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February 2011

January 2011

Planning for 2011 - Borders full of flowers without the full price cost

In February, (wow, nearly here already!) the garden is often looking at its drabest. No leaves remaining on the deciduous bushes or trees, seedheads that looked fantastic in the Autumn are now rather bedraggled, border perennials have been cut back, (and if they havn't been, look out for my post about winter border clearance soon) and although the bulbs are starting to poke through the ground, a lot of borders are empty of plants. But for me, February is a great playtime for making new plants. Seed sowing, division and cuttings can start off in earnest, and from this early season start there will be harvest of flowers this year.


So this week, ahead of a mammouth seed sowing and gardening weekend, my priorities will be

1) sort through my seed boxes, - work out all the vegetable and flower seeds that can be sown in February and set them aside

2) get together all the recycled containers that i'll be using for my sowings and divisions. This would normally mean a visit to the Squires recycling crate for pots and trays, - plus gathering together all the leftover loo rolls and fruit containers that make wonderful seed trays


3) and go back through my photos of my borders last summer. So that I can work out what was taking up too much room and could be split.


If you havn't taken photos, by this time of year, it is very hard to believe that your border will fill out in the summer


So as with all things in life, planning is the key, and i'll be burning the midnight oil, as I plan that my garden will be its best ever 2011


Border planting - long thin borders

If you design a garden from scratch, you don't often put in long thin borders, - Deep flowing borders are easier to fill with plants and shrubs. Small borders often hark back to the patch of earth either side of the the lawn in a 1970's semi in suburbia. BUT - if you have a lovely garden that doesn't need a complete redisign, you want to make the most of your long thin borders, here's what I did for a client last year.


This is a fantastic garden wrapping around a cottage. The owners, my clients, are keen gardeners, and have fruit and veg as well as wonderful flower borders. Like most people, they are a busy family, and can't be in the garden all the time. They've also got a great maintenance gardener, so lawns and hedges are kept under control, but the borders are large, and have got rather over grown. This is where I came in to help out with planting ideas for this long thin border.

It is just outside the kitchen window, and is next to the patio where summer entertaining takes place. Originally it had herbs in it, but they were now overgrown, so we aimed to replant with a herb theme, and easy to look after plants.


When the border was cleared of the wayward mint and geranium, plus the conifers that were breaking up the border, we placed the chosen plants. They included, fennel, echinacea, agapanthus and thymes. sedum, and left pots to indicate where any missing plants were.


The silver foliage of the Artemesia was chosen as a repeater plant,(one that is planted all along the border to tie it together) and in late May they were fairly small when we planted them.

But by September, they were providing a great foliage backdrop for the stunning flowers

and were also providing a great ground cover, so minimal weeds could get through


There are lots of bulbs hiding underneath the foliage, for spring colour, but this border is designed to look its best in the summer.


Borders to compliment your house - Cottage Garden

If your home isn't Modern with lots of Glass. If your second storey rooms are in the eaves, then bold architectural planting won't really suit, and the traditional Cottage garden look will compliment your house more.

The trouble is, that Cottage garden borders with their flower spikes of Delphiniums and Lupins, and overflowing spaces are very high maintenance. If you live in a traditional style house, but don't want the old fashioned amount of hard work that goes into making that look, - here's how to cheat, with photos from one of my customers whose cottage nestles into a hill, making the borders higher up than the house, and very viewable from the upstairs window. - My brief with this garden was, - as many flowers as possible.

Use lots of Hellebores and Cyclamen for early season colour


Over do it on the bulbs,


Bedding tulips will only last a couple of years so add some delicate specie tulips as well


and make sure that you plants several different types of Allium to take you through May and into late June


Roses are totally traditional, and by mixing shrub roses in with the rest of the border, you can add bright splashes of colour with lower maintenance than traditional rose beds.


Use Sedums and Asters for later in the season, so the colour lasts right into October

 (the fence will be covered in time by a large Hydrangea, and there is a purple leaved sambucus behind the sedum waiting to back up that part of the border with its lacey leaves)

Here are some more of the plants that i've used to give colour and interest to this border and keep it looking cottagy without the high maintenance



Garden Bloggers Bloom Day January 2011

last month, my garden was under snow, and this time last year the snow was just clearing, so i'm hoping that winter's come early, and we are now on our way into spring.

