Powerplanter – reflections on using a new gadget to try and ease the hard work of planting bulbs

Each year we plant literally thousands of bulbs around the garden and if you suffer from any kind of wrist or hand problems it can be very difficult and somewhat painful. To date we have got on best using a standard sturdy trowel but it is hard work especially when planting into turf or uncultivated ground. Over the years we have also tried the stand-up bulb planters but found these very tedious. The plug of soil in the planter never comes out again as easily as it should to refill the hole.

When we saw the adverts for Powerplanter we were intrigued. It seemed like a simple and obvious solution. It is basically a large soil drill that fits into a cordless hand drill and digs you a hole for your bulbs, plug plants or larger plants grown in 9cm pots.

At the time of writing there are four types in the range (www.powerplanter.co.uk) in various sizes ranging from one for planting seeds through to a longer one for ‘stand-up’ digging. The one we chose was the mid-range planter, the 307 model (7 inches long x 3 inches wide). It describes itself as being suitable for ‘potted colour and bulbs’ and cost just under ¬£40.

We have used it for planting autumn bulbs over a number of weeks now and in a nutshell it works! Here are some of our observations:

  • If you are going to use if for any length of time you do need a good quality cordless drill. I found my old drill battery was just not up to the job so treated myself to a new DeWalt DCD776S2T-GB 18V 1.5Ah Li-Ion Cordless Combi Drill. This comes with 2 rechargeable battery packs and is certainly able to keep going longer than I can!
  • The planter works well in moist soil in the cultivated flower beds. It also made light work of creating planting holes in previously uncultivated turf that we had killed off over the summer and had never been dug over. It did begin to struggle cutting into hard dry soil under a large oak tree but I was having difficulty getting a garden fork into that anyway.
  • You do need to be quite organised to avoid your drill getting covered in mud or wet. At this time of year the grass can be damp with dew in the morning and you need somewhere to put your drill down as you move around. I just use an old dog towel which keeps everything dry and clean.
  • When planting the bulbs I have got into the habit of working with one gloved ‘dirty hand’ and one ‘dry clean hand’. The dry clean hand operates the drill whilst the gloved ‘dirty’ hand plants the bulbs and covers over the hole with the loose soil. You can work very fast this way.
  • I have found that the planter is quite accurate and you can easily plant bulbs between other plants without damaging them. For example we have been planting bulbs amongst wall flowers that were set out about 9 inches apart in September.
  • If you are using someone else’s drill you might like to get their permission first. You do have to be quite careful not to get mud into the chuck which certainly could be a pain if the drill is normally used for indoor jobs. The 7 inch planter is only just long enough for digging holes for tulip bulbs and in hind site the longer 12 inch planter might have been better.
  • Finally do read the safety instructions and wear appropriate eye protection. Running on a slow speed it does not throw much soil up towards your face but it could.

Finally for the action movie ūüėČ

For some reason my niece dissolved into fits of laughter seeing me drilling holes in the garden! The youngsters of today have no imagination!

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October 28th and maybe the last flowers of the summer

This weekend saw the first forecast frosts of the winter months and so we took the opportunity to pick a selection of the remaining summer flowers to arrange and enjoy in the house.

Included in the top arrangement are a selection of apricot and burgundy dahlias, white Chincherinchee ((Ornithogalum thyrsoides), achillea and the delightfully transparent seed heads of honesty.

In the vase arrangement below are pink, white and apricot dahlias, the deep red rose ‘Ingrid Bergman’ and the fragrant rose ‘Boscabel’, purple Verbena bonariensis, Chincherinchee and blue grey eucalyptus foliage.

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The final table centre piece for this evening’s Sunday dinner with family contains rose ‘Ingrid Berman’, white and pink waterlily type dahlias, honesty seed heads, the blue of Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’, pink Schizostylis, blue-grey eucalyptus and Cotoneaster foliage.

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The clocks may have changed and the nights are drawing in but we will still be able to enjoy the colour and fragrance of summer for a few days yet!

