Hello Everyone. This is my first blog for T&M and I approached them because I want to try something new and grow something edible in my vastly overcrowded cottage garden.
We live in a 1920’s terrace house in North London and have a cottage garden front and back. We feel very fortunate to have a long front garden path and a back garden big enough to eat out in.
This is how it looked in 1988 when we moved in.
And this is how it looks now.
Here is a picture of the front
And here is the back
I fell in love with this style when I saw Geoff Hamilton on TV years ago building his Paradise Garden at Barnsdale. I was hooked. My style is to cram everything I like in to the borders and pots including scented shrubs, easy perennials, simple herbs, clematis and honeysuckle, Spring bulbs and autumn colour. Some of my favourites are hardy geraniums, pulmonaria, primroses, euphorbia of all kinds, heleniums and sedums.
Ideas for this year
So now my idea is to start small and grow something I can eat. After hours of browsing I’ve decided salad crops and maybe strawberries might be the best to start with. I don’t think I get enough sun for tomatoes and as you can see I have no greenhouse or cold frame.
Two problems spring to mind. As the borders become so abundant in summer any crops in the beds would surely get smothered. Secondly I do have to contend with rats, squirrels and pigeons running around the beds and pots. I don’t have a problem with slugs as I avoid growing anything they like to eat but if I want to grow salad crops how will I manage?
I intend to get all the advice I can from T&M and elsewhere and in my next blog I shall report my progress.
Until then, lots of research and planning awaits me but it will be worth it in the end!
Getting the right balance of plants is essential for a healthy and thriving pond habitat.
To achieve good visual interest, you may wish to consider getting a combination of foliage and flowers sitting at different levels in and around your pond; bearing in mind that most plants only flower for a few months out of the year.
It is therefore useful to take a note of the height or planting depth, spread, and flowering season of your favourite varieties of pond plant, in order to plan effectively.
You will also need to calculate the pond surface area and depth, to avoid overcrowding, and to ensure that the plants grow to the perfect height in the water.
The positioning of plants is a crucial aspect and will depend on the plant type.
Area Surrounding the Pond
Bog plants nest in the watery area surrounding the pond. Whilst the soil needs to be wet for the plants to thrive, it should not be submerged, so take care to ensure that the border does not fill with water after a downpour.
A few examples of plants that work well in boggy conditions include Astilbe varieties, such as the Astilbe chinensis which has lilac plumes between July and September, and grows to around 30cm high; Typha, also known as bulrush, which feature a round brush like flower on a spiky stem; and Gunnera manicata, which are suitable for larger ponds, with their huge, dramatic leaves.
Shallow Areas at the Edge of the Pond
Marginal plants sit on the edges of the pond, with their roots submerged in the shallow water.
Plants that are ideal include several varieties of Iris, such as the Japanese Iris, which produces dramatic coloured flowers around May to June; the Alisma plantago-aquatica, which is known as the water plaintin, and produces small flowers between June and August; the Calla palustris, which has beautiful large white flowers from June to August; and Mentha aquatica, also known as water mint, which produces many dense clusters of tiny purple flowers between July and October, and grows to 90cm. The latter spreads quickly, so you may need to plant it in a basket to restrict its growth.
The Deepest Areas of the Pond
The most popular deep water plants are of course, water lilies. However, it is important to be aware that there are many different types. You will need to choose your water lilies based on the depth of the pond, as they grow to different heights.
The Nymphaea Alba has large white flowers, and can be planted at 60cm to around 3 metres; whereas the Nymphaea caerulea only needs to be planted at around 20cm, and will produce beautiful blue flowers. There are also red lilies and yellow lilies available that grow to different heights, so your pond can be covered with a burst of colour in the summer.
As well as being beautiful, lilies are also useful. They also provide valuable shade for fish from the hot summer sun, and as their leaves cover the pond, the reduction of sunlight will help restrict algae growth.
Algae can also be stifled by hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) and water violets (Hottonia palustris), as they are good examples of plants that feed on the nutrients that algae need to survive.
