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Roots and Shoots Gardening Club Home page

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Pruning Buddleia

A few gardening tips which may be of interest to you that have been put forward by our members. Before you set to work on your buddleia - loppers and secateurs poised - make certain yours is the type you should be brutal with. There are three main types of butterfly bush or buddleia. Buddleia davidii (and hybrids like 'Lochinch') is the buddleia most of us know with the long purple racemes in July and August. Then there's Buddleia globosa with strange orange. globular flowerheads, and Buddleia altemifolia with delicate, arching stems of flowers. Buddleia davidii and its hybrids are those that need pruning with some degree of viciousness, so enjoy yourself These flower on the new season's wood and grow like billy-o, so you have to get tough. First take out all the dead, damaged or weak growth. You might have a job to spot this in the thicket of stems, so start from the outside and work in. If the bush has got totally out of hand, then take out the worst of it and go back for a second, more ruthless, session. Cut back all of last season's shoots to within one or two buds of the previous year's growth. Choose a pair of vigorous, sprouting buds that are at a suitable spot on the framework. If it's a complete thicket you may need to take out some of the older woody stems, but don't be afraid to set to with a pruning saw. You'll be amazed how many shoots suddenly spring out from lower down the stem. You can go easy on B. alternifolia which flowers on shoots produced during the previous season, so pruning is usually done after flowering in July. The flowered branches should be cut back to vigorous young growths developing further down the main stems. B. globosa needs more care, as it does not produce replacement growth as readily as B. davidii and its hybrids. Pruning should be kept to a minimum and should really be carried out to improve the shape the shrub or to remove dead wood.

Making the right move.

Most of us at one time or another plant too closely or in the wrong place which makes it necessary to move mature plants. Many gardeners are nervous of moving a large and established plant, but it will be better for the plant, and its neighbours, which could be smothered if the plant is left where it is, and for the overall look of the garden. Whether the plant you are moving is large or small, the job should be done when the plant is dormant, so autumn or early winter, before the weather gets too cold is a good time, as long as the ground is not too wet and waterlogged. Before making a start on digging out the shrub, prepare the new planting position by digging out a hole large enough to take the rootball and incorporating plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Dig a trench around the plant just beyond the extent of the shrub's branches,cutting through any woody roots, then use a fork to loosen the the soil around the rootball. To make the work simpler and the plant easier to handle, if practical first tie up the branches to leave the base of the plant clear and the top more compact to handle. Using a spade or fork dig out the rootball again cutting any large roots that are anchoring it in position, and slide some sacking underneath and wrap it around the rootball. You may need a friend to help you manoeuvre the plant onto the sacking and you will certainly want help to move the plant. For heavy plants it may be easiest to move them by positioning a strong piece of wood through a knot in the sacking and using this to lift the plant into its new position. Make sure it is planted to the same depth as before,then backfill, firm, water well and mulch.

Lilies

HOWEVER SMALL your garden, find a corner for a few lilies. They give such good value with their huge blooms and heady perfume which are produced right at the high spot of the summer. There is a huge choice of varieties available in garden centres and bulb catalogues so spend a little time thinking about the height and colour before you buy. The shorter varieties often don't need any staking at all if you grow them close to twiggy shrubs. Taller varieties will give hollyhocks a run for their money and definitely need support from 6ft. (2m) bamboo canes to keep them upright. The golden rule when planting lilies is to give them plenty of drainage. As they're loose, open bulbs, they can easily rot if water doesn't drain away freely. If you have a clay soil add in plenty of grit and crumbly compost to keep the soil around the bulbs from packing down. If you want to play safe, put a half an inch layer of grit beneath each bulb too. Plant your bulbs in clusters at about two an a half times the height of the bulb and three times the bulb diameter between each bulb. Also pop a few in a pot, as they will make a fragrant display in summer

Summer Pruning

Prune any trained apple and pear trees to control growth and help fruit development. Laterals growing from the main stem should be cut back to three leaves beyond the basal cluster, while those from the spurs should be cut back to one leaf above the basal cluster. It's beneficial to prune gooseberry bushes back after harvest. This will open up the bush, let in more light and improve air circulation. Cut the current season's growth. back to five leaves and remove shoot tips that have been affected by mildew or aphids. Mock orange bushes (Philadelphus) flower on short laterals on wood produced the previous year. So prune the bush immediately after it has flowered, cutting back to a healthy, well positioned new shoot. Older forsythia bushes benefit from renewal pruning. After flowering, cut out the oldest wood down to ground level or prune it to a strong, new shoot. Always use clean, sharp tools for pruning. If you are cutting out diseased wood, remember to clean your secateurs before going on to prune healthy plants.

