Archive for the ‘Hedges & Boundaries’ Category

box hedge 2

I’ve been planting little box hedge plants this week. I think they’ll make a great new edge to the walled border near the house.  I can see now they are not quite in a straight line .. but hopefully they will grow together over time and no one will notice. 😉

These are 2 year old plants. As you can see they’ve started to put on lot of new growth and are about 6 inches high, which is an ideal size for planting out.

I find April/May the best time to plant box as the ground has warmed a little and there is still plenty of rain around, which box hedge seem to love.

box hedge 1

Once the cuttings have rooted I pot them on and move them to the cold frame. If you don’t have a cold frame a sheltered spot in the garden should be fine.

Planting Box Hedge

Although box like moisture I find they don’t respond well if they are sitting in water, so I prepare the ground first by mixing in a good helping of well rotted compost, mixed with an equal quantity of sharp sand. They seem to like growing in our chalky thin soil.

Below are just a few of their 4 year old cousins which are growing away on the opposite side of the path, and as you can see they have put on a fair bit of growth in that time.

box hedge 3

I’ll start trimming them into shape next weekend and I’m hoping they’ll look like this one day. 🙂


If you’ve never grown your own box plants from cuttings I urge you to have a go. I raise all my own box hedge plants in late September. If I can do it … anyone can!

Box Plant From Cuttings

Although it’s not the ideal time to take box cuttings now, I thought I’d share with you my method. Btw I’ve taken Box cuttings in June before and had plenty of success.

Buxus (Box) is a great plant to raise from cuttings, as they nearly always root and I think they make a beautiful edge to a path.

Propagating from cuttings - Box Cuttings

When you’re looking for plants to use as cutting material try to select healthy, strong looking plants with plenty of new growth. It’s the new growth that makes the best cutting material.

Although it’s not critical I find it helps if you ‘tear’ semi hardwood cuttings from the stem of the plant leaving the cutting with a slight ‘heal’. I don’t know why, but it just seems improve your chances of success.

You’re going to need about 4-6 inches of stem above the heal, so snip off the rest of the cutting with a sharp knife. Then plunge a fist full of cuttings into rooting compound to encourage the cutting to develop roots.

box-cuttings sitting in Organic rooting compound

I tend to use an organic liquid compound, for no reason other than it’s nearly always works for me. Also you’ll need a 4-5 inch plant pot with a mix of 50 / 50 potting compost and sharp sand.

As I raise several hundred plants at a time I use mostly sharp sand as there is a plentiful supply at the local builder’s merchant, so it works out a lot cheaper.

This next bit is really  IMPORTANT!

  1. Collect your cutting material early in the morning when the plant is bursting with energy and store them in a plastic bag until they are ready to use.
  2. Try to get the cuttings into the compost as soon as possible after it has been cut from the plant as it will continue to transpire moisture through the leaves and start to wilt, as it has no source of moisture.
  3. Finally make sure you keep the cuttings watered for the first few weeks, until they start growing away.

If you decide to have a go at growing your own plants from cuttings do let us know how you get on … and feel free to send is your pictures.

Back soon.

Best wishes,




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Brrrrr … Woke up to a hard frost this morning. Beautiful to look at …. but flipping cold! -4 degrees in the car and I had to scrape the inside of the windscreen.

Thank goodness I took the time to put the Acers in the polytunnel last Autumn.

I grow most of my Acers in pots for that very reason. I’ll take them out of the poly around mid-May by which time they’ll have grown a new set of leaves. I started my collection about 3 years ago with a dozen 8-inch plugs I bought on EBay.

I thought it was a bit of a gamble at the time, but just 3 years later they’ve grown into great little plants and are worth 5-6 times the original price.


If you’ve grown Acers you’ll know what I mean when I say they are at their best in late Spring when the new leaf is at its most vibrant. In the winter, they look like dead twigs! … But in 3-4 months they’ll be back to their magnificent best.

While the weather is cold it’s too wet and miserable to get onto the soil my thoughts turn to garden maintenance. It’s just as important to keep on top of the jobs that don’t necessarily provide any immediate benefit. Stuff like painting the sheds mending any broken fences and anything that may have blown over or snapped.

