Ade Holder, Current Issues, Garden Design, Gardening, Planting, Plants

Rain gardens

A rain garden in its simplest form stands as “a shallow depression, with absorbent yet, free draining soil and planted with vegetation that can withstand occasional temporary flooding”. Such gardens can be a very effective -a small scale community-led step towards preventing risks of flooding within homes and residential areas. A guide to rain gardens has been provided by raingardens.info for those interested in installing a rain garden within their property, together with further information on the benefits and effects of installing one. There are however much larger rain gardens being implemented in many urban and communal spaces.

The plants on the surface of the gardens act not only as an aesthetically pleasing aspect to the design, but as a natural flood defence to which water may infiltrate – slowing the rate of surface water build up on the roads. Beneath the surface of the gardens a water tank is fitted, which is backed up by an additional overflow pipe connecting it directly to the sewer or run off system.

These innovative garden designs have become ever more popular in recent years, as urbanisation continues to diminish our natural green spaces. This year’s Chelsea Flower Show also saw its first rain garden – designed by Dr Nigel Dunnett. His garden, named the ‘New Wild Garden’ is now situated in Gloucestershire. Here the idea of building a rain garden was promoted because not only could it primarily prevent flooding, but also allow wildlife to thrive as well as keeping plants hydrated without the need for watering as often – ideal for gardeners who prefer a low maintenance approach. Rain gardens can additionally be both inexpensive and sustainable, with Dunnett’s garden being built with emphasis on just this. According to The Guardian “many of the hard materials used to make the New Wild Garden were gathered from skips and charity shops. Insect habitats were made using old water pipes, bits of bark, drilled wood and the cross section of an ivy stem taken off a house. Dry-stone walls feature old books and toy cars, while the granite used to make the path was salvaged from outside the Natural History Museum”. Dunnett has even produced a book with Andy Clayden about rain gardens and their sustainability.

As highlighted by Dunnett’s rain garden, alongside many others, the concept itself invites innovation and creativity while remaining entirely flexible in fitting to its surrounding environment. Simple provisions still need to be considered however, such as ensuring the garden isn’t situated on too steep a slope or close to building foundations– as these factors can lessen the garden’s permeability.

Rain garden planting

Further note can be taken from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who have put together a webpage on which plants are native to, and thrive most, in each American state. This allows for gardeners to adapt to their local environments in ensuring that the plants they stock their gardens with conserve water at a level in sympathy with the shortages in the area. For instance the use of drought tolerant crops are encouraged in various states such as Arizona. When putting together a rain garden in the UK, it is important to stock it with plants native to the area, which can tolerate as much surface water as possible in order to resist flooding rather than drought. The Royal Horticultural Society have similarly put together a webpage on trees and shrubs that are native to the UK, which can be useful in considering the practical design for a rain garden.

Kent County Council will soon be implementing the very first series of seventeen ‘rain gardens’ in Folkestone, in order to combat flooding. Flooding in this area has proved hazardous in the past, where both roads, houses and businesses are vulnerable.

According to Kent County Council “this inventive initiative will increase the amount of water captured on Dolphins Road and provide storage below the rain gardens that then control the rate that water flows into the sewer. The tank lets the water out into the sewer at a much slower rate than conventional highway gullies and so won’t overwhelm the network.”

Folkestone

Southern Water has also become involved in the initiative, partnering with Kent County Council on researching further options to reduce flooding risks across the area, possibly through the installation of additional water storage facilities. However, while the implementation of these particular gardens remains more complex and high-tech, the concept of rain gardens isn’t entirely new and a return to more traditional flood control methods is becoming more common.

Flooding is becoming more and more of an issue in many parts of the UK and the world. British companies like UNDA provide an ever increasing number of flood risk assessments across the country as the need to know about the potential of flooding grows. The government and councils are rightly putting pressure on developers to make sure houses are being built in areas that are not likely to flood or are capable of dealing with flood water. Rain gardens are just one of many measures both the government and individuals should be thinking about. Not only do they look wonderful but hey provide a service to homes and those around them. Larger rain gardens like those planned for Folkestone should be employed in a number of areas to help protect surrounding properties.

Flooding

Of course, the reasons there is even a need for flood protection are many but most agree it is related to climate change. So as well and looking at mitigation devices like rain gardens it is important everyone continues to try to reduce their carbon footprint to stop things getting any worse over the coming decades.

