The beauty and ecological benefits of a garden in decay

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Spring is not a moment in the garden but a sequence, a gentle unfurling of plant life that grows fuller by the day at a tempo that is almost out of sync with human perception.

One minute perennials are peeping out of the earth, and the next the soil is covered by fully grown greenery. The fall is the same way, except the movement is in reverse. With each passing week between early October and Thanksgiving, more perennials, grasses, groundcovers and the stuff of the lower layers of the garden will shrink, darken and start to lie down. Because our gaze is fixed on the changing leaf colors of the trees and shrubs, this other show occurs at a more subconscious level, but the two are related and deserve to be enjoyed together.

Where once the odd coneflower looked dried in the flower beds, other plants follow the same course, until there is a wholesale shift in the character of the garden from repletion to decline and seediness.

We are wired to see decay as rot, and rot as a threat to our well-being. So when we take stock of the autumn landscape, especially after a killing frost, our instinct is to clean it all up. This is a mistake on a number of levels.

The withering of the top growth of perennials and grasses is not a pernicious thing, but a natural part of their life cycle. They will re-sprout afresh in the spring from their crown buds. This year’s declining growth, meanwhile, is likely to be full of the very stuff of life, ripening seed.

I think – I hope – that our gardens are becoming more lavishly and dynamically planted with perennials and grasses, and with an ecological bent. If so, this fall conundrum will only become more pressing.

I see this decay as something beautiful, the way a steel panel becomes patinated with surface rust. So my approach to garden grooming in the fall is to remove obvious blight – shriveled hosta leaves, for example, along with diseased foliage – but to let anything else stand through the fall and winter as long as it isn’t an eyesore.

I particularly like the effect of the black stalks and seed heads of rudbeckias, from the knee-high black-eyed Susans to the taller giant coneflower. Composites as a rule make for handsome zombies, especially the purple coneflowers. The tall, wiry cup plant is lovely in its deterioration. Asters, too, are attractive in the dead months, especially when the fluffy, downy seeds make a break for it. Other effective perennials include amsonias, calamintha, perovskia and swamp milkweed. Need it be said, this is the time of year when all the ornamental grasses come into their own, green or brown, including the native bluestems, panicums and prairie drop seed.

If you want icing on this cake, nature provides it in the dewdrops of October and the ice crystals of November and December. The latter is a phenomenon called riming, and although the mid-Atlantic isn’t perhaps the best climatic region for this, when it happens you should take a moment to savor it. The most dramatic display of riming I saw was about four years ago in England, where a whole woodland beyond a field was frosted. It was like observing a finely crafted black-and-white art photo, but in negative. Such morning scenes, in miniature, await the untidy gardener.

There is an equally compelling argument for not weed-whacking and clearing the ornamental beds at this time of year, or the leaf litter that is obsessively blown, gathered and bagged in November. This detritus provides vital shelter and nourishment for wildlife. Doug Tallamy, author of a landmark book about ecological gardening, “Bringing Nature Home,” sees a direct link between the decline of fireflies and the modern-day fixation with leaf blowing. “Fireflies spend their entire larval life in the litter,” he said. “They are only adults for a short period.” Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware, is also co-author of “The Living Landscape.”

When we cut back the seed heads and stalks, we deprive birds and small mammals of seeds. “I always encourage people, if they have seed-producing plants such as black-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers or goldenrods, to leave them up because the overwintering birds really rely on them,” said Deborah Landau, an ecologist with the Maryland/D.C. chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

Neatniks also harm countless species of beneficial insects. Landau said other casualties include the egg masses of such creatures as praying mantises and spiders. The former resembles a hardened foam mass enveloping a stem; the latter looks like a string of pearls.

Many native bee species spend the winter as pupae within the pithy stems of perennials and the canes of hydrangeas, Tallamy said. “Much of the insect community is spending winter in that debris we get rid of all the time,” he said. One option for appearance’s sake is to cut back material in the front yard but leave dead top growth standing in less-visible parts of the garden, he said. Stalks and leaves that must be cut can be stored elsewhere outside, but don’t lay them down. The snow will flatten a pile and it will rot, he said.

