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Plants to compliment water features

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GARDENING

Following last week’s article about creating a water feature, I received many enquiries about planting it up and related bog gardens.

A bog garden is easily constructed as part of the pond. A continuous liner from the pond under the bog garden will serve as an overflow as well as ensuring the level of moisture required for bog plants. A layer of gravel underneath the soil gives some drainage, and stones hiding a fine mesh, or even weed suppressant, will prevent soil falling into your pond and muddying the water. Bog gardens can also become part of the filtration system of your pond, if they are supplied with slow running water the roots of water plants will have an antibacterial effect. Bog gardens can also be independent from the pond, at its most basic it is a hole in the ground lined with polythene or pond liner and back filled with soil and peat. The minimum depth should be 30cm as it can dry out very quickly in warm weather, and when it does it tends to be even drier than the surrounding ground. Access to a hose is handy!

When planting up water features and ponds, it is extremely important to bear in mind the size of your feature. Many water plants grow very quickly and become invasive, especially reeds and grasses! There are three zones to a pond which you will notice on the labels of water plants. Zone one is shallow, up to 30cm deep, zone two is up to 60cm deep, and zone three is anything deeper. Always plant at the recommended depth or they will not grow successfully.

WATER LILIES

Generally, we tend to think first of water lilies when it comes to pond plants, and, indeed, they are probably the most spectacular. Water lilies, or Nymphea, are available in different sizes, which enables almost anyone to grow at least one. As a general rule of thumb, they tend to grow about 1.5 times the width of their depth, so a lily planted at a depth of 60cm, will spread about 90cm on the surface of your pond. N. Attraction is ideal for a large pond, growing to a width 1.5m with deep red flowers. A smaller red lily to try is N. Froebelii, growing to 50cm wide. Laydekeri lilies are ideal for a small pond, they will happily grow in only 30cm of water. I have several in different colours, but really it is their leaves which are quite unusual, being striped green and maroon.

IRIS

Iris are also a beautiful marginal plant. In my garden the Iris laevigata varieties grow best. These are a true aquatic plant which will grow in shallow water. Available in blues, pinks and a pure white, they are worth adding to your pond. Iris pseudocorus is the typical ‘flag’ we see in many ditches, but is better used as a bog plant, as in the winter its crown prefers to be dry.

In the case of both lilies and iris, it can be quite difficult to find specific varieties, and unfortunately we often have to make do with what the local garden centre has to offer! Unfortunately, I have had the experience of ordering them on the Internet go horribly wrong – once I had to pay damage costs as water leaked out from the package, and another time the plants arrived rotten. So, be warned if you are tempted!

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Bamboo is hardy and easy to grow

By Debby Looney, our weekly gardening expert Is there such a thing as a plant which ticks every single box? I don’t think so. But a plant which is one of the most versatile I can think of is certainly bamboo. There is a bamboo for every need, and every type of garden, really, their […]

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By Debby Looney, our weekly gardening expert

Is there such a thing as a plant which ticks every single box? I don’t think so. But a plant which is one of the most versatile I can think of is certainly bamboo.

There is a bamboo for every need, and every type of garden, really, their only drawback is that they do not flower. On the other hand, they are hardy, easy to grow, evergreen, stay true to their size, provide sound, colour and movement, and are so unique they do not compete with other plants. The fact that they do not flower is, for me, one of their strengths, as they provide a beautiful backdrop for flowers in the summer and fill the emptiness in the winter without one having to worry about clashing colours!

CHOOSE CAREFULLY

Bamboo root systems are quite shallow, so while they do grow almost anywhere, they do best in fertile, moist, but not waterlogged, soil, which has been dug over. They benefit greatly from an annual mulch, and prefer to be sheltered from extreme wind. That said, I have a bamboo in a pot which dries out regularly, is forgotten about and gets the full force of the wind, but is still alive. Not growing, perhaps, but not dead either!
The important thing with bamboo is to choose carefully and do the research. There are a thousand plus varieties and some will naturalise and crowd out other plants. If you are in doubt, line a very large hole with strong plastic, into which you cut some drainage holes, this should keep your plant in check.

