Monday, March 10, 2008

5 Things a Gardener Must Have

Gardening is fun and rewarding and may be considered a hobby, talent or both and sometimes it’s just luck. Gardening is not as easy as it looks and involves dedication, time and consistency and many trials and errors. There are many aspects to maintaining a healthy garden, but some aspects are more important than others. An individual who likes to garden can have the knowledge to produce the best garden in the world, but without the right equipment and materials it just wouldn’t be possible.

Below you will find a list of the top 5 pieces of equipment which gardeners simply cannot live without:

1. Trowel – A trowel is a shovel-like piece of equipment which is used to dig up dirt and set small plants. There are many styles to choose from and type of handle on your trowel will determine how well it works. Easy grip, non-slide and non-slip grips are the best form of handle to choose. These will be easier to use and will require less work than any other form of trowel. A trowel with no grip will be difficult to use and could end up ruining your garden. Try one out in your hand first to ensure it feels comfortable. There’s nothing like having your hand cramp or the trowel slip while using it to dig in a beautiful, new plant.

2. Pitchfork – A pitchfork is a gardening tool which has 2-6 prongs and a long handle. The sizes of pitchforks vary, depending on what they are being used for. The space between each prong varies as well. Pitchforks are used to separate, lift and throw loose pieces of material such as dirt and leaves.

3. Spade – A gardening spade has a long, thick handle and a heavy flat blade. This tool is used to dig up and move pieces of dirt from one place to another. It can also be used to pack down dirt once the flower has been planted.

4. Pruning Shears – Pruning shears are tools which have a long handles and blades. This type of gardening equipment is used to allow gardeners to precisely prune rose bushes and other plants and unruly vines, etc. It can also be used to cut the grass at the edges of walkways and garden beds, in those hard to reach places. It is also used to trim the edges and remove dead leaves or wood on flowers. There is no other piece of gardening equipment which can do the same job as pruning shears. Without the use of this piece of equipment, your garden will end up looking messy and disorganized. Always, always, always invest in good quality pruning shears. Good ones have a lifetime guarantee and low-end ones will make shrapnel of your heritage rose.

5. Wheelbarrow – A wheelbarrow is one of the larger pieces of garden equipment. It is a cart with a handle and at least one wheel which is designed for easy transportation of materials from one place to another. Purchasing a wheelbarrow will save you a lot of time and effort, especially if you are off to the compost heap, and will make for a pleasant gardening experience. Another option is the 4-wheeled gardening cart.

There are many pieces of gardening equipment which will make this hobby easier and more efficient, however the ones listed above are recognized as the most important. These pieces of equipment will likely last a very long time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Raising your own shrubs

A good way to stock a new garden with shrubs is to propagate your own. Not only does it save money, but growing a healthy plant from a cutting can bring a great sense of satisfaction. If you want to plant a large area using one type of plant, it is well worth propagating your own from one bought plant.

Not all shrubs are suitable for raising from cuttings. In general, the more expensive shrubs are more difficult to propagate, and are best bought from the garden center or nursery as plants. These include Acer palmatum var. dissectwn, azaleas, Cotinus coggygria, daphne, Elaeagnus pungens 'Maculata', Fremontodendron californicum, Garry a elliptica, hollies, lilacs, Mahonia x media 'Charity', rhododendrons, Viburnum carlesii and natives such as bottlebrushes and eucalypts.

Ground-cover shrubs can be easily propagated from cuttings, as well as certain types of hedging, such as lonicera and box. In mid to late summer, many types of shrubs can be taken as semi-ripe (that is, firm but not woody) cuttings and inserted into trays filled with a mix¬ture of equal quantities of compost and perlite, or vermiculite. Place the cuttings under a simple propagator made from garden wire bent into hoops and covered with polythene. Alternatively, insert the cuttings into the soil in a sheltered part of the garden and cover with the propagator frame. The young plants can be lifted the following spring and potted before you plant them out in the garden.

Floribunda roses for beautiful blooms all season

The name 'Floribunda' is of Latin origin and means "many flowered" or "abundance of flowers" and this variety of rose certainly lives up to its name. These roses have been described as some of the most colorful of the modern rose types. Typically, their flowers are arranged in low-growing large clusters. The Floribunda rose is the result of crossbreeding a Hybrid Tea and a Polyantha in the 1920's. The Floribunda is considered by many to be a better breed than the Hybrid Tea because of its capacity to produce many blooms over an extended period of time. Many people grow them for display rather than to use as cutting-flowers. They're a beautiful landscape plant that can produce an abundance of color season after season.

