Friday 30 September 2011


There is a suitable plant for all types of garden conditions.  So whether your plot is damp or well drained, you can work the soil to your benefit.

The level of moisture in your soil, its wetness or dryness, can vary within your garden.  Compaction of the soil, poor drainage or a high water table can result in wet soil. This can be influenced by soil type, changes in level or natural springs. Lower areas will be wetter than higher areas, whilst hollows collect water and so are more damp than other areas.

If you have poor drainage due to soil panning then deep digging may loosen the soil.  Digging in organic matter may help wet soils that do not have a high water table as this breaks up the soil structure into smaller crumbs. Alternatively, raised beds may be necessary. Planting trees and shrubs on raised mounds will help to protect against water logging.

Some areas may be very cold and wet in winter, but dry out totally in summer. This is very common of clay soils. You can install drainage or add organic matter to improve the drainage but you will still need to select plants need to tolerate both of these extreme conditions.

Some soils may be dry due to thin chalk soils or sand.  These conditions can be improved by adding organic matter to increase water retention or by irrigation. Plants such as Lavendula angustifolia, Cistus and Thymus will thrive in such conditions.

Areas wet due to a high water table will be waterlogged. Boggy areas can be planted with marginal plants such as Caltha palustris, Primula japonica, Rodgersia pinnata and Trollius europaeus. Plants suitable for wet areas include Astilbe, Cornus alba, Hosta, Iris laevigata, Kerria japonica and Weigela. Alternatively, drainage systems can be installed.

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How to propagate from root cuttings
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Plants for free
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Saturday 24 September 2011


Banana and honey tea bread.  The perfect way to use up excess bananas - as if we needed an excuse for cake!


2 large bananas
225g / 8 oz self raising flour
115 g / 4 oz margarine
115 g / 4 oz soft brown sugar
115 g / 4 oz set honey
2 eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg/cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180c/gas mark 4.

Grease and line a 2 lb loaf tin.

Mix together margarine, sugar and honey in a bowl until fluffy. Gradually add eggs, then fold in flour and cinnamon.

Mash the bananas and add the lemon juice.  Fold the bananas into the cake mixture until mixed.
Place mixture into loaf tin and level.  Bake for 1 hour or until risen and firm to the touch. 

Allow to cool.

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Recipe for victoria sponge

Monday 19 September 2011



Trees come in a variety of sizes based on the height of the tree, the height of the clear stem and the girth measurement taken at 1m from ground level.

The size is commonly used in gardens is Standard as its transplants easily and only requires a single stake.  If larger quantities are required then cheaper feathered trees will grow away very quickly, but they will have less impact in their first few years.

Larger trees make an instant impact but require more substantial staking or even guying.  However, they often spend the first few years recovering from transplanting rather than putting on new growth.

Circumference of stem
Height from ground level
Clear stem height
4-6 cm 
0.90 - 2.40 m
(3-8 ft)
Half standard       
Not given
1.80 - 2.10 m
(6-7 ft)         
1.20 - 1.50 m
(4-5 ft)  
Light Standard    
6-8 cm
2.50 - 2.75 m
(8-9 ft)           
1.50 - 1.80 m
(5-6 ft)
8-10 cm
2.75 - 3.00 m
(9-10 ft)       
1.80 m
(6 ft)
Heavy standard 
12-14 cm
3.50 - 4.25 m
(12-14 ft)      
1.8 m min
(>6 ft)

Friday 16 September 2011


Nomenculture of plants was founded by a Swedish botanist called Linnaeus in 1754.  He devised a binomial system of classification that still used today. This system gives two names to each plant, a generic name and a specific name. These are Latin names, which translate universally across the world.

Linnaeus gave a plant classification system based on flower structure.  This allows any newly discovered plants to be added to the appropriate group.

Plants with same basic structure

Group of plants with very similar plant structures and fruits

Variety of vegetative characteristics  or different growth habits.  Plants of same species are capable of interbreeding and producing new plants similar to parents. Plants of different species are mostly incapable of breeding.

Where plants of different species cross to produce a new plant which has characteristics of both parents.
Bi generic hybrids is a result of crossing two genera, but they are unable to produce viable seed and must be propagated negatively. They are preceded with a 'x' before the generic name e.g. xCupressocyparis leylandii is a cross between Cupressus macrocarpa and Chamaecyparis nootakatensis.

Variety of a species which is not sufficiently different to be another species. Includes notable differences such as larger flowers, smaller leaves or different growth habit.  Can be a naturally occurring variety or a cultivated variety. Naturally occurring varieties include Rosa pimipinellifolia altacica, which is a stronger growing from of Rosa pimpinellifolia. If the change is not carried in seedling varieties and can only be propagated by negative cuttings, then it is considered a cultivated variety or cultivar and is written inside single commas.  For example, the variegated form of Weigela is written as Weigela florida 'Variegata'.

A variation of the parent plant that does not revert back to parent type.  Typical for variegated leaf plants as variegated leaves on plants often do not survive if left uncultivated as the green shoots are always stronger and take over. Cultivars are usually noted as English names rather than Latin.  If the plant is a result of crosses with two species and then recrossed
with further species they cannot breed true from seed or be defined as belonging to a clear species. They will often be recorded without a specific name such as Rosa 'Peace'.

