A beginner’s guide to garden bulbs & how to create year-round colour

A beginner’s guide to garden bulbs & how to create year-round colour

Spring bulbs are some of my favourite flowers. However, bulbs aren’t just for spring; they are great at providing colour and interest all year round. There are lots to choose from so here’s my guide on which bulbs to buy and taking care of them.

Bulbs are generally robust, which makes them easy to grow, however they prefer a well-drained soil so if you do have water-logged garden during the winter, make sure you add plenty of horticultural grit and farmyard manure to the soil before planting.

Buying bulbs

I always recommend buying from a reputable retailer or grower as the bulbs will be the best quality and therefore have stronger blooms.  Make sure the bulbs are firm to the touch and not mouldy as they are unlikely to develop. Try and buy them early in the season as they will be better quality too.

How many you need depends on where you are planting them – they are usually sold in packs, which are usually enough for a container, but if you’re planting in a border it’s likely you will need more packs to create a display.

Taking care of garden bulbs

Once planted, it’s unlikely you will get any problems but if you get yellow leaves, it could be down to a virus in the bulb, so it’s best to dig them up and remove them from your garden – don’t put them on the compost heap either as you could be transmitting the virus that way.

Sometimes, you may find that your bulbs don’t flower in their second year. This is rare but could be down to the bulbs being planted in poorly drained soil. Other possible reasons include:

  • Location – they could be in too much shade
  • Lack of food/nutrients during growing season
  • The removal of leaves too quickly after flowering – they need to be able to create food to develop the flower for the following year.

Planting bulbs

As a general rule of thumb, bulbs need to be planted at a depth of 3 x the size of the bulb (you can measure this against your trowel).

As a rough guide if you’re using bulbs that grow to around 45cm tall then plant 10-15 bulbs per square meter.  If you’re using bulbs that grow to around 20cm tall, then plant 20-40 bulbs per square metre and this will provide you with a beautiful display.

You may have heard of the ‘lasagne’ method of planting, which is where you plant a pot in layers of different bulbs which enables you to have either succession planting, and/or different heights of flowers, ie the tallest in the middle which decrease in height to the edge of the pot. These can look stunning.

When creating this style, plant the larger, later flowering bulbs towards the bottom so that the small, early flowering varieties can flower first early in the season, and as they die off the next lot comes through to continue the display.

Styling your garden with bulbs

Starting with the basics – bulbs can be planted in containers, window boxes, or straight into your borders

If you’re planting in pots, strategically place them either side of your front door to frame it or a view.  Think about the style of the container you are using, the colours of the flowers and add some trailing plants such as ivy and maybe an evergreen shrub for year round interest.

If you’re planting straight into your borders, weave bold drifts of flowers to create impact.

Here are three ideas of bulbs you can use

Nerine bowdenii

These are great at the end of the summer when lots of flowers start to fade; these really stand out with their gorgeous pink flowers which bloom from September to November.  They grow to around 45cm tall and 25cm wide, and like a well-drained soil in full sun. They need planting in the spring; however, you will be able to buy them in pots from the garden centre this time of year.

Cyclamen hederifolium

These are great for the front of a border as they are tiny and measure height and spread 12cm x 15cm. There are different varieties available and some are great for naturalising under a deciduous tree. Make sure you buy the outdoor version. Their leaves have a beautiful marble pattern and I love them.

Cyclamen flower from October to November and usually flower before the leaves appear.

Tulipa ‘Black Parrot’

If you want to add some drama to your borders add the Parrot style Tulipa’s to create the WOW factor. These black coloured versions would look amazing with some silver leafed plants such as Artemesia. They do come in other colours such as white, blue and a really striking red/orange called Tulipa ‘Rasta Parrot’.

I’ve created a bulb list which features three bulbs for each season, which you can download for free when you join my Garden Lovers Club.

 

Creating a Drought Tolerant Garden

A gravel garden is a great option if you wish to create a low maintenance or Mediterranean style garden. These types of gardens use plants that are drought tolerant, which reduces the need to water regularly although some minimal weeding may still be required.

By choosing the right hard and soft landscaping, a gravel garden can be beautiful, practical and attractive to wildlife.

When planning your garden, the soil is the first thing to consider. If you have clay soil, you will need to add plenty of organic matter as a lot of the plants used in a Mediterranean style of garden prefer a sunny spot with well-drained soil.

Next decision is the gravel – there is a vast array to choose from. With different sizes and colour, there should be something suitable for everyone’s taste whether that be traditional, Japanese style or an industrial look. I would suggest getting a sample of the different types you like and taking them home to try as it will look different in your own setting.

When choosing the type of gravel, its also important to consider if it will be walked upon as angular medium grade gravel is easier under foot. Plus, if you use small (10mm or below), you could find your garden is suddenly more attractive to cats!

