Garden Design, Gardening, Gary, New Products, Planters

There are a lot of different planters out there, with styles to match every garden design and climate. With so much choice it can be hard to know what to buy; a stone planter may look nice but might be too heavy, a zinc planter may give you the sleek look you want, but not be strong enough. If you are looking for a catch-all planter material we would recommend you consider Fibrecotta. 

Fibrecotta Planter in Garden
Fibrecotta Planter in Garden

 

What is it ?

Fibrecotta is a compound material made from layering cellulose fiber and clay with fiberglass. Once shaped, the finished material is then set, rather than fired. This manufacturing process leaves very little waste when compared to other materials and because it is set rather than fired it is more environmentally friendly.

Why Fibrecotta?

Lightweight –  Fibrecotta is a lightweight material that lets you easily position even large planters wherever you want in your garden.

Durable  – Because of their fiberglass content, Fibrecotta is a strong material that can cope with everything the weather can throw at it. Importantly, it is frost resistant so you can leave the planter out all year. It will also not corrode with the natural acids and alkalis in the soil.

Easy drainage – Like it’s heavier cousin, Terracotta, Fibrestone is porous, meaning that water will naturally filter through the planter providing you with drainage without having to drill holes.    

Good for soil – the porous walls of this planter not only allow for easier drainage, but they have a great effect on the soil too. As the water drains it takes the soils naturally present minerals with it helping your plant to thrive

Ages naturally – The passing of minerals through the planter means that it ages at the same rate as Terracotta. If you are looking for a planter that matures alongside your garden, Fibrecotta is the ideal choice. 

There are many benefits to planters made of this material. Not only is durable, lightweight and good for your plants, but it comes in many shapes and colours. Sound like the type of planter for you? Shop the range now at primrose.co.uk.

Set of terracotta coloured Fibrecotta planters from Primrose.co.uk

 

Gary at PrimroseGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.

Decoration, Garden Furniture, Gary, How To

wood treatment

We spend a lot of time and money making our gardens look great. Wooden furniture and fittings are some of the most versatile and popular methods of garden decoration in the UK, but like any natural product, a little maintenance is needed to ensure that all your time and effort hasn’t been put to waste.

What happens if I don’t look after my wood?

Wooden furniture can last for years if looked after properly, but like any natural product, its quality can be affected by the weather. Most people will first see the decline in quality in the spring when they begin to use their outside spaces again and assume that the damage was done during the winter. Whilst the winter weather does cause most of the damage, it’s only because of conditions in the summer; a long, hot season of bright sunshine and occasional high humidity and showers can cause a lot of strain on the fibres in the wood. This strain makes it more likely that a combination of water and cold in the winter will cause either mould or mildew to form, which causes weaknesses and rot in the wood.

How often should I treat wood?

Treating your wooden products should be a priority, and depending on your local conditions and wood type this may need to be done from once every 3 months, to once every 12 months. Failure to do this may lead to decay and damage caused by exposure to rain and the elements.

Wood Stain

Preservation – the basic method

The key to wood preservation is the prevention of water getting into the wood. There are a few key steps in achieving this and this method can be applied to furniture, fence panels, sheds and exterior wooden window frames. These steps can be undertaken at any point in the year and should be done in as dry conditions as possible.

Step 1 – Clean your surface: Over the summer, your furniture will naturally accumulate a layer of dirt and residue. This detritus not only looks bad, but it can be a carrier of moulds and spores that can seep into and destroy the wood. To do this, simply wipe down your furniture with a damp cloth and some soapy water. Be thorough and get into all cracks and crevices, particularly screw holes and hinges. Larger items like fence panels and sheds may be cleaned with a pressure washer – but always check if this method is suitable first.

Step 2 – Wax and varnish: To treat wood you will require treatment products specific to the material, be that teak, oak, pine or wicker. Apply it thoroughly, making sure you apply it to all sides of the furniture, over and under. Check with the manufacturer if you are unsure. Make sure the surface you are trying to treat is dry before applying your treatment product and follow the product’s instructions.

Step 3 – Dry and cover: Once your furniture is clean and protected, allow it to dry, and find an appropriate place to let it sit over the winter.

  • Sheds and garages are ideal places to put small items of wooden furniture as they are generally drier than the outdoor alternative.
  • For those items too big for a shed, consider investing in a cover to keep them dry over the winter.
  • Remove soft furnishings and cushions from the furniture and store these inside.

