Tim Burr

Latest posts by Tim Burr

What to do with laburnum?

Posted: 06/06/2015 at 17:42

Please don't cut it down - the paranoia of children dying on mass from Laburnum seeds goes back to the 1970s.  If you'd believe the hype that is - in fact there are NO reports of death or illness from any child, man or beast eating the seeds.  As a child, we had a Laburnum tree in our garden and it was wonderful to see the bright yellow cascade of flowers in May and into June.  It is one of my favourite trees and every garden should have one or two at least! 


Posted: 24/05/2015 at 21:54

Meat based cat foods are fine - chicken is good, and mine especially like turkey.  Chunks in jelly are better.  Cat food in gravy can be too rich and give hedgehogs diarrhoea.  Make sure you pick up any left overs in the morning, otherwise your garden (and then house) will swarm with flies and flies breed very quickly in warm weather.

What my neighbour did!

Posted: 24/05/2015 at 13:12

My new neighbour has just hacked her own garden to pieces and now all that is left is one lawn, completely bare borders and an old ceanothus which looks like its about to drop dead any second.  Before, the garden was full of plants and also lots of wildlife.  She even hacks (literally), anything that is growing up from another neighbours gardens on their garage, but she took umbridge to it, because it seemed the only crime was that she could see it from her back door!  When she cut back all the climbers in her garden that cascaded over the back fence into my garden, she simply hacked it at the top of the fence and left me to clear up everything that landed on my side.  No coming around and offering to take her dead plant cuttings away.  Anyway, as one door closes another one opens.  Its allowed me to plant a large bamboo and a Rowen tree and do something with an overgrown / messy border, whilst also allowing more light into my garden.  Although annoying that I've lost a bit of privacy, I'm thinking it is only for a short time, and then my stuff will grow and fill the gaps.  In the meantime, whenever I go into my back garden and before I leave, I've taken to waving at her bedroom window that overlooks the back of my house.  Already caught her twice staring at me whilst I work in my garden.  Is she jealous or making plans to jump over the fence and hack my garden to pieces too! Now't so queer as folk! 

Help creating screening and privacy in back garden

Posted: 20/05/2015 at 21:26

Hi Rubi

Bamboo - think about it.  Are you really going to move pots of Bamboo around the garden each Spring and Autumn?  Pots are heavy at the best of times, and with a Bamboo in it, it will be very very heavy.  Look for a Bamboo that will give you the height you want and which won't get interfered with by the tree.  Have an idea of the line of sight between your neighbours house (windows and doors) and the areas of your house you want to be screened from and then somewhere in the middle will be where you want the Bamboo to be.  You don't need to plant it in one large block - you can plant it in one or two or three areas, and breaking it up will be more pleasing to the eye.

Organic Matter - start with well rotted horse manure.  Well rotted means being left from fresh of the back of the horse until the manure no longer looks like horse manure (i.e., you can't see any bits of straw in it).  You can off course buy well rotted horse manure 'ready made'.  Lots of garden centres sell bags of it 3 for 2.  Its not expensive.  If you're on clay, then the benefit of it will be to open up the clay soil and make it more easy to work with (i.e., not go rock hard in dry weather).  Another good organic matter is spent mushroom compost.  There are lots of suppliers around (look online), and its another way of loosening up the soil to make it easier to work with.  There are also other things you can use - well rotted leaf mold but this can make your soil acidic.  Great if you want to grow Azaleas and Rhododendrons.

Pittosporum should be fine in clay soil as long as the ground doesn't get waterlogged. I know somebody who grew a Pittosporum in really heavy clay that went rock hard in summer, but never waterlogged. It was over 12 feet and really healthy and strong plant.

OK - point taken about Yew - why tempt fate!  And yes, all poisonous.  If you are worried about having any poisonous plants in your garden, take a look thepoisongarden.  You'll be surprised how many there are.

Pyracantha - can grow up to 12 feet in height and up to 12 feed wide.  However, easy to control by pruning and trimming - just be careful of those very sharp thorns and make sure you pick up any that fall to the ground, especially on a lawn if you or family is prone to walking barefoot on cool wet grass!

Hydrangea - no, just keep pruned back to the space you want to grow it in.  Just be aware though that its stem will thicken up over several years and it could bring the fence down under its weight.  Make sure your fence is sturdy.

Robin's are the gardeners friend - its amazing how friendly they are.  Whenever I am digging in the garden I have a Robin that comes down and picks up any grubs or bugs that get dug up.  I'm afraid you can't stop the other creepy crawlies, and actually you need to encourage them to bring balance to your garden.  Nature doesn't like void, and if you kill something, nature will just send more to fill the gap.  Spiders trap flies in their web, bees pollinate the flowers to create seed, even slugs and woodlice are helpful - they eat and breakdown the dead plant matter.  If you're going to be a gardener, you need to get used to bugs and creepy crawlies - sorry!

Yes, Hedera (or ivy) will be excellent for screening up and over a fence.

Photenia Red Robin - once it is established it will grow quickly.  Mine has put up to 2/3 feet growth in one season.  It seems to me it grows for most of the year, only stopping in really cold weather in the winter.  And yes I like your idea about making it in to a standard (ie, removing the lower leaves).  It seems to want to grow from a shrub into a tree anyway, so if you treat it like that, you'll be fine.

