Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Why does the Holly Tree play an important part in Christmas tradition?

Holly Tree for Christmas.

Flowering in May, the holly tree is a dioecious plant (both male and female plants) and is prized throughout history for having distinctive dark shiny green leaves and red berries. Supporting wildlife during the winter months with it's berries, winter food for many berry eating birds (poisonous to humans). Festive imagery of the holly tree was introduced to Christmas cards during Victorian times, though association with the festive period dates back to pagan times when it was customary to bring holly boughs to desk out the home.

Traditional holly, Ilex Awuifolium, is good for security around boundaries. It is the traditional Christmas holly with bright red berries that many of us are familiar with.


Further varieties of holly include Ilex Alaska, Ilex Golden King, Ilex aquifolium Gold Flash, Ilex aquifolium Ferox Argentea, Ilex J C Van Tol, Ilex Madame Briot, Ilex meserveae Blue Angel and Ilex Silver Queen.

The holly tree connection with Christmas is towards the Christian symbolism connecting the prickly leaves of the holly with Jesus' crown of it's thorns and berries with the drops of his blood shed for human salvation. It is also recorded that before the 1800's, that a Christmas tree was in fact actually a holly tree, not a common fir tree as many of us are used to today. Throughout history, Holly has been used to symbolize the likes of holiness to gaining revenge, beauty, goodwill, health and peace. Holly was believed to be an effective charm to ward off witches, bad spirits and ill-fortune and for this reason it was often planted close to homes and outbuildings.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

What festive plants to have for your home at Christmas?

Christmas is a great time of year to decorate your home, 'of course' you all say, but when it comes to plants, what selection do you have to choose from to give your home that festive feel? Christmas trees are now in massive demand with families all across the UK visiting markets, DIY stores and ordering their focal point piece online. We have already spoken about Christmas trees in a past blog, now let's look at some other plants for Christmas:


This really does define the festive period as much as the daffodil represents spring.

The Poinsettia's brightly coloured red bracts are often mistakenly thought to be flowers, which are in fact the small insignificant yellow buds in the centre.


Vaccinium 'Red Candy'

This is a small berried plant offers clusters of pink flushed white flowers which then offer attractive shiny red berries which really stand out nicely in any display at home over Christmas. Not forgetting that the fruit it offers are very tasty and can be used to make cranberry sauce, a traditional sauce to accompany any Christmas day turkey roast.

Originating from the Artic and alpine regions of Northern Europe and North America - An incredibly tough and robust plant.

Helleborus niger

A plant that is very much of the Christmas tradition, offering pure white flowers along with golden stamens which act as beacons of light in the garden during the bare winter months. These make a charming centrepiece for your dinner table during the festive season and also make a great small floral gift for when visiting friends and families over Christmas.


This plant offers plenty of sparkle and scent for your home at Christmas, their energy packed bulbs are specially coaxed to flower throughout the Christmas period and well in to the New Year. These offer white and a frenzy of pink with unmistakable fragrance - Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Hyacinths!

Skimmia Magic Marlot

Magic Marlot offers excellent colouration from autumn into spring and good winter hardiness, a unique and successful plant for a variety of garden situations. It is highly ornamental over a long period, and surprises everyone with each colour-change.

At Christmas time the festive colouration also makes them a superb gift for any one! They can be enjoyed indoors for a couple of weeks before popping outside in to the garden. Place these plants potted on the Christmas dinning table to give great colour and life!

Trouble free house plants, perfect gifts for the festive season and a great flower to have around the home in amongst the Christmas decorations and atmosphere. Great for table decorations on Christmas day itself, these great plants offer many more buds to come that continue to bloom for as long as three months - Great value plant / flower for you home.

Cyclamen have attractive green marbled foliage, and this one of the toughest Cyclamen for the home taking low temperatures, and even recovering quickly from light wilting with out any damage if it gets too dry.

Dendrobium Nobilis

The ultimate house plant, Superb, long lasting value and ideal for the Christmas period for your home. If you normally buy cut flowers for your home, or just love the idea of an exotic house plant, you'll absolutely adore this stunning scented 'Dendrobium' Orchid. Not only are the blooms beautifully fragrant, they're incredibly long lasting too - up to 15 weeks a year!

With it's long lasting blooms, the Dendrobium nobilis orchid with its impressive column of white flower clusters makes a fantastic gift at any time of the year. The sophisticated and stylish look of the snowy white twinkling blooms are especially popular at Christmas time.

These trees make a great decoration for the festive season, in a porchway for example as one enters the home and docarated with Christmas lights they are sure to get noticed and receive compliments. All year round they provide a high-class property enhancing look, and can be used in place of where the popular bay tree is often paraded.
Competing with the Holly tree in popularity for Christmas displays outside homes across the country, the Bay tree will instantly transform the appearance of any garden or home frontage (formally in pairs beside your doorway of next to a flight of steps).
Perfect for positioning in formal gardens or courtyards or as statement on terraces, balconies and patios where the glossy, green leaves provide all year foliage interest and structure. During the festive period you will see these Buxus balls decorated in lights and offering a great festive feel to any front garden and patio area.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The GXP100 supporting Horticulture on Social Media.

