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April 2008
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June 2008

May 2008

Keep it Neat and Tidy but don't disturb the wildlife

As well as doing a planting project today, (under a beech tree, so dry shade) Jamie got a new gadget today in the form of an updated Stil petrol hedgetrimmer. This means that we can now do hedge renovations as well as trimming, as the power is greater.  This time of the year all the hedges are growing and need regular pruning, but beware of birds nests and animals hiding in these wildlife sanctuarys.  If you have  Privet (ligustrum) or Lonicera (shrubby honey suckle) you are unlikely to disturb birds, Coniferous hedges are usually too thick for nesting. But if you have Beech, Hornbeam or Hawthorn hedges, do one last cut in the next week and then leave it until late August when any fledglings have flown.  If you do find a nest, - don't touch it, and try and leave it undisturbed. At Wisley I remember a customer order tree that had been left a couple of weeks and then couldn't be collected for several months as a bird had built a nest!

Homegrown fruit and vegetables

I know i've written about this quite a lot, but i'm loving having my own space to grow fruit and vegetables.  A question I got asked this week, is - "where should I buy vegetable plants from", - here's my answer

A lot of Garden centres have veg plants now, - my advice is to only get those with moist soil, with tomato plants and courgette plants you want strong plants that can stand up on their own when got out of the tray,

All of the plant centres will get the same quality plants, so you want to get them as fresh as possible, - take them off trolleys if necessary, - best days of the week to look for them are Thursday and Friday as that will be fresh stock from the nursery, - don’t shop for veg plants on Sunday or Monday, particularly if the weather has been hot!

i'm off out to plant out my tomatos, so there had better not be a late frost this week!

Chelsea Flower show

We spent a long day at Chelsea Flower show yesterday. We scrutinised the gardens, and pondered on the judges opinions, we marvelled at the out of season plants in the floral marquee, and quizzed the accessories stall holders for information about gardening equipment and how best to use it.  We admired the sculptures and Garden furniture for gardens larger than our own, and dreamed about owning a fantastic greenhouse like those on show (ok that was just me!) Kim and I trailed the floral marquee spotting plant combinations and piling up the nursery catalogues and Jamie decided that that was too many plants in one go, and investigated all the tool stands.
The Television flower show coverage had made a lot of the show gardens main colour being green this year, with foliage plants much more in evidence than normal. For me, this made a lot of the gardens more believable with many of them planted to look good throughout the year, rather than for a couple of weeks in May. There were still plenty of purple, white and orange flowers used in the gardens, and we spotted purple Salvia, Thalictrum Thundercloud, Irises and Alliums being used many times with Silver foliage as well as green to brighten up the planting.
Kim's favourite garden was the Cleve West Garden for BUPA, with wonderful paths running round the garden to take you to different planting schemes. My favourite garden was an Urban small garden Called the Sky at night. Jamie liked the architectural plants like Cynara and Gunnera, and we all commented on the fact that the gardens look a lot smaller than on the Television.
I succumbed to the Strawberry offers on the Ken Muir stand. So in a couple of weeks I will be the proud owner of a Dulux Strawberry table top and some Guariguette and Chelsea Pensioner strawberry plants that will fruit within 60 days of planting.  Hopefully this £80 investment will drastically cut my soft fruit bill at the supermarket each week and will be an ongoing source of Williams favourite fruit for years to come.  Other than that we were very resPicture Chelsea colours trained on the spending front, but having picked up brochures from many of the nursery stands I may well be able to add a touch of Chelsea to mine and others gardens over the coming weeks.

Planting Inspiration

The Plantpassion team are off to Chelsea in the morning.  Kim and I are really excited at the prospect of a day of plants, Jamie's not sure he'll enjoy the gardens, and doesn't like the idea of the early start, as we want to get there to see the show gardens before the crowds build up, however we're all sure that there will be lots of ideas to inspire us, whether that be the latest plants, the style of the gardens or the range of accessories and tools.
i'll let you know how we get on and what tempts us to get our money out.

Love your lawn part 2

So now, you know which lawnmower to use for your patch of green, How do you go about mowing your lawn?, - how do you get stripes and are they worth it?

Well before you get your lawnmower started, you need to do a visual inspection of the lawn, - any stones, bark, and debris such as tree clutter, needs to be cleared for safety reasons, - the blade of the lawn mower will be spinning very fast and can spray out debris with a high speed, which is why after getting cut ankles, I wear long trousers while mowing.
When you are sure that the lawn is clear, set your mower for the appropriate cutting height, - if your grass is long, then put it on a high cut to start with and then move it down.  The lowest cutting heights should only be used in Summer if drought isn't a problem on a fine lawn.  Anything else needs a mid height setting.
The first mowing step is to go around the outside of the main lawn area. This is to create a turning edge when you are mowing up and down.  If your lawn mower is less than 45cm in cutting width, you may need to do 2 passes round the outside of the garden to get a big enough strip. This also enables you to check that you have the right cutting height and aren't scalping the lawn. (very obvious if you set off across the middle for your first line of cutting!) Then you can start to work your way up and down in rows.  Even if your mower hasn't got a roller, this will create stripes in the lawn as the grass is pushed one way or another. - (Don't forget this if you want to get to an uncut piece of lawn, - if you push your mower across a cut patch of grass, that will be the last stripe, and so the most obvious! )You should be aiming to put a wheel of your mower over the edge of the last stripe to ensure none is missed.
 If you have a grass box, empty it regularly to ensure that the mower blades can move freely.
To finish strim or use shears to edge the lawn.
Now you can sit back and admire your english garden lawn.
It may take a little while, but a properly cut lawn makes a garden look great.

