Category Archives: Planting

Protecting Your Plants Roots Over Winter

With the nights drawing darker by the minute and the daytime temperatures slowly decreasing, now is the perfect time to finish off those odd little bits within your garden, with one of the top priorities being to protect your plants by mulching up around them for added protection and warmth.

For your more established plants, protection isn’t needed as much as it is for your younger plants. With a major drop in temperatures, younger more delicate plants are at a high risk of being damaged or even killed off once the frost penetrates their root systems. The traditional method that has been used for generations to protect these more fragile plants is to use Mulch

The best form of Mulch has to be good old stable manure and non is better for this job than our Country Natural Stable Manure.

contnatorgstblman_1000For existing plants that need protection, simply add the stable manure to a little of the existing compost/soil and create a little mound around the base of the plants. Do this individually to create a warmth barrier around the root systems and to add much needed winter protection.

Another great use for the Country Natural Stable Manure is for preparing your garden for next year prior to planting plants or veg. Not only does it greatly improve the structure of your soil but it also helps to retain the water that some soils can’t hold on to. Its main job is to feed the soil the nutrients from when it breaks down and thus, creating the perfect environment for your fruit and veg next year. Simply scatter generously onto the soil/compost area you wish to use next year and turn it over with a garden folk until it is all mixed in. Over the next months, any frosts will help to kill off any bacteria that is in the soil and with the added bonus of the stable manure, you’ll have the perfect start for a wonderful crop of veg or plants in your garden for next year.

Ornamental Fruits for your Small Scale Garden

Most people love holly with its rich shiny leaves and bright red berries. There are many other plants with highly ornamental fruit that provide interest, often during autumn and winter when flowers are scarce. The following are a few of the many choices available.

Starting small with the summer dormant bulb Arum italicum subsp. italicum ‘Marmoratum’. It has short columns of showy red berries in autumn, followed by marbled leaves that last through winter. Plant this with Hellebores and spring bulbs and it will naturalise if happy. Another lowly, often overlooked plant is the Gladwin iris, Iris foetidissima, with informal clusters of red berries in winter and fan-shaped spikes of green leaves. This is useful in difficult shady or dry places, a plant of quiet quality. Finally try Honesty, Lunaria annua. (Also available with showy variegated foliage). The sprays of white or purple flowers are followed by rounded white papery seed pods that appear in summer and which are loved by children.

Ornamental Fruit

Moving on to compact and medium-sized shrubs there are new ranges of the Tutsan, Hypericum that have been developed with a resistance to the rust disease that had blighted them. Some of these have names prefixed with  ‘Magical’ or ’Miracle’. They are truly eye-candy when the shiny yellow flowers combine with clusters of berries from late summer. The berries are coloured in shades of white, pink, red, and mahogany, all eventually turning black. One example is Hypericum x inodorum Magical Sunshine = ‘Kolmasun’. They make attractive shrubs, around a metre in height with pleasing foliage and a neat shape that looks good in the foreground. Try some of the smaller and sometimes prostrate cotoneasters that have white flowers in May and masses of berries from August or September. The low-growing or prostrate Cotoneaster conspicuus ‘Decorus’ has orange-red autumnal fruits. For a characterful plant, good in a container or enhancing a rockery or raised bed the small but craggy Cotoneaster microphyllus has small red berries that last and last.

Ornamental Fruit

Many roses have showy hips (don’t deadhead if you want these to develop), they include the prickly Rosa ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’ that has fragrant pink flowers. Finally, the exceptional flagon fruits of red-flowered Rosa ‘Sealing Wax’ stands around 2.5 metres in height but can have lower shrubs planted in the foreground.

Many climbers also have showy fruits. The bold pyracantha is probably the supremo for in-your-face displays of red or orange berries from autumn. Among the number available is Pyracantha Saphyr Orange = ‘Cadange’.

