auntie betty

Latest posts by auntie betty

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Clay soil

Posted: 22/09/2013 at 07:01

Yeah, there's LOADS that'll like it just fine. I'm sure Dove's list is pretty comprehensive. I'd recommend a good layer of composted (NOT chipped) bark over the lot once or twice a year and the worms'll reward you with lovely xmas-cakey soil in no time. Personal faves in clay are choisya, bergenia, golden spirea, geraniums, iris sibirica and phormium. Bx

topiary ideas

Posted: 21/09/2013 at 08:13

Hi all, I've got an established yew in my garden that I've been pruning into a sphere for years. I keep it to about 4/5ft diameter. I fancy doing something different with it, but am unsure what shape to go for. I've got other shrubby spheres in that area, plus some upright elwoodii and lots of low archy things around too. I'd like something more vertical to carry your eye up the slope these are all planted on, but a spiral seems too tricky and a column too much like the elwoodii.. Any thoughts or suggestions? I'm not a master-pruner, but am quite prepared to hack great lumps out as this yew is so established I have no fear that bald patches wont grow back sooner or later. Bx


Posted: 31/07/2013 at 12:01

I've had cabbage whites, large whites, orange tips, peacocks, small tortoiseshells, large blues, brimstones and a wee brown guy of some sort. Hoping for red admirals (the buddleja is massive, so hopeful) and maybe painted lady. I'm in North Yorkshire, but the soft dalesy warm bit, not the hard moorsy freezin bit... Would LOVE to see a hairstreak one day. Had a pair of commas last year!

Horsetail - can I nip it in the bud?

Posted: 31/07/2013 at 11:53

I've got a teeny bit that springs up every year between paving steps. I just pul the top off. In 7 years I've never had it come back the same year, and no more than 3 shoots ever emerge. If its in new soil, can you pull the whole thing? If so, that's better than poison. If not, I'd recommend bramble killer once a week til it goes brown. But as a waxy guy, its pretty resistant to anything topical, hence the light bashing first, to let it penetrate. If you keep getting new bits appearing, I'd seriously consider replacing the soil. If it gets down into the roots of anything you've planted you will never be rid of it, b*ggardly stuff.

Front lawn

Posted: 21/07/2013 at 06:47

Ok, first things first...

Find somewhere (front or back) where theres some soil you can get at, and that doesn't come from under a hedge or big shrub (which will have sucked up so much nutrient and water that it'll be powdery and won't give u a true picture. Then do the soil test as described. That'll tell you whether your soil tends to puddle & stay wet for ages, hold moisture nicely but not get boggy, or whether it drains so fast the plants havta sup up quick or miss it entirely. There are tonnes of plants for every type of soil, so u just need to work out what you've got and ur away.

The 'aspect' thing it just working out how much sun things will get in different parts of your garden. You can work this out with a compass, or just keep an eye out on a sunny day to see wots wot. You've prob got one mega sunny side, one thats pretty cool and shady most of the time, and 2 that are a bit of both. Deep shade in usually overhung by trees etc and looks dark like in thick woods. Light shade is out of direct sunshine but not actually overhung, so light levels are better. Partial shade in either shady more than half the time but sunny the rest, or that dapply light/shade u can get thru sparse trees. Partial sun is the reverse - like maybe 70% sunny, 30% shade. Full sun is when it really bakes. Again, different plants like or need different amounts of light, so once you know roughly what you have and where, u can choose stuff accordingly.

And pH. This is whether ur acid, neutral or alkaline. Some plants really care about this so u need to know. Easiest way is litmus paper (pinched from school) or a wee soil testing kit from garden centre. U only ever do it the once - once u know, u know.

And thats the basics. Wen u see a plant label it'll tell u - how much water in the soil, how much sun on its head and pH (if it has a strong preference).

So there u go. Maybe its worth finding a neighbour with a nice garden and asking them!!!

Is it ok to plant climbing roses in a trough shaped planter

Posted: 21/07/2013 at 06:16

Yeah, something like a small summer clematis would tolerate it if you kept the root run cool and shaded (eg. a thick stone trough with stone mulch on top), but roses do need depth to grow at all well. Climbing plants in general prefer a deep root run as they've evolved to go down a ways to stop the wind catching their topgrowth and yanking their roots about. Sorry chuck...

Small plants for the edges of raised pallet beds

Posted: 20/07/2013 at 10:19

Maybe saxifraga x urbium (london pride)? It's incredibly tough, spreading though not invasive, small without being insignificant, doesn't mind being trodden on a bit, easy to split and dot around so you don't have to lay out a fortune buying a gazillion plants, and evergreen to boot.

Or just whack in a load of the smallest non-climbing nasturtium seeds u can find. I've got some this year (dunno what tho - helpful!) that are only about a foot up and out. Excellent in the veg garden as loads of critters would rather eat a nasturtium, meaning they leave your crops alone. If you let the seeds fall naturally you'll only have to buy them once. I've had seeds survive quite happily on the soil surface down to -17c. And it was boggy ground so I fully expected them to rot and vanish. Little treasures!

Would have suggested lavenders, but not if its both heavy soil and very cold... that said, u could inprove the drainage as they're not a plant that needs an enormous root-run...


Buy or make a raised pond

Posted: 16/07/2013 at 11:19

Yeah, although my blocks aren't nearly so regular! You can put all sorts of plants into the holes, especially if you've deliberately left little soil-filled 'pockets' as u've gone. Many sedums like it, as do some houseleeks, assuming its sunny. If not, then harts-tongue ferns, mini ivies, trailing perennial campanulas and alchemilla all thrive in my walls. Various alpines like it too, tho not generally in shade. Honest, its a doddle. Get ur finger out and BE BRAVE! Use a rigid liner and its even easier..

Preparing heavy clay soil for first planting

Posted: 16/07/2013 at 11:10

Yep, dont roll it and keep treading on it to a minimum! Grass needs air in the top few inches of soil and good drainage to at least the same depth. I'd let the sun dry the clumps out and then either rotovate or go around with a spade and bash the clumps to break them down. Any big solid lumps, break by hand as far as poss and chuck into your borders. I'd agree that some good topsoil would help things a lot. Anything that'll help future drainage without being rocky is good, as the clay will compact again over time causing your finer grasses to struggle. A lawn really is only as good as what's under it, and topsoil is cheap, especially compared to trying to fix problems after the event!

What to put in this gap?

Posted: 16/07/2013 at 06:47

I've grown fatsia japonica and aucuba japonica in similar circumstances, and both look great with bamboo.  Did well for me, provided with thick mulch and plenty of water while getting their roots down. I'd expect herbaceous anemones, such as honorine jobert, to do well too, as of course would ferns, assuming you avoid the moisture lovers. Both look best grown as large 'natural' drifts rather than just 3 or 4 plants in a blob. Shrubby euonymous (the evergreen variagated types) are also useful for tough spots and the yellow or white is handy for breaking up what can otherwise all get a bit heavy and dark.

Re. screening, a small climber in a nice square pot or large trough could be the go. I'd go for something like a large-flowered clem, so it isnt something that wants to be a beast and will suffer in a pot. Or, you could get one or two of the very ornamental ivies (clotted cream and buttercup are my faves). The benefits are tthat they'd thrive in very little soil, actively prefer dry shade, give you screening all year and need no support as they'll self-cling. Bung up a coupla wicker hanging baskets to put trailing begonias in for summer and pansies for winter (they both like it cool and shady but give loadsa colour) and your eyesore becomes a nice view. Oh, and if you're planting against the sheds, paint em dark brown - makes them recede behind greens of foliage and disappear. Thats what I think anyway! Bxx

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