Tuesday, 30 January 2018

How to achieve the Japanese garden of your dreams!

What plants we suggest to give that “Japanese garden feel"

Okay, so you have been looking online at these great photos of gardens but not seeing the names of the plants being used and it's leaving you a bit stuck?
Well the aim of this blog is to point out and give you a little bit more info on a few of the more popular plants that will give you more of a traditional Japanese Garden. So, as you would expect we will be covering Bamboo, bonsai trees and a few others that may or may not take you by surprise...

Bonsai Trees.
To kick things off let’s start with one of the biggest items you would be looking at for your new garden. It would have to be a bonsai tree, but not just any old bonsai tree, not the typical dwarf indoor bonsai trees (while they are nice) this must be a sculpted piece of artwork that will take the breath away from onlookers and is refined to the point that it is the most impressive and center-most part of your garden.

Now of course there are many different routes you could go down for this look, where you could buy it outright (which let’s face it will put quite a dent in your pocket). Or you could start off with a small Ilex Crenata or Buxus and trim it into shape yourself as the plant grows. Note that this method will require a lot of time and patience!

Now we move onto Bamboo, this is probably what most people think of and want for a traditional Japanese garden. Sadly it has earned itself a bit of a bad name as the "invasive plant"but in fact there are so many varieties of non-invasive clump-forming bamboos, you will be spoilt for choice!

 In terms of impact the bamboo hedge can really tie a garden together, used commonly either as hedging or as a shrub to be grown as a specimen (perhaps potted)  it works extremely well. We believe that this looks better however as a hedge as it will screen away unpleasant sights such as old fence panelling or perhaps give privacy from a nosy neighbour while also creating a lushious amount of green!

However your garden looks, Bamboo is almost a must for getting an oriental feel. Here are a few different bamboo types that should cover all your bamboo needs!

Yang is recognised by her bright yellow wood and bushy light green foliage. It represents the sunrise and the day.

Fargesia murielae or'Yin' symbolized by his dark green black wood the setting sun and the night. Great for hedging and standalone feature. New none spreading form reaching up to 3m. To maintain balance and harmony you ought to find room for Yang.

Phyllostachys Aurea - golden groove bamboo - Clump forming stiffly upright bamboo with grooved canes, bright mid-green at first, becoming brown yellow when mature. Narrow pointed yellowish to golden green leaves. Usually thought of as an invasive bamboo, when planed correctly and tended can be a great looking non-invasive clump-forming bamboo.

Phyllostachys Nigra stunning black canes that start early life as a very dark green before maturing, set against dark green, lance shaped foliage, height can reach 5m

This is probably the most iconic “Japanese” plant we have on this list. Okay that may be a little too much praise. Nonetheless it’s the tree everyone knows and should be an integral part of your new garden, not to mention in any small part it is considered the national flower of Japan!
These plants are very richly symbolic and hold great meaning with many cultural aspects from parts of Buddhist faith and culture. While I do not have time to go into the impact Flowering Cherry trees had in Japanese culture, I can safely say they are a must for your garden whether you are making a themed garden or even if you are just interested in a great looking tree!

Acer Palmatum also known commonly as Japanese Maples, just from the name you can tell they should be a plant to include in your garden checklist! These brightly coloured plants are deciduous meaning come winter they will look a little bare, but that is a small price to pay for the enormous amount of colour you can get from them the rest of the year.
There are commonly two variations of this plant being either a non-dissected or a dissected plant, now it can seem a little confusing but the only difference between the plants are the shapes of the leaves. Some people say that the dissectum varieties can hold their colours for longer or appear more vibrant, but the final decision it should mostly come down to personal preference over the shape of leaf.

Evergreen ground cover
Now you probably have a good idea of some of our larger plants that we say to include in your garden, but we move on now to the Groundcover section. This is usually an area that you can pick whatever you wish to a degree, I would only say they should be evergreen shrubs so that they cover the ground throughout the whole year. I have a couple of suggestions that usually fit in well to get you started thinking of the plants:

Japanese Azaleas – as a small evergreen shrub this plant fits in extremely well no matter the garden and with you not needing to do anything for them they can fill up space nicely and will produce tubular flowers of different colours depending on the variant you go for.

