Friends of Langley Park

Beautiful Historic Grade II Listed Parkland near Pinewood Studios, Iver

GARDENING TIPS AND ADVICE

Tony Down, now based at Herschel Park but previously Langley Park HLF  Gardener, shares his wealth of knowledge with monthly gardening tips and advice.

 

 

 

 January  ¦  February  ¦  March  ¦  April  ¦  May  ¦  June  ¦  July  ¦  August  ¦  September  ¦  October  ¦  November  ¦  December

 

 

 

January

   “Happy New Year & good gardening”

January is still a quite sleepy time in the garden, so a good time to crack on with any major construction works before the plants spring into growth over the next few months.

  • Prune – Its time to winter prune your Wisteria’s. In the summer you should have cut back all new long shoots back to 30cm from the main stems. Now these same shoots need to be cut back again to just 2-3 buds.
  • Shape young trees – Young trees often grow in all directions and into other plants. Now is a good time to shape the tree crowns to suit their positions and lift lower branches if required. Good practice also includes removing crossing/touching branches, dead and diseased wood together with any misshapen branches.
  • Refirm – If soil has been lifted around newly planted trees and shrubs refirm.
  • Inspect – Stored tubers and bulbs of dahlias, begonias and cannas, etc should be inspected for rot and discard any diseased specimens found to stop the spread of infection.
  • Lawns – Repair edges and lift low spots in the lawn. As long as it is not frozen or waterlogged turf can be laid. Continue to spike to improve drainage and aeration. If only small areas need treating this can be achieved by using a garden fork.
  • Plants for free – It’s the ideal time for taking hardwood cuttings of your favourite shrubs including, cornus, willows, hydrangeas, Rosa’s and flowering currents to name just a few.
    • Ponds – Keep a small area free of ice at all times.
    • Sweet peas – Its time to sow sweet peas. They do not need high temperatures to germinate, just cool light conditions which can be achieved in an unheated porch, green house or cold frame. They do like a long undisturbed root run so long narrow pots are ideal or make your own growing tubes using rolled newspaper or toilet/kitchen roll centres. To improve germination, soak seed in water for 24 hours before sowing.

Plant of the Month - Prunus subhirtella "Autumnalis"

A small spreading tree up to 7m high and as much or more across. Flowers semi-double, pink in bud opening to almost white about 19mm wide. Flowers in mild periods any time from autumn to spring.

Two specimens in the Temple Gardens are just starting to bloom.

Although first available commercially in this country in 1910 the first known planting was in Borde Hill, Sussex 10 years earlier

 

January is ideal for armchair gardening, especially if there has been a fall of snow.

  • Brush off heavy snowfalls from tree branches and shrubs to avoid damage or broken branches.
  • Get your seed and summer flowering bulb orders sent of this month.
  • Spend time tidying up in the garage or shed, clean, oil and sharpen all your garden tools.
  • Send your mower away for servicing and avoid the last minute rush at the service centre.
  • Repair fences, sheds, garden furniture and undertake other garden building maintenance before the spring starts and the garden maintenance works take off.
  • Avoid walking on the lawn in frosty weather as it will damage the grass and could lead to bare patches in the spring.
  • Cut down winter seed heads and grasses and last year’s growth on hardy fuchsias.
  • It is still not too late to take hardwood cuttings of suitable shrubs and supply a few extra plants for free. You do not need a greenhouse, propagator or any other specialist equipment. A hardwood cutting is made from a length of healthy one year old wood (that is a length of stem that that grew last year) The length of cutting should be approx 20-25cm in length. Make a straight cut below a bud or leaf joint at the base and a sloping cut above a bud at the top of the cutting. Remove 50% of the leaves on evergreen plants. Cuttings can be inserted into a slit trench in the ground approx 150mm apart and the trench base filled with sharp sand before backfilling with soil and firming in with the heel of your boot. The cutting should be inserted into the ground two thirds of its length. When the cuttings are putting on lots of top growth they have rooted and during the spring can be transplanted.

    

 

February

If the weather is kind, spring is just around the corner and with promises of what’s to come you should be able to enjoy the first flowers of early daffodils, snowdrops, hardy cyclamen, hellebores and Viburnum tinus to name just a few.

