Gardening Tips and Advice from Aberglasney's experts
Mr Joseph Atkin, Head Gardener and his dedicated team of gardeners, all with many years of horticultural experience and a wealth of gardening knowledge share their tips and advice to help you achieve stunning results in your gardens.
Box Blight Solutions [09 May 2013]
It seems that whenever you pick up a gardening magazine these days there is mention of a new disease or pest that has appeared in our gardens or in the countryside around us. Ash die back and horse chestnut leaf-miner are two common problems that have appeared in recent years. At Aberglasney we have had the unfortunate experience of having to deal with box blight which is another serious problem. Box blight is a fungal disease that causes bare patches and dieback in box topiary and hedges. It is often a combination of two fungi that attach to the leaves and stems of the plants causing them to look very unsightly and sometimes killing them.
The symptoms are black streaks in stems and sudden dieback of patches of leaves and stems more often than not during the summer. Unfortunately we have not found a cure or control for the problem and we have decided to remove our box hedges. Box blight seems to be appearing in more and more gardens both in the UK and Europe. The big problem with the disease is that it is extremely contagious although at Aberglasney it is only a problem on clipped box, the large old tree that we have is fine. On the plus side it is a disease which only affects box and very close relatives so replanting something different doesn’t mean we run the risk of re-infection.
One of the main reasons for mentioning this problem is that it could become a problem in private gardens. While there are plenty of ways of dealing with it they all involve removing the box and using something else. There are plenty of alternatives however that will do the job of box, a good example is Ilex crenata or Japanese Holly and there are cultivars of this that can also be used. We have selected this plant as a replacement as it looks very similar and seems to cope with the conditions we have. The common species has yellow tips to the new growth but some of the cultivars like ‘Dark Green’ are almost identical to box. There are also many other plants that make good replacements for Box but it is a good idea to take advice from a specialist grower or the Royal Horticultural Society who list alternatives on their website.
Another good replacement is step over fruit trees. This is what we have used to replace the box hedging in the Kitchen Garden at Aberglasney, we have this under-planted these with salad leaves. This creates an extra space to grow crops as well as giving us a small crop of apples. Another advantage is that wires for the fruit trees can be taken down to get the wheel barrow into the border. Step over fruit trees are usually about knee height which is just about the same as a parterre hedge of box while the salad crops give the greenery and definition.
In the Mansion terrace area we have been much braver and replaced the box hedging with annual bedding which works well in a narrow border. We have started with Tulips and Forget-me-nots in one area and Tulips and Wall flowers in another. In the summer we will replace this with summer bedding making the area much more colourful.
These measures may seem drastic but in our experience they seem to be the best thing to do and often lead you to do something much more exciting with an area of the garden which was once hedging. If you suspect you may have box blight in your garden it is however worth getting expert opinion to be sure it is box blight that you’re dealing with. There are many other problems such as nutrient deficiency, scorch or water logging that can be mistaken for box blight.
Tips for the Week
1. Get out and see the spring displays as they are often better in a late season
2. Plant out vegetables
3. Harden off spring bedding and Dahlia
4. Check for pest and disease in the glasshouse
5. Sow second crops of peas
6. Direct sow summer annuals
7. Dead head bulbs
8. There is still time to lift and divide snowdrops
Something Different for the Spring [04 Apr 2013]
It finally feels like spring is upon us thanks to the sunshine, even if it is still cold. This spring has been strange, we have had very little rain and plenty of sunshine but it’s been anything but mild. This weather is better for some plants than it is for others. The more tender plants which have made it through the main part of the winter have been caught by the late frosts and cold winds. In fact most of the spring garden is later than usual but this can be a good thing too, especially when it comes to the Magnolia which we hope will have avoided the cold weather.
Some plants that have benefited from the cold weather are the smaller bulbs and alpine perennials. Two in particular have done well for us, the first is the Scilla or Squill as it is often known, and the second is the Corydalis. They are both small bulb like plants that usually flower in March and come from places in the wild that are very cold and dry.
Scilla are excellent garden plants and many types do well in grass, much like Crocus. They are also generally very good value. At Aberglasney we have a drift in the lawn by the car park which is much better than last year and seems to be thriving in this crisp sunny weather. Closely related and very similar looking to the Scilla are the Chionodoxa and Puschkinia which also do the same job. Although it does seem that Scilla don’t get eaten by rabbits, useful information if you have a problem in your garden.
Another plant that has done well this spring is the Corydalis or moiré specifically the solida type which are small alpine species and cultivars. In the past they have been very expensive but are much better value today. They are small mound forming perennials that flower in March almost completely covering the plant with blooms. They die down in midsummer and are good for sunny spots in small gardens. They also make a nice change from bulbs or mix really well with them, especially blues. There are a few different ones to choose from, two cultivated forms that are very popular are George Baker and Beth Evans, the latter should be popular in these parts. Both are quite slow growing and are red or pink.
The wild form Corydalis solida is often more useful as it is a strong grower and will multiply over time to give you a good show in spring. I have always been jealous of the woodland garden at Kew Gardens which has both the Scilla and Corydalis seeding around in its borders. This is something we hope to achieve at Aberglasney in the future. Both Scilla and Corydalis prefer sunny spots with well drained soil that has plenty of compost or leaf mould in it. As they are small and die down in the summer they can be planted next to other things that flower later in the year without crowding the border. This is another reason why they are good in smaller gardens where space is at a premium.
They are both available as dry bulbs and corms or potted in leaf, it’s best to buy them from specialist growers as they will help you choose the right one for your garden and give the right advice. Both plants are excellent additions to the spring garden and go really well with Pulmonaria Narcissus and other bulbs.
Tips for the Week
• Direct sow vegetable and hardy annual seed
• Put pea and bean canes in
• Mow lawns when dry
• Remove protective fleece during the day to harden plants off
• Sow salad crops in gutter pipes to plant out after the last frosts
Pumpkins Gourds and Squashes [28 Mar 2013]
Although you may be forgiven for thinking we are still in the depths of winter, remember that spring will arrive eventually and one way or another everything will come through and bloom. The glasshouse is probably the most exciting place to be at the moment as you eagerly await the germination of your vegetable seed. This year we’re trying lots of new vegetables and flowers in the kitchen garden at Aberglasney. Between the shop, café, and the giant vegetable competition we’re launching soon we have a huge amount to grow. This added demand has meant the need for a new poly tunnel for all the extra plants.
Some of the extra plants that we’re growing are pumpkins, gourds and squashes. These plants have been particular favourites of mine since I visited China where they have hundreds of different varieties to choose from. In their climate they can be grown almost anywhere but in this country for most types you will need a glasshouse or polytunnel. Some varieties of pumpkin however can be grown outside.
Most vegetables of this type need to be sown in March or April in a glasshouse and you should remember to slide the seeds into the compost so they don’t sit in water. They benefit from plenty of sun and a little heat, a propagator or warm windowsill will do. When the roots have started to fill the pots they’re ready to be planted out. They all prefer a sunny spot outside with rich soil or you can try a large pot in a glasshouse. Most need plenty of room especially the training ones. We are growing ours up the beams in our glasshouse and on the hoops in the poly tunnel. This saves space on the ground and they look great dangling down at eye level.
Planting them quite deep allows the stems to root into the soil. You should also make sure they have plenty of compost or manure mixed into the soil. Planting outside is best done in May but still use the protection. You should also give them a wind brake especially in the first few weeks after planting out. Remember to cane the young plants to stop the stem kinking even if they will be grown on the ground.
