Posts Tagged ‘flower garden’

Zinnias take their place in the sun as Mr Fothergill’s celebrates 2017

November 7th, 2016 | News, The flower garden | 0 Comments

Zinnias
Zinnias have been the subject of much breeding work in recent years and, as a result, are now more widely grown than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Their importance is being acknowledged by 2017 being declared ‘Year of the Zinnia’ by Fleuroselect, the organisation which trials and assesses new seed varieties from around the world to determine their suitability for European conditions. Mr Fothergill’s is celebrating the initiative with the introduction to its mail order catalogue and website a new formula mixture.

ZinniasBritish-bred Zinnia Solmar Mixed F1 will create a stunning display in pots, containers or garden borders. The beautiful, large flower heads last well with good heat and drought tolerance, and excellent disease resistance. This delightful annual needs little maintenance to put on an eye-catching display. The mature plants have a height of 45-60cm (18-24 in). A packet of 20 seeds costs £3.99.

New to both Mr Fothergill’s mail order and retail ranges is Zinnia Sombrero, which produces lots of single-flowered, red and white, jam tart-like blooms for many weeks through summer and into autumn. Plants reach around 35cm (14in) tall. A packet of seeds sufficient for 50 plants of Sombrero costs £2.35.

You can see Mr Fothergill’s range here or click here to request a catalogue .

What to do in the garden in November

November 1st, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Garden in November - Primula vulgaris (wild primrose)October is usually a transitional month; there is always a certain sadness in lifting and discarding all the half-hardy annuals and perennials that have delighted us throughout the summer. Once these have gone into the compost bin, containers and the flower garden look bare and empty, but at least it gives us the chance to replenish them with spring-flowering bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, and spring bedding plants – primroses, polyanthus, violas and pansies. As gardeners, we are always looking forward, and as we plant these we know it will not be too long before we are enjoying colour in the garden once again.

It’s ‘all-change’ in the vegetable garden too. We made our last picking of pods of the new and exclusive runner bean Aurora on 23 October – and they were delicious with Sunday lunch – which we thought was great for a vegetable which we say in the catalogue crops only until September! But now it’s time to pull the plants up, along with those of courgettes, squashes and sweet corn. By the way, why not leave the roots of your runner beans in the ground, as these will provide some valuable nitrogen for the crop you will grow in that spot next year.

It may be ‘goodbye’ to summer vegetables, but the upside is we are now looking forward to savoy cabbages, leeks, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and kale. Call us old-fashioned, but we still believe sprouts and parsnips taste better once they have experience a frost or two – something we have not yet had on our trial ground, although nights have been getting markedly colder.

Flowers

Garden in november - Calendula and more at the Mr Fothergill's TrialsAlthough we feature several hardy annual which can be sown from August to October in our catalogue, remember you can equally well be guided by the weather and prevailing conditions. If it is still reasonably mild in your area and there remains some warmth in the soil, there is no reason why you should not extend sowing of these into the first half of November. Calendula Indian Prince, Californian poppy Jelly Beans, cornflower Blue Ball and larkspur Giant Imperial Mixed are just a few of our annuals which respond well to an autumn sowing.

The seed will germinate fairly quickly, and make small plants large enough to get through the winter unscathed before turning into fine specimens which will flower before those produced from a spring sowing. Larkspur and cornflower and perfect for cutting, so you could even grow a ‘crop’ of these in a spare section of the vegetable garden to provide you with armfuls of flowers for the house from late spring or early summer. Incidentally, we get a strong impression that these traditional, ‘cottage garden’ cut flowers are coming back into vogue, although they have never gone out of fashion with us!

Bush roses can be cut back to around half their height to prevent them being rocked and loosened in the soil by winter winds. Most will also benefit from harder pruning in March, before they start into growth for next summer. Climbing roses can also be pruned to keep them tidy. Cut out weak, spindly growth, while stronger growth can be pruned by around two thirds of its length. With all roses, aim to make a clean cut with secateurs just above an outward-facing bud.

Vegetables

Garden in November - Garlic Solent WightAlthough we mentioned it a couple of months ago, there is still just time to plant some garlic cloves. They are easy to grow and care for, and will provide an excellent crop from next May onwards. Early Purple Wight, as its name suggests, is one of the first to mature; its plump, purple-tinged bulbs will keep for up to three months, but are best consumed as soon as possible after lifting. Provence Wight yields really large, juicy bulbs, Lautrec Wight is ideal for those of you who like your garlic as ‘garlicky’ as possible, while Bohemian Rose and Mikulov, form Moravia, both store really well. Do find room for some garlic!

If you are growing Brussels sprouts and other winter brassicas, it may pay to net them against marauding pigeons, which can do much damage in the weeks ahead. Check sprout plants are still firm in the ground; if they seem loose at the base, hold the stem upright and heel in some soil to prevent further rocking.

Root crops such as carrot, beetroot and swede can withstand some frost, and are often best left in the ground until needed unless you have plenty of storage space indoors for them. They will certainly appreciate the added protection which a thick mulch of straw can provide before the weather turns really cold.

Maincrop potatoes in storage should be checked regularly for any signs of damage or disease. Ideally each tuber should be checked for rotting, which can spread fast. Any which show signs of rot should be removed at once, but can still be used if part of the tuber is still sound. Always store potatoes in ‘breathable’ bags, such as our heavy duty potato sacks. Never store your spuds in plastic bags, as this will cause them to rot in double-quick time.

