Gardening leave

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Gardening

How does your garden grow? Does it rival Chelsea Flower Show or is it just patches of green and brown in need of some love and attention? Once it looks good, sit back and enjoy it in style and comfort

e’ve had some good weather in the last few weeks and that has definitely been a bonus as we all adhere to the ‘stay in’ restrictions. The other thing it’s meant is that we’re all enjoying our gardens more – showering them with TLC and generally being more appreciative of our personal green space.

And as we move towards summer with fingers crossed for both sunshine and being able to be with our family and friends again, let’s get out in our gardens and make the most of them!

It’s really important at this time to think about our mental wellbeing as well as keeping physical activity up, simply weeding and prepping pots for new plants boosts your spirits. Then sit back and admire your handy work in some stylish furniture on your patio or decking and under the shade of a gazebo!

The lawn

The crowning glory of many a garden is the lawn and whether you’re attempting to emulate Wembley-like turf for the kids to play football on or a lush green carpet to simply sit back and admire, how do you achieve that? You may have had to reseed in the spring with regular feeding, the lawn is a living plant like any other in your garden and needs nurturing. Cut the grass little and often and give it air if needed, make deep holes to allow it to become aerated and you’ve given yourself a good start.

Pots and containers

If you only really have a patio or small space to make the most of, pots and containers are the answer. Not only are they a practical way to grow plants, they’ll be easier to maintain – just remember they need a lot of root space, water and stability to protect them from the wind. And there are a great variety of pots and containers out there now not just the traditional terracotta, although you could update these with a lick of paint making them as colourful and attractive as the plants they’ll hold.

Outdoor entertaining

This is the fun part of the garden and even if we can’t have our friends and family round to enjoy it at the moment with us, making those video calls with a glass of wine in the garden does at least make it more bearable! More and more now gardens are becoming a true extension of people’s homes so the need for a paved entertaining area with space for a table and chairs is essential.

The ambitious among you could also get your teeth into a pizza oven too, it could be used as a wood-fired fireplace even if you aren’t hungry. Sunken fire pits are becoming more popular and for the really decadent, how about a hot tub to help extend the use of the garden into the evening and in the cooler weather?

Talking of the weather, while we’ve been lucky the past few weeks with some glorious sunshine to enjoy, we all know how fickle the English climate can be so some sort of shelter is a must, choose a summerhouse, gazebo, pergola, awning, shade sails or umbrellas – you’re spoilt for choice if the weather does spoil the party.

Water features

You’ve got the basics done so now it’s time to take it up a notch, how about a water feature to enhance the space and provide a focal point, not to mention the relaxing sound running water makes. Water features don’t just mean ponds, there are any number of ornamental structures available which needn’t take up a great deal of space but can be a real talking point.

Flooring

Decking or natural stone paving are the most traditional methods of flooring for your garden space, think about what you want to use your garden for and if it’s uneven and you want to avoid enormous amounts of levelling then gravel may be the answer.

Lighting

How about shedding some light on your garden too – it will allow you to eat, read or just sit and enjoy it long into the evening and lighting doesn’t have to mean multi-coloured Christmas tree-like adornments, although if it’s a party garden that may be ideal. From spotlights to tea lights, stylish decorative lighting needn’t cost the earth. The right lighting really can add a magical touch to your garden but make sure you position it well – you don’t want guests to feel they are being interrogated!

Play area

Many gardens need to fulfil more than just one function, as well as being somewhere to relax, for many families they have to be somewhere children can play too. So how to combine the two? Perhaps screen off an area using trellis, use a shed to store bulky equipment, consider natural materials for swings and playhouses so it blends in more than manmade alternatives – it’s more environmentally friendly too.

Growing your own

If you’re lucky enough to have room in your garden to grow some veggies, there has never been a better time to give it a go. Not only does it deal with environmental concerns but it’s also a cheap alternative, why not get the kids involved and turn it into part of home schooling too! Nothing beats the taste of fresh veg, herbs and fruit grown by your own hands and don’t let lack of space stop you, tomatoes and strawberries can be grown in pots.

Vertical gardens

These are a great way for people with small gardens to surround themselves with plants. Green walls and vertical gardening allows urban-dwellers to make more of their space. Specialist green wall companies are popping up who can install and help maintain your systems.

Wildlife friendly gardens

Do your bit for the environment with plants and structures that attract wildlife, birds, insects and small mammals. Log piles, hedgehog boxes, bee hotels and more will help to bring wildlife that is interesting to watch, and keep down pests such as slugs and aphids. Many plants are attractive to pollinating insects too.

And most importantly once you’ve created your perfect haven make sure you take time to enjoy it with a glass of something refreshing!

Need some inspiration...

Many gardens can be toured virtually while closed, take a look at:
RHS Wisley – enjoy the Glasshouse, Wisteria Walk, Rock Garden and The Mixed Borders as well as aerial views of the gardens
The National Garden Scheme (NGS) has launched a virtual library of tours around its gardens, find out more at ngs.org.uk
Virtual tours, gardens through the ages and top gardening tips can be found at

Gardening tips 2

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Gardening

With many of us spending more time at home, getting some fresh air and keeping our minds occupied in the current situation is so important.

So switch off from the news and take a break in your garden. Gardening is a great stress buster and it’s a good form of exercise too. 

If you’re looking for ideas there are plenty of uplifting projects to get stuck into in your garden. Why not:

> Plant a tree

Grow your own fruit & veg

Create a wildlife-friendly garden

Plant patio climbing roses

Try growing some plants from seed

Get the children into gardening

Create an edible window box

Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres believes escaping into the garden is a great way to lift your spirits to soak in the beauty if the outdoors generally and our gardens.

She said: “In times like this nature and simple pleasures, like gardening, watching the birds and looking out for wildlife, seem all the more precious and a boost to body and spirit. If you need us we are here to help you get gardening and find some outdoor relaxation and exercise.”

She added: “If you are spending a little more time at home over the coming weeks, I hope that the weather is kind and you are able to enjoy your outside space.”

Squire’s also offer a local home delivery service. Simply call your local centre to arrange delivery. Squires Garden Centres

Spring Clean

If this gets you in the tidying spirit – why not try our Spring Cleaning ideas? Broken down into five easy days!

Gardening tips 1

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Gardening

While having to stay at home is not ideal for any of us there are lots of things you can do in the garden and what better time than with the spring weather, here are a few more ideas, that will not only keep you occupied, but also mentally and physically active too:

> Dust down the mower and get out and tackle the lawn, not forgetting the edges which you can trim with shears. This simple task will immediately make your garden look tider.

Welcome the birds into your garden, order some feeders and birdfood to get started if you don’t already have them and the sight and sound of our feathered friends will put a smile on your face.

Do your bit for wild plants that are under threat by sowing some native plants into a window box, on a balcony or in a corner of your garden and make a mini meadow to encourage nature back.

Children can join in with nature/gardening-based craft activities to inspire and entertain them to get growing too. Why not make a den in the garden if you have room and see how ingenious they can be.

Don’t stare at a blank wall or fence, add some colour with hanging baskets or try environmentally-friendly, hessian flower bags filled with compost and planted with flowering plugs.

String up some garden lights to bring a sparkle to a tree, porch, archway or shrub.

Don’t neglect the patio or terrace when dealing with the plants, veg and greenery – a blast from the pressure washer will easily give it a new look.

For a real taste of the summer to come order some strawberry plants and get them in now with some fertilizer to really encourage the juicy sweet fruit.

Add some sunshine with some cheery sunflowers, sow seeds now, put pots on the windowsill and plant seedlings when frosts are gone.

Pot up some herbs, salad leaves, spinach, beetroot, dwarf French beans, potatoes and dwarf carrots which will all do well in containers or skip the sowing and go straight to plug plants.