Landau said these undisturbed beds also provide shelter for frogs and salamanders (and presumably a third amphibian, the toad).

Also, this debris is home to butterflies. I was in the Smithsonian’s Ripley Garden the other day, and it was Grand Central for monarch butterflies – adults, caterpillars and even pupae. If it stays warm, the chrysalises will hatch soon and the butterflies will head south. But other butterflies spend the winter here in their cocoons, and the pipevine plants were loaded with pipevine swallowtail caterpillars eating their way into a pupal stage, to emerge as adults next year.

“The less disturbance the better,” Landau said. “All these animals have adapted to depend on these plants in the winter.” Maybe we can be smart enough to copy them.

 

 

[Source:- homesandproperty]

RHS Wisley hosts Butterflies in the Glasshouse

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Step out of winter and into a tropical paradise this winter.

RHS Wisley’s Glasshouse is the temporary home, until March 5th, for more than 6,000 free-flying exotic butterflies that are content to flit around the rainforest atmosphere of the Tropical Zone.

You will see more than 50 different butterfly species from the tropical world and be able to take photographs as many of them settle on the huge foliage and vibrant flowers as well as the occasional visitor.

In the interactive Education Zone you can learn about the fascinating lifecycle of a butterfly, get close to caterpillars and use microscopes to examine wings of the world’s most exquisite butterflies.

And naturally you enjoy butterfly-decorated cookies and cupcakes from the Taste of Wisley bakers at the Glasshouse Cafe.

Butterflies in the Glasshouse is free with normal garden entry and admission is always available, but you can pre-book a time slot by visiting gardentickets.rhs.org.uk.

 

 

 

[Source:- homesandproperty]

How to create a year-round garden:take a tour of the ultimate ‘outdoor room’ designed by Abigail Ahern

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With a coffee table overhung with a chandelier, a snug two-seater and curvy armchairs ranged around a fireplace, as well as a kitchen and dining table, Abigail Ahern’s back garden has to be the ultimate outdoor room.

When she moved to Hackney with husband Graham 13 years ago, Ahern, an accomplished interior designer but a self-confessed non-gardener, approached the outside space with caution. “At first I did what everybody else did, and had stuff down the perimeter and nothing in the middle,” she says, “but as I became more confident, I realised the same principles I applied to inside could apply to the outside.

“One of these is that you never have everything on the perimeter. I like to design interiors so you can’t walk in a straight line from one end of the room to the other, because there’s always something in your way. It’s the difference between walking in a field, where you can see all around you which is really boring, or in a forest, where you’re not sure what’s around the next corner. That’s what I wanted to do here.”

This atmospheric retreat, with weathered decking, leafy tree canopies and stashes of logs for fires indoors and out, looks like it was built in the heart of a forest. That is, if it weren’t for the cowboy cacti — realistic fakes that Ahern sells in her Islington shop and has tucked in among the hydrangea bushes, adding a touch of Santa Fe to the patio — and the petrol blue cabin at the rear, a £100 eBay find upcycled by Graham.

The roomy patio with York stone paving looks as cosy as the living room on the other side of the huge, two-storey glass doors. Another Ahern design principle is to supersize features and furniture to make a space look larger, so naturally, as well as chandeliers in every room of the house, an outsize chandelier of tiered driftwood pieces hangs over the black lacquer coffee table.

Lighting is a game changer, indoors and out, says Ahern. “I have a problem finding outdoor lights I like, so I put indoor lights outside, and have them professionally rewired.” These include a standard lamp and a Sixties pendant shade, while the bonus of overhanging electric cable is that the mile-a-minute vine scrambles along it, creating playful garlands of green above the patio.

To the right of the patio-cum-sittingroom is the dining area, defined by an Indian zinc-topped table from Petersham Nurseries and a customised concrete kitchen from Dutch company WWOO.