Ornamental Fruit

For something different there are the purple autumn pods of the annual climber Lablab purpureus ‘Ruby Moon’. If you are really brave and can handle a 12 metre high climber, there’s the shiny green wall-covering leaves of Celastrus orbiculatus. Its fruits are curious with yellow-lined pods that burst open to show its red berries. For a warm spot the subtle Schisandra rubriflora has dangling red flowers and red fruits, both distinctive and unusual.

Ornamental Fruit

If you have room for larger shrubs consider the native guelder rose in the beautiful form Viburnum opulus ‘Compactum’ with clusters of shiny red fruits. The larger Viburnum opulus ‘Xanthocarpum’ is a beauty with its translucent orange berries. For intrigue, try the blue berries of Clerodendrum trichotomum, the large but delicate sprays of red berries on Nandina domestica ‘Richmond’, that last all through winter, or, finally, the violet fruit of Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ these have a haunting quality all their own, most effective in late autumn.

Ornamental Fruit

There are also plenty of ornamental fruits on trees, but these have to wait till next time when ‘Trees for Small Gardens’ will be covered.

Enjoy!

This blog post was kindly contributed by Susan A Tindall.

Brand new to Longacres | Miniature World from Vivid Arts

Vivid Arts Miniature World Display

So many of us are renting houses or flats these days that not all of us have the luxury of a large garden, nor the time, to be able to make it lavish and beautifully planted. Similarly, many people are downsizing their gardens, or may only have some planters and pots on a garden patio. As a result of this, many people have begun a hobby of creating miniature gardens.

The craze of creating miniature ‘fairy-sized’ gardens kicked off in the USA and has finally reached our shores, and we at Longacres are thrilled to be a part of it.

Vivid Arts Miniature World DisplayBrand new to Longacres Garden Centre is the Vivid Arts Miniature World range, a wide selection of hand-painted and highly detailed fairy doors, cobbled paths, wildlife, lamp posts, garden gnomes, gypsy caravans, bridges, terracotta pots and much, much more. Along with our extensive range of plants, pots and planters we have everything you need to create your very own miniature world.

You can view and order the Vivid Arts Miniature World range on our website. Alternatively you could pop in to our Bagshot store and see the beautiful display we have in our houseplants area if you require some inspiration, where our knowledgeable team will be able to offer some great advice on which plants would really complement your miniature garden.

Prices of the ornaments range from just £2.49 to £21.99.

Here are some of our top tips for creating a miniature garden:

  • Vivid Arts Miniature World DisplayYou can create them in a window box, an overgrown area, your garden’s border – you can even revive an old broken pot too! So long as they are in an area where they won’t be harmed by too much sunlight or water (it all depends on which plants you choose – feel free to ask a member of our plants team for advice if you are unsure!)
  • Miniature gardens work both indoors or outdoors – just make sure you don’t over water an indoor one!
  • Be prepared to frequently maintain your miniature garden. They are living and breathing after all – just a few snips here and there will stop the garden looking overgrown.
  • Cobbled paths and wooden fences really add to the realism of the garden.
  • Dwarf and slow-growing plants work really well in miniature gardens!

Autumn Bulbs at Longacres Garden Centre

It seems like Autumn has arrived doesn’t it? Hard to believe we’re only just approaching the end of August.  At least the rain is good for our gardens (and ducks apparently). Whilst many of your plants are still blooming in the garden, the weather is definitely beginning to change and it would seem a good time to consider the next crop of flowers that you would like to see in your tubs and borders.  Bulb planting time has arrived.

At Longacres you can choose from a wide range of bulbs.

At Longacres you can choose from a wide range of bulbs.

One of the advantages of bulbs is that we tend to forget about them a bit after planting, and then get a lovely surprise the following spring.   Having a range of bulbs within your garden or pots can mean you are treated to flowers almost year round.

