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Archive for the ‘Gardening Tips’ Category

A Spring time visit to Nymans, West Sussex

Monday, May 5th, 2014

By Tim Sykes

Nymans house and gardens is on the ‘must see’ list of many a horticulturalist.

It incorporates a beautiful house and ruins into a romantic woodland setting.

Only 45 minutes drive from Tunbridge Wells, travel via East Grinstead and Turners Hill.

Nymans was the family home of the Messels who bought this West Sussex Wealden retreat in the late 1800′s. Inspired by the woodland surroundings Ludwig Messel set upon creating a garden with plants and specimen trees collected from around the world.

On our list of favourites were:

- a handkerchief tree from China

- a magnolia tree from Japan


- the beautiful wisteria pergola

- a handsome water feature at the centre of the walled garden

- the pieris japonica bordering in the rear rock gardens


- the many beautiful Rhododendron and Azalea specimens that surround the gardens

- the castellated yew topairy surrounding the house

Wherever you looked there were some beautiful vistas:

There was an excellent nursery at Nymans. Among our purchases were:

- beautiful Nectaroscordium Siculum’s - a bulbous perennial with attractive bell shaped pink and green flower heads on long stems of c 1.2m
- Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ – a hardy perennial that grows in clumps, with deep lavender blue flower heads that bloom throughout summer
- Hosta Francee - brilliant white edged leaves are the hallmark of this Hosta which pale lavender flowers appear mid to late summer
- Veronica Ulster Blue Dwarf - a compact hardy perennial with deep purple/blue tall conical flower heads

We visited early May, but we could see from the herbaceous borders that there was a lot of colour yet to spring forth, so late May early June could be a good time to see the garden in all it’s glory.

It was a very enjoyable day out and we can recommend a visit. We plan to go back soon and walk around the house.

If you are a National Trust member then you get in free. Otherwise entrance fees are £10.50 adults and £5.50 children. Don’t take your dog. We suggest you visit early (opens at 10am) as the car park is restricted, then leave by lunchtime ( the restaurant didn’t look brilliant)  and find a good local pub.

On your return trip, pop into Pots and Pithoi at Turners Hill for some real Cretan pots and further inspiration! See more at www.potsandpithoi.com

For further information about Nymans go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Or, contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820

It’s March and the garden beckons

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
After one of the wettest winter periods on record we all look forward to March with a little prayer that the weather might improve for us gardeners.
At the time of writing Sarah and I have just returned from a very pleasant walk with Basil our dog, around the grounds of Burrswood, Groombridge. It was heartening to see that the daffs were starting to appear and the snowdrops were out, so maybe Spring is not that far away! Visit the Crown on the Green. You will be welcomed by a very friendly landlord, and if you are lucky the dog will get a treat!

Before we journey outside, I wanted to share with you some photographs of Amaryllis that have been appearing on our Gardenproud Facebook page. We gave a number of our friends Amaryllis bulbs for Christmas and pictures have been flooding in of their progress, so we have posted some of these on our Facebook page. Interest in the progress has come from a number of people, including would you believe Judi Cohen from New Jersey, USA – the wonders of social media! Judy sent us some amazing photographs of her Amaryllis. Her secret to creating wonderful flower heads is to restrict the soil content of the pot. I put the bulb in very little soil, forcing the action away from the roots and into the bloom.” So a tip to remember for 2015.

