Tag 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

Compost – the smell of a successful Garden

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serious-composting

serious composting in a large garden

Clay soil, sandy soil, whatever the soil in your garden, it can be improved by adding compost, aka organic matter.

Garden compost should be rich and dark, smelling almost sweetly of earth; if it smells ‘off’ or rancid then there isn’t enough oxygen in the compost, and it probably isn’t decomposing properly. The texture of compost which is ready to use on your garden soil is crumbly, like breadcrumbs, and it’s acceptable to have some bigger pieces of twig or leaf in the mix. Compost should be slightly damp, and warm, especially if it’s from a newly turned heap. If it’s too dry, add some water and allow time for that to soak through before adding the compost to your soil.

damp-compost-in-bin

damp-compost-in-bin

So why would you want to add compost to the soil? It’s plant food. Well, strictly speaking, its soil food, but the plants benefit. Dug into the soil it improves the drainage of heavy clay soils and the water retention of sandy ones. It provides food for the earthworms who do all sorts of wonderful things to improve soil quality, not least helping with the release of essential nutrients from the compost into the soil. This in turn benefits the plants, enabling their roots to soak up all that composted goodness, which leads to both better food crops and ornamental plants.

But if you don’t want to, or are not able to dig your garden compost into the soil at root level, then you could use it as a soil and plant mulch instead. Applied as mulch onto the soil surface, compost can reduce the need for watering; keep plants cool in summer and warm in winter.

If you only have small quantities of compost then you need to direct it where it will do the most benefit. Using organic compost as a mulch in planting holes and as mulch around hungry food crops and specimen ornamentals is more effective than throwing it around willy–nilly.

compost bin and fuschia

compost bin and fuschia

Check out our linked ‘compost’ video on YouTube; where Nathan demonstrates how to turn compost and check it for quality and readiness for use.

Whatever your soil, sometimes there is a need for digging in some black gold. Do you really want to be faced with this when you go to plant the lavender bush you were given for your birthday?

Did you know that the first organised landfill was happening c5000 years ago in Crete? Now we’re running out of landfill space at a frightening rate, it seems crazy not to compost kitchen & garden waste, thereby reducing the quantity of material needing landfill.

compost-layers

compost layers

Plus, the more we compost, the more we reduce the methane gas leaching from landfill into the atmosphere and so help reduce global warming.

If you’re not able to compost your kitchen and garden waste then see if your local council offers a collection service – and if not petition them to start – it really is a waste not to!
An earlier blog on the website explaining different ways of composting in your garden can be found here

Or treat yourself to one of the Plews eBooks“In Your Winter Garden” where we have even more on compost, soil and the worms in your garden, is currently reduced in price.

And if you need help with composting or any other gardening issues, why not get in touch? At Plews we love to Resolve Your Gardening Issues

pink-cosmos-with-bee

pink-cosmos-with-bee

Weeds in the Spring Garden

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mixed-native-species-and-bee

mixed native species and bee

Eeyore, the much beloved if melancholy donkey in the Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne, says “Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” So if weeds can be pretty to look at or useful, perhaps we should get to know them better before deciding if they’re plants in the wrong place or not. Many plants that are termed ‘weeds’ are native or naturalised species; they may have been bred and developed into the garden plant varieties that we covet; and have been useful in the past for medicinal or culinary purposes.

If we consider the possible uses of one common weed, which is also a native plant species you may get feel for the dilemma we have. The stinging nettle (urtica dioica) is native to Europe, North America, Asia and Africa and has a long history as a useful plant; to the extent that I would also classify it as a herb. The nettle has culinary uses – soup, salad, herbal tea; and was used as a woven fibre for cloth in the Bronze Age. In the garden it provides food for beneficial insects and is a compost activator. On the downside, nettles are perennial and spread by their root system, so can easily find their way out of that useful corner by the compost heap and into your flower borders. By this action, they have turned into a weed, as they’re now a plant in the wrong place.

stinging nettle

stinging nettle

Firstly let’s consider the lifespan of weeds, knowing the enemy is useful in getting the better of them.

