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Top tips for great-looking summer flowers

For many of us northern UK gardeners this summer has been disappointing, at least weather-wise. But you may have noticed that it doesn't seem to have affected your flowering plants too much. This is because they respond to day length coupled with night-time temperatures, rather than whether we have hot sunny temperatures during the day. So the cool, damp weather has simply meant they have grown bigger, taller and lusher than usual.

In this blog I'm going to talk about a few of the common problems people have in their gardens in summer, especially a cool, damp one - and how to ensure your plants are healthy and flowering well so that you can still enjoy them whatever the weather for as long as summer lasts!

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Help take the pulse of nature

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I’ve just joined Sir David Attenborough and Joanna Lumley in taking part in the Big Butterfly Count, run by the charity Butterfly Conservation. It only took me 15 minutes and it’s great to know I’ve played as a citizen scientist in the UK annual count to check on the health of our biodiversity.

The Count has now been going for 10 years; so far the statistics tells us that there’s been an overall decline in the number of butterflies in the UK. Climate warming has already affected the distribution of some species; for example the Peacock butterfly is now regularly found in the north of England.

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A Word About….Mulching

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Once you’ve improved your border soil, added some beautiful new plants, and stepped back to admire the view, it’s job done – isn’t it? There is one more thing you need to do and that is mulching.

What is a mulch and why should we use it?

A mulch is a topping for the soil. It can be inorganic – such as slate chippings, or organic – such as bark chippings, composted straw or garden compost from your compost bin or your garden centre. You will find that mulching helps set off your new plants to their best advantage, as well as reducing dirt splashing onto their leaves.

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St Nicholas house and gardens - Yorkshire’s Hidcote

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Approaching Richmond on the river Swale, with views across to the ruins of 13th century Easby Abbey, nestles historic St Nicholas house, reputedly the oldest house in Richmond. But it was the 20th century history of the gardens which had drawn myself and fellow Society of Garden Designers members to visit it.

St Nicholas is a ‘garden of rooms’ in the Hidcote style and similarly inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement; I was lucky enough to be included in a private tour of the garden earlier this month.

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I Love Clematis

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Five reasons why you should grow these amazing climbing plants

Clematis are a large and versatile flowering plant group.  Most of them are climbing plants, which naturally twine around twigs, trellis or other plants to grow up towards the sun.  They are great for adding flowering fun to boring fences or growing up an obelisk or pergola to give height in the garden.  A few spread along the ground instead and make lovely long-flowering ground cover.  I have around 20 clematis growing in my garden – and can always find room for more!  Here's why:

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How to Spruce Up Your Garden - Part 3

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In our final part on the series of designing and implementing a large garden in north Leeds we focus on the front and side gardens.

There is a front pedestrian gate and path mainly used by visitors and the postman! The path was made of crazy paving and was uneven and tired-looking. We realigned it to make a smoother line and laid it with gravel with stone edges in keeping with the stone used elsewhere in the garden, this makes it far more welcoming and gives the house more kerb-appeal.

It splits halfway to gain access to the path around the house, creating an odd-shaped triangular bed. Previously this was filled with two enormous conifers which sucked the light out of the dining room and blocked the view of this unloved space.

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How to Spruce Up Your Garden - Part 2

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This is the second blog post in our short series on the design and implementation of a large garden in North Leeds last year.  Today I am looking at the planting in the rear garden and giving you inspiration for your own outdoor space.

Recycling plants

This garden had quite a few mature shrubs but the weeds were winning the battle, and most had not had a yearly prune, so they had grown lopsided or too dense.  It is always difficult to decide what is worth retaining; mature shrubs not only save money but give a good structure to a newly designed and planted garden, if they have been properly trained and are in the right position to suit the new design. 

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