Ask the Experts: Summer | Living North

Ask the Experts: Summer


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Top tips and advice on all your gardening needs from experts across the North East
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Which houseplants do you recommend and what are your top tips for looking after them?

Some common indoor plants, including spider plants, peace lilies and aloe vera are also a great natural way of removing toxic agents from the air. Other popular species which are known survivors and can last through cold nights and hot days include Crassula, commonly known as a money plant, or aspidistra, also called cast iron. There is a houseplant to suit every taste. For those who like flowers and more traditional plants, begonia and gerbera are a good choice, or for those who prefer more of an architectural, clean-line look, then Dracaena or rubber plants are the best option.

My top tip is don’t over-water them. That said, it’s difficult to give guidance as a lot lies with factors such as the plant’s environment, central heating, sunlight – trial and error plays a big part in getting it right. Just looking at the surface of the pot isn’t always a true indicator – it’s best to lift the plant up to see how heavy it is – this is a better guide to judge if it needs watering. If it’s heavier than expected, the water could still be lying below the surface.
Cath Campbell, Houseplant Assistant at Azure Garden Centre, Cramlington 


How can I keep my lawn looking its best year-round?

Setting the height of cut to suit the conditions is very important. Regular cutting and only cutting the top third of the grass at one time will give the best results – remember, little and often is the best way. Also make sure that the blade is sharp on your mower and consider scarifying in early spring or late summer to remove unwanted moss and thatch. Aeration allows water, air and nutrients into the roots of the grass, and watering during dry periods encourages the roots down into the subsoil. Finally, using lawn feeds in spring and autumn will encourage healthy growth and make your lawn look greener. 
Katherine Pattinson, Greenlay Grass Machinery, Cramlington

If you have turf, remember that it’s a living plant and regular feeding will help keep it strong, healthy and green. If you gently roll it in the spring you will iron out any small imperfections making for a cleaner, even cut and a flatter lawn. Even well-established lawns will need watering if temperatures really rise during summer months. As a guide, mow once a week from the beginning of spring to the end of autumn, although you may want to cut it twice a week during warmer months of the year.
Deborah and Gary Kenyon, GK Turfing, Newcastle


How do I care for my newly laid turf?

Avoid walking across your new lawn for the first two weeks while it establishes. In warm weather the turf needs to be watered as soon as it is laid, at other times watering is needed when the temperature is 10C or above. Water every day for at least two weeks – to check if you have provided enough water, gently lift a corner of the turf and check that it’s moist through to the soil and ensure every piece of turf is watered. If you need to cross the turf to water parts while it’s still establishing, use boards to walk on. Wait for at least two weeks before mowing and use a high setting for the first cut, then gradually reduce the height so as not to shock the turf.  
Deborah and Gary Kenyon, GK Turfing, Newcastle 


How can I create impact in the garden?

Combining plants and structures such as trellises is a great way of creating impact. You can use deciduous or evergreen plants, but take a bit of time to do some research as there are lots to choose from. You can also use climbing plants to cover a structure such as a trellis to create an attractive focal point. 
Andrew Simmons, Head Gardener at Floors Castle & Gardens, Scottish Borders

A popular choice for 2019 seems to be borders lush with interesting foliage. Ferns are a great choice for introducing a wider range of foliage into your garden. In the Victorian times, there was a huge interest in fern-collecting, and although they dropped off the radar for a while, with the rich variety of textures and shades available at garden centres and nurseries now, they are once more returning to the spotlight. 

Try the sword fern with its strikingly long, dark green fronds providing year-round colour, interest and structure in a mixed border. The Alpine water fern provides wonderful ground cover over a small area with many small ladder-shaped fronds providing interest and texture in a shaded border.
Phil Cormie, Senior Gardener at Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park


How can I make the most of my garden all year round?

We find our customers are increasingly wanting to escape from bricks and mortar to fully enjoy their garden space all year round – a definite ‘back to nature’ need. There are those who want purely to relax in their garden space, and those who want to bring their garden to life through continued growing. This results in an increased interest in the larger cedar wood greenhouses with full pane toughened glass, as well summerhouses and wood log cabins supplied with heavy duty timber and incorporated toughened glass folding doors. These wooden buildings are excellent for holding warmth from both the sun and the addition of simple heating – for example, an electric convection heater.
Eileen Bewley, GCS Leisure Buildings, Cramlington


How can I attract more wildlife into my garden?

Choosing the right flowers is important, especially for our pollinators such as bees, butterflies and insects. Choose plants that will provide pollen for as much of the year as possible, from spring-flowering plants like Bergenia (elephant’s ears) and Caltha palustris (marsh marigold), to autumn plants like Aconitum carmichaelii (Carmichael’s monkshood) and Symphyotrichum (michaelmas daisy). If you have the space, aim to grow a mix of trees and shrubs to provide a variety of habitats for wildlife, as well as food and shelter. Small trees such as mountain ash, crab apples and hawthorn not only provide an early nectar source for pollinators but are also an important food source for birds, with their berries and fruits later in the year.

A great way to encourage wildlife to stay in your garden over the winter months is to delay cutting back perennials until the spring. Ornamental grasses and perennials, such as Hylotelephium spectabile and Verbena bonariensis, provide an autumn food source with their seeds for small birds, as well as habitat for hibernating insects over the winter months.
Phil Cormie, Senior Gardener at Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park, North Yorkshire


Have you noticed any gardening trends for 2019?

The once-maligned succulent and cacti that were banished to cold outbuildings or forgotten corners of the garden are making a comeback in a very different way. Contemporary homes lend themselves well to minimal arrangements of cacti. Try sprucing up tired indoor or outdoor areas by arranging the humble succulent or cacti into groups of contrasting shapes or sizes within interesting glass atriums or a repurposed shallow bowl.
Marie Bate, Damson Garden Design

Trends for 2019 include planting more herbaceous plant material as people are wanting their flower displays to last for much longer.
Trevor Jones, Head Gardener at The Alnwick Garden

Published in: May 2019

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