Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Growing Tomatoes Isn`t Too Difficult
Fill a 7.5cm (3in) pot with compost, lightly firm and water. Scatter seeds thinly (most germinate so only sow a few more than you need) and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite. Label and put on a windowsill to germinate. Seedlings should appear within two weeks and be large enough to move into separate pots in about eight weeks. To do this, hold seedlings carefully by their leaves and gently lever up with a dibber. Make a hole in a 7.5cm (3in) pot filled with compost and carefully lower in the seedling. Gently firm, making sure roots are covered and water. When roots come through the drainage holes put into a 12.5cm (5in) pot.
When the first truss or 'branch' of flowers has appeared, tomatoes are ready to go into growing bags. Prepare the bag by shaking and kneading it to break up clods of compacted compost and form into a hummock shape. Puncture the base to make some drainage holes and cut out the pre-marked planting squares. Scoop out compost for the tomatoes to be planted. The top of the root ball should be beneath the top of the bag and have a light covering of compost. Firm in and water. Put a growing bag frame over the bag and insert a cane next to each plant. Secure this to the frame and as it grows, tie the tomato to the cane every 10cms (4in). Water daily and feed with tomato fertiliser every week for the best fruit.
Unless you are growing a bush tomato, the aim is to create a single-stemmed plant. To do this, snap out shoots that grow in leaf joints and when your plant has produced four sets of flowering trusses, pinch out the growing tip. This will ensure all its energy goes into producing fruit.
There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, from tiny cherry tomatoes to huge beefsteak types. Why not try a few different varieties every year.
Friday, June 22, 2007
You don’t have to display roses in an old-fashioned formal bed. They come in all sizes and there are different varieties for different locations. There are roses with amazing scents, some with astonishing beauty, and others with extraordinary, vigorous growth that’ll sprint up a tree, using it as a frame. They can be trained over arches, up pergolas, and are undoubtedly one of the great summer sights.
The best way to make a selection is to get a colour-illustrated catalogue from a specialist nursery to see the full range of roses and their heights and colours. Then visit a rose garden, check them out, and look for good combinations with other plants.
- 'Maiden’s Blush' – an old Rose with blush-pink flowers appearing once in early summer on a medium-sized shrub. AGM, Height 1.5m.
- 'Gertrude Jekyll' – repeat-flowering English rose with rich, dark pink flowers, paler at the edges. AGM, height 1.2m.
- 'Crimson Glory' – a modest climber with beautifully-shaped, rich red flowers in early summer, with later sporadic flowers. Height 4.5m
- 'Aloha' – a short climber with a long summer-autumn show of richly scented pink flowers. AGM, height 2.4m.
- 'Diamond Jubilee' – a vigorous Hybrid Tea with a profuse show of yellow flowers, paler at the edges. Height 1.2m.
- 'Zephirine Drouhin' - has been known to keep going until Christmas. Thornless, with cherry pink, strongly scented flowers; can be grown as a bush or modest climber, though blackspot can be a problem. Height 3m.
- 'Etoile de Holland' – climbing Hybrid Tea with beautiful rich red flowers and a delicious scent in mid- and late summer. Height 5.5m.
- 'Francis E. Lester' – ever-reliable rambler with masses of scented, pinkish-white summer flowers. Height 4.5m.
- 'Golden Showers' – prolific climber, also good on a north wall, with summer to autumn flowers. AGM, height 3m.
- 'Goldfinch' – yellow rambler with a strong summer scent and vigorous growth. Height 3m.
- R. filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ (see plan database) - the ultimate rambler, a real powerhouse with a spread up to 15m, producing a great tangle of growth and creamy white, late summer flowers. AGM, height 10.6m.
- R. sericea pteracantha – a species rose grown for its large, triangular, pointed, translucent thorns. Height 2.4m.
Site and soil: the first ingredient is a sunny site (though some roses will tolerate shade) with well-worked, rich soil including lots of organic matter, and decent drainage. Avoid the extremes of acidity and alkalinity.
