Tag Archive: leaves


bonfireNovember is upon us, the clocks have ‘gone back’, the days continue to shorten as temperatures fall. What is there to do in the garden this month? Here’s a list of ten top ‘to do’s’ to keep you busy!

1. Clean

  • Rake up fallen leaves – especially from lawns, ponds and beds. Put the leaves in a leaf cage or black bags to create leaf mould to use on your garden over the next few years.

  • Cut down herbaceous stems and clear the remains of annuals, but leave those perennials that fade relatively elegantly (sedum, astilbes and grasses for example).

  • Clear out the greenhouse, wash pots and trays, clean, mend and oil your tools and throw away anything that is beyond hope of reasonable repair!

2. Burn

Keep leaf raking and saving to make leaf mould

Keep leaf raking and saving to make leaf mould

  • If you need to, use a seasonal bonfire (where this is allowed) to dispose of material that can’t be composted. Follow good neighbour and eco friendly practices- avoid smoke nuisance and don’t use petrol/diesel or burn plastics etc.

3. Dig

  • This month is probably your last chance to prepare your soil before winter sets in. If it’s heavy, clear the weeds, dig it over and add organic matter to the soil as you dig or lay a thick mulch on top and let the worms do the work for you!

  • If you produce a fine tilth, protect it from winter rain, which will damage the soil structure – use a good layer of compost and/or leaf mould, sow a green manure or even lay plastic sheeting over it. The soil will be easier to plant or sow into the following spring.

3.Plant

  • Finish planting spring bulbs such as narcissi, crocuses and alliums – even though it’s a little late!

  • Plant tulip bulbs – the cooler soil helps prevent the fungal disease ‘tulip fire’. Plant bulbs in containers or in a sunny spot at 2 – 3 times their own depth and double their width apart. They can also be used to fill gaps in beds and borders, under shrubs and trees or naturalised in grass or woodland. Remember that tulips like good drainage and ideally should lie on a thin layer of grit if your soil is heavy, to prevent rotting.

  • Pot up amaryllis bulbs, water, keep them initially in a dark, warm place, then in daylight as leaves appear – hopefully you’ll have glorious colour for Christmas!.

  • Plant bare-rooted trees, shrubs, hedging and roses as well as fruit trees and bushes. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for an hour before planting.

  • Sow over-wintering onion sets, broad beans and garlic.

    Sow Broad Beans now for a heavier crop next year

    Sow Broad Beans now for a heavier crop next year

4. Divide

  • Perennials such as daylilies, Asters (Michaelmas daisies) and Golden Rod can be divided and replanted. Cut them down to about 8- 10cms, dig them up and divide carefully. If your soil is heavy clay, do this in the spring. All other perennials are also best left until the spring, especially peonies which dislike being split in cold weather and ‘warm season’ grasses like Miscanthus.

5. Prune

  • Roses  and tall shrubs (Lavatera and Buddleja for example) should be pruned lightly to prevent wind-rock (reduce stems by about a half). Pruning can be carried out from now on throughout the dormant season. Once the leaves have fallen it is easier to see the overall shape and prune accordingly.

  • Do not cut back the less hardy perennials such as penstemons and hardy fuchsias more than a third – the dead stems should give some protection for the crowns in the coldest weather. In colder areas, mulch them with composted bark or something similar and avoid cutting them back fully until they begin to shoot from the base in spring.

  • Remove any fig fruits larger than a pea – the really small ones are embryo figs that will be next year’s crop. The larger ones will not survive the winter.

6. Support

Feed the birds- most will help you keep pests under control

Feed the birds- most will help you keep pests under control

  • Remember to feed the birds in your garden and provide fresh water.

  • Create a small pile of logs to provide shelter for insects and amphibians over the winter.

  • Solitary bees make good use of nooks and crannies in gardens over winter, so if you need some build your own by drilling holes in blocks of untreated softwood and then suspend the blocks in a sunny site. (Block dimensions – 5cm x 10cm x 20cm, Drill bit sizes – 4mm, 6mm and 8mm).

