This Week’s Guest Blogger is Julie Quinn

Julie Quinn

As Gretta, my Mum got older she adapted her gardening to fit her abilities.  She had built huge waist-high raised beds which she filled with spring bulbs and summer bedding.  She could potter out there without bending or digging and she kept that going every year. Her front door area was a mass of pots which she painted in primary colours, also  filled with spring bulbs and then summer bedding.  Her pots were a famous landmark and she kept them going till the day she moved out just before her 100th birthday.

Mum at around 93 yrs old in front of her raised bed full of spring bulbs

Another photo showing the raised bed

This is Mum and me with her front door pots taken when she was mid 90s.  She loved pots as they were so much easier to garden with, as long as she found someone strong to move them about.  She also found watering them very relaxing and therapeutic.

Now in a Residential Home she is still gardening at 103 yrs old.  Here are her pots from last summer.

More colourful pots from last summer.  As you can see, she loves colour in everything she has.

Colourful containers she planted up last summer for the front entrance to the Residential Home.  She persuaded the Manager to pay for it all too.

The point I want to make for all your readers is that if you have gardening in your blood and you have the urge to do it, then hopefully one can find a way to garden in some way whatever one’s age or infirmity.  Even with a walking frame she waters the pots when they need it and she brings blooms into the communal areas for everyone to enjoy.
I inherited her love of gardening later in life, at around 40 yrs old and three years ago started my blog at londoncottagegarden.com which is another way to bring the joy of gardening into your life by sharing the passion with others.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Philip Oostenbrink

Philip Oostenbrink is the Head Gardener at Canterbury Gardens who was instrumental in ensuring that Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity was included as a beneficiary of the Open Gardens on May 25th and 26th May 2019.

Gardening in a historic environment

 Four years ago I became Head Gardener at Canterbury Cathedral. Before I had the interview I imagined that the planting schemes would be quite traditional, but even when I walked around during the interview I discovered a whole array of unusual plants, Japanese gardens and tropical borders. When I told The Dean how surprised I was to find all this on a 1500 year old site he explained to me that although the building was not changing much and mainly preserved and restored, he felt the gardens should change and go along with the times. Sometimes when I do a tour through the gardens I tell this story and not long ago a lady exclaimed it should be more traditional and the gardens should be resembling the gardens as they were during Monastic times. If we did that though, we would have skipped about 700 years of history because even before the first church was built on the Canterbury grounds in 597 AD there was a Royal Palace on that spot which no doubt had its own gardens and orchards.

One project we are doing at the moment is creating a collection of Magnolia. These Magnolia have a local provenance. They are bred by Amos Pickard who had a nursery near Canterbury from the 1960s-1980s. He bred 23 different Magnolias and we are hoping to get all of these together and planted around the Cathedral grounds. Obtaining these plants is difficult and shows the importance of the conservation of garden plants as some of them are very difficult to get and some of them may already be lost completely. Once we have a sufficient amount of plants we will apply for National Collection status with Plant Heritage. It will also be our aim to redistribute any spare plants/cuttings so they are less likely to disappear. After all if you can give 5 people a Pickard Magnolia it is more likely for them to be preserved for the future than if there is only one around.

So this is how on an ancient site we extend important conservation work to the plant world and not just the buildings.

Under the National Garden Scheme
Canterbury Cathedral Gardens are open on 25th and 26th May 2019.
Please come along and support this Open Garden as Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity, Perennial and NGS will benefit from a donation from the entry fee

Archdeaconry
19 The Precincts
22 The Precincts
The Deanery
15 The Precincts will be open to the public

Added attractions include a new plant fair incorporating specialist nurseries with unusual plants for sale. Cathedral Gardeners’ herb stall. Home-made refreshments. Dover Beekeepers’ Association, up close and personal opportunity with Birds of Prey and unique access to Bastion Chapel. Classic cars on Green Court

It is a  wonderful opportunity to visit and enjoy the private gardens within the historic precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. The Deanery Garden with scented roses, kitchen garden, unusual trees and wild fowl enclosure; the Archdeaconry includes the ancient mulberry tree, contrasting traditional and modern planting and now both a Japanese and New World influence. Other gardens offer sweeping herbaceous banks, delightful enclosed spaces, and areas planted to attract and support wildlife. Step back in time and see the herb garden, which shows the use of herbs grown for many purposes in the Middle Ages. The walled Memorial Garden has wonderful wisteria, formal roses, mixed borders and the stone war memorial at its centre, and the hidden Bastion Chapel in the city wall. A garden planted in the Friends’ name surrounds the Buffs’ statue.