Many of us probably think of plants in terms of those that traditionally bloom in spring – daffodils, crocus, tulip – and those that bloom in summer.  However, there are many that happily bloom in autumn and even mid-winter. Cyclamen, for example, can survive in temperatures from zero degrees upwards and come in a range of stunning colours.  Winter Aconite, with their look very similar to that of the humble buttercup, can flower from late winter to early spring.  The Lance Leaved Lily produces fragrant flowers from late summer through to early autumn.  Not forgetting the Chinese Chive, or to give it its Latin name – Allium Tuberosum. Doesn’t that sound like a great Harry Potter spell?

Autumn Bulbs at Longacres

Bulbs are an ideal choice for young children.

At Longacres you can choose from a wide range of bulbs for your pots and borders; some of which are on fantastic deals of 3 for £10 and 3 for £12.  Bulbs are an ideal choice for young children as, unlike established flowering plants, they cannot really damage a bulb when planting – especially if they are as enthusiastic about gardening as their parents!

Both children (and adults, of course) may like to take advantage of our ‘cram a pot’ section.   A large pot of daffodil bulbs is just £3.99 – and you can even keep the pot!  Also on offer are a range of specialist bulb planters, starting at just £1.99.  You can find them all around the bulb section.

Autumn Bulbs at Longacres

Longacres offers a ‘cram a pot’ section in their bulbs area.

We look forward to seeing you at Longacres soon.

Using Hydrangeas in the Garden

HydrangeaIn a container:
Hydrangeas all enjoy plenty of moisture. If you can’t, or don’t wish to spend time watering the garden but can manage a few containers, fill one or more with hydrangeas. Paired pots of hydrangeas are round in shape, have a formal look and look good placed one each side of a path or entrance. Try the stylish white-flowered Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Black Steel Zebra’ which is around a metre in height and spread, with a floral season that starts in July. For a really compact container plant the 45cm high Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Papillon‘ which has flowers that are pink in alkaline soil and shaped like some begonias. This could be placed with containers of Begonia (Nonstop Series), to intriguing effect and they should both start to flower during July.

In the border:
Hydrangeas can be surprisingly effective as part of a mixed planting in a flower border. The more delicate flowers of the lacecap forms with their domed heads can be interesting.  For pink flowers try with frothy magenta pink Astilbes such as Astilbe chinensis var. tacquetii ‘Superba’, or as a contrast to elegant hardy Lobelias such as Lobelia ‘Compton Pink’. Alternatively the exuberant whorled flowers of Monarda such as pale pink Monarda ‘Fishes’ make good companions.

If you have acidic soil and can grow those elusive blue hydrangeas (for example 1.5 metre high lacecap Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Zorro’, try them with the dark blue columnar flowers of monkshood such as Aconitum napellus, the warm lavender-blue of Phlox paniculata ‘Eventide’, or the stately pale blue spikes of Veronicastrum virginicum. All these border selections enjoy plenty of moisture.
Hydrangea

For something dramatic:
Hydrangea paniculata forms can stand 3 metres or more in height and are at their best from late summer, going through autumn. They develop large heads of conical flowers, often white or pink, and turn pink with age. They are spectacular in flower, yet often overlooked. These need plenty of moisture and acidic or neutral soil. Try 3 metres tall Hydrangea paniculata ‘Brussels Lace’, or for a small garden use modern cultivars at half the height such as Hydrangea paniculata ‘Silver Dollar’. Smaller Hydrangea macrophylla or serrata forms can be grown in front of them. They can also be grown in the company of other stalwart garden favourites with different seasons of interest such as spring flowering Forsythia, the colourful winter stems of dogwoods such as Cornus sanguinea ‘Magic Flame’, or evergreens such as Camellia and Pieris.

For exceptional foliage:
The oak leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia forms) have large leaves, like those of an oak in their shape. They have rich autumn tints as well as beautiful flowers and can look sumptuous. These come in a range of sizes but at 1.5 metres, with a greater spread, try Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Sikes Dwarf’. These hydrangeas look beautiful when grown with witch hazels such as the pale yellow winter flowers of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ which has fine autumn colour that complements the hydrangea.

