We’re not long into September, and I’d like to think it’s still summer, if only just. But it seems that many of the trees think otherwise. I can’t help feeling a little antagonistic towards them. It’s as if they’re trying to deprive me of what little summer is left; as if they somehow know there isn’t any more good weather to come, so they might as well get on with the autumn business of dropping their leaves. I have an instinctive sense that trees are wise, but in this case it may be less about being in touch with the rhythm of the seasons, and more about giving up regardless. If trees could talk, they’d be saying ‘we’ve had enough!’
My Quince Tree (Cydonia oblonga ‘Vranja’) has suffered a lot this year. In spring, its freshly emerged leaves were ripped to shreds by strong winds. Likewise its second growth. It’s lived through prolonged drought, excessive rain, vastly fluctuating temperatures, and now a long period of dull, humid weather. And now it’s losing its leaves at an alarming rate. Continue reading
The hedge cutting season is upon us. At this time of year you can swing your blades into the largest, most unruly hedge in the neighbourhood, without too much fear of disturbing nesting birds. The only problem is how to fit all that extra work into a busy gardening schedule. And with all the rain we’ve had recently, it’s not as if the grass has slowed down.
Hedge of variegated privet (Ligustrum) undergoing trimming. I find laying down plastic sheets makes clearing up easier.
In the past few weeks I’ve cut quite a few hedges. Some are more satisfying to trim than others. The laurels – common and Portuguese – tend not to look so good after cutting, as the edges of the cut leaves turn brown. They look better once they’ve grown out a bit. You can at least cut into the older wood to renovate a hedge that’s outgrown its allotted space, or grown into an undesirable shape. They may look bare for a while, but they will throw out new shoots, and look better for it. Usually. Though you can’t always be sure, particularly as there are some nasty diseases affecting laurel at the moment. Cut back beyond the layer of green growth on the outside of most conifer hedges, and they won’t grow back. One small slip with the hedge trimmer, and you’re left with a hole that can only be covered by the plant world equivalent of a comb over! Continue reading
In a new development to my investigation into the diet of the impressively sized Leopard slug, last night I found one apparently feasting on it’s prey.
I know: I should probably get out more (by which I mean, beyond my back garden)!
I’ve read that we shouldn’t be too quick to rid ourselves of all of the slugs in our gardens, because certain species predate other slugs. I’ve never really been convinced of this. Anyone who regularly goes out into their garden at night to search for (and eradicate) these slimy creatures will know that slugs will eat pretty much anything, from carrion to cat faeces. Kill a slug one night and you can almost guarantee to find three more feasting on it’s carcass the next. So while I have often seen slugs eating other slugs, I didn’t consider that to be proof of predation. Continue reading
Bamboo is one of those plants that, a few years ago, garden designers decided everyone should have. Why – what did we do to them?
‘Do you want to borrow my hedge cutter?’ he said. A generous offer, you might think.
One of my customers lives on a nice quiet cul-de-sac, with a rear garden that unfortunately backs onto the main road. I’d been trimming a large Pyracantha and, unable to reach all of it, had picked up my loppers, step-up, and a green waste bag, and walked the short distance round the corner to get the rest of it from the other side of the fence. I’d just about finished when a white van bumped up the kerb and came to a stop right by me. The head of a young man poked out of the window and spoke the offending words. Maybe it was the Barry bad boy accent, but I didn’t catch what he’d said immediately. And when it registered, it took me a while to assimilate the offer. I didn’t need a hedge cutter, and if I had, I would have used mine, which was in my van. I simply replied, as politely as could be expected under the circumstances, ‘No thank you’.
Undeterred, he continued, ‘Or I could do it for you’, giving away the true nature of his offer. ‘Only, I do this for a living, see’ he added, condescendingly (that’s when someone talks down to you). I realised that he meant gardening, rather than poking his nose into things he didn’t understand (though I suspect that if such a career path existed, he would be rather better suited to it).
When I first started as a gardener, seven years ago, I went to a machinery shop for advice on what equipment to buy. A lawnmower is not a lawnmower. There are all sorts of variations, in size, weight and function (and even power source). A rear roller is best, as it can help to level out the lawn. It can also help prevent the mower slipping over the edge and scalping the grass. But it’s not so good if you’re likely to be cutting grass in less than ideal conditions – when it’s wet, or when the grass is long, for instance. Even more so with cylinder mowers, which can make a great job of a lawn that’s level, dry and not too long, but which need to be kept sharp, and are useless in the wet.
Say hello to Mr Sneezy
So I went for the most versatile, utilitarian option – a four-wheeled rotary mower. Continue reading
Is it my imagination, or is the Celandine particularly rampant this year?
This is a very difficult weed to deal with, mainly because of the small tubers that form under the soil at the base, and that tend to break off and lose themselves in the soil when you dig up the plants.
You can see these in the picture to the right. The RHS refers to these tubers as ‘tubercles’, which sounds a bit like a disease. And I can tell you that, faced with a patch of ground that’s covered in Celandine, it feels a bit like a disease too! You can never dig all of them out without leaving some of the tubercles behind, and if you’re not careful, by digging, you can turn a small colony into an infestation.
Mulching may well be the best organic approach to control. The RHS recommends a 10cm layer of organic material, but warns that this may not fully eradicate them. Membrane, with organic material over the top might be more effective. Although I know of at least one garden that has been mulched with heavy plastic, with gravel over the top (not my doing) where the celandine is pushing up forcibly around the edges, and at the base of the roses that were planted through the plastic.
If you’re happy to poison your soil, you could always douse the effected areas with glyphosate every spring.
The RHS encyclopaedia says Celandine is ‘good for a wild garden’. I must admit I’m a bit prejudiced against that because, with a few notable exceptions (such as Daffodils), yellow isn’t my favourite colour in the garden. But perhaps we shouldn’t get too worked up about this little plant. It’s easy to panic when you see a carpet of the stuff where you’d intended to have cultivated plants. But Celandine provides good ground cover, colour (albeit yellow) at a time when that can be in short supply, and by early summer it’s died back so as you’d never know it had been there. Maybe the easiest option is to learn to love it!
I may have been a little premature when I said there wasn’t a spring drought this year!
If the area you garden in is as dry as this, don’t forget to keep your pots watered, as well as anything that’s been recently planted in the ground.
Oh, and as a result of this post – expect rain!
A short walk down to the beach for lunch today (I don’t get the chance to do this every day). The Bahama’s it’s not, but I’m not complaining. It was actually quite warm, and the sun was out for most of the time. I ate my sandwiches, drunk my flaskoffee, and then toddled off back up the hill to the garden I was working in.