Planting and pruning: container-grown roses can be planted at any time of year, but bare-root roses are only available when dormant. After planting, remove any dead or spindly growth, and cut back hard to within about 15cm of the ground in late winter/early spring to promote new growth from the bottom. This equally applies to climbers, and to a lesser extent ramblers; the former’s new growth should be trained out in a fan shape if possible (tied to rows of sturdy wall wires), promoting new growth and flowers from a low level, otherwise they’ll all be up in the air and you’ll never be able to smell them. When growing up trees and pillars, spiral the new growth up and around.
Subsequent late winter/early spring pruning: climbers and ramblers can be left alone, especially if they’re growing up trees, though they can be cut back after flowering if they are accessible and getting out of control. With bush roses, the rule is the harder you prune, the more new growth and the greater the number of flowers, though they will be smaller. A light prune means less new growth, but fewer, larger blooms. With shrub and species roses, make sure the centre doesn’t become congested with old, unproductive wood. Thin out as necessary.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
New species of tree discovered
It seems a new species of tree has been discovered.
A new species of tree that is not thought to grow anywhere else in the world has been found on an island off the west coast of Scotland.
Two specimens of the newly-named Catacol whitebeam (Sorbus pseudomeincichii) were discovered by researchers on the Isle of Arran.
The tree is cross between the native rowan and whitebeam.
The discovery followed work by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Dougarie Estate and Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens.
Graeme Walker, of SNH, said recent research into the genetics of whitebeam trees had shown that the population was much more diverse than previously thought.
"These are unique trees which are native to Arran and not found anywhere else in the world," he said.
"We knew about the Arran whitebeam and the cut-leaved Arran whitebeam, which are also crosses between rowan and different species of whitebeam, but it has been really exciting to discover a completely new species.
"It is very complex picture but we think that the Arran whitebeams are gradually evolving towards a new type of tree which will probably look very similar to a rowan."
A team from the Royal Botanic Gardens has been collecting seeds and cuttings to ensure the long-term survival of the trees.
Work is also underway to protect the two specimens on Arran.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Most daylilies do exactly what they say - flower for one day only - but don't let that put you off, because new buds keep developing, producing a long run of summer flowers. The colour range is huge, running from white, yellow and orange to purple and rich darkred.
Most hemerocallis species come from the Far East where they've been cultivated for thousands of years - the unopened flower buds are a Chinese delicacy. The yellow H. lilioasphodelus was one of the first Chinese species to be introduced to Europe during the 16th century. Flower shapes now vary from singles and doubles to spidery petals, ruffled edges and almost flat-faced blooms; the simple elegant trumpet shape remains a big favourite.There are hundreds of varieties that are good for a lively burst of border colour.
Site and soil preferences: Most varieties prefer soil that doesn't dry out completely in summer and, although they need plenty of sun, red varieties are more successful in a light woodland setting that prevents any petal-scorching. Daylilies also look good planted by a pond or streamside, but only if the soil's not too soggy and the variety is one of the older, more robust varieties.
Division: Plants growing vigorously for a number of years can become congested and, as a result, start producing fewer flowers. If this happens, divide them in spring and replant the sections in enriched soil to give them a new lease of life. Separate the lush leaves emerging from the fleshly roots to create new plants. Pot up and allow the new plants to establish.
Feeding: Apply a sprinkling of high-potash fertiliser in spring, followed by a mulch of compost to encourage strong growth and plenty of flowering stems.
The daylily escapes most pests and diseases, but keep a look out for any flower buds that become abnormally swollen and fail to open. This will most likely be caused by the hemerocallis gall midge, a tiny insect whose grubs feed inside the unopened buds. As the pests are well protected from sprays, the only remedy is to pick off and destroy any buds that are affected. Because the main egg-laying period is in late spring, the late-flowering varieties often escape damage.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
A well-maintained hedge provides a good, smart boundary to a garden, but if left unchecked, a hedge can soon lose its shape and end up casting unwanted shade. With a good pruning schedule you can keep hedges under control without too much effort
When to trim
Most evergreen formal hedges like to be trimmed two or three times a year, while they are actively growing. Pruning informal hedges depends on when they flower. Lavender, fuchsia, roses and other plants that flower on the current year's wood are best pruned in early to mid-spring, while those that flower on old wood, such as forsythia, deutzia and berberis, should be pruned when the blooms fade.