Any surface dressing helps shade the soil and keeps it cool which prevents it from drying out as fast after rain or watering and this allows more water to go into the ground for later use. Adding large stones and pots not only creates an interesting focal point, it can also decrease the quantity of water needed as the soil dries out less quickly.

After levelling and raking the surface of your garden border, lay landscape fabric over the surface and cut a cross in the fabric and place your plant through it. Once all your plants are in place you can gently add your chosen gravel to a depth of around 5cm. It’s cheaper to buy gravel loose rather than in individual bags (which also cuts down on plastic waste).

So once you’ve chosen all your hard landscaping materials, the exciting bit is the plants which will bring it to life!

What plants are suitable for a gravel garden?

There are many plants that are well suited to dry, drought like conditions. As a general rule of thumb choose plants with the following attributes:

Small leaf – such as Verbena bonariensis, thyme

Silver leaf – Olive tree and Lavender

Thick leaf – Sedum, Sempervivums

Hairy leaf – Stachys byzantine commonly known as lambs ears which are so soft and tactile.

When planting small plants they can become swamped by gravel, so plant them so that that they are raised slightly above the level of the gravel.

The Contemporary Version of Border in a Box is ideal for this style of garden.

Gravel garden grasses phormiums

This is the Contemporary Design & has just been planted

 

5 Herbs to Grow for Health

Growing Herbs for Health.

With the spring equinox it means there’s more daylight hours than darkness so our gardens will start to come to life quickly now. Perfect timing for everyone whilst we self-isolate. This month, I thought it would share my top five herbs to help with health and wellbeing and how to dry them to make teas and balms.

Calendula officinalis

These are gorgeous orange daisy type flowers and will grow in sun or part sunny gardens and are loved by bees. They’ll flower from June to October and are happy in any poor or fertile free draining soil (but not clay soil) and grow to around 50cm tall. You can grow them easily from seed too – just follow the instructions on the packet. The flower petals are edible and have a peppery flavour, which can be added to food. Or you could dry them and use in salves. To dry them – harvest them after mid-day when it’s dry and cut the flower head off. Bring them indoors (do not wash them) and place them on an old sheet or paper towel (depending on how many you have. Leave to dry in a dark, well-ventilated space for approximately 4 weeks. Then store them in an airtight jar. These can be used to infuse oil to make balms and lotions. The oil of Calendula officinalis is used as an anti-inflammatory and a remedy for healing wounds and skin complaints, plus many other uses. It’s best to seek advice from a trained herbalist to help with any specific conditions.

calendular orange flower

Chamaemelum nobile – commonly known as Camomile

An aromatic plant with finely dissected leaves and daisy-like flowerheads with white petals and yellow centres. Traditionally used to help with stress and calm the nerves – chamomile tea before bedtime is very soothing. These are mat forming plants, that loves the sun or part shade, happy in all soils except clay and will grow to around 50cm tall. Flowers from June to August. To dry them – pick the flowers when in full bloom, ie when the white petals are still in place. Remove any bugs. Make sure it’s a warm dry day. Leave in a dry dark space for approximately 4 weeks then place in an airtight glass jar. Can be mixed with Lemon Balm to make your own tea infusions.

Melissa officinalis – commonly known as Lemon Balm

Amazing lemon-scented, light green leaves which grows to around 1.5m tall. Loves full sun or part shade and will grow in any well drained soil. They flower in June with spikes of tiny, pale-yellow flowers, which fade to white or lilac. Loved by bees and the leaves can be used in salads and soups. Pure lemon balm essential oil is valued for its properties in aromatherapy where its considered to be uplifting and calming. Ideal in herbal teas too.

Ocimum basilicum – commonly known as Basil

basil leaves herb

Most people know this herb from having it with their tomato soup, pesto or pizza. It can be easily grown from seed on a windowsill or container in full sun. Using normal loam compost. Depending on the variety (there are plenty to choose from) they can grow to around 50cm tall. If you want to dry basil so you have herbs all year round, follow the previous instructions for Chamaemelum. The best time to pick basil is just before flowering. If you want to dry the herb quicker, you can do it using the oven too.

Oven-dry method

  1. Wash the leaves and dry using a paper towel
  2. Place leaves (no stems) on a baking tray, one layer, and not touching/overlapping each other
  3. Oven temperature should be on the lowest setting possible
  4. Cook for 20 minutes (or until they are crisp and break easily) then leave in the oven overnight
  5. Put them in a sealed container such as a glass herb jar

Basil has many medicinal benefits and is generally beneficial to health, for example it is renowned for helping digestion and bug bites. However, it can also thin your blood if eaten in large amounts.

Thymus vulgaris – common name Thyme

Thyme

Thyme is a bushy dwarf shrub with small ovate, aromatic, dark grey-green leaves with small white or pink flowers in early summer. Its evergreen so ideal for a cottage garden as well as an herb garden. It prefers full sun and will grow in all soils except clay to around 40cm tall, so best suited to the front of a border or a pot on the patio. Another herb that is easy to grow from seed. Thyme can be turned into essential oils which is traditionally used as an antiseptic and an insect repellent. Thymol (the compound in Thyme) is a common meat preservative, and olive farmers often combine thymol into the oil that preserves olives in the Mediterranean. With all herbal medicines, it is best to seek the advice and guidance of a professional.

Grow your own cocktail with my herb kit

Contains two packets of herb seeds – Basil & Thyme, plus snips to cut the leaves and a recipe card to make a cocktail (or you can leave the alcohol out). With a pencil & two wooden plant labels, packed into an A6 size kraft box that easily fits through a standard UK letterbox. £12.50 including free P&P Buy direct from my shop https://borderinabox.com/product/herb-seed-gift-box/

thyme basil border in a box herb kit

Theo Paphitis #SBS Event 2020 Celebrating 10 years

Theo Paphitis is celebrating the 10th anniversary of #SBS – a network of like-minded people who run small businesses. We are all proud to be part of the 3000 winners.

The annual event took place at the ICC in Birmingham on Friday 28th February. Everyone I spoke to and the social media posts I read afterwards all said the same thing -WOW what an amazing day, so much information was shared to grow our businesses and how inspiring all the presenters were.

So if you’re thinking ‘what is all this #SBS malarkey and why is it trending on twitter’ then read on and I’ll tell you about why I love it and how you can get to next year’s event.

Firstly the event is FREE, no charge to attend – please don’t think it’s a chance for Theo to sell his products to us, and get a sausage roll and luke warm cup of tea thrown in. NO! This is one of the best organised and useful events I’ve been to (and I’ve been to loads over the years) – its sponsored by Ryman, DHL, Robert Dyas, HP, Square, Western Union, Autumn Fair, iLaw and Nat West. Which means its professional and the presenters are world class.

Who did I meet?

SBS audience

The SBS Winners starting to take their seats first thing!

As this is my third event, I made a point of booking an appointment with the buyers at Robert Dyas as in the past they have been instrumental with providing advice on my product and retail in general. I was in IT for 20 years before designing and creating my business, so retail is all new to me and any insight and support is very welcome.

I showed them my new products which were about to launch on Not On The High Street and gained useful feedback. Such as the forthcoming legislation that my gardening snips would fall into (that I was completely unaware of) and I also gained advice on Christmas gifting, packaging and additional improvements. A great way to start my day.

I intended to go and join the ‘speed networking’ sessions for social media, ecommerce and marketing, where you can meet Theo’s team to get advice, but I kept bumping into people I knew and it was so nice chatting with them and catching up on their progress since we last saw each other. So I ran out of time.

There is so much to do in addition to networking, such as getting a new headshot photo (always useful) taken. Meeting the sponsors who were so helpful and as a sole trader you don’t always get the time to discuss everyday topics such as printing (thanks HP!).

The Main Event

What an agenda! First up it was an introduction by Kypros Kyprianou, the CEO of Theo Paphitis Retail Group who introduced Theo on stage.

Amazing stats:

  • #SBS has been supporting small businesses for 10 years
  • Over 400,000 #SBS applications
  • A network of over 3000 #SBS winners
  • Which equates to less than 1% of entries will win
  • 75% are female owned businesses
  • 23% started a business aged 45+
  • 6% were under 19 when they started
  • 52% are sole traders

Theo Paphitis Nikki Hollier Border in a Box SBS

Google Digital Garage – Priya Chauhan

This presentation was designed to help us become more visible on Google and enable our customers to find us easily. This session was packed with nuggets of information and my ‘To-do’ list has grown considerably.

  • Free digital online course – https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalgarage
  • Look at trends for your industry and see what the world/UK are searching for – https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=GB
  • Create a business listing for free – Google My Business Account and create a Business Profile which lets you easily connect with customers across Google Search and Maps. If you work from home, you can click a button that says ‘don’t show my address’ – keeping ‘workers from home’ safe online! https://www.google.com/business/?ppsrc=GPDA2
  • Use Keyword search planner – this helps with potential customers trying to find you by adding those search terms to your website and content. Use short and long tail keywords. This can also help with paid ads and marketing.
  • Also keep information up to date, add in photos, virtual tours, respond to reviews (good and bad), show you care and show your personality.

Phew what an epic presentation. I loved it when Priya talked about when she moved into her new home and had no clue what to do with the garden. I hear you Priya, that happened to me and that’s why I started my business to help everyone achieve a gorgeous garden easily. No green fingered expertise required with my kits as I’ve done it all for you!

NatWest – Darren Pirie

This presentation was going to be an interesting one for me because I applied to their accelerator program when I first started Border in a Box. I got chatting to one of their advisers who works with Darren, at one of their social events. The ‘mentor’ kept saying over and over that he ‘didn’t get it’ and advised me to go and find another job/business as this was never going to work.

I don’t remember his exact words but I will never forget how I felt.

