Posts Tagged ‘English Gardens’


Tree Fern

Tree Fern – Dicksonia Antarctica

Hi all my gardening friends.

I just had to tell you about my absolute favourite plant at the moment, my gorgeous Tree Fern or Dicksonia Antarctica as it’s often called.

Tania bought it for me on my 50th birthday when it was about 18 inches high. Now, 7 years later it’s grown into this wonderful specimen!

What I love so much about tree ferns is the wonderful contrast between the rich almost lime green leaves and the hairy, almost weird looking trunk!  Tucked away in a slightly humid (when the sun shines) shady part of the garden, next to the stream, it just seems to love it.

It’s taken me a while to find the perfect growing conditions. Originally planted in a big clay pot I think it didn’t like the occasional dry conditions.

If you’re thinking about growing your own Dicksonia, my advice is take your time and find a spot with the perfect growing conditions. At upwards of £100 a go for a medium sized tree it can be an expensive mistake if you get it wrong.

I prepared the ground really well with loads of organic matter and removed as much as the chalky soil as I could. (One of the challenges of gardening in this part of Hampshire)

I keep it well watered, especially the crown of the plant where the fronds grow. I remove a few dead fronds each summer and it’s none the worse for it.

New Zealand Tree Fern

I don’t overfeed … every 2-3 weeks it gets a watering can of regular soluble plant food and apart from watering in dry conditions it pretty much looks after itself. What a plant!

For the last 2 winters it’s lived outside with little protection, other than what it gets from the hedge that is.

It really is the most wonderful addition to the garden. Oh, and make sure you buy from a reputable garden center as they have to be certified for sale in the UK.

It never ceases to amaze me how nature just seems to know what it’s doing. Give a plant the right growing conditions and it will give back many times over.

I feel sure you’ll agree the Tree Fern is a wonderful addition to the garden. Now all I need to do is save up for another one! 🙂

Hope you enjoy these pictures I took earlier today.

Tree Fern Dicksonia Antarctica

tree-fern-4

tree-fern-5

Back soon!

Best wishes,

signature

 

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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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English Apples

I just checked my stats for the blog and realised its been over 2 months since I last posted … Lazy or what!  So I’ll put that right and I must apologise for such a large gap since my last post.

As I was sat in the garden thinking about what I might share I suddenly realised just how lucky we are. Our climate is almost perfect for growing our own food, our soil is capable of growing almost anthing we ask it providing we look after it and I constantly marvel at the range of wildlife we have living around us.

The butterfly walk

We like to attract as many insects to the garden as we can .. and no better way than with a butterfly bush walk.

insects

Last Sunday we had a peregrine falcon sitting on the front fence gazing longingly at the row of pigeons on my neighbours roof. Fantastic … Our own pigeons scarer. They still managed to pinch all my greens this year. I can’t be bothered to use nets … Far too fiddly, so next year I’m not going to bother. Not overly keen on greens anyway other than purple sprouting which happens to be the pidgeons absolute favourite. I suppose I could shoot the pigeons but then I think they haven’t done me any harm and forget the idea.

It’s the second time I’ve seen the Peregrine this year and what a fantastic site. Sleek and majestic looking. In fact it’s the fourth raptor we have seen in the garden this year. We occasionally have a Kestrel call by and the buzzards are always squeaking away high in the sky above the surrounding fields. I think they are eyeing up the chickens to be honest. The other hawk we see from time to time is a red kite. They seem to be everywhere since they were reintroduced to the UK in the 1980’s. Easy to spot as they have a forked tail and a distinctive flight as they dive bomb the local mouse population.

But my favourite visitor has to be the barn owl that gets into my neighbours corn barns. I usually see him skirting across the fields about 4 feet above the ground. Occasionally he comes to rest on a post and I simply stop and marvel at this most magnificent bird.

It’s been a good year for vegetables but I’m especially pleased with my celeriac. I can’t believe they start out as the tiniest of seeds. Only 3 months later and they are already starting to look like baby celeriac! They should be perfect by late November early December but they will need earthing up from time to time and an occasional general liquid feed. It’s the only way to get a decent sized crop.

The polytunnel continues to provide us with an endless supply of salads and tomatoes. I don’t worry about them running to seed as I simply repeat sow every 4 weeks up until the end of October. I find if I sow any later they tend not to germinate quite as well. Also I’ve just about had enough salad by November anyway.

This autumns major project is to move the polytunnel. Pain really as we moved it last year but its just in the wrong place.

My Polytunnel
Since we built the workshop last year we’ve reorganised the bottom of the plot to make space for a couple of parking spots so visitors can access our little plant nursery and the polytunnel needs to be closer for practical purposes.