All squashes, gourds and pumpkins are greedy feeders and need plenty of water through the growing season. It is best to feed twice a week at half strength with tomato fertiliser but if they have a lot of fruit change to high nitrogen feed fortnightly. One of the most important things is supporting the fruits by tying in stems regularly. If they are growing on the floor then put straw underneath the fruits. You can start harvesting them as soon as they are ready usually after about eight weeks. The later squashes should be harvested before the first frosts once the skins have set.
If you want to grow large ones then remove the smaller fruits, this allows the others to get bigger. One of the biggest problems with growing really big ones is lifting them so some thought should go into where you grow them. One of the best places is an old compost heap as they will have plenty of food and room to grow. In the right spot they are really easy, can be a lot of fun and are good to eat. Most vegetable seed companies supply them and there is still plenty of time to get started.
Tips of the week
• Choose which pumpkins, gourds and squashes you want to try
• There is still time to do division
• Snowdrops can also be lifted and divided
• Prepare seed beds and start sowing mid season vegetables
• Mow the lawns while the weather is dry
• Keep the protection on plants as there may still be some really cold nights ahead
Early blues are helpful garden additions [26 Mar 2013]
In cold slow springs like this one it’s great to see certain plants don’t let you down and continue to flower on time whilst producing a good display. If you were to take a walk around Aberglasney this week you would see the Pulmonaria has come into full flower adding splashes of blue to the display. Pulmonaria or lungwort as it is often known is a really old garden plant that has been used in cottage gardens and woodland gardens for quite some time.
The main reason we grow them is for the blue, white or reddish pink flowers and the attractive spotted leaves. They have plenty of different uses in the garden especially as they are one of the earliest flowering perennials. They are excellent for small gardens as they are low growing and fairly slow. As they start early in the season they make decent ground cover too, they are also good in shady spots and go well between shrubs. They work well in wild gardens and are popular with bees.
At Aberglasney we grow about four different varieties but I’ve been so impressed with them this year that we will try quite a few more in the future. One thing we have found is that they do well in open positions even south facing ones. Although this contradicts the normal advice you’ll get it seems that in our climate they can take a little more sun.
What makes Pulmonaria especially useful for us is that their colours go well with the spring flowering shrubs and bulbs especially the blues. There are plenty of different varieties and colours to choose with the same level of variety in the leaves. They are perfectly hardy and will last for years if divided regularly. They require very little care other than dead heading and the removal of old flowers and leaves.
When it comes to choosing a variety it really depends on which colour you want. Pulmonaria Blue Ensign has beautiful deep blue flowers - a really useful colour to mix with Narcissus.
Pulmonaria Sissinghurst White is another favourite as the flowers show up well in shady places. Pulmonaria Cotton Cool does very well for us in a south facing spot where it comes into flower just after the Snowdrops and seems to mix with any of the other spring flowers in the area.
However it is not just the flowers that are useful, the leaves are very attractive and give a long season of interest. As they come out early in the season they cover the ground before the early weeds and don’t seem to mind being crowded by later perennials. A less common variety that has great foliage is Pulmonaria Diana Clair and can be grown for its leaves alone.
Using Pulmonaria in the garden is really easy and you won’t experience many problems with pests and diseases. The most important thing is not to grow them somewhere that is too dry and then you’ll avoid mildew problems. On the whole Pulmonaria are great for the garden and the environment so are well worth trying. They can be purchased in most nurseries and it is best to buy good quality large plants to get them off to the best start. Sometimes the old favourites that are as good as anything new.
Tips for the week
• Plant out peas
• Prepare canes and pea sticks ready for planting
• We mulch in the spring to improve soil condition
• Sow summer annuals under glass but try a late crop as well
• Tie in climbing roses before they really get going
Conservatory Bulbs [12 Mar 2013]
We’ve had some fantastic weather lately and hopefully like me you will have been out making the most of it. Having got to grips with a lot of the work that needed doing in the garden you may then have taken a break in the conservatory or glasshouse or even just sat and looked out of the window admiring the fruits of your labour. A conservatory, glasshouse or sunny windowsill is also an excellent spots for tender plants which flower in the winter or early spring when the garden itself is a little less colourful.
Indoor bulbs are good plants not only because of their ability to add interest during the winter and spring but because they are also quite often low maintenance. Many of them come from deserts and very dry areas which means they only need watering when they are in growth. They can also be kept outside during the summer. Another great thing about them is that once potted they will last a good few years. With some clumps you hear of people enjoying a pot full of bulbs for up to ten years.
At Aberglasney we grow a few different types of these tender bulbs and they add real interest in the winter months. One of the nicest is Veltheimia which is related to the red hot poker and has multicoloured flowers. The flowers last for a long time and it slowly gets bigger each year. They come into bloom after Christmas and keep flowering for over a month. The great thing about having them in pots is they can be moved to brighten up a dull corner or window sill.
There are very many more of these types of plants. A particular favourite is Scilla madeirense which is related to the Hyacinth. This grows into a large clump with beautiful thick leaves and blue flower spikes in spring. Each plant can reach up to a metre in height and they look great in big clay pots. Some of the oldest pots of this plant are over thirty years old.
One of the best plants for this job is Clivia although they need to be kept frost free. They have large evergreen leaves and flower in spring. They make excellent house plants or conservatory plants and again will last a long time in a pot. There is a good range of flower colours and the flowers last a long time. They also seem to take a huge amount of shade and neglect, although they do need care to flower really well.
One less common tender bulb is Hymenocallis or Spider Lily which has wonderful white flowers and likes plenty of water. They do well in conservatories and can be brought into the house for the winter.
Tender bulbs can be a lot of fun and most of them have spectacular flowers at times of the year when interest is short outside. Generally all you need is a small glasshouse or conservatory if you want to grow a few different ones. Alternatively a window sill is just as good for the smaller ones. As they only need care when they are in flower and leaf they are generally little work. In fact pots can be left in the shed or put in the garden for the summer which means they are only hard work when you’re enjoying them. All the ones mentioned above flower every year but you should remember that Amaryllis often die or don’t flower for a few years after they first flower. Either way tender bulbs are exciting without too much extra work.
Tips for the Week
• Harden off seedlings ready to plant
• Finish any leftover fruit pruning
• Stool prune dogwoods and other coloured stemmed shrubs
• Plant shallots and onion sets
• Plant early potatoes
• Harvest purple sprouting broccoli
• Lift Parsnips and Leeks
A Gardeners Guide to Bargain Hunting [21 Feb 2013]
As we all know the weather impacts upon everything we do in our gardens, and is a major influence upon when we can get outside and do most jobs. But there is a job that that can be done in any weather, and at almost any time of the year. You can go outside and do it, or you can do it from the comfort of an arm chair. What am I talking about? Plant shopping of course - one of the most exciting and important parts of gardening. However plant shopping is expensive and can be quite confusing, even nerve wracking.
One of my first real shopping experiences came about after saving up money during my first year at College. I spent sixty pounds (the equivalent of two days labouring) on a rare peony called ‘Rockii’. After collecting this plant I stopped to buy petrol and at the same time I rearranged a few things in the boot before driving back to Wales having left the peony on the garage forecourt.
Despite this disastrous start, shopping for plants is still one of my favourite jobs especially when I think I’m getting a bargain or real value for money. In my mind a bargains is a plant that is cheaper than it should be, value for money means plants that are worth every penny. Through experience you realise that poorly grown plants, or poor quality plants are just not worth it no matter what the price. You are far better buying good quality plants that perform well or give you years of enjoyment.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s plants, trees, seeds or bulbs quality is really important, even more important than price. I always find specialist growers offer the best value. They’ll always ensure you get a tough, healthy plant and are able to give you advice on getting the best from the plant. That advice is really important, as it doesn’t matter how good a plant is, if it goes in the wrong spot or is cared for in the wrong way it won’t do well. Many specialist growers are often a lot cheaper than other places and you have the comfort of knowing your buying good plants. Finding them is often easier than you think, as the internet and delivery services are really good. Personally I feel you can’t beat visiting the nursery and having a good look and chat before buying. The Royal Horticultural Society also has nursery directory and an online plant finder both of which are really useful.