7. Protect

  • Stop winter moth damage to fruit trees by using grease bands around the trunk.

  • Drain and lag standpipes, outdoor taps, irrigation lines and water pumps in advance of really cold weather.

  • Cover brassicas with netting if pigeons are a problem

  • Move tender plants inside or keep a supply of fleece, bubble wrap or similar to protect them from freezing conditions – this is especially important for recently planted hardy annuals and outdoor containers which can be insulated with bubblewrap and raised off the ground to prevent waterlogging and freezing.

  • Protect newly planted trees, hedges and shrubs from the elements with a temporary netting windbreak if they’re in an exposed site.

8. Harvest

  • Bring in carrots, parsnips (wait until after a frost), endive, cauliflower and autumn cabbages.

Leave Parsnips in the ground until they've had a good frosting- it improves the flavour

Leave Parsnips in the ground until they’ve had a good frosting- it improves the flavour

9. Store

  • Remove any canes and supports in your garden left from your summer crops or staking– remember to store them safe and dry.

  • Check stored fruit and vegetables and throw out any that show the slightest sign of rotting.

  • Dahlias – wait until a couple of good frosts have blackened them, then cut the stems back to approximately 10cm from the ground and label each plant as you lift it – it’s easy to forget which is which! Lift the tubers carefully as you dig around them, remove all the soil and store for a couple of weeks in a dry, cool place upside down to allow any residual moisture in the stem to drain out. Once they are completely dry, they can be buried in gritty or sandy peat free compost (used stuff will do) so the top of the tuber is above the compost level. Keep them somewhere frost free.

10.Plan

  • Order seed catalogues or invesitgate seed availability online so that you can get hold of the seeds that you want in good time. If you’re a member of the RHS you can get hold of up to 12 packets of seeds (including 9 collections) for only £8.50- find out more here.

Old School Gardener

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The framework revealed- the Black Poplar in Old School Garden

The framework revealed- the Black Poplar in Old School Garden

To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

I hope this letter finds you and Lise well. Some wintery weather has descended, but I’m pleased to report a reasonably productive month in Old School Garden.

I’ve collected a lot of leaves, mainly by using the ride-on mower with it’s grass collector. In fact I now have a full leaf compound, so will have to pull the various subsidiary mounds around the garden into my main store once this has rotted down a little. I’ll also need to get cracking with the leaf fall in the pond and borders in due course, but as I write, the oak trees are only just beginning to colour up and lose their leaves, so we’ve a way to go, as usual..

Leaves a plenty

Leaves a plenty

Having also cleared out the furniture store (this performed well as a temporary ‘Cat Cave’ for my daughter and son-in-law’s cats for a couple, of months), I now have a large wooden and metal mesh door that I’ve taken off of it’s hinges and can use as a front screen for the leaf compound; so a good example fo recycling (or is it ‘up’ or ‘down’ cycling?). The outdoor furniture is also safely stored for the winter.

I’ve been busy clearing and lightly digging over most of the kitchen garden, and got my onion sets and broad beans sown. On the day that the first frosty night was promised I also managed to clear the greenhouse and rehomed winter-tender plants such as the Cannas (we had a pretty good show from these), various bedding plants (we’ll see if it’s worth hanging on to these) , Echeveria and Pelargoniums. The vine in the courtyard and some climbing roses and clematis have also had their winter tidy up. And as containers have been cleared I’ve filled them with bulbs along with some winter bedding in the form of Cyclamen, Pansies and Violas.

Greenhouse as temporary shelter for the tender...

Greenhouse as temporary shelter for the tender…

I’m pleased with the various Candelabra Primula I’ve grown from seed, and now planted out  most of these in the Pond Garden and one or two other shady spots (and given some away). I look forward to a good show in the spring.

