Sunday February 25 , 2018

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 6

Posted by on in News & Views

Diarmuid Gavin - Glasshouses 

kew-glasshouseOur love of glasshouses began in the 17th century as exotic foods such as citrus fruits were brought back by explorers and plant hunters.  They used purpose-built cloches which created miniature environments allowing the plants to survive the journey.  It was the Victorians who began to collect, cultivate and master nature and built the glasshouse at Kew containing the most expensive and expansive collection of plants.  It was the ultimate in horticultural bling!

Diarmuid visited the Botanical Garden of Wales which is set in 560 acres, has over 8000 plant species and has the largest single span glass house in the world, filled with all manner of exotic species.    He also visited a very important historical Victorian Glasshouse at Wentworth Castle in Barnsley which fell into disrepair and through fundraising, has been restored to its former glory.  It was one of the most important glasshouses of its day and is said to have had electric lighting before the Royal family did!  It is now a temperate glasshouse and showcases plants from 5 different continents. 

Having a greenhouse or glass house can extend the type of plants we can grow in our gardens and homes rather than having to grow the same types of vegetables and plants every year.  If you are considering buying a greenhouse it’s advisable to:

  • Buy the biggest possible that you can afford or fit into the available space because when you start growing, you’ll want so much more space!  
  • Have shelves or workbenches on one side so that you have somewhere to work and a place to store newly filled seed trays and plant pots.  
  • Have a border on the other side of the greenhouse so that you can plant straight in the ground with the added benefit of protection from the elements.   
  • A lean-to type structure is smaller but is cheaper to buy and holds the heat better.  
  • A greenhouse needs to have plenty of light and be positioned in a sheltered place with access all the way round to clean and repair.  
  • Many now come in polycarbonate but toughened glass is beneficial because if it breaks it doesn’t shatter and is therefore a safer option for children and animals. 
  • A wooden frame looks very traditional and natural whereas aluminium frames are maintenance free. 
  • In any greenhouse or glasshouse you need to ensure there is good air circulation and the ability to add heat either from a paraffin heater or if you are lucky and have an electric socket a plug-in heater. 

The type of plants you want to grow will determine the environment you require, either hot, humid and jungle-like or warm, dry and sunny.  A temperate house has lots of light and often made from glass, is kept free from frost and well ventilated.   If you opt for a tropical house with a jungle display it will need to be humid and kept moist by regularly damping down.  You will also need to train and keep on top of climbing plants so they don’t begin to swamp others out. 

If you don’t have space for a greenhouse you could consider cold frames or small Edwardian glass cases, dishes or bottles.  If you opt for the latter, you could grow a range of plants for example carnivorous plants which will keep children entertained!  Cold frames are often used to warm the soil and/or protect seedlings so that by planting earlier, you can get ahead of the typical growing season.  

Regardless of what type of environment you create, you can be sure that it will begin a lifetime of gardening passion and interest that has captivated people for centuries. 

 

Matt James - Shrubs

shrubsMatt is passionate about shrubs.  They are the unsung heroes in gardens.  They provide privacy, fragrance, backdrop, colour, texture and structure.  From Magnolias through to the humble Cornus, they deliver by the bucket load and at the moment Matt believes they are ignored and under-loved.  He says every garden needs shrubs, they are a permanent fixture, bringing a sense of order and brightening up every season. If you’re still not convinced, they also offer cover, shelter and food to our native wildlife! 

Croome Park, designed by Capability Brown, is said to be one of the best 18th century designs and was very famous for its huge shrubberies. The shrubs were indeed the stars of the show because back then we had very little native flora that would impress so people travelled for miles to visit the vast collection.  Around the beginning of the 20th century, people began to develop a fear of shrubs thinking they were difficult to handle and were concerned about pruning them wrongly so they soon fell out of fashion.  As a result, Croome Park’s shrubberies fell into disrepair; the shrubs, trees and wildflower meadows were ploughed up and the land used for arable agriculture.  The National Trust took over in 1996 and using the extensive archived documents, surveys and maps, the team begun to replant trees and vast swathes of shrubberies and today the park has become popular once more.

Matt also visited the Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire which began as a small nursery in 1864 but is now famous for its extensive collection of plants and seasonal displays which include many shrubs as well as still being a thriving plant nursery.  

Shrubs are the backbone of any garden.  They create sustainable gardens, they are beautiful in their own right, they are not difficult to care for and are indeed the stars of the show.   If you are still in any doubt, have a read of a few of Nicki’s favourite shrubs for the garden here.

 

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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 5

Posted by on in News & Views
Carol Klein - Rock Gardens
 
RockgardenAs we know the British have been great explorers and as such we have visited all corners of the world discovering new plant treasures and bringing them back to our shores.  It was this inquisitiveness and interest in different species that helped to inspire the rock garden which allowed us to grow alpines and mountain plants from around the world in our gardens.  
 
