Latest posts by Newcastle

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,


Bromeliads from seed.

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 13:36

Has anyone any experience of doing this please? I have a Vriesa slendens which has formed a flower and there now appear to be ripe seeds inside the flower spike. What conditions are needed to germinat these please? Any ideas?  

Talkback: Domes of holly

Posted: 13/05/2012 at 19:54
Can Ilex crenata be successfully raised from seed? I have not seen it offered for sale in local garden centres.

Talkback: How to take summer cuttings

Posted: 13/05/2012 at 19:51
It would be useful to have a follow-on article about how to grow these cuttings on and the best way to encourage healthy root growth after they root. This can be the tricky part, getting them established to to the point where they can cope with life outdoors and giving them a suitable feeding regime.

Pulmonarias - growing from seed.

Posted: 08/03/2012 at 19:21

Has anyone had any experience of doing this? What approach usually works best as regards time of sowing etc? Do they normally come true from seed?

Talkback: How to improve your soil

Posted: 16/02/2012 at 22:14
I have found it useful to mulch my front garden with fallen leaves and sometimes hedge trimmings especially in the Autmn. (I have fairly heavy clay soil). I have not dug this in this year and have found that a 6" layer of fallen leaves is an excellent weed suppressor. Possibly the worms will get busy as the soil warms up - I am all for saving sweat and toil!


Posted: 16/02/2012 at 21:43

I am attempting to grow Hibiscus from seed for the first time this year. Not a very sophisticated approach - all purpose compost in a widow sillpot ensconced in a plastic bag, about 20 to a 6" pot. What germination rate could I realistically expect? I suppose the seedlings will need hardening off in a cold frame? No idea what the parent plant is like as seeds bought on e-bay but it's part of the thrill of the chase!  

Talkback: Signing off

Posted: 06/01/2012 at 21:55
Best of luck with the examinations and look forward to reading your posts when you decide to resume blogging! It is good to have the allotment as a family activity and I think that allotment sites should aim to be child friendly on principle. There is a Community Garden on our sit well used by school children and sometimes people with disabilities; again something I think that all sites should try to emulate.

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