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Posted on 5 August, 2014 at 10:24 Comments comments (0)
We can carry out scarification for you using a wire rake or a scarifier. 

‘Thatch’ forms in areas of turf.  Thatch is dead or decaying plant matter which accumulates in turf.This thatch needs to be raked away or removed mechanically.    

Moss can also present a problem in areas of turf.  Lawn weeds are invariably a problem in areas of turf.

We can remove thatch, moss and weeds that have a creeping habit by the process of scarification.  This involves using a wire rake or a scarifier to remove these materials from turf. 

Scarification also lightly prunes grass roots and this promotes growth.  Scarification should be carried out routinely in the spring and the autumn.  Scarification allows air and water to penetrate the surface of the soil.  This in turn allows grass to take up nutrients more effectively. 

We should carry out scarification in the autumn because lawns may not recover if this process is carried out in the spring.  However, we can lightly rake in the springtime.  

2 Ideal Plants for Sunny Locations

Posted on 16 July, 2014 at 17:01 Comments comments (0)
We can source plants for you and plant them appropriately.

Thymus vulgaris (Common Thyme)

Thymus vulgaris is a dwarf, evergreen shrub.  The leaves are small and linear to ovate in shape.  The leaves are dark grey-green in colour.  Common thyme grows to a height of about 30cm.  The ultimate spread of common thyme is about 40cm. Spikes of small, whorled white or pink flowers appear in June or July. 


These shrubs look appropriate in both formal and informal gardens.   These plants are closely related to the wild thyme of the mountains of Spain and other Mediterranean countries so they are ideal for those who want a Mediterranean theme in their UK gardens.  These plants look at home in rock gardens.  These plants are aesthetically pleasing especially during the summer months when beautiful small flowers appear.  

Thymus vulgarisis often used as an edging plant for garden paths.  Their low-lying nature makes them ideal plants for the front of beds and borders.  These plants look nice when used to cover slopes and banks.  Thymus vulgaris looks nice when combined with other herbs such as lavender. 

The flowers of common thyme attract bees and butterflies so these plants are well placed if situated in wildlife gardens.  The leaves of these plants are fragrant and edible so they are often used in cooking.  The rich aromatic smell of these plants combined with their diminutive size make them ideal subjects for patio containers and window boxes. 

Growing Conditions

Common thyme prefers well-drained soil that is alkaline or neutral.  Thymus vulgaris thrives in full sun.  These plants do not like clay soil but they grow well in loamy, chalky or sandy soils.  These shrubs grow well in sheltered and exposed sites. 


It is advisable to apply a general fertilizer annually in late winter.  Common thyme should be cut back in spring.  These plants are very manageable to grow because they are generally pest and disease free. 

These plants benefit from the application of a mulch for a number of reasons.  Mulch suppresses weeds and conserves moisture.  Biodegrable mulches also provide nutrients. 

Young and newly planted shrubs need to be watered persistently, especially during times of drought.  These plants should be protected from frosts during harsh winters.

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ AGM is a bushy, evergreen shrub.  This variety of lavender has a compact shape. These plants have densely packed distinctive, small, fragrant purple flowers that appear on spikes.  The spikes are situated well above the foliage.  They have narrow, silver to grey coloured leaves.  These shrubs flower between late June and September.  They grow to a height of about 60cm.  They grow to a width of about 75cm. 

These shrubs look appropriate in both informal and formal gardens.  They look nice in a wide variety of locations and this helps to explain why they are so popular.  Standard roses are often underplanted with lavender and many people find this planting combination highly attractive. 

These shrubs are often used as an edging plant for paths and borders.  They have celebrated aromatic flowers and foliage that is used for making pot-pourii.  These shrubs are well suited to gravel gardens and Mediterranean gardens. 

These plants attract many insects so they are often chosen by wildlife enthusiasts.  These shrubs are tolerant of the salty air that plants are exposed to in coastal gardens. 

The aromatic smell of these plants combined with their small size makes them ideal subjects for patio containers and window boxes.  These shrubs are often positioned on banks and slopes.  Their pretty flowers make them a good choice for flower beds and borders. 

