Hampshire Country Gardener June 2021

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Hampshire Issue No 129 JUNE 2021 FREE

www.countrygardener.co.uk

A SUMMER OF

cfrom utyour flogarden fl owers Plus: Growing great peonies; Low allergy gardening; Gardening the low carbon way; Peat free; Managing water in your garden; At last - great days out in Hampshire

G A R D E N C E N T R E • FA R M S H O P • OW TO N ’ S B U T C H E R S Fontley Road Titchfield Hampshire PO15 6QX 01329 844336

www.garsons.co.uk

A warm welcome back to NGS GARDEN VISITS

• T H E N AT U R E C O L L E C T I V E • T H E O R A N G E RY T E A H O U S E


Mark Hinsley

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

Arboricultural Consultants Ltd.

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● Basket plants, Fuchsias and Begonias £1.25 ea. 18 for £20 ● Bedding cellpacks/trays £2.25 5 for £10 ● Geraniums, Osteos, Dahlias, Argyranthemum etc. large 1 litre £1.99 8 for £15 ● Amazing range of planted containers all year round - always fresh, perfect gifts. ● Mixed Summer baskets from £12.99 ● Veg pots and herbs £1.49 ● Veg strips £2.49 ● Bush and Climbing Roses: £8.99 ● Perennials 3 litre (large) from £4.99 3 for £12 ● Ivy leaf trailing geraniums £1.49 ● Wide range of locally grown shrubs and climbers For updates and news join our eMail list on our web site. 2

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Gardeners cuttings

in Hampshire Garden drone shot wins RHS photo prize

CUTTINGS

A LOOK AT NEWS, EVENTS AND HAPPENINGS IN YOUR AREA

Medical fund charity has garden festival at Bere Mill A garden festival is being run in the private gardens of Bere Mill in Whitchurch on Sunday, 27th June on behalf of the charity The Hampshire Medical Fund. The Hampshire Country and Garden Festival includes an annual weekend of events that begins with an adult Saturday evening drinks and supper auction on 26th June followed by an all-day festival on Sunday 27th June. Hampshire Medical Fund raises fund for the NHS hospitals of Basingstoke, Winchester and Andover to purchase cutting-edge equipment which wouldn’t otherwise be funded. The festival celebrates the benefits to health and wellbeing of gardening for all ages, healthy eating, learning new creative skills, enjoying music, plus a huge array of children’s activities. The fundraising focus for this year is to support the Neonatal departments of Basingstoke, Winchester and Andover hospitals by purchasing a new resuscitative machine at a cost of £11,000 each for each hospital.

Award winning picture taken from a drone

Bere Mill House, London Rd, Whitchurch RG28 7NH A drone shot of a formal garden at Loseley Park, the Tudor Manor house and gardens has won top prize in the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual photographic competition – which saw a surge in entries this year. The RHS said there were a record number of entries following a growing appreciation of nature and gardens during lockdown, with winners drawn from thousands of entries from around the world. The horticultural charity hopes this year’s winning images will inspire people to get out and enjoy a dose of “vitamin G” as part of National Gardening Week in the UK next week.

New May three-day BBC garden event at Beaulieu House

Beaulieu House in the New Forest hosts a new outdoor spring gardening event, with the BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair in the grounds of Palace House and the National Motor Museum from Friday, 28th May to Sunday, 30th May.

Oliver Dixon was the overall winner for his image “spring from the air”, an aerial shot of the flower garden at Loseley Park, Surrey.

The more you garden the less stressed you get Gardening more frequently may be linked to improvements in wellbeing, perceived stress and physical activity, new research suggests.

Beaulieu House venue for three day show

The show presents a select number of high-quality nurseries with displays and plants for sale, a collection of planting ideas in the Beautiful Borders and a range of gardening exhibitors to shop from. The BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine team will be on hand with spring gardening tips

Tickets are on sale now and include entrance to Beaulieu’s grounds and gardens, the ancestral Montagu home Palace House, the National Motor Museum and the rest of the attraction. www.beaulieu.co.uk/events/bbc-gardeners-world-fair-spring

A new study indicates that people who garden every day have wellbeing scores 6.6per-cent higher and stress levels 4.2per-cent lower than people who do not garden at all.

Getting those shrubs and climbers under control

According to the research, gardening just two to three times a week also leads to better wellbeing and lower stress levels.

You can ready for the new growing season to control your shrubs and climbers using Rivelin Glen Product’s uniquely designed Wire Anchors. They are quick and easy to attach to concrete posts without drilling to act as an ‘eye’ by threading wire through them to create a trellising system.

Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) wellbeing fellow and lead author Dr Lauriane Chalmin-Pui said: “This is the first time the ‘dose response’ to gardening has been tested and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the more frequently you garden – the greater the health benefits.”

The Gripple Trellising System is ideal to use with the Wire Anchors as the wire does not stretch, takes up to 100kg load and has a life of up to 15 years. Multiple rows can be achieved with one length of wire and two tensioners. No more sore hands or sagging wires! Prices: Wire Anchors from £9.50; Gripple Starter Kit - £18.50.

Email info@rivelinglenproducts.co.uk or telephone 01246 462666 www.rivelinglenproducts.com

Country Gardener works hard to ensure we have up to date and correct information when it comes to garden events and openings. However, events can be cancelled at short notice with the uncertainty surrounding Covid 19, so we urge readers to double check with venues before setting out on a visit. www.countrygardener.co.uk

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CUTTINGS

to charge beyond this (e.g. increased collection frequency or increased capacity).

Free garden waste collection for Hampshire householders?

When compared to a charged garden waste scenario, a free garden waste collection delivers an average carbon savings equivalent to taking 176,000 vehicles off the road each year.

A consultation is being carried out by the Government which may end in Hampshire householders being offered a free garden waste collection service. Currently, 95per-cent of local authorities in England provides a garden waste collection service. At the moment they are able to charge for the collection of garden waste for recycling 62 per-cent of local authorities choose to charge, between £24 and £96 per annum per household, with the average charge at £43 a year. The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is now carrying out another consultation on the costs and carbon benefits of this plan. If implemented, this would change to a free collection service, a minimum fortnightly collection equivalent to a capacity of 240-litre, either bin or sacks with local authorities retaining the provision

Defra is also looking into alternatives to garden collection such as increasing home composting, and campaigns to discourage householders from placing garden waste in their black bin bags.

OUTBREAKS OF JAPANESE KNOTWEED SPREADING THROUGHOUT HAMPSHIRE The infamous Japanese knotweed has appeared in growing numbers across Hampshire. Japanese knotweed has a bad name amongst horticulturists and homeowners alike as the invasive plant can damage property and land beyond recognition. The plant can grow a whopping 10cm a day between May and July, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. The government estimates it would cost £1.5 billion to clear the UK of knotweed. As the UK’s most invasive plant enters its summer growth phase, Japanese knotweed expert Environet reveals the latest hotspots using data from its interactive online tracker. Users can enter a postcode to discover the number of reported knotweed sightings nearby. https://environetuk.com/exposed-japanese-knotweedheat-map

Stanstead Park hosts three day Garden Show Stansted Park hosts a three day Garden Show from Friday 11th June to Sunday 13th June, open daily from 10am to 5pm. The grounds set in 1750

acres of park and woodland is a long established event and will feature a wide variety of specialist nurseries, craft and garden related stalls with demonstrations, talks, music and food. The organisers advise prebooking your tickets as it will reduce queues although tickets will still be available to buy at the gate. Ticket prices are £10 for adults and £8 for seniors and students. Children are £3 and under 4’s go free. A number of Covid restrictions will be in place including social distancing and wearing face masks in the marquees.

Stanstead Park

www.thegardenshowonline.com

Diary events from clubs and organisations around Hampshire

June 4TH Bournemouth in Bloom the Horticultural Society ‘A RANGER’S VIEW OF HENGISTBURY HEAD’ - BRIAN HEPPENSTALL Details on 01202 752014

15TH Parkstone Gardeners Society ‘HOUSEPLANTS’ - DAVID BASSIL Details on 01202 752014

24TH Warsash Horticultural Society ‘PERENNIAL BORDERS AT WISLEY’ - DAVID JEWELL Please send your events to Country Gardener Magazines, Mount House, Halse, Taunton TA4 3AD or by email to timeoff@countrygardener.co.uk

Pinestone Tea

competition winners We are delighted to announce the winners of the Pinestone Luxury tea gift set in our April issue. Amanda Rideout, Chilcompton Mrs M P Knight, Selborne Arthur Docherty, Hedge End, Southampton Mary Fitch, Malmesbury Mrs P Fothergill, Dorset Sandra Black, Cleveden Mr M Bristow, Tiverton Mrs P E Magill, Glenholt Mrs E J Beckett, Wotton-under-Edge Mrs Eileen Mitchell, Shipston-on-Stour

Open day as Friary Meadow welcomes guests Friary Meadow is a retirement village situated in a quiet, secluded location that benefits from beautifully landscaped gardens set on the edge of mature countryside, next to a new country park – and all within easy reach of the amenities of the local village of Titchfield. Built on the extra-care living model, Friary Meadow seeks to allow residents to live their lives as they’ve always done, but with flexible care support on hand if and when it’s needed. Offering a range of property types – from houses to apartments – those who live at Friary Meadow and who harbour green fingered tendencies have plenty of opportunity to indulge in their hobby, or they can simply sit back and enjoy the ambience of a verdant, well cared for open space. With the Government’s stamp duty holiday deadline looming Friary Meadow –will cover stamp duty on any property bought before 30th September. An open day is planned for 12th June, while VIP tours can be arranged. Visit www.friarymeadow.co.uk for more information.

Look out for the July issue of Country Gardener available from Saturday, 26th June www.countrygardener.co.uk

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Peat-free CAMPAIGN HAS A big

summer ahead

GARDENERS ARE ASKED AGAIN TO BECOME MORE INVOLVED IN WHAT IS A BIG FEW MONTHS FOR THE CONCERTED PLANS TO REMOVE PEAT FROM HORTICULTURE

More than ever before gardeners are being asked when they next buy a bag of compost or a new plant for the garden, to make sure that it is peat-free. This summer is seen as being one of the most significant in the peat free campaign, which many believe, has new momentum.

“Harnessing the gardening community is valuable and that engagement is welcome”. Asked if successive Governments had been slow to encourage the phasing out of peat she said: “It has been a commitment and was a voluntary approach for retailers and manufacturers. We did say that if enough progress hadn’t been made by 2020 then we would step up with a more serious approach.

have they delayed to find peat alternatives, but they claim there is no public demand for it. We want to put an end to that.

“A lot of good work has been done - the volume of peat in potting compost has reduced by 25 per-cent in ten years - there is still a lot of peat used.

“We wholeheartedly believe that if consumers are provided with the facts, they will readily swap their peat-based compost for homemade or peat-free.

• The Government has laid down new plans to remove peat from horticulture and announced what gardeners can do to help.

“That is why we will launch a consultation in the summer when we will ask questions about phasing out peat.”

• Environmental groups have come together again to bring forward the ban on the use of peat by 2025 - five years ahead of the Government’s stated deadline of 2030.

In general many gardeners accept that, peat-free compost may be a little more difficult to find and may cost a little more, but through consumer action which can be as simple as you asking, “Where is your peat-free compost? Oh, you don’t have any, then I will go elsewhere” - that this will change.

“We know that peat isn’t necessary in horticulture or in our gardens. It has no place in bagged potting composts, nor in the plants that we buy at garden centres. But recent research from the RSPB has shown the true environmental cost of extracting peat. And it’s shocking.

IT INCLUDES: • A new petition to ban sales of peat is gaining momentum says The Wildlife Trust and will show an overwhelming public support. The latest figures show 36 per-cent of gardeners say they exclusively use peat free potting composts.

Southwest based Environmental Minister, Rebecca Pow says: “Not everyone is aware that peat is in potting composts, so labelling is absolutely vital. If you are not aware of peat in potting compost you may not be aware that peat comes from a precious habitat,” The Conservative MP for Taunton Deane added: “The more people talk about the wider landscape and how it all connects, then people will understand that a bag of growing medium with peat in it links back to bogs, wildlife, habitat carbon storage and so on. 6

“I come from a gardening background and I know there’s an army of people on the ground who have got their hands in the soil and they have lots of information to share.

Also, the emphasis this summer is on ensuring that you only buy peat-free plants too. Growing from seed or bulbs and buying bare root trees and plants are all a good start, but why not take the time to find your local peat-free nursery and support them (many offer online ordering too). Garden Organic’s ‘For Peat’s Sake’ campaign wants to end the use of peat as quickly as possible - ahead of the Government’s target. It says that over 95per-cent of the UK’s peat bogs have become degraded or destroyed. This not only wipes out these rare ecosystems - wild areas which are home to a wealth of plants, birds and insects - but also rapidly increases our carbon emissions. Rebecca Pow added: “For nearly 30 years the horticultural industry has ignored targets to promote and use alternatives in potting composts. Not only Country Gardener

Rebecca Pow: “A good deal of work has been done”

“This would also involve the rewetting of bogs to prevent further carbon loss. “Another solution would be to grow sphagnum moss as a commercial crop, for use in the horticultural trade.”

• Nearly 80% of the UK’s peat lands have been destroyed or degraded. • As they degrade, the stored carbon is released. This means they currently emit more greenhouse gases than all the HGVs on UK roads. • These emissions also cancel any benefits of the new climate emergency forestry planting. • The RSPB is pushing for a peat land restoration programme.

www.gardenorganic.org.uk


Mud Island Garden Centre Tel: 01329 834407 www.mudislandgardencentre.com Southwick Road, Wickham, Hampshire PO17 6JF Open 7 days a week, inc Bank Holidays 9am-5pm

Plant Centre Silk Flower Shop Giftware Garden Furniture Excellent range of seasonal plants now in All the gardening sundries you need in our shop, as well as beautiful gifts.