Beyond the autumn equinox

As we move beyond the autumn equinox the hours of darkness now exceed the day light hours.¬† However, there still seems to be plenty of sunshine on offer and it has been very pleasant this week outside in the fresh air.¬† We still haven’t had our first frost of the winter and there is a remarkable amount of colour around the garden.

Here are my six for this weekend.


One:  Saxifraga fortunei

Earlier in the year we wrote about the patio at the back of the house to demonstrate the wide range of foliage and textures that make this area such an attractive shady location.  The fleshy leaves of Saxifraga fortunei with their dark green top surface and reddish bronze under surface look good all year.  However, it is only in September and October that they start to flower producing a haze of tiny white flowers which shine out as the evenings close in.

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This week we were fortunate to be able to attend the RHS lecture by Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers at Pershore College.¬† As always at these events there is a nice selection of things to spend your money on and we could not resist this pink flowered Saxifraga fortunei ‘Sibyll Trelawney JP’.¬† It sits beautifully along side the white ones and I am sure will give us a lot of pleasure for years to come.

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Two:  Nerine

A couple of years ago we bought a number of Nerine bulbs which we originally grew on in pots to look after them and then planted out into a hot sunny, well drained border at the front of the house.  Although they have produced leaves each year they seem to have taken a very long time to settle in.  This year for the first time they have flowered but are not yet the spectacular display I have been hoping for.  Perhaps they are now beginning to take off!

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Three: Rudbeckia

Every year without fail the annual and perennial Rudbeckia perform for us.¬† This year is no exception and they will carry on flowering until the first frosts.¬† Because they are such successful garden plants they perhaps do not get celebrated as much as they should and so here they are.¬† This variety is ‘Autumn Forest’.

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Four:  Rosemary

One of our more unlikely flowering plants for this week is the prostrate Rosemary.  Although growing to less than 12 inches in height it is currently in full bloom amongst the gravel herb borders at the side of the house.

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Five:  Schizostylis (Kaffir Lily)

Performing at their best at this time of year are the various Schizostylis clumps that we have around the garden.  Ranging from delicate pink to full on scarlet they provide a welcome shot of new colour at this time of year.

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A new purchase of the variety ‘Princess Pink’ (below) has survived its first year and is showing real promise.

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Six:  Michaelmas daisies

Last but not least this week are the Michaelmas daisies.  Ranging from tall 5 feet plants to small neat clumps these plants really do bring the garden to life at this time of year (and the butterflies love them).

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More information at Michaelmas daisies in the autumn sunshine


 

The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

Mid-October in the flower garden

Autumn is very much with us.  We have been busy harvesting the excess apples in the orchard and having fun making cider to last us most of the year, cutting and chopping the quinces and making quince crumble tarts for the freezer and the neighbours have been busy sawing and chopping wood for the winter fires.

Despite the trees turning we have not yet had a real frost here in Warwickshire and there is still plenty of colour in the garden.  In fact some things that have struggled with the heat and lack of water during the summer have burst into flower.  The roses have a new flush of fresh flowers and many of the perennials are showing a second flush of bloom.

Here are six things for this week that have particularly caught my eye:


One:¬† Begonia ‘Angelique’

As soon as we get any sign of frost I am sure that these tuberous begonias will curl up and die back but as we come to the end of the season I think they are worth celebrating.  Planted out in large patio tubs in the spring they often seem slow to get going but by early August they are in full bloom.  These have been blooming consistently ever since and are very low maintenance Рthey even dead head themselves.  I always try and lift the tubers and keep them alive if possible.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail but I will certainly look to keep this variety going and plant them again next year.

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Two:  Cobaea scandens (cup-and-saucer vine)

Cobaea is not something we have grown before but we wanted something to quickly cover the new rose trellis in this first year whilst the new climbing roses get established.   It is certainly one of the fastest growing annuals that I have seen.  It has interesting but not spectacular bell shaped flowers and certainly did the job of covering the new bare trellis.

One added benefit at this time of year is that it produces these charming fairy lights hanging from a curvy, kinked stem once the flowers have dropped.  You almost feel that you should collect them, dry them and spray them silver for winter decorations.

