Posts Tagged ‘ Online Garden Design ’

Top Ten Garden Tasks for Autumn

The Abbey Gardens, Dorchester

1. Tidy up!

Autumn is a great time for those who love wielding the clippers – all that summer growth will need a trim back now to keep the garden tidy. But many off-cuts will strike well in the humidity right now so think about planting some of your cuttings out into pots.

2. Dig out the debris

Remove plant debris and diseased leaves from flowers and vegetable patches. Dig up the annuals – plants that last only a season – and put them on the compost heap. Flowering perennials – plants that spring up year after year from their roots – should be cut back. Remove yellowing or dead leaves or flowers before rot develops and remove any weeds hidden under the plant foliage.

3. Start composting

Winter gives cuttings and leaves a chance to break down and produce nutrient-rich compost, which will be ready for boosting the garden in the new year. Now is also a really good time to turn your compost heap. It will heat up nicely and then gently rot over winter.

4. Embrace autumn colour

Deciduous trees, such as acers, will provide lovely autumn colours from foliage, bark and berries. Autumn flowers such as crocus and amaryllis add colour, too. Cyclamens come in white and a range of pink shades with glossy green leaves, and add a welcome dash of vibrancy.

5. Plant for the future

This is a good time of year to plant spring bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, and new perennials – the soil is still warm but moisture levels are increasing. There is still time for plants to establish themselves before the real cold sets in. This is also a good time of year to plant or move shrubs and trees to allow them to anchor down before the growing season. Reflect on what was and was not successful in this year’s planting scheme so that you can adapt your plans for next year.

6. Venture into the interior

Ventilate conservatories during the remaining warmer days to prevent soaring temperatures, but reduce ventilation once the cooler, windy autumn weather sets in. Use shading paint or blinds to help to keep them cool. However, as light levels fall, reduce the shading as well as the watering of any houseplants.

7. Love your lawn

For a lovely lawn next spring, start to mow less frequently and raise the height of the grass as the growth rate slows down. Scarify your lawn by raking out dead grass and moss that has built up over the summer. Follow this with applying an high-potassium autumn lawn feed, which will release the correct balance of nutrients throughout the winter.

8. Cover up the furniture

When there is no more need for garden furniture, store it in the shed or garage to protect it from the winter weather and allow it to dry out. If you can’t do this, cover it with a tough waterproof sheet securely fixed down, taking care to allow plenty of air to circulate so that the furniture is not damp all winter. Wooden items, such as benches or pergolas, may benefit from a treatment of chemical preservative.

9. Give wildlife a hand

Encourage birds into the garden by providing extra food. Place the feeder near a tall shrub, fence or mature tree to provide protection from predators. Plant berry-bearing plants for an extra source of food for birds and other wildlife. Firethorn, rowan and holly plants are recommended.

10. Protect your pond

Cover your pond with a net to stop falling leaves polluting the water, but make sure you clean it regularly to prevent the net from sinking into the pond. If it contains fish ensure that they can continue to breathe by preventing the water from freezing. Make sure the pond is at least 8ft deep because fish live in the deepest levels during the winter months.

Quirky gardening vid.

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At MyGardenSchool, as well as being the hotspot for learning everything about gardening online, we love to spot gardening related quirkiness. This one is nice. This is the creation of a chap called Pogo. You might (or might not!) remember Pogo from his video’s such as Alice or Upular, where he takes old Disney movies and creates songs from samples he takes. Not sure the middle of the music/gardening venn diagram is awfully well trafficked – so to the two of you who know what I’m on about – hoorah! To the rest of you, just feel all warm inside in the knowledge that gardens are inspiring places to make tunes! This is a music video where a guy has shot footage and taken sounds from his mother’s garden and used her voice to create this eclectic video called ‘Gardyn’.

John Brookes and Duncan Heather; working on MyGardenSchool

John Brookes & Duncan Heather; working on MyGardenSchool

A Deeply Impressive Book Collection. John Brookes, one of the most famous garden writers in the world, keeps one of each of his books published.

These photos were taken at John Brookes’  house in West Sussex during a working session on MyGardenSchool.  John’s bookshelf in particular caught my eye.  Interesting seeing the sheer volume of material on gardens written by the man himself.  To register your interest in MyGardenSchool please feel free to register with our holding page at

Natural Pest Control – LadyBird Love!

