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

Gardening Tips Week Ending September 7th 2014.

Hello Folks
The Summer seems to have ended suddenly and the garden centres have got the Autumn bulbs in already tempting us and emphasising that Winter is on its way. If you want to get Hyacinths in flower for Christmas they should be potted and in the dark by the end of this month, but donít forget when handling the bulbs to wear gloves as the powder they are treated with can cause rashes. It is a good idea to pot a few other bulbs up, because itís nice to have a few pots of bulbs that are ready to drop into empty spaces when the bedding plants have finished. 

Everything seems to have put on lots of growth this year with all the bushes and trees expanding rapidly. The fruit trees in particular have done well. The Medlar tree has grown much bigger and is loaded with fruit again like last year. The fig tree has also grown a lot and we had our first Figs in August. Alan has two small Asian Pear trees and we have already had some fruit on the bought, grafted one. They look like an Apple, but taste between an Apple and Pear, with a texture that is smooth like an apple instead of being gritty like a Pear. Very nice. We had about 50 Apricots this year picked off our own tree that is grown outside on a South East facing wall. His Mulberry bush fruited for the first time and they were quite tasty. Alan has also kept me busy washing and freezing fruit and vegetables from his Allotment. He has picked lots of Runner Beans and French Beans. I donít freeze the Runners, but I do freeze the French Beans, because they seem to stay firmer. The Courgettes have also done well again this year. I have found that they go down quite well if mixed with Onion and chopped and lightly fried with a pinch of Garlic, or chopped herbs. If you grow Potatoes why not put a few Turnips, or Swede seeds in after the Potatoes have been harvested. They will only grow small, but are tasty in Stews, or Casseroles in the Winter.

After cutting Cabbage, or Cauliflowers leave the stalks in the ground, because if they are undamaged they will often produce a new small head for you. We like Red Cabbage the best, but some people find it a strong flavour. However, if when cooking Red Cabbage you drop a few Sultanas in to it, it makes it really tasty.

Digging in your own compost made from weeds and vegetable peelings is an excellent way to bulk up the soil in borders and is especially good for making raised beds. Not only will it help to improve poor, impoverished soil, but it will give the plants a light feed and spread over the surface as a mulch, will help to suppress weeds. The TV gardeners are always telling people to make their own compost. Allotment holders are often lucky as in some places there is a big communal heap that is available for all to use and the compost produced will have been made from a good mixture of material.

We have some lovely Gladiola and Chrysanthemums growing at the moment to make cut flowers for around the house. I also have a lovely Amaryllis out now in the house which is about 5 years old and that has flowered every year at about the same time. It is a nice deep red and has 4 really big flowers on it. When I tidied my other Amaryllis bulbs up the other day I gave them a light Tomato feed to help them along.

Well thatís all for now. Cheerio. Frances Hartley


Gardening Tips Week Ending 8th September 2013.

Hello Folks
There are some very pretty Cyclamen about now that you can put in tubs outside for a quick splash of colour, but some are not hardy in the frost so do check the labels carefully if you put them outside. Neapolitan and Coumb are two of the old fashioned hardy ones, but there may be others now as they are always bringing out new varieties of everything.

Crocosmia, or Montbretia as they are usually called now, look lovely at the moment with their pretty orange flowers. They grow from a bulblike corm that will multiply itself over the years to make a big clump that puts on a really impressive show of flowers every year.

There is still a good selection of Perennials about which can be divided now before settling them in for the Winter. If you want flowers for next year, biennials can be sown later this month and through until the end of October. There are also some perennials that you can sow now to grow on next year for flowers the following year. Herbaceous perennials are very expensive to buy when you think of the price of a packet of seeds. With a little patience you could fill a whole border for less than the price of one plant. We grew some Monarda, or Bergamot last year. Originally we grew them because they are supposed to be rabbit repellent, but one of the TV gardeners also said they produced lots of lovely pinky mauve flowers. They have done really well and like most herbaceous plants will divide before being re-planted for next year. They have an unusual Minty smell that is not noticeable at first, but the smell gradually comes into fruition and fills the room. Monarda is used to flavour some drinks I believe, but mainly used for potpourri and the sprays of cut flowers last well in water.

