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Latest posts by obelixx


Posted: 18/09/2015 at 10:22

What kind of hydrangea and are they in the ground or in pots?   In my experience they are much hardier than phormiums so maybe you got the moisture levels wrong.

Ideas Needed - turning a 'field' back into a Garden...

Posted: 18/09/2015 at 10:20

My entire garden is former cow pasture that came right up to the back and side walls of the house.  It was all very boggy but, after centuries of natural fertiliser it is very fertile loam over a clay subsoil.   The front garden was tarmac poured over cobbles to make parking for tractors and so on.  

We got a man with a bulldozer to dig us out a pond for drainage and then he scooped and levelled and smoothed and harrowed so we have a flat terrace, path and working area behind the house and gently rising land to our boundary.  We made a large grass area and planted a row of shrubs for wind shelter and then, a bit later, widened that to make a deep border for perennials, a woodland corner and a damp bed next to the terrace where drainage is poorest.  

The same man came back a while later to move the earth in the last part behind the house and make us a level veggie plot with railway sleepers as retaining walls.  We then made raised beds for our fruit and veggies.

You can plant things on clay soil but you need to fork it over first to break it up and lay on loads of well rotted compost and manure - preferably in autumn so the worms and frosts can work together to break it up.   Come spring, lay on another thick layer of manure or compost and plant in that.   The same would apply if you do make raised beds.

Here are some interesting plants that will cope with poorly drained, clay soil - eupatorium, filipendula, lysimachia ephemerum, vinca minor, sympitum ibericum and dalmera peltata.  Have a look also at astilbes, Japanese anemones, hostas, astilboides, primulas, especially the candelabra forms, ligularia and hemerocallis.  If you like grasses, try molinia and hakonechloa.

You don't mention the aspect or exposure which will also affect your plant choices but, as it is the approach to your main entrance, I suggest a raised bed of some sort using local stone or solid railway sleepers that will last and look good when weathered.   Either way, you do need to break up the pan of clay at the bottom or you'll always have drainage problems.  I agree with Fidget about spraying persistent weeds with deep roots too - now and maybe again in spring if they re-emerge as these things can be very persistent.   

Lyme disease

Posted: 17/09/2015 at 17:23

The ticks are also a problem for cats and dogs so make sure any of your own pets get proper tick treatment from a vet to prevent bites - their stuff is more effective than Frontline form the pharmacy - and make sure you take medical advice yourself.

We're supposed to have loads of the things round here as there are wild roe deer and foxes in local woods and copses so I do regular treatments for the dogs so they're OK.  We haven't been bitten ourselves yet.


Posted: 17/09/2015 at 17:17

You need to provide some sort of framework to train the stems if you can.   Trellis or posts and wire or wires stretched against a wall on vine eyes.

They fruit on last year's growth so you keep the stems till they've fruited and then cut out those stems at the base once you've harvested.   Meanwhile, new stems will be growing from the base form spring and thru the summer.  You can tie these loosely to a vertical support to keep them out of teh way and then, once the old stems have been cut off, you release the new stems and train them along the supports to get maximum light and sun to make the next season's crop.

This way you automatically renew the vigour of your plant each year.  Giving a generous handful or two of blood, fish and bone or pelleted chicken manure in spring and supplemented with liquid tomato fertiliser drinks from spring to mid summer will increase flower and thus fruiting power.

flower bulbs

Posted: 17/09/2015 at 12:05

Chillies can be treated as house plants and grown on a sunny window sill.   Turn occasionally to even up access to direct light.

Daphnes are really outdoor shrubs and mint can be grown on a window sill for a while but then gets rather large and needs to go outdoors in a pot or in a confined space in the ground.  Outdoors, it will die down in winter and regrow next spring.  Indoors it will get straggly as light levels reduce in autumn.  It is a herbaceous perennial and really does need a period of rest in winter to maintain its flavour.

Advice required

Posted: 16/09/2015 at 22:46

I have a gardening friend who tells me there is a sickness going round that kills acers.  They start with die back, then lose leaves and struggle on for a season or two and then die.

It's happened to one of mine that was looking stunning till July but now is very very sad so will come out this autumn.

Where to buy native plants/seeds?

Posted: 16/09/2015 at 15:10

In evolutionary terms, gardening purely for pleasure and decoration is very recent.  Before then it was about growing herbs for medicines and food to eat.  Gardening for pleasure took off when the growing middle classes wanted pleasure gardens which had, hitherto, been solely for the nobility with space and money to indulge.  

Plants have been brought here for centuries and even millennia by invaders and migrants and traders and then by plant hunters and importers serving a market. 

I spend hours weeding out creeping buttercup, fat hen, nettles, bindweed, thistles, bittercress, couch grass, groundsel, iris pseudocorus and boggy sedges because they are invasive and ugly and I want colour and form from plants with more visual interest throughout the year to provide food and habitat for wildlife.   

Hanging baskets

Posted: 16/09/2015 at 10:43

I like hanging baskets in theory and window boxes and troughs and pots and other sorts of container planting - as long as they're not garish combos of colours or full of plants I loathe such as begonias and busies and painted heathers and so on.

However; I think I may well abandon summer hanging baskets on the sunny side of our house as they just get to hot and dry and windblown.   I already use the two brackets by the garage doors for hanging bird feeders but I may decide to have one last go at a winter basket with variegated ivies and so on for the front door.

On the north side I've had success with baskets of trailing fuchsias which I love but fuchsia chappy wasn't at the plant fair in May so I've just had the old plants growing in a trough up on a shelf under the back kitchen window this year and peanut feeders where the baskets usually go either side of the French windows.  

On the whole, rather more entertaining and a lot less bovver.

Where to buy native plants/seeds?

Posted: 16/09/2015 at 09:39

English lavender arrived with the Romans as did English apples and all sorts of other English fruit, veg and herbs.

In those days England and Wales were largely forested and I assume much of Scotland too but changing weather and human intervention has led to forest clearing, moorland creation for hunting partridge and grouse and deer, lowland draining for growing non native cereals and so on.

How far back do you want to go to get native and just have trees, bracken and brambles in  your garden?

Grass free lawn?

Posted: 15/09/2015 at 17:26

I think you should also consider a chamomile lawn.   Less clumpy than thrift.

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