Perennials are plants which live for many years; for example, bramble. They may have growth above ground all year or they may die back to an underground root system over the winter or dormant season. Perennial plants may reproduce by seed or vegetatively (by root or stem).
Bi-ennials are plants which live for two years, for example, spear thistle. In the first year the plant will grow a rosette of leaves at ground level (basal foliage clump). In the second year, the weed plant will flower, be pollinated, set seed and spread the seed, and then that individual plant will die.
Annuals are plants which live for one year only, for example, common chickweed. Each individual weed will grow from a seed, usually in spring, flower and set its own seed over the course of one year or growing season.
Ephemerals are plants which produce many generations in one year or growing season for example, groundsel. In other words these weeds do what annual weeds do but more quickly, with possibly four generations of flowering plants over the season.

dandelion seedhead in paving

dandelion seedhead in paving

So, how to deal with a weed problem? Cultural methods are a good starting point for all of these different types.

For annual and ephemeral weeds, regular hoeing or picking out whilst the plant is still small is the simplest method of keeping them in check. Left on the soil surface to wither, they can then be added to the compost heap. It is particularly important to remove them before they seed. Remember the old but very true saying: “one year’s seed is seven year’s weed”.

Catch the biennial weeds in their first year when they have foliage only, usually a clump or small mound of leaves. The same hoeing technique used for annual weeds will work for small plants. For the larger weed plants, it will be necessary to dig them out with a hand trowel.

Hand dig out perennial weeds such as dandelions to be sure of removing the deep tap root. A specialist dandelion fork can be a useful addition to your garden tool collection, particularly if dandelions have a habit of growing in your lawn a sit is less disruptive to the turf.

dandelion-and-nettle

dandelion and nettle in early spring

As for seriously difficult to eradicate perennial weed plants such as bindweed and ground elder, expect this to take a few seasons. The root systems on these go down a long way and can re-generate from a small piece. If you find that bindweed has twined around your plants, try watching our video on ‘how to remove bindweed’ .

For more tips, check out our other blogs on weeds, especially “A Weed is a plant in the wrong place” which highlights problems with two common garden plants.

bindweed, bramble and clematis

bindweed, bramble and clematis

Garden Planning: Flowers for Spring Weddings and Spring Flowering Bulbs

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narcissus-elka

Narcissus elka

Garden planning: in this instance, ideas for spring wedding floral displays that won’t ruin the budget and purchasing spring bulbs in the autumn. One of the aspects of garden design is to do with planning the present and future garden, and this requires you, or your garden designer, to look at your garden in a particular way.

There are the obvious garden design needs of allowing room for plants to grow but not grow over the newly laid path and patio and planning for the changing look of the garden with the different seasons. This latter is where bulbs come in…

raised curved patio with statue

raised curved patio with statue

Spring bulbs for Spring Flowers

We call them spring bulbs when we need to buy and plant them in the autumn; I’m not surprised that so many people get confused. If you think of them as ‘spring flowering bulbs’ it can help, but you still need to know that future garden planning is needed. Bulb purchasing and planting is an autumn task, but it involves thinking back to last spring and forward to next. So what can you do this spring so that you remember which bulbs to buy in the autumn? Take this opportunity to review what works and what doesn’t in your garden. Taking photos helps with the remembering process, which is why I tell my students to take photos of their own gardens on a regular basis. Jotting down the names of plants and bulbs when you’re visiting a garden or garden centre can be useful too.

daffodil-foliage-growing-through-geranium-machorrizum

daffodil foliage growing through geranium machorrizum

Planting bulbs in the border requires thought as to what else will be on show 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, I need to consider the bulbs as part of a long term planting scheme, so I often plant herbaceous perennials for the bulbs to grow through. These won’t have much if any foliage when the bulbs are in flower, but will help distract the eye from the bulbs’ dying foliage.

And sometimes we get asked to plan for other events, such as weddings…

Flowers for Spring Weddings Growing your own wedding flowers obviously needs to be planned in advance and may not suit everyone for reasons of space, time or lack of knowhow. Floral displays, bouquets and buttonholes play a leading role in the decoration of a church or a wedding venue, and they can take up a large part of the budget. Two ways to reduce the budget without compromising on style are firstly to grow many or all of the flowers yourself or ask a green fingered family member to do so. Secondly, would be to use foliage and flowering plants that can be transplanted into the newlyweds’ garden after the big event; providing a living memory of the happy day and personalising their garden at the same time. Indeed, sharing the plants around the newlyweds and their parents’ gardens, would be a lovely memento for all to enjoy for years after.

ribes (flowering currant)

ribes (flowering currant)

As for some ideas for Spring wedding flowers, the following extract from “In Your Spring Garden” gives some inspiration. There are more planting and floral ideas in the eBook.