As the Tomatoes ripen, the bottom leaves and any large leaves can taken be off and composted as they have done their job. Donít forget to keep feeding the plants every week to keep the later tomatoes developing though, and give them plenty of water when it is hot and sunny. If you donít get the watering right the Tomatoes may split.
My Brown Turkey Fig tree that is growing against a South facing fence outside, is old, but still productive. I have eaten 3 so far this year, but they are only just starting to ripen and Alan told me there are a lot more on. This year Alanís Strawberry plants did so well with so many large, sweet, strawberries that we gave a lot away. I stalked pounds and pounds before open freezing them on some trays and then bagging them. Twice now some have gone into crumbles along with Apples and Frozen Gooseberries. By putting the Strawberries into the deep dish while still frozen and putting the topping on straightaway and then immediately into the oven, we found the Strawberries did not all go mushy. The Strawberry plants have produced some good runners that should be taken off and potted for next years plants as they only remain productive for about 3 years or so and then need to be replaced.

Some of the garden centres have plenty of fruit bushes that they are reducing. Why not try planting one or two yourselves. The fruit they produce will improve your diet and save you a little money in the long term. If we all tried to grow something it would go towards helping the World food shortage situation. Good growing.
Cheerio. Thatís all for now.  Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips September 7th 2012.

Hello folks
Time goes rattling by, Summer is on itís way out and the nights are drawing in a little earlier all the time. However, we are getting some very welcome sunny spells that are ripening the Tomatoes in the Greenhouse and bringing on the plants outside on the Allotment. The sun is also helping the Gladiola that have had a rough time as they donít like too much wet and will rot quite easily in the ground. We have cut several fantastic spikes of Gladiola flowers already and they are following on nicely from the Sweet Peas that are starting to go to seed and coming to an end.

Not only do I use flowers around the house, but I also press a lot of the smaller ones. I have got one of my flower presses nearly full of flowers and leaves and I am hoping for plenty of spikes of Crocosmia as the flowers press so well and look nice when glued into my Christmas cards. The blank cards I use are the 3 fold ones with windows in, so that I can glue the flowers onto the card and it looks like a little picture showing through a window.

Recently we bought a couple of pots of Dwarfed Chrysanthemums with quite exotic flowers on. After getting them home, we cut the flowers off which we put in two vases and then, Alan tipped the remaining plants out of their pots, carefully separated them and was able to pot 3 nice little plants up from each pot to grow on for next year. We did the same thing last year with some, so this Spring those had made good ďStools,Ē with good roots that could be planted out and they are about 2 Ĺ to 3ft high now. The plants are full of flower buds and will give many cut flowers to put in my vases.

When putting cut Chrysanthemum flowers in water you should gently hammer the ends of the stems, or just split the stem ends, other wise they will not take up water and so will not last very long. Something else we are trying, came from one garden centre where we found that they were selling the Dahlia tubers they had left at half price. We bought some even though they are far too late to do much for this year. Alan potted them up as we thought if we could get some growth on them this year and keep them over Winter they could be started early for next year and we will also try taking some cuttings from this years soft growth. Ever hopeful and with any luck, we can grow these on enough to get them through the Winter to make more flowering plants - we like experimenting!

The Garden Centres seem very well stocked with Palms this year. I donít know whether they are hoping we will have a mild Winter, or that they think everyone has a large conservatory, but I must say they do look elegant, especially the one we saw in flower. It had enormous hanging racemes of bright yellow flowers that put on a fantastic show.

Coming down to earth, Lavender plants should have a good clip now, but donít cut into the old wood, or they might not shoot again. The clippings donít need to be thrown away as they are good for lavender sachets, or to liven up your dish of Potpouri.

Well, thatís all for now. Cheerio.
Frances Hartley.

Gardening Tips For Week Ending September 2nd 2011

Hello Folks

                    The nights seem to be drawing in very early this year as the herald of an early Autumn, but the bedding plants are still making a good show, especially the Geraniums and Surfinnia Petunias.. The Sweet Peas have been really wonderful this year and I have had about 4 vases full of lovely, very scented flowers round the house. As you opened the front door to come in, the scent greeted you, but the plants started to produce a lot of seed pods and so had to come out and go on he compost heap. The lovely coloured Gladiolas are now coming into full flower and have taken over, such stately plants. The orangey/yellow Rudbeckias and Gaillardia are starting to bloom and are also looking bright in the borders.

