Garden Boundaries – A Climber For Every Aspect

Regardless of the style of your garden, whether full of plants with a romantic cottage feel, or sleek, modern and architectural, it’s boundaries tend to be one of three – hedges, walls or fences.

 

Hedges are a key choice for many, they add a mass of vertical greenery, break up the hard landscaping elements (paving, walls etc), and are a safe haven for wildlife – every hedge is teaming with a wide variety of birds, insects, and other small creatures.

More often then not, however, hedges are removed to make way for a more streamline and secure boundary – mainly fences and walls. Many modern gardens have a long expanse of frankly quite ugly fence panels that don’t add a lot aesthetically to the overall garden design.

 

Brick walls can be slightly more attractive, especially if they are old (new ones never have quite the same charm), or a current trend is to have rendered garden walls – usually painted white but much more practical if an atmospheric grey (dark or light), subtle green or stone shade.

 

There is so often a wasted opportunity to green up these vertical spaces with beautiful plants – adding colour, texture and working to soften the harshness. Whether you’re looking for an evergreen to brighten up a winter wall, or a deciduous that offers a show stopping display in summer, there is a climber for every aspect.

 

Clematis

There are almost 300 species of this incredibly versatile climber. Most aren’t fussy as to the aspect and will do very well in sun or partial shade. When buying a clematis there are many options to consider – spring or summer flowering, colour and size of flowers, repeat flowerers etc. So decide what’s best for your spot and the plants surrounding it and see what the garden centre has to offer.

 

When planting clematis ensure it is sheltered from the wind and the plant’s base and roots are in the shade of other plants or a layer of pebbles, bark or slate chips. They like their roots to be kept cool and it helps to retain moisture so this is important!

 

Some are evergreen (try C. armandii or C. cirrhosa) providing not only year round interest, but beautifully scented flowers. They are super easy to grow and because they need no pruning, they are incredibly easy to maintain. These like to be in full sun if possible.

 

Climbers For Sunny Areas

 

South and west facing walls and fences will more often then not spend long periods of time in direct sunshine. So it’s important to get a plant that can handle the hot, dry conditions.

 

Wisteria is a magnificent showstopper and looks fabulous on a house or along a brick wall – producing long racemes of pendant style flowers in a range of light lilac to dark purple in spring. Beware that some seedling plants can take 20 years to begin flowering so buy a more established plant and make sure it is in flower or has flowered before you plant!

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Climbing roses are stunning and repeat flower throughout the summer and well in to autumn. They can become a tangled mess after a few years, so slightly more work is needed when pruning (between Dec and Feb) but they are so worth the effort and are perfect in an English country garden setting.

 

Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine) is a self-twining (no tying required) evergreen climber with beautiful glossy foliage and small white highly fragrant flowers in summer.

 

Climbers for Shady Areas


North-facing boundaries can be sunless and cold, occasionally getting an hour or two of sun morning and evening in high summer. East-facing ones often spend mornings in the sun, with the remainder of the day in the shade. It’s important that the plant you choose can cope – early flowering climbers should be avoided here as they can be damaged by frost.

 

Clematis’ such as C. ‘Jackmanii Superba’ – a late flowering variety with large deep purple flowers, or C. wedding day, a slightly smaller species with large white flowers, and which blooms May-June and again in September would both be good choices for such areas.

Lonicera (honeysuckle) is a woodland plant and Hydrangea anomala Subsp. Petiolaris (climbing Hydrangea) would also be happy here, both needing shade, although would benefit from some sun to help produce more blooms.

    

 

 

Hedera Helix (Ivy) is an old favourite – it climbs vigorously, requires little attention and is generally happy in any aspect – but beware – it can get out of control quickly and needs pruning and ground runners removing to stay within the desired area.

Transform Your Garden In To A Chelsea Contender … And Save The Bees While You’re At It!

