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Dorset ISSUE NO 162 MAY 2018 FREE

www.countrygardener.co.uk

Long live LAVENDER... and now all summer long

Sensational

garden days out in May

P lus

VEGETABLES WITH

the taste of Italy Gardening events galore THROUGHOUT DORSET

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● Basket plants including Fuchsias & 100 other varieties 89p each 18 pots for £15 ● Box bedding £1.99 inc. Geraniums ● Geranium pots and wide range of other bedding £1.85 each ● 14”mixed wicker hanging baskets £16.99 ● 12” hanging baskets from £9.99 ● Massive range of planted containers ● 2ltr perennials selection £2.99 each ● NEW! Great range of Fertilisers, Chemicals and Lawn treatments ● Bush, Old , Specie, Patio and Climbing Roses: £5.99 3 L Pot size ● Veg plants from £1.25 ● Shrubs from £2.99 ● Herbs £1.49 ● Pansies & Violas £1.25 for 6 cell pack

For frequent special offers join our eMail list on our web site.

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Erin 75ltr Multi-Purpose Compost £3.50 Erin 100ltr Chipped Bark £4.99 Erin 35ltr Growbag only £1.85 Miracle-Gro 50ltr Enriched compost £3.95 Country Care 50ltr Mushroom Compost £2.65 Country Care 50ltr Horse Compost £2.65 Country Care 50ltr Topsoil £2.65 Yankee Candles from £3.95 Dulux 5ltr Masonry Paint £14.95 Woodlodge pots all 25% off RRP

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6x6 Fence Panel only £18.95 6x5 Fence Panel only £16.95 6x4 Fence Panel only £14.95 6x3 Fence Panel only £12.95 Tanalised scaffold board 3mtr £9.95 Tanalised 3x3 Post 2.4mtr £5.50 Tanalised 4x4 Post 2.4mtr £9.50 Tanalised Decking 120 x 32mm £1.95/mtr Tanalised 4x2 (100x47) 3mtr £6.00 Tanalised 3x2 (75x47) 3mtr £4.50 Tanalised 6x2 (150x47) 3mtr £8.40 Garden Gates from £29.95 Tanalised Sleeper 250 x 125mm £27.50 Clearance Decking from £1.00/mtr Huge Trellis stock priced from £6.95

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Tea Room Opening Times Open 9.30am-4.30pm Mon–Sat, 10am–3.30pm Sun Country Gardener


Up Front!

“The world’s favourite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.” - Edwin Way Teale “Queer things happen in the garden in May. Little faces forgotten appear, and plants thought to be dead suddenly wave a green hand to confound you.” - W. E. John

OUR HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GARDENING CALENDAR OVER THE COMING WEEKS IN DORSET

Minterne House fair promises a great garden day out

Five-day flower bonanza at Athelhampton House

Minterne House in the Cerne Valley is the stunning backdrop for a Spring Fair held on Sunday, 13th May, which promises to be a popular day out for keen gardeners and their families. The gardens, voted one of the ten prettiest gardens in England by The Times newspaper has wonderful walks in 27 acres of woodland garden through towering rhododendrons in full bloom collected since the 1840’s. Craft stands, plant stalls, RNLI souvenirs, food, cakes and cream teas will be some of the attractions on offer. The event in collaboration with the RNLI and the day starts at 11am and ends at 4.30pm. Entrance is £5 with accompanied children free. Minterne House is on the A352 Dorchester to Sherborne road, two miles north of Cerne Abbas. www.minterne.co.uk

Athlehampton House, five miles outside of Dorchester stages its hugely popular annual flower themed festival from Sunday, 20th May to Thursday, 24th May. The event, organised by Owermoigne Flower Club, includes displays of fresh and dried flowers around the house and gardens and raises money for local charities. The festival opens at 10am and closes at 4.30pm every day.

May opening dates for Highwood Gardens

GARDENING TODDLER CLUB AT KNOLL GARDENS

May is an important month for those wanting to see the magnificent rhododendron and azalea walks in Highwood Gardens in Charborough Park in Wareham. There are a dozen days when the garden is open for various charities during the month. The gardens can be found at Charborough Park, off the A31 between Wimborne and Bere Regis. The entrance fee is £5 for adults and £2.50 for children. Teas are served overlooking the deer park and there is free parking for cars. For dates of opening visit www.charborough.co.uk Charborough Park Estate, Wareham BH20 7EN.

‘Bugs and Buds’ is a Saturday morning monthly toddler club run at the popular Knoll Gardens near Wimborne to inspire a love of nature from a young age. The club encourages interaction with Knoll’s many wildlife inhabitants as well as its trees and flowers. It runs on Saturday, April 28th from 10.30am to noon and booking is essential. Cost is £4.50 and the morning organized by the garden’s charity – the Knoll Gardens Foundation. Knoll Gardens, Hampreston, Wimborne BH21 7ND.

THORNGROVE CELEBRATES WITH MAY OPEN DAY A hidden gem on the outskirts of Gillingham, Thorngrove Garden Centre has embarked on a programme of regeneration, which includes a new Secret Garden Café, a revamped shop providing gifting ideas and space for complementary local businesses. Thorngrove Garden Centre is now owned by social enterprise, Employ My Ability, who have a history of outstanding work and customer service at The Walled Garden, Moreton. At both sites EMA create a specialist, teaching environment helping students gather employment skills, expertise, confidence and qualifications. The centre has an Open Day on Saturday, 5th May from 10am to 4pm, showcasing everything to the local community.

Activities include a family-friendly dog show, reptile and bug show from ‘Scales & Tails’, family games, stalls and a steam organ. Qualified horticulturalists, and EMA students will be at hand with expert advice. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm, Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Thorngrove Garden Centre, Common Mead Lane, Gillingham SP8 4RE. Tel: 01747 822 242 www.thorngrovegardencentre.co.uk

Look out for the June edition of Country Gardener from Saturday 19th May onwards

www.countrygardener.co.uk

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Mark Hinsley

MSc.Res.Man.(Arb), OND (Arb), F.Arbor.A

Arboricultural Consultants Ltd.

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We are a Dorset based company offering a friendly, professional tree consultancy service for all areas of the South.

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ALL ENQUIRIES WELCOME

01202 876177 www.treeadvice.info enquiries@treeadvice.info

A traditional garden centre in the heart of Gillingham, owned by EMA who create a specialist, practical SEND teaching environment dedicated to helping students gather vital skills, expertise and confidence. VISIT THORNGROVE GARDEN CENTRE TO ENJOY • A friendly welcoming environment • Our new secret garden café • Expert advice and gardening tips • Affordable plants, shrubs and trees • New season roses and fruit • Unique gifting ideas in our shop • Tree and planter hire for special occasions Common Mead Lane, Gillingham SP8 4RE Tel: 01747 822 242 Opening Hours: Mon to Sat 9-5, Sun 10-5

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CARE SOUTH IS A LEADING PROVIDER OF RESIDENTIAL AND HOME CARE ACROSS DORSET 4

Country Gardener


...In Dorset

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A LOOK AT NEWS, EVENTS AND HAPPENINGS IN DORSET

Dorset provides helping hand to almost extinct plant A nationally rare plant, Heath lobelia (Lobelia urens), has been given a helping hand by the Habitat First Group at Silverlake, Dorset. With only six populations known to be remaining in the UK it is considered to be vulnerable to extinction. In a trial that is the first of its kind for this species, Heath lobelia plants have been moved from a local Dorset site to Silverlake where they have been protected from grazing animals using secure wooden enclosures. The project, funded by HFG, brings together botanical expertise from Dorset County Council, the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, and Natural England. Dr Phoebe Carter, Chief Ecologist for HFG says: “Loss of suitable habitat is one of the main causes for the decline of this plant and by translocating this plant we hope to help reverse the decline and protect this beautiful plant for future generations.� It is hoped that a vigorous and robust population of the plant will establish at Silverlake which will help to secure the future of the plant for years to come. In the coming months it is hoped that the Silverlake will also become a host site for other rare plant species such as Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). For further information about the nature conservation efforts at Lower Mill Estate, Cotswolds and Silverlake, Dorset contact Dr Phoebe Carter pcarter@habitatfirstgroup.com

Knoll Gardens goes musical Knoll Gardens is hosting its first musical event on Saturday 28th April, as local ensemble Gerauschhersteller brings its experimental soundscapes to the Dorset-based garden. Performing as part of the Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe festival, garden visitors will be able to listen to two contemporary pieces through headphones, with the music they hear being created using amplified sound from plant materials. The idea is to create a meditative soundscape in the garden linking art to nature: all garden admission fees will be donated to the Knoll Gardens Foundation which is a charity working to promote sustainable, wildlife friendly gardening. www.knollgardensfoundation.org

Heath lobelia (Lobelia urens) - vulnerable to extinction

Spring garden masterclass at Forde Abbey

There’s a powerful line up when Forde Abbey hosts a ‘Garden Masterclass Spring Event’ on Saturday, 12th May with the trio of Anna Pavord, Keith Wiley and Harriet Rycroft focusing on all things spring in the garden. There will be a garden tour given by Danny Burlingham. The themes for the day are: ANNA PAVORD – A tale of tulips. How did this flower, this capricious, subtle, Anna Pavord powerful flower, first arrive in our gardens? Anna tells its story and talks about some of her favourites. KEITH WILEY – Woodlanders in Spring. Keith will focus his talk on the wonders of naturalistic, woodland planting and how to transform the dry shady areas of the garden. HARRIET RYCROFT – A potted year. Harriet will talk about plant containers so that they earn their keep from spring to spring. Please note the day runs from 10.30am – 5pm, arrival at 10am when the gardens open. Lunch and entry to the garden, ÂŁ140. Forde Abbey, Chard TA20 4LU. Tel:01460 221290 www.countrygardener.co.uk

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GARDENERS’ CUTTINGS IN DORSET

BROOMHILL GOING COASTAL WITH MAY LAUNCH WEEKEND A special launch weekend held on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th May will celebrate the change of name of one of Dorset’s best-known gardening venues. Having traded under the name Broomhill Garden Buildings, at Stewarts Garden Centre, for over 20 years, Martin Penny, director, has decided it was time for an update. With no longer having a show site at Stewarts Broomhill Garden Centre, it was decided to completely re-brand the business. With the show site being so close to the beach at Mudeford, Christchurch, the name Coastal Garden Buildings was the obvious choice. Martin along with his wife, Rachael are very passionate about living by the coast and can often be seen walking their miniature dachshund, Phoebe, on the beach.

The launch weekend will give customers the chance to see the revamped show site, chat to the team and enter a competition to win a greenhouse. Whether you are looking for a new shed for pottering, a summerhouse for relaxing or a garden office for working, Coastal Garden Buildings will have something for everyone. Martin Penny, managing director said: “I’m really excited about the changes we have made, and I look forward to welcoming customers old and new to our revamped show site”. www.coastalgardenbuildings.co.uk Coastal Garden Buildings, Stewarts Garden Centre, Lyndhurst Road, Christchurch, BH23 4SA. Tel: 01425 274000

RHS Rosemoor launches summer long series of live events RHS Rosemoor, Devon’s award winning gardening venue has launched ‘Rosemoor Live’ to present a series of events live from the Torrington gardens which will impact across the South West. Rosemoor Live!, starting in April, consists of live entertainment, including music, theatre, comedy, talks from TV presenters and children’s shows. The events include: WEDNESDAY, 16TH MAY BBC Countryfile’s Adam Henson will be discussing the state of UK farming plus tales from his life, including his agricultural trips to places like Australia, New Zealand, California and Canada. OUTDOOR THEATRE EVENTS In association with the Plough Arts Centre, Rosemoor will stage five outdoor theatre performances for kids and adults in shows with stories from both classic and modern-day authors, from Emily Bronte and Robert Louis Stevenson to the hilarious David Walliams. The Theatre events are The Winter’s Tale, Thursday, 31st May Wuthering Heights, Friday, 22nd June Pirates of Penzance, Tuesday, 7th August The Midnight Gang, by David Walliams, Thursday, 9th August Treasure Island, Tuesday, 14th August

MUSIC EVENTS INCLUDE: Friday, 18th May, The Fisherman’s Friends of Port Isaac, folk music from the hugely popular Cornish singers. Saturday, 19th May, The Chamber Ensemble of London, A string ensemble performing a series of classic shorts, with a garden theme. Friday 25th May, Georgie Fame blues and jazz singer and the three times UK chart topper Sunday 27th May, Phil Collins award-winning tribute band. More information on the Rosemoor website rhs.org.uk/rosemoor and ticket prices and booking link at www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/rosemoor or contact Rosemoor Box Office on 01805 626810 or email rosemooradmin@rhs.org.uk. RHS Garden Rosemoor, Torrington EX38 8PH

NGS makes record £3.1 million donation to charities The National Garden Scheme, which is popular with owners and visitors in Dorset, has announced a record total donation of £3.1 million from garden openings in 2017 - a figure which has doubled in ten years and brings the total donated to beneficiary charities since NGS was founded in 1927 to £55 million. Beneficiaries include Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie and Hospice UK, who each receive £500,000 from funds raised in 2017. Annual donations continue to Carers Trust, Queen’s Nursing Institute, Parkinson’s UK and Perennial, as well as the MS Society, which is NGS’ guest charity for the third and final year. George Plumptre, chief executive of the NGS, said: “The NGS is hugely grateful for everything our garden owners and volunteers have done in 2017. They have worked tirelessly to open their exceptional gardens to the public and provide delicious tea and cake to thousands of visitors, who in turn generously support the NGS, come rain or shine!” 6

Country Gardener


Lynch Lane Garden Centre & Restaurant Lynch Lane, Weymouth, DT4 9DN Telephone: 01305 766336

The Gardeners Garden Centre National garden gift vouchers sold and accepted here

Large traditional family-run nursery Wide selection of trees, shrubs, perennials & fruit bushes 4-acre woodland garden Many unusual plants Tea Rooms Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm Sun & Bank Holidays 10am-5pm MACPENNY’S NURSERIES BRANSGORE Burley Rd, Bransgore, Nr Christchurch BH23 8DB Tel: 01425 672348 www.macpennys.co.uk

GREENHOUSES

Why not try our restaurant?

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CHRIS ABRAMS BLANDFORD 01258 452632

Telephone: 01305 759503

LIVE!

Adam Henson, BBC Countryfile presenter, on UK farming The Fisherman’s Friends from Port Isaac, with classic sea shanty songs The Chamber Ensemble of London, performing short garden themed pieces Georgie Fame,* rhythm & blues keyboard player Mark Steel,* comedian And Finally... Phil Collins, tribute band The Bootleg Beatles, tribute band Jay Rayner, TV’s Masterchef presents the 10 commandments of food The Magic Garden, family theatre from Boo to a Goose Theatre Productions

16 May 18 May 19 May 25 May 26 May 27 May 28 May 30 May 1 June

The restaurant will be serving special pre-performance meals each may evening, for which booking is essential.

Box Office: For ticket prices and information except * rhs.org.uk/rosemoor/whats-on Great Torrington, Devon EX38 8PH Tel 01805 626810 * Tickets via theploughartscentre.org.uk RHS Reg Charity No. 222879/SC038262

www.countrygardener.co.uk

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Gardening with MINDLESSNESS Grenville Sheringham believes there are many garden tasks which lend themselves to a spot of daydreaming …

There seems to be a fashion these days for doing everything with mindfulness, gardening included. This is a cause of some concern for me because I have always thought of my gardening as a mindless activity. Let me explain what I mean. In my younger days I worked in various large public and private gardens as part of a team, and a lot of the work was, frankly, boring. This was mainly due to the fact that a task like tidying an overgrown border, that would perhaps take you a morning in your own garden, could take two or three of us a week. I remember spending an entire winter raking up leaves in an arboretum, and most of a summer edging and hoeing beds and borders. Now when we are young, time seems to pass much more slowly, and an eight hour day can sometimes feel like forever.

‘...one of the pleasures of gardening - to be engaged in a satisfying activity while remaining free of the need to focus on the task in hand.’ At first I would find myself clockwatching. The incessant swish-swish of the long wooden lawn rake among the leaves, like waves lapping on the sea shore. Or the clip-clip-clip of the edging shears pecking away at the grass edge. I found listening to these sounds and feeling the rhythm of the work was soothing and calming and totally absorbing. And so over the years I have found that whenever I am engaged in a repetitive task, I unconsciously slip into that same mindless state. Having done most gardening tasks so often now that I think I can consider myself a bit of an 8

Country Gardener

Grenville Sheringham:”W hen it comeshts to gardening I must admit my thoug are rambling all over the place”.

‘expert’, it is very satisfying to almost feel the tool doing the job for you. I am sure it is the same for any professional who regularly uses their tools efficiently and effectively, and takes pleasure in the results of their labour. But nowadays a lot of gardening tasks we used to do by hand are done mechanically. This has to be a blessing with jobs like hedge trimming or sawing large branches of course, but there can of course be no question of mindlessly hedge trimming or chainsawing, as I found out the hard way (luckily with no long term consequences)! So to return to the question of mindfulness versus mindlessness. My understanding is that if you wish to do a task mindfully, then you must give it your full attention and be aware of each movement, eliminating any passing thoughts while you focus on the task. Like many people of my age I have done a bit of yoga and meditation in my time so yes, I get the idea, and I think it is great to just focus on breathing or whatever, but when it comes to gardening I must admit my thoughts are rambling all over the place from why chickens lay eggs and which came first to what’s for dinner tonight. But that for me is one of the pleasures of gardening - to be engaged in a satisfying activity while remaining free of the need to focus on the task in hand. Of course there are lots of gardening tasks that need full concentration - seed sowing, pruning, planting, to name but a few, but many gardening activities are repetitive and undemanding, so take the opportunity to relax and enjoy the fact that you are engaged in an activity that leaves space for daydreaming. As one of the old gardeners I worked with years ago would say as we made our way out to work in the morning – mind in neutral, feet in first!


Sydling St Nicholas

OPEN GARDENS WEEKEND

Sunday 27th & Monday 28th May

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Many beautiful gardens open from 2pm - 6pm Plant Stalls - Afternoon Teas

GET MORE FROM YOUR GARDEN THIS

Please pay at: Sydling St Nicholas Village Hall

Spring

Admission £5 per adult Accompanied children free Sorry no dogs

For the latest garden news, events & advice - don't miss COUNTRY GARDENER

Open 9am - 5.30pm Mondays - Saturdays and 10am - 4pm on Sundays

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Tel: 01300 341104

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JOBS IN THE GARDEN

May is always looked forward to as the first month of summer but it also marks the end of spring. It is a month when gardeners can get caught out by mini droughts and heat waves and even the last, late frosts. The biggest threat is young plants that have that have recently been transplanted into the open ground and any freshly emerging seedlings. So be sure to keep all of them well watered and if the young transplants look as if they are flagging give them some shade protection from the heat of the sun or drying winds. On the other hand May can bring damaging frosts, cold winds with heavy rain, so be prepared to take steps to protect plants if it is necessary.

