Planting a garden

 

Planting is a very personal thing and here at Tim Brayford Landscapes we understand this. One client will love a neat scheme of box topiary whereas another will long for a coloured tumble of cottage plants. A lot will depend on the amount of time a client has available to spend in their garden which is why initial discussions are so important.

We are experienced in all types of planting from semi-mature conifer gardens to neat, colourful beds in a courtyard garden. All require a lot of thought and careful planning to succeed. Plants have differing needs and consideration is given to soil type and location before suggestions are made.

We have undertaken a large cottage garden with a formal paving structure which contained herbaceous perennials, roses and shrubs to great effect. A back garden which had structured shrub planting with bark chip underlay closer to the house and a more naturalised wild garden further back. This had native trees and was under-planted with clumps of spring bulbs and wild flowers.

Most recently we planted an extraordinarily steep terraced garden with shrubs and perennials which would give cover for most of the year therefore reducing the amount of mountaineering necessary!

Hedging is an emotive subject with neighbours but there are alternatives to the dreaded Leylandii. We have completed successful projects using several different types of hedging in estate situations as well as mixed native hedging for those in more rural or spacious locations.

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email info@timbrayford.co.uk or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

Advertisements

Apples and Pears

 

The Quick Guide to Winter Pruning

If in doubt…Don’t! Well, you have to agree, that was quick. But I think we can do better than that. Apples and pears will quite often fruit reasonably well if you just leave them alone but they will get to a stage where overcrowding of branches and disease will cut down the on the reason we grow them; the fruit.

Why do we prune? We need to prune to encourage fruiting ‘spurs’, clear out any dead or diseased wood and generally shape the tree to an attractive form. We’ve all seen children’s drawings of trees, generally a cup on a leg, and for ordinary bush forms, which is what we shall deal with here, that’s not far off the ideal.

Stand back and take a good look at your tree. Is it the shape you want? Does it interfere with paths, buildings etc? Don’t be afraid to tackle it, you’re the boss!

Taking out branches which cross over the middle of the cup is a good idea as it keeps the air moving through the tree when it’s in full leaf and helps to prevent fungus diseases. If your tree has several branches in this position remove only one or two each winter as a severe removal of a large mass of branches will result in the tree producing a lot of compensating growth the next year and very little fruit. The same goes for branches which need to come out to improve the shape. Remove any branches which are diseased or have died back to where you are sure the growth looks clean.

RULE 1. Stagger removal of large branches over several winters.

RULE 2. Cut cleanly, using a pruning saw or good loppers,leaving a very small ‘stub’, which should heal over by itself.

Now come in close and look at one major branch at a time to assess it’s fruiting ability. Most varieties produce fruiting spurs which are clusters of small, knobbly twigs with fat flower buds on.(Growth buds tend to be thinner and pointed) What you are aiming for is a framework of  branches with a good coverage of spurs.

What you may have are branches covered with lots of whippy growth about 6 to 12 inches long (showing my age there I’m afraid!), these will need to be shortened to two buds long, in other words  where two leaves were in the summer. If  it is very crowded you may need to remove some altogether, spacing them out along the branches about 5 to 6 inches apart is good. These will then start to produce flower buds over the next summer.

RULE 3. Shorten small whippy growth to encourage fruiting spurs.w

This is a much simplified guide to winter pruning but it gives you the basics to tackle your fruit trees, if you decide to pursue this topic further there are many good books available or call in an expert, we’ve been keeping trees performing well for years!

Word of Caution – If someone comes to prune your fruit trees with a chainsaw, show them the gate… If that’s what they need then they’re taking off too much!

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email info@timbrayford.co.uk or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

I love my greenhouse

 

I do, I really do. What do I love about it? Well for starters there’s the smell. Warm, wet, leafmould and compost. You tip up the watering can on a warm day and the water sinks into the humus rich soil and within a few seconds it’s released a wonderful earthy odour that holds the promise of growth. The greenhouse is so full of promise in the spring. Everything has the potential to be a success.