So how do you make sure you get value for money? Well I find picking the right plant for the right spot and knowing how to care for it are the two most important things. If you get these two things right then you get value for money no matter what you buy. Trees are a good example as the right tree in the right spot will be there for many years to come. The wrong tree will have to be removed and another one bought. If you get the right perennial they will often be with you forever if you divide them. A personal favourite of mine are the big slow growing perennials like Peony, Agapanthus and Hellebores which will happily sit in the right spot for ten or twenty years without needing any care.
So really it’s buying the right plant from the right person that gives you a bargain and value for money. My advice is to take your time and make sure you know what you want before you go looking for it. There is no substitute for good planning and it saves work and money in the long term.
Tips for the Week
• Plant shopping and planning
• Sow early vegetables and flowers both in the ground and in pots
• Cut back the old leaves on evergreen perennials like Iris and ferns
• Mulching is good at this time of the year but be careful of bulbs coming through
• Make the most of any dry weather for digging or lawn mowing
White Winter Warmers [07 Feb 2013]
Despite the continued threat of snow the weather has been quite mild and the season is beginning to get going. At Aberglasney we grow a large range of very early flowering plants. What this means is that our flowering season starts in January and in a way is the beginning of our spring. The three main plants of interest at this time of year are Witch Hazels, Hellebores and of course Snowdrops. Looking around the garden today the snowdrops are in full flower, the true spring flowering plants are not far behind either.
Snowdrops are usually some the first plants to flower each year and keep going well into March, making them a real favourite with gardeners. What you’ll also find is because Snowdrops have rapidly gained in popularity over the last few years there are now gardens, clubs and plant breeders who specialise in them. The Latin name for Snowdrops is Galanthus and this surge in popularity is called ‘Galanthomania’ which led to a book of the same title.
There’s a much bigger choice of both wild and cultivated snowdrops to choose from now than ever before. This is down to the fact there’s been a lot of breeding and new varieties introduced. Some of the rarer or more unusual types are extremely valuable. However there are plenty to choose from that are very reasonably priced.
There are some very good reasons why snowdrops are popular, and it’s not just down to their beautiful flowers and the fact that white really shows up in the poor light of winter. Snowdrops are excellent garden plants that flower in late winter through to early spring and last for a good few weeks. They grow in a variety of conditions taking sun or shade and are happy in all but the wettest of soils. They also have some excellent qualities that make them really useful for gardeners. They die down very quickly after flowering which means they can be grown in borders or in grass. When planted in the grass they flower and die back early in the season before it starts growing quickly and they become untidy. In borders they die down and allow early herbaceous perennials to grow up between them, disguising any mess.
Snowdrops are fairly slow growing and are well behaved. The clumps are very long lived but can be divided easily. People have different views on when the clumps should be lifted and divided. Some people say to do it when they are green others say to do it when they are dormant. Although I’m not an expert I find it is easier to do it in the green as you can find the clumps more easily, but it is better for the bulbs to do it when they’re dormant. It’s worth dividing them every few years as it helps them multiply and there’s nothing better than a good stand of snowdrops which ever type you choose.
So far I have not found a bad type of snowdrop but our British native Galanthus nivalis is as good as any. If you want something bigger then Galanthus Atkinsii is similar but much taller. Of course there are also many other special ones with different markings and colours which are extra special but much more expensive.
Any sized garden is fine for snowdrops as they increase fairly slowly and look good in massed drifts or as small clumps. In fact a small garden could quite easily have a very big collection of snowdrops. On the whole snowdrops make excellent garden plants and are very welcome in the cold weather.
Tips for the Week
• Get out and enjoy the snowdrops
• Check your early seedlings to see if there is any pricking out to be done
• Keep an eye out for weeds, they’re starting to get going
• Check for wind damage especially ties on trained plants
• Prune hardy evergreen hedges
• Prune Wisteria
Special Spring Bedding and Tulip Colour Combinations [16 Apr 2012]
It was only the other week we were appreciating the fine spring weather and the mild autumn only to be greeted with a late frost. Despite this sharp shock to the system there is still plenty to be pleased with in the garden. It has been an excellent year for spring bulbs in both the formal and informal garden. At the moment the spring bedding is one of the best displays at Aberglasney. When bedding is mentioned most people automatically think of summer bedding not spring bedding. However some of the very best bedding displays are in the spring not summer.
It is important to remember there is a difference between winter bedding and spring bedding. More often than not what is sold as winter bedding only really comes into its own in the spring. This has been the case at Aberglasney where the combination of alabaster wallflowers and Tulips looks fantastic at the moment.
The real star of the bedding is the Tulip as they form the bulk of the display, in the parterre, terrace and kitchen garden. What is great about Tulips is the range of height, colour and flowering times available. There is also a huge range of flower shapes to choose from with singles doubles frilled parrot and many others to choose from. They also combine really well with other spring bedding plants such as Wall flowers, Pansies, and Bellis (ornamental daisies). The colour choice also makes life very easy when choosing a colour scheme.
Wall flowers are an excellent partner for Tulips as they act as ground cover before the Tulips come through, as they have a completely different leaf and flower shape they contrast really well. They also add interest before and after the Tulips start. Buying them bare root in the early autumn is also great as they are so much cheaper and of course peat free. The only problem is they can be damaged in very hard winters. The combination that has worked really well this year with the alabaster wall flowers is China Pink, Spring Green, Maureen which is marbled white and Queen of the night which is maroon.
If you don’t have room for a spring bedding display another really handy way of using Tulips is in the summer border. The Kitchen Garden at Aberglasney has a traditional summer border full of herbaceous plants that start to bloom in early May. The season of interest has been extended by adding Tulips to the gaps in a colour combination that matches the early perennials that will be coming out later. As the Tulips finish the new growth on the perennials disguises the dying foliage so there is no mess. The colour combination in this area is Princess Unique (golden orange), Havran (maroon), Uncle Tom (maroon), Ballerina (orange and yellow) and Happy Generation (ivory white). It sounds terrible but it looks great. One of the big bonuses of Tulips is they come in such a range of colours that they can match in with almost anything else. They are also fairly reasonably priced and will last for two or three years, if you’re lucky quite a lot longer. The autumn is the best time to plant them but it is important to have a good look at them in flower as that is when you can really tell which ones you like.
Tips for the week
• Get out to parks and gardens and enjoy the Tulips
• Harden off indoor sown seeds
• Dead head bulbs
• Prune out any frost damage on shrubs
• Sow hardy annuals outside
Joseph Atkin's latest Evening Post gardening column [26 Mar 2012]
With the weather being kind and finally some dry weather spring has really begun in the garden.
The bulbs and shrubs are out in force at Aberglasney and everything else is bursting into growth.
With so much going on it’s almost impossible to keep up with everything that’s coming into flower.
The Narcissus and even some Tulips are coming out the Magnolias have started to flower and everything seems to have appreciated the milder winter.
Between all this elegance and spectacular flowers there are also some very interesting bulbs although they should technically be called tubers.
The Arisaema which is related to Arum and Calla Lily is an excellent plant that deserves much more interest than it often gets.