Also it’s right in the eye line as you look from the house out to the garden. Don’t get me wrong I love my polytunnel but it’s not the most beautiful structure in the garden and it blocks the view down to the workshop which is an altogether better looking structure.

workshop

I have to say I think there is a great business opportunity for someone if they can design a cool looking polytunnel. I think you’d be on to a winner!

It’s been a great year for fruit … The orchard is heaving and raspberry’s have been plentiful. We moved them last autumn and although they have suffered slightly from the move they’ve given us a few tasty treats.

Anyway .. I think that’s enough for one day and I promise to post more very soon.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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March in the Garden

March is here … which means April is just around the corner!

March is just the best month in the garden. It really feels like the darkness of winter is finally behind us! The sun starts to feel warm although don’t be fooled, the weather can bite back when you least expect it in March!

Today was a fairly typical March day. We had couple of hours of warm sunshine this morning and by this afternoon we had torrential rain.  I did however manage to move a few forsythia lynwood gold plants this morning. I find early March the best time to move and/or divide plants as they are still dormant and won’t be shocked by a move. Also planted a few herbs I raised in the nursery last year to outside the new workshop. Idea is to soften the hard edges of the concrete foundations and have a few herbs on hand when we bbq in the summer.

That’s the great thing about March … it really does feel like it’s time to start some serious gardening again. I don’t know why but there is some significance to the first day of March. It  gives me a sense of real sense of hope. Just today I see the frogs returned to the pond and seem to be making loads of frog spawn. Naughty froggies! Also the birds have started to sing again which is another sure sign Spring is on it’s way.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to share a series of 5 short posts detailing some of the jobs that I get up to in my gardening in the month of March. Here’s what I’m planning.

  1. Preparing for what’s e for the year ahead.
  2. Getting ready for the Spring Plant Sale.
  3. Kick start the vegetable garden.
  4. Spring treatment for the lawn.
  5. General tidy up for the wildlife pond.

In this the first of my posts my gardening years starts in earnest with lots of prep!

Preparing for what’s ahead.

Of course we all want to get out there and start digging and planting but it’s pretty likely (in the UK at least) that the ground is still too wet and too cold to grow anything … at least not from seed anyway. But how can you tell if it’s warm enough or dry enough?

That’s and easy one… just pick up a handful of soil and feel it. Does it feel cold? Try scrunching it up tight in your hand and you’ll soon know because it will feel wet and compacted. Ideally it will feel like soil should feel, friable and warm to the touch. If it isn’t then leave it well alone or you’ll just get soil everywhere … and I do mean everywhere!

Certainly don’t think about sowing seeds or you’ll be wasting your time.  I’ve tried early sowing in the past and I found it doesn’t really get me ahead. I’d rather wait until early April when the conditions will be better.  A good barometer is to look out for the weeds. When they start growing it’s a sure sign the soil conditions are about right for sowing. I’m going to wait until April when the soil will be in much better condition to be worked.

I’m fortunate to have a polytunnel so can kick start a few of the more hardy veg but even then I’ll usually wait until the third week of March at least before starting. Onion sets are about the only thing and a few brassica that I have growing at the moment.

Apart from onion sets and a few brassica I tend to wait until at least the third week of March before I start sowing under plastic.

Apart from onion sets and a few brassica I tend to wait until at least the third week of March before I start sowing under plastic.

One job I always do this time of the year is to turn the compost heap. The good stuffs often at the bottom of the pile so I like to get it to the top ready to scatter onto the vegetable garden when the weather allows. You can of course go for all the double digging stuff but I rarely double dig. As we garden on chalky soil any double digging would simply turn the chalk to the top.

If you’ve never made your own garden compost then I urge you to have a try. It’s easier than you think.

fence

Treat the fences to a paint job.

Early March is the time of year I service the various fences around the garden. Most of the fencing around our plot is post and rail which need some form of preservative treatment if they are to last. All to often we spend money on expensive wooden fences or perhaps an art studio at the bottom of the garden, but we forget that wood will rot over time if it’s not treated. It’s not the most exciting job in the world but I get a great sense of satisfaction when the job is done.

You don’t have to stick to the usual green or black, there are loads of colours out there to choose from. Just make sure you use a bucket and a decent size brush to do the job or you’ll be there forever.

Time for a good tidy up.

I find early March is when I feel the need to have a general tidy up in the garden. The winter can take it’s toll and I usually end up retrieving plant pots and all sorts of stuff from my neighbours plot.  Time spent sorting through your pots and tidying up the canes and hazel sticks pays dividends later in the year when if you’re like me you’d rather be working with the plants.

So if you do nothing else in the garden this week try to have a general sort round and look forward to a few stress free months in the summer.

