About Mrs. Hartley
Special Articles
Ways Of Obtaining Plants
Fish Ponds
Gardening Quotes

Gardening Tips Week Ending 7th November 2014.

Hello Folks
The Weather is very up and down at the moment and Alan has just cut the grass which I expect will be its last cut for this year, but who knows. We have had the harvest Festivals now and Winter is coming, but if you have grown excess vegetables of things like Beetroot they can be stored. Put root vegetabls inside a wooden box and bury them, in dry soil, or dry potting compost which is cleaner, in a garage, or shed and out of the reach of Mice. Some vegetables such as Swiss Chard can still be planted and like many things it can often be found in 6 packs in garden Centres. It is getting late though, so get them in quickly and then they can stay outside all through the Winter. You can keep cutting the leaves - even down to the main stem and they will shoot again. It makes a change from Cabbage, or Spinach.

If your Dahlias have been blackened by the frost it is time to lift them. Do not break off the little things that look like bulbs as they are only food stores and will not grow independently. Cut down the main stems and to dry them stand the plants upside down until all the moisture has drained out. Then the dry roots can be wrapped in newspaper and stored in a shed, or garage, away from the mice. Chrysanthemum roots can also be lifted and stored dry, in a cold frame, or under greenhouse staging, or simply leave them in the ground and cover them securely with Horticultural Fleece. It is not the cold that kills them so much as the wet and snow.

With few flowers about in the Winter Alliums and Honesty, or Silver Dollar plant stems can be cut, if they are still in good condition. Then gently rub the seeds off the Silver Dollars, or to give them their correct name, Lunaria, to reveal their sparkle. Teasels can also be dried and cut for use in dried flower arrangements for Winter.

There is some winter colour to be had indoors in the form of indoor Cyclamen that should be growing well now, but donít forget that when the compost seems dry - water it from the base of the pot and keeping the plants in a cool room is best.
Christmas cacti also provide some Winter colour indoors and are on sale, but donít buy any that have the flowers all ready open, as they will soon drop after moving them. Those plants with tight buds are the best. Even after getting them home donít keep moving the plants, just dust around them and the flowers will last longer.

Spring flowering Bulbs can still be planted now both in pots and in the garden, but Gladiola bulbs are long over and are best lifted and stored dry now and throughout the Winter.
Perennials that have finished flowering are also ready for a sleep until next Spring, so they should be cut down and tidied up. 

With keen gardeners thinking about the new season and the coming Spring, Seed catalogues are ready for you to browse through with the different companies putting their catalogues through your letterbox all hoping for an order.

Thatís all for now. Cheerio.
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips Week Ending 2nd November 2013.

Hello Folks
This year has flown by and the Garden Centres have their Christmas displays finished already. We have seen 3 done so far with two of them very good. One was full of all scenes with all sorts of animals and models. Some featured giant, stuffed, white, fluffy Polar Bears about 5 feet high and another brightly lit electric blue and white Penguins. Other displays included giant white Unicorns. What Unicorns have to do with Christmas I donít know, but they fascinate the children. We also saw smaller, tabletop displays made out of those lit and animated model village scenes. However, none of the displays had the traditional manger with baby in a crib. That was a bit disappointing.

Garden Centres are still trying to sell a few plants amongst the Christmas displays and glitter though. We have seen a lot of Orchids on sale now, but sadly I have not seen any Orchid compost to go with them. It is so important to use the proper compost as ordinary compost just will not do, because they are Epiphytes. That means they normally grow on trees by putting their roots down into the bark and leaf litter nestling in the joints of branches. As well as potting them in the right compost you must also be careful with watering them. Dahlias will be closing down now for the Winter, but do not cut them right down yet until they have gone black as they will still be taking food from the remaining stems and leaves. Then, after they have turned, dig them up and remove all the leaves and store the tubers in a frost-free, but cool place. It is best to stand them upside down for a while to let any liquid drain out of the tubers and thereby help to save them from rotting. If you have heavy, or wet soil it is best to take up Gladiola corms and again they can be kept quite dry in a cool and frost-free place.

