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May 2014 Newsletter

 

May is one of the most beautiful months of the gardening year, when every plant seems eager to show off its best. There is fresh green foliage, spring blossom and flowering shrubs bursting into life. Plants and seedlings are quick to emerge in response to the warm days and long evenings and there’s the promise of months of gardening pleasure ahead.


May is also all about the flower shows.  The Malvern Spring Gardening Show is at the start of the month and the world famous Chelsea Flower Show and Gardening Scotland at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston towards the end of the month


In between there are many local shows and flower festivals with plenty to capture the mood of the month.
Our new Unwins catalogue is also out this month and it too is bursting with exciting new plants and products. We know you’ll find plenty in it to inspire and enjoy.

Happy gardening!

Pam Richardson

May in the Garden

Perennials

There are never enough hours in the day once summer approaches so if you are working during the week the plethora of May bank holidays has been a real bonus! The garden really starts to spring into life now and every day seems to bring a fresh burst of growth.
But if the beds and borders don’t quite live up to expectations, or you have gaps, this is also the perfect time to fill any spaces with perennial plants. They’ll establish fast in warm soil and soon blend in seamlessly with other plants.
Whatever the space there is a perennial plant to fit; from foamy heads of achillea and alchemilla, gorgeous perennial cornflowers (centaurea) that attract bees and other pollinators, to tall stately delphiniums and verbascum. Plus with every two packs of perennials you buy we’ll give you beautiful sun-loving Rhodanthemum ‘Pretty in Pink’ FREE!
Some of the prettiest perennials in the garden are campanulas, with their dainty bell flowers they epitomise the English country garden. Unwins have brought these much loved perennials right up to date with two exciting new campanulas; ‘Iridescent Bells’ and ‘Pearlescent Pink’. Both are exclusive to Unwins and these well behaved, compact plants are smothered in flowers all summer. The opalescent sheen of the open flowers makes a lovely contrast with the darker buds. Campanulas look fabulous at the front of beds and borders and just as good when grown in containers.

 

Summer Containers: It’s not too late to get your baskets and containers planted but be quick to be sure of getting your favourites. Vibrant bedding plants and basket and container plants such as begonias, fuchsias, petunias and geraniums (pelargoniums) always sell fast. If you are about to order plants don’t forget to take advantage of any special offers that offer extra savings such as bedding plants that come complete with baskets such as begonia Illumination series Tropical shades or begonia santa cruz. There are also some beautiful colour themed mixes for a no fuss display. Remember to stock up on compost, refresh liners and invest in a pulley system to make watering simple.
If you’ve been organised for a while and are longing to get hanging baskets and summer containers of tender plants into their permanent positions outside, be patient for a while longer. Continue to keep containers and baskets somewhere protected from cold because one sharp frost can do a lot of damage to tender young plants-so don’t risk it.
Instead, once your containers and baskets are planted, get your half hardy plants ready for the great outdoors by putting them out on warm days and bringing them under cover at night. Encourage lots of flowering stems by pinching out the growing tips of plants such as fuchsias and petunias.

Grow To Eat

Whether you grow your vegetables from seed, or prefer to buy them as young plants May sees the start of a busy, productive time on the vegetable plot. Salads are in full swing, sow seed little and often and water regularly for the best salad leaves and do the same with quick growing roots such as radishes and beetroots.
There are tomatoes, early beans and peas plus cabbages and carrots to sow and plenty of vegetable plants to plant and transplant for a continuous harvest from now until well into autumn.
One of the most exciting vegetable growing techniques of the last few years has been grafted vegetables. With their increased vigour and disease resistance they offer gardeners reliable and bountiful crops. Because the plants are not susceptible to soil-borne diseases it means there is no need to sterilise soil or rotate crops in greenhouse borders. Good news if you only have a small space to grow in.
Tomatoes are the most popular grafted plants and we have some wonderful varieties including Tomato ‘Shirley’, plum tomato ‘San Marzano’ which is ideal for growing inside or out, and cherry sized ‘Sweet Million’ There is also a Grafted Tomato Complete Gro-Kit that includes all three varieties, ideal if space is tight and you want to grow several varieties of tomatoes.
But it’s not just tomatoes that have benefitted from this new technique. Plants as varied as melons, aubergines, sweet and chilli peppers and cucumbers are all available as grafted plants, it’s time to turn your greenhouse into a grower’s paradise!

