RHS Malvern Autumn Show, Worcestershire 2019

orange pumpkin squash in wooden box

 

RHS Malvern Autumn Show 2019

Sadly it’s the last RHS show of the year but what a brilliant show to visit – there really is something for everyone!

Set against the stunning backdrop of the Malvern Hills means the weather can be a mixture all in one day. The showground covers the size of 23 football pitches, so comfy shoes are a must!

This particular show incorporates the Canna UK Giant Vegetable championships and includes 600 giant vegetables with a cumulative weight of 7.45 tonnes, which is the size of an African elephant. You really need to go and see the display for yourself to appreciate the size of the veg and the amount of work that goes into putting on the incredible display.

giant pumpkin

Although as you know my passions are the flowers and gardens – there are no show gardens at this event, but the displays are just as inspiring. I love to see different flower combinations to include colour and texture.

The Floral Art section is an absolute must to visit – the talent on display is impressive and the theme is ‘Autumn Jewels’.  There were various classes to display in, including a festive section such as best dressed door, Christmas table centrepiece and a doormat.  I’m overwhelmed with people’s imagination. This particular floral design uses Amaryllis’, Gerbera and Anthurium – a combination that wouldn’t have crossed my mind, but its so eye catching.

Floral art gerbera amyryllis

 

Floral Christmas Pudding

The Harvest Pavilion showed off benches of vegetables, soft fruit and flowers. The Bramley Apples reminded me of home as Dad grew them in his garden and Mum used them for baking the best apple crumble. Bramleys are a tart and tangy variety best suited for baking due to keeping their flavour after cooking. In 2017 the UK harvested 70,000 tonnes of Bramley apples, which equates to approximately 333,333 apples. Wow!

Bramley Apple

veg

I met the volunteers from Plant Heritage who told me that some plants are quietly vanishing, and it’s their plan to find them and cultivate them before they get lost for good. They explained that plants fall out of fashion, but its vital to keep the plants going whether that’s for food, medicine, ornament or heritage which will enable future generations to enjoy them too.

If you would like to join the Worcestershire Group, it meets monthly in friendly, informal sessions at Pershore College – for further information www.nccpg.com.

Unfortunately I ran out of time (too busy looking at plants!) to visit the World of Animals, but I visited last year and its fabulous and great for the kids too. There’s a load of things to see – from pets such as Guinea pigs, rabbits and giant tortoises, to the Top Dog arena which shows off the best agility dogs in the country as well as an appearance by former blue Peter presenter Peter Purves.

It really is one of the best shows on the calendar, so check it out for yourself – more information is available from https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/malvern-autumn-show.

Dahlia

Aster Picton Gardens

Frank Mathews trees

And finally…. The lovely Carol Klein hosting a Q&A on the Pottager Stage

Carol Klein on stage

 

 

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Picton Nurseries asters

 

Toyah Willcox and her beloved trees

Toyah Willcox medlar tree

I had the pleasure of chatting with Toyah Willcox the fabulous singer/songwriter. Her biggest hits include “It’s a Mystery”, “Thunder in the Mountains” and “I Want to Be Free”. We have a mutual love of gardening and so I asked her what her favourite flowers are and she told me all about her garden and her beloved trees.

“Our garden is not only a sanctuary of peace and quiet, a respite from the awful world of mobile phones, a place where Mother Nature still holds court; it is a place of constant rejuvenation.

At my grand age of 61 I am still surprised by the seasons and how a garden has so much to offer even in the short daylight hours of the winter. I often walk in my garden thinking “so little time so much to learn!”

Latin names will always escape me but I have huge respect for plants and how they fill their space, names aside I love the benign presence of all plants.

Living in a place where gardens in the past 100 years have evolved from allotments, to orchards to places of leisure I am keenly aware how non local plants have found their way into our lives.

I adore our neighbours Magnolia sitting within the same space as many pear trees. So we are about to install three mature Magnolia, which will probably have to be delivered from the river at the bottom of our garden.

In our garden are many varieties of apple, pears, peaches but also old traditional trees such as our Medlar. I am hugely protective of it. The Medlar fruit was a medieval delicacy and it conjures images of servant maids gathering the fruit as it becomes over ripe to turn into a sweet jelly not dissimilar to Quince.

Another outstanding tree in our garden is a Mulberry that must be about 300 years of age. Again I feel like a temporary guardian watching over it, knowing that when this tree was planted, all that time ago, the journey it had made as a sapling was from far afield as France…at least….might even have been farther.

But the crown in our garden is a triple plane. This huge magnificent tree is given regular health checks by our tree specialist, to the point we could be called over protective.

