Hollyhocks add decadent architecture to any garden

I’m the first to admit I’m not a fan of short-lived plants. I like to plop a plant in and leave it, allowing its perennial nature to keep it growing year after year. All this annual and biennial sowing nonsense; no, I can’t be doing with that. Aside from a few plants, however. And one of these is th…

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Design With Dahlias for Autumn Colour

‘Tis very much the season for dahlias. I’m a huge fan of these blooms, though I admit, I have a slight love/hate relationship. There are a vast array of varieties in the dahlia collection, from sinewy, single-petalled bloomers to small, clump forming plants with huge, gaudy flowers. It’s the latter …

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It's time for Tulips

If you hadn’t heard, it’s September already. That means it’s time to plant bulbs for a spring show in 2015. And, if you’re stocking up, then it’s definitely time to be thinking about tulips.

I often think that tulips are one of the more overlooked bulbs. We all fill our gardens with daffs, crocus…

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An African daisy to add simplistic chic

I always feel as if some plants are vastly overlooked for tropical looking species and varieties that are new on the scene. Osteosperumum (African Daisy), for example, seems to have a new colour shade coming out every years. However, I still have an extremely strong affection for Osteospermum jucund…

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Prepare your winter garden with Sedum Herbstfreude

Okay, hear me out; Yes, Sedum Herbstfreude is an extremely common plant that may seem rather dull to you. BUT, I feel this plant is often overlooked. It has a huge number of positives; it’s wildlife friendly, it’s easy to grow, it has fantastic cover during late summer/early autumn AND it provides s…

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Create vibrant winter pots with Skimmia

Okay, I know it’s still summer, but winter will be here before you know it. I’m honestly hoping for a cold snap this year – the wet, grey winter of 2013 was horrendous; I don’t think we had even one frost in London. That’s BAD for plants – they need dormancy. And it’s BAD for gardeners – we need a r…

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Smother a rockery with thrift

I think I must’ve first come across Thrift (Ameria) when I was a lad holidaying in Scotland. Our family didn’t head abroad, but jumped in the car and journeyed to the stunning landscapes of the Lake District, Scotland and Northumberland. I distinctly remember great swathes of thrift clinging to the …

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Delve into the world of Aquilegia

 

I grew up with aquilegia’s in the garden, and remember being around these plants from when I was tiny. As such, I don’t really think of them as all that exciting. Many species, particularly the wilder varieties, can be fairly bland and though the dainty flowers offer a welcome treat spring…

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Prepare for bees with Pulmonaria

 

Practically everyone’s heard about how troubled the world’s bee population is, and as gardeners, it’s our responsibility to help these guys out a little. Though I hate wasps, I love the sound a few friendly bumbles buzzing through the foliage in early spring, and if you’re looking for a pl…

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Create a carpet with Ajuga reptans

It’s fair to say that I love this little plant and I can never understand why it’s not used more. Interesting foliage? Check. Quick growing? Queck. Beautiful flowers? Check. Yet, when I look around gardens, especially show gardens, it’s obvious in its absence. Who knows why – maybe it just hasn’t ca…

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On My Oasis – Frosts and Obsessions

It has to be said that in the past year, life has got rather in the way of gardening. Planning a wedding, getting hitched, going on honeymoon and settling in with the whole ‘being a spouse‘ thing has drawn me away from the garden. In addition, there’s nothing quite like knowing you’re moving to kibosh any grand gardening plans – that is until you’re in your new garden, of course. Still, January’s been a good month for gardening shows which is saying something, particularly because Gardener’s World isn’t actually on our screens at the moment. What with ‘Show Me Your Garden‘, ‘Britain’s Best Back Gardens‘, ‘The Great British Garden Revival‘, and ‘The Big Allotment Challenge‘, there’s been plenty to take your fancy; whether it’s veggies, ornamentals or strange and rare plants you’re into.

I have to say, I’ve been watching them ALL (and, quell surprise, getting hubby a little green-fingered too – wonders will never cease). The garden passion has certainly reappeared, and with completion of our new house sale on Thursday, there’s lots to get excited about!