I like to get these jobs done before the growing season starts to limit any damage to any plants that may be growing in the vicinity of where I’m working. They stand a better chance of recovery if you do it now.

The big job for the Spring has to be the fences. They’re in a poor state of repair which is reflected in the fact that the chickens are always escaping into next doors plot. It’s not fair on my neighbours so I need to do something about it.


As you can see from the pics the fence is your bog standard post and sheep wire construction, which is actually the responsibility of my neighbour as he put up the original fence. The posts were inferior grade and have rotted out of the holes, so I need to replace with better quality posts so it will last.

I’ll replace the posts with chestnut posts and then staple some chicken wire on top of the sheep wire to keep the escapees on the right side of the fence!

On the left side of the plot, my neighbour has recently taken up stock car racing and his plot is rapidly filling up with second-hand cars. Rather disappointingly what was a beautiful view across to the barley fields is now starting to resemble a scrap yard!


I suppose I could get in touch with the local council but I’d rather not fall out with my neighbour and, to be honest, the fence is pretty grim anyway. I plan to replace it with a new 5ft. post and feather board fence.

The only snag is it the sun will be in The West essentially behind the fence which will create shade. It’s a shame but I can only see the car situation getting worse, and anyway, I’ll grow some shade loving creepers like a climbing hydrangea and stuff it with Hostas and anything else I can think of.

So that’s my Spring project sorted … Just need to work out the materials list and choose a sunny weekend in March.

I’ll ket you know how it comes together for anyone that might be thinking about building their own fence. I’ve done it before and it’s fairly straightforward but there are a few things to be aware of. Details to follow sometime in March.

Anyway is almost the end of Jan and although it’s freezing cold the sun has just come up and it’s looking gorgeous!

A few more weeks and we’re into March and the clocks go forward. Just the best time in the garden!

Back soon

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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Planning A New Herbaceous Border

There is something quintessentially English about the herbaceous border that can’t be matched in my view. If you’re lucky enough to have a herbaceous border of your own you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!

If you’re looking to create your own border then read on as we share our journey as we create a brand new border at Blackbirds.

Choosing a site
We  finally finished moving the polytunnel which has given us a much better outlook from the house and to be honest … it feels like it should have been there in the first place! As you can see from the photo below it’s left us with a fantastic space.

Planning our new herbaceous border

It’s approximately 26 feet by 16 feet which is simply crying out for a lovely mixed herbaceous flower border.

Planting a new border is great fun and I’ve been lucky enough to create two borders in the garden already. But there is something not quite right about them, so this time I’m going to do my research first before I attempt to plant anything.

After a brief consultation period with John (30 seconds from memory), I decided we’d use one-half for more fruit and veg and the other for the new herbaceous border. Should look amazing when it all comes together.

The new border will be on my neighbours side of the garden which is currently a large open space on which he stores a couple of caravans.

Planning our new herbaceous border

They’re not overly offensive, but I need to find a way to hide them without having to put up a massive fence. I’m not a fan of wooden fence panels and I prefer to use hedges if I can as it helps to bring in the wildlife.

I plan to grow a few evergreen shrubs at the back of the border to create a little more privacy and to provide a nice backdrop for the rest of the plants. We struggle to grow evergreens on our chalky soil so I’m going to need to be inventive when it comes to the planting. Probably sink a few large pots in the ground and backfill with ericaceous compost.

Designing the border
A couple of weeks ago we had a fabulous few days in Cornwall. We managed to grab the last of the late summer sunshine. Cornwall and St Ives, in particular, are simply gorgeous at this time of the year as most of the summer holiday makers have left.

While we were in the area we visited a fantastic garden at Lanhydrock House where I photographed this amazing border with a fabulous planting scheme. The colours are predominantly light shades of pink, purple and white with the odd rich orange crocosmia which make the border really pop!