Often known as the Cobra Lily due to the sinister shape of the flowers they are something very different for spring and summer. For many years they have been really expensive to buy but they are becoming much more reasonably priced.
There are hundreds of different types to choose from, most are hardy and in my experience pretty good perennials. Certain types will clump up like Lilies or seed around to create stands that are very impressive.
Normally it’s the flower that steals the show but what I like about them is they are really interesting from the minute they shoot through the ground.
Most have mottled stems that look like snakes and very unusual foliage that looks great in poor light. The flower bud unrolls from the side of the stem and often looks like a funnel with a tongue. Children are absolutely fascinated by them as they are so unusual.
The best spot to grow Arisaema is in shaded damp border they mix well with Hostas and other woodland plants.
Slugs can be a problem but much less than Hostas and they are very cold hardy. They can be bought as bulbs in the autumn or potted plants when they are growing but the best thing to do is plant them immediately.
The prettiest one is probably Ariseama candidissimum which has white stripped pink flowers and a sweet scent.
Like most Arisaema the leaves are also very interesting and will make excellent foliage for most of the spring right through to the autumn.
The type that seems easiest to grow is Arisaema consanguineum (apologies for the long names) this type can be well over a meter tall and the flowers are held well above the foliage and last for up to a month.
This type will also seed around quite easily in my experience, and if it does it will make a really spectacular show in few years time.
Probably the biggest type is Arisaema tortuosum which can grow to over two metres in height and is really spectacular it also flowers much later in the year about July. This can be really handy as shady borders often run out of steam in midsummer.
As mentioned there is a huge choice available and once keen gardener’s find out about them they often take a big interest as they are so unusual.
Arisaemas do look really hard to grow but given the right conditions they are pretty easy. They have really long season of interest between the new shoots flowers and foliage.
Some also have really striking seed heads that look like bright red sweet corn and last all winter. The best place to buy them is specialist nurseries and plant sellers who can help you select the best one for your garden.
Tips for the Week
While the weathers dry get out and do any digging or seed sowing
Check how the perennials are coming through and think about any gaps that may need replacing
Dead head bulbs to stop the seeds taking energy from the bulbs
Keep on top of the weeding they really are out in force
If the shoots are there, take cuttings of Geraniums and other tender plants
Celery Cauliflower lettuce and lobelia can be sown indoors now
Outdoors this warm weather makes it ideal for sowing vegetables
Use fleece or carpet to warm the soil before sowing
Arisaema in seed
The latest Joseph Atkin gardening column from the South Wales Evening Post [11 Mar 2012]
The latest South Wales Evening Post gardening column by Aberglasney's head gardener Joseph Atkin -
Spring is upon us nice and early and we have even been blessed with a few breaks in the rain and some sunshine.
Despite the cold nights we are having some great gardening weather even if the ground is still very wet.
One of the great things about gardening in the spring is presence of the early flowering plants reminding us why we do it.
At Aberglasney the snowdrops, Hellebores and Crocus have and are putting on a great show.
Looking round the garden today buds could even be seen on the Tulips and many of the earlier flowering Narcissus (Daffodil) have started.
Last autumn we planted more than 100 different varieties of Narcissus amounting to more than 10,000 bulbs.
One of the most interesting parts of growing a variety of the same plant is you see all its different shapes and guises as well as benefiting from a greater length of flowering.
Amazingly we have had Narcissus in flower constantly in the garden from November until now.
This is partly due to the mild winter but more related to the different varieties. The majority of these varieties are only just coming into flower so the best is yet to come.
With literally hundreds to choose from in every shade of white through to yellow with greens pinks and oranges being less common but still available the only drawback is which one to choose.
This year there have been some really good early varieties that are going strong at the moment. A new variety we have tried is St Patrick's Day which has been in flower since late February and looks really good.
It has two tone pale yellow flowers that really stand out in the poor light that we get at the moment.
It stands up to the wind and the rain really well. Like many of the early flowering types it is quite short only growing to about 30 or 40 centimetres and has the added advantage of dying back a little earlier in the season.
An old favourite and very common variety Tete a tete is also really flowering well at the moment.
Although many of us know this variety there are many imposters but the true form has multiple flowers on each stem.
It is only 15 centimetres tall and is excellent for baskets or in borders.
At Aberglasney we have a large border of Tete a tete planted with a late flowering perennial that disguises the old leaves.
A really good early variety is Rijnfelds Early Sensation another short variety that is good for cutting and has really strong stems.
This year it was one of the earliest to come into flower and does well in rough grass.
Again it has the advantage of dying back a little earlier reducing the amount of dead leaves on show. If possible Narcissus leaves should be left to die back naturally cutting back while they are green weakens the bulb for the following year.
Another favourite is Lemon silk which looks really good at the moment.
Having planted so many bulbs this year one very noticeable fact is the newly planted varieties flower much later than established clumps.
Those on south facing slopes are also much earlier to flower as expected.
If you do have a passion for Narcissus it’s important to remember that they grow fine a rough grass and make excellent plants for grass verges or hedgerows. They will quite happily be strimmed or mown down when the leaves have died down and require very little care other than dead heading.
If you do have some time and like propagating collecting seeds and growing them yourself can be good fun as you will have your own personal variety.
Late summer and early autumn is the best time to buy Narcissus which are freely available. For more unusual types specialist bulb catalogues can be very helpful.
Tips for the Week
· Keep the protection on tender perennials there is still a chance of frost
· Early vegetables can be hardened off during the day
· Warm the soil before planting
· Keep weeding as they love this sun shine and showers
· Prepare pea and bean stakes ready for use
· Pot up Dahlia and other tender perennials
· Sow tomato seeds a little heat really helps
Joseph Atkin's latest Evening Post gardening column [05 Mar 2012]
As we continue to enjoy this mild weather we are greeted with a succession of treats in the form of spring flowering bulbs and shrubs.
The bees are out and there is even the odd glimpse of sun shine. While we are wondering if it’s safe to mow the grass especially as it’s romping away with this warm wet weather special attention should be paid to one spring flowering plant in particular.
Crocus fills the gap between Daffodils and snowdrops really well. They also come in a fantastic colour range that contrast well with snowdrops and the supposedly later Daffodils.
Before the Daffodils steal the show at Aberglasney the new plantings of Crocus are really looking good. Not only are they very easy to grow and relatively cheap to buy but they have a multitude of uses in the garden. On top of these different uses they also come in superb variety and have spring and autumn flowering types which are equally good. Although the different uses of Crocus are probably their biggest asset, they can be grown in borders, tubs, rock gardens, under trees or even in grass.
Personally using them in grass is the most effective way to grow them as they add something different to a lawn without causing any problems with the mowing. Crocus have a really good advantage over other bulbs in that they have a short growing season and flower very early. This means the grass is growing slowly and you don’t have to wait too long for the tops to die down. A short gap in mowing allows you to get the lawn back to its best quickly and there is no waiting around for tatty old leaves to die down. Growing Crocus in lawns works especially well under trees as the grass grows even slower. This also allows you to have at least two seasons of interest one for the Crocus and another for the tree.
They also do really well in rock gardens and small borders as they are over early in the season allowing something else to take their place. For years they have been used in tubs as late winter interest. The great thing about them is their reliability in all but the coldest of winters and even then they just flower later on. Another very important quality of Crocus is that bees and other pollinators love them especially at this early stage in the season when flowers are generally in short supply.
The trick to growing Crocus in grass is to give them a sunny spot and resist mowing until they have died back and seeded. A high cut for the first few mows will also avoid collecting up the seed which will be future generations of flower.
