Archive for the ‘Garden Design’ Category

How To Design And Build Your Own Cut Flower Garden

I’m in the process of creating my first cut flower garden which I’d like to share so anyone thinking of doing the same can follow along. So far  I’ve been growing all sorts of Summer Annuals, Lupins and  Delphiniums from seed and taking cuttings of Chrysanthemums and Dahlias.  In case you missed the first 2 parts the links are below.

Creating a cut flower garden Part 1 – Planning

Creating a cut flower garden Part 2 – Pricking out

Over the weekend I’ve been busy planting up the beds and it’s actually starting to look more like a cut flower garden every day.

The area I’m using was mostly weeds and rubbish and not really being used for much, so I thought I’d try and turn it into something rather more pleasing on the eye, and at the same time create some scent at the bottom of the garden.

Planting Plan

As this is my first attempt I don’t have any particular planting plan in min, but I do know I’d like it to look as natural as possible, and produce as many blooms as possible in the space I have available. I’m thinking sweeping drifts of colour, nothing to uniform, growing in small compact little beds. This way I can get close to the flowers from all 4 sides and get even closer to all that gorgeous scent! But before I can enjoy any of that there’s some hard work ahead.


A couple of weeks ago I prepared 6 beds approximately 3m x 3m and dug in plenty of well rotted compost. The clever little worms have now done their stuff and worked all that compost into the soil, so now it’s time for the fun bit!

Each bed will have a mixture of annuals grown from seed in the polytunnel and an array of standard cottage garden favorites. I’m using Chrysanthemums, Dahlias and Lupins as the framework plants along with mixed varieties of Sweet Peas to create some height. For those who are regular readers of my posts you’ll know where possible I like to use hazel poles in my garden. They make great supports and give the garden a really natural organic feel.

I like to use Hazel poles for my sweet peas for a more natural effect

Preparing the ground.

We garden on chalky soil in Hampshire which means we have to work in lot and lots of organic material, at the same time trying not to dig too deep so as not to turn up too stones and flints that his area is famous for.

I think we must have shifted at least a ton of flint and stones  since we started the garden 3 years ago. All of which we’ve tried to recycle around the plot, either as post ballast or foundations for the many paths in the garden.

Softwood cuttings

Spring is the perfect time of the year to take Dahlia and Chrysanthemum cuttings so if you’re also thinking of using them in your garden I have a few tips which should help improve your chances of success.

Young Chrysanthemum cuttings

Young Chrysanthemum cuttings

I’ve been taking a succession of cuttings since late March and they’ve grown into great little plants, and apart from a little compost they were free!

Success with cuttings can be a but hit or miss, but you can increase your chances of success significantly if you’re able to provide a few basic requirements. I’ve created several posts on how to easily take cuttings, so if you’re never tried before  I’d say they are definitely worth a read.

The key to success with softwood cuttings

Commercial growers provide a fine spray of water at least 15-20 times a day onto the plants and manage to achieve almost 100% success. Of course we can’t afford such a system and we’re not operating at that scale. You can buy modest little kits that do the same thing, but with a little effort and for a small investment you can make your own, and it costs a lot less than shop bought.

Rather than go into the details of a misting system now I’ll put together another post on how to be successful with softwood cuttings along with a set of plans for making your own misting system. I plan to make my own and if that goes ok we’ll produce a short video for the RG YouTube channel.

Last autumn when the dahlias finished flowering I dug them up and stored them in boxes overwintered in the polytunnel, with a little soil covering the tubers (roots) over winter. Pleased to say they survived and in April I tried my hand at taking a few cuttings.  I managed to get a few to root, but all round a pretty poor show to be honest.

Despite the lack of success with my dahlia cuttings I still have the original plants that I’m pleased to say have put on loads of healthy new growth. Dahlias grow to quite a size and do need staking. They also need lots of water throughout the season so I’ve prepared the planting holes with plenty of organic matter to help retain the moisture. I’ve also thrown in some wet straw for good measure. It will rot down eventually which will help with improving the quality of our soil.

Protect your dahlias

Slugs and snails like to eat your lovely green dahlia leaves, so you will need to guard against them. We’re lucky to have the chickens to keep our slug population under control, but the only snag is the chickens are also partial to dahlia leaves! So we have no option but to net them or they will eat the lot in one sitting.

