Shrubs in Tubs

Shrubs in Tubs
Pieris japonica ‘Katsura’
Stunning mahogany-red new leaves. Sprays of crimson stained flowers in early spring. Plant in lime-free compost. 3ft x 2ft (90cm x 60cm)
By planting up pots and containers with evergreen shrubs, you’ll create longer lasting displays that provide interest all year round.
Many shrubs make wonderful long-term subjects for pots and, unlike seasonal bedding plants they can provide color and interest throughout the year. Although the initial outlay may be more than your usual seasonal selection, in the long term they are better value and far more rewarding. I grow a wide variety of shrubs in pots and use them to bring the garden onto the terrace, driveway and any other paved areas where planting in the ground is not feasible.
They make great focal points, and the wonderful thing about growing in pots is that you can change the planting picture so easily by moving them around, or by grouping them with a pot of bulbs, violas or perhaps a geranium or verbena for summer color.

Shrubs in Tubs
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Variegatum’
Dense and bushy with waved, blue-green leaves edged with cream. Good in sun or shade. 4ft x 2ft (1.2m x 60cm)
Growing in pots also enables you to grow those shrubs that you long for, but will not succeed on your soil. For example camellias make wonderful shrubs for pots; you can grow them in this way if you have alkaline soil and cannot grow them in the open ground. I particularly like Camellia ‘Jury’s Yellow’ with its pale outer petals and gorgeous lemon-yellow central ruff.

Colorful foliage

Shrubs in Tubs
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Admiration’
Orange-red leaves in early spring, turning red, edged gold in summer, flame in late autumn. Bright red berries in winter. Deciduous. 18in x 18in (45cm x 45cm)
As with any planting solution I believe that foliage interest is more important than flowers; it is more enduring and lasts through the seasons. Flower color is easy to add on a temporary basis. If you get the combination of pot and foliage right, the effect can have so much more impact than a plant in an unsuitable container. Fortunately terracotta pots are very forgiving and work well with a wide variety of colors.
However they are perhaps at their best with the warm tones of red leaves and stems. I often use Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter fire’ or Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ in a terracotta pot on the terrace in winter. The latter, known as the coral-bark maple is stunning when the sun catches its red twigs with the warm tones of the clay.

Shrubs in Tubs
Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’
Pink buds open to delicate white flowers in early spring. Leaves turn scarlet in autumn. Gives the effect of a bonsai grown in a pot. Deciduous. 3ft x 2ft (90cm x 60cm)
Glazed ceramic pots are widely available and are a great way of adding color to your garden. They offer wonderful opportunities to get creative with your planting. Imagine the shimmering silver leaves and white trumpet flowers of Convolvulus cneorum with a blue or black glazed pot, for example.

Shrubs in Tubs
Fatsia japonica
Large, dark green leaves and striking white flowerheads in winter. Great for a tropical effect in shade. ‘Variegata’ has leaves tipped with creamy white. 4ft x 3ft (1.2m x 90cm)
6.    Euonymus japonicas ‘Green Rocket
Long-term success
When it comes to planting up your container, I recommend that you choose a pot that the shrub is going to be happy in for a few years. If you use the right compost and feed and water regularly, a shrub can be happy in the same pot for five to ten years, or even longer.
The secret of success is to choose nice, big, good quality pots at the outset. I promise you, they always look a lot bigger at the garden center than they will when you get them home.

Shrubs in Tubs
Euonymus japonicas ‘Green Rocket’
Upright stems packed with rounded dark green shining leaves. Striking and architectural. Ideal for small, modern shady gardens. 3ft x 1ft (90cm x 30cm)
The sizes of plants quoted here are approximate in five years. Eventual size can be larger but can be restricted by pruning or trimming; growing in containers normally restricts the size anyway. All are evergreen unless stated otherwise. 
Shrubs in Tubs
Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’
Compact Japanese maple with narrow fingered red leaves on dark purple stems. Dense, leafy and compact and more weather resistant than other acers. Deciduous. 4ft x 3ft (1.2m x 90cm)
Shrubs in Tubs
Buxus sempervirens ‘Elegantissima’
Variegated box with creamedged small, deep green leaves. Excellent in shade. 2ft x 2ft (60cm x 60cm)

Shrubs in Tubs
Leucothoe Scarletta ‘Zeblid’
Emerging leaves are dark purple, turning green as they mature, then finally turn bronze and wine-red in winter. Plant in lime-free compost. 18ins x 18ins (45cm x 45cm)