Tidy that Rockery

Alpine plants can be vulnerable at this time of year, particularly when fallen leaves collect on top of them. To prevent rotting check regularly, clearing away debris and leaves as they accumulate. Lightly fork the soil around alpine plants to improve drainage before the worst of the winter rain. This helps to aerate the soil and stops it becoming waterlogged. Use secateurs to tightly cut back mat forming plants where they have grown to cover rocks. Cut out any dead stems or old flowerheads as part of the general tidy up. Apply a top dressing of crushed stone or gravel around plants to act as a mulch. This will help maintain good drainage around The crowns of the plants and prevent soil splashing onto leaves and flowers. For a natural look choose gravel or stone chips which are the same colour as the rockery stones. Angular chippings look better than shingle. Fill any big gaps in the planting with alpines, dwarf shrubs or conifers. Low-growing heathers can also be used in the rockery as well as small bulbs.

Winter care of Houseplants


THERE are many different types of houseplant and they each have their own preferences and peculiarities, but there are a few general rules that apply to most plants when it comes to winter time. Winter care begins when you go out to buy your plants. It is essential to make sure they are well wrapped before taking them home. This is important to help protect them from the sudden drop in temperature they will experience when taking them from a warm shop out into a cold street, even for just a short journey. If possible, make sure that the wrapping covers the top as well as the sides of the plant. In winter when natural daylight is much reduced, keep your houseplants in as light a position as possible. A bright window sill is ideal, as long as it does not let cold draughts through. Itís always important to try and keep plants away from draughts, which can result in sudden leaf fall, but in winter it is even more important because of the greater temperature difference between your warm living room and the cold outdoors. Most houseplants will require less water during winter, but this doesnít mean that you can forget about watering them altogether. The warm and dry environment created in centrally heated homes means that they will still need some water, so check pots regularly. In general, feeding should be stopped or substantially reduced throughout the plant's resting period during the winter. finally, give your plants a little extra care by cleaning the leaves. Houseplants accumulate significant amounts of dust which as well as spoiling the appearance of the plant will reduce the amount of light and carbon dioxide that get through to the plant. If the leaves are very dirty, dust them first, then simply support the leaves in your hand and sponge or syringe them with clean water.





Clean up that shed

Itís surprising how many accidents happen in the garden, especially in greenhouses and sheds. So look through what you've got in your shed. You might have fertilisers, plant food and other products past their sell-by date or old and broken tools or machinery which have seen better days. Be prepared to ditch anything that no longer has any use. Give the shed a good general clean by removing cobwebs, sweeping the floor and brushing down the shelves with a stiff hand brush. Clean windows to remove grime or algae. Once you've had a good clean up itís easier to see what needs repairing or replacing. Check shelving, shelf brackets, storage boxes, doors, windows and the roof for signs of wear and tear and sort out all those mending jobs you've been putting off. Wash out containers, pots, seed trays and equipment which isn't being used. Store them in a clean and good condition to avoid the spread of bacteria. They'll also be ready for use when you next need them. Sort through and reorganise your shed. leave the floor space clear for access, hang up as many tools as possible and donít overcrowd shelves to avoid breakages, and those accidents and strains

Nearly Hardy

There are a number of plants which, although they are not fully hardy in the frostiest weather and on heavy clay soils, can survive mild winters outdoors. These include Verbena bonariensis, Salvia uliginosa, (Piture) Anisodontea capensis and of course some of the less hardy fuchsia varieties. Now that the soil is beginning to warm up, the days are Lengthening quickly and with daytime air temperatures often exceeding 15ļC, these plants will be starting into growth. So nowís the time to cut back last year's stems to encourage strong growth from the base. The old stems should have been left in autumn and throughout the winter to give the roots some added protection from frost. Look carefully at the old stems for signs of buds low down and cut back to these if they are present. If there are none showing, then prune the stems to 6in. from the base. Use a sharp pair of secateurs to make clean cuts. After pruning, lightly fork the surface of the soil at the base of the plants and sprinkle about 1oz. of a balanced fertiliser around them.

