Tag Archives: spring

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

April showers and May Day in the Garden

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white-honesty (lunaria)

white-honesty (lunaria)

April brings showers to our gardens; this year April has brought showers of sleet and snow; and the plants have suffered.

This year April has been cruel month of rain, and cold and wind, with frosty nights but very few sunny days. The plants in our gardens have suffered, assuming they risked growing at all. This lengthening of winter has been affecting not just British gardens but gardens elsewhere, the United States for example. This last week or so there has been a sudden flowering and greening of our gardens. Next week brings May Day; so will we be celebrating spring in the garden at last?

forget-me-nots

forget-me-nots

May Day, Beltane in the Celtic calendar, is celebrated in the Northern hemisphere as the first day of summer. Certainly May is when the flowers and crops grow in earnest, the days are longer so more work can be achieved out in the fields and plots and life seems full of…life.

Flora, a Roman goddess who appears on the cover page of our Spring eBook, is the harbinger of spring; the bringer of life after the frost of winter. The Romans celebrated her festival, Floralia, around April 28 – May 3; they would decorate trees with ribbons and garlands in her honour; dance and feast. The tradition of a decorated maypole grew out of this, although many places and religions still prefer to decorate the woodland trees.

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

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

Although a minor goddess, the return of spring gave Flora an important role, Rome was a mighty empire with a conquering army, but as we all know, an army marches on its stomach so food and agriculture was central to Rome’s power.

So whilst many see her as a gentle form of spring fertility rites, being more concerned with flowers than animals mating, Flora holds the key to more than a few pretty posies. Without flowers, there is nothing for bees, butterflies, moths and wasps and a host of other pollinating insects and animals to feed upon. Without these natural pollinators, the edible crops would not be fertilised; the flower produced would not run into a fruit, a vegetable or a nut. Reduced to a diet of wind-pollinated plants only, many animals would not survive. In other words, the whole food chain or pyramid, with humans at the top, would collapse. Approximately one third of the food we eat can be directly linked to Flora’s ability to bring her flowers back to bloom in the spring.

Raised beds

Raised beds

If you’d like some help growing your own or to encourage bees in to your garden – lessons perhaps, or an area of the garden re-designed and built to form an ornamental fruit and vegetable potager, why not drop us an email?

pulmonaria

pulmonaria

Spring Gardens: “sow” much to do

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Narcissus-bulbocodium-praecox

Narcissus-bulbocodium-praecox

Feeling overwhelmed with spring cleaning tasks in the garden? Why not take some time out to relax with Plews & discover how soap is made from your garden plants; you do after all need soap in order to get things clean.

Spring cleaning in your garden is one part of the general tidying and cleansing that we indulge in or make ourselves take part in over the year. Spring cleaning as a tradition has a number of origins, from ritual cleansing for religious festivals such as the Jewish Passover to the more mundane reasons of March being warm enough to have the windows and doors open to sweep the winter dust away.

In the garden this may include spring lawn tasks such as scarifying, last minute pruning of apple trees, buying seeds and cleaning pots and seed trays. Because there are so many potential chores that need our attention, I thought a quick foray down memory lane to look at some garden plants that have been used for spring cleaning in the past.

It could be fun and economical to use homemade soaps and cleaners to clean both your house and garden; by garden, I’m thinking mainly about paths, patios, decking, greenhouses; garden tools and of course plant pots and seed sowing equipment. Alternatively, you may just enjoy reading about it and letting someone else do the hard work! Museums and historic houses frequently use the softer traditional alternatives to modern detergents for washing delicate fabrics, so if you’re a devotee of vintage clothing, you may like to try out them out too.

We have been using soap, rather than just water, for cleaning at least 5000 years. Archaeology also shows that the Romans used to plant Soapwort (Saponaria officianalis) near their bathhouses to use the leaves as part of washing themselves clean. If you fancy a go at making your own soap with Soapwort, the process is quicker using the leaves than the roots, although the roots would seem to make the more efficient soap.