Shrubs in Tubs
Skimmia x confuse ‘Kew Green’
Green flower buds in winter open to large clusters of lily-of-thevalley scented flowers in spring. 2ft 6ins x 2ft 6ins (75cm x 75cm)

It’s a shore thing

shore thing
The Sea Garden is a tiny border against the east facing wall of an extension tacked on to our house. There are distant views of the sea and soon after moving in we made it pretty by adding seaside plants, shingle mulches and shells. Two things went wrong. Plants like sea statice, seakale and, to an extent, sea holly need good drainage and on clay soil, during wet winters, they eventually rotted away. Then we had to dig a channel quickly to repair some leaking pipes and the border more or less disappeared.
While working at a gardening show last year I had a mad moment and bought an ornamental octopus made of wire and beads. Everyone else in the family says it’s ghastly, but I like it and will use it to provide a little much-needed inspiration for the resurrection of my Sea Garden.
Getting the all-clear
This is a good time of the year to get the clearing done, so we took down the dead stem from what had been a 20ft (6m) high cordyline, removed old foliage from a montbretia (the robust and fiery Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’) and dealt with the big weeds. I haven’t seen any signs of chalara (ash dieback disease) near the garden and ash seedlings germinate here wherever they can. We weed them out while still small but sometimes miss the awkward ones whose roots find a safe anchor beneath some concrete and are impossible to grub out.
From autumn to winter is ideal for cutting down unwanted saplings and applying a glyphosate-based stump killer to the freshly cut surfaces. (You need to get on with this quickly before sap starts to rise.) The instructions usually tell you to make a cross in the surface, apply the product and then cover with polythene to keep the rain off.
Our enormous and venerable Swiss cheese plant thoroughly enjoyed the house plant programme of the Great British Plant Revival shown on Chanel Four just before Christmas. He(strictly it) loved the orchids and streptocarpus but wondered why no plants were shown growing inside their homes – they were all in greenhouses, polytunnels or even outdoors.
He would like to add how much he likes living in our sitting room listening to conversations, watching TV and hanging out with his pals Medinilla and Adiantum. He’s doing his best to join in with family life and has even sent out aerial roots to act as tiebacks for the curtains.
shore thing
Grub out unwanted ash saplings or treat freshly cut surfaces with a glyphosate-based stump killer
shore thing

Ivy can be highly invasive and requires constant pulling back or weeding out to keep it in check

shore thing
Brambles are removed by
digging their roots out using a
spade with a V-shaped blade

Early Veg Sowing

Early Veg Sowing
Tomatoes, peppers, chilies…we can make early sowing of them all

Sowing seeds of tomatoes, peppers and chilies is not difficult – even at this time of year – providing you follow a few simple rules. But is it really worth sowing these tender plants so early? Well, in my view, if you can, you should. Just a couple of plants of each will reward you with plenty of delicious fruits – and by sowing now, and growing the plants in a warm greenhouse, you’ll be picking in early summer, way before the traditional cropping time. There are all kinds of tomatoes to try – from the red varieties, through to green, orange, purple and even striped tomatoes. For shapes and sizes, you can grow the tiniest of cherry types, through to the huge beefsteak varieties. For tomatoes to be cropped under cover you can start sowing seed from mid-January to early February (heated greenhouse), or from late February to mid-March (unheated greenhouse).
For peppers growing under glass, sow from now on wards; for plants to be grown outside, sow from late March.

Quick tip
After they have germinated keep tomato seedlings at 18˚C (64˚F); and peppers at 16-18˚C (60-64˚F)
Early Veg Sowing Temperature gauging
THIS EARLY in the season, with days still dark and cold, getting the temperature right for your tomato and pepper seeds is crucial; later in the spring, when ambient temperatures are warmer and light is more intense, there is greater leeway.
Tomatoes, peppers and chilies, however they are sown (see below) should all be kept at around 21°C (70°F), ideally in a heated propagator, until the seedlings emerge.

 3 ways to sow the seeds now
Early Veg Sowing
1. Space sowing:
The traditional sowing of tomatoes and peppers is to fill a small pot with a good, damp, multipurpose compost, and to ‘space-sow’ the seeds – so they are about 1in (2.5cm) apart.
Early Veg Sowing
 2. Jiffy pellets:
These compressed peat pellets hydrate when soaked in tepid tap water for about 20 minutes. The pellets are also fertilized. Lightly press one or two seeds into the center of each pellet.

