In Need of a Little Support…..

Using your prunings, After coppicing all the Cornus,Salix and Corylus, I like to find uses for the branches as supports for perennials or added interest in pots of bulbs. Whether you have stems to use or not, now is the time to put suport in place for many perennials in ensure a more natural look once the rain starts bashing down your Peony.

Staking is very important for many perennials, Peonies, Delphiniums, Lupins, Achillea, Aconiutm and well this list goes on. There are many options from bamboo canes and string to metal supports that are available from companies such as Leander, based in Idridgehay, so nice and local to me. They make lots of different shaped supports for all situations including their lobster pots and flower baskets which look decorative when left in the border all year round.

Using any of the above methods of support at least reduces the risk of poking your eye out whilst weeding or impaling a playing child. If you resort to using bamboo canes, Make sure you use cane toppers which can be pine cones, sea shells or champagne corks. Commercial plastic or terracotta versions are available too. These canes will not be visable come mid summer when you delve into the border to cut down the early workers and they can be very painful if you forget they are there.

Leander also have clever solutions to the problem of low spreading perennials. These plants can create their own issues at the front of the border. Edging the Herbaceous borders with something like these decorative pieces, can help ease the inevitable arguments between the lover of the Geranium ‘Johnsons Blue’ and whoever has to cut and edge the lawn!

These are a brilliant idea. I used to use the spikes that workmen use, to hold up the orange plastic temporary fencing, at the side of the road. These are far more ornate and do just the same job of eliminating kinks and decapitation of your flowers!

It is time to prune all of those shrubs that have worked hard for you and the bees all winter. They are starting to look straggly and outgrowing their spaces and you want to see the new flowers in the garden so grab the shears and secateurs and give the a good chop. With big shrubs such as Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ and Mahonia like ‘Charity’ and ‘Winter Sun’ take back 1/3 of the stems quite hard back and then just take a little, more like 1/6 of the remaining stems. With the Sarcococca I just give them a good shave back with a pair of shears, so they have room to put on the growth that will flower next winter. Winter flowering Jasmine can also be tamed now and watch out for all the stems that have touched the floor and rooted.

And now an experiment, many years ago when I ran my own small perennials nursery I did an experiment with some of the first peat free compost available. I ordered 100 lavender plug plants, planting half in compost containing Peat and the others in Peat Free. The results were staggeringly conclusive with the peat free plants only growing at best 50% as well as those in full bodied compost. The plants were also weaker and with more unhealthy yellow looking leaves. I have witnessed clients, since that trial
trying to be environmentally friendly, growing vegetables in peat free compost with similar results. I have not gone back to Peat free, until now. Feeling that the time is right for another trial, to see how far all the industry research has progressed the situation. Smaller scale this time as I no longer have a big polytunnel to play in but still it will be an interesting indication. I have purchased 4 plug plants, all healthy and being kept in the same conditions.

I have also planted some Tomato seeds in both types of compost so I will keep you posted on the progress. First impressions were, the texture and make up of the compost had improved, from the very coarse almost bark like quality of the original Peat free compost I had, still it was was not as fine and friable as the Multi Purpose. I know not everybody has room for a compost bin at home. I certainly haven’t at the moment, but I think well rotted garden compost mixed with some horticultural grit and a little top soil is a better mixture than settling for peat free compost but time will tell.

Happy Days in the Garden x

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