cornus midwinter fire prune

RHS Pruning Group 7

Time for pruning group 7 from the Royal Horticultural Society. This group involves hard pruning shrubs and trees in one of two processes: pollarding or coppicing.

 

When?

The safest time to perform this pruning is in February and March. At this stage the plant's energy is within the roots rather than the leaves and stems, so pruning them off won't cause it to weaken and potentially die.

Many people now prune those plants with colourful stems as late as mid-April, in order to enjoy the colour for longer.

 

How?

Important to note first of all is that newly planted shrubs and trees should be left to establish for 1-2 years.

After this, you can either:

  • Pollard by cutting back all growth to 60-90cm from ground level
  • or Coppice by pruning back to 5-7.5cm above soil surface

Pinch out any sideshoots to encourage further branching, and apply a balanced general purpose fertiliser around the plants as directed. Do this each spring to bolster the fresh growth. Be sure to water well in dry summers, or else the new stems will suffer and be less dramatic.

After the first hard pruning, you can cut back to previous stubs either annually or every few years.

 

Why?

There are two reasons why we hard prune trees and shrubs that fall into group 7:

  • Vibrant new stems - these lose their colour as they age, so if left unpruned, these shrubs lose much of their charm
  • Larger leaves - older stems give smaller, less interestering foliage

Remember to prune in late winter/early spring, or you risk losing your plants altogether!

 

Prime examples

  • Cercis - for its leaves
  • Cornus sanguinea and C. alba - for colourful stems - prune every 2-3 years
  • Cotinus - for its leaves
  • Eucalyptus - for its leaves, much prized by florists and flower arrangers - not all varieties respond as well to hard pruning
  • Rubus cockburnianus (ornamental bramble) - for its white stems - cut right back to ground level every year
  • Salix (willow) - for its stems - prune annually
  • Sambucus (elder) - for its leaves

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Hardiness zones

Are you someone who purchases plants and hopes for the best? Or do you like to know every detail, like how much sun, what soil type or how big they grow? We should always bear in mind “the right plant for the right place”. One such consideration is a plant’s hardiness. The UK and US hardiness zones exist to point both professional and private gardeners in the right direction when making informed decisions. After all, no one wants to plant out something stunning which will have vanished by the following spring!

 

A brief background

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) produces the American hardiness zones map, and it was they who created the definitive version back in 1960. The initial idea came about in the 1920s and 30s however.

It’s no surprise the US formulated the concept. They have a much larger land mass to oversee, composed of a wide range of temperatures. Zoning the continent creates a much quicker reference guide than having to look up each city individually. Director of the US National Arboretum Henry Skinner originally split his country into ten zones based on gradients of 10°F. In 1990, the USDA added Mexico and Canada. Additionally, officials split each zone in half, giving 5°F differences (labelled a and b). Two further zones have since been added (2012), giving 13 zones in total now. It's interesting to note how lower temperatures have shifted northwards. Does this evidence global warming or greater scientific accuracy?

A rival US zone map did exist, from the Arnold Arboretum, and this was in fact the older of the two. It fell out of use by 1990, leaving the USDA version as the basis of subsequent international maps, including our own UK copy. The Royal Horticultural Society devised its own Hardiness Ratings in 2012.

 

The RHS Hardiness Ratings

From a broader viewpoint, the UK only corresponds to American zones 7 to 10. Thanks to the North Atlantic Current, we have a temperate maritime climate – much milder than other countries on similar latitudes. This gives us more leeway in the plants we choose, but don’t be fooled. In elevated and exposed positions like the Pennines and Scottish Highlands, temperatures can still plummet to -20°C. Conversely, the Scilly Isles may experience lows of only 1°C in midwinter.

The RHS’s classification offers the British gardener a more in-depth perspective on plant hardiness. It separates the four US zones into nine ranks. H1a represents the most tender of specimens, the tropical exotics. This is followed by H1b and H1c, then 2 etc. H7 comes last and identifies plants fully hardy for the Brits.

Anything in the H1a zone will need constant protection indoors as it will only survive temperatures above 15°C.

2012_RHS-Hardiness-Rating

 

What about our American readers?