  • Prune – Its time to prune winter flowering shrubs when they have finished flowering like Jasmine and shrubs that flower on new seasons wood like Buddleja.
  • Wildlife – Continue to top up food and water supplies for the wildlife and find time to put up a bird box in time for the new breeding season.
  • Divide – Once they have finished flowering, snowdrops and winter aconites can be lifted and divided while in the green. These can then be used to plant more around the garden or given away to friends.
  • Plant food – Now is a good time to apply organic fertiliser as they release their nutrients slower that inorganic ones, so will be available to plants just as they start into growth in spring.
  • Equipment and machinery check – it’s not long before you will need your trusty mower and a variety of maintenance tools. Take time to check them over to ensure they are in working condition. There is nothing more frustrating than going to the garden shed to find that your favourite tool was put away broken at the end of last season or that the mower will not start.
  • Trim – Winter flowering heathers can be trimmed as they finish flowering, this will keep them compact and prevent them becoming straggly. Using a pair of shears trim back to the base of the flowering shoots.
  • Reshape – Overgrown or misshapen hedges can be pruned and reshaped this month. The majority of deciduous hedges can be pruned back hard as can broad leaved evergreens, but check your pruning guides before attacking them with a saw!                           

Plant of the Month - Hamamelis Intermedia (Witch hazel)

Vase shaped shrub with ascending branches and broadly oval to obovate bright green leaves, turning yellow in autumn. A group of hybrids between H japonica and H mollis.

The large 3m x 3m specimen within the temple gardens is probably a variety called ‘Pallida’, has clusters of large sulphur yellow flowers which have thin, narrow petals up to 25mm in length. It came into bloom in late January and should continue till mid February.

Find your way to the gardeners’ fenced fire site in the Temple Gardens, with the compound gate on your left walk away from the Ha Ha, when you reach the cross roads head straight across (second exit left) till you come to the large open glade. You will find this spectacular specimen in all its glory set back on the left hand side.

Well worth a visit!

February can be a mild month and bring an early Spring or it can remain very cold, slowing down the appearance of early Spring bulbs. Your garden activities will be very much dictated by the temperatures but the more you can do this month the less there is to do in March and April when growth really kicks off!

  • If you have a greenhouse or garden frame now is a goodtime to wash and clean inside and out. This will allow more light in and if a solution of Jeyes fluid is used,  will help control any build up of pests and diseases.
  • February is still a good time for planting bare rooted trees and shrubs or hedging plants.
  • Now is a good time to cut and collect birch and hazel stems ready to support beans, peas, herbaceous perennials and sweet peas later in the year.If the weather is mild you may be tempted to sow seeds early but never sow the whole packet. Keep some back for further sowings in case the first fail.
  • Plant summer flowering bulbs.
  • Mulch beds and borders when the ground is not frozen. This will feed the surface roots of trees, shrubs and perennials, enrich the top layers of soil, keep in moisture and reduce germination of weed seeds.
  • Re-pot root bound and exhausted house plants or if they do not need re-potting, remove the top 6-8mm of soil and replace with fresh potting compost.
  • Looking for something different in the hanging baskets this year? Why not plant up with a variety of mixed herbs and hang just outside the back door. They will provide a plentiful supply of fresh leaves and stems for the kitchen all summer long.
  • Plants to enjoy this month will include hardy cyclamen, hellebores, primulas, witch hazel and camellias to name just a few.
  •  Do not forget to keep feeding the birds and supplying them with a fresh water supply.
 

March

Spring is almost with us, bulbs are blooming, sap is rising and buds are swelling and beginning to break.

  • Prune – It’s time to prune bush and shrub roses together with shrubs with colourful winter stems like willows and dogwoods, a hard prune now will give vigorous new young stems with intensive colour to cheer the garden up next winter.
  • Mulch Weed and tidy your border soil before mulching with well rotted manure, compost or composted wood chips.  This will reduce the germination of annual weed seed and reduce evaporation from the soil so reducing the need for watering in dry weather.
  • Ponds It’s time to take off the protective netting from the pond or if not netted in the autumn, remove as many leaves from the pond as possible to reduce the possibility of it becoming stagnant.  It’s also time to re-install those pond water pumps if they were removed for the winter.  The fish will also benefit from a little food now, remember little and often as too much food left by the fish will encourage the growth of algae.
  • Lawns – Should be putting on growth, but do not be too hasty in cutting it really short.  Start by just topping the grass and then slowly reduce the height of cut over several weeks.  It is also time to repair any damaged edges or bare patches that have developed over the winter.
  • Lift and divide – Now is the time to lift, divide and replant those overgrown perennials.  This should result in a few spare plants that can be used to exchange with spare plants from friends and neighbours.
  • Sow – Sweet peas out doors or plant out young plants and it’s also time to sow hardy annuals where they are to be left to grow and flower.
  • Plant summer flowering bulbs and tubers.

Plant of the Month - Rhododendrons

The first plants of the year are now in full flower within the Temple Gardens of Langley Park and with the great array of species and varieties there should now be plants in flower right through till the end of June.

 

 

March sees spring bulbs out in force with days often bright and sunny.  Buds are appearing all over the garden as are many weed seeds!

  • The lawn is likely to show real signs of growth this month. Start mowing with the blades set high and slowly lower over the next few weeks to prevent putting the lawn under stress. It is also time to start making repairs to worn and damaged patches.
  • Add additional colour to the garden by planting up containers with spring flowering plants.
  • Deadhead any early flowering bulbs as they die off. This will encourage all goodness back to the bulb for flowering next year rather than wasting energy on seed development.
  • Keep on top of newly germinated weed seeds as this will reduce the laborious hand weeding sessions needed if they are allowed to develop.
  • Spring clean paths, driveways and patios and remove or treat stubborn weeds along edges in cracks and between joints.
  • Established winter flowering heathers – to encourage compact growth and strong flowering shoots for the next season, lightly cutback finished flowering shoots. Removing most, but not all of the previous season’s growth.
  • March is the traditional time for pruning shrub roses in readiness of a stunning display of flowers for early summer. There is an old saying which states “On the third week of the third month, prune your roses to the third outward facing bud”.  In addition remove any weak, dead, diseased or damaged stems as well as any crossing & rubbing branches.
  • Why not consider sowing and planting colourful salad and vegetable plants with your bedding in containers and amongst your borders. If chosen well they will not only provide amazing coloured stems and foliage but can provide useful produce for the kitchen.
  • Plants to enjoy this month will include wallflowers, crocuses, kingcups, Anemone blanda, Daphne, Forsythia, flowering cherries and Chaenomeles to name just a few.

 

Globe Artichokes                                        Lettuce                                              Kale         

 

April

Spring has now well and truly sprung, warm days have arrived and plants are sprouting in all directions which makes for a busy time in the garden, but do not forget to allow some time to just sit and enjoy the wonders of nature and the results of your labour!

  • Water – With the warmer drier weather, keep checking newly planted trees and shrubs or annual bedding especially those planted in containers, and water as needed.

  • Snail & Slug patrol – With nice tender young plant shoots on the menu slugs & snails will be on the increase, especially after any April showers.  These can cause a great deal of damage to plants.  There are several ways to deal with these pests including; wildlife safe pellets, biological control using tiny nematodes and traps (including using your favourite beer as bait!).  Make the garden wildlife friendly and encourage frogs, toads, hedgehogs and thrushes who will eat them, or simple barriers like sand and grit around your prized plants.  Check out all of the options at your local garden centre.

  • Lawns – its time to spring feed and weed if you are looking for a lawn to match the centre court at Wimbledon!  This will also encourage more growth so increase the frequency of mowing and begin to lower the height of cut towards the end of the month.

  • Ponds – If you have established a new pond or the old one is looking a little empty, now is the time to introduce aquatics plants.  You will need a selection of plants that float on the surface, emerge and grow out through the pond water surface, grow in deep water, in the shallows or are good oxygenator plants.  Just make sure you choose the right size and type of plant for the size of pond you have, so a little advance research will be required.

  • Evergreens – Now is a good time to plant your evergreens, not only conifers but also the broad leaved plants.  By planting at this time of year there is less chance of damage from cold winter winds.

  • Tie in new shoots of climbers, check the support wires and frame work and repair if needed.

  • Prune – early flowering shrubs like Forsythia & Chaenomeles, trim back and shape silver foliage plants like lavender and prune shrubs that are grown for their colourful foliage such as elder and smoke trees.

  • Dead head – daffodils and other flowering bulbs as they finish flowering and give the foliage a good liquid feed to help build up the bulb for next year.

Plant of the Month - Rhododendrons, Camellias & Magnolias

The Rhododendrons in the Temple gardens are now a delight and will continue well into July, but do not forget to visit the Arboretum where the Camellias and magnolias are blooming marvellous, as long as they do not get caught by late severe frosts.

Well worth regular visits!

      

 

 

May

With lots of warm Spring days most, if not all, deciduous plants are now dressed in a whole variety of shades of luscious green leaves. But do not be fooled by the mild weather and resist putting out tender new plants too early unless you are prepared to give them some protection when frosts are predicted.

  • Frosts – Night frost are not uncommon during May, especially after clear bright days. Keep a sheet of garden fleece or maybe some old newspapers handy to cover tender plants if temperatures are forecast to fall
  • Pest and diseases – become increasingly common in milder weather. Keep a constant check on your plants and deal with any problems at an early stage before any major damage occurs. Wherever possible look for environmental friendly methods of control but if chemical treatment is required only spray on still days and late in the evening to reduce causing harm to beneficial insects such as ladybirds and bees.
  • Weed control – hoe your borders little and often. It is so much easier and more effective to hoe weeds while they are still at the seedling stage. They are killed off more effectively and will have had little opportunity to set seeds and spread themselves around the garden.
  • Watering  – as the weather warms up more frequent watering will be required for containers and any recent plantings. When replanting containers or preparing hanging baskets consider mixing ‘swell gel’ with the compost This will conserve the water in the containers and therefore less watering will be required. Also mulch around the base of any new border plantings with a good organic compost. This will greatly reduce evaporation and the frequency of watering.
  • Ponds – remove duck weed, blanket weed and Canadian pond weed regularly so they do not take over and choke the pond. Feed aquatic plants using aquatic plant fertiliser, thin out any excessive overgrown aquatic plants and do not forget to increase the fish food as they become more active and start to breed.
  • Pruning – early flowering shrubs such as Kerria, Spirea, Forsythia and Clematis montana can all be pruned when flowering has finished.
  • Tie in – climbers especially vigourous plants like vines, clematis and roses. If undertaken on a regular basis it will reduce the chance of smothering other plants in the borders.
  • Clear out – spring bedding and bulbs and prepare the ground for summer bedding. Once removed lightly fork over the ground, remove any weeds, mix in some good organic compost.
  • BBQ– if not already dealt with, take the BBQ out from the shed and give a good clean. Don’t forget that gas BBQ’s do need reqular servicing. If the weather is good it’s time to relax or entertain in the garden and admire all of your good work.

Plants of the Month - Rhododendrons

There are lots of plants that could be spotlighted this month, but as I am still in my first year of working at Langley (just) I cannot find anything more spectacular than the Rhododendrons in Temple Gardens as they reach their peak of flowering during May.

 

 

June

Lawns - water new lawns in dry weather, energise tired lawns with a good liquid feed which is fast acting and will give quick results.
 
Ponds - Thin out excessive growth of aquatic weeds to stop them choking up the pond. The beginning of the month is a good time for this, plants that have been in place for 3/4 years and are overgrown are better being removed from pond, divided up and replanted.
 
Plants - Remove fading flowers from camellias and rhododendrons and lilacs, this will stop the plant wasting energy on producing seed and help the plant build up better buds for next year.
 
Bulbs - You can now cut down the foliage of bulbs that have naturalised in the grass as long as they have started to turn brown and yellow. If cut down to early the bulbs may not flower next year as the green leaves will not have returned all the food to the bulb.

July

Birds and wildlife - ensure there is plenty of fresh water available for the wildlife in dry periods
 
Container plants - start feeding regularly to maintain good growth and flowers for a prolonged period.
 
Wisteria - at the end of the month it is time to summer prune wisteria
 
Bearded irises - Once the flowers are over it is the time to dig up large clumps, divide up and replant to maintain healthy plants, if you have plenty left over I am sure friends and relations would welcome some freebies!
 
Ponds - During hot weather keep an eye on your water levels and top up when required
 
Bulbs - Its time to plant autumn flowering bulbs including autumn Crocuses and Nerines, but do not forget they will need a warm, shelterd sunny spot, preferably at the base of a south facing wall or fence, and well drained soil.

August

Having missed a couple of months of topical tips I thought I would try something different for this month. So I am going to talk you through the design and construction of my own garden.

I moved in to our current property 6 years ago and at this time the garden consisted of plain lawn with bald patches that had a slope towards the house and a single small border adjacent to the house.  The main garden of this house is at the front and it cannot be seen from the street. It is 16m by 13m (208 sq m)

Lived with the garden for 12 months to identify drainage problems, soil types, observe plants growing in local gardens, sunny/shady areas etc.  (Also gave us one year to sort out the inside of the house!)

Prepared basic sketch plan to identify what features (if any) to retain or reuse. Retained perimeter fence, some old paving stones from the path and some very large sandstone boulders.

Identified new features wanted; patio, raised beds to remove most of the sloping aspect, pond, sculptures / landscape features, colour schemes, feature plants, focal points (to make garden look bigger) and works to distract from the large stark wall of the adjacent house.

Initial construction commenced in the autumn and was completed by the spring, all works carried out by myself and my wife at weekends and in the evenings.

First phase – installation of log cabin, pergola, raised beds, pond, patio, electrics, fence features, lighting and stone work bed edges.

Decided on colours for wood works and painted all items. Perimeter fence very pale green, raised beds in ebony and all remaining wood work silver birch grey and cream.

As ground levelled, turf stripped and placed in bottom of raised beds along with excess soil. Raised beds topped up with good quality top soil and all beds had loads of organic matter incorporated into the soil.

Patio construction – could not match existing path paving so to add interest to patio created a chequer board effect using alternate paving stones with granite chippings, then to marry in with path removed a few paving stones and replaced with granite chips.  

The granite chips also provided additional planting areas for alpines and a selection of houseleeks.

Divided beds into zones / rooms to create different planting areas, these included; woodland bed, fernery/jungle bed, dry dessert/alpine bed, shady bed and a sunny bed.

Woodland bed constructed under pergola with seated area, planting included small maples, rhododendrons, clematis, black bamboo and rambling roses.

Fernery / jungle bed – edged with wood poles that were laced with thick natural ropes and dressed with Mexican/ Peruvian clay mask. Feature plants included large 2m tree fern, chocolate vine scrambling over the ropes, climbing hydrangea and a selection of Arisaema. Lots of extra leaf mould was incorporated in the soil for the large variety of ferns.

Dry dessert bed, this is situated right under the sitting room window. No organic matter was put into the bed but lots of sharp sand & grit was incorporated into the soil, planting was through a mulch mat which was covered with slate shale. Feature plants include a huge Agave (the largest and healthiest specimen we have seen growing outside and unprotected in any other garden we have visited in the UK), dwarf palm and variegated Yucca.

Shady bed, separated from the rest of the garden by a dry steam bed created by slate shale and ending in a pool of granite chips which incorporates 3 stainless steel tube water feature. Feature plants of the partial shaded bed includes golden Irish yew, hardy Fuchsia, Hydrangea paniculata,  Witch hazel, Garrya elliptica and Mexican orange blossom (yellow)

The sunny bed borders the front of the house and includes, Wisteria trained up the house, Albitzia (a tender tree from Europe), Viburnum “Anne Russell” and Beauty berry.

The final raised beds in the middle of the garden incorporated the pond with fountain, miniature water lilies, water hawthorn and a selection of golden minnows (fish), together with a mixed planted bed incorporating a large olive tree,  Rock rose and a clump of New Zealand flax.

All of the areas between the beds consist of a layer of pebbles rather than grass which were placed on a good layer of lean mix.

Finally the whole garden has a sprinkling of sculptures / ornaments including; metal sundial, bronze chickens, Victorian lamp column, crane and a variety of insects to name just a few.

 

September

The end of the summer and beginning of Autumn, buts lets hope for an Indian summer following a poor August.

  • Compost - it will not be long before the leaves begin to fall and the major garden tidy up begins. Why not plan ahead and if you do not have one already make or obtain a compost bin so that you can have plenty of free compost to improve your border’s soil next year.
  • Lawns – Now is the time to start Autumn renovations to your lawns. Scarify to remove thatch (dead leaves, moss and other debris collecting on the lawn surface). Spike to relieve compaction, aerate the root zone and improve drainage. Top-dress to keep the holes open, revitalise the upper layer of soil and to level the lawn by filling small dips and depressions. Over-sow bare and sparse areas and finish off with an appropriate autumn feed.
  • Ponds – Give the pond a general tidy up, thin out aquatic plants, especially the oxygenating and floating plants that can grow so fast. Consider covering ponds with nets early to prevent leaves falling in.
  • Evergreens – Autumn and spring are good times for planting or transplanting evergreen shrubs, dig around the plant as far out as possible to maintain a good root system and keep as much soil attached to the roots as possible.
  • Perennials – This is a good time for planting new perennials or if you have large clumps that are too big or bare in the middle, they can be lifted, split up and replanted once the flowers are over and the foliage cut down. Taller and late flowering plants like asters may need additional supports to stand up to the windier conditions.
  • Bulbs – Now is the time to plant to give those magnificent splashes of colour in the spring. Consider planting in pots and containers for early flowering in porches and conservatories (you may even manage to get some in flower for Christmas) or why not consider naturalising drifts of daffodils by planting within the lawn.

Plant of the month - Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepper bush)

An upright, suckering, deciduous shrub with oval mid green leaves up to 10cm long. It is in flower now and should continue till early autumn, flowers are small, white bell shaped, bourne in 150mm long racemes with exceptional fragrant scents.

This shrub is suited to a sheltered woodland garden setting with peaty soil. It originates from East Asia and North America and can be seen in all of its glory within the Temple Garden at Langley, growing within the glade between compartments 25 & 28a (Restoration Plan Map).

 

With or without the credit crunch it is always good to be able to grow your own fruit and vegetables but not everyone has the space for a kitchen garden or time to look after an allotment.

Over the next few months I will suggest a few items that can be grown within the ornamental garden and amongst the shrubberies and bedding that are productive and do not take up too much space.

