The Joy of Geraniums

Perennial geraniums are a fabulous plant. I mentioned ‘perennial’ because the misnomer that pelagoniums are geraniums continues, led by garden centres and nurseries around the country. In fact, both of these plants are perennial. Pelagoniums, though not frost hardy, will quite happily develop into a…

Read more

A 'Blooming' Good Reason for Growing Houseleeks

Succulents have, by and large, passed me by for most of my green-fingered life. It was only when I began planning my wedding and looking at more masculine table settings and bouquets, that I began to realise just how wonderful Sempervivum (houseleeks) are. Until then I knew them only for nostalgic r…

Read more

Making a Case for Violas

There’s no love lost between Pansies and I. I’m not really a big fan of gaudy flowers, and I’m afraid I normally put pansies in this category. Add the fact there’s a vast amount of deadheading to do throughout the season, not to mention these plants tend to be short-lived and get very straggly, and …

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Hollyhocks

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…

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Dahlias

‘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 …

Read more
© Geoff Wakeling

Plant Pick - Growing 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…

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Osteospermum (Cape Daisy)

I always feel as if some plants are vastly overlooked for tropical looking species and varieties that are new on the scene. Osteospermum (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 jucundu…

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Sedum (Herbsfreude)

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…

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing 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…

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Thrift (Armeria)

I think I must’ve first come across Thrift (Armeria) 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…

Read more
Pink Thrift in a natural setting - Flickr - © AnnaKika

On My Oasis – New Plants

You’ll have heard me say this time and time again; I’m a plant hoarder. I just love pretty things. Fluffy flowers. Leaves that are a tapestry of veins. Tiny plants, squat plants, giant, towering, soaring plants. Buy them, plant them, squish them in wherever there’s a space. I’ve long given up trying to achieve that ‘designed’ look with a small palette of both colour and planting. I try to adhere to some form of idea, but then I go to a garden centre or plant stand and see something I just HAVE to have, even though, in no circumstances, does it fit with anything else in my garden.

At this time of year, there are a tonne of plant clearances on. Online shops are trying to get rid of old stock. Local nurseries don’t want the overheads of caring for too many plants over winter so there are bargains to be had. And home DIY stores *ahem – Homebase, B&Q etc* have never been great a plant stock so there’s always something sitting in the clearance aisle.

This week was all about decorating INSIDE for once, but we’d run out of masking tape for painting and so began my trip to B&Q. Before long I was lured into the garden section and was filling up with half dead plants and dried out flora. To be fair, they weren’t that dried out and they’re very much alive. Even so, they were massively knocked down in price.

So, I got two euphorbias, two verbena and three salvia for a grand total of…..£12. Ta daaaa. Normally it would have set me back £33, which isn’t a lot – I know – but when you’re doing it every other week, it soon adds up.

To see what I found, enjoy the video! And, listen to my advice – get out to the home DIY stores quick and snap up some cheap plants ahead of next year!

How to Prune Lavender

If you’re anything like me, especially if you’re only starting out, you’re a little cautious when it comes to pruning. I mean, you don’t want to chop too much off in case you kill your beloved plant. So, when it comes to lavender plants, it’s worthwhile following the guidelines. However, I quickly realised that my careful snipping meant plants were gradually getting larger, leggier and woodier in the core. And the problem with lavender is that it won’t grow from dead wood. It means that your once bushy plant soon becomes a trailing disaster with all the leaves on the ends of thick, gnarled wood.

So, if you’re looking at how to prune lavender, here’s what I do. I warn you; I’m pretty brutal. BUT I do find it comes back brilliantly. If you’re not this brave, cut back so there are three or four buds. That way at least you’ll keep some shape.

Good luck!

On My Oasis – Winter Planning

I know it’s only September, but I’m already thinking about winter. At this time of the year, the weather turns rather turbulent; it can be hot and humid one day and then – BAM – the next morning it’s grey drizzle as far as the horizon. It’s also a time when I find it hard to hold off the urge to cut back. There’s something rather satisfying about clearing out beds, pulling up old vegetables that have given their lot and doing a general prune of the garden. Of course, this isn’t always the best option; especially if you want to have a wildlife friendly garden. In fact, particularly for the latter, it is best to leave your garden looking unruly and then clean things up in the spring.

This year, however, things are slightly different in that I’m growing winter crops and trying to get year-round harvests. Other than that, planning for this winter is all about smothering the flower beds in manure and trying to enrich the extremely poor soil. I think I’d forgotten just how much I put into the soil of the old house – after all, I was there 10 years. This soil has been left un-gardened for decades and if I’m to see any kind of success next year, I need to get that soil rich with nutrients. So, lots of poop and *fingers crossed* some hard frosts to break that material down into the soil.

So, winter salads, some pak choi and some cabbage seedlings will be the main plan here. On Brimwood Farm I’ve got a few big projects to get done in the coming months; scything the wildflower meadow back and putting up the crowdfunded owl nesting boxes are just two. In addition, as you’ll see in this video, there’s some major bramble thickets to cut. It’s all manual labour here; no tractors or machinery to scoop all the crap out so it’s going to be quite an undertaking!