The #GXP100 was founded and launched by GardeningExpress to support national horticulture projects across the UK through use of Social Media. Each week, a league table is generated which obtains data from Twitter and ranks players depending on their weekly activity - Fair to all and rewarding all those that are keeping busy on social media. Players are anyone and everyone involved within the horticulture industry (please email us at if you want to be included).

Already there have been a host of winners who have donated the £25 GardeningExpress vouchers to good causes across the UK to include Allotment Associations, Farms and GreenFingers. Charities such as Alzheimers and The RHS have also been supported by way of donations.

The RHS have acknowledged the #GXP100 to include reTweeting and collaborating in GardeningExpress donating two vouchers for £50 & £25 for their chosen winners.

Supporting Horticulture.

GardeningExpress would like more people and companies within the horticulture industry to join the #GXP100 leaderboard both to further diversify the weekly winners and charity / organisations that are donated to, but also to build a strong community on Twitter who are able to use the hashtag of #GXP100 to voice concerns, news and views on our industry.

There are so many good associations, events and charities across the UK that rarely get seen and heard of - We believe that social media is a great way to get many out in to the public eye and by offering our a donation of plants as a prize, we hope that highlighting the winners on Twitter will give them added exposure and following to the good within horticulture that they offer.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Venus flytrap

The Venus flytrap are carnivorous plants native to a small region of wetlands in the eastern United States.The Venus Flytrap or Seymour, is an intriguing plant and a species that will amaze and WOW many who see them, something straight out of a monster movie many will say - They will actively catch and digest their own food! These small plants have leaves that have special clever traps attached with tiny hairs inside which trigger the trap to close when an insect enters which then is digested for dinner!This carnivorous plant that is better known as the Venus Flytrap (Dionea Muscipula) is a carnivorous plant that catches and digests animal prey such as small insects, flys and arachnids. These trapping structure is formed by the terminal portion of each of the plant's leaves. The name of this plant comes from Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love & Plant Life.

This plants trapping mechanism is now so advanced that it can easily distinguish between living prey and non-prey stimuli such as falling raindrops. These kind of carnivorous plants have existed on our planet for many thousands of years with more than 500 different kinds of plants to be found with appetites ranging from insects to one / two cell aquatic organisms. These plants simply attract their pray, capture then kill and finally digest.

How to care for your Venus FlyTrap

These plants require three things to survive: Light, water and soil. Try and give them as much light as you can and ideally direct sunlight for at least four hours per day though artificial lighting is also welcome by this plant. Water with pure water which is low in mineral content and plant within a proper mix of nutrient, peat, moss, sand and perlite combination. Keep the ambient humidity high is possible, if low humidity just make sure the soil is damp at all times.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

This is the time of year to buy Christmas Trees for the festive season, many people buy them online and from within their local markets and garden centres. When buying your Christmas Tree online, there are certain guidelines to stick to and if necessary, questions to ask before placing your order.

You can get a great deal on Christmas Trees online as many centres will be holding a vast stock throughout the year and you can be guaranteed that your Xmas tree is sent out fresh and certainly to last you throughout the festive period and if potted, can be planted in your own garden to re-use for next year!

When is the best time to buy a Christmas Tree? Should I buy potted or cut trees? Which variety should I choose? The below tips should help you to answer these common questions.

What to look out for and ask when buying your Christmas Tree online:

  • Consider the variety that you are looking for, there are varied types and some last longer than others.
  • Choose a tree with healthy bark, no cracks, splits of evidence of rot / sawdust etc.
  • Make sure that the needles look bright and fresh.
  • When you receive your tree give it a shake, it shouldn't drop many needles (depending on time with courier).
  • Not so good for the courier, but your Christmas Tree should feel heavy, a good sign of it being fresh with high water content.
  • As with any online purchase, generally the brands that have been around for a few years have built a solid reputation and are more likely to take pride in what they supply their customers with.
  • Norwegian Spruces are the most common of Christmas Trees and the best priced, the Nordmann Fir is slightly more expensive usually with the Fraser Fir being the variety that generally commands the higher prices.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

When is a good time to be planting roses in your garden?

Planting bare root roses:

Roses are deciduous so winter is a great time to be planting them into your garden, being in a dormant state they can easily be pruned and planted ready for growth in spring. They are usually purchased with no soil making them easier to transport and for planting, not highly attractive, but will usually offer a good bloom in their first year.

Roses generally appreciate a sunny position in your garden that is sheltered from strong winds, you will not see great results from planting roses in shaded areas. Soil is ideally well-drained and complimented with organic matter as well as being recently well cultivated.

Ideally, dig a hole to a depth of approx 20-30cm depending on size of the rose and when planting, add some compost or manure. Water the soil well (ideally the day before) and prepare your bare root rose by placing it into a bucket of water to soak and hydrate the roots and clean the roots from any past attached soil.

Spread the roots when planting in the prepared hole then fill in the soil to create a small mound in the base and continue to fill up to the bud union bump which should remain above ground level. Water once done to drain away any air pockets and re add soil if needed.

Spring time will produce shoots and depending how well you have planted and fed your rose, you will gain bloom throughout summer months and autumn.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Guide to Garden Hedging.

An evergreen hedge in your garden provides smart boundaries to areas and perimeters though will require maintenance throughout the year to encourage and keep it's shape. With good pruning schedules you can hope to keep hedges under control with not too much effort.