There are still some packs of vegetable plants that can be put in now before the Winter and even if you only have a very small garden, a corner can usually still be found for something. My sister has a tiny garden, but she still grows a few Lettuce plants in a trough. If the ďCut and come again,Ē type of salad leaf are grown you can take a few leaves at a time and the bulk of the plant can be left to grow on for another cut later. My sister also has a part bag of compost that she keeps on the yard and if she finds a potato with small shoots on, early on in the season, she plants it and keeps it watered and then when ready digs into the bag and gets one or two meals of potatoes out of it.
Well Thatís All For Now.
Cheerio. Frances Hartley. 

Gardening Tips Week Ending 10th November 2012

Hello Folks
What terrible dull days we have had, but it seemed bright first thing this morning, so when all the chores were done we decided to get ready and go out for a little excursion. We have had carpets of leaves that I think seem to have dropped early this year and they were giving such a lovely display of colour when I wrote this, so I took my camera out with me hoping to get some nice pictures before all the leaves had fallen, but when we got to where the best trees were for their colours, the weather had changed, it was too dark and was spitting with rain. Just my luck once again! I am not very good at photography and have an elderly camera, but it does me, to keep a record of our garden, etc each year, so that I can see what changes there have been.

Alan has put in even more different fruit trees and bushes and is hoping for a better year next year, weather wise. Many people have said that the fruit harvest hasnít been very good this year and I must admit we havenít picked as much as usual, but we have enjoyed some Apricots, Peaches, Figs, Apples, Kumquats, Pears, Apples and various soft fruits. We are now enjoying some unusual vegetables from the allotment including Jerusalem Artichokes. If you have space in the garden where something tall can grow why not try one, or two roots, as they donít need much attention and are very rarely seen for sale. There is also Elephant Garlic that is milder in flavour than the normal type, and is served whole and eaten a bit like a baked Onion, or perhaps an apple.

Now we have had the first real frosts, Alan is starting to dig up the Chrysanthemum roots as the allotment they are in is rather an exposed, windy site. They have given some lovely flowers and I have 3 large vases and 3 small vases full even now. He has already dug up the smaller roots which I helped him pot and we are keeping them under the staging in the cold greenhouse. They will be joined later by the larger plants with big clumps of roots, or ďStools,Ē that Alan will dig up as it gets colder. They will be kept just slightly damp, until about the end of February when there should be some nice little shoots for cuttings. We shall probably root far more than we need ourselves, but we can always give some to family and friends. Alanís brother already has his eye on some of the larger stools where we have too many of the same colour!

I think most of the bedding plants will have been finished off by the cold by the time you hear this. I like to clear all the dead plants debris out of the tubs and then Alan tidies everything up and puts the rubbish on the compost heap. Afterwards, I add some more compost to what is left in the tubs, along with some fertlizer, before re-planting them with some ornamental Cabbages and Ivies, or bulbs instead and Pansies that will add colour for the Winter.

By the way not only can you buy young plants of Winter vegetables in the garden centres, such as Cabbages, Cauliflower, etc, now, but if you like Broad Beans some varieties can be sown straight outside in the ground, as well, along with Winter hardy Lettuce.

Well think thatís All For Now.
Cheerio. Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips for week ending November 4th 2011

  Hello Folks

          When one of my sons moved in to his house, he found a large cooking apple tree with no name on it. This year it has been loaded with very big, good, cooking apples, but Iím afraid they wonít keep as they are ripening too quickly, unlike last year when we managed to keep some Ďtill after Xmas. So, we have given a lot away and I have also frozen a lot. We are still picking a few late Raspberries as well as Blue Dwarf French beans and Purple carrots, along with Curly Kale and Swiss Chard.

When I made the sauce for the Pasta, for dinner, the other day, Alan chopped a few Hazel nuts and I added them to it, for a of bit extra protein. The nuts were off our own Hazel tree that I grew from a nut some years ago and it has grown quite large now. It is an interesting tree to grow as the little red flowers grow first and then the ďWillow likeĒ catkins seem to follow.

I always think a lot of the garden centres finish setting up their Xmas displays far too early, as the children get all excited and then get fed up before Xmas really comes, but enough said.