Beautiful but Deadly

Many of our garden flowers and shrubs are poisonous or harmful if eaten. Unfortunately they are also very beautiful or carry tempting looking fruits. So I will list a few for this article and give you some more in some of the future newsletters. The first is the common Lupin (Lupinus). This is a plant that is grown in many gardens and will self seed easily, but the seeds and pods of the lupin are poisonous if eaten. The Next is the well known shrub, the Elder (Sambucus Nigra). The berries of this plant are used to make elderberry wine, which is fine, but if eaten raw the tempting looking black fruit is poisonous. The Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum), Now common for sale in many garden centres has a sap that contains a powerful drug, so if your cutting them donít put your fingers in your mouth until you have washed your hands. Yew (Taxus baccata) is a popular hedging plant, but the lovely red berries, and also the leaves are very poisonous to humans and animals. One plant that we all know is the Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum). We have probably all eaten cooked rhubarb at some time, either with custard or in a rhubarb pie. But the leaves or in fact any of the plant eaten raw are toxic. The Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is another plant that is grown in many gardens, but once again the leaves and seeds of this plant are toxic and should not be eaten. The last one for the moment is the Monkshood (Aconitum). Although this is widely grown in many gardens it is one of the most poisonous plants that we may come across. Although I have given a warning about these plants, (and there are many more), Please donít let it stop you growing them because as I have said many of them are the most beautiful plants you will have in your garden. Just be a bit careful when handling them, in fact any plants. Always wash your hands well before eating food and never, ever put plant material in your mouth, and be especially careful when you have children in the garden.

Plants for problem places

Problem areas in your garden, such as damp patches or awkward shapes, are often overlooked as prime planting ground. In fact, there are a wide number of plants that thrive in challenging places. So over the next couple of months I will try to write about a couple of these. Planting under trees often get ignored, as it's wrongly assumed that nothing will grow in such dry, shady conditions, but geraniums can flourish there. Geranium macrorrhizum effectively smothers weeds, and produces clear pink flowers from late spring to early summer. The broad, lobed leaves are strongly aromatic, and you can soon establish a large area of them. Geranium phaeum is also tolerant of dry shade, and gives dark purple flowers from late spring into autumn, and broad, evergreen leaves. G phaeum album has pure white flowers with golden anthers. Another for underplanting trees is Euphorbia robbiae, which gives lime-green flowers from spring to early summer. It can become rather invasive, so plant it where you can't get anything else going. Ferns make a beautiful contrast to other foliage and seem particularly appropriate in shade. Most require free-draining soil with lots of organic matter, although some tolerate dry shade. Dryopteris filix-mas is not truly evergreen, but lasts into winter. Aspienium scolopendrium (Hart's tongue fern) is evergreen. Its strap-like fronds reach up to 55cm. Other plants suitable for dry shade include pulmonaria, polygonatum (Solomon's seal) Iris foetidissima and vinca major and minor.