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The dogs enjoy the forest frost

Frosts are finally here

I’m also happy to welcome a much needed cold snap and some heavy frosts. Last year was a complete washout and, as a result, the gardening year in 2014 was tougher than many before. You may not like the cold, but it’s important for a number of reasons.

Firstly, there’s nothing quite like a wintry landscape. It’s beautiful, inspiring and, with a blue sky overhead, picture perfect. Then there’s the benefit that it puses plants into proper dormancy mode. I’ve always found when we have a really cold winter, spring flowers are so much more glorious. Wisteria creates giant swathes of colour, roses burst into bud with more vibrancy and bulbs pepper the garden with bright petals. Instead of cruising through January and February half awake, these plants properly go to sleep, meaning they awaken in spring with full gusto. Finally, all those pests and bugs HATE the cold. If you don’t get some proper winter, hibernating weevils, sleeping aphids and dormant slug eggs are just waiting to emerge at the first sign of warmth and devour our plants. A decent winter (and I’m talking heavy frosts and snowfall) help cull some of these critters off, making our lives as gardeners a little easier….especially at the beginning of the year when we’ve got seedlings on the go.

A teeny amount of sowing

Talking of seedlings; I’ll admit, I’ve broken and planted a few seeds. I’m trying to contain myself because I’ll soon have a new house and garden, and I don’t want to be transporting hoards of seed trays back and forth (I’ve already got a garden full of plants to move). My mum doesn’t really understand why I want to take apart her old greenhouse straight away (I’m nabbing it).

‘You won’t need it till summer, you’ll be doing up the house’.

Umm, no mother. I’ll be digging out borders, planting the young fruit trees I want to cordon, putting in some hedging and needing a greenhouse so I can get everything growing. And that’s way before I’m worrying about painting and decorating!

In addition to taking some cuttings from herbs for the new Mediterranean garden, I’ve sown some broad beans, a few delphinium seeds and some more sweet peas. I’m being strict with myself – as you can see. ;) I’ve also challenged the husbo to grow me two banana plants and two tree ferns from seed. The banana’s are now in, so we’ll see his progress!

Saying farewell to the allotment

Finally, I’ll be bidding farewell to our allotment this month. Funnily enough, it was getting an allotment that actually began this whole blogging process; I wanted a way to keep track of our efforts. Alas, with moving a 45 minute drive away, I really can’t keep it and, if I’m honest, I should’ve given it up a few years back. I’m not really an allotment person. Mary (my godmother who I share the plot with) loves the social aspect of it – something which I don’t share. I like to go, work, come home. The problem I find is, like trying to get to the gym, I just can’t be bothered to get there in the first place. And thus, our plot languishes without us. Mary can’t work it on her own, and I’m going to be starting growing veggies at home which I think will be MUCH more in keeping with my love for pottering. I’ve been watching a lot of the horticultural channel for inspiration. It’s for gardeners, by gardeners and a great source of help, so check it out if you’re growing veggies and need some help.

So, with spring starting to become a reality on the distant horizon, I’m excited about what 2015 will hold. What are your gardening plans? Have you been inspired by the plethora of television shows? What will you be growing this year?

A New Wildflower Meadow Project

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This year, as if I haven’t got enough to do, I’ve decided to start a new project – sowing a 1.5acre wildflower field in Suffolk!

You’ll know that I’ve been banging on about moving back to my family farmland since this blog began, but I’ve now realised that just because I don’t live there yet, doesn’t mean I can’t manage the land. As a result, the Fund It, Sow It, Grow It project has begun!

When I was younger, I remember walking amongst those fields of long grass and watching skippers, blues and meadow brown butterflies bouncing around. Bees would be bustling around in the undergrowth, hares nibbling on the edges and pheasants dipping in and out of the ditches. Thistles, nettles, and cowslips were rife, as were stunning buttercups and the odd rare orchid. As little kids we were weighed down with jars and butterfly nets – left alone amongst the Suffolk acres to amuse ourselves and get to know the local flora and fauna. Alas, those fields have disappeared having been worked for crops in more recent years, but now it’s the time to bring a little wildlife and flower haven back to life. Not only will this provide a safe place for plants and animals, but it’ll also boost pollination of the surrounding fields and orchard.

