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Keeping your Hardy geraniums looking good! 

img 0168 Keeping your Hardy geraniums looking good! 

For many of us, Hardy Geraniums, are the reliable source of colour within our borders, some types like ‘Rozanne’, ‘Nimbus’, ‘Mavis Simpson’ flowering almost non stop from May to the first frosty touches of winter hit us. Indeed there’s not a week goes by without one in flower within my small borders at home. No matter how well they flower, at sometime during the summer months, they will either get too big or the flowers will get smaller, the plant its self will start to look tatty and really not look nice, indeed it’s almost like someone’s put a big donut on top of the plant, with lush new growth appearing in the middle of the plant. 

This is the time to get heavy handed and take a risk! First of all I would like to say not all geraniums will respond to the method below, ones with a woody centre like sanginium, wallichainium and more clump forming ones like renardi, macrophyllum, canabridgense etc can’t be treated in this way. The plants idea for this method include oxanium, riverleaianum, magnificum, pratense, phaeum, etc ones that really start looking like someone has plonked a donut on top. 

First of all it’s important to have the right weather to carry out the work, overcast days when the soil is damp is an idea time to carry out this task. We don’t always get weather like this, so as long as you water afterwards, it still should be ok

img 0166 1 Keeping your Hardy geraniums looking good! 
Here we have Geranium ‘Nimbus’ looking slightly tatty, the donut is starting to appear in the middle and new growth is coming up
img 0167 Keeping your Hardy geraniums looking good! 
The good new growth in the centre of the plant can clearly be seen with the older stems looking a lot more browner
img 0168 Keeping your Hardy geraniums looking good! 
All you need to do is cut back the old growths back the The centre of the plant, I prefer to use a hand scythe to a pair of secateurs
img 0169 Keeping your Hardy geraniums looking good! 
The finish plant all cut back, within two weeks, it will be growing away strongly again and soon flowering for the rest of the summer looking so much smarter!

I tend to give them a feed of Vitax Q4 or blood,fish and bonemeal afterwards and keep them well watered afterwards. You can also lift and divide the plant after cutting back if you so require (for method, please see here). The hand scythe was supplied from Niwaki and really makes the job so much easier and less painful on the wrists. It’s what the Japanese use to harvest rice. 

Nice easy job over the weekend  

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Plant of the week Osmunda regalia

osmunda regalis Plant of the week Osmunda regalia

osmunda regalis Plant of the week Osmunda regalia


img 3628 Plant of the week Osmunda regaliaThis plant of the week isn’t one full of flowers but is indeed one of a stately manor, adding a touch of class to any waterside. Indeed this British and European native, is better know as the Royal fern and so rightly deserved. In my mind, it’s the spring time when the ferns start to show their beauty off, the fonds, slowly uncurling their beautiful fronds, in a light green with light brown hair covering them. Once opened, they go a slightly darker colour before going a beautiful buttery yellow and a tinge of brown.

osmunda regalis 2 Plant of the week Osmunda regalia

Osmunda is an ancient plant, dating back to the time when dinosaurs roamed the world dating back to 260 million years ago indeed many fossils have been found around the world including parts of the uk. It differs from other ferns by the fact the have fronds that are there to photosynthesise only and fronds that only are there to produce spores, these sporagia, are brown in colour and indeed look like the fern is flowering.

The name Osmunda is thought to of come from the Saxon god of war, Osmunder! Regalis is from the stately royal look of the fern. It loves growing in damp places including woodland, grasslands and of course, near water courses, it will also survive on limestone outcrops. It is indeed a native of the uk as well as the rest of Europe and into parts of Africa and Asia. In the uk,  it is making a come back after years of collecting both For the plant and for the it’s roots. Why it’s root? Well it made into Osmunda fibre which was used as a potting fibre for tropical orchids. But that’s not its only uses. It can be eaten in its young state and has a taste of asparagus but it’s the sporagia that has the most interesting use, for many centuries in Slavic traditions , the sporagia or Peruns flower was thought to have magical powers from unlocking demons to understanding trees. These had to be collected on Kupala night (thought to be 24/25of June), the collector, had to draw a circle around themselves and the plant, protecting themselves from the taught of demons! Kupala night was changed to Easter eve after Christianity.

