Sunday, 19 June 2016

Michaelmas daisies .

Michaelmas daisies – Fennel and Fern

Top tips for growing asters from Paul Picton at Old Court Nurseries:

1. Choose a sunny position.
Since michaelmas daisies are so late flowering they need a good proportion of the days sunlight hours in order to form there flowers properly.
2. Plant in fertile soil.
They are tough plants and will grow almost anywhere you put them, but to get the best from them you need fertile soil.
Additional feed can also help with the display.
3. Remember to stake the tall willowy varieties before the autumn storms as there is nothing more disappointing then finding your best flowers flat on the floor.
4. Most put on a better show as comparatively young plants so divide them regularly.
Novi belgii’s can be divided every year, while novae-agliae’s and amellus cultivars are best left at least 3 years before division.
5. Mildew prevention for those that are prone.

How to rid your garden of woodlice.

How to rid your garden of woodlice | Strawberries in the Desert
...sure to watch the original post - there is a photo!
Here’s what I learnt:
Find an old empty plant pot (a container from seedlings will be plenty big enough).
Fill it with dry mulch (strow).
Find a blob of the smelliest bit of compost you’ve got (worryingly the smelliest thing I could find turned out to be at the bottom of my fridge) then stuff it in the centre of the mulch.
Invert the pot onto the soil in your vegetable patch.
And there you have it.
Two weeks later, lift the pot, throw the contents back into the compost bin and start again.
The woodlice will be back where they belong, doing their bit to create new compost, and your garden will be free of pests.

I called into the community garden earlier today and I peeked under one of the pots we made on Saturday.
Sure enough it was crawling with creatures that would otherwise be eating the kohlrabi.
For a bed approximately two metres long by a metre wide, Frank suggested four pots.

Ароматные травы

Ароматные травы

History of Allotments

Allotment Heaven: History of Allotments

Lemon Balm or Lemon Verbena.

Improve Your Mood by Growing Lemon Balm or Lemon Verbena

Friday, 17 June 2016

Seed Starting — The easy Wintersown way!

- You Can Plant in DecemberOrganic Gardening with a common sense approach

- Seed Starting — The easy Wintersown wayOrganic Gardening with a common sense approach

Lavender in your garden.

angustifolia | Downderry Nursery
For informal plantings we recommend 45cm-90cm (18in-36in) between plants, depending on their eventual size.
Planting in groups of three is very effective.
For hedging, lavenders to 60cm (24in) and rosemaries may be planted 40-45cm (15-18in) apart.
For a formal lavender hedge use one type – the effect is stunning!
Any of the angustifolia and x intermedia lavenders make a fine hedge as do all upright rosemaries.

Alan Titchmarsh's tips on growing lavender in your garden | Garden | Life & Style | Daily Express
Lavender is part of the genus Lavandula with about 39 species many found in the Mediterranean and warm climates.

Which lavender?

Lavandula angustifolia “Hidcote” – dark-purple flowers, grey foliage; bushy plants ideal for dwarf edging; height 18-20in.
Lavandula angustifolia “Rosea” – probably the best pink lavender; height 24in.
Lavandula angustifolia “Blue Cushion” – compact, good for containers; purple/ blue flowers; height 18in.
Lavandula x angustifolia “Sawyers” – chunky plants with silver foliage and purple flowers; height 28in.
Lavandula x intermedia “Walberton’s Silver Edge” – one of the few variegated lavenders, each grey leaf is outlined in cream, with soft flowers; height 18-24in.
Lavandula viridis – green lavender with lime-green flowers and grass-green, needle-like leaves; has an unusual resinous scent; height 18-24in.
Lavandula “Fathead” – compact with fat, round, maroon flowers with pink ears; height 18in.
Lavandula stoechas subsp. stoechas (French lavender) – bushy plants with purple flowers; foliage has a hint of camphor; height 20in.
Lavandula stoechas subsp. pedunculata (Spanish lavender) – tall, upright plants with slightly camphorous leaves and mauve flowers; height 30in.
Lavandula pinnatan – non-hardy species; keep in conservatories in winter and on patios in summer; height 18in.
A Gardener's Guide to Lavender

Lavender plants are great investments for borders!
IF its pruned at least once a year beginning its first year. Without pruning they tend to become woody in the center and sprawl.
An Important Point
Never cut into or cut off any of the older wood of a lavender plant unless you’re sure it’s dead.
To tell a dead branch you can scrape the stem and if you see any green it’s alive.

