When to cut Wisteria ?

Mid to late Winter, and mid to late Summer, are the times to prune or cut back Wisteria. Cut the plant back to the budding node in Winter. The buds form in early Spring and bloom by around May giving their array of purple flowers. In mid to late winter the plant will have gone into hibernation and should have shed its foliage, it is easy to see unwanted growth and to see where to cut and shape the plant keeping the nodes that will bud in the coming Spring. The plant should bud off the mainstays, so cut back to the mainstays, the main stems. The mainstay will form the basic stem structure of the plant.

Cutting the plant in mid summer may be desirable as Wisteria can grow quite quickly and become untidy. It is a good idea to trim of the long stems in mid summer that grow unwieldy, and then regain a more desirable shape.

How to prune apple and pear trees ?

Apple and pear trees should be pruned in the mid Winter. This should be done every year. Any crossing branches that rub together should be cut away. Pick the weaker branch and in most cases cut the whole branch away. Rubbing branches can cause wounds in the bark and problems can occur from open wounds in the bark.

Any suckers should be cut away. Suckers are minor branches usually growing from the end of a branch where it meats a mainstay branch or the trunk. Suckers often grow from the bottom of a tree where sometimes out of where the tops of roots are showing out of the ground. They often are springing out from around the base of the tree. Cut any growth of suckers away as they do nothing only suck energies out of the tree that would otherwise be focused elsewhere in the tree such as the fruit.

Keep strong branches. Strong branches generally are branches that grow upwards diagonally, and not horizontally or vertically. Keep a number of mainstay branches making sure none of the branches cross at all and they all have there own space to grow in and so the tree has enough air around it. A small tree may have 3 - 5 main branches for example.

Consider fertilizing your tree in mid Winter with a strong fertilizer.

In Summer, when fruit on the tree has begun forming, if it is apparent the tree is going to produce an abundance of fruit, and much more than you will ever eat your self consider cutting away many of the branches fruiting, this way you can concentrate the trees energies into a smaller proportion of the fruit and so make much healthier and tasty fruit.

When to prune roses ?

The time to prune your rose depends on the type of rose you have, that is whether the rose is a climber or a Rambler.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a rambling rose and a climbing rose at first glance, however rambling roses tend to give one or two blooms a year usually at some point between late spring to early Autumn depending on the verity. They tend to give a large array or show of flowers when they bloom differing from their climber counter part that usually flower all year round however with a less abundant array of bloom often showing just one or two flowers at a time but all the time.

So if your rose flowers all year it is likely it is a climbing rose, but if it flowers once or even twice a year but not at all at other times it is likely a rambling rose.

If your rose is a rambling rose you ought to prune the plant early Autumn. This is because the plant will flower from the previous years growth. So the following year you prune the plant, the plant will flower from growth made in that year.

If the plant is a climbing rose then you ought to prune the rose in very early Spring. This is because the plant will flower from growth made in that year. The new growth from the same year the plant will flower from.

How to get big yeilds from Camellia Japonica ?

Most Camellia Japonica flower in the Winter or early Spring. They tend to develop their buds in Summer and at this time the weather can be very dry and so inhibits the growth and development of their buds that will bloom in the coming Winter or Spring. The trick is to ensure the plants get plenty of water at this time of year. And if possible make it rain water so this is where a large water but can be very useful. As long as the plant gets plenty of water through out the Summer months or dry months the plant should develop a large yield of buds to open out.

Another trick can be to give the plant an ericcaceous liquid feed in early or mid winter. This way you can give a kick to the plant to ensure the yield will open out should the soil be poor. The plant could do with that extra kick to ensure all the flowers open. Often if the yield is high and the soil is poor with nutrient the buds might not open.

A trick on cleaning algae from paving or decking

Every year it can be a good idea to jet clean your wooden decking or stone paving. Often algae from the rain can build up and this is why a thin layer of green, slimy texture builds up. A method to clean it off is to if to use bleach. Adjust the ratio of bleach to hot water depending on how much build up there is. If it has only been about a year since the decking or paving was installed you should find a minor build up and so a 1 - 10 mix of bleach to hot water should be sufficient. For larger build ups you can experiment with the ratio of bleach to hot water. Any household bleach is sufficient.