Fruit

Garden in November - picking and storing applesNovember is a good time to prune fruit bushes and trees. Blackcurrants will benefit if around a third of the older, darker stems are cut back virtually to ground level with secateurs or a pair of loppers. This will encourage vigorous basal growth. Leave around six of the younger, paler stems, as these will produce next year’s crop, but remove any that look weak or unhealthy. Redcurrants, whitecurrants and gooseberries grown as bushes are treated differently from blackcurrants. Reduce branches by a quarter and cut side-shoots back to two or three buds.

On apple and pear trees, reduce this year’s growth on main branches by around a third, while cutting back side-shoots to about six buds. Dead or weak growth, plus any crossing branches, are best removed. The aim should be to try and produce a tree with a reasonably open centre.

If you have this autumn’s apples in store, check them regularly for signs of rot and any other disease. Brown rot can sometimes be a problem. This causes the fruit to become dehydrated and prune-like. Apples are best stored in a dry, airy, frost-free environment.

Strawberry plants tend to look rather rough at this time of year. To improve matters, cut away dead or diseased foliage with secateurs, as this will help prevent an accumulation of fungal spores which may over-winter and re-infect new growth next spring. Tidying up the plants allows better air circulation round the crowns, while cold can get into the soil, thereby inducing dormancy and the prospect of a good crop next summer.

Companion Planting: Why Vegetables Need Friends

October 18th, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Dahlias fill a new border - Companion plantingFlowers are great for many uses in the garden, but they are perfect for companion planting. Find out how flowers can help in getting the most out of your garden. 

Flowers planted in and around the vegetable garden offer many benefits;

  • Vegetables left to grow in isolation are more vulnerable to pests. By growing flowers nearby, they will naturally attract beneficial insects. These will feed on pests, preventing them from attacking your precious vegetables. The best flowers for drawing in beneficial bugs are those rich in pollen and nectar.
  • By growing flowers among edibles, this will create a sea of colours, textures and smells. This can confuse many insect pests, as they will struggle to choose a vegetable they wish to feed on.
  • Sowing a flowering cover crop or green manure such as buckwheat, in between crops can attract beneficial insects and confuse pests. As well as attracting pest-eating insects, these flowers smother the ground to suppress weeds. Further to this, they will improve the soil quality by breaking it up with long, fibrous roots.
  • Many herbs such as; oregano, lavender and borage produce flowers. These pull in beneficial bugs like ladybugs, whose larvae will feast on fleshy pests like aphids.

These are just a few reasons that flowers are perfect for companion planting. Take a look at the video below to find out more tips on companion planting. Let us know any tips you have on companion planting in the comments below.

Companion Planting: Why Vegetables Need Friends

Companion Planting: Why Vegetables Need Friends

Victorian varieties revived

July 22nd, 2016 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 1 Comment

Frilly Pansies from 1900 and 2016The Victorians were great ones for developing new forms of old favourites. This was often driven by the enthusiasm of factory, mill and mine workers, often first or second generation city dwellers, for exhibiting auriculas, pinks and other plants including even gooseberries and rhubarb.

Some of the types grown a hundred and fifty years ago are still with us, others have disappeared and are lost forever while some have recently been upgraded. Two of plants which have benefited from recent improvements are frilly pansies and laced polyanthus.

'Victoriana Dark Red Gold Lace' polyanthusFrilly pansies had almost disappeared. But since seed was rediscovered about thirty years ago they’ve been brought back and although the flowers of ‘Fizzy Fruit Salad’ are less frilly than the old types (‘Fizzy Fruit Salad’ and ‘Fairy Queen’ from 1900 – above, click to enlarge), the straggly growth of the old types has been eliminated, plants produce more flowers for longer, and there are no plants without the waved petals.

Laced polyanthus, in which each petal is edged in silver or gold, were special favourites but with so many men away at the two world wars – many, of course, never to return – stocks declined and varieties were lost.

In the last thirty or forty years members of the National Primula and Auricula Society worked hard to bring laced polyanthus back and now commercial plant breeders have added contemporary qualities.

The ‘Victoriana’ polyanthus come in red edged in gold, and in black edged in silver. The plants are compact, the stems are stout, the heads are full of flowers, the lacing is neat and consistent, and the plants produce more stems than older types. Grow them in containers where you can admire the flowers close up or cut them for posies.

Plants of both these updated Victorian favourites – ‘Fizzy Fruit Salad’ and ‘Victoriana’ polyanthus – can be ordered now for planting in September. Expect a mass of flowers in spring.

Scent for spring – and autumn

July 15th, 2016 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Wallflower 'Sugar Rush' flowers in both autumn and spring. - (scent)The scent of wallflowers is one of the delights of spring, especially after a shower. But the ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflower, developed in Norfolk, is not only scented but flowers in the autumn as well as the spring!

This one of the most useful developments in seasonal flowers as instead of a boring green bush sitting in your containers for six months before the plants flower, plant them in September and your ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflowers will flower in October and November. They’ll then take a break for the coldest months of the winter and start blooming again in march.

PDianthus 'Festival Mixed' flowers in autumn as well as spring.  - (scent)lants are little more than 35cm high, ideal in containers, and the mixture comes with six traditional wallflower colours including a fiery yellow-eyed orange.

Oh – and in dry spells you can turn on the scent with a quick spray with the mister!

But wait, there’s more. There’s also a Sweet William that flowers in the autumn as well as the spring. ‘Festival’ comes in five colours and bicolours and at 25cm the plants are a little shorter than the ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflowers. The flowers are large, too, about 4cm and each is prettily fringed. And of course there’s the scent – a mixture of sweetness and cloves.

As with the ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflowers, ‘Festival’ will flower in October and November, take a break and then get started again in March and continue till the end of May.

Just don’t mix the two in one container: the colours don’t look so good mixed together and you’ll lose the purity of the fragrances. So give them separate containers.