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It has been a few months since our last chat and I wish to confide that life for me during that time has been extremely fantastic. I have finally completed my 2nd year FdSc in Hort & Garden Design (1 left to go) and have busied myself through February to April sprucing up the Manor for the 3rd spring running. So if you have seen my previous blog you will know how much work was put in through the Winter months having the added back-up of a Polytunnel which has been extremely successful. I bought approx. 1200 plug plants wholesale and have managed to keep at least 70% alive !!! I am now being rewarded with the capacity to plant areas on mass for example 150 Lathyrus, 150 Dianthus, 150 Passiflora, 150 Delphinium… the list goes on. Antirrhinum, Monarda didyma, Anchusa, Verbena, Sweet Williams… HOW MUCH FUN NOW !!!! So much planting to do lol
Anyway here are some pics to get the wheelbarrow rolling…
This was so worthwhile… my client was amazed to see it all the way from his bedroom window. Planting on mass gives great effect from a long distance
I can assure you that even though it looks slanted it is merely the angle at which i took the shot
The waterfall is always a delight in spring so here are a few pics…
A lot of time and effort was put in to the long sweeping border that is the Walled garden so named as it has a curved wall around the back. The major issue here is the 50ft conifers that drain the soil of resources however with careful plant selection the fullness we have been hoping for is finally coming together thanks to the mass planting of perennial Geraniums and Heuchera not to mention the previously planted (last year) Laurels and Photinia which help fill it out around the base of the trees. The laurels, Prunus laurocerasus have also had a flush of scented (cherry blossom) flowers which so many people miss due to early pruning with the dreaded hedge-mauler! The Mahonia are slowly returning to normal after being moved from the secret garden, we’ve added two Salix babylonica ‘Chrysocoma’ in a gap between 2 of the conifers, choosing this variety specifically as we have trouble with Willow anthracnose at the other end of the garden. (They allegedly have a better resistance to the disease. Anyway here are some pics of the Walled garden.
From a distance the impact is amazing. Here is what the border looked like this time 2 years ago…
Finally something I really don’t want you to miss ! Every year I painstakingly spend hours tying down Laburnum along the roof of a 70m long pergola. There are approximately 15 plants either side spread along the length which offer us a display of yellow chandeliers drooping through the ceiling of the pergola for about 2 weeks ! Is it worth it… what do you think… The wisteria’s and clematis also add to the effect as do some of the finest scented roses, yet I have to be honest the Laburnum is the focal point of this huge creation and although it only lasts 2 weeks it truly is stunning !
So before I leave you, although I haven’t cut the box hedge yet here is our parterre freshly planted with geraniums about 3 weeks ago… Hope you enjoyed the pictures, I will try to be back soon with some shots of the cut flower garden, the sweet peas, passion-flower, the peonies are amazing right now as well… Oh dear… wish I had more time… Bye for now
Thanks for your time,
The Lone Gardener
This blog is a copy of a blog posted on growonyou.com/thelonegardener in 2011, a blog which I intend to close down, so will be copying them on to wordpress over the next few weeks. Growsonyou.com is a fantastic site for information but I decided its time to keep all my blogs together. In this blog there are some fantastic pictures !!!
Hope you enjoy it …
This was my first visit to Hampton Court, let alone the flower show. I work as a gardener and I am always on the look out for inspiration. Why have I not been here before…!!! The beds around the gardens on the way in were stunning. Interesting to note that large borders still maybe have only two different type of plants, reds and yellows or blues and whites were also very popular.
Sorry no pics of Hampton Court gardens, but I do have some pics of the floral marquee, I would like to add that I show these merely as a ‘tourist with a camera’, and I have no intention of claiming copyright on these pictures, and if anyone has issue please tell me and I will remove if/where necessary.
All these photo’s were taken in the floral marquee.
(Below) Definitely going to order some of these wonderful Nemesias for the waterfall. They are so bright, i love em!
(Above) I have ordered 48 chrysanthemum plants from this company. They really were the best quality, and so full of knowledge about their plants.
Hope you enjoyed them, if you want to see pictures of the gardens the show is still on until Sunday, and I believe they get rid of a lot of the plants for next to nothing on Sunday afternoon ??? Good Luck TLG
Here is a link to some Lilium that I recently purchased from H.W.Hyde.
So here we are approaching spring and I would like to update the previous blog in order for you to see how the areas I altered recently (See Diary Update 15th-29th Oct 2012) have changed.
