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Gardening tips for February

This month, hope springs eternal as we see early crocus and snowdrops begin to make an appearance,giving us the push we need to start planning our summer gardens.

Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff

Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff

With a mass of summer flowering bulbs just waiting to be chosen ready for a colourful summer garden, a visit to Grosvenor Garden Centre is a must this month.  Would you prefer a vibrant theme or softer, pastel shades to enjoy this year, or would you like a complete change and a whole new look for your garden?
Whatever your preference, view your garden from every window and every angle now and use existing, established shrubs as a guide to identify where new colour, foliage or structure is required.

Whatever colour theme you choose and whatever the weather, you could begin your summer garden by sowing seeds indoors.  Leave them on a windowsill to germinate and you will soon the shoots of seedlings poking through.  Tender seeds will take longer to shoot and should not be planted outside until you are sure you will not see any more frosts.  These types of seeds need warmth to help them get to this stage so care for them in a propagator or warm, indoor room and keep the temperature fairly constant and high.

You could of course, miss this stage completely and choose plug plants or already germinated seedlings.  Whatever your preference, we are here to help so if you need help determining which option is best for you, please just ask.

Bulbs, seeds or plug plants?  We're here to help!

Bulbs, seeds or plug plants?

Of course, February is the month of romance and what better way to romance your loved one than with a Fryer’s rose?  Fryer’s Roses are grown in Knutsford and are the perfect gift idea all year round!

'Let there be love' this Valentine's Day

A red rose is synonymous with love and passion and has long been associated with St Valentine’s Day but there are so many beautiful shades and scents to choose from, why not choose a longer lasting Valentine gift than a freshly cut bouquet and treat your loved one to a climber, rambler, patio or standard instead?

This beautiful rose, ‘Let there be love’, is a floribunda with an irresistible beauty and adorable soft pink blooms.  Several are produced together on trusses on strong stems and is easy to grow too!

See www.fryers.co.uk for a fantastic choice – or visit Grosvenor and choose from our selection here.  We can of course, order your choice for you if it is not currently in stock here at Grosvenor.

Avoid pruning your established rose bushes this month but watch for any signs of disease and discard infected foliage or stems to keep further infection at bay.

Potatoes chitting on a windowsill

Potatoes chitting on a windowsill

February is the time to ‘chit’ seed potatoes (‘chitting’ is how the shoots are formed).  You do not need much space to do this and you can enjoy homegrown potatoes from simply growing them in a large pot or gro-sac on a small patio!  Obviously, the more space you have available, the more varieties you can try and of course, the more homegrown vegetables you can enjoy on your plate!  Simply choose your favourite variety of potato, remove the netting and place the tubers in the bottom of a seed tray.  Move to a cool, light, frost-free position and leave.

After the snows of January, check your brassicas are still intact and protected by netting.

Towards the end of February, plant out shallots and garlic cloves in a sunny position.  One of our top tips is to snip off the end of any dead stems close to the onion bulbs as the birds will find it harder to pull them out.

This month, encourage growth on your fruit trees and fruit bushes.  If they are already providing you with good crops, feed with a balanced plant food such as Miracle-Gro Fruit and Vegetable Plant Food for an even better crop.

Make sure your outdoor pots are always well watered – particularly if they are in sheltered spots – and deadhead winter flowering plants such as pansies for continued blooms.

Treat the birds to a new nest box or haven

Finally, February is the last chance to put up nest boxes before the tits start looking for somewhere to live. Why not celebrate National Nest Box Week (14th - 21st February) and treat the birds to a new box or haven?

It is always important to keep birds supplied with plenty of food and fresh water but even more so while it is still colder weather.  Our range of seeds, mixes, nest boxes and feeders is vast so please indulge the birds in your garden to much needed nutrition on your next visit to us here at Grosvenor.

Gardening Tips for November

The clocks have ‘fallen back’ and we are now counting down to the festive season with a vengeance.  If you are feeling anything like us, you will be wondering where 2012 disappeared to!

But this time of year is one of our favourites here at Grosvenor Garden Centre as we put the finishing touches to our Christmas displays and Santa’s Living Room miraculously appears ready for heartwarming events including Storytime with Santa.

But, back to business as we turn our attention to your garden.  Sunny, wintery days highlight the changing of the seasons as the leaves fall and a bite can be felt in the air.  So make the most of dry days and give your garden a bit of tender loving care with most areas needing attention before the colder weather sets in.

