Tag Archives: Plants

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.

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

Shere Open Gardens – Sunday 28th June 2015

Shere Open Gardens

Shere, one of Surrey s most unspoilt villages is opening its garden gates for charity on Sunday 28th June 2015

For over a century, Shere has been hailed as the jewel in the crown of the Surrey Hills.  Set at the foot of the North Downs between Guildford and Dorking, this pretty village offers great architecture from wonky little Tudor cottages and Lutyens lodges to more than its fair share of manors and mills. Historically it has been called home by many artists and now with a population of about a thousand it is a popular destination for walkers, cyclists and tourists who take advantage of the many pubs, tea shops, eclectic gift shops and its famous ice cream parlour.

Shere Open GardensFor it’s 37th year running, Shere will be opening it’s garden gates for one afternoon and inviting
the public to view a record number of 28 beautiful private gardens on Sunday the 28th June 2015.

Whether you are a keen gardener or simply curious to see behind the lichen covered walls and manicured hedges, Shere Open Gardens gives a glimpse into quintessential England. Come along and enjoy an afternoon strolling from quaint colourful cottage borders and elegantly landscaped water gardens to little patio suntraps and vigorous vegetable plots. There will be an over-the-wall gardeners’ question time at the Shere allotments with a couple of the keenest allotment holders, a pimms stall and homemade teas in the village hall.

Says Annabel Alford, Chairman of the organising committee:

“2014 was a record year for Shere Open Gardens. We welcomed over a thousand visitors and raised about £10,000 for local organisations and causes.  We hope the sun shines again this year so we can have an equally successful day.”

Shere Open GardensIn 1978 the local village hall was in desperate need of repair; the local villagers all came together to figure out a way to try and raise the money needed – Shere Open Gardens was decided as being a suitable event. Unexpectedly. it proved to be so popular that it quickly became an annual event in the village’s calendar and in this, the 37th year of Shere Open Gardens, the residents once again looks forward to welcoming visitors come rain or shine!

Last year, Shere Open Gardens raised over £10,000 and they hope to match (or exceed!) that this year with your help. The funds raised by the event are split between around 17 local causes aimed at all ages and stages in the community, from the Toddler Group and Village Nursery to the Pensioner’s Christmas Party and the local Veterans (of which there are still three!).

Event:  Shere Open Gardens
Date:  Sunday 28th June 2015
Time:  2pm – 6pm
Location:  Shere is just to the south of Newlands Corner off the A25, half way between Guildford and Dorking.
Parking:  FREE. The main car park for the event is at the junction of Chantry Lane and Upper Street – GU5 9JA. Disabled parking is available at the Shere school in Gomshall Lane – GU5 9HB.
Parking will be well signposted.
Refreshments:  There will be a Pimms Stall run by the Cricket Club and Homemade teas and cakes will be served in the Village Hall by the village school mums
Entry:  Adults: £6; Over 60: £5; Children under 16: FREE. Tickets are available at the Village Hall and selected gardens – ask parking attendants for the nearest points.
Are dogs allowed?:  Sorry, no dogs (other than guide dogs) will be allowed in the gardens

Further information can be found at www.shereopengardens.co.uk

Shere Open Gardens

© Images courtesy of GuildfordPhotographer 

Mixed Zinnia

Liven up Your Garden with Bedding plants | Longacres

Gardens are a homeowner’s paradise. It is, however, rather unfortunate that they often end up looking like blank canvasses during the winter—with snow or leaves covering the ground. As soon as the first signs of spring come along, it is time to liven up the garden with colours—and flower beds are a great way to achieve this.

Despite usually lasting only a single season, they can provide your garden with vibrant colours and energise exterior spaces.

They can fill the gaps between plants shrubs that have yet to grow fully. You can also plant a whole bed for an immediate effect. Let’s take a look at what you can do to make great bedding plants in your garden:

Choosing Flower Colours

It is all about the colour. Once you pick a colour scheme for your bedding, you can choose the right seeds to plant afterwards. You can be as creative as you want to be with combinations or you can choose to fill the space with a single, solid colour.

Giving Seeds a Good Start

After planting the seeds for your choice of flowers, you may want to give them a head start by watering them with a water-soluble fertiliser. This way, you can ensure that they have all the nutrients needed to sprout up and beautify your garden as quickly as possible.

Keeping Beds Pest-Free

There will always be the issue of pests in the garden. It is important to use just the right pesticides for the job. When buying, make certain to ask for the least toxic products. Also, buy only the smallest containers. Large ones can take years to consume and will lose effectiveness by then.

Flower beds are often the star attraction of gardens. With them, you get a chance to brighten up your garden with beautiful colour combinations.

Longacres is your prime source for garden supplies, bird feeders, and more. Check out our online range for all the seeds you will need to add a dash of colour to your garden!

Combining Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ with bulbs

Choisya x dewitteana 'Aztec Pearl'This useful shrub with its shiny green leaves, rounded growth habit and starry white flowers from pink buds in April and May can be usefully combined with bulbs that are planted in front of it, and which can provide interest at different seasons of the year. Bulbs generally die back and become dormant once flowering is over so that their foliage doesn’t spoil any subsequent planting. Please remember that, as the foliage dies it has a week or two of untidiness as the plant concludes its lifecycle for the year.

