Monday, November 5, 2018

Griselinia Hedging and Cabbages

 Griselinia hedging plants

It’s a great time of year to plant hedging. The plants will settle in over the winter and be ready for the fast growth in spring. 

Escallonia proves to be a favourite in Inishowen year after year and for good reason. It loves the coastal weather, is fast growing, tidy, easy to cut back, will tolerate dry and wet and makes a habitat for wildlife. 

Another favourite hedging for the coast is griselinia with its large apple green leaves. Like escallonia, this plant can be susceptible to leaf spot but not very often around the peninsula as far as I can see and apart from sheep killing off the top growth when the have a nibble there doesn’t seem to be anything else that bothers it.

Griselinia littoralis

Where will Griselinia littoralis grow?
Griselinia littoralis prefers full sun but will also grow in partial shade.  Griselinia will take temperatures of around -15 ⁰C.
What type of soil does a Griselinia hedge need?
Griselinia will grow in any free-draining soil (i.e. any soil that is not water-logged), it does not need any special soil.
How tall will Griselinia grow?
Griselinia can be kept at any height and can be used for a small hedge 1 metre (3ft) tall. If it is left untrimmed, it will grow up to 3m (10ft) tall.
How fast will Griselinia grow?
Griselinia littoralis has a growth rate of up to 45cm (18 inches) per year under good conditions, so it will soon form a dense hedge. If you want quicker growing hedging plants then consider Laurel.
When can I plant Griselinia littoralis?
The pot plants can be planted at any time of year. Griselinia planted now in the winter months (November to February) may not need watering in the first year as they will get their roots established over the winter months. However, it is still worth checking your plants once a week to make sure they are not too dry or suffering from wind rock. Also, hedges watered over the summer will put on more growth.
How often would I need to trim/prune a Griselinia hedge?
As with all quick-growing, evergreen hedges, Griselinia needs to be trimmed once a year. Late spring/early summer is a good time to trim hedge although it can also be trimmed in late August or early September.

Ornamental Kale and Cabbage
Another more prostrate favourite at this time of year are the ornamental brassicas. You couldn’t make a hedge from them but the will fill a container or two near the front door.  These bold rosettes can make a real statement around beds and borders too. They are easy to grow from seed but if that sounds like too much trouble then most garden centres are selling them at the moment.
Five things to know about these beauties.
1. Which is which? Flowering cabbage and kale are similar in colour, appearance and size, but the main difference is that cabbage leaves have smooth edges and kale leaves are frilly.
2. Create instant borders. Buy mature plants in now and plant alongside potted chrysanthemums for eye-catching colour and texture.
3. Container-ready. Flowering cabbage and kale are made for containers. Plant alongside heuchera (also looking good in the shops), pansies, and cordyline.
4. They love chilly weather. The beautiful blues, purples, greens and whites of flowering kale and cabbage will get brighter as the weather gets colder (well I think they do)
5. Edible or not? Yes, flowering specimens may be used, but are not bred for taste or texture. Clean, organically raised leaves can be used as a base on a plate to hold other foods

Tips of the Week
There's still time to plant daffodil bulbs and other spring flowering bulbs for a magnificent start to next year’s display.
Plant tulip bulbs now to prevent Tulip Fire infection.
As well as heathers, plant grasses and trailing ivy in pots for winter colour.
Lift parsnips after the first frosts when their flavour will have sweetened.
Divide mature clumps of rhubarb once they are dormant.
Now is an ideal time to invest in mushroom kits. It's surprisingly easy to grow your own mushrooms even the fancy oyster mushrooms.
If you have access to fresh manure, now is the time to spread it across the surface of your vegetable beds to rot down over winter.
Stake top-heavy brassicas and draw up some soil around the base of the stem to prevent wind rocking the plant and causing damage to the roots. You won’t need to do this with the ornamental ones.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Painting Winter Heathers

 Painted heather

I’ve been making a new bed along a wall this week. 

It’s to house my creeping thyme plants that have come on well over the summer in their small cells. Now is a good time to be setting up any new beds and borders before it gets too wet and will also spare the house and carpets getting covered in mud.

The soil in the new bed is quite fibrous as I put cardboard over the grass two years ago, but it’s full of lovely worms. I’ve sieved the top soil and any large clumps of fibre have been taken out and composted, which has left me with a lovely fine planting medium for the small plugs. I’ll keep an eye on any chickweed coming up and remove that too because like the chamomiles, thyme plants don’t really do well without us having to intervene occasionally and take out a few self-set weeds.
I’m starting small with an area of around 10’x2’ and can expand as the plants develop.  I might even get my whole lawn made from thyme just like gardens used to be a hundred and fifty years ago before lawn mowers.

