Plant of the Month

Plant of the month, March

21st February 2014

I know it has been a wild and wet winter but there are an awful lot of plants out there flowering fit to bust! Some of the winter and spring bedding has taken a beating but pansies and violas are so resilient that they quickly recover with a few days good weather. March is the perfect time for a garden spring clean after the winter, re-invigorating and livening up existing flower beds, borders and containers. Pansies are the perfect spring plants – along with primulas, forget-me-nots and wallflowers and are perfect contenders for patio pots, hanging baskets and window boxes, ideal and easy to plant.

Pansies and violas are two of the most popular bedding plants and are great for filling the gaps in borders once you have cleared away bedraggled or dead plants.  Their names are often used interchangeably. Plants considered to be pansies have four petals pointing upwards, and only one pointing down. Violets have three petals pointing up and two pointing down.

Both are hardy annuals that offer colourful flowers in your garden. They both need watering regularly and need to be planted in moist, well-drained soil.

Pansies and violas like sun and cooler temperatures. Make sure you remove fade or dead flowers to prolong blooming and encourage more flowers to grow bringing a joy of spring to a garden following cold winter months.

Jobs for the Month

There have been so few days this year so far that encourage gardening, so the job list is a real mix of what should have been done as well as what needs to be done.

Clearing, pruning, weeding, feeding and mulching would cover it! |In the flower beds, the dead growth from last year should be cut back before the new growth gets too far ahead, especially with ornamental grasses and clumps of perennials. Spring flowering shrubs should be left until after they have flowered but any overgrown summer shrubs could be thinned out by removing old wood (take out about a third of the plant) or cutting back low the fast growing Spiraeas and Buddlejas. Perennial weeds usually need to be dug out unless you can apply a systemic weed killer such as glyphosate, without touching other plants. If you do use  a weed killer then be sure to let it do its job properly; don’t apply it if its is going to rain in the next 6 hours, and let the plant die back before you tidy it away.

Feeding and mulching are the best way to make your garden ‘grow’, a slow release multipurpose feed such as Vitax Q4, TopRose or Miracle-Gro Granular is ideal, or if you prefer  a liberal dressing of Blood Fish and Bonemeal. The best mulch would be your own well-rotted garden compost from your carefully tended compost heap, bagged re-cycled green waste or bark mulch. All of these work well keeping the weeds at bay, retaining moisture and feeding the soil over a longer period of time. Summer flowering bulbs and corms such as lilies, gladioli and dahlias can be planted out later in March, and overgrown perennials lifted, divided and replanted.

In the edible garden, fruits trees and bushes are budding up nicely, but the soils may still be too wet to cultivate. It really does need to dry up a bit but from experience it will happen and when it does it will happen quickly.

The soil can be improved with addition of grit and organic manure. If you have time, energy and the materials then raised beds are worth making. They don’t have to be too big, even 1m x 50cm would make a useful space, and raised beds are very much more productive as they are easier to cultivate and maintain.

If you are working on small beds then sow some early leaf crops indoors to get a head start, quick maturing salads and spinach are usually successful. Root crops such as early carrots and beetroot are usually best sown direct as they don’t transplant quite so well.

Potato growers should have their selected seed potatoes set out in a light frost free place to chit [letting the shoots start to grow]. The early varieties can probably be planted out early to mid-March if the weather is good and the soil temperature is rising. A soil thermometer is a useful thing to have as ideally the temperature should be over 7oC and rising. Onion sets and shallots can go in now as they are quite tough. Birds love to pull them out as they start to grow so either firm them in really well or protect them with a layer of fleece until, they have put roots down.

Here’s a few other jobs to tackle – if you have a pond, check the plants in baskets before they start to grow. If they need dividing and replanting use an aquatic compost. Well-established pond plants can be fed with a special aquatic plant tablet that is formulated for pond use and doesn’t encourage the growth of algae.