Pieris Japonica – Another common staple in a lot of gardens and shrubberies this evergreen plant can come in a variety of different colours from a silver to a bright green, again the specific variety does depend on what colour scheme you want, but we do have a few varieties on our site that you may wish to look through: 

There are of course more plants I could go into but we have covered the main few plants to give your garden the feeling it has come straight from Japan itself! All you need now to finish this off is a Koi pond, traditional themed archways and a section for your “Rock Garden” or a “Zen Garden”.

We hope this helps you find the garden of your dreams, if you have any questions about the plants mentioned in this blog then please do get in touch with me at zach@grasslands.co.uk.
Thank you
Best Wishes.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Prunus Laurocerasus or Cherry Laurel Plant – Plant Study

The most commonly planted evergreen hedging there is. The cherry laurel (Prunus Laurocerasus) are the classic, big glossy leaved evergreen, seen everywhere.

One of the biggest selling points for the Cherry Laurel is that they grow extremely fast, with about 2/3 foot of new growth each season, making this a plant to not take lightly for a quick instant hedge! If planting a hedge, you will soon find it nicely dense and tall.

This plant is one of our hardier plants, the only thing that you need to keep an eye on is that they do not enjoy is sitting in waterlogged soil. If they are sitting in waterlogged soil you won’t see much of a difference in them except they may look a little bit sad and drooped.

The Laurel as mentioned above is hardy meaning that for Trimming/Pruning, you could do this multiple times a year, with 2/3 foot of new growth each year it is almost necessary. March is a good time of the year to look at pruning if the plant is getting too large as being springtime it gives the plant a good chance to grow back, while trimming can be left until a bit later in the year around June-September time. While trimming your plant into shape try not to cut through the leaves as this can leave the plant looking fairly unsightly!

Now, like all plants there are a few diseases that can affect them despite being such a tough cookie! Powdery Mildew, Leaf spot fungi and Bacterial Shothole, these are just the more common diseases, usually these diseases leave the plant looking like it’s been shot by a shotgun with lots of little holes in each of the leaves and irregular edges.

For treatment of these diseases there are special chemicals you can spray that can defend your plant to stop infections like this happening, however once the plant has been affected there is little that can be done to "cure" it. Laurels are naturally hardy plants, meaning a little bit of pruning to remove the dead/unsightly leaves can be good and neaten your hedge, however avoid any heavy pruning as this will just place a strain on the plant and hinder its own natural ability to fight the disease.

If wet soil is a problem, then perhaps consider potentially a different plant (perhaps a Portuguese Laurel or Leylandii) or you could raise the planting bed a little to keep the roots above the water level.
In early Spring you catch the first few glimpses of the flower buds that are soon going to flower on this plant, the bud appears early spring and open in Summer to reveal a creamy white petalled flower. Combined with the fruit that is produced from the plant as a berry, coming in as bright red then changing to a black in early Autumn when more mature, this fruit looks extremely like the very common Cherry fruit.

However, do not be fooled into thinking that if “the fruit of this plant looks like a Cherry, so it must be safe to eat?” This plant is toxic to humans, so even though the fruit looks nice, do not eat it! The fruit along with the leaves and every other part of the plant will cause severe discomfort if ingested. (not something to be enjoyed in a salad!)

The plant as I have already mentioned grows at 2/3 foot per season and has an ultimate height of around 8 meters tall or in the best conditions up to 15 meters! Now that is a monster hedge and will certainly keep out unwanted eyes! But that is in the absolute perfect conditions that most average gardens may not be able to achieve. Given enough time in most soils and gardens your plant will still reach large heights, more than enough to be a great screen!

If you are reading this far then you will already mostly know what you are looking to do with your Laurel hedging be it setting up a new hedge or using it as a specimen plant, however if you are going to use this as a hedge then you should know the sizes/amounts you will need.

On our website beside every single one of our plants is a handy description of that plant along with a guide on roughly how many plants you will be needing for your area, it’s extremely easy for the non-gardening individual to put together a plan on making the garden green!

Thank you very much for reading and if you have any questions regarding the plants on our website or any general questions regarding Laurel Hedging including diagnosing your laurels if you suspect anything is going awry, I will be glad to answer them!

Best Wishes

Zachary Henshaw – zach@grasslands.co.uk