If I had followed his advice I would have missed out on some amazing opportunities such as #SBS, the WINN award for innovation (with £12k prize package), creating a show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC and winning Platinum, Best Border and being featured on TV by Mark Lane. Plus, many more, too long to list. Border in a Box is celebrating it’s third birthday this month.

So if you want to apply to join their free program here’s the link – there are many #SBS winners who rave about their hub – https://www.business.natwest.com/business/business-services/entrepreneur-accelerator.html

MIND – Faye McGuiness

  • We all have the right to thrive at work.
  • Mental health can happen to anyone, and there is still a stigma and fear of what people think about us.
  • 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems
  • The cost to the economy is £42-45Bn a year
  • On average, for every £1 spent on supporting their staff’s mental health, employers get £5 back on their investment in reduced absenteeism and staff turnover

You can read more about Deloittes research here – https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/poor-mental-health-costs-uk-employers-up-to-pound-45-billion-a-year.html

Faye MacGuinnes MIND SBS

Faye went onto say its important to create wellness action plans for ourselves as sole traders and our team members. So, to support our wellbeing we need to do two of these five things each week to improve our mindset.

  • Give
  • Keep learning
  • Be active
  • Take notice
  • Connect

LinkedIn – Charlotte Davies

Charlotte Davies LinkedIn SBS

I’ve been using LinkedIn for many years and used it to connect with clients and help with networking when I worked in IT. I love using it but when I became a garden designer all my contacts were in IT and I thought they wouldn’t want to hear about my new career. How wrong I was – I’ve had so many people message me and ask how I changed career and how much they love the respite from endless chat about IT and hear about gardens instead.

I definitely need to update my company page, which I’ve left hanging and simply focused on my personal page. I was also surprised to hear that we scroll 96 metres of content every day, which is more than the height of Big Ben. Which means it’s so important to create content that people are interested in.

Charlotte’s Tips:

  • Build your company story / show your brand
  • Post great content regularly
  • Create a content strategy
  • Don’t write spammy messages selling your business/services on the first connection

Fireside Chat – Theo Paphitis & Sara Davies

Sara Davies Theo Paphitis dragons den

What an inspirational afternoon.

If you don’t know who Sara Davies MBE is, she’s a British entrepreneur and the founder and owner of Crafter’s Companion, a company she started while a student at the University of York – she was 19. She joined Dragons Den in April 2019 as the youngest Dragon.

Sara’s parents were business owners, they own a hardware shop. There were no plans for her to take over the store, so she went to York University and gained a first-class honours degree.

Whilst at university Sara joined a small crafting company as her placement. She spotted a niche in the market to make envelopes to match crafters cards rather than using bog standard manila or white cards.

Sara went to her Dad (an engineer by trade) and between them they created the Enveloper. Sara was still at university when she set up her business and was turning over £500k by the time she finished her course.

The Enveloper was sold on TV shopping channel, Ideal World. Sara recounted the story of her investment in stock for the first show and how the purchase order was reduced from the original agreed amount and how that left her in a deficit. However, Sara sold all 8000 products, so all was well.

From a young age Sara was inspired by her parents, their hard work and family values. Sara wanted this for her family and have a career that was flexible around her family. Sara is now married with two children aged 3 & 6.

The harder she worked the more confident she became. She told us that she was at an event for an award and was one of 8 people shortlisted. She was the only woman and had a northern accent and was in the crafting industry, so she thought she had no chance. Obviously she won, and it was a sweet success.

Sara’s top tips for us

  • DON’T REDUCE YOUR PRICE – If you’re selling a service, do a little bit for free so the client can understand/see the return on investment.
  • If you want to sell on TV shopping channels but struggling to get noticed, create your own infomercial. Talk about why they need your product in their lives rather than lead with price.
  • Work hard
  • Be you
  • Don’t talk gender – she’s in business rather than a ‘businesswoman’
  • Focus on the positives and not beat yourself up over things not done

What an inspirational lady.

If you want to be part of next years #SBS event all you need to do is:

  • Follow @TheoPaphitis and @RymanStationery on Twitter.
  • Tweet about your business directed to @TheoPaphitis, adding the hashtag #SBS.
  • Tweet on a Sunday between 5.00-7.30 PM.
  • Having a website increases your chances of being noticed.
  • It helps to know the names behind the business. #SBS is for small businesses. The personal touch is liked.
  • Just tweet once in each weekly time slot.

See you there next year and claim your fabulous goody bag – the notebooks are brilliant!

SBS Goody Bag 2020

THANK YOU THEO!

Platinum & Best Border show garden at BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2018 by Border in a Box

https://borderinabox.com/

Lavender Loveliness

Lavender Loveliness

Lavender is one of the ‘go-to’ plants for a cottage garden style planting scheme but it has so many uses, from culinary to wellbeing so here’s my quick guide on what to buy and how to use it.

Lavendula is the botanical name and they are easy to grow too which makes them ideal for any border. They look fab with roses and other perennials and shrubs.

