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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 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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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 2

Posted by on in News & Views

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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