Find beauty in colour; put some heart (and some Begonias) into your garden this February…

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With Valentine’s Day but a few days away and everyone around us going a bit fluffy and gooey, we decided it was high time we lavished a bit of much needed love and TLC on our gardens – particularly our flower beds which, after all, have not seen any action in months.

The brilliant thing about Begonias is that they put on a colourful performance all season long and, like last week’s focus flower the Dahlia, they are also fairly easy to care for.

Suitable for and most commonly grown in containers and hanging baskets, Begonias can make a colourful addition to the flower bed as well, which means you can pick a colour and continue it throughout your garden – a simple but effective floral theme and a great way of updating your garden relatively quickly.

Begonias in detail:

Plant type: Tender perennial.

Grow them for: Bold containers, lavish hanging basket displays or colourful beds.

The perfect conditions: Begonias vary between varieties but generally they will do well in both sun and partially shaded positions. The important thing to remember is that they need very fertile soil and should be planted only just below soil level for best results. See our growing tip for more information.

When to plant: Order now to ensure you get the best bulbs and then grow indoors from mid-March onwards. Move outside late spring and when we are safely out of frost risk.

Can be planted earlier indoors? Yes. You will usually get bigger, stronger blooms from begonias that have begun their life planted in the warmth of either a greenhouse or on a windowsill. This can be done from March onwards to give you a head start on growing season so now is the time to think about buying. Transfer to the garden from early May, by which time you should have some very healthy looking shoots.

When to expect a full bloom: Begonias were made for summer, it’s when they are at their happiest, and after all, it’s easy to forget that the adaptable begonia originated in tropical rainforests! Expect them to come into bloom from June onwards.

Best for beginners: Begonia Flamboyant produces a mass of small cherry red flowers and will free-flower throughout the summer when given enough water and exposed to a few hours of sunshine a day – don’t over-heat but do move to partial shade in high temperatures to avoid excess heat from drying the soil out.

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A show-stopper for the expert: There are too many begonia cultivars to name and each has its own simple yet fairly strict growing instructions. Rather than suggest a particular variety for the more experienced horticulturalist we would suggest you look at growing an assortment of begonias around your garden and try being a little experimental with size and colour.

Of course if you really want a challenge, try growing begonias from seed!

Order today: We stock a wide variety of Begonias at Mail Garden Shop. Click here to browse the range.

Our best in show: We love Mixed Cascading Begonias here at Mail Garden Shop; they give an avalanche of rainbow colour throughout the summer and well into autumn. Alternatively try Begonia Splendide in Apricot for a softer but no less impressive double cascading display – perfect for hanging baskets or containers.

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Our Top Growing Tip:

The most important thing to remember when growing begonias is that they like moisture – though don’t be tempted to over-water. Make it habit to water your begonias in the early morning and, for best results, plant in peat moss soil.

Ready, set, GROW! Kick off the planting season with Dahlias, the summer garden staple…

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Firstly we’d like to wish all our readers and customers a very warm welcome back to our seasonal snippets of guidance and general green-fingered commentary. We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that 2015 has got off to a fair start.

Although spring/summer feels like a lifetime away at the moment, the calendar gives gentle reassurance that we’re about to turn a corner and things will begin to thaw out and come back to life again over the next month or so.

It won’t be long before your garden springs back to life and into action so now is the perfect time to prepare. Begin assessing the damage caused by winter and start planning your summer time garden displays.

What better way to kick off our spring garden focus than with the beautiful and traditional Dahlia? Dahlias are a versatile, easy-grow and highly tolerant variety enjoying a much-deserved return to vogue in recent years.

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With stunning and colourful displays from all varieties – Pom Pom Dahlias, Dinner Plate Dahlias, Decorative Dahlias, Cactus Dahlias and even fabulous mixed collections; these bright and quirky blooms produce an abundance of flowers throughout the summer and well into autumn. In short, Dahlias will transform your garden in a matter of months.

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Dahlias in detail:

Plant type: Tuberous-rooted perennial.

Grow them for: Cut flowers, colourful borders or striking patio containers.