Early Veg Sowing
 3. Seed Mats:
These presown biodegradable mats are placed on a small pot of compost. Sutton's Seeds offer tomato and pepper mats (three varieties in each pack) and others.

Feed the Birds in Garden

Feed the Birds in Garden
Well-wooden gardens offer perching places for bird calling in for food or water Seed
     As the cold of winter bites and plant growth slows down, the natural food resources for birds diminish. This results in migration and temporary relocations for many of our feathered friends, which means there is always an influx of birds to gardens where artificial feeding and watering stations are kindly provided. Debate always rages on this subject, as to whether it is beneficial or detrimental to the birds in the long run. 
Feed the Birds in Garden
Birds visiting an ornate feeding house
    Whatever the answer, gardeners continue to provide food and water for birds as the human population expands and diminishes the natural habitats of all forms of wildlife.
A little practical advice on feeding birds in the garden includes positioning feeders where the birds feel safe and comfortable. Also keep them off the ground if domestic pets are a threat. While birds would usually prefer to feed on the floor, this is not always possible. They need twiggy branches in dose proximity to alight upon during arrival and departure. Secluded and protected areas are usually preferred to exposed positions where birds of prey can strike.
     There are different types of artificial bird feeders for the various diets that birds require. Seed is the most common and easiest form of garden bird feeding. Fruit, insect and nectar feeders are a little more specialized and required more care and attention than simply scattering some seed or grain in the garden.

Feed the Birds in Garden
Sunbirds flock to flowering aloes, especially during the lean winter months
Seed-eaters (doves, sparrows, canaries, weavers, manikins, widowbirds, bishops, whydahs,  waxbills, firefinches). 
These birds visit garden frequently and readily to feed on the different seeds and grains placed in bird feeders or simply sprinkled on the ground.
Large seeds like sunflowers attract thick-billed weavers to the garden, while smaller seed attract a wide variety of smaller birds. Large birds like doves and flocks of weavers oftenchase the smaller species away by simply dominating the feeding territory. The smaller birds therefore often prefer to use smaller feeders that only allow one or two small birds to alight upon the feeding perches at a time. This prevents the larger types from sing the feeding station, and gives the manikins, waxbills and firefinches the chance to feed in peace.

Growing grass seed in a meadow-type planting also assist an attractive habitat for seed  eaters, although this may entail sacrificing part of the manicured lawn areas that tend to
be somewhat sterile from a bird’s perspective. The winter annual grass (Poa annua) that
is often viewed as a weed always attract the smaller bird species to the ample seeds that
set the cooler months. 

Feed the Birds in Garden Fruit
Fruit –eaters (bulbuls, mousebirds, barbets)
Fruit feeder are generally simple metal spikes attached to wooden logs or more sophisticated structures in the garden. Fresh fruit like apples, bananas, pears, and orangesegments are skewered onto the spike. Birds feed on the fresh fruit, but usually ignoreolder fruit that has started to shrivel or ferment, so fresh food needs to be set out on a daily basis. Garden that a frequented by monkeys have the fruit pilfered by these scavenging mammals, chasing the birds away.

Fruit and berry-producing plants attract these birds to the garden. However, many exotic plants are spread far and wide by birds that have eaten their fruit, leading to their classification as alien invader species. Be aware of this fact when planting fruiting plants.

Feed the Birds in Garden
Birds visit winter flowering shrubs for nectar
 Insect and Nectar
Insect-eaters (thrushes, chats, rock thrushes, robin chat)
Artificial feeders filled with sugar supplement attract birds that feed on nectar. Due care  needs to be taken in preparing the ‘sugar water’ and the subject needs to be thoroughly researched to use these feeders effectively.

Certain plants that bloom in winter with nectar rich flower are important for supporting  bird life during this time of famine. Aloes are the most significant group of plants in the  local garden environment during winter, providing nectar and food to numerous birds  including see, fruit, and insect-eater. Often starling, orioles, rock thrushes and weavers  are seen feeding on aloe flowers.

Feed the Birds in Garden
Ornate fountains can also serve as practical
Water in the garden
In the summer-rainfall regions a regularly supply of fresh, potable water is vital for garden bird life. Often more birds can be seen at the watering points than at feeding 
stations. Fill them up with clean water regularly, almost on a daily basis, and the birds
will reward  you with their undivided support. There are numerous bird baths, waterbasins an ponds that fit the bill. Flowing water and artificial water features also serve a practical purpose in supplying drinking water to our feathered friends.
Give thought to lesser life forms during the winter months and provide food, water and shelter for them until spring returns with its bounty.