“The company customised the kitchen to fit around the Big Green Egg, a barbecue cooker I’m obsessed with ever since I designed a set for a TV programme with Heston Blumenthal, who uses it all the time. You can bake on it, roast with it and it’s all temperature controlled. We put something in on a Saturday morning, slow cook it for 10 hours and come back in the evening and supper’s ready. We even cook the Christmas turkey on it.”

Playing with different textures is a big part of Ahern’s design philosophy, and is apparent in her choice of materials in both hardscape and planting. The decked garden path that leads down to the cabin is a clever fake from Millboard that resembles old, weather-worn oak timber, and is edged down either side with a deep ruff of variegated tufted grass Carex oshimensis Everest.

Pebbles — another textural contrast — are her choice of flooring on either side, giving Ahern the freedom to gradually plant both areas over time. On one side is a wall of rustling bamboo, which she planted so she could look down from her bedroom window and enjoy the constant movement, and on the opposite wall, a sheet of evergreen jasmine. “We planted about 20 tiny plants and now the scent of the flowers in summer is beautiful,” she says. “I’m mad about watering all the time to make them cover the wall.”

 

[Source:- homesandproperty]

 

How to care for houseplants in winter Follow these expert tips

African Violets Blooming In Potted Plant On Window Sill

During winter months the growth of most houseplants slows down and, apart from plants that keep growing, it is best to reduce watering until the spring.

Let the compost dry out before adding tepid water and drain away the excess so the pot doesn’t stand in water. There is no need to feed a plant that is resting.

Houseplants like an even temperature and not an overheated room that drops dramatically overnight. For this reason, avoid putting plants on a window sill that will become very cold at night. If possible, move plants away from radiators and draughts as both will cause damage.

Knowing the original environment the plant came from will help you recreate the best conditions. Add more moisture to tropical ones by misting frequently or stand the pot on a saucer filled with gravel and a little water.

Keep temperatures warmer for desert plants. Cyclamen and Azaleas are not happy in high temperatures, though African violets, Steptocarpus (Cape primrose) and Poinsettias are. Tough foliage like Yucca, Palms and Aspidistra are better in cooler rooms.

Keep leaves looking their best by removing dust gently with a soft cloth or brush and then wipe with a moist cloth.

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

Gardening in January/February: It’s time to prepare for the year ahead

Hedges

  • This is a good month to plant hedges. It’s worth looking out for bare-root plants as they’re cheaper than pot-grown ones. They’re dug up from the field and posted directly to you so they miss out on all the costs of watering and re-potting that bump up the price of container- grown plants. The availability of bare-root plants depends on the weather but they should be around until the end of February and into March.

Roses

  • If you didn’t do it in autumn, this is the time to prune roses and other summer-flowering shrubs such as late clematis and buddleias. This pruning is for flowers and there’s a simple way to approach it; every time you make a cut, and always cut just above a bud, imagine a new stem coming from that bud with a season’s growth with a flower on the end of it. So if you want your flowers dotted around the plant, prune as far down to the ground as you can get.

 

 

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

Your guide to creating the perfect garden gym

Gym garden room

The number of health conscious people in the UK is on the up and commercial gyms can be incredibly busy at peak times. With costly memberships and families trying to juggle the demands of modern life, more and more are creating their own workout space at home. As garden rooms can be installed within 15-20 days, don’t usually require planning permission and can be built to a bespoke design, they are becoming popular solutions for home gyms, and over the past two years, we have noticed a rise in the number being installed.

The key to creating a productive and practical space in your garden is to carefully consider the room’s features at the design stage. This includes:

THE EQUIPMENT

When designing a gym, the first thing to consider is the equipment you are looking to install. Certain items, such as cross trainers and running machines, elevate the user and can be a real issue if you’re tall, as your head can touch the ceiling. The permitted development height of a garden room is 2.5m, however, there are no height restrictions or planning permission requirements if you simply build more than 2m from the property’s boundary. In most cases, it is beneficial to do so as higher ceilings ensure you don’t feel restricted when exercising.