We cut some beautiful Chrysanthemums out of the garden last Saturday and they are such easy plants to grow. All they really need is some firm soil, some light and a cane for a little support to keep them growing straight. I have 4 lovely vases full of flowers in the house with lots more to cut. It is coming towards the end of the peak sales for Autumn planting/Spring flowering bulbs, so many are being discounted at most places now. Why not plant one or two tubs, or 3 litre pots. In a large pot you can put a layer of compost in the bottom with a layer of late flowering bulbs on top. Then put more compost over them and a few more earlier flowering bulbs on top of this and top the pot up with compost. Narcissi are good for planting in layers like this and you could also push a few Ixias, or Muscari in the top. Grow the pot on outside and when the bulbs are coming into bud, why not bring the pot inside to cheer you up.†
Some bulbs I havenít mentioned are the Amaryllis (or Hippeastrum) that are on sale now everywhere, with some in flower and some as bulbs packed in gift boxes. When the flowers fade you should just snap the flower head off, but do not cut the stem down. Instead, let both the stem and leaves die off gradually as they will carry on feeding the bulb for next year and then, after the leaves have died off, stop watering altogether and keep it in full sun to ďRipenĒ the bulb. When potting Amaryllis bulbs, the bulbs should be potted with about half above the compost. You should not cover the bulb and nor should you ďOver Pot,Ē it. If you put it in a pot that is much bigger than the width of the bulb it will throw up lots of little bulbules round it instead of flowering.†

If you have grown Alliums, the seed heads, dry very nicely for Winter decoration. I have some hanging upside down from the curtain rail in the spare bedroom and Iíll bet the neighbours wonder what big spiders we have hanging in the window! I am going to try spraying some this year and see what happens. There seems to be a lot of berries again this year, so I hope this is not a bad sign of another bad Winter to come.†
Well thatís all for now. Cheerio.
Frances Hartley


Gardening Tips November 5th 2010

Hello Folks

                    What a sudden change to the weather with frost already before November, but there has been no real damage up Ďtill writing this. We were surprised to find the bowls of small flowered begonias were still in full flower after the first frost and so were the geraniums, but they have now been changed and replaced by Winter Pansies and bulbs. People often plant tubs with evergreens for the Winter and I was asked one day about growing conifers in tubs. This is not very satisfactory unless they are really dwarf, nor do they like concrete tubs anyway and they must not be put in soil with lime in it. The best evergreens for tubs are Buxus or Box, Yew and Lonicera - Baggesons Gold. These can all be clipped and shaped. The ones with gold foliage do prefer a little shade for part of the day. We have had a Golden Yew in a fairly large tub for at least 3 years, although it has been potted on once in Ericaceous compost. If you want a bit more colour put a few dwarf Daffodils round the edge of the pot. Do make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the pots or tubs though before you plant them up. Itís difficult to drill holes in them after they are full of soil! A few broken pots, bits of broken brick, (not concrete!) or stones should also be put in the bottom for even better drainage before adding compost.

Most fruit trees should have been pruned by now and their fruit picked, but we have left our Medlars to ripen on the tree hoping they will ripen better as they seem to dry up if picked and kept in the house. The Tomatillos were all picked before the first frosts and are ripening now, but with some of the green ones my son made some very nice green (Salsa Verde) sauce to have with chicken, cheese or cold potato salad. We tried Tomatillos last year for the first time, but have had a good crop this year picking several pounds. If you want to try growing some fruit many of the garden centres have all sorts of plants reduced to try to clear them out and save potting them on. We only have a small garden, but where trees or shrubs have been removed, we are putting fruit in, after all flowers come first and then fruit follows.

With all the wet we had a few weeks ago we were told that the trees should have good Autumn colour, but many of them seem to be dropping their leaves before colouring up.

Bulbs for next Spring are on sale everywhere now and the garden centres have all put on their Christmas displays, but many seem to have cut them down this year, even though they have plenty of flashing lights and tinsel things on show.

Well thatís all for now
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips For week Ending November 6th 2009

Hello Folks

          Time seems to roll on so quickly these days as we are into Autumn again and it is time to prepare for the coming Winter. If you havenít already done it, Grease bands should be put on most fruit trees as soon as possible now to stop the crawling winter grubs getting on fruiting spurs and into the fruit buds that will develop next year. It is a sticky, messy job putting them on the trees, but well worthwhile. Grease bands are unbelievably sticky so it is best to use thin, clear throw away, polythene gloves for this job, or even put a small polythene bag over your hand and secure it with a rubber band over your wrist to hold it on.

