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.

Advertisements

The Potting Shed

The potting shed was full of old fashioned charm.  I didn’t appreciate it at the time. What sixteen year old would? It was built of rough bricks in a warm shade of red with a slate roof. A wooden door was on the left hand side, its bottom edge ragged from rot and rodent’s teeth. There was a window set into the brick under which grew a neat row of Box. Closely pruned for making wreaths. Stepping through the door was like going back to 1872 not 1972. A mixture of stone slabs, brick and concrete made up the floor.  An ‘economy job’ as the boss used to say, ‘left-overs from something else’. All the gardening hand tools were hung on the left hand wall on square ended cut-nails. The wooden handles worn dark and smooth by decades of sweaty hands. Hoes and rip hooks made from proper forged steel which took an edge. Spade blades and fork tines worn down from years of use in stony ground.

 The walls had once been lime-washed. Dust had accrued on the rough surface and a fine grey lace of old cobwebs hung between the wall and the exposed wooden roof beams. On the right hand side were planking shelves. These were stacked with flat pack cardboard boxes variously used for tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries. They stuck out over the edge of the shelves and looked in imminent danger of falling off, but force of habit kept them there. There was a stout wooden workbench under the window, its surface covered with a rough grey blanket. Here, tomatoes were graded, wreaths were made and seeds were sown. The potting shed was never used for potting.

 Handy stuff was pushed out to the corners of the bench. A selection of old jam jars held florist’s wires, fine rusty dust gathering in the bottoms. They made a musical, metallic jingle when moved. A ceramic pot held pens and pencils. Odd amounts of wire were curled into circles and stood propped against the window frame. An old metal Oxo tin, its colours turning into rust, held a selection of small wooden dibbers for pricking out bedding plants. I became notorious for putting them down and then forgetting where I had put them. One of my workmates carved me a mahogany dibber with a hole in the end, through which he threaded a piece of string. He hung it round my neck like an Olympic medal causing much laughter from everyone else. I still have the dibber thirty odd years later, minus its string.

The roof beams were low enough to touch and all sorts of small items were hung there. Bags of elastic bands, bags of bags and string, lots of small bundles of string. These were a speciality of the boss’s father. He was affectionately known as the ‘Old Chap’. Well into his eighties he would shuffle out from the house around eleven in the morning and cast his pale, watery blue eyes over the contents of all the glasshouses. This took him some time as they were on quite a steep hill. He would tweak a plant here, move a tray there, and pick up string. He finished his tour of inspection in the shed. He would stand at the bench and slowly wind the bits of string around his fingers. Taking the long end he tied the bundle through the middle and put a loop in the end. He then selected a nail on the beams and hung it up. It sometimes took him a couple of goes as his aim wasn’t good. There was all sorts of string, from hairy sisal to orange binder twine. And there they hung, a flutter of bizarre butterflies. Job well done, he would adjust his flat tweed cap more firmly on his head and shuffle back indoors for his lunch.

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.

 

The Joy of Bulbs

I love daffodils. There, I’ve come out and said it. I like the good old common or garden yellow ones. Not very fashionable I know, but I love the big yellow heads nodding in the spring sunshine. They always look good under trees and in clumps in borders but I wouldn’t attempt them in pots, they tend to flop about too much. I like the smaller, lighter ones here, not the real miniatures they are better in with alpines or the front of a border. One of my favourites is ‘Jetfire’, these are gorgeous in tubs. I plant half a dozen in a 9 inch terracotta pot and the proportions look just right when they flower. The pots are placed up the edge of the front door steps and cheer us up for weeks.

A couple of years ago I tried something different in my wall baskets under the living room windows. I usually leave these empty in winter as winter pansies and primroses don’t seem to like the extra exposure that the height brings and I planted ‘Jetfire’. They were brilliant. Their bright heads popped up far enough to dance along the bottom of the window, allowing us to enjoy them even in rough weather.

