Barlow Nurseries

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

Archive for the ‘Nova News editorials’ Category

Do the Chelsea, do the Chelsea….

Tuesday May 18th 2010

While most gardening priorities at this time of year involve bedding plants, hanging baskets, and setting out tender vegetables, it’s also important to spare a thought for the perennial plants that will be delivering colour and interest to our borders later in the season.

In recent years it’s become popular to use the annual beano that is the Chelsea Flower Show as an alliterative reminder that it’s time to take the secateurs to the taller (and potentially floppier) late season flowers in the herbaceous border, and do the Chelsea Chop!

Short back and sides, sir ?

Short back and sides, sir ?

Tracy DiSabato-Aust managed to stretch this to a whole book, but for those of you who are more inclined to garden than read, here’s the Barlow’s Digest version of the technique.

To do the “chop” you remove the topmost few inches of growth (yes, all the flower buds!) from plants such as Sedum, Rudbeckia, Helenium, and Heliopsis, so that they’ll re-shoot from lower down their stems, and make squatter, more robust (and self supporting!) plants.   It will delay flowering by a couple of weeks, but that sacrifice is more than compensated by the fact that the plants won’t fall over, will not need staking , and will actually have more flowers.

Our picture shows 2 Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ in our garden, one chopped, one not (but soon will be!).    If you’ve never done it before, it’s definitely a grit your teeth, cruel to be kind sort of moment;  but you’ll have forgotten all that angst by September, and you won’t be looking at your borders wishing you’d spent more time staking and tying!

Nova News editorial spring 2010

Sunday March 21st 2010

We write editorial to accompany our regular advertisements in our local free advertising magazine Nova News.   The print deadline is about a month before publication date, so writing topically about gardening is a bit of a challenge, if not a gamble, especially this year.

Anyway, here’s the editorial from the current issue, which publishes this week….

There doesn’t seem to be much agreement on when Spring actually begins.  According to the Met Office it’s March 1st;  sun watchers will tell you it didn’t start this year until 17.32 on March 20th (the vernal equinox);  Gardener’s World viewers are never quite sure when it’ll start (or if after it has, if it’ll be cancelled because of the snooker).     Others might tell you Spring hasn’t arrived until they’ve heard the first cuckoo, or the roar of the first lawn mower, but whichever definition you follow, you should have a spring in your step by now, so enjoy!   It’s the best season of the year!

Poised for action....

Poised for action....

After the winter we’ve just endured we’re surprised and delighted to find sun or our backs at last, and have been marvelling at the resilience of the plant world – our picture shows a rhododendron bud poised to deliver a burst of colour to the garden, and apparently entirely unphased at the arctic temperatures it’s just endured.

And we’re looking forward to a wonderful summer;  it seems only reasonable to expect that after a “proper” winter we should get a proper summer, and  we’re gardening like crazy so we’re ready.   We’ve been frantically sowing, taking cuttings, potting up and potting on for some weeks now, and the nursery is at last shaking off winter, and waking up!

We’ve been busy in the tree department too, and have added new aisles so we have an even bigger selection to choose from (450 trees at our spring stock check!).    And we continue to extend our range of shrubs and herbaceous plants, trying always to include species that you won’t find in many other places, so if you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, call in!

If some of the plants in your garden haven’t made it through the winter, don’t be too despondent.   It’s an opportunity to ring the changes!   And if you some of your plants look as if they only made it through winter by the skin of their teeth, listen to what they’re telling you – they’d like to be somewhere warmer, or perhaps freer draining , so give them what they want.  Uprooting a plant and shifting it to a new site in the garden isn’t actually as daunting as it sounds, and the plant will likely thank you for it and perform much better in future years, so get the spade out, and do a bit of re-styling!

And if some of your plants need a bit of a post-winter tidy – be bold!   Most people are worried about pruning and tend to be overly cautious; don’t be – cut dead shoots and branches right out, and if that leaves the plant unbalanced, prune what remains back to buds that look as if they will grow in the right way to re-balance the plant.   Be decisive, and let the plant know who’s boss;  make it do what you want, and it will thank you in the end.

And finally, If you enjoy garden visiting, the National Trust property Dunham Massey in Cheshire ought to be looking good right now.    A new 7 acre winter garden was installed last year, and it includes 200,000 spring bulbs, many of which should be doing their glorious thing just about now!


