Six on Saturday: 28.11.20

Alice has still been off school part of this week so the garden has largely been neglected but the small time we’ve had on garden jobs has been enjoyable.

1. Breakfast birdwatch

On Wednesday we had Alice’s last day of home-schooling before her year group reopened. It has been closed after another child tested positive. But they’ve had their isolation period and she can return. I posted last week that we have been doing breakfast birdwatches but I wanted to post about it again as she drew such lovely pictures.

We have found a lot of feathers through the week on the lawn. I need to set up the trail camera to see what is responsible. It may just be birds scrapping or it could be the neighbour’s cat or the sparrowhawk.

And a mouse fallen victim. As we have remains left I suspect the cat as the sparrowhawk would have taken it.

2. Sparrowhawk

I did spy the sparrowhawk catch a sparrow last week. It zoomed in and snatched one and was out. I just managed a picture through the window before it was off. But I’m not sure it’s responsible for all the damage.

3. Sprouts

The sprouts were devastated by caterpillars earlier in the year but wasps then devoured them all and they have recovered. I’m not sure if we’ll have a crop for Christmas but it would be nice.

4. Front garden lights

Friday would have been the Christmas light turn on in my town. But they haven’t had the chance to raise the money this year so they are lower key. So, there has been a community push to place lights outside peoples own homes. In the front garden, I have used some solar-powered wire LEDs. They have a backup battery for dull days. I have stuck to the white lights in the front garden.

5. Back garden lights

In the back garden, we have lots of battery-operated coloured lights. I’m using rechargeable batteries as they do need recharging a few times over the month they are up.

6. Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

This is an Algerian Iris that normally flowers January to February time. I’d bought two varieties earlier in the year as I’d been taken by other peoples. It’s nice to have a flower in that winter window where little else is flowering. But this seems to have got started early.  These are flowering at the base of the stems so I don’t know if I’ll get some larger ones in future years.

We will be going out of lockdown next week and into Tier 3 lockdown so there won’t be any changes for us. But seeing as we are both still working, Alice is at school and the garden centre is still open it doesn’t really affect my life much. I hope you are all keeping well.

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Six on Saturday: 26.9.20

It’s been a week of contrasts. The first half of the week was glorious sunshine. The second half of the week has been hailstones, torrential rain and strong winds. This has put a halt to the building work. They made a good start but they can’t do the render until there are a few dry days together. The wind has crushed a few plants but hopefully most will recover alright.

1. Tulip pot

Alice bought her tulips last week but she wanted a really nice pot. She won a garden centre voucher back in May for National Children’s Gardening Week that we hadn’t spent yet. So, we went to the local garden centre and she chose this bee pot and we got the tulips planted last Sunday before the weather turned.

2. Wild about weeds competition

I also had some good news this week that I came 2nd place in a competition! I entered Jack Wallington’s wild about weeds competition. The aim of the competition was to show a weed within a plantings scheme. This was the photo I entered showing Asplenium within the front garden.

3. Sambucus racemosa

I planted this earlier in the year. It’s still only small but the lovely bright foliage is stunning right now. The foliage is working well against the darker dahlias foliage.

It is looking particularly nice against the Fuschia next to it.

4. Hanging basket

The hanging basket was replaced with a few fuschias I grew from cuttings. They’ve been slow to get going but they have finally realised I am growing them for their flowers.

5. Leptinella squalida and Acer palmatum ‘seiryu’

I have combined this Acer with Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s black’.

‘Platt’s black seems to be getting marketed as black moss. It isn’t really a moss but it does act as a ground cover plant. The foliage is small and fern-like in appearance. It’s actually part of the Asteraceae family, the daisies. It does flower with small brown flowers. Hopefully, it will spread to fill the base of the pot.

I wanted to see if the finer filigree leaves hold up better to my drying sea winds. It will still need a sheltered spot. But in theory, small leaves of this nature should lose less water and be more tolerant of the winds though it will still need a sheltered spot.

