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Hi, I'm Jon Fenlon.

I am the new Head Gardener at Smiths Hall, having previously worked at Sissinghurst Castle & Smallhythe Place. During my time at Smallhythe Place I undertook a rejuvenation project of the entire garden including designing a Rose Pergola, reinstating the Rose Garden and creating wild life habitats.

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Latest Posts

September

Posted on 22nd August, 2017

So now the days are shortening its time to start to split and divide herbaceous perennials that have finished for the year. Make sure the plants are replanted or potted up as quickly as possible and watered to help them recover from the shock of being split.

 

You can also check/start to cut of runners from plants such as strawberries as by now they will have rooted well and should be able to survive on their own. There are other methods of propagation which can be done this month such as hard wood cutting to increase your plant numbers for next year, Check the RHS website for advice on what plants can be propagated in this way.

Summer raspberries can be pruned back just leaving the new young growth which will become next years fruiting canes.

If you have fruit trees in your garden try to remove damaged / mouldy fruit when you see it as it can help spread disease to the rest of the crop. You can also cut any long grass at the base of the tree to help spot windfalls.

If you are lucky enough to have a glass house now is likely to be the best time to have a good clean and tidy before any plants starts to go back in for winter protection.

Keep an eye out for seed pods in the garden as these are a great resource for growing more plants next year and can be a great help if plants do die over a hard winter.

 

August

Posted on 23rd July, 2017

Hi everyone thank you all very much for coming to are NGS open day on the 16 July we had a great day and raised a lot of money for  charity.

 

We had over 300 visitors and sold a lot of tea, cakes and plants.

 

It’s that time of year when the dead heading and watering seems to take over the garden. With dead heading doing it a little and often can go a long way.

Lavender

 

Keep on top of the faded perennials by cutting them down when ready to allow more space for other plants to grow. It’s a good time to cut lavender back once it’s finished flowering, this will keep it compact.

 

Some pruning can be done this month if you find the time such as summer flowering shrubs, whippy growth on wisteria and climbing roses (I don’t normally prune climbing roses until a lot later in the year personally October-December).

 

Don't forget to collect seed when it’s ripe ready for sowing next year. Also if you have tender perennials try taking cuttings and growing them on ready for planting out next year.

 

Wildflower 2017

 

If you have a perennial wildflower meadow in your garden now is the time to cut it down. This can be done with a strimmer or scythe. I would suggest leaving the grass on the ground for the seed to drop out, this can be aided by flicking the grass around using a hay rake or pitch fork.

 

If your meadow is lacking in fauna once it is cut you can open the soil up with a scarification, or you could turn over the turf in the worst areas and sow the seed directly over the area. Sowing yellow rattle will reduce the vigour of the grass over time which will in turn help the other flowers establish.

Purple Tomato

 

Keep on top of harvesting all of your fruit and veg as a lot will be ready by this point. You can cut down herbs to get a fresh crop before winter. The tomatoes will still need feeding and also remove the lower leaves to aid ventilation and help prevent diseases.

 

Now is also a good time to go through bulb catalogues and get some ideas for next year. You can also take a stroll around the garden see where you have gaps or plants that are not performing and get good ideas from catalogues.

July

Posted on 22nd June, 2017

Hi everyone, my name is Jon Fenlon, I recently took over from Lee as Head Gardener at Smith’s Hall. I have always had a passion for gardening from a young age and I am really excited for the opportunity to work at such a lovely place. Please come along and say hi at our NGS open day on July 16th.

 

 

During July keep checking for dead heads on Penstemons, Lupins and foxgloves. Carefully check down the stem when dead heading to spot the next flush of flowers and cut down to this point

 

Some plants such as Hardy Geranium and Delphinium can be cut back fairly hard to get a second flush of young green growth and flowers. Make sure to water them well after cutting them back to give them the best start of bouncing back.

 

If you have any overcrowded Irises in the garden now is a great time to lift and divide them, do this with a border fork to prevent damage to the roots. Once lifted, cut off any parts of the rhizome that is damaged or soft. You will notice the rhizomes have a front and a back end so when replanting take note of which way round you are placing it.