Look after your lawn by making sure it is rid of fallen leaves – these can be added to the compost heap to rot over the coming months.  If you have not already done so, treat your garden to a treatment to kill moss and bolster the grass to better survive the weather ahead.  If your lawn is still growing, continue mowing fortnightly.

Continue to mow if your lawn is still growing

Continue to mow if your lawn is still growing

Throughout the winter months, protect your plants from the harshest of weathers.  Add a deep layer of compost (5cms) to protect the rootage of your outdoor plants for a little added protection.

Perennials (this means plants that should appear again every year) can be divided now to boost growth and flowering ability next year.

Divide perennials, including Gaillardia, now

Divide perennials, including Gaillardia, now

It is also time to finish off your planting for new colour next spring with plants such as wallflowers, winter pansies and violas to be ready in the ground.  Tulip bulbs should establish well if you plant them now before the soil has chance to cool down.

November and December are such popular months for houseplants that they really do spring to mind as the perfect Christmas gift idea – and indeed, a gift for any time of year.  Phalaenopsis Orchids are one of our most popular choices, available in all colours from the palest white to the deepest crimsons and purples.  And they are really easy to care for too – it is a misconception that they can be hard to look after as they thrive from neglect!  Not too much though!

Orchids - a great Christmas gift idea!

Orchids - a great Christmas gift idea!

The popularity of Hyacinths knows no bounds so simply add your prepared bulbs to a small amount of water (1cm deep) in a specially-designed glass vase and wait for leaves and buds to appear from the tops of the bulbs.

Christmas Cactus and Cyclamen should be watered and fed regularly for best results.  There is no need to move them – if they are happy where they are, keep them there.  Your Cactus in particular could become miserable and drop its buds if it has been moved around.

Homegrown winter vegetables really come into their own this month as you begin to harvest early Brussels sprouts, leeks and parsnips.  Pull your parsnips up and place carefully on the top of the soil ready for early frosts to develop natural carbohydrates into sugar for that delicious sweet taste.

Dig over any areas you would like to use as an extension to your Edible Garden now.  Use compost to prepare the area thoroughly and give it a boost with a soil conditioner too.

Many fruits can be planted this month from apples to blackcurrants and pears to red fruits such as raspberries and redcurrants (don’t forget to make your own delicious jams when they ripen!). Again, your soil would benefit from a conditioning treatment before you plant out these fruits to encourage rootage to spread out and into the treated soil.

Any remaining tree fruits such as apples and pears should now be picked so that you can begin the pruning stage.  Dead wood and branches that have not borne any fruit can be discarded.  Any stems should be halved and emerging side shoots should be pruned to three leaf joints to encourage new fruit spurs to form over the coming years.

Transform surplus fruit into delicious jam

Transform surplus fruit into delicious jam

Finally, as thoughts turn once again to the winter season, it is important to make sure the areas in your garden that need protecting, are protected, especially tender, non-hardy plants.  Always keep a good quantity of fleece on standby ready for the frosty nights.

If you have any queries on any of these tips or the terms used, please do not hesitate to contact us – we’re here to help!

Visit Grosvenor’s New Real Food Festival this weekend!

Visit us here at Grosvenor Garden Centre this weekend and honour the tastiest produce from the region at our new Real Food Festival.

Fresh fruit and vegetables from John's farm at Grosvenor's Real Food Festival

Enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables from John's farm at Grosvenor's Real Food Festival

On Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th July from 10am until 4pm, the Festival offers visitors the chance to see many of the popular favourites from the Centre’s monthly Farmers’ Market.  Held in conjunction with Celyn Farmers’ Market, the stallholders and artisan producers from around the region will be happy to talk to visitors about their farming and cooking methods while visitors taste their freshly made, home-grown and home-baked goods before buying to enjoy at home.

Delicious produce will be available throughout the weekend including vegetarian sweet and savoury foods, breads, pork and fresh vegetables, cheeses, sauces and preserves, duck eggs, cakes and pies.

“Our monthly Farmers’ Market, held on the second Friday of each month here at the Centre, proves extremely popular and our annual Real Food Festivals are always well attended.  Next weekend will see a combination of many of our favourites from our monthly Market located within our plant area and tastings in our diverse food department all weekend too,” commented Dave Maguire, Grosvenor’s Food Department Manager.