Ade HolderAde Holder was once primarily a motoring writer but with a background in Zoology and Environmental Science as well as a deep passion for all things living and growing he found himself writing on a much broader range of topics. As well as writing on various topics Ade has also been called to speak on BBC radio on a number of topics. In his spare time he can often be found covered in mud on a mountain bike somewhere on the South Downs.

How To, Liam, Planting, Plants

Pruning is essential to a productive and healthy fruit bush. For that reason we have created this step-by-step guide on how to prune a fruit bush which looks at those with a bushy and sucker/cane growing habit.

Pruning a Bushy… Bush

Fruit bushes witha bushy growing habit are all those species with branches spreading from one main trunk usually close to the ground level. These include most varieties such as blueberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants etc.

Bushy fruit bushes produce the most fruit on 2-3 year old branches and lose their vigour after that third year. Pruning therefore is the art of facilitating a constant cycle of rejuvenation keeping the plant young, healthy and heavy with fruit.

  • Pruning should be carried out in the winter while the bush is still dormant. I would advise waiting until early spring as the buds begin to develop. This will give you a clearer indication of which branches are worth keeping. Fruit buds will be more round and fat than their thinner vegetative counterparts.
  • In the first two years pruning is a light exercise, simply ridding the plant of anything dead, dying or diseased – the three D’s. As always when dealing with anything diseased you need to sterilise your pruning equipment and burn any of the affected branches or leaves after they have been pruned out to prevent the spread of contamination.
Pruning A Bush Diagram
Before and After Pruning a Bush: The Desired Shape
  • As the bush has established itself pruning becomes a practice of training and increasing productivity. After removing the three d’s you want to maintain a good evenly spaced shape with the branches growing as horizontally as possible as these will be the branches capable of supplying the most fruit.
  •  As the bush grows older pruning should include cutting out any of the older more woody branches.
  • With this done you leave only the younger, more vigorous branches which crop the heaviest. This is better for fruit production and will help prevent the bush exhausting itself and falling into a biennial harvest.
  • Now you will want to prune out any crossing branches or areas of congestion. You need to open the bush up to sunlight and good airflow as to prevent the spread of pests and disease.  Suckers and low-hanging branches are more of an issue with a fruit bush.
  • If it appears as if the fruit will be resting on the floor cut out that branch. This helps prevent disease and pests from destroying your crop.

Pruning a Sucker Bush

Some bushes, mainly Raspberries and Blackberries, grow in a sucker fashion meaning that they grow new stems from the base of the plant year on year as opposed to having a truck or main branch. Both also only grow fruit on one year old canes and so it is essential to annually prune these bushes maintaining this cycle of rejuvenation.

Again this process should be carried out in late winter or early spring. More recently horticulturalists have realised that the old canes send carbohydrates back to the roots which can boost the plant’s vitality and therefore it may be worth waiting until spring time before you prune them out.

A Blackberry Bush After Its Winter Pruning
  • First of all tend to the 3 D’s.
  • Every year you need to monitor and remove those canes which have produced fruit during the harvest season. You can cut these out right at the base but leave a little length so the cut does not become contaminated from the soil and pests.
  • Lastly remove any weak or spindly looking branches. These won’t be able to bear much fruit and will simply limit air-flow and sunlight reaching the more productive canes.
  • You can now tie in these main canes to their support and expect a bumper crop as summer comes around!

Hopefully with this guide we have given you all the information on how to prune a fruit bush. As always check the specific requirement for your plant to ensure a healthy life and a bumper crop!

Guest Posts, How To, Infographics, Planting, Plants

The wildness of nature is somewhat illusory: while the chaotic spread of uncultivated plant and animal life may seem random, there is a non-human logic beneath it all that is beautiful to behold when considered afresh. The roots, the flowers and leaves of the plants in our gardens and beyond communicate and work with each other with a form of unthinking intelligence that, when over-considered, can feel like an alien presence in our very neighbourhoods. But we too are part of this cycle: we eat the plants that the insects pollinate, we breathe the air that the trees generate, and in turn we cultivate and protect our neighbours, the plants!

While all this is perfectly natural, we have lost touch somewhat with our inherent instinct on how to do this. Chemical fertilizers and insecticides have interrupted our gardens’ natural sense of self-preservation and mutual care. But learning how to cast these artificial elements aside and work with nature’s inherent logic is good for the soul and good for the environment.