Wednesday July 15th 2009

…and the living is eeeeaseeey. Well, the weather is proving pretty benign, if not a little too warm (are we ever happy?) home grown fruit and veg is starting to appear on the menu chez Barlow, our new garden border (planted last autumn) is settling in very nicely, and all seems well with the world!

Mixed shrub and herbaceous border

Mixed shrub and herbaceous border

Our picture shows part of the new border we installed last October, and demonstrates just how quickly a blank space (it was formerly lawn) can be transformed into an attractive feature. The huge majority of plants were ordinary garden centre size specimens when planted (none of those huge expensive specimens you see on the telly here!) and our soil is poor, very free draining sand, so the border had pretty modest beginnings. Apart from hoeing (you always get plenty of weeds in newly disturbed soil) we’ve done virtually no maintenance, so it’s proved pretty easy gardening too. If you fancy transforming a bit of your garden like this, or having it all done for you, let us know – we’re happy to help!

We’ve had our first reports of lily beetle in Shropshire this season, so if your lilies (or fritillarias) are looking the worse for wear with lots of leaf damage, check for this voracious little beast. Left unchecked lily beetle can defoliate a plant to such and extent that it will be too weak to flower the following year, so it’s important to control them if you can. The adult beetles are very easy to spot (they are very bright red) but it’s the newly hatched grubs which do the serious damage. They’re pretty easy to spot too, if rather less pleasant – they hide in piles of their own excretia on the undersides of leaves. Adult beetles should be picked off and squashed; the grubs should be wiped off, and squashed too. You can also inspect the undersides of leaves for newly laid eggs (laid in small clusters, brown/red in colour) and squash these. Alternatively, if you’re happy using chemicals, there are several insecticides available which will control both adult and grub stages. There is only one generation each year, so a little vigilance now should get the problem sorted, and let you lilies live to flower another year.

Finally, a big thankyou to everyone who turned out for the open garden event at Hodnet Hall which we mentioned last time – the sun shone, the gardens looked wonderful (if you’ve never been, go!) and something over £7,000 was raised for the Severn Hospice.

Early summer

Friday May 29th 2009

Hasn’t it been a lovely Spring? It seems to have been one of the most benign we’ve had for years, and the plant world has responded with some spectacular displays; the blossom has seemed heavier, and the green shades stronger than ever. And the Met Office have promised us a “barbeque summer”, so alls well with the world! (Actually, we seem to remember the Met Office suggesting we were in for a decent summer last year, so we’re not holding our breath on that one, but we really hope they’re right).

Every gardening season seems to have its “must have” plant, and this year the increasing popularity of grow your own and healthy eating seems to have delivered the latest super food, the Goji Berry, to every gardeners wish list. Watchers of Gardeners World will remember Joe Swift planting them on his allotment last year, only to have to remove them a couple of weeks later when Defra declared them a health hazard (because many of the plants on sale at that time had been illegally imported from China). The horticulture industry has been working hard since then to produce Goji plants in Europe, and locally raised plants are on the sales benches at Barlow Nurseries now. They’re as easy to grow as tomatoes, are hardy down to minus 15 degrees so will crop year after year, are crammed full of vitamins and other good stuff, and most importantly, taste delicious!

We’ve been inspired by the grow your own trend too, and have added a small veg plot to our own garden, so we hope we’l l soon be eating our own lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, spring onions, carrots, beans (dwarf French and runner) courgettes, and butternut squash. Oh, and blueberries, gooseberries, cranberries, and Josta berries ( we’ve already started on the Rhubarb). We’re suckers for a trend at Barlow!

The new border we installed last autumn is starting to fill out nicely, and we hope to add a pool and further borders to the garden later in the summer, so after more years than we’re prepared to admit, we’re finally looking forward to having a garden attached to the nursery! Not only somewhere we can enjoy from time to time, but also a place where visitors can see many of the plants we sell in a garden setting.

And finally, a plug for an event combining gardening with a good cause – the Severn Hospice is hosting a garden festival at Hodnet Hall gardens on Sunday 31st May; Barlow Nurseries will be there selling plants alongwith several other local nurseries, the BBC Radio Shropshire team will be broadcasting their Gardeners Question Time live from the gardens, and there are 63 acres of gardens to explore. Entrance is £4.50, opening times 11am–5pm.


Sunday March 29th 2009

Hooray! It’s Spring! The sun is shining, the grass is growing, buds are bursting, what seemed like an interminably wet and cold winter has become a distant memory, and alls well with the world. It is most definitely time to garden!

