The Potting Shed by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

 

Tim Brayford Landscapes – 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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Pots

 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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – The Potting Shed

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I love my greenhouse by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

 

Tim Brayford Landscapes – 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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Cucumber

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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Tomato

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 timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

 

The Wildlife Pond by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Dragonfly

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?

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Bee attracted to wildlife pond

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 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.

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.

Damsel flies are attracted to the wildlife pond

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!

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

Growing Beans on the Isle of Wight by Tim Brayford Landscapes

Tim Brayford Landscapes – 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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Broad Beans

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!’

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Runner Bean Obelisk

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

Tree Guards and Plastic Pollution by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

Tim Brayford Landscapes – 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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes -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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Environmentally friendly Eco Ezee Tree Guard

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes  website   phone 07890 869918 email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

The Garden in Winter by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

 

Tim Brayford Landscapes – A snowy Garden

“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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Vivid Dogwoods

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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Frosty Fern

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

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British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction

The Wildlife Garden by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

Tim Brayford Landscapes – A flowering currant & bee

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”

insect

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Wildflowers attract wildlife

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

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Crab Apples

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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Toad & Ivy

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”

Tim Brayford Landscapes – A visiting partridge gives his approval

Please visit our website or contact us by email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.