Monday May 21 , 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

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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 3

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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 - Episode 2

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Rachel de Thame - Topiary

topiaryRachel began by explaining that the topiary art form is an important part of our heritage, it was extremely fashionable in the Tudor and Elizabethan era.  In its heyday all sorts of shapes were created not only because it was the height of fashion but also because many of the plants we have in our gardens today hadn't been discovered and brought into the UK. This meant that even in the depths of winter the gardens still offered colour, interest and excitement in bucket loads!  Topiary went as far as the creative mind and individual's skill allowed from huge domes of Box, imposing archways of Yew through to rabbits, birds, chess pieces and even a teapot on the top of hedges!

In the 1800s a lot of our topiary gardens were removed to make way for the new naturalist garden movement that was sweeping the country.  Levens Hall in the Lake District is said to be one of the most extensive topiary gardens in the world, is one of the few places in the UK where the owners through the years steadfastly maintained their love of topiary.  Today it still attracts many visitors to marvel at the existing and unique living structures and forms.

Sadly topiary, having played such an important role in our histrory, is an art form that is being lost.  Purist topiarians (I believe this could well be my own word - I'm not sure whether people who do topiary are called topiarists, topiarisers or topiarians!) use hand tools and say they can become completely absorbed in creating new structures. It's a time comsuming skill and by all accounts can be completely addictive!! However, for unskilled and less confident topiary fanciers there are companies that construct welded metal wire frames which can be purchased in a particular shape. These frames can be placed over Yew or Box plants and then snipped and pruned to that shape and after a few years the wire frame will be hidden.

Creating low cost topiary plants can be achieved by taking softwood cuttings, planting them straight into a well prepared nursey bed and after a few years these can be the start of a new hobby. Whether you are creating imposing arches or spirals in containers be creative and have fun because topiary can be included in any garden regardless of style or size.

Roof Gardens - James Wong

roofgardenJames looked at roof gardens in London both past and present. Living in cities means that access to green spaces is limited but by using a roof as a garden it allows us to access all these spaces currently not doing anything.

When you talk to people about roof gardens they often think of them as a modern introduction or even a trend but in many other countries around the world - where space is literally unheard of - roof gardens are an absolute must, a way of life and a standard part of urban planning. Inner cities are known for being 6-8 degrees hotter than rural areas because bricks and concrete retain the heat from the sun, this is known as the Urban Heat Island effect. Creating spaces such as roof gardens with plants helps to cool the air, create shade, absorb water, reduce pollution and provide a haven for wildlife.

Roof gardens aren’t new to us here in the UK either, they were a modernist dream over a hundred years ago, being cited as the future model that would become common place. In the 1920s Selfridges in London created their own flamboyant pleasure garden on their rooftop to entice their customers. Soon their competitors, the other department stores, began to create their own with putting greens, ponds, ornamental and productive gardens all being included. The Kensington Roof Garden was created, a 1.5 acre rooftop oasis split in to three main themes, Tudor gardens, a woodland garden (with fully grown Oak and fruit trees in 1.5m soil!) and a Spanish garden all of which bring their own wildlife including flamingos! This garden is still in existence and is open to the public. Sadly many of these floating oases were destroyed during the blitz and were seen as too costly and ostentatious to recreate and repair in post war years.

Today a roof garden is very possible and the logistics of getting materials up there is easier with the use of a crane, for smaller items they can be carried up stairs or in the lift. A lot of thought needs to go into the logistics and planning, including discussing with a structural engineer what weight the roof can take and working with a garden designer to make the dream a reality. Consideration is required for the plants, most new beds or containers will have depth restrictions of around 45cm (18ins) for root space and the sheer creation of a garden in the sky means it is more exposed to winds. Plants that will survive in little soil and being on a manmade cliff are, for example, coastal plants and ornamental grasses. Ensuring you have the right plant in the right place means that most of your work can be done at the outset.