More on Summer Pruning

The warm weather in April this year encouraged plants to start shooting early, while all the rain through May and June provided them with plenty of moisture to support masses of stems and leaves. The down side to this was the lack of sun as this tended to draw the growth, making it rather spindly and tax. July is an important pruning month for many trees, shrubs and climbers, both ornamental and fruiting varieties. By cutting back the soft growth that has been made during the current growing season, it is possible to encourage a more compact habit. In addition, this soft growth contains nitrogen and by pruning this off now, growth can be slowed down and flowering encouraged. As a rule of thumb, summer pruning can be used on spur-fruited apples and pears, evergreen ornamental shrubs and woody plants which bloom before the end of June, such as philadelphus, weigela and forsythia. However, species which flower between July and the end of September, such as buddleja, lavatera and hydrangea, should be left unpruned until the dormant season as summer pruning is likely to remove flower buds. Cutting back the soft growth of deciduous shrubs, such as the golden-leaved Philadelphus coronarius aureus, will keep it more compact and encourage masses of stems and foliage to make the most of its golden-yellow leaves. Cut out some of the oldest flowered wood from the plant, too, to promote strong shoots from the base which should bloom next year. On the remainder of the plant, simply trim back this year's growth to three or four buds from the base, above the point at which the stem is starting to ripen and become woody. Such pruning also has the added benefit of reducing the leaf area of the plant so that it loses less water from its foliage and encourages stronger root development.

Beautiful but Deadly 2

This is a follow-up of the article I did a couple of months ago listing common plants we grow in our gardens that although beautiful may be harmful if eaten and in some cases just touched. Even the common Buttercup (Ranunculaceae family) Frequently found on your lawn are potentially poisonous because they contain a compound called protoanemonin. Another plant is the Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) This shrub is commonly seen in parks and often found in borders of gardens. St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Found in grassland, hedges and open woods as well as gardens. This plant causes photosensitation in areas of unpigmented skin, so that when exposed to sunlight they become red and irritated which leads to rubbing and possible infection. Often used as a hedge the Yew (Taxus baccata) is probably the most poisonous tree in Britain. The poison is not reduced by wilting or drying, so that clippings and fallen leaves are as toxic as the fresh plant. The poison is the alkaloid taxine, which affects the heart. One mouthful is enough to kill ! One of the most beautiful garden shrubs is the Daphne mezereum. Exotically-scented the Daphne has been a much loved garden favourite for centuries. With the onset of winter, this deciduous shrub erupts into life with an explosion of colour. Masses of purple-pink flowers festoon its spreading, bare stems from December through to early spring, followed by fleshy red fruit. It is these berries that are poisonous. A few berries can kill a child. Alstroemeria. The hardy Perennial with exotic lily-like blooms, is known to cause allergies. Hydrangea macrophylla. The flower bud is the most poisonous part of this common shrub. And finaly the common Tomato Lycopersicon lycopersicum that we all grow. The leaves, vines, and sprouts of the tomato if eaten can cause symptoms such as headache, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea,

Bamboos

If you are thinking of planting some species of bamboo then take care , some bambooís can cause havoc by creeping outwards in every direction. Their tough rhizomatous roots inch silently across the garden, and suddenly they've taken over. If you decide to plant a bamboo, be cautious. There are plenty of good, clump forming varieties that are easy to keep in check. But the invasive ones are best grown in a pot or container. I have from time to time had requests for advice on invasive bambooís which have outgrown their welcome or popped in from nearby gardens. One gentleman on our website said he had planted a bamboo cutting a couple of years ago, and it has already spread through several shrubs, and he canít get rid of it. It was probably Pleioblastus humilis, a real beast. I could only tell him the best thing I know if a bamboo does get out of hand in your garden try to dig out the roots, which are fairly shallow, going down about 10in. You must get every single bit out, or the plant will grow back. or you can use a powerful weedkiller like SBK Brushwood Killer. If bamboo roots are coming from next door, the only answer is a physical barrier of concrete slabs or corrugated metal sheeting sunk into the soil. The shallow roots don't usually get past. But don't worry about growing bamboo, just be sure to choose clump forming varieties, or grow them in pots.