osmunda regalis1 Plant of the week Osmunda regalia
In our gardens, it’s best planted near its favourite waterways, around ponds, lakes and streams, where we can enjoy both looking at the plant head on and from the reflection in the water. They just need a dampsite with a good amount of humus present, doesn’t  need much looking after either, just the old fronds removed In late winter. No real pests and diseases either. Some great forms are also available including a couple listed below,  img 4727 Plant of the week Osmunda regaliapurpurascens, that starts of with purple stems and fronds, with the foliage turning green, leaving the stems a shade of purple, love this form! Cristata is a form with more divided leaves

They can be seen widespread in different gardens, two of my favourite places to see them are Savil gardens near Windsor and Lockstock water gardens, near Stockbridge, Hampshire, also most good garden centres or nurseries will sell them. is also a brilliant place to buy

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Job of the week- pruning back Penstemons 

img 2521 2 Job of the week  pruning back Penstemons 

Penstemons to me are a great plant to have in any size garden, they flower all summer long and are loved by bees. They come in such a wide range of colours as well as well as being so easy to look after as well. They are one of those plants that don’t need much pruning other than removal of spent blooms during the summer to encourage a longer flowering season. But if they are left alone, they can get rather woody and well just ugly if I do say, one thing I can’t stand in the garden are plants that look ugly, it’s bad enough having me around the place! So I have found the best way to keep them looking fresh and young during their short 5-7yr life span. I like to leave it until now with some new growth coming from the base, alsok the worst of the frost will have disappeared and while they are hardy in all but the coldest weather, I like to leave the older stems on offering some protection to the new growth. I then simply prune the old stems down to the base or near some new shoots using my sharp secateurs and then remove it. Pretty simple but can make a massive difference to the appearance of the plant. Other plants like fuchsias, Melianthus  can be treated this way but I like to do those in early May when the growth is a little longer and a bit hardier against any late frosts.

 img 2521 1 Job of the week  pruning back Penstemons img 2518 1 Job of the week  pruning back Penstemons img 2523 Job of the week  pruning back Penstemons 

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Job of the week-tying in climbers 

Well it’s not so much of a job of the week, but more of a job for almost every week for the next 4-6months, Although it’s a simple job, it’s an important one, even more so on the more vigorous climbers like Clematis and roses. It stops the new growths being broken and damaged, also gets them going into places you want them too! I use nutscene 3 ply twine and just tie in the new growths roughly where I want them using a over hand knot and done. It’s well worth checking them every week and one word of warning, becareful the young growths can be rather delicate and easy to break. One other advantage of doing this, is that you can check on the health of the plant at the same time as tying inimg 2607 2 Job of the week tying in climbers img 2605 1 Job of the week tying in climbers img 2609 Job of the week tying in climbers 

img 2620 Job of the week tying in climbers img 2611 Job of the week tying in climbers 

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Job of the week-applying a feeding mulch 