Over the last 5 months I have taken significant advantage of the poly-tunnel (and glass house) having the extra space undercover to order in plants as small modules from a trade supplier called Barrett’s Bridge Nursery in Cambridgeshire. It is possible to pick up all manner of perennials as plug plants however I focused on gathering for specific areas in the garden that need improvement long term such as the waterfall, the cut flower garden and other various borders which require plants ‘en masse’.
Plants I have grown on from plugs for the cut flower garden include Monarda didyma, Anchusa azuruea, Verbena bonariensis, Delphinium (3 varieties), Digitalis and Helenium (2 varieties). Plants for the waterfall include more low growing plant cover such as Phlox, Dianthus, Delosperma (2 varieties), Wahlenberia albomarginata and Iberis sempervirens ‘Snowflake’. I have also grown Primula polyantha ‘Victoriana Gold Lace’ to add colour in early spring to the pillar garden and I am also growing an abundance of climbing plants such as Lathyrus latifolium (3 varieties) and Passiflora (3 varieties), to benefit areas where trellis needs covering throughout.
As a self-employed gardener it is important for me to be able to create a visual experience to my client in order to receive extra funds to be able to purchase plants and a great way to do this is by using a social media site called Pinterest. When you become a member (free) you can ‘pin’ any online picture to your own picture boards and then share the link with your client. Here is a link to my Pinterest page which my client has access to at any time allowing him the opportunity to see what the future holds for his garden. (TheLoneGardener)
During March to September the poly-tunnel will be transformed again to house tomatoes, cucumbers, salad leaves, lettuces and peppers and for the long term we have under cover strawberries, peaches and nectarines. I am also growing carnations permanently in here so as to extend the cut flower season in order to supply cut flowers to the house and it also offers me more space to store tender plants that would normally be in the garden in the growing season.
Most recently we have continued to aerate the soil adding more organic matter to the border where necessary and have now covered the entire area with a bark mulch in order to suppress weeds and also retain moisture to prevent the soil from drying out.
The Heuchera have been a great investment offering an abundance of colour throughout the winter when other plants have been cut back. I have also reluctantly included two 2m tall Salix babylonica to close a space between the conifers which as it was a request from my client I felt obliged to carry out although I advised that these trees require a lot of water and with the conifers in such close proximity might struggle to perform to their best. We have also had recent issues with willow anthracnose which affects the look of the tree’s leaves however sometimes we have to accept a client’s wishes irrespective of advising against it.
From the pictures we can see what this area looked like prior to October 2012 and determine that the slope is too high to begin with, so I had to reduce the height by 50% then build up a wall of slate around the base to add structure and eventually planted the area with Erica darlyensis.It is important to use alkaline friendly heathers like Erica darlyensis rather than Erica carnea which are acid loving plants.
Heather Hill has now become one of the more successful areas of the garden this year after much trauma in trying to plant appropriately to cope with the severe climatic conditions we endure due to being on high ground. Finding the solution to this problem involved much research as highlighted by my previous blog including soil analysis and liaison with the plant supplier (Kingfisher Nursery – trade only) before purchasing. Now as the months have progressed so has the colour of these wonderful plants which have now been flowering for well over 7 weeks already and for those that were wondering it took 600 plants in total, I under-estimated by 300 plants.
For those working out the cost without labour, materials and plants came to approximately £1700 covering just less than 30 square metres! On the opposite side to the heathers I have planted 2500 Russian snowdrops, Puschkinia scilloides and intend to sow poppy seed in a few weeks’ time.
Walking past this area offers me a feeling of satisfaction especially when just a few days ago I could hear it humming and on closer analysis observed somewhere in the region of 100 bees all collecting pollen from the flowers. To see nature working after human manipulation in my eyes is the true picture of success and given that this area had caused so many complications in the last 2 years I am glad to finally move on.
So with any luck the weather will start to improve and I can start planting out the 1200 plants I have nurtured over the winter months hopefully living up to the expectations of my client since his viewing of my pin-board at ‘PInterest’. Another interesting development is that my client is now in a position to hold events at his garden without embarrassment should he wish to do so and we are hoping to engage with a local events organisation in regards to holding future wedding receptions so as my client can reclaim some sort of income in order to carry on employing a gardener throughout his retirement.