So what varieties are good in the garden? Crocus tomasinianus ‘Barrs Purple’ is doing really well at Aberglasney there are two drifts with a total of five thousand bulbs in them that are looking excellent at the moment. They are lavender purple and really stand out against grass especially in the late afternoon with low sunlight on them. A more striking variety that looks good in the rock garden is Crocus ‘Ruby Giant’ which is reddish purple and taller. This variety looks really good next to early flowering Narcissus or Cyclamen. Crocus flavus is a wild Crocus that is bright yellow with very slender petals that looks great even when there is no sunshine. There is a huge choice available and they are relatively cheap so the display can be added to in the future to keep it looking good. If you are growing wild types it is often a good idea to add some seed grown bulbs as these will help them naturalise as they should set seed a little better. However with good management and right spot they should naturalise really well creating a fantastic display to brighten up winter’s last stand.
Tips for the Week
• Weeding they are out in force really early
• Plant up Dahlia and keep them in a glass house (don’t soak them after potting this can increase the chances of rot)
• Cut back evergreen ground cover like Epimedium to allow young foliage to get going and show off flowers
• Sow early vegetables
• Hellebores can have their old leaves cut back to show off flowers
• Force Rhubarb
• Take hard wood cuttings (its often worth trying something different plants can be very surprising)
The latest Joseph Atkin gardening column from the South Wales Evening Post [25 Feb 2012]
This mild winter weather is fantastic news both inside and outside at Aberglasney Gardens in the Tywi Valley.
The bulbs and other spring flowering plants are really getting going with Crocus early Daffodils and Snowdrops stealing the show.
The plants in the Ninfarium are also doing really well as the indoor garden is partially heated.
What this means is most of the plants growing in there are just the wrong side of hardy. In fact, many will be fine in a very sheltered position.
One of the things I have learnt this winter is many plants such as Rex Begonia and Streptocarpus are much more cold tolerant than I realised.
Another group of plants that are much more cold tolerant than often realised is the Orchids.
One of the important things to remember is the two different types - Epiphytic grow on trees and rocks and Terrestrial grow in soil.
Many terrestrial orchids are very easy to grow and very cold hardy and some that are not.
One type that really deserves a mention is the Pleione from the Himalayas.
This is an Orchid that has been grown outside at Aberglasney but has finally disappeared in the last few cold winters.
As it is not completely hardy, only the mildest and luckiest gardens will be able to grow it outside.
In the Ninfarium, this orchid has done fantastically well, almost doubling in size and is flowering its socks off at the moment.
Each pseudobulb (false bulb) has produced up to five flowers each.
There are 250 records of different types of Pleione available for sale in the UK, so there is plenty of choice.
A great way to grow them is as a conservatory plant or cool greenhouse plant.
They need very little care in the summer as long as they are kept watered and shaded the tick over fine.
In the winter, they can be kept drier while they lose their leaves.
In the spring, flowers will shoot up very quickly before the leaves emerge making them a little more spectacular.
During the spring they can be watered more heavily again. We have never used rain water at Aberglasney and they have done fine.
Not having to use rain water is a real advantage as it really reduces the amount of work involved.
This is certainly not the case for many other species but our experience so far has shown them to be more tolerant than other types of Orchid.
When you considered that a small pot full will last for five or six years and can then be split and started again they can actually be fairly good value for money. They are also less expensive than many other types of Orchid so growing them is a little less nerve racking.
Pleione formosana is probably the most common and maybe the easiest to grow, but many of the hybrids are becoming much more readily available.
These hybrids come in a wide range of colours and are often bigger more robust plants.
Pleione ‘Tongariro’ is a new hybrid that we are trying this year if it goes well then expect to see many more of them in the Ninfarium
In the future we will also try bedding out as tender perennials in the garden when we have enough stock. The best place to buy Pleione is specialist growers that can be found in the plant finder as they can supply you with the growing advice needed.
Tips for the week
• Have a look at Pleione in catalogues or the internet
• Sow sweet peas and other summer annuals that need pots
• Plant Asparagus and Rhubarb fleece them if the weather turns colder
• Carrots, onions and other yearly vegetables can be sown at the moment
• Make sure there is fleece or other protection for early crops if needed
• Plant Summer Flowering bulbs
• Plant Raspberry Canes
• Clean out the glasshouse and the glass on both sides
• Hard prune summer flowering Clematis
• Start forcing Rhubarb
Photos: Pleione formosana at Aberglasney
Joseph Atkin's latest Evening Post gardening column [18 Feb 2012]
This mild weather we are enjoying seems like an apology for last year’s hard winter and it is much appreciated.
There is something really exciting about February as seeds are being sown new shoots are swelling the snowdrops are on song and new plants are arriving. Looking through catalogues and in Garden Centres one very encouraging surprise is the number of unusual bulbs being offered, most are species (wild plants) not cultivars and usually come under the section miscellaneous.
Lilies are a real garden favourite and have been available for a long time in a wide choice of cultivars but less so as species.
Recently many more species are becoming readily available. In fact if you look through old catalogues you often only found a few white species, the speciosum type and the tigridium type. All these species are good plants but there is a huge variety of species lily coming in a great range of colour and size and flower shape.
One of the advantages of species lily is they can be grown from seed it often takes between three and five years but it saves money and can be great fun.
Some of the species will settle in and behave like true herbaceous plants and form large clumps unlike many of cultivars which dwindle without dividing the offsets.
Lilium Black Beauty is a notable exception which has formed a three meter wide clump at Aberglasney with literally hundreds of blooms.
Seed grown species also reduce the chance of getting virus in your plants which is often hard to spot until you see one without virus and realise how much more vigorous they are.
The species Lilies have not been bred for the garden and need to be treated a little differently. In the wild many are hedgerow plants or grow in shrub thickets.
What this means is they are much taller and need staking. Instantly you think more work but rather than stake them if they are placed between tightly planted shrubs the shrubs will give the support. This is a really good way of growing them as you get too sets of interest one from the Lily and one from the shrub. This can also be done with Thalictrum which combine well with Lily colour wise.
So where is a good position to grow them?
They enjoy very moist free draining soil they are prone to winter rot but enjoy the high rainfall we get.
Other than full shade or full sun they are happy and will take full sun if the roots are kept cool. They really enjoy good mulch and are pretty hardy. The two pest problems are slugs and Lily beetle.
I have successfully removed Lily Beetle by picking them off all season but it was a pain a staking process.
Growing them from seed stops you bringing them to the garden and there are some chemicals available that help control them.
So which ones are good to grow?
Welsh gardens are ideal for species lilies as they enjoy our rainfall, the Martagon type Lilies are excellent garden plants. My mother has a clump that is a good fifteen years old and absolutely no trouble there is also a new range cultivars offering different colour choices no. Lilium sargentiae has fantastic white flowers grows very tall and has the added advantage that it produces bulbils on the stem that can be propagated. Lilium ducharteri is a smaller plant that is happy in sun or shade and runs underground acting more like a perennial.
Lilium taliense can grow to well over three meters tall with over fifteen blooms per stem and great to grow through shrubs. Lilium lancifolium is a very interesting orange species that you can grow as a vegetable and eat like a potato.
Tips for the Week
• Plant early vegetables
• Make the most of the dry weather to prepare seed beds for direct sowing
• Dahlia can be potted up
• Check your glasshouse for pests and deal with them now before the glasshouse gets full
• Use fleece or carpet to cover the soil before planting it makes a big difference
• There is still time to divide perennials but be careful of new buds
• Bare root plants can be planted now
• Check plants that were fleeced for the winter but don’t remove fleece as there may be further frost
Top - Lilium 'Black Beauty'
Middle - Lilium ducharteri
Bottom - Lilium lancifolium
Joseph Atkin's latest Evening Post gardening column [11 Feb 2012]
The latest South Wales Evening Post gardening column by Aberglasney Head Gardener Joseph Atkin -
Having a kitchen garden is a great deal of work but worth every minute that goes into it.