As with many garden rooms, wall space is of a premium. Many customers love to have a lot of glass and it’s tempting to install wall-to-wall glass to let in as much natural light as possible, but the design and layout of the doors and windows is key to creating a functional workout space, and too many windows may limit where you can place equipment. You also need to consider privacy, especially if your garden is overlooked.

Equipment will also determine the type of flooring required. If you will be using free weights, it’s important that you select a specific rubber gym matting. Otherwise, a sturdy wood or laminate is great as they are easy to clean – especially important after an intense, sweat-inducing workout!

CHOOSING YOUR UTILITIES

Although it might not be the most exciting part of the design process, it’s really important to consider the final layout as this will determine the placement of sockets and the type of lighting and heating.

Many of the gyms we build have sockets in the floor to avoid untidy cable runs. Also, spotlights are very popular and I would always recommend considering LED lighting. Not only will this prevent your garden room from getting too hot, but it will also give you enormous savings on your energy bills. Plus, dimmers or even multiple circuits are a good option, so that certain parts of the room can be lit while others aren’t.

The other utility to consider is an entertainment system. For most, a TV and sound system are a must when working out. When designing your gym garden room, it is worth considering recessed speakers in the ceiling as this allows for more floor and wall space and will offer much better sound quality. A Bluetooth device will enable you to connect your phone or iPod so you’re able to play your favourite music through the speakers.

Also, there is the potential to incorporate plumbing if you fancy installing a bathroom or if you’re a personal trainer and are looking to use the space for clients, shower facilities could be a selling point.

THE EXTERNAL LOOK AND FEEL

A lot of the time, people focus on how they want their garden room to look on the inside and don’t consider how it will look from the outside. We encourage homeowners to really think about the external look and how this fits within their garden. The finished room is likely to be visible from the house and the last thing anyone wants to look at is a box that starkly contrasts with the rest of the garden!

Many of our customers love the idea of bi-folding doors, as they can open up directly into the garden and create the illusion of a huge space, which is great in the summer. However, it does limit the amount of wall space for gym equipment.

We also recommend landscaping and using planting to soften any straight lines in the design, this is especially good for blending the building into an established garden.

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

How to take care of your orangery, conservatory and garden room this winter

Orangeries - Auburn Hill

The winter months are some of the most exciting and yearned for; crisp country walks, cosy log fires and chunky blankets. But if you are lucky enough to have a conservatory, orangery or garden room, the winter season can pose a threat.

In order to be able to continue to use this room to appreciate the pink winter sunsets and robins on the lawn, you must be prepared to take several steps. Paul Matthews, managing director at Auburn Hill, explains exactly what you need to do:

1. GUTTERING AND DRAINAGE

The guttering and downspouts that many orangeries and conservatories possess are known to become blocked in both the autumn and winter months, as the leaves fall and the weather becomes unfavourable with lashings of wind and rain.

Clearing them of debris and leaves is not going to be the highlight of your year, but it’s going to pay off long term. If guttering becomes blocked during the wet weather, gutters can leak, and this inherently leads to internal damp and mould growth – far from ideal at any time of the year!

By doing this, you also have the opportunity to identify any part of the guttering that is old, tired and a little worse for wear, or if it is damaged. If this is the case, the problems should be replaced or repaired immediately before the water can infiltrate the brickwork.

While dry days are ideal for this chore, frosty days also make it a little easier – just make sure you have someone with you to ensure accidents don’t occur while using a ladder.

2. TREES AND SHRUBBERY

As the temperatures plummet and the air gets damp – we would rather retreat indoors to practise hygge rather than continue cutting the lawn and preening trees and bushes. But it’s incredibly important that you make trimming your garden a priority if it’s home to the aforementioned flora.

