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Divide and rule!

David Perry demonstrates how to divide a clump of Miscanthus.

This week, I’m handing over to my partner in crime writing, Julia, to tell us about her latest trip to RHS garden Rosemoor where she received some seasonal advice.

It is such a treat to visit Rosemoor on a regular basis, as I am doing this year attending a series of talks, and to see the garden evolving with the seasons. Last week, I went on a garden talk entitled ‘What now? Spring’

The course notes said: ‘Let the RHS experts help you through the gardening year providing a whistle-stop tour of techniques, tips, tricks and advice on seasonal tasks so that you know what you could be doing when. Spring topics covered – dividing and planting herbaceous perennials, spring shrub pruning, cutting back of ornamental grasses, plus other topics of seasonal interest.’

This was exactly what I needed as I am never entirely sure what I should be doing when especially when it comes to pruning. Somehow, I had it firmly in my brain that I had to cut everything back in the Autumn… and was then surprised how many plants I manage to kill off every year! There really is no excuse for such ignorance as there are tutorials online and thousands of excellent gardening books but, somehow, it is always better to be shown how to do something first hand.

Our tutor at Rosemoor was Garden Manager, David Perry. Pruning is always a thorny topic, but within the first minute, David had explained two pruning terms that I had followed but did not know why – prune back to two buds and cut on an angle. Why two buds? If the top one gets frosted and dies, you still have the second one. Why cut on an angle? To provide a difficult surface for water, dust or parasites to settle on. Obvious, really!

The ‘bare bones’ at Rosemoor, beautiful in their own right.

Shrubs grown for their colourful stems or foliage, such as dogwood, need to be cut down in the spring to encourage new growth, known as coppicing. No wonder they hadn’t done well for me before, as I had chopped them off in November! He also demonstrated how to prune shrubs and roses into a ‘goblet’ shape, cutting out shoots that cross over, or were growing inward, to allow free airflow and a general rather lovely shape.

Buying plants can be expensive, so it is really useful be able to identify ones that can be divided to create more. All clump-forming herbaceous perennials, including ornamental grasses, can be divided and, when done regularly, helps ensure healthy plants that will continue to perform year after year. While perennials can be divided at almost any time if they are kept well-watered afterwards, David said it is best to do it when the plants aren’t in active growth. He demonstrated how to divide a substantial clump of Miscanthus using two garden forks back-to-back as levers to loosen and break the root mass into two sections. He made it look easy!

It was interesting to see the ‘bare bones’ of the garden at this time of year. The shape of espaliered and step-over fruit trees were art forms in themselves and it was also great to see the wooden supports staff were creating with coppiced sticks – so much more natural than bamboo poles!

How to divide perennials

Here are simple tips for dividing perennials from the RHS website:

  • Lift plants gently with a garden fork, working outwards from the crown’s centre to limit root damage. Shake off excess soil so that roots are clearly visible
  • Some plants, such as Ajuga (bugle), produce individual plantlets which can simply be teased out and replanted
  • Small, fibrous-rooted plants such as Heuchera, Hosta and Epimedium can be lifted and pulled apart gently. This should produce small clumps for replanting
  • Large, fibrous-rooted perennials, such as Hemerocallis (daylily), require two garden forks inserted into the crown back-to-back. Use these as levers to loosen and break the root mass into two sections. Further division can then take place
  • In some cases, a sharp knife, axe or lawn edging iron may be needed to cleave the clump in two
  • Plants with woody crowns (e.g. Helleborus) or fleshy roots (e.g. Delphinium) require cutting with a spade or knife. Aim to produce clumps containing three to five healthy shoots.

Top photo: Lovely pair of pottery chickens by Somerset artist George Hider.

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Guerrilla gardening!

There is a roundabout, just off the A30 on the way to my crime writing partner Julia’s house, that is a delight to behold in the spring and summer when it is a mass of colour with wildflowers in profusion. This oasis in the middle of a three-way junction is the work of a local ‘guerrilla gardener’!

Marvellous, we cry! But did you know that planting roundabouts and road verges with flowers and plants is actually illegal? Going onto and planting any land you do not own is illegal in most countries in the world. How very dull…

However… very few people have ever been prosecuted. Councils are in a difficult position because there are, understandably, health and safety issues around people gardening on roundabouts at night and they can’t be seen to condone it. Sense seems to prevail though and most authorities take a relaxed stance and, if people enjoy the results and no damage is done, they tend to turn a blind eye.

If you fancy a bit of rebellion in a terribly nice and green-fingered way, you may want to look at The Guerrilla Gardener’s blog. He says: “Let’s fight the filth with forks and flowers” which strikes me as a very fine sentiment!

As you may know from previous blogs, I am a bit of a fan of things in miniature. So if you fancy trying some guerrilla gardening on a smaller scale, have a look at the fabulous images and ideas on The Pothole Gardener’s blog. He creates miniature gardens in potholes – and before you rush out into the middle of your local dual carriageway, I should add these are potholes in pavements, not roads! As much as I would love to do this, I fear my knees would not be co-operative!