The gardens of Canterbury Cathedral comprise not only of the private gardens but also the public gardens of the Precincts, including the Friends’ garden. Lovingly cared for by the Cathedral Gardening Team, the private gardens are quite diverse; from the large open spaces of the Deanery, with fruit and vegetables, showing off the Dean’s love of roses, bulbs and blossom to the small garden of No. 19, with its medlar tree and blue & white border set in the shadow of the Cathedral itself. The Archdeaconry has a slightly more formal structure, with standard roses and a quiet area with a Japanese influence, whilst the front paving is lush with well-loved hostas and beginning to reflect the New Zealand roots of the Archdeacon. No. 22, has a ‘secret’ garden to the rear with a stone water feature and gazebo and No. 15, the home of our Canon Missioner has deep herbaceous borders with the lawn crowned by the magnificent Copper Beech . Apart from the 5 residential gardens, the Precincts offers the Memorial Garden, Water Tower Garden, Friends’ Garden and of course our Medicinal Herb Garden. In this garden you will find a collection of herbs relied upon for their properties through the centuries – which are now linked to our copy of Gerard’s Herbal from 1597. An extra treat is the Lattergate garden, part of the historic King’s School. All of these gardens are set against the magnificent backdrop of the Cathedral itself. Should you wish to stay overnight, B & B is often available at the Cathedral Lodge which is within the Cathedral Precincts. For accommodation contact 01227 865350 or www.canterburycathedrallodge.org.

For further information contact 01227 762862 or www.canterbury-cathedral.org

Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity was lucky enough to catch up with Philip Oostenbrink the Head Gardener at Canterbury Cathedral, who is busy preparing for the open days.
His top tips of what to look out for include :-
Deanery: the garden is over 1,000 years old and features on the first ever plan of the Precincts. A large tree of heaven Ailanthus altissima stands at the end of the lawn.

No 15 garden: a lot of work has been done in there since Canon Nick (now Dean of Salisbury) left last September. The woodland walk has been planted up with more unusual trees and ornamental shrubs have been replaced with Kent Cobnuts to give more of a native woodland feel. The lower bank is still in development as an infestation of bindweed and ground elder needs to be addressed before new plants go in

Archdeaconry: a rare variegated Geranium maccrrorrhizum ‘Variegatum’ can be found at the end of the lawn, under the Pittosporum.

No 19: an espallier gooseberry was planted along the metal fence.

No 22: The lawn has been extended and new borders planted on the right hand side as you walk in to make the feel of the garden flow better.

Information
Saturday 25th May  2019 11:00 – 17:00
Sunday 26th May 2019 14:00 – 17:00
Refreshments:
Light refreshments on Green Court. Entry Info: Sat 25 May general precinct & gardens entry £17. Precinct pass holder £5 garden entry. Sun 26 May £5 garden entry (no precinct charge). Refreshments in aid of nominated charities.

Admission:
Adult: £5.00
Child: Free

Please note – on Saturday, in addition to £5 admission, precinct charges apply. On Sunday there are no precinct charges

Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity will be manning a stand at the Open Gardens so please pop along and see us.  We would like to convey our thanks to everyone at Canterbury Cathedral who has been involved in choosing our Charity as a beneficiary, we really appreciate it.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Anni Kelsey

The garden of delights

my edible perennial paradise

Everything that I do and understand about my garden changed radically when I discovered forest gardening in 2005.  I was amazed to learn that there was a way of gardening that meant I would have less work to do which would save me time, whilst at the same time giving me something to eat all year round and which would also be attractive and hospitable to wildlife. 