Seed sowing is a great activity for a cold blustery day. I can slide back the door, nip inside quick and shut out the bad weather. With the heater going I perch on a stool and fill small trays and pots with compost that’s been warming up over the last few weeks. I find it pays to get bags of compost early, store them in the greenhouse and when you want to use them they’re not totally soggy and freezing cold. I keep my seeds in biscuit tins, the deeper sort that crackers come in are good. In December I’ll go through the seeds that I have left from the previous year and chuck out the ones that are probably too old to germinate well. Then I order what I need from a catalogue, that’s a good bit of armchair gardening for a rainy day too! I have dividers made from a cereal box, which are labelled with the months January to July, which fit across the tin and I sort the packets into the months they are to be sown. I find that if I don’t do this during a quiet time then when spring really gets into it’s stride things are so busy that something gets forgotten.

I have a couple of ‘window-sill’ propagators on a shelf and they are invaluable, bottom heat gets things started so much quicker. If you want to get things going early then electricity is a must in the greenhouse. The thrill of a new season starts when those little shoots start unfurling in the trays. I love going to the greenhouse every morning to see what’s come up. Then the game of musical plants starts. For a couple of months I have pots and trays on shelving, makeshift benches or on the ground. It’s too cold outside still and there’s just so much of everything. I swear that growth can be smelt in the air, particularly tomatoes. Just brush a leaf and the pungent odour is with you.

At last the weather warms up and the tougher things destined for the outdoors anyway can be moved out to a sheltered spot. I can space things out, start to dismantle the benches and think about planting the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. I grow all these in the same greenhouse, some people say you shouldn’t. Or can’t. But I have found over the years that with a little improvisation you can grow them together, after all, who has the luxury of several greenhouses?  The toms and peppers like the sunnier side and the cucumbers benefit from a bit of shade, I’ve found that a strip of horticultural fleece hung on the southern side of the cucumber plants works well. So, they’re planted out and they sit there for a few days, looking like they’re doing nothing. But the roots will be burrowing into the humus rich ground and suddenly they’re off! Rich green leaves are doing an impression of Jack’s beanstalk and spotting the first embryonic cucumber or the yellow blossom of tomato becomes the thrill of the morning visit.

The best thrill of all comes when I go into the greenhouse and cup my hand under a ripe tomato, gently twist upwards and take it off the plant. The flavour from that fruit will remind me why I go to all this trouble every year. Oh, I most definitely love my greenhouse.

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email info@timbrayford.co.uk or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

 

Paving, Walling & Raised beds

Raised beds

Good garden design should include elements of paving and walling that enhance the overall effect of a garden as well as being practical. Different gardens lend themselves to different materials. Here at Tim Brayford Landscapes we believe discussion with the client is an important part of deciding these choices.

We are experienced in all types of materials but particularly popular are reclaimed materials  such as brick, flagstones and stone walling. These are very successful in helping a garden to look mature. New materials, such as Sandstone paving, lend themselves to paving schemes where more regularity is required. Paths in new or old brick will give a mature ‘cottagey’ effect as will natural stone walling.

Some of our latest schemes include a courtyard garden with raised brick beds, sandstone paving in a walled garden laid out in a geometric design, and a terracotta tiled terrace. We have also undertaken a difficult, steeply sloping site which required a curved set of steps leading to a decking viewpoint patio incorporating front beds. The design of steps is very important to ensure the correct ratio of step to riser and firmness of construction is crucial.

The use of gravel has become very popular and paths using paving stepping stones surrounded by gravel can be a way of reducing maintenance. Raised beds made from new railway sleepers were made for a recent garden scheme and the paths between were made from gravel over a compacted base layer.

A good mix of paving & walling

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email info@timbrayford.co.uk or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

           

            

Growing Beans

I love beans. Any sort of beans. The amount I grow throws out my crop rotation. First in line are broad beans. I know some people say they are coarse but they obviously let them get old. I sow, for preference, in late October or early November. With nets across the top to deter the birds and mice who like them as much as I do. Up they come, a great big patch of them in blocks which hold each other up. The scent when they burst into flower is surprising and the bees love them. The anticipation of running a thumb and finger down a fresh green pod to see how big the beans are getting is only surpassed by actually popping it open. I pick carrier bags full from the allotment and settle down on the sun-lounger  to the pleasure of podding. Tea at hand and the wheelbarrow to take the waste. Colander on my lap and the radio on. That gentle ‘pop’ and peel down the edge to reveal beautiful pale green beans nestling in their downy beds. Cooked and cooled with a little garlicky olive oil dressing, bliss.

