Archive | January 2012

The camellias have got dressed!

Winter, weather forecast says it will get below zero, so time to consider the plants that need some protection.  So far this winter I haven’t needed to, but it is time to get to work.

Over the years I have lost a lot of plants in winters, from tree ferns (very sad and expensive) to magnolia stellata and multiple other smaller plants – it seems like last Winter almost all the pennisetum in the UK were lost, perhaps we all got complacent after many years of increasing temperatures.  Now, obviously, the best thing is not to plant tender plants, but everyone loves to grow what they can’t – I’ve been in places where roses just don’t look happy and there’s a bed of sad-looking specimens, perhaps we gardeners are all mad!

You remember the camellias I bought?  Well, they should survive OK, but they carry their flower buds over the winter and these can drop in particularly cold weather – so I bought a single tube of horticultural fleece and have wrapped it very carefully (and not tightly, no point in knocking off the buds we want to keep, now is there?) – I have kept the fleece in place by using a couple of clothes pegs.

So, I am not growing ghosts or white lollipops, but hopefully this will ensure a good blossom – when I see warmer weather, I’ll be taking these off, but ready to put them back on whenever necessary.

Fingers crossed!

Dressed Camellia

Dressed Camellia

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Sleeping Beauty’s forest needs a trim

In my view, gardening shouldn’t be a solo activity (though I am married to a Summer gardener, but that’s by the by), and any large jobs are always easier to do together.  So when Dave got himself an allotment that hadn’t been touched for years, it was time to offer a hand.

Well, the photo doesn’t do it justice (and was taken after work started), but it appears that he has got himself Sleeping Beauty’s forest, actually the whole area is covered in brambles (blackberries) up to over 2M in height and so we need to start by cutting all of that down, burning the wood, digging up the roots before starting to plant.

So, I came along with my long-handled sickle and we thrashed at the bottom of the brambles and after a whole day yesterday for him and half a day for each of us today, I guess we are half-way through.  The sickle was certainly the tool for the job, though we also used long-handled secateurs, rakes to dump it on the fire and, of course, thick gloves and hats to make sure the brambles didn’t get the own back too much.

Dave has much more work to do, but it will be a great challenge and we’ll all look forward to eating the produce, especially the blackberries which will be particularly sweet.

Brambles

Is Sleeping Beauty in here somewhere?

Happy New Year – First Iris in flower

With January’s garden mainly a mix of bare stems, hellebores and snowdrops – it is great to see a blue iris reticulata braving the elements and having a go at flowering.  So, here’s today’s image, a welcome sight I hope you agree. It is a bulb, so needs little help – just plant them and forget them and let them peek through the declaring leaves each winter.

iris reticulata

Rant: Why are UK fence panels so orange?

One thing I’ve never understood is why virtually all fence panels sold in the UK are such a horrible orange colour.

I can’t imagine many people would choose that colour by default, there’s nothing like it in nature, it doesn’t match anything much I can think of, most people prefer their fencing to disappear into the background and yet …. and yet … they come by default in that horrible orange.

Perhaps many years ago that was the only colour preservative they could make, but surely that’s not the case now – the manufacturers could even increase the value of their panels by offering them in ‘Orrible Orange for one price and other colours for a higher price.

I notice that if you look for fencing preservative, ‘Orrible Orange isn’t one of the options – I don’t suppose anyone goes around thinking to themselves what their older panels need is a few coats of “that lovely colour they came in originally” if there’s anyone reading this from the manufacturer (Forest Garden – hello folks, great price btw) I’d love to know why.

Here’s one I replaced last weekend, blends in, no?  No!  I will be replacing all four, but either need to colour them, wear sunglasses, look the other way or wait for a few years for them to calm down.

Fence Panel

Ummmm, lovely colour.

Not enough rain in England, shock!

England is known for rain – mainly by people outside the UK who have a view, perhaps reinforced by stereotype, that it rains all the time.

