Your Gardening Resolutions for 2014

With a new year starting many people take up resolutions: become fitter, eat healthier and perhaps rekindle those friendships that have been allowed to drift.

Other people take this opportunity to plan the year ahead: when to take holidays, achievements to complete or learning a new skill.

As a gardener – though probably more a novice gardener than anything else – I like to plan ahead. My 2014 gardening resolution are to get a raised grow bed to start my own vegetable patch and plant flower bulbs, particularly wildlife and bee friendly bulbs.

We recently asked on Facebook what everyone else’s gardening plans for 2014 are and got some great answers:

  • Julia: To work towards being employed by a certain holiday company as a Garden Tour Guide which I will excel at and enthuse loads of keen gardening folk.
  • May: I will be rearranging my garden to help the wildlife to have more space, and for me to be able to handle now I am into my mid 70s. so a very busy year ahead . A happy new year to you to.x thanks for your spot on FB , keeps me sane in a world in turmoil.
  • Sarah: Planting up my new raised bed with loads of veg. Have already planted garlic in pots.
  • Gill: Make the best use of my new polytunnel. Do more weeding. Work out how to stop the rabbits and other wildlife eating everything I plant. Make our very small front garden into a space that is nice to be in.
  • Paul: To win all classes on allotments with giant veg tired of just winning 5 of the classes.
  • Karen: To put all my tools in one place so that I don’t have to spend ages searching for them
  • Peter: Rebuild the fence that got blown down last week.
  • Roddy: Trying to cram a prairie planting scheme into a tiny garden. I already have the rudbeckia, echinaceas and heleniums. I need to get some tall grasses and asters. Can anyone recommend an aster that isn’t too vigorous? I had one last year that just took over the whole garden…
  • Sue: A complete makeover. But with an acre of garden I will have my work cut out.
  • Sam: Make the very best of what ever the British weather has in store for us and enjoy the pleasures of gardening to the fullest!
  • Lisa: Hopefully finishing off the back garden that we started last year.

What are your plans for this year?

wedding-meCat works in the marketing team and is responsible for online marketing, social media and the newsletter.

She spends most of her time reading about a variety of interesting facts, such as oddly named Canadian towns, obscure holidays and unusual gardening.

She mostly writes about Primrose news and current events.

See all of Cat’s posts.

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Friends in the Garden

Sometimes, because of life’s changes, work, poor health, family or whatever, you miss out on what you love. I have friends in the garden, and sometimes I ignore them. Well, actually, all the plants in the garden are my friends. I don’t care what they are, how common or exotic, I love them all the same.

And yes, I talk to them! Sometimes my best conversations are with plants, you see they always agree with me and we share a point of view. So you will understand that – apart from being quite mad, sometimes, when there are some old friends I simply have missed out on, I get rather melancholic.

Gone but not forgotten, the white bluebells now bearing fruit - see you next year old pal!

Gone but not forgotten, the white bluebells now bearing fruit – see you next year old pal!

I have found it difficult to physically walk to the end of the garden these past months. Down there in the hedge are to be found some white bluebells that make an appearance each year, and this year I only managed to see them once they had finished flowering and were literally past their best. A short walk away there is a wood, full of bluebells, and what a sight they are! But these little whites are solitary and special.

Now having plants as friends can cause you some problems. I have to confess loving weeds, and always feel a little guilty pulling them up. So Ii try and keep a space for them when I can. This year, so far, has been the year of the buttercup, and aren’t they beautiful?

Don't turn your nose up at buttercups, they are one of the most elegant plants in the garden.

Don’t turn your nose up at buttercups, they are one of the most elegant plants in the garden.

So the edge of my lawn is punctuated with a stand of field buttercups, and if I lift my head, across the valley, I can see a whole field of them, and on a warm Sunday I can imagine myself in a huge hundred acre field of yellow.

There are times when old friends have mishaps. when we moved here there was a clematis in a pot, growing up a trellis. The pot was about 6 inch diameter, and the plant went up about 20 feet!

Clematis - you can't kill them, they just keep coming back - thankfully!

Clematis – you can’t kill them, they just keep coming back – thankfully!

During our first summer the trellis fell off and I had to remove the plant. The roots had gone through the bottom of the pot and disappeared under the paving of the patio.

We get lots of questions about clematis. You will find, on the internet, all kinds of methods about pruning them, none of which are actually correct. The truth is there are two groups for pruning this brilliant climber.

If it flowers in the Spring, such as C. montana, then don’t bother at all, just keep it trim as you need. All the rest cut back as short as you like on Valentine’s Day – call it a massacre if you will.

Yellow Flag: irises make a great display and in the autumn you can divide them and make more

Yellow Flag: irises make a great display and in the autumn you can divide them and make more

Anyway, back to the old friend. I took a spade and cut the root at ground level and thought no more about it, until a few weeks ago when a hot day snooze found me waking to the sight of the old pal climbing the wall again.

I never have a better time than when talking to the iris. We have a strong bond, we two. I sometimes think I get more sense from them than anyone else in the household.

But this year they have a problem that needs fixing. It is the invasion of nettles. Nettles are hungry plants, beautiful in their own right – I love the geometry of the leaves, and the stings are so elegant when you look at them through a microscope.

But their heavy profusion means only one thing: the septic tank needs emptying, because there is a leakage. Nettles grow where there is a lot of nitrogen in the soil, you often see them in fields where cattle or sheep have gathered.

If it's archetecture you want, you would go a long way to better a nettle, but these ones spell trouble in the garden!

If it’s archetecture you want, you would go a long way to better a nettle, but these ones spell trouble in the garden!

It has come at an opportune time, the iris need dividing and replanting and this I will do in the autumn, so that next year there will be even more of them for a summertime chat!