Choosing Plants for Pond Life
If you are going to keep fish, or just want to encourage natural pond life, then you will need to choose good oxygenators; plants which are fully submerged in the pond and produce oxygen.
These plants make use of the nitrates created from fish waste, and the carbon dioxide released by fish during respiration, converting them into food.
Maintaining this delicate ecosystem is vital for the success of your pond. If you have too many plants, or too many fish, the whole cycle could collapse.
A great plant to start with is Anacharis, as all you need to do is weight the plant, and drop it into the pond. It is a vigorous grower, so make sure you trim it back every now and again to keep it in check. One bunch per square foot should be sufficient for a small pond.
Other varieties of oxygenators include Groenlandia densa, or opposite-leaved pondweed; and Callitriche hermaphroditica or water starwort, although this may grow too rapidly for a small pond. Water cress is also a good oxygenator.
The final step is to ensure you have sufficient time to maintain the pond after you have planted it up. Many of the plants will require specific aftercare, such as trimming back, or cutting away seed heads, and gaining this knowledge at the planning stage will help you to stay on top of the maintenance of your pond.
Please visit my Lifestyle Blog for more pond plant ideas and inspiration.
Reduce, reuse, recycle- it’s a phrase that has been drummed into everyone in the last decade. Repurposing in the garden is a hot trend at the moment, and saving money isn’t the only benefit. Your garden is an ecological haven, so it makes sense to use natural products wherever possible, keeping harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides to a minimum (something also worth bearing in mind if you have little hands helping out).
Clive Harris, a keen gardener from Essex shares his best tips for keeping your garden environmentally friendly, as well as saving you time, money and a trip to the local garden centre. You can see his personal gardening blog here – https://diygarden.co.uk/blog/
Most households use an organic waste bin nowadays, and if you’re super savvy, you will have your own composting bin, but there are a few food waste products that yield better results when used directly in your garden.
Banana peel is an excellent source of potassium, phosphorous and magnesium, making it an ideal fertilizer. Chopped peel can be added directly to your garden for a nutritional boost. Soaking banana peel in water for at least 48 hours will give a fertilizing solution that can be sprayed directly on to plants and flowers. To give your perennials the ultimate start in life, line your bed trenches with whole banana skins before planting. This works exceptionally well for roses too!
Made of calcium carbonate, eggshells are a great way of providing calcium to your soil and plants. They need to be rinsed and dried before being added to your garden, otherwise you might find them attracting unwanted attention from passing animals and pests. They should be crushed or ground before mixing into the soil. It can take months for eggshells to break down enough to be absorbed by plant roots, so the best time to spread them in your beds is autumn and early spring.
Used coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, meaning they are terrific for enriching the soil in your flower beds. Unwashed, they are acidic and will help to balance the PH of your soil. However, if using coffee grounds around vegetation that doesn’t tolerate acid very well (such as tomato plants etc), rinsing them first will neutralize the acidity. Coffee grounds can be added directly to the soil in your garden, making it a quick and easy fertilizing option.
Tackle Those Pesky Predators
There are 2 types of pests that pose a threat your garden- wildlife such as insects or prowling animals, and plant diseases caused by bacteria, fungi and viruses. Shop bought pesticides and animal deterrents are a quick fix, but can be harsh and need to be used with extreme caution, especially in gardens where children and domestic animals are passing through. However, there are some safer, gentler options that can be used to the same effect as commercial garden products to ensure that your plants remain healthy and thriving.
Plant fungus giving you a headache? Aspirin is fantastic at preventing fungal diseases such as mildew and black spot. Simply crush an aspirin tablet and dissolve in a gallon of water. Use the solution to spray your plants every few weeks to guarantee they stay mould free.
Surprisingly, regular old shampoo makes a great insecticide. Mix 2.5 tablespoons of shampoo with 2.5 tablespoons of cooking oil and add to a gallon of water. Use the solution to spray on pests such as aphids. Plant leaves should be rinsed a few hours after application to prevent damage. This also works well using dishwashing liquid instead of shampoo.
