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Monday December 17 , 2018

Blue Daisy Blog

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

James Wong is new RHS Ambassador

Posted by on in News & Views

hortjobsJames Wong, Countryfile presenter, ethnobotanist and best-selling author, is to be a new RHS Ambassador to encourage careers in horticulture.  James will be promoting the science of gardening and inspiring young people to consider a career in botany and horticulture.  He will be showing how important horticultural knowledge is for the planet in dealing with climate change, care for the environment, human, animal and plant health, pollination and much more.  James also presented the BBC series ‘Grow Your Own Drugs’ about plant-based remedies sharing his passion for botany.

We're also passionate about promoting the opportunities that jobs in horticulture can provide - it's a diverse discipline that requires knowledge of many things: botany, biology, chemistry, business, alongside art and design (amongst others).  Horticulture is not often mentioned as a career choice for young people so it's great to hear that a very public figure in our field is willing to champion the cause.  We wish James every success in his ambassadorial role and would urge everyone to consider the opportunities available in horticulture just as much as you would any other career option.

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Panic for Fence Panels? Think again!

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holly-hedgeLots of us have been affected by continuous storms and constant battering by the rain causing damage not only to plants in our gardens but fencing too. This has led to a national shortage of fence panels to the extent that according to the BBC, prices have risen by up to 30%.  Newspapers have also reported that a black market has opened up with 'normal' - usually budget - fences being offered at £80 a panel!

That's extortionate but it's also an extremely good reason to consider creating a green boundary in your garden instead of fence paneling.  It's no secret that we love plants here at Blue Daisy and we love living boundaries, here are some of the reasons why...

  • They can look fantastic - Beech, Hornbeam, Photinia Red Robin, Box, Pyracantha, Berberis, Holly (non-invasive) Bamboo the list goes on... green boundaries look great and can sound great too
  • They are functional - they give us the privacy we so often crave and can in some cases act as a sound barrier (not completely but much better than a fence panel can)
  • They're great for wildlife, not only for birds and mammals but in many cases for our beleaguered pollinators too (see Pledge for Pollinators and RHS Wildflower Plants for Pollinators List Released for further information about pollinating insects)
  • They add interest - because they are living many will change with the season
  • Sure you will need to maintain them but living boundaries - hedges - can help distribute and dissipate wind as it passes through its leaves and branches - this can be really beneficial for protecting the microclimate of your garden.  It also makes them more likely to survive high winds and stormy weather.

So what are you waiting for?  Contact us to organise your new living boundary today!

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Heads up! National Gardening Week is coming!

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sunflower-1Did you know that it will be National Gardening Week during 14-20 April?  This initiative by the Royal Horticultural Society was launched 3 years ago to celebrate gardening.  Thousands of people across the country come together to help keep Britain beautiful by hosting garden open days, garden parties, quizzes, plant swaps and other activities like sharing advice or lending helping hands to friends, neighbours and the local community. 

You can find out more on the national gardening week website: http://www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk

In addition this year Britain in Bloom will be 50 years old so it is planned to sow half a million sunflower seeds. Gardening groups across Britain will be sowing sunflowers to celebrate in a ‘Growing for Gold’ theme using pollinator-friendly varieties including ‘Giant Single’, ‘Moonwalker’, ‘Taiyo’ and ‘Vanilla Ice’. 

So be on the look-out for lots of bright golden sunflowers this year! And why not consider taking part too by sowing some seeds of your own?  Sunflowers are great additions to the garden or allotment - children love them, they're jolly, joyous and look amazing too!

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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 6

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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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