Now, I am blessed with an ancient hawthorne in the garden. I wish everyone would grow them just because of the aroma of the flowers. In case you are somewhat bemused by my having plants as ‘friends’ then spend a little time thinking about hawthorne.

It is said to be terrible bad luck to burn the wood, or cut the plant without asking permission and when in flower you are not supposed to sleep under its branches, or you will be pulled down into the underworld to meet Bottom and his pals. I can well believe it!

Can't wait for these white roses to burst into flower.

Can’t wait for these white roses to burst into flower.

During my recent poor health I have fallen asleep, when the rain has left me a warmer blanket, under the hawthorne many times, and never have I had a more relaxing, deeper sleep. Thankfully the underworld left me alone, I didn’t grow donkey ears nor thought myself enamored of an ass.

My last pal for now, though there are hundreds more, is about to make an appearance. A lovely white climbing rose makes an appearance for a few weeks, rain permitting. Growing within it is a honeysuckle and a rowan, which I think is forming the basis for the whole structure, and I keep it trim to the top of the hedge.

When the flowers appear you cannot but want to sit beside it watching the bumblebees buzz heavily around. And a hot day, when the nectar is more fermented than normal, they sit lazily on the flowers and you can stroke them.

You know, regardless of its size, the garden is about the best friend we humans have. Perhaps that’s why all of the creation stories set our origins in one.

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.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

Our Alpine Leaf Bird Bath in the Sunday Express!

sunday express Alpine Leaf Bird Bath

features_in_sundayexpress We are very proud that one of our favourite bird baths was featured in this weekend’s Sunday Express Magazine as a recommended garden purchase.

The Alpine Leaf Bird Bath has a leaf and vine motif which will not only look beautiful, but also help attracting birds to your garden.

Alpine Leaf Bird Bath from Primrose

It is made from lightweight and durable material with a natural stone effect and is guaranteed to provide an attractive focal point for your garden. Most of all it is UV and frost resistant allowing you to keep it in your garden all year round.

Doesn’t it look gorgeous?

wedding-meCat works in the marketing team and is responsible for online marketing, social media and the newsletter.

She spends most of her time reading about a variety of interesting facts, such as oddly named Canadian towns, obscure holidays and unusual gardening.

She mostly writes about Primrose news and current events.

See all of Cat’s posts.

Creating a Creature-Friendly Garden

There are many advantages to encouraging wildlife to thrive in your garden. Not only is it fascinating to witness nature up close (especially if you have children), but encouraging certain types of creatures to take up residence in your garden will act as a natural deterrent for many common pests.

Hedgehog Eating food in the garden
For example:

Birds make a valuable addition to any garden as they will eat most insects, with certain kinds of birds mercifully enjoying snacking on slugs and snails. Pest-eating birds include: robins, magpies, wrens, song thrushes, blackbirds and fieldfares.

While insects are amongst the pests you want to eradicate, there are some insects that are actually useful to have in your garden.

Ladybirds, lacewings, parasitic species of wasps, hoverflies and beetles are among the good kinds of insects who like to eat other pests common to UK gardens.

Other creatures to encourage are hedgehogs, frogs, toads, bats and newts, all of which enjoy eating the pests you hate as part of their daily diet.

So if you want to attract (the right kind of) wildlife to your garden, try incorporating some of these useful features:

Garden pond – Ponds are loved by many creatures, such as frogs, dragonflies and newts, which all need water to breed; birds which use them to drink and bathe, and water boatmen, which live on the bottom of ponds and consume algae and plant debris.

Compost heap – A compost heap provides a place for hedgehogs to hibernate and for slowworms to breed; it will also supply valuable compost that will naturally fertilise your garden’s soil.

Long grass and nettles – Long grassy areas will attract insects, provide shelter for animals, and food for predators.

Thick hedge – A hedge gives nesting areas and cover for birds, while berries provide food during the winter.

Logs – Logs provide an excellent hiding place for all sorts of amphibians, frogs and ground beetles.

Food for Wildlife

Providing food doesn’t have to just mean hanging a bird feeder or throwing out some nuts for the squirrels. In the autumn and winter months, berries and seeds are in plentiful supply, providing food for birds and many other insects.

The garden plant Pyracantha provides berries as well as shelter for birds and support for insects; it can also be trained against a wall.

Pyracantha plant provides tasty berries for garden wildlife
Pyracantha

Summer provides you with many options for food. Plants that are rich in nectar can encourage predators such as wasps and hoverflies. Fennel, Dill and Aster plants provide food for many insects, as well as flowers such as Candytuft, Aubrieta and Wallflower, and shrubs such as Viburnum and Buddleia. You should try and include at least one nectar-rich plant for bumblebees.

Shelter

For a wildlife friendly garden, shelter is vital to protect the creatures from predators, give a place to nest, and somewhere to hibernate. Trees and plants such as Evergreen provide all-year round cover.

Rose, Pyracantha and Mahonia shrubs are an excellent choice for nesting and provide berries and hips to eat. Climbers provide much needed protection, camouflage and nesting spots for birds. Bats and hedgehogs can be lured into the garden with a compost heap or piles of leaves, though if you’ve got the cash to spend you can buy a special box shaped house where hedgehogs can hibernate and bats can sleep.

Image Credits: Sids 1 and Muffet

This is a guest post written by Amy Fowler for Garden Topsoil Direct; specialists in compost delivery across the UK. Find out more on their Facebook page or find out more about Amy on Twitter.

October’s Gardening Tips

We regularly post gardening tips on the Primrose Facebook page. Here is a selection of the best ones from last month.

wedding-meCat works in the marketing team and is responsible for online marketing, social media and the newsletter.

She spends most of her time reading about a variety of interesting facts, such as oddly named Canadian towns, obscure holidays and unusual gardening.

She mostly writes about Primrose news and current events.