Large trees are part of my childhood and as someone who travels the world I am keenly aware that large trees are getting rare. I am hugely grateful for the trees in my garden that are so much older than me…. I love them in spring, when their foliage is bright; I love to draw them in winter when they are dormant.

They majestically watch us and I enthusiastically watch them!”

I would like to thank Toyah for sharing the story of her beloved trees. If you would like to know more about Toyah, she has a great monthly blog on her website –https://toyahwillcox.com/

If you would like to include these trees in your garden, here is more information:

Mespilus germanica – Common Medlar

Medlar fruit tree

Medlars are ornamental, flowering trees with a good autumn colour and edible fruits – although very tart.  They can grow to a height and spread of 6m x 8m. They prefer full sun or light shade away from strong winds.

The best time to plant a new tree is between November and March. The fruits are ready to pick in late October or early November when they are about 2.5-5cm across, although they are not fully ripe. You can leave fruit on the tree well into autumn to develop flavour provided there is no danger of frosts.

Morus nigra – commonly known as Mulberry

mulberry tree fruits

The mulberry tree is deciduous and has a spreading habit. It grows to around 8m x 10m and becomes crooked and gnarled with time, making an architectural feature. It tolerates a range of soils and can be grown against walls too.

It’s good to note that fruiting may not begin until eight or nine years after planting, so you will need some patience! The Morus alba is the tree loved by silk worms.

Magnolia

Magnolia stellata white flower

There are around 200 different types of Magnolia – with different growing habits and flowers, so you should be able to find a suitable tree regardless of your size of garden.

I like the Magnolia stellata, with its striking white flowers in the spring. You can keep it as a bushy shrub or let it grow in to a tree – its ultimate height and spread is 3m x 4m.

Platanus × acerifolia – commonly known as London Plane

This tree is ideal for urban environments as it is resistance to pollution. It has 3-5 lobed leathery leaves which turn orangey-yellow in autumn. It grows to 35m tall and can live for hundreds of years.

London plane tree

London Plane tree leaf

 

 

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BBC Gardeners World Live Beautiful Border, Jar of Life

 

What goes into creating a Border in a Box product?

Border in a Box garden design worcestershire

What goes into creating a Border in a Box product?

Ever wondered what goes into making a product and how it gets to market? It’s something that never crossed my mind until I started my business a couple of years ago. It has been a steep learning curve and the amount of thought, energy and money that goes into all the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff was a bit of a shock, so let me share the journey and process with you…

Turning the idea into reality

I had a problem with the garden when I moved into my new-build property – I had no clue where to start! I didn’t know what plants would grow well, I didn’t know what plants would look good together and to make matters worse, I had next to no money.

So when I came up with the idea of a kit with a ready-made planting plan that detailed what plant goes where and a shopping list of what to buy, it was a simple idea that I thought would be easy to create and help everyone else in the same boat as me.

However, the initial designs took over six months and thousands of pounds of money to create and here’s why:

  1. Market assessment – had the product been created by another organisation? If so, was I reinventing the wheel or was it a new idea?
  2. Creating the contents – I had to come up with a list of plants for each design then draw all the plans. Everything had to be designed for someone with zero plant knowledge, skill or desire to research. It had to be a simple to follow plan that could be implemented in a day without a huge price tag.
  3. Sourcing suitable packaging that looked appealing and eco-friendly but also budget friendly – this turned out to be my biggest issue.

Once I had this information, I needed to turn my ‘scribbles’ of ideas into a product. This was beyond my skillset, which meant finding someone to work with who had the talent and expertise to help me.

Brand identity

I needed to find an amazing brand ambassador who could take my ideas and create a gardening gift – I wanted something that the recipient would love to receive and feel excited about creating their own garden.

This involved the creation of a logo, icons, fonts, colours and designing the packaging. I had no idea how much time, effort and money would go into this part of the process.

It was imperative to get this right as it would lead onto the creation of the website and product itself, so it’s a key part of the process and needed time to create. I also had to be mindful that more time spent with other designers, the costs increase. So as a sole trader, you have to be careful with your investments as it’s easy to get carried away and run out of cash in the early stages.

I also invested in protecting my intellectual property by trademarking my logo and joining ACID, which is an organisation who helps protect businesses like mine – they have some amazing lawyers who advise how to protect a brand and product. There are plenty of stories how David has taken on Goliath and won. So it’s worth the membership fees.

Cottage garden border in a Box Border in a Box cottage garden

Original packaging on the left replaced with new eco-style packaging on the right

Packaging

Coming from an IT background I had no idea where to start with sourcing my packaging – I relied on internet searches and also my network who recommended various suppliers.