As the wind is whipping around your garden, hearing next door’s gate being thrown around should be your biggest worry – not the branches from your Japanese cherry tree about to crack the glazing in your orangery.

Trees, hedges and bushes should be trimmed right back to prevent them causing damage to your orangery or conservatory. Branches that are dead or weak should be removed completely as these pose the biggest threat to your home extension.

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

How to care for your orchids: maintenance tips and what not to do

Three different types of orchid: (left-right): Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum and Vanda.

There are over 25,000 types of orchids, and contrary to popular belief, they are extremely easy to look after.

To a certain degree, the orchid actually appreciates negligence, and while bringing instant colour to your home, with the right care, they can give a long-lasting flower display. Get some top maintenance tips below, including how to make your orchids last longer.

GENERAL CARE AND MAINTENANCE

Is your orchid shedding its flowers, or has it turned yellow and limp? Find a solution below to these common ailments. 

Problem: If your orchid sheds flowers or flower butts, this is an indication that your plant hasn’t got enough water or sunlight.

Solution: Give it a more luminous surrounding, and soak its roots once a week.

Problem: Yellow leaves can be caused by exposing your orchid to too much sunlight.

Solution: Place your orchid in light surroundings, but not in direct sunlight e.g. a side table near the window would be the perfect location.

Problem: Limp leaves are indicative of a water deficiency or, in contrary, water excess. If the orchid’s roots are grey, this means your orchid is suffering from water deprivation.

Solution: It’s best to soak your orchid in a bucket or sink for 10 to 15 minutes. If the orchid roots are brown, this indicates that your orchid was given too much water. Sometimes, the orchid will grow new roots (after its bloom).


3 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR ORCHIDS LAST LONGER

  1. Place your orchid in a bright place but refrain from placing it in direct sunlight.
  2. Water it once a week, you can do this by dipping its roots into a bucket or sink, just ensure you let it drain properly before putting it back into its pot. In winter, it’s best to water it every 10 days.
  3. Prolong its bloom by giving it plant food once a month.

WHAT NOT TO DO…

  • Orchids dislike a slight draft, direct sunlight, and being in hot conditions.
  • Refrain from placing the orchid near a fruit bowl too as the fruit bowls produce gases that have a deteriorating effect on flowers.

 

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

How to create the perfect winter garden wonderland

Lantern in a winter garden

The festive season may be here but don’t neglect your outside space. While you’re busy beautifying your home and getting your tree ready, you can also create a magical space in your garden.

In fact, all it takes is a little planning and activity. Here, garden specialists Oeco Garden Rooms give their tips on creating the perfect winter garden wonderland.

1. GARDEN LAYOUT

Having the right garden layout from the get go is the most important thing, not only for the summer months when the flowers are in bloom but also the winter as the plants start to die off; this is where you will see the bare bones of the garden and if it is not laid out properly it can look gloomy and untidy.

Wall gardens, hedges and raised flower beds are all great ways of adding structure to the garden, providing designated areas for different activities and can be repurposed for different times of the year.

2. ADD SEASONAL COLOURS TO YOUR GARDEN

Adding seasonal colours such as red and white will make the garden more inviting and flowers such as Hellebores are a great choice. These flowers, sometimes known as the Christmas rose are pastel pink and white in colour and produce big leaves that fill the space in the garden. They flower for a long time as well, generally lasting between late winter and early spring.

Another white flower to consider is Clematis Jingle Bells; these flowers have a bold white colour and typically flower from December to January. Clematis Jingle Bells will need some pruning to keep the size down as they can grow up to five metres high.

Fir trees are the quintessential winter wonderland accessory especially when it snows; they are evergreen and require very little maintenance, but be sure to choose a small species of fir tree as some can grow up to 80 feet tall.

For a festive touch in your garden, why not opt for a holly tree. Make sure that you get a male bush are these are the ones that produce those signature red berries. For those who do not have the space for a Holly tree, Cotoneaster horizontal is or Pyracantha are a great choice for adding a pop of colour to the garden.