In my next post we’ll look at giving the polytunnel a service and set about the next phase of my plant nursery in readiness for my Spring plant sales.

As always any questions or comments please feel free to leave below.

Best wishes

Rural Gardener

 

 

 

 

 PS: If you’re interested in running your own plant sale to make a little extra money perhaps for your family or a favourite charity then you might find this post helpful. Also if you’d like to join our mailing list then you’ll receive a copy of my guide to frugal gardening which has loads of tips on how to start your own plant nursery in your back garden.

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What Is The Name Of This Plant?
I’m hoping someone is going to be able to help me today to find the name of this plant.

I bought it two years ago from the plant nursery at the Lost Gardens Of Heligan. I’d seen it while walking round the gardens and thought it had the most beautiful deep red flowers which cover the plant in June and July. I believe it’s an evergreen and grows to approximately 5-6 feet.

Can You Name This Plant?

Not long after I got home the leaves started to drop and the plant looked to have died off completely.  😦  At first I thought it might be deciduous but this was the end of June after all.

Anyway rather than throw it away something told me I should hang on to this little plant and stuck it behind the polytunnel for the winter.

Then earlier this year to my surprise it started to grow back. It’s not as full as it was when i bought it but I’m just delighted it’s survived and I didn’t give up on it at the first sign of trouble.

Can You Name This Plant?

This where I really need some help.
Unfortunately I lost the label and have no idea what the name of the plant is?
There’s a lesson here for the would-be plant collector. As soon as you get any new plant home record the full name and the date you acquired it. After all it’s easy these days with mobile phones having a a camera of some sort.This summer I’ve gone one step further for the nursery and downloaded a great little free ‘App’ called Evernote.All I do is take a picture of the plant on my phone and add a couple of notes making sure to include the full name of the plant and the date I bought it. This information along with the photo is automatically stored in the cloud, which basically means I can access my plant list from my phone, tablet and/or pc from pretty much anywhere.  Now whenever I need to refresh my memory about a plant I just pull out my mobile and hey presto I have access to my complete library of plants.  How cool is that!

There’s plenty of information out there about Evernote but I will post a more detailed piece about this great little app and how you can use it to create your own plant list . Only wish I had it when I left Heligan that day!

If you know anything about this little plant I’d be most grateful for any information you can pass on. I’ve also noticed it’s a slow grower which might be down to the growing conditions, so any advice would also be most welcome.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you so much.

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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 The garden is providing plenty and the nursery continues to generate a lot of interest, but it was a particularly special month for us for two reasons.

Tania had a very important birthday, one of those milestone events that happen about every 50 years 😉 and we also had our 29th wedding anniversary which we celebrated with the most wonderful garden party with  friends and family.

We’ve actually been together for over 30 years which is almost a lifetime I guess, but it’s been a very special time and we’re both great advocates of the institute of marriage.

The garden and nursery were a hit and we had some really nice comments so thank you to everyone that came and made it such a special day. We are both hugely grateful.

That’s the thing about growing plants and this lifestyle we’ve adopted in particular. It helps remove the stress of every day existence, makes you smile more and at the same time gives you an enormous feeling of self worth. Sounds a bit ‘trippy’ I know but it’s difficult to explain other than life is much easier now and we’ve learnt to appreciate a simpler less stressful existence.

As well as taking care of the celebrations we’ve also been hard at work in and around the garden. The nursery continues to grow and we have high hopes for our little venture in the future.


The new outbuilding is really starting to come together with the roof now on and pleased to say is now water tight!  Such a relief as one of the roof windows was leaking slightly which actually was down to a tiny hole in the roofing felt can you believe!

Originally we were building the structure for a work shop and potting shed, but we’ve decided to offer weekend courses later in the year and to do that we need to have a few more ‘amenities’. We’ve started cladding the outside and first fix electrics are in. Still much to do but John is taking a few days off work at the end of the month to finish so should be complete by mid  August. We’ll post an update and some pics on the blog and Tania’s Pinterest channel.

We’ll also be posting details of the courses later in the year.


It wasn’t all good news in June I’m afraid.  We lost all our chickens to the fox one night. 😦

Anyone that has kept chickens will understand what it means to have these wonderful characters wandering around place. They give so much pleasure as well as providing us with the most wonderfully fresh eggs for breakfast, but I guess the temptation was too great for Mr Fox and the little bugger tunnelled under the door and took every last one!

I can only think he must have made several visits in the one night unless he had an accomplice? Either way no sign of any chickens the next day other than a few feathers in their run. Cheeky so and so took the eggs as well can you believe.

We always used to shut the chickens away in their shelter at night, but recently we’ve been leaving them out in their pen as the nights have been so warm. We have a large dog so we really didn’t think the fox would have the nerve, but how wrong we were.