I expected to find ‘off the shelf’ suppliers for all my products to keep costs low, but nothing was suitable, so all the packaging has been designed and created to my standards. This all took a vast amount of time and increased the cost of the products due to being bespoke.

Everything I do, has to be good quality and beautiful. I currently create everything from my kitchen  table, so nothing is mass produced.  All of my suppliers are based in the UK and it’s all printed on FSC card and paper.

I also have to pay for everything up-front so juggling stock and sales is tricky – creating a new product means there is no sales history, so you have to guess how much stock you need to purchase. It’s also likely that it will cost more when buying small quantities.

Another area I hadn’t considered was how to post the gift to ensure the product arrives safely. This is one of my largest costs – at first the boxes were deep and cost £3.45 just in Royal Mail postage, which was without packing material costs or the time and expense it took going to the post office. I learned that it helps to create letterbox friendly product as it can reduce costs.

Marketing and PR

When I first started I went down the traditional route of advertising in magazines and I spent hundreds of pounds per advert but received zero orders. This had to change – I had to find a cost effective way to raise awareness.

Eventually I met a PR guru who provided (paid for) advice on how to get my brand out there. It was worth every penny and it enabled my meagre/non-existent budget to go further. Border in a Box has been featured in many glossy magazines, trade journals, national and local papers.

Border in a Box Country Homes and interiors magazine

Border in a Box featured in Country Homes & Interiors magazine

I write a lot – I never expected that I would write articles, blogs or website content, but it’s a large amount of my day-to-day work. It can be time consuming too – for example the regular newsletter I create will take at least a day or two per month. Choosing photographs and getting them re-sized to fit takes enormous amount of time, but I love doing it. It is something I could outsource, but it keeps me in touch with my clients and potential clients, which is important to me. I also write a monthly gardening article for the Pershore Times.

There are many markets and shows to attend – which can cost anything from £600 upwards and that’s before any thought has gone into the design of the stand, stock and promotion – plus travel and accommodation. That is a lot of sales before breaking even!

Nikki Hollier, Border in a Box, Theo Paphitis, #SBS, Autumn Fair, Nancy Poller

Winning exhibition space at the Autumn Fair, NEC, Birmingham thanks to Theo Paphitis

Selling via marketplaces such as Amazon is a great idea, and depending on which one(s) can cost around 25-30% in commission, plus a joining fee and/or monthly fee.  I must admit, I thought it would be simple to do – but trying to stand out in a crowd is difficult. Anyone can pay to get onto the front page but depending on what page, what day, time etc it can burn a hole in your budget within hours, so it’s imperative to do your homework beforehand.

When working with a market place they all want a particular style of photography to fit with their brand and ethos. This means professional product photography as you need to make the products look fabulous – as the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression! A half day with a photographer can cost anything from £3-400 upwards. It’s worth the investment but it’s another cost to budget for.

product photography Terry Livesey

Product photography with Terry Livesey

Winning awards is great PR and also a morale boost. Within a few months of launching Border in a Box I won ‘Garden Product of the Year’ with Country Homes & Interiors magazine. Closely followed by #SBS Winner by Theo Paphitis. Then launching on Not On The High Street. A few months later I won the WINN award for innovation with the prize money funding my show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live where I won Platinum and Best Border (and featured on the TV show). I turned this garden into the Wellbeing Border to enable people to recreate a sensory garden at home.

Website

I created my own website at first – I thought it was pretty good considering it was a ‘cheap and cheerful DIY’ company to host my website and I simply added my own text and photos to the template. However, I couldn’t use my font and colours from the branding project, which felt like a waste of money and investment, so I started working with a specific website building company.  It was a huge investment for me, and one I wished I had waited a bit longer for, but I felt it would increase sales but it didn’t. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it all turned out OK in the end. It ended up costing £thousands which created another hole in my budget.

So when you add-up all of these investments, it is eye-wateringly expensive.  You only have to watch TV programs like Dragons’ Den to see how much money the entrepreneurs invest into their dreams to realise it’s not for the feint-hearted!

So if you have an idea for a product or service, do your homework but follow your heart as you never know where the journey will lead!

 

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white fence with pink roses, alchemilla mollis and salvia caradonna

5 Plants to add drama to your garden borders

5 plants add drama to garden border

If your garden needs a bit of drama to liven up the borders, there are plenty of plants to choose from to give a striking focal point, no matter what the light levels or soil type you have – here’s five of my favourites and there will be at least one suitable for you:-

Colocasia esculenta

These plants can be grown from a bulb so are cost effective to buy and grow. They have amazing ‘elephant ear’ shaped leaves and will grow to around 1.5m tall and up to 1.5m wide. They are happiest in part shade in a sheltered spot.