Cutting old wood will kill the plant. (Unfortunately, I’ve done it.)
Always cut only into the new growth – called soft wood.

Pruning a First Year Plant
The best time to prune a first year plant is in the spring just after the flower blossoms on the stalks start to open.
Holding the branches of a year old plant together in one hand cut the stalks all the way to 2 inches above where the soft wood starts. (The soft wood is where the new growth is.) From the top of the stalks to 2 inches above where the soft wood (new growth) starts will probably be approximately 1/3 of the plant.

Save Those Flower Stalks
Put them in a vase WITHOUT water and enjoy them in the house.
I like to put them with bed linens to make them smell wonderful.

Pruning the Second Year
Your lavender bush will double in size by year two. Prune in the spring after flowering and prune approximately 1/3 of the plant. This will take off the flower stalks and about 1 or 2 inches of soft wood (new growth).
Pruning the Third Year
By its third year the bush will have more than have doubled last year’s size and you should have a good size bush.
You can prune in the spring after flowering or in the fall.
If you prune in the fall do it well before danger of a hard freeze, otherwise your lavender could suffer damage.

For Longer Bloom Time
Once my bushes reach 3 years I like to dead head the stalks for longer bloom time.
Just keep in mind that dead heading is not pruning.

Final Words
If you don’t have lavender in your borders or garden I urge you to get several.
Or if you’re patient — start them from seed via the wintersown method.
The flowers smell wonderful and bring lots of pollinators.
It’s one of the most enjoyable plants you could have – especially if you start pruning its the first year and once every year of its long life.

I definitely belong in the twice-a-year camp.
I presume that, like mine, your 'Hidcote' lavender has just about finished flowering, although it may (tantalisingly but rather annoyingly) still be carrying just a few flowers.
I always cut my earlyish flowering lavender such as this one twice, once in August – even though this means cutting off the stragglers – and again in late February.
The first cut is surprisingly hard.
I take the shears and trim it right back, removing the old flowers and their stalks, and another 2-3in of foliage so that for a while the bushes look like grey hedgehogs – just the lowest few pairs of tiny emerging whiskery grey shoots in evidence.
The bushes recover during the next few weeks and become pleasing hummocks for winter.
Then in February (or March if the weather is revolting), I give the bushes a light trim and away they go.
I find two cuts a year keeps them compact and dumpy, which for a lavender hedge is particularly important.

What to grow instead of lavender?
If you have no success with Lavenders because of the growing conditions, but want that type of effect, the next best substitute is Nepeta (Cat Mint)

Sunday, 12 June 2016

How To Create A Sculpture Garden By Monique And Simon Gudgeon.

Sculpture by the Lakes: 'Gloriously wild' - Telegraph

Ideally, build your garden around the art. Buy something you love, and try it out in different places you can see when you're having a drink in the evening or a coffee in the morning. Then you'll get pleasure from it every day.
• If your artwork is heavy and difficult to move, create a bamboo cross of a similar size, and place it in various spots in the garden, to see where it works, size-wise.
• Be brave. A classical garden doesn't necessarily need classical art. "What matters is that you get the right proportions, and don't just plonk them anywhere."
• Sculptures are almost always enhanced by being near water. "You'll get twice the amount of sculpture for your money with its reflection, and it will keep changing in different lights."
• Treat the plants around as you would a picture frame, and keep planting simple, so you don't distract from the art. Plant lots of the same small, simple, evergreens around or behind it, as a unified "wall" to act as a scene-setter.
• Don't clump several artworks together. They'll fight with each other.
• Keep the sculptures clean. Don't let them get covered in bird poo or cobwebs, or they'll lose their colouring and lustre. Bronze needs to be waxed at least twice a year.
• Not all sculptures need a tall plinth. Play with height, using a bamboo cross to plan its optimum position - and remember that plants around it will grow. Ideally use plants that can be clipped, if they start to obstruct the artwork.
• Place gravel at the base of a sculpture, so you don't damage it when mowing or strimming.
• Don't be afraid of being daring. The only people who have to love it are you (and perhaps your family) - so don't let neighbours' or friends' taste determine what you do. "Even gnomes can be incredibly joyous things if they're used theatrically, and looked after."

Saturday, 11 June 2016

How to make the most of your garden art.

Monique Gudgeon on how to make the most of your garden art - Gardens - Dorset
"Whether it’s a piece of brutalist post-modernism, a classical carved stone figure or an elegant bronze sculpture by my husband Simon Gudgeon, the decisions and processes of finding the perfect place for your piece of outdoor sculpture are the same.
When it comes to art in the garden size does not matter.
Whether it’s a four or five-metre piece or something more modest in a smaller situation the same rules will apply.

