Sandilands Gardens

Landscaped gardens for living

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Compost Korner

The muddy meanderings of a Birmingham based landscaper and plantsman. For rants, tips, advice and bags of enthusiasm check out my blog - I'm always writing something seasonal or topical :-)

Spring has Sprung

Posted on: February 17th, 2016 by Jon No Comments

IMG_4649Tulips So excited signs of spring everywhere…daffs about to burst into bloom, Cro­cus and cycla­men already here..Cherry blos­som start­ing to erupt!

Meditation and gardening — my thoughts this new year

Posted on: February 24th, 2015 by Jon No Comments

As one of my New Year chal­lenges, I have enrolled in a short taster course at Birm­ing­ham Bud­dhist Cen­tre (Park Road, Mose­ley) to learn about med­i­ta­tion.  I have learned about the con­cept of ‘mind­ful­ness’ which is some­what of a ‘buzz word’ in sec­u­lar self-development as well as a core ele­ment in Bud­dhist teach­ings.  Essen­tially it is being more con­scious and ‘present’ to all your daily activ­i­ties how­ever sim­ple or menial. The ben­e­fits to men­tal health and well­be­ing of such behav­iour are well doc­u­mented now.

Gar­den­ing, like almost all daily activ­i­ties, can be approached in a ‘mind­ful’ way and yet so many of us tend to par­tic­i­pate with our eyes shut. For instance, It struck me that as a gar­den­ing pro­fes­sional, I can tend to get on to site and imme­di­ately focus on indi­vid­ual tasks, blink­ered to the big pic­ture, dri­ven by the goal of get­ting the job done to keep my client happy, and in a most cost effec­tive way. The trou­ble is that the very nature of focus can block out the periph­eral vision. Becom­ing aware and con­scious when in our gar­den is a joy. It con­nects us more directly to the earth we aim to inter­act with in an almost primeval way. Our gar­dens are a vibrant liv­ing envi­ron­ment, we step out there and become part of that envi­ron­ment, but we are guests. When we leave there the gar­den con­tin­ues to morph, to grow and to ‘be’. I do under­stand the argu­ment that time is money and being mind­ful doesn’t get the task done any quicker, but here lies the crux of the dis­cus­sion. Are our tasks in the gar­den, or when we walk the dog, go shop­ping,  put out our shiny new wheelie bins on rub­bish day,  are they indeed chores or a human expe­ri­ence to enjoy in what­ever way we can and then become a poten­tial source for plea­sure? It is all in the mind isn’t it? It is all down to per­cep­tion right?  Being mind­ful can be a plea­sure; it opens our hearts to a wider and more vis­ceral human expe­ri­ence. Kids have a nat­ural instinct to be mind­ful, some­thing we can grow out of as adults as the pres­sure of life bears down on us. Try to revert back to the enthu­si­as­tic child, open your ears and eyes because it’s good for the soul. Stop for moment to watch and engage Mr Robin as he hops around the recently turned soil some­times as close as a spade away or turn­ing a rock­ery stone to see hiber­nat­ing frogs and woodlice. When you find those lit­tle red bran­dling worms in you com­post, they relent­lessly turn leaves and clip­pings into usable gar­den com­post for us. That com­post that is feels soft and sen­sual and smells good enough to eat.  Rak­ing the leaves away to dis­cover a small clump of Snow­drops days from flow­er­ing, or notic­ing the roses you cut down in autumn have devel­oped juicy plump buds wait­ing to burst forth in May and June.

Gar­den­ing is a med­i­ta­tion in itself, any­thing that one enjoys as a process that can take your mind away from day to day wor­ries and strains. Under­taken ‘mind­fully’, it can awaken the senses to the world around you. So next time you are out in the gar­den cut­ting the lawn, weed­ing or plant­ing up your bor­ders do start to look and lis­ten more. Look up at trees, look and mar­vel at these giant organ­isms that in some cases have been grow­ing 100 years or more, lis­ten to bird in song.

In short, wake up and smell the freshly mown grass, it smells good!