The perfect conditions: Although Dahlias are fairly hardy they do need to be planted in full sun/partial shade, in well-drained, light soil.

When to plant: Generally between May and June. Dahlias should be planted once the weather has warmed up a bit, so don’t be tempted to plant any sooner than early May (if weather conditions allow).

Can be planted earlier indoors? Yes. You will usually get bigger, stronger blooms (and more of them) from dahlias that have begun their life planted in the warmth of either a greenhouse or on a windowsill. This can be done from March onwards to give you a head start on growing season. Transfer to the garden from early May, by which time you should have some very healthy looking shoots.

When to expect a full bloom: Dahlias will flower from summer to autumn so expect to see full bloom by mid-July if not sooner. It’s not uncommon to see buds from June right through to the end of September; you really do get your money’s worth from this flower.

Best for beginners: Miniature varieties of dahlia tend to be the hardiest, with smaller flower heads and thicker stems to support them. These are perfect for beginners and will soon convert you so that next year you can be more adventurous.

A show-stopper for the expert: If you’ve grown dahlias before and have mastered Pom Pom dahlias, Bishop of Llandaff Dahlias, Cactus Dahlias and the like then you might think about some of the longer stemmed varieties. We stock a beautiful Giant Decorative Collection of Dahlias at Mail Garden Shop, as well as Giant Dinner Plate Dahlia and Large Cactus Dahlia. If you’re feeling very daring then we’d also suggest a Ryecroft Delight Dahlia – this king of the blooms can grow upwards of 7ft.

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Order today: We stock a wide variety of Dahlias at Mail Garden Shop – click here to view the full range.

Our best in show: The stunning Cactus Dahlia and Dark Leaf Bishop Dahlia offer both ends of the dahlia spectrum when it comes to foliage and visual drama. Experiment with the two this growing season and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning and enduring garden display.

Our Top Growing Tip:

To ensure your dahlias last season after season you should always dig up the dahlia tubers and store them inside a greenhouse to dry them out. This prevents them from getting damaged throughout the winter months. They should be re-planted, in fresh soil, and kept indoors for a month or so before planting them outside early May.

 

 

Your Winter Garden Round-Up

What to do, ditch and enjoy over the coming winter months…

 

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As we take our first tentative steps towards winter it’s time to assess the situation, make final winter garden preparations and make peace with the tasks that you haven’t managed to complete on time.

If you haven’t already done that dreaded job that you’ve been putting off for the past two months (we all have one) then ask yourself whether or not it’s essential, give yourself an honest answer and then either get to it, delegate or forget about it as fitting.

To do:

  • Prune climbing roses. Remove all old or weakened growth and trim side-shoots which have flowered. Train main stems as horizontally as possible, or bend them round obelisks or pillars to stimulate more copious flowering next year.
  • Plant shrubs. Tease out congested or balled roots of containerised specimens before you plant. Sprinkle a handful of bonemeal into the bottom of each planting hole and mix it with the soil. Support newly planted shrubs with stakes and purpose-made ties.
  • Plant a hedge. This is a good month to plant hedges such as beech, hornbeam, yew or privet. Dig a generous trench and partially back-fill it with enriched compost to give your hedge plants the best start. Include ‘Rootgrow’ – macrobiotics for plants – at planting for quick establishment. Fragrant Dwarf Lavender Munstead gives excellent ground cover and great low screening.

    Fragrant Dwarf Lavender Munstead

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  • Clean your greenhouse glass. During short days it’s important for maximum daylight to enter your greenhouse so glass should be as transparent as possible. Cleaning all surfaces and crannies will reduce disease and help to destroy overwintering pests.
  • Remove any branches that have the potential to cause trouble, damage or danger over the winter – better to do this now before it gets too cold. Have this Yeoman Turbo Folding Saw on standby for those last minute maintenance jobs.
  • Sow broad beans. The winter variety, Aquadulce ‘Claudia’, is hardy enough to sow outside and needs no protection. The crop will ripen in early summer, next year before blackfly infestations begin.
  • Carrots, parsnips and swedes can be harvested as required for a few weeks yet. Gather them all by Christmas and store any surplus in a cool, dry, dark place.
  • Dig out old rhubarb plants and, with a spade, slice out small divisions or ‘slips’ from the corky root mass. Replant ‘slips’ which have roots and dormant buds. Established rhubarb can remain in place for several years but gradually becomes less productive.
  • Prune blackberries, Tayberries and Loganberries by removing all stems that have borne fruit. Carefully train and tie in stems that grew from the plant base, this summer but have yet to flower. They’ll carry next summer’s crop.
  • Prune Gooseberries and red currants, removing any stems which cross, or are awkwardly placed. Cut newly grown side shoots back to roughly an inch from the stem.
  • Invest in the most stylish shrub around – The Blueberry ‘Top Hat’ makes a fabulous addition to the garden. High in vitamin C, blueberries are great for eating fresh or for culinary purposes for quince or jam. A compact shrub, ideal for the patio and another great way to attract birds into your garden all year round.

    Blueberry 'Top Hat'

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To enjoy:

  • Hazel nuts, gathered last month, are perfect for eating now. Walnuts will also be sweet and fresh – try them with a glass of home-made sloe gin.
  • Look for feathery seed heads on some clematis and bright orange seeds in the pods of Iris foetidissima.
  • Paper-White Narcissus (N. papyraceus) will flower within four weeks of planting indoors, in pots or bowls.
  • Leeks, planted out in late spring, can be harvested as needed.
  • Birds at feeding stations. Nuthatches, blue tits and great tits are in beautiful colour after their autumn moult and fascinating to watch at feeding stations.

Stay on track and keep up with the essential garden chores throughout December by visiting our Monthly Jobs Guide from expert gardener Nigel Colborn.

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Tidy up, tie up and take it inside; prepare your garden for winter

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A gardener’s work is never done, which is why, although you’ve probably taken care of most of next season’s planting by now, you’ll be left with a multitude of other tasks to complete before you can temporarily hang up your gardening gloves – for a few weeks at least.

Because we know that an ardent gardener finds said few weeks an anxious period we’ve devised an autumn garden check-list – please let us know if you think we’ve missed anything!

-          Give the garden a thorough clear up and get rid of general debris,

-          Clean and oil all garden tools before storing them away safely in the garden shed,

-          Cover or stow away garden furniture to prevent damage during winter,

-          Ensure your greenhouse is insulated, clean and maximum light is getting through,

-          Rake up fallen leaves once the last have fallen and compost them for leaf mould – remember you can speed up the rotting process by sprinkling throughout with a little fertilizer,

-          Empty water pipes and hoses to prevent cracking and breakages – and a costly start to spring!

-          Any container plants that will be spending the winter outside should have their pots wrapped in bubble wrap or be buried in the ground for insulation,

-          Don’t be tempted to plant anything less that hardy and tolerant bulbs, shrubs and perennials – especially when it comes to those that you’re leaving outside. Try growing some hardy bamboo if you want to create something fairly abundant quickly. Bamboo is robust and fast growing but it can also be easily divided and makes the perfect screen or boundary,

Hardy Bamboo

-          Plant up your remaining spring containers with bulbs forget-me-nots, violas, pansies, hardy primroses or polyanthus,

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-          Plant tulip bulbs deeply enough to be covered by a minimum of 3” (7.5cm) of soil. For bedding, arrange the bulbs evenly over the soil surface, before you plant. For informal displays, plant in random groups. In large pots or containers, you can plant tulips in layers, on above the other, for a bigger show – a spring take on the lasagne planting that we mentioned last week,

-          Do a final round of pruning and dead heading – you can continue this for as long as the weather allows but you’ll probably be done by the end of this month. Always try to allow leaves to completely die off and peel back before removing them – forcing them off can cause damage,

-           Bring tender plants indoors – or into a greenhouse – before the first air frost. Pick off dead, damaged or diseased leaves and flowers and prune back any damaged or awkward stems,

-          Grow your own micro winter garden with some beautiful indoor varieties,

Indoor Narcissi Collection

-          Take care of nature and it will take care of you…

-          Back outside, hedgehogs move into semi-hibernation, making themselves nests with dry leaves. Make sure there’s enough leafy undergrowth for them to hide in,

-          Birds benefit from feeding throughout winter and spring. If you haven’t got a pond then make sure feeding stations are in the open where cats cannot stalk them without being seen,

-          Remove dead leaves from ponds where possible to reduce the amount of rotting vegetation.

Last chance saloon, this week’s must-plants’ for beautiful spring flowering blooms – and don’t forget the lasagne…

 

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As October pushes on and your garden becomes more colourful by the day, don’t become complacent – enjoy the natural splendour of autumnal change within your garden but be sure to plan ahead for spring, your work is not done just yet and this is your chance to get really creative.

October signals the beginning of a much quieter time for the lawn – asides from raking up fallen leaves and mowing with raised blades (if the weather allows), grass will generally be growing much slower which leaves you with more time to focus on planting spring flowering bulbs and the like.

October gardening needn’t be back-breaking and, instead, should centre around planting and nurturing trees, shrubs and perennials as these will thrive at this time of year. Your garden should become a hive of gentle activity over the coming few weeks and here’s a reminder of what to take care of first…

October planting for successful spring flowering:

Narcissi Lemon Drops

Narcissi – Nothing says ‘spring’ like Daffodils which are best planted NOW in well-drained, fertile soil at least 10cm deep. Narcissi can be spaced or clustered but prefer a spot well sheltered from the wind, preferably with plenty of access to sun.

 

 

Magnolia – require little pruning and will reward you with delightful spring flowers between March and May time. For best results plant Magnolia bulbs in moist, acid-to-neutral soil in full sun or partial shaded areas. Shallow planting is required for magnolia bushes and excellent drainage is a must.Our Mixed Rockery Narcissi includes at least 10 varieties and will add plenty of colour to the garden in spring.Magnolia Liliiflora Nigra

Our Magnolia Collection includes one each of Magnolia Stellata (white), Soulangeana (rose pink) and Susan (purple) for a visually stunning spring garden display.

 

 

Azaleas – Azalea are a variety of Rhododendron that will produce very colourful, low growing shrubs in Spring/Summer. Mulch annually with leaf mould to help protect roots and dead head as and when required to do so. There is little pruning required for this variety but they should be shallow planted in fertile, well drained and light/acidic soil. Azalea Glowing Embers

Try our dwarf evergreen Japanese Azaleas – a compact and small leafed variety which flowers in April/May and will reach a height of only 60-90cm. They are ideal for containers if you have limey soil and perfect for a unique patio display.

 

Easy does it…

If you’re looking to save time or make life a little easier in the garden this autumn then you might like to consider a Hand-Held Bulb Planter. We’re championing this simple yet highly effective garden gadget because it really does make lighter work of planting bulbs at a time when the cold is setting in and your garden to-do list is steadily mounting.

To use the Bulb Planter, simply push the carbon steel shaft as far as needed into the ground by using the depth chart on the side, then twist up to remove a neat soil plug.

Last, but by no means least, if you’re looking for a maximum impact spring flowering garden display then make yourself a lasagne…

Lasagne planting is an absolutely fabulous way of personalising your garden displays, upping-the-ante and ensuring long lasting colour and interest in one single (large) planter.

To create your own lasagne spring garden displays all you need is a large container and various bulbs with different flowering times. Layer these bulbs in your soil – hence the name – and take care to select bulb varieties that complement each other and will bloom gradually and staggered over a period of several weeks. Most spring bulbs will work so you can use full creative licence!

Top Tip for the perfect alfresco lasagne recipe: Always plant your largest bulbs first and leave 5cm between layers.

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Batten down the hatches, winter is coming…

 

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Winter is the perfect time to sit back and reflect on your garden – the growing season has drawn to a close so take a moment to think over the year so far, consider what has and hasn’t worked and plan ahead for a brighter and more beautiful garden in 2015.

Begin by working through life’s less than lovely tasks of cleaning, clearing and sorting. Take care of any garden clutter and breakages that may have accumulated over the busy spring and playful summer months to ensure your garden is ship shape when the adverse weather arrives. Don’t forget to concentrate on tackling those persistent weeds otherwise they will only gain strength and vigour into next year – seedlings won’t stand a chance if weeds are thriving nearby. Likewise all obligatory pruning and shaping should take place now to prevent unruly growth or damage.

Once the heavy jobs are done, winter gardening is a relatively easy business. Most winter gardens require minimal maintenance but expert planning is a must and now is the perfect time to start.

All the time we are privilege to fair weather be sure to keep up the mowing and lawn care and stay on top of your falling leaves – beautiful as they are, they are of much better use to the compost heap.

Various other garden-keeping tasks should be completed now so that you can relax over winter and not worry about how everything will look when the sun returns next spring. Take 10 minutes to browse our gardening tips for October from former presenter of BBC2’s Gardener’s World and the Daily Mail’s resident gardening expert, Nigel Colborn. He’ll walk you through everything from ornamental tasks to fruit and vegetable growth and wildlife care. He’ll even share his plant of the month and remind you what you should really be enjoying at this time of year.

Finally, when it comes to enjoying your own slice of nature, make sure you bring tender plants indoors and concentrate on your evergreens. Evergreens are the backbone of the garden from now until spring – they will add a striking and reliable point of interest whatever the weather decides to serve up over the coming few months. Make sure you invest in hardy evergreens of the finest quality and you will be rewarded year after year.

Rhododendron Nova Zembla

For something unusual why not try growing clusters of tall alliums, exotic amaryllis or bold azaleas and rhododendrons – you can count on these to cheer the garden up as soon as we turn a lighter, brighter and warmer corner!

Alternatively, if you prefer something more traditional and elegant but none the less striking then plant bluebells and snowdrops now for a fabulous display come February-March.

Put a spring in your step; now is the best time to prepare your garden for next spring!

Garden toolsTiming is crucial when it comes to good gardening practice and, thankfully, the gardening industry has really caught onto this fact. The sale of new season bulbs has always been carefully planned but now, more than ever, you will notice a distinct rigidness in the release of next season bulbs – you’ve got this to blame for the late September garden centre chaos that we all know and loathe.

Avoid the bedlam (and the perils of a packed garden centre car park) by doing your research, planning ahead and, wherever possible, ordering online.

You can get started with all of the above right here at Mail Garden Shop! Continue reading

Transform your garden into a winter wonderland…

snowdropThe ‘w’ word might seem a little premature but as you know, the best winter garden displays take a little preparation and forethought – also, we don’t want to put a dampener on autumnal proceedings, but (at time of writing) there’s only another 14 WEEKS until Christmas!

This week we looked at ways of adding a touch of Christmas cheer to our gardens. We’ve tracked down, not only the most beautiful blooms, but the hardiest, as well as the right garden tools for the job. Finally we pulled together the best seasonal gardening tips and pearls of advice to give you a complete how-to guide on the perfect winter garden.

Here’s how to plan for your most colourful winter garden display yet: Continue reading

Autumn ahoy!

Autumn chillAnyone else feeling rather autumnal all of a sudden? A change is most definitely afoot…we can feel it in our pansies.

Because baking can’t have all the fun we’re celebrating the arrival of the most colourful season of all as we witness our great British gardens transform before our very eyes; goodbye summer, hello autumn.

As the morning air begins to crisp and freshen and the nights draw in, now is the perfect time to prepare the garden for the arrival of a new season. Continue reading

Q&A with Pamela Johnson

Pamela Johnson Garden

This week we interviewed successful and exceptionally talented garden designer and general creative deity, Pamela Johnson.

Pamela is a Registered Member of the Society of Garden Designers, the leading UK professional body for garden design. Her own small garden in South West London (pictured) has been attracting visitors through the National Gardens Scheme for over twenty years. Pamela’s gardening prowess is demonstrated in many impressive mature gardens in London and around the UK. Her skills and dedication to this unique profession are undeniable and here’s how she can make a difference to you and your garden…. Continue reading