When planting the bulb, which is approximately the size of an avocado, it can be confusing as to which way up to plant it – the holes are where the roots will emerge from and the concentric rings will be where the leaves sprout from.

colocasia bulb elephant ears green leaves

colocasia elephant ears large green leaves

 

Gunnera manicata

This looks like giant rhubarb! It will grow to around 2.5m tall and up to 4m wide – so a big space is needed for it to thrive.  It likes a permanent plot in moist and nutritious soil. It’s a perennial which means it dies down during the winter months. It grows well in full sun or part shade in clay or loam soil.

gunnera large green leaves

Canna indica ‘Purpurea’

These bulbs will add a touch of the tropics to your border and pots. This particular variety has large bronze leaves with a purple stripe with vivid orange/red flowers. It grows to around 1.6m tall and 60cm wide. It loves full sun in fertile but well-drained soil. It’s not frost tolerant, so it will need protection through the winter. A stunning flower though!

orange flower canna banana plant

Stipa gigantea

A fabulous semi-evergreen grass which grows to around 2.5m tall and has arching stems of oat-like flower-heads. It looks stunning in the winter with frost on it, so it’s a great year-round plant for texture and interest. It loves full sun in fertile well drained soil and can tolerate sand, loam or chalk soil.

stipa gigantea grass oat flowers

Cynara cardunculus

Commonly known as the globe artichoke and is one of my favourite architectural plants to look at.  It has enormous silvery green leaves and grows to around 1.5m tall and 1.2m wide. They have huge purple thistle-like flowers from June to September. They also look wonderful throughout winter. They need full sun with fertile well drained soil (loam, chalk or sand)

globe artichoke purple thistle

 

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salvia astrantia corokia

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

RHS Chelsea Flower Show lemon lupins

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

WOW the Chelsea Flower Show was fabulous! This year’s theme is definitely about back to nature with woodland style gardens and natural materials used on all the gardens.  Colourwise there was lots of whites, lemons and pale colours with a few gardens having a strong dark purple and burgundy shades – very beautiful colour palates. I arrived early which enabled me to have a good look around at the show gardens and take some great photos, so have a read of my review and how you can apply some of their design styles to your garden without breaking the bank!

The M&G Garden – designed by Andy Sturgeon

Gold Medal & Best Show Garden

This garden was about rejuvenation and how plants colonise a space.  The large and very striking black sculptures made from 50 tonnes of sustainable burnt-oak timber represented a rock formation Andy had seen in Australia. The paths and steps were made from English ironstone which was a neutral earthy tone in colour to offset the lush green plants.

RHS Chelsea Andy Sturgeon

RHS Chelsea Andy Sturgeon plants

Top Tip #1

If your garden is more courtyard than rolling hills, you can take the burnt-oak timber idea and use smaller wooden posts placed through your garden border – as demonstrated in this display by Daisy Roots Nursery in the Great Pavilion.

RHS Chelsea Daisy Roots nursery black posts

The Resilience Garden – designed by Sarah Eberle

Gold Medal & Best Construction Award

RHS Chelsea Sarah Eberle

Created to celebrate the Forestry Commission’s centenary, and demonstrate the challenges facing forests of the future. It also shows how woodlands can be made resilient to a changing climate and the increasing threats of pests and diseases.

The silo made a striking focal point, especially as it made a creative home office space, although I don’t think I would want to be inside there during a thunder storm!  The trees used in the design were a mixture of native and exotics such as the Araucaria araucana, commonly known as the monkey puzzle tree.

RHS Chelsea Sarah Eberle show garden

I loved the planting which included Echium russicum which contrasted beautifully against the lime green Euphorbia’s, blue Linum and pink Ragged Robin.

 

The Greenfingers Charity Garden – designed by Kate Gould

Silver Gilt Medal

First impression was WOW, I loved the beautifully planted border at the front – gorgeous lemon lupins with white roses and bearded iris. My eyes were then drawn to the back of the garden with the geometric style green and grey striped tiles up the back wall and gorgeous Angelica with lime green flower heads. The trees and shrubs enclosed the seating area to make it feel cool and relaxed on a hot sunny day – and also provided privacy if it was located in an urban environment.

RHS Chelsea Greenfingers charity

Above the whole garden was a balcony which was reached via a lift – all created to make the most of every inch of space available in the garden.

RHS Chelsea Greenfingers charity show garden

Top Tip #2

If you have a small and/or narrow garden, you can make the most of your space with vertical planting. This can be achieved with climbing plants, or create a living wall using ready-made systems like the one used in this garden for the The Montessori Centenary Children’s Garden, by Jodi Lidgard, another Gold Medal winning garden.

