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Thie week’s Guest Blogger is Richard Baines

Plants offer the feel good factor in so many ways!!
It is often stated that plants are the lungs of our planet.
Plants are so important to us all providing endless benefits many of which we do not appreciate at the time.
Gardening whether as a professional or as an amateur, is such a healthy activity. The physical activity that we carry out as we develop and maintain our gardens helps to keep us physically fit and in good shape.
Mental health is very much in the news currently as a growing concern. A stroll through a garden can provide relaxation, relieve stress, increase our air quality, improve our physical well – being and put simply, just makes us feel good!
Gardens come in so many forms either in nature such as a carpet of blue bells or as a manicured creation of exoticness such as that at Logan Botanic Garden. Although very different in their forms both make us feel positive and help to create enjoyment and pleasure.
Even indoors plants improve our lives by producing life enabling gases that are vital to our long term survival.
Many of us have happy memories from an early age of our first encounters with growing our first plant. From a personal perspective I will never forget the sense of achievement of producing enough new potatoes for our evening meal at the age of 8! Even today when we share our hard work with friends and neighbours there is a shared sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. There is no doubt that people enjoy beautiful things!!
As the Gardening for Disabled Trust reaches the mantle of a half century it can look back and reflect on the positive effects and changes that it has made to so many people’s lives.
Gardening and plants come in so many forms but they all have one thing in common in that they can create enjoyment, health, social well-being and happiness.

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This Week’s Guest Blog By Nick Hamilton

I have to admit to being a plantaholic although, to be fair, if you are going to be an ‘aholic’ in anything plants are far better for you than any of the others, although writing this I have to confess to having a conflict of interest, being the President of the Cottage Garden Society. However, gardening is not about categorising people it’s all about enjoyment, excitement, satisfaction and pride. There are many different styles of gardening with the cottage garden style just being one of them. I love it because it’s all about the plants, there is no pretention, there’s formality if you want it, but best of all the scope to plant whatever you fancy wherever you want. I love the fact that by using perennials and hardy annuals as mainstays it means that the garden or border will naturally change every year when some of these plants gently seed around. This leads to great excitement when one pokes its head out where I wasn’t expecting it and then reminds me that, no matter how expertly I design a garden or border, nature will always do it just a little bit better. Although I like to use a range of plants, which give interest all year round, I feel that it isn’t important to have the whole garden in flower all year round, just to have enough interest in a garden at all times of the year. Summer will be the time when I have most choice, but all seasons can be just as interesting. This means planning is the most important part of any garden or border, but even best laid plans sometimes don’t work as I think, so I never worry about moving plants around. Although I plan I will never be able to escape the curse of the cottage gardener – if you see a bare piece of earth then there is an unstoppable urge to plant something in it.

 

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This Week’s Guest Blog by Pumpkin Beth

Pumpkin Beth

“Wherever I am, I am never happier than when I am surrounded by plants! “

I adore woodlands, meadows, gardens, plants, and nature. Wherever I am, I am never happier than when I am surrounded by plants! When I am inside, I get so much pleasure from creating indoor gardens: miniature worlds with their own individual landscapes and environments. I just love planting bottle gardens and terrariums! I also enjoy creating orchidariums: enclosures that provide my orchids with automated plant care, using automatic misting units, fans, and LED lights. I enjoy every aspect of indoor gardening, I take pleasure in creating all manner of indoor gardens and designing displays with potted houseplants. I love to find a plant for every area of my home!

The secret to indoor gardening is to look at the conditions you have available and then choose a plant that is perfectly suited to your environment. So, if you have a very sunny window sill, then you may want to grow a plant that enjoys bright light, like an African violet, a cactus, or an Aloe vera. Whereas, if you’re looking for a plant for a shaded spot, you may want to grow an Aspidistra or a Zamioculcas zamiifolia plant, also known as a ZZ plant. 

Streptocarpus ‘Polka-dot Purple’ produces flowers in abundance, just one plant can produce a display of one hundred flowers! This is a truly striking plant, each individual bloom displays a distinctive purple and white veining. This cultivar can be in flower for ten months of the year!

Streptocarpus flowers look great on the plant, they are held on longer stems than you might expect and make fantastic little posies of cut flowers. The plant’s flowers are very eye-catching, but I also admire this Streptocarpus cultivar’s leaves – Streptocarpus leaves are rather like primrose leaves – they’re very pretty, with attractive veining.