These Cyclamen certainly want to be up and at them

Cyclamen Coum were on one of my first college plant idents, and I' ve always wanted a border with a whole swathe of them.  I ignored my own advice, and planted these as bulbs rather than "in the green", but now in their second year, they are starting to spread out.

I split several of my clumps of snow drops last year, and these have thankfully grown back very strongly


One of these group of Sarcoccoca confusa was my first moving in present, - and these are now looking very happy and growing into a lovely group in my shady driveway border.

This is all i've got flowering outside, but my neglected houseplants are flowering


Schlumbergera (christmas cacti) and



Thanks as always to Carol at May Dream Gardens, for hosting the Bloom Day posts, and for making me get out into my garden on the 15th of every month and make a record of what's flowering.

Borders to compliment your house - Bold and Brilliant

I've been working on my 99th Border plan this week. I've planted more than that, but there have been 99 clients who've asked me to revamp or plant borders to the point where we've needed a list and plan. I've realised i've been really remiss at showing them to you, - so my new year's resolution is to show you as many as possible.

The first border, was from last summer, and this was a project that i've loved working on, as the clients trusted me enough to do something no one else in the neighbourhood had done.  - We all know the keeping up with the Jones type feeling, but what if your style and that of your newly rebuilt house isn't the same as those in your road.


My clients are a mixed couple, she from California and a big fan of Bougainvillea and large palms, he very English and a fan of flowers and vegetable growing.

The House is a newly built Contempory family house, much larger than the bungalow that it replaced. It has a bold open front facing, with light coloured rendered walls, - remincent of appartment buildings in California perhaps.

The current driveway goes either side of a central lawn with a strip of border containing some lovely Acer trees, which would be better placed in a mixed woodland border, or as statement plants in a patio area.

My brief was to give colour and interest to soften the front of the house, while mixing both their styles.


I invisiged using the full central area for planting. Something they were initially reluctant to do, but by creating an "artist impression" of how the border would turn out, They were really excited to go ahead and turn their front garden into a bold and brilliant border.

So how did it all turn out?

Post planting in Mid June


Border filling out in Mid July


Flowering its socks off at the Start of September


Late October, - still going strong


last but not least, a montage of some of my favourite plants from the border.


I'm looking forward to 2011 when some of the permanent planting of grasses and shrubs will have grown larger to compliment the bright coloured flowers.

Spring Haircuts

It was my first full day back of gardening in the new year today. (thanks to weird school holidays!) and I've had a lovely day doing some winter pruning and border clearing.

By January, particularly after snow and ice, like this year, the seed heads look a bit soggy, and with the new growth and bulbs just waiting to peek through, over the next month is a great time for giving lots of herbaceous plants a good haircut.

Today, the subjects of my attention were Phlomis, Phlox, Asters, Echinops, Iris (which are stubborn and soggy!) and Santolina.

The Santolina is a fantastic sub shrub, with a great scent and silvery leaves. I love using this in borders to give neat balls of colour, - silver foliage in early spring, and bright sulphur yellow flowers in summer.

To get the best from it tho' you have to be a little bit harsh on the haircut, - think fairly military.


and after


How to recycle your Christmas tree

It may not be 12th night yet, but hubby is back to work tomorrow, and i'm ready to get out of Christmas mode now. If you chose to have a real Christmas tree this holiday, like me, 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 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 fingers crossed.

If your tree was a cut one, it's now probably starting to shed a lot of needles, and recycling it is a good idea. Ours is a noble fir, and although it has held on to its needles very well, they are no longer glossy green.

Our tree (with a little pruning) will become tub trugs of fantastic smelling shreddings for our compost bin.


But if you haven't got a shredder, or don't have room for composting, - don't despair. When all your decorations have been removed, there are a list of places that will take your sad looking reject, and recycle them.

Squires Garden Centre already have their Pen ready for your dead trees, and Guildford Borough Council have a list of places you can take your trees to between Today (3rd) and the 16th January.

Happy New Year