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Notes from the Garden Shed

June Notes

Spring has finally arrived here in West Wales, we have been enjoying a really fine display of wild flowers in the fields and road verges, let’s hope that the local authority do not cut them down before they have set seed.

During the recent spell of good weather, ‘old gumboot’ took himself and the Memsahib across the sea to the south east of Ireland, where we enjoyed visiting several historic sites and ‘heritage gardens’. By far the most impressive was a 2 acre walled vegetable and fruit garden known as Colclough garden ( pronounced “Coke-Lee”) it was set up in the 1830s as part of Tintern Abbey.

As this area suffers from a higher than normal rainfall, most of the crops are grown on ‘ridges’ which are banked up prior to planting, these are like potato ridges but bigger. Rhubarb seems to thrive under these conditions as there were about 30 rows in full leaf, they looked enormous as they were also grown on top of these ridges. Potatoes too were being grown in this manner, but their ridges were 4-5 foot wide with 2 rows running along the top of each ridge, this is a very labour intensive method of growing, but it would help to prevent the tubers from rotting in the wet conditions.

I would recommend a trip to the Wexford/ Waterford area to see the interesting rural landscapes, lovely little villages and of course the extremely friendly people.

This part of the year is usually the busiest in the garden, with planting, seed sowing etc taking place. but with so many jobs to do, it is easy to overlook the dreaded weeds, which are now beginning to grow strongly along with our border plants and vegetables.

Small young weeds may be simply sliced off with a sharp hoe, and left on the soil surface to wither in the sun. Larger weeds in amongst plants can be removed using a hand fork or a larger border fork, these larger weeds should be removed by the roots if possible. If you are happy to use a herbicide, there are many types available at the garden shop. I find the most effective ones to be ‘Glysophate’ based, but be sure to ask in the shop, or read the directions on the packing, to check on safety advice before buying.

Be very careful to avoid ‘spray drift’ from the sprayer nozzle, as a small amount of drift on to your plants and crops can be disastrous, so avoid spraying when the wind is blowing.

There are also ‘flame weeders’ available, these are like a blowlamp and run on either butane gas or kerosene, these literally scorch the weeds into submission .

Which ever method you use to control your weeds, it is still important to keep on top of them, by not allowing them to set seed, thereby preventing another generation of seedlings to germinate, indeed some seeds remain viable in the soil for several years. The old saying is very true even today “One years seeds means seven years weeds”.

Enjoy your garden and try not to become a slave to your weeds.

“Old Gumboot”

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.