Tulips

Tulip bulbs are sold dry, ready for planting from the early autumn, but it pays to delay planting in November. To ensure good flowering performance, plant bulbs at a depth equal to three times their height. Good soil drainage is vital. There are lots of different spring bulbs, of course, but tulips have been adored by gardeners for hundreds of years, and they are unrivalled when it comes to providing great swathes of colour early in the year. Also when it comes to form, tulips come in dozens of shapes. There are the simple singles, and fabulous doubles. There are tall ones, short ones, multi-headed, double-flowered or goblet-shaped. In fact, the choice of tulips today is almost as wide as the range of Dahlias. There's still time to get a pick of the best mid to late season bulbs for next spring and early summer. Growing them couldn't be easier. just plant a few of whichever ones take your fancy into a container and you'll have a display of flowers in just a few months from now. Iíve searched through a few catalogues and will give you a few which I know or sound really good. First try Tulip elegans 'Alba', It has white petals edged with wine coloured markings. The variety 'Ballade' is a similar colour, though the colours are reverse, with burgundy petals that bleed into creamy white. 'White Triumphator' has untouched white petals while 'Queen of Sheba, has red and yellow upward-pointing petals. The Darwin hybrids are reliable forms, planting can take place as late as December. ĎBurning Heart' is one with raspberry ripple marked petals, and 'Banja Luka' has orange with red edges. Fringed forms are showy, 'Blue Heron' is a shade of blue-pink with soft snipped edges. 'Burgundy lace' is a full-on red, while 'Fancy Frills' is pink and white and 'Swan Wings' is as the name suggests white. Then you have the double late varieties like 'Carnaval de Nice', a concoction in red and white, 'Mount Tacoma', white with flicks of pink and green, and 'Uncle Tom', One of the most vibrant reds. Single lates are often taller than the others and have larger flowers. 'Blushing Lady' has two shades of orange. 'Abu Hassan' has yellow edged, deep red petals, while 'Maureen' has white, egg-shaped blooms. 'Queen of Night' is dark, claret red in colour and 'Pink Diamond' is candy floss pink. Finally we have the viridifloras, 'Artist' is a strange one being green, yellow and orangey-red and 'Esperanto' has predominantly red petals flamed with white, overlaid green on the outside. 'Spring Green' is creamy white and lime green, while 'Greenland' Iím afraid is not to my taste being hydrangea pink, green and pale yellow , ugh. There are many others like multi-headed and dwarf types which I wont go into, but whatever takes your fancy, try some for some spring colour.Beware of tulip fire disease which leaves flowers and foliage looking scorched. If it strikes your plants, dig them up and burn the bulbs and don't plant tulips on the same site for 3 years. Spraying emerging plants with a systemic fungicide.

Winter Climbers

Why does everybody think that during the winter and early spring that only things like daffs, tulips and polyanthus can be grown in our gardens. Many other plants will add interest. There are climbers that will add height and elegance to your winter garden, and some will give colour and fragrance as well. So train some of these up a wall or fence, or use them to disguise sheds and outbuildings, or let them simply ramble over deciduous shrubs that look less than inspiring off-season. One of the most under used climbers is the evergreen Clematis armandii. Its flowers are like bone china, cup-shaped and white, and their blooms are deliciously scented, too. But donít be fooled by that dainty exterior, though, this plant is as tough as old boots and is a really vigorous climber. Clematis cirrhosa is another. They will grow very quickly to around 10ft. and have evergreen leaves, coloured bronze underneath. The creamy flowers are flecked with ruby splashes, and a named variety 'Freckles', is widely available. This one later produces red berries. Honeysuckle is another winter bloomer. Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty' produces plenty of beautiful white and yellow flowers along purple stems from mid-winter to spring. These have a wonderful fragrance the same as their summer cousins. At 6ft. tall, this is a great climber for a house wall. Jasminum nudiflorum, or winter jasmine, has slender arching stems bare in winter but the flowers more than make up for this. Yellow trumpets give off a heady scent as they flower along green shoots. It grows to around 10ft. high, but itís well behaved. Parthenocissus tricuspidata, is called the Boston ivy, beautiful, but beware It can grow to 70ft. Leaves glow every imaginable shade of crimson. Fabulous if kept under control. Anyway I hope I have given you some ideas for something extra for your winter garden.

