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June 2011

May 2011

Summer fruit in Spring

The weather has been gorgeous here in Surrey for weeks and weeks. It's easy to forget that it is still only the end of May, - not July.

These Raspberries are really confused. Apart from growing their way into my greenhouse, they've started fruiting already.

Not that i'm complaining, Fresh Strawberries and Raspberries to go with meringues made from eggs from my chickens. - Yum

Vine weevil attack, - or there goes the fruit cup...

While gardening today for a client, one of her friends asked me why her blueberry was going all brown. (yes, like doctors, I get asked questions whereever I am, - today I was underneath a gooseberry bush weeding!)

I replied that in this hot weather, it was probably due to lack of water, and that Blueberries (being acid loving) don't much like our Alkaline tap water round here.

But when I got home, while watering, (with the last of my waterbutt rainwater) I noticed that my Blueberries were also turning a tad brown, and as I know i've been lavishing the water on them, because they didn't flower much, I took a closer look


Unfortunately these tell tale notches in the leaves can mean only one thing


I had my worst fears were confirmed when I went to knock the Blueberry out of its pot to check the rootball, only to find that the roots had been eaten away and there was very little left.


There in the compost was a creamy white empty larvae shell, and then sitting on the wall I noticed the adult culprit.


I snapped this pic of the Adult and the Larvae shell, before administering my own form of insect control with my boot.

 This means that i'll have to go out tomorrow to get some Nemasys Vine Weevil control. This is the organic way of getting a bug that eats a bug to do the dirty work for me.

Steinernema Kraussei is the nematode that is the active "ingredient" - it turns up in the pack looking like some dried out clay, and you mix it with water before applying it to those things that may be infested. In my case i'll be watering it on to all the pots on my patio. 

Of course the thing that i'm most annoyed about, is that they were my prizewinning Darrow berries.  Without them, my hopes of regaining the West Horsley Horticultural Society fruit cup in the autumn are fading :(

So if your blueberries are going brown, it might not be your watering, - maybe check for the tell tale signs of vineweevil?


Does my small front garden need a design?

Front gardens have popped up with increasing regularity in my work over the last couple of years.

Not only do people want a good looking approach to the house, they need somewhere to park the cars, easy access to the front door, and as our lives get ever busier, a garden that almost takes care of itself.

Several times i've heard people say that their project is "too small" for a design, but actually, that's where you need to make the most of what you've got.


This house that I designed the borders for in Shamley Green was an excellent example.


Continue reading "Does my small front garden need a design?" »

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day May 2011

The middle of May, and we are still very short of water here in Surrey. We did have one day of rain last week, but my soil is parched.

The warm and dry conditions have meant that most plants are over sooner than last year, - last year on GBBD I still had Tulips, Iris, Dicentra, Camassia's and Blueberries flowering, - this year in their place I have

Aqueligias, Roses and Erigeron.

Continue reading "Garden Bloggers Bloom Day May 2011" »

Border design - Instant, doesnt have to be just shrubs

Most of the borders that I design and plant are planned to grow into their space within 2 - 3 years. There's a good reason for this, - The closer the spacings, and the more mature the plants, the more expensive they are.

This border though was different.


This stylish new build house had been finished for 18 months when I took this photo. To finish the property, they had planted mature shrubs to fill the space, but 2 seasons on, these were now overtaking the small border space and starting to block the windows. They were all evergreen shrubs, and suitable for the North facing site, but there were very few flowers.

When I returned 6 months later, they had all been taken out, as remedial work was needed on the house foundations. What this did mean though was there was a blank canvas, and replacing the plants needed to be with mature plants for instant effect. I could also introduce a lot more flowers, and soften the planting to enhance the style of the house.


To mirror the previous border style, I used a box hedging to edge the borders. Readyhedge does Buxus plants already grown into shape in troughs. These and evergreen climbers provided the all year round style and shape, and then I set to designing a border for maximum year round colour and flower.

Because of the restricted space, I opted for a small colour palette, - Purple and green foliage sets off Purple, White and soft pink flowers.


The year starts off with Tulip and Allium colour, then Erysimum Bowles Mauve, Paeonies and Roses take over, Agapanthus and Viticella clematis give summer flowers, then Nerines and Anemone provide the Autumn blooms. With Pittosporum, Heuchera, the Box hedge and evergreen trachelospermum giving all year round foliage, this is an Instant, all year round border design, which will compliment the front of the house, without overtaking it.



What's that sticky weed?

We've just had the briefest of rain showers after 9 weeks of drought, but that will be enough to start the weeds regrowing.

One that can spread fantastically fast during May and swallow up seedlings and even established plants is Sticky weed


Sticky weed, sometimes known as Cleavers, - or its latin name of Galium Aparine is starting to multiply everywhere this week.

It is spread by clinging on to clothing or animals so that the seed is spread round the garden.

Yes Children love it, but the weed is counting on them to spread itself!

To stand a chance of eliminating it, you need to get it before it seeds. Get down on your hands and knees (a good pair of knee pads is needed as its favourite hiding place is under spiky hedges in my experience) - it's easy to pull up and remove, although it can be a skin irritant, so gloves are a must.

If you're going put it on the compost heap, let it dry out first, or put it in a plastic bag to go mushy before you add it.


Weeds or worth it?

Aqueligia, or Granny's bonnets.


I spend a lot of my professional life pulling out weeds. But when is a plant a weed? This Aqueligia certainly wasn't sown by me, but at this time of the year, in this border, it's a lovely addition. When it strays over the drive to my foliage border, then it's a weed, and i've been evicting them before they overtake my Hostas, but here i'm quite happy to let them stay, - under control. For flower between the tulips and the summer perennials.


May flowering alliums, great for whatever size garden space.

The onion family, - Allium are flowering this month


This is the scene at Wisley gardens at the moment, by the glasshouse. The Allium hollandicum Purple Sensation are flowering their socks off in a huge bank of colour.

But if you havn't got room for hundreds and hundreds of Allium, and everything in your garden has to pull its weight, then look no further than another member of the onion family, the humble Chive.


Chives are great as a easy to grow herb which gives great flavouring to mixed herbs, eggs and potatoes.

They can be grown from seed, or clumps can be split.

The flowers are so wonderful, you want to let them bloom, but unfortunately the stems that have flowered then become hollow and tough, and no good for cooking with, so I suggest planting several clumps and letting most flower while keeping one with young shoots by removing all budding stems.

They can be cut back hard if they do get to the point where they are getting overgrown, and they'll spring back up again in just a couple of weeks.

If you'd like to know more about how herbs can be added in to your garden to add flowers and food, Plantpassion has 2 workshops coming up

Easy Herb Growing on Saturday 14th May


Herbs and Salads all year round on 11th June

Lily Beetles, pretty pest with destructive power.

This afternoon I was weeding a border that i've ignored so far this year.

Unfortunately the Lily beetles have been munching on my lilies while they've been hidden by weeds.


I managed to find 16 of the little blighters on just 3 plants, luckily their bright red shells are easy to spot.


They like to hide in the tightly curled folds at the middle of the lily, and there were quite a full couples making best use of my plants, in between munching holes. Over the next few days i'll have to keep a careful eye to make sure that none of those patches of "mud" turn into mini beetles.

You have to show no mercy to these pretty pests, as you'll loose your complete lily and daylily (hemorocallis) collections within days.

Happy hunting.