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June 2011

Quick Composting Nirvana. Top marks tumbler.


I may have mentioned before (just a couple of times) that i'm rather into composting. Turning as much of my garden and kitchen waste as possible into stuff that I can put back into the garden, either as mulch or a growing medium.

I thought i'd found the ultimate composting bins when our 3 bay wooden wonder made a batch of compost in 5 months.


Unfortunately not long after that, we found that a couple of Rats (probably from the farm fields opposite the houses behind us) also liked our compost bin, so much that they had a whole family and were most reluctant to leave us.

So the open compost bin had to go.

In it's place, I foolishly let my husband loose on the Henchman stand at the Hampton Court Flower show.

My hubby is a gadget man, - usually IT stuff, but heh, if the wife insists on a day out at a flower show, then gardening gadgets will do just fine. Which is how we got to order a rather expensive compost turning gadget.


The startup price for one of these is £315. Yep sharp intake of breath, even with a show special offer, these are in the Expensive with a capital E range.

It says that you can get compost in 6-8 weeks, but for that you will need to turn the handle to roll it over slightly more often than me (which is whenever I remember, but not every day!)

The first load for us took about 5-6 months, but that was over the winter. Since then we have got better and quicker. It is only 9 weeks since we last turned out this bin, but this was what greeted me when I discovered i'd run out of shop bought growing media and stil had seven dahlias to pot up on Sunday.


with a quick sift through the rotaseive (about 90% went through) this was a fantastic growing compost that looked a lot better for plant growth, and was practically peat free 

(* please note for those campaigning against any use of peat, until ALL plants sold at nurseries are peat free, what comes out of my compost bin can't be peat free, as I recycle any dead plants)

I won't be wandering onto the Henchman stand this year at the Hampton Court Flower show, as i've done my bit for keeping them going. But if you want a rodent free composting system, and think home composting is worth doing, - get saving

Border Planting - Hiding those 70's concrete features


Sometimes when you inherit a large mature garden. What you want to do isn't always possible or practicable within budgets and timescales.

This was the case in this lovely Surrey Hills Garden. Where the backdrop of mature Conifers and Woodland trees was masking a sea of concrete paths and pools, - long since empty of water and fish, and now covered in weeds.

Continue reading "Border Planting - Hiding those 70's concrete features" »

Magnolia Grandiflora - first flower of the year


The sky may be grey, but i'm really happy as the first creamy white flower (centre picture) is showing on the Magnolia Grandiflora in my front garden.

I was lucky enough to inherit two Magnolia's in my front garden when I moved to this house.

Magnolia Grandiflora is a Stately specimen, - mine is taller than the house, and about 15 metres wide ( the photo was taken from the upstairs window)

The other is a deciduous type, and flowers prolifically in spring (probably Soulangeana)

Magnolia soulangeana
It then drops all its leaves in the Autumn, causing us several weeks of raking /sweeping up.

Now you'd think that the Evergreen Magnolia Grandiflora wouldn't be as much hard work, - after all, Evergreens don't drop their leaves, do they?

But this one does. - Not all at once, and not so the tree goes bald, but between Early Spring and summer, it regularly deposits a sack full of tough leathery leaves on my foliage bed each week


It only stops dropping leaves for the summer when the new growth is complete, all the glossy new leaf buds are fully open, and the flowers start coming.

So as well as cheering on the first beautiful flower of the season, i'm now looking forward to a couple of months without having to rake up leaves every week.

Drought or Drowning

I'm sitting at my desk watching the rain hammering down outside. After no rain in March, April and May, now summer has started, we're really making up for it.


The plants in the ground are loving it. With sunshine between the showers, it is perfect growing weather for them. But if you have seedlings that you've taken outside to harden off, you now need to take them out of their drip trays, or you'll risk drowning them.

These lavenders needed to be rescued from a 2 inch well of water in their propagator tray. If the weather gets hot again though, i'll pop them back in the tray as small pots and plug trays can dry out very quickly.

If you've got Rosemary or Lavender in your garden, check for this

For the last couple of years, i've noticed this lovely looking shiny Rosemary beetle, more and more often.

Although pretty looking, these beetles strip the Rosemary plants of foliage, leaving bare skeletal branches if not controlled.

There are no chemicals to control this pest, but usually that isn't a problem if you know to look for them as they are easy to spot, eating the tips of your tasty herb.

Today however i've also spotted the little rotters moved in on newly planted Lavender.


They were eating the flowers, and were easy to catch as they sat still and waited for me to collect them up and lead them to their doom. However these are now here and here to stay, so if you've got Rosemary or Lavender in your garden, - go out and take a look, - let me know if you find them, - i'd love to know how far they have spread.

Border Planting - Dry soils in sunny sites


My fantastic visit to Hyde Hall to gain inspiration from the Dry Garden, was obviously followed by the heaviest rainstorm this year, so my soil is now fairly damp. However I did find and refind some plants that I will be using in earnest in the chalky dry soils of Horsley and Guildford soon.


This combination of Stipa Tenuissima and Salvia East Feisland (OstFriesland) with Californian poppies and Santolina was heavenly. It also proves that strong colours are needed in sites with a dry sunny aspect, as whites and pale pinks woud get lost. I've used Salvia Caradona regularly and think it looks amazing either with bright colours in a sunny aspect, or with cooler colours in a cottage type border.

This Phlomis Russeliana was absolutely basking in the sunshine (and looked glorious as it had been given a large space to grow into)

But this Phlomis was bucking the idea of bright colours and looked no less wonderful for it.


Phlomis Italica is a plant i've used before in a very dry border, and i'll have to find somewhere else to put it soon.


This Centaurea Steenbergii was one I hadn't come across before, but it was going great guns with no extra watering at Hyde Hall.

I use Erigeron karvinskianus a lot to edge borders, and have found that it sulks if not given water to start with, but here it is proving that it can take very dry conditions when established.

Of course the stars of the show were the self seeded stuff, - the Nigella and Verbascums looking amazing



Inspiration and wonderful views.

Surrey is still baking in the sun, and really it's too dry to do any planting at the moment. But now is a fantastic time to get inspiration and ideas about what planting combinations really work and stand up to drought.

With that in mind, I jumped at an invitation to visit RHS Hyde Hall

The Setting is an exposed hill top in Essex, in one of the driest areas of the country. The soil is underlying clay, so soggy in the winter, but bone hard in the summer.

Amazingly Hyde Hall has more land than Wisley (a fact I didn't know until today and a lovely tour by Ian Bull the Garden Manager), and has had a new visitor centre and entrance created in the last couple of years.

So here were some of my first impressions