Example of plant nomiculture for a rose:
Family - Rosaceae
Genus - Rosa
Species - Moyesii
Wild variety - Rosa moyesii fargesii
Cultivar - Rosa moyesii 'Geranium'
Hybrid - Rosa x alba

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Wednesday 14 September 2011


An essential part of the tradional Christmas lunch, Brussels' sprouts are the key Christmas vegetable. Originally cultivated in Brussels in the 13th century, the Brussels sprout has received a mixed review in the past.  However, if cooked properly, they can be delicious.  Sprouts contain cancer fighting properties as well as being rich in vitamin C, D, folic acid and fibre.

Sprouts like to be planted rich, firm soil to help establish a root system that will support these top heavy plants.  They are tolerant of most soil conditions other than acidic soils. They prefer partial shade but will grow in sunny positions too.

Prepare the bed a few months prior to planting by digging over and incorporating plenty of well rotted manure. Seed can be sown directly into the ground from mid April onwards.  Plant the seeds 2.5cm deep and 10cm apart.  Cover with soil and water gently.  The seeds will germinate in approximately 10 days depending on weather conditions. Alternatively, seeds can be sown into pots of potting compost and transplanted into the bed one month later.
In May, when the danger of frost has past, transplant the seedlings into their final positions.  Plant in rows 60cm apart, taking care to avoid disturbing the roots.  Firm the soil and water well. Ensure you water your sprouts thoroughly during the growing season or your yield will be severely depleted.  Remove competing weeds on a regular basis.

Sprouts are ready to harvest at the end of the year and taste best if picked after a hard frost. Using a sharp knife, remove the lower sprouts from the stem (these mature first). This will ensure that the stem is not damaged and successive cropping can occur.

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Monday 12 September 2011


English Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) can become woody and tired in just a few seasons if not pruned back correctly.   With the right pruning technique you can successfully grow your lavender plants for over twenty years.

The time to prune English lavender is just after flowering, when the plant is naturally dormant.  This will be the hottest month of the year, usually August. Pruning at this time of year allows the plant to put on new growth and harden up before the winter comes.

I normally use shears to cut back the flowering stalks and then cut back the plant by two thirds of its height.  This will encourage new shoots to form along the stems, even if you cut back into bare wood.

Other less hardy varieties of lavender can be gently shaped in August, but do not cut into the bare wood. Lavender stocechas (French or Spanish Lavenders) flower earlier in May but are less hardy than English lavender.  Cut back gently after flowering in June but do not hard prune as this may kill the plant.

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Sunday 4 September 2011


Too much salt is linked with high blood pressure and increased health risks such as heart disease and stroke.  However, most people in the UK exceed to daily recommended allowance.

Salt is found in many processed foods such as crisps, bread, biscuits, canned vegetables, canned soups, baked beans, sauces, takeaways and ready meals. We consume 65-85% of the salt we eat from processed foods.

The guidelines for salt intake are less than 6g a day for adults; the equivalent to one level teaspoon.  This is sometimes listed as sodium on the food nutrition label, where 2.5g of sodium is equivalent to 6g of salt.

Restricting the level of salt you consume is important. Check labels of food items for the sodium/salt levels.  Take care as many labels list the sodium per 100g rather salt per serving. 1 g of sodium is equivalent to 2.5g of salt. As a general rule, foods that exceed 0.5g sodium per 100g/portion are high in salt and those that have less than 0.1g sodium per 100g/portion are low in salt.

Some items contain high levels of salt such as:
Baked beans 225 g (3.0g),
Pot noodle (4.5g)
Pizza 225g (4.1g)
Sausages, 2 pork (2.4g)
Soup, canned 200ml  (2.2g).

Restrict high salt foods such as packet and canned soups, instant noodles, ketchup's and sauces, sausages and burgers and salty snacks.

Replace them with foods that contain little salt such as:
Apple, 1 (0.01g)
Banana, 1 (0.01g)
Cream crackers, 2 (0.2g)
Instant mash, 100g (0.1g)
Muesli cereal 35g (0.08g)
Oven chips 100g (0.1g)
Shredded wheat (0.1g)

Don’t add salt to ingredients when cooking. Avoid adding salt to your food at the table.  You can substitute some high slat foods with 'reduced salt' products.

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Saturday 3 September 2011



This recipe for vegetable stir fried rice is a fantastic dish that everyone will appreciate.
Serves 2


200 g /  14 oz rice
2 red peppers
2 carrots
1 onion
100 g / 4 oz frozen peas
100g / 4 oz sweetcorn
2 teaspoon sesame seeds
5 teaspoons chilli sauce
Black pepper
5 teaspoons sunflower oil.


Cook the rice and set aside. Cut the carrot into small strips.

Heat the oil over a medium heat in a wok or non stick pan. Stir fry the pepper, onions and carrot for 2 minutes.  Add the rice, peas and sweecorn and stir fry for another 4 minutes. 

Mix in the chilli sauce, sesame seeds and pepper and stir. 

Place into a bowl and serve.

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Vegetarian recipes - vegetable fried rice