An estimated £200m of seasonal plants will have to be scrapped due to coronavirus outbreak.
Are you looking for tips and advice on how to keep your city garden in full bloom during self-isolation? Join Debora Robertson in the comments section of this article at 4pm (GMT) today where she will be answering your gardening questions. You can leave your question ahead of time below or join live. The truism that gardeners are natural optimists has never been tested more than right now. That this time of socially-responsible, Corona-induced confinement coincides with the most beautiful spring days is particularly poignant, and those of us fortunate to have any outside space at all must count ourselves particularly lucky. Normally at this time of year I am a gardening fiend, planting, digging and tending, with mud beneath my fingernails and every hair out of place. Each Sunday morning, in my previous life, I would pull myself out of bed to go to Columbia Road Flower Market. It was one of the happiest times of my week, weaving among the stalls, chatting to the sellers, buying cut flowers for the house and plants for the garden, then going home to plant and arrange before sitting down to Sunday lunch. I haven’t been for two weeks now. The cheerful rhythm of my calendar has been disrupted. The rhythm of all of our lives has been disrupted, and the gentle domestic pleasures we once took for granted now - so quickly - feel strangely exotic. There are many studies that show being outside in general and gardening in particular is beneficial to our mental health. It can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. We need it more than ever now. Those of us who have any outside space at all, from gardens, to yards and balconies, even window boxes, know that even at the best of times, these can provide precious balm. Mark Diacono, author of Grow Cook: The Ultimate Kitchen Garden Guide (Headline, £10.99), says, “Until last week, I hadn’t really appreciated the pleasure I could get from something as ordinary as mowing. Being surrounded by hedgerow chatter felt so right. The hint of warmth in the sunshine pushed away the craziness for a while, and I think we could all do with some of that. Regardless of what’s happening, it is spring, there is hope, and being in it - even for the most mundane reason - allowed me to feel that. Gardening is so often spoken of as an act of hope, of investing now in a pleasure to come, but right now, even the simple tasks can lift the soul in a way that makes today better.” There are still plenty of things we can be doing, even without trips to the garden centre or nursery. Now is the time to dig out all of those old seed packets you have hanging around. If you, like me, find them irresistible and always buy far more than I can use in one season, you should have plenty to be getting along with. While the germination rates in old seed are less reliable, you will still probably get decent results for your efforts.
Every week, Telegraph gardening expert Helen Yemm gives tips and advice on all your gardening problems whether at home or on the allotment. If you have a question, see below for how to contact her. Back to Basics - how to plan and plant climbers This is a good time to add some icing to the garden cake by planting a climber or two. But not just any old climber, in any old place and in any old way, otherwise the disappointing mishmash can all end in tears. Whereas in nature climbers use other plants to achieve often limitless heights, in a garden many of us plant them on walls and fences, to clamber over pergolas and up various free-standing structures. Here are some points to consider: Know your climbers: A few (climbing hydrangea, ivy) cling with aerial roots and need brick or rough mortar (rather than wooden fences) on which to get a grip. Some (jasmine, honeysuckle) twine upwards and therefore need vertical supports and careful pruning once they achieve their limit. Others (clematis) loop their leaf stalks or produce springy tendrils (ornamental vines) to cling on to anything fine enough (wooden fences, structures and trellis need therefore to be clothed in chicken wire). Climbing roses will need the space to have their stems fanned out and tied in (with Flexi-Tie, ideally to strong, horizontal wires). Support: Whatever you choose, it is important to get the right supports in place before you plant, so you can start your plant on the right path upwards – and can remove as soon as possible the ubiquitous bamboo cane/ stapled green plastic ties it was inevitably sold with. Site: Climbers (many of them natural woodlanders) grow compulsively upwards towards the light, to flower in the sun. Few will perform well on a sunless north-facing wall (even “shade-loving” climbing hydrangeas do far better with more sun). Getting the site right is most important in the case of planting on a shared fence – your neighbours will be delighted if you get it wrong and all the flowers face in their direction. Space: Plant climbers at least 45cm away from a fence or wall to ensure they have enough root room/moisture. Be aware, particularly, of what is planted on the other side of fences (conifers? laurels?) that will provide damaging competition. Soil improvement: Climbers are greedy feeders – they need to be, to produce all that top growth. Good soil preparation before you plant is important. For a large clematis, for example, excavate and improve with organic matter an area at least three times as wide as its pot and half as deep again, and mulch after planting, too. Occasionally water deeply in the first summer after planting. Three things to avoid Don’t be tempted to shoehorn a needy, greedy climber into a strip of bad soil between a wall and path. It will probably die, and if by some miracle it doesn’t, it may end up blocking the path. Beware of planting the most rampant clematis (C. armandii, C. montana) in a small space. Many climbers are disappointing when grown in containers. There are some exceptions (e.g. compact clematis bred for the purpose), but most do best with deep cool root runs and even moisture, both hard to guarantee in a container.
