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Notes from the Garden Shed

March Notes

What springs to mind when Chrysanthemums are mentioned? Would it be the large, perfectly incurved blooms of the typical florists’ Chrysanthemum, some of which are like giant coloured ‘ puff balls’ . Could it be the ‘pot mums’ that are sold all the year round as gift plants? I am sure most readers are not aware of just how many different types of this popular flowering plant exist.
If you are lucky enough to own a greenhouse or cool conservatory, you could try growing some large incurving types or Japanese Chrysanthemums, both could be timed to produce some prize blooms for the Christmas table. These are rather specialist plants and require plenty of attention, particularly to feeding, dis-budding etc, through the growing season, but your patience will be rewarded with some gorgeous blooms.

If you do not have the use of a greenhouse, there are still plenty of other types which grow happily in the garden. If a good display is required in a border, the ‘Korean’ type of Chrysanthemum will give a good bold display, from September through to the frosts in November. This versatile plant is available in various colours, and will make a large during their first year.
Another type suitable for cut flower production in the garden are the pom-pom and anemone flowered types, these will bloom right through until the frosts cut them down in late autumn. The ‘Rubellum’ type of chrysanthemum is also very colourful with large single flowers and yellow centres, these last extremely well in a vase in a cool room, but I prefer to leave them in the border where they provide an excellent show.
If you are keen to try some of these versatile perennials, you could send for an illustrated catalogue from ‘Woolman’s Chrysanthemums, this long established firm of Nurserymen have been providing young plants to generations of gardeners, and have bred many new varieties over the years. Their catalogue should be available by post and also online. They supply rooted cuttings in the spring, for potting on prior to planting out. (of course other growers are available)
If you should have some established Chrysanthemum plants in the garden, you could lift your favourite ones and bed them into large pots or trays in January. If they are placed in a greenhouse, new shoots will soon appear. New shoots make ideal cutting material for creating a new generation of plants, which will be ready for flowering in the Autumn.
If you are keen on Chrysanthemums it must be worth growing a few large flowered Japanese/Incurves for a fine display at Christmas time, single blooms are a horrific price from florists, sadly most of these wonderful blooms are imported as our growers are not subsidised and are not operating on a ‘level playing field’.
Happy gardening,      Old Gumboot

Christmas notes from the Garden Shed.

For those traditional people who do not go for artificial Christmas trees, there are several types of ‘real’ trees available if you are prepared to search for them at garden shops or specialist Christmas tree growers’ plantations.

Norway Spruce

Norway Spruce

By far the most popular type of ‘live’ tree available is the Norway Spruce or picea abies to give it it’s proper title. Norway Spruce is widely grown, with many being grown here in Wales, where the climate seems to suit them.  This type of spruce makes a handsome tree in the forest when mature, but is not really suitable for garden use.   When cut down and taken into a house for decorative purposes they tend to object to warm centrally heated rooms, and drop their foliage ‘needles’  all over the floor if not kept moist.    I find that it helps if you make a fresh cut at the base of the stem as you install the tree, and if possible stand the base in a container of water, which will probably need to be topped up occasionally.

Nordman Fir

Nordman Fir

The Nordman Fir or Abies Nordmanniana to give it it’s botanical name, is becoming much more popular now.  The ‘Nordman’ has gained its popularity through its ability to hang on to its ‘needles’ for a longer period when taken into a warm house.   The Nordman firs are particularly handsome specimens in the woods where they belong, the foliage is much denser than the Norway Spruce and the reverse side of each ‘needle’ has a silvery tinge.     As Christmas trees the Nordman is usually more expensive to buy, but there could be less sweeping up to do when the festivities are over.

Scots Pine

Scots Pine

Some people prefer the more ‘open’ habit of the Scots Pine (Pinus Sylvestris).  These trees look particularly good if treated to a spray with some artificial snow, but they can be a bit too bulky for the average front room.

Douglas Fir is another handsome alternative to the Norway Spruce, these are not widely available from garden shops  as they are normally confined to areas of forestry, where they are grown as timber producing trees,  but in their juvenile stage they make a fine ‘Christmas tree’.

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir

There are arguments for, and against using living trees, but I think the use of ‘real’ trees is preferable to using tons and tons of plastic to produce artificial trees, however realistic they may look.