If you could own properties at opposite ends of the North American continent, you could indulge in whichever plants took your fancy! More realistically, you’ll still find yourself limited by your local climate. Living in Alaska, you’ll have to deal with lows of -60°F (-51.1°C) which is zone 1a. There’s not much that can thrive in such harsh conditions.

Conversely, on the Hawaiian coasts you’ll experience temperatures bottoming out at 60°F (15.6°C), equating to zone 13a. This offers you great potential when it comes to lush tropical foliage, although your more temperate desires might be tempered.

However…

Hardiness is all well and good, but it fails to take into account a plant’s drought tolerance – the opposite extreme. When it comes to this, as with all other factors, consider where the plant originates from. An alpine species will cope much better with extremes of temperature and light, while a native bog plant won’t enjoy too free draining a soil. Furthermore, the hardiness zones are no replacement to knowing your area well, as microclimates don’t enter the equation either.

Remember that hardiness zones are a guide to be employed, not a total substitute for understanding (much like closing your eyes while driving, just because the SatNav is talking at you).

 

Further information


Perovskia_atriplicifolia_E-1024x681

RHS Pruning Group 6

Do you have shrubs in your garden which give you a show of blooms after midsummer? RHS Pruning Group 6 covers those plants which flower in late summer and autumn. As with other shrubs, you’ll want to take care pruning these at the right time, to avoid losing interest later on.

 

When?

Group 6 shrubs should be pruned in spring, as early as possible. In effect this means March, and certainly no later than mid-April.

 

How?

As with other groups, cut out any weak, damaged, diseased or dead shoots.

You’ll then need to prune back spent flower stems to within one or two buds of the woody framework.

Fuchsia can be cut back to near ground level, and it will send up strong new shoots.

 

Why?

Shrubs in pruning group 6 flower on new growth sent out through spring and summer. We prune them in early to mid-spring for two reasons. Firstly, it avoids the plant producing delicate new shoots while frosts may still hit. Frost could damage the young growth, delaying development for the new flowering season. Secondly, by pruning in spring we don’t cut off emerging flower buds, as we would after mid-April.

 

Shrubs in Pruning Group 6

One subshrub we use in our designs from Pruning Group 6 is Perovskia ‘Little Spire’.

Some other group 6 plants named by the RHS include:

  • Buddleja davidii
  • Caryopteris
  • Fuchsia
  • Spiraea japonica.

green-gym-map-768x462

Don't work out, work outdoors

Our post Garden Trends for 2018 touched on the idea of “green gyms”. What exactly is a green gym and why should you seriously consider one? They revolve around this simple maxim: Don’t work out, work outdoors.

We don’t mean pack in your job and become a gardener – unless that’s what you yearn to do. Rather, there’s been a recent increase in awareness of the range of benefits gardening can provide. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 8 or 80, there’s something you can do outside that’ll benefit your health and wellbeing. Forget the dumbbells and cardio classes. Join the recreational revolution!

 

A range of beneficial gardening activities

In 2009 The Guardian reported that the Scottish government planned to invest over £300,000 into the establishment of green gyms. The award-winning health programme Green Gym™ is under the remit of The Conservation Volunteers and you can find more in-depth information on their website.

There was a 500% increase in the number of green gyms in London from 2011, and others have popped up around the nation. However, it’s sad to see there’s a dearth of these gyms outside of the capital. Check out the screenshot of Northern England below and you’ll see what I mean. But then again, perhaps it’s up to us to take more interest and get these free work-out sessions set up all around the UK? They’re free after all – no sign-up fees.

Green gyms

 

If you do find one local to you, you can expect to take part in a range of beneficial gardening activities. These may include digging and planting, sowing meadows and creating ponds. You’ll be instructed on the right way to complete the tasks, so there’s an educational element too.

The emphasis on health and fitness at green gyms is emphasised further by the inclusion of warm-up and cool-down exercises either side of the actual gardening activities.

 

What benefits can we expect?

The health benefits of gardening and green gyms are being extolled by the government itself nowadays. Some GPs are apparently already prescribing the gyms as a way of improving health holistically. Due to the proven physical, mental and social advantages of horticulture, the National Garden Scheme is itself calling for more medical professionals to prescribe it.

The New Economics Foundation recently created the Five Ways to Wellbeing for the government. These five elements are:

  • Connect
  • Keep learning
  • Take notice
  • Be active
  • Give

 

It doesn’t take much effort to see how neatly green gyms fit in with this guideline.