Streptocarpus ‘Polka-dot Purple’ is a great choice of plant for an area of your home that receives filtered, indirect light. Avoid a location where your plant’s leaves could be scorched by harsh light or direct sunshine. Take care to only water your Streptocarpus ‘Polka-dot Purple’ plant, once your plant’s compost has dried out, as this plant does not enjoy sitting in water, or being watered too frequently – I water my Streptocarpus plants and then I allow the compost to dry out before I water my plants again.

Phalaenopsis ‘New Life’ is a newly introduced Phalaenopsis, which has already been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit – an award given to special plants which are dependable performers. These plants have proven themselves to grow and flower reliably given regular care but no special attention. AGM plants are great plants to look out for at your nursery or garden centre, they often have the AGM symbol (a trophy or cup) on their plant label. This new Phalaenopsis is just so pretty; its ivory flowers are infused with the most delicate of pinks, the back of the plant’s petals blush prettily and the centre of each flower is delightfully freckled. As well as looking good, this Phalaenopsis has a delicate floral scent, which is most pronounced in the morning. Phalaenopsis ‘New Life’ is ideally suited to growing in a location that receives bright, but indirect light. Avoid growing this Phalaenopsis above a radiator, or in too bright a location, where the plant’s leaves may be scorched by harsh or direct light. For best results, place your plant in a location away from extremes in temperature.

If you’ve given any of your houseplants a summer holiday outdoors, it’s important to remember to give all of your plants a really thorough check over and a detailed examination before you bring your plants back inside. Examine the undersides of your plant’s leaves and remove any slugs and snails you find. Insects like aphids, or scale insects may be hiding on your plant’s stems and on the undersides of your plant’s leaves, so you may want to wipe over and clean your plant’s leaves before you bring your plants in.  
Aphids have sharp, piercing mouthpieces which puncture the plant’s stem, allowing the aphid to feast on the plant’s sap, as if it was drinking through a straw! Aphids give birth to live young. A new born aphid becomes a mother itself just a week or two after being born! Aphids can seriously weaken a plant, these insects can also spread viruses, so they aren’t the sort of guest that you want to invite to stay inside your home!

Remember to lift your plant up to check the base and undersides of your plant’s container for any pests that might be hiding. Look inside your container’s drainage holes, and under the rim of the pot, as well as inside any other crevices where slugs and snails might stow away. I use a torch when I am examining my plants, as the light helps me to be able to search more accurately. It’s important to remove all of these potential pests before you bring your plants indoors, as outside in the garden these creatures have a wider range of plants to feast on, so their damage is not as noticeable or destructive to individual plants. Whereas inside your home, the plant offerings that are available are often more limited, and as predators are not on hand to control their numbers, pest damage can be catastrophic. So, it’s really important to examine your plants thoroughly before you move them inside, to prevent your houseplants being decimated by any hungry creatures!

If you’re interested in indoor gardening, whether you’re thinking about creating a terrarium or bottle garden, or you’re looking for a new houseplant, you’ll find lots of information, step-by-step guides, ideas, and inspiration at www.pumpkinbeth.com

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Monique Gudgeon, Sculpture by the Lakes

Monique Gudgeon, Sculpture by the Lakes

” Never look at a failed plant as  a loss, …always a new planting opportunity…”

As we edge closer to autumn and swap warm summer evenings for cooler nights, my thoughts turn towards tidying the garden for winter.  Although I love the exuberance of the garden in summer, when all is heavy with flower and fruit starts to ripen on the trees, it all tends to get a bit messy as autumn comes in and I itch to get going with secateurs, shears and rake.  I resist the temptation to the last possible moment though, because of course, this time of year is one of the most important for the wild creatures that share our gardens.

Late flowering plants, seed heads, fallen fruit, leaf litter, dead stems and grasses – all these form the basis of the winter larder and warm cosy nests, and are vital in keeping wildlife alive during the winter months.   So I keep my tidying impulses well under control and enjoy the garden for the remaining warm days.

Of course it’s not all about shutting down for the winter because we are fast approaching that time of year when spring flowering bulbs need to go into the ground, or into pots for early displays.  Planting bulbs is such a positive thing to do when the days are getting shorter; when the days start to lengthen again and those first green shoots appear you realise you have a whole new growing season to look forward to and spring is nearly here.

I have already ordered my tulips for the containers that will sit around the café terrace – a mixture of red and purple this time – plus a variety of new alliums will be going into the house borders together with some foxtail lilies.  These lilies love dry conditions and of course last winter was so wet that all my specimens rotted in the ground, but I am determined to give them another try.   One of the joys of gardening is that determination to look for the positive;  as a fellow gardener once said to me, “never look at a failed plant as a loss, look at it as a new planting opportunity!”  Wise words and a mantra that is often quoted…