HARDY

The easiest and one of the largest bamboo is Pseudosasa japonica. It is classed as a runner, and needs space. I do a yearly trim around the rhizomes and this keeps it tidy. It has mid green, olive coloured culms, (stems of a bamboo), and dark green foliage growing to over 5m. It is incredibly hardy. A very popular bamboo is Phyllostachys nigra, the black bamboo – so called for its beautiful dark culms. It grows well in a large pot, but if it is planted in the ground it will reach 5m also. Another very hardy one to try is Phyllostachys aurea, the golden bamboo. Its canes are very recognisable, having a swelling below each node.
Medium sized bamboos, about 2m, are ideal for containers, or as screens. Fargesia dracocephala is a very hardy plant, which copes well with a level of neglect. It has dense, dark foliage which makes it ideal as a hedge. Fargesia ‘Jumbo’ is a firm favourite and with its arching habit it is very graceful.

EASIEST TO GROW

Yet another use for bamboo is groundcover and to this end Indocalamus tessellatus is possibly the easiest to grow and reaches a maximun of 1m tall. It will happily cover as much ground as you will give it. It is a bit of a slow starter if the soil is heavy, but once it gets going weeds don’t stand a chance! Another excellent choice is Sasa veitchii which is very dense and fast growing. Its leaves turn pale brown around the edges in winter, giving it a variegated appearance.
Lastly, there are a few unusual types to look out for. Shibatea kumasaca is a groundcover plant, which can be clipped into formal hedges and shapes as it makes small dense clumps. Chimonobambusa quadrangularis is a 3m tall specimen with square stems – it grows in distinct clumps and its leaves are very glossy, and, well, shaggy looking! Hibanobambusa ‘Shiroshima’ is a beautiful variegated plant, with vibrant yellow and green streaked leaves. It is extremely hardy.

So, whether you need a privacy screen, groundcover, specimen plant or pot plant, there is a bamboo out there for you!

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Lifestyle

Five tips for stress management

By Brian Foley from Activate Fitness We all have stress, whether at work, at home, with family or with friends. Sometimes specific things or circumstances can make us feel incredibly stressed out. Stress is a normal part of life, but the most important thing is responding to and managing it. So the next time that […]

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By Brian Foley from Activate Fitness

We all have stress, whether at work, at home, with family or with friends. Sometimes specific things or circumstances can make us feel incredibly stressed out.

Stress is a normal part of life, but the most important thing is responding to and managing it. So the next time that you are feeling stressed, try these five techniques for managing it:

1. Exercise regularly

Swift movement can help improve sleep and combat stress. Research shows that individuals who participated in moderate physical activity had half the perceived stress as those who did not participate. Physical activity may also cancel out some of the adverse effects of stress, including the impact on the immune system. Exercise causes the release of endorphins, so adding physical activity into your routine will also make you happier.

2. Practice parasympathetic activities such as meditation

Multiple studies have found that mindful meditation can reduce psychological stress and anxiety. Take five minutes to yourself in a quiet place to sit and breathe. Focus on the present moment. Don’t worry if your mind starts to wander to other thoughts. Simply acknowledge those thoughts and then let them go. Refocus and bring your attention back to the present moment.

3. Get adequate sleep 

Stress during the day affects the quality of our sleep at night. Even worse, insufficient sleep can affect both brain function and mood. Limit electronic device usage like smartphones and computers in the evening. Don’t consume caffeine late in the day, after 3 or 4pm. Try to get in the habit of waking up and going to bed consistently to ensure adequate nightly sleep. Finally, get moving during the day! Research suggests that physical activity can improve sleep and combat stress.

4. Eat a high-quality whole foods-based diet

When we are stressed, our central nervous system releases cortisol. Research has shown that high cortisol levels combined with high sugar consumption may cause fat to be deposited around our internal organs. This is called visceral fat, and it is associated with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Choose high-quality whole foods which will provide you with a variety of nutrients and health benefits. Aim to consume a diet full of colourful fruits and veggies daily!

5. Transform negative thoughts

Our thoughts influence our emotions, and our feelings affect our behaviours. Reframing your thoughts around the causes of stress can help you better control your emotions, which helps reduce perceived stress. Redirect negative energy and ideas into positive ones. Evaluate your expectations and learn to accept the situations that are outside of your control.

If you need to connect with a coach to help guide you, schedule a free consultation with us today by visiting our website www.activate.ie.

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