Why not pay us a visit... www.countrygardener.co.uk

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‘DONATE’ A PIECE OF YOUR GARDEN TO growing cut flowers The best way to treat a cutting garden is as though it was for growing vegetables- give a corner or bigger area of your garden over to it. It doesn’t need to be big – a three by four metre area will produce masses of densely packed flowers. There are many advantages to creating a dedicated area or cut flower bed. It means you can grow your favourite flowers for the house without having to ravage and damage your garden but you can also create the very best conditions for growing them so they can perform at their best – not always the case in your border. For a start you can cram everything together in a dedicated area without having to worry about the look of your border. The intensity of planting also does not matter. Many find that just taking a few flowers from different parts of the garden might make the house look better but often makes the garden noticeably worse. Garden plants are often better scented, more abundant and more varied than their commercial equivalents. So the solution is the obvious one – grow flowers just for cutting. May and June is the best time to sow biennials such as wallflowers, forget-me -nots, sweet rocket, sweet Williams

or foxgloves and they can be planted into their flowering position in September to produce flowers next spring. Most bulbs make ideal cut flowers and tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, alliums, lilies, dahlias and gladioli are all easy to grow in rows which make them look really good in the garden as well as making them easy to pick. First, you need to select your site. A sunny corner of an allotment or vegetable garden works well, although if you have space you might wish to devote a special section of your garden to cut flowers. It should be open to the sun for at least half the day – the second half is better than the first because that avoids the risk of early-morning sun damaging tender flowers – but protected from strong wind, which would buffet and damage the stems. The soil should be weed-free, fertile and welldrained. If it is very heavy add plenty of compost and horticultural grit to ensure healthy root development so the plants will bear as many flowers as possible. You can cram everything together much more intensively than a normal flower border. It does not matter if they are crowded as long as the ground is well prepared and you mulch with a good layer of compost each spring. This intensity of planting will not matter and the flowering stems will have longer stems – which is much better for cutting.

Tips for longer lasting cut flowers • Pick first thing in the morning or last thing at night. The flowers will last longer as a result. The best way is to carry a bucket of water into the garden when you plan to cut flowers and put them straight into the water and then they can stand overnight in a cool shed.

• You can try adding a tablespoon of sugar to help fading stems as this will help to nourish the flowers.

• Strip at least half the foliage off leaving the lower section of the stem bare. Again this will mean longer vase life.

• Position your vase carefully. The vase life of your cut flowers will be reduced if they are placed close to heat, draughts or direct sunlight.

• Restore plants which have flopped over by searing the end for 30 seconds – no more in boiling water.

• Keep cut flowers away from fruit bowls as fruit produces ethylene which causes cut flowers to die prematurely.

• Cut stems as long as you possibly can above a new shoot or leaf. This will ensure there are side shoots remaining from which the next batch of blooms will grow. • Always use tepid water in your vases. Cold water has a higher oxygen content, which can cause air bubbles to

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form in the stems of your flowers, blocking their water uptake. Tulips and daffodils are the exception to this rule as they prefer to be placed in cold water.

• Remove any dead or fading blooms to prevent bacteria damaging the healthy flowers. • Change the water every few days, refreshing any flower feed preservatives at the same time.

Country Gardener

Dedicated cut flower beds are now a huge gardening trend and you won’t need a large area to try it for yourself

Hardy annuals such as nigella, bupleurum, marigolds, cornflowers and opium poppies are best sown directly where they are to grow as soon as the soil warms up in spring, so this is something to do as soon as possible. Sow them in rows and label them clearly. Ideally, sow some in autumn and then a second batch in spring to create an extra-long flowering season. Sweet peas, which make the ideal cut flower, are best grown up wigwams and should be picked completely of all flowers every ten days. They will then go on producing fresh buds into autumn, but with the cut-and-come-again plants will bear repeated harvesting and are the first and best cut flowers to grow. They include a wide range of flowering plants such as sweet peas, petunias, dahlias and cosmos. All will go on producing fresh flowers until they either set seed or grow exhausted at the end of the growing season. Collecting the flowers has exactly the same effect as deadheading (removing blooms that are faded or dead) but instead of removing the spent blooms you select them when they are at their very best. This does not harm or affect the plant at all as it will simply produce more flowers to replace them.


“For a start you can cram everything together in a dedicated area without having to worry about the look of your border. The intensity of planting also does not matter.”

So what should you grow? It’s time to take inspiration from the favourite cut flowers for some of the best cut flowers to grow. SWEET PEA The definitive ‘cut and come again’ cut flower and the real bonus is the tremendous choice of colours. Old fashioned Grandiflora types often have the best scent. Cut the flowers just as the lowest bloom is opening and put them in water immediately for a longer vase life.

SUNFLOWER Sunflowers are very easy to grow and won’t require any special attention - simply sow them directly into the ground where you want them to flower. For cutting it’s best to choose multi-headed varieties. Cut the stems just before the flowers fully open, and strip the lower foliage from the stem.

TULIP Popular as they are one of the first for cutting. Tulips last longer by cutting their stems under water to prevent air entering the stems. Tulips are thirsty cut flowers so you’ll need to keep their water topped up on a daily basis. Don’t mix tulips in a vase with daffodils. Narcissus species exude a substance that prevents tulips and others from taking up water.

LILY Dramatic and have the advantage that just a few lilies will make a statement in any display. There are lots of different lily species that you can grow as a cut flower, but oriental lilies are the most popular for their fragrance and glamorous trumpet shaped blooms. Remember to leave a third of the stem intact to feed the bulb for the next year.

GLADIOLUS The dramatic tall stems of gladioli will add height to arrangements. Cut gladiolus flowers just as the lowest two or three florets begin to open, but leave as many leaves as possible to feed the bulb for next year. Gladiolus flowers will generally all reach maturity at about the same time, but if you can stagger planting so they mature at different times.

ROSES

Sweet peas

Choose varieties carefully to ensure the longest stems. Roses grown as cut flowers need heavy feeding for the best results. It is worth noting for the benefit of organic gardeners that protecting roses against blackspot may well require spraying with fungicides.

EUCALYPTUS The lovely foliage of Eucalyptus gunnii fills up flower displays with some style. Its attractive rounded leaves provide shape and texture that blends well with both formal and more relaxed displays. Eucalyptus has a sensational vase life, easily lasting more than three weeks, and is often the ‘last man standing’ in floral displays!

Eucalyptus

DIANTHUS Dianthus including carnations, pinks and sweet williams) are some of the best known of all cut flowers. Avoid standing carnation arrangements in direct light as they will quickly fade.

PEONIES Peonies produce wonderful large blooms perfect for the vase. Herbaceous, double varieties should be cut when the buds feel soft, just before they open. Cutting double peonies too early may prevent the buds from opening. Single flowered peonies can be cut at a slightly less advanced stage if necessary, while the buds are swollen but still firm.

Sunflowers

Peony

And some unexpected cut flower jewels CLEOME - an elegant half hardy annual with blooms which last well in vases. MOLUCCELLA LAEVIS - also known as bells of Ireland and a member of the mint family. COSMOS - daisy like petals which produces large numbers of flowers. BUPLEURUM - lime yellow flowers which self-seeds. ANTIRRHINUM - or snapdragon with bushy colourful spokes. NICOTIANA SYLVESTRIS - or the tobacco plant with tubular white flowers and beautifully fragrant. www.countrygardener.co.uk

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ROSE CARE

this summer You can’t afford to sit back and admire your roses over the next few months - they will need some regular attention

Roses are the nation’s favourite flowers but no-one said they are an easy ride. If you just sit back and admire your roses during the summer then the chances are you won’t get the best out of them. They do need regular care to be at their very best and that means a proper watering regime, deadheading, mulching and mid-summer pruning.

Deadheading and pruning Most modern roses, even some heirloom varieties, will bloom all summer if properly groomed. ‘Deadheading’ refers to the process of removing old or spend flowers from the bush. Whether you’ve been cutting the flowers for indoors or have left them on the bush, proper trimming ensures strong re-blooming. By deadheading roses instead of allowing them to form seed hips, you’re signalling the plant to produce more flowers. Rose leaves develop in sets of three, five, even seven or nine leaflets. Look out for the five leaflet leaves; these are where you’ll want to prune. Cut a quarter of an inch above a five-leaflet leaf, leaving at least two sets of leaflets on the stem from which you’re cutting. Pick a leaf that faces outward to cut above and make the cut at an angle sloping downward toward the centre of the bush.

Roses need more water than you probably think New roses need far more water than an established garden rose. Water well and often. If a containerised rose dries out, the water will not be taken to the roots but will flow around the outside of the plant. If this happens, place the container in water and let the rose soak up the water. This will ensure the water reaches the centre of the rose.

Don’t plant in the same soil Roses are very greedy feeders, which is why the advice is not to plant new roses in soil where old roses had been, due to a condition called ‘Soil Sickness’ that arises when an old rose has taken all the nutrients and minerals out of the ground. To counter this, you need to dig up the old soil and replace it with good quality compost mixed in with well-rotted farmyard manure.

Summer mulching A layer of mulch ensures that the soil is kept moist in a hot spell, weeds are kept to a minimum, and diseases such as black spot and rust are suppressed. Many materials can be used for mulching depending on what is available to you. Well-rotted farmyard or horse manure is excellent, but make sure that it is three to four years old.

WHY ROSES FAIL TO SURVIVE • 90per-cent of rose problems can be avoided if the rose is well watered. Roses need watering regularly through the late spring and summer, regardless of rainfall. Newly planted roses need a good bucketful every day. • Poor planting. If the plant moves easily in the soil the roots will not settle in so tread carefully around the bush. • Drought: and especially if the quality of the soil is poor which will cause the yellowing of leaves. • Too much water around the roots cause by poor drainage. • Ripe manure will burn the roots. • Too severe pruning repetitively every year on bush roses will gradually reduce the life of the plant. • Attacks from below: Chafer grubs and ants. • Deadly long term diseases: Rust, canker and honey fungus. 10

Tackling common rose problems Most rose problems can be avoided. Black spot, mildew and rust are the most common diseases, but once again, prevention is always better than cure. You can start spraying your roses with an organic spray early in the season once the new young leaves have appeared. If you have had a bad case of black spot, remove all the infected leaves and spray once a week. Cleanliness in the rose garden is all important.

Four tasks which are essential 1. DEADHEAD ROSES ON MOST DAYS

Snip off fading and dead flowers to encourage more blooms. When it is peak flowering season this is almost an every day job. Don’t deadhead if you want hips for autumn interest.

2. PRUNE OUT ANY DEAD WOOD Most roses are best pruned when dormant but it is a good idea to cut out any dead stems you find in summer as they can pass on disease to healthy wood.

3. TIE IN CLIMBERS REGULARLY Climbing and rambling roses can be very vibrant and fast growing so you will need to ties them in regularly. Soft twine tied loosely around stems is ideal.

4. TEAR OFF SUCKERS The majority of rose cultivars are grafted onto a rootstock shots from below the graft are rootstock so are not true to type. Cut these off at the bases. Country Gardener


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summer COMFORTERS Colourful, compact, perfect for smaller gardens, flower baskets and as climbing flowers nasturtiums could easily be defined as the gardener’s solutions for most things for one year Nasturtiums are first and foremost flowers associated with colourful summers . They are a trailing annual plant, easy to grow, with flowers in various colours mainly red, orange or yellow all summer. They’re great as a groundcover, in large containers, hanging baskets, or trailing out of raised beds and down slopes. The abundant, colourful blooms can be cut for use as an elegant entree garnish or salad decoration. The leaves, which contain a good dose of vitamin C, can be used to add a peppery flavour to fresh salads. It is this flavour, similar to that of cress, from which the common name comes, meaning ‘nose twister’ in Latin. Perhaps it is the resurgence of interest in growing oldfashioned flowers that has helped the nasturtium make a comeback in gardens. The scientific name for the nasturtium (Tropaeolum minor) comes from the Greek word meaning to twine, which is descriptive of some of the 50 species in this genus. Nasturtium was first found growing in Mexico and Peru, where it was used instead of cress to flavour foods. It was brought to Europe in the 16th century. Victorian women used it in their practical ‘tussie mussies’ -small bunches of flowers to ward off bad smells. They come in three types: dwarf, semi-trailing, and climbing. Some are heirlooms, dating back 100 years or more. Dwarf types are bushy and compact and include the ‘Alaska Mix’ with variegated leaves and flowers in yellow, red and orange; ‘Empress of India’ with bluish leaves and bright scarlet flowers; ‘Jewel Mix’ with semi-double to double flowers in various colours; ‘Mahogany’ with dark mahogany red flowers; ‘Peach Melba’ with creamy yellow flowers and red inner markings; ‘Phoenix’ with unusual split petals on a colour mix of orange, red or yellow; ‘Strawberries and Cream’ with primrose-yellow flowers with red markings; ‘Vesuvius’ with bluish leaves and salmon flowers; and ‘Whirlybird Mix’ with single to semi-double flowers in various colours. The climbing types like ‘Jewel of Africa’ or ‘Tall Trailing Mix’ send out six to eight foot strong runners that climb 12

Country Gardener

trellises like vines. Fragrant, single flowers of this type are bright and range from yellow and orange to rose and crimson. Nasturtium are one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed. The best flowering will be in full sun, but they will tolerate partial shade. Seeds can be sown directly in the garden beginning in late May, or started indoors to get a good head start on the season. However, as nasturtiums do not fare well when transplanted, use biodegradable pots and plant these directly in the soil. Nasturtiums are not choosy about their soil but, given a choice, do prefer a light, sandy soil. Don’t spoil them with rich, fertile soil and fertilisers as this will only result in lush foliage and few blooms. Soil shouldn’t be too wet either, or they may rot. The large seeds of nasturtiums are easily held by tiny fingers, making them a good flower for children to help plant. In addition, the seeds germinate quickly and plants grow rapidly, so children can see the results of their nurturing soon. Only a small space is needed to provide a child with his or her own garden. Even a single foot square container can become a spring-to-autumn garden. In the early spring, sow fast growing seeds like lettuce and radishes with the nasturtiums. By the time they are harvested, the nasturtiums will be ready to bloom until autumn. Nasturtiums also are planted by many as a companion plant in the vegetable garden to ward off pests, and look attractive at the same time. Planting nasturtiums with members of the cabbage family (cabbage, kale, cauliflower and similar) will deter cabbage caterpillars and whiteflies. Grown with runner beans, nasturtiums help keep aphids off the bean plants. If then they will be a great help. In addition to deterring unwanted insects, they are useful in attracting beneficial predatory insects to your garden. Images from top: Nasturtiums make ideal flowing displays for flower baskets; Edible seeds from nasturtiums; The density of flowers make them very popular


TREE SPECIALIST

When is a pollard not a pollard? Mark Hinsley sets us all right about the difference between the genuine pollarding of a young tree and the savagery of just taking the top off a tree because it is growing too much

“My tree has become too big and now it needs pollarding”. Pollarding is taking a large mature tree and cutting off all the branches, so it sprouts again from the trunk in a much-reduced form – true or false? False. Pollarding is a management regime that is started when the tree is young. It may be done on a repeat cycle for the entire life of the tree to create a certain size of useful poles or, like the famous Beech Avenue at Kingston Lacey, Dorset, it may be done once to create a particular shape to the tree. The famous Beech Avenue at Kingston Lacy, Dorset

The wide spreading low canopies which form trees with an almost brandy bowl shape are the result of the trees being pollarded once when they were young and then left to grown on. Because the trees were young when they were cut the wounds were small and the decay which resulted from them was minor and contained by the trees. Some of our more resilient species, such as the oak, which have been subject to centuries of pollarding management from a young age, can grow out into impressive veteran specimens. The oak in the photograph below will have been managed as a pollard for produce. Historically, local people could not handle heavy timber. What they were interested in was poles, fence post- sized bits of wood that could be easily cut and split for all manner of practical purposes. Coppicing, cutting the tree at ground level and letting it re-sprout, was one way of gaining such produce. However, if your tree was growing where there was livestock or deer, growing the tree up to a point above their reach before cutting it was a way of avoiding having the new shoots nibbled off before they even got going. Under Forest Laws imposed after the Norman Conquest the ‘bolling’ or trunk of the

A tree cannot protect itself from the savagery of ‘topping’

tree belonged to the King and you took that on pain of death, but the pollard growth belonged to the commoners and they could harvest it. Taking the top out of a mature tree to reduce it in size is not pollarding – it is topping. Any reduction where the cuts are more than 150mm (six inches) across is topping. The tree cannot protect itself against this kind of savagery. The tree will rot down from the cutting points right into the main trunk. The attachments of the regrowth will become weak and vulnerable to failure.