JOBS IN THE

May garden Earth up potatoes Spuds planted in March or early April should be showing long healthy shoots above the compost. By earthing up your potatoes, you can increase the number of potatoes grown from each tuber and protect your spuds from damaging sun exposure. Earthing up is the name given to the process of covering shoots with additional compost. When shoots are showing 10cm above the compost, cover them with more compost to leave just four cm shoots showing at the tip. Repeat this process every time shoots reach 10cm tall.

Stay vigilant on weed watch

Pesky weeds will be popping up faster than your crops as the soil warms up. Check under leaves of crops as well as between rows and gently remove with a weeding fork. Catch weeds while they’re small by hoeing borders and the vegetable garden once a week. Paths, drives and patios can be kept weed-free by spraying with a path weed killer. Many of these prevent weeds returning for several months after they are applied. Perennial weeds, such as dandelions, have roots that will regrow if you just kill the leaves. They will eventually weaken over time if you hoe them off, or you could try to dig out the roots.

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Earthing up potatoes is vital for a healthy crop

How to beat a cold spring The cold start to the season has delayed the planting and slowed the development of many vegetables. Some varieties need a long growing period in which to mature, so it can be helpful to find ways of chivvying them along. Where small numbers of plants are required, planting indoors in modules or pots can protect young, vulnerable plants and enable them to be grown on and planted out as soon as the weather allows. Larger plants are also less susceptible to slug damage than seedlings and so losses are fewer. Cloches will not only keep the soil beneath drier, but also retain the heat from the sun, transforming cold, wet, and claggy soils into warm, crumbly soils that are suitable for sowing into directly. Simple mulches or coverings also warm the soil and can be used with advantage as permanent mulches on certain crops. Carrots, for example, will benefit from the shelter and warmth created by fleece, and will naturally raise the cover as they grow. Tucking in the sides of the fleece also prevents the carrot root fly from entering, minimising crop damage. Potatoes can be planted through a black plastic mulch. This will aid tuber development as well as helping to prevent the soil from drying out. No earthing-up is required, as the tubers will form beneath the black plastic and be shielded from the light. As they develop on the surface, harvesting them merely requires rolling back the plastic, and since the plants can be left in situ, smaller potatoes can often be left to increase in size. Country Gardener


Sow and plant into warm soil

CUT PERENNIALS WITH THE ‘CHELSEA CHOP’ The ‘Chelsea Chop’ in the week of the famous flower show (or thereabouts) helps to keep the taller, late-flowering perennials from leaning. Pinch out asters, Helenium and Eupatorium at knee height and they will re-branch to provide you with stockier plants.

MAKE A BEAN W IGWAM After a wet March your soil may need ‘warm

ing’ up

Warm up your vegetable plot with a ground preparation fleece before sowing or planting out. When temperatures rise during May, seeds and plants will grow rapidly, however when temperatures drop, plant growth grinds to a halt. A gardening fleece will keep temperatures up, whilst being permeable enough to allow air and moisture through, ensuring healthy growth. The added bonus of a gardening fleece is it will help diffuse strong light, providing shading and preventing damaging scorching. Plant in pots or trays under glass, dwarf and climbing French beans, runner beans, sweet corn, outdoor cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins, squashes, outdoor cucumbers – all which can be planted out next month. Savoy cabbage, winter cabbage, endive, kale and sprouting broccoli can be sown in the open ground now, ready to be planted out next month. This is also your last opportunity to sow peas and parsnips this year.

Use canes or hazel stems to make a support for growing beans. Either tie the tops together to form a wigwam or else arrange the supports in long ’X s’ that cross either half way up or close to the top. Sow a couple of beans to each cane and a few at the ends of the row, as replacements for any that don’t come up. Beans are greedy plants so they’ll enjoy being grown above a trench filled with rotted manure or kitchen compost (even part rotted will do). Cover the trench with soil and then plant the beans. Once the beans are up make sure that the slugs cannot get to the growing tips because they’ll destroy the plant.

THIN OUT SEEDLINGS Seedlings sown in rows can quickly grow into each other’s space, taking up vital water and nutrients, effectively reducing your harvest. Use a dibber to gently remove excess seedlings whilst protecting their roots and transplant healthy seedlings elsewhere. Once you have thinned out your seedlings, water your remaining seedlings to allow the surrounding compost to re-settle. www.countrygardener.co.uk

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PLUS

Set up a safe haven for garden wildlife Butterflies and bees are valuable pollinators that are always more than welcome in the garden. You can attract these beneficial bugs by sowing colourful wildflower seeds and providing them with food and a safe place to stay. With May’s unpredictable weather, a butterfly house or bee log is brilliant for these bugs’ survival, as it will provide a safe place to hide from the rain.

Watch the temperatures around your tomatoes Tomatoes originate from South America and suffer as soon as temperatures drop below 10°C. Keep them under cover until you can be sure that the weather is warm enough to plant them outside, and then find the warmest spot to give them all the help they can get. If you are growing in the ground, keep well away from the potatoes, as blight can travel from one to the next. Try to keep the plants in a position that is warm but with air movement, as the blight favours humidity. Bush varieties are great in pots on the terrace.

Time to repot pelargoniums Tough as old boots they may be, but last year’s pelargoniums appreciate repotting and new soil to set them up for the summer. For best results, pick off dead foliage, prune back to healthy new shoots and give them all the sun they can get.

THE MONTH IN BRIEF

1. Watch out for late frosts. Protect tender plants 2. Earth up potatoes, and promptly plant any still remaining 3. Plant out summer bedding at the end of the month (except in cold areas) 4. Collect rainwater and investigate ways to recycle water for irrigation 5. Regularly hoe off weeds 12

• Keep sowing seeds in small batches roughly fortnightly so that you avoid having a glut but give yourself a longer more manageable harvest. • Repot supermarket herbs, dividing them into smaller pots, a couple of stems per small pot should do for starters. You can use this trick on mint, coriander, basil, thyme – pretty much anything. • Pinch out the tops of chillies to encourage new branches to grow and create a bushier plant. • If you haven’t started growing yet now is the perfect time to get in young plug plants or buy young plants from garden centres and nurseries. There is so much to choose from to grow in raised beds and allotments. • Keep hoeing between crops to control weeds and also create a ‘dust mulch’ to conserve precious soil moisture. Try to water in the cool of the evening if possible using a watering can to direct the water around the root area of the crops. • If you can get it, put some straw underneath the developing strawberry fruits to keep them off the soil and try to avoid watering overhead to reduce any problems with mildew.

CUT EVERGREEN HEDGES May is a good time to trim evergreen hedges, such as Lonicera, box and yew; it will get their edges looking crisp and neat. Small hedges can be trimmed with shears. Larger hedges are best tackled with a hedge trimmer. It is illegal to disturb nesting birds, so be sure to check the hedges for signs of nests before you start the job.

6. Open greenhouse vents and doors on warm days 7. Mow lawns weekly 8. Check for nesting birds before clipping hedges 9. Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs 10. Watch out for viburnum beetle and lily beetle grubs

Country Gardener


www.countrygardener.co.uk

13


ALPINES –

always

AND FOREVER

Gill Heavens looks at the diminutive plants which have wandered in and out of fashion throughout the years but which are now undergoing a renaissance Alpine plants can be found, as the name would suggest, in the mountainous regions of the world. In the wild they grow in alpine meadows and the extreme rocky outcrops above them. From autumn to spring they are often covered with a blanket of snow, which perversely protects them from the duel horrors of humidity and sudden frosts. They are conditions that rarely occur in this country, but this has not hindered their popularity, in fact they are at present undergoing a real upward swing in popularity. These diminutive plants and their associated rock gardens have wandered in and out of fashion throughout the years. A stalwart of the 1970s garden, along with crazy paving and conifers, it would be tempting to think that this is where it all began. In fact it started long before. Initially it was the beauty of the rocks that was attractive to 18th century gardeners, and on a grand scale. Enormous recreations of mountainous scapes were constructed, each rich landowner vying for the biggest, best and most naturalistic. Increasingly, these were planted with spoils from the great plant hunters’ expeditions. By the end of the 19th century most large estates were owners of alpine gardens, and an invention by James Pulham subsequently allowed more modest gardens to join in the fun. 14

This breakthrough in garden history was manufactured stone, modestly named Pulhamite, a composite of sand, clinker and Portland cement. It was used to make statues, follies and more importantly for us, rock gardens. In 1863 Thomas Cook arranged his first trip to the Alps and thereafter holidays to the mountainous regions of Europe became popular, and with it alpine gardening. Straddling the Victorian and Edwardian eras was Reginald Farrer, perhaps the most famous advocate of this style of gardening. He was an avid traveller and plant collector, his book My Rock Garden was published in 1907 and The English Rock Garden in 1919. The alpine plants that have caused such passion over the centuries, have evolved to best suit their exposed conditions and are generally low growing in order to avoid icy winds. Although annuals are rare in these harsh conditions, herbaceous perennials, bulbs, shrubs and trees are all well represented. Many of our border plants have alpine cousins that can be utilised, including violet flowering Hebe ‘Youngii’ which reaches a petite 20cm tall, Phlox subulata which will flood the ground with rivers of pink, white and blue throughout the summer months, and the dark-eyed, pink veined Geranium cinereum ‘Ballerina’ which grows to the heady heights of 15cm.

Country Gardener


Early in the year species tulips such as the wonderful Tulipa griegii, which makes up for its lack in height by its excess of flower, the scented buttercup yellow Iris danfordiae, and primulas of all types will brighten the dull days. As the year progresses dogs tooth violets, pulsatillas and aubrietas will come into their own. With the summer approaching, dianthus, Gypsophila repens, which is a carpet of pink for weeks on end, and saxifrages will thrive. Other summer favourites are the Himalayan woolly rock jasmine, Androsace lanuginosa, with its palest pink flowers centred with yellow or red and the silver leaved Moroccan Daisy, Rhodanthemum hosmariense, from the Atlas mountains. The golden Sternbergia lutea and azure blue, autumn gentians herald the coming of the autumn. For year round interest, dwarf evergreen conifers are ideal, including the rocket-shaped Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’, the low lying Norwegian spruce Picea abies ‘Little Gem’ and the arching and slightly depressed sounding cedar, Cedrus deodara ‘Feeling Blue’. Hopefully I have made it quite clear that there are a host of suitable plants from which to choose. However keeping them alive is perhaps not quite so simple. First let us think about where to grow them. If you are that way inclined, you could build a mountain in your back garden; this option I would imagine, is not open to many of us! Some lucky people own an alpine house where it is easier to control water levels and ventilation. I have lusted after the house at RHS Rosemoor for many years, where each visit is a joy, marvelling at the season’s stars. Favourites can be grown in a cold frame, covers can easily be added when protection is necessary. Your Lilliputian lovelies can be displayed in a

dedicated raised bed, where they will be held high for inspection. Or you could use an old Belfast sink or trough or indeed any other suitable container, use your imagination. Some, such as thymes, can be pushed into gaps in paving and lewisia may be grown between the courses in dry stone wall. Whatever your preferred receptacle might be, preparation is everything. Hate is not too strong a word to describe most alpines’ opinion on wet conditions, thus drainage is a necessity, drainage upon drainage. A mix of sharp sand, compost and soil, topdressed with grit is ideal. For optimum chance of success ensure that you know the requirements of your plants before you start planting out. Some alpines are more suited to being baked all summer long, some will take more shade. Make sure that if you are growing ericaceous specimens you don’t use limestone chippings, as your little darlings will complain bitterly. Few of us have grand estates staffed with an army of construction workers and gardeners to recreate and maintain a facsimile of the Massif Central in Maidstone. This is not a problem when growing alpines. In fact the very size of these pocket-sized beauties means that, with a little research and love and attention, you can create a microcosm of alpine life. I am no expert but I know that out there is a wonderful, bijou world just waiting to be investigated. For any of you that might be interested, a good starting point would be The Alpine Garden Society which was formed in 1929 and thrives to this day. I apologise now to those who will become addicted. For one, I don’t dare even look! www.alpinegardensociety.net www.countrygardener.co.uk

Clockwise from top left: Cedrus deodara ‘Feeling Blue’; Geranium cinereum ‘Ballerina’; Gypsophila repens; Hebe ‘Youngii’; Phlox subulata; Picea abies ‘Little Gem’; Tulipa griegii; Rhodanthemum hosmariense

15


Powderham Castle, Friday 27th and Saturday 28th April, 10am-5pm

The campaign to save the M5 Willow Man Toby’s Garden Festival is at the heart of a campaign to secure the future of the iconic M5 willow man who strides alongside the motorway near junction 23 at Bridgwater. Created by artist Serena de la Hey in 2000 as part of The Year of the Artist the willow man was conceived as a temporary structure and now nearly two decades on, it needs a complete rebuild as well as a fund for future maintenance. Serena is creating a huge ‘Willow Wonder’ at the festival with help from artist Stefan Jennings and Toby, which will be located in the Powderham Deer Park. Visitors will be able to add their own embellishments and support the fundraising.

LEBRATIN CE G

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IV A

ST TO

FE

A two page preview of one of the West Country’s most popular garden festivals

OF RS EA

Toby’s Garden Festival at Powderham Castle, Devon

Y

B Y ’S G A R D

EN

Drop in to learn more about fermented veg

What is fermented veg and why are we being encouraged to eat it? How can we maximise health benefits of all the lovely vegetables we grow? New research suggests that improved gut health means better sleep too.

Katie Venner left - passionate about fermenting

Katie Venner, adviser on the fermenting story on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’ and Jo Webster will be at the festival to explain and demonstrate how you too can simply and easily make kimchi, kefir and kombucha.

‘Boycie’ shares his house and garden delights Willow artist Serena de la Hay

The iconic Somerset Willow Man

Pest Clinic to sort out your garden problems The festival will stage a special Pest Clinic on both days with eco friendly help and advice with garden pest and disease problems from Dr Ian Bedord, Head of Entomology at the world famous John Innes Research Centre. Grazers the pet and planet friendly deterrent sprays which deter everything from slugs and snails to pigeons, der and even rabbits. The Pest Clinic with Grazers is on the Castle Rose Lawn. 16

Country Gardener

John Challis, the actor and author best known for playing Boycie in the BBC’s most successful sitcom Only Fools and Horses is to speak at the festival Keen gardener John will be signing copies of his book, Wigmore Abbey: The Treasure of Mortimer, an autobiographical account of creating his house and garden in Herefordshire with wife Carol.

BOOK TICKETS IN ADVANCE Adults £10; Children £3.50 at www.tobygardenfest.co.uk Tickets on the gate £12.50 Assistance dogs only are permitted onto the showground due to the deer.


P RE

V IE

ADVANCED TICKETS: www.tobygardenfest.co.uk

Speakers’ Marquee ON THE ROSE LAWN 11am 12pm 2pm

3pm

FRIDAY 27TH APRIL

SATURDAY 28TH APRIL

Jim Buttress chats to actor John Challis – Boycie from Only Fools & Horses – about his life Rachel de Thame on FLOWERS, COLOUR COMBINING AND HER TIPS FOR A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN BBC RADIO DEVON’S GARDENERS Q & A SESSION with Toby and expert team (for broadcast on Toby’s Sunday morning show) Toby talks to willow artist Serena de la Hey about the campaign to SAVE THE M5 WILLOW MAN

Terry Walton, BBC Radio Two’s allotment doctor, on GROWING FRUIT AND VEG ORGANICALLY Jim Buttress chats to actor John Challis – Boycie from Only Fools & Horses – about his life BBC RADIO DEVON’S GARDENERS Q & A SESSION with Toby and expert team (for broadcast on Toby’s Sunday morning show) Toby talks to willow artist Serena de la Hey about the campaign to SAVE THE M5 WILLOW MAN

Sow, Grow & Cook Tipi 10:30am 11:30am

1:30pm 2:30pm

W

ON THE NORTH LAWN

FRIDAY 27TH APRIL

SATURDAY 28TH APRIL

BUTTERFLY GARDENING with Dr Ian Bedford, Head Entomologist from the John Innes Research Centre FERMENTING VEG, THE GUT-FRIENDLY WAY to store and eat veg crops with Katie Venner of Tracebridge Sourdough and Jo Waters of Wonderglut.com HOW TO GRAFT AN APPLE TREE with Kevin Croucher, owner of Devon tree nursery Thornhayes COOKING DEMO with Anita Claire-Field from Petite Bouchee

BUTTERFLY GARDENING with Dr Ian Bedford, Head Entomologist from the John Innes Research Centre HAVE YOUR PATIO AND EAT IT with Toby Buckland, tips for veg-growing in small spaces PRACTICAL SOWING WORKSHOP with Sara Venn, from Edible Bristol VEGAN COOKING DEMO with ideas for gluts from Danny Evans, allotmenteer, owner and chef from Feniton Foods

Festival celebrity speaker

LINE UP

RACHEL DE THAME BBC Gardeners’ World presenter and author Rachel will be sharing her passion for flowers and giving the lowdown on what it’s like to design the floral decorations for the Queen during 2012’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames on Friday.

PLANT NURSERIES

at the festival

The finest specialist nurseries from across the country will come together in spectacular style at Toby’s Garden Festival held for the fifth year at Powderham Castle on Friday 27th and Saturday, 28th April. The popular two-day event has a record number of exhibitors with almost 60 new stallholders attending the Devon event for the first time. The nurseries attending the festival are selected as genuine growers who produce the plants they sell themselves. They represent the widest possible range of p[plants, including perennials. Shrubs and trees, alpines,bulbs and exotic plants- and all the growers many of them with Gold Medal success at Chelsea Flower Show are experts in the plants they have at the festival.

TERRY WALTON Allotment doctor Terry, known for broadcasting from his Rhondda Valley allotment on BBC Radio Two’s Jeremy Vine Show will be here on Saturday 28th April, sharing his love of growing fruit and veg and growing organically.

www.countrygardener.co.uk

JIM BUTTRESS TV gardener and author Jim Buttress is best known for BBC’s The Big Allotment Challenge. His horticultural career has Challenge taken him from Superintendent of the Royal Parks to RHS shows judge and head judge for Britain in Bloom for 25 years! 17


“How I

READER’S STORY

LEARNED TO READ

seed packets”

Country Gardener reader Ian P hillips from Tavistock always overspent on seed packets so decided to understand them better I’m like most enthusiastic gardeners and I admit to being enticed by the colourful pictures and fanciful names on the seed packets in garden centres and in seed catalogues. OK and I admit it may also be true I get carried away and buy more varieties than I have space to plant. So during the long nights this winter I decided to ‘wise-up’ and take some time to read the packets and descriptions. What I found is there is a lot of good cultural information in these, some of which may be unclear if you are new to gardening. You may be surprised to learn that some of the flower and vegetable varieties for sale are not well suited to your particular area. Some grow best in a certain type of soil or shade conditions, or need to be started indoors well in advance of planting. Start them too late, or just sown out in the garden, and you may get few if any flowers or fruit this season. So what have I learnt?