Throughout the season there is always something to look at. This year, the kitchen garden has been producing all year round.
Last year’s beets and cabbage are still being used as is the parsley and many other herbs. This year’s Narcissus for cutting are starting to come through and the welcoming site of a box full of seeds has landed on my desk.
The kitchen garden at Aberglasney has really become the hub of the gardens producing flowers food and interest throughout the year. One of the best doers and most talked about plants are the Dahlia.
They really performed well for us last year flowering for a good three months and yielding plenty of blooms for cutting.
When you lift Dahlia in the autumn you find yourself with twice as much plant material as you started with which is no bad thing.
Knowing which variety you want and where to get them is often the hardest part of growing Dahlia.
The increase in popularity of a plant is never a bad thing and Dahlia have really benefited with a huge number of new varieties being bred. The colour range in both single semi-double and double is fantastic.
There is also a huge choice of flower type and foliage colour which gives them something extra. They can be very effectively mixed into a border or grown in lines in a vegetable garden as a cutting crop.
There are also some excellent patio and tub varieties that are great for the smaller garden. Browsing through any catalogue that specialises in Dahlia will give you an idea of what might suit you.
Growing Dahlia is relatively easy although the art of producing exhibition blooms is a real skill.
At Aberglasney we have the best results from lifting them in the winter and replanting the following spring. They will often come through the winter in the ground but getting them started in a glasshouse helps get them to flowering size quicker.
Full sun and very fertile soil (like your vegetable garden) are preferable, the larger types will need staking and dead heading really helps elongate the flowering season. There are literally hundreds to choose from but there are a few favourites that have been good performers at Aberglasney.
Dahlia are also divided into 11 different sections according to their flower shape within these there are hundreds of different types.
‘Bishop of Auckland is an excellent single with dark crimson flowers and dark foliage.
‘Blue Bayou’ is very striking purple/lavender anemone flowered form with green leaves and excellent cut flower qualities.
‘Jescot Julie’ is an excellent orange flowered orchid type with a dark reverse to the flowers. ‘Karma choc’ is another very dark form with cactus flowers and dark leaves, it also makes an excellent cut flower.
‘Selina’ is a bright pink semi-cactus flower with a silver back to the petals. ‘Claire de Lune’ is a very pretty pale yellow almost white collerette type and fairly small plant. ‘Kiwi Gloria’ is a cactus type with small white flushed pink flowers.
‘Pearl of Heemstede’ is a waterlily type that is early flowering and prolific bearing silvery pink flowers. ‘Alva’s Supreme’ is a giant double flowered variety with soft yellow flowers.
‘Classic Swan Lake’ is a white peony flowered type with dark foliage which really makes the flowers show up.
‘New Baby’ is a ball type with orange flushed pink flowers and green foliage. ‘Nicola Jane’ is pompon variety with pale pink flowers and dark green foliage.
A particular favourite of mine is Dahlia imperialis which is notoriously hard to flower and grows to 4meters tall but we will try it this year.
Now is also a perfect time to buy Dahlia especially as bare root plants which are usually cheaper and available in a wider choice.
Tips for the Week
· Select the bare root plants you want to buy there are plenty more to choose from besides Dahlia
· Clear leaves around snowdrops or other small bulbs that are starting to flower
· If it’s not too frosty February is an excellent month to plant trees and shrubs
· Rhubarb, horseradish, asparagus and artichokes can be planted this month
· Compost heaps can be turned the frost can help the rotting process
Picture captions (from top) -
Bishop of Auckland, a purple leaved Dahlia
Dahlia in flower in November
Purple leaved Dahlia stand out well against other plants
Joseph Atkin's latest Evening Post gardening column [04 Jan 2012]
Head gardener Joseph Atkin's latest Evening Post gardening column from the newspaper dated December 31, 2011 -
After Christmas dinner, what does a gardener do?
Well snow permitting it is great fun to walk round the garden and make a list of what plants are in flower.
Every year I have done this and each year the list is very different.
If you read the literature then technically there should be very little in flower as most things either finish late November or start in January.
So what you actually see are either late arrivals or early starters.
There is always plenty to see in the garden in December with winter stems, ornamental barks, winter coloured foliage and berries but it’s those seasonal refugees that can be a real surprise and treat.
This is especially so this December as the weather has been so mild if not a little wet.
Aberglasney is particularly good garden for doing this as it contains so many early flowering plants which often appear in December.
Since the 21st of December it has been great to see the first snowdrop out in bloom with its relatives not far behind it.
There is something very reassuring about snowdrops they seem to remind you that spring and summer actually exist as well as being fantastic garden plants.
Another bulb that is fast becoming one of the all time greats of the winter is Narcissus Cedric Morris which continually gets better and seems to throw more and more flowers each week it should be noted that this plant has been in flower since November making it very long lasting.
The Cyclamen have continued flowering enjoying the mild weather and rivalling their indoor relatives this year.
There are various clumps through the garden that have kept going in this mild weather.
The flower colour also seems much more vibrant in these short days with poor light.
Shrubs such as Mahonia which have been discussed recently are really enjoying these mild conditions and are looking fantastic especially as they bring a little perfume to the garden which is easy to find in late winter but not mid winter.
One of the biggest surprises is the perennial corn flower which is still in flower and has been since March.
This plant is noted for its long flower displays but it really has excelled its self at the base of a south facing wall.
Both the blue and pink forms have flowered for a long time but the pink has made it to Christmas day.
One plant that you are not surprised to see in many gardens on Christmas day is the Hellibore often called the Lenten rose or Christmas Rose.
Surprisingly, this year, they are not quite in flower.
However, the very cruelly named Stinking Hellibore (Helliborus foetidus) is in flower and looks fresh and full of the joys of spring.
The most reliable Christmas flowering Hellibore is Helliborus niger which has white flowers and will probably be coming into its own by the New Year
In the vegetable garden, the Kale and purple Brussel sprouts still look good despite most being used in the cafe. However. the biggest star in the Kitchen Garden is the Rainbow Chard which is still cropping and looks fantastic.
The same plants have been growing looking god and being harvested from May until now.
They also look as if they will keep going for a good while yet.
The real mark of approval for this plant is the cafe manager singing its praises and commenting that no matter how busy they get there is always plenty more.
December and January are really good months for spotting plants that really earn their keep both in the vegetable garden and the ornamental garden.
Tips for the week
• Enjoy the break
• Look at the gaps in the garden to see if you need to add any evergreen cover
• Keep the bird feeders and bowls ice free and food full
• Clear up any windblown debris there seems to be alot aroud
• If you are on dry ground and get a chance mowing the lawn is a good idea
• Cut back any very late flowering plants as it will strengthen them for next season
• Check all your protective fleece is still secure
Helliborus foetidus, top
Galanthus earliest, below
Joseph Atkin's South Wales Evening Post gardening column - November 26 [26 Nov 2011]
How often do you hear gardeners say ‘the weather is great’ or ‘we are really lucky this month’? Not very often, I should think.
This month, I must admit we have been very lucky so far with all the bulb planting and winter bedding almost done we are feeling quite relieved.
Rain permitting, we have been able to do a good deal of winter work and enjoy this mild weather.
By alternating between digging in the dry weather and cutting back in the wet, this has probably been the first disruption-free November I have gardened in.
Last November, we could not get a spade into the ground at this time. Hopefully, I have not spoken too soon!