WHY POLLARD A TREE? Pollarding is a system of pruning a young tree by removing the upper branches of a tree, which promotes the growth of a dense head of foliage and branches. It is a system started when the tree is young and is properly used as a regular treatment for the tree to limit it to a certain size in a healthy way or if a very specific shape is needed. In general it is a method that keeps trees and shrubs smaller than they would naturally grow. It is normally started once a tree or shrub reaches a certain height, and annual pollarding will restrict the plant to that height. Once young trees or shrubs have reached the desired height, then the process can begin to pollard them. With a tree, it is more typical to leave a trunk supporting three or five branches – these branches are cut back to a desirable length and the twiggy growth appears at these ends.

The correct pollarding of trees gives shape and style

Mark Hinsley is from Arboriculture Consultants Ltd www.treeadvice.info www.countrygardener.co.uk

13


YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

GARDEN

advice

Another lot of great questions and queries from our postbag from Country Gardener Readers – this month ranging from why cherry trees fail to produce fruit to planning an anti allergy garden

I have a lot of dandelions among my potato plants and worry about moving them easily. Will they cause any damage to the crop?

Andy Nortonr Redditch It depends on the proportions we are talking about. Huge numbers of weeds rob soil of nutrients and water while a few straggling weeds will not bother such strong growers as potatoes. If the dandelions are already established near where you are growing your potatoes then it is more of an issue than seedlings. You should also be aware that dandelions give off ethylene altering the growth and ripening of crops near them. A general principle is to keep any area where you are growing vegetables as weed free as possible.

I have slow worms in my compost heap. Is this a problem?

Ellie Morgan Bristol There’s nothing to worry about and you don’t really need to do anything. They are wonderful creatures and won’t harm the heap. They are, in fact, a friend of the composting process as they eat all manner of creatures. They are part of the complex web of food life and nature in the garden and a good one too.

My lovely cherry tree looked great in blossom last spring and seemed to be going to produce lots of fruit. Things continued to go well way into June with the fruit starting to ripen. Then dramatically all the fruit dropped off and come the autumn we didn’t have one single piece of fruit. This spring the tree has a lovely amount of blossom but I am worried the same thing is going to happen and I wonder if I can do anything about it?

Dan Hewitt Alton, Hampshire Your tree sounds as if it is healthy and not diseased so the problem would seem to be pollination. The most common cause of poor pollination is cold, damp weather which can damage the blossom and the developing fruit. It sometimes isn’t enough to prevent the fruit from starting to appear or even to start to form properly but then the impact of the cold means it is difficult to complete its fruiting job properly. Very windy or cold weather might also affect the number of pollinating insects around. Sometime the temperatures may not be high enough at the critical time for the pollen tube to grow down and fertilise the female flower parts. The result is small cherries developing and forming. You can test this by using a sharp knife and carefully cut open a few of these and you may see that the developing ‘stone’ inside is empty as fertilisation has not occurred. The warmer settled weather may give your tree a better chance but there is not a lot you can do about it apart from hoping the elements are kinder.

14

I have a lovely hypericum shrub in our newish garden and I’d like to propagate from it. Someone told me this is very difficult but I would like to try anyway.

Pamela Richardson Plymouth Your advice is wrong and taking cuttings shouldn’t be any more difficult than any other shrub. Hypericums root freely from semi-ripe cuttings taken from this year’s growth from late summer to mid autumn when the tip is soft and the base of the cutting by the stem is hard. So you need to choose healthy stems about 10 cms long and peel them gently from the main stem using your finger and thumb leaving a hard heel and sliver of bark. Trim the base leaving the heel and remove the lowest leaves and the soft tip. Dip the cutting in rooting powder and tap to knock off the excess. Fill a pot with a 50; 50 mixture of sharp sand and organic compost , water well and allow to drain. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag and put in a warm place away from direct sunlight but keep the compost damp.

We have bought a new house but have a lot to do and I can’t imagine being able to do anything about the garden for a few weeks. I wondered if there was a way I could still be able to sow crops that would mean I get some crops in autumn and winter?

Allan Bury Liss Late into June and early July still gives you plenty of time to sow and enjoy a new vegetable garden crop. It isn’t too late for planting potatoes for example and you should still get a good crop. Runner beans and peas are another option but you might want to look for fast growing and mildew resistant varieties so your crop isn’t damaged and restricted in the autumn. You can plant out pot grown sweet potatoes, squashes, pumpkins, courgettes and marrows. Similarly plant out aubergines, sweet and chilli peppers and most important, leeks which will grow though the autumn and provide good crops into the winter. You should also be able to get a sowing and harvest lettuce.

I am keen to use biodegradable pots but they always seem to go mouldy and are very unattractive?

Chris Tompson Lyme Regis

If you have tried several types of biodegradable pots and they all become mouldy then it suggests that you are keeping them far too wet and without enough air circulation. Try reducing the amount of water given in the early stage of the plant’s growth and keep the ventilators and windows of the greenhouse open.

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Is it possible to have an anti-allergy garden and still enjoy bright flowers in my garden?

Vicky Simpson Dawlish Timing is important and perhaps restrict the time you spend in the garden when general pollen levels are high. Only use plants which are known to produce low levels of pollen and you will need to do some research into this to make sure you have made the right choices. But in general there will be plenty of options for you. Perhaps also avoid wind-pollinated plants with hanging catkins or inconspicuous flowers which many trees have. If you would like to see tree blossom choose plums, magnolias or the small Ameranachier lamarckii which has low-key white flowers followed by black fruit and red autumn foliage. Shrubs such as Berberis vulgaris and many viburnums give colour and height. You could under plant with low pollen cyclamen, fuchsias, iris, petunias and phlox.

We have what we imagine is a very old Clematis montana hedge which was in the garden when we moved to the house 12 years ago. It now looks in a sorry state. It does have some growth but very spread out and there is a lot of dead wood. Is there a way we can try and salvage it, as it has become an old friend?

Anna Henderson Southampton Once Clematis montana gets old you are right it can become very straggly and sad looking producing only a few flowers at the top of the plant or hedge. The result is it doesn’t do anything really and will have a lot of dead wood. However this isn’t necessarily dead wood without purpose but is acting as a support for the growth at the top which is alive. There is no easy way for a quick fix other than to cut it back as soon as it has finished flowering. This is also a gradual process but in principle year by year you should be able to encourage more flowering from some of the lower areas. So patience is needed and cut a section every year so you are not literally shocking the plant. Feeding it with a general fertiliser and giving it a regular watering during the summer after a hard pruning should also help it on the way to recovery.

I have always loved growing cucumbers in my greenhouse and over the years I’ve had some wonderful crops which have always been a delight to us bringing them back for salads. For some reason the last two summers has been a disaster for me. The cucumbers have turned yellow. Two years ago and the last time we went on holiday for two weeks I came back to find them all wrinkled, yellow and in a very poor state and clearly not edible.

Dave Harrison Kenton Yellowing of cucumbers and in fact other members of their plant family is common in a summer when there are dramatically fluctuating temperatures. It is frequently seen at the start of the fruiting season on plants such as courgettes, pumpkins and squashes and yes, cucumbers. It occurs when there are really significant changes in the temperature within the greenhouse overnight. This causes the colour change and can cause the fruit to drop off. Last summer was possibly a classic example of this when we had a miniheatwave followed by some days of much, much cooler weather. Even with automatic vents a greenhouse can become too hot. Try to stop this from happening by keeping the door open all summer and by damping down frequently. Unless you can keep the temperate below 28°C you may need to shade the greenhouse which is often expensive but too hot summers are just not ideal for our greenhouses.

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GREAT DAYS OUT

Finally we can go out and

ENJOY OURSELVES! The deeper we have been plunging into spring the better the news has been for garden lovers who have been itching to get out on garden visits. After the toughest of times last year for those who love their garden, days out and trips to everything from NGS Gardens Open to National Trust properties, garden festivals and plant fairs, the last few weeks have seen things starting to get back to normal. The latest relaxation of the Government’s Covid restrictions from the middle of May gave the final go ahead for gardens to open and to provide a fuller experience for visitors in terms of not just numbers but food and drink options. It has been a long time coming and over the summer months there now looks at long last to be lots to look forward to. We have some lovely options available:

Cotswold Garden Flowers and their June sensations There’s the opportunity to visit the wonderful display garden developed over 30 years by Bob Brown at Brown’s Nursery at Offenham near Evesham. Cotswold Garden Flowers hosts a display of plants which have established themselves in the clay soil at the nursery. Tulipa sprengeri, camassia and other summer flowering bulbs have found plenty of spaces to fill. They also grow a range of peonies and lots of other plants. Many of these plants can be bought from the sales area. Visitors can enjoy a day out in Evesham Vale and feel free to picnic at the nursery. Dogs on leads please.

Cotswold Garden Flowers, Brown’s Nursery, Gibbs Lane, Offenham, Evesham WR11 8RR Tel: 01386 422829 www.cgf.net

JUNE IS A FABULOUS MONTH TO VISIT CADHAY June tends to be a fabulous month at Cadhay. The famous Ottery St Mary gardens are designed around two large medieval fishponds which really come into their own. All the silt was removed five years ago which meant that the water lilies had to be replanted but these are now really well established complementing the hostas and water lilies by the water edge. The new garden created beyond the ponds is also taking shape and the allotments will be very impressive. The gardens open at 2pm on Fridays and will also be open on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday of the late May Bank holiday weekend (Sunday 30th May and Monday 31st May for the National Garden Scheme). Guided tours of the house will not take place for the time being. Cadhay, Ottery St Mary EX11 1QT www.cadhay.org.uk

THREE DAY GARDEN FESTIVAL RETURNS AT BISHOPS PALACE, WELLS One of the highlights of the summer in the popular Bishop’s Palace Gardens in Wells is the return of the garden festival, a three-day event from Friday, 2nd July through to Sunday, 6th July. The show returns for its sixth year and is again set amongst 14 acres of stunning RHS partner gardens. A bonus for the show will be the dramatic summer colour and the fragrance of roses through the festival grounds. Speakers will include Roy Lancaster, John Horsey, Claire Reid and James Cross. The South Lawn will be filled with stalls including specialist nurseries, food and drink, garden gadgets, gifts, sculptures and much more. Tickets are £12.50p for adults and £6.50p for children and are available online now. Outdoor Theatre returns to the gardens this summer and the first production is Robin O’ The Greenwood on Friday, 25th June at 6pm.

www.bishopspalace.org.uk

NORMALITY RETURNS TO HARTLAND ABBEY

Hartland Abbey is looking forward to summer visitors to enjoy the coming welcoming summer months. Life will be returning to normal at the former abbey and now home to the Stucley family in more ways than one! Scaffold, encasing the house for the past six months, will be gone along with the a crew filming Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers for the next two series on CBBC. The house itself is open from mid May, theatre arriving on the lawns and peace returning to the gardens and grounds! The warmer weather will bring the gardens to their most beautiful - sadly not seen by anyone last year. Everyone looks forward to welcoming visitors to the house, gardens and indoor tea rooms once again - normality returns!’

Hartland Abbey, Nr Bideford EX39 6DT Tel: 01237441496 www.hartlandabbey.com www.countrygardener.co.uk

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Stone Lane Gardens, Chagford, TQ13 8JU Open all year round

DELIGHTFUL GARDENS TO INSPIRE YOU PLANT AND GARDEN ADVICE

Woodland and Water Gardens National Collection of Birch and Alder

Mail order and click and collect available, or pop along and visit us at the nursery

RHS Partner Garden

Summer Sculpture Exhibition

w ww.s to nelanegard e n s. c om THE LOFT ROOM Holiday let for two in North Gloucestershire’s ‘Golden Triangle’ Easy access to the three Cathedral cities, Malvern Hills, Wye Valley, Forest of Dean, Welsh Marches. Find National Trust properties, excellent plant & garden centres, lovely walks & days out. Local events include RHS Malvern Shows, Much Marcle & Welland Steam Rallies, Ledbury Poetry Festival & of course, local springtime Daffodil Weekends.

