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Crocosmia Lucifer

This column aims to give you useful information and handy tips to help to inspire you in your gardening endeavours. This month highlights garden plants that are also poisonous! There are always jobs to be done in the garden – but don’t forget to make time to just sit and relax and appreciate all your hard work or visit the featured Cheshire gardens. This month we can admire the stunning colours of the Aster, Dahlia, Cosmos, Sweet peas, Fuchsia, Chrysanthemum, Agapanthus and Crocosmia. (see above)

Jobs for this month
It’s a great time to pick up a bargain, look around garden centres for reduced perennials; even if they’re not at their best, simply split into smaller clumps and re-pot for planting out next year. Shrubs are often only pot bound and need a bigger pot or planting out, water well until established and ensure plants aren’t diseased. Collect the seeds from Poppies, Foxgloves and Hollyhocks by placing a paper bag over the seed head and gently shaking stem; either sow in trays to plant out in Spring or keep dry to sow in February or March.

Propagate by cleanly cutting a 10-15cm healthy shoot at a leaf joint, trim off new growth at tip, remove lower leaves and dip in hormone rooting powder and place in compost, water and cover with polythene to encourage roots. Try cuttings from; Fuchsia, Forsythia, Penstemon, Verbena, Cistus, Hebe, Honeysuckle and Hydrangea.

Place your orders for spring bulbs and vegetables such as onions and garlic. Continue to deadhead and feed pots and hanging baskets. Remove dead leaves from under bergenias; they’re a good hiding place for slugs! Pull off suckers on roses rather than cut them, this reduces recurrence and trim lavender back to new growth being careful not to cut into old wood. Keep compost heaps damp in hot weather and top up ponds and birdbaths.

Make sure the greenhouse is well ventilated, feed tomatoes regularly and pinch out side shoots, when picking your crop keep the stalks on to keep fresher. Make the most of herbs; dry bay leaves by hanging them, other herbs can be dried by placing them on fine net stretched over a frame and placed in an airing cupboard. Add crushed basil to a jar of olive oil, leave on a sunny windowsill and shake every other day, after 2 weeks strain and discard leaves, use the oil to flavour dishes.

It’s a busy time harvesting in the vegetable garden; gently lift and twist fruit such as apples, pears and plums keeping the stalk intact. Lift onions when the leaves are brown and garlic and shallots when the leaves are yellow; dry outside if the sun is shining. Pick beans and peas at least twice a week or they’ll stop cropping. Remove weak twiggy growth and dead branches from plum and damson trees and treat cuts with wound paint to keep out disease. In late August prune fruit trees by cutting back one year old growth to 3 – 5 buds from the main framework; remove some of the foliage to slow down the vigour of growth.

Common pests and problems
Dahlia’s can be spoilt by earwigs, trap them by placing a pot upside down on a cane and stuff newspaper or straw into the pot, earwigs will crawl inside in the day time and can be disposed of easily. Potato and tomato blight is seen as brown spots, to prevent remove infected foliage and spray with copper based fungicide or Bio Dithane 945 every 2 weeks when weather is warm and damp.

Plant Profile
Some garden plants can be hiding unpopular features! They may cause poisoning if eaten or skin reactions with extensive handling; how many of these are you aware of?

It’s hardly surprising to find that some plants if eaten are toxic and include; Autumn Crocus Colchicum, Cherry Laurel and Oleander causing a burning in the mouth and throat, stomach upset and may result in more severe symptoms such as vomiting, rapid pulse and fits. The seeds inside the berries of Yew will cause heart and respiratory problems. The berries of Arum Lily or Lords and Ladies are poisonous, the seeds of the Laburnum and the flowers and seeds of the Lily of the Valley may result in inflammation of the lips, mouth and tongue if eaten.

Plants that can cause dermatitis or skin irritations as well as being toxic if eaten include; Monkshood, Daphne, the young leaves and berries of the Ivy, Lantana and Spurge or Euphorbia; skin can become inflamed and itchy and in some cases may blister.

Rue should always be handled with gloves; if handled in bright sunlight can cause a severe phototoxic reaction creating painful skin blisters which may last for weeks. All parts of the Foxglove including the smoke from burning its foliage can cause nausea, headache and a slow irregular pulse if eaten and handling Helleborus  for a period of time can cause numbing in the fingers and if eaten will cause a stomach upset.

In the event of suspected poisoning; seek medical help, do not make the individual sick, wash skin and eyes with clean water and protect from sunlight and take a sample of the plant with you to the GP or hospital. Information supplied by the National Poisons Unit and Royal Botanic gardens, Kew.

‘Summer border’ at Tatton Park Flower Show 2008

Things to do
Southport Flower Show 21st – 24th August

Bridgemere Garden World, Near Nantwich
Rose Show 2nd – 3rd August

Ness Botanic Gardens, Ness Neston CH64 4AY 64 acres include national collection of Sorbus Mountain Ash trees.

Arley Hall and Gardens, Northwich, CW9 6NA recently voted in Britain’s top ten.

Cholmondeley Castle Gardens, Enchanting temple garden and lake and silver garden. 9th & 10th August Pageant of Power event. Monday 25th August – Jazz in the Temple Garden

Eaton Hall Gardens, Chester  open day 24th August

All products mentioned are available at most garden centres and DIY stores. The column in September will profile ornamental grasses whilst places to go will focus on Yorkshire. Happy Gardening!




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May / Jun





Organic Food

If you run a local gardening group or society, please let us know.



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