6. The dry garden

I have volunteered to tidy several of the planters at work. They have got a bit worn over the last year and just need a bit of a spruce up. They are outside the nursery and have a compost mix of sand and soil in. They are in full sun and will not see much watering for periods. Currently, there are a few lavenders healthy enough and a few sempervivums, a broom and a patch of Festuca grass. So I figure it makes sense to plan for dry garden conditions. The existing plants are mainly silver as many drought-tolerant plants have silver foliage. I have started reading Beth Chatto’s book, “The dry garden” to gain better knowledge. I largely garden on clay and my favourite area to work is my shaded front garden. So these planters are pretty much the extreme opposite of what I normally work with. I grow a few alpines and succulents in pots. I think it would look nice to find the handful of darker options to contrast with the existing silver plants. I’ve got a few stonecrops and sempervivums that can be split to use. It does feel a bit ironic to be planning a dry garden during the wettest week in months.

We are planning a visit to Scampston Walled gardens tomorrow so hopefully, the weather will hold off long enough for us to have a nice day. The gardens include both Capability Brown designed areas and Piet Oudolf designed areas so a bit of a contrast. I’m sure I will end up reporting back on it if we do go. Enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Saving pollinators

This week a new label for plant sales has been launched by the National Botanic Garden of Wales to help protect pollinators from plants containing insecticides. The story has been picked up on nationally though I think the significance of the story may be lost on some.

Currently, many plants are sold as being beneficial for pollinators. If you go shopping at a garden centre or nursery you may see labels with the RHS Plants for pollinators badge on. This is a very useful resource listing plants the RHS have deemed to be useful for pollinators. The lists are very useful. They list plants by season that are beneficial. This allows you to plan your garden to have plants in flower through the year to help the pollinators in your garden. Which is all great!

However, many of the plants sold with the RHS ‘plants for pollinators’ label may have been grown using pesticides. This will mean that the plants you are buying to help may actually be harming the wildlife. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and all that. In tests where plants bought with the perfect for pollinator label, 76% contained at least one insecticide and 38% contained two or more insecticides. The RHS has been discussing changing the label since 2017 but has shown little leadership in making the change. I imagine it would ruffle too many feathers withing the Horticulture Trade Association and the RHS sponsors. But it is a change that needs to come so consumers can buy without engaging in a Russian Roulette of whether they potentially harm the insects they are trying to help.

The plants containing pesticides causes harm to the pollinators and has been linked to colony collapse disorder. But it can also affect food up the food chain. Birds and mammals such as hedgehogs can be affected by eating these poisoned pollinators. It has been hypothesised that eating the infected insects may lead to the birds becoming denourished. It has also been shown that birds eating the neonicotinoids directly may lead to bird deaths. You would have thought we would learn from our past mistakes where the pesticide Organochlorine led to a decline in birds of prey as the eggshells ended up thinner but we obviously haven’t. On top of the decline of birds, many of these pesticides have been strongly linked to cancer in humans. While glyphosate was banned here in the UK companies like Bayer have just developed alternatives that are likely to be as harmful.

So having painted a rather gloomy picture there I hope you can see why the Botanic Gardens new ‘saving pollinators’ logo on plant sales is so significant. The label will indicate that these plants have been grown without any pesticides whatsoever. This will give consumers peace of mind that the plants they are buying are beneficial for pollinators and they don’t have any hidden surprises. Currently, the new label is being taken on by a series of Welsh nurseries but it would be great to see this go national.

In the meantime what can you do to ensure the health of your plants for pollinators? You can buy direct from several nurseries. More and more nurseries are advertising the fact that they are pesticide-free and peat-free. Alternatively, you can grow from seed. While some seeds sold are coated in pesticides this is used more in agriculture than horticulture. But again, companies advertising their eco-credentials. A number of the nurseries on Dog Wood Days Peat-free list state that they don’t use pesticides. The RHS plants for pollinators lists are still a valuable resource for planning for wildlife gardening but the label isn’t a guarantee of safety. Hopefully, in time, we can see the Welsh saving pollinators badge adopted nationwide.

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Further reading

https://botanicgarden.wales/press/science-fact-fuels-campaign-to-stamp-out-pollinator-friendly-fiction/

http://www.sussex.ac.uk/lifesci/goulsonlab/blog/bee-friendly-flowers

Wassand Hall

Today we headed out to Wassand Hall. I haven’t been to the gardens for two years and never in high summer. The whole set up is pretty much outside so Corona precautions are pretty straightforward and social distancing is easy enough. There were a few other people checking out the gardens but it was easy enough staying apart. Alice’s leg is still hurting so we didn’t want to take her for a day out which was going to strain her too much. The gardens here are not massive so we thought this would be about right.