No smoking, no pets, lots of relaxation. Tel: 07891741699

Groups welcome by appointment Open 7 days a week from 1st March to 30th September Weekends 10am - 5.30pm, Weekdays 9am to 5.30pm

Sands Lane, Badsey, Evesham, WR11 7EZ 01386 833849 info@cgf.net www.cotswoldgardenflowers.co.uk

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JUNE AT THE PALACE

THE BISHOP'S PALACE & GARDENS, WELLS, SOMERSET 18

Country Gardener

01749 988 111 WWW.BISHOPSPALACE.ORG.UK


GREAT DAYS OUT

STONE LANE GARDENS HOSTS ANOTHER PRESTIGIOUS SCULPTURE SHOW An RHS Partner Garden and holding a National Collection of birch and alder, summer is when Stone Lane Gardens really comes into its own, hosting a prestigious annual sculpture exhibition of emerging and established artists’ work under the trees and in the water garden. The arboretum is at its best and the newly planted extension, perched on the northeast corner of Dartmoor, is beginning to establish itself within a hillside flower meadow offering spectacular views to the high moor. In the specialist tree nursery, work continues to cultivate rare and unusual trees from the collection ready for sale in the autumn. In the visitors’ tea room and garden, the volunteers will be busy serving teas, locally made cakes and Devon cream teas. Stone Lane Gardens is a registered charity (No.1141252). Stone Lane Gardens, Stone Lane, Chagford, Devon TQ13 8JP www.stonelanegardens.com

BUSCOT PARK - A GREAT LOCATION FOR GARDEN LOVERS The Georgian mansion at Buscot Park near Faringdon in Oxfordshire is surrounded by gardens and is a great location for garden lovers. The old walled garden below is now the ‘Four Seasons Garden’ where mixed borders bustle beside pleached allées and walkways. Above this pathways and tree-lined avenues lead to the 18th century Pleasure Grounds where the Water Garden designed by Harold Peto in 1903 descends to a lake; and a Citrus Garden and Swing Garden feature on the way up to an obelisk sundial. Open until 30th September. Monday to Friday 2pm to 6pm and some weekends including Bank Holidays. Entry: Adults £9, over 65’s £7 and children (5 to 15) £4.50. Buscot Park, Lechlade Rd, Farringdon SN7 8BU Information Line: 01367 240932 info@buscot-park.com www.buscotpark.com

Gloucestershire’s Golden Triangle offers perfect year - round getaway With UK holidays and short breaks in high demand at the moment it is worth looking at an area which could be called a well kept secret. If you are looking for the perfect base to take advantage of plenty of sight seeing opportunities you may like to stay at The Loft Room. The newly appointed annex is a cosy comfortable self contained room for two situated in the Golden Triangle, famed for being the largest concentration of wild daffodils in Britain, as featured in BBC Televison’s Countryfile. There are great pubs and restaurants in the nearby market towns and more tucked away locations as well as a good choice of city and rural places to explore. The Loft Room is accessed via steps to the first floor where you can catch the sunset over the fields and rural views all round while being private from the owner’s seventeenth century thatched cottage nearby. There’s a shower room, small well-equipped kitchen area with double ring ceramic hob, multi function oven and small fridge with freezer box. Just pack clothes and food! Parking for one car.

For more information and to book, ring Caroline Nicholls on 07891741699 The Loft Room, Dymock, North Gloucestershire

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Open 1 April - 30 30 September September Contact: Info line 01367 01367 240932 240932 or or www.buscotpark.com for website www.buscotpark.com for opening opening times. times. Open 1 April - 30 September Contact: Info line 01367 240932 or website www.buscotpark.com for opening times.

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19


COMPETITION

Tours and tastings back at popular Melbury Vale Vineyard Weekend tours and tastings are back at Dorset Melbury Vale Vineyard just one and a half miles south of Shaftesbury. The Melbury Vale Vineyard was hand planted in 2006 by the Parker/Pestell family and friends. Two thousand vines were hand planted in one day, ending with a glass of what the future held, whilst all sat on the hillside watching the sunset over the Stirkel River.

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Clare Pestell is owner, winemaker and distiller in this remarkable, sustainable winery, built in 2013 into the hillside, storing wines in the best conditions. This distinctive local landmark building, clad in local stone and sustainably sourced timber, has a wild flower meadow turf roof and rainwater harvesting. The winery is passively heated and cooled by being engulfed into the hill. Low food miles and intervention growing and production techniques are key. Melbury now acts as a small ‘Dorset growers co-operative’ as new vineyards have multiplied in recent years. Pinot Noir, Solaris, Rondo and Seyval Blanc grape varieties are grown on site; producing red, white and rosé still wines, as well as sparkling wines. Weekend tours and tastings started again in mid May after the Government’s latest relaxation of Covid restrictions. Weekend glamping packages will start in late June, again subject to government confirmation, until September. Both can be booked online at www.mvwinery.co.uk/tours

Melbury Vale Vineyard & Winery, Foots Hill, Cann, Dorset SP7 0BW

Hartland Abbey & Gardens

Once again enjoy the beauty of Hartland Abbey and its gardens in June Visit the house with its stunning architecture and collections. Film exhibition and current location for Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers. Beautiful walled and woodland gardens and walks to the beach. * Dogs welcome * Holiday Cottages * * Delicious light lunches & cream teas * * Hartland Quay 1 mile * Outdoor Theatre * House, Gardens etc and Café: until 3rd October, Sunday to Thursday 11am - 5pm (House 2pm - last adm. 4pm)

Backdoorshoes® flip-flops are a perfect accessory for any outing. Their range is colourful and features unique patterns to include Meadow, Poppies, Bluebells and Grass. We are delighted to be offering you a chance to win a pair of Flip Flops by entering our competition. Backdoorshoes® clogs were created to solve the problem of how to make quick trips into the garden without having to bother with boots or fiddle with laces - and without getting soggy socks. They slip on and off easily, and are waterproof, lightweight, durable and comfortable. They are made from a vegan-friendly foam EVA formula that won’t crack or perish, with removable washable insoles. The array of colourful, characterful designs continues to expand, with Butterflies and Bees joining the women’s range, in sizes 3 to 8, this year, and Pebbles added to the men’s Chunky Tread range, which comes in sizes 8 to 14. For more information on the ever increasing range (to include Ultralight Wellies and Chelsea ‘Jumpy’ Boots) visit www.backdoorshoes.co.uk and check out the entertaining new videos for more reasons why every back door needs Backdoorshoes®

For more information and events see www.hartlandabbey.com Hartland, Nr. Bideford EX39 6DT 01237441496/234

Melbury Vale Locally produced: • Wines • Aromatised Wines • Liqueurs • Brandies From Dorset vineyards • Wine Tours • Glamping The Winery, Melbury Vale Vineyard, Cann, Shaftesbury SP7 0BW (Open to visitors Fri & Sat 10am 4pm or by prior appointment) Tel: 01747 854206

www.mvwinery.co.uk 20

To enter just answer the following question... What is their latest Chunky Tread Design? Put your answer on a postcard and sent to: Backdoorshoes Competition, Country Gardener Magazine, Mount House, Halse, Taunton, Somerset TA4 3AD. Closing date for entries is Wednesday, 30th June. The competition winners will be announced in the next available edition of Country Gardener.


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READERS LETTERS

Have your say... Another lively bunch of letters from Country Gardener readers. Write to us at Country Gardener, Mount House, Halse, Taunton, Somerset TA4 3AD

Peat free can be a better growing option

‘I take pleasure in small things’ Being confined to my home for ten weeks and unable to get out for even a daily walk I have learned to appreciate my garden in ways that I never have before. On warmer days I have been doing my yoga on the lawn and from ground level as it were, one can really appreciate the emergence of new plant life as well as the comings and goings of birds, butterflies and bees. The final meditation to the sound of birdsong has been truly uplifting, raising my spirits in what could have been a depressing time. Look for the positives, take pleasure in small things. I think that is what we must all take from these tough times.

I have been following your articles on compost and how it should be made and used. A couple of years ago I must admit I wasn’t sure of how successful growing with peat free compost would be. I was dubious to be honest. But last year I grew everything in peat free compost and was really pleasantly surprised by the results. I was amazed at the results, strong healthy plants which produced plenty of fruit. Could peat free actually be better than peat as well as being morally correct?

Don Harris sent via email

Alex Booth Plymouth

MY GARDEN HAS BECOME SO IMPORTANT Gardening and your lovely magazine has been my lifeline since lockdown and the problems of the last year and a bit. My daughter does not want me to go out and does most things for me which I really appreciate. My garden has become so important to my day-to-day life. I have a small Barnstable garden with flowers, herbs vegetables and a few small trees. I have spent so much more time in the fresh air. I have bought plants, seeds and shrubs online and they have all been of wonderful quality. There are down sides of course. I have missed my friends. But the garden has become a real focus of my life and I have loved it.

Shirley Blake Chepstow MY FANTASTIC FOXGLOVES I have become a subscriber to Country Gardener and I thought I would share this photograph of my rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea) taken last August. It is a wonderful plant and attracts so many pollinators that we have invested in more of these spectacular plants this spring. .

Betty Simpson Stevington

A word of thanks on online deliveries I have bought so many plants and shrubs online over the past few months that I wanted to write to your magazine with a word of thanks to the suppliers who I have to congratulate for doing a wonderful job. Almost everything I have ordered has come well packed and meant the plants arrive in top condition. I would especially like to single out the roses I bought from Pococks Roses from Romsey in Hampshire. My order arrived after a couple of days, were well packed and are just the best roses I have ever bought. In these stressful times it is only right we take time to thanks these suppliers and how much it has helped us all.

Chris Hales by email

A great little mover! I like movement in my garden and I make my own colourful wind ornaments from different materials. I string them up on wire and hang them from trees and posts around the garden. They look good whether the wind is blowing or not. However when it comes to wind spinners you would have to go a long way to beat this peacock wind spinner which is in my neighbours garden and is a great centre of attraction.

Country Gardener has come to my rescue

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Every year I grow Cobaea scandens (Cup and Saucer vine) and it never fails to take my breathe away. It is a fantastic flowering plant which is a wonderful climber and flowers every year in my greenhouse. It has green and white buds which later mature into a lovely purple colour and I have a friend who grows it against a sunny wall and it has created an arch of spectacular flowers. It seems a relatively unknown plant but your readers might like to think about it if they are looking for something different and I can heartily recommend it.

Nick Ellison Exeter

Tina Vowles Yeovil

Rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea)

A wonderful but perhaps unknown climber

I am an avid hands on, get-my-hands-dirty gardener and I have been finding life utterly frustrating while I recover from surgery on my shoulder. A friend introduced me to your magazine and I have found it a delight. It gave me a precious few hours away from worrying what was going to happen to my garden during the height of the growing season when I was unable to get out there. My garden should have been open for the NGS in June but sadly this is not the year to do it as I recover but again thanks for a great gardening magazine.

Annie Porter Painswick Country Gardener

Cobaea scandent or ‘Cup and Saucer vine’

CAREFUL WHERE YOU GROW YOUR POTATOES! My gardening granddad is not your conventional gardener and sees it as fun to try things out. His latest theme in recent years has been to grow potatoes in an old pair of jeans - something which causes some amusement in and around the allotment. And he says it is a great way of growing the spuds. Not for me and my more classic approach to growing vegetables but we can’t all be the same!

Wendy Boyle Cullompton


GARDEN VISITS

GARDENS TO VISIT

in June compiled by Vivienne Lewis

As life continues to get back to normality, and travel between different parts not only of a county but further afield are (hopefully) allowed, there are many lovely gardens opening for good causes, many of them not opened to the public before. Here’s a selection in the area Country Gardener covers. We advise checking with the NGS at www.ngs.org.uk or the other charity websites (which is shown in the individual gardens) and the current Government guidance before starting out on a journey.

13 GLENARM WALK

NETHER COMPTON GROUP Nether Compton, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 4PZ & DT9 4QA Opening for St Margaret’s Hospice, three gardens in the village of Nether Compton will be on display on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th June from 2pm-5pm each day. Stavordale House has a traditional rose

Brislington, Bristol BS4 4LS A new opening for the National Gardens Scheme, with relaxing Japanese garden rooms surrounded by acers and cloud trees, fire pit area, and, through a gate to a peaceful Zen garden. Open for the NGS on Saturday 5th June 11am5pm, Sunday 6th June 12pm-4pm. Pre-booking essential on the NGS website. Admission £4, children free.

garden, a walled garden, lily pond and an arboretum that includes a 350 year-old boundary oak. Stirling Cottage is surrounded by a pretty cottage garden and an upper garden with specimen trees, fruit cage and vegetable beds. Both gardens have spectacular views. Harts Cottage has a sweeping lawn surrounded by mixed beds planted with colour themes. Joint admission £6. www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk and follow the links.

OLDBURY-ON-SEVERN GARDENS

WHITE HOUSE

Oldbury-on-Severn, Bristol, Gloucestershire BS35 1QA

Newtown, Witchampton, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 5AU

Four developing country gardens of varying size and design: Christmas Cottage, Cherry Tree Cottage, Chapel Cottage and Vindolanda, all having water features with a variety of interesting plants and borders. One has intriguing old agricultural artifacts and is on an historical site, another has an area with a developing Japanese feel, next a parterre garden and a traditional cottage garden. Open for the NGS on Saturday 19th June 1pm-5pm. Admission £6, children free, for entry to all gardens. Pre-booking is available, but visitors can pay on the day.

With a Mediterranean feel, this 1½ acre garden is a new opening for the NGS; it’s set on different levels, planted to encourage wildlife and pollinators, with a wildflower border, pond surrounded by moisture loving plants, prairie planting of grasses and perennials, and orchard. Look for the chainsaw sculptures of birds of prey. Open for the NGS on Saturday 26th June, Sunday 27th June, Saturday 10th July and Sunday 11th July, 12pm - 4.30pm each day. Admission £4, children free. Pre-booking available but not essential.

OUR KEY TO FACILITIES ON OFFER AT THE GARDENS:

Refreshments available

Plants usually for sale Dogs on short leads

Wheelchair access to much of garden

Partial wheelchair access

Unsuitable for wheelchairs

Visitors welcome by arrangement

Coaches welcome consult owners

Accommodation at this venue

www.countrygardener.co.uk

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GARDEN VISITS

CATTISTOCK GARDENS Cattistock, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 0JJ Another new group opening for the NGS, from elegant walled gardens to perfectly-formed courtyard spaces showcasing different planting styles from classic cottage summer perennials to the pub garden community vegetable patch. Many of the gardens have views out to the Dorset countryside. Flower festival in the church, open to visitors. The village community adventure playground and the village pub will be open. Open for the NGS Saturday 12th June 1pm-5pm, Sunday 13th June 1pm-5pm. Pre-booking available but visitors can pay on the day. Admission £8, children free, covers entry for both days. Limited wheelchair access to some gardens.

BARNSTAPLE WORLD GARDENS Little Elche, Barnstaple, Devon EX31 3AF Explore three very different spaces, one focusing on everything Japanese, one on tropical plants, and one to interest the plantsman. 31 Anne Crescent with palms, agaves, bananas, cacti, tree ferns and pond loaded with a wide variety of colourful koi. 21 Becklake Close has all things Japanese. 25 Elmfield Road has mixed borders, gravel area, hardy palms, Mount Etna Broom, lawn edged by mixed borders of unusual plants, enhanced by a stream trickling past the end of the garden.

Open for the NGS on Sunday 20th June 11am - 4pm. Admission £5, children free. Pre-booking available but not essential.