VARIE T Y - Most packets and descriptions list the name of the

variety and tell you if it is a hybrid. Hybrids come about from the crossing of other plant parents, and are often denoted as F1 or F2. This often gives a trait such as bigger flowers or more vigour. It is important to know if you want such traits, or if you want to collect seeds. If you collect seeds from a hybrid, they won’t make the same plants.

T YP E - Flowers also are identified as annuals, biennials, or

perennials. Annuals are plants that grow, bloom, and die in one growing season. Biennials bloom the second year after planting and generally die after flowering.

DATE - For best results, buy only seed packed for the current year. The date is stamped on the back. Although you might be able to find seeds packaged for last year at a discounted price, these are not a good buy. Poor storage conditions will reduce the viability of seeds. If you do want to take a chance on these, as I have, sow ten seeds in moist, rolled paper towel to see how many germinate. 18

GERMINAT ION - This tells you how many seeds will produce plants under ideal conditions. However, I’ve learnt the age of the seeds, how they’ve been stored, as well as how and when you plant them also will affect germination. Some seeds may need exposure to light to germinate. Some perennials may need special seed treatments prior to sowing. If you start seeds indoors, count on a slightly higher germination rate than if sowing directly outdoors. Descriptions often tell you which is best. CULTURE - Most seed packets will contain information on

how and when to plant, including the number of days to seed germination, and days to harvest for vegetables. Make sure if you see days listed that you know what they refer to—days from sowing to harvest, from planting out to harvest, or other.

NUMBER OF SEEDS - Unless you are buying bulk seeds by weight, you can be misled by the size and shape of the packaging. Be sure to check the weight, or more often number of seeds, to determine how much to buy. This is important with higher priced seeds like geraniums that may only have five to ten seeds per packet. DESCRIP T ION - Some parts of the plant description that

may be important to you are whether the seeds are organic. If a vegetable, what are characteristics and shape and size and taste of the fruit? Is this variety resistant to diseases? This is especially important for tomatoes, melons, and squash.

�”...I get carried away and buy more varieties than I have space to plant.” You may see logos with descriptions. These should have a key if in a catalogue, often for such things as ‘easy to grow’, organic, new, or an award winner. Also look for what isn’t said. In other words, if you want a trait such as good freezing for beans and this isn’t mentioned, this variety likely won’t freeze as well as others. Look for traits important to you, such as size of fruit, colour of fruit or flowers, height of plant, the need or not for staking, yield, or time of flowering or ripening. It is so easy speaking from experience to be enticed by all the different varieties with colourful photos and glowing descriptions, ending up with several times as many seeds as you have the time or space to plant. I feel my winter hours have not been wasted.

Country Gardener


Do you want

vinegar wit h it?

How to make the most of the day-to-day wonders of vinegar in your garden If you are trying to cut down on how many chemicals you’re exposed to every day in your garden then there’s a very traditional solution. Maybe you’ve made a commitment to getting rid of pesticides and chemicals in your life – at least the ones you can control. In that case, the remarkable and undervalued properties of vinegar for your home and garden can come to the rescue. The uses include:

Remove weeds

You can use vinegar to kill weeds and tufts of grass that grow in the cracks of your garden walls or walk ways. Simply spray them directly and they will dry up and die in two to three days. No need to use toxic herbicides. Beware, though, vinegar can kill your grass too and, if too much is applied, can make the soil infertile if you put too much in it, so be careful.

Repel ants

Fruit and house fly traps In late summer, flies can drive you insane! Make this bait to use indoors or outdoors: one cup water, half a cup of apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup sugar, and one tablespoon molasses. Mix it all together and put in an empty container and hang from a tree or by a window indoors. Watch the flies get attracted and trapped by this clever device – no chemicals needed!

Save plants from fungus

If you have plants suffering from fungus and mold, you can protect them with a simple vinegar fungicide. Brew some chamomile tea and add two teaspoons of vinegar. Spray this solution on moldy plants – it’s totally safe for the plants!

Feed acid loving plants

If you have rhododendrons, azaleas or gardenias you know they love acidic conditions. You can spray them with a quick pick-me-up: one cup of white vinegar in a gallon of water and watch them wake up.

Ants hate vinegar! Mix equal amounts of water and vinegar and spray the solution on any ant hills you find in your garden. You can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.

Extend the life of cut flowers

Gardeners love clay pots. Their natural properties keep soil cool in summer, allow plants to breathe and look attractive in all kinds of settings. As clay pots age, they absorb calcium and other minerals from water and become discolored. After you’ve scrubbed off any loose dirt in a bucket of water, soak your clay pot in this mixture: one cup five per-cent acidity white vinegar per four cups water. The less vinegar, the longer you’ll have to soak it.

Cleaning

Clean clay pots

Repel garden pests

Guess what rodents, moles, cats, dogs, rabbits, and deer all have in common? They all hate the strong smell of vinegar. Soak a few rags in white vinegar and place them hidden around where you’re noticing the vandalism. Keep re-soaking every week for maximum repellent action.

Add two tablespoons of vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar per liter of water for any cut flowers you want to keep fresh for as long as possible. Of course, the non-toxic cleaning properties of vinegar make it perfect for cleaning many surfaces – including your skin and hair. It can dissipate the stink from anything without leaving a lasting stink itself. Here’s a list of ideas: Clean the rust from your garden tools with straight vinegar. Clean birdbaths and birdhouses with a 25per-cent vinegar 75per-cent water solution. Rid your hands of that dry feeling after working in the dirt – it neutralises the lime from soil. These are just some of the great uses for vinegar in your garden and home- vinegar is one of the best, cheapest, and most versatile products you can have at your fingertips.

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19


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GROW YOUR OWN

Veg & Flower seeds, Seed potatoes, Onion sets, garlic, Veg Plants Architectural Plants Bamboo, Palms, Phormiums, Grasses, Lavenders We now stock Levingtons & Scotts Compost, Grow bags & Fertilisers Offers on Bark, Grow bags, Soil improvers.

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WILDLIFE

Beware birds nesting! The nesting season for birds is in full swing so that calls for common sense and precautions from gardeners when it comes to cutting back hedges We are all very passionate about protecting wildlife and one of the big themes every spring is cutting back hedges and trees while birds are nesting. The main nesting season is from March to August inclusive. However, nesting does happen outside of this period, so if as a gardener you are looking for exact dates when it’s safe to cut back hedges then you might have a problem. Even outside the nesting period, birds may be heavily reliant on hedges, scrub and woodland, particularly for feeding or roosting. It is courteous to check for nesting birds that have made a home of your hedge before carrying out any trimming. It’s amazing how many people think you cannot touch hedges and trees while birds are nesting, but you can. All birds in the UK are fully protected by law (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 - WCA) from intentional harm. Under the same act, any active nest, including nest building or a nest with eggs or chicks in, is also protected from intentional destruction or removal and you cannot block access to any active nest. So, if you see a bird carrying nesting material or food into an area, this indicates that there is an active nest there. There is no law in the UK preventing any one from felling trees or pruning hedges at any time of year. However, the RSPB urges that you try to do any tree work over the winter months, when you can see into the tree and

the tree itself is dormant. This also avoids the peak season for nesting birds. Some birds can nest at any time of year and mild winters can tempt them into nesting early. It does not matter when or where the bird’s nest is, it is still protected by the WCA all year round. With the trend of warm and wetter springs and summers, hedges can quickly become unmanageable. It’s OK to use secateurs or sheers to keep a hedge under control, and if you do disturb an adult from their nest, they should return when you leave the area. Birds have different strategies for raising their young; some only nest once a year and others have multiple broods. On the whole, they tend to build new nests in different locations, but some birds, for example house sparrows, will use the same nest all year, but the WCA still applies while the birds are actively nesting at any time of year. So what can you do? Most gardeners are aware of the wildlife in their gardens, and have a good idea where and when there are birds nesting. Carry out a visual check if you can, and if necessary just leave the work until the fledglings have left the nest, then you can do the work you need to. If you are aware of an active nest and you see someone about to do some work, let them know so they can avoid that area, as they may be unaware of the nest. If they are felling a tree, again let them know so they can come back when the fledglings have left the nest and fell the tree. As all species of bird are protected by the WCA, if they continue and destroy the nest they have committed a criminal offence, which is a police matter. Call your county police station on 101 and report the incident to the local Wildlife Crime Officer for the area. Hopefully, your garden won’t get too out of control while the birds are nesting! If you’d like some ideas on how to encourage wildlife into your garden, go to www.rspb.org.uk/advice/gardening/

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21


REPLANTING THE GARDEN

after the damages of winter Your garden probably needs more help and encouragement than ever this spring and the application of mycorrhizal fungi might be key If gardeners were looking for anything like good news over the past few weeks of snow, rain more snow and below average temperatures is that overwintering garden pests will have suffered too. Pest levels at the beginning of April were probably very low. Certainly the second cold snap in late March will also have killed off many pests as they started emerging from hibernation the previous week when temperatures had reached double digits. Garden plants were certain be affected by the prolonged cold spell and, more importantly, by sitting wet for long periods of time. Generally speaking, many plants can cope with cold weather but cold and wet weather is much more problematic and plant losses are inevitable. However, gardeners are a hardy bunch and have to learn to be stoic in the face of plant failures. What is more important is to learn from the failure and treat the new spaces in the garden as a marvellous opportunity. When planting, an important truism is ‘right plant, right place’. Research the plant that has not survived the winter: was it a plant truly suitable for that position/soil/aspect? Were you gardening on ‘the edge’ of what was possible? Had you fallen in love with this plant as it was displayed beautifully at your local garden centre and taken a chance? Good soil preparation is key to replanting plants so incorporating plenty of organic matter is the first step to a successful outcome. Nursery grown plants have often been raised on a diet of

chemical fertilisers and need to go cold turkey when planted into soil. It is not advisable to try and gradually wean them off as many fertilisers can react poorly and perform badly in soils. The best start possible for new plants is to treat them to mycorrhizal fungi which will rapidly grow as a second root system ensuring excellent establishment. Over a decade ago mycorrhizal fungi were shown to overcome replant problems in roses and this was reported at the time in the Horticultural trade press and national media. Another horticultural truism is that if a plant fails in one position it is inadvisable to plant the same plant family or Genus in that same spot. This is particularly well known for roses but can also apply to any other garden plant such as ones that failed due to a hard winter. The causes of replant problems are not well-understood and varied but in most cases there is a sensible reason why the application of mycorrhizal fungi is likely to overcome these problems and ensure good establishment and good early growth.

Here are some of the problems and solutions: LIKELY CAUSE OF REPLANT PROBLEMS

BENEFITS CONFERRED BY MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI

Lack of available nutrients

Mycorrhizal fungi colonise a far greater volume of soil thus enable the plant to find more nutrients

Over application of chemical fertiliser caused by over feeding failing plants, Handful for luck syndrome

Mycorrhizal fungi limit unhealthy nutrient uptake as the mycorrhiza needs to keep its host alive and healthy

Poor quality or stressed planting stock, i.e. Bare root plants

Mycorrhizal fungi grow very rapidly giving the plant access to nutrients and water so reducing stress

Build up of soil pathogens

Mycorrhizal fungi can block access of pathogens to plant roots by colonising those niches first

Pathogenic nematodes (eelworms)

Similar to above mycorrhizal fungi can block the nematodes entry points to plants

22

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23


Lavenders

ALL SUMMER LONG Probably the easiest grown plants for sunny, well drained sites, lavenders are loved by gardeners and now with the right selection it is possible to enjoy them all summer long Lavender is evocative of warm summer days filled with heady scents. Lavender (Lavandula) is, of course, an easy to grow, evergreen shrub that produces masses of beautifully scented flowers above green or silvery-grey foliage. This drought-tolerant plant thrives in a sunny border, container, herb or gravel gardens. It was once considered only as a high summer addition to the garden but more recent introductions offer the chance to extend the joy of having their serene spectacle in your garden over a longer season. Some lavenders have great presence as architectural specimens, most are good for low hedging while of course all are wonderful for bees. Lavender is best planted between April and May as the soil is warming up. It thrives in any poor or moderately fertile, free draining soils in full sun, and is ideal for chalky or alkaline soils. On heavier soils, like clay and clay loam, lavender tends to be fairly short-lived, becoming woody at the base. To prolong the life of your lavender on heavier soil, add organic matter and gravel to improve the drainage and plant on a mound. If growing as a hedge, plant on a ridge to keep the base of the plants out of wet soil. All hardy lavenders are in full bloom for about a month. The dark purple varieties appear to flower for longer as the richly coloured calyces are visible immediately the spikes begin to swell- and still hold colour when the flowers have faded. 24

LAVENDERS TO START SUMMER If you are looking for an early blooming variety there is nothing to surpass L.angustifolia ‘Ashdown Forest’, a bushy cultivar with its sharply scented pale blooms. As the lavender season progresses through late June and into July more cultivars begin to reach their peak including L.agustifolia ‘Hidcote’ –a compact form of the popular English lavender, named after plantsman Laurence Johnston’s famous arts and crafts garden in Gloucestershire. It produces dense spikes of fragrant, deep violet summer flowers above slender, aromatic, silvery-grey leaves. It is possibly the best lavender for edging paths and borders and the aromatic foliage perfumes the air if you brush against it. It also works well in a gravel garden, or clipped into a formal sphere for a contemporary look. Another option for this time of the year is Langustifolia ‘Miss Dawnderry’ , an intensely dark purple lavender known as a ‘Super Blue’, with a beautiful swaying and fluid movement in a light breeze. The flowers dry darker and the slender stems when bunched produce a proportionally larger head, than any other angustifolia. If fragrance is a priority then nothing really comperes to Langustifolia ‘Maillette’ -the world’s most widely grown angustifolia for oil. Long mid-purple flowers above grey foliage. Very highly scented. The flowerheads of ‘Maillette’ are packed full of tiny plum to lilac star-shaped flowers, and are barrel-shaped rather than spiked.

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LAVENDERS INTO THE HIGH SEASON Throughout July, Langustifolia ‘Betty’s Blue’ is a wonderful accent plant with its large, deep violet-blue flowers atop erect stems that do not splay, It is a compact and tidy variety that forms attractive domes in the garden. Sweetly fragrant and reliable, it is also a great lavender for drying. From July one of the first of the late bloomers is L.x intermedia ‘Olympia. These consistently popular tall tough lavenders have great presence as specimens or hedges. Their unsurpassed scent and colour are evocative of high summer. Hardy to at least -15°C, they will cope with most British weather.

Langustifolia Betty’s Blue

LAVENDER FINAL FLOWERERS As July falls in August L.intermedia ‘Provence’ displays highly flagrant pale purple flowers which fit in so well with its name. A delightful variation on Lavender ‘Grosso’ named for the province in southern France where ‘Lavandin’ is grown by the acre to supply the perfume industry. At three feet tall it is one of the tallest varieties, and its long, silver-grey spikes lined with mauve blooms make first-rate cut flowers. Last to flower often in autumn are the so-called Dutch lavenders, usually distinguished for their silver foliage. L.intermedia’ Fragrant Memories’ is probably the best. It overwinters well, and has very long flower spikes of mid-lilac blue, making it a good cutting variety. L.intermedia ‘Fragrant Memories’

PRUNING Lavenders should be pruned every year to keep them compact. On established plants use secateurs to remove flower stalks and about one inch of the current year’s growth, making sure that some green growth remains. At RHS Wisley, pruning is undertaken in late summer after flowering, although spring pruning is sometimes recommended. Lavender does not break readily from old wood and neglected specimens are best replaced.

PROPAGATION You can easily make more lavender by taking softwood or semi-ripe cuttings from young plants in early summer and hardwood cuttings from new growth after flowering in late autumn.

GROWING IN POTS

Langustifolia ’Hidcote’

Lavender can be grown in large pots, using multipurpose or loam-based compost such as John Innes No 3, with some extra coarse grit, up to 30percent by volume, to improve the drainage, and some controlled release fertiliser granules. Ensure that the compost is regularly watered in summer, but for improved cold tolerance, kept on the dry side during winter by A study at the standing in a cold University of Suss ex greenhouse or in found that two la te the rain shadow of blooming varietie s walls. were particularly valuable to bees Most lavender can L.x intermedia be grown in pots, ‘Ed elw eiss” and but it is ideal for ‘Gros Bleu’ were tender types - H3 the cultivars most (half hardy) or H2 visited by all bees, (tender), such as most of which wer L. canariensis, e bu mblebees. L. dentata var. dentata ‘Royal Crown’ AGM.

The best f or bees

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Lavandula intermedia ‘Provence’

Langustifolia ‘Miss Dawnderry’ 25


A tempting TASTE OF ITALY

Elizabeth McCorquodale sees the difference with the Italian way of growing vegetables - chosen for taste not for yield or looks Walk around any Italian city and cast your gaze upwards and you’ll be presented with the proof, if any were needed, that food – good food, full of scent and flavour - is at the heart of Italian life. Vegetables and herbs jostle for position alongside flowers on balconies and in window boxes, and kale and artichokes are as likely to be planted in municipal gardens as flowering bedding plants. It is an odd fact that so many of the foods that make up our idea of quintessentially Italian fare have only been in cultivation there for a relatively short time. Peppers and tomatoes came originally from South America, as did corn, but stuffed Romenesco peppers and golden polenta are as Italian as you can get; and the ubiquitous tomato is at the very heart of so many Italian regional dishes. That said there are as many variations to ‘Italian’ cuisine as there are regions and climates. From the rich, cream-laden, alpine dishes of the North to the healthy, vegetable-based offerings of the South, there is in fact only one thing that binds them all together and that is an absolute dedication to flavour; full-on, in-your-face flavour.