Top Tips in looking after evergreen hedges:

  • Most evergreen formal hedges requiring trimming two to three times a year, (conifer hedges such as the leylandii will require more regular pruning as they are faster growers.
  • If neglected they can soon grow too tall or spread out of their allotted space and this will make for more difficult pruning to take place.
  • Water and mulch your hadges after trimming / pruning.
  • Keep flowering hedges in good shape by occasionally cutting off older branches and taking off excess growth to keep them within bounds.

The most popular kind of hedge for urban gardens is beech or the hornbeam for wet areas. Evergreen hedges are good for all year round 'screen' for your property such as the Cypress or the Western Hemlock. The ideal setting for planting these hedges is approx 4 per metre for a single row hedge or 6 plants per metre in a double staggered row for thicker requirements.

For rustic hedge the Hawthorn is the preferred choice.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Why do leaves change colour in Autumn?

Autumn offers us a burst of colour and beauty in our gardens before the Winter sets in. But what really makes the leaves on the trees turn from green to colours such as red / brown and yellow?

Tress normally change the colours of their leaves due to changes in the way in which they obtain their food. Trees, like a majority of our garden plants, produce food by the process known as Photosynthesis?

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the sun into chemical energy that can be used to fuel the organism's activities. Source WikiPedia

  • By product of Photosynthesis is Oxygen.
  • Sunlight energy is captured by chlorophyll (green chemical pigment found in leaves).
  • Converts carbon dioxide and water into organic sugars.
  • The sugars are stored in leaves or other parts of the plant for growth.
  • By product of Photosynthesis is oxygen.

Now we know that leaves are green due to containing chlorophyll, we will understand that during autumn and early winter when there is less sun around leaves start to drain of this 'plant food' which causes decomposition causing the green to fade.

Surging sugar concentrations cause increased production of anthocyanin pigments. Leaves which contain  primarily anthocyanins will appear red. Another pigment class is carotenoids which produce orange, yellow or red. Anthocyanin and carotenoids will appear orange. Tannins are responsible for the brownish color of some oak trees.

Factors effecting chemical reaction of leaves:

Cold temperature: Low temperatures destroy chlorophyll causes green to fade to yellow. If temperatures stay above freezing then anthocyanin production is enhanced and the leaves take on a red colour.

Dry weather: Causes sugars to become concentrated in leaves which produces more anthocyanin production.

Sunny days: Chlorophyll stops in the autumn though photosynthesis can still occur on sunny days which uses the remaining chlorophyll. Sugar concentration thus increases producing higher anthocyanin percentages and the leaves turn to red.

To see the best in colours of autumn leaves then we should of had a warm and dry summer with an autumn of cold, but not freezing days and fairly dry which will intensify the colours.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Buxus Pyramids for Christmas.

The popular Buxus pyramid is an ideal evergreen for Christmas displays with many home owners using these 'Christmas Tree' shaped plants as a festive feature by decorating with lights and other hanging decorations. Even though the Nordman Fir remains the most popular selling Christmas Tree in the UK, many people see the Buxus pyramid as the perfect outdoor plant to decorate for the festive season.

Buxus Pyramid (Buxus Sempervirens - Hardy Box Topiary Pyramid).

These classic evergreen box pyramids are ideal for modern or traditional gardens or courtyards, they have been used for centuries. These are best planted in fertile, well drained soil in a partially shady site, they are perfect for punctuating the end of a dwarf hedge or for use in pairs for flanking a set of steps, a doorway or pathway.
These Buxus are also popular for displays at Christmas time with many people using them as miniature Christmas Trees, decorating them with lights etc.

Looking after your Buxus Pyramid:

  • Ideally trim in spring time or late summer to keep it's shape.
  • Create topiary and clip into the required geometric shapes or figures etc.
  • These are ideal for containers though also grow well in fertile ground in gardens.
  • Direct sunlight can cause loss of foliage colour and can cause scorching.


  • Has dark green foliage which is in very tight and compact form.
  • Hardiness - Fully hardy and needing no protection during winter months.
  • Slow rate of growth compared to other varieties.
  • Propagation: Plant 4 inch cuttings for re-growth.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

What Christmas Tree should you buy and why?

As we approach the month of December it will be that time of year again to buy your Christmas Tree to decorate your home ready for the festive season. There is a lot more to a Christmas Tree than you think, a fair bit of history to charm us and many varieties to choose from. So, let's look at Christmas Trees in more detail!