LITTLEFIELD Parsonage Way, Woodbury, Exeter, Devon EX5 1HY This is an eco-garden, managed on permaculture techniques, half an acre rescued from derelict land in 2009/10, only 13m wide, 150m long, divided into herbaceous, shrub and tree planting, with a large veg area, fruit and orchard with chickens and beehive; it’s stocked with a large range of plants, in colourful combinations. Sculptures, unusual ironwork, wildlife pond all add charm and interest. Open for the NGS on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th June 11am-5pm both days. Admission £4. children £1. Pre-booking available but not essential.

HILLSIDE Bickwell Valley, Sidmouth, Devon EX10 8SG A town garden of half an acre, with an abundance of roses, herbaceous beds with perennial geraniums and shrub borders. Open for Hospiscare on Sunday 20th and Monday 21st June from 1pm until 6pm. Admission £4. Parking available on road outside or public car park 15 minute walk, with drop off for disabled visitors available on the drive. www.hospicare.co.uk

FROYLE GARDENS Lower Froyle, Froyle, Hampshire GU34 4LG As Froyle Gardens open their gates this year, enjoy a wide variety of gardens, with seven gardens on show including two new openings. A beautiful village with many old and interesting buildings, the gardens harmonise well with the surrounding landscape and most have spectacular views. You will see rich planting, greenhouses, water features, vegetables, roses, clematis and wildflower meadows. Open for the NGS on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th June, 2pm-6pm both days. Admission £7.50, children free, single price for admission to all gardens. Prebooking available but not essential.

WHIDDON GOYLE Whiddon Down, Okehampton, Devon EX20 2QJ Whiddon Goyle enjoys stunning views over Dartmoor and sits 1,000 ft above sea level. Built in the 1930s, it was designed to protect its two-acre garden against the Dartmoor weather, with a rockery, croquet lawn, rose garden herbaceous borders, ponds, small vegetable and flower plot along with a pair of majestic monkey puzzle trees. Open for the NGS on Saturday 5th June 11am-4pm, Sunday 6th June 11am - 4pm. Pre-booking available but not essential. Admission £4, children free.

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Country Gardener


FERNS LODGE Cottagers Lane, Hordle, Lymington, Hampshire SO41 0FE A happy jumble of colour, scent and interest is in this half acre cottage garden, around a Victorian lodge house with winding brick paths. There’s a gazebo and terrace with azalea, hydrangea, fig, sweet pea, roses, agapanthus and many foxgloves, honeysuckle, clematis, passionflower and jasmine, and three and a half acres of Victorian garden in restoration. Open for the NGS on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th June, 2pm-5pm. Admission £3.50, children free. Pre-booking available but not essential.

FRITHAM LODGE Fritham, Hampshire SO43 7HH A one-acre walled garden in the heart of the New Forest, set within 18 acres surrounding a house that was originally a Charles 1 hunting lodge (not open). Herbaceous and blue and white mixed borders, pergolas and ponds, a box hedge enclosed parterre of roses, fruit and vegetables. Enjoy seeing the ponies, donkeys, sheep and old breed hens on the way to a meadow walk to the woodland and stream. Open for the NGS on Sunday 13th June 2pm-4pm. Admission £4, children free. Pre-booking available but not essential.

SPITFIRE HOUSE Chattis Hill, Stockbridge, Hampshire SO20 6JS A country garden with wildlife at its heart, situated high on chalk downland, on the site of a World War II Spitfire assembly factory with Spitfire tethering rings still visible. There’s a small orchard, wildlife pond, woodland planting and large areas of wildflower meadow, fruit and vegetables. Wander across the downs to admire the extensive views. Open for the NGS on Saturday 5th June 2pm5pm. Pre-booking available but not essential. Admission £4, children free.

BISLEY GARDENS

READY TOKEN HOUSE Ready Token, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5SX Beautiful, nature-friendly formal garden with herbaceous borders and mixed topiary set against the backdrop of a 300 year old wisteria-clad country house and mature trees, set in 70 acres of rewilded parkland, with mown pathways through wildflower meadows for walks with stunning views to the Vale of the White Horse; Roman sunken garden, well, pond, lake, organic vegetable garden with raised beds, greenhouse. Open for the NGS on Monday 28th June, Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th June, and Thursday 1st July, 10am-5pm each open day. Admission £7. Children free. Prebooking is available but not essential.

Wells Road, Bisley, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL6 7AG A new opening for the NGS, three beautiful gardens with differing styles. Paulmead: a landscaped garden terraced in three main levels, with a natural stream garden, herbaceous and shrub borders, formal vegetable garden, summerhouse overlooking a pond, an unusual tree house, new garden around a hen house, including a ha-ha. Pax: a small very well kept cottage garden, in a hidden away location, with box hedging, topiary, and great views. Wells Cottage: terraced on several levels with formal topiary and beautiful views over the valley, trees and shrubs, lawns, herbaceous borders, grasses, formal pond, rambling roses on a pergola, and vegetable garden. Open for the NGS on Sunday 20th June from 2pm until 6pm. Admission £5, children free - this ticket is for all three gardens. Pre-booking available but not essential.

PAINSWICK FALCON BOWLS CLUB New Street, Painswick, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL6 6UN A unique chance to visit the second oldest bowls club in the world. Painswick Falcon Bowls Club has wrap around grounds, established borders, hanging baskets, a 19th century thatched shelter and ancient yews. In an idyllic setting, the Bowls Club dates from 1554 when the green was laid by the lord of the manor to provide himself with recreation. Extensive old photos show the club’s history. Open for the NGS on Sunday 6th June, 2pm-6pm. Admission £2, children free. Pre-booking available but not essential.

www.countrygardener.co.uk

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GARDEN VISITS

BRILLSCOTE HOUSE Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 9PF A new opening for the NGS, the garden was created in 2005 after the house was built in 2004/5. Before that it was an agricultural field and builder’s rubble. The late owner’s philosophy was for a garden to be ‘organised chaos’ - he loved wildflowers and always let them be; he loved herbaceous borders and created several here, also a wild garden, and planted more than 400 trees. Open for the NGS on Sunday 20th June, 2.30pm-6.30pm. Admission £6, children free. Pre-booking available but not essential.

BURTON GRANGE Burton, Mere, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 6BR A 1½ acre garden, created from scratch since 2014, with lawns, borders, a large ornamental pond, some gravel planting, veg garden and pergola rose garden, and mature trees. Artist’s studio will also be open. Open for the NGS on Sunday 13th June, 11.30am-5.30pm. Admission £4, children free. Pre-booking available but not essential.

MODEL FARM Perry Green, Wembdon, Bridgwater, Somerset TA5 2BA There are four acres of flat gardens created from a field in the last 11 years that are still being developed, with a dozen large mixed flower beds planted in cottage garden style with wildlife in mind, wooded areas, a mixed orchard, lawns, wildflower meadows and wildlife pond. There’s plenty of seating throughout the gardens with various garden sculptures from Somerset artists, and lawn games including croquet. Open for the NGS on Sunday 6th June 2pm-5.30pm. Admission £5, children free. Pre-booking available but not essential.

LEWELL LODGE West Knighton, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 8RP A new opening for the NGS this year, an elegant two-acre classic English garden designed by the present owners over 25 years, with double herbaceous borders enclosed by yew hedges with old fashioned roses, shrub beds edged with box and large pyramided hornbeam hedge, crab apple tunnel, box parterre and pleached hornbeam avenue. Large walled garden, many mature trees and woodland walk.

STOGUMBER GARDENS Station Road, Stogumber, Somerset TA4 3TQ Delightful, very varied gardens in a picturesque village on the edge of the Quantocks, with three surprisingly large gardens near the village centre, plus two very large gardens on the outskirts, with many rare and unusual plants. Conditions range from waterlogged clay to welldrained sand. Features include courtyard, ponds, bog gardens, rockery, extensive mixed beds, vegetable and fruit gardens, a collection of over 80 different roses - and fine countryside views from some gardens. Open for the NGS on Sunday 20th June, 2pm-6pm. Admission to all gardens £6, children free. Pre-booking available but not essential.

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ROWDON Monksilver, Taunton, Somerset TA4 4JD This garden, a new opening for the NGS, has both formal and informal areas in a garden still under construction. Herbaceous borders, shrubbery and rose arbour lead to a small walled kitchen garden; the rockery and small bog garden are recent additions. A five-acre lake provides wildlife interest. Steps provide access to some areas. Open for the NGS on Sunday 27th June, 10-5pm. Admission £4.50, children free. Pre-booking available but not essential.

Country Gardener

Open for the NGS on Friday 11th June 1pm-5pm, Friday 25th June 1pm-5pm. Pre-booking available but you can turn up and pay on the day. Admission £6, children free.


JOBS FOR THE MONTH

GARDENING JOBS

for June

June is a joyous month with hopefully copious amounts of warm weather gracing our gardens, we’re spending a lot of time outside and the garden is in full swing, so part of the secret this month is getting your priorities right

1

Water is the key word this month

We’ve had lots of rain in the first part of this month to follow on from a dry April but that doesn’t mean watering isn’t a day-to -day issue to keep your eye on. Keep newly planted shrubs well watered daily for the first two weeks and remember some deep tap roots might need a little help reaching the water, especially if the soil is very dry; rendering it impermeable. As much as we can’t get enough of the glorious British sunshine, some plants don’t do well in the heat. Their leaves can become dry and damaged with inadequate watering. It helps to understand the needs of plants and use techniques to prevent water loss from both plants and soil.

2

Newly planted parts of your garden can be susceptible to water-stress. To avoid causing your latest additions any trauma, keep them hydrated in the heat by watering as soon as they’re in the ground. With summer splashing and soaking, water can be in short supply. To make the most of water, it pays to use it economically and a hose is great for getting the most done as efficiently as possible. Using a multi spray gun you can wash your plants with water – knowing you’ve covered a wide area in a short time. As the day warms up, heat can cause evaporation loss in plants. So, to make sure they retain as much water as possible, so that means getting out bright and early.

Lavender - simply the best

There are very few plants that give as much in terms of flowering, colour, scent, foliage and trouble-free behaviour as lavender and now is a great time for you to plant pot grown lavender - ‘Hidcote’ is the quintessential English lavender planted this month or next it will race away and look fabulous towards the end of summer and great all next summer as well.

3

Helping nature with June drop

The natural June drop will see many small fruitlets fall from your trees, but for the best-size fruits it’s worth checking to see if you need to thin more of them (remove excess fruit). Thin apples to one fruit per cluster: for dessert apple varieties, thin to 10-15cm between clusters; and for cooking varieties, thin to 15-23cm between clusters. Pears should be reduced to two fruits per cluster, with clusters 10-15cm apart. Plums should be thinned to 5-8cm apart. Peaches should be thinned to 20-25cm apart. Nectarines should be thinned to 15cm apart.

4

5

Time to prune soft fruit You need to prune several soft fruits over the coming weeks to ensure you get bumper crops.

GOOSEBERRIES For plants grown as bushes, cut back the current season’s growth to five leaves, except for branches needed to enlarge the plant. For plants grown as cordons, cut all side-shoots back to five leaves, and

Plant out brassica seedlings If you are planting outside brassica seedlings will need to be around 45cm apart. You can also grow kale in a large pot and these plants can be closer together around 20cm seems to work well. These are hungry crops, and will need a good rich soil. They are also extremely popular with pigeons and that notorious scourge of the vegetable garden, the cabbage white caterpillar. Try to steer clear of chemical treatments and find that the best solution to both problems is to cover the plants in netting. Just make sure it stands clear of the leaves, or the butterflies will lay their eggs on them anyway.

once your plant has reached the top of the support, cut back the tip to five leaves from last year’s growth. RED AND WHITE CURRANTS Once cordon plants are at the desired height, cut the growing tip and the shoots from the main stem to one bud of new growth. Thin out fruit trees to prevent broken branches and help the remaining fruit grow all the larger.

www.countrygardener.co.uk

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JOBS FOR THE MONTH

6

Don’t miss the opportunity of taking semi ripe cuttings

June is the perfect time to take semi-ripe cuttings. These are created using this year’s growth while the stem is still a bit soft, and the technique is ideal for plants such as lavender, box, passionflower and heather. Take a non-flowering shoot and trim off about 10cm, cutting just below a leaf node. Remove the lower leaves and place the cut end in a container with cutting compost. Then wait to see if it will root and take up water before all of its water is lost through the leaves. There’s more chance of success if you keep everything moist, so slip a plastic bag over the top of the container and put it in a sunny spot to keep a good sauna-like atmosphere inside.

7

Keeping everything clean and tidy

Hygiene matters, in the garden as in so many other areas of life. As plants grow, keep them tidy by removing any old or damaged leaves, and keeping the soil around them clear of weeds. This will help to eliminate hiding places for pests – and help you to spot any problems with the plants and tackle them early on.

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8

Fast growing container plants need some TLC

Crops in containers will be putting on a lot of growth during the build up to June, and taking up a lot of nutrients from the compost they are planted in. You will need to compensate for this with regular feeding –so plan to do it once a week, adding liquid seaweed to their water. You may also need to move pots further apart, to ensure that plants are getting enough light and air is circulating freely.

10

Keep an eye on tomato plants It is essential to regularly keep attending to your tomato plants, if you haven’t already, young tomato plants should now be planted outside. You should pinch off the side shoots from the plants. As tomato plants grow they can become very heavy; it is a good idea to tie up plants to wooden canes or any other form of support, as this will also help guide the direction of growth. Ideally you should add the cane/supporter at the same time as planting, this way you can avoid accidentally piercing the roots at a later stage. You will not need to start feeding your plants until the first truss has set. If you are growing your plants in a greenhouse this may already have happened; you should look to feed your plants with a specialised tomato feed as this will help encourage growth and ripening.

Deadheading – a necessary if quite boring chore

Having spent precious time and money coaxing your plants to grow, it’s well worth encouraging them to produce as many flowers as possible. Deadheading is simply removing any flowers that are drooping, dead or forming seed heads. Doing this prevents the plant setting seed, so it produces more flowers. It is essential to keep plants such as roses, cosmos, tender geraniums, knautias and sweet peas flowering. If you leave the flowers to set seed, the plant will think the season is over and stop producing more, but if you cut them off it’s likely to keep flowering.

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Other jobs This is a good time for a second sowing of climbing beans, to extend the cropping season. Now that the soil is nicely warmed up, you can get away with sowing them direct. But as always, put the supports in first. Look out for blackspot, rust and mildew on roses, and mildew on fruit trees and soft fruit bushes. These can be treated with the application of a fungus killer.