Good riddance to a grim winter. But although the daffodils are up and the blackbirds are gurgling, I don’t want to forget it quite yet. My view from the kitchen window – over paving and dormant beds to a pond and shrubs beyond – is pleasant enough in a dynamic winter of sun, rain, frost and cloud. But through sodden, grey week after sodden, grey week, it hasn’t really been cutting the mustard. So I am on a mission to add some game-changing shots of colour quickly, before I am floated away on the spring tide. My first port of call for inspiration has been to Wisley, where I had a rummage for early camellias. Under the Scots pine in the corner of my kitchen-view garden, I already have a young plant of ‘Saint Ewe’. Because the ground is rooty, it lives in a half-barrel – containers are a good way of sidestepping the problem of dry shade. It has been out since early February and its single flowers of deep pink are cheery against the grey sky and nearby catkins of garrya. Another pink one across the pond would perk up the scene yet more. I found several candidates, both on Wisley’s Battleston Hill and below the rock garden, and ‘Bow Bells’ is my winner. I take Kew with a pinch of salt, as it is much milder than here. Would Edgeworthia chrysantha, with its scrumptiously scented yellow clusters of flower, ever make a fat shrub for me? It might be worth a go if I could ever find a sheltered, south-facing spot for it. But it was towards a more pedestrian plant that I gravitated – yellow-stemmed willow, grown as a coppiced shrub by a lake. I wouldn’t mind taking the mandarin ducks along with it. The clustering of red, orange and yellow willows and dogwoods, such as you see in many “winter gardens”, is too cartoonlike for me. But a solitary stand of yellow glowing through the gloom, as at Kew, would be just the ticket – fast-growing too – and on my way back north I stopped at Ashwood Nurseries to scoop up one called ‘Golden Ness’. It is already installed by the pond, and by next year it will have a drift of ‘February Gold’ daffs around its amber stems.
Polytunnels are another big step to self- sufficiency. With our two pigs, three cows, 11 sheep, five chickens and two guinea fowl we are more than self-sufficient in meat but definitely less so with veg. I have resisted a polytunnel for the last 36 years on aesthetic grounds but finally have decided to embrace one as, a) I love growing things and b) I want to try and provide a weekly veg box for my time-pressed children who live nearby. Early crops, more salads through the winter, protection from certain pests and a calmer environment for growing in our increasingly erratic climate are a huge bonus. I’ve worked in many polytunnels over the years, and been aware of some drawbacks. They tend to get sweltering in the centre in hot seasons, causing lots of red spider and scorch, they drip condensate on you, they can blow down/away in gales and the polythene needs changing after around five years or even more frequently after visitations from the likes of Dennis and Ciara. After looking at several I have opted for a Keder. These are covered in a superior polythene with bubbles which has far better R-values (resistance to the flow of heat) and U-values (rate of heat loss) to those of glass and double skinned polytunnels. The cover is guaranteed for 10 years (but the oldest is still going strong at 27 years). The Keder can withstand wind speeds of 140mph (Dennis was a doddle), has a venting system and gives an excellent diffused light. Strangely, it feels lighter inside than out on a dull day and it blocks out some types of UV light – better for my complexion. The downside is cost, a self-build type is about twice the cost of a basic polytunnel. A typical self- build, 6m x 3m (takes less than a day to put up for one man/woman), costs £2,274 including VAT. I was concerned about the industrial appearance, but my son Fred says I should embrace this. No chance – I’m screening it with a hedge. It will slightly reduce the light levels, but so be it. Harvesting and picking
There’s nothing like a project to kick-start the New Year. My garage, built 10 years ago by my younger son Max to house his beloved scratch-built beach buggy, and then taken over by his brother Jacques to pimp up his Audi TT, is suddenly empty.
