Tuesday, 23 February 2016

GARDEN TREES



GARDEN TREES

Every garden can benefit from a few trees to give them scale, height, flowers, autumn colour and fruit. Trees encourage birds and other wildlife, screen eyesores and create impressive specimens in lawns and borders. Trees can be selected for any size of garden and may be ornamental, flowering and fruiting.
The largest gardens can enjoy a good specimen Cedar, silver weeping lime, purple beech or maple, but as garden size gets smaller we just choose the next smaller size to suit. There are numerous upright tree forms which can be very impressive but don’t take up much space such as hornbeam, oak and the upright cherry,
White stemmed birch tree
Prunus Amanagawa only needs a square metre. The weeping birch Betula pendula youngii makes a brilliant specimen, especially if you train the leader upright for a few years then let it weep. My other favourite birch is the pure white stemmed Betula jacquemontii, making a very impressive specimen in all seasons. Then in Scotland you must find space for a rowan, now available with a wide range of different coloured berries.
Another favourite but needs space is the Eucalyptus gunnii. It is evergreen, hardy and fast growing.
Maples come in all sizes and the Japanese types such as Sangokaku makes a small tree with terrific autumn colour then attractive red stems in winter after leaf fall.
For the very small gardens the Kilmarnock willow and the dwarf weeping elm tree, Ulmus camperdownii, is well worth planting as they are both very attractive and the
Cordyline australis
Camperdown elm is our local elm. For a very small garden you can still get a bit of height with the dwarf mountain pine, Pinus mugo or slightly taller Pinus strobus nanus or the tree heath, Erica arborea. If you want an evergreen, the hardy palm, Cordyline australis is quite happy as long as global warming continues, but if we get another really bad winter it can kill the top down to ground level, though usually it survives to grow on again after a years recovery.

Flowering trees
Cherries, crab apples, Magnolias, Eucryphia, Lilac and Amelanchier are all perfect for smaller gardens. Prunus Amanogawa is upright and quite narrow. Prunus Shirotae is spreading, but an absolute stunner in flower. Crab apples flower then have a crop of very bright small apples, e.g. John Downie. Some Magnolias are more large shrubs, but can attain a fair height when mature.
Eucryphia Rostrevor is slow growing but will make a tall white flowering tree in time.
 
Apple Starline Firedance
Fruiting trees
If you prefer to have a fruiting tree then the choice can include apples, pears, plums, peaches, and cherries and even the fig will make a small fruiting tree. Modern dwarfing rootstocks now allow us to have apples, peaches and cherries that will happily fit into the small garden often trained against a south facing wall. Choose varieties that have healthy foliage as there are very few fungicides available to tackle scab, mildew or brown rot. I can recommend apple Discovery, Katy, Red Devil, Fiesta and Bramley for a good cooker. If space is limited try the columnar apple Starline Firedance. Victoria is still my favourite plum, and Avalon Pride a good peach with
Upright oak
resistance to peach leaf curl disease. Beurre Hardy and Concord are my best pears, but newer varieties are appearing all the time and it is good to try something different.

Wee jobs to do this week

Grape vines under glass and outdoors get pruned in December and January, but I retain several strong shoots to use as cuttings later on, but keep them moist by heeling in the soil in the greenhouse border. I take cuttings about two buds length and place then round the sides of a pot with a few draining compost. Place them indoors on a windowsill where they will get some warmth and light, but not direct sunlight. They should be rooted by late spring and ready for potting on.

END

Friday, 19 February 2016

Art Chain Challenge.

I was nominated to participate in this event where artists would paint and complete one painting every day for five days.
I chose Cape Gooseberries for four paintings then for my fifth image I started a new project of the Lady in Red in the City (Dundee)
These paintings are all in oil and at present unframed and available from my studio in Dundee.
Study three and Four and Lady in Red have all got textured backgrounds with palette knife work.


Cape Gooseberry One
Cape Gooseberry Two
                                                 

  


                                                                      