“We are delighted to once again host the Festival to celebrate the excellent produce available from Cheshire and North Wales and offer everyone the chance to save food miles and support local produce,” Dave concluded.

For more information or to exhibit, please call Grosvenor Garden Centre Customer Services on 01244 625200.

Grosvenor Garden Centre launches support for local B.I.R.D. Charity

We have just announced B.I.R.D. (Brain Injury Rehabilitation and Development) as our nominated charity for 2012/13.

Helen Schielke and Sam Corner from B.I.R.D. with staff at Grosvenor Garden Centre

Helen Schielke and Sam Corner from B.I.R.D. with staff at Grosvenor Garden Centre

Located close to the Garden Centre in the village of Eccleston, B.I.R.D. is a small charity with only six members of staff including physiotherapists and psychologists, yet the team supports around 200 adults and children each year.

Using techniques, rehabilitation and treatment tailored to the needs of the individual, B.I.R.D. helps not only people who have received a brain injury through an accident or stroke, but also adults and children with long term conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy and dyspraxia.

“We work hard to devise a treatment or rehabilitation programme that can be followed at home and monitored through regular assessments here at the Centre,” stated Helen Schielke, practice manager, B.I.R.D.

With the help of staff and visitors to Grosvenor Garden Centre, the Centre hopes to raise a considerable amount of funds over the next 12 months to support the efforts of such a worthwhile charity.

“The team at B.I.R.D. works hard to ensure the best possible outcome for all the families in their care and by offering our support, we hope to raise not only a substantial amount of funding to aid their work, but also to help raise awareness of their valuable operation on the outskirts of Chester,” said Wesley Haywood from Grosvenor Garden Centre.

“Any funding is most welcome and we are delighted that Grosvenor Garden Centre has announced its support of B.I.R.D. throughout 2012, our 30th anniversary year,” concluded Helen.

The announcement that we have chosen B.I.R.D. as our charity of the year is the latest in a long line of ongoing community and charity initiatives supported by us here at Grosvenor Garden Centre.  See previous blogs for more details including our Guerilla Gardeners who hit the community for Garden Re-Leaf Day in March.

Create an insect haven during National Insect Week

It’s National Insect Week until 1st July, so why not join in and create a new haven for insects in your garden?

Do you know which plants, shrubs and trees attract which species of insect?  And have you noticed any unusual insects in your garden?   There are many types of ‘beneficial’ insects which are extremely important to our natural space and it really is easy to create a bee hotel or an area in your garden specifically so that you can introduce not only the more common beneficial insect, but the more unusual too.

Ladybird photography by Rachel Scopes

There are more than 50 species of ladybird

In fact, if you have a garden, you are in a great position to help insects.  Gardens are important for biodiversity as they offer a refuge for insects and plants that are declining in some areas.

Your garden will be a destination for hundreds of insects of all types and a common misconception is that many of those will be ‘pests’.  Actually, this is not the case as less than one in 200 will be classed as potential pests and many will help your garden thrive!

Did you know that the Painted Lady butterfly is the most travelled as it flies from North Africa to the UK every year?  Monarch butterflies and American Painted Lady butterflies have been known to fly across the Atlantic and strangely enough, millions of ladybirds manage to cross to the UK from France and Holland!

There are many more interesting facts about insects so why not visit www.nationalinsectweek.co.uk for much more information about these fascinating creatures?

Attract bees to your garden with vibrant, scented blooms

Attract bees to your garden with vibrant, scented blooms

Honey bees are one of the most talked about species of insects following the news that they are declining in numbers and are less healthy than they used to be.  Most plants rely on bees and insects to transfer pollen from one flower head to another to set seeds so we really need to help the bee as much as we possibly can.

Fragrant plants such as Sarcococca confusa, winter flowering pansies and heathers and snowdrops are perfect for your winter garden and will help the bee through the colder months.

Finally, why not use National Insect Week as your inspiration to create a haven for these all important species?  It really is very simple to do and if you need any help, please ask one of our team of horticulturalists to point you in the right direction for insect-attracting plants.  We’re here to help!

