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Job opportunity – Gardener £16,000 per annum (£7.69 per hour)

Gardener needed for our busy mobile garden maintenance round. Based out of our depot in Brighton working on various gardens around Sussex.

Must have previous commercial experience, a horticultural qualification, excellent practical skills and good horticultural knowledge. A passion for plants and the outdoors, a clean driving licence and excellent references are also required.

May start.

Email CVs to James Elton – info@selectgardens.com

After the storm

Select Gardens’ first task for the New Year has been to help with the clean up operation taking place after the worst storms in more than 20 years.

The atrocious weather has changed the appearance of many of the gardens we maintain across Sussex and Kent with both coast and country equally affected.  Since the beginning of the year, our team has been kept busy clearing the debris with chainsaws, rakes and brooms in addition to our usual seasonal maintenance tasks.

Across the many gardens we maintain, trees have been felled by the gales or are missing massive limbs, shrubs have been uprooted and numerous fence panels blown over.  We even had to relocate a summerhouse 12ft back to its rightful place.

It’s been a sad start to the New Year, seeing the devastation at some of the grounds we maintain. Even many of the plants and shrubs that I would usually recommend to withstand more exposed areas have suffered badly in the powerful storms.

While the weather may have been bad, some plants are more resilient than we might expect. Cordylines will often resprout from the base, reinventing themselves as attractive multi-headed plants. And while the storms may have cleared away more than just dead wood, it is nature’s way of presenting gardeners with a new opportunity – a new gap to fill or potentially a new feature for the garden.

Turn over your old leaves

The list of garden tasks to tackle starts to dwindle as the nights draw in and winter beckons, but by spending a little time tidying now you can help boost the health of your new season plants.
Clear deciduous leaves from paths and borders to make leaf mould, a free compost which will do wonders for your borders, enhancing plant growth and aiding moisture retention.
No special equipment is required. First, use a lawnmower with grassbox [on a high setting] to both collect and shred the leaves. If they are not already damp then spray them with a garden hose or watering can. Then place the leaves in a bin bag with holes punched in it. Leave the bag in a secluded spot to rot down.
The breakdown of leaves depends on the species of tree you have. Ash and apple will take just weeks, while oak and beech will take a year or so to rot.
To speed up the composting process, add a handful of lime and bonemeal to the leaves. You could also give the bag a shake or turn the leaves over periodically while they break down. Should your leaves start to dry out, spray them again with water using a hose or watering can.
Leaf mould can be spread as mulch on your beds as a soil conditioner or use as a potting compost instead of peat.

Mulch ado about planting!

While 2012 will go down in the record books as one of the wettest summers on record, 2013 shaped up to be to be one of the best in recent memory.

While many gardeners will have left the watering can in the shed for the entire summer last year, it was hosepipes to the ready in 2013 with thirsty bedding and new plantings requiring regular soakings to keep them looking their best during the continued dry spell.

Looking ahead to next year, you can cut down on the number of trips to the outside tap with a little forward planning. Firstly, work with your soil conditions. With much of Sussex on the coast and exposed to drying winds you can cut back on your workload simply by planting the right plant in the right place.  A very basic rule, but one which saves time, conserves water resources and your garden will look so much better for it.

Tough Mediterranean plants are some of the best at tolerating dry conditions – rosemary and lavenders are stars on so many levels – low maintenance, a show of blue flowers and edible too.  Santolina Chamecyparissus (Cotton Lavender) and Helichrysum Italicum (Curry Plant) are yellow flowered aromatics also worthy of a space in the dry border.

With flower colours which include shocking pink and bright orange, the flowers of the Lampranthus are not for the faint hearted. This tender succulent does well in Sussex, those in coastal regions even managing to survive last year’s prolonged cold snap. Originating from Southern Africa, this stunning species works brilliantly as a ground cover, preserving moisture for fellow plants and cutting down weed growth.

There are numerous varieties of Sedum, some of the smaller varieties can be grown on some of the most inhospitable conditions such as roofs. Sedum Herbstfreude features deep pink flowers and blue-green flesh leaves which brighten up late summer.

Another way of reducing watering is to mulch. As well as trapping moisture and therefore cutting down on watering, mulching can also protect tender plants from frosts, prevent weed growth and improve the soil. It can be decorative too – gravel, pebbles and even recycled glass can be used as a mulch to match in with the garden design.

At Select Gardens we’ve had some great results using mushroom compost to dress our client’s beds. ‘Spent’ compost is a byproduct of mushroom production and an inexpensive way of improving your soil. Mushroom compost is alkaline so is good for improving acid soils which are low in organic matter.

Autumn is the perfect time to order your mulch. Before you put it down, pull up all the weeds and ensure the soil is well watered. Then spread a 2-5cm layer around the plants making sure you leave a gap around the stem of the plant. For tender plants such as cannas and dahlias, a thick mulch such as bark chippings will protect the roots and crowns from frost and snow.

Sussex by the sea

The team at Select Gardens is a fortunate lot. We get to work outside (yes, even in all weathers!) doing a job we love and gaining the satisfaction of really making a difference to the gardens we maintain.

