Composting, George, How To

At its heart, gardening is rooted in sustainability, from growing your own food to enhancing the local ecosystem. Most gardeners are used to finding thrifty solutions to dilemmas, patching things up with what’s lying around. But there’s always room to find new ways to make your garden greener. With that in mind, here are our tips for recycling in the garden.

recycling in the garden corks

1 – Corks

Break up old corks and use them to help drainage in plant pots. What better way to justify your drinking habit?

2 – Plastic bottles

Cut the ends off plastic drinks bottles and use them as cloches to protect your tender plants. Bottles come in plenty of sizes to fit all your flora.

3 – CDs

A classic grandmother’s trick! Hang up old CDs around your vegetable patch, so the reflecting sunlight will scare off birds.

fish tank

4 – Fish tank water

If you have an aquarium, save the water when you’re cleaning it out. It’s full of nutrients, so perfect for watering your plants.

5 – Compost bags

When you’ve emptied out a fresh load of compost, don’t throw away the bag! Reuse it as a sturdy container for transporting debris around the garden.

egg boxes

6 – Egg boxes

As well as being compostable, egg boxes are the perfect containers for chitting potatoes. Simply pop your potatoes in with the eyes upright.

7 – Lollipop sticks

Forget what you’ve planted where? Take a Sharpie to your used lollipop sticks and give them new life as plant markers.

8 – Windows

If you’re about to throw out unwanted window panes, consider repurposing them as lids for homemade cold frames.

recycling cardboard

9 – Cardboard

Delivery boxes, kids’ art projects… any bit of old cardboard will do for recycling. They make great insulation for plants or even compost.

10 – Tyres

The classic upcycling project – turn worn out car tyres into planters by stacking them up and filling with soil. Paint them for a colourful touch.

11 – Toilet roll tubes

These little cardboard tubes are perfect for seeding vegetables like carrots and peas. Fill and when they’re ready, transplant the tube into the ground, where it will gradually decompose.

seedlings in tubes

Hopefully these ideas will help you see what you can reuse, reduce and recycle in your garden. If you have any tips for the green-fingered community, let us know!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Alex Briggs, Flowers, How To

Sure to bring a smile to just about any face, fresh flowers remain one of nature’s most beautiful gifts. Whether someone you know needs a day-brightener or you just want to add life, color and beauty to your home, a few tips for creating fresh flower arrangements can help you enhance your own little corner of the world.

Flower Arranging

1. Choose an Appropriate Vessel

Vessel is a good word because just thinking about the typical floral shop vase can be limiting. Simple glasses, bowls, urns and jars can do a beautiful and unique job of holding your arrangement. A good tip is to choose a vessel with a smaller opening and a wider base so that the stems have room to spread out, resulting in a fuller arrangement above. For example, if using a quart mason jar, choose a small-mouth version over a wide-mouth version.

If your vessel is not transparent, loosely ball up some chicken wire in the bottom before adding water and flowers. This allows for a more loosely gathered and natural look for your arrangement.

If your arrangement will be a table centerpiece, consider making it somewhat tall so that conversation can happen around it or short so that conversation can happen above it.

2. Select Flowers that Make You Smile

Picking up a bunch of flowers from a grocery store is fine, but picking something that you personally enjoy and find beautiful will make your arrangement extra special. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Fresh Market tend to have high quality and interesting floral options. You can select a mixed bunch or choose several smaller bunches that strike your fancy. Keep in mind the size of your vessel as you buy as well as variety of size and style of flower. A little really goes a long way, especially when you follow tip number three below.

Flower Arrangement

3. Search for Additional Flowers and Greenery

Why purchase greenery when you probably have some beautiful things in your own backyard? Of course, the time of year and location will play a factor, but magnolia, evergreen and many other varieties are beautiful all year round. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a yard with flowers and greenery, ask friends, neighbors or relatives if you can come and clip a few things from their yard for your arrangement. Most people will gladly allow you to do so. Be sure to clip a little more than you think you’ll need and to keep the stems fairly long. You can always cut them down if needed.

4. Remove All Leaves Below the Waterline

When you begin your arrangement, fill your vessel ¾ up with water and don’t allow any leaves to fall below that line. Doing so causes bacteria to form more quickly, shortening the life span of your arrangement. Feel free to put in the packet of cut flower food as well. Continue to add flowers and greenery to your arrangement, keeping in mind that you want different heights, types of flowers and multiple colors spread throughout the arrangement. If you don’t like the result, take everything out and start over again. Rather than getting frustrated, think of the process as a sort of therapy as you work with something beautiful that will be enjoyed by many.

5. Add a Signature Touch

Especially if you’re giving the flowers away, it’s nice to add a personal touch such as a lovely ribbon or handwritten card. Sometimes, you find a beautiful item that you would like to include in an arrangement such as a couple of sprigs of curly willow, some fall leaves or an ornamental butterfly. Even adding a brooch to the center of a ribbon or some sparkly sticks can show that you’ve contributed your own unique style to the arrangement.

Flowers are a gift of nature that have so much to offer, and learning to create more beautiful arrangements is within the reach of most people. The artistry of floral design is truly something to be enjoyed by its creator and shared with others.

Alex Briggs is a contributing writer for Park Avenue Floratique. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family and hiking.

Jorge, Plants

Darwin’s illustration of the tree of life from On the Origin of Species.

