Sunday, 12 August 2012

A couple of tips

Just to finish today's blogging I thought I might throw in a couple of tips.

When I was looking for the link for Gills nurseries I noticed this tip on their site, I am sure they won't mind me passing it on.  


Look after the hedgehogs – get porridge oats down as slug deterrent. Slugs eat the oats which kills them and then are safe for the hedgehog to eat.

If you try it let me know - does it reduce the slug population?  I wonder if it is cheaper than organic pellets?

You can follow more tips from them at

My tip is probably a feeble one but was an accidental find for me.  I was too lazy (as usual) to get out the trug for just dead heading a couple of hanging baskets and a handful of roses, but fed up with the petals flirting about all over the place because I can't get a good grip on all the rubbish I knew I would accumulate.  I just grabbed an empty pot and took that round with me - brilliant -  lightweight and it could be held under where I was snipping and in the junk went straight in.  

This photo is turning into a bit of a triple tip actually.  Here you can see my new snips and new secateurs.  The secateurs tip is, if like me you never sharpen the ones you've got, you really do need to buy some new ones after donkeys years of use.  My old ones were really blunt.   It is such a gradual progression you don't really notice it.  I have wanted new ones for a long time but couldn't get any decent small ones.  They are mostly made for blokes with hands like ham hocks.  They are heavy and open too wide for my grip.  These small Burgon and Ball ones from a National Trust property are good.  Not the fine fit of their predecessors but I will get used to them in time.  

On another NT visit I treated myself to the snips (I hadn't found the secateurs then).  I had seen them around for a long time and had read/heard good things about them, all of which I poo-pooed as just another faddy item to make money out of gullible people.  So I eventually lined up with the gullible and bought a pair.  Love 'em - keep them by the back door key and pick them up and put them in my pocket when I go for a stroll round the garden.  No more black finger nails from dead heading as I go.   

Annual record

I might have mentioned before that I record the garden from the same (roughly eight compass points) place each year in July just to remind me how things once looked and when.  They make for interesting viewing.  I am just picking the South facing part of the garden to show you the development of the box hedge round the patio.  When I am frustrated with its slow growth I remind myself how well it has actually done.  This summer was the first year that a good section of it on the left has made it to the right height for cutting properly into shape.

In 2007 when the patio went in we had an ugly sloping front concrete edge - a few inches on the left, increasing up to more than a foot on the right.  I decided that if I grew a box hedge in front of it it might look a bit odd from the lawn side as it would be a sloping hedge (!) but it would hide the concrete and the hedge would like nice from the patio and the house as it would soften the edges of the paved area.  This is the 2007July record photo which shows the spindly little plants I put in.

Here it is in 2012, ready for its first proper hair cut.  I have trimmed it a little each year just to keep the growth compact and low to the ground.

I might have missed Derby Day (the date you should trim box) by a mile but that's OK when you live where we do.

Flowers, veggies, flowers

My East facing border must be totally giddy by now.  In 2007 and 2008 it was hot colour border, although even that wasn't static and included a tree moving around a bit!  In 2009 it became the new veg garden with raised beds.  The only moving around for the next couple of years was legitimate as the veg rotated.  When I took my border record photos (more of this in a while) this July it was still doing  that job.  One month later in August and all the vegetables have gone and it is returning to a flower border.

My poor long suffering other half kindly removed all the boxes and put in an edging to match the rest of the garden.

I then raked away to try and grade the excess soil to fit in the space.  This proved impossible and we had to remove a couple of trugs of it and spread it around the other borders to dispose of it.  The soil in the new border is like a TV garden.  You know how in TV gardening programmes they virtually dig a hole with a butter knife, well I have exactly that - friable is an understatement.  Such joy while it lasts.  Indeed it was so soft from being unwalked on raised beds that we actually had to tread it down to firm it up for planting and get rid of pockets of air.

By the end of the day we had achieved this and planted the tree and the four plants I bought from the Edenfield trail tour.

By the next day I had planted the remaining twenty-four plants from Gills, added a couple of hanging baskets which were on the utility area arch trellis to cheer up the blank ends and, with the exception of the cat poo preventers, it is beginning to look like a garden.

Does anyone know what the white flowers are? Click on the photo to enlarge.

As always these photos and others are continually being added to my Garden 2012 album. 