Floribundas, much like their ancestors, come in a large assortment of colors and styles. The difference is, however, that these flowers are much more vigorous and hardy than Hybrid Tea roses. Generally, Floribunda plants can grow up to four feet tall. A notable plant of similar size that has become increasingly popular over the last few years is the Rob Roy. Its roses, which offer a sweet soft scent, bloom in a deep red color. The flowers will bloom continually from spring until late fall provided there aren't any severe frosts. They're extremely bold in mass planting.

Prior to planting your roses, you should pick a garden location and get your soil prepared. Add a nice compost of manure or other organic matter to your soil. It's worth mentioning that active blooming roses flourish in a few inches of organic mulch. It's also suggested that you plant your flowers 18 - 24 inches apart from one another. You want to provide ample space for them to grow.

Dig a hole that will be deep enough for roots to spread without any restriction; about 8 - 10 inches deep is fine. If you wish, you can add bone-meal to the soil, as it is high in phosphates. Now you're ready to plant. Remove your plant from its plastic container and gently place it into the ground. Backfill the hole with loose soil and then pack any loose soil firmly with your palm. Repeat this process for every plant. When you're finished, water your new plants thoroughly. For the first couple of weeks, you should water your new roses on a daily basis. After that, a weekly irrigation should be sufficient.

Basic pruning should be done in late winter months. Most gardeners choose January or February, depending on their climate. Remove all debris and dead foliage from the plants and their flower bed surroundings. Snip any dead bark-like canes. Old flowers must be removed in order to promote new growth for the coming season.

Although you should try to maintain some shape to your roses, be gentle with the cuts. It's been noted by many horticulturists that Floribundas under one year of age flourish with a cane length of 6 inches. If it's warm enough you'll want to fertilize the ground during this time. Add organic matter to your soil and watch your flowers bloom beautifully in the months to come.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dealing with pests and propogating your garden

Most plants are generally trouble free, but from time to time they may be attacked by pests and diseases. If there is not much damage, or there are not many pests, it may not be worth taking action. Instead, let birds and other natural predators clear up the problem. For example, leave aphids that appear on shrubs and trees in spring, in particular on roses, for ladybird beetles, which will greedily devour them. However, you will still need to monitor any signs of attack to ensure that they stay under control. As a general rule, do not spray routinely against pests. Instead, try to encourage a balance between pests and natural predators.

Keep your plants healthy. Choose the right plant for the soil conditions in your garden and put it in the most suitable position. Ensure that newly planted shrubs are sufficiently watered and fed until they become established. A plant under stress because of lack of water is more susceptible to fungal diseases. Remove any dead or diseased foliage or stems to stop problems spreading to other plants.

Tonic for sick plants

If a plant lacks certain nutrients, it will look unhealthy - with pale or yellowing leaves, stunted growth or withering stems. In general, sick-looking plants are suffering from more than one nutrient deficiency. However, it can be difficult to identify which deficiencies a plant is suffering from, because there are so many different types, and symptoms can vary from plant to plant. As a quick and easy solution to reviving a plant that you suspect is lacking nutrients, give it a liquid feed that contains a good mix of trace elements or a foliar feed for faster uptake. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. Some liquid feeds can also be used at half strength as a foliar feed.

Elegance in your garden with hybrid tea roses

A modern rose, the Hybrid Tea Rose is the result of two old timers getting together: the Hybrid Perpetual and the Tea Rose. These gorgeous modern flowers grow on large stems and bloom throughout the year. Although this rose only gives off a faint scent, it makes up for this shortcoming with its many petals and tall stature. The Hybrid Tea Rose is commonly referred to as "your basic rose on a stick." These roses are the most popular roses to give or receive on special occasions.

A Hybrid Tea will look fabulous in any garden. Gardeners should plant them in rows by themselves. It's much easier to tend to them this way. Be sure to keep this area weed-free. These roses, like most flowers, do not take well to weeds. You should space your flowers approximately twenty-four inches apart from one another. This will ensure a good growth habit. If you're up for the challenge of growing hybrid tea roses, plant them this spring and start a tradition.