There are three key factors to making such a garden:

  • a layered structure
  • perennial edible and functional plants – otherwise known as an ecological guild or a polyculture
  • simulating and then facilitating an ecosystem

Layered structure

A forest garden captures the maximum sunlight by making use of trees, bushes, shrubs and herbaceous plants growing close together in layers – as you might find on the edge of a woodland.  It depends on the space available but the crucial thing is to make use of what you have choosing from

  • a tall tree canopy
  • medium height trees, bushes, shrubs
  • herbaceous plants up to about 3 feet tall
  • lower level / ground cover plants
  • root crops and plants with deep penetrating roots
  • a climbing layer

Polycultures of perennial edible and functional plants

  • perennial vegetables
  • plants to attract bees and other pollinators
  • plants to host a range of insects that keep ‘pests’ at bay
  • plants to fix nitrogen
  • plants to draw up minerals from lower layers of soil and make them available to the

I tend to use the word polyculture to describe this way of planting.  There are innumerable possibilities for combining plants with the different functions listed above into a polyculture so I will give some examples based on my own garden in Wales.  This is on an exposed somewhat wet and windy site with heavy clay soil and a lot of stones!  The plants that grow here do so without complaint (or I wouldn’t have them) and look after themselves year on year.  In other parts of the country with different weather and soil etc you can choose plants that are suited to those conditions.

My garden is not large and my polycultures are clustered round a range of small fruit trees and bushes.  My basic ‘template’ for this is to include the following plants:

  • fruit trees – apple, pear, plum, gage, cherry
  • fruit bushes – red, white and blackcurrants, jostaberry, gooseberry, blackberry, raspberry, wineberry
  • perennial green vegetables such as Daubenton’s kale, Taunton Deane kale, good King Henry
  • self seeding leafy greens – lamb’s lettuce, land cress
  • deep rooted and tuberous perennial vegetables – skirret, scorzonera, salsify, oca, Jerusalem artichoke, Chinese artichoke
  • alliums (onions) – chives, Welsh onions, garlic chives, garlic, perennial leeks
  • herbs – lavender, fennel, sweet cicely, parsley, wild marjoram, thyme, germander, catmint, yarrow, self heal
  • perennial and self seeding flowers – calendula, love in a mist, cowslips, forget me nots, poppies, creeping Jenny, lady’s mantle, nasturtiums
  • nitrogen fixing plants – annual peas and beans, perennial earth nut pea and vetches
  • climbing plants – blue sausage fruit, akebia quinata, Caucasian spinach.

This can be as simple or as complicated as you like – from one small fruit tree with chives, lamb’s lettuce, good King Henry, thyme, calendula and dwarf peas planted beneath it – to the twenty two small trees I have with all of the above and more. 

The pictures below show what this looks like in practice:

This spring time photograph shows a whitecurrant in flower that sent on to bear several pounds of fruit.  There is a gooseberry bush and sweet cicely to the right and a mixture of lavender, fennel, forget me not, mint, salsify, dandelion and land cress (yellow flowers) in front of the bushes.  There are literally thousands of tiny flowers blooming in the garden from spring through to late summer and these are crucial to making it a haven for bees and other pollinators.  The closely packed vegetation also means the ground is shaded and protected from what sun there is (!) and also from heavy rain.  There is also plenty of habitat for beneficial insects like spiders and beetles.

Jerusalem artichokes at the back with a mixture of early summer flowering plants – self sown foxgloves, astrantia (because I like it), mint for the kitchen and thyme for the bees.

This is a Welsh apple tree – Trwyn Mochyn – taken in late summer and surrounded by annual self seeding nasturtiums that virtually engulf it, there are also a range of alliums and herbs that have been temporarily engulfed – but not harmed by the nasturtiums.

Taunton Deane kale – a hardy kale that grows large but is easy to care for, ie it looks after itself!

A wider view of the polyculture patches showing how all the plants mix in together and grow very enthusiastically.