Spring Clean

If this gets you in the tidying spirit – why not try our Spring Cleaning ideas? Broken down into five easy days!

Garden Re-Leaf Day 2020

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Gardening

Plans are blooming for the ninth annual Garden Re-Leaf Day, which takes place on Friday, 13th March.

This year, Chilton Garden Centre will be the central hub for fundraising activity, as it hosts the fifth Garden Re-Leaf Sponsored Walk and Cycle Challenge.

Members of the gardening sector and hopefully local residents will trek across the Chiltern Hills to raise money for the children’s hospice garden charity, Greenfingers Charity.

Gardeners young and old are invited to take part in fundraising events – either a gentle 10-mile stroll or complete a more challenging 20-mile route through the Chiltern hills. There will also be a Garden Re-Leaf Cycle Challenge for bike enthusiasts. With a 25km route through the Oxfordshire countryside entrants are invited to complete as many rotations around the course as they can throughout the day.

Garden Re-Leaf Day is to celebrate the start of the garden year with fundraising events to raise money for Greenfingers, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of children in hospices through the creation of magical gardens.

In total, 58 Greenfingers gardens have been built since the charity’s creation in 1998 with many being funded by monies from Garden Re-Leaf Day.

In 2017, a new Oxfordshire based garden was opened at Helen & Douglas House, enabling children who call this hospice ‘home’ to find a moment of calm away from the hustle and bustle of daily hospice life. The Kaleidoscope Garden, designed by Oxford garden designer Nicola Wakefield and built by local landscapers GreenArt Garden Design and landscaping, features a colourful and protected garden pavilion that is now being enjoyed by patients, their families, friends, carers and hard-working hospice staff.

Last year in 2019, the charity’s 20th anniversary, four sensory and therapeutic gardens were built in London, The Wirral, Sunderland and St Austell, offering children and families the perfect out door space in which to make memories.

More gardens are in the pipeline to be built this year and this is where Garden Re-Leaf Day comes into its own, raising muchneeded funds.

Linda Petronsdirector of fundraising & communications at Greenfingers said: “Each year, Garden Re-Leaf Day helps over 350 life-limited children to enjoy a quiet place of relaxation and contemplation away from the hustle and bustle of hospice life, something that is so incredibly important for them and their families. 

Being able to do offer this for seriously sick children and their families is only possible due to the fundraising activities that our supporters undertake.

Garden Re-Leaf Day offers a great opportunity to get involved – it’s just one day of the year where you can help make a difference. Whether you raise £10 or £10,000, every single penny counts. We hope that the people of Oxfordshire will get involved on March 13th!”

More info

To find out more about Garden Re-Leaf Day and the work that the Greenfingers charity undertakes visit

Pruning v chopping!

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Gardening

I thought I would take a light hearted look at the subject of pruning or as many people call it ‘chopping’ ‘hacking’ or ‘trimming’.

 

As a horticultural tutor and consultant the one thing I see in gardens that makes my heart sink is badly pruned trees and shrubs.

I feel it is my duty as a professional to teach people the correct way to prune in order to get the best from their garden. It takes years for a plant to grow and five minutes to destroy it……

Chopping/Hacking/Trimming

Anyone can do this, especially with a machine and at any time of year.

Fine for weeds, unwanted plants and dead ones.

You don’t need to be trained or qualified if you don’t want to be.

Can kill or seriously damage established plants, preventing growth, flowering and fruiting.

Looks horrible.

Pruning

The skill of pruning takes a lifetime of knowledge and practise. Plants need to be pruned correctly at the right time of year.

Every garden plant not only has a proper name but also a lifecycle and very specific pruning requirements.

You need a good level of training, qualifications and experience to undertake it successfully.

A good knowledge of pruning can ensure your plants thrive for a long time, flower, produce fruit and be beautiful sight. A well pruned Wisteria can look amazing in winter as well as in flower.

Want to learn?