If you are in the Hertfordshire area and feel that The Lone Gardener could be of benefit to your garden please do not hesitate to contact me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks for your time, Paul, AKA The Lone Gardener
15th Oct – 29th Oct
What have I been up to these last few weeks you may well ask ? He told us he would be updating us every week in his last post, I hear you say! Well, I’m sorry but with Winter fast approaching I have been so busy in the garden, 4 seperate projects all need completing post-haste, not to mention having to cut all the Hedera helix (English Ivy) that covers the entire house. Here is a few clues as to the tasks in hand…
For sometime now I have been struggling to find a solution to cover a mound of soil that is heavy clay and quite open. It sits behind a wild-flower garden and originally I tried planting a hedge out of Elaeagnus ebbingei but the winds were too severe for it to cope so eventually replanted elsewhere. Since then I have tried planting and covering however any media left on the surface of the weed membrane slowly slides down over time.
So now we try another alternative yet the task is never made easy.
Solution – To build a picture in your mind the soil is heavy clay although I have added sand and organic matter (OM) to help improve structure over time, we are several feet above sea level, we get extreme cross winds and there is little or no protection for this area. So the sensible option would be to find a plant fitting to these constraints, moorland like plants e.g. Heathers.
Whilst visiting a friend in Stamford, Lincolnshire recently I took the opportunity to visit a nursery not far from there that specialised in Heathers. I was met with a warm welcome and was amazed at how well organised the whole nursery was. The sea of plants out beyond the streams of polytunnels offered a tapestry of colour with all manner of flowering heathers. On discussion with Mandy the nursery owner I decided that heathers were the way forward and after carrying out a soil pH test determined the best heathers to choose with the assistance of Kingfisher Nursery.
I have decided to cover the entire area (Approx 30 sq m) and have acquired 300 plants, 3 different varieties, George Rendall, White Perfection and Mary Helen, (Kingfisher Nursery) yet with reflection although they are not all planted yet it looks like another 300 may be nearer to what i need. I was hoping to cover the area with a weed membrane like before however with 500+ holes in it to put the plants in, how effective will it really be.
I will update with some pictures as soon as it is finished.
So the wall garden needed some additional attention. Previously in February this year I had bulked up the back of the border by adding 25 Prunus laurocerasus and several other evergreen bushes. I have also added more Geraniums, Hellebores, Wallflowers, Aruncus and Astilbes this year and have now decided to include Heucheras into the spread.
These I also purchased from Kingfisher Heathers, varieties to include Sweet Tea, Amethyst Mist, Silver Scrolls, and Neptune
They are to be planted in here over the next few days so I will add some photos when done.
So one of the other pictures at the beginning looked like I had a mole problem. We have been using an auger to drill holes in there hundreds with a view to planting 2000 tulips and 1000 daffodils along one side of the garden. Yet again we have solid clay soil yet the auger makes life so much easier. We aim to plant 3 bulbs per hole so with 5000 bulbs to plant in total i guess we need about 1700 holes !! The tulip I am using is Carnival de Rio We have had an area in our gardening which has been primarily used for burning rubbish. The area is about a 10 metre square and as it hides nicely behind our miniature vinery sometimes gets neglected. With a garden this size there is always a lack of growing space for plants however we have now turned this area into a growing space by constructing a polytunnel.
The polytunnel is 16ft by 25 ft with an overall height just under 2.4m which allows enough head room to walk through comfortably. The ground beneath is in very poor condition however I intend to keep some of the area as hard standing and another area i have added manure, sand and organic matter dug in to the soil to create an open growing area for herbs, peaches and perennials for the garden.
I will update pictures of the polytunnel as and when I add plants but I am really excited about having this added protection to grow stock through the Winter months. I am able to run a hose from a free standing tap in the greenhouse to enable watering and if necessary I can also run electric via an extension lead to allow me to set up a halogen light should i need to work when the sun has disappeared.
So as you can see I have been kept busy over the last 2-3 weeks. I even found time to remove all of the plants from the borders of the pergola and position them in other areas and borders to allow turf to be layed, a pergola that is 75m long and 0.6m wide each side.
This we decided to do for 2 reasons. The pergola takes on average 3 hours a week to keep weeded and tidy so from April to October that is approximately 84 hours labour in 7 months. Calculate at cost compared to having it as turf and strimming once a week ! Realistically it could also be considered a garden design faux-pas having plants either side of a pergola. If we look at the gardens of Greece, Francee and Italy, gardens of grandeur you will struggle to find plants growing around the base of a pergola. The aim of a pergola is to create a framework to be adorned by climbing plants to be appreciated for their scent and foliage. If we are observing the plants at our feet we take away the purpose of the pergola and what it is there to achieve.
