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In the past week we have planted up the last of the new beds. This one is the ‘prairie bed’ and we have used several grasses including Stipa tenuissima, Amenanthele lessoniana and Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’. We have also added some Echinacea purpurea and several clumps of Verbena bonarienis to give instant height and movement. With all of the cut flower and perennial beds planted we have now mulched them with Strulch to keep the weeds down and to retain as much moisture as possible over the summer months. Strulch is a wonderful straw based mulch with added minerals which will break down over time and improve the structure of the soil. We have also used it to mulch the new raised beds and the bed where the squash are growing.
One advantage of Strulch is that it is supposed to deter slugs and snails, so we will keep a close eye out for any new damage. We have not used it around the new basil and coriander seedlings which have just been planted out into old apple bushel boxes beside the polytunnel. Sadly it only took a couple of days before the slugs found them. We have now surrounded them with a wide, thick collar of baked and crushed eggshells and are hoping that these will prove too spiky for them to negotiate. Luckily we have access to a constant supply of eggshells from the Orangery Tearoom so are able to be generous with our application. We think that gardeners often find eggshells do not deter slimy pests because they don’t use a wide enough mulch. We will give you honest feedback next week about the success or failure of our tactics!
Watering is a daily requirement at the moment, and we are feeding many of the plants once a week, either with tomato feed, liquid seaweed or homemade comfrey tea. Happily this year’s annuals are all planted out and the biennials we have already sown for next year (such as wallflowers and foxgloves) are now big enough to be outside, so the need to water inside the Rhino greenhouse has dramatically reduced. Only the tomatoes and cucumbers are left inside. They are growing well and we should be picking the first tomatoes soon. The key at the moment is to carry on pinching out any side shoots and to continue to feed on a weekly basis.
The latest Better Borders course was a success, with a detailed look at how to plant and maintain a border for maximum year round interest. There was a chance to learn and practice the best way to deadhead roses (cutting down to the next leaf, not just snipping off the dead flower), and we also looked at how to rejuvenate perennials like Nepeta (catmint) and Geranium phaeum by cutting them back for a second flowering.
The new Certificate in Practical Horticulture, accredited by the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh, is already booking up and we expect it to be very popular with keen amateurs, those starting out with a new garden and professional gardeners keen to get a qualification. Do get in touch if you would like further information about this or any other courses.
Courses with availability in the coming months:
Plants for Free - Propogation & Seed Saving 6th September
All You Need to Know about Composting 7th September
Planning a Winter Cutting Garden 10th September
Certificate in Horticulture starts 11th September (10 weeks)
Introduction to Garden Design starts 12th September (6 weeks)
Lawn Care & Maintenance 14th September
Planting for Winter Structure & Colour 16th September
Plant of the Week
Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
This is one of the most valuable hardy ornamental grasses. A clump-forming perennial, deciduous grass which flowers in late June to early July, it has linear leaves with erect stems reaching up to 1.5m. The bronze panicals fade to brown and if left standing thoughout the winter they provide a sculptural feature. Calamgrostis x acutiflora grows in moist well drained soil, in sun or part shade. The old stems should be cut to the ground in spring just before new growth starts. The cultivar is named after Karl Foerster, a 20th century German gardener and nurseryman. During the Nazi era he employed Jewish workers and resisted pressure from the Nazis to propagate only native German plants. He died in 1970 aged 96. In 2001 the perennial Plant Associaton awarded Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' the plant of year.