Choose Perfumed Plants
When you’re planning your garden, colour is often the deciding factor but don’t ignore the power of scent. Planting for scent is so rewarding, it adds a whole new dimension to the garden. The smell of lavender and herbs such as thyme, basil and sage can instantly conjure up hot summer days or Mediterranean meals alfresco. Grow scented annuals such as nicotiana (Tobacco Plants) from seed or buy them as young plants. 
Sweet peas are renowned for their scent, they smell wonderful, especially when the sun warms them or you bring them in to the house as cut flowers.
Perfumed Lily of the Valley (Convallaria) is a plant that doesn’t need to be growing in the sun to send up its spikes of exquisite white bells; it is perfectly happy in a shady spot or pot it up indoors for a real scent sensation. Sweet Violets (Viola odorata) are equally tolerant of shade and they’ll spring up charmingly in dappled shade; wafting their strong, sweet scent around the garden.

 

 

Gardening tips for April

Put Up Supports and Protection

 If you are growing twining plants such as peas and beans or sweet peas they will need strong supports to climb up as they grow. Supports for Sweet Peas, peas and beans should be sturdy enough to cope with the weight of a plant laden with flowers or pods and they’ll need anchoring safely to avoid toppling.
Wigwams or rows of canes are favourite methods. Push the supports firmly into the soil and tie at the top with strong twine or use a sweet pea ring that holds the canes together.  If you use some rustic hazel poles they’ll look very attractive as well as being functional.
Attaching pea and bean netting to battens is a good way of supporting climbers. A veil of netting is also an ideal method of protecting wall trained fruit such as cherries, and black and redcurrants from birds. Just use small mesh netting rather than the large open mesh netting used for climbers. Now is the time to get trees and fruit bushes netted before marauding birds get to your currants and cherries and scoff the lot!  If soft fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, gooseberries and currants are not wall trained use a fruit cage to protect the fruit bushes from pests.


Look After Potatoes

Whether you are growing your potatoes in open ground or in growing bags or containers they are pushing their foliage skywards now; encouraged into growth by warm weather and rain. The tubers need plenty of moisture to swell them so in any dry spells keep the tubers watered this regular watering also helps to prevent blemishes called scab.
Continue to cover with soil or if you're growing in containers or bags add extra compost as the foliage grows. This process is known as earthing up, it keeps light off the tubers which would otherwise turn them green and inedible; it also protects the foliage (haulms) from frost. If a late frost is forecast cover the crop with fleece as an extra precaution.
Pests such as slugs living underground will also cause damage to potatoes making holes in the tubers so water in nematodes to combat these pests.  


Pot On Plug Plants

These little begonia plants arrived as well-rooted plug plants and they will make a show stopping display all summer. But my garden is pretty exposed so I want to pot them up to grow on before putting them outside to brave the winds that batter the plot! They can be potted straight into small pots but I want to give them a halfway house so I’ve potted them on from their original 48cell tray into 24cell trays filled with soil based compost.  Unwins windowsill propagator kit has a very useful selection of cell trays supplied with the kit.
Once the young plants have rooted into the new soil I’ll plant them into larger pots that will stay in the greenhouse until the wind and weather is warmer.
Whatever you are transferring them to, the method is the same; the plugs are gently eased out of their trays, never tug the stems always push the plants out from underneath. Gently position them in their new pots or cells, make a hole in the compost first and ease them in, making sure the stem is at the same level. Finally water to settle the soil around the roots.
Once summer comes these begonias will cope well with blustery weather but it’s worth cosseting them now so they get the best start.

 

 


Get Inspired

One of the nicest things about gardening is putting together different plant combinations. Inspiration can come from lots of sources but one of the best ways to get inspired this month is to visit the flower shows. There are plenty to choose from. Open from May 20-24, Chelsea is this month’s premier show in England while Scottish gardeners have to wait for the very end of the month to visit Gardening Scotland at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston; it runs from May 30-June 1.
Visit as many shows as you can and see what the designers are putting together. Make notes and remember to take your camera and get some pictures of the show gardens too because veg and flowers are often grown together in unusual combinations.
Seeing how garden designers put plants and edibles together can add a whole new slant to how and what you grow.

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