Posted on

Finding a gardener! Part 1- the first steps

img 0951 Finding a gardener! Part 1  the first steps

img 0951 Finding a gardener! Part 1  the first steps

We all get to the point of needing a little help in the garden, whether it’s a total redesign, rebuild or maintenance. All these tasks can be just a one off or a regular just just getting someone in to do the boring bits we don’t enjoy or even the bits we can’t do, either from not having the skill sets or equipment to things in the garden.

During this little series, I am looking at this from not only the customers view but also as mine, working as a professional gardener covering practical gardening as well as planting plans and consultancy. Hopefully this will give you a little more information about the right questions to ask, what to look for and how to make a good choice for your garden and you.

For me the first thing would be to sit down with some paper and spend a bit of time working out what work you would like done in a little bit more detail. What may seem common sense to you, may not to someone else, coming into the garden for the first time. If it’s a new garden you would like done, double check boundary lines, who owns which fence/wall, think about how much you have to spend and plants or ideas you like. If it’s landscaping, again think about the size of area you would liked done, materials you like, money you have to spend and with maintenance, there is a little more to think about, work out what jobs you would like done, with grass, how often you want it mowed, the height, feeding, scarification etc and even with hedges, what height to trim at etc. You aren’t looking to produce a timetable for works just a list of the tasks you would like to have carried out, all this saves so much confusion when walking around the garden and saves the opps nearly forgot that bit there, that happens regularly.

img 5130 Finding a gardener! Part 1  the first steps

This list can also help you decide what type of gardening service you need. There are so many types of services, it can be confusing what service that may best suit your needs. So here’s a rough rundown about what they are and what they do.

  • Landscape architects or designers. They design bigger spaces that are mainly almost without boundaries, like large estates, new building estates, ideal to use if you have a very large estate.
  • Garden designers. They design garden and garden spaces, from full gardens to small sections including planting plans
  • Garden consultants. These help you solving problems in the garden, no matter what size you garden is. They advise on problems and give solutions. If you have had substandard work carried out in you garden, they will give a honest neutral report it on as well as advising on a smaller aspects of your garden
  • Landscapers. They are the builders in the garden, anything you would like built from a whole garden to just a small part, these are the ones to go for. They differ from general builders from a much greater understanding of materials and how things work within the garden. Some landscape companies do offer design as well.
  • Lawn maintenance. These companies look after the feeding and health of the lawn, most don’t cut grass
  • Gardeners. Gardeners can look after your garden, all the above indeed can be classed as gardeners as they all work within the garden, but the term gardeners generally means they maintain and develop the garden. All gardeners are different, some are able to carry out all the above while others just prefer to cut grass or indeed work on the more skilled areas of gardening like pruning.

Some of these areas can be mixed up, with gardeners being able to do garden design, landscaping, lawn maintenance and consultancy, landscapers offering design, build and aftercare and designers offering to do planting and aftercare too.

They also have trade bodies that either test them regularly to ensure good compliance or have a strict entry criteria that the company has to pass to be come a member. These are set out below

  • Charted institute of Horticulture. This covers all the above groups. To become a member, you must meet a set amount of points depending of qualifications and experience. Fellows are the highest form of members with a few gaining Charted memberships. Members are allowed to use Chort for chartered members, FCIHort for fellows, MCIHort for members or ACIHort for associate membership.
  • Institute of Landscape Design is the body for Landscape designers. It has a very strict entry requirement and ongoing training for members so they can become chartered landscape designers. Only chartered members can use CMLI, fellows FLI and teachers AMLI.
  • Society of garden designers. Is the main one for garden designers. It has two main categories for qualified designers. Pre-registered members are qualified designers working towards becoming a registered member, registered members have their work assessed and approved by the SGD.
  • Professional Garden Consultants Association is designed for professionals who offer consultancy as part of their service. Members have to be a member of of the Charted Institute of Horticulture and one other like Society of Garden Designers, The professional Gardeners Guild, have at least 10yrs experience in their chosen field and pass a Admittance and Standards Training Workshop.
  • Association of Professional Landscapers is one of two trade associations. The members are mainly focused on the domestic market. The members have to been trading for 2yrs, have at least 6 references from clients, agree to follow a strict code and have paperwork and work inspected once per year, indeed it is the only trade body that checks it’s members so vigorously that they are accepted into the governments Trade Mark scheme.
  • The British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) covers landscapers, designers and maintenance. They cover all types of property from small gardens to big public areas. They have to agree to abide by a strict guidelines, have paperwork and quality of work checked, provide at least 10 customer and 2 trade references.
  • The Gardeners Guild is the only trade body just for those who provide garden maintenance and aftercare mainly focused on the domestic garden side. Most the members are sole traders or small companies. Each member has to prove they have a horticultural qualifications to at least RHS level 2.