Many gardeners steer clear of the Hybrid Tea Rose because they're turned off by the idea of thorns. Well, the wonderful thing about this flower is that there are actually several thornless varieties! When you're shopping for these flowers, look for tags that read 'smooth' on the label. This, of course, implies that the rose is thorn-free. You can find these flowers in every color, with the exception of blue.

Hybrid Tea Roses require plenty of water during hot weather, especially if the hot weather is accompanied by dryness. Although most gardens require a good soaking every two weeks, other gardens require a weekly soaking. Regardless of the schedule, if the ground looks very dry and cracked, you should water your flowers. Placing mulch around your roses is a very good idea. The mulch will help prevent weeds and conserve moisture.

The Hybrid Tea Rose will most likely reach its full height after approximately three years. Even after pruning, the flower will grow back to this height annually. Most modern roses, such as the hybrid tea, live a span of six or seven years, and longer if the flower has been given exceptional care. It's important that your roses are given sun. Roses require a minimum of six hours of sun a day. Morning sun is essential to a rose's proper growth. The morning sun will dry up excess moisture and dew, which will help prevent diseases from developing.

In February, when your flowers are dormant, you'll want to prune your roses. Your first step will be to remove dead branches and damaged canes. In colder climates, you'll most likely have to cut all the old damaged wood. Look for lively green canes. Those are the canes that will produce buds in the spring. In warmer areas, remove any existing leaves from the plant, as this will promote new growth. Lastly, remove any debris from your garden. Now you're ready for spring. As spring approaches and your roses begin to grow, you should fertilize your home garden with a high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pruning for better results

As long as you keep to a few basic rules, pruning is not complicated - it can even be enjoyable. Prune little and often to keep your plants under control and in good health; it left for years pruning will build up into a massive task. Not all shrubs must be pruned each year, but they should be checked and lightly trimmed when they get untidy. It is important to know a little about the shrubs that you grow, to determine when and how to prune them.

When pruning, make as clean a cut as possible to avoid damaging the plant Try to prune to an outward-facing bud or pair of buds. On shrubs with lots of thin stems, such as lavender, Melalenca incana, Geraldton wax and Senna artemisioides, it is not easy or practical to make such a precise cut, so in order to save time, prune them with garden shears. After a few weeks they will lose their stark appearance.

Rejuvenating an old shrub

Old, overgrown, multi-stemmed shrubs can be rejuvenated by pruning them over several seasons. In the first year, in early spring, cut out a quarter to one-third of the old wood as low down in the plant as possible. This will encourage strong new shoots to grow. When the new growth is at its maximum - probably in mid summer - trim it back by one-third to make the plant bushier. In the second year, cut back the remaining old wood to leave only the new growth from the previous season.

Pruning Tips
  • Do use the right tool - secateurs for finger-thick branches, loppers for branches up to 3 cm thick, a pruning saw for anything bigger.
  • Do make as clean a cut as possible.
  • Do prune out all dead, diseased or damaged wood before starting to prune a shrub to shape.
  • Do cut out any frost-damaged shoots once frost-free weather has arrived.
  • Do remove any shoots with all-green leaves on variegated shrubs as soon as they grow, or they will take over.
  • Don't worry about pruning to a bud if the plant has thin, wiry stems.
  • Don't prune on wet, cold days, because wet foliage makes the job unpleasant. Choose a fine, dry day.
  • Don't prune if in doubt or unless the shrub really needs it.

Miniature roses are great accents for your garden

Whether you're planting miniature roses indoors or out, they are very easy to grow. Although these little guys have often been frowned upon because they give off little or no fragrance, they're the perfect accent to any home or garden. Miniature roses are practically maintenance-free. Just give them a "bath" once a week and they'll last forever.

There's a common misconception about miniature roses. When people hear the term "miniature," they assume these roses will make a perfect houseplant. Prior to moving your roses indoors, consider that miniature roses can grow up to four feet in height. This large house plant will undoubtedly need an ample source of light. The micro-mini roses however, only grow to approximately five inches in height and are just as easy to maintain. If you're still determined to keep your miniature roses indoors, there are several tips that will make caring for your roses a simple task.

