Previous month:
October 2009
Next month:
December 2009

November 2009

Layered pot, for winter through to spring colour

I'm hosting a dinner party this evening for 18 people.  Most people would be worried about whether they got the food or drink right and what they would wear, I however, looked at the empty pot outside my front door with horror this morning and realised that I really needed to get them looking good for when my guests arrived.

I'm lucky enough to have a couple of Whichford pots which are excellent quality terracotta pots that have a 10 year guarantee on them. They are extremely stylish and have excellent large drainage holes at the bottom and each season I fill them with perennials, climbers and annuals to give me the longest break possible in between planting up. This afternoon I decided to do a layered planting, which would give me  bursts of flower until next summer.

I started by mixing multipurpose compost with John Innes no 2 compost. This gives a secure base for the roots, but with enough drainage for the bulbs and plants that I was putting in for the winter season.  I put crocks in the bottom to make sure the drainage was good, and put the pot on pot feet.


The first layer of bulbs are tulips and they need to be planted deeply so I only put a couple of centimetres of compost in the bottom of the pot  before planting them. You can't really overdo it with tulips, the more the merrier and the beauty of using this  layering system is that you don't have to worry whether all the plant  colours complement each other because they will be flowering at different times of year so I've planted red and yellow striped tulips at the bottom.

On top of  this is another layer of bulbs.  Daffodils for early spring colour before the tulips come  and lilies for when they finished.  I'm not quite sure which variety they are as  they are ones that were left hanging around in my truck.  probably yellow tete a tete or white Thalia.  the daffodil bulbs will be strong enough to push their way up through the root balls of the cyclamen which I'm planting over them but the lilies are more delicate so I'm  placing the cyclamen in around where the shoots of the lilies are.


The last but most important step is to ensure that compost is pushed in around the rootballs of the  cyclamen.  You have to use your fingers and push the soil right down around the plants (you always need more than you think), and make sure that there is fresh compost between the pot wall and the root ball of the plants. This ensures that air pockets don't form which can allow the roots to dry out or freeze.


The cyclamen will last for a couple of months although they are not completely hardy. They don't mind cold temperatures  as long as they don't get wet. However, as this is going to be on my doorstep hopefully it will be sheltered from the worst of the rain. I may water it if we get drying winds, but if I do, it won't be over the top of the cyclamen, which could cause botrytis (mould) on the corms, but will be around the base.

This is a new combination, last year I tried Muscari, Daffodils, Tulips and Nerines, and i've got Alliums and Tulips in my other pot. - What combinations have you tried to get the longest flowering from one planting?

We have our first egg!

Our rescue chickens Sally and Princess Leia have been with us for about a month now. - They both have all their feathers back and are getting bolder when we let them free range the garden (my corn salad has all been eaten). This morning we were rewarded with our first egg.

I don't know which one laid it, I think probably Sally as she has been out of "captivity" for longer, and she was very excited when I picked up the egg and gave it to William


it was quite a big egg, and risking being late for school, we immediatly turned it into a boiled egg to go with toast soldiers.

I was going to do a photo of the egg and yolk waiting to be eaten, but it was so delicious I forgot


Bloom Day for November

It's the 15th November, - a special day for me as it's my Birthday. I've had a great family day, but I have to admit that the only disappointment for the day is the amount of blooms in my garden.

Southern England has been hit by major wind and rain-storms over the last few days, and every butt, seed tray, bucket and flower pot is full of water, Unfortunately that means that quite a few of the flowers that were hanging on in the middle of the week are now gone, - this includes, my Dahlias, Gaura, Penstemon, Roses and finally the Geranium Rozanne has given out. - My Schizostylis also needs to do a lot more growing before next year as it only produced a measly 4 flower buds, and the whole pack of wine red gladioli that I planted, only managed to give me 2 flower buds, both of which only arrived a couple of weeks ago, and were then destroyed by the rain.

So these are my November Blooms for GBBD, thanks to Carol at May Dream Gardens that hosts this each month

This Clematis  was a new one this year,-  It's a Raymond Evison New Introduction called Rebecca,


I was lucky enough to talk to Mr Evison earlier in the year at a Trade show, where he was so approachable and eager to tell me about his patio clematis range I decided I must have one. I bought it at the Hampton Court Flower show, and then I managed to leave it in the pot while I went on holiday.

By the time I got back, it had completely defoliated, and my husband was all for throwing it out, - but I soaked it in a bucket and within a week, it had new buds coming from the base, - it then grew well and is now in a lovely whichford pot by the front door and is rewarding me with these out of season flowers.

i've still got Nerine Bowdenii flowering, - these will be on my list to get more of next year.

This is Verbena Bonariensis sown from seed this year, - i'm hoping it will do its own self sowing next season.