As you’ll see in my video (I HATE taking videos, but it had to be done), I have the means to plant up some of the field BUT not all of it, and that’s where my IndieGoGo project comes into action. If we all work together and put in a little bit, I can plant the entire field up this year! It’s a very exciting prospect, especially as it’s hard to think about doing such a thing when you’re living in the suburbs like me.

So please pop over to the website, watch the video, read about the campaign, leave a comment, donate a little and get involved!

Help me Fund It, Sow It, Grow It and build better roots for rural wildlife. 

On My Oasis – Why I Love Winter Plant Shopping

Okay, so if you’ve ever been to a plant nursery in the depths of winter, you know you probably won’t find a lot. After the obscene mass of Christmas trees have left the building, you’re pretty much left with sparse trees and shrubs, a few winter pansies, hellebores and a scattering of dormant plants. However, if you have a good rummage around you’ll probably find a ‘clearance‘ section. In fact, many nurseries run these year round, so it’s not just winter. Like supermarkets, these are filled with plants the garden centre wants shot of….normally because they’re not looking their best, not that they’re dead. Nurseries want to be selling pretty plants, perfect for planting. Unfortunately many of these have been forced in preparation for selling. So, rather than buying a flower that continues to look great, all too often it’s blooms fade fast. Therefore, in my humble opinion, it’s FAR better to do a little research and buy plants ahead of their flowering season so you can get them home and established first.o

On a trip to Chigwell Nursery last week I was over the moon to find a whole shelf of Achillea in the clearance section; reduced to £1! Yippeeeee. As you’ll note from the picture, they need a little love to revive them, but these are herbaceous plants anyway, so they don’t look good during the winter. It looks like the crowns may have died off, but there’s enough foliage to give me hope I can restore these plants….it may take a while, but I bought seven plants for the amount a single one would normally cost.  It adds to my collection of rescued plants, including two venus fly traps I got for 10p each and a fern I got at B&Q for 30p because it had dried out and wilted. And, if the worst happens and plants do die, you’ve only lost a few pounds at most.

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So, if you’re on a tight budget and are happy to take a little bit of pot luck, look in the clearance section and see what’s available. Most plants can be revived with watering and nurture…and even if they’re coming to the end of their life, you can often get a cutting or two out of them – much cheaper than buying a mature plant. I find it makes the process of gardening more heartening too because if you do revive a plant, you’ll always remember the joy, not only of the bargain, but the fact you brought it back to life too.

Propagating herbs for a Mediterranean garden

I’ve finally realised I can’t take my entire garden with me on the move (honestly, I’m still taking most of it)! The new oasis, though a long and thin suburban garden, is south facing, has a six foot wall along one side and is perfect for breaking up into smaller ‘rooms’….yep, I’ve been pretty lucky. ;) Having enjoyed last year’s honeymoon in sunny Paxos, and loving home-grown herbs, it was a natural choice to create a photo (5)Mediterranean garden right outside the backdoor by the kitchen and lean-to. Along with a couple of olive trees, some jasmine and the hardiest bougainvillea I can find, I’m going to make it all about herbs; that way, not only are they right outside the kitchen but when we’re sitting outside on a balmy summer’s night, we can enjoy the smells of great plants too.

Luckily, taking rosemary cuttings and propagating other herbs for a Mediterranean garden is pretty easy. It’s not exactly the best time of year to start thinking about cuttings (spring’s the best time), but I’ve got a few sunny windowsills so I can get these little’uns on the grow now. There’s a 20 year old Rosemary bush in the front garden that’s stood whatever’s been thrown at it but alas, it’s too large to take on, so it’ll have to live on in our new place. The mint I’ll lift, but I have some beautiful purple sage and a lovely tussocky thyme that’s probably better to grow new plants from rather than save the originals. My method for propagating is very easy and uncomplicated, and is as follows;

  • Use some seedling and cutting compost, and gently firm it down to ensure it’s settled.
  • Strip the leaves at the bottom of the cutting so you’ve got a couple inches of bare stem
  • Find one of the stripped leaf nodes and cut beneath it with a sharp knife.
  • Push into the compost – around the edges so that splitting is a little easier later on
  • Place inside a ziplock bag. I like this method as it makes protecting the cuttings extremely easy. When rooted, just open the bag so you can easily water and allow the plants to breathe properly. You can also re-use the bags. Win/Win.