Rock gardens were first built on large estates by wealthy aristocrats back in late the 19th century, it was their success that eventually led to their decline and they gradually fell out of fashion.  Rock gardens were easy to create and anyone could build one - the most successful rock gardens created the illusion of being up a mountain surrounded with flora and as such the British people took rock gardens to their hearts.   Experts believed that the rocks themselves were more important than the plants, it was vital to consider what each rock would look like and what function it would play in its natural habitat.  In other words get the rock positioning correct and then the plants would be happy.  The Japanese have always regarded rock gardens as very important as they create miniature landscapes within their own gardens.
 
Moss Bank Park in Bolton was a very famous rock garden in the UK and was also a huge part of the community but back in the 1990s the funding for its upkeep was lost and sadly it became a target for vandals and began to deteriorate.   In the last few years funding has been secured and together with an army of volunteers there has been an ongoing restoration project to bring it back to its former glory. 
 
A private 3 acre garden at Ashwood Nurseries, which has received over 50 RHS Gold Medals, is owned by John Massey who has created a beautiful plantsman’s garden which incorporates a rock garden and is open to the public on specific days.   His top tips for a successful rock garden are to remember that plant choice is important to lengthen the flowering season; Cyclamen is a must as it has a long flowering period, it is important to keep alpines flowering by constantly deadheading and weeding, the more weeding you do the less you’ll have to do in the longer term
 
In order to create a good rock garden there are some rules to follow, firstly it needs to be sited in the sunniest and most exposed part of the garden.  Sourcing the right rock(s) is essential (preferably from a local supplier) to ensure they don’t jar with their surroundings, consider the shapes of each rock and angle them in the same way to mirror nature, creating the maximum growing space to create your own mountain scene.  Choose your plants carefully, seek advice on which are the best plants for your space and don’t forget to incorporate some specimen trees or shrubs to add height and all year round interest.  Once it is planted up ensure a layer of course grit or fine grit is laid in order to suppress weeds and retain moisture.
 
If you only have a small space a small rock garden can be created in an alpine trough and a few points from Carol to create your own are: it’s essential that drainage holes are covered with crocks and filled with chunky gravel half way up the container to ensure that the roots aren’t sitting in water.  It’s a good idea to then cover the gravel with some mesh so that once the gravel is covered with compost it doesn’t wash through.  Carole recommends that the compost is half loam and half gravel chips then purchase some stone/rocks with angular shapes, tuck plants into the rocks so they look like they are growing through then apply a fine gravel to retain moisture and suppress weed seeds.
 
Today alpines are disappearing fast and Carol urges us to find a space for them in our garden to help keep them and our rock gardens alive.
 
 
 
Toby Buckland - Herb Gardens
 
HerbsHerbs have been used throughout history, they were fundamental to everyone’s lives and today there is a real danger that a lot of this knowledge and our connection to these plants are being lost. 
 
Chelsea Physic Garden, established 1673, and its apprentices studied the medicinal qualities of these plants.  The leaves, seeds, roots and flowers can provide us with a lot of life’s essentials; many years ago if you were ill you would go to your garden and find plants that would cure you instead of visiting the chemist and all this wonderful knowledge used to be second nature. 
 
In Tudor times herbs - including some that we call weeds today - were used for many things by both the wealthy and the poor.  In many homes it was common for herbs to be strewn across the floor to freshen up the rooms, a strewing lady would cut and scatter the herbs and those that were trod on would emit essential oils which would help to fumigate the homes!!  
 
The pharmacy became popular during Victorian times and it stocked both herbal and non herbal based medicines.  They eventually monopolised the market and herb growing in back gardens diminished; and as a result skill and knowledge wasn't being passed down through the generations. It is true in today’s world that medical progress has been excellent but the core use of herbs has been lost.
 
If you’re growing herbs in containers make sure they get lots of sun and they’ll need plenty of drainage so mix in some horticultural grit.  It’s a good idea to plant perennial herbs first such as sage and rosemary then combine with some of the shorter lived varieties such as basil and parsley.  Excess herbs can be kept for use in the winter by snipping some into ice cube trays, filling with water and freezing – fresh herbs in the thick of winter! 
 
Toby visited Jekka McVicar’s Herb Farm in Gloucester which has the largest collection of culinary herbs in the UK and is open to the public. Jekka says that herbs are fairly easy to grow, they can be drunk as tea, can turn a good meal in to a special one, fresh herbs are easier to digest than dried and they are really great for pollinating insects too!
 
 

 

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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 4

Posted by on in News & Views
Rachel de Thame - Decline of British Cut Flowers
 
SweetPeasIt’s true that freshly cut flowers bring our homes alive and Rachel explained that we used to take pride in growing and buying our own flowers. The British cut flower industry has declined so much that today we import almost 90% and her aim is that together we can change this.
 