Finally, I’m still incubating chickens. After the disaster with myco I was rather defeated about breeding efforts. However, my d’Anver and silkie birds have not been contaminated. As a result, I’m hopeful that I can establish a new Ixworth flock in a separate coop and keep them clean. I’ve got 12 hatching eggs and am looking at keeping three or four hens and a rooster to start with. Due to hens maturing more slowly, I’ll keep pullets from this batch and then try to source an unrelated cockerel. Then, though I can’t have quite the flock I’d originally wanted, I’ll still have space to start a small pedigree flock.

I’m starting a new Ixworth flock – 12 eggs now in the incubator!

So, as the year begins to wind itself towards the winter, what are you up to in your garden?

How to Take Buddleia Cuttings

I’m a huge fan of propagation; there’s not many hobbies where you can cut up your collection and they’ll grow into brand new, shiny things. I mean, c’mon! Cool!

At Brimwood Farm I have a plan of creating a buddleia (butterfly bush) grove. It means you’ll be able to walk through this little collection of shrubs covered in white flowers and butterflies, and then emerge into the wildflower field. In a couple of years it should be fabulous.

However, I’m not that flush with cash so can’t just go and buy 20 buddleia bushes. So – cuttings! You can take semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings now, and that’s exactly what I’ve done!


Boxtree Caterpillar – Is This the End for Traditional Box Topiary?

Box topiary has a special place in the hearts of many gardeners. It’s been used to create elaborate landscapes for centuries. For many modern gardeners, there’s something exciting and alluring about having some closely clipped box topiary in the garden, whether it’s a couple of standard spirals to frame the front door, a low box hedge or even an intricate knot garden. A few years ago we all began battling blight, but there’s a new hazard and something we might not being able to come back from; box tree caterpillar.

Box Tree Caterpillar; destroying plants across the country.

These critters are a relatively new pest, having only appeared on UK shores in 2008, and then caterpillars appearing in people’s gardens during 2011. This causes an issue; there’s not a lot of treatment other than painstakingly picking them off. You can utilise pheromones in an attempt to deter the adult moths themselves, but it’s not 100% effective. And, though general purpose insecticides can be used plants need a thorough dousing. And there’s the further question….should they be used when they do so much damage?

Caterpillars don’t actually destroy a box tree plant, but defoliate it extremely quickly; you only need turn your back for a week and a plant is ruined. With box being slow growing, not to mention expensive, you can watch your beautiful standard lollipop or cone disintegrate into nothing more than a few dried brown sticks covered in webbing and larval faeces. Nice – not.

Under a week’s worth of damage to this starter box hedge.

Replacement is an option, of course. But it’s expensive. And if this becomes an annual issue, is there any point? Almost every single one of my London-based clients has lost some of their box this year, and the problem is spreading. To that end, it’s worth considering alternatives. Wisley, for example, are running a trial of other options. The beautiful RHS gardens hardly have any box tree anymore due to mounting growing issues. And this seems likely to be a trend for both estate and back gardens across the UK.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the end for topiary, but perhaps does spell doom for our traditional box. It’s sad, but could prove beneficial in the long run particularly for gardeners’ wallets if substitute plants are more affordable. To see the full damage – and the little blighters themselves – I popped a video up at Brimwood Farm.

Thoughts? Have you tried alternatives? Let me know!

On My Oasis – Olives and September Heat

Hot, ain’t it?! And apparently tomorrow could be the hottest September day for over five decades. Blimey. Though I’m sitting here in shorts, vest and still sweating, I’m rather glad of the heat. You see, as my post last week eluded too in a non-subtle way, the growing year in 2016 has been a bit crap. So, though the days may be getting shorter, the sun might just extend the season for some last minute joys.

For example….these are my olives…..

Will I manage to get these to ripen?

For a £10 tree from IKEA, it ain’t bad, is it? I’m keeping the patio doors open as much as possible so the olives have the added glass over them in a desperate bid to ripen something. That would be amazing. I mean, I’m not holding my breath – this is the UK, after all. We are not known for our olive growing capabilities for little wonder.

Meanwhile, the last surviving butternut squash the slugs didn’t get earlier this year is producing a profusion of flowers. Again, I’m desperately hoping I might get a couple of gourds; even if they’re relatively small. I was enthused to see a couple starting to grow but as of writing, I’ve wandered down the garden to discover that one of them (luckily not the one pictured) has gone mushy. Noooooo. However, now that cabbage white season is also over, the kale is having a little resurge and wonderful new and unblemished foliage is coming through.

Loads of lovely butternut squash flowers.

One of a few developing gourds.

New kale leaves unblemished by damn caterpillars.

Finally, I’ve begun to start cutting back in the ornamental garden. A lot of things have gone over, and more things have struggled to grow well this year in poor soil, heat and dryness. The agapanthus did extremely well, however, and though I’ve cut most the flowers back I just LOVE the seed pods so I’ve left a few on. Also, the cyclamen I rescued from B&Q in Jan at just 10p each are coming back into leaf and flower. I’ve popped a few in the old tin bath with the pine; I think they look really pretty.

I always leave a few agapanthus seed pots on – they look lovely in the frosts.

Cyclamen for 10p! They’re coming back into their own.

Till next time!

Welcome to The Guide to Gay Gardening!

Meet Geoff Wakeling