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Perfect Plants

  • Fifty Shades of Green

    There are far more than fifty shades of green here at Perfect Plants - but also out in the garden, even before the major growing season has taken off. And although we don’t need any red carpets to be able to enjoy entertainment of a 'green' kind (we are talking film premieres here), sometimes it’s good to have a timely reminder about how lucky we are here in the UK to have such a diverse choice of plants.

    Green roof shedPhoto of Robin (1)

    We are blessed with a favourable temperate climate due to the influences of the sea. Of course this means that the weather sometimes changes rapidly but summer and winter are constantly moderated by the prevailing south westerly winds and the close proximity of water. The soil down here in the south east consists of limestone, chalk and sandstone and there’s greensand ridge which runs to and from the East Sussex coast around the Weald which was once a dense forest.

    We might pay little attention to the soil beneath our feet but walkers enjoying tracks such as the Greensand Way which follows the Greensand Ridge across Surrey and Kent to the edges of Romney Marsh and down almost to the Kent coast will appreciate that it’s free-draining and therefore not quite so  muddy as some of the routes that trample on heavy clay. The greensand ridge gets its name from the green mineral glauconite – and yes this really does look green. <!--more-->  Soil containing this rather special substance can include up to 30 different trace minerals including silica and magnesia and it gives a great boost to the health of plants – having a high potash content and providing a source of potassium for the garden.

    This accounts for the fact that the area was historically selected for hundreds of plant nurseries such as our own. There are still a lot of fruit growers – as the Garden of England is blessed with excellent growing conditions. It was Henry VIII who praised the quality of a particularly delicious bowl of juicy local cherries, contributing to the Garden of England title which included its fame for orchards and allotments together with scenery, village traditions and variety of wildlife.

    So enjoy the season as spring shoots into view and soak up the sight of more than fifty shade of green – bearing in mind that March is generally expected to be one of the dryest months of the entire year and there’s absolutely no excuse for not venturing outside.

    What’s growing in and around the nurseries right now? Almost everything you can think of, from native wildflowers such as cowslips and primulas; alpines such as saxifrage, annuals including geranium, pelargonium, aubrieta and senetti; perennials, grasses, shrubs, trees and of course vegetables. There’s nothing dormant about this season, life is bursting forth with the vigour of a hungry lion. 
    Primroses
    PrimulaLady in Red fern

  • Happy Winter - A New Gardening Year

    Help your garden come alive this winter: bring in the birds...

    You might think that winter’s a dead and dull time in the garden but actually it’s an incredibly active period for birds. This is the perfect time to prepare an ideal wildlife environment and your bird-table generosity will not only help these tiny creatures survive the ravages of winter but provide you with a visual feast that will brighten the darkest months of the year.   It’s the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on 24-25 January and an ideal time to get involvedPhoto of Robin (1).

    Did you know that wrens sometimes sleep together at night in order to keep warm? 63 wrens were once found huddled together in a nest box! And some birds are not great nest-builders. Collared doves, for example, sometimes lose their chicks through holes in their nests. Others just can’t resist feeding a hungry chick – robins have been seen looking after chicks belonging to other birds!

    Ready to entice feathery visitors to your table? Here’s some advice: <--more-->

    • Choose energy rich seeds for hanging feeders to attract a wide variety of birds.Photo of woodpecker
    • Scatter food at ground level or use a ground-feeding tray for collared doves, blackbirds, dunnocks and wrens.
    • Provide a good variety of grains, seed and nuts for birds such as blackcaps, house sparrows, bullfinches, goldfinches, greenfinches, starlings, robins and siskins. The best mixes contain plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds and peanut granules.
    • Small seeds such as millet and nyjer attract finches, sparrows, dunnocks, reed buntings and collared doves.
    • Flaked maize is enjoyed by blackbirds; peanuts and sunflower seeds are loved by tits and greenfinches.
    • Pinhead oatmeal is great for many birds but larger, hard grains such as wheatPhoto of Blue Tit and barley are only really suitable for pigeons, doves and pheasants which feed on the ground.
    • Whole peanuts are wonderful food for tits, greenfinches, house sparrows, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and siskins.
    • Many birds love food bars, fat balls and bird cake and live food such as mealworms is relished by many.

    Just a few warnings:

    • Avoid giving fat from cooked fowl such as chicken and turkey as the consistency gums up a bird's feathers.
    • Don’t feed salt or food with a high salt content.
    • Ditch the dairy - avoid giving birds products containing milk because birds’ guts are not able to digest it.

