Barlow Nurseries

Growers of trees, shrubs and hardy herbaceous perennial garden plants near Newport, Shropshire

Archive for the ‘General gardening’ Category

Lychgate border

Wednesday October 9th 2013

BaGaPhoMo, day 14

The Lychgate border is starting to look distinctly autumnal.

Lychgate border autumn colour

Sambucus ‘Black Beauty’ in the foreground, Euonymus elatus in the middle, Rhus typhinia behind that, and Vitis cognetiae climbing on the Lychgate.

Dead head promptly…

Friday September 20th 2013
Woodfield lupin Sept 2013

Woodfield lupin, flowering September 2013


Lots of our herbaceous perennial bed cards include advice to “dead head promptly to encourage a second flush of blooms later in the season”.

If our own experience is anything to go by, a combination of sloth and the fact that lots of plants have really attractive seed heads, means that this advice doesn’t get followed as often as it could, and that second flush never happens.

But it is good advice!

The lupin in our picture, photographed a few days ago in our front garden, is obviously blooming for the second time this year.

It did its thing as usual back in June, and largely because we find lupin seed heads particularly unattractive, it got dead headed very promptly.

And look, a proper second flush!

We must have had a bit of a dead heading frenzy (and boy do we feel smug about it now) because we’ve also got Anthemis, Centauria, Geums, Geraniums and Salvias flowering for the second time in the same border.

So now we’re thinking we should amend the advice on our bed cards to read “always include at least one plant in your borders that has spent flower heads that you really hate, then you’ll be sure to get some dead-heading done”.



Sunday November 18th 2012

The thermometer recorded an overnight low of very nearly minus 5 celsius last night; another one for the disappointingly-sharp-and-early frost tally. But at least the foliage that is still hanging on to some of the deciduous shrubs was looking lovely.

Physocarpus Lady in red


This is Physocarpus ‘Lady in red’ – it has deep red foliage through the growing season, but lightens to an altogether brighter and more translucent shade in autumn. The best of both worlds really – a foliage colour other than green in spring and summer, but still interesting colour shifts in autumn.

And the slowest of the deciduous trees in the garden – a common oak – has finally decided its growing season is coming to an end. It’s always the last tree to come into leaf in spring, and the last to bow to the shorter and colder days of autumn.

Common oak Quercus robur autumn colours

Autumn's last gasp

Winter must be just around the corner.

The last hurrah

Monday October 15th 2012

We had our first proper frost at the weekend; we’ve had several nights already this autumn where the thermometer has just touched zero, but this was the first proper white-over. The nursery thermometer showed an overnight low of minus 3.

The garden has been remarkably colourful into autumn this year (largely because it’s been such a late season – we still have flowers on plants that would normally be well over by now) but it looks like the weather is going to sound the death knell for this years display pretty soon.

The borders should stand a few more frosty mornings – and don’t they look good with a coating of frost? – then it’ll be hibernation time for the plants, and grand autumn tidy time for us.

Seasons end

Seasons end


Monday May 28th 2012

One of the things Christopher Lloyd disliked about his world famous garden at Great Dixter was the fact that it was rarely his own;  even getting up very early would not guarantee him a personal viewing.   In one of his books he laments the fact that going out at dawn, expecting solitude, he’d sometimes find himself sharing the garden with an early-rising photographer.

We can see both points of view – there is something special about the garden in the very early morning.   At this time of year, when the dawn chorus is loud enough to wake you, the weather warm, but the season still early enough for the dews to be heavy, the atmosphere in a garden can be magical.   It’s not something you’d want to  share with a stranger, no matter how noble their plan to record the scene for posterity.

But equally, it is worth trying to record;  the low soft light of the early morning is just so much kinder than the harsh light of day.

Our picture doesn’t come close; set the alarm for 5 in the morning and see…..

The garden at dawn

The garden at dawn. Note the artful juxtaposition of gently backlit foliage with the harsh brutalism of the nursery polytunnel in the middle distance

What does this photo say to you?

Wednesday March 14th 2012

Prince Charles is famous for talking to the plants in his garden; conversely, sometimes the plants in our garden talk to us….

This one is saying “There will be blueberries soon….”

Fit to burst...just as soon as the sun comes out

Fit to burst…just as soon as the sun comes out

Spring is very nearly sprung – if the weather was just a little warmer, we’d have leaves bursting by now.   Sadly, our little bit of Shropshire has been shrouded in cloud for the last several days, leaving the temperatures finger-nippingly chilly, but any day now…..

Volunteer garlic *

Saturday March 10th 2012
Looking good....

2012 plants looking good....

Our garlic was a disaster last year.

Not one of the (many) cloves we planted made it to bulb status, and 2011 saw not a single meal flavoured with home grown garlic.

It was our own fault.

Garlic needs frost, and we’d left planting it until March; if luck had been with us we’d have had a few late frosts (it must be a sign of the times when post-March frosts can be described as “late”) but last spring was exceptionally mild (and dry) and the garlic clearly wasn’t having any of it. Some of the cloves we planted threw up rudimentary leaves, but that’s all they managed; after a couple of months sulkily doing nothing more, they withered and died.

This year we were determined to get it right, and we had our garlic in the ground by early February. We’ve had plenty of sub-zero nights since, and the 2012 garlic is looking good….but somewhat surprisingly, so is some of the stuff we planted a year ago.