The grey-green foliage of these plants can provide interest throughout the year because, as pointed out above, these plants are evergreen.  These plants look nice when combined with other herbs such as thyme. 
Growing Conditions

These shrubs prefer well-drained soil.  They should be grown in full sun but they can tolerate partial shade.  These plants can be grown in soil that is neutral or acidic but they prefer chalky or alkaline soils.  They do not like clayey soil.  These plants need to be grown in sheltered locations.


The stalks should be removed, in the autumn, once the flowers of these plants have faded.  These shrubs should be trimmed back into a compact shape in April.  When we prune this type of plant we must not cut back into old wood. 

Lavender should be mulched with non-organic material.  A mulch is useful because a mulch suppresses weeds and conserves moisture. 

The application of a general fertilizer is recommended for shrubs.  Fertilizer can be applied annually in late winter.  Young and newly planted shrubs need to be watered persistently, especially during times of drought. 



Caring for Perennials

Posted on 21 January, 2014 at 18:23 Comments comments (0)
All perennials need caring for in different ways and we will care for them appropriately. However, general rules apply for caring for perennials and I have outlined these below:

Perennials generally need far less persistent maintenance than annuals.  They tend to be hardier plants as their long lifecycle suggests. 
Half-hardy and Hardy perennials
Half-hardy perennials, such as fuchias should be brought indoors during the winter months as cold weather can kill such plants.  They should be lifted when dormant and stored in moist, temperate conditions.  Hardy perennials, on the other hand, do not need to be lifted and taken to an indoor location. 
Well established perennials do not need watering but younger, or recently transplanted, specimens will need watering regularly.  Most perennials will need watering during times of drought.  However, some plants are capable of withstanding droughts such as Dianthus and Geraniums.  
An annual top-dressing of bone meal or slow release fertilizer is widely recommended for perennials.  Those plants that are grown for their attractive foliage such as hostas thrive on an occasional liquid feed during the growing season. 
Weed Killing and Mulches
Mulch can be added to beds, on a yearly basis, containing perennials in order to help the soil retain water and suppress weeds.  Weed killers should be applied sparingly and carefully so that we can avoid damaging our chosen perennials. 
Top-heavy perennials should be supported with a stake in order to keep them upright, especially if located in a windy area.  Staking should be done early in the growing season, as staking later on could lead to plant damage.  Stakes should be raised as plants grow.  Perennials with numerous stems should be supported with a number of canes. 
Dead-heading perennials encourages them to flower again.  Dead-heading makes plants put energy into producing more flowers rather than seeds which are usually less attractive.  Delphiniums and Rhodendrons are examples of perennials that benefit from dead-heading. 
Shoots that are thin and weak can be removed.  This allows the plant to focus on its sturdier shoots.  This can result in the production of larger flowers.  This technique can be used with delphiniums, phlox and Michaelmas daisies. 
The number of flowers on perennials that produce numerous side-shoots can be increased by removing or “stopping” the growing tip of each stem.  “Stopping” avoids plants becoming too tall and straggly.  This technique improves the appearance of plants such as Rudbeckia.
Gardeners tend to prune herbaceous perennials in the autumn so that the appearance of the plants is improved.  Tender perennials must be allowed to keep their foliage until April or May of the following year otherwise they could die.  Old stems protect the crowns of tender perennials from frost.  Penstemons need treating in this way so that they can survive through the winter. 
Pruning herbaceous perennials selectively can allow us to rid the plants of dead and decaying material, whilst allowing them to retain pleasant looking dry flowerheads.  Sedum spectabile looks aesthetically pleasing if pruned in this way. 
Evergreen perennials should not be cut back.  However, dead shoots should be removed during the spring and summer months.  Cutting away dead foliage rejuvenates them and makes them look tidier. 
Dividing Perennials
It is a good idea to divide perennials every two or three years, because otherwise they tend to become too dense and this restricts growth.  Some perennials such as Stachys could do with being divided every year, as they are fast-growing.  It is best to divide summer-flowering perennials in the spring or autumn.  Perennials that flower in spring are best divided in summer when they produce new roots.  There is a real art to dividing perennials and different techniques are favoured for dividing different types of plant.  Divided perennials should be replanted carefully to allow enough space for each specimen to develop.  Dividing perennials gives the horticulturalist the opportunity to clear the area of weeds and add manure or other beneficial products.
Pest and Diseases

Pests such as slugs, snails, aphids and thrips should be kept at bay/targeted by the gardener.  An appropriate fungicide is recommended for perennials that are attacked by fungi.  

