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Latest posts by Newcastle


Posted: 14/02/2013 at 21:57

It might be a good plan to strike some cuttings on a regular basis in case of loss. I find the old 7" pot and compost covered by a plastic bag works quite well and they will grow on quite happily on the window ledge. Most hardy shrubs will survive even harsh Winter weather under a couple of layers of horticultural fleece or in a frost free greenhouse (or both). I am trying this with an Edgworthia (delivered about a month ago) but whether this will work remains to be seen in the Spring. It's from the Himalayas so can stand the cold but not the damp and cold like most shrubs as this forms ice on the leaves. Hope you have better luch this year!

Talkback: Couch grass

Posted: 14/02/2013 at 21:45
One option is to use landscape fabric to cover the infectted area and make sure you weight it down well at the edges. It looks unsightly and it does tke some weeks to weaken the weeds but it does work and now would be a good time to start. There is an additional advantage that you can cut cross shaped slits in the fabric and plant throught these into the soil leaving the leaves of the plant you want to grow above the surface and pin down the cut ends around it with bent wire etc. Slugs will want to use it as a refuge of course; slug pellets or regular killing forays by hand recommended.

Talkback: Growing a yew hedge

Posted: 01/02/2013 at 01:08
I started some yew cuttings off last year and am pleased to see some of them have survived the Winter. I would like to experiment with doing some topiary with these as they grow and I have raised some Holly cuttings too with the same idea. It's going to take me a while to do this but like many people these days I am gardening on a budget.
I wrote in some years ago to Christopher Llloyd about his topiary article in The Guardian asking how this was done and he suggested his Father's book (Nathaniel Lloyd)"Garden Craftsmanship in Yew and Box" which is an inspiring read. I can certainly recommend it. David.

Help with creating new border

Posted: 01/02/2013 at 00:54

You might find it easier to use landscape fabric to suppress the grass abd any weeds growing amongst it. Nothing will grow through that and you can cut slits into the fabric and put in shrubs or other plants (provided the soil is warm enough) and they will thus have a head start over the weeds. It is important to tuck the fabric back around the plant you have put in the hole and peg it in place with  pieces of bent wire/ stones etc. Water can get in but plants cannot grow through it.

Covering the area you plan to plant with your new border with polythene can help to warm and dry out the soil to get it ready for seed sowing later. It's certainly cold and wet around this area and seeds will not germinate till the soil warms up.

Chiltern Seeds and Thompson and Morgan sell a great range of hardy annual and shrub seeds, some of which need the frost to break the dormancy so now can bee a good time to sow them and it can be fun to see what comes up. A great advantage is it's also cheaper! 


Seed swap

Posted: 03/01/2013 at 20:46

The Hardy Plant Society is a great place to swap seeds as well as being a great forum for learning more about growing hardy oplants from experts. There ia a coordinated seed swap from a central location by post once per year. If you decide to join now you might just be in time to participate and there are often plant swaps at the meetings where there are often really good guest speakers - Bunny Guiness came to our last meeting.

Talkback: How to create an autumn pot display

Posted: 07/12/2012 at 21:02

I did finally get a few flowers earlier this year but whether the plants have survived this years deluge remains to me seen. They may have managed tomake some bulbs despite all the odds - who knows?

Pruning tall evergreen holly

Posted: 06/12/2012 at 16:33

Holly is usually pretty robust but frost protection might be good if it is excptionally cold, as it looks as if it might be this Winter. A drop of water would be a good plan occasionally so that they do not dry out too much. The yellow leaves may simply be young growth after the late mild spell we had. I am not an expert and what I have found out is from reading and trying things on my own but some of the Holly cuttings I took some months ago have struck. It's worth doing as decently trained specimens cost a lot from a nursery. After the Winter the cuttings which have struck will just need watering and a some liquid feed to keep them going, with some fresh compost as they get established Try to avoid them becoming root bound and pot them into a bigger container or the open garden soil as the roots start to fill the original pot.. Not all the cuttings will necesarily root of course (some of mine didn't) so it is worthwhile taking more than you need in case of casualties.  

Pruning tall evergreen holly

Posted: 06/12/2012 at 15:07

Thanks for your reply.