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The Chelsea Flower Show is almost upon us, the most exciting week in the garden lover’s calendar!!  If you’re not an avid watcher then give it a go – there’s so much inspiration to be had for your own garden.  I foolishly booked a holiday during Chelsea week so cant attend this year, but will be recording everything from the BBC so I can binge watch on my return…

Spring is a great time to rejuvenate your open-air living space.  Without having to spend a huge amount you can transform an untidy worn out garden in to one you can’t wait to spend time in (once the rain stops!!)

Spend a few hours one weekend doing these quick fixes and you will not regret it the next time the sun shines…

  • Show your lawn some love – feed with a high nitrogen fertiliser. Lawns need extra nutrients to encourage growth at this time of year. Now is also a good time to re seed any bare patches and get rid of the weeds.
  • Fill any gaps in your beds with plants for pollinators – such as bees, butterflies, beetles, birds and bats. Add some spring flowering plants loved by these guys to brighten up your garden – Geums, Geraniums, Hebes, Aquilegia and Erysimums are all perfect choices!  Also add some plants for summer colour/interest such as Lavender, Achillea, Buddleja, Sedum, Penstemon – the list goes on –garden centre signs should point out which plants are good for pollinators, or check out the RHS’ perfect for pollinators list here:https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/pdf/conservation-and-biodiversity/wildlife/rhs_pollinators_plantlist.pdf
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  • If you have limited planting space in your garden then add a few pots filled with these plants. Grow a climber up a wall or fence, and plant up some window boxes. Transform your space with colour!!!
  • Clean your patio – this can make a huge difference to how your garden looks. Over time paving becomes covered in grime and algae – and no matter how ‘maintenance free’ your choice of paving was, they all need some upkeep.  Scrub with a hard brush and diluted bleach or jet wash to kill off the algae and get rid of the grime. Use a patio cleaner but make sure it’s the right stuff for your paving – if unsure check on an out of sight slab. Treat patio weeds with a weed killer, and repoint in between the paving if necessary.  Use a weed repellent on newly cleaned paving.
  • While you’ve got the jet wash out also give fencing and rendered or brick walls a clean. Recoat any painted surfaces with suitable outdoor paint for a clean fresh look.
  • A much needed trip to the tip can make a huge difference – get rid of all the junk that has found its way in to your garden – old toys, broken furniture, bags of stuff that should have been banished months ago but somehow ended up here!
  • New furniture – if your budget allows treat yourself and your garden to some new furniture – a set of outdoor sofas and a coffee table, a dining table and chairs or a couple of new sun loungers will make the space so much more inviting.

Once the hard work is done, and the sun comes out, grab a drink, sit back and enjoy your beautiful new(ish) garden!

 

Air-purifying Houseplants

Air pollution doesn’t just occur outside – the air inside your home can be filled with harmful toxins – modern furnishings, synthetic building materials, carpets and both the cleaning products and toiletries you use in your home may carry more chemicals than expected.

 

In 1998, NASA discovered that houseplants can absorb harmful toxins from the air, and recommends that two or three plants in 8 to 10-inch pots for every 100 square feet. Some plants are better at removing certain chemicals than others.

 

Plants are also known to:

•   increase mood and productivity

•   enhance concentration and memory

•   reduce stress and fatigue

My pick of the some of the best air purifying house plants are:

 

 

Aloe (Aloe vera)

This easy-to-grow, sun-loving succulent helps clear formaldehyde and benzene, which can be a byproduct of chemical-based cleaners, paints and more. Aloe is a smart choice for a sunny kitchen window. Beyond its air-clearing abilities, the gel inside an aloe plant can help heal cuts and burns.

 

 

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Even if you tend to neglect houseplants, you’ll have a hard time killing this resilient plant. With lots of rich foliage and tiny white flowers, the spider plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries. As an added bonus, this plant is also considered a safe houseplant if you have pets in the house.

 

 

Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii')

Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, this plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it’ll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants.