Some did you know facts:

  • The first decorated Christmas Tree was in the town of Riga in Latvia, in 1510.
  • Since 1947, the people of Oslo in Norway have given a gift of a Christmas Tree to the City of Westminster, London as an expression of good will and gratitude for Britain's help to their country during World War II.
  • Electric Tree lights were first massed produced way back in 1890.
  • Christmas Tree remove dust and pollen from the air.
  • One acre of planted Christmas Trees provides enough daily oxygen for 18 people.
  • Artificial trees will last for less than six years in your home, but for centuries in a landfill.
  • In the first week, a tree in your home will consume as much as 2 pints of water per day.
Tips for your Christmas Tree:

  • Take time to pick your spot. Decide where your Christmas Tree is to go in your home, ideally choose a well-lit corner which gets plenty of footfall though safe from being knockered over by young children or merry adults!
  • Many people now purchase Christmas Trees online so when doing so make sure they are freshly harvested before confirming your purchase.
  • Handle with care. Make sure if you decide to have a live Christmas Tree to use gloves and possibly even clothing that you don't mind to get stained in sap especially when getting it into position at home.
  • Cut trees will be fine dunked in water, rather like a cut flower. Potted trees are also fine for home usage and can also be replanted in to your garden after Christmas, though remember they can grow very quickly so plant them away from building / structures.
  • Keep your trees well watered and also not too hot (keep away from positioning right next to radiators / open fires etc). There is no need to use foods or fertilisers for your Christmas Tree at home.
  • Think Recycle! There are many organisations and local recycling centres for your Christmas Tree, in most cases recycling is free of charge.

Christmas Trees species:

The traditional British Christmas tree is the Norwegian Spruce which does drop it's needles towards the end of the Christmas period. Recent years has seen an increase in non-drop varieties.

Nordman Fir: The most popular, best selling non-drop Christmas Tree variety that has good needle retaining properties that are soft, wide and flat, dark green needles.

Blue Spruce: A low drop variety which has distinctive silver/blue and a wonderful smell that is reminiscent of the Christmas season.

Traditional (Norway) Spruce: Another variety that gives off a festive scent, a good shape and is a very popular purchase with the British.

Potted Trees: Popular choice for Christmas and ideal for those wishing to keep their trees after Christmas as can be planted outside.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Miscanthus sinensis Zebrinus - Zebra Grass

Miscanthus sinensis Zebrinus - Zebra Grass is a deciduous, clump-forming, perennial grass that has upright to arching green leaves and pale yellow / cream eye catching bands running across them to make them a wonderful feature for any autumn or winter garden. This species of Miscanthus, Zebrinus or Zebra Grass, is a full hardy and looks great either as specimen plants or planted in groups in herbaceous borders. It's flowering period is between August and September where it will offer  hairy pink/white spikelets in fan shaped panicles which stay for months giving this plant a dramatic winter garden presence.

The distinctive foliage is what makes this plant an attractive addition for any garden, the zebra effect of horizontal pale / cream strips across the green makes it stand out especially during autumn and winter months. The variegation turns a more pronounced yellow as the growing season progresses.

This Miscanthus requires little maintenance, prefers full sun and will grow in a wide range of well-drained soils. The winter foliage can be left on the plant to provide protection to the growing crown, cutting back can take place in late winter just before the new Spring growth gets underway.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Which Ornamental Grasses are good for Autumn and Winter?

For those looking to added some colour and life to their autumn and winter gardens many will explore the huge variety of ornamental grasses for sale. Ornamental grasses are fantastic for softening hard landscaping and using as a contrast to other plants where many varieties can also be architectural in their own right. Most gardens can accommodate several varieties, ornamental grasses coming in a wide range of colours and textures which makes them versatile for virtually all garden styles and situations. Great for sensory gardens where you will be able to hear the breeze whispering through the taller varieties. Smaller grasses can be used to compliment containers.

There are many ornamental grasses to choose from for your garden, below are listed some which we recommend adding to your autumn and winter gardens.

Miscanthus Herman Mussel

A beautiful hardy ornamental grass for growing in beds and borders. This is a large grass with floaty, ferny seed heads which are perfect for adding some gentle movement to the garden with a relaxing rustle.
Easy to grow and it is an all year round ornamental grass that requires virtually no maintenance. Grows up to 2 metres in sun or partial shade.

Miscanthus Sinensis Zebrinus - Zebra Grass

Making a foliage feature all year around with a sensational Zebra Grass effect, this recommend addition for your winter garden offers eye catching green leaves with creamy white or pale lemon yellow horizontal bands.

Ophiopogon Planiscapus Nigrascens - Black Ornamental Grass

An award winning grass-like plant with low growing tufts of very dark purple blades that actually appear to be black. Racemes of pale lilac / pink flowers appear among the foliage in the summer followed by black berries in the Autumn / Winter. Looks fantastic with other grasses and especially attractive within grouped tubs.

Imperata Cylindrica Red Barron - Japanese Blood Grass

Imperata Cylindrical Rubra is better known to many as 'Red Barron' or 'Japanese Blood Grass' and is a highly recommend, especially for it's colour, ornamental grass for the simple reason of it's vivid and unusual colours which will offer a stunning feature to any autumn or winter garden.
The foliage of this stunning herbaceous grass is quite literally blood-red, fading off to a nice shade of bright green at the base of the plant which only goes to highlight the vivid red colouration of each foliage blade. This grass will make a fantastic addition to any garden and looks particularly good teamed with other grasses and perennials.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Plants with Amazing Colours for Autumn and Winter.

It is not only the Holly berry bush that should be appearing in gardens for winter, there are many more colourful berry plants for Autumn and Winter months. Evergreen and berry plants for winter are a great addition for any garden and will brighten your winter landscape through frost and snow with  brilliant coloured berries and colourful foliage. Below are some suggestions of berry plants ideal for a winters garden as well as providing natural bird food and for usage within your Christmas decorations at home.