Feed the Birds in Garden
A rustic bird feeder hangs as a feature from a tree branch

Feed the Birds in Garden
Metal spikes secure fruit o a large log that also sports seeds and grains to attract a wide range of bird.

Feed the Birds in Garden
This wood and Perspex feeder keeps the seed dry, dispensing food as it is consumed to reduce wastage.

Feed the Birds in Garden
An attractive metal bird feeder. You can use old plough for this purpose.

Feed the Birds in Garden
A supply of water is just as important as food

Feed the Birds in Garden
Black-collared barbets visit fruit feeders during winter.

Feed the Birds in Garden
Rhamnus prinoides produces masses of berries that are feasted upon by fruit-eaters

Feed the Birds in Garden
Additional ornamentation adorns a fruit feeder

Feed the Birds in Garden
A dark-capped bulbul feeding on a banana placed on a metal spike in the garden

Feed the Birds in Garden
A cape white-eye at a nectar dispenser

Feed the Birds in Garden
Weavers on an Aloe ferox

Feed the Birds in Garden
A nectar feeder hangs in a likely spot.

Feed the Birds in Garden
Traditional rock grindstones make perfect, natural bird baths.

Feed the Birds in Garden
A bird bath in a shaded secluded setting

Tropical Twist

To soften the space, the new garden bed was subtly outlined with gently curving aluminium edging
Fresh, funky and family friendly, this rear garden provides a taste of the tropics.
To create a backyard that perfectly captures the personality and lifestyle of
the owners, sometimes you need to think outside the square, or in this case, the rectangle. When presented with a long and narrow rear garden comprised of a new lawn and several existing, highly angular features I will  bring everything together through a lush, tropical plantscape, which would “green” the rectangular space and soften the hard lines.
Plants of different heights were used to create the layered effect expected of a tropical garden.
 This was made possible through the tropical garden concept, which offered a relaxed and less formal solution for producing a coherent, holistic design. However, this approach was not without its challenges. As the majority of the established trees were to stay, this meant we had to be cautious of potential root competition for new plantings. Also, tropical planting usually requires the creation of deep garden beds to get maximum layering but, in this case, the owners wanted the lawn to be as large as possible.
So the family’s son had somewhere to play, creating as large a lawn as possible was a main priority.
 A mix of native and exotic plants with striking foliage, such as cordylines, birds nest fern, golden cane palms, elephant’s ears, turf lily, slender weaver’s bamboo and tiger grass. These were then interspersed with flowering plants, such as white calla lilies, clivias, Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ and various gingers, which off er seasonal splashes of color, contrast and interest. As ground cover, mondo grass and native violets were employed. The combination of foliage and floral-centric plants worked together to produce a range of heights, colors and textures, creating a richly layered tropical jungle effect.
Contemporary with a tropical twist, this newly landscaped backyard suits adults and children alike.
 The plants wrap around the perimeter of the garden, in the centre of which is a large, level lawn that provides a safe and open space where the owners’ son can play. While the rectilinear shape of the lawn offered some resistance to the creation of a casual tropical ambience, curved aluminium garden edging was incorporated along one side to soften the look and gently contrast the angularity of the deck and timber edging. To turn the deck into a great space for entertaining and bring some of the colors from the garden to the dining space, it was furnished with an urban-grey table made out of glass-reinforced concrete (GRC) and teamed with funky chairs in luscious lime. A contemporary tropical feel was also encouraged into the garden with the potted frangipani and cordyline that flank the dining area and help to define the adult entertaining space.
The deck was furnished with a contemporary table made of GRC and fun dining chairs in lime green.
At the far end of the garden, a stunning laser-cut Corten steel feature screen was installed, providing a focal point that can be enjoyed from the deck or when looking out from inside the two-storey home. The screen, which is backlit for added effect, was also installed to add warmth and textural interest to an otherwise soft-scaped area.

The existing timberedged beds were given a new lease on life with a flourishing new plant palette
We can approach each landscape design holistically and invest time with the homeowners to ensure we create beautiful, functional outdoor spaces that reflect their lifestyle, while ensuring the constraints of the site are met. And it seems this is an approach that has reaped rewards in the form of an innovative and inclusive design that meets the family’s every need.

My Garden My Therapy

There are a few gardeners who have the special talent of being able to turn a once decrepit backyard into a magical place filled with drama.

In many small suburban gardens the house divides the plot into two separate gardens, often creating awkward little corners that need special attention. It is some property that first caught.