Heather Sprayed with food colouring
Heathers are looking great in the shops and gardens at the moment. Winter flowering types are very popular and will brighten up a garden or planter well into spring.  One type of heather (calluna vulgaris ‘garden girls’) is particularly popular as the flowers are very bright and will last months because the actual flowers don’t open up, they stay as tidy buds. There’s plenty of colour range too from whites to pinks and purple. 

I did notice that the plants being sold at a garden centre this week were being sprayed different colours even though they were in flower. I’m not really sure why growers need to put colour on the plants; maybe they just weren’t bright enough. (They are proving to be the best sellers around our local garden centres so the growers are doing something right)

We’re used heathers sprayed with fake snow in December but colouring already colourful plants is a bit baffling. The dye used is generally a natural food colouring so it won’t harm the plants and will eventually wash off leaving you with (I presume) a dull looking plant that you can put out in the garden to fill up a gap. Either that or trim it back and get the food colouring out of the cupboard and get spraying. The only difference will be that the dye colours the whole plant-stems and leaves- as well as the flowers so they look a bit artificial, but at a glance you wouldn’t notice.

That reminds me of an experiment I used to do for the children when they were young. I’d choose a white flower, a rose or carnation, but any single stem flower will probably do. This is fun to do and usually leaves the stems their natural colour.

Colour changing flowers
What you need:
  • Fresh white flowers, carnations are best
  • Food colouring
  • Warm water
  • Several small jars to put in different colours
What to do:
Fill the jars 2/3 full with warm water.

Add 15-20 drops of food colouring to the vase. You can add different colours into each vase to see if some colours work better than others.

Cut the stem of the flower (adult stuff) at a slant. Put a flower into each of the vases and wait…
Let the flowers sit in the water and keep checking to see when the colour starts to change.  It should take about six hours, but it could take longer depending on the plant

Some colours might work faster than others and see what happens when to swap the flowers into different vases.

Salvia Artemis
I came across a Silver Sage, Salvia argentea in the garden centre and couldn’t resist stroking the soft furry leaves.  Usually sage plants are grown for their flowers but these short lived perennials or usually grown as biennials are mainly used for their foliage.  

They like dry settings with partial shade and will tolerate a mild frost in the garden especially if you keep the old leaves on the crown as they die back in the winter (like you would a gunnera).  The following year the plants flower so you can collect the seeds and grow some new plants for the borders.  If you want the plants to live longer just cut off the flowering spikes as they appear, this should keep them looking good throughout most of next summer.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Fallen Beech Tree

 Fallen Beech Tree

We’ve had a casualty from this month’s winds. The in laws twenty year old copper beech tree came down in a strong gust. 

There were other small branches flying from other trees and I didn’t really think the winds were that strong to bring down what I thought was a healthy, well-formed specimen. It’s been well looked after over the years so my fist though when I heard it toppled over was that the roots were really shallow and just gave up their grip on the earth.

On closer inspection the following morning I could see the roots were still very much in place, it was the trunk that gave way a few inches from the ground. The whole of the inside of the trunk was rotten and must have been ready to topple over for ages. There were no external signs that anything was wrong – if there were we would have taken the tree out as it could have easily fallen on a car.

I have a couple of theories, one is that the tree is on the lawn and the constant mowing around it damaged the roots so much that they no longer passed nutrients to the tree. The second theory (which is the most likely) is that tree beech trees are sometimes susceptible to root rot from a variety of fungal pathogens, including Phytophthora and this probably went undetected. Some trees can suffer from beech bark disease, caused by a combination of a sap-sucking scale insect (Cryptococcus fagisuga) and canker fungus (Nectria coccinea) but this generally shows signs on the external part of the tree so I don’t think it’s that.  Whatever the cause, the tree will need to be disposed of safely and cleanly because there are other trees around and it could be infectious. I’ll give the other trees a wobble and poke to see if they have rotten trunks too.

October in the Garden
This month it would make sense to tie things down in case another storm comes along soon. We lost all of our sunflowers and pea and bean poles in the wind and most of the pots flew to the top corner of the garden so any old annual plant displays could be composted and store the containers.  Aquatic plants might need a bit of protection too.

The autumn leaves are looking wonderful and will only get brighter before they fall so there will be a lot of chances to get out and do a bit of gentle raking to pick up the leaves before they mound up, go soggy and leave the paths slippery. It’d be a good idea to check the guttering too as the downpipes could get bunged up with clumps of leaves.

If you have enjoyed rhubarb this year then now is the time to dig up the clumps and divide them with a spade to increase the stock

A friend of ours gave us a delicious jar of pear chutney this week. It was from the fresh fruit and one of the nicest I have tasted. Other fruits like apples, grapes and nuts are all ready now for harvesting.

