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A bank of rhododendrons or azaleas in spring is truly a beautiful sight, and one that is familiar to many of us from visits to stately homes and gardens. But growing rhododendrons and azaleas is not difficult, even in small gardens, provided that you can meet certain requirements.
This may seem an odd time of year to be talking about pests. Surely the spring is the time when they are most active, and by now you’re pretty safe? Well, yes, to a certain extent. But there are still plenty of pests about, and there will be until the first frosts. And if you have a greenhouse, you will be aware that plenty of minibeasts think it’s perfect, and you’ve even been thoughtful enough to provide a food source!
You may have noticed that we’re quite keen on environmentally-friendly and sustainable gardening, so it was probably only a matter of time before we considered green roofs. Once considered a wild and wacky idea used only for new builds that prided themselves on their environmental credentials, green roofs have become part of the horticultural ‘mainstream’ without ever really becoming common.
This may be because of the structural constraints: after all, if you need to consult a structural engineer and the local planning department before you even start work, this isn’t exactly your everyday gardening project. And if you’re considering a green roof, you do need to be absolutely certain that you don’t need planning permission, and that your building, whether shed or garage, can take the weight. If you’re building it from scratch, then you can incorporate the weight requirement in the specification, but an existing building may require an expert opinion, as a green roof is quite heavy.
The type of garden that most people understand as a ‘green roof’ is also called an ‘extensive’ green roof: a spreading carpet of low-growing and low maintenance plants, often drought-tolerant or semi-succulent. Just for the record, an ‘intensive’ green roof is basically a container-grown roof terrace.
An extensive green roof has huge environmental advantages. It provides additional nectar for pollinators, if you use flowering plants, and provides habitats for small birds and insects. It also provides insulation for your building, reducing any heating requirements, or keeping the temperature more stable through both summer and winter. It also helps to hold rainwater, so reduces problems of flooding and run-off, particularly an issue in urban areas. Technically, a green roof will keep the surrounding area cooler, improve the quality of air, and contribute to reduced noise pollution, though you’d need a lot of them to make any obvious difference!
A green roof consists of a layer of waterproofing and insulation, a root barrier membrane to prevent the plants’ roots growing into your roof, a layer of drainage, a filter layer, and then the growing medium above. Although technically you could buy compost for the growing medium, most green roofs use lightweight inorganic materials such as sand, rockwool or perlite instead.
Suitable plants include sedums, sempervivums, saxifrages and the like. Some green roof contractors can now supply mats of ready-grown sedums inside little ‘pockets’ of growing medium, which can be slotted into place. Provided that the species are suitable, they should just spread happily by themselves, and not need watering or weeding.
So although a bit of a headache to install, this ease of maintenance makes a green roof a really low-maintenance option that can seriously improve your environmental credentials.
We’ve said before that autumn is the ideal time to plant shrubs, perennials and trees, because the plants have the whole winter to establish, hedge planting should be done between October and April. So how about getting around to that hedge you’ve been promising yourself?
You may think that the end of the summer is a strange time of year to be discussing hanging baskets. But winter bedding brings colour and a little joy into everyone’s life at a grey time of year, and you will see a hanging basket, often right outside the door, in a way that you may not see containers in the garden! So what do you need to know and do to plant up a hanging basket to see you through winter and spring?
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