Hand shears are fine for short runs of hedge, but if it is long, invest in an electric, battery or petrol-powered hedge trimmer. It will make light work of the job and won't leave you with tired arms. If you use an electric trimmer, make sure it is plugged into a safety socket fitted with a residual current device or circuit breaker, so that the engine will cut out if there's an accident. When trimming keep the cable away from the blade, ideally draped over one shoulder rather than trailing on the ground.
How to clip a formal hedge
Start by pruning the top flat. If the hedge is not too long, you should be able to cut by eye, stepping back occasionally to check your progress. If you don't trust your eye, hammer two stakes into the ground and stretch a length of string between them to use as a cutting guide. Next, cut the sides, making the top narrower than the base. Brush off trimmings from the top of hedge and from the base of the hedge to prevent the spread of fungal diseases.
Although flowering, informal hedges are allowed to grow naturally so that their shape isn't spoilt, that doesn't mean they never have to be pruned. If neglected they could soon grow too tall or spread out of their allotted space. To keep them in good shape, occasionally remove old stems with secateurs or cut branches to keep within bounds.
How to prune dwarf hedges
Low growing hedges used for parterres, knot gardens or as borders around vegetable beds can be kept neat by trimming twice a year. Cut box, rosemary, lonicera, lavender and germander in spring and then in mid-summer. Use string stretched between two stakes to ensure the top is flat and then cut the sides vertically.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Foxgloves add a free and easy cottage-garden touch with their tall spires and dangling tube-like flowers. They come in white, yellows, mauves, maroons and purples, many with beautiful speckles in the throat.
Foxgloves quickly form colourful clumps to liven up areas of light shade and attract masses of bees. The common name has nothing to do with foxes, but is a corruption of the phrase 'folks' gloves' - fairy folk were said to use flowers as gloves. The Latin, digitalis, refers to the flowers' finger- or digit-like shape.
Besides buying or sowing the seed of a particular kind of foxglove, also buy a packet of mixed seed giving all kinds of different colours. But note that most foxgloves are biennials, which means that you sow seed one year; they flower, die and scatter seed the next. Also note that all parts are highly toxic if eaten, but handling them isn't a problem.
Digitalis purpurea: the only British native is also the biggest and best, capable of reaching 1.8m (6ft) high. It has soft, felt-like leaves and a strong stem that can carry hundreds of tubular flowers. The buds are white, but the flowers are rich, rosy purple with lovely speckles and clusters of short hairs in the throat. A biennial or short-lived perennial, it's best grown annually.
D. purpurea Excelsior Group: there's a wide range of pastel-coloured flowers that grow all around the stem rather than up one side only. Foxy Group is much more compact and seldom exceeds 75cm (2.5ft) high. D. purpurea subsp. heywoodii is a wild subspecies with silvery leaves and ivory flowers. And D. purpurea Giant Spotted Group is much more eye-catching because of the large blotches of dark purple in the flowers' throats. All are best grown annually.
D. grandiflora: closely resembling D. purpurea, it has deep cream-coloured flowers whose throats are streaked with distinctive rusty markings. Biennial or perennial. Has been given the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
D. laevigata: in midsummer it produces spires of brownish-yellow flowers with a white lower lip and speckled interior. Perennial.
D. lutea: a choice foxglove with slender stems of pale yellow flowers from early to mid-summer. Perennial.
D. x mertonensis: one of the most popular forms, its dusky pink flowers are large but the stems are slightly shorter than those of D. purpurea. Although a hybrid, it produces fertile seed that replicates the parent. Perennial. Has been given the Royal Horticultural Society' Award of Garden Merit.
D. parviflora: has early summer, dark orange-brown flowers which are densely packed along the flower spikes. Perennial.
Site and soil preferences: Virtually any soil is fine, ideally being quite rich, but avoid wet and dry extremes, and grow in light shade.
Sowing: The optimum time for sowing seed is as it matures on the plant in mid to late summer, before the end of August. A single seed capsule will provide hundreds of seeds, a few of which can be sown in ordinary seed compost in containers and placed somewhere cool and moist. The seedlings will produce large, early flowering plants for next summer. If you're relying on nature to do the work for you in borders, thin out the seedlings on the ground to enable them to reach a decent size. In a wild garden, don't intervene; higgledy-piggledy is fine.