Spring always starts early at Barlow Nurseries. The slightest hint of early spring sunshine turns our polytunnels into wonderfully inviting places to linger, and we’ve been busily potting and propagating ready for the coming season. By the time you read this the nursery will be bursting with plants full of promise for the growing season to come. We’ve added to our ranges in all departments this year, and have even wider selections of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous border plants to tempt you to fill that gap in the garden!

Betula utilis jacqmontii at RHS garden Rosemoor

Betula utilis jacqmontii at RHS garden Rosemoor

We managed a short trip to the south west in the autumn, and called in to see what was happening at one of our favourite gardens – RHS Rosemoor in Devon. The garden has only been owned by the RHS since 1988, having been donated to it by its previous owner Lady Anne Palmer, and most of what visitors now see has been developed entirely from scratch on land which was formally pasture. If you need inspiration to see what can be done in a short time from a standing start, go see Rosemoor! Our picture shows one of our favourite garden features, using what seems to be one of Rosemoor’s favourite trees, white barked Betula. There are dozens of Betula in the garden, with several different cultivars in use, but our favourite is Betula utilis jacqmontii, which you can see in our picture, and which is one of the cleanest whitest barked varieties. The trees are planted in groups of three in several places in the garden, with spacings varying from 2 – 3 mts apart, down to as little as 1 mt . They don’t get very tall, and their canopy is not too dense, so they are very well suited to many garden situations – they make a very striking feature, but will never dominate a space. We’re just trying to work out how we can work a group into our garden!

And finally, a seasonal reassurance – in spite of all the credit crunch doom mongering in the media, you can still enjoy your garden! In our experience, and anecdotal evidence from many other traders, life is going on much as usual; while there may be some contraction in spending on big ticket items, a trip to the garden centre still seems to be within reach, and surely there’s no better and more affordable way to mark the arrival of Spring than to spruce up the garden?

Winter, January 2009

Thursday January 15th 2009

You can’t keep a good plant down…

There’s not much going on in the garden at this time of year, and this year even more commentators and journalists seem to have fallen back on the seasonal page filler of “things that were flowering on Christmas day”. Although sometimes entertaining, the lists are not often very useful because they tend to consist of horticultural freaks and aberrations – plants that shouldn’t be flowering, but have for some reason missed the usual seasonal signals to stop, and have just kept going, and going, and going…

Hamamelis Jelena

Hamamelis Jelena

We’d never fall back on such formulaic nonsense of course – and so our list is very short (one!) and is a plant which you can rely on to bring a bit of colour to your winter garden every year, because that’s when it’s supposed to flower.

Our picture was taken in the first week of January, when even we were surprised to look out onto a winter wonderland scene (not quite snow, a very heavy hoar frost) and saw this Hamamelis in full flower. Its flowered for weeks, seems immune to even the minus 10 we’d had the previous night, and is guaranteed to brighten the depths of winter! Sadly, its rather unremarkable for much of the rest of the year, and so tends to get overlooked on the nursery benches during the usual planting seasons, but it’s a cracker right now isn’t it?

In the absence of gardening weather, we’ve been busying ourselves with indoor activities, and have been studying government regulations concerning composting (strange but true – tucked away in the deeper recesses of Brussels and Whitehall there are people making laws about compost). Unfortunately, we didn’t get more than a few sentences into the page before we came across:

(2) An operation does not fall within sub-paragraph (1) if it falls within paragraph (a) of Part B of Section 6.8 of Part 2 of Schedule 1.

At which point we decided to have a cup of coffee, and renew our allegiance to the plain english campaign. And we’ll get back to the regulations another day. Maybe.

We were very saddened to hear of the death of Peter Thompson late last year. Peter’s book Creative Propagation has been a source of reference for us for many years, and his passing is a great loss to gardening and horticulture. Not many of us will be able to make much claim to having left the world a better place than we found it, but the thousands, maybe millions of plants that are now beautifying the planet, and which will have been brought into existence as a result of Peter’s work, are a legacy of which he would surely be very proud.

And finally, a seasonal reminder – other than the lists of plants that didn’t ought to be flowering right now, the gardening media is currently full of stories suggesting that 2009 is going to be the year of “Grow your own”. The triple whammy of credit crunch, an increasing desire to know the provenance of our food, and the need to minimise our food miles is allegedly going to have anyone with a patch of ground raising their own produce this year. So get your seed orders in – there could be shortages! And if you’ve been bitten by the bug and are thinking of including a fruit tree or two, do it NOW! The bare root tree season finishes around the end of March.