    Perfect Plants is providing four FREE FAT BALLS with every order for wild bird-care products including bird feeders and nest boxes, until the end of January.  View bird feeders here.

    * All photos on this page kindly provided by the School Grounds Bird Box Project

     

  • Fireworks in the garden - all autumn and through into winter!

    Love autumn? Here are some reasons why you should

    Worried that these short days won't bring you any joy? Fear not - there are fireworks to be found in the garden all winter long provided you keep looking for them. Who can possibly have missed the spectacular show that our beautiful trees are giving at the moment?

    Here at Perfect Plants we are charmed by the surrounding gently falling golden wafers and crimson gowns of glory that are dancing in gusts of wind that can sometimes take your breath away. Yes, it is the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ as so aptly described by Keats, but the changing colour of foliage is so much more exciting.

    Amazing Acers

    Stars of the outdoors are undoubtedly Acers in their resplendent attire. They include the aptly named Acer ‘Autumn Blaze’ and Acer rubrum which shine like beacons amongst a backdrop of autumn browns and evergreens. Did you know that an acid moist soil and a sunny spot for Acers will ensure the very best autumn colour?

    https://youtu.be/5oNjkRE9lDs

    If we lived across the Atlantic we would term the practice of admiring trees ‘leaf peeping’, but although we can’t claim to rival New England in the fall, there are some trees and shrubs that should be sought out without delay. Amelanchier is one such large shrub.  Also known as the Juneberry or Snowy Mespilus, it gives one of the very best autumn shows with a fantastic fiery display which will stop you in your tracks. It also produces small autumn berries which are edible and can be used in jams or as an alternative to sloe gin.

    Liquidambar

    Then there’s the stately tree Liquidambar with its acer-like leaves. They turn the most vibrant shades of orange, crimson and purple in autumn as the green chlorophyll is broken down to reveal the underlying pigments. It’s anthocyanin, carotene and Xanthophyll that give autumn leaves their fireworks.

    Beautiful berries

    If you can bear to tear your eyes from the trees there are beautiful berries too. Cotoneaster might be associated by some with the ’horizontalis’ variety which tends to romp away if left unchecked. But there are other, more upright forms. They include frigidus ‘Cornubia’ which bears clusters of berries so huge that they weigh down the branches of the shrub. Our native spindle has also given rise to a few selections of stunners. They include Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Cascade’ which not only has spectacular autumn leaf colour but masses of fruit too.

    If you want to visit woods in order to take advantage of the autumn fireworks, try the Woodland Trust website: www.visitwoods.org.uk to find a wood near you. Type in your postcode to see what’s around. You can check out the ’10 of the best woods for autumn colour’.

    AUTUMN QUIZ:

    Can you name the trees and shrubs below?

    Email your answers to: info@perfectplants.co.uk. The person with the greatest number of correct species (in no particular order) will win a mystery prize. All entries to be received by 15 November 2014.

    Don't forget to give us your name and address.

    amelanchier autumn Cercis Forest Pansy Juglans black Liquidambar Nandina domestica Nyssa sylvatica Parrotia persica

  • The Healing powers of plants...

    Plants can heal your soul, it's plain common sense.

    There’s no doubt that plants improve the wellbeing of all who care to interact with them. Just half an hour spent in the garden or park has a positive effect. A lunch-break wandering through the local park or countryside can restore nerves and sooth the soul. Even house plants at home and in the office have a healing and beneficial effect. They increase humidity and absorb certain polluting gases including formaldehyde in addition to mopping up airborne dust particles. Continue reading

  • Prolonging late summer colour

    Do you have lots of late summer colour? If there are gaps in your garden as summer wafts onwards towards autumn, never fear! You are not alone - in fact the latter part of the season is often referred to as ‘dire’ for flowers because of spent flowerheads, dryness and bright light. But this flowering vacuum can easily be filled - there are many stalwarts that bring a touch of magic to borders. What’s more, many of them will reappear year after year to ensure you have colour throughout the whole of summer.

    But which colours are your favourite? Psychologists agree that red is the most emotionally intense colour. It stimulates the breathing and heartbeat and this bold colour is comparatively difficult to place in a garden, although of course red roses are traditionally popular and ‘hot borders’ make a daring statement. Red provides drama and can be very effective as a 'stand-alone' feature in a pot. Continue reading

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