This mild weather combined with the wet summer seems to have created a really long autumn with the autumn colour starting in September and still going strong now.
It is good that it lasts but you do lose many of the contrasts.
The Acer and Parrottia are long gone but other autumn stars like Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ are still holding their leaves.
The Beech trees have finally dropped their leaves but the most spectacular and persistent autumn colour is Tilia henryana or more commonly known as Henry’s Lime. This is an excellent tree for small gardens as it has ornamental spring growth a second flush of growth midsummer and excellent autumn colour on a nicely-shaped slow growing tree.
This tree would combine very well with red or purple autumn colour or as a free standing tree on a lawn.
So I remain undecided about this autumn’s colour, which has been less spectacular but longer lasting it would seem.
One thing that does worry me a little is the emergence of many of the bulbs. Snowdrops and Narcissus are coming up as if it were February in some parts of the garden.
Now this is less of a concern for Narcissus as I know they hold their growth when the weather cools down.
Hopefully, they won’t get damaged by the frost and there is a good solution to this problem.
Mulching really helps protect plants from winter cold.
At Kew Gardens they mulch copiously as they make their own compost and need it more to hold water in the summer as opposed to cold protection in the winter.
This makes me think that this is a good a time as any to get out and mulch the borders before too many other new shoots come up and the cold weather sets.
If you put buckets over the plants that don’t like their crowns covered it is very easy to mulch around them.
Mulching will also help in the summer with weed suppression and there is something very reassuring about seeing a freshly mulched border.
Although this autumn is certainly not without its surprises, we actually have Narcissus in flower in November.
Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ which usually flowers in December or January is actually in full bloom at the moment and will hopefully keep going all winter through to spring. Most of the plants mentioned are best sourced through specialist nurseries where the correct advice can be given with the plants.
Tips for the Week
•There is still plenty of weeding to do with this mild weather.
•Keep clearing the weeds off the lawn they have nearly all dropped.
•Remove old fruit canes from blackberries and other cane fruit.
•Keep clearing and cutting back perennials .
•Now is a good time to divide perennials but leave the grasses until spring.
•Look for new planting opportunities especially autumn colour contrasts.
Images on this page feature Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ and, bottom, Tilia henryana or more commonly known as Henry’s Lime.
Latest Narcissus images from Aberglasney on the following web link - https://picasaweb.google.com/111498452757434627005/JosephAtkinSEveningPostColumn?authuser=0&feat=directlink
Joseph Atkin's South Wales Evening Post gardening column - November 19 [19 Nov 2011]
The latest gardening column written by Aberglasney head gardener Joseph Atkin for the South Wales Evening Post -
After weeks of rain, there is finally a glimmer of sunshine allowing us all to get out and do a good stint in the garden.
The last few weeks have been spent bulb planting at Aberglasney and with literally thousands to do there is a good deal of trepidation involved.
Having spoken about bulb planting recently, I realised that very little had been said about probably my favourite use for bulbs.
Planting bulbs in grass or lawns is an excellent way to increase all year round interest.
In fact, some of the best garden features I have seen have been simply a tree in a lawn under planted with bulbs.
This may seem basic but a really interesting tree with good flower and autumn colour, under-planted with spring and autumn flowering bulbs, can give a huge amount of pleasure for very little cost or effort.
There is an added incentive as the grass needs to be cut a little less often, which for some of us is a real help.
One thing I did not realise was that the Tywi Valley has some of the best dairy land in the country.
What this means is the grass grows seriously quickly for most of the year.
With about four acres of amenity and pedestrian mown grass at Aberglasney Gardens, cutting it takes a huge amount of time.
Well cut grass is always good to see but can we get a little more interest out of it?
Well this is what we are trying to do this year - grow bulbs in grass.
It’s a great idea with one downfall, you have to wait for the bulbs to die down before you cut the grass.
This is a particular problem with Narcissus (daffodil) as they can look mess for a long time after flowering.
The trick then is to plant them in long grass areas which are cut less often and the dying stems can be hidden in the grass.
Careful choice of bulbs can get round this problem quite easily.
If you grow early spring flowering bulbs like Scilla and Crocus or autumn flowering Crocus the grass grows more slowly and they have the added advantage of dying back very quickly after flowering.
There is a huge drift of Scilla at Kew Gardens which flowers in March-April and the grass can be cut back about week or two after flowering.
This means the area never gets overgrown and there is about a three-week splash of colour.
When planting in grass, larger quantities of bulbs are usually needed but the same principle applies.
Generally, naturalistic plantings work best, for instance 5000 Scilla are being planted at our entrance and 5000 Crocus in the Upper Walled Garden lawn.
The idea of planting these numbers of bulbs is very daunting but there are a few tricks that can make the job a little easier.
Both bulbs can be planted about two and a half times their depth which, because they are only about a centimetre tall, roughly works out to the depth of a thick piece of turf.
By pulling back the strip of turf but not removing it (like a flap) you create a pretty good planting hole into which a small hand full of bulbs can be scattered.
The hard part is keeping the planting natural. There are a couple of tricks we use such as different sized holes with the flaps in different directions and using a normal bulb planter to add in smaller clumps.
If the turf is gently pressed back down, then the bulbs should not be damaged.
If they have sprouted a little then they will damage more easily and, although not ideal, it can be better to lie them on their sides.
It’s best to do this job when there is plenty of moisture around as it will allow the turf to re-establish more easily.
Taking a few photographs of the planting before the holes are filled in can be really helpful later in the season especially when it’s time to mow.
Naturalising bulbs in lawns can really add to spring and autumn interest without causing lawn mowing headaches.
The real trick is careful placing and choice of bulbs. For advice on this, specialist bulb growers are probably the most helpful.
Tips for the week
•Make the most of the dry weather and do any digging.
•It’s not too late to plant later flowering bulbs like Tulips.
•This is about the last chance to buy and plant wall flowers.
•If you have free draining soil onion and garlic sets can be planted.
•Grease band fruit trees.
•It’s not too late to plant up winter baskets.
Pictures show -
Making planting holes or flaps for 5000 Scilla bulbs.
Planting Scilla using both methods makes the task easier.
Joseph Atkin's latest Evening Post gardening column [21 Oct 2011]
by Joseph Atkin, head gardener at Aberglasney House and Gardens in the Tywi Valley. South Wales Evening Post column for October 22.
When you visit a garden such as Aberglasney, you will notice that the emphasis is now very much on conservation and education.
When I first went to Kew Gardens in London, I knew conservation was very much on the agenda. What I did not fully appreciate was the key role that all gardeners have to play in plant conservation.
Yes, we can all grow British natives in our gardens and create wildlife areas, but what about further afield?
When you look in your own gardens, you will notice that many if not all of the cultivated plants are actually foreign.
Many will come from all over the world - such far flung places as China and Australia.
A trip to the local roundabout will probably show you Phormium and Cordyline from Australasia, Viburnum from China and many other plants that are very exotic but now seem commonplace.
So, by growing these plants (which are often very scarce in the wild), we are actually conservationists ourselves.
How many of us have a Gingko tree or Prunus serrula (Tibetan Cherry) in our garden or street?
Both of which are very rare.
So, besides travelling around the world helping conservationist to save rare plants, what can we do as gardeners?
There are a number of things we can do, such as growing plants from specialist nurseries.
Rare in the wild does not necessarily mean expensive or hard to grow. In fact, many of the new bulb plantings and Hydrangea at Aberglasney are quite rare but will be very easy to grow.
One of the most exciting new plantings we are making is a Wollemi Pine which is the most famous new plant to be found this decade.
