Sunday, 29 November 2009

Awards: Blog of the week and best blog

Just a quick post today.  As you can see from the screenshot above the very kind people at have added me as gardening blog of the week for which I am very grateful.  If you haven't already visited Dobbies here's your chance and don't forget that there is still time to enter my competition in association with Dobbies here.  Thanks again to all at Dobbies.

In another strange twist of fate (I don't take compliments very well) I have received a best blog award from three fellow bloggers.  Thank you to Jo at The Good Life, Rothschild Orchid at Wisteria and Cow Parsley, and Tatyana at My Secret Garden.

Remember there is still time to win yourself a Luxury Christmas Tree.  You get to choose from the whole Dobbies range and still get it delivered to your home in time for Christmas. The competition closes Friday 4th December. Sign up for email alerts on the right hand side of this page to find out if you're a winner.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Christmas competition: Win a luxury Christmas tree of your choice!

Following the great success of my last competition to win a pair of Felco secateurs the amazing people at are now offering you the opportunity to win a luxury Christmas tree.  You can choose any tree that you desire from their amazing Christmas range and have it delivered direct to your door all absolutely free and in time for Christmas!  Even if you already have a tree it is an opportunity not to be missed!  And what's wrong with having a second tree anyway? 

If artificial trees are your thing click here to browse the range.  On the other hand if you prefer the more traditional Christmas tree you can choose from their real Christmas tree selection here.  I have also been informed that there is 20% off the price of  all artificial trees across the whole range so if you can't wait to find out if you have won the prize then this may prove useful.

To enter the competition simply enter a comment in the comment's box below with your choice of tree.  What could be easier?  The winner will then be selected at random (possibly by my glamorous assistant as in the last competition) and the competition will close on Friday 4th December 2009. deliver their tress within 3-5 days as standard.  

The winner will be announced here on the blog so make sure you sign up to email alerts via the subscription box on the right hand side of the main page under the 'About Me' section.

Good Luck all and an early Merry Christmas from Ryan's Garden.

Dobbies - Inspiring Gardeners since 1865
For over 140 years, the Dobbies name has stood for quality horticulture.  During this time we've been proud to provide the very best products and expert advice to gardeners throughout the UK.  Today Dobbies is one of the the UK's largest Garden Centre Retailers - we have 25 Stores across Scotland and England. 

Terms and conditions: Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter.  The winner will be chosen at random and you agree that by entering your name may be published.  Prizes will be delivered by courier within 28 days.  The competition is not open to employees or affiliates of Dobbies Garden Centres plc or Ryans Garden.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Orchids: The Best Kept Secret

Unknown Phalenopsis in flower.
I've already covered the topic of terrestrial orchids for the garden and now I move in to the home.  Orchids are grown solely for their flowers.  We all know that the foliage is the boring part, unless of course the particular species has great leaf colouration, and an orchid which is not flowering is rather uninspiring.  How can we prolong the flowering period and the interest orchids provide?
My tip, and a relatively hidden one at that, is to selectively prune the flower spike in such a way as to promote a second flush of blooms.  This technique is comparable to the practice of "dead heading", which is common practice in general gardening, and to me it makes perfect sense to apply such a practice to our orchids.

Newly developing flower bud on old flower spike.
The usual advise given to all Phalenopsis is to prune the stalk back to the base or leave the flower spike intact.  I have found that if you wait until all blooms have faded it is possible to identify a bud lower down on the flower spike that is easily identified as being slightly swollen in comparison to others.  If you prune the stem just above this bud there is a good possibility that a new flower spike will develop.  And we all know what that means . . . more flowers.
Pictured right is an example of this practice.  This bud is developing quite nicely from the old flower spike and although it is unlikely to produce a show as grand as the last it is welcomed nonetheless.
In the growing season it is also advisable to feed your orchid with a specific orchid fertiliser which will ensure your plant isn't weakened.  This is especially important if you are asking your plant to bloom for a second time.

Large Phalenopsis with two flower spikes.
This practice does not seem to have any adverse effects on this particular specimen.  I have owned this Phalenopsis orchid for over four years now and it has never failed to produce the most wonderful white flowers.  As you can see in the picture not only has it developed a bud on the old flower spike but it has thrown up a new, much larger, spike too.
I think that this is proof enough that this plant is actually quite happy in its growing position, on my kitchen windowsill, which is East facing and perfect for this orchid.
We wont talk about the need for repotting just yet.  That will be discussed in a future article I'm sure.
Have you found this article useful?  Have you tried this yourself?  What advice would you give to orchid growers?

Friday, 13 November 2009

Composting, Caddies, Clear out’s and Copious Amounts of Urine?

Winter is definitely on the way.  There is a distinct chill in the air and the sub-tropical’s are anxious for the first frost is looming.  Many garden bloggers have gone in to hibernation and in fact the same can be said for many gardeners as much of the focus throughout the land has now deviated from flowers and the typically aesthetic parts of gardening to Winter preparation.  I don’t like to be beaten by the seasons and inclement weather.  So what else is there for us to do?