When we moved to Pallington Lakes six years ago and opened as a sculpture park, Simon and I had visited numerous art venues around the country.
We knew what we liked and we had a clear idea about how we were going to display his work.

Taking your time and planning are the two most important elements.
You know your garden and where you like to sit; what bits can be seen from the house and which views are the best.
Take all of these into account and then try and visualise that sculpture in those favourite spots.
Rather than lugging a heavy statue or sculpture around, get a bamboo stake approximately the same height as the piece.
Take this to the various sites you are considering; stick it in the ground and then walk away so you can look at it from different vantage points.

You’ll be able to see whether it’s going to be tall enough to stand on its own or whether it needs some kind of plinth or pedestal.
Make sure it’s in proportion to what surrounds it, trees or buildings for example.
Also, has it got enough space around it so that your view is not obscured, or does it look cramped?

Lastly, consider what backdrop would suit your new art investment.
Sculpture easily gets lost amongst a welter of flowers, colour, leaf shapes, differing heights and depths.
Instead use flowers as part of the frame, keeping the backdrop simple and maintaining the sculpture’s impact.

Remember that there are two elements to your sculpture: the wider context, or vista - how it is seen from a distance, and the closer encounter - the more intimate view when you are beside it.
Both of these have to work.

My Golden Rules

-Keep planting simple, chose one variety of plant if possible.

-If the piece is going to be in the middle of a bed, make the planting low enough so that it doesn’t obscure the piece, or put the piece on a pedestal.

-If the sculpture is against a hedge or similar, ensure it comes above the top of the piece, like a curtain behind. Avoid the line of a hedge cutting through the middle of a piece.

-Choose a plant that will look good all year round – evergreens are best.

-If you go deciduous, dead head if needed and keep it tidy.

-Be aware of the conditions of the site you chose such as exposure to wind, or frost and consider how this will impact on the plant you choose.

-Put in some subtle lighting if you can, particularly if the piece is going to be seen from the house.

-Look after your art! Ask the artist what the piece might need in terms of after care. Dust off the cobwebs, wash off the bird poo and make it feel loved.

Creating the Right Frame

I try to frame all Simon’s work in some way so that the piece is defined but your eye is not distracted, so choosing the right planting plan is crucial.
From the following examples, you’ll see it doesn’t all have to be uniform.
Texture is just as important as colour.

Water and Sculpture

Water and sculpture are perfect partners.
Not only does it impart wonderful reflections, whether a perfect mirror on a calm day or dazzling dancing patterns when the wind blows, sunlight also bounces off the water and lights the art in a completely different way.
It’s always on the move, changing hourly, even minute by minute.

Grasses, Trees & Other Plants

Grasses are ideal for planting around the feet of a piece of art.
Remember to choose the right height for the piece or put it on a plinth so that it can stand above the grasses when they are in full growth.
Again there are hundreds of varieties to choose from, some evergreen and some not.
The deciduous varieties can be left in place over winter as they look superb when all frosted, then cut them back in February.

My personal favourite is Pennisetum ‘Red Head’ – a deciduous grass with the most beautiful burgundy hued flower heads in summer that last well into winter.

To form continuous carpets around a sculpture choose a low growing plant such as Thrift or Sea Pink.
This variety (left) is called Armeria maritime ‘Rubifolia’ but again, there are so many different varieties available now.

Small growing, evergreen geranium varieties, which are hardy, offer an excellent foil to frame a piece of art.
Some also have good autumn colour but all have beautifully coloured flowers.
This one in particular (right) is Geranium subcaulescens ‘Splendens’.

Not only does woven willow provide a good green backdrop in summer but an interesting, uniform pattern in winter - uniformity is the key here (far right).
A woven willow arbour or hedge can be as big or as little as you want so ideal for small or large gardens.
This tunnel uses Salix viminalis, its high maintenance and needs to be kept in order.

Silver birch (Betula pendula) have great bark colour and are relatively cheap to buy when small if you are planting a lot of them to surround a piece.
They also support the second highest number of wildlife species of any UK native tree, the common oak being number one.

Framing Sculpture - Monique’s favourite plants:

New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax): This plant can’t be beaten for drama and durability. Though relatively easy on maintenance, be warned they can take up a lot of space.