Some specific positives of green gyms listed on the TCV website are:

  1. A reduction in anxiety by 26%
  2. An improvement in wellness scores by one-fifth
  3. Halving of the risk of heart attack or stroke in those involved in this moderate physical activity
  4. Increased closeness to other people in the local community according to 80% of volunteers

 

And if you can’t access a green gym?

The benefits of gardening still apply! If you have your own garden, get into it. If not, how about helping out a friend or family member? You could apply for an allotment or work on a local community garden instead.

This webpage from The English Garden magazine shows a recent infographic drawn up by AXA PPP. It reveals how many calories are burnt per hour by just seven common gardening activities. In addition, it points out 11 body parts that gardening can strengthen.

 

So save yourself some cash this year. Cancel your gym membership and dig in with some horticultural activities, whether at home or with others.


Common British perennial weeds

Common British perennial weeds

Our gardens are under constant threat of invasion. The enemy? Several common British perennial weeds (not to mention the annuals we’ll see in a later article). As these are perennial, they have the nasty habit of hanging around whatever happens. It also renders their removal more difficult.

 

How to deal with these common British perennial weeds

Organically, the only real eradication method is digging out as much of these plants as possible. They often root deeply or spread widely, so this is no mean feat. If they’re rhizomatous – a rhizome being an underground spreading stem – it’s important to dig out as much of these rhizomes as you can. If they have deep tap roots, they can regenerate from its top part, so we must take out as long a segment of this as able.

Regular hoeing or cutting back of regrowth will significantly weaken the plants over time, but cannot guarantee complete removal. Similarly, you can weaken them by covering the flower bed with thick black polythene. Your prized plants must be carefully removed first however, ensuring no weed roots coming out with them. You’ll also have to leave the polythene in place for much of a year at least, to ensure effectiveness.

If you’re gardening in an eco-friendly way, persistence and patience are key.

If you’re happy to use chemical controls, then this RHS list shows you the range available. Each RHS profile for these perennial weeds will tell you how to chemically eradicate them in more detail. Links can be followed by simply clicking on the weed’s common name.

 

The weeds

 

 

Brambles

By Frank Vincentz - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2292789

Latin name: Rubus fruticosis agg.

Other common names: Blackberry

Insight: Stems can grow up to 2m in length and root when the tip touches the ground.

 

 

Couch grass

By Rasbak - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=170853
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=331505

Latin name: Elymus repens

Other common names: Scutch grass, twitch grass

Insight: Spreading rhizomes which can tangle around the roots of other plants, making removal trickier.

 

 

Creeping buttercup

By Frank Vincentz - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11871029

Latin name: Ranunculus repens

Insight: Runners develop from each leaf node, each forming a strong root network when touching the ground. Seeds and severed nodes also aid its spread.

 

Creeping thistle

By Isidre blanc - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37282015
By No machine-readable author provided. Rita~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). - No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=953061

Latin name: Cirsium arvense

Insight: It has a deep tap root as well as many seeds carried on the wind. Its roots also spread out and are brittle, meaning any snapped off during extraction can re-shoot easily.

 

 

Dandelion

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=134740
By Andreas Trepte - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1989689

Latin name: Taraxacum officinale

Insight: We’re all familiar with its fluffy seed heads that fly around between March and October. It also possesses a deep tap root from which it can regenerate.

 

 

Dock

By Rasbak - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=374147
By H. Zell - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11040278

Latin name: either Rumex obtusifolius or R. crispus

Insight: It has a branching, thick tap root delving up to 90cm deep. Its seeds can survive in the soil for up to 50 years. Digging out at least the top 12-15cm of the tap root should however prevent the individual weed’s regrowth.

 

 

Ground elder

By Franz Xaver - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8024702
By Drahkrub. Attribution must include the URL http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benutzer:Drahkrub. - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36561552

Latin name: Aegopodium podagraria

Other common names: Gout weed, bishop weed, jump-about

Insight: Another troublemaker that creeps via its rhizomes, needing careful digging out

 

 

Hedge bindweed

By Brosen - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=324598

Latin name: Calystegia sepium

Other common names: Bellbind

Insight: Its white trumpet-like flowers are pretty, but this is a major pest. Its rhizomes can spread up to 2m a year and the smallest segment of rhizome will regrow.