Place your plant in direct sunlight. These flowers flourish in the sunniest windows of your home. If the stems of your miniature roses appear to stretch out, leaving wide gaps between the leaves, your rose is not getting enough light. You should either move the plant to a new location or provide supplemental light. Make sure to bathe your plant on a weekly basis. Spraying your plant will reduce the risk of a spider-mite attack. Gently mist the top and underside of the leaves. The spray will remove dust. Make sure that your plant looks comfortable in its pot. If the pot is too small, the plant will be cramped. If the pot is too large, your roses will be reluctant to grow.

Outdoors, most miniature roses bloom from spring until the winter season. If you cover your plant with mulch, it will have a good chance of surviving frost and the coldest winters. You can plant your roses directly into the ground, a hanging basket, or in an 8 - 10 inch pot. Make sure your plant isn't shaded by large trees or anything that will cast a shadow. These little plants love direct sunlight.

If you choose to plant your roses directly into the ground, dig a good hole about one foot in depth and width. Take your rose out of its pot and gently untangle any loose roots. Place the roots down into the hole. Take loose soil and refill the hole so that your miniature roses are planted levelly. Water your plant thoroughly. These same rules apply to potting your plant.

Don't let the soil dry out. The first three weeks are crucial to any plant's health. Water your new plant every day for three weeks. These roses do enjoy their water! However, after the three-week period is over, your goal is to keep your soil moist. Check the soil on a daily basis. If it feels dry, give your plant a little water.

Miniature roses will look great in your living room or along the edges of your flower beds or anywhere your home needs a little burst of color.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Routine shrub care

Maintenance tasks will need to be carried out regularly in order to help your garden to become established, and to keep it neat and tidy. If time is short, concentrate on weeding and watering new shrubs and trees. To ease the task of deadheading flowering shrubs, gather together the flowering stems once they are past their best and trim them with a pair of secateurs. Alternatively, for shrubs with thin stems such as lavender, Geraldton wax and santolina, cut them back with garden shears.

When creating a new bed, start with clean, weed-free ground. If you are not in a hurry, leave the area clear for a year. As weeds appear, either hoe them out or spray them with a weedkiller. Never allow weeds to flower and drop seeds, or you will have a problem for years to come. Hand hoeing is an effective way to kill annual weeds. Do not waste time raking off small weeds after hoeing, unless the soil is wet: they will soon rot down. You can also control them by laying mulch matting right through your planting areas, or growing evergreen shrubs that are densely foliaged to the ground. When you have a complete cover of such shrubs, light is excluded from the soil and few weeds will grow. A thick layer of mulch such as compost can suppress some weeds, but many of the worst weeds will just grow through it. Think of mulch as a soil conditioner and moisture conserver rather than a treatment for weeds.

To save time weeding around established shrubs, use a glyphosate-based weedkiller when weeds are young, small and actively growing. Glyphosate is sold under a number of proprietary brands. Check the label to ensure you have bought the right product. Glyphosate should only be sprayed on a still day, as the chemical will damage other garden plants if it drifts onto them. To guard against this, use a coarse, rather than a fine spray and cover nearby plants with plastic. Glyphosate is biodegradable, leaving no residue in the soil, which means you can put in new plants after only a week.

Watering and Feeding
New plants need watering and feeding in order to develop a strong root system and to grow, while established plants may need watering in dry weather. To save time, lay a seep hose around the shrubs and connect it to a tap with a time switch; set it to turn on the water at night when it is cooler and evaporation lower. If you have to use a hose, concentrate the water on the root area of the plants. To water the roots of shrubs and trees directly, sink a plastic pipe, or a plastic bottle with both ends cut off, into the soil.

Jobs Calendar


Just before growth starts, prune deciduous shrubs that flower from early summer onwards and those that have colored stems. Prune deciduous shrubs that flower in spring immediately after flowering. Evergreen shrubs are usually pruned after bloom. Conifers are sheared in spring if necessary. Apply mulch right across the root zone. Feed everything in spring.

Water deeply as needed. Control weeds, remove faded flowers.

Rake off any leaves smothering small plants or ground cover. Let the rest form a mulch, rotting down into the soil.

Make sure that garden beds and borders are weed free before spring. Have a general tidy up.

Drying roses - What you need to know...

Roses are beautiful flowers that have graced homes for literally thousands of years. Roses are flawless, colorful, large, small and simply perfect in every way, except for one: a rose, being a living thing, eventually will die.