Lady in Red
Cape Gooseberry Three
Cape Gooseberry Four

Monday, 15 February 2016

PLANTS FOR THE HOUSE



PLANTS FOR THE HOUSE

House plants are part of the interior d├ęcor. Some may be permanent features providing interest in corners, around fireplaces, most of which are no longer a source of heat, in the middle of a table or other focal point or frequently on a windowsill. There is a plant for every occasion, though most are subject to changes in fashion. Forty years ago it was the time for the rubber tree plant and the cheese plant, and cactus were common on windowsills even though they seldom flowered.
Sophie with a couple of cyclamen plants
Today we have a huge range of foliage plants as well as flowering plants. The Dragon tree is very popular just now and the variegated rubber tree is making a comeback, but it is the flowering house plants that make the biggest impact. Most of these tend to have their own season, though sales are always high for Mothers Day and just before Christmas as we want to brighten up our rooms for festive visitors. It is very hard to resist the big bright red Poinsettias as a festive decoration, though we could also choose a cyclamen, an indoor azalea, a winter cherry (Solanum) or the Christmas
Winter Cherry
cactus (Zygocactus). Some are grown to give one display then discarded, but others can be retained and grown on to flower every year. Nowadays it is quite easy to find growing details on the internet to let us know whether to water and feed, or dry off as each plant has its own needs. The Christmas cactus is usually very reliable and as the plant gets bigger each year it can sometimes excel itself by a profusion of flowers in December then another show again a few months later. However this will exhaust it and as I found out it needs a rest for a year.
Another cactus worth growing on a warm south facing windowsill is the Rebutia cactus.
Poinsettia
Keep it virtually bone dry all autumn and winter. It likes to flower in late spring to mid summer when it will need some moisture, then a wee bit more as it continues to grow. Then by the end of summer dry it off so it can rest till next year.
Cyclamen can be kept growing right through till spring to build up the strength of the corm, but then they need drying off for the summer. They will come back to life at the end of autumn after their rest.
Another very popular plant for year round interest is the dwarf orange bush with white scented citrus flowers followed by small oranges that can last for several months. However I can’t say the bonny wee oranges are sweet enough to eat when growing in our Scottish climate. They are also prone to scale insect attacks.
Fuchsia Southern Belle
The Amaryllis bulb is a very popular Christmas present, and will flower in late winter. To get it to flower every year it needs watering and feeding up till the end of the summer when you dry it off for about three months. It flowers best when pot bound, so do not be in a rush to pot it up.
Orchids of the Phalaenopsis type are just about found in every home as they are very easy to grow and last for years. Look after them well and they should flower every year. They enjoy the warm moist atmosphere of a bright shower room, away from direct sunlight, as they absorb moisture from their aerial roots that grow outwards from the pot, so don’t cut these off to tidy up the plant. I have had mine for many years giving me such a good display that I must have done a dozen orchid paintings, mainly on large box canvases.
Geranium, fuchsias and Impatiens (Busy Lizzie) are garden bedding plants used for tubs, borders and baskets, but will also be very happy in the house on a bright windowsill, but not in full sun.

Wee jobs to do this week

Check over tree stakes, wire supports and ties on ornamental trees, shrubs and fruit. We are often too busy during the growing season, and tend to put off this task to a quiet moment. This is that quiet moment to secure young plants for another year. Ties on trees can also get too tight as the tree swells up as it grows, so the ties may need adjusting. Make sure the tree stake is well away from the trunk otherwise it is likely to cause damage.

 End


Sunday, 7 February 2016

PRUNING FRUIT TREES AND BUSHES



PRUNING FRUIT TREES AND BUSHES

The dormant season from November till the end of March is the time when we prune our fruit trees and bushes. I often choose a frosty day or when the ground is covered with snow when I can’t get on with other work. However leave plum trees till summer otherwise there is a risk of silver leaf infection from airborne spores entering the cut surfaces.
The pruning of apples, pears, outdoor peaches and cherries has changed over the years as new dwarfing rootstocks are found, and demand to grow small trees increases as space gets restricted. So now as well as standard trees for the large garden, we can have half standard and commercial spindle bush training allowing all picking to be carried out from the ground. For the smaller garden we now get cordons, fan trained trees, upright columner forms and stepover trees only growing a couple of feet tall, (as long as you summer prune them.)
Anna picking bramble Helen
The principles involved in pruning all of these different forms is very similar. We aim to control the balance between strong growth and fruiting, and opening up centres to allow light in for ripening the fruit. Old wood that has fruited for five or more years also needs removing periodically to be replaced by some young shoots that will grow in its place for the next five years.
Autumn Bliss raspberries
However cordons, fan shapes and stepovers all fruit on a system of spurs created by cutting growth shoots to a few inches long in late summer to ripen up the shoots, then cutting them back further in winter to form fruiting spurs.
However in the early years after planting we prune to establish the shape intended for the tree as bush, fan, stepover and oblique cordon all need treated differently.
Brambles (blackberries) and raspberries are similar to prune. Summer fruiting types, fruit on shoots grown the previous year, so we remove the old shoots that fruited last year right down to the crowns at ground level, and tie in new shoots. Autumn fruited rasps and the new primocane brambles such as Reuben have all their growth removed in winter as they will fruit on shoots produced in the same year. Reuben had a bad year with me in 2015 as the young shoots flowered in November, far too late for fruiting. Hope it does better this year.
Blackcurrants fruit best on young shoots formed the previous year so we prune to remove some old wood to encourage a supply of new shoots every year.
Apple Fiesta
Red and white currants are similar but the young shoots form spurs so we retain them for several years. Try and establish an open centred framework of about nine main shoots, replacing a few of these each year as new young shoots grow from the base of the bush. All sideshoots are cut back to their main shoot to form spurs in winter.
Gooseberries are usually grown as a bush on a central leg about a foot tall. There are usually plenty of young shoots grown every year and fruiting is usually heavy so the main aim of winter pruning is to remove those branches too close to the ground to prevent fruit getting soil splashes, and keeping the centres open to make picking easier. Gooseberries like red and white currants can also be trained as cordons on walls and fences where space is limited. 
Figs up north are best grown in a sheltered spot against a warm south facing wall and planted in a prepared pit lined with slabs to restrict growth and encourage fruiting. Initial pruning is carried out to create a fan shape against
Chinese witch hazel
the wall. Subsequent pruning removes shoots growing away from the wall, keeping the centre open and reducing any long vigorous shoots. Summer prune young shoots by tipping them back to several leaves to encourage fruit bud formation.

