Category Archives: Gardening help

Records of the things that have helped me as an amateur gardener.

Box tree caterpillar plague in Clapham, London

It’s usually around this time of year, just as our good ship The Garden puts its rockets into nitro that problems start to crop up in the engines. Last year I spotted a beautiful moth in our garden and soon learnt that this beaut is a terror, Cydalima perspectalis, the box tree moth. Sometimes bad things come in good packages. Continue reading Box tree caterpillar plague in Clapham, London

15 sensational plant combinations you can try at home from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

One of my bugbears around Chelsea time are the naysayers proclaiming the gardens are unrealistic and impossible to recreate at home. You know what I always say to that? Poppycock! (Incidentally, what is a ‘poppycock’ or am I best not asking?) Continue reading 15 sensational plant combinations you can try at home from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Dry winter and spring, what does it mean for summer?

Note: since the day I published this the heavens opened dumping over 4cm of water in 72 hours in south London. So for us at least, crisis averted. No more hose pipe ban worries for the time being – now its slug war. 

It has barely rained in London now for six weeks. The soil in my garden, allotment and my clients’ gardens is like dust, on the surface and inches down. Plants are hanging on thanks to the cooler nights without supplemental water but barely. My mind is turning to what will happen when the weather hots up for summer.  Continue reading Dry winter and spring, what does it mean for summer?

Allotment: weed suppressant membrane – beating weeds organically

Month 13: my allotment has expanded a bit this year as I’ve taken on some unused adjacent plot. This is thick with grass and other weeds so I’m using weed suppressant membrane to bring it under control with less effort. It may not look pretty, but it works. Continue reading Allotment: weed suppressant membrane – beating weeds organically

My Tiny Indoor Garden by Lia Leendertz

Earlier in the year Lia Leendertz and Mark Diacono popped over to talk about and photograph our indoor plants for their new book My Tiny Indoor Garden. I loved the idea of houseplants being seen as a ‘garden’ because that’s really what they are. For years of renting in London they were the only garden I had. Having always been a little book worm, to have our houseplants – some with great personal meaning to me – featured in such a book feels very special indeed. Others featured include stunning cacti in the London shop called Prick, a porch of succulents to put other collections to shame, a perfect collection of plants owned by the current curator of RHS Wisley and some ruins enclosed within a tropical glasshouse. It’s all very inspirational and I keep going back to the twenty or so indoor gardens featured. The book is out now online and we’ve seen it in Waterstones and Foyles too.

Dividing a fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)

I want more ferns for our fern wall and some of our ferns are ripe for dividing. After breaking the bank with our flat renovations and garden last year, I’m keen to save money by propagating from the plants we have (it’s also much more interesting and, as you probably know, I’m a propagation geek…). Dividing ferns is pretty easy, and below is how I do it. Continue reading Dividing a fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)

Dahlia experiment: cultivars put to the test!

In late 2013 I discovered Dahlias. As unbelievable as that might sound to gardeners who have grown up with them for decades, somehow I’d missed them throughout my life. I don’t think I’d even simply ‘not recognised them’, I’m fairly sure I had avoided them almost completely – perhaps a sign of how out of fashion they had become? Continue reading Dahlia experiment: cultivars put to the test!

Vine weevil menace returns to Clapham!

They’re back! Those little notch mark bites on your otherwise lovely leaves. Yep, it must be vine weevil. Grr. Interestingly, it was September last year that I first noticed the bite marks on the flowers of our Cyclamen. This year, it was on a fern and then all over the Heuchera ‘Licorice’.

So, like the mad man of the neighbourhood that I am, iPhone in tow set to torch mode, I ventured out in the dark of night. Lo and behold, two nights on the trot now and I’ve found four of them. Unfortunately, there is no friendly way to dispatch of these nasties and they go with a crunch under foot. But, be ready, you have to catch them as they will drop to the soil the second they realise you’re onto them.

Last year I tried Nemasys vine weevil killer nematodes (Steinernema kraussei) which give the grubs some kind of bacteria and supposedly kills them. I can only guess this worked to a degree because I haven’t seen any damage until now… Oh, except for the one grub I found at the start of the year which killed a sweet pea.

I am kicking myself now for not doing an application of the nematodes in early summer, which may have prevented the current onslaught. This evening I gave one application, concentrating on the pots and the plants I know to be vulnerable (especially with the bite marks and vine weevils seen on them). I will also keep up the nightly patrols – until a neighbour rings the police thinking I’m a burglar.

If anyone knows of anything that will actually kill the adult weevil too (other than a stamp of a foot) please let me know…

Dividing a Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant)

I’ve had a Zamioculcas zamiifolia for some years now. In the last year, I found the magic formula and – despite rumours it is a slow growing plant – it has been growing like a rocket. So much so, it had outgrown our small flat with a further ten large leaves starting to grow! I felt adventurous and decided to divide it, putting some of my new RHS Level 2 (unit 4 Plant Propagation thank you very much!) knowledge to the test. Continue reading Dividing a Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant)