So why is the autumn equinox important to your plants? The Harvest Moon usually falls as a full moon at the end of September, but occasionally falls at the beginning of October. It’s at this point in the year that the day and night length are equal. The plants in your garden and allotment will notice the difference as they respond to day length.

chrysanthemum

Well actually, it’s not quite that simple, not all plants decide to hibernate once the nights become longer than the days; whether we’re having an Indian Summer or an early hoar frost makes a difference too. So, without dumbing down as you’re an intelligent bunch of readers, let’s have a brief botanical explanation as to why the plants in your garden start behaving differently now we’ve reached the autumnal equinox.

It’s important for a plant’s existence that it knows not to lets its seed germinate during winter, when hard frosts would be likely to kill the emerging seedling. Nor would it be productive to flower when there are no pollinating insects around. Neither is a good plan for survival of the species! There are both internal plant factors, such as the production of particular hormones and external factors that affect plant growth. It is the two major external factors that we’re looking at, and they are, as you’ve probably guessed, light and temperature.

white tulips

Generally speaking, most plants require a certain temperature in order for the seed to germinate and for the plant to grow. Which is why many plants lie dormant or semi-dormant over the winter months. Some plant species require a period of cold to encourage germination of the seed; for example, Tulips. When these plants are grown where the winter is not cold enough, Florida for example, they can be artificially chilled so as to stimulate flowering in the spring.

Photoperiodism, or plants’ response to day length, has been constant over millennia, and it is only recently, over the past couple of hundred years or so, that humans have been successfully able to interfere with the process artificially. Flowering plants are especially sensitive to photoperiodic stimulus; for example, have you ever forced Hyacinth bulbs for Christmas by putting them in a cool dark cellar then bringing them in to the warmth and light to flower?

There are three main grouping of flowering plants in relation to day length and their growth and flowering. Assuming that the plant is sufficiently mature and ready to flower, the day length becomes crucial for many of our favourite garden flowers.

Hyacinths

Short day plants, Chrysanthemum, for example, react to the day length being shorter than a specified time; or put another way, when the hours of darkness are longer than the hours of daylight. So these plants tend to flower later in the season, during late summer and autumn.

Long day plants, such as Gypsophilla, tend to be spring and summer flowering plant; they respond to the day length being longer than a specified amount of time. However, day neutral plants, for example, Viburnum, are unaffected by the length of daylight hours and will flower when they are mature enough to do so.

So this is why the Autumn Equinox, as illuminated by the Harvest Moon, is a crucial turning point in the gardening year.

The cover illustration for our newest eBook “In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design” shows Demeter, who was the Greek goddess of the harvest and fertility and one of the aspects of the Triple Goddess, or Earth Mother, Gaia. An appropriate subject for a book about crops and harvest and food in your garden and allotment, we thought.

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

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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

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.

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

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.

Pets in the Garden – Questions and Answers

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Lily stargazer

Lily stargazer

We get asked whether a client’s new garden is suitable for their pets as often as whether its suitable for their children, so we thought we’d put a couple of the more frequently asked questions into a blog…

Q. Are Lilies poisonous to my cat?

The simple answer is ‘yes’. Lilies contain a toxin which causes loss of appetite and vomiting and, if vetinary attention is not sought quickly, possible kidney failure and death. Lilium longiflorum, the Easter lily is especially toxic. The pollen is dangerous as it can fall on a cats’ fur and be ingested when the cat washes itself. The leaves and flowers, also toxic to felines, may be eaten by a bored housecat.

Cats seem to be the only animals affected by lilies; and it useful to note that day lily (Hemerocallis); dumb cane or leopard lily (Dieffenbachia) and the popular Christmas plant Poinsettia, are also poisonous.The bulbs of lilies however, are edible for humans; in Chinese cuisine they are treated as a root vegetable and often eaten during the summer as they are supposed to have a cooling effect.

So if you love lilies especially the scent of lilies, and have cats, what are you to do? Well, you could admire the flowers in other, non-cat owning gardens. You could also ask yourself what are your cat’s habits? Some cats seem more prone to nibbling and eating plants than others. If your cat is a nibbler then personally I wouldn’t risk lilies in the house or garden. Is your cat a ‘jumper’? If not, you may be able to have lilies in tall pots outside or on high surfaces in the house. Removing the pollen stems reduces one of the most common means of poisoning, as the pollen is easily brushed off and onto cat’s fur by a passing human.

I adore scented lilies and do grow them in the garden, in tall pots; my cats are totally uninterested. Of course this may have something to do with the catnip that I grow. Both Nepeta cataria and Nepeta ‘six hills giant’ are to be found nearby and prove an excellent distraction to everything else…

black cat in garden

black cat in garden

Q. What could I grow in the garden (apart from the obvious salads) that would be safe for my pet rabbit to eat?

There are quite a few herbs which rabbits enjoy nibbling at and which are good for them. Rosemary is generally too strong, but Thyme, especially Thymus officianalis (culinary thyme) and Thymus citronella (lemon thyme) seems to be popular; feed only a small spray of the leaves to your rabbits. Thymes have the added advantage of encouraging bees into the garden as the flowers are nectar rich.