They’re now on a warm windowsill settling in and, hopefully, getting ready to root themselves and embark on the travels ahead. Now….to try and hold back my wallet as the list for the rest of the Mediterranean patch grows……

On My Oasis – 2015’s Here

I can’t quite believe 2015’s here already. However, I have to admit, I’m glad. 2014 was a great year but the last few months really ramped up the stress and I’m breathing a sigh of relief I can start the New Year with a clean slate and, it seems, some horticultural obsessiveness! In the first weekend of 2015 I spent the days watching ‘Big Dreams, Small Spaces‘; a great little gardening show focused on real people, real gardens, and individual’s gardening dreams coming to fruition. Monty was, perhaps, a little patronising in places, but for the most part it’s a great series. I then caught up with ‘The Great British Gardening Revival‘; a show that was on last year but that I missed ALL of. And, what would you know? Series 2 starts tonight! And, finally, I was pleasantly surprised at the new Sky series, ‘Show Me Your Garden‘ which has three keen gardeners sharing, and judging, each others gardens every week. With all this, I’ve had a little kick up the rear and my horticultural inspiration is flowing again, meaning there’s LOTS of plans for the coming year.

Packing up and moving on

The garden’s being potted up and packed, ready for the move.

One major thing for the next few months is the big move. I’m leaving London and setting my sights on Grays and have a new house and garden to explore. The new oasis is very much a traditional British space; i.e. long, thin, with a lawn flanked by a tiny border on each side. However, hubby and I have been drawing up plans – I don’t think the garden will know what’s hit it. We currently have ideas for a Mediterranean garden right outside the back door as it’s a suntrap. My aviaries will be immediately next to this, with a winding brick path, heavily planted on either side. A small lawn with bench, topiary and cutting flowers will be revealed halfway down the garden, and then there’ll be a veg patch with hens and a greenhouse (I cannot wait for this; no more seedlings on windowsills).

It’s a lot to think about and we have no budget, so it’ll be a work in progress over the coming years particularly as we have to focus on doing the house up first. However, it will be fun! I have LOTS of plants already and am currently potting them up or taking cuttings so I’ve got things to move with. However, I need to source:

  • A shed
  • A greenhouse (my mum has a second one she’s willing to give us, BUT it’s been in storage for years and I’m not sure all the bits are there)
  • A new hen coop
  • Large contains for Olive trees out back and Eucalpytus trees for front garden

So…look out for deals, offers and reviews on these here as I’ll be searching high and low and then posting my findings!

Meanwhile, up in Suffolk….

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There are plans afoot to create a wildflower meadow here.

There are plans afoot for a new native wildflower meadow and some tree planting. This idea directly stemmed from The Great British Garden Revival. Our dream is to move back to Suffolk one day, build a home upon the family farmland we have, and retrieve the acres from the current tenants and have a smallholding. I’d always put off ideas of land development before, thinking we’d do them when we got there. BUT, working the land isn’t instant and takes years; especially when it comes to trees. I suddenly realised there was nothing stopping us planting up one of the meadows now. It’ll mean that when we move there (hopefully in 5 – 7 years time), the wildflowers will be established and the trees will have got a few years growing done. I talked to my Dad, and we agree that my grandparents would’ve loved both the idea and the fact that I, a 4th generation, was returning to managing the land, so it’s Green Lit.

Having spoken to the tenant farmer and now knowing the land’s free of crops, the idea will be to go up later this spring and sow by hand. I can’t afford seed for the entire field, so the plan will be to plant satellite clumps around the field which will sow themselves over coming years and gradually knit the entire thing together. It should only take a couple of trips per year; one to sow and the second to scythe down in autumn. I’m SO excited by this!