Love your Lawn part 1

We love our lawns in this country, and May is the peak time for growth, and with the sun and rain we've had recently, there has been a lot of grass growth around over the last couple of weeks. I've seen a lot of Green Swards over the last few weeks that don't look quite as they should so I thought i'd write about how to get the best from your lawn
part 1, - Choose your lawnmower
The main questions to ask are
How big is your grassed area?
How long do you want to spend mowing it?
What kind of finish do you want?
your options for lawnmowers are 2 main types,
Cylinder, - this is where there are between 5 & 9 blades arranged on a cylinder, that goes round and cuts against a bottom plate, - cutting like scissors, and giving the finest cut. -
These machines can be either hand pushed, electric or petrol and should be used if you want an excellent finish, and if you have a flat lawn with no lumps.
Rotary - this is where you have a blade that turns from a centrally held point, and cuts the grass at high speed. Electrically or petrol driven, these can either be wheeled mowers, or can be hover mowers, where an air cushion lifts them off the ground. - Rotary are best for larger utility areas, and the hover mowers can cope with more bumps in the lawn and steeper banks than wheeled mowers. - Ride on mowers are almost all Rotary mowers until you get to golf course type machines.
So which one should you pick?
At my last house, where we made the lawn on a raised area, and it was only 5m square, I used an electric Cylinder mower, - At each side of the lawn there was an edging, which made it easier to turn the machine around and create stripes.
My new lawn is on a slight slope, it is rougher grass, and is a larger area, - i'm now using a Petrol mountfield Rotary mower, with grass collection box, but no roller, - that would make it too heavy for me to turn.  I've also got a patch of roadside verge, so at some point i'll need to get a hover mower. My Neighbour has gone for a rechargable electric lawnmower for her verge, - easier to start than a petrol version, - I need to borrow it to find out how good they are, - anyone else used one?

Summer Patio Colour and Scent

i've got a new patio this year, thanks to Mike and the team from Merrow Landscapes, so i'm on the look out for new pots and things to fill them.  My favourites so far this week are, -
Ivy Leaved Geraniums, - there are some wonderful new deep Carmine red varieties.
Oesteospernum, - many shades of white, pink and purple, but my colour of the week is a terracotta
Lotus - now i've planted this one several times, but not managed to get it to flower, - while the foliage is a lovely soft feathery silver, and so worth it on its own, the flowers are orange and red.
I've teamed the Oestespernum and Lotus in a pot as underplanting for an Olive. It gave a great effect, so it's one i'm going to repeat.
i've also decided to use an old barrel that I had as a planter for herbs, - this has been used as a mini pond, and for various bean and sweet pea tepees over the years, but i'm going to use it near to the kitchen door for my most used herbs, - Rosemary (which i'll keep well trimmed) Parsley, Chives and Thyme.

Malvern Spring Show

I had a date with my husband on Saturday, and enjoyed a whole child free day at the Malvern Spring Show.  This is located at the Three Counties Show Ground, - so there was plenty of space for the show to be spread over, and the directions and parking arrangments are all great.  We got there at opening time of 9.00am, and after paying our £14.50 entry on the door (thats less than half the price of my Chelsea tickets) we had a wander through a very wide range of stalls and marquees.  My first impressions were that it was a very big showground, and that there were a large number of sundries and associated products (some only loosely Garden associated!) all vying for your money.
The prices were keen, so we had a good wander around and I found information about supplyers of obolisks, garden machinery,   Play frame safety mats, and lots of ideals for plant labelling.
The floral marquee, while it had some excellent stands was a little disappointing overall, - I guess i'd been hoping for some different displays as this show is earlier in the year than the others.  I didn't find anything particularly new or different, but I did love the displays of ferns, and was tempted to order a large amount of bulbs, by the Tulip displays, so watch out for those in the Brown's Garden next spring.  The Show gardens were a mixed bunch of ideas, I loved the Gardens of 2 Police bungalows, - one 1960's and one today, with corresponding trends in plants (and police cars!) I've taken photos of some great colour combinations, but The Gardens were in a square display area, so there was no progression around the gardens to compare them. Which was a mistake as they lost my attention sooner than usual. However they were near the refreshment marquee so we did get some tea and cake in the shade.
Overall, the Malvern Show was a great day out, and would be an excellent starting place if you hadn't done a show before, as it wasn't at all formal, and had plenty of good catering and helpful ideas.

Everything's growing

Wow it's May and everything is growing, and I havn't had time to sit at my computer for days, - We had a busy week, the rain went away, and the sun shone, so Jamie was busy laying turf, which has needed watering every day.
- If you have a new lawn, you need to soak it to encourage root growth in hot weather, so a sprinkler on a low setting, particularly at the edges is needed. - Once the lawn is established, it won't need watering at all, so don't feel guilty about giving it a good soaking now.
Kim and I finished a planting a border planned for a party this weekend.  The weather has done us proud, and the Aqueligias, Dicentras, Alliums and Viburnum plicatum were all at their best.
We also planted a raised herb bed, (raised to dog proof it we hope), and spent the rest of the time attacking more Ground Elder. and other weeds.