 

 

Horsetail

By de:User:Jutta234 - self taken foto, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2814457

Latin name: Equisetum arvense

Other common names: Mare’s tail

Insight: Easily recognisable as it resembles miniature pine forests. It’s the opposite of hedge bindweed, sending its roots up to 2m down into the earth. Its rhizomes spread quickly and up spring dense clumps of foliage.

 

 

Ivy

By User:Gerhard Elsner - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1747136

Latin name: Hedera helix

Insight: This is invaluable to wildlife and has some uses, but it can smother both horizontal and vertical surfaces if uncontrolled. It’s self-clinging, and when creeping over the ground, it can root at frequent intervals.

 

 

Perennial nettles

By Rasbak from nl, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1762582
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=883223

Latin name: Urtica dioica

Insight: We all know these varmints from their sting. The roots creep under the surface and can send up shoots reaching a maximum of 1.2m in height.

 

 

Rosebay willowherb

By Immanuel Giel, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53672087

Latin name: Chamaenerion angustifolium

Other common names: Fireweed

Insight: This plant has attractive pink spires up to 1.5m tall; a white cultivar is available for the larger garden. As a weed, however, its fluffy seeds can fly around on the breeze. Again, its rhizomes spread too, although fortunately it roots shallowly.


The Art of the Planter

The Art of the Planter

It’s easy when designing a garden to consider the hard landscaping, the beds and borders and the furnishings. Many people then opt for architectural containers holding one specimen. This can be particularly effective, especially if the effect is repeated along a line of planters.

But how about some seasonal style? Why not bring a combination of zingy colours into your garden for July through to October? Want to follow this with a mixture of warming tones for the winter period? You can achieve such showstoppers relatively easily by implementing “the Art of the Planter”.

There are some caveats to container planting. They involve extra effort on your part. Whether it’s wet or dry weather, you should water your planters at least every other day, especially terracotta pots. You’ll also find that potted plants need regular feeding to keep them at their best for longer. Monetarily, planters changed with each season will cost you each time you purchase new compost and plants.

Let’s just say though that the advantages of having seasonally-appropriate, stunning, abundantly overflowing planters far outweigh these negative points. It just takes a little care and consideration. Below we’re giving you three simple rules to follow that will make planting up your container spectacle so much simpler.

 

Rule #1: Appropriate planter and position

Before all else, choose the right planters for your garden if you don’t already have them. If you have a smart, contemporary space, choose unfussy matching pieces. Alternatively, if yours is an Italianate or cottage garden style, why not splash out on elaborate stone or terracotta urns? You can mix and match sizes and details in a less formal garden too. Bigger planters work better as effective statement pieces.

The position of your planters also influences your container planting. Make sure to site them where they’ll have most impact without detracting from other features such as ponds, sculpture or flower beds. Front doors are ideal spots, as are long unadorned walls or hidden corners.

By the way, will the planters be in the middle of a space, or will they have their backs to a wall? The image below demonstrates the difference this makes: A. is visible from every side, whereas B. is approached from just three sides. There’s no point putting smaller plants round the back of pot B. as you’ll never see them. Additionally, they’ll barely receive any light and will most like die off quickly.

The Art of the Planter 

Rule #2: Thriller, filler, spiller

‘There’s a classic recipe for mixed pots, which requires you to select three plants that each fulfil a different role’ – so writes Sarah Raven in this article for The Telegraph. The three roles are the thriller, the filler and the spiller:

  • Thriller: that wow plant which instantly seizes your attention. It should be taller than the other two characters and preferably have an interesting feature like dazzling foliage or wonderful flowers
  • Filler: the medium-sized plants which encircle your thriller and pack out the space
  • Spiller: trailing or creeping specimens that soften the edges of your containers

 

The beauty of container planting is that you don’t need to give each plant its usual spacing – this is temporary accommodation. You don’t have to worry about how well the plant will fare over the longer term.

Just because there are three roles, don’t feel you must stick to just three species either. For example, you can use one thriller, two types of filler and three types of spiller. For a wider planter, how about three thrillers, one filler and two spillers? Plan, but also play around with ideas.

