Spring continues to make its presence felt, days getting longer, a bit warmer and the earliest flowering bulbs providing a boost in garden colour. At this point I not only enjoy their beauty but also scan a critical eye over things I could have done better or different.
Towards the end of the growing season when the spring flowering bulbs hit the shop shelves, the garden is still in full bloom and often one cannot think where to place these bulbs in their attractive pictorial packaging and their price not too bad.
When the garden is in full bloom and the bulbs are on the shop shelves one can find it difficult to think of the garden during the winter needing an early splash of colour.
At this time of year I am able to note areas that would benefit from a splash of spring colour and equally areas where bulbs don’t look right. Here is where my note book and camera phone comes in handy (see Items I always keep within reach).
My favourite place to naturalise spring flowering bulbs are under deciduous trees and shrubs. I also plant hellebores and primulas here where they do not get in the way later in the year when no longer performing centre stage. Colourful bulbs beneath the bare architectural framework of woody trees and shrubs enhance the picture. When they pass over they are protected by the emerging leaf canopy. Under shrubs and trees they are left relatively undisturbed to colonise and increase in number as their protectors mature. Here there is much less risk of them being weeded out or dug up during planting operations and randomly replanted which often results in them looking like tiny out of place colourful islands in barren sea of winter soil.
Snowdrops “naturalised “under a newly planted decidious shrub enhancing is bare look. As the shrub matures the snowdrops will bulk up with it.
Now is the time I lift these loners and replace them in better positions. Most of us know it is safe to lift snowdrops in the green but I happily lift daffodils, crocuses etc in flower which I think are in the wrong place and immediately re-plant them elsewhere successfully. Sometimes they look a little bedraggled but perk up fine the following year, a benefit perhaps of our moist free draining soil.
Snowdrops naturalised next to the groundcover Waldsteinia ternata. As both mature the snowdrops will come through the 10cm tall Waldsteinia which latter in the year is covered in masses of small yellow flowers.
Sorry for misleading Sinatra fans this is not about his song New York New York. It is about a recent article I read in the 2017 Jounal of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, (The Caley), by David Knott , the curator of living collections at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, entitled Plant Health Matters.
The article highlights and goes into some detail on pests and diseases which are killing many trees and shrubs with the knock on consequences to the wildlife which depends on them, Although the article focuses on Scotland its significance applies throughout the UK and the world. I think we as gardeners should be aware that some pests and diseases pose a bigger threat than others and have an idea, should we become suspicious, how to act as well as the steps to reduce the risk of spread.
Why is plant health such an important subject? On the grand scale rural economies and the natural environment are affected. In Glen Trool, Scotland large tracts of larch forests have been wiped out by a fungus known as Ramorum blight, affecting both the timber trade and the wildlife within the forests. Pests and diseases such as Ramorum blight are notifiable and must be reported it to the relevant authority.
The relevant authority is DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). They have plant health officers who regularly visit growers, monitor foreign plant imports and work closely with organisations such as the Forestry Commission on monitoring forests etc.
On the smaller scale, within our gardens we can inadvertently contribute to aiding spread such as buying plants from untrustworthy sources and irresponsible disposal of garden waste. For the average gardener remembering the symptoms of each pest or disease is not feasible. We should be suspicious if any of our garden plants look unhealthy, showing weak, wilting growth, browning or blackening foliage crown die back etc. and is failing to contribute to the overall ornamental picture. Having ruled out obvious common likely causes as drying out in times of drought or masses of greenfly on fresh growth we have to decide if we need to contact DEFRA.
On phoning DEFRA to ask what the procedure is I was told that gardeners suspecting a notifiable pest or disease should phone 03000200301 putting them in touch with the Plant Health Team. I have to admit I would not want to call in the cavalry in fear of the embarrassment of the plant suffering from a common problem such as vine weevil damage I would be inclined to err on the safe side and dig it up and burn it on site which is the usual practice that plant health officers would state to eradicate the problem.
Buying from reputable garden centres etc. is recommended on the assumption that they are behaving responsibly and sourcing their material from responsible growers. However there is no harm in being vigilant. Visual examination of a plant at a retail outlet (rather than online) allows us to see if a plant looks healthy enough, however, remember many pests and diseases are difficult to detect as they may be in a dormant phase and not rear their ugly head till planted in our garden. Keeping hold of receipt is a good practice as it can be useful to get your money back from the retailer from an infected plant.
Those of us wanting to know a little more can read or download comprehensive information sheets on specific pests and diseases from https://fera.co.uk/plantclinic/plantpestdiseasefactsheet.cfm.
There is also a downloadable poster at, a must for every garden shed
Those of you interested in joining the Caley can do so by emailing: email@example.com
Initially I wanted to write a blog about my garden. Why? I am a keen self-employed gardener but gardening, in particular plants and how to combine or associate them is also my hobby. Visitors to my home regularly comment on how good my garden looks. Well I am a professional and spend a lot of time working on it. I wanted more people to see it, enjoy it and get a few more pats on the back for my efforts. Its a normal average sized garden and not suitable to the heavy foot flow of numerous visitors.
Writing a blog about it seemed a good idea. So doing a little digging, excuse the pun, I realised I could, if I built up enough readership, make some money along the way. So I thought no harm in looking for a bit of recognition from other keen gardeners and industry peers as well as promoting my knowledge, skills and services.
There are many garden bloggers especially in southern England but as far as I can see not so many here in Scotland where the climate tends to be a little colder and season shorter. So my focus or niche is writing about my experiences of adapting gardening and planting practice to our seasonal climates and making it interesting to readers by relating this to mini garden projects and plant combination ideas.
By this time next year I hope to have built up decent following whereby I may get some extra plant or planting related projects to work on and perhaps noticed and asked to write some media articles.