Did you know the collective noun for a group of ladybirds is a ‘Loveliness’!?   Quite appropriate I think.    Though we just tend to think of our little friendly orange ones with black spots in the UK – the ‘7 spots’, there are others too joining us, which aren’t so friendly.  So you need to be sure to get the right chaps if you’re using them as natural pest control.

Ladybirds belong to the scientific family Coccinellidae. In Britain, some 46 species belong to this family, although only 26 of these are recognisably ladybirds.The invasion of the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) threatens our native populations. (If you want to know more about this species in particular, or want to record sightings, take a look at the Harlequin Ladybird Survey website.)

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Leaving aside whether or not ladybirds are good or bad, there is no arguing that they are pretty little insects, and bring a sense of magic and fun when you come across them.   There is quite a variance in colour amongst the small beasties, ranging from an ‘orange’ ladybird, Halyzia sedecimguttata, and several other pale pinky ones.

Also worth noting is that  the common 7-spot and 2-spot ladybirds are pale straw yellow or orange when they emerge from the pupa and change as they grow. It takes hours for the deep red colour to appear and they get darker for several days.  The seven-spot ladybird is the most common in Britain. This bright red ladybird has seven spots and is thought to have inspired the name ladybird: “Lady” referring to the Virgin Mary (Our lady) who in early paintings is seen wearing a red cloak; the seven spots are symbolic of the seven joys and seven sorrows of Mary.

How do I use ladybirds as pest control?

Control Aphids outdoors by releasing Ladybirds and / orLacewing Larvae. Aphids (both greenfly and blackfly) are a big problem in gardens. Ladybirds and lacewings love to eat aphids, but they can be scarce. Help nature by introducing extra ladybirds (available as adults and larvae) and / or lacewing larvae into your garden from May onwards but which should I use?

  • For light infestations on a spread of garden plants simply place adult ladybirds around the garden to search out the pests.
  • For moderate infestations concentrated on a few plants use ladybird larvae placed directly onto the infected plants.
  • For a bit of both use the ladybird family
  • For heavier infestations use lacewing larvae or a gardeners friends pack (a pack of both lacewing larvae and adult ladybirds) placed directly onto the infected plants.

If you would like to buy some ladybirds as a natural pest control – check out where you can buy a ladybird breeding kit!

The Secret Gardens of Devon and Cornwall

Last week I went photographing places of interest in Cornwall.  I had already planned to go to The Lost Gardens of Heligan which didn’t disappoint.  But what has excited me more is the underground network of other gardens in Devon and Cornwall, that aren’t necessarily on the tourist map.  Those treasures that you just stumble upon.  Those little hidden paradises that you only find by asking the guy in the kiosk on the beach, or the farmer who you bump into on an early morning dog walk.  Perhaps a cliched image – but true – as it’s just happened to me.

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We’ve just been staying in a very remote farm cottage on the Devon/Cornwall border.   And on an early morning trip down to the sea to walk our very enthusiastic spaniel Billy – we had a chat with a local guy who runs the kiosk.  I mentioned my interest in photography and gardening, and he pointed us not in the direction of The Lost Gardens of Heligan (which were spectacular by the way) – but told us to meander down some little lanes and seek out Docton Mill.   And we did.

Hidden in a meandering woodland is this fabulous garden.  (Which also incidentally serves first class lunches with organic food from the gardens; not the usual over-priced granny teas).  The garden is a fascinating voyage of discovery, with hidden brooks and woodland paths.  Whilst the owners describe the garden as ‘a managed wilderness’, I found more beauty in this wilderness than I often do in the more heavily publicised formal gardens.

Docton Mill is an inspirational story of two people leaving behind the rat race, and jobs they were no longer enjoying and taking a huge risk. With no gardening experience, John and Lana Borrett bought Docton Mill and getting back to nature has had a major impact on their lifestyle.

