In the course of my work I get sent many garden books to review – some I keep for reference, some I give to friends or good causes, but just occasionally one is so good that I keep it for myself and then buy further copies as presents. Wonderful Weeds is just such a book, written by botanist Madeleine Harley. Its great strength is that the photography shows each weed in its various stages of development from seedling to seedhead, helping gardeners enormously in the identification of problem plants. The text is clear and concise, offers advice on control and on regeneration (for the more desirable weeds e.g. campion) and also touches on its herbal and culinary uses as well as its folklore. It would make a perfect gift for any gardener.
I’ve somehow never got around to running water to any point in the garden where we could have a proper water feature. In the meantime I make do with several pot ponds, but they are not the same. I do have a fantasy of transforming the lower part of the garden into an Italianate Garden with splashing water and formal planting but with the garage still waiting to be rebuilt and the vegetable garden in need of re-landscaping, it’s still very much a fantasy. In the meantime I might consider something closer to the house that could bring the sound of water to the garden for a more modest sum of money. In researching, I’ve found some very sleek and simple stainless steel water blades that create a falling sheet of water. I do like this effect, so while the builders are putting up the new garage, I will ask their advice. In my experience water features are a bit like kitchens – it’s not the bit you admire that takes time to install and costs the money – it’s the hidden stuff that makes it all work – so unless you are good at DIY, it’s best to consult the experts. I found a good range of Stowasis water blades at swelluk.com and there’s a phone number 0161 3514700 if you would like to find out more about their products.
Much as we would love to think that the sun always shines on our gardens in the summer, the reality is that rain is often an uninvited guest when we are doing outdoor entertaining. A covered area is just what’s needed in these circumstances but it’s not always practical to have something permanent. It takes up space, anything halfway decent costs serious money, and if you live in a windy location there’s always the concern that it will take off and disappear over the neighbour’s fence. This is when a pop up gazebo comes into its own – if rain is forecast you can unpack it, unfold it (generally a simple process) and relax in the knowledge that should the heavens open (or the sun blaze down) there is shelter available. www.gardengazebos.co.uk sells three sizes: 3m x 3m, 4.5m x 3m and 6m x 3m priced from £219.99 to £399.99 and there is a current offer of free side curtains.
With the welcome arrival of spring, it’s not just the beds and borders that are bursting with life – ponds and water features where nothing much seems to have happened for the past few months – are showing signs of returning plant and animal activity. Before everything grows to the point where interference would be harmful, it is a good time to do some watery housework. If leaves and debris are lurking, lift them out of the water as gently as possible (to avoid the primordial soup effect) and leave them near the pond margins to drain and also allow time for any creatures to make their way back to the pond. Tidy up marginal plants and, if they are overcrowded, now is a good time to divide them and replant the fresh young growth from the edge of the plant. Similarly, if waterlilies are taking over, they can be divided and repotted once they show signs of new growth, but be sure to use an aquatic compost to avoid making the water too nitrogen rich. Check pond pumps to make sure they still work after a winter’s rest, make sure the electrics all appear sound (water and dodgy electrical connections do not mix). If you need to upgrade your equipment, need advice, or are thinking of installing a pond, visit Swell UK (they’re experts on all matters pond-related.) And don’t forget to clean the filters before starting the pump working.