Empirical evidence over the years has shown Lemon balm (Melissa officianalis) is a favourite with both rabbits and guinea pigs (cavies). Melissa officianalis variegata with yellow tinged leaves is prettier in the garden and less rampant in its growth habits. It’s equally tasty for rabbits and the leaves look attractive when added to your Pimms or homemade lemonade. Whilst Melissa has a relaxing effect when used as herbal tisane (tea) or the oil is added to a bath; it can also be used to stimulate the memory. Although lemon balm prefers a sunny spot, it will survive and thrive in dry and shady areas.

Growing it in some of the trickier areas of the garden, underneath trees for example, curbs its vigour so making it a better bedfellow for other plants in your borders. Growing it in a trough could also be a good idea as like mint, which rabbits sometimes also like, Melissa can be a thug if left unchecked.

Lemon balm (Melissa officianalis)

Lemon balm (Melissa officianalis)

Q. What plants will withstand my new puppy running everywhere?

One of the first things to do is to securely section off your garden so there’s an area where your puppy can safely play away from any toxic and thorny plants you may have and without risk of escaping. This could be a proper ‘run’ with or without kennel, or just a small area where you will supervise ball play and running around. If your puppy knows he or she can play in that area the all you need to do is to teach it not to go on your flower borders in the rest of the garden. This is fairly easy; for example, you could have puppy on a long lead in those areas. Or firmly abut gently remove the puppy from your flower borders saying ‘no’, just as you would when your puppy tries to climb on the sofa.

As for plants apart from lawn turf, most low growing species will tolerate a bit of running on whilst your puppy is learning to ‘keep off the borders’. Lamium maculatum (deadnettle), most sedums and saxifrages, creeping thymes and mint, would all be fine. Creeping jenny (lysimachia nummularia) is tolerant of being walked on but prone to taking over the rest of the garden when you’re not looking.

Border collie puppy - illustration by Lucy Waterfield

Border collie puppy – illustration by Lucy Waterfield

I you’d like to know more, there’s a longer article on pets and your garden in our new eBook “In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design” which is out this week; available from Amazon and Smashwords.

Marie

Plews Garden Design offers Garden SOS advisory visits or consultation by email if you’re worried about toxic plants and your pets. We can also design and build gardens to suit you and your pets. Drop us an email with your query.

lamium maculatum

lamium maculatum

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013 – 100 Years of Gardening in London

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Plews, Hari and Chelsea Flower Show posters

Plews, Hari and Chelsea Flower Show posters

Flower shows and open gardens are great places to visit for design inspiration; from flower colours to other visitors’ shoes…which is why  we ( aka Plews) visit gardens and garden shows so we can help turn your garden into a dream not a nightmare.

arthritis research uk garden

arthritis research uk garden

This week RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been taking place. Once the first event of the social calendar for ‘The Season’, it still can have an air of precociousness as well as prestige about it.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show bag

RHS Chelsea Flower Show bag

As an event it looms large in the diaries of many garden designers; those who like to follow fashion know there are trends in gardening as in clothes and Chelsea Flower Show is often where the trends can be seen. There were quite a few deceptively simple designs; plus something of a shift towards native species, although not presented in sweeping meadows as at the Olympic stadium last year, but more contained within borders and hedging.

'Stop the Spread' garden

‘Stop the Spread’ garden

So here are some of the plants, gardens, garden tools, statues and other gardening sundries that caught our eye…

quince tree in a bucket

quince tree in a bucket

RHS Chelsea Flower Show a hundred years old this year; and to celebrate gnomes are being allowed into the garden displays. And we spied a gnome or two, these ones of Prince William and Kate reminded me that the couple’s wedding was a showcase of native British species that were in season. For some wedding flower ideas look at our blog here or a longer article in our eBook “In Your Spring Garden with Plews Garden Design” (which is reduced on price as our summer eBook is due out)

Centenary gnomes - Prince Wiliam and Kate

Centenary gnomes – Prince Wiliam and Kate

We enjoy guessing which plants are on the ‘up’ list and which are on the ‘down’; and have a light-hearted competition about it. Native species, especially drifts of cow parsley (anthriscus sylvestris) were prominent in all the garden categories from the large show gardens to the smaller artisan gardens.

un garreg garden

un garreg (one stone) garden

Although as it’s only May, late flowering plants are excluded; so there are not likely to be dahlias at Chelsea however fashionable they may be. Meconopsis or Himalyan blue poppy, was seen in the Pavilion but also in the gardens; a stunning blue flower.

meconopsis 'blue lingholm'

meconopsis ‘blue lingholm’

 

We spotted a hundred years of wheelbarrows, or rather a few key changes in garden equipment design, not least the addition of a tyre to the wheel.

old wheelbarrow display

old wheelbarrow display

We’ll put albums with these and other photos up on our Facebook, Google plus and Pinterest pages

Marie Senior Partner,  Plews Garden Design

If you’d like Plews to help you with designing a garden that follows fashion or that fits you like a glove, do get in touch.

m&g centenary garden

M & G centenary garden