When you have your mix brush your bleach and water mix onto your decking or patio with a stiff broom and leave for at least 10 minutes. This is because the green algae is in fact a living organism and the bleach kills it. When the algae is dead it stops sticking to the surface and is much easier to clean off. Therefore you wont need to use your power washer on high power and run the risk of fraying the wood of the decking, or loosening the pointing of the patio. I have even found that with a strong mix solution of bleach to water I did not even need a power washer a stiff broom or brush was sufficient. Beware though, not to spill any bleach mix into any flower beds or lawn area or anywhere there are plants as it could harm the plants, and make sure it drains away safely.

A tip on building a long lasting fence

If you are erecting a fence yourself, make sure the post crete, cement or concrete comes up to the soil or ground level to ensure water will drain away from the fence post, and no soil is sitting around the fence post. If the fence post is sitting in soil it will likely rot quite quickly and so the fence will likely fall down sooner.

How to attract wild life into your garden ?

Generally, having as much plant verity as possible is a good way to attract wild life. Try to have a rotation of flowering plants through out the year. Leaving a pile of wood to rot down, somewhere in the garden will be a way of creating a home for invertebrates to take refuge. A pile of logs can also invite hedge hogs to shelter and they can be a welcome visitor or resident feeding on slugs.

Attracting birds; plant as many berry forming shrubs as possible. If you install a bird feed, make sure it is well out of reach from any cats. Make some space for a place for landing and take off, such as some lawn area. If you have space, plant a Coniferous tree, they make a great shelter and place for birds to nest. Alternatively pick an evergreen tree as this will provide shelter to nest in the Winter. Turning over the soil often attracts birds as they will hunt the invertebrates such as the earth worms.

Create a wild life pool or pond, this will invite lots of different species of wild life including frogs. If you are a fan of frogs see if you can find some frog spawn from anywhere but the wild, as in the uk it is prohibited to collect frog spawn from the wild. If you are able to create a pool in your garden it can rapidly turn to a to a vibrant ecosystem and attract many species to feed from. Make sure however, any feeding squirrels or other mammals can escape should they fall in.

If you are not a fan of wasps try not to keep any rotting fruits left out, such as fallen apples or pears. If you are a fan of bees however choose plants that have single flowers such as lavenders. Plants with single flower heads are easy for bees to attract pollen from. Necter rich flowers such as buddleias Verbena bonariensis are good at attracting butterflies.

What plants could be harmful to pets or small children ?

All plants have some form of toxicity, but below is a short list of some of the most common, and most poisonous plants common to gardens in the UK that you might want to know if you are a parent or pet owner.

Foxgloves Digitalis. All parts are very poisonous, and can be lethal if ingested substantially

Lilly of the valley Convallaria Majalis. All parts are poisonous can cause severe illness if any part is ingested.

Yew tree Taxus Baccata. All parts are very poiosonous, can be fatal if ingested. Never ever eat fungi growing from this tree.

Holly Ilex Aquifolium. It is a common Christmas decoration. All parts are poisonous especially the berries and can cause sickness if ingested.

Hemlock waterdrop-wort Oenanthe crocata, O. aquatica, O. phellandrium. Not commonly found as a garden plant however might be worth knowing this plant to distinguish it in the wild as it can be fatal if ingested.

Cuckoo-pint, lords and ladies Arum. Not commonly cultivated but it can be found self planting in gardens, it is very poisonous if ingested and a skin and eye irritant if handled.

Others poisonous species include :-

Agyreia nervosa - poisonous, Acokanthera (bushman’s poison) - poisonous,Adenium - poisonous, Agapanthus (African lily) - poisonous, Aloe - poisonous, Apocynum (dogbane) - poisonous, Aristolochia (Dutchman's pipe) - poisonous, Black byrony - poisonous, skin irritant, Brugmansia (angel’s trumpet) - poisonous, Bryonia (white bryony) - poisonous, Caladium (angel’s wings) - poisonous, Celastrus - poisonous, Colchicum (autumn crocus) - poisonous, Coriaria - poisonous, Cytisus - (broom) - poisonous, Galanthus (snowdrop) - poisonous, Gelsemium (false jasmine) - poisonous, Gloriosa superba (glory lily) - poisonous, Gymnocladus dioicus - poisonous, Homeria - poisonous, Hyoscyamus (henbane) - poisonous, Laburnum - poisonous, Lupinus (lupin) - poisonous, Mandragora (mandrake) - poisonous, Mentha pulegium (pennyroyal) - poisonous, Moraea - poisonous, Papaver somniferum (opium poppy) - poisonous, Paris (herb Paris) - poisonous, Phytolacca (pokeweed) - poisonous; skin irritant, Pieris - poisonous, Podophyllum (May apple) - poisonous, Rhododendron, including Ledum, Azalea, Menziesia - poisonous, Ricinus communis (castor oil plant) - poisonous, Rivinia (Bloodberry) - poisonous, Sambucus except S. nigra (elder) - poisonous, Solandra (chalice vine) - poisonous, Solanum - poisonous, Solanum pseudocapsicum (Christmas cherry, winter cherry) - poisonous, Sophora (pagoda tree) - poisonous, Symphoricarpos (snowberry) - poisonous, Symphytum (comfrey, Russian comfrey) - poisonous, Tabernaemontana (crepe jasmine) - poisonous, Veratrum (false hellebore) - poisonous, Zamia - poisonous, Zantedeschia (calla lily) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant

What should I do to my garden during the Winter ?

There are quite a lot of gardening jobs to prepare your garden for Winter here is a list.:-

Prune shrubs and trees. Most species of tree and shrub should be pruned in the Winter. Only if the tree or shrub is a Winter flower er such as a Viburnam Tinus or Camellia Japonica should you then wait until early Spring or until the tree or shrub has fully finished flowering. It will be much easier to cut back deciduous shrubs and trees as with their foliage shed it will be easier to see what you are cutting and get to the branches to cut.

Fertilize the ground. In mid winter this is a really good time to put a strong fertilizer such as manure down. This will also mulch the ground and provide a layer that impedes the the frost.

Mulch the flower beds. Fallen leaves provide a natural mulch so if you can leave the fallen leaves on the soil of the flower beds. Remove them if they are covering plants or getting court in shrubs.

Remove leaves from lawns. Remove all leaves from your lawn if you have one. They will rot down killing the grass and help moss to form. They will help making the lawn really patchy and with patches comes the weeds, so they can cause problems for lawns. Tip don't use a leaf blower to remove leaves. Leaf blowers are really detrimental to microbiological life that the garden Eco-system depends on. It does make the job take much longer and it will be a big benefit to the lawn.

Tip, if you can leave any died back herbaceous bedding. If you leave it until the spring when the new foliage starts appearing, it will help protect the plant from the Winter cold.

What are the most low maintenance plants I could plant ?

If you want to choose low Maintenance plants it is a good idea to choose plants that will be :- drought resistant, slow growing, evergreen, fill a space so to not allow any exposed soil to allow weeds to grow in. The following list should meet these requirements.

Ornamental grasses such as, Carex or Sedge grasses Carex, Pheasant grass Stipa Arundinacea, Autumn Moor grass Sesleria autumnalis, Mexican feather grass Stipa Tenuissima, Ornamental grass Stipa gigantea. Ornamental grasses once they have taken root need very little care resisting drought, hard frosts, and are very rarely subject to disease or pest infestation.

Succulents such as, Sempervivums or Sedums. Hardy succulents can be very easy to look after needing nearly no care. They are evergreen and will grow through hard frosts and dry summers. They even grow in gritty and poor soils, so they could be an option if you want some plants but are going to be away from your space for long periods of time, or you know you wont want to do any gardening at all.

Hardy exotics such as, New Zealand flax Phormium Tenax or Beaked Yucca Yucca Rostrata. Most Exotic palms will grow very big but Phormium or Yucca are 2 of the smaller and will with stand cold Winters and dry Summers.

Wild flowers meadow such as Forget me nots , Corn flowers , Yarrow Achillea MillefoliumWall flowers Erysimum, Cosmos , Ox-eye Daisy , Corn Cockle , Corn Marigold . To name a few, it is possible to buy mixes of seeds and you just scatter the seeds over the area in the Spring and by Summer they should have germinated and they will come back each year. If you make a patch dedicated to wild flowers they will take care of themselves. Often it can be an idea to cut the area back in late summer, or if the area is in a lawn you can just go over it with a lawn mower and this will entice the growth for the following year.

Slow growing evergreen shrubs such as, Hollies Ilex Aquifolium , Abelias Abelia Grandiflora, Yew Taxus Baccata, or Pittosporums, Cotoneasters, Mahonias, Helianthemums, Pieris, Euonymus, Viburnums

How to create a moss mural, living wall ?