Growing plants from seed

Growing plants from seed is one of the easiest things to do. Just follow a few simple rules and you'll find most seeds are easy to grow. Agreed some can be a little more difficult, but even these can be grown if you follow the instructions on the packet. You can sow seeds in any container that will hold compost and has good drainage, but make sure it has been thoroughly cleaned to avoid risk of disease. Peat or fibre pots are good for large seeds of plants that dislike transplanting, as they can be planted out, pot and all. Soak the pots well before adding compost, as a dry pot will draw the moisture out of the compost. You can use good compost. This will be sterile, free of weed seeds, have the right texture and contain the right amount of fertiliser for seedling growth. Donít be tempted to use garden soil, as this will contain all sorts of nasties. Multipurpose composts might be lumpier and if so put it through a sieve if you have one. The compost should be gently firmed into your pot or container to remove air pockets. Silver sand, vermiculite or perlite can be mixed in to aid drainage, although I donít bother. Always use fresh. Water the compost and allow it to drain before sowing. You want the compost even and moist. Don't sow seeds in dry compost then water as this can wash them into clumps, or cause damping off disease. Very tiny seeds should be sprinkled evenly over the surface of the compost. Mix them with a pinch of silver sand if they're difficult to handle or you can even use sugar, but not salt. Evenly space larger seeds, singly, over the compost. The bigger the seed, the more space each one will need. Some seeds need light to germinate, it will tell you on the packet. Don't cover these with compost. Others should be covered with about their own depth of finely sieved compost. Always label the container with variety name and date sown, then put it in a propagator if you have one, or else you can seal it in a clear plastic bag and place it on a warm, bright spot but out of direct sunlight. Remember some seeds germinate in a few days, others take several weeks, so don't be too impatient. When the seeds germinate spray the compost with Cheshunt compound to prevent damping off.

Gravel in the garden

Gravel has two main uses in the garden. It's great for making paths, and is a superb mulch which gives a natural looking surface that's not too dominant. Gravel can be used to make an open walking area in a Mediterranean type garden, bedding it on a well-firmed layer of hardcore or hoggin. A membrane on top of the hardcore before it is laid will stop weeds growing for a couple of years, but where leaves fall and rot on the surface there will eventually be enough organic matter to allow weed seedlings to grow. Try to remove the young weeds by hand after a shower of rain, which allows them to be pulled up without breaking the roots. But if there are some dandelions and other perennial weeds that become established, Its difficult to pull these up without leaving pieces of root behind, and these will regrow. Instead spot treat the foliage with a systemic weedkiller based on glyphosate which will be taken up into the plant and transferred down to kill the roots. They'll eventually shrivel and die to give a weed-free gravel bed for the summer.

Tired Garden?

When the end of August arrives gardens can start to look a bit tired and because most of the flowers have gone over the top, rather green. August is notorious as the month when many gardens lack colour. The best thing is to try to anticipate the parts of the garden that will lack colour, and plant out bedding plants and tender perennials to fill any gaps, but if there are still areas that look uninteresting there are still things you can do. There are all sorts of ways to dress up borders, either with foliage or flowering plants for the remainder of the season. You may have conservatory or houseplants that could be used for this, or permanent planters of shrubs that may be moved into the border. Alternatively you could pot up some annuals and stand these among the border plants. The easiest method is simply to stand potted plants on the surface of the soil where they can be hidden by the surrounding foliage growth of other plants, but you'll have to remember to keep the containers watered. Most pot-grown plants have the advantage of being tall, thanks to the added height of the container, and this lifts them above the surrounding plants in the border. Free-standing pots can be secured in place with three or four canes pushed into the soil around the edge of the container, and held with string or wire. Tall pot-grown specimens can be plunged into the soil by digging out a hole in the border and planting the pot in the soil. This has the added advantage of keeping the compost moist in the container and keeps them stable to prevent the plants from blowing over in strong winds. Leaving the plant in the pot also avoids root disturbance and allows it to be simply lifted from the border at the end of the season. And, of course, you can plant out bedding or other plants at this time of year, but you'll have to keep them well watered or they'll be prone to drying out in hot sunny weather. Dressing up your gardens gives you an instant effect and, if you get tired of the plants in the place you have chosen, you can always move them around easily if they are left in their pots.