Cathie’s Gardening School Services

A personalised and unique professional service tailored to your gardening requirements.

1. Horticultural consultancy teaching you in your own garden. This includes identifying your plants and how to prune them correctly at the right time of year to help you work out a maintenance programme.

2. Cathie’s Garden Army team of horticulturists can transform your garden, often in a day, following a consultancy. You may prefer us to do the hard work for you and pruning according to season.

3. Maintenance by team members once the garden is maintainable depending on our availability.

[email protected]

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Gardening: August

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Gardening

Many of you will be heading off on hols this month, but with a little bit of planning the garden can still be looking good when you get back.

For those staying at home there’s still plenty to enjoy and get on with in the garden this month. Enjoy these last few weeks of summer.

– Take cuttings of tender perennials such as pelargoniums and penstemons for flowering next year

– Keep watering, feeding and deadheading (I know I say this every month, but it’s so important)

– If we have drought conditions like last year, don’t be tempted to plant anything new until temperatures drop

– To keep rambling roses flowering and under control, thin out one in three of the oldest stems, tie in new shoots and shorten sideshoots by two thirds

– If you’re going away move pots into a shady spot and have a serious dead-heading session before you go. Ask a reliable neighbour to water whilst you’re away, particularly if it’s warm and dry

– An irrigation system on a timer is also  an effective way to keep plants watered in your absence

In the kitchen garden:

• Cordon tomatoes should be ‘stopped’ when they set four trusses outdoors, or six trusses if they’re in the greenhouse – remove the tip of the main stem two leaves above the uppermost truss so that the plant focuses its energy on fruit rather than foliage

• Plant out well rooted strawberry runners in new beds

• Cut out the old canes of summer-fruiting raspberries after fruiting, and tie in new ones

• Lift onions and shallots and dry them off before storing

• Pick herbs regularly to keep the plants productive

• Plant kale and leeks to harvest over the winter

Plants adding a splash of colour to the borders this month:

o Crocosmia ‘Paul’s Best Yellow’
o Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’
o Gaura lindheimeri ‘Chiffon’
o Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’
o Hydrangea aborescens ‘Annabelle’

  Call Hannah Fraser, Bloom Gardens on 07768 041929 or visit Bloom Gardens website

If you're out and about this month with children in tow

these gardens offer something for the whole family:

• Kew Gardens, London – an exciting new children’s garden opened recently, pre-booking online essential

• RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey – fabulous gardens for the grown-ups, trail and fun activities based on the Very Hungry Caterpillar for the kids

• Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Romsey, Hants – a tree house, wooden assault course and pond dipping sessions throughout the summer, not forgetting the Centenary border which should be at it’s best around now

• Waterperry Gardens, Wheatley, Oxon – gorgeous borders and fun family trails

Gardening: June joys

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Gardening

June is one of the nicest months of the year. The days are long and the garden is now in full swing. Frosts are a thing of the past, and we can just take time and enjoy. And it’s really important to do just that.

Yes, there’s lots to do out there, but take some time out just to enjoy.
It’s the perfect time to:

– Cut back the foliage from spring bulbs

– Lift and store tulip bulbs for planting out in the autumn

– Dead head all flowering plants regularly. Removing spent flowers stimulates plants to produce new flowers rather than simply setting seed

– Feed sweet peas with a high potash feed, either an off the shelf product or make your own with comfrey leaves

– Sow biennials such as wallflowers for next year

– Prune spring flowering shrubs (including Deutzia, Weigela and Philadelphus), removing spent flowers as well as some of the old stems to ground level to reduce congestion

– Keep an eye out for aphids and spray with a soap-based insecticide if necessary

– Water hanging baskets and other containers daily, preferably with collected rainwater. A weekly feed and regular dead-heading will keep containers blooming right through until autumn

– Hoe regularly to keep on top of the annual weeds

In the kitchen garden
• Harvest early potatoes as soon as they start to flower

• Enjoy the delight of freshly picked home-grown salad

• Pinch out side shoots of cordon tomatoes and support with a cane, tieing in regularly