For best results plant bulbs in Autumn, and organise their planting positions to suit their growth habit. You can also move bulbs planted in tubs into position in front of the Choisya.

Crocus go in front, they are small and their spent foliage soon lies flat on the ground. Behind them put the tulips. The foliage of tulips dies back very quickly once flowering has finished. The varieties suggested flower later than the daffodils and help to hide their foliage as it declines. At the rear put the daffodils as their foliage hangs around, very untidily, until June. They generally flower before the tulips, so don’t use dwarf forms or they can be hidden by the robust foliage of the tulips.

The bulbs for blooms from February to August

  • Crocus 'Prins Claus'February and March – a colony of plump purple and white Crocus. Crocus ‘Prins Claus’ sitting in sunshine in front of the green leaved Choisya can be pleasing.
  • April – Narcissus ‘Mallee’ is 30cm high in flower with blooms in shades of yellow and tangy pink and white. The buds of the Choisya are pink and this picks up that colour. Narcissus ‘High Society’ has white, pink-rimmed flowers and is tall, at over half a metre when in flower.
  •  April-May – Tulipa ‘China Town’ is 30cm high in flower with pink and green flowers and variegated foliage. Tulipa ‘Apeldoorn’s Elite’ is over half a metre high when in flower. It is yellow with a pink blotch.
  •  July and August – a tub or two containing a white Agapanthus such as Agapanthus ‘Snow Pixie’ can be placed on the earth, the green foliage of the Choisya again providing a rich green backdrop to the clear white of the Agapanthus.

These are just a few ideas if you are brave enough to experiment and heighten your enjoyment of your garden. Enjoy.

This Longacres Blog post was contributed by Susan A. Tindall

Shrubs for flowers from Winter to Autumn

Winter RoseOne of the most difficult things to do in a garden is to provide for a long season of interest, so that when you look out of the window, or walk in the garden, there is always something that is “strutting its’ stuff”, capturing your attention so you enjoy the plants in your private kingdom. The first thing that most people look for from a plant is flowers. The following collection of shrubs are all suited to what is termed ‘background’ planting. They have their period in the limelight when in flower, and provide a pleasing backdrop to other plants the rest of the year.

These shrubs are generally quite tall and could be placed near the boundaries of your garden so smaller plants can be placed in front of them. They might be positioned round a seating area which you decorate with pots of annuals for the summer, or they might edge a lawn. All these plants can grow in any reasonable soil that is well drained or moisture retentive, and all but one takes both sunny or partly shaded positions.

The shrubs

Winter FlowerChoisya x dewitteana ‘Aztec Pearl’ is the cornerstone of the selection. This is a rounded shrub with slender leaves and white flowers that come from pink buds. It flowers in April and May and will eventually reach a height of 2 metres.

Deutzia crenata ‘Pride of Rochester’ follows on with masses of double white flowers, also coming from pink buds. It flowers in June and July and stands around 3 metres in height (it can be pruned to a shorter height). It has chestnut brown stems and the bark peels attractively – a feature in winter. This is the shrub that needs a sunny position.

Rosa Avon = ‘Poulmulti’ is a semi-double white rose, the flowers again coming from pink buds. It should flower from the end of May all through summer providing you deadhead (remove the dead flowers). This stands around 1.5 metres in height.

Abelia x grandiflora ‘Hopleys’ is an attractive variegated plant with an arching growth habit and delicate pink flowers from July, and is still flowering in September. This stands around 1.5 metres in height when mature.

Euonymus grandiflora is grown for its foliage. It makes a large shrub or a small tree, reaching 4 metres in height. It is glorious in the autumn when its leaves turn rich shades of red and purple; they are accompanied by interesting green fruits.

Viburnum farreri reaches around 3 metres in height. It comes into flower as early as November and may still be in flower in March. The flowers are white, from pink buds again, and enticingly scented – so place near a pathway.

And that pretty much wraps round the year.

Enjoy making the most of your garden.

This Longacres Blog post was contributed by Susan A. Tindall

The Arrival of Autumn Brings Colour

Due to a long warm summer, many are predicting a symphony of colour in autumn. There are a whole host of trees and shrubs that will compliment your garden and give colour that will not disappoint, you do not have to opt for eventual large giants, and there are some really lovely small compact trees and shrubs that will give just as much during autumn.

Autumn
So here are a few for you to consider if you’re yearning to light up your garden with a spectacular autumn display:

Acer palmatum ‘osakazuki’
This is one of the best Japanese maples for autumn colour, it’s an elegant plant with leaves that turn bright scarlet in autumn. It will make an ideal small tree for border planting and will also do well in a container. Its rate of growth is moderate and will do best in a sheltered spot, out of strong winds. This is an ideal specimen for a small garden.

Red Oak LeavesQuercus rubra
Quercus is a large and vigorous oak tree, giving rich scarlet autumn colour and on acid soil the leaves will turn bright fiery red. It does require full sun and a well-drained soil site, and of course a rather large garden! Your soil pH will determine how good the autumn colour will be, so you will see better results in an acid soil.