 

Putting a Snake plant in your bedroom is also a great idea – they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night (the opposite of the process most plants follow). So sharing your bedroom with these plants could give you a slight oxygen boost while you sleep.

 

 

English ivy (Hedera helix)

English Ivy makes a great indoor potted plant, and has been proved to filter out formaldehyde found in some household cleaning products.  Interestingly it also helps to reduce airborne fecal-matter particles (another good plant for the bathroom!!)

It grows best with moist soil and four or more hours of direct sunlight.

 

 

Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)

The peace lily is a very easy plant to look after – they don’t like direct sunlight but do like a reasonably bright room in order to produce flowers.  Water weekly – although if you forget it will remind you by drooping its leaves when thirsty. It topped NASA’s list for removing all three of most common VOCs — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It can also combat toluene and xylene.

 

 

Dracaenas

This large group of houseplants comes in all shapes, sizes, and colours.  They help to combat pollutants associated with varnishes and oils.  Another easy to care for plant, Dracaenas grow inside easily, even without direct sunlight.

 

Many of these plants will be available in your local garden centre, or at online garden centres such as www.crocus.co.uk. I have a serious addiction to buying houseplants - I just can’t resist a new one for my growing home collection when I spot one!  Each room in my house has at least one plant, more usually. And the evidence that they are not just for decoration means there is no reason to resist purchasing more in future!!

Tree Styles And Species

Who doesn’t like trees? Nobody. Everybody likes trees. 

 

Trees look beautiful no matter what the season, clean the air & provide oxygen, offer a home for wildlife, and block out unsightly views. Plus, a property’s value can be increased by up to 15% if surrounded by a well planted area. Most gardens – from small to large or even a balcony can happily accommodate at least one beautiful tree. 

 

In a small or medium sized garden many trees are unsuitable due to size, and it is important to take note of the eventual size before choosing a tree. However, there is still a wide variety of suitable species and the style in which they're grown should also be taken into consideration when planning a garden.

 

 

Standards

Trees known as ‘standards’ give a classic, elegant feel to a modern garden and are ideal for instant visual impact.  Standard trees are either grafted on a single stem or grown on their own stem with side growth removed. They are trimmed in to a ball shaped head giving them the ‘lollypop’ look. 

 

Species tend to be evergreen to maintain the look year round with Box, Bay, Viburnum, Photinea and Olive being popular choices.  

 

 

 Pleached

Pleached trees are an attractive way to add greenery to an existing boundary – they comprise a clear single stem below a bamboo frame around which the foliage is grown. This creates a ‘hedge on stilts’ and looks beautiful above an old brick wall or smart painted fencing.  Trees are planted in a line and their branches are tied together with foliage regularly pruned to keep their shape.

 

They are the perfect way to provide privacy whilst taking up minimal ground space. They can be evergreen- Quercus ilex (Evergreen Oak) or Photinea, but you must be careful with blocking out light from neighbours’ gardens - so more often deciduous – with suitable species including Ash, Beech, Hornbeam and Ornamental Pear.

 

 

Multi stemmed

A row of Himalayan Birch trees make an attractive border.

A row of Himalayan Birch trees make an attractive border.

A tree that has multiple stems originating near to the ground is known as a multi-stemmed specimen.  My absolute favourite of these trees is the Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis).   Glossy green summer foliage turns an attractive yellow in the autumn and then falls to the ground.  It then makes way for the beautiful peeling bark in white, chocolate or copper to take centre stage. Eye-catching yellow catkins adorn the branches in spring, making it another fantastic specimen for year round interest. 

 

Works equally as well grown as a single specimen as in a cluster or straight line, white stems against a dark background look particularly striking.

 

Other species that make great multi-stemmed trees are Amelanchier, Cornus kousa (Dogwood), and Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood) and Prunus (Cherry) varieties.

 

 

Impressive individuals

An Acer provides a eye catching feature in a modern courtyard.

An Acer provides a eye catching feature in a modern courtyard.