 

Lilies at Smiths Hall

 

Lilies will now be flowering in the garden and smelling lovely but keep an eye out for the Lily beetle. It is bright red with a black head and legs so it’s very easy to spot, also keep an eye out for their larvae which just look like brown lumps.  If you only have a couple of lilies then remove by hand otherwise use an organic insecticide such as bug clear.

 

If you are growing cucumbers but wish so save space train them up a structure by tying them in. This will give you more space for other crops and also keep your cucumbers off of the floor.

 

By July your tomatoes will be cropping which will make them very hungry for extra nutrients; you can help them out by feeding them once a week with high potash feed. Make sure you water the top of the soil as this is the quickest way to the fibrous roots that run just under the top layer of soil.

Mint

Most people will have some herbs in the garden but not everybody is using them to their full potential. Herbs are best used when they are fresh young leaves, so keep on picking it. If it is currently rather large use the older growth in a cut flower arrangement. Once you get in the cycle of harvesting the young growth, you may well have an influx of herbs but don’t worry you can dry them or freeze them.

 

June has been fairly dry and if this continues in to July I would recommend cutting the lawn at a higher setting. The lower you mow the lawn the more stress you are putting it under which in turn may well make it go brown quicker.  Whilst the lawn is slightly longer you will also notice where all of the weeds are. This is a good time to spray them off with a selective lawn weed killer. Once the weeds are dying off, feed the lawn with a nitrogen based fertilise to bring back its lush green colour and strong new growth.  

I would recommend that everybody takes a look at autumn crocus as a new edition to their gardens. The autumn crocus is a very over looked plant, but it can add a splash of colour almost anywhere. So take a look in some bulb catalogues this month to find the right one for your garden.  

The one thing you must do this month is to just enjoy the garden. I look forward to seeing everybody on the open day.  

Blooming June

Posted on 21st May, 2017

BLOOMING JUNE

 

The lovely month of June brings the glorious British summer and loads of exciting growth and colour to our gardens. The mad rush to get all things planted has passed and it’s time to enjoy all your garden has to offer.

Keeping on top of your garden is the order for June and with regular pruning, trimming, weeding and cutting you will ensure you will have a garden worth enjoying all summer long.

 

SPRING BULBS

 

A question often asked is when should you clear away or cut down the old daffodil and tulip leaves. They do look unsightly after the flowers have faded and are often in front of borders and can be untidy as your summer borders start to take shape. Best to just wait until they die down naturally and start to go brown. The foliage just pulls away and can easily be cleared.

A lovely late spring/ early summer bulb which are flowering now are Alliums. So many different varieties to choose from and they have become very popular in recent years. I planted a new collection of purple varieties under a tree last autumn which are now flowering. ( see pic)

 

 

IRISIS

 

We have had a magnificent multicoloured display of bearded irises this year. They started mid May but hopefully will continue into June for our NGS garden open day!

After flowering you can split and divide over crowded clumps of irises. Choose the healthy new plants while discarding the old to the bonfire. Cut the leaves back to about 9 inches in length so as to avoid the roots been loosened by the wind.

Remember they like their rhizomes in the sun so don't plant them too deep.

This should generally be done every 3/4 years.

 

 

PERENNIALS

 

Your summer borders full of perennials will be in full flow by now. Some of these you can get to repeat flower, especially the early ones such as poppies, delphiniums and lupins. Cutting them back hard after flowering will result in a second wave of foliage and in some cases a second summer flush of flowers.

Remember to keep staking and tying in the tall ones!

 

ROSES

 

June is typically the month in which roses are at their peak, so ensure you stay on top of deadheading to keep your displays looking as stunning as possible. Watch out for black spot on leaves, simply remove these when you see them. Aphids will also attack fresh flower buds and growth on roses. Keeping them sprayed regularly with a rose spray will help.