This garden is indeed very low maintenance – I cut back some of the plants that die back in the late autumn, but leave a lot for their seeds and structure for over wintering birds and insects and then do another round just before the spring bursts out.  In between I cut back or take out any plants that are not working with the rest, but much more time is occupied by harvesting the produce!

From early spring onwards there are so many bees in the garden that it seems to buzz most of the day, there are butterflies a-plenty and all sorts of insects that I cannot identify but which are all an integral part of this local ecosystem.  Birds nest in the hedges and feed from the bushes and plants, there are hedgehogs, mice, shrews, rabbits, frogs (even when there was no pond) and although they are present the slugs are not a problem and I don’t need to take any action to keep their numbers down.

When I began this style of gardening I was able to complete the ‘normal’ gardening tasks without a problem but as time has gone by I find I have much less energy and stamina than before and would not be able to garden as I once did, even if I wanted to.  However I love doing things this way, it makes my life enjoyable and puts good healthy food on the table whilst also benefitting the local wildlife and looking lovely too.  What more can I ask for?

More detailed information about the method of growing edible polycultures can be found both in my book “Edible Perennial Gardening” and on my blog “gardens of delight”.  I am also happy to answer any gardener’s individual questions sent by email to annisveggies@hotmail.co.uk.

http://www.permanentpublications.co.uk/port/edible-perennial-gardening-by-anni-kelsey/

or http://www.annisveggies.wordpress.com/

Two other interesting websites are Incredible Vegetables run by Mandy Barber and Julien Skinner in Devon and The Backyard Larder by Alison Tinsdale.  Both of these have information about all sorts of unusual and perennial vegetables and also sell them. http://www.incrediblevegetables.co.uk

http://www.backyardlarder.co.uk

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Toby Beasley

Queen Victoria and Violets

As Head Gardener at Osborne I’m often looking for period plants (ones which were available before Queen Victoria’s death in 1901) or specific varieties from the archives, to help create more interest in the garden. I had a vague memory that one of Queen Victoria’s favourite plants was the violet, so I decided to do some research.

Aged 14, Victoria wrote in her journal on the 30th March 1834, ‘Mamma gave me two very pretty little china baskets with violets, and some pretty buttons.’ This is the first entry in a lifetime of keeping her detailed diaries where she specifically mentions violets. Overall there are 105 references to violets in her journals, with many referring to picking ‘primroses and violets’ especially at Osborne.

Violets and their uses
Violets were clearly a favourite with Victoria throughout her life, but they were popular for a very long time before she brought them to the forefront of fashion.
The first records describing the use of violets in Europe are from ancient Greece where they seem to be used for medicinal purposes. They were associated with the Virgin Mary in Christian tradition, had a symbolic meaning with humility and were also used in garlands. During the Tudor period herbalists mention the plant being good for treating headaches, depression and constipation as well as being a good strewing herb. It’s around this time that the name ‘Sweet Violet’ starts to be used, referring to the sweet smell given by the flowers of Viola odorata, a native plant of the UK and much of Europe.
By the 18th century violets were being used to enhance toiletries and perfumes, and were grown commercially in France and the UK. Due to their exceptional scent, Sweet and Parma violets were commonly sold as small posies, or nosegays, to help cope with the noxious smells of large cities. They were also worn as buttonholes or in hat bands.
Sir Joseph Banks, the famous plant collector and unofficial director of Kew Gardens under King George III, cultivated 300 pots of Parma violets at his garden in Isleworth in 1816 but it is really towards the middle of the century that violet production and popularity hit its peak.
A very Victorian flower
With their love of attaching meaning to flowers Victorians regarded violets as a symbol for modesty and fidelity, due to the plants habit of holding its flowers in a low nodding deferential manner. The phrase ‘shrinking violet’, first coined by the English poet Leigh Hunt in 1820, was popularised during the Victorian era and reflected the plants qualities of modesty and shyness on people.
By the 1880’s around 6 million violet bunches were being sold annually in Paris and exported as far afield as Russia. Queen Victoria spent many holidays on the French Riviera, especially late in her life, and often visited during the spring when the violets would be in bloom.
‘As I was coming down the hill in the pony chair, little children from the village gave me bunches of violets, primroses and other wild flowers,’ she wrote during her visit to the French Riviera in April 1885. With the queen’s endorsement, both the French Riviera and violets grew their fashionable status.
From the late 19th century violets had a slow but steady decline in popularity. The perfume industry began to use ionone, a molecule that has a violet fragrance which was isolated from the roots of Iris germanica var. florentina. The violet leaf midge, Dasineura affinis, became a considerable pest of and changes in the employment market in the twentieth century made commercial growing of these plants uneconomical.
At the same time, the large stately homes that had collections of the harder to grow Parma violet struggled to keep their estates going. Several very cold winters in the mid 20th century were harsh for the plants and anyway, fashion was changing. By the end of the 1950’s the fashion for violets and their commercial worth had all but disappeared, and many of the cultivars raised in the previous three centuries now seem to have been lost.
Violets you can see at Osborne this spring
Today, violets have a small but dedicated following – including here at Osborne.
Our archives aren’t comprehensive but there are plenty of mentions of picking violets, sending violets to friends and acquaintances and odd references of violets that must have been grown in the gardens.
In February 1874 Victoria recorded in her journal ‘The snow drops, violets and wall flowers so pretty, in the garden at the Swiss cottage’. In January 1882 (also when visiting Swiss cottage) she mentioned ‘Many violets out, smelling so sweet, and many little roses,’ which considering the time of year could be referring to potted plants that have been forced by the gardeners. There are also many other mentions of the wild violets growing around the estate.
We have replenished our stocks of violets recently with five Parma violet cultivars and four Sweet violets. They are displayed in the cold frame in the walled garden through the winter and early spring to fill a gap in the flowering season.