• Direct sow brassicas and leeks for harvesting over the winter

• Continue successional sowings of carrots, radishes, salad leaves, lettuce, French beans and herbs

Plants looking fabulous now include:

o Clematis Princess Kate
o Convolvulus cneorum
o Cornus kousa var. chinensis
o Lavatera x clementii ‘Barnsley’
o Lophomyrus x ralphii ‘Magic Dragon’
o Rosa Royal Jubilee

Enjoy some other gardens looking their best right now

My recommendations for June are:

Hidcote Manor Garden, Chipping Campden, Glos (National Trust)

Mottisfont, near Romsey, Hants (National Trust)

Stockcross House, near Newbury (National Garden Scheme, 2nd June)

Chieveley Manor, Chieveley, Berks, (National Garden Scheme, 9th June)

Rooksnest, Lambourn Woodlands (National Garden Scheme, 12th June)

  Call Hannah Fraser, Bloom Gardens on 07768 041929 or visit Bloom Gardens website

Gardening: Abundance of colour

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Gardening

Spring is coming to its glorious end, and summer is nearly upon us.

Long sunny days (fingers crossed) and an abundance of colour and produce are just around the corner. Now is the perfect time to:

– Deadhead spring bulbs but resist the temptation to cut back the foliage. The bulbs need the nutrients from the leaves to put on a good show next year

– Divide hostas as they come back into growth

– Tie in sweetpeas, and climbing and rambling roses

– Prune spring flowering shrubs such as Hibiscus and Laurel

– Top dress permanent containers with fresh compost

– Apply weedkiller to lawns and feed with a high nitrogen fertiliser to promote healthy growth

– Lower the blades on your mower to their regular summer-cut height

– Delay mowing newly-sown lawns until they are 3” high, (and raise the mower blades)

– Keep on top of weeds to stop them taking valuable moisture and nutrients from the soil

– Put up netting to protect soft fruit from the birds

– Protect strawberries with straw – placing it around the plants prevents weed growth and protects the berries from wet soil

– Plant up hanging baskets and patio containers with summer bedding such as pelargoniums, fuschias, petunias etc, but keep an eye on the weather forecast and bring them in or protect with fleece if frost is forecast

– Continue successional sowings of annual herbs, beetroots, carrots and radishes

– Direct sow or plant out French beans, courgettes and pumpkins when you’re sure we’ve seen the last of the frosts

Plants looking fabulous now include:

o Allium ‘Purple Sensation’
o Aquilegias
o Ceanothus (Californian lilac)
o Choisya ternata (Mexican orange blossom)
o Early peonies
o Iris sibirica
o Syringa vulgaris (lilac)

Why not visit some gardens for inspiration?

My top picks for May are:

Rookwood Farm House, Stockcross, Newbury (National Garden Scheme, 5th May)

Sandleford Place, Newbury (National Garden Scheme, 12th May)

The Old Mill, Ramsbury, Wiltshire (National Garden Scheme, 19th May)

West Green House, Hartley Wintney, Hants (Wed-Sun, plus Bank Hols)

Chenies Manor House, Bucks (Wed-Thur, plus Tulip Festival on 6th May)

  Call Hannah Fraser, Bloom Gardens on 07768 041929 or visit Bloom Gardens website

April flowers

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Gardening

I absolutely love this time of year. The countryside is awash with daffodils, tulips are starting to flower and glorious summer days in the garden really are just around the corner.

Now is the perfect time to:

– Prune shrubs including buddlejas, hebes, mop head hydrangeas, hypericums and winter flowering honeysuckles. Always start by removing any branches which are dead, damaged, diseased or crossing other branches. Established shrubs can be hard pruned to control size

– Direct sow hardy annuals such as marigolds, nigella, poppies, ammi, cerinthe and nasturtiums for lots of summer colour. It’s also your last chance to sow sweet peas

– Beetroot, broad beans, brassicas, onions, parnsips, salad leaves and spinach can all be sown now. Sow little and often for harvesting throughout the year. If you can’t decide which cultivars to choose, opt for the ones with ‘AGM’ after the name.