The firethorns are all tough, very hardy shrubs which tolerate a wide range of demanding conditions, including shaded and exposed positions and make dense thorny evergreen growth ideal for intruder- proof hedging or for training on walls to display their profuse and brightly coloured berries. They also make attractive free-standing shrubs, although growth is then often more compact and arching. 'Red Column' is reliable, vigorous form, with dense growth and strong branches covered in Autumn with masses of long-lasting berries.

This Callicarpa or Beauty Berry, as it is better known, carries colourful Autumnal fruits that cannot be rivalled for a jolt of eye catching late season colour. Shaded in bright metallic purple, there is no other shrub with berries quite like it.
Full hardy and easy to grow, Callicarpa Profusion will perform best in a well drained brightly lit position in the garden, although it will also tolerate partial shade. Deciduous and bushy, it is a fantastic addition to beds and borders. Maintenance wise, simply trim and losing it's berries to keep as a smaller sized plant or to neaten it up.

Lustrous dark green leaves and small clusters of red-purple flowers in April and May, followed by large, bright red berries. This compact Japanese Laurel is perfect for a small shady site. Tolerant of dry shade and urban-pollution. The berries are highly attractive and retained all winter.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Guide to Autumn and Winter Hanging Baskets.

Hanging baskets are not just for summer nor either just for the front of your house, you can enjoy wonderful baskets during Autumn and Winter months throughout the outside of your home. They are such easy solutions to add some real colour and interest to any space and transform garden fences and walls plus add an extra eye catching feature. The summer will offer stunning colours within hanging baskets with Autumn and Winter months offering frost hardy flower and evergreen displays.

A Hanging Basket for Autumn

Your baskets should be prepared with an inner liner such as moss, filled with a shallow layer of hanging basket compost then some good quality soil.
Ideal plants to use include:

Trailing Pansy
Viola Roscastle Black

These kind of flowers and evergreen plants will really make your display vibrant in colour and volume. There are many variety of pansy that you can purchase during Autumn to fill your baskets with which will last you through to early winter months.

A Hanging Basket for Winter

You can plant your winter hanging baskets between the months of September and October and remember that it does not really matter if they are frosted as the plants you will be using should be hardy. Winter hanging baskets are best kept in sheltered and sunny spots to give them some protection from the very coldest of days. Gardeners must be sure to deadhead regulary to prevent the plants energy going in to seed production rather then on more blooming. Normally, watering of your basket will be once a week.
Ideal plants to use include:

Evergreen Azaleas

Top Tip: To create a spectacular display, you need a mix of upright, mound-forming and tumbling plants.


Winter Pansies:

A very reliable favourite for winter hanging basket displays and these flower non-stop for months on end so longer that on a regular basis you remember to dead head!

Clematis Winter Beauty:

The real interest is of course the flowers - in December, the plants are loaded with buds, they appear en-mass and are lovely shades of soft creamy lime, hanging amongst the foliage like small bells, they are poised with energy to continue blooming and bring joy to the gardeners heart throughout the dullest, shortest days.


Flowering from Autumn right through to Spring they bring real cheer in the duller weather when little else is happy to put on a show.


Friday, 1 November 2013

Autumn Flowering Perennials.

So it may very well be the time to put on your woolly jumpers and no doubt have already surrendered to putting on the central heating at home, but in your garden there will still be flowering colours to enjoy. Some plants fare much better than others when it comes late flowering potential and we will now take a look at these below:


Crocosmias lend themselves well to landscaping projects and large gardens where a mass of plants is required to create an impact, it an often to be seen planted around lakes and ponds for this very reason. The flowers themselves are trumpet shaped ranging in colour from orange-red-golden shades, creating the perfect impact for late summer plantings.


Penstemon will offer your garden bell-shaped flowers from midsummer to autumn.


The Sedum is as dependable and adaptable as they come for any garden. Its flowers bloom from August into November and is an ideal plant to add if you want some colour for Autumn!


A fantastic plant to add colour to a late summer border and it makes a wonderful companion for ornamental grasses. Heleniums are versatile plants that love plenty of sunshine and moist soil. They rarely suffer from pests or diseases.

Japanese anemone

The Japanese Anemone offers a succession of cup-shaped, rose-pink, semi-double flowers with reddish-pink outer petals from July to September.

Don't say goodbye to that summer garden with many late flowering options readily available to purchase at garden centres or easily online. The peaking flowers of late summer are wide-ranging with many of the exotics and tender perennial patio plants also staying in flower until late September / early October

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Fruits of the Forest - 'A feast of Fungi'.

Fact: Fungi are the largest and possibly the oldest living organisms on earth.

With this interest fact in mind, we will take a look at Fungi and when and where to study this neither plant nor animal species. There are around 70,000 species world wide and approximately 12,000 in the UK alone with 2,700 being found in the New Forest.

Interesting Fact: Mold is in fact a fungus and important in many blue cheeses which we consume at home. Yes, some of us have fungus in our fridges!

Fungi (and mushrooms) are unique and unlike plants themselves, they do not in fact covert the rays from the sun into energy and obtain their nutrition from the likes of vegetation and animal matter either living or dead.