Violet varieties being grown at Osborne
Parma Violets
Viola ‘Swanley White’, raised in 1880, white double flowers with slight blue tints, synonymous with Viola ‘Conte di Brazza’. This cultivar won the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) First Class Certificate in 1883.
Viola ‘Duchesse de Parme’, raised in 1870, pale lavender blue flowers, very prolific and easy to grow.
Viola ‘Lady Hume Campbell’, raised in 1875, lavender mauve flowers, synonymous with Viola ‘Gloire d’Angoulême’ and one of the varieties grown at Windsor Castle in Queen Victoria’s reign.
Viola ‘Marie Louise’, raised in 1865 but could well be older, deep lavender blue flowers and another of the cultivars grown at Windsor Castle in Queen Victoria’s reign.
Viola ‘Neapolitan’, possible the original Parma violet and in cultivation for at least 400 years, pale silvery lavender flowers, long flowering period.

Viola ‘Swanley White’

Sweet Violets
Viola ‘Baronness de Rothschild’, raised in 1894, synonymous with Viola ‘Baronne Alice de Rothschild’ a lady who showed Queen Victoria her garden when on holiday in Grasse in 1891, large violet blue flowers borne on long stems, early flowering.
Viola ‘John Raddenbury’, raised in 1895, medium sized pale blue flowers, often used for cut flower production, named after the first director of Melbourne Botanic garden.
Viola ‘Koningin Charlotte’, raised in 1900, very sweetly scented, blue upward facing flowers, long flowering season from August to early spring.
Viola ‘Princess of Wales’, raised in 1889, large violet blue flowers on long stems, the most popular commercially grown cut flower, another of the cultivars grown at Windsor Castle in Queen Victoria’s reign and awarded the RHS Award of Merit in 1895

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Adam Pasco

GARDENING IS GOOD FOR YOU!

By Adam Pasco

Like many of you, I love gardening!

As a young child, and with no television in the house, I preferred being outside. Ours was a large overgrown Victorian garden where ground elder ruled, complete with mature fruit trees, veg plot, derelict greenhouse and potting shed. With five kids in the family, we were each given an area of our own to nurture, and that’s where my passion for gardening began!

An interest in plants and nature led me to work on a tree and shrub nursery before studying for a degree in horticulture and entering the world of gardening journalism. For me gardening has become so much more than a hobby, but my family garden is where it started all those years ago.