Wee jobs to do this week
The weather has been so wet this year that outdoor gardening activity has been greatly curtailed, but it has also been very mild and this has brought forward the flowering of the early bulbs, so whenever the sun shines wander outside and just enjoy those snowdrop and aconites. Its been a good year for the Chinese witch Hazel, Hamamelis molis and Mahonia Charity, both looking great while the sun shines. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and many other dwarf bulbs are all well advanced and even my rhubarb crowns are all swollen up ready to start growing after this wet but mild winter.

END

Thursday, 4 February 2016

ROSES



ROSES

Fifty year ago every decent garden had roses in beds, growing along fences, growing up walls and a few tall shrub roses along garden boundaries. However, time moves on and life changes. Chemicals previously used to combat black spot, mildew and rust are no longer available so these diseases are now running rampart through many great varieties. Roses have lost their appeal and now plant breeders have a struggle to bring in a new roses with great floral merit, scented flowers and healthy leaves with built in disease resistance. I have discarded a lot of bush and shrub roses recently, but fortunately there are still a few good ones left. Some still get attacked, but seem to survive and still flower just fine. There is still some rose fungicides available which I use for those such as the white scented Margaret Merril which I do not want to lose.

Other favourites still in my garden include the red scented E H Morse, the bicolour Piccadilly, Arthur Bell, a great yellow, the orange Dawn Chorus and the pinks Wendy Cussons, Myriam and Congratulations. Two great reds are Ingrid Bergman which has some scent and National Trust with a perfect rose flower shape but no scent.
New varieties appear every year so it is wise to try out something new and most garden centres display them in pots during the early flowering season so you can see the flower, smellthem to see if  it has a scent and see if the foliage looks healthy.
My best shrub roses include the very old pink Ispahan, the pink striped Rosa mundi and Gertrude Jekyll, another scented pink shrub rose which I train as a climber. My other climbers which have given me great value, brilliant displays and very little disease is the red Dublin Bay, now twelve foot tall and Mme. Alfred Carrier at least eighteen feet tall. It really needs a massive amount of space and takes a lot of work with pruning and tying in.

Planting new roses
Roses are permanent plants so need a lot of ground preparation prior to planting to improve the soil structure and drainage. New ground for roses should be double dug incorporating plenty manure or compost, and then dusted with a slow release organic fertiliser such as bone meal. Choose a good day for planting and don’t plant the bushes too deep. A compost mulch applied in spring is very beneficial. Planting bare root bushes can be done any time from November to March, but container grown bushes can be planted all year round as long as they are watered in any dry spells.
Prune shoots after planting, by removing about half the growth to encourage new growth.
 
Pruning existing roses
With bush roses remove weak shoots, some old wood and trim others by about a third to an outward facing bud. Shrub roses only need tidying up of old shoots trailing on the ground and periodically remove some old wood to encourage fresh new shoots.
Climbing roses need the most attention as they grow so tall and put on a lot of growth, but the principle is the same. Remove all weak shoots, try and remove some old shoots every year, but only lightly prune last years shoots as these will flower this year. Remove any shoot growing away from the wall if it cannot be tied in. Space out and tie in long shoots so they all have plenty of room.
 
Wee jobs to do this week

A cold frosty day is often a good time to prune the raspberries as the weather restricts gardening in other places. Autumn fruited varieties are the easiest as they are cut back to a few buds at ground level. New shoots emerge in spring, grow tall in summer then fruit from August onwards. Summer fruiting varieties fruit on canes grown the previous year so all last years fruited canes are removed down to the ground. They are easy to recognise as they are brown rather than green and they are all tied in rather than loose. Tie in the new canes with a running knot spacing them four inches apart along the top wire.

END