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Spring bulbs such as snowdrops and bluebells, which tend to clump, can be divided now once their leaves start to go yellow. Dig up the bulbs, divide them carefully either into individual bulbs or small batches and plant them again, giving them more space to grow. They will put on a much better display if they have a bit more room. Plum fruit moth traps can be hung in the trees as an organic control to plum fruit moth damage.

Country Gardener

Make sure all plants that need support – beans, tomatoes, broad beans, peas – have them and where appropriate, are firmly tied in. Winds can still be strong in the summer and as crops develop, plants will get heavier and so more vulnerable to being blown over and breaking. Apply grease bands to young fruit trees or paint grease strips on to larger trees to protect crops from damage caused by earwigs and ants. Although it does not say so on the pot, fruit tree grease is brilliant at keeping earwigs off almost anything.


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The more trees we plant, the better the environment we live in

Reducing the

CARBON FOOTPRINT

in your garden Gardening can seem a green hobby not likely to cause too much upset to the environment but Somerset gardener and passionate environmentalist Adam Morgan argues we all can do more to reduce our garden’s carbon footprint We gardeners often rightly think we are the good guys when it comes to looking after the environment and there is not much we can all do when it comes to impacting our carbon footprint. I would disagree. Certain activities, such as mowing the lawn, using peat-based composts and even buying plants, involve a great deal of natural resources, which all contribute to your garden’s carbon footprint. You don’t have to garden in a resource-heavy way. There are plenty of small changes you can make that will reduce the impact you and your garden have on the planet. Our gardens have potential to store huge amounts of carbon, as well as mitigate some of the effects of climate change such as flooding risk, urban heat island effect and loss of biodiversity. The more you can do in your garden the healthier the planet will be – we can all make a difference. All plants absorb carbon dioxide, so the more plants we grow, the more carbon dioxide is absorbed. Grow climbing plants such as ivy up walls and fences, and grow trees and shrubs wherever possible. What’s more, growing plants up the side of your house can help regulate temperatures, keeping you warmer in winter and cooler in summer (think of them as nature’s air conditioning). This can reduce use of central heating and air conditioning, further reducing your carbon footprint. Pot-grown plants are usually grown in large nurseries, where they’re exposed to artificial lighting and heat, and then transported in lorries to individual garden centres across the country. Most are grown in peat. By contrast, by growing plants from seed, you reduce enormous transport costs, can sow them at the right time of year -reducing the need for artificial heat and light and use a peat-free compost. To further reduce your carbon footprint, buy seed from local seed swaps and gardening groups, or save your own. 30

Power down Power tools from lawn mowers to hedge trimmers by definition aren’t great for the environment. For example a medium sized lawn mower running for an hour and consuming a litre of fuel will emit a fairly considerable 2.1kg of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of driving about 15 miles in a medium sized car, Consider swapping your petrol mower for an electric one, and using hand tools rather than hedge trimmers, leaf blowers and strimmers. You will spend more time doing these jobs, but you may find you prefer to take things more slowly and quietly – gardening is supposed to be relaxing after all!

COLLECT MORE WATER Crops grow better with natural rainwater so it makes sense to collect as much as you can. Rain also contains traces of nitrates, essential for plant growth. Fresh, treated mains water isn’t all that great for the environment – or the garden. For a start it has to be extracted from somewhere. Then it has to be purified then stored, before finally being pumped into our homes. This requires a lot of energy and an inordinate volume of chemicals to treat the water. Every roof surface is a potential source of water. If you have a greenhouse or shed, Country Gardener

Using hand tools is a great carbon footprint statement

secure guttering to roof edges and have this feed directly into a butt. Open-ended barrels and containers can be used in this instance but shade the water by covering it with finegauge shade netting. This will keep the water cool, reduce contamination, stop insects from breeding in it and prevent it becoming clogged with green algae. Whatever water you manage to save or reuse will equate to fewer gallons taken directly from our mains supply. Growing food should help to reduce our environmental impact and harvesting your own water will bring you another step closer to truly growing in harmony with nature.


Grow your own fertiliser When it comes to feeding plants, nothing beats organic compost. Good compost contains the ideal range of nutrients which are released slowly into the ground as plants need them. Often, however, there is a valid reason to supplement plants with a fertiliser, such as when growing in less than ideal soil, or in pots and containers where the potting soil can gradually lose its nutrients. When choosing how to supplement plants the environmentally conscious gardener faces a dilemma: many commercially produced fertilisers are either chemical based or highly processed and shipped in difficult-to-recycle plastic bottles. But there is one brilliant alternative that you can grow yourself - comfrey. Comfrey is the organic gardener’s best friend. Its leaves are full of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium - all nutrients needed by growing plants. Master the use of comfrey and you’ll never need to buy expensive fertiliser again. Cut the leaves about five centimetres above the ground and add water to the proportion of about one kg to 15 litres of water. Press down and leave for about a month. Drain off the sludge and you have your fertiliser. Another option is what I call ‘manure-tea’ fertiliser. When you buy a stock of well rotted manure from local stables or a garden centre, add some of it to a bucket. Fill the bucket about two thirds full of manure and about one third with water. Leave it for a week. Then pour off the liquid and dilute it in a proportion of approximately one part liquid manure to five parts water.

Plant some trees We are always being encouraged to plant more trees and there is a very good reason for that. If you have room in your garden for a full sized tree with a wonderful canopy then planting a tree is the single biggest contribution you can make in the fight against climate change.

While oak is the genus with the most carbon-absorbing species, there are other notable deciduous trees that sequester carbon as well. The common horse-chestnut with its white spike of flowers and spiny fruits, is a good carbon absorber and in general broadleaved species – such as beech and maple – are best because they have a larger surface area of leaves which generates more photosynthesis, whereas conifers absorb more heat. It is thought there are 27 million gardens in the UK. If there was one extra tree planted in each one, there would be double the number of tree across the country, without any farmland being compromised.

Planting a tree is the biggest contribution you can make against climate change

Leave grass cuttings to replenish the lawn

A GREENER LAWN Lawns only need feeding because we remove the clippings and then dispose of them (hopefully in the compost bin). You should leave the clippings to fall back on to the lawn and it will with no effect produce greener healthier lawns. Invest in a mulching mower which sheds clippings into tiny fragments that are taken back into the soil and very quickly by worms and microorganisms to re-release the nutrients they contain.

GO PLASTIC FREE How easy is it for you to go plastic free in your garden this summer? SEED TRAYS Make your own wooden seed trays. They can be made from any old left over pieces of wood and have a number of advantages, they last longer than plastic, are easily repaired and promote a healthier environment at the roots. POTS Use old newspaper to make biodegradable pots for seedlings and young plants. Old egg trays and loo rolls can also be used as containers for seedlings. LABELS Use bits of bamboo, old lollipop sticks, anything you can write on really to make quirky and fun labels. Cutting strips from yoghurt pots is another great way to create labels and you should write on them with indelible ink. COMPOSTING STRUCTURES Old pallets make strong and sturdy sides to composting areas. STORING A chance to go back in terms of traditional storage methods with damp sand for root crops, tree fruits among straw, hessian sacks for potatoes, freshly cut herbs in water and salad leaves wrapped in an damp teas towel in the fridge.

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READERS STORY

Taking the vacuum cleaner to the pond!

When Country Gardener reader Liz Royle started to despair about the state of her garden pond she took what she first thought was an extreme option – a pond vacuum cleaner My garden pond was in need of help. Six years of debris build up was leaving a dark curd of muck at the edges of my pond, and any quick movement of the fish would create a flume of silt through the water, which would then deposit itself on the lily leaves. The whole project was looking decidedly muddy and might even be unhealthy for the fish. There was no longer any way that I could avoid the fact that a major dredging operation was needed. The pond was too large to decant the fish, empty the water and go in with a high-pressure hose, which is the approach I had adopted with the pond at my previous garden. No, this needed something more serious. I decided that it had to be a pond vacuum cleaner. I had been reluctant to go down that path since it seemed extreme, but I had to face the fact that there were few options when it came to reclaiming the good looks of my piece of shining water. I was a little unprepared for the industrial proportions of the kit. I had expected something more compact. It was heavy too. The postman had to lift it into the hall for me. And so many pieces! On the plus side, the instruction manual was clear so that we could check everything against the diagrams before hiking everything down to the pond. The main unit is a large blue cylinder, with a water chamber within it. This is where the pond water sucked

up by the hose is deposited. The unit has to be two metres away from the water, in the interests of safety. Fortunately the hose collecting the pond water is quite long, so it was easy enough to reach all corners of our largish pond. The outlet hose is shorter and thicker and has to be placed on the ground and lower than the unit for the pond water to discharge effectively. I would have preferred to collect the water coming out of the unit since I had horror of sucking up baby newts or frogs.

All in all, at a little over £100, the pond vac was a good investment and ‘suck-cessful’ in cleaning up the accumulation of silt. I would recommend it to other pond owners experiencing silt build up.

However that was not achievable, but I did manage to examine the water as it came out and I did not find any little creatures, just silt and muddy water. They would in any case gone through the miniature equivalent of a rapid water flume ride. There were no parts of the kit where any fish or pond creatures could have been mangled, for example. Where I did see newts near the hose, I was able to encourage them into deeper safer water. It is important to keep the hose collecting the pond water as straight as possible, or it will levitate and buck alarmingly as the water travels through at speed. This happened to us and it was a bit scary. The unit itself does make a noise, much like any vacuum cleaner but since it is positioned two feet away from the water anyway, the sound of the motor is unlikely to frighten the fish. My fish did run for cover under the water lilies, but this appeared to be in response to the noise of the hose sucking up the water rather than the noise of the vacuum motor.

I was a little unprepared for the industrial proportions of the kit 32

One task that the pond vac performed very well was removing the build-up of silt from the filtration box. This is a dreaded job and normally takes ages for us to empty and clean the filtration box, but the pond vac was an enormous help in this respect.

My fish did run for cover under the lilies Country Gardener


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Issue No 193 JUNE 2021

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Flower Crown

orders at the show & FREE DELIVERY

Hard Landscaping Advice

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Head to the Artisan Barn for tasters and tipples from our fabulous festival sponsor, Sharpham Cheese. Here you some artisan can get your chops round coffee corner Devon cheese, enjoy the who make ecohosted by Blue Goose along with compostable coffee capsules, coffee, as well delicious roast and ground soft as buy Sharpham’s award-winning and Sharpham and semi-ripe cheeses handmade on Wine to take home, all at Ashprington, the Sharpham Estate, more about near Totnes. Want to know It’s all here, cheese and wine pairings? how about and, for the foodie-curious, Don’t miss! cheese and coffee pairings? THE BARN

width of walkways and We have increased the exhibition stands to the distance between around the event make it easier to navigate

and keep social distancing. theatre space, with We have created a larger everyone can maintain limited numbers to ensure from each other. an appropriate distance entry and exit points. There will be separate thorough cleaning of There will be frequent, touch points around public areas, toilets and

CHANCE TO

WIN

Teign bench

worth £210 DCW, the South We are proud to welcome commercial waste West’s leading independent company, as a 2021 management and recycling was the first waste management festival sponsor. DCW Landfill West to offer a Zero to company in the South waste to company processing solution and the only are. At the that can be recycled, ensure that all materials a range of outdoor furniture festival, DCW is launching a piece plastic and you can win made entirely from waste the DCW’s stand and enter from the collection. Visit VILLAGE competition. GARDEN

Heritage Wood Crafts Wood Crafts Zone

Hurray! The Higher Beings high are back - both as 10ft in stilt-walkers and also disguise dressed as life-size green topiary bushes.

in line with

social distancing from Practise appropriate and staff wherever other visitors, exhibitors possible. and/or wash hands Use the hand-sanitiser regularly. are displaying Please do not visit if you symptoms of which include:

the venue.

to remind visitors There is signage entrance rules including where of the Government’s should be worn. and when facemasks

will be all over the Hand sanitiser stations have their own venue and traders will dispensers. undertaken an All our exhibitors have to ensure enhanced risk assessment

BUY YOUR ADVANCE

• A high temperature. • A new, continuous cough.

to, your sense of smell • A loss of, or change or taste. may have to wait a From time to time you be we ask for your bit longer to be served patience and understanding.

TICKETS ONLINE NOW

If you brown tourist signs. direct have a SATNAV it may of you around the back you Powderham. Make sure stay on the A379.

At the Marsh Barton 3rd exit Roundabout take the the onto the A379 then at take the Matford Roundabout and 2nd exit onto the A379 Castle follow the Powderham brown tourist signs.

BY RAIL There is a direct David’s service from Exeter St to Starcross. Powderham miles Castle is less than two the from Starcross You have bus option of catching the from here. 2 BY BUS Take the No Exeter/ Stagecoach bus from stop is Newton Abbot. The bus at right outside the entrance For latest the top of the drive. timetables please visit

From the North Leave and the M5 at junction 30 proceed towards Exeter the joining the A379. At take Matford Roundabout A379 the 1st exit onto the then signposted to Dawlish Castle follow the Powderham

Learn from the growers - the Country Gardener Speakers Tent will host talks from leading nurserymen and women over the two days

Plant bargains as some of the country’s top specialist nurseries parade their high quality plants

enjoy a wonderful range Food glorious food – food and drink as of tempting West Countryfestival you enjoy the

Plus music demonstrations and displays

has been a Garden Festival too well, this year’s made it! The As you know only glad we’ve finally and we’re so I are delighted long time coming, of exhibitors and our lovely family at Powderham. festival team, for our 7th festival to invite you back food and drink, garden! West Country plants for your setting, wonderful lots of gorgeous Enjoy the lakeside go away with make sure you Woodcrafts zone live music, and a new Heritage too, including Tag us in your of inspiring craft for HM’s birthday. We have loads flower crown commissioned and a specially

INSIDE: Guide to Toby’s INSIDE & 12th Garden Festival, 11th June at Powderham Castle

day in the selfies @tobygardenfest! be a great garden what’s sure to elbow bump on and AJ Courtenay. See you for an hosts, Charlie GUIDE-MAP yard of our generous YOUR FULL FESTIVAL brilliant back

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Toby x

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Limited numbers available.

y’s 2021

June 10am-5pm

FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS Exhibitors from all over the West Country offering fantastic products for the garden and home

Tob

Kenton, Nr Exeter

Friday 11 & Saturday 12

the We are welcoming back Sunny brilliant ukulele band, to return for Side Up (are also set playing both days of the festival If you a range of old favourites. there will fancy a go on a ukulele, hands-on also be a chance to get yourself. and make some noise CASTLE COURTYARD/VARIOUS

POWDERHAM CASTLE, 8JQ KENTON, EXETER EX6 leave BY CAR From the South Wheel the A38 at the ‘Wobbly onto the Junction’ and merge A379 (signposted Dawlish).

