Mistletoe – ’tis the season and all that!

Mistletoe in wreath

Mistletoe ready for action

Many things have been written a about this most beloved of parasitic plants. I’ve been working in a couple of gardens with newly establishing clumps, one hand sown, one bird sown.

So how does it work?

In the wild the berry passes through the bird and is deposited (ok, excreted) on a suitable host tree. There are many suitable hosts but the favourites are Apple, Hawthorn, Poplar and Lime (Malus, Cretaegus, Populus, and Tillia for latin lovers). Once deposited the sticky glue of the berry (mostly remaining in tact through the digestive tract of the bird) holds the seed in contact with the branch long enough for it to begin germination.

Growth is SLOW. Once attached to the host plant leaves will appear the following growing season. But as individual shoots produce just two new branches per year with one pair of leaves at the tip of each it’s quite a wait until berries arrive, 4 years, let alone enough for a decent bunch for the Christmas festivities.

If you want to bypass the bird method you could try smearing berries, fresh and ripe (white) are best, directly onto the bark of a suitable host branch  (minimum 20cm diameter). Start with at least a dozen berries. Best not to score the tree as wounds can introduce disease which weakens the tree. Remember this is a parasite so it will weaken the tree and any fruiting will likely diminish somewhat.


Spring Bulbs – well tulips to be precise

It’s planting time. Buying time is well and truly over unless you are not to fussed about what you’ll be displaying in the spring. On occasion I am one of those who buys up every cheap packet I can find and having mixed them all in a bucket plant out blocks of unknown mixes to bring pockets of colour bowling forward in the dim light of early spring. The last few weeks my inbox, Facebook pages and snail-mail box have been full of catalogues filled with monster discounts on spring bulb-age. Tempting. Tulips in spring garden


Not surprisingly really because although we’ve had a ridiculously mild autumn so far making, we are forgetting winter, and spring,  is on the way and there are jobs to be done. It really is time to be getting any spring bulbs in the ground, giving them plenty of time to put out roots and get established before they shoot from the ground next year.

I’ve recently come across quotes from Christopher Lloyd et al about ‘the perfect (bulb) planting time is when you feel like it‘ is all well and good but some bulbs just need a bit more thought. Tulips. Usually planted a bit later (November/December) than other bulbs this is not whim but a precaution.

Nothing cheers up a grey spring day like a flash of vibrant colour

Nothing cheers up a grey spring day like a flash of vibrant colour


Tulips are prone to be temperamental if you don’t know a thing or two about them. They start rooting action later than other bulbs such as narcissus (daffs). ‘So what?’ I hear you ask. Well, no roots means they are not taking up water, so if we have a soggy autumn, the Tulip bulbs sit in soggy soil. One thing almost ALL bulbs hate is a touch of the soggies. So later planting for tulips means they are less likely to have to sit about in the damp ground before they get moving with root growth.


Dollops of rich colour over the greening of spring

Another feature is the fungus Tulip Fire. Or to give it it’s latin name Botrytis tulipae. By planting later, after a good frost or three has had a chance to kill off spores in the soil, and burying bulbs deep they have  a better chance not to be infected.  Planting late is a traditional method of preventing disease.

How deep?. Typical advice is double the bulb depth (approx 10cm/4 inches), and if you will be treating them as annuals then this works well. If you want them to last a bit longer and be less prone to pests and diseases then plant deeper. Sarah Raven advocates 25cm (10inches) others I have read up to 35cm (14inches). I plant a spit (spade) depth which is about 20cm (9inches).

So if you haven’t already planted, there is still time!

Possible suppliers at this late stage?


Rosewarne Gardens The Blog - still some work to do

The Blog – still some work to do

Apparently, according to the lovely Darren Rowse of ProBlogger in a recent posting, I should be aiming to post every day. Yikes. I say YIKES. I don’t know about you but that seems a lot to me. Like the person in the room who NEVER shuts up. Verbal diarrhoea, only virtually.

When I started blogging, moons and moons ago, it was suggested that one post a  month was enough to gain the attention of the Google ranking robots and possibly a small following of interested like minded folk. Now, that too seems a bit too little. The shy person who almost never adds to the conversation. So something in between has been my aim. Some months achieved, some months not.

What to post about is often a dilemma partly because I AM the person in the room who never shuts up, so I COULD talk and talk and blather on about all kinds of things garden-y, designer-y and planter-ly and a whole host of other thing-y‘s too.

In the words of Tim Minchin (11:22) “in my opinion, until I change it”… once a week is enough, a goodly amount for sharing of information, not so much as to annoy everyone!