Have you spotted any guerrilla gardening near where you live? Or, have you ever undertaken any yourself…? Do let us know!

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Patchwork and Roses

FloralThatchThe idea for this card came from the saying “roses around the door”. I was trying to get the feel of a country cottage with patchwork and roses growing around the door. We used to have roses climbing up the front of our cottage but sadly the ivy got the better of them and now we just have ivy round the door, which really doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Thomas Kinkade is always a good ‘go to’ product for cottage designs and this is from the Thomas Kinkade Card Collection Volume One. The backing papers are from the Joanna Sheen Backing Paper pads Volume 3.

This is a very simple card to assemble – just use a Spellbinders oval nesting die to create the aperture and then get to work on the roses.

The Wild Rose Signature Die is a pleasure to use, the diecuts fall out of the die beautifully so no scrabbling about and there are various different ways you could colour the flowers. You can just cut them from assorted pink/lilac/pastel coloured card. Or, alternatively, you can cut them from white card (our Elegance Satin 300gsm) and work on them with Promarkers. It really is easier than you may think. Just scribble across all the edges using the chisel end of the pen (don’t panic or try and colour it all completely) and then take a lighter colour and again using the chisel end, cover the entire flower, focussing especially on the joins between dark and light. Then if you want to blur the joins even more, take the blender pen and use that in circular motions to mix it all together.

I like adding self-adhesive pearls in the centres but you could just have, say, some yellow card behind them or leave it as it is. I use Pinflair glue gel to attach them to the card, then they will be movable for a little while.

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Tea for two

TeaCupBirthdayFor the last 100 years at least, “I’ll just pop the kettle on” has been the British way of handling life. If in doubt … have a cup of tea. Things not going right … have a cup of tea. Long and difficult discussion to have with a family member, I’ll just get the kettle on!

The older members of my family were complete tea-aholics drinking many, many cups a day. But now as the younger generation comes through and flourishes, not so many of them are tea drinkers. I’m a bad example as I mainly drink coffee, then switch to peppermint or ginger tea after lunch, but my daughters – not a sign of a hot drink, what did I do wrong? My younger daughter quite likes mint tea made with fresh mint leaves (bet nobody in the office makes her one of those!) but apart from that, neither of them have anything except water. Goodness me, my granny would be amazed!

I always love sending a card with a tea bag hidden inside it as a little extra – just makes the handmade card even more of a little present. Here’s how to make this card:

Ingredients

Technique

  1. Cut some lilac card to slightly smaller size than the card blank and then white smaller again and layer. Attach to main card using thin foam tape or sticky pads.
  2. Die cut the cups and teapot in white and then stick some scraps of lilac card behind the rose design.
  3. Die cut the Clarissa die in white and trim to fit the card, attach with glossy accents glue or a quickie glue pen.
  4. Now cut a plain circle in the Kraft card and layer onto a scalloped circle in lilac card about 3½” diameter. Attach the teapot and cups using glue gel and curve them slightly.
  5. Die cut the wild rose in cream and green – or you could do it all in white and colour with alcohol pens. Attach to the card as shown.
  6. Finish the card with some flat back pearls and the printed out sentiments.
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With love…

It seems we have had a technical glitch and those of you signed up to the blog may not have received the last 2 or 3 posts. So sorry if this is the case… and apologies if you have already seen them and you think I am repeating myself! Smiles, Joanna.

It’s been a busy week here with cards and samples happening! It’s so exciting to be heading back onto Create and Craft but still a little intimidating after nearly two years away. It’s amazing how quickly you forget everything! So be patient with me on the programme when I look at the wrong camera or slip up (as I used to do so often) and say Sellotape instead of sticky tape or some other brand mention that I shouldn’t do! Also, I suspect the staff are planning a sweepstake on whether I make an ‘Australian’ (upside down) card this time around.WithLoveStencil

I am enjoying playing with our detail dies, these cut into the card and make a design within the card rather than producing something that you stick on top of the card. This design is so pretty and I have made several different cards with the Duchess die.

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients

Signature Die – Duchess Detail SD447 and Wild Rose – SD421

With and Love dies from All Occasion

Oval plain and scalloped dies any brand

Cream, pink and terracotta cardstock

Flat backed cream pearls, assorted glues and tape

Technique

Cut some cream card to 5 ¼” square and place a Duchess detail diecut into each corner. Layer this onto some slightly larger terracotta card. Fix onto the main card blank with foam tape or sticky pads.

Cut a plain cream oval and a scalloped terracotta oval (approx 4” high). Add this to the card again with foam pads (or glue gel).

Now diecut the rose die – in both pink and green – add the green leaves to the card as shown. Now if you want to, tinge the centre of the roses a darker pink with an alcohol pen and add five flat backed pearls to the centre. Attach the flowers and bud over the leaves.

Finish the card with flat backed pearls on the oval and in the corners as shown.

 

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