What makes the colours in this photo of the Glasshouse border at RHS Wisley look so great together? The glowing yellow and orange heleniums practically hum with energy against the rich purple and deep blue of the Eupatorium and Veronicastrum. The reason for this effect is that orange and blue are complementary colours, as are yellow and purple.… Read more →
Along the roads near where I live in Teddington, the grass verges have suddenly become studded with bright yellow flowers. Yes, spring is here and the celandines are flowering. As a gardener, I’ve had clients point these little golden blooms out to me in the borders as weeds, and technically they’re probably right, but nevertheless, I’ve decided to make friends… Read more →
As my garden continues to look more and more like the Kalahari desert, I’ve been gathering advice on how to get it through this seemingly never-ending heatwave. Here are my top tips.
Watering tips for drought
• Water in the evening or the early morning. This gives the plants a chance to
absorb the water before the heat of the sun evaporates it.
• Take a bucket into the shower with you to catch excess water, and use this on shrubs and perennials (but not on anything that you’re going to eat). Don’t worry about the soapsuds – the plants will cope.
• Weeds take up water too, so get rid of them and let your precious plants have all the available water.
• Fit a rainwater butt if possible, so that you can make the most of any rainfall.
What not to do in a drought
• Don’t water the lawn. Grass is pretty tough. It might look brown now, but chances are it’ll come back to life once it gets some decent rain.
• Don’t mulch your beds yet. The mulch will make it more difficult for any rainwater to get through to the soil below. But do put a layer of gravel on pots to stop them from drying out. Just leave some soil exposed around the base of the stem to make watering easier.
Making your garden drought-resistant
• Once it’s rained and the soil is wet, that’s the time to mulch with a thick 5cm (2in) layer of compost. This will stop the moisture from evaporating from the soil. Also, over time worms will work the compost into the soil, improving its ability to retain moisture in drought and also to drain well in heavy rains.
• Get to know your garden’s micro-climate. Notice where frost pockets, damp areas, sunny spots and shade occur, and choose plants that will be happy in those conditions. Plants cope much better with temporary extremes of weather like drought if they aren’t already stressed.
• When establishing new plants, avoid watering little and often, which just leaves the top of the soil wet. Instead, water thoroughly but leave a few days between waterings. This will encourage the plant’s roots to go deep into the soil where they’re more likely to find water even in dry conditions.
• For thirsty vegetables like courgettes, make holes in the base of a plastic milk bottle and sink it into the ground next to the plant. To water, fill the bottle. The water will drain out of the holes into the soil, right next to the roots of the plant.
Back when I was an engineer working on construction sites, I always hoped that we would come across an exciting archaeological find when the foundations were being dug – Roman remains, perhaps, or a buried stash of gold coins. Disastrous for the project programme, I know, but it would have been fun. Anyway, today I had my own little archaeological… Read more →
I am covered in mud. My tools are covered in mud. My boots have so much mud on them that the soles are an inch thicker than usual. I have spent most of the past week planting in the rain – 650 plants in three days! (There were three of us doing it, I hasten to add – I’m not… Read more →