But there are ways to let their splendor live on! Drying roses is a great way to preserve their beauty. With very little effort and very little expense, dried roses can look just as exquisite when put together in an arrangement as fresh.

Rose Drying Techniques

Air drying and sand drying are two common rose drying techniques. Air drying is easiest and requires only a good pair of shears, some wire, a coat hanger and a dark dry location. Begin by cutting the stem from the rose, as close to the head of the rose as you can get. Then insert a piece of wire about 6 or 8 inches long into the rose head.

When drying roses they need to be upside down, so take the end of one wire and wrap it around the bottom part of the hanger. Continue wrapping the wires of each rose until the hanger is full. Leave some space in between each rose head so air can circulate. Then place the hanger into a dark, dry area (an unused closet works great). It'll take roses anywhere from 1 – 3 weeks to dry thoroughly.

Roses can also be hung in bunches upside down from a nail. Just leave stems intact, remove bottom leaves, gather a few stems together and hold with an elastic band. Place in a dark, dry area until dry.

The sand rose drying technique takes a bit more effort, but works great! You cut a rose while it's still at its peak, and cut the stem so that about one inch remains. Make sure the leaves and stem are dry (no dew or other water). Place florist's wire into the stem and up into the head of the flower. Next find a deep open box and begin filling it with white-colored sand until the roses can stand upright in the sand.

Next carefully begin adding sand around the base, and under and over each of the petals. The goal is to use the sand as a way to maintain the shape of the rose. Continue filling the box with sand until each rose is covered. Move sand-and-rose filled box to a drying area and leave it there for 1 – 3 weeks. Take extreme care when removing dried roses. Slowly tip the box to begin emptying sand. Grab onto each rose as it becomes free of the sand and continue until all roses are sand-free.

Roses can also be dried using wax, glycerin or a desiccant but these techniques are a bit more involved. Another popular drying method is to place a rose between the pages of a book.

Dried roses have many uses. They're perfect in floral arrangements, decorative wreaths, wedding bouquets and favors, and framed artwork. Dried rose petals make great potpourri and confetti, too!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

How and when to buy plants

Most plants are bought at garden centers, nurseries and supermarkets. The range varies according to the time of the year, as plants in flower are the easiest to sell. Most plants are sold container-grown and can be planted at any time of the year, but the best times to plant are in spring or autumn when the soil is warm and moist, and the plants become established quickly. Summer planting requires more aftercare - you have to ensure that the plants are well watered - and in winter growth and establishment are slow.

Some nurseries and mail-order companies supply bare-root plants - grown in the soil and then dug up to sell. Bare-root plants, mostly fruit trees or roses, are sold only when dormant in winter, which is also when they should be planted.

Avoid the temptation to buy all your plants in flower at the one time, or your garden will be a one-season wonder. Instead, shop several times during the year so that you can see a wide range of different plants at their best. Staggering your purchases will also make for a more varied selection of plants.

What to Look For
Buy a tree or shrub only if it looks healthy; the leaves should be in good condition, and the overall shape compact and bushy. It should have plenty of good, strong, evenly spaced branches, especially towards the base. Ideally, there should be no weeds growing in the pot, but the odd one or two is an indication that the plant is fairly established. The plant should be clearly labeled and the potting mix moist.

A plant that has pale, yellowing leaves is possibly pot-bound, and the potting mix lacking in fertilizer. Knock it out of the pot to see if the roots are a tangled mass or if they are growing thickly through the drainage holes; in either case, do not buy it. However, the roots need to be established and should fill the pot. Avoid dry or wilted plants, those with signs of pests or diseases, or those that are lopsided or have only a few shoots, because they will need remedial pruning to put right.

Grow Japanese maples, such as this purple-leaved variety, in a raised bed or container if your soil is alkaline.

Plant Size
The largest plants are not always the best ones to choose. Often the taller ones will have started to lose leaves lower down, so pick one that has a bushy, symmetrical shape and strong growth with foliage down to the base.

The size of the plant will also affect the time that it takes to establish. A larger plant will take longer for its roots to establish in the surrounding soil than a smaller specimen, which will catch up with the larger one in a couple of seasons. However, some slower-growing shrubs, such as magnolia and Acer palmatum var. dissectum, are worth buying as large specimens because otherwise they will take many years to reach the desired size and, in the case of the magnolia, to flower. Larger specimens are also ideal for an instant effect.