Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gardening Article: The History Of English Allotments

For 27 years or so I have been an active gardener and I wouldn’t turn back the clock one single day. I love being outside in the fresh air growing an aesthetic garden for the family to enjoy and tending to my crops on the allotment, whilst having some good old banter with the old boys. However, I realised I don’t know half as much about the history of allotments than I thought I did and so I took it upon myself to find out.

On my journey to discovery I was pleasantly surprised to find out allotments date back 1,000 years to the Saxon times. However, it’s the St Ann’s Allotments in Nottingham that have the richest history and are still used. This set of allotments that reach 75 acres have been used by residents for over 600 years and has now been listed as a grade II listed site.

Reading deeper into the history of allotments, I found they had been seen as a form of wealth; during the reformation in the 1540’s plots of land that has once belonged to the church were given to lords. During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign the poor were not allowed to be seen to have more land than the lords and so the land they used to raise cattle and grow vegetables to feed families was confiscated. However, allotments were provided on the side of cottages.

I was astonished to find that there is a whirlwind history connected to allotments. However, I did find a gap; during the 18th and 19th centuries it seems allotments fell off the radar. I’m presuming this was to do with the Industrial Revolution and the construction of towns and cities. It isn’t until the first and second world wars when we hear about the popularity of allotments once again. Due to rationings and poor food supplies people began to grow their own food again. Allotments were used as a survival tool; people were scared food supplies would run low or their rationing book wouldn’t cover what families needed and so decided to grow fruit and veg from seed.

Throughout history allotments have been used to show off wealth and power and as a survival tool, but now becoming self sufficient has come into vogue. We now actively want to do our part for the environment and so the demand for allotment spaces has been steadily increasing. Over recent years we have become concerned with genetic modifications, chemical pollution, contamination of food and our carbon footprint, which could have all played a part in our interest in growing our own.

Allotments are no longer a survival tool they are an accessory we possess to help us maintain a greener way of life. People across the country see an almost romantic side of growing food, giving each seedling attention and love to provide their loved ones with healthy and organic food. So much so, people are now incorporating the allotment life into their gardens, balconies and even inside their homes.

Image courtesy of

About the author: Mr. McGregor is a guest writer for Notcutts and offers tips and advice on everything horticultural, from growing your own fruit and vegetables to maintaining the perfect lawn.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gardening Article: Show Stopper – Jackmanii Clematis

Guest author Jacqueline from, republished with permission.

Photo above used with permission Susan Bale's Garden from

Probably my favorite garden flower combination is a hardy David Austin pink climbing rose and the vivid purple Jackmanii clematis ‘Superba’. I am smitten with roses, but combined with a Jackmanii, the rose is even better.

Clematis can grow in any zone in the US, and will provide many, many years of glorious color from June 1 to mid-July and then again in September if you keep them well watered . This wondrous vine grows up to 20 feet when in its optimal environment. It can be used as a shade vine on a south-facing wall in some circumstances.

Big rocks hold cooling and moisture on this south-facing wall

There are some great old standards, but only a dozen or so can compete with the attributes of the Jackmanii… even better yet, ask your nursery to order you a ‘Superba’, a Jackmanii on steroids.

Things to know when planning a site: It needs a fence or trellis that it can grasp, but the foremost rule of thumb is that the roots must remain cool, even during summer’s scorching heat. Using mulch or big rocks helps.

In a stiff wind - just ready to open.

Find a site that has a minimum of 6 hours of sun for best blooming on a fence but place a low growing shrub or several large rocks south/west of the root ball for shade in the hot afternoons. A showy Pinky Winky or Limelight hydrangea goes beautifully with clematis growing above it (see bottom).

It was developed by George Jackman, an Englishman, in the mid 1800’s, and bears his name as a tribute to his work.

Sometimes blooms look a regal purple, sometimes cobalt blue

This particular planting is right outside the sliding door off the kitchen, so I can see it all summer into fall when I work at the sink. It is such a treat to watch the flowers sway in the wind.

I love the romance of a well-placed arbor. Flanked by some evergreen shrubs, you can allow climbing roses and clematis to intertwine (perhaps planting one on either side). The effect is stunning, and it is rather low maintenance once established.

