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Magnolia perfection!

As Spring approaches you might want to consider an addition for the future to your garden in the form of a Magnolia tree but which one!
With so many marvellous flowers and colours to pick from come with me as we virtually walk through some of your options. Then plan a visit for the future to see them in person in gardens across the UK

When people ask me what my favourite season is I really struggle as there’s lots of reasons to love every season, they each have merit. Summer, hazy cool dawns with a promise of the days heat, the sleepy churr of crickets in the grass. Sometimes when its been dry for weeks you can smell rain from miles away.

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Jobs for January

What can be better than soaking up a bit of winter sun in your own back garden, here’s a few things to do in January. With handy links to “How to” on Wisteria and Apple pruning

Just a quick reminder of things you can crack on with now to get a head start on the garden.

January is often seen as a month where there is nothing to do in the garden but far from it, theres a myriad of important jobs to do AND theres advantages to getting outside at this time of year.

Pruning

Roses, wisteria, figs, apples and pears all benefit from a winter prune and this can be done right up till the sap starts to rise. Traditionally this was often march but these days you cant rely on that. Start this job on a crisp, cold, sunny January day and you wont get caught out.

Each plant has different needs and its worth making sure you’re approaching this in the correct way…. that said there are a million “Correct” ways and each gardeners will be subtly different to the next. Naturally the only really correct way is, of course, my way but a good rule of thumb is to check if the plant you are planning on pruning flowers on new or old wood. Make sure your secatuers/saws are sterile, clean and sharp. Pick a day when the risk of a really penetrating frost is low.

A good pruning regime means a wisteria dripping in flowers

A “how to” prune Wisteria can be found here

And a few videos I’ve made about apple pruning which may be helpful can be found here …. and here.

Sadly 2020’s ripples are still affecting this years plans so our usual Apple Pruning workshops have had to be cancelled. However we have everything crossed that we can start up again in early winter of 2021, I’ll keep you all posted on that!

Before…
After

Roses, especially climbing roses can be a beautiful challenge, you can become exceptionally artistic with these bare bones.

Mulching

This is possibly one of the most important jobs you can do in a garden. It helps your soil retain water during the summer months, It improves the soils flora and fauna. Tiny brandling worms help to break down any compost, larger worms pull the organic matter below the surface. Nutrients are slowly released to your plants AND!! You dont even need to dig it in!

You can pile your mulch up quite deeply, a good 2 inches, Its best done on a frost free day and if you’re lucky you might still get a few of those in January, February is usually the coldest! A few plants wont thank you for a deep mulch though, trees dont like it piled up against the base of the trunk. Make tree circles bigger than you think then make donuts of mulch around the trunk. Peonys HATE being mulched and will have a proper sulk if their tuberous crowns are covered up. The same with Nerines and Agapanthus who will rot given half the chance.

Most herbaceous perennials will love you for it though!

If your compost heaps are still too young for this try turning them more often. You can also order in a delivery of Green waste from your local council or landscape materials supplier. I’ve been using this stuff for around 10 years now and its marvellous.

Supporting Structures

This is your opportunity to make sure your perennials dont fall over next summer. If you have access to coppiced hazel this is such a treat, you can create attractive structures that will last 2 or sometimes 3 years like the ones below.

By the time the plants grow this will disappear, unlike the chicken wire
These are also handy at keeping deer and rabbits away

Sometimes you can find someone clever at welding who can create bespoke structures for your garden, if you do treat them like gold dust as they are invaluable!

This is used in a pot for a dwarf Wisteria but could easily be used in a border

Planning!

Plans are never under rated, yes you can wing it but only if you have enough plants to do that with and that takes a bigger budget than most of us have. With good planning you can look back over your records, see what did and didn’t work. How many plants it took to fill an area and how much it cost.

Theres a reason you get taught how to draw to scale when you get taught garden design and its not because theyre trying to pad the course out.

In a vegetable garden, unless you have an excellent memory, records are your ally. Even if your record keeping is only photos.

So sit down with a couple of seed catalogues, a mug of hot chocolate and if you have a roaring fire that too. Work out what you need, then what you want, then your budget. Somewhere in the middle of that is your plan for 2021!

Happy New year!

Happy New Year indeed and here’s hoping its easier than last year eh! I’ve taken a moment to review my thoughts on 2020, my feelings, successes and my less successful moments. Most important to me though are my thoughts for the futures of gardens and how we as gardeners can really make a difference to everyone’s lives…

Belvoir Castle – February 2020

Best intentions as I sit here on this quiet January morning, its been a hell of a year and I, like everyone else for the most part have often felt like I’m drowning not waving. However there have been many excellent moments throughout 2020, it would be unfair to say it was a complete waste of a year.