March is always a good time to be attacking the moss on your lawns, and boy have I seen a lot moss around the gardens of Tunbridge Wells recently! So a good scarifying, followed by a feed could help give the lawn a bit of a lift before the growing season gets a hold. If the lawn is particularly bad you may need to aerate the surface and give it a top dressing and over seeding. Watch the temperature though, because your seeds won’t germinate in cold weather.
Cotswold Grass seeds who are one of the leading suppliers recommend “Soil temperatures needs to be in excess of 4°C, usually late February in Southern UK, two weeks days later in the North. The optimum soil temperature for seeds to start chitting is 7-10°C which is usually reached by mid – late March across the UK.”
One of the things you are going to have to watch (as soon as the temperature rises) is weeds. Last year we had quite a wet start to the year and the weeds grew like mad. So given this years dose of rain you’ll need to get on top of the bed maintenance pdq.
Here a few additional thoughts on March from our friends at RHS:
1. Remove dead foliage, weed and top dress pots and containers with fresh compost
2. Protect new spring shoots from slugs
3. Divide overgrown clumps of perennials
4. Start mowing the lawn, as the weather becomes drier
If you have a vegetable garden then now’s the time to plant out your shallots, onion sets and early potatoes. When the ground is suitable you can plant new fruits, including raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries and blackcurrants ( lots of fruit plants like a free draining, acidic soil, so it maybe sensible to check the pH levels and then mix in horticultural grit, with a good ericaceous compost).
If you haven’t done it already remember to prune your apple and pear trees before the first leaves start to break.
Whilst things will be hotting up in the garden, March is also a great time to be tweaking the beds for your summer borders. Think about the effect you want to achieve, the relative heights of plants, or bulbs once they are established, then look at the borders and decide which of your existing plants you want to keep. It’s also a good idea to have a colour palette in mind. The trend is towards more focused palettes, which I like. So you might mix lilacs, violets, blues, creams and whites, but avoid yellows, pinks and oranges. You’ll be able to select your summer flowering bulbs from the local nurseries.
All of the local ones have a great choice, but you can also find an excellent selection on the J.Parker’s website www.dutchbulbs.co.uk If you prefer a catalogue, then call them on, 0161 848 1124

Finally, another date for all your diaries! Don’t miss the Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor this year! It starts on April 23rd. Entrance is £10 and the festival runs until 5th May. This year will mark their 20th Anniversary, so I’m sure the displays will be stunning. Don’t miss the restaurant, so time your visit around lunchtime!
I hope you enjoy your garden this March.
For further information please contact Tim Sykes, at Gardenproud 07725 173820, or at info@reallygardenproud.com

It’s February already, so what’s going on in the garden?

Friday, February 7th, 2014

It’s February and it seems like we are getting a similar dose of  weather to January, with a mixture of rain, sunshine and low temperatures. At the point of writing there’s no promise of snow, although cold air above Scandinavia may move southward and bring with it a colder spell.

So I’m afraid you need to wrap up warm in the garden, plus watch the weather forecast for frosts and keep your less hardy shrubs wrapped in fleeces.

The RHS provide a really useful list of jobs for you to consider in February. This covers work you can be getting on with, both in and out of doors:

  1. Prepare vegetable seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover
  2. Protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches
  3. Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off
  4. Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering
  5. Divide bulbs such as snowdrops, and plant those that need planting “ in the green”
  6. Prune Wisteria
  7. Prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges
  8. Prune any climbers in conservatories or greenhouses
  9. Cut back ornamental grasses left uncut over winter

Other things to be considering….

-       Cut back any dead foliage you’ve left over the winter period

-       Prune back Hydrangeas to their new shoots

-       Prepare the borders for planting

If the weather starts to improve you may find it’s necessary to cut the lawn, although don’t cut it too short, and avoid going on the lawn if it remains sodden. One job you can do is to tidy up the edges as this will help reduce your tasks for March.

Turf can be laid provided that the soil is not too wet or frosty. If you have to carry this out then work from planks to avoid localized compacting and creating an uneven surface. Whatever you do, avoid walking on the new surface for a number of weeks to allow the root structure to establish.

When preparing the beds look at the soil conditions and consider improving these. For example given the heavy rains of December and January you may have noticed a drainage problem. If you have heavy soil work in some organic matter and horticultural grit to help improve the nutrients and drainage.

Mixing in a deep layer of organic matter helps to condition the soil, can help suppress weed growth, protect plants from fluctuations in temperature, and

retain moisture during the warmer months.

Last month we talked about garden repairs. If the dreadful weather we’ve all experienced hasn’t allowed you into the garden yet, then don’t forget to get these projects out of the way before the growing season! So this includes broken fences, damaged shed roofs, rotten pathway gravel board edges, plus compost and raised bed repairs.