Mix even parts of milk and water and spray on tomato plants to prevent dry end rot. Putting crushed eggshells into the planting hole will have the same effect.
As it turns out, us humans aren’t the only one who fancy a cold one in the garden during summer! Slugs and snails are highly attracted to the frothy goodness of beer, making it the perfect distraction to drag them away from your vegetables and flowers. Half-fill an empty jam jar with lager and dig a trench so that the lip of the jar is flush with the ground. The pests will gravitate to the jar and die a happy death.
Playing your dodgy old 90’s pop tracks at full blast will definitely keep flying predators at bay. However, if you’re finally ready to relinquish them, old cds are a more effective deterrent when used as a type of scarecrow to keep larger pesky birds away from your seeds and vegetables. String a few cds together and hang near your beds at a position where they will catch direct sunlight to keep pigeons and other scavengers away. This trick also works great as a cat deterrent.
Plastic bottles half filled with water will stop cats digging up and soiling your flower beds. The water in the bottles casts a reflection that frightens the felines away.
From eggshells to aspirin, and even old Spice Girls cds, it is astonishing to see how household products and by-products can benefit your garden in a multitude of ways, saving you money while helping the environment at the same time. There’s no better place to start your recycling kick than in the garden!
At this time of year, it’s always difficult to maintain an interesting looking garden that you can be proud of, especially when you are located on the coast! In recent years, I’ve been extremely pleased with my beach garden, created back in 2012. The small plot sits at the front of my chalet bungalow, facing the sea, about a quarter of a mile away. It has to take everything the elements throw at it.
We get very strong winds blowing off the sea many times during the year! I’d always seen it playing second fiddle to the main back garden, but over the years I’ve begun to realise that it is always capable of holding its own and looks quite amazing, despite what the weather throws at it, especially when the sun sets over it.
More importantly, it is incredible how low the overall maintenance on this part of the garden is compared to the rest of my plot. Surprisingly, a professional garden photographer shot the beach garden this month as well. All my pictures here were taken mid-January, through to early February.
The Arabis ferdinandi-coburgi ‘Old Gold’ is looking really stunning by the steps up from the street, in amongst the grasses and the euonymus fortuneii Emerald Gaiety. You can see the horizon and the sea in the background. Dazzling along the front of the old weathered rowing boat, the bergenia flowers are quite striking. The boat itself, which is the centrepiece of the front beach garden, is now surrounded by plants and shrubs. There is a large sea buckthorn on the right of it that may have shed its leaves for the Winter but it’s silver grey frame still leaves its mark on the landscape.
Brimming over the edge of the dinghy you can see the amazing bright yellow flowers of the coronilla valentina glauca, which really catch your eye at this time of year, along with the pale lemon flowers of the large hellebore argentifolius. The eclectic mix of object d’art around the garden, old reclaimed anchors, rusty wheels, lobster pots and reclaimed groynes all help to maintain the character of the plot all year around, not to mention the large pieces of driftwood too.
We’ve had a lot of mist and fog hang over the garden since Christmas and it really gives an interesting, if eerie feel to the beach garden. Flowering this week by the boat are the delicate flowers of the rosemarium officianalis rosea. Not far away the elegant plumes of the Miscanthus Morning Light Maiden rise up and catch the evening sunlight perfectly.
So, if you’re looking for a relatively low maintenance garden to create yourself, maybe a beach garden is a good choice. What’s more, you don’t actually have to live by the sea. You could create your dream plot wherever you like! You can read more about the garden and when it will open for the season in 2017 at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk
Many people at work here at T&M know that I am an avid dancer, I’ve even encouraged a few others from my office to come along and try Ceroc (the dance I love to do) and they’ve enjoyed it too!
This got me thinking recently, as I start to plan out my garden pots for this year; why not have a section dedicated to dance, after all, if I can combine my two passions, dancing and gardening then surely I’ve got the best of both worlds?
