Expert Advice to get into Gardening | Living North

Expert Advice to get into Gardening


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Whether you’ve always wanted to get into gardening or are looking for new challenges, we’ve asked Yorkshire’s experts all the questions you need to know
‘A simple way of encouraging insects is to add a few new plants – they particularly love blue and purple flowers, like the dark purple of Lavandula angustifolia (hidcote) or the lilac of munstead or blue cornflowers’
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How should I care for newly laid turf?

Try not to walk on newly laid turf until it has rooted into the soil, which could take several weeks. If the weather is mild over winter the grass will begin to grow. Trim it lightly where necessary, keeping the mower blades set to high, but avoid doing this when ground is saturated. All lawns need feeding in order to maintain vigour. When feeding, look out for signs of pest or disease and apply moss killer if required. Regular maintenance is the best way to approach a lawn, and this may avoid the need for renovation later on. Over winter, the lawn does not grow much, but once the weather warms up in early spring, you can start mowing, and this is also a good time to over-seed any areas damaged over winter.
Seth Miller, Landscape Gardener with Hedge-Hogs Landscaping and Maintenance Contractors


How can I make the most of a shady garden?
There is a considerable range of plants out there that are suitable for shady gardens. Woodlands are the perfect place to find inspiration – ferns with mid-green leaves will lighten up the area, such as the soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum) or the hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium). 

Grasses provide a long season of interest, from foliage through to flowering, particularly if the seed heads are left for winter displays. Snowy woodrush (Luzula nivea) with its pure white flowers in summer will grow in full shade, or the native Deschampsia cespitosa with its clouds of flowers in summer would look great in more dappled areas of the garden. 

Personally I like to include white and lilac flowered plants in shaded areas, as they have a luminescent quality – particularly at dusk. I suggest the lilac-flowering Hydrangea serrata (bluebird) or Hydrangea aspera (villosa group – in bigger spaces), along with Geranium nodosum (svelte lilac) and white Geranium phaeum (album), all of which will tolerate partial shade. Finally, dot some smaller plants around like the white-flowering Anemone nemorosa, purple-lilac of Viola odorata, or the scented sweet woodruff with its tiny white flowers (Galium odoratus) will provide ground cover. 
Camilla Grayley, Camilla Grayley Garden Design, York


What are your top tips for trimming hedges?
New hedges require formative pruning for their first couple of years after planting – this is usually carried out in winter or spring. After this, maintenance trimming is carried out usually once a year for informal hedges and twice a year for formal hedges (although some formal hedges may need three), generally carried out between spring and summer.

Hand-held hedge shears are fine for smaller hedges, but for large hedges you’ll probably find it easier to use an electric or petrol hedge trimmer. No matter what you use, always make sure the equipment is sharp and well lubricated – and always think of your safety when using a powered hedge trimmer. Wear safety goggles and sturdy gloves. Before starting, remove any obstacles on the ground. Avoid using powered tools above shoulder height and use sturdy step ladders or platforms, ensuring they are stable.

For an even, symmetrical hedge I have a couple of tips. Use a taut, horizontal string tied between two stout canes to act as a guide to cut the top of the hedge level. Canes or stakes pushed into the ground help with vertical lines. To shape the top of the hedge (into an arch for example), cut a template of the shape required from cardboard or plywood. Place the template on the hedge and cut following the line of the template, moving it along as you proceed.
Seth Miller, Landscape Gardener with Hedge-Hogs Landscaping and Maintenance Contractors 


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 


I want to give willow-weaving a try – what do I need to know?
It is a physical activity so if you don’t use your hands for physical activity it can be hard on them. Gloves are not recommended as you will end up weaving them into your sculpture if you’re not careful, but let your tutor know of any issues before you get started and they will be able to help. 

Those of you lucky enough to have made baskets at school (even if it was a while ago) would have had a solid base, possibly made of wood and woven with cane, not willow. In today’s workshops, most tutors teach you to make it from scratch including a woven base. A good tutor will be able to help you create the animal you want to make – as with everything, practice makes perfect.

In terms of tools, they haven’t changed much since medieval times. Willow-weaving is one of the most ancient crafts, and you only need a few tools including a rapping iron (for keeping the weave tight), a good pair of secateurs, a bodkin, and that’s it for basketry. For sculpting, all you need is a good pair of secateurs.
Leilah Vyner, Dragon Willow, North Yorkshire 


What trends are you seeing for 2019?
There are a few key trends for 2019, including outdoor living – this could be anything from an outdoor kitchen area (space to prepare food not just barbecue or cook), which are becoming more popular, to a new seating area or adding a few scented plants around a bench. Climbers are ideal, something like the honeysuckle, the dark red petals of Lonicera periclymenum (serotina) or the  creamy white heaven scent. Adding a few lights, from a wall-light near the house or an up-lighter that highlights a favourite tree or shrub, will allow the space to be used for longer on balmy summer evenings. 

Another trend is wildlife gardening – it is becoming increasingly important to provide food for bees, butterflies and hedgehogs as they are all struggling for green spaces and food sources. A simple way of encouraging insects is to add a few new plants – they particularly love blue and purple flowers, like the dark purple of Lavandula angustifolia (hidcote) or the lilac of munstead or blue cornflowers. Hedgehogs will be happy if there is a gap for them to pass through the garden into the next – just leaving a small hole in the fence will help.  
Camilla Grayley, Camilla Grayley Garden Design, York


A popular choice for 2019 seems likely 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 surge in interest for fern collecting (resulting in ‘fern-fever’), and although they dropped under the radar for many gardeners, now with the rich variety of textures and shades available at garden centres and nurseries, ferns are once more returning to the spotlight. 

Try the sword fern (Polystichum munitum), with its strikingly long, dark-green fronds providing year-round interest and structure in the mixed border. The Alpine water fern (Blechnum penna-marina) provides wonderful ground cover over a small area, with many small ladder-shaped fronds providing excellent interest and texture in a shaded border.

More people will also be focused on climate change, and their choice in plants will reflect this. Last year was particularly hot with long periods of drought, and the early signs show that 2019 could be following a similar pattern. Gardeners are having to be more innovative so I predict a push towards more drought-resistant species. Some of my favourite drought-tolerant species include Oenothera lindheimeri with its airy wands of white star-shaped flowers from May to September.
Phil Cormie, Senior Gardener at Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park, North Yorkshire


How can I make the most of my garden all year round?
Part of my garden philosophy is to be able to pick a ‘tussy mussy’ (or a small bunch of flowers) every week of the year. Of course, this is easy in the floriferous months of the year, so I want to encourage you to look at your garden and see how you can develop it to make this possible in the bleaker months of the year.

In November and December we need evergreen shrubs such as the elegant Rhamnus, variegated hollies and all the forms of Euonymus. Often there are berries on Cotoneaster and rose hips to add to the bunch. After Christmas, we have the delight of early snowdrops and several scented shrubs – my favourite by far is Viburnum ‘Dawn’. Whenever there’s no frost, a small piece of its rosy pink flowers can scent a room. There’s also another winter-flowering shrub I would have in every garden – Sarcococca hookeriana. This is a small (no bigger than 90cm) evergreen shrub which in February is covered with tiny white flowers, the scent of which permeates the whole garden – grow it near a doorway and it will cheer you through the worst winter weather. In March we have the early crocus, daffodils and Pulmonaria, all of which are good to pick, so just take a fresh look at your garden and see how you can enjoy it all year.
Vanessa Cook, RHS and HPS-Registered Lecturer, Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens, York

Published in: June 2019

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