RHS Chelsea vertical garden

Kampo no Niwa – designed by Kazuto Kashiwakura and Miki Sato

Gold Medal.

My photographs don’t do this garden justice – this was one of my favourite ‘Space to Grow’ gardens. It looks effortless and a relaxing place to be.  I loved the green oak pergola and the water feature that simply flowed through a rhyll to a tiny pond. Beautiful.

RHS Chelsea Kampo show garden

This garden was designed for a practitioner of Kampo, which is a traditional Japanese herbal medicine. Each plant used in this garden, such as mint, provides a healing tonic to aid digestion, aches & pains and fevers.

RHS Chelsea Kampo water feature

Top Tip #3

Create your own herb garden in pots and containers and place them by your kitchen door for easy access when you’re cooking.  I love to grow mint in pots as it smells lovely when you walk past – to make a fresh mint tea, place a few sprigs in a mug and pour on boiling water and leave to cool slightly before drinking.

Hooksgreen herbs blackcurrant mint

The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden – designed by Mark Gregory

Gold Medal and the People’s Choice Award

RHS Chelsea welcome to Yorkshire

You can’t fail to be impressed by this amazing garden – it looks like it has been dug up and transported to Chelsea.  The attention to detail is mind-blowing.

The garden was demonstrating the history of Yorkshire and how the canals were an intrinsic part to the success of the County and developing the industry in the area.  It included a lock keepers cottage and its garden with beautiful veg and a natural habitat of wild flowers mixed in with some cultivated varieties.

Top Tip #4

I loved how the paint colour around the windows and door were co-ordinated with the Lupins and Delphiniums. This idea could be replicated at home easily with using furniture cushions matching your flowers and painting the garden shed – although you would need to ensure the flowers are in bloom all summer!

pink flowers and cushions

photo: Courtesy Karen Chadwick

Plant of the Year 2019

Every year the RHS chooses a ‘Plant of the Year’ – here is the top three:

In third place – Agapanthus ‘Fireworks’

In second place – Digitalis x valinii Firebird

And in first place – Sedum takesimense ‘Atlantis’

RHS Chelsea Sedum plant of the year

 

There were so many beautiful gardens and planting schemes, here’s a few more photos from the Show:

Natural gardens:

Bronze medal – The Savills & David Harber garden

RHS Chelsea David Harber Savills garden

RHS Back to Nature garden designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge with Andree Davies and Adam White. No medal as it was an RHS garden.

RHS Chelse HRH Princess Catherine show garden

Viking Cruises: The Art of Viking Garden designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes. Gold Medal

 

RHS Chelsea Paul Hervey Brooks

Further Gardens & Installations

This garden commemorates the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and aims to capture the disorientation and terror of the brave young men landing on the Normandy beach in hail of bullets. It was made from steel washers, and was designed by John Everiss. Stunning and thought provoking.

RHS Chelsea D Day sculpture

I also loved this highland cow sculpture from one of the trade stands – how lovely is he?

RHS Chelsea cow sculpture

This planting combination was by designer Chris Beardshaw – another Gold Medal garden.

RHS Chelsea Chris Beardshaw

I loved the water feature of this perspex panel in the Silver Gilt medal winning garden by David Neale called The Silent Pool Gin garden, with lots of plants used in gin making. Lovely!

RHS Chelsea Silent Pool gin garden

There are still many photos I could show you, but if you would like more details about all the gardens, check out the RHS Chelsea website https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/gardens for more inspiration and ideas.

 


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salvia astrantia corokia

How to create a stylish Alpine Trough

Almeria maritima alpine plant pink flower

If you want a low maintenance but stylish garden, alpine plants are a great option. Most of them are evergreen which means they can provide interest all year round.  Alpines prefer dry and rocky gardens, so an easy way to create the ideal growing conditions is in a trough.

There are lots of plants to choose from, mainly petite and slow-growing and can easily be bought from your local garden centre.

Here’s  three plant ideas to get you started:

Sempervivum

sempervivum

Commonly known as houseleeks, these gorgeous succulents create rosettes of leaves and come in various colours from sage-green to purples which look striking against grey stone or rocks.  They can grow to around 50cm tall when in flower and spread easily by creating off-sets. They love loam or sandy soil in a sunny spot.

Thymus ‘Silver Queen’

Thymus silver queen

Another lovely evergreen shrub and is a culinary herb (which tastes fabulous on your pizza instead of oregano!). It grows to around 20cm tall and has pretty ovate leaves edged in cream. It has dainty pink/mauve flowers in the summer.

