Category Archives: Expert advice

5 Perennials to Plant Now for Late Season Colour and Interest

May is always such an exciting time in the garden because the active growth of plants really starts to take off, and buds give glimpses of the colour to come. May is also a good time to start planting perennials for summer colour, as the soil will have warmed up but the weather is generally still cool, giving plants a good opportunity to establish themselves in their growing locations before hot weather arrives. To get the most out of your borders, invest in perennials with long flowering periods, as many will keep giving colour and interest from mid-summer well into the autumn.

1. Rudbeckia – Coneflowers/Black-Eyed-Susan


These cheerful daisy-like flowering plants pick up from late summer, and many keep going through September and October, before dying back in the winter. They tend to come in warm colours of yellow, orange and red, so lend themselves well to autumnal floral arrangements.

2. Symphyotrichum – New England Aster


Once part of the Aster genus, these herbaceous perennials are now formally known by a different name. However, they still provide ample supplies of glorious colour from late summer to early autumn. They are often available in shades of blue, purple and pink and are best suited to the middle or back of a border as they grow quite tall.

3. Crocosmia – Montbretia


Another perennial that picks up in late summer as other plants finish flowering. There are a wide range of Crocosmia available on the market in colours of orange, red and yellow, and, once established, these plants grow well many spots, as well as in containers. They do particularly well in full sun with reasonably moist soil. The flag-like flowers add contrast and vibrant colour to mixed borders.

4. Persicaria – Knotweed, Red Bistort


Persicaria can be evergreen or herbaceous and make good additions to flowerbeds and borders as their upright spikes of tiny flowers come continuously through the summer and into the autumn. In addition, they are vigorous growers and provide efficient ground cover in moist, boggy soils.

5. Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ – Fountain Grass


All ornamental grasses make fantastic additions to gardens, but this particular grass produces many wonderful soft flowers that fade from pink to beige over the course of the season. As well as a long flowering season, grasses also offer additional texture and movement to borders.

3 Benefits of Using Biodegradable Pots for Sowing Seeds

Biodegradable fibre seedling flower pots - © Tim Gainey

Biodegradable fibre seedling flower pots – © Tim Gainey

For years, plastic pots and module trays have been used by gardeners for sowing seeds and transplanting. With the importance of reducing plastic use at the forefront, biodegradable alternatives are becoming more popular, with an increasing range of products on the market, including biodegradable fibre pots. Here are three benefits to using biodegradable options for seed sowing rather than traditional plastic.

They are better for the plant: 

Phaseolus vulgaris 'Borlotto Lingua Di Fuoco 2' - Borlotti beans in biodegradable pots, showing the growing roots - © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Phaseolus vulgaris ‘Borlotto Lingua Di Fuoco 2′ – Borlotti beans in biodegradable pots, showing the growing roots – © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

One problem when sowing into traditional pots is the root growth of seedlings can be impacted if they are not transplanted early enough, with spiralling of the roots becoming a common issue. By contrast, the fibrous pots allow the roots of seedlings to push through the sides of the pot, which in turn promotes healthy and even root growth. Using these pots also works well for fussy plants that do not like to be transplanted, such as poppies, as you can plant the whole pot in the ground and allow the seedling to establish itself, while the pot breaks down naturally.

You can repurpose household items as pot holders. 

Growing Sweet Peas. Tray of newspaper containers planted with seeds: tray of newspaper containers planted with seeds - © GAP Photos/Nicola Stocken

Growing Sweet Peas. Tray of newspaper containers planted with seeds: tray of newspaper containers planted with seeds – © GAP Photos/Nicola Stocken

While biodegradable fibre pots are environmentally friendly, they are also quite expensive compared to plastic pots that can be washed and reused. However, you can make biodegradable pots using household items that you would ordinarily dispose of. The cardboard middles of toilet rolls have often been used as plastic free alternatives to sowing seeds. They can be cut in half for smaller pots. Alternatively, you can make paper pots out newspapers or old magazines with the help of a pot maker.

You don’t have to wash biodegradable pots. 

Person washing dirty plastic plant pots in soapy water - © GAP Photos

Person washing dirty plastic plant pots in soapy water – © GAP Photos

While you can reuse the plastic pots in your garden many times over, they also need to be washed and sterilised after each use, which uses lots of water and takes time. Biodegradable pots may only be used once, but once they breakdown in the ground, they add to the soil content, save you from further washing up!

5 Easy Steps to Grow Runner Beans

Woman using a hat to collect Runner Bean 'Wisley Magic' - © GAP Photos

Woman using a hat to collect Runner Bean ‘Wisley Magic’ – © GAP Photos

Phaseolus coccineus, or Runner Beans, as they are more commonly known, are a regular feature of many vegetable gardens. Here are five steps to grow these high yielding and easy to grow climbing beans.

1. Sowing the seeds

Planting runner bean seeds - © GAP Photos/FhF Greenmedia

Planting runner bean seeds – © GAP Photos/FhF Greenmedia

As the plants are tender, it is best to wait for late spring or early summer if you are sowing directly in the ground. If you are keen to get started, sow in large pots, deep seed-module trays or root trainers in mid spring, and keep in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill until it is time to plant them out.

2. Create the support

Securing final wall canes to roof section with twine - © GAP Photos

Securing final wall canes to roof section with twine – © GAP Photos

The sight of climbing beans twirling themselves around bamboo canes is a lovely sight in summer. You can either make a simple bamboo cane wigwam, which also looks very ornamental. Or you can be a bit more adventurous and create a more elaborate framework. When you plant your beans out, do loosely tie the beans to the supports to give them a helping hand, and give each plant its own cane.

3. Water and feed

Adding Blood, Fish and Bone feed to beans - © GAP Photos

Adding Blood, Fish and Bone feed to beans – © GAP Photos

Make sure to keep your young plants well-watered, especially during hot weather. It is often advisable to water in the evening so that the moisture does not evaporate from the soil surface during the day before it can reach the plant’s roots. Use organic feeds such as blood, fish and bone to promote strong growth.

4. Watch out for pests


Like most plants, runner beans do attract pests which can do damage to your plants. You can deter birds by hanging cds up in the framework. The reflective surface and movement spook them so they keep away. Be sure to protect young plants from slug damage. Runner beans are also vulnerable to infestation from pests such as blackfly. You can either squash the pests with your fingers when you see them, or attract their natural enemies such as ladybirds to come and feed on them. You can also buy various sprays to keep bugs in check, but make sure they are organic and safe to use with vegetables.

5. Attract pollinators to ensure good pollination and higher harvests

Flowers and vegetables in raised beds including, Marigolds, Lettuce, Sweet peas and Runner Beans - © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

Flowers and vegetables in raised beds including, Marigolds, Lettuce, Sweet peas and Runner Beans – © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

Runner beans rely on pollinating insects such as bees. Without their presence, flowers are not pollinated and pod formation is unlikely to occur. Therefore, why not plant lots of beneficial plants which naturally attract pollinators around your runner bean plant supports in a sunny location for a mutually advantageous pairing.