I have to net my dahlias or the chickens will eat them in one sitting!

Dahlias grow into fairly large plants and have a tendency to block the light out from everything else around them. To avoid any problems later I’m growing the dahlias in a single plot on their own.

I have fond memories of growing dahlias as I used to enter the dahlia category at my local summer village show with my dad when I was in my early teens.


As well as the main stars of the show I’m filling in with annuals like Nigella (Love In A Mist), Cosmos, Calendula, and Brompton Stock. These are all what are typically called traditional cottage garden flowers, and they should provide plenty of cut flower material throughout the season and are really easy to sow and grow from seeds.  The seedlings I pricked out a few weeks ago have now grown into decent little plants so I planted them out over the weekend.

Newly Planted Cut Flower Garden At Blackbirds

The plants look a little sparse now but I’ve planted them with plenty of space so they have room to grow. In just a few weeks we should have quite a show, all being well. They will need to be kept watered over the next couple of weeks as the roots are fairly close to the surface and tend to dry out.

I’m planning on adding a few rose bushes into the mix, along with a few Delphiniums and Verbena, but they will have to wait until I have a few more penny’s.

Back soon,

Rural Gardener

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Hidcote Manor Gardens & Mottisfont Abbey Gardens

At the start of 2010 I promised myself I would make an effort and visit more public gardens and country houses, after all I have my National Trust membership which entitles me to free admission, and there are so many wonderful gardens to choose from.

Although we did manage to visit quite a few gardens last year there are two that stand out for me, for completely different reasons.  Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire and Hidcote gardens in the Cotswold’s had long been on my list of gardens to visit and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

Typical English Country Garden

Two quite beautiful gardens, Hidcote with it’s informal planting schemes and gardens within gardens and Mottisfont with it’s wide open spaces and a most gorgeous walled rose garden which is one of the finest in the country. Definitely the highlight for me!

It’s the diversity that I find so fascinating, along with both natural and formal planting schemes, not to mention the hard work that goes into maintaining these masterpieces of the English countryside.

I came away with a most beautiful pale yellow climbing rose from Mottisfont, which has the scent of fresh custard. I have it growing in my own garden back at Blackbirds and you can’t help noticing the gorgeous scent.  It’s quite a vigorous climber and it’s already put on about 3 feet of growth in its first season. It should look and smell even better next year when it’s had a chance to put on its second year of growth.

If you want to grow a climber and don’t have a fence or wall to grow it up you could do what I did and sink a 4″ x 4″ post into the ground. I positioned mine at the edge of the lawn so the scent would waft onto the path on a summers evening.

All I did was hammer a few fence staples in around the post at 6” intervals so I have something to tie the branches into as they grow up the post. Oh, and don’t forget to treat your post with a preservative to protect it from the elements.

If you’d like a great day out then I’d strongly recommend both Hidcote Manor and Mottisfont Abbey, but it’s worth waiting until the roses are at their best, around mid June onwards.

Hidcote manor

Hidcote Manor – Gloucestershire

Hidcote Manor Gloucestershire

Hidcote Manor Gloucestershire

Hidcote Manor Gardens

Hidcote Manor Gloucestershire

Hidcote Manor
Hidcote Bartrim, near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire GL55 6LR
Telephone: 01386 438333

Mottisfont Abbey

Mottisfont Abbey Romsey

Mottisfont Abbey

Mottisfont Abbey Romsey

Mottisfont Abbey

Mottisfont Abbey – Romsey

Mottisfont Abbey
Mottisfont, near Romsey, Hampshire SO51 0LP
Telephone: 01794 340757

Best wishes


Read Full Post »

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,


Read Full Post »


As the weather is so poor I decided to start look at a design for the patio area at the back of the house immediately adjacent to the kitchen.

It will need to fulfill a number of roles but primarily as an entertaining space and bbq area. We’d also like to include  a feeding space for the wild birds, herbs for the kitchen and of course loads of fantastic plants!

This is the first draft and I’m pretty happy with it so far but it needs a few more circles into the design as the house is bound by corners and straight lines and they need to be softened in some way.

As soon as the weather clears up we can get started on the foundations for the various walls and support structures.

Keep you posted as it progresses.


Update – It all came together as per the plan I’m happy to report.

Another shot of the patio.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts