Top 10 presents for gardeners

Top 10 presents for gardeners

Obviously we spend all year working with gardening products and talking to thousands of keen gardeners who visit each year. So here is a proper list of present experiences and gift ideas for the garden that real gardeners will love.

Using this guide: there are lots of links to the relevant pages throughout this blog. If you click on the product name they will open in a new page so you can still return to the guide by clicking on the tab at the top of your browser.

  1. Greenhouse Sensations’ Hydropod.

New to us this year is this fantastic propagator which has given us easy new plants FREE all year. This domestic misting propagator fills the gap between fiddling around with plastic bags on pots and the commercial propagating units. We have loved using this, so much so that we have bought another, larger version and highly recommend it.

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Plants have rooted in our propagator in less than two weeks.

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2. Joe’s Gloves

Gloves you can work with all day in the garden and still have clean hands that haven’t been stung. They fit very closely, somewhere between surgical and washing up gloves so you can still feel what you are doing and we use them every day.

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3. RHS new A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants

This is top of my Christmas presents for gardeners list. Two books containing all you need to know about the plants in your garden and the ones you plan to buy. Easy to navigate, this is an indispensable reference guide that lists over 15,000 plants and is suitable for all levels of gardeners and horticulturalists. Makes great reading over the winter!

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4. Sweet Pea Gift Tin

One of our most popular mail order gifts. Six packets of seeds in their own tin with labels, a pencil and helpful hints to help you get the most out of your sweet peas. Comes beautifully wrapped.

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5. Botanical Snowdrop Art Workshop

Something a bit different for someone who loves gardening but perhaps is renting, moving or has all the kit! Join our botanical art course this spring focussing on snowdrops. We ran a similar workshop in the autumn with the same tutor and it was brilliantly received by the people on the course, so here is one specifically about snowdrops.

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6. Luxury Snowdrops by post

If you are thinking of sending flowers by post in late winter, our snowdrops by post make a fantastic (and very good value) alternative and they last a lifetime. Beautifully wrapped they come with information on getting the best out of your snowdrops including planting out in the garden after they have finished flowering.

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7. HHA membership

We are members of the Historic Houses Association despite the fact that most our house has been pulled down! The Association has over 1600 properties and their season ticket allows you to visit over 300 of them for free. The magazine also offers trips to houses that are almost never open and most have gardens that are maintained by the owners so you can find some brilliant, sometimes eccentric, places to visit throughout the UK.

 

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8. A whole meadow

For larger gardens, or if you are looking to give a gift to last a lifetime, how about a whole meadow? Gee Farnsworth is a garden designer friend who has established several meadows using specially designed turf and lots of bulbs! The pleasure of this present grows with each year as the flowers change. Gee is happy to talk you through the process before you commit. Below are a couple of pictures showing meadows maturing over time.

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9. David Austin Rose

David Austin has been breeding roses for over half a century. His first rose Rosa ‘Constance Spry’ was introduced in 1961 and is still well worth growing. His roses are so recognisable that they are often called English Roses. Try Golden Celebration for an anniversary, or the dependable Gertrude Jekyll for a beautiful, good garden rose. Rosa ‘Mayflower’ is outstanding as a group plant in informal settings and ‘The Generous Gardener’ is simply beautiful. She will climb to about 2 metres.

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An unusual rose garden in our rose meadow where we combine David Austin Roses with wildflowers. I included the image below so that you can see our custom made support for a new climbing rose on the right hand side.

rose meadow at Easton Walled Gardens 2016

10. Rose Supports

We get asked about our rose supports a lot. Ours were made for us but Agriframes supply good value, solid steel structures ranging from fruit cages to a single stake. Obelisks from their Somerset range are particularly suitable for supporting roses but this umbrella form (also from the somerset range) is the type you need to provide a cascade of flowers and should create a similar effect to the climbing roses in our meadows.

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Green Manure

How to sow green manure

We have found that sowing a green manure between crops of cut flowers or vegetables makes for a much better harvest the following year.

Here’s our simple guide to sowing green manure in autumn for digging in the following spring.

You will need:

  1. A clear bed dug to a fine tilth. (Not as hard as you think if you have just removed this year’s crop.)easton-walled-gardens-img_2421
  2. An enthusiastic pair of hands. (In this case, Harry.)easton-walled-gardens-img_2422
  3. Seeds. (Here we are using hungarian forage rye. Being from a different plant family, it won’t harbour diseases that might affect next year’s sweet peas. Mustard is another good choice.)easton-walled-gardens-img_2425
  4. Some old CDs, short bamboo canes and string.easton-walled-gardens-img_2428

Method:

Scatter the seeds across the bed on a day when there has been some rain in the night but the temperatures are still mild.

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The image below shows roughly the rate at which we sow.

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Lightly rake over the bed so that the seeds are covered.

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Attach the string to the top of each bamboo cane and hang the CDs on the bottom. You should end up with a ‘fishing rod’ shape with a CD attached to the end. The CDs will spin in the wind.

Place these at regular intervals to deter birds.

Other enemies:

Mice and voles can take your whole crop but our TOP TIP is to fill a small tin with corn and place it nearby. The mice will happily eat more of this and less of your crop.

After about 10 days it should look like this!

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Allow it to grow all winter and dig and chop the crop into the soil next spring. (About 2 weeks before planting out your summer flowers or vegetables.)

Why it works:

Green manure works on our free draining soil because it locks up the nutrients in the rye leaves throughout the winter.  When we dig in the green plants, we keep the nutrients near the surface.

If we leave the ground bare, winter rain causes the nutrients to leach out into the subsoil where they become inaccessible to crops with shallow root systems.

By next summer, this bed will be filled with our grandiflora sweet peas. With all this extra food available to them they will look fantastic!

 

 

 

 

September Colour

Colour in the garden in September

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Autumn doesn’t just have to be about autumn leaves, it is possible to continue to use flowers as a foil to the spent foliage around them. A lot will depend on when the first frosts hit your area (here, as early as 31 August or as late as October) but in sheltered areas of the garden, the mild days of September create the perfect environment for late perennials and tender annuals to flourish.

To show you what I mean here are some pictures of the gardens in September that might offer inspiration for your garden.

First up, what happens if you don’t plant for late colour. Here are the terraces. All the colour is drained from them and it is just the picturesque seed heads that remain. This is what happens to our native plants if they are not cut down and nothing is added. We will make hay once the final seeds are ripe.

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The seed heads of wild carrot are particularly interesting and make the perfect shape for spiders to hang their webs off on a dewy morning.

Adding colour

The light is great now so adding some colour makes all this decay a lot more interesting.

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In the long borders, asters and rudbeckias are particularly useful. This is the perennial Rudbeckia fulgida with Agastache ‘Black Adder’ in the foreground. The purple spires are putting out their final flowers of the season and are given a lift by the yellow daisies behind.

Dahlias are excellent too for late summer colour. We use yellow ‘California Sunset’ in the long borders (see them giving the borders a lift in the photo above) but anything we like in the Pickery. Here is a new colour scheme which is giving us great satisfaction.

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This is Dahlia ‘Preference’ with Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’. On the other side of the path is an exquisite arrangement of Dahlia ‘Wizard of Oz’ with a Chrysanthemum called ‘Pink Danielle.’

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It took me a while to be convinced of the value of grasses in an English garden but there are certain varieties that don’t make you feel like you have stumbled into a prairie and these tend to blend beautifully with big late flowers.

Cut Flowers

The cut flower beds in the pickery are still bursting with colour. They provide interest and lots of flowers for the tea room, history room and coach house. Here we consider the overall effect as well as their usefulness in flower arrangements.

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This sunflower is ‘Earthwalker’ which is a branching annual with lots of classic sunflower shaped heads, unusual chestnut and gold petals and dark chocolate seed heads – these will be very popular with the goldfinches next month. The white phlox is late this year, it decides for itself whether to flower in high summer or autumn.

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A similar colour scheme is achieved by bedding out pockets of annuals in the cottage garden. This is a white Ageratum with the humble double marigold. In the background, Dahlia ‘Red Honka’ shines against the light. See how it lifts the papery seed heads of the long-spent honesty. Although these are in the cottage garden, everything you see in flower here is excellent in a vase.

Another faithfully good annual and cut flower for this time of year is Cleome. The light creates translucent petals in pinks, mauves or whites and the intriguing seed heads add interest later on.

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Repeat flowering

The roses throughout the gardens are reinvigorated after deadheading and some of them like Rosa ‘Grace’, ‘Lady of Shalott’ ‘Graham Thomas’ and ‘The Mayflower’ are in flower again.

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The roses aren’t alone, some clematis are still flowering. Our success with clematis is variable but one or two are now becoming reliable additions to our garden. Here is Clematis jackmanii in one of four pots on the cherry plat.

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Containers

The pots around the pickery, cottage garden and tearoom are at their peak. Plectranthus of various types and coleus make huge vases of silver and deep red matt leaves. The solidity of the pots is lightened by red and white stars of flowers (Zinnia ‘Red Spider’ and Gaura lindheimerii respectively) and by Petunia exserta whose orange-red flowers peak out from below the foliage.

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If you would like to take a virtual tour of the gardens in September, click here.