Talking of repairs. During these more dormant periods it’s also worth tidying out the shed, and clearing out any broken tools that can’t be fixed, broken pots etc. Also remember to have serviced any power tools including the mower, hedge trimmer, strimmer and blower. Always ask your repairer to sharpen the blades, or replace them in the case of a heavily utilised mower. If you haven’t used the tools for a while it’s worth remembering that the fuel can go stale, so when you take any items in for servicing ask them to refresh this.

Flowers to look out for in February include; Snowdrops, Hellebores, Violets, Winter Jasmine and of course those early Daffs.

Please do let me have your thoughts and contributions.  Also feel free to fire any gardening questions at me and I’ll do my best to answer these for you in the next edition. This is my email address    reallygardenproud@btinternet.com

I hope you enjoy February in your garden.

Best wishes

Tim Sykes, 07725 173820

My Heart’s in the Garden

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Hey it’s February and it’s time for love!

What better place to enjoy this but in the Garden! But it’s obviously very wet and windy at the moment so make sure you wrap up warm.

A few searches on the internet revealed some great shots of hearts in the garden.

If you haven’t already ventured onto the Pinterest website then do so www.pinterest.com and it will help you discover a whole world of ideas.

Here’s an easy one you can buy yourself, a Heart shaped topiary frame. Buy it with a box hedging plant (or two) then watch it grow. You then painstakingly demonstrate your love, as you snip away at the box, so that it turns into a beautiful living feature of your garden or conservatory.

Hey Presto!

These wonderful frames are available from www.Primrose.co.uk for the reasonable price of £33.99  and a couple of box plants will set you back about £6.00.

A small price to pay for love in the garden!

So no excuses, get out there now and create your very own Valentines Day surprise for your loved one!

For further information please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or contact Gardenproud at info@reallygardenproud.com

See us also on Facebook – Just search for Gardenproud, or key in www.facebook.com/gardenproud

Windy New Year brings havoc to Tunbridge Wells

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Winter Garden Repair Service

If the storms in October and leading up to Christmas weren’t enough, the bad weather has continued to reek havoc in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding countryside.

Even last night another tree in our road – a Scots Pine fell foul of the winds. I was stopped by one of my tree surgeon colleagues who was trying to reduce the tree so that it didn’t collapse onto a nearby house. Part of the problem is that we have had a period of sustained rain, so the ground is very wet and soft, added to this trees have taken a pounding over a number of weeks, so are likely to be less secure. Strong gusts can therefore uproot them.

Many customers are reporting broken fences, garden walls, gates and garden buildings damaged by falling debris and trees.

Fortunately most of the big oaks had shed their leaves before the latest storms. So from what we can see, the trees that have been badly affected by the recent weather, are predominantly evergreen, with conifers, scots pines and cedars among the major casualties.

Just as we were leaving for a Christmas break the storms wipped up on December 23rd and by the morning a fresh crop of  trees had become victims of the high winds. We had a narrow escape ourselves, as a tall pine next door uprooted itself and came crashing down on their front garden, narrowly missing their house. A lovely Christmas present for our neighbour.

If you have any tree, or collateral damage from the storms then call us today, on 07725 173820.

At Gardenproud we offer a full Winter Garden Repair Service. It might be a broken fence panel, or post, a shed roof that needs re-surfacing, a garden wall that needs rebuilding, a patio or paths that need re-pointing, just call us on the above number and we will be happy to provide an estimate.

Happy New Year – Happy New Garden

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

I can feel a wave of enthusiasm for the garden as 2014 is finally upon us!

Lots of plans for our garden, including sprucing up the rear garden beds, tackling a wall of ivy, which has been beckoning for sometime and repairing the gravel board edges to our pathways.

It’s a good time to tackle the latter two items right now!  In fact, if you have any repairs you need to carry out in the garden, eg. broken fences, shed roof replacement, pathways, new composting systems, new trellising etc., it’s an excellent opportunity to get these out of the way.

We also have some plans for our front garden this year.

After some design and hard landscaping undertaken during 2013, we now want to turn our attention to planting up the front garden.