Plug Plants

Many people including me now order by mail, baby plug plants. Itís a lot easier and just as cheap as sowing seeds. I have always had good results from them and will continue to buy them in. I think they are good value, but there are a few steps to take to ensure they grow into healthy plants. Most important is to remove the plants carefully from their packaging as soon as they arrive. Check for signs of damage and remove any broken leaves and shoots. Pot them on as soon as you're able, but if you can't straight away you should still take them out of their boxes. delaying even a day or two can lead to wilting or the foliage showing signs of rot. As long as they're ventilated, watered and kept in a bright, warm environment they should be happy for up to two weeks. You can plant the larger ones straight into pots or baskets, but for the small early arrivals you will be better starting them off in individual pots or modular trays. Water the plugs an hour or two before trans planting, and make sure the potting compost is clean and not old stock and has been allowed to reach room temperature to avoid any check to growth. Handle your young plants carefully to avoid damage. Plants in trays can be pushed out carefully with a dibber. Keep your plants well spaced-out and water regularly with a half strength liquid feed. Turn them around occasionally to ensure they grow upright. When they are big enough, before planting into containers or garden beds, acclimatise them to outdoor temperatures, but keep them protected from frost at all times.

Protecting Bananas and Tree Ferns

A few years ago we would not have dared grow a banana plant in the garden. But nowadays everybody's growing them! You don't get the fruits as our summers are neither long nor hot enough, but you will get a great foliage plant with huge paddle sized leaves on a tall trunk. There are two varieties Musa basjoo and Musa sikkimensis. Both can Withstand being left outside if put to bed before the frost can really get at them. Frost turns them to a pile of mush. So wrap them up for winter. Trim the lower leaves off your plants, stick three canes in the ground around the trunk, then wrap this in several layers of horticultural fleece tied on with string. Pack straw inside the fleece around the trunk. To protect your tree fern wrap horticultural fleece or roof insulation material around the trunk and push some straw in the crown of the plant. Everything must be tied In firmly so you don't have to have to rush out in the depths of winter.

RHS Advice

A good place to start if you require advice is to contact gardeningadvice@rhs.org.uk If they don't know I don't know who does! Our club is an associate member of the Royal Horticulture Society. There are lots of tips on this page of all sorts of plants etc. ENJOY!

Useful Plant Encyclopedia Website

I can recommend the following Website for useful info on plants you may want to find out about. www.plantpress.com/plant-encyclopedia

Heating Greenhouses

If you want to save tender plants, and have a greenhouse, it might be worth thinking about winter protection at this time of year and the ultimate piece of winter kit to do this is a heater. There are lots of models and fuel types to choose from. I've put together a small list of some of the methods available. There are as I say many fuel types, but the main three are - Electric heaters: Initial installation of an electricity supply can be costly and if you get a qualified electrician to do it, it will be quite expensive. I think if you do it yourself properly like I have done , it can be safe enough. I used armoured cable and fitted an RCD unit at the switch. Mine has been running now for many years with no trouble. Units can be attached to a thermostat for total temperature control and no harmful bi-products are produced. Because they give a dry heat, there is less chance of rot like botrytis getting a hold. Heater prices cover a wide range of anything from £20 to £250. Next are Paraffin heaters: They don't require any specialist installation but they do need regular re-filling and wick ≠trimming. It's quite difficult to control the temperature and as burning paraffin gives off lots of water vapour and various gasses, adequate greenhouse ventilation is essential. Thereís also the added aggravation of having to go out to buy the paraffin. Heater prices though are very reasonable, roughly between £10 and ≠£70, but really they are only suitable for smaller greenhouses. Finally there are Gas heaters: Units really need installation by a qualified, preferably CORGI registered, fitter and use either propane or natural gas to be safely used. Both can give off water vapour and gasses so your greenhouse must be well ventilated. They can be fitted with thermostatic control and flame failure devices. Heater prices are not cheap, Being roughly between £60 and £200. Of course if you donít fancy any of these, there is always horticultural fleece, which will give quite a good bit of protection, but will not allow you to do cuttings till the weather warms up.