“For scent and an air of delicate romance, low hanging baskets and raised planters filled with sweet violets (viola odorata) would be lovely. A traditional Valentines’ Day flower, their heart shaped leaves are as apt on a wedding day and their ‘retro’ feel would work well with a vintage chic inspired wedding breakfast theme. As British natives that flower from mid February to May, they would be happy outside and inside, although their scent would be more noticeable in the warmth. 

If you have a marquee, you could have terracotta troughs filled with low clipped hedging of Buxus sempervirens (Box) surrounding the soft apricot tones of Narcissus ‘Replete’. Both these designs balance the femininity of the frilly, soft hued daffodils with the more formal masculinity of the clipped hedging.”

Viola-odorata

Viola-odorata

As for inspiration for spring displays, some of the Plews team is off to view a modern art exhibition – not as odd as you might think, the colour combinations can be exciting.

If you’d like a border planting design or a total re-think of your whole garden, why not get in touch?

narcissus-silver-chimes

Narcissus ‘silver chimes’

Vodka drinking Tulips and heroic Snowdrops

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Snowdrops (Galanthus) and Daffodils (Narcissus)

Galanthus-and-Narcissus

Or how the bulb kept its secret in your garden all winter.

Unless, of course, the bulb in question is a corm, or a rhizome or a tuber (not the wind instrument, that’s a tuba). What is the difference? An extract from our new eBook “In Your Spring Garden” may help explain…

“A bit of botany about bulbs

Some of the flowers we think of as growing from bulbs are in fact from corms or tubers. Although these are fundamentally the same, in the sense of being a storage depot where the plant keeps it resources in order to flower the following year, there are differences. Bulbs and corms are stems, whereas just to confuse you, some tubers are stems, such as begonias, and others, dahlias for example, are roots.

Bulbs have a swollen compact stem with fleshy leaves attached to it; daffodils (narcissi) tulips and the onion family are all bulbs. New bulbs are formed from buds between the leaves of the parent bulb, which itself will last many years. These small bulbs can be separated from the parent and planted separately, its best to take ones with roots buds showing at the base to be sure of their growing on. Corms have a short swollen stem in which the food is stored; this is covered by old dead foliage. New corms are formed on top of the old one which will eventually wither away. Crocus and gladiolus are corms.

Stem tubers such as begonias and cyclamen, are long lived or perennial; although not all stem tubers are. Their tubers have developed from the ends of rhizomes, which are underground stems; hence stem tubers. Dahlias and some day lilies (Hemerocallis) are root tubers.”

Snowdrop (Galanthus) 'Wendys-gold'

Galanthus-plicatus-wendys-gold

Hopefully that’s clarified the main differences between bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes for you. As a side note, some plants, water lilies for example, only have rhizomes; that is they don’t have ‘true stems’ above ground. Or in the water lily’s case, above water. Seriously though, have a look at a water lily next time you get the chance, the only stems are under water, ie beneath the surface, all you see ‘above’ are foliage and flowers.

Snowdrops (Galanthus) and Tulips are both bulbous plants, as are Daffodils (Narcissus) and Hyacinths. All of these are well known spring flowering flowers. Hyacinths may be ‘forced’ that is specially prepared to flower for Christmas, but naturally they would flower outside in April and May. Snowdrops flower from January through to the end of March; Daffodils flower from February to April and Tulips from late March to late May. The dates do vary with where you are (local and regional weather and micro climate) and how long the bulbs have been in the ground (did you plant them late for example).