The walled gardens are largely in three sections. One part is a run of formal box hedges with perennials growing inside. This was mainly heuchera, salvias and hostas currently.

A small fountain fills one wall.

With some stunning water lilies.

A climbing hydrangea Seemannii is spilling over one wall. This a different version to the one I grow as this one is supposedly evergreen. Either way, it has been allowed to romp away and is spectacular for it.

A formal pond fills the middle of this section.

There is a nice run of rose arches and clematis. Many of the roses had finished flowering but there were a few late-flowering clematises hanging on. This one is Doctor Ruppel.

We have continued Alice’s training. Hydrangeas are for having photos taken in front of.

Hydrangea Annabelle has been used a lot but then it is a beauty and easy to propagate.

To the side is the veg patch. Some of it looking a bit sorry for itself in the heat but some good obelisks.

And a good cutting patch of sweet peas.

Then a few flowers for cutting are arranged around the edge. The cactus dahlias proving popular with the bees.

The main walled courtyard is centred around a fountain complete with fish.

Then the borders seem to have been roughly split in four with a tropical border, a white area, a pollinator-friendly area and the shade border. I’m not sure if this is how they’d classify their planting but this is how it came across to me.

The tropical corner is thriving. Massive cannas, verbena and dahlias. Lots of Christopher Lloyd inspired schemes.

The cannas are truly enviable. A picture of health as opposed to my runt.

The shaded border is full of many of my favourites with foliage being key. Lots of hostas and ferns. It was also the nicest place to sit. When we set out it was grey and clouded but the sun came out as we wandered and the shade was appreciated.

The white border. As in Vita’s it is really a green border. It’s nicely done but it doesn’t excite me personally as much as other areas.

Though the agapanthus was spectacular.

It was good to see lots of bees and butterflies enjoying the garden. I saw both small and large white, peacocks, and gatekeepers while we were in.

We left the gardens for the cool of the woodland walk.

We told the story of the Gruffalo while we walked.

This took us round to the wilder ponds. A few moorhens looked to be hidden around the edge. A few dragonflies were flitting along the edge. I managed a few shots though none that great. Not as good as the shots I’ve been getting in my garden but nice to see a different dragonfly. I think this a common darter but if anyone knows better please feel free to comment.

They had a plant bench laid out. Mostly well priced for the size of the plants. They had a few of the hydrangea Annabelles for sale, a few interesting hardy geraniums, fuchsias and a few other bits. I picked up some cheap hakonechloa macra aureola for two-thirds of the price it is costing online. I’m not sure if I’ll use this bulking out my existing patch or possibly in a pot with one of the Acers that requires potting on. Then a small eucomis. Though I’m not sure whether it is labelled right. I like the spotty underside of the leaves. These grow a kind of pineapple-shaped flower. Quite exotic looking though supposedly quite easy to grow.

A nice afternoon out. The gardens aren’t massive. But, it was about the limit of what Alice could manage on a poorly leg and Amy’s back is aching too. Though she doesn’t know what she’s done. Always nice to see other gardens and see a few different plants in different combinations.

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Six on Saturday: 11.7.20 soil science

I have been working on the next unit of my RHS Level 2 in Horticulture and I am currently looking at soil. So to gain a better understanding, I am looking at some of what I learnt to discuss my own garden. The hope being writing about it will cement some of the ideas in my head.

1. Soil type-Clay

My soil in both the front and back garden is clay. If you look at the geological map of my area my street is on a border area where it changes from sand to clay. But mine is definitely clay. You can dig it out and you can mould it into shapes. On the ribbon test, there is no doubt about what I’m working with.  The front is worse than the back but the back has been worked more since I moved in and had lots of homemade compost and other top dressings added. Clay soil is made up of fine particles. This makes it prone to waterlogging. It can be slow to warm up. Clay is usually high in nutrients, although sometimes these are in forms the plants can’t take in. When it is dry it is very difficult to dig as it dries like the bricks that are made out of it. By and large, I have followed Beth Chatto’s creed of ‘right plant, right place’. I have tried to plant things which suit my soil. I have tried plants in the past such as lavender which like a free draining soil by digging in lots of grit and sand. They survive but they don’t thrive so these have largely been removed to grow suitable plants. Plants such as hostas, astrantias and geraniums which are happy in these conditions.

