Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Tips & Auxins

Monday, April 11th, 2016

The last of the pruning is done, working from a ladder I thinned the growing tips of the trees to ensure the leader is clear of side shoots.  The plant hormone auxin is produced in the growing tips creating cell elongation in plant cells (extension growth).  Removing side shoots allows the auxins to be most concentrated in the tip of the central leader therefore encouraging fast growth in height.

It is a good idea to get the tree to grow to its full height as quickly as possible, once side branches get established low down then they divert sap from the leader.

The pruning goes on…

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Whilst pruning the other day, I was surprised to come across this damage on one of the tree trunks.  I am presuming it is woodpecker damage but I didn’t think they would attack such a young tree nor so close to the ground.  Well I will have to dig up and replace this tree now…

Formative pruning – young trees

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

It has stopped raining, we have blue skies, frost and sunshine – what a delight. I have emerged from my office and the warmth of the woodburner to start pruning the orchard.

Day 1 I made a good start, pruning 86 trees in four hours.   Starting with the youngest trees (aged 4 & 5 years) I aim to create space around each branch and a gentle taper in the central leader with a good framework of near horizontal branches.

On day 2 I reached some older trees (7 years), tall and dense with a good framework of branches, surprisingly I did very little to these, cutting out one or two whole branches near the main stem to encourage a more uniform taper.

Most of the trees in the orchard are too tall for me to reach the very top where some of the leaders need ‘clearing’ of side shoots (removal of competition and thereby increasing the auxins at the main growing tip of the tree), I will have to come back with a telescopic pruner.

I enjoy formative pruning, it is a bit like puppy training – establish the rules early then reap the rewards thereafter. It is a very rewarding job, unlike fruit thinning which went on for weeks and weeks last June.

In summary our young orchard of 450 trees produced 4560kg of fruit in the autumn, all of which was made into cider.

What does your garden say about you?

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Last week I was shown around a friend’s garden, it was a long garden in a country setting, narrower at the house end (but not too narrow) and a little wider at the far end. The borders were deep and defined by a meandering grass path, sometimes wide, sometimes narrow – a bit like the course of a lazy river. I see a lot of gardens and this was refreshing, it felt peaceful and private, there were several benches and a lovely carved log bird bath which apparently a small frog occasionally visits!

The beds were mostly weed free but there were pockets of bindweed and ground elder – my friend’s attitude is relaxed with regards to these, she deals with them as and when. This is also her approach to the garden as a whole, she looks after the grass path but doesn’t become a slave to the borders. This fine balance of gardening and enjoying the garden is something I think most people fail to achieve, myself included. Wonderfully refreshing, thank you Ann.

Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Dahlias offer a fantastically long flowering season brightening the garden into early autumn. They may not be everyone’s favourite however with the huge variety on offer, it would be very difficult to not find one you like. From miniature pompoms to neat anemones, massive semi-cactus to dainty water lily forms they come in colours ranging from pure white, vibrant orange to deep velvety red.

In my garden I grow Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’, an anemone type which is very beautiful but it also provides a late source of nectar to insects. This week I have seen a variety of bees, butterflies (comma, peacock) and moths (tiny day time moths as well as larger moths at dusk) feeding from it.

Ruthlessness in the garden

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Spring has sprung, buds are bursting, it is nolonger safe to move plants around the garden, it is too late to prune most shrubs (wait until after flowering for spring flowering shrubs (Forsythia, Ribes sangiuneum, Spiraea ‘Bridal Wreath’)), in theory we should be able to sit back and enjoy the sunshine. But oh no! There are seeds to sow and nurture, grass to cut, weeds to keep on top of, staking to be positioned, lawn edges to tidy, dahlias to ease out of hibernation, plants to plant …. the fun is just beginning!

The sunny March weather has been most welcome by us gardeners as well as to bees and wildlife in general. I’m afraid that I haven’t been able to make the most of the fine weather in my garden as I have been snowed under helping clients with their gardens, I have to steal an hour here and there for my own garden. But it was in the sunshine of a client’s garden that I was told of a 16th century saying “a peck of March dust is worth a king’s ransom” (a peck was a dry measure of two gallons) – an interesting thought.

