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Blog posts tagged with 'caution'

Is your garden secure?


With the recent increase of thefts from gardens across the UK, I thought it would be prudent to write about ways of making sure your tools and even plants are safe from light fingers. Putting a good lock on the shed is a good start. It may surprise you to know, many people still think a simple latch will suffice when it comes to looking after your expensive tools.  However, a policemen friend of mine recently told me, in the majority of cases in a domestic garden, a simple but sturdy brace and lock will put off many burglars.  But you may want to go further and reinforce the doors and roof? Also try to lock any external gates if you have them. Anything that slows a person down will add to your security. Basically, you have to assess what your garden machinery is worth. If you have gone for the top end of the market, with a beautiful Stihl leaf blower etc, you are looking at close to £500 just to replace one item.

Perhaps you have insurance and think it will all be replaced if stolen?

Most insurers now will not consider replacing any items unless it can be proved that the utmost care was put into protecting your tools, then even if you can prove due care was taken, your premium will go up in the following years. A second way of protecting your tools is to mark them. The police will give you, if you ask nicely and flutter your eyelids, a UV marker pen. Write your name and postcode on everything you wish to trace. If you want to go one step further, you can get the items engraved, etched or stamped. Again the police can do this for you. The third way, is to be vigilant. If you see anybody loitering at the rear gate of a garden or looking over fences furtively should be reported. Or indeed, any unwanted visit from people offering their gardening or tree expertise, with no form of ID, should be reported to the police on the 101 number. Equally, anybody offering to tarmac your drive, suggesting pest control or just turning up 'lost' is also to be reported to 101. I am told by a senior police officer, that this will help in future intelligence work. When you do hire someone, make sure your gardener is qualified and insured, with the proper credentials. They may be remarkably cheap, but are they who they say they are? Try to get references and evidence of previous work. Again a policeman has informed me, that some who advertise as 'gardeners' you wouldn't particularly want near your property.

 
The "Not so Hardy" Garden Plants

We really were spoilt this November with unusually mild weather. If that is a good thing or not remains to be seen. But this time last year we certainly were in the trows of winter with snow already covering much of the UK. Gardeners across the country saw plants, which we have come accustomed to think as hardy, killed or severely knocked back by the prolonged cold weather, snow and ice. Some plants that were knocked back have recovered slowly, others devastated by the bad weather last winter never made it back to their former glory. I've compiled a short list of plants that suffered during the winter that will benefit from some winter protection if this years temperatures drop as low as they did in 2010.

Cordyline australis- The Cabbage Tree
Cordylines have been a favourite in gardens for many years now due to their tropical look, the most popular being the red varieties. I have always advised on winter protection for these although in the mild winters they may come through unharmed. Native to New Zealand they can potentially reach heights of up to 20 metres, although in the UK climate they tend to be fairly slow growing. Cordylines are one of the species that seem to have bounced back from the harsh winter, new shoots developing from the base of the old stump. These shoots can be left on or removed and cultivated in a pot.


Ceanothus- California Lilac
Ceanothus are native to North America and are another plant that seems to have produced new growth after a complete die back of foliage last winter. Again another favourite in many gardens due to their unusual foliage colour and rich, insect attracting flowers. Leave all the dead foliage on until spring to help protect the new foliage against frosts.

Eucalyptus
It is debatable as to whether the mighty Eucalyptus tree is suitable to most UK gardens due to its eventual size and rapid growth. But they are there and people love them and, yes you guessed it, they suffered badly last winter. Eucalyptus are mostly native to Australia where the winter temperatures rarely drop below freezing apart from in the mountains. So it's no surprise that a winter of temperatures dropping to -18 degrees saw a few lost. Unfortunately the only thing to do with a dead Eucalyptus is to remove it, with the help of a qualified tree surgeon if needed. And why not replace it with one of our beautiful native trees that will be fine and dandy in most winters?

Hebe

This one surprised me to be honest. I have often thought of Hebes as being a long standing hardy shrub, sadly not. Many Hebes have met there maker this year. Another shrub native to New Zealand, and a few to South America, they are the largest plant genus in New Zealand with a vast variety of cultivars to choose from and many more arriving every year. I have yet to hear of any Hebes pulling through and re-shooting so a bit of winter protection with some plant fleece may be wise.


Trachycarpus- Fan palms

Trachycarpus palms are native to Asia and have been growing in popularity over the last decade or so due to their exotic appearance, many gardens now dedicated to palms. Unfortunately many species proved to be less hardy this year and as these palms usually demand a high price tag due to their slow growth, many wallets also took the brunt. Tying the leaves up and protecting the palm with straw and fleece may be of benefit in colder winters to come.

***

I'm sure there have been many more species of plant that have suffered in our unusually cold winters, and a bit of research in Autumn may pay dividends. But cold winters as were seen last year are not all bad. They generally help to reduce the overall numbers of many garden pests such as aphids, funguses and bacterias which in a mild winter can attack and damage dormant plants. So a little planning ahead in harsh winters is all that is needed.

-- Tom Williams