The 'Plant Theatre' with a new cast of Candelabra Primula

The ‘Plant Theatre’ with a new cast of Candelabra Primula

I’ve also planted out the various Achillea nobilis ‘Neilreichii’ runners (courtesy of the Walled Garden at Blickling), in the two triangular raised planters next to the terrace; once bulbs for spring interest have finished here, these should help to give a good summer show of short, creamy white flowers and bluish grey cut foliage.

You recall I told you about clearing the front border under our bedroom window? Well that too has been planted up with the English Lavender I bought and brought on together with some spring bulbs, Scabious and Potentilla rupestris all grown from seed. See the picture below- eventually I hope that the lavender will fill out to a low hedge at which point the other plants can be moved on.

The front border planted up and edging levelled

The front border planted up and edging levelled

I still have some other plants to put out, hopefully before the weather turns very cold. My last harvesting is nearly done- just a few parsnips, leeks and chard left for later. The ‘Red Delicious’ apple tree seems to have produced a good crop this year so I’ve got a large box of these in store; they should fully ripen in time for Christmas.

You’ll be aware of my involvement in the Allotment Project at Reepham High School & College, where there may be an exciting development in relation to sponsorship and involving produce being used in local hotels and pubs- more on this in due course if it comes to anything.

My other active project at present is the  ‘The Grow Organisation’ near Norwich, where I’ve completed a Concept Plan for them. This appears to have gone down very well, including with some potential partners in Mental Health Services. You may recall that the organisation is providing gardening and food growing opportunities for people with various needs, including some with mental health issues.

The vision is ambitious and includes the progressive, incremental development of the site into a number of different areas, many involving food growing, and also including a ‘Trials Area’ where permaculture and other techniques can be explored. I’ve also included a sunken greenhouse (to allow round the year growing) and a demonstration compost area, where I hope we can get support from national and local composting projects. I’ll keep you posted on the developments here.

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My desk research for the Tree Trail at Blickling continues. My latest session included the Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), perhaps considered a bit of a thuggy weed in some woodlands, but also a great tree with some interesting history. Apart from being used as a gallows in Scotland due to its strength, there is a famous example in Dorset- The Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Tree.

Under this sycamore tree at Tolpuddle, six agricultural labourers, known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, formed an early trades union in 1834. They were found to have breached the Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797 and were sentenced to transportation to Australia. The subsequent public outcry led to their release and return. The tree now has a girth of 5.9 metres (19 feet, 4 inches) and a 2005 study dated the tree to 1680. The tree is cared for by the National Trust, so this little bit of history is a ‘must include’ in the Blickling Tree Trail!

 

The Martyrs’ Tree, Tolpuddle, Dorset. Picture by Simon Palmer.

Old School Gardener

Crassula umbella

Crassula umbella

WP_20150212_15_36_39_ProMy latest session of voluntary gardening at Blickling Hall focused on the Winter Garden and Dell once more- my there are a lot of leaves out there!

We volunteers continued to clear and tidy the Dell and Winter Garden. I had the pleasure of planting some wonderful pale yellow Hellebores to bulk up the flower show in the Winter Garden with Joan, my ‘planting partner’  for the day. I also got a few blisters from forking over the borders around the trees and shrubs, but it was well worth it- several visitors commented very positively.

I’m now away from Blickling for a couple of weeks, but I’m continuing my voluntary gardening at Gressenhall from next week, beginning the ‘pre opening’ tidy up.

 Further information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

The Dell, Blickling- scene of this week's voluntary push..

The Dell, Blickling- scene of this week’s voluntary push..

I had a varied menu of gardening at Blicking this week…

I began with some ‘rescue pruning’of some old Espalier Pear trees on the orchard wall next to the Walled Garden. These hadn’t been pruned for some time and had put on a lot of thin growth (and some thicker, more rangy branches) in the past year or two. Working with Mike, Project Manager of the Walled Garden, we also tidied up the beds and paths near these old specimens and it now presents itself as ‘looked after’.