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Sunnyside Up! & Mama Pik’s Musicians

NEW

NEW FOR 2021, our Heritage and brush skills, including basket celebrates traditional from and skeps, all handmade making, plant supports at work, talented craftspeople natural materials. Meet making riddles and sieves, including Steve Overthrow and Robbie of The Vix what basket maker Jane Welsh, bee keeping advice and Foraging Kitchen, sharing hedgerow and John Williamson art you can gather from the demonstrating the ancient from Dartmoor Woodcraft FEAST STREET/LAKESIDE of making charcoal. BEYOND

KEEPING YOU SAFE

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Inspired by the Queen’s official birthday on the second day of the festival, Saturday, 12 June, we have a Giant Floral Crown on display, folk from the created by the talented Art, with British Academy of Floral from globally British blooms sourced Whetmans renowned Devon nursery, Farm. Plus you and Flowers from the a floral workshop can win a voucher for skills of to learn nifty flower-arranging your own. CASTLE COURTYARD

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ACROSS 1. Perennial flowering plant of the Aster family (5) 4. Tough ground cover plant known as Corsican pearlwort or _____ moss (5) 11. Fast growing tree, Sambucus nigra (5) 12. Popular name for several types of gentian (9) 13. Male singer of sentimental songs (7) 14. French city on the Loire whose heroine was Joan of Arc (7) 15. A distinctive doctrine or theory (3) 16. Modified leaves that protect a developing flower (6) 18. Any coniferous tree of the genus Picea (6) 21. Species in the onion genus with powerful medicinal properties (6) 24. Swahili word meaning observing animals in their natural habitat (6) 27. Well known tree in Britain in plant family Ulmaceae (3) 29. Any plant that twines round trees and branches (7) 31. Japanese art of flower arranging (7) 32. Unusual flowering plant possessing the world’s largest bloom (9) 33. German flower? (5) 34. Wild rose with long and prickly stems (5) 35. Technically a brassica, and known as pennygrass or _____weed (5)

DOWN 2. Plant with attractive, pink, bell-shaped flowers sometimes called bog rosemary (9) 3. Also known as lilac, this is actually a member of the olive family (7) 5. Type of rose like the rector (7) 6. The leaves of this plant are used medicinally (5)

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7. Plant of the pea family, sometimes grown as silage or fodder (5) 8. Genus of flowering plants commonly known as candytuft (6) 9. Produces flowers (6) 10. Bugleweed or water horehound, this plant is also known as _____wort (5) 17. Polynesian garland of flowers (3) 19. A popular garden vegetable (3) 20. Also called clove pink, this flower is a species of Dianthus (9) 22. Blue flower originally from South Africa and favourite of gardeners (7) 23. Cherry red colour from French for cherry (6) 24. Climbing asparagus whose egg-shaped leaves are cultivated by florists (6) 25. An ornament resembling a small flower (7) 26. Fruit of the oak tree (5) 28. Old variety of gardeners’ favourite apple tree, _____ Grieve (5) 30. To deduce or understand (5) Answers from previous issue, May 2021: ACROSS 7 Creeper 8 Thrower 10 (Rose) 11 (Aster) 12 Tine 13 Cardoon 14 Daisy 18 Henbane 20 Lily pad 22 Heath 23 Melissa 27 Pith 29 Erica 30 Leek 31 Terrace 32 Ricinus

DOWN 1 See 19 2 Hedera 3 Celandine 4 Chard 5 Costmary 6 Gean 9 Stook 15 Slaw 16 (Hebe) 17 Digitalis 19&1 Butchers Broom 21 Resin 24 (Salvia) 25 (Vetch) 26 Sedum 28 Ilex

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GARDENING

– just add water!

Add the WOW factor TO YOUR GARDEN WITH A CASCADING WATER BLADE

There is something special about having water in the garden as more of us are discovering -from the sound of running water, the different atmosphere it creates and the bonus of a attracting wildlife. The lockdown gardening season last spring and summer saw lots of changes when it came to new projects. A new survey now suggests that record number of gardeners with time on their hands opted to add a pond or water feature, the majority to try and add a different dimension to the garden. Water is certainly that. The logic is simple. A garden should be from time to time a place to sit and relax and by having water you are adding something that can be enjoyed all year round. Water features are not easy to define. It’s a gardening phenomenon which starts with a small water filled container with specialist plants in it, through to ponds of every shape and size, some to attract wildlife, others to home spectacularly beautiful fish plants. Then there’s the water features which bring the sound of running water into the garden with small self built trickles of water in a small garden feature to dramatic landscaped and architecturally designed water cascades. So where do you start? If you are thinking of adding water to your garden, think about what you want it for. If you want to attract wildlife into the garden such as birds, frogs and dragonflies a small informal pond is ideal, especially if you can allow it to naturalise over time. If it’s ornamental fish that you want to keep, the pond will need more maintenance in the form of pumps and filters. If you don’t want a pond then there are many different types of stunning water features available made from stone, wood, concrete, plastic, or steel that are fast and easy to install.

Water Blades are now hugely popular, partly due to the stunning cascade effect but also as they can be installed in a compact space for small and large gardens. The ‘blade’ is special stainless steel box with a protruding front lip. Water is pumped into the blade, usually from a submersed pump mounted in a pond or water sump. Inside of the water blade is a bank of hidden baffle plates which cause the water to spread across the lip and fall in a ‘sheet’, down to the water container and recycled. If don’t own a pond, you need a means of storing water. Water Garden Ltd offers underground water reservoirs or can help you build your own. Usually the blade is mounted in a wall but this can be a ‘faux’ wall made of blocks, bricks, sleepers or even plywood and batten. The front lip needs to protrude out of the wall at least three cm or greater to create the falling sheet effect. The Water Garden Ltd team based in Portsmouth is available on 02392 373735 or email at contact@water-garden.co.uk for advice.

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Any outdoor space can be given an enchanting effect by the way that water adds movement and sound as well as reflecting precious natural light. If you decide you would like to have a water feature then there is huge scope for use as part of your overall garden design. Consider first what type will best complement your house and garden, rather than just choosing one you simply like the look of. If you want to position one near your house, then a formal type of water feature, like a raised pool, would be well suited.

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Adding a water feature is not complicated or time consuming. In fact, the complexity of setting up a pond or fountain depends really on the imagination of the gardener. With just a simple ceramic or terracotta pot, lined with plastic or waterproof sheeting you can set up a pond that small goldfish will be quite pleased to swim around in. Your water feature can be as large or as small as you want it. The smaller it is, the less time it is going to take for you to take care of it, but it will be able to have a limited number of plants and fish. The larger your water garden is, the wider variety of plants and fish you will be able to have. If you want to leave your plants and fish outdoors all winter (it is recommended that you do) your water garden needs to be at least three feet wide. Generally the bigger the pond the more stable environment for the plants and fish that call it home. A 10ft x 6ft water garden is a good size to start with. No matter how big you make it, once you are bitten by the water garden bug, it will never be big enough! Creating your own garden water feature is a fun and rewarding weekend project. The completed project, whether simple or complex, is something you will enjoy with family and friends for a long time. Alongside now is a whole industry of specialist products and skills available to make the project smooth and successful. 34

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GARDENS TRANSFORMED BY WATER IN STYLE AND PANACHE

A preventative as well as a cure for your septic tank

Enjoying the tranquil sounds of flowing water in a garden is an experience tempting more gardeners than ever. A huge bonus is there’s no need for a pond or reservoir.

Septic Tank maintenance is an often-overlooked task, which ends blockages and the need for expensive pump outs. Aquarius SC provides an answer to eliminate such problems. Aquarius SC is a dry, multi-culture preparation designed to liquefy and consume organic wastes and almost all animal fats and vegetable oils found in sewage/septic tank systems, drains and grease traps. The microbial cultures continue enzyme production to consume the organic wastes and grease, restoring and maintaining the bacterial balance required for effective operation. The system is non-toxic, non-caustic, non-corrosive, non-pathogenic and is biodegradable.

Gardens can be transformed with a water feature from OASE who have a huge collection of water courses and pond free solutions. Water garden elegance goes to the next level with OASE’s new Copper Bowls and Formal Spillways which offer unique levels of water creation and work in any outside space. The Copper Bowls come in five shapes and sizes to suit your garden. They can be used by themselves or in combination to create cascades of water. Some of the bowls feature spillways to direct flowing water, or allow water to flow evenly over its entire circumference. White LED lighting then makes everything come alive at night.

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Visit www.aquarius4u.com for more information– Aquarius Agriculture (A division of Morgan Hope Industries Ltd)

5-in-1 water treatment tackles common pond issues Leading pond experts at Somerset based Blagdon have a pet-friendly and wildlife safe, ‘5-in-1’ water treatment to tackle common pond problems. Clean Pond Pods are effective against blanketweed, string algae, consume sludge, and make tap water safe for pond top-ups, feed aquatic plants and reduce pond and filter cleaning and maintenance. Andrew Paxton, development manager at Blagdon, explained: “Our soluble pouches harmlessly dissolve, releasing the gentle active ingredients and eliminate blanketweed and pond sludge by removing the chlorine, making it safe to use tap water to top-up ponds. “Blanketweed reduction should become apparent within a month of starting the treatment.” Clean Pond Pods are available in six, 12 or 24 pack from all good aquatic retailers or online. Blagdon Water Gardening on Facebook has consumer competitions, product give-aways and the latest product information on pond keeping.

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Country Gardener


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WILDLIFE

‘A LIFE LIVED IN THE AIR’ Spending most of their time in flight, swifts are dramatic aerial birds. They bring passion and drama to our summers, swooping and wheeling overhead, calling loudly in between beak fulls of airborne ‘plankton’. Swifts have shared our buildings every since the Romans came to Britain. They still breed in our eaves and gables but won’t do for much longer as modern and renovated buildings exclude them. There are around 100 different species of swift in the world. Only one – the common swift – nests in the UK. Their closest living relatives in the bird world are the hummingbirds. Two years ago Britain became the first country in the world to dedicate a national week in support of these birds. Swift Awareness Week will run from 3rd July to 11th July. There will be events and publicity all around the country, organised by dozens of local swift groups. These events aim to provide information about how to help them. The swift is one of the few endangered species that individuals really can help in their own property . Swifts should be back around the first week in May. If you see them nesting or ‘screaming’ at roof height, let us know using the RSPB Swift Survey at rspb.org.uk The valuable data gathered by the survey can be used by local authority planners and ecologists to ensure swifts have plenty of places to nest.

How long do swifts spend in the air? Everything about swifts can be described with superlatives. They’re the fastest bird in level flight: at 69.3mph they’re only beaten by the peregrine when it performs its famous diving ‘stoop’. They’re perhaps one of the oldest forms of birds, as their group split from other bird types around the extinction of Tyrannosaurus rex. Even more incredibly, they don’t stop. Swifts eat, drink, bathe, sleep and even mate in mid air. The feet of a swift that’s just left its nest may not come into contact with anything solid for two or three years before it makes a nest of its own. A life lived almost entirely in the sky.

When do swifts migrate? Common swifts are long distance migrants, making epic journeys twice a year between Europe and sub Saharan Africa. They pass through the airspace of around 25 countries, over desert, forest and sea. 38

Swifts mostly leave the UK in July before the air temperature cools and arrive in Africa by midAugust. They don’t stay in one place for long though as their search for food continues.

Swifts in trouble However the swifts that raise their young here in the UK are vanishing. The population dropped by half in just 20 years. It’s tricky to identify the cause, and there may be a number of factors. Their food source - insects - is in decline, and the weather events associated with climate change will also impact them. But one very obvious issue in the UK is the loss of nesting sites in recent decades. Swifts have adapted to live alongside us, swapping historical haunts of cliffs, caves and ancient trees for nooks and crannies in buildings. Modern houses just don’t have the holes under the eaves swifts have become accustomed to using, and older buildings where the birds have nested in the past are being tidied up and any gaps for swifts are blocked up. Having just flown 6,000 miles the last thing a returning swift needs is to discover its nest hole no longer exists! Swifts like to use the same places year after year: they just don’t have time and energy to search for a new nest site each spring.

How to create a home for swifts This should in theory be a simple enough problem to solve. Swifts happily live alongside people, and urban residents enjoy their company. Swifts also make excellent neighbours, making little mess and only spending 12 weeks around their nests, so installing a nestbox is one of the best ways to help.

FIND OUT MORE RSPB at www.rspb.org.uk organises swift mapping surveys and needs your information on sightings. Action for Swifts, www.actionforswifts.com collates ideas and thoughts for people wanting to help swifts and has advice on DIY swift boxes. Swift Conservation, at www.swift-conservation.org has a great website full of siting information and action needed. Country Gardener

“The feet of a swift that’s just left its nest may not come into contact with anything solid for two or three years before it makes a nest of its own. A life lived almost entirely in the sky.”


The Devon wildlife

allotments

by Kate Lewis

Decoy allotments has 195 plots and is hugely proud of its own wildlife garden and its commitment to biodiversity. Now for the first time it is open as part of the National Garden Scheme for visitors to see.