 

AND FINALLY

 

I am sad to say unfortunately this will be my last article. I have decided that after gardening for 35 years, since I was 12, it is time to make a career change.

Gardening will always be my passion and I have loved every day of my career and especially working for the Norman family at Smiths Hall for the last 28 years.

The garden will be open on June 4th which will be my last day and I would love to see you all there.

 

May

Posted on 19th April, 2017

 

Spring has well and truly arrived, and the madness begins with jobs to do all over the garden.

The days are now longer and warmer,but worryingly, we still have had very little rain.  

The risk of frost is a lot less and should have passed by the end of the month, so now is the time to harden off any frost sensitive plants, and start sowing outdoors if you grow hardy annuals.

This  April and May is giving us a magnificent early show of colour from around Smiths Hall garden. The highlight for me has got to be the wisteria which never fails to amaze me with its beauty and heavenly evening scent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BORDERS

 

You can still plant any herbaceous plants you buy to fill gaps but remember they will need watering regularly until established, at least once a week.

This is your last chance to insert plant supports, stakes and string and netting in herbaceous borders, before tall plants flop during wind and rain. Delphiniums especially!

Don’t forget to keep tying in climbers, even if you did it at the beginning of of the season, they’ll get out of control if you don’t keep on top of it. Roses, sweet peas, and clematis are all usual suspects.

 

see below a pic of a beautiful flowering bulb we have around the garden called Camassia.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEEDS

 

Weeds are on the rampage, and must be kept at bay before they shed their cursed seed and run wild throughout the Summer. Good old-fashioned hoeing and hand-weeding are still the only way to get between plants in beds and borders and mulching is a good way to suppress the weeds from emerging as well as conserving moisture in the soil.

Larger areas like paths and drives I would use a glyphosate based weedkiller to save time. These can be bought ready mixed in garden centres and DIY stores.

 

 

POTS

 

Bedding plants for Summer displays should be planted out late May to get the absolute maximum pleasure from them. Plant up window boxes or pots, and be bold, there is so much on offer at this time of year. Geraniums, Pansies and Petunias are all good old favourites but why not try, Diascia, Dahliettas, Thunbergia (Black-eyed Susan), Lantana, Heliotrope. There are so many to choose from these days that flower continually all through the summer.

Just make sure your containers and hanging baskets are watered regularly. And after 6 weeks you should start feeding weekly.

 

 

AND FINALLY

 

Whatever work you do in the garden this May, don’t forget to take a little time out at the end of the day to relax and appreciate the fruits of your labour!

APRIL

Posted on 19th March, 2017

Spring is here! Suddenly there is life all around. Leaves are returning to the trees and flowers are blooming everywhere.

 

Here are a few jobs to get you out in the garden.

 

If you only do one thing this month: weed. With increasing hours of daylight and warmer temperatures, the weeds are really going to race from now on. They say one year’s seeds means seven year’s weeds: so get rid of weeds before they flower. Hoe off on a sunny day and rake, or pull by hand.

 

PRUNING

 

Prune forsythia and Ribes (Flowering Currants) - after flowering. Both can be cut back as hard as you like, as long as you do it right after flowering. This gives them enough time to put on plenty of new growth for next years flowering.

 

 

 

 

If you haven't already done so, cut back Buddleias. They can be cut back quite hard to keep a neat and tidy bush with plenty of flower.

April is the latest you should be doing this.

Prune mophead hydrangeas by taking off last year's flowers and cutting about a third of the shoots back to two buds, remove any crossing or damaged stems.

 

HERBACEOUS BORDERS

 

Still time to plant herbaceous perennials - there are so many to choose from and they'll provide flowers and colour for months on end.

To get the best out of them, make sure you dig over the soil, remove any perennial weeds and then dig in plenty of organic matter, such as planting compost. Plant firmly and water in well afterwards.

A 2-3in thick mulch of planting compost placed around the plants afterwards will ensure they get off to the best possible start and will help keep weeds down.

Tall and floppy herbaceous plants, especially those in windy and exposed gardens will need some form of support such as twiggy shoots or metal supports.