3. THE WINTER SCENT

While the inside of the house smells of cinnamon, spices and oranges to evoke the festive spirit, the garden is largely forgotten, but there are various ways of creating the sweet smell of winter in the garden with scented flowers.

Planting Witch Hazel is a great choice to add a wintery scent to the garden; its large yellow flowers release a delicious scent of liquorice into the air. Winter honeysuckle is also a good choice, producing a lemony-fresh scent.

For those who want an evergreen shrub that has little maintenance then Sarcococca is the perfect fit. Commonly known as the Christmas Box or Sweet Box, Sarcococca produces small white flowers with a lush, leathery foliage and best of all it exudes a fragrant honey scent during the winter.

4. DECORATE YOUR WONDERLAND

Your winter garden wonderland wouldn’t be complete without some decoration. Fairy lights and lanterns are a great way of creating light in an outdoor space and can be hung on trees, draped over bushes or hung from outdoor structures like sheds, garden rooms and decking.

For those on a budget, there are plenty of things to do that won’t cost a lot of money including tying festive ribbons to tree branches, hanging wreaths around the garden and decorating trees with baubles and tinsel.

5. BUILD A FIRE PIT

Many people give the garden a miss during the winter months because of the cold, but adding a heat source is easy and cheap and provides an outdoor space that can be used all year round. Patio heaters and chimera’s are a great way of adding heat to the garden, and building your own fire pit is a cheap way for the whole family to gather around and enjoy.

6. ATTRACT ROBINS TO YOUR GARDEN

If there is one bird that evokes a winter wonderland, then it’s a robin redbreast. These majestic birds are strongly associated with Christmas, taking a starring role in many festive cards since the mid-19th century.

Robins will often come when other birds are around, so make sure that you put plenty of food out for all the birds. Black sunflower seeds and seed balls are great for attracting various species of birds, but be sure to avoid dried lentils as only certain birds can eat them. Robins are also fond of crushed nuts so placing some on a bird table is sure to get them knocking.

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

Orchids: 3 trends you need to know about this winter

Orchids - trends for winter gallery

Orchids can be relished all year round due to its wide variety in shades, shapes and sizes, and this winter, they are the perfect centrepiece for your home.

An orchid instantly adds atmosphere to your interior, and thanks to more than 25,000 varieties, there is always one to match the latest winter trends. For example, you can opt for a chic style with the stylish Cambria, or give your interior a bohemian boost by combining various colours of orchids.

TREND 1: BOHEMIAN WINTER

This winter, oust somberness and go excessive in your interior. We’re going to see a lot more of the bohemian trend in which unconventional colours are combined. The orchid is perfect to do so. For example, combine an old-rose pink Cymbidium with a lilac-coloured Dendrobium and yellow-magenta Zygopetalum. Gather your greens, and combine them with orchids. Such an incongruent botanical collection provokes a major explosion of colour during this drab period.

TREND 2: HOTEL CHIC

Whereas last year was marked by a sweet and romantic style, this winter will be characterised as chic. Rich materials such as gold and velvet bestow a luxurious and warm atmosphere upon your home. An orchid that fits like an evening glove is the Cambria. It radiates exclusivity, and the star-shaped flower petals instantly give your interior a chic twist.

TREND 3: CHRISTMAS, THE LEAN-AND-MEAN EDITION

Not everyone can accommodate a Christmas tree. Luckily, creative solutions for decorating your home with festive greens – without a confetti of shedded needles as a byproduct – are abundant. Consider decorating the Christmas dining table with exotic air plants, like the Vanda orchid. Put some Christmas lights in a glass vase and then put a Vanda in the vase on top of them. This is a simple, quick, and ambient Christmas decoration that doesn’t take up too much space. The Vanda is available in various vibrant colours and you will even be able to enjoy its magnificence as an air plant for various weeks, even after the Christmas celebrations have passed.

[Source:- Housebeautiful]