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The difference between our choice of veggies and theirs is that they were never tempted to abandon flavour in pursuit of yield, uniformity or shelf-life, so while the Italian kitchen garden (called an Orto) will contain all the veggies that are found in British gardens – Brussels sprouts, beets, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, carrots, turnips, onions and leeks for instance – theirs will be chosen for their flavour and their suitability to the regional variations of climate and soil, a trick that we would do well to emulate. A carrot or leek that will thrive in the Alps may not do so well at the sun-baked foot of Mount Vesuvius or, come to that, in a city garden in the West Midlands. Clearly it is best to select varieties that perform well in your area, so long, of course, as they are packed with flavour. While the soils of Italy are as varied as ours, what they have which we do not is a long growing season and reliable sunshine. Some plants – corn, courgettes and winter squash for instance – need a long growing season, while others – aubergines and peppers for example – need a long, hot growing season to perform their best. But all is not lost as long as we have a


greenhouse or -just as effective- a homemade frame covered with polythene. The run of the mill acorn or butternut squash are both reliable winter squash with long keeping qualities in most areas of the this country but if you hanker for something truly Italian go for the ‘Da Marmalata’ or ‘Tonda Padana’. As for summer squash, there are dozens to choose from, but the two that stand out are ‘Da Flore’ a sterile variety that has no fruit at all, so it can put all its energy into producing flowers for stuffing, and Rugosa friulana a lovely, warty, flavourful summer squash that will attract a lot of attention. To get the most out of your squash plant them atop your compost heap where their roots can revel in the damp, nutritious warmth throughout the season. Tomatoes are, of course, an essential, and they must be chosen for thin skins and sweet flavour. You could do a lot worse than ‘Principe Borghese da Appendere’, a trailing or climbing variety that is perfect for drying or ‘Costoluto Florotino’ which is a big, flavourful beefsteak tomato or even ‘San marzano nano scipio’, a small bush plum tomato that is perfect both for eating and cooking. For a true Italian artichoke choose either the large headed, green Romanesco or the pointy, early season ‘Violetta di Chioggia’ which can be cropped twice. Harvest the first crop early in the year when the heads are tiny, then cut the whole plant back to encourage a second crop later in the season. While peppers have only been around in Italy for 500 years, they have well and truly got their feet under the table and now play an indispensible role on the national menu. Some of the best sweet peppers are the long thin ‘Dolce of Bergamo’ which is perfect for grilling, and the Italian favourite, ‘Giallo d’Asti’, a big boxy green pepper which ripens to a sweet yellow with an outstanding flavour. For something with a bit of bite try the medium-hot, meaty ‘Ciliegia Piccante’ which is delicious stuffed with a mild soft cheese to counter the heat, or very hot ‘Adorno’ which is very pretty, taking on a violet hue when ripe. Aubergines make their way into a huge number of Italian dishes (think aubergine parmigiana; marinated, barbequed aubergines, and the ratatouille-like stew with Italian sausage.) Most varieties don’t need the old salt-and-drain method to rid them of bitterness, but if decide on an heirloom variety a good soak and rinse will ensure it is palatable. Choose from ‘Violetta Lunga’, a long deep-purple variety, or the light mauve ‘Prospero’ or perhaps ‘Tonda Bianca’, a large white variety and

always plant them in full sun. Bulb fennel is one Italian plant which really is not a fan of the heat, always doing better in cooler conditions. Romanesco is the traditional Italian choice which does equally well here, especially if it is earthed up as it matures to sweeten and tenderise the heart. For a variety that resists bolting try the alpine fennel ‘Montblanc’. Our own common and rainbow chards take on a new lease of life when given the Italian treatment. While they grow huge in the heat of the Med, they are quite happy in our variable summers and if partnered with sweet, sweated onions, a few sautéed mushrooms, some fried potatoes and plenty of elephant garlic (a large, mild relative of common garlic) they are transformed into something sublime. If chard isn’t your thing, go instead for the dark darling of the winter garden, ‘Cavelo d’Nero’ or the bitter leaves of unblanched raddichio (try Trevigiana ‘Svelte’ ), chicory or escarole (try Escarole bionda) all mainstays of the Italian kitchen garden. If you have limited space you could do worse than try ‘Puntarelle Catalogna Brindisi’ which is a little like a chicory crossed with a dandelion crossed with a fennel. It is delicious flash fried in a little lemony olive oil with garlic and pepper. The beauty of the Orto is not only in its variety, but in the colour and pattern of so many of the individual plants, not least the broccoli and cauliflower varieties that are prized around the Med. The bright green spirals of Romensoco or the beautiful purple of Violetta de Sicilia will brighten up any plate - as long as they are served raw; sadly the colours fade when they are boiled. Despite all the wonderful vegetables of the Italian kitchen garden, it is nothing without its herbs, and oregano is the queen of the Orto. It is the primary flavouring of any tomato sauce, be it for pizza, pasta or gnocci, and the main constituent of Italian seasoning together with marjoram, parsley, rosemary and thyme. Other herbs that you will find in any Italian herb garden are sage, sorrel, mustard leaf, anise, leaf fennel, lovage, dill, coriander leaf, erba stella, salad burnet, chives, rocket and the essential and delightful basil.

From left to right: Ciliegia Piccante; Trevigiana Svelte; Squash flowers for stuffing; Violetta Lunga; Violetta di Chioggia; Rugosa friulana

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Higher Ash Farm, Ash, Dartmouth, Devon TQ6 0LR

GARDEN Visits THE BEST GARDENS TO VISIT compiled by Vivienne Lewis

There’s a wealth of gardens to visit in the lovely month of May, a huge selection ranging from gracious lawns and fine trees, to small but well stocked town gardens with great ideas in design and planting. Here’s a selection that are open for charity in the areas we cover. We advise checking where possible before starting a journey as circumstances can force private gardens to cancel their openings.

We’re introducing a key to facilities on offer at the gardens: Refreshments available Plants usually for sale Wheelchair access to much of garden

Partial wheelchair access Unsuitable for wheelchairs Dogs on short leads

Visitors welcome by arrangement Coaches welcome consult owners Accommodation at this venue

OWLACOMBE FARM Roborough, Winkleigh, Devon EX19 8TG Opening once more for the Devon Air Ambulance, Owlacombe Farm’s four-acre garden and woodland garden has a splendid collection of more than 400 rhododendrons and azaleas, five ponds and bluebell woods. Open for the Devon Air Ambulance on Sunday 20th May, 1pm-5pm. Admission £4. Details on 01805603385 or email rosrob.pickard@gmail.com

AVIEMORE Chinham Road, Bartley, Southampton SO40 2LF A richly planted, small garden in the north New Forest with lawns, gravel areas and a vegetable plot. Oak bridges criss-cross a small stream. Old alpine troughs and quirky artifacts add to its structure, texture and colour, for plant connoisseurs and to show enthusiasts new plants and ideas for smaller gardens. Opening for the NGS: Sunday 20th May, 2pm-5pm. Admission: adults £3.50, children free. Contact Sandy & Alex Robinson on 02380 813651 or email: hears2u@gmail.com 28

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THE THATCHED COTTAGE Church Road, Upper Farringdon, Alton, Hampshire GU34 3EG The 1½ acre garden has been rescued and developed over the past seven years around a Grade II listed 16th century cottage (not open) in the conservation area opposite the church. Open with Berry Cottage. Open for the NGS: Sunday 13th May, 2pm5.30pm. Admission: adult £6, children free. Also open Sundays 1st July , 29th July, 19th August, 2nd September, all 2pm-5.30pm. Contact Mr David & Mrs Cally Horton on 01420 587922 or email: dwhorton@btinternet.com

CHEVITHORNE BARTON Tiverton, Devon EX16 7QB Visit during an exciting time of development, with newly planted areas, walled garden, summer borders and woodland of rare trees and shrubs, and a large collection of magnolias, camellias, and rhododendrons. Home to a Plant Heritage National Collection of Quercus (oaks) in 12 hectares of parkland with more than 400 different taxa – and sometimes a flock of Jacob sheep and rare breed woodland pigs. Open for the NGS: Sunday 6th May, (& Sunday 2nd September), 12pm-5pm. Admission: adults £5, children free. Chris McDonald (Head Gardener) 07920038083 chris. mcdonald007@gmail.com www.oaksofchevithornebarton.com

HIGHER ASH FARM Ash, Dartmouth, Devon TQ6 0LR An evolving two and a half acre garden, high up in the South Devon countryside with a large kitchen garden terraced into the hillside with adjoining orchard, vibrant azaleas and rhododendrons surrounding the barns and courtyard; herbaceous borders, shrubs and lawns, pond and stream. Opens with nearby Bay Tree Cottage on June and August dates (see below). Open for the NGS: Sundays 13th & 20th May, Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th June, Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th August, all 2pm-5pm; Sunday 7th October, 1.30pm-4.30pm. Admission: adults £5, children free. www.higherashfarm.com or call 07595 507516, or email: matthew.perkins18@yahoo.co.uk

CHINE VIEW 15a Cassel Avenue, Poole, Dorset BH13 6JD A new opening for the National Gardens Scheme, this Chine garden two miles outside Bournemouth is next to a public footpath leading to the beach, with an extensive terraced rockery incorporating 330 tons of Purbeck stone, palladian rotunda, subtropical plants and profusion of azaleas and rhododendrons. Open for the NGS: Thursday 17th & Sunday 20th May, also Sunday 1st July, all 1pm-5pm. Admission: adults £4, children free. www.countrygardener.co.uk

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THE BEST GARDENS T O V ISI T IN MAY

MAYFIELD 4 Walford Close, Wimborne Minster, Dorset BH21 1PH A town garden with formal hard landscaping and droughtresistant shrubs and perennials in the front and a wide variety of hostas; a series of garden rooms at the back has herbaceous perennial beds, winding grass paths and rustic arches. Pond, vegetable beds and greenhouses containing succulents and vines. Open for the NGS: Sunday 13th, Wednesday 16th & Sunday 27th May, Wednesdays 6th & 13th June, all 2pm-5pm. Admission: adults £3.50, children free. Contact Mr & Mrs Terry Wheeler on 01202 849838 or email: terry.wheeler@tesco.net

STONELEIGH DOWN Upper Tockington Road, Tockington, Bristol BS32 4LQ A new opening for the NGS, redesigned in 2014 by the current owners, it’s a densely planted garden with a wide variety of trees, shrubs and bulbs for year-round interest and still evolving. The south-facing curved gravel pathways connect the themed areas that flow into each other: subtropical, wildlife and oriental ponds, seasonal planting. Open for the NGS: Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th May, 1pm-5pm. Saturday 1st & Sunday 2nd September, all 1pm5pm. Admission: adults £4, children free.

RENDY FARM Oake, Taunton, Somerset TA4 1BB A three-acre garden with formal walled front garden, raised vegetable beds, greenhouse and polytunnel enclosed by hornbeam, box and yew hedging. Decorative fruit and cut flower beds, meadow with large wild pond and orchard with stream running through, marked by pollarded willows, and a new shepherd’s hut garden. Open for the NGS: Sunday 20th May, 1pm-5pm. Admission: adults £4, children free.

ARK FARM Old Wardour, Tisbury, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP3 6RP Informal hidden gardens in a beautiful setting with a small wooded area, pond, water plants, lakeside walk, and views of Old Wardour castle. Open for the NGS: Sunday 20th May, 2pm-5pm. Admission: adults £4, children free.

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NAVAS HILL HOUSE Bosanath Valley, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 5LL A 8½-acre elevated valley garden with paddocks, woodland, kitchen garden and ornamental areas, walled rose garden, water features and rockery. Young and established wooded areas with bluebells, camellia walks and young large leafed rhododendrons. Seating areas with views across a wooded valley. Open for the NGS: Sunday 6th May, 2pm5pm. Admission: adults, £5, children free. Contact Aline and Richard Turner on 01326 251233 or email: alineturner@btinternet.com

ROTHBURY 5 St Peters Road, North Malvern, Worcestershire WR14 1QS

WHITCOMBE HOUSE Overbury, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire A classical English cottage garden. Sit by the Captains bridge, near a brook banked with primula, astilbe geranium. Pastel coloured borders with rose, Potentilla, Smilicinia, acers and shrubbery areas. Open for the NGS: Sundays 6th May, 3rd June, 2pm5pm. Admission: adults £4, children free. Contact Faith & Anthony Hallett on 01386 725206 or email: faith.hallett1@gmail.com

You can have a Continental breakfast here, on the slopes of the Malvern Hills, in a 1/3 acre plant-lovers’ garden surrounding an Arts and Crafts house (not open), with herbaceous borders, rockery, wildlife pond, vegetables, small orchard, terraces accessed by sloping paths and steps. Refreshments through the day in aid of Parkinson’s UK. Open for the NGS: Bank Holiday Monday 28th May, 8.30am-5pm. Admission: Adults £3, children free. Also Sundays 24th June & 22nd July, 11am-5pm.

WELLFIELD BARN Walcombe Lane, Wells, Somerset BA5 3AG This ½-acre garden, created from a concrete farmyard has a ha-ha, wonderful views, pond, lawn, mixed borders, formal sunken garden, hydrangea bed, grass walks and interesting young and semi-mature trees, and a new areas under development. Open for the NGS: Tuesday 29th May, 11.30am-4.30pm. Admission: adults £4.50. children free. Contact Virginia Nasmyth on 01749 675129. www.countrygardener.co.uk

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THE BEST GARDENS T O V ISI T IN MAY

THE WALLED GARDEN AT TILGATE PARK Tilgate Drive, Crawley, Sussex RH10 5PQ A chance to explore the walled garden and heritage grounds of Tilgate Park with the head gardener, Nick Hagon; see in May the azaleas, camellias, candelabra primulas and rhododendron collection. Talk begins at 7pm. Open for the NGS: Wednesday 23rd & Thursday 24th May; Wednesday 18th July & Thursday 19th July, all at 6.30pm-9pm. Admission: adults £7 (glass wine & canapes included), children free. For more details contact Crawley Borough Council at www.friendsoftilgatepark.co.uk

RAMBLERS

HARLAND GARDENS

Lower Common, Aylburton, Lydney, Gloucestershire GL15 6DS

Penland Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1PH An eclectic mix of four town gardens – awkward shapes and differing gradients from rich cottagestyle planting schemes, varied ponds, delightful courtyards, to practical kitchen gardens and habitats for wildlife. Adjacent woodland provides beautiful walks (maybe muddy). Plants sale at 52 Penland Road. Open for the NGS: Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th May, 1pm-5pm. Admission: adults £5, children free.

This past winner of The English Garden’s Britain’s Best Gardener’s Garden competition has been opening for the NGS for many years, but Jane and Leslie Hale are taking a well-earned rest after this season. Don’t miss this country garden with immense variety in little more than an acre, with herbaceous planting, a pond, a wild flower meadow, a mature apple orchard with heritage trees, and a large, productive vegetable garden. Open for the NGS: Sunday 6th May, 1.30-5.30pm. Admission: £4, children free.

68 WINDSOR AVENUE St Johns, Worcester, Worcestershire WR2 5NB Be surprised by this tranquil garden behind a 1930s semi-detached house in a cul-de-sac, where there’s nearly an acre that includes bog gardens, flower beds, ‘oriental’ area, vegetable patch, five greenhouses, a Koi pond plus three other ponds varying in styles, chickens and ornamental pheasants. Open for the NGS: Sunday 27th & Bank Holiday Monday 28th May. Admission: Adults £4.50, children free. Contact Roger & Barbara Parker on 01905 428723 or email: robarpark@googlemail.com 32

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ADVICE

Country Gardener

A regular look at practical help and advice over a range of gardening problems and opportunities.

ADV ICE

Is the ‘Chelsea chop’ too severe? It’s about the time for the perennial fascination with the “Chelsea chop” - the ritual cutting back of herbaceous plants which coincides with the Chelsea Flower Show. The wisdom underlying this late spring beheading is that by cutting back your plants by around a third in late May, it forces them to respond by producing stockier shoots. These are less prone to flopping, and are laden with a better, if later, display. Increasingly many gardeners are wary of this and believe anything likely to delay, let alone decapitate, the first blooms of astrantias and heleniums, not to mention other bee- and hoverfly-friendly perennials, is a tough call. So if a full-on Chelsea chop seems a cut too far, there’s a middle way which can work with any plants that flower on this year’s growth. Cutting back around a third of the shoots of multi-stemmed perennials by half means you’ll get early flowers, and then plenty more later on as the pruned shoots catch up. Try this with sneezeweed (helenium) or herbaceous phlox. Buddleia and lavatera respond similarly if you leave around a third of the old shoots intact, rather than hard-pruning them all in spring. Flowers appear on last year’s shoots first, which are followed by those on this year’s growth. As the main, towering spikes of hollyhocks, foxgloves and delphiniums fade, they will all send up a later flush of follow-on flower spikes if the old spike is chopped off just above the developing side shoots.

Gherkins need to be kept frost free

Gherkins to grow outdoors Gherkins are cultivars of cucumbers that produce many small fruits with few seeds and thick skins - and significantly are harvested while small. If you want to try growing these the best time to plant is the third week in May when all the frosts have gone. Plant 45cm apart in wellprepared soil in a sunny but sheltered position. They can be grown indoors and/or they can be moved out later. Keep them well watered until established and in dry weather. They can be left to grow wild along the floor but it’s best to train along a trellis, fence, stake, wire or string. Carefully train them to grow clockwise up a string, picking the side shoots and flowers off up to 30cm high. Then only pick the side shoots off and let the plant carry on growing up to about six feet tall. Once it has reached the top of the support let the plant grow wild coming back down towards the floor. Pick off any yellow dead leaves along the way. Only begin to feed once you see the first two growing-not before!

There is a less severe option to the ‘Chelsea Chop‘

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Bushes should be pruned to promote an open habit, so sun can penetrate inside the bush as well. And lastly, make sure that water is freely given during the key period as the berries start to plump up, in May and June. Remember you want juicy berries as well as sweet ones! Once a day, water the area beneath the bush with a hose until the soil is damp or slightly wet. Take care not to splash the foliage or the developing fruits. You have to be careful with variety selection – the more familiar cooking varieties outnumber those that are sweeter, and they tend to be the red or yellow skinned varieties.

Here are some varieties to look out for: The older cultivars are the better when it comes to gooseberries

OLDER CULTIVARS PROVIDE GOOSEBERRY DELIGHTS The sweetest dessert gooseberries offer a delicious alternative to the more commonly known culinary varieties and these mostly older cultivars are often fondly remembered from childhood days as ‘gooseberries you could eat straight off the bush’. Thin skinned, sweet and so delicious, it’s not surprising they are remembered with such fondness. Which means lots, and lots of sunshine! The more sun any fruit gets, then the sweeter it is because sunshine helps develop the sugar content in the fruit! It’s worth finding the warmest, sunniest spot you can find when planting.

‘LEVELLER’ - one of the most popular of all varieties. The fruits are large and sumptuous to eat with a rich, divine flavour. The skin colour is yellow when fully ripe, which is usually about mid June at which time it develops a characteristic, almost greengage type flavour. ‘MAY DUKE’ - one of the finest reds and useful in that it can be used as a dual purpose gooseberry – frequently used in the kitchen whilst green, and then enjoyed for dessert when fully ripe, whereupon it is a fine dark red. ‘HEDGEHOG’ - one of the most popular of the oldies with a sugary aromatic flavour and a rich deep ruby skin colouring. Despite it’s name, not especially spiny, at least no more so than the next variety! Described as having the ‘perfect dessert flavour’ this heirloom has been known for over 100 years.