Snowdrop (Galanthus) 'Robin Hood'

Galanthus-Robin-Hood

So what about those heroic Snowdrops I mentioned? Galanthus nivalis ‘Robin Hood’ is the snowdrop in question and I was busy admiring it again at the RHS Plant and Design Show in London this week. First mentioned as a snowdrop variety in 1891, Galanthus ‘Robin Hood’ has markings on the inner flower that look like crossed sabres, which is arguably a disappointment, I feel the markings should look like a bow and arrow. But I am fond of this particular snowdrop nonetheless.

The Horticultural Halls were full with many different plants, but I always see the Snowdrops and Daffodils as the undisputed stars of the show – they are at their prime. And it’s when you view snowdrops that are at table height that you begin to realise that not only are their flowers beautifully marked with green and yellow and cream, but that many also have a delicate scent that would be totally lost if you only planted in the flower borders in your garden.

Tulip 'smirnoff'

Tulip ‘smirnoff’

And the vodka drinking tulip? An attractive white flower with fringed petals Tulip ‘smirnoff’; although I’m not sure that its cup shaped flowers would work as a shot glass, it is a very attractive plant.

Seasonal offer:
Our eBook “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” has been drastically reduced in price as “In Your Spring Garden with Plews Garden Design” is due for release next week.
Available in formats for PC, Kindle and iPad from Amazon and Smashwords

Jack Frost and Plews

cover illustration “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” by Lucy Waterfield

Winter Garden visits: Chartwell

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Chartwell-garden-seatIt is difficult to fit in essential tasks when a garden is open to the public all year; even mowing the croquet lawn can be tricky; mowing a visitor by mistake wouldn’t do. Many chores are left to the winter for good reason – because they’re time consuming or messy. But whilst cleaning pots is easy to achieve regardless of visitors, relaying paths and swathes of turf requires areas to be fenced off so that garden visitors don’t tread on newly laid paving by mistake.

I kept forgetting that Chartwell, home of Winston Churchill had changed its opening hours so the gardens are now open all year. Typically, I chose a freezing cold afternoon with snow on the ground to visit. The positive side was that I had the gardens virtually to myself; even the staff had the sense to find indoor tasks.DSC05416

The name “Chartwell” comes from the well on the estate and ‘chart’ meaning ‘rough ground’ in Old English. The gardens are grade II listed, meaning they are of historical importance. This doesn’t mean they are locked into a time warp; the gardening team create and maintain interesting displays throughout the gardens. They have risen to the challenge of accommodating visitors all year round; visitors who, if a garden is open to the public during the winter, expect that there something worth seeing.

Visiting a garden in winter shows a whole new perspective on a familiar landscape. I was accompanied for some of the time by Franklin,  one of the resident cats; he posed beautifully in the rose garden, a fluffy blackness against the white snow and the formally pruned rose bushes. Churchill insisted that there was always a marmalade cat with white socks called Jock at Chartwell, but he was obviously inside in the warm when I visited (probably on his Facebook page – do you think he ‘likes’ ours?).Franklin-in-winter-rose-garden

Naturally my main focus was the winter border as I had been promised some delights of scent and colour by one of the gardeners.On the way I took in the orchard with its winter pruned apple trees, including Malus domestica ‘Newton’s wonder’. This is not, as you might think, an offspring of the famous tree that dropped an apple on Isaac Newton’s head so he discovered the laws of gravity. That was Malus ‘Flower of Kent’. ‘Newton’s wonder’ is a culinary apple, a nineteenth century cultivar like the popular ‘Bramley’, but sweeter in taste.Malus-'Newtons-wonder'

The Sarcoccca confusa or sweet box, sits lushly by the gate to the vegetable garden at the lower end of the winter border. Normally packing a wow of scent even in winter, it was struggling a little due to the extreme cold and lack of sun, but a closer sniff proved it was still in business. The sloping border offered colourful Cornus (dogwood) with lime green stems contrasting with the red brick wall. This shrub proves its worth time and again as winter interest and can easily be accommodated in smaller gardens and borders. Pruning the stems in March frees up space for summer herbaceous flowers to grow in front; with the advantage of colourful fresh young Cornus stems to delight the eye the following winter.