Mike was telling me there’d been a problem with something nibbling the newly emerging tulip leaves in the Walled Garden raised beds- pheasants were the suspected culprits! A few sheets of ‘Enviromesh’ over these was now adding some protection. I mulched around these with some shreddings to create walkable paths and finished off with the same treatment around an old Mulberry Tree in the corner of the garden; this will keep weeds down and moisture in over the growing season to come.

'Enviromesh' keeping the Pheasants from the Tulips..

‘Enviromesh’ keeping the Pheasants from the Tulips..

After lunch I joined the rest of the volunteers in ‘The Dell’, which lies next to the Winter Garden I’d been helping to tidy up in previous weeks. The Winter Garden was more or less finished (bar planting out some new Hellebores) and it looks splendid in the low afternoon sun, with the flowers of Witch Hazel, Daphne, Sarcococca, Snowdrops and Hellebores standing out against the cleared and ‘tickled’ dark soil- the fragrance of the Daphne is especially memorable.

 

The Dell is a sunken garden with different interest. Heavily shaded, and quite steeply sloping in places, it is home to a collection of ferns, evergreen shrubs and other such plants. We pruned some of the hollies back, tidied away on the slopes, pruning back dead stems and foliage, and of course removed- you guessed it-  more leaves!

 Further information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

WP_20150129_14_19_53_Pro

This week’s little jaunt at Blickling was a revisit to the Winter Garden, which I helped to start clearing of leaves and generally tidying up, last week.

The crisp cold day began with more leaf clearing and I was soon joined by half a dozen other volunteers who were kind enough to start clearing and loading the various leaf piles I made as I went across the borders. Fortunately I’d finished raking by lunchtime and could begin ‘tickling’ the matted soil surface with a border fork; generally perking up the look of the borders, including revealing many more clumps of snow drops and hellebores and doing the odd bit of pruning to Dogwoods that were starting to layer.

After and hour the heavens opened- thunder, lightning and a heavy snow shower made the going rather more challenging. We continued for a while, but it was soon clear that the snow was settling and we couldn’t see the earth for turning, so ‘an early bath’ was in order. Thanks to the ‘Leaf Maidens’ who diligently gathered in next year’s leaf mould and worked with me to improve the appearance of this garden.

Sorry about the poor quality photographs- a combination of wet screen, poor light and shaking hands (in the cold) made for a bit of ‘shake’ on the ‘phone camera!

WP_20150129_14_20_18_Pro

 

WP_20150129_14_26_03_ProFurther information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

M.

Malus is a genus of about 30–55 species of small deciduous trees, including the domesticated orchard apple (M. domestica) and varieties of crab apple (including the ‘wild apple’, M. sylvestris). This profile focuses in particular on the crab apples. 

Common name:  Non domestic orchard apples are generally known as crabapples, crab apples, crabs, or wild apples.

Native areas: The genus is native to the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere.

Historical notes: In the past, M. sylvestris was thought to be an important ancestor of the cultivated orchard apples (M. domestica), but these have now been shown to have been originally derived from the central Asian species M. sieversii. However, another recent DNA analysis showed that M. sylvestris has contributed to the ancestry of modern M. domestica very significantly.

Features: Domestic orchard apple trees are typically 4–12 metres tall at maturity, with a dense, twiggy crown. The leaves are 3–10 cm long, alternate, simple, with a serrated margin. The flowers are borne in corymbs, and have five petals, which may be white, pink or red, usually with red stamens that produce copious pollen. Domestic apple trees are large if grown from seed, but small if grafted onto roots (rootstock). There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of domestic apples, resulting in a range of desired characteristics. Crab apples tend to be smaller than domestic apple trees at around 5 – 7 metres tall, with a rounded profile.