Note how the clematis is mainly leafy stems until about 3′ up the arbor. The top flares out at this point to clamber up and over. You can place a shrub at the base to keep the roots cool or place the vine on the north or east side. It will reach for the sun, but its feet will be in shade.

Another good use is on an arbor. It will go over the top!

Last thought: you may want to use a green Velcro tape to help the vine up in the spring. Sometimes the tops are so heavy with buds and they twine together that this aid is just the thing! I look forward to getting out of the house to ‘play’ with my plants. They will repay you for that extra care all summer.

Pair with other season-long bloomers.

Found in gardening catalogs and most garden supply stores.

~ Jacqueline

Photos courtesy of Jacqueline.

About the author: Jacqueline writes the inspirational blog, covering organic food and gardening, health, music, and life.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gardening Article: Planting The Perfect Rock Garden

Have you been toying with the idea of planting a rock garden? If you have, you'll have quite an exciting challenge ahead of you. It will definitely be a new experience when compared to simple gardening, but very rewarding and the results can be extremely stunning. If you're ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work, here is a simple guide for planting a rock garden to help you get started.

Picking Out A Color Scheme

This is a great place to begin. It will help you decide on the type of rocks you want to use and the flowers and plants you need to buy. Every gardening project needs a starting point and picking out a color scheme can help you get the ball rolling with a quick and easy decision.

Where Will You Put It?

Choose a spot that receives a lot of sunshine. You're not going to want to attempt a rock garden combined with shade gardening.

Choosing The Rocks

In most cases you won't have a preset potential rock garden sitting in your back or front yard. If you do, great. If you don't, you'll have to start searching for stones that will match your color scheme and at the same time look like they are part of the yard itself. What you are striving for is a stone setting that looks like the rocks have been set there permanently.

What Type Of Soil Is Best?

Most rock gardens will require a sandy soil since the plants used in a rock garden need excellent drainage. If you have a soil that is more on the clay side you'll need to add some sand. While you're at it, add some compost to it as well.

Purchasing The Plants And Flowers

As mentioned above, you'll want to look for plants and flowers that work well with a lot of drainage. Buying flowers that require the soil to remain wet just isn't going to work.

If you are planning to set up a garden on the outside of the rocks you can look for flowers and plants that match the growing requirements of your lawn. Of course, there is no need to purchase flowers and plants that do well with drainage if they are placed at the bottom of the rock garden around the outside edge of it.

Keeping It Varied Yet Uniform

While you will be looking for plants that meet your color scheme, you'll also want to find some with different heights and textures. This will give you the right variation you need.

You don't, however, want to overdo things by getting too many different types of flowers and plants. In order to keep your rock garden looking uniform, only buy a few plant types and flowers.

Getting The Correct Foliage

Plan to spend a good amount of time picking out the foliage you want. Remember that your flowers will bloom at certain times of the year while the foliage will remain constant. This is going to be the backbone of your garden.

Setting Up Your Rock Garden

The best way to start setting up your garden is to plant something first and then arrange the rocks around it. It is a lot easier to move the rocks around than it is to constantly replant to create the desired effect. You'll simply continue to plant and rearrange rocks until you can stand back and look at your garden with pride and honor.

Adding Mulch

The last step is to add your mulch. The best thing to use is small colored stones that match your color scheme.

Dressing It Up

Some people choose to use realistic silk flowers to create an effect. While some true die-hard gardeners consider this to be cheating, it is an option. Realistic silk flowers can be purchased in colors to make a dramatic color statement, especially when the flowers are not in bloom.

If you set up your rock garden properly it can be a very low maintenance proposition once it has been completed. The trick is to pick out the proper plants, flowers and foliage and to not get tempted to purchase other flowers when you are at the flower nursery. Especially if they don't meet your drainage requirements.

About the author: Robert works for, he is a gardener and writer who enjoys writing about flowers and gardening.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Benefits Of Gardening Infographic

The Pond Blog was kind enough to offer this free infographic for us to help explain the many benefits of gardening. There is some interesting information about exercise, saving money growing plants, the environment, and real estate values. Check it out by clicking on the image for a close up look at the gardening info.

Cool Ways Gardening Can Make Your Life Better; The benefits of gardening

Source by Loch Ness Water Gardens

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