Serenity

It is now June, and other than some unwelcome slugs and snails munching away on the Hostas, Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’ and the Delphiniums, the ‘cool’side of the herbaceous borders is doing well – as seen here.

I have stuck to my no dig policy and have only had to spend an hour or so hand weeding out what turned out to be mostly ranunculus and a few other pesky unwelcomes. The bark mulch has done a great job at keeping weeds down on this side, which reassures me about having mulched the other side this year.

I am leaving the top section of the garden to grow wild for a while. The grass has grown rapidly and there are some lovely wild flowers coming up. I have noticed that birds are far more likely to spend time up in the long grass pecking for worms and insects than they have been previously. I’ve also left out a large saucer of water in the veg section for birds to drink from as, despite rain, it is pretty parched around here.

All is peaceful in the garden at the moment…

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May 2016: Long time, no post.

It’s been a while. Having embarked on a degree, I thought the garden might become fully neglected. Instead, it has only become partially neglected… June/July 2015 saw the ‘hot’ border grow to this epic magnitude.

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Impressive? I felt it was worth the hard work to get it to that point. It had grown incredibly full (this was late summer, when all of the ‘jewel’ colours in the garden are at their peak). In the foreground, the heuchera and sedum compete for darkest leaf award, the sedum winning out with its nicely contrasted dark pink flower. Behind it are a dark pink monarda, Burgundy Ice rose, cannas, dark leafed dahlias and a stunning pink salvia. Behind them are the yellows and some oranges. Scorching.

Below is an image of (mostly) both sides of the first section of the garden after one full year’s growth. It is clear from this image how one side has been planted with cool colours and the other with hot colours, and how well it works. Flame the German Shepherd is enjoying the garden too (she likes to chase the buzzy things). You can also see pink sedums, pink Japanese anemones and some antique pink sweet peas in this image.

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You can see that the newly laid brick path we put in last year has wintered, weathered, cracked in places, become overgrown with moss and a few weeds, and generally looks like it has been there for years. That was the idea!

After overwintering and dying back – as herbaceous borders do – I spent a bit of time on it in February, pulling out weeds and throwing on a thick layer of bark mulch to try to control them this year. I’m going fully ‘no dig’ in 2016 so it is all hand pulling of weeds and keeping on top of them, whilst spending as little time as possible doing it as I simply don’t have a lot of time to devote to this section for the next couple of years while I complete my degree.

Here is the border newly mulched and cleared, ready for all new growth. Since this image was taken (below) the hot border has really grown thanks to the lovely warm weather we’ve had in early May in the UK, coupled with the odd torrential downpour!

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All cut back and looking bare! This was taken at the end of February 2016. What a difference a few months of cold weather makes. Hopefully, it will be back to lush, vibrancy in no time. I will update.

Fruity

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The apples trees I planted last year are finally bearing fruit! They seem to be doing exceptionally well this year. These are my first ever apple trees, so I’m super excited. All are on semi-dwarf root stock so I’m hoping they’ll remain relatively small.

Hanging baskets, pots and troughs: Thrillers, spillers and fillers

It’s mid-July. Very often, bedding plants are beginning to look a bit tired at this stage, if not half dead. Unless you are the conscientious gardener who always remembers to feed and water hanging baskets and pots of bedding, by this time they can be looking somewhat depleted and have often run out of nutrients in the pot/basket. On the other hand, this can be the absolute peak for bedding plants, and there are some fantastic arrangements on show around the UK.

It can be a time of intense hanging basket envy, wherby you spot your neighbour’s lush, colourful hanging baskets and wish you’d had the energy to pot something up earlier in the year! Perhaps this explains the many customers we get coming into the garden centre at this late stage frantically hunting out a fully potted up and blooming hanging basket. You guys will pay some hefty money to get that stunning, well planted hanging basket that will look just perfect for outside the front door.

As a qualified horticulturalist more focused on shrubs, trees and herbaceous perennials, I don’t ‘do’ bedding. Well, I’ll qualify that – I do hanging baskets, made up from clearance reduced plug plants at the end of the plug bedding eight week season. I’ll then choose the last of them according to colours. I tend to go for a colour theme for each of my hanging baskets. This year, I have three hanging baskets and they are purple, white and deep pink themed.

When customers ask me how to plant up a hanging basket, I always use the same rule I was taught in horticultural college: you want a thriller, some fillers and lots of spillers. Each basket or pot arrangement of bedding needs a thriller, fillers and spillers. Easy, huh?

Your thriller is the main star attraction of the pot or basket. It is the biggest plant in the arrangement, and is placed centrally or to one side, depending on the location of the pot or basket. You only need one thriller. It ideally consists of your themed colour (either leaf or flower). Common choices of plant for a thriller might be a fuchsia, geranium, cordyline, perhaps a large begonia or fern, a dwarf conifer…whatever you want, so long as it’s the star of the show and can pack enough punch to pull the eye into the centre (height and spread is what you want). Ideally, it will be an upright plant, so if using a fuchsia choose a bush/upright variety and not a trailing variety. (Most bedding plants will be labeled upright or trailing.) Let’s say you want a dark pink themed basket, so you might choose a Fuchsia ‘Paula Jane’ as your thriller.

The fillers can be any number of a myriad of choices of bedding plants. It can be a bewildering choice. If so, keep it simple. Buy 4/5 of the same plant as your fillers if you want – there is no rule against it! Likewise, you can choose 4/5 or more of completely different, suitably-sized plants to plant around your thriller. I tend to choose 2 or 3 of the same type, and tend to use around 5/6 fillers in a basket. This creates some contrast but allows for a decent clump of the same plant in each basket. Remember the colour theme and stick to it. That pre-planned effect of an explosion of complimentary colours will be evident once they begin to grow and merge into each other. Typical, classic filler plants might be petunias, violas, pansies, nemesia, calibrachoe, bidens (bit of a trailer too), etc.

Lastly, you have your spillers – the trailing – sometimes seriously dangling – plant addition to every self-respecting, traditional hanging basket.

You can plant up veg or fruit baskets and pots too! Stick a tomato plant in the centre, some marigolds as companion planting around the edges, perhaps a few dwarf carrots, some dill or fennel, thyme and mint as your spillers. Just be prepared for these to run out of steam and space quite quickly regardless of feeding; they will need to be potted on or planted out eventually.