Planning our new herbaceous border

What I noticed about it is firstly was the size. It just looks so impressive! Also, it’s planted with occasional evergreens which I think are for structure and to keep the border looking fresh in winter. (Herbaceous plants tend to die back in the winter and can look a little tired)

Fortunately for me those clever people at Lanhydrock left a few printed planting plans in a little cubby hole alongside the border to help visitors identify the plants. Just a brilliant idea … Each one numbered with the full name alongside.

We’re going to base our planting on the border at Lanhydrock House.

It is a simple basic oblong design that fits with my new space which will have a long path down the middle to add the sense of perspective. We’ll divide the area in half with one side for the border and the other for veggies. I’d like to incorporate a feature circle half way along to create a resting spot where we can simply sit on a summers evening with a glass of the fizzy stuff and watch the sun set as it drops below the tree line.

Planting A Willow Arch

We have some willow plants that were propagated from some plants I bought John for his birthday a few years back. I’ll use those to create a little willow arbour which will be trained up and over the circle to create some shade on those barmy summer days. For the moment, I’ve put my standard Bay in the middle as a focal point.

I wonder if I can find an old wrought iron seat to add a little style? …  I’m thinking an old bench like those wonderful old wrought iron benches we used to see at the local cricket field.

Constructing the border
When creating any new border I like to get the paths marked out first. Nothing fancy, just a modest gravel path edged with timber edges. All recycled of course!

All you need is a string line a tape measure, (to keep the width of the path consistent) and a few lengths of 3 x 1 timber. I’m using a few boards salvaged from a couple of old pallets.

The only snag with wood edging is it will rot after a few years … but all you do is replace them and recycle the old ones as compost. Alternatively if you can afford it then iron edging looks great and will last a lifetime but that’s not in my budget I’m afraid.

Timber path edging

I’ve made the path approx 900mm wide which is enough for two people to pass and plenty of room for a wheelbarrow. All I do is drive in a few 2 inch squared wooden pegs about 3-4 feet apart making sure they are on the border side using the string line to keep them nice and straight.

I leveled the edging as much as possible and nailed the edging to the posts. Try not to bury them too deep or the gravel on the path will simply disappear into the border which is really annoying! A minimum two inches above ground should do it.

As the length of the border is about 28 feet I thought it best to divide the other side (veggie side) in half with a couple of paths using exactly the same process with the tape measure and string. Just remember to step back and eye up the lines to ensure they are straight and square to the main path. Nothing worse than a wonky path!

I have some bricks left over from the house build which I plan to use to edge the circle and the natural material of the bricks should help soften the overall feel and at the same time provide a nice little feature.

Planning our new herbaceous border

I’ll need to buy some sharp sand and cement to finish the job.

Well, the new border is starting to take shape!  Next time I’ll share how I plan to approach the planting and make a start on selecting the plants.

Should be fun!

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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I don’t know about you but it’s about his time of the year I start thinking about cutting the hedges. I was brought up in the country and I remember my dad used to take a lot of advice from a farmer friend when it came to hedge cutting. “When you see the farmer out with his tractor and hedge cutter then its time to cut the hedges” he used to say.

Well last weekend the farmer in the back field was out bright and early trimming the hedgerows  so I thought I’d get the step ladder out and start tidying up our mixed hedge. It’s about 60 meters of mixed hedge in total and has pretty much everything in it from lleylandi to hazel with the odd walnut sapling thrown in for good measure.

The hedge was here when we moved in and as each year goes with careful management it just gets better. Although it isn’t perhaps the most beautiful hedge you’ll find but it does host a variety of native birds and flora so it’s always best to wait until the birds have stopped breeding before cutting.

Every year I have the challenge of finding something to do with the waste material. Well this year a friend of mine gave us a small electric shredder. It doesn’t actually shred the waste, more like grinds the branches into submission!


Having said that it is a great little machine and I’m immensely grateful for it, not least as it enables us to create a by-product from the hedge trimmings which serves several purposes.mulchFirstly it makes a great surface for around the entrance to the nursery which is soft under foot and when its had a chance to break down it turns into the most amazing springy compost material.