At present I am looking towards more practical aspects that help us in our quest for garden greatness.  In my last post I discussed Tree O’Clock, a great tree planting drive from the BBC.  If you haven't heard about this click the link and muck in!  

In this article I will look at composting and its associated joys.  In an attempt to become the next Alys Raven (a combination of Alys Fowler’s thriftiness and Sarah Raven’s fabulousness) I have pictured my compost caddy which has sat in my kitchen for about two years now.  I imagine that if it were to appear in some garden magazine it would be pitched in the following way:  'A stylish must have for any bachelor pad.  This compost caddy is functional, versatile and perfect for the eco-minded among us'.  Then again, it is just a recycled ice bucket.  At the end of the day it does the job.  All of my uncooked food waste is placed into the caddy and this is then added to the compost bins along with garden waste, shredded paper, waste from the vacuum cleaner, dog hair, litter from the Rabbit cage, and some ash from the wood burner.  Some of the first batch of compost from the new bins has been utilised this Autumn and the rest will become Spring mulch and mixed in to a great potting medium.

Last weekend I cleared the garden in preparation for Winter and I have filled another compost bin with what was left from this years growth, a lot of foliage from herbaceous perennials, fallen leaves, and clippings from the hedge.   

When browsing the BBC news website this morning I stumbled upon an article discussing how gardeners at a National Trust Property in Cambridgeshire are utilising the power of urine.  The male gardeners have been asked to relieve themselves on a massive straw bale in an attempt to collect a great deal of compost activator.  I especially liked the line where women have been denied this joy for "logistical reasons".   You can read the full article here.  Of course, the reason I write about this is because it has got me thinking.  

Should I join in?  Has anyone tried this?  Or more specifically, is anyone game enough to admit it?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Tree O' Clock: Be a part of it and muck in!

Typical!  As soon as I plant three tree's a campaign comes along urging us to plant more.

But seriously, a great campaign, 'Tree O' Clock', has been launched by BBC Breathing Spaces asking you to plant a tree on the 5th December 2009 between 11:00am and 12:00 noon in an effort to achieve a new world record.  A great idea to unite communities and add a touch of greenery to our suuroundings, let alone increase our green credentials.

I have been meaning to help a friend plant a few trees in her wood and 'Tree O' Clock' should be perfect!  Prepare to plant everyone!

Will you be joining in? Do you have any events planned?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Blazing Red Berries and Fuchsia Pink Fireworks.

When we think of Autumn in the garden we think foliage, we think evergreen and we think berries.  This plant has all of this and much, much more.

Often overlooked the Cotoneaster is somewhat of a garden stalwart.   It provides everything you want in an evergreen shrub.  It has form, provides structure, year round interest and it is also very versatile.  The species pictured here in my garden, which I believe is Cotoneaster salicifolius, is particularly great. 

An example of it's versatility is apparent in my garden where it has been grown as a hedge and layered above a brick wall.  I inherited the hedge in a rather sorry state.  It was incredibly overgrown and had not received any love or attention for many years.  Branches from the shrub, dangling over the wall, had started to consume much of the precious space left within my small garden and I couldn't afford to lose any space at all.  After the discovery that there was a lovely * red brick wall under all that foliage I set about pruning the hedge back to a more manageable state.  It was only when I finished pruning that I discovered I had managed to free up a further two foot of garden.

The ability of the Cotoneaster to be used as a hedge, stand alone shrub, or ground-cover is not, however, why I value this plant so much.  I love the fact that it has something for all seasons.  It is evergreen, providing colour all year round, it has oodles of white flowers throughout Summer which provides plenty of food for insects and it has masses of beautiful berries in the Autumn/Winter which provide an abundance of food for birds, insects and small mammals.  It also acts as a place for animals to over-winter.  At present I have noticed many Ladybirds, British species not Harleqin's, beginning to set up camp here.  Other insects, too many to mention here, also use this shrub as a retreat.

I always recommend this plant, not only because of the fantastic qualities discussed earlier, but because the plant itself is so tolerant.  It is fantastically drought tolerant, able to grow in sandy soils and it will also thrive in full sun.  On the other hand it can also be grown in heavy clay soil, exposed coastal situations or moderate shade.

I don't however appreciate the company it sometimes keeps.  As we can see in the picture above it associates itself with the garish and brash Fuchsia, the plant equivalent of Vicky Pollard's shell suit.  The only problem I have is that however hard I prune it it keeps coming back and of course it does belongs to next door.

So, along the same lines of the Cadbury's Cream Egg slogan, how do you grow yours?  Have you grown Cotoneaster?  Do you have an inherent distaste for the plant?  I would love to read your comments.

* I am  aware  that the pointing on this wall is horrendous however I did not do it and I don't have the time or inclination to change it.  I like informality and will say that this is intentional or arts and crafts style!
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