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Blog posts tagged with 'christmas'

The most magical time of the year!

 

Here’s a tip for all you hardy gardeners still out and about.

If you have some beautiful leather gloves that have got wet whilst being used in the call of duty, do not fret!

Firstly, do not put them on the radiator! Allow them to dry naturally away from any heat (any direct heat will make the leather go hard). A scrunch up before putting them on and voila – perfect leather gloves.

Yes, it's that time of year again. I don’t know about you, but I always struggle every year to find the ideal gift for the avid gardener. They usually have their favourite tools and new ones are always met with a smile and the ever so telling ‘place reverently down’ whilst moving on to something they really wanted.

Well, let me give you some ideas and you can shout at me instead.

When I worked at Singapore Botanic Gardens, we only used serrated bypass snips for all our flower work. They are extremely versatile and excellent at dead heading - but very little used in the UK. So unless he or she has worked at a tropical Botanic Garden, I doubt they are in the tool kit. Explain to your gardening friend that they are what the professionals use to keep the flowers budding without leaving the tell-tale rip and all will be well.

I am also going to recommend you buy some of the excellent ‘bamboo’ gloves from this site. Environmentally friendly, comfortable and durable. I love ‘em. However, the recipient might be underwhelmed if it is the ‘main’ present. How about offering them as a teaser in the stocking?

In fact if you buy a pair of Town and Country Boot socks, that’s your stockings sorted for the year too! As an added bonus, they are very warm - so much so, my wife wears mine - so I am going to have to invest in some more!

Finally, if your gardener is more of a reader, might I suggest you buy them a good old fashioned book. One of my favourites of all time is ‘The Plant Hunters’ By M Tyler-Whittle. An excellent book which explores how we got the beautiful plants we all admire today. Another book I will recommend is ‘Flora Britannica’ by Richard Mabey. A really, really beautiful book full of wonderful knowledge by the man who brought us ‘Food for free’ – another very interesting book!

Have a great Christmas!

What a start to the New Year!

I doubt many would want to be out and about in the current weather, but spare a moment to think on your plants. You may think that they will be loving all this rain, but understanding that a plant needs air as well as water, you a chance to stop the rot, before you have to expensive replacements. If you garden is well and truly sodden, now is the time to get out there and address some immediate issues.



The lawn is still growing, given the mild air currents, but it will be sitting wet – something it hates. If your garden is on anything but sand, its roots will be struggling to breath and you will need to slit or aerate the lawn. First sweep away all the debris that has collected. Then, grab a fork. Starting at a corner where you will not have to walk over it twice, insert the fork at a 45 degree angle and lift the turf slightly. It needn’t be by much, just enough to allow an air pocket. Remove the fork and repeat. The best method is to create a zig-zag of forked columns or rows across the lawn. Once you have done this, a light dressing of compost would be welcome. Try not to walk on the lawn for a week or so, to let it settle.

Alternatively, you could just use the special shoes or aerating machinery that is available, but given the amount of water that has fallen, and given snow is approaching, I am not sure this will suffice.

If there are any areas in your garden, where shrubs sit wet, try to fork the roots to give them air. Some trees even – such as the Southern Beech (Nothofagus spp.) – will rot quite quickly if in wet soil leaving you with a dead plant and an expensive headache to replace.

Merry Christmas from all at Town & Country


Well, Christmas is almost upon us. I suppose you are looking about for the holly and ivy to adorn your various crevices. This year is particularly good for holly berries so you should get something spectacular above your mantle. A curious custom, it actually predates Christianity. Both plants were representatives of fertility at the mid-winter festivals held across Europe by both the druids and the Romans. However since the 14th Century is has become firmly ensconced in Christams tradition, with an all familiar carol and perhaps a less familiar love song ‘Green Groweth the Holly’ written by Henry VIII no less.

The tradition of the tree itself is of German import and became popular after Prince Consort, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, decided in 1841, that it was a lovely idea to introduce to the Royal household. Victoria being the smitten Queen she was, loved him and loved the idea, so the tradition was born. To be honest I am not sure what we did before this. Perhaps just stare at the awkward corner of the room wondering where to hide the presents that Santa had so kindly bought us all a little earlier than usual.

Then of course there is the tradition of collecting the Yule Log. This actually refers to a very old idea that has been lost in the mists of time, but has been claimed by modern paganists. The actual theory was at mid-winter (December 23rd) a tree was carefully chosen, cut down and turned into one whole log. It was then brought into the house to burn for the entire winter. The modern take on this is somewhat easier to achieve.

Walk into a local wood or forest and choose a log. This should be approached with reverence and you should ask the earth spirit for permission. Once you are satisfied the sky will not fall on your head, return home and place the log in the Christmas or Mid-Winter fire – making sure to thank the Gods. When the fire is well lit, remove (safely) what is left of the Yule log and put it away (once it is fully without embers). This then should be stored until next winters first fire - bringing you luck for the year ahead.

 
Make a wreath

So Christmas is approaching and I am sure, being the thrifty and creative person you are, perhaps you are looking at making your own wreath to adorn your front door.



For a start, buy a decent pair of gloves. Warm and robust. A pair that will hold back the most fearsome holly thorn. The Town and Country Premium Leather and Suede gloves with fleece lining are exceptional if I do say so myself.   Next, decide what you want to achieve? A small garland or a huge planet sized object forcing you to use the back door for the season?  

Materials needed:
  • 1m of narrow gauge chicken wire or a 30cm foam ring.
  • 1mm metal wire, florists binding or garden twine.
  • Greenery / Flora.
  • Ribbon or other decorative materials.
  • Imagination.

  Once you have decided, start to create!   If you are using chicken wire, fold it into a size which will work for your design, making sure it is not impassable for the stems to pass through, but tight enough to hold the material. The beauty of using chicken wire is you can shape it. Perhaps a bell shape, or a snowflake, or the traditional circle. Make a loop of wire and attach it to the back of the frame. This will be the place to fix it.   Now comes the fun part. Choosing your greenery.   Go into your garden, or into the nearest area where there is a multitude of flora with your secateurs (making sure you have asked permission from the landowner).   There are thousands of evergreen shrubs surrounding us, but there is also a plethora of coloured plant stems. Ilex (Holly), Tillia (Lime), Hedera (Ivy), Skimmia, Luarus nobilis, Euonymous, Jasminum, Osmanthus, Viburnum, Lavender, Santolina, not to mention all the lovely varieties of fir tree. And if you are feeling really experimental or brave, try some citrus fruits or apples, horse-chestnuts or oak apples – and maybe even feathers and seashells if you are that way inclined.   When you have chosen your material, prune long lengths if you are using the chicken wire, or short if you are using the foam. Always making sure you do not leave the host plant unsightly, bald or indeed beyond any chance of life!   Return home with your bounty and have fun.   The trick is to add small amounts at a time. Keep the design balanced, so evenly spread out the material. If you are having problems attaching the material use the binding wire.   Happy Christmas!












-- Guy Deakins

Bring the Garden Indoors to the Christmas Table

The big day is almost here. You have wrapped the presents, decorated the house and got the turkey, but have you thought about how you are dressing the dining table on Christmas day?

You can create a simple yet elegant centrepiece for your table by using foliage from your garden. The look is very natural and organic.

 


Experiment a bit with Fresh fruit, tall sturdy candles and your foliage until you are happy.

I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas!

-- Gemma Dray

Christmas dinner - veg grower style!


So this month people have been asking me if I'll be eating anything from the garden over Christmas. And the answer is yes! If you've been canny like me you'll still have some spuds left. Potatoes need digging up before first frosts, so ours are long out of the ground. But if you grow good keeping varieties and keep them in a cool dry place, you can definitely be eating homegrown on Christmas day.

So what of the other Christmas dinner veg possibilities? Well sprouts of course. They have a long growing season so need starting off in the Spring and covering with netting like all brassicas, to keep butterflies from laying eggs which equals caterpillars which equals distinct lack of edible greens! Sprouts are of course perfectly ready for picking at this time of year - infact we've been enjoying ours for a month or so in readiness for the Christmas feast.

If you cover your carrots with fleece or a cloche you could still have some in the ground for your Christmas enjoyment. I have to admit though, after over sowing last year, this year I was probably a little too cautious and we've already polished all our root veg off of this year. However, we do still have kale and cabbage - again started off in Spring and Summer and protected with netting, so these will be joining our potatoes and sprouts on Christmas day.

So enjoy your feasts and happy Christmas!

Jobs to do in August...

 

Agapanthus africanus,Tanacetum parthenium, Lichnis cornaria, Oenothera
 
 

Well, the summer is coming to an end in the UK. Overall, the first half of the year many of you will agree, has been odd. It has certainly been interesting; as some have put it, we had May, June and July in one month, the rest of the summer has been…let’s not be too negative. I love the month of August. The garden is just beyond its peak of flowering, but seeds are to be collected, fruit harvested, the ground prepared for the autumn sowings and planting of annuals and winter hardy veg. All in the gloriously warm (if perhaps wet) weather we still have.

At present, as well as continuing the ceaseless weeding, grass cutting and disease control, I am mulching borders with rotted leaf mould, a vitally important job to do between now and the first frosts, which given the years odd weather may well come as early as September (where have the Swallows gone?). I am also sowing winter vegetable seed, ready for planting out in September/October - remembering Brussels Sprouts can be ready for Christmas and need deep soil. Italian or Black Kale, Winter Cabbages and Purslane will sit happily over winter, ready to fill the hungry gap in early spring. It may also be worth looking now at some of the Japanese varieties of Onion if you are so inclined. Not forgetting if you have a greenhouse, new potatoes if kept frost free will be fit for the table on Dec 25th . Lastly, sweet peas need to be researched and ordered if you want to get an early sowing under glass. Lots to do, lots more to enjoy.

-- Guy Deakins