Putting plant supports in place now will help prevent problems later on when it's difficult or impossible to do anything about it and the plants will grow up through them, covering them discreetly.

Then carefully tie in the stems as they develop with soft string or similar, criss-crossing the strings between the supports

Hopefully all the pruning is out of the way by now, so your next step is feeding and mulching climbers, roses and other shrubs and perennial plants. This is vital if you want them to perform well this year. Slow release feeds are best, and the magic mulch can be anything from well-rotted garden compost or manure, to bought in compost or bark chippings.

 

PESTS

 

We didn’t get much in the way of deep penetrating frost this winter so this could mean that slugs could be a real challenge this year, and your precious seedlings could soon disappear. They will also feed on new growth of dahlias, delphiniums or of course their favourite hostas! So get some slug pellets around early.

Another problem to watch out for is the scarlet Lilly beetle mentioned in my article last year which will strip all the leaves before they even flower. I spray mine with provado bug killer every 6 weeks for protection.They will also eat one of my favourite flowering bulbs which are Frittilaria imperialis( pictured below)

 

 

 

So with lots to do again this month, let's hope we get plenty of lovely warm spring days to get out in the garden.

 

March Madness

Posted on 20th February, 2017

MARCH MADNESS

 

Spring is almost here! The days are getting longer, the ground is getting warmer and bulbs are starting to come up. It's time for the busy gardening season to begin.

 

There are so many jobs to do right now and I will talk about just a few of the main ones.

 

 

Borders

 

Fork over the soil in the borders, weed and remove any roots of perennial weeds such as nettles, docks or brambles (now you can see where the plants are!). There is still time to dig up and divide any overcrowded perennials too. I also give a good mulch and my preference is mushroom compost but some prefer bark. This helps retain moisture in the summer and supress weeds.

 

Lawns

 

I have started cutting my lawns now but only on a high setting and on a day where frosts are not expected.

If the moss has got hold after the winter then now is the time to scarify the lawn. On a small lawn I would use a scarifying rake and do it by hand. On larger lawns I would use a petrol machine which can be hired or better still get a professional lawn treatment company to quote which you will probably find to be quite reasonably priced.

This not only removes all the moss but also removes dead grass and thatch.

A good spring treatment of moss weed killer and fertiliser will set your lawn up for a healthier green lawn this summer.

 

Hedges

 

Remember if you have hedges to cut then get them done as soon as possible before the birds start to nest.

 

Pruning

 

Prune overwinted hardy fushias back to one or two buds on each shoot.

 

Prune winter flowering jasmine after flowering to encourage new growth for next years flowers. Easiest way is to lightly go over it with a pair of sharp shears.(Pic below)

 

 

Dead head hydrangeas before new growth appears. Cut back to the nearest strong buds and remember to keep an all over good shape.

 

Roses

 

There are many different types of roses in our gardens and here is how you prune the 3 most common ones.

 

Bush Roses ( Hybrid teas,Floribundas and English roses)

After removing dead, diseased and damaged wood, prune Hybrid tea stems back to three or four buds above last years cut, just above an outward facing bud at a slanted angle.

 

 

Floribundas and English Roses can be cut back a little less hard to four or six buds above last years cuts.

 

 

Modern shrub roses you need to aim for an open centre and build up a branching framework with sideshoots that produce flowering spurs which are just lightly pruned

 

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Late March I will apply a good rose fertiliser.

As they start to shoot remember to start spraying for aphids and fungus to prevent problems. The worst thing to do is start spraying when you first start to see blackspot or rust which spoil roses in the summer. I start my spraying now and every 10 to 14 days right through until August/September.

 

Flowering meadow

 

Many of you may of seen my annual flowerimg meadow and i'm often asked where I get the seed and how to do it.

It comes fom a company called 'Pictorial meadows' who can be found online.I buy the classic annual mix. 

The ground gets a light turn over and rake. Remove and perrenial weeds and stones. Sow the seed mid-March and then let nature take it's course.

