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Sunday August 19 , 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 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 3

Posted by on in News & Views

Carole Klein - Cottage Gardens

cottagegarden2Most people associate cottage gardens as being filled with plants brimming with flowers, dripping in colour and attracting pollinators. We are in danger of losing some of these plants and the pure ethos of what a cottage garden is because they are seen by many as being out dated and old fashioned, but they are firmly fixed as part of our horticultural heritage.
 
Margery Fish who with her husband, created the lovely gardens at East Lambook Manor also managed to influence people to create cottage gardens all over the globe.  She created these beautiful, informal and relaxed schemes combining both modern and old fashioned plants that today are the epitome of what a cottage garden is.  Carole admits that she has been heavily influenced by Margery and her style of the informal and mingled planting defining how she has gardened and continues to garden today.  East Lambrook Hall is open to the public and has been lovingly restored in Margery’s style - reflecting her principles and ideas.  We are told that these gardens will inspire the more experienced and the novice gardener alike, everyone can take something away to use back in their own gardens.
 
Another famous traditional cottage garden is situated in the Lake District. Hill Top Garden, formerly the home of Beatrix Potter; is open to the public through the National Trust.  The garden itself provided Beatrix with inspiration for her writing and was featured in the children’s books she wrote.  She created informal borders with flowers and vegetables complementing each other, paths navigate you around the garden so you can see the mingled planting at its quintessentially English cottage garden best. 
 
Carole believes that the cottage gardens are quite easy to maintain if you get the planting and structure right because it’s about pottering and tweaking rather than taking great pains to get the lawn edges perfectly straight and all plants standing to attention.  A traditional cottage garden evolves over time with plants being swapped with friends, family and neighbours, plants being mixed with productive crops, informal planting, using companion planting and attracting those pollinators we are so desperately in need of.  Typical traditional cottage garden plants are Phlox, Alchemilla, Aster, Rudbekia, Cosmos all intermingled with tender perennials like Dahlias. 
 
There are also some cutting edge modern cottage gardens that are very popular such as Dove Cottage which uses plants like Sanguisorba, Achillea and ornamental grasses to create movement and energy.  The owners believe that a true cottage garden creates its own identity by self seeding and creating new areas and as such the garden feels more natural rather than contrived and controlled.
 
You can create your own cottage garden by swapping plants, taking cuttings, collecting seeds and growing your own. Carole believes it’s not just about a style it’s about friendship and sharing plants, seeds and experiences together.
 

Tom Hart-Dyke - House Plants 

houseplantsTom is a modern day Plant Hunter who is passionate about reviving house plants because they have fallen out of fashion with some having even had bad press such as the Cheese Plant and Rubber Plant!  The UK buys less house plants than any other European country but there are so many species that will thrive in our homes. Modern families don’t believe that indoor plants are important but here in the UK they were once very fashionable and back in the Victorian era it was essential to have a sense of the garden inside the house.  Charles Darwin was also a plant hunter for a few years, he brought back plants to our country and he saw them as a fundamental part of the home. Back then their plants were needy, they required tending and nurturing to ensure they flourished and this is possibly one of the reasons why people now don’t want house plants because they believe they will take too much time to care for.  
 
RHS Wisley has a very large glass house, it is the equivalent of 10 tennis courts and is said to be one of the most extensive collections of house plants in the world.  Tom says there is a houseplant to suit any situation, a cold and drafty spot, a sunny windowsill, rooms with low light levels, needing no or little care or for someone who wants to tend or water it every day!  Three of the most popular houseplants today are the Tillandsias better known as the Air Plant which is very low maintenance, Streptocarpus in particular ‘Crystal Ice’ which flowers continually for 12 months and Begonias which are used to low light levels, are easy to grow and propagate. 
 
In previous episodes we saw that plants help to reduce pollution and this principle can be applied to our homes too, there are so many toxins in the air especially in the winter when we don’t open the windows.  NASA trialled some plants and it is thought that the Peace Lily is the best for removing toxins out of the air.  Studies have also been carried out using plants in the work place and it has been proved that having a few plants on or around your desk helps to improve wellbeing and it can increase productivity by up to 15%.  So if you aren’t convinced to try some in your home, get some for work – they are good for you.  If you want some help deciding what plant to have where get in contact with us we can help guide you and supply you with the right plants.
 
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Great British Garden Revival- BBC2

Posted by on in News & Views

gardenrevivalA new 10 part series is due to air on BBC2 this week.  It aims to do for horticulture and plants what the Great British Bake Off has done for baking and cakes!  Can this be a good or a bad thing?  Anything that puts horticulture on the agenda can only be a good thing as far as I'm concerned and it will be interesting to see the public's reaction to it.  It's said to be trying to reverse the nation's obsession with paving, patios and decking and trying to stir up some passion for plants and all things green!  

Each episode will have two well known presenters such as Monty Don, Chris Beardshaw, Carol Klein, Charlie Dimmock, Alys Fowler and Joe Swift. They are tasked with bringing an aspect of horticulture to our screens by giving us hands-on advice, explaining the heritage aspect of whatever it is they're concentrating on and showing how, through correct care or restoration, there can indeed be a revival.

Subject areas that will be covered are topiary, herbaceous borders, roof gardens, wild flowers, kitchen gardens, cottage gardens and even house plants.   Perhaps this kind of programme would have been best placed in the New Year schedules when the people have Christmas behind them and can concentrate, or maybe even plan some changes for their garden!  

As for me, I'm looking forward to it and I'll be interested to see how they try to bring back some traditional horticultural skills however nostalgic it might be. 

 

 

 

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