Apples & Pears – Cordons & Espaliers

  • If grown as cordons or espaliers these fruit trees can be restricted to a small area and can be used as a screen to section off part of the garden or grown along a fence or wall.
  • Purchase trees and plant as bare rooted from good garden centres between November & March. Pollination is important for good crops and at least 2 varieties will be needed to cross pollinate. When selecting your trees make sure the ones you choose are in the same pollination group, if unsure ask your garden centre.
  • Install a suitable support frame work to train the trees using posts, wire and canes.
  • Plant cordons 90cm apart and at a 45 degree angle along the framework.  Plant both cordons and espaliers at least 150 – 225 cm away from walls to allow space for the trunk to develop. Tie cordons to a stout 2.4m long cane using soft string or tree ties.
  • Prune in July/August to confine in space given and encourage fruiting spurs. Cut back all current year’s shoots from main stem to 3 leaves from the basal cluster and all secondary shoots from the fruiting spurs to 1 leaf above the basal cluster.
  • Train central leader along the cane until it reaches desired height of approx 2.1m. Then maintain at this height by pruning back annually in July/August to its original length.
  • Espaliers are larger trees planted between 3-5m apart depending on how dwarf the root system is. This form of tree consists of a central stem from which pairs of horizontal fruiting side branches (tiers) are trained in one plane and each pair of side branches are trained 38-45cm apart.
  • The structure of the tree usually consists of 3 pairs of side branches but can be restricted right down to just one and used to divide paths, lawn edges and borders. This form is commonly known as step over trees.
  • Once the main structure has been formed each fruiting side branch is pruned in the same way as outlined above for cordons.
  • If you do not have the time or patience to develop these forms of trees they can be purchased already trained but can be very expensive.
  • Maintain a good watch for pests and diseases and undertake preventative and curative treatments as required.
  • Refer to a good cultivation manual to assist with training, cultivation and production of good quality fruit trees.

 

Enjoy the fruits of your labours!

October

With the cooler nights and damper mornings autumn is well on its way, The autumn clear up begins in earnest this month with lots to do.

  • Leaves - clear up the leaves as they fall to stop any build up on the lawn that could kill off the grass.  If you have the space compost them as they will make an ideal mulch and soil improver.
  • Lawns – Reduce the frequency of mowing and if time did not allow in September, lawn renovation works can still be completed this month.
  • Ponds - Remove leaves as they fall in the pond and consider covering with a net to stop further leaves falling in.  Remove pumps, clean and store over winter.
  • Trees & Shrubs – Prune climbing and bush roses, check tree ties and stakes before the autumn gales begin.  If planning to plant new bare rooted plants in November now is the time to start thorough preparation of the ground, clear all weeds, (especially perennial) & dig in plenty of well composted organic matter.
  • Container planting and bedding – Plant out spring bedding such as polyanthus, wallflowers and forget-me-nots, but vary your choice of plants for containers making use of variegated evergreen shrubs, dwarf conifers, heathers, trailing ivies and spring bulbs.
  • Flowering plants – Dry attractive seed heads which can be used in dried flower arrangements, wait until the first frosts before lifting dahlias and cannas, protect tender plants by bringing into glasshouses, porches, conservatories or garden sheds.
  • Perennials – Tidy perennials that have finished flowering and have died back.
  • Wildlife – Clean out bird baths and maintain a good fresh and unfrozen water supply, replenish the bird feeders and check bonfire materials before burning in case hedgehogs have selected it as a hibernating site.

Plant of the month – Mahonia japonica

This erect evergreen shrub originates from China, has stout upright branches and pinnate dark green leaves to 45cm in length with sharply toothed leaflets.

Fragrant, pale yellow flowers are produced in arching racemes up to 25cm long, usually from late autumn to early spring.

A splendid specimen 3m by 3m can be found along the side of the wall in the eastern section of the arboretum.  It is just coming into flower now and should be in full bloom for most of October.

 

Following on from last month I am continuing with suggestions for growing soft fruit within the formal ornamental garden.

This month we are taking a closer look at red and white currants in addition to gooseberries.  All have fruit that can be used in pies, flans, puddings, jams, home made wine and cordials.  They can also be valuable to wildlife if you are happy to share them, as well as being attractive as an ornamental plant within the garden.