We had a very large and old, common Buddleia that we decided to fetch out and when my son started to remove it he found that it was quite rotten. The old wood was chopped up and disposed of, but we stripped all the leaves off the younger, flowering stems, and found they were good enough to use as canes to give some light support to the Chrysanthemums and other Herbaceous plants. Normally, you wouldnít prune Buddleias hard back yet, so wouldnít be able to cut the ďcanesĒ until later when it was too late to use them. While they are still green at this time of year they are quite strong, but as they dry they will go brittle and be no use. However, who knows as they are green, some might root and then they can be potted up and used elsewhere or passed on to friends or family.

If you have grown Strawberry plants this year, there should be some nice little runners growing by now. These should be pegged down, if you havenít already done it, either into the soil, or into some small pots. After a week or two the main runner can be cut and you will have lots of new, small plants for next year to refresh your Strawberry bed.

One of my sons has a large Cooking Apple tree in his garden that has started dropping apples and although they are not quite ripe, he has brought me some that I have peeled and sliced before dropping them in cold water and lemon juice. This stops them going brown before, quickly and gently, dabbing them dry and then freezing them. They will go nicely with all the Rhubarb that we have been picking from our allotment, to make crumbles in the Winter. Sadly there will be no figs this year on my Brown Turkey Fig. I thought it had died in the Winter, but at least it did survive and has now come into full leaf again.

We had some large, self-set Teasels that my younger son Alan has cut and hung in the garage to dry which I can spray for Winter decoration. I also have some Loquat leaves from another small tree that succumbed last Winter. The leaves are like Aspidistra leaves in size and also look nice sprayed. We have planted another Loquat in place of the Buddleia that we removed, so hopefully I will have some more leaves next year. My 2 small flower presses are full with flower heads and a few small leaves that will be ready by Christmas to make my cards. I usually make about 24, but just for friends and family.
Well thatís all for now.
Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips Week Ending 3rd September 2010

Hello Folks

                    Here we are again and another month gone. Bulbs are about now in the shops, but it is too early to plant them yet. However, if they are bought while fresh and hung in a cool place they will be better than left to shrivel, or sprout, in a warm garden centre and besides you will have a better choice now rather than later.

Medlar FruitsOur Medlar and Brown Turkey Fig trees that are both planted outside of course, are loaded with fruit this year, as are our two little Apple trees. What we want now is some sunshine to ripen them. The Runner Beans and indeed all the fruit are cropping well including our first pickings of Green Tomatillos.

It will soon be time to cut the Buddleias down as the flowers have faded now. I find it is better to shorten the smaller stems by about half and make a further good cut into the thicker stems at the end of February the next year. We have a very dark blue, white and yellow. The yellow one is not the round ball type, Globosa, but the flower is longer, more like the common mauves, blues and whites. I have never seen one anywhere else other than the garden where I got my original cutting! (With the ownerís permission!)

I still do my share of potting and clipping and enjoy the garden, but I find bending a bit more difficult since having both hips replaced. Besides that I am not seeing too well either, so instead of putting so many bedding plants in next year, which my son had to do this year, we are putting in a lot of plants that will stand dry weather. Every year there seems to be a bigger choice of plants for dry area such as Sedums, Heucheras, Thymes and Lavenders of which there is a specially good selection. We found one rather unusual Lavender with variegated leaves, but I donít know if it will be like the French ones and will NOT be very hardy. I will have to take some cuttings from it and keep them inside in case it doesnít stand up to the Winter.

This year we grew some Coleus and put them in tubs and also in the borders in the garden for the first time. They have made a good show although they do like a shady spot and a drop of water when it gets a little bit sunny. I should think they are all right for Hay Fever sufferers though, as the flowers should be nipped off as soon as they start to come otherwise they spoil the leaf colours.

Well thatís all for now
Frances Hartley

Gardening Article Week Ending September 4rth 2009

Hello Folks

                    A busy month ahead now as you must keep dead heading all the annuals to keep them flowering and even things like Hemerocallis, or Day Lilies, will often produce a few more flowers if the old ones are removed.

Most perennials that have finished flowering can be divided now or later in the Spring. When dividing large clumps, the old centre should be discarded as they are no good, but the young outside shoots can be replanted. The red leaved Heuchera seem to be very popular this year and this is another plant that can be divided if it is getting too big. Carefully cut through the Rhizomous root keeping some of the thin feeder roots, and re-plant. One plant I do not disturb until the Spring is the Penstemon. As with some of the other slightly more delicate perennials I like to leave the dead flower stems and leaves on to protect the new undeveloped young shoots that are there ready for the next year.