We made a lot of progress last year……

From this……

To this…….

There’s still a little bit of hard landscaping to finish, which we will endeavor to complete in January and February.

Then it’s onto the planting plan. I’ve already prepared some outline plans for this and we replanted a section of the beech hedge in November ( using bare root beech hedging plants from English Woodlands, with Miracle Grow planting compost).

We also planted four gorgeous trees, two Prunus Cerasifera Nigra ( a dark red leaved flowering Cherry ) – very pretty.

Photo: with thanks to RHS.

Plus, two Liquidambar Styraciflua (Sweet Gum). These trees resemble large acers, and have bright green maple like leaves that turn a striking orange/red and purple in the Autumn.

Photo: with thanks to RHS.

We’ve made a start on the planting, but we need to finish this off, otherwise my name will be mud!

So watch this space!

Apart from getting the garden into good shape, January is a great time to gain some inspiration and make plans.

If you are a keen gardener you may like to consider taking out a subscription with RHS for their monthly magazine – The Garden. It’s £4.25 an issue, but well worth it!

In the January issue, Tim Upson puts a spotlight on some of the less well –known plants that look great in the winter garden. These include Ribes Laurifolium, Edgeworthia Chrysantha, Cornus Officinalis, and my favourite –Rhododendron Dauricum. This latter plant is semi evergreen with small leaves, tinged purple in Winter. It has beautiful, white funnel shaped flowers that appear late Winter. Further information about The Garden magazine can be found at www.rhs.org.uk

Another publication I find inspiring is The Garden Design Journal, published by The Society of Garden Designers. You can Google more about it at www.sgd.org.uk

One of the article’s I spied in their January edition is the preparation for Capability Brown’s 300th birthday celebrations in 2016. You can see more about these at a new website that’s just been launched

www.capabilitybrown.org With over 100 surviving examples of his work you can visit, it’s well worth signing up to the website’s advance news and updates for the celebrations.

In the meantime, if you are looking for inspiration in the winter garden, here are a few places you could visit:

Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Audley End, Essex www.english-heritage.org.uk

Painshill Landscape Garden, Surrey www.painshill.co.uk

Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent www.forestry.gov.uk/bedgebury

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Enjoy January in the garden and Happy New Year!

For further information contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud, on 07725 173820

Happy New Year from View

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

View is the quarterly update from Gardenproud on what’s new in the garden.

The new 2014 edition is out now. You can order a copy in the post, or via email. Just send an email request to info@reallygardenproud.com

In this quarter’s edition are Gardening Tips, 2013 Highlights from Gardenproud, some ideas for Window Boxes, details of our latest Equipment updates – of special interest to the demands of larger gardens, our latest recruit, and news of our latest Design Projects.

It’s nearly Christmas and what’s going on in the Garden?

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Is there a gardening angel in you?

If so don’t forget to feed the birds this month.

With all the preparation for the Christmas festivities it’s all too easy to forget who’s braving it out there and what’s going on out in the garden.

If you haven’t already done so then get the fleeces out and protect the more vulnerable shrubs. Some examples to look out for are bay trees, tree ferns, cordylines, olive trees, in fact any of the less hardy shrubs in your garden.

Remember to rake up the leaves from the grass. If you haven’t done this already there are probably a lot, especially following the storm of 28th October.

If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse then give the plants and seedlings a water and remember to ventilate on warmer days. You can also clean and prepare all the seed trays and make ready for sowing the spring seedlings.

December is always a great time for indoor plants, including Hyacinths and Poinsettia. In our house the Hyacinths always adorn our upstairs landing window sill, they look and smell really super. The Poinsettia give a warm festive welcome in the Hallway.

Other thoughts to help lift the spirits include planting out a couple of smart pots close to your front door. Looking good could be miniature Christmas trees,  or small box pyramids surrounded by a sea of cyclamen. Make sure you fill the base of the pot with small rocks, or broken old pots, then create a mix of potting compost and topsoil. Water the plants before you pot them and remember to water them once they are in situ. It’s always satisfying to come home to a bright welcome, and your Christmas visitors will also appreciate this.