Fighting whiteflies in the garden Glasshouse whitefly (Trialeurodes) is an increasingly common problem on indoor and edible plants. Whether they are on ornamentals or vegetables, whitefly control can be tricky and difficult. But controlling whiteflies in the garden is not impossible. Whiteflies are part of a group of sap sucking insects that can cause problems in the garden. Other sap sucking insects include aphids, scale and mealy bugs. The effects of these insects, including whiteflies, are nearly all the same. The signs that you may have whiteflies or one of its cousins is a sticky film on the leaves, yellow leaves and stunted growth. The way to determine if you specifically have whiteflies is to inspect the insects you find on the plant. Typically, the insects can be found on the underside of the leaves. The garden pests whiteflies look just like their name. They will look like a tiny whitefly or moth. Normally whiteflies become a problem when their natural predators, such as ladybugs, are not present in the area. This can happen for many reasons, ranging from pesticide use to bad weather. Controlling whiteflies in the garden can become difficult without the help from their natural predators; therefore, making sure that the area is good for their predators is important. Whitefly predators include: green lacewings, pirate Whiteflies can be a depressing sight bugs and whitefly predators. Using these beneficial insects are the best way how to kill whiteflies. You can also try spraying the affected plant with a lightly pressurized stream of water. This will knock the insects off the plant and will reduce, but not eliminate their numbers. You can also try controlling whiteflies in the garden by using reflective surfaces, like foil or discarded CDs, around the plants. This can have a repelling effect on the whiteflies and may keep them off the plant. Alternately, you can try sticky tape, which will help to eliminate the current population of whiteflies on your plants and prevent them from laying more eggs. Do not use insecticides as a way to kill whiteflies. They are resistant to most insecticides and you will only make the problem worse by killing their natural enemies. 34

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Problems growing chillies

Biochar’s use in garden soils Organic material carbonized at high temperatures with little or no oxygen is called ‘biochar’ and is sometimes sold commercially as a soil conditioner and as an ingredient in peat reduced and peat- free potting composts. Biochar is a type of fine-grained charcoal created by burning wood and agricultural by-products slowly, at low temperatures, with a reduced oxygen supply. Although biochar is a new term, use of the substance in gardens is not a new concept. In fact, researchers believe that early residents of the Amazon rainforest enhanced soil productivity by using biochar, which they produced by burning agricultural waste slowly in trenches or pits. You can create biochar in your own garden by burning brush, wood shavings, dry weeds and other garden debris in a trench but it isn’t easy to create the precise conditions. Light a hot fire so the oxygen supply is quickly reduced, and then let the fire burn down. Initially, the smoke from the fire should be white as water vapour is released, gradually turning yellow as resins and other materials are burned. Biochar as a soil amendment enhances plant growth and reduces need for water and fertilizer. This is because more moisture and nutrients remain in the soil and don’t leach into the groundwater. Scientists believe that soil improved by biochar is more efficient, retaining critical nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and nitrogen. Additionally, nutrients present in the soil are more available to plants, making good soil even better. Biochar is available commercially and as it is highly resistant to decomposition has been suggested as a way of ‘locking up’ more carbon in the soil.

It can be immensely rewarding growing chillies but they are tropical plants and so they can be a bit needier than many gardeners think. Here’s three problems you might encounter: BLOSSOM END ROT This condition develops in green fruits of chillies, peppers and tomatoes. It is a problem caused by calcium deficiency, caused either by a sudden increase in demand for calcium as the fruit develops or by excessive nitrogen, reducing the uptake of calcium. It is essential for plants to have a good flow of water. Plants is small pots are particularly susceptible to drying out and water logging, which can prevent the distribution of calcium around the plant. FLOWER DROP This is a common problem, particularly early in the season. Especially with chinense varieties, you will find that the first flush of flowers either not set at all, or set only for the newly forming pod to drop with the flower. Overwatering is the most common cause of all chilli growing problems and can cause flower drop. Underwatering can also cause flower drop. Keep soil moist but not wet. A generous helping of coir or vermiculite in the compost will soak up excess water and release it back as the plant needs it.

Blossom end rot, caused by calcium deficiency

POWDERY MILDEW This disease affects chilli plant leaves, typically in the flowering and fruiting stage in the most humid part of the summer. It can severely affect your crop size. The disease looks exactly as its name suggests, like a powdery white mildew. Prevention is key with this pathogen. Make sure your plants are well spaced and ventilated so that they can dry out between waterings.

HOW TO WATER PLANTS It may seem obvious but, many gardeners are uncertain when, how and how much to water their plants. Any easy rule is that few plants tolerate continuous wet soil. Leave the soil until it has become almost dry before re-watering. You can test the water content of soil with your finger pushing it a couple of inches in and seeing how damp it is. And do not sit container plants in saucers of water for too long as this can cause root rot. www.countrygardener.co.uk

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to visit

GREAT PLACES

After the cold and wet of a long winter, May this year promises to be a special time for gardeners and garden lovers – especially with what is on offer when it comes to taking a relaxing day or days off. We are heading fast for the busiest time of year when there’s a wonderful selection of choice of venues ranging from National Trust properties, gardens, stately homes, events, plant fairs, shows, places to stay and holidays in the UK and abroad. It’s a great time to enjoy a passion in gardens and gardening, We’ve just a few suggestions which we know you’ll enjoy.

Our suggestions of places to go and things to do in May with gardens and gardening in mind

Hartland is heaven in May May is a heavenly time to visit the Hartland Abbey gardens. The tulips dazzle visitors to the Walled Gardens and the ancient wisteria over the front door fills the house with its heavy scent. Bluebells and wildflowers line the walks to the beach and the gardens and foxgloves spring up where St Nectan walked with his head under his arm! The house is filled with the pot plants grown in the greenhouses. The coastal footpath on the Hartland Abbey Estate is a wonderful sight with its carpets of wildflowers. All details on www.hartlandabbey.com

PLANT HERITAGE DORSET The National Plant Conservation Charity, Plant Heritage, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and Dorset features heavily in the celebrations. The national annual meeting is being held near Wareham from 27th to 29th April and three Specialist Plant Fairs will be held in the county, offering a range of unusual plants and savings direct from the growers. The first is at Athelhampton House on Sunday, 6th May, the second at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens on Sunday, 1st July and the third back at Athelhampton on Sunday 9th September. Admission is £7 and includes all day access to the gardens worth between £10 and £12.50. Athelhampton House Tel. 01305 848363; Abbotsbury Gardens Tel. 01305 871387. Plant Heritage organiser: martinyoung100@btinternet.com

Barnsley celebrates its 30th anniversary Barnsley Village near Cirencester in Gloucestershire celebrates 30 consecutive years of opening their gardens on Saturday 19th May. It is also the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rosemary Verey and as the founder of the festival she will be remembered in a special exhibition at Barnsley House. Barnsley residents love showing off their beautiful village to the hundreds of visitors who come every year. Opening from 10.30 to 5pm. Admission is £7. For further details email festival@barnsleyvillage.co.uk

Camellia delight at Abbotsbury Established in 1765, the gardens at Abbotsbury have been the site of many plant introductions to this country. The first camellias introduced to Great Britain in 1792 are now magnificent tree groves! At the heart of the garden is the colonial restaurant with its splendid veranda which overlooks the sunken garden. There is a well-stocked plant centre full of home grown plants not normally available to purchase. A quality gift shop, a children’s play area and free car parking are available. The gardens open every day (except Christmas and New Year period) from 10am to 5pm in the summer with last admission one hour before closing. Abbotsbury Gardens, Buller’s Way, Abbotsbury, Weymouth DT3 4LA. Tel: 01305 871387. www.abbotsburygardens.co.uk 36

PLANT FINDER’S PLANT

FAIR Sunday 1st July 10am to 3pm l Rare

and unusual shrubs Palms & Tree Ferns l Camellias l New seasons herbaceous plants l Hardy Ferns l NEW for 2018 Cacti and Succulents l Specimen

l

Craft stalls

£7 admission includes entry to the Gardens.

Abbotsbury Dorset DT3 4LA Abbotsburygardens.co.uk


LUKESLAND GARDENS 24 acres of Rare Shrubs, Trees, Pools & Waterfalls

2018

Home-made soups & cakes Sundays, Wednesdays and Bank Holidays 11am – 5pm 25th March - 10th June

COUNTY SHOW

17•18•19 MAY

Harford Ivybridge PL21 0JF Tel 01752 691749

www.lukesland.co.uk

Cerney House Gardens A Romantic English Garden in the UK Cotswolds 46 acres of Cotswold parkland Romantic secret garden * Wildlife and woodland walks * Plants for sale * A large variety of hellebores and tulips * Refreshments available at the old Bothy Open every day until 31st October 10-5pm Admission: £5 adults, £1 children

Telephone 01285 831300 www.cerneygardens.com Cerney House Gardens, North Cerney, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 7BX

43rd Cerne Abbas

Old Court Nurseries & The Picton Garden

Open Gardens More than 25 Private Gardens Open

16th & 17th June, 2-6pm Day ticket to all gardens Adults £7.00 Ticket for 2 days £10.00 Accompanied children free Teas in St Mary’s Church from 1.30pm Plant Stall Free Car Park (DT2 7GD) from 11am Equal proceeds to: Cerne Valley Scout Group & Dorset County Hospital Cancer Appeal

The Michaelmas Daisy Specialists since 1906 112 years of knowledge, passion and plants

It's a great time to plan your 2018 autumn displays. Mail order catalogue available on request or order online www.autumnasters.co.uk for delivery in May.

www.cerneabbasopengardens.org.uk

Water Gardens & Cafe Muddiford, Barnstaple, Devon, EX31 4ET

• Waterside cafe open 10am-4pm • Cream teas & light lunches • Design, construction & maintenance of ponds & lakes • Water features • Habit restoration • Ornamental fish & Plants

Tel: 01271 344533 mail@blakewell.co.uk

www.blakewell.co.uk

Open for the National Garden Scheme

Sunday 6th & Thursday 24th May 11am-5pm Admission £3.50

OPEN: 1st May-31st July Wednesday to Saturday, 2-5pm or by appointment. Later in the year: From 1st-31st August - Wed-Sun, 11am-5pm 1st September to 20th October - Daily, 11am-5pm

Tel: 01684 540416 www.autumnasters.co.uk Old Court Nurseries, Walwyn Road, Colwall WR13 6QE www.countrygardener.co.uk

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GREAT PLACES T O V ISI T

£100 off as Expressions tempts you to Tuscany

Take a tasty trip to Blakewell

Expressions Holidays have a tempting six-night small group tour of Tuscany gardens which combines Chianti and Lucca to reflect the diversity and beauty of Tuscan villas and gardens. It is the chance to witness Italianate, Baroque, parkland, water features, classical structures and beautiful views, ideal for a spring getaway or autumn break. There will be a maximum of 14 people on the tour. Prices are from £2,650 per person with departures on Sundays 20th May, 10th June and 9th September. Expressions Holidays is offering Country Gardener readers a reduction of £100 per person for booking any garden tours of Tuscany before 31st May. Fully protected by ATOL 3076. Contact Expressions Holidays on 01392 441275. www.expressionsholidays.co.uk

Blakewell’s waterside café, five minutes from Barnstaple, is now open to visit, offering homemade food and a selection of cakes, cream teas and coffee. From the farm you can sample fresh rainbow trout grown in sparkling clear Exmoor spring water. There’s the chance to walk the grounds and feed the trout, then order fresh trout which will be caught and cleaned for you to take home. Blakewell also offers the family fishing experience where you can catch your own trout. The team have more than 25 year’s experience in the design, construction and maintenance of ponds. Blakewell, Muddiford, Barnstaple, Devon EX31 4ET. Tel: 01271 344533 www.blakewell.co.uk

Lukesland Gardens – delights for all ages Lukesland Gardens, just ten minutes off the A38 in a hidden valley a mile north of Ivybridge, offers May Day delights for all ages. There are banks of azaleas and rhododendrons are luminous against the new green of the beech trees; wild bluebells and campions abound by a Dartmoor stream, criss-crossed by picturesque bridges. For children there is a nature trail with prizes and homemade soup and cakes in the Victorian tea-room. Dogs welcome on a lead. Open Sundays, Wednesdays and Bank Holidays 11am to 5pm until 10th June. www.lukesland.co.uk or www.facebook.com/lukeslandgardens or phone 01752 691749.

Axe Vale Festival – a great Devon day out The hugely popular Axe Vale Show on Saturday, 23rd and Sunday 24th June has something for everybody – from exhibits of plants and shrubs to locally-sourced delicious food and drink. Marquees full of arts, crafts, toys, collectables as well as antique and vintage items are there for you to browse through. There will be stalls selling everything from kitchen utensils to horse blankets. After all the browsing, you can relax outside and enjoy the spectacular entertainment. On Saturday compete in the Axe Vale Dog Show and on Sunday enjoy watching a sheep-shearer at work. Show opens from 10am to 6pm. Adult tickets £10 on the gate. Discounted tickets are available online www.axevaleshow.com Axe Vale Festival, The Showground, Trafalgar Way, Axminster EX13 5RJ.

Fifty acres of garden delights at Castle Hill

Castle Hill Gardens, at Filleigh near South Molton offers the chance to discover 50 acres of privately owned 18th century Devon gardens and explore winding pathways and beautiful woodland. Terraced walks give stunning parkland views and the opportunity to stroll amongst statues, follies and temples. The woodland garden is carpeted with primroses under ancient specimen trees, 176 different magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas are in full display. May welcomes the start of Outdoor Theatre shows with a performance of David Walliams’ The Midnight Gang. Open daily except Saturdays 11am to 5pm. Adults £7, children (5-15) £3, seniors, £6.50. Groups welcome by prior arrangement. For a calendar of events visit www.castlehilldevon. co.uk or call 01598 760336. Castle Hill Gardens, Filleigh, near South Molton, Devon, EX32 0RH. 38

Garden House opens its doors to budding photographers The Garden House at Buckland Monachorum near Tavistock in Devon opens its gates this month to budding garden photographers wanting to improve and show off their skills. Philip Smith, professional garden photographer and founder of the ‘International Garden Photographer of the Year’ is hosting his first workshop at this extraordinary garden on Saturday 26th May, when the wisterias around the garden will be flowering and the Cottage Garden will be a sea of pink, white and blue. Entries will also be open to all comers in the second ‘Photo of the Month’ competition. The Garden House, Buckland Monachorum, Yelverton, PL20 7LQ. For more details visit www.thegardenhouse.org.uk

Great family day out at Buckfast Abbey Garden Fair The Millennium Garden Fair opens at Buckfast Abbey from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, 2nd June and promises to be a great day out for families and garden enthusiasts alike. Entry is free. Toby Buckland of BBC Radio Devon fame, along with other gardening and wildlife experts will be hosting talks and presentations, sharing their wealth of knowledge, offering a few gardening tips too! There will also be an opportunity to put challenging gardening questions to the experts. The day will be packed with activity workshops for children, garden and rural craft demonstrations as well as tree climbing demonstrations. There will also be entertainment by the Dartington Morris Men and the South Devon Singers. There’s the chance to walk and browse the stalls and exhibitors including works by local artists and craftsmen, garden machinery, plant nurseries, herbal remedies and more. Buckfast Abbey, Buckfast, TQ11 0EE. Tel: 01364 645507 www.buckfast.org.uk

Country Gardener


May Fairs 20th May

Winterbourne House & Garden, Birmingham B15 2RT

27th May

Overbeck's in Salcombe

Kingston Bagpuize House, Oxfordshire OX13 5AX www.rareplantfair.co.uk Please visit our website for full details of admission fees and times of opening.

Take in the view when you visit our sub-tropical paradise. Garden, Museum, Shop and Tearoom. Open daily until 28 October from 11am to 5pm. Call 01548 842893 for details nationaltrust.org.uk/overbecks When you visit, donate, volunteer or join the National Trust, your support helps us to look after special places for ever, for everyone.

#nationaltrust

© National Trust 2017. The National Trust is an independent registered charity, number 205846. Photography © National Trust Images\National Trust/Eric McDonald.

          

Hidden beauty in rural Oxfordshire

Gardens Open

Spring Bank Holiday (Monday 28th May) for the NGS then every Tuesday & Thursday in June, July & August 2.00pm to 6.00pm

Cream teas ~ Museum ~ Gift shop Private garden tours can also be arranged

            Clanfield ~ Oxfordshire ~ OX18 2SU 

ITALIAN GARDENS

SMALL GROUP TOURS TUSCANY Visits: Poggio Torselli, Villa Vignamaggio, WITH GUIDED VISITS Villa Geggiano, Villa Grabau, Villa Reale 20 May, 10 Jun, 9 Sep. OF ITALIAN GARDENS 2018: From £2,650 per person • Maximum 14 people per group • Local garden guides and guided garden visits included • Six nights in 4 or 5 star hotels, two per tour • British Airways flights included Special offers may apply - full details on our website

LAKES COMO AND MAGGIORE Visits: Villa Babbianello, Villa Carlotta, Villa Monastero, Isola Bella, Isola Madre 2018: 15 May, 5 June, 26 June, 4 Sep. From £2,490 per person

AMALFI COAST, CAPRI & ISCHIA Visits: Villa Rufolo, Villa San Michele Axel Munthe, La Mortella 2018: 3 May, 24 May, 14 Jun, 13 Sep. From £2,460 per person

ENVIRONS OF ROME

THE

ART

OF

INTELLIGENT

Visits: Villa d’Este, Lante, Ninfa, Landriana, Castel Gandolfo 2018: 16 May, 6 Jun, 27 Jun, 12 Sep. From £2,490 per person

VENETO

T R A V E L

O R G A N I S I N G

Visits: Villa Barbarigo, Villa Emo, Villa Pisani, Giardino Giusti, Villa Rizzardi 2018: 20 Jun, 12 Sep From £2,620 per person

Founded 1989

Please call us 01392 441275 www.expressionsholidays.co.uk

Country Gardener ad horizontal half page jan 2018.indd 1

www.countrygardener.co.uk

13/01/2018 12:35:47

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Lord and Lady Lansdowne’s Private Walled Garden Tour On selected dates throughout the 2018 season you can enjoy an exclusive guided tour of the remarkable Private Walled Garden surrounding Bowood House. £34pp person (includes 2 course lunch)

One of the finest gardens in Britain 2018 Tour Dates

26th May Photography Workshop with Philip Smith, founder of International Garden Photographer of the Year. £75. See website for details.