Uses:  Crab apples make ideal specimen trees for small gardens. They are popular as compact ornamental trees, providing blossom in Spring and colourful fruit in Autumn. The fruits often persist throughout Winter. Numerous hybrid cultivars have been selected, of which ‘John Downie’, Evereste’ and ‘Red Sentinel’ have gained The Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Award of Garden Merit’ (AGM):

Malus sylvestrisarguably, one of the UK’s prettiest native trees, a small crab apple (or ‘wild apple’) with profuse white flowers, tinged pink in bud, and with good yellow autumn colour. Yellow/ green and occasionally red flushed fruit are a bird’s favourite in the autumn. Ideal for native mixed plantings or shelter belts that provide great low cover for wildlife.

Malus floribundathe ‘Japanese Crab’ is most elegant, with early white/pale blush flowers from crimson buds. However, it is prone to apple scab after flowering, resulting in a rather threadbare crown. Because of this it has tended to be superceded by more disease resistant clones such as ‘Rudolph’ and ‘Evereste’.

Malus ‘Evereste’ – introduced in the early 1980’s this rounded tree has profuse flowers that are red in bud before turning white. The small fruit look like miniature ‘Gala’ and are held on until they are taken by birds after Christmas. The orange-yellow autumn foliage also holds well.

 

 M. ‘John Downie’ – raised in 1875, this is thought by many to be the best fruiting crab. with an irregular oval crown it makes a splendid tree for a small space. White flowers are followed by relatively large, conical-shaped orange-red fruits, which have a food flavour if required for preserves or jelly.

M. x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’– in cultivation since 1959, this profusely fruiting crab is a favourite for gardeners who are looking for winter colour. In some years the clusters of dark red fruits are so numerous that the branches can weigh too heavily so that the crown loses its shape. I have one growing in Old School Garden; it is great alongside other winter interest such as red and orange- stemmed Cornus, and its fruits are useful in Christmas decorations such as front door wreaths. In spring, the red leaves contrast well with its white flowers.

M. x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’ – this well-known crab has been in cultivation for over 60 years and is highly regarded for its profuse display of yellow, marble-sized fruits, which are retained for many weeks. These are preceded by white blossom; a very good ‘all rounder’.

M. ‘Rudolph’ – A Canadian crab developed in the 1950’s, this medium size tree is rather columnar when young, but becomes rounder with maturity. It has leaves which gradually turn from copper-red to bronze-green and rose- pink flowers, which give way to numerous elongated fruits. Autumn leaf colour is clear yellow and it is resistant to scab; a tree which packs a lot of plusses into a small package!

Growing conditions:  Grow Crab apples in moderately fertile soil, though many will thrive on most soils and some are better suited to heavier soils, such as M. sylvestris. They will tolerate partial shade.

Further information:

Wikipedia- Malus

RHS- Malus sylvestris

RHS- Malus ‘Evereste’

RHS- Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

RHS- Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’

Barcham Trees Directory- Malus ‘Rudolph’

Choosing a Crab apple- Daily Telegraph

Old School Gardener

liquidambar-1440-900Liquidambar is a genus of four species of flowering trees; L. alcalycina; L. formosana; L. orientalis; and L. styraciflua.

Common name:  Common names of all of the species include ‘Sweet Gum’, with additions according to their native regions. Other names include ‘Chang’s Sweetgum’ (L. alcalycina),’Redgum’, ‘Satin Walnut’ and ‘American Storax’. Both the scientific and common names refer to the sweet resinous sap (liquid amber) exuded by the trunk when cut.

Native areas: L. alcalycina is native to central and southern China; L. formosana to China and other parts of S.E. Asia; L. orientalis to south-west Turkey, Greece and Rhodes; L. styraciflua to the eastern USA, Mexico and Honduras.

Historical notes: The genus was much more widespread in the Tertiary age, but has disappeared from Europe due to extensive glaciation in the north and the east-west orientated Alps and Pyrenees, which have served as a blockade against southward migration. It has also disappeared from western North America due to climate change, and also from the unglaciated (but nowadays too cold) Russian far east. L. styraciflua is the most common species used in the U.K. and was introduced from its native USA in the 17th century. It was awarded the RHS ‘Award of Garden Merit’ in 1975.