Glamour Gladioli for summer 2015

Posted on: February 24th, 2015 by Jon No Comments
Glamour Gladioli

Glam­our Gladioli

I want to turn read­ers atten­tion to plant­ing some real glam­our into their gar­dens this sum­mer in the form of ‘Glam­our­glads’ a rel­a­tively new range of Glad­i­oli. March has always been the tra­di­tional time to start plant­ing glad­i­oli corms and set­ting them in their flow­er­ing posi­tions is best done sequen­tially through April too to pro­vide a long sea­son of inter­est. In the past I have planted the corms all at one time result­ing in two to three weeks of fab­u­lous colour but you can get colour from the end of June through to Sep­tem­ber if they are planted a week apart dur­ing the spring and early sum­mer.
They haven’t quite become ‘de regueur’ in British gar­dens quite yet, but it won’t be long. In my opin­ion Glad­i­oli are very much the ‘Tulip of the sum­mer’. They are cheap to buy and avail­able in a wide vari­ety of colours and sizes. Tra­di­tion­ally gar­den­ers would lift dry and store the corms in win­ter but even through the recent cold win­ters of 20112/13 I have been leav­ing clumps out in the ground over win­ter. It seems and as long as they have been planted at a good depth and deeply mulched in win­ter they have flow­ered reli­ably each sum­mer since. Cer­tainly this seems true where gar­dens are lucky enough to have good drainage and lighter soil. Apart from a few pock­ets of clay this is true for most of us in Mose­ley.
The corms them­selves are on sale in nurs­eries now although for the best choice of colours espe­cially the new Glam­our Glads go to online sup­pli­ers such as These new Glam­ourous Glad­i­oli are smaller than tra­di­tional hybrids and are less likely to fall over. The vari­ety of colours avail­able is even more exten­sive and can sat­isfy the most sub­tle or gar­ish of tastes. If you are unsure where to plant them I set sev­eral batches in pots to grow on and then plant in the bed spaces that nat­u­rally appear after the first flush of sum­mer flow­er­ing plants comes and goes.
Plant in groups of 3 or 5 rather than in ran­dom sin­gu­lar­i­ties. Plant them deep in the soil 10 –15 cm at least, which seems to stop the heavy flower spike falling over and amongst other herba­ceous plants and shrubs The mem­ory of sin­gle or lines of tall Gal­dioli, usu­ally in mixed and highly uncom­pli­men­tary colour com­bi­na­tions fight­ing against the bam­boo canes used by des­per­ate gar­den­ers to prop them up still hor­ri­fies me. These eas­ily grown and stun­ning bulbs are a gift to us gar­den­ers that often strug­gle to pro­vide flow­ers all the way through the sum­mer.
A smaller selec­tion is avail­able at Not­cutts in Soli­hull, Bournville Gar­den Cen­tre and Webbs of Wychbold.

Back online. Jon’s blogs in tim for spring!

Posted on: February 23rd, 2015 by Jon 1 Comment

After some help from my good friend Kyra Epstein I am back online with access to my blog so keep and eye..there is more to come..spring is only just around the corner..

Five months since the leaves were on the Trees..

Posted on: March 26th, 2013 by Jon No Comments


Its scarey when you look at it, from the end of Oct each year right up to  Mid April, our beloved decid­u­ous Trees, be they Oak, Ash,Lime or Chest­nuts , bare no leaves at all. I think as I have got older I have notice it more, but it is slightly depress­ing. Christ­mas comes in after the first 6 weeks to destract us, but when we fin­ish with  New Year and the kids are back at school, we have another 14 — 16 weeks where we see no tree growth, lit­tle grass growth and that is not ood for the soul.

As I write, we are in the grip of Win­ter still, with an unsea­sonal Artic blast, but it won’t last…warmer days are com­ing. First will be the Cherry blos­som, then the Chest­nuts unleash­ing their huge foliage and flow­ers almost overnight. Then we will be hap­pier right?


Try­ing tog­a­r­den in the snow fields is not much fun…but you have to say Sum­mer is comin (eventually!)

Planting in the heat of late May..