For that awkward wall:
Hydrangeas can be the perfect solution. In the mildest parts of the country try Hydrangea serratifolia. For north-facing walls, Hydrangea anomala subsp. Petiolaris with its white lacecap flowers in spring, is a first rate choice.

Enjoy!

This blog post was contributed by Susan A. Tindall

Wild Flower Tillers Turf featured on Love Your Garden!

Did anyone watch last night’s (Tuesday 11th August) final (and emotional!) episode of Love Your Garden with Alan Titchmarsh? If so, you probably spotted the beautiful wild flower turf from Tillers Turf. We here at Longacres are very proud stockists of Tillers Turf, with fresh deliveries coming in daily!

What are the benefits of wild flower turf?

  • It boosts the biodiversity value of the built environment by attracting in a wide range of pollinators
  • It helps to re-establish wildflower species that are under threat
  • It provides outstanding visual interest from early spring to late autumn
  • It creates an immediate visual effect
  • It is cost effective and requires low maintenance

If the wild flower turf particularly caught your eye and is something you’d like for your own garden, it is available as a special order; speak to a member of our friendly information staff for more details by calling us on 01276 476778.

Below are some behind the scenes photographs from the show!

Tillers Turf on Love Your GardenTillers Turf on Love Your GardenTillers Turf on Love Your Garden

Understanding Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas have showy flowers that last for a long time. Most hydrangeas enjoy part or even full shade, and they come in a large range of sizes, many being suited to growing in containers. They sound like the perfect garden plant. What else do you need to know about them?

Blue and pink
Pink HydrangeaThe flower colour of hydrangeas that aren’t white are in the blue and pink colour ranges. These shades change in response to the acidity or the alkalinity of the soil they are grown in. If you have chalky soil your blue-flowered hydrangea will gradually change to pink. This can be upsetting if you’ve planned a dreamy blue-flowered garden. If you can successfully grow healthy camellias or any rhododendrons in your garden borders, you have acidic soil. If you can grow blueberries, you have very acidic soil. Otherwise, it is likely that your soil is neutral or alkaline. You can grow your hydrangea in a container with acidic compost, and water using rainwater. It is worth the effort for one fabulous blue specimen.

Blue flower treatments
The acid to alkaline measure or the soil’s pH is, like earthquake measurements, increased by ten with each unit. Neutral soil is pH 7, and acidic soil at pH 6 is ten times more acidic than neutral. Although it is possible to ‘blue-up’ your hydrangeas, it only really works if your soil is slightly, rather than extremely acidic. In the old days, piles of nails were put round hydrangeas to release iron into the soil.

Blue HydrangeaThe mineral aluminium is largely responsible for Hydrangea ‘blues’. Alkalinity “locks up” the aluminium so the plant can’t absorb it, the addition of iron to the soil releases the aluminium content to the plant. Nowadays ’treatment’ comes in packets. Sequestrol which contains Iron chelate, can be watered in to the soil. Aluminium sulphate applied at 250 grams to the square metre, puts aluminium into the soil which the plant can absorb. Sulphur applied at 150 grams per square metre, lowers the pH by a useful 0.5. Treatments are likely to be needed annually, and using rainwater rather than the generally alkaline tap water helps when watering. An old party trick is to blue-up just one side of a hydrangea, so you get different flower colours on the same plant!

Mopheads and Lacecaps
Hydrangea flowers, especially in the case of the common garden ‘macrophylla’ form, have two types of flower. The “mophead” (Hortensia) has big, rounded flowerheads packed with individual florets that are sterile, and tiny fertile flowers that are hardly visible. The “lacecap” heads are flattish, and have tiny fertile flowers at their heart and showy infertile ones, often held on short stems, round the edges. Hydrangea macrophylla Early Blue = ‘Hba 202911’ is a mophead, while Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Taube’ (Teller Series) is a lacecap.