Grow Your Own Drugs

Despite the rather dodgy sounding title – we love James Wong. He’s that cool guy who tells you which plants to grow for medicinal purposes. He is an ‘Ethnobotanist’. Good word! James Wong grew up in Malaysia and Singapore. He trained at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew and gained an MSc in Ethnobotany from the University of Kent, graduating with distinction. His research has taken him to highland Ecuador, as well as to China and Java. He now lectures at the University of Kent and has also co-designed and built two RHS medal-winning gardens (in 2004 and 2008), which were designed to show that there is more to plants than ‘looking pretty’

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Report on The Chelsea Flower Show 2010

Chelsea’s Got Talent

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This has been my 6th consecutive year as a spectator at The Chelsea Flower Show. What’s quite interesting is that I think Chelsea’s become as much about the people as the plants. It’s kind of an institution really – terribly British and full of quite fierce grannies on the one hand, but also strangely coupled with the fashionistas, Japanese tourists and an increasing celeb contingent. It’s enlightening overhearing conversations on the tube – “what did you see at Chelsea?” “Oh I saw Helen Mirren, Simon Cowell and Bill Bailey”.

But what about the designs? The plants? I hear you cry. Well frankly if you go on a public day it’s quite hard to get anywhere near the gardens for tidal waves of strident comfortable shoe wearing types. And if ‘The Titch’ is anywhere in sight – then you have to run in the other direction to avoid being trampled by the stampede. Even going on member’s day, after a couple of hours of hard garden gazing, even I’m usually forced to retire to the champagne tents where the non-comfortable shoe wearers hang out away from the crowds.

That said, there are in fact still many beautiful plants. And some stylish designs too. Stylish designs IMHO are in the minority though. The likes of Andy Sturgeon and Tom Stuart Smith do build gardens that are beautiful – there is no question about this. But I seem to come away more and more each year feeling very slightly cheated, that it’s all a bit the same, and that Chelsea is crying out for an overhaul. It needs to catch up with its more contemporary design cousins like the MOMA show or even Grand Designs. Garden Design is a form of art after all – yet the show gardens don’t feel like innovative art installations; many of them (not all) feel like variations on cottage gardens rammed into a smaller space. And there’s also too much ‘tat’ about in the form of twee twinkly things to put in your garden.

There are of course always notable exceptions. I thought the Green and Blacks Garden was somewhat of an inspiration. It conjures up a rainforest family home and has been made, in part, by Cameroonian indigenous women to raise awareness about the threats that they and the rainforest are facing. That’s more beautiful, meaningful and contemporary to me than a show garden full of cottage flowers and sparkly fake butterflies.

Interestingly – you don’t read many critical write ups of The Chelsea Flower Show, but I suspect, a bit like Henley regatta, no journalist’s going to be critical enough to jeopardise their free press pass to get to drink bubbles in a pretty space for next year. (Full credit to Robin Lane Fox by the way though, whose review of Chelsea in The Financial Times was spot on). This is my personal view of Chelsea, and I do have high hopes that it will change and progress into the stylish art show it deserves to be – without losing its strong heritage and quintessentially English culture. The photos accompanying this post represent my view of Chelsea this year.

The MyGardenSchool Flickr Group Scores a Century!

We’re celebrating that the MyGardenSchool Flickr Group has now hit over 100 members! And 100s of unique gardening photographs – each telling their own gardening story. Have a browse below and take time out to meander through our members’ gardens..Happy Snapping and Gardening!

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The Ace of Spades..

Those of you who follow this blog regularly – may remember that I recently blogged about buying a trusty new spade.  I’ve always really been a fan of vintage garden tools as I’m terribly fond of many old tools I’ve acquired from my grandparents (aka the Gods of gardening).  So I have been quite fixed on sticking to my friendly old comfortable vintage spades and forks.  Practical, comfy, and trusted; my vintage spades were the Clarks shoes of the spade world.  But through a stealth move of posting on this blog and sending me a spade to trial – Bulldog persuaded me I should at least give a couple of their spanking new spades a go.