2. Soil pH

I bought a soil probe to get an idea of my soil pH. I’ve tried it around the garden and my soil seems to be coming out around 5.5 placing it more on the acidic side of things. I don’t think it’s accurate though as this would mean my hydrangeas would come out blue and they come out pink. But it is nice to know as most of the larger plants I have should be comfortable within a range of neutral to 5.5 with the exception of the lilac which seems happy enough.

3. Peat free

A lot of the advice on improving soil online and in books still refers to using peat to improve the structure. Using peat is highly damaging to our environment. Peat is one of our best carbon stores so destroying peatland potentially increases climate change. So all my plants grown from seed, potted on and planted up in pots are grown in peat-free compost. I have used two main brands this year. Miracle-gro peat-free has been more readily available again and has been excellent. It has been selling outside Tesco recently which is good to see supermarkets starting to offer peat-free. It would be nice to know the plants they are selling are also peat-free The rate of germination for seeds has been great and plants in pots have grown well.

The second brand I use is Dalefoot composts. They offer compost for specific purposes growing seeds, veg, tomatoes and clay busting. The wool compost has been particularly good for the pots as it holds water well. If you look back on last weeks six you can see some dahlias thriving in it.

4. Clay buster

My front garden soil is compacted clay. When I first started the process of renovating it I had lakes forming in one corner each time it rained and the rate of drainage was incredibly poor. I do want a pond but not one that close to the front door. To improve the situation I did drill a number of holes that were filled with rubble and sand to create drainage spots. In the past, people would have double digged it in. The RHS course does go into the details of how to dig your two trenches, turn the soil, add more organic matter and fill your trenches but this is back-breaking work and evidence suggests it isn’t necessary apart from in the most severely compacted areas. By adding organic matter on the top the worms and other life in the soil will help take it in naturally. I added a top dressing in spring and it has helped. Adding in mulch in this way seems contradictory in some ways as adding a mulch improves water retention but also helps soil structure improving drainage. But the plants here seem to be growing happily and the ground does seem to stay moist now but not waterlogged. The true test will be autumn when we potentially get weeks of rain.

One of the best solutions I’ve found for the clay is adding Dalefoot’s clay buster. This is made from composted bracken. It helps improve the soil structure while also helping release the nutrients in the clay. In theory, a dressing like this only needs applying every other year but this was heavily compressed under gravel and weed matting for a decade or more so it is in need of a bit more work.

I had also left a bit of a dip having dug the dogwood out last week to replace with the Sambucus so I have used some of this to top-dress to feed the new growth and bring the soil level back up. When planting shrubs I normally avoid using compost in the planting hole as this can discourage the plant from rooting properly. If the plant is sat in nutrient rick soil it won’t bother to grow out so I tried to make sure it was sat in the existing soil and then used the fresh compost around the plant to encourage the roots to spread.

5. Ericaceous compost

While I have generally planted plants that suit my soil and conditions, there are some plants I like that don’t suit my conditions. I particularly like Acers though they don’t suit my conditions perfectly. While they are fine with the clay soil unless it is completely waterlogged and they are ok with the pH of my soil which seems to be slightly acidic they don’t like the winds much. For this reason, I have a number in pots where they can be moved to more sheltered positions than I can allow in my borders. Acers prefer more acidic soil so by growing them in a pot I can give them ericaceous compost to give them the most suitable conditions. This is my first time using Dalefoot’s ericaceous. It is made from sheep’s wool and bracken. This is supposed to contain a good level of nutrients suited to Acers as well as having the moisture retention they need. The pot is glazed. This makes it less breathable than a plain terracotta pot which lose more water from the sides. This should help with the water retention to help with the water loss from the sea winds.

6. Sequestered iron

I have had a number of acid-loving plants that have suffered from yellowing leaves, particularly those in pots. I believe this may be down to chlorosis, a lack of iron. This can be caused by a number of factors such as poor drainage or that the nutrients are in the soil but in a form the plants can’t access. In my case with my clay soil, I think poor drainage and possibly overwatering may be to blame. It has been so windy recently I have been watering to try to prevent the scorched leaves and crisped edges. To try to rectify the problem I have given the plants a liquid feed with sequestered iron to try to get the darker foliage back. The bottle suggests a feed every 2 weeks during the growing season so I’ll see how these are doing in two weeks.