Climbing roses
The harsh winds can damage rose bushes as they sway in the wind. Climbing roses especially get damaged as they don’t hold on very tightly to things. Prune the back quite hard to keep them secure.
I’ve been collecting millions (I am not exaggerating) of Irish Moss seeds this week. I think the plants are becoming a bit of a problem in the garden as there are billions more germinating in every corner of the garden. There are less vigorous seeds you can collect to build up your stock for next year ranging from vegetables to annuals and perennials.

Lawn Care
It’s nearly time to ignore the lawn. I tried to do this a couple of weeks ago but it has just kept growing and growing. One or two moderate cuts left and I think we can take it easy until the festive holiday. If it’s dry we can escape for an hour or two and give it a quick trim. Keep the leaves off the lawn if possible but don’t worry if they stay as worms actually take a lot underground for you if you leave them. If you have a moss or thatch problem on the lawn this can be addressed now as well. Feeding isn’t necessary as this will just promote lush delicate leaves vulnerable to the oncoming frosts – They are not far away now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Glee 2018 - Plastic reduction is top of the bill

My woolly hat is on and it’ll stay on now until late spring. I’ll need a new pair of steel toe capped work boots very soon too to tide me over the winter. It pays to plan ahead with boots and get the old leaking ones replaced before the wetter weather kicks in. 

There are other items of clothing to put on the list too, especially the hidden thermal clothing and waterproofs. It’ll make working outside more enjoyable and save the old joints from creaking. I’d much sooner be overdressed for gardening duties and shed a few layers as I warm up and put them back on again when the flask of tea comes out at break time.  

The growing season is quickly coming to a close now and I am starting to bring my tools in and give them a bit of maintenance and a good oiling. I’ll even be putting some Danish oil onto the wooden handles of my hoe (a Dutch one as coincidence would have it) as I think this will help preserve the wood for a long time, especially at the joints where they tend to rot. 

The small electric mower doesn’t really need any maintenance as it’s mainly all plastic. I just tend to clean the grass from under it and out of the wheels. I’m not quite ready to hang things up for the winter but it does no harm to just work through the long list nice and slowly.

Clearing out the polytunnel is a long way down the list as it’s still producing for me. Just this week I got a large bowl of chillies, a few pounds of delicious tomatoes and a handful of aubergines. The aubergines have been a great success and they are delicious fried up. I’ll be growing them again next year. 

Glee 2018
The annual Glee garden and outdoor living trade show in Birmingham signals the end of the growing year as it showcases products we will see on sale in the shops in 2019. This year, top of the list is plastic, peat and glyphosate reduction, one-stop shop suppliers, slug control, shrub replacement, lawn fixing, solar technology and heat-loving plants after this year’s warm summer.

One innovative new product is solar Bluetooth, which controls solar lights using a smartphone app, which automatically adjusts brightness to extend light functionality. Solar in-lit fencing panels are also available for a novelty item. 

Bamboo pots and trays are increasing in popularity. A more core product on display was the taupe plant pot - The new taupe-coloured pot is carbon black-free, recycled polypropylene that can be identified by near infrared (NIR) and consequently recycled through kerbside recycling schemes. This allows gardeners to dispose of pots to be recycled in a way that has not been possible before now. Car tyre stepping stones are also proving a popular choice

Glyphosate reduction was big news with the official launch of Evergreen's (formerly Scotts) glyphosate-free Roundup. With 98% of weedkiller sales being products containing glyphosate. They predicted market share for glyphosate-frees (usually acetic acid-based) to rise to anywhere between 2% to 20% of the market next year.

Slug killers Neudorff said it plans to release the first off-the-shelf slug killer nematode later this year, resolving issues with nematodes sent by post dying in the summer heat.

Peat reduction was led by Westland's new formulation New Horizon with Bio3. The Growing Media Association's Responsible Sourcing Scheme has begun trialling this month with Bord na Móna, Melcourt, Bulrush, Evergreen (Scotts) and Horticultural Coir, although the voluntary retail phase-out target of 2020 looks like it has gone by the wayside.

Bulb production has suffered this summer because of a lack of rain and a few favourites are in short supply.

Wildlife Bird baths sold well in 2018 because of the drought and companies such as Wildlife World has new launches aiming to feed that market.

After 2018's anti-plastic campaigns, manufacturers have worked to reduce plastic packaging. For instance, Wildlife World has compostable cellulose inner packaging and biodegradable outer bags on its new hedgehog and bird food. It also has metal rather than plastic bird feeders for sale.
And finally to get you into the winter season - Christmas tree wholesale prices are up by €1.30 this year. The summer scorch scare has only hit newly planted trees so will make no impact this season. But retail prices are at their limit — any higher and more people will buy plastic trees.

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