These are the basic steps that need to be taken to protect the wooden furnishings in your garden. Some other things you can do include putting pieces of wooden furniture on a pallet to allow for the circulation of air and reduced risk of standing groundwater and making sure that any covers are secured with bricks or pegs so they won’t become uncovered by strong winds. If you take these steps every year you will be extending the life of your wooden furniture by about half. Some types of wood can be bought pre-treated, however, this does not mean that they do not need any further treatment once bought, and different types of treatment will require different levels of upkeep.

Untreated fence

  • Untreated wood – Untreated wood is the most susceptible to rot, fungi, and general weathering and should be treated as soon as possible with the method above.
  • Dip treated & paint stained – Protection may begin to fade after 6-12 months and may offer little or no more protection against the weather than it originally did when purchased. This kind of wood can be treated at any time of the year and treatment should be reapplied about once a year.
  • Pressure treated – If your wood has been pressure treated (a premium wood preservation technique), it will have longer lasting protection than a wood treated with a base layer preservative. Pressure treatment forces the preservatives into the lumber through the use of a vacuum. However, pressure treated wood is not waterproof; a weather-proofing top coat or base layer preservative is recommended every 12 months to fully protect timber through the winter months. However, it may not be best to treat pressure-treated timber straight away, as it needs to weathered (this should take 2-3 months).

Wood treatment is an often overlooked part of annual garden maintenance, but neglecting it can often lead to higher expenses in the future as you will more than likely have to replace damaged wood in a few years. The steps outlined here are the basics of preserving your furniture or wooden buildings. Some wooden products may require extra protection, and it is best to always check any instructions that came with the item. Either way looking after the wood in your garden properly and at the right time will mean when it comes to it, you will be able to spend long sunny days relaxing in your pristine garden.

Gary ClarkeGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.

Current Issues, Flowers, Gary

remembrance poppy

On the eleventh of November 1918, France fell silent as men all over Europe put down rifles and stepped out of trenches – the world began to slowly awake from a five-year nightmare: millions were dead, hundreds of thousands injured and the world map changed forever. One hundred years on, the symbol most synonymous with the chaos of the First World War is not the stone crosses that sit on village greens across the country, but a small red flower.

poppy symbol remembrance

Every year, around the start of November, the poppy begins to appear on the coats and jackets of almost everyone you walk past on the street. These little paper flowers are one of the key markers of the year and have become an integral part of how we remember those who have died in conflict. But why has this symbol become so prevalent?

The plant was a cornerstone of the British Opium Trade and the wars it caused, but at this time it was merely a crop plant and only became associated with conflict during the Napoleonic wars.

The history of our current relationship with the poppy begins on the 3rd of May 1915, during the second battle of Ypres. John McCrae was an officer in the Canadian expeditionary force, and he had just presided over the funeral of a close friend. As he sat on the back of an ambulance he began writing the poem that would become “In Flanders Fields”: one of the best-known pieces in the cannon of wartime poetry. It is this poem that starts the story of the poppy as we know it today.

John McCrae
John McCrae

Much poetry from this time in the war makes reference to the poppy. The small red flower was a welcome burst of colour amongst grey upturned earth and a reminder that a world beyond no man’s land existed. The summer of 1915 saw an explosion of the flowers across the newly fertilized battlefields of France. The irony that all this new life came from their fallen comrades was not lost on the soldiers. To them, the millions of flowers that sprouted that summer were a symbol of hope at a time when attitudes in the trenches were changing. The chivalric dreams of unready teenagers were giving way to the realities of war and it’s horrors. The melancholy poems that poured out of the front at the time track this seachange in attitudes.

McCrae’s poem was published in Canada a few months later and it quickly took hold in the Canadian psyche as a symbol of remembrance. The poppy was such an important aspect of National mourning at the time that in 1918 – three days before the end of the war – Professor Moina Michael vowed to wear a poppy as a private symbol of remembrance, and did so for many years.

Moina Michael

After the war, Moina became a teacher to disabled veterans and soon found that many of them were struggling financially as they were unable to work. In an effort to help, Moina began selling silk poppies to raise funds and the practice was soon adopted by the British Legion Appeal Fund (later The Royal British Legion). 1921 saw the first poppy appeal in the UK, and since then it has been held every year; raising money to help veterans and those affected by war. 2018 marks the centenary of the armistice and the poppy is still one of the most recognisable signs of remembrance for many around the world.

