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Gardener's Diary 

                              May 2008


Oriental poppy

There has been a benefit to the wintry weather we endured during April, and that is the long flowering season for daffodils.  I have never seen such a good and long display locally ...

But generally it was a damp and cold month without many good gardening days, and friends who have a garden centre report that sales are well down. However, during the last week in April the weather warmed up and a few sunny days saw the local gardens being lovingly tended by happy looking gardeners!

Here is an important seasonal reminder about safety in the garden


World famous seed company Thompson & Morgan opens its Trial Grounds to the public for the 15th consecutive year on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th July 2008, between 10am and 4pm, at its headquarters in Poplar Lane, Ipswich, Suffolk.

This is a great opportunity for keen home gardeners to be the first to view some of Thompson & Morgan’s New & Exclusive 2009 Season flower and vegetable varieties growing among the company’s own display beds and trial grounds.

See here for full details.

An introduction from Rosemary Martin...

I have been gardening now as a hobby for about thirty years, but have no formal training..  I don't have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice, but I also think the modern trends work well. 

This column adds a new dimension to my interest in all aspects of horticulture and will hopefully help others find pleasure in this healthy and therapeutic pastime  ...  

Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife, remembering to tell me which country you are from..  

Click here for previous editions of Gardener's Diary..


Jobs for the month


House plants

You can still take cuttings from many of your houseplants during May, but first look up in your gardening book to see if it is the correct time of year for cuttings of your particular specimens. 

Be vigilant this month for house plant pests such as mealy bug and red spider mite... I bought a house plant a couple of years ago that unbeknown to me was harbouring mealy bug.. This rapidly spread to other plants and I had a difficult job eliminating them..

Bedding Plants and hardy annuals

The hardy annuals you have sown directly onto the soil should be up this month, but you need to watch that weeds don't take hold and smother the flower seedlings.. Thin the seedlings out if you think they look too crowded.. Bedding plants should be growing strongly under cover and pricked out into their growing trays. Keep them well watered and covered with fleece at night if frost is expected.. Plant up your hanging baskets early this month, mixing water retaining gel and plant food in with the compost, and keep them in the greenhouse initially to grow on. 

By the second week in May all the bedding plants and hanging baskets should be put outside in the garden to harden off, but again do take care that a sudden night frost doesn't kill them all off.. Bring them in to the greenhouse at night if need be..


Having raked all the debris out of your lawn either with a rake or an electric scarifier, you now need to give it a 'weed and feed' to eliminate the rest of the moss, kill the weeds and green up the lawn.. You can use a spreader for granules on larger lawns, or use 'weed and feed' in liquid form with a built-in sprinkler, for smaller lawns.. Take care not to miss bits because a light and dark green striped lawn looks decidedly odd!


Prune out any frost damage from affected evergreen shrubs and trim if necessary: cut back tender shrubs and hardy Fuchsia after danger of frosts has past. Prune spring-flowering shrubs after flowering.  

Clip evergreen hedges and, if not too woody, shredded clippings can be added to the compost heap. (Not holly hedges though, because the pointed tips of the leaves take years to die down and you will be forever pricking your fingers when gardening) Prune overcrowded stems of Clematis montana once flowering has finished. Ensure newly planted trees and shrubs do not dry out. Take softwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs this month and finally check roses for signs of pests and damage.



At this time of year all your greenhouse plants can very quickly be lost due to overheating or sudden frosts in an unheated greenhouse.

Move conservatory plants outdoors during warm days but bring back inside if cold nights are expected.

Inspect plants for red spider mite and whitefly and control with appropriate treatments. Apply coolglass to the outside of the glass to prevent temperatures from soaring.  Use the hosepipe (or watering can if there is a hosepipe ban in force) to thoroughly dampen down your greenhouse to improve humidity..


If you haven't grown any vegetable seeds and can't really be bothered, yet fancy some home grown veggies, have a look in your local garden centre, where you can buy as little or as much as you want, of many varieties of outdoor and greenhouse vegetables; all ready grown on to a decent size.. All you need do is re-pot them, water and feed them... Try growing a pepper plant, chilli or cucumber in your greenhouse...

Garden Ponds  

It is still not too late to have a pond `spring clean` or to make it safe for any visiting children that either you or your neighbour might have, see here..  Keep your pond free of blanket weed by lifting it out with a stick or a rake, but take care not to puncture the pond lining if it is butyl, and of course mind the livestock... Increase the quantity of food you give your pond fish this month.. The general guide to quantity is that any food left floating on the surface after about ten minutes is surplus, so you can easily gauge how much they need..


Take care when you are pruning in the garden that you don't disturb any nesting birds.. Continue putting out food for the birds, but not bread or other food as it will attract rats to your neighbourhood! This can be a distressing time of year when some fledgling birds get separated from their parents. Whilst it is admirable to try to save them, they very rarely survive because we can't feed them the constant supply of bugs that their parents do.. Another problem this time of year is birds flying into windows and killing themselves, because they just don't see the glass.. I now paint marks on the greenhouse windows with a solution ofcoolglass that seems to work because last year we had no deaths.





Happy gardening till next month....


Amazon book - Gardens of the National Trust. When the National Trust decided to take on the care of gardens, the aim was that these would be the very best of their kind in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust now has the finest collection of gardens ever assembled under one ownership..

Volunteering with the National Trust

Volunteers are active in all parts of the National Trust, from the new central office in Swindon to the summits of Snowdonia and Divis Mountain near Belfast.

View their latest opportunities, or find out more about the kind of roles and different places you can volunteer:

Still with the National Trust, some of the most visited National Trust properties are now holding regular farmers' and food markets.  Click here for details  and dates.



The Yellow Book: NGS Gardens Open for CharityRHS gardens


Their four flagship gardens not only provide year-round interest and offer a wide range of courses, talks and demonstrations, they also demonstrate the best gardening practices, new techniques and exciting new plants to try in your garden.

Or go to their website for a diary of all other events at:-

Do you take advantage of the BBC Gardening website for information? I find it a valuable source of information, for up to date legislation, countryside matters and useful information such as plant pests and diseases, which saves me ploughing through all my gardening books, with the knowledge that their information is bang up to date...


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 


Visit where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line.  Have a look to see what is new and any special seasonal offers


Some places to visit... 



Visit the Eden Project




The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.


Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN


The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...




Some websites of interest to gardeners:-


Carry on Gardening - The easier gardening web site from ThriveGardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 



Useful reading:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced ?5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is ?6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

Amazon book - A year at Kew  Amazon book - Gardens Through Time: 200 Years of the English Garden Amazon book - RHS Plants for Places: 1000 Tried and Tested Plants for Every Soil, Site and Usage (RHS) Amazon book - RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening: RHS Bi-centennial Edition (Royal Horticultural Society)
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