Friday 20th April Friday 18th May Wednesday 6th June Friday 15th June Wednesday 4th July Friday 20th July Wednesday 8th August Friday 24th August

For more information or to book your tour, please call 01249 810961 or email houseandgardens@bowood.org

Free entry to tea rooms, plant centre and shop Buckland Monachorum, Yelverton, Devon PL20 7LQ 01822 854769 office@thegardenhouse.org.uk

Bowood House & Gardens Derry Hill, Calne SN11 0LZ

www.bowood.org

www.thegardenhouse.org.uk

Nature in Art

BUSCOT PARK &

7055 - Bowood House - Advertising January 2018 PWG Country Garden Magazine Ad.indd 16/01/2018 1 10:40

THE FARINGDON COLLECTION

The world’s first museum & art gallery dedicated to art inspired by nature.

One of Oxfordshire ’s best kept secrets

to become the proud owner of a specially created work of art by a renowned artist!

May 22nd - June 3rd David Shepherd - A unique

selection of original paintings by one of the UK’s best known and best loved wildlife artists and conservation icon.

May 26th - June 3rd The Wildlife Art Society - The

Wildlife Art Society International’s annual exhibition. Around 300 paintings, drawings, original prints, photographs and sculptures by members.

Children’s Activity Days

An amazing selection of activity sessions throughout school holidays! See the full programme and book your places online.

Open 30 March - 30 September Contact: Info line 01367 240932 or website ww w.buscotpark.com for opening times. 40

Open: Tues - Sun & B. Hols, 10am - 5pm Coffee & Gift Shop Tel: 01452 731422 Web: www.natureinart.org.uk Wallsworth Hall, Twigworth, Gloucester, GL2 9PA

Country Gardener

Images top to bottom: Chris Noble, David Shepherd, Angela Gaughan, Children’s Activity Days

April 24th - June 3rd Postcard Portraits - Buy a ticket


GREAT PLACES T O V ISI T

FROM LAND ARMY TO ALLOTMENTS The massive and exciting Crafts and Gardens feature at the Devon County Show on Thursday 17th, Friday 18th and Saturday 19th May, is sure to fascinate the green-fingered and those who love locally produced crafts. In the gardens section there will be displays to commemorate the centenary of World War 1 including how the Women’s Land Army in Devon helped to feed the nation; 30,000 poppies handmade to remember the lives lost from the South West will be sold in aid of the Royal British Legion. www.devoncountyshow.co.uk

Art and gardens delight at Buscot Park The Oxfordshire Georgian mansion at Buscot Park contains an extraordinary collection of furniture and art which includes paintings by Rembrandt, Reynolds, Rubens, Murillo and its Saloon was decorated with The Legend of the Briar Rose by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones. There are also gardens to explore, a ‘Four Seasons Garden’ set within old walls and the Pleasure Gardens beyond with five tree-lined avenues leading to a citrus garden, a ‘Swing Garden, the tallest sundial in England, a lake, and the Water Garden cascades designed by Harold Peto in 1903.Open until Sunday 30th September. www.buscotpark.com Buscot Park, Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 8BU.

STANWAY HOUSE AND THE WORLD’ LARGEST GRAVITY FOUNTAIN Stanway House is a Jacobean manor house, located near the village of Stanway in Gloucestershire. The spectacular gravity fountain in the grounds is the world’s highest, reaching 300ft. The house is a perfect example of a Cotswolds manor and has been lived in by the same family since the 16th century. There are extensive grounds to explore and fascinating history to discover. The working watermill produces flour from wheat grown on the estate. Open in June, July and August, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2pm-5pm. The fountain plays at certain set times, subject to drought and other adverse weather conditions. Groups welcome at any time by arrangement. Dogs also welcome. Stanway House, Stanway, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL54 5PQ. www.stanwayfountain.co.uk

Nursery at Miserden This Garden at Miserden near Stroud in Gloucestershire was created in the 17th century and retains a wonderful sense of peace and tranquillity. There are extensive yew hedges, including a notable topiary yew walk designed by Lutyens as well as some carefully planted mixed borders, which contain a wide range of roses, clematis and herbaceous that provide colour right through from spring to autumn. There is an ancient mulberry tree, believed to be planted in 1620 and a water feature with fountain and stone summerhouse built to commemorate the Millennium. The garden is a preserved, hidden gem in the heart of the Cotswolds. The Garden at Miserden, nursery and cafe are open Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays, 10am to 5pm. www.miserden.org Miserden Nursery, Miserden, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL6 7JA.

Bowood House - at its very best in late spring With its magnificent display of bluebells, rhododendrons, magnolias and azaleas unique to Wiltshire - and only in bloom for six weeks each year - Bowood’s Woodland Garden is a springtime ‘must’. Saturday 28th April is the first day of the 2018 season, so make sure a visit is in your diary. This spectacular 30-acre Woodland Garden at Bowood, home to the Lansdowne family since 1754, was originally laid out in 1854 by the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne; the gentle upland garden boasts some of the earliest known hybrids in the UK. Tel: 01249 810961. www.bowood.org Bowood House, Derry Hill, Calne, Wiltshire SN11 0LZ.

Two May Rare Plant Fairs in classic settings One of the joys of visiting Rare Plant Fairs is that every event is set in a unique garden, with garden entry included in the admission price. Each garden has its own distinctive character, some with histories stretching back centuries. The two May fairs are no exception. On Sunday 20th May the fair returns to Winterbourne House and Garden in Birmingham, a rare example of an early 20th century suburban villa and garden. The fair opens from 10.30am until 4pm. The largest fair of the series, with over 30 exhibitors, takes place at Kingston Bagpuize House, near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, on Sunday 27th May. A proportion of the proceeds will be donated to SeeSaw, a local charity that supplies grief support for the young in Oxfordshire. The fair is open from 11am-4pm. Visit www.rareplantfair.co.uk for details including admission charges and a list of the exhibitors.

Enjoying Overbeck’s in May The Mediterranean feeling at Overbeck’s Garden comes on warm days in May. Its sheltered cliff side location offers far-reaching views, enjoyed from any number of places in the garden. For sun worshippers the grassy slopes of the Olive Grove offer the perfect spot to relax and take in the panoramic view. For those that appreciate a little shade the gazebo garden may be the preferred choice, surrounded by fragrant Mediterranean herbs and a picturesque view up the Salcombe Estuary. The terraces are the best place to soak in the views across the estuary, across to the headland of Prawle point, and what better spot to enjoy crab sandwiches or seasonal salad? Call 01548 842893 for details www.nationaltrust.org.uk/overbecks

www.countrygardener.co.uk

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GREAT PLACES T O V ISI T

Replanting set to make Cadhay – a ‘must visit’ The Cadhay gardens were put to bed well in the autumn, particularly in the main borders which should pay dividends this year at the popular Tudor manor house just five miles from the sea at Sidmouth. Over the winter the main project has been the re-paving of the Courtyard in Blue Lias which looks tremendous. Some of the old paving stones have been used to improve the rill which runs alongside the path by which visitors enter the gardens and there’s been extensive replanting which will ensure that everyone receives an excellent welcome. Cadhay, Ottery Saint Mary, Devon EX11 1QT. Tel: 01404 813511 www.cadhay.org.uk

SPRING AND SUMMER LIFE AT OLD COURT NURSERIES Nestled in the foothills of the Malvern Hills is The Picton Garden, home to more than 420 varieties of Michaelmas Daisy. Well known for its autumn displays this one and a half acre plantsman’s garden glows with the first of the asters in August and in autumn the colours intensify, reaching a crescendo in late September and the first week of October. The new generation of the family have been bringing the spring and summer to life in the garden with an emphasis on woodland planting making good use of the wonderful trees already present. The adjacent nursery is well stocked with many of the plants seen in the garden. Old Court Nurseries, Walwyn Road, Colwall, Worcestershire WR13 6QE. Tel: 01684 540416. www.autumnasters.co.uk

Little Malvern Court gardens ready to ‘show off ‘in May The gardens at Little Malvern Court sit below the wooded slopes of the Malvern Hills, with far reaching views across the Severn Valley to Bredon Hill and the Cotswolds. Particular features to look out for in May include the beautiful pots of tulips, grouped according to colour, surrounding the house. The many and varied magnificent flowering cherries and crab apple trees are in blossom. In the rose garden, alliums literally burst into flower and the early roses start to open. The gardens are just off the A449 in Little Malvern. Tel: 01684 892988. littlemalverncourt.co.uk. Little Malvern Court and Gardens, Little Malvern, Worcestershire WR14 4JN.

NATURE IN ART DEDICATED TO ART INSPIRED BY NATURE Nature in Art is the world’s first museum and art gallery dedicated to fine, decorative and applied art inspired by nature. A varied and growing collection is housed in a fine Georgian mansion just outside the famous cathedral city of Gloucester. There’s a programme of temporary exhibitions alongside regularly changing displays of collections. Exhibitions are supported by an unrivalled programme of artists in residence, children’s activity days and adult art courses. With a licensed coffee shop serving meals, plus gardens, free parking and a beautiful setting it’s a wonderful place to visit. International in scope, appeal and stature, Nature in Art is a must for all interested in world-class art, nature and heritage. Nature in Art, Wallsworth Hall, Sandhurst, Gloucester GL2 9PA.

Whitsun half term fun at The Bishop’s Palace

The Bishop’s Palace, Wells, the 800-year-old home of the Bishops of Bath and Wells continues its season of family activities this Whitsun Half Term with a week of fun from Saturday, 26th May to Sunday 3rd June. The focus will be ‘A Bishop’s Life’ and a new family picture trail created around the grounds with clues for all ages to follow to discover different areas of the site. On Friday, 1st June, Nature Ninjas family gardening sessions will take place from 11am to 3pm, with the opportunity to get hands on with the Palace gardening team and discover what jobs need doing. All events are included with standard admission. Children under five have free admission. Apart for the half term events the Bishops’ Palace is running daily-guided tours and horticultural tours of its spectacular gardens including stunning paulownia flowering in May Open until Sunday 28th October from 10am to 6pm. Tel: 01749 988111. www.bishopspalace.org.uk The Bishop’s Palace & Gardens, Wells, Somerset BA5 2PD. 42

Country Gardener

Open gardens weekend at Cerne Abbas For the 43rd time the Dorset village of Cerne Abbas will welcome visitors to its Open Gardens weekend on 16th and 17th June. The proceeds will go to Cerne Valley Scout Group and the Dorset County Hospital Cancer Appeal. About 25 private gardens normally hidden from view will be open from 2pm to 6pm. Day tickets for entry to all gardens are £7, accompanied children free, tickets available in the car park open from 11am or in the village square from 1pm. All the gardens are within easy walking distance of free car park (DT2 7GD). Tea and cake served in the church from 1.30pm and a plant stall in the village square from 1pm.This is a quintessential English weekend in the friendliest of villages. www.cerneopengardens.org.uk for more information.


Hartland Abbey & Gardens

A SPECIAL DAY OUT IN A SPECTACULAR CORNER OF NORTH DEVON Visit this historic family home with its fascinating architecture, collections and exhibitions. Beautiful 18thC walled and woodland gardens, bluebell and wildflower walks to the beach. Wonderful tulips. * Dogs welcome * Holiday Cottages * * Film location for ‘Guernsey’ * House, Gardens and Café: until 30th September, Sunday to Thursday 11am - 5pm (House 2pm - last adm. 4pm)

T H E G A R D E N, NURSERY & CAFE AT M I S E R D E N

For all information and events see www.hartlandabbey.com Hartland, Nr. Bideford EX39 6DT 01237441496/234 n ay y pe id a O y Fr h M t er 5 ev om fr

Beautiful Garden, Exceptional Plants, Superb Coffee. HOUSE, GARDENS & TEAROOM Open every Friday 2pm - 5.30pm until 28th September Also late May & August Bank Holiday weekend - Saturday, Sunday & Monday

HOUSE & GARDENS: adult £8, child £3 (last guided tour 4pm) GARDENS: adult £4, child £1,

season ticket £12pp Member of Historic Houses Association

CADHAY, OTTERY ST. MARY, DEVON, EX11 1QT 01404 813511 www.cadhay.org.uk

Open 10am-5pm Tuesday - Sunday and Bank Holidays Miserden, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL6 7JA

www.miserden.org

AXE VALE SHOW 23rd - 24th June 2018 Trafalgar Way, Axminster EX13 5RJ

A great weekend for all • Show Opening Times 10am - 6pm (5.30pm Sunday) • Many Stalls: toys, hobbies, flowers, plants, arts, crafts, antiques, vintage and more • Demonstrations of local crafts • Sheep Shearing on Sunday 24th

Support your local community! Online Ticket Sales available now or purchase at the gate

www.axevaleshow.com www.countrygardener.co.uk

Charity number: 1130829

• Fun Day Out - for all the family and all age groups • Great Food and Drink from local producers to sample and buy • Great Entertainment relax and enjoy super acts and live music • Dog Show on Saturday 23rd

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Come and celebrate our 30th Anniversary!

Barnsley Village Garden Festival

£e7e for

(fr s) u14’

Sat 19th May 2018 from 10.30am Open Gardens include: BARNSLEY HOUSE, BARNSLEY PARK HERBS FOR HEALING GARDEN With music, morris dancing, barbecue, craft stalls, lovely village hall teas & more! barnsleyvillage.co.uk

Explore 50 acres of stunning landscape on pathways leading to follies, statues and temples. River walk and panoramic views from the Castle. Dogs on leads welcome. Tearoom offering light lunches and delicious homemade cakes. Open daily except Saturdays Adults £7, Seniors £6.50, Child (5-15) £3, Family £16, Groups (20+) £6.50

Little Malvern Court Nr Malvern, Worcestershire WR14 4JN Open 18th April until 19th July Wednesday & Thursday afternoons Other times by appointment

01684 892988 littlemalverncourt.co.uk

May Days Out at The Bishop's Palace • • • • • •

14 acres of RHS partner gardens See the Wells that give the City its name Stunning Paulownia flowering in May Daily Guided Tours & Horticultural Tours Half Term Holiday Family Activities Community Garden & Contemporary Garden of Reflection • Cafe & Shop T 01749 988111 ext.200 44

www.bishopspalace.org.uk Country Gardener

PHOTO: MARCUS HARPUR

Castle Hill Gardens

FILLEIGH, NR SOUTH MOLTON, DEVON EX32 0RH Tel: 01598 760336 www.castlehilldevon.co.uk


GREAT PLACES T O V ISI T

Garden show in summer for perfect gardening shopping The three-day ‘Garden Show in Summer ‘at Stansted Park, the Hampshire Grade II country house and estate takes place from Friday, 8th to Sunday 10th June and is a perfect event to find all you need for your garden. The well-established garden show is a great opportunity to source new gardening talent, designers and artisans. There’s a whole range of affordable and handpicked stands with specialist plants, garden accessories, sculpture, art and food. The Garden Show at Stansted Park will be open daily from 10am to 5pm (last entry 4pm) Tickets are £9 for adults, £7 for 60+ and £3 for children 15 years and under. Stansted Park, Rowlands Castle, Hampshire PO9 6DX Also make a note in your diary for The Garden Show at Loseley Park, Guildford which takes place from Friday, 27th to Sunday, 29th July. www.thegardenshowonline.com

Cerney Gardens, a riot of colour Cerney Gardens is a romantic ‘secret’ garden in 40 acres of Cotswolds parkland with a walled garden. A vibrant riot of colour is appearing throughout the garden as the herbaceous borders awaken. In the walled garden, ‘the knot garden’ is brimming with a stunning display of tulips and alliums, this year in pink and white. You can enjoy the peacefulness and tranquillity of nature on the bluebell woodland walk and the new nature trail. Open seven seven days a week from 10am to 5pm. Entry is £5 for adults, £1 for children. Dogs on leads welcome. www.cerneygardens.com Cerney House, North Cerney, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 7BX.

Flower festival and open gardens weekend at Eckington

For all those who love beautiful gardens a visit to Eckington near Pershore in Worcestershire shouldn’t be missed over the weekend of Saturday 16th and Sunday, 17th June. Eckington boasts five gardens in the National Gardens Scheme, all outstanding in their design and location. There are another 30 or more gardens open of varying size and designs so there’s plenty to see. To refresh you on your tour there are plenty of refreshment stops, including homemade cakes and light meals. There’s a free circular mini-bus. For those with difficulty walking, gardens are marked if they are wheel chair friendly. the gardens open from 10am to 5pm on both days. Prices: £6per person for the weekend. Children of school age free. Tel: 07967 503288, www.eckington.info Eckington, near Pershore, Worcestershire WR10 3AN

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45


SPRING BANK HOLIDAY OPENING AT FRIARS COURT Enclosed within the remaining arms of a 16th century moat, the tranquil gardens of 17th century Friars Court are divided in to different ‘room-like’ areas with a variety of borders and specimen trees. The gardens are open on Spring Bank Holiday, Monday, 28th May for the National Gardens Scheme then every Tuesday and Thursday in June, July and August from 2pm to 6pm. Home-made cakes and cream teas are served in the Garden Room whilst a museum detailing the history of Friars Court is in the Coach House. Private tours are available on request. Tel: 01367 810206 www.friarscourt.com Friars Court, Clanfield, Oxfordshire, OX18 2SU.

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East Lambrook Manor Gardens, Somerset’s hidden gem East Lambrook Manor Gardens is a hidden gem. Although recognised worldwide as the quintessential English cottage garden, the garden, created by the famous plants woman and gardening writer Margery Fish in the 1950s and 60s, is not widely known and, in fact, many local people have never heard of it. Why is this? Perhaps because it’s still privately owned and it doesn’t have the benefit of the National Trust behind it. There is however great continuity, head gardener Mark Stainer has tended the garden for 43 years. The garden is characterised by many winding paths between abundant beds and borders, which make it feel larger than it’s 1.5 acres. It has changed little since Margery Fish’s day and remains a plantsman’s paradise, brimming over with a range of plants, and is particularly noted in summer for hardy geraniums. The garden has a wonderful nursery, the Margery Fish Plant Nursery, known for cottage garden plants and interesting perennials. Throughout the summer there are exhibitions by local artists in the Malthouse Gallery, in the garden, which also houses a delightful café selling excellent tea and cakes and delicious apple juice from the garden’s own apples. East Lambrook Manor Gardens, East Lambrook, South Petherton, Somerset TA13 5H.

martinyoung100@btinternet.com

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Open Tues - Sat & BH Mons plus Suns in May- July | 10am - 5pm Entry £6.00 | Over 60s £5.50 | Groups £5.25 | U16s free Silver Street | East Lambrook | Somerset | TA13 5HH 01460 240328 | enquiries@eastlambrook.com | eastlambrook.com

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SPECIALIST TREES

Hanging on for dear life

literally

MARK HINSLEY recounts the colourful and fairly perilous introduction into a lifetime of working with trees My first experience of tree work was in 1972 when working as a landscaper for my father. There was an old hollow white willow with a big limb that extended out over our workshop roof. Dad and his employee, Frank, decided that this limb should be removed. I was about 16 at the time and the lightest, so I was elected to be the climber. We didn’t possess a chainsaw, so they borrowed a new Stihl 020 from Roger, who sold garden machinery from a unit in the workshop. They were concerned that this saw should not be damaged. I climbed up the inside of the hollow tree and out through a large hole onto the branch in question. They threw a rope to me, which I passed over a branch behind me and lowered down to them. I then scrambled along the branch and attached another about two-thirds of the way along to be used as a pulling line. Back in position at the base of the branch they started up the chainsaw and attached it to the end of the rope hanging over the branch behind me.