Armeria maritima

(photo above) Commonly known as thrift – this lovely pink flowering alpine is an evergreen perennial, with mat-forming dense narrow leaves. It will grow in all soil types too in full sun.  Flowers from May to July.

Other plants you could try are Aubrieta, Cyclamen, Iris reticulata, Tulipa greigii, or Abies balsamea Hudsonia.

Planting an Alpine Trough

alpine trough succulent plants

 

Here’s my step by step guide in creating a beautiful alpine planted trough:

  1. Put the trough/container in a sunny place. Ensure there are enough drainage holes and it is sturdy.
  2. Place a layer of old crocks on the base to help drainage. Then add a layer of gravel. Check the water runs freely through it as alpines don’t like sitting in water logged soil.
  3. Add the compost/planting material. This should be a blend of 1 part top soil, 1 part peat or well-rotted leaf mould and 1 part grit, mix it all together and place on top of the drainage layer. Firm it all down.
  4. Add rockery stones – bury each one to around a third.
  5. Add plants and arrange around the rocks/stones and include a trailer to go over the sides of the trough and water thoroughly.
  6. Cover all bare soil with 2.5cm layer of stone chippings. This helps keep the neck of the plant dry from damp soil.
  7. Watering is necessary in hot and dry weather until the plants are established.

You can join the Alpine Society who provide advice and guidance worldwide. You can contact them via their website www.alpinegardensociety.net

Alpine Garden Society Pershore Sempervivum

Photo: Sempervivum courtesy of Alpine Garden Society, Pershore

 

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purple alliums

Perennials for Pots

perennials for pots border in a box

 

Spring and summer are traditional times to create containers full of seasonal bedding (annuals) to add colour to the garden, however, by using perennials, it can add more texture and interest.

What is the difference between an annual and a perennial?

An annual is grown from seed, blooms, produces seeds, and then dies all in one year. Whereas perennials will last several years – it usually dies back over the winter and regrows each spring.

By planting perennials in pots, you can add structure and height along with lots of texture with different shaped and coloured leaves.

Pots are ideal to fill in gaps in the garden borders and if you’re living in temporary accommodation it is one way to create a beautiful garden that can move with you.

Other advantages of using pots are taking care over winter – they can be moved into the greenhouse, porch or closer to the house for protection. Also you can use different soil which will enable you to grow any plant you choose.

When it comes to planting perennials in containers, it is better to choose a bigger pot due to having larger root systems than annuals, so they require more space to grow well.  It’s also ideal to have pots in odd numbers and different heights which creates further interest and are easier on the eye.

What perennials look good in pots?

Choose plants that have interesting leaves and flowers for long periods – here are three plants that will create a lovely display together:

Heuchera

heuchera in flower

I love these plants due to the colour range of the foliage, the long thin stalks with tiny flowers on top and they simply look great in any garden. They like full sun and part shade and are mound forming so are ideal for the front of a border, or in a pot, clumped with other pots. Variety ‘Plum Pudding’ has striking dark purple foliage with a dusting of silver. *Top-Tip* buy immature plants to make your budget go further – here is an example of a 2L pot compared to a 9cm pot, the juvenile Heuchera will soon mature to the size of the 2L pot.

Penstemon

purple penstemon

Another favourite – especially the ‘Pensham ‘ series. These were developed by Edward Wilson, who sadly died in 2009, but his legacy of Penstemons lives on through Hayloft Plants in Pensham (a local company to me).  An ideal variety to go with the Heuchera is Penstemon ‘Pensham Plum Jerkum’ which flowers from July to October, with tall flower spikes of dark purple with white throats, which are very striking.

Artemisia

Artemesia silver leaf plant

The third pot for an attractive contrast to the Penstemon & Heuchera is Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ with its aromatic, silvery coloured fern like leaves. It’s also semi evergreen so it will remain over winter, but will lose a few leaves. It grows to around 70cm tall and prefers full sun. It will flower in August with small insignificant yellow flowers, which look great with purple.

Other perennials you could use are Salvia’s such as the ‘Caradonna’ variety with dark square stems; Helleborus for spring flowering, and Lavender for it’s amazing scent.

 

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How to create a capsule collection of gardening tool essentials

Burgon and Ball garden tools

Choosing your essential gardening tools:

As there are many new homes currently being built, you may be new to gardening and overwhelmed with the choice of tools available at the DIY store. So to make the decision a bit easier, here are some top tips from my friends at Burgon & Ball on how to create a capsule collection of essential gardening tools.