We thought we’d cleared the bed of all the failed cloves, but it was hard to be sure once they’d popped their clogs and disappeared back underground, and we clearly made a pretty poor job of it. You can see from the photo below that quite a few have been quietly biding their time, and are now having a second go at growing. And judging by the number of leaves being thrown up, some of the cloves had made at least a rudimentary attempt at forming bulbs.

2011 sowings looking good too ?

2011 sowings hanging in there

So are we set for a double crop of garlic this year? Have the 2011 cloves really survived 12 months in the soil? Will they make it to harvestable bulbs? Honestly, we have no idea, but we haven’t the heart to pull them up, so watch this space!

* Everyone likes a bit of jargon don’t they? The more arcane the better of course, and if it has no intuitive meaning either, you’re off to buzz-word heaven.

If you’re not a farmer, agronomist, or hobby reader of agrochemical data sheets, you’ve probably never had the urge to refer to any of your horticultural offspring as “volunteers”.

We’re neither farmers nor agronomists, but we have been known to browse the occasional agrochemical manual, and have been entertained by the idea that the remnants of an earlier crop germinating amongst a newly sown one are known (for no immediately fathomable reason) as “volunteers”. The jargon is usually on an agricultural scale of course, and refers to “volunteer cereals” or “potato volunteers”, but we guess they won’t mind us borrowing their term.

What happens when you forget to prune your Willow….

Monday July 4th 2011

Mostly what seems to happen is that visitors say “ooh, I like your bamboo” or, “what sort of bamboo is that?” or, “you’ll have to be careful,that’ll take over the garden!”

Salix, or Bamboo?

Salix, or Bamboo?

We could try and pretend that this is all the result of a carefully thought out plan, but as so often happens, this particular planting scheme is entirely serendipitous.

We’ve always liked the coloured bark Salix (there are some wonderful plantings in the spring garden at RHS Rosemoor) but when we planted these a few years ago their strongest talent seemed to be for sulking on our sales tables, and failing to attract many customers (they do look a bit dull in a pot!).

We never like to see good plants go to waste of course, so a small corner of the Lych Gate Border was declared a rest home for unsold Salix, and three of them were liberated from their sales table torpor, and planted in the garden.

And boy have they settled in! Conventional gardening wisdom is that you prune these things down to the ground each spring, having enjoyed their coloured bark through the winter, and the new stems which then regrow (with alarming speed) are ready to wow you next winter with colours which only the extremely youthful (or recently pruned) would dare sport.

But we forgot the conventional wisdom, or never got round to it, or…well, for whatever reason, we didn’t prune, and what should have a been a modest stool yielding a few feet of demure new growth is in fact a gangly thicket of yellow stems and lime green foliage, doing what we have to admit is a more than passably good impersonation of a bamboo intent on world domination.

But more (OK, entirely) by luck rather than design, it works doesn’t it?

We will prune it next spring – but all of it down to the ground, or maybe just half the stems?…we’ll think on that – and for the moment we’ll enjoy our “bamboo”, with none of the worry that we’re nurturing the monster that that genus so often entails.

Welcome back Monty

Saturday March 12th 2011

All’s well with the world … Gardener’s World is back on the telly, and after a couple of years in the wilderness, it’s back where it ought to be – in the presenters own garden.

Monty Don is not everyone’s favourite gardening presenter, but his return to the helm of the country’s flagship gardening programme does seem to demonstrate that  the internet may have brought a new democracy to the way that decisions are made at the BBC.

The beeb’s attempts to modernise Gardeners World over the last couple of series have been pretty much universally lambasted, but the loudest, and most sustained critical chorus has surely been that on the corporations own message boards, where posters have roundly condemned virtually all aspects of the show over the last two years.

As a result, the (very expensive) garden created especially for the series (on a former rugby pitch in Birmingham) has been abandoned, 2 of the presenters have departed, and the programme has returned to its roots with a single presenter working from his own garden, and other items being contributed by other presenters from other locations.

A very substantial and costly change, in what appears to be a response to feedback from the (really very few) viewers who bother to post on the BBC’s gardening message boards.

And having started to listen to its viewers, the producers seem intent on continuing to do so – in the first episode last night, we had Monty showing us around his garden, and making the point that the flower borders were a central feature (many of the fears expressed about his return to the show concerned his image as a veg man, and that ornamental horticulture would not get enough coverage).

He also explained how his clipped box balls had been grown from his own cuttings (they would have cost a fortune to buy) and that his box hedging had been bought cheap from a newspaper ad, and that his avenue of pleached lime trees had only cost 50p each (20 years ago!) – all we suspect intended to address another message board worry that Monty might be a bit of a gentleman gardener, and not in touch with normal gardens, and normal budgets.

And he even tried to mend a few bridges with the horticulture industry (who he upset when he mentioned in a recent  interview that he hadn’t bought anything from a garden centre for 15 years) by explaining that although he was sowing his beetroot seeds in his own home made compost, he sometimes bought compost (no, really!) and it didn’t really matter to do so.   Nearly an olive branch to garden centres.

So, democracy works, feedback rules, producers reduced to putty in the hands of the message boarders.   What will they change next?

Note to self….

Sunday October 24th 2010

Next year, one plant per variety of pepper will be enough…..(what on earth are we going to do with all these?).

Capsicum Hot Cayenne

Capsicum 'Hot Cayenne'

Capsicum frutescens

Capsicum frutescens

Capsicum Mohawk

Capsicum 'Mohawk'

Capsicum Bell Boy and Romano

Capsicum 'Bell Boy' and 'Romano'

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