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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

June- Its all Rosey

Posted on 20th May, 2018

Its that time of year when the garden is growing quicker then you can keep up with it. All of the newly designed beds have been planted now the frosts have passed and everything needs a good watering to get it established. The weeds are trying there best to take over so use a hoe on a warm dry day to knock them back, or if you have the time a hand fork is best to remove them all completely.

 

Go around your garden and fill any gaps with annuals or even sow some Poppys direct. Poppys can flower in as little as 8 weeks. When going through the borders make sure to check tall plants and top heavy plants for staking. Dahlias especially as their flowers can be so big they get top heavy as soon as they bloom.

 

Roses are out and doing what they do best. Keep on top of the dead heading for repeat flowers and tie in any new long young shoots to avoid them being broken in the wind. We had a restoration prune on are roses over last winter and mulched the rose garden. This has had a great effect on reducing the amount of black spot we have without using any chemicals.

 

Even this time of year pruning still needs to be done . Its time to prune spring flowering shrubs once they have finished flowering. Lilacs can be pruned and they will regrow over the rest of the year producing fresh shoots which will flower next year.

 

If you would like some wallflowers next year now is the time to sow the seed these biennials will perform for you in the spring. Are you a fan of hanging baskets? Now is the time to put them out on display. Keep on top of the watering and feed them once a week to help get a great display.

 

The kitchen garden is now very productive and earning its place in the garden. Fresh salad from your own garden is great, everybody should give it ago. Keep watching your onions and garlic that you planted last year as the leaves begin to go yellow, you know its time to harvest and reap the rewards from your crop.

 

At Smiths Hall last summer I planted a banana tree in the sunk garden and am happy to say it survived the winter wrapped up and is now growing well. Smiths Hall NGS open day is on the 1st of July please come and visit and support this good cause. I hope everyone's sunflowers are doing well for West Farleigh in Bloom.

 

 

May - The end of the frost

Posted on 19th April, 2018

The garden is now in bloom and full of life. Its time to plant up your hanging baskets and harden off your cannas and dahlias by leaving them out during the day and taking them in at night for a week or two. Just keep an eye on the weather and temperature.

Keep track of your climbing and rambling roses as they start to grow as you do not want the new shoots braking off. The same goes for climbers like clematis and sweet pies keep them tied in to a frame work to get the best display and to stop them from splaying out and smothering other plants.

 

Also look out for pests and diseases. Blackspot on roses can be sprayed with systemic fungicide. Make sure you read the label and spray at the correct time for the most effect.

 

Try your best to keep on top of the weeding, this will not only make your garden look tidy it will mean less competition for water and nutrients for your other plants which in turn will make your plants develop and grow stronger.

 

Whilst weeding don't be tempted to clear the foliage from spring bulbs that have finished flowering until the foliage has faded. This will allow the bulb to get the most energy stores for next year.

Now the weather should be warming up, so make sure you water your pots and add a granular fertilizer or liquid feed depending on what is in your pots. All pots will require different amounts of watering each week depending on the plants you have in them. You can get water crystals that store water which should mean you can water them less. They are available at most garden centres.

 

April - Spring

Posted on 20th March, 2018

Now lets hope the snow has passed and the weather starts to warm up so we can start to enjoy the garden once again. You will see lots of your plants starting to spring in to life and put on new young growth. There is still time to mulch your beds or add organic matter to give your plants a good start to the season.

 

 

Prune Penstemons as you see the new growth start to appear at the base of the plant. The older growth is left on to protect the base of the plant from the harshest of the frost.

 

Its a good time of year to split and divide Hostas as you see the new growth appear and Primroses as there flowers fade.

 

If your planning on moving any evergreens or planting new topiary now is the time as the soil warms and April showers help water the plants in so they establish well.

 

 

You can now sow hardy annuals outdoors and annual wildflower meadows. Make sure you check for weeds during the germination process as they can outcompete your flowers very quickly.

 

In the glasshouse make sure to check for pests and diseases and clean the glass if you haven't done already. If your glasshouse is heated you can start off your hanging baskets now ready to put out once the frosts have passed or the plants are more established.

 

Don't forget your lawn at the beginning of the season, over sow bare patches, fertilize established lawns with a high nitrogen feed. Make sure to edge the lawn as this little touch can make the entire lawn look a lot smarter.

 

 

March

Posted on 18th February, 2018

Spring is now fast approaching and an excellent time to get back into the garden after the winter.Now we are in March it is a great time to plant your bare root roses, make sure you plant them to the correct depth with a good mulching. An organic slow release fertilizer can be used to aid root establishment, you can look for a specialized rose fertilizer in the shops.

If you have any shrubs in the garden that need to be moved, now would be a good time to do so, just make sure the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. You can also still split and divide herbaceous perennials. This can make your plants actually perform better because you are removing any competition for space as well as nutrients. A general fertiliser like fish, blood and bone can be used on your shrubs or hedgerows to help improve their growth. Lightly fork the fertiliser in to the top of the soil. With your hellebores don't forget to remove the leaves to expose the flowers.

When the soil is no longer frozen or waterlogged you can consider sowing hardy annuals directly in to the flower beds. Another way of doing this is by buying plug plants, order them now to be delivered in May for direct planting in to the garden. Keep a close eye out for slugs as they like fresh new growth. Its best to put some control measures in place.

 

Staking rapidly growing plants is best done now while they are small. It will become more difficult and messy if you leave it too late. There is a variety of ways and methods of staking from simply using sticks from the garden, canes, metal structures and twine/ mesh systems. For smaller plants I personally try to use hazel from the garden its natural, looks good and its free.

