There is one genus that has been thriving throughout this wet weather. Three months of torrential downpours and grey skies reminds us why no gardener should overlook the Willow genus. Let us not long for spring but instead linger in this damp moment a while. Whether your garden is big or small, it is time to make sure that when you look out of your window next January, there is a fire amongst the rain.
The low golden sun shining and sparkling on frosty hedges, branches and foliage is a wonder of the season, and is something to be truly celebrated.
The lyrics to "In the bleak midwinter" don't offer the best encouragement for getting out in the garden. But with a few thoughtful planting choices you can be "Walking in a winter wonderland!"
Although you may not want to be out in the garden that much in the depths of winter, it is still important to provide yourself with enticing views from the house.
Most important are front gardens and pathways to your doors. These are places that - in rain, sleet and snow - you'll be passing through on a daily basis.
And it's where you welcome your visitors. These are places you want to feel proud of, and to get great enjoyment from, in all seasons.
Clean up those secateurs for a decent
bit of winter pruning
To non-gardeners it may not be obvious, but autumn can be one of the busiest times of year in the garden, and pruning is one of the most important tasks of the season.
There are many trees and shrubs that need pruning or renovating in their dormant period if they are to avoid stress and recover before growth begins again in spring.
Left unpruned, deciduous trees and shrubs can become leggy and unattractive, with soft and top fruit becoming unproductive and susceptible to disease.
When carrying out your pruning it is really important to use clean sharp tools that will not leave any jagged edges that could prove an easy entry for infection.
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
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.
Container-grown hedging plants are perfect for planting all year round.
Generally speaking, hedging is put in the ground over winter, using young bareroot plants when they are dormant.
However, some circumstances call for a more instant, mature hedge – which is where container-grown (or potted) hedging plants play their part.
Has your garden got that feeling of pent-up energy,
ready to burst into action?
Winter projects are being completed, most planting has probably been done, and gardens across the land are slowly waking up.
Gardeners are rubbing their eyes too, not just at the lighter mornings, but also in disbelief at the moody swings our weather is bringing... again!
Here are a few ideas for things to do around the garden over the next couple of weeks:
We're already heading towards the end of the planting season, and blooms are already appearing. Where does the time go?
Plants are on the move, evenings are getting lighter – it feels like winter might be behind us, but we should never tempt fate!
(oh, speaking of plants on the move, don't forget our March photo competition – the theme is ‘First flowers' and there's over £100 in vouchers to be had!)
Here are a few ideas for things to do around the garden over the next couple of weeks:
Careful and judicious pruning creates room to grow,
and will deliver fuller, healthier fruits more quickly
One of the joys of gardening is that patience is usually rewarded.
Plants increase in size and impact as time passes and fruit trees are no exception.
Understandably, however, an oft repeated question runs along the lines of "how do I get more fruit, more quickly?"
There are a number of golden rules in gardening but the most important of them all is summed up in "as ye sow so shall ye reap."
You're spoiled for choice when it comes to hedging
plants – but by focusing on what you really need, you
can make it all a bit easier...
The winter planting season is well under way, and one of the oldest forms of planting is hedging.
We give a few pointers below on what to consider when choosing a hedge for your garden, allotment, orchard, farmland – pretty much anywhere in fact.
When the ground is frozen, please don't plant your
bareroot trees, shrubs or hedges! They'll be much
happier staying bare and dormant...
Most of the damage caused to bareroot plants in cold, freezing conditions is to the delicate roots themselves.
The roots are fine, fibrous structures with a high water content: moving them, or even the slightest touch whilst frozen, can cause damage.
Almost all of a shrub or a tree's energy reserves are stored in the roots during winter. So broken roots mean that stored energy is lost, and this reduces the plant’s ability to establish. And poor establishment means poor growth in spring.
Worse still, if root damage is serious, the plant may not grow at all.
As a nurseryman selling barerooted plants and trees, the onset of autumn is always exciting.
Nerve-racking too, as autumn brings the bareroot planting season with it, and the weather plays an enormous part in determining how well the season gets going.
Too warm and the plants need to stay in the ground longer despite the baying of waiting customers.
Too cold and the ground is frozen and trees and hedging cannot be lifted at all, let alone planted.
But too wet is the grower’s dread.
Further to our earlier post on ash dieback disease, we can now provide more images and information from the University of Vienna on the symptoms of the Chalara fraxinea infection of ash trees.
In addition, again from University of Vienna, we have a video of the release of fungal spores from ash twigs infected with the reproductive stage of C. fraxinea, called Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus. It is this trumpet-shaped mushroom stage that we may see develop in the UK in spring 2013, and it is the prevention (or at least limitation) of this stage that needs to remain in sharp focus.
Images by kind permission of Thomas Kirisits, Josef Wampl, Christian Freinschlag, Katharina Kräutler and Michaela Matlakova of the Institute of Forest Entomology, Forest Pathology and Forest Protection (IFFF), Department of Forest and Soil Sciences, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), Vienna, Austria
Since infected ash saplings were found at Buckingham Nurseries at the beginning of 2012 the UK ash die back crisis has reached fever pitch, with many column inches devoted to both blame and cure. With such media attention, it’s no surprise that anyone with an ash tree on their land (or even near it) is starting to worry.
Raking up garden might not be your favourite task, but if you want to be sure of protecting your plants from nasty diseases and persistent pests, it's an absolute essential.
Autumn has arrived in style, with some wonderful colours gracing garden and countryside alike.
And as the leaves start to fall, with a few exceptions they should be raked up and composted, and used to improve your soil in the future. Unfortunately, there may be some leaves that will need to be either burned, or disposed away from the garden.
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