Soon after the country was plunged into lockdown last spring it was virtually impossible to buy seeds or plants, such was the surge in interest in grow-your-own produce. No surprise then that the demand for allotments, already on the increase in recent years, also went through the roof. A Devon allotment association, which has experienced this resurgence of interest, is this month opening its doors to the public, for the first time through the NGS. Decoy Allotments, a two-acre field in Newton Abbot, has 195 plots and, like most allotments across the country, a waiting list of interested gardeners keen to start growing their own produce and experience the much-lauded benefits of community gardening. The volunteer-run allotments are one of five allotment fields in the town run by the Newton Abbot & District Co-operative Association (NADCAA) and owned by the town council. The association was founded in 1918 when people were encouraged to grow fruit and vegetables due to a food shortage after the First World War. While the main focus for most members is on growing their own produce, the association prides itself on its work supporting wildlife and biodiversity. Environmental Communications Officer Meryl Basham, who has had a plot on the field for the past 15 years, explained the importance of supporting the local wildlife: “We are very keen to show how important allotments are for wildlife. We wanted to encourage our members to contribute to this so each plot is allowed 25 per-cent for biodiversity- this means they can grow flowers and plants to make sure we keep the insects. www.countrygardener.co.uk

“One of the areas the members are most proud of is the allotment’s wildlife garden - a labour of love to transform an overgrown allotment into an area where anyone can sit in peace and observe the wildlife. Bees are also kept and the honey sold in the allotment shop where gardening equipment and plants grown in the allotments are also sold. “Our members helped to build ponds, a hibernaculum for insects and worms and a bee house. We are also planning a bog garden. Lots of our members are passionate about conservation and one even has a dedicated bat house.” Research has shown that having an allotment is very positive for mental health, as well as physical health, and this has been even more so during the past year. Mrs Basham explained how much the allotments have helped through the pandemic: “They have been a real lifeline for lots of people. Thankfully, because of social distancing, they were still allowed to come and spend time here - so they were still able to garden and feel part of the community. That was so important especially for the members on their own. It’s a breathing space where you can be apart from everything else, people love having their own space. “The community here is lovely and very supportive. Members helped out with the allotments when some people were shielding and we see this community support all year round. “Allotments are important for the community as well as the environment. We aim to support people with different abilities and from all backgrounds and nationalities. We have many families which form an important part of the community. We really encourage 39


“We are very keen to show how important allotments are for wildlife. We wanted to encourage our members to contribute to this so each plot is allowed 25 per-cent for biodiversity”

Wildlife is central to the Decoy allotments

children to become aware of how food is grown and to respect the environment.” In recent years the allotments have seen increased membership from younger families and residents who have moved to the region from other countries. Mrs Basham explained that many of the plots allocated are now half size to keep up with the demand and to make them more manageable

for starter growers: “We have had a surge in applications so decided to reduce the plot size. This also makes them easier to manage for the people who haven’t had an allotment before. We try to allocate mentors but they don’t always know how much work it takes. “There are certain rules that have to be adhered to, for example keeping chickens and growing trees, but by and large members have free reign to be creative and do what they want.”

DECOY ALLOTMENT FIELD OPENING FOR THE NGS Decoy Allotment Field opens for the National Garden Scheme on Saturday 12th June and Sunday 13th June between 1pm and 4pm on both days, with guided tours for health and safety reasons. Home-made teas will be available, plants will be on sale, and dogs are allowed on leads. Admission is £5, children free, and this also admits visitors to the nearby garden of one of the allotment holders at 37 Kingkerswell Road, Newton Abbot, TQ12 1DQ. Pre-booking is essential for this open day; go to www.ngs.org.uk and follow the links. Some of the paths are uneven on the field with steep inclines in places. The garden at 37 Kingkerswell Road, a minute’s walk from the allotment field, does not have wheelchair access.

Decoy Allotment Field, Bladon Close, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ12 1WA 40

Country Gardener

Meryl Basham, who has had a plot on the field for 15 years


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My special low allergy garden Former professional gardener Joe Simmons had to find ways to change his Dorset garden to be able to cope with his wife’s worsening allergy problems Just being out of doors was becoming a real and upsetting problem for my wife Jenny. She loved our new garden but it was proving to be upsetting as from late March onwards she began to sneeze, have terrible red and sore eyes and generally be miserable about being outdoors. She was taking tablets but that wasn’t the cure so I badly wanted to do something to help and with my horticultural background began researching what I could do sensibly to create an ‘anti-allergy’ garden or at least a lower allergy garden for us both to enjoy. One thing is certainly true -for pollen sensitive people and those allergic to garden plants, spring and summer is an uncomfortable and agonizing time of year. It may sound obvious but the key to making gardens allergy friendly lies in selecting plants with low pollen. Contrary to popular belief, low pollen plants are not bland or unattractive. Bees, butterflies, and other insects pollinate allergy friendly plants, not the wind. These plants tend to have large, bright-coloured and pretty flowers and are a lovely addition to any garden. Wind-pollinated plants should be avoided and generally have small, inconspicuous flowers, hanging blooms, or catkins. I found there are several factors that determine how much a given plant will affect someone predisposed to pollen allergy. These include: the sex of the plant; the size, shape and colour of the flower; how the plant is pollinated (by wind or insects); and what the pollen itself is like.

Pollen and pollination The size and shape of a plant’s pollen can dictate its allergenicity. So does its means of getting from one plant to another. Wind pollination requires light pollen – and lots of it – that can travel great distances. This is the troublesome kind because it is abundant, easily inhaled and likely to cause allergic reactions. Flowers that depend on bees, wasps, butterflies, moths and beetles for collection and dispersal of pollen tend to produce heavy, sticky grains that are somewhat airborne. A good rule is to avoid all wind-pollinated plants, unless there are female versions available. 42

Plant gender I have opted for flowers with bright colours and as many petals as possible. The showier flowers tend to be insect pollinated, and the shape of the bloom will also play a part. If the pollen is buried deep inside the flower, it will be less likely to blow away on the wind and into your nose. Examples of low-pollen summer flowers include pansies, violets, hydrangeas, gladiolus and fuchsias. I have been careful with heavily scented blooms, which can trigger attacks in asthmatics. This is especially important when choosing roses, which are often prized for their scent as much as their beauty. Annuals are a great way to add border colour, and many aren’t triggers for allergies unless planted in large clusters. Some of the better choices are impatiens (Busy Lizzies), petunias, sweet pea and foxglove.

One in four of us now suffers from seasonal rhinitis (the sneezing, itching and blocked nose associated with hay fever), while 5.4 million people in the UK are receiving treatment for asthma. All kinds of explanations have been mooted, from pollution to an excess of hygiene compromising the immune responses of children. Sadly, the garden is the source of two of the most common triggers of allergic reactions: moulds and pollens. For some tree pollens are the chief culprit, while for many others it’s grass pollens, at their peak from late May to July. Obviously, you can’t control the wider environment, but you can make your garden a more comfortable place.

English ivy (Hedera helix) is the perfect indoor plant to remove toxins

Wind pollination Firstly, you may need to avoid wind-pollinated plants if you’re somebody who suffers with allergies or hay fever. Unfortunately, many of our common trees are just that - wind-pollinated. Examples include Betula (birch), Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut), Quercus robur (oak), Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore), Taxus baccata (yew), to name a few. All of these will produce large amounts of pollen in early summer. However, trees that produce attractive blossom are better—and visually pleasing. Some examples of trees that you may find less troublesome come hay fever season would be Amelanchier (shadbush), Cornus (dogwood), Rosaceae (crab apples) and other fruit trees.

As for indoors it is best to identify plants that promote clean air because this is essential for healthy living. Pollutants and mould spores can wreak havoc indoors. In a study by NASA, certain plants were proven to be best for removing toxins for the air and promoting pure air for us to breathe at home. Hedera helix (English ivy) is a clever creeper that removes all sorts of nasty airborne toxins.

One rule to remember is that, generally, bee-and butterfly-friendly shrubs and perennials are better for allergy sufferers!

• English Ivy (Hedera helix)

Reduce the area of lawn

• Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

We all love our lush lawns, but grass is the most common, persistent allergy offender. In fact, it can cause reactions even if it’s not the allergen because pollen, dust, mould, and insects and their droppings get trapped in the lawn, and then disturbed when you mow.

• Snake Plant (Sansevieria spp)

Country Gardener

• Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.) • Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

• Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) • Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) • Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)


So what can you turn to

when it comes to blooms?

Something to avoid - sunflowers which are passionate pollen producers

Although allergy sufferers may need to keep their distance from blooms like aster, gypsophelia (baby’s breath), dahlia, chrysanthemums, and, sadly, Helianthus annuus (sunflowers)—which are passionate pollen producers, don’t fret, some suitable substitutions for you to explore include: Reducing the size of your lawn might help as grass is the most common, persistent allergy offender

If you must have a patch of green, weekly mowing is key. This will keep the grass from flowering and producing pollen, and provide less of a harbour for other allergens. Using a push mower also disturbs allergens less. Be sure to clean up clippings promptly to avoid mould growth. Better yet, have a non-allergic person mow the lawn. We have cut back our area of lawn to a minimum which in some gardens may not be possible but it was in ours. Being wind-pollinated, all grasses are unfavourable for allergy sufferers. Which might explain why your hay fever flairs up around spring when it’s lawn mowing season? Perhaps try keeping areas near the house grass-free and opt for a stoned or decked patio instead. This goes for pollen heavy plants around your home too - it is best not to plant chrsyanthemums, Helianthus annuus (common sunflowers) or Wisteria near to your windows and doors were pollen can be blown into the house. For alternative outdoor climbing plants to complement your brickwork, without the added pollenated problems, try Clematis armandii for a sunloving climber with a vibrant floral display.

1. Begonia These free-flowering plants are in just about every shady garden and tend to shed little pollen. All popular types of fibrous or tuberous begonias are safe bets for allergy sufferers. 2. Bougainvillea The flowers of a bougainvillea are actually the bracts surrounding the flowers. The tiny, tubular flowers are inside and produce only small amounts of pollen. 3. Camellia

Garden early in the morning when the pollen is at its lowest

Garden early

Camellias are monoecious, meaning they have both the male and female reproductive organs on the same flower and that therefore their pollen does not have to travel far for pollination. This makes them a good choice for sensitive noses.

On a warm, sunny morning, convection currents carry pollen grains up into the clouds. As the temperature drops, they fall again – so the pollen count can be highest in the cool of the evening. Geraniums give off very little pollen

Sweet smelling cultivars like Jasminum, and other strongly scented flowers, may be an irritant to you if you’re sensitive to pollen.

4. Geranium Geraniums (Pelargonium) give off very little pollen. In fact, scientists have even developed a pollen-free geranium which, if made commercially available, could be the answer we’re looking for.

An alternative to these much-loved spring climbers would be Lathyrus (sweet pea) which also bloom in soft spring-like hues but can be enjoyed without threat of irritation.

Use ground cover If you are an allergy sufferer, you may truly say weeding isn’t good for you: it brings your nose and mouth too close to the ground. If you can’t offload the task, the answer is weed-suppressing ground cover plants, such as hardy geraniums and Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle), shade-loving Epimedium or the eternally useful Pachysandra. Allergy sufferers can’t take a relaxed attitude to weeds: docks, nettles and plantains so keep up a steady pollen attack from May to early September, usually worst in June.

Don’t let pollen indoors It may sound a bit top heavy, but it really is a good idea to wear a hat outdoors and change out of your gardening clothes and brush your hair when you come in. Don’t let plants climb too close to your windows, because pollens may blow inside.

Ground cover plants such as the wonderfully versatile Pachysandra can fill lots of room

Embrace the winter garden The glowing bark of dogwoods, elegantly clipped evergreens, the delicate blossom of winter-flowering cherries… the winter garden offers manifold delights, with barely a whisper of pollen. Later in the year, plants such as tiarella, heuchera, hosta and bergenia, where flowering is brief but foliage gives long months of reward, are good choices. www.countrygardener.co.uk

Petunias are known as low pollinators or non-allergen

5. Petunia Petunias give off a faint scent that becomes much more pronounced when the plants are grown in large numbers. However, their pollen is considered a low or non-allergen.

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45


Chris Tyler from Martock in Somerset has been growing peonies for over 20 years and he explains why sumptuous peonies aren’t as difficult to grow as you might think and shares his rules for growing perfect peonies. Peonies are big, beautiful and, although delicate in their makeup, are bold in their presence. It’s no wonder they are one of the most popular cut flowers. I have been passionate about them for over 20 years and grow about 15 varieties, mainly heavily scented which, flower between late April and early June. It is then they are at their best. Many people I talk to think that peonies are a difficult plant to grow, but actually they are excellent trouble free plants, perfect for both beginners and experienced gardeners.

GROWING

perfect peonies

The sheer size of the flower is incredible. Many of the intersectional peonies, a cross between herbaceous and tree peonies, also called Itohs, produce flowers the size of dinner plates, with colours ranging from white to yellow, pink to purple and everything in between. Peonies may take three years to hit their stride and be flowering freely, but then they will live for up to 50 years. If you move house, simply take your precious peonies with you and they’ll adapt to new surroundings. Most peonies are fragrant, although some more so than others. Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ is an exquisite double white flower with a cream centre and the most delightful perfume. The delicate blush flowers of Paeonia lactiflora ‘Catharina Fontijn’ produce a delightful yet intense perfume.

MY RULES FOR GROWING QUALITY TROUBLE FREE PEONIES • It is a common mistake to plant peonies too deeply. The tuberous roots must not be planted more than about 2.5cm below the surface. If they are planted any deeper they may give wonderful foliage) but they simply will not flower. • If you have a peony in the garden and it isn’t flowering, it is probably because it has been planted too deeply or it has been buried when you have diligently mulched your borders. Just wait until the autumn and then, taking care not to damage the buds on the roots, lift your peony and re-plant it at the right depth. • Remember that peonies love the sun so this is key to where they should be planted. Although many varieties will tolerate some shade if your peony is in heavy shade it will be reluctant to flower well.

So the peony has scented, impressive and showy flowers and this alone makes it very attractive for the border but they will live happily in a good sized pot for some years but remember they will be happier in the ground. Many peonies are fragrant. In some varieties the scent is light, in others it is released only after the flowers have been picked and placed in a vase. The scent depends on the time of day, the temperature and, of course, on your nose!

Top tips for growing peonies • Plant between late October and mid February in full sun; in soil which you are sure will never be waterlogged. • The tuberous roots should be no more that 2.5 cms below the surface and the planting hole wide enough to accommodate the roots comfortably. • Organic matter can scorch the emerging buds so mulch as far away from the central crown as possible. • Support taller varieties when the stems are about 15cms tall. Feed every three years in spring with bonemeal or general fertiliser. • Remove old leaves to discourage diseases. Peony wilt is at its worse during damp weather. If it becomes a problem dispose of infected parts away from the garden. • It is a myth that peonies do not like being moved, especially if they are not divided. Divide plants when they are dormant from end of October through to February and ensure every division has at least three buds.

Editorial

Magazines

Publisher & Editor: Alan Lewis alan@countrygardener.co.uk Tel: 01823 431767

Plant your peony in fertile, free-draining soil. Peonies are not generally too fussy about the soil and are quite happy in chalky or clay soils provided that it is free draining. Avoid any soil which may get waterlogged in winter. If you have rich, fertile soil you probably don’t need to feed your peony, but if your soil is not so good, a balanced, general fertiliser applied in the spring should do the trick. It is also a good idea to cut back and remove the dead leaves in autumn to avoid peony wilt. In general, they do not really suffer from pests and diseases, requiring little care or attention once established. In fact deer and rabbits leave them alone too which makes them ideal in rural gardens.

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