The great thing is its cheap to produce and lasts for several seasons and you can throw it onto the compost heap or simply lay it on top of the beds and wait for nature to do its stuff.

Last year we started to scatter the trimmings on the paths in the kitchen garden to create a more natural feel.  One year on and its turned into the most amazing mulch which is soft under foot and can be used for mulching the flower beds.  I simply spade it onto the beds and work it into the soil and worms do the rest!

If you’re thinking of buying a shredder then the bigger you can afford the better is my advice. I love my little shredder but do sometimes wish I had a little extra power.

Here are my tips for trouble free shredding!

  • Read and follow the instructions that come with your shredder.
  • Be patient and avoid stuffing too much green material in at once especially Leylandii as it has a tendency to clog the machine.
  • Resist stuffing large branches in or you’ll likely burn out the motor. My little shredder will comfortably take branches up to an inch in diameter. Anything larger gets stripped of its branches and either used for poles in the garden or for winter firewood.

Like most of the green waste in the garden hedge trimmings can be a pain to get rid of  but if you’re able to invest in a modest little shredder I’d say go for it as the by-product is can easily be recycled.

I didn’t manage to finish the job this weekend so will be shredding some more next weekend.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners



Still living the dream …

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In May of last year I planted a Beech Hedge, (Hornbeam to be precise) against the fence at the front of Blackbirds.

After 12 months of growth I have to say I am a little disappointed how long it’s taken these plants to get going.  I used bare rooted plants, incorporated lots of compost in the planting hole and have been diligent with my watering.

I have read Beech and Hornbeam in particular is slow to grow away so I’m still hopeful we will have a half decent hedge in the next 5 – 10 years.

Unfortunately about 30% of the original plants have failed which I guess could be down to the extreme winter we had and the lack of any serious rainfall in Hampshire this year.

Anyway I’ve decided to plant a few Laurel plants in-between to try and fill the hedge out in the short term.

My neighbors all grow them very successfully, which must be down to the abundance of lime in our soil.

I grew them from cuttings which my neighbor very kindly let me have last summer. They grew really well and only 10% failed, so I’m going to have another go at growing a few more this summer.

Now I’m off to do a rain dance in a bid to help my vegetables through this terrible drought we’re experiencing in Hampshire.

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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Clematis Montana and Russian Vine

I’ve been shopping today …

I’ve been shopping for climbing plants to screen the nasty plastic oil tank out the front of the house. As per usual I couldn’t resist adding a couple more gems to the trolley! 🙂

I’ve always been a sucker for Clematis, or Clematis Vine as they are sometimes known, and it’s right about now I like to plant mine.

What I love about them is they are so reliable, and providing you prune them effectively, and feed them from time to time, they will reward you handsomely with all manner of  beautiful flowers.

I’ve had a fair amount of success in the past with most of the clematis plant family, Montana, Evergreen Armandii and the larger more familiar varieties.


I like to prepare a large deep hole about 3 times the size of the root ball, and prepare the ground with well rotted compost and a sprinkling of Fish Blood and Bone organic fertiliser.  The other important thing I’ve learned about growing Clematis successfully is to keep the roots cool and never let them dry out.

I tend to plant about 4 – 6 inches deeper than the top of the pot as it helps to stop the plant rocking in the wind and damaging the delicate stems. It also encourages the plant to put out a strong root system.  Finally I cover the surface of the soil with pea shingle and a couple of large stones to keep direct sunlight off the soil.


I don’t get too technical when it comes to pruning my clematis.  I give the plant a general tidy up in the Spring, removing dead or diseased branches, and then cut each stem back to approx 2 feet from the base. I give each plant a handful of bone meal and fork it into the surface, before giving the plant a good  water.  I prefer to use rainwater if I can as the water in Hampshire can be a bit hard due to the amount  of chalk in the landscape.
Russian Vine (Mile a Minute)To cover the oil tank I’ve gone for a Russian vine, otherwise known as ‘Mile a Minute’, on account of how fast it can spread. I’ve grown them in the past and they really do the trick…if you want to cover something in a hurry that is. They don’t mind being hacked back either so if (when) it gets out of hand I’ll tame it with my trusty shears!