There are many varieties to choose from – the English lavender is the hardiest – you may see this as Lavandula angustifolia on plant labels. Another popular variety is French lavender, which has cute ‘ears’ on the top of the flower – sometimes known as butterfly lavender. All of them are loved by pollinators.

This plant is happiest in a sunny garden with well-drained, chalky or sandy soil. They don’t tolerate shade, damp or freezing cold as they originate from sunny climates, so they thrive in Mediterranean environments and are suitable for containers, herb and gravel gardens, and balconies.

Lavender come in a range of colours too – from white to pink, mauves and blues, so there is something for everyone’s colour scheme.

French Lavender

How to grow lavender

They can be easily grown from seed (follow seed packet instructions) but if you buy already grown plants, put them out once the soil has started to warm up, usually from April onwards. Don’t ever plant lavender in the winter when young plants are vulnerable to rotting due to cold and wet soils.

You can also grow in containers – use a multipurpose compost or John Innes No2, add in some grit to improve drainage. Keep watered until established but especially during hot and dry periods as containers dry out quickly.

Propagation / cuttings

Another way to grow lavender is by taking cuttings. If you’ve not done this before, it’s a simple process and can be applied to many perennials and deciduous shrubs. Who doesn’t love a free plant?

In horticultural terms it’s called Softwood Cuttings (just in case you want to research it further). Its called softwood as you are cutting the new growth from the plant in early spring when the tips are young and flexible.

Step 1

Collect material (shoots) early in the day when the plant is full of water (turgid) and healthy. Use non-flowering shoots, as they will root more readily. Remove up to 10cm of shoot, cutting off the material neatly above a bud on the parent plant.

Step 2

Most softwood cuttings are nodal – this is just below the leaf joint. This is where there’s a concentration of hormones to stimulate root production.

  • Using a sharp knife (or scissors) trim below a node to make a cutting about 5-10cm long
  • Remove the lower leaves, pinch out the soft tip and dip the base of the cutting in hormone rooting powder (which is available from any garden retailers)
  • In a pot of compost using a dibber (a clean blunt stick), make a hole and insert the base of the cutting with the first pair of leaves just above the level of the compost. Press gently around it to ensure the compost is firm (but not solid).
  • Label the pot and water it from above to settle the compost
  • Cuttings should be placed in good light but not direct, scorching sunlight.
  • Ensure the compost is moist until the cuttings are well-rooted which takes about 6 to 10 weeks
  • Possibly not all cuttings will root, so remove any dead, rotting, dying or diseased material so it doesn’t infect the other cuttings.

These are Salvia cuttings, but it’s the same process.

Salvia cuttings scissors plant pot

salvia plant cuttings

Salvia cuttings in pots

Pruning

To stop your plants getting woody and mis-shapen it’s best to prune back in the late summer once all the flowers have stopped. This can be done using shears or secateurs. Cut back all the spent flowers and trim back this year’s growth, leaving around 2-3cm. Don’t cut back to the woody stems as the plant won’t be able to grow the following year. It’s likely you will need to replace the plant in this case. You can always tidy up the plant in the spring.

Drying lavender

It’s easy to dry and preserve so that the seeds can be used in scented sachets or added to sugar for culinary purposes.

Simply harvest the lavender stems before it’s fully in bloom (this retains the scent and colour). Gather the stems into a bunch (approx. 2cm in diameter). Wrap a rubber band around the stem ends to hold in place and hang the bunch upside down in a cool dry and dark place for 2-4 weeks.

You can also use this process for drying other flowers and herbs.

Cacti & Succulents – A popular houseplant gift

cacti succulents pink flowers

If you’ve been given a cacti or succulents houseplant as a gift and now wondering what to do with it, here are some top tips and advice by my friend and expert, Ian Thwaites who is the Chairman of the British Cactus and Succulent Society.

The common linking characteristic of cacti and succulents is the ability to store water in the leaves or stems enabling them to survive in arid habitats. All cacti are succulents, yet cacti are defined by the presence of areoles (specialised sites where spines form) whereas succulents have none.

Succulents – the camels of the plant world

In magazines they look amazing all crammed in a pot or terrarium together, but this really isn’t the ideal growing conditions for them. This may encourage insect infestations and/or mould. It also creates too much competition for water and food – therefore it’s best to repot them into their own pot and put them in a sunny windowsill.

The most common type of succulent house plant is the Crassula ovarta, commonly known as the Money tree, Friendship tree or Jade tree as you often see them in Chinese restaurants.

Crassula ovarta

cressula ovata money tree jade plant

This is a bushy evergreen shrub that grows slowly to 2m (it will take 5-10 years to reach this height). It has rounded fleshy dark green leaves sometimes edged with red, and flat clusters of small starry white or light pink flowers in late summer.