Onions and Garlic should be ready for lifting and storing as soon as we have a long dry spell. I find Garlic will keep well if they are hung up in the garage in old tights or stockings.

Any Summer flowering shrubs, such as Buddleias, that have finished flowering, can be cut back  and the prunings put through your garden shredder so that they can be added to your compost heap to mix in with the grass cuttings.

There are many bulbs coming on display for sale in the garden centres, including Hyacinths that should be planted in pots during September for Christmas flowering. The pots or bowls must be kept in a cool dark place such as a cellar, if you still have one, until the leaves are about 3 inches high and then should be transferred to a light, but still cool place. When handling Hyacinths it is better to wear gloves as the dust they have been sprayed with can cause hands to itch.

Tulips donít need to be planted until November really as they donít like to sit in wet soil too long, so the Dwarf Tulips I have bought have been hung up in the garage where they will keep cool and not dry out. Daffodils arenít so fussy about when they are planted, but if you are not ready to plant them yet, or any of the other bulbs on sale now, you can store them for weeks before planting. In fact they will be better bought early and stored in a cool garage rather than buying them later after they have been drying out on show in a warm shop for weeks. If you keep the bulbs in the garage or shed do watch out for mice though!

Well I think thatís all for now. Cheerio. Frances Hartley



Gardening Tips Week Ending September 7th 08

Hello Folks

                    Another month has gone by with very little Summery weather. It has not really been cold, but very dull, making the Tomatoes  slow to ripen this year, but the late raspberries are doing well as are our Thorn-less Blackberries. The Curly Kale and Chinese Cabbage look like lace curtains now from all the Cabbage White grubs, but on looking very close the Cabbages are shooting from the base again.

Garden Centres have plenty of bulbs in stock now that are all very tempting, but donít forget when handling prepared Hyacinths to wear gloves, or put your hands in a small plastic bag, as the powder put on them to stop Mildew, can cause irritation to your hands. If you want Hyacinths for Christmas they should be going in now as soon as possible and kept in the dark till the flower spike is well up, otherwise the leaves will grow tall and hide the flower.

Cuttings of perennials such as Penstemons, Doronicums, Ornamental Sage and Thyme to name but a few can be taken now, as well as cuttings of semi-ripe wood from shrubs. If you have Geraniums and have a special one, cuttings of these can be taken, but as with all plants none flowering shoots are the best,

It is also time to go round your garden collecting seed-pods. It is best to dry the pods and separate the seeds from the chaff keeping the seeds Ďtill the appropriate time for them to be sown. Some can be sown almost straight away and I have found October is best for Geraniums. Do remember though that seeds saved from your own plants may well produce plants with flowers that are different from their parents. Geraniums are quite easy seeds to handle and after germination the young plants should be kept growing on the window ledge over the coming Winter.

Many Perennials that have finished flowering and are getting over crowded, can be dug up and divided. When re-planting them discard the old middle piece and re-plant the new young shoots remembering to water them well.

I think thatís all for now, Cheerio

Frances Hartley


Gardening Tips Week Ending September 7th

Hello folks

                    A nice bit of Summer at last. The second lot of raspberries and runner beans are doing well now. The Garlic also did quite well, but the tomatoes are not quite so good, due I think to the changeable temperatures.

I have noticed there are a lot of Blueberry plants for sale now, perhaps because Blueberries are supposed to be very good for you. We have one as they make a nice change and add a bit of colour in a fresh fruit salad. They are quite easy to grow, but be aware they do like an acid soil, if yours is clay, or lime, like mine, use a very large pot to grow them in. If pots are too heavy for you to move, there are slatted wooden stands about 10 inches square on 4 castors, available in some of the garden centres. I have 4 and find them very useful.

If you like fresh figs they are another easy fruit to grow . They are nothing like the dried figs sold in packets in shops etc. There are no seeds and should be plump and juicy when picked about the size of a Victoria plum, I have had several off mine so far with more to come. They are brown Turkey , they thrive best in poor soil and face south, roots should be restricted. Do not plant close to the house walls.

The new bulbs are on sale now. I found some lovely double Narcissuses, with a slightly coloured centre that are also highly scented. I shall definitely put some more in this year.

If Buddleias have finished flowering stems can be cut back. They seem to have put on a lot of growth this year hard and pruning should be done late February next year, but cutting back a bit now will save the wind rocking from them and loosening the roots. In fact any Summer flowering shrubs can be pruned now. If you are pruning Hydrangeas only cut dead flowers off and donít go too far down as next years flower buds will have started forming just below the current years flowers.