Caring for Annuals

Posted on 18 January, 2014 at 19:01 Comments comments (0)
All annuals need caring for in different ways and we will care for them appropriately. However, general rules apply for caring for perennials and I have outlined these below:

Annuals have a far shorter window of opportunity to flourish than perennials so a gardener should focus on them and make sure they reach their full potential during their short lifespan.  Annuals are typically less hardy than perennials; their specific requirements need to be met.  It is a good idea to follow the instructions of a good gardening book in order to know how to care for each type of annual but general standards of care must be met and I will outline these below. 
Hardy and Half-hardy annuals
Annuals can be hardy or half-hardy.  Hardy annuals are able to tolerate periods of frost.  In contrast, half-hardy annuals tend to be incapable of living through periods of frost.  Hardy annuals and half-hardy annuals should be cared for differently.  Half-hardy annuals should be raised in a greenhouse or cold frame and planted out after the threat of frost has subsided.  Hardy annuals, on the other hand, can be sown directly into their desired location. 

Sunny, sheltered locations are ideal for annuals.
Annuals should be watered regularly, until they are established.  It must be noted that annuals have shallow root systems, so unlike many perennials they cannot obtain water from deep within the ground.  Annuals need to receive approximately 1 inch of water, via rainfall or irrigation, every week.  They need to be watered during periods of drought, otherwise they could fail to thrive or even die. 
Annuals should be raised in fertile soils so that they can develop well and become a focal point for the garden.  Exactly the right quantity of fertilizer should be applied.  Annuals should not be over-fed as overfeeding can result in vigorous vegetative growth and limited flower production.  Slow-release fertilizers can be used in order to provide annuals with nutrients throughout the growing season.  The slow release of nutrients avoids the damaging effects of overfeeding. Exactly the right quantity of fertilizer should be applied as if too much fertilizer is applied they may grow too quickly and produce fewer flowers. 

If annuals start to flag, mid-season it is a good idea to apply some liquid feed to bring them back to life.  
Weed Killing and mulches
Weeds compete with annuals for water, light and nutrients so it is important to control them.  It is better to controls weed by hoeing and mulching rather than using weed killers because weed killers can endanger other plants. 
Mulches can be applied around annuals to help maintain water within the bedding area and to suppress weeds.  Organic mulch, such as bark or compost, adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down.

Tall annuals may need staking, especially if positioned in a wind area.  Alcea or Helianthus are tall plants so they often need staking.  Annuals in containers may be supported using canes.  Canes should be put around the diameter of the pot.  Soft string, can then be put around the canes to hold the plants in. 

Most annuals should be dead-headed in the same way as the majority of perennials.  This encourages new flower growth to emerge, as the plants put energy into re-establishing themselves.  However, some annuals such as Papaver will not produce more flowers after dead-heading.
Do not dead-head those annuals that have attractive seedheads, as they will enhance the appearance of the garden.  Hibiscus trionum and Zea mays are plants that fall into this category. 

Clearing the Bed

After the flowering season annuals should be cleared away, once any seeds that one wants to retain have been taken.  Diseased plants should be burnt so that they do not spread their infection.  

Staking Trees

Posted on 15 January, 2014 at 6:21 Comments comments (0)
Large trees need to be staked if planted in windy locations.  We can supply, plant and stake trees of your choice.

Stakes and ties should be checked regularly to ensure that they are still fulfilling their functions.  Ties should be loosened as trees grow so that the growth of trees is not impeded by the force of stakes and ties.  Stakes should be removed once tree roots are firmly established in their new location.  This can take up to about 3 years for standard trees, but we should judge when stakes should be removed on a case by case basis. 

Stakes should be inert once they are hammered into the ground, otherwise they will not be fulfilling their function.  They should be at least 60cm deep.  Tree stakes should be inserted into the prevailing wind, so that the tree is blown away from the stake.  Positioning the stake in this position avoids the tree rubbing against the stake.  Another way to avoid rubbing is to insert spacers in between the stem and stake.

