Monthly Archives: October 2013

  • Autumn colour: Beautiful bark

     

    As the stormy autumn winds blow it can be a bleak time of year in the garden, with the last of the leaves being stripped from the trees leaving them exposed and bare.

    In fact it is a magical unveiling, as the architectural form of a tree or shrub is revealed, and with a little planning and careful selection this seasonal transformation can be celebrated.

    There are many species with beautifully coloured and characterful bark that will lift the garden in winter and create a stunning seasonal spectacle.

    And with the low winter sunlight the bold structural forms of colourful branches can shine as brightly as any summer flower border.
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  • Honey fungus: The tree killer

     

    Honey fungus

    The honey-coloured fruiting bodies of honey fungus (Armillaria spp) (image: Wikimedia Commons)

    Honey fungus or Armillaria are a group of parasitic fungi. They attack trees, shrubs and woody perennials, and are one of the most destructive fungal diseases in the UK.

    They are also among some of the biggest living organisms in the world, their underground networks often covering many miles and living for up to a thousand years.

    It is so successful because, unlike most parasites that rely on keeping their hosts alive in order to extract nutrients, it can kill its host and continue living on the decaying matter for many years. Watch our video on how to diagnose honey fungus

    The fungi spread by long reddish brown root-like rhizomorphs that live close to the surface of the soil.

    They attach themselves to the root collar of woody plants, killing off the root systems leaving the host unable to absorb nutrients and water. You can watch our video on how to diagnose honey fungus
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  • Living sculpture: Topiary plants a little less ordinary

     

    Unusual topiary at Beckley Park

    The wonderfully surreal topiary garden at Beckley
    Park, Oxfordshire (image: Wikimedia Commons)

    Shrubs trained as topiary are at home in any garden.

    From a cottage setting where intriguing forms nestle casually between flowers and vegetables, to a much grander scheme where repetitive shapes are rigid and regimented, topiary can be both charming and formal.

    And let's not forget that when you trim your humble garden hedge, you're creating (a relatively simple form of) topiary!

    European topiary originated in Roman times, where the atriums that were so common in the grand houses of the day became home to geometric shapes and fantastical creatures clipped from evergreen shrubs.

    The formality and grandeur often associated with topiary began in the late 15th century with the Italian Renaissance gardens.

    These gardens were based on the idea of achieving beauty through order and symmetry, and the clipped forms of topiary as a design feature were used extensively.
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  • Trees for a native autumn harvest

     

    Autumn larder

    A native autumn harvest – an extra special
    treat when it's from your own trees

    As the leaves start to colour and fall from the trees and the cooling air is heavy with the smell of wood smoke there is nothing more gratifying than getting wrapped up and going out to gather the season's harvests.

    Autumn is a most plentiful time of year. Along the hedgerows and verges plump ripe fruits hang from wayward trees and nuts crunch underfoot.

    And it's possible to create that natural bounty in your own garden, giving you the benefit of having wonderful ingredients for all manner of culinary delights right on your doorstep – and it's fantastic for wildlife too!

    With a little preparation this stockpile of preserved fruits and nuts will provide throughout the winter when little else is growing in the garden.
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  • Recipe: Homemade damson vodka

     

    Homemade damson vodka

    Looking just as rich and luscious as it tastes, your
    damson vodka could be ready for Christmas

    2013 has been a bumper year for damsons.

    A hot summer, with just enough rain to swell the fruit is best for damsons and results in branches that are groaning under the weight of all that fruit

    And while you can of course make damson jam, damson cheese, damson chutney and damson sauce, there is nothing quite like damson vodka.

    Decanted into decorative bottles this rich, syrupy liquor makes a perfect Christmas gift – and if you hurry, you might just be in time for this year's festivities. Give this a go, and we're sure that your friends and family will be glad you did!

    If you already have your damson harvest, great – if not, hopefully you will find some still on the trees. Failing that, try your local orchard or farm shop! So grab a bag and get picking.
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  • Have a horticultural Halloween!

     

    Halloween plants

    When it comes to plants at Halloween, it's about
    much more than pumpkins...

    The origins of Halloween are thought to be rooted in the Celtic celebration of Samhain, a festival to mark the season of bringing in the harvests in preparation for winter.

    It was thought that on this day, the 31 October, the boundaries between the worlds became blurred.

    The dead returned to haunt the living, causing terrible catastrophe and illness.

    Many myths and legends surround this day, with many rituals being performed in order to protect people from wandering evil spirits, as well as to predict fortunes and destinies.
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  • Urban gardening: Introducing the 'False Widow'

     

    The 'False Widow' spider is spreading through
    Southern England – this is a female Steatoda nobilis
    (Image: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

    London-based urban gardener, Dan Combes, tells us of his close encounter of the eight-legged kind...

    Introducing the False Widow! Britain's deadly spider... or is it?

    Recently both London and National media has been littered with articles documenting the rapid rise of the False Widow, labelling it "Britain's most deadly spider."

    The Daily Star reports '...a plague of 10 million False Widow spiders.' Both The Independent and The Guardian discuss the potentially lethal bite of this small yet dangerous looking arachnid.

    As a London gardener the only bite or sting I am likely to endure is that of a nettle or a wasp. Has this all changed?
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  • Autumn blaze part two: Hedges and berries

    Sorbus cashmiriana

    The cream berries of Sorbus cashmiriana
    as autumn approaches

    It's not just trees that can provide a colourful spectacle through these colder autumn months; there are many shrubs and hedges that create marvel and drama in the autumn garden.

    As the nights draw in it is easy to become downhearted at the thought of the winter to come. But as the weather cools a miraculous transformation is beginning. Hedges and shrubs are slowly making their preparations for dormancy by stopping the flow of fluids in to their leaves.

    This means that the green chlorophyll that usually masks out any other pigments present is diminished. The result is the phenomenon known as autumn colour.
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  • Coming up... roses!

    Twice in a Blue Moon

    The highly scented and delicately coloured
    hybrid tea rose 'Twice in a Blue Moon'

    Roses are by far the favourite among flowering garden plants.

    They have been cultivated for an astonishing 5,000 years, the earliest having been collected for decoration or scent from the wild.

    But by the mid 19th century over a thousand different varieties were available. Today this figure is somewhere around 13,000!

    They are our most adored garden plant and our image of the country garden would not be complete without them.
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  • Autumn: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

     

    Flower displays with autumn cuttings

    You don't need flowers to create lovely displays of autumn cuttings

    A guest blog from our good friend (and florist!) Georgie Newbery.

    My name's Georgie Newbery and I run an artisan floristry and flower farming business near Wincanton in Somerset. And like you I'm looking at my garden now it's late September and mourning the end of the lush flowering in the borders.

    But I'm not wondering what to cut to bring into the house, because at this time of year the hedgerow and the shrubs in all our gardens are beginning to turn the most fantastic colours.
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