One of the real perks to this business is maintaining gardens along the Sussex coastline. With gardens in Hove, Brighton, Worthing and Littlehampton to look after and having just expanded the business into Seaford and Eastbourne, we spend a fair amount of time each month tending contracts across a large section of Sussex’s 70 mile coastline.

While some may see the constant bombardment of salt and strong winds as posing a real restriction on plant choice, personally, I don’t think you can beat a plot which comes with a different backdrop every day. Working with, rather than against, Mother Nature is always a good plan, so here are my top three plants which no seaside garden should be without. They are also native species so perfect for attracting wildlife.

Top three native seaside picks this month –

Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima) – A hardy little native forming clumps of green foliage. Despite its dainty appearance, it is tough as old boots and can tolerate the most salty and windswept of positions. Flowers late spring to early summer.

Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum) – Help our beleaguered bees by planting this evergreen perennial. The metallic blue thistle-like flowers are real show stoppers, admired by insects and humans alike. Avoid acid soils.

Sea kale  (Crambe maritime) – Another robust native with large blue-green also known as the sea cabbage. Mainly grown for its foliage, Crambe is another plant popular with bees attracted to its fragrant white flowers. Enjoys full sun and well-drained soil.

Spring Planting

We waited long enough, but spring has finally sprung, bringing with it a burst of colour into the gardens we look after.

The new season’s colours are a sight for sore eyes after a winter which looked like it would go on for ever. Buds are bursting and new leaves bring a verdant freshness to the landscape. I’m not the greatest fan of ballerina pink, but this year, even I have warmed to the frilly balls of blossom that currently brighten up every street.

As planting progresses, we look forward to each new growing season bringing different colours, shapes and leaf forms.

James’ top plant picks for May:

Tulipa viridiflora ‘Spring Green.’ With the large amount of work taking place in the garden over the past year, we hope this spring will be the only one we spend without tulips! I can reel out a long list of favourites, but this one is an absolute beauty. Ivory with a green stripe running up the petal, it’s billed as a cottage garden favourite, but I think its classic good looks work just as well to bring a burst of freshness into a contemporary setting.

Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ –  Although it will probably flower later this year, this is on my ‘must’ list for every garden.  Gorgeous spheres of deep purple wave on sturdy stems or around 1 metre with blue grey foliage. Even its exit is graceful, as the bulb dies down it reveals seedheads which are worth leaving for their structural form alone.

Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’ – a low growing mound forming evergreen shrub with has leathery small leaves which turn a deep purple in spring and summer. This versatile shrub has a height and spread of around one metre. This versatile, unfussy, shrub can be used in a variety of settings – coastal gardens, city gardens or as an attractive low growing hedge.

The growing season is not just for plants

Now that the dust has settled after the office move to Seaford, we are ready to spring into action for the fast approaching growing season.

As well as trimming our client’s hedges and giving the lawns a first cut, it’s also time to think about growing the business. With Greg having spent more than five years at Select Gardens as team leader and our newest staff member, Matt, coming up to speed quicker than you can cut back a Russian Vine, we have decided its now time to make the most of our Brighton base and expand our reach to the east of the county.

As well as tending to our existing contracts in Brighton, Worthing and Mid Sussex, we are now looking east to Lewes, Seaford and Eastbourne which will also help bridge the gap between our current service area and our contract in Kent, the stately parkland grounds of Hall House in Hawkhurst.

We haven’t been resting on our laurels while waiting for the green shoots of spring to poke through after the cold snap. Instead, the team has been busy planting the seeds of new business, leafleting local property management companies, Housing Associations, private estates and hotels in our new growth area. We’ll let you know here first if they bear fruit!

So long, weeds…

At Select Gardens we are committed to reducing the amount of herbicides we use.

One way of achieving this is to ensure these chemicals are targeted as precisely as possible, reducing risk of breathing in droplets by our staff, customers and passers by. Exact application onto the weed itself also helps protect wildlife and the environment by reducing herbicide drift.

For the coming 2013 season, we have invested into equipment which will vastly reduce the volume of herbicides we apply. We’ll be using the Nomix Enviro Dual Total Droplet system, which works in two ways. Firstly, as a fast working contact herbicide, it cuts down on chemical usage by precision targeting but the same application also has a residual effect, stopping seedlings from germinating for up to six months.

The premixed cartridge system also reduces the amount of chemical waste as you don’t need to mix up the formula. There’s another big plus with that – it will save more of that very precious commodity in the coming growing season… time!

Job opportunity – Gardener £16,000 per annum (£7.69 per hour)

Gardener needed for our busy mobile garden maintenance round. Based out of our depot in Brighton working on various gardens around Sussex.

Must have previous commercial experience, a horticultural qualification, excellent practical skills and good horticultural knowledge. A passion for the outdoors, a clean driving licence and excellent references are also required.

February start.

Email CVs to James Elton – info@selectgardens.com

Select Gardens hooks up for annual do

Every year Select Gardens staff down their lawnmowers and hedgecutters for an all expenses paid day out. It’s our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the team for their hard work and dedication in all weathers throughout the year.

For the last two years we have donned our waterproofs for a boat fishing trip out of Littlehampton. Last year’s trip was one of those red letter days with over 60 fish caught,  so it was always going to be hard to beat. Well, we didn’t catch as many as last year… but we still had a great laugh with Black Bream, Mackerel and dogfish to take home for our dinner.