Stakes should be about one third of the height of the tree.  This allows the plant in question to thicken its stem whilst staying firmly in the ground.  Trees with long and flexible stems should be supported by long vertical stakes, however, the stake should be reduced in size by the second year so that the tree does not become too dependent on this support.  As tree planters we do not want to make trees dependent on the stake, but at the same time we want to avoid wind rock. 

Angled stakes are sometimes used.  These are hammered into the ground at an angle.  The advantage of inserting stakes at an angle is that the horticulturalist can avoid disturbing the roots of the tree by directing the stake away from the tree roots.  However, using angled stakes is not a good idea in amenity areas because people could trip over them. 

Double and Multiple Staking

It is necessary to use two or three stakes in windy locations.  Double staking is the standard method of supporting container-grown and root-balled trees.  Two stakes are positioned opposite to one another or three stakes are positioned at equal distances around the plant.  Long ties are used to hold the stem firmly in an upright position.  Alternatively a timber crossbar and tie can be used to hold the stem in place.  The stakes are set further away from the plant that single stakes.  This enables us to avoid disturbing the rootball.  

Winter Digging

Posted on 1 January, 2014 at 17:16 Comments comments (0)
Winter Digging

1)     Breaks the soil up and relieves compaction

2)     allows air to enter the soil.  In other words, aerates the soil

3)     Ensures annual weeds are buried and killed

4)     Exposes pests to natural predators

5)     Exposes rough soil to winter frosts which break it down

6)     Helps to improve drainage

8)     Loosens top layer of soil which facilities planting crops

9)     Allows plant roots easier passage through the soil

During winter digging compost can be dug into the soil to ensure great growth in vegetable patches, beds or borders in preparation for the next growing season.  

Plant Classification

Posted on 1 January, 2014 at 16:38 Comments comments (0)
I am often asked how plants are classified.  Here is how it works:


A botanist called Carl Linnaeus devised a scientific way of naming plants in the 18 century.  This method is still used today.  Botanical names are written in Latin and are understood by horticulturalists throughout the world.  Plants with common ancestry are given a name called a family name.  A family usually contains a significant number of genera.  Plants in the same family often look entirely different so the horticulturalist is often surprised to learn that two entirely distinct plants evolved in this way.  For instance, the family Rosaceae contains the genera Prunus and Rosa, yet plants from each of these genera tend to look entirely different.    This tells us that the Rosa ‘Crimson Shower’ is in the same family as Prunus lusitanica and this is quite surprising.  Rosa ‘Crimson Shower’ has large red flowers and few leaves.  In contract Prunus lusitanica has small white flowers and numerous large leaves. 

Individual plants are given a first name and this is called the ‘genus’.  Plants of the same genus will have a common ancestry, hence they share many characteristics.  The genus always is Latin and always begins with a capital letter.  An example of a genus is HebeHebes vary considerably in appearance.  For example the Hebe armstrongii looks considerably different to the Hebe ‘Autumn Glory’.  However, these two Hebes are similar because they are both compact bushes.  As we can see plants of the same genus are similar but still entirely distinct. 

A plant is given a second name called the species.  Plants of the same species share similar characteristics, as they have a common ancestry.  Plants of the same species are able to breed amongst themselves.  The species name is in Latin and it is descriptive of the plant.  The species name may tell us the colour of the plant as in Digitalis purpurea (foxglove).  Purpurea is Latin for purple and foxgloves are in the Digitalis genus.  In the same way the name of the species may inform us about the plants habitat.  For example, Fagus sylvatica (Beach Tree) tells us where the plant likes to grow because sylvatica means ‘forest loving’.  Species may also be named after the country of origin as in Mahonia japonica, which is unsurprisingly from Japan.  Species can also be named after their growth habit as in Rubus fruticosus (bramble).  Fruticosus means bushy in Latin and reflects the growing habit of Rubus fruticosus.  In addition species can be named after the discoverer of the plant in question.  For example, Darwin discovered Berberis darwinii (barberry) so the species name of this plant is darwinii

Plants can have many varieties.  Varieties can be formed naturally or through selective breeding.  Varieties that are formed through selective breeding are called cultivars.  An example of a variety that occurs naturally is Fagus sylvatica purpurea.