For some ideas on ideal plants, check out this online document from Port Kells Nurseries.

 

Rule #3: Concord or chaos?

The final rule to bear in mind is the interaction between your thrillers, fillers and spillers. Do you want calm comparison or complete contrast? The former works well in formal, minimal settings. Use varying shades of blues or pinks for tranquillity. Conversely, for a dazzling display, choose hues from opposite sides of the colour wheel and more intense tones like orange, red and yellow. Another advantage of a planter is that if it doesn’t quite work, it’ll be over by the end of the season and you can start again. Learn from any mistakes and have fun.

What we would really emphasise is the need to vary your foliage. Avoid the same greens and similar leaf shapes to bring an extra level of interest. The examples below – two for spring and three for summer – show what we mean here, with some commonly used Bestall & Co plants.

 

Spring planters

The Art of the PlanterThe Art of the Planter

 

Summer planters

The Art of the PlanterThe Art of the PlanterThe Art of the Planter

 


RHS Pruning Groups 2, 3 and 5

RHS Pruning Groups 2, 3 and 5

Following on from our look into the first category, here’s an overview of RHS Pruning Groups 2, 3 and 5. The Royal Horticultural Society treats these classes in one place, and so shall we. The reason? Plants in these categories are all deciduous and early-flowering, i.e. late winter, spring and early summer. You have to take care not to mis-time your pruning here or future flowers will be lacking.

 

When?

Ideally, prune shrubs as soon after flowering as possible. They can flower in late winter (January), spring through to early summer (June) months.

 

How?

As in Group 1, begin by cutting back any damaged, diseased or crossing shoots that may lead to illness and death.

What follows then depends on if your plant is in Group 2, 3 or 5:

  • Group 2: As these shrubs produce blooms on strong young growth, it’s important to prune flowered stems back to fresh new shoots. The RHS also recommends pruning 20% of old growth back to almost ground level every year.
  • Group 3: Cut back one-in-three of all stems to ground level annually. Prune spent flower stems back to vigorous sideshoots further down the plant.
  • Group 5: Cut back all stems to ground level to encourage a flush of new growth.

 

Why?

These shrubs produce their flowers on young stems which grow over the previous year. We don’t want to lose any developing buds or fresh flowers, so we wait until they’ve finished. By subsequently cutting back the spent shoots, we leave adequate time for new stems to grow. These will be strong enough to form future blooms come the next flowering period.

We only really use one early-flowering plant in our gardens to date:

  • Lonicera nitida ‘Maigrun’ (unless grown as a hedge) – 2

Automated garden lighting

Automated Garden Lighting

Have you now got the garden of your dreams, but something seems lacking in the evening? Perhaps you’re in the process of looking into a new garden design, and are conscious of wanting to use your outside space past dusk?

Outdoor lighting is an element often overlooked when creating the ideal garden. It should be one of the first aspects considered. Furthermore, the range of lighting options available is phenomenal nowadays. Automated systems are a massive part of this.

Why utilise an automatic garden lighting system? Their advantages range from the commonsensical and straightforward to the sublime and life-changing.

 

Safety and security from automated lighting

First and foremost, use of automated lighting brings serious safety benefits. If you find yourself wandering down to a summerhouse regularly in the dark hours, a motion sensor-powered lit path reduces the likelihood of trips over paving or objects. Similarly, for those with outdoor pools or sunken hot tubs, a timer could illuminate these to save people accidentally falling in. Can you think of anything more irritating than returning home from work or an evening with friends, just to fumble on the doorstep, probing for the keyhole and hoping you have the right key? Well imagine porch and entrance hall lights that switch on upon your approach!

In the same vein, we have security measures utilising automated lights. As this article from Loxone comments, ‘you can use your lights as a ‘presence simulator’’. Set up timers to replicate your usual daily activities and strangers won’t be sure whether you’re at home or away. Taking it one step further, the article suggests adding in an automatic sprinkler system or even a speaker, to really give potential criminals a fright!

 

Highlighting the finer points

It’s not just about widening the eyes of burglars, though. The perfectly designed garden will have one or more stunning focal points – trees, flower beds, artwork. A swimming pool or fountain. An outdoor kitchen. You’ll want your guests and loved ones to look out at night and say “wow”. After all, there’s no use going to the effort and expense of having these features created, only to see them half the day (or less).