All of the above suggestions make a huge impact planted in a group or in a row. Alternatively – a single tree can be just as impressive.  Acers, magnolias and fruit trees are all striking in different ways in different seasons – whether it be blossom in spring, leaf colour in autumn or stem interest in winter. A single tree (multi or single stemmed), either in a pot on a patio or a suitable spot in the garden, can be a show stopping addition.

 

Pyrus callerana ‘Chanticleer’ has both stunning spring blossom and autumn colour and is a beautiful tear-drop shape.  It’s easy to grow, windproof and generally pest-free.  Additionally, its foliage, which isn’t very dense, makes it a perfect tree to use in front of windows as screening, without blocking out too much light.

 

Acers (Japanese Maples) are ideal trees to grow in a pot on a balcony due to their very slow growing nature.  Thew have a graceful habit and beautiful delicate foliage which offers stunning autumn colour ranging from red, orange and yellow to green and deep purple.

Beautiful Magnolia in full bloom.

Beautiful Magnolia in full bloom.

Planting A Family Garden

When deciding what to plant in a family garden, there are several points to consider. There is no point in having extremely delicate plants bordering a lawned area mainly used for football. Or beds full of spiky shrubs and plants that are harmful to little tummies when eaten (we’ve all caught our kids trying to eat soil/worms/plants!!).  Many people just don’t have the time to spend hours gardening, so I tend to try and use low maintenance, high impact plants wherever possible. 

 

Some of my favourite plants suitable for a family garden are:

Acers - also known as Japanese Maple - are a family of deciduous ornamental trees which are grown for their attractive foliage. Leaf colour ranges from green to yellow, orange, red, and purple - from spring onwards, and offer a stunning autumnal display before leaves drop in winter. Some varieties offer year round interest, such as the Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) with its peeling red-brown bark.

Hellebores are a group of evergreen low growing plants flowering from late winter to late spring. Ideal for brightening up a shady corner, they have a variety of saucer shaped flowers in purple, green, white, pink & yellow, over architectural spiky dark green leaves.  Once flowers begin to appear the leaves can either be cut back so the blooms take centre stage, or left on the plant to provide good ground cover.

Also know as the butterfly bush, Buddlejas are fast-growing, undemanding deciduous shrubs, that are suitable for a variety of garden positions. Full sun or partial shade is preferred, and their large, cone shaped flower heads range from pinks and purples to whites. This plant is LOVED by butterflies - and attracts them in clouds whilst in flower for 4-6 weeks during summer each year.

Choisya is an evergreen shrub with divided glossy green leaves and fragrant star shaped white flowers. Its’ common name is ‘Mexican orange blossom’ due to beautifully scented flowers. These appear late spring and can continue well in to late autumn if gently pruned after the first flush of flowers. This shrub looks attractive all year round and is great for adding structure to a garden’s planting scheme. It grows well in all exposures - full sun, partial and full shade. The ‘Sundance’ variety is particularly striking as new leaves are vibrant yellow. Works well paired with the darker purple varieties of Buddleja!

Grasses are a welcome addition to any family garden.  Generally easy to care for and with very little maintenance needed, they provide structure and bring a soft backdrop to more ostentatious perenniels.  Whilst many have to be cut back in early spring to allow the new growth to come through, they provide interest for most of the year, with many species stems turning a shade of gold, beige or white in autumn, offering texture and drama to the border when other plants are still hiding underground.


February Planting Inspiration

Another perfect plant for winter!!  Hellebores (sometimes known as Christmas or Lenten roses) are winter flowering perennials, and are a popular choice for brightening up shady areas from December to March. 

 

Beautiful flowers in a variety of colours, including pink, yellow, white and maroon, sometimes speckled, stay on the plant for several months, and are accompanied by large divided leaves, often with serrated edges.  Good for ground cover, these leaves can either be left on the plant when flowering or removed to let the blooms take centre stage.