Well that’s my annual ‘starter for 10’ and then I move onto the serious business of climbing beans. I’ve been getting a bit adventurous lately and have taken to growing some of the Heritage beans available to Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library members. Members can chose varieties that are no longer available, or indeed legal, to sell as they have been removed from the European List. I’ve started to grow a wide range of climbing French beans, big ,fat purple pods, little pods with pregnant bumps, flat speckled ones and all come with interesting names and histories. Blue Coco, Mrs Fortunes, Madeira Maroon. And the beauty of the frenchies is that you can save the seed and become self sufficient in them. Anyone who thinks all beans taste the same should try some of these. There’s the smoky flavour of the purple podded Blue Coco and the squeaky freshness of Extra Hatif de Juillet.

Runner beans hold top position as the traditional favourite. These are the beans of my childhood. My mother could dish me up a plate of mashed potato and sliced (longways of course) runner beans and I’d be as happy as a pig in a mud pond. It’s an iconic view of the English summer garden, red flowers teeming with bees as the speedy plants twine their way up hazel poles. The sheer volume of production can’t be beaten and the taste is superb, no matter what the French say…

To end the season there is the crop of dried beans. I was a bit sceptical when I first tried these. There was some head shaking from the ‘die hard’ department on the plot, accompanied by sharp intakes of breath. ‘They’ll never dry properly here’. Well they do, even in the damp years. I’m careful when I pick, making sure that the pods are dry. I don’t wait to pick them all together but harvest in two or three sessions. You start to get a feel for the pod, when it’s ready it’ll be papery and crackly to the touch, if there’s still a hint of softness it’s not ready. I finish drying by laying them out in old mushroom trays under cover. When I pod out the beans I put them in a ceramic bowl in the kitchen. I leave it uncovered for several days and every time I pass it I run my hands through and turn them. There’s something very satisfying and tactile about it.

Well, there you have it, I’m bean mad but the family wolf them back and there’s never yet been the cry of  ‘Oh No! Not more beans!’

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email info@timbrayford.co.uk or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

Watergardens

A formal water feature

 

A water feature adds tranquillity to a garden and here at Tim Brayford Landscapes we have experience of a wide range of imaginative uses. Construction of water features needs to be spot-on as water levels are very unforgiving and can show up any mistake. This makes preparation work for any potential pond very important and the use of a laser level is a normal part of our routine. Consideration needs to be given to what the client wants from the water feature, do you want the sound of falling water, to make a formal ‘statement’ or have a calm reflective surface?

One of our recent projects was a formal centrepiece fountain with a ‘catching’ surround pool but we also do garden ponds. Over the years we have constructed many ponds aimed at encouraging wildlife using skilful planting of native and non-native species to attract as wide a range of insect and bird life as possible. The marginal area for this type of pond requires careful planning too, possibly lining an area for bog plants to ensure that the whole thing sits at ease in the garden. Ponds for keeping fish have different requirements and we can install filtration and aerating equipment too.           

Water features are increasing in popularity. The sound of water is very soothing and many clients like to have a water feature near a seating area. We have built water-falls and streams that are   pump powered as well as water ‘spill-over’ rocks which need an underground reservoir.

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email info@timbrayford.co.uk or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

Garden Plastics – Good or bad? (1)

Tree Guards

Tree guards

The function of the tree guard is to help to protect the newly planted tree from damage by the grazing action of herbivorous animals and also by the careless use of strimmers. However after a few years when the trees have become well established these guards are superfluous and if not removed can damage the tree causing stunted growth.

All too frequently the guards have long been forgotten about. The manufacturers may have reassured you that over time their guards will flake into small inert particles but even this can be problematic. Unfortunately these small pieces of plastic may blow around in the wind and some might land in watercourses, eventually ending up in the sea contributing to world-wide oceanic plastic pollution.

Plastic Pollution

There are alternatives to conventional plastic guards, of the more established products galvanised welded wire mesh has stood the test of time, however they are comparatively expensive and still need to be removed after the tree is established.
Amongst the latest products are those based around biodegradable natural resins and polymers, and those based on recycled paper such as the “Eco Ezee”. Until the use of these becomes more widespread it is not possible to see which of these will prove to be a better alternative to the older more conventional tree guards.

Eco Ezee Tree Guard

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes  website or contact us by email info@timbrayford.co.ukor phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.