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January 2010

Pruning apple trees at Grace and Flavour

I've had a great morning in the winter sunshine, helping a bunch of hardworking volunteers to Prune some very neglected apple trees at the Grace and Flavour community garden in Horsley.

This area has been neglected for about 40 years, and the trees which were once espaliered along a central walkway, have become overgrown and congested, and are now mostly growing from the top of the original espalier tier.

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More January pests and disease - Deer & Lily Beetles

This week has been RAW, - cold, wet, hail, snow - and yet, there are still bugs & pests out there

The pest that i've been asked about this week is rather bigger than vine weevil and slugs. - i've had 2 clients mention that the cold weather has made deer ravenous and a lot more likely to come into gardens.

(no this is a stock picture, when i've seen deer in a garden, they havn't hung around long enough to be photographed)

Now if you've got close board fencing, deer are no problem, but several clients have gardens that back onto woodland, or common land, or golf courses

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January garden bugs - Caterpillars, Vineweevils and Slugs already

i've had a great few days getting out into gardens that have been frozen or covered in snow for the last month, Each garden i've been to, i've gone round looking for snow damage, - broken branches, bent stems, but practically everything has pulled through the worst of the British winter.

However I have been amazed at how many bugs there are around eating plants at this time of year. I thought they should have all been asleep under ground

This Cabbage, - was bent almost flat by the snow, but when it melted, all it's leaves were still there, - now one week later, look at it!


I found the culprit, - a tiny green caterpillar, so small the photo I took didn't even show it, I'm sure that there had been more, as there were 6 cabbages and 2 rows of spinach that had succumbed, but I couldn't find any more- maybe the others had had so much to eat they'd gone on to find something else.

In the last couple of weeks i've also found several pots infested with Vine weevil larvae, - my potato bags, and then today

ok it's not a great photo as I was cold and cross.   There were at least 10 mini vine weevil larvae in a container planted up in the Autumn with clean compost from a bag from a reputable source, and planted with Ivy leaved Geraniums - again from a reputable garden centre.

I'm guessing this means that the grubs were laid in the compost in late summer by flying insect vine weevil beetles, and they have been devouring the roots of the geraniums all autumn.

This means i'll have to be very careful in this garden during 2010, as Heucheras, Sedums and Agapanthus are susceptible, and this garden has all three.

As well as these, i've been finding the usual amount of slugs and snails, - these are easy to take out tho' as you just have to find their hiding place. - i've found Phormiums, Iris's and Alchemillas are some of their favourite hidey holes, so if you cut back and dead foliage and clear away leaves and debris, they have no-where to escape to, and you can reduce there numbers at the start of the season.

Seeds, - Grow a piece of Wisley in your garden

Seed_scheme_romulea_obscura  It snowed again yesterday, - and I only managed 2 hours of gardening  - but I did manage to complete my RHS Seed list order.

If you are an RHS member, - for £12 post and package, you can choose 20 packs from a range of hundred of seeds collected from the Gardens at Wisley, Harlow Carr, Rosemoor and Hyde Hall.

There are all kinds of goodies to try from a range of annuals for Childrens seeds, to trees and shrubs.

Last year amongst others, I grew great Verbascum, Echinaceas, and Monardas from the seed, This year i've got a mixture of really easy annuals including Bulpluerum and Orlaya, plus a perennial that looks Campanula - Adenophora polyantha. - I love ordering from this list as it makes me look up a whole new range of plants that I havn't grown before, I never even get round to sowing them all (should I admit to that?) and I don't have success with all of them (I know I shouldn't admit to that....) but I think it is a fantastic benefit of belonging to the RHS , so if you have your membership number, get on and order them before the 31st January. - The Seed list is available online, or you can telephone 0845 062 1111, or write to:

Membership Department (seeds)
The Royal Horticultural Society
80 Vincent Square

to get your seed list and order form.

If you've ordered seeds before and had success, let me know so that I can get those next year.

No maintenance gardens?

On my first visit to clients, i'm often told that the reason their garden doesn't look great is because they have "no time to do anything", we then talk through what they want, and then I have to explain that what they want will take time to achieve and maintain, and they either have to find the time, or pay me or others to do it.  However today I might have spotted something that might fall into the No maintenance garden category.

While packing up the truck today, I glanced over to my clients neighbour, who had this hanging up outside her window


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After the Snow

Today has been the first day this January that i've been able to get out in an unsnowy, defrosted garden. it's great to see that the snow has actually sheltered some plants, and that now they are free of their duvet, they can come back to life.