Another quote, this time from Victoria Glendinning “The test of a good gardener is ruthlessness” (said to be Rita Sackville-West’s quote) – this is something I see all the time and definitely something for us to ponder on!

To tidy or not to tidy

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

I don’t usually like to tidy the garden in the autumn, I prefer to let it collapse on itself protecting the soil structure, giving shelter to tiny creatures (e.g. newts) and seed heads for the birds. However 4 years are up and the herbaceous perennials need to be split (before everything becomes over whelming!) so now my compost bin is heaped with dead and woody stems and my borders look re-organised and neat. Of course neat and tidy gardens are not the perfect wildlife haven but there needs to be a balance between the gardener’s needs and that of the wildlife.

I am poised to mulch my beds with woodchip and I have potted up many of the split plants that I no longer have space for (these will be donated to a local plant sale next June).

There is space in the beds now for the spring bulbs to put on their show in a couple of months time – I can’t wait!

In the meantime there is some good foliage and the Iris unguicularis has been flowering for weeks.

Roses in the rain

Monday, November 11th, 2013

A check up visit on a client whose new rose garden is blooming well even in the November rain.  This is Rosa ‘Simply Heaven’

Crop walking in August

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

A lovely sunny day for my routine crop walk – I walk up and down the orchard rows, secateurs on my belt, gloved hands and a plastic sack.  I give each tree a long hard stare, beginning with the leader then checking each branch from the top to the bottom.

The trees are being eaten – of course they are – this is an orchard which receives the minimum of spraying, an orchard where we are trying to maintain a balance betwee the ‘good and the bad’.

Second generation young Vapourer moth are sitting in the sun ontop of the leaves close to the leader, these are a spectacular looking caterpillar, easily identified.

Also at the top of a couple of trees, on the underside of the leaves, a healthy colony of voracious hawk moth caterpillars, much harder to spot and pick off than the Vapouror moths.  The guilt gets to me but I have to protect my young apple trees whilst I can, in a few years time the hawkmoth larvae will be well beyond my reach.

The bottom of the trees are being eaten too, by deer.  It took a couple of years for the deer to find the new orchard but now they pay it a daily visit and so our deer fence is being extended as I type.

The good news is that we have a healthy population of beneficial insects in the orchard too, I found many ladybirds and spotted a lacewing, hoverfly and earwig too.

Yews Farm garden – horticultural excellence

Friday, July 5th, 2013

This is quite the perfect garden: walled, romantic planting, carefully chosen colour schemes, productive vegetable beds and trained fruit. This garden that will keep its dignity all year round, with the gnarled apple trees, the formal bay and box shapes and crisp edged lawn.

The garden at Yews Farm was started in 1997 by Louise and Fergus Dowding , it was  a blank canvas with only the apple trees retained.  Keeping maintenance low is key to Fergus and Louise; beds are block planted, they are not dug and well rotted manure is added to all beds annually. By keeping the soil healthy you improve the health of your plants “for a plant to thrive, the soil must be alive”.

Plants are chosen for their colour but also for their form, for example clipped shapes, Hydrangea quercifolia, Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’, ferns, Dracunculus, Paulonia, Yucca, Globe artichoke, Helleborus corsicus, Eryngium, Euphorbia mellifera, Eucomis (most of these were in the gravel ‘jungle’ garden).

Self seeding is allowed as this does reduce maintenance however Louise is ruthless, if a plant is in the wrong place, does not look right or does not thrive then it will be removed or substituted.  There is indeed a tucked away cutting border which I suspect is home to many of the outcasts.

Good plants for self seeding include Eryngium ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’, Allium Christophii and Hellebores.

Other plants that impressed were:
Ligusticum lucidum
Rosa ‘Eden’ (cream, pink, green) – a recent French bred climbing rose
Iris ‘Kent Pride’ (lovely blue tinge to base of leaves)
Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ (dark rusty orange / red with different interesting tones)

Tips shared with us by Fergus:
1. Hostas tend to stay slug free if grown on gravel but where their leaves are not touching other plants (which creates a slug bridge).
2. Manure from silage fed cows tends to be less weedy than field grazing cows
3. Louise is using horticultural grade Neam oil insecticide / soap against box blight