Well (and it’s terribly rare that this happens!) – I have to admit that I may have been wrong all these years in sticking to my sensible old spades..!  I’ve been trialling two Bulldog spades (more the Christian Louboutins of the spade world).  I’m now in the process of digging a vegetable bed and a large herbaceous border, on tough going ground that has previously been lawn.   Crikey what a difference!   What I’ve discovered is that until using the Bulldog spades, I’d never really experienced a good one.  I thought I had.   But in fact as it turns out, with my comfy Clarks, I just didn’t know what I was missing.  I’ve been putting in far more blood, sweat and tears than is required, by working with quaint old tools that don’t really cut it.  These new spades are pretty damn good I have to say.  They slice right through the soil, have great tread, and they’re not bad looking either.  I’ve probably dug my beds in half the time I would have done.  Upgrading from Clarks to Louboutins has also freed me up to take gratuitous garden pictures and paint my toenails red..Nice



By Simon Eade – our exciting new guest blogger from ‘The Garden of Eaden’!


Although the terminology sounds a little blood thirsty, it is in reality a practiced organic method of protecting your garden plants from the pests that feed from them. This is achieved by the deliberate act of supplying plants that will either attract harmful pests away from, or attract natural predators to, the plants you’re trying to protect.
For example, plant a row of lettuce that you are happy to have destroyed at the back of your herbaceous boarders and this will entices slugs away from your ornamental plants, attracted to the tastier salad leaves. Don’t panic though as the damaged lettuce leaves will soon be out of sight, becoming lost behind the taller ornamental plants as they grow through.

While it’s true that slugs love lettuce, they love marigolds more, so if its salad crops that you are trying to protect, creating a thick border of marigolds will act as a self healing edible barrier. Try using the larger American or African marigold hybrids as this will create a far bulkier defence compared to our smaller English or French varieties

Nasturtiums are great for attracting aphids therefore making an ideal trap for protecting precious roses. Again, plant them as a sacrificial border, remembering to pinch off and destroy the leaves and stems as they become overrun. Aphids will also infest sunflowers, and unlike nasturtiums whose swarming leaves have to be removed, sunflowers can be left alone to grow. Because they are so tough, the aphids cause very little damage and will still produce nice seed heads for native birds to enjoy. Like lettuce, nasturtiums also work well as a trap crop for slugs and snails.

This principle can work just as well for pest animals as well as for insects. For those suffering the constant damage caused by that naturalised foreign alien ‘the rabbit’, plant dill in your borders. This will protect the vulnerable young shoots of many of your perennials as rabbits will ignore the less tasty offerings preferring to go straight for the dill. This way the rabbit will remain unharmed particularly when compared to other commonly used control methods i.e. the shotgun or myxomatosis, and hopefully your borders should remain uneaten. Even without a rabbit problem, planting dill in the garden is also a good idea as it attracts hoverflies and predatory wasps, both of which will feed off aphids.

Fed up with your plants suffering the ragged bite marks of the dreaded Vine weevil? Although named for destroying the roots of grape vines it now seems to prefer a wide range of host plants, in particular Laurels and Viburnums. Try planting polyanthus and cyclamen for control of this destructive garden pest. Vine weevils love to lay their eggs beside these two species, not only making them great for attracting them away from the plants you love, but also for giving you a great starting place to look should you these destructive pests enter the garden.

Aphids on Roses

Vine Weevil

lacewing larvae

A word of warning though if you are intent on spraying for vine weevil, the only product currently on the market that is suitable for their control is Provado, and this contains the active ingredient Imidacloprid. This lethal chemical is believed to be one of the factors in Colony Collapse Disorder, a serious disorder that affects our native bees. It’s absorbed into both nectar and pollen contaminating it with a deadly toxin that affects the bee’s nervous system. Once the nectar and pollen has been taken back to the hives it’s passed on through the food chain continuing to kill yet more bees. As far as shop bought insecticides go, this by far the most dangerous to the environment

So next time you find yourself reaching for a bottle bug killer, consider sacrificial planting and reach out for a packet of seeds instead.

About Simon Eade

Simon trained in Horticulture at Haldow College and Greenwich University. During his gardening career he has gained experience in many ‘fields’ including Site Manager for the prestigious Alexandra Palace Garden Centre. As well as being featured on Ground Force, Sky News, BBC radio and independent TV for his horticultural expertice, he is also an internationally published gardening writer and photographer.

For more information and related articles click onto the ‘Garden of Eaden’ website at or blog at