So, as you can see, I’ve got quite a lot going on this year. What’s going on in your oasis? Plans for 2015? Let me know!

Upcycle Pallets for a Homemade Garden

Pallets, pallets, pallets. They’re everywhere, right? Until you actually want one. Luckily, our large vivarium (yes, I keep dart frogs too) was delivered on a pallet and it’s still standing outside the house. But, they’re pretty available; walk past a street full of skips and you’re sure to find some. The thing is, these pallets are sat there just waiting to be upcycled. I can’t bring myself to throw out the current one and, now I’m starting to plan the new garden, I’ve realised there are several uses I can put this too. On my lengthy excursions to Pinterest, and other gardeners websites, I’ve stumbled across some amazing ideas so here’s just three that I, myself, am considering for this sole pallet. I’m sure to be on the hunt for more soon!

A Pallet Gate

The new garden needs to have very specific zones for ornamental and vegetables, largely to keep the dog from peeing on the cabbages. For this, I’m going to need a gate but, you know, buying a house ain’t cheap and we’re not going to be flush with money. Especially after rewiring the new place!

Palet Gate

A pallet gate discovered on Pinterest.

I discovered the post to the left on Pinterest, and it certainly shows just how easy a pallet gate can be to make. Other than the pallet itself, you need very little other than some gate hinges and pivots which can be cheaply picked up from Barrier Components. I’d face the flat side of the gate towards the ornamental garden so the rough looks towards the vegetable patch. OR you could orientate it as is, nail a couple of boards across the bottom to create a box and actually plant into the gate itself; sedums, for example, or some carex. I’d also be tempted to paint the pallet too.

 

 

A Pallet Shelf

I love this idea…and not only for the wine! If you’re like me and prefer planting and digging than sowing and nailing, then this is a project for you. Simple get two pallets, paint them and nail them together. Two or three paving slabs can then be used as a top and, hey presto, you have yourself a ‘wine bar’. I’m pretty sure I’m going to use my sole pallet as a garden gate BUT, I really want to try this too. So, I suppose the hunt (read skip-diving) to find two more pallets in the best possible condition.

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Even I’d be able to knock up this garden table.

 

 A Pallet Green Wall

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An extremely simple green wall

Okay, you seen some pallet upcycles and think ‘there’s no way I’ll be able to do that‘. Well, like the above pallet shelf, this green wall is extremely easy to do. You’ll often see some pallets stuffed with soil and planted up, but I wonder how well those really work unless you actually put some form of lining within. I mean, surely the soil begins to settle downwards and every time the plants are watered, debris breaks out below. Also, they must dry out very quickly. This alternate idea is perfect because it’s simple, cheap and easy to change when you want to.

All you need to do is cut the pallet in half to reduce it’s weight. I’d probably take some wax or oil to the pallet first, or paint, to give it a bit of colour and also repel water as much as possible, particularly if it’s not in a sheltered spot. Other than some stain, you just need a couple of hooks or a chain to hang the pallett.

You can swap the pots and birdfeeders at will. You could use it as a tool rack for trowels and forks. Be careful not to overload the pallet and that it’s securely fixed to the wall.

 

These three ideas as very simple to do and I’m going to attempt all three at some point in the new garden. I’ll post pics when I get my projects completed!

 

Welcome to The Guide to Gay Gardening's new look!


Living in the grey smog of London utopia, I forge my little existence in a slightly loopy, hermity, hippy manner, sharing my life with the hens, cats and other menagerie that have somehow taken over my life.

If I'm not enjoying the great outdoors with my netbook in hand, I'll be snipping, pruning, planting, cutting, propagating, shovelling, or just plain admiring. You can even catch the occasional glimpse of me on the TV now and then!

Take the weight off for a while. Sit back, relax, read, send me feedback, but mostly just take a moment and look around you.....mother nature is beautiful.


Geoff Wakeling

Mail Me: geoffwakeling(at) theguidetogaygardening(dot)com
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