For example, some plants act as natural insect-repellents, protecting their neighbours from hungry pests; conversely, other plants will attract the bugs that your garden needs if it is to thrive. It makes far more sense to work this way than to employ the industrial techniques that big agriculture uses to maximize profits.

Still other plants are of the ‘big sister’ variety, offering shelter or necessary nutrition to their fellow blooms. And some will even pay back directly to you in thanks for growing them side by side: certain vegetables and herbs can actually flavour each other while still in the earth, and other plants will conceal each other’s less savoury scents.

To start embracing your garden’s cross-species affinity, take a look at this new infographic containing some suggestions on plants that thrive well together.

 

Jorge, Plants, Trees

In sharp contrast to the frosty mornings and cold evenings, fiery hues and bright coloured fruit can liven up your Autumn. Cultivars of crabapple and rowan can produce pink, yellow and red fruit, which are perfect for wildlife, while maples and beech can create gorgeous palettes of red, orange and yellow. Now without further ado, here are six trees with fantastic autumn colour.

Maple Trees

An essential part of Autumn iconography, the red maple (Acer rubrum) can be found throughout the UK’s public parks. Introduced all the way back in 1656, the tree will produce a profusion of red, orange and yellow, before turning a vivid red. Highly versatile, the tree can be found growing in a wide range of conditions in its native North America and is suitable for urban settings as it is tolerant of pollution.

Unlike its larger cousin, the japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is suitable for all gardens and can be grown in containers. Indigenous to East Asia, the tree can be found growing at heights up to 1100m, hence its other name the mountain maple. Come Autumn, the tree’s dissected leaves will turn a deep red. The palmatum has many quirky cultivars including ‘Butterfly’ with its cream-tinged green leaves that turn pink; ‘Atropurpureum’ with scarlet red Autumn foliage; and ‘Sango-kaku’ with its gorgeous coral coloured bark and stunning foliage.

Beech Trees

Picture Credit: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Another typical Autumnal tree, the common beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a large, majestic tree with great spectrum of colours. Reaching up to 50 metres in the wild, although commonly 30, it was once believed that the tree is native to southern England, but not the North where it is sometimes removed. Researchers now believe the tree was first introduced to Southern England by Neolithic humans who sought its nuts for food, making it a non-native species. Trees in the North, on the other hand, were introduced by Vikings in the first millennium. Thankfully, most trees sold are limited in height by their rootstock, and are thus suitable for most gardens.

The Sweet Gum

Picture Credit: Famartin licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Similar to maple and beech, the sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua ) is notable for its conflagration of colour with its sharp five-pointed leaves turning red, yellow and purple. First introduced to Europe in 1681 by John Banister, one of the first university trained botanist, the species is also notable for deeply ridged bark, known as alligator bark in America.

Crabapples

Severely underrated, the humble crabapple will produce attractive foliage and bright and colourful fruits, which can last well into winter. The species is hardy, versatile and great for wildlife, being native to the UK. The tree will produce beautiful blossom come Spring and serves as a great pollinator for apples. Notable cultivars include ‘Butterball’, ‘John-Downie’, ‘Evereste’ and ‘Red Sentinel’ with yellow, scarlet-orange, red and yellow-orange fruit respectively. Special is ‘Butterball’ that can produce six different colours throughout the year.

Rowan Trees

Similar to the crabapple, rowans produce fantastic coloured berries that can last well into winter, providing an essential source of sustenance for birds. Hardy and versatile the species is suitable for most soils, and with many different sized cultivars, there is a tree for every garden.The most famous is the native Sorbus aucuparia with red berries and slender leaves, which turn yellow in Autumn. Simply stunning, however, are the cultivars ‘Pink Pagoda’ and ‘Joseph Rock’. The former produces gorgeous pink berries, which are a favourite for birds, while the latter looks amazing with its deep red pinnate leaves contrasted with bright yellow berries.


Cherry Trees

Commonly thought as a tree for Spring, many cherries are ideal ornamentals for Autumn hues. One of the best has to be the ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ that will flower intermittently from November to April with clusters of small semi-double rosy-pink blossom. Other varieties such as ‘Fragrant Cloud’, ‘Sargent’s Cherry’ and ‘Umineko’ will produce fiery displays, with the Sargents among the first trees to colour up. ‘Fragrant Cloud’ is especially beautiful with its upright form. Worthy of note is the ‘Tibetan Cherry’ with its smart coppery-brown bark that will look beautiful regardless of season.

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.

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