I’ve always known that gardening means different things to different people, but research from around the world has now confirmed something many gardeners already know ­– gardening really is good for you!

CREATIVE SPACES

Not only are gardens great places to relax, but just being in or looking out onto gardens and green spaces has been shown to relieve stress, improving wellbeing and creativity. By creating a beautiful garden outside your own back door you’ll have a personal sanctuary to step out into, and somewhere to grow healthy food, welcome in wildlife, and spend time with family and friends.

Adam Pasco’s Garden. Photographers Adam Pasco & Luke Pasco June 3rd 2013

STAYING ACTIVE

Gardening has many benefits for your health and wellbeing. These include providing exercise and staying active, relieving stress, grounding and connecting with nature, enjoying and sharing your garden with others – all helping to feed your mind, body and soul.

It’s a creative, rewarding and productive pastime, with opportunities to learn new skills, find out about exciting new plants, share ideas and make new friends. All these have a positive and restorative affect on mental and physical health, keeping mind and body active, whatever your age.

In fact, gardening has be described as the Natural Health Service, as doctors recognise the numerous benefits gardening brings without the need for costly therapies and drugs, with their unwelcome side effects.

GROW YOUR OWN

For instance, eating well can start by growing your own organic homegrown crops – all part of the ‘5 a day’ we all need to provide nutrients, health-boosting vitamins and minerals, and essential phytochemicals that help protect our bodies against disease. Herbs not only add wonderful flavours to our home cooking and teas, but bring many health benefits too.

Crops can be grown in even the smallest of spaces, providing the reward of picking fresh produce you’ve raised yourself. Combine these with colourful plants and fragrant flowers and any outdoor space will be transformed to become a truly sensory experience, giving you somewhere relaxing to sit or a vibrant space to socialise and entertain with family and friends.

AT ONE WITH NATURE

By choosing the right plants we can design gardens that encourage birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife to drop in for food, water and shelter, or even take up residence. Many beneficial insects and creatures also feed on garden pests too, controlling them naturally without the need to spray with harmful pesticides.

Developing an all-year-round wildlife-friendly garden satisfies our own creativity and feeling of achievement, bringing us outdoors and closer to nature to reduce stress and improve our wellbeing. Contact with plants and the soil also enhances our health and boosts the immune system, too.

NEW GARDEN CENTRE PROMOTION

‘Gardening is Good For You’ is the theme of a new monthly plant promotion I have developed for the Horticultural Trades Association. Starting in January 2019, different topics related to gardening for health and wellbeing will be highlighted each month, so check out you local garden centres to see if they are involved.

BIOGRAPHY

Adam Pasco is an experienced gardener, lecturer and consultant living in Peterborough. As the former editor of BBC Gardeners’ World magazine, Waitrose Garden, Garden News and Garden Answers magazines he has worked on a variety of gardening television programmes, books, magazines, websites and newspapers during his 36 years as a gardening journalist.

He has twice been crowned ‘Editor of the Year’ by the British Society of Magazine Editors, and been awarded ‘Practical Journalist of the Year’ by the Garden Media Guild.

Adam is currently working with the HTA on a new monthly garden centre promotion for 2019/20 on the theme ‘Gardening is Good For You’ promoting the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening.

For Adam’s contact details visit   http://www.AdamPascoMedia.com

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Michael Elgey

As a child I was enthralled when watching wildlife documentaries. I not only found the animals fascinating but the landscapes and environments which they occupy. In many of these documentaries filmed in Africa, Madagascar and Northern Australia there would usually be shots and panoramas with the mighty Boab trees. Boabs small but not insignificant group of trees in the Genus Adansonia. These trees are so iconic that someone can typically recognise them even without knowing their common or scientific names.  Some species of Adansonia can grow to a height 24.8 m with trunk girth of 23.6 m. Their dominance  over the landscape is so great that film director Jamie Uys in his movies The Gods Must be Crazy he filmed many shots beneath and within the canopy of African Boab Trees. So when I became interested in Horticulture I attempted to grow a Boab in Western Sydney but with little success due to Sydney’s climate. It actually wasn’t until 2011 that I had the experience of seeing a spectacular stand of Boabs at Mt Cooth-tha Botanic Gardens in Brisbane. Now fast forward to 2018 and I have the absolute pleasure and responsibility to curate several specimens at Rockhampton Botanic Gardens in Central Queensland. These specimens may be young compared to how long they can live but they are just as fascinating and enthralling to me now as they were when I was a child.