Googling “Dancing Plants” will firstly come up with Desmondium gyrans, which is known as the “dancing plant” or “telegraph plant”. This unusual botanical wonder actually has leaves which move about in search of the best source of daylight in the morning, but will also move quite visibly when played music too! So it is a must on my list, although it’s a tender annual so will probably live with me indoors and dance along when I play my music.
So to more practical varieties that I can plant outside in my theme. Just typing in the word “dance” on the T&M website gave me some great choices. Amaryllis ‘Dancing Queen’, I’ve grown before outside in the summer, packing half a dozen bulbs into a large pot, the stems didn’t grow quite as tall as I’d have liked, but what an impressive show they were! And, as long as you keep them away from the frosts, give them a good feed and look after them, they’ll come back again, in a similar way that crinum will.
I must admit that Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum ‘Fire Dance’ has really caught my eye, early flowering , so I’ll have missed it this year, but what stunning foliage too! I think keeping it in a large pot at the back is going to provide me with the perfect backdrop for my other plants. I’ll keep a Clematis ‘Dancing Smile’ in a tower pot next to it which will sort out the height I’m going to need and I’ll still get some nice blooms from the clematis too!
I do like bright colours in my garden, which is why I think at the front of my dancing themed display I’m going to have Bidens ‘BeeDance Painted Red’ and also Trollius ‘Dancing Flame’, these will also fit in nicely with my ideas as one of the main colours in the ceroc logo is orange too, so it’s win, win! Red Hot Poker ‘Fire Dance’ is also a contender too, as the leaves will hang around all year, I’ll have to see how it copes with being in a large pot, I’m sure it’ll be fine!
There are also a couple of very nice dance based sculptures that we sell, I’m loving the “ballroom grace” one, maybe I’ll hint for it as a birthday present!
So it looks like this year – in the words of a famous TV show – I’ll “Keep Dancing”
In the last year, I have spent more money on gardening than anything else.
This year, I decided to do what I could on my own and research the methods to reduce cost and learn something new about gardening at the same time. It is simple really when you consider traditional gardening methods which probably involved planting what would grow by taking a good look at the soil and going by the general environmental conditions in your area. Where I live it is chalk downs and for the most part this is the soil that I have in my garden. Over time, I have learned about the soil by the types of plants that are growing there naturally. Knowing your garden very well in all aspects and especially the soil is the one thing I have discovered will save time and money.
The less you have to spend on the things you already have in the garden means you can splurge on the things you don’t have and would really like to have. For me, this would be my dream of a green house, a cold frame and a raised bed or two. The raised bed and cold frame you could probably make yourself but I will leave that for another post!
Today, I made my own seed compost. After some research, I put together this mix:
1 quarter all- purpose compost sieved
1 quarter locally sourced mole dirt ( I have no moles in my garden-yet!)
1 half well-rotted leaf mould
I put all in a large tub mixed it really well and sieved it again just to make it very fine for seeds
It turned out really well. I filled up one seed tray of Hellebore (helleborus purpurascens) and three pots of Norway Spruce (picea abies) that I got from a free seed packet.
I learned some valuable lessons: one is to take the time to go about and discover what you can forge from the countryside near you- within reason and legally. I discovered the mole dirt when I went out for a walk one day and realised there were moles everywhere. This got me thinking about the soil. I went back a few days later, filled up a bag and lugged it home to my garden. This soil is quite good since it has been sifted for the most part already by the moles themselves. Of course you have to take a good look at the soil and make a judgement as to what the structure but unless you are collecting it from an area that has been previously an allotment it is likely that the soil will be the same as what you have in your local area.
How I came to get all of these necessary ingredients is the key.
I already had some left over compost, and the mole dirt I foraged but I didn’t have any leaf mould- this is something that I need to get prepared for next year. During the summer, I made a place in the corner of my garden where I put the left over compost after sifting. During the winter, leaves had accumulated there and lo and behold without realising it I had made well – rotted leaf mould. This came as a happy realisation that I had a lot more to work with in my garden than I thought I did.