– Plant second early potatoes by the middle of the month, and maincrops by the end

– Plant snowdrops ‘in the green’

– Protect plants from slugs and snails which are out in force now. There are several ways to control them: beer traps, mulching with grit, or simply by being vigilant and removing them. If you decide to use slug pellets go for the ones based onferrous phosphate rather than metaldehyde to protect wildlife. Apply sparingly

– Create a new lawn by seeding or turfing

– Green up existing lawns by scarifying, aerating, feeding and weeding

– Start mowing regularly

– Apply a general fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 to your borders to give both edible and ornamental plants a nutritional boost

– Protect fruit blossom from late frosts with horticultural fleece

Plants looking particularly good now include:

  • Brunnera macropylla (Siberian bugloss)
  • Chaenomeles × superba ‘Crimson and Gold’ (Japanese quince)
  • Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ (wallflower)
  • Euphorbia amygdaloides (wood spurge)
  • Hyacinthoides non-scripta (bluebell)
  • Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart)
  • Ribes sanguineum (flowering currant)

Why not visit some gardens for inspiration?

My top picks for April are

Rooksnest, Lambourn Woodlands, (April 10th)

The Old Rectory, Farnborough (April 14th)

Rookwood Farm House, Stockcross (April 28th)

Chenies Manor, Rickmansworth

Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury

  Call Hannah Fraser, Bloom Gardens on 07768 041929 or visit Bloom Gardens website

Dreamscape designs

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Gardening

Spring is almost here and now is the perfect time to focus on creating your dream outside space…

Each of us have our own personal idea of a fantasy garden. With the RHS Malvern and Chelsea flower shows on the horizon and croci poking their little heads out of the soil, there is hope in the air.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is encouraging us all to get busy, with tips on how to grow a colourful container and transform suburban and smaller spaces for the nation’s health and the environment. Whether you’re planning a cottage garden or formal city space, signature plants can help you achieve your dream look. Pulling off a convincing Mediterranean garden is a popular aspiration for many UK gardeners – start with a few choice plants and you won’t go far wrong.

A recent poll of Home & Gardens readers uncovered garden-lovers’ ultimate dream garden components (your own private folly, anyone?!). Dreaming big is always encouraged but you can also make a huge impact to your outside space, however small, front and back, by taking some small, practical-minded steps now.

A visit to a friendly local garden centre will be sure to leave you thriving with great ideas, especially for Mother’s Day. Horticultural experts will be happy to discuss your own personal oasis, using what you have as a starting point.

Decorative paving can make a huge difference to your outdoor space, creating the ideal vista from which to admire your trees and planting and perhaps set up a barbecue and dining area in time for the summer sunshine. Perhaps your patio is looking a little tired, weary or discoloured? Whether it be natural stone or concrete, you can transform it with the right treatment but it’s vital to seek expert treatment. Be careful of cleaning products that may contain an acid-based cleaner as these can affect natural stone, especially if it’s limestone. So ask your local supplier who can advise which product is best for your type of paving to make sure it’s looking its best without causing damage.

Also think about refreshing your garden furniture. Alison Chatten, trend expert and head of design at leading British soft seating brand Icon adds: “With evenings growing longer and temperatures starting to rise, spring brings a sense of renewal and revitalisation. The palm house trend continues to be a strong theme, as well as bright clashing Latin American-inspired designs – it’s all about bringing energy to your living spaces.

“Drawing on colours and themes already in the home, and using these outside, will create the impression of more space by harmoniously bringing the two areas together. Brightly painted pieces such as vases complemented with vibrant flowers, clashing colours and patterns are great for bringing life to your outdoor space.”

Wishing you all a fantastic spring!