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Speaker lineup!

For those of you have already subscribed to the Adventures in Horticulture Garden Club here is the lineup for speakers over the next few months!

The ‘Adventures in Horticulture Garden Club’ got off to a great start with everyone who joined the Q&A session last weekend! It was a fabulous opportunity for us all to chat, get to know each other and exchange ideas.

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The trouble with tomatoes…

When our wonderful Tomato plants started dying at work we had to work out the cause. Was it Pest and Disease or was it weedkiller damage, maybe?
How did we solve the problem?

As a professional gardener you might think I have less disasters than a home gardener but let me tell you that’s just not true! I wouldn’t say I have more either but I have more opportunity for things to go wrong. I also, hopefully, have the experience and the knowledge to be able to fix things and this year the tomatoes have really challenged me! The trick with problems is to take each one as a learning experience. There are no mistakes, just learning experiences…. and this one has been an interesting year for us!

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I had an Idea!

With garden clubs still a bit of a no go for us all I had an idea of how I could bring Zoom talks, How to videos and a monthly email, Q&A session to you all without putting any of my blog content behind a paywall and still answering questions on Twitter…

This is still just a very basic idea in so many ways but with Covid 19 putting the kybosh on many gardening clubs Ive been trying to work out a way I can bring you the same benefits of being a member of a gardening club only from the comfort of an armchair. You can even join in with meetings, learn new skills etc and all by joining in with my Adventures in Horticulture exclusive Patreon club!

Now bear with me, I will still be blogging for free (and if you enjoy that you’re welcome to just buy me a Ko-fi … or not, the choice is yours), and I will of course still be answering plant questions on Twitter (and hopefully getting them right most of the time!) but with Patreon im hoping to offer you even more!

Ive set up 5 tiers of involvement that hopefully will have something for everyone and of course the more people who get involved the more I will be able to dedicate time to it!

More than anything at this stage I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback so please, click on the link and let me know what you think!!

https://www.patreon.com/loujnicholls?fan_landing=true

How to divide Iris

Is your Bearded Iris reluctant to flower or congested? This quick “How to” guide will give you the confidence to chop yours up and start again!

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Last time we spoke about Iris I had been trying to pin down the name of our prolific mystery Iris but what if you have an Iris that is reluctant to flower?

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Searching for Iris

Bearded Iris are superstars of our gardens, their elegant flowers have been gracing our borders for well over a century and luring us to try and extend their range of colours but what happens when you forget the name or inherit a beauty?
Here’s what I did…

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Since working at Ulting Wick there has been an exceedingly prolific Iris onsite which has eluded identification. Not that unusual given that many Irises were bred by amateur growers that kept little to no records, but I am nothing if not dogged in my pursuit of all things garden plus I needed to occupy my brain which is receiving less and less of a workout these days!

I didnt realise exactly what I had committed myself to though when I decided to try this…

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May… I have your attention please?

With lockdown continuing for all of us take a moment to see our hard work at Ulting Wick courtesy of the NGS film crew, its the closest we can get to having you visit! Stay safe and continue looking after each other ❤

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Firstly happy Beltane to each and every one of you! The year is shooting past, the seasons are no respecters of what’s happening in our world and roll on regardless.  Whilst we keep to our houses, looking after our loved ones and communities. Denying ourselves pleasures we had previously taken for granted to save the lives of those we care about and others we have never met. The plants carry on regardless, they have no need of our admiring glances to achieve what they set out to do. It is definitely us that needs them and this unforeseen situation is really bringing that home.

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April showers or dry as a bone?

Catching up after my bout of the lurgy, Feeling anxious, growing veg and fighting a losing battle with clay soil. This is how my April is going, how about you?

It was wet for months and the relentless rain now feels so very long ago, there have been a few other things which have challenged a positive attitude….

Mid March I decided the most positive thing I could do other than just do gardening in general was put some of my previous skills back into use and actually grow a serious amount of veg. I figured that I could use it to help my neighbours, barter it for things I didn’t have such as eggs and of course eat it myself.

One thing I didn’t figure on was getting floored by the virus myself!

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Phil cat waiting to eat my face as I’m laid up in bed

Continue reading “April showers or dry as a bone?”