Gary ClarkeGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.

Gary, How To, Ponds

For the life in your pond, autumn is a period of winding down after a busy summer. By the end of September, animal activity will have started to slow down and your plants will have completed their flowering and seeding. All this activity leaves a lot of detritus behind and now is the time to get started on the cleanup and get ready for the rest of the year.

Early – Late September: Protecting Your Pond

Leaves are a big problem for your pond as they start to fall from the trees and into the water. Too big a build up on the surface can cause oxygenation problems, and an overabundance of decomposing organic matter can throw off the ecological balance of the water (in extreme cases acidifying the water)  making it dangerous for the life in your pond. Prevention is better than cure in cases like this and your first line of defence should always be a net  or cover guard . In the case of a net, you will find that some leaves always get through, a few leaves won’t be a problem but be sure to keep on top of it by skimming your pond with a net or a surface skimmer.     

Late September – mid-October: Cleaning Your Pond

During spring and summer, your pond care regime should be focused on curbing the growth of microbes and algae in your pond, in Autumn,  the focus moves to the cleaning of silt and debris that build up in the water as leaves, seeds and insects fall into the water.

You should be cleaning your pond regularly as a matter of course, but a thorough clean around mid-October ( with a complete clean every 5 years)  is essential for an easy start to spring. Not cleaning out your pond will result in a springtime mess of silt and debris that result in a bog rather than a pond, you are also risking a blanket weed and algae problem once the days start getting longer.

An effective and thorough clean should follow these steps:

  • Start by preparing a holding tank for your fish in a shady area. Make sure you use some of the pond water in your tank (unless it is overly cloudy)
  • Drain the pond slowly: a pump is usually the easiest way of doing this, but use whatever method is best and easiest for you.
  • As the water level goes down, remove fish from the pond as they become visible with a dip net and get them quickly into the holding tank.
  • Do the same with any pond plants you come across  – use this opportunity to re-pot plants if you need to. marginal (water’s edge) plants will survive out of the pond as long as they are kept moist and shaded.
  • Skim and leaves and detritus from the pond with a net. Make sure to place decaying plant material on the side of the pond, so any smaller creatures can return to the water before you throw them away.    
  • Scoop up excess silt from the pond and dispose of some of it ( you can use this silt as a good fertilizer for your border plants) keep the rest in a safe place. You don’t have to be overly paranoid about getting everything because you will be returning some of the collected silt anyway to re-establish microorganisms.   
  • Clean the  liner with a scrubbing brush and water, bailing the dirty water out with a bucket (do not use soap)  
  • Return the saved silt and water to the pond. Refill the pond ( preferably with rainwater), positioning plants as you go
  • Carefully return fish and other creatures to the pond.

Prune plants of dead and excess leaves before returning to the water.

Mid-Late October: The Close Down – Preparing for winter

The later seasons of the year are the most shocking for pondlife, and you should use the tail end of autumn to make its life easier during winter. Giving your pond a headstart is pretty easy and you only need to take small actions to have a big effect.

The first changes you make should make are to plant life – start by moving your marginal plants to deeper waters to prevent them from freezing. Non-hardy plants like Water Hyacinths should ideally be removed from the water and kept in warm frost-free conditions until things start warming up.  

The diet of your fish should also change around this time of year, wheat-germ-based foods are ideal for the winter months as they are easier for your fish to digest in colder conditions. Moving to this type food makes your fish produce waste with a reduced ammonia content, meaning it won’t build up as quickly in the water whilst the ammonia eating microbes are dormant.

Your final task in preparing for winter is the closing down of your pond – this means closing down and shutting off all electrical pumps and UV clarifiers. This is an important step as pumps are likely to circulate cold water throughout the pond which can negatively affect the life inside it.  Closing down your pond is a simple process, the basic steps are to:

  • Disconnect the pump, filter and UV clarifier before water freezes
  • Store UV clarifier indoors for protection
  • Store filters indoors (if manufacturer’s directions suggest)
  • Purchase or have the pond de-icer ready for installation

Once done, you are all ready for winter and the unique challenges it presents. But until then there is plenty to be done in preparation. A pond can sometimes seem like a lot of work but come summer when the plants are in bloom and your fish are happily swimming in clear water you will be glad that you put the work in early.

Gary ClarkeGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.