These were Cyclamen coum emerging from the snow today at Wakehurst Place.

Over the next few days it is a good idea to check the plants in your garden, just to make sure that they havn't been damaged by the weight of the snow. These Sarcoccocas had been flattened, but are sure to bounce back

but particularly evergreens such as Conifers and large ivy plants, may not have been so flexible, the Tree Surgeons will have to be out in force over the next few weeks to make some of the larger trees safe

If you have trees or shrubs in your garden that have broken branches, - use sharp secateurs or a pruning saw to cut back to the next shoot, - often that means cutting back to the stem. - This needs to be done before the plant starts into growth in the next few weeks, to ensure no dieback is encouraged into the plant through broken stems.

We've heard a lot about Gritting lorries or lack of them in the news over the last weeks, but if your road was salted, this may have a detrimental effect on the plants near to the road, and to any other plants if the road debris is washed into the ground water. Watch out for plants turning brown, or not coming back into leaf in the spring, - Salt damages plants mainly by ‘stealing’ water from their roots. It is mostly America and Canada where the information for this comes from, so it remains to be seen whether one winter of English snow would kill the plants, - however it was interesting to see the Wakehurst place had put grit on their steps to help give traction.

but what I love about late January is that even though we are still mid winter, there is a promise of spring


Gardens from the desert part 2

This is the Winter in Dubai, and for those of us from the UK, the balmy 22-28c temperatures and no humidity make it the perfect winter sun destination. 7 hours flying time, and 4 hours time difference, make it great for those seeking the sun, but the summer temperatures of up to 50c mean that the choices for plants are completely different from anything we can plant outside in the UK.   I wasn’t expecting to know many of the plant types, but 12 years working in garden centres which sell houseplants meant that I recognised more plants than I thought. Varieties that grace our Living rooms and conservatories like Croton, Bougainvillea, Jasmine, and Sanseverias etc have been used extensively.   Here are some of the plants I knew and loved seeing in flower in January.  

Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis – while garden centres sell this as a 30cm high short lived flowering houseplant, - we sat next to these brilliant red flowers at our lunch table, where they were growing to 120-150cm tall.


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Gardens from the desert part 1

You may have noticed that I’ve been keeping very quiet about the dreadful snow and ice conditions hitting Surrey and the rest of the UK over the last week. – I now have to admit that it’s because I’ve been visiting altogether warmer climes for the last 7 days, and have been spending the end of the school holidays in Dubai.  

This has been the first time I’ve flown for 7 years, and the luxury family holiday was to celebrate my darling husband getting to the big four oh. We splurged on a huge and impressive luxury hotel, complete with Water park and Giant Aquarium, for some R&R.   As is always the case when I’m away from my garden, and have some free time with no gardening work to do, - I have to look at other peoples gardens!, - in Dubai that should be impossible, -it is a city made out of the desert after all, but where there’s a will (and some oil money), anything is possible.

So here are some pictures of what they’ve achieved on a man made island in the Arabian sea.


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Winter seedheads, Should they stay or should they go?

I love using plants that have more than one season of interest, and perennials such as Verbena Bonariensis, Echinacea, Phlomis, Alliums, Eryngiums and Echinops all have seedheads that are just as great when the colour has faded, but by the beginning of the new year, should they stay or should they go?

I usually use as a rule of thumb, how upright are the stems? - is there any mildew/or dead soggy foliage that could harbour pest and disease? and does it still look good?

so Clematis Helios seedheads look fantastic (and fluffy) against a wall.

and unlike other Sedum heads which have flopped by now, Sedum Matrona is still upright.


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Recycling your Christmas tree

 12th night is getting closer, and if you chose to have a real Christmas tree this holiday, now you have to work out what to do with your conifer when you've removed your decorations.

Which Tree did you get? If it was pot grown tree, then you can quite safely put it out in the back garden, either leaving it in its pot when you've given it a water, or planting into the ground (if it's not frozen). If you got a potted tree (like us) then you might be able to get it to grow again next year, now is the time to put it out in the back garden (after a water) and keep your finAllgers crossed.

 if your tree was  are one, it's now probably starting to shed a lot of needles, and recycling it is a good idea.

Last year our 9 foot Christmas tree, with a little pruning, became three tub trugs of fantastic smelling shreddings for our compost bin.

If you don't have a shredder or a compost bin, - there are lots of places that are happy to turn your trees into mulch.

Guildford borough Council have a list of local drop off points where you can take trees between Tuesday 5th and Monday 18th January