Closer to the ground I admired the snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) braving the snow. I liked the pairing of these with Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens (black grass). Not all was monotone; the Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) has a yellow flower that perversely I find more attractive closed rather than open. The Corsican Hellebore (Hellleborus argutifolius) added some texture to the border, and complimented the green foliage of those bulbs that were poking through the snow. I do love Hellebores; I feel a trip to the national collections at Broadview Gardens and Hazles Cross Farm may be in order soon…snowdrops-in-the-snow

At the top of the sloping winter border I was rewarded with the gorgeously scented Daphne bholua. The scent admired, and having reached a high point of the garden I thought I might briefly sit and enjoy the views that tempted Churchill into buying this estate. On seeing the seat though, I changed my mind; stood a while admiring the landscape, then headed off for the warm, well pleased with my snowy garden visit. I’ve now started to follow the Chartwell garden blog – a good way of keeping up between visits.

Seasonal offer: 

Our eBook “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” has been drastically reduced in price as “In Your Spring Garden with Plews Garden Design” is due for release in about a week.
Available in formats for PC, Kindle and iPad from Amazon and Smashwords

Daphne-bholua

Holly: a useful Christmas evergreen in your garden

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WP espresso coffee cup

WP espresso coffee cup

This year’s weather has had a detrimental effect on the coffee bean crop: bad news for coffee lovers. Strictly speaking, coffee is from the beans of the Coffea shrub, a tropical evergreen. But there may be an alternative evergreen growing in your garden. Did you know that certain Holly leaves can be brewed to make a caffeine rich drink?

The leaves of several species of Holly (Ilex) contain caffeine and are used to make a stimulating drink. Holly is a species of both evergreen and deciduous broad leaved trees, shrubs and climbers ranging across both tropical and temperate zones. Whilst many readers will be thinking of either the European Holly (Ilex aquifolium Europea) or the American Holly (Ilex aquifolium opaca) it is the tropical and sub tropical species that are the richest (if that is the phrase) in caffeine.

WP holly variegated

WP holly variegated

The best known caffeine drink from Holly is yerba maté, made from the leaves of Ilex aquifolium paraguayensis. This South American sub tropical species grows naturally in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. Although the Spanish ‘yerba’ suggests it is an herbaceous plant, it is an evergreen tree. The leaves are not the prickly edged ones most Europeans and North Americans think of when visualising holly, but are glossy green with softly serrated edges. The berries or fruits are dark purple/red; an attractive contrast to the leaves.

As well as containing caffeine (rich in anti antioxidants), Holly leaves have anti-inflammatory properties and a high levels of vitamins. The beneficial properties of yerba mate don’t stop there. If normal coffee keeps you awake, may find these particular caffeine rich Holly leaves more to your taste. Although there are high levels of caffeine, enough to give you that ‘buzz’, the brew doesn’t seem to cause the ‘jitters’ that some people find an unwelcome side effect of coffee drinking.

The Maté tree has also been cultivated in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, where the refreshing brew is a popular drink. Yerba mate has quite a grassy taste, so not what you’d expect from coffee, more as you would expect from green tea; but with that caffeine ‘kick’ of course.

And as for the decorative and wildlife friendly uses that Holly can be put to in your garden, well, that’s another blog…or why not have a read of our eBook?

For more tales of Christmas evergreens, planting ideas for your winter garden, and a gallery of photographs and original sketches, why not add our eBook “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” to your Christmas present purchases? Available from Amazon and Smashwords in formats to suit PC, iPad and Kindle.

If you would like some garden design advice, so your winter garden looks like a wonderland, get in touch: info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk

WP Holly 'ferox'

WP Holly ‘ferox’

Water in the Garden

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Water has been something of a headliner in Britain this year. Too much water covering the soil and most plants will drown but what about the soil itself?

If, like some of our clients, your garden is in a high water table area, you may find the winter rains bring a period of standing water to your garden. Or your concern may be for the flooding that you’ve suffered this year and the effect it will have on your garden and the plants not just in the short term, but next year.

Standing water is a term more scientifically used to describe a permanent feature, for example, a brackish water pool in a peat bog (dystrophic standing water, if you’re interested in the scientific definition). The standing water can be a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) if providing a habitat for interesting or rare fauna (animals, including invertebrates) and flora (plants). For example, standing water which is classified as eutrophic water is very rich in minerals, plant and animal life. Many of these are large lakes and are worryingly under threat from pollution, especially from the over use of agricultural fertilisers which then seep into the water.