Finally the lawn; give it a light trim on a dry day and see what treatment it needs. A complete weed, feed and mosskill will sort most problems especially if used alongside a good raking over and aeration using a fork, then reseed bare or thin patches or re-turf as this is often an easier and economic option.

Plant of the Month

25th November 2013

Outdoors…

We are definitely talking trees! Trees add structure to the landscape and garden. There are all types, shapes and sizes. From flowering cherries and crab apples to evergreen yews, there are trees to suit every taste and position imaginable. Trees offer different leave size, shape and colour and many have attractive flowers, fruits and seeds. There are those that flower magnificently in spring to those whose leaves offer brilliant autumn colour just before leaf fall

Trees can be selected for all soil types including very wet and dry land. They can tolerate acidic, chalky, sandy and clay soils. They even make up soils in new gardens or landscapes. …read more »

Plant of the Month – Aster

4th September 2013

Meanwhile, perennial Asters, Sedums and Japanese Anemones are all on full song. All are easy to grow and have a good long flowering season. They can be planted almost anytime of the year but inevitably you will notice them more in the garden centre when they are actually in flower. Local soils range from sandy acid, to heavy alkaline clay and shallow chalk. Any of them can be improved with some good organic matter to grow this collection of autumn beauties. Asters [Michaelmas Daisies] include a large range of hybrids and it is worth checking labels to see that you have what you want in terms of height and colour. …read more »

Plant of the month – Phlox paniculata

29th July 2013

So much to choose from – some just going over, some just coming in.

Phlox paniculata; the perennial border phlox is a long established group of garden plants. There are a number of other species, several of which are best grown in the rock garden.
…read more »

Fuschia – July Plant of the Month

28th June 2013

Fuchsias are grown for their very attractive, usually hanging flowers that are carried, more or less continuously from summer to autumn. They are useful in summer-bedding schemes, containers, hanging baskets or in the ground. Some fuchsias are hardy enough to be used as hedges and in permanent plantings.

Fuchsias were first spotted by European botanists in the at the end of the 17th century on the Caribbean island of Hispanola which is the current day Dominican Republic and Haiti, and occur naturally mostly in Central and South America. They were named after the renowned German botanist Leonhart Fuchs, who lived from 1500 to 1566. So, there you go!

…read more »

Plant of the Month – Lavender

4th April 2013

Lavender is a great favourite for many gardeners; it really is a romantic flower that most of us get the urge to plant in the garden sooner or later, adding real value many ways with its shades of blue flowers and silver leaved backdrop, its scents and the fact that it attracts all sorts of insects and butterflies.
‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are two of the hardiest and most often planted cultivars of lavender. They are both compact forms that work well as hedges or in groups of 5 or more. Other taller varieties work equally well and to successfully grow lavender, it needs to be planted in a warm, well-drained soil with full sun. Lavender however, does not like ‘wet feet’ as it promotes root rot.  Dampness is often the reason that lavender does not perform.

…read more »

Chitting your potatoes

8th February 2013

Potatoes from your plot….

With the shortage of potatoes having driven the prices up in the shops, it makes sense to grow a few spuds yourself this year!  They are easy and rewarding to grow and it’s good exercise too!  Here are a few tips to getting started;

  • Choosing seed potatoes from the garden centre (on sale now!)  These are certified as being pest and disease free which is key to getting a good healthy crop.  The seed potatoes are clearly marked on the packs:
  • First early - choose these varieties if you want new potatoes early in the season.  Plant mid to end of March to crop mid to late June
  • Second early - plant these varieties early to mid April to crop late July to early August
  • Maincrop - Plant mid April to crop early – mid August.  These can also be stored for autumn and winter use.
  • Chitting - Just means encouraging the seed potatoes to produce sturdy green shoots before planting.  Place in trays or egg boxes with the end with the most buds uppermost somewhere light and cool (and frost free) until you’re ready to plant.
  • Soil - Potatoes love an enriched soil – lots of home made compost or bagged rotted manure or similar.  A general fertilizer is a good idea too but avoid using lime with potatoes.