These will have you understand the memberships they may have and can be a great place to find a new person that fits the bill perfectly. They are many talented people who aren’t members of any groups, they go by word of mouth many and are great if you here about them. But the above can be a good place to start. They all have member lists and also many of them have arbitration guild lines that will help you if there is a problem.

Next time I shall look into choosing someone or a firm to carry out the works you need, giving you clues on what to look for, what things the firms need to work legally in your garden.

img 1333 Finding a gardener! Part 1  the first steps

Posted on

Propagating dogwoods/Cornus from waste pruning

img 2369 Propagating dogwoods/Cornus from waste pruning

Well my job this week is pruning back the types of Cornus/dogwoods the delight us all winter with their stunning stem colours. Of course, one the delights from Cornus is that they tend to root petty easy from their stems just touching the ground. This trait means they are pretty easy to propagate from hard wood cuttings. Unlike most hard wood cuttings, an ideal time to to take these hardwood cuttings is just after you have pruned them, some of this waste material makes great cutting material and I have put together an easy step by step guide on how to do it

img 2366 Propagating dogwoods/Cornus from waste pruning

First of all choose your woody material, I prefer something that is about a year old, pencil thickness and straight. That’s not too say something thinner or thicker doesn’t work, it’s just I have found this size produces more plants

img 2367 Propagating dogwoods/Cornus from waste pruning

Then I make a cut at the bottom near a set of buds, a square cut us is fine but an angled one maybe better for the last stage

img 2369 Propagating dogwoods/Cornus from waste pruning

I like to have at least 4 sets of buds on each cutting, so I trim it down to just above the 4th bud and if the material is long enough, I sometimes can get a couple out of it

img 2370 Propagating dogwoods/Cornus from waste pruning

Next stage is to push the cutting into the ground, this is why an angled cut maybe easier to do. The ground doesn’t need to be too loose and can be even next to the dogwood you have just pruned down.

img 2373 Propagating dogwoods/Cornus from waste pruning

I push this stem down until it’s half between the 2nd and 3rd bud as per picture above, this leaves 2 buds under the soil and these buds are the areas the roots will grow from

img 2374 Propagating dogwoods/Cornus from waste pruning

A completed row, they don’t need to be in a row, can be done randomly around the area you require them but they are so easy to do and make such a great use of wood that would be burned or shredded. I would now leave these for a few months and when they are growing away strongly you know they have taken. Sometimes leaves break out and then die, this is the plant using up the stored water and then sadly dying afterwards. This also works with any Salix or willow with coloured stems

Good luck and I hope you get loads of free plants

Posted on

Monthly newsletter.

img 2325 1 Monthly newsletter.

I am delighted to announce that from the 1st of April I am doing a monthly newsletter that will be sent out using MailChimp.

This newsletter will be catching up with the blogs written over the month, jobs to do in the garden next month, talks and workshops happening in the next month, gardens that could be worth visiting in the next month and new items in my shop (and there’s lot planned there! ). Basically it will be full of advice and help for you and your garden.

img 2325 Monthly newsletter.

To celebrate this planned launch in a few weeks time, I am doing a little competition for all those who sign up for the newsletter before the 31st of March with the winner announced in the newsletter! The prize is a mixture of seeds, garden twine (not pictured yet) a few blank greeting card from my range and some other goodies to be confirmed

To sign up please just click this link here and it will take you though or just fill in the pop up form on my website and it’s a simple as that

I hope you will enjoy this new monthly newsletter

Posted on

Six on Saturday 3-02-2018

img 1849 Six on Saturday 3 02 2018

Where did it go? January I mean! Doesn’t seem like yesterday it was the end of Christmas and we were looking forward to the new year, now we are the second month in already! Spring is really slowly coming apon us, daffodils are poking their heads up, bluebells again, just poking their green shoots out, teasing us even more. Even more so, the spring work is slowly starting to pick up momentum. Most of my fruits trees I manage are now all pruned bar a couple and I have moved on to wisterias and roses, a real sign for me that spring is just around the corner!

My six on Saturday this week is from my own little patch in chandlers ford, Hampshire for the second week in the row, some kind of miracle there but I hope you enjoy my 6 things happening in my garden this weekend

img 1913 Six on Saturday 3 02 2018

Yes yes even us professionals get things wrong! Iris George is a beautiful little purple iris that ummm has disappeared amongst the purple and yellow pansies, yes yes I know I should of put a pale pansy underneath but I wasn’t thinking ok, but never mind, I still love these dwarf irises !

img 1914 Six on Saturday 3 02 2018

Finally after 3 wet Saturdays I have managed to finish off the tiling on the front of our children’s new playhouse! All I need to do now is fix the flooring in, add the plastic to the window and build a shelves of their toys and we shall be all done until I start doing the green alpine roof! It’s getting there!

