Archive for 05/02/2014

Architecture, Design & Innovation

by Paul Gilby – Riefa Green Roof

ONE of the paradoxes of the living roof industry is that, for all our evangelical promotion of the environmental agenda, our products have often been surprisingly un-green.


Living roofs are a case in point. What we hold out as the bright new hope of the inner city frequently requires an onerous quantity of plastic trays, felt bases, and granular linings whose eco-credentials are, to put it kindly, borderline.

Ten years ago, I was introduced to a product which, the German makers claimed, would change that. I was initially dubious about the whole proposition; how was this vorsprung durch organic product going to live up to the remarkable promises made?

A decade on, I am utterly convinced. And I’d like to take the next couple of minutes to explain why, and urge you to test the truth of the Riefa system for yourselves.


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My friend and professional mosaic artist, Jo de Freitas, recently started and completed a very big mural commission for the Greenest Hotel in Africa, Hotel Verde. This environmentally conscious hotel is situated in Cape Town near the Cape Town International Airport. The mural is to be 16 meters high and 4 meters wide. This was a large and challenging project indeed, that kept 5 people permanently busy for 2 solid and exciting mosaic filled months.

Jo and I met taking a smalti class in the Southern Peninsula and we became firm friends united in mosaic enthusiasm for the art form. Jo asked me if I could help out for a few days on her project so I had the privilege of working on the mosaic team for a few short days, where I also gained valuable experience.

Hotel Verde Mosaic in progressMosaic water drop Mosaic mural design

Assisted by her strong team the mosaic quickly progressed on schedule at her studio…

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Cuba and Cake in Norfolk

Norfolk Master Gardeners heard about Permaculture in Cuba, celebrated achievements in helping communities, schools and families in growing their own food and planned for the future at a recent event in Norwich. If you’re growing your own food and live in the Breckland area of Norfolk, you could join the team!

Find out more by clicking the title link.

Old School Gardener

A 'sub shrub'- Hypericum calycinum

A ‘sub shrub’- Hypericum calycinum

As spring approaches it’s around now that some shrubs should be pruned. This week’s question, from Celia MacKnyff of Cutaway in Yorkshire, asks:

‘What is a sub shrub and should I treat it differently to an ordinary shrub?’

Celia, a sub shrub is a plant that is woody at the base but has annual stems like those of a herbaceous plant. These stems die back most years to the older woody growth. The ‘Rose of Sharon’ (‘Great  St. John’s Wort’ or Hypericum calycinum) is a good example. The stems should be cut back every spring, not to ground level, but to the new shoots on the woodier stems at the bottom. I’ve been out in Old School Garden doing some pruning of these and other shrubs in the last few days and, not surprisingly as we’ve had such a mild winter to date, many of these stems look pretty healthy and are still carrying lots of green leaves. Nevertheless, if you want to benefit from fresh new growth, now’s the time to prune them.

Lavenders are also treated like sub shrubs

Lavenders are also treated like sub shrubs

Small, low shrubs such as Lavender, Periwinkle and Thyme, and many members of the family Ericaceae, such as Cranberries and small species of Erica, are often classed as sub shrubs. As far as pruning Lavender is concerned there are perhaps two schools of thought on this – either prune back the flowered shoots in autumn or spring. Doing this in the autumn is good in that there’s till time for new growth to be put on before winter, which helps maintain a nice compact shape to the plants over the colder months. However, if the weather is really cold you may suffer from some die back, so some people leave pruning until the spring. Nevertheless, small amounts of frosted growth can be tackled by further light pruning in the spring so that new vibrant growth is stimulated. Take your pick! In both cases pruning should be limited to the sappy top growth and should avoid cutting into the older woody stems.

It's important to get the right pruning cut to avoid damaging shrubs and/or letting in disiease

It’s important to get the right pruning cut to avoid damaging shrubs and/or letting in disease

Whilst we’re talking about pruning sub shrubs it’s also worth remembering when to prune different flowering shrubs. There are two basic groups, one which flowers in summer and autumn (‘late flowerers’) on the tips of shoots that grew earlier the same season. This group includes Buddlejas, large flowered and cluster flowered Roses, Caryopteris and some later flowering Clematis hybrids (as well as sub shrubs like Hypericum). These should be pruned back hard to new buds in spring as they appear, so as to encourage development of these into strong new flowering shoots. I’ve tended to prune my Buddlejas a little later than the Hypericum, as late frosts may do damage to the new buds and therefore it’s a good insurance policy to wait until you can see healthy, strong buds to cut back to and the risk of really cold weather has passed. I’ll probaly prune mine later this month or in early March at the same time as I prune back my Dogwoods to encourage new stems that create great winter colour.

Buddlejas are 'Late flowerers' and need hard pruning in the spring

Buddlejas are ‘Late flowerers’ and need hard pruning in the spring

The second group (‘Early flowerers’), includes plants that flower in spring on shoots which grew the previous season and includes Philadelphus (‘Mock Orange’), Forsythias, flowering Currants (Ribes), Weigelas and the ‘Beauty Bush’ (Kolkwitzia). Though its is perhaps less important to prune these, it can be done to tidy up the shrub  immediately after flowering, by removing the branches that carried the flowers. This also encourages new growth to be put on alongside other shoots that have already grown but not flowered – these shoots must be left unpruned and will carry the flowers next season.

'Early flowerers' like Weigela, should be pruned after flowering

‘Early flowerers’ like Weigela, should be pruned after flowering

Old School Gardener

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A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

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A girl and her garden :)

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