Glyphosate based weed killers (i.e. Roundup et al)

Posted: 18/05/2015 at 22:37

Here's an article in Reuters about the WHO report...


I found this bit rather ironic...

"Glyphosate is mainly used on crops such as corn and soybeans that are genetically modified to survive it."

So, who do you think is the company that manufacturers glyphosate and who is the company that has developed the genetically modified crops to survive it?  Bet you can't guess? 


Thanks Busy-Lizzie - that wouldn't surprise me with corporate supermarkets, but would be interesting to know what is going on on the the ground at GCs in France.  Are they really pulling it from the shelves and refusing to sell it?

Glyphosate based weed killers (i.e. Roundup et al)

Posted: 18/05/2015 at 22:19

The World Health Organisation recently published a report saying that glyphosate can 'probably' cause cancer.  Since then, the Dutch Parliament has banned sale of glyphosate based products to individuals from end of 2015, and a German retail giant is removing glyphosate from sale in its DIY stores and won't sell anymore from end of September 2015.  Meanwhile, Brazil's federal public prosecutor has requested the Justice Department in Brazil to suspend use of glyphosate.  Sri Lanka is also banning sale of glyphosate based products, which includes Roundup.  News from France is that Garden Centres there are pulling glyphosate from their shelves and refuse to sell it to private individuals.  And what are we doing in the UK.......not a lot.  Perhaps we can tell the retailers what we think by stop buying it.

Getting rid of Bindweed

Posted: 18/05/2015 at 21:56

MooDoo - the Netherlands or Dutch Parliament has just banned glyphosate due to the safety concerns.  The Dutch aren't stupid - perhaps we should follow suit.

Black Bamboo Fence/ Screen

Posted: 18/05/2015 at 21:48

Bamboos will spread in open ground, even a clumping one.  If you are going to plant straight into the ground, put in a bamboo barrier that has to encircle the whole area where you want the bamboo to grow.  Overlap and secure the ends or the bamboo will work its way out.  The barrier needs to be planted at depth of at least 2 foot, and leave at least 2/3 inches above the ground.  Plant the bamboo in good soil with plenty of organic matter such as well rotted manure in the ground, and water well until established.

Red Robin shrub

Posted: 18/05/2015 at 20:11

Not that I'm an expert on this shrub but having one in the garden I notice that if you leave it to grow it will put on a lot of new leaf as it spreads out, but the older leaves that are left in the centre of the plant fall off.  In the end, although it looks like quite a dense shrub, because of all the leaves that you can see on the outside, if you poke your head into the shrub, it will be practically leaf free and all you see is a lot of bare wood and stems.  You can prune these shrubs hard back and in most cases, after about 2/3 weeks, it will start to put on new leaf, and within 3 months, it could be back to where you started.  It is very prolific on putting on new leaf.  It probably needs a good trim at least twice a year - March and late September/ early October.

Help creating screening and privacy in back garden

Posted: 17/05/2015 at 16:55

Wow - a clean slate!  You mention bamboo but contain it in pots.  I'd probably suggest that as you are starting from afresh, you should look to plant the bamboo straight into the ground, but contain it by putting in a planting barrier that will stop it from running (even clumping ones run) across your and your neighbours garden.  If you buy a large bamboo then you can pay around £50/£60 for a modest sized pot, but it will already have height to it, so you can get instant impact and privacy.  Give it plenty of room to grow and you will have a very good screen of bamboo in no time.  Make sure you dig in lots of organic matter, but being on clay you might be alright anyway - clay soil may also slow it down a little.  It will need quite a lot of watering until its established.

Another good one to go for is a Pittosporum.  Go for a variegated one, in my view, as they do look a lot nicer and provide a bit more interest.  Pittosporum can be fast growing, and you can keep them trimmed if you want to keep it in check.

Have a look at Taxus or more commonly known as Yew.  Go for a column one, such as Taxus × media 'Hicksii'. It might be a bit slow growing, but over time it can get up to 8m in height. Just be wary if you have children who might be attracted to the berries, which are fine to eat (if they do), but the seeds are poisonous, as are the leaves.  Some people are a bit over sensitive to having poisonous plants in the garden!  

Have a single species hedge is fine, but if you can afford it, then go for a mixed planted hedge, perhaps made up of a few evergreen and deciduous trees/shrubs and include ones which give interest during the year like nice autumn display or berries for the birds.  Look at Pyracantha, which is ever green, fast growing, summer flowers, winter berries, and if you're worried about somebody climbing over your back fence, has 2 inch spikes which are deadly!  Pyracantha can be pruned hard and will bounce back, and also can be trained to climb up the fence.

If you want to have something self climbing up/over the fence, look at climbing hydrangea, which will grow in full shade, and has white flowers.  It is deciduous. 

If you want to help wildlife in the winter, look at ivy - Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart'.  It is large leafed, and fairly fast growing, evergreen, and its berries feed the birds in the winter, and it will provide a habitat for over wintering bugs and creepies.

I know its always an option especially for cheap and quick, but avoid Leylandii like the plague. Not my favourite shrub is Photenia Red Robin, because it does have a tendency to drop leaves all year, but it is very fast growing, and even if you trim it hard, it will be back to where it was and more in no time at all (another reason I personally don't like it). 

Hope that helps.


Discussions started by Tim Burr

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Ideas, ideas, ideas.... 
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