I’ve just about finished the assignment for this part of the unit. I just have my plant profiles to work on over next week. So I’ll be looking at another 14 plants in-depth. My plant knowledge is increasing rapidly. I need to cover a variety of plants. So far I haven’t done enough annuals of roses so may need to look at more of them.

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Propagating heuchera

I had posted on Twitter to say my heuchera cuttings were coming along well and  I was asked how I had grown them. I started these a few months back and they are starting to root. Heuchera are super foliage plants and make up a good part of the permanent foliage tapestry in my front garden. The leaves are usually evergreen and normally manage to stay looking good through winter. They work well in pots on their own or as part of pot displays. However, after a few years, they can get a bit woody and leggy so it is useful to keep a supply on the way as it can be costly to replace some varieties. Heuchera are also vulnerable to vine weevil. So if your plants are attacked it can be a way to provide insurance for their survival.

1. Propagate by division

The easiest way has to be by division. If you have a nice big clump that has been growing a few years you can dig around it and lever it out. Then slice the root ball into several parts. I favour doing this in spring so the divided plants have time to put down roots before the next winter. Once you’ve dug out a section you can either dig the divided parts back in around the border or grow them on in pots. Either way, I aim to keep the root ball slightly above the soil surface to avoid rotting. I generally divide leaving a big section in the space it came out of and then pot up the smaller sections in pots. This way I can make sure they remain moist while they put on roots. I like to water in trays so the soil gets to soak up the water but without getting waterlogged. This is probably one of the easiest and most reliable methods for dividing but you will only get a few extra plants a year. So it is quite slow. For most people, this won’t be an issue as you probably only want a small number of extra or ones to replace leggy ones.

I divided this heuchera marmalade in early spring. It had claimed a good section of the border and I wanted to clear the space for another plant. Rather than waste it, I divided it leaving a section of the heuchera in the border.

Then the divided section has been grown in a pot where I can keep an eye on it to ensure it isn’t drying out while it forms roots.

2. Propagate by seed

If you are looking for a mass of heuchera you can grow from seed. You can get hold of seed either by collecting seed from your plants or you can buy seed. If you collect seed they generally won’t come true from seed, so the offspring may not look like the parent. Palace purple is one of the exceptions that I have found self-seeds from time to time. If you want to buy seeds Chiltern Seeds offer a few varieties in several colours and I’ve generally found reliable. To grow the seed they need a free-draining seed mix. The seeds themselves just need to go on the surface, a light watering and then a tray lid on. They normally take around 10 days to germinate. If they don’t you can place them into a colder space for 4-6 weeks before returning to warmth. While it may take a year or so to get plants up to size this gives you the option to grow a large number of plants. However, there isn’t the selection of buying from a nursery.

3. Propagate by cuttings

I have been growing my heuchera cuttings in a really useful box. I mixed a compost using a peat-free multipurpose, a little bit of grit, and some perlite to help water retention. The compost mix goes in the bottom of the tub and the lid seals in the moisture. I watered before taking cuttings so the cuttings were going into moist but not waterlogged compost. I took cuttings in spring. Some sources recommend autumn after flowering. However, I prefer spring as the cuttings then have the warmer period of the year to put on roots. I only take cuttings from plants that have plenty of growth on that can spare a few stems. I take cuttings from the younger growth choosing smaller leaves. These won’t lose as much water and the juvenile growth seems to root better. I make holes in the compost mix with a small skewer. The cuttings are dipped into rooting powder and then placed into the holes. I try to position them almost on the soil. Leaving just a small gap so they aren’t resting on the compost to avoid rotting. The box lid can go on and then the box needs to go somewhere shaded. This went under my plant display table and has been left there for a few months. Every so often I’ve lifted the lid just to check they are ok and removed the ones which have shrivelled. The majority of the cuttings seem to have taken and I can see roots three months on. These will be grown on until I can either see they have a decent root structure or that they are putting on new growth.