Cultivars are produced by selective breeding.  Cultivars are created by horticulturalists and botanists to ‘improve’ the characteristics of plants.  Many ornamental plants are cultivars that are breed to improve the form and colour of their flowers.  Philadelphis coronarius 'Aureus’ is a cultivar which has attractive bright, golden leaves that turn soft greenish gold towards the end of the summer.  Plants are selectively breed to increase yield, improve flavour, resist disease, increase vigour and so on.  The cultivar name is chosen by the breeder, hence this name is in the breeders own language.  The cultivar name comes after the species name and it is always in inverted commas.  The cultivar name often refers to the name of the breeder.  For example there is a plant called Verbena ‘Lawrence Johnston’.  This is named after the famous garden designer and plantsman Lawrence Johnston.  The cultivar may also refer to the way the plant appears.  For instance, Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’ appropriately has a red and delicate flower.

Hybrids are formed when two plants of different varieties, species or genera reproduce.  This can occur naturally or as a result of selective breeding.  They sometimes have highly desirable qualities.  Horticulturalists and botanists produce hybrids to ‘improve’ the quality of plants.  Hybrids may look more attractive or produce better or more seeds and so on.  Hybrid rice has dramatically increased rice yields in China because it grows vigorously.  When two plants of different species reproduce they create a hybrid called a interspecific hybrid.  Tilia x europeae is an example of an interspecific hybrid.  We know this because a ‘x’ is positioned between the names.  When plants of different genera cross-pollinate the resultant hybrid is called a bi-generic hybrid.  These hybrids have a ‘x’ placed in front of the genus name.  An example of a bi-generic hybrid isx Osmaria burkwoodii.  

Planting Scheme

Posted on 15 December, 2013 at 9:34 Comments comments (0)

We will create a permanent bedding area for a wildlife garden.  It will be a shrub border because all the plants we will plant are woody perennials.  In addition the plants that we plant will attract wildlife.

The bedding area is south facing with a wall positioned to the north of it.  Hence, the plants will exposed to a lot of sun.  The soil in the bed is well-drained, sandy soil.  We have chosen plants that thrive in these conditions. 

The bedding area will be informal as this is appropriate for a wildlife garden.  Plants will be set out in an informal, yet aesthetically pleasing way.  No neat lines of plants, or circles of plants will be planted.  There will be no attempt to create symmetry within the bedding area. 
The flowers, leaves and fruits within the bedding area will vary in size, shape and texture.  Purple, blue and white will be the main flower colours within the bedding area during the summer months.  

Tall and dense plants, such as Taxus baccata will be positioned towards the back of the bedding area so that they do not obstruct ones view of the bedding area.  Shorter plants, such as Rosemarinus officinaIis ‘Severn Sea’, will be positioned further away from the wall.  However, we will avoid focussing on these factors too much because we want to create an informal look. 

Cratagus monogyna and Viburnum tinus ‘French White’ will be planted in front of Taxus baccata.  None of these plants will be planted so as to make a pattern as we intend to create an informal display.  Cratagus monogyna will be positioned towards the centre of the bedding area. 

Clumps of Rosemarinus officinaIis ‘Severn Sea’ will be positioned on the outside of the bedding area because it is a low growing plant.  If planted behind other shrubs the Rosemarinus officinaIis ‘Severn Sea’ may be shielded from view. 

Numerous Buddleias will be planted towards the front of the bedding area.  We will plant Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ alongside the Buddleias throughout the bedding area. 


We chose plants that are good for wildlife.  The plants we have chosen provide nectar for flying insects.  Some of the plants provide fruits for birdlife as well. 

All these plants thrive in the bedding area we have chosen.  The well-drained soil that is subject to lots of sunlight allows the plants we have chosen to thrive. 

We chose some plants that have blue and purple because these colours look pleasant next to each other as these colours are neighbours on the colour wheel.  Blue and purple are cool colours and this helps to make the bedding area look bigger, hence more substantial.  In addition these cool colours have a restful effect.  White serves to break up the colours somewhat.  In a similar way, the grey stone wall behind the shrubs makes the flowers and leaves stand out. This will make the bedding area have a harmonious look throughout the summer months.  Red will be a predominant colour throughout the bed during the winter months. 