A couple of years ago we test marketed the idea of creating real live Christmas Wreaths. I really dislike the cheap plastic imitations, so don’t fall into this trap. You can easily make your own. They look so much more inviting. To start with you can buy inexpensive conifer based rings from most garden centres, or flower shops. These come in different diameters and the conifer cuttings are usually held together in a moss and wire frame. Go for this variety as they will last longer and keep the ring damp.

Then select your embellishments. If you’ve got a well stocked garden a few items such as pine cones, holly sprigs, berries, ivy, dried fruit, fresh flowers, cinnamon sticks held in place with some thin green wire (or a heated glue gun) will look a treat! If you haven’t got access to these, you can usually buy similar items at Hobbycraft, or your local garden centre. It’s good to keep it simple, so maybe have a theme. Think about where it’s likely to go. If it’s a red front door then something that contrasts and has red in it, will always look good etc, etc.

Anyway have a go.

Christmas wreaths look smashing on front doors, above hallway and lounge mirrors, on outside trellis, even on the potting shed door!

For further information about Christmas Wreaths, Logs for your fire, or woodburner, or any gardening advice for 2014, contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820.

Have a super Christmas and New Year!

Frosty ferns

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

That’s one thing you don’t want. Those gorgeous tree ferns that cost a fortune getting attacked by the first frost!

You need to start thinking about how you are going to protect your vulnerable plants from the onset of winter. What a depressing thought!

I’ve just today visited one garden where we have prepared the tree ferns and other plants including cordylines for a cold spell.

We’ve found that phormiums are pretty hardy, but cordylines and yuccas can circum to very cold weather, so we always wrap these in a fleece. You can buy these inexpensively from your local garden centre. Botanico make an excellent range of fleece jackets in various sizes. A typical price for a 3 pack of 1m jackets is £6-7.

If the plant is in a pot, wrap the fleece jacket around the plant and draw the cord so that it fits around the pot below.

To look after the tree ferns you need some 1. Straw, 2. Garden twine, 3. Fleece on a roll.

First we hold the leaves (fronds) apart and take a good handful of straw and place this in the crown of the tree fern. Don’t push the straw down to too hard as this may damage or inhibit grown of the new fronds in the Spring.

Hold the fronds together and tie them together. This gives added protection to the crown. The old fronds will eventually die back, but don’t worry about this, this is to make way for the new ones.

We then wrap the upper part of the stem and around the crown in fleece material. Some gardeners advocate wrapping the whole of the stem. Then using the twine affix this to the plant firmly.

For further information about Frost Protection you can contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820.

Window Boxes to admire!

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Window boxes look wonderful.

But like all good ideas they can become neglected, especially if they are in sitting in awkward places where it’s a real chore to get to them.

Then there is the connundrum, do you go for colour? Or do you go for evergreen foliage? Colour can look wonderful and cheer up a sometimes drab exterior. But if it’s colour then you need to plan for seasonal changes which costs money and takes time.

Then there’s the maintenance, everything from planting, feeding, watering and trimming.

And if you are lucky enough to be a landlord there’s the cooperation of the tenant that needs to be factored in.

Well we recently faced all of these challenges with one of the rented properties we care for.  Despite some obvious reservations we put forward a strategy to replace the existing buxus topiary with some artificial copies. The finished result looks very smart!

As a casual passer by it would be difficult to determine that these box balls weren’t real, the advantage is that we don’t have to scale ladders to water them, trim them or replace them. This saves labour, equipment, money on plants, feed etc.

We filled the faux lead planters with soil, then secured the box balls into the earth, then infilled the tops with attractive slate chippings, but you could use different techniques to achieve similar effects.

The end result?

The Client thinks they look great!

There are quite a few suppliers of artificial plants, many like these have a colour fastness to them that will help them deal with the outdoor environment. There are a whole host of different plant styles. Our suggestion would be to go to the reputable suppliers and buy branded products, this way you have some recourse if you have any problems and generally they seem to be better made and have more realistic leaf shapes and colours.

For further information please contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820.