Whichever type you choose, I hope it brings you joy this Christmas.

 Old Gumboot (with bells and tinsel)

August Notes

Mid to late Summer is normally the time of year when roses are at their best, the majority of gardens include at least one of these versatile plants,  be it a neglected old rose bush, or an out of control rambling rose in dire need of a ‘haircut’.

If you wander through the rose display area at your local Nursery or Garden centre,  you will be presented with a vast range of rose types.  Most people are familiar with the traditional shaped bloom of the ’hybrid tea’ rose,  these have been developed in relatively recent times.  Cross breeding with various earlier forms of rose enabled breeders to achieve the varieties we are familiar with today.  The chosen attributes of several rose ‘ families’ were combined  in an effort to create the result the breeder was striving to achieve.

Most hybrid tea or HT as they are known are available in bush or climbing form, and of course hundreds of named varieties in various colours may be chosen to suit the colour scheme of any garden.

Floribunda  roses are a little different, their flowers are generally more plentiful and in multi-headed form, this makes them more suitable  for producing a showy display for mass plantings.  Floribundas  are often less scented then HTs , these too  are also available in bush form and some varieties are produced as climbers.

Rambling roses  are normally far more vigourous in growth habit, some able to cover large areas, these can give a stunning display of smaller flowers in various colours, but, often only for a short period in mid summer,  with careful ‘dead heading’ some will prodcuce a second crop of blooms later in the year.  Quite severe pruning is often required to keep some varieties of rambling rose in check.

The modern trend seems to be the quest to produce rose bushes that combine the best features of many past rose varieties, the aim being creation of repeat flowering, scented, and compact growing  varieties for use in smaller modern gardens, also for growing in containers ( patio roses)  and for smaller scale rose beds.

If you look through a rose catalogue, available from all the major rose nurseries, you will find just how many different types of rose are available to today’s  gardener,  be it for screening, by forming a ‘hedge’  or rambling over an old shed, climbing up a pergola or trellis or maybe simply as ground cover.

There is literally ‘a rose for every purpose’

Happy gardening

Old Gumboot.

June Notes

Now that we are well into the ” merry month of May ” the vegetable garden should be progressing nicely, but again this year we are having a late start due to the cold wet conditions that have persisted until fairly recently, preventing cultivations and seed sowing from taking place at the traditional time of the season.

In recent years a ‘Garden competition’ has become a regular feature within the Parish, where it is hoped that many horticulturally minded folks will enter their gardens, hanging baskets, and planters into this competition, in the hope of becoming a successful winning gardener.

With the “garden competition” in mind ‘Old Gumboot’ would like to see many more hanging baskets adorning the Villages in 2016, now is the time to make a start, if you have not already done so.

Baskets need not be expensive to produce. Plug plants or starter plants can be purchased thereby saving a lot of money if compared with fully grown bedding plants, and small plants are much easier to fit into a basket, and quicker to establish themselves. Some of the most common bedding plants can make a stunning display if they are well maintained, a mass of Lobelia in various shades soon fill s basket, as do petunias especially the surfinia type, in fact, 5-6 surfinia plants will clothe a basket fairly quickly, if kept well fed and watered.

The basis of a good display is of course a good basket in the first place. Give plenty of thought to the siting of your display, if you want it to be judged in the competition it must be in a prominent position, easily visible from the road or pavement. The weight of a watered basket can be quite considerable, therefore make sure you have a very secure hanging point.

Simple wire framed mesh baskets are perfectly good enough if lined with a coco fibre liner, polythene or the traditional moss. There are a wide range of other types of basket available, made from various plastics, some include built in water reservoirs which mean less time is needed for watering, but be wary as even these dry out out quickly in hot dry weather. The conical shaped baskets made from different fibrous materials seem popular now, and due to their depth are suitable for more vigourous plants such as the larger growing begonias and geraniums for example.

I find it makes the job easier if you stand your basket on an upturned bucket when preparing and planting up. Once the liner is installed it is time to add some suitable compost, you can buy ready prepared mix from the garden shop, or why not mix your own? I suggest John Innes compost number 3 which can be mixed with about 25% multi purpose compost, also add some slow release fertiliser and some water retaining gel granules to reduce the need for constant watering.