Many species are not visible to the human eye for the are tiny in structure and many being hidden underground - The fruit of fungi is what is usually visible above ground and forms only part of what most probably is a much larger and complex structure underground. These large structure make them in to one of the most important elements of the ecology of forests for they share vital nutrients to plants such as trees and form an important part of the whole life of forests and woods by aiding the decaying process. Amazingly fungi structures can expand to tens of thousands of feed underground and come in all varied colours, sizes, structures and shapes.
Interesting Fact: Yeast, which is a fungus, is used in everyday food items such as bread, wine and beer.

You have to take great care when handling any fungi as some are extremely toxic and can cause damage to your health and even kill you if eaten! Always wear the likes of disposable gloves when handling them and if you desire to go mushroom picking in the woods / forest then adhere to guidelines such as:

  • Never simply pick and eat mushrooms!
  • Try and leave mushrooms as you find them if they are not edible, they are important to the survival of any woodland.
  • Wear protective clothing and especially disposable gloves.
  • When picking mushrooms do not mix them in your basket / container and wrap them in paper rather than in plastic / foil etc as they still need to breathe!
  • Leave some for others to enjoy and remember not to trespass on private woodland!
If you want to enjoy growing your own mushrooms at home there are many easy-to-use kits, supplied complete with everything you need that you can purchase which will contain safe and edible mushrooms to enjoy!.

Fungi are natures recyclers which help to prevent our woodlands from being covered in dead plants and animals that simply go to waste.
Mushrooms make a delicious food for many people either fresh or cooked within well known and traditional English meals. From salads to oven baked pies, mushrooms are used to compliment many of our favourite dishes, but remember as mentioned before - Make sure you know what mushrooms you are adding to your dish, especially if you have guests round for dinner as many are poisonous!

The structure of most fungi contains a thread like hyphae which then form a web which root in to the ground usually though also within trees and other damp areas. It then produces what we see, the mushroom or toadstool which is the fruit element. The season of Autumn is the time to see the fruiting bodies of fungi and they are abundant during wet and mild weather conditions. Ideal area to spot them are within woodland, but many peoples gardens will have fungi with them even popping up over your lawn.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

What should I do with fallen leaves in my garden?

It's the time of year that leave turn to red or yellow and start to fallen on our lovely neat lawns and beds, but what exactly should you be doing with them?

Leaves need collecting up regularly during autumn months and early winter as they can damage your lawn, but instead of placing them on to the bonfire or taking to the rubbish tip, turn them into a great free fuel for your garden which is leaf mould – This really will be worth it's weight in gold.

"Leaves are a great source of "brown," high-carbon material for the compost."

Try to rake up at least once a week using if you can, a rubber rake or at least spring-tined lawn type though of course an ordinary garden rake can be used.  If you like power tools, then use a leaf blower to collate leaves into heaps overs your lawns / beds.

Many people will store the damp leaves within bin liners which have perforations, usually in dry storage areas such as sheds and garages (remember that varied leaves take shorter or longer periods to fully rot down).
You can also rot down your leaves within a cage in your garden, usually a simply structure of four wooden posts with wire netting tacked around them to contain the leaves.

"Leaf mould us usually made up of nothing more than fallen leaves from your garden, it's a great soil amendment."

Leaf mould is a good source of fibre that really helps your garden soil to both retain moisture and improve drainage. Leaf mould and using leaves within compost, will help you when you want to grow choice dwarf bulbs, unusual woodland plants, vegetables and your containers etc.

You can also mow your leaves for those who prefer not to collect and store them. This is a simple yet effect process involving you in no raking or collecting whatsoever, simply mow over them with your mower at it's highest setting which will break them down a distribute them evenly.

For plants that are ideal to plant during the Autumn months please do visit the Gardening Express website.


Monday, 28 October 2013

5 Top Tips for Planning your Next Year's Garden.

When it comes to gardening, it really isn't an acceptable excuse to say 'I'm not great at planning' as what you sow you will reap! By spending time in planning and designing your garden, you will undoubtedly be thankful for your efforts during the following Spring and Summer months.

Firstly, you need to know (if you don't already) the kind of buying and planting your garden will require as this will depend on regions, location ie by the sea or not, are you located on flat land or on the side of a mountain 1,000 feet above sea level or urban / rural setting. Each of these locations will change the style and success of plants and flowers in your garden. Sometimes, the best way to see which plants are ideal for your garden is to take a walk down your street and see how other peoples gardens are growing, make a note of what is doing well - Also refer to the experts online, if you are purchasing plants or flowers online then ask them questions when making your order, most will gladly give free advice.

5 Top Tips to use for planning your next year's garden:

Look at where you'll be growing your garden. Not only the location of your garden, but also will you be planting in raised beds, containers, a community garden plot? Are you looking for privacy from a busy street or neighbours are is this a space going to be where small children should be comfortable in?

What do you want to grow and when? You know the space you're working with, so look at designing out the layout of the plants and flowers that you want. Simply list everything you want to grow!

Learn from last years mistakes! As with anything in life, it pays to learn from your mistakes. Dig out anything that you felt was misplaced or did not perform in the way you were hoping for.

Should you be buying seeds / bulbs or plants? Think about when you are going to be planting and what you should be buying. You need to come up with a schedule, based on your design / plan, of when to plant everything.