As the branch detached from the section I was lying on, it kicked upwards and straightened, almost catapulting me off it. They then hauled the saw up to me in the tree. The idea was that, should I somehow let go of the saw, it could not fall to the ground because it was attached to the rope. They decided to tie the rope attached to the saw to a handy bit of chestnut paling fence near the base of the tree. As instructed, I then lay on top of the branch, which was angled up at about 30°, and began cutting through the

branch down from the top. As I cut through the branch Dad and Frank hauled on the pulling line. As the branch detached from the section I was lying on, it kicked upwards and straightened, almost catapulting me off it. Fortunately, I was holding on with one hand and was not dislodged. Unfortunately, they pulled the falling branch onto the rope that was attached to the chainsaw. The weight of the branch on the rope caused the chainsaw, which I had been holding out in front of me, to be snatched violently back towards the branch behind me over which the support rope was looped. I ended up in a sort of crucifix position with my left hand holding onto the tree at full stretch one way and my right hand hanging on to the top handle of the chainsaw at full stretch the other! The throttle trigger on an 020 was in the top handle so I couldn’t release it because I was holding the saw and much of the weight of the branch, all in that hand. After what seemed like an eternity, Frank managed to fight his way through the fallen branch to the fence and release the chainsaw support rope, at which point I was able to let go of the throttle trigger. As the screaming noise of the chainsaw abated a degree of calm returned to the scene. I used the support rope to lower the precious chainsaw down to waiting hands. It was then that I noticed on the outside of my jeans, just by my right knee, a large fresh tear in the fabric. It had been caused by the chainsaw chain catching the bunched material by my knee as it flashed past my leg on its journey from in front of me to behind me when the branch fell across the support rope. Oh well – we all have to start somewhere! Mark Hinsley is from Arboricultural Consultants Ltd. www.treeadvice.info

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47


SIGHT

FOR SORE EYES

C ontinuing with our ‘Five Senses’ series. Gill Heavens considers what some think of as the most relevant, the sense of sight.

Caradonna forms part of a planting scheme that mixes purples, soft pinks and dots of white

We use our eyes for admiring other peoples’ gardens and planning our own, for recognising plants and finding our way around. All very simple. There are however tricks that can be employed to visually manipulate our surroundings, by using the magical effects that the clever use of colour and form can achieve. Many of these things we do naturally, without even thinking, especially those of us who are lucky enough to ‘have an eye’ for it. Some we can learn. Hopefully you will find a few tips here to help you along the way. Firstly, let us consider the use of colour in the garden. Gertrude Jekyll, in her Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden, speaks of using plants as if they were colours on an artist’s pallet. We all have our favourite shades and hues, some enjoy pastels, some abhor yellow, and others adore green flowers. Of this there is no right or wrong; however there is a way to take our favourite hues and set them off to perfection. It appears there are rules for most things in life, and the use of colour is no exception. As an aid to artists of all persuasions (and yes gardeners are artists), someone, somewhere invented the colour wheel. This ‘wheel’ is a segmented circle each section of which is a different colour of the spectrum, in strict order. Colours next to each other are called Analogous and are harmonious, for example orange lies between red and yellow. Opposites are called Complementary and these set each other off to best 48

effect, blue opposing orange. In practice this means that orange calendulas look wonderful with yellow rudbeckia and red geums, however they are also striking when used in conjunction with royal blue delphiniums. Be careful though, keep the tint the same, strong colours with strong colours. Don’t be a martyr to the cause, what are rules for after all? In your own garden you can do whatever you like. So called “clashes”, those that go against these rules, can be both challenging and invigorating. Different colours exhibit different properties. The cooler colours such as pinks and blues perform better placed out of full sun and tend to be relaxing and calming. Bright, or hot, colours really zing in the hottest part of the garden and sizzle in the heat of the day. Cooler colours tend to recede into the background whilst the hot ones come towards you. This can be used to great effect, especially when planting out a small garden. Using bright reds and their brash associates in the foreground, and dusky mauves and lilacs towards the back of the garden will help to give the illusion of length. These rules refer not only to flowers but also to foliage and bark, as well as hard landscaping. Now we have got our colours sorted out let us think about form, or shape. Just like the colours, contrast is all. To show off your plants at their best it is as well not to place similar ones next to each other. They will just get lost in a boring blur. You have spent good money on your plants, so each and every one of them needs to be appreciated.

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So called “clashes”, those that go against these rules, can be both challenging and invigorating

Jekyll recommended a colour called ‘invisible green’ - just a green that sort of retreats into the background, one that’s not an eyesore

A sculpture, seat or arbour will capture your eye, luring the curious towards them

Using bright reds and their brash associates in the foreground helps give the illusion of length

True, not everyone can be a star, but we need spear carriers to assist the divas; all roles are important. Leaves come in many shapes and sizes, from the huge hands of gunnera to the delicate fronds of brachychome, the long and strappy iris foliage and round nasturtiums. Flowers shapes are equally as varied in size and form, such as panicles of campanula, bronze fennel umbels or composite sunflowers. Mix all these ingredients up and you will produce an interesting and visually tasty garden cake. The natural shape of each plant can also be utilised, and this can be manipulated, to a certain extent, by pruning and training. Formality and exuberance also work well together. A classic example of this is a well-clipped parterre just managing to contain billowing cosmos and poker straight lupins. We can use the inherent characteristics of colour and shape to solve problems in the garden. The narrowness of long, thin gardens can be lessened with the use of diagonally placed paths and borders, with eyecatching specimen plants breaking up the space. Small plots can ‘borrow’ features from beyond the garden, such as a neighbour’s tree or a hill in the distance, which serves to elongate your tiny patch. The use of focal points in the garden is a ploy worth engaging. A sculpture, seat or arbour will capture your eye, luring the curious towards them. This is useful for a couple of reasons; to encourage movement through the garden or to draw

“It appears there are rules for most things in life, and the use of colour is no exception.” the visitor away from something the garden designer didn’t want you to dwell on, like the composting area! What we want to do in the garden is to slow down our audience; after all our hard work we don’t want them rushing around missing things. So we need to take their interest up, down and around before they move onwards. Personally I’m a big fan of the unsubtle, and there is nothing I love more than a cerise fuchsia next to a tangerine abutilon. However I do realise that there are more understated approaches. Monochrome gardens are more difficult than they sound, white is not always white, black seldom black. Experiment and you will soon know if the combinations you are trying are to your liking or not. If not, just do the garden shuffle until you achieve what you envisaged. You never know, you might come across a combination you didn’t expect to like, and after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

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49


Asquash summer

SUMMER

You can grow summer squashes in a range of shapes and textures- from ‘hand grenades’ to ‘flying saucers’- and are more fun to grow and eat than traditionally straight courgettes. There’s a number of ways to bring the colours of summer into your vegetable garden but nothing beats the sight of fast growing summer squashes in all their vibrant colours. If you regularly grow courgettes then now is the time to branch out. Summer squashes come in a wonderful range of selections. Their fruit is ideally harvested young, with thinnish skins that do not store for long periods. Squash comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes from massive pumpkins to tiny patty pan squashes. There are winter squashes, such as pumpkins and butternut squash but it is the summer squashes, such as yellow crookneck, yellow straightneck, and scallop, which are harvested when immature, which gladden the eye. Squashes are easy to grow from seed and can be sown outdoors in the spot where they are to grow, or you can start them off indoors in pots. Sow two or three seeds deep outdoors in late May or early June and cover with cloches, jars or plastic; leave in place for two weeks, or as long as possible, after germination. Thin the seedlings to leave the strongest one. Despite differences in shape and colour, the fruit of summer squashes have one thing in common: when left on the plant and allowed to mature, they grow to their full size and develop a hard skin. When this happens they are generically 50

Country Gardener

known as ‘marrows’ and become the pride and joy of local garden shows. Squashes will develop rapidly after the flowering stage of the plant. When harvesting the growing summer squash, you need to decide what you want to use the squash for. You can use it in recipes and many different dishes. Because they come in different varieties, there are different flavours as well. Some are milder than others. If you are looking for summer squash to cut up and cook up as a simple vegetable, you might want to pick it earlier. When the squash is smaller, it tends to be more tender. Just remember that the larger the summer squash fruit gets, the tougher the skin. Two weeks before planting or sowing seed outdoors, make planting pockets three feet apart for bush plants of summer squashes and five feet for trailing plants of summer squashes. Do this by making a hole about a spade’s depth, width and height and fill with a mixture of compost or well-rotted manure and soil. Sprinkle a general fertiliser over the soil. Plant one plant on top of each planting pocket. Keep the soil constantly moist by watering around the plants, not over them. As they need plenty of water, sink a 15cm (6in) pot alongside the plants when planting out. Water into this and it will help ensure the water goes right down


to the roots and does not sit around the neck of the plant, which can lead to rotting. Feed every 10-14 days with a high potash liquid fertiliser once the first fruits start to swell. The fruit of pumpkins should be supported off the soil on a piece of tile or glass.

Will squash grow in pots?

There are a number of varieties of squash that are perfect for container gardening. Some varieties to consider include: ‘Bush Acorn’, ‘Black Magic Zucchini’, ‘Bushkin Pumpkin’ and ‘Bush Crookneck’. There are two important elements to successful container gardening -size and soil type. Although it may not seem like it, one squash plant will fill a 24-inch pot in no time. Do not overcrowd squash plants. A couple of things can be done to promote drainage; drill several holes in the bottom of the container and place some fine gravel covered by a piece of wire mesh in the bottom of the container. This will keep the soil from clogging up the drainage holes. The best soil mixture is loose, well-drained and loaded with organic matter. Mix together one part each perlite, sphagnum, potting soil, peat moss and compost for a well draining and highly fertile soil.

SQUASH SEEDS OR PLANTS? Seeds are the best option by far. Plan for one plant per person in your family, tops. Any more and you’ll be up to your elbows in squash come midsummer! Direct sowing is preferred to transplanting seedlings. Squash plants can’t tolerate having their roots disturbed. Most summer squash varieties are ready to harvest in 50 days. Because they mature quickly and require warm weather, you can plant them following early spring crops like peas, lettuce, or spinach. Direct sowings any time from spring after all danger of frost is past to midsummer works well with most varieties. Sow the seeds one-inch deep, spacing the plantings about 18 to 30 inches apart in the bed, depending on the variety. Where space is limited, grow only the bush varieties. If you have a short season or want the earliest possible crop, start a few seedlings indoors, preferably in peat pots, two weeks before the last frost in your area. When setting out the plants, be extra careful not to disturb the roots when transplanting them.

‘Defender’

Ball’. If you harvest the fruit small they can be skewered and grilled; bigger fruits are better stuffed.

THE SHAPE OF THINGS ‘Bambino’

‘Eight Ball’

There are now a huge variety of shapes to summer squashes but not fit into one of these categories:

Elongated The traditional courgette shape, long thin and striped. They key is to pick young and not to let hidden ones grow into ‘marrow sized’ fruit, which is easily done during their rapid growth often hidden under heavy foliage. ‘Bambino’ is an easy to grow favourite and ‘Defender’ grows into classically wonderful thin straight fruits.

Roundish The global approach to squashes include mid to dark green ‘ Eight Ball’ and light green ‘Geode’ as well as the yellow variety ‘Summer ‘Summer Ball’

‘Sunburst’

Rugosa Frulana

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Scalloped The pie-shaped fruit have margins which are like the shell of a scallop. They are sometimes called scallopini or pettypan squashes. The fruit is always best when harvested small, about five cms in diameter and get difficult to cook when larger. Light green ‘Peter Pan’ and bright yellow ‘ Sunburst’ are two of the best options.

Straightneck and crookneck The yellow fruit consist of fat, oval shaped bottoms attached to thinner, straight or crooked necks. These types have been popular in the United States for some time and are now getting established in Britain. ‘Summer Crookneck’ and ‘Rugosa Frulana‘ are widely available in catalogues and garden centres. ‘Crookneck’

51


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Tel 01404 41150

Made from sustainably harvested locally grown timber, these log stores are sturdily and attractively designed, yet light enough to be easily moved. Also wheelie bin/recycling storage and cycle stores.

Looking for young, hardy garden plants to grow or plant?

Try

Available in a range of sizes suited for the courtyard/patio or larger garden.

Trimplant Nursery, Combe Raleigh, Honiton, Devon sales@trimplants.co.uk www.trimplants.co.uk

For further details call Nick on 01392 681690

Terracotta Pots

The Terracotta Pot and Gift Shop

Enjoy more of the Country Gardener experience by visiting our website

Stockists of frostproof pots and garden ornaments from Greece and around the world as well as a host of other bits and pieces Open every day Growers of many plants suitable for coastal areas including hedging plants All propagated and grown in Devon Established suppliers to landscape designers

www.coastalhedging.co.uk www.seasideplants.co.uk

Eastoke Corner, Hayling Island, Hants. PO11 9LU

Wanted/For Sale Wanted Old Radio Valves And Audio Valves. Tel: 02392 251062

ATTENTION ALL GARDENERS!

Mushroom Compost, Farm Yard Manure, Horse Manure, Top Soil, Wood Chip Mulch, Wood Chip, Compost and Chicken Manure. ALL £1.50 PER BAG PLUS DELIVERY

For more information or advice call Nick on 01404 891684 / 07860 459745

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Thornhayes nursery Devon’s specialist tree grower for a wide range of ornamental, fruit, hedging trees and a selection of choice shrubs. Courses, expert advice, arboretum, display fruit garden.

Tel: 01884 266746 www.thornhayes-nursery.co.uk

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Please send us your diary for the year - we’d love to include your talks and shows Send them into us by email to: timeoff@countrygardener.co.uk or by post to: Mount House, Halse, Taunton, TA4 3AD. Your event can also be listed on: www.countrygardener.co.uk Sign up to add your events today 55


TIME Off

COMPILED BY KATE LEW IS DIARY EVENTS FROM CLUBS AND ORGANISATIONS AROUND DORSET

Here’s a selection of gardening events to look out for during the next few weeks throughout Dorset. Send us details of your event at least ten weeks before publication and we will publicise it free of charge. Make sure you let us know where the event is being held, the date and include a contact telephone number. We are keen to support garden club events and we will be glad to publicise talks and shows held during the year where clubs want to attract a wider audience, but we do not have space for club outings or parties. We suggest that garden clubs send us their diary for the year for events to be included in the relevant issue of the magazine. Please send to Country Gardener Magazines, Mount House, Halse, Taunton TA4 3AD or by email to timeoff@countrygardener.co.uk and copy to vivienne@countrygardener.co.uk We take great care to ensure that details are correct at the time of going to press but we advise readers to check wherever possible before starting out on a journey as circumstances can force last minute changes. All NGS open gardens can be found on www.ngs.org.uk or in the local NGS booklet available at many outlets.

APRIL 16th ST ALBAN’S GARDEN CLUB ‘BROWNSEA ISLAND’ – NICK TUTTON 17th BROADSTONE & CORFE MULLEN FLORAL DECORATION SOCIETY ‘YOU ARE INVITED’ – CAROLE NORMAN Details on 07914 922554 PARKSTONE GARDENERS’ SOCIETY ‘COMPANION PLANTING’ – THE GOLD CLUB www.pgsgreenfingers.co.uk 18th BOURTON GARDENING CLUB ‘KINGSTON LACY THROUGH THE YEAR’ – ANDREW HUNT Details on 01747 840780 CODFORD & DISTRICT GARDENING CLUB ‘GARDENS OF WWI’ – CHRISTINE STONES 19th BRIDPORT & DISTRICT GARDENING CLUB ‘A TOUR OF OLD FRENCH GARDENS’ – CHRISTINE STONES Details on 01308 459469

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21st HALE & WOODGREEN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY PLANT SALE AT WOODGREEN HALL PLANT HERITAGE EAST DORSET GROUP ‘WILLIAM MORRIS – THE DESIGNER’S GARDEN’ – ALAN EDMONSON Details on 01202 883352 22nd 113 BRIDPORT ROAD, DORCHESTER NGS OPEN GARDEN Details on 01305 263088 23rd IWERNE MINSTER PRODUCE & HORTICULTURAL ASSOCIATION ‘CLOSE ENCOUTERS’ – COLIN VARNDELL Details on 01747 811339 MUSBURY GARDEN CLUB ‘POLTIMORE HOUSE & GARDEN RESTORATION’ – RIKKY APPS 24th WEST PARLEY GARDENING CLUB ‘HERBS! MORE THAN JUST STUFFING BALLS’ – NEIL LOVESEY Details on 01202 896711 25

th

DUNCLIFFE GARDEN CLUB AGM Details on 01747 823909

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UPLYME & LYME REGIS HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY ‘GARDENING BY THE MOON’ – STEPHANIE HAFFERTY STURMINSTER NEWTON GARDEN CLUB ‘PLANTS & LANDSCAPES OF THE WESTERN CAPE OF SOUTH AFRICA’ – BEN TURNER Details on 01258 473327 26th LYTCHETT MINSTER & UPTON GARDENING CLUB ‘DORSET THROUGH THE YEAR’ – PAUL STURGESS www.lmugc.org.uk 28th HARDY PLANT SOCIETY, COLEHILL MEMORIAL HALL ‘COMPTON ACRES REVISTED’ – MARY PAYNE MBE 30th PIDDLE VALLEY GARDENS CLUB ‘A GROWING CONCERN’ – DI GILLIVER Details on 01300 348063

MAY 3rd BROADWEY, UPWEY & DISTRICT HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY ‘CLIMBERS’ – MARTIN YOUNG Details on 01305 814887


CHURCHDOWN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY SOCIAL BRING & SHARE SUPPER Details on 07711 311716

WESSEX BONSAI TALK/DEMONSTRATION – CORIN TOMLINSON www.wessexbonsai.co.uk

4th

9th

BOURNEMOUTH IN BLOOM, THE BOURNEMOUTH HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY ‘WILD COAST & KINGFISHERS IN AUTUMN’ – DUDLEY HIGGINSON Details on 01202 752014