The difference between genus, species, variety and cultivar is that each are different taxonomical ranks, containing populations of organisms with genetic similarities. These ranks reflect the ultimate goal of taxonomy, which is to lay out the tree of life, accurately documenting the relationships between organisms, both living and dead, tracing life back to a single ancestor. In this article, we seek to explain both why populations have been placed in certain ranks and the naming conventions used, which allow the easy identification of organisms.

Scientific name or species name – Prunus incisa

Comprised of genus Prunus and specific epithet incisa. Epithets usually refer to a feature of the plant (serrulata – little-saw, which refers to the shape of the leaves), but sometimes its origin (nipponica – Japan) or discoverer (sargentii – discovered by Charles Sargent). Genus is capitalised while its specific epithet is lower case italicized, just like its variety. Often genus is abbreviated to save time (P. incisa).  

Genus is the highest taxonomic rank you’d likely come across when browsing for plants. Genera are easy to learn. Prunus, for example, contains plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds.

Genera are hotly debated and sometimes revised. Taxons – a population of organisms – can be monophyletic, paraphyletic or polyphyletic. In monophyletic groups all species are descended from a common ancestor; paraphyletic groups contain all the descendents of a common ancestor minus one or more monophyletic groups; and finally polyphyletic groups are characterised by convergent features or habits of scientific interest. Today, taxonomists seek to avoid polyphyletic groups, believing taxons should reflect evolutionary relationships. Despite this, polyphyletic groupings persist, because of their usefulness to researchers studying similarities spread across evolutionary groups.

One recent study found that Prunus is monophyletic with all species descending from a single eurasian ancestor. Prunus, however, can be divided further into several subgenera. Historically these taxons would be based on morphology, although today they are often based on genetics. Thus subgenera are also disputed. An example of a subgenus is the Prunus subg. Padus that includes Prunus padus – a species of cherry native to the UK. As with genus, subgenus is also capitalised.

The scientific epithet completes the species name, distinguishing the plant from others in the genus. But what is a species? One definition states a species is a group of similar individuals which can reproduce successfully with each other while at the same time being reproductively isolated from other similar species. This definition leaves it up to scientists to decide when a group of individuals is distinct with some placing greater weight on genetics, others more obvious characteristics such as their morphology.

When a group of individuals becomes geographically isolated, it will begin to develop unique traits, making it distinct from the rest of the species. These distinct groups are known as varieties. Over time, they may become so different from the parent group that they are unable to breed, leading to the creation of a new species. Often, however, a variety come into contact with its parent group, resulting in an influx of genes that erodes their distinct features, reintegrating it into the greater species group.

Variety – P. nipponica var. kurilensis

The example in question, var. kurilensis is from the Kuril Islands – an island chain North of Japan, which is significantly colder than the Japanese mainland. It is extremely hardy and one of the few ornamental cherries suitable for the Nordic countries’ climate. Varieties are true to type as their seeds produce offspring with the same unique characteristics of the parent plant. Generally, plants aren’t advertised by their variety with nurseries preferring cultivars.

Cultivars are distinct from varieties in that they do not occur naturally in the wild. Cultivars are selected by humans for specific characteristics and are propagated through vegetative cuttings i.e. cloning. Propagation by seed will often lead to something different from the parent plant and as such they aren’t true to type.

Cultivars can be created through mutation breeding and hybridisation. Sometimes hybridisation programs can take years involving multiple crosses that each add a desirable trait as in the case of the Malus ‘Evereste’ – a cultivar resistant to fire blight, apple scab and powdery mildew. Mutation breeding involves bombarding plants with radiation as to induce mutations (new traits). An example of this is the ‘Rio Star’ grapefruit that is red in colour and produces more flesh and juice than varieties found in the wild. Cultivated varieties are more expensive than natural varieties due to the cost involved in development.

Cultivar – Prunus x incam ‘Okame’ / Prunus x incam cv. Okame

Cultivars are often capitalised and placed in single quote brackets, although sometimes they are written formally and preceded by an abbreviation. In the case of hybrids an x is placed before the second epithet as in the case ‘Okame’ that is a cross between the incisa and campanulatus.

If you are interested in learning more about taxonomy, please read our article: Plant Taxonomy: a History.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Garden Design, Guest Posts, Infographics

Although every family is different yet most families face similar issues when it comes to privacy and personal space. It is important that any family member gets space when they need to unwind, work,or study, and the extra living space that garden rooms offer is exactly what your family needs.The comfort of a little space outside the house can allow you to pursue a hobby like learning to play a musical instrument or hone your skills at your craft.

Almost one-fourth of all garden rooms built are home offices. Having trees around the work space improves your mood, helps you to concentrate better, and work more and still feel more relaxed. Someone who has tried to work from home cannot deny the fact that they cannot work unless there is nobody else at home. Having an office pod away from the noise and stress of the house can work wonders for architects, photographers, web designers, online retailers, and writers besides many other professionals. Having such an office space helps self-employed professionals to avoid a stressful commute between home and office and also saves time. Working amidst nature in their own garden can help those creative juices flowing to boost productivity.

If you are a business owner who often gets clients and partners at home, a garden room can provide you with that buffer to separate home from work. You would be able to communicate your ideas better without any disturbance and avoid getting distracted because of home affairs. If you are concerned about its effect on the value of your property, you would be glad to learn that a garden room is likely to add value to your home and increase the chances of a quick sale.

Check out this infographic put together by ModernGardenRooms to learn about other uses of garden rooms and what the specifications that need to be considered are.

garden room