Prepare your soil! Autumn is a great time to be working in your garden and with your soil as it will be easy to work with (moist) and ideal for planting (warm still from summer). Before planting anything in your garden make sure you dig to loosen the soil and adding organic material. By taking time to prepare and work on your soil in the Autumn you will save yourself much disappointment by improving chances of a beautiful and fruitful Spring and Summer!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

UK Storm 2013 - Latest News

UK Storm 2013 - Latest News

If you have not already heard about the storm that is on the way, where have you been??

The Met Office have issued their latest severe weather warning on the coming events here if you want to keep up to date with the developments.

It is getting late in the day now, rain has started already here, and we have done everything we can at GE HQ to make every thing as safe and secure as possible, and are closing our operations down for the day on Monday - the safety of our team is paramount to us. Please be safe and secure where ever you are, and if you have not done so already, here are a few things you might want to do in the garden to prepared for the high wind. In our book, a storm forecast to have Hurricane strength winds with gusts in excess of 80mph, that's been given a name has to be nasty! With lots of rain forecast in a short space of time, flooding is of a great concern too. Earlier reports were saying the storm was named Christian, but the latest name is that of #StJude - 'the patron saint of depression and lost causes'! according to twitter, so a very apt name!

Anyway, here's some things to consider for the garden for this weather event, or any for high winds in the future, luckily, I was able to complete most of these jobs earlier today.

> Secure patio furniture, planters and the like, preferably bring indoors or stand in the garage.

> Flying debris & gravel can cause injury, anything liable to get picked up by the wind could smash windows. Put watering cans, buckets etc away

> Got a greenhouse?? Make sure the clips are all secure holding the glass in. Keep the doors and windows shut so it can't be lifted, make sure it is well anchored down too

> Probably a bit late in the day, but if you have any trees with weak or damaged boughs, they are liable to fall. Get them removed.

Around 15 million trees were lost in the last comparable storm of 1987, when I was just a boy, I remember seeing many big trees felled like matchwood, even mature majestic trees, like the legendary Seven Oaks at that location in Kent were affected, with 6 out of those 7 felled.

With many trees still in full leaf, and ground soft from the rain, it's likely many will get blown over tonight. Keep safe if you have large trees close to your home that could potentially blow on top of roof tops and come crashing in. Watch out for any old Chimney pots too.

All the cushions from patio furniture and glass topped tables are safely stowed inside for us. Fingers crossed for the best, although it is always better to be over prepared.

Perhaps the news has gone a little over the top because of what happened in 1987, when one weather man who we won't mention made the mistake of saying no storm was on the way, after which the worst in living memory hit us, so it's pretty safe to say the media want to cover themselves this time.

Think about pets with this bad weather too. If you have any that live outside, it may be worth bringing them indoors - bunny hutches, guinea pig runs etc could all be blown over/apart in the wind, with inhabitants left petrified, and exposed to terrible conditions and predators too. It could be a good idea to bring them in later this evening, before dark.

I'm a little worried about our hen house, we've anchored it pretty well though, but do check yours out if you have pet hens, also if you have an aviary, as we do, ensure its secure, consider shutting the birdies inside for the night if possible.

It's likely tomorrows rush hour will be a nightmare tomorrow, and we will surely see roads blocked with fallen trees, and chaos on the railways. Please keep safe, and remember, material possessions can be replaced, people can't, keep inside and safely tucked up out of the bad conditions and avoid the risks of injury and flying debris. If you don't know what 80mph winds and rain look like, or what happened in 1987 have a look on Google and youtube - you have been warned!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Garden Tool Care and Maintenance.

Cleaned, sharpened and serviced tools always work better!

Petrol and Electric Mowers.

Always disconnect from the power socket or remove the sparkplug etc when working on or maintaining a garden mower. To store petrol mowers over winter, remember to drain / run down the fuel. Change the machine oil ready for spring, making sure that the level is topped up.
Remove any of the grass and soil from the underside rollers, blades and ideally also from the grass boxes using a stiff brush and then use hose to finish things off.

Apply some grease to the height adjusters and turn them slightly to prevent them from seizing up. If the blades of any rotary mower are chipped or blunt, look to have them sharpened and balanced by a servicer. Remember: Cylinder mower blades are best sharpened professionally.

Tool sharpening.

Take time to look at your tools which are likely to have become blunt from use so their cutting edges will need to be sharpened. Most of your tools can be sharpened yourself using the likes of a fine metal blade / sharpening stone, though any damaged or very badly worn blades will need replacing or professionally sharpened. If you have any doubts about how to carry out the repairs consult your local servicer.

Avoid tools rusting by attending to your tools regulary. Once you have finished with maintenance on your tools, remember to wipe them down with an oily rag before storing.
For your bare wooden handles look to use boiled linseed oil. Rub the oil on with a rag and then allow the wood to absorb the first coat before applying more oil. This will prevent them from drying out and splintering during storage.

Do not leave tools outside! Not only will keeping them in proper storage keep unnecessary moisture away from your tools and increase their lifetime, it will also protect your valuable tools from theft. With just a little effort and some of your time your garden tools will be in tip-top shape for the Spring and Summer months and indeed, for many years to come. Even tools that have been neglected can be nursed back into shape. Cleaner and well maintained tools with no doubt be easier to use and make gardening more enjoyable!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

How to plant a tree.