 

So as I said at the beginning of this article, plenty to do this month, lets hope for a warm and sunny Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frosty February

Posted on 19th January, 2017

The weather at this time of year can be challenging for gardeners. There are lots of jobs to be done,but with shor,t cold and often grey days the garden doesn't always look that inviting.

 

However, Spring really is just around the corner and evidence of this is springing up all around. One of the first signs of colour will be an old favourite of mine the snowdrop, soon followed by the bright yellow heads of the winter aconite.

 

   

                        Galanthus (snowdrop)                                     Eranthus (Winter aconite)

 

A useful tip is, if you have large clumps you would like to divide or plants that you would prefer to move to another part of the garden, then do this when they have finished flowering but still have their leaves.

 

Another lovely plant I like to see now are Helleborus, they make large showy clumps that last for weeks.Best to cut away any of last years large or browning leaves before they flower to give a much better display. You will see in the pic below how i have cut away the front leaves and left some at the back.

 

 

PRUNING

 

 

This month I will be pruning late summer flowering shrubs, such as hardy fushias, which get cut hard back to the base. Buddlias I prune hard back to a 1.5M(5FT) framework, as i need mine tall as they are at the back of the herbaceous borders. You can however cut them as low as you like as long as you can see healthy dormant shoots which will grow.

 

Roses I will start to prune later this month as I have so many here, but you can wait until early March, as long as they are still dormant.

I will talk next month about different Rose types and the way they should be pruned.

 

The next on the 'must do' list this month is Wisteria pruning.

 

Its very simple but you have to be brutal. All of last years growth, which hopefully you pruned in half last summer, now needs to be cut hard back to 2 or 3 buds from the main branch leader.

 

PLANTING

 

There is still time to plant new shrubs or trees, including roses. They can be bought bare rooted during the dormant period which is usually a cheaper option.

 

AND FINALLY

 

If the weather isn't great, then this would be a good month to think what changes you might like to make or what new plants you might like to grow this year. Browse through catalogues or perhaps visit a local garden centre for inspiration.

 

Happy Gardening!

 

 

 

December

Posted on 18th November, 2016

As we start a new month we never know if it will be bleak and cold or the more normal mild weather we have become used to. The days are shortening but don't put your feet up just yet as even crisp cold days are still a great time to enjoy a little time in the garden.

 

Garden

Here at Smiths Hall we will continue to work through the "autumn job list" and generally keep the garden tidy. Clearing leaves continues right up to our Christmas break when - we hope - the last leaves have fallen!

 

 

As we start to get harder frosts, take advantage of them.

 

Give any empty borders you are planning to replantWinter digging

or perhaps your vegetable plot a really good deep dig and turn the soil now.  The clods you leave will break down with frosts.  This has the added benefit  of killing off many pests and diseases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patio

 

 

If your patio is looking a bit tired and lacking a bit of colour, give it a good sweep and perhaps plant a pot or two. You can buy many winter flowering plants such as pansies,heathers,or hellebores which will look great until the spring bulbs appear early next year.Keep any pots on feet, slightly raised off the ground for good drainage.

 

 

 

 

 

Lawns

The lawns may still need a final run over, especially if it stays mild Use a higher cut once all the leaves are dropped and cleared but only on a dry afternoon and if a frost is not expected that night.

 

Towards the end of the month book your lawnmower in for its annual service and blade sharpened so it is in peak condition for the coming season. Some companies will offer a small discount if booked in early so do not wait until March when you want to start using it when they will be at their bussiest.

 

 Plants

As Christmas is coming, let's talk about houseplants. You may be buying or receiving poinsettias or cyclamen. Make sure they do not dry out and keep roots moist at all times. These plants need plenty of light but avoid draughts and not too close to radiators. Other than that they are easy to keep.

 

 

Well that's all from me this year!

 

I wish you all a very Merry Chrismas,

 

Lee

 

 

 

 

Nippy November

Posted on 18th October, 2016

November will give us a few frosty mornings and signs that winter is on it's way!