These plants are simple to propagate, and it will get children hooked onto growing their own plants. Simply pick off a leaf, tell them to leave it by their bedside so they can chat to it when they get up every morning. After a few weeks the leaf will sprout some roots, so pop it into some soil (from the garden will be fine) and gently cover the roots with the soil and firm it in and then leave it on the windowsill and after a few more weeks it will start to grow.

Echeveria elegans

Echivera succulent plant

Otherwise known as the Mexican gem. The elegans variety is a perennial and forms a clump of evergreen rosettes of spoon-shaped, whitish-green leaves and has lantern-shaped pink flowers, tipped with yellow, in late winter and spring.

These look great in a pot for the patio table as they only grow to around 10cm tall. They also don’t need much attention so if you go on holiday for a few weeks, you don’t need to worry about watering them.

Succulent care:

All succulents like a well-drained soil/compost. Its best to add a third/half grit (or perlite) to the compost to make sure the soil is open and well drained.

They prefer a sunny windowsill but some of them are happy outside in the summer months. Generally, they like warm sunny spots.

Feed them regularly during their growing season with a high potash feed such as Tomorite. Use half strength and feed regularly during the growing season. Do NOT use Miracle Grow.

The compost should be allowed to dry out slightly between waterings, rather than keeping it constantly moist. Succulents hate having their roots in water, so don’t leave them in a dish or tray of water. Ideally use tepid rainwater for watering. The minerals in tap water builds up in the soil and can cause deposits on the leaves of succulents.

Best time to re-pot them is in the spring.

Cacti

All cacti originate from the Americas – so all the ones you see in Europe come from the Americas.

Christmas cactus

christmas cacti pink flower

This plant is named because it flowers around Christmas time, so they make a pretty gift. These cacti originate from Brazil, so they also like a hot dry climate.

Once it has finished flowering, give it a water with half strength feed (such as Tomorite) and then give it a dry rest for 2-3 months. In the spring place it in a hanging basket and hang in a tree in your garden. Remember to water occasionally with food. It loves dappled sunshine under the tree. Make sure you bring it back into the house before the frosts start. Then water and feed it again and keep the compost moist.

If the flower buds drop off, this is due to the plant drying out, so simply water and feed it again. Keep it in a cool place when in flower as this will intensify the colour.

If you want a flowering cactus, buy a globular version as the columnar varieties need to grow to a certain height before flowering.

Mammillaria cacti pink flowers

Repotting:

Like all plants, they need to be repotted, especially when they have outgrown their pots. You can use leather gloves to protect your hands from the spikes. Or alternatively you can use lumps of polystyrene by adding them to the spines which makes them much easier to handle. Simply repot to the next size up in a free-draining compost and then place gravel around the top.

Gravel is needed for various reasons, firstly aesthetics as it looks much nicer. Secondly, it protects the neck of the plant from damp soil and thirdly, it stops the white spines discolouring.

succulents planted in brown laceup gardening boots

Great use of worn out old gardening boots!

Biography:

Ian Thwaites is the Chairman of the British Cactus and Succulent Society (www.bcss.org.uk) and they have over 70 branches around the country.  The principal objectives of the BCSS are to promote the study, conservation, propagation and cultivation of cacti and other succulent plants. Ian has grown plants all his life and in particular Cacti and succulents. Ian is also a professional plant and garden photographer.  You can contact him via his web site www.ianthwaites.com.  Ian is a committee member of the Garden Media Guild.

 

 

 

 

 

Home Styling at Christmas with Country Homes & Interiors Magazine

home styling at christmas country homes interiors magazine

Home styling at Christmas with Country Homes & Interiors Magazine at Stonor Park.

I exhibited at the Country Homes & Interiors magazine Christmas Fair last weekend in Henley on Thames and I absolutely loved it – I won their award for Garden Product of the year 2017. I was fortunate to meet Holly and Andrea from the magazine who shared the design inspiration for this year’s room set, which I will let you in on.

country homes interiors christmas decorations room set

There’s usually extra visitors in our homes this time of year, so to make everyone feel welcome, it’s lovely to add accessories and festive decorations for some cosiness and style to your living rooms. Their overall theme was fresh botanicals, heritage prints and frosted greens – all very appropriate for Border in a Box styling.

Country Homes & Interiors Christmas Fair 2019 – mood board by Nikki Hollier

Home styling Christmas ideas mood board country homes interiors christmas

The main room set had a cosy real fire by Charnwood with comfy armchairs and tactile throws. A large mirror adorns the wall above the fire with natural decorations of oversized branches and trailing ivy decorated with baubles and fir cones.

Top tip – update your room with velvet cushions, which are super tactile and are more cost effective than buying new sofas and chairs

The theme was carried through to the dining room and I loved the small Christmas trees in wicker baskets, simply decorated with paper honeycomb baubles and white lights. There were several of them – one on the sideboard and one on the floor in addition to the main Christmas tree.

dining table christmas country homes interiors

Photo of main table and hanging hula-hoops

The main table included botanical print runners, more foliage, with accents of berry baubles. This was replicated on the coffee table using eucalyptus (which smells fabulous) and brass and glass ornaments. The tableware was by Maxwell & Williams with simple white platters and bowls shown off with charcoal coloured plates and stemless glasses.

