Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tips to create a cottage-style garden

How to create a cottage-style garden

Love the idea of a traditional cottage garden? Follow our essential guide for top tips and advice

Look after your soil

The secret to the cottage garden look is healthy strong plants, but undernourished soil cannot sustain an abundance of flowers and foliage.

Improve soil fertility and moisture retentiveness with well-rotted farm manure, homemade compost or sacks of ready-made soil conditioners.

Fork slow-release fertilisers into the soil early in the year around large shrubs and climbers to give individual plants a boost all season long.

Don't forget to water

"Summer for most plants is a time for rapid growth. In order to sustain this, the plants need plenty of light and food, and copious amounts of water. In very hot weather that may mean watering twice each day to prevent wilting." Steven Bradley, A Year in the Garden

Use ground cover

One way to make a garden look full is to cover every scrap of bare soil. Ground-cover plants that stay quite low growing and spread across bare ground will do this.

Good choices include ivies, periwinkle and bergonias. Epimediums are great for shady places, and stachys (lamb's ears) are ideal for sun.

Split the plants every year in spring to increase your stock, and plant new ones to cover the area even faster.

Get the colour scheme right

The traditional cottage garden suits certain colours. You can't go wrong with these three steps.

Step 1: Make sure there's lots of green as this is what gives the look of abundance and natural beauty.

Step 2: Introduce touches of silver - use stachys to edge the pathway for an excellent contrast to the grass.

Step 3: Add key spots of colour using roses and clematis. Try herbaceous perennials like campulanas, and annuals such as poppies. In general, deep blues, pale pinks and crimson, plum and purple all work well.

Later in the summer, Japanese anemones in pink or white will give a pretty display for weeks at a time when many flowers are setting seed or turning to autumnal colours.

Choose the right plants

Go for more traditional plants in your cottage-style garden. Here are our five favourite choices.

Alliums - are perfect for early summer flowering

Astrantia - is very cottagey and delicate looking

Lupins - are ideal for adding a shot of brilliant colour in early summer

Marguerites - seeds around freely but always looks fresh and cheerful

Sweet rocket - has an amazing evening fragrance

Tips to plan the perfect garden path

How to plan the perfect garden path
A well-designed path can be an attractive feature in its own right

Straight or winding? Straight garden paths give a formal, functional look, while winding paths create a more relaxed feel.

Gravel and bark chippings are perfect for an informal look or for practical paths leading to the shed or between beds.

Brick is a mid-priced option and can be laid in patterns - try reclaimed bricks for
a worn look.

Timber and stone are pricey, but suit urban gardens where a little goes a long way.

Mowing a winding path through longer grass is an informal but intriguing way of exploring the garden.

Good maintenance is vital. Lay suppressing membrane under gravel and point bricks and paving to banish weeds. Clear slippery moss and lichen from damp paths with a jet washer.

Use aromatic plants such as lavender, catmint or clipped rosemary hedging to line paths - they'll release scent as you brush past them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tips On Choosing Summer Annuals

Choosing the perfect summer annual plants for your flower garden can be a challenge. There are so many different types of annual flowers available it can seem daunting. However, with some proper planning, designing and planting the perfect summer flower garden can be a breeze.

First, determine where you would like to plant your flower garden. If you have not planted in that spot before, this may take some preparation. Mark off the area you would like to plant, remove the sod, and dig down and break up the soil with a shovel. If your soil is lacking in nutrients, or has a high clay or sand content, you may need to amend the soil. Bagged topsoil, compost, or manure is a good option for adding organic matter and nutrients to your soil.

Then, start choosing your plants. Determine how much sun your planting site gets. Different annuals have different requirements regarding sunlight, with some requiring full sun for the majority of the day, while some flowers love shade and will wither in the afternoon sun. Also consider your climate and soil, some plants require a moist soil and would not be a good choice for the desert southwest, while heat and drought tolerant plants might not thrive in the cool, damp Pacific northwest.

When designing a flower garden, you may want to select a color scheme. Flower gardens look best with a variety of colors that complement each other, such as blues, whites, and yellows together, or red, yellow, and orange. Also consider the height of the plants. Place taller plants in the back, medium height in the middle, and shorter or groundcover plants in the front of your flower bed. Unless the plant will be very large, most annuals look best in clumps. A good rule of thumb is clumps of three plants often is most pleasing to the eye.

After planting, take care to keep the plants well watered, especially in the first two weeks after planting, before their root systems have begun to develop and branch out into the soil. Water before the plant becomes so dry it wilts, but do not keep the soil soggy. Weekly fertilization will help your plant grow more vigorously and produce more flowers. Also, removing the old flowers as they begin to fade and produce seed will conserve the plant's energy and help increase blooms.

With these simple tips, all that stands between you and a beautiful summer flower garden is your imagination!

Indoor gardening: a few tips

Indoor gardening is an extremely fun and relaxing pass time, but some of us like to get more out of our home gardens then others... this article is for you.

The first tips I'd like to share involve the tools you use for pruning, planting, etc. Remember that your home is an enclosed environment and plants that have been living inside are used to the temperature, lighting, and soil content of their pots. So my first tip to keeping indoor plants healthy is never use the same tools for indoor plants that you use on outdoor plants, you run the risk of contaminating the indoor plants with fungus or bugs present outside. If you are going to use the same tools, use some 91% rubbing alcohol (available at any grocery store or pharmacy) and wipe down the tools with a rag or paper towel you've applied the alcohol to. If the tools are really dirty, it's a good idea to hose them off and then apply the alcohol, to ensure there is no risk of contamination.

My second tip actually deals with growing the plants themselves. If you have a budding or fruiting plant, you may want to try a process known as 'super cropping' in which you pop off a forming node where a fruiting body could form, and within a few days it will turn into two separate nodes! You can double the amount of flowers or fruits you are growing!

Conserving Electricity tips

We've become so dependent on electricity that it seems like we can't do without it. That doesn't mean that we can't use less of it. By conserving electricity, you will do the Earth and your electric bill a big favor. Here are a few ways to help you get started.

Use Natural Sunlight
Before people could use electricity, they relied on the sun for both its light and energy. You may have to rework your schedule a bit, but you can still get plenty of things done when you do everything you need to do during the daytime.

You don't have to use electricity for everything you do, either. Consider having dinner in the dark or by candlelight.

Unplug Appliances When not in Use
We're all so used to having our appliances plugged in that we don't think about how much electricity is being used when we leave our appliances or electronics plugged in when we're not using them. Just because something is switched off doesn't mean that it stops using power.

A few kilowatts here and there add up at the end of the month. Whether it's your laptop, video game console, or a lamp, unplug it if you're not using it. You may want to consider purchasing a surge protector so you can switch off all of your electronics at once when you're finished.

Save A/C for Nighttime
It gets pretty hot in the summertime, and it's very tempting to reach for the controls to the air conditioner. Try to avoid that and wait until night to use it. Use fans instead and stay downstairs (if you have a two-story home) to stay cool. You can always go to a public place that's always running their air conditioner.

Use Cold Water Whenever Possible
Turning on the hot water may be second nature for people, and that's understandable because we always need to wash our hands with hot water. If you're just rinsing something off or need to get water for your plants, try to stick to cold water instead. It takes electricity to heat that water.

Use Someone Else's Electricity
No, I don't mean siphon electricity from your neighbor. Go to a public place where several people are using electricity. A library or a recreation center is a good place to get things done without running up your electric bill.

Purchase Energy Efficient Appliances
You can make a long term investment by buying energy efficient appliances. Things like energy efficient light bulbs, refrigerators, computer monitors, and more are available that use less electricity. You'll save more money yearly with these purchases.