Still, daffs aren’t the only bulbs and I have a penchant for big, bold tulips as well. Deep red, bright pink but not yellow, the daffs supply that! I love big bellied pots with big bellied tulips, they just seem to go together. Have you ever gazed into a wide open tulip? Fabulous.

Bluebells are beautiful, particularly if you can manage a woodland setting for them, but if not try to find them a sheltered spot under deciduous shrubs as they will not appreciate too much heat.

Snowdrops are another little beauty and they need to be where you can appreciate their early flowering. Don’t hide them away in a part of the garden that you never visit in winter or there’s no point in growing them!

Well, these are just a few of my favourites and if you look through the catalogues the choices are endless, try some. Experiment with something different. I can guarantee you will pace around the garden peering into pots and borders waiting for the first shoots.

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.

The Garden in Winter

“O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth.”
–  John Davies, 1570-1626,  Ode to the West Wind

The garden in winter can seem to be a bit of a quiet place with not much appearing to be  going on, but with a little forethought and careful planning it can become quite busy.

Winter flowering shrubs such as Winter Jasmine and Mahonia Japonica provide seasonal blooms, Daphne mezereum Rubrum is particularly fragrant. The evergreen leaves of Viburnum Tinus and Ilex aquifolium Golden van Tol provide some structure along with the vivid orange red berries found on Pyracantha hybrida Mohave or even the bright turquoise blue berries found on Viburnum Davidii. Colourful stems may be found on Dogwoods such as Cornus Alba Sibirica Westonbirt and Willows such as Salix Alba vitellina, both of which may be cut back to create fresh shoots in the spring.

Hardy Cyclamen are early bloomers and Snowdrops will soon be making their presence known. In milder areas early Daffodils such as February Gold are harbingers of the approaching spring , whilst in the herbaceous border the Christmas Rose Helleborus Niger is an early flowerer.

A good starting point is to observe your garden on a reasonably bright winter’s day, walk around it and see if the general structure or any vistas may be improved, don’t forget to take into account what may be seen from indoors as well.

Do not be afraid to replace ailing plants or those that have become too vigorous and any that have otherwise disappointed you. Look out for carelessly discarded litter and items such as garden furniture that have decayed past the point of usefulness and now just look plain ugly. It is all too easy to overlook these sort of things and spoil the appearance of an otherwise beautiful garden.

Make an action plan for what you are seeking to achieve in your garden, it can be very useful to record you observations in a notebook for future reference, especially if you intend to spread your improvements over several seasons. When this is done you will be best placed to proceed to putting your plans into action.
By Tim Brayford

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.

The Garden in Spring

The Garden in Spring

“And so befel, whan comen was the tyme
Of Aperil, whan clothed is the mede
With newe grene, of lusty Ver the pryme,
And swote smellen floures whyte and rede,
In sondry wyses shewed, as I rede,
The folk of Troye his observances olde,
Palladiones feste for to holde.
Geoffrey Chaucer

The lighter and warmer days of Spring is when the garden really seems to burst into life. As early flowering bulbs such as Snowdrops begin to fade they will soon be superseded by Daffodils, Narcissus, Bluebells and Tulips, to name but a few.

As the ground begins to warm and dry it is the ideal time to plant container grown trees, shrubs and herbaceous, the task will be made all the easier if much of the preparatory work has already been done in the preceding Autumn and Winter.

At this time some may be tempted to plant bare rooted specimens but late plantings of these often result in a failure to thrive and it may be better to wait for the dormant season to return again towards the end of the year.

Around Easter time many people will venture out to a garden centre and stock up with whatever happens to be in bloom, shrubs such as Flowering Currant, Forsythia and Pieris seem to be particular favourites along with herbaceous like Aquilegia, Dicentra and Epimedium.

The results of this may be seen for years to come when their gardens produce a brilliant floral display for a few weeks in the Spring and regrettably little else during the rest of the year. If prior consideration is given to drawing up a more balanced planting plan that spreads the flowering season then this hazard may be avoided altogether.