img 1777 Six on Saturday 3 02 2018

Haha fooled you all! I bet you hoped there would be no snowdrops in this one but there is and this one is called green brush and I love theses ones with green on their petals, can’t wait for this one to bulk up!

img 1916 Six on Saturday 3 02 2018

My Edgeworthii is slowly opening and my tiny space is full of its beautiful scent! It’s one of my little treasures in the garden but that said they are all my little treasures really! Can’t wait until it’s all fully open.

img 1849 Six on Saturday 3 02 2018

Another new dwarf iris for me, this ones called painted lady. It goes look rather stunning but did come up rather weird, rather twisted and odd, wasn’t too sure about it but now it’s fully opened I love it!

img 1779 Six on Saturday 3 02 2018

Well it’s not exactly my garden but spotted this clump in the middle of another massive clump of G.nivilis near a road the other day, just stood out, not sure on name or indeed if it has one, looked nice so I grabbed a couple of bulbs to see what

I hope you enjoyed my 6 on Saturday from My garden. If you did please checkout other people’s 6 on the memes founder website I love seeing other people’s plants and what’s happening in their gardens. Why not give it ago yourself next week and give me a shout so I can take a look

Until next week, have fun in the garden

Posted on

Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

img 1713 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

Well one the last part, we looked at the science behind making pruning cuts and best ways of pruning using secateurs and loppers, this week we shall look at using the power horse of hand tools, yes the pruning saw! So what is a pruning saw and how does it differ from say a carpentry saw? Well it’s a much stiffer blade that those types of saws and most of the time cut on the pull. Some can be folded up to fit into your pocket or a fixed blade. Pruning saws are used to prune anything bigger than 15mm and up to well as big as you can cut! A bit like using secateurs, theres no right or wrong ways but there’s always better ways to reduce damage or risks to the tree or plants. First thing is to get the sharpest pruning saw you can get with a sharp clean blade, over the years I have found Silky pruning saws the sharpest and even with these, I tend to change the blade every year so I am using the sharpest I can.

img 1730 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

Now the angles of cut depending if the buds are alternate or oppersite are the same as for using secateurs on wood up to a couple of years old but they are a little more difficult to see in the older wood, almost looking for wrinkles in the Wood is almost a sign that buds are there hidden. That said in wood over 25mm thick, I prefer to do a straight cut across. The reasons are simple, the surface area on straight cuts are much smaller than cuts made at an angle, which means the plant has a smaller area to heal over. That even means on the junction of bigger branches. The pruning cut on these bigger branches to the main stem used to be done at an angle on the stem, the angle of the cut was always done just above the ridges or collar on the stem. It was thought these would heal quicker but it’s not really the case as the straight cut will heal a lot sooner.

Removing larger stems using a pruning saw is always best done in stages to reduce the chances of the branches tearing down the stem and causing a bigger damage for the plant to repair. Best way is to reduce the weight of the branch by either putting a cut on the underside of the branch to about a 1/5th of the width of the branch and at least 300mm from the trunk and then the main cut about 50mm above this. If you leave a bigger gap, the branch tends to trap itself in the bottom cut and doesn’t fall cleanly. The branch should snap cleanly off and fall down to the ground, then you finish off the cut neatly on the main stem . That cut is ideal for most pruning cuts. If there’s something underneath you that you don’t want the branch to drop off suddenly and hit, you can cut all the way though in one cut. This at times can cause a tear underneath the stems so I would make this cut at least 1000mm from the main stem in case the cut tears down. After this cut has been made and the branch had fallen down or been grabbed, the next cut needs to lighten the weight on the branch by cutting it down to 500mm before cutting the branch off at the main stem. All the cuts are pictured below

Last main pruning cut is removing stems from the base of shrubs and the key this here is to get the cuts as low as possible. Any stubs left will make the base of the plant look ugly and also mean next time you cut a stem out, you can’t get close to the base and it ends up even more snaggy

one other thing I don’t do is paint the cut area with wound paint. I prefer to let the wound heal naturally and found that the treatment tends to seal in the moisture and cause rot quicker

img 1720 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

Picture of a clean drop pruning cut

img 1724 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2img 1726 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

How it worked

img 1705 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

Cutting straight through

img 1709 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2img 1710 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

A straight though cut that shows the damage that it can cause

img 1703 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

The growing collar as described in text

img 1728 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2img 1729 Pruning cuts, how to get them right. Part 2

Taking the stump back to the tree at the smallest point, if you had gone back harder, it will result in a larger wound and will take longer to heal

Posted on

Plant of the year in 2017 was………

Well I have done the maths, crunched the numbers and had a recount, yes it was just 1 vote in it, that was all! Before announcing the winner, I would like to thank you all for taking part in this fun vote, there was nearly 1000 votes placed, Thank you all very much!

