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Blog posts tagged with 'perennials'

Winter Gardening

I am looking forward to winter in the garden.

The truth be told, last winter was so mild, I psychologically missed the hard frosts and snow. I know that sounds odd, but they have a very useful role in the garden. If you dig over your vegetable areas now - leaving the soil in large lumps - not only will mother nature help break the soil up properly, but the pests like slugs, wire worms and soil living aphids will be killed.

Last winter was so mild for many of us that all these pests continued to multiply causing headaches for us all spring and summer.

I am also looking forward to winter, because I am confident my feet and hands will be warm. The T & C premium suede gloves have never let my fingers down, (when combined with latex gloves for really cold days) and to top it off, I have purchased the Town and Country ‘Charnwood Boots’. Combined with a pair of boot socks, I will be warm and dry for the foreseeable future!

                                            

In the garden things are just slowing down so now is the time to start cutting back the perennials that need it – remember, some need the foliage for protection so look at your guidance notes. In the cool greenhouse,  you can also look at planting some sweet peas in pots for a good display next year. There are some lovely old varieties. On the veg plot, now is the time to sow broad beans and if you are so inclined, winter hardy peas. I am told that those that over-winter have less black-fly, but I have never truly found that to be the case. Either way, the plants get a head start and if the winter is another mild one, you will have a crop of broad beans in April as I did this year. You can always keep sowing from Spring all the way to June to get a succession of crops until September!

If you like tulips, now is also the time to plant them. Last year I must admit was a disaster as many bulbs rotted off or were eaten by the marauding slugs as they pushed up through the spring soil. If this is a recurring problem for you, I suggest you try a different area where the soil is not so wet. Tulips are beautiful, but not necessarily as hardy as narcissi.

Finally, add manure or other mulch to your borders. You will help the plants survive the worst of the weather by supplying the roots with a nice covering. Never apply mulch in Spring as you will keep the cold trapped in the ground for longer.

Appreciating your garden
August is always the time we most appreciate the garden. It is the time when we supposedly see the garden in full. The flowers are a riot of colour. The vegetable area is providing bounty. The birds are singing, the insects are buzzing. We are at peace.
 
Accordingly, I always go my to my gardening library – which is approaching somewhere in the region of 400 books on the subject - and research the plants I see in other peoples’ beautiful gardens. One thing I am always surprised by is the actual length of time these plants have been in our gardens. Our modern media would have us believe that plants are new and exciting, never before seen, but the reality is that much of what we see at flower shows and in the local nursery are the result of mere tinkering with the genetic inheritance. For example, those most beautiful of garden perennials, the peony were introduced to this country by the , Romans, but the Celts, the Saxons, Normans and countless other immigrants have added to the wonderful mix. For example, Acanthus, Iris, the Sweet Chestnut, the Walnut, Dianthus, Wall-Flower, Asparagus, Cabbage, Onions, Tanacetum, and many other plants we now regard as commonplace. There are of course many plants which are indigenous to the UK, but I think the really exciting thing is to realise just quite how long we as a species have been trying to improve the environment around our home. Imagine being the first man in Britain to have an exotic ‘Yellow Flag’ Iris growing in your courtyard. That is why we still find going to the local flower show or garden centre such fun. Finding a hidden gem I am sure is genetically intrinsic in our nature. But let me offer you some tips on buying.
 
Never buy a plant in full bloom – it will last less time than if you buy in bud.
Check for insect damage or indeed insects attached!
 
Try not to buy a plant that is either pot bound (you can tell by the roots pushing out through the bottom of the pot) or a plant that has a huge amount of moss on the top compost – this means it has sat around for long enough for something to grow on the soil and is therefore quite an old plant for the pot size and something may be wrong with it. Do not buy a plant in a pot that has dried out, this is a bad sign that the plants are not well looked after by the nursery. Try not to buy on impulse. Think of the space the plant is going to fit into. If it is going to get to ten feet tall it won’t fit on your patio.
I ♥ Astrantia
 

If anyone were to ask me what my favourite plant in the garden I would have to say Astrantia. I bought my first one from a local farmers market from a stall that specialises in unusual perennials. Just my cup of tea.

I was taken by the delicate papery star shaped flowers, which are, in fact, bracts that protect the tiny flowers in the centre. These dainty central flowers give rise to the common name of Hattie’s Pincushion. They are also sometimes known as Masterwort and their natural habitat is damp meadow edges or woodland so they like to be planted in moist soil and are happy under the shade of trees. Mine are in a mixed border crowded in with Hostas, Lily of the Valley and Euphorbia.

They create a dense dome of leaves early in the spring and flowers rise from the greenery around May and carry on flowering through the Summer. They then dry on the plant and stand tall quivering their seeds to the ground whilst still looking stunning right into Autumn. The first Astrantia I bought was a white one, tinged with green, I don’t know it’s name as the plant tag has long since been lost. Then I found a very pretty dusky pink one and I have now added a deeper red version too. As well as looking good in the garden the flowers are lovely mixed with others in a vase and they also dry well if you like that sort of thing.

Astrantias are very easy to look after and don’t seem to get eaten by slugs. Just chop down the stems and leaves late in the Autumn and they will repay you by growing bigger each Spring. If you see one at the nursery or garden centre this weekend they will be just coming into bud.

-- Claire Sutton