However, in reality, rain isn’t that common and there are areas that in some recent years have had less rain than areas of gthe world defined as deserts. The garden has a pond, that a decade ago would never dry up and in the winter would flood across the grass even to some of the apple trees. But in recent years it has dried out completely in Summer and currently is around 2M or 6 feet lower than you would normal see in January. It is difficult to tell from the photo, but this picture should have water levels much higher going right over the grass at the back of the picture, and the grass island (with the statue on it) would in previous years be completely covered.

Pond

Where's all the water?

Having read a lot of articles about lack of rainfall and seen our pond, I thought I’d look at the published statistics and see if we can work out some trends. Now the garden is on a cusp, is it in the South-East or Midlands or East Anglia? It is tricky to know, but the weather we get is often as described as “in the East …” So I thought I’d download the East Anglia data from 1910 onwards from the Met Office web site and take a look.

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/uk/climate.html

Last year (2011), the rain in Eastern England was recorded as being 453mm, the least since records began in 1910, and that after two years of below-average rainfall, so it is all true.  The number of days where more than 1mm of rain fell was less than 90, so often not really enough to fill the aquifers, water the trees or fill up the pond, as small amounts of rain evaporate and don’t get deep into the ground.

So, some rain please!

Lawn aerating – good for the sod

I know, I know. You’ve been meaning to do it every year, but never got around to it. Well …. me too.

We have lived here for over ten years and I admit, I haven’t aerated the lawn. You know the books, they say if you don’t do this then the soil gets compacted, drainage worsens and you allow moss to grow and not grass. I’d love to say that they are wrong, but you know what – it seems they are right!

Now, as moss looks green and the same as grass from a distance and doesn’t need mowing, that doesn’t sound like too bad a thing, but its not as durable, so I have finally bitten the bullet and bought an aerator (off eBay for £16 btw).

Now I think I’ll disagree with the books here, always written assuming you can do all the garden tasks at the best time of year and tell you that you should have aerated earlier and “now is not the time to walk on the grass while it is frozen”. Well, its not frozen, the weather is warm for January and ya boo sucks, I have just aerated part of the lawn. I went over it once on Saturday and later on this week I will do it again, this time covering it with sharp sand (buy in bulk, delivered not too expensive) to help the lawn.

I’d also say that if you have soil like mine, there’s no point in buying and using a hollow-tined aerator. At the first use on clay, it will be blocked in any case, so one of these should be fine.

I have a fairly large lawn (no I am not doing all 2 acres), but still only bought a hand-held one, pushing it is good exercise too 🙂

Saturday 28th Jan.

Warm day – 5 – 10 degrees C, so I have done it.  Just one thing – many of the interactions suggest:

1. Aerator the lawn

2. Add sand/soil mix

3. Rake in

I was thinking though, as I want the sand to go down the holes, how about this way round:

1. Spread sand mix.

2. Aerate the lawn

3. Rake in any left on top.

This way, some of the sand has already been pushed down as the aerator makes the holes.  Seems obvious to me – anyway, that’s what I’ve done, good luck lawn – I hope you liked it.

Bargain Trees in January

Camellias

Camellias

We all know about January sales, well wrap-up warm as many garden centres have them too – its still a great time to buy and plant trees and I’ve just picked up a few real bargains as many look through their unsold stock at this time of year and it is bargain-time.

I managed to get two camellias, 2M high (6 feet) that were originally priced at £135 each for £25. No doubt they had been sitting unsold for a year or two – a bit pot-bound, but what an amazing bargain.

I also purchased 3 magnolias for £20 each (half price) and a pearl bush (exochorda x macrantha ‘the bride’) also at 50% off trained as a standard, I already have one that is just around 50cm high as a bush – lovely white flowers for a short time in May, then interestingly-shaped seed heads in the winter. The pearl bush is going in a pot on the back patio and the others in the garden beds, photos in bloom in just a while….  The magnolias could be the variety Star Wars, though the staff weren’t 100% sure, however I’ve never seen one I didn’t like, so let’s go for it!

I love trees!

exochorda-x-macrantha-the-bride

exochorda-x-macrantha-the-brideI love trees!

star-wars-magnolia

star-wars-magnolia