Rhubarb can be forced for an early crop simply by blocking out the light. You will get a crop of tender sweeter growth earlier than the rest of the crop which will extend your cropping season.

For anybody wanting a nicer lawn this year now is the time to fix and repair the edges, use a sharp half moon edger to get a good line. If moss is present in the lawn use a moss killer and rake/ scarify when ready. Also remove any tap rooted weeds and spray off with a selective weed killer which will not effect the lawn.

 

Don't forget to keep feeding the birds over march as they are starting to build there nests.

 

February Flowers

Posted on 20th January, 2018

Hi everbody, as Spring is just around the corner I thought I would share with you some of the flowers that are just popping up around the garden as well as some berries that are still looking good. 

Jasminum

Hellebore

Eranthis

Crocus

Snowdrops

Callicarpa

Nandina

Frosty December

Posted on 19th November, 2017

I hope everybody has had a good and productive year in the garden. From the Garden team at Smiths Hall we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Now your wisteria should have dropped most of their leaves and are ready to prune. Cut back to two or three buds and prune out any large sections that have gotten out of control. Also, if you have climbing roses to prune and tie in to a frame work, check the temperature as you are much more likely to brake stems when bending them if it is too cold especially in the mornings.

Now is a great time of year to dig over empty beds as you will break up any pans and the frost will break up any large clods on the surface. Once dug over add compost to help keep the soil healthy with nutrients and mulch to help supress weeds.

 

It is also a good time of year to check all your plant supports and make sure plant tyres are all secure and still needed. Make sure young trees are checked as the growth rate can be quick and ties can easily cut in to the tree.

Clearing off beds and cutting back, so they are ready for mulching either now or in the spring, should be well underway. Make sure any tender plants have sufficient winter protection. Take care to protect cannas as they are tender and will not survive without help.  You could either treat them the same way as dahlias or give them a thick mulch to help protect the crown of the plant.

November

Posted on 20th October, 2017

November Blog


Now it’s that time of year when the leaves keep falling and you are constantly trying to keep clear and tidy your borders and lawns. But the one good thing is that leaf mould can be made from all of your hard efforts of collecting the leaves. Leaf mould is a great compost or mulch and doesn’t take too long to rot down. If you have a compost system in place you could just add it to that or make it on its own. There are many different ways people make leaf mould depending on the quantity you have do a search online to find out what option might work best for you.

For all the undesirable things in your garden such as perennial weeds, infected or diseased material its best to put it on the bonfire. So when you’re doing your pruning and leaf collecting if anything looks not quite right to you try to identify the issue and burn it. The ash can then be used in the garden or mixed in to the compost next time its turned over.

 

You can prune roses from now but I always wait until the leaves have dropped which makes it easier and quicker to prune. If you are not going to prune your roses until December its best to check them for any wind rock now and do a couple of snips or staking so nothing snaps off in any storms we might have. Also it is best to rake up the rose leaf to help prevent black spot from occuring. We always put rose leaves on the bonfire for this reason.


It’s not too late to plant your spring bulbs. Best to do it before the ground is frozen or too wet to work with. Tulips don’t like sitting in wet ground so if you have a particularly wet garden you might want to plant your tulips in pots and then plant out once they are more established.


It’s recommended that glue or grease bands are put around the trunks of fruit trees to help stop moths/caterpillars climbing up from the ground to mate and lay eggs. This should help prevent less damage to the trees next year.


Keep an eye on your holly if you want to make a wreath this year. Once its ready cut it off and place it in a bucket of water in the shade, somewhere cool and away from birds. It should be happy like this until you need to use it for wreath making.


Once your garden starts to look a little bare of seed and fruit it might be a good idea to put up some bird feeders to help the birds get through the winter months. Birds are also helpful when it comes to pest control so it doesn’t hurt to make sure they keep visiting your garden.

October- Dahlias

Posted on 20th September, 2017

I hope everybody has got their autumn onions, shallots and garlic ready to go in. Fingers crossed for a good crop next year.  I have chosen a mix of varieties this year so we can do a taste test and find out which ones we like most as well as which ones store well.

HarvestIt’s time to lift and store carrots, beetroot and any potatoes you have left.

Leaving a small amount of soil on can help delay the risk of decay.

Keep an eye on dahlias as when the frosts start, the foliage will turn black and they will need to be lifted and brought in.

When lifting your dahlias cut the stem down to 3 or 4 inches and remove all of the soil.

Check the tubers for signs of damage or diseases, if a tuber is soft I would suggest throwing it away as there is a good chance it will go bad and could interfere with your other dahlias.

Leave the dahlias out somewhere to dry for a couple of days and then pot them up in to bark/wood chip and store them somewhere frost free over winter.

In the spring give them a small amount of water and leave them somewhere there is light. When the new growth appears continue to water and plant them out once the frosts have past.Keep them in a frost free environment and replant in the spring once new shoots appear and frosts have past.

Wild tulipNow is a good time to plant bulbs for naturalizing in the lawn. I would suggest planting some tulipa sylvestris as it looks great and will spread by itself.

So now we are in to October this is the last chance to do any work to the lawn whether you need to re-seed or lay turf.

This is a good time to do it as the weather helps out with showers, a good amount of sun and the soil is still warm. Now is a great time to scarify, hollow tine or solid tine and top dress unlevel or bad patches in the lawn.

Choose a good seed mix that suits your needs whether that is hard wearing, for shady areas or a fine lawn. We are also cracking on with all of the hedge cutting.  Now there are no birds nesting, it's time to get it done before they return in the spring.

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.