  • If grown as cordons (double or triple) or as fans you will only need a small amount of wall or fence space, preferably in a sunny position.
  • If purchased as container grown plants they can be planted all year round, however from the end of this month through to end of February they can be purchased and planted as bare rooted plants which should be considerably cheaper.
  • Fix wires to the fence or wall on which the plant is to be trained.  They should be positioned vertically for cordons or arranged in a fan shape (no more than 4 wires). Wires need to be spaced approx 30cm apart.
  • Plant double cordons 60cm apart, triple cordons 1m apart and fan trained plants 2m apart.
  • Once planted select the strongest shoots and train along the prepared wires and remove any additional shoots.
  • During the first season train the main shoots along the wires.  In late June to early July cut back all current seasons side shoots to 4-5 leaves then between November and February trim same shoots back to 2-3 buds.
  • In further years continue to train the main shoots to the wires until they reach the desired height, then each year in the summer prune the new growth back to 4-5 buds and then in the winter to just above a bud but leaving approx 150mm of new growth.  Continue to prune all side shoots as outlined above.
  • Check out thornless and red fruited varieties of gooseberries for painless maintenance and colour variation.
  • If you wish to keep all the fruit to yourself you will need to cover with suitable netting as soon as the fruit has formed.
  • Maintain a good watch for pests and diseases and undertake preventative and curative treatments as required.
  • Refer to a good cultivation manual to assist with training, cultivation and production of good quality fruit.
  • Enjoy the fruits of your labours!
 

November

November is the time for fireworks but there is no need to just wait for bonfire night when nature provides its own kaleidoscope of autumn colour. Langley Park is full of colour at this time of year which should go on till December if we do not have too many autumn gales.

  • Leaves – remove any leaves that have built up on top of perennials. If left for long periods of time the plants can suffer due to lack of light and the dark moist conditions may attract slugs and snails and could create ideal conditions for disease to develop.
  • Grasses and bamboos – cut down those that are not ornamental in the winter as they can look messy at this time of year. Bamboos with thick canes can be cut, cleaned and stored to be used for support sticks next season.
  • Bare rooted trees and shrubs – now that we have had several frosts and leaves have begun to fall it is the ideal time to start planting new or moving existing bare rooted trees and shrubs provided soil conditions are suitable. Prepare the ground well and incorporate plenty of organic matter. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root system without bending the roots. Plant the tree or shrub at the same depth that it was previously planted, fill the hole with soil slowly ensuring you gently work in around the roots so no large cavities are left and firm in well with your boot.
  • Order your seed catalogues – order early so that you can select next year’s seeds and plants at your leisure on cold wet days. Early ordering should also ensure you receive new and popular varieties before they sell out.
  • Protect tender plants – with milder winters we have all been tempted to plant more tender plants than we ever used to. Be prepared to give some protection to any of these choice plants if severe or prolonged cold weather is forecast.
  • Wildlife – Continue to keep the bird baths clean and topped up with fresh unfrozen water, replenish bird feeders and if not already dealt with, take down bird nest boxes and clean out to prevent a build up of pests.

Plant of the month – Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Rotundifolius’

An evergreen shrub of rounded, dense and bushy nature, slow growing to approx 10’ (3m) in height. Small rounded and spineless leathery leaves 1-1.5” (25 – 37mm) long and rounded at the tips. Flowers are white, tubular in small clusters and have a very sweet fragrance.

A fine specimen can be found in the eastern section of the arboretum where it is in full bloom and cannot be missed due to its sweet fragrance as you walk towards it. Well worth a visit!

November starts the season for planting bare rooted trees and shrubs which continues till March.  Bare rooted trees are generally cheaper to purchase and transport than container grown plants, although finding suppliers may not be as easy.

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  • If you chose bare rooted plants it is better to go and select your own from the nursery rather than buy by mail order.  Select plants that are strong with vigorous stems and roots and free from obvious pests and disease.  The roots should be compact, small and fibrous rather than just a few larger roots.
  • Once purchased keep roots moist and do not allow to dry out, and protect from frost before planting.  Protect from drying winds or strong sunshine.  The time between lifting at the nursery and replanting should be kept to a minimum for best results.  If there is any delay before planting keep roots covered in damp straw, soil or even a polythene bag.
  • Prepare the planting hole large enough to accommodate all of the roots with some room to spare.  Remove the turf (if planted in grass), chop up and put to one side to be used in the bottom of the planting hole.  Loosen the soil on the sides of the planting pit and dig over the base of the hole.
  • Before planting the tree install a wooden or plastic tree stake approx 3’’ in diameter into the centre of the hole and knock in till secure.  If you have purchased a well grown tree with a strong stem the stake will only need to be 30-50cm above the ground as this will anchor the root system but allow movement in the stem which is the natural way that encourages thickening of the stem.
  • Prune any seriously damaged roots before placing into the hole with the stem approx 2-3’’ away from the stake.  Gently replace the soil around the roots, the tree should be shaken every few shovel full’s  to work the soil in between the roots and firm in with your boot.
  • Continue this system of backfilling until the soil is just above the surrounding ground level by a couple of inches,  The final depth of planting should be the same as it was in the nursery which is usually clearly seen as a darker mark dividing the stem and roots.
  • If the soil is in large clogs that will not break up you may need to import some more friable soil but preferably from similar location but ensure it is free from any perennial weeds.
  • Once planting is completed tie the tree firmly to the stake with a flexible plastic or rubber tie fitted with a suitable spacer to prevent the stem rubbing on the stake.  Fit the tie approx 1’’ from the top of the stake and secure to the stake with a nail to prevent it slipping.  The stake should be able to be removed within 2-3 years.
  • Once planted apply a 3-4’’ covering of composted bark mulch around the base of the tree 1m in diameter but not touching the stem.  This will help keep the base of the tree weed free and keep the ground moist.
 

