Roy Hill

Latest posts by Roy Hill

Planting Decisions

Posted: 10/11/2013 at 22:57

My own observations/thoughts.

A garden plan is always a 'work in progress'. Nothing ever finalised. Always something that requires improvement. Or something that didn't quite 'work' (it looked good on paper, but...)

The big key elements (long-term trees.shrubs, hard landscaping) are the 'bones'. concentrate thought on those. The more space you have in a garden, the less important the individual placements become  (minor faults fade into the background).

Frost protection!

Posted: 10/11/2013 at 21:49

Hebes as a genus of plant are perhaps not that long lived. "The genus is named after the Greek goddess of youth". A lot of them don't like prolonged sub-zero temperatures. That is a trait that many (broadleaf) evergreens exhibit - watch for the wilting leaves when it gets frosty. The ground freezes, the roots can't draw moisture and the result is almost like drought. I can think of some hebe species that won't curl up there toes in sub-zero, but there are others who could be susceptible. In my experience H. rakaiensis is almost indestructible (unless hard pruned). Larger leaved hebes can be a little more susceptible to cold winters.

Fungi problems

Posted: 10/11/2013 at 21:29

Armillotox is only registered as a e.g. patio cleaning solution now. As far as I can work out it was never that effective in getting rid of Armillaria.

Armillaria is a genus of fungi which ids generically referred to as 'honey fungus'. From what I've found out there are about six species in the UK. Two of the species are plant pathiogens. the others are a lesser problem (or no problem in the species that only infect dead wood).

Here's a link to an article written by Monty Don - almost a decade ago. It is 'gardenersworld', afterall.

What's this fatty?

Posted: 10/11/2013 at 18:53

Ah. Vine weevils. Lovers of the roots of many plants. Rhodedendrons. Strawberries. Lots of others. Hated by gardeners. The grubs are loved by hens.

If I remember correctly they (vine weevils) have the same reproductive technique as aphids - parthenogenesis. The adults are female, do not require fertilisation by males and lay lots and lots of eggs. At this time of year, nematode control treatments won't have an effect - the temperatures are too low for the parasitic nematodes to breed/thrive. Begonia tubers can be lifted, washed and dried then stored in a cool place for next year.

Dispose of the compost. It'll have dormant weevil eggs awaiting warmer months.

Most of the vine weevil treatments are parasitic nematodes. These don't respond well at this time of year. Spring would be the time for them.

Frost protection!

Posted: 10/11/2013 at 18:07

I'm with nutcutlet on the 'right up against the house'. Just check the pots for moisture (occassionally). The eaves and walls of a house can be quite a 'rain shadow'. Unless your house has extremely efficient insulation there will always be some heat leakage. A south facing wall (if not shaded by anything) will capture whatever winter warmth there is from the low sun.

Problems I've encountered when overwintering 'hardy' plants in containers hasn't necessarily been with sub-zero temperatures. Low single figures plus rain can lead to prolonged waterlogging of the compost in containers (dependant on compost, container type and any drainage 'enhancements). The roots start to rot, and that is a very good way of killing off any plant

Talkback: Helping garden birds through winter

Posted: 10/11/2013 at 17:49
Since oldchippy mentions jays I thought I'd just say that I've plenty of jay activity around my garden. I think this on account of the mature oak that sits at the boundary. It produces plenty of acorns. Mini-oaks often spring up in places well away from the tree. This probably on account of them 'stashing' the nuts. Wonderful birds.

Our renovated drystone retaining wall has plenty of bird activity. Tits and wrens work the crevices for tasty morsels. There's still a buzzard that mews and soars when the thermals permit. There's the occasional 'craaack' of a raven. The resident robins are defining their winter territories who gets the 'prime' hawthorn tree is anyone's guess.

The field next door to our garden has gone wet-marshy after the recent rainfalls. It now has resident mallards and gulls enjoying the standing water. I don't think Jack (the resident horse) goes a great bundle on the current waterpark 'theme' of his field, though. I expect (fingers crossed) the return of redwings and fieldfares as the winter proceeds. The local swallows and martins have long since departed. That field gave them a good feed of insects during the summer months.

Then there are the mammals. The rabbits are not so active above ground at the moment. Returning from work the other night I caught sight of a vole in the headlights of the car as I drove down the track. It was busy trying to find whatever it could. Despite the local woodland/trees grey squirrels are mostly noted by their absence. I've seen one in the past eight months, and that was fleetingly.

One the gardening note I planted some snakes-head fritillary bulbs in the rough grass at the top of the garden. I think most of them have been excavated and eaten by rodents. I found most of the holes where they were planted has been re-opened/dug out. Ho hum. Perhaps a few have survived and they will 'breed'.

Talking of birds and berries, the species which strips rowan berries most efficiently is the waxwing. A small flock (just a few birds, really) will totally strip a rowan tree over a few successive days. They are not fussy about the berry colours either - red, yellow, pink, white, whatever. They just like sorbus species (or that's my experiences of encountering them). Perhaps a little bird told Kate's robin that waxwings are on the way?

