Gardening tips: plant a Hydrangea for summer-long colour

Beautiful colourful Hydrangea flowers in kent
Beautiful colourful Hydrangea flowers in kent


Plant hydrangea ‘Kardinal Violet’
 Hydrangea ‘Kardinal Violet’ is compact enough for most gardens. Photograph: Alamy

Blooming in spring and summer, the hydrangea is considered a shrub. But despite their ability to be rather large showstoppers in your yard, how to grow hydrangeas isn’t a question even the novice gardener will need to ask – these beauties all but grow themselves. Reaching up to 15 feet in height, the hydrangea grows quickly and often fills in a space in just one summer. You’ll find hydrangeas growing in hardiness Zones 3 to 7 as perennials. With flowers starting in spring and often last throughout summer into early fall, hydrangea flowers can be the foundation plant of your landscape.

Plant this Looking for a flowering shrub with zing? Try hydrangea ‘Kardinal Violet’. On acidic soil, its flowers are violet and purple; on neutral or alkaline soil, they are pink. Bred to flower all summer, at 1.5m x 1.5m it is compact enough for most gardens. It likes a moist spot in full sun or partial shade.

beautiful purple Hydrangea Sargentiana gardening in Kent

Hydrangea Aspera Sargentiana

Sun tolerance: partial sun
Bloom size: 8″ plus
Mature size (feet): 10 x 10

Hydrangea sargentiana, knows as Sargent’s hydrangea, is an upright, rounded, deciduous shrub

Best grown in rich, evenly moist, well-drained soils in part shade. Tolerates full sun only if grown with consistently moist soils. 

Add aluminum sulfate to the soil to make the flowers bluer or add lime to the soil to make the flowers pinker. Soil treatments should be commenced well in advance of flowering. Flowers bloom on old wood. Prune after flowering by cutting back the flowering stems to a pair of healthy buds. Prune out weak or winter-damaged stems in early spring. 

25 Questions to ask your landscaper

how to hire a contractor

If you are considering hiring a professional landscape gardener, you may find some of these tips and questions helpful. Before reaching out, consider creating a list of your wants and needs. Decide on a budget, determine your priorities and If you’re trying to save money, consider which parts of the process you will need outside help with and which you are capable of handling yourself.

Establishing your goals on paper should make it easier to stay on track, within budget and help you to convey your job ideas to any prospective contractors.

Here are some of the best questions you may want to consider asking any potential landscape gardener:

What can you do with my space? What is your vision?

A designer should be able to visualise and verbalise a plan that works within the space you have. Ask them to show you drawings or computer graphics demonstrating the shape and form the project will take. This is a great time to request any changes with the design you may have.

Can I see examples of your past work? Do you have an online portfolio? Have you done any public areas that I could visit?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, when hiring a contractor, it could be worth thousands of pounds. If you are not satisfied with the photos, you probably won’t be satisfied with the job. Ask if they have worked on any public gardens or done landscaping that can be seen without entering private property. This will give you the opportunity to see first-hand if this is the right person for your job.

We love to show off our work, check our social media (links on our website) for new photos!

How long will it take for the plants to start growing? What special care will they need and how much maintenance will be required?

Depending on the type, size and maturity of the plants being used in your design; some plants may “fill in” anywhere from a month to over a year. Make sure you understand this and are prepared to wait for certain plants to bloom, develop and flourish.

Your design should not only look good, but it should fit in your lifestyle and budget. Some plants may require little to no care once established while some others may require regular pruning, watering and feeding to maintain their very best. Don’t bit off more than you can chew, make sure you have the time to invest in the care of your design.

how to hire a contractor

What are some ways we can incorporate the existing features and structures in this project?

Different locations offer a variety of different challenges and advantages limited only by budget and the skill and creativity employed in its design. A professional landscape gardener must take many things into account, including size and shape of location, type of terrain, sun and shade patterns, existing walkways, patios, trees, structures and plants; just to name a few. Make sure your designer is aware if you want to retain these within the new design.

Can we use repurposed, reclaimed or recycled materials in this project?

If you’d like to save money and go green at the same time, consider using cost effective, recycled materials. Everything from sleepers to recycled plastic decking. With a little bit of research, you may be able to find most of your needs can be met with sustainable materials, such as reclaimed flagstones, mulch, even aggregate.

Can you provide me with references that I can contact?