Scrubs and Trees, taking cuttings

Shrubs and trees can be expensive plants to buy yet with a bit of patience, you can easily grow your own plants for next to nothing. Hardwood cuttings, taken during the plant's dormant season, are one of the simplest ways to propagate many deciduous garden trees and shrubs. You can take cuttings any time between mid-autumn and early spring, with the most successful times being at leaf fall and just before bud break. Most cuttings will have developed a strong root system after a year and then they can be potted up and grown on or planted out in the garden. Select material from ripe, one or two year old growth. Choose strong healthy, straight stems of about a pencil's thickness and showing plump buds. Remove any leaves and the soft growth from the top of each cutting, then trim each one to around 8-10''(200-250mm) long. Make an angled cut above the top bud and a straight cut below the bottom one so you know which way up your cutting is. This might sound silly but believe me, once their cut it can be really difficult to tell one end from the other. To improve the chances of your cuttings rooting, remove a 1in sliver of bark from the base. This exposes more of the cambium, this the specialised tissue from which the cuttings can develop roots. If your soil is free-draining you can put your cuttings straight into the border. Use a dibber to make individual holes 3in. apart or, make a slit trench with some sharp sand at the bottom. For just a few cuttings, pop them into a deep pot filled with some gritty, loam-based compost. Thereís no need for any heat. Just put them somewhere they will get a bit of protection and get a drop of rain now and then, or make sure they donít dry out.

Protecting Plants in Winter

If you have potted plants in your garden they may need some protection. At this time of the year (November) it's a good idea to move containers somewhere sheltered for the winter, such as against a wall or fence, or even indoors if the plants you are growing aren't hardy. If your pots are too big to move, or if your garden is really exposed, consider extra protection. By insulating your pots with bubble-wrap plastic you will protect the roots from repeatedly freezing and thawing, which can physically damage them. Evergreens particularly benefit from protection in very cold weather because if their rootball is frozen solid for a long time, roots are unable to take moisture up into the plant's leaves, leading to scorchlike symptoms developing on the foliage or even killing them if it lasts too long.

Mistletoe

Grow your own Mistletoe.

Most of us at sometime have adorned our homes with mistletoe at Christmas, and if you have done so this time and now that Twelfth Night has come and gone, you will probably be thinking about throwing it away if you have not already done so. But instead of binning it, why not try propagating the berries? I'm not going to give you false hope, germination can at the best of times be unpredictable. And it can take a few years for mistletoe to berry. But being gardeners we like a challenge don't we?, or do we? Besides, mistletoe is normally propagated by birds wiping the sticky seeds off their beaks so what do we want to know to succeed? First things first, make sure your berries are ripe. Any that are green won't germinate as they're immature. What you want are those roughly the size of a pea and pearly white. A common misconception is that the berries on mistletoe cut for Christmas are harvested too early to be ripe. But as mistletoe berries mature from November onwards you should he able to find at least some. Secondly, be sure to use the right host. Mistletoe is a parasite that grows only on certain plants. By far the most common is apple, although it is also found on rowan, poplar and hawthorn. Mistletoe germination is best if you use the same species host plant it came from, so apple on to apple, for example. Now you say how on earth do I know where the bit of bought mistletoe came from, but as most bits farmed and sold in the UK grow on apple trees sticking with that is a sensible bet. Anyway if you fancy a try, good luck.

February 2014 Tip of the month

This February, we want to remind you about last February, when we had a very cold spell and snow. So if you are sowing any seeds this month make sure you can put them under cover if the weather turns bad. Either keep them in a cold frame/cover with glass or plastic or bring them indoors (especially at night).

If any of your plants or shrubs are showing new shoots (I have seen several early clematis in full bud due to the mild weather) then it could be worthwhile covering them up at night if a frost is forecast. Garden fleece is ideal for this but you can use newspaper or a cloth. Donít forget to remove any covering in the morning.

March 2014 Tip of the Month

This monthís tip comes from Jim Buttress, who advised us to apply a general fertiliser or bone meal to our bulbs while they have foliage. This will feed the bulb and give a better flower in the following year. Care should be taken not to apply the feed to any wild flowers, if you have bulbs growing amongst them, as wild flowers will not benefit from the fertiliser and their growth could affected. Happy Gardening

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