When it comes to putting together a capsule gardening kit, it’s probably better to talk about tasks rather than tools, since the same gardening tasks are (broadly) universal. We tend to think of five key garden jobs:

  • Cultivating
  • Planting
  • Weeding
  • Cutting
  • Tidying

Each of these tasks happens in different ways across different sizes and types of garden. If you have a compact patio garden, you might just need the smallest option for each task; for example, a trowel for planting. If you garden on a grander scale, you’ll need a trowel for getting close-up and personal with your soil, but you’ll probably need a spade as well, for planting shrubs, digging over veg beds, or dividing rampant perennial plants. Here are Burgon & Ball’s suggestions on the basics in terms of tools, which will help make each of these tasks as easy as possible.

Cultivating

Is all about preparing the ground – breaking it up so you can use it for planting. Depending on the size of your plot, you will probably need a fork.  There are different sizes, depending on your needs:

  • Hand fork for your flower borders, and/or a
  • Large digging fork to break up compacted soil in beds or untended ground.
  • A mid-handled fork can be useful if you have deep borders as it affords extra reach, and it’s ideal for raised beds too, as they can sometimes be an awkward ‘in-between’ height.
  • Tools like a claw cultivator or twist cultivator are extremely effective at breaking up soil ready for planting, or to help with the absorption of water and nutrients, and give an attractive ‘tended’ finish to any unplanted areas.

Planting

Planting is, of course, the fun bit and brings the garden to life by adding colour, texture and shape to your creation.

  • A trowel is essential, regardless of the size of your plot. Choose one that is easy to handle.
  • A spade probably falls into this category as well, even if your garden is fairly compact. Look for treads (folded-over top edges) that will protect your feet as you push down, and a sharp lower edge to slice through the soil.
    • A digging spade is a large spade; a border spade is usually slightly small and lighter, ideal for digging in tightly-planted borders, and also more comfortable for gardeners of smaller stature. Of course, there are a plethora of further ‘little helpers’ – it just depends on how you garden. If you’re planting lots of bulbs in spring or autumn, you might find a long-handled bulb planter or hand-held bulb planter useful. A compost scoop is handy for filling pots quickly. A mid-handled trowel gives extra reach for the backs of borders, or for raised beds. The choice is yours!

NOTE:

Choose comfortable handles that suit your abilities, some tools have extra-long handles (or telescopic handles) to prevent having to bend over so much, such as trowels, spades, hoes and rakes.  Whilst gardening does require some effort, using the right tools will definitely make it easier to carry out.

Weeding

Weeding is a never-ending task for many gardeners, however if you have a densely planted border, this can suppress weeds which not only reduces maintenance, but is also prettier to look at too!

The definition of a weed is a plant growing in the wrong place, and of course some are very pretty, not to mention helpful to wildlife. But left unchecked, they can suffocate your prized plants, take over your lawn and crowd out your crops, so weeding is a must.

A traditional weeding favourite is a hoe, of which there are many designs. In Burgon & Balls 1922 catalogue they offered 96 types of hoe!

For tackling weeds in containers and small spaces, a hand tool like a weeding fork is a great choice, offering precision and accuracy in the tightest of corners – it’s ideal for nooks and crannies in walls and rockeries.

For beds, borders and between allotment rows, a Weed Slice is hugely popular, as it skims below the surface, slicing through weed roots and leaving the soil surface undisturbed. For lawns, their Wonder Weed Puller is lightweight and extracts weeds without bending. Once again, the tools that are most essential depend on the plot you’re gardening.

Burgon and Ball gardening tools

Cutting

Cutting is essential for every gardener, from the precision deadheading of roses to the removal of sizeable tree limbs.

There are two types of secateurs:

  1. Bypass secateurs – liken these to scissors, where there are two blades (top and bottom) – these are ideal for cutting live plants, such as dead heading. It will leave a cleaner cut and reduce the risk of infection.
  2. Anvil secateurs – liken these to a knife, where the sharp top cuts down on to the ‘anvil’ which is blunt. These are ideal for cutting thicker wood twigs and branches.

There are in fact lots of other cutting tools such as hedge shear for extensive soft growth; a saw for heavy-duty cutting, pruning and tree limb removal; and snips for detailed tasks like deadheading and cutting flowers. But I wouldn’t include them in your initial ‘essential’ items to purchase when starting out.

For more delicate trimming and general cutting of twine, compost sacks etc., good garden scissors are handy to have.

For most gardens, some kind of lopper is also a good buy – again, a bypass action lopper is useful for cutting living plant material. These are useful if you have hard to reach plants (due to longer handles) or the thickness of the branches is more than secateurs can handle.