The most important plant growing on this pergola for the last ten years is the Laburnum watereri that sadly only flowers for about 6 weeks. It is truly beautiful and entwined with clematis, wisteria and passiflora throughout the rest of the spring, summer months is a spectacle that needs no additional gimmick to appreciate its whole.
So as you can see the weather has not slowed me down just yet but a noticeable drop in the temperature is now here and the frosty ground is just around the corner. Hope you have all done what you can to cover the plants that need added protection through the winter, I have 2 dwarf palms, a tree fern and some Gunnera manicata to take care of but i will have that done by the end of this week.
Hope you have enjoyed the blog. If you do have any questions or comments please do not be afraid of a bit of interaction,
Thanks for your time, happy gardening
So it has been a while since I have paid any attention to my blog site and I can only apologise to readers that may have returned hoping for another look into the window of paradise to see how my garden has changed through time. I say “My garden”, but for those readers that have read my bio, they will know that I am in fact a self-employed gardener and that this is a garden I look after on behalf of a client who extends his gratitude by allowing me to improve it as time moves forward. It would be very fitting for me to name it ‘The Manor’. ‘The Manor’ is approximately 2 acres and has over 24 sections that need to be maintained regularly including plants that until recently I would have had no clue how to look after. I would expect that many people out there spend money on having there garden re-designed and built, only to find that 1-2 years on they are struggling to retain its aesthetic appeal. Some plants grow extremely big over time and what fitted perfectly at the time of renovation can look out of place when fully mature. You may be asking, “How do we know what to prune/cut and when to do it if we do not know the names of the plant/s or their habitat or environmental requirements”? “How do we know when is the safest time to move a plant from its original location somewhere else and if it will do as well in its new position, and what can I do to improve all of the odds in my favour”?
Up until 2009 I had no real previous gardening experience other than time spent attending my allotment growing vegetables. This snowballed out of all proportion very quickly when I offered to maintain someone else’s garden and although now I have reduced the amount of clients I look after I make a healthy living through my business called ‘The Lone Gardener’ which operates specifically in Hertfordshire at the present time. The type of clients I try to attract are people who have gardens that are ⅓ acre or larger and looking for a horticulturist with expertise in plants, soil and nutrients to tend perennial borders and maintain shrubs, however I also do all the usual activities one would expect necessary in maintaining a garden. Unlike other organisations I can tailor make an arrangement which involves attending to your garden and focussing on where you NEED the help rather than filling time with unskilled activities like ‘mowing lawns’ therefore helping you to get value for money. If I were to label myself as a gardener ‘Soft Landscaping Gardener’ would be more specific and although I do not undertake Hard Landscaping, Tree Surgery, Fencing, etc I still have a very extensive contact list of reliable service providers whenever they are needed.
Despite what we hear from various organisations and the Prime Minister David Cameron (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/9209497/Gardening-is-not-just-for-drop-outs-says-Alan-Titchmarsh.html) I believe gardening is a skill that needs to be learnt through understanding the science behind why things happen and what we can do to improve our environment to help plants in order to reduce the necessity to control pests and disease and the best way to learn this is to take a course towards a qualification in horticulture. As the population rises around the world some of us are ignorant to the problems this will cause including the strong possibility that food shortages will be a realistic issue in the next 30-50 years. Various scientists are working in the field of research to help prevent this from happening and although this sounds irrelevant to gardening a scientist of this nature would need a very good background of horticulture and/or soil science and both scientist and gardener would share the view towards an ethos of sustainability and the benefits of working ‘with nature’ rather than against it.
Since starting out in 2009 I have spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears not just in the physical sense of work experience improving the aesthetic pleasure of various gardens, but also in educating myself through college and now university to build a level of confidence in understanding and knowing why something in the garden isn’t working properly and what can be done to change that.
