Tag Archives: Plews Garden Design

Autumn Pruning – some Questions and Answers

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Plews Weekend Blog

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

you can find it here –

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

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

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

Your feedback is appreciated

Marie, Nathan and all the Team at Plews Garden Design

Resolving Your Gardening Issues

Plews Garden Design Team including Sharpe

Plews Garden Design Team including Sharpe

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

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

Gardening tips for watering in the hot weather

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oriental poppy

oriental poppy

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

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

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

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

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

santolina in need of watering

santolina in need of watering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tomato tigerella

tomato tigerella

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

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

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

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

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

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner

Chilean Glory Flower (Eccremocarpus scaber)

Chilean Glory Flower

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show – the Plews view

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RHS Hampton Court - Long Water

RHS Hampton Court – Long Water

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

sanguisorbia and curved bench

sanguisorbia and curved bench

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

eryngium and allium

eryngium and allium

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

Nathan and pimms by the Long Water

Nathan and pimms by the Long Water

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

bees enjoying the show

bees enjoying the show

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

valley garden

valley garden

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

Derek and Graeme

Derek and Graeme

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

Ecover garden

Ecover garden

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

in the butterfly dome

in the butterfly dome

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

Plant Heritage

Plant Heritage

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

Lily 'gizmo'

Lily ‘gizmo’

but be careful if you stay still for too long…

floral mini

floral mini

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

Iris

Iris

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

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

on reflection

on reflection

Marie Shallcross

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


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

stipa gigantea

stipa gigantea

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

 

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

 

Is RHS Chelsea Flower Show more eco-friendly than your Garden?

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Giant Scabious and spider

Giant Scabious and spider

Answer: in all honesty, probably not. Why? Think of all those mature trees transported in from the continent; all that hard landscaping; all those thirsty plants that need gallons of water as they’ve just been transplanted (if you remember, last year we had the added problem of being in a drought situation); all the lawns that will need re-turfing after the show.

But maybe you don’t think your own garden is very ecofriendly either? You could be surprised, read through ‘The Ten Commandments of Ecofriendly Gardening’ and then you can decide for yourself.

One: Water conservation Parts of the UK have less rain than southern Spain; difficult to believe sometimes, but true. So a water butt is an essential part of your eco-friendly garden. You could also use the grey water from washing up bowls, showers and baths on ornamental plants. Water generously but less often to encourage deep rooting rather than shallow surface roots. Watering in the evening or early morning minimises evaporation, and direct the water at the soil not the plant. You could read one of our water or drought blogs from last year for more ideas.

fountain

fountain

Two: Right plant; right place This is partly about planting acid loving plants in acidic soil, but also about choosing drought tolerant plants for hot, sunny borders; and shade lovers for under trees. Most plants, once established, will manage with very little attention if they’re in the right location or habitat – easy maintenance gardening!  Right plant; right place is one of the starting points when we’re designing a planting scheme for a client, for it to work we need to know our plants and our soils.

Three: Use alternatives to peat Peat bogs are important ecosystems that took thousands of years to establish; when they’re gone, they’re gone forever. There won’t be peat used at Chelsea Flower Show as the RHS has been among those gardening organisations that now use alternatives. There are some good quality alternatives available, including those based on bark and sheep’s wool.

compost bin made of resycled plastic

compost bin made of resycled plastic

Four: Composting Definitely a holy grail of ecofriendly gardening; this is now actively supported by many local authorities, who collect your food and garden waste if you don’t want to or don’t have the space to.  I would encourage everyone who can to compost; there are different methods so there should be one to suit you, your family and your garden. We’ve talked about different composting systems in other blogs and in the eBooks, if you’d like to know more.

Five: Re-use non-biodegradable products This includes plastic plant pots, plastic bottles and plastic trays which can be used many times before being recycled. It also means, for example, using rubber car tyres as a soft surface under children’s play equipment.

Six: Exclude or at least minimise the use of unfriendly chemicals Is it acceptable in an otherwise organic and ecofriendly garden to use a glyphosate based weed killer to clear the weeds initially? I would say not, but I can understand why people prefer this as a quicker method.

crazy paving path

crazy paving path

Seven: Hard landscaping should be minimised Or to be more precise non-permeable hard landscaping such as pavers set in concrete should be minimised. Purists may be against even decking, but so long as there is plenty of planting as well, there’s nothing wrong and much that is practical and right with permeable hard landscaping. You could use re-cycled pavers for example, rather than letting them go to landfill.

Eight: Lighting is evil Light pollution confuses bats and birds, and can be irritating for your neighbours if it’s overdone. But we need some outdoor lighting, whether for security, for street lighting or because we’d like to enjoy our garden when we come home from work. See if solar lighting would be suitable to reduce electricity usage; and ask your garden designer and electrician to plan the lighting so that every day (or night!) lights are kept to the essentials only; but with plenty of scope for party fun.

Nine: Messy bits Also known as wildlife areas, bug hotels, nettle beds and log piles. These provide habitats for all those essential beasties that eat many of the garden pests. Some endangered species such as stag beetles need those log piles in domestic gardens in order to survive at all. Wildlife areas don’t need to be large so most gardens can find a small corner for a messy bit. You could for example, leave a pile of leaves at the back of a border behind the shrubs; perfect for a hedgehog to hibernate in.

bug hotel

bug hotel

Ten: Grow your own and buy local Growing some of your own food, whether this is a few salad leaves in a shallow tray, some herbs on the windowsill, an espalier apple tree along the fence or a fully fledged ornamental kitchen garden is very satisfying. Plews offers lessons in your own garden which can help a novice gardener learn the right way to hold a spade and to transplant seedlings, and there are plenty of evening courses at colleges around the country too.

raised beds with vegetables

raised beds with vegetables

With ‘buy local’ I’m thinking not so much about the salads as about the trees and other imported plants. We have many excellent nurseries in this country capable of growing most of the ornamental plants we want for our gardens, but sometimes we need to bring in trees or shrubs from elsewhere. If all plants coming into the country were properly quarantined we would not be in the situation that we are in where many of our native species – Ash, Oak, Horse Chestnut for example – are under major threat and may disappear like the English Elm did as a result of the 1980s Dutch Elm disease.

A cautionary note to finish on perhaps, but there is a positive, as if you were to start following only one or two of ‘The Ten Commandments of Ecofriendly Gardening’ you would be making a difference. After all, even oak trees start as acorns…

Marie, Senior Partmer, Plews Garden Design

If you’d like an ecofriendly garden designed,  gardening lessons or gardening advice on any of the topics covered, please get in touch:
Email: info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk
Or ring us: 020 8289 8086

pulmonaria

pulmonaria