This is where skilfully positioned, automated lighting comes into its own even more. Uplighting trees brings them to life in a different way. The art of “scene setting” is a delicate one, but excellent designers can achieve this. It involves recalling specific settings for distinct purposes. Indoors, this can mean one light setting for preparing a meal and another for watching TV (this Rako article explains it wonderfully). Outdoors, it means you can gently light your carefully planted borders can from dusk until dawn, but can be more dramatic during a summer barbecue.

Dimmer lights are available, reducing energy costs and extending lamp life expectancy. Motion sensors can override these when anyone heads outside, rendering the finer details more visible.

 

Extending use of your garden

Ultimately, automated garden lighting makes your outdoor space that much more accessible. Why hide inside on balmy summer nights when you could be outdoors enjoying wine and nibbles with friends and family? We’re using our gardens more and more for socialising and relaxing now, rather than just growing flowers and fruit. Effective, effortless lighting becomes so much more vital in this respect. In addition, it’s possible to link automated lighting to automated music. Turn on the outdoor kitchen lighting, turn on your favourite playlist!

 

A variety of options

Even the quickest bit of research into outdoor lighting reveals just how many options are available. For example, you can use white lights, warmer bulbs or even coloured LED. The different forms that lamps can take is mouthwatering. Equally, indoor smart switches come in a range of designs. What’s more, the “smart part” of these can be transferred to other casings. When you restyle your interior, altering your switches, your smart switches can keep up rather than looking out of place.

The number of lights you have as automated versus manual can vary too. At least one UK company – Light Symphony – offers the choice of “zoning” your lighting. You can group lamps into a maximum of 29 zones, so each zone acts in the same way.

As for controlling your garden lighting, it can connect to a range of triggers:

  • Light sensors: as daylight fades
  • Motion sensors: as vehicles or people pass by, or doors and gates open
  • Key fobs: small, but may only work with their own particular system and walls can pose a transmission issue
  • In-vehicle remote controls: more generic, but bulkier and still have issues with passing physical barriers at times
  • Mobile phones: apps allow your mobile to act as a fob, even controlling tones if you've fitted colour lamps

Two of the best companies to check out for more insight into automated home and garden lighting are Rako and Philips, whose Hue lighting can be integrated into certain other systems.

 

As shown in this DIY post on Home Toys and this Light Symphony brochure, the complexity of the system is up to you. Illuminate just your driveway on arrival, or make the most of your whole garden day and night in a host of ways. The choice is yours.


Foamstream

Weeds in a lather over Foamstream

A revolutionary weapon has appeared when it comes to attacking weeds. Its name: Foamstream. The manufacturer Weedingtech has had the need for non-chemical weed control on its radar since the 1990s, pre-empting the ever-increasing legislation surrounding this debate.

Foamstream is not new – it won the award for Best New Product or Innovation at LAMMA* 2012 and the award for Design & Supply of Amenities at Edge** 2012. However, its groundbreaking design is spreading internationally, gaining renown in the UK, and looks like it could break into the horticultural market one day. Now really is Foamstream’s time to shine, thanks to the twin swords of the Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations of 2012 and growing public pressure to “go green”.

 

The theory behind Foamstream

What’s so revolutionary about this new weedkiller then? Weedingtech have developed a balanced combination of hot water and patented, biodegradable foam which hits weeds hard.

Some of you may be shouting out Right, but hot water weed eradication has existed for years! This is true, but Foamstream undercuts them both in efficiency and cost effectiveness.

The product works in three distinctive ways:

  1. The foam acts as a “thermal blanket”, preserving the high temperatures of the hot water it flows alongside. What’s more, this blanket is too heavy to blow away in the wind, and proves harmless around waterways
  2. This foam also contains a “wetting agent”, allowing heat to pass through the waxy exterior of plants more readily. More cell walls rupture as a result
  3. Weedingtech’s lance ensures precise application of Foamstream, dramatically limiting damage to surrounding vegetation

 

Thanks to the foam’s heat-retaining properties, Foamstream is 50% more effective than hot water treatments. You only need to apply it 2-3 times, compared to the standard 4-5 treatments. Canadian company TurfCare say Foamstream has a 95% average kill rate, in comparison to just 60% from the most effective alternative methods. The product also succeeds in eradicating moss and algae after just one application – apparently the best treatment out there!