Bamboo: There are many varieties of bamboo - from the well-mannered clump forming varieties to the rampaging spreaders. Avoid the latter or your sculpture might disappear in a jungle! My favourite is Narihira bamboo (Semiarundinaria fastuosa) – it’s a particularly upright variety, spreads very slowly and grows nice and tall with good, chunky canes to give vertical texture as well as greenery.

Yew (Taxus baccata): The classic and best for hedges, yew’s dark green colour makes it the perfect foil to any work of art. Any conifer that is happy to be kept clipped will do just as good a job, however, avoid fast growing varieties like Leyland cypress.

Beech (Fagus sylvatica): I love a beech hedge for its ability to change with the seasons; fresh and green in the spring and, because it hangs onto its dead leaves, a rich chestnut brown in winter. Try copper beech as an alternative, its dark purple colour contrasts beautifully with bronze sculpture.

Boxleaf Honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida): An evergreen relative of the hedgerow climber, it just loves being clipped and trained into all sorts of interesting shapes (see above). It’s a fast grower so you’ll get good results quickly, but there will be a lot of ongoing maintenance.

Common Box (Buxus sempervirens): Another classic but also a slow grower, so patience is required. Also, concerns about the fungal disease which causes Box Blight has meant it is not nearly as popular as it was, but it’s still a lovely and versatile thing.

Cotton Lavender (Santolina chamaecyparisus): This lavender has a generally rounded habit which I take advantage of by keeping it clipped back hard so it forms little rounded hillocks.
It is excellent for creating a low border around a sculpture in an open situation or around paving.
However by keeping it clipped you do lose the flowers but sometimes sacrifices have to be made in the name of art.

Visiting Sculpture by the Lakes:

To arrange a visit to Sculpture by the Lakes, at Pallington, near Dorchester go to and follow the links to Plan Your Visit and Bookings. For further information call on 07720 637808 or you can email us at

Our recently published book about Sculpture by the Lakes describes the process of creating the sculpture park, and a lot of my thinking behind the planting and design of the garden and grounds.
It also explains the inspiration that led to Simon’s most iconic sculptures and how we marry art and the garden successfully.
Buy it online via Amazon at £35 (plus £2.80 postage and packing).
Alternatively, visitors to Sculpture by the Lakes can buy a copy direct from us for £25.

Sea pink.

Plant of the week: sea pink | Life and style | The Guardian
What is it?
A rugged coastal plant won't balk at poor soil, exposed sites or a good lashing from the wind.
Its neat carpet of evergreen leaves is topped with lollipops of candy-pink flowers from May to September.
Sea pink (also known as thrift or Armeria maritima) makes perfect ground cover for gravel gardens, border edging or planting in a trough: I'm getting some to put on my green roof.
Expect a height and spread of around 30cm x 30cm.

Plant it with?
Thrift will rub along nicely with other drought-tolerant toughies, such as blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca), dusty miller (Lychnis coronaria), and wormwood (artemisia).

And where?
If you have a coastal garden and struggle to grow much, this British native is a banker.
It will not, however, enjoy life on poorly drained soils or shady spots.

Any drawbacks?
As Derek Jarman, in whose Dungeness garden thrift thrived, pointed out, "It's going to leap about."
In other words, if this plant likes your garden, it will spread and spread.
If it fails to spread, divide plants in autumn or early spring to make more.

What else does it do?
Bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects will be drawn to its nectar.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Herb Garden.

Welcome to My Herb Garden

Here are the contents of the raised beds (pictured above, in clockwise movement):
#1 Bok Choy, a stir-fry indispensable; Lemon Verbena, a must for white wine; and Lovage, a celery-flavored perennial.
#2 Flat-leaf parsley for flavor and garnish; lavender ‘Munstead’ for icing cupcakes; common sage, which I fry as an appetizer, and cilantro for salsa verde.
#3 Green leaf lettuce, purple sage for who-knows-what; French tarragon for sauteed mushrooms and herbal mayonnaise; pelargonium ‘True Rose’ for vodka drinks, and rosemary for shirred eggs.
#4 Red oak-leaf lettuce; oregano and thyme for pizza and pasta sauces; winter savory for winter stews.

Weeds in Paths? Use Vinegar, Not Roundup

Weeds in Paths? Use Vinegar, Not Roundup

Saturday, 4 June 2016

How to Grow Fennel.