A Painted Lady butterfly

A Painted Lady butterfly

If you want to find out even more about attracting beneficial insects to your garden book your place on our Bee & Butterfly Friendly Gardening Workshop on Wednesday 12th September 10am – 1pm with Jenny Hendy  http://tinyurl.com/7htg6kv

Thank you to Cheshire Wildlife Trust for the use of the images!

Winners of our Schools’ Growing Competition Announced

Grosvenor’s annual Schools’ Growing Competition reached its climax on Sunday 24th June, with an array of 66 ‘New Century Salmon’ Geraniums on display for judging at the Garden Centre.

Peter Prost and James Mabon judge the Schools' Growing Competition finalists

Peter Prost and James Mabon judge the finalists

Carefully nurtured by schoolchildren from 11 schools from Cheshire and North Wales, the six best geraniums from each school were judged by Grosvenor’s Schools Ambassador, James Mabon and Horticulturalist, Peter Prost with Managing Director, Iain Wylie on hand to present the prizes.

After much deliberation, the winning geranium was finally chosen belonging to Edward Stockton, aged 8, a pupil at Waverton Community Primary School who was presented with a trug full of Grosvenor goodies and £100 Grosvenor vouchers for his school.

Edward, Kati-Mae and Kieron with their winning geraniums

Edward, Kati-Mae and Kieron with their winning geraniums

Two runners-up, Kieron Jones from Sychdyn Primary School and Kati-Mae Clutton from Dodleston Primary School, were also presented with individual prizes of Grosvenor goodies and £75 and £50 vouchers for their schools respectively. Each of the 66 finalists present also received a packet of free seeds as a reward for their efforts.
“The geraniums grown this year have been some of the best plants we have ever seen in our Schools’ Growing Competition,” said James,

“Choosing the winner and runners-up was particularly difficult this year but Edward’s geranium really was astounding – not only did his geranium have blooms and buds aplenty, the plant was extremely healthy and beautifully shaped.  He has clearly taken on board my hints and tips to produce a geranium in prime condition,” continued James.

Grosvenor prides itself on its community initiatives and the annual Schools’ Growing Competition is always a highlight in the Garden Centre’s calendar.

Grosvenor grows with local schools

Grosvenor’s Schools Ambassador, James Mabon, launched the Garden Centre’s annual Schools Growing Competition recently with a visit to 11 local schools.

A popular competition now in its 12th year, the Grosvenor Schools Growing Competition introduces children to the enjoyment and benefits gained from gardening as each child is encouraged to nurture a plant.  This year, the Geranium ‘New Century Salmon’ variety was chosen for its easy to grow nature and prolific flowering throughout the summer months.

Our Schools Ambassador, James Mabon, with Aldford Primary School

Our Schools Ambassador, James Mabon, with Aldford Primary School

Grosvenor has donated all the plants, compost, pots and plenty of tips and advice from James and the schools will compete to grow the most successful plant.  The top six plants from each school judged to have flourished the most to be invited to a Grand Final at the Garden Centre this Sunday, 24th June at 2pm.

James has revisited each school over the past week to choose the finalists.

“Working with schools helps to encourage children to begin gardening and is vital to Grosvenor’s ethos of engaging the gardeners of the future,” commented James Mabon.

“It is important to us here at Grosvenor that we reach as many children as possible to demonstrate how enjoyable and interesting gardening is – and how beneficial to our wellbeing too.  Each year I find it extremely rewarding to see how excited the children are when they see the results of the care they have shown their plug plants come to fruition with a beautifully, healthy plant,” concluded James.

Prizes on offer include a trug full of gardening goodies for the top three winners and vouchers for their schools with the Grand Final to take place this Sunday, 24th June at 2pm at the Garden Centre.

Record funds raised for Claire House!

We have raised a record amount of more than £15,000 for our nominated charity, Claire House Children’s Hospice.

Following two years of fundraising activities, raising £8,000 last year and £7,360 this year, members of the Grosvenor team took part in an abseil from the Liver Building, bake sales and the completion of three gruelling marathons by one of our longest serving members, horticulturalist Charles Ashley.

Charles, aged 54 from Llangollen, raised more than £3,000 for Claire House by completing the 2012 London Marathon last month in four hours and 15 minutes.  Charles has also completed two Snowdonia marathons on behalf of the charity, bringing his personal total to more than £6,000.

More than £15,000 raised for Claire House!

More than £15,000 raised for Claire House!