Now is the time to turn your attention to the lawn. Take a light cut as soon as conditions are favourable, a dry day is best, with your mower on its highest setting. Rake up fallen leaves and spilled clippings removing moss with a spring-tined rake as necessary. Brush away worm casts and lightly roll. As the weather continues to warm up apply a combined weed and feed treatment. If any areas appear to be a bit thin scatter some good quality lawn seed and consider new turf for larger patches of bare lawn.
By Tim Brayford

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

The Garden in Autumn

autumn roller

“When the frosty kiss of Autumn in the dark
Makes its mark
On the flowers, and the misty morning grieves
Over fallen leaves;
Then my olden garden, where the golden soil
Through the toil
Of a hundred years is mellow, rich, and deep,
Whispers in its sleep.”
Henry Van Dyke

Autumn is probably the busiest season in the garden and is an excellent time to reinvigorate planting schemes.

As late summer blooms begin to fade cut down the spent flowering stalks of herbaceous plants, dividing and moving crowns if necessary, fork in organic matter such as leaf mould whilst doing so.

Plant spring flowering bulbs such as Daffodils and Tulips, those of Snowdrops may also be planted now but may be more successful if planted in the green next spring. Summer bedding can be replaced with winter flowering Universal Pansies and Polyanthus “Crescendo”.

Early preparation for and ordering of bare-rooted plants can be wise as this will allow them to be planted in early November before the worst of the winter weather sets in.

The Autumn flowering Cherries – Prunus subhirtella “Autumnalis” (white) and “Autumnalis Rosea” (Pink) are one of the few trees that will start to blossom at this time of year and there is much to be enjoyed with the vivid leaf colours of Acers such as the yellow A.Campestre or the orange and red of A. Rubrum., and likewise for shrubs such as Viburnum Opulus. The Virginia Creepers have good autumn colour too, Parthenocissus quinquefolia “Engelmannii” is a particularly good variety.

Many trees and shrubs will be bearing attractive fruits and berries, although the reds of plants such as Cotoneasters and Pyracanthas seem to predominate Yellow and Orange varieties may also be found. The red and orange fruited Malus John Downie looks particularly good at this time of year as do the large red hips borne by Rosa Moysii “Geranium”.

Just after the fruits have been picked and the leaves have begun to fall is a good time to prune Apples and Pears, remove weak, damaged and crossing over shoots and branches to allow light into the centre of the tree.

Brush fallen leaves and other debris from the lawn, raising the mowing height for the final few cuts.

By Tim Brayford

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.

The Garden in Summer

clematis2 (2)

“That beautiful season the Summer!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
And the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Summer is the time that all the hard work and planning of earlier seasons comes to fruition.

The long days and balmy evenings will see the traditional English country and cottage gardens at their best, with earlier flowerings of Poppies, Delphiniums, Peonies and Aquilegias to be followed by Hostas, Japanese Anemonies, Rudbeckias and Heleniums to name but a few.

Cutting down the stems of early plants such as Lupins may lead to a second blooming in late summer and dead heading repeat flowering roses such as the fragrant “Claire Austin” is beneficial.
The fresher air in the evening is perhaps the best time to enjoy sweetly scented Honeysuckles and Nicotianas

Bright and colourful summer bedding like Geraniums and Busy Lizzies can highlight decorative tubs whilst Petunias and Nemesias may be found in hanging baskets. Keeping a few Begonias to hand in pots can be a useful way of plugging any gaps that may appear in herbaceous borders until a more permanent solution can be found in the autumn.

Watering may become necessary during a prolonged dry spell, a thick organic mulch will help to retain moisture and if seed free deter weeds from germinating. If the lawn starts to turn brown raise the cutting height of your mower and cut less frequently.

Watering is best done at night when evaporation is less and there is little risk of scorching or better still install some sub-surface irrigation.

Do not be afraid of pruning back plants that are starting to obstruct paths or gateways and do make a note of any possible changes or improvements for future reference.

By Tim Brayford

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.