Every professional landscaper should have some happy client testimonials. If they have left their opinion in public forums or social media, don’t be afraid to contact them to ask their opinion. Something as simple as “Hi, I saw you used 123 Landscaping. I’m curious if you are still satisfied with their work and would recommend them?” can go a long way in setting yourself at ease, or warning you of potential problems.

Cowen Landscapes is proud to have many satisfied customers. Please check our Checkatrade for some current verified reviews:

How to hire a landscaper in Sevenoaks Kent

How long will the job take? What hours will you normally be working?

Will the workers be there at 6am or 9am? How many hours a day will they be working? Will they be leaving equipment behind when not working? Will they be cleaning up at the end of each day? Do you have neighbours that might complain about unexpected noise or debris? It might go a long way in preventing stress if you let your neighbours know in advance what to expect and when it should be over. If they seem upset, you can always remind them that property values may go up the more beautiful the neighbourhood is.

What education and certifications do you have?

Certificates may not prove that a landscaper is the best choice for your project, however, If they’ve taken the time (and paid the fees) to acquire certification in certain fields, it certainly is one of the ways a professional can show their seriousness and pride in their job. Remember, not every gardener is a landscaper and not every landscaper is a tree surgery. Credentials are one way to differentiate the skill sets required for the job you need done.

What happens when costs exceed budget?

Find out what happens if materials or labour prices change. Also ask what other situations might cause additional charges. If the job is going to go over the original estimate how will the new cost be calculated, by the hour or by the job?

How much, if any, over the actual cost do you charge for the consumables and products used in the job?

You have every right to ask your contractor what happens to the left over materials after the job has completed.

What type of written warranty do you offer?

What happens after the job is complete? Will you be available to assist with questions or concerns? Do you warranty the materials you use as well as the work you do? How long does your warranty last?

Can you explain it to me?

Remember that this is your project. You are paying for it and you have to live with it. If there’s something you don’t fully understand, ask the contractor to take a moment and explain it to you in a way that you understand.

Obviously each job will be different and some of these questions may be unnecessary or they may be important questions not even mentioned here. Use these as inspiration and assistance when dealing with your contractor. Perhaps print this out and use it as a reference or to jot notes on.

Remember, along with the qualifications of your contractor you need to feel comfortable with them. Discuss your needs and make sure you both understand the job.

Here are a few more questions you may consider asking.

  • How many people will be involved in this project, how many people are in your crew?
  • How long have you been designing landscapes? How long has your company been in business?
  • Will the plants I’d like to use thrive in my area? Do they need to be placed in sunnier or shadier spots?
  • Can you think of any caveats or problems with my landscaping project?
  • Are there any ways to reduce cost?
  • Do you offer flexible payment options or low interest financing?
  • Do you have liability insurance? Does it cover all of your workers?
  • What happens if I’d like to make changes during the job? What happens if the contractor needs to make changes?
  • What would you do different if this was your project?
  • What will you need from me? Is there anything I need to provide?
  • How much maintenance will it take to keep the garden looking good?
  • Are there any important considerations or concerns that you know of or that might come up in the future with this project?
  • Do you take care of any permits, licensing or local compliance paperwork?
  • Are you skilled and familiar with this region and climate?
  • Do you have any questions for me?
If you enjoy your work you never have to work again
"If you enjoy your work you never have to work again"

We are Cowen Landscapes and we’d love to be your Garden Design, Maintenance and Construction Services specialists.

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Give us a call, send us a text message or email us and we can discuss your individual needs and set up a free initial consultation, visit your location, come up with a plan and provide you with an official quote.

Buxus, a beautiful plant with a rich and interesting history.

cutting hedges buxus sculpting topiary cowen Landscapes in Kent

"If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now, it’s just a spring clean for the May queen"

Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven.

You’ve probably seen the beautiful sculpted hedges and bushes displayed in many British gardens. It’s a staple of topiary and garden landscaping. Many times what you’re looking at is Buxus, a popular ornamental plant.

As a native species, Buxus reflects England’s biodiversity and natural beauty while attracting a variety of helpful insects including bees to pollinate its flowers in the Spring.

Buxus is popular in modern days, however it was also very popular in the Renaissance era, being used in gardens of the rich and powerful however it’s been in use for thousands of years and frequently appeared in Roman literature. In Britain, for example, Roman burials coffins sometimes containing sprays of Buxus.

As far back as 79 CE , varieties of Buxus were described by Pliny the Elder. Before his untimely yet heroic death when he went ashore to help evacuate victims of the eruption of Vesuvius at Pompeii, Pliny the Elder wrote 37 volumes of ‘Historia Naturalis’ including facts and an extensive review of Buxus. 