The other 2 climbers I bought are both Clematis Montana’s. They are both fairly quick growing and are among the first of the clematis to flower, which is a bonus in
early summer. The first, ‘Pink Perfection’, will grow to a spread of  8m x 8m and has the most gorgeous pink scented flowers. The second is ‘Sunrise’, which is not so fast growing and reaches a maximum size of 5m x 5m.

They’re both going on the trellis between Blackbirds and my neighbors property, which should cover it just fine. I like to share my plants with my neighbours if I can, this way we can both enjoy the flowers and benefit from a little additional shelter (not to mention privacy).

Trellis just crying out for a Clematis Montana

Trellis just crying out for a Clematis Montana

Update – 12 June 2012

15 months later and the clematis have all established themselves and are providing the screen we were looking for. Just goes to show if you provide the right growing environment your plants should flourish.

Click to enlarge

… and the most gorgeous flowers!

Click to enlarge



Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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How To Plant A New Beech Hedge

If you’re thinking of planting a new beech hedge, or maybe Hornbeam I think you’ll find this post useful.

I’ve planted several hedges over the years and learned some useful stuff along the way that will help you on your way to creating a lush new hedge.

We’d originally planned to put up a post and rail fence at the front of the house, but even if we were to stain it green it wouldn’t be quite the same as an attractive beech hedge.  

We like to use Beech for our hedges, (more specifically Hornbeam) as the Spring growth is the most gorgeous vibrant green colour you can imagine and the birds just love it.

What should you consider when planting a new Beech hedge?

Planting a new hedge is pretty straight forward and your chances of a successful outcome are good, providing you follow a few basic principles.

The method I use also also works really well with Laurel, Box, Hawthorn, and most deciduous and evergreen hedges.

The most important thing is to prepare the ground really well before planting. Your hedge will be there for years to come so try to provide the best growing conditions to give it a fighting chance of surviving.

Bare root saplings or plants?

I prefer to buy bare rooted plants in winter when they are dormant and they tend to be cheaper. Keep an eye out for them at your local nursery and if you’re not ready to plant, buy them anyway and dig them in on a patch of redundant ground until the following Spring.

Alternatively drop them in a bucket of water and leave them until you’re ready to plant, which is exactly what I did.

Bare rooted plants

When you’re  ready to start planting I’d recommend running a line from the start of the hedge to the finish.  Of course you could plant by eye, but it’s never quite as straight as you think.  😉

Any special preparation required?

The first thing is to dig a  nice big trench and fill with a good quality top soil and well rotted compost mix.

How To Plant A New Beech Hedge

Your trench should be be a minimum 8 inches wide by 12 inches deep … and if you like to garden organically add a good handful of Fish Blood and Bone meal to the trench to encourage strong root development.

A useful tip is to give the bottom of the trench a good soak first to encourage the roots to spread out into your nice new compost mix.

How deep do I plant? 

No special treatment when it comes to depth, just make sure the roots are well covered, or chances are they will dry out.

Lay the bare rooted plant in the bottom of the trench spacing approximately 12 inches (30cm) apart and back fill with the compost mixture. Heal the plants nice and firm, but don’t ram the soil in or the roots won’t be able to breathe.

Finally, give them a really good soak … and fingers crossed they will get off to a good start and you can look forward to a lovely lush new hedge.

One final tip …  add a mulch of well rotted compost or cow manure around each plant and you’ve done as much as you can. The rest is up to mother nature. 🙂

The first 2 years are the most important in the survival of a new hedge, so keep your plants really well watered during dry spells and they should grow away just fine.


5 years later ...

5 years later …

I took this picture earlier today March 1 2015 almost 5 years since the saplings were planted.  It might help you in making a decision whether to plant a beech hedge in your garden. I’m not sure I would do it again … I’d prefer hawthorn on reflection. Much faster growing and you get the most wonderful flowers in the Spring.

There are more pics and advice here.

Good luck with your hedge!

Best wishes,


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