Features: All Liquidambar are large, deciduous trees, most 25–40 metres (82–131 ft) tall, with palmately 3- to 7-lobed leaves arranged spirally on the stems and length of 12.5 to 20 centimetres (4.9 to 7.9 in), having a pleasant aroma when crushed. Mature bark is grayish and vertically grooved. The flowers are small, produced in a dense globular inflorescence around 1-2 centimetres diameter. The fruit is a woody multiple capsule 2–4 centimetres (0.79–1.57 in) in diameter (popularly called a “gumball”), containing numerous seeds and covered in numerous prickly, woody armatures, possibly to attach to fur of animals. In more northerly climates, sweetgum is among the last of trees to leaf out in the spring, and also among the last of trees to drop its leaves in autumn, turning multiple colors. It is sometimes confused with Maple on account of its similar leaves.

Uses: All of the species provide incredible autumn colour. In the U.K. they are predominately used as specimens – against a fresh green lawn, their foliage colour really stands out – and as woodland trees. L. styraciflua makes a large tree with a pyramidal crown if its central leader is retained. Its attractive, corky bark is a feature at all times of the year, but it is at its most magnificent in the autumn, when it seems to burn with crimson and gold. Suitable for streets, avenues, parks and largish domestic gardens

There are now several cultivars of  L. styraciflua available:

‘Lane Roberts’– reliable in Britain, this is a medium-sized tree (10-15 metres mature height), with a tighter conical habit and larger leaves than the species. Good in groups for mass effect.

‘Manon Variegata’ – a must for those that like variegated trees, the foliage is best in summer, providing excellent contrast against darker leaved, evergreen backgrounds. Medium height (15- 20 metres mature height), it has regular pyramidal form with horizontal lateral branches.

‘Stella’ – with deeply cut, star-like leaves it is of medium height (10-15 metres) and has glorious autumn colour. best in larger gardens.

‘Thea’ – a broad -leaved and late to colour variety, ‘Thea’ grows conically to 15-20 metres tall. Similar to ‘Lane Roberts’ but taller. Distinctive purple foliage in the autumn.

‘Worplesden’ – unlike most other clones, this variety will often bear fruit in the U.K. This is the variety most often favoured for its autumn colour and form, growing to a mature height of 20 metres plus. It has deeply lobed leaves which turn yellow in September and then turn to orange before falling, but the outermost leaves gradually turn to magnificent claret red. The choice for large gardens.

Growing conditions:  L. styraciflua does best in fertile, well-drained soils, and is the hardiest species, tolerating down to -15 degrees C.  The other species can all be grown in the U.K. but vary in hardiness; down to -5 degs C. There are also hardy forms such as the L. formosana Monticola Group, which could be considered for colder areas. Liquidambar should be planted in full sun in neutral to acid soil that is moist but well-drained- it does not thrive in chalky soils. The genus resents transplanting, but if this is unavoidable, prepare by root-pruning a year in advance.

Further information:

Wikipedia- Liquidambar

RHS- Liquidambar styraciflua

Horticulture Week- Liquidambar

Gardener’s World- Liquidambar

Barcham Trees Directory- Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesden’

Old School Gardener

Beech Leaves

autumn-beech-leaves-fallen

‘In  autumn down the beechwood path

The leaves lie thick upon the ground.

It’s there I love to kick my way

And hear the crisp and crashing sound.

I am a giant, and my steps

Echo and thunder to the sky.

How the small creatures of the woods

Must quake and cower as I go by!’

James Reeves

 

fall-lawn1Here’s another extract from a book I bought in a charity shop in the summer…..

Besom’s Truism:

No matter how much dust you sweep under the carpet, you still can’t sweep leaves under the lawn.

Laws of Lawn Clearance:

1. Any lawn cleared thoroughly of course grass and moss will reveal an area of mud supporting deep-rooted plantains.

2. Mud patches never need mowing.

3. The cleared lawn reveals that there was no cultivated grass in the first place.

Digital Law:

Flymos like toes.

 lawn cut fun

From : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener

 

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