From traditional to trendy
The rather stolid image of the hydrangea has changed in recent years. Some of the new varieties are elegant, even dramatic. Hydrangeas have an important role to play in the most modern and stylish garden. One change to modern forms doesn’t involve the flowers at all. Varieties are now available that have shiny black stems, such as Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Black Steel Zebra’. Other varieties have near black foliage and flowers that change colour with age. These, and many more will be covered in next month’s article “Using hydrangeas in the garden”.

Enjoy!
This blog post was contributed by Susan A. Tindall

Hebes in the Garden

Garden centres and online sites usually have a gathering of Hebes. The featured plants are generally small with long shiny leaves that may be green or carry bright, even curious variegation. There are often ‘tussocks’ of flowers in just about every shade but yellow or orange. They are indeed hard to resist, and are ideal subjects for containers on the patio. Surely one can do more with them.

Hebe 'Sparkling Sapphires'

Hebe ‘Sparkling Sapphires’

Containers have their uses. They are a good setting for many modern cultivars that have variegated foliage, Hebe ‘Sparkling Sapphires’ for example could be used in a pair of containers set on each side of a pathway. The golden foliage of Hebe ‘Golden Anniversary’ can provide a warm gold backdrop to busy containers that froth with annuals.

They can also look remarkably good planted in a border or as a feature, primarily for foliage interest. Invest in a group of three, choosing plants with a good solid form, such as Hebe ‘Autumn Glory’ with glossy green leaves and purple flowers in August and September. Plant in a triangle set half a metre from each other and this will develop as a striking feature for year round interest. This would contrast well with other variegated and showy plants. If you want just one plant, the willow-like foliage of Hebe salicifolia and its frothy mass of white flowers in summer, is a delight.

Hebe Bronze Glow = 'Lowglo'

Hebe Bronze Glow = ‘Lowglo’

Hebes also look surprisingly good planted singly in borders, or round the feet of roses. The rather unattractive rose stems can be completely hidden by a compact Hebe. Try Hebe Bronze Glow = ‘Lowglo’ with its bronzed foliage and blue spring flowers that combine so well with tulips in spring and pink or red roses in summer.

In addition to these lush, leafy Hebes there are other distinctive varieties. For sheltered spots the silvered grey and blue leaves of dainty Hebe ‘Glaucophylla Variegata’ can make an exceptional contribution. Use it as a tall highlight above low-growing herbaceous plants in a sunny spot. Even more exquisite is silvered Hebe pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’ which has outreaching horizontal branches, wonderful as an edging plant or on a raised bed.

Hebe 'Mrs Winder'

Hebe ‘Mrs Winder’

Hebes that have close-textured foliage such as the tight dome of Hebe recurva ‘Boughton Silver’ make a huge contribution to often shaggy and characterful plants in a Mediterranean-style garden. The whipleaf Hebes with their conifer-like branches can make tiny specimens in a rock garden. Hebe ochraceae ‘James Stirling‘ (a curious shade of burnt gold, is highly distinctive.

Finally, Hebes for winter colour. Many Hebes have foliage that changes colour in cold weather, a valuable asset indeed for those long dull months. If you have space, try the magnificent Hebe ‘Mrs Winder’ coloured red-mahogany in winter, or the smaller Hebe ‘Caledonia’ which is rose-purple is equally good. There are others, worth a bit of research in your Plant Finder, if you have trouble choosing the one among many that are on offer.

Enjoy your Hebes.

This blog post was contributed by Susan A. Tindall

Planting peas in the Longacres garden

Plant your pea plants now for a great early harvest!

Peas are one of the more hardier vegetable plants that you can get hold of or grow. You can sow pea seeds in Autumn – overwintering them in a greenhouse till spring, or sow them now (March / April) ready for planting out in a few weeks time. The other alternative is to buy a 6 pack or pot of pre-grown pea seedlings ready to plant out! (available in store)

Peas are a great starter crop as they are easy to grow and require little care after initial establishment to grow well. The first thing to make sure you have done is to prepare your site and improve your soil – if you haven’t done this already then you can view my previous video and blog post on how to do this.