For more information about Rockhampton Botanic Gardens in Australia http://www.rockhamptonregion.qld.gov.au

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Darren Sheriff

Containerized Citrus Growing

Growing your own food has gotten to be a huge phenomenon. With all kinds of recalls on different greens and other vegetables it makes sense. Being “The Citrus Guy”, I encourage people to grow, you guessed it, Citrus.

Well, what if you do not live in a Citrus producing area?

Containerized Citrus to the rescue!

Most types of Citrus can be grown successfully in containers, if you have a large enough one. Don’t expect as big a tree as one grown in the ground, however. The biggest advantage of containerized trees is that they can be protected during freezing temperatures by temporarily storing them in an enclosed area.

Plastic containers retain moisture longer than other types of pots, especially terracotta. Citrus need lots of moisture, but don’t like wet feet all the time. A good rule of thumb is, try to keep the soil about the constancy of a wrung-out dish sponge.

The potting mix you use is really a personal choice. Any good, well-draining mix that will retain some moisture, and is sturdy enough to support the plant, will work. You can use any combination of peat, pine bark, compost, perlite, sand, etc.

Good nutrition is essential but over fertilization can result in excessive vegetative or leafy growth. I prefer a 5-1-3 organic fertilizer.  If the tree is in the ground, I will start feeding in late winter and stopping late summer to allow the plant to harden off before the cold sets in. If in containers, all year long is acceptable. They can be fed every 6-8 weeks, in accordance with the time frames previously listed. Any fertilizer you have will work particularly if it contains trace elements such as Iron, Magnesium and Manganese. An occasional foliar spray (spraying the leaves) with Fish Emulsion will also benefit the tree.

Citrus love sunlight, 8-10 hours if possible. Even in Winter, if the temps drop at night and you bring it in, bring it back out during the day after it warms up. If you forget or there is a long cold spell forecasted, don’t worry, your citrus tree will be fine for a few days in a garage or other sheltered spot. They can handle 28 degrees Fahrenheit for short periods of time, if it has been cool prior to the freeze event.

I usually don’t start to panic about protection until they predict 26 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you don’t have someplace to stash the tree and it is only cold for a couple of nights a year, there are other possibilities.

  • Create a temporary greenhouse out of PVC and heavy-duty plastic. Then use electric lights or a small heater. You do not have to keep it tropical in there, just above freeing is fine.
  • You can lay the plant down and cover with a tarp and/or blanket. The heat from the ground will keep it nice and comfortable. Such as this:My trees were under here for three weeks. When I stood them up, they looked like they had come out of the greenhouse.I have been gardening since I was a little boy, citrus has been a passion since the late 1990’s. You can learn more about me and ask any questions by going to my website: https://thecitrusguy.com/

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Joe Swift

I have lived in London my entire life and highly value the act of gardening as well as being surrounded by -and connected to -nature, plants and quality greenspace. I say quality because an area of grass to let the local dogs…. ‘exercise’….is not not reaching its full potential. I have designed and built umpteen gardens and am involved with community gardens, but my most recent design is also the most important to date. I’ve put my heart and soul into it. The Horatios garden I designed at Stoke Mandeville opened in September 2018 and is only going to get better as it matures. We have a fabulous head gardener Jacqui in place along with a team of willing and knowledgeable volunteers. The garden build was not cheap, we didn’t skimp, but it is a gift from the charity through incredible fundraising efforts, to the NHS as is its ongoing care.

Spinal injury patients previously spent extremely long periods stuck inside but now have somewhere to gather and spend extremely important times with family and friends away from the understandably sterile environment of the hospital. Plants and gardens aid recovery and are good for one’s soul; especially important during difficult times.