Posted on: May 25th, 2012 by Jon No Comments

I have a cou­ple of jobs that require plant­ing up, even though we are in the mid­dle of a hot dry spell of weather. I have been using water retain­ing gel in my plant­ing mix­ture under­neath and around the new root ball as they come out of the pot the roots will find a wel­come reser­voir of mois­ture when they most need it.

always always water in thor­oughly and then muclh with a com­post or other soil con­di­tioner to seal in the moisture.

Then water daily until the dry spell abeits.

Top 5 perennials everyone should plant!

Posted on: May 3rd, 2012 by Jon No Comments

With this blessed damp period, it is ideal time to plant peren­ni­als. The only ques­tion is which ones. hav­ing planted up many gar­dens in the last 12 years of run­ning this busi­ness, I have like any gar­dener, devel­oped a group of sig­na­ture peren­ni­als, which for me are best value for long sea­son of flow­er­ing, ease of cul­ti­va­tion, ease of divi­sion or self seed­ing and actu­ally com­bone beau­ti­fully together.

Top 5

Aster Frikar­tii Monch
ver­bena Bonar­ien­sis
Hel­le­nium satins early
Anthemis tinc­tora EBux­ton
rud­bekia Fulgida goldstrum

oth­ers in contention

Sedum Spectablile autumn joy
Salvia Nemorosa May night
gera­nium John­sons blue

And last and not least…a filler annual guar­enteed to pro­vide wow fac­tor from its pure white blooms which if you dead­head reg­u­larly will flower from June to Sept the stun­ning Cos­mos Bip­in­na­tus sonata mix white…only 2′ but reli­able and a worth plant­ing en mass flow­ing throught the others.

also buy at least three of each of the top 5 buy­ing 5 works bet­ter, they will bed down flower well this year and apart from the ver­bena which will self seed if left, all will gain mass and be divid­able after only one or two years.if you want to see them in action have a look at somoe of my pho­tographs from Chantry Road and Rus­sell road jobs on the website..

Let me know how you get on. I love reciev­ing feedback!



April perennials…what to plant now

Posted on: April 9th, 2012 by Jon No Comments

With the com­bi­na­tion of fine sun­shine fol­lowed by gen­er­ous amounts of rain­fall over the last week or two, the gar­den is now begin­ning to come alive, what I do notice on my trav­els is the lack of herba­cious peren­ni­als flow­er­ing in many back gar­dens. Bulbs such as the Daf­foldils, Mus­cari, Prim­roses and Blue­belles seem to be promi­nent in most gar­dens right now but I would like you to con­sider adding a few oth­ers to your bor­ders to fill the gap between now and the bed­ding sea­son, which coin­cides with the begin­ning of the dra­matic herba­ceous sea­son June-sept.

Here is a list of my top 10

in no par­tic­u­lar order;

Doron­icum ori­en­tale, Camas­sia Leichtinii, Dicen­tra Spectablilis, Prim­ula Den­dric­u­lata, Mat­teuc­cia struthiopteris (Ostrich Heather fern), Pul­mo­ni­aria Blue Ensign, Prim­ula Veris (Cowslip) and Pul­si­t­illa Vul­garis (Rubra ), Iberis Sem­per­vivens (Peren­nial Can­dytuft) and Aubre­tia (Pur­ple cascade).

They are good to buy and plant now.


So go to it!

Bit of colour needed..

Posted on: February 5th, 2012 by Jon No Comments

I was feel­ing a lit­tle down look­ing out in the gar­den today, still smoth­ered in a blan­ket of wet snow. I wanted to share a pic­ture that makes me feel a lit­tle more like sum­mer than winter..

Black Pergolas, black fence panels.. whatever next! Part 1

Posted on: January 16th, 2012 by Jon No Comments

I have to share what has become a rev­e­la­tion for me this week. After refenc­ing an area in a clients gar­den, and build­ing a rather neat and tidy pre­gola and trel­lis fence, she asked me to paint all the tim­ber in Ron­deals Fencelife paint in Black Oak! A Black Per­gola what­ever next. But I have to say I take it all looks very strik­ing and gives the gar­den a con­tem­po­rary feel. Once it is fully planted the black tim­ber will really act as a spoil to the plants. Par­tic­u­larly the climb­ing roses we want to grow up the Per­gola posts. Matt below loves paint­ing!!