039 Job of the week applying a feeding mulch 

It’s one of the nicest and most rewarding jobs you can do in gardening, turning a weedy mess into one that is a delight to look at and that will reward you with a summer of less weeding and more enjoyment from the plants. I like to try and make a difference between the types of mulching, decorative mulching for me is using either an nonorganic material like stone, slate etc or something like bark and wood chip mulch that does rot down but it takes a lot more time to releases the nutrients into the soil but they may have other advantages like provide an ideal environment for friendly fungus to use. For my job of the week, I am looking at what I call a feeding mulch. A feeding mulch is a mulch that provides the soil with good well rotted organic matter that will be taken into the ground both with a our help and also worms and other micro organisms that feed on dead plant matter.  This type of mulching really helps to provide a really healthy soil and a healthy soil can mean a healthy plant. It can help Break down heavy clay soils or add a bit of bulk to sandy, gravelly poor soils.  Feed mulching is really good with hungry plants, ones that put on a lot of growth each year, plants that get pruned hard back, plants like roses, herbaceous plants, coppiced plants like dog woods etc. it will provide a lot of the nutrients they need to get them growing strongly again. Like all mulches, it still helps to cut down evaporation and keep water in the soil, helps to cut down annual weeds but also helps with some perenial weeds like couch grass, ground elder, greater bindwind, they love to grow between the mulch and the soil, making it easier to dig out and remove. Not all plants will like the extra food so avoid using it too much around Mediterranean plants like lavenders, sage etc as it will cause them a little damage.

2006b Job of the week applying a feeding mulch 

Now what to use? Well for most areas, if you have some home produced compost of leaf mould, that’s idea, if not something like composted green waste is just as good, well rotted manure works so well on very vigorous or repeat flowering plants like hybrid tea roses, I prefer to us sterilised bagged manure rather than loose material. Another great one is mushroom compost, which is basically sterilised manure with lime added, works well on clay but avoid on alkaline soils and acid loving plants.

20170310 114520279 ios Job of the week applying a feeding mulch 

Right that’s enough about the theory behind it, I like to first weed though the beds removing all the weeds, edge up any lawn edges with a half moon to produce a nice deep edge between the lawn and the bed, Add a base ferlizer to the whole bed not around the base of the plants but the whole bed, using something like Vitax Q4 ferlizer and then add a minimum of 50mm but nearer 75mm of mulch and spread it over the whole bed so it looks very smart and clean. It’s ok to cover over most of herbaceous plants but be careful not cover up the base of any shrubs or trees. And that’s it nice and simple, well worth repeating every 1-2 years or as required. For me it’s an important clog in the wheel of providing healthy strong plants for my clients to enjoy and I find it even more important when growing plants like roses, it is a small but important part of providing healthy looking roses for them to enjoy. It also looks very nice on the beds and the colour of the product used also brings out the best in the young foliage coming out and gives you a feel good factor, knowing it looks good and you have done the best you can for the health of the beds and plants.

079 Job of the week applying a feeding mulch 

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Job of the week- Pruning Buddleja 

My job of the week this week is back to the job I love most pruning, there is nothing much nicer pruning and shaping a plant knowing that it will look good and encourage better plants for it.

Pruning buddlejas is a pretty simple job, all you need is a pair of really sharp secateurs, a sharp pruning saw and a pair of loppers to carry out the work and also a pair of leather gloves and safety glasses just in case of any slips of the tool and plant kind, always find avoiding A&E ideal as the NHS is so stretched

I like to carry out this task around this time of year as although buddleja are tough plants that will grow anywhere, I have found in the past that doing it early can exposed the new shoots to forest damage and then cause a few problems to the health of the plant.

I aim for a plant that’s about 45cm in height when pruned, as the new growth in the year can be up to 7ft in height, I find pruning down to this height idea to encourage a good shaped plant with lots of new growth coming rom the base. First thing I do is to remove any dead wood out of the plant and remove any old massive stems that are crowding the newer younger stems. The new stems are pruned down to about 35cm to allow the frame work of side branches to form over time. In a couple of years, these will get to the 45cm height and then hopefully removed. For the side growths that are already growing from the frame work of older branches, I remove them down to 2 sets of buds with a straight level cut, why a straight cut? Well the buds on buddejas are oppersite each other so required a flat level cut, other plants like roses are alternate so need a oppersite cut

Well I hope that’s easy to understand and enjoy the weekend of pruning.

img 2114 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 
pruning with a start cut just above the bud

img 2113 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 
pruning with a start cut just above the bud

img 2125 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 
The plant before i start
img 2126 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 

img 2083 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 
sometimes the saw comes out

img 2127 Job of the week  Pruning Buddleja 
the finished plant with my tools

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Job of the week-dividing mat forming perennials 

