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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Andrew Fisher Tomlin

Andrew Fisher Tomlin

The power of a day in the garden

I’m not particularly nostalgic and I often feel that many of my childhood memories have come from the tales my sister tells of what I got up to but I do have a few very clear memories that, I think, put me on the path to where I am today.

Those memories are very clearly of helping my Dad in one of his three allotment plots that we got to in a 5-minute bike ride. Often on a Sunday morning when a good roast was calling we’d cycle up to the allotment where Dad was already there working. We’d help him dig up potatoes which were like treasure, pull up carrots and pick runner beans. Once we got older we were allowed to pick fruit for Chivers Farms in the village during the summer holidays. And of course there was a garden at home that my Mum tended too with an apple tree for climbing and plum trees around the corner to harvest for free.

I often think that my passion for gardening comes from not just my childhood but also that I like my food and my Mum taught me to cook. It’s as important a skill as gardening and perhaps these days we could all take a lesson from this. And today even though my mortgage is paid from working in gardens I still enjoy a day in my own garden.

In our business we design community gardens for vision impairment, for dementia and with young people, a huge range of ages and abilities. I see the power that both active gardening and passive enjoyment of a garden brings. When I get home and go out for half an hour to do some gardening, and then find it’s three hours later and its gone dark, when I put my feet up and look at what I’ve achieved I still get as big a buzz out of a garden as I did digging up the treasure of potatoes all those years ago.

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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Quentin Stark

Quentin Stark

Quentin Stark is the Head Gardener at Hole Park Gardens, Kent http://www.holepark.com

He is also the Plant Doctor for Plant Fairs Roadshow http://www.plant-fairs.co.uk

There is a Snowdrop and Plant Fair Roadshow on Sunday 10th February 2019 at Hole Park from 11am until 3 pm

One of my Favourite Plants

There are over twenty species of Cyclamen, growing across Southern Europe, West Asia and Northern Africa.

I was introduced to the tender florist Cyclamen persicum as a young boy by my mother. It wasn’t until I was working at Savill Gardens I met the charming hardy species in the woodland garden. I was lucky to move to my current job which was five minutes from the former specialist Cyclamen nursery Tile Barn. The nearest thing to Cyclamen heaven.

It is some of these hardy species that I want to mention next.

Cyclamen repandum

Cyclamen repandum one of the lesser known species and is definitely a woodland plant, as its foliage is less leathery than its cousins Cyclamen hederifolium and C. coum. Its leaves have a well-defined hastate pattern outlined in silver. The foliage comes up in spring with the arrival of warmer days to come, followed soon by the long elegant slightly twisting magenta petals.

Cyclamen repandum

Cyclamen  purpurescens

This Cyclamen is more of a challenge to grow well out in the garden, as it prefers a continental climate. It is worth trying by planting deeply in a humus shady spot, as this species flowers from June to October with pale pink to carmine and rarely white flowers with the most delightful sweet scent like violets, the best scent of any Cyclamen. It is in leaf almost all year around with heart to kidney shaped leaves that vary in colour from glossy green to entirely pewter coloured, usually has a hastate pattern highlighted in cream, silver or pewter

Cyclamen purpurescens

Cyclamen hederifolium

To me the end of hazy days of summer and the coming mellow fruitfulness of Autumn is signified with the appearance with the first blooms of the most accommodating and long-lived Cyclamen species.

Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen hederifolium is one of the most common species grown, with its butterfly-like blooms that come in shades of rose-pink or white before the leaves, make their appearance. The foliage gives an added bonus to the beauty and another reason to grow these small hardy plants. These leathery leaves with hastate mark in the centre of the leaf, and marbled with shades of green, pewter and silver give rise to almost limitless patterns.

These pictures show the bank opposite my back door, on which Cyclamen hederifolium has appeared over the last 18 years and I’ve not planted one of them, so how did they come to be there?