Pliny the Elder first encyclopedia of Natural History BUXUS

He wrote “It grows thickest in Corsica, where it bears an objectionable blossom which causes the bitter taste in Corsican honey.

Various Buxus varieties were used medically throughout history. Buxus leaves, bark and wood contain steroids, alkaloids, tannin, chlorophyll and lignin and have been used to treat such maladies as gout, urinary tract infections, intestinal worms, chronic skin problems, syphilis, haemorrhoids, epilepsy, headache, piles, leprosy, rheumatism, HIV, fever and malaria, just to name a few.

In Turkey, they make a tea with Buxus and to this day it is still consumed to treat anthelmintic, diaphoretic, and cholagogue.

Buxus isn’t just used for its beauty in the gardens, its wood is an excellent choice for detailed carving, due to its fine grain and resistance to splitting and chipping. Its commonly used to make wooden combs, chess pieces, decorative carvings, knife handles, prayer beads and decorative boxes.

Buxus wood has a high density, one of the few woods which is denser than water, making it suitable for wooden spoons. In fact, Buxus wood is so heavy that it does not float in water.

Due to the high density of Buxus wood it’s a great wood for making musical instruments; everything from high end violin parts to flutes. The wood of the Buxus been used to make many of the parts for stringed instruments since antiquity. Buxus was also the primary material used to make Great Highland bagpipes.

The British Memorial Garden Trust developed a beautiful garden in the heart of Lower Manhattan in New York city, USA called the Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden. It was given to the City in memory of the British and Commonwealth citizens who lost their lives during the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II The British Memorial Garden Trust

This stately garden displays the rich tradition of English topiary while celebrating the historic ties of friendship and unity between the United States of America, the Commonwealth countries and the United Kingdom. The luscious green spires of Graham Blandy boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens) add punctuation and depth to this truly beautiful garden.

What good plant doesn’t have a great folk story? This legend about Buxus is sure to satisfy! At one time, people believe witches knew every twig, stem and leaf of every plant they came across. However, due to the compact foliage and small leaves of the Buxus, the witch would become confused while trying to count the leaves. The witch, try as she might, could not avoid losing her place; causing her to become so distracted that she would forget about any of her nefarious plans which may have included anything from stealing vegetables from your garden to babies from your house!

Buxus has small leaves and scented foliage. Its ability to withstand temperature changes and is tolerant of close shearing, making it a great ornamental plant choice for parterres, topiary and hedges.

Buxus is monoecious, so both male and female flowers are found on the same plant. Clusters of green-yellow flowers grow in the leaf axils, each one comprising several male flowers and a terminal female flower.

Buxus is a slow growing plant which does not require much maintenance and can withstand drought once established. This plant is a long living species; some have been determined to be over a hundred years old.

Some helpful tips for working with Buxus are to prune in late spring and summer. After heavy pruning you should supply fertiliser aid in regeneration and growth. Root semi-ripe Buxus cuttings in the summer and then graft them in the winter.

Buxus can grow in most soil and although it tolerates full sun if it’s soil is kept moist, it does best in partly in shaded areas.

Some possible caveats to consider with Buxus are leaf spot, root rot, dieback, canker and powdery mildew. Some of the pests to look out for with Buxus are caterpillars, psyllids, leaf miner, scale, box sucker and glasshouse red spider mite.

If you’re looking for a traditional ornamental plant that’s hardy, easy to work with and attractive, (and protects your household from witches) look no further than the genus Buxus.

When it comes to topiary, Buxus fits in perfectly with every garden design, from formal to country style gardens and is one of our most requested types of hedging.

Buxus comes in many shapes and sizes and can be sculpted to fit any surrounding or ambiance. It can even be used as a border or wall while providing any garden area a beautiful atmosphere.

Buxus can be formed into many shapes, cubes, cones, globes and low-growing hedges are all common, attractive and easy to maintain.

Buxus isn’t just for the garden. These topiary delights can be grown in containers as well. Using Buxus on both sides of your entrance is sure to delight and impress your visitors while adding natural sophistication to your home. Because of its slow growing nature and ease of maintenance, Buxus remains an ideal entryway plant.

At Cowen Landscapes in Kent, we’re specialists in Buxus. Contact us and we can help you to get the garden of your dreams.

Cowen Landscapes
07598 160812

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