This is really a good time of year for evergreen cuutings as temperature are low and hence the danger of your cuttings drying out is much reduced. Cuttings should ideally be about 6-7" long with a square cut at the base with a sharp knife or secateurs and only the top two or three leaves left on the cutting. A free-draining compost is best (addsharp  sand or perlite) since the cuttings should not dry out but do not need to be water-logged as this can cause them to rot. Raising them in a largeish plant pot with a clear plastic bag covering them seems to work quite well, watering as needed. They will not start to grow until the Spring at the earliest and may not root properly till the Autumn or late Summer. If they start to show some new growth that's a good sign that roots are forming. The cuttings should grow vertically with perhaps a bit of support from a stake although there is likely to be some side growth. Select a strong side branch and prune away the others cleanly with no snags. If there is no obvious strong leader shoot the tie one of the stronger side growths to a strong vertical cane to ecourage it to grow upwards. Add more ties with soft twine as it grows, preferably firm but not too tight. Trimming these side branches  off as the plant grows will encourage it to grow a strong central stem and you can cut back the leading stem at the height you wish and form a lollipop shape or grow to a full sized tree if it grws unchecked. Alternatively, trim the side branches into a cone or column shape if you prefer. Tying the plant to a vertical stake as it grows will help to keep it straight but it helps to put some padding (rag or an odd piece of foam rubber) between the stem and the support to stop chafing the bark against the stake.  

I think that it would help you a lot to get a copy of the R.H.S. Propogating book. possibly second-hand via Abe Books etc on the internet. It lists techniques for growing a wide range of plants from seed and cuttings as well as grafting. The Pruning book is excellent too. All the R.H.S. books are worthwhile come to that and quite cheap in paper-back.

You can see some excellent examples of topiary and ornamentally trimmed hedges in many old country houses and places like Wesonbirt Arboretum are well worth a visit.

I hope this is of some help.

Good Gardening,


Pruning tall evergreen holly

Posted: 05/12/2012 at 23:28

A simple wooden frame might help to get the shape you want and get it reasonably even. The shape should ideally taper to the top so as to allow the sunlight to get to the lower leaves an prevent unsightly gaps. This would be a good time of year to strile cuttings from the trimmings as I have done and (once rooted) these can be turned into attractive standards or pyramids with judicious trimming. Topiary is fun to do and the plants are pretty forgiving in growing out to hide any cutting of shapes you don't like. Cutting some of the top growth on your hedge into imaginative shapes  might be interesting too,  especially as you have a mature hedge to play with. Happy hedge trimming!  

Inspiration and ideas needed

Posted: 28/09/2012 at 12:28

I like the idea of the different levels which gives you a lot more scope and interst as far as planting goes.

I have been establishing a (much smaller) garden from scratch over the past six years and like you I am gardening on heavy clay. It will probably make life easier for you if you add plenty of "organic matter" to the clay - sounds hackneyed I know but it does make managing your soil a lot easier even if you let it break down on the surface and let the worms and bacteria do the hard work. Scrounging other peoples lawn mowings and hedge trimmings for mulch is a dodge I have used in the past. Sounds wierd but it works! You may not have time to do it anyway with all your other projects and the soil has often been too wet to dig effectively this year anyway.

I like the idea of bulbs which was suggested earlier and you may find that the supermarkets are starting to sell these of at a discount at this time of year. With a bit of planning it should be possible to have a succession of flowers throughout the year. A layer of sharp sand or grit in the planting hole helps stop them rotting and discourages slugs and snails. Lower growing bulbs would be ideal for the containers you mentioned and these can be planted in layers if you wish with the taller varieties at the lower level.

The idea of shrubs is a good one too. I especially like hebes and there is a great variety of different foliage colours and sizes. They are very hardy and have the additional advantage of rooting easily from cuttings so that you can easily get more plants or replacements as needed or for exchanging with other gardeners. Open compost and a plastic bag to cover the cuttings is all you need. Same applies to Euonymous shrubs and variegated or even common Holly, which will provide some Winter interest when nothing else is growing and are all low maintenance.

You could brighten up the dark wall with some ivies - again there are some colourful varieties which can be propogated from cuttings easily and are evergreen and thrive even in shade. An occasional trim keeps them in check so that they don,t swamp the rest of the garden. They can look decorative grown on branches as supports or even wire frames as topiary - quite easy to do. As far as the timber itself goes, if you are undecided about colours a possible compromise might be linseed oil. It gives a durable coating and mellows with age without getting too dark and might blend in quite well.  

You could think about a cammomile lawn which has the advantage of being fragrant and standing up well to foot traffic. Some people plant the cammomile through a weed suppressing fabric which reduces the need for weeding whilst the plants get established and you can either raise your plants from seed or buy them as plants.

I have got a bit carried away with comments here so it's time to give over now! I hope there is at least something here of use to you.

Enjoy your garden anyway,


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