Above the table there were hanging brass coloured hula-hoops with green foliage wrapped around them and hung using velvet ribbon. These could also be used as door welcome wreaths too.

Top tip – use metallic washi tape to decorate terracotta flowerpots and fill with sprigs of foliage and/or fir cones and place on shelves and sideboards in groups of odd numbers.

The main wall had a montage of William Morris wallpaper. William Morris was a British textile designer, associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production in the 1800’s. If you do an internet search you will see his amazing designs.

coffee table christmas country homes interiors

Coffee table decorated to match the dining table

Stonor Park – The House

In the main house at Stonor Park, the doorway had a striking entrance with square planters either side of the door which contained lots of greenery including mistletoe, trailing ivy and multi-coloured twigs to give some height and drama!

Stonor Park christmas decorations front door

Once inside the door, the bannister surrounding the stairs was also decorated with sprays of greenery with clear glass baubles containing tealights hanging with multi-coloured ribbon. This idea would also work well on a mantelshelf – although it needs to be out of the way of the fire.

Stonor Park hallway bannister christmas decorations

Stonor park fireplace christmas decorations

The hallway led onto the room where the floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree was – WOW – I wasn’t expecting it. It was absolutely beautiful and decorated in a traditional and simple way.

christimas tree Stonor Park

Onwards to the Dining Room where Country Homes & Interiors had styled the table with a modern twist. Lots of natural seedheads and grasses grouped in vases placed on wooden slices with navy and charcoal coloured baubles hanging from twisted willow branches.

Stonor Park christmas dining table country homes interiors

The table was lit with hurricane vases and large candles and tealights which created a lovely glow along the linen tablecloth. The eucalyptus and echinops (commonly known as globe thistles) dried flowerheads weaved amongst the vases which added further texture and colour.

hurricane lamp dining table country homes interiors

country homes interiors dining table christmas decorations

As you can see it’s all natural and easy to re-create in your own home. If you don’t have foliage from your own garden, it can be easily purchased in either fresh or dried bunches from your local florist. Hopefully that has inspired you to create beautiful focal points throughout your home this wintertime.

Join my Garden Lovers Club – https://borderinabox.com/join-garden-lovers-club/ for ideas and inspiration for your home and garden.

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When is the best time to plant a fruit tree?

when is the best time to plant a tree

When is the best time to plant a fruit tree?

I recently met up with Kevin O’Neill from Walcot Organic Nurseries, who are based locally in Drakes Broughton, near Pershore, who specialise in fruit trees and I asked him for some simple advice on planting, varieties and care.

The winter is the best time for planting bare root fruit trees when they are dormant – ideally between end of November and end of March. So now is a good time to be deciding what to plant and ordering. By planting before the winter’s end, the trees will be ready for a good start in the spring.

Alternatively, you can buy pot grown trees, these are usually more expensive than bare roots and the choice of trees may be limited. But they can be planted throughout the year which may be more convenient.

Bare roots are more suitable if you want to train the fruit tree into a fan or espalier or cordon, or some other format, a 1-year bare-root tree is usually the best way to start.

What are the tastiest fruit trees to grow?

This depends on what you want the fruit for ie cooking or eating straight from the tree. Walcot grow around 80 varieties of apple tree, and 30 varieties of plums plus cherries, damsons, pears and many more fruits. They include a mix of traditional and modern such as Lord Lambourne, Egremont Russet, Sunset and Lord Derby. More modern varieties – Red Falstaff, Herefordshire Russet and Rajka. So, there is an apple for every sized garden and taste.

Cherries are the first to ripen with their red fruits that can turn almost black if you can resist picking them! Next to ripen are Plums – Victoria is a superb variety but there are many other excellent plums to choose from that extend the season. Then there are Pears, Damsons, Quinces and Crab Apples.

In my humble opinion Cox apples make great eaters and Bramley apples make a fabulous crumble!

How big will the fruit tree grow?

You may have read about root stocks and seen ‘M’ numbers on plant labels and wondered what it refers to. It’s important to understand this to ensure you buy the right sized tree for your plot. Here’s a chart to explain it easily

tree sizes walcot nursery

Pollination

Bear in mind that Apples pollinate apples and no other fruit trees species ie Pears. The same goes for Plums, etc. So, for successful pollination if no other fruit trees are in the vicinity select two or more of the same species to ensure fruiting. Also make sure the trees you buy flower at the same time – this will allow bees and other pollinators to move from tree to tree.

Where should you plant fruit trees?

Growing fruit trees successfully requires an open situation with plenty of light and shelter from prevailing winds. Good light ensures good growth and ripening of fruit. Shelter warms the site and improves pollination (bees don’t like wind and rain), which leads to better growth and fruit production. The ideal soil for fruit trees is a well-drained loam that is slightly acid. Avoid sites susceptible to waterlogging.

