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.

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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

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“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.

The Wildlife Pond

Large wildlife Pond

The trouble with having a wildlife pond is that I supposedly ‘waste’ a great deal of time watching it. It is the most fascinating habitat in the whole garden. I have had mine for about five years now and the first inhabitants, pond skaters, arrived within an hour of it filling up. Since then we have had Damsel flies, Dragon flies, Water Boatmen and lots of other unidentified little bugs that skitter and wriggle about in its depths. The icing on the cake came last week when my 8 year old (another essential ingredient for ponds by the way!) dipped his net in and found a newt. That’s the thing about ponds, if you get it right you don’t have to stock it, it stocks itself.

So what makes a good wildlife pond? Firstly it must be deep enough in the middle for creatures to overwinter successfully, mine is about three feet deep with a shallower shelf around the edge. I used a butyl liner with the correct padding underneath, it pays to get this bit right as a hole in the liner is an expensive mistake to rectify. The edges have a gentle slope and because mine abuts the lawn I laid turf over the edge to hide the liner. I then did something that a lot of gardeners would hold their hands up in horror at, I chucked some clay soil (devoid of stones) into the bottom. Well, those newts have to have something to spuddle about in, don’t they?

Be choosy about the plants you want to have in your pond. I chose native plants as far as possible, although I did succumb to a small, white waterlily . My favourites are Watermint, Brooklime and Water Forget-me-not. Avoid really rampant growers such as the yellow Iris, Bull rush and Canadian Pondweed in your pond as these will soon choke it. I made use of the wet clay soil behind my pond to plant yellow Iris as well as Purple Lythrum and Meadowsweet. I planted the pond lily in a pot but everything else I anchored under the turf edge or weighed them down in bunches on the shallow shelf to do their own thing.

wildlife-pond-small

You can get as artistic as you like with decorating the outer edges to attract residents and visitors. I chose a couple of semi-rotten large branches to drape over the back edge and dip right into the water and these have been a great hit with all types of birds as bathing and drinking perches. Insects love the flowering plants around the outside and in winter finches feast on the seed heads.

My pond is never going to be the tidiest and, yes, I do get some duckweed and blanketweed (a revelation in itself when you see what takes up residence in it) but it most certainly is one of the busiest.

And don’t forget that essential item a Garden Seat!

By: ‘Er Outdoors.

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.

Wildlife Gardens (2)

The Wildflower meadow

“This lucid fount, whose murmurs fill the mind

The verdant forests waving with the wind

The odours wafted from the mead, The flowers

In which the wild bee sits and sings for hours

These might the moodiest misanthrope employ

Make sound the sick, and turn distress to joy”

(Garcilaso de la Vega, 1501 – 1536)

 

For those fortunate enough to have sufficient space, be it an under used  pony paddock, hay field or even a larger sized lawn there is the opportunity of establishing a wildflower meadow.

Wild flower meadows were traditionally areas of unimproved grassland that were kept for hay making rather than being constantly grazed. In consequence these open sunny areas have played host to a broad range of grassland flora and fauna and are important feeding zones for Bees and other pollinators.

insect2

The pressure to raise agricultural production during the 20th century led to the loss of these biologically diverse areas as grassland was improved, fertiliser added and vigorous cultivated species such as Italian Ryegrass sown.  In the past 100 years up to 97% of these traditional hay meadows may have been lost.

With a growing realisation of the value of wildflower meadows a growing number of people have become enthusiastic about re-establishing them on land that they own and in some cases there is funding available through Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme, details of which may be obtained via their local offices.

But funding is only part of the challenge of establishing a new meadow, past agricultural practices which have been successful at raising yields of grass grown may be the exact opposite of what is now required.  Bold steps may have to be taken such as destruction of the existing sward by ploughing or with herbicides, fertility reduced by removing hay or silage several times in one growing season and sowing parasitic Yellow Rattle to weaken the grass further.

Meadow Cranesbill

It is only when conditions start to become unfavourable to grass growth that sowing of wildflower seeds  becomes advisable and even then do not expect instant results.

As these plants are of unimproved origin the seeds may not all germinate together and there may be some unwelcome intruders such as Ragwort, Nettles and Docks which will need attention.  Maintenance tasks will need to be attended to with a cycle of late summer hay cuts followed by light grazing of the aftermath and again as growth commences in the spring after the ground has been rolled or harrowed.

When your wildflower meadow has become established you will be able to enjoy the marvellous scents of the flowers and the sight and sound of the creatures that have come to live in the naturally bountiful grassland that you have created.

Wild Flower Meadow in May 1

 

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.

 

Wildlife Gardens (1)

Well before wildlife friendly gardens became fashionable Tim Brayford Landscapes was in the forefront of their design and installation on the Isle of Wight.

Here a grateful client recounts her experience.

She had bought a pair of run down country cottages in a rural setting complete with badly overgrown neglected gardens.

She said that “I simply could not visualise what to do with the garden and although I am keen gardener I am not  very knowledgeable” so she turned to us for help and said “Tim picks up on what I want and makes it better, we work together and he makes suggestions as to what might work”

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The cottages are built into a slope so it was necessary to integrate level grassy areas into steeper banks, our client was concerned that her grandchildren might slide down these banks when the grass was wet. She wanted to create a natural break and barrier.

We suggested edging the area with Box hedging planting inside with ground hugging plants including Geraniums, Campanulas and Pulmonaria.

Our client was pleased that we had” translated her ideas into reality and wanted an easy care garden that also put something back to the countryside, but had to be practical regarding maintenance”

crab apples (2)

 

It was important to her that wildlife should be encouraged with habitat for visiting birds and butterflies. We suggested putting in a small wood as with careful management this could be established in a confined space. We planted Silver Birch, Rowan, Crab Apples, Sweet Chestnut and Hazels together with indigenous Cowslips, Bluebells and Snowdrops, whilst Common Orchids naturalised in the surrounding grass.

Fragrant climbing Roses and Honeysuckles attract insect life to some trelliswork and overall our client is delighted with the rich variety of wildlife visiting her garden, these include many different birds and butterflies and Dormice may even be feasting on the Hazel nuts.

She commented ” I still cannot believe I wake up in the morning and see all this. It is my idea of heaven”

wild flower meadow 2

Please visit our website or contact us by email info@timbrayford.co.uk or phone 01983551412 or 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.