As we start to clear our gardens and have more bonfires and with bonfire night on the 5th, spare a thought for our hedgehogs looking for a place to hibernate at this time of year.

The best advice is to build your bonfire as close to the time you want to light it, giving less time for them to find the pile and 'move in'.

 

hedgehog lookout

 

 Tulip Planting and other bulbs

 

 

You may have already planted your spring flowering bulbs but if not, there is still time this month. Hopefully you have listened to my advice an held back on planting tulip bulbs!

The reason is if you plant them early autumn they are prone to getting a fungal disease called 'tulip fire'.

You might have seen the symptoms in previous years but not known the problem. These  are brown spots with withered and distorted leaves and flowers which look like they have been scorched, hence the name.

 

Leaf Clearing

 

 

You are probably getting bored of all the falling leaves but in my experience it is far better to clear them regularly. It keeps the garden tidy and prevents them getting clogged to the ground which can then become a mammoth job to clear. Remember ponds should be kept clear of leaves so if you have a tree nearby perhaps net it until they have all fallen.

 

Greenhouse

 

The greenhouse by now would have finished cropping and should you have leftover tomatoes you could make green tomato chutney before you give the whole area a winter clear and clean.

I remove all the old tomato string supports, fallen leaves and put away empty pots into the shed. The reason being pest and diseases can overwinter until the spring.

A good tip is after a clear out you could use a diluted solution of Jeyes fluid to sterilise paths and work benches etc.. ( follow directions on the product)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Move tender perennials inside

 

Now you have a nice clean greenhouse its time to bring in any tender perennials you may have. I overwinter bananas,cannas, daturas, and oleanders.

Datura

I will give my greenhouse a double protection with bubble wrap which should be enough to keep them going over the winter. Cut away any leaves as they die off and on sunny days its a good idea to open the air vents to give some air circulation to help prevent fungus spores developing and killing your plants.

If you don't have a greenhouse but you are worried about some tender plants then pot them up if they are not already in pots and move them to a warm wall or even a garden shed near the window. They can then be wrapped up in either horticultural fleece or straw tied with string. These both give air to the plant,and protection, don't use plastic or polythene as this again will encourage sweating and disease.

 

 

Soft Fruit

 

It will probably seem strange to be thinking about lovely summer berries in November but this is the right time to get new plants in the ground for next years cropping.

Garden Centres or mail order will stock potted, or better still bare rooted plants for sale. The advantage of bare rooted is that they are usually cheaper and as they are dormant now they are considered the best choice.

All the current and gooseberry bushes should give you a light crop next year but Raspberry canes will need a year to grow their new canes unless you go for autumn cropping which would give a small harvest.

 

Rhubarb

 

If you have a large overgrown rhubarb crown tucked away in your garden then why not give it a new lease of life.

You can now dig it up and divide it to produce more vigorous and healthy plants. Once you have lifted it, take a sharp spade and slice down the middle. Each piece should have some growth buds visible. Replant with plenty of organic matter and a handful of fertiliser.

 

Borders

 

You may decide if you haven't already, to cut your herbaceous borders down. I leave mine until December as the cold frosty mornings can give a beautiful display, i will try and find a picture to show you.

As long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen you can continue to plant herbaceous plants, shrubs, deciduous trees and roses.

 

Roses

 

 

Large shrub roses or tall hybrid T's can be lightly pruned now just to get some weight from the tops. Roses are shallow rooting and can get wind rock and become very loose in the soil which they don't like at all.

These can still be ordered and planted now. Most mail order companies start sending out plants from November until March/April but the earlier you get them in the better!

 

Birds

 

Blue tits on feeder

 

 Some people feed wild birds all year but i personally think  there are so many seeds and insects around for most of    the year to keep them going. As i clear my borders i will start to fill up my  bird  feeders weekly right up until late spring to help them through the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally..........

 

So there is still jobs out there to do, put on your Wellington boots and coats and enjoy the crisp clean air and beautiful autumn colours!