Our full range of seed potatoes are now here and we have many varieties to choose from!

Amongst our ‘first early’ crop we have;

  • Arran Pilot
  • Pentland Javelin
  • Epicure
  • Vales Emerald
  • Swift
  • Sharpes express
  • Foremost
  • Accord

We also have a selection of Second early & Main crop.  All come in 2.5 kg bags at £3.99

Vinca, Plant of the Month – March

28th February 2012

VincaVinca minor is a very popular ground cover plant and is a smaller version of its vigorous relative the greater periwinkle. Vinca minor’s leaves, flowers and growth rate are about two thirds those of Vinca major. This makes Vinca minor more suitable for a variety of uses.

It can be planted in smaller beds and borders, and is very useful in winter baskets and containers. It is also good at colonising poor, dry and slightly shady conditions. It’s creeping and arching stems soon make an attractive carpet of bright green foliage. The sky-blue flowers appear in spring and are very attractive set against the green leaves.Vinca minor can also be used as under planting for shrubs, roses and any odd corner of the garden that requires some greenery to brighten it up.

Vinca will grow in most soil types but like most other plants, requires good drainage at all times. It can even be grown as a substitute for grass under trees. Spring flowering bulbs like snowdrops and crocus can also be under-planted as companion plants to good effect.

February Plant of the Month – The Camellia

9th February 2012

The Camellia (the camellias) is one of the most popular plants for adding colour to an otherwise dull garden at this time of the year.  There is a stunning range of colours from pure whites to dark reds and with its glossy green leaves the camellia is a welcome addition to the garden in February.

Originally cultivated in the gardens of China and Japan, it was many hundreds of years before they were seen in Europe.  Our earliest impression of camellias was in Chinese painted wallpapers where they were seen growing in porcelain pots.  The first camellias were grown in England in the 18th century and with the expansion of the tea trade towards the end of this period camellias became common and new varieties bloomed.  Today the Japanese Camellia – often simply called ‘the camellia’ is the most prominent species with over 2,000 named cultivars.

Camellias are woodland natives and prefer a sheltered, shady position ideally in an area that avoids direct morning sun however, they also grow really well in a container provided that care is taken to place it out of the early morning sun in cold, frosty weather.  Most camellia plants have a rapid growth rate;  they will typically grow about 30cm per year until mature and nearly all species require a large amount of water and do not like droughts.

Andrew our Plant Manager and his team are on hand to assist you with any queries you may have and will be happy to discuss the varieties we have on sale. Andrews  favourites are ‘Silver Anniversary’ and ‘Donation’ and our whole range starts from £15.99.

January Plant of the Month – Hamamelis (Witch Hazel)

3rd January 2012

Hamamelis (Witch Hazel)

The Witch Hazels are deciduous shrubs (and sometimes trees) growing to approximately 3 – 6 metres.

The botanical name means ‘together with fruit’; its fruit, flowers and next year’s leaf buds all appear on the branch simultaneously.

These are very popular ornamental plants, grown for their clusters of rich yellow to orange-red flowers which begin to expand in the autumn as (or slightly before) the leaves fall, and continue throughout the winter, thus making it a favorite to brighten up beds that can often be dull during the winter period.
They are best grown in a slightly acid soil & prefer a good humus-rich, fertile soil which is moist but well drained. Provide regular water during summer dry spells.
They can also be grown in pots but will need a bit of care if you choose to grow them this way as they must have a cool root-run in summer. Re-pot them regularly and move to a place out of hot sunshine in summer when they are not in flower.
They don’t generally require pruning, but it might occasionally be necessary to remove dead or dying wood. It is possible to prune them after flowering but is not advisable because the wounds do not heal readily and the natural grace of the shrub can be lost.
Witch Hazel is also known for it’s medicinal uses; the bark and leaf being astringent, the extract (also referred to as witch hazel) is used in aftershave lotions and lotions treating bruises, insect bites, eczema and acne.

Here at Orchard Park we have a good variety of this most versatile and pleasing shrub.