One of my favourite jobs is my Job of the week this week, making more plants from the plants we already have in the garden. This job is ideal to carry out now, the ground is warming up and is nice and moist. The soil being like this will help the plants settle in again once more, it is idea to do while the plant is still dormant although it can also be carried out during the summer months after cutting hard back certain perennial plants like Geranium pratense. This task can be carried out on perennial plants that tend to form dense mat, plants like Hemocallis, Asters, Phlox, some forms of hardy geraniums, really anything that doesn’t form a woody base like Peonies. 

Tools wise, all you need is a couple of forks the same size, I prefer using a pair of border forks and of course, spade to replant them. 

Other items needed, some compost or well rotted manure to add to the soil and some fertiliser to add as well before planting 

These type of mat forming perennial plants are generally divided every 3-6years depending on how quick they grow! The plants you are looking to divide are plants that spread quite quickly, division is used to keep the plants in size. The other type of plants that befit this type of treatment, are the type that die out in the middle, they have an outside ring that is growing strongly but dead in the middle. These can be lifted and divided, keeping the strong growing sections and bin the dead and weaker bits.

Dividing is pretty easy, first lift the plant carefully,  best using a fork to ease the plant out, rather than a spade that will cut the roots. 

Once lifted, get the 2forks and put them together with the tines back to back and push into the middle of the plant and then push the handles together and then pull apart again and the plant should be split into 2, repeat until they are the size you require, spread over compost and fertiliser over the area to replant and then space them out and plant! Job done! 

Best to get this weeks job done in the next couple of weeks img 1960 Job of the week dividing mat forming perennials img 1961 Job of the week dividing mat forming perennials img 1962 Job of the week dividing mat forming perennials img 1963 Job of the week dividing mat forming perennials img 1959 Job of the week dividing mat forming perennials img 1958 Job of the week dividing mat forming perennials img 1965 Job of the week dividing mat forming perennials 

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Job of the week- pruning clematis

clematis viticella betty corning 2 Job of the week  pruning clematis
Clematis viticella Betty Conning’ Group 3
clematis avate garde 2 Job of the week  pruning clematis
Clematis Advant Garda group 3
clematis artic queen Job of the week  pruning clematis
Clematis Artic Queen group 2
clematis pat coleman Job of the week  pruning clematis
Clematis Pat Coleman group 2

The next couple of weeks is really the last window to prune the summer flowering clematis. There’s a lot of confusion on how and when to prune the various types of clematis. They are divided into three groups to aid pruning methods. Group 1 are the winter and spring flowering group, group 2 are the early-mid summer group and group 3 are the late flowering group which include everything flowering from mid summer to early autumn.

Pruning them is pretty easy, all you need to remember with pruning them if you have lost the label and haven’t got a clue on what group they belong to, is think about when they flower, if it’s during the winter early/mid spring then it’s group 1, flowering mid may to end of June, then it’s group 2 anything later is group 3, most viticellas belong in this group.

It’s groups 2-3 that we are looking to do this week. They can be done from January onwards but I prefer to do them now, just as the young shoots are starting to appear. They are some of the easiest plants to prune, the basic rule is, the later they flower the harder you can be with them. Group 2 is pruned down to a small frame work of stems approx 3ft from the ground with any weak growths removed. This helps the plants get away quicker and higher before they flower. If needed they can also be cut back hard to regerate the plant. Group 3 is pruned down a lot harder right down to 6-12inches in hieght , again with weak growths removed. With each one, I prune back to a live bud breaking or a real fat bud waiting to burst

Nice and easy

Soon after pruning I will feed the with Vitax Q4 ferilizer and then mulch with well rotted manure in about 3ftsq area around the plant, this helps to get the plants growing away nice and strongly  and then enjoy the flowers in the summer.

For a guide for basic pruning cuts please see my other blog here