MUSCLIFF GARDEN CLUB ‘ECHINACEA & RUDBECKIA’ – MARTIN YOUNG Details on 01202 519989

4th/5th BRANSGORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY PLANT SALE 5

th

WEST MOORS HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY PLANT SALE 5th/6th SITTING SPIRITUALLY, YAWL HILL LANE, LYME REGIS OPEN GARDEN WEEKEND Details on 01297 443084 6

th

WESSEX BONSAI ANNUAL SHOW www.wessexbonsai.co.uk 7th HIGHCLIFFE & DISTRICT HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY ‘THE NATIVE & GARDEN PLANTS OF JAPAN’ – KEVN HOBBS Details on 01425 547740 8th BROADSTONE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY ‘AUTUMN BEAUTIES’ – KEVIN HOBBS LYTCHETT MATRAVERS GARDENING CLUB GARDENERS QUESTION TIME – GOLD CLUB Details on 01202 624269

10th SHERBORNE & DISTRICT GARDENERS’ ASSOCIATION ‘A WILD GARDEN’ – COLIN WARNDELL & AGM Details on 01935 389375 STALBRIDGE GARDEN SOCIETY ‘THE BEE FRIENDLY GARDEN’ – NEIL LOVESEY Details on 01963 362670 11th FERNDOWN HORTICULTURAL ASSOCIATION ‘TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS OF A HORTICULTURAL JUDGE & SPEAKER’ – DEREK LUTHER Details on 01425 276164 12th BROADWEY, UPWEY & DISTRICT HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY PLANT SALE AT MEMORIAL HALL Details on 01305 814887 SHERBORNE & DISTRICT GARDENERS’ ASSOCIATION PLANT SALE – PARSONS YARD Details on 01935 389375 PIDDLE VALLEY GARDENS CLUB PLANT SALE Details on 01300 348063 13th 113 BRIDPORT ROAD, DORCHESTER NGS OPEN GARDEN Details on 01305 263088

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14th RADIPOLE & SOUTHILL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY ‘A PHOTO CRUISE ALONG THE JURASSIC COAST’ – STEVE BELASCO Details on 01305 788939 WIMBORNE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY ‘WONDERFUL WATER GARDENS’ – MIKE WEBBER Details on 01202 887006 15th BROADSTONE & CORFE MULLEN FLORAL DECORATION SOCIETY ‘BEYOND IMAGINATION’ – PAM WELCH HALE & WOODGREEN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY ‘CONTROLLING PESTS & DISEASES IN YOUR GARDEN & GREENHOUSE’ – NEIL HELYER PARKSTONE GARDENERS’ SOCIETY ‘PLANTING HANGING BASKETS’ – DAVID BASSIL www.pgsgreenfingers.co.uk 16th BOURTON GARDENING CLUB ‘THE WORLD OF A WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER’ – DAVID BOAG Details on 01747 840780 CODFORD & DISTRICT GARDENING CLUB ‘PLANTS THAT HAVE CHANGED THE WORLD & WAY WE LIVE’ – ROSINA BRANHAM 17th BRIDPORT & DISTRICT GARDENING CLUB ‘NEW TRICKS FOR OLD GARDENERS’ – KATHERINE CROUCH Details on 01308 459469 26th & 27th BUCKLAND NEWTON OPEN GARDENS AND CHURCH FLOWER FESTIVAL 12 noon to 5pm daily, refreshments, plants. £5 entry Details www.bucklandnewton.com

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The New Forest’s leading centre offering you the quality and choice of Trees, Shrubs and Hardy Plants grown on our own 25 acre nursery. Our shop is filled with a wonderful selection of spring offers. Come and see our lovely range of seasonal bedding, shrubs and trees. We have everything to help you grow your own. Get started now! Relax in ‘Camellias’, our Coffee Shop and Restaurant, where you can enjoy coffee, tea, and a selection of lunch specials prepared fresh every day Visit our website, www.evertonnurseries.co.uk for info and gardening tips! Facebook “f ” Logo

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EVERTON, on A337, Near LYMINGTON. 01590 642155

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Open every day 9-5.30, Sunday, 10.30-4.30

Discover

Marwood Hill Gardens

Discover the stunning views at Marwood Hill Gardens, 20 acres of private gardens with lakes in North Devon. The gardens are a wonderful haven in which to relax and enjoy the impressive collections of plants, shrubs and trees and experience the views and peaceful atmosphere.

Specialist Plant Sales At Marwood, we aim to provide something a little bit different, something which you can take home.

GET MORE FROM YOUR GARDEN THIS

Tel: 01271 342528 | www.marwoodhillgarden.co.uk Marwood Hill Gardens, North Devon EX31 4EA

JAPANESE MAPLES Acer palmatum varieties

Spring

We produce and grow the largest selection available in the UK. Plants are pot grown and suitable for garden, patio or bonsai.

Send SAE for descriptive catalogue. Visitors welcome Mon-Sat 9am-1pm & 2pm-5pm Barthelemy & Co (DCG), 262 Wimborne Rd West, Stapehill, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 2DZ

COUNTRY GARDENER

Tel: 01202 874283 enquiries@barthelemymaples.co.uk www.barthelemymaples.co.uk 58

For the latest garden news, events & advice - don't miss

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Stockists of Country Gardener Dorset Country Gardener is available free of charge throughout the area at the outlets listed below. For amendments to details or deliveries call Pat Eade on 01594 543790 email pateade8@gmail.com Abbotsbury Abbotsbury Sub Tropical Gardens Beaminster Cilla and Camilla Little Groves Mapperton House Visitor Centre Bishops Caundle Bishops Caundle Community Shop Blandford Forum Bartletts C & O Tractors Langton Nursery Tourist Information Centre Bournemouth Cherry Tree/SWOP Parks Perennials Broadwindsor Broadwindsor Craft Centre Bridport Bartletts of Bridport CW Groves Nurseries John Bright Fencing and Country Store Tourist Information Centre Washingpool Farm Shop Cerne Abbas Village Store & Post Office Chickerell Bennett’s Water Gardens Child Okeford Goldhill Organic Farm Shop Oasis Plant Centre Christchurch Coastal Garden Buildings MacPennys Nursery Stewarts Garden Centre Tourist Information Centre Corfe Mullen Naked Cross Nursery Cranborne Cranborne Garden Centre Dorchester Athelhampton House Flyte so Fancy GCS Agricentre

Highwood Garden Machinery Kingston Maurward College Mole Country Stores The Potting Shed, Hardye Arcade Tourist Information Centre Townsend Fencing, Pulham Woodsford Nursery, Crossways Fordingbridge Wolvercroft World Of Plants Ferndown Avon Heath Country Park Haskins Garden Centre Gillingham Garden Machinery Service Gillingham Library Orchard Park Thorngrove Garden Centre Hampreston Knoll Gardens Trehane Nursery Holt Stewarts Garden Centre Iwerne Minster Village Store & Post Office Lytchett Matravers Woodlands Nursery Marnhull Robin Hill Stores Milton-on-Stour Plant World Nursery Minterne Magna Minterne Gardens Morcombelake Felicity’s Farm Shop Owermoigne Kate’s Farm Shop OHE Garden Machinery Poole Chestnut Nursery Compton Acres Upton Country Park Victoria Horticulture Shaftesbury Ben Johnson Garden Machinery Greenacre Farm Shop Ludwell Stores Tourist Information Centre

Sherborne Bailey Ridge Plants, Leigh Castle Gardens Fat Fish Aquatics @ Castle Gardens GC The Grange at Oborne Tourist Information Centre Stalbridge Stalbridge Post Office Williams Nursery Stour Provost Hill Top Nursery Stourton Stourhead NT Sturminster Newton Harts Garden Supplies Three Legged Cross Brackendale Nurseries Tolpuddle Farmgate Shop Upwey MyPlants Wishing Well & Water Gardens Wareham Holme for Gardens Purbeck Pets & Equestrian Tourist Information Centre West Parley Plowmans Plants Weymouth CC Moore Goulds Garden Centre Lynch Lane Garden Centre Wyke Regis Horticultural Society Wimborne Allendale Centre Allendale House Barthelemy & Co Canford Magna Garden Centre Kingston Lacy House NT Pamphill Dairy Farm Shop Serles House The Oaks Garden Centre The Priest House Museum & Garden Tourist Information Centre Vines Farm Shop Wimborne Model Village Wyevale

Witchampton Witchampton Community Shop Woodlands Koirin Azalea Centre

Country Gardener Magazine Editorial Publisher & Editor: Alan Lewis alan@countrygardener.co.uk Tel: 01823 431767

Distribution Pat Eade pateade8@gmail.com Tel: 01594 543790

Time Off: Kate Lewis timeoff@countrygardener.co.uk

Advertising Sales Corina Reay - Cotswolds Cath Pettyfer - Devon & Dorset corina@countrygardener.co.uk cath.pettyfer@countrygardener.co.uk Tel: 01823 410098 Tel: 01837 82660

Ava Bench - Somerset & Classified ava@countrygardener.co.uk classified@countrygardener.co.uk Tel: 01278 671037

Rob Houghton - Hampshire & Sussex Design & Production Aidan Gill rob@countrygardener.co.uk aidan@countrygardener.co.uk Tel: 01614 283230 Accounts Sam Bartholomew sam@countrygardener.co.uk Tel: 01823 430639

Gemma Stringer gemma@countrygardener.co.uk

The Country Gardener magazines are distributed FREE at Nurseries, garden centres, National Trust Properties, open gardens, garden machinery specialists, country stores and farm shops in each county. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or made available in any form, without the written permission of the copyright holder and Publisher, application for which should be made to the Publisher. Unsolicited material: do not send or submit your only version of manuscripts and/or photographs/transparencies to us as these cannot be returned to you. While every care is taken to ensure that material submitted is priced accurately and completely, we cannot be responsible or liable for any loss or damage suffered. Views and/or opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent those of Country Gardener or the Publisher.

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59


Plant Heritage gears up to in style

celebrate its 40th anniversary

Plant Fairs will celebrate anniversary

Dorset is the only county to have two Plant Heritage charity groups but they are about to come together to host a series of plant fairs The National Plant Charity we all now know as ‘Plant Heritage’ started life as the National Council for the Conservation of Plants & Gardens (NCCPG). And while this is still its formal title remembered by many gardeners, ‘Plant Heritage’ is more user-friendly and perhaps more easily understood. In October 1978, The RHS held a conference to highlight the loss of many valued and interesting garden plants - as opposed to plants in the wild. One of the earliest working groups was held in Dorset in December 1978 and the Dorset County Group was formed shortly afterwards. The first National Collection of salvias, was established at Abbotsbury Gardens; this later moved to Kingston Maurward College on the outskirts of Dorchester, alongside the National Collection of penstemons. Group meetings were held for many years at Kingston Maurward and also at Athelhampton House. Although Dorset is not a large county, its infrastructure – particularly its narrow roads during the spring and summer can be very congested and it can take quite a while to drive from one side of the county to the other. Dorset is incidentally one of the few counties without a motorway and dual-carriageways are still a bit of a novelty. A decision was made in 1989, by those living in the east of the county, to form a separate group, which still meets near Wimborne. Dorset is the only county in the UK to have two Plant Heritage Groups but together we publish a joint programme of 16 to 17 meetings each year with quality speakers and hold several Specialist Plant Fairs in the county, which raise funds for the charity and its work in the county. 60

The Dorset Group now meets once a month at the Dorford Centre in Dorchester on Thursday evenings and the Dorset (East) Group meets at Colehill Memorial Hall, near Wimborne on Saturday afternoons. Members of either group can attend each other’s meetings and indeed, any other group meeting in the UK, free of charge. An added bonus is that thieir specialist plant fairs are also free to all Plant Heritage members from anywhere in the UK. This year, to mark the 40th anniversary, Dorset will be hosting the National AGM in Wareham from Friday, 27th to Sunday, 29th April. In addition to the two main Plant Fairs at Athelhampton House on Sunday 6th May and Sunday 9th September, a new Plant Finder’s Fair will be held at Abbotsbury Gardens on Sunday, 1st July. This fair will have unusual and exotic plants, in addition to the excellent range of annuals, perennials and shrubs which can also be found at Athelhampton. The fair will also have several National Collection Holders selling their own plants and has also attracted 20 specialist nurseries from up to 200 miles away. Admission to all three fairs includes free access to the attractive and extensive host gardens. Plant Heritage has undergone some significant changes since its formation back in ‘78 and is now the world’s leading cultivated plant conservation charity, bringing together the talents of botanists, horticulturalists and conservationists and the dedication of keen amateur and professional gardeners. If you would like further information, go to ncccpg.com and click on ‘in your area’.

Country Gardener


Countdown begins to stop closure of

THOUSANDS OF FOOTPATHS

Right-to-roam law means pre-1949 rights of way not on official maps must formally be recorded or will no longer be protected and could disappear Thousands of footpaths, and bridleways across the UK face being lost forever within a decade under a clause in rightto-roam legislation. The incompleteness of the legal record of public rights of way has been a contentious subject for many years. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 sought to address this. It provided for a ‘cut-off date’ in 2026, so that unrecorded pre-1949 public rights of way would cease to exist if not specifically preserved by regulations.

chair of the conservation body, the Open Spaces Society. Gathering the evidence and applying for paths to be recorded was ‘a painstaking and lengthy’ business, warned Wadey, who raised the prospect of farmers taking down stiles and putting up fences, and field gates being locked. “On 1st January 2026, old footpaths and bridleways that are not recorded on the councils’ official Definitive Map of Rights of Way may cease to carry public rights,” He said urban alleyways were of greatest concern, with shortcuts behind

‘The real worry is [about] rights of way that people are using every day, suddenly they will stop having that right’ Those campaigning to save footpaths are now warning that the ‘clock is ticking’. Walkers, horse riders – and even those taking regular shortcuts to the shops in towns –have ten years to apply to save any rights of way that existed before 1949 but do not appear on official maps. Organisations such The Ramblers, the Open Spaces Society, Natural England and others support the work to correctly record bridleways and restricted byways that are currently omitted or recorded at a lower status (such as ridden routes recorded as footpaths) as well as creating any new definitive routes. The task is to get all rights recorded as soon as possible. Certain unrecorded rights will be extinguished in 2026. The consequences of failing to act could be far-reaching, said Dr Phil Wadey, vice-

walking or riding or cycling along them. But they are not on the official map, so they will vanish if applications are not made,” said Wadey. “People won’t realise until they are gone and then it will be too late”. Wadey said: “The real worry is [about] rights of way that people are using every day – suddenly they will stop having that right, which means the landowner could close it at any instant. Some old roads, typically unmetalled green lanes, might disappear, as well as urban alleyways.” There were lots of instances where the basic route was recorded, but because of changes or inconsistent records, there might be a 20ft gap where a footpath should join a road, Wadey said. “And if you lose that gap, somebody can put a fence across it, quite lawfully.” Anyone wishing to register a right of way can seek advice from their local authority, the Open Spaces Society, the British Horse Society, and The Ramblers, who all have volunteers with expert knowledge.

houses under threat from homeowners extending their gardens, or fencing off paths that have existed for decades. This could affect popular shortcuts on many housing developments; even if the homes were built after 1949, the path around which they were constructed could have existed for longer and so be at risk. “These paths are all over the place. A lot Each highway authority (county council or unitary of them are actually authority in England, county or county borough council paths that are in in Wales) keeps a Definitive Map and Statement of all everyday use. They public rights of way -the formal legal record of the are not hidden. We existence of footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways are not talking about and byways open to all traffic. In total it offers more paths that have fallen than 137,000 miles of public footpath, bridleway and into disuse. There byway providing a level of access admired are actually people throughout the world.

What is a Definitive Map?

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61


How to grow your own

loofah sponge If you are looking for something really different and fun to grow try loofahs, sometimes known as sponge gourds, best known for the bath sponges made from its mature fruit yet in some parts of the world prized as a vegetable. Did you know that loofah sponges are made from a vegetable? Even better, you can grow them for cleaning and eating! You’ve probably had or used a loofah sponge in your life, whether in the bath or for cleaning around the house. But did you know it was made from a vegetable? Luffa aegyptiaca and Luffa acutangula, also known as loofah, vegetable sponge or dishcloth gourds, are grown mainly for their useful fibrous tissue skeleton. Young fruits can be eaten as squash, used in stews or even used in place of cucumbers. The

luffa gourd plant is an annual tropical or subtropical climbing vine. When the fruit section of the plant matures, it can be used as an organic bath or kitchen sponge. Some people even use the juice of this very beneficial plant to treat jaundice. While much of the marketing of loofahs shows the sponge in a sea-side setting, surrounded by seashells and the like, loofahs are the fibrous flesh of the mature luffa gourd—and you can grow them in your garden but you will need plenty of sunshine.

HOW TO GROW LOOFAHS Growing these plants is an enjoyable project but not one for the impatient. Loofahs are cold sensitive and take a long time to mature into a dried sponge, so loofah gourd planting shouldn’t be attempted if you don’t have the patience to wait. Sow gourd eight inches apart along a fence as soon as the ground is warm enough to work and all danger of frost has passed in spring. To facilitate germination, scrape the seed coat with a file or allow seeds to soak for at least 24 hours. Seeds are very slow to sprout so gardeners should not lose faith. Seeds can also be started indoors several weeks before the last frost. Plant one to three plants in a hill and space hills six feet apart. Loofahs like full sun and a well-drained but moist soil, enriched with plenty of compost or well-rotted manure. They are grown like a winter squash or hard-shelled gourd and their long (30 feet isn’t unusual) vigorous vines need lots of room to roam or a sturdy trellis to clamber over. The very first fruits that appear on the vine should be allowed to mature into sponges The sponges are mature and ready to pick when the green skin has turned dark yellow or brown and starts to separate 62

from the fibre inside, and the fruit feels lightweight. Leave the fruit hanging on the vine as long as possible for maximum sponge development, but be sure to pick and peel the fruit immediately if they get hit by frost. Fruit that isn’t fully mature won’t have enough tough fibre to make a good sponge. The first step to revealing your sponge is to peel off the tough outer skin: if it is already cracked you can pull it off in pieces, if it is intact try squashing the fruit gently until cracks appear and then extending the cracks by squeezing the fruit and pulling at the torn edges of the skin with your thumbs. If the skin is very dry, soaking the fruit in water for a few minutes may make it easier to dislodge the skin. Once the skin has been removed, shake out the seeds. Finally, dry the washed sponges in the sun, turning them frequently, until completely dry. Store in a cloth bag to prevent them from getting dusty and they will keep for years.

Loofahs for washing up?

If you are keen to join the drive to reduce plastic in our homes then you can join the growing number who successfully use loofahs as an alternative to dish sponges and scourers for washing up.

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Dorset Country Gardener May 2018  

The May 2018 issue of Dorset Country Gardener Magazine

Dorset Country Gardener May 2018  

The May 2018 issue of Dorset Country Gardener Magazine

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