I hope that’s helpful to those of you who asked. Heuchera are great foliage plants. As I said already, they are great for pots and for winter interest. They work well in shade and are great for wildlife. There is lots to like about them and they come in a whole kaleidoscope of colours. If you are looking to buy some I would wholeheartedly recommend Plantsagogo. Vicky and Richard offer an amazing range and they hold the National Collections for heuchera, heucheralla and tiarellas. An impressive feat for a very wide-ranging species. And they are always very helpful in offering advice. They are very useful plants and I wouldn’t want to be without them.

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Book review-How to get Kids Gardening with the Skinny Jean Gardener

I’ve had this book a little while now and I’ve been meaning to get around to reviewing it. Photos on the blog today are of my little girl gardening as no one likes long pages of pure text on a screen. For those of you who don’t know Lee Aka. The Skinny Jeans Gardener I first came to know him through his podcast. The podcast is a burst of energy. He’s had some great guests and it’s always a laugh. He’s appeared on TV on Blue Peter and the gadget show and appearances on Sunday Brunch. More recently he has been an ambassador for M&S little garden promotion. He has worked hard pushing gardening within schools and encouraging gardening to be taken on as part of schools curriculum. In March he toured a mass number of schools promoting gardening to kids. A hard-working chappy with fingers in many pies.

Available from Amazon currently £12.99.

Or direct from Lee with the option for signing.

The book has clearly been a labour of love for Lee who is passionate about kids gardening from his work with M&S and the school tours. The book is a record of many different gardening activities Lee has carried out with his daughter Olive, the star of the book. The ideas are tried and tested with Olive and during the school tours. As a former teacher and parent, I was interested to see what activities Lee would suggest. With children confined to their gardens, there has never been a better time to look at getting yourself and the kids into gardening.

The book has lots of great ways to get kids into gardening. It suggests easy things to sow. When growing with kids they want to see results, so it lists things where they will see results. Lee also understands the importance of using grow your own with kids. Growing fruit and veg gives the kids something solid they can enjoy in a greater way than a flower. They get to enjoy eating and helps promote a healthy diet. Win-win! There are a ton of things to make, things to promote wildlife: bird feeders, bug hotels and seed bombs. There are fun builds to give the kids more to play with, music areas, mud kitchens and more.

If my recommendation isn’t enough it comes with celebrity endorsements from Adam Frost, Sam Nixon (of CBBC fame) and GQT panellist Mathew Biggs. Most of the projects Lee details cost very little to make. They are almost all limited materials or involve upcycling something. So even on lockdown many of these projects can still be made. For the teachers out there Lee makes reference to the Early Learning Goals. For the non-teachers out there these are the standards children are meant to meet by the time they leave Foundation Stage (age 5).

Overall this is a great book for parents and teachers looking to get children involved in gardening. It’s rammed with ideas. You can dip in and out of it for ideas. It’s a book you can go back to. Well worth looking into if you are struggling for things to do right now.

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Book Review: The complete guide to garden privacy-Alexandra Campbell

Alexandra put out a call for reviews of her first book last week, so in the interest of disclaimer, I have been sent this to review. That said, I was excited to see what she had to say. Alexandra’s website, The middle-sized garden, contains blogs and videos sharing many useful gardening tips. She has written for many magazines and newspapers: the Times, The Daily Telegraph, Good Housekeeping and more. Her blog has won many awards over the last few years.

The book is available through Amazon:

Paperback priced £14.36 at time of writing.

Kindle Priced £7.83 or free with Kindle unlimited.

From the blurb:

Find out how to make your garden feel private, no matter how small it is. This book will help you choose the right trees for privacy, find out which hedges are best for privacy, how to select a new garden privacy screen and how to screen eyesores. Create a secret garden or help minimise noise in your garden. Expert tips and advice from The Middlesized Garden, a top award-winning garden blog from the UK.The Complete Guide to Garden Privacy offers practical solutions with easy-to-read diagrams and inspiring photographs of real gardens.

So, this book couldn’t really come at a more opportune moment. With many us contained within our homes and gardens, more people are looking at spending their lockdown time in their gardens. Across the country, people have been discovering gardening for the first time. This is in many ways a fabulous development, gardening brings so many benefits, both physical and mental. But, it means the volume level has gone up. In many gardens, the privacy level is low as the gardens haven’t previously been used. So people are hastily trying to renovate their gardens to make them better spaces. Prior to my work closing, we were seeing good sales in fencing equipment as people looked at upgrading and fixing their existing screens. But there are many ways to add privacy to your garden that this book explores.