Pompei-road

Pompei-road

The Romans also used the oil from Olive trees (Olea Europea) as a soap base. If your Olive tree has fruit you may like to try the following (the extract is taken from our eBook “In Your Spring Garden”)

“Olives, the quintessential tree of sun drenched Mediterranean slopes and groves are relatively hardy in more temperate areas of Europe and North America. Olive oil was the main ingredient in the original ‘castille’ soap. Mixed with a little wood ash it makes an historical and fairly useful soap. Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and Beech (Carpinus betulus) are both good ash to use, but Apple (Malus) results in a paler soap. The resulting soap is abrasive, so if preferred the oil can be strained; add scented oils or dried flowers for perfume.”

 

 

old toothbrushes for cleaning seed trays

old toothbrushes for cleaning seed trays

 

 

 

This homemade soap could be used for cleaning out your seed trays ready for sowing those seeds that need to be started indoors. An old toothbrush is good for getting into the crevices so that no old soil or growing media is left that might cause problems.

For cleaning larger decks and patios for clients, our Nathan likes a pressure washer to be used. In keeping with the ‘homemade’ theme, he suggests that vinegar can be used with a stiff brush to remove mould and moss from a wooden shed. The addition of vinegar helps reduce the likelihood of them returning, as vinegar is a weed killer.

For more on seed sowing there’s a short blog on the website but for more information and gardening tips about your garden in spring, why not look at our new eBook “In Your Spring Garden”

“In Your Spring Garden” eBook would make a good Mothers Day or Easter present for the gardener in your life.

Hyacinth-blue

Hyacinth-blue

Spring into bulb buying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seed sowing in August

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What seeds could be sown this month? Winter vegetables are the obvious contender here – although some of them should have been started last month, but hey, no-one’s perfect. And anyway, nature’s calendar isn’t on her desktop or iphone so she’s less bothered about it being August as such but instead considers the weather (hot, cold, wet, dry) and how long the day is.

A method of seed dispersal

Maybe before we get onto which seeds to sow, we should look at why sowing seeds in late summer is a good idea. For many plants, it is the natural time to set seed and hope that it is dispersed to a suitable place where the seeds can then germinate. Annual flowers such as Papaver rhoeas (field poppy, cultivars of which we enjoy in our gardens) let loose their seeds to cover as wide an area as possible in the hope of finding a good growing place. The soil should be warm from the sun’s rays over spring and summer, if there’s also enough moistness, then these seeds will immediately start the germination process and small plants will appear before late autumn. They go into semi dormancy over winter, and most survive hard frosts to romp away in the spring, flowering earlier than their spring sown relations.  In your own garden, you could either collect the seed and sow it where you would like poppies next year;  or let the poppies do their own thing, taking out any plants that have germinated in the wrong place.

Other annual flowers which would naturally germinate at this time of year would be Calendula officianalis (marigold), Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist), Centurea cyanus (annual cornflower) Cosmos bipinnatus and Cerinthe major purpurascens (honeywort). In fact any flower or plant described as a ‘self-seeder’ can be left to do its own thing, making your garden low maintenance so you can relax in the garden with the kids or a cup of tea.

Calendula officianalis

Why else might we want to sow seeds now rather than the spring? Dinner would be a good reason. Many salad crops still have time to germinate and produce a crop before the autumn; Mizuna, salad rocket, coriander and ‘cut & come again’ varieties of lettuce such as oak leaf are all suitable.  Even later sowings of these will give you early salads in the spring. The easy way to accomplish this is to let some of your August sowings self seed.

Other vegetables can be sown now to provide winter salads and ‘greens’ for soups and stews. Cabbage and Kale, obviously, but why not try Swiss chard, which will also look decorative if you plant ‘rainbow lights’ with yellow, red and orange stems as well as green.  These crops will stand outside whatever the weather, but other crops can be sown now and grown under cover. Mustard leaves (‘green in snow’ is such an evocatively named variety!) ‘all year round’ lettuce and spinach are all worth trying.

There are other seeds that can be sown or should be sown at this time. For example, if you prefer to grow your onions from seed rather than sets (small bulbs). There are also green manures to protect and improve your soil and perennials that will grow from seed… But I think I’ve probably given you some ideas and options if you would like to try sowing seeds in August.