Rogue Lily

When we moved into this house in 2007 and I started the garden the North facing border was planted with hot colours.  It has probably undergone more than one change of heart since then but I am still stuck with the rogue red poppy which appears every year and I have now learned to live with it and admire its tenacity.  This summer, incredibly, a rogue orange day lily appeared.  I assume it must have come from a bulblet which has taken five years to mature into a bulb large enough to produce a flowering plant.  I took pity on it and moved it to the new narrow border at the front of the house.  I intended to plant it with perrrenials next year.  It already had annuals struggling away in it and I needed to spend my hard-earned on the new back border.  As soon as it went in I knew it would drive me crackers sitting there on its lonesome.

Off we tootled to Boscow Nurseries (Little lever) to stoke up on plants.  I have visited this nursery for as long as I've lived in Bury - over thirty years.  I always knew it, and still refer to it as,  Margaret Gill's.  She had the stall on Bury market which was the other regular shopping place for me.  They are still there and so is the nursery, though sadly without Margaret.

Originally the plant material  was pretty much home-grown as they were a working nursery.  This meant the plants were hardy enough to survive my Lancashire garden, unlike some of the soft, sappy, Dutch imported stuff you buy in other places.  I am not sure this is as true these days BUT they certainly do get hardened off in our climate.  The plants are perhaps not as well kept as they once were - a bit weedy and sometimes under-watered.  I do wonder when I say this if that is actually true - have we just got used to the shiny sterilised imported under cover grown stuff we see everywhere?  A bit like the difference between supermarket veg and your own grown stuff, complete with holes and dirt and dead bits.

Any way enough nit-picking.  On the whole it is still a great place to buy your plants.  I got 52 perrenials for £68 where else can you do that?  This included two lovely healthy jasmine ready to scramble up my trellis arch.   Optimist!  After my other half dug out a pile of hard core I added a couple of handfuls of potting compost and a sprinkling of bone meal and they will have to take their chances.  It can't be any worse than growing them in a pot.  Here's hoping the roots can find their way out of their grim surroundings and into something they like.  The other plant incidentally is the second year of the spectacular twenty-foot Lady Boothby climbing fuschia... mmmmmm???

Twenty-eight of the plants went into the new narrow border at the front of the house to back up the solitary day lily, which is where this story began.  Talk about sheer genius/canny instinct on my part, when I walked round gathering up stuff for front and back borders I was just picking right colour, right size, right price with no thought to number of plants as I expected to add to them at some time.  Not so, twenty-eight was exactly the right amount for the space I had.  Job done.

To emphasise the value of shopping at Gills, several of the pots held plants such as coreopsis, crocosmia and day lilies which would easily split into half a dozen reasonable size plants.  I didn't do this as I want them to get away fast and hopefully completely fill the border next summer.

The other twenty-four went on to start the new border in the back garden.

Much binding.....

Much Binding in the Marsh may not mean anything to most of you but for those of us for whom it is an instant transport to childhood I'll just join you in a smile.  That's an awfully long preamble to sharing a recent few days away in  Much Birch (between Hereford and Ross-on-Wye).  As usual my ramblings about the visit will appear in My Clavering whenever I get to write it (!) but I wanted to show you a couple of pictures from the gardens we saw.

We stopped at Attingham Park on the way down (for lunch!) but I don't have any garden photos from there as we pretty much ate and ran.  From my memory of two previous visits I don't think it offers great gardens any way - it is decidedly a park estate. 

We were staying at The Pilgrim Hotel in Much Birch.  It had lovely borders, pots and baskets all blooming away, so the visit promised good gardens as soon as we arrived. (Thanks to Phil for the photo)

We came home via Powys Castle on my recommendation as I always like the feel of the place and the great views across the Menai Straits. Some of you may have spotted the fatal error.  I was remembering Plas Newydd!  To be precise I was correctly remembering the lovely terraced gardens at Powis but has transported it to Plas Newydd's setting.  It is very confusing being me.

Any way the gardens at Powys certainly deliver even on a showery day.  I would recommend seeing them but not if climbing up and down a very steep hillside doesn't appeal to you for whatever reason.  There are perfectly great walkways and paths but it is the epitome of a terraced garden and can be hard work if you don't take it at a steady pace, which we didn't do.

There is a Powis Castle gardens album if you want to see more.