The best time to be looking at planting trees is in Spring and in Autumn as the soil is ideal both for digging and also giving your tree the best start / foot growth opportunities, especially in Autumn when the ground is still warm from the Summer months and now moist. Planting your tree during these seasons will give it time to acclimatise and root out ready for the harsher elements such as cold and frost in Winter or the Dryness and Heat of Summer.

When purchasing your tree, make sure it is correctly labelled and ideally it will guidance for planting as not all trees can be planted anywhere.

Tools you need for planting a tree:

  • The tree itself.
  • Spade, ideally good quality.
  • A wooden stake and a hammer.
  • Tree ties
  • To conserve moisture; to improve the fertility, also a bag of mulch.
  • Fertiliser pellets.

Start off by locating the correct position in your garden for your tree, then dig a hole the same depth as the root ball and as much as twice as wide. Next hammer a stake into the hole slightly to one side, just make sure it's straight! Take your fertiliser pellets and add some to the base of the whole that you have dug with some lose soil.
Take the tree you wish to plant and loosed some of the compact roots slightly before placing the root ball centrally in the hole. Fill in the hole with the soil and at the same time mix in more fertiliser, whilst doing so compact the soil by lightly stamping down to firm the surround area and at all times make sure that the tree is straight. With your tree tie(s) use the wooden stake to give extra support, though make sure not to tighten too much. Finally, add your mulch to the base of the tree area and then water well.

Where to order online Scary Plants For Your Halloween Garden.

An evening of fun, trickery, trick or treating and scary costumes so what plants and flowers should you buy for your home and garden?

Physalis Franchetii - Chinese Lantern:

Tiny, creamy-white flowers from July to August followed by bright orange-scarlet berries enclosed by papery, red lanterns. Chinese lanterns are perfect for providing autumn interest in well-drained areas of the garden.

Ophiopogon Planiscapus Nigrascens - Black Ornamental Grass:

An award winning grass-like plant with low-growing tufts of very dark purple blades, that actually appear to be black. Racemes of pale lilac-pink flowers appear among the foliage in summer, followed by black berries in the Autumn. Looks fantastic with other grasses, especially if grouped in tubs, it provides a brilliant contrast with most other plants.

Cordyline Renegade - New & Exclusive Purple Black Cordyline:

Renegade is a hot new Cordyline in a trendy designer colour - dark purple-black with a glossy lacquered finish. Also known as the New Zealand Cabbage Palm.

Cordyline 'Renegade' also not only has striking colour, but the foliage is also thick, broad and arching. This creates a really dramatic architectural effect. It is a compact, tight clump forming variety and an excellent choice for the modern looking garden. It can be used in garden borders or patio containers alike. Why not create a really stunning effect on your patio, deck or balcony with this smart looking plant?
A brilliant selection of Heuchera bred for its uniquely coloured foliage that is retained throughout the winter months. Perfect for providing colour in winter and early spring mixed containers, hanging baskets and window boxes, or simply in the garden. A wonderful richly coloured Heuchera with bold tones of maroon and blackberry with ebony veins.
The Black Rose! - Originally bred for the cut flower market, and now offered exclusively for your garden at home, Black Baccara is a Hybrid Tea Rose with large luxurious, black blooms of the highest quality that age to deep red. Give it pride of place in your border and you will be rewarded with colour all summer. A very productive and desirable plant.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

What to do in the Garden in October.

This is the month to get planting, pruning, cutting, clearing, burning, servicing and much more! Autumn is the season where there is much activities in gardens across the UK and many people still buying and ordering plants online to get things ready for next Spring and Summer.

Beware of Frost!

October is a month where will start to see frost so action must be taken to bring tender plants such as your Fuchsias and Geraniums inside, Begonias should be lifted and then potted and placed in protective areas such as your greenhouse. Other garden plants will need protection too by placing in sheltered areas or given them cover with a sheet etc.

It's time to tidy things up!

You garden can become quite full of dead leaves during October so clearing your lawn and borders is priority. Brush or rake them off and ideally place them on to your garden compost heap or storage them in to vented black bags and keep for next years feed for borders etc.
Remember to tidy parts of plants that have died and debris such as twigs and branches. Also consider garden pathways, patios and ponds and clean them if needed.

What you should be planting.

It's a month for planting with popular purchases to include Foxglove, hardy heathers, herbaceous perennials and clematis, spring bulbs, lilies and much more. It is also a very good time to plant trees and shrubs thank to the ideal soil condition which is still relatively warm from summer and moist.

Preparing the Soil.

Before planting be sure to prepare your soil by digging over the soil and taking out any weeds. Ideally, add some well rotted compost (remember to turn over your compost heap from time to time).

Have you a greenhouse?

The greenhouse will be in use this month by bringing in plants that need sheltering from the change in weather, protecting from frost etc. Watering will still be taking place though frequency now reduced. If you have heaters in your greenhouse make sure they are serviced and working, open vents still on warm days, but remember to close them during nights.

Servicing your Garden Tools.

Now is the time of year to be servicing your tools such as sharpening sheers and blades, sending your lawn mower for a service etc. Hose pipes should be reeled back in, outside garden taps should also be closed down (remember to do so via the stop cock inside your home).