Rachel visited Kelmarsh Hall in Lincolnshire, a Grade 2 listed garden that is of national significance.  Amongst their extensive gardens is a cut flower garden and they believe that freshly cut flowers last longer, and are strong, the stem lengths are all different which makes for a more interesting display rather than being specifically grown all equal lengths for the commercial market. 
 
The New Covent Garden market opened in the 1800s when the British cut flower industry took off and familiar sights around London were the barrow boys carting cut flowers all around the city.  In the 1970s the market grew so big and was so successful it was moved down the road to Vauxhall.   Today the cut flower industry is worth £2bn and sellers admit to stocking only about 10% of British flowers with the other 90% coming from Ecuador, Holland and other countries.  Meanwhile most of our British growers have stopped growing because there is no demand for their products.  In addition to this there are diminishing numbers of younger people going in to the cut flower growing industry; a far cry from the days of their parents and grandparents who were able to create good careers in cut flower jobs in their day.  To compound this problem there is also a loss of knowledge and skill which is a national problem for all of the horticultural industries today.  However, it was back in the 1960s when the government offered subsidies for growers in Holland to import flowers to the UK that contributed to the bottom falling out of the UK market, compounded in the 1990s when the supermarkets joined the fray.  They dominated the market, also sourced from abroad and started selling the same flowers all year round rather than concentrating on seasonal varieties.
 
Wedding flowers are a £120m industry and the majority of them are imported however Doddington Hall have found that there is the rumbling of a new trend afoot - customers are beginning to ask for British grown flowers for their wedding straight from their cutting garden.  Also included in the bouquets are herbs which not only look good but smell good too!
 
Rachel encourages us all to grow cut flowers from seed with the easiest to grow being hardy annuals such as sunflowers, poppies, cornflowers and coreopsis. After a few weeks they are ready to plant out – it is cost effective and addictive. Sweet peas are a favourite for cut flowers because of their scent which has the ability to fill a room, a few plants will be enough to ensure you have flowers all summer long but you must keep picking them, if you don’t they turn to seed pods.  You can buy cut sweet peas but most are also imported to us and by the time they hit the shelves the scent has usually gone so why not grow your own and benefit from the heavier scent of freshly cut sweet peas?
 
There is a skill to cutting and arranging flowers to get the maximum benefit, if you are doing it yourself you should cut them first thing in the morning when they have had all evening to rehydrate themselves.  Once cut ensure you put them straight into a bucket of water (which you should carry with you!) and this will help force water back up to the flower to keep it fresher for longer.  Rachel also gave us ingredients for making our own cut flower food which was basically: in 2L of water add 2tsp of sugar, 2 tsp of weak bleach and 4tsp of lemon juice – probably best to do some research before you make any first though as there are many recipes out there! 
 
Rachel urges us to celebrate our amazing cultural heritage and buy British next time you want to colour your home or “better still - grow your own"!  
 
Here at Blue Daisy we have been growing our own for the last few years and will continue to do so – there’s nothing lovelier than cutting your own flowers for the house and letting the scent fill the rooms!
 
Joe Swift - Trees
 
Sorbus berriesTrees have so many amazing features and it is astounding that today only 2% of Britain is covered in ancient woodland. We have simply fallen out of love with trees, we think they will get too big, the neighbours won't like them or wonder why bother because we won't live long enough to see it mature!  But ensuring you choose the right tree for the right place will help to reduce these problems!
 
Joe visited the Cambridge Botanical Garden as it has an amazing selection of trees of varying sizes, different forms; some have berries or flowers and the deciduous autumnal leaves can be amazing.  A tree is an essential element to any good garden design, it helps set the scene and form the framework for the rest of the planting.  It is probably one of the most important plants you will ever buy as they will be with you for many years to come.  
 
In the Victorian era they planted parks and streets with trees that are resistant to pollution to help green up the streets.   It is true that trees have had their fair share of problems - in the 70s the Elm was threatened as Dutch Elm Disease wiped out 25m trees, Ash and Horse Chestnut have their own diseases too that we need to try to eliminate.  Brighton has the largest and oldest collection of Elm trees in the country; some are over 200 years old, they were planted there originally as they are able to withstand salt laden air.  Some of their Elms have been destroyed but they have been luckier than other parts of the country where our landscape was simply changing over night.  
 
Joe says now more than ever it is so important to plant trees but consider ornamental versions rather than native.  His top three favourite trees for autumnal colour, berries and bark interest are:
 
Acer davidii which has a wide canopy and is perfect for a medium size garden, with attractive leaves and decorative bark – it does like to be sheltered from strong winds though. 
 
The many Sorbus varieties are ideal for medium to larger gardens with their autumn leaf colour and various coloured berries this species on their own attract lots of wildlife.  
 