What's this?

Posted: 01/11/2013 at 00:08

Welshonion wrote (see)

Pinch the leaves and sniff.  It will then be obvious if it is a herb.  The plant to the left is definitely a weed.

The plant to the left is definitely a wild, indigenous species. It isn't Herb Robert. I don't think it is pratense (which has several 'garden-worthy types - some with RHS AGM - despite being a 'weed'). It could be dissectum, but I'd plump for molle.


The other could be a weed as well The leaf shape reminds be of Thai basil or chilli peppers. I could be wrong.

Living with honey fungus

Posted: 31/10/2013 at 22:58

"Time will tell but don't despair."

That is a coldframe of mind I am trying to cultivate. (groan)

The tree produced another rather unusual 'crop' this year. A small number of ladder-marked longhorn beetle. It caused a little excitement with the local Wildlife Trust. First sightings in the country for over a decade (if I remember correctly). Therefore I consider myself rather lucky in that respect. Many UK entymologists go a whole lifetime without seeing a single specimen. I laugh in the face of armillaria!

Wildlife gardening...hopes for the future

Posted: 31/10/2013 at 22:25

"The trees are clipped and no wildlife is allowed in this NEAT patch."

As someone not from Surrey (rather further north, actually) I can say that particular 'affliction' also infects other counties. To paraphrase an ex-neighbour - "wildlife belongs in the countryside". Um, yeah - right.

On a wildlife note - a rabbit (from the warren that exists in my garden) is showing signs of myxi. The birds are back in their new plumage. Stacks of wrens and tits working over the cracks/joints in the drystone walls in their search for tit-bits. The local buzzards fledged two (I think). The family party has broken up, but there is still one 'resident' bird that is soaring the vicinity. That myxi infected rabbit may turn into a meal soon. The pond had well over a dozen newt efts at the last count. At least 2 of the 3 UK species. Every bit as interesting as watching fish. Greater and lesser waterboatmen, whirlygig beetles, water striders, various diving beetles. The pond had a late (minor) 'flush' of irritating algae, but I think the lemna minor has been eradicated (it was threatening to totally cover the surface - removal of every last floating fragment took some time). Southern hawker and common darter visited and were subsequently seen laying eggs.

I learned something about whirlygigs this year (after their arrival in the pond) - their eyes are 'split'; half to see under the surface of the water, half to see above.

Living with honey fungus

Posted: 31/10/2013 at 22:02

It appears that the ailing birch that was felled in the garden earlier this year is now a host for honey fungus. The clusters of fruiting bodies (second 'flush') certainly look the part. A little research gives me a glimmer of hope, as it appears that there are (at least) six individual species in the UK and only(!) a couple are serious pathogens. Total removal of the stump/roots isn't really an option. It lives at the top of a substantial retaining wall. Removal would mostly likely interfere with the integrity of the retaining wall and the quite substantial amount of soil which it retains. To give an indication, the wall is drystone and around 2m in height; not the sort of structure you would want to knowingly disturb in any great way. On top of that the tree is of such an age that the trunk has grown around and enclosed a rather serious piece of ironwork. That would definitely not be saw/chainsaw/tool/chipper friendly.

I suppose all I can do is remove as much as I can (as and when time/weather/time permits) and see how it develops. If you see a despairing gardener in North Staffordshire over the next few years it may well be me. I suppose it is just as well that I am not averse to growing stuff from seed - that may well decrease the monetary losses if I have to replant affected stuff.

Not so much a 'what can I do?!' posting, but more of a 'oh dear, this could be interesting'. Sort-of phlegmatic. I have already availed myself of RHS resources regarding plant types which are more/less/least susceptible to infection by the nastier versions of armillaria. If it turns out to be one of them then there definitely won't be a "rose garden". (wry smile). Thanks to Monty Don as well, because I turned up one of his older articles from somewhere regarding armillaria.

Whatever happens I will be willing to share 'experiences'. If anyone knows of a reliable (cheap) way of getting the armillaria specie identified I would be grateful.

Discussions started by Roy Hill

Living with honey fungus

Replies: 3    Views: 1693
Last Post: 31/10/2013 at 23:09

Braconid wasps, Pieris sp. caterpillars and brassicas

Large white caterpillars and nasturtiums 
Replies: 4    Views: 1197
Last Post: 26/09/2013 at 22:54

Talkback: Lawns and insects

Can I just say - I very much enjoyed reading that. Not all lawns need to be bowling greens. What you say about utility grassed areas is so t... 
Replies: 2    Views: 785
Last Post: 22/08/2013 at 16:31

Talkback: Pond dipping for wildlife

Pond skaters are also a top predator in their own right. Diving beetles (so many species)? They do have this habit of using their neather re... 
Replies: 0    Views: 801
Last Post: 18/07/2013 at 23:56

Talkback: Growing rosebay willowherb

Do some moth larvae still like the leaves? 
Replies: 1    Views: 807
Last Post: 17/07/2013 at 13:26
5 threads returned