Now that you have some compost in your basket it is time to add the plants. Firstly consider your colour scheme and buy the appropriate plants. If you have a large basket ,you could plant a feature plant in the centre, maybe a geranium or two or tuberous rooted begonias which will bloom all summer. Fuchsias are not too successful in baskets if they are in bright sunlight, as they prefer to be cooler and partly shaded. Add some trailing plants around the edges of the basket, trailing geraniums, trailing lobelia, petunias, bidens are all suitable, you could also pop in a few small plants through the liner at the side of the basket, bizzie lizzies and surfinia petunias are ideal.

Top up with more compost and gently firm the compost, being careful not to damage the tender plants, finally water well to settle the plants in and place the freshly planted basket in a shaded position for a couple of days for the plants to become acclimatised to their new home. You may need to water the basket every day if the weather is hot and dry, water and plant food are essential during the season if you are to keep your basket looking at it’s best. Liquid feed every week, following the guidelines on the bottle, tomato feed is suitable for baskets and most bedding plants.

It is also important to deadhead the plants regularly, to remove faded and dead flowers, through the season.

The judges will be inspecting the Parish baskets during August, so make sure yours are looking good enough to win this year.

Also keep the flowers and produce growing well for later in the year for the Garden and Craft Show on the 10th of September.

Happy gardening

Old Gumboot

April Notes

I think it was November when the winter rains started in our area, and surprise surprise! it is still falling on my old shed roof, making gardening impossible today due to the waterlogged land, so, I will have to ramble on about something else, well it is gardening related.

Ever since man developed an interest and a need to produce his own food, he has been striving to find easier and more effective ways and means of cultivating the soil. Prior to this need to produce food, the hunter gatherers would have harvested what they could find on the land and in the woodlands surrounding their dwellings. Seasonal weather changes and increasing population must have lead to times of food shortage, this would have encouraged the cultivation of the land to enable simple food production to take place, in a small way, using limited resources.

Firstly clearings would have been made in the woodland to let in valuable daylight and rain to stimulate the crops.   Of course early man could not pop down to his local garden shop to purchase a spade or other suitable implement to enable him to carry out simple cultivations.   This fledgling gardener would have probably relied upon a suitably fashioned ‘digging stick’ which he found in the woods, or perhaps an animal bone which could be used to stir up the soil to produce a tilth suitable for planting grains or other seeds.

Once our hero had a crop growing away, he  would have found a lot of competition from what we now call weeds, and he would then have devised implements with a sharpened edge, either fashioned from flint or other hard stone and of course later from iron, for cutting down the weeds and suckers shooting up among his prized crop.

By now the ‘digging stick’ was probably superseded by some other kind of tool resembling a hoe or mattock  for chopping into the earth far more effectively than his old ‘digging stick’.

The identification of of the original manufacturer of the spade as we know it, has been lost in the mists of time ( No his initials were not B&Q!!)  from the earliest simple spades a wide range of shapes and sizes have been developed for carrying out specific tasks in the garden and on the farm.    Sadly a lot of these old designs are no longer produced due mainly to lack of demand in these days of mini-diggers and garden cultivators.  If you had very heavy soil you could choose a clay spade  that had a zig zag edge to the blade or a drainage spade or graft, which was very long and narrow to enable narrow trenches to be dug for laying tile drains, many other spades were designed for specific duties and to suit local conditions in various parts of the country.  many of these are rare items today as they were only produced in limited numbers to satisfy local gardeners,farmers etc.

A fork is just as important to most gardeners, the first forks were probably literally forked sticks or branches, which could be used to gather up and carry grass and other crops for the livestock.

Pitchforks would have been fitted with longer handles, for tossing sheaves of corn up on to a stack, before the days of  elevators and combine harvesters, by which time stacks had become obsolete .

There are probably many more types of fork available than there are spades.   A digging fork is a strong fork normally with 4 tines or speens, for turning over rough land, a smaller lighter version is known as a border or ladies fork, dung forks or stable forks have thin curved tines with pointed ends, these are used for handling manure etc and for ‘mucking out’ stables and cattle byres, some of these forks were made with 5 tines and either long or short handles.

Well!  it looks as though the rain has stopped at last, but the ground is still too waterlogged to even contemplate getting my tools out of the shed.  Maybe I will try to catch up a bit after a few dry days by using a mechanical assistant,  more about that another time.

Happy gardening.

Old Gumboot