Well I think that is all for now.


Frances Hartley.


Gardening Hints And Tips

The pruning of any Spring and Summer flowering shrubs that need it should be finished by the end of September, unless it is something like a Crab Apple that you are going to cut back severely, or even pollard, then they are best left as late as possible in the Autumn before the first frosts, to let the goodness and sap go down out of the leaves and branch tips. If there is a week or two before the frost, the cut ends will have time to heal over and prevent frost damage.

Buddleias have flowered well this year and will need cutting back a little to prevent the plant from rocking about in the winds. If this is not done and they rock it will leave pockets round the roots that the frost can get into. It is a good idea to leave them for a week or two as the birds love the seeds on them. It is best to do the main cut, when they should be cut back hard, at the end of February. Also prune the old fruiting stems on the early fruiting Raspberries but leave the new shoots as these will fruit next year.

If you like Hyacinths in flower for Christmas they should be potted as soon as possible, certainly no later than the last week in September. Prepared Hyacinths have been in a cold store to make them think that they have wintered and thereby encourage them too flower early. Some people are not aware that they have been dusted with a powder to prevent mildew and this powder can make your hands itch, so, it is best to wear gloves when handling them.

There are some very pretty pots in the Garden Centres now that contain bulbs and compost and are reasonably priced. They make nice Christmas presents but they must be kept in a cool place until you are ready to start them growing.

If you have Lilies growing in pots keep them watered until the foliage starts to die off and then stop watering. They can be kept outside against a wall of the house for the winter and will be fine until the Spring comes.

All for now

Frances Hartley  

The Autumn

It has been a good summer on and off, but now it is time to think about the coming Spring. Garden Centres are getting their bulbs in now and I like to get mine while they are still fresh before they have had them in too long. There is such a big range of Narcissi now that one is spoilt for choice. The bulbs have been in cold stores and when they are brought out into the warm shops and garden centres they start to dry out and deteriorate. If you are going to store them for a while before planting a little later, as it is still early, the bulbs are best hung in a cool garage or shed in fruit nets or old tights. Hanging them like this will keep the mice away from them and let the air get round them.

Bedding plants are still making a beautiful display that can be encouraged to continue by feeding. Plants in baskets and tubs especially will have used up all the food in the compost even if you have used a slow release fertilizer. A foliar feed such as liquid seaweed is very good at this time as it can be watered over the foliage.

If you grow things like Geraniums keep dead heading the plants to make them produce more flowers or else they will try and set seed. It is also time to take cuttings from them. I still prefer compost with a good layer of sharp sand to root them in but whatever you use donít use rooting powder because it will encourage black leg. Also be very sparing with the watering as they prefer to be on the dry side. I will talk more about bulbs next time.

                                                Cheerio Frances Hartley

Gardening Tips 24/9/06

Hello folks it's me again,

I was asked if Clematis are hardy and of course they are but they need careful planting. They do like a sheltered sunny spot with their roots in the shade. The easiest way to do this is place a piece of a slab or a layer of large stones over the ground round the roots after you have planted it. Don't forget to give them a good watering in when planting before adding the stones which will also keep the moisture in.

The Garden Centres now have the Winter flowering Pansies in. It is best to buy them in tight bud, not in flower as they will establish themselves better. There is also a big selection of miniature Cyclamen about. They are very nice for instant displays in your borders or tubs but they will not stand the frost. The really hardy ones for the garden are Cyclamen Neopolitan and Coum Varieties. Both are fully hardy and will spread if left undisturbed, but do not be tempted to put them in full sun as they like a bit of shade.

If you grow fruit trees and get grubs in the fruit now is the time to put Grease Bands round the trunks. This may seem a silly thing to do to stop grubs in the fruit, but the insects crawl up the trunks in the Autumn and lay their eggs in the buds which will develop into the fruit for the next year. The eggs hatch in the spring and then as the fruit grows so do the grubs eating away at your prize apples etc. Grease bands can be bought from most garden centres and some gardening/D.I.Y. stores. Another problem with fruit trees that can be prevented by a little action now, is fruit drop of small underdeveloped fruit on Plums and Damsons. A little sprinkle of garden lime round the base of the tree, not on the trunk, will work wonders.

Hope this is of use to some of you. Cheerio for now.

Frances Hartley.