Advice for anyone thinking of keeping chickens. Build a fox proof run, or install an electric fence around the premier, or make time to shut them away at night. It was a very sad day and I have to say it’s not been the same around here since they were taken.

On a slightly happier note it’s July and the first of the summer raspberries are fruiting. Two things I look forward to most at this time of the year. Walking through the garden at the end of a busy day and seeing the gorgeous red colour of the first raspberries contrasting with the rich green leaves and plucking the fruit from the bush leaving that little cream cone in the centre. The taste is sublime and there really is nothing quite like it.

The second event we look forward to is the emergence of the first of the sweet peas. You live without that distinctive perfume for almost a whole year and now you get to experience it all over again. Truly intoxicating!

If you’ve never grown your own sweet peas then do have a go as it really is one of life’s pleasures.

No need for expensive air fresheners, simply cut a bunch of fresh sweet peas and fill a vase full of cold fresh water.  Plunge the sweet peas in as deep as possible and enjoy as they don’t last very long once cut.  Put a vase in the kitchen and the next morning when you sit down to breakfast you’ll have the most gorgeous scent filling the room to accompany your coffee and croissants. I don’t think it can get much better than that can it ?

We’ll be back soon but that’s it for June.

If there any aspects of gardening that you’d like us to cover in the future please do let us know, in the first instance at ruralgardeners@gmail.com.

Thanks all!

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Kohl Rabi Plants

I think of April as the ’emerald month’ because it’s the time of the year where everything is bursting into growth in anticipation of delivering the most amazing display in the coming months. It’s the sheer number of different shades of green from the deep green of the evergreen clematis Armandii to the lime green of the Acer’s.

It’s at this time of the year we’re preparing for the busy period ahead which basically revolves around striking this years softwood cuttings from mid May through to the end of June.

mist-plants

Last years softwood cuttings under mist

If you want success with cuttings then there are two things to remember.

  1.  Use a free draining medium like sharp sand or a combination of sharp sand and compost.
  2. Keep the cuttings moist under some form of mist system.

One of our readers wrote the other day and said “don’t you have to have lots of money to start your own plant business?

My answer is absolutely not! We’re starting small to limit the financial risk and we’re only prepared to invest what we’re prepared to lose which is as little as possible!

Honestly you really don’t need to spend lots of money to get started and in the coming weeks and months we’re going to show you how you can get started with very little investment.

Talking of clematis Armandii ours has just finished flowering.

clematis_armandii

 

Of all the flowering clematis I think Armandii has the most intoxicating scent and it’s an evergreen so will give you a glossy green backdrop in the winter.  Throw in to the mix a plant that’s really easy to propagate and you have almost the perfect plant!

This cutting was taken in June 2012 and two years on has grown into a wonderful plant. armundii

At the moment we’re busy potting up last years rooted cuttings which have gone through the winter pretty much unscathed and produced some serious roots.

It’s our third year and we’ll be potting our two year old plants up ready for selling in the summer.

We’ve learnt loads over the last 3 years about raising and selling plants, but most of all we’ve realised customers buy with their eyes. By that I mean they want plants with flowers and preferably with a scent. There are of course the old stand by’s like evergreens,  box hedging, the conifers etc … but in the main people want colour and as much of it as you can give them!

Tip for anyone starting out growing plants for profit … Seek out one or two unusual varieties of a plant species and make your customers aware you stock the plants, or if you don’t now you will in the future. Most important of all make sure the plants you raise and sell are not protected by Plant Breeders Rights.

Other stuff we’ve been up to in April.

We’ve changed the layout of the bottom plot this year to make way for the new outbuilding which has meant we’ve had to shift the cutting bed and the compost heaps. Also created a dedicated work area adjacent to the polytunnel as it felt more central to nursery.

I’ve also been top dressing my borders and beds with a good mulch of compost. My neighbour swears by it and every year she buys eight bags of conditioner and adds it to the surface of the soil. She doesn’t dig it in but instead let’s the worms drag it down over the course of the year.  You’d never believe her garden was on chalk as the soil has turned into this gorgeous friable soil AND growing very nice rhododendrons. On chalk yes!

The Acer’s are waking up and putting on some good growth now.

acers

I bought these as small 10 inch plants on EBay in early 2013  for £6 each and just a year they are starting to look like great little plants.

Just as soon as any sign of frost has passed they can moved from the polytunnel to sheltered position outside.

Also spotted our old friend the Goldfinch on the feeders this week.

A welcome visitor to the garden.

A welcome visitor to the garden.

Really busy time now for us with all that’s going on in the garden but will try and post again soon.

As always please feel free to drop us a comment with any questions.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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