It is very similar looking to a Monkey Puzzle, but less vicious and more graceful. It has really nice new buds which ooze white resin - a character that you won’t see in other plants.
What is so special about it?
It’s one of the world's oldest and rarest plants, dating back to the time of the dinosaurs with less than 100 adult trees known to exist in the wild.
This plant is now freely available to buy, reasonably priced and a percentage of the profit is donated to the plant’s conservation worldwide. What this means is that gardeners like us can enjoy very rare plants that are collected and produced sustainably.
This project has been going for quite some time, and it is great to see the Wollemi Pine in plenty of public gardens.
It will also make a great plant in the larger home gardens, being evergreen.
As a gardener, it is great fun to able to tell people the history of a plant and where in the world it came from. With the help of the internet, it is now quite easy to check where plants came from, so we can all be botanists and conservationist.
Tips for the Week
Look for some wild foreign plants in your garden and find out where they come from.
Keep clearing up the leaves. It’s hard work, but it really helps the lawn and borders.
Remove any garden waste to compost heaps and clean up old pots etc as they are a haven for slugs and snails.
Keep looking for seed that you might want to collect.
Now is a great time to sow tree and perennial seed - outside in a cold frame is often best.
Late summer to autumn is a good time to prune Magnolia. It is pretty much last chance this week.
Joseph Atkin's South Wales Evening Post gardening column [20 Sep 2011]
As summer wanes and the crisp air signifies the beginning of autumn you hear the odd thud or crack in the distance.
Having worked in orchards, you instantly know this is the sound of apples falling from trees or laden branches snapping.
September is often a highlight in the fruiting season.
At Aberglasney, the Belgian fence is crammed with fruit and the old apple tree kitchen garden carpets the floor with apples.
Apples offer far more than just fruit or crab apple jam or any of the eating and drinking products we are so familiar with. There are some fantastic ornamental trees which are grown only for their ornamental value. Like many of you I would agree that edible fruit trees and their blossom are quite beautiful in themselves.
Fruit aside the early blossom and autumn colour of fruit trees is a welcome addition to the garden.
However, what the ornamental trees can give you is a very long late season of interest. In fact, this article is a little early as they are often at their best in the snow or frost.
What ornamental apples give you is usually excellent blossom followed by pleasant foliage ornamental fruit and autumn colour. In addition to this the fruit persist well into winter.
At Pershore some even persisted through a chilly -19.50C and were still on the branches in late February.
If you add all these different attributes together what you realise is that they are really good garden plants. Like most fruit trees they can be grown on different root stock to dictate final size and are very cold hardy.
They make excellent free standing trees in lawns or can be used in wild flower meadows, the latter is particularly useful as they increase the length of interest with blossom before and fruit after the meadow has flowered.
They also make excellent urban trees as they can be kept compact on dwarf rootstocks.
Alternatively they can be trained as wall shrubs or on arches at Aberglasney there is a Malus sargentii trained on an Arber which gives a wonderful spring and autumn show.
This particular plant is excellent for this job as it can trained very successfully and cloths its support very well.
It is extremely popular in blossom and the late season dark red crab apples make a wonderful show over a long period.
The trick to getting the most fruit and blossom is to regularly spur prune the extension growth back to 3 buds. Normally this work is carried out once or twice a year with conventional fruit trees. However if you want a really tight compact shape to allow for better flowers and fruit it is best done once a month over the growing season.
Another favourite at Aberglasney is Malus x atrosanguinea ‘Gorgeous’ which has larger brighter fruit on a small tree.
This year the branches are almost breaking with the weight which gives the tree a nice weeping habit.
This variety is excellent for the small garden as it stays compact and short.
Another really good variety is Malus ‘Sun Rival’ which is slightly larger than ‘Gorgeous’ but similar in habit and fruit. It makes an excellent tree for a lawn or border and has few but more striking fruit. For a really good tough long lasting fruiter then Malus x robusta ‘Red Siberian’ is one of the best generally sold as a small tree it is extremely hardy and the fruits last through to the following spring.
There are very many ornamental apples available like ornamental cherries there is a huge variety.
The important thing to look for when choosing is that it is the right size for your needs, has a good strong graft and is disease free.
Tips for the week
•Bulb planting now is the beginning of the season Narcissus first but later flowering types like Tulips can be left right into November
•Seed Collection from Hardy annuals (make sure you label them)
•Scarify the lawn or re seed as there will still be enough growing time for it to recover
•Make rakes to store and ripen picked fruit cool airy places are best and be careful not to bruise them.
Malus sargentii, top, and Malus Sun Rival, below
Joseph Atkin's South Wales Evening Post gardening column [14 Sep 2011]
There is certainly a feeling that summer is coming to an end, especially with this wet and windy weather.
This is a time of year when you want time to stop and summer to continue. However, it is not all gloom.
Autumn heralds more than just autumn colour, like spring there is a flush of late colour.
This late colour is welcomed with the onset of winter, as it gives the garden a final burst of interest before cutting back the herbaceous perennials starts.
In the wild, there are many plants that either lay dormant through the summer or come into growth very late in the summer.
These wild plants have either become garden plants or been breed into cultivation for this characteristic.
Some are simply late flowering or bulbs that grow in spring and flower in autumn like Crocus or Colchicum.
One of the famous late summer and autumn flowering plants is Cyclamen (pictured above under a tree at Aberglasney).
There are many different types flowering in spring or autumn.
These include the Persian cyclamen or florists cyclamen which lies dormant in the summer and comes into life late summer.
At Aberglasney, we are lucky enough to have three fine stands of Cyclamen hederifolium that are in full bloom at the moment. They can easily bloom well into October and grow really well under trees.
In fact, our best stand is in really dry shade under a giant Western Red Cedar tree.
Two really good shrubs that often get over looked are the Chinese privets Ligustrum lucidum and Ligustrum quihoui.
Both these plants are hardy evergreen with fantastic sprays of white flowers in the autumn.
The flowers last for a long time and the plants are very neat and tidy the rest of the year.
They are also really popular with the bees and both have the award of garden merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Sourcing these plants will be a little tricky and probably require a few phone calls to specialist shrub nurseries.
There is also some really good late summer flowering perennials a particularly good one is Anaphalis triplinervis (pictured above) which makes an excellent cut or dried flower.
At Aberglasney, it forms neat clumps of grey leaves with tufted white flowers from August well into September.
I would even guess it will go into October.
Despite its grey leaves and a delicate flower it thrives in Aberglasney’s damp conditions but also does well in drier situations.
The Monks hood (Aconitum) is a famous but poisonous late summer flowering plant. There are very many different types available now - one of my favourites is a climber called Red Wine which scrambles through a spring flowering shrub giving two seasons of interest.
Most, however, are different shades of blue and very tall erect plants.
Some varieties are only just coming into bloom at the moment and will go on well into October.
One of the best late summer flowerers are the Japanese Anemones which flower well into the autumn.
They have sprays of white or pink buttercup like flowers up to about two metres tall. Again there are now many different types to choose from.
One down side to these plants is they can take a while to establish and once they do they can be a bit too vigorous.
Overall, the British gardener is quite well armed for the autumn as there is an excellent range of hardy plants to complement the tender perennials that flower well into the autumn.
The trick is getting the balance right so the interest continues all season.
•While it's fresh in your head make a note of what has done well for you so that you can try it again.
•Seed collecting. Now is the high season to collect from plants you want to propagate from, especially hardy annuals.
•Keep an eye out for disease, especially on the fruit trees. Early removal can make all the difference.
•Try and clear away any fallen fruit as it takes the wasps away from the good fruit.
Pictures show: Cyclamen under a tree and Anaphalis triplinervis