How to care for your trees

Ideally stake and tie at planting time, this will stop the tree from rocking in the wind and support the tree whilst growing. Remove all vegetation from around the base of the tree and add mulch to retain water and keep weed free.

Watch out for pests, especially aphids. There are other pests usually around when the tree is fruiting such as Codling Moth (their larvae feeds on fruit rather than leaves) – pheromone traps will help a little. Winter Moth caterpillars can eat early spring growth – wingless female winter moths emerge from pupae in the soil during November to April and crawl up trunks to lay eggs on the branches. To help reduce this happening, apply grease bands around the trunk in the autumn which is a pesticide-free way of keeping winter moth caterpillars away from your pear and apple trees in the spring. Although birds like the aphids and caterpillars and they help feed their babies.

Pruning

Pruning is really important and essentially there are three stages to pruning:

  • Early hard pruning to develop the shape of the tree
  • Lighter pruning to encourage fruiting
  • Once fruiting, pruning to maintain a balance between growth and fruiting.

It’s best to read the article on pruning on Walcot Nursery’s website for detailed information as it depends on the age and type of tree you have.

More detailed information and a catalogue is available from www.walcotnursery.co.uk 

 

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RHS Chelsea Chris Beardshaw

Carol Klein’s Top Tips for Autumn Colour in Your Garden

Carol Klein on stage RHS Malvern Autumn Show

Carol Klein’s Top Tips for Autumn Colour in Your Garden

I had the pleasure of meeting the Gardeners’ World presenter Carol Klein at the RHS Malvern Autumn Show 2019.

As we sat down to talk behind the main stage, one of Carols colleagues shouted over and asked Carol if she had a sewing kit in her handbag, Carol replied “No, but I’ve got a boiled egg, babybel and a piece of chocolate!” So now you know what Carol keeps in her bag… who knew!!! It certainly broke the ice as I found it very funny.

Carol is a regular visitor to the Malvern Shows and loves the people and plants, she says it’s very down to earth and loves mingling with everyone in the floral marquee.

But we all want to know, what’s in Carol’s garden right now that’s looking good?  Here’s what she had to say about some of her favourite Autumnal flowering plants.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii

Rudbeckia yellow daisy

Carol loves this plant as it’s such a ‘sunny’ autumnal flower and grows well in her gardens heavy soil. She went on to say they’re really easy to propagate and it’s best done in the spring.

They are a perennial which grows to around 60cm tall, with dark oval hairy green leaves and bright yellow daisy flowers which bloom from late summer to mid-autumn. Ideal for clay, loam or chalk soils in full sun or part shade.

Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Edith Dudszus’

Molinia Edith Dudszus moor grass

Commonly known as Moor Grass. This grass turns gold in autumn and she loves how it tumbles over in the border and can easily self-seed.

This grass can grow in any moist but well drained soil in full sun or part shade, but prefers neutral soil.  It grows to around 90cm tall so it’s ideal for mid/back of borders. It’s deciduous and its best to remove any dead foliage and old flowered stems in spring.

*TOP TIP* Carol loves Asters and has a top tip of combining similar flowers of different heights to give a tiered effect.

Aster × frikartii ‘Mönch’

Aster blue daisy

The word Aster comes from an ancient Greek word meaning star, Carol went on to explain where the variety name came from and it’s an interesting story.  But in a nutshell a Swiss plantsman called Frikart created three new cultivars, naming them after Swiss Mountains: ‘Mönch’, ‘Eiger’ and ‘Jungfrau’.

Monch is a bushy perennial that grows to around 1m tall, likes full sun and is happy in loam, chalk or sandy soil. It has pretty lavender-blue flowers which bloom from August to September. Loved by pollinators too!

Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ (cordifolius hybrid) aster

 

Aster Little Carlow blue daisy

This aster (shown in the back of this photo) is also a bushy perennial that grows to around 90cm tall. It’s happy in most soils – clay, loam, chalk and sandy so long as it’s moist but well drained. It likes full sun or part shade. It may need staking. It’s also easy to propagate in the spring too.  It has pretty violet-blue flowers which bloom from August to October.

What an interesting insight into Carols garden and her advice on propagation is invaluable, she said it’s simple but as asters put all their energies into flowering late in the season, means it’s not until spring that their new roots begin to grow. Chop up an aster in autumn and your divisions may well sulk and possibly die.

We crammed a lot of information into a short space of time, and I would like to thank Carol for sharing her fabulous tips and knowledge with me.

If you would like to see the National Collection of Asters, please visit Old Court Nurseries and The Picton Garden in Malvern, Worcestershire – it’s a beautiful garden and you can buy Asters too!

Further reading on my blog – https://borderinabox.com/autumnal-asters-add-colour-garden-borders/

Rudbeckia yellow daisy Picton Garden

Aser blue daisy

 

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Aster

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