Euonymus sachalinensis can reach up to 3m tall and is perfect for a small garden; it has amazing shaped fruit with vivid colour and also attracts lots of wildlife.
 
It is essential that we provide habitats for our wildlife and a Birch family tree attracts the widest variety of wildlife having a staggering 334 species feed and live on them.  There is a national collection of Birch at Stone Lane Gardens which is set in a 5 acres garden, began in 1971.  Birch trees can grow on poor soils and they don’t create deep shade with their canopy so many people find them quite attractive for that reason.  They have their own architectural quality in a garden and can look great when planted individually or in groups for a bold statement, they also have a wide range of amazing bark and leaf colours too. 
 
Not only can trees increase wildlife in your garden, provide a focal point, add structural interest they can also help offset your carbon foot print and improve air quality – what are you waiting for?  Plant a tree in your garden today!  If you want some advice get in touch with us.
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Welcome to 2014

Posted by on in News & Views

2014Happy New Year!  It has been a strange old start to the year already with storms raging across the country doing untold damage to our gardens (never mind people's homes too!).  The majority of our gardens in this area are heavy clay, so they will be extremely waterlogged with all of the heavy rain falling on already saturated gardens and there is little that can be done right now apart from letting nature take its course.   Going forward though if you do have a problem with water logging you could get in contact with us for some ideas to help you either with your existing garden or to help combat future problems when creating a new garden.

2014 sees the start of the year with a new series Great British Garden Revival, whilst it might not be everyone’s cup of tea we should raise our glass that gardening is getting some more air time – after all 30 minutes a week for Gardener’s World could be considered pretty poor compared to the amount of cookery and reality programmes there are out there!

This is also the year for Perennial (the Gardener’s Royal Benevolent Society) as it celebrates its 175th anniversary of helping horticulturalists in need since 1839.  It is also the 50th anniversary of RHS Britain in Bloom and the RHS is encouraging community groups across the UK to plant golden pollinator-friendly flowers to mark their golden anniversary across public spaces this year.  To add to that it is the 100th anniversary of World War 1 famously dubbed ‘The Great War’ and there will be masses of red poppies planted across the country to commemorate those who lost their lives.  I expect there will be masses of poppies being included in many show gardens this year too.

Blue Daisy is celebrating its fourth full year of trading, we have had our bumpy times but as the economy is slowing picking up so is business and we have plans for the coming year which I’ll share with you as they are finalised.

All in all I think it will be a colourful year – here’s looking forward to it!

Tagged in: Perennial RHS
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Garden Design Quick Tip: Sound

Posted by on in Garden Design
WaterSound can often take a back seat in gardens as most people tend to favour elements for our other senses.  Do you know what sounds are in your garden?  There will no doubt be bird song but can you hear any others?   Sit out one day for 10 or 15 minutes and make a note of all the different sounds you can hear.   Are the sounds in your garden satisfactory?  Are there any you want to disguise like a train or traffic in the distance?  Are there any you want to hear more? Once you have the answers to those questions you can begin to alter the sounds to fit your personal needs.
 
There are four main ways to incorporate sound: surfaces in the garden, wildlife, water and plants.  The use of different surfaces can create sounds that suit a particular area in your garden for example, gravel has a distinctive crunch, bark is soft and quiet and paving will have a low impact thud all of which will let garden creatures know you’re approaching!   Increasing the sound of wildlife in the garden can be achieved by attracting more birds through using specific plants and installing a feeding station.  Choosing plants that attract pollinating insects such as bees will increase the soft hum they create whilst busy at work.  Frogs and toads create sounds by not only their croaking but also by plopping into water!
 
Water is a well known element for creating sounds in a garden but be sure of the kind of effect you would like.  If you want to have a relaxing ambience you’ll be leaning towards a soft trickle or if you would like a refreshing and stimulating atmosphere then perhaps a rhythmic cascade of a series of waterfalls.   Apart from attracting wildlife other plants like ornamental grasses will create rustling sounds when the wind pours through their leaves.  Plants react differently to wind in different seasons; in the autumn for instance seed heads filled with seeds rattle as well as leaves swirling and rustling on a blustery day.
 
Three great plants that can be used to create sound in the garden are: 
 
  1. Bamboo particularly the Phyllostachys varieties e.g. Phyllostachys nigra has foliage that rustles in the wind but on a blustery day the canes knock together producing a hollow sound.
     
  2. Nigella damascena also known as Love-in-a-mist with its blue flowers is quite popular in traditional cottage gardens, likes a well drained and sunny border, on a windy day its seed heads rattle.

  3. Briza maxima known also as greater quaking grass stands around 60cm in height is an annual ornamental grass preferring full sun, will self seed around the garden and has nodding flowers that rustle in the wind.
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