Everyone has a gardening lover in their life, and the tools they use can range from the most expensive secateurs to the simplest pot.
Community gardens have become an inspiring sign of local unity in contemporary Britain, bringing people together with a common cause that is good for the environment and good for the health of the volunteers involved in the scheme.
Been a bit of a damp squib, October. Seemingly relentless rain marking a premature end to many of late summer’s offerings, among them my white window box cosmos, which started the month off quite blowsy and bright and is now something of a straggle.
When will the houseplant craze end? It’s a question that’s been bubbling around for the past few years – and earlier this year, I read something that felt prescient.
Behind most imposing rows of grand houses in London’s smarter postcodes, you’ll find something far more endearing: a mews. Cobbled and dinky, these former stables and servants’ lodgings now (usually) house millionaires of their own, but that doesn’t stop me taking an idle wander down them most weeks. As a container gardener, I never fail to find inspiration from the pavement-bound landscaping that crops up outside the front doors.
Healthy soil leads to healthy veg and, as we swing into autumn, it’s time to enrich your plot for 2020. Adding organic matter soon – compost or well-rotted manure – gives friendly soil organisms time to work their magic and incorporate the good stuff over the winter.
As January beckons and the festive season draws to a close, children across the land will soon be removing the angel atop their tree, and parcelling up the decorations for next year. One by one, our much-beloved Christmas trees will be left out in the cold to await their fate. This sorry sight of branches protruding from wheelie bins and limp, lacklustre trees on pavements is enough to bring a tear to one’s eye.
Fawley House, 7 Nordham, North Cave, nr Brough, Hull HU15 2LT Louise Martin was for some years the National Garden Scheme’s county organiser in East Yorkshire, and her two and a half acres is full of spring delights. Beguilingly terraced with soft grass banks, it drops gently to a mill stream with three different bridges – always a great feature for children, who are also entertained with a treasure hunt. The well-ordered vegetable garden with espalier apples and pears leaves no doubt about the riches to be harvested later in the year. Elsewhere, there are hellebores and drifts of daffodils as well as fine trees including a magnificent copper beech, memorable even without its leaves. Open Sunday 15 March, 12-5pm. Admission £5, children free, home-made teas, dogs welcome, plants for sale. Godinton House, NR Ashford, Kent TH23 3BP
If you love gardens and you're in need of some inspiration, here's our guide to the big gardening events and flower shows happening in the UK this season. If you have a gardening event that you would like to see on the Telegraph Gardening Events page, please email email@example.com with the date, time, ticket prices and a brief description. EVENTS IN MARCH Until March 8 Kew Orchid Festival 2020: Indonesia
As the weather starts to shift, many of us are looking for easy and affordable solutions to spruce up our homes. For many people, that solution is the pressure washer — an underrated little magician that flash-cleans everything from bicycles to driveways, with next to no effort. With the power to get your car, patio, barbecue, stone walls and more looking spick and span, the best pressure washers to buy for home use are not only better than they've ever been, but more affordable than you might expect. But before choosing the best one for you, it's important to understand the basics. What is a good PSI for a pressure washer? When shopping for a pressure washer, you're going to hear a lot about each model's PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch). Without overcomplicating it, PSI marks the energy with which water will hit your target areas. Typically, you'll want a minimum of 2000 PSI to power wash most surfaces effectively, and 3000 PSI to clean more stubborn surfaces like concrete. Sometimes PSI is referred to as the 'bar pressure', though it measures the same thing. For UK customers, it may be easier to follow bar pressure measurements — after all, we rarely measure anything in pounds. With the same demands in mind, 120-130 bar pressure will be more than enough for most tasks, while heavy-duty concrete cleaning may require upwards of 200.