Once you’ve improved your soil and you know where you want your pea plants to grow you’ll need to assemble, create or purchase a frame for them to grow up. Peas climb naturally so this is vital for supporting good healthy growth. You can get great, simple to use kits like we have here at Longacres, or you can assemble your own with just simple string and some bamboo canes.

Once the frame is in place you plant out your peas! Dig a small hole about the same size of the current pot they are in. Gently push the root ball up from the bottom of the pot or 6 pack and place gently into the hole you have just dug. Carefully backfill (move back around the plant) the soil that you dug out to create the hole. And that’s your peas planted!

The next step is to pinch out your pea plant growth tips if you want them to be more busy and compact. Do this by cutting or ‘pinching’ about a third of the growth of the pea away from the plant down to above a node – see my video on peas to find out more about this! You may also need to tie your peas to the canes or supports using jute twine if they are already tall.

The final step is to water them in (unless its raining of course!) I added the new Baby Bio Top Defence feed to my water which helps plants with stressful situations such as transplanting, drought and cold. It will be interesting to see how this product works over the season.

And that is all you need to know about planting peas! I will have a blog and video update later in the season to show you tips on harvesting and show you how things are getting along during the main growing season!

Have any questions about growing your own, plants or houseplants? Send them to us in an email to: plantsonline@longacres.co.uk

Roses in Containers

Rose
Many of the roses that are presently fashionable are quite small, standing between 45cm and 80cm in height. They can easily be lost in a garden unless carefully placed, or grown as part of a group of like-coloured flowers so they can make an impact. It is often better to grow these roses in containers, which means the flowers are raised to a higher position, and the containers can be moved into prominent positions when the plant is at its best, either on the patio or positioned between other plants in a border. Roses and other plants can start their life with you in a container, but can be planted out in the garden at a later time.

Stachys byzantina 'Silver Carpet'

Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’

Small, rather fragile roses that haven’t developed good root systems may best be grown on their own in a container. When a number of plants are grown in the same pot there is competition for the available resources – both water and nutrients – and the rose needs to have a good, established root system to effectively hold its own. In these cases it can be really attractive to have a group of several containers, preferably matching. The plants that you grow in them can complement or contrast with the flowers of the centrepiece – the rose. Good effects can be achieved by having a whole container filled with plants of a single colour. For example purple Petunias, red Verbena, bold golden Marigolds or the deep blue of delicate Nigella. You can also use companion plants that are grown for their foliage such as the woolly silvered, non-flowering Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’ or the trailing silvered round leaves of a plant such as Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’. These colours combine well with pink roses. Other foliage plants can be utilised such as the intriguing rose and mahogany tints of Heuchera ‘Midnight Bayou’.

Diascia (Flying Colours Series) 'Flying Colours Deep Salmon'

Diascia (Flying Colours Series) ‘Flying Colours Deep Salmon’

Alternately a rose can be grown in the same container as other plants. For this option the container needs to be of a substantial size so that all the plants can thrive. It is usually more effective to choose small, dainty flowers to contrast with the often large and solid blooms of the rose. Suggestions include Nemesia that will flower all summer through and have alluring colours that will combine well with roses. The showy Nemesia ‘Sundrops’ with its clear orange flowers would go with yellow or peach shades. Or the small flowers of Felicia such as the blue, trailing Felicia amelloides ‘Santa Anita’ that can complement blue or contrast with other light tints. The solid, trailing Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea‘ with its yellow foliage and flowers makes a bold contrast to red roses. Finally, try the white Angelonia ‘Angelface ‘White’ with white roses, or the jolly salmon tints of Diascia such as Diascia (Flying Colours Series) ‘Flying Colours Deep Salmon’, for a lively interaction with yellow, purple, or peach roses.

Notes on rose care:
Put a slow release fertiliser in the container when planting and give the plants an additional feed in mid to late summer. Water very regularly, and when it is hot, be prepared to water twice daily.

Encourage gifts of good-sized matching containers – three make a good group!

This Longacres Blog post was contributed by Susan A. Tindall