“Charles’ determination to raise such a valuable sum of money for Claire House knows no bounds and we could not be more proud of his efforts,” said Iain Wylie, managing director.

Together with monies raised from in-store collections, we have continued our fundraising endeavours for Claire House to help the hospice continue to provide respite, palliative and end of life care for more than 160 children each year with life limiting and life threatening illnesses.

“I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone at the Garden Centre and its customers for raising such an incredible amount for Claire House over the past two years,” commented Jane Collingwood, Volunteer Manager, Claire House Children’s Hospice.

“Support from businesses such as Grosvenor Garden Centre is essential as we endeavour to help not only the children in our care but to support their families too from locations as wide-ranging as Cheshire, Merseyside, North Wales, Wirral and the Isle of Man.  The fantastic amount of money raised by the team and customers at Grosvenor is very much appreciated by everyone at Claire House Children’s Hospice,” concluded Jane.

Grosvenor supports Parkinson’s Awareness Week

The Cafe at Grosvenor Garden Centre welcomed the Lord Mayor of Chester, Cllr Eleanor Johnson, to a coffee morning to raise awareness of the work of Parkinson’s UK.

Coinciding with Parkinson’s Awareness Week (16th-22nd April), the coffee morning provided the opportunity for visitors to support the Chester and District branch of Parkinson’s UK which incorporates Chester, Ellesmere Port and Flintshire.

Grosvenor supports Parkinson's Awareness Week

Grosvenor supports Parkinson's Awareness Week

The charity raises funds for research and support, providing information and friendship to people with Parkinson’s disease and their families and carers.

“We are extremely grateful to Grosvenor for providing us with a venue to raise funds for our theme of ‘Find a Cure’ during Parkinson’s Awareness Week this year.  Grosvenor’s support is extremely valuable and I would like to thank both the customers and staff for their support today,” commented Ann Edwards, Branch Chair.

“We aim to support as many people with Parkinson’s in the West Cheshire area as possible and the funds raised today will go some way towards providing sessions including therapy, yoga and aquarobics.  Encouragement from businesses such as Grosvenor is much appreciated in our quest to raise as much money as possible to make sure we help as many people as possible each year,” said Ann.

“Our ongoing links within the community are integral to our values here at Grosvenor.  It has been clear from the coffee morning today just how incredibly hard the support workers and volunteers work on behalf of Parkinson’s UK to play such an important role in aiding people with Parkinson’s and their families and we are pleased to have been able to offer our support during Parkinson’s Awareness Week,” said Iain Wylie, managing director.

Charles joins London Marathon for Claire House

One of Grosvenor’s team of horticulturists, Charles Ashley, from Llangollen, is hoping to raise more than £3000 for the centre’s current adopted charity, Claire House Children’s Hospice, by completing the London Marathon this Sunday (22nd April).

Charles is a regular ‘marathon man’ having completed many marathons including the London Marathon twice, the Chester Marathon last year and the Snowdonian Marathon 10 times through hail, ice, rain, thunder and freezing temperatures.  Charles is hoping his third attempt at the London Marathon this weekend will prove slightly easier!

Charles Ashley from Grosvenor will run the London Marathon

Charles Ashley from Grosvenor will run the London Marathon

With a rigid training programme of cycling, running and cross training, Charles regularly completes an average of 70 – 80 miles per week with some weeks covering as many as 110!  And his competitive spirit ensures he enters as many mountain races as possible around his work commitments at Grosvenor.

“I love a challenge and the London Marathon is definitely that!” said Charles,

As Fell Secretary and member of the Wrexham Athletic Club for the last 20 years, Charles has set the personal challenge of completing the London Marathon within four hours.

“Through support from customers and the team at Grosvenor, the funds I raise for Claire House will help to support the work of the hospice to provide respite, palliative and end of life care for children with life limiting and life threatening illnesses – and I would like to thank everyone for their support so far,” Charles concluded.

“Charles always goes ‘above and beyond’ for our nominated charity and we are very proud of his continued efforts to raise more funds on behalf of Claire House.  By joining the expected numbers of more than 30,000 on this gruelling course, Charles deserves as much support as possible and I am delighted that so many of our customers have already pledged their support,” said Iain Wylie, managing director.

If you would like to donate to Charles’ marathon efforts, please call into the Garden Centre or visit www.justgiving.com/grosvenorgardencentre