Lightweight containers are much better than heavy terracotta not only for weight but also because terracotta will absorb water and this evaporates quickly meaning there is more work for you to do keeping the plants well watered. Using a product like expanded clay is good too because it retains water and is light to lift, remember to finish off with a mulch like gravel which will help retain moisture and reduce weed growth. Creating a roof garden means you are ultimately responsible for creating the right conditions for plants to grow so you don’t have to work with and keep the heavy clay soil the rest of us have to when we buy a house here in the Midlands!

birminghamlibraryroofgardenIn Birmingham the new library, a very modern building, has received criticism and has been applauded equally for its futuristic architecture also has a roof garden which is open to the public (left). The community can come and simply look out over Birmingham or bring a book up to read and enjoy the green space. Volunteers take turns in caring for the plants and borders; they are growing both ornamental and productive plants some of which are used in the cafe. This whole process also helps with offsetting the building’s carbon emission. I visited in November 2013 and was struck by the vastness of the space we were in, the garden was lovely and you can imagine what it would be like in the height of the season. Looking out over Birmingham left me feeling cold though, there wasn’t one other roof garden it was simply a concrete jungle crying out for greenery.

Even if you only have a few square metres and you create a roof garden, it will change your life. It will help to bust the stresses of modern life, cool the city, absorb pollution and create an environment for wildlife to co-exist. If you want more information on creating roof gardens get in contact with us for an initial chat.

 

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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 1

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Episode 1:  Wildflowers and Front Gardens

Wildflowers - Monty Don

wild-poppiesDuring his childhood Monty grew up with wild flowers in abundance - as did many of us and our parents - but now a staggering  98% of our wildflower meadows have gone which has meant that our landscape has changed drastically.  He gave his tips for creating a wildflower area, including using yellow rattle which is semi-parasitic and will act as a grass suppressant thereby giving other seeds a chance to grow.  He also showed us how to prepare an area that is already laid to lawn by cutting it on it's lowest setting, raking thoroughly and exposing soil in some areas to make it impoverished before sowing seeds.  Monty also looked at the ancient ways of cutting the meadows down at the end of the season by using a scythe which whilst very Eco-friendly looked extremly hard work!

Interestingly we also got to see how wild flower seeds are mixed by specialist growers - super low tech but an incredibly bespoke approach - so anyone can buy seed to match the precise conditions in their garden.  He showed us his passion for wildflowers whether creating large or small patches regardless of the size of our gardens and he urged us to do so for the sheer pleasure of it as well as to help the ecosystms that rely on these types of flowers.

Front Gardens - Joe Swift

concrete-jungleFront gardens used to be places where we showed off our horticultural prowess but now they have become concrete jungles all across the country.  The decline of the front garden has been traced back to the 1960s largely due to the increase of cars and the need to park them. The result of all this paving though means that in heavy rain our sewers can't cope with the amount of water being run off into them and this often leads to flash flooding.  These paved over gardens whilst offering a practical solution, have proved to adversely affect our well-being, contribute to flooding and have reduced the biodiversity in our gardens.  Joe's message came through loud and clear, he wants us to breathe life into our front gardens not only for those reasons but also for social well-being and civic pride!  

It is true that we need hard standing areas for our cars but we can also have areas for our plants too and by directing water to those borders it will help our front gardens cope with run off.  If each householder made a conscious decision to mix both practical and environmental considerations it would have huge and positive repercussions for us as a country.   By placing plants next to the road they soak up a great proportion of pollution and therefore reduce the amount that gets through to our homes - I loved the idea that front garden plants act like filter paper, soaking up the pollutants before the nasty bits get to us. He showed viewers some ideas from grid system hard standing areas to using semicircular trellis that cover drain pipes so plants like clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine and other climbers can all grab on, work their way upwards and hide those ugly pipes.  

If not for the reasons mentioned above, improving your front garden can help you sell your house or rent it out so there really is no reason not to.   Read what we say about creating that kerbside appeal here.

 

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Great British Garden Revival- BBC2

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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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