Photo by fotolinchen/iStock / Getty Images

UK garden centres tend to have a wide variety of Hellebores available at this time, check out the selection and be confident that when planted in shady areas with moist soil, (not overly dry or waterlogged) they will provide a very pretty ground cover for what can otherwise be a sparse period in the garden.


Things to do now...look after garden visitors!

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Whilst January is quiet on the gardening front there are still other important jobs to attend to! Feeding birds all year round is vital, but more so at this time of year when the ground is frozen and the berries and seeds from trees are becoming scarce. Providing food for birds with a high fat content is beneficial as it helps to keep them warm in the freezing temperatures. if you don't feed the birds, they will not come and instead visit other places where food is more readily available!

 

You can of course buy ready made fat balls and ready mixed seed packs but be careful what you buy as the cheaper products can be packed out with less nutritious 'filler'.  Choose a good quality seed mix and have a go at making your own fat blocks by melting suet in to molds and adding different ingredients for the variety of birds. Peanuts, meal worms, berries will attract and satisfy starlings, tits and finches. Place in a wire cage and hang from a sturdy branch. Ripened apples and raisins scattered on the ground will attract thrushes and blackbirds.

Ensure fresh water is available is also important. Place a shallow dish on the ground for birds and other wildlife. Melt a hole in pond ice to allow them to drink and enter and exit the water. If you have a nesting box make sure this is clean and ready for new nests in spring.

Sit back and watch (from inside!) as your garden becomes full of life!

December Planting Inspiration - Mahonia

Mahonias are perfect for brightening up a winter garden - this evergreen shrub has glossy, spiky dark green leaves, and from late autumn and all through winter they produce long stems of bright yellow flowers that stand upright, followed by small purple/black fruits that are also very attractive. The taller varieties - such as Mahonia x media 'Charity' can grow to over 2 metres tall and their spiky leaves act as an intruder deterrent if planted on a boundary. For a more child friendly garden, try Mahonia 'Soft Caress' which stands approximately 1 metre tall and has longer softer leaves so as not to prickle the little people!

Photo by Laura-Rose-Rawlinson/iStock / Getty Images

Mahonias grow well in full sun, and semi or full shade, and cope with any soils, so they are very versatile and can work in many different areas of the garden. Plant at the back of the border with perennials in front,  when they die back in autumn, the mahonia can take centre stage and put on its beautiful show of magnificent flowers.

Photo by petrovaliliya/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by petrovaliliya/iStock / Getty Images

Once planted they look after themselves - they don't attract pests but can occasionally suffer from powdery mildew or rust, both easily treatable with a standard garden fungicide. They require little or no pruning, although mature plants can tend to become bare at the bottom of the stems - so pruning in this case can help to encourage new growth.

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Things to do now…..plant spring bulbs (it’s still not too late!)

Spring bulbs play a very important role in the garden – whilst the shrubs and perennials are sleeping, crocuses, daffodils and tulips are active underground – building strong roots before the depths of winter and emerging from the soil to put on a fantastic display of colour from late winter to late spring.

Ideally bulbs should be planted in the previous autumn, September and October are the optimum months, so the bulbs can settle in and start to develop their roots before the ground has gets too cold. However, if you haven’t done it by now it’s not too late. November has been quite mild so far so below ground temperatures are still suitable. I planted some tulips and daffodils on a very mild New Years Day a few years ago and was amazed when they actually bloomed – although not as impressive a display as normal so better to get them in the ground sooner…

Planting bulbs is easy – follow the instructions on the packet, and ensure they are placed deep enough and in the right spot – tulips and crocus’ love the sunshine, daffodils enjoy a sunny or partially shaded position.  If you don’t have space in your flower beds or only have a paved area these bulbs look amazing in pots – i like to stick to one type of bulb per pot and have a group of differing pots together. Don’t be tempted to squeeze too many bulbs in a pot as they will fight for space, and fertilise as soon as the shoots appear – once the flowers have arrived it is too late.