Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 31 July 2015

Summer Gardening... Keeping it Going in Harder Times

Summer gardening: Gatekeeper butterfly on Fuchsia magellanica
I've learned a pause to enjoy the garden is even more important in harder times,
with this month's Big Butterfly Count forming the perfect excuse to do so.
Gatekeepers (pictured) and Commas are doing well at VP Gardens this year.

It feels like I'm keeping a load of plates spinning in the air owing to lots of family woes (boo hoo) and a longer-than-usual holiday (hurrah) occupying most of my time. My garden and allotment are in danger of suffering badly; thank goodness I've found the following help to keep things going.

In the garden


We've been away a lot and there's not always a friendly neighbour around for watering duties. After all, it's holiday time for them too, so instead I've...

  • Concentrated on bigger pots - a few years ago I counted the pots in my garden and was shocked to find I had 130. Most of them were teeny tiny ones filled with annuals, which I'm gradually replacing with much bigger pots filled with mainly perennials. I'm enjoying the reduced workload (all that repotting!), plus I've found bigger pots usually need less watering.
  • Grouped my pots together - they create their own little microclimate, which in turn cuts down the need for watering.
  • Moved my pots into the shade when I go away, so they dry out less quickly. I've also put my remaining smaller pots into large trays filled with water. This helps to keep them going for longer.
  • Used self-watering pots for my tomatoes as uneven watering tends to lead to problems like blossom end rot. These keep the soil nicely moist and don't need topping up for around 10 days. 
  • Chosen composts carefully - some of my trials with a selection of new peat-free composts on the market show they don't need watering so often. I've found I only need to water every other day with Melcourt's Sylvagrow or Dalefoot compost.
  • Never watered the non-potted parts of the garden, unless plants are suffering badly or I've just planted them. This encourages plants to put down deeper roots which in turn helps them resist drier periods in the garden. It helps I have a moisture retentive clay soil too. 

On the allotment


I've managed to mulch about a third of my allotment this year and I've been amazed at how much this cuts down the need for weeding. It's also much easier to get them out, compared to the clay soil elsewhere on the plot.

Mulch also locks in moisture, but I've found the moisture needs to be in the soil in the first place before I apply the mulch, otherwise plants may get stressed if a dry spell ensues. That's why I stopped my mulching duties in April because there wasn't enough ground penetrating rain falling. I need to review the situation after last weekend's deluge though!

You may also like:


  • Cally wrote a guest post for me couple of years ago, packed with holiday watering tips
  • My review of my self-watering pots. Don't have any? Here's a handy guide to making your own (or you can Google DIY self watering pots for lots more ideas)
  • My review of Sylvagrow (plus an insight into Melcourt's facility near Tetbury) - my full review of Dalefoot is still to come
  • A number of my blogging pals recently contributed to a summer gardening guide, packed with fab tips and lots of new blogs to discover
  • Veg Plotting is July's Blog of the Month over at the Turtle Mat blog, with a few more tips (not just for summer!) alongside my blogging story. Welcome to those who've wandered over from there :)

What summer gardening tips do you have? Or perhaps you're taking part in the Big Butterfly Count as well? Tell all in the Comments below...

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: A Bit of a Mouthful

Close-up of Acer palmatum 'Dissectum Atropurpureum' leaves in the rain

Acer palmatum var. dissectum Dissectum Atropurpureum Group is a bit of a mouthful, so it's good to see it's a synonym now for the slightly snappier Acer palmatum 'Dissectum Atropurpureum'.

Whatever its name, it's still one of my favourite plants.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Singing in the Rain... Again

Singing in the rain... again - a collage of rainy photos from the garden

The garden's enjoyed the rain we've had over the past few days and I took advantage of a brief lull over lunchtime yesterday to grab a few photos. Raindrops have a great way of accentuating the form of flowers and vegetation, and some plants like Alchemilla mollis and lupins are positively made for the vagaries of our English weather.

An overcast day means there's even lighting to play with and no need to get up so early as there's a good light to be found in the middle of the day. This kind of weather is great for blooms with richer colours, or for yellows and whites to add highlights to the gloom. However, early morning or evening may be still be preferable on breezier days as the wind usually calms down at those times.

I used to moan about garden visits in the rain, but a trip to the Bloedel Reserve a few years ago opened my eyes to the possibilities of wet days. I've found they help me home in on tiny details which I might otherwise have missed. The same happened at Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year, where that wet day helped me focus on some key elements of good design.

Singing in the rain... again - a lake view at West Green House Gardens
Cornus controversa 'Variegata' with raindrops at West Green House Gardens

It happened again on Friday when it was time for my monthly visit to West Green House Gardens to take the photos I need to operate their online accounts. It was a miserable drive to Hampshire and I fretted the whole way about not finding enough shots. I needn't have worried, there's plenty to be cracking on with. Thank goodness, as what I needed to do couldn't be postponed to another time.

It turned out to be an an amazing day, accompanied by the sounds of opera singers warming up, a tinkling orchestra, and a reflecting grand piano providing a different view of the garden. This week sees a season of opera and musical events in the gardens, and Friday was the dress rehearsal day for The Marriage of Figaro.

Singing in the rain... again - a different view of West Green House Gardens as reflected in a grand piano

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