I’m one of those wanderlust folks who don’t stay too long in one place. Putting down roots for me is about a 5-7 years exercise though it has been less and it has been more . Usually house moves are within a district or postcode area but sometimes it has been countries and even continents. In a month or so I’ll be moving house again, within the same locale but to a place with no garden! Quelle Horreur. Admittedly it is a temporary jaunt into garden-less lands but it’s a good opportunity to take stock of the garden and whittle plants down to those I love and cannot be without.

texture with a dash of colour

texture with a dash of colour

This house is rented so it is a simple case of putting the garden back to what it was. A bare strip of tatty grass with black landscape fabric on one side border and monstrously overgrown shrubs on the other. Shouldn’t bee too hard. I’ve dug, planted, fed, pruned and nurtured the space into a lovely garden full of foliage and exotic flowers from spring to late winter but that has to go. In the summer I took on a second allotment plot, idly planning a clear out of the garden and now it will be perfect for ‘heeling’ everything in for 12 months while the rest of life gets settled and a new garden is found to house them. Once the specimens are out it’s a simple case of raking over soil and scattering grass seed.

When I sold my London flat and it’s bijoux, plant packed garden a few years back I had to detail every plant and root I was taking on the contract. Laws are much stricter that they were and take a prized rarity, not on the list, at your peril. Plants in pots do not normally fall under this because clearly they are portable, never the less it’s wise to make a note of all containers that will be going, along with  garden ornaments, bird tables to avoid misunderstandings later.

Of course if you plan well in advance you can have a stash of cuttings and divisions stacked in a single pot size to ease the moving process all ready to be transported to a new home and planted in stunning new borders. Many will love the new environs, some won’t. Be prepared to find that a beloved plant loathes you’r new soil or aspect and turns up it’s toes in disgust. This has happened to me a few times and I’ve learn to take it on the chin. Best of all is to leave all but the most treasured plants behind and start from fresh. New house, new garden with all it;s inherent challenges. Be that a garden full of mature 1970’s conifers, a stunning designer plot full of stunning specimens or a field full of builders rubble. Each has it’s own charm.

For further advice on propagating your plants see the wonderful RHS book on propagating almost anything.

Summer planting coming into flower

Summer planting coming into flower

The Joy of it

Tomato and Zuchinni glut. After reading up on it I finally got some Zuchinni fruit

Tomato and Zuchinni glut. After reading up on it I finally got some Zuchinni fruit

I was recently given Joy Larcom’s Vegetable gardening book  which in all honesty filled me with the groan of the worthy. A book with no pictures?! Pages and pages of list after list. Bit like reading seed catalogue from some merchants, who clearly have no idea about marketing or visually stimulated impulse buying. However one rainy night I decided to look up Celeriac. Mine aren’t doing so well and although I have staved them off going to seed, mostly by lopping seedy flowers OFF at the first sign, I am not seeing any root swelling or even emerging. I have to wait until October I gather. Not to mention they are really far too close together not to compete madly for nutrients and water. That said they are keeping weeds down and competing fantastically with the Taraxacum and Chenopodium on that level.

This is my ultimate aim on the plot, now two plots, to cover the weedy ground with so much ‘good to eat‘ or ‘good to look at’ that the weeds can only compete for a short time before being out grown, out leafed and out flowered by the lovelies and the yummies. There is some way to go as I am not only on the tightest budget ever, i.e no budget at all,  but apart from LOATHING digging I am also not the Queen of Reclamation nor DIY. I’d like to be, I have ideas that I could be but in all fairness I am just not. I still think of things as ‘boy jobs’ and ‘girl jobs’ which apart from sounding incredibly sexist (I’m really not and frequently attempt things not designed for women my age or build) is really more about my jobs (girl jobs) and things I am rubbish at or  too impatient or lazy to do (boy jobs).

Confused summer fruiting rasps, fruiting for the 2nd time in September.

Confused summer fruiting rasps, fruiting for the 2nd time in September.

This tendency started to emerge with the decorating, years ago. My idea of wall prep is to smooth it down with sand paper, regardless of what’s on it and paint, or paper over what ever is there. Nevermind steaming off paper, stripping off paint or the dreaded wood chip, PAINT OVER THE CRACKS!. Of course If I am paying someone else to do it I am a complete stickler for doing it right, and do actually know how to do it all in the right order, I just don’t do it myself. I cannot be alone? Botchit and Scarper had to start somewhere?

So gardening is a bit like that too, gardening at home that is. Gardening for clients is by the book or the several books I have digested during and after studies. Occasionally though I go back to the rule book, mainly when WingIt and X’dfingers doesn’t work as a strategy. Hence the gift of Joy Larcom, I suspect I am not as under the radar as I hoped with the latter strategy.

