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Latest posts by obelixx

What to plant under a tree?

Posted: 30/10/2014 at 10:27

Astilbes need quit a lot of moisture so I wouldn't put them in dry soil under trees but you can plant some daffs - small ones such as Tête-à-tête or Minnow would do well for early season colour then follow with bluebells and let the geraniums take over for the rest of the year.    Some ferns such as dryopteris would add height and form and cyclamen are a very good idea and in flower now so a good season extender.   Just make sure they're not swamped by the bigger stuff as their foliage is beautiful but  very low to the ground. 

Something esle you could consider is removing the lower branches of the sycamore to improve light and allow more rainfall to get to the plants under it.

What to plant under a tree?

Posted: 30/10/2014 at 09:17

I have just underplanted some trees in my garden with a mix of geranium phaeum and saxifrage London Pride.

The geranium will spread happily and has purple blotches on its foliage and small purple flowers in spring which are attractive to bees and hoverflies.   There is also a version with white flowers.   Geranium dalmaticum has evergreen foliage and clear pale pink flowers.  Geranium macrorhizum has scented foliage which goes red in winter and flowers can be white, pink or deep purpley pink.

The saxifrage will also spread but give a low mat of foliage in glossy rosettes with thin spikes of small fluffy flowers later in the season - if all goes to plan.

Hydrangea Pruning

Posted: 30/10/2014 at 09:04

Yes, you can control its size but you need to know what type it is as that affects pruning time and extent.  Get it wrong and you'll get no flowers.

Mopheads and lace caps flower on stems produced the previous year and before so you could start by taking out one third of the stems in spring after the worst frosts, taking cuts at regular intervals to keep the shrub balanced inshape.  This will encourage it to start early, producing new stems for the following year.  Give it a good general feed and an instant tonic of liquid rose or tomato food to encourage healthy new growth with good flower power. 

Once flowering finishes on the remaining stems, take them all back as far as you need to get the size you want, bearing in mind that new growth will make it bigger again. 

If you have the paniculata type with large, cone-shaped flowers they flower on new wood and can be pruned back hard in late Feb or March depending on how cold your winter is.   Again, give them a good feed to encourage good growth.

This is what the RHS advises - 

Sparrowhawk dilemma

Posted: 29/10/2014 at 16:42

There just aren't that many sparrowhawks around.   Songbirds are at greater danger from modern farming techniques and chemicals and migratory birds are at risk form being hunted by poor communities in their winter quarters or on tehir migratory path.    

As long as enough of us feed birds all year and with appropriate food and cultivate our gardens in wildlife friendly ways to encourage insects and berries we should be able to keep some alive.    Cuckoos, for example, are more at risk in Africa than in Britain and Europe.

Ground warming - good idea?

Posted: 29/10/2014 at 15:05

Except when starting out and clearing a bed for planting or mulching for the first time I don't believe in digging beds as it spoils soil structure and damages worms, other invertebrates and beneficial soil organisms.    I would apply a  good thick mulch now and leave it for the worms to work in over winter.   Give it a light forking over  on a mild day in late winter or early spring, rake it smooth and then cover to warm it.

Sparrowhawk dilemma

Posted: 29/10/2014 at 14:05

We have an occasional sparrowhawk and other raptors about.  They rarely get anything as the feeders are all close to cover from climbers on trellis to shrubs and hedges where the small birds can take cover.   I take the view that sparrowhawks need to eat too and usually only get the old or very stupid birds.  

Don't like magpies but haven't had problems with them for several years but now I have jackdaws trying to nest on my chimney pots.  I hope they don't start causing bivver with the small birds.

I feed the birds all year so they get through winter fit and well for a successful breeding season and then have energy to hunt for suitable food for their broods and my colonies of sparrows and tits have increased several fold.

Ground warming - good idea?

Posted: 29/10/2014 at 13:55

I wouldn't waste PVC on this.  Just buy some cheaper black plastic and weight it with stones or heavy lumps of wood.   Clear plastic allows light in so will encourage weeds to germinate.   Black plastic absorbs more heat so warms the soil better and doesn't encourage seeds to germinate.    However, any persistent weed roots will still survive and need digging out before you plant or sow next spring.

Invasive shrub

Posted: 28/10/2014 at 21:09

Berghill - you're absolutely right to warn people.    

Plants are mysterious things.  I can't grow Chinese Lanterns but Honesty self seeds happily in beds and paths.   Friends on 2.5 acres of heavy acid clay grow Chinese Lanterns like cress but can only get Honesty to grow in one small spot.

Invasive shrub

Posted: 28/10/2014 at 14:06

Nope. My soil is very fertile alkaline loam on a clay subsoil.   Some well drained, some moist, some in full sun and some in shade.

Invasive shrub

Posted: 28/10/2014 at 12:10

Berghill, I know you're an experienced gardener whose advics is sound but I've never had a problem controlling this plant and have even struggled to get the white one to grow at all.   I have far more problems with phlomis russeliana spreading itself with gay abandon and, of course, weeds like nettles, couch grass, creeping buttercup, dock, thistles, flag iris and mares'tail that won't take a hint.

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