Author: Janine Winlaw

Garden Talk: Get into dahlias

Dahlias are back in fashion in a big way, sales are up and there are thousands of posts of these dramatic beauties on Instagram. Once only grown on the allotments or in a dahlia bed for flower shows and flower arranging, they’re now being used mingled amongst perennials, ornamental grasses and shrubs in borders. The darker, richer colours look great in tropical schemes, working well with lush large-leaved plants. Dahlias come in an enormous array of colours from deep velvety purples to pale peach and corals, as well as hot and pastel pinks, whites, creams, yellows and reds (just no blue). There is also a huge range of forms from spiky cactus and anemones, simple single-flowers and stars, pom poms and massive dinner plate varieties. They can be very tall or for smaller gardens, dwarf varieties are ideal. In terms of care, tubers are traditionally dug up in autumn, dried off and stored over winter to be planted out in spring. But you can leave them in the ground, mulched thickly, especially in London if …

How to create a wildflower meadow

Wildflower meadows may be decreasing in the countryside, but they’re on the rise in urban gardens, giving a fashionably relaxed, naturalistic feel. They also attract a host of wildlife and increase biodiversity. If you’d like one, now is a good time to start the process. The great thing is you don’t need a huge garden to enjoy the pleasure of a mini meadow – just a strip across your lawn with an inviting path meandering through it, or an area of any shape, oval, triangular, will create an attractive contrast to a neat lawn. A friend of mine has given over the end of her lawn to meadow with wildflowers such as ox-eye daisies, white and red campion, field scabious, yarrow and meadow buttercups popping up amongst swaying grasses. She loves the birds, butterflies and bees it attracts and the fact that, as opposed to traditional borders, it’s an ever-changing tapestry of colour from spring to autumn. It even changes from year to year so you never quite know what to expect. For annual meadows, …

Hydrangeas for high summer impact

Hydrangeas are gorgeous shrubs – their large blousy heads create abundance and colour into late summer, often taking on pinky hues in autumn, with dried seed heads adding winter structure too. They can be broadly categorised into two species, including Asian (paniculataand macrophylla) that prefer acid soil, some shade and moisture. For sunnier spots, opt for an American species such as the popular North American H. arborescens‘Annabelle’, which can handle full sun and less water. Hydrangeas come in a vast range of colours, sizes and forms – from the globular mopheads to lacecaps with flatter heads of flowers. Here are a few to consider: Hydrangea Macrophylla If the standard pink and blue mopheads (pink in alkaline and blue in acidic soil), conjure up an old fashioned image, opt for classic white varieties such as the flamboyant H. macrophylla ‘Madame Emile Mouillere’ or H. macrophylla ‘Zebra’ which has striking black stems. Otherwise, go for dramatic colours such as H. macrophylla ‘Westfalen’ with its large rich purple mophead blooms.Lovely lacecaps include subtle grey blue and white H. …

Holiday-proof your garden

It’s depressing coming home to a neglected garden. But a few simple jobs before you go away will help your garden survive for a few weeks without you. Here are 10 things to do before you head off on your travels. Move your pots to semi-shade, grouping them together to increase shade and humidity. Put them on saucers to catch rainwater or on soaked capillary matting. (But check the forecast, as plants don’t like to be in standing water.) Or consider installing an irrigation system. Any favourite plants that easily dry out can be sunk into soil to keep them cool, drenching the surrounding earth and giving it a mulch. As well as deadheading repeat flowering plants like cosmos, think ahead by removing the flowers as well – or pick a bunch of flowers to give to friends and neighbours. To avoid coming back to a weedy mess, it’s really worth removing as many weeds as you can before you go away, digging out the whole root of perennial weeds such as thistle and bindweed. …

Garden Talk – Summer edition!

Summer’s here at last, with everything bursting into bloom. Here’s what to do to keep it looking at its best. Pruning: Deadhead your roses to keep them flowering, likewise other perennials like geraniums and viola, snipping off browning heads or flower spires with secateurs. And pick sweet peas daily to keep them coming, filling your house with gorgeous scented. Old flower headsof Euphorbia characiasshould be pruned back now and oriental poppies can be cut right back after flowering too. Big clumps of hardy geraniums and nepeta (catmint) benefit from being sheared right back after flowering – to give them a second flush. Prune spring flowering shrubs such as weigela, philadelphus and deciduous magnolias, followed by a general purpose organic fertiliser and mulch. If you haven’t already, you can still prune evergreen topiary and hedges, taking about 5cm of new growth from box – ideally with pruning shears. Planting: If you haven’t already, now is the time to plant up your window boxes and with summer bedding plants to give you colour through the summer months. …