The term standing water also covers the small pond in your garden and the reservoir that was at very low levels this spring and is now full. You may not be bothered about your pond lapping at the lawn edges but you may well be concerned with the longer term effect that those other puddles of standing water in your garden will have on your plants, from the lawn to the apple trees.

If you have well-drained soil, the water will find its way through even though it takes awhile. And because your soil is fundamentally free-draining there should not be too much damage to your plants and lawn in the longer term. So those of you on a light, sandy don’t need to worry about the plants drowning. However, you do need to worry about the nutrients being washed away with all the excess water. Plan to add plenty of organic matter (OM) once the threat of standing flood water has gone. This will improve the overall water retentive equalities of your soil as well as replacing those essential Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK) minerals needed by all plants.

Those of you with heavy clay soils, the sort that sticks to your wellies and might be better used to make pots than grow carrots, have a problem. NormallyI wouldn’t suggest going near your wet clay soil with a spade, but this is one of those times when you should. If you have any choice plants that you really don’t want to lose – and assuming we’re not talking about a 30 foot tall tree or a well established shrub – then digging it up for the short term is a solution. Put it in a pot with some good, peat free potting compost so it can, quite literally, breathe again.

Next look to your soil and the worms living in it. Why worms?

Extract from eBook –worms…
“Worms are brilliant. But why are worms so important? Briefly, their burrowing in the soil to move around creates channels for air to circulate and water to drain through. Some of the tunnels can be a few feet deep, this especially important for those who garden on heavy, clay type soils as such deep and constant activity really improves the soil quality. Plants need air at their roots in order to breathe and they need water; soil air and soil water fit in the spaces between the soil particles. Worms help to create those spaces and maintain them.”

And worms can drown in standing water. You may not be able to rescue them individually, but by planning to add plenty of OM to your soil once the floods subside you’ll give them a better chance of survival next time. And those worms who survived the overdose of water will thank you for the yummy worm food which OM is by helping to spread it through your soil; which is of course good for your plants too.

If you have a wormery, and you know that a lot of rain is forecast, it is a good idea to provide a cover as even worms in a wormery may drown (I have seen this, not a pretty sight). A slightly raised waterproof cover is best, as a tightly fitting plastic tarpaulin could suffocate the worms if you forget to remove it.

There are many reasons why you might have a problem with standing water in your garden; from an underwater stream to next door’s extension and huge patio. We can help with resolving the issue, beginning with a consultancy or advisory visit and possibly progressing on with a redesign to include raised beds and rain gardens.

Marie

Our eBook “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” would make a great present – downloads are available for kindle, iPad, & PC on Smashwords and Amazon

For garden advice visits or design and planting ideas drop us an email with your needs: info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk

Design Inspiration from Cawdor Castle Garden

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A rainy day in June and a Scottish garden full of interesting plants. This week’s blog is largely a photo blog, letting the flowers, trees and shrubs do most of the talking.

It was a very damp day, overcast with that constant fine drizzle that epitomises a British summer. But the weather didn’t stop the garden at Cawdor Castle from looking wonderful. Or rather the three gardens – as the whole is made up of The Walled Garden, The Flower Garden and The Wild Garden.

The family motto ‘Be mindful’ may not mean ‘take time to reflect on the delights of this garden’ but it is a good interpretation – the garden has many different faces and they reveal themselves through glimpses and long vistas and then suddenly close to.

 

 

 

The Walled Garden
The Holly Maze was being renovated when we were there (a good excuse for another visit) but the knot garden was a delight, as was the orchard with its statuary.

 

 

                                                                                                                                        

 

 

 

 

 

The Flower Garden
Originally the borders gave interest in late summer when the family were there for the shooting season. The planting has been added to and this looked lovely in mid June with Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia) and other early herbaceous perennials.

Cawdor castle did not actually have anything to do with Macbeth until Shakespeare put the two together in a play, as the castle wasn’t built until the 14th century and Macbeth was king of Scotland in the 11th century.

“This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses” [Shakespeare, Macbeth]

Is at least a true reflection of Cawdor Castle in its garden; we took away lots of inspiration from our afternoon there and look forward to our next visit.