How to Grow Fennel: 8 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

There are two sorts of fennel: one is classed as a herb, shoots up to about five feet and produces the leaves and seeds that are often used in fish recipes.
Its proper name is Foeniculum vulgare.
The fennel Foeniculum dulce (Florence fennel), which, if you get the growing conditions right, swells at the base to produce a vegetable with a strong aniseed flavour, wonderful braised in a gratin with tomato and cheese.
`Cantino' is good. So is `Zefa Fino' which is much better in cool climates than an authentic Italian strain such as `Di Firenze'.
Because Florence fennel is also sensitive to day length, the best time to sow is in mid June for an autumn crop.
RHS recommended varieties ‘Perfection’, ‘Cantino’ and ‘Amigo’ are bolt resistant.
Late variety ‘fennel of Parma’ by can be sown in late July/August to be harvested early winter.
Alpine fennel ‘fenchel’ also available.
Early sowings (April-May) are more likely to bolt.
If you sow in mid June, you should be able to harvest bulbs by mid October.
The best soil is light, sandy and well drained, but the bulbs must never be allowed to dry out. Put them top of the list if water is short.

- Consider an exclusive patch for your fennel as it is known to impede the growth of other plants.
- Fennel plants can be started from cuttings. Once a plant matures, the roots can be snipped and replanted.
- Be sure not to start your plants where any coriander, caraway or wormwood is growing as these will impede the fennel's growth.
- Fennel can be an integral part of an expectant or nursing mother's diet, as nutrients that are exclusive to this plant aid in milk production.
- Plant your fennel during the fall in warm climates, and during the spring in cooler places.
- Verify that your soil's pH level is between 6.0 and 7.0 as fennel grows best in less acidic soil.
- Fennel can grow up to five feet tall, which leaves the thin stems susceptible to breakage. Stake your fennel to support it against the wind.
- To thresh the seeds, slap the stalk against a hard surface.
- Creating your own compost will maintain the organic integrity of your plants, and is a wonderful way to benefit the environment.
- Mix any additives into the soil in advance, making certain that it has time to neutralize before planting season.

Dill is one of the few plants to grow with Fennel.
Why fennel is the gardener's friend - Telegraph By Francine Raymond.
As a vegetable, Florence fennel is more than versatile:
- braise or steam it then serve with fish or pork;
- deep fry it in light tempura batter;
- try it sliced with a mandolin with shaved Parmesan, or chopped as a crudité to dip in hummus.

My favourite dish is fennel bulbs caramelised in butter and sugar, then covered with goats’ cheese, scattered with roast fennel seeds and grilled.

Fennel loses its flavour soon after it has been cut. Revive it, packed in ice with a brief sojourn in the fridge.

I love pickled fennel, sliced finely then brined and steeped in cider vinegar with a little honey and fennel seeds.
Take two cups of fennel, combine with three teaspoons of salt in a bowl of iced water and leave to pickle for at least two hours.
Combine three-quarters of a cup of vinegar with half a cup of water, two tablespoons of honey and spices and bring to the boil.
Drain the fennel, rinse in water, pack in sterilised jars and cover with the cooled liquor.
Make sure your vegetables are completely immersed in the vinegar solution at all times.
Allow 2.5cm headroom above the vegetables, don’t be tempted to squash them down, and use vinegar-proof lids.
Leave to macerate for a month in a cool place, and keep in the fridge once opened.

As a herb, use stems and fronds to flavour any pork or fish dish.
Bake pieces of meat or fish in foil in the oven packed with fennel ferns, and barbecue fish on a bed of stems for a really intense flavour.
Use the seeds to make your own ras el hanout spice mix with garden lavender, bay leaves, fennel and cumin seeds, rose petals, nutmeg, cloves and peppercorns, roast then grind, to steep in oil, and then dip in chunks of crusty bread.
Mix the roasted seeds with black, pink and white peppercorns and salt to make a delicious crust on baked salmon, or combine with chilli in dark chocolate.
Umbelliferae are decorative garden plants, both Foeniculum vulgare and its bronze relation will seed and squeeze in readily all over the border, without elbowing out their companions.
Decorative cousins, the noble but inedible Ferula communis and tingitana ‘Cedric Morris’ are available from Great Dixter.
Even the wildlife love fennel, especially the foliage beloved by swallowtail caterpillars (and slugs) and the flowers adored by hoverflies and all sorts of beneficial insects.

Slug resistant plants.

Gardening in Mannheim, Germany: One year of slug experience - what works, and what doesn't, at least in my garden (including lists of slug resistant plants)
garlic chives
lemon balm




lamb's lettuce
leaf lettuce
zucchini - I raised the plants from seeds indoors until they were quite large.