You wonít have used your Greenhouse heater since last Winter, so it is time to clean it and check that it still works for the odd frosty night before Christmas. Horticultural fleece is useful to drop over plants for a little more protection either in an unheated Greenhouse or even for outside. It is cheaper to buy it off the roll than buying in the pre cut packs that you often see. You can cut it to size easily with a pair of sharp scissors and with a little care the fleece will last for years, indeed I have some that is over 3 years old. After the winter you should gently wash it and dry it so that it can be put away ready for next year.

With the colder nights, if you havenít already done so, it is time to take in the semi-hardy plants that you might have had in tubs on your patio, such as Orange, Lemon and Lime etc. The wet and cold winds will do as much damage as any frost.

Summer fruiting raspberries should be cut right down now to make room for the new canes to come up and grow ready for fruiting next year. Autumn fruiting varieties should be cut down in February.

Most people are planting Daffodils and Tulips now, but why not put in some Wallflowers and Sweet Williams as well. Both are easy plants to grow and produce a nice bit of scent in the Spring when they come into flower. Wallflowers are usually sold bare root in bunches and should be soaked in water for a couple of hours before planting. They usually flag at first, but are very tough and soon pick up. They are one plant that is quite happy to be moved as it encourages the plant to become bushier than it would otherwise be. Primroses and Primula can be divided, moved and planted now. Many people get confused between them, but Primroses have one flower to a stem, whereas Primulas have several flowers to a stem. Hardy Cyclamen corms are best planted now and will grow well in a fairly well drained soil that is in semi-shade. Cyclamen Neoploitan and Cyclamen Coum are both good types that both spread across the ground, but donít buy the big showy greenhouse variety by mistake as it will not survive outside over winter.

Well thatís all for now.
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips Week Ending November 8th 2008.

Hello Folks

Some of the trees such as the Chestnut and Sycamore already have plenty of colour with their leaves changing. They always seem to be the first with the other broad leaf trees, but trees like the Rowans and Birch are also starting to colour up well so there is much more colour to come I think as Autumn sets in.

However, you can still do some planting. The garden centres have gone in for a lot of Amaryllis bulbs this year. There are two main types, the Amaryllis Belladona are hardy and prefer a fairly dry light soil, but the Amaryllis Hipeastrum are indoor only. Sometimes the indoor ones are sold loose and sometimes they are sold in boxes. As with all bulbs they should feel firm and if not then donít buy them.  When potting the indoor type the bulb should be half out of the soil and the pot not much larger than the bulb, there should be just enough room between the bulb and the pot to put a finger. They are expensive, but will flower year after year if treated properly.

Some of the garden centres have started to reduce the price of Daffodils, Narcissi and Tulips etc. These are well worth looking out for, and if you pot a few up and get them growing, they make nice Christmas presents, although they probably wonít actually be in flower for Christmas. (One of the papers showed a picture of some daffodils in a garden in flower naturally a week ago down South!)

Some places are having end of season sales and are selling off perennials etc rather than potting them on and holding on to stock. It may be worth you having a look. Autumn is in fact the best time to buy and plant outdoor trees, shrubs and plants in general. Traditionally garden centres used to buy all their new stock in at this time so that it could be potted/planted and the roots could establish themselves in the soil without the energy from the plant being drained by lots of leaves. Then, when the Spring comes, the plants are settled and ready to burst into growth. Nowadays people want to buy everything when itís growing and in flower, but it is not really good for the plants.

If you buy Herbaceous plants they look especially sad at this time, but if you tidy them up, give them a good soak and get them in the ground they will reward you in the Spring.

I have seen Christmas Cactus on sale in full flower already, but is far better to buy them in tight bud, as if they are moved when in full flower they tend to drop their flowers.

I have two lovely Penstemons still in flower making a splash of pink and red in the borders, but I donít cut the dead flower stems off till the Spring as they help to protect the young shoots for next year.

The Geraniums are still out at the moment as well making a show so it is a shame to compost them yet, may as well make the most of them. But, I have emptied some of the tubs and baskets that were starting to look sad and I have started to cut some of the top growth off things like the Houttynia in the fish pond. Otherwise there is not really much to do in the garden now but keep the grass cut and generally tidy up.

Well all for now cheerio.  Frances Hartley.

Gardening Tips November.