Burgon & Ball secateurs gardening tools

Tidying

And finally, tidying covers ‘just about everything else’ in the garden. From removing moss from the lawn, to tidying up autumn leaves, or clearing debris from under shrubs so slugs have nowhere to hide, a rake is a must-have.

  • Leaf rake – (sometimes known as a lawn rake) this has tines that are fan shaped and can be made of plastic or metal. Ideal for collecting fallen leaves
  • Bow rake – this is usually made of metal and has a shorter, thicker and wider toothed rake, which is used for raking gravel, sand and compost

A good brush will also stand you in good stead – ideal to sweep up any debris and give the finishing touches to your beautifully maintained garden.

Burgon and Ball brushes gardening tools

Whatever the size or style of your garden, and whether it’s fabulously floral or vibrantly veggie… as long as you have these five key garden tasks covered in a way that’s right for you, it’s easy to put together the perfect capsule collection of multi-tasking, hard-working garden tools.

To summarise:

I would include the following items with your essential tools when starting out:

  • Spade
  • Fork
  • Trowel – one for scooping compost and one for planting
  • Secateurs
  • Broom

About Burgon & Ball:

Burgon & Ball offer an extensive range of high quality garden tools for every gardening task. They’ve been creating tools in their Sheffield factory since 1730, and the metalworking expertise of it’s workforce is packed into their tools. These tools combine high quality materials with ergonomic design, taking the hard work out of gardening and making them a pleasure to use, for many years to come.

They are passionate about designing and manufacturing tools to make gardening easier. They are designed in the UK and made to last for many years, with a rigorous testing procedure to ensure consistent quality. And where no tool exists to perform a particular task – they will design one! They are renowned for their investment in innovative new designs.

Their stainless steel garden tool and cutting tool ranges are endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society, one of the world’s foremost horticultural organisations and the UK’s leading gardening charity. They are confident of the quality of their tools: all their RHS-endorsed stainless steel tools come with a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects, with all RHS-endorsed cutting tools carrying a ten year guarantee.

In addition to their RHS-endorsed ranges, they also offer a wide selection of tough tools in high carbon steel; beautiful gift-boxed designer hand tools; and traditional country outdoor tools.

https://www.burgonandball.com/

 

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Helleborus – the Christmas Rose

Helleborus

During the winter months, Helleborus which are commonly known as the Christmas Rose, are a useful and striking addition to any border due to their evergreen leaves and pretty flowers.  They are perennials and are simple to grow.  They flower from December to spring, so are ideal for adding to Christmas containers with some seasonal bulbs and evergreen shrubs such as Pittosporum.

Flowers are predominantly white or cream but they also come in shades of pink, green and dark red, so will fit in with most gardens and are ideal for a woodland setting in dappled shade.  They grow to around 30-50cm, so make excellent front of border plants.

Hellebores pink

If you want a plant that requires little maintenance, then Helleborus are ideal as they really can be left to their own devices and will self-seed too. As they grow, they will create lovely clumps over time. At this point you can divide the clump and create lots of free plants.

Hellebores are fairly tough plants and should survive being divided at all times except when the weather is bad over the winter and/or when they are in full bloom. This means most Hellebores can all be divided in mid to late spring, and if you are not sure what type of Hellebore you have, divide it after flowering later in the spring.

Some people remove the leaves to show off the flowers and new foliage – it’s a personal choice as there is no wrong or right way. However, they can be prone to black spot, so by removing the leaves, it can help the health of the plant. Obviously don’t remove all the leaves, as they are required for photosynthesis.

When choosing a Helleborus I recommend a single flower variety as bees love them (they are an excellent winter food source) and are unable to access the double flowering type.

Problems with Hellebores – Black Leaf Spot

Hellebores are fairly trouble free but they can suffer from leaf blotch which is a common fungal problem. This means the leaves get marked with grey or brown/black marks. The simple solution is to cut off the leaf, or as many leaves as are infected. If the infection is severe cut off all the leaves, the plant should survive.  The plant does not seem to suffer from having many leaves removed and they’re replaced by new ones in the spring. Do not put the leaves in the compost bin as this could spread the fungal infection.

Bear in mind also that Hellebores are a poisonous plant, (humans and pets) and ingestation of root or leaves can cause stomach upsets and for some people it is also a skin irritant.

If you would like a planting plan to help you create year round colour in your garden, use the Evergreen garden design kit.  If you combine it with the seasonal bulbs from the free list and you will have a beautiful garden with year round interest and colour.

Border in a Box Evergreen garden border

Border in a Box Evergreen

 

Further reading: https://borderinabox.com/create-year-round-colour-garden-bulbs/

 

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