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Three:  Hardy Fushia

One of the shrubs that come into their own at this time of year are the hardy fushias.  They are so easy to grow and also to propagate.  Many of ours have been grown from cuttings that we have been given by friends or relatives.

The first of these is a very delicate white/pink fushia with tiny ballerina flowers.  We have moved it around the garden because it did not thrive initially.  It is now in the part of the garden we describe as the woodland walk and is in part shade and on a woodland edge.  It seems to love it here and produces masses of these tiny white flowers that shine out in the darker semi-shade.

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Another hardy fushia taken from a cutting a couple of years ago and grown on in a terracotta pot, was planted out last autumn.  It is now establishing well with a couple of Eupatorium plants (also taken from cuttings from a garden in Cornwall Рthank you Auntie Wendy!).

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Four:  Autumn Crocus

I think of spring as the time for crocus around the garden but I am always pleasantly surprised to see the autumn crocus emerge (although we must have planted them at some point).  Planted at the foot of some of our mature trees they avoid the mower and emerge as the leaves fall.

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Five:  Roses

The warmer, moister weather in September and early October has really brought on the repeat flowering roses.¬† Many of these are now flowering profusely.¬† ¬†Two that are looking particularly good are the apricot variety ‘Simply the Best’ and pink/orange ‘Fragrant Delight’.¬† As the name describes ‘Fragrant Delight’ has a wonderful and powerful perfume that hangs in the evening air at this time of year.

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Rose ‘Simply the Best’
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Rose ‘Fragrant Delight’

Six: Astrantia (Granny’s pincushion)

Perhaps rather surprisingly the rose/lilac tinted Astrantia is flowering again.  This is something we often use in our flower arrangements earlier in the season.  It has strong stems and holds very well if conditioned correctly.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

 

 

Full of late summer colour – Aston Pottery and Gardens, Oxfordshire

Last week we had the great pleasure of visiting the flower gardens at Aston Pottery in Oxfordshire.  At a time of year when many gardens are beginning to decline and look rather tired, the garden here at Aston Pottery was bursting with colour and intensity.

The sheer range of flowers and the quality of the blooms was extremely impressive.  Many people have reported that the Dahlias this year have been poor in their gardens but there was no sign of a bad year here at Aston Pottery.  I was particularly struck by the way the borders had been laid out in triangles giving them both structure and allowing the complementary colours and forms to work well together.

There was no doubt that a huge amount of effort had gone into the planning, planting and subsequent plant husbandry to create a wonderful effect.

Well worth a visit if you get the chance at this time of year.

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Location:  Aston Pottery, The Stables, Kingsway Farm, Aston, Oxfordshire OX18 2BT

Website: http://astonpottery.co.uk/

 

Six on Saturday: The early September flower garden

As we move into September the evenings are drawing in and are already beginning to seem a little cooler although during the day there is still plenty of sunshine and warmth to enjoy.

This new month has seen the beginning of a transition.  Some of the summer perennials, shrubs and roses are beginning to put on a new flush of colour whilst others are now beginning to emerge for the first time giving new form, colour and texture to the garden borders.


One:¬† Kniphofia ‘Lord Roberts’

This particular Kniphofia comes into flower in early September and brings a dramatic spark to the yellows, blues and purples of the late summer border close to the house.¬† I am not a fan of all the red-hot poker family but there are some interesting varieties that I feel are worthy garden plants.¬† ‘Lord Roberts’ is certainly one of these although it does need supporting to stop the large heads flopping forward as they come into full bloom.

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Two:  Gaura  lindheimeri

This group of Gaura plants were something that I successfully grew from seed a few years back.¬† They are growing in the cut flower garden and have established into large clumps that create a tremendous show for a long period.¬† They have been in flower now for quite a few weeks but are still going strong in early September.¬† They add a light, airy movement to the flower garden and sit very well with Verbena¬†hastata ‘Blue spires’.