Even invasive species such as Crassula have been successfully removed through Foamstream use.

The fact that the product requires half the usual number of treatments renders it more time and cost effective. In addition, the MW-series equipment needed consumes less fuel. The foam doesn’t need pressurised storage – both money- and space-saving. And if these points didn’t convince you enough, how about the fact it can be applied in any weather condition, so no delay in scalding your weeds away! If it’s raining, the product won’t simply wash away

 

Is it really environmentally-friendly?

The European Commission waxes lyrical about Foamstream’s eco warrior status here. Furthermore, the Chemicals Regulation Directorate has cleared the product as organic and safe.

Weedingtech makes it clear in text and infographic where their product comes from. It consists of ‘natural and sustainable…oils and sugars’. They derive from plants such as potatoes and wheat. A small quantity of palm oil goes into it at present, but this is sustainably sourced.

 

Clearing the way into the future?

Despite these remarkable qualities, one huge problem seems to stand in the way of Foamstream’s dominance of the weedkiller market.

You can only apply Foamstream via Weedingtech’s MW-Series equipment. The lance is a vital component and shouldn’t be undervalued. It allows for the accurate employment of the treatment, ensuring prized plants don’t wilt away in the process. Additionally, Weedingtech offers half-day training with experts, and after that, you’re fully competent. Even if purchasing the equipment were a problem, local distributors offer rental.

No, the real issue is the sheer size of the equipment. It must be fitted to the back of a vehicle such as a transit van. When the tanks are full, they weigh 650kg, plus they measure almost 1.5m in height! You see, we won’t be heading out into our gardens with our handheld or even backpack-mounted applicators, at least not yet.

While Weedingtech has provided a real, “green” lifeline to the water and amenity industries, it can’t yet do the same for garden owners, designers or maintenance crews. Foamstream may be useful for clearing motorways, schoolyards and sewerage works of unwanted weeds. Unfortunately for now, the rest of us must rely on our hand trowels and forks.

 

 

*’The UK’s leading farm machinery, equipment and services show’

**Expo Demo Green Europe


RHS Pruning Group 1 Hamamelis x intermedia

RHS Pruning Group 1

Welcome to the first in a series looking at the pruning groups established by the Royal Horticultural Society. They offer the uncertain gardener an overview of when, how and why to prune particular plants. There are 13 categories, which can seem overwhelming. However, we’re going to pull out the basics for you. We’ll also list some plants falling under each group, especially those commonly used by Bestall & Co where possible. Let’s begin with RHS Pruning Group 1, classed as the “light pruning” category.

 

When?

Usually between late winter (January) and early Spring (March). That said, there are certain species which fall into Group 1 yet must be pruned in late summer or early autumn. This is because of a risk of winter bleeding, and includes birch (Betula), hornbeam (Carpinus), poplar (Populus), lime (Tilia), deciduous magnolias and Laburnum. Always double-check for the specific species if unsure.

 

How?

This is a very straightforward pruning group. It’s a case of lightly cutting back any crossing, damaged or diseased branches. You can also cut back any shoots growing in unwanted directions and spoiling the shape of the plant. Do bear in mind that most of this group’s species are best left to their own devices, as nature intended. It’s best to mulch around the plant after pruning.

 

Why?

To prevent less vigorous, free-standing trees and shrubs from developing problems as easily. Crossing branches especially can lead to wounds and infections that can weaken and kill a plant.

Some Pruning Group 1 plants we use

  • Amelanchier grandiflora ‘Robin Hill’
  • Amelanchier lamarckii (snowy mespilus)
  • Carpinus betulus (hornbeam – remember this is a late summer/early autumn pruner)
  • Fagus sylvatica Atropurpurea Group (copper beech)
  • Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ (witch hazel)
  • Heptacodium miconioides (seven son flower tree)
  • Laurus nobilis (bay)
  • Ligustrum sinense (Chinese privet)
  • Malus ‘Rudolph’ (crab apple)
  • Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’
  • Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’
  • Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’ (whitebeam)
  • Viburnum tinus ‘French White’