WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES!

By Jill | July 17th, 2010

Hello – they say that a week is a long time in politics – but it also seems the same with our summer weather at the moment! From 32c last Friday – to 18C this week – it has been some change! However, I think most of us here at the nursery at least – have been quite glad that it has cooled down – and we actually had over an inch of rain on last Monday – which has changed the grass back to green – and plants have heaved a collective sigh of relief. However – Thursday and Friday saw horrid gale-force winds at the nursery – gusting to 35mph – which caused a lot of damage. Broken branches – flattened plants – broken support structures – a huge tree came down missing going through one of our polytunnels by inches!

We have just about finished clearing up now – and the nursery is returning to normal.

So away from this week’s trials and tribulations – onto something nice!!

At this time of year – many of our gardens can start to look a bit drab – especially with the dry weather we have had recently – but here at the nursery – our shrub sales areas are packed with all sorts of lovely items that will take your garden very nicely on into the late summer/early autumn period.

Here are just a few highlights at the moment –

Hydrangeas – these have come a long way since the huge blowsy-headed sorts of years ago – we have a couple of very nice ‘candelabra’-headed ones – that look very nice at the moment.

Caryopteris – these are still not widely seen for some strange reason – masses of blue flowers on a compact shrub that is just coming into bud – and will flower for most of August.

Fuchsia – not the basket types – but the bone hardy ones – from the gorgeous ‘Lady Boothby’ – a mix of red and black – to the dainty tiny pink/white flowers of magellanica ‘Alba’ – these are stars of any late summer flowers.

Abelia – I cannot understand why everyone has not got this in their garden!! It has the most beautiful semi-evergreen metallic green foliage – and from late July into September dainty clusters of the most wonderful slighty-scented white and pink flowers – relatively compact as well – it should be a must-have!!

Spiraea ‘Shirobana’ – most of the Spiraeas are spring-flowering – but there are also some stunning summer performers as well. This one has a mix of pink/red and white flowers all on the same plant – changing colour as they age/

Teucriums – these Wall Germanders are just lovely – they are very dwarf and ideal for the front of any borders – evergreen – now coming into bud – very much a Sage type of flower – but a nice carmine pink and flowers throughout August.

Potentillas – these are superb low-growing shrubs – flowering from July to September – in orange to yellow.

And as well we have some superb climbers and wall shrubs – such as the lovely honeysuckle ‘Lonicera ‘Mint Crisp’ – and also the perenial pea – Lathyrus latifolius – very much like a sweet pea in flower – but it comes back every year.

There are many more on the sales areas – so why not come down and have a look – there is always plenty to see – no matter what the weather!!

UNTIL NEXT TIME,
RICHARD

COPING WITH THE DROUGHT

By Jill | July 9th, 2010

Hello – since my last blog – we have had a prolonged period of very hot and dry weather – often accompanied by strong winds – the absolute nurseryman’s nightmare!

You may remember that in my previous posting – I suggested that this might actually be turning into an ‘old-fashioned’ English summer – well it does not look like it does it!!! With hosepipe bans being enacted up North – and the prospect of a weekend in the ’30’s – it is a typical Suffolk July!!

So – rather than bleat about it – you have to get smart – and go with the flow. We are well used to this weather in this part of Suffolk at least – and listening to customers this week at the nursery – it seems that many of them are either very worried or becoming increasingly desperate about the state of their gardens – I can but offer a few bits of advice – purely through experience.

Firstly – the usual quoted advice – forget the lawn!! Unless – of course you adore your stripes!! There are now ‘drought-resistant’ kinds of turf available – but generally watering the lawn is jst a waste of water – as soon as there is the slightest shower, it will green up again. It is not ‘dead’ when it is brown – it is simply ‘resting’- and will come back.

Big old mature trees – unless they are showing signs of stress – don’t bother watering those – it will more likely encourage surface rooting – their roots are down very deep – and they will find their own moisture. The same applies to mature shrubs – really anything that has been in for about 2 or 3 years should be able to fend for itself. The items to concentrate on are those items that have been newly-planted this year. These are only rooted down into the top foot or so of soil – and there really is no moisture there – so they will need water – how much – well that depends on your soil and situation – but clay soil will always hold onto moisture a lot longer than sand.

There is often conflicting advice about whether to water little and often – or only when things are really wilted – with a heavy water. Here, at the nursery – we do not do wilted plants!! Once a plant reaches the stage of wilting – it is in serious stress – and is likely to suffer long-term problems if not treated quickly – so our view – is that plants should NEVER reach the wilted stage – yes – I hear you saying – it’s easy for you to say that – you have an automatic watering system – that is true – but in my own garden at home – which is very heavily-planted – I manage to keep stuff watered- all of the beds and borders have leaky pipe irrigation – which is easily worked on an alternate basis – giving something water every night – leaving the containers and baskets to be watered every day.

It is always better to water in the evening – watering in the morning in these sort of temperatures will lead to them quickly drying out – evening watering means that they have 10 hours of cool to absorb it before the heat returns next day.

Mulching – why do more people not mulch their plants?? Bare-soil will lead to mega evaporation – it gets hot and cracks – nature does not allow this to happen – bare-soil is always covered up with foliage – in our own gardens we can do the same – but in a more ornamental way – with bark – it keeps the sun off the roots – keeping them cool and holding moisture – that is how I have my leaky pipe – it keeps beautifully moist under there.

I have a big dustbin on my patio – and all of the washing-up water goes in there – and I can then use that water on my plants – why on earth pay for that water to go down the drain??!!

Fruit trees need a lot of water – but again if it is at a premium – only water those that have decent crops on – with a young tree – it will be hugely beneficial to the tree to leave only half a dozen fruits on it – that fruit is full of water – and that can be used elsewhere.

There has also been some advice about pruning back the ‘softer’ growth on shrubs and trees – the suggestion being that this takes most of the water – and the older growth is better able to withstand drought. This is new advice to me – but I see the logic in it – although it would need to be done with care – since the shape and potential flowering next year of some items could be compromised by incorrect pruning.

I think basically it is perfectly normal for plants to be short of water in high summer – it is how we deal with it that is important – we can still have beautiful gardens at this time of year – even if the GRASS is brown!!!

UNTIL NEXT TIME – STAY COOL!
RICHARD

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