Liquidamber styraciflua ‘festival’
The Liquidamber will give you one of the finest displays of autumn colour, during spring and summer the leaves are bright green before turning to burgundy red in autumn. Eventually it will grow into a large tree (4-5 metres) and will do full sun to dappled shade.
For the best autumn colour results this does better in acid soil or lime free soil.

Euonymous alatas
This is a compact spreading deciduous small shrub. The leaves turn a magnificent red in autumn. Trust me, the autumn colour that this shrub displays will not disappoint. It shows small green flowers in early spring followed by red, purple fruits. It gives something every season. A real autumn must have.

Prunus Amanogara – Japanese flowering cherryPrunus
This narrow and upright tree works well as an ornamental tree in all gardens, but particularly useful in a small garden. It will reach an eventual height of 5 metres over 20 years. It displays beautiful pale pink flowers over the entire tree in spring and the mid green foliage will turn red to orange in winter. It will do well in any soil condition provided it is free draining.

Callicarpa bondineri
The bondineri is medium sized deciduous shrub of an upright habit. Its leaves will turn a rosy pink in autumn, but the real beauty with this shrub is its berries, these are lilac, bordering purple on bare wood which is a real eye catcher. This will do full sun to partial shade and is the leaves will turn bright fiery red. It does require full sun and a well-drained soil site, and of course a rather large garden! Your soil pH will determine how good the autumn colour will be, so you will see better results in an acid soil.

This Longacres blog post was contributed by Jo from our plants department

A Touch of Gold in Winter

blog_holly_leavesA touch of colour in the garden during winter can enliven both the garden and the spirits of the viewer, even if you are just peering out of the window. Hint – position your bright plant where it can be clearly seen from the house. There are a number of shrubs that are evergreen with gold variegated foliage and these provide consistent bright colour throughout the cold months of the year.

The obvious choice is a holly and amongst the brightest is Ilex altaclerensis ‘Golden King’. This has dark green glossy leaves, gold-edged. Despite the name it is a female holly and will have some berries if there is a male holly in its vicinity. This could be the male holly, confusingly called Ilex aquifolium ‘Golden Queen’, with regularly shaped green and golden foliage.  Hollies are prickly and the leaves can hurt small hands when the tree sheds them and they lie on the ground, so be warned. There are other gold-variegated hollies available including the near thornless Ilex aquifolium ‘Golden van Tol’, another female variety.

If you want something big and beautiful but without thorns try an Elaeagnus. The most handsome of them all is perhaps Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’, where the green and gold leaves have a crisp and vibrant quality that is more intense in its effect than hollies. There are other forms with golden variegation.

On a smaller scale are a range of bright and cheery Euonymus japonicum forms that include Euonymus japonicas ‘Golden Maiden’, which has gold leaves with a green edge and stands around a metre high. You could try planting these in a group of three to provide an interesting and unusual feature.

Finally, there is an evergreen honeysuckle, grown for its lively foliage. This is . The leaves are small and pale gold during the winter months. It can be grown so that its foliage cascades down, particularly effective against a house wall or a fence.

All these plants are easy to grow in any normal garden.

Wishing you winter cheer!

This Longacres Blog post contributed by Susan A. Tindall

Bedding plants – trip to the proving grounds

[please note – you can click on all images for larger size]

We had a brilliant day out to the ‘proving grounds’ this week – where the existing, new and even experimental spring, summer and autumn bedding plant varieties are tested; and growers, garden centres and other groups come to make buying choices for the next year. Even the entrance was awash with colour – the large beds of Zinnia and Phlox looked brilliant.

Zinnia Bedding Plants

Zinnia

Phlox Bedding Plants

Phlox

 

 

 

 

 


Everything is planted in beds stretching far and wide, with a change in variety in every row. They are watered just once, and then left to grow in whatever conditions the UK chooses to throw at them that season. It gives a very good indication of how they will cope with our climate – important as many of the experimental varieties are developed abroad in places such as Spain and the US west coast where conditions are ideal and just a little better than ours.

The verbenas were amazing – masses of colours to choose from, including some eye-catching hybrids. These two were favourites:

Verbena (experimental)

Verbena (experimental)

Verbena Quartz Redeye

Verbena Quartz Redeye

 

 

 

 

 


There were also rows of Salvias and an amazing mix of Zinnia as you can see below.

blog_ball_colegrave_salvia_beds

Salvia beds at the proving grounds

Mixed Zinnia

Mixed Zinnia

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found plenty of new varieties which will be available at Longacres next year (both instore and online, in our bedding plant section), along with some new hanging basket examples.

At the proving grounds they also included an interesting ‘invisible’ water feature in one of their show sections, and areas displaying the all of the plants in a variety of ways – beds, pots, hanging baskets, vertical walls and more.

The magic tap water feature

The ‘magic tap’ water feature

Close-up photography

Close-up photography

Petunia Hybrid

Petunia Hybrid

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a great time – many thanks to Royden, Mel and Wendy at Perfect Choice. This was my first trip up there, but I’m hoping I can make it every year from now on.