There are still 3 Fuschias flowering, - the white one was in the middle of a very muddy border, so I didn't fancy getting down to take a photo of that one, - but the others are still going strong



My Hot chilli pepper is also now colouring up, - not sure i'll be allowed to use it in a recipe again, but it looks good, - this one is in the greenhouse, but there is also one on my kitchen window sill, - i've been listening to GQT and apparently they should be able to be cut back and come again, - might spoil my fun of seed sowing though.


Plants by Post

I have a love hate relationship with mail order plants.

I love the catalogues with the glossy pictures, I love the fact i can find a bargain because I know how much they would be at local nurseries. I love the fact that I can get a wider range of plants than any of my local nurseries carry at one time


I hate the fact that you have to do something with the plants the minute they turn up, and I hate the fact I always over order and have excess plants that I hadn't planned for sitting in a corner shrivelling.


This week however, I was pleasantly surprised by a mail order company I haven't used before - Hedges Direct.

I needed to form a neat hedge to cover a brick wall. I gave the client several suggestions, but Lonicera Nitida (hedging honeysuckle) was the final choice.

Continue reading "Plants by Post" »

Do I need to water my pots & baskets in winter?


Now the nights are drawing in, and you never seem to be home in daylight, it's easy to forget about watering pots and hanging baskets in the garden.

It's true that containers won't need as much attention as during the summer, but winter winds can be very drying, and so particularly evergreens will need some additional water maybe once a month through the winter.  The most important thing to remember is to ensure that the roots don't sit in water, because the moisture will turn to ice, and if the compost freezes solid for long it kills the plants (from drought, ironically!).
Ensuring that any saucers used in the summer are removed, and that pots are drained by placing on bricks or pot feet, so that any excess moisture can run out.


these pot feet are available from crocus

Water before midday, so that plants have time to soak up the water before the daylight fades and the temperature decreases, and if possible avoid getting water on the plant leaves, just water the compost.

If watering in a greenhouse or poly tunnel, ensure that all doors and windows are open to ensure thorough ventilation, but close up before dark.

In the middle of the winter, it may be worth "lagging" your most precious pots with bubble wrap, or moving them to the lee of a house wall where the temperature will be several degrees higher than in the rest of the garden.

Garden clearup - Recycling pots

Terracotta pots

it's at this time of year when I've planted as much as I can in the garden, and finally given up on the dead sticks in pots that have been dessicated since the summer, that I finally have a turnout of all the pots that have been lying around the garden all year.

Unfortunately my collection of pots isn't all terracotta and rustic looking, most of the plants I buy are in black plastic pots, and although I need a few each year to pot seedling on into, I don't need nearly as many as I use.

Continue reading "Garden clearup - Recycling pots" »

Children and water in the garden

Children, - particularly little ones, are drawn to water in a garden, For anyone that's been on a day out to any parks or gardens, you know that feeding the fish or watching a waterfall are a little ones favorite activities.


(William watching the waterfall in the RHS Wisley Glasshouse)

But as children are drawn to water, - that also means that there is danger that they will fall in, and not be able to get out. - I've unfortunately heard enough horror stories in my time about toddlers walking into swimming pools or ponds, (The horrifing stats are that about 200 under 5's have been drowned since 2002) that I wouldn't recommend to any family that they have an open pond in their garden, but there are other options that make a garden water feature safe for children and you to enjoy.

If you have a small pond, and want to have fish, then my recommendation is to use a pond cover. - This can be a cage above the water, but in my experience, this spoils the view, and makes tending to any pond plants or marginals very difficult. - This photo shows the recommendation I came up with for one of my clients gardens

This grid is installed just below or above the water surface and is designed to take the weight of a child

it's by a uk company called safapond

If you don't already have a water feature in your garden, - my suggestion would be to add the sound of running water without having the standing water, by using an underground water sump and a pump to create a fountain. - We used to have one of these in our last garden, with a large stone for the water to trickle out of, and pebbles surrounding it, - I couldn't find a photo of this (typically), but there are now lots of different types of kits sold that you can easily create this effect from.


This photo is taken from a website called  which has a huge range, for all budgets.

My favourite of this type was one I saw at the Malvern show recently, - these are made to order, and the copper will weather to a lovely green grey.


This one is by Robert Peters and his company is

The other thing that you can do is to have a fountain coming out of a wall, or a stream/watercourse that disappears into an underwater sump, so that you can get the sound without the pool, and without the danger.

New additions to the family (or - chickens in the garden)

After many months of debating, and a lot of researching, we finally have our chickens.

Sally and Princess Leia (yes my 5 yr old's choice of names, Cars and Starwars being favourite movies) are now installed in our back garden in their fox proof coop and run.

They are rescue chickens, - which means that after a year of laying eggs for a farmer, they were about to  go into their seasonal moult. - little hen rescue are a not for profit organisation that collects up hens that would be disposed of because they were not laying, and finds new homes for them as free range egg laying pets.

Continue reading "New additions to the family (or - chickens in the garden)" »