My education began at http://www.shuttleworth.ac.uk/our_courses/horticulture.aspx in September 2009 when I began a course to obtain my RHS Level 2 Certificate in Horticulture. This was a very interesting course and it would be worth adding that the mix of people extended from 18 year olds to a 55 year old. I completed the course with a pass in June 2010 and felt a lot more confident in looking after ‘The Manor’ with renewed vigour, and my energy was focussed towards how I could improve it. After 15 months away from education and various areas of success and failure I knew that I had to get back to studying and decided (with the help of my client) that in September 2011 I would begin a Foundation Degree in Horticulture and Garden Design at Moulton College in Northamptonshire http://www.moulton.ac.uk/ in association with University of Northampton. This is usually a 2 year course full-time with the option of increasing the duration by a year on completion to raise it the level of degree to BA status, however myself and 12 others opted for a part-time approach over 3 years to take into consideration family or work commitments. This would involve another 2 years if we were to include the BA option. Fundamentally the course has been so useful to me as a mature student studying part-time as it has allowed me to continue with my business whilst improving my qualifications and prospects towards new paths that may take me to a more scientific role/career in the future. The lecturing staff are all extremely knowledgeable in their chosen fields, the resources available to aid research are extensive, the support to help people who are not use to this level of academia are available, in all honesty given that I never showed much previous respect towards education the whole experience has pushed me beyond my limits and it is truly a pleasure for me to be a student and work as a gardener, so different to any previous combination of training/employment I may have had before.
So why now ?
So part of the reason I have returned to blogging after a year out is that part of my Degree relies upon a period of industrial work experience. As I am self-employed I feel it would be beneficial to keep a record of events over the next 9 months at in order to use them as a point of reference when writing up assignments concerning my industrial experience as I will be carrying this out at my place of work which is ‘The Manor’. I will be informing you the readers of what I am doing on a weekly basis and where possible documenting my experiences with pictures and links to other research material which confirm why I have chosen to carry out a prescribed action.
At the moment I am constructing a huge Polytunnel at ‘The Manor’ in the hope that I can be more pro-active in the field of regeneration, propagating through leaf, root and stem cuttings and germination of seeds and I also plan to try various experiments e.g. feeding plants with different rates of nutrients to see how they react. As you will see from previous blogs ‘The Manor’ is extremely large and needs a consistent 40 hours minimum a week especially through Summer to maintain it to its full potential, but over time I have been able to reduce labour in various areas by using weed suppressant covered with mulch or just changing the general plant selection to plants that require less maintenance. Over the coming weeks I will be covering all sections of the garden to give you the readers the general feel of the place, the potential, some of my previous achievements and also expectations for the future.
I will try to keep you the general public entertained making the blogs as interesting as possible and should you have any questions in regard to anything I do or horticultural challenges that you face at the moment or any local (Hertfordshire) business enquiries I will always respond to any comments left. Thank you for your time.
So it is now 15 months since I started this blog. What has changed ?
Well as before I explained that I am on a journey. A journey of self discovery that has led me to a world of horticulture. Up until 2009, I had never really given any thought or appreciation to tree’s, plants, or flowers, but what I have learnt over the last 2 years has compelled me to move forward to a period of education I have not really experienced before. It is my 38th birthday tomorrow, and after much deliberation have decided to start a Foundation Degree in horticulture and garden design at the beginning of October.
From my own personal perspective, I am amazed at the activity that occurs in the physiological plant world without intervention from man. Someone suggested to me, that if all the plants and animals died, human life would be insustainable, yet if all the humans died out, plants and animals would not be effected. In this extreme circumstance, why is it, that plants without mental thought can survive yet we, as humans cannot. The reason for plants is simple. All plants are reliant on their own individual ‘DNA’ and their ability to not deviate from what they are instructed to do according to that ‘DNA’. From the formation of the plant from seed right through to flowering and re-seeding, the path is entirely mapped out from start to finish !
I may have mentioned before that the pages on this blog are intended to help others and obviously myself. I am a relatively new gardener always interested in hearing other peoples experiences and achievements, positives and negatives surrounding pest and disease, weed control, design, plant suitability, basically, if it goes on in the garden… I am interested…
The pictures you see on this blog site all come from one location, a garden I look after privately, for a client who is also fascinated with the way nature works. I have been here for 2 and a half years now seeing many changes in that time. Originally, I came here as a sub-contractor (gardener) on behalf of a friend, yet he moved on and the contract became mine in July 2010. It has been an interesting year overall being in charge of such a high impact garden, lots of issues surrounding pest and disease, plant diversity, irrigation issues that have since been resolved. I’ve also been given permission to invest in machinery this year as the present equipment has had its best years… (RIP Countax 600)
Anyway, over the coming months I am hoping that this blog will act as a point of reference for not just my own studies but maybe others as well. It will act as a tool to help me record progress, solve issues in the garden relating to pest and disease, encourage feedback in reviewing planting plans or selection, and much more depending on your interaction.
So, wishing you a happy weekend,
The Lone Gardener