Winter, November 2008

Saturday November 15th 2008

Do you garden organically? If the EU gets its way, you may soon find you’re not getting the choice…

There is a new regulation currently working its way through Brussels which will dramatically affect the number of garden chemicals available in the UK, and if it becomes law, you will see many familiar products disappearing from garden centre shelves.

Industry experts are predicting that as many as 85% of the chemicals currently used in agriculture and horticulture will be outlawed, and while the most dramatic effects will be felt in farming, gardeners might also be surprised when they try and buy weedkiller, slug pellets, or fungicides for their roses, and find that they too have been banned. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in brand-leading weedkiller Roundup is on the list, as are popular slug pellet ingredients methiocarb and metaldehyde. Many rose growers who rely on regular fungicide spray programs are seriously worried that their businesses will become unviable if the regulations become law.

When it comes down to it, Barlow Nurseries take as pragmatic a view as we can – if we can garden without chemicals we do, but if it comes down to “its us or the pests” we’ll reach for the sprayer. It’s nice to have the option.

The initial vote in the EU was on November 5th, and the regulation now goes forward for discussion by member states governments in mid-December. Watch this space – gardening may never be quite the same again.

Although its always been a bit unpredictable…we had a few unseasonal frosts in late October, and as a result the bare root tree season is already upon us, at least a couple of weeks earlier than we’d expected. At the time of writing, we‘ve already shipped our first batch of trees, and they’re settling into their new homes in customers gardens. If you’re thinking of adding a tree to your garden, or someone you know has one on their Christmas list, order soon. The early bird gets the best trees, and planting before the end of the year gives them the best chance to settle in well before they have to burst back into life in the spring.

The good news about leaf fall is that it means its time to make leaf mould – a thoroughly good way to stay warm in the garden, and one of the most satisfying clear-up tasks: a tidier garden, an exercised gardener, and the best soil conditioner known to man, all in one go! Even if you only have a few leaves to worry about, and don’t have space for a large netted bin, you can still have a go – just stuff wet leaves into black bin liners, tie the tops, pierce a few air holes, put them behind the shed and forget about them for at least a year, ideally two. Then treat you most precious plants to the best free mulch in the world!


Tuesday September 30th 2008

Its been a busy old month hasn’t it? Aren’t you glad you’re not a banker?

In the short time since we last found ourselves sitting here writing, that grand daddy of building societies The Halifax has eaten itself, the Bradford and Bingley, perhaps disappointed that those clever chaps at Cern failed to produce any black holes, has disappeared down one of its own making, and politicians in America have just spent $700 billion dollars of somebody else’s money on a “rescue plan” that nobody seems able to explain, and which no-one seems convinced will actually work.

Rhus autumn colour

Rhus typhinia dissecta autumn colour

Thank goodness for gardening!

Our picture shows a Rhus, taken in the last week of September, doing exactly what it should be doing, at exactly the time it should be doing it. And a damn fine job its making of it too. Isn’t it reassuring to think that there are still some certainties in the world?

Mother nature seems to have been somewhat confused herself recently of course; the last 3 seasons have been little more than a continuous cool damp blur, but the garden seems remarkably resilient – flowers still flower, vegetables still grow, and the trees continue to remind us which season it is even if the weather seems confused. While the rest of the world may seem to be going slightly barmy, there’s always solace in the garden!

And the gardening year rolls on; while the trees start to close down and put on their autumn spectacular, we’ve been taking our own advice at Barlow Nurseries, looking forward, and doing a bit of autumn planting – we’re completely restyling the herbaceous border in our front garden, and have begun work on a new large mixed border in the back garden, so you’ll notice some changes next time you visit the nursery! It’s still good planting weather for containerised plants, and should be for another month or so at least, so if you’ve still got gaps to fill or have a yearning for more substantial changes, there’s still time to do it . And doing it now is so much easier that leaving it until spring, when there’ll be so much else to do!

And once the autumn planting’s done, the bare root season will be upon us, and we’ll be busy supplying and planting trees and hedges – lifting starts around mid-November, and the early bird always gets the best plants, so if you’re thinking of adding a bit of structure or architecture to your plot, talk to us soon! Bare root plants are much cheaper than plants in pots, there’s a much wider selection available, and there’s nothing like a bit of winter digging to warm you up and put the world in perspective!

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