The Sunday Gardener's Blog

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    RHS lakeside garden

    RHS Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire is one of the prestigious RHS gardens and makes for a great day out. Set in the craggy Yorkshire countryside, there is great diversity including an alpine house, scented gardens, steams, woods, foliage garden, Queen Mother's lake, and for children, craggle top tree house, a play area and BFG.  Central to the garden is the stream which runs East/ West across the garden with lovely streamside planting. In the image below, Aruncus has been planted to great effect around part of the stream. Aruncus is a shade tolerant plant, very similar to Astilbe, but taller and only found in white.

    The image above is part of the collection of Lakeside gardens, a beautifully balanced planting scheme surrounded by wild areas, which contrive to look natural thought good managment, I wish they would manage my wild area which just looks very wild at present. The are several areas of wild flower and grasses which a feature at RHS Harlow Carr and add to its natural beauty. The main borders, which are very deep and run parallel, are expertly planted with many varieties of herbaceous plants forming a colourful palette.

    On the south side of the garden there is extensive woodland and an arboretum which is a lovely area for a walk. The space and wooded areas allow the visitor to stroll around in relative peace and to relax. I love the herbaceous borders and the planting is so clever; but I always find woods and trees have a restorative quality. 

    Visiting this garden inspires me to be a tidy gardener when I see the immaculate kitchen gardens which are so carefully laid out. Everything is neat and weed free and, even more envious, disease free, a real testament to good gardening.

    And after all that walking tea and cake at Bettys.


    Aruncus streamside
    Woodland walk  
    tidy kitchen garden tidy greenhouse



  2. Harlequin ladybird larvae Harlequin ladybird

    The image on the left is a Harlequin ladybird larvae and apparently they like living in our homes, which is probably why I found this in the bedroom. As always, my first instinct is to reach for the camera, and my second is to get rid of it. Had I realised at the time what a nasty destructive ladybird this larvae would turn into I probably should have swotted it. Harlequin ladybirds were imported and are invasive with voracious appetites which include for other ladybirds mainly our native species. The Harlequin was introduced to utilise it's voracious appetite to eat aphids a form of pest control,which it does, but it is more robust than our native ladybirds and it out competes them for food and if other food sources fail, eats them. The Harlequin ladybird has a much wider food range which gives it built in better survival rates, and if there is a lack of aphids Harlequin ladybirds will consume ladybird eggs, larvae and pupae, butterfly and moth eggs, caterpillars and other ladybirds. Harlequin ladybirds have a shorter period of dormancy and so longer to reproduce. They may over winter in your home and can even bite you if there's no other food around. I would not have got that close in for the photograph if I had known it could bite. It  is a bit of a Godzilla of the ladybird world.

    It can be difficult to identify the Harlequin from our native species because they are very variable in colour. Helpfully The Harlequin Ladybird Survey has detailed information to help identify the culprit, but it is not easy, although the larvae is distinctive.

    Bugs of different sorts are interesting. The image below left is Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar which I found in the garden and whilst it may look a little unattractive, quite harmless with a predilection for Rose Bay Willow Herb and the caterpillar will become the very lovely Moth in the right hand image. If you are looking for the caterpillar, from July to September is the time they are hanging around the garden and woodlands, the Moth is around from May to July. It is common but the more the merrier, so I let some Willow bay grow just to keep the caterpillars happy. A few more weeds in my garden won't make any difference.

    Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar Elephant Hawk moth



  3. botrytis-in-strawberries-310 strawberries-growing-310-x-240

    I am cursing this wet summer, for the first time in several years, Botrytis has struck the strawberries . Botrytis, a form of grey mould thrives in damp summers and causes the fruit to rot before it ripens which is so frustrating. The only way to tackle it is to remove all infected matter and to improve air circulation, and even so it's tricky.

    I have spent time this afternoon carefully picking off infected leaves and fruit,  and then removing some healthy leaves to increase air circulation. Only time will tell. If you are looking at mouldy strawberries there is more advice on dealing with Botrytis on Strawberries.

    There are more reasons  to hope for some warmer more settled weather.

    The heavy rain and torrential downpours are not kind to tall plants such as Thalictrum and Delphinium which, as they only have a single flowers spike, when its gone, it's gone. I cut a bunch of Thalictrum down which had been snapped by the torrential rain, such a shame as the summer started so well. The long range forecast looks better especially for those lucky gardeners in the South and East.