Moss can be created by mixing yogurt and soil together. If you then paint this mix onto a wall with about three weeks out side together with a bit of rain the mix should start to turn to moss. Try applying the mix at different intervals to create patterns or paint pictures of your choice. The different stages of the moss development should give different textures and shades of green to create an effect of a living mural.

You could even experiment by adding plants such as Ferns, or Lichens to add effects in your mural.

So if you have a dilapidated wall or a wall in good condition you would like to try something interesting with, consider creating a moss mural it should fairly easy to create and lots of fun.

How to deal with aphids on a rose or rose aphids ?

One of the best ways to deal with pests on plants is to ensure the plant is healthy. Well pruned and growing in the right soil and getting the best amount of water and light. If the plant is health its natural defenses will keep pests away.

However, there are some trickes you could use to ensure bugs don't ensue your plant such as planting aphid trap plants such as Cosmos, Dahias, Asters, Nasturtium, or Zinnias. Plants with a strong odor such as Garlic, Chives, Onion, Allium or Catnip is said to work well at repelling them too. Planting plants that attract insects to take care of aphids include Yarrow, stinging nettle, Dill, Fennel, and Clover.

The aphid problem often begins in Spring before any of the aphid preditors are out, but if it is late Spring or Summer you could try buying lady bird lavae, or placing lady birds amoungst the roses. The lady birds will need to lay their eggs as it is the lady bird lavae that eat the aphids.

You can also try adding a nitrogen rich fertilizer to the ground of the roses. Aphids like to feed on nitrogen and so this could stop them endearing the rose flower heads. Nitrogen rich fertilizers include lawn fertilizers, so if you have a lawn you could try adding some of the lawn feed to the rose beds too. Other organic forms of Nitrogen high fertilizer include Blood meal, Feather meal, Rabbit manure, Tea leaves, or Poultry manure. Most general purpose fertilizers are also high in nitrogen.

What could be a low cost alternative to paving

Building a patio is no easy task especially if you have to build the base from scrtch.

If you are looking to save money here are a couple of ideas that you could do instead of building a garden patio.

Decorative aggregates : Instead of having to create a base foundation and all the other prep and work for a patio, a cheaper alternative could be to use decorative aggregates such as Cotwold buff or cream, Caledonian pebbles or cobbles, or Tweed pebbles. You will need to level your ground well, and lay a porous ground sheeting for the aggregates to go on top of.

Section more than one type of aggregate. Why not use 2 or three different aggregate stones, you could be creative with making shapes of the sections for them to go in. Use a coil of bedding and aggregate seperator to seperate each section of the stones.

Set in some stepping stones into the design. Setting in some stepping stones into the aggreate stones will make the space more accomadating, intersting and add to the over all ascthetics.

Add some rockery. Adding some decorative rocks such as lime stones or granite could can add further effects for not much extra cost. The point is you can make a very neat and trendy design at the same time as saving a lot of money that if would have been to build a patio garden.

Add some shaped planting, bedding areas. With the coil of aggregate seperator you can shape your planting areas. I have always found that curved boarders give a natural feel and work better. Trying to mimick nature but at the same time keeping some confirmaty such as keeping an even spacing when it comes to sections and planting. Try to use odd numbers where possible.

A list of plants to create an exotic jungle scheme

If you want to create a tropical jungle feel to your garden, here is a list of plants for just that. They all grow well in the UK, fully frost hardy and will give a fantastic jurasic, or tropical jungle theme to your space.

Structure : Aucuba japonica, Clerodendrum trichotomum, Cordyline australis, Euphorbia mellifera, Fatsia japonica, Leycesteria formosa, Magnolia grandiflora, Musa basjoo, Phyllostachys, Trachycarpus fortunei

Foliage : Amorphophallus rivieri 'Konjac', Begonia luxurians, Dryopteris sieboldii, Ensete ventricosum, Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii', Eucomis, Hedychium wardii, Musa sikkimensis 'Red Tiger', Musella lasiocarpa Sauromatum venosum

Colour : Kniphofia, Camellia, Cautleya spicata 'Robusta', Crinum x powellii, Crocosmia, Hemerocallis, Passiflora caerulea, Roscoea, Salvia, Zantedeschia aethiopica 'Crowborough

If you have a question, or have a tip you would like to share, please contact me and I will post it here.