Trees can block line of sight to upper store windows

The book covers some basic principles of privacy asking you to think about which key areas do you want to be private. Within a row of gardens, it is almost impossible to make your garden completely private but if you identify key areas you can work to give yourself a secluded area. You may not need the privacy all year round. It may just be that you want privacy in summer when you will be out more. This opens up more seasonal options allowing for light to still reach your house in winter.

A parasol provides privacy from windows

Many of the options discussed are pretty obvious. Hedges and fences can be used to block views. But Alexandra goes into the extra detail of discussing the legal aspects such as where planning permission is needed. Plant lists are included for evergreen and deciduous options. The book makes use of nice clear diagrams throughout to illustrate the points she is making in the text. For example, for a seating area, you don’t necessarily need a high screen. An obstacle of 1.5m will hide you to people when you are sat. This is shown clearly through the diagrams and explanations. Screens, trellis, structures are discussed. A chapter is devoted to privacy in the front garden looking a few different ways I wouldn’t have necessarily thought about to add privacy such as window boxes.

A wall can provide privacy and block some noise.

The final chapter was particularly interesting and relevant right now looking at noise and wind. The wind can carry noise a long way. Alexandra looks at the way sound is carried by the wind over obstacles and discusses ways to increase your privacy.

Euonymus blocking line of sight to the eyesore of the compost heap

 

Overall this is an informative read. I devoured it over two days back and I’m sure I will return to look up aspects again. Anyone who reads her blog will know, Alexandra writes clearly, concisely and presents a lot of information within a relatively small book. It has made me look at the privacy in my own garden differently. I am starting to think out how I can add some extra seclusion to particular areas. I would recommend this book if you have issues with neighbours overlooking your garden or if you are looking at ways you can change your boundaries. This book will show lots of options for making your garden into your own secluded paradise.

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Floral Friday-Supporting Greenfingers

After a downbeat blog on the crisis in Horticulture earlier in the week I wanted to look at doing something more positive today. Today is Floral Friday so we are dressed in our best floral print to raise some awareness for Greenfingers Charity. Greenfingers are a UK charity that supports children and families in hospices. They help to create green spaces to give therapeutic benefits to children with life-limiting conditions. I am very fortunate to have a lovely space to garden in with Alice and we love our time together out in the garden. A beautiful garden space can uplift the spirits like nothing else. At this difficult time any support, no matter how small will be appreciated. This is a time for kindness. Donations can be made through https://www.justgiving.com/greenfingers/donate

https://www.greenfingerscharity.org.uk/

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Building a raised bed

As part of the RHS course, I need to look at veg production which is currently one of my weakest areas of knowledge. I have grown potatoes as a teacher with classes and I’ve always grown something to eat each year in pots: tomatoes, lettuce, beans, etc. But, for the course, I need to know details such as spacing for various veg. With the state of food shops, it seemed like a good idea to get cracking on growing. It’s also an excuse to remove another section of lawn. I could quite happily change the lawn into a potager but we’ll try just one raised bed for now.

I built this last week before we went on official lockdown starting with a trip out to the builder’s yard. Three boards and a few corner braces and I had the start of the frame. One board was cut in half to make the short sides and then screwed together. It’s just a small bed at about 2m by 1m. But it’s long enough to grow a few different choices. The lawn here is pretty worn so we’re not losing pristine grass.

A layer of card went at the bottom to suppress the grass.

A layer of leaves from the leaf mulch bags went down on top. It’s not as well broken down as I’d like but it should carry on breaking down and adding some nutrition to the bed.

I added the compost and a frame made from two willow trellis panels. The two panels were leant in together and opened to lock into each other in a tent shape.

I sowed dwarf broad beans last week to go up the frame and then I have radishes and lettuce to go in the space. Alongside this, I have a few tomatoes from work to grow in pots and some early potatoes chitting inside. It won’t give us a mass amount of food but the routine of tending to it and watering it will help give some routine during the lockdown and adds another activity to help engage Alice’s attention while she’s off. Wish us luck!

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