Of course once I began reading I couldn’t stop, Courgette – why are mine refusing to fruit when they have leaves the size of a small gunnera?; Beetroot – why are they the size of footballs this year when previously they have struggled to make an inch across?; What can I start growing now for winter crops? and on it went. Several hours later I realised that the lists of information crop by crop were in fact perfect for my needs and after some back and forth deciphering of symbols and reading of introductions  I’d got under the skin of the tome on veg growing.

I am the better for it though I suspect next year when it all goes crazy and the competition between digging and planting comes up against weeding and feeding the Iris collection happens as it does every year in April/May the Irisies will win again but at least I’ve marked enough in the calendar for sowing of vital crops, vital to me that is…..now where was that packet of Chicory seed.

Red Kale mauled by caterpillars

Red Kale mauled by caterpillars

Bit of a face lift and some garden inspirations

Impressionistic grasses russled by the late summer breezes

Impressionistic grasses russled by the late summer breezes

Sitting on a rustic – read rickety – bench as the breeze catches the tall willowy grasses. Reminds me of being a child and imagining I could ‘see’ the wind as it rippled through tall grasses wave after wave bending and flowing.

Rain chains  falling into a rustic stone pool. The dry garden captures as much water as it can

Rain chains falling into a rustic stone pool. The dry garden captures as much water as it can

An ex-Chelsea small garden languishing at Capel Manor showing off it’s Dry Garden credentials. One wonders if the Plantain was quite this rife at Chelsea?

Socking great chunks of stone form planters full of Hellebores

Socking great chunks of stone form planters full of Hellebores.

One of my favourite gardens of the day. Huge chunks of stone filled with single plants. Not usually being a fan of mono-type planting but this one works well using 6 or 7 genus in blocks, foliage being the primer.

Swathes of loose summer planting flop towards the once wide grass path

Swathes of loose summer planting flop towards the once wide grass path

Late summer planted borders are usually seen in great block planting schemes. This delightful floppy version lines what was probably a wide grass path at one stage but it’s flop give the passerby a view of the flower detail and the insect life making the most of the bounty on offer

Shaded by a towering Acer this hideaway shade garden in pots

Shaded by a towering Acer this hideaway shade garden in pots

Hidden behind a climber clothed screen this charming shady planting. Pots piled on pots, staged for the bend sitters to relax in. So taken with this idea I have already recommended something similar to a client.

Potage cum Walled veg garden

Potage cum Walled veg garden

Putting my woefully under-tended allotment to shame I long for this kind of pottager plot, row upon row of delicious looks produce and not many weeds….

Prunus serrula trees form an avenue underplanted with Ophiopogon nigrcens and Pachysandra

Prunus serrula trees form an avenue underplanted with Ophiopogon nigrcens and Pachysandra

Stately and inviting on a hot summer afternoon, benches dotted along it for wanders to sit and take in the dappled shade. Spring time must be glorious.

Quiet words

Long long ago when I was a small child I couldn’t quite fathom my Mother’s obsessive Friday night engagement with a chap talking gardens. Gardner’s World then was presented by Percy Thrower followed by  Arthur Billet and a short time with Geoff Hamilton too. I didn’t really get the seriousness of it but would watch in silent-ish solidarity mode.  After leaving home I’d watch the odd programme for purely nostalgic reasons, not having much of a garden to speak of, more a simple windowsill or sunny stairwell for many years.


Horti studies later in life were accompanied by a dictum to watch and listen to as many programmes as we could, knowledge and experience in abundance and knowledge from experience is crucial. GW and  GQT were high on the list as well as subs to most of the Gardening monthlies as I could sensibly read. At the max I was ‘reading’ 5 magazine regularly (Gardens Illustrated, The English Garden, The Garden, The Plantsman, Gardener’s World) and about 3 on a more sporadic basis. Then there were the innumerable blogs and You Tube feeds to keep up with and of course endless books. We Brits are a nation of gardeners and we do like to talk (blog) about our experiences, and contrary to common folklore are not the least bit backward in coming forward when it concerns the pruning of roses or the tending of the veg plot!

Some 5 years on from training days I still watch GW every week, when it’s on, without fail, I’ve caught the elusive bug my Mother had. In fact I’ve discovered a bumper block of gardening on a Sunday morning from about 08:00. Monty going around the world, Beechgrove (the Scottish equivalent of GW) and then GW. GQT is now delivered via podcast and the mags are down to 3 with one more on the iPad (Into Gardens).

Locally we have one of the Oxfam bookshops and as a consequence of local gardeners divesting themselves of many excellent tomes, the  book shelves are bulging to the point of bursting. A ‘one in one out’ policy has been enforced!

I know I know quite a lot but the more I learn the more I want to know. Finding the perfect ‘knowledge hub’ and delivery system, now that’s the key to 21st Century Gardening.