The seeds of Cyclamen have a sweet coating on them and this is desirable to mice and ants. They collected the seeds from plants in other parts of my garden removed the sweet coating and left the seeds in their runs which seems to be a great place for germination.

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum arrives in winter it’s kidney shaped leaves fully expanded. These leaves like the autumn flowering C. hederifolium have a central hastate marking and can be as variable. The flowers are dumpy compared to other species of Cyclamen, I think this gives them a charm of their own. This delightful species starts to flower in December and continues well into February, with a range of colour from pure white through hints and shades of pink to carmine. This is my favourite species as it gives the most welcome colour in the depth of winter.

To find out more about these wonderful charming plants, the book by Christopher Grey-Wilson, Cyclamen A guide for gardeners, horticulturists and botanists. It has everything you need to know about growing Cyclamen.

The Cyclamen society is great to group to join to further your knowledge and increase your plants through their seed scheme.

‘I know of no other genus whose plants flower out of doors every day of the year. I know of no other genus with one or more species coming into bloom or growth, peaking or going dormant at every season.’ Nancy Goodwin

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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Ian Scroggy

Ian W. Scroggy HNDH

Ian Scroggy works with his parents running Bali-Hai Mail Order Nursery.

SLUGS NO MORE!!!!

I have been experimenting with different controls to prevent Slug and Snail damage to our Hosta stock on the nursery.  I tried the usual beer traps or milk traps worked to a certain extent but only worked in a small area around the traps.

Hair clippings, egg shells, sharp grit, soot with little success if the slugs want to eat they will go over them.

Garlic extract now this is the one that gave the best results plus with added benefits.

The Garlic Recipe

You will need

2 Large Garlic bulbs Romanian Red is the best

Blender

2 pints of water

saucepan

Cloth to strain mixture

dark coloured bottle

 Get two large Garlic bulbs place in a blender.  Once finely crushed add contents to two pints of boiling water, let it boil for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic looks like it is blanched.  Let it cool best to do this outside it does smell a bit.  As soon as it is cooled get an old pair of stockings and place them over the saucepan and drain off the liquid into a dark plastic bottle the stockings help to filter out the small garlic pieces. Or pour into ice cube tray and freeze the concentrate. Now you have a concentrated liquid of garlic.  With this liquid put two tablespoons into your watering can, or two ice cubes, about two gallon size or 10 litres and with a fine spray rose on your watering can water this over the leaves of your hostas best to do it in later afternoon after the strong midday sun has passed over.  Spray your plants every 14 days during active growth i.e. from the first shoots starting to emerge to late August-September.

 I have found this mixture can be bought ready made called “Garlic Barrier”  if you search online you will find it.  As it is totally organic it does no harm to the air or soil it actually improves the vigour of the Hostas and gives the leaves a good sheen which also helps build up good root systems as if the leaves are healthy they are able to produce more food to put back into their roots therefore producing more “eyes” so your plants will bulk up better.  It also means you do not have to spray nasty chemicals so much only if you get a sudden outbreak of mildew or botrytis that you would need to spray with a fungicide.  Yes I still use commercial grade slug pellets especially before the plants start to emerge as the garlic only works on the foliage, it leaves the leaves a nasty taste for the slugs they will bypass them for a hosta not treated with garlic.  With slug pellets I only have to use 80% less than I did before I started using garlic so that is a marked improvement.

 Try making your own garlic spray and just do one or two plants to start with so as you can see the difference with the Hostas that you sprayed and ones you left alone.  Within a month you will see a good difference.  I know the smell puts people off making their own but it is worth it I can assure you.  Make sure when spraying the plants that the leaves are dry so as the spray will stay on the leaves and the liquid will dry on thus giving the protection.  I only spray every 14 days but weekly would be even better.  “Garlic Barrier” also do a granule form that you can mix in with the compost I tried this on 100 pots of Hostas but did not get the same results as I got from the liquid sprays but this was only a small scale trial it might work for you and there is hardly any smell of the granules

Bali-Hai Mail Order Nursery http://www.mailorderplants4me.com