One of the reasons why we chose Taxus baccata was because this plant keeps its leaves during the winter hence it creates interest throughout the year.  It looks significantly different from the other plants we have chosen, and therefore stands out well in the bedding area.  It has distinctive narrow, leathery leaves that are arranged on two rows on the shoots.  We located the Taxus baccata next to the wall because it is a very dense bush and would obstruct ones view of the bedding area if positioned in front of other plants.  Taxus baccata is good for wildlife because it can provide winter cover and nesting places for garden birds.  In addition its red berries provide winter food for many species of bird.  The dark background created by the Taxus baccata will help the white flowers of other plants to stand out well. 

A Cratagus monogyna was chosen because this provides interest throughout the year.  White flowers in spring give way to red fruits in the autumn.  The leaves of the hawthorn are deeply lobed, hence they contrast well with the leaves of other plants in the bedding area.  Cratagus monogyna are excellent plants for wildlife because they provide numerous berries for birds during autumn and winter months.  Cratagus monogyna was positioned near the centre of the bedding area because it provides interest all year round; it has pretty flowers in the spring and then pleasant looking fruits in the winter months.  Hence, it deserves a focal position within the bedding area.

A Viburnum tinus ‘French White’ was chosen for a number of reasons.  It has white flowers in winter and this will add interest to the bed at a time when many plants provide little interest.  Viburnum tinus ‘French White’ have ovate leaves and these contrast well with the leaves of other plants within the bedding area.  I positioned the Viburnum tinus ‘French White’ towards the back of the bed because otherwise its thick foliage could shield plants from view.  This plant has white flowers in the spring as well and they will sit well with the white flowers of the hawthorn.  The leaves of these two plants vary dramatically.  Taxus baccata is a conifer with flat needle-shaped leaves.  In contrast the Viburnum tinus ‘French White’ has quite large
We chose Buddleia ‘Lochinch’ for many reasons.  It’s arching branches and long, thin, grey-green leaves contrast well with the other plants in the bedding area.  They have flowers positioned on distinctive elongated panicles, providing a unique sight for this bedding area. Its purple flowers will sit well with the blue flowers of the Rosemarinus officinaIis ‘Severn Sea’ because purple and blue are neighbours on the colour wheel.  They attract many beautiful insects that visitors to the garden can admire. 

We chose the low growing Rosemarinus officinaIis ‘Severn Sea’ because we wanted to vary the height of plants within the bedding area.  It has aromatic leaves that stand out because of their unique form.  We planted this plant towards the front of the bedding area because it is a low growing plant so if planted behind taller plants it would be shielded from view.  The blue flowers of the will look pleasant alongside the purple flowers of the Buddleia ‘Lochinch’ because blue and purple are neighbours on the colour wheel.  Rosemarinus officinaIis ‘Severn Sea’ is very good for wildlife because it starts to flower in early spring, providing an early nectar source for treasured insects such as bees. 

We selected Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ because it has lovely red stems during the winter months, a time when bedding areas can look a little bleak.  It’s white flowers will go well with the white flowers of the Cratagus monogyna and Viburnum tinus ‘French White’ bushes.  The leaves of this plant will contrast well with the predominantly dark green leaves of the other bushes.  The leaves are grey-green, white margined and ovate in shape. This shrub provides fruit for birds in the autumn. 



Posted on 11 December, 2013 at 11:54 Comments comments (0)

A fascinating relationship has developed between roots of many plants and a fungi called mycorrhizae.  Mycorrhizae are symbiotic fungi that live in close association with many plants.   Mycorrhizae can be applied to roots in order to help plants to draw up nutrients, water and minerals.  Plant roots provide carbohydrates for mycorrihizae that grow on them.  Mycorrhizae fungi increase the ability of roots to draw up nutrients from the soil.  Mycorrhizae are much smaller in diameter than roots and this enables them to provide a larger surface area for absorption.  In addition mycorrhizae release enzymes into the soil that dissolve nutrients enabling plants to take them up.  It is a good idea to add mycorrhizae to soil when planting trees or shrubs as it increases the ability of the roots to draw up nutrients thereby helping plants to settle in their new locations.  Mycorrhizae release enzymes into the soil that dissolve nutrients enabling plants to take them up. You can buy mycorrhizae from garden centres in powder form.