December

December brings the shortest days of the year and it will not be long before Christmas is upon us, so throw another log on the fire, pour yourself a drink and view the garden through the window of you cosy warm sitting room!

  • Santa – Prepare your Christmas list for Santa with all of those gardening gadgets that you meant to buy but never got round to!
  • Plan ahead – Pull the chair closer to the fire and draw up plans for projects and work in the garden for the months ahead.
  • Mower, machinery and tools – Now is the time to get ahead, have the mower and other machinery serviced and undertake any maintenance required to the tools.
  • Sheds & furniture – Tidy up the shed, clean and apply preserver to garden furniture, sheds and fence panels.
  • Paths and patios – Clean moss and lichens from paths and patios to stop them becoming slippery in wet conditions.
  • Taps & Pipes – Insulate taps & water pipes in the garden to prevent frost damage if not already completed.
  • Prune trees and shrubs – Remove dead diseased and damaged wood together with any low hanging branches that cause a nuisance.
  • Wildlife – Continue to keep the bird baths clean and topped up with fresh unfrozen water, replenish bird feeders and if not already dealt with, take down bird nest boxes and clean out to prevent a build up of pests.

Plant of the Month – Cotoneaster frigidus

A large rounded deciduous shrub / small tree  20’+ high, leaves 3-5’’ long, 1-2’’ wide and narrowly oval.  Flowers are white, 1/3’’ across, produced very numerously in large flattish clusters with short twiggy flower stalks that are very woolly.

The fruits are in large clusters, each fruit the size of a pea in rich bright red giving a great splash of colour at this dull time of year and providing a great natural food source for the wild birds.

This shrub is a native of the Himalayas, was introduced to the UK in 1824 and several good specimens can be found within the Temple Gardens.

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, who will put a penny in the OLD GARDENER’S (whoops, I mean man’s) hat!!?

CHRISTMAS TREES

As Christmas approaches you will all be rushing out to buy your Christmas tree and dreading January when you have to collect all of the needles off the carpet!  Although this cannot be completely avoided, some simple steps can be taken to reduce the problem of needle drop.

  • Select a type of tree that is resistant to needle drop.
  • Purchase a tree that has been as freshly cut as possible. As soon as you get it home, cut 1’’ off the base of the tree and put it in a bucket of water and leave outside in a shady position until you are ready to bring indoors and dress.
  • Before bringing indoors, spray the whole tree with an anti needle drop spray.  This is basically a clear plasticised coating that blocks up the pores in the needles which reduces the tree’s transpiration (giving off moisture) and reduces needle drop.
  • Erect the tree in a Christmas tree stand that has a water reservoir at the base which the tree stands in.  As the tree transpires (gives off moisture) it can replace the lost water through the base of the tree from the water reservoir.  Check and top up the water reservoir every day.
  • Place the tree in the coolest place part of the room and avoid siting adjacent to a radiator.

POINSETTIAS

Poinsettia growing in the wild at approx 12' tall rather than the small sized pot plants available at Christmas.

These colourful plants have become a traditional pot plant at Christmas.  They are now available in a variety of colours from the original red to pink, white, mottled red and pink and white variegation.

  • The colours are not actually flowers but adapted coloured bracts or leaves which surround the insignificant true flowers.
  • The original poinsettia is Euphorbia pulcherrina (related to the Euphorbia’s that you may grow in your gardens) and grows naturally in the wilds of Mexico where it can reach a height of 12’ plus.
  • The plants you buy have been either breed or treated for dwarfness and production of coloured bracts are initiated by day length.
  • To obtain the most from your plant, keep in a warm room out of any drafts and water very sparingly.  If treated well you may be able to enjoy it right through till Easter!

CHRISTMAS ROSE

The first buds and flowers of Christmas Rose and other hellebores have just started to appear in the garden.  To obtain the full benefit of these flowers remove all of the old foliage so that they can be seen and enjoyed.  You will not do any harm and new foliage will regrow in the spring.


   

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