The garden is all one one level, it has private and more communal areas, an incredible garden building designed by Andrew Wells of 3W architecture complete with kitchen to shelter from the weather. It’s great for doing projects and therapies in. There’s a pond with moving water which adds another dimension and makes the garden feel cool and tranquil on a hot day. There’s even subtle garden lighting which means it can be used in the evenings and viewed from inside the wards when its dark.

The design has transformed what was an uninviting, impractical, exposed (to passers- by) and extremely underused space into an accessible, exciting well used garden packed full of plants for all seasons. Trees such as limes, winter flowering cherries, gingko and amelanchiers provide shade in summer as well as autumn and winter interest. Shrubs such as lonicera, sarcococca and climbing jasmines pump out sweet fragrance and in summer riotous perennials and grasses knit together to envelope the seating areas with plants, creating privacy and bringing in the butterflies and bees. As a garden designer there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a garden you’ve designed being used and enjoyed by those you’ve made it for and when those people and their families have been through life changing trauma, seeing the positive effects on their day to day life it makes it even more special.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Kevin Dowding

Kevin Dowding

Twists and Turns

As a young lad I used to love helping my Grandad both in his garden on his vegetable plot and renovating and making good our garden. I loved being outdoors, close to nature, learning endlessly and never doing the same thing twice. Wonderful!

Through secondary school little consideration was given to my garden; growing up and school studies took precedence, then University, starting my own family, and a career in finance: it was all more important… then the opportunity presented itself. An open day at a local college that I called in on through nosiness and that was me enrolled on a Horticulture course and goodbye to office work.

The quiet, mundane, unexciting world of gardening has so far taken me and my studies/work to Edinburgh and the Lothians, London, Northumberland, then back home to Cumbria. My last four and a half years has been as Forestry Senior at Center Parcs and more latterly the Interior Plants Senior Ranger. The variety of learning, challenges, achievements, seasonality, patience, satisfaction and fabulous friends I have encountered along the way has been extraordinary and must be a terrific bonus that not every industry or profession can boast nor match.

Now I’ve put my roots down and staying put for the foreseeable future. The full circle back to horticulture, planting design and husbandry under glass is where I started and where I have happily returned.  The following photo collages are one of the environments in which I work along with a selection of plants my team and I currently grow that are brightening everyone’s day.

The continual learning, refinement and development of the art of growing plants is a daily challenge and reward for me and is the driving force inspiring me to higher standards and thereby providing more interesting and better quality plants for our 9,000 weekly visitors to enjoy and marvel over

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Sarah Wain

When it comes to cleaning glasshouses, the gardeners at West Dean Gardens take a deep breath and get stuck in. This is an annual task and it’s perhaps one of the least attractive in horticulture being cold, wet, tedious and repetitive in equal measure. However despite all that it’s a necessary one. I know I’m not selling it to you but glass is best cleaned each year to let in the light and scrubbing walls with soapy water helps to dislodge plant pests and diseases- all good horticultural practice. However with any luck you’ll have a lovely small glasshouse which is easy to clean in half a day so please don’t be daunted by these words! There’s no magic to cleaning just graft and the pay back for us is a collection of gleaming clean houses ready for another season.  Hoorah!

Before we start on the 13 Victorian glasshouses at West Dean, we prioritise the order in which we clean them as plants will have to be moved to another house before the cleaners move in. For us this is also the time to sort through plant collections ditching the worst plants and keeping the best for future use. While we are doing this we like to contemplate the changes that might be made in the following year’s displays and make plans.

Because of the amount of work all this involves we start re-potting in the New Year which is counter intuitive but there is a lot of potting to be done and it takes a lot of time so we can’t really wait until spring which is more suitable. Our warmer glasshouses nurture the newly potted plants and we are especially careful with watering- just enough but not too much until the plants are well established.  In the propagation house young plants live the life of Riley as not only are they cossetted with a heated mat to see them through colder weather, but they also have grow-lights to keep the young plants strong and sturdy. Talk about the Costa del West Dean!