Rabbits, Primroses, Lavender and Slugs!

We have received several questions for our gardening expert Mr Digwell lately. Here are his answers:

What kind of plant can plant that bunny rabbits don’t eat?

There are lots of rabbit proof plants. My favourites are Astilbe – with their wonderfully coloured flowers, Galanthus (snowdrops) because they are so wonderfully cute and Hydrangeas. Actually the RHS do a list here.

Why are stems on my primrose weak so it flops?

They are too wet, and probably rotting within. You can dig them up and add a little grit to new compost. Dig a large hole (twice the size of the plant, and then plant in 50% compost 50% grit.

How to care for mini lavender plugs?

Keep them frost free, preferably in a cool greenhouse over winter and then plant them next spring. I say this because the soil is far to wet at the moment and they might rot. Don’t over water over the winter.

How to apply slug bait to hanging plants?

Not easy this one! If they are in a hanging basket put a layer of grease to the fixings and they won’t come – but keep renewing it weekly. If on a tree, try grease bands, they seem to work to keep them climbing up.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

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Strimmers, Sunflowers, and Dogs, oh my!

Mini meadow bursting into flowerWhat a difference a lawnmower makes! After our old one packed in, what seems like decades ago, we’ve tackled the task of cutting our grass with a strimmer which took roughly two hours on top of endless breaks to refit the gut and left a finish which was rather scruffy to say the least. Taking a leap into the great unknown after having been so long without one, we bit the bullet and purchased a replacement, using it for the first time today. I cannot believe the difference it’s made to our grass — the overall finish is nice and tidy plus it took a fraction of the time!
White Astilbe flowers
I can safely say that the strimmer is packed up for retirement – I just wish we’d bought a mower sooner. My husband is asthmatic but refuses to let me touch the grass at all (the ‘lawn’ is his domain) and it’s really helped reduce the symptoms of his allergies/asthma when cutting it. I enjoyed pottering about while my husband mowed the grass and my boys accompanied me on the daily plant check-up. We planted dwarf sweet peas in a two tier planter for an experiment to see how they’d look but so far they’re a bit scraggly and not really hanging down how I thought they would. It could turn out to be an epic fail but I suppose if you don’t try you never know!

The astilbes are beautiful at the moment; I think the wet weather we keep getting has really made them flourish. Our rosemary is growing well and is frequently used to season our meals. It’s absolutely delicious with roast chicken – the scent is heavenly when it’s cooking.
Tall sunflower plant growing ever taller
The sunflower my boys were so pleased about is now taller than me! Needless to say they want more and had to be lifted up to see whether it was close to flowering yet. The dwarf sunflowers in our ‘paw-print’ are starting to flower and we enjoyed looking at them although my boys say they’re not as exciting as the tall ones.

Our dogs even joined in with inspecting the plants! Our chocolate lab certainly enjoyed having a sniff of the lavender; they even helped clear the cut grass by grabbing mouthfuls and running around with it.

Chocolate and Yellow Labrador smelling the lavender plants

They’ve been officially banned from certain parts of the garden because they both tend to chew on some of the plants — Our pampas grass is still recovering from being eaten. Apparently it causes no harm to the dogs and it’s normal behaviour… I have my doubts about the ‘normal’ part, as our yellow lab seems to have made it her mission in life to flatten every plant she can find — going so far as to make herself comfortable sitting on our plants in their pots. Do your pets have any quirky habits in the garden?

I’m sure our dogs enjoy creating a little havoc when they get the chance. It’s a shame that they have no interest in digging though, as it would have been nice to sit back and let them dig holes where we want things planted instead of tackling our nightmare clay soil ourselves… Oh well, I can but dream.

Happy gardening, Nicole :-)

Growing up in the Garden

Boys weather-proofing the picnic benchI really enjoy encouraging my boys to get out into the garden and involve themselves in the work: planting, weeding, sowing seeds, and harvesting as well as eating the fruits of our labour (I’m sure that’s the part my husband likes best!). Today on the spur of the moment we took that one step further: arming them with a paintbrush and some cuprinol, we let them weatherproof their little picnic bench whilst supervising from a safe distance i.e. up the stairs leading to our house. They loved getting to paint and have learnt a valuable lesson in the process about preserving outdoor wooden furniture against the elements. Continue reading

Potting Lavender Plugs in the Rain

For the first time ever, I found myself grateful for the overhanging trees on our neighbour’s property. Having received a package of lavender plants as part of our pledge to have more bee-friendly plants in the garden, my boys and I were adamant they were getting potted up despite the threat of rain.
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The Summertime Blues

Agapanthus blue

It’s raining again here in Cheshire (will it ever stop?), and I’m gazing through the window at my sodden garden, watching the slugs and snails slithering out from their hiding places (do they really think I can’t spot them?) and willing the sun to come out instead! But when I’m feeling blue, then all I need to do is take a look at my favourite summer flowers (or at least, photos of them) and, you’ve guessed it, they’re blue too!

I thought it might be fun (and it sure beats doing the ironing) to compile a “Top Ten” of summer flowering blues. It’s a tough choice deciding which flowers to include, but here we go, in reverse order:
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