An excellent plant but certainly one that needs support to avoid it flopping over the grass and potentially getting damaged by the mower as I wizz past.

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Three:  Dahlia

The Dahlias certainly seem to have been late flowering here in the UK Midlands this year and only now at the beginning of September are they beginning to come into full flower.  They are usually one of our main cutting flowers at this time of year.

Choosing just one from the many varieties in the garden is difficult but this picture of the variety ‘Dark Spirit’ has come out rather well I think.¬† Of the tubers we dug up last winter ‘Dark Spirit’ proved to be the most resilient and survived the long cold winter much better than many of the other varieties.¬† The Dahlia tubers that survived best were in fact those that were left in the ground and covered with straw.

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Four:¬† Hydrangea ‘Lime Light’

Despite the hot dry conditions during mid summer, the hydrangeas seem to have performed surprising well and continue to produce large clean flower heads.¬† This one is ‘Lime Light’ which lives in an area shaded from the midday sun in relatively moist conditions.

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Five:  Abelia

We have a number of different Abelia plants around the garden and they really come into their own at this time of year.  Unfortunately we have lost the name tags on most.

The Abelia in the garden are all small, tidy and very well behaved shrubs.  They take very little looking after and at this time of year are covered in either small pink or white flowers.  The bees just love them.

The picture here shows them partnered with Penstemon ‘Garnet’.

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Six:¬† Cosmos ‘Lemonade’

The final selection this week is the delicate lemon yellow Cosmos variety ‘Lemonade’.¬† They are much smaller and more delicate than the full-on show created by the pinks and whites of Cosmos ‘Sensation Mix’ but they are so charming and certainly deserve to be grown and appreciated.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

Planning colour combinations for next year – Six on Saturday

It is the time of year when you begin to sit down with the catalogues and start to plan how you want the garden to look next year.¬† Very soon we will be clearing this year’s fading annuals ready for planting out new bulbs and biennials.

It is often difficult to remember what exactly worked and what didn’t and so I have started to look back at the year’s photographs to see what struck me as note worthy at the time.

It is really very satisfying to do this and here are six combinations that seem to have worked particularly well in 2018.


One:¬† Philadelphus and Clematis ‘Niobe’

Taken on 9 June 2018 this picture shows the striking combination of the purple Clematis variety ‘Niobe’ clambering through the fragrant white Philadelphus.

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Two:  Meadow style

This charming open meadow style planting was at its prime on 2 June 2018.  It combines the delicate pink oriental poppies with mixed coloured Valerian (Centranthus), cottage garden blue/purple aquilegia and ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare).

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Three:  Foxgloves in the rose garden

I would like to think this was planned but the combination of these tall (over 7 feet) Elsey Kelsey foxgloves with the rambling rose ‘Constance Spry’ was striking .¬† The picture was taken on 16 June 2018.¬† ¬† Next year’s Elsey Kelsey foxgloves were sown in June and will be ready to plant out in mid-September.¬† I will certainly be placing these charming white and purple foxgloves here again next year.

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Four:  Nigella, alliums and foxgloves

Again taken in early June this relaxed planting of Nigella damascena, interspersed with Allium cristophii backed by foxgloves worked well.  We tend to let the Nigella self seed each year and then thin them out in the spring to create this dramatic effect.  It has real movement as the breeze travels through the garden.

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Five:¬† Hemerocallis and Clematis ‘H.F. Young’

This butter yellow Hemerocallis is one of our favourites.¬† It is a slightly smaller plant than some of the other Hemerocallis varieties we have.¬† The combination with this almost pure blue Clematis ‘H.F. Young’ works very well at the back of the small garden behind the house.

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Six:  Pond edge

The final selection here is a picture from the pond edge border.¬† Yet more foxgloves (we like foxgloves!) sit wonderfully well with a large planting of sweet william (Dianthus barbatus), feverfew and the contrasting dark foliage of Persicaria¬†‘red dragon’.¬† Just visible is the fresh green foliage of the cosmos which grows through to take over as the summer continues.¬† The photograph was taken on 16 June 2018.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.