Right and now the winner of the Plant of the 2017 from the plant of the week is……………..

Betula albosinensis ‘Bowling Green’

betula albosinensis bowling green 3 Plant of the year in 2017 was.........betula albosinensis bowling green 2 Plant of the year in 2017 was.........

Posted on

Happy New Year!

rosa ferdinand picard1 Happy New Year!

galanthus x pilcatus baylham 3 Happy New Year!

I would like to wish you all a very happy 2018! And also thank you all so very much for the fantastic support you have given me and the blog over the last 50 weeks. I can’t believe it’s nearly been a year since I started it and the views, comments and new friends I have received from all over the world has humbled me.

I have great plans for the blog next year and if you have any thoughts of things you would like to see happening on there, please feel free to email me, I am always willing to listen to new ideas

Again thank you all so much and I look forward to speaking to you on the World Wide Web

Happy gardening in 2018!


rosa ferdinand picard1 Happy New Year!

Posted on

6 on Saturday 30/12/17

img 1543 6 on Saturday 30/12/17

Well I hope you all had a great Christmas and enjoying a well earnt break from just doing life, maybe your turkeys now all been eaten or maybe not!

Not had much time in the garden in the last week, spent a bit of time on the kids playhouse but still have bulbs to plant and plants to prune back but that will wait for a few days I think………

The end of the year for me is a time to look back and enjoy what’s happened in the last year and look forward to next year and that’s exactly what I am doing with my 6 on Saturday this week, taking a look back though a few months of this excellent meme and putting my favourite 6 back up for you to enjoy. Just feels right too me for some reason

So here’s the first

img 1542 6 on Saturday 30/12/17

Geranium wlassovianum ‘Lakwijk Star’ another new plant for me, I love wlassovianum anyway, I find it such a great performer in gardens, the foliage is so attractive appearing in the spring, followed by a summer of flowers ended with a great display of autumn colour on the foliage, can’t wait to see this plant mature from 12/08/2017

img 1543 6 on Saturday 30/12/17

Rosa ‘Louis XIV’ well for those who have followed my blog for a while, will remember this one from my rose watch and it’s still going so strongly now, must be on 5th flowering now, such a beautiful rich colour and brilliant scent and who said heritage roses only flowered once! From 22/7/2017

img 1544 6 on Saturday 30/12/17

Tricyrtis formosana. This unusual perennial plant from Taiwan is to me the real sign that autumn has us in her grip! One of the latest plants the flower in our borders, the road lily doesn’t disappoint, holding these unusual shape flowers upright. It is at home in the soil here as well as loving the deep shade. The toad or snake lily certainly makes a talking point in any garden from 9/09/2017

img 1545 6 on Saturday 30/12/17

My patio is finished! We always forget what a difference the hard landscaping can make to our garden, this has transformed the space into a more courtyard feel, with the pacing bringing out the best of the plants surrounding it. From 2/09/2017

img 1190 6 on Saturday 30/12/17

We always think of roses worth growing just for their flowers but look at the autumn foliage! Rosa rugosa is a wonderful rose that colours up so well and if you are lucky, can have some massive hips as well from 18/11/2017

img 1546 6 on Saturday 30/12/17

I love my alpines and also my fossils and mixing the two together in one beautiful pot is just ideal, more importantly, the fossils were collected on our holidays and will remind us about the time away and my 2 girls helped me to plant it up. From 4/11/2017

I hope you enjoyed my trip back though memory lane for my 6 on Saturday from both mine and a clients garden. If you did please checkout other people’s 6 on the memes founder website I love seeing other people’s plants and what’s happening in their gardens. Why not give it ago yourself next week and give me a shout so I can take a look

And if I don’t see you before next weeks, I hope you have a very happy new year

Posted on

Plant of the year!

 Plant of the year!

Well it’s nearly the end of the year and I felt it’s an ideal time to vote for your plant if the year from my plant of the week, the vote will be on the most likes and retweets on twitter and Instagram and to make it easier I have listed the most liked and commented one from each month and repost on twitter and Instagram

These are my monthly choices

January winner is Prunus Himalaica

February winner is Salix chaenomoloides ‘Mt Aso’

The winner in March is Edgeworthii chrycantha

April’s winner is wisteria sinensis

Mays winner is Rosa climbing Lady Hillingdon

June was the time of the rose so it’s another one Jeanne de Montfort

July was time for herbaceous plants to make a comeback, Centaurea macrocephala

August winner is the very beautiful shrub

September winner is fascicularia bicolor

October winner was Cercidiphyllum japonicum f pendulum

November was Callicarpa bodinieri var Giraldi profusion

Decembers winner was Betula albosinensis ‘Bowling Green’

So there you have the full list, if you are not on twitter, please add your vote below and I shall announce the winner on New Years Day