Now is a good time to plant berries, nuts and seeds collected from the garden and hedgerow. Many of them need to be outside for the winter to stratify, or get frosted, before they will germinate properly in the Spring. Some of the berries are best if the seed is removed from the fruit before planting as this would otherwise rot and may damage the seed. Other tree and shrub seeds are best planted in compost containing a good mix of leaf mould to simulate the natural conditions they would have on the forest floor.

Before harvesting Parsnips let them have a good frosting as this converts the starch in them into sugars which will make them much better tasting.

Plant Wallflowers and Sweet Williams for flowering in the late spring after the early bulbs have finished but do remember that they will still be flowering when it is time to plant your Summer bedding.

Gardening Tips Nov 3rd

Hello Folks

Days are getting more dull and dreary, but there is still work to be done in the garden. Garden Centres are getting bare root shrubs, fruit bushes, etc in now, as it is a good time to plant. If the plants roots are Hessian wrapped just slit the wrapping here and there as the true Hessian will rot, but woven plastic and other types of plastic wrapping will not and must be carefully removed. If the roots on your new plant look even slightly dry stand it in a bucket of water for a while before planting. It may sound a silly remark about plastic not rotting, but a few years ago I was helping a neighbour, who had been a widow for only about 2 years, who she said she didnít know much about gardening. She asked me ďWhat can I do about these rhododendrons they donít seem to be growing.Ē

When I dug them up I found they had been planted in the garden still in the plastic pots that they had been sold in 3 or 4 years previously. I forked the ground over, added some fertilizer, soaked the planting holes, replanted them and they now flower well.

If you have had Christmas Cacti standing outside or in the greenhouse for the Summer, now is the time to take them in as they are better moved when in tiny tight buds. If they are moved when in flower the flowers tend to drop.

Prices on Winter Pansies vary a lot, but are mostly £2.50 for 6. These will be F1 Hybrids I think and the cheapest I have seen are 99p for 6 plants, probably F2, which will be smaller flowers.

Garden Centres will be selling bulbs off soon and as long as they are not too dry they are well worth buying.

It is time to check panes of glass in the Greenhouse and get bubble wrap ready to line it for the Winter. I also keep a supply of horticultural Fleece ready to drop over plants. This does not sweat like polythene, but gives some protection against the cold and especially draughts.

Well all for now.

 Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips Week Ending 18th November


Dear all

          The weather is letting us know winter is here today, there are high winds and heavy showers. Time to line the greenhouse now with bubble polythene, I shall be doing mine in the next day or two. With metal framed greenhouses it is quite easy to do with plastic clips that are sold in packets at all garden centres. With wooden framed greenhouses I have found drawing pins are better than staples. It is only necessary to insulate the roof and half way down the sides as it is the roof and opening windows where the most heat is lost. It is the same with us because if you wear a hat you are warmer. A curtain of insulation hung over the door is also a good idea.

The birds have stripped the berries off the Rowan trees already and wait for me to put their breakfast out each morning. I think they must have built in clocks as they come flying out of the trees at the same time each day.

With the berries gone and the leaves falling, the trees are beginning to look quite bare now. The leaves on the trees do seem to have stayed on longer this year though, probably because up till now we havenít had the high winds and there has been plenty of moisture in the stems. Leaves make lovely compost, but they take about 18 months to 2 years to rot properly. They are best collected and put in an old compost bag on their own to rot, not in the compost heap. If you can find one or two worms put them in the bag, tie the top loosely and pierce a few small holes to let excess moisture out. Then put the bag in a shady place to do its own thing.

I still have some red and pink Penstemons out in flower and against the dark leaves of a Cotoneaster they look quite effective. It is best to leave the old growth on over Winter. I know it looks a bit untidy over Winter, but the old growth will protect the new shoots and next year it can be cut off in late Spring.

The garden centres have plenty of Cyclamen in now, but remember that the large flowered ones are not hardy and like a cool room where they are best stood on gravel, broken pots or an upturned saucer in another container as they do not like their roots in water. Water them from the bottom, but do not leave water in the container. The small flowered ones are not all hardy either so check the labels.

If you bought plants that were sold as drought resistant earlier in the year be warned a lot of them are not frost resistant. Some of them will take the cold as they are desert plants, but will not stand the wet and cold together. They can be put in a cold greenhouse, but keep them dry, or stand them on a window ledge in a cold room.

Well thatís all for now. Bye folks

Frances Hartley.